Category Archives: Gear


March Madness: The Final Four of Whitetail Buck Hunting Shotguns

And so, we are ready for tip-off—and mercifully done with sports analogies until next week. Here’s the updated bracket and Bourjaily’s original seeding. Scroll down to vote.

(See the Sweet 16 here.)

Division A

1. Remington 870: America’s most popular shotgun is a perfect match for America’s most popular game animal. Available in the right configuration to shoot any type of slug or buckshot, the 870 can be made even better with a host of aftermarket accessories.

2. Remington 1100/11-87: It’s everything the 870 is but in a softer-shooting package thanks to its recoil-reducing gas system. Almost any aftermarket part made for the 870 is made for this gun, too.

3. Tar-Hunt: This semicustom bolt-action shotgun is more like a rifle that just so happens to be chambered in 12 gauge. It takes a scope easily and has a rigid action and free-floated barrel. “Slug Accuracy” ceases to be an oxymoron when you shoot a Tar-Hunt.

4. Mossberg 500: The first production shotgun to come with a fully rifled barrel, the popular 500 Slugster has a cantilever scope mount and removable raised comb. The LPA model is fitted with Mossberg’s adjustable Lightning Trigger for optimal accuracy.

5. Winchester Super X3: This very soft-shooting and reliable design represents a family of semiautos that includes the Super X2 and the Browning Silver and Gold. With a rifled barrel and cantilever mount, it’s capable of shooting slugs very well.

6. Benelli Super Black Eagle:
 The dream gun of many waterfowlers makes a good slug gun, too, when you add a rifled barrel. It takes a scope well, and Benelli offers interchangeable soft combs so you can make the stock fit for shooting with a scope, too. [Some slug trivia: The very first recorded 1-inch, 100 yard group shot with slugs was fired through a Benelli with a custom rifled barrel and BRI sabot slugs 20 years ago.]

7. Winchester SXP Black Shadow Deer:
 Formerly known as the 1300, this inexpensive slide-action is one of the smoothest, fastest cycling pumps ever. The Black Shadow comes in all black synthetic with iron sights, a rifled barrel, and a drilled and tapped receiver.

8. Winchester Model 12: Although never made in a slug version, the Model 12 is the classic choice for taking a stand in a swamp and waiting for the hounds to run a deer by your stand. With six in the magazine and one in the chamber, the slick shucking Model 12 could put out a lot of buckshot pellets in a very short time.

Division B

1. Savage 220/212: The company’s reputation for affordable accuracy shines in this shotgun. Fitted with a two-round detachable magazine and Savage’s excellent Accu-Trigger, the 12-gauge 212 and the 20-gauge 220 are great shooters for surprisingly little money.

2. Ithaca Model 37 Deerslayer:
 Besides having the best name, the deer version of the bottom-ejecting Model 37 has a reputation for excellent accuracy. Deerslayers have been made in almost every configuration imaginable, from take-down smoothbores to the mighty nine-plus-pound Deerslayer III, with its fixed, free-floated, fully rifled heavy fluted barrel.

3. Browning A-Bolt: The 3-shot A-Bolt shotgun was ahead of its time when it came out in the 1990s, when slug shooters were more interested in quantity of fire over quality. But tastes change, and the A-Bolt has since been reintroduced. It’s a great shooter with a clean trigger and good fit and finish, too.

4. T/C Encore: This gun’s versatile receiver can be fitted with a 12 or 20 gauge fluted, rifled shotgun barrel, turning the Encore into a very accurate single shot slug gun with an exposed hammer and a nice clean trigger.

5. Benelli Super Nova: The slug version comes with a rifled barrel and the Nova’s innovative synthetic receiver is drilled and tapped for easy scope mounting. The stock is adjustable by means of shims and comb inserts for a semi-custom fit.

6. H&R Ultra Slug Hunter: If “bang for the buck accuracy” was the sole criteria, this H&R would win hands down. Available in 12 and 20 gauge and featuring a heavy, rifled barrel, the Ultra Slug Hunter is cheap, crudely finished, offers only one shot, and weighs a ton. But it’s very accurate and has a surprisingly not-bad trigger for a gun that sells for under $300.

7. RBL Professional: The lone double gun in this bracket, the rifled RBL from Connecticut Shotgun Manufacturing Company has fully rifled 20-gauge barrels and a mechanism that lets you regulate the barrels to the same point of aim. It’s not cheap at four grand, but if you can’t afford a double rifle or a trip to Africa, you can hunt whitetail buck hunting at home with one of these.

8. Browning Auto 5: Although its moving barrel makes it a difficult gun to scope, the popular, classic Auto 5, with both plain and rifled slug barrels, has taken down countless whitetails over the years.

