It was nice of this 6-point whitetail buck to pose for my friend Dave’s trail cam in his back yard. Actually there might be another tine hiding back there. Anyway now it’s a 3 or 4-pointer. It’s a little early in our part of the country for bucks to start shedding antlers but maybe this guy just wanted to get a head start and beat the rush.
The season ended so suddenly at the Five Guys And A Swamp Duck Club that we didn’t even have time to pick up our decoys. Then we froze solid, and now the water has finally thawed and we can finally get in to do the job we should have done earlier. When we waded in hundreds of mallards took flight. Where the hell were they in November and December? With this fall’s weather they were probably still in Canada or North Dakota.
My friend Dave Zumbaugh has a German Wirehair Pointer named Mota. This loveable dog is the quintessential all around sporting dog. Dave uses her for upland bird work, waterfowl hunting, and for all I know she fetches the morning newspaper.
These photos of Mota were taken on a frosty morning at Clinton Lake near Lawrence, KS in 2014 when Mota was still just a pup.
This story was originally published in the Winter 2017 issue of Pheasants Forever Journal.
It was barely dawn when Bob pulled my truck off to the side of the road. We had left home before daylight so I let Bob drive because he can see better in the dark than I can. He’s had his cataracts removed and I’ve still got mine.
“It’s good to be pheasant hunting again”, I said as I eased my bulky body out of the truck. I was anxious to run a few rounds through my new ultra-light 20-gauge. The Doc had suggested I trade in the trusty old twelve after my rotator cuff surgery a couple of years ago. I had missed last season because of Tommy John surgery. I should have known not to keep yanking that damn rope when the chainsaw wouldn’t start.
We both had trouble finding hunting clothes to fit because we had gained a lot of weight over the years. I had to leave my pants partially unzipped but Bob had a new pair that fit him perfectly. He pulled up his coat and I could see why. I didn’t even know they made maternity brush busters.
It’s a good thing my old setter Maggie was still snoring in her crate, otherwise I might have forgotten about her.
“Rise and shine, old girl”, I said as I unlatched the door. She opened one eye, stared at me with that “leave me alone” look, then closed it and started snoring again. I decided to let her snooze a bit but I left the crate open so she could join us when she was ready.
We sat on the tailgate and rested a while. It takes a lot of energy for guys our age to get out of a truck.
I noticed Bob rubbing his knees.
“They bothering you?” I asked. ”I thought you had them fixed”.
“I did”, he answered. I could hear his knees creaking as he flexed one leg, then the other. “But they need regular maintenance and I’m overdue.”
“Time to go back to the Doc, huh?”
He slid off the tailgate and hobbled around a little. “Nope. The Doc put these things in.” He pulled one pant leg up to show me.
“Grease nipples. I get the old knees lubed every time I take my car in for service. Works like a charm but I gotta get them lubed every 6000 miles or six months. Don’t want to void the warranty. “
Maggie stood up, yawned, and stretched on the tailgate, her signal that she was ready to roll. We hefted her down and she looked around but couldn’t find anything stinky to roll in so she lay down and went back to sleep.
I put an electric collar on her and we headed out across the field. Since I started wearing support hose and arch supports in my boots I could walk almost thirty minutes without wheezing.
We hadn’t gone fifty yards when we heard the wail of a siren.
“What the hell is that?” Bob wondered aloud.
I grabbed Maggie and turned the knob on her collar down. “Sometimes my pacemaker creates some sort of electronic field with her e-collar and it winds up on the local sheriff’s frequency. Picks up 911 calls too.”
After I adjusted the collar we could still hear a squeaking, grinding, clanking sound.
“Now what?” grumped Bob.
“The squeaking and grinding is my artificial hip”, I said. “It does that at times like this when I’ve walked too long. The clanking is Maggie’s Kevlar stifle joint. She’s had it so long it’s starting to rust. The vet says I should mix a little WD-40 in with her kibbles.”
Suddenly Maggie stopped walking and sat down. “She’s getting birdy”, I whispered.
Bob stared at the dog. “Isn’t she supposed to point?”
“She did when she was younger”, I said. “Now she just sits down. I guess you could say she’s more of a sitter than a setter.”
Bob wasn’t convinced. “How do you know she’s not just resting?”
“When she wants to rest she lies down.”
Bob took a step forward and a cock pheasant burst from the underbrush thirty yards away. We both shouldered our shotguns but not a shot was fired as the bird sailed off into the distance.
“Why didn’t you shoot?” I asked.
Bob swore at his shotgun as though somehow it was the gun’s fault. ”I couldn’t get the damn safety off. Why didn’t you shoot?”
“I forgot to load my gun”.
Maggie gave us a dirty look, then lay down and immediately started snoring.
“Oh well”, I said. “There’ll be more chances.”
