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I’m on the left. The ones on the right deserve all the credit … or dog treats.

Time to address the 800-pound gorilla once and for all. Please bear with me while I drill down on an issue important to all of us: where we hunt on Wingshooting USA. Thanks for reading the entire essay before commenting. Shouldn’t take but five minutes, once you find your reading glasses 🙂

I hunt over 30 days per year on public land, walk-in areas, etc. for wild birds. On private ground, another 20 or so. Add in the places we go to make the TV show and you’ve got another 20 or so, about half wild and half liberated/early release/pen raised birds. Given the chance, you might do much the same. Why?

Because if I’m to believe what you tell me in the annual Upland Index survey, it’s all about the dog work. All other things being equal (including hard-flying birds no matter where the eggs came from), we live for a quivering, tail-stiffening point or hard flush by a perky spaniel. Incredible scenery, excitement, and camaraderie are right up there, but hands-down …

… it’s about the dog.

So, no birds, no TV show. If you tell us you’re willing to watch 21-1/2 minutes of guys walking around not shooting at birds, with all due respect, you’re a liar. I won’t insult your intelligence. I’ll take the financial hit and pay for more days in the field in hopes of finding a few birds.

Yep, I’m a lucky S.O.B. Wined and dined, guided and shown the good spots at world-class lodges. And some, not-so-world class. But they are a part of our sport, and deriding “white collar” hunts simply because you can’t/won’t go is a reflection of your worldview, not the people who go there. “Those people,” whomever they are, have more in common with us than they don’t have. (I know, there are exceptions, and I’ve shared a table or two with them! It explains my fondness for Scotch.)

But who among us doesn’t relish the dazzling display of a fired-up four-legged hunter living his dream? It’s not the thread count on the lodge’s sheets that defines our passion.

That said, here are some harsh realities of TV hunting:

TV is like sausage. If you like it, don’t watch it being made – or paid for.

Time is money: I choose the best camera operators because you deserve it. Watch all the bird hunting shows and decide for yourself, but I think it’s worth it to have two shooters who understand what we’re there for: your benefit. Excellent camera angles, lots of dog-level footage, drone shots … and a lot of other things my guys do that others don’t. I’m happy to send them a big check at the end of a trip.

My crew is paid by the day, whether they’re hunting, driving, flying, watching the rain fall. The longer we have to hunt, the more expensive that episode becomes. Others may do it differently, but you can probably see the difference when you watch. You are worth the extra expense.

Knowing there are birds, even if I can’t hit them, is a producer’s security blanket. You may not see many retrieves when I shoot, but you’ll be able to watch the dogs.

As producer, I pay for all that other stuff, too: flights, meals, lodging enroute, editors, rental cars, background music, fuel, advertising sales trips, the other editors who make the commercial spots, even the voice talent in those spots! Ditto for social media, sportsmen’s show booths, writing, promotion, office rent, etc. Nobody (except me) works for free.

I am glad to reach for my wallet, because the talent of all those folks is what gets Wingshooting USA on the big networks and into your home. No matter who your daddy is, you can’t simply write a check and be on Discovery, NBC Sports, Destination America or the other major networks. The bigger the network, the stricter their production standards, or all those other guys would be there.

Then I gotta buy the air time on the networks … in advance … hoping to find sponsors who send enough checks to cover my overhead and maybe chip in a little profit for my 401K. Nobody gets rich in our cottage industry, and two out of three years are break-even or worse. Many producers have taken out second mortgages, cashed in pensions, quit their day jobs, burned through their inheritance, bought a jacked-up truck, put their logo on it, and failed.

(Mythbuster: there are very few producers who actually get paid by the outdoors networks any more. I was lucky enough to be one of them early in my career, but that model evaporated when network boards were re-populated by bean counters and lawyers instead of sportsmen.)

Enough pathos. Wouldn’t you rather watch great (and even my not-great) dogs finding birds?

This is the place.

Beautiful, eh? Take a number and pull out your wallet if you want to shoot here.

