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