I, like many upland hunters, take full advantage of the upland bird seasons by getting out in the field at every opportunity. Once the seasons close, I begin to feel something akin to despondency. Ok, maybe that is a bit extreme, but you get the point. I stare out the window and am certain my shotgunning skills are dwindling by the minute. I look at my dog, Thaddeus, who seems somewhat despondent himself. Then I think, “Is he getting fat?” I am quite certain he is thinking the same about me when I am not looking. So there we sit looking at each other and ticking off the days until the next season. Ok, I may do the counting but I am certain he gets it.
By the way, Thaddeus isn’t fat. His skin just doesn’t fit right.
While the jury is out among many upland bird hunters about the usefulness of wing and clay clubs, I am personally a huge proponent. I have found the benefits to be numerous and will take advantage of our local wing and clay club throughout the off-seasons. Not only do these clubs offer an opportunity to keep shotgunning skills honed, there is great opportunity to keep bird dogs in working mode during off season. And hey, if you can spend a day shooting and working a dog and STILL bring home some birds, then this can only be good!
We utilize the local wing and clay club with an alarming frequency. I just love it in the off season. A typical morning consists of 5 birds per gun in a large field release. The opportunity to take birds on the wing is a fun yet complicated skill to maintain. I am a firm believer that every day in the field keeps those skills honed and fluid. I personally get rusty after a few weeks and being able to have actual field time definitely helps keep me ready for the next bird season. Which is literally six days away, but who’s counting. While some upland hunters do not share my opinion on wing clubs, I personally feel that these outings are instrumental in my hunting successes.
In addition to keeping up my own skills, it is just as important to keep the dog on task. Each day Thaddeus has in the field is extremely important. While he has a top notch nose and great quartering skills, he too can become rusty he isn’t worked regularly. It has not only helped keep him consistent in his work and training, it has helped me become more comfortable in my commands with him. In our household, Thaddeus was trained by my husband and thus responds to him much more readily. I have recently begun to take the dog out without my husband so I can get him tuned in to working for me. It has been very effective this year and it has been a great learning experience for me.
As many of you know, my quest for wild game is extremely important to me. I absolutely love the fact that I can spend a day at the club and we can come home with 10 birds for the freezer. To date, we have not purchased any poultry from a store in over four years. Additionally, the birds that are raised in the local wing club are very meaty and well fed. I find this to be such a bonus on top of having spent a great day out in the field. With each rooster, I will fillet the breasts and vacuum seal them. I will then take the legs and back to pressure cook into a soup base to freeze for later use. What I personally love about the soup stock is that it keeps in the freezer for extended amounts of time and can be used readily to whip up a fast batch of Pheasant Noodle Soup, Posole or Pho.
Whether hunting at the wing club or in open country, I prefer the Mossberg Silver Reserve over/under 12 gauge. It not only has a classic elegance, it is a dandy to shoot. With a weight of 7 lbs, it is perfect for a woman. It has a smooth shot and painless recoil. I prefer the Prairie Storm FS Lead shot by Federal Premium for any upland hunting. Prairie Storm ammo has rear-breaking FLITECONTROL wad that is designed around the needs of upland hunters. Additionally, it has FLITESTOPPER pellet design which uses lead and copper in the pellets to deliver full patterns at greater distances.
So with that, take the time to talk to some local wing and clay clubs to see if they could possibly be a fit for you. I suggest taking a tour of the facility, talking to members and asking about how they raise their birds. Most clubs will offer an introductory hunt of sorts so you can see how the operation works. Important things to consider beyond the finances are quality of birds, safety rules, adequate field spaces that are well separated and clean bird preparation stations. If you find a club that suits your needs, I highly recommend it!