Why Canoe Poling Remains an Essential Skill

The river pours between the boulders, each scarred with red and green paint left by canoes that didn’t thread this needle quite neatly enough. Standing in the boat, I twist to the right to plant the iron tip of a 12-foot-long spruce pole into the riverbottom, snubbing the canoe to a stop. The next move is the tricky one. I shift hand positions, grasp the pole tightly, and twist from the balls of my feet all the way to my shoulders. The bow torques to port, catches the current, and ferries across stream to send a V of clear water over the lip of the ledge.

“Nice save,” says Bob Thompson, watching from the bow. The grizzled former Maine game warden and longtime Maine guide has been schooling me on poling techniques for most of the morning.

I grin with relief. This was a long time coming. I’ve wanted to learn to pole a canoe through rapids ever since I saw a photograph of an old Mainer hard at the skill in National Geographic way back in 1973. In the photo, the shoreline was fanged with dark spruce, the river angry with whitewater. The man wore a wool plaid shirt and stood in a half crouch, centered in a wooden canoe with bent cedar ribs like bleached bone, and in his hands the man held a stout straight pole. The photograph was alive. I stared at the image and thought: One day. 

Now I’m on that very river, the famed Allagash Wilderness Waterway of Maine, with a stick in my hand and another old man in the boat, teaching me one of the oldest skills of the ancient North Woods. 

Old School of Thought

It’s hardly news that many of these old woods-ways are fading fast. When is the last time you carved a feather stick? Why perfect a trucker’s hitch when cam straps are three for $9 at the big-box store? There’s no need to sweat over a whetstone when Amazon will drone-ship a gizmo that guarantees a wicked edge.

For many, I imagine, these skills are touchstones of the past, a way of staying connected to roots and heritage. For others, they serve as a backup plan—if the GPS goes blank, we take solace in knowing how to navigate by the stars. But these perspectives cheapen old-school skills. Most of them weren’t valuable because they were newfangled at the time. They were valuable because they worked. Because there are times when knowing how to shoot iron sights is the best solution to the challenge at hand: Plan A, not Plan B.

Poling a canoe, for example. Over two days on the Allagash I learn how to move a boat in swift water too skinny for a paddle, and how to hopscotch upstream by poling from one calm eddy to another. I learn how to put a canoe in neutral with a pole, move it over, forward, upcurrent, sideways—all with nothing more than know-how and a stick. There are sketchy moments. Twice I nearly flip the boat by planting the pole downstream, wedging the gunwale against the pole. But I’m not half-bad standing upright, feeling the river in the balls of my feet, hearing the metal clink of the pole foot finding purchase in the cobble. 

Then the wind comes up late one morning, and it’s clear that I’ve been swimming in the baby pool the last couple of days. I crab forward with all of my strength, heaving on the pole, but the canoe pirouettes across the river. We’re going nowhere until Thompson and I pick up the paddles and stow the pole under the canoe thwarts for the rest of the ride. 

But I am hooked on the old ways by now. And inspired, because even before I picked up the pole, not 30 minutes into our Allagash overnight, I saw how the past remains relevant in the big woods. 

Rescue Effort

Early during our first morning on the river, Thompson and I rounded a bend into a scene of chaos and confusion. On the riverbank, two teenaged boys huddled together, soaked to the skin, holding canoe paddles. Eighty yards downstream, a small flotilla of canoes had rafted up below the rapids, with more kids watching a single canoe and its two adults paddling furiously against the current. And in the middle of the river, a swamped canoe was pinned upside down on a rock, its bottom bashed in like a soda can.

In an instant, Thompson took it all in and barked instruction. “We’re making an eddy turn behind the next boulder. See it?”

“Got it,” I replied.

Once in the eddy, we stowed our paddles and Thompson pulled out the pole. He deftly pushed his way upriver, boulder hopping, eddy by eddy, climbing the current until we were abreast of the swamped canoe. We hoisted it on top of the rock, emptied the boat, and set it afloat, lining it through the remaining rapids to the kids waiting below. 

Could we have achieved this without poling the canoe? I doubt it. And not so quickly and with such grace. And we certainly would have missed the looks on those young men’s faces, dripping water, mouths agape, as they watched the old man do something extraordinary: standing up in the boat, pushing the canoe up the rapids, climbing the river with a stick.

GEAR TIP: It’s in the Bag

By midday, the bottom of a canoe turns into a slop bucket of gear-fouling muck, muddy water, and spilled beer. That’s not a great environment for reels, maps, and smart­phones. Keep it all clean, dry, and old-school classy with the high-and-dry Frost River Canoe Thwart Bag ($85; ­frost​river.com). Waxed canvas keeps your stuff dry, and the heavy leather and brass means you’ll hand it down to your kids.  

