Proven tools of the trade for bird shooters.
Using a crane to lift a Filson duffle bag with a Volkswagen Beetle engine inside illustrates its great strength and durability.
I could easily fill up each and every one of these columns with descriptions of new products but doing so would eventually become rather boring to both you and me. Instead, I choose to occasionally devote my allotted space to a few choice items that have greatly impressed either me or someone I know quite well. Here, then, are a few items that I consider worthy of a serious look.
A Hunting Boot Built Specifically For Women
There was a time when many women who enjoyed hunting had no choice but to wear clothing in the smaller sizes made for men and boys. This no longer is true and while several companies now offer pants, shirts, coats and other items for the opposite sex, Red Wing of Irish Setter fame is the only one I'm aware of who offers boots built specifically for women. What they have come up with is a shoe mold shaped and detailed specifically for women with three of its more important differences being a heel cup of smaller volume, a more flexible collar and special positioning of the arch support.
The seven-inch boot is called Ladyhawk and it features an UltraDry waterproof membrane sandwiched between a leather/nylon combo shell on the outside and a soft, low-friction lining on the inside. Nominal weight is 23„4 pounds and the medium-aggressive tread of its cushioned sole is a good compromise for walking over a variety of terrain.
Three versions are available, #3885 (non-insulated), #3886 (600 grams of Thinsulate Ultra insulation) and #3887 with 1000 grams of the same insulation. Available sizes are five through 11 in a medium width and the standard color is Realtree HD Brown camo. A limited-edition version in pink camo is also available and $5 from the sale of each pair is donated to breast cancer research.
Phyllis, my wife, says the Ladyhawk is the most comfortable hunting/hiking boot she has ever tried and required almost no break-in before being worn all day long in the field.
A Designated Driver For Your Shotgun
Aptly described in the giant Brownells wish book as a screwdriver kit for your pocket, the Designated Driver consists of a three-inch-long aluminum handle with storage cavities for one Phillips and four straight bits sized to fit slotted-head screws of various sizes. The straight bits are hollow-ground as they should be for use on a firearm.
If additional bits are needed for screw slots of lengths and widths that do not fit some of the screws on a particular gun, about 50 different sizes are available at additional cost.
A two-inch extension included in the kit is long enough to reach through most any recoil pad to tighten loose screws. A magnet at one end of the handle keeps screws removed in the field from disappearing in the dirt and leaves. Two versions are available but No. 080-000-059 is the one for shotgunners since an extra bit included with it serves as a universal wrench for removing and installing screw-in chokes in the field.
Like most products from Brownells, the Designated Drive comes with a lifetime guarantee. In the unlikely even that you do not like this handy little gizmo, simply return it for a no-hassle refund of your money.
Shown with a 12-gauge shell for size comparison, the Designated Driver from Brownells comes with five hollow-ground bits that stow in its handle along with an extension long enough to reach through most recoil pads and a universal wrench for screw-in chokes
A Duffle Bag That just Won't Quit
Whether I am driving or flying to a bird hunt I prefer to carry my clothing and gear in a duffle bag. Getting there and back via commercial airliner is especially hard on a bag and there was a time when I was lucky to get more than a few months of use out of one before it was punctured, torn and ripped apart by human baggage handlers and automated baggage-handling systems.
Three years ago I finally bit the bullet and bought a Rugged Twill Duffle Bag from Filson and (knock wood) after dozens of trips it has survived the commercial airline torture gauntlet without damage. Other than its soiled exterior, my bag is in the same condition it was in when I received it several years ago.
This bag first got my attention in a Filson advertisement that depicted a crane lifting one with the engine of a Volkswagen Beetle inside. Believe me when I say the test was the real thing and not trick photography. The bag is made of 22-ounce cotton twill trimmed with bridle leather. The hand and shoulder straps are made of the same heavy leather.
The top opening is closed by a heavy-duty, bullet-proof brass zipper that hides beneath a full-length storm flap. Color options are tan and green and available sizes are Small (18"W x 101„2" H x 11" D), Medium (25x14x13), Large (30x14x13) and Extra Large (34x14.5x13.5). Whether I am headed to the uplands or a duck blind, the Extra-Large bag I bought has plenty of room for everything I need. On my postal scale its empty weight is 51„2 pounds.
