Wednesday, 30 September 2009 16:13

DJ and Me

“Do me a favor, Mrs. Lanier, and shut your left eye,” the instructor said. “My left eye?” “Yes” he replied, “When you see the target clearly, shut your left eye and shoot.” After several misses in a row all I could think was yeah right. Obligingly I did what he asked and wham, the target exploded. “Now, just do the same thing for me again.” Wham, the second target broke. Wow, what do you know, two in a row!

Published in Elizabeth Lanier
Wednesday, 30 September 2009 16:00

Old Canvas Gunning Coat

Today is a rainy day and I can’t quite decide on what to do. Like you, I’ve hunted ducks and geese, fished for stripers and blues, and dug quahogs and clams all in the rain. And just once, all three in the same day!

But today is different. I’m thinking of excuses for not going. It’s cozy here by the fire. I can clean and oil the guns, wax the rods, or take an old toothbrush to some of the green gunk on my reels. Or I could start a new book, or finish an old one I’ve read a hundred times…  It’s a rainy day, a great day, and anything is possible.

When I was a young boy, I had very little in the way of foul weather gear. But I did have an old, heavy, canvas gunning coat left behind by a wealthy Duxbury gunner. It was much too big for me to wear when I got it, but dad had quietly given it to me just the same, in his simple, New England Yankee way. My father was the gardener of a man’s estate, and when the owner passed on, the wife had given the gunning coat to dad because she knew he enjoyed hunting, too. The old, canvas gunning coat had long been bleached the color of butternut from years of hard use. But it was in excellent condition, comfortably broken in, rugged and tough like the men that wore them.

I use to stare at that hunting coat hanging on a nail in the cellar, and dream of the old gunner that must have owned it. He was a “well-to-do” as my father was fond of saying, and had a gunning stand way up in the marshes of the Back River of Duxbury, Massachusetts. The “blind” was an elaborate affair, complete with fieldstone fireplace, bunk rooms, a decoy room, a Great Room in the middle, with table and chairs for meals and playing cards – especially the night before opening day! There was a piano and a couple of old, leather chairs with plenty of character, sitting around the fire. A small kitchen and a wet bar gave the final touches. Apple wood smoke and steaming wet dogs filled the air with that sweet smell of autumn that all hunters love…

Outside, surrounding the camp, were the shallow “ponds,” large and small tidal pools that had been dug into the marsh to hold a bunch of hand-carved decoys – and lots of ducks. On one side of the ponds were the breastworks -  long, chest-high fences of boards and brush behind which the gunners would wait for the morning and evening flights of ducks.

As the hunters waited in their heavy, bleached, canvas gunning coats, sipping coffee in the cold dawn, dogs at their sides, they spoke in quiet tones and talked of the beauty and wonder of it all. The sandpipers and great blue herons, the hawks and endless lines of starlings migrating South; the golden glow of marsh grass waving in the breeze, the clams squirting up little, spouts of water. The false-dawn of the eastern sky that looked finer than any Monet… and more than once, the ghostly glimpse of a mighty buck sneaking along the marshs edge. Then… the whistling of wings and the last seconds of silence… as the birds cupped their wings and turned into the decoys…

When the men sat around the fire that night after opening day, enjoying steamed clams, roasted black duck, perhaps a refreshment or two, they thought much and spoke little of how they felt - humbled, bittersweet, and young again… The years had passed quickly as the “old men” always said they would. The children had all grown and moved away and life was pretty simple again. One of them was thinking back to a little boy he remembered very well. A little boy staring up at an old canvas gunning coat, dreaming of the day when he would be old enough to go along, too.

Capt. David Bitters is a writer/photographer and a striped bass/sea duck hunting guide from Massachusetts. His photos and essays have appeared in over one-hundred magazines. Capt. Bitters is currently finishing his first book, A Sportsman's Fireside Reader - Tales of Hunting, Fishing, and Other Outdoor Pleasures. Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or (781) 934-2838. You can also write him at P.O. Box 366 Duxbury, MA 0233.

Published in Captain David Bitters
Tuesday, 15 September 2009 01:00

As Good As It Gets

Story and photos by Mike Childress

Last Friday was atypical. I got an invitation from my brothers- and father-in-law to come out to the property and take my chances against clay pigeons thrown from the back of an old International Harvester pick-up.

It’s been a while since I shot clay birds. More than a little while actually, from the days my dad and I used to reserve our Sundays for the local trapshooting club. And, after a day of office work, it was a welcome change. After rummaging around for what seemed like an eternity I found my shotgun, shells, and even some “birds” that my father-in-law had given me for a birthday present the year before, still unopened. My wife and I made quick preparations for the 15-minute trek north. Car seats, check. Diaper bag, check. Guns and ammo, check. We were off.

Wednesday, 08 July 2009 01:01

Passing the Baton

As I studied our two teenage boys standing in the kitchen not too long ago, I thought they bore a strong family resemblance but they could not possibly be related to me.

