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Want to Shoot Precision Rifle Competitions? Don’t Let These Excuses Stop You


The author found that when he stopped making excuses and started setting personal goals in competitions, he made more progress and had more fun. (Courtesy Robert Brantley/)

What are the barriers that keep people from shooting precision rifle competitions? Allow me to count the ways.

After talking to lots of different folks about this over the years, I’ve seen that their reasons for not competing vary. For some, it’s the cost of the equipment. For others, it’s the misconception that their gear needs to be perfect. Without the latest and greatest kit, they reason, they won’t do well. Some would-be competitors hesitate because they fear failure. They especially worry about not doing well in front of others. Folks also commonly think they don’t have the resources—time, as well as money—to participate.

Oddly enough, I’ve found that many of my best matches took place when I was confronting these issues myself. While those moments when you do have total control over every aspect of your shooting feel great, you also don’t have to have every “i” dotted and “t” crossed to shoot at a high level.

And you shouldn’t let a less-than-perfect situation keep you from signing up, either. For example, I talked to one guy who told me he didn’t go shoot a local one-day club match because his brass wasn’t annealed. That’s just overthinking things—letting that notion of perfection keep you from having some fun and learning, too.

I think the key is for shooters to define their own standards of success and work to achieve those goals. It’s not always about being No. 1 on the podium. Your measure of success could be just beating more people than beat you. Or getting a win in your division. Or just making a certain percentage of your shots throughout the day.


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19th Century Shotguns: Rise of the Repeaters

From the farm to the battlefield, 19th-century shotguns put food on the table, kept enemies at bay, and became widely available during a post-Industrial Revolution economy. The Civil War had made the mass production of guns a necessity. Small single-owner and family firms still produced hand-made guns of high quality. But the firearms giants of Winchester, Remington, and Marlin were changing the game and offering affordable production guns to a hungry market.

The growing need was not for more single-shot and double-barreled shotguns, although they still commanded market share. Lever-action rifles were gaining in popularity, and bird hunters clamored for their own repeaters: guns that could shoot more than one or two shells. John Moses Browning obliged them. Here are four shotguns that defined a new era of gun-making.

Winchester 1887


With the popularity of lever-action rifles, Winchester tasked John Browning with making a repeating shotgun. (Rock Island Auction/)

Winchester was having so much success with rifle sales, it knew a shotgun that could fire multiple rounds would be a winner. Christopher Spencer of Spencer Carbine fame had come up with a repeating shotgun in 1882, but it had a strange action that ejected shells from the top of the receiver and didn’t catch on. Winchester already had a relationship with John Browning through his 1885 single-shot rifle design and tasked him with developing a repeating shotgun. Browning thought a pump-action was the way to go, but Winchester was the “lever-action” company, so the company insisted on that type of shotgun.

Browning went to work and came up with the 1887 lever-action shotgun. It holds five rounds by opening the action and feeding shells into the magazine tube located under the barrel. The gun could be purchased in 12-gauge (2 5/8-inch chamber) or 10-gauge (2 7/8-inch chamber), both of which were only loaded with black powder at the time. Barrel lengths varied from 30 to 32 inches with a much shorter 20-inch barrel offered in 1888. Custom Damascus barrels were available on the 1887. Hollywood brought the 1887 back in “Terminator 2: Judgment Day.” It was the shotgun wielded by Arnold Schwarzenegger throughout much of the movie.

John Browning also designed the pump-action 1893.
The 1897 was put into service during World War I and II.
The Marlin 1898 closely resembles Winchester's 1897.

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Giants of the Yucca: Hunting for Bucketlist Whitetails in Eastern Colorado

I’ve never shot a giant whitetail buck—I mean a real stomper. That puts me in the company of most deer hunters. And like those fellow whitetail hunters it hasn’t been for lack of trying. This last season, I took another crack at finding a monster and headed to an unlikely place to do so—the plains of Eastern Colorado.

I’ve been hunting whitetails a long time, and have climbed stands in some of the best places for big bucks—southern Illinois’ hardwoods, the plains of Kansas, ag bottomlands in Missouri, the dark swamps in Mississippi where some true giants grow, eastern Kentucky and Saskatchewan, Canada.

But I can trace my fascination with whitetails to the place I started hunting deer—Northern Michigan.

It was there, decades ago, that I saw my first “real” whitetail buck. I had only been deer hunting for a couple seasons, and though I’d shot some does and a spike, I hadn’t put eyes on anything like a genuine 8-pointer.

