Holiday traditions with the Migration Nation crew

barnie calef 2- daniel sample

Everyone loves the Christmas holiday season,especially hunters! Those fortunate enough to escape the hustle and bustle of employment often seek solace in a duck blind. Although Christmas is about Christ, I for one believe He puts the creatures on Earth for us to enjoy.

Recently I was able to chat with the hosts of Drake’s Migration Nation, about their Christmas traditions. Wouldn’t you know it; both involved waterfowl hunting! Trey Crawford spend his entire fall and winter like a gypsy; wheeling his truck from north to south, guiding dozens of waterfowl hunters along the path. Typically he ends his regular season in Oklahoma and that is where he will spend his holiday season. “The day after Christmas, my newly married son and my seventeen year old daughter, will fly to Oklahoma,” explained Trey. After some catching up and gift exchanging, Crawford gets the band together again and heads out put his kids in some barrel burning action. “Guaranteed we’ll get into some “squeakers” and if the ducks show up that’s a bonus,” quipped Crawford in his easy going southern style.

trey crawford -road dawg

Trey has spent the last several years guiding late season hunters for lesser Canada geese and ducks in the agricultural land of central Oklahoma. Previous episodes of Migration Nation TV have shown what he can produce with a duck and goose call. Limits of “squeakers” as he refers to lessers, is not a rare sight in his camp. Thus, a reunion of his children is just the icing on the cake for this traveling waterfowler. He mentioned it’s a time to chat, catch up and share some laughs with his clan in a great setting. The central flyway allows for six bird, dark geese limit, in addition to a six bird duck limit (5 Mallards) so expect game straps heavily laden with birds when his crew returns!

Christmas always means a big meal and fortunately Crawford is known as a great hand in the kitchen. No one appreciates  a big meal more than hunters returning from the field but that meal is always improved with family at the table! All good things come to an end, and Trey’s kids have to return to their residences while he will greet another set of clients.


Ice flow is usually what forces Barnie Calef off the big Missouri River and onto different haunts. Previously cold weather froze the river up, allowing Barnie to head home and enjoy the Christmas holiday with family in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. This year he left the river early after a poor waterfowl migration. “The weather has been so warm up north,” he said frustratingly,” that we haven’t hardly seen any birds.” Biologist reports showed tens of thousands of ducks and geese stacked up in the Dakotas; while seasons ends south of them. Thus Calef was headed home for a few extra days to enjoy his free time with family.

“Typically, right after Christmas I’m on the phone chasing down hot spots to film a show,” explained the Migration Nation host. Knowing hundreds of reliable guides, hunters and outfitters allows him the ability to quickly locate areas where birds are stacked up and receptive to his calling. In mere hours, he can be on the road like a Labrador retriever chasing down the next duck.

barnie calef-road dawg

Although Calef does have a penchant for the big rivers; where he enjoys really coaxing ducks via calling into a decoy spread, he is not against hunting them in a cornfield! Who doesn’t like the chaos of dozens of greenheads clamoring from the clouds, as they spy the decoy spread? “I have joined up with Trey (Crawford) once or twice in the past for some great late season hunting, and we may do that again after Christmas,” replied Calef.

No it doesn’t matter whether it’s Illinois, Arkansas, Texas or Kansas, the Drake team will travel there, hunt and film it all for posterity. All they require is ducks, geese and semi-passable road conditions.

Many of us will still be chasing ducks and geese during the Christmas season. Take a tip from the Migration Nation hosts, Barnie and Trey and “go the distance”. Even though the season may be tough, keep after them; the effort is often rewarded!

Story by Tom Cannon

photo 1 by Daniel Sample, photo 2 & 4 by David Weldon, photo 3 by Tom Cannon



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GREAT GEAR: Drake Jean Cut under Wader Pant

Drake jean cut under wader pantIf you are a duck hunter, chances are that you’ve had to choose between jeans or sweat pants, or chosen some other clothing to wear under your waders. It’s quite possible you have even tried a few of the specialty wader pants in the past but to no avail. I was in the same boat until a few weeks ago when I tried out the Drake Waterfowl wader pant.

This is a new design for 2017. In fact these are quite lightweight and high tech. offically these are known as the Jean Cut under Wader Pant,fleece lined. They retail for about fifty five dollars and come in brown, tan and a brown/tan color combo. I noticed right away that these are probaly half the weight of my daily jeans. I questioned how warm they might actually be, then I noticed the thin fleece lining. Once again I had my doubts on warmth,but my experience with Drake gear gave me confidence that wouldn’t be an issue.