I fumbled at the loops on my vest, trying to remember which side the shells were on. I keep shells in the loops on the right side and suppositories on the left. Or is it the other way around?
I woke Maggie up and then, squeaking, grinding, creaking and clanking, the three of us marched off across the field together.
Venison recipe: First shoot one deer….This nice northeast Kansas eight point buck fell to long time friend and fellow OWAA member Jon Blumb. It’s always dangerous for a deer to walk within 40 yards of a guy in a tree stand with a 30.06.
This story was first published in the 2005 November/December issue of Wyoming Wildlife News
Let’s get one thing straight right now: building a duck blind is nothing like an ordinary carpentry project. You can’t learn skills like this from a book. They are handed down from father to son, uncle to nephew, or old duck hunter to young duck hunter. True vertical and horizontal?? That’s for sissies. Mitered corners? What are you, some kind of latte-sipping, granola-crunching, tofu-eating civilian?
To build a proper duck blind you must put aside your preconceived notions of what good carpentry should look like. You should even put aside your notions of what lumber should look like. Or all building materials, for that matter. You must learn to think outside the box. In fact you should probably tear up the box and use it in your duck blind. The well-drawn plans you see for blinds in magazines are all hoaxes.
You only BUY lumber for duck blinds as a last resort. The best blinds are fashioned from lumber that was originally intended for other purposes. Remodeling you basement? When you tear out those old studs, save them for your next duck blind. Some blinds are even made from – dare I say it? – stolen materials. I don’t mean actually STOLEN stolen. STOLEN means they were taken from their rightful owners. Say you saw a 4X8 sheet of plywood lying around and you instantly recognized the fact that it would make a perfect roof for your duck blind. So you loaded it into the bed of your pick-up and took it someplace where it would be put to good use. The fact that it was lying around near a construction site is immaterial.
What about tools, you ask? Cordless drills are indispensable, unless you forget to charge up the batteries like I usually do. But in that case you can use the drill as a hammer. If you should happen to have a measuring tape you can also use that as a hammer. In fact you can use any heavy object as a hammer. Remember the old joke about a guy who walked into the hardware store and said “I want a wrench” and when the clerk asked what kind of wrench he said, “Don’t matter. I’m gonna use it for a hammer”? That guy was probably building a duck blind.
What ordinary carpenters call measuring is unnecessary in duck blind carpentry. If you are building your blind on-site you are probably using a chain saw and your cuts will be less than precise. Simply get one of your partners to hold the board for you and when he says “cut it along about here somewhere” you cut it along about there somewhere, making sure all feet, fingers, and dog noses are safely out of the way.
Imperfections that would drive a real carpenter batty can be an asset to a duck blind. That four inch gap on one end between the door and the floor? No problem. It just makes it easy to relieve yourself without leaving the blind. I’ve probably shot at least fifty ducks in my lifetime with my pants unzipped.
Take that eight foot 2X6 you ripped long-ways with the chain saw so it would plug the three inch gap between the front wall and the southeast corner 4X4. You know, the gap that was left because you didn’t have a tape or pencil to make the measurements you needed so you just “eye-balled it”. You thought you were cutting a straight line, but when you stepped back and looked at it, it looked like an elevation line on a topo map. No problem. It looks more natural this way. Have you ever seen a straight line in nature?
That dog ramp you worked so hard on, the one that juts off the front of the blind at a funny angle. Forget about it. If it looks okay to your dog it’s fine. Besides, this way it looks more like a beaver-chewed log. That’s probably what you wanted but you just didn’t know it.
Corrugated tin from barns and outbuildings makes excellent duck blind material. It is easily attached to a wood framework and is impossible for beavers, muskrats or squirrels to destroy. It is best to wait for the tin to be removed from the buildings by forces of nature such as tornadoes, as removing it yourself can result in animosity from your neighbors and possible legal hassles.
Any job that requires physical exertion makes a man thirsty. A recent scientific study has proven that beer is the best thirst quencher known to man. The fact that all the scientists who participated in the study were beer drinkers is not important. However, a subtle law of physics is at work here: the Law Of Diminishing Returns. If you and your partners consume… say… a case of beer while building your duck blind, it does not necessarily follow that your blind will look twice as good if you consume TWO cases. In all probability it will look worse. But then again, one objective of blind building is to build a blind that does not LOOK like a duck blind, the idea being that it might actually fool a duck or two. In this case beauty is in the eye of the beholder and the beholder is a duck.
When you and your fellow carpenters have finished your blind – and your beer – stand back and take a good look at it. If the floor is level , the walls perfectly vertical , and the roof straight then you have probably screwed up somewhere. But take heart. A lot of camo in the form of marsh grass, oak limbs or willows will hide this embarrassing perfection. And after a season or two your blind will sag on one end and have a hole in the floor. Some of your purloined four-by-fours will be sporting beaver notches, and muskrats and raccoons will have left their droppings here and there. Feathers, empty shotgun hulls, and junk food wrappers will litter the floor.