I’d see bigger deer hanging from the buck poles on the neighbors’ lands, and stacked in the meat locker at the IGA grocery where we’d take our deer to be processed, but never crossed paths with one myself.

Some cattle in the cottonwoods on the 35,000-acre ranch the author and his friend hunted.
Glassing up big Colorado whitetail bucks across a miles-wide field of winter wheat.
Cody Arnold with his huge Colorado whitetail buck, which sported split G2s on each side.
Hornady’s 143-grain ELD-X in 6.5 PRC was dead-on at 100 yards.
The author's Springfield Armory Model 2020 Waypoint chambered in 6.5 PRC perched on his ever-present Game Changer bag and tripod setup.
The author with his 10-point Colorado whitetail buck.
The author’s 515-yard shot split the heart of his buck.

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Coydog, Coywolf, or Coyote? The 5 Things You Need to Know About Eastern Canids


Eastern coyotes indeed appear more wolf-like than their western cousins and are very much capable of taking down deer-size game. (Gerry Bethge/)

They go by many names: coydog, yodel dog, song dog, trickster, brush wolf, tweed wolf...

Most people, including biologists, now generally refer to them as eastern coyotes (Canis latrans), but sometimes even the scientists aren’t exactly sure where this critter falls in the taxonomic spectrum. Meanwhile the human population is split. Some hunters consider them a nuisance and even a bane, others a challenge. Some suburban and even urban dwellers fear them, while others are thrilled to have them around. So what really is this large canid that now occupies nearly all of the eastern U.S. and Canada? Let’s take a look.

1. Are Coydogs Real?

Eastern coyotes were, and still are, sometimes colloquially referred to as coydogs, particularly on the leading edge of their eastward expanding range. Some of this is due to our need to ascribe names to new and different creatures.

“Our eastern coyotes are very different from western coyotes,” says Shevenell Webb, furbearer biologist with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. “On average, they’re about 10 pounds heavier. They eat deer and they show more color variation. Some exhibit a pale gray pelage similar to western coyotes, but others are blond, red, and even black. It was once thought this variation may be derived from historical breeding with dogs.”

An eastern coyote mousing in a midwinter field.
The author with a wintertime Maine coyote.

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The Best Camping Coffee Makers


A hot cup of coffee (or two) will get you started off on the right foot when you’re outdoors. (Free-Photos / Pixabay/)

With a great camping coffee maker, it’s easy to be your own barista. There’s a huge range of products, from propane- and battery-operated drip coffee makers that work just like those at home, to ingenious camping percolators, pourover coffee makers, and camping French press coffee makers that will make you the envy of the campground. If you’re a true coffee aficionado, you can choose a product that will make coffee every bit as delicious as your favorite java shop back home. Or, if you’re just trying to get as much eye-opening brew into as many people as possible, there are choices for families and large groups that will be an indispensable part of your camping kitchen. Either way, this is at the top of our camping checklist.

Best propane camping coffee maker: Coleman QuikPot Propane Coffeemaker

Best camp stove coffee maker: Coleman Camping Coffee Maker

Best lightweight camping coffee maker: Kuissential SlickDrip Collapsible Silicone Coffee Dripper

Best camping coffee maker for an open fire: GSI Outdoors 12 Cup Enamelware Percolator - Blue

Fired by easy-to-find propane canisters, this portable coffee maker is an essential part of a great camp kitchen.
This easy-to-use drip coffee maker is built with a unique steel base that sits on the burner of a camp stove.
This pourover coffee maker smashes down wafer-thin, and is nearly unbreakable.
A classic design, this sturdy coffee percolator can handle dings and drops and still pump out eye-opening brew.
This coffee press makes fabulous French press coffee, and fits in car and camping chair cup holders.

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Best Backpacking Stove: Camping Gear That Gets You Cooking Quickly


A good backpack stove will allow you to make warm meals and hot drinks with a minimum of weight and fuss. (Brandi Redd / Unsplash/)

The yearning to explore Mother Nature—and eat well while doing so—sends many people on a quest for the best backpacking stove they can find. Sure, you can pack along beef jerky and protein bars, or even go to the mess and trouble of making a wood fire to cook over in camp. But a good backpacking stove makes it easy. It’s one of the best pieces of camping gear you can own and should be on everyone’s camping checklist.

However, backpacking stoves come in many different price ranges and various levels of quality. The size and weight of a stove for backpacking is very important, since the only way to get it to your camp kitchen is to carry it along. But equally important to size is how powerful a stove is—especially if you’ll be cooking for more than just one or two people. Sometimes, even a budget-friendly canister stove can get the job done quite well. To choose the best backpacking stove for you and your purposes, consider the following important factors.

