Monday, December 29, 2008

Cayuga Lake Waterfowl Report- Riegel/Tidball Team

Thought a little levity might be in order. The first four days of the second half waterfowl season have yielded some interesting results. For Yeoman's benefit, we have learned that the new Hevi-shot load for vintage guns is VERY effective stuff. Also, it seems that Federal Blackcloud BBs pattern beautifully through a modified choke, at least through my mod/mod double sxs. Haven't had the chance to try the new bismuth offering but hope to soon.

The lake in front of Double Black was frozen the first few days, so Eric and I hunted the ponds. Despite some sense of nostalgia indicating that it might be nice to hunt with Ernie and Mike ( a hangover from the nice nostalgia laden recent Ernie post I guess) in a field, just for old times sake, I am glad I took the sensible route. The Ernst field (Thompson's field) was way too full of hunters and way too empty of birds, from what I gather.

On day 1, the rain was falling by the bucket-load at 5 am, and didn't stop until well after 8:30 am, at which time Eric and I, and Eric' s cousin Dave were limited out on ducks. Day 2 was much like day one, with the addition of a handful of geese. Day 3, the warming trend, rain, and wind had opened up the north end of the lake sufficiently, and reports were streaming in of large numbers of divers. Mike O, Eric and I set up in Double Black...we came away with only one bird, but had a few chances at divers screaming through the outer edge of the spread. Unfortunately for us, the masses of divers brought masses of diver hunters and layout boats, effectively cutting us out of the action. Eric commented that we were witnessing more boat traffic in front of the marsh than many summer days on the lake. Day 4 (today) proved tough as well, with steady wind at plus 35 mph and gusts up to 50 mph. Still, we managed to scratch down 6 ducks and 2 geese.

I spent some time with the camera to try to brighten spirits and tempt Tantillo to come and engage in some R&R. You will notice I edited out the shooting... that way the Back Up Benelli can imagine his role better. Feel better Jim. Enjoy.

Saturday, December 27, 2008



Katie in Michigan, 2006
Sept 6 1997 to Dec 27 2008

We had to put Katie down this morning. It was time.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Holidays to all!

I would like to thank all of you that I had the chance to share times and memories with over the past years. Family is family and we live with them and love them our entire lives, but friends are the ones in our lives that make living day to day extra special. Your friends choose you, you don't get to choose them! If your lucky and blessed, as I am, you get to meet many people in your life and only a few are allowed to wear the distinction of friend. I keeping with the Holidays I would like to share some pictures of friends that are near and dear to my heart. If you do not appear here it does not mean I don't view you as a true friend, it's just I don't have my camera around when we shared time together.
Here's the happy Kite Killer, Bullhead Bill. Many giggles have been had at His expense!

Me with a couple of my best friends and my puppy that is now gone. This is the first Christmas in 14 years that she will not be around, God I miss her so!

What a show off, Don't get caught with all those birds in possession!

If your lucky even your neighbors become friends you can share time hunting and fishing with, Lord knows I have been blessed on that account! Then there is the fun of sharing the outdoors with a young person teaching them the joys of the outdoors. I look forward to next year helping teach Mason how to hunt!

Then there are the stoic ones that spend time reflecting
on the days wonders peering out over the water in front
of "Double Black!

I am proud to call many of you friend and I hope that if you find yourself in the area that you take the time to stop in and share some holiday cheer. I wish you and yours the best of holiday seasons and I hope to see you around the campfire soon.

God bless you and yours, especially those little ones that bring us so much joy at this time and throughout the entire year! Love to ya all!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

On Suffering- Jobs Come and Go

well, sorry for the melodramatic title . . . imitation is a form of flattery. At any rate, this is from today's Ithaca Journal:

December 20, 2008

Travis developers to take over historic Clinton House, State Theatre

By Krisy Gashler

ITHACA — Ithaca developers Mack and Frost Travis are taking over both the Clinton House and the State Theatre from Historic Ithaca, the parties announced Friday at a press conference.

The Travises plan to purchase the Clinton House, with a closing scheduled for the beginning of February. Historic Ithaca plans to transfer the State Theatre property to a separate not-for-profit organization, State Theatre of Ithaca, Inc., with management by the Travises.

Though the deal is still being worked out, the two parties have signed a purchase agreement on the Clinton House and a transfer of management agreement for the State Theatre.

