Brian Koch started Ultimate Upland in 2010 to be the most comprehensive resource for upland hunting enthusiasts. Since then it has grown into a community where bird hunters congregate and share their love for the sport. Koch strives to be the hardest working bird hunter in the country and aims to reach hunters and fans with detailed accounts of Ultimate Upland adventures.
When wild bird hunting seasons end it leaves a pretty large void in our schedule. Both the dogs and I must cope with the withdrawals from time afield and adjust to the looming summer doldrums. Seven months is just too long to rest on laurels. I always dread that final day of hunting, but this year I started planning well in advance to help fill the vacuum.
Over the winter my nephew Zach researched and reported on medieval weaponry for his sophomore high school English course. Given the current climate for anything weapon related in schools I was actually somewhat amazed the report didn't land him a suspension or on the terrorist watch list.
I'm blessed with an abundance of nieces and nephews. When one expresses an interest even remotely related to my passion I run with it. In my mind catapults and claymores are precursors to the modern tools of the trade which I use all hunting season. You have an interest in swords; let me tell you how that relates to upland hunting. I'm fairly certain there are few topics safe from my associating to pursuit of birds. I suppose the ease of which I make creative connections is likely just a result of recent reflections of my bird hunting legacy.
Blade design is an art that has been around for millennium. Because the basic functions and requirements of the knife haven't changed since first wielded, it's a great case study of what people have done to improve it. When I informed our friends at Benchmade about my saber smitten nephew they were quick to invite us on a VIP tour. Benchmade is a leader in modern blade development and they help nurture new concepts by inviting interns to participate in their design process. It is a testament that good ideas can come from anywhere. I find it important to show Zach that besides knives just being cool, there are reasons for form and function. And there are people bringing these concepts to fruition. The power of an idea is a lesson I wish I would have learned earlier in life, but now I get a redo with my nephew. We just have to get from rural Ohio to the Benchmade headquarters in Oregon.
Luckily the end of bird hunting season times up really well with Spring Break. So I've wrangled Zach into a cross-country road trip which will cover over 5,000 miles in just 10 days. Along the way we'll shoot, hike, camp and explore our place in the great outdoors. Wyatt our black lab will join us for some training, entertainment and to keep the varmints from camp at night. Zach seems excited for the adventure but is likely oblivious to the amount of tutoring I have planned or the posterior pain that comes with infinite days behind the wheel.
It's early spring so we're preparing for a mixed bag of elements along much of the route. Luckily Filson recognized the merits of this odyssey and agreed to outfit us for any conditions which we might encounter. From the rugged Rockies to spring torrents of the Pacific Northwest we'll be putting our new Filson gear to the test as other explorers have for over a century.
There are common threads to most of the great memories from my youth; exertion and accomplishment. Turns out that things that come easy are easily forgotten. The current trend toward sedentary existence puts a generation at risk of having no formative tales. My hope for this Off-Season Odyssey is that my nephew learns observing life will never be as satisfying as seizing opportunity.
It's the eve of our departure and the gear is loaded. At the crack of dawn we'll pour into the truck to start our first 16-hour day of driving. Somewhere in Illinois we'll stop for a round of sporting clays to stretch the legs. And here Zach will learn another lesson: even with the faster reflexes and better vision that accompany youth, you can't outshoot your uncle.