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Saturday, November 19, 2011

The 870 lives on

A few weeks ago during a comfortably warm autumn afternoon, the winds were blowing calmly out of the south, the skies were that brilliant shade of October blue, and I was planning on taking my two hooligans out for their first duck hunt together. My son has been going out with me a few times each year since he turned 4, and now that my daughter is 4, she's been eagerly anticipating her turn to get camoed up. With Mama out of town that weekend, the setting was perfect to take out the little ones and Timber for an evening sit along the woodie pond.

Now anytime I'm taking a youngster on a hunt I'm going into it with a certain mindset. The hunt has to be fun, it has to be comfortable, and it has to be on their terms. Meaning I pack lots of snacks (usually consisting of things that they normally don't get to indulge in), I try to only take them during periods of dry and somewhat warmer weather, and when they're showing signs of boredom or want to go, then we wrap up the hunt and head for home. The last thing I want to do is make the kid's hunt a miserable experience so that they find no pleasure in tagging along with dear old Dad.

Excitement filled the truck as we made our way around the back roads discussing  the way we would hunt this particular spot, and reviewing the three rules we have for any shooting or hunting related functions:
Rule #1 - Safety first.
Rule #2 - Listen to Dad.
Rule #3 - Have fun.

Both kids can recite those rules, and we usually refer to them throughout out outdoor adventures. Point is, as long as you abide by rules #1 and #2 then rule #3 is just going to come naturally... most of the time.


We pulled into the field discussing the privilege of being able to hunt on private property, and the importance of being responsible when you were hunting on another person's property. I put the truck in park, opened the gate, pulled through, parked again, and closed the gate behind us before driving down the dirt two track towards the oak tree lined watering hole.

As the front end of the truck cleared the cattails off a little ways to our right, I made a point to ease along until the truck crept slowly to a halt. Surveying the overhanging branches of the oaks I could see splashes coming from the area I suspected the wood ducks would be dining on the floating buffet of acorns. The kids and I discussed a game plan to pull the truck past the pond, parking it behind the block of trees and out of sight from the birds, while I would then try to pull off a stealthy shotgun sneak attack. The kids elected to stay behind and watch from the front, unbuckling from the back booster seats, clamoring across the armrest and into the front of the truck, their eyes glued on me as I slunk down attempting to use the large tree trunks as cover between the feeding frenzy and my approach. Well, despite my best attempt at a ninja like navigation through the block of woods, the ducks had sensed danger and flushed before I could cut the space any closer than forty yards. No shots were fired.

I hustled back to the truck, unloading the unspent rounds of  steel shot from my gun along the way, so that we could finish the drive up to the pond's edge and unload our gear. The kids questioned me about the blown sneak attack as the truck rolled over the two track's final bumpy yards to where we would set up. My only thought was to move as quickly as possible, unload the gear from the bed of the truck, return the truck to the previous parking spot, throw on the waders, set up some decoys, position the kids, paint some faces and prepare for the return of the woodies.

As soon as the truck was in park at the spot we would hunt I cut the engine, instructed the kids to stay put, and began the task of unloading the small amount of gear we decided to bring along today. With everything piled to the right of the tailgate, I grabbed my 870, laid it at about a 45 degree angle against the six slot decoy bag that held and protected my own hand made, custom painted, burlapped decoys. Back in the truck now I fired up the engine, checked the side view mirror as I was backing up, careful not cut the wheel too soon and..... CRRRRRUUUUNNNNCCCCHHH.


No. I didn't just. No. There's no way. No. Putting the truck quickly back in park and jumping out, I immediately rounded the front end as my eyes witnessed the carnage of what happens when you back a full sized Toyota Tundra over the wooden stock of a Remington 870 that was placed perfectly in line with the tire's path of reversal when the wheel was cut a tad bit too soon.



So, here I am, standing in front of my truck with my two children peering out the front wind shield wondering, "what is Dad going to do?" I know they could see the look on my face and read my body language. Neither is saying anything very nice right now. I'm holding the broken remains of the first gun that I had ever bought. The gun that I shot my first deer, duck, goose, pheasant, and rabbit with. I'm furious, speechless, beside myself, yet somehow my thoughts went back to the two little hooligans over my right shoulder with their faces nearly pressed against the glass that safely separated us. How can I turn this into something other than what it was? How can I make this into a teaching moment, rather than losing my mind and exposing my kids to the raging maniac that wants to scream to the skies, kick the ground, and launch into a cursing and cussing tirade right now? Somehow I did.

I set the gun back down on the decoy bag (which now also held two crushed mallard decoys) and returned to the truck.

"What's rule #1" I said as I sat down in the driver's seat.

"Safety" they replied.

"That's right guys. Safety first. Did you see what just happened?"

Not sure what, or how to answer, the kids starred back at me, looking for some sort of guidance. on how proceed from here. "I was in too much of a hurry, and didn't pay attention to what I was doing guys. That made me forget about safety just for a quick second, and you see what happened in that second? I wasn't careful and I broke my gun. It could been much worse. That's what rule #1 is Safety first."

My son was a little too quick to chime in with my wounds still being very fresh, but he did anyway now that he could sense there was no immanent danger, "Yeah, and Mom's probably gonna be really mad when she finds out because guns are probably gonna cost a lot of money if you can't fix that Dad. Do you think you can fix that Dad? And are we still gonna hunt tonight Dad? How can we still hunt if you just broke your gun? You should really be more careful."

We decided to stay for a while. After all, we really had just got there only minutes ago, Dad cooked chicken nuggets, packed chocolate milk, BBQ potato chips, string cheese, and cookies. We might as well make the most of it, smear some camo paint on our faces, and see if some ducks come back around to have their picture taken....


And no worries about the fate of the 870. It lives on with a new stock & forearm. I was fortunate in that only the stock was broken along with the stock screw being slightly bent. The mechanical workings of the pump gun were still in good working order. I was able to order replacement parts through both Cabela's and Remington in order to have the ole 870 as good as new in only a matter of a week or so. Someday I'll be able to hand down that gun I ran over to my son or daughter. That's a memory that they'll be able to look back on and laugh about, but also hopefully learn from.



Unbreakable huh? We'll see about that. 
Good as new... although I'll miss the character of that worn & weathered wood stock.

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