Division A

(1) Remington 870 vs (4) Mossberg 500

Division B

(2) Ithaca Model 37 Deerslayer vs (3) Browning A-Bolt


Smoking snow geese with best hunting caliber wild sky seasonings 2

geese, but more often not, a day of hunting yields numbers well south of the century mark. Still, even 30 or 40 snows are a lot to deal with. The meat can be a bit challenging to work with, especially when the average age of a snow is 10 years, with birds upwards of 20 years old not uncommon.

Considering that age variable, a good way to deal with an abundance of snow geese is making sausage. On my hunt with Central Nebraska Outfitters last week, I had some amazing summer sausage made from last season’s snows. I’m working on getting that guy’s secret and will pass it along when I do.

Until then, I’ve found another great way to prepare snow geese, or any waterfowl for that matter. It’s called Wild Sky Seasonings, developed by a waterfowl hunter here in Nebraska. I have a few homemade brine recipes I use, but this stuff is far better than anything I’ve come up. I pick mine up locally, but Wild Sky will ship anywhere in the U.S. and, in my opinion, it’s well worth the $8 plus shipping. (A 16-ounce package will do 10 pounds of meat.)

Wild Sky uses the best hunting caliber tagline “Inject, Soak and Smoke” and that’s really how easy it is to turn a pile of snows or Canadas into a mess of delicious smoked goose breasts for snacking, sandwiching or making pâté. Just mix the powder with three quarts of water, inject each breast several times, soak the breasts in the remaining brine overnight and then smoke to internal temperature of 170 degrees. That’s it.

Currently, Wild Sky has just the original flavor, but I’ve sampled some test batches, including an amazing chipotle-black pepper brine that create probably the best smoked mallard I’ve ever tasted, so keep an eye on their site for future flavor introductions. And though I haven’t tried it yet, sources tell me it makes a really good smoked turkey as well. Something to think about as gobbler seasons are opening across the country.

50 Years Later, the Incalculable Gift of the Wilderness Act

k the fly in the air. The trick was to keep it away from them, to dap the fly and let the frenzy build, until from deeper in the pool the bigger trout began to stir and rise. Sometimes, if you timed it just right, the big fish–ten inches, 12 at the most–would slam the fly just as it touched the water, and go rocketing away, thrashing, their brilliant yellows and blacks and reds catching the muted late summer light that fell through the big firs. I brought them to hand, unhooked them and slid them back into the water.

The creek went on and on, pool after pool, fish after fish, as the afternoon waned to evening, and the dusk settled into the deep forest. I’d find some place to sleep, and tomorrow I’d follow the creek to the river, and walk downstream to Moose Creek, or the Salmon Hole. Or I might turn upriver and try to make it all the way to Magruder Crossing. Youth is reckless (I was in my late 20s), and we are all supposed to have a strict plan to follow in the backcountry, but I didn’t have a plan then; didn’t want one. This was the Bitterroot-Selway Wilderness, an undiluted dose of pure freedom that could be had for nothing more than self-reliance and the price of a good pair of boots.

For the next 15 years or so, I spent some part of each year in the Bitterroot-Selway, camping and climbing, fishing, hunting elk, blue grouse, mule deer, snowshoe hares, skiing or snowshoeing in the winters and late into the spring. Alone or with a varying band of good friends and acquaintances I did the same in wilderness areas across Montana and Idaho, in Alabama, North Carolina, and Virginia.

I’ve written a lot about how we Americans have so many of the treasures that have long been lost in the rest of the settled world: clean water, clean air, hunting and fishing and shooting, freedom to wander on public lands, and how we take these things for granted, not even knowing how we got them or what battles were fought to keep them.

This year is the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, and this is my year to try to understand how it came about, giving us the world’s greatest system of wild places. Here’s what I’ve learned.

The Wilderness Act was passed in 1964, at a time when Americans were enjoying a prolonged economic boom that both gave them mobility (a new automobile could be had for around $3,500) and the time to take to the woods and fields, lakes and rivers. Thanks to the labors and dollars of sportsmen-conservationists, wildlife populations and fisheries were recovering from the near extinctions of the early 1900s. A nation of outdoorsmen and women, with long traditions of fishing and hunting, and what Theodore Roosevelt had called “the strenuous life,” was home from wars, unlimbering from bad economic times, and buying guns and fishing tackle (and outdoor magazines).