In other words it will look like a respectable duck blind.
Thanks to long-time friend Scott Morgan I finally got into a good dove hunt. No limits but enough shooting to make our shoulders sore.
Scott, Roger Harper, photographer Jon Blumb and I hunted an eastern Kansas wheat field Friday afternoon. Hunkering in the shade of hay bales we expended a humongous amount of ammo and managed to bring down a respectable number of birds. Flights of low-flying Canada geese provided entertainment while we field dressed the birds, then headed to Baldwin City for drinks and dinner at The Wooden Spoke restaurant.
Roger, Scott and I went back for more the next day. I took my Lab Maggie with me this time for her first dove hunt. Some dogs are reluctant to pick up doves because the feathers come off in their mouths and Maggie was no exception. But when I dropped a bird she marked it down well, making it easier for me to find. Before the end of the day she was retrieving them. Well…sort of.
Maggie did OK for a rookie and we put six succulent bacon-wrapped dove breasts on the grill, toasted the Spirit Of Migration, and froze another six for later.
This story was first published in the September 2006 issue of Wildfowl magazine.
“What is it with these places, anyway?” I asked as we got we got into our car.
My wife and I had been visiting my mother-in-law at a retirement home.
“What do you mean?”
“They’re all so… well… feminine.” I nudged the car out into the stream of traffic and we headed for home.
“The walls are all peach or beige. Doilies everywhere. A man doesn’t feel comfortable in that environment.”
“They’re so feminine because ninety percent of the residents are women”, replied my wife.
“Sure”, I said. “ We work ourselves into early graves trying to keep you ladies happy”. She shot me a hostile glance.
“How would you like them to be tricked out?” she asked. “Wood paneled walls? Spittoons?”
“You bet! Nice dark walnut with a prominent grain. And shiny brass spittoons for the dippers and chewers.”
“Only slightly less disgusting than carrying a paper cup around to spit in like some of your buddies”, she said.
“ And who needs all those wimpy paintings of flowers and Parisian street scenes? “ I was rapidly warming to my subject. “At least one room in the place should have wildlife art on the walls…mallards or pintails coming in with their wings locked. Some mounted teal and wood ducks. And you know what would really set the whole thing off? A big old Canada goose hanging from the ceiling by a piece of monofiliment, right over the dining room table like he was coming in to join us for dinner.”
Carol cringed as she fished around in her purse for a pen. “Do you want me to take notes in case you actually have some input when your time comes?” she asked, only half facetiously.
“Maybe a deer head or two.” I was really getting into it now. “And a moose or elk if there was room.”
“Fish and big game would make it more inclusive”, said Carol, scribbling furiously to keep up with my rapid thought process.
As I drove toward home I kept thinking of more things I’d want in my customized retirement home.
“You know those rails they have along the walls for the inmates to hang on to?”
She shot me another glance. “I believe they’re called ‘residents’ or ‘patients’.
“Yeah, residents. Anyway, the rails in this place were obviously fake. Some sort of composition material or plastic. Why couldn’t they be made of nice burled walnut or cherry like a fine old gun stock?”
“That might work”, she replied. I got the impression she was humoring me.
“And speaking of wood”, I said, “A few old decoys sitting around would make me feel more at home. Maybe a pair of Mason snakey head mallards and a nice old Madison Mitchell canvasback…and a big wood burning fireplace for cold weather.” I was on a roll.
“Not one of those fake jobs like they had here, with phony ceramic logs and little blue flames.”
“Probably a risk management factor”, said Carol, always the practical one. I had to give her that one.
My hypothetical retirement home was getting better all the time but something was still missing. When I thought of it I was amazed it had taken me so long. “What would really make us old guys feel at home would be a few muddy dogs laying around on the floor. Say… a Lab in each of the three colors: black, yellow, and chocolate. And a big old yellow-eyed Chessie laying in front of the fireplace licking his…. well… licking himself, and growling at anyone who tried to pet him.”
We drove in silence for a while until Carol asked. “What would you call this place?” I was glad she was at least pretending to go along with me.
“I don’t know”, I said. “I haven’t gotten that far yet.”
“How about ‘Geezers Galore”?
“Now you’re making fun of me”, I said as we turned into our driveway. “Okay…. what about… say… Worn Out Waterfowlers?”
“Well”, I said, “it does lend itself to a catchy acronym. WOW”.
I opened the door and let her go inside ahead of me. I briefly thought of myself as the cautious buck allowing the doe to enter the danger zone first.
“I can see the promo material now” I said. “ A grizzled old duck hunter with a droopy white mustache sitting before the fireplace in a rocking chair…”
“Licking his…” interrupted Carol.
