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Releasing a brown trout. (Alex Robinson/)My favorite place on Earth is up a rutted dirt road that strings along a creek in southwest Colorado. Call it the Sulfur. The creek flows through a wooded canyon, and before winter struck this year, it was running low and clear and showing its bones.Blowdown spruce sieved the current, and the willows on the gravel bars were beginning to turn. The air stirred upstream and smelled of the leaning firs.I couldn’t get into waders and boots fast enough. I slid the rod out of its vault, shoved through the alders, and stepped into the current of the first riffle. The rod was already rigged, and I didn’t bother to change flies—what worked last night should work today: a tuft of elk hair on the surface and a bead-head dropper rolling along the bottom.I have friends who really know how to fish, who know the life cycle of every insect. Not me. I don’t want a Ph.D. in entomology; I just want to be thigh-deep in a stream catching trout. When I first moved to town and pulled into the Sinclair station, Bobby Reedy, who runs the shop with his son, said, “Hell, Pete, a trout has a brain the size of an ant, just throw the fly out there.” When I told him I was thinking of heading down to the gold-medal waters of the forks of the Gunnison, he said, “That’ll be full of fuckwits from Aspen.” He gave me directions to the Sulfur. That was 29 years ago.I began to cast, wading slowly up the middle and hitting the seams and pools on each side. The low sun nestled into the trees at the top of the ridge and warmed the high bands of broken rimrock across the creek. Along the glistening cobbles of the bank, a black ouzel bobbed and flew rock to rock, staying just ahead of me, keeping me company. Was I talking to it? I was. Damn. Well, I know I talk to the fish too.
  1.   Monday, 17 February 2020
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It’s a question that comes up a lot. What is the perfect hunting rifle? More specifically, what’s the perfect hunting rifle for the challenges that come with stalking game in mountains and the wide-open spaces of the West?This is a topic I’ve pondered and one that my friends and I have kicked around plenty. We’ve discussed it while passing a flask back and forth in the Alaska Range. We’ve talked it over while glassing for mule deer in eastern Montana. Some of my most productive brainstorming sessions have occurred after rifle matches where my buddies and I compare notes on the newest gear and innovations and how they could be incorporated into our hunting kits.Over the last decade, I’ve seen gun companies attempt to answer the question with firearms that combine elements of traditional hunting guns and long-range target rifles, often with mixed success. Adding a heavy barrel and an adjustable stock—two of the most common alterations—doesn’t get you there. Although accurate, these rifles often handle like a hippo in a wading pool. As much as I value tight groups, ergonomics still matter, as do portability and even aesthetics.So, about a year ago, I set out to design my own hunting rifle that gave proper emphasis to these often-overlooked attributes. I worked with a number of companies to pull this together—some of which you probably know, like Defiance Machine, Proof Research, and Manners Composite Stocks, as well as others you might not be familiar with. I tapped the talented crew at Divide Gun Company, a small rifle maker out of Salmon, Idaho, for the final execution of the project.The rifle cinches tight to the Stone Glacier Solo pack using a quick-detach sling Carried this way, it is easy to haul all day long. (Bill Buckley/)This rifle has some serious competition features in its DNA. Considered individually, each of those elements has merit, but the bigger takeaway is that I wanted to design a rifle that integrates more effectively with the other gear that a serious open-country hunter carries and uses.
  1.   Friday, 14 February 2020
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The 28-gauge is more than enough gun to take pheasants with authority within reasonable range, as the author demonstrates on this pheasant drive. (Michael Dickerson/)To hear some people tell it, the 28-gauge shotgun is imbued with magical powers, and if you listen to these fans long enough, you might come away convinced that you could use a 28 to down a crossing pterodactyl with a snap shot at 50 yards using a ¾-ounce load of No. 9 shot.That’s a bit of an exaggeration, of course, but many 28-gauge enthusiasts insist that the 28 delivers a more uniform pattern with almost no holes and no weak outer ring, allowing it to perform better than it should. Some claim that the 28’s reputation for punching above its weight class is due to the fact that the shotshell contains a square load, meaning the shot stack is equal in height and width, theoretically resulting in fewer deformed pellets and better shot patterns.The problem with these assertions, according to ammunition manufacturers, is that they simply aren’t true. A spokesman for one of the world’s largest shotshell makers told me that he wishes the company had more compelling data to prove some of those common beliefs, because he dearly loves to hunt with his 28-gauge gun, but the company doesn’t have any evidence to support those claims. A representative for another large manufacturer told me the company had done some testing of the 28 gauge around pattern efficiency versus bore diameter, and concluded there was no technical superiority of the 28 gauge over anything other than the .410.With their combination of lightweight and little recoil, 28-gauge guns like this Mossberg SA-28 are less tiring to carry and shoot during a long day in the field. That’s why many people break more clays and put more birds in the bag with a 28 gauge. (Michael Dickerson/)“There is,” he said, “no magic in the 28 gauge.”Or is there?
  1.   Friday, 14 February 2020
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Across the upper midwest, walleye is regarded as the best eating fish around. (Jamie Carlson/)I live in Minnesota, and around here and across much of the upper Midwest, the walleye is king. Many people believe it’s the all-around greatest fish that has ever been. And while I enjoy it, I’m not sure it’s the best we have to offer.My biggest criticism of walleye is as table fare. Many people claim they are the best-tasting fish ever. I personally feel as though there are better fish out there. On its own, walleye is a very mild flaky white fish with no real distinct flavor. Those words might get me in a lot of trouble in some circles—as will some of the ways I like to prepare walleye.There are some purists who believe that frying is the only way to cook walleye and the only argument to have is whether you use Ritz crackers or Saltines as your breading. I have eaten my fair share of walleye breaded with both, but I like to try new things, too. With walleye being a fairly neutral-flavored fish it is a great vessel for other flavors to ride on. If you are willing to break free from the crowd and are interested in trying something different, here are five ways to cook walleye that don’t involve frying.1. Pan-Seared Walleye With a Sorrel Cream SauceA cream sauce is a perfect complement to a white and flakey walleye fillet. (Jamie Carlson/)1 lb. walleye filletsSaltPepper2 tablespoons butter, divided1 tablespoon of olive oil1 small shallot, finely diced1 cup sorrel leaves, chopped1 cup heavy cream¼ cup sweet vermouthSeason the walleye fillets with salt and pepper and let stand for about 15 minutes before cooking. Melt one tablespoon of butter in a nonstick pan with one tablespoon of oil over medium heat. When the oil is hot, gently lay the fish in the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes per side depending on how big the fillets are. When the fish is done cooking, remove from the pan and set aside on a warm plate.
  1.   Wednesday, 12 February 2020
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