Introducing Orvis Hill Country Shooting/Hunting Grounds


A lot of work has gone into getting the new property ready for a November 3 “soft opening.”
Photos by Reid Bryant

Summer seems to be hanging on in southern Pennsylvania, and the hills of the Blue Ridge are still lush and green. It’s been a wet and heavy late season, and despite the arrival of October, the afternoons are still given to porch-sitting . . .


A lot of work has gone into getting the new property ready for a November 3 “soft opening.”
Photos by Reid Bryant

Summer seems to be hanging on in southern Pennsylvania, and the hills of the Blue Ridge are still lush and green. It’s been a wet and heavy late season, and despite the arrival of October, the afternoons are still given to porch-sitting and iced tea. For some, however, time is of the essence; the rolling corps of workers at Orvis Hill Country–in Blue Ridge Summit, Pennsylvania–have been at it from dawn to dusk, clearing brush and cleaning buildings and shoring up a long-neglected sporting-clays course. With a soft opening slated for November 3, all hands are on deck to ensure that Orvis Hill Country showcases an experience worthy of the Orvis name.

Upgrades, improvements, and a healthy dose of construction have filled the last month. The numerous buildings that existed on the property have been hoed out and organized, revealing the bones of a truly impressive property. Under the watchful eye of Orvis Sandanona Senior Manager Peggy Long, the main lodge building has been scoured and emptied of its contents. In the coming weeks, a thorough overhaul will see this space converted into a Pro Shop, Gun Room, and lounge space wherein guests can both shop for shooting/hunting gear and re-visit their conquests on the clays course. The main entry and parking area leading up to the lodge have been re-cut and graded, and the clean lines of an artfully-landscaped space feel fresh and intentional. Atop the hill, the big tractor barn has been a staging point for both equipment repair and construction. Indeed, this space has been a hive of activity, as a pile of lumber and lattice is reduced to the 15 new station cages that will soon be placed on the course.

At well over 500 fenced acres, Hill Country represents an imposing, and exciting, blank canvas upon which to build a world-class hunting and shooting facility. Fortunately, much of the required infrastructure was in place during the previous ownership: bird fields, bird pens, kennels, and the skeleton of a clays course remain, though all are getting a thorough upgrade. The clays course in particular received attention from Andrew Johnson and the Sandanona crew, and it should provide an artistic and challenging range of presentations. Some 27 new MEC electronic traps and 15 new manual traps will be added to complement the existing traps on-site, and even at first blush, the 15-station course promises to be something to travel for. A 5-Stand and instruction area are underway and will be ready for the soft opening, and the barns are stuffed to the gills with targets and ammo. It will be a pleasure to once more hear the wooded dales of Hill Country come alive with the reports of double guns and the smell of cordite. Gunners of all levels should be more than satisfied with the offering.

Though the weeks to come will be filled to bursting, a clear goal is in sight. On November 3, when the gates of Orvis Hill Country officially open, we intend to surprise and delight a wave of friends, guests, and customers. As it rises from the brush and tangle, Hill Country shines with untold potential. It will be our pleasure showcase this place and this offering to a wider public, and to make world-class shooting available to the mid-Atlantic and beyond.

Click here for more information on Orvis Hill Country.

Reid Bryant is the Orvis Wingshooting Services Program Manager and host of the Orvis Hunting and Shooting Podcast.

Podcast: Hunting with Spaniels, with Jerry Cacchio


Cayenne, a Springer spaniel, has hunted from Vermont to Wyoming.

In answer to a question about flushing spaniels, Reid spends some time with his good friend and noted trainer, Jerry Cacchio. The two drill down on the finer points of English Springer and . . .



In answer to a question about flushing spaniels, Reid spends some time with his good friend and noted trainer, Jerry Cacchio. The two drill down on the finer points of English Springer and English Cocker spaniels, trends in the breeding of each, and their greater applicability for North American hunting.

If you don’t see the “Play” button above, click here to listen.


Cayenne, an English Springer spaniel, has hunted from Vermont to Wyoming.

Video: Cold-Weather Sharptails

Native bird species often show remarkable adaptations to harsh environments. In this video captured by endorsed wingshooting guide Chad Hoover, sharptail grouse endure a . . .


