Friday, June 30, 2006

Chicken dinner-part 3

by Tom Gaylord

"This is a BB gun. I want you to use it because it makes very little noise, so I won't be distracted while I work. Also, the BB doesn't carry as far as a bullet, so I think you are old enough to be trusted to use it on your own. We don't want any of the farmer's cattle dropping over suddenly from lead poisoning, now do we?"

I don't remember what I said to that. Although I didn't actually own a BB gun, many of my friends did and I had used them enough to know what to do. Besides, my father had already taught me how to use a real gun the year before, so there wasn't much fear that I would do anything unsafe. But then, uncle Don said something that took me by complete surprise.

"If you manage to provide me with a bird dinner at least five nights while we are here, I'll give that gun to you with my thanks." As far as I was concerned, uncle Don had just given away a BB gun.

Then, I got my first lesson in prairie chickens. They don't abound and you could never get close enough to one to shoot it with a BB gun, even if they did. For the next three days I hunted high and low for the elusive birds, and was always disappointed. They are the wariest creatures on God's green earth.

Using your best approach, the closest you can get to a prairie chicken is about 100 feet. That's well beyond the striking distance of any BB gun. They run along the ground just in front of you then flutter a few yards if you try to overtake them. After some trials around camp, I learned that I would have to get within about 25 to 30 feet if I wanted to have a chance of bagging one. I thought my uncle had given me an impossible task.

On the third night at the evening meal, he remarked to me, "See many chickens, today?"

I said that I had, and proceeded to tell him about their discouraging habit of keeping just in front of me.

"What you should do is what the Mandans used to do when they wanted some. They used bows to get theirs, and a bow doesn't have much range, either. So, you know what they learned to do?"

I was all ears at this point. My uncle was gong to tell me how to bag a chicken with a BB gun.

"They used to put grain out for the birds to eat, then they'd hide nearby and shoot them when they came to eat."

What a wonderful idea? Grain as bait. Only, we didn't have any grain with us. Then I thought about the rice we had in a sack. Rice is a grain. Maybe the birds would like rice.



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