In the best tradition of an engaged citizenry, Americans afield were also witnesses to a host of problems that indoor people, or people in less democratic nations, may never have noticed, or hoped to solve. The same economic boom that gave us the freedom to hunt and fish and travel was causing escalating pollution of land and water, devouring beloved rural landscapes, and destroying the natural beauty that was a source of deep patriotic pride. It has been said that it requires a relatively high degree of civilization to define, and create a desire to protect, wilderness and the natural world. If that is true, then the U.S. in the early 1960s had more than enough civilization to see that, left unchecked, development would overwhelm every last vestige of the wild places that had defined our history.

There had been movements to protect the last wilderness areas for decades, for reasons that are familiar to us today. Historian Frederick Jackson Turner, writing in the 1890s, claimed that, with the loss of the wilderness that had forged and challenged the American spirit, democracy itself might not be able to survive. Or, as Roderick Nash, in his classic study Wilderness and the American Mind, wrote of the same time period, “With a considerable sense of shock, Americans realized that many of the forces which had shaped their national character were disappearing.” Theodore Roosevelt and many others worried, as well, that a nation deprived of its wild places and its hardy outdoor people would soon wither into mediocrity.

But early 1960s America was a nation that had been triumphant in war, had solved the disaster of the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression. Justified confidence, at least in our ability to solve problems, was high. Not for us, a nation of poisoned air and ruined rivers. We did not fight and die and crush the armies of tyrants only to accept a milquetoast nation of cowed working men and women who had no wilderness in which to test themselves, rest from their labors, or show their children the splendor of untrammeled nature. Let the Europeans have their carefully cultivated forests and privatized hunting, let the Chinese plow every last acre, level every last thicket. We would forge another path, as we always had, and create something entirely new: designated wilderness areas, on a scale large enough to matter. As New Mexico Senator Clinton P. Anderson said in 1963, “Wilderness is an anchor to windward. Knowing it is there, we can also know that we are still a rich nation, tending our resources as we should — not a people in despair searching every last nook and cranny of our land for a board of lumber, a barrel of oil, a blade of grass, or a tank of water.”

The Wilderness Act of 1964 began with 9.1 million acres protected. Among the first were some of our most valuable traditional hunting and fishing grounds today–the Bob Marshall Wilderness in Montana, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in Minnesota, the Bridger Wilderness in Wyoming. In the 50 years since the Act was passed, we’ve added a little over 100 million acres to that 9.1 million acres, from the tiniest–a 5.5-acre dot of critical bird habitat on an island in north Florida–to the vast Wrangell-St. Elias in Alaska, itself almost 9 million acres. Alaska contains 53% of all designated wilderness, but there is at least some wilderness in all but six states. What has been created is a fantastically diverse network of wildlands that honors our history, protects the headwaters of great rivers, and provides access for millions of Americans every year to unparalleled solitude, wildlife, natural beauty, and hunting and fishing. It’s horsepacking and backpacking and long day trips, and runs with our dogs. Elk and deer and mountain goats and wolves, grizzly bears and rattlesnakes, roaring creeks to drown you and cliffs to fall from if you are not careful. It’s learning how to read a map and tote a rifle from dawn to dark and sleep outside in the heat and the cold. No other country on earth has anything like it.

This year my wife and children and I will celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act in the Scapegoat, which is closest to where we live, heading in over another Elk Pass to the headwaters of the Dearborn River and out by way of a place called the Devil’s Glen. If we have time we’ll try to climb Scapegoat Peak, which I’ve never done, but which centers some of the best elk country in North America. I’m almost exactly as old as the Wilderness Act–I was born in 1964, too, and someday in the next couple of decades, if I live that long, I’ll pass my box of wilderness maps onto my children, for them to study on long winter nights as I have done, planning trips to places I’ll never see, places they can take their children, to fish for cutthroats and cook a blue grouse over an alder wood fire on a cold October morning. That’s the finest way to honor the American outdoorsmen and women who gave all of us the gift of the Wilderness Act of 1964.

Video: Required Hunting Gear And Hunting Dog Fetches Bottle of Vodka

unds to videos detailing how Ukrainian gundog owners teach the basic blind retrieve. And how, exactly, does the Ukrainian gundog owner in this video teach blinds? With a bottle of vodka, of course…
This video has apparently been floating around the Web for some time now, but being the stodgy unhipster that I am, I had never seen it before noodling around on YouTube last night, trying to find video on eastern European upland required hunting gear and pointing dogs. Instead, I discovered this decidedly Slavic twist on the classic American “Dog Fetches Beer/Paper/Slippers” trick. Some things, it seems, are universal. I personally have never trained a dog to bring me any sort of frosty beverage or spirit, but perhaps I should rethink that position so I, too, can achieve Internet fame.

Interestingly enough, I never did find out anything about upland hunting in eastern Europe — other than their dogs make good bartenders — but judging by the video it’s apparently a helluva good time.