column By: Ernie Foster | November, 19
My sons and I arrive at the abandoned homestead site and make ready for the hunt. The hand-dug well sits near the stone foundation, still sporting the remains of the stone fireplace and chimney. The walled enclosures must have once provided pastures for livestock, and the flat stones surrounding the dugout area in the banking suggest the former location of the barn. A scattering of tired fruit trees outlines a space that years ago was cleared for gardening, evidence that, at one time, a family worked hard to establish residency here in the Berkshires of Massachusetts. Now it has become the home of deer, bear, moose, turkey, songbirds and many other living things. Most importantly for this upland hunter, it is the habitat of the ruffed grouse and woodcock. This cover is familiar to me, and I have enjoyed many years of the hunting pleasures it offers under the watchful, generous eye of Mother Nature.
The lower third of the sloping 100-acre parcel has several drainage areas that promote the growth of alder and other ground vegetation that loves the dampness. The high ground is littered with chokecherry, hawthorn, oak, birch and pine trees and is entangled in grape and bittersweet vines. The pasture and garden are overgrown with shrubs and herbaceous species, especially blackberries and raspberries, offering perfect cover and food source for grouse and woodcock. However, it is less hospitable to the hunter who seeks to penetrate the secret coverts of these game birds. In my tattered, florescent shirt, bloodstained sleeveless hunting vest and torn brush pant cuffs, I follow the game trails of moose and deer.
Purdy, an exceptional grouse and woodcock dog, stays close in the tight cover search among the mass of dense foliage. The steady beep of her collar announces a find. The sound and her orange vest give us a quick location, and we push through the cover with my sons flanking me on either side. Purdy knows the game well and is on a solid point as we near. We cover all escape windows in the foliage as I approach Purdy’s side to flush out the bird hidden in the ground cover. The quiet flush brings the woodcock twisting and turning above the top of the alders and surrounding coniferous trees. The 26-inch, short-barreled model 686 Beretta, one of my guns of choice for grouse and woodcock covers, quickly clears the vegetation entanglement and allows for a quick move, mount and shoot for a true shot.
The lightweight Beretta over-under upland guns, in my opinion, are among the best suited guns for use in the terrain these upland game birds call home or — in the case of the woodcock — who also visit during their migration south.
This beautiful Beretta Covey model over-under has been designed with the proper proportions, ensuring the perfect balance of a 5 ¾-pound, 20-bore gun and ease of hand-eye coordination with every mount. The 3-inch chambered barrels support a ventilated rib, in addition to screw-in interchangeable chokes allowing for use of an open barrel during the early season and a tighter one in late season. The walnut pistol grip stock is nicely checkered, along with the Schnabel forend with Deeley and Edge fastener. The fences have etched engraving, and the sides of the black frame are decorated with shallow gold inlays of bobwhite flushing quail. The bottom also depicts three gold-inlaid valley quail heads. The single gold trigger is integrated with the barrel selection on the top tang safety. Although the Quail Unlimited model is hard to find (only 750 were made), there are several similar choices available in a price range of $1,700 to $3,100 for a used or new gun, respectively. This gun is an inexpensive investment for a lifetime of special memories.