Take a dream trip to Wales with Delaney & Sons …

The Harding Shoot with Delaney & Sons, traditional shooting in Wales, tailored for Americans
The Harding Shoot with Delaney & Sons, traditional shooting in Wales, tailored for Americans

Being a sucker for history, double barrel shotguns, and all things tweedy, I’ve always wanted to shoot in the UK. If I had the time, I would definitely join Delaney & Sons this fall in Wales for their 2015 Harding Shoot.

Established in 1999, The Harding Shoot runs from November 15th to November 21st. It is based in the majestic hills of the Brecon Beacons National Park in Wales, and guests stay in the quaint town of Crickhowell, Wales, at the historic Dragon Inn.

Last fall, Sean Delaney and his wife, Liz, took over the shoot from its originator. Their goal “… is to provide like minded American hunters with hassle-free access to traditional, high quality driven  shooting — without pretense —  for a reasonable price.”

The 2015 Harding Shoot is an all-inclusive affair and accommodations, ground transport, gun hire, ammunition, visitor’s permits, and food are all included. The price: $8,500.

To join the 2015 Harding Shoot, call 717-919-5317 for more info.

Here’s more about the Harding Shoot, from Sean Delaney:

“For our trip, all you need to do is show up at Heathrow on Sunday, and the rest is sorted from there.  We provide nice vintage boxlocks, with the odd sidelock thrown in, as well as modern over unders if that is someone’s preference. If someone wants to bring their own guns, that is fine as well.  Cartridges, food, lodging, etc. are all included. Tips to the individual estate keeper and alcohol at night are not included. The food is great, but there are no black tie dinners at castles.

The locals in the town we stay in, Crickhowell, know that we are coming and stop in throughout the week to say hello. If you go in a shop, the proprietor will likely say, “I heard the Americans were coming this week, how’s the sport been?”.

As far as the hunting is concerned, we are trying to drive home the point that driven shooting is a team endeavor, and a lot of people work very hard to present high birds to the guns. The head keeper, beaters, dog handlers and pickers up act in coordination with the guns to bring the bag home to be processed and sent to market. On many estates, the shoot lunch is a lavish affair held in a shoot lodge, but the beaters, handlers, and pickers up eat a boxed lunch in the parking lot. We have a much more egalitarian (American?) set up, inasmuch as well all eat together in a barn or an outbuilding. I think that this is a great way to really immerse the hunters in the tradition of the sport.

The other thing that we provide is hunting diversity. First, we hunt five estates over five days.  The larger estates could entertain a team for a whole week, but ours are generally smaller.  One of the shoots is almost entirely private; they only let one day a year, to us.  We get to see different terrain and meet different people every day. Second, we provide diversity of species. Every shoot in the UK has pheasants, and many have partridge as well.  But we add duck and woodcock to the bag, which is fairly unique.”

Awesome duck hunting video…

Smoke & Feathers, a RockHouse video on Vimeo
Smoke & Feathers, a RockHouse video on Vimeo

If this doesn’t make you want to get up at 3am and head out to duck blind, nothing will. I love this guy’s percussion gun, and his attitude toward hunting and old doubles.

SITKA: Smoke & Feathers from Rockhouse Motion on Vimeo.

Drive: When you’re born to hunt birds…

Drive is an odd instinct. Some dogs have it. Others don’t. And until you see what a dog with drive acts like, it’s hard to imagine just how bird-obsessed a pointer, setter, or spaniel, lab, or other true hunter can be. Check out this video to see just how wired this spaniel is for one thing: Birds.

A quick post: Rare Browning 12g BSS Sporter, 28″ bbls, straight grip…

Browning BSS Sporter, Staight grip, 12 gauge, 28" barrels
Browning BSS Sporter, Staight grip, 12 gauge, 28″ barrels

OK, so I’m still buried at work. But I saw this Browning pop up and I wanted to get it up for everyone to check out. It’s a 12 gauge Browning BSS Sporter with 28″ barrels.

Browning BSS shotguns were made in that period when every American want short barrels. So 98% of the ones you see out there have 26″ barrels – especially the Sporters (the ones with straight stocks, rather than pistol grips). BSS are modern guns, and they’re made with moderns steel and meant to be used with modern ammo. So this one here is pretty worry free. The only thing you might want to do is open the chokes a bit for steel ammo. Other than that, it’s ready for the field, and just about anything that flies you way.

