A brisk and cold fall afternoon. My grandfather pointed to the old shotgun hanging on the fireplace mantle and told me to take it down. “I think I see our dinner outside, let me show you how to use that thing,” he says. He then directs me to grab a few shotgun shells out of his gun cabinet and put them in my pocket. We put our jackets on and head out into the corn field. The cutting had been done already, so the stubble from the corn was low, but still about knee high. He instructed me on how to load the gun, press a lever down and release the barrel. I think loaded two shells into position and raised the barrel back into place.
We started walking slowly through the corn field. He asked me to walk to the right hand side of him, because I would be holding the gun with my right hand. He told me to point it toward the ground aiming slightly to the left. He then proceeded to walk in a slow and deliberate motion. “You are going to scare the bird up into the sky, and when he goes he will fly up, low and then head to the right. The bird will always make toward more open field,” he instructed.
Now, do not be startled. Keep your finger off the trigger, and listen for the noise first,” he went on. “When that bird moves it will scare you for just a moment but know this, he is going to head to the right, so you need to sweep your gun in that direction and pull the trigger in the spot that he is going to be,” he predicted to my wide eyed amazement. I was further told not to pull the gun up to my shoulder and aim like I had been taught before. I was bird hunting now, and needed to learn to let the gun do the work. Move slowly to the right pick a spot where you think he will be and pull the trigger. “Sweep to the right and pull,” was the last thing I heard him say before the bird suddenly took off out of the corn field. I jumped a foot in the air I think, but then I remembered, sweep the barrel to the right. I did so, and I really did not aim, I just pulled the trigger. I did not know then, but I do now, that this ammunition was designed with pheasant in mind. A wide buck shot spread pattern, that poor bird really did not a chance. Quite literally a 12 year old, hoisting a heavy gun off the ground and shooting from the hip could not miss. I did not, the bird hit the ground and moments later we were picking the bird up and carrying it out to an old tree stump.
He taught me how to dress the bird, clean it, prepare it for the kitchen. My grandmother finished the rest, and that night we had ourselves a nice little game pheasant for dinner. My sister found a small pellet and with a screwed up face, said, “eww, what’s this?” My grandfather winked at me and said something about the magic pellet in the bird that my sister found. That was my first pheasant hunt.
This memory is seared into my brain. You can imagine for a young boy how impactful that would be. There are many lessons that I grab from this story, one came to mind today. When you are aiming at a target or a goal, it is best to aim at where the target will be not where it is at right now. Good overall advice.