The Squirrel Master Classic could be classiﬁed as a friendly competition, as it pairs up teams consisting of an outdoor TV personality, a young person involved in 4H Shooting Sports, outdoor writers, and a squirrel dog handler. The teams compete in a morning and evening squirrel hunt with a shooting competition at midday. This year, the range was supervised by world champion shooter Doug Koening, whose most recent major win (as of this writing) came at the 2016 NRA Bianchi Cup.
Scoring is simple. The team with the most squirrels and most points earned in the shooting competition wins the competition. In order to qualify to take part in the event, the six 4H shooters in this year’s classic had to compete with other 4H’ers for the privilege. The lone girl in that half dozen, Moriah Christian, outshot all of her colleagues during the shooting competition.
ALL HUNTING AND COMPETITIVE shooting is done using Gamo air riﬂes, the event’s sponsor. Each hunter this year were supplied with Gamo’s new Swarm .22-caliber pellet riﬂe (see sidebar), which features a 10-shot detachable magazine, eliminating the need to reload after each shot.
While the competition is intense for the coveted squirrel trophy awarded to the winners, the real emphasis here is on the young hunters. The TV personalities attending this year – Jackie Bushman, Michael Waddell, Travis “T-Bone” Turner, Kenneth Lancaster, Ralph and Vickie Cianciarulo, and Richard Eutsler – along with Gamo president Keith Higginbotham and others at the event all recognize the need to encourage and nurture young people in hunting and the shooting sports.
In the end, Turner’s team (which I was fortunate enough to be a member of) took the trophy, and while we were very pleased I saw no smiles bigger than those of the young 4H shooters. They had a day in the beautiful Alabama woodlands following some feisty squirrel dogs, shooting air riﬂes, and spending time with some of their media heroes. It was a day they will not forget anytime soon – nor will I, for that matter – and that, my friends, is whole idea of the Squirrel Master Classic. ASJ
But even if it had never ﬂirted with a highfalutin yet largely ceremonial government title, the wild turkey would remain unique among game birds. We don’t hunt any other feathered creature the way we hunt turkeys, with the basic premise being sitting and attempting to call them into shotgun range. Their habits and wariness, coupled with ultra-keen eyesight and hearing create a need for the use of hunting tactics and equipment that we apply to no other type or breed of fowl. Herewith are some strategies and gobblerappropriate gear for you to consider for your next feathered frenzy.
CALLING TURKEYS HAS BECOME the most overrated, mystifying, and downright lied about phase of turkey hunting. Some supposed experts claim that calling comprises only about 30 percent of what is needed to seal the deal with a gobbler, maybe less. I could argue with that ﬁgure, but if you are a beginner, you will need to ﬁnd a call that you are comfortable with. I would go with a box call or a slate friction-type call. Learn to make the simple yelp of a hen turkey and maybe the cluck to begin with, and that will give you a strong start.
Don’t worry about doing 14 different calls like the guys on TV. If a turkey is ready to be called in, sometimes a couple yelps and a cluck or two is all that is necessary. Let the guys at the calling contests do all the fancy stuff; you are out in the woods to shoot turkeys. Give the gobbler just enough to keep him interested. If he is coming toward you, quit calling. Less is sometimes better than more.
Whether you call more or less, you still need a call. And, friends, there are a lot of turkey calls out there. There are many good ones that will call turkeys most days. Prices run from really cheap to what you might shell out on the down payment of a nice truck. HS Strut offers several moderately priced box calls that work; they sound like a turkey. What I like about the Undertaker box call is it features an abrasive, waterproof surface on the paddle and the striking surfaces of the call. If you have ever been aﬁeld and have your favorite box call get soaked and rendered useless, you know what a great feature this is. MSRP is $39.99. The new Triple Trauma box call has an adjustable lid that allows you to change the tone of the call and mimic three different hens. MSRP is $29.99, and you can contact them via their website (hunterspec.com).
Finally, the new Hensanity call from Primos offers a couple new twists to a tried-and-true form of turkey call. (Editor’s note: This was featured in last month’s News column.) The body of the call or “pot” has four sound ports that you control with your hand and allows you to make a wide array of variations in your calling. The frictionite surface means you don’t have to worry about losing your sandpaper to rough up the call. MSRP is $29.99, and you can ﬁnd more information from Primos (primos.com).
WHEN TURKEYS HAVE SEEMINGLY quit talking (they will do this often during any given season), sometimes the best thing to do is to get really aggressive. Cinch up your boots, call like you mean it, and cover as much real estate as possible. Go to your listening place and use your locator crow or owl call; if you hear nothing, try the turkey calls. Get assertive with a lot of loud calling, cuts and cackles. If no gobbler responds, move on to the next spot. One down side of this method, of course, is sometimes the gobbler shows up for a date after you leave. You can deal with it; if you hear him gobble at your last stop, get back over there.
The opposite of the marathon runner with a shotgun technique is to simply wait them out. If you know the place you are hunting well and you know the turkeys are there, maybe you just want to sit tight. Find a good spot to call from and set up camp. Get comfortable, call every 15 or 20 minutes, and by all means take a nap if you want to. A word of caution on the nap thing: You need to be ready for the dreaded “come in silent” gobbler. These are the turkeys that never say a word, slip in on you and don’t gobble. And a turkey with these antisocial tendencies needs to be taken out of the gene pool.
But no matter if you run and gun or sit on your hindquarters all day, you still need durable camouﬂage clothing that is functional for turkey hunting. Nomad performance hunting apparel has partnered with the National Wild Turkey Federation to create a line of premium performance fabrics that feature the NWTF logo and the new NWTF Mossy Oak Obsession camouﬂage pattern. A collection featuring the Bottomland pattern (one of my favorites) is also available. A portion of all proﬁts from this line will go to the NWTF for conservation-based projects.
Although I have hunted spring gobblers in the snow (notice that I didn’t say I liked it), most spring hunts are in warmer weather. The Nomad/NWTF collection should have you covered from early to late season. Their woven long-sleeve shirt and pant features rugged, lightweight Rip-Stop Technology with secured cargo pockets – designed speciﬁcally for the turkey woods. For warm-weather hunts, the company offers a quarter-zip and cooling T-shirt option built from breathable materials that feature vented back/underarms and offers moisture transport. To round out the collection, Nomad also offers hats, gaiters and gloves. Their website is nomad.com.
EXPERIENCED TURKEY HUNTERS KNOW that the last several yards of a turkey’s approach toward you are the most critical. Make a mistake after he crosses the 50-yard line and you will not be partaking of fried turkey breast. The key here is just to be ready. Sit at the base of the largest tree you can ﬁnd and face the direction the gobbler will approach from. If you are a right-handed shooter, point your left shoulder at the place you think he will appear; do the opposite if you are a lefty. This allows you to swing the gun in order to cover as much area as possible. As you sit with your knees up, the shotgun is on one knee. Get as comfortable as you can, because you’ll need to be able to sit like this for some time.
When the gobbler comes into view, you cannot move. Let me repeat that sentence and add an exclamation point for emphasis: You cannot move!
As the moment of truth draws near, you may need to make a very slight adjustment in aiming at the turkey. This is accomplished by carefully watching the bird and waiting until his head goes behind something big, usually a tree (and the tree has to be pretty large for this to work). Keep in mind the turkey must be within a few feet of this tree if you are to go undetected. Remember the old turkey hunter adage: “A turkey can see through a thin rock.”
Ask any experienced turkey hunter; the scenario of sitting at the base of a tree while the gobbler approaches can be torture. The gobbler may take his own sweet time in getting to you, longer if you’re sitting on a rock, tree root or other sharp object, all while you are trying to hold the shotgun on your knee without moving! (Did I mention you cannot move?) Through the years, I have sat and watched the barrel of more than one companion’s gun start to wobble in increasingly larger circles. Turkey shotguns can be heavy, and so something to help relieve the weight of that gun may be in order. The Primos Trigger Stick Gen 3 series can really help with this.
The best feature of this product to me is it will adjust to the desired height with one hand. Simply grab the “trigger” and boom, it’s right where you need it to be. The Gen 3 series has added improved features such as locking leg angles to provide more stability, and the gun rest rotates so you can easily adjust your aim. These sticks come in monopod, bipod and tripod models, and in short and tall lengths.