 

Illustration by Max Temescu

Source: Field & Stream

Why Canoe Poling Remains an Essential Skill

The river pours between the boulders, each scarred with red and green paint left by canoes that didn’t thread this needle quite neatly enough. Standing in the boat, I twist to the right to plant the iron tip of a 12-foot-long spruce pole into the riverbottom, snubbing the canoe to a stop. The next move is the tricky one. I shift hand positions, grasp the pole tightly, and twist from the balls of my feet all the way to my shoulders. The bow torques to port, catches the current, and ferries across stream to send a V of clear water over the lip of the ledge.

“Nice save,” says Bob Thompson, watching from the bow. The grizzled former Maine game warden and longtime Maine guide has been schooling me on poling techniques for most of the morning.

I grin with relief. This was a long time coming. I’ve wanted to learn to pole a canoe through rapids ever since I saw a photograph of an old Mainer hard at the skill in National Geographic way back in 1973. In the photo, the shoreline was fanged with dark spruce, the river angry with whitewater. The man wore a wool plaid shirt and stood in a half crouch, centered in a wooden canoe with bent cedar ribs like bleached bone, and in his hands the man held a stout straight pole. The photograph was alive. I stared at the image and thought: One day. 

Now I’m on that very river, the famed Allagash Wilderness Waterway of Maine, with a stick in my hand and another old man in the boat, teaching me one of the oldest skills of the ancient North Woods. 

Old School of Thought

It’s hardly news that many of these old woods-ways are fading fast. When is the last time you carved a feather stick? Why perfect a trucker’s hitch when cam straps are three for $9 at the big-box store? There’s no need to sweat over a whetstone when Amazon will drone-ship a gizmo that guarantees a wicked edge.

For many, I imagine, these skills are touchstones of the past, a way of staying connected to roots and heritage. For others, they serve as a backup plan—if the GPS goes blank, we take solace in knowing how to navigate by the stars. But these perspectives cheapen old-school skills. Most of them weren’t valuable because they were newfangled at the time. They were valuable because they worked. Because there are times when knowing how to shoot iron sights is the best solution to the challenge at hand: Plan A, not Plan B.

Poling a canoe, for example. Over two days on the Allagash I learn how to move a boat in swift water too skinny for a paddle, and how to hopscotch upstream by poling from one calm eddy to another. I learn how to put a canoe in neutral with a pole, move it over, forward, upcurrent, sideways—all with nothing more than know-how and a stick. There are sketchy moments. Twice I nearly flip the boat by planting the pole downstream, wedging the gunwale against the pole. But I’m not half-bad standing upright, feeling the river in the balls of my feet, hearing the metal clink of the pole foot finding purchase in the cobble. 

Then the wind comes up late one morning, and it’s clear that I’ve been swimming in the baby pool the last couple of days. I crab forward with all of my strength, heaving on the pole, but the canoe pirouettes across the river. We’re going nowhere until Thompson and I pick up the paddles and stow the pole under the canoe thwarts for the rest of the ride. 

But I am hooked on the old ways by now. And inspired, because even before I picked up the pole, not 30 minutes into our Allagash overnight, I saw how the past remains relevant in the big woods. 

Rescue Effort

Early during our first morning on the river, Thompson and I rounded a bend into a scene of chaos and confusion. On the riverbank, two teenaged boys huddled together, soaked to the skin, holding canoe paddles. Eighty yards downstream, a small flotilla of canoes had rafted up below the rapids, with more kids watching a single canoe and its two adults paddling furiously against the current. And in the middle of the river, a swamped canoe was pinned upside down on a rock, its bottom bashed in like a soda can.

In an instant, Thompson took it all in and barked instruction. “We’re making an eddy turn behind the next boulder. See it?”

“Got it,” I replied.

Once in the eddy, we stowed our paddles and Thompson pulled out the pole. He deftly pushed his way upriver, boulder hopping, eddy by eddy, climbing the current until we were abreast of the swamped canoe. We hoisted it on top of the rock, emptied the boat, and set it afloat, lining it through the remaining rapids to the kids waiting below. 

Could we have achieved this without poling the canoe? I doubt it. And not so quickly and with such grace. And we certainly would have missed the looks on those young men’s faces, dripping water, mouths agape, as they watched the old man do something extraordinary: standing up in the boat, pushing the canoe up the rapids, climbing the river with a stick.

GEAR TIP: It’s in the Bag

By midday, the bottom of a canoe turns into a slop bucket of gear-fouling muck, muddy water, and spilled beer. That’s not a great environment for reels, maps, and smart­phones. Keep it all clean, dry, and old-school classy with the high-and-dry Frost River Canoe Thwart Bag ($85; ­frost​river.com). Waxed canvas keeps your stuff dry, and the heavy leather and brass means you’ll hand it down to your kids.  

 

Illustration by Max Temescu

Source: Field & Stream

9 Best New Spinning and Casting Reels

So many new fishing reels hit the market each year that it’s almost impossible for an angler to keep track—and harder still to get an objective comparison of them all. So, we did it for you. Fishing editor Joe Cermele and I spent several long days spooling, casting, cranking, and ­torture-​­testing every new spinning and casting reel we could get our mitts on—35 in total. The upshot: There are lots of sweet new models for 2016, including a handful that stand out from the crowd, and a couple of real surprises. We winnowed the field down to the top 10 in each category. Here’s how they stacked up. 

