Oct 19, 2012, 1:01 AM EDT
By Bill Miller
News just reached me that the world of wingshooting lost a solid friend and staunch advocate. I hadn’t been in touch with my longtime gun buddy Bill Hanus in awhile. Today I went to his website only to discover Bill moved on to better bird fields on September 12 this year. I will miss him greatly.
If you care to visit his site, there are some great archived articles there that Bill wrote over the years for North American Hunter, Bird Dog & Retriever, The Upland Almanac, Quail Unlimited, Spaniels in the Field, and Gun Digest. The image of Bill and his dog Trixie at the head of this blog is the same one that will greet you on the site’s home page. I took that photo of Bill and Trixie on our very first meeting at an Outdoor Writers Association of America Conference in Kalispell, Montana. He ended up using it for the next 25 years to promote this Bill Hanus Birdgun business. I am pleased and proud I could contribute in a small way to that legacy.
I bought one of the first twenty 16 gauge Bill Hanus Birdguns he brought into the country. It’s made by Ugartechea in Spain. It has 25-inch barrels choked skeet and skeet; single, non-selective trigger; straight stock with slight cast for a right-handed shooter; and a Churchill-style rib. I used it just last week to great effect on the National Grouse and Woodcock hunt of the Ruffed Groused Society in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. After the first season with that gun, I wrote to Bill and asked me if he’d sold me a shotgun or a magic wand! It worked that good… and still does.
The gun took such a place in my heart I decided about 10 years ago I needed a duplicate in 28 gauge, but with slightly longer barrels for better balance in the finely sculpted subbore. I contacted Bill, and though he was no longer working with Ugartechea on the current crop of Bill Hanus Birdguns he located a used 28 for me. Even arranged a “try out” period that coincided with a Texas quail hunt I had planned. The results of the trial demanded I add that gun to the safe as well, even though the used gun cost twice as much as what I’d paid for the 16 gauge, new, years before! That alone is testament to the clarity of Bill’s vision of the perfect birdgun.
Since then the little 28 has accompanied me on many hunts including high-volume shoots in Argentina for doves and pigeons. It performs magnificently, but just doesn’t stand a chance of pushing aside the 16 as my favorite close quarters birdgun.
More than anything else, Bill Hanus was a birdgun matchmaker. He’d come up with these great specs and connections for 16, 20 and 28 gauge birdguns and order up a bunch. Then via his website and magazine articles, he’d let the addicted among us into his wonderful world and sell the guns at a reasonable profit. Sounds simple, but when you’re dealing with international manufacturing, exchange rates, shipping … it took a genius and master of organization to pull it off. Bill Hanus did it well!
There’s a hole in the rack in my gun safe between the BHB 16 gauge and BHB 28 gauge. I’ve long had the hankering, but not the means to fill it with a 20. Now I will have to, but I’m guessing that just as in the passing of a grand master artist it’s now going to be expensive! Bill’s art of the Birdgun was that good!
To Betty, Bill’s wonderful wife who put up with guns and dogs and all of it for so long, my condolences. We will all miss Bill tremendously.
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