ONCE TURKEY DECOYS FINALLY MADE their debut, I began to see some hunters get away with movement near an approaching gobbler that would previously have been impossible. The reason is simple. The turkey has his eyes on the decoy and is less likely to see the hunter. However, until recently, I’ve been discouraged from carrying decoys because they are too bulky and heavy, and some early versions of light, packable decoys were often lacking in the appearance department, resembling a mutant ostrich as much as anything else.
But I’m beginning to change my opinion on that, because HS Strut’s new Strut Lite decoys look and feel great. They have a ﬂake-resistant paint job and have a foldable, hollow body construction for easy storage in your vest. They are available in a three-pack with a semistrutting jake, a feeding hen and a breeding hen, and individually. MSRP for the ﬂock is $99.99; singles range from $34.99 to $44.99. See hunterspec.com.
ALTHOUGH SOME STATES ALLOW RIFLES for taking turkeys, it is generally thought of as a shotgun sport. The choices for turkey shotguns out there are wide and varied, and choosing just one or two shotguns to discuss with you here is not easy. I’ve gone back to my roots a bit with the choice of two pump guns, but I may have balanced that out with decidedly new and improved ammo.
With more than 12 million models sold since it appeared in 1951, what can you say about the Remington 870 that has not already been said? I will stick my neck out (pun intended) and say more turkeys have been shot with a Remington 870 than any other shotgun. It has the rock-solid dependability and functionality that turkey and waterfowl hunters demand, and I’m sure that many of you out there are still hunting with your dad’s or granddad’s 870 Wingmaster. I am not sure I can even count the number of variations of the 870, but the Super Magnum Turkey/ Waterfowl model will do most anything you need a shotgun for. The “Super” in the name designates it will handle 2¾- to 3½-inch shells for those days when you want a little extra punch for turkeys, or Canada geese. Another good reason to choose this one is because it comes in Mossy Oak Bottomland. MSRP for this model is $629.00.
If for some reason you’d like another brand or ﬂavor of pump gun, the 612 Magnum Turkey from CZ-USA may be the one for you. And, although this smoothbore was designed for turkey hunting, you won’t have any trouble taking it to the duck blind or pheasant ﬁelds. It weighs in at an amazing 6.8 pounds, a big bonus that you are going to appreciate if you need to lug it though the turkey woods. The 612 Magnum Turkey is hydrodipped in Realtree Xtra Green, shoots everything up to 3½-inch ammo and comes with an extra-full choke for turkeys and a modiﬁed for upland game and steel shot. This pump gun has an action reminiscent of the Model 12, and with an MSRP of $429 it is hard to beat.
As with the countless calls, there are various and sundry shotgun shells out there for turkeys these days. Winchester seems to be ruling the roost in this area with their Long Beard XR ammo. The boys at Winchester made shot shell history when they perfected the Shot-Lok technology, which allowed them to load shot in a liqueﬁed resin. This resin hardens, and upon ignition in the chamber of the shotgun it shatters and produces a super-effective buffering compound. All of this translates into the tight downrange patterns today’s turkey hunters want. New this year will be 20-gauge rounds in the Long Beard XR line, so stay tuned for news about this. MSRP is $18.99 for a box of 10 3-inch shells for 12-gauge shotguns, and $22.99 for 3½-inch shells.
FINALLY, AND FOR BETTER OR worse, turkey hunting has become a game of tightshooting shotguns, and to many turkey hunters the tighter the better. Today’s gobbler hunters want effective killing patterns on turkeys at 50 yards and beyond. George Trulock in Whigham, Ga., has been making choke tubes for many years and he is good at it. Mr. Trulock has forgotten more about choke tubes on shotguns than most of us will ever know. Currently TruLock Chokes (trulockchokes.com) has an inventory of over 2,000 choke tubes in stock, so take your pic. Trulock went so far as to not only make a choke tube speciﬁcally to be used with the Winchester Long Beard XR ammo, but he is making choke tubes speciﬁc to the shot size you want to use. He’s said, “If you shoot different shot sizes through the same choke, you could see a big difference in the pattern for each size. That’s why we decided to make each choke model speciﬁc to the Longbeard XR No. 4, 5 and 6 shot, and to tell you the truth, the results were quite impressive.”
PERSONALLY, I’M VERY THANKFUL that Mr. Franklin lost out on his bid to make the wild turkey our national bird. I would hate to think about the redbuds blooming and all of those old gobblers ﬁlling the spring air with their racket and we couldn’t be out there pursuing them. Not only do we get to match wits with this most American of birds, but we also get to justify the purchase of some really cool guns and gear. I love turkey hunting. Don’t you? ASJ
A bright orange disc ﬂies out of the trap house at a pace only slightly slower than the speed of light. You were hoping for a lob, a gimme, or a straightaway that you could transform into orange powder and boost your conﬁdence a little. But you don’t get any of those, and instead the demonic chunk of clay goes hard left – your worst angle – and you struggle to catch up with the meteor. Finally, you stop the gun and slowly lift your cheek off the comb in defeat as the intact disc spins away to safety.
From somewhere nearby, you swear you hear a snicker.
This nightmare scenario is played out time and again on trap shooting ranges all over the country, and sometimes we reluctantly ﬁnd ourselves in the starring role. But maybe, like me, you have a desire to break out of your present skill level for busting clays. Perhaps this will be the year you do what it takes to improve those scores.
I don’t suggest that I’m a rocket scientist in these matters, but in all honesty, it isn’t rocket science. We all know what the experts tell us. If you want to improve, you’ll have to take action to come up in the world on the trap, skeet or sporting clays range. You have to get serious and burn more powder. You have to ﬁnd some good, qualiﬁed instruction, because just listening to the buddy you shoot with every other Saturday ain’t gonna cut it.
Oh, and one more thing – one really important thing. You have to get a good shotgun, one that is built for the task; a shotgun designed to make it easier for you turn those elusive little clays into powder.
Now, I admire the man or woman who shoots trap, ducks and turkeys all with the same shotgun. But if you are going to get serious in this game, you need to start thinking about a shotgun built for the job, and CZ-USA has something new that may be just what you are looking for.
CZ-USA HAS TURNED OUT impressive shotguns for several years, but the brand-new player in their lineup is the All-American Trap Combo. David Miller – CZ’s shotgun guru and the current Guinness Book of World Record holder for the most clay targets broken in one hour – travels all over the country shooting shotguns. He knows a thing or three about them, and between trigger pulls, he told me all about the company’s new smoothbore.
“It’s been a long time in the making,” he said, “I remember talking to Alice Poluchova [president of CZ-USA] on how important it was for us to tap into the American trap market
way back in 2010, but to do so would take a special product.”
Miller ﬁnally began working with CZ-USA’s partners at AKKAR, the shotgun makers in Istanbul, Turkey, in 2014. In those early talks, he stressed how durable the gun had to be, and what sort of features a shooter would want in a high-quality shotgun speciﬁcally designed for American trap shooting. That list of features soon made their way to Semih Polat, the product manager at the AKKAR factory. It was a pretty impressive list (see sidebar), so I’ll discuss the main features one group at a time.
THE FIRST GROUP OF FEATURES consists of drop-in replaceable action components, three sizes of replaceable locking lugs, and easy-to-replace ﬁring pins and bushings. The drop-in parts feature is huge. A well-used trap gun will ﬁre thousands of rounds a year, and no matter how well made it is, some parts will wear out faster than others. The ability to quickly replace things like bushings, hinge pins and ﬁring pins will be greatly appreciated by the avid shooter.
Neale Flynn, gunsmith at CZ-USA, provided even more detail on the replaceable locking lugs. “The locking block engages the bites of the barrel underneath the bottom of the chamber,” he said, “and the locking block wears over time. Slowly, the top snap lever will go from the right, when the gun is shut, to center.”
“Once at center,” he continued, “the locking block needs to be replaced. On other over/under shotguns, you have to weld and machine the locking block that was in that gun to begin with. It’s more time consuming, and we have to do it in-house to ensure it’s correct. With these drop-in locking blocks of different sizes, it allows us to send the next size of locking block to a customer for their local gunsmith to replace, no major special surgery required.”
Next on Miller’s list were an unsingle singles trap barrel with full ﬂoating rib, and a matching set of midheight rib over/under barrels. “Unsingle” refers to a single-barreled option on this gun to shoot singles, with the barrel being
“under” on the bottom. Opinions vary, but many shooters prefer the barrel to be on the bottom in a single barrel conﬁguration, compared to a “top single” model such as one made by Krieghoff.