Red tape. What is your impression of your motor vehicles department? Post office? That’s what we’re up against trying to make a show on public land. To hunt where the birds are on Bureau of Land Management, National Parks, and most state-owned land I must buy a permit.

Ironic, isn’t it? I gotta pay to hunt on land owned by you and me … if someone with a camera is walking alongside me. And it’s not cheap. On a recent shoot, for me and two cameras (no tripods – that’s extra) the daily cost of a permit was the same as George Lucas would pay to shoot the next Star Wars installment. On a recent shoot, I spent 37 hours working on the permit. When I was making a fly fishing show, the bureaucrat wanted me to put an “X” on every spot we might set up and make a few casts … on a 20-mile float trip. What’s your time worth?

And if you think the post office is slow, try this: sometimes, the bureaucrats who hold your financial fate in their hands often wait until you’re on the plane (and my well-paid camera operators are on their second drink!) before they actually issue the permit. Is that how you’d expect someone to treat paying customers like you?

Does every TV show follow the rules and get permits? Not my problem. I do, so most of Wingshooting USA’s episodes will be on private ground.

Hey, I’m just like you. Long for wild places. Crave the challenges of finding wild birds. Can’t hit the broad side of a barn with a 10-gauge semi-auto with the plug pulled out. Love the dogs even more. I’ll wager you do, too.

I’m not asking for your sympathy – I’m a big boy, and understand the risks. I’m just asking you to look at the whole picture.

And enjoy the dog work.

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All three seasons of Wingshooting USA now on disk! Get all the action, as often as you like. More details here.

Maybe you weren’t there, but now you CAN be.

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Another very nice article by Nancy Anisfield, this one highlighting the great work my crew does. Like what you see on TV? Thank a crew member!

This, from Upland Almanac. For more information and a subscription go here.

Read the article here: Upland Almanac WUSA

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Week of Sept 26

27

Ugly dogs, pretty place Appropriate to the rough-and-tumble approach of German Wirehairs and shorthairs featured on the show, Scott and his guest Terry Wilson of catalog firm Ugly Dog Hunting Co. walk up native bobwhite quail rather than approach via the more genteel mule-drawn wagon. Three different generations of dogs, a touching story of physical and emotional redemption, and beautiful southern habitat highlight the program.Scott’s own wirehair Buddy teaches him the value of “weekends,” even for dogs, in the Buddy & Me segment, and the TruckVault Cares public service segment features the International Hunter Education Association. The “Take your kid hunting” feature offers a chance to win an Eastern Oregon horseback chukar hunt.

Oct 3

28

Western wings Running ringneck pheasants and rough-country chukars test the skills – and patience – of hunters on this week’s episode of Scott Linden’s Wingshooting USA. A sporting clays expert makes his bird hunting debut and shines on several long shots in the program, from Western Wings near Roberts, Idaho.Pointing Labrador retrievers bump the ditch parrots from cut milo and CRP ground, then Linden’s own seasoned German Wirehair Buddy locates chukar partridge in the sage and scrubland at the foot of the Grand Teton Mountains. Buddy shows Scott the value of a face – even if it’s made for radio – in the “Buddy & Me” segment, and the Scholastic Clay Target Program is highlighted in the TruckVault Cares public service segment. The “Take your kid hunting” feature offers a chance to win an Eastern Oregon horseback chukar hunt.

Oct 10

29

Big sky, prairie birds Skittish early-season Montana sharptail grouse and Hungarian partridge test the mettle of seasoned dogs and pups, as well as the feet of hunters in this week’s episode of Scott Linden’s Wingshooting USA. The Yoda-like guidance of 6X Outfitters’ Al Gadoury both enlightens Scott’s hunt, and opens his eyes to the more subtle aspects of a “big sky” hunt at the foot of the Crazy Woman mountains.An experienced English Setter first courses the CRP and alfalfa, coulees and sagebrush, then the day ends with her daughter accompanying Scott’s wirehair pup Manny for a rollicking good time (at least for the pup!).  The “Buddy & Me” segment is about an alternative to the e-collar and checkcord, and this week’s TruckVault Cares feature highlights the AKC Canine Health Foundation. The “Take your kid hunting” feature offers a chance to win an Eastern Oregon horseback chukar hunt.

