Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Harkila Double Rifle Slip and Harkila Rifle Cartridge Cover in leather

Harkila, while not well known among US hunters, is a Scandinavian outdoor company that specializes in hunting gear.  From what I gather they are quite popular among European hunters.  My first experience with them is with one of their sweaters.  Its been the warmest sweater I've ever worn and it's lined with Gore-Tex so gives me added protection in case my Filson jacket is compromised. 
The old man has been in need of a soft case for fie rifles years now and with the addition of his new Martini Hagn single shot, it's about time he got a new one.  Since I was already placing an order for the Musto gun slip, I decided to pick up a slip for his rifles.
I chose the Harkila for many reasons.  For one I was so impressed with my sweater, I figured their other products should be just as good.  Another is that this case holds more than one scoped rifle.
This rifle slip's outer shell is made from waterproof PU fabric with nice and supple leather trim.  The interior is made with a high quality foam ensuring protection of optics and sporting rifles.  There are two expandable pockets which allow for carrying of spotting scopes, shooting sticks, spare barrels, ammo or any other accessory.
A removable and adjustable sling is proved for shoulder carry. One negative is that the is slip is rather tall and there is a lot of room height-wise so if you do carry the slip on the shoulder the gun within may get bounced around.  On a positive note though, for added protection the zippers are waterproof as well as lockable. 

I also picked up for the old man a Harkila Rifle Cartridge Cover in leather.  This ammo holder carries five cartridges of most standard medium bore.  It looks to be made of the same leather as the trim of the rifle slip.  All in all not a bad piece of kit.

If you've read this post and a few of my latest posts I've written about the Croots cartridge belt and the Musto gun slip, all were purchased overseas from Ardmour in Scotland.  They have been a pleasure to deal with and unlike a previous experience from another Scottish vendor (the one I bought the Harkila sweater from) everything went smoothly.  Ardmour was relatively fast to ship, the actual shipping though only took three days to arrive at my doorstep in California which is faster than some domestic routes, only one item was not instock and received a full refund back on my card.  I am not affiliated with Ardmour nor do I receive any compensation for anything on this blog.  I write for fun.  If I did get paid I'd let you know.  So if you have a need for any European hunting gear that is unavailable here stateside, you may want to check them out.  Currently they do have a sale on most of their items and international shipping is free over 250GBP.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Musto Canvas And Leather Gunslip

Not many quality gunslips are available here in the States.  Most are overpriced cheap imports that are hardly befitting a fine double.  Regretting not picking up a Maremmano gunslip on sale a few years back, I've been looking for a new one ever since.  I picked up one from Musto for £108.29.
There are some real smart feature of this English-made gunslip.  First, there is protective block end that creates a pocket to fit a portion of your stock.  This creates a layer of safety in case you carry the slip incorrectly (shouldering it zipper side down).  If the heavy duty zipper is improperly secured, the gun can plummet to the ground.  The pocket at least can help prevent the gun from being dropped out of the carrier.  Another layer of safety is that the zipper has a leather pull that can be buttoned to the slip to prevent accidental slippage.
The exterior is laminated cotton twill canvas with Italian vegetable tanned leather trim.  There is an adjustable leather sling with solid brass hardware.  The interior is a soft padded quick drying synthetic fleece.  This English made gunslip is an affordable piece of kit worthy of carrying my Merkels, Darnes or any higher end shotgun.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

It's Going To Be A Long Off-Season

After yesterday's dismal showing, we were not too optimistic on today's hunt.  We started at my favorite ditch and it proved fruitless.  We moved on to another part of the river.  Dad and I split up, I went upstream and he went down.  After a couple miles I managed to flush a pair of mallards, unfortunately a tree blocked what would have been a perfect shot.  Once the birds cleared the branches, I took my shot at the drake.  I saw him stutter but failed to fall.  They flew into infinity never to be seen again.
After walking the entire river, I went back to the Rover and drove downstream to pick up dad.  We moved to another section of the river and had lunch.  After our meal we went back to looking for ducks.  There were no birds in this section so we moved to yet another section.  I managed to take a common merganser that flew overhead.  Once the bird landed I recall a conversation with Ed we had at our first outing at San Jacinto.  I asked is it a win or a loss or a draw if we take a merganser?  He said it's a loss.  So I guess I lost on this trip.  I'll use the feathers for fly tying.  The meat, I'll try and make edible if not it will make good dog food for Kaiser.
After taking the merganser, I had another opportunity to take another but held off once I identified the duck.  With any hope of real birds dwindling, I suggested we take a look at Manzanar, the internment camp that imprisoned Japanese-Americans during World War Two.  We chose not to take the full tour only checking out one of the barracks.  So it was a quick tour.
We left Manzanar and I decided to check out a section of river I've yet to hunt but have been told held, at least in the past, some geese.  While I did not see any geese or any waterfowl for that matter, I did find an area that had several nice ponds.  I'll have to keep that in mind next year, it should be  a good spot to jump shoot next year.  By this time, we decided to cut the trip short and head home.  Bob, a local, called me and confirmed that birds were for the most part gone and that I should have brought our flyrods. 