HOW THE RIB IS ATTACHED is important, and Flynn advised me that the rib on the All-American Trap Combo is silver-soldered to the barrel. The solder used is 45 percent silver, and is done in an oven at 800 degrees Fahrenheit. Compared to lead- and tin-based solders, or tin and antimony solder, which is more common on less expensive guns, this method is signiﬁcantly stronger.
And a matching set of over-and-under barrels allows the All-American Trap Combo shooter to compete in all phases of American Trap shooting – singles, doubles and handicap.
Finally, we come to a fully adjustable butt pad plate (also adjustable for length of pull), a four-way adjustable parallel comb, adjustable trigger shoe positing, and select wood grain. Just as Miller requested, everything that can be adjusted on this gun is adjustable. The comb adjusts, but it is also parallel. When your cheek is against the comb, your head will not raise or lower if you move back and forth on the stock.
The butt pad adjusts for length of pull, toe in and toe out (slant of the pad from top to bottom), and even for cast on and off. The trigger is adjustable up to inch, and the wood in the stock is listed as “select” – it is drop-dead gorgeous.
I PUT SEVERAL BOXES of Browning’s new BPT shotgun ammo through the All-American Trap Combo and watched others do the same. The gun seemed lively and naturally pointed, yet was still heavy enough that I saw no problems with recoil.
After putting it through its paces, I offered a few other shooters the opportunity for a test drive. Austyn Byers, a high school 4H shooter from Auto, W.Va., picked it up out of case, walked onto the trap range and shot a 23 on his ﬁrst round.
I also trolled the All-American Trap Combo past some of the instructors at the Greenbrier Resort Gun Club in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va. The gun was very well received there and turned heads everywhere I took it.
“Now that CZ-USA is stepping into the realm of trap shooting,” Miller said, “we will be automatically compared to the shotguns that are already proven to work in such games. For example, Caesar Guerini’s base model is called a Summit Combo and it’s a fantastic gun, but it costs $7,995. There are other great trap guns available, but none will give you more for your money than the AllAmerican Trap Combo.”
MSRP is $3,399. If you can ﬁnd another shotgun that is as well made and has as many features as this, I suggest you buy it. ASJ
But some things are too important to not prepare for. Depending on what and where you hunt with your scattergun, your season is either coming up fast, or is already here. September is often the last call for getting shotguns and other paraphernalia ready, so let’s talk about what you need to do to get out there and sling some lead or steel.
First, pull those scatterguns out of the gun safe and look ’em over. I’m sure that you would never put a shotgun away at the end of the season without a thorough cleaning, but if somehow this did happen, now is the time to rectify it.
Open the action and make sure everything seems to function properly – action, trigger, safety, etc. If there are any problems, you may (yes, I wrote “may”) have time to get it to your gunsmith for repair. But if there are any questions with functioning or the safety, do not take
the shotgun to the ﬁeld.
Most of the time, the only prep our guns need is some old-fashioned cleaning. Pump guns and semiautos need a little more TLC when it comes to this, but don’t neglect the actions on your side-by-side and over-and-under shotguns just because they’re easier to clean. It is, however, easy to be intimidated when it comes taking pump and semiauto guns apart, so if you feel as if you are getting in over your head, don’t do it.
Not that long ago, I needed to disassemble a Browning BPS, and when it came to taking the bolt assembly apart I was unsure about getting it back together. Fortunately, there are multiple internet videos about putting this gun – and many others – back together.
While you are making sure that your guns are ready to roll, here are a few items that will help improve your experience in the ﬁeld.
ONE GUN PROTECTION PRODUCT I’ve recently come to use is Hopper Spit by Birchwood Casey. The name is derived from – and I am not making this up – the product’s dark brownish-green color. If you caught grasshoppers for ﬁsh bait as a kid (as I did), you know what color their spit is.
Hopper Spit is an extreme rust and corrosion preventative for the metal on ﬁrearms. It will protect ferrous and nonferrous metals, and withstand the harshest conditions, including salt spray. This is a good protective spray for long-term storage of your guns (so you’ll be all ready for next season), or before a hard day in the ﬁeld or the range. The suggested retail price is under $15, so you really can’t aﬀord to not test it out.
For more, see birchwoodcasey.com.
ANOTHER TYPE OF protection that we often neglect in the ﬁeld is for our hearing. For some reason, we wear it religiously when we go to the trap, skeet or sporting clay range, but we think that banging away in the dove ﬁeld all day is somehow diﬀerent. Some of us (like me) have already experienced some hearing loss from years of unprotected shooting, but it’s never too soon, or too late, to protect the hearing you have left.
Any hearing protection, including the simple “jam it in your ear” soft foam type, is better than nothing, but I think the in-ear electronic models work best. They eﬀectively reduce shotgun blast noise while letting us hear what is going around us, and this increased awareness can be very important while on the range or in the ﬁeld.
Etymotic Research’s Gunsport PRO electronic ear plugs are an excellent option for this need. GSP 15 electronic earplugs allow natural hearing when no background noise is present, and gradually protect from loud continuous noise from vehicles, machinery or gunﬁre from nearby shooters. At the ﬂip of a switch, sound is ampliﬁed, improving distance detection up to ﬁve times for enhanced awareness.
I’ve used the GunSport 15 model ear plugs in the ﬁeld and in a shotgun class at Gunsite Academy, and found them to be comfortable, eﬀective and easy to use. The suggested retail for these ear plugs is $299.00, but if you do much shooting (or go to NASCAR races, etc.), they are worth every penny.
For more, go to etymotic.com.
THERE IS NO SUCH THING as too much ammo. Can I get an “amen?” We shotgunners tend to go through a lot of ammunition, and that is a good thing. No matter how many shotgun shells you may have stored at your ranch, you are probably always in the market for more. I know I am.
Before you head oﬀ to the dove ﬁeld for your ﬁrst hunting expedition, you should put in at least a couple sessions shooting trap, skeet or sporting clays – anything to get you out there shooting.
Maybe you’ve heard that Browning has entered the ammunition world, and here are a couple oﬀerings for you to consider.
For the range, Browning oﬀers Browning Performance Target (BPT) Shotshells. A combination of hard shot and a smooth hull make this an excellent choice. Most of you know that round shot will ﬂy truer and hold a better pattern, and the harder or denser the shot, the more it holds its shape and doesn’t become deformed during ﬂight. Harder shot also breaks targets better.
Browning wanted to come in somewhere in the middle on the price point on this ammo, and accomplished this on their BPT line with a brass-plated steel shell head. The brass plating allows for smooth feeding, but the steel head makes it diﬃcult to reload, so Browning does not recommend it. MSRP for a box of 25 is $9.99, but you may see them on shelves anywhere from $7.99 up.
Browning has also introduced the BXD line of hunting shotshells. Along with nickel-plated shot for tighter downrange patterns, the main feature of these shells is speed. The 12-gauge 2¾-inch shell with a 13/8-ounce shot load delivers a muzzle velocity of 1,485 feet per second, and that, my friends, is a screamer. This type of speed should allow for less lead when drawing on that rooster pheasant that ﬂushed a bit too far out.
For more, see browningammo.com.
THIS ONLY SCRATCHES the surface of all the things you need to attend to before you hit the woods or the dove ﬁeld, but the editors would not give me the 20 pages I asked for to cover this topic adequately. Go ﬁgure.
As always, my advice to you is to just go. There will never be a perfect or even a good time to do it. Go to the range, go to where the doves are flying, or go see if the teal are in yet. No matter what you want to go after, just go! ASJ
This is what happened a few months ago when I ventured west to the Show Me State for some turkey hunting. I had been discussing this for a while with Dave Miller, the shotgun product manager at CZ-USA, a ﬁrearm manufacturer headquartered next door to Missouri in Kansas City, Kan. CZ-USA is the US-based subsidiary of the Czech Republic company that makes a long list of ﬁrearms, including riﬂes, pistols, submachine guns and some very ﬁne shotguns. Many of their scatterguns are made in Turkey, which, if you didn’t know, has a long history of making ﬁrearms. CZ-USA also owns Dan Wesson Firearms, which has produced excellent revolvers and pistols for years, including some very nice 1911s.
I have talked to you about Miller in these pages before. Last year I reported on a feat he accomplished that I do not expect to be equaled anytime soon. Miller broke no less than 3,653 clay targets in one hour, squarely putting him in the Guinness Book of World Records. I was there, I saw it and, to say the least, it was impressive.
