Proven: The Superior Stopping Power of RST’s Low-Pressure Shells

Written by Jerry Sinkovec
Most shooters aren't aware there is another shotshell manufacturer out there aside from the big four here in the United States. It’s RST and its has been around for a number of years. Their shotshells are manufactured in Friendsville, Pennsylvania, so they are not imported.

Their real specialty is producing shotshells for owners of vintage shotguns or Damascus barrel shotguns that can't take the high pressures of today's high-production competition and hunting ammunition. But there is another benefit to RST’s ammunition: very low recoil. If you are getting someone started in competitive shooting or hunting who has a hard time dealing with recoil, RST is the ammunition to use.

RST makes a complete line of shotshells in 10 gauge, 12 gauge, 16 gauge, 20 gauge and 28 gauge. They produce shells in both plastic and paper and in lengths of 2 7/8 inch, 2¾ inch, 2½ inch and 2 inch. RST manufacturers the shells with lead, copper-plated and non-toxic shot. They make shells for competitive shooting and for hunting. They also do custom loading and labeling of shotshells for other firms like shooting schools, and hunting destinations.

There are a lot of old, beautiful turn-of-the-century shotguns out there from Ferlach, Austria and other European makers that have the shorter chambers of 2½ or 2 inches that find that RST shells are well-suited for them. Here is the company that will allow you to enjoy those older firearms for clay target shooting or hunting without the worry of doing damage to your prized possession.

RST had recently sent me a large selection of their shotshells for both target shooting and hunting. They sent shells in the three gauges I had guns in: 12, 20 and 28 gauges. When I opened the flats I noticed the shell boxes were made of a good, sturdy cardboard that would not tear or rip open easily like some imported shell boxes do. Nor did they have to tape the shells boxes closed to keep the shells from coming out. The boxes were printed with all the necessary information you would want to know and was clearly visible.

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The author with his bag of chukars.

The shotshells were of excellent quality workmanship from the pure brass base, the properly seated primers, through the high-quality Reifenhauser hulls with plastic base wads and excellent looking crimps. The hulls were stamped with information you could actually read and was very clear and sharp on both the paper and plastic hulls. RST’s shells exuded quality in every respect.

The real fun was going to be in the testing of the shells to see how they would pattern, turn targets into smoke and drop game birds. The first time I went out to the club to shoot some sporting clays and five-stand I tried their 12-gauge loads on the sporting course. They broke targets with authority even out to 60 yards with #8s. These were shotshells at only 1 ounce of shot at 1,125 FPS. I was impressed with their ability to crush targets. Shooting these shells felt more like shooting a .410 or 28-gauge gun.

Then I decided to go to the other end of the spectrum and shoot some 28 gauge at the same targets. There was a teal-like presentation at 55 yards that I creamed consistently with only 5/8 ounce of shot at 1,175 FPS in #8s in the shell. The ¾-ounce loads did the same thing. Needless to say, the shells preformed as well as any other shells out there and with less felt recoil. Everything about these shells has been impressive from the packaging down to the performance of the shells themselves.

The next test was going to be hunting upland birds with these shells. The gun I used for the 20- and 28-gauge shells is a Rizzini Verona Competition 20/28 combo over/under with 30-inch barrels. The reason I choose that gun is that it has exactly the same sight picture as my Browning competion guns, but is about three quarters of a pound lighter, which is a little easier than carrying an eight-pound-plus gun all day. Although the wood is very nice on the gun, it’s not as expensive as on the Browning’s so I wouldn’t feel as bad if it got scratched or damaged.

My first outing was a place about 15 minutes from my house at a place called Tex Creek Wildlife Management Area, which is administered by Idaho Fish & Game. I went out for some chuckars with a friend who had two good dogs.

After covering a lot of ground for almost two hours the dogs flushed a covey of about a dozen birds. We both got a bird out of the flush. I shot mine with a 20 gauge with 7/8 ounce of #7½ shot, and John was using the same shell but with #8s. They were the Lite version at 1,125 FPS. We both shot at about the same time and we agreed the birds were about 40 yards out. We watched where they landed and hit them one more time. We both ended up getting two birds on the second flush. The first ones were pretty close and the second birds were taken at about the same distance as the first two birds, maybe a few yards closer. The birds were hit hard, they were dead before they hit the ground. There was no fluttering around on the ground. We made a sweep back to the truck and didn’t see anything.

After relaxing for a little bit and having some refreshments we headed out again. The terrain was a little more difficult and a little steeper. In no time the dogs flushed a covey and we were a lot closer, and John got one and I got two. Again, when the birds hit the ground, they didn’t move. I was impressed since chuckars are normally harder to kill than pheasants. We spent a few more hours looking for birds and didn’t see anything else. We decided to call it a day.

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RSTs deliver the goods.

A couple of days later I went out to a friend’s ranch around Mackay, Idaho. It’s just 90 minutes west of Idaho Falls on Highway 93 north of Arco, and it offers some of the best bird hunting close to town. It’s a beautiful setting nestled at the base of the Lost River Range snow capped mountains.

We started out for pheasant and in about two hours, I had four birds. As we were standing atop a berm and talking about the geology for several minutes, there was a commotion behind us and to our surprise the black lab had kicked up three cocks about 25 to 30 yards from us. I dropped the last departing bird with my 28-gauge load, which filled me out. The shells were RST Lite 28 gauge at 1,100 FPS with ¾ ounce of #6 shot. A couple of the other pheasant were taken with #7½ shot. The shells had the power to put down the pheasant even at 1,100 FPS. I was impressed with their knock-down power given the lower pressures and speeds.

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A selection of RST shells.

After some refreshments we headed out for some chukars in the foothills. It wasn’t long before we were into a covey. The birds were faster and a little harder to hit, but they normally went down with a single shot. There was one that was a straight away and it took two shots to bring down. We found five different coveys with a little effort. Of the seven chukars taken, all were wild birds although three of them were a little small. The planted birds are all banded so it’s easy to distinguish between the two. There were hundreds of other chukars there waiting to be taken. After four hours of hunting, I had both bags filled. It was a pleasant half-day of hunting in wonderful surroundings.

The RST shotshells did their intended job well and I’d highly recommend them for anyone wanting low-recoil loads or someone wanting to shoot shells safely in their Damascus barrel guns either for target shooting or hunting.

 

Castle Valley Outdoors

Written by Jerry Sinkovec

 

 

Story and photos by Jerry Sinkovec

Castle Valley Outdoors is an Orvis endorsed hunting and fishing lodge that opened in 2005 in south central Utah. It’s about three hours by car from the Salt Lake City airport, and the drive takes you through some interesting country. The ranch has over 15,000 acres in the valley with ten hunting fields where most of it is dedicated to upland bird hunting with quail, chukars, and some partridge and of course two species of pheasant, the ring neck and the black melanistic available. Other game available on a limited basis are elk, deer, turkey and cougar. When I arrived there was snow on the ground in March, which is unusual for the area as they really never get snow and if they do it’s always gone by February.

The lodge has three floors with the gun room, exercise area, two guest rooms, a large lounge area with 52-inch screen TV, guest office area with a computer and printer on the lower level and all levels in every building is on Wi-Fi. The main floor has several guestrooms along with another lounge area with a large two-sided fireplace and the dining area. This lounge area is where the hunters tend to gather after a long day of hunting while enjoying their favorite beverage and some snacks always set out for their return. The top floor has more guestrooms and an area with a pool table and a card playing table. All the guestrooms have a private bath and a 32-inch TV. The décor is western and the rooms are very comfortable, especially the beds and pillows after a long day of bird hunting. The lodge can handle up to thirty people.

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The majestic landscape and exhilarating wingshooting at Castle Valley Outdoors.

There is a small gift and pro shop in case you forgot to bring something or are looking for a new shooting or hunting shirt or other shooting accessories. They handle the Orvis brand and other fine equipment along with ammo.

The first day of hunting I really focused on getting some good hunting photographs and I went out with a small group that was comprised of a father, Bill; sons-in-law, Mark and Doug; and son, Drew. They were good shots and after a morning and an afternoon hunt they had over eighty birds. It was mixed bag shooting, and I didn’t realize how much fun it was until the next day, with the two species of pheasants, and partridge, chukar and quail.

The following morning, my guide Katlin and I went out and had a great time together. In the first half of the morning I had seven birds for nine tries. The second half of the morning was the amazing part. I made a couple of great shots on chukar and pheasant and dropped one of each at over sixty yards, the guide thought it was farther.

Hunting quail in Mexico a few years ago I made a shot and dropped a bird at well over sixty yards but was never able to pace it off. Then another chukar at Castle Valley Outdoors flew up that I over lead on the first shot and with the second shot dropped him hard. It seemed like it took forever for the shot string to get there. He was flying about three to four feet off the ground and never moved after being hit. And what I hit him with amazed the guide and myself. We paced it off from where I was standing to where the bird was on the ground and it was seventy eight yards or a little more. The shells I was using were some of the shells left over from a shotshell review on RST shells. They were the Lite 20 gauge, 2½ inch paper hulls at 1150 fps with 7/8’s of seven shot that came out of an improved cylinder choke. I had used these shells and had killed everything out to about forty yards and never had a chance to shoot at anything farther than that. Those shells have continued to impress me with the high quality and killing power even though they only have about 5000 psi and are leaving the barrel at 1150 fps. If I had any doubts about them having the killing power needed to put down a hard to kill chukar at that distance, it was totally removed after that shot. My nickname for those 2 ½” shells is the Dragon Slayer. The morning ended up with sixteen birds in the bag.

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One of the many birds taken at Castle Valley Outdoors.

When I look back on a lot of the other hunts I’ve done and some of them did have a mixed bag of birds to hunt, but the variety of birds at Castle Valley Outdoors is greater. It really makes for some fun hunting and adds to the excitement. You never know what the next bird will be. All the different birds take off differently and get up to speed at different rates and fly at different speeds. You have to be on your toes and make sure your gun speed is right for the bird your shooting at the moment.

After another fantastic lunch by Bonnie the chef we went out for more birds. That afternoon I went bird hunting again but with the 28 gauge and got another eighteen birds and considered it a grand day of bird hunting.

The next day it started off with another grand breakfast with Belgian waffles, scrambled eggs, and ham steaks. All the meals at Castle Valley Outdoors were served family style with always more than you could eat. Every meal was a pleasant surprise with delightful new flavors and aromas that would float through the lodge. I decided to take it easy in the morning and just shoot some clays at an improvised five stand close to the main lodge. The presentations offered were close to what you would see afield and offered a good warm up for the shooting clients that hadn’t handled a shotgun in a while. Jim Fauver, the general manager of CVO is thinking about putting in a twelve to fifteen station sporting clays course sometime in the future. I sure hope he does as he has several places with excellent terrain.

That afternoon I decided to make a pass through one of the ten fields we hadn’t hunted as yet. Katlin and I started out after a long lunch and a little nap for more fun and exciting hunting. With the unusual snow for this time of year some of the fields were like greased lighting with the moisture from the melting snow turning the fields into slippery skating rinks. That ended up playing into one of the shots I made.

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Surprised by the flush.

After knocking down several birds, Katlin and I ended up getting into some shoulder high brush. The dogs were a little ahead and off to our right when one of them spooked a chukar right in front of us. It all happened so fast. The bird was climbing at a 45-degree angle to fly about three or four feet over my right shoulder. Katlin was to my immediate right so I couldn’t turn in that direction and not hit him with the gun. The time we saw the bird in front of us was like a second or so and I couldn’t move the gun fast enough to catch the bird or get the barrel in front of him to make a vertical shot. As I pivoted on my left foot and swung my right foot out in front of me my left foot slipped in the greasy mud and I was falling forward because of my fast movement. As my upper body turned before the lower half, I caught sight of the bird not that high in front of me and like right in front of the barrel. Even though the gun was not fully mounted it looked like it was in the right place to shoot the bird so I pulled the trigger. There was an explosion of feathers that rained down on us. I was still off balance and trying to get both my feet under me when Katlin started laughing, and when I was able to stand erect without falling down I started laughing as well. He couldn’t believe I made that shot and for that matter I couldn’t believe it either. We had a real good laugh for some time over that one.

