I was one of 4 airman one cold fall day on the Great Plains of Montana with visions of bagging a number of pheasants. We went down to Recreation Supply and rented four 12 gauge pump shotguns and stopped at a hardware store and bought 4 boxes of shells. We had our licenses and orange vests and were ready. We had a plan... or so we thought. Now contrary to what most people believe, just because you are in the service of our country, doesn't mean you know beans about guns.
I knew a lot, because my dad demanded me practice muzzle control and I got my first 12 gauge at 14 years of age. On one instance a few years earlier, a double barrel shotgun malfunctioned and blasted both shot shells when I closed the breach. My brother Gordon was standing to my right and if I would have carelessly closed the gun without paying attention to where the muzzle was pointed, I would have killed him that day in the woods. It was a real life lesson that to this day comes to mind when I handle a firearm.
The 4 of us piled into my longtime Pineville, La friend Mark Lacroix's car and off we went, driving about 20 miles west of Great Falls. Now out there, you could fire a 7 Mag at a 45 degree angle and it wouldn't hit anything for as far as you could see. That particular rifle has the ability to shoot a bullet about 4.5 miles. There is a reason its called the Great Plains. Let me stress that we did not ride out there with loaded guns. We were driving along and I was in what is called the shotgun position, which means I am not driving, but by the window to the right of the driver and every so often I would spot a covey of quail, or grouse, or partridge hunkered down in the tall grass by the fence row. I would holler to stop and initially we jumped out and loaded the guns.
The straw grass was tall by the fence, but only about a foot tall for as far as the eye could see. We would walk that fence line and not see a single bird, until I was accused of hallucinating. This happened about 10 times before rounding a bend in the road, we looked up a long swell of land and there must have been 30 pheasants spread out. The second we stopped and got out, they ducked into the foot high straw. We spread out about 50 paces each and slowly walked the 300 yards to the top of the hill and never saw or kicked up a single bird.
Now let me tell you something about upland game and pheasants in particular. They will wait until you almost step on them before they jump straight up in the air and fly off like an F-16. I guess it's possible for a skilled hunter to get a second shot, but most of us get one or none before they are out of range. On top of that, they scare the bejeebers out of you by making this bizarre noise. Again let me stress that we worked out a field of fire before we began because hunters shoot each other chasing flying birds.
We went home safe, but without a single bird. There is an excellent explanation for our failure. We did not know the golden rule of upland game hunting. You don't do it without trained hunting dogs. Our well thought-out plan lacked the necessary ingredient to make us successful. Now on the bright side, we did get a very close look at a red fox, which by the way is orange in color. Our venture was doomed to fail and all because we didn't do enough homework.
Isn't this the reason so many things we attempt fail? We just go at them helter skelter, like a dad trying to put together a 142 piece toy and only resorting to the instructions after a frustrating hour or more. Going through life, we encounter many opportunities which if we simply took the time to make a good plan, we could overcome, or successfully complete. So how many times do we have to fail before we get the hint? One plan every person should have is a whole life insurance policy on your kids. It is so cheap, anyone can afford it. This is one plan, you cannot afford to bungle.
As I write this column, I am speaking to myself. How many things could we do anything right the first time, if we would have simply thought it through and developed a plan? The good news is its not too late to begin.