Two shots or three

Several of my hunting partners shoot semi-autos. I give them endless grief about it. I love Star Wars as much as the next guy (maybe more) but I don’t want to shoot Han’s gun. I’ll take my shotguns with two barrels, two triggers, fixed chokes and a straight stock. I’ll take checkered walnut and blued steel. I’ll take an action that closes like a vault, not one that works like a retractable pen and sounds like a new-fangled rat trap closing on an empty beer can.
And then there was Saturday.


A late season point. The cover was thin and the setter wanted to move, but she waited. The bird got up as I came even with the dog, 30 yards out, with a running start. I knew I needed to be quick, so I rushed it. Missed with the first barrel. I mentally leaned in, squeezed the trigger and saw him start to fall. He spiraled down, long tail streaming as he headed for earth.
And then he righted himself. Started flying again. Gaining altitude. Headed right for me. I looked down. My gun was broken open and the empty hulls were in my right hand. I shoved the hulls into my vest, then frantically grabbed for shells. Dammitt. Why am I wearing gloves? Why can’t I seem to grab the reloads? I clawed them out of the pocket, my eyes still on the bird as he flew over my head hitting top speed and gaining with a tailwind. I finally managed to get shells into the action and close the gun, but it was too late. He was gone. Still flying. Pumping his wings with authority. He headed downwind and down hill. At the very edge of my ability to see him as a black speck against the snow, he landed. Maybe a mile distant. Later, the dog and I would check this spot hoping to find him. But we didn’t. Maybe he was a coyote’s feast later that night. Or maybe he’s still running.
On the slog back to the truck, I reconsidered the semi-auto. Maybe black plastic is attractive after all. Maybe when you really listen, the clanging of an improved rat-trap action is actually melodic. Maybe double barrels are over-rated. Maybe that third shot wouldn’t be so bad after all…

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11 thoughts on “Two shots or three

  1. Gerald Cook

    To-may-toe, to-mah-toe. As a guy who can afford the best black plastic rat trap on the market, I wish I had a hand-me-down double triggered two-barrel with all the right honeycomb on the varnished stock. I also wish half my third shots saved me a mile walk.

    Great story! Thank you for sharing your writing.

  2. Ed

    I here what your saying. I hunt with both. 28 O/U for quail and grouse. But for chukar, well it’s black with three shots…and a sling. Funny thing is I dress different to. With the 28 it’s waxed canvas and maybe a collared shirt. With the auto it’s cordura, Kevlar and gore tex.

  3. Kerry Sprouse

    These are great comments.
    I started 50+ years ago with model 12’s. Not expensive and would shuck shells with a pound of dirt in the chamber. Unlike my Army M-16.
    Then I became an elitest and began shooting the O/U’s. I quickly found they were safer all around. Way more balanced and helpful to a hunting partner, safety again.
    But I also started killing birds one at a time beginning with the first shot, or trying to.

  4. Roger

    I gave up the semi-auto years ago, I like two barrels lying side by side with two triggers and a straight stock. I had the same thing happen a couple of weeks ago but was able to find the bird, and had I not found him he was coyote bait. Not sure if I would have had another shot if it would have made the difference but I like my sxs’s. I’m not an elitist, shoot what you want and what you like. My buddy carries a Mossberg pump from his youth , only hunts a couple weekends a year but he is deadly with that thing. I would put him up against anyone I have ever met. Maybe there is truth to the old adage, beware the man with only one gun!

  5. Robert Jacobs

    I thought I’d always like a nice double, but then realized I’m an American and not some wanna-be British nobleman shooting driven pheasants in a tweed blazer. So I’ll keep my old Express, shoot a hundred rounds a year, and continue irritating all the guys with their fancy doubles that cost more than I make in a week when I beat them in trap setting my box of shells on the ground or pass them with a couple dump pouches full of chukar on my MOLLE belt (*gasp* did he just bring up surplus?).

  6. I borrowed my college roommate’s A5 back in the day. I felt that the hunt for empties in tall CRP was some type of cruel joke.
    But, I won’t lie, there has been a time chukar or Hun hunting that a third shot would have been nice. Maybe even a 4th……..

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