As I continued my initial inspection, I noticed waist band adjustments as well as reinforced areas on the knees and seat region. I did some research and found out the outer material is Refuge HS fabric, which is used on the new Refuge outwear. This is a very unique material the sheds water. The lining is fleece like you might expect in a Drake product but it seems to be a lighter weight version which I appreciate for long walks in or warmer days.

At the ankles, hunters will find a unique drawstring type setup. Pulling the drawstring tight cinches up the ankle of the pant leg thus preventing the pant leg from riding up. Of course the pants have typical front and rear pockets for your wallet and keys. The medium size that I chose was perfect for me but if doubtful, go to the next larger size and utilize the waist adjusting straps.

I really like the fit and color, but the real test is in the water! Thus I began a two week trial period. I wore these wader pants in the constantly fluctuating weather here in Missouri. I had cold days of 19* and  some in the 65* range. My Drake wader pants kept me nice and comfy in both. I didn’t notice any sweat buildup during the warmer days even though I was wearing neoprene waders. A couple days I had to hunt areas that were laden with barbed wire fences and brush. Needless to say I didn’t want to risk new waders to the harsh environment so I wore my older,questionable pair.

I had no idea they leaked as bad as they did until after the hunt. When I pulled my waders off, it appeared as if someone sprayed me with a garden hose down the pant leg. I had been wearing leaking waders for hours but had no idea. These Drake wader pants wicked that moisture away from my skin preventing wet clothing from touching my skin. I have no idea how the process works but I was truly impressed. A few days later, I repeated the process; wearing those old leaky waders but with Drake Wader pants underneath. Even though I knew water was seeping in I couldn’t tell. My legs felt dry and comfortable. This is what we are all ultimately after. A pair of pants that keeps us warm and dry, and can handle the rugged lifestyle of a duck hunter.

I am giving the Jean Cut under Wader Pant from Drake Waterfowl, two thumbs up. It’s the perfect companion for any hunter or fishermen who spends much time in waders. They are even priced right at approximately $55 a pair. In my opinion these are a necessity!

Review by Tom Cannon,



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Birds of a Feather…

pile of greenheadsPossibly the most scenic time of year is fall and into winter when waterfowl migrate through America. The splendid blend of colors, and sounds cannot be matched. Take some time out to appreciate the flora; visit a marsh and view a few birds of a feather!

decoying geesetrey crawforddecoying geesebling 1-29-14pair of pintailshonker pair with band1-22-14 vito

photos and content by Tom Cannon

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Sixgun shootout; and Happy Birthday to a Classic Colt !


What do you do when your old heirloom Colt revolver turns one hundred years old ? You throw a party but instead of feeding it cake; you serve up a couple varieties of Fiocchi ammo!

Several years ago, I aquired this old Colt Police Positive from a family friend. I knew at the time it was a classic but until I checked the serial number with the Colt factory historian, I had no idea this revolver was manufactured in 1917. Sure, it’s finish is worn, the iron sights are difficult to see in dim conditions, and the grips offer very little purchase… Still, it was built when America was a country of pride and true craftsmanship. Everything is still as it should be, timing, accuracy, and of course a “smooth as silk” trigger.

I rarely shoot the old Colt, and recently purchased a newer revolver for my family to shoot. The Armscor, Model 200, is by no means a Colt. It comes in a plastic sleeve with enough lubrication on it to grease a dozen politicians. Priced right at just over two hundred bucks, it’s less than half of what a Colt, Ruger, or Smith & Wesson would set you back. This Armscor is merely a utility gun and does not aspire to be anything else.

I test fired the Armscor and Colt with two different types of .38 Special ammo. First, the Cowboy Action loading, which features a 158 grain lead bullet. This ammo is loaded to low pressures, perfect for any old classic revolver that may be questionable with high velocity or “+P”  type loads. Next, I pulled a box of Fiocchi, .38 Special Wad Cutter ammo (red box) with 148 grain lead bullets. This is always a great target round, albeit it’s stubby, flat nose isn’t sexy like a hollow point, it will often impress you with it’s charm and accuracy!

