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Waterfowl Season Starts Now

Posted on 16 June 2010 by Cork Graham

It’s amazing how the screech of a poorly blown duck call can sound like a teacher drawing her nails across a blackboard. Such is the sound of waterfowl hunters who start much too late in their preparation for the season.

Being prepared isn’t just about calling, either: there’s making sure your shotgun’s shooting as well as last year; checking your duck jacket to see if you need to patch some holes, or just get a new one. Is your ammo shooting the way you think it is?

Every year it behooves the hunter to make sure everything is working as they want, and to find out long before it’s time to head out into the field. All too often the first chance at putting wild duck on the table turns dismal—leaky waders, missed shots—or, more dangerously so, duckboats sinking!

A great waterfowl season begins months before that opener in October.

Take out your waterfowl hunting clothing now. If it’s your duckhunting coat, hopefully you didn’t pack it away in a footlocker or drawer for the off-season. This compresses the insulating materials and such repeated season storage depletes their ability to keep you warm the next season. Check it for those holes, and perhaps take it to the tailor to have those shell loops replaced if they’re all stretched out.

Get Callin’

Spring is also the best time to start your calling practice. As master duck caller—and the one who taught me how to call ducks as a thirteen-year-old newbie duck hunter—Billy Gianquinto recommends, every duck hunter should purchase their calls in spring, get a good instruction tape or CD and practice everyday. It’s during this time, that I carry my duck and goose calls in my truck so that I can practice during a day’s commute.

What’s nice about practicing your calling in the vehicle is that you need to have one hand free for driving, which forces you to learn how to use your call with one hand: much more appropriate for a duck hunter holding a shotgun in a blind with the non-call hand. This especially comes in handy when learning how to use a goose flute with one hand instead of the normal two.

Get a good collection of duck hunting videos, not just the slicing DVDs that just show the kill shots. Get the DVDs that take you from calling to learning how to set a decoy set, to best of all, how to call based on what the ducks are doing.  Gianquinto and Cajun Duck Commander Robertson Clan have some great calling instruction videos.

Hittin’ What You’re Shootin’ At

Cork Graham successfully testing the original Black Cloud through a Remington 11-87 and SP-10 on Sacramento Valley snows and specks

Now’s a great time to look at what your shotgun really does and with the ammo you choose to shoot out of it. So many duck hunters just purchase a shotgun and a box of shells and head straight out into the duck blind, not even knowing how their shotgun is shooting.

What sighting in at the range is to a deer hunter with a newly purchased rifle and scope, patterning a shotgun is to a duck and goose hunter.

The average hunter might be surprised at how many people who purchase a new shotgun think that it need only be pointed in the general direction, and you hit what you’re shooting for. Must have been all those cartoons and mythical descriptions of how the trench guns worked in battle, especially to infantrymen whose rifle skills were wanting—but there are many that think a shotgun has magical properties.

When I received my first pump shotgun I was surprised at how much I was missing. This was a shotgun built by a major manufacturer—what could be wrong? A trip to the range and aiming at a dot on a large piece of white butcher paper quickly offered an answer.

The shotgun was patterning up to the right. I could have taken it to a gunsmith and had the pump modified, but instead I just remembered to adjust my shot picture while shooting. Had I not taken the shotgun to the range to find out what was really happening, I’d probably have gone on with a hit and miss for years.

The decision to pattern a shotgun should be taken not when just getting a new shotgun, but also to see how a new shot load does out a specific firearm. It’s also wise to check into a new choke when purchasing a shotgun.

For years I only shot the different chokes that came packaged with my shotguns and never inquired into the multitude of chokes, until last year and a chat with George Trulock, owner of Trulock Chokes and a man with a vast firearms knowledge that started in law enforcement, and distilled through many years researching the effects of chokes on shot. I learned how 3-inch chokes are a prime length for patterning a shot load especially steel shot.

Unlike a rifle that is accurate because of the effect on a bullet by the rifling, a shotgun influences its shot effectiveness by forcing a load of shot into a column that will spread out in as uniform a pattern as possible. By having a choke that that forces the load in three inches instead of two, the pattern delivered is much more uniform: think shot hitting a wall, because it’s so steep and angle, as compared to sliding along the wall because the angle is lessened by the longer length of the 3-inch choke.

The importance of chokes appropriate to the load was made clear a couple years ago when I tried Federal Premium’s Black Cloud ammunition for the first time. What I consider the deadliest duck medicine out there, I noticed that not only did the unique collared barrel shot perform amazingly, with solidly killed ducks, but also that the Trulock Black Cloud choke I got for hunting with the new cartridge performed admirably. One of the main reasons it works so well is that it’s designed to let out the shot and wad in a staggered manner that permits the shot to pattern effectively without creating so many flyers that destroy a pattern.