THE TEST
We gave up to 20 points for each of the following test categories, for a maximum total score of 100: Casting We spooled the reels to capacity, the spinning models with 6-pound and the baitcasters with 14-pound Berkley Trilene XL. Then, using 1/4-ounce weights for the former and 1-ounce weights for the latter, Cermele and I both made and measured several casts, switching reels out so they were on identical rods. Power ­Using a heavy saltwater stick and 80-pound braid, we deadlifted a 5-pound weight to see how easily the reel pulled the weight off the ground (or failed to do so). Drag Taking max power into considera­tion, we tested smoothness and engagement by pulling the line as fast and hard as we could. ­Retrieve Making a series of casts and cranks, we assessed the retrieves for fluidity while observing how evenly each model stacked line onto the spool. Construction We evaluated build quality and fit and finish via a thorough inspection of each reel, and combined that with how it held up under the strain of the power test. —M.M.

The Winners: Spinning

[1] Best of the Test
Shimano Stradic 2500FK

The new incarnation of Shimano’s hugely popular Stradic is a gem. Our test reel was smooth and powerful, packing 20 pounds of stopping power with a silkiness that almost guarantees against ripping lips. Constructed with Shimano’s new bulletproof Hagane composite body and gears, the Stradic is loaded with cutting-edge technologies, such as X-Ship, which increases gear efficiency and power, and Dyna-Balance, which elimi­nates wobble during the retrieve. The $200 price tag may put the Stradic FK out of some ­anglers’ reach, but that’s its only drawback. 

[2] Best Caster
Daiwa Exist 3012H 

The Exist thumped all comers in the casting contest, launching the 1⁄4-ounce weight over 150 feet, thanks to an oversize ABS long-cast spool. It won the retrieve test and scored tops in power, too, as the new Zaion super-carbon frame provides superior strength while minimizing weight. That said, the $720 ticket on this reel is off the charts. The Exist delivers high-end performance with great looks to match—and may have some value for you as a status symbol—but other reels fared nearly as well or better for a fraction of the cost.

[3] Best Build
Abu Garcia Revo SX20 

If you’re tough on equipment and need a quality reel that can hang with you in the trenches, look no further than the Abu Revo SX20 for $160. I think I could drive over this reel with my truck and still take it fishing. The fact that the SX20 is built to last is obvious the second you pick it up, but a closer look reveals an extremely rigid body and a  thick, durable bail wire—two qualities I look for in a workhorse reel.  When our testing was all done, it finished tops in the construction category, and it makes a great all-purpose reel on the water. There are three other sizes, too. ­

[4] Best Value
Okuma Ceymar C-30  

Far and away the biggest surprise, the Ceymar claimed the No. 4 spot with a double-take price of just $50. Throughout the test we kept saying, “There’s no way that price is right.” But it is. Out of the box, our test reel seemed well built and sturdy. With a thick bail wire, a drilled spool, and a sleek black design, nothing about it looked inexpensive. But would it hold up to our test? Yup, in spades. The Ceymar cast far and cranked well, and its 13-pound drag was buttery smooth. Our only concern was how much of a beating a $50 reel can take over time, but it’s worth finding out. ­—M.M.

The Winners: Casting

[1] Best of the Test
Shimano Calcutta Conquest 400

It isn’t cheap at $580, but this reel is a work of art. Every moving part is rigid and smooth, and 13 total bearings serve up a flawless drag and retrieve. The Conquest is incredibly lightweight and compact; even the 400 model we tested nestles into the palm of your hand. We did have a few backlashes, but the 20-point cast-control should take care of that with some fine-tuning. There are four models, so everyone from bass guys to hardcore muskie and striper nuts will be drooling, left-​­handers included. 

[2] Best of the Test, Tie
13 Fishing Inception 8.1:1  

Another huge surprise: This relatively new small company has been impressing us in recent years, but the Inception still caught us off guard. For such a modestly priced baitcaster ($120), it performed above all expectations. Lightweight, compact, and well built, the Inception cast at the top of the pack, and its drag is as powerful and smooth as that of reels costing three times more. The centrifugal brake is easy to access and adjust, and it took only seconds to get it tuned. It’s also sleek and beautifully finished. 

[3] Best Build
Abu Garcia Revo Toro Beast 50

Aptly named, this reel is a true monster, and it gives Abu Garcia a clean sweep for Best Build honors. With a perfect score in both construction and power, the Beast is built to take an absolute pounding without missing a beat. Unlike many baitcasters with a disengaging levelwind, the Beast has a narrow spool that lets line pass through easily for better casting. The price ($400) may seem steep at first, but when you consider that this reel is likely to last your lifetime, and your grandchildren’s lifetime, it’s a solid investment.

