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OUTDOORS: That old Ithaca means a lot to me
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OUTDOORS: That old Ithaca means a lot to me

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The old Ithaca double barrel. Weird starting out a sentence, much less a column, with a non-sentence that doesn’t include a verb. My English teachers from school and college would have balled up the sheet of paper and trashed it immediately I am sure.

But when I write a column, I often write as if I would talk. And yes, making a statement such as those first five words without any context to go along with it would bring about some questioning looks as well. I am not crazy though. Not in the gibberish talking, foaming at the mouth sense of crazy anyway.

Now, why did I type those first five words? Simple, it’s the answer to the question you didn’t ask. That question is, “what was your first shotgun you used for hunting?” The reason I bring this up is we are in dove season, with other bird seasons coming in soon, and deer season popping in for firearms in several weeks also. What was the first shotgun you hunted with?

As far as the old Ithaca goes, it answers several other questions along the way. Questions such as “what was your favorite shotgun?” Or “what is something that was handed down through several generations that you cherish?” Or even, “what thing taught you as much as about marksmanship as any person could?”

You see, that old Ithaca means a lot to me. It has had better days. I have had to fix the firing pins. There are a few pockets, very minor pockets but pockets none-the-less, in the metal where oxidation has occurred. I mean, it is more than 60 years old, and my body isn’t quite that old yet but it has a few issues as well. The wood stock has a few indentations and scars. But it is still safe and it still fires perfectly.

Ithaca taught me several things. Being a double barrel, it taught me not to keep firing hoping to hit a bird. It likely saved me (or my dad actually) a bit of money by not letting me just keep firing shell after shell at birds that were out of range by the time the third shot would have been needed. It was lightweight and had very little kick, which helped in teaching me not to be scared of the shotgun while being able to handle it properly.

My granddad had shortened the barrels long before I ever got it, mainly for quail hunting. When hunting quail, you often are right up on the birds before they take off flying from brush and cover, so when you throw the stock to your shoulder to fire it is quick and impulsive. He wanted the shot spread to be as great as possible on a close shot, hence the shortening of the barrels. This is often called a sawed-off shotgun.

Again, because of these shortened sawed-off barrels, the reach wasn’t going to be very far. So when dove hunting I needed to pick my shots. That may be one of the greatest bits of learning in anything, whether shooting firearms or shooting a basketball. It also taught me to be very still until the last possible moment to allow the birds to approach me rather than me trying to reach them.

The Ithaca is now my oldest son’s shotgun. He has taken many a dove, duck, and even a swan with it. One day, it may be there for my grandkids and great-grandkids as well. It is after all, my favorite.

Bill Howard is a member of the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association. Visit

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