The Great Bear Hunt - 12/01/1997

Good morning everyone! I'm sure that Steve will be along soon with his version of the bear hunting trip report. Matt is off hunting deer and will be back on Wednesday.

I picked up Steve just after 9:00 last Saturday morning. He's probably one of the coolest people I've ever met. We stowed everything in the back of my pickup and headed north toward Northumberland, PA, where Matt's parents live. I even let him drive my truck, but that was before he told me about the accidents he'd had...

We only got lost once (my fault - navigator missed an exit), stopped for directions, pee-break, and lunch in Harrisburg. (Thanks to the buck I got last week, that'll be the last time I'll eat hamburger for a while. :-)) I took over the driving, and we were running a little late so I opened the truck up a bit. I don't think I scared Steve too badly.

We arrived safely at Matt's parents' house in time for a late lunch, and Matt showed off the mounted head of one of the animals (I forget what it's called) that he shot while in Africa. This thing was huge, with horns several feet long. We also met Andy, another friend of Matt's who joined us for the bear hunting.

So the five of us - Matt, Matt's dad Larry, Andy, Steve and I - made the trek up to the hunting lodge. Matt's dad didn't seem to upset that I was going along (whew!) since I was on the trip to hunt and not be a bored significant other. On the way Steve and I had to purchase our licenses (OUCH!!!) and pick up some plinking ammo for my handguns.

As we drove into the mountains I noticed SNOW!!!! First little patches of it in the shaded areas, then more, and by the time we reached the cabin there was several inches of it everywhere. Not enough to hamper our travel, but plenty for finding tracks left by our quarry. We arrived at the hunting lodge with just enough daylight left to do some scouting, then after returning Andy made us a delicious squirrel and pheasant stew. He added only a few drops of that hot sauce to the whole pot and boy was it spicy!

After dinner until bedtime it was time for drinking and poker (a nightly occurrence). Larry opted out, but the rest6 of us had fun. I know I ended the trip a little lighter than when I started. Chessie did rather well. Whoever thought up the version "Guts" out to be shot. Several times. Talk about a sphincter-tightening game!

Sunday we headed out to scout for bear tracks. We were out most of the day and covered a good bit of ground. The freshest bear tracks we found looked like they had been made sometime Friday. I also kicked up about 8 grouse along one trail, and found a set of fresh deer tracks that gave me a hard-on, and I'm not even equipped that way. Those tracks were as wide as my palm. We also found areas that we planned to sit, then returned to the lodge for some target practice. First Steve pulled out his bow, set up his 3D deer target against a tree, and started to shoot arrows at it from about 25, then 35 years. I was impressed with the hits. I wanted to try his bow, but 63 pounds is too much for me to draw. Oh well. Then we set up cans against a woodpile and Matt, Steve and I shot the handguns. I hope I didn't embarrass them too badly. :-) Lately we had a dinner of - MMMMMMMMMM - venison back straps, cooked to perfection by Steven. That was the first time I've ever had 'em. Was like eating candy. Much better then beef!

Monday the plan was to get up at 4:30, have breakfast, and be out in the woods by dawn. It didn't quite work that way - both Matt and I slept through and didn't hear our alarms. Oops. I woke up first at 6:00, thought "OH SH!T", ran to their room, and turned on the light. The four of them looked pretty pissed at being woken up so rudely, then even more pissed when the discovered how late it was. We packed breakfast, tore out of there, and were in place by 6:30. Didn't see a darn thing all morning, and the weather wasn't too bad until about 10:00 when a front started to come through and the wind kicked up. Brrrrr! I was halfway back to sleep when that wind sliced across the back of my neck like a sharp knife. That was my second rude awakening of the day.

In the afternoon we met up and decided to start trying to do drives and look for other tracks. Matt and I circled along down one road, then cut unto the woods toward where we'd left Steve and Andy. I found another set of bear tracks, but they also looked like they'd been made on Friday. We didn't kick anything up in front of us, not even deer. I saw lots of fresh small animal tracks, but all the deer and bear sign was old.

Monday night we piled into my truck and drove to the bear check station to see what the other hunters had gotten. About two dozen bears had been checked, with weights varying from 32 pounds to 390 pounds. We all agreed that we weren't shooting any cubs, or even sows with cubs.

Tuesday we hunted a different area and spent most of the time walking and doing drives to see what we could flush out. We spread out about 100 yards apart, just so we could barely stay in sight, and started walking in one direction through the woods.

