We ended up hunting in South Dakota in some of the most brutal conditions I’ve ever experienced afield. Filson’s Stryker Jacket ($325) gave us the perfect balance between insulation and weight. We had no problem wearing our strap vest over top and staying warm. The best part is we could still smoothly mount the shotgun without feeling over burdened by too many layers.
We’re finally back from SHOT and now planning our last hunt of the season. Here’s our round up of some of the great new gear for bird hunters being rolled out this year.
The Syren by Caesar Guerini is a high grade O/U made specifically for women. It’s great to see shotgun makers beginning to take notice of the largest growth segment of our sport and certainly look forward to seeing more women take part in upland hunting.
Some thought went into this Filson Front Loading Shooting Shirt. Filson always has great products for bird hunters, but this breaks the standard mold. And the Seattle-Cut clothing that they are now developing shows that Filson is looking to do some much needed upgrades for performance clothing while still retaining the historic quality of their products.
Wolverine is expanding their lineup of boots for women and continuing to develop new innovation in footwear. The Alert and the Sightline both fall into the category of lightweight, waterproof boots that I like to take to the field.
Benchmade is phasing out their Lone Wolf line and have returned to the hunting segment with Benchmade HUNT. These are beefy blades crafted specifically for hunters. Expect all the same quality and service associated with the Benchmade brand, but now get an edge and a steel that are optimized for butchering game. Check out some of the videos on their YouTube channel.
With onXmaps Hunt it just became a lot easier to attain landowner permission for hunting. OnXmaps will also keep you on the right side of the boundary on public lands and WMAs. We’ll be using it to help plan our next bird hunt.
I think the level of exertion at sporting clays courses should extend beyond the trigger finger. The name “sporting clays” implies a certain level of physical activity. But, a number of courses have paths for vehicles and even golf carts for transporting shooters and their gear from one station to the next. Distances between each shooting location are generally 40 yards and up. For us, upland hunting is an active sport that involves a fair share of hiking. So when we shoot sporting clays to practice bird gunning, we prefer not to drive a vehicle from station to station. We walk. And we don’t push a glorified stroller with a gun rack that some courses provide, either. We lug the gear and guns between volleys, just like we would in the field. This also allows for a healthy dose of banter, and time to keep a close eye on the score.
There’s no monetary wager between my nephew Zach and I when we shoot clays on this Off-Season Odyssey. The stakes are simple and immediate: lose the station and you lug the shooting bag to the next.
Big whoop, right? Well, Filson’s Sportsman Bag can make that lugging a bigger deal than you might think. In the main compartment Zach and I stash 300 rounds of 20-gauge shells, because even if the course is only 100 clays you still can never have enough ammo. It looks as though we’d easily be able to stow 16 boxes of 20-gauge and still have room for our two cameras, mini-tripod and various POV video accessories that we pack to chronicle the round.
In the rear outside pocket we put all our gun cleaning gear: rags, oil, cleaning rod, grease and barrel snake. And during the round we stash our shotgun socks in this compartment for safe keeping too.
In the front zippered pocket goes hearing protection, shooting gloves, eye protection, choke tubes and wrenches and cell phones for two shooters. In the pockets on either end we place keys, drinks and the scoring clipboard. I’m pretty certain we’ve intentionally made this bag as heavy as possible to inflict the worst punishment for poor shooting.
With the hefty bridle leather strap, thick canvas and beefy zippers you just know this Filson bag is built to take a beating. I’m not real certain what it weighs when fully stocked, I just know the added heft never stings quite as much as the reason you’re carrying it in the first place. So the best course of action is to get a Filson Sportsman’s Bag and make sure your shooting buddy carries it the entire time.
When the round is complete we remove the cameras, restock the shells and there’s room to stow two Filson shooting vests for the next outing. I suppose one could use this Sportsman’s Bag for any sort of travel or adventure, but why would you want to when it’s perfect for shotgunning?
Big Thanks to Filson for sponsoring our Odyssey.
When wild bird hunting seasons end it leaves a pretty large void in our schedule. Both the dogs and I must cope with the withdrawals from time afield and adjust to the looming summer doldrums. Seven months is just too long to rest on laurels. I always dread that final day of hunting, but this year I started planning well in advance to help fill the vacuum.
Over the winter my nephew Zach researched and reported on medieval weaponry for his sophomore high school English course. Given the current climate for anything weapon related in schools I was actually somewhat amazed the report didn’t land him a suspension or on the terrorist watch list.
I’m blessed with an abundance of nieces and nephews. When one expresses an interest even remotely related to my passion I run with it. In my mind catapults and claymores are precursors to the modern tools of the trade which I use all hunting season. You have an interest in swords; let me tell you how that relates to upland hunting. I’m fairly certain there are few topics safe from my associating to pursuit of birds. I suppose the ease of which I make creative connections is likely just a result of recent reflections of my bird hunting legacy.
Blade design is an art that has been around for millennium. Because the basic functions and requirements of the knife haven’t changed since first wielded, it’s a great case study of what people have done to improve it. When I informed our friends at Benchmade about my saber smitten nephew they were quick to invite us on a VIP tour. Benchmade® is a leader in modern blade development and they help nurture new concepts by inviting interns to participate in their design process. It is a testament that good ideas can come from anywhere. I find it important to show Zach that besides knives just being cool, there are reasons for form and function. And there are people bringing these concepts to fruition. The power of an idea is a lesson I wish I would have learned earlier in life, but now I get a redo with my nephew. We just have to get from rural Ohio to the Benchmade headquarters in Oregon.
Luckily the end of bird hunting season times up really well with Spring Break. So I’ve wrangled Zach into a cross-country road trip which will cover over 5,000 miles in just 10 days. Along the way we’ll shoot, hike, camp and explore our place in the great outdoors. Wyatt our black lab will join us for some training, entertainment and to keep the varmints from camp at night. Zach seems excited for the adventure but is likely oblivious to the amount of tutoring I have planned or the posterior pain that comes with infinite days behind the wheel.
It’s early spring so we’re preparing for a mixed bag of elements along much of the route. Luckily Filson recognized the merits of this odyssey and agreed to outfit us for any conditions which we might encounter. From the rugged Rockies to spring torrents of the Pacific Northwest we’ll be putting our new Filson gear to the test as other explorers have for over a century.
There are common threads to most of the great memories from my youth; exertion and accomplishment. Turns out that things that come easy are easily forgotten. The current trend toward sedentary existence puts a generation at risk of having no formative tales. My hope for this Off-Season Odyssey is that my nephew learns observing life will never be as satisfying as seizing opportunity.
It’s the eve of our departure and the gear is loaded. At the crack of dawn we’ll pour into the truck to start our first 16-hour day of driving. Somewhere in Illinois we’ll stop for a round of sporting clays to stretch the legs. And here Zach will learn another lesson: even with the faster reflexes and better vision that accompany youth, you can’t outshoot your uncle.
Big Thanks to Filson for sponsoring our Odyssey.