That hunt ended up with another fourteen birds. Now I understood why Bill has been here eleven times in the last six years. This mixed bag bird hunting offers much more fun and excitement than just pheasant hunting. This is one place I will surely visit again. You’ll never regret going there.

Castle Valley Outdoors can be reached via the phone by calling 800-586-6503. Their mailing address is P. O. Box 588, 1600 N. State Road 10, Emery, UT 84522. For additional information, you can visit their web site at http://www.castlevalleyoutdoors.com.

Jerry Sinkovec is a freelance outdoor and travel photojournalist who writes for over 45 different publications nationally and internationally. Jerry is also designing shooting clothing and accessories for Wild Hare Intl. He is the shooting and travel editor for Outdoors Now. He is also the director of the Instinctive Target Interception Shotgun Shooting School headquartered in Idaho Falls, Idaho. He has been teaching for the last 20 years, and has been endorsed by Browning in Utah. He conducts classes in all the western states. His address is: I. T. I. Shotgun Shooting School, 5045 Brennan Bend, Idaho Falls, ID 83401. He can be reached at: 208-523-1545, or online at itishooting@msn.com or http://www.itishooting.com.

 

Busting the Big Myth About Shotgun Chokes

Written by Jerry Sinkovec

 
We move through it, we shoot through it and we breathe it. It’s air. But it’s something most shooters never think about when they are competing in a sporting clays competition or even in practice. It is something we should consider when shooting above 3,000 feet. At 3,000 feet the air density is less than at sea level. At 5,000 to 6,000 feet it’s about 80% of what it is at sea level. It is that reduction of air density (altitude) that allows a shot string to stay tight longer than it would at sea level.

I live at 4,700 feet and do a good portion on my shooting at 4,000 to 5,000 feet or higher. I normally shoot most of my targets with skeet chokes, which still get good solid breaks out to 60 yards and beyond. When I was reviewing a new 28- gauge over-under choked skeet and skeet, a friend was surprised by the good breaks I was getting with ¾ ounce of 8½ shot. He was so impressed he wanted to pace off the distance. When he paced it off going out and again coming back, he found the distance to be 59 to 60 yards. Even the diminutive 28 gauge at 60 yards will crush a target when at altitude, which at the time was about 4,800 to 4,900 feet. When I lived at 5,120 feet in New Mexico and shot at altitudes up to 6,000 feet I broke many a target at 60 yards or more with the 28 gauge. There is no reason to shoot tight chokes at high altitudes because of the thinner density of air at altitude.

BlackClouldSM

This revelation was brought home back in 1995 when attending a Holland & Holland shooting school to do a magazine article. The shooting facility near Vail, Colorado was located at 8,000 feet. None of the other shooters including myself ever gave the altitude any thought. We were shooting Federal 12-gauge International Paper load at 1,350 FPS with 24 grams of 8½ shot. It was a soft-shooting load because of the paper hull and the light shot load of 24 grams. When the shells were tested and compared, the Federal International load had less recoil than the standard 20 gauge 7/8 ounce load at 1,200 FPS.

Everything was normal throughout the second day and we shot somewhere between 400 to 500 rounds. When they took us to where there was a 60-yard crossing target everyone was getting their chokes out and were getting ready to change their chokes. The instructor told us not to change anything. If we had cylinder or skeet chokes in that we should leave them in. He wanted to make a point and he did. We all struggled with getting the right lead and hitting the distant crosser, but when we did, the target just disappeared. When it came to my turn I missed the first few targets until I found the correct lead. When I did, I was surprised by how hard the targets were hit. After we had all shot the station he explained what was going on and why it wasn’t necessary to use tighter chokes. It was a lesson that I never forgot.

I’ve shot with a lot of different shooters over the years and I was always interested in their methods and gear selection. The two following incidents happened at about 4,000 feet.

A few years ago I was shooting with a master-class shooter at a large zone shoot. He shot an automatic with a modified or improved modified choke and never changed it regardless the distance of the target. He was breaking many more targets than me, which is understandable. Finally, we came to another really tough station that was a true pair of chandelles, one left to right and the other right to left at about 60 yards or more. My partner shot first and only got one target out of the last pair of four pair. It was his worst station that day. I had skeet and skeet in and had decided to change to light modified (LM) and LM. I ended up with three pair out of four pair. I have always wondered what he would have gotten if he had opened up on the choke.

At another shoot not long ago, I was shooting with a friend who has a higher classification and we were shooting some distant incomers that showed their undersides to us and were sliding off to the left. He was shooting a modified choke and I was shooting a skeet choke. He missed two and I didn’t miss any. And he commented on the fact I was getting better breaks than he was. What it all gets down to is that I think most shooters tend to over choke for the targets they are shooting. They are shooting tighter chokes than needed to break the target and with the tighter choke missing the target completely because the shot string hasn’t opened up like it does at sea level and cooler weather.

Air density is less as we go up in altitude. Air density is affected by the air pressure, temperature and humidity. The density of the air is reduced by decreased air pressure, increased temperatures and increased moisture. A reduction in air density reduces the engine horsepower, reduces aerodynamic lift and reduces aerodynamic drag. It is the word drag that most concerns shotgunners. With air density being thinner, the shot string does not open as rapidly as it would if you were at a lower altitude or at sea level where air is denser nor does it loose speed as fast. But there are other factors as well.

PrecisionHunter

Air temperature changes from summer to winter can cause air density variations up to 25%, with a similar change in your shot pattern. That means tighter patterns in hot and warm weather and more open patterns in cold and dry weather. The two main factors in shot pattern density are air temperature and altitude. In a given day, normal air temperature variations can be as high as 8% which affects your shot pattern 8%. The more humid the air is the lighter air density which can vary up to 2%. Air pressure variations can be as high as 4% in a day. So when you consider the air pressure in an area, the elevation at which you’re shooting, the humidity and the temperature, you can have a total variation of some 35-50% that will affect your pattern to the same degree. And we haven’t even considered air turbulence or the out of round shape of the shot when deformed at the moment of ignition of the powder in the shell.

People who shoot in the Midwest or farther east aren’t going to be concerned with this as much unless they go to some major shoots out west where they will more than likely be at a higher altitude. But at sea level you still should consider all the elements except of course altitude. With more people shooting one-ounce loads they might feel that they have to use tighter chokes. I would suggest that they try using the same one ounce load with 8½ size shot. It’ll give you about 70 more pellets than size 8 shot. The pattern density in a one-ounce load of 8.5 shot (480 pellets) will be better than a one ounce load of size 8 shot (409 pellets). The kill zone of the 8½ size shot will also be about 2-3 inches larger in diameter than the 8-size shot. The next time you’re at altitude at a shoot, try using a choke with less constriction than what you would normally use and see if you pick up a couple of extra targets that would have been otherwise lost.

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One other thing that you should remember from all this is that you should pattern your your shotshells at the same temperature and weather conditions that you plan to shoot or hunt with them. As a shotshell patterned on a hot, humid and low-pressure day in summer will not perform the same on a high pressure cold and dry day hunting ducks in winter.

I don’t advocate bringing a calculator to a shoot and finding out what the different weather conditions are to find the absolute air density in order to make a choke selection. But I would think you should consider what the altitude is at the place where you’re shooting and consider that in your choke selection. I think you’ll find you can shoot a wider open choke and still get the same or better breaks and pick up a few additional targets as well. To date, no one has done a comprehensive study of all the factors mentioned in this article. But firms in the shooting industry have noticed changes in the shot patterns when testing ammo from the morning sessions while it is still cooler and having wider patterns to the tighter patterns found in the afternoon when the air temperatures are warmer.

 

WHAT IS….AND HOW DO YOU BECOME AN INSTINCTIVE SHOOTER?

 

 

I’ve had a lot of people ask me that question over the years and the answer is always basically the same, but it’s meaning to each individual is always just a little different. We are all wired just a little differently and so we all see things a little differently and we all react a little differently to what we see. Some of us are fast in reacting to a visual impulse where others are slow or a little slower. If a person is one of those whose reactions are on the slow side, he or she can be taught to respond differently and more rapidly to become to become an instinctive shooter that will also become a more successful shotgun shooter and hunter. There is another benefit to becoming an instinctive shooter. It’s the fact that it’ll transfer to other shooting sports and activities as well.

 

This is a little story to illustrate what I mean. I’ve been through several combat handgun-training courses that have been taught at some of the premier facilities here in the U. S. They are excellent courses that will teach you how to defend yourself with a handgun in any type of situation on the street or in your home in daylight or night. They have a regimen they put you through to help you pick up your speed and accuracy. They are always pushing you. I actually already had both from shot gunning, but at first wasn’t as fast or as accurate with the handgun, just because I didn’t shoot one much. Half way through each of the courses I was in my element because I was more comfortable with my pistol. When it came down to the finals and testing I was surprising my instructors and myself. I didn’t realize it, but I wasn’t even using the sights on the handguns to take down the targets. I wasn’t bringing the guns up to my eyes to align the sights on the targets, as they wanted me to; I was actually shooting the pistols from my chest area and hitting everything just as though I had the sights aligned with my eyes. That is what you call mental and visual focus and shooting instinctively.

 

I’ve heard some uninformed people say or suggest there is no such thing as instinctive shooting. Well, they are absolutely wrong and don’t know what they are talking about. I actually feel sorry for them, as they will obviously never become the best shooter they are capable of being. They obviously don’t know how to make themselves or other people perform beyond their present capabilities. The British have been teaching the method for years.

 

For an instructor, they have to have excellent communication skills that relate to each individual as an individual and not just another student. You cannot communicate to every person in the same way, manor or use the same verbal communication. Just as we all respond differently to visual input, we all respond differently to verbal input. As an example, I once had a student who, no matter what I did or told him, he would continue to measure the target and barrel relationship and shoot late and miss the target. I really became frustrated, not to mention his frustration. Then I finally said: “Don’t think about it, just trust yourself, it’ll happen”. Well, he let it all go and he started smoking targets. Just trust yourself, seemed to be the key words for him to get him out of his shell.

 

We all have some negative things we do in our habits be it in shooting or something else. Either we were taught them or we subconsciously picked them up by casual observation. Breaking those negative habits is one of the things instinctive shooting is all about. You have to learn to react quickly to become a good instinctive shooter.

 

For the student, they have to approach the instructor and instruction with a completely open mind and be ready to not only learn, but also except new ideas and methods. Shooters who have a shooting problem don’t normally have the ability to analyze the reasons for the problem in order to correct the situation, nor do they push themselves. It’s the responsibility of the instructor to make the student aggressive and push him to go beyond what he considers his normal abilities. He must also be able to explain what is actually happening to the student that is different than what the student may be seeing and therefore interpreting incorrectly. An instructor really helps in pushing the student to new levels. Most people can’t develop that ability by themselves.

 

OK, so what is instinctive shooting you ask? It’s the ability to respond to a target and smoke it without any conscious thought. You just react to the visual impulse. You see; you react; you mount and shoot. Those three things can occur in a fraction of a second or over several seconds depending on the presentation.