I discovered several things:
- Steve climbs like a mountain goat and walks *fast*.
- Matt's sense of direction needs work, especially in thickets.
- Horseback riding muscles are not the same ones used for hiking.
- Gore-Tex boots are wonderful, as are wool socks with Thinsulate liners.
- Sliding down hills on your butt doesn't hurt when you're wearing lots of layers of clothing.
- Even when it's only snowing lightly, my scope lenses get covered quickly.
- I am really glad that I have a stainless steel synthetic-stock rifle because it is easy to clean up after a day of crashing through the brush.

Wednesday morning I wimped and didn't go out hunting. The others went at dawn to try to get a few hours hunting before we had to leave, and I slept in, then cleaned up the kitchen before they returned. Matt said that we should have done back Tuesday to the same place we'd been on Monday - he'd seen fresh tracks. Arrrrgh! Oh well. Everyone was back by about 10:30, and we cleaned up the lodge and headed out.

I had an incredibly good time hunting with these guys, and I'm proud to call them my friends. Matt is one of the most laid-back people I know. Nothing bothered him. Steve's biting wit does make him a grade-A pain in the a** at times, especially while drinking and playing poker, but overall he's a great guy.

The Return of the Relative from Hell
Scott Tanner
Return of the Relative from Hell
Scott Tanner (Missouri)

When the telephone rang I was sitting on the toilet, holed up in that most holy of sanctuaries, the most private of places, the place where one is completely protected and shielded by social tradition. The phone was handed to me around the door. I looked at it in stunned silence. My fort was breached, days of not answering the phone wasted as I heard the dull monotone of Lance's voice say "hello" again and again. In desperation I thought of the water under me and how pleasant it would sound to hear the cordless phone collide with that water as it slid, plop, into the porcelain depths. My mind raced with possibilities, would it bubble when he talked, would it work like voodoo and drown him also? Reason reasserted itself and I hesitantly answered his twelfth, drawled out, attempt at saying hello.

"Yes" I spat into the phone. "I got me a deer stand" Lance informed me. "Great" I replied with genuine insincerity that any child would have picked up on immediately. "I'm sorry", he continued. "I may not make it over to the farm for opening morning." I got my stand up at my dads place and they've been seeing a lot of deer there." I stifled a giggle at the thought of Lance having a human father, or did I giggle out loud. I am not sure. By then I was barely human myself, steaming and stewing over the hours spent scouting, placing stands, and all the other expenses on body, soul and pocketbook that go into a successful deer hunt.

It was only after Lance shoved out a couple of more slow and deliberate sentences that I realized what he said. "You said you are going to hunt at your fathers, is that what you said?" Each time I thought of Lance having a father I could only picture a dirty coyote with a broken tail and patches of skin missing. A particularly skulking and foul animal that waited until other animals did the work of chasing and killing and then slipped into their midstand took the best part for itself. In my tortured mind it managed to do all this with a lit cigarette hanging out of its mouth. It looked natural in its crooked, detestable jaws. This is of course how Lance operates, like father like son?

"If I get me a deer there I won't get to come and see you" drawled Lance. My sanity was returning. Hope! There was hope that he would not come and ruin everything for us. Maybe, just maybe, he would shoot a deer at his fathers den, I mean house, and he would not show up with his smoking and his inconsiderate marching around while others sit patiently in their stands. Maybe this year we could eat our own food and not watch it be devoured by a mooch who was too dumb to have a conscience. I clung to that hope like a drowning man clings to a floating object in an unruly sea

"So," I cautiously inquired ,"You may not come a tall?" "Not if I get a deer here at dads," Lance reconfirmed. I was almost beside myself with joy. Relief washed over me like water from a hot shower after a hard days labor. It was absorbed into every pore. For the first time since September, I smiled. "Well, good luck then, hope you get a big one," I told him. I meant it, god how I meant it!

Saved, saved!! Life was good again, worth living. I abandoned my bathroom hermitage, peeking out while chastising myself for hiding there on the false hope that if he couldn't get in touch with me that he would simply go somewhere else. I had been acting so silly. I was not that bad a man that life would punish me two deer seasons in a row. Surely he would get a deer or fallout of a tree or something would prevent him from showing up at the deer farm. Not two years in a row, my destiny was not that hapless and tortured. I relaxed, and weeks of dread and outright fear were simply gone.

Out of the bathroom I came and back into the home of my family, they were glad to see me, after a few false starts I even remembered their names. My strength and confidence grew by the minute. By the next day I was packing for deer camp.