Miller is what I would call a rabid shotgun shooter. He lives and breathes it. Besides handling the shotgun product line for CZ-USA, he is also their demonstration and exhibition shooter. I don’t know how many days a year he spends on the road shooting shotguns, but it is way more than I want to be away from home. Saying that Dave Miller shoots a shotgun is like saying Michelangelo painted a few pictures.
So, when Miller called me last spring and invited me to go hunt some Missouri turkeys, I was all for it. But secretly I was a little nervous. If this guy went after turkeys the way he does clay targets, I wasn’t sure I could keep up with him, but there was only one way to ﬁnd out.
When it comes to hospitality, Miller takes the cake, or in this case, the turkey. He secured an absolutely beautiful piece of property for us to hunt – many thanks to J.W. Page, the owner – not far from Kansas City. And, as if that wasn’t enough, Miller found a stunning bed and breakfast a mile from there: the Laurel Brooke Farm B&B. We were set!
THE DAY I ARRIVED Miller drove me out to the hunting area to check it out and unlimber the shotguns we would be using. We elected to use the CZ 612 Magnum Turkey Shotgun, and by the end of our shooting session I was glad we did. Any shotgunner needs at least one good pump gun and the CZ 612 may be perfect. This shotgun only weighs an amazing 6.8 pounds – that’s light. It has a 3½-inch chamber for those who want to shoot the big shells, and it also takes 3- and 2¾-inch shells. What I appreciated was an action that is not equaled by any shotgun in the same price range.
“This is the smoothest, most reliable action on a pump shotgun since the Model 12,” Miller told me. “It is very durable and easy to operate.”
After carrying and hunting with it for ﬁve days, I had to agree. The shotgun is hydro-dipped in Realtree Xtra Green camo and comes with an extra-full choke just for turkey hunting. I would have no problem taking this shotgun upland-bird hunting or waterfowl hunting, for that matter.
When you take all of this into consideration, as well as the retail price of $429, this shotgun is hard to beat. If you can ﬁnd a better made pump shotgun at this price – you won’t – you should buy it!
I DECIDED TO PUT AN OPTIC on one of the shotguns we carried and chose the Trijicon MRO red-dot sight. You have heard me talk about the MRO before, and I believe this is an excellent optic for a turkey gun. This sight allows for lightning-fast target acquisition, has a ﬁve-year battery life and is extremely rugged, as Trijicon optics are built to military specs. Miller and I did not baby the shotguns or the optic on this trip, and they came through it just ﬁne.
While the hospitality of all the people in Missouri I met was wonderful, the Missouri turkeys I came across were not as friendly. They were acting a bit snobbish and did not want to just walk in and be shot like a respectable bird. On the ﬁrst morning, after a very long ordeal with a particularly uppity gobbler, Miller pulled a rabbit out of his hat. We spent over an hour crawling on our bellies like reptiles, watching a typical ﬁeld turkey march around out of range. With a strategic decoy placement Miller coaxed the old reprobate gobbler to come right in.
I would be lying if I said that I was not afraid I might miss in front of a shotgunner like Miller, but the Trijicon MRO really helped on a shot that was closer to 50 than 40 yards. I was also glad to have a Winchester Longbeard XR load in the chamber, as I have seen these shells excel when a hunter stretches the yardage. The CZ 612 spoke and the turkey went down as if struck by lightning (whew!). I think Miller was as happy as I was.
Good friends, beautiful country, a good shotgun and some turkeys to talk to – it doesn’t get much better. Think about Missouri if you are considering a road trip for turkeys. I think the annual harvest is something like 45,000 per year.
Me? I’m glad to be home, but you know, I have been thinking about a little trip somewhere. ASJ
Editor’s note: For more on the products mentioned in this story, see cz-usa.com, trijicon.com and winchester.com.
From about 1722 to 1838 the Long Land Pattern musket (Bess’s oﬃcial name) was the standard-issue long arm for all land forces in the British military. This weapon ﬁred a .75- to .78-caliber ball. As this was the era of British expansion, Brown Bess saw duty around the world. From India to Waterloo all the way over to those pesky American colonies, this was the gun that did most of the ﬁghting, and when mounted with the standard 17-inch bayonet it was deadly indeed! Think of an M1 Garand that stayed in service for over 100 years!
THE ORIGIN OF THE NICKNAME Brown Bess for this pattern musket seems to be uncertain. Some say it was an aﬀectionate reference by the British soldiers to Queen Elizabeth I. King George I was, in fact, German and did not speak English (go ﬁgure), and others think it could have been an interpretation for the German braun Buss or brawn Buss, meaning strong gun or brown gun. (Büchse is an old German word for rifle, in the sense of a hunting weapon.)
Most experts on this musket, however, seem to think it is more likely the overall appearance of the weapon: dark brown wood on the stock and a barrel that often had a brownish tint due to the method of “bluing” the metal at this time known as russeting.
History is wonderful and if you are as crazy about guns as I am, you could get lost in the details and minutiae of any ﬁrearm. I will admit, however, that there is something better than just reading about it – hands-on shooting. The feel of the gun, the burning powder in your nose and getting your hands dirty – there is no substitute for this.
So, where can you actually learn to load and ﬁre a Brown Bess musket? Glad you asked! Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia, of course!
This 301-acre historic site features hundreds of restored, reconstructed and historically furnished buildings. Costumed interpreters tell the stories of the men and women in this 18th-Century city – black, white and Native Americans were all here. Some were slaves, some were indentured and some were free. When you come here, you will learn the challenges these people faced and you can also learn to ﬁre the Brown Bess!
BRAND NEW THIS YEAR, Colonial Williamsburg has opened a ﬁring range where guests can learn to load and ﬁre this treasured musket. If you enjoy history (which you probably do if you are visiting Colonial Williamsburg), take the time to feel history in your hands by shooting these historical treasures.
Even though we were visiting the colonies and not Her Majesty’s home in England, the day my wife Helen and I visited Colonial Williamsburg, we were treated like royalty. Joe Straw, public relations manager for the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, and all of the staﬀ went out of their way to make us feel welcome.
OUR FIRST STOP was the gunsmith shop. To be honest, I could have spent the entire day in there. As with much of Colonial Williamsburg most of this sweeping landscape is just like stepping back in time. Try to imagine walking into an 18th-century gunsmith shop. It’s all here! The guns, the powder horns, the tools and every accoutrement that you can think of and some you might never have realized existed, all with the absolute authenticity and attention to detail that Colonial Williamsburg is known for.
I stood in awe of the blacksmith’s shop next door as a ﬂat piece of metal was repeatedly heated, hammered and forged around an iron rod, transforming it into a riﬂe barrel. I had always been curious about this process and wondered how it was even possible. There I stood as sparks danced with each blow of the hammer and black smoke rolled.
I was very fortunate to spend some time with George Suiter, the master gunsmith here. Suiter has been working in this gunsmith shop for over 30 years and after about 10 minutes of speaking with him I had already forgotten more about making these riﬂes than I would ever know. Suiter makes these Colonial-era “riﬂe guns” right in this shop and people can order their very own. The waiting list is quite lengthy, currently eight to nine years, and on average a riﬂe will fetch about $20,000.
“The best way to preserve a trade is to practice it,” Suiter told me, “ … and that is what we do here at Colonial Williamsburg.” He assured me that one would never ﬁnd tools in this shop which were not true to the time period.
I also spent some time talking to Erik Goldstein, curator of mechanical arts and numismatics. Goldstein is the coauthor of The Brown Bess: An Identiﬁcation Guide And Illustrated Study Of Britain’s Most Famous Musket. This is, at the very least, an exhaustive study of the British Land Pattern musket. I do not believe you could be a serious student nor a proper collector without owning this book.
JOE STRAW WAS ULTIMATELY ABLE to hustle me out of the gunsmith shop and took Helen and I to the musket range. A highly capable group and just as knowledgeable in their craft awaited us. You will ﬁnd this level of commitment and passion all over Colonial Williamsburg, and this is also depicted in the clothing and demeanor.
Portraying a Colonial-era militia man, armorer Justin Chapman met us at the range with a host of well-trained helpers. Chapman gave us an extensive safety and background brieﬁng on the Brown Bess, as well as a period “fowling piece.” The “fowler,” we were told, would be a muzzleloader that would have likely been used by colonists at the time. A predecessor to the modern shotgun, it could be loaded with bird shot or ball load, making it very versatile for the hunting colonist.