“There's a reason that we're doing this and it's not suicidal,” Mack Travis said. “I would say it's been a very difficult theater to keep going, as many theaters are; however . . . we are in something like the top 4 percent of theaters around the country in our ability to function and almost be economically viable.”

Not-for-profit performing arts theaters such as the State almost never operate in the black and depend upon donations and other “unearned income” to stay afloat, Downtown Ithaca Alliance Executive Director Gary Ferguson said.

However, the State does much better on this front than many theaters, newly named State Theatre Executive Producer Dan Smalls said. While the national average of earned income to unearned income is about 50-50, the State averages 85-15, Smalls said.

Smalls will continue to operate his successful Dan Smalls Presents, which books acts for the State as well as other clubs. He's agreed to oversee the State as executive producer for a salary of $1, though he'll be paid for booking acts through Dan Smalls Presents, as he is now, he said.

The Clinton House sale relieves Historic Ithaca from the more than $1 million debt it has accrued over the past decade trying to get the State Theatre on its feet.

The Travises took over management of the State Thursday, re-hiring all the staff and ensuring that “the spring season will go forward.”

The parties declined to disclose the purchase price for the Clinton House, though Mack Travis said it was “very, very, very close to the appraised value that was done” by a private assessor.

The county assessment department values the Clinton House at $1.48 million.

Mack Travis is the developer responsible for a variety of Ithaca projects, including the environmentally friendly Gateway Plaza and Commons. His son, Frost Travis, is currently working on a project to clean up lead and other contamination left by the Ithaca Gun factory and develop the site into high-end condos.

In addition to his 35 years of property management in Ithaca, Mack Travis said he was also one of the original backers of the Thomas Wolfe Playhouse in Asheville, N.C.

Historic Ithaca, a not-for-profit historic preservation organization, purchased the Clinton House in 1972 when it was slated for demolition. They restored the former hotel and profitably rent it as office space.

In the late 1990s, Historic Ithaca purchased the State Theatre when it was condemned and also heading for demolition.

Martha Eller, president of the Historic Ithaca board of directors, said the decision to sell the Clinton House and the State Theatre was “bittersweet” for the board, but necessary in order to allow the organization to focus on its core mission of historic preservation.

The organization also works on preservation advocacy and runs Significant Elements, an architectural salvage warehouse on the corner of Center and Plain Streets.

“In 2006 Historic Ithaca concluded that it, as a small preservation organization, could not continue indefinitely to own and operate the State Theatre because we simply did not have the financial resources to ride out the storms, I would say,” Eller said.

Since re-opening the State Theatre in 2001, Historic Ithaca has accrued more than $1.3 million in debt, according to documentation given to the city earlier this year. The group had to take out a short-term operating loan this spring, with the Clinton House as collateral, in order to keep its doors open.

The City of Ithaca was one of several groups to sign guarantees backing that loan. The Clinton House sale also relieves the city of that risk.

Carol Travis, wife of Mack Travis, sits on Historic Ithaca's board of directors.

“Carol . . . has made me very aware of the difficulties that have faced Historic Ithaca in owning these properties,” Mack Travis said. “And rather than see them closed, at least the Theatre, we chose to step in and do what we could to enable Historic Ithaca to sell them and meet obligations that they have.”

Travis, Ferguson and Smalls stressed that even with this transfer and debt-relief, the State will not be able to operate without continued community financial support.

Jeb Brooks, through the Brooks Family Foundation, has agreed to donate up to $100,000 to the State next year as a matching community grant, Mack Travis said. This means, for every dollar the community donates, Brooks will match it, up to $100,000.

The State Theatre's role in maintaining a vibrant downtown is another reason Mack Travis said he was willing to step in.

“The downtown, the stores, the whole environment that's created here is absolutely integral to people wanting to come to Ithaca to work,” Travis said. “It's important to the medical center, it's important to the universities, it's important to BorgWarner, it's important to the county, town, city. And that's really the reason we're stepping in to try to make it happen. Otherwise (the State) would be closing.”

