Shotgun Choke Selection: It’s Not the Reason You Missed

Years ago a friend and I went pheasant hunting with an Annoying Guy named Jerry in southern Iowa. He proved annoying on many counts, one of the minor ones being his obsession with choke. At one point all three of us emptied our guns at a rooster that flushed underfoot, then watched it fly away. “I had an Improved Modified choke in so I didn’t stand a chance on a shot that close,” he said. “You guys should have been okay with your Skeet and Improved Cylinder chokes.” We then had to make detours to his car throughout the morning so he could switch barrels (this was in the early 80s, before choke tubes were common).

While few are quite so choke-centric as Jerry, people do worry about it, perhaps too much. I tend to side with sporting clays shooter Andy Duffy, who likes to say: “People miss by feet. Choke gains you inches.” That’s not to say choke isn’t important, but on the list of reasons you missed, it’s not in the top three (you aimed, you rushed, you made a bad gun mount would be 1, 2, and 3 off the top of my head), nor even the top five.

Choke helps – literally – on the margins. It does give you those extra inches of pattern spread around the edges that can make the difference if you mispoint the gun slightly, or if the bird or target makes an unexpected change of direction. It’s telling that tournament shooters like Duffy rarely switch chokes but will always shoot an open choke or spreader loads at close rabbit targets, which can bounce unpredictably. Then those extra inches can make the difference between a hit and a miss. Likewise, hunters in heavy cover can take good advantage of extra spread when woodcock flutter like knuckleballs.

You will also run into people who will tell you that Improved Cylinder is all you ever need because they have killed birds and broken targets with IC at 50 yards. And, while it’s true that if you hit a bird with the pattern core at that range you can kill it, it’s also true that tighter chokes not only deliver a larger pattern core, but they fill the pattern fringes better at long range, reducing the chance you’ll fringe hit and cripple a bird.

Choosing choke properly for hunting is also about making sure you deliver enough pellets for a clean kill, but not so many you tear up your birds. I prefer to err on the side of more choke, not less, and trust myself to let gamebirds get far enough out so I don’t shred them, and to shoot ducks and geese before they get too close. Remember, too, as you rummage through your choke tubes trying to decide what’s perfect for a particular day or particular station, that choke is only half the equation. Most chokes pattern more tightly as you increase shot size, and the only way to know for sure what your gun does at different ranges is to pattern it with the choke and load you plan to use.



The Six Best Bass Lures for Under $5

Big-money bass lures are, more often than not, designed to catch fishermen instead of fish. The truth is that pricey lures often rely on gimmicks or flash to get you to shell out big money for them. But with cheap lures, you can certainly get what you pay for—lures that don’t produce fish, or fall apart after just a couple casts. So what’s a fisherman to do? These six lures and baits strike the perfect balance between affordability and quality. For about $25, you can have one of each in your tackle box this spring when bass start heading for their beds.

Bass Pro Shops XPS Suspending Minnow

The XPS Suspending Minnow is ideal for suspended fish, with its neutrally buoyant design that keeps it in the strike zone. With a 6-foot max diving depth, this jerkbait can be used from ice out all the way to post spawn. It has a naturally sculpted 4⅝-inch body, and, in typical Bass Pro style, it comes in 32 different colors, guaranteeing a pattern for every body of water.

Berkley PowerBait Power Worm

Plastic worms are the classic choice for spawning bass, and nobody does them better than Berkley with its PowerBait Power Worm. The Power Worm has a ribbon-tail cut and is irresistible to bass with some short hops and subtle twitches. What’s more, the Power Worm has Berkley’s fabled scent formula molded into it, which anglers have long claimed cause bass to hang on for a few extra moments, resulting in better hooksets. The Power Worm is versatile and can be presented a number of different ways, including with dropshot and finesse rigs.

Booyah Boo Jig

Boo Jigs a
re perfect for when bass are holding in dense cover or thick vegetation, as they tend to before and after the spawn. This lure can go most anywhere thanks to its small profile and heavy weed guard, which is hardly noticeable underneath its 50-strand skirt. And unlike most bass jigs, the Boo Jig has dual rattles that will help attract fish more than a typical jig would. Work the Boo Jig by itself, or pair it with a like-colored tail for even more action.

