Sumter outdoors columnist Dan Geddings: Young guns


Some of my earliest hunting memories were of bird dogs and quail hunts with my Dad and brother David. Daddy let me carry a light-weight .22 rifle. It was empty, of course, but he kept a few bullets in his pocket if we needed to shoot at something. It was a real gun. Not a toy or air rifle. I had to walk along, just like everybody else, but I'm sure he kept the pace slow. I was only 5 or 6, and I just had to go when they went hunting. They weren't going to leave me home.

We hunted squirrels and rabbits near home, usually within walking distance. We hunted wood ducks in Sammy Swamp and mallards in Pocotaligo. We made camping trips to Sparkleberry to fish and hunt. There were practically no deer. I saw my first deer track when I was 8 years old. I begged Daddy to take me deer hunting, and he did. We went with Charles Ardis at Pinewood. I remember seeing deer hair on a barbed wire fence. To me, it was proof that deer were real. I had not yet seen one.

My cousin, Wayne Potter, hunted with us some. He had an old Iver Johnson single-barrel 12-gauge shotgun. Wayne is maybe a year or two younger than me. He got his first buck when he was about 12 or 13 years old. We were on a dog drive just off the Old River Road near Richardson's Cemetery. We had walked into the woods along the old Hickory Tree Road. Wayne was on the stand next to me, and I heard him shoot, then he called me. He was excited and pointed out to me where a buck had run up to the road and stopped. He shot, but it looked like the whole load of buckshot had hit a small tree maybe 10 feet from his gun barrel. The deer turned and bounded away, and the dogs followed. Later, when the hunt was over, we got the word that Wayne's buck had been found near the lake. One buckshot had hit him in the foot and one in the head.

When my younger brother Matt came along, he proved to be a natural hunter. We started taking him along when he was 4 or 5 years old. Sometimes I carried him on my shoulders when we walked into the woods to take a stand, on old logging roads. He never complained. It was never too hot or too cold. He just wanted to be there. He got his first buck when he was 8 years old in the old Indian Camp. It was also his biggest ever. A 14-point giant. Matt hunted everything, but turkeys were his favorite game.

My son Clayton is a hunter. When he was little, he wanted to go everywhere I went. If I went hunting, he wanted to go. If I went fishing, he wanted to go. He has a natural love for the outdoors. I started him with a BB gun when he was only 5 or 6. His first shotgun was a 20-gauge automatic. He still has it and will probably pass it along to his son Colin, who is 4 years old. Clayton has hunted deer and turkey and ducks. I remember a hunting trip we took one cold December day when he was about 9 years old. We had been up in Houseboat Slough and returned to Hickory Top Landing about sundown. There was a full moon just coming up. The wind was very cold and whipping out of the north. We stood at the landing and watched flight after flight of mallards fighting the wind just above the treetops, heading up the lake toward the swamp. There were thousands. I told Clayton to try to remember that day, as it would probably not happen when he was older. It hasn't.

My grandson Colin may or may not be a hunter. It is totally up to him. If he wants to go, we'll take him. If he wants to learn, we'll teach him. Like the rest of us, he may someday be a young gun. And I know there are others out there, coming along.

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