Uncle Charlie Tales

................stories about upland game birds, bird dogs, and shotguns but mostly about the man who loves all three

How It All Came To Be

Some of you may have wondered how a normally sane person like me could become such a nut when it comes to the subject of bird hunting. I think it’s because of my genes and my associations.

Some of you have even wondered who this Uncle Charlie character is that I write about. I should tell you like he once told me, “Some questions are best left unanswered, to protect the young and the innocent.”

Uncle Charlie is a composite of all the men in my life who contributed to my love of hunting in general and to my passion in particular toward quail hunting and any other feathered fowl that my dogs will point or flush.

Here they are. Family first and then all the friends who meant and still mean so much in the quail covers of my mind.

Uncle Charlie Hogg – Yes there was a real Uncle Charlie. He was my great uncle and he lived in Opelika, Alabama, and was so old when I was little that I don’t remember much about him. I know from talking to my Mom and her brothers that he did hunt quail. The only keepsakes I have from him are two old brass .12 ga. shotgun shells, a hand press and a powder and shot measure that he used to reload shells for his shotgun. I never asked but I think maybe one of my mom’s brothers might have owned Uncle Charlie’s double barreled Parker hammer gun and traded it for a pump gun in the 60’s.

Ernest Wheeler Shaver – My daddy was a bird hunter. Converted from his rabbit hunting ways, he cut two inches off his 16 ga. Lefever and obtained his first bird dog, a little pointer, when I was just a toddler. The puppy’s name was Speck. Daddy would take me hunting and literally carry me in his arms and set me down when the dogs would point. He would shoot the covey rise and then park me under a pine tree and tell me to wait on him while he went and hunted the singles. I would wait and he would eventually return and fill me in on the details. I grew up with Speck and still have a picture of me and him when I was five. At night I slept under the gun rack. The smell of the gun oil from the Lefever and a .22 rifle literally permeated my dreams. I never stood a chance.

Grandpa Shaver – James Pinkney Shaver. He stayed with us every summer after Granny Shaver died and I remember him at age 81 mistaking a fast flying dove for a chicken hawk and dropping it in the garden with my dad’s Lefever. He was a storyteller and I hope I honor his memory by continuing the telling of tall and not so tall tales.

Uncle Charles and Uncle Calvin Hogg – my mother’s brothers. They never married and lived with my grandmother until she died, then kept house together until Uncle Ca passed on in 1987 and then Uncle Charles followed eleven years later. Uncle Charles was the bird hunter on mom’s side of the family. He shot a sawed off .12 ga. Parker hammer gun. Dan was his last real bird dog, so old when I was small that I can hardly picture him now. Uncle Ca was a squirrel hunter and that was about the only kind of hunting he would do. I still remember the squirrel hunts we took by ourselves and especially the family hunts on Thanksgiving day. In later years he bought a deer rifle and I bought him a Bushnell scope for it in New Orleans while I was attending seminary. I’m not sure he ever conformed to the idea or the restrictions of a set deer season.

Uncle Bernard Shaver – My dad’s older brother. He never had any children of his own and we always felt like he was our second dad. After my aunt Minnie died, he began to bird hunt with my dad and they had some adventures in both Alabama and Georgia chasing Mr. Bob. I was privileged to hunt with them several times. Uncle Bernard’s .16 ga. L.C. Smith now rests in my gun safe and sports a new straight English stock.

Hal Gordon – Postmaster of Gabbettville, Georgia, proprietor of the Gabbettville Store, and Timber/Pulpwood contractor. Mr. Hal was a big man and my Sunday School teacher in the Jr. Boys class at the Long Cane Baptist Church. He was also an avid bird hunter. When we moved to Gabbettville, I was twelve, and Mr. Hal constantly borrowed dad’s dogs. That led eventually to a liaison between Man, a great setter stud, owned by a local Doctor and Katy, our former preacher’s bitch, and the result was Frosty and Snuffy, two of the best birddogs I ever had the privilege of hunting over.

Royce M. – My college roommate. Assigned by chance to the same room, we became the best of friends and have hunted Mr. Bob and ruffed grouse and shared stories of our hunting successes and failures for the last forty years. We’ve been known to trade dogs a little bit. Even now as we battle the pains of advancing years we still dream of next season in far away places like Kansas or North Dakota.

