Saturday, 31 March 2012

Shooting Clays - A Lesson Or Two

The very first day the clay grounds take delivery of those barn door sized clays, 
I'm going to be lethal! Honest.

This week Shooter and myself set off in search of the elusive obvious - aka went to do some clay shooting. After last summers debacle in the pigeon fields of Fife my confidence with a shot gun was at an all time low. Shooter had once told me 'I don't play favourites if it goes bang I love it' and I'd confessed to him that I'm a total lummox with a shot gun.
Being the optimist that he is he graciously retorted " I cant believe that; either you are lying, very modest, or you've never been taught how to do it".  Any sunny afternoon in the country is better than one in the city, and buoyed by the thought that if I couldn't break any clays I'd at least be able to chip Shooter's optimism  I  joined him for an afternoon at the A1 Shooting Ground.

What Shooter thinks he's going to need a score card for I'm not sure?

Shotguns are easy, in the same way that that fly casting and archery are easy, its just that everything about being human gets in the way of the true simplicity of what you're doing. You know those people who over complicate things? Put four of them in a row and they still wouldn't over complicate things as much as me. It's not that I couldn't think my way out of a paper bag, its more that I could think of 300 ways to get out, but be unable to decide which one seemed most appropriate.

His  modesty makes a very poor disguise-Shooter smashes them up

Shooter works tirelessly with me on the basics,  and all of a sudden the clays start to break. But then I lapse back into thinking about it. Doh! Every clay that breaks is another example of the beautiful Zen of shooting, if Shooter distracts me while the clay's in the air I shoot it, left to my own devices I try aiming like a rifle and miss, sometimes by miles!

Claudio and Teresa Capaldo have a really nice set up: 40 acres just inside the M25 (london's beltway). There's none of the moodiness I've seen at other shooting grounds, a really friendly place. Claudio is an Olympic coach and while I watched him give Shooter a few pointers I could see why. I've known a few experts over the years and watched them struggle to reveal what is painfully obvious to them, to students who clearly aren't getting it. An expert coach is a very different thing to mere coaching-from-an-expert. When you see the real deal in action its striking just how little they have to do or say to get the penny to drop. The Northern Monkey and myself once went to shooting ground just outside York and received some of the worst tuition I've ever seen, when we arrived we could both break clays, when we left neither of us could, if we'd paid to learn how to dispirit newbies it would have been a bargain.

Watching Claudio handle the gun was something of a revelation to me too. For a start he puts gun-to-face-then-to-shoulder rather than shouldering the gun then planting his face on the stock. The whole movement seemed more lively and fluid. His 'ready stance' was also more lively, the bead (a shotgun's front sight) always kept at nose level - this made the gun jump to his shoulder as though it was on elastic.

This is the moment when the penny drops: you can see the look of revelation on Shooters face - with very few words Claudio shows Shooter the elusive obvious
I have heard this explained a few times but there was something about the way Claudio says 'it shoots where you look' then with a few words brings the connection between gun and body into conscious awareness, setting up an anchor for  Shooters's grip on the forend so his hold would become consistant. 'Fingers lower on the pistol grip, when you get home get a screwdriver and move that trigger much further back' With these simple pointers Claudio changes the whole way the gun sits in relation to Shooters body.
The whole exchange can't have lasted more than 90 seconds. If I'd known how marked the change would look I'd have taken before and after photos.

Thanks to Shooter, a great day out, and an interesting lesson in how to give a lesson too, I'll defiantly be going back for some coaching from Claudio.

If you've got any pointers or advice please leave a comment.
More soon
Your pal

Friday, 30 March 2012

At Shooter's Place

Now that's something you don't see every day!

Popped over to Shooter's place yesterday on the way to the shooting ground to dust bust smash break clip miss some clays.

Once you step though the door of his unassuming suburban home you meet some evidence of his grandfathers hunting adventures. I don't know about you but I've never seen one of these before. Maybe I've led a sheltered life?

As ever lots of great tales were told, he introduced me to 'Lemon, Lime, and Bitters' [a most refreshing drink] and took me to the  A1 Shooting Ground all in all a great afternoon. Thanks mate.

