Upland Tales Magazine
Handing Down Our Hunting Heritage, Literally
A father contemplates passing on his prized gunBy: Scott Winston
"A hand-me-down shotgun...symbolizes the torch of our hunting heritage, which when passed on to a younger hunter, has the potential to flicker on forever..."
The moment I announced my grand plan to pass down a vintage double gun or two to each of my children, my two oldest sons Jesse, 19, and Andy, 17, put in their dibs. I currently own four such shotguns that would qualify as very special hand-me-downs with plenty of memories already attached. Two of these were passed on to me from my father and grandmother respectively.
Jesse quickly made an attempt to amend the timeline for my plan, bumping it up considerably, of course. His rationale went something like this: "Dad, I think I should get my pick now rather than later. You know, while you?re still here?so that I can enjoy it with you." Despite the occasional gray hair, I reminded both of them that any bequeathing would be my decision but, if they played their cards right, they would be able to borrow a favorite when we head for the uplands together.
"Besides," I clarified, "there are many stories yet to be written for each of these shotguns. The magic of a hand-me-down is discovered through the memories and lessons it represents."
I hatched this grand hand-me-down plan several autumns ago as I discovered for myself the mystique of carrying the guns my father and grandmother had given to me. When I carried them, it was as though the spirit of my grandmother or my father were right there with me. I imagined the upland adventures they enjoyed with these guns, the hunting partners who admired their graceful lines, the shots spent and the birds bagged. I could contrast the value of their experience with that of my own. This helped me connect at a deeper level with what Aldo Leopold wrote years ago in A Sand County Almanac where he coined the phrase: "The contrast value of the outdoors." Since the essence of the woods, field and prairie don't change much over time, we are able to contrast what went before with what is now.
Bird hunting with a vintage firearm given by a beloved relative only compliments what Leopold proposed as adding depth to our outdoor experience. A hand-me-down shotgun is a heartfelt gift that symbolizes the torch of our hunting heritage, which when passed on to a younger hunter, has the potential to flicker on forever along with the stories and lessons you've shared. I highly recommend this tradition.
Recently, I visited my 94-year-old grandmother and asked about her adventures with the side-by-side Stevens she gave to me. Her eyes lit up with the question. Still sharp between the ears, she took me back into the northern Wisconsin grouse and woodcock coverts around her home, to her many upland memories. She recalled, "My girlfriend and I would hike the old logging roads around Manitowish Waters looking for partridge. There were a lot of birds back then. It was grand adventure, and the boys would always be impressed with our bag." Carrying my grandmother's Stevens on a Wisconsin grouse and woodcock hunt this past fall added an extra measure of contrast value to my experience.
Even though my grandmother?s Stevens and father?s Browning do not hold the dollar value of my newly acquired London-built W.J. Jeffery's, I would not sell those hand-me-downs for the world. I grew up watching my father kill ruffed grouse and woodcock with his Browning. Since then, I have bagged my share of South Dakota roosters with it. Now that I have collected some awesome adventures hunting prairie chicken and sharptail grouse with the Jeffery?s, its value has increased in my mind. While a fine doublegun is beautiful and balanced, its true value lies in the spirit with which it was wielded afield.
I will add my own stories to these guns and pass them on to my sons. My grand plan is to enrich their hunting heritage by sharing my spirit through these fine sporting arms with the hope that, someday, they will do the same.
Winston, who is the principal at Aspen Creek K-8 School, resides in Thornton, Colorado. He is a PF member.
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