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Smoke Sticks

 

By Jason Parks – Guest Contributor

Smoke sticks, better known as black powder rifles or muzzle loader rifles, are a fun and challenging way to deer hunt. You can also hunt squirrel or dove hunt with a black powder shotgun if you want to diversify a little, or even hunt with black powder pistols.

For what is supposed to be a primitive weapon, black powder rifles have come a long way in the last decade. Now you have breach open rifles with shotgun primers, pyrodex pellets and sabot bullets. Granted you can reach out a lot farther with these rifles than you can with a traditional muzzle loader  but I am not a big fan of the new in-line muzzle loading rifles. I just like old guns I guess. I have considered upgrading to a flint lock but have never gotten around to it.

I assume that most of you know what a muzzle loaderrifle is, but just in case, a muzzle loader is exactly what is sounds like: a rifle you load from the muzzle that is fired by an external hammer and primer cap. This is pretty much what every gun was before the invention of paper and cartridge ammunition and the new guns to shoot them. The more well known muzzle loaders in Americaare the Pennsylvania and Kentucky hunting rifles and the Springfield military rifles which were later converted to breech loader rifles.

My muzzle loader is a Thompson Center Renegade .54 caliber rifle. Why .54 caliber? It was on sale. Most in-line black powder rifles are .50 caliber as are most traditional muzzle loaders  However there are a lot of other calibers available in the traditional style muzzle loaders such as .36, .45, .58 and even .72 caliber.

To shoot a black powder rifle you need some supplies: powder (powder flask is optional), power measure, caps, patches, lubricant, bullets, ball starter and a cleaning kit. Most hunters have what is called a “possibles bag” that they use to carry a lot of this around in.

Loading and shooting a black powder rifle is fairly easy. The best way to learn how is to get someone who does it to show you. There are probably some YouTube videos you can watch. However you learn, I would like to encourage you to give it a try.

I would also like to encourage you to go the traditional route to help preserve the spirit of primitive hunting that in my opinion is lost when you use a modern in-line black powder rifle.

Here are some tips that I have learned through the years:



  • Make sure your rifle is empty before you load it. You can do that by popping a cap with the rifle pointed down range in a safe direction.
  • Fire a cap on an empty barrel to prep your rifle for loading by drying out the nipple. I like to add a little powder in the barrel to help dry out the barrel on damp mornings.
  • Another way to make sure your rifle is unloaded is to mark your ram rod to show “Empty”.
  • Mark your ram rod to show loaded as well. I have mine marked to show when the bullets seated all the way for different grain loads i.e 60 grains, 90 grains etc.
  • Some (maybe all) traditional black powder rifles (like mine shown) will probably shoot round balls more accurately than sabots compared to in-line muzzle loaders that will shoot sabots better than round balls. Mine does.
  • Never, ever stand over the barrel of your rifle when you pour in your powder especially after you have just shot it. Having a stray spark lighting up the powder while you are standing over the barrel will ruin your day.
  • Always use a powder measure. Never pour you powder straight into the barrel.
  • You need to lubricate the patch so that the patch and ball goes in easier. There are commercial lubricants available. I put the patch in my mouth and get it wet with saliva instead of using messy lubricants. It works. Unsanitary? Probably, but it hasn't killed me yet.
  • When you are ramming the bullet down the barrel, be sure not to grip the ram rod too high. You will most likely break the ram rod if you do. A grip about 6-12" above the barrel works best. Also you will eventually accidentally pull the rod too far out and will jab your hand with it so get ready for it. 
  • Always make sure your bullet is properly seated in the barrel, tight against the powder. When ramming your bullet in you will eventually get to a point where you do not have enough ram rod to grip properly. When you get to this point, take your ram rod, place it in the barrel, raise it about half the length of you barrel and throw it like a spear down the barrel. Do this multiple times. This basically taps the bullet into place with the momentum of the ram rod. When the bullet is seated, the ram rod will bounce.
  • If you fire the rifle and the cap pops but the rifle does not fire, KEEP THE MUZZLE POINTED IN A SAFE DIRECTION! Sometime the rifle will go off a second or three after you have pulled the trigger. I have had it happen to me several times and have seen it happen several more times.
  • If the rifle does not go off after about 10-15 seconds, replace the cap with the rifle pointed in a safe direction and try again. Wet weather and condensation is usually the culprit when this happens.
  • Keep your rifle's hammer in the half-cocked position while you are in your stand so that  if you happen to snag the hammer and it snaps down it will stay in half cock and you will not accidentally discharge the rifle. The half-cocked position of the hammer will keep the hammer from striking the cap and will not fire if the trigger is pulled. Basically, it is the "safety" of the black powder rifle. 
  • Never, ever carry your black powder rifle loaded with the hammer down on a cap. Snagging the hammer and snapping the cap with fire the gun. See the previous note.
  • Hard core black powder shooters clean their rifles after every shot. Muzzle loader rifles are dirty and that will affect your accuracy. I don't do that. I clean mine after about 8-10 shots or every 3-5 years whichever come first.
  • Lastly, I do want to encourage you to try hunting with a muzzle loader if you don’t already but I also want to encourage you to practice and hunt with someone who has experience with muzzle loaders until you get the hang of it.

