Meet the Townsends

The Townsend family know firearms and all things hunting. After 67 years in business, it’s safe to say it’s literally in their blood. Grandpa LeRoy opened the business in Scottsbluff, Nebraska, and 45 years ago, LeRoy and his son Allen moved to Rozet, where the family has been ever since. Starting with a small shop, they later built on additions over the years, and in recent years, Allen has passed down the reins to daughter Tammy and son Kelly, who now run the show with family friend Dan the Gunsmith.

With the exception of one of their brothers, who lives north of Rozet, the Townsend family all live in houses on family land where they drive their ATVs to work or walk across the yard.

Living the Dream

The wooden walls of their cozy shop are filled with several decades’ worth of photographs of people of all ages and genders, smiling in orange vests and caps with their arms around the necks of their trophy. Some are from family hunts, but most are customers who over the years have come to be like family. Their dad won’t let them take any of them down, Tammy explained, so over the years the walls have morphed into a collage of all things wildlife. Tufts of turkey tail feathers hang between elk, moose, deer and other heads and mounts.

Along with a NRA-approved firing range in the back of the shop where customers can sight rifles and shoot into a pile of sand-filled tires 100 yards out from one of the four seated bunkers, they can also get their firearm repaired by Dan the Gunsmith or just come in to check out new rifles and pistols and ask some questions.

T&T also sells reloading supplies like powders and primers, scopes, ammo and hundreds of racks full of pistols and rifles and can rattle off stats and features like well-honed pros who have been doing this all their lives.

Kelly credits their long years in business to a couple key things. First, they really love what they are doing and go out of their way to make customers feel welcome and answer all their questions. And if they don’t have a gun or product a customer is looking for, then they call other area gun shops and send them their way.

“We are all one big  community out here,” Kelly said, “and supporting one another just makes us stronger.”

Shaky Legs

When you hunt as much as Kelly does, they start to run together. Not that it diminishes any of the memories, mind you, it’s just that he hunts a lot. Mostly with his family, including Tammy, whose first elk kill a couple years ago is one of the hunts he remembers most.

  They’d been out with their dad and niece and nephew when they spotted a herd of elk way off in the distance. Tammy and Kelly left the others and made a beeline across a draw to close in on them. With her sights trained on a big bull, she took a shot and it dropped.

“My legs are shaking,” Tammy had said, to which Kelly laughed and told her they were supposed to.

Then, after he looked closer, he watched the injured elk start to stand up and said, “Uh oh.”

Don’t Poke the Rifle

What? his sister wondered. Kelly pointed and Tammy looked stunned. He told her to shoot it right under the nose, and like a good brother, took out his phone and starting filming her.

She got it. Whooping, she ran up to it and poked it with her rifle as Kelly laughed.

You’re not supposed to do that!” he said, jokingly. “They only do that in the movies.”

After that hunt, Kelly started to think about his sister’s excitement and worried he’d been doing it so long, he no longer shakes. Later, however, when he shot a really nice white-tail, when he got back on the four-wheeler, he realized his legs were shaking.

“I’ve still got it,” he said with a laugh.

Songs of the Wild

Along with his vast knowledge of firearms and love of working with customers, Allen can also be lured out to demo a couple critter calls if customers are interested. His specialty is predators, which he honed during the off-season.

Growing up in Nebraska, he spent a lot of time outdoors. Along with helping in the shop, Allen also did some freelancing for local ranchers to help take care of their various predators, which gave him a lot of time outside to study and listen.

He put a small piece of plastic about the size of a kazoo between his lips and screeched out an ear-drum busting squeal that apparently is what you’d hear from a dying jackrabbit. He can do just about anything, from, coyote pups, rabbits, coyotes among lots of others. He’s also great with bird calls, too, especially meadowlarks, flickers, and blue jays along with a long list of others.

His face went red as what began as the faint cries of a baby quickly crescendoed into a glass-shaking wail of what sounded a lot like a baby being dropped into a vat of scalding water. Allen grinned. That was a hurt coyote pup calling for its mother. A second high-intensity escalating wail is the bleat of a fawn. Then there’s the old jack rabbit, young cottontail and about a half-dozen others, all of which echo varying sounds of pain.

From the Heart

Except the birds. Changing tones, he created the sing-song greeting of a meadowlark, then smiled as if transported into a wild-flower filled meadow serenaded by song birds.

He does this often, Tammy explained, including last week when the family went camping, making it hard to tell Allen’s calls from real ones.

The trick, Allen explained, is to flutter the tongue and put some emotion into it.

“Monotone isn’t going to cut it,” he said. “It’s just like someone reading in a flat voice with no emotion. It’s boring.”

Like humans, animals are triggered by emotions, and the trick is to fluctuate the intensity and make it sound real. Just like a baby crying.

While his handmade gadget cost nothing, they sell a couple different brands and sizes of critter calls for between about $11 and $15.

“It doesn’t take much,” he said, “and you don’t have to spend a lot of money. You just have to give it some heart.”

By: Jen C. Kocher

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