Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Guns & Ammo

Much blog ink is spent on guys discussing their wardrobes:suits,shirts,shorts,sportcoats,ties,trousers,shoes and the like. I would much rather discuss the contents of my gun safe than the contents of my closets. Mind you,I own numerous suits...required by my profession, many sportcoats..required by my social life...and evening clothes sufficient for white tie occassions and black tie occassions...even a black watch dinner jacket and an off white dinner jacket.....I just do not get charged up talking about this pile of cloth and thread. I would rather be in jeans,cowboy boots and a button-down than anything...except maybe full Cabela's camo or Filson coat and chaps for upland game.
So rather than blather on about clothes, I thought perhaps some newly aspiring hunters or shooters would benefit if I blathered about a "wardrobe" of guns.
In other words, what should one fill one's gun cabinet with to be able to be properly geared for various hunting or shooting scenarios...well,I will make some suggestions for those who may be interested. If you are a sappy anti-gun lobbyist, please change the channel.
WATERFOWLING: A good selection for an all around duck and goose hunting gun is a Remington 11-87 camo 12 gauge. You definitely want a gun that takes 3 inch shells. This is an affordable choice. Deeper Pockets? A Berretta Extrema 12 ga is a nice choice also. I suggest a used model..readily available. Plus, when considering the mud, rain, snow and other conditions a waterfowler encounters, there is just no reason to take an expensive piece out on the marsh. I always chuckle when a rookie brings his treasured 12 ga over/under to a duck blind and then is quietly horrified at the end of a hunt when marsh-mud has invaded every crevice of the gun.
UPLAND GAME: To be properly equipped for pheasants I suggest a Beretta 686 Silver Pigeon 12 ga. This model is light enough to carry all afternoon and reasonably priced and sturdy enough to last many many seasons without problems. A 686 can also stand in on a Sporting Clay or Skeet shoot as it has changeable chokes. A slightly less pricey field gun is the Ruger Line...they make several good 12 ga guns. I also fancy Charles Daly...but again a C.D. over/under will cost a few bucks.
Now for quail,woodcock,grouse,doves...one should select a 20 guage. Browning has several models. The Citori 625 20 guage is light and handles very well and is sturdy.As with all field grade guns, weight is important because even at 7 lbs. carrying and mounting all day can be tiring and lead to poor shots.
Not many hunters have a chance to shoot railbirds...but if you do...a 20 gauge is the gun of choice. Rails are small and fast so the swing and light weight of a 625 Citori is a plus.
CLAY TARGETS: For Sporting Clays I prefer a over/under as I like having the 2 chokes for the different shots on a double. Many shooters like the Semi Auto for reduction of recoil. That is a personal choice. The Browning Synergy Classic Sporting 12 Gauge is a nice piece. The Beretta line has several nice selections for Clays.
Trap is a whole different animal and for serious trap shooters I direct you to a specific single barrel trap gun. I do not shoot much trap so I just make do with my Beretta 686.
BIG GAME: Generally, the only large critters I am after are White Tail Deer. I use a Marlin .35 lever action with a Leupold Scope. I shoot a 150 grain bullet and this set up is perfect for Pennsylvania woods and blasting thru brush for that big buck.
A 30.06 Winchester is also a great all around deer rifle.
AMMO: Ducks...#4 Hevi-Shot....Geese #2 or BB Hevi-Shot. Steel needed for Federal Reg.s
Pheasants..# 6 or 7 1/2 2 3/4 12 Ga. Grouse quail etc....7 1/2 or 8 2 3/4 shells
Railbirds... 7 1/2 2 3/4 steel 20 ga. hard to find...usually have to special order at Cabela's or Dick's.
Sporting Clays/Skeet: Usually mandated by the course...no larger than # 8
Lastly, a good gun, like a good suit, should be fitted. A waterfowl semi-auto...you can probably get away with not having it fitted. But a nice Beretta or Browning O/U..invest the cash in a fitting. Griffin & Howe does a nice job. Also, keep in mind that you do not have to buy new...Cabela's has a great selection of used guns. They are often great buys and in good condition. A fine shotgun is also a fairly good investment as they generally do not lose value and can quickly be re-sold for liquidity in a pinch.
Finally, if you have kids...lock 'em up...the guns...not the kids...although sometimes I have wanted to lock my kids away in the basement..another story for another post. Trigger locks in a gun safe and you can rest easy. When the kids are old enough, let them handle the guns and teach them to shoot. It is a great way to spend time together and teach responsibility. When I taught my kids to shoot, the first thing I did was to take a 1 gallon milk jug, fill it with water and then blast it at point blank range...this shows the kids the power and effect of a shotgun blast..then you tell them that if they are not meticulous about gun safety they end up blasted like the jug...it makes quite an impression. That is what my Grandfather did with my brothers and I and it is a lesson I remember to this day.
Hope this was of interest...see you in the field.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Daquiri Debacle

