A recent e-mail from “Dearnorth” with whom I correspond about grouse hunting and bird dogs, reminded me why I don’t like trigger locks. He was playing a gig in another town, and thought he would bring a gun so he could steal some time to slip out and grouse hunt. He pulled the gun from its case to find a trigger lock attached and the key back home. So his hunt was not for grouse, but for a locksmith in the small town who could free his gun. He didn’t find one.

That brought to mind the story of another friend who drove from Chicago to central Iowa (about 5-6 hours) to hunt on his father-in-law’s farm only to arrive and discover that … the trigger lock was on the gun and the key was in Chicago.

Scattered as I often am on my way to the field, trigger locks would defeat me time after time.

This year I did both of my friends one better. I left my gun at home. This was a first for me. I have seen it done, but have never forgotten my own gun. Usually I bring two. Not that morning. I had invited my friend Bubba the Hunter duck hunting, and upon looking in the back of my jeep realized I had brought everything (blinds, goose decoys, duck decoys, Mojo, Mojo pole, waders and deer cart to haul it all in with) but left my gun at home.

BTH said he would wait for me to go home and get it, or that he could start setting up while I ran back – it’s only about 15 minutes.

“Let me help you get set up,” I said. “Otherwise you might not be ready at shooting time.” We hauled the stuff in and got everything ready to go. BTH settled into his blind and I took off for my car. It’s a short drive, and I missed only the first half hour. In that time, however, BTH killed a perfect drake pintail and a pair of mallards. The pintail arrived at the stroke of legal shooting time and the mallards came not long after. As soon as I arrived, the flight stopped.

We had one gadwall sneak past us, and one mallard land at the far end of the pond. Otherwise, we saw nothing. After a while I couldn’t stand it any longer and decided to go jump the duck at the other end of the pond. I was, of course, breaking the cardinal rule of never leaving the decoys (it seems like I relearned this one already this season but I have re-relearn rules all the time) but there was nothing going on.

So I walked over to the other end of the pond and into the heavy weeds where I had last seen the duck. It was right where it was supposed to be and jumped, giving me an easy shot, whereupon I failed to find the safety button on my gun. This, like forgetting my gun, never happens. Seriously, never. So I fumbled with the gun and took a long shot, and the duck fell out of the sky, dead as a hammer. It fell back in the weeds but I had a good mark on it. As I was walking over to get it, the duck jumped up and flew away, looking completely fine. Apparently it had only been briefly knocked out by a pellet to the head. This I have seen before.