Wednesday, December 27, 2006

A Good Week Hunting

A Good Week Hunting.JPG
Originally uploaded by frankzappai.
I'm experimenting with my daughter's new digital camera and with blogging directly from Flickr. I have it on good authority that the third bird from the left is a merganser.

where's this grouse when you're hunting him?

check this out:

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas Eve Grouse

Regular readers of this blog (that would be everyone including Pete but excluding Vicar) know that I've been busy lately, whooping it up with the nose-in-the-air Ithaca ballet crowd and hanging around backstage drinking champagne with three tenors from Ireland.

Well today I got back out in the woods for a chase after that noblest of game birds, his Majesty the Grouse.

Temp was a brisk 40 deg. F, there was a substantial wind from the northwest at 15-20 mph, and I was as usual dressed in my Carhartt vest and tattered old air force sweater. Katie sported her ten year old ATS Sonic Pro beeper collar, fueled by a new Duracell 9 volt battery for maximum audibility.

Away we went at 3 pm. It was the first time in the woods for me since October--as a mighty killer of Quaker state moby bucks puts it, I've been "busier-than-a-one-armed-wallpaper-hanger." And Katie hasn't been in the woods since October either. So you know it was an afternoon grouse hunt destined to be run at a faster clip than Mr. Mike runs his local 5K road race.

Katie made wind of bird almost right away. Straight uphill through thick thick dogwood, she followed a bird up a swale with me following slightly behind and off to the side of her. Near the top of the hill she went on point in the middle of the thick stuff, and as I move in the bird flushed, straight up and away. BANG! and the bird kept flying. BANG! with the second barrel, and the bird coasted into the woods about fifty yards distant. As I started toward where I'd marked the bird down, I noticed a bunch of feathers falling from the sky from my first shot. There were a lot of them, and I was hopeful as I got to the top of the hill and entered the hardwoods.

Nothing. No scent, no dead bird, no treed bird, nothing. I kept Katie in the area for three or four minutes until she got impatient and started hunting again away from me back downhill. I resolved to make my way back at the end of the afternoon to see if I could find the bird. Clearly I'd hit it, but it was nowhere to be found.

We kept going. We covered a lot of ground, the wind was fairly strong and very swirly, so it was quite a foot race to keep up with this setter who hasn't really stretched her legs since October. If you catch my drift.

We crossed a wood road at the bottom of the hill and continued into the low pines beyond. After one particularly strong but unproductive point, Katie reversed direction and headed back nearly due west along the contour. Straight into the wind. I raced to keep up with her, and suddenly she locked up! She was in some dogwood, nose pointed down the slope southward, and as I walked in on the point, up went a beautiful red phase grouse, straight into the air, woodcock-style.

BANG! and the bird folded instantly.

I just have to say . . . now THAT was a good feeling.

Katie was on the fluttering bird in an instant, and it was dead by the time I reached her. A beautiful mature male, huge bird--one of the biggest I've seen. Not quite a turkey, but bigger than a Tidball farm jake.

Just had to get that in.

On we went. It was getting close to 4:20 or thereabouts, so we headed back uphill to the woodroad, where we crossed and followed a trail in toward where the first bird had been. As we neared the spot where I'd marked it down, Katie got birdy back in the original swale where I'd shot at the first one. As I couldn't call her back to where I was, I hustled downhill to where she was now working a new bird in some real thick stuff. She'd point, I'd move in, she'd relocate, I'd reposition--the game continued for five or more minutes. Finally the bird turned the corner around both of us and was headed west back uphill when I cut it off on the uphill slope, and that was when it flushed away northward across the dogwoody field into a new patch of woods.

We followed up on it but didn't find it again. By now it was getting late, and Katie managed to point one more grouse on the way out that I was able to walk in on but didn't see when it flushed.

We made it back to the truck just as it was getting dark at 5 pm. All in all it was a great hunt, even though a hot and sweaty one. I had bagged my first Hector bird of the year, and clearly I'd hit the other one even though we couldn't find it. I have a feeling we'll be back up there tomorrow afternoon looking for that one again.

It felt a bit like Santa brought me an early Christmas gift. A Christmas Eve grouse.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Merry Christmas Grousers!

Tori, Fiona & Spencer, and Cagey with geese-
first day-after-christmas goose hunt at Canoga farms.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


After 15 years of deer hunting, I finally killed my first buck. Well, let's just say that it was the first buck that I knew was a buck when I shot it ("Yep, son, I've killed plenty of monster button bucks in my time. There was one that was practically the size of a Chessie..."). Ok, so I'm not much of a deer hunter, but this guy initiated me to the fraternity of eagle eyed nimrods who, when asked if they got a buck, answer: "yup."


It all happened on the first monday after Thanksgiving, which is opening day here in PA. Out of a sense of duty, more than anything else, I joined "tell me why I would want to work here" Rich on an annual tradition. Meet at my place at 5:00. Raise, then dash, the expectations of Abbey and Cody who only associate Rich with good things. And stroll down the lane to my neighbors’ over-hunted, un-posted woodlot.

Our plan was to settle into our respective hides long before the anticipated arrival of the opening day jamokes. The mercury was forecast to head into the 60s, so we were both dressed too lightly for the early morning temperatures. I imagine it was a bit like opening day in the south. Needless to say, expectations were at a minimum. Between last year’s uneaten venison (my freezer) and this year’s road kill (Rich’s), neither of us felt the need for meat. We agreed to shoot one doe between the two of us if the opportunity arose.

Around 7:30 I heard something crashing through the hemlocks to my right and a moment later a large doe hurtled by. I was just raising the 0.243 (Johny on the spot) when Moby raced by. Through the hurriedly raised scope he was a complete blur. Even so, I caught a glimpse of his eight points and, so low were my expectations, that just seeing him left me with a tremendous sense of accomplishment.

The arguments against today’s deer management program have been so aggravating to listen to, yet so “clearly” borne out by last year’s dismal season, that my thoughts went immediately to the vindication of poor Gary Alt. This one buck had to be evidence of the success of Alt’s management program.

Twenty minutes later two tails flagged through the red pines to my left. Could they be the same deer? Within minutes my thoughts were answered by jamoke #1, who came crashing through the ravine below me and, upon seeing me, waved and marched over to chat. A pleasant, funny, little fellow with a fading orange ball cap perched on top of an insulated cap. “Seen that spike?” he inquired. “Nope, but I saw I nice buck” I unwittingly offered. And off he went, with roughly 0% chance of ever seeing a live deer.

Oy, this story is dragging on and it’s getting late.

Shortly after the encounter with jamoke #1, Rich came strolling by. He was cold and had seen nothing. I was cold and happy, having seen a very nice buck and a funny looking jamoke. Rich suggested I warm up by putting on a small drive while he manned my hide, which, he felt, had clearly become the better place to be on opening day.

I walked briskly over a rise and then down the back side of the 70 acre ridge that we were hunting. My thoughts were on driving deer, not on seeing any. As I approached the “valley of death,” with its memories of past kills of deer and turkey, I was startled by the clatter of hooves on hard earth. I sat and stared through a narrow corridor of white pine boughs into the meadow below.

Suddenly, Moby materialized, and I could feel the excitement douse any illusion of self control. Fighting instinct, I tried to slowly raise the rifle as Moby tried equally hard to discern what had interrupted him from his pursuit of doe. When the gun had only traveled half the requisite distance in what seemed like an eternity I lost control and yanked it to my eye. Amazingly, there stood Moby. Amazingly, the scope was dialed to the perfect setting (5x) for the 75 yard shot. I aimed at his chest and squeezed the trigger.

Moby turned and trotted off. Within seconds I was groping for one of Rich’s new walkie talkies (I left one of mine at Black Lake this year). With some coaxing (ok, cajoling), Rich persuaded me to stay put. And, within ten minutes of his arrival, we had tracked Moby to the flood plain, bordering Joe Fye's little trout stream that has been the place of so many memories over the past few years. It was the spot where I killed a turkey over Abbey when we first moved to Pennsylvania Furnace. It was the spot where Rich had killed a doe last year. And, it was the spot where I had killed a doe last year following a series of very bad judgements.

