Sunday, January 31, 2010

Last hunt of the season

A strange urgency seems to grip me as the close of bird hunting season approaches. Rational decision making is abandoned as I try to get in those last few hours following my setters. Today was perhaps an extreme example: I got up at 4.00 am and drove 220 miles in order to hunt chukar in the Mojave Desert mountains on the last day of the season.

The weather was perfect and the birds were there - we found several coveys in a bit under 4 hours of hunting. Unfortunately, Rosie was not on her game, pushing the birds too hard, and flushing them before I could get close. I'll try to offer an excuse for her: we've been hunting Valley Quail for the past few months and those birds hold much better to a point. But I should have delivered an electric telegram in order to get her head back into the game.

Fortunately, Silk is a cautious old lady who would feel deeply shamed if she pushed a bird too hard. As we headed downhill towards the car she pointed rocks near the top of a slope and a single flushed as I walked up to her. I was pleased with myself when I hit the looping bird just before it dropped out of sight, and Silk appears to be very pleased with herself in the picture below.

And that, I think, was the perfect end to the season.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Styles for different birds?

Mike's comments on shooting books brought something to mind ... I find that my shooting styles don't quickly adapt to different conditions and species. For example, I hunted quail a couple weeks ago and was very successful with an instinctive see-swing-mount-shoot. On the other hand, my shooting on the opening day of dove season can be pretty miserable as I dial in the leads that are needed for 30+ yard crossing shots. I think Mike uses a consistent method for all his shooting. How about other folks?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Marksmanship for the bird hunter

Let me start by saying that I am not a great fan of Orvis. Having read most of what is available on the subject of shotguns and shooting I have found some texts that are very helpful in the practical application of technique for the upland bird hunter, and many, many that did not, or could not, distinguish between target shooting (trap, skeet, sporting clays) and the needs of the upland bird hunter. The Orvis Wing-Shooting Handbook does.

Looking for something to read last night I picked Bowlen's book from the shelf and re-read mytattered copy. Bruce Bowlen has a structured, simple approach that most bird hunters will find useful - especially those that, like me, like to carry a lightweight doublegun. 

In the early 90s I abandoned International Skeet and clays. I sold my heavy O/U target guns. I wanted to learn to shoot a light game gun well, and could not make adequate progress using the techniques that worked (mostly) for me when shooting targets in competition. I struggled to figure out how to effectively shoot a sub six pound SxS gun. Since a friend and fellow shooter, Jon Ogilvie, offered high level instruction, I also turned to him for help. After a period of years (I must be a slow learner) I evolved a personal style (a jumble of Move-Mount-Shoot and instinctive techniques) that allows me to shoot lightweight double guns reasonably well in most any field situation. I still have my off days, but I now have confidence that any bird in range is at risk.

If I had read Bowlen's book when I started in shooting truly lightweight guns at game birds in the early 80s, I would have suffered much less pain, sweat, cartridges, and embarrassment. Bruce writes clearly and lays out a clear, step-by-step method uncluttered by anecdote or self aggrandizement. This is a welcome relief from the run of the mill 'outdoor writer' for which I am very grateful. I recommend this book for any upland gunner, even one who has already figured most of it out. 

I also recommend a text by a pair of Brits, Shotgun Marksmanship by Percy Stanbury and G.L. Carlisle. This requires wading through the 'whilsts' and 'one musts' to get to the meat, but it is good. 

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A wonderful hunt - and a thought

I enjoyed one of the finest one-day hunts of my life last Sunday. A friend and I walked through my San Diego "secret spot" for quail and everything lined up. The weather was about right, my dogs did a very nice job, there were plenty of birds, I shot very well, and when the day ended we had each collected 10 birds (about one per mile walked). Even little things went well; we found a cache of half-liter water bottles left long ago by migrants and avoided pumping water through a purifier.

During the walk out I started to wonder: so what makes this hunt special to me? I think it comes from simultaneously being successful with respect to so many challenges. Easy hunts (opening dove season or ... ) can be fun but are seldom special. But when I have to really work at it, when I have to persevere and handle each situation well, then the day glows in my memory.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Now we are two

The first post on this blog was made on January 9, 2008. Time flies when you're living with bird dogs.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The armed society

The Assize of Arms of 1252 [England] stated that all "citizens, burgesses, free tenants, villeins and others from 15 to 60 years of age" should be armed. The poorest of them were expected to at least have a bow. This made it easier for the King to raise an army, but also meant that the bow was a commonly used weapon by rebels during the Peasants' Revolt. From the time that the yeoman class of England became proficient with the longbow, the nobility in England had to be careful not to push them into open rebellion. This was a check on the power of the nobility of England which did not exist on the European continent.

This from a Wikipedia discussion of  the history of the long bow. Food for thought.