If it seems like I’ve been doing this a long time it’s because I’ve been doing this a long time. My first cartoon about outdoor sports was published in Sports Afield…or maybe it was Field & Stream, in 1964.It was followed by a long stream of others too humorus to mention.
Looking east from Jim’s Boatyard at the confluence of Sisters Creek and the St. John’s River…… 6:30 AM…It’s a beautiful sight. I’d love to see it more often if I didn’t have to get up so damn early. It’s a good start for a 4-hour charter with Capt. Andrew Mizell of Southern Marsh Charters.
Saw my first manatee this morning, at least the nose of a manatee. Wasn’t quick enough to get a photo. Maybe next time, if I’m quick enough, I’ll get to see an entire manatee.
Our grandson Silas accompanied his dad and others to the farm of a fellow church member. This guy is obviously quite the outdoorsman. He has a safe place to shoot firearms, hunts deer and turkeys and has a pond where he hopes to eventually duck hunt.
Fourteen year-old Silas had never fired a weapon. He got a thorough intro into the safe handling of firearms. He fired his Uncle Joel’s 40 caliber semi-auto Glock and 44-magnum revolver, his dad’s 12 and 20 ga. Remington model 870 pump action shotguns, plus Dad’s 5.56mm AR. He also fired a .300 Blackout short barrel AR with and without a suppressor.
His shoulder wasn’t sore enough yet so he also fired a bolt-action .308 caliber rifle with and without the suppressor, plus a scoped bolt action .22.
Suppressors… the anti-gun crowd calls them “silencers”… have taken heat from anti-hunters. “Nobody needs a gun with a silencer!” As the name implies, it does not silence the report from the firearm: it suppresses it. This is beneficial to hunters because it doesn’t announce your presence to every critter in the woods. It also makes shooting easier on the shooter’s ears. Another advantage of suppressors is that firing ranges are sometimes located near suburban neighborhoods and the reduced noise cuts down on complaints from near-by homeowners.
If I had had one throughout my years of shooting I could probably still hear my wife talking to me from across the room. But on the other hand….
My friend Scott calls the deer in the first nighttime photo the Crabclaw buck. He only poses for the trail cam at night. Scott has been watching this buck for three years as it grows. As you can see by how roughed up he is, this buck is a fighter.
The daylight photo below appears to be a 14-pointer. If he keeps wandering around in the daylight this fall he’ll wind up on the wall of some guy’s man cave.
And look at the herd of turkeys in the right background! Does that make you want to get out your old box call and start practicing or what!
The beautiful eight point buck below is from my friend Dave Zumbaugh’s trail cam. Dave lives on the outskirts of Shawnee Mission Park in a western suburb of Kansas City. The deer in the park are protected and rapidly become so numerous they stand on their hind legs in the winter and munch the bark from trees. Yet every time a controlled archery hunt is proposed the anti hunting crowd raises hell. I guess they’d rather Bambi and his mom die a slow death by starvation.
Sanity has prevailed a few times and local food pantries have enjoyed the venison.
My baptism into the awesome sport of duck hunting took place when I was twenty-nine years old and should’ve known better.
My “John The Baptist” was long-time buddy Ned who had duck hunted since high school. Before dawn we waded into the shallow waters of John Redmond reservoir in eastern Kansas. I could hear the gentle whisper of wings overhead, and though I had never heard that sound, I knew what it was. As daylight approached we saw ducks flying far out over the reservoir and I remember how I thought, with their speed, their outstretched necks, they resembled little fighter planes like the P-51 Mustang my brother Paul had flown in World War Two.
Ned and I never fired a shot that morning but I was mesmerized by watching the birds fly. I loved seeing the sun slowly creep up over the horizon. And because it wasn’t very cold , I didn’t mind standing in muddy, waist-deep water as it seeped into my borrowed chest waders.
I had become a duck hunter.
