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    In the Swing

    A Sporting Inventory: Taking Stock

    Bryan Bilinski owns Fieldsport, purveyors of fine guns and renowned wing shooting instruction, based in Traverse City, Michigan. One of the country’s leading shotgun fitters and shooting instructors, Bryan is credited with introducing sporting clays to the United States.
    Bryan Bilinski owns Fieldsport, purveyors of fine guns and renowned wing shooting instruction, based in Traverse City, Michigan. One of the country’s leading shotgun fitters and shooting instructors, Bryan is credited with introducing sporting clays to the United States.
    As a young lad who was just beginning to experience the joys of wing shooting, Labrador retrievers and shotguns, I somehow read my first Gene Hill story. Hill’s prose and stories, fact or fiction, forever changed the way I looked at my newfound love of the outdoors.

    My father did not hunt or really understand my evolution as a sportsman, so Hill became a long-distance mentor to me. During my college years, I even started a letter writing trail with Gene, and he was always most gracious to write me back. Some 40 years later, I still cherish his many letters that I have carefully saved in a little tin box, right alongside my old, dog-eared hunting licenses.

    One series of pieces that Hill wrote was entitled his “Annual Report.” In my late teens, I could only dream of someday being able to report back on the prior year in sport, tongue-in-cheek, reporting on how many shotguns shells of each gauge I shot, game that filled the freezer, new shotguns acquired and “glossed over misadventures” of the prior year.

    So be it, I won’t even attempt a “Bilinski Annual Report,” but as a weekend writer, gun store owner and wing shooting instructor, I’d like to relate to the many experiences during the past year and offer some advice or self-help to my fellow sportsman.

    As we enter into spring 2020, cherished bird seasons are over and done. It’s easy now to look back and reflect on our past hunts — the good, the not so good and maybe some sweet memories that they produced. As we all get older, looking back is a lot simpler than looking forward.

    But looking forward toward next season should be filled with optimism and hope. Continuing to train your pup is always fun and fruitful. Planning on taking a weekly sojourn to your local gun club this spring and summer will hopefully produce positive results in your shooting technique next season. It is also time to take stock and inventory of your gunroom, man cave or sportsman’s closet. Beginning the planning for any major hunting trips you would like to take this fall is now paramount.


    Gun Maintenance


    First, remove every gun you used or didn’t use last season from the safe or closet and get it cleaned and serviced thoroughly and professionally. In my business, I see so many fine guns every year that are basically ruined or devalued because they were poorly cared for.

    If you haven’t had the stock of your gun removed in a while, now is the time. You may be shocked and dismayed to see what can happen inside the action of your favorite bird gun. Rust and corrosion occur inside the most carefully wiped down exteriors. If you are not competent to perform the task of stock or action removal and subsequent cleaning, then plan on making a trip to your favorite gunsmith, immediately.

    Getting your favorite shotguns serviced during the off-season is the absolute best advice going. Every year I see bird hunters making mad dashes to the gunsmith during the bird season to get a broken part or seized up ejector freed the day before an important hunt. Guess how many guns are in line ahead of yours? And you thought you could get it repaired and back in your hands by tomorrow? Sorry, laddie, no way. Unless you are willing to pay a rush fee for your gunsmith to work until midnight, you will probably get your gun back in two to three weeks.

    Get out a good brass brush and your favorite solvent and really clean the bores of your shotguns. I am constantly cleaning and working on the bores of my shotguns. Nothing will ruin the secondary market value of a gun more than rusted or “pitted bores.” Moisture, lead and plastic are hell on bores and, given time, can take over and develop into difficult-to-remove rust.


    Your Health and Fitness


    Is it just me, or are we all getting older?

    Now is the time to upgrade everything to do with your health. Consider getting that necessary surgery you have been holding off having. Make an appointment with your primary doctor and get a good checkup and fitness test. Just like your pup, get your shots and meds in order. Upland bird hunting involves a lot of walking and exertion, so being in the best shape of your life next season will pay big dividends.

    So spring has sprung, and it is a great time to get your sporting house in order. You’ll be happy you did, come fall.

    Have a question about wing shooting or shotguns for Bryan to answer? Please send it to fieldsport@fieldsport.biz.

    Wolfe Publishing Group