Hunting & Heritage  |  04/17/2019

A Cast of Characters

By Dan Kalil


“This picture was taken in the fall of 1946 in Williston, North Dakota,” says member Dan Kalil of this snapshot that includes his father Charles (Bud) Kalil, lower right, a senior in high school at the time. “The first pheasant season they were able to hunt was 1943 and they had to go down to Dickinson to find some birds, but by ’46 there were pheasants in the Missouri River bottoms just south of town.”


What a treasure this picture is, and what a cast of characters this was!

Starting in the front row on the lower right, pictured is my uncle Harvey Zine, and his son Dick is next to him. Then it’s Ed George who had a bar and pool hall downtown and later moved out to Sacramento. Next is my uncle Eddy Kalil who ran the family grocery store. The young guy on the end is my father Charles (Bud) Kalil, who would have been a senior in high school at the time.  Back row left is my uncle Joe Zine who ran a service station and next to him is Eddy David who owned a sporting goods store in downtown Sacramento.


This picture was probably taken in the fall of 1946 at 711 3rd Avenue West in Williston, North Dakota. Judging by my dad's age and the fact that some of these guys had served in World War II, this had to be snapped my uncle Wilbur (Bill) Kalil because he's not in the picture. He always carried a Kodak Brownie camera, and he never missed a day of hunting. He was the greatest shot I ever met. 

There were 13 in my dad’s family. He was the youngest. Uncle Bill was the oldest, ran the family farm, and was like a grandfather to me.

They were two families -- his, hers and ours. Eight Kalil kids and 5 Zines, to make the 13. All were first generation in this country. My grandfather homesteaded in North Dakota and had two grocery stores, one here in Williston and one 25 miles to the northwest on the farm near Bonetrail.


The first pheasant season they were able to hunt in was in 1943, but they had to go down to Dickinson to find some birds. By the time this picture was taken there were pheasants in the Missouri River bottoms just south of Williston.

Growing up here in Williston everyone we hunted with carried a Model 12 Winchester in 12-gauge. My first "real" shotgun was a Model 12 with a 32-inch barrel made in 1916. It took me a week to swing that thing around!

My brother David's first shotgun was a Model 12. My friend Billy Owan who farmed next door to us had a Model 12 for his first gun, and his dad carried one also. 

Every year on the Friday evening before opening day of pheasant season we would always go over to Uncle Bill's house and he would take down and clean every one of those Model 12s. He was the only one who knew the trick to putting the ejector spring back in! All these years later those guns are all retired, and most of them in my safe. My 4 boys and I all shoot Winchester 1300's.

Why was the Model 12 “it”? 

Uncle Bill had bought a Winchester Model 11. It looked very much like a Browning A5 but you pumped the barrel to put the first shell in. It had two bad habits. It liked to keep cycling after the first shot and fire every shell in the magazine. And it liked to split the stock right at the wrist. Winchester recalled them and offered to fix them or replace them with a new Model 12. Nearly everyone took a Model 12. They handled so well, and were incredibly smooth and reliable. 

There are two distinct sounds that if you hear them once you never forget: Levering a Model 94 rifle and racking a Model 12 shotgun.


I won life's lottery growing up here in the company of this great cast of characters and surrounded by the North Dakota countryside. I still farm and ranch on the original homestead, and pheasant season is our social season. We have different groups almost every weekend -- nephews, friends, longtime hunting partners -- from all over the country. My permanent hunting partner is the son of Dad's permanent hunting partner.

Quite often I am quoted as saying, "I'm a lousy farmer but one hell of a pheasant hunter!" That’s how I like it. Carrying on the memories of this cast of characters makes me proud.

Dan Kalil is a PF Rooster Booster from Williston, North Dakota.