The Pheasant Hunt

Brad and I had planned to open our State’s Pheasant season with our friend Rusty Williams in the Canyon, Texas area, on December 1. Brad’s cancer changed those plans and December 1 found him just finishing his first round of chemo, so we changed the date of the hunt to December 22.

Our drive up Highway 84 to Roscoe where we connected with I-27 to Canyon was uneventful and only marred by the miles of wind farms around Abilene.

The picture, taken from my Suburban west of Abilene, shows almost 20 windmills, all pumping out electricity. We saw hundreds of thousand Geese and Ducks on the trip but none around the windmills. But don’t worry, “experts” tell us they have no effect on wildlife. If you believe that, I have a bridge I’d like to sell to you!

Shirtsleeve weather greets us at 5:00 PM when we rolled into Rusty’s drive way. His smile of greeting changed to a frown when he told us, “Boys, we’ve got some weather coming in tomorrow. Maybe it’ll miss us over in Friona!” We had noticed a winter storm that had formed in the 4 corners area and was moving east. Maybe it would miss!

Saturday morning as we headed toward Friona and before we passed through Hereford, as the sign would announce, “The Cowboy Capital of the World”, the full fury of the winter storm slammed into us. Winds 45 MPH and gusting higher, blowing snow, 24 degrees temperature and ice, 4 degrees wind chill, but we are going Pheasant hunting!

Beside a playa lake, originally formed centuries ago as a “Buffalo wallow” by huge herds of American Bison wallowing in the mud, eight fools, er ”hunters, climbed out of snow covered 4WD trucks and volunteered to be either walkers or blockers. Brad wisely choose the role as a blocker.

We headed into the cut grain field and pressed on. Bundled up so much, I was still colder than I have ever been. I was trying to figure out how I would raise my shotgun to shoot, but our first walk only produced one hen and one Coyote that Brad “passed” on figuring a long shot with #5’s, and with the wind and snow, his chances of a hit were small.

After our first half-mile walk, we were all frozen and met behind one of the trucks and all agreed that it was just too cold to continue and that we should all go back to the local cafe and await better weather. The vote was unanimous!

Ordering coffee, chips, hot sauce and chili con queso and enjoying the warmth, soon the snow stopped and the wind “let up” to around 30. In less less than an hour, we were headed to another playa , this one deeper with some heavier cover and good natural, prairie grass. As the picture below shows, much of the snow had blown away.


We would set up the blockers and cover a swath of the playa, move the blockers and cover another. The hunting conditions weren’t that bad, 28 degrees and 30 MPH wind. and, as long as we didn’t walk directly into the wind, we were OK. By 1:30 PM we had covered the entire playa and had only one shot at a rooster. We saw 25 or 30 hens and held out fire and several roosters flushed wildly, way out in front of us.

Our host, Rusty, said on opening day his group had limited out in this playa, but now, we should call it a day, and plan on being back on December 1, 2008. Brad and I accepted his kind invitation on the spot!

Rusty Williams (6’4″), below, and I enjoy a break from the wind. Rusty, a Texas panhandle native and former cowboy, was in the Army with Brad and they have remained in friends and have stayed in contact over the years.


Brad held up fine and we thoroughly enjoyed the hunt, but I have never been as cold as I was in the first 30 minutes. Four degrees wind chill and snow, was almost too much for me!

Anyway, as my Dad once told me, “Boy, if you got your limit each time out, it would be called shooting instead of hunting!”

Haney’s Ranch – A Near Miss

Gus, and Rooster, right, who plays a major part in this story.

My first trip to Rick’s ranch set the tone for all of my future visits and I’m introduced, in grand style, to the fabulous hunting, the inherent dangers and to Rick’s unnatural being.

Arriving at the ranch, after a six-hour drive from Houston, it is too late for much of a Quail hunt so we decide to go out and try to shoot a wild Hog. Driving for a couple of miles to where the road ended at a creek, Rick and I got out of his truck, crossed the creek and he then sent me up a hill to watch for a Hog in the small valley below and he walks to the next hill and takes up his position.

Haney’s Ranch

I am a Christian! I don’t believe in ghosts. I have never seen a flying saucer either. But, this post begins a series of stories about some strange encounters that I have had with “its” or “somethings”, maybe strange, non-earthly beings, I don’t know? I haven’t touched a “whatever”, but I have heard one and felt one. Bubba Broussard even saw and chased one!