[4] Best Caster
Quantum Pulse PL100S 

There was a look of shock on our faces when the first cast flew off the Pulse. This reel sent our 1-ounce weight farther and faster than any other casting reel in the test. On a handful of occasions, we almost dumped the entire spool. All of this was without a single backlash or even the slightest overrun. It was no slouch in the other categories either. The soft paddle handles of the Pulse are easy to grip, and the reel’s lightweight construction reduces fatigue on long days of launching baits. The $50 price tag is tough to beat, too.

[5] Best Value
Okuma Calera 266Va

Speaking of clean sweeps, Okuma gets one in the Best Value category. As with its Ceymar C-30 spinning reel, the price of this baitcaster ($75) does not come close to reflecting the quality put into it. The Calera features both a centrifugal brake that’s easily accessed via the side panel and a magnetic brake to fine-tune the cast-control on the fly. The performance of the Calera should put it on the radar of any angler, regardless of cost. But given the cost, it’s a no-brainer for the fisherman on a budget.  —M.M.

 

Photographs by The Voorhes

Source: Field & Stream

9 Best New Spinning and Casting Reels

So many new fishing reels hit the market each year that it’s almost impossible for an angler to keep track—and harder still to get an objective comparison of them all. So, we did it for you. Fishing editor Joe Cermele and I spent several long days spooling, casting, cranking, and ­torture-​­testing every new spinning and casting reel we could get our mitts on—35 in total. The upshot: There are lots of sweet new models for 2016, including a handful that stand out from the crowd, and a couple of real surprises. We winnowed the field down to the top 10 in each category. Here’s how they stacked up. 

THE TEST
We gave up to 20 points for each of the following test categories, for a maximum total score of 100: Casting We spooled the reels to capacity, the spinning models with 6-pound and the baitcasters with 14-pound Berkley Trilene XL. Then, using 1/4-ounce weights for the former and 1-ounce weights for the latter, Cermele and I both made and measured several casts, switching reels out so they were on identical rods. Power ­Using a heavy saltwater stick and 80-pound braid, we deadlifted a 5-pound weight to see how easily the reel pulled the weight off the ground (or failed to do so). Drag Taking max power into considera­tion, we tested smoothness and engagement by pulling the line as fast and hard as we could. ­Retrieve Making a series of casts and cranks, we assessed the retrieves for fluidity while observing how evenly each model stacked line onto the spool. Construction We evaluated build quality and fit and finish via a thorough inspection of each reel, and combined that with how it held up under the strain of the power test. —M.M.

The Winners: Spinning

[1] Best of the Test
Shimano Stradic 2500FK

The new incarnation of Shimano’s hugely popular Stradic is a gem. Our test reel was smooth and powerful, packing 20 pounds of stopping power with a silkiness that almost guarantees against ripping lips. Constructed with Shimano’s new bulletproof Hagane composite body and gears, the Stradic is loaded with cutting-edge technologies, such as X-Ship, which increases gear efficiency and power, and Dyna-Balance, which elimi­nates wobble during the retrieve. The $200 price tag may put the Stradic FK out of some ­anglers’ reach, but that’s its only drawback. 

[2] Best Caster
Daiwa Exist 3012H 

The Exist thumped all comers in the casting contest, launching the 1⁄4-ounce weight over 150 feet, thanks to an oversize ABS long-cast spool. It won the retrieve test and scored tops in power, too, as the new Zaion super-carbon frame provides superior strength while minimizing weight. That said, the $720 ticket on this reel is off the charts. The Exist delivers high-end performance with great looks to match—and may have some value for you as a status symbol—but other reels fared nearly as well or better for a fraction of the cost.

[3] Best Build
Abu Garcia Revo SX20 

If you’re tough on equipment and need a quality reel that can hang with you in the trenches, look no further than the Abu Revo SX20 for $160. I think I could drive over this reel with my truck and still take it fishing. The fact that the SX20 is built to last is obvious the second you pick it up, but a closer look reveals an extremely rigid body and a  thick, durable bail wire—two qualities I look for in a workhorse reel.  When our testing was all done, it finished tops in the construction category, and it makes a great all-purpose reel on the water. There are three other sizes, too. ­

[4] Best Value
Okuma Ceymar C-30  

Far and away the biggest surprise, the Ceymar claimed the No. 4 spot with a double-take price of just $50. Throughout the test we kept saying, “There’s no way that price is right.” But it is. Out of the box, our test reel seemed well built and sturdy. With a thick bail wire, a drilled spool, and a sleek black design, nothing about it looked inexpensive. But would it hold up to our test? Yup, in spades. The Ceymar cast far and cranked well, and its 13-pound drag was buttery smooth. Our only concern was how much of a beating a $50 reel can take over time, but it’s worth finding out. ­—M.M.