Monday, December 15, 2008

On Suffering- Antlers Come and Go

I had been seeing him since July- the monarch, the twelve point with drop tines (10 pt plus drops). He was the biggest of the "Gang of Four." The others include a wide 9 (Rich's story) a perfect 8 with wide spread(missed at ten yards in archery by one of the guys that hunts here--I saw him twice during archery but too far), and a huge 7 point. I saw these four bucks many times in velvet together, then during hay making season in August and September. Twice while varmint hunting/ deer scouting armed with a scoped .223 I had them at 50 yards or less, inspected every fiber of the big 12's vital area with the cross-hairs about temptation. Anyway, I knew these four well.

Two evenings ago, after having spent countless hours during shot gun and more recently the muzzle-loading season, I found myself once again reveling in the mediation of suspension by deer stand. I have so enjoyed the hours this year, the time to collect thoughts and put them in quiet places for long periods, the time to focus intently on being aware of being totally present. I was in my third "half hour perfectly still" repetition ( I allow myself a five minute break between these to look around) when I heard a muffled sound to my left and a bit behind me. I moved only my eyes and picked up a fast moving doe. She stood out well against the snow in the fading light of the lead sky.

As I prepared to move slowly to take the doe (thus far I have killed a small buck,no antlers to speak of, in archery and the 11 pt "bizzarro" in shotgun, so I still have excess DMPs), she stopped and looked over her shoulder. I froze, and looked with eyes only, further to the left and rear. There with his nose down and snuffling was the perfect 8, looking just like the picture on the "Wanted" poster of the Gang of Four hanging in my mind and robbing me of sleep for months. He was trailing her by only a few yards, and then, he looked back. Through the whip saplings and briers I could see the monarch. He was cautiously trailing the doe and the 8 pt, but was exhibiting signs of nervousness. The other two deer entered the thicket in which my stand was placed haphazardly...the big boy was not so sure. He sniffed the ground where my footprints were in the snow, walked forward, swung his head down and up quickly, suspicious.

I quickly assessed my situation. Clear shot at the 8 pointer slightly quartering away at 15 yards, or, potential shot at the monarch broadside at 25 yards in a few seconds/steps if he stays on his current left to right path skirting my stand thicket, but a very narrow shooting lane. Decision needed NOW. The decision was the monarch, of course. I got the gun up, a New England Firearms "Sidekick" muzzle-loader with fiber optic sights, and swung with the deer evenly. The deer stepped four times and had his vitals in the shooting lane. I whistled lightly and he stopped. I touched the trigger, heard the snap cap go "pop"...and watched the startled deer take two steps to the right before the follow up "BANG" of the pyrodex powder ignition. The deer squatted at the shot. It was chaos...smoke in my eyes, attempting shot follow through but incredulous and panicked at what I thought probably just happened. Two trophy bucks and a doe running in confused circles under my feet. Physiological reactions to the situation manifesting themselves in my body as I tried, futilely, to reload a muzzle-loader while balancing in a tree-stand wearing a f*#@-ing moon-walking suit. Total soup sandwich.

The big deer ran down the logging trail and I listened for any tell-tale crash but heard none. The other buck stood and stared at me loading my gun, at about 100 yards, right up until I finally had the thing loaded and ready to go. Then he bounded away. It was quiet. I had a bad feeling, like I imagine a professional football player feels when he realizes that the Superbowl has just been lost by one point with seconds remaining on a 3 pt kick that was somehow blocked.

I waited for the woods to settle down and for my hands to stop shaking. I realized that light was fading fast, so rather than wait the obligatory 30 minutes, I descended and slowly puzzled through the tracks in the snow to the point where the buck stood when I shot. It was brushy. I could see the impact of the bullet in the dirt, where it had kicked particles of frozen mud into the pure white snow. There was neither hair nor blood. I looked back upwards toward my stand and guessed at the angle of the bullet. There was a twig recently broken, hanging awkwardly, in the path. Damn... very bad luck. Hit a branch, deflected the bullet. Game over. I blew it.

Antlers come and go.

Tonight, and last night I have sat in the same tree-stand, more out of penance than passion. I have been over the scene many times to be sure I didn't miss something; a speck of blood, a hair. Nothing. Nada. The red gods graced me with a consolation prize tonight, unexpectedly. I shall try once, only once, again and finally, on the morrow.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A gift idea- and a gift

Here is a gift idea...

...and the rumination that inspired it.

Oh, and while we are on the subject of gifts, we should be thankful for the wisdom of Yoda (Ernie) for this prescient warning:

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Two more days: Ballet Boy swan song

Close of business Thursday. It's all over.

