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  • November 30, 2012

    Caption Contest: Write the Best, Win Prairie Storm Ammo and a Gerber Knife

    By Phil Bourjaily

    People ask what method I use to test shotshells. First thing I usually do is the taste test. At least that’s my explanation for this picture. The shell I am chomping down on is one the 3-inch Prairie Storms I wrote about last week.

  • November 28, 2012

    Good Gear: Work Sharp Guided Field Sharpener 2.2.1

    By David E. Petzal

    Some time ago, I called your attention to the Work Sharp Knife and Tool Sharpener, an ingenious device that enables the veriest dullard to put a murderous edge on just about anything. However, the system is for home use only as it requires electricity. Enter the Work Sharp Guided Field Sharpener 2.2.1, which solves this problem neatly. It’s around 7 inches long, weighs a couple of ounces, and consists of two diamond sharpening plates (fine and coarse) that are held in place by magnets, a ceramic rod with coarse, fine and fishhook positions, a small ceramic rod for serrated edges, and an impregnated leather strop.

  • November 27, 2012

    Going to Vision: Why Shooters Miss Behind the Bird

    By Phil Bourjaily

    All misses with a shotgun are frustrating, but shooting behind a bird when you think (you know!) your barrel was in front of it may be the most frustrating of all.

    The problem is not insufficient lead. The problem is that you looked back at your barrel to measure the lead. When you did that, the gun stopped* and you shot behind even though last time you looked, your gun was ahead of the bird.

    I saw a perfect example in the goose field last week. I was hunting with a friend who is normally a very good shot. A single goose came in on his side, offering a 25-yard crosser. He missed behind it with all three shots. I saw clearly over his shoulder that his gun was pointing behind the bird’s tailfeathers every time he pulled the trigger. After his gun was empty and the bird was gone he asked me, “Was I too far ahead of it?”

  • November 26, 2012

    Book Review: 'Ask the Namibian Guides'

    By David E. Petzal

    Now here’s an original concept—a single book dedicated to safaris in one African country, rather than a book filled with chapters on different countries that leaves you saying “Yes, but…” when you get to the end. Diana Rupp, who is Editor of Sports Afield and an experienced Namibia hand, has interviewed a dozen PHs from that country on the ins and outs of safaris there, and set down what they had to say between these covers.

    I know a number of otherwise experienced hunters who have never been to Africa, and the reasons they offers are unstable, corrupt governments, odd incomprehensible regulations, strange diseases, outrageous costs, and the difficulty of getting there and back. While this is a pretty fair description of the United States, none of it applies to Namibia.

  • November 16, 2012

    Book Review: "The Comprehensive Guide to Tracking"

    By David E. Petzal

    This remarkable book is the work of a South African game ranger who learned the art and science of tracking from two Shangaan game rangers. At this point, if you’ve been to Africa, you’d know I’m writing about men whose ability to follow anything anywhere borders on the weird. If you haven’t been to Africa, I can tell you that at least once on any safari, you’ll see a tracker do something that’s clearly impossible. And they do it all the time.

    What Cleve Cheney does in this profusely illustrated 350-page book is show you how they do it.

    His book is about tracking African game, but probably 90 percent of the information in it is transferable to anywhere that you want to trail something (or someone, because there’s a chapter on following people). What Mr. Cheney requires of you is that you re-learn how to see, smell, hear, think, and feel. He shows you the science of tracking, and it is, in large part, a science. The rest is an art, acquired only after years of working at it. He explores the nearly-ignored ability to concentrate for long periods of time, and shows you how to do better at it.