Browning BSS Sporter, Staight grip, 12 gauge, 28" barrels
Browning BSS Sporter, Staight grip, 12 gauge, 28″ barrels

Browning BSS Sporter, Staight grip: Price: $1,899.99

Manufacturer: 1984
Caliber: 12 Gauge
Chambers: 3
Metal Condition: Very Good
Wood Condition: Very Good
Bore Condition: Very Good
Barrels: 28
Triggers: Single Selective
Stock Dimensions: 1 5/8″ DAC, 2 1/2″ DAH, 14 1/4″ LOP
Butt Pad: Factory Butt Plate
Weight: 7 lb. 10 oz.
Chokes: Full/Modified
Extras: Box

Great duck gun alert: a 12 gauge Browning BSS with 28″ barrels…

12 gauge Browning BSS, Double Barrel Shotgun, 28" barrels
12 gauge Browning BSS, Double Barrel Shotgun, 28″ barrels

When it comes to duck hunting, pumps and autoloaders are the shotguns you’re most likely to share space with in a blind. If you do see a double, it’s probably an O/U working. So if you prefer side-bys-sides, you may think you don’t have any options.

Fortunately you do, and  this Browning BSS is one of them. It’s also about as good a duck gun as you’ll ever find. With 28″ barrels, a reliable single trigger, and enough beef to soak up heavy rounds, it can deliver the medicine to just about anything you can decoy in.

12 gauge Browning BSS, Double Barrel Shotgun, 28" barrels
12 gauge Browning BSS, Double Barrel Shotgun, 28″ barrels

Wondering about steel shot? Don’t worry. From what I’ve been told, the barrels on a Browning BSS should be fine with steel loads in the smaller shot sizes. Just be sure the chokes are open enough to handle it (I’ve been told that Modified is as tight as you should go).

Here’s more about this shotgun from the seller:

12 gauge Browning BSS Side-by-Side Double-Barrel Shotgun: 28″ Mod & Full 3″ chambers, single select trigger, ejectors, Beavertail, Pistol Grip, Excellent Condition with Light Blue Wear, Light Handling Marks. 7lb 10oz X 2 3/8 X 1 1/2 X 14 1/4. Price: $1,295.00

12 gauge Browning BSS, Double Barrel Shotgun, 28" barrels
12 gauge Browning BSS, Double Barrel Shotgun, 28″ barrels

Wow – a modern 8 gauge side by side…

Modern 8 gauge side by side, Made in Italy, 39" bbls
Modern 8 gauge side by side, Made in Italy, 39″ bbls

Here’s a side-by-side shotgun that won’t be around for long: an Italian 8 Gauge SxS, Made in 1962.

In 1918, the US Federal Government made it illegal for anyone to use an eight gauge shotgun to hunt waterfowl and other federally-listed migratory game birds. Later, many states restricted hunting shotguns to 10 gauge and smaller.

Modern 8 gauge side by side, Made in Italy, 39" bbls
Modern 8 gauge side by side, Made in Italy, 39″ bbls

Of course, these laws didn’t apply in Europe, and it’s still legal in many areas there to hunt ducks, geese, and other waterfowl with the really big bores.

This 8-gauge shotgun was made for that kind of shooting. Judging by the looks of it, it looks like wasn’t used much at all. Here are the specs on it:

Price: $1,999.99
Manufacturer: 1962
Caliber: 8 Gauge.
Chambers: Side X Side.

Modern 8 gauge side by side, Made in Italy, 39" bbls
Modern 8 gauge side by side, Made in Italy, 39″ bbls

Metal Condition: Strong blue and case color.
Wood Condition: Excellent with crazing and flaking in the finish.
Bore Condition: Bright and shiny.
Barrels: 39+” Blue Acier steel.
Triggers: Double.
Stock: Mid grade walnut with a checkered pistol grip.
Fore End: Semi splinter checkered walnut.
Butt Pad: Red rubber vent butt pad.
Weight: 13 Lbs 12 Oz.

The end of bird hunting as we know it?

If you care about bird hunting and conservation, please read this and take action. Spread the word by passing it on to a friend, too.

