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Q: What is the biggest duck blind you’ve ever seen? —Harrison, D., via email
A: On my first trip to Arkansas back in the ’80s, I hunted with a group that had built huge platforms up in the cypress trees that would have done the extended Swiss Family Robinson or a sizable band of Ewoks proud. I remember one in particular, 15 feet up in the trees, that was nothing more than a floor with a railing around it. You could have hunted a dozen or more people across the front and still had room to play ping-pong behind them.
Q: Why don’t you shoot rifles? Shotguns spray talentless spreads at a target, ensuring hits with every shot. —Scott R, Instagram
A: What’s so talented about bullets? They spin? Big deal. Growing up in a state where we hunted deer with slug guns and muzzleloaders, I never pulled the trigger of a centerfire until a friend put a .30/06 in my hands and I killed a big feral hog standing 125 yards away in California. The pig expired instantly to the visible relief of my guide, who had been worried that he might have to follow up a pig wounded by a talentless pellet-spreader. That was my only rifle hunt.
Q: What is your opinion on Turkish made shotguns? —Clay S., Instagram
A: Turkey has a long gunmaking tradition, and the guns get better every year. Its gunmakers have always had access to gorgeous walnut, and they know how to shape a stock. Turks also do beautiful case-coloring the traditional bone-and-charcoal way. The Dickinson over/unders and side-by-sides are classy Turkish-made break-actions, and you get a lot for your money when you buy one, which I would love to do. The pumps and semiautos are constantly improving, and most are good bargains too. The Weatherby SA-08, Retay Masai Mara, TriStar Viper, CZ 1012, and the Winchester SXP, among others, all have lots of happy owners.
Q: What’s the best all-around choke for waterfowl hunting? —Tim H, Instagram
A: I like Light Modified, which seems to be a good compromise between being open enough to hit ducks and geese over decoys but tight enough for the occasional longer shot.
Q: What do you think of retro camo and waxed canvas? —Evan Mathewson, via email
A: Retro camo looks cool, and it works as well as any other camo does as long as you sit still. I’m in favor of it. As for waxed cotton, it’s great for wearing around town. It’s also stiff and heavy and can’t be machine washed without rewaxing. In the field, I want a Gore-Tex jacket to keep me dry, and cordura-faced pants for walking through the brambles pain-free.
Q: Is there really a difference between a Stoeger and a Benelli semi-auto? They have the same receiver, so why is one twice as expensive? —Homer D., via email
A: Stoegers and Benellis share inertia actions, just as Chevys and Cadillacs share internal combustion engines. The main design difference between the two is that the Stoeger has a return spring around the magazine tube while the Benelli has its tube in the stock. You can argue about which design is better, but you can’t argue that the lack of a spring up front means the Benelli can have a sleeker, trimmer fore-end, and that makes it a better-handling gun. In addition, Benellis have better fit and finish than Stoegers inside and out, and that means not only that they’re better looking, but that they work better. I have shot my Montefeltro on and off since 2010 and am still waiting for the first malfunction.
Q: What is your dream hunt? —Alex O, via Instagram
A: I’d go to Uruguay or Argentina to hunt perdiz with my own dog. Perdiz live in flat to gently rolling country in ankle-high grass so the walking is easy and you can always see your dog. They run, sit tight, and flush wild like miniature pheasants, and they require a dog with a light touch to pin them down. I have hunted them a few times, but doing so over my own dog would be infinitely more satisfying. But I am not subjecting my dog, Zeke, to a 10-hour plane ride, nor am I driving down. So, that hunt will always remain a dream.
Q: I’m shopping for an old double gun, but how do I tell if the price is right? —Henry G, via Instagram
A: Educate yourself. Read the Blue Book of Gun Values. Watch online auctions to see what different guns bring. Join double-gun facebook groups and websites. When you’re looking at a gun, remember the dictum “buy the barrels,” and walk away from guns that need barrel work, which runs into money. Also, if you find a gun that sparks great joy in you, who cares if you pay too much for it? You’ll be happy with it after the money is forgotten.
Q: What advice do you have for a new skeet shooter? —Andrew W, via Instagram
A: Pay attention to stance, foot position, and especially to your hold and look points. Keep the gun below the line of the target, and never let the bird pass the barrel. After that, the biggest thing is learning to take one bird at a time and maintain your focus. The second biggest is learning to manage your frustration when you miss.
Q: .300 Win. Mag or .308? Ha! —Wyatt J, via Instagram
A: Based on my vast pig-shooting experience, I’d say the clear answer is the .30/06.
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