A’ hunting we will go

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When we were about 13, me’n Ross decided it was time to move up in the hunting world. Up ‘til then, we had been just squirrel hunters. We felt we were ready for the big time: bird (quail) hunting.
We had most of the necessary things: Uncle Jeff had a Remington automatic and a sweet little English Setter named June that Ross could use.
I had a choice between Daddy’s old double-barrel shotgun that came unbreeched every time it was shot, or Uncle Kelley’s single-shot 12-gauge. It was less dangerous: only the forearm, the wooden part under the barrel, came loose every time it was shot. We were ready.
We had hunted a day or two without finding anything to shoot at. Enter Clyde the Quail. Clyde was always a little different. He flapped to his own drummer.
When the covey gathered in a little circle each night, Clyde’s beak or tail would always be out of alignment, sticking too far out or not far enough. Or when he tried to whistle, it was not the clear, beautiful sound we used to hear so often. No, instead of a good “Bob White,” his usually came out like “Bob Purple,” or something.
And when the covey flushed when alarmed, most of the birds would wing off in a low trajectory, close to the ground. Not Clyde. He’d go up too high and hover there for a mini-second, like a dad-blamed woodcock. He wouldn’t listen, … and it cost him.
Me’n Ross were going down through the old field of broom sedge when a covey flushed. Birds went in every direction. Ross emptied his automatic. Most of the birds were out of range before I could get my wits together and pull the trigger.
I don’t know what kind of pattern my weapon put out, but it must have been a big one, wide open choke.Anyway, there was Clyde, just hanging up there for that deadly moment; and one of my number 8 pellets caught him just behind the ear. Oh my! June found him and brought him to me. No bird was ever inspected more carefully. Every feather. What a beautiful thing!
A few minutes later, Ross lucked out on a single. Each of us got his very first bird in that old fallow field near Mt. Pisgah. We had entered the elite branch of hunting, bird hunting.
Let me make it clear to animal lovers: we did not go on to decimate huge coveys of quail.
I could count on the fingers of one hand all the birds I ever killed. But, … there was that moment … I’ll never forget.
Uncle Jeff, a really good hunter, was not impressed. “Really wiped ‘em out, did you?
Then he went back to reading his pulp Western, while Aunt Rama fried the birds for us. Delicious. I noticed a Field and Stream and a Sports Afield that I borrowed, and I later brought them my Outdoor Life. I even subscribed to Fur, Fish and Game, really hard-core hunting, fishing sfuff., but I never developed into much of a hunter, even after I got my beautiful 16-gauge pump.
But Clyde, wherever you are, I want you to know that you gave me my most thrilling moment in bird hunting. Thanks.
Bob Sanders is a veteran local radio personality, columnist, author and raconteur of note. He can be reached at bobbypsanders@gmail.com.

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