All shooting was done at seven (7) yards, off hand, single action. I hadn’t shot a revolver much in twenty years so my technique was a bit rusty. As mentioned earlier, the Colt’s simple blade front sight and tiny notch rear sight were difficult to see in the shade. The Armscor had an edge there, with it’s beefy,ramp front sight; but that sight was flat black and a contrasting color would really help. Rear sight on the Armscor, was a typical fixed revolver square cut notch type sight. The Armscor really fit well in the hand with it’s oversize, synthetic grips.  On the other hand, the factory grips on the Colt gave the impression of an under-achiever but that was the norm a century ago. It would be sinful to replace those original grips. Modern synthetic grips add to the beefy look of the Armscor revolver. They fit the average shooter’s hand and offer good control in both single and double action firing.

Finish is as different as night and day. The Colt had a true, cold blued finish, which a century of use has worn off. Not so for the Armscor; which has what can best be described as a matte or parkerized finish. This gun won’t win any beauty pageants but does go bang when you pull the trigger. It’s perfect for the truck or car, modern cowboys, ATV riding or camping, or anywhere you can’t baby a firearm but never the less desire to have one with you.

armscor cowboy ammo

Of course trigger wise there is no comparison. Comparing the century old Colt to the overseas made Armscorp is like comparing Pappy Van Winkle to Rich & Rare ! They both get the job done, but one is obviously a bit more polished !

On to the shooting… As stated earlier, all shooting was done off hand at 7 yards. The first ammo was the Fiocchi Cowboy Action,part number 38CA, which incorporated a 158 grain lead flat point bullet.The Armscor won that match with a six shot group of 2 1/4 inches. Meanwhile the Colt could only offer up a group of 2 3/4 inches. No the results of the wad cutter ammo was really interesting. I expected the Colt to improve, shooting the Fiocchi Classic line (red box), which sends a 148 grain, lead wad cutter bullet down range. No surprise, that old six gun came alive! The Police Positive and the Fiocchi Wad Cutter were a match made in heaven. A group with each hole toughing the others, measuring 1 1/2 inches, it truly was the Colt’s perfect match. Not so for the black sheep, model 200. I have no idea what happened but it apparently had a distaste for the wad cutters. I could only manage a group of 2 3/4 inches while shooting the Armscor.

colt wad cutter

Once again, it shows that as shooters we can have no preconceived notions about ammo for each and every firearm. What works fine for one, may not do so for another. One thing I have noticed, is how clean the Fiocchi ammo is. Neither gun had a speck of powder residue on it. Recoil on both varieties of Fiocchi ammo was light enough for all day shooting, and in fact my teenaged daughter had no issue firing fifty rounds. I highly recommend them. In fact, the Fiocchi Cowboy Action ammo is what I always shoot first in any classic rifle or handgun.

Lastly, this wasn’t a fair fight. Comparing  these two revolvers is much akin to apples and oranges. This was merely a chance to celebrate an old classic, while putting the new kid through a few paces. I will sample a few more varieties of Fiocchi ammo and find something better suited for the black sheep. Until then, if you have an “oldie but a goodie” get it out and shoot it!


text and photos by Tom Cannonarmscor cowboy ammo colt wad cutter colt road-runner-2-0

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CALL NOTES: Power Calls, Impulse Duck Call

power call edit

Kelley Powers is obviously a household name in the waterfowl world. Throughout the past couple decades he has held every conceivable title there is in goose calling competitions; and according to rules had to retire. Powers is best known for his proficiency on the short reed goose call but it goes without mention that the man knows his way around a duck call as well!

Much like many other professionals in any industry, Powers had random thoughts over the years on how to improve products, whether that be decoys, gear or duck calls. Over the course of time, he picked up a little trick or tip here and there to improve an existing item. Like other entrepreneurs before him, Powers decided he knew how to build the proverbal better mousetrap, aka duck and or goose call. Thus Power Calls was created; to build possibly the first technically designed calls with the latest and greatest materials and computer assisted engineering.

One of the first calls to hit the shelves from Power Calls was the Impulse. This single reed, short length creature is a slight detour from many of the popular contest or high volume hunting calls. It is constructed either from carbon fiber or traditional acrylic materials. Buyers may choose either an acrylic or titanium insert; the latter being more durable than any other material, and likely will never wear out.

Here is the construction and background information on the call.