Friday, January 24, 2014

Last Weekend Of The Season

For the most part it's the last  weekend for wingshooting this year.  The snipe season is extended a few weeks but since I can't tell the difference from snipe to a dowitcher to any other small shorebird, I won't be hunting those unless I can figured out how to properly identify them. 

Waking up feeling somewhat ill and with a neck sore, the day did not start out well.  It seemed to be the theme of the day.  We arrived around 1pm and after a quick sandwich we took a look at a little pond I hadn't looked at for years.  It was void of birds.  Not even a coot.  We drove off to my favorite ditch and when we started to walk the banks I notice footprints that indicated someone had already been there.  We walked one side and while returning to the Rover we saw the owner of the footprints after a quick talk he let us know that he didn't see a thing.

Leaving to another area of a river, we kept running into hunters or at least their trucks.  Of course armed with tungsten and bismuth duck loads, Kaiser and I ran into a few quail.  Kaiser managed to point one when the old man called me on the phone.  While trying to dig the iphone out of my waders Kaiser pointed another and the quail flushed.  I had No.5 bismuth in both barrels so I took a shot.  Missed with both barrels.  We decided to check out some creeks that I never seen.  The water proved too steep to hold ducks, so we moved on.    Rest of the day was a bust so we headed to dinner.
The starter- escargot imported from Burgundy
I ordered the Merguez (North African lamb sausage) with Harissa sauce, pommes frites and salad.
Dad ordered the NY Steak with peppercorn sauce with spinach and pommes frites.
The hunting was poor, the meal was not.  We saw no legit ducks, not even at an no hunting pond that always holds ducks.  If tomorrow is a bust, we'll be calling the trip early and heading home.  Let's hope we get some or at least see some tomorrow.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Croots Cartridge Belt

Croots is British company specializing in traditional field sport accessories.  Recently I placed an order from the UK on a Croots Cartridge Belt among a few other items.  This will be used for the most part for jump shooting waterfowl.  With a 25 shot capacity, it will also be useful for our refugees as that is the maximum number of rounds allowed in a blind.
Made in England, this belt is made of quality bridle leather tanned in a handsome dark Havana color.  The loops are open and has a smartly designed stopper to prevent the rounds from being pushed too far down.  Loops are accurately stitched and shells fit snuggly but not too much so that they are difficult to insert or remove.  With the last weekend of the bird season upon us, I'll be testing it tomorrow.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Seared Duck Breast With Shallot And Mirin Vinaigrette

Well Aged Wild Duck Breast
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Dijon Mustard
Sherry Vinegar

Make the vinaigrette first by chopping the shallots.  Once chopped place in a bowl and pour the vinegar.  Mix well and leave it for 10 minutes.  This will cook the shallots and mellow it out.  After the 10 minutes mix the Dijon mustard and mirin into the shallots.  The slowly add the olive oil mixing as you go.  Add the chopped chives at the end.

Pan sear the duck breast on medium low heat.  Cook to medium rare.   Let rest for a few minutes.  Cut at a bias and top the breast with the vinaigrette. 

I served this with sautéed mushrooms with garlic, tomatoes, and fries.

Although I used wild duck for this, I imagine it would be even better with a fatty domesticated duck.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Sweatlinin' It

