Wednesday, December 30, 2009

I like guns

for your musical appreciation. enjoy.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Ducks and geese by the numbers... 1st installment

All risk-averse chatter aside, we have now put 20 ducks and 3 geese into the collective larder, as of the end of day 2. Yesterday's field hunt on Kuneytown land was a duck hunter's dream, where Rich blooded his new SXS shotgun and I happily pounded out long and lethal shots with my SXS 10 gauge. Today's hunt on the Moorehouse ponds was slower but Eric, making up for lackluster shooting yesterday, made every opportunity count and came away with a limit of mallards and geese. I had to console myself in the knowledge that I contributed with some effective, memorable and satisfying calling, and Brant made some really nice retrieves.

Having taken into consideration the Tantillo theorem, the Canoga Christmas included a brand new Bradley smoker... so soon, as was so convincingly argued and advocated for by the good Doctor,we will be sharing mercury poisoning with gleeful abandon across the land. Stay tuned for more updates.

Friday, December 25, 2009

how to tell your family loves you on Christmas morning

for the new huntin' truck

so I got THIS goin' for me . . . which is nice

later in the day . . .

perfect for road huntin'

sluicing partridges out of pear trees since 1993

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Let's do the risk-averse math, shall we?

In the comments section of a noted internet blog a famous grouser has written:
"So much for the 'skewing by merganser/trash duck' argument. Makes it hard to justify 100 + bird seasons and the dedication required- also makes it hard on a Chesapeake Bay Retriever."
Let's do the math, shall we? The famous grouser's wife has helpfully provided information from the NYS Dept. of Health, to wit:

Thou shalt not eat more than two waterfowl per month. (I paraphrase. The exact quote is: "• You eat no more than two waterfowl per month.")

Let us assume a family of four.

Furthermore, the Health Dept. gives no indication of whether we're talking big ducks or little ducks. Let us therefore also assume a smallish mallard as the norm, with teal and wood ducks on the low end of the weight curve and largish mallards on the high end of the weight curve.

Moreover, the NYS Dept of Health does not indicate whether the "eat no more than two per month" dictum is for individuals or spread out at dinner parties for 100 guests. I therefore will assume it is for individuals. (I have in my mind as the ideal individual an image of a cranky old bachelor who lives only to duck hunt and who lives alone. He probably drinks a lot. Perhaps he has a dog. For mathematical purposes, it matters not.)

Finally, let us assume that the famous grouser is in possession of a freezer, and that once reduced to possession, the possessed ducks of said grouser do not put him in violation of waterfowl possession limits once said possessed waterfowl have been reduced to Saran Wrap.

Two waterfowl per month is 24 waterfowl per year. For ease of addition, let us round up to 25 per year and hope that the twenty fifth waterfowl is an extra-small wood duck.

Famous grouser is thus entitled to eat 25 ducks a year. Famous grouser is married; his wife is thus allowed 25 ducks a year. (following me so far?)

Famous grouser has two kids. Let us say that they shall split an adult portion of 25 annual ducks two ways; or, 12.5 ducks per duck-loving child.

We are up to 75 ducks per year.

But wait!! we're not done.

Let us assume the grouser and his wife like to entertain, and that they occasionally serve (gasp), duck! at their familial and friendly functions. Let us say that the entire list of duck-lucky guests who are treated to duck dinners or appetizers in the famous grouser's home gets to split another individual allotment of 25 ducks. (I believe that this is a conservative number, given the famous grouser's penchant for entertaining.)

We are now up to 100 ducks per year.

I think it is safe to say that the famous grouser will occasionally hunt with his less duck-lucky friends, sharing the wet and cold pine seats in his duck blind. I think it is also safe to say that the famous grouser will sometimes, with a nonchalant wave of his hand, allow his departing duck-luckless friends to leave with one or more ducks-of-the-day so that they may spread the good cheer and mercury poisoning to their friends and family, wherever they may live.

I will allot this last group of duck-luckless friends an additional individual annual allotment of 25 mercury-laden ducks to be spread amongst themselves. Lucky devils.

At 125 ducks per year, we are now facing the limits of what a sporting waterfowler can responsibly harvest and consume. If the famous grousing waterfowler would like to add 25 more retrieves to the total, you know, "for the dog's sake" on those quiet days when edible ducks ain't flying, we will allow 25 more "bonus trash ducks" to be added to the annual total but not consumed by humans or pigs.

Perhaps we can grind up the mergs , diving ducks, grebes (if you're name is Illegal Reigel), coots, and other retrieved specimens to serve as tasty dog treats.

kids, don't eat this duck at home

So I think we can legally and ethically get our famous grouser up to 150 ducks annually retrieved for his Chesapeake Bay Retriever and stay within the guidelines posted by the all-knowing and all-benevolent NYS Dept of Health.

Beyond 150 ducks per year, if it is dedication and dog retrieves we care about, then I will allow that some of the famous grouser's friends be allowed to claim waterfowl that they believe to have shot and take them home as appropriate. Now, I know famous grousers like to claim every kill as their own, so I will limit the collective take of non-famous grousers to be split amongst themselves to another conservative individual allotment of 25 annual ducks.

I believe we are up to 175 ducks harvested per year, and harvested safely, ethically, and risk-aversely. If someone wishes to kill more than 175 ducks per year, perhaps we simply might condemn that individual as a good old-fashioned game hog. (I'm just sayin' . . . . )

As numbers are not my metier, you may wish to check my math and run the data your own way to form your own conclusions.

