UN­CLE BUR­RIS

Gun World - - Chewing The Fat - Jeff Quinn is a full-time writer/ re­viewer on Gun­blast.com, an on­line gun mag­a­zine started in 2000. He has also writ­ten for the Gun Di­gest An­nual and en­joys liv­ing life in the woods of Ten­nessee, where he raises Longhorn cat­tle … and his grand­kids.

UUn­cle Bur­ris was a true sports­man. Grow­ing up, he was my go-to guy for all things hunt­ing and fish­ing. Un­cle Bur­ris was the only per­son I knew who hunted all the time—un­less, of course, he was fish­ing. I sup­pose he had to take some time off from the fun stuff to make a liv­ing, but what I saw, and what in­ter­ested me, was the hunt­ing and fish­ing part.

Most of the men in our fam­ily hunted oc­ca­sion­ally, as did we boys, but that was mostly squir­rels, rab­bits and quail. Un­cle Bur­ris was a big-game hunter.

THE WON­DERS IN THE BASE­MENT

Be­sides hunt­ing deer and boar in Ten­nessee, Un­cle Bur­ris would travel to far-off, ex­otic lands ... such as Colorado … to hunt mule deer, and he would mount the antlers on the wall of his den. The den was like any other liv­ing room, but in­stead of the use­less, bor­ing liv­ing room junk on the walls, his den walls were cov­ered with antlers, full shoul­der mounts, huge fish mounted on plaques and the gun rack. To a 10-year-old boy, the gun rack was some­thing re­ally spe­cial to be­hold. Un­cle Bur­ris didn’t keep all his guns on the gun rack; I was later shown the good stuff he kept in the gun cab­i­net. In this cab­i­net were the hunt­ing rifles, plus a pis­tol or two.

I re­mem­ber one sum­mer (I must have been about 12) I was shown what went on down in the base­ment. The base­ment was a type un­like the base­ments seen to­day. This base­ment was a hand-dug space with a low ceil­ing, very dark, with just one,

lonely light bulb.

The in­ter­est­ing stuff was back in the cor­ner. That cor­ner was the holi­est of places. It was where I saw my firstever reload­ing press. I had never even heard of some­one load­ing their own am­mu­ni­tion. But my Un­cle Bur­ris did. Back then, this was akin to voodoo or witch­craft—very in­ter­est­ing stuff for a boy who dreamed of some­day own­ing a real deer ri­fle!

PRAC­TI­CAL­ITY DOES THE TRICK

When I was about 20, I de­cided I was go­ing to get se­ri­ous about bass fish­ing. I had fished leisurely most of my life up to that point, tar­get­ing what­ever fish I could get to bite my hook. But I had de­cided I was go­ing to ded­i­cate my re­main­ing fish­ing time on this Earth ex­clu­sively to catch­ing large­mouth bass, and I needed to prop­erly equip my­self for that en­deavor.

I care­fully stud­ied every avail­able fish­ing equip­ment cat­a­log. Money was no ob­ject; I was go­ing to have the best! Know­ing that Un­cle Bur­ris caught more bass than any­one I had ever known—and I mean the big wall-mount kind—I went over to his house to see just what kind of high-dol­lar rod/reel combo would be the best.

Tak­ing me out to his garage, Un­cle Bur­ris showed me his gear for bring­ing in the big ones: a 6-foot jig­ger pole. It was noth­ing but a 6-foot cane pole with about 8 feet of line at­tached and a hook at the end.

He would slide his tiny boat into the shal­low wa­ter where the lily pads grew and toss that pole around, pop­ping a big worm or lure among the pads, where the big fish lay in wait. He would go in there and get his feet wet where the “ex­pert” bass fish­er­men in their $30,000 bass boats could not go. He caught more fish, big­ger fish, every time. I was dis­ap­pointed that I did not need a high-dol­lar fish­ing setup, be­cause I was ready to spend some bucks; but it did teach me a lot about fish­ing.

Un­cle Bur­ris was that way in most things: highly prac­ti­cal. He used what worked. He had a few an­noy­ing habits such as eat­ing raw oys­ters and boiled craw­dads, but all that could be for­given. He was al­ways ready to help some­one. Un­cle Bur­ris was just that kind of guy.

One year, he was deer hunt­ing back on the farm, and on the way out, he stopped by my house. I fig­ured he needed some help bring­ing a deer out, so I met him on the porch. He had not killed a deer that morn­ing, but on the way out, he had seen a mon­ster buck with an enor­mous rack about 300 yards be­hind my house. It was bed­ded with two does on a sunny hill­side. Un­cle Buck had the buck sighted in his scope, but he de­cided not to shoot, leav­ing him for me, in­stead.

When I stepped out onto the porch, he said, “I’ve got a present for you, Hoss. There’s a huge 12-point on that left-hand ridge, about half way up. If you sneak up there just right, he’s prob­a­bly still there.”

I went up that ridge and saw the deer. Un­cle Bur­ris was right: He was the big­gest I had seen around here in sev­eral years. When I spot­ted him, he was mov­ing out fast, the two does right be­hind him.

I couldn’t get a clean shot at him and never fired the ought-six. But see­ing those huge antlers, I re­al­ized just how hard it must have been for Un­cle Bur­ris to pass up that deer, be­cause it was big­ger than either of us had ever killed.

I hunted that buck hard for the rest of the sea­son, but nei­ther of us ever saw him again. GW

I HAD NEVER EVEN HEARD OF SOME­ONE LOAD­ING THEIR OWN AM­MU­NI­TION. BUT MY UN­CLE BUR­RIS DID. BACK THEN, THIS WAS AKIN TO VOODOO OR WITCH­CRAFT ...

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