Apr 29th

Shotgunning Comes Full Circle

By Ultimate Upland Lodge

Ultimate Upland - Filson - Tractor

Three decades ago my dad put a shotgun in my hands. We’d setup on the old farm hill with the hand trap and shoot clays until our shoulders were sore and cases of pigeons emptied. Then we’d go down in the pasture, pick up the unbroken clays, return them to the top of the hill and shoot some more. I’ve never had a professional shooting lesson but believe I’ve had the best shooting instruction available anywhere.

And a few years ago my nephew Zach began getting that same instruction on the same farm hill from the same man, his grandpa. The hand trap has been replaced by battery powered which is now towed up the slope with a lawn tractor. But the lessons are the same: be safe, shoot often, have fun, but listen and learn from a man who has put more rounds down range than most small armies. Needless to say, Zach has grown comfortable with a gun in hand.

Ultimate Upland - Filson - Shotgun

As part of our Off-Season Odyssey I thought it would be interesting to pit pupil against pupil. As we drive cross country on Zach’s spring break we’ll stop whenever time allows to shoot sporting clays and hone the shotgunning skills sowed by my dad. After eight hours driving we get our first opportunity to stretch our legs and burn some powder at a clays course in Illinois.

Zach has sprouted into a young man. His reactions times will be faster, his vision better. He’s on the front end of life, the upswing. Whereas I’m fighting to stay on the right side of the hill, he’s coming of age. Needless to say, I have concerns. This is the first time I’ve had a shooting stick in hand since the close of wild bird hunting season. I don’t want to be outshot by my nephew. It’s too early for that. But the possibility is real.

Ultimate Upland - Filson - Shotgun Vest Sporting Clay

It’s apparent these friendly shooting matches are just a microcosm of the purpose for this road trip. As much as I hope to broaden Zach’s horizons, there is also a growing desire to define my own legacy. There has to be something that an uncle can still offer, some nugget of experience, of expertise, that can still awe a teen. Maybe that’s besting him in sporting clays, exploring amazing new places or just driving infinite hours to stick to a self-imposed itinerary on a road trip few would attempt in this timeframe.

After the first couple shooting stations, I’m grateful some of the symptoms of youth are still at hand: small lapses in focus, and a reluctance to try the proven path. It’s these things which keep me at a small shooting advantage. But there is also foreshadowing of rounds to come – stations where my nephew whips me handily and forces me to lug the dreaded shooting bag to the next. Each round of sporting clays we shoot, the margin of victory is tight, but more importantly we both improve our own scores.

Whether it’s shooting at the foot of the Rockies, off-roading at Big Horn Canyon, peering over the rim of Crater Lake or bouldering at Devil’s Tower, I find comfort in remaining relevant. And watching Zach grow up seems less a threat than a privilege.

We complete the 6,900 mile Off-Season Odyssey loop returning to the exact same sporting clays course where it kicked off ten days earlier. A legacy of shooting that began over 30 years ago with my dad’s passion for the shooting sports has come full circle as well. What Zach will do with his love of the outdoors and shotgunning is up to him. But I expect he’ll pass it along in his own way and own time and the legacy will continue. And one day, hopefully in the very distant future, he may actually be able to best his uncle’s score.

Big Thanks to Filson for sponsoring our Odyssey.

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