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One of the semi-finalists

One of the semi-finalists

A record number of entries and votes were logged in the third annual “Fiocchi Friends” photo contest conducted by Fiocchi USA and Wingshooting USA TV.

Votes are now being verified and winners selected by a judge’s panel, with an announcement to be made prior to Christmas. High vote-getters and judge’s selections win Fiocchi gear, and their photos may be used in the Fiocchi 2015 catalog. One voter or entrant chosen at random will win a Mossberg Silver Reserve over-under shotgun. Some images will also be featured in a Fiocchi television commercial that begins airing in January.

Over 13,000 votes were recorded, spread among over 600 photo entries. The photo contest “shows how deep the bond is between bird hunters and their dogs,” said Scott Linden, host/creator of Wingshooting USA. “These dogs are true hunting partners,” he added. The contest was promoted via his show and social media, launching in July.

Dozens of breeds were entered, pointing and retrieving in water and the uplands. Some are funny, others poignant, with many showcasing the intensity and energy of canine athletes performing at their peak. A number of “just for fun” entries featured family portraits and even a “hunting cat.”

Fiocchi of America is based in Ozark, Missouri with sales offices in Boulder City, Nevada. Fiocchi manufactures a full line of handgun, long gun and shotgun ammunition for hunting, law enforcement, military and competition.

The official TV series of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, Wingshooting USA is also the most-watched bird hunting show on television. She program airs on seven networks including Discovery’s Destination America.

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Road Trip 2014 logo-003Almost 8,000 Wingshooting USA TV fans have already risen to the challenge in the third annual “Cabela’s Awesome Upland Road Trip … destination Kansas” contest. The sweepstakes is in its final stages, with prize values growing as the Dec. 31 deadline looms.

Fans of the show are asked to outfit host Scott Linden’s Amped travel trailer and his hunting dogs for a 6,500-mile journey across bird country. On the trip, Linden signs copies of his What the Dogs Taught Me and visits fans at Cabela’s stores, and makes future episodes of Wingshooting USA. Fan suggestions ranged from the ridiculous (hot tub for the Amped trailer) to the sublime (a day off and pampering for Linden’s hard working dogs).

Practical suggestions ranged from ammo to electronic dog training collars. A Stack-On gun cabinet and Rough-Tuff dog kennels and storage gear were added enroute due to fan suggestions. Early in the contest, fans also suggested stops along the way, including the Kansas City Cabela’s store and a hunting lodge in South Dakota where Linden dropped by for a meet-greet-hunt. Many entries are accompanied by photos of entrants and their hunting dogs.

Upcoming prizes in the run-up to contest end include a SportDOG Tek GPS collar, Mossberg Silver Reserve shotgun, and $500 Cabela’s dog gear gift card.

Entries and photos can be viewed at https://www.facebook.com/wingshootingusa/app_451684954848385

Sponsors of the Road Trip included Cabela’s, Kansas Tourism, EverGreen RV’s “Amped” toy hauler trailer, SportDOG and Mossberg.

The most-watched upland bird hunting show in the U.S., Wingshooting USA is the official TV series of the National Shooting Sports Foundation. It is broadcast year-round on seven television networks. More information: www.scottlindenoutdoors.com.

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So, what’s the best approach for you, the bird, and Buddy?

Here’s a lesson I’m learning almost weekly this time of year. Maybe you, too. You trudge up the hill to find your dog on point. He’s steady. Birds cooperative. Until you take over, that is.

Once he’s pinned a bird, I try to help Buddy do a great job handling it. I approach from at least an oblique angle, not striding right past. He’s less likely to break point. If I can, I get birds to hold instead of run by squeezing them between Buddy and me.

Want another reason to approach your dog from the front? He’s not right under the muzzle blast and it’s deafening effect. That way, he’ll have one less excuse for not hearing my commands. Even when I miss. Which is often.

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The reason we go

The reason we go

Protein is not the prime objective for Wingshooting USA TV viewers when they take to the uplands in search of pheasant, quail and grouse. That’s one revelation in show host Scott Linden’s fourth annual “Upland Nation Index,” a national survey of his viewers. The languishing economy might prompt big-game hunters and waterfowlers to make meat for the pot a priority; in fact, a recent more general survey identified a rising trend among hunters going afield primarily to supplement their pantries. But Linden says for upland bird hunters, food isn’t their primary objective.

“Watching my dog work” is the main reason Linden’s fans go hunting, according to his survey. With over 33 percent of Wingshooting USA viewers owning two or more dogs, that shouldn’t be surprising. And while that may be a full house for some, 28 percent of Linden’s fans are planning to buy another dog soon, say respondents.

“Being with friends and family” is the number two reason viewers hunt, being in natural surroundings ranks third, and “bringing home food” ranks dead last among choices in the Index. Speaking of priorities, Wingshooting USA TV fans live, eat and breathe shotgunning and bird dogs. When they’re not hunting, their principal free-time activities are dog training and clay target shooting (42 percent each).

