Miscellaneous old things

Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone! Unknown.

This “catch all” will explore old items of interest. I’ll start the page with a story of a Fall 2013 hunt in Alberta with “old” things.

                                               ON TARGET

Three hundred sixty degrees; a perfect circle. The center is sometimes called the bull’s-eye. There are times when that’s a good place to be. If you were fishing, you’d like to be in the center of hot fishing. Every cast would produce a strike and many of those strikes produce a fish, lots of fish. Hard to find a better time and place for a fisherperson.

It can be that way for a duck hunter too, at rare times. It’s time for me to put down the shotgun and pick up the camera and pen. My Lab, Jazz Whacker, has securely retrieved eight greenhead mallards, a Canada daily limit. Jazz is my six-year-old trusty Labrador, a game-bird-pointing Lab at that. Not your best or most flashy dog, but he gets the job done. And that is just fine by me. He is beating my arm with his tail as I sit in the boat and write because the half dozen mallards that just lit in the decoys has him alert and excited. Hey master, why is that gun not going boom and ducks falling, he must be thinking. Well, he has done his job for the day, only took him about 45 minutes. Not much water time for a dog bred to be a “water dog”. It could have been much quicker but I extended the pleasure.

Oh, that bulls-eye thing. This morning I’m sitting in my Grumman Sport canoe on an Alberta Ducks Unlimited developed marsh right in the middle of that magical center; that bulls-eye place.  There are hundreds of mallards and pintails flying and landing all around me. Oh, a mallard just lit 9 yards from me, between boat and decoys. The scene is one most waterfowl hunters dream about. And I’m living that dream and have been for the past ten years while hunting ducks in Central Alberta. Whoops, just looked up from my writing and scared eight mallards from the decoys.

A standard, normal morning for prairie Canada broke today: a clear, big red-ball sunrise. Slight breeze from the west was felt on the cheek. This is a good wind to hunt this west to east running marsh; the eastern 80 per cent of the wetland is open lake. But the best hunting is in the western 20 per cent of cattail-choked marsh that has small “pothole” like openings throughout. The trick is to find a way through the thick cattails and into those openings where ducks like to come mid-day to loaf. It took me many years to find this spot, and it is a secret that I hold dearly. After field feeding over night or early morning, the ducks return to the open lake to spend time taking water to aid breaking down the grain they have ingested. As the prairie late-morning winds come up, they fly to the cattail marsh. That’s the place to be, and after 61 years of waterfowl hunting, I have found it.

Most of my previous waterfowl hunting seasons have been in areas used by many other hunters.  And for me, the crowd results in poorer quality hunting experiences. The other hunters have varied experiences or little experience at all. Some come to the wetland late in the morning and set up between existing hunting parties and shoot ducks circling to other hunter’s decoys and calling. And oh that duck calling, most can’t. But that does not keep them from blowing that call. Please spare me!! In my early wildlife professional career, I managed several state public-hunting areas in the southeast. It was all we had so we made the best of it. Even one or two other parties shooting in a big marsh can ruin the hunting experience. The quality is just not there. I cherish the solitude and quality hunting I have found in this marsh. It is off the beaten path, 40 miles from any town and at least 10 miles from the nearest highway. A gravel road then a 3-mile two-tract lane leads to the marsh. The boat paddle to the target is about a half mile.

Usually during my September hunts, marsh wrens find me, and the dogs in their habitat. Due to our intrusion, they raise all kind of ruckus with us. I spy a wren nest nearby, but have seen no birds today. I hope they are well, and happily in warmer climates.

Because I usually have excellent hunts at this spot, I decided that today I would use older historic decoys to give them one more opportunity to draw in ducks. The menu includes eight post World War II early generation tenite plastic decoys from Herter’s, Featherlite, Real-lite, Victor and others.  These were commonly used in the late forties and 1950’s and replaced the old standard pre-war wooden decoys. Tomorrow I will use all post WW II paper Mache’ fakes and see how the ducks like them.  At home, these older modern decoys add character to my collection of fifty- plus antique wooden decoys.

A 1950’s vintage Model 50 Herter’s drake Mallard decoy.

Model 50 Herter's Mallard

 

Hen Mallard Feather-Lite, K.C. Mo. 1950’s vintage

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Below, a Real-Lite hen Mallard, 1960’s vintage

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Drake Pintail, Victor D-9 Model and Hen Pintail Fairfax Featherlite P-54, both 1950’s.

