My father’s history of hunting

Published 11:12 pm Monday, December 15, 2008

The tattered game jacket that he used during his bobwhite quail adventures may be the most graphic relic of a bygone era when there were plenty of wild birds roaming the fence rows and pea patches of the South.

His trusty, old Remington Sportsman 58 16-gauge has been handed down to his grandson, who had the forethought to ask for that one cherished piece of inheritance long ago.

Much farther back in our family history – fourth or fifth grade, I think – my teacher asked me where I got my broad shoulders. I almost said my mother but hesitated because my mom weighed a whopping 98 pounds after I was born. My father was a tall, towering figure whose demeanor followed the strong, silent types of the middle of the 20th century.

Before I was old enough for firearms, the Daisy pump BB gun was my constant companion. Living on the edge of very small towns, I was only a walk away from some adventure that might result in a squirrel, rabbit or dove being deposited at the back door when my mom called us in for supper.

And I’ll never forget the first time my father allowed me to shoot his beloved Sportsman 58. He wanted to work a couple of pointer puppies and let me tag along. One of the puppies stopped in a half-hearted point and my father gave me shooting instructions as we walked toward the bird. Suddenly, the bird popped out of the brush and made a beeline for the edge of the woods. I don’t remember knocking off the safety, but I do remember swinging the gun until the barrel was just ahead of the bird and pulling the trigger. Boom. The bird dropped like a rock.

“Great shot,” my father said. “Wrong bird, but great shot.”

To a 9-year-old that flushing field lark sure did look like a quail. My father laughed and put the bird in the game jacket. I remember it to this day because compliments from my father were rare. I suppose he figured praise would make us soft. Later in life, I realized his love was expressed through his hands, not his voice.

He must have been an excellent dog trainer from the amount of interest his dogs garnered. I can remember several times he was offered thousands of dollars – big money back then – for a particular bird dog. I don’t remember him making the sale unless he had a prime puppy ready to take its place.

When the wild quail began to diminish and his last, good bird dog died, Daddy said, “Well, I’m out of the bird-hunting business. There ain’t enough wild birds to justify me training another dog.”

Fortunately, he still had deer hunting, and he approached that outdoors activity with as much determination as his quail hunting. However, deer hunting back then was nothing like it is today. Deer were only found in a few pockets here and there, and the technology was significantly limited. He hunted a wildlife management area and always managed to bring home a season’s limit with his Curtis Pounds Custom recurve bow, which now hangs in my office.