Twice in a fortnight I have ordered a Daquiri at a fine dining establishment and been embroiled in issues with wait staff. My wife and another couple were at a restaurant that holds itself out as a high end fine dining joint. When cocktails were offered I requested a Mount Gay Daquiri "up." Several minutes later a server returned and asked me whether I wanted stawberry or pineaple or peach. I was aghast at these selections and shocked that a barman at a supposed top flight bar would be such a dullard. I replied: " None of the above, I want a Mount Gay Daquiri...UP."
Said server returned with a glass of ice and some rum mixture contained therein....not what I ordered. I then caught the attention of the Sommelier...a lovely women who knew her trade...she knew what I was talking about and corrected both server and barman regarding this cocktail...the next offering was well mixed and delicious.
Last night I was at the Palm in Philadelphia for steak dinner with a longtime friend...Once again cocktail orders were taken. When I asked for a Mount Gay Daquiri UP...I was advised by the server " Oh sir...we do not serve blender drinks." I replied: " Just tell the bartender what I asked for and she will know." I did get a well chilled and proper daquiri at that point.
When did a classic cocktail like the daquiri become so associated with sickly sweet slushy blender concoctions that the bar trade and servers forgot about the original?
The Daquiri traces it roots to a Cuban Mining town of the same name...in the early 1900's an Admiral serving in the Carribean liked the drink and introduced it to the Army-Navy Club in Washington D.C. The drink became wildly popular and was embraced by Hemingway and J.F.K. The classic version is fairly simple:

1 1/2 Ounce Rum
1 Ounce Fresh lime Juice
1 Teaspoon simple syrup/bar syrup
Shake with cracked ice,strain and serve with lime slice in chilled cocktail glass.

Hemingway was said to have invented a version which included some fresh grapefruit juice and juice of maraschino cherry. He doubled the proportions being the hard core gent he was and the drink became known as the "Papa Doble."
Havana Club from Cuba,while hard to procure...makes a splendid Daquiri.I prefer Mount Gay for a Daquiri.
Now, keep in mind a slushy fruit nightmare using cheap rum at a beach resort is OK for what it is worth...and may indeed have the ancillary benefit of getting the ladies frisky..but nothing beats the classic.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Road Kill Ball

One of the shooting clubs I belong to is fairly secretive and one can become a member by invitation only. An invitation is only extended after it is determined that the candidate is a proficient wing shooter who is also very safety minded, of fine character, and friendly with other members.The Club holds 4 shoots per year in a continental format at a private farm.The members are all serious hunters and wing shooters who take the pursuit of game quite seriously...whether the game be pheasant,quail,grouse,waterfowl,rabbits;or larger species such as deer,elk or wild boar.
Each year after the hunting seasons are closed, the Club holds The Road Kill Ball. This event is essentially a game dinner where the members and wives get together to cook and consume the various contents of our collective game larders. We hold the function either at a member's home or at a local private Club.We turn over our collective hoard of meats to catering staff for preparation and service.
This year we started at the Shooting Lodge of a local Club with cocktails and appetizers. The appetizers included smoked scallops and smoked wild salmon. The beverage accompaniment for this course included Veuve Cliquot Champagne as well as Manhattans made with Basil Hayden's Bourbon and Martini's made with Blue Coat Gin.
We then went to the dining room of the Clubhouse for dinner. This year's menu featured:
Wild Boar Ham
Prong horn Antelope Sausage
Venison Backstrap with cranberry juniper relish
Quail in mushroom cream sauce with morels and apples
Steamship Round of Elk with wild currant demi glace
Oven roasted fingerling potatoes
Grilled asparagus
Field greens salad with walnut oil and maple vinagrette
Elderberry Cheesecake

Various wine were presented but I prefer a strong lager or pilsner with game feasts so I opted for several bottles of Pilsner Urquell.