The Winners: Casting

[1] Best of the Test
Shimano Calcutta Conquest 400

It isn’t cheap at $580, but this reel is a work of art. Every moving part is rigid and smooth, and 13 total bearings serve up a flawless drag and retrieve. The Conquest is incredibly lightweight and compact; even the 400 model we tested nestles into the palm of your hand. We did have a few backlashes, but the 20-point cast-control should take care of that with some fine-tuning. There are four models, so everyone from bass guys to hardcore muskie and striper nuts will be drooling, left-​­handers included. 

[2] Best of the Test, Tie
13 Fishing Inception 8.1:1  

Another huge surprise: This relatively new small company has been impressing us in recent years, but the Inception still caught us off guard. For such a modestly priced baitcaster ($120), it performed above all expectations. Lightweight, compact, and well built, the Inception cast at the top of the pack, and its drag is as powerful and smooth as that of reels costing three times more. The centrifugal brake is easy to access and adjust, and it took only seconds to get it tuned. It’s also sleek and beautifully finished. 

[3] Best Build
Abu Garcia Revo Toro Beast 50

Aptly named, this reel is a true monster, and it gives Abu Garcia a clean sweep for Best Build honors. With a perfect score in both construction and power, the Beast is built to take an absolute pounding without missing a beat. Unlike many baitcasters with a disengaging levelwind, the Beast has a narrow spool that lets line pass through easily for better casting. The price ($400) may seem steep at first, but when you consider that this reel is likely to last your lifetime, and your grandchildren’s lifetime, it’s a solid investment.

[4] Best Caster
Quantum Pulse PL100S 

There was a look of shock on our faces when the first cast flew off the Pulse. This reel sent our 1-ounce weight farther and faster than any other casting reel in the test. On a handful of occasions, we almost dumped the entire spool. All of this was without a single backlash or even the slightest overrun. It was no slouch in the other categories either. The soft paddle handles of the Pulse are easy to grip, and the reel’s lightweight construction reduces fatigue on long days of launching baits. The $50 price tag is tough to beat, too.

[5] Best Value
Okuma Calera 266Va

Speaking of clean sweeps, Okuma gets one in the Best Value category. As with its Ceymar C-30 spinning reel, the price of this baitcaster ($75) does not come close to reflecting the quality put into it. The Calera features both a centrifugal brake that’s easily accessed via the side panel and a magnetic brake to fine-tune the cast-control on the fly. The performance of the Calera should put it on the radar of any angler, regardless of cost. But given the cost, it’s a no-brainer for the fisherman on a budget.  —M.M.

 

Photographs by The Voorhes

Source: Field & Stream

Five Tips for Finding Morels

I just spent the weekend in Kansas, where the turkeys were being even more difficult than they normally are. To make things worse, the conditions were so dry that no morels were popping yet. Back here in Nebraska, we had several inches of snow, so that means my morel hotspots are probably still a week or more out, if the forecast for more powder next week is any indication. Still, that hasn’t kept me from a few exploratory forays into the woods. Hopefully, you’ve had better weather where you live and the spring mushrooms are starting to show up. If so, hit the woods now and follow these simple tips for finding morels this spring.

1. Take the Temperature
Though the calendar may state that spring is here, in reality, it still feels like winter any many parts of the country. It doesn’t matter how much daylight there is, morels require warm temperatures to pop. Once days are consistently reaching the 60-degree mark and nights aren’t dipping below 40, the mushrooms will start to show themselves. An even better indicator is the temperature of the soil itself. Shove a probe thermometer into the dirt where you hope to find morels. If it reads 50 degrees, morels should start appearing with regularity.

2. Tree I.D.
Although morels grow in many diverse environments, you’ll find them most consistently around certain types of trees. Ash and elm seem to be the fungi’s favorite partner, especially if the latter is dead or dying. Stands of sycamore and poplar are good, too, and an overgrown apple orchard can give up a motherlode. Moist, well-drained loam soil with a good blend of sand, clay, and silt—like the dirt found along creeks and rivers—is also ideal morel habitat.

3. The South Will Rise (First)
Early in morel season, south-facing hillsides will get the most sun, causing them to warm much faster than the north side of hills. Hit these spots first, then move over the rise later in the spring as warm temperatures become more consistent.

4. Feel The Burn
Morels don’t care what your political leanings are. They do, however, love a good burn. Recent fires, clear cuts, and other burned-over or disturbed ground can be a utopia for morels. Combine that with rotting stumps and deadfalls on a warm day following a rain and you’re on your way to finding more morels than you can handle. 

5. Deep Cover
When you discover a motherlode of morels, go underground. The moment someone finds out you’re covered up in fresh mushrooms, they’ll hound you for intell. Should you decide to share the bounty by inviting friends over for dinner, at least keep your hunting ground’s location to yourself. No sense in giving up a treasure that you worked so hard to discover.

 

Photograph courtesy of USFWS Mountain-Prairie/Flickr

Source: Field & Stream

Gunfight Friday: Drillings, Baby, Drillings!