Best lightweight backpacking stove: MSR PocketRocket backpacking stove

Best fast backpacking stove: REDCAMP windproof portable backpacking stove

Best backpacking stove with adjustable flame control: Jetboil backpacking stove cooking system

This tiny stove weighs in at only 2.6 ounces, and measures a diminutive 2x2x3 inches.
This propane/butane lightweight backpacking stove is easy to use and store, and can boil a liter of water in only 2 minutes.
This tiny stove’s integrated cooking cup with insulating cozy makes boiling water, and keeping it hot, easier than ever.
This wood-powered backpacking stove is made of sturdy stainless steel and doesn’t require you to haul any gas canisters or bottles into camp with you.
This high-output butane stove quickly and evenly heats larger pots and pans.

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Idaho Black Bear Hunting Offers a Close-to-Home Adventure


Brooks Hansen (left) and Rocky Fennessey (right) hiking up a forest service road toward an active bear bait site. (Ben Romans/)

“There’s a bear,” my friend Rocky Fennessey says to me. “I can see the tip of its nose. It’s coming down that same trail that bear took a few years ago—the one your dad shot.”

My friend Brooks Hansen sits to Rocky’s left, while I’m on his right—all three of us concealed in a makeshift blind of brush and broken tree limbs 40 yards from the bait site, and still, neither of us see what Rocky sees. But this is pretty typical. Rocky is tuned in to this region of Idaho: these ridgelines, this drainage, and the bears that live here. This is the first time Brooks and I have hunted together. He’s perched his Nosler rifle on a bipod, but even with the aid of a scope, he whispers that he can’t see the bear.

“Stay still. Don’t twitch a muscle. It’s going to come down and try to catch our scent, so just be calm. Don’t move until it’s at the barrel with its back turned to us,” Rocky says.

A moment later, a black shadow does materialize from behind a sapling. I can see a nose, then a head and ears, followed by a front shoulder. It’s squared up and looking directly at us. All three of us have been in this situation before. It’s nearly impossible to fool the nose of a bear. It knows we’re here. The question is, does it care?

As Rocky predicted, the bear isn’t scared of our presence, and after a slow saunter downhill and around the bait barrel, it settles in, with its back turned to us, to gnaw on dog food, melted marshmallows, gelatin, chocolate-covered cherries, and all manner of grease and scraps Rocky accumulated in the off season.

Fennessey's bear-baiting routine is effective; his success rate is 100 percent. Though his greatest joy is hosting other hunters.
Hansen’s bear wasn’t a color-phase, but it was the largest he’s taken to date.
The morning after tagging the bear, Hansen skinned the animal and prepared meat for the smoker.

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Why Do I Salvage Every Scrap from Ducks and Geese? It’s Cheaper


There's more to waterfowl than the breast meat, including tenders, wings, legs, giblets, and yes, even the feet. (Jonathan Wilkins/)

Just about everything involved in waterfowling is designed to separate your money from your bank account. It’s a gear-heavy pursuit, with equipment like boats and waders that spend a ton of time partially submerged and subject to any number of hazards. Beaver stumps, branches, and the gnarled roots of long-forgotten trees tear and snag and disrupt. Gasoline, hotels, food, guns, shells, decoys, and licenses all conspire to make every outing cost a little more than you’d planned. That’s to say nothing of the amount of time and thought invested throughout your year—especially in punctuated burst of insanity during season. Waterfowlers spend days slogging in difficult conditions with heavy gear. We trek through the woods and the bayous and the fields, all in pursuit of a quack.

Those costs and those efforts will not change. We endure this because we are forced to, by love or compulsion. We can mitigate the expenditure, to some degree, by taking care of our gear to prolong its usefulness, repairing it when we are able. Beyond that, our best and most effective means of keeping costs in check is to maximize the yield from each bird. That means moving beyond only taking the breast meat. When you realize that you can pretty easily get multiple meals from a big mallard or a reasonably-sized specklebelly, a limit of birds suddenly becomes not just a snack, but a windfall.

Read Next: The Best Ducks to Eat, and How to Cook the Ones You Think You Can’t

Simply put, if you’re only breasting out ducks and geese after a successful hunt, you’re letting a ton of flavor, and several potentially phenomenal meals, fall by the wayside. You’re also letting the price per pound of that bird skyrocket to the caviar and champagne stratosphere. You can bring the cost back down to terrestrial levels by approaching the cleaning process differently.