My conclusion? I think the following statement, "Makes it hard to justify 100 + bird seasons and the dedication required," is only so much whining and sour grapes.


Time for some famous grouse.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Now that deer hunting is over . . .

time to move on to ice fishing.

Ice fishing. Not for sissies.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Can we please focus on nature?

As much as I enjoyed learning about the Chrysler Turbo Encabulator from the last post, this blog should really focus on expanding our knowledge of natural history and the biological sciences. Be warned, the frank discussion of drugs in this video renders it somewhat NSFW:

Monday, December 14, 2009

Auto mechanics 101

Some of you know that I recently went over to the dark side from Ford to Dodge . . . or as Keith says, "to a truck that has a damn sheep as its logo."

Anyway, there's lots of new stuff to learn about the Dodge diesel engine. Here's a Chrysler training video about the turbo encabulator that I've found really helpful in understanding the dynamics of the new truck's engine.

Hope you find this helpful as well.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

A Hunter's Prayer

Dear God, we thank you...

We thank You for this day and for the reasons we are brought together:
For the wild and noble game that we love - and hunt,
and for the energy, courage and boundless love of our dogs,
and for the cold winds and bending sage, and for the rains that pelt man and beast alike.
And for the beautiful guns left by good men long forgotten - who also shared our passion.
And for the paradox of a hunter's life in which he is destined to be misunderstood because
he is compelled to kill a few of what he loves most.
And for the dark and ancient land with all its secrets, for the friends who last a lifetime and
for the awful knowledge that we pass through this life but once - and by this we are
humbled and feel your presence.


Charles M. Rucker

Friday, December 04, 2009

Putting Meat on the Thanksgiving Table

Thanks to the Tidball family, and the bounty of Canogacopia.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Opening Day 2009 - PA Furnace Report

As the old timers say, the success of a hunt comes down to preparation (and breathing through one's mouth). My preparations for opening day 2009 were extraordinary. By any measure.

I finally honed the Ruger .243 to a one inch grouping at 100 yds. Check. I and my kin folk gussied up the ground stand in the Valley of Death and opened a new shooting lane. Check.

View from my well prepared stand

To prevent myself from getting lost, I left a single ribbon of flagging at the hemlock stand where I always make the wrong turn. Check. Ground the coffee before going to sleep. Check. Piled clothes in kid's play room so I wouldn't disturb anyone at 4:30 am. Check.

I woke as planned at 4:30. Check. By 5:11 I was established at my stand in the Valley of Death, enjoying the night sounds and solitude. Check. At 5:30 I congratulated myself for the extraordinary preparations. Check. Congratulated myself again at 6:15. Check. Twighlight arrived sometime after 6:30 and I treated myself to another round of self-congratulations. Check. At 7:00 I looked up to see an eight point buck just 10 yards in front of me, crossing the trout stream. Check. More kudos for a fine job in preparing for this inevitable moment. Check.

Inevitable arrival of Moby Buck.

Gun still in lap. Hmm. Deer winds me and turns, trotting across Valley of Death. Check. Confident in my preparations, I do not raise gun, instead allowing Moby to cross the meadow and disappear into the woods on the far side. What? Give him time and he will return I reason. Ok...

View from well prepared stand from 7:01 am to 5:00 pm

Sunday, November 29, 2009

If it's brown it's down, baby

Yesterday I had the distinct pleasure again to spend a day afield with Winchell, Tidball, and Stedman.

First came a duck hunt on the big water--or "nice habitat," as they say in Maine. Big Country. Big Water.

Anyway, Josh managed to scratch down a black duck. I was dazzled by the reflection of the sun off his newly Lemon Pledged stock, and so I missed the companion duck. I blame Tidball.

At 10am we had had enough of that . . . cow manure, as Keith would say. Honestly, I was enjoying myself, and enjoying the aesthetic pleasures of the open water, and communing with nature, and all that, but Keith was getting a bit antsy. Almost (but not quite) "I think I'll take a walk" antsy.

So we adjourned to a deer drive on the Tidball plantation. I oranged up and was posted on the north hedgerow adjoining the Parks farm. Stedman and Tidball meanwhile drove through the gully and other hotspots, leading Keith to take a 150 yard shot at Moby Buck. Sad to say, Keith missed that shot, and was forlorn for the rest of the day. Not suicidal forlorn, mind you, but "interrupt me with heavy sighs when I'm drinking my scotch at the end of the day" kind of forlorn. But I digress.

So Keith forlornly followed Moby while Stedman split off and climbed into a tree stand in the "hickory woods" to my east. Somewhat later Tidball made a push along the cornfield to our south, and then did a big loop upwind from us and picked me up at my hedgerow hideout. Together Keith and I continued the push past Stedman's stand eastward.

At this point Keith busted a BRUISER of a bunny out of the brush. The lagomorph came to rest five feet away from me, eyeing me cautiously.

"SHOOT, GODDAMMIT! SHOOT!!" came the orders from the Cottontail Commander.

"But I am armed with but a 12 gauge slug gun, kind sir," replied I, "loaded with a sabot slug, which I fear will do much bodily harm to the wittle fellah if the sabot finds its mark."

Tidball considered this fact for a moment, and allowed the hapless hare to pass.

Along we went, hither and yon, aided by our portable electronic devices to position each other in the putative paths of runaway whitetails. Keith and I continued driving, and I broke a mighty sweat. But push on we did, up the gully, through the thicket, and into the corn. Rich waited patiently for results, but alas! none were had.

