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Inside the Culture

    The Greatest Hunting Stories Ever Told: Firin' Byron Bags His Bird

    by Jeff Johnston
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    We used to take Byron out and I must say he was a damn good shot. I would not describe him as a fine shot, because fine shots usually discriminate between hens and drakes, the technical seconds surrounding daylight and dusk and they generally only take sporting shots. Byron just killed everything dead. We made sure he abided by the law, but he was not accustomed to hunting for sport, and thus I got the impression he would have shot every time until he ran out of shells had it not been for us. I will say, as justification though, that he ate with hearty appetite everything we killed. I would even bring him my squirrels for his consumption which was fine by me. So maybe his hunger dictated his proficiency at wingshooting.

    It is annoying, however, to hunt with a good shot who reinforces it verbally. Everyone in the blind is aware of who is bagging the birds. The modest shooter always gets his appreciation for his shooting and for his modesty at the end of the day. For Byron though, it was only the former.

    One overcast December day we were at Charlie’s watershed and we were killing a few ducks. It was one of those drab rainy days where a lone duck or two would come in high every 20 minutes or so, just steadily enough to invite conversation and coffee between birds and combat the cold that creeps into stagnant toes. It was back in the days of the 100 point bag limit system, that meant that each hunter could legally shoot 100 points worth of ducks. Ringnecks were 10, mallard drakes were 30 along with various other drakes, wood ducks were 50, and mallard hens, in an attempt to kept hunters from shooting them, were worth 100 points each. Once you reached 100, you were mandated by the federal government to case your shotgun because you were done. The day before Byron had been whacking them, and as usual he was claiming ducks as they fell. I’m sure they were mostly his, but sometimes when two people shoot at the same bird at the same time, it is impossible to tell whose pellet actually administered the fatal blow-- nor does it matter. But Byron seemed to shoot by the slogan “If it falls, it’s mine!”

    Those in the blind were growing increasingly annoyed at this uncouth behavior from a grown man. The friendly confines of a duck blind leave no room for braggarts. But we endured, because birds were still flying. I just didn’t know that Dad had a trick up his sleeve.

    We saw the single coming in, high and fast, checking the spread. When the bird dipped into the extremity of range at 10 o’clock, Dad made the call.

    “Take it!” said Dad, and Byron took the bait. Six or eight shots later, I am embarrassed to say, the bird hit the thick grass of the bank with a finishing thud.

    “I got that bird!” said Byron, predictably.

    “Dammit, Byron,” retorted my Dad, visibly irritated and throwing whispers to the wind. “How in the hell do you know you killed that bird when four of us were shooting at it?”

    “Oh, I know I got him. Yes sir, I knocked the feathers out of him then I saw him fall. I was right on him.”

    Dad just looked at Byron, nodding his head in the affirmative as if he did not doubt him. But Dad insisted that instead of leaving the bird to pick up after the hunt as we normally did, we should pick it up now to get a tally on points.

    As we neared the spot where the duck was marked, Dad turned to Bryon.

    “Are you sure this duck is yours?” he asked.

    “Oh yea, I’m positive I got him, yes sir.” Byron assured.

    “Ok, Byron,” said Dad as he handed him the mallard hen. “Nice shooting. You’re done for the day.”

    And Byron kept his mouth shut for the rest of the day and generally for sometime thereafter.


    About the Author:

    A native Oklahoman with a degree in Journalism from OU, Jeff Johnston is a professional freelance outdoor writer who has penned hundreds of articles in American Hunter, American Rifleman, Field and Stream, Outdoor Life, Petersen's Hunting and many more. Johnston is an NRA Certified Shotgun, Rifle and Handgun instructor and an NRA Distinguished Expert shooter; He's a lifelong Bowhunter; a three-gun competitor, and he's taken two Boone and Crockett bucks, several Pope and Young whitetails and one rare, masked fox squirrel from Georgia of which he’s particularly proud. Foremost, Johnston is a conservationist and a champion of American freedom. "Without the Second Amendment," he says, “all our rights are endangered." Follow Jeff on Instagram @windswept_jeff.

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