Generally, with ducks, I pluck dabblers and I skin divers. With geese, it’s more species specific: I normally pluck white fronted geese and skin light geese. Obviously, plucking birds is more labor intensive, but I find that the extra flavor and cooking options the skin and fat provide are absolutely worth the effort. Diving ducks can carry a lot of that off-putting “fishy” taste in their skin and fat; skinning them first removes most of that unwelcome flavor, with the added bonus of being a super-fast way to process a whole bird.

Roasted goose carcasses and specklebelly feet, ready to go into a stock pot. The feet (which need a good scrubbing first) will add collagen and create a more substantial stock.

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How to Cut the Distance on a Hung-Up Spring Tom

Every February I start watching turkey hunting videos on YouTube to get amped up for the spring season. A lot of times I see hunters move in on toms that are gobbling, but won’t come into shotgun range. Or toms will gobble hard on the roost, but clam up after flying down. Often, the hunter gets up, changes his set-up position, and kills the tom. It looks easy. In reality, you have to consider several factors before cutting the distance on a spring tom (and make sure you check state regulations to make sure it’s legal).

The guys from The Hunting Public are often aggressive about getting tighter on hung-up turkeys in their videos. It may look like they are charging in with reckless abandon at times, but that’s usually not the case. They are actually taking their time, and only moving in when the conditions are right, and they’ve done their homework.

THP’s Aaron Warbritton gave me the lowdown on how he approaches a hung-up gobbler. Here’s what you need to know before making your next move on a longbeard that won’t budge.

1. Get on Their Level


The Hunting Public guys after a successful spring turkey hunt. (The Hunting Public/)

One of the most common mistakes hunters make is thinking about hunting from a human perspective. In order to kill your quarry with more consistency, you must consider their habits, and what the forest looks like from their vantage point. Before Warbritton ever puts a move on a turkey, he takes a knee so he can see what a turkey sees and get the lay of the land.

Don't go silent when you're stalking a spring tom.

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Texas Lakes Are Blowing Up Right Now With Giant Bass


Ever see a 16-pound largemouth? Here’s Joe McKay’s from O.H. Ivie. (ShareLunker/)

Despite Winter Storm Uri’s fury in mid-February the hottest bass fishing in the country is in Texas right now, with multiple double-digit largemouths being caught in just a couple days. Lake and personal records have been eclipsed, and the Toyota ShareLunker spawning program has been a big beneficiary.

O.H. Ivie Lake has yielded at least eight giants in a flurry of activity since February 19, including five largemouths weighing at least 13 pounds. The biggest was a 16.40-pounder caught Feb. 19 by Joe McKay of Bussey, Iowa. It was among a dozen ShareLunker Legacy bass caught this year including six from Ivie. Three smallmouth bass weighing between 6.25 and 6.8 pounds also were caught from Ivie during the recent streak. O.H. Ivie is located east of San Angelo, and about four hours southwest of Dallas.

Read Next: 16-Pound Bass Would Have Been an Arkansas Record But Was Caught Illegally

Bussey’s giant from Ivie was just two pounds shy of the state record of 18.18 pounds set in 1992. Ivie isn’t the only hot Lone Star lake yielding big bass. Pro angler and guide Matt Reed has been putting clients on 8- to 10-pounders at Falcon Lake, a Rio Grande impoundment on the border south of Laredo. The year’s first two ShareLunker Legacy bass were caught in January, a 13.02 pounder on Lake Austin and a 13.44 pounder caught on Sam Rayburn.


Trace Jansen, 15, destroyed a 1993 record with his huge bass last month. (ShareLunker/)

In central Texas on Lake Travis near Austin, Trace Jansen landed a 15.32-pound largemouth that broke a lake record set in 1993. The 15-year-old was fishing on Feb. 28 and targeting spawning bass with a weightless worm.

Trace Jansen, 15, destroyed a 1993 record with his huge bass last month.

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6 Key Issues We Hope the New Interior Secretary Tackles—and How to Pull It Off in This Partisan Era


If they're careful, the next Secretary of the Interior could do plenty of good for our public lands and the folks who use them. (Bob Wick / BLM/)

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee yesterday narrowly confirmed the nomination of President Biden’s nominee for Interior Secretary, Rep. Deb Haaland. The committee recommended her to the full Senate, which could vote within the next week to make her the first Indigenous person to hold a Cabinet position.