By now it was three o'clock, and we were mightily fagged out by our exertions. Conferencing along a path in the woods, a doe suddenly burst out of the woods, into the pasture, and (I exaggerate slightly for dramatic effect), STRAIGHT INTO THE PATH OF THE ONCOMING STEDMAN.

"By golly, there goes one now," says I to Tidball.

"Assuredly this is so," he agreed. "Shoot, Richard, shoot!!" we cried in unison.

But it was not to be. Young Rico was unable to pick up the speeding deer through his peripheral vision, and she escaped to be prey on another day.

At this point, Tidball announced his intention to go "play host" with his Winchell guests. I believe that there will be a forthcoming squirrel hunting tale authored by one Jonah Winchell, and so I will say no more about it. But I am looking forward to reading it. (PSSST, JONAH, if you're reading this. Don't forget what we talked about: film, insults, sarcasm, how bad your dad's shooting was, etc etc etc. Good lad.)

Tidball assigned me to the double wide honeymoon stand for the late afternoon rush, whereas Stedman went northward somewhere in the general vicinity of the gully. I saw nothing for the rest of the day, whereas the Vicar of State College passed on a lowly six point buck.

Later, when I scoffed at the idea of passing up a legally antlered deer, I was informed by the farm's proprietor that he is engaging in something called . . . "Quality Deer Management," or some such thing.

Humphhh. I informed the farm manager that I would be quite content with a lowly six point buck, or a forkhorn for that matter. Hell, a two point spike would suit me just fine! "If it's brown, it's down," says I to the farm proprietor.

He just smiled sagely and replied, "It's a good thing you didn't shoot anything like that here today." When I pushed him slightly, as is my wont (and as an aside, I have heard, incidentally, that trophy bucks store mercury and organochlorines in their racks--but can't seem to recall the source at the moment), he told me that I would not have been disowned for shooting a lowly-racked buck, but I would have been relentlessly ostracized to the death (As in Forever) had I done such a crass and tasteless thing.

I replied in turn that I was verily glad not to have committeth such a grave and venal sin.

At day's end we retired for drinks, food, and USDA home movies. Yes, you read that right. USDA HOME MOVIES.

Don't ask.

Anyway, I bid my adieu at night's end, and retired toward Trumansburg.

This morning, I woke up at 5am, drank coffee until 6 am, climbed into the crow's nest at 6:30 am, and killed this buck at 7 am. I "reverse bloodtrailed" him just for fun after I found him 25 yards away from where he was standing when I shot him.

If it's brown it's down, baby.

It's not a trophy bunny, but it will do

Friday, November 27, 2009

Josh's Field Dressing Tips #1

I had the distinct pleasure to share a Thanksgiving table with the Tidball and Winchell clans yesterday, and inevitably the conversation turned to hunting.

Joshua shared with us some of his considerable connaissance de la chasse he has picked up over the years, including this nugget:

"When field dressing an animal, you should breathe through your mouth"

which apparently aids in the avoidance of any unpleasant smells that may emanate from the body cavity of recently deceased game animals(s).

Thanks for the tip, Josh!! as you might imagine, when shared over Thanksgiving turkey, this hint from Heloise provided the Thanksgiving revelers who were assembled for the occasion an opportunity for much mirth and merriment.

Breathe through your mouth
and oh yes, don't forget your blaze orange bump cap

Friday, November 20, 2009

North is north

Best of luck to all you intrepid deer hunters as gun season gets underway.

...and if you have any troubles finding your way back to the truck after searching for 'ol mossy horns, just remember these words of hard-earned wisdom from Dr. Dirt.

North is north.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Trick or Treat

Took advantage of a few free hours on Halloween day, heading to "Cobert Covert," with the sole objective of stumbling into timberdoodles. This was my first hunt since Wisconsin, and Lilly worked well, Jim's new cow bell audible at all times. We bumped one bird at the end of the covert, but marked it well. Lilly locked up, a solid point. Tweet. Bang. I dropped the little fella into a tangle of multiflora rose. Just when I was preparing to crawl into the brambles Lilly made a nice retrieve. I breathed a sigh of relief. My pup had returned to her old ways. We celebrated by adding Andy's sticker, now earned, to the bumper.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

archery buck

Sorry to post over the "Bone Collector" jack-o-lantern, but I needed to chime in with some deer lore too. I'll keep it short. I filled both my archery tags this week... a nice doe on Thurs and a respectable 7 point buck yesterday. The buck was my first left-handed archery buck. I missed the charmed giant (huge 10 or 11 point) earlier in the week, and decided "freezer first," at least this time.

For the full story, go here.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Bones of Bucks Past

Inspired by Bone Collectors

Professional news

One grouser gains tenure, another makes headlines...

RGS welcomes Andrew Weik as its New England Wildlife Biologist

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009 at 1:53 pm

RGS welcomes Andrew Weik as its New England Wildlife Biologist
Dedicated professional brings years of experience with him.

Ruffed Grouse Society

Ruffed Grouse Society

Coraopolis, PA – -( The Ruffed Grouse Society (RGS) announced today the hiring of Andrew P. Weik as its New England Regional Wildlife Biologist. Scheduled to start in January, 2010, Weik will be responsible for implementing RGS’ on-the-ground forest management and landowner and land manager education programs in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont.

A New England native Weik, 45, has been employed with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) Northeast Region at Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge – the only National Wildlife Refuge dedicated to woodcock management – for the past five years. He serves as technical expert in USFWS Region 5 on early successional forest habitat management and its impact on American woodcock population dynamics.