New for this year, Federal Premium has the new Black Cloud Snow Goose load. While the first release of Black Cloud was flying at 1450 fps, the new Snow Goose is screaming at 1635 fps!

That means it really cuts the geese, but that also means its patterning is effected differently than the slower shot. According to Trulock, the higher the speed, the wilder the flyers as they bounce off the inside wall of the choke instead of slide along its sides.

As Trulock said, it’s a tug-of-war between killing speed and uniform patterns. Too many flyers and the loss of not only the uniformity of the pattern, but also more holes in that pattern that a duck or goose can escape through.

Now, all these are just guidelines. Like everyone’s personal preferences for hunting equipment, a shotgun has its own personality and by learning it’s personality, not just shooting it, but modifying it, do you make sure every shot counts…and the earlier you start preparing for the fall season, the more prepared you’ll be to make your fall waterfowl season that much more enjoyable and successful.

For your daily commute on your MP3 player – Download and Enjoy the latest news at Federal Premium on Cork’s Outdoors Radio:

TOPICS: Federal Premium PR Manager Tim Brandt talks about the history of Federal Ammunition’s merge with ATK, long line of excellent ammunition for big-game and waterfowl hunting, along with the new and upcoming offerings.

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Hunting Hollywood for a GRATEFUL NATION [Radio Interview]

Posted on 25 May 2010 by Cork Graham

Tim Abell on assignment for GRATEFUL NATION
Tim Abell on assignment for GRATEFUL NATION in Namibia

 

With such a thick anti-hunting attitude delivered in so many films these days, except those written by hunters themselves, such as playwright and screenwriter David Mamet, it’s hard to think that Hollywood was once a hotbed of hunting, fishing and other forms of wildlife management. This was when Clark Gable took David Niven up to Grants Pass for steelhead and then later studio public relations photos of Carole Lombard and Clark Gable often captured them with a string of mallards and snow geese proudly held up to the photographer. In a black and white studio promotional photo, Ginger Rogers lay seductively, with a cane pole and in cutoffs and flannel shirt, like a tomboy on a lush lawn, a full stringer of rainbow trout by her side—probably taken at her 1,000-acre Rogers’s Rogue River Ranch purchased in 1940, that I had the opportunity to see last week on a trip for steelhead and salmon with my friends Paul Winterbottom and Jeff Manuel, in a drift boat loaned by mutual friend, Dave Dedrick. Even interviews of Fred Astaire, included a reporter being told that he was going up to his duck club east of Los Angeles to take care of a coyote problem.

As a writer, I’ve had the opportunity to meet and become friends with those contemporary actors and stars who still shine not only as actors but also as hunters. Some I’ve had a long hunting and fishing relationship with, like my wild boar hunting buddy Patrick Kilpatrick. Some I’ve even had the help and endorsement of, like the dear departed Charlton Heston, who was kind enough to write a plug for the inside cover of my memoir that went to #2 for three weeks in 2004 on Amazon.com. Over the last couple years, I’ve come to know and admire an actor by the name of Tim Abell, who so reminds me of that dashing adventurous actor reminiscent of a time when Hollywood’s elite lived such amazing lives off the set themselves (Errol Flynn, David Niven, Gary Cooper, Jimmy Stewart, Lee Marvin, Audie Murphy, Clark Gable and directors John Ford and William A. Wellman quickly come to mind) that sometimes their film roles seemed to not even come close.

To say that someone like Tim Abell is a military veteran, hunter and member of the Screen Actors Guild is very refreshing. Haven’t you also gotten fed up with actors who are terrified of guns, or prominently tout their anti-gun or anti-hunting status, but hire well-armed bodyguards, eat meat killed by someone else, and make their millions off movies in which they kill people by the truckloads on screen? An ex-Army Ranger, Abell, knows exactly what those real bullets do in real-life. A hunter and solid conservationist, he understands clearly where his sustenance comes from.

One of many of Cork Graham's war memories: Las Aranas, El Salvador; 1986

Cork Graham’s Cold War memories: Salvadoran Navy SEALs — Las Arañas, El Salvador; 1986

Born and raised on the East Coast, near Quantico, VA, Tim Abell learned to hunt with his Marine uncle and even took his first deer on the Marine Corps base. And after reading the book that has inspired so many young American men since the Vietnam War, Robin Moore’s Green Berets (made into a film by John Wayne in 1968), Abell enlisted in the US Army and became a Ranger. While in university, seeking a degree that would offer him the opportunity to try for a full commission, Abell found a love for the arts, specifically theater. And the rest is history as many are oft to say of those who make it in Hollywood.

