Monday, October 01, 2012

2012 Grouse And Woodcock Opening Day In NY

Grouse and woodcock seasons opened across NY today. Gordie and I decided to take advantage of the beautiful weather and made a long drive for a short hunt at our favorite spot in the Southern Tier.

The hillside that’s the gateway to The Good Stuff was all prettied up in autumnal reds.

In the eyeblink after I’d taken this shot, Gordie flushed the season’s first woodcock from the cover on the right. I was still admiring the fall finery, so when the bird flew past me offering a wide open shot, I just dumbly watched it twitter away. Gordie regarded me with a withering “I bust my ass and you’re leaf peeping?” glare.

So I started carrying my gun at the ready instead of slung comfortably over my shoulder. I’d brought a 20 gauge Beretta Cole Custom today, my favorite grouse and woodcock gun.

Very soon, at the end of a trail, Gordie got birdy. Fellow hunters will understand when I write that things then happened fast. Gordie plowed through the cover, clearly on a mission. The bird went up, straight away. My gun found my shoulder and went bang seemingly of its own volition. And, not 25 seconds from the start of this action, Gordie was sitting in front of me with his retrieve.

After Gordie’d flushed another woodcock that offered no shot, we called it a day. We’d only been on the hillside for an hour, but it was a memorable opening day.

Back at home, my friend helped me pose the bird's red phase tail. It will soon join several others on our mantle that commemorate good hunts, beloved dogs.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Is Stressing Woodcock Distressing?

Two flushes; two shots; two birds: a very good day!

I remember when anglers like A. J. McClain were inventing “ultralight fishing” more than 50 years ago. I was an impressionable kid scouring my neighbor’s Field & Stream magazines, and, liking the idea of “sporty” fishing, bought a limber 5’-6” spinning rig spooled with 4 lb. test.

Somehow fishing took a way back seat after I was graduated from college. When I returned to fishing a decade or so later, I was surprised to learn that neither ultralight fishing nor cast iron skillets sizzling with melted butter were popular with the current generation of trout fishermen. Since these fishermen apparently accept it as given that all trout will - must! - be released unharmed, stouter tackle is now preferred to bring each fish swiftly to net, thus avoiding the chance of exhausting and possibly injuring or killing it.

I thought of this recently as I was re-reading “Come October,” an anthology of woodcock hunting stories. Twice in this book, and in other writings I remember but can’t pinpoint, individual hunters voluntarily set a personal policy not to pursue a woodcock after it’s once flushed. For example, Gene Hill wrote “I … never try to walk up a flushed bird a second time; if I sometimes do it’s by accident.” 

I can understand not shooting at a woodcock for a number of reasons. Some shots are “a bad look” for the shooter; some present the dog with a tough or dangerous retrieve; some might present a safety issue. It’s generally hard to go wrong not shooting at a woodcock or anything else.

But like those modern anglers who have rejected ultralight fishing, I believe there must be some stress on a bird who’s flushed from a spot it’s chosen and rushed to the first hiding place it can find. I often hunt in old meadows transitioning to tall brush, so I’m seldom in the shade. A flushed woodcock is entering the danger zone, and not just because it’s a potential meal for our ubiquitous red tailed hawks. I’ve decided that after Gordie flushes a bird, then that bird’s luck has started to run out; it’s already dead bird flying. So I try for a reflush - or two - so that I can count that bird in my day’s bag and leave other birds undisturbed and “fresh.”

If a shot has been fired at a bird, then it’s not optional but essential to try for a reflush. Gordie has retrieved more than one woodcock that my friends or I have “missed.” Hunters who shoot the birds they flush and stop a bird short of a limit are more than fine with me. Although I have no data to support my position, I still have concerns about flushing multiple birds, “letting them be,” and pursuing and shooting others in the name of “good sportsmanship.”

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Canoeing On The Upper Niagara River

I drove down to the western terminus of our dead end’s outlet street this afternoon. From thereabouts there’s a nice view of Niagara Falls’ towers and high rises.