In addition to providing technical training regarding forest management techniques that benefit wildlife to public and private resource professionals and landowners at workshops and meetings, Andrew was responsible for developing the Refuge’s Habitat Management Plan, Annual Habitat Work Plan, and assisting with the development of the Comprehensive Conservation Plan which will guide refuge programs for the next 15 years.

Prior to working with the USFWS, Weik was the Waterfowl and upland Game Bird Program Leader for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife where, among other projects, he coordinated the development and implementation of programs and surveys to assess the status of game birds.

Married with two sons, Nolan (5) and Collin (3), Andrew, together with his wife Angela (also a wildlife biologist), enjoys hunting with their two setters and one Labrador for grouse, woodcock and waterfowl. One of Andy’s favorite quotes from the father of wildlife management, Aldo Leopold, when talking about grouse hunting, is “There are two kinds of hunting: ordinary hunting, and ruffed grouse hunting”.

“All of us here at RGS are very excited about the addition of Andrew to our team,” says RGS President and CEO Mike Zagata. “Andy’s background and experience as a wildlife biologist with the USFWS, as well as his work with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife, will help us continue our mission of enhancing the environment for ruffed grouse, American woodcock, and other forest wildlife that utilize or require thick, young forests created through ecologically sound forest management practices”.

“I’m really excited about working for the Ruffed Grouse Society,” says Weik. “The organization was founded on the principle that sound scientific management is essential in today’s landscape for thriving populations of grouse, woodcock and other wildlife. I look forward to building on the accomplishments of the other RGS biologists, raising awareness of the habitat needs of grouse, woodcock, and other wildlife that depend on young forest, helping incorporate successional forest habitat management in municipal, state, federal, corporate, and non governmental organizations’ management plans, incorporating wildlife habitat needs into the development of woody biomass technology to help meet our energy and wildlife habitat needs, and working with landowners and RGS chapters on habitat improvement projects,” Weik said.

One specific project that Weik hopes to see through to its conclusion in 2010 is revising the RGS-published “A Woodcock in the Hand” (Sepik 1994) — a publication that provides tips on examining, aging, and sexing American woodcock as well as information on population monitoring and conservation.

The booklet is currently out of print.

To assist Weik in his goals, RGS is currently seeking a regional director for the New England area. The position involves working with local chapter volunteers to create and host chapter events including fund-raising sportsman’s banquets, shoots, educational activities and youth events. Interested individuals should contact Mark Fouts at 715-399-2270 or by e-mail at .

Established in 1961, the Ruffed Grouse Society is the one international wildlife conservation organization dedicated to promoting conditions suitable for ruffed grouse, American woodcock and related wildlife to sustain our sport hunting tradition and outdoor heritage.

Information on the RGS, its mission, management projects and membership can be found on the web at:

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Blessings of Autumn Continue

After working 8 years to get tenure (takes longer when you do it twice), and finally getting word yesterday, I figured I could come in late (~1030) one morning. So, I packed up my pup, and headed south to Michigan Hollow environs. (We can’t all beat the crap out of Hector all the time, ‘specially with CowPoke Weik and the missus drifting into town). Started off by working downstream of the old beaver dam, having espied some nice alders there last winter.

Mindful of the warm weather and disdainful of fashion, I wore my old Finger Lakes Marathon long sleeved T under the Filson jacket. Andy’s boots completed the ensemble. I suspect he’ll want to claim the shirt too.

The beavers have been busy. It was a hellish nightmare, and I recalled thinking I really ought to have left word with Julie as to where I was heading. I vividly envisioned a Pongee stick puncture or twelve. This was not a lot of fun. Andy, sorry about the new tear in your boots. Nor was it in keeping with my vision of a contemplative stroll, full of reflections of career, place, friends, cycles, and all that romantic rot.

Backtrack to the backside of the old pond, now a series of small ponds surrounded by well-nigh impenetrable puckerbrush: multiflora, autumn olive, etc. But on the margin, there are gorgeous stands of old pine with hazel growing up. These stands drop off to the thick stuff to the East. Wonder of wonders, a bird flushed from one of these pines, left to right, and wonder-of-wonders, I dropped him with a single shot. To be honest, Conley had nothing to do with this: he was off busting through the thick stuff the way he ought to have been. But I whistled him over, gave him the line, and out he came with the bird…a purty brown phase young of the year.

I’d post a picture but Julie has the durned camera to take pictures of our kids in some danged neighborhood Halloween parade. Strange priorities.

Conley’s first NYS grouse. Life is good. Back to work.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Rock of Ages

Spy seems to have come down w/ anaplasmosis. Thought he was going to die last Mon./Tues -- shivers, couldn't stand, cried out in pain a couple times, could barely raise his head. But put him on doxicycline Thursday and he was ready to hunt again Friday -- 4 wc and 1 grouse point, 2 wc killed, 1 hr. He's his old self again.

I've gotten Brody out a few times since getting back from WI. It's always been maybe half an hour for exercise if nothing else. Tuesday afternoon (10/27) I had 15 minutes to run Brody before I had to pick up the kids. I put him down in a wet aldery area. Lots of white wash (day old?). Brody went on point.... but started flagging. He wouldn't take a step so I walked in and put up a low, weak-flying woodcock, which he chased out of sight. He came back around and continued hunting, and pretty soon went on point. Again tail flagging but wouldn't take a step . This time when I walked in a wc sprang up strongly. Easy shot. Bang. I missed. This time Brody just watched it fly away. I still haven't shot a bird over a long-held, statuesque point by Brody.

