Thursday, February 9th, 2023
Thursday, February 9th, 2023

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Hunting down Memory Lane with a 16-gauge

A Mossberg Model 190 16-gauge bolt-action shotgun has been a versatile gun of choice for hunting multiple species for New York Outdoor News editor Dan Ladd for much of his life. (Photo courtesy of Dan Ladd)

It’s hard for me to believe that my dad has been gone for nearly 30 years, but that will be the case in 2024. If he were still alive, we would have celebrated his 85th birthday recently. Happy Birthday, Dad! 

When I was growing up, my father only owned three guns. His prized possession was a Winchester Model 94 .44 magnum – his deer rifle – which belongs to my nephew but is currently in my care. He also had a single-shot Marlin .22. I now own that little gun and regularly harass red squirrels with it, shooting .22 shorts. 

Dad’s third gun was a Mossberg Model 190 16 gauge bolt-action shotgun. In my mind, this is one of the most practical firearms ever made. Easily recognizable for its size (it’s long, bulky and heavy) but especially for the adjustable C-LECT, twist-style choke, there really wasn’t much you couldn’t hunt with this gun. 

Some of my older cousins carried the Mosssberg as young hunters following their elders around in the deer woods in the 1970s. Next it was my two older brothers, Bill and Tim, and eventually my turn came. 

The day after my 14th birthday, I shot my first ruffed grouse with this gun. In the formative hunting years that followed, it accounted for a fair more number of grouse, dozens of gray squirrels, a few rabbits and ducks, and even a fall turkey. 

The adjustable C-LECT choke is what made this cumbersome old shotgun flexible, but the ambidextrous thumb safety just behind the end of the barrel could be easily worked by a left-handed shooter such as myself, which made for quick shooting (not so much hitting) on flushing birds. 

I had about 15 good years of small game hunting with this gun, especially around our home. It was passed on to Tim when Dad passed away. 

A few years later, I spotted one at a gun show exactly like it and I couldn’t resist. The only thing missing was the red and green safety dots. It was the best $100 I’ve ever spent. 

Now, each year – particularly on seasonal winter afternoons –  I take the old Mossberg for a walk on the same family property where I grew up. Some things have changed here, but much remains the same. Anyone who hunts knows that it doesn’t take much to stroll down Memory Lane in the hunting woods. 

Although I’ve done some logging here, and there’s been a few grouse around, the numbers aren’t like they were when I was a kid. Gray squirrels, on the other hand, remain plentiful, but my desire for squirrel, or even rabbit, stew isn’t what it used to be. 

It is the grouse I really want to encounter, which were the big prize of such hunts some 40 years ago. I also was recently tipped off to a spot where some pheasants are hanging around and may take the old ‘berg for a drive. 

With so many options out there for shotguns today, I still find it rewarding to just do some things the way I always did them. Not to mention my affliction for the 16 gauge. 

It ain’t heavy, it’s my shotgun!

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