Moby's antlers were extended to the heavens. I was overtaken with gratitude. Rich beamed at me like a proud dad. It was perfect.

It’s also 5:15 and I need to get home to the wife and kids… More later.

Back on the blog (at least for now)...


Tuesday, December 19, 2006

More goodies from the archives

This one also appeared in December of 2005. Enjoy.

Let's Have Some Fun: You Provide the Caption

Hey lads,
Let's experiment with what I'd like to call, an "interactive feature." :-) I provide the photo, and you all provide a caption and/or description of what's going on.

I'll start:

(1) "This is a picture of Keith trying to stay tuned up in between the first and second duck seasons."

Monday, December 18, 2006

Happy Birthday, Grousers!

Well, the blog is a year old. We've gained some members, lost some members, and had some fun. All in all a successful first year. Keep posting those stories, links, and limericks.

Limericks you say? The following limerick first appeared on Grousers in December 2005:

There was a young grouser named Richie
Whose trigger finger on point was so itchy
He walked in on a bird
A great boom could be heard
And when he missed he was ever so bitchy

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Danielle's Wisdom

I thought everyone would enjoy this.My daughter who is 8 yrs old was watching hunting shows on ESPN2 with me. She was writing in her journal at the same time after our show was over she gave me this letter to keep in my truck so I would not forget some important facts about hunting like when you can talk or not talk depending on what you are hunting.

Enjoy the Holidays

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Holiday Gems!

Sorry I've been ABLOGWOL, busy at work and home.

I came across this gem of a site highlighting the top 10 most dangerous toys, and I HAD to share.

Three cheers for Lawn Darts!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Early Duck Season Ends

Well the first season of 2006 has ended and it was a good one.I look foward to some stories about all the duck and goose slaying that went on this fall. Nick and I had a great season but one hunt remains the most memorable. It was opening weekend and we had a great morning taking a mixed bag of mallards, teal, wood duck and even a pintail. My cousin hit a nice drake mallard and it fluttered down two ponds over so Nick and the two of us went after it. We worked the pond hard and no duck but Nick kept coming back to one spot. I checked the weeds along the pond numerous times and told Nick the bird had left and pulled him off this spot to go in search of the bird. Finally we gave up Dave and I were standing there talking about what a great hunt we were having and Nick went back to that same spot again he was in water up to his chest and kept going in circles.Suddenly he plunged his head under water and after a few seconds of thrashing around under water he came up with Dave's Mallard. It was unbelievable he knew it was there the whole time the instinct and scenting abilities of these dogs is unbelievable. Thanks to Nick we had a great season.

See you in the blind

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Ball busters and nut crackers

I have been accused by a job-seeking, interview-hungry Penn State professor of shirking my hunting duties in favor of pursuit of a higher nature. I'm tired of him cracking my nuts.

I'll have you all know that I will be attending a hunting-related event over the weekend, and the game will be really, really big "rodents."

So there, I've got that going for me. Which is nice.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Layout Boat Hunt

Big front, wind and winter's return. Made a try for the divers, the ones always out in the middle. Had birds check out the spread, but only one flock of Goldeneyes was fired upon, with no success.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Luke's Way

Since the blog is quiet and people are too busy hunting to write about it, I thought I'd post a story I wrote from 2003 and posted in sections on my Farm Fin Fur Feather blog. It's long, but Enjoy!

I had been watching deer all summer and this was to be the “year of the buck.” We purchased our farm in upstate New York to raise a family, to live in the country, and, for me, to hunt. My first hunting season on the farm was a frenzy of hunting, an orgy-like frenzy of hunting madness. Yet despite long (constant if you ask my wife) hours a-field, the first year yielded little by way of game. A few ducks, a goose, some small game, a doe on opening day of deer season. Mind you, it was huge success relative to my previous years hunting, but of course not what I had in mind now that I lived in what my friends referred to as a veritable game preserve. So this year, our second, was to be the “year of the buck.”

All throughout the early small game seasons I kept myself alert for deer, always on the lookout for sign and patterns. I knew where they crossed the creek, where they bedded down, where they browsed the hedgerow fruits and berries, where they traversed our woods en route to corn and soy bean fields. I knew their paths through the cattail marsh, through the overgrown orchard, through bottomland brambles. I had mental notes of all of the rubs on and around my property. I had them patterned and I had seen at least two large bucks. Things were shaping up well for the “year of the buck.”

Opening day of deer season arrived with me riding high on a tide of confidence after a highly productive waterfowl season. I put in a few hard days of last minute preparations, stand placements, shooting lane clearings, all in anticipation of filling at least a doe tag or two and hopefully bagging my buck on opening day, before the deer changed all of their routines due to hunting pressure. I cleaned my WW I Mauser rifle-turned bolt-action shotgun thoroughly, sighted in the red dot scope one last time, pulled my deer hunting garb off of the clothesline where it had been “airing out” for a week or so, and completed last minute checks. “Tomorrow morning is it,” I kept thinking.

In the back of my mind I knew I needed to make a contingency plan about how to deal with the yearly tension between waterfowl hunting, my first love, and deer hunting, a growing obsession in its own right. The night before opening day, I committed to 100% attention to deer season until I got my deer tags filled, or the season ended, one of the two. It felt good to arrive at that position, knowing I seem to do better at whatever I endeavor when I sell out to the cause. So, I was committed to an extended “deer campaign” if required, which was appropriate for what was to be “the year of the buck.”

I slept fitfully and finally gave up at 3:30 AM. “Might as well get going,” I thought as I lay listening to the rain on the metal roof. “Things will be slower in the rain.” I was up and dressed by 4:00 AM and on my way to the stand in the thicket shortly thereafter. The thicket stand, I reasoned, was well placed on a regularly traveled route, and after all the shooting got started, I would be in an easy ambush position as the deer made their retreats to safety. Unfortunately, in the absolute darkness of the cloudy and foggy morning, it took me much more searching, and swearing, than expected to find the tree, despite the fact that I had just looked it over the afternoon before. Finally, as the darkness began lifting, I found the tree stand, and got myself situated. I was overheated, now soaked from the rain and the wet underbrush, and out of sorts. I tried to take some deep breaths, achieve the elusive Zen state of deer hunting, but I kept hearing deer moving around me. With twenty minutes to shooting time, I was strung as tight as a piano wire.

A shot to my left, single, followed by two follow-ups and the sound of someone whooping. “The season is five minutes old and someone is already happy,” I thought, “Won’t be long for me either.” A single shot to my right, near the hedgerow. “Must be Woody…he always gets a deer opening day.” Half an hour passes, and though I regularly hear deer in the brush around me and on the many spur trails, I have yet to see one. A shot to my rear, down by the lake in the vicinity of the cattails, followed up by three more shots in rapid succession. “Hmm…maybe I should have taken up that position near the marsh,” I mutter. Catching myself beginning to second-guess prematurely, I take a deep breath, steady myself, and focus. “This is the year of the buck,” I repeat, as a mantra, as I hear more shots in the distance.

The next two weeks differ very little from opening day. Snow falls, changing the scenery a little. The number of shots heard while in tree stands, or tracking and trudging, diminishes, leading me to believe that most of the deer in the county have been killed by what must be more lucky or more skilled hunters than I. I fall into a routine. Arise an hour before dawn, quickly dress and head out to one of my outposts of despair, while repeating my mantra “This is the year of the buck.” Mentally note the sound of the ducks or the geese on the marsh, taunting me, chiding me for wasting my time on deer when I could be waterfowl hunting. My lab gives me the same look every morning when she sees me put on the orange coat and not the old Filson, and more severely upon my return around 10:00 AM empty handed. Return to the woods around 3:00 PM for a few more hours. Somewhere in those two weeks I manage to show up for work for “reduced hours,” but those minutes are not memorable. What is most memorable, other than the bizarre behavior of ground squirrels which I have become an expert in due to my intimate and extended observations of, is a phone call from a good friend in Kentucky.

“How’s it going?” he inquires. “Great” I reply, aware that in that moment I might have wasted the last ounce of contrived optimism I may somehow have still been in possession of, and would be utterly bankrupt of positive thoughts when I get to my stand this afternoon. “What’s up?”