Power Calls Impulse ATi-
This single reed mallard duck call is designed for maximum volume and performance. It can reach out and break the highest ducks, yet still have that sweet talking low end to finish birds that last 15 yards to your spread. Its unique, self-aligning toneboard and wedge coupled with a PreciseFit reed, ensure a perfectly aligned reed with no need to replace worn-out corks.
Product DNA
Structure: Machined CNC Acrylic Body
Coloration: Stealth Black
Core Guts: Titanium Impulse Toneboard
Reed: Engineered Computer Aided Design (CAD) Mylar PreciseFit Single Reed
Packaging: Watertight Hard Protective Case

The Impulse is billed as a high volume call. High flying migratory birds, mallards burning over flooded treetops, or calling to ducks in wide open cornfields are the forte of this little call. Sure volume and clarity are what this call is about but I’m told it can also be run “quiet” for those tough to finish ducks.

Fortunately, when time came to gather information for this review, I got word that a buddy, local contest caller, and former World Champion, Jody Niccum was using the Impulse. In fact the week prior he had won a “meat type” calling contest with that particular Power Call. So what better way to examine and discern exactly what the call is capable of doing than listening to Jody run it? *** Unfortunately the video file was too large to post here. Readers can view/hear Jody run it at the facebook page.

photos and text by Tom Cannon

jody call 2 photo

jody call photo

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The Power of the Bird Band

jake & jody 1-23-16 bands

By Tom Cannon

Most waterfowl hunters are familiar with the word “band”. It is the one four letter word that will actually put a smile on the face of the grumpiest hunter. Likewise; the word band has evolved into many other slang catch words such as; jewelry, silver, ring, wrapper, as well as several other regional tags.

Maybe you have seen the glimmer of a silver band on a goose leg at the park or observed a hunter wearing lanyard weighed down with several bands and calls. A friend even has one of his bands on a keyring. Let me tell you they are prized possessions!

A little history of bird bands may interest those not aware of the history and purpose. One of the first people to band waterfowl; or for that matter any bird; was Jack Miner. He was a poor farm boy, with little education living in Ontario, Canada. In 1909, he placed his first aluminum band onto the leg of a duck. Miner stamped that band with a Bible verse and his information. As the story goes, five months later it was recovered by a hunter in South Carolina. Jack Miner had just had the first successful recovered and reported band in history. He repeated the process thousands more times before his death.

banding a goose

Researchers and biologists began to follow suit after releasing this was the perfect way to track migrating birds. They could prove without a doubt the flight pattern of ducks and geese and use this to increase knowledge of the species. Biologists later used the information to set seasons and limits. Likewise, the process began taking place worldwide. Banded birds have been recovered in continents other than where they were initially banded. Ducks banded in Russia and Japan have been recovered in the United States!

Initially the person viewing or recovering the band had to write the information down and submit it via mail to Washington, D.C.   Months later that person would typically get a nice certificate back in the mail listing the date and location of the band and approximately how old the bird was, species, and sex.

Currently with modern technology the recovering person can simply call 800-327-BAND, or visit the site, and follow the simple steps listed. Normally the band information will be listed upon the successful entry of the recovery information. Unfortunately certificates are no longer mailed out, but the recovery person is given the option of printing the information out themselves in a certificate form.

t bands1

Hunters or bird watchers might wonder just what percentages of birds are banded. I found that in 2001 researchers’ banded 222,006 ducks of the thirty to forty million estimated population. Of those 48,576 were recovered and reported. Thus only tiny percentages are ever recovered.

Thus it is a rare and significant feat when a sportsman does bag a banded bird. I know experienced hunters who have never accomplished this, yet others who have dozens. It matters not the skill of the hunter but often the region or flyway. Some areas winter more fowl than others and certain species are banded more than others. Areas of larger concentrations of waterfowl obviously will have higher odds of having some banded birds among them.

drake band geese 12-16-15

Bands bring out the best and worst in people. Some hunters measure their hunting success by the number of bands they have collected.  Unfortunately that can lead to poor sportsmanship to say the least. Once the phrase “there is a band on that bird” gets mentioned everyone in the immediate area often lays claim to it.

Many hunters showcase their bands on the lanyards holding their game calls. Heck I have even seen hunters put bands on their retriever’s dog collar! There is also another school of hunters who cherish the band but don’t wear them in public, merely collect them somewhere at home – but it’s obviously a personal choice.

Fortunately not all hunters fall into this mentality. Some often give bands away to young or novice hunters and professional guides often submit them to clients. Nothing brightens the day of a hunter more than that little aluminum strip of metal!