Fast forward to now, when my friend Jay and his fourteen year-old son Chuck – or Charlie – depending on the moniker he chooses at the moment, are hunkered in a blind at the Lone Oak Duck Club in western Missouri. Fourteen-year-old Chuck has been doing this since he was old enough to walk. Surely he feels the same emotions I felt that morning long ago as I stood in the muddy waters of Redmond reservoir.
The Lone Oak Duck Club is an L-shaped tract of land in Bates County, Missouri. As the duck flies it’s roughly three miles northwest of the Four Rivers Waterfowl Management area. It was founded in 1979. I know because I was one of the founders.
“Duck Club” sounds like a fancy place where rich guys hunt. This duck club is nothing like that. Our “club house” used to be an ancient trailer with mushrooms growing out of the damp carpet. We shared the place with mice and the occasional blacksnake. We kidded ourselves into thinking we managed the water level but the beavers and Mother Nature had the last say on everything. Later we built a little five-bedroom cabin with two johns. It still wasn’t fancy but it was a definite upgrade from the leaky old trailer.
Actually one guy who knew what he was doing built it and the rest of us tried to stay out of his way.
Like all duck hunting places we had good seasons and not-so-good seasons. Thankfully, this past summer the food at Four Rivers was destroyed by high water so the ducks can’t sit on the refuge all day, cashing their welfare checks for flooded corn and smartweed. They have to get out and fly around like normal ducks, so this season is showing some promise. I bugged out a couple of years ago when the hard part of hunting started out-weighing the fun part. So I’m not there to enjoy it in person now, but I’m keeping up with the action thanks to Jay Lang and his son Chuck’s photography.
Now if they’d just overnight me a big, tasty mallard…
Trailcam photos of Kansas white tail bucks just keep coming. These beautiful shots came from my friend Jon Blumb whose camera hung on a tree somewhere in northeast Kansas. It’s funny how sometimes deer almost seem to be mugging for the camera.
Moving from Kansas to Florida is not a cultural shock, it’s an ecological shock. Kansans are not used to seeing flocks of curlews feeding in our front yard, reports on the evening news of alligators or black bears wandering around the suburbs.
It’s taken me over a year to find an outfitter who takes clients fly fishing for redfish…and doesn’t have an age limit. Well, I’ve found it: Blackfly Outfitters. Blackfly has a fully stocked shop with all the tackle you could ever dream about, plus a nice inventory of fly tying materials. And everyone I’ve ever met there has been FRIENDLY and HELPFUL.
So…long story short…I signed on for a four hour charter last Thursday Nov. 7th. I’m an experienced fly fisherman so when Captain Andrew Mizell of Southern Marsh Charters asked me how far I could cast, I said , “Oh thirty, maybe forty feet”. But that’s standing in my driveway, no wind, and no fly on the leader. In real world conditions…I sucked. I wound up trying to cast a fly the size of a small sparrow with my 7 wt. rod. I soon switched to my 9 wt. It wasn’t pretty. But Andrew was patient and kept putting me into position to catch fish and I finally boated this small redfish. Minutes later I hooked but did not land a much larger fish. Story of my life.
Needless to say I’m already planning my next charter.
I’m starting to see why hunters from North Carolina, Vermont, Texas and other states come to Kansas and pay ridiculously high fees for a non-resident deer tag, hoping to bag a big whitetail buck.
My Kansas buddy Scott keeps trail cams scattered over an area about the size of Delaware and keeps providing me with interesting photos. Scott is an antler hunter and, according to him, none of these bucks are “shooters”. Me? I was a meat hunter. My trophy was a nice tender120 pound doe. I do have a couple of magnificent racks – which Scott would probably call non-shooters – hanging on my studio wall but both were shot in Missouri.
Anyhow…take a look at these “non shooters”. Scott puts out mineral lick blocks during the year and they do attract deer. They lick the blocks right into the ground, then keep licking where the block used to be. I don’t know the name of the chemical in the block but it should be called “Deer crack”.
You can see the buck in the night photo, his nose down in the hole where the mineral lick used to be, still licking away while a doe and another buck wait in line.
Reminds me of the first day Baskin-Robbins introduces a new flavor.