"Now try your sling," he suggested.
I went in slowly. The turkeys were concentrating on the barking dogs and paid no attention to me. I lined up on one of the hens and let fly. The first ball bearing missed, but the hen paid no attention to it. One advantage of a sling is that it makes no noise. I sent another pellet, and this came so close that the hen turned her head and looked around. Now I had the range, so I slung another pellet as hard as I could which seemed to hit full and fair. The hen gave a squawk and volplaned out of the tree. The dogs grabbed her, and I rushed in to rescue the bird. The pellet must have hit her a glancing blow, for she was uninjured. I took the bird home with me, feeling that I had earned her.
It was now clear what my Arab friend had meant when he said that for most purposes the American-type slingshot is a more practical weapon. A good slingshot is more powerful than the average air rifle and can bury a lead pellet so deep in a pine board that it has to be cut out. In fact, one brought down a helicopter in Brazil in January 1967. A youngster was out with his slingshot near S�o Paulo and took a shot at a passing helicopter and struck the rotor. The copter became unmaneuverable and, after skimming the roofs of several houses, made an emergency landing on a football field. I'll bet that was one scared kid.
The 1950s were the great days for slingshot enthusiasts. A National Slingshot Association was formed at San Marino, Calif., and there was another slingshot club in Kentucky where all the members were over 50. Ernest Hemingway, Max Fleischmann, the yeast king, and actor Lloyd Nolan invested in slingshots, and the White House ordered three, for what purpose I'm not sure. Some of the men got remarkably expert. Jim Gasque in North Carolina, using No. 0 buckshot, could hit a quarter at 30 feet. Slingshot Shorty, also known as William Hutchens Jr. of Blountsville, Ala., could send a pellet through the neck of a bottle at 15 yards and knock out the bottom. But perhaps the best known was Johnny Milligan, a foreman at the Ford plant in Detroit, who could snuff a candle at 30 feet and once exploded four dozen eggs thrown into the air at 25 feet. Milligan and Whitt Coleman, another expert, went hunting with their weapons near Dearborn, Mich., using slingshots with aluminum forks and three-fourth-inch ball bearings. They could kill squirrels or rabbits at 40 feet.
For small game around the farm, I decided to see what I could do with a slingshot. After trying out several makes, I finally settled on the Slingbow, made by the Weber Tackle Company of Stevens Point, Wis. The Slingbow is powered by surgical rubber tubing and comes in three strengths, the most powerful pulling about 40 pounds. Glass pellets are supplied for practice. I found it better to practice with a target set before a hanging sheet to conserve ammunition.
After considerable experimentation, I learned to hold the handle with four fingers and brace my thumb against the grip. I also sloped the slingshot at about 45 degrees to the right and aimed over the higher prong of the fork. If you keep the slingshot vertical, it is almost impossible to pull a 40-pound sling to full length and hold it steady while you aim. Also, if the rubber happens to break, you get it full in the face.
As hunting season was past by the time I'd gotten fairly accurate with the slingshot, I decided to try crows. If there's one thing we have plenty of around my farm it's crows, and I thought we could spare a few. The problem was how to get the crows in close enough, as the limit of accuracy for my slingshot was about 40 feet.
The problem was solved by a young friend, David Morris, who had a great horned owl named Yahooti. Yahooti had a sweet disposition—as great horned owls go—and didn't mind being used as a crow decoy, especially if he got to eat the crows. We started out with Yahooti and two slingshots, the medium and the powerful. A powerful slingshot takes so much strength to pull that the fork has a tendency to wobble when taking aim. For ammunition I used three-fourth-inch ball bearings.
If we had been doing it right we would have built a blind, but you need more room to maneuver a slingshot than a shotgun, so I decided to lie down behind some logs near a swamp. Yahooti was put out on a perch near an oak tree where we hoped the crows would land, thus giving me a still shot. The swamp was in the middle of a valley where crows were always flying back and forth. It seemed like a good spot. David, with a crow call, started giving a series of harsh alarm calls in the best crow language.
Only one crow heard him, but that bird came drifting in to the oak. He took one look at Yahooti and started screaming "Owl! Owl!" while dive-bombing Yahooti. I was tempted to try a wing shot but waited for others to come in.