Last Sunday was a perfect day for skeet shooting. Almost. It was acceptably warm for northern Vermont in early spring – 45-50 degrees. Light high clouds meant no glare from the sun. But there was a wind blowing at a steady 46 mph off Lake Champlain, with gusts up to 60. On the cup-is-half-full side of things, the wind gave us a great excuse for missing, as unpredictable clays bounced up and down like popcorn in one of those big movie theatre machines.
I didn’t do too badly, but I can’t say how many I hit out of each round because I didn’t keep score. I was there to give my “go-to” dog training gun a little practice before next week’s first clinic of the dog training season.
The 28-gauge Browning Citori over-under is not at all noteworthy. It has 26-inch barrels, ho-hum wood, barely a squiggle of engraving, and a straight English stock which is never my preference. It was not new when I got it. I don’t know hold old it is, although it’s clearly not “old” in the sense of antique or collectible. I don’t have the case, never saw the manual and don’t know what the barrels are choked for. That information could be gathered by research based on the serial number, but it’s not important. What’s important? This gun and I get along.
A few years ago, the 20-gauge Franchi Veloce I’d taken on a chukar hunting trip in Idaho developed a disturbing problem. When it fired, it opened. Two or three instances of that happening were enough to put the Franchi back in its case until I could send it for repair. The lodge we were staying at had several rental and loaner guns, some of which were on consignment for sale. The Browning 28-gauge seemed to fit, so I gave it a try.
I shot better than I had the whole trip up to that point, and I don’t know why. I never measured the Browning’s length of pull or inquired into its previous ownership. It wasn’t love at first sight (not like when I first laid eyes and hands on my beautiful Caesar Guerini Magnus Light). I even recall making disparaging comments about the English grip which didn’t work easily with the way I like to rest the butt of the gun on my hip while walking. But it shot so darn well, plain and simple, that when my husband Terry offered to buy it for me as an early Christmas present, I said yes before he even finished his sentence.
The Browning has become my dog training gun. From April to September, at NAVHDA clinics or training at home, I shoot pen-raised quail and chukar. Lots of quail and chukar. The gun gets stuffed in the back of my Jeep along with dog crates and water jugs, bird pens and coolers. I often forget to wipe it down after a day of sweaty hands, bug repellent and summertime grit. While I’m not particularly careful or sentimental about the Guerini, for some reason I save it and the Franchi for real hunting and let the Browning be my workhorse, off-season instrument of choice.
I don’t think much about my dog training gun. We just get along. And, for its part, it seems perfectly content out in the hot sun, waiting by the kennels, helping turn young pups into fine hunting dogs.
Nancy Anisfield, an outdoor photographer/writer, sporting dog enthusiast and bird hunter, serves on Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever’s National Board of Directors. She resides in Hinesburg, Vermont.