Today’s gunfight may be too apples-to-apples for some of you, but so what? It’s a chance to feature not one, but two drillings, which are, I think, among the cooler oddities in the world of long guns. Drillings, as you may know, have three “drei” barrels, and the usual combination, as seen in both of today’s guns, is a pair of shotgun barrels over a single rifle barrel. There are also drillings with two rifle barrels and a shotgun barrel, and with two different-caliber rifle barrels and one shotgun barrel. 

The drilling is designed to be a versatile gun to take any game, which suits not only German hunting traditions, but also makes a handy gamekeeper’s gun. Early in World War II, the Luftwaffe even bought 2,500-odd J.P.Sauer drillings and issued them to pilots as survival guns. 

Tom’s Drilling


This is a Burgsmuller & Sohne gun made in 1940.  The Wehrmacht was rampaging through the Low Countries and shoving the British off the beach at Dunkirk, and the Burgsmuller company in Suhl was still making sporting guns. There is no question that this gun came to the U.S. as some GI’s souvenir.

It has side-by-side 16-gauge barrels surmounting a rifle barrel in 8x57JR, the rimmed version of the 8mm Mauser using a 0.318” diameter bullet. I had my gunsmith fit a compact Leupold 1.25-4x scope in quick-detachable mounts so that it can serve as a shotgun or a rifle as needed. The level of craftsmanship and hand-fitting of these old guns is simply amazing, and it shows in its performance: It’s astonishingly accurate, far more than I ever expected it would be—it’ll put two bullets into the same hole at 100 yards every time.

I took it to Africa in 2013, where it served me well with numerous species: sand grouse, black-backed jackals, and a big male ostrich. Here in the U.S., it’s taken small game and a big whitetail doe on a cull, as well as a 250-pound feral hog. Everything was a one-shot kill. I hand-load Sellier & Bellot’s 196-grain round-nosed soft-point bullets.

It’s by far the most versatile gun I’ve ever owned—good for flying game and with ample power for just about anything short of a Cape buffalo. I wouldn’t hesitate to use it on a bison or an eland. It’s a real all-around gun.

Daniel M’s Drilling


This is my Krieghoff drilling. This particular one is the Waldschutz version, made for foresters and gamekeepers. It’s a bit more of a working gun than some drillings. It has short barrels and a dural alloy frame, so it’s very light (6 pounds without scope) and handy, and has two 16-gauge barrels over a 7x57R, which make it a very versatile hunting tool. I can wander the bush ready for anything, from birds to rabbits to pigs to deer. I had a 6X Hensoldt scope on it, but I’ve since gone with a Nickel 1.5-6X, which allows me to use the shotgun—even on flying game—without removing the scope. Of course, the scope is on claw mounts, so I can take it off and replace it easily, too. 

Dural in Daniel M’s gun is duralumin, a lightweight alloy developed in 1909 and used in the construction of airship frames and, for a time, in some firearms. Pick a drilling, vote, and comment below.

So pledge week is over and we’re back to our regularly scheduled column. Thanks very much to those of you who contributed guns. I have some good ones to put up over the next few weeks, and Gunfight Friday lives on thanks to all of you. I always need more guns, though, so please keep them coming to fsgunnuts@gmail.com

 

*/

Which gun do you prefer?

Tom’s Drilling
Daniel M’s Drilling

made here

 
 
 
 
 
 

Source: Field & Stream

How to Gear Up for Pike on the Fly

Five years ago, carp were flyfishing’s in-thing. Today that craze is simmering, while pike and muskies are boiling over. Almost every time I scroll through my Facebook feed, I see a picture of someone’s new muskie pattern, or a friend mugging it up with a pike that has a mouthful of feathers. I guess I’m trendy, too, because I’ve fallen head over heels for toothers on the fly, particularly northerns. It’s not that I’m anti-muskie, but pike, well, they eat a lot more often. My addiction has taken me from dirty local backwaters to pristine lakes in Saskatchewan, and the more I profess my love, the more gear questions I get about pike on the fly. So let’s set the record straight. Here’s a breakdown of what you need—and what you don’t.

Rod & Reel

Do you anticipate hooking a lot of pike that measure 40 inches or better? I certainly don’t on my local waters, which is why I’ve come to lean on a 7-weight rod. It’s got the backbone to deliver large flies, but it doesn’t overpower the common “hammer handle,” and it’ll put big momma in the net if she eats. Don’t listen to the people who say a 9- or 10-weight is the way to go. Likewise, an expensive reel with a drag that’ll stop a 200-pound tarpon is pointless. Pike are not brute fighters (neither are muskies). It’s the explosive eat that’s the rush. After you set, don’t expect to see your backing.

Line

The majority of good pike fishing will be found in less than 10 feet of water, but I never use a full-floating line unless I’m casting a popper or other surface fly. I’ve found that a clear intermediate sink-tip has much more benefit. First, it lets you keep a fly hovering just above the weeds, even in shallow water. More important, that tip helps get flies with some bulk under quickly. With a floating line, you may need to strip five times to submerge a deer-hair fly, in which case, you may pull that fly right out of the zone. Heavier sink-tips are useful in certain situations, but if you make them your go-to, you’ll often end up collecting more salad than pike.