“Well, you know, Luke has been talking about wanting to hunt, and I don’t hunt, so I was wondering if you would take him hunting?” My friend Rob is not an avid outdoorsman, preferring to heap his genius upon more predictable and controllable things than nature, such as computers. I have considered the wisdom of his choices while freezing in my deer stand and have found them to be admirable, especially admirable this deer season.

“Has Luke ever been deer hunting?” I ask.
“Not really. We shot his .22 a few times together, though.”
“At what?” I ask.
“Cans, mostly.”
“See, all of his friends are starting to go hunting with their Dads or uncles, you know, everybody hunts down here.”

“Well, I’d love to see you guys, and I think it would be great to get Luke out hunting. Maybe we could go for squirrels.” I was thinking it might be better to postpone this hunting expedition idea until after deer season was over, so I could finish my languishing campaign in peace. There was only a week to go.

“Were you thinking in a few weeks” I asked?

“Well, we could do it next weekend…” I did the mental math. That would be the last weekend of deer season. But, for goodness sake, I had better at least see a deer by then.

“That will work just fine. Make sure Luke brings warm clothes and good boots. We have snow. Should be great hunting weather.” I can never pass up an opportunity to share the hunting tradition with a youngster. Besides, if I have wrecked my deer karma, maybe this will help.

The days passed by much like the preceding days of deer season, though I did at least get a fleeting glimpse of a doe or two, and even a handsome buck passed by out of range. The weather got colder, the ground squirrels seemed to disappear, and the snow deepened by the time Luke and Rob arrived. Shots were infrequently heard now, and my musings were muffled in the snowy quiet of the winter woods. I heard the dogs barking back up at the house and guessed that my hunt for the afternoon was over, that the Squirrel Hunting Expedition had begun. As I lowered my gun to the ground and climbed out of my tree stand, I heard the alarm chirp of a gray squirrel. I noted his location, and thought “Now don’t you guys all disappear too, Mr. Gray Squirrel.”

I made the hike back to the house quickly. It was easier now that I didn’t carry the back pack loaded with rope and knives and other sundries needed in the event one slew a deer. Now I just carried my gun and a handful of shells. Luke and Rob were standing on the steps, hands on hips, looking at the frozen lake, while my labs entreated the new arrivals to heed their wagging and whining. I felt my spirits lift a little from the heaviness I was beginning to suffer from the battles with self-doubt in the deer campaign.

We entered the house where my wife had a cozy fire going and delicious smells to greet our guests. Both Rob and Luke were immediately under the spell of our little piece of heaven, and by dinner time, Luke was being regaled by stories of “Myself as Great Waterfowl Hunter.” He listened enthusiastically to my tales, and my labs wagged their tales where appropriate. Rob also indulged me and encouraged me to continue with laughter and questions. As I was pouring a wee bit more wine into my glass, Luke deadpanned: “What about the deer?”

Waxing nostalgic about hunting aesthetics is one thing, but it should not be forgotten that hunting has its origins in a fairly straightforward requirement to put meat on the table. Leave it to a child to do so well what most adults have an increasingly more difficult time of. Ask the hard ones. Cut to the chase, get to the bottom line, and don’t equivocate. So there it was, the question laid before me. “Meat, or no meat?” “Success, or failure?” I looked into this aspiring hunter’s eyes and I could see that no flowery talk of “enjoying nature being the point of hunting” was going to fly. I think he understood the point was to hunt, which is more than to kill, and he was asking just how I was faring in that department. I cleared my throat, breaking the silence. “This is the year of the buck” I said flatly. “I have hunted hard for him, and he has eluded me. I haven’t seen many deer at all, and I have killed none.” I took a gulp of wine and swallowed. More silence.

Luke is an interesting young fellow, thoughtful, sincere, and comical in an off-the-wall kind of way. Luke looked at his father and seeing no sign to maintain silence, furrowed his brow and declared “Huh. Well, deer are pretty smart.” Never truer words were spoken. The boy had just delivered a simple yet profound nugget of truth to me in taking the attention off of myself and my misery and my woe-is-me deer-less pity party and putting the focus squarely where it belonged, on the honorable and magnificent quarry I was after and the reality that hunting deer should not be easy. I smiled and laughed a little, and so did Luke and Rob, but uncomfortably. Apparently, I was wearing this all on my sleeve. I needed to remedy the ambiguous tension in the air.

“Luke, in hunting, as in life, things don’t always go our way. Right now, I am a little discouraged because I have put a lot of thought, time, and effort into getting a deer, and I haven’t got one yet. Most everybody I know has gotten at least a doe or two by now, and many have gotten a buck. I guess I have been feeling a little sorry for myself because I haven’t had a fairy tale deer season where I got a trophy buck on the first day. But, like you said, deer are pretty smart, and I will keep trying. I am glad you are here, and we will go squirrel hunting tomorrow morning, and see what we can do. Are you prepared?”

Luke’s eyes got a little wider and his voice a little higher as he listed all of the things he had done in preparation for his hunt. His enthusiasm elated the mood in the room and the rest of the evening was relaxed for the grown ups, and full of anticipation for Luke, who decided to “turn in early” to be ready for the morning hunt. The fires died in the fireplaces, the wine gave out, and conversation waned. We retired with a steady snow falling.

The next morning I did not awake before dawn as was my usual routine, because squirrel hunting need not be that kind of affair. We all ate a leisurely breakfast, carried a little wood for the kitchen fireplace, and drank coffee and hot chocolate. We went scouting for squirrels, did some farm chores, and before we knew it, it was 2:00 PM. I had forgotten how civilized life could be at such a pace, what with the water fowling season and deer season rigors. Finally, according to Luke, we turned our full attention to the squirrel hunt.

We adjourned to the gun room and began dressing for the field, bundling up against the dropping temperatures outside. Luke was going to borrow my .22, and Rob and I each carried 12 gauge shotguns “to help out” Luke. Rob’s gun for the day was a New England Firearms single shot, mine was a FieldMaster pump, named the “magical gun of mystery” in honor of its often idiosyncratic ways, especially in the duck blind. Would it cycle, would it fire? One never knew. I thought I’d give it a run since I had recently cleaned it good. My hope was that this would be a good barn gun, an extra shotgun to have around, used more as a tool than as an instrument of sporting leisure. It was the right gun for the day.

Luke loaded a pocket full of .22 rounds into his hunting coat, and I grabbed a handful of number sevens. “These ought to do the trick for backing Luke up,” I thought, smiling at the remembrance of my first boyhood squirrel which mysteriously had more than one hole in it despite the fact that I only shot my .22 once. My glance skimmed across a wooden cigar box which held my deer hunting slug shells. “Better grab a couple of these, too, just in case,” I said out loud, noticing a definite increase in my optimism levels. Luke grinned at me.

We crunched through the fresh snow past the barns toward the creek ravine. The ridges over looking the ravine are dotted with 100 year old oak trees that are in decline and full of large cavities. They are like housing projects for gray squirrels. We arrived at the biggest of these, which stands guard over the trail that descends the steep banks of the gully. The ravine is gorge-like in places, with depths of up to 70 feet from the ridge to the creek bottom below. One can only see the creek bottom by standing on the very edge of the ravine and peering over the edge. Adding the 100 plus feet of height of the oak trees, the squirrels are afforded quite a vantage point indeed.

On this day, a squirrel was noisily gnawing away at something in the higher branches. We spotted him high above, a silhouette against the gray sky. “Too far, too high” Rob explained to Luke, taking advantage of an opportunity to explain how rifle bullets travel, even .22’s, and how we must anticipate how far past what we shoot at our bullets will fly. We observed the copious squirrel sign on the snow covered ground, and we bent down studying the comings and goings of our quarry. Luke asked about the blurred tracks, and we spoke of the wind, and the snow, and how animals react to severe weather. And then it happened. It was subtle, almost the same feeling you have when you have been in the waiting room at the doctor’s for hours, and have become drowsy and resigned to forever waiting, and then your name is called. It is both startling and no surprise at all.

