How I learned to Shoot

Bail out now, if you know what's good for you! For the short version... My dad and Red Ryder taught me almost everything I know about shooting.

My dad brought me into this world hunting, almost literally. He was in the Coast Guard, and spent six to eight weeks at a time gone to sea, so when he came home this is how he spent time with me. Of course I don't remember these trips, but mom said he'd load me up in the car and haul me down to his squirrel hunting spot. The spot was near a farm pond, and he'd shoot squirrels and snapping turtles (we ate both). I suppose that's also why I don't remember the first time hunting, but I remember bits and pieces of early hunts.

I suppose I was 5 or 6 the first time he put held a gun against my shoulder, pointed us downrange (across the ditch), and squeezed my finger against the trigger. That was an old Glenfield .22 semiauto, and that gun still sits in the closet at dad's house.

He ended up stationed in Puerto Rico, and my shooting took a short hiatus for three years. Base housing in San Juan was no place for a youngster to be shooting. When we came back stateside, though, my first Christmas found a bow and a Red Ryder under the tree. We were in the boonies, then, and except for some tutoring and a short safety lecture, I was off...Dan'l Boone never had nothing on me, let me tell you! My bike and my bb gun and miles upon miles of woods and fields... wish more kids could have that kind of raising.

Dad taught me some, but that old Red Ryder taught me more about sharpshooting rudiments than any scoutmaster or DI could dream of. I could shoot quail on the rise, and pop a bullfrog between the eyes before he could jump. There were only a couple of other kids around, and we'd have contests shooting minnows and crawdads in the irrigation ditches. We even had "air raids" on summer evenings, where we'd fight off the swarms of dragonflies descending on the backyard. We didn't know any better, but we were all pretty danged good shots.

It was about that same time that I inherited the "family" gun, a 20 ga. Savage single-shot. Dad started taking me along on dove hunts, although his main purpose was to use me as a bird dog. He also occasionally let me go after squirrels, but he usually beat me to the draw with his .22.

Later, when we'd moved to the suburbs again, my dad and I would set up plastic civil war army men in the back yard, surrounded by intricate earthworks, then proceed to stand on the patio and blow the hell out of one another's army with BB guns. By accident, I was somehow born in New York City (my birth defect), and being the product of an old southern family, this "Yankee" bore the brunt of much teasing...and also always had to play the Union Army soldiers.

I guess I was 11 when I received my own shotgun, a sweet little 20 ga pump. It was stamped Revelation, which I later learned was a Mossberg 500 made for sale by Western Auto. The next year, right after Christmas, I shot my first deer (another LONG I won't go there.)

Shortly afterward, we moved back into the boonies. Instead of the BB gun, I was afield all season with that shotgun. I used it for squirrels, doves, ducks, quail, rabbits, and deer, and it wasn't long before that gun was like a third arm. I don't shoot all that often any more, and my marksmanship tells it. Of course, I'm not a kid anymore either, I suppose, but I know that I owed a good part of my marksmanship to the fact that I could and did head into the woods and shoot any time I felt like it. .. which was danged near all the time.

"Never shoot against a man who only owns one gun."

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