Monday, December 31, 2007

Josh has been busy...Winner of 75th Anniversary Federal Duck Stamp Contest Named

Joshua Winchell, 202 219-7499
Rachel F. Levin, 612-309-5760 (cell)

Wildlife artist Joe Hautman of Plymouth, Minn., today won the 2007 Federal Duck Stamp Art Contest - the oldest and most prestigious wildlife art competition in America - with his depiction of a pair of pintail ducks. Department of the Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne announced the winner in front of a crowd of 300 people at the contest, held at BIG Arts in Sanibel, Fla.

"It was a privilege for me to congratulate Joe Hautman when the judges chose his art to grace the 75th Duck Stamp," said Secretary Kempthorne. 'The Duck Stamp program is unique in the realm between art and conservation. This art will be transformed into an equally beautiful stamp and help protect wetlands by generating funding through the sale of that stamp to hunters, stamp-collectors and conservationists. People talk about how art can change the world, and the Duck Stamp is an excellent example. You just need to look at the more than five million acres of waterfowl habitat protected by their purchase using funds from the stamp for proof of the power of this art."

Hautman's painting - chosen from among 247 entries from artists across the country - will be featured on the 2008-2009 Federal Duck Stamp which will go on sale in late June 2008. Federal Duck Stamp sales raise about $25 million each year to fund wetland habitat acquisition for the National Wildlife Refuge System. The annual Federal Duck Stamp Contest is the only federally-sponsored juried art competition, and is run by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This year's contest crowns the winner of the 75th duck stamp since the program's inception in 1934. Before 1949, a commission selected the design.

"This was the most exciting Duck Stamp contest in history,' said H. Dale Hall, Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "To have a three-way tie for first place, then to have the artist and his family right here in the audience, was fantastic. We're going to continue to move this contest around the country to give the public a chance to own this."

The competition was surrounded by a week of public events at J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge and BIG Arts celebrating the life of artist, conservationist and creator of the Duck Stamp, J.N. "Ding" Darling. Born in 1876 in Michigan, Darling was a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner for his conservation-themed cartoons. He also served as Chief of the Bureau of Biological Survey, the forerunner of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, from 1934-1935. Darling's conservation legacy remains the foundation for the broad-based support and strategic vision of North America's successful waterfowl management efforts.

All waterfowl hunters age 16 and older are required to purchase and carry the current Migratory Bird Conservation and Hunting Stamp - commonly known as the Duck Stamp - but conservationists, stamp collectors and others also purchase the stamp in support of habitat conservation. Ninety-eight percent of the proceeds from the $15 Duck Stamp go to the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund, which supports the purchase of acres of wetlands for inclusion into the National Wildlife Refuge System.

To date, Duck Stamp funds have been used to acquire habitat at hundreds of refuges, in nearly every state in our nation. There are 548 national wildlife refuges spread across all 50 states and U.S. territories. A current Duck Stamp can be used for free admission to any national wildlife refuge open to the public. Refuges offer unparalleled recreational opportunities, including hunting, fishing, bird watching and photography.

Joe Hautman won the Federal Duck Stamp contest in 1992 and 2002. He has also won multiple state Duck Stamp contests. His brothers, Bob and Jim, are also multiple Federal Duck Stamp Contest winners.

Hautman attended the Federal Duck Stamp contest this year with his family. The audience gave him a standing ovation when his art was chosen as the winning piece.

"I've been to a lot of Duck Stamp contests, and this is the most exciting one I've been to," Hautman said. "I'd like to thank my family, and the Fish and Wildlife Service, who turns this artwork into wetlands and ducks."

Hautman's winning art depicts two pintails--a male and female--nestled gracefully atop reeds in a marsh.

Second place went to Harold Roe, of Sylvania, Ohio, who painted an acrylic of a lone green-winged teal. Roe has previously placed highly in the Federal Duck Stamp Contest. Third place went to Scot Storm of Freeport, Minn., who painted a pair of mallards in acrylic. Storm's work appeared on the 2004-2005 Federal Duck Stamp.

Eligible species for this year's contest were the mallard, northern pintail, canvasback, green-winged teal and harlequin duck.

Although no cash prize is awarded for winning the Federal Duck Stamp Contest, the artist receives worldwide recognition and, because he or she retains the rights to the original art, can profit from the sale of limited edition prints.

Duck Stamps bearing this year's winning design will go on sale at post offices, National Wildlife Refuges, some national retail chain stores, and various sporting-goods stores nationwide in late June of 2008. The 2008-2009 Duck Stamp will be available at select locations in both a self-adhesive format and the traditional gummed format. In addition, the Service recently started a three-year pilot program allowing the state fish and wildlife management agencies of Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, Texas, and Wisconsin, to sell stamps electronically through their individual automated licensing systems, providing a special receipt as proof of purchase.

The five judges for the competition were selected by the Secretary of the Interior for their dedication to conservation and professional expertise. They are:

• Jim Sprankle of Sanibel Island, Fla., is one of the best-known wood sculptors of wild birds in the world and a former pitcher for the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Cincinnati Reds.

• Matt Hogan is executive director of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. Matt is an avid hunter, angler and fly-fisherman.

• Jeanie Morris from Springfield, Mo., is president of the Springfield Arts Council and has studied painting with many well-known artists in both the United States and Europe.

• Cheryl Ganz is the chief Curator for Philately at the Smithsonian?s National Postal Museum. She co-chaired the Winton M. Blount Symposium on Postal History and was curator of National Postal Museum exhibits at the Washington 2006 World Philatelic Exhibition and the American Philatelic Society Stamp Show 2006.

• Eugene Hester of Springfield, Va., is a former Deputy Director of the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He is an avid wildlife photographer and outdoor writer, his photographs and articles appearing in many national and state magazines, as well as books, calendars and other publications.

(alternate judge)
• Richard Slaughter, from Easton, Md., is the publisher of the nature and conservation-focused Attraction Magazine. He is an avid waterfowler, collector of working decoys, wildlife art expert and collector of Federal and State Duck Stamps.

Downloadable images of the top three paintings and additional information concerning the contest will be available on the Internet at

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 97-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System which encompasses more than 548 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 66 national fish hatcheries, 64 fish and wildlife management assistance offices, 64 Fishery Resource Offices, and 78 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.
Contacts: Joshua Winchell, 202 219-7499 Rachel F. Levin, 612-309-5760 (cell)

Friday, December 21, 2007

He's Just Not Right!

Being the politically incorrect person that I am I would like to wish all of my grouser friends, fellow duck and goose hunters and all of your families a very "MERRY CHRISTMAS" , "HAPPY HANUKKAH", Happy Boxing day for our friends from Canada and let's not forget "HAPPY KWANZAA" . Here's hoping all of you have a good safe holiday season and I look forward to seeing you in the second season!

How's that for being cheap and not sending out Christmas cards, just saved myself at least 41 cents!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Dreaming of Grouse Camp

Since we seem to be in the mood, I thought I'd pull out a few pics from Grouse Camps past in hopes that Grouse Camp 2008 really does happen.

