Editor’s Note by Ralph Stuart
Good dogs make lasting impressions.
Whether it’s for amazing feats, admirable habits or consistently stellar performances, they find ways to etch themselves on your memory.
Sailor was one such dog.
I first hunted with Sailor when I moved to Maine in the early 1990s. He belonged to Capt. Bill Wasson, at the time a sea duck guide in the Midcoast area. Sailor was a Chesapeake Bay retriever—90 pounds of muscle, with a big block head, deadgrass hair and glowing yellow eyes. He was the kind of dog that commanded respect—on and off the water.
I remember the first time I hunted with Bill. It was a cold, mid-January morning, and as we motored toward the open bay, I peered out from my cinched hood to see Sailor sitting tall in the bow of the boat, ears flapping, squinting into the stiff headwind. Once we set the decoys and anchored, Sailor took his position near Bill, in the stern, and sat stoically staring out to sea. When the guns would go off and birds would hit the water, he would wait for the command, and then launch into the swells.
A number of times the birds, mostly eiders, had only been winged, and Sailor would track them down and wait, paddling in circles, as the ducks dove and resurfaced until finally running out of gas enough for him to grab them. Then he would return to the boat, where he would be dragged aboard, deliver the ducks, shake and resume his position in the stern.
That he didn’t seek attention didn’t mean he was unfriendly. It was just business. And I was honored to watch him work on several hunts over several winters.
Those hunts took place more than 20 years ago, and Sailor now lies buried on an island—cremated with his last hen eider and Bill’s hunting hat. If I close my eyes, I can see him churning through the salt like it was yesterday . . . .
This issue—our annual hunting dogs special—salutes gundogs like Sailor with several dog-related departments and Tom Davis’s feature “Duck Dog” (p. 64), about those wonderful Chessies. We hope you enjoy it.
Also in this issue we’re excited to announce the launch of our Endorsed Lodge Program (p. 26). With Shooting Sportsman having been considered a top authority on wingshooting for more than 30 years and our team constantly being asked for advice about hunting venues, it made perfect sense to share some of our recommendations. The result is that we have partnered with select destinations that we know provide first-class sporting experiences. Our editors, writers, photographers and readers have been visiting these lodges for years, so the venues have been vetted in terms of the quality of hunting, accommodations, food, service and so on that they offer.
For more information about the program or participating lodges, visit the “Endorsed Lodges” page. There you will find destination profiles, photo albums, videos, testimonials and more. Or contact program coordinator Terry Bombeke.
A century on, a new gun meets—and makes—gunmaking history
By Silvio Calabi
Wings Over Argentina
Ducks, doves and perdiz at Estancia San Ambrosio
By Bruce Buck
Myths & misconceptions about the Chesapeake Bay Retriever
By Tom Davis
Chasing the Blues
Up, up and away for blue grouse
By Reid Bryant
From the Editor
Introducing our Hunting Dogs Issue & Endorsed Lodge program
“Closing the Circle,” sage grouse, snowcock and an oversight
Enjoying the full weight of a crane
Game & Gun Gazette
Dog of the Year winners, Gordy’s Rizzinis, quail books, a Boswell, etc.
Beretta’s good-looking and -feeling SL3
By Bruce Buck
Cool tools for tuning up your gundog
By The Editors
Kansas’ Walk-In Hunting Access program
By Curtis Niedermier
To the Point
Remembering a Prince of a bird dog
By Tom Huggler
Great advice for the sporting life
Vetting dog vests
By Ralph Stuart
The Gun Rack
SKB’s 200 Field
By Ralph Stuart
Going small with sub-gauges
By Chris Batha
From the Bench
An innovative new try-gun
By Delbert Whitman Jr.
Clearing up misunderstandings
By Tom Roster
To spay, neuter or not
By Tom Davis
Backcountry Hunters & Anglers
By Ed Carroll
On the cover: Chesapeake Bay retriever CH HRCH Rippling Waters Fire N The Hole MH (aka “Peytah”) photographed by Mark Atwater
Additional photos: Chris Siefkin; Brian Grossenbacher; Chip Laughton