Where are they going in pursuit of their passions? Forty-five percent hunt public land almost exclusively. Forty-two percent hunt private land via one of the landowner access programs or by asking permission, and the remaining 13 percent hunt primarily on preserves.

Linden’s fans are a restless lot too. Fifty-six percent plan to hunt outside their home state, with South Dakota the prime destination (25 percent of all out-of-state trips) and Kansas capturing the interest of another 17 percent.

The Upland Nation Index surveyed 1,700 viewers of the Wingshooting USA television program in January, 2013. The margin for error is plus or minus five percent. Wingshooting USA is the most-watched upland bird hunting show in the U.S., airing on seven networks including a debut on Discovery Channel’s Destination America this summer. It is the official TV series of the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

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A well-deserved drink.

The weather girl had it right for a change: winter was starting right on time. So did we. Here in South Dakota you can’t start hunting until 10 a.m., to me and my crew, a most civilized statute. Departing Ringneck Retreat, we were in the truck and rolling a few minutes before the appointed hour, down a bumpy farm road past a feedlot and into the boondocks.

A light snow coated round bales and thistle blooms, adding magic to the morning – Tinkerbelle’s sprinkling of pixie dust – to our adventure. Gray skies weren’t enough to darken our spirits – a breeze from the west beckoned canine noses and human feet.

Buddy and Manny got the nod today. After too many miles in their Owens boxes they trembled with anticipation. Park – guns out – cameras rolling – rattle open the door. At the timber patch that was our starting line, Manny rocketed over logs, shimmied under bushes, snaked around the ancient elms’ alligator-skin trunks. The thick grass underfoot yielded not a bird.

Once out of the timber, he was on point within seconds. Bird up! And quickly down. The young wirehair had hit his stride, galloping toward the crumpled rooster, he snuffled it into his grip. A short race back and he relinquished it gently to hand. Fifty yards later, another lock-up, cackling flush and bird crashing into the ditch. Right-left-middle he coursed until the enticing aroma of birds arrested his forward progress. One got away clean. Another was warned with a surprise early shot then grounded with the top barrel. The last rooster in the strip jinked hard right, soaring over our blocker. The shot string from his first barrel drew feathers, but the rooster reversed field and soared three hundred yards over cut soybeans before rolling as he hit the ground.

Manny was off like a drag racer at the green light, quickly outdistancing the young Labrador stationed at heel with another blocker. Scooped up and trundled 900 feet back to me and the camera, the ringneck was relinquished from the tender grasp of a bearded muzzle. Maybe it was the pixie dust, a smidgen of fairy tale. Whatever the cause, it was an enchanting day.

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horse blogSome psychologists say we measure our life by a tally of our “peak experiences.” I was reviewing the rough cut of an upcoming episode from South Dakota, writing the script and reminiscing, when I was reminded that one of my peak experiences included horses. And sharptails and South Dakota. It’s an unbeatable trifecta, and while putting words to it I finally figured out why:

For you it might be Maine woodcock, New Brunswick ruffies or Alaska ptarmigan, doesn’t matter. What counts is that you take the journey, live the experience toe to head … inhale it, let it fill your lungs, oxygenate your blood and transform to life force. Straddling a Tennessee Walking Horse does it for me.

I know enough about horses to stay far from the kicking end and on top as often as possible. That’s the first lesson everyone learns, sometimes the hard way, sometimes not. If you own horses, you’d likely agree – even a mature horse acts like a two-year-old kid – easily spooked, unpredictable, but this two-year-old weighs in at 800 pounds. Theory meets application when you’re stuck in a stall with a freaked-out horse.

Beyond the clear and present danger of concussion or lung puncture, horses are beautiful animals. We’ve lionized them in literature and cinema for good reason. They are (in their way) loyal and noble partners in so many of humanity’s triumphs and tragedies, rightfully the subject of our admiration. Since the Spanish Conquistadors brought them back to North America in the late 1400’s we’ve partnered with Equus ferus caballus on exploration and migration, adventure and duty … at times trusting our lives to them.

I’ve spent a couple decades around them, as have most of my dogs. They are elegant animals that seem to dial down the stress level whenever one sets foot in a paddock. Their calming influence is universal, chores become less of a drudgery, dogs in their adjacent yard also mellow in their presence. At rest, horses breathe deep, slowing our own heartbeat. Their size is comforting much like an aesthetically pleasing building makes a welcoming home.

When you saddle up in search of prairie grouse, those factors combine, transporting you back in time and across rolling hills. Your mental pace slackens and you become, for a bit, a pioneer. Your perspective is different, literally, being eight feet in the air. Once you get the hang of staying in the saddle, your outlook is also altered. It’s another reason for you to try a horseback hunt – you come back changed for the better.

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And ready for your order. Go here to get more information and order your copy.

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