Tomorrow, Frances and I head from Rome to St. Etienne, France. We are being given the wonderful opportunity to tour L’Atelier Verney-Carron. While I spend my time learning as much as possible about the work of the craftsman at L’Atelier, Frances will be applying her wonderful photographic skills. We both want to capture, in word and picture, the setting and work of the master artisans who produce the exquisite Verney-Carron firearms. Stay tuned for a more detailed look into this wonderful ‘workshop’!
I have been extremely fortunate to be given the opportunity to review many excellent firearms, including guns from Nosler, Blaser, MG-Arms, Turnbull and more. Some of these were custom-built, but even the ‘mass-produced’ firearms have been extremely well manufactured, which was reflected in their accuracy, reliability and beauty.
With all of these wonderful products in mind, I can say without hesitation that the Verney-Carron SD Eloge Grade 20-gauge shotgun ranks among the most beautiful firearms I have ever encountered. Of course, there is something about handling side-by-side rifles and shotguns that makes many of us feel like English/European royalty. But the fact of the matter is that Verney-Carron used only the highest quality materials to produce this lovely firearm.
Guides are always sensitive to their
hunter’s feelings. The best Guides, like
Tim and Larry, always aim to build up the hunter’s self esteem thereby
increasing the hunter’s confidence. The
Guide only encourages, and is very careful to avoid mentioning any mistakes
made by their hunter. As an example,
consider the following interchange between Larry and me. “Man you did great”, Larry exclaimed! “You really held your composure and were
patient and then took the shot when it came.”
I had just endured 30 minutes of my guide trying to irritate a trophy
elk into stepping from behind a screen of trees. It had worked, and we would
soon discover that the 250 grain Nosler Partition from my .35 Whelan Improved,
custom-built rifle had done its job.
“Yeah, I’ve had hunters yell at the animals instead of shooting, jack
all of their cartridges out onto the ground without pulling the trigger, and
look everywhere for the 800-pound bull, everywhere that is except 40 feet
straight in front of them where it was standing in the open. But boy not you, there must be John Wayne
amounts of ice water running in your veins!”
Not wanting the celebration of my excellence as a hunter to stop, I prompted
Larry one last time with a humble “Well, are you sure I did everything just right?”
I sat back, half closing my eyes, and waited to have the compliments
waft over me. He looked at me out of the
corner of his one good eye and said, “Now that you mention it, I noticed you
fiddling with your scope magnification.
And I just want to tell you that if you had missed your only opportunity
to shoot that elk because of it, I would have been all over you like stink on a
The very best Guides, like Larry, enrich the hunter’s experience by also involving them in the post-harvest tasks. I already mentioned that I got to hold the meat while Larry tried to chop my hand off, but I wanted to do more. I had been watching Larry and the other Guides and I was certain I could tie up the mannie packs as well, and as fast, as they. “Are you absolutely certain that I can’t help you mannie the meat and get the packs onto the mules”, I asked for the 15th time? Larry slowly straightened up from where he was crouching over one of the packs. He turned toward me and said very slowly, almost like he was talking to an idiot child, “There are three things you can do for me. Number 1 quit asking me that question, Number 2 stay out of my way, and Number 3, and most importantly, get off my rope!”
To conclude this essay let me state again what I said at the outset, the most gifted Guides are master communicators. They never use ten words when two will suffice, they always express themselves in clear, certain tones and they always – repeat always – encourage dialogue between themselves and their hunter. An excellent example of just such a positive interaction occurred between Larry and myself concerning the fact that, in addition to my elk tag, I carried a permit for a black bear. I had already collected a trophy black bear two years before, but if the opportunity arose, I sure was interested in getting another. In this vein, I asked Larry if he thought a bear might be drawn to the remains of my elk. He looked at me and brought our dialogue to a close with, “God, I hope not!” I must have looked shocked because he answered my stare with “I am an Elk Guide. Bears are nasty, greasy, tick-infested animals and if you shoot one, you will be gutting, skinning and carrying it out yourself!” I thought about asking Larry whether he would be willing to tell me how he really felt about bears, but he seemed to be grumbling under his breath and had once again picked up his axe…