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Hunting hatless

Plopped on the earth adjacent to my hunting camp in Blue Ridge is a huge stone that for generations has acted as a backstop for our shooting range. Oh, I know what youre thinking shooting at a stone equals ricochet equals danger. Cant say as that thought didnt go through my head the first few times I pulled the trigger there. But the Gereau clan has been tossing lead at that rock for generations. So long, in fact, that deep tunnels have been bored behind each target. They act as the perfect trap for stopping speeding bullets. Ive heard stories of city folk using the rock to sight their fancy shooters before heading off to hunt deer with my great grandfather. Once a landmark guide in the region, my great granddad was known to be a dead-eye shot. He filed the front site from the barrel of his old 30 Winchester and would point shoot down the barrel, shouldering the rifle and pulling the trigger in nearly the same breath. Hed often show up the city slickers, whod pull new shiny scoped rifles from lavish cases and bet money on who could get closest to the bull. That the best you can do hed chuckle down at the seated shooter. Then, before the cloud of gunpowder could dissipate, hed shoulder the tattered Winchester, and drive a tack off-hand. Like taking candy from a baby, hed say, gathering up his winnings. Shooting at that rock for cash became a long standing tradition at the camp, with few outsiders lucky enough to outshoot us on our home turf. I remember one frosty November night when my old man wheeled into camp with a teacher pal of his named Ron. Ron had just laid out $800 of his hard earned cash on a posh bolt action Weatherby and was just itching to make some of it back on the rock. Who wants to lose some money, he barked, fumbling the Walnut-stocked Weatherby from the rack. Bring it on, my Uncle Ed replied, gripping his little 44 Rugar and heading for the door. I could put five in the bull before you could get one. Ten minutes later Ed sat back down, his pocket stuffed with Rons money. Ron was still fuming the next day as we exited the forest from the days hunt. He just couldnt let it go, and bet Ed $20 he could hit a hat from the air with the Weatherby. Ok, toss me your hat, Ed said. Rons brand new LL Bean hat came off and was handed over. Here you go, Ed said, tossing the hat in the air. Ron shouldered the Weatherby and it barked. Before he could work the action and fire again the hat fluttered to the ground, untouched. Never one to let sleeping dogs lie Ed quickly bet Ron double-or-nothing that he could not only hit the hat in mid-air, but with all five bullets his little semi-automatic carried. Youre on, Ron said confidently and tossed the hat skyward. Ed stood for a second as the hat hung in the air, then sprinted like a cat underneath it, catching it perfectly on the end of the barrel. POW, POW, POW, POW, POW, Eds gun roared with each pull of the trigger and Rons hat exploded into thousands of tiny fragments. I laughed until my sides hurt and Ron hunted the next day with $40 less in his pocket and no hat on his head. John Gereau is managing editor of Denton Publications and an avid outdoorsman. He can be reached at johng@denpubs.com.

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