This big nocturnal, Kansas whitetail buck , antlers still in velvet, was hard to capture on one of my friend Scott Morgan’s many trail cams. Scott has several cameras scattered over a wide area near his home in eastern Kansas. He’s hoping to get a shot of a cougar that has been sighted in the vicinity. So far no luck on the cougar but lots of deer and turkey.
Matthew Dickerson was a June 2017 artist-in-residence at Glacier National Park. In May 2018 he was artist-in-residence at Acadia National Park. If you dream of fishing for native trout in some of our country’s most beautiful places – and protecting them – you will fall in love with his latest book The Voices Of Rivers.
After spending three days in Little Rock Arkansas attending the annual Outdoor Writers Association Of America conference Dave Zumbaugh and I headed north for Mountain Home and the fabulous White river.
Headquartered at Riley’s Station where the Buffalo River meets the White, Miles’ son Gavin drove us up to Rim Shoal. Dave and I stayed out of the way while Miles and Gavin launched the battered 20’ johnboat. With Dave and I safely aboard we motored upstream through heavy fog to Redbud Shoal, then started our drift back downstream throwing two-fly rigs…and catching trout.
When we had drifted through a particularly productive piece of water Miles would fire up the 9.9 hp Mercury and take us back upstream so we could drift it again…and again…and again until it stopped producing and we moved on downstream to the next hot spot.
We fished through the popular Rim Shoal area, on down through Lower Rim Shoal, catching and releasing 11’ to 16” rainbows with an occasional cutthroat or brown in the mix. Dave and I both playing a trout at the same time and keeping Miles busy with the net became almost commonplace.
The afternoon fishing was cut short about 2:30 when a violent electrical storm sent us grabbing for rain jackets. Our race downstream was briefly interrupted when the cowling blew off Miles’ outboard motor. After a few unsuccessful circles trying to find it we gave up and hauled ass for the safety of Riley’s Station.
Hot flies of the day were red San Juan worms tied on jig heads by the Riley’s twelve-year-old daughter Jalen, orange egg patterns and #16 zebra midges. And they proved just as effective the next day.
We had hoped to spend Day Two between Buffalo Shoal and Riley’s Station but the storm that had driven us off the water yesterday had turned Crooked Creek into a torrent of mud so once again we put in at Rim Shoal and immediately started boating and releasing trout. Looking for shade anyplace we could find it we pulled to shore at mid-day and once again enjoyed one of Miles’ (or maybe Michelle’s) gourmet lunches.
Somehow during our downstream float, happily bouncing off rocks and catching trout, Miles discovered the entire lower unit of the Merc was missing. This didn’t mean we were dead in the water but it did mean less power. So Dave and I continued to catch fish while Miles deftly maneuvered the big johnboat around rocks to avoid further damage. When we reached Crooked Creek and the inflow of muddy water we stowed the rods and, tired but happy, limped on down to Riley’s Station.
It’s always fun to spend a day on the river with outfitter/philosopher Miles Riley. This was Dave’s maiden voyage on the White. He’s already scheming to go back and I hope I can tag along. Meanwhile if you’d like to catch a mess of trout, see some beautiful Arkansas scenery or just relax in a nice, quiet cabin, check out Miles and Michelle’s website www.rileysstation.com. They’ll be looking for you!
All but three photos by Dave Zumbaugh.
Long time friend and fellow Outdoor Writers Of Kansas member Dave Zumbaugh captured these whitetail bucks with a trail cam in his back yard. That’s right. His back yard! Dave lives in a semi-rural area of Johnson county, KS near Kansas City and is treated to sights like this on a regular basis.
No. He won’t let you bowhunt in his back yard.
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 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.