Sunday, November 17, 2019

Dad's Superposed Hunts Again

Several years ago, my dad passed his 1953 Browning Superposed on to me. Unfortunately, the gun was really well used. The stock was broken at the wrist, and there was a chip missing from behind the trigger guard.  The worst part is that it had a small bulge in the bottom barrel near the choke. Some of my friends urged me to leave the gun as it was, and though I strongly considered this, I wanted to put the old Classic to use. I didn't want it to sit broken in the back of the safe, never to be seen again. First, I had to make sure it was safe to shoot. I sent it to a shop in AZ. The guy there put on a secondhand stock and repaired the bulge. When I got it back, I shot clay and hunted sharptail and chukar with it a couple times. On one occasion, shooting clay, a friend pointed out that the action really should be rebuilt.

The gun isn't worth much money, only had sentimental value, so I was in turmoil about what to do. I even considered buying a used Superposed in excellent shape just like it. However, it just wouldn't be the same. I decided to suck it up and send it to the Browning service center to have the action rebuilt whatever the cost. Well, long story short, Browning completely restored it. Dad's old gun came back beautiful beyond belief. It is as good if not better than new.

Some guys would put it in the safe as a keepsake. I strongly feel that this gun, dad's gun, is meant to hunt roosters, so hunt roosters it will.
The same gun completely restored

I had been waiting for a trip to Montana that I had planned to break out Dad's old Superposed and hunt pheasants with it. When circumstances caused my trip to be canceled, I decided to take the gun out pheasant hunting here in Utah. After all, that is what dad did. He hunted Utah pheasants with it for most of his life.

The sound of the truck tires rolling on the gravel road surprised a young rooster that flushed as I pulled up to the property that I had planned to hunt. The bird flew across a plowed field and landed in a ditch bank several hundred yards away as I parked the truck. I strapped GPS collars on Sunnie and Snaps before carefully pulling dad's old gun from the case with gloved hands. I closed the door and cautiously opened the action of the new old shotgun. It was almost intimating to have it in my hands. I was afraid I might scratch it. I remembered that the great John Mosses Browning designed it to use, so I slipped two Browning BXD #5s in the chambers and reverently closed the gun. I heard a quiet angelic ring when the gun locked.

Sunnie and Snaps went right to work in the ditch that the rooster had landed in. The ditch had cottonwood trees and thick tall undergrowth along the length of it. The foliage that had been fed all year by well-timed rains and water from the ditch had grown so tall that I couldn't see over it. This was going to be a problem if a bird flushed out the other side. In most places, I wouldn't be able to see to shoot. The dogs showed no concern about this. They worked the tall cover methodically, and I was pleased to watch my young dog work so well with the accomplished, Sunnie.

Before long, I noticed that Sunnie looked birdy, and then suddenly, Snaps did too. However, before they could figure the old rooster out, he flushed out of range. He cackled, and I saw him only for an instant before he ducked behind the thick trees to disappear forever. I assumed this was the bird that I had seen earlier. "Well, he was no fool," I thought as we continued.

Hunting pheasants in Utah is tough, and I knew that bird might very well be the only rooster we would see. With this in my mind, I pushed on. Only a minute or two went by before the alarm on my GPS went off, indicating that Sunnie was on point across the ditch. I found a place to cross, but before I saw her, a single hen rocketed from the cover from where the GPS said she was standing. I didn't have time to think before my point alarm went off again. This time it was Snaps who had made his way 93 yards down the ditch to find point while I was distracted. I followed the My Tek 2.0 handheld toward Snaps.