That’s all I have on black powder rifles for now. As I finish this up today (October 19, 2012), muzzle loader season opens tomorrow and my truck is loaded and ready to go. I will see you all when I get back hopefully with a buck and if not, a lot of pictures.

Do you have any tips or lessons learned that you want to add to my list?

    


Check out www.BeretttaUSA.com and make sure you follow Beretta on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

You can follow Jason on Twitter @thejasonparksand on Instagram @jason_parks_brothers_farm 

This post and its contents are the views and opinions of the author only, and do not necessarily represent those of Beretta.

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This post and its contents are the views and opinions of the author only, and do not necessarily represent Beretta.

Duck Calling Techniques

 
By Brad Wilson - Guest Contributor

So we have talked about what to look for in a duck call, now it's time to figure out how to make this thing work!  Follow along for the very basic techniques that you need in order to be a better caller and in turn increase your chances of bringing the ducks into shooting range.

The very first thing I like to tell people that are wanting to learn how to blow a call is you need to understand how to hold your hands.  I put the middle of the call where the barrel and insert meet right in the "Y" of my pointer finger and thumb and then wrap those 2 fingers around the call.  I can then use my other 3 fingers and my other hand and fingers to control the back pressure that is needed when calling.  Back pressure can actually change the depth of the sound.

The next thing to understand is that you NEVER, EVER, EVER use the air in your cheeks to blow the call.  The air should come from deep down in your diaphragm.  If your cheeks are poking out like a blow fish when you are blowing a call then you are doing it WRONG!  Learn how to control the volume of air coming from your diaphragm and you can control how loud or soft the tone you produce is.  This is critical when you are trying to get birds to finish.

The last thing you need to know is sometimes it is better to just PUT THE CALLS DOWN!  Sometimes calling can actually deter ducks from committing.  This normally happens later in the season especially in heavily hunted areas.

4 calls you absolutely must know are the hail call, the feed call, a basic quack, and a whistle.  The whistle is something every duck hunter should carry in his bag.  I personally believe that a whistle can be more effective than a duck call in quite a few situations.  Some people say "tick" others say "cat".  I personally like "tank" when I am calling.
  1. Hail Call -  The hail call is something that should be used VERY sparingly.  The only time I will use a hail call is to initially get the attention of some birds that are passing in the distance.  My rule of thumb is if the birds look like they don't want anything to do with you then a hail call could work.  Do not use the hail call if the birds are within 1-200 yards or coming straight at you.  The call should be loud and long and then taper off in length and volume.  Example: taaaaaaaaaaaank, taaaaaaaank, taaaank, taaank, taank, tank, tank, tank.  I will do this once or twice and if the birds don't turn then I am wasting my time and chalk it up to the birds being on a mission that doesn't involve being shot by my Beretta A400 Xtreme.
  2. Feed Call - I use this quite a bit.  When birds are working I will use a combination of feed calls and quacks.  I use "taka, taka, taka" when I am running a feed call. I will increase and decrease the volume of air I put out as well as the back pressure I control with my hands. Example: takatakatakatakatakaTAKATAKATAKATAKATAKAtakatakataka.
  3. Basic Quack - These are just basic "tank..........tank....tank tank....tank" and used when birds seem to be committed.  If the birds are very committed I will do an occasional quack that is very faint just to keep them confident in the spread.  Again, using the basic quack in conjunction with the feed call can be hypnotic and deadly to unsuspecting birds.
  4. Whistle - A whistle can really seal the deal when you have birds working.  Mallards, pintail, teal, widgeon, and wood ducks can all be replicated with a simple duck whistle.  A good caller can even get a gadwall sound with a whistle.  Gadwall are very nasally though and this should be one of the advanced calls you should master after you have all the basics down.  When it comes to different whistle styles for different species your best bet is to search the web for sound clips of the different species.
These are the basics that I use in the blind along with some advanced calling that we will go over in the future.  If you can get these basics down then your chances of getting ducks to finish will multiply 10 fold on your next trip out to the blind.  If you have any questions feel free to comment or contact me at one of the links below.