 

There are many ways in which you can develop your skills to become a successful instinctive shot gunner, but most them would be best done with an instructor. It’s hard for a person to push himself or herself to shoot faster and trust themselves, because they don’t what to leave their comfort zone. It’s also hard to understand what’s really happening when you’re trying something new and things are happening so fast when your doing it for the first time. That’s why it’s best to work on things like this with an instructor.

 

On a skeet field you can take the pole with the hoop and lay it down on the ground with the base of the pole at the vertical pipe stand and the hoop facing the high house. You’ll be shooting from station two. Now, you’re really going to have to push yourself. Your goal is to be able to smoke the high house target at or before the hoop. It may seem like an impossible task, but after some misses, you should be able take the target with ease. You should be doing this with a low gun, or a gun at the ready, not pre-mounted at the shoulder. Obviously you’ll need a good puller and someone that can help you make corrections. With practice, you can consistently smoke the target at or before the hoop.

 

If you have a manual trap machine on a stand with a seat, you want to place it on a hill or ridge so the land falls away in front of you. The reason for this location is so that the trapper can throw anything from a downward flight below the shooters feet to a teal and sliding right and left targets and everything else in between. The shooter should stand in front of and to the left of the trapper by about ten to fifteen feet so that broken clay targets don’t hit him should they break on launch. The trapper should be strong enough so he can manipulate and tilt the trap machine and be able to throw everything from teals, grass skimmers going down hill and sliding hard right and left targets. The shooter doesn’t call pull. When the shooter is ready, he holds the shotgun at the ready and that is the signal that the trapper can throw the single or doubles target at his will with any length of delay. The trapper should always mix it up so the shooter never knows what type of target he’s going to be getting. The shooter is to shoot the targets as fast as possible. A tail wind or crosswind makes the targets even more interesting and difficult for the shooter. The best way to get a shooter to shoot faster if they are always late in shooting or always measuring the target barrel relationship is to put another faster shooter alongside the slow shooter. When the slow shooter looses enough targets to the faster shooter he’s going to get frustrated at not having a chance to shoot. He’s going to start pushing himself so that he’ll eventually start trusting himself. In time, he’ll be shooting at the same time or before the other shooter and breaking targets. I’ve never seen this technique fail yet. So why do you want to get someone to shoot fast you ask? So that they don’t have time to think about what they’re doing, so they just respond to the target and break it. Let their natural instinct or computer do what it does best. It teaches them to trust themselves and not measure or ride the target. It teaches them to mount and shoot rapidly with success.

 

When people take too much time in shooting it’s usually because they are measuring the target distance from the barrel or bead. Or they look back at the bead and slow their swing down and end up shooting behind the target. They are never sure of what they are seeing or doing. They don’t trust their own ability. What they should be doing is closely watching and studying the target when they have the opportunity to see the first pair. By closely watching and interpreting the targets actions they’ll be able to put the gun barrel into the proper flight path to intercept the target.

 

There are a lot of things that can go wrong if you don’t trust your natural abilities and respond to the target instinctively. You have to learn to trust your natural abilities because you have one of the most expensive and complex computers under your shooting hat. But you must learn how to program that computer to function properly and to trust and completely understand the visual input and your instinctive reaction to it. Some seem to be born with that innate ability and some of us need to be trained to develop that ability. I truly believe we are all born with that ability, but we’ve never really learned how to use and trust that instinctive ability. It’s a scientific fact we all use only a small part of our brainpower and we should learn how to use more of our capabilities to enjoy shooting and hunting to a greater degree.

 

Bio on the author:

 

Jerry Sinkovec is a freelance outdoor and travel writer/photographer who writes for over 45 different publications nationally and internationally. He is also the director of the Instinctive Target Interception Shotgun Shooting School headquartered in Idaho Falls, Idaho and is Browning Endorsed. Other articles on shooting instruction can be seen at his web site: www.itishooting.com or he can be contacted at itishooting@msn.com

 

 

Word Count 1777

 

Author

Jerry Sinkovec

5045 Brennan Bend

Idaho Falls, Id 83401

itishooting@msn.com

Please include the bio so my web address can be included.

 

Casa de Campo


Story and photos by Jerry Sinkovec

Casa de Campo has a distant sounding ring to it, but it can be as close as three hours away or less. It’s located on the south shore of the Dominican Republic outside the town of La Romana which also has an International airport. Atlanta, New York and Miami are three of the major jumping off places.

Casa de Campo features what any Caribbean destination resort has to offer and much, much more on their 7,000 acres. They have three award-winning golf courses like Teeth of the Dog, which is world renown, and it has spectacular views of the sea and surrounding terrain. The management at Casa de Campo is currently finishing a $20-million-dollar renovation to create 78 new Elite rooms and suites, along with a new, contemporary main hotel area.

1098bldg
Casa de Campo.

Over the years I’ve heard about and seen articles on Casa de Campo and I was impressed with what they had to offer. Now, I’ve had a chance to experience the resort. They have the world’s largest sporting clays facilities with over 200 stations and the tallest tower in the world. At 110 feet, it throws targets in all four directions from three different levels. They also have three lower towers on site. In addition, they have three trap fields; one for regular and handicap; one for trap doubles; and one for wobble trap. They also have a single skeet field and two Barnaby pigeon rings.

Since I didn’t have my own gun with me because I flew into Santo Domingo (for the shorter time in the air and the nicer terminals), so I used one of their Berettas. They have a large selection of shotguns you can use and they are primarily 12-gauge Beretta field guns with a manual safety. They also have guns in the four different gauges. I decided to shoot a couple of rounds of skeet to see how their Berettas would handle. The barrels felt a little heavier than my Browning, but the gun seemed to handle about the same. I only dropped a few targets so it wasn’t bad. The distant horizon was great for seeing the targets on the skeet field as well as the trap fields.

If you want to bring your own gun it can be easily done by filling out a gun permit two weeks before you depart and fly directly into the Casa de Campo/La Romana Intl. Airport (code: LRM) where the resort has good working relations with the authorities. You may encounter problems at the other two airports at Santo Domingo and Punta Cana, which are both about 90 minutes away.

The following day I went out with Shaun Snell, the manager of the shooting complex, to shoot the sporting clays field. I let him pick out the stations and I went after the different presentations. There was a nice selection of targets with what I would call normal type presentations All of them were doable, but I still could miss one now and then. It was fun shooting incomers from one of the two grouse butts on the course. I found the presentations off the top of the tower the most difficult, never having seen targets like that. They were so fast that you couldn’t pick them up until they were about 10 to 15 yards out and had slowed a bit. Be prepared for the unexpected and a good amount of fun. The next time I go back I hope to shoot all 200 plus stations.

1057tower
The sporting clays tower at Casa de Campo.

You could spend 14 days there shooting 14 stations each day and you would not have shot all the sporting clay stations they have to offer. There is a great diversity in the presentations, which will challenge you as hard as you’d like to be challenged. Some stations are on the soft side and are used for instruction.

In years past the shooting focused on sporting clays, trap and live bird shooting with top competitors coming from Europe and South America. Some of the live bird competitions are still held there but not with the same frequency of years past. Over the years things have changed as has the interest in the different disciplines. Seven years ago Shaun, who is from England, took over the management of the shooting complex and started to make some changes. They have a clubhouse where the pro shop and office are located along with the Safari Club restaurant and bar. It’s a great place to relax with a soothing drink after a day of shooting or hunting.

Under Shaun’s management the focus has turned to upland bird hunting and waterfowl hunting. Casa de Campo is the only place on earth where you can do bird hunting 365 days a year. There are no licenses to buy, no bird limits, just great outdoor experiences. They have over 10,000 acres devoted to hunting upland birds and waterfowl. They have developed their own kennels and have an active breeding program which is operated by Shaun’s wife. The dogs that were used during our upland bird hunt were outstanding with pointers locating the birds and other dogs to flush them out.

Our upland hunt started after lunch on an average day. It was warm but pleasant and included about a 40 minute drive to the hunting property. The dogs were excited and anxious to get to their task. The terrain was on the flat side with some low hills and gullies and grass that was a little higher than normal. There were pockets of thick brush throughout the area that provided great cover for the birds. It wasn’t long before one of the dogs was on point. Another dog was released that flushed the birds and three partridge were flushed. With two guns shooting all three partridge were taken. Over the next few hours we were able to get 51 birds that included quail, partridge and pheasant. It was an exciting time with some great hunting and dogs that really knew their stuff.

The following day we went out early in the morning to the area where the duck hunting took place in lush terrain with many ponds and streams and bigger hills. Some small blinds were set up for the three shooters. It wasn’t long before ducks came over the hill to land in the pond behind us. At first it was one, two or three birds, but later the ducks came over in larger groups. The shooting was fast and furious and by the end of the morning each shooter had about 48 birds.

1708ducks
The ducks kept on coming.

The largest shoot they have at Casa de Compo is the Sugar Invitational. It is a private shoot that takes place in April. Every year there are some changes to the format as it includes a few hundred clay targets and live bird shooting in different events. The shoot is normally conducted over four days. (For more information on events at Casa de Campo you can contact Shaun at the shooting center at 809-523-3333 ext. 5145.)

The accommodations at Casa de Campo vary from large villa homes to a variety of hotel rooms including the new Elite room and suites, with all the amenities of a large resort. My hotel room was larger than most hotel rooms and comfortable and had a covered balcony on the back side with nice views. Although my room wasn’t one of the newly remolded rooms it was more than ample and came with a well-stocked mini bar and great air-conditioning.

The Ivory colored sand beaches and palm trees are just beautiful. Since I was pretty busy on this trip, I only had one afternoon to spend at Minitas Beach to soak up the solar BTU’s and sip on a few margaritas. It was glorious. This resort covers 7,000 acres and so each room is provided with a golf cart to get around in. And it is really handy.

1114beach
One of the lovely beaches at Casa de Campo.

There are many other things to do at Casa de Campo. They have over a dozen tennis courts and several of them are lighted for play in the evening. The courts looked new, but it’s just that they are so meticulous in their maintenance. The La Terraza Tennis Center has been dubbed the “Wimbledon of the Caribbean.” At the equestrian center you can ride out on a large selection of trails on either an English or western saddles, but if you want to ride make sure you bring long pants. I didn’t so I couldn’t ride. Less than 100 yards from the stable is a polo field where a match was taking place the day I was there. I had fun capturing some action shots of the game.

There are other activities at Casa de Campo as well. There is deep-sea fishing, sailing, kayaking along with snorkeling and diving as well. You can also take an excursion or one of the many tours available or just rent an ATV and explore on your own. There are also spas where you can relax or get a massage which I did and felt totally renewed. They also have a fitness center where you can work out like you normally would at home and stay in shape after eating all those grand meals every evening. You can also rent a bike if that is more to your liking for staying in shape.

The nine restaurants in the resort’s inclusive package are simply great, with one of them being in the five- diamond class. At the restaurant at the Marina my dining partner and I ordered a large Man-O-War, about 20 inches in length and eight across, with its decks awash with sushi, sashimi, wasabi, sliced ginger and other delights. I never thought we’d finish it off, but we did such a grand job of clearing the decks, any good admiral would have been proud of our efforts.

My favorite appetizer that was available at two different restaurants and prepared a little different at each restaurant was tuna tartar. I had it just about every night. The restaurant that would easily win a five-diamond award is Le Cirque, which is located by the beach. The food there was really outstanding as was their selection of wines. The ambience of the restaurant was superior to what you would normally expect. And you could look out over the beach and barely hear the surf pounding on the shore.

Whatever your taste in food is you’ll find something there to suit you. And there will soon be the new La Cana Restaurant and Lounge by Il Circo in the main area too. There are art galleries and a museum on the property along with its own large shopping area. You can also visit and explore Altos de Chavon, an area where everything has the look of a few hundred years ago that also has some shops and restaurants on the Casa de Campo property. You’ll feel at home even though you’re away from home at Casa de Campo, because of the great staff.