Haaland, a first-term Democratic congresswoman from New Mexico, has already been through two extensive interrogations by the Senate committee. Her final confirmation vote is expected to be close, but conclusive, especially because two Republican senators, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, have indicated they will vote for her. Murkowski was the lone Republican on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee to vote for Haaland.

Assuming she gets the nod, Haaland will take the reins of a sprawling department of 70,000 employees that operate 11 separate bureaus and manage about a fifth of America’s real estate, much of it in the West and Alaska.

Because the Interior can be considered America’s treasure chest of natural resources, and its secretary the keeper of its key, the position attracts intense interest by politicians, and industrial and recreational groups.

All those interests weighed in on Haaland’s nomination, but no single issue dominated the hearings—or will define the near future of her tenure—as much as energy. The Interior secretary is often seen as a personification of the nation’s energy policy. Would Haaland, as one of the drafters of progressive Democrats’ “Green New Deal,” work to eliminate fossil-fuel production on public lands, as she has previously pledged? Or would she counsel a slow transition to renewable energy with attendant employment opportunities for displaced oil and gas workers?

Any energy development should account for big-game migration corridors and critical habitat for species on the ropes, like sage grouse.
One of several large Western wildfires in 2020. The Civilian Climate Corps could be used to employ Americans to make our landscapes more resilient to wildfires.
Civilian Conservation Corps members work to complete a brush mat along Washington's Wynoochee River in the early 1940s, to prevent soil erosion and encourage riparian willow growth.
A USFWS employee with a sedated adult male grizzly bear in 2011. Grizzly bears in the Lower 48 are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, despite having surpassed management goals in 2005.
The Centennial Mountains Wilderness Study Area forms the boundary between southwest Montana and Idaho. WSAs are managed as wilderness, but excluded from the National Wilderness Preservation System.
Bears Ears National Monument, in southeastern Utah. Many communities in the rural West fear the imposition of national monuments in their areas.
Petroglyphs at Bears Ears National Monument in southeastern Utah.

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Best Men’s Hiking Shoes: Essential Hiking Gear for Guys


Hiking shoes provide a combination of agility, stability, and light weight so you can eat up plenty of trail comfortably. (Ben Maxwell / Pexels/)

You’re going to walk—or run—a lot of miles on uneven terrain in your hiking shoes, so it’s essential that you find the right ones for you. For instance, the waterproof hiking shoes that are perfect for the adventurer looking to stay dry during spring weekends in rainy Northwest forests are the wrong way to go for the runner who wants ultralight trail shoes to stay cool and comfortable in Southwest deserts.

But how do you know if you need a sturdy set of Salomon hiking boots or a pair of cheap hiking shoes? And how do you tell the difference between good hiking shoes and great hiking shoes? Here’s some help.

Best Lightweight Hiking Shoes: Salomon X Ultra 3 GTX

Best Ultralight Hiking Shoes: Altra Lone Peak 4.5

Best Men’s Hiking Boots For Weekend Campers in Rough Terrain: Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid GTX

When it comes to weight, feel and function, these hiking shoes strike the right balance.
If you hike long distances, you’ll appreciate this pair that’s especially light on your feet.
These hiking boots offer the comfort of trail shoes.
If you regularly hit the rough stuff, the Zodiacs were made for you.
These versatile hiking shoes guard against slick and sloppy trails.
Plush padding and lightweight construction will support your run up the mountain.
A lower cost doesn’t mean taking a big step down on comfort and traction.

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Is the Military Really Buying Up All the Civilian Ammo?


A Marine prepares his ammunition before a live-fire training exercise. Most of the military's ammo is manufactured at a military-owned plant in Missouri. (Cpl. Scott Jenkins / Marine Corps/)

We’re as frustrated as anybody with the shortage of ammunition on retailers’ shelves. Compounding the frictions of supply (not enough) and demand (too much) are rumors that blame the dynamic on everything from deliberate price gouging to global shortages of the raw materials required to make metallic cartridges.

One of the most frequent rumors is that the ammo shortage is our government’s fault. The claim goes something like this: Civilian ammunition was in short supply anyway, but then contracts for military and law enforcement agencies plucked inventory off retailers’ shelves and out of consumers’ grasp.

That’s nonsense, say sources with deep experience in the ammo industry.