My name was called kneeling under that oak tree looking at squirrel sign with Luke and his father. Rob later said my expression was really like I, but nobody else, heard perhaps my wife calling my name or the phone ringing. Luke asked “What?” and I put my finger to my lips. I was suddenly very alert, but still unsure why, or what called me. We kneeled silently together for a moment, and I remember how beautifully quiet it was, and how lovely the faint rustling of the dead oak leaves still on the branches sounded. Luke and Rob were looking at me intently, like I was either going to tell a joke punch line or break some bad news. Instead, I smiled and slowly, deliberately, removed the three bird shot shells from the “magical gun of mystery”, and replaced them with three deer slugs. I wasn’t sure why.

From the squirrel’s vantage point high in the swaying branches of the oak tree, this is what he saw. Directly below him, at the base of his tree on the ridge, were three humans with guns, nothing unusual this time of the year, crouching, looking at his acorn peelings and footprints, pointing here and there. The squirrel barked warnings to these humans, declaring his rights to privacy and property so that they will leave the place where he has buried a nut or two. Far below the squirrel, down in the ravine, in the blackberry bramble on the far side of the creek, rest three does, their ears twitching, nostrils flaring, puzzling out mixed signals on the wind. They are laying low in the snow where they often seek refuge, riding out the winter weather in the shelter of the gully. The humans with guns often walk past them where they lay quietly. This day they snort nervously, aware of a predator, of impending danger. The sounds and smells are strong, though intermittent. They decide to depart quickly.

Meanwhile, on the ridge the squirrel sees the human with the orange coat rise and motion to the other two to follow him. The little one follows next, followed by the one with no hat. The squirrel turns his gaze again to the deer, now standing up in the snow, twitching their tails and snorting. One is big and gray, one is slightly smaller and more tan, and one is younger and spotted. Looking back at the humans, the squirrel sees that they are walking towards the edge of the ravine, to a clear spot recently logged. The deer are moving now toward a switchback trail up the far side of the ravine, running. The humans have reached the edge of the ravine. The little one is pointing at the running deer and the one in the orange coat is snapping his gun up to his cheek. Bang! The squirrel drops his nut and dives into his tree home, where he is greeted by the noisy chatter of his tree mates.

I shot three times, the “magical gun of mystery” performing flawlessly for once. I lowered the gun and it registered that I had just seen deer and shot at them. I heard a squirrel chattering. On my left I heard Rob say, “You got ‘im,” incredulously. “We got a deer!” Luke exclaimed. At first I couldn’t see anything. We were standing side by side by side on the ridge in the fading light as the snow fell. Then I could see a big gray doe laying on the deer trail across the creek about 120 yards down and away. She was still. Two other deer were running up the trail, pausing for a moment looking back, cresting the rim and bounding out of the gorge and out of sight.

I turned my head and looked at Rob and Luke, who were smiling. “I am going to the deer,” I said. “Would you gentleman mind keeping your eye on it from here in case she gets up, or I can’t see her from down there in the thick stuff? I’ll give you a shout to come down when I get to her.” We all agreed to the plan, and as I excitedly and hurriedly slid on my backside down the snowy ravine (which I must remember to do again as it was quite exhilarating!), I could hear Luke speaking with exuberance to his father. While chambering a few shells in case the deer was not finished, I resolved then to do all I could to help Luke own this hunt.

As I feared, it was difficult to see anything in the tall brambles, and slowly I picked my way through the brush. I called to Luke, “Luke, can you still see her? Am I getting close?” Simultaneously, both Rob and Luke answered. Luke said “Yep, you’re almost there,” while Rob said “Keep going, a little to your right.” Then, after a few more steps, I saw the gray fur and white tail. When I got to her, she was quite still and dead. I called for Luke and Rob to come down, and emptied the shells from my gun. I leaned the gun in a low fork of a tree, and knelt down to my downed deer. I felt for her wound and finally found an entrance and exit wound in the neck, where the lead slug had severed her spine. She died almost instantly. No wonder she disappeared from view so quickly, which also better explained my instinctive second two shots at the other bigger deer.

Luke and Rob came up behind me and I could hear Luke saying “Wow, it’s bigger than I thought.” I was feeling her fur, and I invited Luke to check it out. It was then that I felt that “performance pressure” ease away from me, and a feeling of immense gratitude came over me. I realized how fortunate we all were to experience this, in this unique way, together. I became aware of how fortunate I was to be hunting in such a beautiful place that happened to be my back yard. And it occurred to me to impress upon Luke the importance of gratitude versus gloating when we have the good fortune of our hunt including a kill. I looked at Rob, and he communicated without words his deference in this situation, which is a compliment to another, as any father knows. I said “Can I get serious for a minute with Luke?” Rob said “Yes, of course.” So I said to Luke, “Remember how I said in hunting, as in life, things don’t always go our way? Well, today they went your way Luke, and my way too. We killed a deer. Now, we must be thankful for this deer, for this life we have taken. We don’t have to do anything fancy, we should just be quiet for a minute and think about this beautiful deer in this beautiful place and be thankful.” After a few moments as we knelt around this gray doe in the snow, giving thanks how we each saw fit, I heard a squirrel’s chatter from the big oak tree up on the ridge. I looked at Luke. “Kind of a strange squirrel hunt, huh Luke?” He had a shy look, turned his head away. “Yeah” he said, sort of laughing.

I asked Rob to go up to the house and get my butchering equipment and some baling twine from the sheep barn while Luke and I found a small lodge pole. While we waited for Rob’s return, we sat on a log and had target practice with the .22 on an old tree trunk that had gnarls in it that looked like the rings of a target paper with a bull’s eye. Luke showed that he was a pretty good shot. We ran out of rounds for the .22 just as Rob appeared up on the ridge. As he was picking his way down to us in the fading winter afternoon light, Luke said “This is the best hunting trip I have ever been on.”
“Sorry we didn’t get you a squirrel” I said.
“Well, getting a deer is pretty good too” he replied.
“Yes,” I said, “because deer are pretty smart.”
We laughed as we stood to greet Rob, having returned from his mission.

Working quickly, we had the deer field dressed before dark, and we hung it from the lodge pole just like in the Davy Crocket books I read when I was a kid. Rob took the front, I took the rear, and the successful hunting party labored under the load of the heavy doe up the path to the top of the ridge as darkness fell. As we approached the farmhouse, we could see the warm yellow lights of the windows and we could all imagine the cheery fires and food, fun, and family waiting for us inside. My children and wife, as well as Rob’s wife and daughter were waiting at the door for us when we returned, and I couldn’t help thinking I was in a Currier and Ives dream state, or that Norman Rockwell would be sitting with his easel in the yard.

So, despite not having shot a trophy buck, my deer drought ended on a happier than could have been expected note. From what I hear, Luke is still telling his New York deer hunting tale. I never told Rob about how preposterous it was that an instinctual snap shot on a running deer at over one hundred yards down hill in bad light with a dubious gun shooting 2 ¾ shells through a stuck poly choke last set for ducks with two witnesses resulting in an instant kill neck shot was. That it was unbelievably lucky, never repeatable, I mean. Not that it wasn’t meant to be. I have told Rob that the hunt I shared with he and his son was one of the most memorable hunts, if not moments, of my life. I am hoping Luke will be willing to go after squirrels with me on my next trip for Moose in Maine or Elk in the Rockies. I hope that in life, as in hunting, things will continue to go Luke’s way.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

What They're Eatin' at Canoga Creek Farms

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you, near and far.

