The time has come to return to Spain once again for a weekend of traditional Spanish hunting called Monteria. Last year I was lucky to get some very nice red deer trophies and some good medal wild boars shown above.
Without doubt the oldest form of hunting big game in Spain, has always been the “Montería”. This traditional way of hunting big game, entails surrounding an area or mountain with hunters who are situated approximately 300 meters apart. The area is normally hilly and thickly bushed, so it is very difficult to stalk animals. Packs of hounds are let loose to move the game in the areas where the hunters are located. This traditional method of big game hunting is a true spectacle, the beauty of the countryside, horses, secretarios, beaters, hounds and hound keepers, all make for a very lively day of sport. You have to be ready all the time to be surprised in your blind by wild boars, Red & Fallow deer or Mouflon running towards you.
Anthony (Trigger) is coming with me this year, so at last his shooting can be put under scrutiny, I have heard for many years about his prowess as a hunter and now, at last, I can witness at first hand! Hopefully we will return with some good photographs and stories from the South.
To all our American readers, many thanks for visiting this site and we wish you a Very Happy Thanksgiving Holiday.
We had a great time in Spain, 2 days of fine weather and great sport organised by Diego Satrustegui and Espacaza of Madrid, seen above with his brother Santi who brought his pack of dogs for the day.
Our thanks to all involved and especially the dogs and dog handlers who worked very hard with some of the dogs having to have a lift home at the end of the day!
Like many of you I am sure, I have started looking online for presents for the family but end up looking for things I would like myself. Here are a few which grabbed my attention.
Our most recent rifle back from the engravers is this 416 sidelock which has been deep relief engraved by Cecil Flohiment from Belgium. These photographs are in the raw, prior to the rifle going to hardening after which it will look even better when colour is in the background to give contrast. I will post the completed rifle in a month or so when finished.
Normally, being a gunmaker, I wouldn’t promote the use of a Bow, if only because it would not seem in our best interest! However our congratulations go out to Kim Gattone on her first bow hunting safari in Africa, where she successfully took various game with her bow under the experienced guidance of Gerhard and Yolande Vos, owners of Daggaboy Safaris who kindly hosted her trip.
Kim, an accomplished athlete and high altitude mountaineer, now works for The African Hunting Gazette and Covey Rise magazines in the capacity of advertising executive. Travelling to South Africa to attend both the PHASA convention and the NAPHA convention in Namibia, Kim took the opportunity of being in Africa to take her bow on its first hunt abroad.
Always neurotic about the condition of her hats, accompanying Kim, was ‘master’ hat maker John Morris Jnr. who when not making the superb hats at the family business Rocky Mountain Hat Co. is a wildlife photographer. John made his first and quickly second trip to Africa this year and looks to be making the journey a regular one.
The current offer we are running for Free Initials and shipping (items over £250) on our range of leather safari bags, cartridge bags and gun slips is proving very popular, with demand nearly outstripping our small production. Please order early if you are interested in receiving any of these items in time for Christmas.
It was at the American Custom Gunmakers Guild Exhibition in Reno, about 4 years ago, that Anthony ‘Trigger’ saw the work of Paul Lantuch on a custom bolt rifle and brought it immediately to my attention. On reflection this was pure luck, as normally we are so tired after exhibiting for a week at the Reno Safari Club show, we miss the guild show .
On our return to England I immediately got in touch with Paul and discussed with him the possibility of sending some work to him to engrave. At the time I had nothing concrete in mind to engrave but there was no doubt that something very special could be achieved by our working together with Paul. As an introduction, Paul sent me a body of his work on a DVD. This contained a cross section of his life’s work and achievements, engravings, designs, drawings, paintings and jewellery.
Gun engravers who can draw and design well are scarce, engravers who can conceive, draw, design and execute to the standard of Paul are even scarcer. I was of course delighted when Paul agreed to do some work with us and as a starting piece I sent him a take down 416 bolt action rifle which I was building for a good friend and hunting partner. The principle here is to try a new engraver on an old customers new gun, someone with whom you have the ability to make apologies, and another gun, if all goes pear shape! This I assure you can happen, and has happened! A new customer and a new engraver is not a good mix!
For some weeks Paul and I exchanged emails, he sent me drawings and I returned comments with the final drawings and work looking like this, I never showed the client.
As you can see from the above photographs, in this instance, a new engraver and an old customer were a very good mix, an extremely happy customer, a new gunmaker for Paul to work with and a new engraver for us to work with. Everyone was extremely happy, and I myself, probably the most happy of all. Long before the completion of this Westley Richards 416, Paul and I had discussed the concept of the India rifle, a rifle which I built to celebrate the Raj and all that they had done to support the English gun trade in the period from 1900-1935. This was a period of opulence, extravagance and gift giving and the rifle was to reflect this. The India Rifle was to be the largest commission we had placed with an engraver since the Boutet Gun of 1980’s.
