Part of your preseason preparations should be to check the magazines of your pump or semiauto shotguns and be sure they are plugged–that is, if you plan to hunt migratory birds (or deer and turkeys in some states) with them. If you make your own plug out of a dowel or a pencil, test it with 2 ¾-inch, 3-inch and, if applicable, 3 ½-inch shells to be sure the tube holds no more and no less than two.

I never take the plugs out of my guns for the very reason that I don’t have to worry about being caught without one. However, an inspection of my new-used Browning Gold showed the previous owner was running it plug-free.

While putting in the new plug I bought, I was again reminded, dramatically, that magazine springs are about three times longer than magazine tubes and they are tightly compressed. Released, they come blasting out of the tube like those springy snakes in fake peanut cans. If you are not ready for them, they fly across the room at great speed, sending the retainer at the top of the tube to who-knows-where. In my case with the Gold, the spring flew into the depths of my hunting boot collection in the closet while the retainer wound up on a high shelf where it would have remained forever had I not happened glance up as I looked around the floor on my hands and knees.

My gun is now plugged and it’s still two weeks until opening day, which puts me far ahead of the man a friend of a friend of mine took hunting a few years ago. They got out of the truck to hunt, uncased their guns, and the man said “Wait, my plug is in. I need to take it out.”

“I wouldn’t do that,” said my friend’s friend.

“I need five shots,” said the man, proceeding to remove his plug.

If you think it’s hard to find a spring and retainer inside the house, try finding one in tall grass. Incredibly enough, after only an hour of searching, they found the parts, put the gun back together and went hunting.

Check your guns for plugs now, and if you have to take the magazine spring retainer out, keep your hand over the tube and the tube pointed toward a clean, well lighted place. This has been a preseason public service announcement.