More soon
your pal

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Wave goodbye To The Norcal Cazadora

Just a quick one to let you know that Holly AKA The Norcal Cazadora has hung up her hat and posted what she says is her last post. Crying shame. The blogosphere was richer for her writing and now poorer for her departure. Drop by and thank her for her efforts if you get the chance.

In the meantime here's an old one from me, that Holly mentioned being a favorite, where CMJ and your pal the bushwacker set off to do some scouting in Italy with unexpected results!

Esplorazione For Beginners Pt1

Well I've made it back in one piece, although sadly I must report that's more by luck than judgement.

A week ago I met up with CHJ in the south London suburbs and we drove to the coast, just in time to miss the boarding of the ferry, so after a delightful two hour nap on the quayside we go on board. Fortunately CMJ is a frequent traveler on this crossing and marched us strait to the only bit of the ship with couches big enough to sleep on and I didn't wake up until we were already docked in France.

France soon passed and we were treated to an insight into the Belgian plan for European supremacy. Not for them the subjugation of their neighbors by force or even economic might. No their plan is far more fiendish. They welcome you to their little country and all roads take you through their capital, a place where war and a town planning department staffed by Ferrari owners have left them with the strangest mix of architecture.
Once you're there, there you'll stay. There is no escape.
Signage to Brussels is everywhere, clues as to how to leave are non existent. Those fiendish Ferrari owners are so contemptuous of escape attempts that at a T junction they frequently present you with two opposite choices of direction to the same destination. Being six in the morning there were no locals in sight, just angry foreigners driving every more erratically in their desperation to leave. Brussels has become the capital of Europe, not through superior fire power, force of arms or political machination, but by holding visitors hostage on their labyrinth system of ring roads. After two hours in the vortex we did achieve escape velocity and had crossed belgium in less time than we'd spent trying to leave Brussels.

The first good omen of the trip was in Luxembourg, a small country that i could easily have passed through with out noticing.

Feeling a little weary and compelled by natures call. We pulled into a lay by and watched a succession of well dressed women announce their embarrassment by using a strangely exaggerated gait to cross the picnic area in search of the relative privacy of the forest. There is a great French tradition, (I'm using 'great' in it's sense of 'often' rather than 'fantastic') of littering the countryside with unburied toilet paper, fast food packaging, broken drinks bottles and the scat of truckers.

CHJ had elected to have a nap in the car so I took a wander away from the murderous looking truckers, and desperate holiday makers and found my self at the top of a scree looking out over a small marsh that abutted some planted pine forest. As I sat on the scree and scanning the forest's edge, I just 'knew' that I was in the vicinity of deer. I cant tell you how I knew but I was suddenly sure if I sat still a deer would show up. Amazingly it only took a few moments, sitting clam and still with my eyes holding a relaxed focus on the middle distance, before my peripheral vision flashed up a movement in the bushes. A Roe Deer with 6-8 inches of antler was making his way from bush to bush in search of some tasty tips. The whoosh of traffic didn't seem to spook him, the wind varied blowing towards me of across the space between us. He kept feeding. After about five minutes I lifted one butt cheek and farted. He Looked right at me, I held still. An expression of 'I'm sure I heard something' flashed across his face and he went back to nibbling. I thought of you dear reader, and in the light of his unspookability, I thought I'd get get the camera from the car and take a picture to show you. As soon as I stood and silhouetted he was off.
There was quite a bit more to the tale, here are the other parts
The Bushwacker

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Restoring Bison

A fella wrote to me asking if I'd share this with you, its a lord-able aim, with stunning photography. I thought you'd like it too. I've seen a couple of theses badboys mooching about on the plains of South Dakota and they are awesome.