While putting in his dues, and not finding many willing to speak openly about their affinity for hunting or firearms, Abell’s hunting went by the wayside as he went through the required networking parties and dinners, keeping mum about hunting and shooting. But when called out on the floor about beliefs that don’t fit perfectly with the rest of the Hollywood-types programmed by the anti-hunting industry (PETA/HSUS), or more accurately unwilling to speak up for fear of ramifications to their own employment (doesn’t this remind you of the fear during the McCarthy years?), Abell speaks his mind when asked…even when it might not get him invited again to the same house…

It takes guts to speak up in Hollywood these days, the pendulum swing of the McCarthy Red Communist hunts of the 1950s gone completely to the other extreme: it’s not those who supported the Soviet Union during the Cold War who are blacklisted now; but instead, those who support the 2nd Amendment of The Constitution, hunting as a solid component of wildlife conservation,  the United States’s right (like every nation) to defend itself, and those men and women serving in that military action…Is it truly being patriotic, or military-friendly, when it’s convenient, as so blatantly with the change in attitudes in Hollywood after the recent sweeping win at the Academy Awards of a military movie: Hunt Locker?…It’s easy to be patriotic when the masses are with you; it’s courageous when they aren’t.

…As one who enjoys studying cycles of history, I’m very intrigued by how long it’ll be before that pendulum swings once again away from that anti-hunting, anti-military mass thought, it had swung to in an unnatural extreme during the 1970s and 1980s and back to the pro-hunting, efficient wildlife conservation practices it espoused during the 1920s to 1960s.

Surprisingly, Abell found his way back to hunting while working on his first break as a ex-Marine sniper Benny Ray Riddle on Bruckheimer Productions’s Soldier of Fortune for NBC. As they were filming in Canada, co-star Brad Johnson invited Abell on a hunt into Northern Canada for caribou and black bear. For Abell, the adventure was like breathing fresh air after too long a time submerged. From then on he was part of the small, but proud to be publicly recognized as those in the film business who also hunt and believe in the 2nd Amendment of the United States Constitution: Tom Selleck, Charlton Heston, Patrick Kilpatrick, John Milius, Steve Kanaly, Gary Sinise, Adam Baldwin, DB Sweeney, to name a few.

To say Tim Abell became a hunting enthusiast is an understatement, as I’m sure anyone can relate to, who is passionate about hunting, been away from it then once again renewed that bond with such an important part of the human psyche as well, because of fund from taxed hunters, so supportive of all animals. To correct all that anti-hunting malarkey taken for fact, all of hunting taxes and fees go to the buying and supporting lands for ALL wildlife, while most, if not all, of the money collected by anti-hunting groups such as PETA and Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) goes to advertising…if these anti-hunting groups actually succeed in wiping out hunting in the world, it’ll be the wildlife that suffers the most!

GRATEFUL NATION

Abell's succcess .338 RCM on wild boar on GRATEFUL NATION

Tim Abell’s succcess with a new .338 Federal on wild boar on GRATEFUL NATION

For many the idea of having combat veterans out in the field, hunting with a firearm, may seem out of place. As a combat veteran who attributes my own healing of four years in the Central America War, through the immediately following experience as a subsistence hunter, living with and learning from a Native community in Alaska, I am thrilled that people are beginning to get it…again.

Until the Vietnam War, hunting was an activity that a majority of combat veterans participated in upon their return home: it’s one of the reasons that the bolt-action and semi-auto rifles took over as the hunting rifles of choice in America after WWI, from the previously preferred lever-action-many of those returning young men were introduced to bolt-action rifles in the military (explains why presently so many black rifles have become hunting rifles with so many hunters introduced to firearms an assault rifle). The surge is what led to the megamillion dollar surge in business for hunting, fishing and camping products manufacturers from 1920 to 1970. As a combat veteran myself, I noticed how being in the woods with a rifle brought up memories of war that I was able to confront on my time as compared to a sudden sideswiping PTS (post-traumatic stress) flashback or nightmare.

corkalaskahunting

Cork Graham healing war memories as a subsistence hunter in Alaska, circa 1990

Later, as a counselor specializing in helping veterans and other types of trauma survivors dealing with PTS and the symptoms of what I prefer to call the PTSR, I truly understood how going into the field, carrying that firearm, much as might have occurred only weeks and months before in battle, but now instead hunting game for the table, creates a new subconscious imprint, in the healing of the wilds, on an activity that if not dealt with, comes up weeks, month or even many years later in an uncontrollable event.