Charles Murray – He owned the trailer park in North Carolina where my wife and I moved after getting out of the Army. He was a bird hunter and we became fast friends and hunting buddies. He was already at retirement age and I was only twenty six so we made an odd couple. He couldn’t walk so well and rode a three wheeler and I would tag along behind. He shot a Browning Sweet Sixteen and was the first man I had ever met who could consistently kill three quail on a covey rise. He shared with me his secret that I still cherish and pass along to you today – a wide open choke and # 9 shot.

Robert “Dave” D. – Dave and I never hunted together but once. His wife, Freddie, and my wife, Jackie, worked together and we all four enjoyed each other’s company and would visit them as often as we could. His stories about bird hunting would keep me spellbound. We even did the North Carolina Country Club together one year at a company Christmas party! Talk about a couple of out of place birdhunters!

John L. – John exposed me to the next level of bird hunting. A fertilizer man and a Baptist deacon in Missouri, he took pity on the new preacher with only a flushing dog and took me out several times a season. Being a fertilizer man gave him access to thousands of acres and lots of birds. Believe it or not there were lots of birds in Missouri back then and I thought I had died and gone to heaven. John was and remains a pointer man and with a flourishing business of his own today manages to escape annually to faraway places like Texas to shoot more quail than I’ve ever seen. John just may be the only man I know personally who has killed thousands of quail over pointing dogs. I still treasure his company about once every two years as we revisit some of those old covers together.

Roland H. – Roland was a deacon in my church in the city. He thought nothing of inviting me on a pheasant marathon to North Missouri or Iowa and introduced me to the reality of getting up at 4 a.m. in the morning and driving four hours to be in the field by shooting time, then hunting hard all day and driving four hours back, bone tired. With that kind of inspiration I started doing it on my own every Monday and simply got addicted to the big birds. We were young then, what can I say? If Roland had only started raising bird dogs instead of Black Angus cattle, he might have become famous. His skills however far exceed his bird hunting and dog training prowess and he should have been a writer.

Rick A. – He served on a pulpit search committee in Montana and literally tried to tempt me with all his stories of hunting and fishing in that great state. I played along and even went through my “get thee behind me Satan” routine. To make a long story short, they called me anyway! Big mistake. Georgia and Missouri bird hunter on the loose in Big Sky country! WOW. I checked the regulations. Montana bird season opened on September 1 and ended December 15. And in the middle of all that was sandwiched - antelope, deer, elk and bear seasons. I knew I had died and gone to heaven. Six game bird species and Rick introduced me to them all. I shall be forever grateful. We found that our hunting style pretty much meshed in the field and we were both of the safety school where the cardinal rule is flush first then push the safety and shoot. I just wish we would have owned better dogs. It would have been perfect. But then I would have missed Rick’s rare talent of dog cussin’.

Troy B. – Now at the beginning stages of the closing chapters of my bird hunting life, I find that I have become “Uncle Charlie” to young hunters of whom Troy is a prime example. Like Uncle Charlie, I have the best dogs and I am the best shot. Troy’s got three dogs, young German Shorthair pups with a lot of potential and if they turn out to be great dogs I look forward to “stealing” them while he works. His enthusiasm for going will keep me going and his pups make me want a pup so it’s all working out for the best. Time will only tell if he ever kills a bird on the wing.

Charlie A. - Yes, I know another real Charlie. This one is nine years my senior and can still walk me in the ground. He's had good bird dogs in the past and is also a coonhound man. We get out about twice a year to some places where wild quail still live and have a ball shooting and missing - usually more missing than hitting. We even took a week long trip to North Dakota a couple of years ago with our wives and hunted wild pheasants on public and private land. We had a ball!
If you figure out who he is ask him what he thinks of $250 sandwiches.

* and just so you know - In the late 1970's, I really did find an old timey hardware store in South Mississippi with the tables fixed just like I write about in "Paying Back The IOU". The owner had a fine collection of Parkers under the removable table tops. That day I wound up buying a new Ithaca SKB Model 100 that was out on the common gun rack for $200.

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