Larry's Short Stories

Larry Potterfield, Founder and CEO of MidwayUSA Larry Potterfield - Founder and CEO of MidwayUSA A new story from Larry every week.
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Dad taught me to hunt and fish, back when I was growing up on the farm in northeast Missouri. Things were much simpler in the '50s and I can't imagine what my life would be like today, had I not enjoyed the benefit of all the instruction of those early years. I shot my first duck at age 9 and my first quail at 13 - the same year I got my first gun for Christmas - a hand-me-down Stevens 16 gauge single shot.

Some of my fondest memories are the hunting and fishing stories Dad and my uncles shared with us kids back then - generally around the wood stove, and other times in the field. Unfortunately, it was pure and simple storytelling, so all I have are the memories.

Now, as a father and grandfather and having hunted and fished all my life, I am taking the time to write down some of my own stories – for the enjoyment of my children, grandchildren, friends and Customers.

Many interesting things have happened to me personally and at MidwayUSA through the years and I've included a few, hoping you will find them of interest. This collection of short stories is beginning to look a little like a history of MidwayUSA and an autobiography of my own life.

These are all real stories that I participated in, nothing is made up; and I write them purely for your enjoyment.

Signed, Larry Potterfield

Larry Potterfield,
Founder and CEO of MidwayUSA

The 'Lodge' at Newdale Duck Club; abandoned in 1977, this old farmhouse is where we stayed on the hunting trip.

Larry's Short Stories #147

 "If you get all the way to Newdale, you've gone too far." Those were the words of my good friend and host John Baregi, as he provided instructions to get to the place we would be staying. "On the right side of t…

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The epitome of “best guns” is a matched pair of Purdey side by sides, such as these; two guns, made entirely by hand to be as close to identical twins as possible.

Larry's Short Stories #145

The British refer to shotguns simply as guns.  During the 19th century, London’s top gunmakers began using the term “best” to indicate that their guns were made to the highest standards of design, materials and c…

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The last of the old shotguns was the Winchester Model 21 introduced in 1931. This one was mad in 1939 and has been customized to suit its current owner.

Larry's Short Stories #144

It was an intense amount of labor, but truly a labor of love to be able to study and generally understand America’s old double barreled shotguns – the side-by-sides made in the United States from the 1860s till the 19…

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This old Parker has been around since 1885. It’s a 10 gauge, with 32" twist steel barrels and nickel-plated parts. My ammo is antique Winchester all brass cases, that I loaded with 1-1/8 ounces of 7-1/2 shot and 3-1/2 grams of black powder.

Larry's Short Stories #142

The pheasant season for wild birds was long closed, but on established shooting preserves it often lingers through the end of March. It was December since I hunted in South Dakota, and there’s not much to do in Missou…

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Homestead Road, coming down off Buttermilk Mountain

Larry's Short Stories #139

My first invitation to snow ski came while stationed at Ellsworth Air Force Base, just outside the Black Hills of South Dakota – in the 1974-1976 timeframe.  There were a couple of ski moun…

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The original Friends of NRA logo.

Larry's Short Stories #137

At the 1992 NRA Annual Meetings in Salt Lake City, Wayne Sheets (NRA Director of Planning and Development) and I were discussing the success of the new NRA Round-Up program that Midway had started in January.  I…

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The 2015 ceremonial check presentation,  Chris Cox Executive Director of NRA-ILA on the left,  Jim Porter, NRA President on the right.

Larry's Short Stories #136

The idea came up in the summer of 1991. We’d been computerized for over four years and doing our own programming, so this was something we knew we could — and should do. The name we chose was NRA Round-Up. The idea wa…

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The Redneck stand is a comfortable place to spend all morning, all afternoon or all day.

Larry's Short Stories #134

Part of my personality is to always tell a story, as accurately as possible.  It always bothers me when I can’t remember a detail and have to say ‘about’ or ‘approximately’, rather than to provide real data. …

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Brenda’s prize largemouth from the afternoon – 21 inches.

Larry's Short Stories #133

On this particular Sunday afternoon I was feeling a little guilty, after having caught some nice bass earlier in the week; so, I decided to ask Brenda if she wanted to go fishing. She did! We put in at a 10 acre water…

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Two stories, two bedrooms and a full bath;  it’s very comfortable when the whole family gets together.