Oct 17

30

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Brotherly love Camaraderie is the theme on this week’s episode of Scott Linden’s Wingshooting USA, as Scott is joined by his brother Jeff on his first hunt. Awe at the dog work and adrenaline rush from the flush of bobwhite quail is evident as a new citizen of the Upland Nation is initiated at Red Bank Hunting Co. near Red Bluff, California.Nimble shorthairs lead the way, pinning coveys and singles in oak woodlands at the foot of Mt. Lassen. The shooting is challenging, even for seasoned hunters, and Jeff finally gets his gun to the shoulder, cheek to the stock and pellets on the correct side of the ever-present Manzanita bushes. This week’s TruckVault Cares feature highlights gun dog rescue clubs, and in the Buddy & Me segment Scott’s dog reminds him that sometimes, it’s best to go backwards a step or two in the training. The “Take your kid hunting” feature offers a chance to win an Eastern Oregon horseback chukar hunt.

Oct 24

31

Southern gent meets Northern birds A southern gentleman is introduced to North Dakota sharptail grouse … a far cry from the genteel bobwhites he’s used to, in this week’s episode of Scott Linden’s Wingshooting USA. The badlands and crops outside Mott, North Dakota are the setting for long walks, rugged climbs, and a mob of hardworking dogs.Another “freelance hunt” with Tailfeather Inn owner Mark Wiegand puts the crew in new territory, unexplored before by Wiegand and friends. And the discoveries made along the back roads of rural North Dakota range from wild birds to stunning scenery, friendly people and a few “adventures” for Scott’s dogs. This week’s Buddy & Me segment is all about keep dogs cool, and the TruckVault Cares feature highlights the habitat work of the North American Grouse Partnership. The “Take your kid hunting” feature offers a chance to win an Eastern Oregon horseback chukar hunt.

Oct 31

32

Yeeha! Horses and prairie grouse … hunting the way pioneers did on their way West. That’s the story on this week’s episode of Scott Linden’s Wingshooting USA. Scott is guided by Horse Feathers Lodge owner Bob Tinker, and they roam the South Dakota plains for sharptailed grouse and prairie chickens, astride Tennessee Walkers.Big running English Setters quarter the rolling hills and canyons near Pierre, South Dakota, finding birds among the wild grasses that are virtually unchanged since covered wagons traversed the same land more than a century ago. Think you’re a good shooter? Try dismounting, loading, then getting in position before these wild birds make their escape! Linden calls this a “bucket list” adventure for several reasons, as you’ll see.This week’s Buddy & Me segment is about keeping dogs calm and ready to learn, and the TruckVault Cares feature highlights the Ruffed Grouse Society. The “Take your kid hunting” feature offers a chance to win an Eastern Oregon horseback chukar hunt.

Nov 7

33

California dreamin’ Northern California is pheasant country, and Corning’s Clear Creek Sports Club can prove it in this week’s episode of Scott Linden’s Wingshooting USA. The golden, rolling hills are an idyllic setting, punctuated by ditches, desert and enough trees to humble the shooters. Scott’s five-month-old pup Manny scents his first ringneck and discovers the joy of hunting in one long, deep breath and quivering point. If you’ve ever wanted a puppy, this is the episode for you. Just keep your checkbook in the drawer or you’ll be calling for pick of the litter!This week’s Buddy & Me segment reminds Scott that having the tools and workplace ready are the keys to successful training. The TruckVault Cares public service segment features the International Hunter Education Association, and the “Take your kid hunting” feature offers a chance to win an Eastern Oregon horseback chukar hunt.