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Old timers at work on the marsh. They produced a limit of 8 Greenhead Mallards today.

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Many duck hunters in southeastern states hunt in flooded live timber, called green timber hunting. Shallow flooding of bottomland forests of oaks provides an excellent acorn source of duck food. The art is at high degree in Arkansas.  Many claim that shooting mallards fluttering down through the tree limbs is the best, trickiest and most exciting ducking of all.  And I would agree having experienced that type of shooting myself.

Today, I had mallards and pintails fluttering down through the up reaching stems and leaves of cattails. Ducks would cruise the marsh about 10 yards over the tops of the cattails and drop through the reeds that were 5 to 6 feet about the water. All my shots were within 25 yards, most 15 yards or closer. Thus the effectiveness of my little antique 20 gauge shotgun.

Oh, many things on this hunt were old, I’m 72; the shotgun, a Remington Model 17, was made in 1925.  I understand that Remington only made about 73,000 of them, stopping manufacture in 1933. Later Ithaca picked up the patent and it became their top selling Model 37.

I don’t use a duck call much. They mostly scare ducks. But today I have my old walnut Yentzen Sureshot double reed call that I bought in Tennessee in 1966. It sounds great to me and much better than the other 45 calls I own. Why I have that many calls is beyond me since I seldom call at ducks. The collector in me I guess. Occasionally ducks do respond to a call and that old Yentzen, day in and day out, gets me my best, consistent results. Photo is of my old Yentzen.

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Since I wrote this article in September I have used only this call during the 2013/14 duck-hunting season. I have called in more mallards with that call than I have the past 5 or so years using other calls. It just plain works.

Time to put down the pen and have a spot of hot tea and a muffin. Happy hunting partners.

September 28, 2013, 9:30 AM. Somewhere, Alberta.

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“It is true that wild country, in and of itself, is a remarkable  tonic for the soul, but like the stained glass of a cathedral, it is the wild creatures that inhabit such places that catch and refract the light of existence. They are the portals through which we glimpse the enduring value of life and the universal inevitability of death. It is only in their midst that we can experience the full spectrum of our humanness.”

Shane Mahoney. Essay on why wildlife matters. Sept/ Oct                                                 2013, Sports Afield.

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WHAT IS A CLASSIC?  

 In this note, classic refers to old shotguns. It is universal that Winchester’s Model 12 pump gun and Browning’s Model A-5 humpback auto are classic old firearms. Nick Sisley, writing in the October 2007 issue of “Wildfowl” magazine reports on old shotguns and suggests that folks bring them out of storage ever now and then to use on waterfowl hunts.

In the spring of 2007, I wrote a story of my childhood memories and the impact that a Remington Model 17 pump 20 gauge shotgun had on my life. I related how I had come upon a Model 17 in good used condition in a local Missoula gun shop. I bought it on March 29, 2007, and found out it was made in 1925. I put a note about this gun on Waterfowler.com to see if any folks were familiar with it. One guy had one, and suggested that I have a gunsmith check the length of the chamber. Older 20 gauges were made with 2 ½ inch chambers and not modern 2 ¾ inch chambers. I had it checked and it did have 2 ¾ inch chambers, which was very good.

Remington, Model 17 20 gauge, made in 1925.
Remington, Model 17 20 gauge, made in 1925.

At the time, I envisioned shooting it on fall duck hunts. I often go to southern Alberta to hunt in late September. What follows is a report of the success I had on one 2007, hunt with the Model 17.

First, some information on the availability of non-toxic shells for the 2-¾ inch chambered 20 gauges. There isn’t much available! I found loadings in Federal and Winchester in Steel with ¾ once of shot. I bought some in #4 size. I also bought some pricey Bismuth # 6 loaded with 1 once of shot. In Alberta, I shot about 1 ½ boxes of the Federal #4’s at 1450 fps, and 1 ½ boxes (10 per box) of the Bismuth at 1200 fps.

