By Marshall Williams.
Order was going dove shooting. It
was a remarkable thing for them. While
they shot together at least once a week, not all were good hunters, nor
even enthusiastic about it. In
fact, only The Major and Sunny regularly bought hunting licenses.
Each year The Major spent a week in Pennsylvania where he alleged
that he hunted deer, but the friends with whom he hunted seemed more
concerned with having an adequate supply of playing cards, cold cuts,
and beer than with getting hunting licenses, and the Order half
suspected that The Major bought the venison he brought home each year.
situation was different. His
wife insisted that he accompany her on an annual pilgrimage to visit
female in-laws in Oz or Kansas or some place near there, and Sunny
hunted pheasants during the whole week.
He said that he wanted to stay out from under foot so the women
folk could visit. The Judge
said he did it out a natural concern that he might be an innocent
bystander when the house fell on his mother-in-law.
The Judge was not acquainted with the lady and spoke only from
the others, Grundoon had grown to manhood in a suburb of New York City
and had simply never done it. Topper had spent his formative years in
the great Southwest where hunting was as natural as raising cattle.
But when he moved to the big metropolitan area that he had called
home for the past thirty years, he found the style of hunting so
different from what he was used to that he had never really gotten back
Judge usually was satisfied to remember the days of his youth when
hunting seemed as ordinary as grocery shopping, which, indeed it had
been for many of his neighbors. But,
like Topper, many years had passed since he had moved to the big city.
There he had found it too expensive to go to the nice game
preserves and too inconvenient to go back to the old fields and farms
which he had known. Indeed,
on his one return trip, he found subdivisions of expensive houses where
once he had found wild woods, and rabbits and quail. The experience gave
him an uncomfortable feeling, like things had passed him by, and he
never went again.
a result, the Order’s hunting urges often were satisfied by drinking
strong ALOOF coffee and telling stories of other times and places.
These stories might leave them feeling like they were up to their
knees in feathers, but all were history and some were more or less
the Order would go dove shooting. The
matter had been decided during the draining of a second pot of ALOOF
coffee on a hot Saturday in June, and the fiat stood.
immediately after the decision was made, there were problems to be
overcome. In particular, no
member had actually been dove shooting in something like twenty years,
and those who had done so then had done it in entirely different parts
of the country. Times had
changed and it was conceded that they could not simply drive country
roads until they found a freshly cut silage field and get out and shoot
doves. That was the old
order of things, and they were determined to adapt to the current way of
was the first to come up with a scheme.
He had become the Order’s de facto Chief of
Sporting Clays Activities, at least he always found where the new clubs
were and made reservations for the Order’s weekend events.
Topper showed up at the round table on a Saturday morning with an
advertising flyer from one of the sporting clays outfits.
In the small print, it offering dove, duck, and deer shoots in
season. The club
had been a particular favorite of the Order, and certainly appeared a
likely place for dove shooting. It
looked a bit pricey, especially as it was across the state line and
would require out of state licenses, but three day licenses were
available and the price was finally declared “not unreasonable.”
Topper had developed a relationship with the reservations clerk,
so he was duly deputed to make the arrangements.
Unfortunately, it developed that a lot of other sporting clays
shooters also had noticed had noticed the same small print, and there
were no dove shooting reservations left!
exhausted Topper’s resources, the Order set about finding a place by
calling the state wildlife commission.
Grundoon made the call. “Yes,
we have a place, in fact, we have two of them.
One is about 150 miles away, the other is on the opposite end of
the state. Not interested? Sorry.”
tried the local game wardens. “Nope.
Not in a million years. The
local dairy farmers don’t trust anybody with guns.”
It was no use arguing that cows don’t fly, a fact for which at
least one member of the Order gave silent thanks.
the time drew close, and the Judge felt that he would derelict in his
duty to the Order if he did not show leadership.
The Judge was a minor bureaucrat in charge of a minor
bureaucracy, and he felt certain that the bureaucratic approach could
solve any problem. Accordingly,
he went to his office and called a staff meeting.
Judge’s staff consisted of four highly efficient ladies, none of whom
had ever been hunting and all of whom were satisfied with such a
life’s history. Undaunted,
the Judge put the question before them, “Do any of you ladies know
where a bunch of old far¼,
uh, a group of older gentlemen might go and shoot doves. Frankly, I
don’t have a clue.”
ladies had kept the Judge’s bureaucratic affairs in order for many
years and no request ever fazed them.
