Thursday, January 30, 2014

Andover Shop For Waterfowlers

 Many of the men's clothing and style bloggers gush  praise and sputter accolades about J. Press and the Andover Shop. The history and style and personal service provided by these stores endear them to customers. The characters that offer advice on fit and selection  and the goods they offer stand out in the prose of The Trad and Muffy and ADG and Guiseppe.
For those of us who try to spend more time in MaxHD camo than Brooks Brothers 3/2 roll, there are places like Smyrna Sporting Goods. At the waterfowl club we erroneously refer to the place as Smyrna Gun Shop. In terms of sporting goods, you ain't going to find any golf clubs, lacrosse sticks, baseball mitts or running suits or tennis gear. This is a store for hunters. They have shotguns, rifles, pistols, decoys, shooting vests, camo coats and shirts and hats. They have waders and and boots and blind bags and gun cases and rare ammunition like 10 Gauge 3 inch #2's. The guys who work here know their trade and are helpful in picking the right shotgun or set of decoys or pair of gloves. They know their guns and gear like the guys from the shops noted above know their oxford cloth or point collars or rep ties.

A Ducks Unlimited flag flies outside. The door is covered with stickers from Ducks Unlimited and Winchester and Remington and Sig Arms and Mad Dog Gear and Final Approach. When you open the door a bell jingles and the smell of gun oil and leather and canvas meets you. There are locals sitting around talking hunting. Brian is behind the counter. The floors are  wood polished by the boots of countless hunters and the creak reminds me of the sound in the  hardware store I went to on Saturday's with my old man. Your lab is always welcome and know one will glance twice if you drop in with camo face paint still smeared on your cheeks.The gun racks hold consignment guns and new offerings. The selection runs towards semi-auto 12 gauge waterfowl pieces but there are some nice doubles and over/unders.Brian has been selling gear and ammo to our members for many years and he is also the guy who takes care of our hunting licenses. After you are done fondling the guns you look at the photos people drop off of mallards and black ducks and woodies and geese taken from local   marshes and big bucks and pheasants taken in local fields and woods.You can buy a Coke or a candy bar or bag of chips to enjoy while you jaw with the guys about upcoming weather or seasons or tides.
I was in the market for a new waterfowl gun and of course took my business to this sales tax because it's Delaware and I prefer to give my business to the little local guy instead of Cabela's or Bass Pro for this type of purchase. I bought the above Beretta A300 Outlander and bagged a goose with same that very afternoon. Afterward on the way home the next day I stopped to show Brian the photo of me with the bird and he was thrilled.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Simulated Arctic Death

 I was skiing at Killington in Vermont back in High School. It was about 14 degrees. The wind was howling and there was snow and sleet mixed in with the vicious gusts.I recall the wind chill factor to be negative 18 or something along those lines. Back in those days I would ski in those conditions. I was on the Killington Peak chair which takes you to the very top of the mountain. It was about 1:30 in the afternoon. As my chair ascended and we came out above the trees, the chair-lift stopped. My buddy and I were suspended in the air in that brutal cold for about one half hour. The wind was nearly constant at the altitude and we suffered through like 17 year old boys can. At that moment I coined the phrase "simulated Arctic death."
 As an adult I ski less and chase waterfowl more. When the forecast for the Mid-Atlantic region called for snow on Tuesday I pointed my truck south and headed for the duck hunting club to see if I could slam some geese. Generally when the weather is harsh like this, the goose hunting heats up. Some of my most epic goose hunts have been during snow storms. The driving conditions sucked and a 1 hour ride was transformed to 3 hours. I-95 was snow covered and the rookie drivers were incompetent for the conditions. I snapped a shot thru the windshield when traffic had slowed to a crawl.
 I got to the farm, unlocked the decoy shed and loaded up with a rig of full bodies and rags and shells and flags.I was excited...I was sure this would be a great afternoon hunt!
 I laid out the spread  and hunkered down in the  goose pit blind to wait for what I was sure would be locked up Canadas coming into my spread.The snow was blowing so hard it came into the pit. It coated my waterfowl gun and coated the walls.I had to brush off the bench periodically. I had worn my neoprene waders with 1000 grams of Thinsulate to deal with the snow. A good choice.
 I am embarrassed to admit not one goose flew overhead that afternoon. I suppose it was just too windy and harsh to get birds in the air. I chuckled at the irony: as waterfowl hunters we dream of snotty weather to make the hunting better. I braved the bad driving and vicious weather to get out there and hunt while most sane people were in the house warm and dry. I picked up the decoys at about 6 P.M. and the wind had increased. My fingers were numb and my face felt like someone squirted lighter fluid on me and lit it. I was experiencing another round of simulated Arctic Death
 The antidote for this malady: a return to the Clubhouse, a warm fire and a stiff whiskey.
The duck and goose season draws to a I will be out there again tomorrow and Saturday. We'll see what happens....We may be reenacting scenes from "Ice Station Zebra" out in front of the duck blinds.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Winter Games Threat