Larry's Short Stories #132

There’s something special about a cabin, on a lake, deep in the woods.  It’s the joy you feel each time you see it; the satisfaction of a fire in the fireplace or outside in the fire pit; the relaxed feeling when…

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It was a beautiful November day and you have a memory that will last a lifetime.

Larry's Short Stories #131

Dear Benjamin,For generations, fathers and grandfathers have been guiding young men like yourself on their first deer hunt; it was my honor and pleasure to be with you when you harvested your first doe, during t…

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My first of two caribou taken on this hunt.  You can see the ‘barren ground’, from which this species gets its name.

Larry's Short Stories #130

The adventure began as our hunting party of thirteen flew in from around the country to our jumping off point, Yellowknife, capital of the Northwest Territories, Canada. We boarded a float plane the following day and…

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At the end of day one, they neatly displayed the day's shoot of red-legged partridges – for formal pictures. Son Russell on the left.

Larry's Short Stories #128

Grouse, partridge and pheasant have been the primary game of driven bird shoots in Europe and the United Kingdom, since the 1850’s. The later invention of shotgun shells and break-open shotguns likely contributed to i…

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By the time we got him dragged out of the cedars and into position for pictures, the light was completely gone.

Larry's Short Stories #127

The things I remember most about this hunt were that it was cold, there was snow on the ground and we didn’t see many deer.  Mostly we drove around in pickups, stopping now and then to glass out the windows; but…

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Everyone calls it the Early Goose Season; this year it started on October 3 and ended October 11, running 30 minutes before sunrise till sunset.

Larry's Short Stories #126

Everyone calls it the Early Goose Season; this year it started on October 3 and ended October 11, running 30 minutes before sunrise till sunset.  It’s sort of a ‘pre-season’ opportunity to shoot the local birds,…

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We kept 25 fish in total, 16 crappie and nine bluegill.  (Photo by Greg Kreutzer)

Larry's Short Stories #125

September is not normally a month that I give much thought to fishing.  Dove season opens on the first, the weather begins to cool down and fall officially arrives during the third week of the month.  The du…

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Every morning we flew to a new fishing spot; that’s the reason it’s called a “Fly-out” fishing lodge.

Larry's Short Stories #119

You could call it a “fly-in, fly-out” fishing lodge, because before we could fly-out to fish, we had to fly-in.  From our “jumping-off point” in Smithers, we flew for an hour or so in a chartered de Havilland Bea…

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This view of the lounge area hasn’t changed much through the years and it’s always intriguing.  Here games are played and tales are swapped. (Picture by Lori Rhodes)

Larry's Short Stories #117

Of all the places I’ve had the opportunity to visit, this one stands out as one worth going back to. It’s remote and rustic, but very comfortable; and never seems to change. The food is excellent and the views can be…

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An afternoon’s shoot of doves and pigeons.  There is no limit on either.

Larry's Short Stories #115

My typical trip to Argentina has been three days of dove shooting.  A couple of times I’ve also shot perdiz or ducks -- and pigeons, one time.  Adding ducks, perdiz or pigeons often requires one or more chan…

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It’s hard to think about dad, without thinking about mom; she was always there and also set a great example. Here they are dressed for church, about 1972.

Larry's Short Stories #114

When WWII broke out, Dad was 31, probably still living at home, and still single. They called him up for a physical, but he was recovering from a broken leg, so they sent him home. It was Uncle Sam’s loss, he would ha…

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The University of Missouri – Columbia is a big school, and I remember being a bit intimidated by it. (Photo courtesy of The University of Missouri – Columbia.)

Larry's Short Stories #113

At 18, frankly I wasn’t prepared or qualified to make my first two college decisions – where to go and what to study.  In high school I’d taken all the math and science courses, plus typing and business law; but…

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Gloved hands respectfully fold and handle the flag.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Willard E. Grande II)

Larry's Short Stories #110

We were called the ‘honor guard’; it was an additional duty assigned by the base commander, and I served on it for a few months during my enlisted time.  Apparently every Air Force Base in the country had one – e…

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This is the classic turkey picture – hunter behind the bird, with tail feathers spread into a fan. Daughter Sara is behind the camera.

Larry's Short Stories #108

The classic turkey hunt has the hunter locating a roosting gobbler and getting close -- well before light; then calling him down into an open field or woods. The turkey struts and gobbles (as if for the camera) and sl…

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The real trophy is the mature tom turkey.  That’s my back-up Winchester Model 12; it’s a trap gun, with ventilated rib and re-stocked with English walnut.