For some this uncontrollable event can be as benign as becoming completely overcome by a seemingly uncontrollable mega-wave of sadness and guilt, for others it can manifest as an uncontrollable rockslide of rage that ends in someone getting killed. For many though, especially those who’ve drunk the Kool-Aid disseminated by anti-hunting groups, the fact that hunting can actually help a trauma survivor confront and overcome the contemporary effects of conscious and subconscious memories and interpretations of the past trauma seems so contrary to what many think.

That Orion Multimedia, LLC. produced Federal Premium’s Grateful Nation was brave. That ESPN2 would broadcast a program that touches on the controversial subject of putting a firearm in the hands of a newly returned combat veteran (much less anything that brings the reality of a war nearing 10 years long into American public’s living room in addendum to daily news), and have them go through a form of healing and self-awareness spurred on by the host’s questions, on camera is amazing!

The premise of Grateful Nation is very simple and like we used to say when deep in a fierce fight: the quickest path to victory is a forward-moving straight line—keep it simple, stupid (KISS). Invited out on a hunt, the combat veteran is followed by the camera crew as Abell asks the right questions at the right time to open up a world that the majority of the viewing public have only learned of through the images and words, often distant from those combatants actually being reported on, to support a news producer’s theme.

Abell makes this much more personal, which actually might turn off many because of the graphic description. Personally, I’m very much for it. There has been a great avoidance in the world about dealing with the realities of the world, much of it starting with children led to believe their hamburgers and fish sticks come from a cellophane wrapping machine, instead of a steer getting a cattle prod to the brain, or a salmon a metal club to the top of its head and a quick evisceration.

There’s something very honest about knowing where your meat comes from, and knowing what your sons and daughters are getting themselves into when they go off to war. Do I think this stops war? No. Even with all the news stories, books, and broadcast over the last 50 years, there are more wars happening around the world now than there were during the Cold War. My hope is that the American public gains a better awareness of what a combat veteran has gone through and recognizes it, and lets them deal with it in a healthy and effective manner (and not only offer politically correct, and often, ineffective options) during their homecoming.

For those of us who remember vividly how unjustly military personnel, and especially Vietnam veterans (takes a lot of mass harassment for a veteran to not even be willing to mention military service on their job resume—the case for many returning Vietnam veterans, a historical fact forgotten by many), were treated in those 15 years after the fall of Saigon, Grateful Nation is a media and cultural waymark long overdue…something to ponder as we come upon Memorial Day, an annual event meant for remembrance of those we’ve lost in war, either those right next to us in combat, or far off in a distant land.

For your daily commute on your MP3 player – Download and Enjoy Tim Abell’s interview on Cork’s Outdoors Radio:

 Topics:

Track 1: Tim Abell talks about Grateful Nation and next production at Flying B Ranch.

Track 2: Tim Abell reminisces about first times hunting, enlistment in the US Army and achievement of Rangers, paying dues in Hollywood, and return to hunting.

Track 3: Tim Abell chats about pro-2nd Amendment/hunting Hollywood players, and upcoming film projects he’ll be participating in.

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BIG GAME ARGENTINA by Craig Boddington [Book&DVD Review/Radio Interview]

Posted on 26 March 2010 by Cork Graham

Craig Boddington, and his guide Cano St. Antonin, with a fine red stag taken on the Huemul Peninsula.

Craig Boddington, and his guide, Cano St. Antonin, with a fine red stag taken on the Huemul Peninsula.

Argentina conjures a variety of images for those who’ve never been there. There’re the gauchos, the Pampas, and tango. For the angler there are the monster-sized trout and salmon in rivers that seem untouched because of the stretch of land that fills the borders of the country as well as its meager population that centers around Buenos Aires. For the hunter, there are the photos and images of ducks and big-game that have graced magazines, and as of late, those through the onslaught of 24-hour outdoors satellite programming.

It wasn’t always like this. Yes, there were the trout, back in the 1970s when South American was truly only a blip on the salmonid fanatic’s radar; but when I first saw the images of red deer antlers grace the pages of hunting magazines in the late 70s and early 80s, they were nowhere near the size and impressiveness they are now.

Much of this has to do with how well they’ve managed the herds that were previously left to roam without any real predation-like bluegills in a pond, they quickly overpopulated and their rack size dwindled in response to the lack of food and nutrients.

Because of the new land and wildlife management practices implemented in Argentina during the last 20 years, Argentina is really giving New Zealand’s Utopian red stag hunting a run for the money. Culling the scrawny genetics, and managing for quality instead of quantity, has created a balance between feed and minerals: showing how good management practices benefit not just game animals but non-game peripherals, adding to the grand beauty of the land  and hospitality for which Argentina has always been known.