Native bird species often show remarkable adaptations to harsh environments. In this video captured by endorsed wingshooting guide Chad Hoover, sharptail grouse endure a midwinter snow on the Montana prairie. It’s amazing to think that a few short months ago, grassland sharptail hunting necessitated shirtsleeves and sunscreen!

What Are the Differences Among Sporting Clays, Skeet, Trap, and 5-Stand?


Shotgunners have several different clays-shooting options.
Photo via orvis.com

Much of the Orvis wingshooting culture has evolved around game shooting, and our investment in the clay-target-shooting world has been based in sporting clays, which allows shooters to. . .


Shotgunners have several different clays-shooting options.
Photo via orvis.com

Much of the Orvis wingshooting culture has evolved around game shooting, and our investment in the clay-target-shooting world has been based in sporting clays, which allows shooters to replicate live-bird presentations. However, wingshooting opportunities are not limited to disciplines that enhance the hunting experience; to the contrary, several shooting “games” exist that stand alone as unique sports, having been refined over a period of decades. This article serves to define these disciplines in simple terms, and to differentiate one from the next. The four clays games that we will address here are those that we see most commonly at gun clubs and shooting facilities in North America.

Sporting Clays was first defined to an American audience in 1980, in a Field and Stream article by shooter Bob Brister. Forms of the game, however, have been in place for perhaps a century in both the UK and US. In simple terms, Sporting Clays is a chance for shooters to see target presentations reminiscent of real hunting situations. Shooters follow a course through the landscape, shooting different size targets presented differently over a series of (typically) 10-15 stations. Targets are thrown in combinations of singles, pairs, and occasionally triples, with generally 6 to 10 clays thrown per station. A full round of Sporting Clays in most cases requires shooters to perform 100 shots.

Not coincidentally, Orvis has been a presence in the Sporting Clays world for decades, sponsoring the first U.S. National Sporting Clays Championship, which was held in Houston Texas in 1985. Sporting Clays enhances the game-shooting tradition at the core of the brand, and allows realistic off-season practice for bird and duck hunters. Orvis owns and operates Sporting Clays facilities at the Manchester Shooting School (VT), Orvis Sandanona (NY) and Orvis Pursell Farms (AL).
Widely misused as a generic term for all clay target shooting, Skeet is in fact a distinct and widely played shooting game. Skeet was created in the 1920s by Massachusetts natives Charles Davis and William Harnden Foster, a noted grouse hunter. The sport is quite specific in its layout and rules. A skeet field incorporates a high house and a low house at either end of a semi-circle whose radius is 21 yards. Beginning beside the high house, shooters move through 7 positions around the semicircle, shooting an established combination of shots at each station. Station 8 is placed between the high house and the low house, and the final shots require the shooter to break a target from each. The end result is a round of 25 targets presented, and scores are based on numbers of targets broken.


Skeet shooters move around a semicricle, taking turns.
Photovia Wikipedia

Skeet is, by design, highly replicable. Though the targets are presented comparatively close and fast, their presentation is the same regardless of the skeet field. For this reason, competitive shooters often establish a shooting technique based on repeated motion and muscle memory, shooting most often from a pre-mounted position. Success in skeet is due largely to hours of practice.


A standard trap set up.
Photo via Wikipedia

Trap has multiple variations that have evolved geographically, but all revolve around the principle of 5 shooters breaking targets launched from a single trap positioned ahead of them. These presentations are all going-away shots, though in most American Trap games, the trap oscillates, making each shot slightly different. The line of shooters takes 5 shots from each of 5 stations positioned side-by-side, with station 1 shooting first and station 5 finishing. Only one shot is allowed at each clay, so single barrel guns are often employed.

The final game which has seen a spike in interest of late is 5-Stand, which incorporates 5 stations laid out next to one another, somewhat as in Trap. That said, 5-Stands typically employ cages rather than simple cement pads, as shots can be crossing, incoming, springing, and so on.


Pursell Farms has a gorgeous 5-Stand facility.
Photo via orvis.com

Each station requires the shooter to take 5 shots. The shots are laid out in a menu, beginning with a single, then a report pair, then a true pair. The menu indicates which of the 6 to 18 traps the clays will be thrown from. Traps are scattered around the course, and generally an overhead, an incomer, a battue (fast falling), and a rabbit are included in the assortment. Shooters rotate from one station to the next, taking their 5 shots at each.