Larry's Short Stories #107

There are probably a couple of dozen reasons that I go turkey hunting each spring.  It’s hard to say which is most important, some likely more than others, but they’re all special to me.  Most are very relia…

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Norman Wells, in the Northwest Territories of Canada, was the jumping-off point for Matt Fleming and I to get into the Mackenzie Mountains. Matt shot this great woodland caribou in August of 2012.

Larry's Short Stories #106

Whitehorse, Yellowknife, Smithers and Norman Wells; these, and a handful of others, are small but important communities in northwest Canada that are the ‘jumping-off points’ for hunting and fishing trips to the Canadi…

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Not a lot of mane, but a very big and old lion.

Larry's Short Stories #103

We were driving down the middle of a big ‘sand river’, looking for sign, about mid-way through a 21 day safari.  Lion was on the top of the list, but we hadn’t seen any evidence of lion on the dirt roads running…

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These were both very heavy-bodied deer and Russell was kind enough to gut both of them.

Larry's Short Stories #101

Once in a while it makes sense to mount some type of a drive when hunting whitetail deer in Missouri, especially if they aren’t moving much and you have all the right conditions – safety being the most important! …

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Dad and son; antlers still in velvet.

Larry's Short Stories #99

As moose hunts go, this one started routinely – get packed and sighted in, fly up to Whitehorse in the Yukon Territories, take a bush plane to a small lake in the middle of the Canadian Rockies; then hunt for a few da…

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For many years I’ve enjoyed deer hunting on the Nail Ranch, near Abilene, Texas; usually, I take my favorite 30-30.

Larry's Short Stories #91

It just seems right for a man to have a 30-30 lever action rifle and to find the time to use it, for its intended purpose.  For me, that’s mostly whitetail deer and coyotes, with an occasional rattlesnake and som…

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He was just outside the thick brush.  A wounded bear, in this circumstance, could lead to disaster.

Larry's Short Stories #90

It all started at the beginning of the last leg of the stalk, when my guide asked how far I was comfortable shooting. My response was simply that 300 yards was about it; he said "Good, some guys claim they can shoot a…

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A Fiocchi Trainer round in the right barrel and Winchester AA  Super-Handicap Trap load in the left, is a deadly combination on pheasant.

Larry's Short Stories #89

If the word ‘backup’ means lesser value or importance, then it isn’t proper to call this gun a ‘backup’, because it’s very special to me.  You see, a gentleman would always take two shotguns on a pheasant hunt, j…

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Mom (Sara) with nine year old daughter Eliza and her first buck.

Larry's Short Stories #88

We named it ‘Grand Central Station’ back in 1985 -- ‘Grand Central’ for short -- when we first hunted there.  In the fall the deer often move through this area all day long, as there are large tracts of woods on…

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My dad Gilbert, in 1988, with his three remaining beehives.  This is a spring picture and dad has added a honey production super to the far hive body.

Larry's Short Stories #87

Sometimes it’s the little things that stick in your mind; Dad was a beekeeper.  It wasn’t a major part of his life, just a hobby really.  The most colonies I ever remember him having was 25.  But the be…

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Three generations of the Potterfield family gather around the campfire at mid-day, during opening weekend.

Larry's Short Stories #86

Nothing quite excites or satisfies like the anticipation of opening morning of deer season; at best, the night before is restless.  Sure the anticipation dulls a little with age, as dreams of the 30 point buck ar…

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This is about as small as they get.  Knowledgeable folks I know call this an actual arrowhead ‘bird point’; but some say it may have been attached to ceremonial clothing.

Larry's Short Stories #82

Dad collected arrowheads and he had a cigar box full of his best ones.  I don’t recall that he actually took the time to hunt for them, but likely walked upon them while hunting, fishing or running his trap line…

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My friend, and co-worker, Matt Fleming is on the right.  This is the 'once in a lifetime' moose he gave to me -- and yes, he is still smiling.  Notice the drop tine on the left antler.  There is also one on the right.

Larry's Short Stories #81

Matt and I were on a ten day moose hunt and asked the guides to keep us together the first few days; they were fine with this and just wanted to know who would shoot first.  As Matt is a few years younger and had…

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First pass on the master lines is an early step in the checkering process.

Larry's Short Stories #80

Gunsmithing, at its most basic level, is simply the thoughtful use of hands, eyes and brain to disassemble and reassemble a firearm, and to shape and finish wood and metal parts – but how does one learn to do those th…

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We used four and five weight rods – Russell’s is bamboo.