Read Next: Where’s All the Damn Ammo? Federal Premium’s President Has Some Answers

“When law enforcement or government contractors purchase more ammo, it’s when they hire more officers, and the one time they go through inventory is new-officer training,” said an executive at a major ammunition company, who asked us not to use his name because he wasn’t authorized to speak to the media. “You can relate any changes in law enforcement consumption to hiring policies in departments around the country. I don’t know if you’ve read the news lately, but with all the ‘defund’ conversations, departments aren’t exactly in a hiring boom. If anything, police officer numbers are down. You’re asking me if anything’s changed in the law-enforcement or military ammo world? Not a thing. The processes are the same as they were 12 and 24 months ago. There are no volume changes.”

Global shortages of the raw materials required to make metallic cartridges are one of the contributing factors to the scarcity of ammo.
Production at companies like Federal Premium and Winchester are at max capacity, and the military doesn't use their production lines for the majority of its ammo contracts.
A Marine loads 5.56mm rounds into a magazine. Nearly all of the military's 5.56, 7.62, .308, and other small-caliber ammunition is made at the military-owned Lake City Army Ammunition Plant in Missouri.
Shooters sometimes forget that ammunition is made by people, and factories have lost workers and production time due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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How to Turn a Rescue Dog, a Couch Potato Lab, or an Off-Breed Pup into a Hunting Dog


You don't need a well-bred gun dog like this one to pursue gamebirds. (Jennifer Wapenski/)

Modern, domesticated canines fill a wide variety of roles as companions, service animals, and working dogs. But what makes a dog a hunting dog? Does it rely on the registration paperwork from a kennel club, like AKC or UKC? If all dogs can trace their lineage back to apex predators (wolves), whether sporting breeds or toy breeds, wouldn’t they all stake a claim as hunters?

The Fédération Cynologique Internationale, or FCI, is a globally-recognized federation of kennel clubs. Within the FCI, dog breeds are neatly packaged into groups based primarily upon the dog’s type and function. Yet nothing precludes a border collie (Group 1: Sheepdogs) from hunting upland birds or a bulldog (Group 2: Molossoids) from retrieving ducks. The groupings are simply a human construction, rooted in the categorization that came about during the growth in scientific understanding of the Enlightenment period. This begs the question, then, what exactly does a dog need in order to be a hunting dog?

Author and historian Craig Koshyk put it quite simply, “A hunting dog is as a hunting dog does.” Does the dog hunt? Then it is a hunting dog. Humans have been hunting, fighting, traveling, cultivating crops, and herding animals for thousands of years. In most cultures, dogs helped them do all of those things. A dog can bring down a hog or deer, but it can also help ward off (or attack) enemies. A dog that was primarily used to herd sheep or goats could also be used to pull a cart or find rabbits and flush them.

Koshyk says, “In the past, certain broad categories of dogs were known, but there was a lot of overlap. It wasn’t until the 14th century that scholars began to write about more narrowly defined types of dogs with specific skill sets. Even then, unless they were among the ruling elite with the resources to keep and train many types of dogs, most hunters were open to the idea of using any dog they had at hand to help them bag game.”

By the 19th century, however, hunters entered the golden age of purpose-bred dogs with a hyper focus on specific skills and tasks. This is when many of the bird dogs that we know today came into existence.

If you already own a dog, then look no further for a good hunting companion.
With the right training, you could turn a Belgian Malinois like this one into a retriever.
Make sure you know as much about a shelter dog's background as possible before taking it home.
Be patient with off-breed dogs. Many of them will have drive, but you have to have reasonable expectations.

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The Best States to Hunt Early Season Turkeys

Spring turkey season kicks off in late February with the youth season in Florida, and extends into the first week of June in Maine and Michigan. That’s around four months of 3 a.m. wake-up calls for die-hards like me. You may not be able to hunt that much, but if you’re ready to get after ol’ Thomas, now is the time to plan your trip.

To get a head start on the competition, here are four of my favorite early-season turkey hunting states where you can buy tags over the counter.

1. Florida

Season dates: March 6 to April 11 (South of State Road 70); March 20 to April 25 (North of State Road 70).Non-resident cost: $46.50 (10-day hunting license); $125 (turkey permit).Bag limit: Two bearded turkeys on one permit (exception: one bearded turkey in Holmes county; bag limits and rules vary at state WMAs).
The author with an Osceola, completing his third Grand Slam. (Samuel Moore/)

Daylight torched a thick blanket of fog and a chorus of wildlife erupted. Whippoorwills played on repeat, coyotes howled at the waning moon, and the chatter of sandhill cranes echoed overhead. As we tucked into our jungle-like hide of palmettos, we anxiously waited for the gobbling sermon to begin.