The power of that little strip of metal is evident as it is often used in many waterfowling conversations. When asked how one did, the question of conditions, numbers of birds taken and quite often if any bands were found is asked. Likewise a good natured rubbing can be tossed around when a hunter misses a bird. “Man I can’t believe you missed that easy shot – I think I saw a band on that bird! “

No the measure of success is not how many bands one has, nor does it predict future success or hunting ability. The band does help increase knowledge of the birds that inhabit our world. The more we know, the better we can manage and protect our resources so that future generations can enjoy them as well. Still, nothing raises the spirits of a wet, weary and worn out hunter quite like the sight of your dog bringing to hand a banded bird!

fiocchi goose limit & band 1-15-17



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Cross Over Lures

I am fortunate to get to fish across the U.S., from Alaska to the Florida Keys. The more I learn about fish; of all species, is that a fish is a fish, no matter where he lives.

All fish have a need to feed, spawn, and seek out shelter or safe zones throughout the year. Some fish are more aggressive than others yet they can all be trigger into biting from time to time in the right scenario. My point is this… By researching the species you are targeting, often times there are alternative ways to catch them than the old worn out methods most anglers use.

For instance, after years of catching catfish accidentally on artificial lures; I made it my goal to purposely go out and attempt to land a keeper catfish on a lure. I spoke with guides, read some biology studies on the aggressive nature and times of Flathead Catfish. I knew that Flatheads predominately ate live bait; turning their noses up at dead or cut baits. I reasoned that rising water would trigger the feeding urge and compel some ‘cats to strike lures.

Thus a few years ago, when a nearby reservoir began to flood and ultimately release high volume of water, I knew this was my chance. I grabbed my stout Ugly Stik Catfish rod, sixty-five pound Stealth Braided line, and a selection of large shad colored Culprit swimbaits and headed to the tail waters. Once there, I found some anglers chunking large live shad into the roaring current. My setup was quite similar- except for the “live” shad. My Culprit/Riptide four inch, soft plastic baitfish imitation closely resembled the shad that were tumbling through the dam gates into the mouths of awaiting fish.


I must admit, the strength of the current took some getting used to! Trial and error lead me to switch to a ¾ ounce head, and I was in business. Unfortunately my fish several fish were all Asian carp. Then I began to feel the concrete “buffers” or walls built to break the mighty strength of the current and limit erosion. I reasoned that any predatory fish would utilize those buffers to ambush bait. (Once again a fish is a fish, whether it’s a Bass, Trout, or Catfish).

A well placed flip drew a strike and a miss. The next toss out; well let’s just say things got crazy! Apparently a giant log or small truck snagged my swimbait, because it felt like the Hulk. Of course the current was increasing my workload, but I knew I had a “good one” on. I battled that fish for some time, finally beaching it on the rocky rip rap shoreline. That twenty-five pound Flathead represented my first, “outside the box” catch caught with unconventional methods.

It only got my desire to target fish of all areas with what I call “cross over” lures. By this I mean using a lure for an entirely different species than what it was intended for. Another great example is when I went to Canada for the first time. The outfitter and other anglers kept mentioning the enormous Northern Pike and basically stated the only lures these big fellas ate were the traditional spoons and in line spinners.


I took it as a personal challenge to catch them on other methods. One again research showed that Pike were very aggressive. I knew they had probably seen every spoon or spinners made, yet they would probably be naïve to “cross over lures” such as my trusty old swimbait. I packed dozens of swimbaits in various colors and sizes. Additionally I stashed several packs of Culprit plastic frogs and some jigs to swim through any weed beds.

While others were casting the same old deal, I immediately began hammering large forty inch Pike on my soft plastic swimbaits! After a few days of that, I gave it a rest and headed into the weed beds. Early on I made long casts with the Culprit frog; retrieving it through needle grass and milfoil. Strikes were heartstopping! Water splashed everywhere as chaos ensued; truly a unique and fun way to catch toothy critters. Additionally swimming a jig through the flooded vegetation was yet one more trick these fish had never seen! I ended the trip with a forty-seven inch monster on one of my “cross over baits” that others claimed wouldn’t work!


Probably one of my fondest trips and most unique “cross over baits” was my first trip to Alaska. I knew the area we would be fishing was a great Salmon fishery and that some lunkers were caught on bright colored flies. Most of the non-fly fishermen, threw spinners and small spoons. I packed along some Blakemore Road Runners, which I reasoned looked like flies but could be cast on spinning tackle. I also brought along some Blakemore Rollin’ Runners which are a slightly larger head and hook but allow the lure to be paired with a “adult sized” soft plastic body.