A Canoga Creek Thanksgiving
23 November 2006

4:30 Cocktails

First Course Hors D’oeuvres

Pheasant in a Bramble
Petite Duck a L’orange
Fall Creek Trout Spread and Blue Corn Tortillas
Pepper Jack and Venison Stacks
Rabbit Rouge
Faisan Pate
Grouse Sauté
Cherry Goose

Wine- Swedish Hill Reserve Chardonnay (2003)

Second Course- Soup

Woodcock, Minnesota Wild Rice, and Mushroom Soup
Brie and Baguette

Third/ Main Course

Grilled Wild Turkey Breast with Horseradish Hollandaise
Farm Fresh Turkey Stuffed and Roasted Traditional
Creamed Ginger Garlic Butternut Squash
Mashed Potatoes with Garlic and Parsley
Caribbean Mashed Sweet Potato es
Green Bean Casserole
Chanterelle, Sage and Chestnut Stuffing
Corn Bread and/or Cranberry Orange Bread

Wine- Campo Lagaza, Navarra, Spain (2005)

Fourth Course

Cranberry Parks Glace

Wine- Knapp Vignoles (2005)

Fifth Course

Wild Greens with Bleu Cheese, Cranberry and Walnut Vinaigrette

Sixth Course

Homemade Apple Pie a la mode
Homemade Pumpkin Pie Cake
Homemade Chocolate Pie

Seventh Course-Digestif

Fonseca Guimaraens Vintage Port (1995)
Xocolata Picant, Artesanals La Vall D’Or (Barcelona)
La Gloria Cubana Maduro Cigar

Friday, November 17, 2006


Tomorrow is the big day all of us mammal hunters
have been waiting for. Just a little reminder of
what we are looking for out there. Hope everyone has a great hunt and be safe. Nick will have to ride the bench tomorrow but with any luck we will be back after those flying feathered fowl soon.

shoot em up

Thursday, November 16, 2006

DU Event reminder

Many of the members and guests of BC Hunt club are DU members, and some BC members are a part of the leadership of the newly re-established Seneca Falls Chapter of DU. This is a reminder that there is a DU dinner on DEC 6th. Buy raffle tickets, come to the dinner, hang with friends, and do good by the ducks. We'd especially like to see our friends from down south, from Trumansburg, Ithaca, and even Pennsylvania.

Introducing B.C Hunt Clubs newest member

This is Nick my 2 yr old Lab. This past sunday we were invited on a goose hunt with the B.C. hunt club on Brent Murray's Farm. We had a Great hunt taking 9 geese by my definition although according to Keith we have to count misses that would put the total ALOT higher.Nick performed great on the hunt retrieving all 9 birds and 4 of them which glided down over 100 yds away.This saved the B.C. boys alot of unwanted exercise chasing those half dead geese and therefore earned Nick a membership in the Prestigous B.C. hunt club.Nick was quite honored and I hope he will bring me with him on his future visits to B.C. hunt club.In case you are wondering why the photo is not of geese we did not have camera with us.This is a photo of 2006 duck opener Nick made 18 great retrieves this hunt took place somewhere in Canoga but if I told you where I would have to kill you.I will try to keep you up on Nick and my adventures and Nick thanks the guys at B.C. for the hunt and the membership

See You In the Blind

Friday, November 10, 2006

To "Take"...back to hunting

“Take- To harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or to attempt to engage in any such conduct; may include significant habitat modification or degradation if it kills or injures wildlife by significantly impairing essential behavioral patterns including breeding, feeding, or sheltering.”
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Endangered Species Glossary

“It is obvious that ‘take” in this sense—a term of art deeply embedded in the statutory and common law concerning wildlife—describes a class of acts (not omissions) done directly and intentionally (not indirectly and by accident) to particular animals (not populations of animals)...”
Scalia’ dissent
Babbitt v. Sweet Home, 516 U.S. 687 (1995)

In a recent lecture about biodiversity and the Endangered Species Act at Cornell University, the issue of the interpretation of the word “take” arose. This definitional issue was at the heart of multiple rulings regarding incidental takings and the requirement for Habitat Conservation Plans, but it is also applicable, and confusing, to hunting and fishing regulations, as well as other wildlife management issues related to biodiversity. This post will explore further the etymology and usage of the word “take” in a wildlife context, and muse about possible complications when the definitions suggested by the Endangered Species Act and other legislation enter arguments.

To Take-

Hunting, an obvious form of “taking,” is often a contentious topic among ecologists and environmentalists. For Minnesotans, to take has additional meanings: ‘Taking’ means pursuing, shooting, killing, capturing, trapping, snaring, angling, spearing, or netting wild animals; or placing, setting, drawing, or using a net, trap, or other device to take wild animals. Taking also includes attempting to take wild animals or assisting another person in taking wild animals” (Minnesota DNR; General Hunting Information
[2]). Some states have run special referendums to guarantee hunting, fishing, and "the taking of game" as constitutional rights. Again, in Minnesota, advocates of hunting and fishing warned that without such a measure, animal rights activists would eventually succeed in getting hunting and fishing banned in Minnesota. The amendment passed by a huge majority: 77% to 23%.[3] Many states have similar definitions for “taking” as well as rights to hunt and fish laws. But do constitutional rights to “take” game conflict with regulations to prevent “taking?”

The concept of the “take” or “taking’ has deep legal roots. The common law rule of public ownership of wildlife is one of the most venerable principles known to the law. Under Roman law, wild animals were subject to common ownership, and a landowner had no ownership rights in wildlife passing over his land. (See J.C. Thomas, TEXTBOOK ON ROMAN LAW 167 (1976)). Under English common law, which built upon the Roman legal tradition, "the sovereign held an exclusive prerogative to animals" over and above the interests held by individual landowners (See 2 W. Blackstone, COMMENTARIES 417-18.). Upon the founding of the United States, the king's sovereign rights in wildlife were transferred to the individual states, which assumed the responsibility to act "as trustee[s] to support the title [in wildlife] for the common use." Arnold v. Mundy, 6 N.J.L. 1, 70 (N.J. 1821). (See generally Thomas A. Lund, Early American Wildlife Law, 51 N.Y.U.L. Rev. 703 (1976)).

Although our nation's original concepts of wildlife law reflect English tradition, American wildlife law has moved a long way from simply restricting public access to hunting in royal forests to preserve wildlife for the sporting enjoyment of nobility.
[5] Now it is common to encounter strict statutory prohibitions on taking non-game wildlife, and there is an evolving national ethic to protect wildlife for aesthetic and moral reasons, as well as to benefit future generations. The development of federal wildlife law in this century in some instances has been based on a consistent and growing public concern for wildlife and appropriate use of wildlife resources, and in other instances simply has responded, along with other environmental laws, to the ebb and flow of changing political forces.[6]

Conflicts in “Take” Definitions

Despite the beneficial evolution of wildlife law, both to wildlife populations and to human aesthetics, there are still confusing definitional problems as yet unresolved. The following example elucidates this confusion:

Recently, The Hunting Report
[7] received a report from subscriber William Gentner, complaining bitterly about an Alaska guide he hired, who reportedly fired the killing shot at a bear Gentner was hunting on Kodiak Island. Gentner claims the guide's bullet was the only one to strike his bear, and that he had told his guide not to fire at a bear unless someone’s life was in danger. Since that was not the case, he considered the downed bear as not belonging to him. Gentner reputedly went to the local Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADFG) office in Kodiak the following day. There he was threatened with citation and prosecution if he didn't sign a “take” document he felt contained false information. He subsequently refused to tag and seal it, and has to this date refused to accept the trophy.

Gentner wrote the ADFG commissioner arguing that the shooting of the bear by his guide contradicted two statutes, an opinion he says was shared by two Alaska law enforcement officials. The commissioner has not denied this. The commissioner did respond that it was legal for the guide to shoot the bear because Gentner's missed shot was an "Attempt to take, which is the same as take".

Gentner claims to be harmed, in that he is out $16,000, a $500 bear tag and can't re-apply for a brown bear tag in most areas of Alaska for 4 years because of the decision that it was reasonable for a guide to shoot. Gentner has cancelled his spring 2004 Alaskan hunt and is agitating that any would-be non-resident hunter do the same.

The State of Alaska in a letter to William Gentner, however, says the bear belongs to Gentner because:
1.) Alaska regulations say that the term "take" as regards hunting includes "attempting to take, pursue, hunt, fish, trap, or in any manner capture or kill fish or game. By taking the first shot, you (Gentner) attempted to take the bear. Its eventual demise was a direct consequence of your decision to shoot. Thus the bear was yours, and you had an obligation to tag and seal it." 2.) Alaska regulations require a guide to "use every lawful means to bag a wounded animal while it is in danger of escaping. While (your guide) was mistaken in his belief that the animal was wounded, he acted correctly on that belief by dispatching the bear."