JT reflecting on a fine day at Camp Heberlein.

Man is that a sharp looking dog!

Rich and Pete doing what they do best - road hunting!
Happy Holidays Everyone!

McPhee on the DL with a Sprained Shoulder

Cause, most ignoble:
Rolling off our bed in the
Middle of the night.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Snow Ducks - Unabridged

Headed to Canoga Crick last Monday eve. The Tidball B&B is conveniently located 9.1 miles from the Waterloo Holiday Inn, home to the annual Cornell Extension School. A winter storm was brewing and the ride from central Pennsylvania involved white knuckles, four wheel drive and a lot of luck. I arrived in time to slow Mo on her evening chores while waiting for Keith to return from one of the many committees on which he serves. Hogs were slopped, horses and steers watered and fed.

Committee Man was soon home, sending Mo to collect TMR left-overs from the neighbor’s farm as we manly men uncorked a demi-bouteille of Muscat, caught up on recent histories and made our hunting plans. The wind blew snow in horizontal panes and the fire crackled. It was perfect. Eventually Mo returned from her chores, joining us for a glass of dessert wine. I felt a pang of guilt but Committee Man assured me that Monday was Mo’s day to do the chores. Oh, the charmed life of Committee Man.

I woke up Tuesday to Keith’s knock on the door. The snow was still falling, out of which materialized Mike O’Connor. We slid down Cemetery Road in Keith’s incongruous, leather-seated farm vehicle, the White Wildebeest. It took some fancy driving, but we made it across one of Keith’s cut corn fields to our hunting site. With six inches of snow, we had to perform the Canoga Shuffle to install decoys as well as to expose soil and stover. At some point the Flying Circus and two Mojo’s joined our menagerie. This was the ritual of goose hunting, but our spread was intended for mallards and blacks. The wind blew and snow filled our divots.

Just as the hunt began Mike’s nephew and a friend joined us. We were ensconced in a small stand of uncut corn, thoughtfully left in place by the hunting-addicted land owner. For the first half hour of sunlight, there was nothing but snow to watch. Then, the honk of geese caught our attention and Keith invited the Canadas to our fieldwith a few love clucks. As he worked the geese, three mallards dropped out of the sky. We scrambled to meet them with steel. Keith dropped a drake. The hunt was on! We continued to call, both geese and ducks. At times, birds would materialize over our shoulders, close enough to know not to return if they were fortunate enough to get away. I must confess to a few rookie actions, including jumping up (instinctively) shortly after several undetected mallards buzzed by within 10 yards but long after they were out of range. The snow and steel flew and the birds obliged us.

Speaking for my own performance only, I missed more than I killed, but I was content with the outcome. I scratched down a mallard hen that crashed into the snow 80 yards away. I connected on another hen that had been grazed by someone else. It flew over 300 yards, clearly wounded, and was lost in the fluries. I trudged down corn rows, and, for awhile, feared that my search was hopeless. But, there she was, one field over (just where Mike thought she would be), having left a six foot snow divot where she first ricocheted off the ground before settling in a second, blood-soaked divot twelve feet from the first. Ah, the forensics of retrieving downed game.

By 9:00 I had to leave for a hot shower and the conference in Waterloo, which, unfortunately, had not been cancelled. I must confess to a somewhat uneven performance in my first talk. I connected better with the audience on the subject of snow ducks than on my own research. A second talk proved to be my professional redemption, but I was anxious to return to snow ducks as soon as the last question was answered. By 3:00 I was back at Canoga. Alas, the storm and birds of the morning hunt had moved on. So, we admired a beautiful sunset and (Watershed) Committee Man treated me to an informative tour of the Canoga Creek watershed.

Back at the Canoga B&B, Victoria, Charlotte and Mo awaited our return. We popped a bottle of bubbly as well as we prepared a very late dinner. Victoria ably blessed the farm, food and meal. I nervously awaited the Tidball verdict (both generations): fresh, peppered duck breasts on a bed of salad, sautéed cheeses, roasted potato chips and (gen 1 only) a Portuguese red of forgotten varietals. All was perfect. After dinner we crooned a few tunes, enjoyed the fire and, of course, planned the following morning’s hunt.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Cast Iron Skillet Goose with Horseradish for Carol and Gordon

Per boneless goose breast: marinate ~ 24-36 hours in equal parts veg or olive oil and red wine (not red wine vinegar), to nearly cover breast; 1TBL soy, 1/2 TBL worchester, rough cut garlic, dash marjorum, dash summer savory. Turn often to keep moist. Take your big ol' cast iron skillet, sautee more rough cut garlic in mixof butter, cooking oil, bacon grease (whatever your pleasure--we used mostly bacon grease). Bring it up to absolutely smoking hot. Yes, it will be a pain to get that blackened garlic off the pan. That worry is for later. Sear whole goose breast about 2 mins per side until blackened. Pour in enough of the marinade to create a broth. DO NOT REDUCE HEAT--this means the marinade better be pre-heated or you may crack your skillet wide open. Cover skillet and cook breast about 3-4 more mins per side or until desired doneness (you can cheat and bisect the breast cross-ways to see what it looks like--for my $.02, the very outer should be seared black, fading to a good deep red in the middle [not the flaccid pink of the Black Lake DuckI ncident, of Which we Shall Not Speak]). When desired level of over-cookedness is achieved (deliberate swipe at the heathens among us who refuse to eat waterfowl until the livin bejeepers is cooked out of it), slice as thin as you can manage (across the breast), and serve on baguette slices with horseradish and a twist or two of fresh pepper.


Monday, December 03, 2007

Got Geese.

The hardest part was the drive.

I woke up at my usual time for the drive to Canoga—430, which usually gives me plenty of time to shuffle around in the cold, dark house, sleepily fumbling for gear and then have a lazy cup of coffee back in bed before hitting the road. This morning, I parted the curtains to find a wall of swirling white: snowing and blowing hard, and 37 miles to the rendezvous. Yikes!!!

It was bad. Nothing had been plowed—my Ithaca property tax dollars hard at work as usual. I normally make the whole drive in 45 minutes, but after that amount of time I still was only as far as Taughannock Park, 10 miles north of town. Left a message for Keith telling him to head to the field, and kept ‘er in 4WD low. The wind was out of the SE, and near Varick, where the road runs next to the lake, there were drifts better measured in feet than inches. I pushed on, driven by thoughts of the epic hedgerow hunt a few years ago. Could this be another one of those days? After a couple of hours of this nonsense, it was a great relief to find and follow the already drifted over tracks of the boys along Hoester’s hedgerow. Dekes already spread, layout blinds at the ready: because, perhaps, of my Ithaca residence, I drew the blind on the far left wing.

