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Throwing the Shotgun

Shotgun Throwing

The problem with having a primary gun you carry to the field is over time other shotguns just don’t feel quite right. But I worry dedication to a single shooting stick leaves me vulnerable to being gunless.

I throw my gun. It’s something I can count on at least once or twice a season.

For the last decade my shotgun has been through the upland grinder. It’s a walking stick on steep inclines above 11,000′. It’s taken multi-mile rides on the roof of my truck when I’ve forgotten to stow it after the delirium of long hunts. That gun has been plugged barrel first into swamp muck, then cleared with a warped stick and patch cut fresh from a shirttail. It’s been soaked, snow covered, and hailed on. It’s been stomped on by carefree bird dogs and swung into tree trunks attempting shots in tight grouse cover. And when I have the rare hot shooting streak I refuse to clean it because I don’t want to wash the luck off.

Taken cumulatively, It starts to sound as if I don’t like this gun. I assure the opposite is the case. There was a time when I looked at shotguns as works of art. But this bird hunting has transformed all shotguns to tools. It must work above all else. When I look at new guns the first thing I do is go hands on, mount that shotgun, see if it’s a shooter. I don’t look at any gun adoringly, envy the curves and think that would be a great addition to my safe. I look at it and think it’s a good day to get dirty. I want it to spit smoking hulls and feed it two more.

Which brings us to the throwing. I’ve learned self-preservation prevails over pristine shooting hardware. One of the most memorable tosses was hiking down a Nevada mountain when I stepped full weight onto a melon-sized rock that broke loose sending both feet skyward. Catching yourself is the natural reaction and doesn’t happen with a gun in your hands. That shotgun was airborne without a thought.

I heard a distinct, hollow clank off granite as I was getting reacquainted with gravity in slow motion. The gun and I faired pretty much the same on this flight. It ended up five feet below me with a new divot in the butt stock and a dent in the rib. Since I was alone with the dogs over two miles from a marked trail, I was just happy to still have two functioning legs and a bruised kidney. I ejected shells, inspected barrels to make sure there were no obstructions and dry fired. Mounted the gun to check for some new barrel English, reloaded and headed on down the hill, slightly bruised and highly adrenaline alert.

Many shooters might look at this as a cringeworthy moment and lament the damage. But I assure you those aren’t mars, they are character marks. Those scratches, dings and dents have all been earned. I can look at this gun and be reminded of falling into badger holes, face-planting on snowy grades and dropping birds in places where only goats walk free.

I’m entertaining the idea of a new gun. Given the abuse that’s sure to come some might advocate for a fugly plastic, hydro-dipped hog leg. But I still admire fine engraving, color case hardening, grade one walnut, immaculate receivers. Any shotgun is going to be way more attractive to my eye when it has been kissed by mishap on a memorable day afield. As long as it still goes bang.

SportDOG Brand & Mud River Sweepstakes

Puppy Rio Giveaway
SportDOG Brand® partners with Mud River on a giveaway that includes everything needed to get started training your dog. Spring is just around the corner and bored bird dogs need to get back to work. 

Enter to win a SportDOG Brand® FieldTrainer® 425 E-Collar, Mud River Handler Bag, Oasis Bowl, Quick Quack Bowl, Lead, Cache Cushion, Magnum Hoss Food Bag, and Hatch Leash by entering your name and email address. One random winner will be chosen on February 28th, 2017 at 9am EST. Click here to get entered today.

SportDOG Brand Giveaway

SportDOG® HoundHunter

Start the new year off right by entering to win a SportDOG® Brand HoundHunter® 3225 prize package! Products included are: (1) HoundHunter 3225 E-Collar, (1) Handler Bag, (1) Red Locator Beacon, and (1) Wax Brown Hat. Entry is simple; visit sportdog.com/giveaway and enter your name and email address. One random winner will be chosen on January 31, 2017, at 9:00am EST.

*Total retail value over $350.

2016 Gift Guide for Bird Hunters

Even most bird hunters deserve more than a few lumps of coal this holiday season. With help from  Contributors Kali Parmley and Andrea Haas we’ve assembled a list of gift ideas that should simplify shopping for the uplanders in your life.


Camp Chef Coven
When we came off the mountain from ptarmigan hunting in Colorado I surprised my hunting partners by making homemade apple pie in the Camp Chef Coven. Boiling, grilling, and frying have never been a problem at hunting camp. But sometimes you just want a loaf of bread or cinnamon rolls. Now with the Coven nothing is off-limits cooking in bird hunting camp from quail casseroles to pheasant quiche.

