Guns, Gear, and The Great Outdoors

Total Outdoorsman

Skill 227: Hold a Shotgun Tenderly

Whether you enjoy beating the bushes in hopes of flushing a covey of quail, hiking through the opens plains in search of cackling ringnecks, or simply enjoy transforming fluorescent flying disks into fluorescent flying powder, you can do it better by getting your grip right. The manual relates the proper grip to the way you handle a common household item. Using the grip pressure instructed, this is what I noticed:

  1. The gun shouldered in the correct position naturally
  2. My usual sight tremors disappeared
  3. It seemed much easier to sweep the target and continue with my follow-through.

The moral of the story is this: after taking the book’s advice, it became clear that I have been holding my shotgun wrong for twenty years.

Sighting down browning gold

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Skill 186: Teach a Bird Dog to Point

Bird Pointing Perfection

For the sake of dedicated journalism, and to provide you, the reader, with an all-inclusive reading experience, the obvious way to complete this skill was to rush out and buy the first pointer puppy I could find…

This is mistake number one that people make in the pursuit of bird dog perfection. Sure, skills can be taught…to a point. A key aspect of a rock-solid hunting dog, however, is rock-solid genetics. Don’t simply glance in the classified ads until you stumble upon a batch of puppies that will work. Do your homework, ask the gun dog community, and set yourself up for success.

This is one of those skill challenges that you only get to try out every 10-15 years (hopefully). That being said, my father’s two-year-old German shorthaired pointer, “Nikka” (pictured above), provides a means for me to evaluate her training against the tips suggested in the Total Outdoorsman Manual (TOM).

As I just stated, step one of our process was locating a quality breeder. Nikka came pre-packaged with a long list of championship bloodlines and a guarantee from this breeder. Step One….check.

Aside from genetics, the rest was up to us. When comparing the steps we took in creating the Michael Jordan of bird dogs to the ones that the book suggests, the approach was very similar.

[At this point, it’s a good time to let you, the reader, know that these posts will be a review of the tips discussed in the book, not a summary of them. As much as I would love to tell each and every one of you exactly what I am doing, I have this sinking suspicion that Field and Stream, as well as the authors would define me doing so as plagiarism. Since their lawyers are probably much more robust than mine, I’ll leave it up to you to buy the book if you really want to follow along. I would recommend doing this anyway, as the book’s pictures and asides from the author are worth the purchase price alone, not to mention the wealth of useful, intriguing, fun information]

To put our strategy into a few short path marks to ensure you are moving in the right direction: If your pointer puppy is less than a year old, is familiar with the sound of a .22, a 410, and a 20 gage, has tasted feathers, and you are familiar with the concept of positive reinforcement to encourage desired behaviors, your headed in the right direction. For a more detailed, step by step guide, check out the TOM and give their method a try.

In our case, Nikka participated in the North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association’s natural ability test a few days after her first birthday. Not only did she receive a prize I perfect score, but she also pointed a bird in which the judges’ claimed didn’t exist in a wide-open field containing one small tuft of grass. As the judge sarcastically kicked around at the open ground, he chuckled at the notion that Nikka was pointing at nothing. Much to his surprise, a quail blasted out of the grass and did a quick fly-by of his head. He didn’t chuckle much after that.Nikka posing with a beautiful male ringneck pheasant


The Journey

As a fledgling member of the blog community, I can only assume that if you are reading this post, there is a strong possibility that you have watched the movie “Julie and Julia.” However, if this assumption is like a majority of the ones I make, allow mImagee to explain. The 2009 movie, directed by Nora Ephron, features Julie (Amy Adams) who vows to cook and blog her way through Julia Child’s first book “”Mastering the Art of French Cooking”. With each recipe, Julie is challenged to stretch farther, venture deeper, and whisk faster. The end result is a journey that leaves a young woman forever changed. If you haven’t gotten the chance to enjoy this movie, do yourself a favor and check it out. Okay, so now you are asking yourself, “Why is someone who lures me in with talks of guns, survival, zombies, and bush-craft now rambling on about Julia Childs and classic French cuisine?” Well stop thinking so much and let me finish!

For the last eight years, Field and Stream Magazine has been hosting the “Total Outdoorsman Challenge.” People from every crevice of the country compete for $25,000 and the bragging rights of being the baddest outdoorsman (or ourdoorswoman) in the land. Recently, Field and Stream teamed up with outdoor writer T. Edward Nickens to produce a companion guide, titled “The Total Outdoorsman Manual: 374 Skills You Need”. The hardcover gem includes tips for better camping, fishing, hunting, and survival. It covers everything from choosing the right knife to taking the best fish photo, to safely drinking your own peepee. No stone is left unturned in this literary feast for the outdoorsman’s soul. So what does this have to do with Julia Childs, you ask?

This is where my quest begins. The plan is to create my own dirt covered, fishy smelling, fire kindling version of Nora Ephron’s idea. I will complete all 374 “essential skills” that Field and Stream and Ed Nickens tells me I need to know, with some exceptions. Due to the layout of the book and the fact that I am no relation to Michael Waddell, it isn’t feasible for me to hunt bull elk one day and fish for steelheads in Colorado the next. That being said, my goal is to complete each task in a timely manner, and provide you, the reader, with the gory, gritty details. If you are connecting the dots, you are now realizing that at some point, this means I’m going to have to drink my own urine. Yeah, I’m still trying to wrap my head around that one too.

Well folks, there it is…my plan of action. I encourage you to offer me words of encouragement, advice, and a sense of humor along the way. I will definitely need that last one by the end. Oh yeah, and for those of you who think hunting and fishing is a morally reprehensible act undertaken by barbarians and monsters, let me point you in the right direction. I’m sure if you hit your “back” button a few times and type “classic French cuisine” in the search bar, you will find something more to your liking. For everyone else, buckle up. It’s may be a bumpy ride…