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game commissioner's decision in what some saw as a hunting ethics case was based on the definition of the word "Take" in the hunting regulations no.43
[8]. The commissioner also gave credence to the guide’s predisposition to believe the client was going to hit whatever he shot at. This decision may affect hunting in Alaska, as situations such as this present conflicts for Fair Chase and ethical hunting rules and standards.

This case has given rise to numerous blog and online discussion boards where arguments, some interesting, some ridiculous, are being posited. One interesting one follows.

A frequent contributor to the Alaska Hunting Forum
[9] proclaims that “a warning is in order to all hunters and guides that it is illegal to miss an animal and not bring it to bag, or to guide a hunter that does so.[10]” He goes on to lay out a scenario where a hunter clearly misses a shot at a brown bear and the bear subsequently runs over a hill and escapes. The forum poster argues that, according to the definition applied to Mr. Gentner by the state of Alaska, the hunter has "taken" the brown bear. He argues further that, now, according to state law he must affix his tag to the bear's hide, which obviously can’t be done, and implies or necessitates a violation. Assuming this turn of events, the hunter’s guide may be culpable for aiding the hunter in breaking the law and must turn him in to avoid his own prosecution.

Despite what appears to be an absurd argument, the forum poster goes on to raise provocative questions about interpreting “taking.” If the hunt was for moose and not a bear, and given particularly stringent laws governing wanton waste and salvaging meat, both the hunter and his guide may be in danger of violating the law. If one imagines a scenario where the guide is a waterfowl guide, does the guide have to count the number of ducks his client has shot at and missed, and cut him off after he shoots at his limit, even if he has reduced to possession only one or perhaps even no ducks or geese? What if the desired animal is standing just over the boundary line of a national park after the missed shot. Is it the guide’s responsibility to go enter the national park, without his gun, to put a tag through his hide? And how about carrying him back to have sealed? As the poster comments, given these interpretations of “taking,” “Boy, is guiding tough.”


It is interesting to note that the usage of “take” can be interpreted in so many and diverse ways, even within the relatively narrow parameters of discussions on biodiversity conservation. It is worth noting that, though some argue against hunting, fishing, and other “consumptive” wildlife interactions on moral or ethical grounds, these consumptive wildlife stakeholders contribute significantly to biodiversity conservation through their purchasing power, advocacy networks, and educational programs dealing with their preferences. One might ask the question whether it would be appropriate to interpret “take” any differently for protection of endangered species versus hunting with the intent to possess managed game species. Such an alternate interpretation may reduce confusion around the concept of “taking,” and in so doing reduce conflict among stakeholders who, though holding alternate worldviews on animal welfare, share interest and concern for the conservation of biodiversity.



[3] ASLE panel at the 1999 Midwest/MLA Convention; “Blood Relations: Predators, Prey, and Habitat in Environmental Literature.”


[6] Comprehensive treatments of natural resources and environmental law can be found in C. Campbell-Mohn, B. Breech and J. W. Futrell, Sustainable Environmental Law: Integrating Natural Resources and Pollution Abatement Law from Resources to Recovery (West, 1993) and in G.C. Coggins, Public Natural Resources Law, Volumes I & II (Clark, Boardman. Callaghan, 1995).





Tuesday, November 07, 2006

If this is your first night at Beer Club, you HAVE to fight...

Things that make you go "HMMMMM...."

Remember Fight Club? Great flick.

Occasionally, flattery comes Cagey's way, like "Keith is once again pointing the way to the happy hunting grounds ..." or "there were 5 hunters 2 of which, Mike O and Mr. Tidball, are extremely good shots by anyone's judgment" or even "Congratulations to the entire Tidball family for their hard work and dedication to future wildlife that will be the result of this project. Without the help and blessings from each of you this would never have happened." Makes a guy's head swell, make's a guy feel allright about himself, part of something... but that is a temporary sensation at the august hunting institution known as BC Hunt Club. Here, getting a swelled head is a prelude to a swift kick somewhere sensitive...and you may find yourself saying "why am I here?" Welcome to Beer Club (enter Fight Club sound track)

I took some time to be introspective, and as a I lay listening to geese overhead from my bed instead of from a field Sunday AM, to shots ringing out and reputations being remade and ruined in everchanging seconds, I realized the inevitability of ego. I wanted the bottom of it all, two questions answered.

Why do I hunt?

Why am I a member of BC? (this question is more like , why do the members of BC include me...)

I will get back to you on the first are my thoughts so far on the second...

Is it this?

Or this... ?

Or this...?

Well, seems that I am mistaken. Fiona is the member, I am just her tolerated guest. So, I got THAT going for me.

Yes, Cagey was called out... given the BC "biznis." I got the message.

Fiona want's to know when she should allow me back to BC.



Monday, November 06, 2006

Five Smart Guys who Hunt and Mr. Mike

Goose season opener

Well to answer Ernie's Question the shooting was not coming from us.Unfortunately we had a tough opening day the birds dumped into the field two over from us and we could not compete with the hundreds of live birds two fields over.We did manage to bring down one goose.However we did have a couple flocks of ducks come in and were able to take a few mallards.Not the best day ever but any day in the feild is a good day.How did you guys do in the dozer pile?You couldn't have gotten any birds because SPENNELLI was not there to back you up.


Sunday, November 05, 2006

Five Smart Guys who Hunt and Mr. Mike

Five Smart Guys who Hunt and Mr. Mike

Jim, Thanks for the invite I will do my best to contibute to the blog. This is a test run to see if it works properly.See you in the blind.


Twenty Letter Words

Well, I sit here pseudointellectually blogging this morning while the rest of the BC Hunt Club is out in the field slaying giant Canadas over the field dekes. So be it.

Today's featured Twenty Letter Word is:


This is the liposuction procedure that "wide Republican-assed" goose hunters undergo to remove extra poundage from their derrières so as to relieve the pressure points on their buttocks while sitting in the goose pits, thereby greatly reducing the painful medical condition of "Post-Hunt Creased Cheeks Hunting Fatigue Syndrome," more familiarly known as bucket butt.

From Brain Garden we learn the following:
In the English lexicon, we have well over one million words to draw from. English is the largest and most dynamic, functional, utilitarian and technological language on the earth. More on this in a moment, but first there is what linguists and theologists, those who love to study words, calls Browns Corpus, it’s a collection of all the words used in today’s English. There are over a million of those words. Now get this, 57% of our million plus words have just four letters or less. For example, words like “the”, “has”, “been”, “and”, “but”, “of” and “have”. But when we create a dictionary of words, words for four or fewer letters, they only represent and account for less than 9% of the entire dictionary. This shows what is called communication deficiency of language. Short words are repeated often and are called “high frequency figures”. Longer words are used sparingly. Less use makes them rare and therefore fewer people know them and that justifies dictionaries to collect and teach them. For every occurrence of a ten letter word in actual communication there are eight occurrences of the letter words and for every occurrence of a twenty letter word there are three thousand five hundred and twenty four occurrences of a three letter word.
The lesson here is that as we seek to expand our minds and our vocabulary, we must also seek at the same time to reduce our wide Republican butts to achieve total harmony of mind and body, yin and yang, oral and anal.

Although I cannot be in the goose pits this morning, I am with you all in spirit. I wish you happy hunting and fatigue-free fannies. May all your geese fly low. May your one shot kills be undisputed.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Snow in the forecast?

Once again this is what all of the well traveled goose hunters will be using to get to the birds this season. Load em up and head out no matter how much snow is on the ground. We just may upgrade to a green machine this year for ease of hiding in the hedgrow. As you can see Keith is once again pointing the way to the happy hunting grounds while JT is listening intently. BC Hunt club is a bit concerned about our Mr. JT though. Some fear that when he comes that he will be humming songs and reciting poetry now that he is the Director of Operations at the soon to be infamous Ithaca Theater of the Performing Arts. I suppose he will be showing up late as well due to having to hang around after the evenings performance with the muckey mucks sipping fine wine and making up new 20 letter words that only the wealthiest of socialites would understand. As for me I will be at Beer Camp early in the morning with my good buddy Big Jim uttering some of the simpler 4 letter words and awaiting the arrival of my hunting buddies. The call is for snow but I doubt we'll be needing the Limo this weekend to get to the field. Enjoy the opening of another goose season this weekend and as always be safe out there!