There was nothing cerebral or sudden about Paul Lantuch’s decision to follow art. Since childhood, he allowed himself too concentrate on his passions, horseback riding and drawing, and art was the one that finally made the most sense to him.
Paul Lantuch grew up in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, a city where Italian baroque architecture flowed effortlessly into Northern European Gothic and where many cultures congregated and interacted, Lithuanian, Polish, Russian, Jewish. By his teenage years he was drawn to a group of artists, writers, directors, actors and musicians who in their exchange of ideas challenged one another.
It was during this period Paul travelled to St Petersburg to see the Hermitage where he befriended the curator of the arms and armour department. This friendship gained him access to areas of the Hermitage which were not on common display including the extensive Scythian gold collection which made a big impression on Paul; “I have never forgotten the impression it made on me, I could just imagine how a person wearing the jewellery could become very sexual. It took someone very wild with big instincts to create it.”
Paul returned to Vilnius where he studied at the Vilnius Institute of Art, an exclusive academy in Lithuania. Here he became increasingly frustrated at the communist government’s interventions in education and, with a close group of friends, started an underground newspaper featuring essays about banned artists such as Vassily Kandinsky and writers such as Franz Kafka. This was short lived, the dissident group was arrested, interrogated and expelled from the academy.
As his work became more widely known, Paul received more and more private commissions, this aroused government suspicion as it was seen as capitalistic. Intrusions into his home by the KGB became more and more frequent. He received however, one government order that he could not refuse: To create for the head of the Soviet Union’s Politburo, Leonid Brezhnev an Objet d’art. The resulting piece had the shape of a casket, and underneath layers of enamel Paul engraved an endless list of Russian curses. Soon after, in 1980 Paul secured an exit visa and together with his wife and daughter, headed for USA.
In USA Paul adapted quickly, immediately getting a job working with Sturm Ruger where he worked for 11 years as an engraver, up until the time the factory moved to Arizona. A period working in jewellery followed and his work was much admired and sold well at Neiman & Marcus. Other work included book illustrations and designs for wine labels. In 2003 Paul set up an academy for Ruger to teach engraving which lasted for three years until the Ruger family was no longer involved with the company. Paul continued to engrave guns for various makers based in USA and started his first commission for Westley Richards in 2011.
Part 2 will follow with the story of engraving ‘The India Rifle’ and other new projects, both completed and in hand. I sincerely hope there will be many parts to this story!
One of the first regular Westley Richards customers I met when I joined Westley Richards in 1987, was Neil Cross. A ‘Westley Richards man through and through’, with his roots in the Midlands prior to a move to Canada, Neil is based in “The Yukon” where up until his retirement a few years ago, he managed an heavy machine engineering company during the day and collected guns and mined gold when time, and his dear wife ‘Mary Lou” allowed.
It was with really great pleasure that we welcomed Neil back to the factory today, his first visit to our new factory, in order to show him his new 577 detachable lock rifle which is due to be delivered in time for him to give it to himself for Christmas!
Delivering a new gun or rifle to someone who has dreamed all their life about owning it is always a special occasion, for Neil having just had a blip of poor health, I think it was an especially big event, a milestone reached. “I have saved, I have waited and now, at last, I have held it”. Over the past 25 years Neil and I have bought and sold each other guns and traded this and that, until we have reached this point which puts the final touch to his collection of Westley Richards rifles. Well there is a single shot needed, but Mary Lou dragged him out of the showroom when this subject came up!
Everyone here was really pleased to see such a happy and proud customer, one who was, as always, so generous with his comments on the work we do here. I will add that ‘Trigger’ was paying particular careful attention to Neil all day, I think it paid off, I noted he was slightly lopsided walk after the Cross’s had left, which I suspect was due to the generously large gold nugget “Thank You” in his pocket!
I am frequently asked where to get the Peter Beard poster ‘Nomad’ which hangs at the factory. This is available from Peter Beard Gallery at a cost of $500 signed by the artist. Also, for those of you not yet familiar with his book ‘The End of the Game‘ first published in 1965, it is a classic, and well worth putting on your Christmas list!
The photographer, playboy, and Warhol pal never seemed to care much about his legacy or making money. Now that he’s 75, his wife, Nejma, wants to change all that—even if it means clawing back work he used to pay off bar tabs and infuriating his friends. Read the full article “Taming Peter Beard” here in New York magazine.