shells (2)

Turkey hunters shell out lots of money for shells.

The other day I came across an ad for shotgun shells specially designed for turkey hunting.

They cost $45 for a box of five.

I thought it was a misprint, so I called my hunting buddy and gobbler guru Clarence Dies to check. He said that’s correct: $45 for five – count ‘em five -- shells.

At those prices, you don’t want to miss many shots.

Instead of leaving the shells in your hunting jacket, I assume they’re locked in a safe at the end of the day.

Maybe that’s where I’ve been going wrong all these years – I’ve been shooting cheap shells. No wonder I missed so many easy shots. I was shooting shells with lead pellets instead of gold.

But I have friends who kill lots of turkeys without having to take out a second mortgage. They shoot ordinary loads, not the expensive designer stuff imported from Paris.

Their turkeys seem plenty dead.

I suspect the high-priced shells are more about mind-set than about killing a turkey. Nowadays we seem to think that the more something costs, the better it is.

When was a kid, shells for my little .410 shotgun cost 10 cents apiece, or $2.50 for a box of 25. I never bought a full box.

I bought shells individually, five or 10 at a time. The Western Auto store, our hunting-supplies outlet, kept open boxes of different gauges on the shelf, and the clerk didn’t blink when a customer asked for singles.

Even at a dime apiece, shells were precious. One summer when I was barely big enough to hoist the gun, I shot at a rabbit in my grandma’s vegetable garden. I missed, and started crying.

Part of it was my frustration at missing (ask Clarence) and part of it was over wasting a valuable shotgun shell.

Grandma comforted and consoled me. She said everybody misses now and then. So I hitched up my overalls, and that afternoon when another rabbit hopped into the cabbage, I didn’t miss.

We had it for supper, completing the cycle of life: the rabbit ate our vegetables, and we ate the rabbit. (I trust the statute of limitations on bagging an out-of-season bunny has expired.)

Back to shotgun shells:

By my mid-teens I was gainfully employed hauling hay, and could splurge on a full box. I remember the first one I bought: 25 sleek, red-plastic Winchester shells with bright brass casings.

When I opened the box, I felt like John D. Rockefeller.

Even after I could afford to buy shells by the box, I remained frugal. I guess that’s why I’m not much of a dove hunter – instead of feeling good about the five birds I hit, I feel guilty about the two dozen I missed.

I hate to think how I’d feel if I shot some of those fancy $45 turkey shells and didn’t ruffle a feather. Especially since my grandma’s not around to hug me and dry my tears.