Sunday, October 29, 2006

What well-dressed DU guys wear to banquets

Hey gang,
here's a hot link to a CabinBoyEsque pair of slacks that I think should become the official uniform of the Seneca Falls chapter of Ducks Unlimited. Yours for only $98 from Brooks Brothers. Be the best dressed duck hunter out there.

What well-dressed DU guys wear to the banquets

Hey gang,
here's a hot link to a CabinBoyEsque pair of slacks that I think should become the official uniform of the Seneca Falls chapter of Ducks Unlimited. Yours for only $98.50 from Brooks Brothers. Be the best dressed duck hunter out there.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

A Most Memorable Hunt

My daughter Charlotte had a tooth extracted today, which caused her great discomfort. So much so that the wife asked that I "occupy" my eldest daughter whilst mommy-care was dispensed to the infirm. This meant that I couldn't attend the local Ducks Unlimited chapter meeting, but, if I was clever, could baby-sit Victoria on a low-expectation duck hunt. Proposing the idea to 6 year old daughter Victoria was a snap. She was eagerly in, especially since I offered the Canoga Creek beaver dam hunt. She loves beavers.

We trudged through overgrown multiflora and checked all of the usual bends and meanders. No ducks. We jumped a few heron. All the hot spots were barren of ducks, though we got a beaver tail slap, which is always cool. We got to the point in the creek where the trees give way to the cattail marsh and I thought sure we'd sneak up on a black duck. Nothing. Victoria was a trooper dealing with the prickers though. And geriatric Fiona would have given our stalk away anyway with all of her heavy breathing. But it was a beautiful evening, reddening maples, yellowing cattails, and all that.

We sat down at the 90 degree bend in the creek where it turns sharply and heads to the mighty Cayuga, often a good pass shoot spot. I lit a cigar, Victoria cracked a juice box and we chatted. It was great. I learned much about her 1st grade social interactions. We spotted a small flock of swans, lots of geese and gulls, and a birding highlight, three Bald eagles. Victoria spied these first, which she was very proud of. But no ducks.

The 6:00 Canoga Fire Dept whistle sang out and we listened to the coyote response. "Fifteen minutes left" I said. "It's ok daddy," she said. A flock of high flying mallards teased us. I let Victoria call at them. She bleated beautifully. I threw my cigar butt into the creek and a lively pollution and physics of ripples conversation ensued. She wore me down and I apologized for littering, checked my watch. Five minutes to go. I scanned the skies, Victoria fidgeted, Fiona groaned. Then, over the creek screaming towards us like a bat outta hell, a single duck, flying low, winging right up the creek.

The beauty of sitting in this spot is that the ducks naturally follow the path of the creek, so they give you a brief belly shot when they make their passing turn. Left to right swing, my shot. LC Smith (real) 12 gauge barked once, and a green wing teal lay in Canoga Creek feet up. Victoria was squealing with delight. Fiona was matter-of-factly retrieving the beautiful little duck, the bosky light of the marsh embraced us in pinks and lavenders, and all was well with the world.
Greedy T & "Mine" revisited

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Maine: Anti-Trapping Lawsuit

Courtroom Turns into Battleground for Animal Rights- (10/23)

Animal activists are suing the state to derail trapping in Maine. The suit is the latest in a spate of court cases that could lead to the end of trapping, hunting and fishing wherever endangered species exist.

On Oct. 12, the Animal Protection Institute (API) filed a federal lawsuit against the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (IFW). The case, which is nearly identical to an existing suit in Minnesota, centers around Canada lynx, bald eagles and gray wolves. The API claims that because these federally protected species could be caught in a trap, trapping should be prohibited. There is no data proving that there is a problem.

“The anti’s are not filing these lawsuits to protect the integrity of threatened and endangered species, but rather to advance their own political agenda,” said Rob Sexton, U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance Foundation (USSAF) vice president for government affairs. “They want to establish a legal precedent that can be used to stop all hunting and even fishing anywhere endangered animals exist.”

The USSAF and its U.S. Sportsmen’s Legal Defense Fund (U.S. SLDF) asked the court for permission to join the suit on sportsmen’s behalf. The U.S. SLDF is the nation’s only litigation force that exclusively represents sportsmen’s interests in court.

The U.S. SLDF received permission in September to join in a third anti-trapping lawsuit, which was also brought in Minnesota. The Humane Society of the United States and a smaller animal rights group are suing the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to stop trapping because Canada lynx could be caught in a trap. The U.S. SLDF has asked Chief U.S. Magistrate Judge Raymond Erickson to combine the suit with the one brought by API in that state.

“Each of these cases could set precedents that would affect how the ESA can be applied throughout the nation,” said Sexton. “If anti’s can stop trapping in a place where they assert there is a risk of catching lynx, they can just as easily try to stop fishing in bodies of water where they claim there is a risk of catching endangered sturgeon.”

Animal rights groups previously used the Endangered Species Act to force the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to suspend trapping with snares. The state’s coyote snaring program is still in limbo as state wildlife officials attempt to obtain incidental take permits from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect the state if any listed species are inadvertently injured or killed in a snare.

Information on this website can be reprinted with a citation to the U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance and
For more information about how you can protect your rights as a sportsman, contact The U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance, 801 Kingsmill Parkway, Columbus, OH 43229. Phone (614) 888-4868. E-Mail us at

Grousers hunting philosophy quote of the day

"Every hunter knows that, with regard to the animal, what he has to fight most is the beast's absence."

- José Ortega y Gasset
Meditations on Hunting

Monday, October 23, 2006

Ernieus Maximus

Here's Cagey Without Spinelli Backup

You Count the Number of Non-Lethal Shots

What can I say? if Cagey had Spinelli for backup, that black duck would be dead by now.

"Greedy T" and his friends

see "Greedy T" Tantillo and his friends in action...see this:

Or hear him here

Not this good but close

Some of you may remember this winter goose hunt of a couple of years ago and how much fun we had that day. Well opening weekend out of BC hunt club (that's right there is a new Blog site by that name) was almost as good! Saturday morning found 4 of it's members hunting the infamous Canoga Creek Conservancy and enjoying the early morning sunrise watching about 20 coot, not grebe, swimming in the decoys in front of the double black. While there were plenty of birds flying, despite the prevailing conditions on Cayuga Lake, there were few of them willing to fly into the sights of the group. While one teal took the opportunity to challenge the shooting skills of one Mr. JT it had the misfortune of collecting a couple of pellets propelled its way from the muzzle of the "Spinellie", but had the final laugh on Jim by hiding in the marsh until being flushed out by Fiona and back into the lake and finally swimming away. The only clean kill of the morning was made by yours truly, when I tired of the patience of my fellow hunters, and took the opportunity to fall one of three American Widgeons that were cautiously circling the blind. Again this bird also fell into the marsh and once again Fiona came to the rescue by sniffing out the delectable little river duck and bringing it back proudly to Keith's call. The rest of the morning was spent watching birds fly into competing blinds to the south only to find their demise for their actions. The afternoon found Mike O, Robert T and myself sitting in the Dozer pile behind beer camp. While many birds challenged our hunting skills only 2 fell to the earth , but the die was cast for the following mornings hunt. Sunday morning found 5 anxious souls lurking in the goldenrod that surrounds the dozer pile. First light had woodies challenging their patience as well as a small flock, of what most thought were teal, attempting to take off Roberts head. These birds came through so fast that by the time Mike O got out the words"Take Em" they were by us and gone. Many laughs were had at this entire act which took no more than 3 seconds to elapse. Then the real fun started. Ever watch one of those hunting shows where birds seem to rain from the sky? Well the next flight of birds were just like that. A group of Mallards, whose numbers were too many to be accurately counted, made the mistake of entering "the zone" from which 4 birds dropped like rain and the hunt was on. Many more birds were fallen through the day for a final tally of 20 ducks making for the best duck hunt ever out of beer camp. There were many events through the day that will be recalled around the campfire for years to come. Some of these involved a certain professor who received his Ph.D. from Cornell University in 2001 and is the author of such learned publications as Ethics vs. Preferences (2004) and The Morality of Hunting:A Damnable Pleasure (2002). As a result of his exploits we will now and forever more be calling him "Greedy"! The first such exploit came when a single bird attempted to fly through the spread. This drake Mallard, with a band glistening on his leg in the early morning light, came from right to left when what appeared to be a single shot rang out. I was positioned towards the right of the group while Greedy was directly to my left. As the bird fell lifelessly to the ground I made the polite gesture of thanking greedy for the backup. Well one would have thought my act of appreciation was tantamount to a kick in the nuts by the reaction I received! "What, you shot too?" was all that came out of the mouth on and extremely reddened face. I naturally stated the obvious as the bird passed by me first " of course I shot, didn't you hear me shoot?" That's all it took to set off a cloud of steam from the ears and a barrage of profanities from greedy's head. One would think that he would at least acknowledge the landowners claim to the bird, as Mike O did when he retrieved the duck from the base of the flying circus and dropped it at my feet. Mr. Greedy was so upset that only then did he notice the bird was in fact banded, as he never noticed like I did, while the bird was in flight! Well this is when he must have received the second kick in the nuts because he really went off the deep end then! Being the gracious host I am I threw the bird to him and let he believe for the rest of the day that he had in fact made the kill, but those of us that were there know the true story.