Brad Wilson is an avid outdoorsman targeting waterfowl and saltwater fish and is a guest contributor for the Beretta Blog.  He can be reached on Twitter or YouTube.

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This post and its contents are the views and opinions of the author only, and do not represent those of Beretta.

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This post and its contents are the views and opinions of the author only, and do not necessarily represent Beretta.

Here Birdie, Birdie!!!

 
By Brad Wilson - Guest Contributor

One of the most misused and abused items in a duck hunter's blind bag is the duck call (or kazoo depending on who's blowing it).  We have all heard it plenty of times, off in the distance that dreaded sound of "Barney" tooting his horn and the only thing on this planet it sounds good to is himself.  What "Barney doesn't understand is that many times less is more.



When to call is at the utmost priority when it comes to duck hunting.  Second in line is how to call closely followed by what to call with.  I am fortunate enough to have a good friend that is also a very well known call maker.  Here are some things to look for when you are trying to pick a call that is right for you.


  1. Know the basics of calling.  If you don't know how to properly blow a call then there is absolutely no sense of spending the money on a quality call.
  2. If at all possible, meet the call maker.  If you can't meet them personally then read some testimonies on the internet.  most call makers have a website or have been talked about on forums.
  3. Customer service!  Service after the sale should always be a phone call away.
  4. Find a call maker that is fairly local if at all possible.  This will help when you run into problems with your custom call.  If you ahve never owned a custom call, trust me when I say you will eventually need some help.
  5. Look for craftsmanship and attention to detail.  If a maker's "name" is Chang, Ching, or Chong then you are buying mass produced calls from China.  Don't settle for cheap imitations!

Pair this outstanding craftsmanship and customer service with a little bit of know how, and you too can improve your outcome in the duck blind.  Stay tuned for a future entry outlining some of the basics of duck calling.


Brad Wilson is an avid outdoorsman targeting waterfowl and saltwater fish and is a guest contributor for the Beretta Blog.  He can be reached on Twitter or YouTube.

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This post and its contents are the views and opinions of the author only, and do not represent those of Beretta.

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This post and its contents are the views and opinions of the author only, and do not necessarily represent Beretta.

Going Through The Change

 

by Carrie Lightfoot - Guest Contributor

Photo: Change of seasons by Silveryn


I suppose I could be writing about the change of seasons as we all are invigorated by the crisp weather and the changing leaves. Or, I could even be writing about THE CHANGE. You know: the change that involves hormones and hot flashes! 

No, I won’t go there; not today.  The change I am talking about is the very profound change that a woman goes through after making the decision to own a firearm, goes through the very important process of deciding which firearm is right for her and training to properly, safely and proficiently learn how to shoot it to defend herself. 

It changes us profoundly. We feel different and we move through our daily lives differently. We in fact are different. How so? We have confidence. With this new sense of confidence we start to look people in the eyes more when we are out and about. We scan the environment with new keen sense of awareness of possible risks and people out of place. We walk through parking lots, restaurants and other public places more prepared and with the confidence that given the worst possible case scenario, we know we are fully prepared to give it all we’ve got to defend ourselves. This not only changes us in the realm of self protection, it also effects every aspect of our lives and relationships.

I believe society breeds high levels of insecurity in women, socially, emotionally and physically. We seem to always be the “weaker one” or the one “not good enough”. The ability to level the playing field, or more appropriately the battle field, is extremely significant for a woman. We feel less like a victim and more like an empowered, fierce force. 


The role of self protector doesn’t come naturally for most women. We are raised to believe we are protected by others. Today, this just isn’t an option for it is not possible in this crazy world, with out crazy schedules to be protected by our men, our police or others all of the time. Women are taking on this role with courage, intelligence and passion.