Again I encountered naïve fish. These big Silver Salmon had never seen anything resembling a Road Runner! Strike after strike, I began to land more than my share of fish! Immediately I knew the shortfalls of my lures. The larger ¼ ounce Rollin’ Runner was perfect except the head size was occasionally too heavy for the shallow streams we were fishing. The larger hook was perfect for the Culprit Mullet, but the big head caused it to foul in the weeds. Thus I often switched to the smaller 1/8 oz. maribou Road Runner and once again hammered Salmon.

Here again presented a unique issue. The small, light wire hook used in the traditional Road Runner was designed for Crappie, and panfish. Our average Salmon was 10-15 pounds! Thus after every catch, I had to re-bend the light wire hook back into shape. Once I returned from that trip, I presented my findings to TJ Stallings at Blakemore which helped influence the birth of the Road Runner 2.0, a larger hook version of the original, but with the lighter weight head design.


My most recent, “cross over” adventure was again to the Great White North. I was invited to test the waters of Lake of the Woods, with my buddy Randy Powell. He was a regular there and had previous caught and released dozens of big Muskie. When I began to prep for the trip, he advised that the predominate lure for those big nasty Muskie, was a large, flashy in line spinner. So what did I do but pack gear completely off the grid.

In my duffle went my trusty Culprit Mullet swimbaits, as well as the new Incredi Swim, some plastic frogs, Strike King Rage Blade vibrating jigs, and some trusty Bass lures like Culprit spinnerbaits and topwaters.  Stuff no respectable Musky angler would have! In fact, I took no special Musky rods, because I own none.

In a week of dawn to dark fishing we boated 4 Muskie. All were caught on typical bass spinnerbaits. Heck I never even threw any “Muskie” lures. What’s more, I found that once again lures that work in a particular depth range or “terrain” for a species such as Bass also work well in those same conditions for Muskie and Pike. The fore mentioned spinnerbait was a perfect example as was the Rage Blade which worked great in the thick weed beds on Pike. I had a Muskie follow but not bite it. Also I had a few follows on the swimbaits but alas no bites.


I personally feel it is much more important to match your lure to the depth range, terrain or cover and then search for the proper color. We found that the fish on our trip preferred the flashier colors. Anything chartreuse, electric chicken, red, or bright was the key.

Additionally water color and vegetation type was critical. Finding green (living) grass was the key, as all the fish moved out from the dead or brown grass. Most lures also came through the green grass better; the brown dying grass broke off easier and clung to the lure making it ineffective.

Lastly, by utilizing bass tackle we also presented lures that the fish rarely if ever saw. This was the end of summer and it’s quite possible the fish had gotten “educated” to typical Muskie lures but were “dumb” to bass gear. What I do know is that time after time, I have proven that “cross over lures” can catch fish and often do a very effective job. What do you have to lose by packing some along on your next trip?

story and photos by Tom Cannon



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Testing Fiocchi Cowboy Action Ammo

Testing Fiocchi Cowboy Action ammo

main photo


Like many Americans, I was raised watching John Wayne, Clint Eastwood and others riding high in the saddle, with a Colt .45 on the hip and a Winchester lever action close by. Those movies have spawned an entire industry among grown adults… Cowboy action shooting and re-enactments are a very popular pastime. In fact several firearm companies currently offer modern replicas of the Peacemaker .45, lever action rifles and even period clothing. Still, the true participant wants the actual gun that was used in that era, as do collectors. Unfortunately many of those original firearms are not capable of safely shooting modern high velocity ammo.

Recently Fiocchi released their line of Cowboy Action ammo and it has been quite popular. Fiocchi has included some of the more frequently used calibers, including, 32 S&W Long, 38 S&W Short, 38 Special, 357 Magnum, 44 Special, 44-40, and of course 45 Long Colt. This line of ammo is loaded to lower case pressures and velocities, therefore most older smokeless powder guns can safely shoot it. . Older guns often cannot take the increased pressure of typical factory loadings, thus many collectors were forced to reload if they wanted to fire their old but prized possessions. Enter Fiocchi and their Cowboy Action lineup. The engineers have developed safe loads for older firearms that may have been relegated as safe queens.(Care should always be used – when in doubt check with a capable gunsmith)

Colt at 5 yards

Colt at 5 yards

Even though modern firearms are “proofed” to higher velocity and pressures; a large majority of the cowboy action clan prefer to shoot lower recoil ammo as well. The Cowboy Action loadings are perfect for those who do a lot of shooting and therefore want a reduced recoil ammo but without the hassle of reloading. These loads are designed to be accurate, clean, and offer enough power to knock down targets without putting excessive wear and tear on the firearm or shooter.

