Monday, February 17, 2014

Picking a Shotgun

Some decisions are agonized over....
    Picking a shotgun is perhaps a more difficult decision than choosing a spouse.  It is best to try several different types before settling down with any one in particular.  Do you prefer a wide shooting plane, or perhaps a slender one?  Do you shoot better with a little weight forward, or maybe butt heavy suits you better?  Most seem to enjoy a balance somewhere in between.
    For many, the first experience is with a pump action, but later they discover the beauty and smooth handling of doubles.  Some enjoying side by side, while others like one on top of the other.
    A stock of high figure often brings a higher cost, but many find the expense worthwhile.  High-priced guns often have lots of glitter and even gold trimmings, and, although pleasing to the eye, don’t necessarily perform any better than unadorned ones. 
Older ones may be missing a screw.
    Older ones are often appealing, particularly if they have not been abused.  Nothing detracts from their appearance more than dings and bulges, and nothing is worse than one that just sat somewhere and became rusty.  Many enjoy wondering about the storied history of the older ones while using them.  You must remember though that the dimensions preferred years ago are quite different than those of today, and some may feel awkward when mounted.
A wide plane catches the eye. 
    Older models in pristine condition are often expensive, and you may not even want to use them.  They are sometimes referred to as “safe queens”, but I’m not sure what they are safe from.  It is best to admire them with as little handling as possible, to wipe off with a soft cloth any fingerprints that you may have left behind, and then to leave them where you found them.
    Perhaps you have friends with different types, and you could ask them how they like them.  Maybe they will even let you try theirs, but that is not common.  Some may not want you to take theirs out into the woods, but most will at least let you look at them.  Be sure to ask their opinions, whether they prefer side by side or over and under, ejectors, wide or narrow fore end, and straight grip.
    Large bores are becoming less popular in the upland woods, with the slender twenties becoming quite common.  As many men get older, they look for a twenty-eight with a properly proportioned frame, which they feel makes for a more appealing look. 
   Their light weight feels nimble in the hands and is a delight to experience, but a proper mount must be practiced, or the motion is too jerky and may cause a miss.  Practice mounting is the key, and can even be done in almost any room at home.
    Remember, practice safe shooting.    

A favorite, leaning against a tree.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Old Things

I like old things, and things made like old things. And I guess that means old timers too. Back when I was a young pup, nothing suited me more than spending time listening to old hunters or woodsmen. They had seen so much and lived in exciting times. Now there aren’t many of them left.
A couple of Christmas’s ago I was given a L. L. Bean waxed cotton rucksack. It brings me great joy just to see it hanging on a hook in my office. It looks like it should have been made in 1912, not 2012. I know the same exact one, made out of modern synthetic materials, weighs half the amount, but it wouldn’t look or feel the same. I’ll carry the extra weight.
And I love an old Marble’s brass compass, even if I do have trouble reading it, pinned on my vest. It’s just too close there. It needs to be pinned on my wrist for me to focus on it, but we know how well that would work out.
I don’t own any plastic boats, but a couple of wood canoes, a wood duck boot, and a wood Rangeley guide boat. In my shop sits my grandfather’s canoe, with its canvas stripped off and waiting for restoration. That was built in 1906, when he was fifteen years old. Show me a fifteen year old that can do that today. I still have both of the paddles he made. It’s amazing how a hundred plus years of drying can lighten a spruce paddle.
Up at Camp Grouse, we have an old pack basket hanging on the wall. It’s great for hauling things on canoe trips, not that we take many, but it looks super hanging there. Once a year I turn it upside down to dump out the dead flies.
I do have an old cane fly rod, but seldom use it. It is in mint condition, but I’m spoiled by the quicker action of graphite rods. The traditional New England fly patterns, like the Parmachene Bell, Gray Ghost, and Edson tigers, fascinate me, and I use them periodically, but catch little. Another old New England fly, the Black Ghost, serves me well though.
Most of my guns were made a long time ago. The only new ones are both doubles, which is, of course, a long time proven type. There’s a couple of old pumps and even an early Model 1100, but, other than for deer hunting, none of them come out of the safe often.
The first gun I ever bought was an old Ithaca side by side, and the next gun an even older Parker. That Parker, born in 1902, still sits in my safe. Every once in a while I take it out and wonder at the stories it might tell. I know there’s a few that involve me.
The last firearm purchased was an old Savage Model 99, in 250 Savage, a time tested rifle that shoots an almost forgotten cartridge. It is a pleasure to just look at it and also enjoyable to fire, with very little recoil. I’m too old to get beat up by repeated punching in the shoulder.
I own Gor-tex lined clothing, but all of my favorite coats are waxed cotton or wool. Slipping on any one of them, I can feel the adventure starting. Filson waxed brush pants are the best in my book. But I will admit, Gor-tex lined leather boots are one of the greatest inventions of all time.
There’s only one old grouse hunter that I see with some regularity. He isn’t doing too well and his days in the woods are done. Usually I hear the same stories over again, but the details are jumbled and not always the same. I can see the twinkle in his eye though, as he remembers the good parts, and he’s always asking how the birds are. There is still lots to learn from his tales.
As we become the old timers, and there is more time spent tending our gear than actually using it, there had better be a whole repertoire of stories in our heads. Every year there seems to be a young hunter or two coming long, and they all expect to hear a few.