Wednesday afternoon. This time I had an hour. I brought Brody back to the same covert as yesterday. Ten minutes into it I bumped a woodcock that Brody didn't see. We continued hunting in the direction the bird flew. Brody was ahead, down slope among fir, cedar, and alders in a fairly soppy area, just about the right distance for land fall of the bumped bird. The bell went silent. I waited a bit for him to start moving again, and when he didn't, I moved ahead to find him. It took me a good minute, but there he was statue still in the thick wet stuff. A dark dog is hard to see in the dark woods. I moved ahead of the dog, approaching from the side. I was startled by a rustling of vegetation and a brown blur of hare hair hopped away. One jingle of the bell told me Brody saw or heard the bunny, but stayed put. I took two more steps and up twittered a timberdoodle flying right at me until it was about 5 yards away, at which time it turned away but quickly dipped low around a fir thicket and it was gone. Arghh! Brody had turned to rock, but my hands had turned to stone. Stoned by the woodcock. I really want to kill every bird pointed like that, to reward the good behavior.

So Thursday, a potential buyer of our house was visiting with a house inspector. I got them started, then got out of their hair for awhile. This gave me an hour and a half to try to get Brody into birds. Most of the first 60 minutes where uneventful. Then we worked along an old road lined by a stand of jack pine sloping down either side of the ridge into aspen and alder. I heard a grouse flush, so whistled Brody in to hunt the vicinity. He went on point about 30 yards into the pines. I walked in to flush, and a grouse busted out of the tree over my head, and my one shot did no harm. We followed, and again Brody pointed, this time looking up into the canopy to a spot from which a grouse burst forth. This time my load of steel 6s knocked it down -- Brody's first grouse on a solid point that lasted more than a few seconds.

Further down the ridge Brody's bell indicated he was moving slowly and pausing. In a little while the bell went silent. As I crept to his point from higher ground a bird flushed from about 30 feet up an aspen, and my shot broke a wing, at least. At the shot, the bird Brody had been pointing flushed.... toward me. I turned and took a going-away shot as it banked and flew down slope. The grouse went out of sight as I shot, but I did see a small cloud of feather dander hanging in the air in its wake. Shooting birds over Brody's solid points was just what I wanted. However a potential downside to this happy story is that both these last two birds were live on the ground so Brody then caught them (notice one bob-tailed bird in the photo). Time will tell whether he still wants to point, or if he thinks he can just run 'em down.

Last day for woodcock is Saturday, so I'll be out tomorrow trying to add a couple more birds to the larder for Thanksgiving appetizers.

Historic photograph uncovered

Recently I assisted the significant other of a prominent grouser in the relocation of said grouser's personal collection of pressure-treated lumber and double-pane windows. For this act of charity I was granted the temporary loan of the following historic photo.

famous grouser

Please assist me now in figuring out what this grouser is doing. Is he:

(a) Training his own super breed of pokey dotted, ground-snuffling Andy Amman cows to work as a brace for serious work on grouse?

(b) Moving to the Finger Lakes region with the expressed intention of putting Cagey out of a job?

(c) Engaged in habitat manipulations in the FLNF to increase woodcock breeding success in one of Jim's favorite brushy pastures?


(d) other?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Redemption at Jim's Comeuppance...and the House of Pain

I went to the Finger Lakes National Forest with Rich on Sunday to find Artemis a woodcock or two. It was the first woodcock hunt of the season for Artemis, having been benched for the Grouse Camp odyssey due to her master's absence from the continent.

I met Rich at the Ballard Pond parking area.

We decided on "Jim's Comeuppance " as the covert de jour, and we were off. Light wind, 54 degrees, 3:15 pm. I was wearing LL Bean Cords with chaps over top, a stylish custom art collector's item orange t-shirt, and an Orvis strap vest, topped by a bright orange "Ugly Dog Hunting" hat. I carried my LC Smith 12 ga Ideal grade, loaded w 7 1/2s. Rich was also properly kitted up, though perhaps a tad over-layered.

We hunted through the "Walk in the Park" portion of the covert, and though Miss got birdy a few times, produced nothing. We came to the flats at the bottom of the slope and made our way towards the corner, where I shot a grouse two years ago. Artemis, up a head, came to a sharp halt and a woodcock exploded up and away. The wind, I thought-- she over-ran the scent. Moments later, Rich shouted "bird." A re-flush. Rich thought he knew where the bird put down, so we steered Miss around. She came into a nice point and Rich and I approached. As luck would have it, the bird came out my way. Bang bang. I actually saw the wings, both of them, fall. Feathers floated down behind. Miss was pointing a blob on the ground. I picked up the wings, for science. Rich offered good-naturedly that perhaps the birds needed to be let further out before shooting. Rich is full of good, sage advice like that.

So we had shot one woodcock. We continued on, and were presented one or two more shooting opportunities that resulted in no birds. Then, we reached the hardwood edge and Miss was convinced that we'd find grouse there. I did not doubt her, but this was a woodcock hunt. So we shinnied over the fence towards what I used to call "deeper in" but has now been re-christened by Rich and I as "House of Pain." Here, there is penance and purgatory for any and all that require it. You will hurt if you hunt in there. Mike O'Connor experienced this covert three years ago. He said it hurt. I have never disagreed. I will let Rich speak for himself on this.

We were flummoxed by a grouse repeatedly, both Rich and I missing shots at the wily rapscallion. Miss drug us through every hidey-hole, every multiflora rose thicket, every Devil's Walking Stick. Shots were missed; shots were made. I added another woodcock to my bag. As did Rich. More shots were missed. You would pull up for the shot and be raked across the face and hands by any number of razor sharp blessings of nature. Unlike those hunts where one hears groans after the shots, here, in the House of Pain, one hears groans and shrieks intermittently, especially as the bird flushes and the shot is attempted...