What better way to cook meat than in a traditional parrillada?

What better way to cook meat than in a traditional parrillada?

Big Game Argentina records the results of this improved bounty for the outdoors enthusiast wanting to travel Argentina and is the latest offering from Gen. Craig Boddington USMC (ret.). An outdoor writer, book author, show host I’ve admired and respected for years, a man who offered me words to live by back in 1994 as an newbie outdoor writer for The Times of San Mateo County, Boddington’s credentials speak for themselves with over 30 years in what is one of the harder and becoming more and more the hardest writing profession to create longevity.

In his book and DVD collection about hunting in Argentina, Big Game Argentina, Boddington and the photographer, Guillermo Zorraquin, deliver a plethora of what’s available in striking detail (what we in the business call “NGC”, National Geographic Color). From the province of Patagonia, north to Chaco and Santiago Del Estero, west to La Pampa and finally east to the province of Buenos Aires, Boddington and the publishers John John Reynal  and Juan Pablo Reynal took on an enviable, yet sobering project that took two years to complete.

In the offering, they delivered what I consider the most informative and beautifully illustrated book in years on Argentina and hunting red stag, white-lipped javelina (peccary), ducks, doves, water buffalo, puma, blackbuck, capybara, brocket deer, and feral sheep, goats and hogs.

Boddington's fine example of a white-lipped peccary

Boddington’s fine example of a white-lipped peccary

In a world in which text is not enough, and as a result traditional printed magazines are going the way of the dinosaurs, and multimedia is king (explaining why Cork’s Outdoors gets 11,000 hits a day) Big Game Argentina is nicely matched with a DVD that fills in the dialogue and action that can’t really be captured in text, and yet video doesn’t try to replace the informative quality of text delivered by Boddington’s honed skills as a writer.

A quick mention of the charcoal artwork by Esteban Diaz Mathé must be made: the work is superb and really adds to the quality of those images not captured in photographs, making the book anyone would be proud to have sitting on their coffee table for friends to enjoy.

Often, many of those traveling think that hunting Argentina only involves staying at estancias and hunting open Pampas. Big Game Argentina lays that stereotype to rest with text and photos covering with dramatic flare the many options of hunting Argentina: like French Alps-like mountains and New Zealand’s Fjordland-like lake and sea area to the south on horseback, or the low brush options further north, reminiscent of eastern Colorado, and the flat brush of Texas, to name a few.

A sampling of the dramatic views the hunting lands of Argentina offer

A sampling of the dramatic views the hunting lands of Argentina offer

As for capturing the adventure and drama a place like Argentina on the DVD, one of the most striking scenes is one in which Boddington, while on stand, waiting for dogs to drive out a collared peccary, sees a brocket deer break from the brushline. Swinging on the brocket with a shotgun, he dramatically takes a nice deer that reminds me of the dik-dik of Africa. In another scene he makes an amazing shot on a capybara, also on a full run. Kudos to the videographer for his skill catching all the action over Boddington’s shoulder.

In contrast to the native species, and aside from the more famous red deer, there are the fallow deer, feral hogs and water buffalo. Raised in Southeast Asia, I was always amazed that the animal I always saw as a child pulling a plow across a rice field had become such a prized game animal in places such as a Australia and Argentina. While the ones from Australia have a much larger sweep and are originally from the wild strain. The ones in South America descend from the farmed water buffalo that were originally brought to what would become Italy by the Ancient Romans, for their milk and the best mozzarella resulting from that water buffalo milk.

Through centuries of genetic selection, much in the same way Herefords are these days chosen over the original Spanish Texas Longhorn as cattle type, the farmed water buffalo has a much smaller horn, with a much less ominous wide curve of its originally wild cousin in Southeast Asia and Australia, which ironically makes it look more African cape buffalo and trophy in its own right in the feral and very wild form covered in Big Game Argentina.

If you’re planning on hunting or even just traveling or Argentina, or prefer the armchair traveler’s voyage to South America, I’d highly recommend adding the book and DVD pairing of Big Game Argentina by Craig Boddington to your collection.

Books are available through www.craigboddington.com

Book and DVD are available through www.patagoniapublishing.com

For your daily commute on your MP3 player – Download and Enjoy Craig Boddington’s interview on Cork’s Outdoors Radio:

 Topics: Hunting Argentina, helpful advice for neophyte outdoor writers, hunting Africa and Boddington’s two shows broadcast on The Sportman’s Channel and Outdoor Channel, and finally what’s new with Boddington’s writing and adventures in the coming weeks and months.

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