Opening day came quickly. When I got to my stand and sat down in it, it kept making a popping noise each time I made the slightest movement. I fought with this problem for about thirty minutes, finally tracing it down to the chain that held the stand padlocked to the tree base. I corrected this problem and attempted to figure out what had changed to allow it to pop like that. I had tested the stand thoroughly, more than once, after setting it up to ensure that it was silent and rock solid. My coveralls had become an oven from the energy I used working on the stand. I was covered with sweat. "Sweat," I thought to myself, "Deer can smell sweat". I climbed back into the now quiet stand and began the wait for a deer, my muzzle loader capped and ready.

I did not have to wait long. At 7:02am it came as all deer do, silently and without warning. How it came or where it came from I will never know. It was simply there. Its 3- point rack looked pitifully small on such a huge deer. It stood and stared at me for about five seconds and then turned and began an unhurried descent down the hill to the valley below. As the buck passed behind some brush I raised my black powder rifle, forced to shoot offhand by the stands positioning. When he wandered into the open, about twenty-yards from me, I eased the trigger back and the wonderful sound of cap and black powder filled the morning. When the smoke cleared the deer was nowhere to be seen. Three deer then burst from the woods about a hundred yards from my stand and made a hasty exit from the area, white tails flying high in alarm. I exited the stand and reloaded a pre-measured powder charge and topped it with a 245 grain Buffalo Bullet conical. I began to look for him and spooked three more does who came from the same woods that the first three had fled from. I grunted at these three and they stopped for about two seconds and moved on. I found no blood at the spot where I was sure I had hit the animal. After about two hours of searching I was about to give up, something which I did not want to do, when I finally found a blood trail, two feet farther up the deer trail I found the deer. I had hit just a little behind the shoulder, he was only about forty yards from my stand when I found him.

In spite of the long search I was in good spirits. I had taken a deer with my black powder rifle, life was good. I should have known it would not last. I went for help and we loaded the deer on my huge four-wheeler and took it to the house to field dress. There must have been something in the way that I reminded, or informed Raider that it was, as always, his job to clean the animal and prepare it for processing. In any event he objected to his traditional role, in jest he claims, and I went ballistic. Now don't misunderstand, I don't mind blood. It has no hold on me whatsoever. It is smells that really get my goat and the inside of a deer, to me smells. I do not do smells. I do not do things that smell. Can't, won't, period. I was blessed, or cursed, depending on how you look at it with a nose that can out-smell any other human I have ever met period. You could call it sensitive. While Raider and I mouthed off to each other, (read as me having a mad fit), Jafo crept away muttering something about "bad vibes. "He left and went to Oregon County to hunt deer where the vibes were better, I guess.

Raider and I finished mouthing and field dressed the deer and then posed for pictures. We were happy, we were proud ! Little did we know what awaited us only a few minutes into the future. We loaded the field dressed buck onto the four-wheeler again and began the drive back to camp. Almost back to camp I noticed a strange vehicle, a go-cart with a roll cage on it. The driver, a child I assumed, was "peeling out" and throwing gravel and spinning the go cart around and around in the road. When we got close enough to see the driver my heart stopped. Yes, I said stopped, not slowed, not jumped, but seized up solid and stopped cold. After about five seconds it started again, barely, with just a beat or two, then three then faster and faster as it raced to certain explosion. I could feel my blood pressure rise, no not rise, but rocket upwards. Despair and gloom claimed my soul in just one of those accelerated heartbeats. The driver of the child type go-cart was none other than Lance, the relative from hell. He was wearing both orange vest and hat. That suggested deer hunting to me. "Maybe he's just still wearing it from a successful hunt with his pack, I mean family." I suggested to myself foolishly. I knew it wasn't so though. I knew it in my soul with the same certainty that you know an accident victim is dead when you find them lying in the road headless with great bloody bundles of meat and strands of gore slowly drying on what once was their neck. I knew he was here to hunt. When my vision returned I noticed the climbing stand, a clean new virgin green colored one with bright orange and white safety warning stickers, tied to the top of the go-cart with a bright yellow ratchet strap. He talked for a while (or maybe howled), before I sank back into the present and was able to understand.