  • November 15, 2012

    Shotgun Ammo: How To Choose A Pheasant Load For Your Style of Hunting

    By Phil Bourjaily

    I mentioned in a previous column I had shot up over a box of 3-inch pheasant loads as an experiment on a preserve hunt a couple weeks ago. That ammo was Federal’s 3-inch Pheasants Forever-label “Prairie Storm” magnums which contain 1-5/8 ounces of lead shot at 1350 fps. After a few shots we renamed them “Pterodactyls Forever”* loads. They are deadly at both ends of the gun, and, in my experience, way more shell than is necessary to kill a pheasant.**

    However, experience can be deep but narrow. While I have done a ton of pheasant hunting, aside from a handful of hunts in Nebraska and South Dakota, most of my birds have been shot in two counties in Iowa. I hunt alone or in the company of one or two people and we run pointing dogs and/or close-working flushers. I try to be selective with the shots I take. I won’t shoot at a bird going straight away past about 35 yards, for instance.

  • November 14, 2012

    Scope Clutter and Reloading Advice

    By David E. Petzal

    Thanks to Deadeye Dick for this idea, but before we get to scopes, here are two more handloading tips that I want to get down before I forget them.

    Before I resize my cases, I clean the carbon off the necks with a metal polish called Simichrome. Then I wipe off the black ugh and throw them in the case tumbler with the fired primers still in place. This saves you having to poke pieces of ground-up corncob out of the flasholes.

    If you want to do a really thorough job of degreasing, soak the re-sized shells in acetone for 15 minutes. You do this outdoors, or in the garage with the doors open. They dry off very quickly, and if you want to speed up the process even more, turn a fan on them.

    OK, scopes. Because long-range shooting is now all the rage, some scope designers have made their reticles things of unholy complexity, packed with dots, lines, very small lines, squiggles and, in some cases, runes. This is due to the belief that a) the more complex it is, the better it is, and b) the people who design hunting optics have apparently done precious little hunting and intend to sell these things to people who are likewise unqualified.

  • November 12, 2012

    Carhartt: An American Classic and Great Women's Apparel

    By Phil Bourjaily

    Rather than run yet another picture of me holding a gun or dead thing in this space, today we have Field & Stream’s Kristyn Brady modeling a Carhartt Women’s Work-Dry Base Layer Quarter Zip Shirt and a live trout.

    Kristyn and I, along with millions of others since 1889, love our Carhartts. I wear the basic brown dungarees in the field all the time because they are tough and comfortable, and because I hope they make people mistake me for somebody who actually works for a living. Besides, brown duck is a great camo pattern if you sit still--just ask your father and grandfather.

    In a world where almost every garment you wear is made offshore it was a surprise to read “Made in the USA” on a pair of new brown duck bibs I picked up recently. (I was also happy to discover that sometime since I bought my last set of Carhartt bibs the button fly has been replaced by a zipper, which is progress if you drink a lot of coffee.)

  • November 9, 2012

    Old Betsy Lives and Will Be Auctioned

    By David E. Petzal

    Back in 2006, I ran a post about Warren Page’s legendary 7mm Mashburn Magnum, Old Betsy Number One, which was, in its heyday, the most famous hunting rifle in the world. Page took it all over the globe and collected over 450 head of big game with it. In the post, I revealed that I had received a letter and photos from a gentleman who claimed to have bought Old Betsy and remodeled her. But the rifle he had, while undoubtedly a 1950s Mashburn, was not Old Betsy.

    Old Betsy Number One is actually alive, and untouched, and unremodeled. I’ve seen photos of her serial number, which matches Page’s records, and of the presentation shield on her stock, and there’s no doubt about this one. It, and 18 other of Page’s rifles, were kept intact as a group by a collector who bought them after Page’s death in 1977.

  • November 8, 2012

    Some Notes from the Barrel

    By David E. Petzal

    …As in, ‘…it’s our turn in the barrel.” For those of you in other parts of the country, Hurricane Sandy was not a disappointment. It was the worst storm in this part of the country since the Long Island Express in 1938, which killed something over 1,000 people on Long Island and almost took Providence, RI, off the map, which would not have been so bad except that Providence has some good restaurants.

    We will get around to guns in a minute, but first some observations: The major concern is not so much loss of light or heat, although that is getting bad in some parts, but shortage of gas, which is very serious in places and, despite the assurances of various pols, not getting any better.  If your house is freezing at night you can take a couple of extra dogs to bed, but when your car is immobilized, you’ve truly had the green weenie.

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