From yesterday’s New York Times. BTW: I’m posting this in its entirety because I’m not sure if everyone can reach it behind NYT’s paywall.

Could the Farm Bill Devastate America’s Birds?

STRETCHING across the Upper Midwest is a 276,000-square-mile expanse full of wetlands and grasslands. This vast area — known as the prairie pothole region and extending from northwestern Iowa to Minnesota, the Dakotas, Montana and into Canada — provides the breeding habitat for roughly half of North America’s migratory waterfowl. But unless Congress acts, this priceless ecological domain could come under severe threat.
 

Congress is debating reauthorization of the federal farm bill. The legislation is not just about the future of agricultural and nutrition programs. It is also about conservation and the fate of one of North America’s most important breeding grounds for upland birds like grouse and pheasants, along with waterfowl like mallards, gadwall, blue-winged teal, northern pintail, redheads, northern shovelers, and canvasback ducks.
 
Since 1985, the farm legislation has required farmers to protect wetlands and fragile soils on their lands in order to qualify for billions of dollars a year in farm-program payments. But the bill that has emerged from the House Agriculture Committee lacks an important provision that would preserve those conservation incentives. Perhaps no place would be more threatened by this failure than the prairie pothole region, where, 10,000 years ago, decaying glaciers left behind an extraordinary landscape marked by thousands of shallow wetlands.

This region is already being plowed under because high commodity prices have enticed farmers to opt out of the less lucrative government assistance programs, freeing them to drain wetlands and plant as much of their land as possible. A recent study by Defenders of Wildlife and the Environmental Working Group found that the annual rate of grassland loss nationwide had doubled between 2006 and 2011, much of it in the prairie pothole region. If this rate continues, most of the remaining grasslands there will disappear over the next 15 years.

It is not an overstatement to say that this looming destruction is one of America’s greatest conservation challenges.

The farm bill now being considered in Congress would eliminate longstanding direct federal payments to farmers. Instead, both the House and Senate bills would provide even more generous federal assistance for farmers who choose to purchase federal crop insurance. (At present, farmers who sign up for crop insurance are not required to conserve their lands and wetlands.) Unlike the House measure, the Senate bill would require farmers who do so to protect wetlands and fragile soils, as they were required to do as a condition of the direct payment program, and, until 1996, under the crop insurance program.

Thanks to the farm bill’s long-standing conservation requirements, soil erosion in the United States dropped by 43 percent between 1982 and 2007, saving more than a billion tons of rich topsoil, according to the Agriculture Department. In the prairie pothole region, there has been a resurgence in the populations of pheasants and ducks. And that has translated into a boom in recreational hunting that has generated tens of millions of dollars in annual income for rural communities, landowners and the states. It has also benefited sport hunting in Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi, where the waterfowl retreat for the winter.

Recognizing the growing threat to the region, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service last year established the Dakotas Grasslands Conservation Area to save 2 million acres of wetlands through the purchase of permanent conservation easements from willing landowners. But if the new farm bill fails to retain the conservation compliance requirement as a condition of enrolling in the crop insurance program, there will be little incentive for landowners to participate in the Fish and Wildlife Service effort. Easement payments can’t compete with high crop prices. And crop losses on farmland created by draining wetlands or plowing native prairie would qualify for insurance payments. So farmers would have every reason to plant as many acres as possible.

American taxpayers have always had a compact with farmers. In return for financial support when commodity prices were down and farm income was suffering, the government required farmers to conserve our soil and wetlands to protect our most precious and vulnerable places. This conservation compact has been a critical part of long-standing farm policy. It ensures that government payments protect not only our farmers, but also our natural heritage.

Members of Congress and President Obama should uphold this commitment. It is the kind of responsible leadership that our children deserve and American taxpayers should insist upon.

Jim Lyons is senior director for renewable energy at Defenders of Wildlife. Mark Rey is the executive in residence at Michigan State University’s Department of Fisheries and Wildlife. Eric Washburn is a partner at BlueWater Strategies, a lobbying firm, where he focuses on energy and natural resource issues. Mr. Lyons and Mr. Rey both served as under secretary for natural resources and environment in the Agriculture Department, Mr. Lyons under President Bill Clinton and Mr. Rey under President George W. Bush.