“No no”, I said. “That’s the Chessie. Anyway, he’s wearing a rumpled old brown Jones hat like they used to wear before camo, and a plaid wool shirt. He’s got a glass of bourbon in one hand …”
“With a mallard or a Lab’s head engraved on the side”, chimed in Carol.
“Now you’re getting it”, I said, delighted. “And he’s petting his old white- muzzled retriever whose head is resting on his knee. And there’s a wooden decoy, riddled with shot holes, sitting on the hearth.”
She had the big picture now. “And he has an ammo belt looped over his shoulder, only instead of shotgun shells, the loops are full of suppositories.”
“Come on”, I said. “Get serious.”
“Sorry”, she said. “I got carried away. Anyway, the headline could read, “When it’s time to case the old pump gun, Come to WOW and spend your golden years with guys like yourself, reminiscing about those hallowed days in field and marsh, surrounded by the things you’ve always loved.”
“WOW!” I said. “I think you’ve got it!”
This story from the September 2008 issue of Wildfowl Magazine was awarded 1st place in the 2009 Magazine Humor category of the OWAA Excellence In Craft Contest.
I first noticed a difference in Bob the day I rode with him in his pickup truck to a big sporting goods store to take advantage of a preseason sale. Bob had been an over-the-road trucker at one time and could handle anything from an eighteen-wheeler to the dinkiest subcompact, yet he seemed to be having trouble parallel parking. He backed and filled and backed and filled some more until finally he gave up and left the truck at a funny angle, quite a ways from the curb.
I didn’t think any more about it until one day, about a week into duck season, we were sitting in the blind, killing time and trying to decide whether to bail out or give it one more hour. It was one of those days when the ducks weren’t flying and about all there was to do was drink coffee, pet the dog, and shoot the breeze. I could tell something was on Bob’s mind.
“There’s something I have to tell you and the other guys”, he said.
I figured he was going to say he was changing jobs or maybe had a health problem.
“I’ve had an operation”, he said.
Naturally I’m thinking gall bladder, appendectomy, the usual stuff. I was totally unprepared for what came next.
“Oh?” I asked. “”You doing OK now?”
”Oh yeah,” he said, sipping his coffee. “I’m fine. But you don’t understand. I’ve had a…well… I’m not Bob any more. I’m Bobbi Sue.”
It didn’t hit me immediately, probably because I was in shock. “You mean….” I fumbled for the right words. “You’ve had one of those… those… whatchacallits?…”
“ You got it”, replied Bob. “ I’ve had a sex change operation. But I don’t want it to change anything as far as our duck hunting is concerned. I just want everybody to keep thinking of me as one of the guys. In fact, if you’d like, you can keep calling me Bob instead of Bobbi Sue.”
Well, let me tell you, it’s awfully hard to think of a guy who is 6’3”, weighs 240, and chews tobacco as Bobbi Sue.
“How is Alice taking this?” I asked. This had to be quite a shock to his wife.
“You mean Al?”
“Oh Lordy, no”, I muttered, with my head in my hands. I was starting to have trouble dealing with this.
“When I left the house she… I mean he, was lying on the couch drinking beer, belching, and watching NASCAR on TV”
Bob continued to hunt with our group all season and there were no major problems. He was a likeable guy and a good, safe hunter, which is about all we require in a hunting partner. But as the season wore on we began to notice a few subtle changes. Once, when we drove out-of-state for a guided duck hunt, we got lost and Bob cheerfully volunteered to go into a service station and ask directions.
Something else was different, too. The rest of us just sort of voluntarily started cleaning up our language when Bob was around. One morning when a flock of teal buzzed our decoys and I never even had time to get off a shot I found myself saying, “My goodness! Those little fellows are certainly fast, aren’t they.”
We noticed some other changes, too. When nature called, Bob started getting out of the blind and walking back to our trailer to use the bathroom. In fact he once drove all the way into town and back. And, when it was my turn, I started going as far away from the blind as possible and hiding behind a tree.
And later, after the hunt was over and the guns were put away, when the rest of us had a beer, Bob would sip a glass of white wine. Once he even asked for a Singapore Sling but nobody knew how to make one.
About once a month Bob got sort of cranky but we just overlooked it and tried to stay out of his way till he felt better. And you wouldn’t believe some of the things he started carrying in his blind bag.
So, aside from these minor changes, Bob is pretty much the same. He looks about like he always did, if you can ignore the occasional touch of lip-gloss and eye shadow. He still chews tobacco in the blind but he doesn’t spit the juice on the floor anymore, and I can’t remember him breaking wind once all season.
We’re already looking forward to September and teal season. It’ll probably be ninety degrees, sweat will be rolling off the rest of us, and the dogs’ tongues will be hanging out. Someone will look over at Bob and say, “Aren’t you sweating, Bob?” and he’ll say, “No, but I’m perspiring a little.”