With less than an hour of sleep, I woke up at 1:30am this morning getting ready to head out once again to San Jacinto.  This time though Ed and I would sweatline it in the hopes we'd be able to get drawn for a blind from one of the no shows.  Ed arrived and we were on the road by 2am.
In about an hour we made it to the wildlife area and waited for another hour until all the reservations were processed.  This being the second to last weekend of the season, more than usual number of reservation holders showed up.  I believe 37 out of the 50 reserved blinds showed, a greater average than normal.  We waited for an hour or so for those guys to be processed and hoped we'd be drawn for the remaining 13 empty blinds.
We didn't make the cut unfortunately but Ed's buddy Min did and choose blind W12.  Ed and I would have to hope for a early refill draw.  Name after name was called.  Finally we were called.  20th of maybe 30 or so.  So we wouldn't be expecting a blind anytime soon.  By this time it was 5:30am so I returned to the Rover and slept in the front seat for another hour or so.  When I woke around 7, I figured hunters wouldn't be leaving their blinds for at least another hour or more and suggested we head back into town and get a bite to eat.  We headed to Harry's Café for a less than impressive but adequate gut busting breakfast.  Chicken fried steak and eggs for me, enough calories to hold me over for a week.
After finishing our meals, we headed back to the office.  D1 had been refilled and A1 was now available.  No one ahead of us seemed to want it.  Refill number 19, the guy ahead of us debated whether he wanted it.  Since this blind is deep and really only shoots well in the morning and without a dog he choose to pass.  Ed and I debated whether we wanted it or not.  I figured we should take it.  Being very close to the end of the refill order, any "good" blind would be taken once it became available.  So we'd be waiting for a long time.  The mentality of both of us was it's better to be miserable at the blind with a slim chance at birds than waiting at the office being miserable with no chance at all for birds.
As we made our way to the same blind we hunted last timed, Ed who started a few minutes ahead of me saw three teal fly into the brush in the corner.  After we dropped our stuff at the blind we made our way to jump shoot these teal.  Ed would make his way at the other edge and I'd send the dog in to flush the birds out.  The birds flushed out.  At first it was just coots.  Then within the coots the three teals flew out.  Since I was staring directly in the sun and with coots among them it didn't register until too late that those were the birds we wanted!  Once it dawned on me they we out of range.  What a fool.   That proved to be our only chance for the next hours and we gave up at noon.  At the parking lot,  I let Kaiser run around and he ended up finding a dead hen spoonie, either thrown away from a hunter or a bird that managed to fly away a hunter's gun before expiring. 
Arriving at the office, we saw Min waiting to refill at another blind.  As we chatted, he let us know he managed only a hen greenwing teal.  Others began filtering in from their blinds and from what we saw they only had a teal or spoonie as they entered to report.  Looks like most everyone was having a rough time so we weren't the only ones.  We debated on whether to stay and re-refill but at 15th in line we chose against it.  It was too brutal.  With little to no birds flying and with temps around 80, knowing when to quit is valuable characteristic trait.  This was Ed's last hurray for the year.  For me, with one weekend left in the season I'll try to make it out to the Sierras for one last attempt to get this bad taste in my mouth.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Precious Cul De Canard

All the birds I've plucked, I have kept the feathers for fly tying.  For all but the last two mallards, I've simply plucked the birds and stuff the feathers in a ziplock.  I made it a point to separate the CDC feathers this time and place them in a separate bag.  I should have done this with all the birds but I simply did not know where the CDC feather were located.  The CDC feathers, if you don't know, is on the back side of the duck just above the tail feathers. There is quite a few too that will make some nice dry flies.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Nothing But Frustration At MVL

It can be easily argued that this guy had a better day than us.

The only thing not rising today were the fish.  The mercury was rising.  Our blood pressures were rising.  My frustration level was rising.  First its the middle of January and it's 90 degrees out.  I had my fan on last night as I slept.  While I don't want Minnesota winters, I do want it at least feel like a winter.  I hadn't sweated this much fishing since the summer. 
Hooking percentages increase when you don't fish with bent hooks.
Nothing went our way.  We fished for a couple hours trying to get one of the bruiser bass or monster bluegill to take.  None would give us the time of day.  With all this hot weather we were unsure whether this fish were staging up for an early spawn or if they were just trying to tease us.   After a couple hours of mindless casting and stripping we gave up on the bass and tried our luck on the stock trout.  Chul and Ben fished for stockers last Friday and found them at a corner of the lake.  As there were two boats moored there, the fish must have not moved.  We anchored to the very left of them and started to fish.  Both Chul and I got bumps but failed to connect.  While we were fishing a boat cruises up to us, given his course it looked like he was about to cruise over our fishing hole and lines.  I thought to myself that no one could be that stupid and inconsiderate.  He'll turn and go around us.  Nope.  He cruised right over our lines spooking all the fish that were starting to bite.  He anchors right next to us.  If it were for the fact that he had two young daughters with him, he may have gotten an earful from me.
With my blood pressure now at critical levels, my casting, my fish striking, my patience were all suffering.  For the next hour or so I had to be stuck near a guy that I wanted to cuss out and watch him and his girls catch fish after fish on powerbait.  If it wasn't bad enough he had to poach our spot now I had to watch him catch fish there too.  There apparently is no such thing as karma.  To cap the day off Chul mysteriously broke his Winston 6 weight.  He didn't even know it was snapped until he started stripping some line in and saw his tip was missing.
Other than a day or two last year, Mission Viejo had been fishing poorly.  It has continued to the new year.  We don't intend on returning anytime soon.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Is Goldeneye edible?