They knew the most important question to ask, the one that would
set the tone of their efforts, “When do you need to know?“
Judge said, “The season starts next Saturday at noon.“ This was
Wednesday. Totally and characteristically unfazed, the civil service
ladies said, “We will see what we can find out.”
was enough to set the Judge’s mind at ease and within an hour the
Judge had two places. One
nearby dairy farmer allowed hunters to shoot his land for a fee, but his
place usually was crowded. The
other was a dairy farm across the state line.
This would incur the additional penalty of an out-of-state
license, but, as a nearby town had encroached on his property, he
usually had no hunters. After
due consideration, consensus favored the place with no competition.
Saturday, everyone gathered at Topper’s home which was most central.
Sunny and Grundoon had not had faith in the bureaucratic method
and prematurely had made other plans, so the crowd was thinned down to
The Judge, The Major, Topper, and his son Eddie.
It probably was just as well, because when they started piling
gear into the back of the van, it soon looked like enough for an African
safari. There were coolers
and chairs, game bags and shell boxes, sun block and cigars, and finally
everyone piled in a gun or two in case one went belly up for some
at the staggering pile of vanities, the Judge recalled a time when the
sum total of his hunting gear had consisted of a single barrel shotgun
and four shells bought at a country store for ten cents each.
He snorted and inquired, “Didn’t anybody bring a portable
TV?” Being young and innocent, Eddie missed the note of sarcasm,
and replied, “Dad told me not to bring it, but if you want, I’ll get
it. It’s right inside the
door.” Topper and The
Major smiled. The Judge
snorted again but held his peace. Eddie
awaited further instruction. This
matter was resolved when the Judge got into the driver’s seat and
hollered, “Don’t get in unless you want to go.”
Everyone piled into the old passenger van, and the Judge headed
arrival, the farmer took them around his place in the back of a pickup
truck and pointed out the property lines, and the safe directions to
shoot and where the birds seemed
to be busiest. His corn had
been cut early and the birds picked over his stubble fields and now
favored the big weed fields instead,
“Oh, oh,” thought the Judge, “Lots of lost birds.”
they prepared to go out into the fields, each pulled out his shotgun du
jour. All except the
Judge’s were 20 gauges. Eddie
and the Major had chosen over and unders, Topper had a splendid little
side by side easily worth enough to buy a mid-size sedan, and the Judge
pulled out a little .410 pump. The
sight of the little .410 caused The Major to comment, “Use enough gun,
Judge. Use enough gun.”
Judge harrumphed, put on a wide brimmed straw hat, dumped a box of long
skinny shells into his game vest, and opined that he had gun enough
“to harvest more birds than some people.”
as the little group watched as he wandered off to a little knoll and
placed his folding camp stool near a fencepost. The Major observed there
was no shade to protect him from the early September sun, still as hot
as August. Once there,
instead of sitting on his chair and opening something to ease his
thirst, they watched the Judge pace to and fro, as if he were nervous.
they did not watch long and each soon hied himself off to a position
around the field that he thought strategic.
The Major seemed to favor a place in the shade of some tall
was early afternoon and a few birds flew over in ones and twos, but the
heavier concentrations would come later.
Still, one could hear shooting.
One could even identify who it was.
The occasional bang-bang, bang-bang meant birds over Topper and
Eddie; a more stately paced, bang - pause -
bang, meant one had flown in sight of the Major; and an occasional
pop, or pop-pop came from the sunny knoll.
was 4:00 o’clock the Major had just fired off both barrels without any
noticeable effect on a particularly high bird.
As he reloaded, he suddenly noticed the Judge was standing beside
him in the shade and offering him a ice cold can of tea.
The Judge looked at the pile of yellow cases near The Major’s
feet and delicately inquired, “How are you doing?”
Major immediately complained, “I got two, but I need more gun.
These birds are flying way too high for my little improved cylinder
and modified 20. I think I will go get the 12 gauge pump with the full
choke.” Then, remembering
his manners, he asked, “How are things over on your hill?
Hot I’ll bet.”
Judge allowed it was not too bad under his big straw hat, then he
nonchalantly added, “I’m finished for the day; I limited out
already.” The Major’s jaw
went slack. “How did you do
it with that little peashooter?”
The Judge smiled beatifically and observed, “Well, I didn’t handicap myself by standing under 90 foot tall shade trees. They make all your shots way too long and block off your view of the birds until they are straight over head and going like sixty. You want to try my hot little knoll?”
Reprinted curtesy of Shotgun Sports Magazine, P.O. Box 6810, Auburn, CA 95604. www.shotgunsportsmagazine.com