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!