The 2017-2018 season was a special one for me personally.
Not because of some massive number of ducks harvested or exotic places I got to go. Last season had more to do with a person I never met and a gun I had never shot.
My maternal grandfather, Samuel Morris Dodds, passed away before I was born, while my mother was still in high school. He was mainly a rabbit and squirrel hunter but was the proud owner of a 1956 Belgium Browning “Light” A5. The gun had rarely been shot and was mostly a display piece over the years in various gun cabinets. Truly in pristine condition.
The gun had floated back and forth between my mom and her brother who lived in the Dallas area. My Uncle Steve isn’t a hunter but appreciated his father’s gun and likely tied it to some childhood memories.
After years of shuttling the gun around, my mom and uncle decided it was appropriate to pass the it along the family. Uncle Steve’s children don’t hunt and with me being the oldest, I got the initial offer from my mother to take possession of the A5.
I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with it. I felt it was too nice to cart through the rice fields of southern Lonoke County where I typically hunt. I don’t have a gun cabinet for display, just a gun safe out of view in my shop below the house.
Then I had an epiphany that the A5 would be the perfect weapon to take on the various timber hunts to which I get invited. A classic gun for a classic Arkansas green timber hunt. These are typically very “clean” hunts with a short, shallow wade into manicured timber. But the gun wasn’t quite ready for prime time.
Last summer, after receiving the OK from my mom, we had various inner parts restored — since the gun hadn’t been fired in more than 30 years — and converted it into a duck gun.
To allow the shotgun to handle modern-day steel shot, I purchased a mint condition, 26-inch, Japanese-milled, vent rib barrel with an improved cylinder choke. Some of the inner workings were also updated, including new springs and a new plug.
Now, a new plug doesn’t sound too exciting except for what we found when we took the gun apart. Inside the magazine was a No. 2 pencil, cut to length with a twisted bolt cap affixed to each end, serving as the plug for who knows how long. My mother was certain it was some intuitive engineering by her father likely sometime in the 1960s, when she was a schoolgirl.
Eventually it was time to give the weapon a try. Problem is, my timber invites didn’t flow in like usual. Weather, water, ice, schedules and more gave me the impression the A5 would have to wait another season or perhaps debut during dove season.
Then I got a late January invite from my good buddy Matt Jeter to his family’s club, Four Forks, on the west side of Bayou Meto. The spot was in an area I had never hunted but still allowed an easy walk to the hunting hole. I do recall walking in with a bit more caution to avoid getting locked up by an underwater limb and dunking the A5 on its first hunt.
After being shot and called at since late September, the ducks didn’t hit the decoys as is typical. But they were around and hitting 100 yards or so off the hole all around us.
I settled in my spot beneath a small hole in the canopy and a drake made his way through the thick cover, in range of the A5. One shot, one kill. Nothing remarkable, as he was close, but the first shot out of my grandfather’s shotgun was something special.
A quick limit followed. No big wads of ducks, just a lone drake here and there. The thought crossed my mind a time or two that maybe, from up above, my grandfather guided me to that particular spot to shoot a solo limit with his prized shotgun.
Hopefully the timber hunt invites will increase this season and I get more opportunities to run a few shells through the A5. After a 30-year hiatus, my grandfather’s gun is back in action, continuing a legacy spanning generations and multiple types of game.
I just hope he keeps sending me to the right spot.