After dinner the gentlemen adhered to an old custom of seperating from the ladies for an hour or so and we enjoyed Dow's 20 year old port and Arturo Fuente Cigars in the Club's Men's Grille.
As always, the Road Kill ball was a great evening with excellent food and camraderie equal to the cuisine.
I encourage my you all to try various game meats. When you are played out with the usual beef,chicken,pork,veal,fish,lamb routine...try some wild boar or venison...duck or quail...pheasant or elk. The purveyor D'Artagnan has a good selection by mail order if you cannot buddy up to a hunter you know who is purging his or her freezer/game locker.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Sporting Art

The prints shown here are by renowned sporting artist A.B. Frost. I was at a friends antique store on Thursday last week. He deals in fairly high end furniture and decor with a very high end client base...(think Philadelphia Style furniture which can be as expensive as a small home for a dining room set.)
My friend said I had to see something that was quite unbelievable...and I was intrigued. We went to the upper floor of the shop and there was a complete set of 12 A.B. Frost Sporting prints. The entire set was signed and set in incredibly tasteful frames. Frost is a particular favorite of mine...and also of fellow blogger Man of the 50's/James( a thoroughly well bred,like minded, and agreeable gentleman by the way.) Forget the cost for the set...but let's just say one could pay for a year tuition at a pretty good private university for the same price. I certainly coveted the set but could not and would not buy them as I have 3 kids between 13 and 17 and college cash is being hoarded as we speak...I was content to drool over them and perhaps fondle the framed beauties for a few minutes.
His body of work includes a variety of illustrations for Scribners, Harper's and other publications. I feel these prints are wonderful scenes that capture time, mood ,color and experience of a day in the field or on the marsh hunting birds.The rail bird hunt is a specific favorite as I enjoy hunting railbirds on the Maurice River rice marshes while being pushed in a 100 year old cedar skiff by a member of the Camp Clan.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Saturday Night's Main Event

This Saturday Philadelphia's own "Fast Eddie" Chambers fights for the World Heavyweight Championship. Chambers is squaring off in an arena in Germany against Vladimir Klitschko, the Ukranian born boxer who is like a large building with legs. The boxing community here is absolutely rabid over this fight and yearning for the victory that will bring the Heavyweight Belt to Philadelphia. Indeed, many boxing fans across the globe would relish a contender like Chambers taking the crown from Klitschko.
At 208 lbs Chambers is at his lightest fighting weight ever and his speed and moves are the key to besting the taller Ukranian who has a jab like a telephone pole and a major size advantage. Chambers has applied a work ethic in the gym that is equal parts maniacal and monastic and the result is his aforementioned lean, dangerous fighting weight.
Speed is the key and hopefully Fast Eddie can live up to his moniker and test Vlad's jaw with some well placed hits. The word is that Klitschko's jaw is vulnerable and he has been KO'd before. Chamber's speed must also be tempered with his admirable defensive skills. I hope to see some good inside body punching unleashed by Chamber's as he proved effective inside against the prior opponent who was 6'7''. Body punches can score points and slow down the Ukranian giant.
Astoundingly, this fight will not be televised on pay TV here in the U.S. and one will have to pay to watch an internet feed to see the fight. Here's hoping a Philadelphia boy can bring home the World Heavyweight crown! I trust you all will root for Fast Eddie and keep a good thought or prayer for him this Saturday.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Urban Moments

Working in the City nearly every day can be alternatively oppressive,exhilirating or fascinating;often, it is amusing. Now, I certainly am not amused by the plight of the less fortunate nor by the piteous circumstances faced by the Homeless in Philadelphia. Nevertheless, sometimes the signs they wield to beseech your contribution are amusing or even laugh-out-loud funny.. To wit, the one above about Spitzer the adulterer...that one received wide coverage.
Today I saw a young homeless kid with a sign which read: "Too lazy to work, too honest to lie." That just cracked me up...and I would have thrown him a bone but for the fact that he was an obvious heroin addict and did not need money but treatment.
Next, a guy in the Concourse had a sign which read: "Ninja's robbed me....need money for karate lessons"...again I had to laugh and give a nod to the creativity of a man who had the grace to be funny despite his miserable station....I threw him a Fiver.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Lehigh beats Lafayette to go to the NCAA Tournament

Typically, a headline about Lehigh vs. Lafayette refers to College football's most played Rivalry. However, anytime Lehigh bests Lafayette in a sporting event it is a slightly greater triumph due to the rivalry between the schools. This week Lehigh beat Lafayette in basketball and secured the Patriot League title and a berth in the NCAA tournament. Normally, I am not a big March Madness fan as Basketball is not really a favorite. However, now that my Alma Mater is once again in the mix...I will be interested. Suffice it to say there is not much chance for my Lehigh boys to go very far...but it will be fun nevertheless. In fact, it brings back a great memory from Spring Break a while back...my best friend from College and I were skiing at Whiteface near Lake Placid for the week. Lehigh managed to make the NCAA Tourney that year as well...(1985 I recall). My buddy Glenn and I took the day off from the slopes and parked ourselves on stools at a Saranac lake Pub and watched Lehigh play Georgetown in the 1st Round. Our beloved Engineers were soundly trounced that day but it was fun while it lasted.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Spring Steeplechase Season