Larry's Short Stories #77

In the wild and remote areas of western Canada, they use the term ‘fly-out’ fishing; as the only way to get you to most of the best streams and lakes is to ‘fly-out’ from base camp – in a small plane, with floats atta…

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Winter 1947 picture of Dad with my older brother Marion, and a pretty good bunch of rabbits.  That’s dad’s Remington Model 12 hanging above them.

Larry's Short Stories #76

Gilbert was his given name, but everyone called him Bert; and he was a pretty good hunter and trapper.   For dad, a gun was simply a tool he needed to hunt for food or fur and to run his trap line.  In…

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Our first computer, an Apple III, back in 1982.

Larry's Short Stories #75

It would be difficult to overestimate the importance of computers in Midway’s early years; when we opened in 1977, our cash register was the most complicated piece of electronic equipment in the gun shop.  It had…

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The ammunition companies have long offered  patches like this,  so shooters can display their  accomplishments.  The medal was for first place in 12 gauge ‘C’ class.

Larry's Short Stories #74

The term ‘one hundred straight’ only has meaning to a clay pigeon shooter.  It may have been coined in the late 19th or early 20th century when clay pigeons and trap shooting were just getting started.  Or p…

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This was Brenda’s first gobbler.  These ruins are modern, not Mayan.

Larry's Short Stories #73

Brenda has a great passion for turkey hunting – far greater than mine -- and it was she that came up with the idea of hunting the Ocellated Turkey, that lives mostly down in the area of the Yucatan Peninsula of old Me…

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For a perspective, Brenda is about 70” tall.  This is a pretty nice set of moose antlers.

Larry's Short Stories #72

“He’s got big palms or paddles -- whichever you call them --, but he’s not very wide.”  “There are lots of points on top, but they aren’t very long”.  “Look at his front tines, it’s a shame he doesn’t have g…

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This picture provides a good perspective; remember, I am 40 yards from the trunk of the vine.

Larry's Short Stories #71

Everyone knows the fairy tale about Jack and the Beanstalk; but, let me tell you that I have been there and actually seen and touched the beanstalk -- and no longer believe it to be a fairy tale.  Jack didn’t act…

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My first elk – and an unforgettable experience!  The rifle is a Remington 700 in 7mm Rem. Mag.

Larry's Short Stories #69

It was the outfitter's first hunt; he had been a guide the prior year – and he had never hunted this ranch before.  Also, he had booked far too many hunters and had to set up a second camp on another ranch - abou…

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It all got started about 1935 when Smith & Wesson and Winchester introduced the 357 Magnum cartridge and the large-frame revolver to fire it in.

Larry's Short Stories #67

Important changes often come from small, unknown companies, rather than large and long established ones; such was certainly the case with the availability of bulk reloading components.  It all started with unprim…

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Brenda with her first elk. She used a Remington 700 in 30-06.

Larry's Short Stories #66

A friend from ATK/Blount said to me “Larry, if you ever want to take Brenda on a nice elk hunt, I can recommend a great place.  They drive the logging roads in old Suburbans and have a wonderful lodge – and a gou…

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The Possibles Bag and Powder Horn carry everything needed for shooting and cleaning.

Larry's Short Stories #65

Luck is often described as being in the right place at the right time, with the ‘special knowledge’ and ‘right tools’ to take advantage of a situation -- and an understanding of and willingness to take risk; certainly…

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The horns are about 45” in width, though the picture makes him look bigger.  The gun is a Weatherby 460.

Larry's Short Stories #63

The Northern Territories of Australia, mostly between Darwin and Alice Springs, is vast and remote – and the enormous ranches there are called “stations”. This area would be on some folk’s ‘bucket list’, because of th…

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The bushbuck gets his name because he hangs around the bush areas, rather than the open plain.  Russell is pleased with his trophy.

Larry's Short Stories #62

It was a typical ‘first safari’, nine-days of plains game hunting with a standard package of trophy animals, and options for many others.  But for me it certainly wasn’t typical, as I never fired a shot – however…

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We think of zebra as just black and white stripes; but study the stripes on the three zebras and you will see that each is different.  First generation Nearly-Perfect Safari Rifle in 375 H&H.

Larry's Short Stories #59

White with black stripes or black with white stripes; that idea never crossed my mind when I lined up on his left shoulder and squeezed the trigger. The herd was in a small, burned area, with the male off to the right…

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I swapped the 375 H&H for my Winchester 1895 in the 405, as we walked up on the dead leopard.