From his disconcerted ramblings and grunting I knew that he had seen no eer there by his families den, I mean house, and had come to hunt. He was happy to see me. I wanted to die, or maybe shrink up and sink into that peaceful blackness I imagined a coma to be. I tried, really tried to force myself into that coma to the point that I was plotting and scheming which way I would need to be leaning when I "went out" to avoid as much physical injury as possible when I fell to the earth. In my minds eye I saw myself go slack and slide off the four-wheeler to the ground, unconscious, in a place deep inside my mind where it was safe. Over and over in my tortured mind I replayed this flopping lurch, to unknowing safety, and willed it to happen, but it did not. Eventually, I gave up and began to listen as the offspring of a jackal spoke. When it finished what it was saying, I explained in great detail that he was not allowed to hunt on the deer farm proper and gave excellent directions to the two hundred acre tract that we did not have stands on. I could not remember which key fit the upper gate so I gave him three to try. I knew one of them was the key but not which one. I further explained that there were currently two other people at the deer farm in stands and he could pass through once, and only once, on his way up to the upper two hundred acres. He could not come back through until sundown so as not to mess up the chances of the other hunters already on stand. I might as well have been talking to a tree. Arriving at the gate Lance was unable to make any of the three Master brand keys fit into the Master brand lock. I later tried them and the second one I tried worked. Stymied by this inability to "get out" of the deer farm he came up with a plan. He would simply lift the six-foot long go-cart with the Honda 6.5 Horsepower motor and three foot tall roll cage up onto the fence and flip it over. He got the front up and the bottom of the thing hung on the fence when he tried to slide it over. He just pulled harder until eventually the fence yielded and the go-cart flipped merrily, end over end, until in landed with a smashing crunch on its side. He then happily pushed it back onto its wheels and after a few disappointing minutes when it would not start (something about the motor not being used to being upside down and oil running back into place or something like that), he got the beast running and roared off to the hunting spot where I had sent him.

Minutes later he was back. A group of hunters had camped close to our property line and he could not hunt where he was assigned. He happily smashed more of the fence and flipped the go-cart again into the wind and upside down toward the ground in an attempt to get back into the deer farm. It made it into the deer farm but there was a problem. When it hit the

ground one of the rear wheels hit first, giving a great jerk on the chain, which transfers the power from the engine to the wheels. The chain objected in the only way a chain knows how. It broke. As with any child's bicycle, with a broken chain, it does not pull itself. Lance did not mind. He pulled his climbing stand off the go-cart and walked to where my wife sat patiently in her stand waiting for a monster buck. He placed the stand on the ground in front of her stand and took himself a seat beside it and began to talk to her, "visitin", he calls it. She spent the next thirty minutes of opening day listening to Lance give his opinion of various fascinating subjects including but not limited to boiled peanuts, ( he has a sign in his yard proclaiming Boiled Peanuts For Sale and swears he will get rich selling them) and the "powerful dreams" he had been having which were predicting the sex of his unborn cub, I mean child. She was polite but kept dropping subtle hints that he should go away by saying things like, "I'm hunting here, won't your talking scare the deer away." Obviously, he did not care. Eventually he tired of "visitin," (how much can you say about boiled peanuts and powerful dreams), and wandered away. Not far though. He went about forty yards and climbed up a tree with his climbing stand, (whose stand was it really, he told me he bought it, he told her he borrowed it), and satdown. Occasionally he would raise a hand and wave at her as she could see him clearly in his stand.

Soon a 4-point buck walked out in front of Lance. The deer could not walk right. It had an old injury, long healed, to one of its front legs. Maybe it had been shot the year before and gotten away, maybe it was deformed from birth. In any event it could not walk very well. Lance took careful aim, his .3030 barked and he shot the crippled deer in its other front foot. The deer objected, perhaps remembering last deer season, and tried to run away. Every few yards or so the poor beast would fall down. Lance literally flew out of that tree and was on the trail, chasing that deer down. Each time the deer would fall, Lance would run up on it, holding his deer tag high, and try to claim it. The deer seeing Lance's approach and fearing imminent death or maybe sensing Lance's suspected canine heritage would struggle to its feet and flee for another short distance before falling down again. More than one hunter claims to have seen,( or at least heard), Lance howl as he followed the injured animal. This sequence of run, chase and fall repeated itself over and over again for about two hours. Raider saw the deer and Lance pass beneath his stand at least twice. He says he thought about shooting but could not decide which one to shoot so he just sat still and watched as they made lap after lap, covering every inch of our hunting grounds, time after time.

Eventually the deer tired of this game and crossed the property line onto the land of a neighbor. Lance decided it was time to take some further action, chasing the deer and waving his deer tag at the it had not made it die. The deer was at least seventy-five yards out in front of Lance in the neighbors field. Lance opened up on the deer with his rifle spraying lead all around the beast. The deer fell to the ground from exhaustion but was not hit by any of the bullets. Obviously some of the lead came "way too close" to the angry hunter who exited the woods on the neighbors property and confronted Lance in the center of the field after Lance had climbed the fence and entered the posted property of another. I am not saying he should have given up pursuit on the animal when it crossed the property line andfell over but we always obtain permission before entering the property of another, a quick phone call when the animal is obviously down is certainly in order. I respect the property rights of others and firmly expect the same. After his communication from the individual he was shooting toward, Lance wandered around the neighbors field for a bit, and then finally went up to the deer which tried to rise and run. At this point he shot the animal in the head. The deer gave up. He tried to convince me that he shot it in the head when he was rapid firing at the other hunter but eye witnesses say otherwise. Eventually Raider hauled out Lance's trophy for him on the four-wheeler. Raider, in a fit of pity, had field dressed the deer for him last deer season. I overheard Lance say to Raider, about five times;