The Filson motto, "Might As Well Have The Best," holds true for many of that company's products, including the Rugged Twill Duffle Bag. I also have their equally indestructible twill briefcase with its padded compartment for a laptop computer but that's a story for another time.
The No-slip, Non-fumble Choke Wrench
Many hunters and clay target shooters who don't do a lot of choke-switching get by quite nicely by using the rim of a fired hull, a coin of the proper size, or the flimsy choke wrench various manufacturers typically include in the box with a new shotgun. For those who do change chokes quite often or who simply prefer a better mousetrap, there are the wrenches from Briley Manufacturing, the most famous maker of interchangeable chokes in the world. A bore-size, collet-style nylon guide in the wrench keeps it centered in the choke for a no-slip fit.
One type has a simple T-handle while the swiveling handle of the other style looks like it came from a fishing reel. The former is less expensive while the latter is a bit quicker. The latter is also available in a two-wrench kit--one is used for removing and installing chokes, the other accepts a brass bore brush and with a few twists of the wrist, it does a great job of cleaning out the choke threads of a shotgun barrel.
The fishing reel-style wrench is available only in 12 and 20 gauges but the T-handle type is available in those two as well as .410-caliber and 28 and 16 gauges. The life of any habitual choke-switcher will never be complete without this very useful gun gadget.
The fishing reel-style choke wrench from Briley is available in 12 and 20 gauge only, but the t-style is available for those two plus 10, 16 and 28 gauges and .410 bore.
Built specifically for women, the new LadyHawk from Red Wing is available in brown or pink camo with $5 from the sale of each pair of the latter going to breast cancer research.
Personal Protection For Your Shotgun
You have probably noticed the little rubber thingamajig the doctor stretches over his finger just before he asks you to drop your pants and bend over. Well, as it turns out, that little unmentionable works equally well at preventing rain, snow, mud and field debris from entering the muzzle of a shotgun barrel.
I have no idea how Birchwood Casey came up with such a long name as Barrel Cots Barrel Protectors for such a small item, but you simply roll it over the muzzle of a rifle or shotgun barrel (with the gun unloaded, of course) and its bore is protected from foreign invaders. When a bird flushes you simply shoot through the thin layer of rubber and then replace it with a new one before reloading the gun. They come in a pack of 20 and are very inexpensive.
Found--The Perfect Chukar-Hunting Footwear
Of all the upland hunting I have done, going after chukar among the cliffs and rockslides of Idaho and Oregon is the toughest not only on dogs, guns and gear but on the old body as well. And after trying all types of footwear I have settled on boots that are not likely to be found in a hunting clothing catalog. Called the Breeze, they are made by Vasque for hiking and backpacking but as I have discovered, they are perfect for early season chukar hunting.
With a height of seven inches, the Breeze offers adequate ankle protection against rocks and its medium-aggressive Vibram sole of soft but durable Stealth rubber is just the ticket for clambering over them. A cushioned midsole with nylon plate is stiff enough for mild rock-climbing and yet flexible enough for comfortable wear over flat terrain.
The exterior is top-quality leather with strategic areas of its surface vented to expose a layer of nylon fabric called Airmesh which was engineered to allow free circulation of air while walking. A Gore-Tex membrane sandwiched between the out shell and a nylon lining sheds water like rain drops cascading from a mallard's back. Weight for the pair is a feathery 21„2 pounds.
For chukar hunters who prefer a taller 10-inch boot, there's the Irish Setter Aero Tracker from Red Wing. A bit heavier at 31„4 pounds, its materials and construction are just about identical to those of the Vasque Breeze and the two even wear identical Vibram soles. One difference is the addition of a protective layer of microfilament mesh over the Airmesh areas of the exterior leather shell.
The Aero Tracker also has an extra layer of leather at the toe whereas the Breeze does not. Otherwise, the two are quite similar in design, which comes as no surprise since the Vasque and Irish Setter brand names are now owned by Red Wing Shoes. You're sure to find something to suit your needs .
Great footwear for chukars, the Irish Setter Aero for late season hunting (at left) and for early season, the Vasque (at right).