Your pal

Friday, 23 March 2012

Hunting Shows: David Petzal AKA Spokesfart Speaks

You might not know this, but I'm a big big fan of David E Petzal's writing, sure I pissed myself laughing when he endorsed Sarah Palin on the somewhat spurious grounds that he believed her to be a hunter and gun owner, but there are very few writers who have such an assured touch or speak so directly to their audience. I cant imagine him thinking I'm anything other than an annoying European smart arse, but he wouldn't be the first rightwing gun nut that I'd found to be great company. I'd dearly like to spend some time with him turning over stones looking for common ground and learning about riflery from the last of the old school of American gun writers.

This week he posted his thoughts on Hunting Shows

Third, and most important: Invariably, when someone kills something, there follow high-fives, hog calls, whoops of joy, and general all-around merriment.
To the hunter, I say: All you did, numbnuts, was pull the trigger. Without your guide, you’d be sitting in the blind scratching yourself. Why are you acting like a hero? Also, you’ve just taken the life of something that wanted to live as much as you do. Congratulations are in order, maybe, but show a little respect. Other cultures manage it; I’ve seen them.

You can read the rest of 'What Cheeses Me Off about TV Hunting Shows' HERE

Good call Dave

More Soon

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Weekend Reading: Welcome Shooter

Delighted to add a new voice to the blog roll, and following on from our meeting yesterday also award 'one of the good guys' status to 'Shooter' a most interesting new voice from the blogosphere.

Shooter hails from a long line of Indian shikar [hunters], with his grandfather being his main tutor and inspiration. He's only got a few posts up so far, but as you'll see he's getting into the swing of it and has an excellent turn of phrase down the pub, he's been collecting up his grandfathers hunting stories from the bygone days of Indian hunting so I'm expecting great things. We've made tentative plans to do some Rook shooting and tree rabbit hunting together in the next few weeks - more news as it comes in.

From the wit and wisdom of Shooter
"I dont play favorites: if it goes bang I love it"

"The .22 is a kitchen utensil, part of the process of getting food to your plate"

Posts I'm sure you'll like:
 Confessions of a Serial Killer is a distillation of several conversations where  he joins me in the ignominy of 'dinner party pariah' status. The Longest Noon where he hunts Chital deer in Australia and his epic adventure to hunt mountain lions in Utah - The Lion of Zion

Please leave comments on his blog, this guy has some great stories to tell, encourage him.

More soon
Your pal

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Kifaru Regulator Sleeping Bag Review

"Lightweight, Durable, Inexpensive. Your choice of two." - Truism

Many years ago my cousin and I were camping out in Galloway on the savagely beautiful west coast of Scotland.  We would have been about ten years old, the tent we had was one my own father had used to hike around Europe one summer in the late 50's so it would have been about 25ish years old. The weather was, what I believe in the local argot is called, 'blowing up a whoolie', or as we'd say down south 'proper lashing it down'. The tent didn't have a sewn in ground sheet and was (50's style ultra light) treated cotton.

Cousin T woke me by shouting "I'm cold" then he woke himself up by shouting it again a bit louder. The reason for his discomfort was water had made it's way into the tent and pooled on the ground sheet, then been soaked up by his down sleeping bag. I know you're wondering why the grown ups hadn't made sure we'd put the tent up properly - we'd been camping out together since we were six, and it was the late 70's kids were supposed to learn by their mistakes. Also we were both wilful, self-possessed, little turds who thought they knew it all already, mouthy too, so we'd been left to our own devices.

The leash may have been long but the safety rope was short, one of the camp grown-ups came and rescued him. In the morning someone gave us a lesson that I've never forgotten. My sleeping bag had soaked up a bit of water too but I hadn't noticed. Synthetics init.

One of the grown ups explained; down is a fantastic insulator until it gets damp (even a little bit - through condensation) when it loses 80% of it's thermal efficiency. I've slept in a lot of down filled bags, they are very comfortable, I've envied the small spaces they pack into, and their light weight, but I've never bought one.
Down but only in town.
I love my down filled Northface puffa jacket (19 years old and still good) but I only wear it in the city. It's not reliable enough to wear afield, the potential to suddenly lose 80% of its insulation, and the attendant hassles of trying to dry it out, mean I'd rather not have it with me.

