With Labor Day and the opening of dove season approaching quickly, I sat down the other day, trying to figure out how to come up with enough money to fix my two favorite shotguns, both of which have fallen on hard times recently.

My father handed down to me a couple of years ago his prized Remington Model 11, a 1930’s model 20-gauge in cylinder bore made on the old square-back Browning pattern that was his gun growing up in Georgia. It’s death on quail; Dad once killed four birds out of a single covey rise; he said he’d have killed five, but he had to shoot the fourth bird twice. At 82, he doesn’t figure to be using it much anymore, having retired from hunting to spend more time catching flounder. 

After a dove hunt last fall, I had the barrel off and was cleaning the gun when I accidentally hit the button that closes the action. Slam! Doink! 

The slam was expected; the doink was a screw flying up in the air, its head sheared off. I know you’re not supposed to close the action without the barrel in place. That’s why it was an accident. At least no fingers were in the way, and I caught the screw.

Then, shooting clay pigeons with my son, my 20-gauge over-and-under, a hand-me-down from an uncle who recently died in his 90s, malfunctioned. First, the firing pin in the top barrel started acting up, not hitting the shell’s primer hard enough to set off the charge about every third trigger pull. I figured a spring had gone bad. Then, I noticed that the safety seemed a little soft, and sure-enough, it no longer functioned, either.

With a college tuition payment and a car-insurance premium due in August, plus a hospital bill for a kidney stone (Not mine!) to pay off, I’m not sure I can squirrel away a couple of hundred bucks to get my two favorite shooting irons fixed. I’ll just have to drop back to No. 3 gun, which isn’t all that bad. It’s an old Browning 12-gauge, old enough that it won’t shuck dove loads anymore; I have to buy some with a little more pop to make sure I get second shots after I miss birds with the first one. I’ve had good days with it, but I’d rather carry one of the lighter guns now that AARP letters are showing up in my mailbox.

I must admit, it was present on my most-memorable dove hunt. My dad had planted a 3- or 4-acre dove field on a little farm he used to own, sunflowers and sorghum together in rows. He bush-hogged strips of it to put seed on the ground while keeping things legal, and he informed us that it would be ready for the second or third Saturday of the season, which happened to be the opening day of bow season for deer.

He was right; doves were everywhere. Shooting that Browning, I killed a limit with something like 42 shots, my best performance ever. After the doves were picked, everybody went home, but I crawled up in a tree stand overlooking a clover field and killed my first archery deer with one of the first compound bows Fred Bear ever made.

I guess it won’t be too bad to carry the old 12-gauge out there. I’ll carry good memories with it.