There is nothing that I enjoy more than being in places I have not been before and spending my time there in the outdoors hunting. I recently had the opportunity to spend the first weekend in October in North Dakota with Savage Arms on a duck hunt. leading up to the event, I started out with a bit of travel anxiety (not wanting to miss flights, not quite sure where I was going to end up once I got off of the plane, etc…) but it soon led to pure excitement of the hunt and eventually reminiscent happiness once it was over.
This amazing duck hunt began for me when I woke up in my own bed on the morning of October 4th at 4:00 A.M. From there, I threw all of my bags in my car, drove to the airport and then grabbed two different flights to find myself in Bismark North Dakota. After a quick drive, me and 4 others that were picked up from the airport arrived at the lodge of Stone Prairie Outfitters in Streeter ND. Here, we were greeted by the smiling faces of some very sleep-deprived, hard-working guides. After the proper introductions, we quickly made a game plan for the morning’s wing shoot and jumped in bed, kept awake by anticipation and excitement.
The Hunt: Day 1 of 3
Again, 4 A.M. came all too quickly. With the help of a Red Bull and Coffee, I and four others packed three cars with all of the required gear and headed out to the field which we would be hunting in. The guide led the way down the dirt roads through the dark morning for miles. When his brake lights lit up, we knew we had arrived. Stepping out of the car was a shocking experience; even with the insulated waders, Primaloft undercoat and wind/rain jacket, the drizzly skies combined with the harsh, brisk wind cut through and made for chilly conditions.
This day, we would be hunting out of ground blinds in a wheat stubble field for a combination of geese and ducks. We shuttled ground blinds and gear from the trailer to the backside of a knoll until it was empty, using a single four-wheeler and many trips. Then we began setting it all up facing with the wind so that the ducks come in to land from in front of us. We placed the goose decoys around the blinds in order to hide them the best that we could. Then, we placed the duck decoys in front of us in order to get them to land where we wanted. In this spread, we didn’t have a single full-body decoy. Instead, we used silhouettes because they are lighter and more compact which makes transport a lot easier. At first, I was skeptical of this method, I won’t hide it. But in the end, it proved to be very effective.
With room for photographers and our guide, we had 7 blinds total surrounded by duck and goose decoys before shooting light. At this point, we crawled into our own blinds and waited for the action to begin while the rain dripped down on our faces and the wind freezing our ears.
Even before legal shooting hours, ducks were vortexing overhead and landing among the decoys. As soon as the clock struck the magic hour, we were working up a sweat from dropping birds and keeping our shotguns loaded. For this hunt, I was using Savage’s new ReneGAUGE shotgun, shooting Federal Black Cloud TSS #3	 3″ shells. This combination in experienced hands was proved deadly when we shot a 5 man limit of ducks and 9 geese before 10:00. Counted among the limit, we had several different species: widgeon, gadwall, Canadian goose, and mallard.
By 8:00, rain had began pouring down. It was collecting on the front of my coat while I was laying down in the layout blind, facing the sky. Every few minutes, I would have to reach up and pull the jacket tight so it would run off the side instead of going over the top of my zipper and running down my neck. This rain did not affect the success of our hunt, but it did make the tearing down of our blinds colder, wetter and more physically demanding. By the time we had everything loaded up, we were feeling the draining effects of our previous day’s travels compounded by the lack of sleep and the wearing off of our adrenaline. At the lodge, we warmed up and quickly retired to our rooms after conferring with the guides. Before shutting our eyes, we set our alarms to do it again in the morning.
About the ReneGAUGE
Since we were using pre-production ReneGAUGE shotguns for this hunt, it was a big trial run for these guns. Even though the ones we were using were not in their final stage of development, they worked flawlessly and are more or less the same as what you can now buy today. This shotgun is supposed to be a be-all, do-all system, and it proved to be. Because of the new twin valved, D.R.I.V gas system that these shotguns use, they cycled everything reliably while not over-pressurizing the action and causing a violent cycle of the gun. It blew my mind that we could shoot low power 8 shot and 3″ magnums back to back without feeling excess recoil or sacrificing reliability, and this is thanks to this system coupled with a stock rod buffer to dissipate recoil energy.
To add to its versatility, the ReneGAUGE has a 3″ chamber, 4+1 magazine capacity, one piece, chrome plated action bar assembly, and adjustable LOP, comb height, drop and cast to name a few other important features. The one piece, chrome plated action bar is particularly interesting to me because I have not seen any other guns use a similar system. Because it is one piece, this action bar assembly is stronger, more precisely fit and consequently, more reliable than other existing systems. On top of this, removing and re-installing this part is much easier during a deep clean because there are no pieces to line up as you slide them into the receiver.
