By Tom Huggler
Several readers have wondered if my son Daniel ever bagged his first gamebird with the gun I used as a kid more than 60 years ago. I wrote about Daniel, now 14, and the Stevens 20-gauge in September/October 2017 and mentioned how the gun had initiated other youngsters—another son, a nephew and two grand-nephews—to the joys of upland hunting. With Daniel having aced the hunter safety course, has he kept alive the family tradition?
Well, yes . . . and, no. First, let me tell you about the magic in that little single-shot smoothbore.
On a Sunday morning in September during Michigan’s special youth deer hunt, Daniel loaded the Stevens with a slug and we sat back-to-back watching a deer trail on our wooded property. Daniel was hoping to tag one of the fat neighborhood does we had been seeing all summer. Imagine the boy’s surprise when a buck came toward him on the trail. At 30 yards the buck slipped behind a tree, giving Daniel time to bring the gun to his knee and steady his aim. When the five-pointer stuck out his head and neck, Daniel made a perfect killing shot—and celebrated his 12th birthday a week early.
Daniel’s skill with the Stevens reminded me of the day more than 40 years earlier when his half-brother (also 12 at the time) used the gun to kill a drake green-winged teal after I had missed it three times with a new 12-gauge autoloader. I’ll never forget the humility or the happiness of being outgunned by my own kid.
But back to Daniel . . . . In the fall of 2017 I took him hunting for wild pheasants. We tramped the fields for hours, but another hunter in our group killed the only ringneck that flushed close enough for Daniel to shoot. Then on a youth hunt for preserve pheasants, Daniel held his fire while birds flew beyond range. Besides showing courtesy to the other kids, his hesitation likely was due to the “safety first” mantra drummed into him during class.
So Daniel has yet to shoot a bird on the wing. During a recent preserve hunt involving just the two of us, he asked if he could ground-sluice a chukar. Because my setter was off in another direction, I said, “OK. Do it once—like I did—and get it out of your system.”
But when it comes to wingshooting, Daniel has yet to beat the old man. Want to bet he will?