Cabela’s Chuck-It Frog

his economical, hollow-bodied frog can be thrown long distances and fished through the nastiest of structure owing to its weighted dual-hook design. This frog is perfect for when bass are patrolling creek inlets for food in spring. Not only that, it comes with an unheard of lifetime guarantee. Snap your rod tip to make it walk, or steadily reel it in for a quick retrieval.

Northland Reed-Runner Spinnerbait

Spinnerbaits are a go-to lure for anglers year round, and springtime is no exception. The Northland Reed-Runner is famous for its “R”-bend wire frame that keeps it from getting snagged in heavy cover and also generates tons of vibration from its two willow-leaf blades. The 80-strand skirt sits opposite the blades and gives the lure a wounded-baitfish-like presentation. If you’re looking to mimic a school of shad, the Reed-Runner is hard to beat.

Zoom Super Salty Lizard

Bass on their beds can be picky, and will often only strike lures as a warning. When that’s the case, a Zoom Super Salty Lizard is the ideal bait for pestering them to bite. This is the best-selling lizard of all time, thanks to the action from its free-moving legs and curly tail. The lizard is also salt-impregnated, so it’ll have a tempting flavor perfect for spring.


Wingshooting: Heavy Shotguns for Faster Shooting

If you’re in a fast-draw competition with a shotgun, you want a heavy gun.

Earlier this week I wrote about how to shoot quickly. There is one last point to make on the subject: if you want to shoot quickly, shoot a heavy gun. It seems counterintuitive, since upland guns are supposed to be light and fast-handling.

And, light guns are easier to move, but fast-handling doesn’t translate into more hits, or even more speed. Heavy guns are smoother and surer to the target. Light guns are flighty and harder to manage.
A couple of years ago when we did the Field & Stream shotgun test, we had our test team members take turns standing five yards behind a trap, shooting going-away birds with Full-choked guns, starting from a low gun position. The five of us used a 20 gauge 870 Express that weighed 6 ¾ pounds, an 870 that weighed 7 ½ pounds, and the same 870 with a weighted magazine cap and stock-mounted recoil reducer added, which bumped its weight up to 8 ½ pounds.

The heavy 12 gauge was the fastest gun, and the most accurate. It was nearly a quarter second faster to the target per hit than the 20 gauge, and with it we averaged 71% hits versus 63% with the lighter 20 gauge. The unweighted 12 was in between. I suppose we should have controlled for gauge in this test, but the targets were close and I don’t think the ballistic advantage of the 12 was much of a factor.

If you’re in a fast-draw competition with a shotgun, you want a heavy gun, but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend an 8 ½ pound grouse gun unless you’re J.J. Watt. Fatigue slows you down, and carrying a heavy gun through dense cover tires your arms by the end of a day in the woods. I shoot better with heavy, weight-forward guns, but I prefer light, muzzle-light guns for brush hunting because they are easier to carry with your trigger hand while you fend off branches with your front hand.

Shotgunning is often about tradeoffs, and that’s what we’re facing here: you can carry a heavy gun that tires you out but that you can hit with, or a you can pick a lighter gun that’s easy to carry, but harder to shoot well. There is no free lunch here, nor anywhere else.




Look up Argentina in the dictionary and the definition says, ʻsynonym of meatʼ. Okay, thatʼs not true. But it should be, because this country is all about the carne. Give or take a few steaks, Argentineans eat about 55kg of beef each a year. Thatʼs almost double what North Americans put away. You soon get used to the smell of grilled beef that wafts from parrillas (steak restaurants) dotted on every corner and itʼs not unusual to see builders and shop keepers lovingly labouring over their make-shift grills during lunch breaks. Sundayʼs here remain sacred too, as families get together for asados (BBQʼs) and feast the afternoon away with a bottle of Malbec and charla (chat). Beef here is a source of national pride and after tasting your first fork full, youʼll see why.

