Asheville – Now before you start a Google search for a hit man to take me out, notice the word we. I’ve been a bird hunter for over forty years. There’s ample evidence to support the charge, but a couple of examples remind me of this foible.
Our local Ruffed Grouse Society chapter hosts a sporting clays shoot to raise funds for local habitat projects. As chapter chairman, I get calls and emails asking why the entry fee is so high. I dutifully explain how the money will be used and go through the lists of costs to host the event. Part of me just wants to say, “Which part of fundraising don’t you understand?”
Within three months after the sporting clays event follows our annual fundraising banquet, where we have raffles, a silent auction, and live auction to raise money. The event is well attended and early raffle sales are great. But when it comes to bidding on the silent and live auctions you’d think the attendees had broken their hands and arms. I’ve seen a historical grouse print that should have brought us $300 sold for just $75. These common examples got me in a reflective mood and led to a conclusion: bird hunters are cheapskates when it comes to gear.
Let me lay out some facts to make my case. If you’re a bird hunter go look at your hunting gear. How old are your brush pants? Are safety pins, hand stitching, or duct tape present? Same for your hunting vest. We tend to keep our gear beyond its normal life expectancy. And boots? We’ll oil them and replace the laces until the soles are so slick we can’t get traction. Unlike deer hunters who are slaves to the latest camo pattern or scent blocker, our needs are basic: brown and blaze orange clothing, boots, and a couple of boxes of shells, all supplies that will last us for years.
As supporting evidence, cruise the aisles of a major outdoor retailer or skim their catalog. How much space do they dedicate to bird hunters? Little if any. Ask a sales clerk where the upland gear is and you get a quizzical look. They know we are cheapskates and don’t have to follow the latest trend in our pursuit of game. Retailers study the market and know.
I’ve got a good friend who is a bass angler. Naturally, his bass boat is high tech. He has six or eight rod and reel combinations for different fishing conditions and a pegboard wall in his basement with lures sorted by type, color, size. Why? Because the latest copy of BassMaster magazine advertises the hot lures on the tournament trail. Bird hunters? We need brush pants, a vest, boots, a shotgun, a couple of boxes of shells, and a dog. It’s not complicated based on hunting conditions.
That point about gear brings me to guns. When we find a bird gun we shoot well, it is a lifetime investment. It is also typically inexpensive—no offense to high-grade side-by-side shooters. Why spend two or three grand on a gun that is going to get banged against trees, dropped when we slip on wet leaves, or stepped on by dogs? Nope, when we find a gun that drops birds as if by magic, it’s a done deal. Another friend of mine grouse hunts with an inexpensive (cheap) side-by-side 20-gauge. Why? Well, first it is cheap. But it is also lightweight, points easily in thick cover, and kills birds. He says if the one he has now ever breaks he will just buy the same model. Yeah, there is the occasional Parker or other classic side by side. But in a gathering of bird hunters they are in the minority.
The sole exceptions to our miserliness are our dogs. We know that without them we are wandering aimlessly through the woods. We will spend good money on the right bloodlines and make sure they have the best kennel setup. And of course, we have to have the right tracking/training collar (several hundred dollars) for them to wear. And am I the only one who spends more on my bird dog’s annual vet checkup than on my own healthcare? And that is excluding the bill for monthly flea/tick and worm preventative medicine. Still, when it comes to all the other trapping associated with bird hunting, we are just cheapskates.