5-Stand manages the variability of Sporting Clays in the small space requirements of Trap or Skeet, which explains its recent popularity. Gun clubs lacking the space for an overland course can fill a similar need by building a 5-stand, and by moving traps regularly; the presentation opportunities can prove limitless.

This is a general overview of the predominate clays games. There are certainly variations within each discipline, but by and large, these are distinct games with distinct rules, shot on specialized fields or courses. In general terms, one “shoots clays” or “shoots clay targets” in the back field or sandpit, but when one goes “skeet shooting,” he or she is taking part in a very specific game.

To learn more about getting involved in wingshooting, visit the Orvis Schools page.

Photos: Green-Up Day at the Sand Pit / Gun Range


A collection of trash, shotgun shells, and broken clays littered the Upper Gravel Pit in Danby, Vermont.
Photos by Dave Morse

In keeping with The Orvis Company’s commitment to conservation, Associates from both Sunderland and Manchester ventured out into the local community last week to celebrate. . .


A collection of trash, shotgun shells, and broken clays littered the Upper Gravel Pit in Danby, Vermont.
Photos by Dave Morse

In keeping with The Orvis Company’s commitment to conservation, Associates from both Sunderland and Manchester ventured out into the local community last week to celebrate Vermont’s annual Green Up Day. Green Up Day is a longstanding Vermont tradition that Orvis takes part in each year, allocating time and energy to the cleaning of the area roadsides. This year, Manchester Outlet Manager Jim Lenway spearheaded an effort to clean up series of long-neglected sand pits, which many locals, Orvis associates among them, use to shoot targets.


Shotgunners have certainly played a role in the process. Pick up your shells!

These abandoned public pits, located fifteen minutes from the Orvis Gun Room and Rod Shop, have provided a safe place for Orvis associates to shoot clay and stationary targets through the seasons. Unfortunately, longstanding and extensive use by area shooters has resulted in the cumulative buildup of trash, and residents in need of a secluded dumping site have added more and more garbage to the pits over the years. Until this past week, the pits, though still extensively used, were littered with broken glass, spent shells, corroding furniture, and a mystifying array of well-shot appliances.


Project organizer Jim Lendway looks like he’s having fun.

On Friday afternoon, a crew of Orvis Associates (all avid shooters) took to the pits armed with rakes, shovels, and trash bags. Local landscaper Lance Chilla trailered his small excavator to the site, and local farmer Eben Proft arrived with a bucket tractor. Waste-management company Casella donated a large dumpster, which, over the course of the afternoon, the cleaning crew filled to overflowing. It was truly remarkable to see the transformation take place, and more than one volunteer noted that without the collective effort of such a team, the cleanup task would seem insurmountable.


Orvis’s Lucas Kent and Dave Langlois did their part.

Under the leadership of Jim Lenway, this effort amounted to a massive improvement for a space enjoyed widely by our local shooting community. It was truly a monumental initiative, and one that will be appreciated widely, both within and beyond the Orvis network.


A friendly neighbor stopped by with her kids to help.

Eben Proft’s tractor came in mighty handy.

From left: Rod Shop Director Don Swanson (left) helps Reid and Kim Bryant bag it up.

Almost there!

The effort required every cubic foot of that dumpster.

A job well done!

Podcast: Women in Wingshooting, with Chris Mathan



In his latest podcast, Reid speaks with noted photographer, upland hunter, and pointing-dog trainer Chris Mathan about the state of women in bird-hunting culture. Chris weighs in with her. . .



In his latest podcast, Reid speaks with noted photographer, upland hunter, and pointing-dog trainer Chris Mathan about the state of women in bird-hunting culture. Chris weighs in with her thoughts and opinions, garnered from many years in the uplands of North America.

If you don’t see the “Play” button above, click here to listen.

Podcast: Tips on Finding Likely Cover and Gaining Access



In this episode, guest Pat Berry joins me to discuss his top tips for assessing likely cover and gaining access. Pat, the former Vermont Commissioner of Fish and Game, has spent a. . .



