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Tuesday, April 28. 2015
Coming of shooting and hunting age during WW II and with gas rationing and ammunition shortages, my opportunities to shoot and hunt were limited. During this time period my dad drilled into me gun safety and proper rifle shooting and started me out with his 20 Gauge, shotgun. He was a former Marine and since all Marines are trained as riflemen, teaching me gun handling and safety was a natural for him. I was an eager pupil and it turned out, I became an excellent shot with both a .22 rifle and shotgun.
My first hunts were for doves at my uncle Shelton Gafford’s, ranch outside of Marlin, Falls County, Texas and I soon found out that the doves were not the least bit impressed with my shooting skills! Being allowed to take only wing shots, my dad emphasized not to shoot a sitting bird. My scores were around 1 bird for 10, plus, shots, then, as now, unacceptable to me.
After 2 futile sessions, my dad explained “leads” and shot patterns to me and my scores improved somewhat. I didn’t know then, but now I know that one of the most difficult of game birds to bag are doves, twisting and turning in a moderate wind!
One trip, my dad and I were sitting in the shade of a mesquite tree, by a stock tank and the doves were zipping in and I was missing with regularity. Being 13 or 14, I was boiling with my poor shooting, then my dad explained to me again about follow through and keeping my head down on the gun stock and it “took” this time and my shooting improved dramatically!
We took great care in preparing the birds we shot, picking, singeing off the small feathers, cleaning and thoroughly washing them, the hardest were ducks! My mom would make a fried chicken batter, dip the doves in it and fry them until done, then make gravy with the grease and “fryins” and add mashed potatoes. It was unbeatable!
The many stock tanks on Uncle Shelly’s ranch provided me with an opportunity to “go frogging” and to test my .22 rifle skills. In the evening, with my cousin Dan, we would slowly walk around a tank and shine a light into the edge of the water and up into the weeds and “shine” the frog. The light hypnotized the frog and, pop, with a .22, and if you hit it in the head it didn’t jump into the water, a poor shot and the chances of recovery were minimized.
The best thing about “frogging” was the eating. Skin and clean the legs, roll them in seasoned, corn meal and fry them just like chicken. Add fried onion rings and you have a feast!
All of this started me on my life long hunting quest!
Posted by Jon Bryan in Hunting at 08:05 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
Thursday, October 9. 2014
Having just signed up on a new hunting lease near Millersview, during the last part dove season standing by myself, with my twenty gauge pump, in the shade of a mesquite tree, the sun on my right and a half acre stock tank to my front. The banks of the tank were sandy/gravelly, just right for doves to use.
Arriving at the tank around 4:00 PM, too early for the birds to water, I sat real still and watched the songbirds and, of all things, the deer, eight or ten doe came into the water. There was a lot of shooting that I guessed was about a mile away on a bordering ranch and I was hoping that the birds would come into my tank.
One hour later, here came the doves! Beginning with just a trickle, I knocked down the first two and they both fell right on the tank damn, just in front of me. Picking my shots, being careful not to splash one into the tank, the doves kept falling and I stopped for a minute and counted up. Eleven birds, then I counted my shots, eleven shots. Never having gone straight on a limit of doves, thinking back, I had run over a hundred and fifty straight on clay birds in trap and downed fifteen straight Mearns quail, but not the diving, twisting and turning doves.
Here came number twelve, right at me, and easy head on shot. Covering the bird, for some reason, I raised my head and missed! The dove veered to the right and, pow, my second shot, down it dropped into the tank. Chunking rocks and cow chips at the bird, the "waves" brought it to the bank and then it was in my bag.
Twelve for thirteen, still not bad and the new lease only got better.
Posted by Jon Bryan in Hunting at 07:46 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
Sunday, October 5. 2014
It could be said that the weather in the Phoenix area is always hot and bright. Even if it is cool, the sun is out most of the time and Jake Schorder and I, both of us being good ole' Texas boys, remembered plenty of rain and clouds, and would joke around with each other and say “Ho hum, another beautiful day in paradise.” One day, for me, paradise turned ugly!