 

The L.C. Smith Long Range Wildfowl shotgun…

Early Ad for L.C. Smith's Long Range Wildfowl Double Barrel Shotgun
Early Ad for L.C. Smith’s Long Range Wildfowl Double Barrel Shotgun

The 1920s were big times for America, and for American firearms. Over those 10 years, a lot of things changed about both. For guns, two new products came onto and had a significant impact on the market.

The first new product was the Super-X shotgun shell. Introduced by the Western Cartridge Company, it was loaded with their new progressive powder.  Super-X shotgun shells gave “…high velocity and longer range without high gas pressure plus “Short Shot String” and the maker told customers that the end result “…assures clean kills at distances almost unbelievable.”

Western Cartridge Company, 12g Super X shotgun ammunition
Western Cartridge Company, 12g Super X shotgun ammunition

Next up was the Super-Fox shotgun, introduced by the the A.H. Fox Company. A.H. Fox created the first Super-Fox to test Western’s new shells. John Olin, Western’s founder, took delivery of this prototype in 1921. It was well received and in 1923 A.H. Fox made the Super-Fox a part of their line up. Soon it was hit with duck hunters, including the the legendary wing shooter Nash Buckingham.

To take advantage of the new Western ammo and compete with the Super Fox, L.C. Smith introduced the 12 Long Range Waterfowl shotguns in 1924. Available in 3″ and 2 3/4″ 12 gauge, and in all available grades, the L.C. Smith Long Range Wild Fowl guns was advertised as:

THE HARDEST HITTING GUN IN THE WORLD

“The L.C. Smith Long Range Wild Fowl Gun is built from our Regular model, and is designed to handle heavy charges of modern propellant powders, giving it an increased range of 15 to 25 yards, and extreme velocity and penetration with uniform patterns.”

Catalog Description of L.C. Smith's Long Range Wildfowl Double Barrel Shotgun
Catalog Description of L.C. Smith’s Long Range Wildfowl Double Barrel Shotgun

L.C. Smith catalogs claimed that the Long Range Wild Fowls used “A distinctive L.C. Smith method of choking adds 15 to 20 yards to ordinary shotgun range…specially bored to a longer, tapering choke…” To handle heavy recoil, these guns also featured a a reinforced forend loop on the barrels.

L.C. Smith Long Range Wildfowl Double Barrel Shotgun
L.C. Smith Long Range Wildfowl Double Barrel Shotgun

The last L.C. Smith Long Range Wild Fowl Gun was completed in 1942, and in all they made 2,631 of these guns. Right now, this nice one is on Gunbroker.com.

You can learn more about the L.C. Smith Long Range Wild Fowl Gun here.

Duck numbers take flight…

Mallards - number of 15% in 2012
Mallards – number of 15% in 2012

Ha – sorry. I couldn’t help myself with the headline. But here’s some good news about ducks from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service:

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) released its preliminary report today on breeding ducks and habitats, based on surveys conducted in May and early June. Total populations were estimated at 48.6 million breeding ducks in the surveyed area. This estimate represents a 7 percent increase over last year’s estimate of 45.6 million birds, and is 43 percent above the 1955-2010 long-term average. This year’s estimate is a record high and is only the sixth time in the survey’s history that the total duck population exceeded 40 million.” Read more here at the Ducks Unlimited site.

Hunting a hundred years ago…

Salem is Oregon’s state capital. Located about 50 miles south of Portland, this city of 155,000 people and miles of sprawl was a tiny town 100 years ago. As you would expect, the hunting around there was a lot different back then.

Salem Hunt Club, 1910
Salem Hunt Club, 1910

Salem sits like a bull’s eye on Oregon’s Willamette Valley–ground zero for the first successful Chinese pheasants releases in the United States. This happened around 1882. By 1911, wild pheasants thrived up and down the valley. So did monstrous ducks and ruffed grouse.

Paul Nicholson grew up around Salem and he hunted the area extensively his whole life. This article is based on his experiences and recollections. My heart ached a bit when I read this part:

“Five cock pheasants was the limit, and it was no trouble to get limits for four or five men. We always kept a couple of bird dogs. A few were top performers, and we lost no crippled birds. Hunters were few, and we knew most of the farmers where we hunted. “No Hunting” and “No Trespassing” signs were almost unknown.” You can read the rest here.

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