In a few short weeks my Wife and I will attend the Radnor Hunt Preview Auction and Party. Each year this event is held at a different Farm in bucolic Chester County Horse Country. The Auction items are excellent...one year my Wife and I scored a condo in Steamboat for a tremendously low price! The food and cocktails do not suck either!
This event is also the harbringer of the Spring Steeplechase Season. This means tailgating with friends, spirited wagering, beautiful sylvan settings and supporting the preservation of open space. The Race locales which we attend range from Chester County to Delaware and thru Virginia. In my estimation, watching flat track thoroughbred racing is boring when matched against a 3 1/2 mile race over timber or brush jumps. The skill and stamina of both horse and jockey are astonishing at this distance and over the jumps. I am also excited to see which entry my friend Michael Moran will offer this season. Michael was the owner/breeder of McDynamo, one of the most successful Steeplechase horses of all time! See you at the races!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Muscle Cars

The snow is rapidly receding and the promise of warmer and longer days is truly welcome after our recent simulated Arctic blast. While we will probably experience a Maine-like "Mud-Season" due to the melt, Spring is surely in the on-deck circle.
When the hint of Spring hits the Main Line, I immediately yearn to open my garage and get my 1969 Oldsmobile 442 Convertible( pictured above) out from under cover and fired up. This requires a battery charge, an oil change, some fuel stabilzer and lead additive.
The 69 442 is in my opinion one of the finest examples of American Muscle cars ever produced. I purchased this beast from a mechanic in Norristown in 1998. It was about 70% restored and I did the rest on evenings and weekends. While it is not a show-quality antique...it runs great and is what collectors would call a daily driver. I certainly have neither the time nor the inclination to go to car shows and sit in a lawn chair in a field and discuss original trunk mats and stock red-wall non radial tires. However, I dearly love the macadam tearing 375 horse power rip that this vehicle provides. I take the kids out for drives and the wife and I love driving to parties or events in this head-turner.I also drive in 1 or 2 Parades each year...usually Wayne's Memorial Day Parade and Gladwyne 4th of July. When you nail the accelerator in this car...you are literally hammered back in the seat and it is a gas....and being a rag top completes the package. Some guys favor exotica such as old Speedsters or MG's or Austin Healy's or even a Turner or Jaguar. For this Sportsman, I say those little buckets, while cute and perhaps fun, are for candy-ass dandies...and I will take Old School American Muscle every time!
P.S. The 6 car garage pictured above was on our property when we purchased the place...it has it's own story. We elected 4 years ago to tear it down and re-build a 3 car garage with an In-Law suite above.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Mistakes Lead To Discovery

My Father was a Biochemist at University of Pennsylvania for 35 years. He ran a research lab and would often remind us that throughout history some of the most important scientific discoveries resulted from mistakes that happened during tests or research.
I experienced such a personal discovery as a result of a mistake this weekend...albeit not a scientific breakthrough or history changing invention. It was worthy of note nonetheless.
I had been playing squash with my friend Bill at Merion Cricket Club. We planned to meet our wives and kids for dinner afterwards. We convened at the Bar and Bill's wife asked if she could order me a drink...I of course replied in the affirmative. I requested a Myer's Rum and Tonic.
Now, 999 time out of 1000 when this drink is ordered one receives Myer's Dark rum and Tonic. However, that evening the Barman was a rookie and poured Myer's Platinum and Tonic. Very few bars would even carry this variety of Myer's. I was puzzled when the drink was put in front of me as it certainly was not the correct color: the musky amber of dark Rum swirled with the clear quinine solution of tonic and slightly clouded with lime.Instead I was looking at what appeared to be a gin or vodka and tonic. The Barman stood staring as I considered this glass and it's contents. I advised that it was not what was ordered and he replied: " Sir it is Myer's rum and tonic." I asked to see the bottle and on inspection learned the source of the confusion. Surprisngly, I had never sampled this type of Myer's and decided to break with habit and try it...I also did not want to jam up a rookie Barman during one of his first shifts at a venerable joint like Merion Cricket Club. On my first sip I was astonished at how good the drink was and how much I enjoyed it. The lighter rum had a crisper finish and was slightly less sweet than the dark and had a Summery gin-n-tonic character that was very pleasing to the palate of this rum junkie. I remarked to the young Barman that the drink was excellent and chuckled with him over the notion that an error led to a discovery. Hence, I have discovered a new rum of excellent quality that will join the line up of spirits I'll be mixing with Tonic this Summer.