The flat, central plains of Las Pampas are home to Argentinaʼs prized, grass-fed cattle. This said grass results in leaner cuts than corn-reared breeds and the meat isnʼt aged. Some places may let it rest for up to two weeks, but itʼs generally not hung. The cows are cut differently too, meaning names might not be what youʼre used to, plus theyʼre in Spanish. Either way, to the untrained beef lover, decoding the parrilla menú can leave you more than a bit bamboozled. So The Real Argentina is here to guide you through what can be an intimidating overload of dead cow. The list below includes choice cuts as well as other more daring bits – offal and all – that you may or may not have the pelotas to try. But hey! Youʼre in Argentina, so get ready to loosen your belt, eat a steak the size of your head and fall straight into carne coma heaven.


1. Roast Beef / err…Roast Beef
A cheaper cut taken from the neck, it’s best drowned in a tasty sauce and is often used for mince.

2. Ojo de Bife / Rib Eye

A familiar friend full of marbling fat which gives it tons of flavour. It’s a whacking great big chunky steak and comes from the best cut of the rib section. A personal fave.

3. Bife Ancho / Prime Rib or Rib Eye Roast

Akin to Ojo de Bife, ancho steaks are cut from the rib-eye roll. You can get it boneless or bone-in, which packs more flavour into an already tender, tasty and marbled cut.

4. Bife Angosto A.K.A Bife de Chorizo / Sirloin or New York Strip (U.S.)

One of the best go-to steaks for taste and quality, it’s probably what more than one mozo (waiter) will steer you towards. Proper carnivore bliss, it comes with a satisfying edge of fat and is usually served in portions huge enough to share. Beware, cheap cuts will have an indecent amount of fat on them.

5. Cuadril / Rump Steak

Used for everyday cooking in Argentina, the classic rump is nothing to write home about but is nevertheless a thick, meaty cut of reasonable quality. And you get a lot of it for your pesos. If you end up extending your trip, this is one to cook up at home.

6. Asado / Short Ribs or Spare Ribs

So this is confusing. Asado is the name for BBQ in Argentina but it also refers to the large section of the rib cage that produces the finger-lickin’ tasty morsels of short or spare ribs. You want them a bit crispy on the outside to contrast with the tender meat inside. Pure salty goodness.

7. Vacio / Flank

Delicious and often overlooked flank from around the belly of the cow. You don’t normally see this outside of Argentina, so take advantage of this best-cooked slowly strip which delivers on flavour and has an addictive crispy fat, smothering the exterior.

8. Colita de Cuadril / Tri-Tip or Sirloin Roast

Often roasted but also grilled-up and minced. A cheaper cut and versatile enough to smother a marinade over, which it soaks up like a thirsty campesino (countryman). Not memorable enough to order out.

9. Tapa de Asado / Rib Cap

Falling somewhere in flavour between bife de chorizo and ojo de bife, this is their not so meaty nor buttery hermano. It has to be medium-rare pink. It’s too tough past that point but isn’t the tenderest choice to start with. One for the asado en casa.

10. Peceto / Eye of Round

Best roasted rare, this super lean slice is super economical. Coming from the well used Round Primal muscle, this cut will give your molars a work-out.

11. Matambre / Flank Steak

A mash-up of the words ‘matar’ and ‘hambre’ (‘kill-hunger’), a very thin cut taken from between the skin and the ribs. It’s served as a steak but much more common as ‘matambre relleno’, a meat roll stuffed with a variation of carrots, peppers and hard-boiled eggs depending on the province.

12. Entraña / Skirt Steak

Rich and juicy this cheaper cut is a good bet if you’ve got time to branch out from the usual cuts. It can need a bit of chew if overdone.

13. Lomo / Fillet or Tenderloin
This famed cut is the fine dining of steak and comes with the heftiest price tag. Waiter’s at La Brigada (San Telmo) love to make a show of this meat star by cutting it with a spoon at your table. Low in fat, it’s not going to be a guilty pleasure pig out or full of the best flavour, but it’s tender and juicy and has to be tried.