Jerry Sinkovec is a freelance outdoor and travel photojournalist who writes for over 45 different publications nationally and internationally. Jerry is also designing shooting clothing and accessories for Wild Hare Intl. He is the shooting and travel editor for Outdoors Now. He is also the director of the Instinctive Target Interception Shotgun Shooting School headquartered in Idaho Falls, Idaho. He has been teaching for the last 20 years, and has been endorsed by Browning in Utah. He conducts classes in all the western states. His address is: I. T. I. Shotgun Shooting School, 5045 Brennan Bend, Idaho Falls, ID 83401. He can be reached at: 208-523-1545, or online at itishooting@msn.com or http://www.itishooting.com.

For more information on Casa de Campo you can contact:

Casa de Campo Direct
P.O. Box 140, La Romana, Dominican Republic
Phone 800-877-3643 or (809) 523-8698
 

 21st Century Gun Cleaning

 

 

I think we can all reminisce about the first time we cleaned our first gun as a youngster. I was eight when I received a single shot Springfield 22 caliber rifle for Christmas. My dad taught me gun safety and good gun handling. My dad, brother and I used to shoot the length of the basement. We would drive nails into wood, strike matches and put out the flame on a candle without hitting it.  There was the fun and excitement element and that awesome smelling Hoppes Nr. 9 gun cleaner… that no one ever turned into a men’s cologne after all these years.  What a shame. OK Hoppes, I get 5%.

 

Gone are the days of first using a harsh solvent to remove carbon, grease, oil, lead, copper, plastic wadding and other contaminates, and maybe a little skin in the process. And then carefully replacing lubricants like grease and oil on wear points to protect the metal from adverse weather. Normally you would have to work outside or in the basement so the fumes wouldn’t overcome you and also so you wouldn’t have to listen to your wife or mother complaining of the smell in the house.

 

Things have changed a lot since those days and many new gun-cleaning solutions are all-in-one solutions or CLP’s, Cleaner/Lubricant/Protector. Most of the new gun-cleaning solutions are water based and biodegradable and are not harmful to you or your gunstock or anything in your home for that matter. The more you use these new solutions, the easier and faster gun cleaning becomes. They leave behind small amounts of protectant that fills in the pores on the metal and doesn’t allow the contaminants to adhere to the surface as well. There are basically two types of cleaners and degreasers out there, the CLP’s or all in ones and the more traditional two solution cleaners and lubricants. They both do a great job; you have to decide for yourself, which will do the best job for you, and your equipment and which is the easiest to work with.

 

Several years ago I was still struggling with those solvent based cleaners that required a lot of elbow grease as well. Gun cleaning wasn’t easy nor was it fun, and it took a lot of time. For that reason, I wasn’t to keen on gun cleaning and avoided it like the plague. I still do. But now it’s a lot different. I probably cleaned my over and under shotguns once a year, as long as I wasn’t caught in a dust, sand or rain storm or some other type of foul weather. Yet I cleaned my choke tubes when ever I saw any built up in the tubes, which was quite frequently, if I wanted to maintain the proper choke constriction. Choke tubes were never easy to clean no matter how long you soaked them. I used some pretty wild stuff in wild colors like purple back then that is still available today. It seemed to take my skin off faster than removing the plastic wadding from the tubes. That has all changed. One thing I learned is to buy quality choke tubes that have a polished finish on the internal surface so the metal doesn’t scrub off the plastic from the wad as it passes through the choke. The surface of the choke tube will determine how fast the chokes develop a plastic build-up and changes the constriction of the tube. The other thing is that I use this new technology that has developed over the years that makes gun or choke tube cleaning faster, easier and simpler.

 

The first of the new solutions I ever used was Slip 2000 and their Choke Tube Cleaner. First, I cleaned everything with my old solvent based cleaner, and then I used the Slip Choke Tube Cleaner that removed even more fouling. After everything was really clean I applied a film of Slip 2000 over the ID and OD of the choke tubes. It wasn’t until about the third time I used the Slip products that I could really notice a difference in how easily they cleaned up. Now, I only clean my Comp-N-Choke tubes once a year by using the two solutions. If you shoot ported chokes like the Comp-N-Choke, you know how hard they can be to clean, because they blast carbon and plastic on the exterior of the other tube next to it. After every sporting clay shoot is over, all I need to do is brush the interior and exterior with either a stainless steel or bronze brush and everything….the carbon, the plastic fouling all brush off with ease. People standing around and chatting while I clean my chokes are amazed at how easy they clean up, as it only takes a few minutes. And you don’t need any elbow grease either.         

Remember, a lot of cleaning solutions claim to remove copper, lead and carbon but being shot gunners we also want plastic removed. Not all cleaners remove plastic well, so be careful and read the label well to make sure it’ll take care of removing the plastic build up.

 

Recently, I tried some of the other new solutions on the market, Gunzilla, Ogre, Prolix, Xtreme Bore+, Pro Shot Products and others. These are single solutions that are all in ones, or CLP’s. They clean, protect and lube all the surfaces you put it on. They function just like the Slip 2000 and their cleaners And it does take two or three applications for it to really work well. I was amazed how easy and clean these other cleaners were to use. I used Gunzillla on a twin barrel set I use for hunting and Prolix on one of my competition guns. In both cases the interior of the barrels stayed cleaner longer as well as the exterior ported areas and were easier to clean the more I used these C/L/P’s. There was no heavy fouling buildup. The same was true for the choke tubes. On one set of Browning Midas Chokes that I used in practice, I had shot over 300 rounds through the tubes that had been cleaned and lubed with Prolix. After about three or four pushes of a brush through the tube, there was a slight trace of a fine particulate in the tube. After about another one or two pushes, there was nothing, then I decided to push a plastic brush with a clean patch with Prolix on it through. The patch came out with only a light gray ring on it. It was clean!  The same was true for the Gunzilla choke tubes.

 

Bore Tech’s Blast cleaner and degreaser also removes plastic buildup in barrels and choke tubes. It’s a pressurized product that is available in a 14 oz. aerosol can. One of the few pressurized environmentally friendly products out there. They also make many other cleaning solutions for shotguns and other firearms in addition to making many cleaning tools.

 

Every one of these new cleaners does what it says it’ll do. They all make cleaning guns and chokes easier and faster and they are safer to work with, without any awful smells to contend with. Ogre, Pro Shot, Extreme Bore+, Hoppe’s Elite and Shooter’s Choice new Aqua Clean products also do the same job and aren’t harmful to the environment as well. It is important to read each of the manufacturers instructions carefully and to follow their directions completely and you’ll never have a problem.

 

Each of the manufacturers has some pro and cons, so you have to decide which will work best for you in the way that you like to clean and lubricate things. The positive things about Slip 2000 products that I like are: they supply you with a container, choke tube cleaning liquid, choke tube removal tools in their Slip 2000 Choke Tube Cleaner bottle. It’s a complete package that does the job. They are also one of the few that supplies their Slip 2000 products in a pressurized aerosol container that I like to use for cleaning and blowing out the gunk in the extractor or ejector areas on the receiver. They also offer their solutions in up to one-gallon sizes. Prolix, Gunzilla, Orge, and ProShot are all single solutions where as Slip 2000, Gunslick Pro, Aqua Clean, Hoppe’s Elite require two different solutions. Prolix offers different application or spraying devices on its products and they also offer products in up to one-gallon sizes. Prolix also offers a thickened version of its product called Xtra-T Lube that functions as a grease. It is longer lasting than regular grease and won’t burn off or freeze up. Hopefully, some of the other manufacturers will offer their products in a container to clean choke tubes and offer pressurized products as well.

 

The other advantage of these type of products is that they don’t attract dust, dirt or sand like grease or oil. They also displace moisture better. They also function better in extreme temperatures. The main thing is that they penetrate into the surface of the metal of your shotgun preventing any fouling build-up and making cleaning easier, faster and better.  Even though some CLP products lubricate, it still wouldn’t hurt to still apply some grease to some of the high wear/pressure points on your shotgun.

 

While gathering information for this story, I investigated the possibility of someone making an ultrasonic cleaning system where you could place the whole O/U barrel assembly into a tray to clean it. It could be done, but would cost about $7,000 to $8,000 to make them in quantity. There are several manufacturers that make small ultrasonic cleaners for small gun parts and pistols that are reasonable, but nothing for a barrel assembly. But there is another way to clean the whole barrel assembly interior and exterior in one easy process. Slip 2000 has a product that is used by our military forces for barrel cleaning. It’s comprised of a length of plastic pipe, with one end capped or sealed and the other end with a threaded cap for pouring in the solutions and putting in the shotgun barrel or rifle barrel or a 50 caliber machine gun barrel. You can soak the whole barrel; give it a shake or two if you are so inclined and let soak for five to fifteen minutes. Never leave the barrel in the solution for longer than the fifteen minutes and make sure the entire barrel is submerged and you won’t have any problems. It’ll make cleaning your shotgun even easier.

 

With all the new chemistry that is available to enable you to clean your guns and accessories faster and easier, there is no reason to be using products that are harmful to you or the environment. The following information will enable you to contact the various manufactures directly and to visit their web site for additional information on pricing, packaging, ordering and dealer locations. They will also offer information on how to best use their products. CLP has been explained above. Below you’ll see (2SP) next to the manufacturer’s name, and that indicates they require two solutions to clean and protect your shotgun. You might contact your local gun dealer to see if they will put the products into inventory locally. It would be really great if some of the lesser known manufacturers listed in this article would also provide their products in pressurized form for blasting out crud in hard to get to places, and to provide a large mouth container with solution with choke holders to allow your choke tubes to soak while your cleaning your barrels. They should all offer their product in a grease form as well so you don’t need to carry different brands or revert to using hydrocarbons. One of the problems in the shooting industry is the retailers are slow in picking up on the new brands and types of cleaners available and the makers of the new chemistry are not pushing their products hard enough to the stocking dealers. Most of them sell to the public direct. You can make it happen.

 

Slip 2000        (2SP)                                       

888-243-6725

info@slip2000.com

www.slip2000.com

 

Gunzilla           (CLP)             

P.O. Box 80466
Lansing, MI  48908
(517) 321-8416
info@topduckproducts.com  

www.topduckproducts.com 

 

ProChemCo/PrOlix     (CLP)             

PO Box 1466

West Jordan, UT 84084-8466

801-569-2763

1-800-248-LUBE (5823)

Fax: 801-569-8225

prolix@prolixlubricant.com

www.prolixlubricant.com 

 

Pro Shot Products      (CLP)

P.O. Box 763

Taylorville, IL 62568

217-824-9133

www.proshotproducts.com

 

OGRE Manufacturing LLC   (CLP)
John Thompson, Owner, Chemist
231 South 79th Street
Milwaukee, WI 53214
414-475-9339
ogremfg@aol.com

 

 

Bore Tech Inc.                 (2SP)

10 Emlen Way, Suite 108

Telford, PA 18969

215-799-2500

www.boretech.com

 

 Hoppe’s Elite         (2SP)      

9200 Cody St.

Overland Park, KS 66214                  

800-423-3537

www.hoppes.com

 

 

Extreme Industrial Lubricants              (CLP)

18168 W. Sundowner Way

 Suite 1016

Santa Clarita, CA 9137

866-700-LUBE

Xtreme Bore+ Dri-Lubricant

www.xtremelubricants.com

 

Shooter’s Choice Aqua Clean    (2SP)

15050 Berkshire Ind. Pkwy.

Middlefield, OH 44062

800-232-1991

www.shooters-choice.com

 

Gunslick Pro                (2SP)

Onalaska Operations
N5549 County Trunk Z
Onalaska, WI 54650
800-635-7656

www.gunslick.com

 

2157  word count

Author: Jerry Sinkovec

5045 Brennan Bend

Idaho Falls, ID 83401

21st Century Gun Cleaning Tools

 

Along with the new gun cleaning chemistry that is available, there are some new tools out there that make gun cleaning easier and faster as well. If your local dealer doesn’t carry some of these products, I’ll put all the contact information at the end of the of the article so you can contact the manufacturers your self. You can order from most of them over the web.