This was another of those days. Things started slowly enough—a couple of singles that worked the spread perfectly and fell to Zack’s gun and mine. Zach, bless his heart, asked “Captain Mike,” in charge of calling the shots on our side, whether it was okay to shoot the goose wandering around in the spread (Mike never saw it come in). And then the birds started to fly like wild--doubles, groups of 10, bigger flocks—they all worked us hard. Birds on the ground. The spread was perfect. Or who knows, because it was crappy out and the geese had been there yesterday, we probably could have had a half dozen shells tossed haphazardly about (probably even upside down) with us standing there in blue barncoats drinking coffee, and they might have still come. I don’t think there is a finer, more moving sight in all outdoors than geese dropping out of the sky, out of the grey, ghosting out of the wind, rain, and snow, with wings cupped and feet down.

Zach and I, on the left, were worked particularly hard. When this pattern became obvious, I inquired whether any of the right-wingers wanted to rotate blinds. No. No? Just keep shooting? Really? Okay. And so the morning went, cuddled in the popup blinds, watching geese, and all of us shooting well, because we were so relaxed. We had to keep careful recounting of the dead geese to make sure we weren’t over our limit. Finally, we determined we needed just 2 more. A pair came in, low, on my left. O’Conner shouted “take ‘em both!” I held on the front bird, fired a single shot, and both fell out of the sky. I held each to the sky and shouted to the wind and snow “I AM….HUNTER!!!”

Days like this don’t happen very often.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Got Geese?

Focused on geese the last two days here in Canoga land (dark geese first split ended today).

Saturday, Eric and I had Bill the Kite Killer and Gary out with us. We concentrated on the white ones and got three, plus a couple of Canadas. First New York state snow geese for all involved.

Today, we turned all of our attention towards Branta canadensis. The last picture here is dedicated to Rich, whose cup runneth over in the geese department this morning. We killed 23 Canada geese today, in the Hoster field behind the house. But I will leave the story and hopefully pics for Rich to post.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Vote for Budweiser Conservationist of the Year

Last Chance to Help Lowell Baier Conserve Habitat

For 37 years, Lowell Baier has dedicated himself to wildlife conservation, which made him the ideal candidate to lead a campaign to protect Theodore Roosevelt’s historic Elkhorn Ranch.

Now that the ranch is saved, Baier is working to restore the habitat, and the $50,000 he would win as Budweiser’s Conservationist of the Year has been pledged to restore wildlife habitat on the 23,550-acre ranch in the North Dakota Badlands. Please help Lowell Baier in his mission to conserve what many call the cradle of conservation. As one of four finalists, Baier needs your vote so he can designate his winnings to restore habitat at Theodore Roosevelt’s Elkhorn Ranch.
Rob Keck, CEO of the National Wild Turkey Federation, urges you to vote for Baier for Budweiser Conservationist of the Year, allowing the $25,000 NWTF contributed to the project to be supplemented by Baier’s prize.

Theodore Roosevelt raised cattle on the Elkhorn Ranch from 1884 to 1887. His observations on this Western frontier led to his belief that America needed a national policy to conserve its precious natural resources. When the largest remaining private remnant of the original ranch was threatened with development for a subdivision, Baier led a 24-month national campaign to purchase the ranch for the federal government and protect it in perpetuity.

The battle to protect the Elkhorn Ranch is over, but the fight to restore the habitat there has just begun. The $50,000 prize Baier is seeking has a significant multiplier effect on future funding to enhance this historic landscape, a rich biological oasis of bird, animal and plant life.
Lowell Baier has undertaken many monumental wildlife conservation challenges benefiting the nation by:

• Protecting of the National Collection of Heads and Horns, the largest single group of DNA specimens ever assembled of horned ungulates
• Founding the Foundation for North American Wild Sheep with 19 other charter members
• Playing a principal role in establishing a post-graduate wildlife program at the University of Montana
• Drafting President G.H.W. Bush’s wildlife conservation agenda
• Serving as a delegate to the White House Conference on Cooperative Conservation
• Serving as a member of the USDA Forest Service Centennial Steering Committee
• Establishing the National Conservation Leadership Institute, a war college atmosphere to train mid-career state and federal wildlife managers

You can further the historic conservation legacy of Theodore Roosevelt's Elkhorn Ranch by voting for Lowell Baier today. The competition is highly competitive; one vote can make a difference. Please go today to for instructions on how to vote for Baier.
So cast your vote today. See instructions to vote below.

1. Go to Budweiser and enter your birthdate.
2. Click on the "Sports & Outdoors" scrolling graphic.
3. The next page will look like the inside of a stadium. Click on the "Outdoors" button in the top right corner.
4. Click on the "Vote for Conservationist of the Year" link.
5. Click on the picture of Lowell Baier (second picture from the left), then click on "Place my Vote for Lowell E. Baier."
To vote by mail, send a 3 x 5 inch card with your Name, Address, Age and the name of the candidate you're voting for to:
2008 Conservationist of the Year
P.O. Box 750311
El Paso, TX 88575
Or request a mail-in ballot from Boone & Crockett Club.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

What They're Eatin' at Canoga Creek Farms II

This year, fellow Grouser Joshua and his family joined the festivities at Canoga Creek, along with Ros and Gail Parks. Gobble Gobble.

The Third Canoga Creek Thanksgiving

22 November 2007

Cocktails at Five O’clock

First Course Hors D’oeuvres

Pheasant in a Bramble

Petite Duck a l’Orange

Asiago and Venison Stacks

Pate de Canard et de Fois Gras

Skewers of Barded Grouse

Cherry Goose

Wine -Merryvale Carneros Chardonnay Reserve (2002)

Second Course- Soup

Woodcock, Minnesota Wild Rice, and

Mushroom Soup

Crostini with La Buelle de Causses and

Fig Jam

Third/ Main Course

Grilled Wild Turkey Breast with

Horseradish Hollandaise

Farm Fresh Turkey Stuffed and Roasted,


Creamed Ginger Garlic Butternut


Mashed Potatoes with Garlic and Parsley

Green Bean Casserole

Apple, Sage and Mushroom Stuffing

Corn Bread and/or Zucchini Bread

Wine -Serenity Pinot Noir, Central Coast (2005)

-Solena Pinot Noir Grande Cuvee, Willamette Valley (2006)

Fourth Course

Cranberry Parks Glace

Wine -Dry Creek Vinyard Old Vine Zinfandel, Sonoma County (2004)

Fifth Course

Salad of Wild Greens

Sixth Course-Selection of Imported Cheeses

Stilton (England)

Parrano Robusto (Spain)

Parmesan Reggiano (Italy)

St. Andre (France)

Muenster (France)

Seventh Course

Homemade Apple Pie

Homemade Pumpkin Pie

Eighth Course-Digestif

Xocolatl Nativo Amb Pebre


La Gloria Cubana Maduro Cigar

Wine -Porto Moreira (1997)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

More Opening Day 2007

Well, I wish I would have seen some antlers in the neighborhood, but it appears that the boys at BC camp cleaned 'em out! Congrats to Jim, Kevin, & Ernie.

My hunt was interesting, though not in the buck department. At about 8:30 am I heard footsteps over my right shoulder and watched out of the corner of my eye as a coyote trotted right through my shooting lane at about 70 yards. Clicked on the red dot, moved the safety, raised the gun...bang. Dead coyote. The picture below is dedicated to the Cabin Wear fans among us. Actually, it was taken the next morning after church as I was getting ready to take my prize to the taxidermist.