In 1972, Bill Randall and I were both managers with a large computer company and both shared the same love for hunting. During the last portion of dove season, we left work early, sales calls you know, and I picked him up in my Bronco and off we went to a spot he had found north of Gilbert, Arizona.
It was a large grain field that had just been harvested. Arizona is strange. It is hot and dry, but if you can get water to a crop, it will grow, and, along its east side a large irrigation canal supplied the water to this field. We up and downed through the canal, thankfully it was dry, and scrambled out of the truck and began our hunt, paying no attention to a large thunderhead southeast of us.
Bill and I were the only ones in the field and were literally “covered up” in birds. We held off of the mourning doves and concentrated on the larger white wing doves. Nearing our limits of birds, we noticed that the thunderhead was moving towards us and causing a small sandstorm. No problem, when it gets close we’ll load up and go.
It got close real quick and the next thing we knew there was a wall of sand coming closer and closer, until it engulfed us. Hurrying to the truck, it started getting darker and by the time we closed the truck doors, it was like night had fallen 4 hours early. As the wind picked up, large drops of rain were smacking into the truck and Bill said, “Jon, we are in trouble. I bet this is a tornado and we got no place for shelter.” I said, “We could lay down in the canal and hope for the best.” And he replied, “Just drive the truck into it.”
We pulled over one of the berms and turned left into the canal and stopped, lightning popping all around, the wind and rain buffeting us and then we heard it. A train bearing down on us, but no tracks around here and we looked at each other and said, “Tornado!”
We could feel the force of the wind shaking us and trying to lift the truck up into the storm, but for some reason, we kept settling back down into the canal. In the darkness, terrifying minutes passed until the big wind and the roaring passed. It remained cloudy, the sky brightening, the wind dropping to an estimated 50 MPH, and the big drops of rain being replaced by a normal shower, and soon, the big storm was breaking up before it ever reached a populated area.
No mention of the tornado on the 10:00 PM news, so I guess Bill and I were the only witnesses. Also, the Chamber of Commerce thinks it is bad for tourism if there is talk of tornadoes in Arizona.
Posted by Jon Bryan in Hunting at 14:13 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
Wednesday, October 1. 2014
The large computer company that I worked for had promoted me to their division headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia and, before that, had sent me to Endicott, New York for further “training”. While in Endicott I had become violently ill with some type of flu, was in bed for 3 days and finally flew back to Phoenix, although I barely remember the flight back.
Back in Phoenix with time on my hands, while my family was visiting in Houston, it dawned on me that dove season will still on. There was one spot, a stock tank just off the intersection of 7th Street and Deer Valley Rd. that we’d never hunted before. Back then in the mid 70’s this was still cattle country and cows need water, hence the stock tank. So I decided quickly that I’d just go out there and try my luck on the mourning dove.
Feeling much better, that afternoon, after the short drive from my house, I arrived at the spot, parked my truck under a big ironwood tree, climbed through the barbwire fence that kept the cows inside and walked the short distance to the stock tank. There were no posted signs, so hunters could use it, since most of the land in Arizona, at that time, was Government land.
At the tank, about a quarter of an acre, I picked a dappled, shady spot under a mesquite, squatted down on my haunches and waited for, I hoped, a good flight of dove. My wait wasn’t long as, from my left, 2 mourners zipped past me, made a circle and landed for a drink. Stepping out of the shadows, the dove sprang up, stretching for altitude, but my 20, gauge pump, barked twice and they crumpled, this was just like shooting doubles at trap!
As the dove came piling in, this was one of those days, I’d used only 11 shots and had bagged 9 birds, one away from my limit. The last dove came loafing by over the tank and my shot dropped it right into the water, using cow chips and sticks, I “chunked” it toward the bank where I waded out and retrieved it. A limit shooting in just a little over an hour and 10 dove with 12 shots!
This was a good spot and I’d have to come back and bring the family, then I remembered that all of us had to be in Atlanta next week, so no coming back to this spot, but I’ll always remember the easy shoot there.
Posted by Jon Bryan in Hunting at 08:05 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
Monday, September 8. 2014
Thinking back, one of the best places that I ever hunted doves was on the St. John’s Indian Reservation, south of Phoenix. In the early 70’s an individual hunting permit was a whopping $5.00 and $10.00 for a family. This allowed the hunters access to some great hunting.