So we are changed on the outside because we now carry a firearm and are equipped to defend ourselves, but we are also changed on the inside because we carry a new sense of confidence that impacts every area of our lives. 

Has it changed you? 

Carrie Lightfoot is owner of The Well Armed Woman and quest contributor for the Beretta Blog. Join the dynamic group of women shooters on Facebook orTwitter and visit www.thewellarmedwoman.com

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This post and its contents are the views and opinions of the author only, and do not necessarily represent Beretta.

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This post and its contents are the views and opinions of the author only, and do not necessarily represent Beretta.

What A Weekend!

 
By Brad Wilson - Guest Contributor

Hunting season!  I had the pleasure of spending the weekend chasing dove with a great group of guys. My younger brother is getting married in a few weeks so myself and a few of his friends put together a bachelor weekend at a friends ranch just outside of Weesatche, Texas.  There was great food, clay targets, shotguns, rifles, pistols, a decent number of dove, and an all around great time with some good people.

The weekend looked like it might have been a wash in all literal sense of the word.  Friday night and Saturday morning was an ongoing rain event that dropped 2-5" of rain in the area.  Saturday afternoon the rain came to a halt and the timing couldn't have been any better.  We were able to get a few rounds of skeet in before we all went out in the field to put a minor dent in the Texas dove population.  The final tally of birds in hand was 9 mostly due to the birds being spread out from the weather.  We stayed out until dusk and then made the short drive back to the barn.

Upon arrival at the barn we found that my dad, the cook for the weekend, had carved up the brisket that had been on the pit for about 12 hours as well as 6 beer can chickens accompanied with a pot of beans.  One thing about Texas country boys, WE CAN EAT!  Within an hour all the food was devoured, cold beverages were being consumed, washers were being thrown, and college football was on the big screen.  It was definitely the absolute best bachelor weekend I have ever been lucky enough to attend.

I'm dedicating this post to my brother.  Jared, I hope that your marriage is filled with good times and an eternal bond with a wonderful woman.  You are a hell of a man and I am thankful to be able to call you my brother.  I am extremely proud of you, and I love you.


Brad Wilson is an avid outdoorsman targeting waterfowl and saltwater fish and is a guest contributor for the Beretta Blog.  He can be reached on Twitter or YouTube.

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This post and its contents are the views and opinions of the author only, and do not represent those of Beretta.

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This post and its contents are the views and opinions of the author only, and do not necessarily represent Beretta.

Let's Go Duck Hunting

 
by Adam Brassfield - Pro Staff Contributor

Duck season is here! Seems like it has been forever. I know you have not heard from me in a while but I have been traveling all over the U.S. conducting hunting seminars. It is funny because in certain places people are so excited about the sport of waterfowl hunting then there are others that it goes over like a pregnant pole vaulter.

Yes, everyone has their sport or hunting adventure but if you have never experienced the sound of wings whistling eight feet over your head or watching a group of mallards fall in your duck hole then you are missing it let me tell you.

Many of us have had to listen to all of our wonderful politicians lie like two dogs fighting over a bowl of green beans. I would rather stare at the sun with my binoculars than to sit and listen to that mess. That is why I am so glad hunting season is here. My Beretta Xtreme is itchin' to bark and bark is what it is about to do.

Have you seen the duck reports this year? They are unbelievable! Mallards have had a huge increase and just about every duck has high counts. It is going to be a great year for all of us. This is our opportunity to get someone into the sport that has never experienced what you and I have in the duck blind. Over the course of the seminar season I have met more people who have never been duck hunting. This is not good.

We have to step up to the plate this season and give them a good reason to quit watchin' what the hell is wrong with all the Kardashians! Our sport is incredible, the outdoors are beautiful and we should start acting like it. Take a friend, your children and, God forbid, take your wife to the duck hole. Let's not put it off until the next year.

Adam can be found on Facebook.


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This post and its contents are the views and opinions of the author only, and do not represent those of Beretta.

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This post and its contents are the views and opinions of the author only, and do not necessarily represent Beretta.

Are You Ready?

