Apr 10th

The Dreaded Shooting Bag

By Ultimate Upland Lodge

I think the level of exertion at sporting clays courses should extend beyond the trigger finger. The name “sporting clays” implies a certain level of physical activity. But, a number of courses have paths for vehicles and even golf carts for transporting shooters and their gear from one station to the next. Distances between each shooting location are generally 40 yards and up. For us, upland hunting is an active sport that involves a fair share of hiking. So when we shoot sporting clays to practice bird gunning, we prefer not to drive a vehicle from station to station. We walk. And we don’t push a glorified stroller with a gun rack that some courses provide, either. We lug the gear and guns between volleys, just like we would in the field. This also allows for a healthy dose of banter, and time to keep a close eye on the score.

There’s no monetary wager between my nephew Zach and I when we shoot clays on this Off-Season Odyssey. The stakes are simple and immediate: lose the station and you lug the shooting bag to the next.

Big whoop, right? Well, Filson’s Sportsman Bag can make that lugging a bigger deal than you might think. In the main compartment Zach and I stash 300 rounds of 20-gauge shells, because even if the course is only 100 clays you still can never have enough ammo. It looks as though we’d easily be able to stow 16 boxes of 20-gauge and still have room for our two cameras, mini-tripod and various POV video accessories that we pack to chronicle the round.

In the rear outside pocket we put all our gun cleaning gear: rags, oil, cleaning rod, grease and barrel snake. And during the round we stash our shotgun socks in this compartment for safe keeping too.

In the front zippered pocket goes hearing protection, shooting gloves, eye protection, choke tubes and wrenches and cell phones for two shooters. In the pockets on either end we place keys, drinks and the scoring clipboard. I’m pretty certain we’ve intentionally made this bag as heavy as possible to inflict the worst punishment for poor shooting.

With the hefty bridle leather strap, thick canvas and beefy zippers you just know this Filson bag is built to take a beating. I’m not real certain what it weighs when fully stocked, I just know the added heft never stings quite as much as the reason you’re carrying it in the first place. So the best course of action is to get a Filson Sportsman’s Bag and make sure your shooting buddy carries it the entire time.

When the round is complete we remove the cameras, restock the shells and there’s room to stow two Filson shooting vests for the next outing. I suppose one could use this Sportsman’s Bag for any sort of travel or adventure, but why would you want to when it’s perfect for shotgunning?


Big Thanks to Filson for sponsoring our Odyssey.

And thanks to Wolverine BootsSportDOG and Benchmade for sending gear to test on the journey.


Jan 17th

Birdhunter Battle of the Sexes: Day of Reckoning

By Ultimate Upland Lodge

Headed off to the desert to finally settle the score with Britney Starr from the WON. Along for the ride are the Franchi Instincts and a pile of Winchester Shells including the new TrAAcker.

The Nellis Skeet and Trap club is a hidden gem just a stone’s throw from the Vegas strip. It takes a little wrangling to get on the base, but it is a public course and the scenery just can’t be beat. On this bluebird day while we try and focus on breaking birds on the sporting clays course there are fighter jets of every breed swirling overhead. Warthogs, Strike Eagles, F16 and the USAF Thunderbirds taking practice runs make this round nearly an adrenaline overload.

It’s always a bit  tough to pull a new shotgun straight from the box and try to shoot proficiently. On this day we’re testing two new Franchi Instincts, one in 20 gauge and the other in 12, alternating guns and shooting order between stations. Luckily the Winchester TrAAcker shells can really assist with seeing your shot string since the colored wads act almost as a tracer round. Unfortunately TrAAcker are currently only available in 12 gauge, so the shooter of the 20 is flying blind.

This was more fun than a person should be allowed to have in a day and it will be tough to find a more memorable shoot.


Sep 1st

Add a Laser to Your Bird Gun

By Ultimate Upland Lodge

Last year I started messing around with ideas that I could fit into a packed schedule which would improve my shooting. Fact is I'm busy. There are always too many irons in the fire and not enough time for shooting practice.

I've always been an instinctual shooter. Nothing against shooting systems and what they entail, I think they could be extremely helpful to the right individual. I just never have been introduced to one and when I try and rationalize how specific "systems" translate into my days afield I always find myself shaking my head. 

So instead I end up praying for lengthy hot streaks or short cold streaks; It's beginning to sound as though my shooting is streaky. 