The good news is . . . I'll be able to grouse hunt again. So, I got that goin' for me.

Which is nice.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

One more day

Last day of deer (shotgun) and duck (first split) tomorrow in Western New York. Good luck to all in pursuit.

An illustration from A. B. Frost, The American Sportsman’s Artist" by Henry W. Lanier.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Hunting in Sports Illustrated and on NPR

Two things I think are particularly noteworthy; simply that NPR ran this piece at all, and the host shows a real grasp of the material. Take the time to listen in.

And here's a feature piece running in the current SI:

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

A lot to be thankful for

Good friends, good land, good dogges. One last (?) retrieve for old McPhee.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Home for the Holiday

The in-laws came Downeast for the extended Thanksgiving weekend. The past couple years my father-in-law, Ken, and I have hunted deer together at Thanksgiving, sort of continuing the tradition my dad and I began when I was a pup. My dad gave up hunting a few years ago, so our tradition now is for me to call him after I get in from deer hunting.

Thursday morning was crispy, upper 20s firming up the rain of the preceding day. I dropped Ken off in the dark to walk to his tree stand, then continued on to my parking spot. I had a quick half mile walk to where I'd left my climber attached to an oak looking over a fairly open side hill. The deer and bears had been feeding on acorns.

The bark of the tree was slick with an icy film, causing me to be extra careful and deliberate ascending to my perch. An hour into my sit, I was wondering when I'd be able to get out for a duck hunt... a flicker of white off to the left got my attention. Within a minute I saw it again. Through the developing fog I could make out the form of a deer facing me, head down nibbling acorns about 100 yards away, the tail occasionally twitching a flash of white. Cranked the scope to 7 power; when the head came up I could see antlers. Small antlers. This time of year, yearling head gear is first choice for choice eating... if you even have a choice. In my 8-10 hours of hunting this year, this was the first deer I'd seen, buck or doe. Around here, with a deer density well below 10 deer per square mile, it's always bucks-only hunting.

The buck was slowly heading in my direction, munching acorns. He drifted a little downslope, but still advancing in my general direction. Then he drifted into a beech thicket, and soon I lost sight of him. Then I couldn't hear foot steps. After 10 minutes of not seeing or hearing "my" buck, I started to worry he'd simply walked away. Or bedded down? I pulled out my trusty Primos "canned heat" doe bleat can. Baaa baaa. Immediately I heard foot steps, but my eyes straining through the fog failed to locate the source. Then I saw him.... walking away. Another bleat, and he's no longer walking away, now he's running away!

A year ago I used the same call to bring in (*almost* for a shot) a mature buck not 200 yards from this location. This year's buck most certainly was not high in the pecking order in these parts. A deer trotted through an opening 80 yards downslope, but I could not see antlers. Through another opening at 85 yards... I saw antlers. I was ready when the buck stopped in an opening at 90 yards. It disappeared at the shot. I kept the scope trained on the spot; 30 seconds later I saw a brief flicker of white, and began descending the tree. The buck lay dead where I shot him, the bullet entering the chest high behind the shoulder, breaking the spine. Not the preferred neck shot, but the carcasse damage wasn't too bad. And the tag was filled, duck/bird hunting opportunities awaited, no longer constrained by the concern to put deer meat in the freezer.

Propped up for draining.

Slid easily on oak leaves.

Yearling 3-point, field dressed 103. I gave dad a call, told him the story.

We arrived home for lunch to an enthusiastic reception.

Ken watched a large cow moose Thursday morning, and a doe the next. Angela hunted deer for the first time Friday morning. In 5 hours she saw no deer but plenty of sign. Seems eager to try again.

Saturday night we had a meal that needs mentioning. The whole holiday weekend was more or less a game feed, with woodcock and fresh deer tenderloin on the menu Saturday. I prepared the woodcock according to Pete's blog entry of October 08. Rave reviews from all -- the legs were especially liked by the women and boys, the breasts being craved by the men and the boys. So far I'm on the good side of the dog spirits.

The deer was delectible as well.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

PA Opening Day Eve

Guns loaded, gear prepped
Liquored anticipation
Will dawn prove fruitful?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Yesterday at Pintail Point

Stella in sorghum.
Bounding, brown head breaks surface.
Birds flushed, but shots missed.

