By Edgar Castillo
When he wasn’t playing everyone’s favorite cowboy wrangler, cattle baron, one-eyed gunslinger, or justice serving lawman, John Wayne, aka “The Duke,” enjoyed spending time in the great outdoors. He had an insatiable appetite for hunting. He routinely shot birds—and, occasionally, people.
As Wayne’s movie star status grew, he had no trouble getting invites, and frequented big Texas cattle ranches where he chased quail. On occasion he ventured across the border into Mexico to hunt whitewing doves. Lucky for “El Duque” he was fluent in Español, as he had a penchant for marrying Latin senoritas—three to be exact. Wayne was also an ardent duck hunter and regularly hunted the flooded timbers of Arkansas.
And if you’re wondering if Wayne was as good of a shot as he was in the movies, there are multiple eyewitness accounts describing him as having a knack for killing game while onlookers remarked, “Those animals never stood a chance.”
Hollywood even gave Wayne an opportunity to display his shooting prowess. A bird hunting scene was incorporated into the 1963 western comedy McLintock. The flick is loosely based on Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, where Wayne played a wealthy ranch baron. While on an outing with his daughter, Wayne arrived at the predetermined spot set by the director, when two flushing pheasant roosters are thrust into the air by hidden launchers. On cue, Wayne, known to use his own personal guns in movies, raised his double-barrel sidelock hammer shotgun and shot. Both birds fell dead to the ground.
As his popularity grew, it became harder for Wayne to get away. However, working in Tinseltown had its rewards. A few miles down the road was Weatherby’s Sporting Goods. There, Wayne rubbed elbows and became close friends with the owner Roy Weatherby, the founder of Weatherby Inc.
The two would go on bird hunting trips while on or off location filming. Assuming Wayne had access to a myriad of shotguns at his disposal, one could speculate that Weatherby grew tired of seeing Wayne brandishing a Browning Auto-5 Humpback as he hammered ducks, and not a Weatherby-produced shotgun. Who knows, maybe this helped push Weatherby into finally getting into the shotgun market. In 1967 after years of producing quality rifles, Weatherby finally introduced their first over/under. Pumps and semiautos soon followed.
Now, let’s talk about Wayne’s unintentional human targets. Fifty years before Dick Cheney was a household name and synonymous with the dangers of quail hunting, there were a couple of “incidents” involving Wayne.
The larger-than-life American hero would often find a way to squeeze in a quick hunt with fellow actors. One such star, Ward Bond, an avid bird hunter himself, found that hunting with Wayne had its hazards. It was the 1950s and Wayne, Bond, and famed director John Ford were quail hunting. For some reason, Bond allowed Wayne to borrow one of his shotguns. As the trio trailed behind pointing dogs, a covey flushed. Wayne swung on a bird and shot. Hot lead sailed through the air and pellets found their mark on Bond’s ass.
Unable to walk, Wayne carried Bond back to the vehicle and drove him to the hospital. Bond recovered from his injury and joked about it for years until his death in 1960. In his will, Bond left Wayne the very shotgun Wayne used to shoot him.
Another Wayne “shooting incident” happened just south of Maricopa, Arizona. Two brothers were hunting doves, when suddenly BBs began raining down on them. They yelled out loudly hoping those shooting would become aware of their presence. Soon afterwards Wayne and some friends walked up and made amends for the “peppering”. Wayne extended his apologies, shook the brothers’ hands, and left. It was later learned that he owned the cattle ranch across the way.
No matter where the fight took him, John Wayne was America’s onscreen champion. He rode across the land in pursuit of marauding bandits, fought the Axis Powers, and “Charlie” in Vietnam. He miraculously defeated anyone who opposed him and stood in the way of justice…and now, you know that if you got in Wayne’s way while he was shooting quail or doves, he may just shoot you for your troubles—accidentally, of course.