The message below was just posted on several websites. Evidently, this is our response to the Jihadist video promising an attack in Sochi during the Winter Games. When I attended the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake in 2002, it was only a few months after 9/11 and there was a significant security concern then as well. It is sad that the dedicated athletes who compete at these games and devote years of training and  sacrifice must do so under a potential backdrop of fear and anxiety. The original Olympic spirit was intended to transcend political differences and war. Now, not so much.

02:21 PM ET

Warships part of U.S. contingency plan for Sochi Olympics

By Barbara Starr
The U.S. military will have up to two warships and several transport aircraft on standby under a contingency plan to help evacuate American officials and athletes from the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, if ordered, a U.S. official said.
The State Department would take the lead in organizing and evacuating Americans, if necessary, the official with direct knowledge of the plan told CNN.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014


I love this Labs-eye-view of a waterfowl dog taking care of business.

Renaissance Pork

Wild Boar...the "other" other white meat.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Estate Shooting

 My post yesterday offered a glimpse at a modern version of what the Edwardian sportsmen(and sportswomen) were doing at the country estate in pre-WWI England.
Our shoots are far from the English shooting party weekend....but we get the picture.One of the things on my "bucket list" is to participate in a driven pheasant shoot on an English estate.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Tower Shoot

 I have posted on this event before. Several times a year a group of like-minded sportsmen convene on a friend's farm in Berks County for a tower shoot. This Sunday was the last of the season. Here the Barbour and L.L. Bean and Boyt and Filson is not some catalogue charade; rather it is real gear for the intended purpose.
These shoots find a gathering of a great group of wing shooters in beautiful setting in rural South east Pennsylvania. When we marshal before the shoot there are greetings and good natured insults and the bark and cry of dogs. The double guns are un-cased and pockets and bags are filled with shells.We all put money in a pot for the shot of the day. After the shoot we return to the house for hot soup and a cold beer. There are a lot of laughs and ribbing about shots missed and compliments on shots made.

The landowners home. It has the feel of a Bavarian manor.
 This Sunday the weather was raw and windy. The field was still hard from the freeze last week. However,there was a veneer of thawed mud from the warm weekend and it made walking out to the posts something like treading through chocolate pudding smeared over glass.
 The shooting in challenging and fast. The birds are hardy and game. Each hunter shoots from 12 stations and when the wind is right you can go through 3 boxes of shells and shoot as fast as you can load.
 The dogs get in a lot of work. They retrieve from the field and the woods lining the farm, hustling about and likely having more fun than the shooters.
My Browning 12 gauge got a good work-out yesterday and I made a few fine shots...including a double. I also had my share of misses. When the shoot was over we enjoyed a venison and vegetable soup, some home made smoked venison sausage , a wheel of Gouda and some cold beer....a fine way to spend a Sunday morning with a convivial group of guys....some robust wing-shooting and fine dogs.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Delicious New Year's Eve

This is the menu offered by the Fountain restaurant at the Four Seasons Hotel in Philadelphia. My wife and I spent our New Year's Eve at the hotel and dined on this tremendous line-up. Each course was an explosion of flavor and refined ingredients. The preceding cocktail hour featured oysters and champagne and the formal black-tie affair was completed by live music and our ride home was a simple elevator trip to a wonderful room. The bar has been set pretty high for all New Year's Eves in the future.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Olympic Let-down

Back in 2010 I posted about this ski-vixen during the Vancouver games. Ms. Vonn is an incredibly talented athlete and very easy on the eyes. Sadly, I just read that she will not be competing in the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. Not that anyone knows where the Hell that is....but I was excited to see her make a huge comeback in Sochi after her nasty wipe-out and predicted successful rehab. The U.S. women's team has lost a huge medal favorite and a media darling. However,  her recent preference in boyfriends is suspect.