Happy New Year, and here is to a great 2021…or at least a much better year than 2020!!
My review of Blaser’s ‘Tooless’ R8 Ultimate rifle appeared on TheTruthAboutGuns.com. You can check it out here. This rifle was wonderful to work with at the range, and to hunt with for my best-ever whitetail! I hope you enjoy the review as much as I enjoyed putting it together.
Another of my firearm reviews has just appeared, this time for a Blaser F16 Game model 12 gauge. I used this shotgun on a recent hunt for Upland game. It worked just as well on the skeet range and the Sporting Clays course! You can find the review here.
Growing up reading the wonderful books on hunting in Africa, I dreamed of shooting an ‘elephant rifle’. Thanks to the wonderful folks at Verney-Carron, Blaser USA and MG Arms, I can now put a check next to that line on my bucket list. In the top photograph, the left-hand cartridge is a .458 Lott with a Hornady 500 grain solid used in my review of an R8 Platform Blaser rifle. On the right is a .416 Taylor cartridge topped with a 400 grain A-Frame used in my recent review of an MG Arms Ultra-Light. In the bottom photograph, the Verney-Carron Azur side-by-side in .450/400 3″ Nitro Express and two of its cartridges are pictured. All three of these calibers have accounted for the largest, toughest and most dangerous game, including elephant. As Robert Ruark reflected: “…dreams are not taxed for small boys, not even the wildest ones.” (Horn of the Hunter)
While Colby and Jacob again swapped equipment, I acquainted myself with one of the leaders of the next stage of our hunt, an 11-month-old “Rockstar” (Colby’s descriptor) named Louise. Indeed, watching Louise (Brittany) and Venus (German Wirehaired Pointer) working together was another sight-to-behold. Truthfully, Louise used some of her excessive, adolescent energy to rocket around. However, she came when summoned, and backed up Venus (a.k.a ‘V’) when the latter was locked on a bird.
Though this last session was a bit shorter, there were still plenty of opportunities to watch their magic. On the last bird, V again was the first on-scene, with the Rockstar blocking the escape route. There was absolutely no movement from either the Brittany or Pointer as our group of four moved onto the dogs’ stage. The bird launched from between the two dogs’ noses. It was another beautiful chukar, and this time the shot caught up with the bird as he tried to zig into the treeline to our right. Like all her compatriots with whom we hunted, Venus dashed to the downed bird and then, head held high, trotted proudly back to deliver the bird to her master. We called it a day. There were birds and a shotgun to be cleaned, but, most of all, there were six lovely dogs to spend time thanking for providing such a wonderful day in the field. It may sound like hyperbole, but it is clear, even to this novice, that their handlers have trained up a set of artists who are masters of their craft. If these wonderful canines from South Fork are ever again willing, I will happily trail behind them through the rolling fields, bottomlands and open hardwood stands of the Georgia Piedmont.
Josie and Jessie, much to their dismay, were placed into their enclosure while Jacob suited up as the backer and Colby prepared to act as the guide. Sadie, the German Wirehaired Pointer and Jo-Jo, the Setter, were to accompany us on the second leg of our hunt on the South Fork Hunting Preserve, or maybe better put, we were to accompany them. Instead of wheat fields as our destination, we would head into the bottom land adjacent to a wide creek. However, our journey down did include our new companions coming across another bobwhite that took off like a rocket and was last seen heading toward South Carolina. Both barrels of the shotgun missed this time, and thus the retreating form was sent on its way by a ‘two-gun salute’, colorful language from the shooter and a “tsk tsk” from his incredibly-talented photographer/wife, Frances…
As we reached the bottomland, the dogs went ‘birdie’, or at least that’s what the trainers-cum-guides called it. There did seem to be a definite uptick in the urgency of the dogs’ movements, from no zig-zagging, to darting back-and-forth near water’s edge. It was Jacob who said, “I wonder if the birds heard us coming and flew across the stream?” Just then Sadie froze in front of a tiny clump of dead grass that didn’t appear large enough to hide even a small mouse. Colby signaled Jo-Jo to a halt, while Jacob led us toward Sadie’s’ position. The [significantly-larger-than-a-mouse] chukar exploded straight up, doing a very passable imitation of a towering woodcock. With the report from the first barrel, the bird descended back through the slowly-expanding cloud of feathers. Sadie had to wind her way through some dense groundcover to reach the downed bird, but appeared to relish the chance to bring back the game to her proud handler.