Published in Elizabeth Lanier
Monday, 01 June 2009 14:46

A New Office

I'm going to build myself a new office. One that is far away from the house, away from the kids, away from the wife - away from everything. But not too far. Just across the lawn at the edge of the woods. A place where I can think and write and dream all alone or with a special friend.

I'm going to keep it pretty simple and put a little wood stove in the corner right over there. I'll add an old, leather couch against the far wall, and a couple of old, wooden chairs with lots of character, and an antique table for my desk. A rod rack hung from the rafters and a nice gun cabinet with a few doubles and a rifle, so I can dream of the guns of autumn and the rods of summer whenever I want.

I'll put an old refrigerator beside my desk like the one I had in college - in case I get hungry or thirsty while working. And a fly tying table. Got to be able to tie some nice saltwater flies while dreaming of stripers, bonito and albie - all while working on my next column, of course...

Let's not forget the big book case piled high with sporting books and magazines of every kind. All my friends will be there: Hilly, Hennessey, Tapply, Foster, Bryant, Sheldon, Woolner, Spiller, Ford... The list goes on. One of the joys of stretching out on the old leather coach by the wood stove with a good book, while looking around at the fine rods and guns, is dreaming of the way things once were. And discovering when you get out there, that its all still there. You just got to get up and go. You got to go a little further and look a little harder, and find the magic that is still there for those of us who long for a life outdoors. The grouse and the woodcock, the ducks and the geese... The deer and the bear and the snowshoe hare... The quail and the pheasant and even the snipe. Striped bass and brook trout, giant tuna and footballs. "Bucket-mouths," "tommy" cod and coolers full of flounder. It's all there if we really want it, if we are really willing to get up and go and see and learn.

So, amongst my rods and guns, decoys and ice traps, pack baskets and tackle boxes, I will sit in my new office and think and write. And hopefully I will inspire others to consider a simpler life, a rewarding life, a joy-filled life of living and working in God's great outdoors.


Capt. David Bitters is a writer/photographer and a striped bass/sea duck hunting guide from Massachusetts. His photos and essays have appeared in over one-hundred magazines. Capt. Bitters is currently finishing his first book, A Sportsman's Fireside Reader - Tales of Hunting, Fishing, and Other Outdoor Pleasures. Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or (781) 934-2838. You can also write him at P.O. Box 366 Duxbury, MA 02331
Published in Captain David Bitters
Friday, 01 May 2009 07:08

A New Gun

Ladies, how about a new gun for the old hunter? He may have a birthday coming up or maybe Father's Day, or maybe "just because..." As you know, your hunter has been trying very, very hard not to look at another new gun. But how can he look the other way for the millionth time when his favorite sporting magazines are jammed with all the latest beauties in steel and walnut!  I'll bet he's been eyeing that Caesar Guerini for a while? Me, too. Gold inlaid pheasants, quail, woodcock...Drop dead gorgeous! And the fit? They were made for gunners who adore their wives...

How about the new F3 Blaser Baronesse? Crisp, clean, and smothered in scroll or engraved with art scenes - if you want. There's plenty of choices to dress it up or dress it down. Personally, I prefer the one with mallards locked and committed on the side plates. Of course, there is the one with a pair of English setters on point with the gunner walking in for the flush. They are all laced in gold for that little something extra!

Like something a little more traditional? Something with a more "old New England" look? How about a custom-made little beauty to dress up the gun cabinet and make him sigh every time he holds her (and you) in his arms? Connecticut Shotgun's got just the ticket! The new RBL-28 Round Action Game Gun. It will make him feel rich, humble, and lucky all at the same time. Like you, it is a perfect "ten" and he will love it!

Ok, maybe you are ready to move up to the top of the ladder. Good fortune has smiled on you both - again, and you are ready to give him a real treat. An investment that will only increase in value over time. One that nobody in your presence or his, will glance twice at, as your loader, with gloved hand, offers the first of a matched pair for the driven shoot. May I suggest the Holland & Holland - M'am? And not the "cheap ones" either. You want the real deal: A matched pr. of Royal Deluxe Sidelocks, in 12 bore, for just $175,000...

As you can see, there is something for everybody when it comes time to treat the man of your life to a new gun. Whatever your tastes (or his), whatever your budget, the heydays of gun manufacturing are now. However, if you run into me this season in the field, don't feel too embarrassed if I'm carrying my old, pitted double I got for Christmas when I was ten years old. My Kreighoff or Boss or Purdey is probably back in London having a little work done on the triggers.

Happy shopping, my dear. And if you need a little help, just ask.

With all my love,

Capt. Dave

Capt. David Bitters is a writer/photographer and a striped bass/sea duck hunting guide from Massachusetts. His photos and essays have appeared in over one-hundred magazines. Capt. Bitters is currently finishing his first book, A Sportsman's Fireside Reader - Tales of Hunting, Fishing, and Other Outdoor Pleasures. Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or (781) 934-2838. You can also write him at P.O. Box 366 Duxbury, MA 02331
Published in Captain David Bitters

We anticipated an extraordinary weekend of shooting and dining, since we also had dinner reservations at another great American institution, the Culinary Institute of America in nearby Hyde Park.

Published in Destinations