Friday, January 3, 2014

Browning Sweet Sixteen, Part 1

My first gun when I was a kid was a Mossburg bolt action .410.  It fit me well, but had a very unsafe safety, and operating the bolt led to more than a few less-than-safe moments.  And the gun was effective.  I killed my first duck with that shotgun; a drake wood duck crossing right to left.  Dad was to my left, and even though I had the better angle, he shot first and missed.  I followed and almost instantly heard my Dad yell, "NICE SHOT!" with a more than noticeable amount of surprise in his voice.

The Mossburg looked cool.  It worked OK, other than the safety issues.  But to me it was a kid's shotgun.  A real shotgun had some heft in the load, kicked your shoulder, and sent a cloud of shot at your quarry and not just a pencil-sized amount.

Eventually my time would come to graduate to a man's shotgun, and the first one that I would shoot would be my Dad's Browning A-5 16 gauge.  It was a gun that was previously used by his dad, and had been in the family since the 1950's.

But it was a full-sized adult gun, despite its lighter caliber.  And since I was about 12 at the time, the gun was just too big for me - upon mounting it to my shoulder, my hand could no longer reach the trigger.  So one Thanksgiving vacation my Dad took the gun to my Grandpa, and there in my Grandpa's work shop in the basement, the stock was cut down to fit me.

Unbeknownst to us at time, this act was sacrilege.  To modify such a wonderful gun in such a way was a shame.  But to an ignorant kid looking to finally step up to a man's gun, that was not even a consideration.  And it wasn't a consideration for my Grandpa or Dad, either.

Grandpa cut the gun down expertly, I was able to take it out with me on a quail hunt that very weekend.  We did end up bagging some quail that weekend, but my luck with the A5 wasn't good - I seemed to always be in the wrong spot to be able to get off a shot.  Hence, I was a little bitter when I was told to wait at the end of a field to "post" as Dad, Grandpa, and my uncle drove into my position.  It seemed posters never got the shot - the drivers always did, and my run of bad luck looked to continue.

The adults started to the opposite side of the field, perhaps 300 yards away, and worked the 50 yard-wide cover, slowly moving toward me.  About 100 yards into their drive, a gorgeous rooster pheasant flushed in front of them, and despite multiple shots, the bird flew away from them.

And right at me!

I hunkered down in the cover - hunting the flying pheasant like he was an inbound duck.  He never saw me, and as he was about to pass me on the right I stood, ticked off the safety, swung from behind him through tail, body, head, air and then squeezed the trigger.  And in that moment I bagged my first ever pheasant.  And I had done so with my first man-sized gun. 

My prized Browning A-5 16 gauge.     

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