When I look back at my early days of shooting the Red Ryder around the farm as I was growing up, I swear I could hit a locust in flight at 20 yards. I spent so many hours with that BB gun in hand that I'm certain I could pick it up right now and snap shoot a can from a fencepost at any distance. Take the front site off, take the back site off, it would not matter. I knew where that gun was going to shoot based on feel alone.

So I began searching online for tools that would allow me to practice shotgunning when time wouldn't allow me to make it to the clays course. There are a number of products available but most are fairly pricey. Once I read into the details a bit further, the bulk of these systems specifically work to improve muscle memory. 

Visualization and muscles memory are widely used across much of the sports world as a way to improve performance. When a movement is repeated over time, a long-term muscle memory is created that eventually allows it to be performed without conscious thought . Think of everyday activities like riding a bicycle or typing on a keyboard as prime examples. So the same can be applied to getting a shotgun on target. 

Nowadays gunmakers strap lasers and rails that hold all kinds of tech tact to every sort of weapon. All a laser really does is give a visual reference downrange of the place where that gun is shooting. So the thought occurred to put a laser on my bird gun and practice mounting that gun while the laser paints a specific target. Then repeat. Repeat while walking, repeat from different angles, repeat while painting targets at different distances and orientations. 

I made a quick trip to an office supply store and bought a $5 laser pointer. I experimented with placing this laser in a shotgun hull for bore mounting. But, it became apparent that the easiest and most effective way to use my new laser was by placing a cleaning rag around the back of it and sliding it into the business end of the barrel. It takes a bit of fiddling to get the shotgun bead and the shiny red dot to line up and also it requires a bit of "high tech" electric tape to keep my on button depressed. 


For five to ten minutes in the morning when I roll out of bed, I grab my new laser guided 20 gauge and methodically designate every corner of the rooms, doorknobs, and picture frames in the upstairs. It isn't a race to see how fast the gun can be mounted, but instead I attempt to keep the red dot on a specific point through the entire mounting of the gun. The thought is this teaches your muscles exactly where that barrel is pointed regardless of how the gun is mounted. Instead of focusing on a perfect and identical mount of the shotgun which is difficult in hunting scenarios where weather, clothing layers, carry style and terrain all impact how the gun comes up. By keeping the red dot on target through the entirety of many varied deliberate mounts of the gun, it should teach your muscles where the gun is pointing and also reinforces keeping mental and visual focus downrange. Then for five to ten minutes prior to hitting the hay in the evenings I do this same exercise  all over again.

Yes, shooting clays is more fun, but it is also costs more money and can't be done from bed.

Will this really help your shooting? Spend the five dollars and and five minutes to find out. I started doing this prior to last season and began the season on a hot streak. We'll see if it continues. And truthfully I only need the smallest of excuses to play with lasers.


Oct 5th

The Ultimate Upland Vehicle

By Ultimate Upland Lodge

Ultimate Upland Vehicle

As hunters prepare to load up and drive to the far reaches in order to chase birds, I always ponder what is the ultimate upland vehicle? In the field I've come across the entire gambit -- from the German engineered rear-wheel drive sedan to a vintage Winnebago that looked like an oversized styrofoam cooler. I always wondered what that autobahners interior looked like after those Brittanys jumped in the backseat, although I'm sure they certainly appreciated the seat warmers.

Because of the sheer amount of miles I put on a vehicle during the season along with $3 gasoline, I've always looked at the upland vehicle as a balancing act. Exactly how much gear can I ram into the interior, have enough space for the hounds, easy access to guns yet not fund all of OPEC by myself? Most years the luggage rack ends up being a saving grace when toting camping equipment and gear for both hot and cold climates.

I have to admit though, I often have truck envy. I see the guys with the 20" ground clearance and the bearclaw tire tread and I just know they are forging to the edge of the map where the coveys have never seen a shotgun before. By the time I park my mid-size balancing act loaded to the gunnels and walk to where they've cruised, the birds will all be wise to the game.

At the end of last season, I upgraded to a newer upland vehicle. And still, I just couldn't bring myself to purchase the latest M1 Abrams Birdcrusher. There are too many great mud running, nearly stranded, 'what the hell are we gonna do now' stories to surrender to vehicular convenience. The money I save on petrol I plan to spend on ammo, and I'm gonna need every spare shell this season since the points are gonna be that plentiful - witness the power of positive thinking.

So, if we're hunting together this year, be prepared to get mud in your teeth as one of us must do the pushing in order for the hunt to continue. And if you are captain of one of those new Abrams please use some of that excess elbow room to throw us a line as you barrel past, we promise not to follow you all the way to the edge of the map. We'll only go as far as our ground clearance and soles allow.