I am by no means a poor man, but I work for a living. I have a good job and together with Mika our combined incomes allow us to live comfortably. As nice as it would be to have my clothes tailored on Savile Row, and my shotguns custom-designed by Churchill, Cogswell & Harrison and Purdey, I rather contentedly buy my clothes off the rack at Mark’s Work Wearhouse and my shotguns from retailers such as Sail and LeBaron Outdoor Products. My first shotgun was a Savage single shot, 16 gauge, hammerless, with a 2 3/4 chamber, a 28-inch barrel and full choke. It belonged to my father. I have a fleeting memory of the day he purchased it at a gun shop in Baltimore, Maryland in 1965. I was four years old at the time. I remember him talking to the proprietor of the gun shop, then the proprietor wrapping the shotgun in brown paper. My dad paid $49.00 for the gun. My dad enjoyed gunning for cottontail rabbits in the 1960s. He used this gun masterfully on his rabbit hunts he took with my uncle in the countryside outside Kingston, Ontario. When I turned 14, my dad offered me the gun and I happily accepted it.
I shot my first grouse with this gun. It was in Limerick Forest. We were driving along a forest road when a grouse ran in front of us. We stopped, got out and walked into the area we had seen the grouse run. As it happens, there was a covey of grouse and multiple flushes, most unseen. I was getting frustrated, when another grouse flushed, this time it appeared in a gap between clumps of cedars. I mounted the gun and fired, a snap shot, and did not see the grouse fall. My dad asked if it was I who had fired the shot and I said yes. I walked to the gap where I had seen the grouse and there, just beyond, on the ground was my first grouse. I sure was excited. “Dad, I got a grouse… I got a grouse!” I exclaimed. While it was nice my first grouse was taken on the wing, after that most grouse I shot in the next few years were ground swatted.
My next shotgun was a beautiful Browning skeet gun: 12 gauge, over and under, with 2 3/4 inch chambers, 26 inch barrels and choked skeet and skeet. I bought it in a private sale in the summer of 1977 with some of my summer earnings. I got it for $200.00, or as a local hunter and outdoor writer told me when he saw the gun, “you stole this for $200.00.” I shot my first duck and my first woodcock with this gun and it came to be my primary upland gun for many years. Memorable moments in the uplands with this gun include the time I was out with one of my hunting buddies and my first Brittany, Christie, gunning for grouse and woodcock in the Marlborough Forest in the late 1990s. Christie locked up on point and when I walked up to her point a woodcock flushed. I think I was too hasty in making the shot as the woodcock disintegrated like a clay bird on a skeet range when it is powdered. My buddy remembers hearing in the distance (he was sweeping another part of the cover with his Golden Retriever) me saying “oh fudge.” I buried what was left of the woodcock.
It was in 1984 while I was a student at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario that I bought my first pump-action shotgun, a Remington Wingmaster, left-hand, 12 gauge with a 2 3/4 inch chamber, a 28-inch barrel and modified choke. I thought this gun would be good for waterfowling. I cannot say for certain, but I think that gun was cursed. No matter what brand of shotgun shell, shot size, how close the birds were when I shot, I had appalling crippling losses with this gun. So much so, that I mothballed it and took to borrowing my dad’s Aya 12 gauge side-by-side double barrel shotgun with 2 3/4 inch chambers, 28-inch barrels and choked modified and full.
In 1990 I purchased a Lanber Model 95 over and under, with 3 inch chambers, 28-inch barrels and a selection of screw in chokes ranging from cylinder to full. I intended that this would be my waterfowl gun and took the time to pattern it. I found that Winchester Duck and Pheasant cartridges in no. 4 shot yielded patters of 54% at forty yards with the improved cylinder choke and 73% at forty yards with the improved modified choke. This proved to be the choke and cartridge combination I was after as I got clean kills consistently on mallards, ringbills, wood ducks and teal while out duck hunting on the marsh at Rockland Bay in Eastern Ontario. The Lanber also serves as my pheasant gun. The choke combination works just fine with field loads also. In the photograph at the top of the page I am holding the Lanber as I pose with my beloved Juno (my third Brittany who was taken from me by cancer at four years of age) after her first hunt for chukar and pheasant on a hunting preserve I used to visit. Sadly it is out of business these days.
The Lanber continues to see use as a waterfowl gun. I let one of my newer hunting buddies, Nicolas, use it on his first Canada goose hunt in October, 2008. That was one of those magical days where everything came together for a hunt that you will likely never top. The bean field was newly harvested and the migrating Canada geese were newly arrived to the region so they responded to my calling and decoy spread quite readily. How many people can say they limited out on their first Canada goose hunt, bagging five Canada geese with five shots?
In 1995, while I happened to be browsing at LeBaron Outdoor Products, there was a Browning BPS for sale. After handling it and seeing the price was quite reasonable, I bought it on the spot. It is 12 gauge, with a synthetic stock, a 3 inch chamber, 30 inch barrel and Browning screw in chokes. This has become my waterfowl gun, my work horse as I call it and has served me very well over the years. I am a left-handed shooter so the BPS has the advantages of a tang safety and loading and ejecting cartridges from the bottom. I prefer a pump action shotgun for waterfowling, because it can get wet, muddy, frozen and continue to work. I have seen autoloading shotguns break down in dusty bean fields and in very cold weather. My trusty BPS ended up on the bottom of the Castor River in a hunting mishap where I very narrowly escaped drowning. At the time as I was struggling to keep from going under, I decided the gun can be replaced easily enough, but there will only be one of me and let go of it. It was retrieved from the murky depths of the Castor River by a diver later that same day. The BPS was taken to a gunsmith for cleaning and maintenance and I continue to use it to this day.
I have owned two side-by-side double barrel shotguns over the years. The first was my poor man’s gun, a Stevens in 16 gauge, with 2 3/4 in chambers, twin triggers, 28 inch barrels and choked modified and full. I purchased it second hand from a gunsmith for next to nothing in 1995. It was well worn, but had the distinction of being the gun I was carrying when I shot my first grouse over my first Brittany, Christie, on point. It was in the 1996 hunting season in the Larose Forest. Christie locked up on point at the edge of the trail and when I walked up her point two grouse flushed, taking off in opposite directions. I shot at the one that headed left, and thought I had missed, but followed up the shot as I always do to be sure. I quickly found the dead grouse on the ground and at first thought, no, it must be a grouse someone else shot and did not recover, but when I picked it up it was still warm. It was a proud moment for Christie and me. Years later, after Christie had passed away, I donated my poor man’s gun to the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters for use in hunter education. It seemed a fitting way to commemorate Christie.
In 2000 I purchased a beautiful second hand Winchester side-by-side double barrel in 20 gauge, with an English stock, 3 inch chambers, 28 inch barrels and choked improved cylinder and modified. This was the only gun I purchased while the stupid long gun registry was in effect. I remember the inanity of the event, having to tell a voice on the telephone in New Brunswick, my name, address, PAL number, etc. to be given a temporary reference number or some such so that I could possess the shotgun until the registration certificate arrived in the post. This has become my primary upland gun since then. I still use my Browning over and under on occasion, but really like the feel and the light weight of my 20 gauge double. I have my eye on a new 20 gauge over and under for the 2014 season. My hunting buddy Jason is keeping an eye out for one as he actively trades in new and second hand guns. I may not be able to afford a Churchill, Cogswell & Harrison or Purdey shotgun, but I am doing just fine with my Browning, Lanber, Remington, Savage and Winchester shotguns and look forward to many more seasons afield with them.
Posted by Geoffrey