Both the Brown Bess and the fowler are smoothbores (no riﬂing in the barrel). They could be loaded quickly, but are not especially accurate over 50 yards. For the European style of combat used at the time, where armies marched in formation to within range of their foes and then sent volleys of lead chunks at them, the Brown Bess was a deadly weapon; for the long-range shooter, not so much. A British soldier was expected to be capable of ﬁring four shots in one minute. After a few volleys of ﬁre, a charge was ordered using those wicked triangular 17-inch bayonets. The line that could stand against such a charge was stalwart indeed!
MY WIFE HELEN HAD the privilege of being the ﬁrst visitor to ﬁre a round on the brand new musket range here. I enjoyed watching her do that as much as anything on this trip. There is something about watching a new shooter that warms the heart. The look on her face after the smoke and boom of her ﬁrst shot was priceless. When she was asked if she wanted to shoot again, she immediately replied, “Of course!”
When it was my turn to shoot, I found that it was not difficult to hit the NRA target, as the musket was more accurate than I had expected. The Brown Bess has no front sight, but the small lug where the bayonet attaches serves as one. Again, this was not meant to be a sniper riﬂe. Quick and easy to load, I could see how shooting this type of muzzleloader could be addicting. Straw had to drag me oﬀ of the range before we all froze
to death – it was a cold March day – and I shot up all the powder and ball in the county.
AT THE END OF THE LONG DAY, Helen and I would not be denied another stroll down Colonial Williamsburg’s streets. It was a blustery evening with not many visitors around. I stood and peered down Duke of Gloucester Street; nobody was in sight outside of those in period attire. Far down the street I could see a soldier in uniform hastening into the evening gloom. Trouble was coming, but in the end came freedom and the rise of the greatest country the world had ever seen. Just for a minute I imagined it was 1774, and I was there. ASJ
The 2016 Archery Trade Association (ATA) show was in full swing at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville, and it was packed to the gills. I stood amongst a throng in a long line that did not seem to be moving. A guy next to me was telling no one in particular how beautiful Ms. Eva Shockey was – for the fifth time! Another Eva admirer standing in front of me was giving a running commentary of her career in the outdoor and hunting industry– he seemed to be well informed.
As I have never been good at waiting for anything, I considered bolting from the line before someone could say “Hey! Don’t you want to see Eva Shockey?”
Well, of course I wanted to see her, but like a cottontail rabbit kicked out of brush pile, I jumped out of line and sprang full speed down a crowded aisle. I guess I am a bit of a coward. I was supposed to procure an interview with Eva, but chickened out again.
EVA SHOCKEY HAS BECOME the face of women in the hunting movement, and that is a big deal. There have been exactly two women to grace the cover of Field & Stream magazine in the last 100 years: the first lady was Queen Elizabeth; the second Eva Shockey.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation reported that the increase in hunting participation from 2008 to 2012 among males was only 1.9 percent; among women it was 10. In those four short years, the number of female hunters jumped from 3.04 million to 3.35 million. Did Eva have anything to do with that? Many would say yes!
Being the daughter of Outdoor Channel-icon Jim Shockey and often appearing with him on his programs did not hurt her start in the industry. But even in the limelight of her father, Eva is developing and blazing her own niche in the hunting world.
These days, Eva is considered a women’s hunting advocate superstar, not just Jim’s daughter. I saw this time and again as I walked the aisles of the ATA show. Passing by a booth where she was signing autographs and taking pictures with adoring fans, many of them young girls and ladies, it seemed clear she had a special bond with them.
I didn’t think I had much hope of landing an interview with her on my trip, but I made a call to a lady who knows everybody. “Be over here at our booth at 4:30,” she said nonchalantly. “You’ve got fifteen minutes for an interview.” I showed up early, still not believing it, and within few minutes, here came Eva and her manager –pretty as you please.
They are both polite and gracious as can be. To be honest, that was not what I expected. There are celebrities in the outdoor world who act like rock stars. This is not the case here, and soon Eva and I were sitting at a table talking as if we were on the front porch having sweet tea.
AMERICAN SHOOTING JOURNAL What is your life like right now?
EVA SHOCKEY Very busy and exciting because every day I learn new things, talk to new people and try new products. I just got married in June (2015), and have a wonderful husband named Tim Brent who is also a hunter and a professional hockey player. So, between his hockey schedule and mine, it is pretty hectic!
ASJ Did you grow up hunting?
ES I grew up around hunting. My dad has been a hunter for my entire life, and we’ve had TV hunting programs for 15 years (currently Uncharted and Jim Shockey’s Hunting Adventures – all on Outdoor Channel), so I was always on his trips. I didn’t actually start hunting seriously until after college when I traveled for my first big-game hunt in South Africa. Since then, I have not stopped.
ES I loved it. I was always curious about it, and wanted to do something to spend time with my dad. He was obviously very passionate, and I wanted to see what it was he loved so much. The first animal I hunted was a warthog [laughs], because I was not sure I would like it, so I wanted to hunt something that was kind of ugly [laughs again]. After that I was hooked and jumped into all of this rather quickly. I didn’t intend for this to become my career.
ASJ Do you enjoy archery and bowhunting?
ES Yes, I love archery! I have been shooting a bow for a while now, but in the past three years I’ve become more serious about it. People who bowhunt know that it takes more time to hunt this way than it does to hunt with a gun. I split my time 50-50 between bow and gun hunting, but I am growing more and more in love with my bow.
ASJ There are more and more young women who seek you out and follow you as an inspiration. What do they tell you and what do you share with them?
ES The number of girls involved in hunting has really increased from just seven years ago when I started. I often hear that they appreciate me because I am a lady who hunts, and I don’t go into the woods pretending to be a guy. I don’t start swearing and spitting as soon as the hunt starts. I don’t want to be a guy. I stay true to myself – as ladylike as I can [laughs a little], classy as I can. I’m still me just wearing camo. That’s my biggest thing! You don’t have to be masculine to hunt, and you can just be yourself and love the outdoors.
ASJ That really hits home with the ladies, I bet.
ES I think so. There are different kinds of girls who hunt, but for me, this is just who I am. I don’t think anyone should have to apologize for being a woman who loves being in the woods while wearing camo and doing the same things that any guy out there does.
EVA DOESN’T HAVE to apologize, indeed! She is the face and the voice of the greatest force to reach the outdoor and hunting arena in the past century – women hunters.
The industry is lucky to have her. ASJ
I believe that Browning had the traits of all great inventors. First, they are brilliant in that they can conceive an idea, then picture it and finally have the tenacity to stay with the concept until the job is done. Whether it’s Eli Whitney working on the cotton gin – was also involved in mass producing firearms for the government, by the way – or Thomas Edison, who fooled around with that lightbulb thing until he got it right, great ideas often come from the most unexpected places.
Let’s talk about L.P. Brezny. Brezny is one of those guys who is hard to put a handle on. He hails from the windswept plains of South Dakota and is a former policeman – think old cowboy and sheriff with some trapper and mountain man thrown in. But what Brezny is first and foremost is a shooter. Everything from shotgun to long-range-rifle shooting is in his bailiwick, so much so that his books Modern Shotgunning and The Gun Digest Book of Long Range Shooting are widely read. He has helped more than one shotgun ammunition manufacturer develop shot loads over the years, and has created his own shotgun-choke system aptly named the Dead Ringer. Most recently, Brezny has invented the Metro Gun system. “Metro Gun?” you say! “What is that?” I am so glad you asked.
Several years ago, like all great inventors ahead of their time, Brezny saw the need for a shotgun that would go easy on the ears. Urban sprawl causes tighter constrictions on where shotgunners can shoot. Often, there might be a location where one can shoot, but it would really help to keep the noise down – keeping peace with the neighbors, and all of that. Also, reducing the decibel level can increase one’s success rate when hunting certain animals and birds, particularly crows. Remember the old adage that necessity is the mother of all invention? Well, Brezny needed to shoot more crows. In order to do that he needed to have a shotgun that made very little noise, so he created the Metro Gun.
Brezny does a lot of shooting and hunting, which includes animal-control jobs. The common crow can be a real pest in agricultural areas; ditto for feral pigeons. Shotgunning for these birds is often done in close proximity to barns, buildings, humans and livestock. One can easily see how a low-decibel shotgun would come in handy for these situations.