The  large one on the right is the Senecas’ casino in Niagara Falls, NY. To its left we see a white tower that was originally Seagram’s Tower.  It and all the buildings to its left are in Niagara Falls, Ontario. The other tower is the Skylon Tower. Absent from the photo is the normal cloud of photogenic mist rising up from the gorge.

I was not there to gawk, though, but to get a workout in my new We-No-Nah Vagabond canoe. There was a light breeze today, but it was coming from the southwest, and so there was nothing between Buffalo and me to slow it down. But it took only a short time to get the hang of keeping the boat in line when paddling against both breeze and current.

The water’s clarity was excellent, and with Labor Day in the rear view mirror, there was scant power boat traffic to worry about. With bird hunting season right around the corner, I may not be on the water for many more days this year. But this spot 5 miles from the mail box will be one of my regular paddles when the water warms again in 2013.

Looking at Canadian shore between Chippewa and Fort Erie

Looking at Navy Island just above the Falls

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Happy Centenary To The Army's Pistol

(This post first appeared on March 29, 2011. Updates including today's appear below in chronological order.)
The M1911 is a single-action, semi-automatic, magazine-fed, and recoil-operated handgun. Designed by the prolific John Browning, it’s chambered for the .45 ACP cartridge.

The M1911 pistol originated late in the 1890s, the result of a search for a suitable semi-automatic handgun to replace the revolvers then in service. In response to problems encountered by American units fighting Moro guerrillas during the Philippine-American War, the then-standard Colt M1892 revolver in .38 Long Colt was found to be critically lacking in terms of stopping power. Following its success in an extended series of trials, the Colt pistol was formally adopted by the Army on March 29, 1911, and thus the “M1911” was born.

This video clip shows an experienced shooter loading and firing a M1991A1, a model of the original M1911 with externally updated features.

Hollywood has had a long love affair with hard men, pump shotguns and the M1911. In the Big Shootout Scene in The Wild Bunch, William Holden as “Pike” shoots it with deadly effect. Like many Hollywood guns, Holden’s Colt holds more than a generous supply of bullets.

September 11, 2012

It's nice to read that the 1911 Colt has found its way back into a branch of the US military. "It's like a brick that shoots bullets." Semper Fi! You can get the details here.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

War Of 1812 Commemoration Fires Up The City Of Buffalo

This sounds interesting and fun. Let me know if you plan to attend and I’ll meet you at the harbor. I understand there are places thereabouts where a thirsty sailor can sip a wee dram or two, too.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Orion Doesn’t Fence Around Fair Chase

When it comes to hunting and fishing, the gang at Cold Duck all consider ourselves to be “good sports.” We’ve never actually sat down together and tried to nail down just what “being a good sport” means. We buy all our required licenses and permits; never shoot or fish above the limit; reflexively let a youngster, or a newbie, or someone with challenges take the first shot or fish the best pool; and, if we kill it, you can be darn sure we’ll enjoy eating it. These behaviors, and a few activity-specific others that we’ve picked up along the way, have pretty much let us feel we’re good sports even if, as admitted earlier, we haven’t spent a lot of time parsing out the term.
On a random scoot through the Internet recently, I learned that some people care a whole lot about good sportsmanship, or what they call Fair Chase. Jim Posewitz founded Orion - The Hunters’ Institute in 1993 to pursue the stated goals of “cleaning up” hunting’s image and of placing hunters in the leadership position in defining and guarding our nation’s conservation ethic. I found all sorts of interesting reading at the website and its associated blog, Fair Chase Hunting.
A core element of Orion’s outlook is that hunters should only occasionally succeed, but the animals should generally “win” by avoiding being taken. If Jim had been following me and my perpetually underweighted game bag around NY’s fields and swamps, he would never have seen need to form his organization. Apparently there are plenty of outfits out West that offer the opportunity to “hunt” large game-species mammals that’re penned up in enclosures of various sizes; and Posewitz condemns both the outfits and their customers to the farthest regions of Dante’s Inferno.
Jim and his crew have lots of other ideas as well. Orion would like to see large tracts of wilderness preserved so that wild resources will be democratically available to hunters of all economic strata. I bet you’ll enjoy roaming through Jim’s website as much as I did, and so rather than try further to reduce his group’s prodigious efforts to 50-words-or-less here, I recommend you click on the link and give it a tumble.
When you do, you’ll love the photos of Bighorn Sheep and snow-covered Rocky Mountain vistas. Check out this beauty from Orion’s homepage:
from Orion - The Hunters' Institute's website
While some NY hunters may daydream of chasing those Bighorns out West, we at Cold Duck genuinely prefer hunting feathered or furred small game behind our doggies of choice. I’d love for Orion to expand on its Western large game focus and speak to the hunting that many of us do in the East. Come on, Orion, let us know what you think of chasing Adirondack snowshoe hares behind bawl-and-chop beagles, or “rough shooting” grouse, woodcock and ducks behind a busy-tailed flushing spaniel up on Tug Hill.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Duck Hunting Ain’t SEAL Hunting