Even on the coldest mornings the Coven would fire up and climb to 350°+ using standard propane bottles. Multiple racks allow heating the 13 x 9″ lasagna at the same time as a baking sheet of rolls. And the two-burner cooktop will accommodate boiling, frying or scrambled eggs……getting hungry just thinking of all the possibilities. You may as well get the travel case too ($37), because the CampChef Coven ($130) is going to become required gear for every camp.

Nite Ize Glowstreak BallOne of the worst things about the shortened days of daylight savings is leaving for work in the dark and returning home in the dark. That schedule doesn’t mesh well with bird dogs that need to burn off excess energy. With the Nite Ize Glowstreak LED dog ball we can now play fetch into the wee hours without losing bumpers or dogs ($12).

Carhartt Upland Field

A reputation for rugged no-frills performance in the roughest work environments had many hunters wearing Carhartt clothing in upland brush for years. This season Carhartt made it official with a new trio specifically for bird hunters; the Upland Field Shirt, Pant and Jacket.

The jacket ($140) and pants ($80) in the Carhartt Brown canvas with Rain Defender® water repellent have reinforced seams and overlays in high-wear areas for durability. The khaki shirt ($70) also offers water resistance in the Quick Duck® canvas with spandex and poly in the blend for added mobility. This Upland Field shirt is as hard core as it gets, even with the vented back it may be too warm for early season but will be just right for running down educated roosters once winter arrives.

Tons of pockets, the right mix of blaze, built tough like the guys who wear it – if you’re a fan of Carhartt then you’re gonna like their upland lineup.

Lander Cascade Power BankIt seems like we’re always having to charge some device in order to share photos or videos from the field. Lander’s Cascade 7800 Power Bank ($53) gives you tons of backup power in a slim, lightweight profile to charge smartphones, tablets or action cameras when wandering far from outlets. In power-sapping, sub-freezing temps at elevation in Colorado the Cascade still managed to put multiple charges on our phone.

Go ahead and pair the power bank with Lander’s Neve cables that are virtually indestructible, reflective and made to insure your connections are always solid ($15-$25).

SPOT Gen3

Heading to the edge of the map in pursuit of wild birds has become a regular part of our autumns. That solitude can be a truly welcome change from the bustle of constant connections afforded by smartphones and dumb computers. The birds we’re after seem to have a keen awareness of the boundaries of cell service and congregate in those deep culverts and woods where one can’t alert anyone to their location.

Though chances are remote, there’s potential for injury or immobility. That’s where the SPOT GEN3 comes in. It tracks your paths for later review, or marks locations and shares via text or email with up to 10 friends and loved ones. But in the event of an emergency pushing the SOS button alerts the GEOS International Emergency Response Coordination Center who provide your GPS coordinates and information to local response teams. They send the cavalry, helicopter or whatever resources may be needed to get you and your bird dogs out  – yes, I made sure my dogs are part of my rescue plan. If the cavalry isn’t needed but assistance from another contact in a non-life-threatening situation the help alert is available as well. All this is accomplished via satellite, no cell signal required only a clear view of the sky.

When your family wants to know you’re safe but the birds lead you to places that aren’t, SPOT GEN3 is the answer. Take advantage of the holiday sale – 50% off retail for the unit ($75, service starting at $15 per month).

Benchmade BarrageNot sure you can out-design the blade makers at Benchmade, but now you can give it a shot. Two of their most popular knives – the Griptilian® and Barrage® – can now be made-to-order with Benchmade Custom. From blade shape and metal to handle material and color, hardware color, even custom laser engraving; the combinations are nearly endless and allow crafting a hunting knife unlike any other in the world.

Your custom knife will go in the production queue and you’ll receive email updates reporting progress. In 10-15 days it will arrive on your doorstep razor sharp and ready to disassemble birds. I opted for the Barrage® with blaze handle, SV30 stainless and Ultimate Upland graphics. But I’ve already designed a Griptilian® with G10 handles that may need to find it’s way to my stocking ($165 – $250 depending on selected options).

Cabela's Range BagThe problem with most range bags is they can’t handle the weight of shotgun shells and end up folding under the pressure. Cabela’s Eliminator Range Bag is lightweight yet with enough structure to easily hold 12 boxes of 20 gauge. Padded sides and movable dividers allow arranging of gear to your liking. Tons of pockets for choke tubes, ear and eye protection, car keys, snacks….. it’s tough to imagine a better solution for under $35.

 

Farm to Feet SocksThough socks are rarely highlighted in gear discussions, they can be extremely important for upland pursuit. During the first half of the season we averaged over seven miles a day in all kinds of terrain and weather. Farm to Feet’s Ely line has both lightweight and mid-weight options ($23–$27) at varying lengths to match any conditions afield.

