Coronavirus Clays

When a pandemic strikes – grab a vintage Winchester Model 12 and go shoot some clays! This Model 12 skeet gun was made in 1946 (74 years old) and still smokes clay targets with authority. Today was picture perfect with sunny skies, a light breeze, and temps in the mid-40s. Crowds are thin with many sheltering on the couch. Stay well and wash your hands!

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Fox Sterlingworth

My friend showed up for a morning of bird dog training with this sweet 16-gauge Fox Sterlingworth. This is a very clean, original gun, circa 1924, and is a real pleasure to shoot. Though I have admired them for many years, this was my first opportunity to shoot a Fox.

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West Texas Scaled Quail

This was our second year to hunt with the great guys of West Texas Quail Outfitters. It is a terrific hunt in the most beautiful place on earth! This was our last planned hunt for the 2019-2020 season. It is sad to see the season end. The birds were a challenge from Wyoming to Arizona to Texas, but we had a great time doing all we could to find them! I hope you enjoy these pictures of the hunt.

A pair of scaled quail, taken by the good old Armas Garbi

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Arizona Mearns Quail

Back in 1999, my pals and I hired an Arizona quail guide to give bird hunting over pointing dogs a try.  We found a guy named Bob Krogh out of Phoenix, an excellent guide and dog handler. Back then, he charged us $250 per day for the hunt. Man, I sure miss those days!  We watched Bob work his excellent English Pointers and experienced the magic of these motivated, hard-driven dogs as they worked the land, sifting the air for scent and then transforming from a blur of energy into living statues. We would then witness the heart-pounding covey flush of little feathered rockets! It is hard to describe how intense and exhilarating it is. This hunt was a pivotal event for me. I have been enthusiastically pursuing wild birds ever since. It holds all the best elements of the sporting life – camaraderie, beautiful dogs, fine shotguns, and skills to be learned in awesome, wild places. On that hunt, I clearly remember thinking . . . “Man, THIS is what I want to do!! It is nice to find that in life.

An Arizona quail hunt over two decades ago.

Finally, after a 21-year wait, I had the great fortune to return to Arizona for a guided quail hunt with the wonderful gentlemen from Classic Bird Hunts. This Orvis endorsed outfit operates out of the Babacomari Ranch just southeast of Sonoita. This is a terrific hunt, in the most beautiful country, with great dogs, perfect accommodations and excellent guides. We really enjoyed this hunt partly because it is not elitist or opulent (but very nice!). You hunt hard every day because it is real bird hunting at the mercy of luck and Mother Nature. For sure, at the end of the hunting day you will savor getting out of your boots and the post-hunt cocktail! Learn more about them HERE.

A beautiful Mearns quail and the good old Armas Garbi 101 bird gun.

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Flooded Timber

There had been twenty years of pointing dogs and upland birds before I  had the great fortune to join on a flooded timber duck hunt. This hunt was a first-class affair at the Five Oaks Lodge near Stuttgart, Arkansas. Hunting ducks instead of quail means trading walnut for plastic, pointing shorthairs for retrieving labs, lead 7 1/2s for steel 2s, leather boots for waders, blaze orange for camouflage, and dry ground for shin-deep water. This truly was an amazing experience. I now understand the deep enthusiasm so many have for hunting ducks and how one can be smitten by the culture that goes with it.

The day begins early, 5:00 am for us on this hunt. We suit up in camo everything – booted waders, shirts, coats, hats, neck gaiters, gloves, and some even use face paint. As with most hunting prep time, there is a palpable excitement, an anticipation of what the day may hold. The guides arrive, and we grab our camo or black autoloading, 12 gauge shotguns for a short drive to a levee that borders a section of flooded land. We follow the guide and his dog into the water and slosh our way to a “hole,” which is a small clearing, where we set up to ambush the incoming ducks.

The guide sets the decoys in the clearing, and you pick a tree to stand next to. It needs to be big enough to hide you from the ducks that will soon be dropping in from the sky and keep your face in the shadows, so it does not shine in the rising sun. Then you stand there, in the water, gun in hand and wait. It is still dark, but you can start to make things out as your eyes adjust and the dim glow from the coming sunrise starts to lighten things up.  This is a very peaceful time, punctuated by a hooting owl, and then the far off booms of gunfire from other hunters. The trees must filter out the higher-pitched sound because the distant shots sound like artillery or rolling thunder.  Very cool, very exciting!

Then a bird comes darting by in the pre-dawn light. You can tell it is a duck.  My fellow hunter, who has been here before and knows what he is doing, fires and downs a wood duck. Melly, the guide’s sweet black labrador retriever, dives from her perch and retrieves the duck. The wood duck is a beautiful-gaudy bird and a bit of a prize, ensuring an afternoon trip to the local taxidermist. Melly is back on her platform, and the guide starts to work his duck call – an art in itself.

