Monday, December 29, 2014

Hunters Ed and Forums

Since I bought my Nova I've been pretty busy. Christmas and my off-season job kept me off the computer, but recently I had time to take an online hunters education course. The quizzes are generally easy but what you learn, as someone who knows nothing about hunting, is extremely valuable. Yes there's a lot in there I didn't need to learn. I don't plan on using muzzleloaders anytime soon. But for things like learning how not to kill yourself or your friends and being sure that your friends feel safe that you're not going to shoot them I highly recommend it. 

Just to clarify I wasn't planning on carrying my gun with the safety off and the muzzle pointed at the guy walking in front of me, but I was happy to learn comfortable ways to do that so I'm not the idiot who needs someone to teach him while heading to the hunt. 

If there was one thing the course made clear its that the primary safety rules are as follows: never let your gun point at anything that you don't want holes in and if you're doing anything with your gun that isn't shooting it or carrying it unload it first. That includes handing it over a fence, climbing a tree, transporting, and handing it to your friends who also know nothing about guns to show how manly you are. 

I've also spent some time reading duck hunting forums. I've talked before about how hard it is to figure out what gun people are talking about, but if it's hard to learn from the guys trying to sell you guns then the guys on duck hunting forums might as well be communicating via duck calls. So far I've managed to figure out two things from forums. The first is that the people on those forums like to hunt ducks, the second is my wallet is in for some pain. 

The first one wasn't that hard to figure out, the second one I had no idea about. So far I own several things I need that I considered a good start. These things are a shotgun, some ear protection, and clothes I won't freeze in. Now after a little research here's what I learned I still need: decoys, gloves that will keep my hands warm while I'm not shooting, gloves that will keep my hands warm while I am shooting, sunglasses, about a month of training on my duck call I got for Christmas, a floating case for going out on a boat, a hard case for transporting, a sleeve for carrying other times, a cleaning kit, someone to teach me to clean my gun (I'm fairly confident I can avoid my gun killing me but have no confidence I can take my gun apart without killing it), and a well trained dog. I'm guessing that last one is more optional but I'm also guessing I'm missing some stuff on that list so we'll call it even. 

Saturday, November 29, 2014

I bought a gun.

I've described how it is for me trying to shop for guns. I only have the most general idea what I'm looking for. A lot of the time I'm too ashamed to ask questions I should probably ask, and when I do ask I usually don't understand the answer. That said I'm now the proud owner of a used Benelli Nova that I found at a gun show for $300. I couldn't be happier. Well my fantasy football team still sucks. So I could be a little happier. 

The gun show was about what you'd expect a gun show to look like. 
There's lots of people and lots of guns. Then there's also stuff like this 
Which I'm pretty sure is just to look cool. And this
Which I really hope isn't just there to look cool. 

I was looking for a Winchester 870 or something similar and I had seen a few of them. They ranged from about $280 to $330 depending on which booth I was at until one of the last booths I went to was run by a pawn shop and that's where I saw my Benelli. What did I know about the Benelli Nova? I knew I'd seen it around and that it was a nice enough gun by a respected company for less than I was seeing guns that weren't as good for. 

I did have my suspicions. I know this gun retails new for around $500 so why was it going so cheap? The owner of the Pawn shop told me he makes more money by selling volume than for margin. He's a regular at gun shows in the area and he has a gunsmith on staff so all of his guns are guaranteed to shoot or money back. If you're a novice like me please don't buy a used gun without this type of assurance that it'll shoot. 

I took a look around the rest of the show for anything better but I knew I wasn't going to find it. I came back bought my gun and walked out on cloud 9. I could barely wait to get home to post this picture on my Facebook. 
 Then I was quickly scolded by my friends for having my finger on the trigger when I wasn't planning to shoot. I know I shouldn't have but man was I excited. 

I think my next step is to learn how to maintain my gun but at this point I'm kinda lost on what steps go in what order so whatever comes I guess. 

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Those clay pigeons didn't stand a chance.

It's exciting to shoot for the first time at clay pigeons. I went with my parents and their friends which was awesome for several reasons. The biggest is that my parents friends include an NRA volunteer named Fitz and a former shooting instructor named Suzanne so I was in good hands. 

Fitz looked like everything I thought an NRA volunteer would. He stood 6'2 with a grizzly beard, a cowboy hat, and was smoking a cigar as he was shooting the traps. He was so comfortable around guns you'd think when his mom gave birth to him the afterbirth was a shotgun. 