Made in North Carolina from nylon, Spandex and merino wool raised by American Farmers, the fit and compression from arch to the Achilles is what really makes Farm to Feet wear different. Seamless toe closures and extra cushioning in all the right places help protect your feet on days when the miles pile up. Give Farm to Feet Ely a try, they’ll make a good hunting boot even better.

Hoppe's Wax Gun ClothNothing is gonna make the “character marks” on my upland gun look new again, but Hoppe’s Wax Treated Gun Cloth may be the next best option. It cleans, polishes and protects wooden stocks, metal hardware and gun barrels. At under $6, it’s an easy stocking stuffer for any gun owner.

Strongback ChairThe STRONGBACK Low Gravity Chair was a big hit at bird camp. Finally there’s a campfire seating option that offers true back comfort with frame integrated lumbar support. Extra large feet keep the STRONGBACK chair from sinking into turf even with a 300 lb weight capacity. Still light and low profile, these chairs fold down into a carry bag with back pack straps that could even make the trip to a hunting blind.

Sit back, relax, put your drink in the holder and enjoy some campfire ergonomics thanks to STRONGBACK ($60).


Kali Parmley’s Picks….

Orvis Women's Upland VestIt’s hard to find a women’s specific upland vest—more often than not we are resorting to men’s vests that can be too large and cumbersome for us. If you’re looking for a vest that is simple, well-made, and actually fit for a woman, take a look at Orvis’s Women’s Upland Vest. This vest ($149) comes complete with mesh sides to reduce weight, two water bottle pockets, and a waterproof/bloodproof blaze orange game bag. Additionally, the vest features two front shell pockets with magnetic closures, a zip pocket on the front, and a hidden zip pocket inside. Bonus: Orvis has included a vertical loop on the outside of the vest for securing your dog collar transmitter. It sits low enough to reduce getting in the way of shouldering your gun on the flush.

Cabela's Pants
When chasing birds to the tops of peaks, flexible and unrestricted pants that still protect from the thickest of briars are a must. Cabela’s has answered that call with their Instinct Prairie Runner pants ($140) that are made with a flexible polyester/spandex shell and water-resistant nylon overlays to protect you in thick brush. I wore these pants on a three week road trip chasing birds across the west. Breathable and light, these pants allowed easy and quick movement while hunting running sharptails and huns across Montana.

Orvis Field Bowl
I was about to hit the road for a three week road trip with my dog, Lincoln, and I was trying to travel as light as possible. Dog bowls can be bulky and take up too much space—that’s why I discovered Orvis’s Field Collection Travel Bowl ($29). Made of a cotton with a waterproof liner, the travel bowl is a full size dog bowl that zips down to the size of a wallet. I used this as Lincoln’s food and water dish for the entirety of the trip with no problems. When not in use, I tucked away easily, leaving me more room for birds.

Ruffwear Pad
When roughin’ it in the backcountry, your K9 companion needs to sleep just as well as you do to have the energy to find wild birds. In search of a lightweight pad to carry for Lincoln on our backpacking adventure up 12,000 feet to chase ptarmigan, I stumbled upon the Highlands Pad from Ruffwear ($30). A packable, lightweight (7 oz.), sleeping pad, the Highlands Pad is made of closed-cell foam that helped provide insulation from the cold ground for my tired pup. The pad folds down accordion style, making it simple to strap to the front of my pack.


Andrea Haas’s Picks… Be sure to follow Andrea at Huntress View

First Lite GlovesThe First Lite Talus Fingerless Merino Gloves ($18) are perfect for the upland hunter. The fingers are open so your hands remain warm while still being able to easily load your shotgun and feel your shotgun trigger. They’re made from 100% merino wool which is known to keep over 80% of its warmth and insulating properties, even after getting wet. These are my go-to gloves all season long, no matter what game I’m pursuing.

proishat
Like a lot of women, I am petite and have issues finding hats that fit me, even ones that are designed for women. The Prois Orange Cap with Brown Waxed Bill fit me perfectly and the size can easily be adjusted with a back Velcro closure. And to make it even better, they have so many colors to choose from, including the classic upland hunting colors: blaze orange and brown waxed canvas ($27).

SHE Hunting Boots
When the weather conditions are less than perfect, the SHE® Outdoor Expedition BONE-DRY Insulated Waterproof Hunting Boots go the extra mile in keeping your feet warm and dry. They are breathable, waterproof, and have a great fit and comfortable support that make them perfect for walking miles in search of upland birds in a variety of terrain and weather conditions. I have worn these the past 2 seasons and see no reason to try anything else! ($100)

Prois Safari Hoodie
Yes, the name has “Safari” in it, but don’t be fooled! This Prois Sojourn Safari Hoodie has become a staple item in my hunting closet and I have found it to be great for a variety of different hunting endeavors, including upland bird hunting. Constructed from cool polyester/spandex, this shirt provides moisture wicking properties, as well as UV protection AND antimicrobial properties. The thumbholes in the sleeves are a bonus, adding a little extra warmth to your hands when needed. I wore this hoodie alone during the cold morning hunts and carried it over into the warmer afternoon hunts without having to change up my wardrobe ($70).


