A new experience in Northern Michigan
This weekend my wife and I came to Traverse City, Northern Michigan Lower Peninsula, to enjoy the fall colors, relax and pick-up two shotguns that Del Whitman (www.dcwhitmangunsmithing.com) was working on for me.
Although the weather was less than great (and that is being positive), we had fantastical views during the almost three-hour drive, with all tones of auburn, yellow, copper, orange and red blasting out of the landscape, with patches of ever greens trespassing here and there.
My wife and I first came to Traverse City during the US Labor Day weekend (first Monday of September) and we fell in love with the place. We needed vacations and wanted to spend a lot of time together doing “nothing at all”, but I used the opportunity to meet Del, who was recommended by my friend Tony South, and drop the two shotguns that needed work.
One of the shotguns is a little Beretta 28 gauge side-by-side box lock that my mother bought in 1969 to my dad as a wedding gift. The well balanced gun was probably made in the late 1950’s, and although mechanically solid, the old lady needed some “make-up”.
While discussing the project with Del – lengthening the chambers to 2 ¾” (70 mm), rebluing the barrels and all furniture, refinishing and re-checkering the stock and fore end – we talked a bit or a lot about bird hunting, especially grouse and woodcock, and we made plans to hunt together sometime in October, when I could be back “up North”.
Yesterday morning I met Del at his place and I was nothing but delighted with his work. The little Beretta was gorgeous, the bluing perfect and the checkering sharp. The overall fit and finish just perfect. But guns were born to be used, and even if this is the most valuable gun that I own I could not deny its destiny.
While I put on my boots and brush pants, Del loaded his German short-hair, Gina and Zap, in his car, and we took off towards some of the fantastic public hunting land that is so overwhelmingly present in Michigan, especially its Northern portions.
Gina went on point very close to car and Del directed me to flush the woodcock that was holding under an evergreen pine, and as it flushed I killed, or at least severely injured, a tree! I just can figure how that branch moved in to cover the woodcock flight path.
We continued to brave the woods, and that was a challenge for me, as I am used to hunt open uplands, especially the Uruguayan pampas, and I missed a couple more flushes and then Del got a bird with a beautiful shot from his Browning over-under 28 gauge.
And then Gina went on point again and as we walked in a woodcock flushed and he fell to left barrel of my little Beretta. What a beautiful bird is the Scolopax minor. Although smaller than the Beccaccia (Scolopax rusticola) – la regina del bosco – I held in my hand in Italy, it had the same inebriating perfume. It was also very similar to the South American Narceja (Gallinago paraguaiae) that I once hunted in Uruguay, although it inhabits much open grounds than its Northern hemisphere relatives.
We continued hunting and Del bagged two more woodcock, one over Gina and the other over Zap.
A memorable, if bitter-sweet, moment happened when Gina flushed a Ruffed Grouse (Bonasa umbellus) and Del had the rare and perfect crossing shot, only to face a misfire due to a bad shell. It was the first time I heard their peculiar drumming, and that created another pleasant memory.
Despite my poor shooting I hope to be able to hunt the Michigan Northern woods again, and I hope that Del, and especially Gina and Zap, won’t mind if I come back.
And today I hope that Zezé will let me taste at least one of wines from Old Mission Peninsula.