"You're that guy that had the real sharp knife last year. I've idolized you all year long about how good you were with that sharp knife. "Eventually, it filtered in that Raider's sharp knife was going to remain in its sheath this year. We loaded his deer into his 1978 white over red Ford truck with no license plates and off he went, threatening, I mean promising, to come back the next day so I could tow his dead go-cart out of the woods and load it for him.

He showed up the next day about 11:00am. I pulled his go-cart out for him after he tied his/someone's climbing stand, (where did he get that stand, did he steal it?), onto the roll bar. Someone snapped a picture of me as I pulled up to Lance's truck still towing the go-cart. After loading it, he did not leave. He started peering at my muzzle loader, walking around and around it. Finally he asked me to explain about how it worked. I am no expert but did my best. The last thing he said before he drove away was, "I'll see you a lot next year, cause I'm gonna start bow hunting here too."

Sometimes I almost feel guilty because as I was explaining the ins and outs of muzzle loading rifles I accidentally told him if he bought a muzzle loader be sure to use smokeless powder and fill the barrel all the way to the top leaving just enough room for the projectile to sit on top of the powder without poking out, almost. I did tell him that you should never shoot a muzzleloader within a hundred feet of another person. I also assured him that if he followed my instructions one box of round balls would last him a long time, possibly forever.

First Bowhunt
Cliff Claven
First Bowhunt - 10/2/00
Cliff Claven (Kansas)

For the past few years, I've been having this nagging feeling that I needed to take up bow hunting. I had a compound bow I bought second-hand twelve years ago, but I just never got around to putting the necessary time into shooting it.

When we decided to move to Kansas, I knew this was the year. I have shot hundreds of arrows through the bow. I took archery lessons from the local proshop. At first, it seemed I would never master the bow. But I did.

Last night I could hardly get to sleep anticipating my first bow hunt in Kansas. When the alarm went off, I dove out of bed, gathered my gear, and headed out side. Having the benefit of scouting from my front window, I knew exactly where the deer move. There is a little wooded hillside overlooking a tractor path where I see deer most mornings. Although full of trees, none are big, so I built a little blind of native grasses. It is actually quite concealing. It is also only 100 yards or so out my back door.

I walked outside and the coyotes were howling up a storm. Even though I was hunting in my "backyard," it felt wild. I got to my little blind and sat on a camo seat waiting the hour until legal shooting time. Barred owls hooted. The stars still shone bright in the night. It was hunting season again. I can't believe I waited this long to bow hunt!

Shooting hours begin one half hour before sunrise. About five minutes before legal time, I could make out movement in the field. Everything had that "black and white" look yet without the sun. Three deer. I saw one lift its head. Even in that faded light I saw antlers. Big antlers. Then the deer put its head down and it looked like it didn't have antlers. Was I seeing things?

The deer faded from view. It was now shooting time. I waited quietly. Ten minutes passed. Then I heard crunching, not on the tractor trail where I suspected, but in the woods behind me. I stood up and slowly swung around. The wind was all wrong. But the crunching was getting closer.

Deer. Antlers. Lots of antlers. Holy shit, this is a big damn deer and he's walking right past me! The only way I can describe the rack is "high." High tines, lots of antler. He was a true trophy. When he raised his head, it just looked like his antlers towered over him. What an awesome animal. I have seen 4 bucks around here that I consider trophies, one of which is a monster. I believe this one was bigger than all four of them.

I have never been so close to a trophy buck. But surely he would smell me...and I had yet to draw the bow! He was now within ten yards. Standing broadside. No brush. I can't believe this. I draw the bow. He doesn't flinch. In fact, he begins feeding!!! I mentally prepare for the shot and...

Just a note here. I have an issue with over-priced hunting/fishing gear. I have long considered it just one big marketing ploy to convince people that they need to spend more on gear than necessary. To fish some of the most famous trout streams outside the Rockies, I used a $40 fly rod. I am willing to bet I caught more fish than most of the Orvis warriors. On overseas hunting trips, I carried ammo that cost $7 a box. Why am I telling you this? Well, my archery instructor told me to put new sights on them. They were the same second-hand junk that had been on the bow for twelve years. However, I shot well with those sights. Consistently. "Buy the best you can afford," my instructor said. I thought it was another marketing ploy. I suspect you see where this story is leading.

