QUESTION: Through the years you have praised the performance of the 12-gauge shotgun. I have a 20-gauge that I have been pleased with for a long time. What are your thoughts on the 20, 16, 28 and .410 gauges?
ANSWER: The .410 is not a gauge, it is a caliber. The 16-gauge has gone the way of the carrier pigeon, and few loads can be found for it. The 28-gauge and the .410 caliber shotguns -- especially when wing shooting -- are for expert marksmen and cannot be totally effective for the average shooter.
I only have one problem with the 20-gauge, and, because of it, I will not allow a 20-gauge shell in my home. If, by mistake, one places a 20-gauge shell into the chamber of a 12-gauge shotgun, it slips past the chamber and into the barrel. If a 12-gauge shell is inadvertently inserted behind the 20 gauge shell and the gun is fired, a hand grenade is created. I have an old friend who made these two mistakes two decades ago. He has lived the rest of his life with one eye and three fingers missing from his dominant hand. For me, it isnt worth the risk.
QUESTION: After three years of effort, I became the landlord for four pairs of purple martins this year. I enjoyed them immensely. They arrived in February and left in late July. What states do they migrate to? Can I expect more than four pairs next year?
ANSWER: When martins leave in late summer, they actually leave the country, returning to South America -- mostly Brazil. Their food supply consists solely of flying insects. If they stayed in North America during the winter, they would starve because of the lack of insects. The minor exceptions are a few birds that nest in southern Florida. They stay for the full year because there are enough flying bugs for them to survive.
All things working well, your purple martins should increase in numbers next season. All your original birds will return, usually bringing more adult birds with them. Also, about 60 percent of the young raised in your gourds this summer will return.
QUESTION: During my first fishing trip last spring, I noticed that the monofilament line on my reels had lost a lot of strength. How often do you recommend changing out fishing line?
ANSWER: Monofilament suffers considerable deterioration when exposed to sunlight. If you fish as much as four times a month, I would recommend changing out the line every three months. If you are a three or four times a year angler, you can get away with changing line only once a year, but only if you put your gear away and out of the damaging rays of sunlight.
Braided lines and composite lines are not so sensitive to sunlight and can be used for longer periods.
Emory Josey writes a weekly outdoors column. Send questions for him to The Telegraph, P.O. Box 4167, Macon, Ga., 31208-4167, or email him at email@example.com