Saturday, November 22, 2008


Cozy winter memories

Seven am and I'm off to a training session/grouse hunt with my little pointer in the fresh fallen snow. This image captures everything about the hunting season that I love. There's something timeless about what we do boys. Perhaps I'm succumbing to some early Thanksgiving sentimentality, but I feel blessed. Off to the grouse woods...

Monday, November 17, 2008

Still Recovering From the Sock. But Stella Doing Great.

Stella, Nos and I spent some time in the woods this past weekend. D.C. - despite the abundance of game ('specially donkeys and elephants)- still is without a hunting season, but I can still take the dogges out for fun and some training.

Stella looked good searching for the "dead bird" (which I threw into the woods when she wasn't paying attention), and did a nice job retrieving to hand. She also made some water retrieves, too.

So, at least we got that going for us.

Sunday, November 16, 2008


Deer hunt opener
Rivers of Rain ran through it
Shifting momentum

Started the morning out at “the club” (Kuneytown): I wanted to start getting to know this property better. I know one spot really, really well now. Cagey and I had looked at some maps and found a nice pinch point between an E/W pond and a N/S hedgerow. Deer had to move through there when people were moving them. I hunched down behind a ground blind at 6:15, and waited in the rain. And waited. A smattering of shots in the distance; nothing close enough to raise my hopes. The rain continued. And then it rained some, followed by some rain. Nothing. I waited. Rain. Quiet. Rain. Cagey called. He had a nice 11 pt buck. Yes!! It rained. I saw a squirrel. And then perhaps 45 minutes later, a crow. It rained. I heard one goose honk. I didn’t move. A river ran down my neck and then my pants. Cagey called again. About noon. He was done tagging and dragging, and would I meet him at the club for breakfast. Yes, I would. After some sausage, taters, and eggs, a measure of vigor was restored.

Time to redeploy! Keith took mercy on me and suggested I sit on the new stand (my old portable) at the S end of the gully at Canoga Creek Farm & Conservancy while he took his buck in for processing. Yup! Great spot; not for those afraid of heights. Even loaned me his slug gun, he did. Rifle sights and non-jamming; both good things. Settled in. Still raining some; not as much. What’s this? 2 does trotting up the gully from the south! Justice served from the 6 pointer I passed up last year (as per QDM directions) that died 15 mins later on the self-same property to the south). They stopped in some whippy brush at a bend of what Cagey says is called “Yellow Ck” (a trib to Canoga). I prefer to think of it as the Tidball Fork of Canoga Ck. About 60 yards; steep downhill. But standing, broadside. The bigger deer more open than the smaller. Held on her shoulder, touched her off, and down she went. Stumbled, fell, regained her feet, and lunged through the brush about 30 yards and then was still. Gave thanks, reflected a few moments and called Keith: still at the farm; we now had two deer to take for processing. I floated her down the raging creek—up to my thighs—I could have been swept away in the torrent to certain destruction!!!, but couldn’t really get any wetter—to where Keith took the 4 wheeler.

Time to relax, to bask in the glow of “to have hunted”. A mellow trip to the butcher, some good-natured ribbing by the boys there about the quality of the deer gutting by these Cornell types (fancy tools only work if’n you remember to USE ‘em). Even the rain letting up, beautiful orange glow suffusing the water vapor (the earth is about 98% water rather than 70%). Life is good….hey, what’s this???!!! A huge 9 pt buck in the field?! Cagey had his shotgun, I had 2 random slugs in my pocket. “Do you want him?” asked my Professional Hunter. Uhm…yeah…why wouldn’t I? But I felt strangely detached—transition too abrupt from mellow to predatory. We pulled off the road and did a hasty sneak across leased lands; me fumbling to load a weapon totally new to me. Crab-walked up a fencerow. As my Professional Hunter had known he would be, the buck was in the corner. This was my chance. How the **** do you take this thing off safe and turn on the red dot scope???! Knelt and took aim at about 80-85 yds—a long shotgun shot for me. Touched it off. In replaying this the next morning, I can laugh a little: I jerked my head up from the stock to watch that buck fall—like a golfer looking up to watch his drive and missing entirely—but of course he did not fall. Nor did he run away. Just stood there. I still felt strangely arms-length about the whole thing. This deer was huge, and he was still standing there. Did I have another slug? I did. Should I put it in the gun? I suppose. Why not? I belly crawled another 5 yards, put the dot on the top of the bucks spine, and touched trigger. This time, perfect. And the deer again just stood there and I was out of shells, out of luck, out of time. What a helpless feeling. Off he ambled, and we walked back to the truck, quietly. In thinking about it this morning, I didn’t get that deer because I somehow just couldn’t quite get back into predator mode: it felt too easy somehow, I was too mellow, and I couldn’t yank myself back into the moment. Cagey was very kind to me: he has seen—and felt—this kind of thing in Africa. Chances come quickly, and they go quickly. A very good opening day, and lessons learned.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Canoga Creek Deer Opener 2008 (shotgun)

