Bourjaily: Abandoned O/Us

I walked into my local sporting goods store yesterday to find one of the employees stocking the ammo shelves with slugs. Deer season doesn't open until early December.

"It's crazy," he said. "Pheasant season opens in 10 days. We should be getting ready for that right now, not deer season, but nobody's pheasant hunting this year."

Besides the very sad epidemic of abandoned bird dogs in Iowa (The Gun Nuts reported on this back in April, long before the Chicago Tribune got hold of the story) another consequence of the decline of our pheasants is a glutted market of O/Us and side by sides, both new and used. With our bird populations bottoming out, the same store--which used to hold an Opening Day pancake breakfast for pheasant hunters--has been unable to sell the Browning Cynergies and Citoris they ordered two years ago.

As hunting season arrives the store's used gun rack has filled up with a bunch of neat O/Us and doubles that people have traded or brought in to sell on consignment, including a Winchester 101 like the one I'm holding in this picture (that one happens to be one of the house guns at Winchester's Nilo Farms but they have one just like it).

While our low pheasant numbers are accelerating the trend away from O/Us, I wonder if the space age do-all $1500-plus semiauto hasn't replaced the break action in the minds of a lot of hunters as the gun they aspire to own. Whatever the case, there are lots of used bird guns to choose from out here, but not many birds to shoot them at.