Just think, the sooner you get all the shopping done, the more time you’ll have for wild places and wild birds. Head outside in some frightful weather and make it a great holiday. 

Tenzing BV15 Upland Bird Vest Pack

Tenzing BV15

For the upland hunter looking for a pack that holds more than just birds and shells, the choices are few and far between. I was one of these hunters searching for the perfect pack for a backcountry hunt to chase sharptails in North Dakota. In need of a pack that would hold not only birds, but also extra water for my dog, snacks, emergency kit, camera, extra layers, and more, I stumbled upon the Tenzing BV15 and never looked back.

Not your conventional bird vest, the BV15 is known as a vest/pack crossover—perfect for the upland hunter who leaves their truck for an all day cross country adventure. The pack has 13 total pockets, two radio pockets, and a large wrap-around bird compartment. Two large pockets sit on your hips to hold shells (7 shot shell loops in each pocket), while two adjustable hip straps keep the vest weight up and tight.

The BV15 is H2O compatible, but for those of you who don’t prefer Camelback reservoirs (like me), water bottles fit snug and easily in the bird compartment with extra room to spare. The BV15 is hunter green and comes with a hunter orange pullover for safety while afield.

New for 2016 is the BV16, which is exactly the same as the BV15, only they have updated the color of the pack to be completely blaze orange.  Click here.

Wolverine Bucksaw

Wolverine Bucksaw

Wolverine is a brand known and respected for durable footwear. We’ve tested a number of their boots and haven’t been disappointed.

But now Wolverine is moving into clothing that matches the rugged attitude of their shoes.

The Bucksaw fits right in with that tough Wolverine lineup. Heavyweight fleece on the inside with old-school flannel bonded to the outside — all the warmth with none of the wooly scratch. Add some metal snaps and hood and you’re good for cool mornings under the bird vest or evenings around the campfire.

The only thing that is missing is some permanent stains for character so there’s no plans to wash it until the season is over. Click Here.

QuikClot Gauze

QuikClot

I’m always making small adjustments to the items I consider Every Day Carry (EDC) in my bird vest based on the conditions and situations we run into in the field.

Of course there are always shells, there’s always water, generally a snack though it may be from a previous hunting season. Most of the EDC items focus on dealing with the foreseen yet unlikely. It only takes one bird dog encounter with a porcupine before hemostats make it into your vest.

Quikclot Gauze is the latest addition to my vest’s first aid capabilities. There’s a field full of stickers, slashers and scrapers targeting you or the dogs and depending how far from your full first aid kit, bleeding can become problem. In the past, I’d carry a couple sugar packs — sugar being a coagulant. But the Quikclot Gauze is a cleaner solution. Light, compact and cost effective, the gauze can be used if your bird dog suffers a cut or if you or a hunting partner take one for the team. It’s said to stop bleeding up to 5 times faster.

It’s one of the things in my vest I hope to never need. But in the one instance I do, it will be great to have. It’s an easy add to your EDC. 

Adventure Dog Series Medical Kit

Adventure Dog Med Kit

Adventure Medical Kits is now providing first aid necessities for canine with their Adventure Dog Series.  When I heard about my friend’s new GSP I thought it would be a good excuse to get some quality puppy time and deliver the requisite puppy present.

Libby really likes the nifty carry case. It seems to contain most of the first aid basics with all types of bandages, medical scissors, saline and syringe for flushing eyes or ears, antihistamine, aspirin, tweezers, a leash which could also be used as a tourniquet. Maybe the best addition are the pet and people first aid guides which detail common injuries and treatment procedure.

We’re always adding new gear to our med kits, but this gives adventure seekers a really good start. Throw it in the truck and forget about it. Hopefully you’ll never need it but chances are hard working dogs will get a few bumps and bruises afield that need tending.

At around $45, it’s makes a great gift for new dog owners and a good way to remind those headed out with dogs to be prepared for pet mishaps.

Medical Kit Detail

Puppy with Medical Kit

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Cabela’s Unlined Deerskin Gloves


When afield we like leather gloves that have balance. We need maximum feel and functionality so that we can click off the safety and pull the trigger. But gloves still need to provide enough protection to remove sand spurs from the dog and help weasel our way through thorns in the grouse woods. These deerskin gloves strike that good mix. Here’s a quick tip for once the gloves get good and scuffed; spit in the palm and rub it in really well. It helps to make the leather a little tacky which improves the grip on the gun and thumb safeties. ($25.99) Click here.

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