 

When your cleaning a shotgun rifle or pistol, you really need something that will hold your barrels or action well so you can clean it easily without having to worry about the item moving, falling or slipping and getting damaged. The best item I’ve found is the Tipton Best Gun Vise. They offer three models and the one shown in the photograph is the more expensive model but it also has more versatility. There are many adjustments that can be made and it can be used for other applications as well. The other models are the Gun Vise and the Gun Butler. All models have soft rubber feet so they’ll stay where you put them while working with them.

 

There are a plethora of gun cleaning rods out there so I looked at ones you might not be aware of that have some nice features. The top one in the photo is a Tipon Deluxe Carbon Fiber Cleaning Rod from Battenfeld Technologies. They won’t damage the barrels like a metal one would if used carelessly nor do they pick up small abrasive particles and foreign matter that could also damage the barrels. They have a nice large comfortable handle to work with as well. They are available in several different lengths and diameters. The middle rod is from Pro Shot Products and features a stainless steel rod and a heavy brass handle. They make a very fine and large selection of cleaning tools. The lower rod in the photo is from Shootin Accessories and is for use with an electric or battery operated drill. It comes with a twelve-gauge bushing but they don’t offer a twenty or twenty-eight-gauge bushing to my knowledge. One thing I’d like to see them do is to have a multi faceted tip that fits into the chuck so there is no chance of slippage.

 

I like using a drill as it cuts cleaning barrel time in half or more, and does an excellent job. I usually start with a dry barrel and either a phosphorous bronze brush, a stainless steel brush or a tornado brush that will cut through the carbon built up and any plastic more rapidly. The cleaners act as a lubricate and prolong the cleaning time and you’ll use many more patches that way as well. A drill should not be used to clean rifle barrels as it is not effective. Then I’ll use a bronze or nylon brush (nylon is better because the fabric fibers won’t stick to the brush like they do on the bronze) with a patch soaked in the cleaning solution and run it through the barrels a few times. I do that until the patch comes out clean. Then I’ll us a plastic expandable jag with a clean patch with either a CLP, oil if I’m going to store the gun or other solution to protect the barrel. My O/U barrels have a flawless mirror finish to them using this method.

 

Another item you may want to add to your kit is a choke/chamber-cleaning tool. Basically it’s a short cleaning rod with either a standard size bronze brush for choke tubes or an oversized cleaning brush for the chamber. They are available from Pro Shot, Shootin Accessories or Briley. The Briley model allows you to store the brush inside the handle. See attached photo.

 

A handy little item available from Shootin Accessories is their choke thread-cleaning tool for the I.D. of the barrel. It’s available for Browning and other major thread patterns. It’s really a handy item if your using a powder that tends to deposit a lot of carbon in the barrels and especially carbon that’s forced into the thread area for the choke. And if you’ve ever been caught in a downpour during competition, and your gun has gotten soaked, and you didn’t pull the chock tubes out and dry both the I.D. of the barrel and the O.D. of the choke tube you might find a little rust in the thread area. This little tool will clear out the threads nicely.

 

When you’ve finished cleaning the shotgun or rifle, you might want to push a clean patch through the barrel with some CLP, oil or other solution on it to protect the surface and to make the surface easier to clean next time. The plastic expandable jags from Bore Tech and others do a great job. The jag is ever so slightly larger than the bore diameter and when a cotton patch is added it exerts an even pressure on the I. D. of the barrel leaving a fine film behind. The tip is designed to retain the patch even when you pull the patch back through the barrel. They are available in all the bore sizes.

 

And if your having a hard time getting just a small drop of CLP, oil or some other cleaning solution into some small place you’ll want to get some of those six inch pipettes from Tipton. They enable you to get just the right amount in exactly the right place. They are available in a twelve pack.

 

Orge, Birchwoood Casey and a few others also make a special choke tube lube that’ll prevent the chokes from seizing up in the barrel. It never hurts to add a minute amount to the threads to make sure they’ll insert and come out easily. You might also want to consider buying patches in larger quantities, as it makes them a lot cheaper and you won’t find yourself running out of patches in the middle of a project. Tipton and Pro Shot both offer patches in larger quantities than you’ll find in most stores.

 

Both Gunslick and Slip 2000 have quick disconnect systems for changing cleaning tools on your cleaning rod. You can have four or more different tools or different gauge tools mounted in the system and interchange them in two to three seconds. It’s something you should look into, as it’s a lot better than unscrewing and re-screwing items. Only Slip 2000’s system can be attached to any cleaning rod.

 

 

Battenfeld Technologies, Inc.

Tipton Products

5885 W. Van Horn Tavern Rd.

Columbia, MO 65203

877-509-9160

www.battenfeldtechnologies.com

 

Shootin Accessories, Ltd.

POB 6810

Auburn, CA 95604

800-676-8920

www.shotgunsportsmagazine.com

 

Briley Manufacturing

1230 Lumpkin Rd.

Houston, TX 77043

800-331-5718

www.briley.com

 

Birchwood Laboratories

7900 Fuller Road

Eden Prairie, MN 55344

800-328-6156

www.birchwoodcasey.com

 

 

1131 word count

 

Author

Jerry Sinkovec

 

 

 

Grey Cliffs Ranch

Written by Jerry Sinkovec

 

It was one of Montana’s best-kept secrets nestled away in the hill country along the Madison River. The ranch opened to the public back in 2007, but it didn’t hold its grand opening until early 2008 when all the finishing touches were completed. The ranch is a 5000 acre deeded property with about an additional 2000 acres in leased land. Some of the land, only about 1,500 acres, is farmed but the majority of it is in a natural state for wildlife.

There is catch-and-release fishing on the ranch but you also have the Madison River only a few minutes away. There is upland bird hunting with pheasant, chucker and all the native huns and sharp-tail grouse available. They also have deer and elk hunting available on a limited basis. There are many others things to do including hiking, horseback riding, wildlife watching and wildlife photography. It’s not unusual to see herds of several hundred deer or elk on the ranch. In winter you can snowshoe or cross country ski. When you get into the high country you can see the four mountain ranges that surround the ranch area. It’s a beautiful area where you can truly relax and unwind.

Lodge
The Grey Cliff’s Ranch lodge.

The majority of the people that come here are the residents of Bozeman, Montana area who want to get away from it all and relax in an Idyllic atmosphere. I always thought if you lived in Bozeman you already got away from it all. But you could also find a couple from Atlanta or Zurich, Switzerland enjoying the outstanding atmosphere of the ranch and the lodge. This is a really unique ranch with a totally different outlook about it being a place to stay. It can be a bed and breakfast, or it can be a hunting lodge, or a fishing lodge or a dude ranch. It can be anything you want it to be. And it can be all yours. They aren’t trying to keep all the rooms full all the time, just the opposite. It’s what they call low impact lodging. They want you to have a really unique experience while you are there for whatever reason. You can be by yourself or just a couple. The lodge will hold about eight to twelve people depending on the mix. And it can be all yours for a day, a week or a month, it’s up to you.

The lodge is really a work of art, from the timber and glass exterior to the hard wood floors, marble counters, luxurious furniture and game heads from around the world adorning the walls. It reflects the personality of its owners and is one of the finer places I’ve ever had the pleasure to stay at.

You can pick one of their guest packages or design your own. Instead of the typical B&B package which includes your breakfast, you could do your owning cooking of dinner in their state-of-the-art kitchen or have their gourmet chef come in and cook your dinner right before you every evening. I don’t think you’ll ever find another place like this where they consider your experience as a greater value than having all the rooms full.

My first experience there after it just opened in 2007 was a real surprise. I came up from Idaho to do some bird hunting and met several hunters from Bozeman who I hunted with and had a great time. They were there for the day just to bird hunt while I was going to be spending several days there doing different things in addition to bird hunting.

Mountains
Spectacular vistas while bird hunting at Grey Cliffs Ranch.

We had a fun-filled day with some great bird hunting. We also had some good laughs about the birds we missed. We had a pheasant that was hit hard, but not dead and all four of us were looking for it very intensely as were the two dogs. Something caught my attention and I looked up at what I thought was a large flock of song birds, they didn’t look that large. Someone else also saw them and didn’t think anything about them as well. When the birds were right in front and above us, we realized it was a huge covey of huns. All the guns started to move and there was a lot of gunfire at the going-away birds, but not a bird dropped from the sky. We all looked at each other somewhat dumbfounded and burst out laughing. It took awhile to get over what had just happened. We did finally find the one we were looking for. We all ended up with a good mix of birds. Each one of us had either three or four birds.

The next time I was at the ranch was early in January of 2010. We just had over a foot of snow in Idaho Falls and a few days of single digit temperatures and when I got up to around Ennis, Montana, the temperature was 34 degrees, the skies were clear and the roads were clear and dry. I was expecting a foot of snow or more at the ranch and the ground was basically clear and dry. After a quick, small lunch, Chris, the ranch manager, and I headed out to one of the hunting areas with his dog, Katie. In the time since I was here last, Katie had matured into a first-class hunting dog.

We headed out to one of the areas that had very deep cover for the birds. After some walking, Katie went on point as Chris and I walked a little closer. The cock finally couldn’t take it any longer and tried to make his escape while Chris and I started to mount our guns. Chris got the first shot off and hit the bird but it didn’t go down and when the bird got clear of Chris I took my shot and hit the bird as well but it still kept going. We saw where it landed and backtracked to where the bird was and Katie quickly got the birds scent and went on point.

When the bird took off it looked like it was just hanging there and when I shot the bird it took a couple of somersaults in the air before it hit the ground for the last time.

During the rest of the afternoon hunt I got three more birds, but one got away. It was hit hard but managed to maintain some gliding flight for awhile. We went to look for it and could not find it after seeing where it landed and searching for some fifteen minutes. After we started back to the truck Katie picked up a scent and took off on a diagonal run while Chris and I stayed on track to the truck. When Katie got to the base of the hill we saw her pick something up and then drop it and then came running back to us. Chris and I both thought the same thing. The bird we were just looking for didn’t go into the heavy cover where it landed; it doubled back to the hill close to where I shot it and died there. Thanks to Katie, I ended up with the four birds I shot.

DogINSIDE
Katie with the four birds she retrieved on our hunt.

Being that I was the only guest at the ranch, I decided to soak up some of the ambience of the lodge and get some writing done. The chef was coming in that evening to cook dinner for Chris and I and I knew it was going to be a grand and memorable dinner. Chris himself is an excellent chef, so when “the chef” comes in you know it’s going to be even more impressive.

I was not disappointed. Tiffany started us off with a delicious squash, carrot and potato soup that was out of this world. Our salad was light and very tasty with some citrus that was a delight. The entrée was pheasant with a red wine and fig reduction glaze and polenta, and was without a doubt the very best pheasant I ever had; Chris agreed. And I have a few good recipes for pheasant myself. The dessert was as exceptional. It was a roasted pear sorbet which I have never had before and will never forget it was so delicious.