Sunnie arrived before I did. Though I couldn't see her in the dense cover, the GPS indicated she was on point. I was sure she was backing as I made my way through the thick brush, trying to get a visual. I wondered how I ever found a dog on point before I had a tracking collar. I saw Sunnie first, but she appeared to be pointing. I moved quietly to my right toward her, Dad's old gun ready in my hands. My mind was full of anticipation and worry. I was wearing leather gloves, and for some reason, this concerned me more than the thick weeds and brush that I couldn't see out of. I seldom wear gloves and never leather gloves, so I was unsure how the trigger would feel. I took another step while adjusting my grip on the gun. Startled, my heart skipped a beat as a Rooster erupted from the cover just inches from my left boot. I only saw it once as it raced through the thick stuff. Instinctively my experience hunting grouse kicked in, and I threw a reflex shot at the bird. At the report of the gun, Snaps jumped. That was the bird he had been pointing. All hell broke loose as I could hear birds flushing and cackling all around me. It was so frustrating because I couldn't see a single one.

I shook my head, "This is why people use flushing dogs for pheasants. If I had been standing outside of the cover, I might have had a chance." Just then, it occurred to me that I had shot and wasn't sure if I hit the bird or not. I yelled, "Dead bird, Fetch!" as I worked my way out of the cover.

I tried to imagine where this bird might have fallen if, by some far fetched chance, my shot had connected. There was so much going against me. I was not comfortable with dad's gun. It is heavier than my other guns and is choked too tight for that kind of shooting. The light of hope faded with each passing moment, and I fully expected the dogs to find nothing. Then I saw the brush stop shaking wear Sunnie had been searching. Could it be? I took a chance that it was my fallen bird.

"Dead Bird, Fetch!" I yelled again. The undergrowth again started shaking, and the rustling weeds were now moving slowly toward me. The foliage parted as Sunnie broke through packing the rooster. "Good Girl! Good Girl, Sunnie!" I said with excitement.

I thought about how many times that has happened to me hunting ruffed grouse. You snap a shot at an escaping bird, and you aren't even sure if you hit it until the dog completes a search. Excitement raced through me as she brought the bird across the ditch and gently set it in my hand. I scratched her head while I praised her, and Snaps came rushing in to join the celebration of teamwork.

As I stood up and placed the bird in my pouch, memories flashed through my mind of my dad shooting pheasants with this gun. I could remember one of his shorthairs pointing a rooster on a ditch-bank much like this one. I could also remember the time he missed. I thought he never missed. I thought about what the gun looked like resting over his shoulder, and the small central Utah towns that we used to visit every fall.

I sent the dogs hunting, and we were off again. All I could think about was all those birds that I couldn't see. That must have been every bird in the area. You just don't find late-season birds in those numbers here that often. I tried to think about the direction they might have flown in and where they might have gone. Over the next several hours, we checked every area I could think of without even raising a hen. This was more normal.

It was getting warm. I took off my long-sleeved shirt and put it in my game bag. I watered the dogs and sat on the hill, considering where to walk next. My hands were sweaty inside the leather gloves, and I was tempted to take them off. I had promised myself I would not get the oils from my hands on this gun, and so I didn't harbor the thought for long. Instead, I stood up and sent the dogs off hunting.

There was one more place I thought of. It was a small isolated cattail slough at the edge of a valley that was just below the hill I was on. It had produced birds for me before, and it was on the way back. I had not dropped off the mountain yet when the dogs arrived at the slough. Sunnie locked up on point immediately. I hurried off the steep slope to get there as fast as I could. Snaps looked birdy too. He had not seen Sunnie yet. When I arrived, she started to look unsure. I didn't stomp around for long before releasing her. Both her and Snaps were dead set that there was a bird there someplace and their excitement escalated. The two dogs worked the scent intelligently and then simultaneously pointed.

"That poor bird is in trouble," I thought. I took two steps, and a very young late-hatch rooster flushed from the point and quartered off to my left. Time stopped as I tracked the young bird with the old Browning. The gun was natural through the swing, and when I pulled the trigger, the young bird crashed to the ground dead. I opened the action releasing the spent shell and aroma of burned powder. I don't remember yelling fetch, but Snaps returned to me with the young bird. I had reached my daily limit of Utah pheasants with dad's old gun. I felt proud of my dogs as I started back fulfilled.

It had been quite a journey to this point, but the gun was in its natural state as a bird gun again. I enjoyed it very much, and I can't wait to take it for a walk again.

See below for a few more pictures of the gun.

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