After a lot of testing, blood, sweat, tears and a bunch of ammunition sent down range, Brezny delivered. Essentially, the Metro Gun is a 32-inch barrel extension that simply screws onto the end of your existing shotgun barrel. Just remove your screw-in choke and insert the Metro barrel. Voilà! You are ready to shoot quietly. The Metro barrel is ported along its entire length, which allows gas to bleed off a little at a time. The Metro is so long that most of the gases are gone by the time they get to the muzzle. Very little gas equals very little noise!
How little noise? Most tests show that with subsonic shotgun ammo, the report will create only 72 decibels of sound and just 82 decibels with supersonic. Some compare it to closing a car door. Winchester, Remington and Federal all make shotgun ammunition in the subsonic line.
Mr. Brezny noticed other benefits too. Not only was there much less noise, there was much less recoil – it will make your shotgun a soft shooter – and delivered a better pattern. Essentially, the Metro acts as one long choke tube. Brezny routinely gets reports from Metro customers on how effective his barrel is for game. Ducks don’t flare after the first shot, and with no blast to drive them away, crows continue to come to the calling,
Would some consider the 32-inch Metro Gun a bit long and wieldy? Probably, but Brezny insists that while shooting, the barrel “disappears behind the bead.” Also, at only 1.1 pounds (the 25-inch Raven model weighs less), not much weight is added.
If you have a situation where you want to shoot a shotgun but would like a lot less noise, you need to check out the Metro Gun.
Eli Whitney, John Moses Browning, Thomas Edison and L. P. Brezny all had the vision and made inventions happen, but only one of them made the quietest shotgun you will ever see. ASJ
Editor’s note: For more on the Metro Gun, visit metrogun.com.
Maybe, just maybe, you are ready for a little help with your shotgun shooting. Like a lot of us, you have been banging around for years, and you are just OK. To be perfectly honest, maybe you seem to leave each session, whether in the field for birds or on the range for clays, with a feeling somewhere between disappointment and desperation. You know you can do better, you want to do better, but you just don’t know how.
If you have the collective eyesight, reflexes, strength and coordination of an eagle, a bull elk and a young mongoose all rolled into one critter, you won’t need to hear any of this. Just take up your old shotgun, however ugly and ill-fitting it may be, and go out and shoot stuff. If you are not exactly in that category, maybe you want to read on.
Here is the deal: Not only am I going to talk to you about the benefits of taking up some shotgun instruction, I am going to suggest a place for you to go, and I think that you are going to like it.
If you are a serious shotgunner and you haven’t heard about the gun club at The Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., well, you should have. It is considered one of the top-tier, premier resorts in the world, and more locally it’s a National Historic Landmark.
Since 1778 guests have been visiting this beautiful area, and the Greenbrier, for the healing mineral springs found on the property. Today, The Greenbrier boasts over 55 activities on its 10,000-acre estate, and if I tried to tell you everything the resort had to offer, I would be in more trouble with the editor than usual. What we can talk at length about is their gun club.
Like the resort itself, their gun club has a long and fertile history. Since 1913, 26 presidents, royalty, captains of industry and celebrities have shot here – and you can too. If you are thinking, as I did, that you might be a little intimidated taking shotgun lessons at a world-class resort, don’t give it another thought. I had a sneaking suspicion I might be told to hold up my pinky finger while shooting; it wasn’t like that at all.
The staff and instructors at The Greenbrier gun club were wonderful, and made me feel at home right away. I was pleased to see that the instructors were from the area (they were all old grouse hunters), and I was impressed to learn that all of them had been trained by John Higgins and Justin Jones, world-renowned trap, skeet and sporting clay professionals, from the British School of Shooting. So, what you have are instructors steeped in deep southern Appalachian hospitality, but trained as instructors in one of the premier shotgun schools in the world. What a mix!
If you don’t want to travel with your own firearms, they have house guns ready to use. For sporting clay enthusiasts they offer Beretta 686s, both the Sporting and Onyx models, and for the trap folks, visitors can use the Browning over-and-under Model BT99 and BT100.
Curtis Kincaid, Homer Bryant, Mike Adkins and Jimmy Fraley, the instructors I worked with the day I was there, were seasoned and clearly capable of instantly spotting a shooter’s mistakes; it was uncanny to work with them. More importantly, while I was on the range with these guys, I had a great time. Teaching without preaching, learning while enjoying – this is the environment great instructors create.
On the sporting clays course with Kincaid, he, of course, picked up on some of my shotgun faults, which are legend. Kincaid addressed each problem patiently and systematically, explaining every step. More of the details from this formal lesson will have to wait for another time, but we can go over some of the basics.
Safety, safety, safety. I was happy to see that they stressed gun safety from the very beginning – muzzle control, fingers off triggers, making sure of targets, the whole nine and a half yards.
Stance and mounting the gun. Some of the information Kincaid provided, I had heard before, but not delivered in such a simple, step-by-step manner, which is aimed at doing one thing: making the student a better shooter. We all know that if our stance is off, we will miss. Kincaid took the time to explain why, and demonstrated how to teach a beginner the proper method for mounting the gun and bringing it to bear on the target. Kincaid has the shooter do what he calls “mount and bow.” The student mounts the shotgun on their shoulder and aims upward approximately 45 degrees. Once in this position, he has the shooter bow or lean forward, putting about 70 percent of their weight on the front foot. This is one of the very first things they teach to new shooters. It is the basis for everything that comes next.
Your eye is the rear sight. Big, bright front sights on your gun are counterproductive, according to Kincaid. You don’t look at your sights; rather, you look at the bird.
These are just small examples of the many topics we covered during my time there, and frankly, they can explain their techniques better than I can. There is so much more Kincaid and the boys have to share. Whatever your level, you will walk away a more proficient shooter without a doubt.
If you want to take your shotgun shooting to another level, be pampered at a world-class resort, and visit amazing countryside, check out the gun club at The Greenbrier. Tell the guys I sent you, but don’t believe half of the stories they tell about my shooting! ASJ
Author’s note: You can visit the world-class Greenbrier resort’s website at greenbrier.com, and getting there is easy via Amtrak or flights directly into the Greenbrier Valley Airport. There is no excuse not to indulge.
Posted in Product Reviews Tagged with: Appalachia, Beretta, Browning, Curtis Kincaid, Fine dining, Greenbrier Resort, Homer Bryant, Jimmy Fraley, Larry Case, Mike Adkins, National Historic Landmark, Skeet, Sporting Clays, Trap, West Virginia, White Springs
If Dave Miller was a hunting dog, I would want one of his pups. He is that good. Miller has what my hunting buddy, when he rates a pack of new bird dogs, would call “fire in the belly.” I think when Miller wakes up in the morning he leaps out of bed and is immediately turning and burning, whatever his mission. You may shoot a shotgun, I do shoot a shotgun, but nobody shoots a shotgun like David Miller.
On May 16, 2015, the western Missouri man set the Guinness Book of World Records for the most clay targets shot in one hour. When the final horn blew and the smoke cleared Miller had done it: 3,653 clays broken while shooting a shotgun from the hip, and at night!
When the shooting had started an hour before, the actual world record attempt seemed almost surreal. I stood behind the platform and listened to his shotgun firing, but the rate at which the shots were going off seemed impossible. How could anyone hit anything firing this fast? The crowd watched as the targets streamed into the air and exploded with an almost machine-like consistency. That’s Miller, a shootin’ piece of machinery.
During that hour targets were thrown continuously with absolutely no pauses. In order to achieve this, Miller had to have 30 CZ-USA shotguns fitted with two Nordic Component magazine extensions that held 16 shells total. Each shotgun was set up exactly the same way, including Miller’s special leather strap to hold his hand in place. Several gun bearers and loaders stood by with ready-to-shoot shotguns so Miller could just grab and go as the clock ticked down. Miller would blast through all the ammo in one gun, then he would throw it down and reach for the next one that was handed to him. He had to do this throughout the entire hour without ever slowing down, stopping or taking a break. Even with all of the gun-change interruptions, he still shot 83 percent of the total clays thrown. I was there. I saw it and let me tell you, boys and girls, it was a sight to behold. I would be happy with that on any day at the neighborhood skeet range [grin].
How did all this come to pass?
Glad you asked. As it turns out, and somewhat oddly enough, one does not simply call up Guinness and say, “Hey guys, I shot a couple thousand clay targets the other day, put me down for that record, if you would!”
What had to happen was this: Miller and attorneys from CZ-USA (where Miller is the shotgun product manager and exhibition shooter) worked with representatives from Guinness and the National Sporting Clays Association. During the event, Guinness had to have a representative there to confirm the count and actually present Miller with the official award.
