Friday, August 28, 2009


Just a couple. Light(er than the scanty normal) blogging now and for the next bit, I anticipate.

Article by Grant Aschatz on "diner envy", which details the difficulties he's found where diners at very high end restaurants see others getting extra courses and such. "Gee, we got the 97 course tasting menu but the table over there had an amuse bouche that we didn't. We were cheated! We'll never return!"

Forthcoming books by author/bloggers here and here. Either's a pretty safe bet as a great read.

Here's Labrat's review of a fun, fat, speedy-reading paperback, "Monster Hunter International", a first novel by gun-blogger Larry Corriea. I enjoyed the book and the review.

Here's a question I don't really think has an answer but which is fun to investigate anyway: Where to find the prettiest outdoor photos on the web: John Carlson's Prairie Ice, Cat Urbigkit's contributions to Querencia, or Russel Graves' blog?

Tons of fantastic images in each case that reflect not only artistic eyes and speedy reflexes but many hours outdoors.

Friday, August 21, 2009


"One old-timer I hunted with by the North Dakota border advised me to never, ever get hold of one of those Chesapeake dogs, because he'd had one back in the thirties that was so stubborn and ornery that it finally refused to get out of the back of the pickup one day during a sharptail expedition. My friend finally tried to lasso the dog and drag it out by main force-and almost got his hand bitten off for his trouble. It's an image that attacks me on the verge of sleep some nights: a leather-faced cowboy whirling a rope around his head on an empty prairie ridge, preparing to toss the loop at the head of a bull-necked Chesapeake Bay retriever braced sullenly in the back of an ancient Chevrolet pickup-probably at the same time another hunter, a couple of thousand miles to the southeast, ate a leisurely sandwich from the lunch box of a mule-drawn wagon, while his well-trained pointin' dogs searched for yet another covey of quail."

John Barsness, Western Skies (again)

Monday, August 17, 2009

Isn't it ironic

"The suburbanite's desire to hunt must be deeply instinctive if it isn't buried by a world according to Trump. But the corollary must be that when modern America decides to hunt, it wants a sure thing. A place where your dollar always buys satisfaction, where if you pay for three pheasants you by God kill three pheasants.

.... The modern urban American hunter wants something certain, and in modern America a few dollars searching for something can find it. That's the law of the marketplace, and the marketplace has created Natty Bumppo as comparison shopper."

John Barsness, Western Skies

(Irony; the sole Amazon review for this most excellent book states: "Just a pleasant read and not informative of where and how to put a hunt together. This appears to be the author's intent, however most of us are in the execution mode, not the live/read about other lives mode." In other words, "just tell me where to go and how to do it, don't waste my time with your stories or 'philosophy' and please, please don't make me read closely and draw some of my own lessons".)

Friday, August 14, 2009


Lots of food on the blog lately, but not much in the way of outdoors or gear. Hmmm. Let's talk guns.

I believe a large part of the fascination for those of us who like guns is that they represent interesting and, frequently, very well made pieces of machinery. Ergonomics have been a concern of gunmakers from the very beginning and the tension between creating a weapon that can be easily handled and aimed and a mechanism which is strong, easy, and fast to use resulted in all kinds of interesting designs.

One of the thread of those designs is the pump or slide action shotgun.* Any article about pump shotguns will nearly invariably talk about how they're an American invention and mention market hunting and perhaps farm equipment, which they are said to invoke. I don't know about farm equipment; however, pump shotguns, particularly the older ones from when the designs were being ironed out, are fascinatingly mechanical. Whereas a double gun is (ideally) sleek and self contained, a lot is going on with a pump as the action works- bolt flying back and forth, shell popping out of the magazine tube and lifted- clicks and clacks and metal sliding on metal (all of which Hollywood uses most inappropriately).

Here's a good example (and bad photos) of the sort of old pump shotgun I'm thinking about:

30 inch barrel, full choke (before it was opened) lots of drop on the stock, complex milling of a steel billet to turn out that rather baroque receiver- check out all the angles:

square lug on the bolt fits into a cut on the top of the receiver:

a Stevens Model 525, built from a Browning design

This is the first variation of the design (sliding inertial release on the slide lock) and was probably made in the first decade or so of the twentieth century. It has been refinished, so it doesn't have any collector's value. However, it works just fine.

If a person chose to create a "collection" it'd be a fun project to take $1,000 and see how many different pre-war (WWII) pumpguns in decent shape he could get for that money. Of course, "decent shape" is unlikely to be anywhere near mint condition, since working guns they generally survive pretty battered. Lots of shotguns from that era. I'd pick up a Winchester Model 12 in 16 gauge (they sized the frames for each gauge). Then there are three Remington pumps: the Model 10, the Model 31 "The ball bearing repeater", and the Remington Model 17 (another John Browning design made only in 20 gauge that, with modifications, became the Ithaca 37). The Ithaca 37 is still, after some hiccups, in production today and early models are easy to find. Less common are the Marlin Models 17, 30, 31 and 43. In addition to the Winchester Models 93 and 97 (each begun in the 19th Century and correspondingly more expensive) I'm sure there are half a dozen others I haven't mentioned as well. While none of this collection would appreciate much as an investment, likely every single one could be pressed into service.

I'm not curmudgeon enough to claim old is necessarily better. Nonetheless, while few will call a pumpgun graceful, slender, corncob forearms and nice bluing create an attractive package to my eye and, with the exception of the current production Ithaca 37s they're not making anything like those old repeaters these days (geez, looking at "the best new shotguns for 2009" at the link all I can think is "not for me").

*That Wikipedia article linked here is wrong in one respect. John Browning did not invent the slide action shotgun, Christopher Spencer did. His shotgun came out in 1882, a decade before the Winchester Model 93, designed by Browning, was produced.

Friday, August 07, 2009


"If ever there was an opportunity for 'liberals' and 'conservatives' to come together it is with programs such as the CRP. The Right is right: incentives are preferable to government coercion in protecting the land, the water, land the wildlife. We've gone as far as we can go (perhaps too far) in forcing people to care for the natural world."

M.H. Salmon "Catfish as Metaphor"

for clarification, see "CRP"