Nov 14

34

Finished ugly dogs This week on Scott Linden’s Wingshooting USA, two “finished” dogs of the ugly persuasion (their owners’ descriptions) scour a Georgia quail plantation, demonstrating textbook points, steadiness and retrieving skills. A German Wirehaired Pointer and German Shorthair hunt alone and together at Quail Country Plantation, putting on a demonstration worthy of any field trial.“Ugly dogs” are so-named by their aficionados, comprising most of the versatile breeds, and formed the philosophical basis for Terry Wilson’s Ugly Dog Hunting Co. Wilson invited Scott (also an ugly dog owner) and his crew to help tune up his dog for an upcoming championship hunting test. He brought along a fellow ugly dog owner and hunt test judge, Tim Clarke, and a few friends too. If you’ve wondered how good a good hunting dog can be, watch this show.This week’s Buddy & Me segment stresses the importance of letting a dog “hold” his feathered reward after a good retrieve. The TruckVault Cares public service segment features the Scholastic Clay Target Program, and the “Take your kid hunting” feature offers a chance to win an Eastern Oregon horseback chukar hunt. 

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Seatbelts fastened, itinerary finalized and we are good to go! Here’s this year’s Wingshooting USA/Awesome Upland Road Trip. Follow along here – I’ll be filing regular reports from the road once we take off in mid-October. We start in Nebo, Illinois and end near Casper, Wyoming.

Want to join us? Go here and find out how!

Click on any of the pushpins for more information on the trip, and check back for news.

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The TV weather guy said hot and dry, but we know how trustworthy television folk are. We woke to cold fog, thick as any on a vampire movie set.

But Bob Tinker was undeterred, loading horses and dogs into his trailer for a long drive in the general direction of the Ft. Pierre National Grasslands. By the time we pulled through the barbed-wire gate onto a vast, unbroken prairie, a bright yellow ball was rising from behind the eastern ridge. Problem one, gone. This episode of Wingshooting USA will be pretty, if nothing else.

Here’s a behind-the-camera glimpse of how this rodeo works. In this case, I’m running the camera and take all the blame for the shakiness! Amber is after a small covey, Bob wrangles horses, I try to stay on the horse while shooting some video. Tad and Lynn run “real” cameras on the ground:

Problem two: staying in the saddle while following big-running setters. With help from wrangler and fellow hunter Amber Funk, I was up and ready – in theory. But I could use both hands to death-grip my saddle and reins, unlike Tad Newberry and Lynn Berland, who toted high definition video cameras. (My wife, a former competitive rider, still gets the same advice from me when she heads for the barn: “stay on top!”)

The sea of grasses was rich in life, from tiny blooms to sharptail grouse that held surprisingly well for our stampede. The drill went like this: point-tumble off horse-pull shotgun from scabbard and load as you scramble toward the bird. Once in a while, everything went according to plan and a bird fell to earth. (more…)

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Okay, we can finally spill the beans on the upcoming season of Wingshooting USA. I hope you have lots of DVR space, and plenty to eat and drink while you watch – there is a lot in store!

Starting October 1 and every Friday morning at 9:30 a.m. Eastern, you can watch the show on VERSUS. In January, you can also watch on the Pursuit Channel Saturdays at 6:30 p.m. If you’re stuck in the seventies and watching via digital “rabbit ears” on your local TV station, check for AMGTV Sundays 1 p.m. or TUFF TV Saturdays 10 a.m. or 4:30 p.m.

Bring plenty of ammo and dog food – we’ve got an incredible lineup of destinations: Idaho pheasants, Montana huns, North and South Dakota sharpies and pheasants … California pheasants and quail, Oregon valley quail and pheasants and more!

In addition to the hunting, Wingshooting USA is loaded with fun, educational and motivational feature segments:

– “Buddy & Me” sponsored by TruckVault is our continuing adventure as my wirehair and I learn how to teach and learn from each other. Watch sample here:

– TriTronics “Young Hunters Afield”  encourages families to get outside together, rewarding those who send photos of kids with their dogs with a chance at a TriTronics e-collar. Watch here:

– Native Performance Dog Food’s “Conservation Showcase” raises funds for Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever. Learn how you can help, here:

– ZoomDog’s BuddyCam provides a fascinating look (literally) at a dog’s perspective in the field and at home. Watch here:

– And carrying on our tradition, the National Shooting Sports Foundation offers parents  and children a chance to win a hunting trip on the show with me in their “Take YOUR kid hunting” sweepstakes.” 

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