Rich and I had a great opening day...there are good stories to follow.

Click below on the picture for details on the buck.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Woodcock and Ticks - redemption

Veterans Day, 2008. I honored our heros with a day in the Pennsylvania woods, hoping the woodcock had preceded our recent cold front.

First to Cobert Covert with Lilly. Conditions were cool (40s-low 50s) but dry. Nothing. At 10 we tried a new covert on a south facing hillslope managed by Penn State. Lilly pointed a grouse (reflush) but bumped it as I fought the underbrush trying to get to her. Then, a one hour Bonasa hiatus. Just when I thought we were done, as I emerged from pine plantation to a 20 ac clearcut, I flushed a bird into the open by almost stepping on it. I was not "in the moment" so I rushed the shot. I thought I'd clipped it. Lilly is a delight to watch when she is hunting dead, but even her heroic efforts couldn't make one materialize. I was less disappointed than I was confused, but I was able to regain my composure and a semblance of calm for the budding pup. From there, we scouted the slopes of Tussey Mountain, tried our hand at a covert that is best in January after the snow has settled, then headed home for lunch and Cody.

The infamous grouse research plots are now open to hunting. This is the land of popple, and ticks. I alternated the dogs. An initial treck with Lilly, too close to a firing range, turned up nothing. I relocated the truck, disconcerted by the number of vehicles parked at every likely looking patch of cover. Another quick excursion, this time with Cody, and I was ready to call it quits. Conditions were bone dry. Ticks were crawling all over the black dog, dozens of them. We ran into a pair of bunny hunters, exchanging information: bunny hunters had seen no bunnies but had bumped many woodcock; tick-covered bird hunter had seen not birds but had bumped two bunnies. We pressed on, eventually finding a large stand of aspen with a fairly thick undergrowth of miscellaneous eye swatting bushes.

In minutes we flushed our first bird. I dropped it and Cody quickly found it, mouthing it a few times but unwilling to pick it up. It was an enormous bodied adult female (Andy would probably ID it as a hatch year male). Bodacious and blond. We soon flushed several more birds, but the understory was too high and thick for me to make much of the opportunities. More importantly, Cody became quite disoriented, losing me several times and unable to locate me when I called her. So, we returned to the truck and I brought out a thoroughly tired Lilly.

Within several minutes we flushed our first bird. I don't know who did the flushing, but I decided to shoot, cleanly missing with the right barrel. As the bird disappeared from range I pulled the rear trigger and the bird stopped it's progress, descending to the earth in a controlled, sitting position. We hunted it dead but Lilly immediately bumped a woodcock. Was it our bird or another bird? Lilly is regularly bumping woodcock. I've been told she'll figure them out eventually. We bumped four more birds and I did my fare share of polluting the environment with lead, briefly forgetting that I was in training mode. Bad Pete. I leashed the dog and stumbled back to the truck, ticks dropping from every branch we passed.

We returned to site of the potentially lost bird with Cody and Lilly. They both hunted the dead bird with enthusiasm, and suddenly there was a flush. A clearly injured woodcock rose and flew over my head. You could see it losing steam and, within 10 yards it simply dropped to the earth. The two dogs were on it and Lilly promptly brought it to me, refusing to release her prize but technically delivering to hand. I was elated, vindicated and redeemed. We returned to the truck where I spent fifteen minutes removing several dozen ticks from each of the dogs. At home, I removed another 50 from Cody alone. Vive les ticks!

Sunday, November 09, 2008

The Camp Life

Night-life at camp is, of course, important. As important as the hunting itself? Depends on how good the hunting is and how bad the dinner and musical entertainment. Luckily for us the hunting was just fine, the food lovely and the music good enough (my banjo playing brought down the quality level some, but I hope not too much).

