Bourjaily: Aiming for a Cure Journal, 2010

Over the weekend, I did my annual bit as a celebrity in a good cause at Aiming for a Cure. It's a combination preserve hunt and sporting clays shoot benefitting the University of Iowa's Pediatric Oncology ward. My fellow celebrities and I are teamed with hunters who have paid to hunt and shoot with the likes of us. Here are a few field notes from this year:

I did something on Saturday I had never done in over 30 years of hunting: I actually used a barrel selector on an O/U while a bird was in the air. Single selective triggers have always seemed to me completely useless. If you want instant barrel selection, get a gun with two triggers. Otherwise, don't worry about it, just start shooting. There's no time to be fiddling with selectors when a bird is flying away.

That first afternoon a chukar jumped up and I killed it with one shot and opened the gun, ejecting the empty. A pheasant flushed before I could reload. There was still a live shell in the top barrel so I closed the gun, put it on safe, switched the safety from "U" to "O" took it back off safe, and shot the pheasant. By the time I finished all that switching, the bird was way out there, but I scratched it down. Of course, if the gun had two triggers in the first place, I wouldn't have a story to tell, just two dead birds.

The celebrities who give their time to the event are a mix of TV hunters and retired football and baseball players. Allen Treadwell, the young Bass Pro Shops TV host and U.S. Olympic skeet team alternate, smoked the rest of us on the clays course. Looking over the score sheets, I noticed that while the ex-pro athletes were not in Treadwell's league, they can shoot. It makes sense: They have eye- hand coordination far better than the average person's. Most of them can afford to shoot a lot. Serious athletes like to win (I don't mean this in a bad way). They have been playing in games since they were very young and they know how to compete.

Put those four factors together and you have a tough shooter.

Aiming for a Cure was well timed from mystanpoint: Last Tuesday I finally had my blind, dying setter, Ike, put down, two months short of his 14th birthday. Although letting go was easier than I feared it would be, the weekend event helped keep me from feeling sorry for myself. Dog trainer Steve Ries founded the event to give back to the hospital where his young son Ben fought and ultimately died of cancer at age 12. Being around people who have lost a child puts the loss of a dog to old age in perspective mighty quick.

Even so, on the second day one of our two guides opened his dog crate and a 65-pound, big-headed, droopy- lipped setter just like Ike jumped out. Since English setters are about as common as pointing llamas around here, I assumed the dog must be some kind of sign. He hunted with a big grin, the way Ike always did, and like Ike he looked a little goofy compared to the businesslike shorthairs the other guide ran. It was fun to see that white dog hunt, but I watched him with a little lump in my throat.