 

by Carrie Lightfoot - Guest Contributor


Election season is deeply upon us. Sadly with that comes quite a bit of dirty politics, annoying ads and an endless onslaught of phone calls! It is quite easy to “tune out” and just go MIA from heated conversations and the stress of hearing all of the doom and gloom or to be lulled into thinking that your vote doesn’t mean anything. 

Responsibility comes naturally to us as gun owners, we are fully aware of our responsibility to “Bear our arms” legally and safely. We each have a deep rooted and almost religious understanding of what freedom means. Do we really understand how easily we can loose these freedoms? Are we also willing to take responsibility to protect them?

I spoke with and listened to Wayne LaPierre, Executive Vice President of the National Rifle Association last night give a passionate talk about the very real and very present threats to this and other foundational freedoms we each are so blessed to have. He said something that struck me as very profound. He shared that we are only as secure as our ability to protect ourselves. Think about that for a moment. It is a simple statement  yet profound as we look at it personally and nationally. It speaks to our ability to protect ourselves from a violent criminal but it is also profound as we look at it in terms of how our country is governed. Our ability to protect ourselves is one that is granted to us as US Citizens by our government.. Yes I believe that the human right of freedom is one that comes from God, but as US Citizens we also accept the fact that these laws and even our rights are decided and determined by our elected government. These, as Americans we agree to live by. Our “ability to protect ourselves”  therefore comes from our government. The deepest beauty in our democracy is that we have a voice - WE elect the people that are in essence our government. 

I am not a politician and won’t pretend to fully understand all of the nuances of the political game being played with our 2nd Amendment rights. But I do know that lurking just below the surface - pressing hard up against our rights as we currently know them is a very real threat. One that no matter how much we complain, argue and defiantly cry out “From my cold dead hands”, jeopardizes them. Our rights as citizens of this country are in the hands humans, of elected politicians. Electing and putting the right ones there is our job alone. Yours and mine, period. We must take the responsibility and we must also be held accountable for the outcome.

Did you know that our 2nd Amendment was almost lost? In 2010 the Supreme Court upheld this fundamental right to bear arms by just 1 vote!  Are you aware that the next President of the United States will likely be appointing 1 to 3 new Justices to the Supreme Court during the next presidential term? The election of our next President is crucial. 

We have all heard about the UN Arms Treaty and were relieved when it was dropped during this years discussions. The reality is - it will be back in full glory next year.! Our Senate however, must ratify such a treaty if it were passed for it to be honored here in the US. Who those Senators are whom will be making that decision is critical. You will be deciding that NOW.

There are many more examples of legislation both nationally and at the state level that are part of the cancerous efforts to eliminate our 2nd Amendment rights.

Should you be scared? Yes, you should. Not scared stiff and immobilized but scared into action.

What is the point of this article? It is NOT to begin an argument over any of these issues and not to tell you how or who to vote for. It is to challenge you to take responsibility for your government. Take the time to understand the significance of this election season and  educate yourself on the politicians and the issues. Support those organizations that are working to protect your rights and of course to inspire you to VOTE .  Talk with your family, friends and co-workers and “Rally The Troops” to do the same. It literally may be now or never.  

Are you willing to take your chances? I’m not and pray you aren’t either.



Carrie Lightfoot is owner of The Well Armed Woman and quest contributor for the Beretta Blog. Join the dynamic group of women shooters on Facebook orTwitter and visit www.thewellarmedwoman.com

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This post and its contents are the views and opinions of the author only, and do not necessarily represent Beretta.



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This post and its contents are the views and opinions of the author only, and do not necessarily represent Beretta.

Dove Season Opener

 


Dove Season Opener
By Keith Hollar – Guest Contributor

This year I got the opportunity to go on a dove hunt.  It was me first hunting trip. Part of the reason I started to get into clay shooting was so I could at least hit something when I went on this hunting trip.

So after meeting early in the morning on the day before dove season opened and loading up the trucks my dad, me and six other guys set out on the about four hour drive to Parker, Arizona.  We arrived at the vacation house that belongs to the brother of the guy who sets up the trip every year, Neil, to turn on the air conditioner and unload the vehicles.  We wisely decided to wait until the early evening to go out scouting since the afternoon temperatures were in the low 100’s.  We drove out on Indian land and scouted a couple areas south of Poston, Arizona that evening and made a decision on where to go the next morning.