Ruger at 5 yards

Ruger at 5 yards

I took notice of the Cowboy Action line when I realized I had no more reloads for my “relic” a nearly century old, Colt Police Positive, 38 Special. Most current  38 Special ammo is pretty hot. In fact it can be difficult to find any loads that are not +P velocity. I have always shot only low power loading through this old gun in hopes that it might endure another few decades of use. Thus when I noticed the 38 Special, Cowboy Action load; item # 38CA; which has a velocity of only 640 fps, my eyes lit up! This particular load is approximately thirty to forty percent lower than normal offerings, making it perfect for antique guns. My hope was to find a reliable, clean burning, accurate ammo for this 99 year old revolver but also something that would shoot well in a new gun as well. To  properly  test the Fiocchi Cowboy Action ammo, I borrowed a new Ruger Valero in 357 Mag, (4 inch barrel) to provide a standard to compare the Colt Police Positive (also 4 inch barrel) to.

Colt at 10 yards

Colt at 10 yards



Ruger at 10 yards

Ruger at 10 yards


I had no ability to chronograph this load, nor did I have access to a Ransom rest forproper bench shooting. All test firing was done off hand, in an outdoor range, but at carefully measured distances from five to ten yards. I had no misfires through either revolver, and recoil was pleasant and manageable even for a thirteen year old lady.

kylee & ruger 7-4-2016

Fiocchi’s Cowboy Action loads burned clean, and caused no damage or wear to my ninety-nine year old Colt. Of course I did manage slightly smaller groups at longer range through the modern Ruger Valero, but I attribute that to the better sights of the Ruger versus the thin front and rear sight of the Colt. I much preferred the well used and slick as a whistle trigger of the Colt to the stiff single action only Ruger. Closer range shooting showcased the honed trigger of the Colt.

I rarely get the opportunity to shoot revolvers, so I truly relished this chance to fire two American classics side by side. Fiocchi gave me the forgotten pleasure of how fun that old Colt can be! I look forward to putting some more lead down her barrel next year when she turns a full century old. Whether you are searching for ammo for your old safe queen, or simply honing your cowboy skills; look no farther than Fiocchi. Their Cowboy Action line will fit the bill perfectly.

shooting colt

Photos and text by Tom Cannon



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The Making of the Fiocchi Duck Call


fiocchi duck call front 1

Fiocchi Ammunition celebrates one hundred and forty years of producing world class shotgun, rifle and pistol ammunition; this year in 2016. Currently Fiocchi is run by the fifth generation of Fiocchi family, making it one of the longest family run businesses worldwide. Compared to the Italian facilities, the Fiocchi plant in Ozark, Missouri has been in production a mere four decades.

I have been fortunate to have a relationship with Fiocchi USA, now for a decade and a half. I have seen firsthand the growth of this fine Italian-American company. So impressed have I been with their products, I have not shot anything but Fiocchi USA ammunition in every firearm I own. Fiocchi has been with me throughout my travels across North America, from Alaska and Canada down to the southern border.

Their product is second to none! When I heard about the one hundred and forty year anniversary I began to put a plan together to create what I hoped to be a unique gift to celebrate the 140 year milestone. Since I reside in Missouri, albeit north of the Fiocchi production plant; I aspired to create something truly Missouri.

Among all the fine products Fiocchi produces; the Steel Shotgun shell line is where I began my affiliation with this fine company and they are what I utilize the most of. In fact the new Warlock Steel offering, is hands down the finest steel shotgun shell I have used. Thus I began to think hard about some sort of waterfowl related item featuring a Fiocchi theme.

As a big fan of handmade duck calls, I began to ponder if we couldn’t create a one of a kind duck call for the milestone. I began to brainstorm for several months, and finally came up with a plan.

fiocchi duck call backside

My neighbor, Roger Moore’s family, homesteaded the area I reside in around the 1860’s. As a young man of seventy some years, he once told me about a pile of fence posts that had been in the ground as long as he had been alive. I was fortunate to acquire a few of these fence posts which in the central United States are commonly made from hedge trees. Roger had told me these posts would have been hand sawn from trees on the family farm by his grandfather. In all likelihood these posts were well over a century old, yet it was more probable, they were closer to the 140 year mark.