Finally we had had enough. We exfiltrated, got out while we still could, bloodied and stumbling, but somehow satisfied, as flagellant priests during lent. We worked our way back through the flats, past the pond, up the slope with spruces and the walk in the park. We were walking languidly now, enjoying the sunset. Miss was hunting, rather aimlessly. We had that "end of hunt" stupor going. I mentioned to Rich the famous comeuppance bush, and told Rich the story of Jim's Comeuppance. As I pointed at the bush for emphasis, Artemis approached it, slinking a bit. "It was just like that, but it was Kate" I said... and Artemis slammed into a point. I was speechless. Rich walked to the outside and I volunteered to go into the bush on my hands and knees to try to flush the bird up and his way. As I began crawling in, Artemis adjusted to the right. As I began to straighten my back to stand, the bird flushed out and away to the right. A snap shot and it was down. "That one was for Jim, and for Kate" I thought.

Thanks to Jim and his generosity in showing me this covert, I have had, almost annually, a good afternoon outing here. It is a once a year covert for me (for woodcock), one that I was glad to share with Rich this year. We enjoyed a magnificent sunset at the top of the hill, sitting on the foundation of the old farm house that once stood over the coverts. We enjoyed some tobacco and some rum, made plans for our four woodcock, and parted ways.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The cure for flaccid bacon

While Josh waits for epic stories of grouse camp hunts (pssst, Josh . . . don't hold yer breath), I want to publicly commend Pete and Rich for taking care of the bulk of the Old T breakfasts when we were in Wisconsin.

But many of you grouse campers know that Pete has a, ahem, problem when it comes to cooking bacon. As in getting bacon heated above room temperature. As in not reading the health advisories on the bacon packaging re proper cooking. As in . . . flaccid bacon.

Now, thanks to the wonders of modern technology, there's a YouTube video aimed directly at Pete to help him with his trichinosistic tendencies. Please watch this important safety video now. Thank you.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

"This country is full of wowsers."

Since I'm still waiting for epic grouse camp stories, I'm posting this in the interim. Study question: Is throwing a dead bunny inhumane, ill-advised, or indelicate?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Conley's First Grouse

'nuff said. The cycle begins anew.

Epic group portrait

So far nobody has blogged the epic photo that Path Walker orchestrated . . . at least forty-five minutes in the making, with a cast of thousands. Here for the first time in cyberspace, is that captured moment in time.

seated, l to r: Path Walker holding Brad 'Brody' Pitt, Lil' Billy corralling Spy and Maya, Dr. Dirt grinning over Lilly, The Vicar of State College clasping Claymore's collar, el Jefe grasping Gaston de Phoebe, and Safari Jim with Meg and taming Thor God of Thunder
Standing, overseeing all: our host, The Captain

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Reward for Information Offered


REWARD: $5 or a six pack of your favorite beer for information leading to the identification of the felonious footwear grabbing grouse hunter who absconded with roughly size 10 La Crosse boots from the Old Tamarack Cabin near Mellen, WI, on or about the morning of October 17, 2009. Boots easily identifiable by the Minie Pearl-style price tag ring still hanging on the gusset buckle strap. Suspects were seen driving away from the vicinity in a tan colored late model minivan with out of state plates. Please contact the blog administrator with any and all information. Leads will be kept strictly confidential; the culprit(s) will be fingered publicly and humiliated accordingly.

More Cowbell

Pete and I put in an all-day hunt at the covert we called "More Cowbell" . . . Pete later returned to the same covert with Andy to hammer it again. No surprise there. (just kidding Pete . . . NOT) :-)

ANYWAYS, the "More Cowbell" skit seems to have been purged from YouTube, but here is a link to the entire skit at another site:

Better watch it before it gets yanked again.

Guess what . . . I've got a fever, and the only prescription, is more cowbell.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Grouse Camp 2009

Here's just a few pics from Grouse Camp 2009.

7 guys and 8 dogs; sun, snow, rain and cold temps; fair grouse numbers, but few woodcock; great meals; singing and story telling; and the evening sauna! Another memorable camp!


Monday, October 12, 2009

Western exploration

Out in MT exploring fall waters. Thought a couple of you might enjoy this particular day:

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

She's ready

Well, any ambivalence I might have had about taking an untested yearling setter into the Michigan and Wisconsin grouse woods has now vanished. The short version: we got Phoebe out onto the Hector Backbone today for the woodcock opener, and in one hour's time I watched her go from a completely clueless doggie doofus to an absolute woodcock-pointing machine.

The somewhat longer version: We were in the woods by 4:00 pm, under sunny skies, 62 deg F, 6-10 mph winds out of the north and northwest, and as usual I was wearing jeans, my torn and tattered Carharrt vest, Filson hat, and toting the 16 gauge loaded up with early season 8s.

For the first hour and a half we scoured two coverts in a row (many of you have been there, but if I told you where it was today I'd have to kill you) and turned up nothing. nada. zilch. I was beginning to doubt if I had any woodcock finding talent at all.

By 5:30 or so, things started to heat up. Phoebe had had one or two false points up to now, a pattern I'd seen fairly frequently, so when she went on point in some gnarlies I was expecting more of the same.

WRONG! wrrrrrrrr. WOODCOCK.

BANG. . . . . BANG.