In this episode, guest Pat Berry joins me to discuss his top tips for assessing likely cover and gaining access. Pat, the former Vermont Commissioner of Fish and Game, has spent a career studying those places where grouse and woodcock collect, and he shares his thoughts on how best to find those spots, and how to successfully ensure that your presence in those spots is both legal respectful.

If you don’t see the “Play” button above, click here to listen.

Podcast: Reid’s Top 5 List of Essential Gear


In this episode, we get gear-centric, and discuss the essential products for the Upland Hunter. I also define the Orvis assortment of the Five Essential Upland Products and dig in deeper on. . .


In this episode, we get gear-centric, and discuss the essential products for the Upland Hunter. I also define the Orvis assortment of the Five Essential Upland Products and dig in deeper on the gear requirements of different cover types and regions. I may even offer a few teasers about new hunting gear to look forward to in the coming months.

If you don’t see the “Play” button above, click here to listen.

Photo: What’re They Eating?


Photo by Bill Curtis

My friend Bill Curtis sent in this cool photo, which shows the contents of the crops of several New York grouse that he shot. The variety of foods represented lets you know where to look for more birds.


Photo by Bill Curtis

My friend Bill Curtis sent in this cool photo, which shows the contents of the crops of several New York grouse that he shot. The variety of foods represented lets you know where to look for more birds.

Learning to Love a Flushing Dog


JB is such a good flushing dog that he caused the author to rethink his Brittanys-Only policy.
All photos by Scott McEnaney

Now let me start by saying that I’m a dedicated pointing-dog man. All of the hunters I have ever hoped to emulate were pointing dog men, too, and I blame them with for teaching me, in a grandfatherly way, that flushers were for. . .


JB is such a good flushing dog that he caused the author to rethink his Brittanys-Only policy.
All photos by Scott McEnaney

Now let me start by saying that I’m a dedicated pointing-dog man. All of the hunters I have ever hoped to emulate were pointing dog men, too, and I blame them with for teaching me, in a grandfatherly way, that flushers were for folks who didn’t want to train their dogs. I generally adopted this notion as I adopt most ideas that I’m too lazy to prove wrong, and my prejudice preyed upon the fact that I spent most of my hunting career without ever seeing a really good flusher in the field. That all changed for good just yesterday, when Scott McEnaney and I journeyed south to the Hudson Valley to train with Jerry Caccio and Dan Lusson.


Dan Lusson trained under Jerry Caccio, who is legendary in the field-trial world for his training skills.

Jerry and Dan are veritable household names among Springer folks. Jerry is a field-trial hall-of-famer, a noted speaker, and a tireless champion for flushing dogs. Now retired, Jerry serves as a wonderful ambassador for Orvis, and as a point of contact for many of our endorsed breeders and trainers. Dan has trained on-and-off with Jerry for years, and has built a strong reputation on the field trial circuit, as well as in the world of personal gun-dog trainers. The two are clearly cut of similar cloth where training philosophies are concerned; I was amazed at their light-hearted approach, their quiet manner, their clear joy at simply working dogs in the field. And the dogs… . . .oh, the dogs… . . .they responded in kind.


Jerry and Dan work with dogs in a quiet, light-hearted manner and produce remarkable results.

I now know that a good flusher works close, checks in, maintains contact with the handler at all times. I also no know that a really good flusher leaves nothing unchecked, and vacuums up a bird field in quartering casts that are uniform, tight, and graceful. I’ve always loved the look of a big-running pointer, but Dan’s champion Springer, JB, at work was efficiency, drive, and thoroughness incarnate. Where a pointer ranges, JB became mathematical, and turned the field into a gridwork pattern. He touched every point, found every bird, slammed into every retrieve. It was inspired, and inspiring, and it changed my view of flushing dogs.


Joe rests after a solid workout in the field.

So now the quandary begins. With a wife who’s just commenced to make noises about a puppy, I’m finding my ‘BrittaniesBrittanys-Only’ platform growing pretty shaky. An English Cocker, perhaps, or a close-working Springer? What will my mentors say. . . . But I have a funny feeling that a flusher is in my future, and maybe some more days in the company of Jerry and Dan, to boot!