I spent the rest of the Opening Day morning hoping for deer, but saw nothing. Moved around a bit, tried a new stand when the corn cutting in adjacent fields began. Nothing. Finally, with only two hours until dark, I decided to move out of the gully and high-tail it to the lake, to hunt the clover stand by the marsh. No sooner had I climbed into the stand and took my look around when I saw movement at the south end of the field. Out trotted a little flat top, nervous as hell, twitching the tail and looking about anxiously.

The deer obviously wanted to cross the field and get the heck out of the state land, and so it headed more or less on a bee-line straight for me, stopping for nervous mouthfuls of clover along the way. At about 60 yards, the deer winded me and stopped short, facing me almost directly. I briefly studied the shot and the needed angle while turning on the red dot and flipping the safety. As the deer's ear twitched I raised the gun, found my predetermined spot on the deer's chest...bang. The deer cartwheeled and lay still. Upon closer inspection, the bullet shattered the front right shoulder as it slashed through both lungs and exploded the heart, angling slightly down ward and towards the left rear quarter, almost exiting mid-ribcage on the deer's left side. I smiled...textbook. Yippee ki yay.

Looked at the watch; a little more than hour to go. Might as well get back in to the stand for the last hour. As I climbed up, looking at the deer laying in the clover, I noticed motion back towards the state land. A flash of white. Binos up. After a brief scan, I found that the white was attached to a bushy red tail. Fox! He was coming right at me, apparently winding the fresh blood of the recently deceased. He almost reached the deer, and then moved to my right, obscured by a veil of grape and Virginia Creeper vines. I could see him mousing, apparently not interested in the deer. He was drifting further west, soon out of range. I thought I might as well give it a whirl. He was emerging in a kind of opening in the thick brush. Red dot click, safety click, gun up. Through the scope I realize that this is a VERY tough shot... small back of the head target all that presents... moving , mousing no less. Deep breath, let off half. Bang. The fox jumped straight up and whirled at the report, but then made serious haste back to the lands owned by the People of New York. Damn, I muffed my shot at a trifecta. But, wow, what a day afield.

Keep the stories coming boys!!

Openig Day 2007

Opening day found myself, my son Kevin and my buddy Big Jim hunting the home farm of BC Hunt Club. The night before, as we prepared for the mornings hunt, we laid out our plan for where each of us was to hunt. Jim was to go to the prestigious high in the sky stand that has been known to bag a minimum of at least one deer a year since it was first erected. Kevin was to go to the tree stand, that was midway down the East hedgerow, that I bagged a buck out of last year and Brent bagged a beautiful, but not yet mature, red oak tree. I was to go to the ladder stand about 100 yards to the west of Jim where there was a "deer road" blazed through the woods. I can see both Jim and Kevin from my perch on what has to be the shakiest of all ladder stands made to date. I probably paid way to much for it, $20.00 used from a "friend", but it was at least positioned against a nice shady aspen tree that provided adequate cover. At about 7:30, while wrestling with my balance, I looked over and noticed Jim raising his gun to the point. Seconds later I heard his first shot ring out, to be followed by a second, then a third. There was a calm for a few seconds and then a forth shot rang out. I paused for a couple of minutes and then with great delight found my way to the ground from that rickety stand. All of us have our "talkie walkies", as Jim calls them, so by the time I set foot on stable ground I hear Jim whispering into his "I got a big buck down here". Jim thinks he has his talkie walkie on but in all the excitement he didn't get it properly powered up. I am close enough though that I can still hear every work he uttered. Again I hear him say " Hernie I got a big buck down over here, come here" and again I hear him though the morning air rather than on my radio. Now I am already on the way to my buddies aid when I hear a blood-curdling scream call out, "Hernie I got one!!" So much for the early morning silence. Jim stayed in his stand and directed to where his prize had fallen in the golden rod and sure enough there laid a fair sized 8 point buck. The deer was about 1 1/2 years old so it will be excellent table fare. We went back to the hunt and about 1/2 hour later another single shot rang out. Seconds later a voice came over the Talkie Walkie that simply said "Buck down." Kevin had bagged his four pointer with a single shot to the lower neck area. Again I was summoned to track the creature while he directed me to the kill and I again marked the spot where the fallen deer lay. This deer is another 1 1/2 year old buck that looked to be a brother to the first; both will make excellent eating. Back to the hunt we went for another hour or so with me walking the hedge rows and corn field to try to spook new game out. I for one was proud to be the host to their hunting episode and will enjoy sharing a plate full of young tender venison with them on Friday when we carve up the carcass and fire up the grill. The story has several other features that can only be described in accurate detail by Big Jim so if you want to hear the details of this, as well as the afternoon hunt, feel free to drop by Beer Camp over the Thanksgiving weekend and Jim will be glad to share all of the details with you. Needless to say Saturday, Sunday and even Monday were all days that both he and I will never forget! See ya around the campfire!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Birthday Steelies

Still trying to collect myself after reading Keith's tribute to Fi. Been a while since I've perused the GROUSERS blog.

Bird hunting has been nearly non-exist for me this year. Teaching a class for the first time and it's really kicking my butt. I think I've logged about 6 or 7 hours total, and bagged 1 woodcock. Very disappointing and quite pathetic!

But, my dad turned 65 this year and I treated him to a day on the Manistee River fishing for Steelhead. Although it was cold and snowing at times, we both had a great day. Dad caught 2 steelies (1 over 10 lbs) and a nice lake run brown; and I landed 3 nice steelies (1 over 10 lbs). Dad will be talking about that trip for years!

So, who's in for planning a South Dakota pheasant hunt for 2008?!!

Anyway, hope all of you have an enjoyable Thanksgving!


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Congrats are in order!

You know 'em, you love 'em, you've hunted their land. A round of applause for the Thompsons and their Canoga Springs Farm, recent recipients of the 2007 Cayuga Lake Friendly Farms Award!


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Ouch!! That must have hurt!

Can you imagine the hunters surprise when this beast walked out? What about the deer that he didn't see? Look at the length of the drop tine. This is one monster deer that won the battle but lost the war.
Anyone care to take a guess at what this monster dressed out at? Nice pictures it still looks like the deer has his head angled in pain from having the antler in it's eye socket.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Parting Shot- RIP Fiona Queen of Canoga

I went out to the summer kitchen this morning t0 prepare for a morning duck hunt and to meet X-man. Fiona had died in the night, peacefully, in her bed. She had been declining all week and last night I just had a feeling I might not see her alive again. She had a hard time getting up the stairs, so I picked her up and tucked her in. We hung out for about an hour, me snuggling her, her licking me. I left her at about midnight, resting comfortably, having watched me clean the gun, pack the blind bag, blow the duck call, like so, so many other times. Unlike so many other early mornings, though, she was not there wagging her tail as I opened the door in the pre-dawn darkness. She lay still.

