Just how good are you with a shotgun?The year was 1955. President Eisenhower made the first-ever television press conference, Elvis appeared on television, McDonald’s came into being and the minimum wage went to $1 an hour. I was an eighth-grader, and I received a 10-gauge shotgun for Christmas. But that wasn’t all.
By: Roger Wiltz, The Daily Republic
The year was 1955. President Eisenhower made the first-ever television press conference, Elvis appeared on television, McDonald’s came into being and the minimum wage went to $1 an hour. I was an eighth-grader, and I received a 10-gauge shotgun for Christmas. But that wasn’t all.
We were going hunting over the holidays. My paternal grandmother had a sister in Mendon, Ill., who owned a farm. Mendon was near Quincy, a Mississippi River town. When Dad got home from work on Friday evening, brother John, cousin Robert, Dad and I loaded up the family Hudson and headed south. It was very late when we arrived at our destination.
Though the notion of hunter safety courses had not yet been spawned, dad drilled my brother and me on gun safety. He even demonstrated the awesome power of a shotgun by removing the shot from a 12-gauge shell and replacing it with a length of candle. He shot that wad through a one-inch board, literally shaking the basement.
Quail and rabbits were our quarry. I didn’t know what a quail was, but I was familiar enough with rabbits. Frustration began working at me late Saturday afternoon as I hadn’t yet fired a shot. It was compounded by the constant gunfire coming from the direction where Robert and my brother were hunting. Later I learned they had resorted to shooting bottles, old tires, etc.
A half hour before sundown I came to a dense stand of conifers. A cottontail rabbit hung from my game carrier, and I couldn’t have been prouder. As I carefully entered the heavily-shaded area, some sort of explosion, accompanied simultaneously by a loud audible Rrrrrrr and fleeting shadows, occurred almost at my feet. I had absolutely no idea what had happened, but it happened again and again. As dusk set in, I hunted my way back to the farm yard.
Everyone had quit hunting because they were cold! I couldn’t understand being too cold to hunt then, and I still can’t. Anyway, I learned that my phantom experience involved quail.
I often wonder, with all the hunting experience I’ve had over the years, if I’d be quick enough today to identify those quail as targets and get my gun up. I do own the right equipment — a Browning Citori “Upland” over and under 12 gauge with 24-inch barrels. It’s lightening fast.
I’ve taken a few quail over the years on our local river bottom, but those coveys were nothing like the ones I experienced in Illinois. The question remains: Could I do it? Better yet, could you do it? There might be a way for us to find out.
Not too long ago I read “The Best of Nash Buckingham.” “Buck,” because of years in the field and athleticism, may have been the best quail gunner ever. He spoke about shooting skill, and more or less addressed my question. This is what he had to say.
Not everyone has access to coveys of wild quail. (Most of today’s quail hunting, even in the south, involves pen-raised birds.) Even so, there is a way to evaluate one’s own bird shooting skills. He suggested a comparison to dove shooting — something we South Dakotans are blessed with.
Buckingham said that if a gunner can take 16 doves with a box of 25 shells, they can shoot with the best quail hunters. He cautioned that we take the birds as they come, and not pick doves that flutter before landing at the edge of water. I know exactly what he is talking about. Nash is talking about pass shooting.
Come Sept. 1, I’m going to try those doves. I know I’ll improve as I practice. Will I ever take 16 in 25 shots? I very much doubt it, but I’ll let you know how I do. I might even try quail if the opportunity presents itself, but I’ll always wonder about the Quincy quail, and if I am or ever was up to the task.
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The Francis Case walleyes on the lower end of the reservoir are biting very well. Eight to 10 feet of water at Whetstone, White Swan and Pease is producing with red spinners, red hooks and night crawlers being the bait of choice.
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The annual Lake Mitchell Poorman’s Fishing Tournament is Sunday. Call Dave Allen (996-8649) or Tim Allen (996-1412) for details. They offer a 100 percent payback with additional door prizes. Dave and Tyson Allen won last year, but the first five places were close. Weigh-in is 2 p.m. at the old golf course boat dock. Sounds like fun. See you next week.