Most outdoor people think of January and February as slow, boring months but that can be false. As you read this over a morning cup of coffee, people are crowding into the facilities at the Arden Fairgrounds, seeking that one treasure at the gun show.
It is this winter gun show that seems to attract the highest number of shoppers. A few weeks later in February on the second weekend, which this year is the 8th, a smaller sports show will be held at the Washington Crown Center Mall.
It is at this show I will be presenting my Conservation scholarship to a very deserving young person. This should help a bit as we are waiting for the opening of the two big spring seasons: trout and spring turkey.
I was going back a bit in time today and I remember another event that was held during the cold months of the year. We called it the Popsicle shoot. It was held at the Roy Sisler’s Hunting Hills in Greene County. The event was a sporting clay event and a creation of Roy’s and a fellow I knew, named Dave Minella. At least I think these two came up with it. Now, thinking of this cold weather shoot also reminds me of pro football playoffs. There is a reason that it reminds me of football and I am getting there. After meeting a handful of athletes, I have come to a prejudicial conclusion that football players are a friendlier bunch than baseball players. They also seem to be better hunters and anglers.
The late Mike Webster was as fine a gentleman as one could meet, despite the fact that he didn’t hunt. Tunch Ilken shot clay birds and Mark Malone hunted. But of this group that I knew, there was one person from the 1970’s Steelers who stood out as both a clay bird shooter and a hunter who shot in this corner of the state. That was Gerry Moon Mullins.
Gerry was consistent, breaking over 90 birds on almost every shoot. Today’s shooter has a definite advantage over us back then when we always shot low gun. This meant the shotgun was held down around the waist and not raised until the bird was released. Today, shooters are allowed to shoulder the gun before calling for the clay bird.
Of course, playing in a Super Bowl, which Gerry did four times, was more nerve racking than any clay shoot. I once saw Gerry compete at a shoot when he and another shooter tied at the end of the match. The other fellow shot first in a playoff while the rest of us cheered our favorite. He too was an excellent shot but nerves got hold of Jim and he missed 4 out of 10. He knew Gerry wouldn’t repeat such a horrible demonstration and knew he had blown it. Now, it was Gerry’s turn to shoot and guess what? Gerry missed the first three, giving the other shooter hope. Then Gerry cleaned the rest up, winning the match. Later, he said he had deliberately missed the first three just to build his adversaries thoughts of winning. That was Gerry.
Following a shoot one nice spring day, there were four of us sitting in the Union Grill and Gerry was one of them. The bull was up to our waist and I thought of a serious question to ask the man who should know. Gerry played on that great team of the 70s, starting his rookie year, and still played as a starter when he retired. He had also played with some great teams as a starter for Southern California and blocked for OJ Simpson. My question to the pro? Who was the best football player he either played for or against? Another way to put it is his answer would have to be someone he had been on the same field with.
Gerry paused to think and said quite seriously “Super.” I said, “Never heard of him.” Gerry said, “Superman, Mel Blount. He could run like a deer, jump like a kangaroo and hit every bit as hard as Joe Greene.” Good answer. I think Mel could still do it. While a good answer, it wasn’t one I expected.
It’s been some time since I met this smallish guard of the Steelers. After his marriage he moved to the Butler area and has lived quietly. I am always asked where is this ex-Steeler who was so great a grouse hunter and winning clay bird shot.
It wasn’t unusual to find Moon and me tramping through a thicket, hoping to flush a grouse. While small for a pro lineman, Moon was a big man by my standards and, as we made our way through the thick cover, Moon looked around and said loudly, “George, where are you?”
“Down here,” I said, barely seeing over the cover. Now, I look around and ask, “Moon, where are you?”