Editor’s Note by Ralph Stuart
I have a confession to make:
When it comes to waterfowling, I am more of a jump-shooter. I say “confession,” because after all these years I feel guilty for never having mastered a duck call or learned to set decoys just so. I am the type of guy who likes to sneak and peak—pussyfooting through cover until I either spy birds to stalk or come upon them by surprise. Then it’s a matter of taking quick shots in a melee of wings.
I attribute this to my preference for making things happen versus sitting in wait. True, the opportunities I get are fleeting, but sometimes one-and-done shooting provides all the action I need.
Through the years I have shared some of my experiences in this column. Like the morning my son Nick and I jumped a flock of wood ducks, dropped a bird on the opposite stream bank and Nick ended up swimming to retrieve it. And the time I spotted a flock of woodies while I wasn’t hunting, rushed home to grab my gun and dog, and returned to flush the birds and bag three.
Of course, I’ll never forget the day I was fall turkey hunting and watched a pair of mallards set into a swamp. Thankfully I had seen ducks there before and was prepared with steel shot and a duck stamp. So I switched out my shotshells, set across the grass in stealth mode, and ended up with a greenhead in my turkey vest.
And, for me, that is the beauty of jump-shooting: being opportunistic and going after the birds. Sometimes you know what’s setting on the water; other times you’re taken completely unawares. (Like the time a Canada goose rose from beneath a bank about 10 yards away and all I could do was watch slack-jawed, not knowing whether the season was open. It was . . . .)
As I write this, Maine’s waterfowl hunt is less than three weeks away. Legal light the first morning likely will find me in my normal spot, waiting to pass-shoot wood ducks. But it won’t be long before I grow antsy to move. To begin slipping downstream, anxious to see what’s around the next bend.
Our “Waterfowl Issue” is designed to give you a jump on the season. Articles by Gary Kramer on must-visit destinations (“Waterfowling’s Life List”) and Don Thomas on his Lab’s duck-retrieving streak (“One Hundred Straight”) should be inspirational. And be sure to check out advice on taking long shots (Shooting), sorting out chokes (Shot Talk) and teaching Labs to go the distance (Hunting Dogs). Hopefully the result will be more duck dinners this year.
For Longthorne Gunmakers it’s about making better barrels
by Douglas Tate
Waterfowling’s Life List
A rundown of must-hunt destinations
by Gary Kramer
Family, Farming & Pheasants
Balancing businesses at R&R Pheasant Hunting
by Brian Lynn
Exploring new horizons at Oregon’s Ruggs Ranch
by Gary Kramer
One Hundred Straight
Four weeks, two flyways, one dog to run the table
by E. Donnall Thomas Jr.
From the Editor
Getting a jump on waterfowl season
Praising “Little Guns," misdirection and the ethos of "Instagrouse"
Game & Gun Gazette
McKay Brown's 50th, Piotti over/unders, The Bookshelf, bird bands, and more
Clays practice for high & passing ’fowl
by Chris Batha
From the Bench
Restoring a hammergun from a provincial maker
by J. Marc Pipas, MD
Knowing chokes: Pattern or Perish
by Tom Roster
Getting your retriever to go the distance
by Jessie Richards
Taking action now for the 2018 Farm Bill
by Greg Hoch
The Super Black Eagle 3: Benelli’s workhorse autoloader
by Bruce Buck
The latest & greatest for waterfowling
Roosters and more at Pheasant Bonanza
by Reid Bryant
To the Point
A carver from the Golden Age of decoys
by Tom Huggler
On the cover: Alaska king eider hunting photographed by Lee Thomas Kjos
Additional photos: A Thomas Johnson gun, fully restored, photograph by Mark Washburn;Gary Kramer