Rich asked if we were still on, sympathetic to the situation. But we quickly agreed that the best and most appropriate thing to be done was to go duck hunting, and to bring Fiona with us, one last time. I brought Fiona down to Double Black in a sled, with a bottle of Armagnac, a favorite photo of Fi, an old wooden decoy that she favored as a pup, and some daffodil bulbs. Mike O' joined the hunt. Fiona was placed gently in her favorite spot, just to the right of Double Black blind, at the waters edge. We commenced hunting, though sobered by the loss of our pal. There were birds, and we called at them as enthusiastically as possible. We reminisced. Dog stories, hunting stories, family stories.

Moira joined the hunt at around 9 am. By then we had scratched down a pair of Mergs. We drank coffee, and a black duck approached from the North. With a little coaxing, it made the decoys and fell to my gun. McPhee made a classic long retrieve, with me paddling the canoe as an escort. It was a stunning fall morning, blue skies, very light winds, all of us soaking in the layered meanings of this autumn funeral, from different yet similar vantage points.

Another pair of black ducks approached from the north. Rich made a very nice shot on the left to right flier and dumped the bird, and I hit it on the water as it appeared to still have life in it. It did indeed still have life and somehow managed to barely evade Mcphee, who was working for retrieve number four for the day. The duck miraculously made land and gave Mcphee and Rich the slip. More on that later.

As the morning gave way to the warmth of the sun and the approach of noon, I reluctantly decided it was time to take Fiona to her final resting place. I dug her grave in the short grass, under a tree, near Double Black, with a good view to the lake. I laid her to rest, still confused about my emotions, distracted by my lack of real connection to it all; perhaps even frustrated that my grieving was not occurring in an orderly way. I should have hunted with her Wednesday... I should have stayed with her last night until the end. She should be with me now, and not in this hole.

I placed the wooden decoy between her front paws, and the expended shells from the morning's memorial hunt. Moira placed the daffodil bulbs with care. Mike O' and Rich stood by reverently, all of us in waders and waterfowling apparel. The first few shovels of soil were difficult...ashes to ashes, dust to dust-- the marsh is sure a moist place for dust. Still feeling disconnected, but managing, the task was complete. I felt a little emotion in my voice as I said "Good girl Fi, Goodbye..."

Mike O', Rich and I gave Fiona a proper 21 gun (almost) salute. It was a truly perfect fall day, and the three volleys echoed throughout the marsh. I vaguely noticed that McPhee was missing. He came through the marsh grass and walked straight over to Fiona's grave, sniffing intently and pausing over where her head lay, under the moist soils of the marsh , facing east. I had come to terms with the end of my long friendship with Fiona, but did not feel closure. And then, I heard a mirthful laugh, a happy sound from Double Black. It was happy and it was relief. Rich was exclaiming in amazement, because there, laying in Double Black, was the originally lost Black duck.

I knew immediately what that sound meant, and I breathed only "..yes." Finally, I connected with it all. I laughed and sobbed all at once. My Fiona is gone, and yet, things are as they should be.

We don't know whether when Mcphee visited Fiona's fresh grave, he learned from her the location of that Black duck, or that he told her in ways only dogs understand that all was well at Double Black, and that all ducks were accounted for. But the Red God's told us all that Fiona was resting peacefully, cradled in Canoga Marsh, and that things would continue, as they should be.

Rest in Peace, Fiona Queen of Canoga

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Drop Tine

That is a great deer George took on Sunday. It inspired me to stop chasing the ducks that are not here and get back to the tree stand. Monday after work I helped Keith with some posting and then was planning on a bow hunt. However, we finished a little late and I was leaning toward just going home when Keith said, "you know, it only takes a minute for the deer to walk by and your whole season can change." Anyway he talked me into it. I hit the stand at 5pm; sunset was at about 6:10pm. It would be a short hunt, and it was almost over, when this nice buck with two drop tines came down the hedgerow. He was scaping and rubbing trees and looking for some lovin. Unfortunately for him he walked in bow range of me and it was all over. He ran less than 50 yds and went down. A great hunt.

See you in the blind,


Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Hector grouse

Hey gang,
got out for a two-hour hunt with Ol' Gimpy, and we had a great time. Temp was 55 deg F, a slight 4 mph wind was blowing from the west, and I wore my usual crappy upland stuff. Yep, orange Filson hat too.

Kate is moving at (ahem) a fast walk with a pronounced limp. We went out yesterday, and I missed the only woodcock we saw. (Plus Katie didn't hurt herself, so that was good.) Today we fared much better bird-wise. We hunted the Old Tent covert, where years ago we found in the back woods an old canvas tent that had seen better days. We were in the woods by 4:30.

We walked in on the woods road that leads to the Old Tent, and as we drew near the sacred spot I took the low road on the path while Katie worked the thick stuff above me. The leaves were pretty damn dry, and the wind so slight that I tried to stay as quiet as possible while the dogge padded through the dogwood.

Not five minutes had passed when Katie went on point uphill from me in some thick stuff. I had a bit of a clearing off the trail leading up to her, and as I walked in a grouse flushed in a beautifully open flight, left to right, toward the deep woods beyond. I missed the first shot at about twenty yards but nailed the second shot at about twenty five yards. The bird tumbled to the ground, and we were on the board! Score one for Gimpy. Nice big grouse, too.

Later I missed a similar opportunity at a grouse Katie was pointing on the edge of a marshy low area. This bird seemed to flush a lot faster; and as I emptied both barrels at it, a second bird flushed much closer to me. But . . . no more buhwets.

Somewhere along the way Katie pointed a woodcock that flushed from my feet. I was tangled in some thorny crap, but I managed to shoot at the bird (I swear to God!) from the hip--the first time I can ever remember truly shooting without the gun to my shoulder--and lo and behold, the bird crashed about ten yards away. That one is pretty much going to be hamburger.

Katie pointed another grouse as the evening wore on--this bird went up into a tree above her, and as I debated that particular shot, it decided to high tail it out of there, which was fine with me. More for winter hunts.

Finally, Katie pointed another woodcock as it was getting close to sunset. This one flushed straight up, and I missed it overhead at about five yards before settling down and killing it some twenty yards away with the second barrel. Not a bad haul for a two-hour hunt.

Some of you know of Michel Gélinas, our Quebec friend who has an utter fascination with the wily woodcock. Michel's website has a special section reserved for pictures of woodcock deformities. Well, one of today's woodcock is the first one where I've noticed a deformity--one of the birds had lost a digit on one of its feet:

So I guess I'd better send the picture along to Michel.

All in all, a good afternoon's hunt.

Monday, October 29, 2007

We Grows 'um Big here

Yesterday, George H. took a beautiful buck out of the Canoga Creek Farm & Conservancy. I won't tell George's story for him in hopes that we will hear from this future Grouser in person on the subject, but suffice it to say that this may be his best archery deer to date, and it is the second "big boy" to grace my lawn since I've been the steward of this here parcel. Hearty congratulations to George.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


The ponds once again provided us with a great opening day duck hunt. We had a very different hunt than the double black boys; all Teal and Woodies in the morning almost no Mallards to be found. Ernie,you can tell Carol that there was only three of us : myself ,Dave and my uncle Fred who is 73 years old. A lot of the shooting came from Spanos. The morning hunt produced 1 drake mallard,2drake woodies,1hooded merganser,and 4 green wing teal. After being soaked to the bones we bailed out about ten and went for a hot breakfast and dry clothes. I returned alone for the afternoon hunt and managed to bag three nice drake mallards, a total of eleven for the day. A great opener =the only thing that could have been better would be a blind with a roof. It rained all day. I am glad you guys stayed dry and had a great hunt in the new Double Black. Sorry, no pictures -it was too nasty to bring the camera out.

