By David DraperAlthough I’m writing this on the first day of summer, I already am sick of my least favorite of the four seasons. The only thing I like about summer is that every minute brings me closer to opening day. As usual, I have grand plans to get out more this fall and add a few species to my life list. (Hungarian partridge, I’m looking at you!) While I never am able to do everything I hope, it’s good to go into the season with a bar set high. To that end, here are some new items for wingshooters that might help you achieve your gunning goals.
Rudy Project Rydon ImpactX Shooting Glasses
▲ I’m going to say it right up front: Rydon Shooting Glasses are the most comfortable shooting glasses I’ve ever worn. I realize this is bold talk, considering that I’ve tried samples from about every manufacturer and previously had several favorites. But this is my new go-to pair, thanks to the fit, which doesn’t squeeze behind the ear or pinch at the temples. Instead the frames (made of space-age materials) ride lightly on the bridge of the nose, and the earpieces feel like they’re barely there. Of course, the lenses are the real sell factor with Rydons. The ImpactX-2 optics I tested are advanced photochromic lenses, changing with light conditions quicker. When I stepped from indoors into the sunlight, my lenses went from clear to nearly fully gray shaded in less than 10 seconds. Rudy Project also claims that the interchangeable lenses are unbreakable and guarantees them for life. If there is a downside to these glasses, it may be the “Speed Racer” looks, which may cause those who prefer more traditional frames to turn up their noses. Red-, green- and brown-tinted optics are also available, as are standard, non-photochromic models and several different frame colors. Price: $300 as tested.
Avedon & Colby Signature Field Pants
► If there is such a thing as royalty in the world of outdoor-clothing designers, Burt Avedon and Susan Colby are it. Their curriculum vitae includes a who’s-who of manufacturers, such as Orvis, Eddie Bauer, Woolrich, Kevin’s and even Willis & Geiger. In fact, it was W&G that inspired the Avedon & Colby line. These pants are built for adventure, whether a mountain hike for forest grouse or a tramp through the African bush in pursuit of guinea fowl. The bush poplin is so tightly woven that it is practically impervious to the elements as well as thorns and brush. Of course, the cotton fabric is also breathable, so you’re not sacrificing wearability for durability. The soft comfort waistband features buttoned tabs to adjust for fit and is sewn with what’s called a French fly. Typically found on dress pants, this is a metal hook-and-tab hidden inside, with a button flap that presents a flat front that doesn’t pull at the top of the YKK zipper. A seamless gusset panel stretching down the inside of each thigh creates more room at the crotch, to eliminate binding during periods of high activity. Calf-high openings at the cuff can be buttoned tight against the ankle to keep boots debris-free. Topping everything is a smart pocket design, with a pair of patch cargo pockets that zip closed yet are covered with a button flap for cleaner, more casual lines that are just as much at home in town as in the field. Color is British tan. Price: $224.
Adventure Medical Kits Me & My Dog Medical Kit
◀︎ Hopefully you never have experienced it first-hand, but we all have heard the horror stories of dogs going down or getting injured in the field. It goes without saying that having a comprehensive first-aid kit close by can mean the difference between a minor inconvenience and a tragedy. The same goes for when we run into trouble with our less-hairy hunting partners. This kit covers both dogs and humans, providing comprehensive wound and medical care. What I like about it is its size. Many first-aid kits are so big that they get left behind. This rugged nylon package is small enough to stash under a truck seat, in a training bag or even the game pouch of your vest, meaning it’s always close at hand. Inside, two individual packages organize the contents, though I do wish they were labeled better to eliminate the need to dig through each trying to find a particular item. First-aid supplies include everything from basic fabric bandages and wound dressings of all types and sizes to self-adhesive, elastic wraps that won’t stick to dog hair or fur. There are also gloves, ointment, eye/wound wash, hydrogen peroxide, EMT shears, a leash and a couple of doses of aspirin and antihistamine. A human-oriented Wilderness Medicine Guide is supplemented with a pet version, providing just enough instruction to stabilize the patient for travel. Price: $50.
Tenzing Upland Field Bag
▲ Since the company came on the scene a few years ago, packmaker Tenzing has gained an ardent fan base, thanks to smartly designed gear that doesn’t go overboard on unnecessary features. The new Upland Field Bag is the perfect example. The canvas construction features a hard-plastic bottom that keeps water from soaking through and protects the bag’s contents. Inside, four adjustable dividers separate shells boxes from whatever else you need to take with you. On each end hard-foam, formed pockets keep shooting glasses and electronics from getting crushed—and each is labeled so you know what goes where. The front pocket has elastic loops, which are probably the bag’s only head-scratcher. They’re too big to be shell loops but could hold smaller e-collar transmitters or other mid-size essentials. A mesh pocket is well defined, however, as it is designed (and labeled) to hold the included collapsible dog-water bowl. The bag’s defining feature is probably the molded lid that perfectly fits a hard-plastic Plano box for choke tubes and a wrench along with a few cleaning supplies. (Plano is Tenzing’s parent company.) Price: $140.
Sitka Gunner WS Glove
► A good pair of leather gloves is a must-have for wingshooters, and the new Gunner WS Gloves exhibit the kind of quality you’d expect from Sitka. The anatomically curved shell is made from super-tough, naturally water-resistant goat leather. Though durable, the leather is fairly supple, providing a comfortable, broken-in feel from the first time you pull on the gloves. Shoving shells into magazines or barrels typically wreaks havoc on thumbs, which is why Sitka has added a second layer of leather on the thumb pads. The palms also get extra protection, with the added benefit of enhancing grip on slick, wet gunstocks. The index fingers are stretch-woven nylon, which slips easily into the trigger guard and doesn’t hang up on double triggers. The middle through pinkie fingers are fronted by soft, perforated leather—like that found on golf gloves—for additional comfort and dexterity. Because Sitka is owned by Gore, there is a superfluous level of protection in the form of a seamless Windstopper liner. Of course, leather is basically windproof, but you could argue that the laminate does help insulate by adding another layer of trapped air inside the glove. It also will wick away moisture from the skin, enhancing comfort. Price: $99.
Peregrine Trekker Dog Handler’s Vest
◀︎ The first thing I noticed when I pulled the Trekker Dog Handler’s Vest from the box was its heft. A quick trip to the digital scale confirmed my suspicions: 3 pounds on the button. All that weight is directly attributable to two things: heavy-duty construction and a wide array of features. As to the former, the vest is so tough that Peregrine guarantees it for life—“no questions asked.” The full-coverage vest is crafted from a fairly heavy cotton canvas that’s been treated for water-repellency with orange accents of cotton twill. As for features, there are more than you’d expect for a classic-styled bird vest. Evidenced by the name, the vest is built for dog owners, with a pair of chest pockets designed to fit about any e-collar transmitter on the market. Each has an elastic cord with toggle and nearby D-ring to keep those valuable electronics secure. Dump pockets at each hip are large enough to hold quart-size water bottles, and stout webbing sewn inside holds their form. Magnet-secured flaps keep shells in their respective pockets, each of which has a bottom zipper for easy cleaning (just make sure they’re zipped before heading afield). Front-access ports to the lined game pouch are oversize and feature snap closures that keep smaller birds from falling out. Color is tan/orange. Price: $165.