The following day Chris and I went out to shoot some clays. They have five automatic Promatic traps set up in some interesting terrain. They have a formal shooting station for each trap, but Chris and I tried to make it more interesting and fun. We also shot between two stations so we could shoot report and true pairs off of two stations. On stations four and five we had the most fun. Standing 10 yards above station four, which was a fast left-to right quartering bird that you couldn’t dally on. Station five was a high incomer arching right to left that was always in transition. Four was the harder bird to hit so we tried report pairs to start and we both accomplished getting the pair. Then we went for true pairs and we both accomplished that after a few misses. Then we got ridiculous. We shot them in reverse. There were a lot of misses but we were able to get a pair and Chris’s second bird, the one quartering away looked like it was in China, and he still got it. We sure hooted and hollered and high fived on that one.

Grey Cliffs Ranch is a great experience in itself, but when you add the outstanding food served there by either Chris or Tiffany it really becomes a truly grand and memorable event. To book your fun experience or adventure call 406-285-6512 or go to: www.greycliffsranch.com

 
 

Busting the Big Myth About Shotgun Chokes

Written by Jerry Sinkovec

 
We move through it, we shoot through it and we breathe it. It’s air. But it’s something most shooters never think about when they are competing in a sporting clays competition or even in practice. It is something we should consider when shooting above 3,000 feet. At 3,000 feet the air density is less than at sea level. At 5,000 to 6,000 feet it’s about 80% of what it is at sea level. It is that reduction of air density (altitude) that allows a shot string to stay tight longer than it would at sea level.

I live at 4,700 feet and do a good portion on my shooting at 4,000 to 5,000 feet or higher. I normally shoot most of my targets with skeet chokes, which still get good solid breaks out to 60 yards and beyond. When I was reviewing a new 28- gauge over-under choked skeet and skeet, a friend was surprised by the good breaks I was getting with ¾ ounce of 8½ shot. He was so impressed he wanted to pace off the distance. When he paced it off going out and again coming back, he found the distance to be 59 to 60 yards. Even the diminutive 28 gauge at 60 yards will crush a target when at altitude, which at the time was about 4,800 to 4,900 feet. When I lived at 5,120 feet in New Mexico and shot at altitudes up to 6,000 feet I broke many a target at 60 yards or more with the 28 gauge. There is no reason to shoot tight chokes at high altitudes because of the thinner density of air at altitude.

BlackClouldSM

This revelation was brought home back in 1995 when attending a Holland & Holland shooting school to do a magazine article. The shooting facility near Vail, Colorado was located at 8,000 feet. None of the other shooters including myself ever gave the altitude any thought. We were shooting Federal 12-gauge International Paper load at 1,350 FPS with 24 grams of 8½ shot. It was a soft-shooting load because of the paper hull and the light shot load of 24 grams. When the shells were tested and compared, the Federal International load had less recoil than the standard 20 gauge 7/8 ounce load at 1,200 FPS.

Everything was normal throughout the second day and we shot somewhere between 400 to 500 rounds. When they took us to where there was a 60-yard crossing target everyone was getting their chokes out and were getting ready to change their chokes. The instructor told us not to change anything. If we had cylinder or skeet chokes in that we should leave them in. He wanted to make a point and he did. We all struggled with getting the right lead and hitting the distant crosser, but when we did, the target just disappeared. When it came to my turn I missed the first few targets until I found the correct lead. When I did, I was surprised by how hard the targets were hit. After we had all shot the station he explained what was going on and why it wasn’t necessary to use tighter chokes. It was a lesson that I never forgot.

I’ve shot with a lot of different shooters over the years and I was always interested in their methods and gear selection. The two following incidents happened at about 4,000 feet.

A few years ago I was shooting with a master-class shooter at a large zone shoot. He shot an automatic with a modified or improved modified choke and never changed it regardless the distance of the target. He was breaking many more targets than me, which is understandable. Finally, we came to another really tough station that was a true pair of chandelles, one left to right and the other right to left at about 60 yards or more. My partner shot first and only got one target out of the last pair of four pair. It was his worst station that day. I had skeet and skeet in and had decided to change to light modified (LM) and LM. I ended up with three pair out of four pair. I have always wondered what he would have gotten if he had opened up on the choke.

At another shoot not long ago, I was shooting with a friend who has a higher classification and we were shooting some distant incomers that showed their undersides to us and were sliding off to the left. He was shooting a modified choke and I was shooting a skeet choke. He missed two and I didn’t miss any. And he commented on the fact I was getting better breaks than he was. What it all gets down to is that I think most shooters tend to over choke for the targets they are shooting. They are shooting tighter chokes than needed to break the target and with the tighter choke missing the target completely because the shot string hasn’t opened up like it does at sea level and cooler weather.

Air density is less as we go up in altitude. Air density is affected by the air pressure, temperature and humidity. The density of the air is reduced by decreased air pressure, increased temperatures and increased moisture. A reduction in air density reduces the engine horsepower, reduces aerodynamic lift and reduces aerodynamic drag. It is the word drag that most concerns shotgunners. With air density being thinner, the shot string does not open as rapidly as it would if you were at a lower altitude or at sea level where air is denser nor does it loose speed as fast. But there are other factors as well.

PrecisionHunter

Air temperature changes from summer to winter can cause air density variations up to 25%, with a similar change in your shot pattern. That means tighter patterns in hot and warm weather and more open patterns in cold and dry weather. The two main factors in shot pattern density are air temperature and altitude. In a given day, normal air temperature variations can be as high as 8% which affects your shot pattern 8%. The more humid the air is the lighter air density which can vary up to 2%. Air pressure variations can be as high as 4% in a day. So when you consider the air pressure in an area, the elevation at which you’re shooting, the humidity and the temperature, you can have a total variation of some 35-50% that will affect your pattern to the same degree. And we haven’t even considered air turbulence or the out of round shape of the shot when deformed at the moment of ignition of the powder in the shell.

People who shoot in the Midwest or farther east aren’t going to be concerned with this as much unless they go to some major shoots out west where they will more than likely be at a higher altitude. But at sea level you still should consider all the elements except of course altitude. With more people shooting one-ounce loads they might feel that they have to use tighter chokes. I would suggest that they try using the same one ounce load with 8½ size shot. It’ll give you about 70 more pellets than size 8 shot. The pattern density in a one-ounce load of 8.5 shot (480 pellets) will be better than a one ounce load of size 8 shot (409 pellets). The kill zone of the 8½ size shot will also be about 2-3 inches larger in diameter than the 8-size shot. The next time you’re at altitude at a shoot, try using a choke with less constriction than what you would normally use and see if you pick up a couple of extra targets that would have been otherwise lost.

Trulock-Crio-CompetitionSte

One other thing that you should remember from all this is that you should pattern your your shotshells at the same temperature and weather conditions that you plan to shoot or hunt with them. As a shotshell patterned on a hot, humid and low-pressure day in summer will not perform the same on a high pressure cold and dry day hunting ducks in winter.

I don’t advocate bringing a calculator to a shoot and finding out what the different weather conditions are to find the absolute air density in order to make a choke selection. But I would think you should consider what the altitude is at the place where you’re shooting and consider that in your choke selection. I think you’ll find you can shoot a wider open choke and still get the same or better breaks and pick up a few additional targets as well. To date, no one has done a comprehensive study of all the factors mentioned in this article. But firms in the shooting industry have noticed changes in the shot patterns when testing ammo from the morning sessions while it is still cooler and having wider patterns to the tighter patterns found in the afternoon when the air temperatures are warmer.

 

Dreams of Midwestern Grouse Hunting

Written by Jerry Sinkovec
 
 

A year ago I finally returned to some of my old haunts for hunting grouse in Minnesota and Wisconsin. It was a trip long delayed because of the loss of a good friend some years ago, Ed Schierer. Ed and I met in Colorado Springs at the Broadmore Hotel in April of 1995. I was there doing a story on the resort and shooting facility and he and Michael Murphy were conducting a shooting school on the very nice shooting grounds of the Broadmore at that time. We decided to all get together for dinner the next day at a cabin they owned up in the mountains. We grilled some great steaks, drank some good beer and talked about the great bird hunting in different parts of the states.

I mentioned to Ed that what I missed the most in living in New Mexico at the time, was the great grouse hunting in Minnesota and Wisconsin. It turned out that it was Ed’s passion as well. Later that evening he told me that I’ll be his guest for two weeks come that fall for grouse hunting. He mentioned the grouse count has been going up and it should be a peak year for grouse hunting. He said that I should call him in late September or early October to find out how the trees were doing.

Undrbrush
The author in pursuit of grouse.

When I did call Ed, he mentioned it hadn’t been cold enough to have the trees drop all their leaves as yet, so he was going to Canada to hunt grouse up there. He said I should call back the last week of October or the first week of November when he’ll be back.

Summer never seemed to end, as I was so looking forward to the hunt with Ed. When the time came, I gave Ed a call and Virginia answered. She said, “haven’t you heard, Ed disappeared up in Canada.” “They have been looking for him for over a week and they haven’t found him, even the Royal Air Force was looking for him with Infra-red.” To this day they haven’t found Ed. Needless to say, I didn’t go grouse hunting back in the Midwest that year.

As the years slipped by, I kept telling myself I’ve got to go back and do some grouse hunting as it’s been a dream of mine for some years. A couple of years ago I finally got myself a dog that was a good companion and a bird dog. A Viszla named Jack, who was mister personality plus. Wherever I went with Jack, we made friends, or I should say Jack made friends.

Jack really only had two modes, play with me or pet me. He should have been a bald headed dog he was always petted so much. With Jack at my side, I felt the time was right to head back to the Midwest and do some grouse hunting in remembrance of Ed. I decided to do a trip and hunt both Minnesota and Wisconsin.

In the past, I had hunted northern Minnesota, but I wanted to try something new and contacted the Rochester, MN Convention and Visitors Bureau in the southern part of the state. They sent me a wealth of information on grouse hunting in the southern part of the state along with a listing of places to stay in Rochester, restaurants, points of interest and plenty of maps to find my way along with some Department of Natural Resources information. They were very thorough. They even got me a very good rate at the Kahler Hotel that allowed dogs and hooked me up with an excellent guide by the name of Dan Butterfass

I contacted Dan and arraigned to meet him in the hotel lobby at 8:00 AM the day after I arrived. As I waited for Dan to show up, Jack was busy making friends. When Dan arrived, he advised me we’ll start with the most distant place to hunt for grouse so that he can show me some of the other places where we’ll hunt during the week. Many of the places he pointed out were some of the high bluff areas along the Zumbro River where the state was protecting the native prairie grasses. It was beautiful country and it was a pleasant drive of under an hour.

RiverView
On one of the bluffs along the Zumbro River.

The first place we went out was just off the highway and up a gentle dirt road that meandered back into some heavy cover. Jack and the other dog got along well and were out looking for grouse that Dan and I could shoot. The first shot taken by Dan was a Woodcock that he got. The dogs flushed a couple of grouse from the sound of it, but I never got a good look at them because of the heavy cover, and Dan didn’t see them either. A little later, a grouse flushed close to me and I had a good view and dropped it on the first shot. Dan also got a grouse a few minutes after mine. About that time it was almost noon and we decided to have a snack and feed the dogs as we relaxed and enjoyed the river scenery.

Dan explained how we would make a loop through the timber and end up down by the car. It wasn’t too long before Dan had another woodcock and I ended up getting another grouse on the way back. By the time we got back to the car we each had another grouse. It was pretty good for the first day out in some grand country to explore. The dogs did their job and had a good time as well.