See you in the field,

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Western Zone NY Opener-Finger Lakes/Double Black II

Quick sitrep...

In the newly constructed Double Black blind (thanks again to Eric, General Contractor for the project, and Mike O and Ernie, the flag squad), opening day was a great day of milestones. Christening the blind with the first kill was Zack Havelin, a "greenwing" youth hunter who contributed to a great morning. Zack killed the first duck of the day solo, and later contributed a Coot as well. On the dog front, the veteran McPhee and the rookie Sage took turns on the retrieves on the morning ducks (6) and then for the afternoon hunt, Sage handled the retrieving duties on her own (6). Sage did well, as this was her first real hunt, first shotgun exposure in real action, first live bird retrieves, first decoy obstacles, first duck calling, etc. A+ for both dogs and their handlers today.

The hunters today were Mike O, Cagey (yours truly), Havelino and Son, X-man (half day) and JT (half day). All told, we ended up with 12 ducks, all mallards, one Coot, and one lost Bufflehead that dove and eluded us . The beautiful thing about today was the teamwork and comraderie...the first six ducks were "pre-called" so that each individual in the blind had a chance at a solo, and every single person got one, unassisted. Awesome. A memorable opener. Over and out.

Monday, October 22, 2007

On behalf of Path Walker . . .

. . . whom I've re-invited from his work email address. This missive arrived in the old-fashioned email box today, and it's just too good not to share.

I quoteth the Walker on Paths thusly:

Hey Gang,
I was able to get out for ringnecks last Saturday morning (rain, winds S 15-25mph, T= 55-60, shadow grass). Set up in the wrong spot (tough navigating the canoe in the driving rain and darkness), but had some success w/ ringnecks and blacks anyway. (See attached file: Spy and ducks 10.20.07.jpg) Spidy got some easy retrieves. The hoped-for geese did not show, but 50-100 ringnecks came in early. All and all, fine and pleasant.

May try this again tomorrow morning (this is the last week of the first split). Still haven't gotten the floor in my boat, but a little duck hunting is good motivation for some late night work in the garage. That, and some more decoy painting (goldeneyes are next). Haven't been able to post on the blog for some time, so I figured this would work.

Best to Kate.
- Andy

Andrew, I sent you a new invite. Join up again if possible!


Sunday, October 21, 2007

More celebrity . . .

Here's the label category that refuses to go away. The boss and offspring visited with Justice Sandra Day O'Connor this morning, and then the boss went off on a ladies-only junket to Seneca Falls and the National Women's Hall of Fame. Apparently a good time was had by all.

Keith, you and Mo will be interested to know that my kids talked about Peanut with Justice O'Connor, who in turn told them stories about growing up on the Lazy B Ranch as a child. So maybe Peanut is the real celebrity here.

Anyway, more photos are at the Bossy Hen's Flickr site.

Delayed Haiku

Knuckles healing, blood

staunched, the opener draws near,

With my trusty pump.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


Hey gang,
Some of you may find this mildly amusing. I found this on the internet last night: a 2003 lecture I gave in a class at Cornell that among other things covers animal rights and the philosophy of sport hunting.

If you've got a spare twenty or so minutes and want something to run on your machine as "background noise," go to , let the mpeg fully load, and then skip ahead to just past the halfway point of the lecture to listen to "Tantillo on the Philosophy of Sport Hunting."

Of course if you're not pressed for time, or have no life, you could always listen to the entire 50-minute lecture, which also covers no-kill animal shelters and feral cats.

Also, as an added bonus I read from a book titled, 'Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving, which by itself is worth the price of admission.


Monday, October 15, 2007

Black Lake - First Shot


The nimrods: Bill; Mike; Keith; Rich; Pete

The dogs: McPhee; Cody; Artemis; Brandt

The birds: timberdoodle (7); road cock (1); Bonasa (2); mallard (5); ring neck (2); gadwall (1); wudduk (2).

Beer Camp teaser: Ring Neck evades Cooper’s Hawk but not Mr. Mike

Canine headlines: Artemis Performs for All, Leaves Grown Men Exhausted and Satisfied; McPhee Reminds Hunters how to Live; Sweet, Patient Cody; Chesapeake Pup Shows Penchant for Sputum Soaked Tissues

Quotes: “help me, help me, help me”; "I'm in trouble" (2006); “biofuelia, that’s my word”; “you can have your Beretta back”
Ailments: gout; constitutional(too fast, too slow); fingers (amputated)
Culinary conquests: Curry Duck; Twice Cooked Goose Chili; Roasted Endives
Noteworthy EtOH: 1977 Chianti Classico; Irish Redbreast

Hangovers: only 1!


Katie update

Well gang, Katie is officially on the disabled list for the foreseeable future. Bad timing for sure.

She spent the day at the vet's, and the good news is that nothing is broken. The bad news is that they suspect she has strained or torn a muscle in her shoulder. Although she's putting weight on the leg now, they caution against running her in the next few weeks so as not to re-tear or re-injure the muscle.

So that sucks. But at least she doesn't need $2000 worth of surgery, I suppose. So she's got that going for her, which is nice. . . .

no news is . . . being ignored

Geez, fer frigginchrissakes . . . . I've got to read Kelly Kleinman's blog to hear how the Black Lake trip went.

He's back.

Well, my husband got back yesterday from his hunting trip. The weather was really nice, not good for duck hunting, but he had a great time. He even got a wood duck! And some grouse. The grouse will be delicious and he plans to have the wood duck mounted. He even thanked me for watching the kids while he went on vacation. And that got me thinking. Vacation? It never occurred to me that he was taking a vacation!!! So, I must start planning a vacation for myself, too. I could call it a hunting trip if that would make it more palatable to him. Now, what would I "hunt"? I think I would hunt sand, water, margaritas and Mercado 28 in Cancun! And sleeping in wouldn't be so bad either. I guess it never hurts to dream....

Damn. I guess it would never hurt to blog, either, eh Dr. Dirt?

heh heh

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Back from the Odyssey

Hey gang,
looking forward to hearing tautly told tales by the old gout-ridden duck hunters. Had a fine trip to Michigan and Wisconsin, if a bit warm at first and then a bit rainy for the rest of it. Managed to scratch down a fair number of grouse. The trip was cut short by a couple of days, though, when Katie pulled up lame chasing down a crippled grouse. She'll be seeing the vet tomorrow morning, hopefully it's just a bad sprain.

Anyway, what pictures I took are over at Frank's Flickr site. But this was a particularly cool grouse we took out of the "Dead Pig" covert near Melstrand, Michigan. Dead Pig being so named due to the, uh, dead pig we found there.

