By Kevin Tate/Outdoors Writer
My camo T-shirt and pants were laid out next to my boots, belt, shell pouch and socks. The borrowed Remington Model 1100 20 gauge was in its soft case standing in the corner, a brand new flat of shells resting by the stock. I’d already checked many times to make sure the magazine plug was in place.
My alarm clock’s setting had been rechecked many times as well.
Outside in my Dad’s truck was the black bucket I’d use as combination seat, shell carrier and game bag. Inside I lay in bed, unable to sleep. The next day was the first Saturday in September and our dove field was ready to go.
The same way little boys and girls look forward to Christmas morning, I looked forward to the first day of dove season when I was not quite into my teens.
To some extent, that same excitement is still there, still something I look forward to with anticipation of new memories yet to be made.
This past Saturday afternoon, nearly 30 years after I first carried a shotgun afield, I sat on a folding stool and watched for doves on the horizon, doves cresting the tree line, doves swinging across behind me as I focused too intently the other way. Whether the birds fly in torrents and waves or arrive as barely a trickle, the same excitement that 11-year-old knew still lies close to my heart. I enjoy remembering the good shots, ignoring the bad and preparing the resulting harvest for the frying pan or the grill.
The shotgun I carry now is still borrowed. Though I could buy my own, and though its owner may prefer I did, I still like this one, partly because I’m not the first borrower to carry it afield.
My Grandaddy, one of the original Old Men, used it for years. It was in his gun cabinet in the fall of 1981 when it burned up in a house fire that claimed lots of memories but, thankfully, no lives. A master gunsmith in New Orleans replaced the springs, re-blued the steel, recreated the wood. After it returned Grandaddy continued to use it, feeding it countless purple high-brass loads in 16 gauge. He shot doves with it, remembered quail shot with it, kept squirrels out of his pecans with it.
Besides, there’s something about the way it fits me that’s just right. Jack O’Connor, Mr. .270, was a 16 gauge fan himself. He said the 16 carried like a 20 and hit like a 12 and, for me, that much seems to be true.
More than mere physics, though, the gun is the totem of many memories. Configured for dove it holds three shells, but sometimes it feels like there’s always one more in the magazine for those who’ve left it behind.
Kevin Tate is V.P. of Mossy Oak Productions in West Point.