Grandpa’s Sweet 16

Grandpa Zajic Sweet 16
Grandpa Zajic Sweet 16

Every hunting family has “The Gun” that as a kid you dream of shooting. In our family, it’s my Grandpa Zajic’s gold-trigger “Sweet Sixteen” 16GA Browning. As a kid pheasant hunting, I was never allowed to hunt with it. Only allowed to shoot the occasional clay target… yeah, that type of gun. So you might think I’m here to tell you a fabled tale of me shooting something with it… well kind of. Really, this story is more astounding to me than that.

As you grow older, you just don’t get the chance to spend as much time with your parents as you should. I know, I am busy, you are busy, and we SHOULD make more time with our loved ones, but we don’t. That’s why when I get the chance to go hunting or spend time with my Dad, I do.

This story begins with my parents calling to ask if they could come spend some time with us after Thanksgiving. Of course I was fine with this. My Mom mentioned that Dad had Grandpa’s old 16 GA and was having a hard time finding steel shot for it. He wanted to use it this weekend to hunt waterfowl.

I quickly called a few stores and, sure enough, Bass Pro shops in Olathe had just 2 boxes in stock.

“HOLD THOSE! We want them,” I exclaimed.

So, after securing two boxes of 2 3/4 in 15/16 oz. number 2 steel, my Dad, Benton and I were off to our pond in northeast Kansas. As with any hunt, you just never know what’s going to happen. The day was grey and overcast with a light north wind and temps in the 40’s; perfect for hunting.

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Our hunt this particular morning started out slow, as many have with the warm start to the season we’ve had here in Kansas. We have also had lots of rain, so the birds have been scattered and hit or miss. After watching a grey sky lighten with little to look at, we finally had our first bird come in – a lone Canada Goose. The bird worked to Dad’s side of the blind and landed. We readied ourselves and dropped the shooting door on the front of the blind. A couple of shots rang out with the first goose of the day hitting the water. High-fives all around and a quick fetch from Dakota had the bird hanging in the back of the blind.

As the morning went on we had a small group of big Canada’s come in, and we picked up two more out of them. As I was working Dakota I heard a shout of joy coming from Benton – which can only mean one thing -BANDED BIRD! Sure enough, that lucky guy – who just shot a banded mallard on Friday – had a banded Canada to go with it here on Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend.

Benton and Dad with Benton's banded goose

Benton and Dad with Benton’s banded goose

Not a banner day but still, three geese and one banded bird. With the birds this year, some is better than nothing, and a banded bird to boot was a great day in our books. As we started the usual end of the hunt debates on where to have lunch, when should we pack up and where to take pictures, Thanksgiving Day magic happened. You see, in our area, we have lots of snow geese that fly over us, but few ever stop. Typically they just fly by… until today.

As I am starting to put shells in my shell bag Benton says, “Hey, watch these snows they are looking at us.”

I just laugh to myself saying yeah but so have a hundred other groups… but these were different; they cupped, and then crashed! When I say crashed I mean they went from 150 yards in the air to landing in our Canada goose decoys in 15 to 20 seconds, with one cork screw drop.

After about half the birds were on the water we called the shot. Dogs went flying, snow geese fell and hot shell casings hit the cold ground. When all was said and done, 8 snow geese were on the water.

“Holy crap! That just happened!”

It took a few minutes for Dakota to clean up the winged birds and few more cripples where quickly dispatched. But… it happened.

Mixed bag

Mixed bag

bird of a feather

bird of a feather

After lots of high fives and some hugs (Benton) we settled back into the blind in stunned disbelief. Dad noted that this was his first snow goose ever in his life. And today was not only his first time killing a Canada goose with Grandpa’s 16GA but the fact that he just killed his first ever snow goose, the old preverbal two birds with one stone.

“Wow, what a day! Imagine if Dad had also shot a mallard today,” someone noted.

I am sure you can see where this is going… we had not seen any ducks all morning. Not but a few minutes later, a Thanksgiving weekend miracle drake mallard made each of us look up, when we heard that unmistakable whistle on his first pass. Things quickly got serious and we refocused. He swung around the end of the pond, set his wings and was headed straight towards Dad’s side of the blind. With one solitary crack of the shotgun, the last bird of the day hit the water… Benton and I just watched my dad finish out an amazing Kansas triple.

What a day

What a day

With more picture and hugs from all three of us we called it a day. I guess my day will come when I will get to shoot my grandpa’s old sweet 16, but this trip ended up being about so much more. In the end, it’s why we love the outdoors – and our families – so very much.

Grandpa Zajic Sweet 16

Grandpa Zajic Sweet 16

Band, Green, black and white all together

Band, Green, black and white all together

~ Nick

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