Our group headed out of the bottomland towards a grove of trees adjacent to another wheat field. As we made our way up the hillside, the beautiful surroundings – the green, gently-rolling farmland, the distant treeline and the azure sky – came into focus. There could be no better backdrop for the beautiful dogs that were once again working to-and-fro through the young wheat plants. We did not make it to the trees before the duo locked up once more into that lovely attitude seen in paintings.
Have you ever seen a melanistic form of the Chinese transplant that North Americans call, Pheasant? When the rooster exploded with a squawk, and with that feathers-in every-direction appearance, he looked like a small tom turkey. The series of photographs that Frances captured shows the shotgun being mounted and the hastily-departing rooster dropping from the sky after the first barrel was fired.
The bird was impressive in flight, but even more so when Sadie brought him back and we were able to examine his beautiful plumage and impressive spurs. The chukar and quail were beautiful, but this guy definitely took first prize. The taking of the rooster marked the end of our time with Sadie and Jo-Jo; we headed back toward the kennels, and the next set of dogs awaiting their release from pointer-prison.
They gave fair warning. In fact, it seemed that they exchanged a look, shrugged their shoulders and then looked back as if to say, “Please don’t look for the bird on the ground. Look up.” ‘They’ were two beautifully-poised Brittanys, named Jessie and Josie Wales, heads cocked, eyes locked onto ‘their’ bird. It really was their bird, well, theirs’ and Jacob’s. Jacob was the guide, using hand signals to silently shift the two dogs one way or the other. Pellets from the top barrel dislodged some feathers, those from the bottom brought the chukar down. Jessie led the charge towards the falling body. Her retrieve was redolent of Robert Ruark’s wonderful renditions of his boyhood hunts for quail. As a matter of fact, just like Ruark’s dogs, the Brittany spat out the loose feathers before heading back into the midst of the wheat field, and her next bird.
The wheat fields, river bottoms and hardwood stands – all to be traversed in this outing after chukar, pheasant and bobwhite quail – were located outside Danielsville, Georgia. The hosts for this hunt were Colby Phillips and Jacob Nash, co-owners of South Fork Hunting Preserve. They were the reason for the wonderful cadre of spaniels, pointers and setters. Jacob and Colby train all of the dogs used on their property, currently 21 in number. We would be hunting behind three pairs of their companions/co-workers. Now, don’t get me wrong, Colby and Jacob were fantastic guides, but their dogs were something special.
It seemed that there was only a minute-or-two to briefly hold and examine the lovely chukar. Jessie and Josie wetted themselves in one of the small water tanks used as cooling-off stations for the dogs during warmer weather and then were once again on the move. It seemed to take only another minute for the two pointers to lock up on another bird. Once again, the bird was mostly missed with the first barrel of the 12-gauge, but at the report of the second it dropped. This time the dogs retrieved a hen pheasant. Again, there was only a moment or two for admiring the beauty of the creature before the dogs again took off. Crisscrossing the field in a way that looked like a choreographed dance, heads sometimes held down and sometimes in the air, they worked as a team to cover the most area. It was indeed choreography; the dogs had been trained by their handlers to ‘dance’ together, in a manner most likely to locate the game. This time the bird got up from directly under Josie’s nose. It was actually amazing that she chose not to snatch the bird out of the air, instead of waiting for the report of the shotgun. This time the pellets brought down a male bobwhite quail. The tobacco-stained coloration of the little bobwhite females is beautiful, but the bleached-white appearance of the cheek patches found on the males is even more striking. The downing of the quail marked the end of the two Brittanys’ work-day.