Davy Crockett was all the rage when I was a youngster. I’d put on my genuine Davy Crockett coonskin cap and load my toy gun to help Davy shoot the bad guys whenever I’d watch the hit Walt Disney Show. My parents didn’t worry any about their little sniper. They knew that “let’s pretend” is just a phase that kids go through.
Nowadays I shoot real guns that are recent constructions of old designs perfected late in the 1800s. And the coonskin cap’s been replaced with traditional cotton duck and wool duds occasionally enhanced with modern fabrics like nylon and Gore-Tex. But while I often feel linked afield to generations of hunters who’ve gone before, I don’t ever pretend I’m Davy Crockett any more. It’s really clear to me that I’m a hunter, not a fighting man. When the critters start shooting back, I’ll definitely be rethinking my participation.
That’s why I’m not a fan of recent advertising campaigns touting certain hunting products. Pictured in these campaigns are strapping young men badly in need of a shave who appear to be frighteningly earnest about shooting ducks. My buddies and I head out to forests and fields just to enjoy being there with our dogs, and, if we’re lucky, to bring home a bird or two for the weekend’s meal. An old fashioned hunt might plumb tucker our aging asses out, but it’s never confused with a grim and deadly slog. And we certainly don’t pretend we’re SEALs.
In fact, suggesting that hunters are like “special forces” diminishes both groups. The sooner these advertising campaigns are discontinued, the better. I’d rather that advertisers seek to connect a technologically enhanced present with a past that’s rich in tradition.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

AyA’s #2 Round Action Is A Very Sweet 16

It’s hard for me to believe there isn’t a 16 gauge scattergun in my safe. I’ve owned five since 1997, 3 SxSs, an O/U and a pump, and somehow I’ve traded them all away. Three trades off-loaded problematic guns; I’d be delighted if I could put either of the other two back in my safe tonight. Too bad life doesn’t work that way.
I find the 16 gauge to be the most aesthetically appealing of the SxSs. In 28 gauge, the SxS’s barrels can look a little like Olive Oyl’s arms, specially if those barrels are 28” or longer.

Worse for me is the bug-eyed look at the fences of the 12 gauge SxS.

In 16 gauge, the SxS looks just right.
As a “rough shooter,” I often carry my gun in one hand while fending off brush or pine boughs with the other. I’ve found the squared-off base of the standard sidelock action occasionally to be the slightest bit uncomfortable in a one-hand carry. When I found a round bar action 16 made in the style of best British guns, I was hooked. So the new apple of my eye is the AyA #2 Round Action.

Ain’t she sweet? Michael Yardley gave her a nice revue. I really want my 16 to weigh 6 pounds 4 ounces (actually, I’d like all my upland shotguns to weigh 6-4). I’ll not be too dogmatically specific in my demand, though, so I’ll settle for that dream weight plus/ minus 2 ounces. With that in mind, I’m thinking of buying a used gun whose weight will not be promised but actually confirmed with a simple scale. I can also fire a used gun to verify its barrels’ regulation.
I’d use such a gun almost exclusively for open field work over flushing spaniels. It’d be fed a steady diet of 1 oz. quality lead #6 loads, whether for pigeons used in training, or for hunting pheasants. Fixed chokes of ¼ and ½ would be good, as would a modern recoil pad in a subdued hue. When I find such a marvel, I may not wait long to pull the trigger.