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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
With time to kill over the holiday, I worked on some gun photography. The challenge is managing light and reflection. This shot of a Spanish sidelock came out pretty good.
Taken with a Nikon D610, Nikkor 60mm f/2.8, 1.3 seconds, f/11, ISO 200
Since I started jacking around with this blog and the related gun photography, I really wanted to take a quality, full length picture of a shotgun. Sounds easy doesn’t it? Well, it’s not!! Guns are really hard to photograph. Dealing with glare or reflection off of finely finished surfaces and holding the gun while appearing to not be holding it are two major challenges. This, along with picking a background that will show it off all add up to a pretty tough problem for the amateur photographer such as myself.
Happily, most of these challenges were solved by Photoshop. I have to say that Photoshop is the most powerful, complex, effective, frustrating, amazing, time consuming, magical, and non-intuitive piece of software I have ever used. There are only two consumer technology products that are so well known and influential that their names have become verbs. Photoshop is one . . . I can’t remember what the other one is . . . I will Google it later.
I do think Photoshop is a lot like taxidermy. If you aren’t committed to learning and practicing it, your end product will look a bit off. I highly recommend the most excellent guide “Photoshop CC, the missing manual” by Lesa Snider if you are thinking of giving it a try. Here are my first attempts.
The background is the concrete by my mailbox which I darkened up a bit.
On our last hunting trip, the Armas Garbi was tossed into the truck by a weary (lazy) hunter producing a handsome scratch on the right barrel. In addition to this new scratch, there had been a decade of sweaty hands, random splatters of dove blood and unkind encounters with brush, fences and trucks. It was time to have the barrels refinished so I sent them to Turnbull Mfg Co. in Bloomfield, NY for rust bluing. These guys are not cheap, maybe the most expensive, but they are well known for their high quality gun finishes. This was one time that the extra expense paid off. They came back as near perfect as I could have hoped for. In fact, this finish looks better than what came on the gun new, in my opinion. Check it out below. I am sorry that I did not take some “before” pictures.
A few yards of black fabric provides a rich background but managing light is the real challenge with photographing firearms. Plenty of soft, indirect light is key but that is easier said than done. The black abyss showcases the walnut and steel and helps make these amateur photos look pretty good.
A pair of Sage Grouse hens and a Spanish sidelock in the North Park of Colorado.
Wild west Texas Bobs and the Garbi shotgun. The title sounds like a magazine I’d like to get.
Armas Garbi 101 Classic side by side shotgun from William Larkin Moore. This gun was new in 2003 and has provided 7 years of flawless service; thousands of rounds in the field and on the clays course and not one malfunction.
New gun in May of 2003 –