Bear baiting: ethical? or not ethical? Discuss.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Fin and Feather wekend

Well since Keith is so anxiously awaiting a post from me I figured I would send one, after he left for Black Lake. As you can see it was a better weekend for the fin than the feather but a good time was had by all. For those that don't know the players there is Dave Thompson, the tallest one, Big Jim, the shortest one he is 6'2" and the mid sized guy Robert Thompson. Saturday morning started with a hangover but still found us in the blind at 6:20 ready for the day. Lot's of shooting all around us but none from our little group. After breakfast at around 9:30 we knew that it was going to be nothing but a blue bird day so we decided to bag in the duck hunting and go for the fish. This was a lot more productive than the duck hunt so we had a lot of fun at that. The picture shows only a few of the fish we caught. In all there were over a dozen nice bass caught 6 perch and 1 pike. They were all caught off of a shoal at about 26 feet in the middle of the shipping channel where it was around 100 feet deep all around the shoal. Needless to say they provided for a great meal Saturday night. Whatever was not cooked up was taken home by the Thompsons for a fish fry for the family
Sunday morning found us back in the blind with a strong wind out of the north, which is the best for hunting the island, and rain in the air. We did a bit better by bagging the three mallards you see here but today not much was flying. All in all it was a lot of fun and Dave got to see the Island for the first time. I'm sure Keith and the boys will have better stories and more ducks in the bag from their trip but I can almost guarantee they won't have any wheres near as good of an opening day fish fry as we did!

Monday, October 08, 2007

Northern Openers Update

C'mon grousers, I know a few of youse must have stories--like Ernie.

I hunted Tug Hill for the duck/woodcock opener this last Sat. I camped (illegally) at the reservoir/beaver pond west of the Gruntley Rd coverts and scouted in the evening hours Fri . Lots of geese came in to the classic northwoods hole, but few ducks. Come morning, I had three woodies buzz me right at shooting time and as I positioned to shoot at them, I stepped into a deep beaver channel and did a Nestle plunge into the pond. Needless to say the woodies escaped unscathed...I was of course soaked and besmirched, my cell phone ruined, my tobacco rendered useless, and my pride seriously bruised. And did I mention it was hot and the mosquitoes were ferocious? I saw one other group of mallards fly over, but they were not interested in my pond or spread.

As for upland, I fared much better. I ended the day with roughly 15 flushes, (4 or 5 were re-flushes) on grouse, two of which (one gray phase, one red) came home with me. Artemis also had two woodcock points, one of which was also potted. The other one I somehow missed...not sure what happened there. Artemis did well, but, again, it was hot. All in all, a nice "quickie" to the Tug, though duckless.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Early Geese-Death in the Tall Grass

Thanks to Eric and Marty, I was able to get in a few goose hunts, sans decoys and calling, in the tropical September weather of the early goose season. On one hunt, Eric and I managed to down more than ten geese, thanks to a perfect stalk in windy conditions that allowed us to get close and surprise the birds. On this particular hunt, Eric made some incredible overhead shots on returning geese. Nice way to start the waterfowling season. I on the other hand, was effective but not impressive. My first shot (10 gauge, number 4 heavishot) when the birds were just getting up dropped at least two, perhaps three, geese, and I hit one more after a hasty reload as it tried to circle back looking for a fallen comrade. Meat on the table, but not that pinnacle feeling that is so elusive. But beggars cannot be choosers.

The second and final hunt for me in the 2007 early goose season was very satisfying however. Our hope was to return to the scene of the crime for a repeat performance. But when we arrived at the pond, the birds had vacated and were comfortably feeding across the road in a cut corn field. Bummer. As we stood in the middle of the pond complex feeling sorry for ourselves, another flock came out of the ponds deeper in to join their brethren in the corn field. Damn! And their we stood with our mouths agape. One of us finally got some smarts and suggested we at least check those ponds to see if there were any stragglers left. (I can't remember who was the smart one now, probably Illegal Riegel) We began our stalk through the tall grass like a couple of blood thirsty lions. After sneaking along a few yards, I signaled to Eric that I heard geese. Thrice more I heard them call, not far ahead. Eric motioned to where it sounded like they would be. Slowly we poked our heads over the dike. Nothing.

As we hunkered back down and deduced our feathered friends' whereabouts in hushed and whispered tones, we heard a number of geese begin to get vocal. The pond we would be sneaking was long and narrow, parallel to and beyond the long and narrow one we were peaking over. We would need to either cross the empty pond in front of us directly and risk alerting the birds with our splashing or go all the way around and risk being at the opposite end of the pond the birds were in. We decided to split up, one of us going to each end. Then, we would each come 1/3 of the way towards the middle to maximize pond coverage. We agreed on our plan, synchronized our watches, said our goodbyes, wished each other God-speed, and all that other high drama combat stuff.

I saw Eric at his end of the long narrow pond moments after I reached mine. It sounded like the geese were in his end of the pond, and that they were getting wise to the reality of death swishing around in the grass about them. I watched him hesitate, deliberating, and then install his dog in a stock still "sit" below the horizon of the dike, out of sight of the geese. At this point I thought "Eric, don't peak over the edge...just go your third and then walk up." But like Lot's wife needing a lance glance at Sodom and Gomorrah, Eric couldn't resist a peak. He didn't turn into salt, but he might as well have been pounding it. The geese got loud quick and swam for the middle...they had made him. I sprinted thirty yards to what I guessed was my 1/3 and dove into the grass, melting into the contours of the bank as best I could. I heard shots. I heard geese getting closer. I saw a flock of twenty fly too far to my east, but damn they were low. I saw a flock of 8 coming right for me, thirty yards up. As the first of the group passed over head I rolled upright and fired, and fired again. It was beautiful. I swung on a goose against a clear blue sky and watched him roll and tumble in the air. I picked another target and swung, fired and watched him cartwheel. Both geese landed in the water not twenty yards from me. Pinnacle. First double of the season, and more to come, "Insha' Allah."

Though Eric (who has an epic solo hunt story to close his early season goose hunting) didn't fare as well on his end of the pond, due to the geese making him and forcing him to take long shots, we both got a big kick out of the stalk, and a good time was had by all. Well, except for the geese. Thanks Eric!

Photo courtesy of Illegal Riegel.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007


Hey everyone,
Dr. Dirt and the Missus Dirt have been hanging out with the beautiful people in New York City.

Read all the gory details here.


ps. why does Pete get the winsome young thang and Kelly gets the withered old catcher's mitt? will wonders never cease.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Flaggers Wanted

Double Black lives again. I am looking to sub contract some flaggers as the GC on the Double Black Project I am putting out the bid for flagging of the blind. Keith and I finished up the roof and the plywood on the sides Friday afternoon. We will put the finishing touches on next week such as benches, shelving,peep holes strategically placed for waterfowl spotting and a door.Anyway back to business we are ready to flag the blind and need Flaggers anyone know where we caqn find some.Sorry no pics we did not have a camera with us while we were building the blind in the middle of some feirce thunder storms.