All of the following events took place over a 10 year span, in the same, old ranch house that was originally built in the early 1900’s. Out on that ranch, Haney Ranch, I have seen an ancient Indian pictograph, depicting a violent encounter and death. The ranch was two thousand acres of the roughest, toughest wildlife habitat you could ask for, lots of Quail, Doves, Ducks, Deer, Coyotes, Scorpions, Rattle Snakes and Wild Hogs, and I loved every minute of it!

Maybe it was me being around the “whatever”? Maybe it is nothing? Maybe it is something? Quien sabe?

More stories about Haney’s Ranch follow.

State Records Make Good Eatin’

Dewey Stringer called and wanted me to go offshore with him the coming Saturday to check out his new boat; a twenty-three foot, deep vee, cuddy cabin, with a two hundred horsepower, outboard motor. Without being coerced, I accepted the invitation!

Our plan was to head east out of the jetties to a new rig, five miles past the Heald Banks and fish in about eighty feet of water. Dewey said he had heard that some big Kingfish were in the area. He was right!

His new boat ran fine for the one-hour trip to the new rig. The rig was about a hundred foot
square and trolling around it, we found the water to be between 80 and 90 foot deep. We are the only boat so we tied up and the current drifted the boat and our cigar minnow baits in an easterly direction.

We caught several average size Kings, fifteen to twenty pounds, and then, I had a hard, jolting strike and the fish took off to my left, north. The run was powerful, more than any other King I’d hooked before and soon the fish has “spooled” my twenty pound line, and I’m down to three turns and can see where the end is tied to spool.

Dewey untied us from the rig and as he started the engine, we were drifting east and the fish was heading north. He headed toward the fish, allowing me to get back some line and the fish then headed west, circling the rig. I know he was going to “cut me off” on the rig so Dewey sped up and the fish headed north back toward us. As we say in Texas, “This was a Goat rodeo!”

I’m thinking, this is some fish, who knows what variety? Dewey says, “He’s been on for twenty minutes. What do you think it is?” I had no idea, but finally I started working the big fish back slowly toward the boat. Noticing we’d drifted almost a mile from the rig, I “rasseled” the big fish up to the boat. “What a King!” we both exclaimed!

Dewey only had one gaff and no flying gaff, so we decided that he would gaff it toward its head and I’ll, while holding the new rod high to keep the line tight, grab it at the junction of its body and tail. We coordinated our efforts; hauled the fish into the boat, applied the coup-de-grace with a short billy club, and heaved it into Dewey’s big cooler, except the head and tail extended outside of the sixty inch cooler!

Exclaiming, “This fish is longer than I am. It must weigh sixty-five or seventy pounds.” Dewey confirmed my comments and then, trying to fit it into the cooler, and not thinking, we cut off the King’s tail and head and tossed them overboard. Now it fitted!

After the excitement, as we relaxed, our estimate was that the King, did indeed, weigh between sixty-five and seventy pounds! We had no camera and took no pictures, however, we ate it! Kings, with their firm meat, are very tasty fried, broiled, boiled in crab boil, grilled or cooked in a fish soup/stew. To remove the fishy taste, all traces of the blood line, on each side of the fish, must be removed!

This fish may have been the third state record that I have eaten. That may be a state record too!

What A Duck Hunt

Bill Paxon and I met on a Friday night at our Duck/Fishing lease near Danbury, Texas, ate a steak at the local cafe, that was a steak I still remember, and turned in early in preparation the next day’s Duck hunt. Up well before the sun, we had bacon and eggs prepared by Mrs. Atkins, the wife of our leases’ guide/caretaker, stepped outside and were greeted by a calm, bright, early morning with the new day just a strip of orangeish light on the eastern horizon.

We went through the motions of loading my decoys, I now had 24 plastic ones, and our guns and followed them into the skif, started the engine and putted out to our Duck blind, all the while, knowing that such a bright, clear, blue bird day would lead to at best, not many Ducks flying. There would be a flurry about shooting time and, after that, it would stop completely.
We “hit the nail on the head” and had one flight of Green Wing Teal buzz our decoys right at shooting time and we obliged by shooting 4 holes in the sky. We waited for 45 more minutes, saw no Ducks and decided to go Bass fishing. We started the motor, picked up the decoys, putted back to the dock, oiled and put our guns up, got out our rods and reels, replaced the outboard with a trolling motor, started fishing and 50 yards from the dock and Bill soon picked up a small Bass.

In the old picture, Bill holds up my 3 for 3 on Bass. The bad, old picture shows the smallest of the 3 is mostly hidden by the 2 bigger fish.

