Wednesday, March 9, 2011

This one is for the shooters....

Caution... Shooters only!
Last Friday I was able to skip out of work early with the boss and head on over to Bull Run Shooting Center in Centerville, VA.  This shoting center is a state park run by Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority (NVRPA) and is a great venue for trap, skeet and sporting clays.  The price per round (25 shots) is about $5.50 for trap, skeet and wobble trap.  Sporting clays are a bit more per round.  It is super close to Washington DC and about a 25 minute drive from the house.

The shooting center is very convenient to most of the Washington DC area (Photo courtesy of Google Maps).
On this particular day my boss and I decided to shoot wobble trap.  This is a relatively new offer at most ranges but is rapidly gaining popularity because it is a hell of a lot of fun (and challenging).  A wobble trap range consists of an elevated shooting platform with five stations, built sorta like a pyramid.  One to five shooters can play a round.  Essentially you get five shots at each station for a total of 25 shots which incorporates one round.  The first shot at each station is a single clay.  Then you get two doubles.  The clays shoot out in front of you and the clay shooter under the station oscillates (like a fan) so no two clay shots are similar.  This mimics what you would encounter when upland hunting and flushing birds.  There is an assigned shooter/ range safety officer so all you have to do is yell out "pull" when its your turn and the range officers engages the clay shooter via remote control.
Here is a side view of the wobble trap stand.  You can see the range safety officer in the top right.  The shooter is lined up on station one at the lower left.  After five shots he'll move to his right one spot to station two.
All in all the boss man and I had a great day. We shot a total of three rounds which took about 30 minutes (it goes by really fast when its just two of you).  He beat me all three rounds (beginners luck!).  If you decide to give it a try the park is open to everyone of every ability.  They are ADA compliant and have classes for people who have never seen or fired a firearm in their lives.  They also sell ammo and rent guns on site but if you want to save some money buy your ammo at a local sporting goods store.  You can use 7, 8 or 9 shot (most use 8).  Just make sure they are target loads - they should be labelled as such.  This will save your shoulder as there is less black powder in a target load.  Game loads need more killing power so there is twice as much punch.  If you have a shotgun any type is acceptable up to a point.  Pump, semi-auto, break action all work, the only stipulation is that it needs to be able to hold two rounds.  A single barrel break action won't work.  Also make sure you use either a 12 gauge, 20 gauge or 410 gauge.

It's not a bad idea to also bring some sort of shooting vest or belt.  You can prop the box of ammo on the ledge in front of you but believe me, there is a great chance of knocking it over in all the excitement which is a total party foul.  If this happens the range safety officer has to shutdown half of the range so you can walk in front and pick up your spilt shells.  I personally use an upland hunting vest from Cabelas which cost me about $50.00.  It has plenty of pockets for up to four boxes of shells and has a built in strap/ belt system that distributes the weight evenly on your shoulders and hips.  If that's not your thing head on over to Wallmart and get a hip bag - cost is around $10.00.

Here are some 8 shot target loads.  A game load would have much bigger brass where the gun powder is located.  The rest of the shell is wading and shot.  BOOYAH!
This is what a clay pigeon looks like.  It is made of a biodegradable clay material that dissolves very rapidly and breaks easily.  This is great for the environment but means that these bad boys can deteriorate quickly in humid weather which causes a lot of bad shots.
The boss eyeing up the field getting ready for clay pigeon slaughter.
Shooter 1 ready....."PULL!"
As you can see the field is covered in broken clay pigeons.  You can also see the spent shells around the station.  The center is closed Mondays and Tuesdays just so they can clean up the place (and recycle the spent shells).
Yours truly with his trusted Mossberg 550 shotgun, Cabelas shooting vest and a big sh*t eating grin!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Fishing with John John

In August my father and I had the pleasure to sneak out with some friends for some striper fishing in the Chesapeake Bay.  The event was actually a bachelor party for a good friend of the family and fellow Kachung adventurer.

Our party chartered a half day trip with the Hooked Up II docked out of Chesapeake Beach, Maryland.  All in all it was a great day in the sun.  We caught some fish, told a lot of dirty jokes and drank a few hundred beers.    For those in the DC area, fishing out of Chesapeake Beach is a must-do on the bucket list.  Its located about 45 minutes outside of the city and is a great way to see the Bay and enjoy some sport fishing for a wide variety of fish.  If you can find 6 friends a half day trip can be quite affordable.  The crew is top notch and very professional (shout out to the first mate John-John who has some of the best dirty jokes ever!).  All of the fishing tackle, bait and cooler ice is provided.  You just have to bring lunch, drinks & snacks and any medicine/ sun screen items.  Even if you plan on drinking minimal amounts of alcohol it pays to bring plenty of water and gatorade.  It gets really hot on the water and you in the sun all day - trust me, a little hydration goes a long way!  It also helps with motion sickness if you are prone to getting it.  Make sure not to bring a banana on board ANY fishing boat.  All mariners and fisherman are superstitious by nature and its widely believed that bananas are very bad juju on a boat.  Don't believe me just google it!

For our jaunt we spent the first few hours trying to "make bait."  This entails using very tiny spinning rods with multiple single barb hooks and cut bloodworms.  The goal is to stock up on small baitfish that you use later in the day to catch 'lunker' striped bass (aka "striper" or "rocks") or blue fish on a live-line rig.  Catching the small baitfish is in-itself more pretty fun and with several guys on a small fishing boat - you know some betting ensued.

After an hour and a half of making bait, we pulled up anchor and motored out to some hotspots in the middle of the bay to target migrating striper.  Once you locate a pod of fish you lay up on them quick, drop anchor and throw over your live bait which is hooked in the nose or the back via treble hook.  This allows the bait fish to swim freely and entice the big boys.  Unfortunately this part of the trip proved to be a wash for us.  Predicting where striper will migrate and feed in the bay is one part science and two parts blind luck.  If you're lucky enough to discover a feeding school of fish you'll be surrounded by a bunch of other boats all jockeying for position.  After a couple of instances of this our captain decided to motor further south and try trolling with artificials.

This decision proved to be the right move.  We used a 6 rod spread with two down rigger planes with a variety of colored spoons.  We caught a handful of nice striper and some lunker blue fish.  We didn't break any records due to the heat and time of year but we had a great time.  If you're interested in finding out more information on the Hooked Up II or other charters take a look at the Chesapeake Beach Marina and Spa.  Even if fishing is not your thing the town of Chesapeake Beach is worth a visit for the number of shops, spas, bars and restaurants.

Motoring out to the trolling grounds.  Nothing like a cold one at 9am!
Bait fish busting on the surface.  This means that there are Blues and Rockfish tearing up the bait ball underneath.
This is the type of Spoon we used.  Very effective - mimics a wounded bait fish when trolled behind the boat.
Multiple hook ups.  Above is a view of one of the down-rigger plane boards used on the outer rods to get the spoons deeper in the water column.
Once we started trolling the action picked up and didn't let up all day.
My shirt says it all.
The Mad Texan reeling in a lunker off the starboard gunwale.
A break in the action.
Back in the fight.
The day is done - back to the marina.
Great day, great crew and great friends!