The Other Shotgun Always Shoots Better…

Daryl Gay | October 1, 2005

Guess maybe this 13-year-old of mine got it honestly, this passion for scatterguns. He has one of his own, a youth-model 870 that fits him like a glove. But it’s a 20-gauge. And just what’s wrong with a 20 gauge?

Why, it’s not a 16. Or a 12. Therefore, sub-par.

In his eyes.

Now for the 10-year-old…

He also has a 20-gauge. Winchester 1200 youth model, built on the old Model 12 frame. There has never been a better frame this side of Daisy Duke. But, like Daisy, it IS a mite longish for him, if only a couple of inches. But he’ll grow into it in a few months. The gun, not Daisy. That will take a little longer.

Now that I have abandoned hunting in favor of becoming a one-man “Gay’s Guide Service” to these two, let’s get y’all formally acquainted. Dylan, the elder, is on the cusp of becoming a man. Leg hair’s starting to grow and hormones to percolate. He is an athlete who favors baseball, but everything in life combined and jammed together into a huge ball comes in second to hunting in this kid’s eyes. He fairly lives for the hunt.

Myles, the least’un, is a competitor. He will not lose to you. You must beat him. Decisively. Repeatedly. And he will still likely get you in the end. Relentless is a word that comes to mind just watching him. In my spare time (yeah, right!), I coached this kid’s baseball and soccer teams and watched in awe as they won state titles in both in the same year — despite my help! Bad thing is, Myles’ attitude on the field carries over into the field. As in a dove field…

Everybody misses birds. But don’t tell him that.

“I’m the worst hunter in the world, I ought to just let you shoot all the birds, you and Dylan need to leave me at home and hunt by yourselves, I’m never going to kill a bird, this shotgun is terrible, these shells are terrible…”

It is a never-ending saga, accompanied by much foot stomping, dust flying and fist shaking. I’m sitting five feet behind him, attempting to counsel what he’s doing wrong while not sticking a tube sock in his mouth. This is a whole different sport we’re coaching here. I know it better than any other, but HE is the one who has to perform. I can teach, but I can not do for him.

“Swing the shotgun from behind the bird to just ahead in a smooth motion, never stopping, and then squeeze off,” I tell him.

“Dirty rassafrassamortaurinock,” he mumbles. Or something to that effect. He’s talking toward his boot tops, so there’s no sense asking him to repeat it. And I probably don’t want to know.

“It’s not that hard, it just takes time and experience,” I counsel. “You’ll get the hang of it.”

“Family had to depend on me, we’d all starve to death,” he gripes.

But I notice that this year, his second with the gun, he’s actually beginning to master pumping it smoothly, not taking his cheek off the stock or moving his head. Of course, there’s no sense in attempting to relate that to Mr. Perfectionist here, but things are looking up.

Speaking of which…

“Two off to your right, Bud, over the pond, headed right at you.”

“I might as well throw rocks at ’em for all the good it will do…” But even as he’s grumbling he moves off the bucket and marries the butt to his left shoulder. BOOM. Nothing. Shuck, BOOM. Feathers poof and the bird stops in mid-air. Shuck, BOOM.

There’s no doubt about this one. Like a sparsely-feathered rock, the dove drops straight down with a thud.

Same kid, different attitude.

Something just clicked. Suddenly, he’s Wyatt Earp with a shotgun. The next three birds that come over are all clean, one-shot kills. His body movements with the gun are no longer herky-jerky, there is no jolting shake of a shoulder with the trigger pull, no more down-on-myself ranting. This is why you take a kid hunting. Disappointment and frustration have turned to joy and confidence.

Now, in the twinkling of an eye, things have come together. No more wondering what’s wrong or how to fix it. He can adjust on his own. The satisfaction is immense, for the both of us.

Meanwhile, across the field…

The elder is having problems of his own. I am noticing a single shot, no bird falling, no follow-up. Oh well, it’s only 90 degrees, and he’s not an inch over a half-mile off. Let us saunter over and see…

He is using his granddaddy’s gun, a 12-gauge automatic that has turned single shot on us, refusing to eject a hull completely. He shoots, then fishes with his knife, shoots and fishes, on and on. We go quickly back to frustration level, and hearing that his brother is doing very well only complicates things. For make no mistake, Dylan may be quieter about it, but he’s only slightly less competitive than Hothead across the field.

“Ok, boy, you’ve used a Winchester automatic, a Winchester pump, a Beretta automatic and your Remington in two days,” I advise him. “That’s two 12s and two 20s, two pumps and two automatics. I’m just glad you didn’t bring any of my 16s. You can’t get much more confused that what you are. Let’s remember the old saw about ‘beware the man with one gun’ and go back to yours.”

With only slightly more grumbling than your average day on the chain gang, he complies.

The first two shots with the his-sized 870 are late, the birds paying them no mind because the shot is behind them. But he picks up the pace on number three and rigor mortis sets in mid-air. Blam, dead, blam, dead, blam, dead. He has now caught up with his brother, and the world is a fine place to live in.

Nothing to this guide business. Except that I don’t get to shoot. But that’s not the end of the story.

For you see, I’m planning on living to be about a 137. And when these boys go to a dove shoot, or a rabbit hunt or a duck blind, they’d better come by the nursing home and get me, the old 12-gauge, my pillow, store-bought teeth, oxygen bottle and all the other trimmings. Dylan and Myles are going to become “Gay’s Guide Service,” and it’s me they’re gonna be guiding. In the meantime, I’ve got to make sure they get really good at it…


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