Today the gun is worn and shiny, with a deep scar on the pistol grip and a gouge in the metal receiver. These marks are like badges of honor since they were earned in one of nature’s most terrifying phenomenon – a tornado. The in-laws home on Rooseveldt Lake was literally torn from the ground by the killer Outing tornado. Just before the house went over the lake and blew into a zillion pieces, the gun fell out.
Sportsmen have a peculiar tendency to become attached to inanimate pieces of hunting and fishing paraphenalia. Rods and reels, duck boats, fishing lures, duck decoys, many things all become special to their owner. But nothing seems to become a part of outdoorsmen like his pet shotgun.
Think about it. A shotgun has to fit you. It must feel balanced and smooth when you swing it on a bird. When you find a shotgun you like, you keep it and cherish it for years. My first shotgun was purchased with tip money from bussing dishes at a summer resort dinner club. I hated that job, but I hated not having a 12 gauge more. The gun I chose was a Remington 870 Wingmaster, arguably the most popular pump action shotgun of all time. I bought it from my future father-in-law for $65.
The gun is not fancy. It has no ventilated rib or fancy scrollwork, but I sort of grew up with it, and it fits me. Over the years I’ve field tested many new modern shotguns, and most are very impressive. But despite their fancier wood, interchangable choke tubes, 3-inch chambers, and advanced engineering, I shoot better with my old gun.
Each year when I prepare for my first bird hunting trip and take the old Wingmaster from its case, memories come flooding back. With it I shot my first goose up at Thief Lake in northwestern Minnesota. I also got my first pheasant with it – the first ringneck I ever shot at. Then there were the times when a five bluebill limit came with only two shots. And oh, yes, there were the misses. Terrible misses that can only be blamed on the shooter.
It’s no wonder that shotguns have a place in the heart of those that shoot them, especially when you shoot them for many years. You go through good times and bad, nice days and the worst weather in the world. If only most things in life could be as faithful as a shotgun.
Posted by Jeff Howard on September 24, 2010
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