See you in the marsh

Friday, September 28, 2007

Get Ready...

Click on the image...

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Grouse Opener Report

Mr. Mike (the REAL Mr. Mike) and I took our chances chasing grouse yesterday up at Tug Hill. We left my wispy white haired pokey dotte dogge home and hunted over Gordie, Mr. Mike's three year old cocker spaniel. Gordie is by now a seasoned veteran of the woodcock and POAS wars, but has not yet tasted the feathers of Bonasa umbellis.

Alas, today he is still waiting for that first taste.

But it was not due to lack of chances. Mr. Mike and I saw/heard a total of eight birds, with a couple of additional reflushes. The result of our opening day marksmanship was that Mike was 0 for 1, while I was 0 for 3, or as some statistically challenged Minnestoans and erstwhile Penn State urban sociologists sometimes calculate it, "0 for 2."

Here's how the action broke down: after meeting at 0900 for a breakfast that couldn't be beat at the Adams Mickey D's, we hastened to a spot that shall remain unnamed but that you've all hunted at. That's right, Pete's original Grunley Creek covert. Forgive me Pete.

In a little over an hour's hunting, Gordie managed to dislodge two grouse and three woodcock from their aldery lairs. Fresh from the hunt test circuit, Gordie at first displayed some uncertainty about the nature of the Tug Hill upland cover, and the 75 deg. F temp and stiff winds made for difficult scenting. Also the ground everywhere we went yesterday was bone dry--Tug Hill has apparently been in the throes of the same drought the rest of NY state has been experiencing.

Anyways, not a shot was fired. I was hefting my 12 ga. Parker, while Mr. Mike was sporting yet another new shotgun acquisition, this time a 12 gauge Benelli "Superlight," a flat-out-wrong autoloader that needs no plug and can only shoot three shells. Plus it comes with an easily detachable recoil pad.

More on that easily detachable recoil pad later.

After resting at the truck for twenty or so minutes to cool down, we decided at 12 noon to make our way to covert #2, so we drove over to Rectors and hunted "Jim's secret honey hole Covert" just south of the Montague Inn (which is still for sale by the way). One or two of you have seen this covert in previous years, its location still hopefully yet a secret to popple-pounding Penn Staters such as Pete.

heh heh

Anyway, we made our way into the hemlocks and balsams of covert #2 right at the height of the midday siesta at approx 1300 hours. We hunted hard over Gordie criscrossing our way around the increasingly overgrown skid trails that meander throughout the parcel. Nary a flush for the first hour or so. Damn. Where are they?

Until we heard a flush. BIRD!!! Mike and I motion to each other to circle the patch of grass and ferns the bird flushed from, I to the left and Mike to the right--while Gordie took the center.

No sooner had I walked around a tall arrowy white pine, Gordie loosened two more birds loose. WHRRRRRRR. WHRRRRRRR. At the apex of their flight, I managed to fire twice at the rapidly disappearing birds who were busy making a hard right into some spruces. I was pretty sure I didn't get them, but at the sound of the shots a fourth bird went up.

Now you gotta understand some things about this fourth bird.

Things like, (a) it was surrounded by an angel's glow of brilliant yellow light from the sun. When Mr. Mike EVENTUALLY took a shot at the bird, he had had time enough to do a rough Eldridge Hardie sketch of the damn thing.

Second, (b) at this point of the hunt, Mr. Mike had jettisoned his easily detachable Benelli superlight recoil pad. Or should I say, the recoil pad jettisoned him. Either way, Mr. Mike had by this point of the hunt lost his buttplate, leaving two nasty-looking lug nuts exposed and nakedly protruding from the hollowed buttstock of his newly beloved Benelli. The things looked ominously like what you'd see on a Tritronics shock collar.

Needless to say, (c) there was some trepidation and timidity aforehand on Mr. Mike's part about shooting the gun without said buttplate.

So there was Mr. Mike, gazing wonderously over this beautiful grey phase Tug Hill monster that Gordie had just flushed. I myself had the best look of the day at this bird--I saw it all--but alas . . . in the immortal words of Elmer Fudd (note to self: add label "Elmer Fudd" to this post), I had "no more buhwets."

Finally Mr. Mike decides to shoulder his firearm, risk the pain, take one for team, and fire the gun in the hopes of getting young Gordo some grouse gristle in his gullet. BANG! a single shot rang out.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, you already know the outcome. NADA. nothing. zilch.

We searched the area for a while looking for all three grouse we had shot at. We got one reflush from a tree a bit later, and then Gordie (who had been working the entire area insanely ever since the shooting began) finally came of age in the grouse woods by ground trailing one of the birds and eventually forcing a flush while Mr. Mike and I were (ahem) somewhat far away from the dogge while Monday-morning quarterbacking what had just transpired. Meaning: Mr. Mike was telling me the sun was in his eyes.

Sigh. "And that's why they call it hunting."

We hunted for another half hour or so under skies filled with gathering stormclouds, and then eventually headed back towards the trucks. On the way out Gordie managed to smoke out a woodcock, and then another; and a third flushed wild as we broke out onto the road. All in all a fantastic hunt, and it never did rain.

After a break to cool off, consume soft drinks, and converse with some wandering motorists who were exploring the region (the female of the motorists was particularly attractive, Mr. Mike averred), we decided to forego lunch and to squeeze in one last hunt prior to calling it a day. So we decided upon a "happy pin" spot on the map some thirty miles south near Littlejohn WMA, in Boyleston.

The third hunt is a technical operation well suited to Navy Seals and tired grousers. You walk in on a wide open Tug Hill ski trail through a biological desert of hardwoods, you reach the happy covert that is all of about twenty acres, you execute a quick search and destroy mission in this tiny little marshy hollow, and then you exit with prey in hand. Hopefully.

Well, we found a couple of grouse, right on schedule and right where I said they'd be. Mike and Gordie were in the thick stuff, I was out on the main trail doing the path-walking thing, and Gordie put a grouse up that flushed to our rear over the trail we had just walked in on. I wheeled and managed a snap shot at the bird who was gloriously open over the trail about 35 yards away. BANG! and at the report of the gun I saw a distinct shudder in the bird's flight, so I am pretty sure I hit the thing.

But alas. Once again we were unable to reduce the bird to possession. We looked and looked in the area where I'd marked the bird's flight, but nothing.

CRESTFALLEN, I returned with Mike and Gordie to resume the hunt. We had one other bird flush wild a bit later, and that was it. We were in the vehicles by 5:30, sans Bonasa, and the hunt was over.

But the day was judged a fantastic success due to the number of birds seen, but more importantly, by the number of birds Gordie connected with. The young cocker is well on his way to becoming a grouse-getting machine.

And p.s., Mr. Mike is planning on hanging up his POAS pea-shooter and getting a real grouse gun like the rest of us. Good luck with that Mr. Mike.
Happy Times, Tug Hill, 1997

"The hunt which men praise and regard as successful is but one kind. Why should we exaggerate any one kind at the expense of the others?"
--Thoreau (loosely paraphrased)