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.