The first morning I hunted with the model 17, I shot from a point on a relatively small Ducks Unlimited project marsh with open water in the middle. This marsh had a good mix of duck species, divers and puddlers. I shot 30 shells, 10 Bismuth and 20 Federal # 4 steel. First duck pulled on was a greenhead mallard coming overhead and about 30 yards up. Used the #4 Federal steel and killed it outright. Off to a good start! But the next several shots missed or hit the birds lightly and resulted in no kills. I know some of those shots were at birds farther than 30 yards. It seemed the birds needed to be within 25 yards for kills with the #4 steel. I switched to Bismuth. I got several more mallards and a gadwall. I made a double on mallards. A pair of large Canada Geese came by at about 30 yards and the Bismuth load killed one of those birds. Total for the morning was 1 Canada, 6 mallards, 1 gadwall and 1 widgeon. Not too bad for 2 ½ hours of hunting. I must add that this shotgun has a “Poly” choke. My earlier shots this morning were made with the choke set on Improved Cylinder. When I switched the setting to Modified, hits and kills were more consistent. I have used that Modified setting since with great success.

Nice mixed waterfowl bag with the Model 17.
Nice mixed waterfowl bag with the Model 17.

I used the Model 17 a couple mornings later but birds were too far for good shots and the few I shot at were lightly hit or missed completely. I don’t think the birds lightly hit were later fatal, just no oomph to that light amount of shot on the birds.

My next hunt with the Model 17 was in a huge cattail/round stem bulrush DU marsh that has open water spots throughout the marsh. I boated through the marsh to find an open spot where ducks were using. Most ducks here were mallards and were flying into a stiff south wind. They worked the decoys in my little open hole and most shots were within 20 yards. I got 8 greenheads with 20 shots. I made 2 doubles! I shot 7 Bismuth and 13 Federal #4 steel. This spot was ideal for using this little gun.

In summary, I had fun with this old timer and got a few birds. It really is limited to places where birds can be worked in close. I will next try it on pheasants. Not many of these old guns were made; so it is not really recognized as a well-known “classic”. But to me, mine is a “classic” and it will always be.

James (Jay) F. Gore    At the Waterfowlers Lodge over-looking the beautiful Clark Fork Valley and the Rattlesnake Wilderness.      October 3, 2007

  PHEASANTS MEET THE MODEL 17

 In 2007, the Montana pheasant season opened on October 13th. My longtime hunting buddy, Dan Herrig of Boise, Idaho, and I made our annual trip to Malta, in north central Montana, to hunt pheasants and prairie grouse. Some times I also draw an antelope license in this area, so we combine big game and bird hunting. We did that in 2007. We shot a few sage-grouse and sharp tail grouse and bagged a nice little antelope buck the days before the pheasant opener.

I decided to use the Remington Model 17 20gauge on the opening day to shoot pheasants. I had the poly choke turned to the stop between Improved Cylinder and Modified. I was using Federal 2 ¾ inch shells with ¾ ounce of # 6 steel shot as we were hunting on the Bowdoin National Wildlife Refuge and steel was required. Seven shells were shot. Three shots were wasted on my eagerness and shooting at birds too far. When I settled down, my next few shots connected on 3 cock pheasants that were “puffed” at 20-30 yards. The little old Model 17 worked like a charm.

Pheasants meet the Model 17, 20 gauge.

Pheasants meet the Model 17, 20 gauge.

Well, that’s my hunting story for 2007, for the old time “Classic”. The rest of the fall, I will use modern 20 gauges chambered for 3-inch shells. It was rewarding finding, buying and anticipating hunts with this antique. I’m a happy guy.

Updates:2011. I have continued to use the Model 17 in my duck and pheasant hunting. The Modified choke setting has been most effective. The Federal #6 steel waterfowl load performs very well on pheasants out to about 30 yards. For ducks, Remington or Federal #4 steel loads have work well, especially within 30 yards.

2012. In September, I used this shotgun again at the large DU cattail marsh that has open water within the cattails about 30 yards across. I used the Federal # 6 steel waterfowl loads and they performed very well. I made 2 separate doubles on mallards. Seems I shoot this gun better than my other shotguns!

2013. I continued to shoot this shotgun in Alberta on early season mallards. Most shots are within 30 yards and birds are dead when hit. The Federal # 4 or #6 steel loads are lethal. For pheasants, the # 6 steel, 2 3/4 inch load is very good and I have used those in my 3 inch 20’s with great success.

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Dog, ducks, decoys and related items discussed