The doves were feeding in a large grain field and then flying into a watering/roosting area in very thick brush. The afternoon sun was to our right and the birds flew south to north, coming out of the field and heading right over us. We usually arrived around 3:30 PM and positioned ourselves in the brush along a fence line and within two hours would generally have our limits.
Incoming, or head on, shots are easy. Track below the bird, cover it with the muzzle, fire and follow through. The bird flies right in to the shot string yielding a clean kill and falls near the shooter. This meant a lot on a hot, Arizona day!
This particular afternoon’s flight was pouring over us, heated barrels banging away, doves falling and the birds kept coming. Here came an easy head on for me, I tracked and fired, puff, a clean hit and the bird rocketed straight for my chest. Holding out my hand, I was going to be real cool and catch this one. But, at the last moment, the dove gained a little lift rising over my outstretched hand and smacked me right between the eyes!
The force of four ounces traveling at, I guessed, 35 MPH, applied right between my eyes, knocked me down. I got up and through my broken shooting glasses, my blood and the dove’s blood, I saw the bird had a broken neck.
The dove got his revenge, but $100.00 later for a new pair of shooting glasses, I was not to be deterred, and soon, the next free afternoon found me back at my favorite spot banging away.
Posted by Jon Bryan in Hunting at 01:05 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
Sunday, June 15. 2014
During the summer of 1971, after I moved to Phoenix, Arizona, it was time to get ready for the opening of dove Season on September 1. At the time, way out north on Scottsdale Road, there was a trap shooting facility, The Shot Yard, and I carted my shooting age family out to hone our skills for the upcoming bird season.
The proprietor of The Shot Yard happened to be from Houston, and when he was in Houston had been a salesman for another large computer company. We had shared several accounts competitively and I had scored some significant wins against him. He changed professions.
We were a motley crew lining up to shoot with the “pros”, but as we prepared for the upcoming season, it soon became clear to me, my, 12 year old, son, Brad, and my former wife that we had stumbled upon a family sport. We were smoking the clay birds with regularity and the misses, became few and far between.
Our first dove season in Arizona was a resounding success, helped along by our trap shooting practice. Randy, age 8 and Suzanne, age 4, served as “fetchers”, but Suzanne could never learn to pull off the downed dove’s head.
Soon after dove season ended, quail season started, and my love affair with Quail hunting reached passionate heights. The first Gambel quail that I shot is mounted and displayed on the gun cabinet on our old ranch house. It has held up remarkedly well with 2, cross country, and 5 in state moves.
I well remember the shot on the first quail, a long one, in the Salt River bottom, west of Phoenix. One feather came fluttering down, the bird kept flying, and plop, fell to the ground with one shot pellet having entered under its right wing and pierced its heart.
Too soon, quail season ended but in early 1972, The Shot Yard’s proprietor, talked us into entering a competitive trap shoot he was holding. For the family’s first go at trap shooting, we did well and quickly became “hooked”.
My first win at a trap tournament was in May of 1972 in Show Low, Arizona where, to determine the winner, I was involved in a four person, “shoot-off”. Feeling nerves, but taking my station on the line, and turning up my concentration, I was able to hit five straight clay pigeons while my opponents fell out, one by one. One added bonus, my mother, Ruth Bryan, was visiting my family in Arizona and she was able to watch this shoot and watch my win in the “shoot-off”.
Being the last man standing meant victory and as a trophy a very nice Nambe Ware salad bowl set, a winner’s check for $200.00 and over $200.00 more for winning the Calcuttta. Since none of the experienced shooters knew me I “bought” myself for $2.00. As the years went by it became extremely difficult for me to purchase myself in the Calcuttas. If another shooter or spectator bought me he would win eighty percent of the pot and me, the shooter, would only get twenty.
By the fall on 1973, Brad and my ex were state champions in their respective classes and I had moved to the number 2 spot in the statewide rankings of handicap shooters. In handicap shooting, the shooters are classed by yardage from 18 to 27 yards, depending on individual skill and past wins. Small purses were paid for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place finishes, but the “big money” was won in the Calcuttas!