We were surrounded by gobblers in every direction. The birds at our 12 o’clock stole the show, pitching down one by one into the massive pasture.

This was just a small number of the more than 100 birds that flew down off a mega roost in Nebraska.
Minnesota has a bevy of public land open to turkey hunters.
Texas Hill Country is famous for its Rios.

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How a New Yorker Falls in Love with Bowhunting


The author, practicing in his usual driveway shooting lane, within city limits. (Photos courtesy Cliff Cadet/)

I’m sure you’re familiar with the phrase “adult-onset hunting” by now. They’re the words that describe the sport of hunting as taken on by a person later in life. I’m not fond of the description. It makes it sound like someone is experiencing a side effect resulting from the use of a prescribed medication.

But ever since becoming an adult-onset hunter, I’ve been inundated with so many stories of why hunters hunt. I’ve read about the budding conservationist who learns how hunting contributes to wildlife conservation, and longs to do their part. I’ve listened to podcasts about the hunter whose grandfather gifted him his first hunting rifle, who feels a duty to carry on the family tradition. On social media, I’ve come across the hunter, for whom, it is all a way of life, to fill the freezer or feed her family or both. Am I disappointed not to count myself among those listed above? No. My story is different.

I was born and raised in Kensington, Brooklyn. If you know anything about New York City, chances are that my old neighborhood probably is not on the list. To help you get your bearings though…it’s a few miles north of Coney Island, west of Flatbush, and just south of Prospect Park. Did that help? Probably not.

Either way, it’s a diverse community. Home to a large Hasidic Jewish population, the remaining residents mirror the members of the United Nations. I myself am the son of immigrants; both my parents are from Haiti. My closest childhood friends hailed from Mexico, Ecuador, and China. Such a culturally diverse “band of brothers,” and yet there was no talk of any family hunting traditions among us.

Read Next: I’m an Immigrant, a Veteran, and Finally...a Hunter

The author practicing at Floyd Bennett Field on the outskirts of Brooklyn.
The author, with his first turkey last year.

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The Best Workhorse Shotguns That Are No Longer in Production (But You Need to Own)

Whenever our family went on vacation when I was a kid, my mother dragged me to museums. She loved to stare at priceless paintings for hours. I never much cared for them. What was the point of looking at ancient artifacts or pieces of art encased in glass? I wanted stuff I could touch and feel. That’s probably why I’ve never had much use for old, beautiful shotguns that hang on the wall and do nothing else. Yes, they are cool, and I appreciate the engineering behind all of them. But if I can’t shoot a shotgun, then I don’t see much point in owning it (maybe that will change as I get older and wiser).

Since I’m into killing birds with shotguns, not staring at them while they collect dust, there are a few out-of-production autoloaders, pump-actions, and one over/under I want to add to the gun closet. If I come across any of these workhorse shotguns—and have enough money in my bank account—I’m buying them. And you should, too.

1. Ithaca Mag-10


Remington later produced the Ithaca Mag-10 as the SP-10. (icollector/)

I used to hunt the Illinois River with an old codger who shot the Mag-10. He always kept his finger just outside the trigger guard, ready to shoot. Behind his back, we called his 10-gauge “the sandwich maker” because he killed any duck—mostly ruddy ducks and buffleheads—with it at unfathomable distances, breasted out the birds, deep fried them, and put the meat between two slices of white bread. I tried to buy the gun from him once, thinking his duck career was about over, but he’s still hunting with that Ithaca every day of the season. Ithaca made an absolute tank when it built this gas-operated 3½-inch gun—it’s more than 11 pounds with a 32-inch barrel, and the gun is around 4½ feet long. You would never hunt anywhere but a permanent blind with the Mag-10, but it’s a stone-cold goose slayer, and I’d love to pit-hunt big greasy honkers with it. It was produced from 1975 until 1989, when Remington bought the design and used it to build the SP-10, which isn’t a bad option either. Just be careful what load you shoot if you buy the Mag-10, because some of the models have barrels that cannot handle steel shells. You’ll have to use tungsten or bismuth.

2. Beretta A390 Gold Mallard

The Gold Mallard is one of the best 3-inch autoloaders you will ever shoot.
The future production of the 1100 is unknown.
The H&K is a highly coveted waterfowl gun.
The AL-48 is one of the lightest semi-automatic shotguns ever to come out of Italy.
The Model 42 was the first .410 pump to be mass produced.
John Moses Browning died before his Superposed came to market.
The Remington 31 is arguably one of the most well-constructed pump shotguns ever.
The Belgian-made Browning Auto-5 was the first successful autoloader in American history.
The Xtrema2 is a true field gun.

