For an outdoor minded kid, our duck camp was a favorite place to be, particularly in the fall when it was gunning season. But there was more to it than that. The long narrow lane in was a good place to start teaching a youngster to drive a car -- that's when I was first allowed behind the wheel. In the summer there were fishing and swimming to be done and boat handling was learned by accident. The sandy river-bottom soil was home to a great watermelon patch, and the surrounding hardwoods were meant for exploring. Fox and raccoons to be seen; muskrats and mink and turtles and frogs along the river. A boy with a handful of traps could get some fine nature lessons. Still, those autumn flights of waterfowl remained the year’s foremost attraction.
Dad used his old Remington Sportsman 16-gauge and knocked ducks from the air with little apparent effort. It was his gun and he knew how to use it. Being a youngster short on knowledge and experience, and unaware of what I was being taught, I assumed my shooting failures were attributed to being outgunned. So occasionally Dad would shoot with his beautiful little pump-action .410 just to show me it could be done, because in those early years I was using a .410 and not hurting the duck population much. Back in those days before non-toxic shot regulations a good man could wield that little sub-gauge effectively. Yet, as I grew older, I figured I’d pile ‘em up if only I had a 12 gauge.
When I hit my teens I found some ways to earn a little money with various jobs and fur trapping and before long I’d saved enough to buy a used 12-gauge pump-action shotgun. I figured I was in high heaven then, while Dad stood beside me in the marsh and continued to wipe my eye with the old 16.
I took that old Remington Sportsman out the other day just to have a look. It had been sitting, unused, since the mid 1970’s when Dad put it away for the new Browning I gave him one Christmas. And, oh, how he shot that Browning till the end of his shooting days! I decided the old Remington deserved a workout at the gun club, but first I had to do something about the ill-fitted, deteriorating recoil pad. I’ve refinished a few gunstocks and had a few used pads laying around, so I was happy to find one that looked like it would work. After I removed the old rubber pad, I found a slip of yellowed, brittle paper inside the hollow of the stock. On that paper was written my grandfather’s name, address, and the date: 7 Sept. 1940. That gun was not only my father’s, but my grandfather’s before him and the sentimental cool factor sudden raised by 100%.
The fixed full choke barrel was the norm for waterfowl before non-toxic shot became required, but it’s not very conducive to high scores on the skeet range. I was happy to hit more than I missed and am now pondering having the choke opened for a more useable grouse and woodcock gun. I can’t imagine how much game was brought to ground with the old shotgun and I’ll never match it, but perhaps I can add a bit of my own history gunning with it.