At the early hour of 4:30 a.m., with the temperatures already in the high 80’s, we got on the road for the almost 45 minute drive to the spot we chose to start the opening day on.  We all spread out into different areas of the field to try our luck.  As things got light there weren’t that many birds flying around and not a lot of shotguns going off either.  By the end of our time out hunting that day I only got one bird and I think we only had 17-18 birds between the 8 of us.  From what the guys who had done this before were telling me, this was definitely not normal and it was probably the monsoon rains that had come a couple weeks before and drove the birds off.


On day two we decided to go to about the same area but to a location that we were getting some success.  We got there early and set up.  I selected a bush that would come to find out was not the wisest choice.  While I did bring down another two birds, the mosquitoes ate me alive.  I had at least a hundred, and probably more, bites even though I was wearing long sleeves, pants and bug spray.  It was over a week before they finally stopped itching.  As he traditionally does Neil made us dinner this second night.  Normally he does it on opening day but because of the low amount of birds we got he had to wait until the second day.  The recipe he chose was a wild rice, mushroom, celery, white wine and dove casserole.  It was pretty good.



The third and final day we decided to try a completely different location.  This was met with about the same results, not a whole lot.  I hardly saw any birds and only shot at a couple and missed.    Over the three days I only shot a little over a box of shells.

Overall I had a pretty good time, although I was glad to get home after being out of town for most of August.  I do think it is something I’d like to do again, although the 100 degree weather was a little tiring.  Maybe next year I’ll try my hand at quail.

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This post and its contents are the views and opinions of the author only, and do not necessarily represent Beretta.

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This post and its contents are the views and opinions of the author only, and do not necessarily represent Beretta.

My first time with a 92

 
By Brad Wiltman - guest contributor


I was out shooting it with a couple of good friends of mine. 

It was kind of a bachelor party shooting day. 

When I fired my first-ever shot of my Beretta 92FS. I was in love right away. The round hit exactly where I was aiming. The target was about 15 yards away. It was at a farm where there was a pile of dirt above a hole for landfill. There was a white flat piece of cardboard almost to the top of the berm. Don’t know why or how it was there. But it was a perfect object to shoot my first round at.

It seems childish, I know. I was so excited to shoot my Beretta for my first time that I couldn’t wait to put up any targets. So I shot at the first thing I could find. And I couldn’t believe how well it shot. You just got to love the gun when it hits bullseye for your very first shot with it.

After that, we set up a couple of shooting challenges. One friend had his 9mm and I had mine. We lined up spent 12 gauge shot gun shells along the ground about 7 yards away. Each had 10 to shoot. Whoever hit all 10 first would win. It was as if I couldn’t miss.

We then put one shell in the center. 21 shells total. Each shot 10 to hit the one in the middle. That was so much fun, that I shot about all the ammo I brought just doing that. This gun is just all out fun!

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This post and its contents are the views and opinions of the author only, and do not necessarily represent Beretta.

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This post and its contents are the views and opinions of the author only, and do not necessarily represent Beretta.

10 Reasons To Go Deer Hunting Instead of Duck Hunting

 
By Jason Parks – Guest Contributor


Image courtesy of Tigerdroppings.com


  1. Deer tastes a lot better than duck.
  2. You have a much better chance of not drowning while deer hunting (except for that one time with my father-n-law and in my defense I was laughing too hard stop the boat).
  3. Deer hunting is quiet and precise while duck hunting is noisy and scatter shot.
  4. When you get cold deer hunting you can walk around. What are you going to do when you get cold duck hunting in the boat or blind, go for a swim?
  5. I have seen the duck hunting shows. You folks miss. A lot.
  6. No waders needed.
  7. You don’t have to worry about dropping your gun in the water…usually (see #2).
  8. Campfires are bad news in a blind.
  9. You do not need calls, decoys, blinds, dogs and boats to hunt deer.
  10. Assuming the average deer yields 50 pounds of meat, how many ducks do you need to get the same amount of meat and how many times can you eat duck?
OK. I am just funnin' with you all. I know that A LOT of you are duck hunters. I have to admit I have never been so I asked a friend of mine to take me this year. I will be sure to let you know how it goes, if I survive, but I stand by the fact that you don't need waders to hunt deer.


This post and its contents are absolutely the views and opinions of the author only, and do not necessarily represent those of Beretta. Especially this time!

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You can follow (or send the death threats) Jason on Twitter @thejasonparks

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