SCI expanded its World Hunting Awards program to include Game Birds of the World – a way to honor bird hunting around the globe.
Texas is a big place by any standards, and it is home to a vast array of hunting opportunities. Over the years for me, some of the most memorable hunts involving Texas have been along Texas’ borders with other states – even where Texas meets Old Mexico.
I can recall some outstanding upland bird hunts in east Texas, not far from Shreveport, Louisiana. There was a trip one time to the area around Texarkana, where several states, including Texas, come together. There were a couple of expeditions to Oklahoma, where we dipped down into nearby Texas, and, of course, antelope hunts not far from where Texas and New Mexico come together. And those don’t count the many times when there have been hunts in Texas, with Old Mexico right there on the horizon.
So it was this year when Charlie Holder, owner of Sure-Shot Game Calls, put together his annual expedition. Headquarters this time was the Bucks and Ducks Lodge just outside Bellevue, Texas (which isn’t far from the Oklahoma border). In fact, we hunted in both States. Other than making sure we always had all of the licenses and stamps necessary for both states with us whenever we went out, it was rather difficult at times to remember just which state we were in – that is if we happened to be napping when crossing the Red River.
Officially, this was Sure Shot’s fifth annual waterfowl media conference, with conferees representing Western Outdoor News, Outdoor Channel, Outdoor Sportsman Group Integrated Media, Petersen’s Hunting, SCHWAT Special Hunting Weapons And Tactics, Randy Wakeman Outdoors, Women’s Outdoor News, ALLOUTDOOR, Night Hawk Publications, Texas Fish & Game and Hook & Hunt.
Hosts were Charlie Holder of Sure-Shot Game Calls, Steve Parrett of Nissan USA, Donna Beadle of Polaris Industries and Daniel Cox of Remington Arms. Other sponsors included Kent Outdoors, Vortex Optics, Buck Knives, Mojo Outdoors and POMA (Professional Outdoor Media Association).
Logistics on such hunts can be challenging, but that’s where a fleet of Nissan Titan HD pickups came into play. Nice trucks. They rode smoothly (on the hunts as well as to and from the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport a couple of hours or so down the Interstate); and didn’t get stuck, even when we took them right to the edges of sloughs to unload and the load-up spreads of dozens of decoys.
It was a late season waterfowling proposition, which for me is ideal. There is something about the late season that is special. About the only down side to late season waterfowl hunting is the usual cold weather. But this year, we lucked out. The week before and week after were extremely cold, but for our hunt, it was downright pleasant (I figured the good weather probably followed me there from Arizona).
Yet it was the same thing last year when I went on a late season hunt with the folks from SCI Corporate Sponsor Land Leader. That hunt was in western Nebraska, and the weather turned out to be very nice. So was the hunting. But I digress.
Imagine waterfowling with hotshots from a game call company. It is truly a memorable experience, because they know exactly how to “talk to the animals,” so to speak. All I had to do was sit there in a portable blind and wait until the birds came into range and then hammer away.
Yes, I was decked out with a necklace full of first-rate calls, but frankly it was about as useful or useless as the proverbial mid-body mammalian appendages on a boar. Yes, I sounded off with the calls, but can take no credit for that effort working (except, perhaps one time when I inadvertently grabbed and then honked away on the wrong call – goose call when I wanted to blurt out with a duck call. What happened was that, during a lull in the action, I decided I would try out one of the Sure-Shot duck calls, just to see if I could make it sing. I thought there were no birds of any kind in the air around the pond – only to find out that coincidentally there just happened to be a couple of lost geese flying in the area. The other folks in the blind first looked at me, and then looked to the left and spotted the geese – which I had not seen. They acted like they thought I actually knew what I was doing – which would be a first for me in a duck blind with any kind of call. That was hardly the case, because the geese didn’t come in and I decided to try another call).
On such hunts, there usually is some one part of the hunt, maybe even just a fleeting moment, when something stands out, far above and beyond all else. For me, it happened on the last setup of the hunt alongside a rather large impoundment.
J.J. Kent was there with his retriever, Bo. There was something about Bo. I like dogs with senses of humor, and Bo was just such a dog. Bo had been around enough waterfowling to know the drill. In fact, he knew it well enough to have a special sort of canine fun with it.
For most of that part of the hunt, Bo retrieved efficiently and with a fluid ease that bespeaks experience and expertise. There was still some residual ice on the pond, and Bo knew exactly where he would and would not go to retrieve downed birds when they landed on the ice. If they landed in the open water, he was right there. But not so much with the ice.
By the time the morning was over, Bo had J.J. crunching ice and retrieving birds as Bo watched from the shore. Truly, it was a joy to watch a fine black Lab and his retriever, J.J., at work. I’m not so certain that J.J. was thrilled about it, but what the heck; among friends does it matter whether the hunt is with man and dog, or dog and man? Bo was so proud of himself that he posed for a photo.
The expedition also included wild boar hunts in the afternoons and early evenings before dark. I tried one. Didn’t see any porkers, so the next morning, it was back to the duck blinds.
Remington provided both V3 and Versa Max semi-auto shotguns. Primarily, I used a Versa Max with Remington’s Hi-Speed Steel 3-inch 12-gauge loads of 1¼ ounces of No. 4 shot (1,400 feet per second muzzle velocity). Worked fine for ducks over decoys.
We also had opportunities to shoot Remington’s new American Clay & Field Sport Loads on clays during off hours during the expedition. These new loads are positioned between Remington’s Gun Club and STS/Nitro 27 lines of shotshells. They worked great. Since then I have had an opportunity to reload and shoot the American Clay & Field Sport empties, and they are great in that role, as well. The same reload recipes used for Gun Club and STS/Nitro 27 hulls work well in these new hulls.
Sure-Shot Game Calls expeditions are so much more than mere hunts – although the hunting has always been a lot of fun whether I was with them in Saskatchewan a couple of years before or northern Texas this year. That’s because of Charlie Holder and his vision of his company, as well as hunting and humanity, are founded on solid footing.
The Sure-Shot tradition traces back to the post-war period of 1946 to 1950 with Cowboy Fernandez, world champion caller. Sure Shot as it is now known began in 1959, and through the 1970s, pretty well owned the market.
By the time Charlie took over in 2011, things had changed. In the past five years, Sure-Shot has launched four new calls and is now re-launching some of the old calls, due to customer demand.
“We want to do what they did in the old days,” Holder said. “It’s been a big hit. This year we brought back the triple reed call.”
In addition to waterfowling calls, Sure Shot also makes calls for deer, turkeys and squirrels.
In a world where much of the hunting gear has become commodities, it is nice to see that there are still companies out there who make the good stuff the old fashioned way – by hand and with pride. Truly, it is part of the hunting tradition.–Steve Comus