What started as a “tune-up” for dove season, had now become an avocation for my family, but again, my day job interfered with it.
Sometimes a good day job can really interfere with your avocation
Posted by Jon Bryan in Shooting at 16:36 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
Tuesday, October 1. 2013
There were worlds of mourning dove coming in to feed on the grain field stubble, in a field, on an Indian reservation in the Phoenix area. This particular reservation allowed hunting in the grain fields, but we had to be careful not to go into the â€œNo Trespassingâ€ areas that were well marked with signs.
My family, Brad, my ex wife and I, were fast into knocking down these twisty fliers, Randy and Suzanne were doing the retrieving and our bird count was rising. This afternoon, we were the only hunters out so we were hunkered down, a hundred yards apart, along an irrigation ditch, now dry. Many of the birds flew over us as they came into the field to feed, providing some easy overhead shots.
We took a break to count up our birds and our tally indicated that we had knocked down 31, five short of our combined limits. Shooting time was just about over so we let Brad, who was an excellent shot with a shotgun and the reigning Arizona, junior state champion trap shooter, finish out the string.
We set to breasting out the dove, leaving both wings on and dusk was settling in by the time we finished. Rinsing our hands, we loaded everything up into the camper, kenneled up the kids and drove off the reservation, we thought. Coming to a cross road, we turned, we thought, the correct way because there werenâ€™t any signs. The next thing we knew, through the dust, here came a pickup barreling toward us, loaded with Indians and as they came closer, we saw they were all armed!
As the truck pulled to head us off, all the Indians were shouting and waving their firearms, we looked to be in deep stuff, but didnâ€™t know of any tribal laws we had broken. One, possibly the headman, yelled over to us, â€œYouâ€™re on private, no trespassing, property and are under arrest! Been hunting, too, weâ€™ll get all of you for shooting after hours?â€ This really looked serious now.
The year before, we had a run in with an Apache Policeman, he confiscated our .22 pistols and was going to ticket us for carrying firearms on the reservation, until he calmed down some and I told him that I was friends with the Tribal Chairman and named him. He relented, but told us â€œFriends with the Tribal Chairman or not, if he caught us on reservation with loaded firearms again, we be in big trouble!â€ Luckily, we never saw this policeman again!
Back to our immediate plight, the Indians were really heating up and I started fearing for my family. My ex had the, formerly confiscated, .22 pistol on her hip and she slipped it over to me, one pistol, 6 shots against a truck full, bad odds, before another Little Big Horn, I thought, Iâ€™ve got to get the headman talking. Telling him we thought we were headed out toward Baseline Road, he settled down a little and told us we took the wrong turn and were heading deeper into the reservation. He added, â€œOver the past weeks, weâ€™ve had an increase in grave robberies, but to me, it looks like you just took the wrong turn.â€ The occupants in the truck were still yelling until he told them to be quiet and told us, â€œJust turn around and weâ€™ll follow you out.â€
Grave robberies meant that folks were sneaking on to the reservation, not robbing the graves of recently buried people, but rooting around in the desert trying to find graves hundreds, up to a thousand years old. This definitely wasnâ€™t part of our program!
This was to close a call, so during our remaining years in Phoenix, we never went back to that reservation. That truck full of Indians really scared us off!
Posted by Jon Bryan in Hunting at 08:47 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
Saturday, September 21. 2013
Having been away from the writing board this past week, it hasnâ€™t been any fun, it started out Saturday the right way with a dove hunt with Randy, we got 5 birds, but all white wings! Feeling yucky the whole time, the doc finally diagnosed my malady, I was given some pills, told to take them, not to miss one then I would be fine. The wonders of medical science, obviously!
Fall came in with a roar! A 2.5 inch rain storm, a 15 MPH north wind, along with mud, which we hadnâ€™t had any to speak of in over 6 months, now everything is muddy and slick! But, being in drought conditions, weâ€™ll take the mud.
Last night was Goldthwaiteâ€™s homecoming and Mikayla showed her colors in a big way. She won the football beau title and to top that off, she won Homecoming Queen, not a bad night. The football team didnâ€™t win though.
Posted by Jon Bryan in Random Thoughts at 10:44 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
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