That evening I was pretty tired being the first day out and I decided to stay close to the hotel and have dinner. Right around the corner from the hotel was Victoria’s Ristorante and Wine Bar. As soon as I opened the door and walked in I knew I picked the right place because of the fantastic aromas floating throughout the restaurant. Whenever I go to a good Italian or German restaurant, and they have veal on the menu that’s what I order. I had veal Piccata and was not disappointed. It was a grand meal served in a grand style with large portions and flavors that make you ask for more. Their wine selection was excellent as was the ambience of the restaurant and great staff. (Victoria’s is at 7 First Ave. SW and they can be reached at 507-280-6232.) The other place you have to eat at in Rochester is Jasper’s Alsatian Bistro and Wine Bar at 14 Historic Third Street, Rochester, MN, (507-280-6446). It’s like stepping back in time and having a unique dinner with flavors from the old world that are outstanding.

The next four days with Dan picking the spots for hunting grouse were fantastic. I don’t know who had more fun the dogs or us. We had good hunting and got plenty of birds every day except for one where the state DNR tore up the ground for a fire break to protect the prairie grass. It had to have been within the last week and we didn’t understand why they did it during grouse season. We were both very upset about that. And it didn’t surprise us when we didn’t flush any birds there. The grouse hunting in the southern part of the state was great and I’d recommend it to anyone. Dan really knew a lot of good spots and we had a great time together and the weather was perfect every day. Dan is not only an excellent hunting guide, but as you roll down the highway he’ll fill you in on all the important history and information on the areas you’re passing through. Rochester is a good place to headquarter and was a good jumping off place for hunting or sightseeing as well.

FeedingDogs

                                                                                                                                First, I feed the dogs – then I get a chance to eat.

After Rochester, I headed up to the northwestern corner of Wisconsin around Yellow Lake and the town of Webster where my dad had a place. I had hunted there for many years before and after I got out of the service. There were always plenty of grouse in the woods there.

The next morning I headed out to one of my favorite spots for Grouse with Jack. The weather looked threatening, but I decided to go anyhow. We were in the woods for just about a half an hour when Jack flushed the first grouse. It took two shots because of the heavy cover, but I got it. About twenty minutes later Jack got another two birds up but I was only able to get one. The hunting was as I remembered it years ago and Jack was doing a great job. It was getting close to lunch time when the first drops of rain started to fall. We headed back to the SUV and got there before the heavens split open and it really started to pour. It was only about a twenty minute drive back to the Heartwood Conference Center where I was staying.

It may not sound like I was on a hunting trip when you’re staying at a conference center, but this place had the best location and a variety of lodging, from motel-like rooms, to lodge rooms and cabins like the oneI was staying in. It was also great because they allowed dogs and there was plenty of room for Jack to run around. It also had a complete kitchen so you could stay in and cook or go out to one of the many good restaurants in the area.

It continued to rain and drizzle for the next four days and I had run out of time. It was a shame I couldn’t get any more hunting in because of the bad weather, but that’s the way it is at times. My dream still isn’t complete so I made myself a promise I’ll go back for another week or two within the next two or three years.

For more information you can contact the following:

Kahler Grand Hotel
20 SW Second Avenue
Rochester, MN 55902
800-533-1655

Heartwood Conference Center & Resort
N10884 Hoinville Rd.
Trego, WI
715-466-6300

Rochester CVB
800-634-8277
www.rochestercvb.org

The Rochester Tour Co.
Attn: Dan Butterfass
503 14th Ave. SW
Rochester, MN 55902
507-421-0573
dbutterfass@charter.net
www.rochestermntours.com

Jerry Sinkovec is a freelance outdoor and travel photojournalist who writes for over 45 different publications nationally and internationally. Jerry is also designing shooting clothing and accessories for Wild Hare Intl. He is the shooting and travel editor for Outdoors Now. He is also the director of the Instinctive Target Interception Shotgun Shooting School headquartered in Idaho Falls, Idaho. He has been teaching for the last 20 years, and has been endorsed by Browning in Utah. He conducts classes in all the western states. His address is: I. T. I. Shotgun Shooting School, 5045 Brennan Bend, Idaho Falls, ID 83401. He can be reached at: 208-523-1545, or online at itishooting@msn.com or http://www.itishooting.com.

 

Birding with Balderrama or Hot-Barrel Hunting in Mexico

Written by Jerry Sinkovec
 
 
I had never thought of Mexico as a bird-hunting destination, but spending a week there has really changed my perspective. Some of the most exciting and fun hunting I've experienced recently can be had out of Los Moiches, Mexico where a variety of bird hunting is available along with excellent fishing and train touring as well.

I really was looking forward to the trip, not only for the great bird hunting, but also to catch up with my friend and ace outfitter, Bobby Balderrama.

If you're a couple and only one of you hunts you'll enjoy the premier hotel facilities of the Balderrama family and shopping in Los Moiches, touring the province, in addition to the excellent hunting offered.

The Plaza Inn Hotel and Convention Center offers first-class lodging facilities and has three excellent restaurants, a night club and a cocktail lounge for your convenience along with a business office with several computers for all your business needs. It's the perfect place for your base camp while you enjoy the varied hunting offered and your wife can enjoy the shopping or side trips that are offered in certain packages if she isn't a hunter.

On my first full day of hunting, we went north of Los Moichis into the hill country to hunt the rare quail called the Elegante. The area we hunted in reminded me of some of the country I had traveled in South Africa while on safari. The grass, trees, shrubs and geology all had a familiar look and feel to them, as did the thorns.

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Hunting the Elegante Quail


The Elegante Quail are only found in the one area of Mexico and is one of the most challenging quail I've ever hunted. By the end of the day, I had a new name for them, "The Grey Ghosts."

Their habitat is the tall grasses close to higher and denser brushy areas and some trees. They don't all take off at once, but just as one takes off and you start your swing to the bird another one or two will take off in the opposite or different direction, and so on, until the covey has all taken off or run to another area. Their flight paths are varied as well and very challenging. Some will skitter just a few inches above the ground dodging between and around bushes while other will launch into the air at about a forty-five degree angle or anything in between, and reach for the stars. You never have any idea of what the birds will do. You'll only catch a fleeting glimpse of a gray blur of feathers. You have to be quick and precise.

The first few birds we flushed we never had a shot at because of the cover or the sun. The third bird flushed was shot at by two hunters off to my right but continued unscathed until it appeared about twenty yards in front of me about six inches above the ground like a rocket going from right to left. I gave it plenty of lead with the Browning 20 gage O/U and it tumbled into some heavy brush.

We saw quite a few more birds but only were able to get two more birds for the morning. The fellows off to my right were hunting with dogs and the dogs were flushing the birds a little too far away at times. You're much better off hunting these birds without a pointer or a dog out in front of you because of the cover, but it would be good to have a dog that would retrieve them. You can flush plenty of birds by yourself or with other hunters. These quail were the most difficult I'd ever shot at because of their speed, and flight characteristics and their ability to move around objects quickly.

For lunch we stopped at the local rancher's hacienda and had a refreshing lunch and lay around in some hammocks under a canopy to let the light breeze cool us off for an hour or so. The dogs needed a rest as well because of the heat.

When we went back out, we were able to get a couple more birds in the afternoon although we saw quite a few. Their ability to disappear so quickly makes their new given name, "The Gray Ghost" appropriate. They were great fun to hunt and the most challenging quail I'd ever hunted.

Dinner that evening at the Plaza Inn was another feast. I started out by having their seafood soup, which had everything from octopus, mussels, white fish, shrimp, salmon, (and I'm sure I missed something) some vegetables and a broth that was out of this world. It became my favorite soup while at the Plaza Inn.

They pour plenty of excellent Mexican wine throughout the meals, and I though the house white wine was superb. I actually preferred it over some of the more expensive white wines they served. That evening we all had one of the Elegante Quail for dinner with as many additional quail as we could eat that they normally serve for dinner. The rice and vegetables that accompanied the dishes were prepared to perfection. The desserts leave nothing to be desired as well, the selection each night is outstanding. The dining at the Plaza Inn is on par with any high quality restaurant you'd find in the U.S., and always excellent.

Early in the morning, before dawn, we had a quick but delicious breakfast and headed out to the Suburban to take us out for a day of duck hunting. The airboats got us to our blinds early enough to be in place before the ducks started flying. It didn't take long before the action started.

I shared the blind with an older gentleman from Wyoming who had been duck hunting many times, and I advised him I'd never been duck hunting before. He was a little surprised, and advised me he'd take all the ducks on that side of the blind, and I could take all the ducks on this side of the blind. That seemed logical and normal. In a few minutes two ducks came flying in low on my side of the blind and I popped up with the Browning 20-gauge O/U I'd been hunting quail with and fired two shots and dropped my first two ducks. He congratulated me on my first two ducks. I felt pretty good being that I dropped each of them with a single shot from a 20 gage with size six shot. Before long, he had a couple of ducks himself.

It started getting fast and furious, and ducks where coming in left and right in flights of a dozen of more. With the large flocks of ducks coming in, I realized I was at a disadvantage with the 20-gauge O/U, so I switched to a Beretta automatic. There aren't any plugs in the guns in Mexico, so you could load four in the magazine. Before long, each of us had over twenty ducks. I also got my first clubhouse double in duck hunting, that is, I killed two ducks with one shot from the 12 gauge.

We could hear the airboat stirring up the ducks a mile or so away, and we could see huge flocks of ducks rising up into the air. We knew we were in for some hot-and-heavy action. The ducks seemed to come out of nowhere, you'd be looking around, not seeing anything, and all of a sudden there would be several overhead. I saw a single duck coming in on my partner's side, so I yelled DUCK, and he ducked. That wasn't the response I expected, so I shot his duck. We roared in laughter at that little misunderstanding.

The ducks really started coming in and it felt like we were being attacked. It was like a scene from an Alfred Hitchcock movie. There was almost constant firing by my blind mate and myself.

Every time I had to reload the gun I was burning my hands on the hot barrel and action. Even the synthetic stock was getting hot. I was also trying to get some photographs taken, but every time I reached for the camera, more ducks came over. That happened over a dozen times and I never did get the shot I was looking for.

Suddenly, there were five or six ducks that came straight at us at a moderate height, 25 to 30 yards. We agreed I'd work them from the right and he'd work them from the left and we started shooting. I got the first one and then went after the second one, which took two shots to put down and then went after a third when I heard a loud crash. I thought a duck he shot fell right into our blind. When I was done shooting at the third bird, I finally turned around to see what landed in our blind. It turned out not to be a duck, but the shooter who continued to lead one of his targets till it passed over his head and caused him to fall over backward in the blind. The sight of that caused me to burst into laughter, and he started in as well. We were laughing so hard I couldn't even help him up for some time. That incident gave quite a few ducks a second chance at life. The day ended up with quite a large haul of ducks. If I had known duck hunting could be so much fun and exciting I think I'd have gotten into duck hunting long ago.

My sentiments regarding duck hunting prior to this trip could best be expressed by a story written by Baxter Black, a cowboy writer of poetry and other interesting material. He wrote a piece entitled, "Luther And Duck Huntin'." In it there were a few lines about how he feels about duck hunters. He felt that duck hunters were the craziest of the crazy people in the world. That anyone who would get up in the middle of the night, in the middle of winter in the most freezing weather to stand up in ice cold water up to their belt buckle just to shoot a duck had to have some synapses miss-firing. Now if you want to find out what happens to Luther and Baxter when they go duck hunting, you'll just have to buy his book Coyote Cowboy Poetry.

After hunting ducks for a couple of days Bobby Basked me if I'd be interested in visiting his hotel in Copper Canyon. Naturally, I jumped at the chance. If hunters come to Los Moiches and their wives don't like to hunt, they can take a side excursion to Copper Canyon for a couple of days. The trip involves a half-day train ride through the exciting and beautiful Copper Canyon to a little village called Divisadaro, located right on the very edge of the canyon about half way along the route. Be sure to bring a camera on this trip. It offers some spectacular scenery and an opportunity to buy some of the local arts and crafts made by the Tarahumara Indians. The hotel will come and pick you up and deliver you to your room.