But even before that, Miller got the idea by watching a TV show with his girlfriend Kelly Lindley and her two children, Will and Sydney. The program featured people attempting to break world records. Will told Miller that he should attempt a world record with his shotgun. Miller says he didn’t think much about it at the time, but the idea stuck. This was the beginning of months of planning, testing and building to make the idea and the new dream come true.
The target throwers and the rate at which they launched the clays were a major concern. Too fast and Miller could not focus on the flying target; too slow and there would not be enough time to get all of them broken in an hour. It had to be just right. The rate of fire during the attempt was about four- to six-tenths of a second; about every half of a second a target was being thrown for Miller to shoot. This sequence required 16 Mayville Engineering Company target-throwing machines to work in unison. That is putting some serious lead down range.
When the big day came, the atmosphere of the expectant crowd was
similar to a state fair, except with lots of shotguns. It was almost as if they were waiting for Evel Knievel to jump the Grand Canyon. I thought this was better.
The amount of equipment and personnel needed to complete this monumental task included:
• 30 CZ Model 712 or 912 shotguns;
• 16 MEC target-throwing machines, designed to hold and systematically throw clay targets into the air;
(All of them performed flawlessly during this event.)
• 6,400 clay targets;
• 5,000 shotgun shells;
• 25 to 30 gun bearers and loaders;
• A plethora of volunteers, helpers, friends, family and supporters.
Miller, a more humble guy you may never meet, thanked supporters, friends and family continually during this event.
If I know Miller, he is already working on a new project, and you can bet it involves a shotgun. When you have fire in the belly, you don’t stop when you set a little thing like a world record. ASJ
Author’s note: The Heartland Trap and Wobble Skeet Range near Harrisonville, Mo., hosted this epic event and you couldn’t have found a better or friendlier setting than this neighborhood gun-club atmosphere. Owner Steve Sheerer personally made sure the event was a success for everyone. You can visit them at heartlandtrapandskeet.com.
Posted in Shooters Tagged with: 3653, Clay Killer, CZ 712s, CZ 912s, CZ USA, David Miller, Guinness Book Of Records, Guinness World Record, Heartland Trap and Skeet, Larry Case, Mayville Engineering Company, MEC, Nordic Component, NSCA, Pheasants Forever
I know that when you hear the word “Weatherby,” shotguns are not the first thing that springs to mind – more like a line of fine, high-end rifles. Well, I think that is going to change. I want you to consider the Weatherby SA459 Turkey model. This is a very nice lightweight (6¾ pounds) semiauto shotgun tricked out with a pistol grip, Real Tree Xtra green camo and a Picatinny rail. You will hear more from me about this shotgun, but for now I would rather you hear it from Haley Heath of The Women of Weatherby team, who has some experience with this hunting firearm. “Since I started shooting the Weatherby SA-459 Turkey Shotgun, I gained a great deal of respect for this gun. It’s a shotgun like no other, with qualities that you don’t find on any other brands, such as the larger pistol grip. This feature is a great for turkey hunting since staying still and quiet while in a comfortable holding position is so important,” Haley said. “This turkey season everyone in my family hunted turkey using the Weatherby SA-459 Turkey Shotgun. My 10-year-old son, Gunner, waited over 30 minutes for the perfect shot, and when he finally took the long shot, he dropped the large tom. Even at his young age, he completely gave credit to the Weatherby shotgun for helping him stay steady and comfortable. As a wife and mother of two, I am always looking for a gun that will work for my
whole family, and the Weatherby SA-459 Turkey is that gun for me!” ASJ
All right, it may be true confession time, but for quite a while the whole concept of the female hunter may have been a little lost on me. Outdoor TV, the source of much good and much bad, is to blame. Something about young women who look like models shooting whitetail bucks in a class that the average hunter will never see – much less get the chance to hunt – is somehow perplexing to me. Now, before you get out the tar and feathers, just remember that maybe I come from a time when this was not the norm.
“I am a serious hunter and all I’ve ever wanted was a gun truly made for me.
Try not to be too hard on an old ex-game warden shotgunner who might not be used to this. Hope springs eternal, however, and recently I came upon a bright spot in this journey. I met Haley Heath in the Weatherby booth at the NRA convention in Nashville this year. Heath has been a veteran of the outdoor and shooting industry for many years, and through her I saw things in a new light. Heath is the real deal: a hunter and a shooter. She was kind enough to talk to me for a bit and tell me her story.
“Since I was a little girl, sharing the outdoors with more females and children has been my mission. As a wife and mother of two, I have loved working in an industry that not only supports and encourages families in the outdoors, but now more than ever supports me as a woman,” she said.
Heath told me that when she started in the outdoor industry, over nine years ago, she owned two restaurants and worked a full time job at Bass Pro Shops. The problem was that she still had a desire for a career that provided more time doing what she loved, as well as time to be with her children. After almost a decade of doing just that, she is very proud to pass on her passion to her 10-year-old son Gunner, and daughter Dakota, who is 8. She was quick to say that she had the support of her husband Kemp, who also works with Weatherby.
“The girls found our fort, guys…
“At the beginning of my outdoor career there were a few female hunters and shooters, but the numbers have skyrocketed over the past few years. Trade shows rarely had well-known female hunters and shooters signing autographs at their booths like we have today. Instead, the only women you’d see were paid models to help attract visitors to company booths.”
Heath noted that as the number of females getting into hunting and shooting started to grow, companies thought shrinking their products and coloring it pink was the way to go, or simply trying to place a youth firearm in our hands. Fast forward to the present and she thinks women can feel confident and comfortable being a hunter or shooter, thanks to the support of companies like Weatherby and programs like The Women Of Weatherby.
The Women of Weatherby is a platform where novice to expert female hunters and shooters can seek and share information, tips and product recommendations. Weatherby is also seeking input to design a rifle made for women, by women.
“Being part of the Women Of Weatherby is what I have spent my whole career trying to achieve for women like myself,” Heath said. “I am a serious hunter and all I’ve ever wanted was a gun truly made for me. I don’t want a pink gun or a youth model. I am a woman and I am a hunter!”
As I said, a rifle made for women by women. The women of Weatherby are: Rachel Ahtila, a Canadian hunting guide; Karissa Pfantz, a college student and outdoorswoman who is new to the outdoor industry; Jessie Duff, who is a world champion shooter on Team Weatherby; and Heath, wife, mother, huntress and TV host. All of these ladies will be doing weekly blogs and responding to women’s questions, thoughts and opinions.
The girls found our fort, guys, we may as well get used to it. Heath and The Women of Weatherby are one of the groups that will blaze the trail for all women in shooting. ASJ
The Scattergun Trail
Story and photos by Larry Case
“It takes hundreds of decoys and a thousand is even better”
I used to get tired hearing about the good old days. Older hunters and fishermen are the world’s worst when it comes to relating how great it was in the “good old days.” I don’t hear this so much anymore; maybe because I have become one of the old guys that talk about how great it used to be.
As far as wildlife and game populations go, in many respects we are better off now than 50 years ago. With deer and turkey there is no question but our smaller game, that is a story for another time.
In one area of waterfowl hunting however, we are completely off the charts and that is with snow geese. Known as “light geese” in the waterfowl identification world, this group includes the greater and lesser snow goose, Ross’s goose and some variations including hybrids of these.
Snow geese, especially the greater snow goose, can cause great damage to the habitat they feed in. Geese are grazers and pull different grasses and plants out of the ground while feeding; they will also dig into the soil with their powerful beaks to extract more of the roots. This may not sound like a big deal until you think about oh let’s say, 10 thousand geese descending onto one field. Those are the kinds of numbers these geese may travel in.The arctic tundra, where these birds nest,is very fragile with a short growing season. The snow goose was literally eating himself, as well as other birds and wildlife, out of house and home – something had to give.
Long story short, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was able to change some rules to allow for a much greater harvest of light geese. This meant longer seasons (107 days in some states) extending into March and restrictions on things like plugged shotguns and electronic callers were removed. They clearly wanted hunters to knock down some geese!
“the damage they can do to crops, well, you just have to see it to believe it”
What has emerged in the past 15 years or so is a new genre of waterfowl hunting. Even though this is February, it is considered spring hunting as the season often runs into March and April depending on what state you are in. Hunters who are obsessed with this (believe me, these guys are out there) basically start in the south around Texas to Arkansas and follow the white geese on their northern migration.
