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.