Ouch. I missed two shots on Phoebe's for-real-first-ever live point on a live bird. Ouch. We hunted for quite a while where I marked it down, but never did get it to flush again. Oh well. So we kept going.

Ten minutes or so later: the same scenario was repeated. Point; bird; bang; bang; NOTHING. Ouch.

Now I'm starting to get pissed at my poor shooting. Damn. I really want to get a bird for this dogge now, and I'm blowing some very easy opportunities. Fortunately I had marked the second bird fairly well, and when we got to its general location, Phoebe went on point. Staunch! and there it was, the woodcock on the ground two feet in front of her nose. Cool!

I make my move on the bird from three feet away. That blasted bogsucker escaped two more shots from my mighty Parker . . . mighty powerless Parker, that is. DAMN! now I'm starting to foam at the mouth and swearing at my self in the woods. (Honestly. I'm talking to myself, and had to stop because I realized Phoebe was hearing my tone of voice and thinking it was being aimed at her.)

We move on. At this point I'm 0-for-six and am praying to the Almighty that I be given another chance. And then it happened.

Phoebe goes on point. No ambivalence now, no uncertainty, no doubts about my untested puppy. This dogge is for real. I move in, and two birds go up simultaneously--and they're GROUSE!!

BANG at the farthest one, flying away left to right. I don't see any reaction whatsoever from the first bird to that shot, and then I turn to shoot at the second, closer bird. BANG! and the bird falls!

Thank God. I call Phoebe over, who at the moment is going absolutely crazy with bird scent, so it takes her a while to come over to the spot that I've marked with my hat. And then it happens: I can't find the bird. Phoebe can't find the bird. I walk around the spot in circles with a sense of deepening despair. I saw the bird fall, but now I'm beginning to think that it was a crippled grouse that then ran away. Damn. This is quickly becoming one of the most depressing hunts of all time.

And then it happens. After circling and circling and circling, Phoebe comes right back to the small tree where I've hung my hat, and she locks up. There, two feet away, is a stone-cold dead woodcock laying camouflaged among the leaves.

HOORAY!! the dogge has found the dead bird, has done it by pointing dead, and in finding it has accomplished what I was not going to be able to do by myself. Her first dead bird over one of her points. Needless to say I experience an instant mood change. You know, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat kind of mood swing. I'm on cloud nine. I'm a bit surprised that it's a woodcock, having had the impression that the flushes were grouse, but I'm happy nonetheless.

After letting her nose the bird a bit, I put it away in my pouch and we move on. By now I am truly following the dogge every step of the way. She has come into her own as a hunter. And then it happens.

She locks up on point again. As I move in, she lunges at something on the ground. She's got it . . . and it's a GROUSE . . . the second of the two birds that ten minutes earlier had flushed simultaneously. And then it dawns on me--this is the first double of my upland hunting career. Granted, it is a woodcock and a grouse, but a double's a double I figure. (Judges, give me a ruling on that one. Grouse purists may insist that a true double consists purely of partridge. Discuss.)

Phoebe's first double

Wow. At this point I've got a grouse and a woodcock in the bag. It's getting dark, the dogge is now going absolutely nuts after having had the taste of grouse tail feathers in her mouth, so I decide it's best to leash her and quit while we're ahead. We exit the woods at 7 pm, happy and secure in the knowledge that this dogge is ready to hunt.

See you all in Wisconsin.

Kate the Great and the Puppy Formerly Known as Doofus

Sunday, October 04, 2009

The Bounties of Autumn

Decided on a kid hunt this weekend rather than a solo grouse trip, for a number of reasons. We went for squirrels, on the Canoga frontier. Not only did we mange a few fat Gray Squirrels, we also made a fantastic score on a Chicken of the Woods (Laetiporus sulphureus).

Monday, September 28, 2009

First Born, First Rifle

A little over 25 years ago, my father and I walked out of a Gemco in California with a brand new Ruger 10/22. My first rifle. Over the next couple years, my dad and I would go to the range together and enjoy shooting, and enjoy the talking about the shooting.

A couple weeks ago, I handed my first rifle to my son.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Killing wolves for fun

Mr. Winchell of the US gov't sent me the following link from from this week's NYTimes Magazine:

Here's an excerpt:

The Issue

The Interior Department has ruled that wolves have sufficiently increased in numbers in the Western continental United States to allow some wolf hunting there. The Idaho hunt began on September 1; Montana’s starts on the 15th. A case might be made for the right to hunt for food and to manage wildlife populations, but surely some of the more than 14,000 people who bought wolf-hunting licenses are interested in neither wolf sandwiches nor animal husbandry: they simply enjoy hunting. Is it morally acceptable to kill a wolf for the fun of it?

The Argument

Unsurprisingly, I believe it is wrong to inflict pain and death unnecessarily on a creature capable of suffering. (Peter Singer more broadly examines the moral standing of animals here.) While this belief might not compel us to be vegetarians, it does demand significant changes in the way we raise animals for food, and it forbids wolf hunting as a form of entertainment. To be clear, I concede all putatively practical justifications for hunting and repudiate only the idea that hunting is a legitimate recreation. It is the person who claims as much who bears the burden of proof — a wolf need not make a case for its not being shot in Montana. I’m not persuaded that hunters have made their case.

Some declare that hunting is a cherished tradition in their region or for their family. But having done something in the past is insufficient to justify its repetition. It was traditional in my family to be roughed up each spring during pogrom season, a time-honored custom in our part of Russia, and one we gladly abandoned when my grandparents emigrated to America.

