Friday, August 31, 2012

Darne R10

A few years ago I told Lou about Darne shotguns.  In time he managed to pick one up for quite a steal from a dealer in Texas.   The gun he found was a 20 gauge Darne R10, a 70s era Stoeger import.  Its a Plain-Jane model with no engravings and a case colored sliding breech.  The LOP was too short and Lou added a slip-on ventilated pad, (to my disgust), to increase it to 14.5 inches.  The wood is appropriate for such a model and therefore nothing to write home about. Fit at some places is not something you'd expect from a fine gun maker.  I had once read that the quality control during the 60-70 era was not up to par. Even with all its shortcomings, this gun is a dream, I would not be ashamed of having it in my collection (without the slip-on pad of course). I shot his R10 while dog training and it shoots nicely though like all short, lightweight guns its very easy to stop your swing.  So you must consciously tell yourself to continue on your swing.
I love that Darne action.
No engravings but is nicely case colored.
The wood is very plain and has a blond hint to it.
This needs to be removed and a proper pad must be added to increase the LOP.
Stoeger Markings.
The wood to metal fit here could be better.  I'm not sure if the wood shrank or if the rumors of 1970 era Darne's poor quality control are true.
This is a true Darne and as such is marked so on the ears.
This is a fine gun and I wish it were in my collection.  It balances quite nicely and has a feel more like a 28 guage than a 20. The chokes are very open. I believe they are Skt1/Skt1 but I'm not too certain.  Perfect over a pointing dog and our resident quail.

Getting ready for the Season, Prado Dog Training

With one day away, September 1st marks the dove opener for most of the States.  Most hunters are foaming at the mouth by now.  Not me.  I'll bypass the opener like I have done so for a few years now.  It's simply too hot and there are too many knuckleheads that ruin your day.  On top of that, who knows what yesterday's dessert rains had done to those birds.  They are probably all gone.  I do look forward to September 8th, though as it marks the opening of the early mountain quail season for the northern half of the state.  In anticipation to that I joined Lou for his weekly dog training at Prado.
Lou's Darne R10 (take off that damn slip on pad!)
Lou had excess birds and as this was his last time out for training until the season opens he gave me call to see if Kaiser needed some bird work.  He invited me last week as well but unfortunately I was too busy t come out.  With two of his females in heat, Lou brought his three other dogs.  We had 20 birds for four dogs, so each dog was going to get a good workout.  I brought my Merkel 147SL in 12 gauge and Lou brought his Darne R10 in 20.  After telling Lou about Darnes and having bought his first, he is now a convert.  His Darne is lovely but unfortunately its LOP is much to short.  Lou added a slip on pad, which I hate and can not stand, to help increase the LOP to 14.5 inches.  I told him to get rid of that slip on and put on a proper rubber pad but its his gun.
My Merkel 147SL
It looks like my time at the clay range was a big help as no birds escaped my 12 gauge.  If only that will be the case in the field this year.  I even tried the R10 for the last bird.  His Darne seems so much whippier than mine.  As with any lightweight and short gun it is very whippy and as such you tend to stop your swing.  I missed the first shot and just barely made the second after realizing I was stopping my swing.  Kaiser needs work.  He bumped the first bird tripping the launcher right after he pointed.  After a correction he stopped that nonsense.  Since I've done little bird work in the past off seasons, he is no longer is he steady at wing and shot which is a shame.  Lou's dogs did well as they should have as they've been training all damn summer.  For whatever reason all the birds seemed to launch my way.   Also my damn launcher failed to trip the latch, I'm hoping its just the batteries.  If not I'll be pissed.

I videoed the training with my Contour Roam and if I have the time and patience to upload it on youtube I'll post it here.  They came out quite nicely.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