Leader

You may be tempted to buy fancy tapered leaders with a built-in bite wire. Save the coin. If you’re using a sink-tip, you don’t really need a tapered leader at all. Just cut a 6-foot length of 30-pound fluorocarbon. I like to add a 1-foot length of tie-able wire to the end with an Albright knot. But if that’s too much work, pick up a cheap pack of pre-tied saltwater steel leaders—the ones with a barrel swivel on one end and a snap on the other. Some will argue that these will turn off wire-shy pike. That’s probably true in some locations. I just haven’t found one yet.

Flies

You might wonder how I can cast big, broad flies with mountains of hair and plant them in a pike’s mouth with a puny 7-weight. Easy—I don’t use those flies. In the muskie game, yes, bigger is usually better. But I’ve thrown the giant stuff for pike in Canada, and the truth is, it didn’t catch bigger fish than the smaller, more manageable flies. If you’ve got some simple 6- to 8-inch streamers with long rabbit-strip tails and a bit of flash—often called snake flies (above)—you can catch just about any pike anywhere.

GEAR TIP: Get Rattled

If you’ve ever tied a glass rattle into a fly or jig, you know it’s a pain. They add bulk and often break. Thanks to Bayou Rattler Sonar Ballzz ($1.79 for five; hogfarmerbaits.com), adding a little buzz to jigs, rigs, and flies is a cinch. These 6mm beads have built-in chambers that hold six tiny ball bearings. Slip one (or three) between sections of an articulated streamer, work them into a Carolina rig, or add them to a hair jig via a mono loop. Then just rattle your way to more bites.

 

Photographs from top: Joe Cermele; Cliff Gardiner & John Keller (2)

Source: Field & Stream

Angler Lands Possible-Record Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout

Idaho fly angler Cyndle Clift has quite the tale on her hands. In March, she hooked a 8- to 10-pound, roughly 28-inch Yellowstone cutthroat on the South Fork of the Snake River. But she nearly lost it before she could wrangle it in the boat. “We were coming up on some logs,” Clift says. “We were worried [the trout] would break us off in the log jam, so we pulled it in in less than 5 minutes. But I don’t really know exactly how long it took; I probably blacked out a little bit from surprise.” 

Clift caught the cuttie, her only fish of the day, on a streamer in a deep hole, then snapped photos and released it. Yellowstone cutthroat trout commonly weigh 2 to 3 pounds; 4- and 5-pounders are considered big. Since Clift’s fish is twice the size of a typical Yellowstone cutthroat, naysayers have begun questioning if the fish is actually a brown trout, not a cutthroat. Idaho Department of Fish and Game biologists say, however, that, despite the fish’s questionably large size, they believe that it is indeed a cutthroat, based on the orange coloring around its mouth, consistent with cutthroat markings.

“There’s occasionally some really big cutthroat down there,” says Dan Garren, IDFG regional fisheries manager. “When fish get that big, they’re probably eating a lot of smaller fish and getting a lot of nutrients into their body.”

The catch bodes well for the decade-long effort to conserve native Yellowstone cutthroat trout in the South Fork. A 2015 creel survey of the South Fork showed that cutthroat numbers are, after much effort, finally increasing as rainbow numbers decline, making it one of the West’s last Yellowstone cutthroat strongholds. 

On the South Fork, you can keep all the non-native rainbows you want—but cutthroats must be released, which is why Clift released her haul. IDFG started a state-record program for catch-and-release fish in January, but Clift didn’t know about it—she has no pictures of the fish next to measuring tape, so no record. “Maybe someone else will have the opportunity to catch it,” Clift says. “But if it had been part rainbow, I would have kept it, and it would have been mounted on my wall.”

 

Photograph courtesy of Sam Korhel

Source: Field & Stream

Mouth Call Master: Champion Turkey Calling Tips from Hunter Wallis

Hunter Wallis, Teenage Champion Turkey Caller by FieldandStream

 

Hunter Wallis knows a little something about turkey calling. At only 18 years old, he’s a six-time National Wild Turkey Federation Grand National champion, the highest honor in competitive turkey calling. For the last 10 years, he’s been cleaning up on the circuit and in the turkey woods. 

Every inch of wall space at his family turkey camp in northeast Pennsylvania is plastered with an award plaque, a newspaper clipping, a magazine cover, or a photograph. Every shelf holds a trophy. On top of an old piano: a chain of turkey spurs long enough to hang a tree swing. 

“Yeah,” Hunter said. “Those are all mine.”  

Jeff Wallis, Hunter’s dad, remembers the exact moment he knew Hunter was on to something special. 

“When Hunter was very small, 5 years old, the Cabela’s in Hamburg first opened. The trip was two-hour drive, and I found a small-frame diaphragm call,” Jeff said. “He put it in his mouth, I told him not to swallow it, and in the course of that trip home, he mastered that mouth call. By the end of that trip he made almost perfect yelps. It takes a lot more practice now, on his level, but that was the basis of the calls he does today.” 

