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.