As I was listening to the instructor Suzanne explain to my parents and I that you don't ever point a gun at anything except clay pigeons or the ground Fitz walked behind me, grabbed me by the shoulder, and without a word placed a broken over and under 12 gauge on my shoulder. He then walked away like I had any idea why the shotgun was bent or how to unbend it. Luckily Suzanne was there to explain everything I needed to know like absolutely everything. (If you're a novice shooter like me an over and under is a double-barreled shotgun with the barrels stacked on each other rather than side by side. A shotgun is "broken" when it is a rear-loader and the shotgun is opened at the beginning of the barrel so you can put the shells in.) 

I figured I wouldn't be completely useless with a gun. I've shot a shotgun one other time but just at targets placed down range with a teammate and his host family's 12 gauge one summer while I was playing baseball in Anchorage, Alaska. That was my first real experience with guns. I needed to know how not to kill myself while taking my host family's dog for a walk. The reason for carrying a gun to take the dog out became much more clear when a grizzly bear walked through our back yard. That's just Alaska for you. 

Once we got out to the range the first thing I heard was a gunshot and the second was my mom's yelp of surprise at the gunshot. As I said she isn't comfortable with guns. Once she had the basics down and it was time to shoot she took to that 20 gauge like a dog to a vacuum. That's to say she was very suspicious of it and eventually decided it wasn't going to kill her but she still didn't care for it much. 
This is my mom lookin like Neo. 

Dad and I had a much better time of it. Neither of us hit much at first but eventually we found our rhythm and every once in a while I even remembered to put my hand over the back of my shotgun so the shell didn't hit me in the face when it ejected out the back (I had to learn that lesson a few times). 

And here's me. 

Finally my dad and I joined the rest of the shooters to shoot through our own full boxes of ammo. In 25 shots I hit 20 traps my dad hasn't told me what his percentage was because he doesn't want to admit I kicked his ass. Turns out the ability to track a baseball translates pretty well into shooting at a moving target. Overall I had a great time and got a few great stories out of it. The next step is to buy my own gun to shoot. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

I still don't know about guns.

Remember how I said I don't know a thing about guns? That makes shopping for guns and learning about guns hard. I walk into a gun store and start talking to an employee about guns and in the words of Crash Davis (my personal idol as a catcher) it's "like a Martian talking to a fungo". 

People in those stores just aren't used to people who have never been taught about guns. It took me two weeks of going to look at guns to learn how to cock a pump shotgun. They don't show Schwarzennegger pressing the little button on the side when he's cocking his shotgun with one hand.
So I just pretended I didn't care to check the action until one day I figured out how the heck that works. 

I didn't grow up in a place where guns were something people had. My childhood was spent in a suburb outside of Portland, OR. I had small town sensibilities like having to earn my own money to buy things like toys, but I never went hunting with my dad because my dad doesn't hunt either. We went to the baseball field and I wouldn't change it for the world. 

Even after I figured out what the very basics of a shotgun are I struggled. I was passing out so many blank stares every time I was asked a question in a gun store I probably made the guys realize how their high school teachers felt. "Uhh...I don't know" was probably all they thought I knew how to say. For example someone asked me if I was going to use hot loads and I still think those are something you search in a porn site cause his explanation required more knowledge than I have. 

I'm still not sure what I'm looking for but I'm getting a basic idea. I'm looking for a receiver (which is where you load the shell in I now know) that takes a 3 inch shell with a 26 or 28 inch barrel. On Sunday I go trap shooting. It'll be my first time ever shooting at a moving target. Wish me luck. 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Getting Started

My name is Jeff and I'm going to learn to hunt duck. 

 It sounds pretty simple when I put it like that. Then I think about it and realize that my dad doesn't hunt, I don't have any friends who live near me who hunt, and I don't have much money to spend on hunting to begin with cause I need to buy important things like food and alcohol. 

 First let me be clear: if you know anything about hunting anything you know more about hunting than I do. But as a minor league baseball player you can either hang with the Latinos or the southerners and I don't speak Spanish. Of course I'm no stranger to the southerners cause I went to school in the south so when I got tired of the rich brats at my school I'd go to the local state school to hang with people who actually had fun. So even having grown up in Oregon I feel more at home down South. 

 As for why I don't already hunt my mom has managed what Uncle Sam never could: banned firearms. At least in my household. Apparently she has a deep seated fear stemming from when she was bit in the face by a gun at a young age. Or maybe that was a big dog. Either way I didn't have a gun or a big dog. 

 So now living in Oregon for the off-season far away from anyone I know who could take me hunting I've decided to try and learn on my own. This blog will be my talking all about the stupid shit I do in the process.