I'm an upland hunter at heart.  I prefer hunting quail and chuckar in the high deserts of the west but since the upland season has been so dismal the past years I have switched my focus to waterfowling as you probably can tell if you're a regular reader.  While I've been hunting for years, I really haven't taken that many variety of duck species.  Therefore I have not eaten all the duck species.  I generally have to go by what people tell me (I don't always trust it as many of these people have crap palates) or what I read in books or the web. 

I've been told goldeneyes are not edible and taste like garbage.  I've taken bufflehead and I tried cooking it and it was inedible.  I threw it out after one bite.  I would have given it to the dog if I had not cooked it in wine (grapes being hazardous to canines).  So I was a bit worried for this diving duck.  Few days ago I decided to try it out.  I plucked it and as I did with the spoonie I cut a piece of the rear end of and fried it in a hot pan, smelling it to see if it was off or fishy.  It did have a slight fishiness but not too bad.

So I decided to leave the skin on and butcher it and cook it the same way I did my spoonie.  While it was not as good as the spoonie, it was edible.  In fact it wasn't half bad.  A few things I believe, marinating the bird in Japanese BBQ sauce helps a lot.  First when you cook it, the marinade caramelizes.  As a result the natural sweetness of the duck becomes sweeter.  Second any fishiness that is present is masked with the sweet and spicy  flavors of the Ohgon No Aji.  If it the state is still too strong the addition of  yuzukoshō also helps as it is strong with spicy, salty and tangy flavors. 

One thing I must mention is cooking the bird rare to medium rare helps keeping the duck (or any duck for that matter) from becoming too gamey.  One note I did notice was that texturally this goldeneye was softer than other ducks.  It was more filet mignon (texturally that is) than it was New York strip which I find more common with other ducks.  So are goldeneyes edible?  This duck was.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Coup de Grâce

Surprisingly the day before, we ran into or saw no hunters afield despite being a weekend.  As a result we were able to hunt all the spots I wanted to and ran into several birds.  Everyone must have stayed home to watch the playoffs.  Now with everyone back to work, I figured Monday should be better.  At least that was the theory.
Since I knew that most of my go-to spots would likely be undisturbed, I decided to start the morning checking out new spots.  The first spot was a bust and so I headed off to a pond that I had not checked out in a long while.  It was barren and half frozen.  That was okay as I wanted to make sure I remembered where it was so I could come back to it in the spring and try my luck on some largemouth.
As the pond was a bust, we drove on looking for another pond I know of and while I was unable to find it, I did find a new one.  It was completely froze off. These roads unless you drive them all the time it is easy to take a wrong road and leads you off track. 
We checked some other areas and they were also all frozen.  We then headed to one of my favorite spots.  On the first half we flushed three mallards.  I took a shot at one missing with the first shot and it looked like I nicked her with the second that caused her to spin around and changed direction, with my gun empty dad took over and dropped her down with the first shot of his Merkel Model 8 loaded with Bismuth No.4.   I tried crossing the stream thinking it was shallow but it was deceptively deep.  I wore my waders without the shoulder straps connected and had some water filled my Simms.  Kaiser and I made it across to retrieve the hen and made it back to dad to hand it to him.  We moved on and then we flushed a pair of mallards.  Having a perfect bead on the greenhead I fired but since the ducks flew behind some trees I only hit the tree.  I could tell by the impact, it would have nailed the mallard had there been no tree been there.
Having checked the rest of this area without any success, we drove off to check another section of the river I never been.    After hiking upstream some ways, I gave up on the area and moved on.  On the way out all we found was a lone merganser that I wasn't too interested in taking.  We took our lunch streamside and while eating we were buzzed by one of our Naval pilots in what appeared to be a  F-18 Super Hornet.
On another part of the river I parked along side water after checking to see if there were any ducks.  When I climbed out of the Rover, I checked the water again and from the far bank three mallards flushed.  Had I seen them I could have put a very easy stalk on them.  I walked up the river and only saw no more premium duck only "trash" ducks. 
By this time I was exhausted from four days of hunting and looked at some areas that didn't require too much hiking.  We did find two cottontails but did not take them.  With about an hour left of light, I decided to drive to an area that Dave told me was holding geese.  Having never hunted that area I drove down the dirt road and it proved to be too hard an area to hunt while tired.  It would have been a lot of bushwhacking that I was in no mood for.  The rest of the road was closed off and I had to turn around and that was the trip.  This maybe the last "trip" of the season unfortunately.  Hopefully I can get one more in but I'm not too sure that's going to happen.