While we are discussing cleaning, the ReneGAUGE will be able to go longer between cleanings because of the smaller port diameter in the barrels for the gas system as well as the chrome plated internal parts and melonited barrel. Because there is a twin valve system, Savage went with a smaller port diameter which shaves wads less than existing systems, reducing the amount of problem-inducing grime inside the action and valves.
While we were out in the field using the ReneGAUGE, I took note of how easily this shotgun would swing to where I moved it. This aspect is thanks to the fluting of the barrel. Many people would incorrectly assume that these cuts are to reduce weight, when in fact they are present to reduce torque. This torque that comes from the extra weight placed away from your body is what a person notices when swinging any kind of gun, and Savage was able to recognize this and mitigate the inherent problem.
The MSRP of the ReneGAUGE ranges from $1,449 – $1,549. The weight also ranges from 7.8-8 pounds along with the barrels that are offered in 24″, 26″ and 28″ lengths. When purchased, this shotgun also comes with 3 interchangeable flush mount Benelli/Baretta style choke tubes (C, IM, F) and a hard-sided carry case.
The Hunt: Day 2 of 3
The alarm sounded all too early when it went off at 4:45, but with wing-shooting in mind, I found it easy on this morning to jump out of bed and get ready for the hunt. Today, I knew that my party would be hunting the edge of a lake, so I threw some heated ActionHeat Insoles inside the boots of my Gator Waders in an effort to keep my toes warm while surrounded by frigid water. Before I could eat that morning’s breakfast of crackers, cheese, and meat and get out the door, I was already too hot to stay inside the lodge while in my hunting apparel.
After breakfast, I stepped out on the porch and waited for everyone else to file out once they were ready. Here, I was able to enjoy the bright stars in the North Dakota night sky, accompanied yet again by the constant frigid wind and the bite of frost in the air. Once everyone joined me, we piled into the vehicles and headed out to find some waterfowl.
At the lake, we set up a decently large decoy spread with a Mojo for some motion out in the water. We also decided to not set up with the wind blowing at our back because it would angle us to be looking right at the rising sun. As sunrise began, we found that our choice was for the best as many of the birds seemed to come in from our right side, flying toward the left. This made for hard, quick swinging shots between the reeds but our hit ratio was turning out to be extremely good thanks to the great fit and ease of swing that the ReneGAUGE had to offer.
This morning was cold and windy and somehow I had gotten my gloves wet, so I had pruny, cold fingers yet again. As the morning went on, we got to the point where we were nearing our limit and the bird activity was slowing down. Then, all at once, a large flock of ducks showed up, almost already in our decoys. Here, we filled the limit and were rewarded with a beautiful mature redhead to end the day. This made for an assorted bag of Spoonbill, Widgeon, Gadwall, Mallard, and of course, a Redhead.
The Hunt: Day 3 of 3
On the third and final day of the hunting trip, the alarm probably rang for a minute before I finally woke up enough to turn it off at 4:46, and everybody else was feeling the same. On this day, we split up into two different groups, which ended up leaving us in much larger hunting parties than in the previous two days. However, we were assured by our guides that they were taking us to a new spot that hadn’t been hunted that year and it was sure to pay off big.
We loaded up yet again in the trucks and drove for a good 15-20 miles until we got to the chosen field. Here, we went through the now-familiar routine of unloading ground blinds, decoys, and our own personal gear to then transport it into the field and set everything up with the breeze blowing at our backs. Once set up, we all climbed into our layout blinds to avoid the frigid wind and wait for the swarm of birds that was promised.
With nine shooters and two guides, we definitely were not hiding anything out in that field, but the ducks swarmed overhead nonetheless right at first light. This day, our fatigue was showing as our hit ratio began to fall. However, several incredible shots were made on high and fast flying singles thanks to the Federal Black Cloud TSS shells we were using, bringing them down hard to the muddy field. Halfway through our morning, the geese began to fly and we wiped out several singles and split up a flock that came into our guide’s calls.
Even though we had to cut the morning short in order to make our flights out that afternoon, we ended with a multi-man limit of ducks consisting of Widgeon, mallard, and Gadwall plus a handful of geese. By this point in the trip, I had shot more than 90 (extremely hot) shotshells, yet my shoulder was not sore in the slightest. Savage had mentioned that their ReneGAUGE was extremely soft-shooting, but I took that for a grain of salt until this point; I was then made a believer.
Ending the Trip and Looking Back
Once the hunt was over, we all knew that we would be getting on our flights back home and likely not see each other until the next big get-together. We all shared one last meal of soup and sandwiches at the lodge, reflecting on the week’s events and sharing experiences and feelings of camaraderie. This final moment with the group reminded me that we are all very different, coming from many different places and owning a variety of specialties and skills, but the hunt and respect for the animals that we were pursuing brought us closer together and forged lifelong friendships. Just as a father and son/daughter enjoy this sort of experience, others can share a special bond through this sport and for that, I live to hunt.