There have been other posts on this blog about hunting, mostly about deer hunting. This past weekend Jason went bird hunting here in Cache Valley out near Paradise with some of his friends.
He put a little post on his blog about the experience and as I read it I started to reminisce. I never considered myself to be a great hunter, much less a great bird hunter, but as I reflect back over my life I couldn't help but think of some of my experiences hunting various kinds of birds. Actually, no one in our family owned a shotgun until I was in high school. I had always wanted a gun of my own, but money was tight and so I ended up borrowing a rifle for the deer hunt from one of our Lanark neighbors. Ellis had purchased a gun (a Marlin 30-30 lever action) earlier with a part of his summer wages working in the hay fields in the Bear Lake Bottoms. I was envious, but not very demanding and so I was often left out of the hunt, or at best had to use a borrowed gun. When Ellis went away to college I saved what little money I earned until I had enough to buy a gun of my own. I chose to own a shotgun as my first gun. It couldn't be one of the fancy models, because my savings were meager. I saw a JC Higgins 12 gauge shotgun in the Sears Catalog. It was on sale and when I checked my small reserve of cash I found I had enough to by he gun. Ellis was home for the weekend and so I asked him to go down to the Sears store in Logan when he went back to Utah State the next week and buy the gun for me. He would bring it home to me when he came next time. I could hardly wait. Below is a picture of a new JC Higgins like the one of which I was the proud owner. It was a pump action 12 gauge, nothing fancy, but it worked I was one happy hunter. I remember coming home from school on the bus that fall and before chores or anything else I'd take my gun and a few shells to one of the ponds in the area and see if I could find a duck to shoot at. More often than not I did. My shooting improved and I learned not only to shoot but to clean the ducks and dress them out after I had shot them. There were usually not many and I remember Mom using a few of them for soup and even fried some for me and any other takers on occasion. I don't think duck ever became anyones favorite food. It's probably a good thing, because my success hunting ducks was rather spotty at best.
I still have my trusty JC Higgins, but haven't been hunting with it for years; how sad is that?
I remember, when we were young and growing up on the farm, that in the fall of the year after the barley had been harvested huge flocks of southward migrating ducks would settle in the evenings on the stubble fields where they would glean the residue from the harvested crop. There must have been quite bit left behind because it seemed to attract the migrating ducks by the thousands. I remember trying to sneak up on them while they were feeding and get in some real shooting. Unfortunately, most often the ducks sensed me coming and the whole field seemed to thunder into the sky as they escaped this poor inept hunter, who usually fired futiley into the air. It was fun, nonetheless.
Another vivid memory about duck hunting came years later after I was married and had children. We had moved back to the Bear Lake Valley and were living in Liberty in the old Lyme Hymas house. I remember coming home from school one Autumn afternoon and noticed large numbers of ducks flying in the air above the canal which was located on the hillside above our home. This happened for several days so I decided to check it out. It so happened that Lane Hymas, a neighbor farmer, had been driving a truckload of grain across the wooden bridge crossing the canal just upstream from where we lived. The heavy load broke the timpers in the bridge and the truck tipped sideways into the small canal spilling most of the grain it was carrying. Nobody was hurt and they were soon able to get the truck out of the canal, but not so with the spilled wheat. Needless to say, the ducks found the spilled grain in short order and seemed to spread the word. Hundreds of ducks could be seen alighting in the canal each evening. I determined to take advantage of this unusual situation and after putting on my hipboots went up stream where I entered the canal and waded careful and as quietly as possible toward where I knew the ducks were congregating. The canal was only about five or six feet wide and the water had been mostly turned out of the ditch for the winter. There was still about six inches of water in most places and it was not running very fast at all. I finally could hear the ducks quaking loudly in the canal as they fed on the spilled grain. Quietly, I approached. The ducks were busy feeding and didn't detect me as I approached with my trusty JC Higgins 12 gauge . Suddenly, I rounded a protruding willow bush and there were ducks by the hundreds almost lined up waiting for me to shoot them. Talk about "getting your ducks in a row." Well, that is once I did. I stopped and quietly aimed at the mass of duck feathers congregated in the canal. I pulled the trigger, The entire canal seamed to explode before me as the frightened ducks tried to elude the next two shots. I pumped once and then twice, each time pulling the trigger to get of another shot. I was not aiming at any particular bird and I didn't need to. This was once when flock shooting turned out to be the best way to go. By law shotguns in Idaho had to be limited to just three shots. I didn't like that idea, but after counting the birds left in the ditch or nearby after my assault, I think it was probably for the best, if I had had six shell in the gun, I might have killed fifty birds. As it was, I got about twenty with just three shots. I had to go back to the house and get the car a little closer to my kill before hauling them home. I broke the law, dang, but what was I to do. I only pulled the trigger three times. Oh, well, it was just that once. Since that time I probably have not shot more ducks in the rest of my life than I did that early autumn evening with just three shots.