Hunting and fishing

I learned to shoot my father’s bolt action rifle when I was nine years old.

For my thirteenth birthday, I got a Sears single shot 22 rifle.  It had been $14.95 and was on sale for $9.95.

My grandfather loaned me his 410 shotgun.  It, too, was a single shot.

In the winter, I would hunt rabbits and squirrels.  Mom required that any game I shot be pan-ready, so I learned to clean and cut them into proper pieces.

We lived close enough to hunting land that I could walk.  I had to take either the rifle or the shotgun.  Each required a different technique.

That area had both jackrabbits and cottontail rabbits.  It took me some time to learn that only the jackrabbits would run if I walked fast.  I didn’t want jackrabbits.  The cottontail rabbits would stay hidden and let me walk past them.  I learned to walk slowly and not in a straight line, as I had to get within ten feet, or they wouldn’t run.  If they didn’t run, I would never see them.  I always used the 410 shotgun for cottontail rabbits. 

If I was after squirrels, I used the rifle and special ammunition.  They were called CB caps and only contained a cap.  The cartridge contained no gunpowder.  They were very quiet, and the farmer who owned the land never heard gunshots.  The CB caps were also safer as they had a limited range.  I doubt that the bullet would go ¼ mile.  The killing range was less than 50 feet due to being so weak.

Sometimes I would hunt in another area that was a few miles away.  I would carry the rifle or shotgun in one hand and ride my bike with the other hand.  Most of that distance was along city streets.  I would tie the rear legs together and hand it on the handlebars to get home with my game.  People would see me riding with a gun and the game on the handlebars and smile at my success.

They understood that I was a youngster feeding the family.

Imagine riding through a residential neighborhood today with a gun.  Someone would most likely call the police.

A school bus would take us to and from school in Goddard, Kansas.  On the way home, I would hope to see three or four inches of snow.  That was the perfect condition for hunting, as I could track the footprints of the game.

In summer, I would fish.

I lived only a mile from Cowskin Creek, so it was an easy walk.  I learned to set bank lines for catfish.  Each day I would remove any catfish that were pan size or larger and rebate the hooks.

The majority of the lines would be empty of my bait or have a catfish.  Sometimes I would hook a snapping turtle.

I had to carry my 22 revolver in the tackle box because the cottonmouth snakes were everywhere. Typically they would drop off into the water and leave.

A few would hiss and refuse to go away.

One-shot took care of the snake. 

I like snakes, but not poisonous ones.  I was not particularly eager to waste a bullet on anything that we couldn’t eat.

I remember that once I was fishing, and behind me was a dead tree, and all that was left was a fifteen-foot-high stump.  Unknown to me, a screech owl had landed at the top of the stump.  He let out a screech, and I quickly turned and shot it.  I felt horrible as he was earning a living in his natural way. 

That taught me to hesitate and make sure of what I was doing.

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Updated 30 March 2023