Wingshooting with a Fine Bird Gun
To really experience the wilderness of Utah’s San Rafael County you have to get off the beaten path. From the road the landscape looks rather barren, a parched sagebrush sea, the vast high plains desert of the American West. But first impressions can be deceiving, and only those that step away from the blacktopped surface of Route 15 really get to experience the subtle beauty of Utah’s vast desert wilderness.
The flat plains are periodically interrupted by abrupt canyons with walls of red and grey and tan from millions of years of compressing sediment. Even the deepest of these canyons was carved by water, which seems strange in the desert. In the shadows of the sagebrush small flowers climb up from the desert soil, blooming yellow and blue and red just above the rocky earth.
Utah’s high plains deserts may look like they wouldn’t be game-rich country, but that too is an illusion. The pinon-covered hillsides are home to large herds of elk and mule deer, and the central part of the state has a very large population of mountain lions. The desert landscape seems like an odd place to bring your fly rod, but some of the finest trout fishing in the West can be found in the year-round streams that run down from the mountains. And, improbable as it might seem, the area is home to a wide variety of game birds.
Among the rocky hills and rolling plains of San Rafael County lies Castle Valley Outdoors, a cattle ranching operation that has branched out and become an Orvis endorsed wingshooting lodge. A portion of Castle Valley Outdoors’ 12,000 acres lies in low valleys, where year-round moisture draws gamebirds in and supports a healthy population of introduced chukar and pheasant, which flush fast and fly hard and present a challenge to any wingshooter.
I traveled to Castle Valley to test Benelli’sUltra Light 28 gauge. I’d chosen to test the Ultra Light on this particular fall hunt because Western bird hunters have a very different definition of “long day in the field” than us Midwesterners. Having hunted chukar in the hills of Idaho on multiple occasions I knew that a long day usually included a lot of vertical hunting, some of it on steep, rocky slopes. It’s fun hunting to be sure, as long as you don’t mind dealing with burning lungs and aching quads.
AN ULTRA LIGHT FIELD GUN
The Castle Valley hunt required plenty of walking, but most of it was in flat meadows. At under five pounds the Benelli was a breeze to carry, one of the few guns that doesn’t fatigue you even after a lot of walking, shooting, and, yes, even a bit of climbing. The Ultra Light is the latest in Benelli’s line of upland guns, which includes the classic Montefeltro, a gun that has proven to be reliable and that has become a favorite of competitive shooters and upland hunters. And, just like the Montefeltro, the Ultra Light incorporates Benelli’sIntertia Driven System. The Inertia Driven System has gained favor among many shooters because it is less complex and more reliable than previous generations of gas-operated semiautos.
Benelli Ultra Light semiautomatic 28 Gauge, 26” barrel
Weight: 4.9 lbs
Overall Length: 47.5”
Magazine Capacity: 2+1
Receiver: black alloy
Barrel: Blued steel, carbon fiber rib
Sights: Gold bead mid-rib, red fiber optic front bead
Contact: Benelli USA
A Comparison of Shotgun Weights
Model Barrel Weight
Benelli Ultra Light 28 ga 26” 4.90 lbs
Remington 870 Wingmaster 28ga 25” 6 .00 lbs
Benelli Super Vinci 12ga 26” 6.90 lbs
Browning BPS 28ga 26” 7.00 lbs
Benelli M2 American 12ga 26” 7.10 lbs
Remington 11-87 Walnut 20ga 26” 7.25 lbs
Story by Brad Fitzpatrick& Photos by Benjamin Gettinger