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Lacey Lupien Tagged This Massive Bull Elk in Minnesota—On Her Anniversary


The Lupien clan with Lacey’s giant Minnesota elk. (Lacey Lupien/)

Lacey Lupien’s Minnesota bull elk was always a long shot. Even though the licensed practical nurse and mother of two lives within the range of the state’s elk herd (in the far northwestern corner), it’s tough to draw a tag. More than 4,000 applicants put in for only 42 licenses in 2020. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime tag.

“I’d been putting in for about 10 years,” says Lupien. “One day in early July as I was taking out the trash, I spied something that caught my eye in what had been in the junk mail pile. I checked I again. The word “ELK” appeared through the window. It was an elk license! I had finally drawn!”

The scouting

Scouting, planning and preparation immediately kicked into high gear for Lupien’s hunt period, which was to begin September 5, 2020.

The countryside in Kittson County, is remote, vast and flat. Crop fields intersperse with grasslands, brushlands, wetlands, and woodlots. People are few and far between. Elk have a lot of room to roam.

Lacey Lupien’s big bull where it fell.
The haul out.
Skinning and butchering with the help of some heavy equipment—and friends.

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How to Fry Fish: The Ultimate Guide on Everything from Oil Temperature to Batter Recipes


It's time to take your fish fry game to the next level. (Jack Hennessy/)

Few meals foster such a sense of community as a fish fry. Whether its gathering in a church basement on a Friday night or at a picnic table after a spring morning of slaying crappie, a perfect fish fry brings people together. A few baskets of fried fish fillets are usually the precursor to some good laughs, storytelling, and a little B.S.ing.

Unfortunately, those gatherings have been few and far between during a year of coronavirus. But on the upside, even a small fish fry with your family can be more of an event than just a meal. In this guide, I discuss everything you need to know on how to fry fish, from what oil to use, the differences between beer-battered and flour-coated fish, and more. Want to take your fried fish to the next level? Read on.

The Best Fish to Fry

Most restaurants serving fried fish often opt for haddock or Alaskan cod. Both do well in terms of texture after a deep fry and offer a fresh-tasting fish most every time. You can likely find these fish at most grocery stores.

But anglers can do better. For anyone looking to serve up his or her catch, there are many options and opinions of course vary on what is the best-tasting fried fish. My only criteria: No bones. That means if you like the taste of northern pike like I do, make certain to fillet and fry in such a manner that zero y-bones appear in the fried loaf. For walleye, depending on the size of your catch, this could also mean being diligent to “zipper” the fish to remove bones.

The good old cast-iron skillet is a classic fish fry too. But, it's hard to beat a deep fryer.
Skip the newspaper when serving up your perfect fish fry.

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Vermont Proposal Seeks to Reduce Ticks By Killing More Moose


Vermont is proposing a special moose hunt to curtail its winter tick population. (Pixabay/)

To reduce the number and impact of ticks in northeastern Vermont, the state’s Fish and Wildlife Department is proposing a special, limited moose hunt in Wildlife Management Unit E in the northeast corner of the state.

“Moose density in WMU-E remains well above one moose per square mile, significantly higher than any other part of the state,” said Nick Fortin, Vermont Fish and Wildlife’s biologist in charge of the moose project. “Moose densities greater than one per square mile support high numbers of winter ticks which negatively impact moose health and survival.”

Sixty either-sex and 40 antlerless hunting permits would be issued in the WMU-E zone for the October season. The department estimates a harvest of 51 to 60 moose, about 5 percent of the more than 1,000 estimated to live in the zone. The proposal was made in February to the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Board. The board’s next scheduled meeting is March 17.

Vermont VWD researchers believe reducing the number of moose in WMU-E will decrease the number and winter impact of ticks and help moose survival. That may sound convoluted — kill more moose to help moose survive. But based on research of the Vermont FWD and the University of Vermont, winter survival of adult moose is poor as are birth rates. The research with GPS-collared cows (36) and calves (90) showed that less than half of the calves survived their first winter. These impacts are due to the high tick population seeking warm bodies for winter, with moose being the biggest and most prevalent mamals in the area.

“Research has shown that lower moose densities, like in the rest of Vermont, support relatively few winter ticks that do not impact moose populations,” Fortin said. “Reducing moose density decreases the number of available hosts which in turn decreases the number of winter ticks on the landscape.”


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