As observant readers will have noticed I'm a big fan of boutique gear makers, any fool can have stuff run up in China, I'd rather my money went to the people who designed the stuff and paid a living wage to the people who made it. I'm fat enough as it is missing the odd meal isn't going to hurt. 

Let's call it what it is: Kifaru kit is Distant Monarch [distant in 3 / male monarch in 4 :-) ] expensive, and not a lot cheaper second hand. I took a deep breath and repeating the mantra
'Boots and Bed - if you're not in one you're in the other'
bit the bullet and dropped the cash on a Kifaru Regulator Sleeping Bag in the Three Season class. Basically this bag is at least 25% more than many equivalents (making it about four times the price of something more basic). Worth it? Let's find out.

Reliability and comfort are EVERYTHING. Nothing takes off condition like a night being cold and wet, any day can be tolerated if at its end is a warm night's sleep. Kifaru's Patrick Smith is certainly a very clever chap, with the knack of starting his designs with a clean sheet paper and this bag is no exception, it's the sleeping bag re-imagined.

Patrick Smith did away with the full length zip, which has left me wondering about the orthodoxy that a sleeping bag 'must' have one, if its a rectangular bag then sure, but when the bag's 'mummy' shaped what good does it do? He's set the hood up to close with a pull cord just like most other bags but he's also put in a neck baffle to keep the heat in. Works very well and is so floppy you dont notice its there.

Inner Skin
I dont know what this material is called but its very very thin and soft to the touch

Outer Skin
It's so thin you can see through it, its translucent to the point where I thought there was mark on the outer skin but I realised it was on the filler. I'm not about to test it to destruction, but if [when] I do knacker it you'll be the first to know

This stuff is amazing, its almost as light and floppy ( or if you wanted to be nerdy about it, it has 'high drape value') as a goose down bag and yet there's hardly any of it, it's amazing as the bag is rated to 20F which is about -6C yet feels decidedly flimsy in the hands.

I had great plans for all kinds of tests during the recent cold snap, but sadly camera, thermometer, sleeping bag and your pal the bushwacker were never in the same place at the same time.  I did manage to do a bit of testing one night, it was minus four centigrade so i opened the bedroom window in the late afternoon to cool the room thoroughly, and it was fiar chilly by the time I bedded down. Slept like a log but was woken by dreams of  being in the desert with Tintin and Captain Haddock [The Crab With The Golden Claws], I'd left the radiator turned on so when the heating fired at six am the sudden raise in temperature woke me. Not the most empirical of tests I will concede, but all in all a very good sleeping bag and plenty warm enough for most adventures.

Stay tuned for more reviews: all unerringly accurate, and the only truly objective writing on the web.
Your pal

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Fish Fight - Please Help

Remember a while back when we looked at the massive problem of all ex-quota fish being caught only to be discarded? The news from Hugh Fearlessly-eats-it-all's campaign to stop this madness is that the eurocrats are gathering to vote on wether we have fish in the future or wether we carry on killing them only to throw them over the side. The meeting is on MONDAY.

Hugh has set up a page where you can use your twitter account to let them know it time to stop throwing food and future away. I just tweeted all of them and it took less time than typing this post.


Thanks for your help

Friday, 16 March 2012

Bushcraft Weather Prediction Pt.1

Frogs Pr0n init!

In a suburban garden the rite of spring has sprung once again, and I'm reminded of Andy Richardson's observation that the frogs know just how much rain to expect and lay accordingly. When I was with Andy during the summer he did have an uncanny ability to tell what the weather was about to do, so I'm a big believer in his old wives tales. Science usually catches up with old wives tales, after denying them for a few years, so I suspect the Meteorological Office actually just has a frog pond out the back, and all the 'computers' are just cereal boxes and fairy lights.
These frogs seem to agree with Thames Water and the Met Office; we're looking at a drought. In wet summers gone by I've seen about ten times the amount they've laid this year.

Bodes for a dismal Trout season. I wonder where my sea fishing rigs are?