As I pulled back and looked through my peep, I could see hair but absolutely no sight! In the low light, they were not showing up. I could see zilch, nothing, nada. It was just one big blur. I couldn't take the shot with confidence, so I wouldn't take the shot.

And that buck stood there, feeding. There was rustling behind him as two smaller bucks approached. One looked to be a six and one a small spike. They stopped and suddenly the medium one let out a WHIFF, a loud deer snort. The big one lifted his head, and just stared at me. He didn't run, didn't flinch, just stared. We looked at each other.

He was still king for the day. Finally, he decided something was wrong and took off with quite a racket. I sat down and then just started shaking. Damn, damn, damn, I thought. But then, and I am being honest here, I was just overcome by this feeling that I had just experienced something incredible. As most people slept, or sat in traffic, I had this encounter. Not to sound corny, but I was happy to be alive. I have not been able to stop thinking about it all day.

No more deer came by. I came in the house, got a shower and headed to the college to teach writing. To top it off, as I pulled out the driveway, a bobcat walked across the road in front of me. I stopped and watched it for a little while.

The bow season just began. I have two months to hunt. Maybe I will never see him again, maybe I will. Hope springs eternal. Just knowing he is out there is enough. I can't wait for tomorrow.

I think I may have to invest in better sights, though.

Opening Day 2000
Opening Day 2000 - 10/2/00
Carnivore (Virginia)

I arrived at my stand a little late Saturday morning but nonetheless, I was in the woods and that is where I love to be. I replaced my field points with my broad heads and put the arrows in the quiver attached to my bow. It was a little cold so I put on my jacket then my backpack, grabbed my bow and went out to the tree stand. It was a very crisp morning. One that is perfect for bow hunting. The anxiety was killing me. God I love this.

A short walk and I was at the tree stand. I tied my bow to the string and climbed up the tree. I strapped myself in and got situated. Then about 30yards away I saw her. Her head was down as if she was eating and did not seem to spot me. I had one problem. My bow was still on the ground. I decided to risk it. I pulled the bow up slowly. There was a good chance I would not be spotted since the bow was on the other side of the tree that the doe was on.

It took a long 3 minutes but I finally had my bow. My heart was racing as I untied the string, put on my release aid, and knocked an arrow. Over a period of what seem liked an eternity, I turned my body so I could get a proper shot. The doe had not moved much and still was about 30 yards away. I drew my arrow, aimed and thought... (it can't be this easy). I breathed out and slowly pressed the release aid trigger. TWANG! The arrow flew and hit right on the mark.

The doe fell over and did not move at all? Spine shot? I immediately got down and walked over to her. I pulled the arrow out of the foam look alike target and said to myself.... I can't wait until opening day.

A Puppy, Teal & Me
Puppy, Teal, & Me - 10/1/00
Bruiseasy (Iowa)

Last weekend was the opening day of early duck season in Iowa. It was also my9 month old Lab's, Louise, first day out with real guns and real birds. She is a small yellow lab. So small that as a puppy I wanted to take her back to the breeder but I "gave" her to my wife for Xmas and she bawled like a baby when I told her that. (this year I'm giving her a new shotgun)

Anyway, she has worked out great. Her only goal in life is to retrieve. She is crazy about it. I have the dummy hanging on the wall of the garage. When I let her out of the kennel she runs over and stares at it. If I put it in my pocket and take her to the park she won't run around but just walks beside me and looks at my pocket. If I throw it in the water she leaps off the bank and lands 5ft out in the lake and whines all the way to it. I have her working with hand signals and stopping on a whistle. She's still a puppy and not always as steady as she should be but she's a goer.

There is a public hunting area about an hours drive from my house called Riverton. One side you can take motor boats into and they have rental blinds. The other side is walk in only or row boats. It is just the greatest duck hunting spot you ever saw. In the summer they plant part of it in corn and the rest is just weeds. Then in the fall they flood it, corn fields and all. The water is 3 or 4 feet high and there are lots of pot holes and channels where you can put out decoys.

Lou and I went down on Friday night and slept in the back of the truck. At around 3:30am we headed out to find a place to pass shoot. The place was already getting crowded! Some people were already out in the marsh with their decoys out. You could see their flashlights twinkling in the dark. The dikes had people all over them, some laying on lawn chairs because they had been there all night.

