Drew I suspect by saying "on top of the barrel" John is referring to the short rib between the barrel tubes. It's not unusual to find a bird engraved in this area, although in most cases the bird depicted is a pigeon. If John could post a photo we could certainly make the correct assessment.
Drew John said his gun was grade stamped 3E, so it has to be a Grade 3 gun. Hunter would add such personal touches on customer request, so sometimes we see these added engravings. As FYI our Executive Director is presently examining a Grade 3 two barrel set with Krupp barrels featuring pigeons on the top ribs (and other special features). Tom
I can add even more confusion. SN 212404 was recorded as a 2E in the Hunter Arms Company Ledger No. 17. I have found that discrepancies between the engraving, what is marked on the water table, and what was recorded in the ledger are common during the 1909-1911 period. In this case, what is engraved on the lock plates may be the best information to use to determine the grade.
Also, do the serial numbers on the water table and the barrels match?
John - if you would send me full size high resolution images by jpg attachment of the action flats, barrel flats, lockplates and the "quail" on the barrels I would be happy to post them, and settle the issue email@example.com