Soon, the first squadron of mallards come dropping into the clearing, cupping their wings to land, and the guide yells “TAKE ‘EM!” The shooting is fast and exciting, over in a few seconds. Melly is back in the water, fetching the downed ducks back to the guide. Five birds are now hanging in the game carrier straps. This is repeated for an hour or so until the limits are filled. It is like a roller-coaster ride, super exciting action, but over all too soon.

Hunting at this club stops at 9:00 am, which leaves 9:01 am to 11:00 pm for drinking, eating, and napping! There is a nice Skeet / 5-stand for clays, and a lot of time for comradery or maybe an afternoon goose hunt. The food at this joint is insane. Southern breakfast after the hunt, unbelievable appetizers (mostly creative uses of duck), and astoundingly good gourmet dinners, not to mention a full bar. I gained 8 lbs on a two-day hunt.

Here are the pictures from our hunt. I will say this was tough from a picture-taking standpoint. Not so much worry about dropping an expensive camera into the water, though that crosses your mind, but that a large part of the hunt happens with little light. Low light results in slow shutter speeds (blurry images) and high ISO (grainy images). I did the best I could, and happy to not put the camera into the drink!

Melly scans the skies for the next group of ducks.

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Training Milo

No, not the crop but a Small Munsterlander pointer named Milo. This beautiful boy presented himself in fine form on a perfect Saturday morning.  Milo is a bit over a year old and has all the ingredients of an outstanding bird dog!

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Bird Hunting Update

So far, this hunting season has been fun but a bit challenging! A near birdless hunt in Wyoming, some preserve hunts thrown in for fun and then slim pickings on Kansas public land. We had high hopes for the Kansas hunt because the talk was that this could be a good year. The local biologist proclaimed that we would see “a covey of bob-whites per hour”. I knew that was optimistic but having the local state-employed biologist make that pronouncement seemed a pretty good omen.  One expert we ran into at the local Kansas donut shop said it was back to “pre-drought bird counts” and that too sounded like a good thing. Not to get melodramatic but 10+ hours of hunting through some of the most perfect habitat imaginable yielded a mere 2 coveys of quail. Two sweet bobs were taken, enough for a small appetizer. Anyway, we hunt with a terrific group of guys and always have a great time but the bird tide has got to turn. And I am sure it will! We have some great hunts on the calendar and this season is far from over. I did get some good photog and below are the pics . . .

Tex has his game face on!

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Colorado Fall Colors

This year, the fall colors in Colorado were spectacular and lasted a bit longer than usual. The dry, cool fall days promoted rich colors that lasted weeks instead of days as we sometime see when it is wet and windy. Most of these pictures were taken outside of Aspen, Colorado on a drive down Castle Creek Road. With this beautiful color, it really doesn’t matter what kind of camera equipment you have. You only need to worry about the light and composition. I hope you enjoy these shots!

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Busting Clays

We enjoyed a beautiful Saturday morning at the sporting clays field. The Nikon D850 was set to a shutter speed of 1/2000 to try to capture the moment of truth.

Solid hit

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Sage Grouse and Garmin Pro 550 Plus Review

My favorite Son-in-law, Kyle, and I went to Wyoming to hunt Hungarian Partridge, Chukar Partridge and Sage Grouse. First, you should know that the birds in Wyoming are WAY down. Three and a half days of hunting, 20+ miles of hiking and plenty of road hunting and we saw zero Huns, zero Chukar and only a few Sage Grouse. We were checked by a Wyoming game officer and he confirmed that this is a pretty dismal year for bird hunting. Not quite what I expected given that all the great plains states are no longer in a drought but the game officer thinks that these things go in cycles. I hope he is right and we look forward to better hunting in the future. Despite these depressing statistics, we had a terrific hunt. Kyle is a new bird hunter – he has not yet enjoyed a game rich hunt and he was elated when we succeeded on sage grouse. It was time well spent and a great hunt in all the categories that matter!

There is nothing like a Modelo Especial after a 4 hour hike of futility!

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Framed Photography Offered

I have had a great time mixing photography with bird hunting on this blog over the past 10 years or so.  Now I am adding woodworking to the mix by making hardwood frames to produce complete, framed “art”.

Check out Novak Image & Frame by clicking HERE.

See examples of the finished work below:

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Francotte Boxlock

One of the benefits of being a double gun enthusiast is that often my friends ask me to clean their dirty bird guns! One of those fine fellows asked me to clean up his nice old Auguste Francotte boxlock. This grand old gun was made in Liege, Belgium, I would guess in the 1920’s.