The hotel is built right on the edge of the canyon and all the rooms offer you a grand view of the canyon either from the room or from your private balcony. The dining room also offers spectacular views and you want to get there early to get a table adjacent to the panoramic windows.


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Copper Canyon

When you check in, they give you a coupon for a welcoming Margarita, and that sort of sets the tone for the evening. They have a guitarist that plays in the evening and there is usually a roaring fire in the large fireplace in the lounge area. The rooms are large and comfortable and have fireplaces as well.

There are a variety of hikes in the area, but you have to make sure you allow yourself enough time for your return, for to return you have to hike back uphill the whole way. There are some easier hikes along the rim of the canyon as well, and they will take you for a tour in one of their vans if you ask them to. The other alternative is to just enjoy the peace and quiet and take in the scenery or enjoy a good book or take in a little shopping for a gift at the train station where all the natives sell their wares.

When I returned from my trip I found some of the shooters did a little goose hunting and fishing and we had some of the fish for dinner that evening. It was delicious as were all the other meals.

It was decided the next morning we'd go for some dove that was only a short drive from the hotel. It was desert country with plenty of large cactus and some large barren trees and some smaller shrubs that offered a little concealment. As we drove in we noticed a cattle drive had recently moved through the area as we could still see them off in the distance. As it turned out the cattle drive apparently spooked most of the birds out of the area. We had some good shooting, but not anywhere near the number of birds we'd have had had not the cattle been pushed through the area. After a lunch back at the hotel, we went to a different area and had much better success. I was again burning my hands by handling a gun with hot barrels. This time it was the Browning 20-gauge O/U.

On our last day hunting in Los Moiches I was invited to go quail hunting in the afternoon with Bobby Balderrama just outside of town. So in the morning I went and did a little shopping at of all places, Sam's Club. The price of Tequila at Sam's Club is the cheapest you find anywhere and they have the best selection. What would normally cost you $40.00 to $50.00 at a liquor store in the states will cost you only $20.00 a bottle, and I'm talking about the really good stuff. You can find Tequila there that will cost you $300.00 if you care to spend that much. I can't tell you how many bottles I brought back, but it was more than one.

In the afternoon, we headed to an area outside of town with a lot of low shrubbery and a scattering of trees. It was low, rolling countryside with quite a few creek bottoms in the area. No sooner did we get out of the vehicle than we had birds taking off around us.

I had the trusty Browning 20 gauge with me again and it proved quite effective on these quail. These birds didn't get very high off the ground; rarely did they go above the height of the bushes. But it was easy to get them when they did. In a few minutes we both had a couple of birds. A couple of guides from the hotel went with us and they were stirring up all kinds of birds for us. It was sometimes hard to see the guides and a few times I didn't take a shot because I wasn't sure of where the guides were. The quail were plentiful and we ended up with a nice bag of birds at the end of the day.

The best way to get to Los Moiches is out of Salt Lake City via Aero Mexico. Because of connections, you might have to spend an evening in Salt Lake City. If you have to, stay at the Airport Comfort Inn at 200 N. Admiral Byrd Rd. You won't regret it. They have a shuttle service that will pick you up and drop off at the terminal. They have a VIP section in the inn with large rooms where you really have some great accommodations. They also have a great full service restaurant in house with an excellent wine list. The evening I had dinner there I had an excellent grilled salmon entrée with a tremendous salad and a delicious white wine. But with the happy hour they have and free drinks and the great snacks they serve you hot, you might not have room for dinner. You'll have to make that decision.

Jerry Sinkovec is an accomplished photographer and writer with several awards to his credit. He also owns the I.T.I. Shotgun Shooting School in Idaho Falls, Idaho. He has written for more than 45 magazines and newspapers including Shooting Sportsman, Double Gun Journal, Shotgun News, Shotgun Sports, Clay Shooting USA, Sporting Clays and Clay Pigeon. He is currently the Shooting and Travel Editor for Outdoors Now Magazine. You can find out more about Jerry at http://jerrysinkovec.samsbiz.com. For more information about the I.T.I. Shotgun Shooting School please visit http://www.itishooting.com.
 

Hunting the Wiley Chukar in Utah

Written by Jerry Sinkovec | Photos by Jerry Sinkovec

 


Having hunted most of the species of upland birds in North America, I’ve come to appreciate the qualities of the chukar. Hunting chukar is an exciting adventure that always includes a surprise or two. Chukars are not only fun to hunt, they are also one of the most hearty birds to put down and typically don’t present a head shot on the rise as pheasant tend to do – making them challenging as well.

Recently, I had the opportunity to hunt the birds in southern Utah near the town of Teasdale. The Red River Ranch Lodge is located on the river. The ranch offers six-and-a-half miles of private fly-fishing and over 3,000 acres of bird hunting.

The lodge is only minutes from Capitol Reef National Park, giving you beautiful vistas at every turn in the exciting red rock country. The lodge has 17 rooms each with a fireplace and a different theme that exudes ambience and warmth. Another larger fireplace is the focal point of the lounge area next to the dinning room. The lodge also has an outdoor hot tub, which is great to soothe tired leg muscles from a day of walking through high grass and grain fields.

My contact and guide from Red River Outfitters was Shawn Saunders, the owner and founder who hails from Sun Valley, Idaho. He has been guiding professionally since 1993 and several years ago started Red River Outfitters. Having arrived late in the day, we made arrangements for an early start the next morning.

My favorite gun for this type of bird hunting is a Verona made by Rizzini. It’s the LX692 Competition 20/28 gauge combo with 30-inch barrels. It offers two different gauges to shoot and handles just like my regular competition guns. Those two gauges with the right ammo will kill just about any upland bird you’re likely to run across.

After a delicious breakfast at the lodge, Shawn and I went over to the kennels to pick up a dog that would work with us over the next few days.

We decided to make a sweep through the surrounding sagebrush country not far from the kennels and corrals. After about 15 to 20 minutes of walking, the dog, Dan, went on point. As we approached, the dog flushed three birds and we shot two. Not a bad start I thought. About 30 minutes later, another bird was in the bag. What was nice about hunting chukars in this area was that the hills weren’t as steep and high as many of the other areas I’ve hunted. It made for much more comfortable walking and didn’t leave me totally out of breath when I had to take a shot.

FlyBird

Two more birds were in the bag as we started the sweep back toward the horse corrals and kennels. Shawn and the dog stayed low in a draw while I walked up a little higher on a ridge that led to the corrals. As I approached the corrals my attention was drawn to a beautiful paint colt in one of corrals. The closest corral wasn’t used much and had some grasses and weeds growing in it, and I hadn’t bothered to look into them as I was attracted by the colt.

After a minute or two something in the grass caught my eye. It might have been some slight movement or what, I don’t know. At first I didn’t see anything, then I realized several chukars were in the brush and grass in the corral. I chuckled, and then yelled out to Shawn and the dog, who were in the draw. “There’s going to be a shootout at the OK corral.” I’m sure he didn’t understand why I yelled that out. But in the next instant the birds flushed in all directions. Between us, we dropped another three birds out of about 10 for a productive morning hunt.

Over lunch, we shared a few laughs about the shootout and discussed where we’d hunt that afternoon. We decided to hunt the river bottoms south of the ranch. The area also had some of the heaviest cover for the birds.

During the afternoon we flushed a lot of other game as well. There were cottontail rabbits galore with an occasional jackrabbit thrown in. It was my feeling the rabbits would be harder to get than the birds, since you only see the rabbits for an instant before they are out of sight behind another brush. We also flushed quail and pheasant. My primary reason for being there was the chukar, but I decided to take some pheasant as well. We ended the afternoon with five more chukars in the bag and three pheasant.

The following morning we went to the grain and grass fields southwest of the ranch. The plan was to hunt by ourselves in the morning and then join other hunters during the afternoon. It wasn’t long before we ran across three birds running in a furrow ahead of us. The dog picked up the scent as well. When the birds broke we dropped two of them. A little further on we were onto a small covey of about six birds and we bagged another two. We ended up the morning with a total of six birds.

ManDog

What I noticed over the past three years is that chukars tend to take more shot to put them down compared with pheasant or grouse. Almost every time I hunt upland birds it’s with a 28- or 20-gauge shotgun. I’ve put many a pheasant and grouse down with a single shot, but often it takes two shots to bring down a chukar. It appears that size 7½ shot or larger is preferred. A speed of 1250 to 1300 FPS seems to work best. A speed of 1200 FPS with size 8 or 7½ shot is marginal. Winchester makes a great 28-gauge, high-brass game load with 1 ounce of size 6 shot or other size shot, which seems to work well.

In the afternoon we joined six other hunters and their guides. It was their third trip to the ranch for bird hunting and in talking with them they were already planning their next trip back to the ranch. There were five adults and one teenager with two guides and dogs who were enjoying the bird hunting at RRR.

A plan was made and we swept through some high grass and grain fields. The shooting started at the far end of the sweep and a couple of pheasants were taken. Over the next two hours we bagged several more pheasants and about 10 chukars.

I had the opportunity to take two more chukars a little later, but the shooting was somewhat slow at the left end that Shawn and I were covering. I decided to move up onto the bank of the canal that bordered the west end of the fields.

BirdDog

Shooters at the far end of the drive seemed to be getting more birds, but then a bird went up to my far right and out in front of a shooter to my right. He took a shot and missed. The bird made a sweeping left turn and headed down the canal to my immediate left, but about two feet below the high brush that separated me and the canal. The pheasant was visible for brief moments as I could catch a glimpse as it flew down the canal. As it passed me, I saw a slight opening that looked like I’d have a fairly clear shot at it. A single shot from my 20 gauge dropped the bird into the canal. Dan made a great retrieve. The other shooters got several more chukars and I managed to get one more before we called it a day.

On the final day of hunting, Shawn and I went out into the sage country south of the ranch for more chukars. The morning started a little slow, but things picked up rather quickly. In the second hour I managed to get four birds and a few more afterwards before the morning hunt came to an end.

After lunch the wind picked up. It was blowing more than 30 miles per hour and gusting higher, which made it hard for us and the dog. After a while the dog went on point into the woodpile in front of us. I told Shawn it was probably another cottontail. We couldn’t see anything around the pile and there were no bushes or grass around it. We were stumped.

Yet again I was amazed to find a covey of five chukars less than eight feet in front of me frozen still and almost invisible in some short grass. I yelled to Shawn they were in front of me and that sent the birds into the air where Shawn and I each got one. We chuckled about what just happened at how the birds were behind where the dog was looking. The wind played some strange tricks that afternoon. That ended the last day of hunting at a destination that I’ll return to in the future.

In addition to the hunting and fly-fishing the ranch offers horseback riding and ATV tours of the area. For further information of the Red River Ranch or Red River Outfitters call 1-877-6-STREAM or go to www.rroutfitters.com.

Jerry Sinkovec is an accomplished photographer and writer with several awards to his credit. He also owns the I.T.I. Shotgun Shooting School in Idaho Falls, Idaho. He has written for more than 45 magazines and newspapers including Shooting Sportsman, Double Gun Journal, Shotgun News, Shotgun Sports, Clay Shooting USA, Sporting Clays and Clay Pigeon. He is currently the Shooting and Travel Editor for Outdoors Now Magazine. You can find out more about Jerry at http://jerrysinkovec.samsbiz.com. For more information about the I.T.I. Shotgun Shooting School please visit http://www.itishooting.com.


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