I wanted to talk to someone on the snow goose trail and I found Josh Dahlke lying in a muddy field in Arkansas. Josh runs the popular website ScoutLook.com. This site is the cat’s meow for keeping hunters and fisherman updated on the latest weather and conditions for your area. There is a ton of information and articles on whatever kind of hook and bullet arena you play in.
Josh was hunting for snow geese with Eaglehead Outdoors outfitters; these guys are the real deal and chase them as they move north from February to April. “I know these geese cause damage to the tundra when they get to their breeding grounds,” Josh told me “but here in the states, the damage they can do to crops, … well, you just have to see it to believe it. We found a huge flock of snows staged next to a 40-acre winter wheat field, here in Arkansas, and by the next day, that field was totally obliterated – nothing left but mud.”
Even though the snow geese flocks can number in the thousands, Josh Dahlke was quick to point out that this is not always an easy game. “These birds get shot at all the way to Canada,” he said, “They have seen decoy spreads all along the route and can be “dang” smart. To be successful at this it takes a lot of work, driving (hundreds of miles) and scouting, finding the geese and then setting up massive decoy spreads. A few dozen decoys just won’t do it. It takes hundreds of decoys and a thousand is even better. The average hunter can’t do it,” Josh explained, “that’s why if you want to try this, you may want to give an outfitter a call.”
Even though we are talking millions of geese here, there are no guarantees. When conditions are right however, you can stack up a lot of snow geese. Josh told me about a time when his party took 64 geese and sometimes the numbers can go much higher than that. The daily limit in some states is as high as 25 with an unlimited possession rate.
I may not make it on a snow goose hunt this year – but then again I might. I still have some squirrel hunting to do and then spring turkey to think about. If you want to go, you might give the guys at Eaglehead Outdoors a call, 320-224-3614, www.eagleheadoutdoors.com. I hope you get to shoot so much that you burn the barrel off that shotgun.
Josh Dahlke used the Winchester Blindside ammo on this snow goose hunt. If you are a waterfowler and have not tried it, you need to check it out.
The basic premise for why these shotgun shells are so deadly lies in Winchesters revolutionary HEX™ shot technology. The shot is shaped like a hexagon – they look like tiny dice. When fired from a shotgun shell, this shape is devastating to anything it hits; Imagine hundreds of miniature tumbling bricks. This means bigger wound channels than with a conventional round shot. Also, because of the hex shape, the shot is actually stacked neatly within the shell casing. More shot can be placed into the shell, up to 15% more. Is this going to help you take more ducks and geese? You can bet your sweet Benelli it is.
Winchester Blindside Shotgun Ammunition
Blindside ammo also has a really wicked diamond cut wad that delivers a beautiful pattern and what is really interesting, Winchester introduced a high velocity version of Blindside last year. These shells offer 12-gauge loads of #5’s and BB’s moving at 1675-fps. That is screamin’ my friend.
Josh Dahlke told me the consensus on his hunt was that those using the Blindside ammo experienced less cripples and the high velocity loads helped with snow geese as you often have long shots. If you are a duck and goose hunter you just might want to take a look.
Story and photos by Larry Case
My brothers in camo, maybe you know by now, that I always try to be honest with you. I say this, because I was just a little nervous to start this month’s offering. One reason being, I think I have probably talked to you before about the importance of being prepared, knowing where your shotgun hits and having it sighted in (yes, I said “sighted in” for a shotgun).
The second reason is we have a new editor at Western Shooting Journal and after hearing about her background and experience I thought if I didn’t get this right, well, she might just whip my butt. Oh well, it has been whipped before, so here it goes.
As we are speeding into the month of March, many of us “shot-gunners” are thinking about (or should be) preparing for the spring turkey season. I want to caution you about merely grabbing the shotgun off the wall, and heading off to the woods. Success comes from having confidence in your weapon, and we achieve this by doing some shooting and knowing what the gun will do.
First, remember that this turkey shooting deal, in the spring, has evolved into something more like rifle shooting than “shot-gunning.” Ideally we are aiming, not pointing the gun, at a small, stationary target (the turkeys head and neck). Almost any kind of sights we put on the shotgun, more than just a standard bead, will help us.
The first level of improvement is installing an additional bead, about halfway down the rib. This gives you a “rear sight.” The shooter puts the rear bead on the front bead, front bead on the target and squeezes the trigger. A bead or rear sight, is meant to keep us from making the big mistake, the blunder, that saves more turkeys lives, than any other factor in our shooting. Ready? Here it is.
When we do not put our head on the gun and look squarely down a level rib, we shoot high and miss. I know, I’ve done it more than once. The front bead, is in fact, on the target, but your cheek is not fully down on the stock. The gun is tilted up and you sit there with your teeth in your mouth watching your turkey fly away. No amount of cursing and/or praying will bring him back.
Next level of improvement is rifle sights (check out what HizViz or Dead Ringer have to offer). An open, rear sight gives you a more precise way to aim the shotgun. Red Dot style scopes and other optics are an even more sophisticated way to aim. Even an inexpensive Red Dot scope can make a shotgun very deadly and the reason is simple. If the Red Dot style optic is properly sighted in, and the dot is on the target when the shooter pulls the trigger, you will hit the target. This takes the cardinal sin, of not keeping our head down, out of the picture. Now remember, we are talking about aiming the shotgun at a mostly stationary target. Any wing or clay shooting instructor will have a stroke, if you ask him about putting these sights on your gun.
Alright, now that we have an accurate way to aim, let’s talk about point of impact. One of the hardest things for some people to learn, is that all shotguns, do not shoot-where-they-look. If we fire the shotgun from a bench rest, the target may tell us the gun is shooting right, left, high, low, or whatever. Let me make it even clearer. Many shotguns will shoot differently with different loads or chokes. You have to put them on paper, folks!
Basically, what we are talking about here, is sighting in your shotgun, and you knew I would have some pointers on this. First, do this on a day when you are not in a hurry. If you are pressed for time, go home, and watch “swamp folks” or something else on television. To do this right, you need a large target holder (30 inches or better), a bench rest, sandbags or comparable, ammo, targets, and a stapler.
Have the loads, you are going to hunt with, on hand, but we are not going to start with them. To begin, let’s shoot any low brass, target loads that you have. Your first shot will be from 10 yard line (that’s right, 10 yards). You don’t need a turkey head target for this. A large piece of blank paper is better. Darken in a 4 inch circle, in the middle, to give you an aiming point and mark a straight line, vertical and horizontal, through your aiming point. All we are doing, is seeing where the pattern is going. Is the pattern evenly placed on either side of the lines? Is there about 50 percent of the pattern above the horizontal line and 50 percent below? Now, do this at the 20, 30 and 40 yard lines. Use a new piece of paper every time and if it looks like you are Ok and the gun is shooting-where-it-looks, you should then try your hunting loads at the same intervals. Now, you know where your gun is shooting, no question.
If the pattern is significantly off and you cannot adjust it with your sights, you are getting into an area where you need to speak to a qualified gunsmith. We are talking about straightening or bending a barrel here. Don’t let that scare you; a good gunsmith can do this in his sleep.
Well that’s about it till next time folks. Hope this is OK with the new editor. Man! That woman scares me!
Mossberg 535 Shotgun
You know my theory, about how many shotguns one needs? My answer is all you can get! So, I wanted to give you a peek, at a shotgun, that you can lust after.
Mossberg came out with something new, for 2015, on their 835 Ulti Mag and 535 ATS pump shotguns. The Marble Arms Bullseye sight system. If you don’t know about these sights, they have been around since Davy Crockett tracked his first bear.
I looked at these guns at SHOT Show; the shotgunis the same, functional, dependable, Mossberg pump gun with dual extractors, twin action bars, an anti-jam elevator, and that great ambidextrous top mounted safety. The Marble Bullseye, is a double ring design on the rear sight, and a light gathering fiber optic on the front. It allows the shooter to get on target quickly, and stay on target. The instant the front sight drifts out of the center ring, the shooter can see they are not on target. This sight is ideal for a turkey hunter.
The minute I picked this shotgun up and looked through the Marble sight, I liked it, and you will too. I have always thought that Mossberg shotguns are tough as a pine knot, and from what I can see the Marble Bullseye sight is as well. – Larry Case
(Photo: Linda Powell – Mossberg Director of Media Relations, with a Mossberg 535 at SHOT 2015)