We picked out a spot and as the sun came up you could see a guy standing every 30 yds or so. It was a cloudy day with a low sky and although you could shoot at 6:43, no shots were fired at that time due the darkness. Then you heard a shot, then two and suddenly the war was on. Teal were everywhere! Thousands of them. You'd see them coming and take a bead and then see some closer and take a bead and by the time your were done screwing around they were gone or you took a "hope and poke" at one

I dropped one out in front of the dike and waded out with Lou swimming behind. I gave her the "dead bird" call and she went to looking and pretty soon she swam over to me with her first ever bird, a blue wind teal, in her mouth. DADDY WAS PROUD!

We waded on out into the marsh and shot several more birds and she found the mall. A teal came streaking around me left to right and as I twisted to keep up with him, my feet got tangled up in a root and I fell into the slime and filled my hip waders up with marsh water. But hey, That's duck hunting! Another teal came in over my head and I dusted him. As he swung around a small tree I fired again and missed. I looked down and the Benelli was empty and so was my shell vest.

I waded back to the two friends who had drove down to hunt with me and they were both out of shells too. And they started with two boxes each! The ducks were still flying everywhere and no matter how much whining we did no one would loan us some more shells, the dirty bastards!

I walked down the dike and visited with a fellow there with his 14yr old son. The boy had four teal and had shot 55 times. He had 25 shells left for his 20 ga and he was gonna get his two ducks for his limit of 6. You talk about getting a kid interested in hunting! If you can take him out and get him 50 shots at game in an hour and a half he's gonna be hooked!

Lou and I watched for awhile and then we headed back to the truck. She was a pooped pup. We had 5 teal in the bag and lots of stories to tell momma when we got home. I cleaned the teal and they went in the crock pot for supper. Lou got a special can of Alpo for her good work. All and all, it was just about as good a day as you can have!

The next day I went back with my 7yr old Chocolate lab, Emmy and we limited out by 9:30. We were standing by the truck and 7 guys came walking out with 42teal. It was great weekend of duck hunting!

The Chip off the Old Block's Big Gator
A Chip off the Old Block's Big Gator -8/4/00
Gator (Florida)

My son and his buddies decided they would go gator hunting last night. When they arrived at my house to get the boat and equipment, we went over all the equipment to see that they had everything. I knew from what he said that he intended to go and look for a very large gator he had seen last week.

I started going through the equipment and began adding extras. More ropes, extra harpoon, more tape, extra snares and tie ropes. He just kept telling the old man that he has everything he needed and kept harassing me about being overly concerned. (Obviously he does not have near the experience the old guy does, lucky for him. I guess we have to watch out for them no matter what the number of years they are on earth.)

Now, one thing I must admit, I'm still very nervous every time he pulls out the driveway going on a hunt. Anyway, as they prepared to leave, Libby began to try and talk them into taking our video camera. They were very superstitious that if they took it they would not do any good on the hunt. Finally, after much coercement from Libby and myself, they agreed to take it. (Now they are very thankful we talked them into it.)

Anyway, it was my son Mike, his new wife Laura, and 2 of his buddies. They left and we went inside to begin the long night of worry. We finally got to sleep about midnight and the next thing I remember is the telephone ringing. This is not uncommon during gator season and could mean anything, but since my son is out in the night with a bunch of monsters, the old guy immediately thinks the worst.

Sure enough it is Mike calling and says "Dad, I need help. "Now I'm wide awake with my mind racing ninety to nothing and waiting to here the bad news. "What's wrong son?" I look at the clock and it's 3:00am. All I can think is, please God don't let him be hurt too badly. Then he says "Dad I've caught a monster gator, 13'+ and I am on the way home with him. I'll need you to help me get him unloaded because I caught him alive."

Now, all this time he has been hunting for me, he can't seem to break the 12'mark on gators. This has been his goal for some time now so I know he is truly pumped up. "Great job son, I'll see you when you get here."

A short time later and he pulls in the driveway. Libby and I go out and sure enough, here is one very large alligator plus 2 others between 8-9'. The adrenalin is still surging through their veins and they can hardly tell us what happened. First thing they said however was thanks for making them take the camera. They got the entire hunt on film!

When we finished getting the gators unloaded and squared away, we went in the house and plugged in the video. At the same time I made a copy. I'll tell you what, he had one hell of an exciting hunt! It wasn't one of those wham bam done and gone hunts. They had to put the sneak on for a very long time. This just gets the adrenalin flowing more and more.

By the time he finally darted the gator he was PUMPED! In the video you can see their knees shaking and they are all doing the nervous laughter and once they see the head for the first time, they begin to tell each other, with expletives, just how big this M-----F----- is!

Mike finally has to sit down to work the rope as his knees have gone out on him. They were shaking too much for him to stand up! You really don't understand the feelings running through you when you have an animal this size, who could literally swallow you whole, coming up biting the side of the boat on the other end of a rope you are holding in your hands. It is awesome.

