The 28th of January was special for me because I received medical clearance to fire a shouldered firearm, three months after a minor surgical procedure. I celebrated by joining my Rocky Mountain Vintagers buddies on the “Polar Bear Pheasant Hunt” held at The Bluffs, an hour’s drive east of Denver. I explain the enigmatic name of the hunt. For better than fifteen years our Vintagers Club hosted a trap shoot as its first event of the year, named the Polar Bear Shoot. Fiocchi USA ritually donated ammunition when we hosted The Wounded Warriors and ladies’ events.
This year we began with a pheasant hunt, the weather being predictably colder and thus, the dogs not risking overheating, as they might during hunts later in the year. The MacClennan family owns The Bluffs, its name inspired by the line of clay bluffs overlooking the tree-studded confluence of the Bijou Creeks. The hunting property features four thousand acres of upland bird habitat and a luxurious lodge.
We squaded up in three groups of four hunters, each group assigned a guide with dogs and directed to a separate part of the property. Birds were placed on ground but many additional birds had been living wild for months. I brought my elegant Beretta SO 3 EELL to celebrate my return to shotgun shooting. Other exotic guns were on display, including a vintage Purdey and a Holland & Holland Royale. This day we wore typical orange-festooned wing shooting clothes rather than our traditional tweed breeks, vests and coats. Byron Sayers, who had been a Fiocchi USA representative, was in my group.
As is the observation of every wing shooter, watching the dogs do their magic is the highlight of the experience. They leaped through the tall grasses like porpoises over waves, their tails wagging like a musician’s metronome until they approached a bird. I and my pal, Rob, shot Fiocchi Golden Pheasant nickel-plated #6s, which dropped the pheasant and chukars like anchors falling from a ship. Rob, the top shot in the group, said it was his finest wing shooting day.
Some of the wing shooting lessons I’ve learned over the years paid dividends. Focus on the head of the bird as you establish your lead. The eyes tend to focus on the bird’s body because it is the larger mass, but doing so increases the risk the shot will be behind the bird. Also, attention must be paid to foot position, especially because of the uneven terrain, as opposed to being in a shooter’s cage at a sporting clays club. With uneven footing, I forced myself to square my shoulders to maintain the line of the bird. Dropping my shoulder, a natural tendency when the terrain is uneven, would cause me to shot high or low, depending on the bird’s flight direction.
My reintroduction to shotgun shooting was blessed by a gorgeous Colorado afternoon; clear skies, a muted sun and the fragrance of grass and damp earth. It was good to be back.
By Michael Sabbeth
Michael Sabbeth is a lawyer and writer in Denver, Colorado. See his book The Good, The Bad & The Difference: How to Talk with Children About Values. Available at Amazon.com http://tinyurl.com/c5flmmu and available as a Kindle EBook.