Hello from beautiful, sunny Thomson, Illinois. With fall coming on strong, I am brought back to my younger days of hunting with my father. Dad was a “by the rules” guy when it came to hunting. I wasn’t allowed to carry a loaded gun until I was fourteen years old. That didn’t mean I couldn’t go hunting, I just couldn’t use a loaded gun. Let me explain.
When I turned ten, dad started taking me hunting. I was in charge of making peanut butter sandwiches and filling the thermos with coffee. We hunted pheasants and rabbits, and usually we would work the ditches along the railroad tracks. Nowadays if you took a loaded gun and walked the tracks, you would be in cuffs within minutes. Back then, they didn’t care. Our beagle, Gypsy, was one of the best hunting dogs we ever had.
When we hunted the tracks, Gypsy and I would drop down into the ditch, and I would work back and forth with the dog in front. Dad would walk the tracks. When a bird would fly, my job was to drop to the ground while dad shot the bird. Many a time I heard buckshot whir by me as I dropped into the weeds. I knew my place– it was dad’s shotgun, the beagle, and then me.
When I turned fourteen, there was a Remington 870 20 gauge under the Christmas tree for me. I was ecstatic. We got our gear together on Christmas morning, I made sandwiches, and we were off for my first actual hunting trip. No longer would I take a back seat to the dog. No longer would I have to traipse through the ditch. Boy, was I wrong. By the end of the day, I realized where I stood– Dad’s shotgun, my shotgun, the dog, and then me.
I did get to carry my new shotgun, but it had no shells in it, and I still had to trudge through the ditches– and I still had to drop to the ground when a bird got up.
By my fifteenth year, I was allowed to load my gun and actually hunt. Dad also took turns walking the ditches with me. My first attempt at shooting a pheasant came up empty. Dad waited for me to unload all my shells into the air, then calmly aimed his Browning over-and-under 20 gauge, and dropped the bird, mentioning something like, “I can’t see how you could miss, it was like a B-52 bomber coming up.” I had practiced all summer on clay pigeons, so I knew it was just a case of nerves.
The next time I shot, I took a deep breath and remembered what I had been taught. Two pheasants came down. My dad was so proud of me: he pulled those two tail feathers and carried them above the visor in his truck for many years.
Dad taught me many things as I grew into a man. Each lesson was instilled within me, some embedded deep in my sub-conscious. To this day, for example, whenever I hear a loud noise, I drop to the ground and expect to hear buckshot whirring by my ear. Some things just stick with you. See you next week!