Dr. Dirt arranged a wonderful lobster meal the first night. We enjoyed the fermented fruit of the fields and vines each night, which also served to loosen up fretwork some.

In the photo below we see the Perfesser pushing out the tunage, Cagey  taking a much needed liquid break, Dr. Dirt dreaming of bog-suckers shot over Lily and PW customizing his official "Ethics Inaction" hat (thanks to Jefe for those!).

Thursday, November 06, 2008


Click the picture for the full story.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Departing Visions

Farewell Sunrise ...
Spruce Grouse Moon ...

The Lady of the Lake

One grouser is designated to conduct a ritual face washing AT LEAST once during the week. This symbolic act releases the remaining nimrods from engaging in such serious activity. PW was given the honor this past camp, and conducted himself with proper decorum.

With the salt of his brow, and the saliva of the dogge's maws, the blessings of the Spider Lake Naiad are secured for the week.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

More on lead in Venison

DEC now has a web page with general information for hunters and meat processors about lead fragments in hunter-harvested venison. See The page includes links to NYS Dept of Health web pages about lead exposure and links to research from Minnesota.

For health related cautions and advice, we are directing readers to the NYSDOH.

Thanks for your review and comments on this issue.

Jeremy Hurst
Wildlife Biologist

NYSDEC, Bureau of Wildlife
625 Broadway, 5th Floor
Albany, NY 12233
Phone: 518-402-8867
Fax: 518-402-8925

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Music Men--sure beats politics

A different take on Maine

All data counts toward the whole. Here are a couple of images that don't involve trees, birds, moose (tried to upload the moose video yesterday, but the application stalled out after 3 hours), or dogges, but which helped define the trip.

Winchell: aka "lil' baby absolut' meets his match in Tina, the Best Waitress in the Whole World Even Though She Turned Down My Invitation to Grouse Camp (her fingers in the foreground, the only photo evidence we have of her):

The "did I say Italian" genius appears background left.

Here is a shot of everyone doing what they do best, and presaging Wednesday night's political "discussion": Josh is finger pointing, perhaps even finger waggling, drawing his conclusions from his recent perusal of People magazine; Pete is gazing worshipfully at his Personal Political Savior, wondering what kind of scotch he should ask for next week; Jim is wisely holding back; Keith is biting through his tongue, wishing he were somewhere else, and manfully restraining himself from...what?

Didn't notice this before, but the "Florida" coffee mug could be a sign of some sort...hmmm.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Double Black Opening Weekend- Cayuga Lake


Sat- 13. 5 teal, 8 mallards
Sun- 12
1 black duck, 1 merganser, 10 mallards

Dog Retrieves

Brant- 5
Suzie- 3


Sat 25-30 mph S/SE
Sun 15-25 mph, S/SE

Canoe Trips

Sat- 3

Best opening weekend in the history of Double Black. Period.

Weather fit only for ducks, or not

What an opening day! The season opener found duck hunters in the area trying to stay dry but to no avail. The skies were gloomy and wet but the ducks didn't seem to mind flying, up until the point they mad the mistake of flying past the Dozer Pile. While the three man team of Big Jim, Mike O and myself were not able to pull off a full limit of birds like our pond neighbors to the south we still had a great opening day. The first shots went off about 5 minutes into the season and a limit of mallards and a couple of blacks were on the ground within 15 minutes. the rest of the day was spent trying to get some geese in but only 4 fell from the sky. Full weekend story, especially the egret hunt, to be found at

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Spider/Black Lake Woodcock

My sister lives around the corner from the restaurant March. I haven't been there for years, as our last bill for four was around $500 and my brother-in-law graciously offered to bail me out. Embarrassment aside, Wayne Nish, the chef/owner, knows how to cook wild game (as opposed to farm raised). He published the following recipe for woodcock, memorable in that it not only uses those tiny legs, but it elevates them to the level of culinary centerpiece.

Four woodcock - legs in skin, breasts w/or w/o skin
2 cups upland bird stock
1 shallot, chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 TBSP coriander seed
2 bay leaves
1 TBSP fresh thyme
1 tsp peppercorns
1 tsp sea salt

The legs (prepare these first - roughly 1-2 hrs)
Put legs in saucepan with 1.5 cups stock, shallot, garlic, coriander seeds, bay leavs, thyme, peppercorns and salt. Bring to boil, then back down heat, simmer for 1 to 2 hrs (check occasionally to see if more stock is needed).

