My shooting beginnings...
by Bill Byrd

I have shot and hunted since I was 15 years old. In my early childhood, I found some .22 long rifle shells in a bathroom cabinet at my grandmother's house which sparked a conversation with my dad about guns, shooting, and hunting.

While my father was never really a hunter, he told me about growing up and shooting balls off the giant sycamore tree in back of my grandparent's house in the late 1920s. Game available in that day was primarily squirrels, rabbits, quail, and doves. Deer and turkeys still hadn't been "managed" into the numbers we enjoy today. Apparently game wardens weren't too worried about sycamore ball shooters in that day.

As was the case for so many young men of my generation and even before us, my first rifle was a Marlin .22 carbine. Other options of the day were a Red Ryder bb gun, or even a .177 pellet gun.

I still have the light Marlin .22 carbine, and a .177 pellet rifle that is as big and heavy as a deer rifle. The scoped Beaman's pellet rifle is good to quietly shoot in preparation for bigger game season, and is very quiet in my back yard.

These days I'm focusing on skeet shooting specifically for upland bird hunting in the southeast including ringneck pheasant, bobwhite quail, chukar partridge, and a hunt with Hungarian partridge when available. I'm searching statewide to find some hunting preserves that feature good rabbit hunting with beagles. With luck and perserverence, I may re-involve myself in limited duck hunting, too.

Having said that -- I'm retired now. I have my Georgia do everything retiree hunting/fishing license, and I'm using it!

In 1967 I began hand loading ammo and shot shells. I re-started reloading 12 gauge shotgun shells three years ago but I've found that even though I enjoy reloading -- because 12 gauge shells are so inexpensive by the case -- I may not continue to load them. I may hand load the more expensive 20, 28, and .410 gauges in the future.

The beauty of reloading is being able to load custom mixes, such as 12 gauge shells with 1 1/8oz of #5 and #6 shot mixed. Try finding a case of .410 or 28 gauge shells loaded with number 6s. It can be done, but those loads are not on everyone's shelves.

Custom reloading shot shells allows us to enjoy shooting our own creations in practice and the field. Custom loads make a good load for ringneck pheasants, quail, partridges, and most small game in this area.

In addition, #6 shot loads for 20, 28 gauge and .410 are very good short range for hunting birds, rabbits, and squirrels. I prefer a .22 rifle for squirrels.

If you can find the materials, you can load whatever you desire, and help customize your hunting effort.

The fly fishing side of this website shows that mostly I fish light / ultralight. I incorporate the same concepts in hunting as in fishing. Why shoot a 10 gauge shoulder crippler when a 20, 28 gauge or .410 will add to the sport, drop the game, be lighter afield, and be orthopedically smarter. My attitude is match your gauge to the hunt and enjoy yourself more!

- Bill Byrd