Hunter won his first title at the Harford Fair Calling Contest in Pennsylvania when he was 8 years old. He went on to win three Grand National Calling Jr. championships, and three Grand National Intermediate Division championships. He’s won eight Pennsylvania Jr. championships, and the 2014 U.S. Open Senior championship, where he competed against the best adult callers in the world. When he turns 21, he’ll compete as an adult full-time. 

Hunter Wallis with his signature series call. Check out Hunter’s video tips on: 

How to Purr with a Mouth Call

How to Cutt on a Mouth Call

Finishing Calls for Hung-up Gobblers

 

“Understanding Hunter’s success is very simple,” said Chris Piltz, Special Events Coordinator with the NWTF. “He mastered the mouth call at such an early age, long before anyone else in his age division. He’s had a run of recent dominance that cannot be touched.”

Dakota Clouser, also of Pennsylvania, stacked seven consecutive Grand National wins in his youth and intermediate career. Hunter could tie that next year, and then have one more year take the all-time wins crown. Does he feel the pressure?  

“It’s like a football game for an NFL player. I’m ready to go, but I’m nervous at the same time,” he said. “I can use that energy on stage.” 

The real anxiety doesn’t come before a contest, or in thinking about the future, but in those final minutes after he’s on stage, before the winners are announced. That’s when he’s standing before the crowd, looking at his sneakers, fiddling with his hat, and waiting to hear his name. And usually he has to wait the longest, until the biggest trophy is handed out.  

Born to Call

Running a mouth call at Hunter’s level is a lot like singing. Some people have the raw ability, and others just don’t. Shape of the face plays a part in it. But talent alone won’t bring home a Grammy. It takes air control, mastering volume and pitch and tone. It takes studying live birds and past great callers. Above all, it takes practice. “One thing you learn in turkey calling is you can never be too good,” Hunter said.

Josh Grossenbacher, the 2015 World Turkey Calling Champion and call builder for Zink Calls, met Hunter six years ago at the Grand Nationals. “Hunter just took to him, and followed him all over the show,” Jeff said. Josh was invited to hunt with the Wallis crew that spring in Pennsylvania and New York, and they’ve hunted together ever since. Josh has since become something of a mentor. 

“Hunter has the talent, but more importantly, he has the drive,” Josh said. “He’s never complacent. He’s always listening to older callers, trying new things. He’s constantly working, and that shows up there on the stage.” 

Is Josh worried about Hunter in two years time, when he’s competing in the senior division, and against his mentor? 

“He will be one of the guys filling a top-12 spot, consistently, that’s a given. But I’m not real nervous about him, because I build his calls,” he laughed. 

Game Time

Being a great caller and a great hunter are two different things. But if you master the mouth call, no turkey sound is off limits, from basic yelps and purrs to fly-down cackles and kee-kee runs. To master it, you must find a call that fits your palate and pipes. 

One summer, Hunter was at Zink’s factory in Ohio, and Josh helped him tinker with different styles of calls. “We landed on a heavier latex call, triple reed, batwing, that requires more air pressure than a lot of other calls,” Josh said. “We sat around and messed with a lot of different latex and cuts before finding this combination.” 

Hunter with his dad, Jeff Wallis (left), world-champion caller Josh Grossenbacher (right), and a big old gobbler (there in the center). 

This spring Hunter will chase birds in Alabama, Indiana, Pennsylvania, New York, and maybe Ontario. “When it comes to strategy, woodsmanship, he’s like a seasoned vet,” Josh said. “I’ve hunted with hundreds of people over the years, and he knows more about what’s going on that 95 percent of the guys I’ve been in the woods with.”

Between calling contests, the turkey woods, high-school baseball—a team with regional championship potential this year—and all the other demands of 18-year-old life, Hunter is also one busy dude. “Summer break is nice,” he said. “I usually sleep for about two weeks, but then I like to go down to Zink’s and work on some new calls.” 

Source: Field & Stream

Video: Finishing Calls for Hung-Up Gobblers

Turkey Calling Tip: How to Finish A Hung-Up… by FieldandStream

When a gobbler won’t commit, Hunter Wallis, six-time Grand National turkey calling champ, switches to a series of soft clucks, purrs, and yelps. “We’ve all been in that situation where we’ve got a gobbler just out of gun range and he won’t break,” Hunter said. “What I like to do there is switch to real soft calling, just to make that turkey think you’re a hen and feeding off.”

For the cluck, he does soft pops, almost like blowing bubbles with his mouth and lips—puht, puht, puht. He moves that into a purr by rolling his throat through whistled lips—coo, coo, coo, coo, coo—followed by soft yelps of sharp air run down the roof of his mouth, and through the call—chip, chip, chip. Cut the yelps off by pursing your lips, then mix it all together and slowly lower the volume to get that gobbler into gun range. 

Source: Field & Stream