It wasn't much later when 4 more birds entered the zone and to the delight of all they all fell to the earth dead on impact. Again while I screamed out "4 in and 4 down" Mr. Greedy raised 3 fingers indicating to all that he had caused the demise of 3 of the 4. Now remember there were 5 hunters 2 of which, Mike O and Mr. Tidball, are extremely good shots by anyone's judgment, yet greedy is claiming 3 out of the 4. Don't you think this is a little bit egotistical?

Despite all of the antics of greedy a fun day was had by all and many retrieves were made by Fiona once again. All those that participated with many belly laughs and I'm sure will comment to this post with further discussion about greedy's antics. Thanks all for a memorable hunt!

"Oh, you shot too?"

Notice the lack of smoke at the muzzle. Something's fishy here . . . .

Thursday, October 19, 2006

cold front, baby

Check out what's coming through today:

I'm thinking woodcock tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Black Lake Armada

Pete's PT Boat

Black Lake Armada in the Narrows

Eric's Destroyer

Keith's Scow

Sunday, October 15, 2006

This is just not fair

Unless you are a bowhunter you may have missed the fact that bowhunting opened in central NY on Saturday the 14th. I knew it had to be the opener becuase: 1) I had no chance of getting out (wedding) and 2) because dopy was in my driveway when I got home. Pics is from 6 yards out. Just call me Rodney.


One from the archives

I got tired of looking at Linda Lovelace. Josh, you certainly do post some, uh, interesting posts.

This was originally posted to grousers on December 21, 2005. Enjoy.

Another long lost photo from Pete's Black Lake hunt

Hey lads,
Last night I spent a considerable amount of time padding about the dusty archives in my robe and slippers, piecing together a photographic record of our group's various exploits. You can look forward to seeing more of my discoveries in the weeks to come.

This photo is of Pete, Keith, Mike O, and Little Billy returning from their duck opener up at Black Lake. Keith's boat has broken down, so our heroes have had to borrow the S.S. Ankle Deep. As you can see from the photo, everyone got his limit except Pete. heh heh

The owner of the skiff and his young son seem to be taking it all in, while Pete and Keith are both striking in their white fedoras--Keith especially.

later boys.

Friday, October 13, 2006

I swear it wasn't me, unless Grousers is sexually explicit ...

... man, those OIG are such kill-joys:

Interior Dept. Reports Computer Abuse

The Associated Press
Thursday, October 5, 2006; 2:22 AM

WASHINGTON -- In one week, several Interior Department workers spent more than 30 minutes on sexually explicit Web sites.

That same week, another computer showed more than 2,300 log entries at two Internet game sites for about 14 hours.

Still another was logged into an Internet auction for almost eight hours.

Those were just some of the results of a weeklong internal investigation of the 80,000 Interior Department employees with Internet access. The report by the department's inspector general, Earl Devaney, was made public Wednesday.

Devaney called his findings "egregious" and "alarming," but noted the department since 1999 took just 177 disciplinary actions for inappropriate Internet use. Of those, 112 were for accessing pornographic or sexually explicit Web sites.

His report is titled "Excessive Indulgences," and its cover features a photo montage, including a shot of a woman's bare stomach, to illustrate the types of Web sites employees visited.

"Computer users at the department have continued to access sexually explicit and gambling Web sites due to the lack of consistency in department controls over Internet use," he wrote. "Without strong and effective controls, we believe that this activity will continue and possibly increase."

Department officials say they are taking action to cut back on abuses by employees with Internet access.

Employees received a department-wide memo on Sept. 27 reminding them that some of the activities Devaney found "have significant legal and administrative consequences," and violators could be fired or turned over to the police.

The department is working on blocking inappropriate Internet sites, the memo said. But it reminded employees that "just because an inappropriate site is not blocked does not mean that it is authorized for access."

Devaney said he wanted to test just how effective the department's rules were for Internet usage. Most of the checks were for employees' visits to sexually explicit, gambling, gaming and auction sites, he said, because they obviously were not work-related and ate up employees' work hours.

Devaney also found, during one week of investigation, more than 1 million log entries in which 7,700 employees visited game and auction sites. More than 4,700 log entries were for sexually explicit and gambling Web sites.


Thai fishermen netted a catfish as big as a grizzly bear, setting a world record for the largest freshwater fish ever found, according to researchers who studied the 646-pound Mekong giant catfish as part of a project to protect large freshwater fish.

“It’s amazing to think that giants like this still swim in some of the world’s rivers,” project leader Zeb Hogan project leader said in a statement. “We’ve now confirmed now that this catfish is the current record holder, an astonishing find.”

Others have made claims of finding larger sturgeon, but the International Game Fishing Association says the largest sturgeon on record is 468 pounds. That fish has also held the record for largest freshwater fish caught.

For more of the story


Cagey and I managed to get out for an afternoon of woodcocking yesterday, and we were glad we did. It was close to 60 deg F and blustery, but we ran into what we assumed was a flight of woodcock. In about two hours of hunting we put up close to 20 birds, over a dozen or so over Katie's points, and reflushing several--so all told there were probably 15 or more individual birds that we pushed around.

We were in the Bower Road pasture once again, and right away I got on the board with a second barrel shot at a bird that Keith had gone in to flush. That was to be it for the next hour and a half, however, as we engaged in one of our annual blastfests as birds ran and flew hither and yon. At one point I went in to flush a bird in the gnarlies, and seeing it on the ground two feet in front of Katie's nose, I threw a stick at it. Hit it, too! That was the only thing I would hit during the long dry spell that defined the middle of the hunt.

Keith finally got on the board with a nice shot from deep within the Thicker 'N Hell covert. It took Katie a while to find the bird, which was resting dead at the feet of a live 'cock who flushed at our approach to Katie's point. At the flush Katie moved in and tasted a mouthful of feathers from Keith's dead bird: and there was much rejoicing.

Keith had to leave by 5:15, so we hunted our way out after 4:30. Of course we pushed one little bird back and forth across the covert at about 4:55, and at one point the cock got up between us, flew straight up, and we both proceeded to dork out with both barrels before said bird landed unharmed elsewhere on the hill. We never did kill that bird.

Right on the way out Katie pointed one last bird in some brush, and I moved in to flush. Away it went, and from a crouch I managed a snap shot that dropped the bird cleanly. Every now and then one goes your way.

I don't know about Cabin Boy's shell count, but I ended up with two birds on about 2 for 6 shooting.

This morning:

Things went so well last night, and there were so many birds, that I returned to the scene of the crime this morning. It was still blustery, 34 deg. F at the truck, and I wore my tattered blue air force sweater under the ancient Carhart hunting vest that I really ought to replace. We were in the covert by 8:30.

By 9:16 I had killed my third bird. This is this.