14. Tapa de Nalga / Topside Cap

These various cuts are fairly tough and better left for a slow cooking pot than any parrilla.


I’ve added a few extra favourites that aren’t on our cow jigsaw but are on the menu and should not be missed.

/ Sausage

Moist, fatty, meaty. A good chori is a total pleasure. Shove it in a bread roll and it becomes the humble feast of kings known as the choripán from the chori-zo (sausage) and pan (bread). Pile on the typical local spicy chimichurri sauce and you’re good to go.

Morcilla / Blood Sausage
You’re gonna love ‘em or hate ‘em. Similar to black-pudding in the UK, they are made up of pig’s blood and ground up pieces of pork or offal and a few extra spices to make them taste less like pig’s blood. A much softer sausage than the chorizo.

No translation exists for this typical Uruguayan meat feast of veal, chicken or pork enveloped around a stick of cheese wrapped in ham and topped off with tomatoes, pancetta and peppers. If you want a heart attack on a plate, youʼve found it! For some of the best head to El Pobre Luis in Belgrano.

Mollejas / Sweetbreads or Thymus Glands
Not for the squeamish, mollejas’ unique gusto comes down to them being glands and not muscle tissue. Soft and delicate in texture, resembling pork on the taste buds.

/ Small Intestines

As you’d expect, it looks gross and tastes…well it’s pretty particular and hard to describe so you’re just gonna have to trust me and try them. They should be well cooked and crunchy but never chewy, that means you got a dud plate. Squeeze abundant amounts of fresh lemon juice on top.


Weirdly, in a country where cow is king, it perturbs me that most locals, gauchos and all, run for the hills at the sight of pink meat. Me, Iʼm a bit more of the opinion that if an animal has died for my appetite, it should be served practically still flipping on the plate. Nothingʼs sadder than an overcooked steak. To avoid that happening…hereʼs your true and tested guide to ordering it the way you like it.

VUELTA VUELTA: The meat has barely kissed the pan. Nice and blue and bloody.

JUGOSO: Officially this means medium-rare in Argentina, but it tends to be more on the medium side for most parrilleros (the grill chefs).

A PUNTO: Medium, still a bit pink in the middle but not so juicy.

PASADO DE PUNTO: Medium to well done.

COCIDO: Well done. Well dead.

BIEN COCIDO: Why would you? But plenty of Argentineans do.


(Source: By Sonja D’cruze.

Tibet GTX Hi: Anatomy of Good Mountain Boots (And When to Wear Them)

Last month I hunted in northern New Mexico with a pair of Lowa Tibet GTX HI boots laced to my feet. We were hunting at 8,500 to 10,000 feet and the terrain was fairly steep, however it was not exactly rugged. The Lowa’s were awesome, but they were also overkill for this hunt.

Here are some points on what makes a goodpigeon hunting argentina mountain or backpacking boot and the best applications for them.

For shorter trips in regular terrain, you don’t need a souped-up boot like the Tibet GTX (it’s sort of like driving a Lamborghini to the grocery store). First off, the boots are relatively heavy. They weigh 1920 grams or 4.2 pounds. They’re also pretty dang expensive at $395.

But top-end boots become worth it when you are headed into rugged terrain for long treks. These boots are designed for durability and stability when you’re covering rocky, nasty terrain and packing weight. Think scree fields, and heavy hindquarters above treeline. On deep treks in rugged terrain, keeping your feet, ankles, and knees going isn’t just a matter of comfort, it’s about getting home safe.

Here are some of the finer points of the Tibets’ design:

  • Vibram Masai sole with lugs that are 5mm deep
  • Polyurethane midsole (which Lowa says will last up to 8 times longer than EVA)
  • High wall rubber rand wrapped around the upper
  • Full-grain nubuck leather and a a Gore-tex liner in the upper
  • X-Lacing tongue stud to keep the tongue in place and a flex design with a floating hook so the boot flexes comfortably

I opted for the Hi version (pictured above) for the additional ankle support but Lowa also makes a lower version.

The boots are so sturdy that it actually takes a little while to get used to walking around in them.



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