Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas Pheasant Hunt


I had a nice pheasant hunt with my family on Saturday.  2 of my brothers, 2 nephews and my dad all went out to a pheasant preserve in western Utah. My older brother Guy doesn't hunt as much as he'd like to so it was nice to get him and his son Mckay out for a day of hunting. It was Mckays first experience upland hunting. Even though it was released birds it was very enjoyable. 

We ordered a dozen birds and we bagged most of them. If we would of had more time I think we would of bagged at least that amount. We have a good relationship with this farm and they really accommodate us and they have good, strong flying birds. Plus it's roosters only. I like that. The ranch owner calls us odd. Most of his customers like their hunts to be quick, and easy. We tell them to spread the pheasants out and to release the birds in the thickest cover they got. We like the challenge of working for the birds.  I'm not sure how my brother and nephew felt about that  but it ended up being a very enjoyable day. We saw some nice shots, beautiful points and it was good to introduce Mckay to upland hunting. I think he really enjoyed it. 

Highlight of the day was watching my Dad double on pheasants. Another highlight was towards the end of the day. We all started hunting all together and we were all spread out  in a small valley along a river. I was up high on a hill  watching it all. Shawn calls out, "Chiefs really birdy!" just as a bird flew from the river bank about 30 feet in front of Chief's nose. The bird was behind a bunch of tamarack bushes so only I could see it from my vantage point on the the hilltop it crossed in front of me and I took a shot (a long shot I probably shouldn't of taken) and hit the bird. It flopped and swayed in the air and went down about 100 yard in front of me and then ran into a ditch bank.  I call to my nephews, "Mckay, Michael, get up here!" wanting them to get the bird. I hustled over there behind them. My dad was yelling at us from behind  "To your left! It went left!"  so  Michael and I go left.  I'm calling my dogs over to work the ditch as we start heading up the ditch bank. That's when Mckay calls out, "Hazel's on point".  He's standing right were the bird went in. "Where is she?", I ask. "Right here at my feet", replies Mckay.  "Good, she's got it then".  Mckay then asks  "what should I do?" I say, "Flush it". "How do I do that?", he asks. "Walk in front of her nose".  He does and a beautiful rooster flushes up and Mckay makes a clean shot and Hazel makes a soft retrieve to hand.  
I love this stuff I wish I could do it every day.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

FRANCHI 48 AL My New Chukar Thumper

My New Franchi 48 AL12 Ga
I love my double guns. I love the way they feel, the way they look, the way they shoot, I wish I could afford 10 more. I also love hunting wild chukars more than about anything in this world (except grouse). A couple years ago I slipped on a muddy slope and my pride and joy Beretta over/under went sliding across a rock. The rock was as effective as a cheese grater at gouging my stock. I do my best shooting with my over/under so I wanted to hunt with it. I kept trying to tell myself that is what its for, a gun is a tool no need to get upset about it. I'm afraid that I'm just not wired that way. I've been that way about my stuff since I was a little kid. I've always been careful with my stuff. I like my toys (guns) nice and new and bright and shiny. I'm just too protective of my guns to watch them get scarred nearly each time I took them up the chukar slopes was to much for me.

New Haven 600 20 gauge 
Rather than buying a another double gun of lesser quality I came to the conclusion that I would start using my old New Haven 20 gauge pump for chukar hunting. Until recently this was my rainy day gun. I love this old gun. It is the smoothest pump gun I've ever shouldered. It is scarred and scratched from 30 years of use and It doesn't bother me a bit to add to the "patina" whenever I happen to bump it on a rock or put it down to help out a dog. In my mind it is the perfect gun for chukar hunting. It's cool to think that my first gun is still one of my favorites. Hopefully I can wear the rest of the bluing off within my lifetime.

After using my old New Haven pump the last couple of years I've decided I prefer a repeater more than a double gun for chukar hunting, for the following reasons: When hunting these birds you can hike for hours before you make contact and when you do it seems like the shooting is usually fast and furious. I've had many birds come up after the initial covey rise and I'm sitting there fiddling with my shotgun trying to reload to get off another shot. I like having 4 or 5 (6 with my New Haven) chances when opportunities arise rather than just the two shots you get with a double gun. Call me greedy, I don't care. It's enough of a challenge just to get to the bird. I want every advantage I can get once I find them.