C&F Design XXL SW Fly Case

Last summer, prior to with my parents' planned trip to Japan, I asked them if they could pick me up the C&F Design XX-Large SW Fly case.  Unfortunately that trip was cancelled due to the devastating tsunami that crippled the nation.  After a year or so, I had long since forgotten about that request I made to my folks and had purchased the Cliff's Bugger Beast as an alternative.  Yesterday after picking up my folks from the airport they had a little surprise for me.  While I had forgotten about the request, apparently my parents did not and had my new C&F box waiting for me.  It must have been my reward for having to put up and navigating through the incredibly poorly designed layout of LAX.  I hate driving into that shithole.
The C&F Design XXL SW Fly box, like many other of their products, is not imported stateside (at least not as of this post).  So I was excited to see it when they pulled it out of their luggage.  It is similar in size to the Cliff's, but slightly taller in height (but does not translate to more interior real estate) and shorter in length and thinner in profile.  The locking system is done via tabs while the bugger beast uses a sliding closures.  I prefer the cliff's in that regard.  While the paperwork says made in Japan, the plastic case is actually made in Canada.  Lips on the C&F close much flusher than the Cliff's.  Another one of most noticeable difference between the two is the foam.  C&F is much better, slots are cut cleanly whereas the Beast need to be re-cut at places.  Also the row of slots are clearly identified by the four strategically placed holes marking each row.  Whereas, when new, the slots are hard to distinguish on the Beast and as already mentioned, are not always cut deep enough to slide a hook in easily without having to re-cut it.
With the conversion rate favoring the yen, at ¥5775 (roughly $73US), it is no wonder this product does not get imported here.  It clearly is no bargain.  Nevertheless I'm glad it is now in my arsenal, you can never have enough fly fishing Tupperware.  My intention now is to use the Beast for my big bass flies (after all I drew a damn largemouth on it) and the C&F for bluewater flies for Calicos, tuna and such.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Skeet The Best Way To Practice For The Upcoming Season

Merkel 47e 20 gauge
Since I had an appointment in the afternoon nearby, I decided to spend the morning at the skeet range once again.  I definitely shot better than I did the last time but nowhere near what I should be shooting with the season just around the corner.  Because I had my station all to myself for my three rounds, I did not, for the most part, follow protocol.  I ended by skipping station 8 entirely for the last two rounds.  For the first time, at least for me, I noticed more side by sides at the clay range.  One shooter appeared to be shooting a Browning, while another, Al, who I spoke with just before leaving, was shooting a F. Rizzini boxlock with 32 inch barrels and a single trigger.  While the set up was not my cup of tea, the shotgun was clearly a beaut.  He had purchased it from an estate for merely $5000.   It was a 12 gauge pigeon gun and he added 28 gauge inserts.  Al let me shoulder the gun and although it had some whacking stock it handled like a dream.  He offered to let me shoot two clays with it but I had, to my chagrin, decline as I had to get to my appointment.  If I meet him again I'll definitely take him up on his offer though.  Before I left he asked my what I was shooting (I had already cased my gun in the trunk of my car) and I let him know that I was shooting my Merkel 20 gauge.  Al was impressed and I let him know I had four total.  He then let me know a little trivia, that Lee Marvin was a Merkel shooter.  In fact that Lee Marvin requested two Merkels before any movie.  If that is true, and considering when he started making that request, I wonder how many Merkels, Lee must have owned in his lifetime.  I also wonder whatever happened to those guns.  Lee Marvin, I liked him then and I like him even more now knowing that little piece of trivia.  Now if only current day actors could be so cool.
A few years ago I had a discussion with a fellow hunter on what was best pre-season practice for wingshooting.  He argued that sporting clays were the ideal game, while I argued that skeet was.  At one time I would have agreed with him but it was my friend Mike who convinced me otherwise.  When sporting clays was first developed, the goal was to mimic the flights of birds seen in the field.  In time the sport became less about mimicking hunting shots and more about trying to deceive the shooter with optical illusions.  Most sporting clay stations have less than realistic flight patterns that would never be seen in the field.  Whereas skeet has every possible shot picture one would ever face while hunting, from going away shots, to left to right crossers, right to left crossers, to incoming shots, among others, are all represented.  Another friend of mine once told me that skeet isn't realistic and that is why he only shoots live pigeons while dog training.  Countering, I let him know that while skeet is not perfect it is there to make sure that your fundamentals and lead pictures are squared away.  Much like a MLB player would go it a batting cage for batting practice.  Batting cages are not the pitches a batter would see during a game but it lets him make sure his hand-eye coordination, his footwork and fundamentals are all solid before he faces "real" pitches.  Skeet is much the same way.  It is there so your fundamentals are solid before facing "real" birds.
 I only shoot skeet and trap now for pre-season practice as they are the most realistic shots I'll see afield.  Its been years since I've over on the sporting clay range.  I shoot clays to get ready for the bird season so I'm not quite sure when I'll ever return to the sporting side of the range.  