More soon

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Book Review - Glock: The Rise of America's Gun

Not really a handgun kind of guy myself [air pistols aside I've only ever fired an S&W 1911] but I do enjoy a bit of riflery and know a few enthusiasts, as Glock is such a touchstone of the culture I was interested in the story behind the icon. I wasn't disappointed, I would defiantly put this one in the upper tier of business books/corporate histories. It's a really interesting tale.

An outsider who'd never even owned firearms, and whose shooting experience made even mine seem comprehensive, starts with a clean sheet of paper and re-invents the pistol. An ingenious salesman sees the wind change for American law enforcement - wheel guns are out: it's not 'is it going to be an automatic pistol?' its 'which automatic pistol is it going to be?' - and seizes the day.
Ably assisted by lap dancers, with press and promotion by anti-gun pressure groups, and added profits generated by the assault weapons ban, team Glock turn an obscure Austrian radiator manufacturer into a major industrialist, his invention into a design icon and cultural phenomenon.

If you're hoping for pages of technical detail about the differences between Gaston Glock's design and that of his competitors you'll be better off reading or perhaps The Gun Digest Book of the Glock.  If you find stories of corporate opportunism and intrigue are to your taste you'll not be disappointed. I've always loved stories of the little team no one has ever heard of, rocking up and changing the game, Glock certainly did that. Well worth a read.

One from the 'ya couldn't make it up files'

Shaven-headed bearded muslim chap, my age, sitting next to me on the train.
"You're reading that and no one's even looking, if I was reading it they'd be pulling the emergency cord". Yep we laughed out loud.

On the blogging front
Not been out and about much lately, but I have been reading some great books, so more book reviews to come, some local history with suburban hunters and, funds permitting, a very special trip to meet another blogger or two. Before the chalk streams dry up completely I'm hoping this season is 'the season' I'll fulfil that longstanding ambition of catching a wild trout within the city limits

More Soon
Your pal

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Suburban Hunters Of The Old East End

East Enders Afield

Just a quick one to let you know I've not fallen off the edge of the world.

A while back I met up with Cleve author of Tales of a London Poacher a memoir which includes some excellent tales of his childhood shooting over the marshes and water treatment beds in London's east end. I'm hoping to meet up with some of the chaps in the photo in the next few weeks to learn a bit more about their adventures back in the day.

In the meantime you can see some video of Cleve, read my review of his book HERE

Your pal

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Leuku: The Knives Of Finland

In the pristine frozen north of europe where oily softwoods like birch and pine grow the Sammi people developed a form of knife known as the Leuku: long enough for chopping and light enough for carving this is the belt knife of the Boreal forests.  

Perkele is a Finish blogger and outdoorsman who keeps us posted with his 'slowly updating notes about me, my life, outdoor activities, bushcraft, knives, survival skills etc..'

He's just posted an excellent review of the work of some Finnish blade smiths and a history of the Leuku form. Well worth a read.

The way i see leuku, is that its a bigger knife, that was born in hands of saame people, who were back then, living a travelling life, and their knife was a about the most important tool, as it was expensive to get, as well as difficult to make back then. They didnt have, in most cases, anvils, nor a way to transport one always, so the rare people who had skills to make knives, became important part of society as well as good tradesmen. Ive heard that with one grown male reindeer, you could get two leukus, or two leukus and one womens leuku, if uou could get a bargain. Steels, were hard to get ,too, and the price of it was naturally higher than its now. They did not order leukus, i bet, like we do, with a phonecall or through an email, nor did they buy it from webshops. You had to travels for huge distances, with trading goods, to meet blacksmith or someone else who sold or traded knives and blades. You could not replace it in the true wilderness either, because the postoffices werent invented, so you really really had to keep your possibly only knife in a good safe and try not to loose it as it might mean the end of your life.

Leuku has been used in wast range of tasks, even before it "came" familiar to southern Finlands people. Its been used to skin animals, prep hides, gut, slice, chop meat, sliver branches off from the firewood, to butcher reindeerd, to build traps for birds, fish and big game like bears. They used it to carve icy and wet snow from sleds, pulks and harness of reindeer. Its not a lie, to say that if anything, leuku was a multitool of northern people.


More soon