Lost & Not Found

Lost & Not Found | Shooting Sportsman
Illustration by Gordon Allen

Bird hunters like stuff, and we accumulate lots of it, which is why some things can be forgotten, misplaced or, gulp, lost. For example, I’ve yet to find the sheep’s bell I bought in my grandfather’s natal village in the Swiss Alps. I remember removing the bell from the collar of my setter after a grouse hunt one afternoon, but I have no idea where it walked off to. Or another time an e-collar transmitter must have slipped from my game vest and is probably still in the woods and badly in need of a charge.

Needless to say, losing things can be expensive—especially if the loss involves a double gun. Many years ago, after a rainy-day woodcock hunt in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, I laid my 20-gauge Citori on the dog trailer and drove off without a second thought. Hours later, after bouncing back along the rutted two-track in my pickup, I found the gun in a mud puddle. How lucky can a guy get?

But recently my luck ran out. I was hunting alone, this time with my young shorthair, in the Lower Peninsula about a hundred miles from home. Concerned about arriving late for supper, at the truck I quickly unloaded my favorite gun, a fitted AyA No. 2 28-bore, and changed footwear. Then I put the dog in his kennel, tossed my gloves and jacket atop the gun case and mound of gear on the back-seat floor, and sped off. Imagine my shock later when I discovered that my gun’s slim forearm was missing.

How could this be? Over and over I replayed my mindless actions at the truck, hoping to find a clue, but to no avail. I removed, checked and rechecked every article in the truck, and then scoured the corners, door pockets and possible hiding spots with a flashlight. When those efforts failed, I drove back to the hunting location and, with a metal detector, searched the leaf-strewn access trail and place where I’d parked. The detector beeped only once—over a hidden, crushed beer can.

So I called Fieldsport, Ltd., in Traverse City, where I’d bought the gun 20 years earlier. Owner Bryan Bilinski, who did the fitting and is a friend, tried to make me feel better. “You’re at least the third customer who’s lost the forearm to his custom double,” he said. “The good news is that we can ship your gun back to Spain for an exact match.”

The lesson: Make a mental checklist of your stuff. And don’t rush through it.

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  • I very much enjoyed and empathized with Tom Huggler’s article LOST & NOT FOUND. It really hit home as I recently lost my field gunning bag because of hurrying to get back to work after a morning preserve hunt.

    It wasn’t until I got home to drop my dog off that I realized that I’d left my tailgate down over the entire 2 hour drive. I lost my bag including a Tree Brand bird knife, 20 and 16ga Bore Snakes, bottle of Hoppes #9, gun oil, (3) 20ga choke tubes, hand-made sling for my 16ga Merkel and several boxes of 16ga RST spreader loads…

    As a result, I now too take the extra time to check and store my belongings after a hunt, regardless of my schedule.

    In short, it was a great article that every hunter should read!

    Best regards,

    Bob Secoura
    Wake Forest, NC

  • When Russian game wardens used to catch a poacher, they’d take the fore-end of the culprit’s gun and let them go, telling they could get it back after they pay the fine. Grandpa told me how he once couldn’t resist and killed a duck a day before the opener, and of course the warden came out of nowhere. Grandpa thought “ha, keep it, sucker, I’ll get another one”. Then he asked around… and had to walk back to the game warden’s office, with a receipt in his hand. Oh, the importance of the little things!

  • The luckiest thing I have ever done, I placed my 16ga SLE on the roof of my Suburban, forgot it, and drove home. It was still there 12 miles laters when I stop at my house, not even a scratch, that gun and I have done marvelous things together, we were meant to be.

    Pure dumb luck

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