Some note that hunting is a challenging activity. No doubt. As is juggling flaming axes while blindfolded. And drunk. But not everything difficult is desirable. Or ethical. Pickpocketing, too, is tough.

There are people who find it fulfilling to cultivate shooting skills, learn to track, take a walk in the woods, maybe bring the kids and make it a bonding experience or bring a couple of buddies and make it a beer-drinking experience or just an opportunity to avoid spending time with the spouse. All of these might be amiable ways to beguile the time, but none need culminate with a killing. Inflicting death is not an acceptable leisure activity.


Wednesday, September 09, 2009

How to hold your breath for long periods of time

from Wiki How:

Things You'll Need

* A stopwatch
* A pencil
* A piece of paper for recording times
* A buddy, especially if you're underwater, or submerged
* A suitable body of water if you're going to hold your breath underwater


1. Do exercises to increase your lung capacity. While there is no way to increase the size of your lungs, there are many ways to increase the amount of air taken in by your lungs, and the efficiency with which they capture oxygen.

2. Lose weight. Any excess baggage reduces your body's efficiency in using oxygen.[1]

3. Quit smoking This will considerably increase your lungs' ability to release carbon dioxide and absorb oxygen.

4. Before holding your breath, inhale and exhale slowly from deep within your diaphragm. By doing this, you're ridding your lungs of low-quality air.[2] Spend 5 seconds breathing in and 5 seconds breathing out; do this for two minutes, and be sure that when you exhale, you push out every last "drop" of air.[3]

5. Take a massive gulp of air and hold it. Don't breathe in so much that you're about to pop; fill your lung capacity to 80-85% so that you still have room to relax.[4]

* Always do this with a partner watching, since you can lose consciousness without warning.
* Don't hold air in your cheeks. This method is meant for an air reserve, but you have to "let go" of the air in your lungs if you want to use the air in your cheeks, and exhaling air in your lungs usually gets rid of the reserve in your cheeks. In other words, it's not easy to switch out the air in your lungs and the air in your cheeks without letting both escape. But it can be done - see link on "Circular Breathing" below.

6. Splash cold water on your face. It's been observed that putting a person's face in contact with cold water triggers bradycardia, or the slowing of the heart rate, which is the first phase of the mammalian diving reflex.[5] You don't need to actually put your entire head underwater, though. You can splash some cold water on your face right before you hold your breath, or try using a cold, wet washcloth (don't use an ice pack, though; the same study suggests that the shock of something too cold triggers other reflexes). Just make sure it's cold enough (21 °C or 70 °F) and the rest of your body is in a relaxed position.

7. Relax every muscle in your body. Meditate so that you can lower your heart rate. Your body will consume less oxygen that way.[6] By closing your eyes, feeling, and focusing on slowing your heart beat, it is possible to lower your heart rate significantly and increase the time you are able to hold your breath for. Concentrate on something that's relaxing to you. When you can't concentrate anymore, distract yourself by doing something with your hands, like counting to 99 with your fingers.[7]

8. Exhale slowly. When you can't hold your breath anymore, try to avoid exhaling all the air in your lungs in a mad rush. First, exhale about 20% of your air, then inhale again so that oxygen gets to your most critical areas faster. Then you can exhale and inhale completely.

9. Repeat these steps 3-4 times per session. It is not recommended to do this any more, as it could damage your lungs and body. Try one session in the morning and one session at night if you wish. Keep practicing and before you know it, you will be able to hold your breath for several minutes.

Monday, August 31, 2009

A Nation Holds its Breath

On the morrow, 8:00 AM, Conley and Maya make their (in)glorious debuts on pen-raised (as opposed to Penn-Raised) birds down at Candor ( Check cords, whistles, e-collars set on 'deep fry' at the ready.

Expect a full report from an unsteady (one way or the other) scribe as dusk settles over the land.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

more of the good stuff

sorry I've been AWOL. Keith told me to post something to the blog. Here it is.

Bet some of you may like other "Viral Video Film School" clips on YouTube. Be sure to check out the ones on animal fights and feeding the bears.

best death scene . . . nailed it.

The camping one is good too.

Monday, August 24, 2009

ID the Mystery Tree

So I've been walking the WV property identifying the trees and shrubs, but one tree has stymied me until today. Here are some pictures of the leaves and bark, can you guess the species? It grows up to about 30 feet, in the sandy, well-drained upland soil:

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Maine Waters

Last weekend we took the boat out on one of the many lakes in the area - Boyden Lake - for a little swimming, fishing, and picnic supper.

the serenity was only disrupted by the danged bald eagles cruising the skies and landing in the big pines along shore.

First off, Collin got a hit on his Spiderman rig too strong for him to hold onto, so I assisted.

He was pretty proud of the smallie we landed; it went backinto the depths. The perch began to hit, and pretty soon Angela caught another bass, about a 2-pounder.

A friend had mentioned fishing the drop-offs for white perch, so we went armed with worms. The fishing became very good as the sun dropped; it was hard to quit.

Now, there's a keeper!

We kept the decent sized perch (10.5-12 inches), which I filleted that night. There must be a High Life commercial about cleaning the catch... Cagey?

Heavens, they're tasty! Only hitch is the state gov has a consumption advisory on most species of warm water fish, so we end up sneaking in a couple tilapia fillets for the kids.

The perch came fast -- you could hardly keep a line in the water. Great fun for kids of all ages.

Fortunately I didn't have nav lights on the boat, so we had to quit fishing and head for the landing. Otherwise, I'd still be cleaning fish today.