Larry's Short Stories #56

There was a time, many years ago, when some people thought leopard were nearly extinct; but this was before they came to understand that it was only daylight sightings that were rare – you see, the leopard hunts at ni…

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Russell donned a red beret to strike this ‘French professional hunter pose’.

Larry's Short Stories #50

One of the trophies on Russell’s wish list was Lion, so we were always looking for lion tracks in the dirt roads as we drove around.  On occasion a lion will be spotted from the safari car, but normally you find…

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This is the entire pool of water and not much to hide in; but if he were only wounded, it would have been a nightmare to have gotten him out.

Larry's Short Stories #48

“Do you want to shoot a croc?”  With that simple, unexpected, whispered question from my professional hunter, this story begins; you see, we were looking for a hippo to shoot for lion bait – and the thought of bu…

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The Nambu Type 14 was the principle sidearm of Japanese troops in WWII.  This is an early small guard version, made in November, 1932.

Larry's Short Stories #45

George Spence was a locksmith at Blytheville AFB, Arkansas, when I arrived there – right out of basic training -- in November of 1971.  A few months later there was a Q&A, in one of the gun magazines, on wher…

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This is a large hippo, but they get even bigger.

Larry's Short Stories #41

“Do you want to shoot a hippo?”  The safari car had stopped, without apparent reason, and this question was put to me by the PH.  “Where?”  “There, sleeping in the water.”  “What would we do with h…

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A cape buffalo is one of the great trophies of Africa and you will never forget the first one.

Larry's Short Stories #29

Your first cape buffalo will dance around in your mind for the rest of your life, not necessarily because of the size of the trophy, but rather because of the circumstances of the hunt - no matter how routine.  W…

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Russell and his PH congratulate each other over the difficult but successful stalk.

Larry's Short Stories #27

As our plane circled to get downwind of the runway, we could see small herds of buffalo on the hills and in the valleys below.  This was a seven day hunt in rough country and son Russell, amazed at seeing all the…

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What a great confidence builder for an 11 year old girl to shoot such a nice deer.  Of course her brother was jealous!

Larry's Short Stories #24

Hunting with an eleven year old daughter is an interesting experience.  By that age she could sit quietly and pay attention for reasonable periods of time, so it was my job to present her with a deer that would s…

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A hunt is even more memorable when Brenda and I both shoot trophies – at the same time.  Our guns are Rifles, Inc. Mountain Rifles in 300 Win Mag.  Yes, Brenda’s  goat is bigger than mine!

Larry's Short Stories #22

It was Brenda, who wanted to shoot a goat; so when we landed in spike camp the guide immediately said “Brenda, I have found your goat!”  The spotting scope was set up, and about two miles up the valley on the rig…

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This is a giant specimen, approximately 48 feet in circumference and 16 feet in diameter ­— but they get even bigger.

Larry's Short Stories #19

It had been a long and successful safari; we had collected most of the desired trophies and were driving around on the dirt roads enjoying the last few days in the bush without a pressing agenda to collect more.…

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Who, me?  Certainly no one thinks I lit this fire!

Larry's Short Stories #18

If you like to set fires and burn things up, you’re called a pyromaniac – except perhaps in Africa.  There, if you burn your thumb flicking matches off the striker strip of a match box and set fire to thousands o…

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One of our trackers holds a small part of the prize; a wax honeycomb full of warm, sweet honey.

Larry's Short Stories #16

We discovered the bee hive quite by accident, while putting the stalk on a zebra in the bed of a dry sand river.  This dead tree was serving as our cover when we noticed the bees buzzing over our heads – coming a…

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His horns are quite broken up, but he offered a shot I couldn’t refuse.

Larry's Short Stories #12

Some people say that elk hunting is like spring turkey hunting in Missouri – make a sound like a female; the male responds, comes to the call and you shoot him – simple as that.  From personal experience I can co…

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Brenda with her large Alaska Brown Bear, that will square 9’ 6”.

Larry's Short Stories #8

If you don’t count the travel time from Missouri to Anchorage, then out to Port Moller on the Alaska peninsula, then the one day weather delay, then the flight to spike camp – well, if you don’t count all of that time…

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Larry and Brenda high in sheep country.

Larry's Short Stories #3

"Can we get closer?" Those were my words to the guide, as we looked down the mountain at the seven rams – nearly 600 yards away. We had been working these rams for four days, but bad luck…

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