The Essence of Life

The Essence of Life

Monday, March 19, 2012

How I Got Started in Wing Shooting

Photo by Aluísio

I was raised on a farm in Northern São Paulo state in Brazil and a day in 1976 we moved to town so I could attend school since there were no school buses and the sixteen miles of dirt roads were in many cases impassable during heavy rains.
We continued to come a lot to the farm, for weekends and vacations, but as the years went by, the house built in 1954 started to show signs of age, especially the old wooden windows and particularly the one in the “boys’ bedroom”, and no matter how you tried to close it, there was always some crevice or opening left.
So, it became very common for us to find bats in our room, and that was always a great time to train anti-aircraft artillery. We first closed the door so the grown-ups would not be aware of the intruder, then stuck a pillow into the gap of the window, removed our shoes and started to throw them at the bat.
Needless to say that since shoes do not have proximity fuses or the pattern capabilities of good shotgun shells it took a lot of “rounds” to bring the flying rats down, and after many such battles the ceiling got a lot of permanent marks from the mud and cow dung in our boots.
Next came a CBC 310 (8 mm rim fire) single shot shotgun. Although I shot mostly birds, I used the little gun almost as a carbine, as I stalked my prey as close as I could to make sure that the small charge of No. 12 shot hit its target (the most covered of which was the big white-winged pigeons or Asa Brancas (Paragioenas picazuro)), and that probably would not qualify as wing shooting.
If I remember correctly the first bird that I ever shot on the wing was a quero-quero (Vanellus chilensis) during a July vacation in our farm in Goiás state, central Brazil. As I walked along a two-track in a field the bird started to fly over, probably trying to protect its nest, and when it was floating on the wing I shot it with a 28 gauge side-by-side shotgun. I examined it and found that the quero-quero has spurs on its wings, and then left it behind. The next day I only found some feathers, and felt less bad for having provided a meal for some poor scavenger.
Not until after I got married I shot a couple rounds of trap and some friends allowed me to use their reloading presses to make some proper shells, plastics hulls and wads and 11/8 ounces (32 grams) of 7½ shot. If I remember one thing in particular is that those shells kicked much harder than the calves we had in the corral.
Things really changes when we relocated to Michigan and by accident or fortune we bought our home less than five miles from the Southern Michigan Gun Club outdoors range, and I started shooting skeet and buying new shotguns on a rather regular basis.
From my humble battles with bats, I have now hunted birds on the wing in Brazil, Uruguay, South Africa, Michigan, Indiana, North Dakota and Arkansas, and currently I regularly shoot clay pigeons in Michigan and Italy, but I must say that almost nothing that flies compares to the big white-winged pigeons that come just before sunset to roost in the giant bamboos of a certain farm in a poor country where all hunting is outlawed.
Even with all the opportunities that I currently have, another day I was almost homesick when my mother told me that my nephews had their first encounters with bats at the farm house. Poor kids, their shoes probably do not fly as well or hit as hard as my brother’s orthopedic boots.

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