Today as I was getting ready for turkey season I decided to take out my shotgun and pull the wrap off and replace it.
I wrapped this gun around 10 years ago. And s I started peeling the old camo vinal off the original wood and blued finish shotgun that I grew up with started to show itself. About that time my 2-year-old came up, climbed into my lap and started “helping me” finish the cleaning job. A rush of emotion and memories from experiences with this gun began to return.
I started doing the math and the gun in my hand was 20-years-old! Twenty years. I thought I was still 20-years-old myself. How could this gun that still seemed new (still the only shotgun I hunt with) be 20?
There is no way I can take the time to tell you all the stories I can recall when that gun was in my hand, but I thought I would share a few.
I remember getting the gun for Christmas and my dad and I loaded up in his old truck to take it to Tom Casey. Tom was a gunsmith down the road a piece. He made a custom choke for my gun that shot 00 Buck and number 5 turkey shells like a dream.
I looked on the forearm and there were notches carved into it of the number of swamp bucks I had killed at the time. There was also the number of points they had; 2,2,7, 10. I could almost see in the wood a boy becoming a hunter.
I remember the first buck I killed with that gun like it was yesterday. I was 12-years-old and we were still running dogs in the swamp on Blind River. I dropped that spike buck at 60 yards with one shot. That was the same day my dad made one of the other guys in our hunting club apologize to his dog Coonie for saying she was running a back trail. The guy had a doe come by him but he did not realize that the buck had doubled back and Coonie was hot on his trail.
My gun was there when my Paw Paw wrecked his airboat trying to shoot a buck, knocked himself out and slashed his face wide open. I remember him idling his boat back to where he knew we were sitting. He had a wool sock over his face trying to stop the bleeding and getting blood all over the boat. The boat was tore to hell and back and so was he but he insisted we stay and finish the hunt. After all, he knew there was at least one buck still down there.
Not long after that I was able to kill one of my biggest bucks down in the swamp. It is still on my wall today.
I spent so many days in the woods or on an airboat with that gun. Hunting with Mr. Buddy and Mr. Bubby Ables, friends of our family and good hunting partners. I remember just sitting and listening to them tell stories of the old days. Both fine men and hunters have moved on to be with the Lord. I cherish those memories.
I flipped the gun over and started counting all the notches that were in the other side that represented turkey kills. I had killed a few longbeards before I got that gun with my dads old single barrel but after getting my hands on that 12 gauge pump 3’’ magnum I really starting honing my skills in the turkey woods.
I had to compete with a lot of local people growing up including my Paw Paw, one of the best hunters I’ve ever know, and his brothers Uncle Jack and Uncle Toud, both of which could hunt circles around most any man I’ve ever known. I had to learn from my mistakes and from watching them. It was different times then in Lizard creek. If somebody told you where a turkey was it was only to get you to go somewhere they knew there wasn’t a turkey so they could try and kill the only turkey on the lease and yes that included family.
I learned that lesson early one spring.
I would get up before daylight, go listen for turkeys, then sprint back to my house to catch the bus to school. I had found a turkey gobbling real good every morning like clockwork. I was so proud of the fact that I had found a gobbling turkey that I could not wait to tell my Paw Paw about it. I would go find him in the middle of the strawberry field an tell him all about the turkey I had pegged down just waiting for opening day so I could go after him. Two weeks before the season opened the woods became silent several mornings in a row. When we got to Maw Maw and Paw Paw’s house after church for our Sunday meal that following weekend and a big fat turkey got pulled out of the oven, I learned a very valuable lesson that I will never forget!
Every spring when school got out for Easter break Paw and I would head up to Alabama and turkey hunt for the whole week. It was like Christmas week for me! One year when I was 15 we got out of school and Paw told me he was just to busy to make it up that particular week, I was devastated, until I remembered that I was now the proud owner of a 1985 Chevrolet K-10 4 wheel drive pickup. I packed my stuff, wrote mom a letter telling her to feed my dog and I was headed to Alabama and hit the road. About my second or third day of the hunt I came out to find the farmer standing by truck, he told me that mom had called there house and sent him out looking for me. With no cell phone back then I headed into town, found a pay phone and called home. Needless to say my old shotgun and I was headed back to Louisiana after that.
That gun has helped many people get their first turkey. It has been around when we were taking kids out for their first hunt. It has seen good days and bad days. I would give up every possession I have to relive some of those hunts with the people that mean the most to me. No telling how many thousand miles it has been carried by my right hand. It has shared the woods with good friends and some of this country’s finest soldier. It has been there from a kid who said he would never get married to sharing the woods with my best friend and wife that God has blessed me with. It has broken the hearts of other hunters and taught a few hard lessons to some, as they were taught to me.
I couldn’t help but look down to see my little girl rubbing her hand on the stock because we had just finished pulling all the old camo off. I started talking to her and tried to explain how that gun would be her’s one day. Her eyes lit up and she said it will. That my friend is the meaning of “what money can’t buy”. I thank God for allowing me to be a hunter, allowing me to share in all the experiences and sunrises in his creation. In a way this gun and I are just alike. We are a little beat up, little rusty, but after all these the years we still cant wait for the next hunt! After all, we both hunt for one reason, the Love of the hunt. Not for glory, not for bragging rights, not because of what people think, just for the pure, never dying, timeless love of the hunt. – Chad Wall