Friday, August 17, 2012

Waders Mandatory

With the last couple weeks rather busy, I needed some respite.  My intention was to head out to the clay range again for some more pre-season practice but with the temperature in the valleys in the triple digits, I choose to stay closer to the cooler weather.  Its been some time now since the last time I fished in these local waters.  The last time the water was high and waders were necessary.  Looks like not much has changed from then.  Water is still high and murky.  The vegetation along the banks are 3 feet over head and just getting to the water is a chore.  Waders are not only necessary so that you can get in the water and make a decent cast but also as armor while you ford through all that brush.
The instant I made it in the water I noticed three or four carp within casting distance.   I blew each opportunity until I lost them in the darker deeper water.  So I left and waded downstream.  It was not long before I came across a feeder.  I casted right over him and I feared I spooked him but no, it stood its ground even after I felt that I foul hooked him, most likely somewhere near the tail.  Normally that's game over but this fish simply moved three feet to my left ad resumed feeding.  So I casted to him again and he was on.  He fought hard with a few sprints but no long runs.  Forgetting my boga I did not have a chance to weight him.  I figure above 6lbs maybe closer to seven.

With that area now disturbed I moved further downstream.  The wind was now beginning to pick up and I casted along bass twin tule and tried my luck for some bass.  Although the wind was blowing this section of tules, they were moving more violently than the wind conditions were dictating.  I knew there was a fish feeding within those weeds.  I casted into it and instantly I was hooked up.  This fish bull dogged me the whole time and I figured it may have been a nice bass.  eventually the fish came up high enough to notice that it was another carp.  This fish, like the last, only made few attempts at a sprint but no long runs.  When I finally got it to hand it was about a 4 pounder.  After that I had my fix and headed out of there.  Not a bad day for about a hours worth of work.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Pre-Season Warm Up

With the early bird season weeks away, its time to start preparing.  This week has been brutal and it was time to blow off some steam.  There's no better way than firing off a few rounds.  I shot like shit, not surprisingly since I haven't picked up a shotgun since last season.  Skeet was the game of choice today.  Ed and I limited ourselves to just three rounds as this heat wave is a killer.  I shot my Merkel 147SL 12 gauge for the the first two rounds and my Merkel 47e 20 gauge for the last.  Since I'm preparing for the bird season I shot game loads and I began feeling it by the middle of the second round.  Poor mounting didn't help either.  I need to head back.  I can't be shooting this poorly in the field.  Noticing that I was shooting high on several birds, we diagnosed that I was ever so slightly pulling my head away from the stock just before firing.  At least I have a few weeks to fix my problem before its gametime.

The next time you're buying rounds at Triple B's, look above at the ceiling just before the cash register.  You'll notice that some idiot, years ago, came into the clubhouse with a loaded gun and had a negligent discharge.  It was my buddy Mike who informed me of this years ago.  Imagine you're standing in line paying for rounds and some asshole behind you shoots off his shotgun. What an asshole, I hope they barred that dipshit for life.  At least the moron had good enough sense to have his barrels pointing upwards.
Afterwards as is a usual custom when shooting clays here, we headed to a nearby restaurant for dim sum.  All in all it was a good day despite the unbearable heat and the fact I shot miserably.

L'Atelier Verney-Carron, Saint- Etienne, France

Thursday, August 2, 2012

MVL is Fishing Well

After a successful morning appointment, I took up Chul's invitation to MVL.  He had fished gear Monday and reported back to me that its on fire.  For most of the afternoon, Chul fished gear and I fished fly.  Almost immediately we were on fish.  In the beginning there was no obvious advantage fishing gear but after about the first hour, as the wind picked up even more, fishing gear was clearly the winner.  With the fly I only managed dink bass, although clearly these juveniles are getting bigger and clearly feeding well, and some respectable bluegills.  I did manage a very nice bluegill that literally felt like a log.  Once it became apparent what I had on the line, I noticed that a 5 pound bass was chasing the panfish the whole way , grabbing and nipping at it.  The bass most have grabbed a hold while I initially fought the fish and that is why it felt so heavy.  Chul managed a very respectable bass off a dock with plastic.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Spanish Best

For more that a decade my copy of Spanish Best by Terry Weiland has sat in my gun library unread collecting dust.  This weekend I decided to actually open the book and finish it.  I have no idea why it has taken me so long to read this book.  Perhaps its because I always  subconsciously thought that Spanish doubles were somehow a "lesser" gun.  Maybe that is too harsh. I have long realized that Spanish guns are nice and an excellent value for the money but always in the back of my mind I always considered them reproductions rather than the real deal.  After reading Weiland's book, I have realized that may not be a fair assessment.  The book is an excellent off season read that gave me some insight on Spanish guns and the industry.  It takes a good look at the history of Spain and how it influenced it's firearm industry as well as how English influences in banking and royalty contributed to the adoption of the English ideal of the shotgun.  Also  researched is the possible origins of poor reputation and apprehension among American shooters toward Spanish guns.  What I really enjoyed about this book is not only does Terry describe Eiber gun making trade but the actual town itself and it cultural and culinary experiences.  All in all I enjoyed this book and worthy a place in any fine gun library.