Recently, I've tried a new experiment and bought myself a semi-automatic shotgun. I've never owned a semi-automatic shotgun before. I've used them plenty of times and usually borrow one when I go duck hunting but I've never owned one for upland hunting. I've always liked the Franchi brand. My brother has owned a couple Franchi's and absolutely loves his new Franchi I12 upland hunter 12 gauge. It's a real sweet lightweight shotgun. It's way nice. I bought a used Franchi 48/AL 12 gauge with a 26" barrel at an online auction (gunbroker.com). I've had a thing for the 48/AL for a long time. My friend Jeff owns a few of these in 12 gauge and absolutely loves the gun. He has quite a collection. I was impressed with how light the guns are and how nice they handled. These shotguns only weigh between 6-7 pounds in 12 gauge and are in the 5-6 pound range in 20-28 gauge. I think weight is very important when your lugging a gun up and down a mountainside. I think the Franchi 48/AL is one of the better looking semi-auto shotguns on the market. It uses the same type of long-recoil system as the famous browning A5. In that it only uses the bolt, barrel and a spring together as a mechanical system to eject and reload the gun. Its really an amazing, simple system. Browning was such a genius.

Franchi stopped building the 48/AL in 12 gauge a few years back and now days only build this model in 20 and 28 gauge. I like the fact that my new shotgun is a 12 gauge. I know that's not the sexy thing to say now days but I think the 12 is still the most versatile of all the gauges. What can't you hunt with a twelve? I know it may be over kill for quail and other small gamebirds but with lighter loads the 12 shoots very nice on the smaller gamebirds. I love my 28 gauge and will never give it up and I still like my 20 gauge and both will easily put birds in the bag. But I like the idea of a 12 for wild chukars. They are fast, tough, hearty birds and I like to knock them dead when I shoot them. Wounded chukars can be as wiley as a wounded pheasant. Without a dog you have almost no chance finding or catching a running chukar.

 I have to give a shout-out to BenelliUSA's customer service department. When I received this gun and it was missing the Friction Ring and Friction Spring in the recoil mechanism. I scoured the internet looking for these parts to no avail. I put an email into FranchiUSA (BenelliUSA) and a few days later a customer service rep contacted me by phone and ordered the parts for me at NO cost. This is a 28 year old gun and I'm obviously not the original owner and they gave me the parts for FREE. I told them I wasn't expecting that and the nice woman on the line said, "We just want our customers to be happy with our products". How about that?! I got the parts in about a week and the gun has ran flawlessly since. I absolutely love this shotgun. I told my friend Jeff and they helped him with some parts he was missing on his ALs.  I'm now a big Benelli/Franchi fan.

I've had the new gun out a couple times hunting and I love it. Its nearly as light as my doubles and shot just flows out of this gun. It runs like a top. It shoulders perfectly and has a nice swing. It does kick pretty hard with heavy loads with the long recoil system but on birds you don't even notice it. My only real adjustment has been with the safety on the right side of the trigger guard. I'm left-handed so I have to switch off the safety with my thumb from the "wrong side" of the gun. And it's not reversible. All my other shotguns have a top-tang style safety. The most natural place for a safety in my opinion. It is going to take some practice to get used to. I'm sure I will enjoy this shotgun for many years to come.

I got a smoking good deal and picked up this beauty for $279. You can't beat that. I added a new leather butt pad to add length of pull and a sling. It's in amazing good shape for a 25 year old gun. It's a beauty. I believe I now own the ultimate weapon for chukar hunting. We will see if any of this actually helps put more birds in the bag. I'm just excited I have another shotgun. Woot Woot!!

Hazel on a recent Chukar Hunt. Planning her strategy for the next slope.
UPDATE: 11/17/14
After 3 seasons with this shotgun I can totally say that I love this gun. This and my Beretta O/U have become my go to shotguns. It's my favorite for pheasants and chukars. I have used it on grouse and quail too. It swings well and I shoot well with it. It fits me like a glove with the leather recoil pad I added. 

The only complaint that I have is that I have to be more meticulous about cleaning this gun after each hunt. I think if I order a new spring that might help. If I keep it clean and put a drop of oil just below the friction ring on the magazine it runs like a top. If it gets dirty and I just clean the barrel after a hunt in about 3 outings it will start to misfeed. The funny thing about putting a dab of oil on the magazine below the friction ring is that printed right on the gun it says "do not oil - run dry". Sorry Franchi mine likes oil. In fact it likes it a lot. If I do run it dry it doesn't feed as well. 

So the gun is a little temperamental but if I'm disciplined on my maintenance I have no troubles and it is reliable. I'm meticulous about maintaining my guns and actually enjoy tinkering with them so it is not a problem for me.  It's cool looking and I get compliments on it all the time. I scored on this gem. I'd buy another Franchi 48 AL in a heart beat. I got my eye on the 20 and 28 gauge models but I love the one I have in 12 gauge so it's hard to justify. Maybe my daughter will need a shotgun when she turns 12 and I can justify it that way. And there you have it, problem solved.