I've talked with him today and he is still pumped up. I did mention the fact to him that he still hasn't captured a 12 footer yet. He just smiled. I guess that goal has now taken a backseat. I've never been more proud of him and I've told him so. He is very safety conscious and very skilled at doing this. Of course the way I look at it is that since I trained him, I caught this big one by proxy.

Oh yeah, by the way, he also thanked me for putting the extra equipment in the boat for him. Seems they had to use every single item the old guy provided for them. I guess there just isn't any substitute for experience, huh?

Oh yeah, the gator measured 13' 1" with about 4-5 inches of tail missing. Weighs about 800 pounds. The largest for me so far was 13' 7". Boy, that was close. If that tail wasn't missing I might have lost my record to my son. I guess that wouldn't be so bad though. I'd be mighty proud to give that one to him. He deserves it.

Bear Hunt in SK
Big Sky
Bear Hunt in SK - 6/12/00
Big Sky (Montana)

Here's a basic recap of the hunt. Arrived Sunday and it was raining cats and dogs big time. The road between Grenfell and Stoughton SK, is straight out of hell. It's the worse most pot holed road I've ever been on. I vowed to personally take a leak on that road on the way home. I kept that promise btw, 3 times in fact. Anyway I was just glad to finally be there and that my 4 Runner hadn't shaken to pieces.

Monday was only partly cloudy but windy. I went to my stand around 4:00pm and stayed until after 10:00pm. The wind died down around 8:45pm and I thought I'd see a bear for sure. No dice, didn't even see a chipmunk. The only thing that came in was a ruffed grouse and then it didn't even stay long.

Tuesday Larry wanted to check another bait before he put me on my stand so we went and looked at it. It looked real good. All the barrels were tipped over. There was some big bear crap, and a really impressive trail leading into the bait site. He asked me if I wanted to hunt this site or the one I was on the night before. It was a tough choice as I really wanted to try my original site one more time because I knew that a colored bear had been seen there two weeks before, but this new site was really smoking. I told him I'd try my original stand one more night and if I didn't see what I wanted I would like to hunt the new stand the rest of the week. I just sort'a had a gut feeling about my original stand even though I hadn't seen anything on it yet. However as I was sitting in it I kept second guessing myself, mostly because that other stand was so hot, plus it was brand new and he hadn't ever put a hunter on it before.

I didn't get to beat myself up mentally for very long though. I got in my stand around 4:30pm and at 6:09 a bear showed up. It was in real thick stuff and at first I thought it was just another black so I didn't even pick up my rifle. As it approached it passed a small opening and I thought I saw brown, so I grabbed my rifle. I watched for cubs, couldn't see any, noticed that it was a decent adult bear and figured it was probably a boar judging by it's head and attitude. Looked for rubs, and didn't see any. This all happened within about a minute or less. I probably should of looked a little harder, but it appeared to be exactly what I wanted and so I made up my mind to shoot. Then it was just a matter of waiting for it to present a shot.

At exactly 6:10 I pulled the trigger on my 7mmMag. The bear took off like it hadn't been hit and I was sitting there dumbfounded thinking how could I miss, I couldn't miss a shot like that! Then I heard a bunch of branches crashing and 3 death moans. I did a little happy dance in the stand, got my stuff together and went tracking the bear. I found him shortly (he went about 50 yards or so.) He has a beautiful cinnamon/brown coat that turns into a dark burgundy brown on his feet and forearms. I couldn't be more pleased.

I took photos and then climbed back in my stand. I had some lemon drop candy I suck on to keep from getting a dry throat. I put 3 in my mouth and decided to chew them because I wasn't worried about scaring any bear snow that I had mine on the ground. However it filled my mouth with sticky, sugar spit and I didn't want to swallow it. So I leaned over and targeted a tree root below my stand. Nailed in dead center btw, I was so impressed with my accuracy I sent one more. Nailed it again. Forgot all about it until around 8:50 when a little 100 pound black with a pretty little white V on its chest showed up. It walked underneath my stand stood up on its hind legs leaned against my tree and looked right at me. Then dropped back to all fours and started licking my lemon drop spit off the tree root. Totally gross, but it seemed to like much for theory about human scent, eh?

That was the only other bear I saw and we got my bear out late that night. I didn't get to bed until 2:00am and I'm still groggy, but I sure had fun. On the way up and back from Hudson Bay I also saw one wolf, two coyotes, one red fox, one bull moose, and lots of whitetail deer. It was a very fulfilling trip except it was too darn short!