The breasts (cook when legs are essentially done)
This is the straight forward Tantillo/Weik method (let's call it the Kate method): season breasts with pepper and salt, light dusting of flour for texture, sautee in hot olive oil (smoking) to sear exterior, leaving interior bright enough to scare away those with PETA inclinations. I like to add a bit o' chopped garlic so that the breasts stand up to the legs (I think that is in keeping with the Kate method too). Cook breasts primarily on one side, so that a good crisp skin develops, to contrast with the succulent interior. Do not flip them too early. If you overcook them, the ghost of every good woodcock dog will haunt you until the next time you prepare this recipe, when you will undoubtedly cook them properly.

The plate (serves 4)
Symmetry is nice, keeping legs and breasts separate. These morsels are worth more than their weight in gold, so serving only one leg/breast per plate offers a warranted tease/lesson. A toast point can be used to soak the delicious braising liquid from the legs.

Friday, October 24, 2008


From Canoga Creek to Spider Lake. It's what's for dinner...

Macannamac, our home away from home

This seems to be the morning for posting pictures. Thank God it's Friday. Anyway, here's the Mac Lodge on a pretty sunlit morning, and below are what grouse campers were left at 7am on Saturday.

These campers are what's known in grouse hunting as resting in the "pre-flight position." Which would make them relatively safe from Pistol Pete's Popple-Perching Partridge Pokes.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Stella's First Grouse

Remington 870 w/ 7 1/2's
Bonasa umbellus
Lobster stock pot w/lobster carapaces
PW's box o' ammo
Spy looking jealous
Boykin spaniel w/ lower abdomen slightly distended from pair o' socks
Concerned but proud Metro-Nimrod (not shown)

Grouse Camp Snippets

First, thanks to all the spouses and kids for your understanding/tolerance/encouragement about the grousers going off to camp in the Maine North Woods for a week. It was great to spend time with these characters and to recreate ourselves. I think it's safe to say that we all really needed this. Thanks a bunch.

Stella showed great intestinal fortitude by getting aggressive on bird scent and putting up a couple grouse before her camp experience was cut short by a trip to the operating room for sockectomy. I think that bird scent will be locked in her noggin for good, and Josh will be enjoying the autumn woods and bringing home many more birds with the help of Stella.

Pete's pup Lilly is full of hunt -- she didn't want to stop to pose for a photo atop this old log. She was fun to watch in the woods, stalking anything and everything, but especially grouse. I'm really looking forward to hunting over her a year from now.

Lilly was so birdy that you'd be on pins and needles, ready at all times for a bird encounter -- we had to remind ourselves that this was training. The hunting will come next year.

Camp was loaded with pups and 11-year-old dogs -- 4 of each, with Artemis in the middle. Baxter, one of the elders, didn't hunt but helped to entertain the ever energetic Conley (aka Meatloaf, white buffalo, and twenty other names). The pup appears larger than life in this photo due to the fact that he is larger than life.

Conley executing a stylish retrieve.... or a quick getaway.

Cody, one of the elders, put this grouse right over Path Walker. Bang Bang.....................Bang.
And that was that.

You could spend all day in the coverts above Drowned Road. Great views and hunting.

It was good to have a gunner like Richie Fella along to honor the dog's points. (it's not every Grouse Camp that one can say that about Richie Fella, so enjoy it Rico!)

A nice bird taken by a good shot over a pretty point.

Spy had this woodcock (bottom center) pinned. On this trip I recall seeing 4 of Spy's pointed birds (1 woodcock and 3 grouse) on the ground, which usually makes the bird bullet-proof. But we were 4 for 4 on these birds. Spy and Katie are littermates, 11 years old, spawn of Butch.

This, plus one more grouse (pictured above in Conley's grip), was the take for Rich, Pete, and Andy the last day of the hunt. When I got home and showed the kids this picture they wanted to see the birds... which of course by then were cleaned, wrapped, and frozen.

..... So I had to go out and get a fresh one....

Nearly had a woodcock tug-o-war a couple times, so I'd better bring home two (or multiples thereof) next time.