The Greatest Shot I Ever Saw


I couldn’t have been older than seven. I was decked out in Wrangler jeans, a white T-shirt and cowboy boots and sporting a fresh buzz haircut — my uniform when shipped up to Grandma and Paps for the start of summer vacation. My uncles, Gary and Jerry, wore the same, minus the cowboy boots. That was my stylish addition. They wore lace-up barn boots, the last four eyelets being silver quick lace type.

During the week, I’d pal around with my uncles, trying to do as much work as possible, mimicking them, so I could be like them. They worked on my Pap’s dairy farm. The work was hard, but I always enjoyed going up for the week. I loved the farm; It was the greatest playground imaginable for a suburbanite kid. I gained a lot of independence on the farm, roaming the fields and exploring by myself. If the barn was in sight, I knew how to make it back.

While my uncles milked the cows, I’d clean the aisles by scrapping cow manure into the gutters with a large scrapper. It was a never-ending job, as cow manure is a renewable resource. After the chore of milking the cows was over, we had supper. After supper, as the sun dropped and the heat of day cooled, we usually went groundhog hunting. The farm .22, a Remington Sportsman scoped bolt-action rifle was kept behind the milking parlor door. It was the remedy for rats, groundhogs, sparrows and pigeons that made it into the barn.

The Shot

One summer afternoon, with the sun high in the sky, we had just finished roaming the fields for whistle pigs when we spotted a pigeon on top of the silo. He was perched on top of the lightening rod. I asked my uncle Jerry if he thought he could hit it — way up there? With head cocked and one eye closed, he studied the situation, saying he could. The feathered fiend seemed awful far to my young eyes.

We were across the road from the silo by the tool shed. Next to the shed was the farm gas pump. Wiping the scope lenses with his T-shirt, he sat the gun across the pump for an impromptu benchrest. For what seemed like several minutes, Jerry took aim. Finally, the crack of the .22 rifle broke the silence. The pigeon exploded in a puff of feathers, dropping from the silo.

The Recovery

Running across the road to retrieve the dirty bird, I was just as eager as any four-legged retriever. I couldn’t find the bird but quickly found blood. Following the trail, I found him in the milking parlor. I learned a lot from that incident. Use a rest when possible, take your time for the shot, and just because you hit it, doesn’t mean it’s dead right there. The barn cats feasted on the plump pooper for a hearty afternoon meal.

My Turn

Knowing my Uncle Jerry was the best shot and hunter in the world now, it didn’t take much to convince him to go on an evening groundhog hunt. This “city slicker” — my given nickname from my uncles — was greener than the alfalfa fields we were hunting. Jerry lugged the .22 rifle as we walked the fields. Every now and then Jerry would stop and do a low whistle to entice any groundhogs to “pop” their heads above the alfalfa.

It didn’t take long. Jerry pointed out a whistle pig perched on his hind legs, head above the alfalfa. He handed me the rifle and told me to shoot it. This was a huge test! My seven-year-old arms could barely hold the rifle, but I wasn’t going to blow my chance. I’d seen what Jerry could do, now it was my turn.

Finding the groundhogs head in the scope was easy. Keeping his head centered in the crosshairs was tough. I learned about wobble firsthand. Remembering how long it took Jerry to shoot the pigeon, I took my time. My breathing miraculously slowed, as the crosshairs settled. I started a slow trigger press. The crack of the .22 surprised me as I felt a slap on my back. My body started shaking as I felt my first adrenalin dump as Jerry shouted, “You got him!”

An impish smile crossed my face as Jerry and I walked to the groundhog. My shot hit him between the eyes, right where I was aiming. That one shot may have defined who I am today. It sure felt good making it in front of my uncle as I joined the ranks of being a hunter. On my 8th birthday, I got my own .22 rifle from my parents. For years I continued roaming those very fields hunting groundhogs on my own. It sure felt good.

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