After sawing them down from thigh sized diameter, into several “blanks”, I sought out a call maker who might create a masterpiece from this ancient material. My plan was to find a craftsman who could work with me to blend a Fiocchi theme into a working duck call. After much consideration I happened upon Kris Adams of Unstable Calls. Ironically Kris is based out of Ozark, Missouri, which also is the home to the Fiocchi USA production plant. After a few emails and calls, Kris took my conception and began to turn it from bare wood into reality.

fiocchi duck call head stamp

The number 1 idea I had; was to incorporate the head stamp from a Fiocchi shotgun shell into the duck call itself. I was able to wrangle a few unfired, unprimed hulls from Troy at the Ozark plant. These I felt could be machined into the end of the duck call insert, with the empty primer hole creating an exit for the sound channel. Although it was smaller than the typical hole on most duck calls, Kris and I reasoned it should still work, although it would be substantially quieter than normal.

Kris and I decided on a design of his, and we were off and running. Not only did he have to create a method of hand fitting the metal of the hull into the wooden insert- Kris also had to endure regular calls from me! It wasn’t a simple process; in fact neither Kris nor I could find any proof of any call maker utilizing an actual shotgun shell hull into a wooden insert of a working duck call. Kris finally sent me a photo of the semi-finished insert, complete with Fiocchi head stamp. Of course it was exactly what I had envisioned and first class work.  From there came the seemingly easy task of hand of turning by hand the barrel (main portion) of the call. In just days I received another photo or two of the roughly finished call. From there Kris had to complete the sanding and have the call engraved with the company logo and the “140 years”. After completion of engraving as well as back painting the logo, it call was complete.

As one can see, it is truly a piece of art. Photos do not do this call justice. The rich, deep luster  of the wood and contrast of the heavy golden grains really set it off. The band itself features hand stifling on a silver band, and the Fiocchi head stamp is polished silver to accentuate the unique color of the wood itself.

I am quite pleased with the final product as which is one hundred percent Missouri made, in tribute to the Missouri ties to Fiocchi. Additionally it is a true working call; a call which can bring ducks to gun, but also a call that can proudly sit on a desk of a Fiocchi family member.

fiocchi duck call front

story and photos by Tom Cannon

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Collector’s Duck Calls

Recently, I was privileged to get an invitation to view a world class collection of duck calls. Below are several photos of just a few of the hand carved, hand painted or hand scrimshawed calls from around the world. Keep in mind these are working calls, albeit beautiful works of art – they all will call ducks!

Many of these calls are made of commonly found wood in the USA, yet there are a few created from Ivory, and a couple from horns of African game animals. Photos have call maker listed next to the photo but this is all from memory; so excuse any mistakes.

Enjoy !!!      photos by Tom Cannon

Brad Samples hand carved Ivory

Brad Samples hand carved Ivory

view through cabinet glass

view through cabinet glass

Sonny Bignar, hand carved

Sonny Bignar, hand carved

Hand carved,Ebony wood,unknown maker

Hand carved,Ebony wood,Kent Freeman

Hand carved, African game animal horn with Ivory accents

Hand carved by Lynn Yule, African game animal horn with Ivory accents

Hand scrimshaw, Echo call; possibly the only one of it's kind

Hand scrimshaw, Echo call; possibly the only one of it’s kind

Ron Gould, hand carved, Ivory; titled, Heads Up/Feet Down

Ron Gould, hand carved, Ivory; titled, Heads Up/Feet Down

Hand Carved Ivory, unknown maker

Hand Carved Ivory, Albert Bignar

Ivory tipped Walnut burl

Ivory tipped Walnut burl

Joe Bucher, hand carved & hand painted flyway series

Joe Bucher, hand carved & hand painted flyway series

Mike McClemore, scrimshaw Ivory

Mike McClemore, scrimshaw Ivory

Pettibone collection

Pettibone collection

unknown maker, hand carved pink ivory wood call

Kent Freeman, hand carved pink ivory wood call

Unknown maker, hand carved and stippled walnut

Kent Freeman, hand carved and stippled walnut

various makers, hand carved, turkey calls

various makers, hand carved, turkey calls

unknown maker Turkish walnut

Kent Freeman, Turkish walnut


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