The Society of 18th-Century Gentlemen began as a hunting and fishing club (see "angling" link), primarily fowling for pheasants and other upland birds. For the optimum hunting experience, these outings typically take place at private hunt clubs and at this point these hunts are by invitation only.
Because of the emphasis on fowling, smoothbores are the weapon of choice. Though military long guns (like the common “Brown Bess” and “Charleville” reproductions) can be used for both hunting and fowling, they are primarily designed for the rigors of campaign and subsequently do not balance or shoulder as well as a fine fowler.
We have had great success shooting 20 gauge (.62 caliber) fowlers loaded with shot for birds and a .60 round ball for firing at marks and taking larger game. When shooting with ball, a properly lubricated patch or a series of over-powder and over-ball wads have proven to work equally well. In a .62 fowler a powder charge of about 80-90 grains does the job nicely -- such a load speaks with authority and offers very good accuracy. We know several friends who have hunted whitetail deer with their fowlers as well and have had excellent success.
Shooting birds with a flintlock is a real challenge! With even the most finely-tuned flintlock there is a bit of a lag between the time the trigger is pulled and the gun actually fires. Because of the ignition system, which is largely dependent on the weather and field conditions, each shot taken is ever so slightly different to the one previous. Good fowler maintenance is a must for fast, sure ignition, and follow-through is critical to success.
On a recent outing Mssrs. Mark Tully and John Giere took the field on a fine fall day in east central Wisconsin. We managed to come away with four birds out of perhaps nine that the dogs put to wing for us. At left, Mr. Giere, quaintly dressed in the hunting attire of the common folk, admires a fine pheasant rooster brought down with his flint fowler from Naragansett Arms. Trusty English Springer Spaniels Jack the Wonder Dog (left) and Guinness (right) take a quick breather before racing off back into the brush in search of more fowl.
At right is an image of Mr. Tully displaying another fine example of Phasianus colchicus that he brought down with the aid of the dogs and his fine English fowler.
On more than one occasion the dogs put up a bird while we were both in the process of reloading our pieces. We quickly learned that the gentleman with the best shot should quickly take it, so that the second hunter can be ready in the event the first misses or another bird flushes immediately following the first.
Practice in reloading the fowler with great speed and precision is also a requisite skill, and should be practiced whenever possible. Knowing exactly where each of the accouterments needed to reload is essential, so the shooter must experiment to find the best method of distributing the same about his person so that he can lay his hands on the needed implement in an instant.
Check the links and clothing pages for information on proper attire and places where you can obtain a fine fowler like those shown here. Some excellent fowlers can also be seen at the Track of the Wolf web site, or from The Firelock Riflesmith.
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