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Armas Garbi 28 Gauge

Here is some trivia – the bore diameter of a 12 gauge shotgun is derived by taking a pound of lead, making 12 balls exactly the same size and measuring the diameter of one of those balls.  For a 12 gauge that measures to be about .729 of an inch.  Here is the formula if you want to do the math:

If you make 28 balls out of a pound of lead then the diameter of a single ball measures about .55 of an inch. The 28 gauge, being 3/4 the size of a 12 gauge, yields a petite game gun that is a delight to shoot. I am no 28 gauge expert but so far, if I do what I am supposed to do, this little gun busts targets and kills birds as well as a 12 gauge – given that I shoot at things within range (say 30 yards?).  Of course putting an additional 25% (or more) lead in the air with a 12 gauge gives the shooter more range and a better chance to hit the target!  A lighter gun can be a challenge to shoot well but this little gun is a pleasure to carry in the field.

Here is an Armas Garbi 101 in 28 Gauge.

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West Texas Quail

Texas quail are by FAR our favorite bird to hunt! We had the pleasure of spending 3 days with West Texas Quail Outfitters hunting near Alpine, Texas.  Chasing scaled quail in the  shadow of the Davis mountains on crisp west Texas days is about as good as upland bird hunting gets. The guides, Ryan and Josh, are hard working guys and did all they could to put us in the right places. They were an absolute pleasure to hunt with.

But know that hunting wild birds means that bird counts are at the whim of the cycles of mother nature .  This year finding birds at times was a challenge and required covering a lot of ground to hit the coveys.  It reminds you that every bird is indeed a gift from God.

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Pushing Our Luck in North Dakota

Last year, our guide called to say that the bird counts were down and the hunting might not be so good.  We went anyway and had a terrific hunt!  This year the guide called again and said “hey, seriously, this year is going to suck” and advised that we skip again but we still went.  After all, these bird hunts are much more than hunting birds. . . right?  You know . . . camaraderie, communing with nature, getting away from accountability for a while, riding in pickup trucks with shotguns, hunting-camp cuisine, etc.  We were pushing our luck!  This year, we were rewarded with a dastardly cold hunt and the lowest bird count in our 20 years of chasing roosters.  All part of the game though.  The great hunts are appreciated because of the tough times endured.  This was definitely not the worst and we are glad we went.  Everyone is looking forward to a future of more birds and less frostbite!  Of course, bird dog Tex has no idea what I am whining about.  He had a terrific time!

Majestic Tex

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Cleaning up the links

I don’t keep the links on the “Links” page as up to date as I should. I ran through them and was sad to see that more than a few have been dormant for a couple of years.  Here is the roll call for the dearly departed . . . 

  • Adventures of a GSP Hunting Dog, last post was September 7, 2016
  • Red Legg’ed Devils, last post was Novemeber 11, 2016
  • Sometimes Far Afield, last post was July 4, 2017
  • The Mallard of Discontent, last post was May 16, 2016
  • Uplandish, last post was April 25, 2016
  • Wingshot, last post was January 30, 2016 (too bad, this guy is a great writer!)
  • Find the Beauty, last post was February 7, 2017

There is a sort of pressure to keep it going and I understand that one may just be done with it. I hope all is well with them! 

On the bright side, there are some new players out there. One superb site is this one . . . The Project Upland.  This site has it all! Articles, pod casts, videos and even their own magazine (which I have subscribed to). There is a ton of quality content, so much so I hope they can keep it up. This effort is part of Northwood Collective, an “outdoor creative agency”, so this is much more than some moron randomly posting crap on the internet . . . . you know . . . like the Birdhunter. You should check it out.

I think the links are good now. You should look at them, a lot of good stuff in there!

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Huns

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Here are some pics  from our hunt on the rolling prairie a few weeks ago. This is a good year for Hungarian Partridge. Not the covey counts you find on Texas quail but enough to keep our interest and make this a great hunt. I am thankful that we live in proximity to such beautiful, wild country!

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The Hungarian Partridge is a fast flying covey bird. They don’t hold as well for a point like quail or pheasant but when they flush it is some fast shooting. Beautiful bird!

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Western Grouse

The bird hunting season is upon us and most have already hit the fields but I was forced to spend the first of September on vacation in Boston. Sometimes sacrifices are necessary to keep the peace in the marriage! Check out this quaint street . . .

DSC_1686xThis is Acorn Street, one of the most photographed in the country. Boston is an awesome city and we had a terrific time. Highly recommended!

Then off to another world – our favorite western state in search of sage grouse. This was our first time in an area that holds more sage grouse than anywhere else in the country. Even though, this land is vast and we of course had to learn first where they weren’t before we stumbled into where they were.

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Tex on a staunch point, happy that the slow days of summer are over.

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Filed under Bird Hunts, Uncategorized

Heading Into Summer

It was a great hunting season! Not as many birds as we would have liked but Tex’s knees performed well and we are ready to take on the next 5 years or so. The bird hunting is over for a while and we look forward to the wonderful Colorado summer and Sunday afternoons at the dog park!

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Needles

Tex went to southern Colorado yesterday to find a quail or two. The quail were sparse but the cactus were not! Here are some pictures from the day.

Solid point on a cholla cactus.

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