Bill was using a motor oil colored, worm, rigged Texas style and I had on my trusty, yellow Piggy Boat, spinner bait. A few casts after Bill had scored, I had a hard strike and was into a real nice Bass. Two jumps later I “lipped” it, hefted it up and estimated its weight at 3 pounds. Another cast into the same spot, another hard strike and I was tied up with a real nice one. No jumps, but several “wallows” later and one nice run and I “lipped” this one, hefted it up and guessed, 5 pounds! Wow, two in a row, so I cast back into the same spot and was greeted with a bone jarring strike. This one pulled out all the stops; runs, “wallows” and 3 jumps later, I “lipped” it, hefted it up and guessed 4 pounds!

Wow, 3 casts in a row, 3 nice Bass, 3,4 and 5 pounds and Bill just sat and watched the show.

This wasn’t a bad Duck hunt, anyway!

The Duck Hunting Just Got Harder

Telling two of my friends of the excellent shooting my Dad and I had enjoyed, we planned a hunt for the coming weekend. The two friends were, Jim Bennett and Mel Peavey, like me, slightly deranged, fearless and game for anything. All of these traits would be needed before our hunt ended.

There was one drawback to our planned hunt. Rice Institute (now University) was playing T.U. (still TU) at 2:00 PM the afternoon of our hunt so we would have to hurry back, try to change clothes, and, for the first time, try to sneak into Rice’s brand new stadium. We had friends from our high school playing on both teams and didn’t want to miss the game.

The morning of our hunt dawned warm and calm. Up at 4:00 AM, load our hunting gear into our 1942 Plymouth, kiss my Mom and Dad goodbye and we’re off. I’ll add at this time, little did we know that the season’s first “norther” was bearing down on the Houston area.

The trip to the Cedar Bayou Bait and Boat Rental Co. was uneventful and we rented a wooden boat and put my outboard motor on it, and for some reason, without our asking, the attendant added two long, heavy oars. We thought nothing of this, but later would thank him for his foresight. We loaded the boat as the motor chugged to life and up the bayou we went, finding the second lake, with the duck blind in the middle, put out my twelve brand new, plastic decoys, guided the boat into the blind and waited for the ducks.

“Here come two Blue Bills at 12 o’clock”, I whispered as Jim rose up and shot both and then the “norther” hit. Immediately it went from calm to blowing twenty-five to thirty-five miles an hour. In an instant the temperature seemed to drop to freezing, the sky clouded up and a light mist started falling. No worries from the three intrepid hunters, we had our waders and football parkas (but no sense)!

No Ducks flying in this weather, where last week my Dad and I had our limits in one hour. No sensible duck, or human, would be out in this stuff! We decided, since no ducks were flying, we would motor out and retrieve the two ducks Jim had shot. Mel said, “Why don’t we call it a day. There’s no ducks and I don’t want to miss the game”. We agreed to pick up my twelve new, plastic decoys and get the two ducks on the way out.

Motoring out to the last duck, we picked it up and tried to turn into the small channel leading out to the main bayou. The fierce wind hit us driving us on to the bank and shearing the pin to the propeller. Of course, we did not have a spare shear pin, and up to that time, not sure what one was. Now, no motor, two miles away from the bait camp, the wind howling, mist blowing side ways, but we were still not worried we have two oars!

What we didn’t know then was that when a very strong “norther” hit our part of the Texas coast, most of the water quickly blows out of the bays and bayous! The wind had blown us into the bank of the channel to the bayou while at the same time it was blowing the water out of the little channel, but I said, “Don’t worry. I’ll jump out of the boat and pull us out to the channel”. Out I go and up to my thighs in sticky, clinging mud! Back into the boat for me and then we all realize were stuck up here. If we can just get to the main channel we can row our way back.

The ordeal began as we tried to get back to the main channel. The only means of propulsion we had was to balance the oars on the transom of the boat, stick them down into the mud and pull the oar handles back toward us. We took turns “speeding” along about twelve to eighteen inches a pull. Talk about slow going!

We finally made it to the main channel and found it almost devoid of water and as soon as we would get the boat floating, the wind would blow it back on to the mud flat. We had no choice but to continue our “modified polling”, twelve to eighteen inches at a time.
After several hours we were able to begin rowing. Taking advantage of a bend in the bayou, we made better time since the wind was now at our back and wouldn’t blow us on to the mud flat. When we finally rowed into the Cedar Bayou Bait and Boat Rental Co. we were three, wet, tired teenagers. The camp’s proprietor greeted us with “Any trouble boys?” “Trouble, us? Not hardly.” we said under our breath. My last words at the bait camp were “Hurry up loading things guys, we’ve got a football game to go to!”

We made it to Rice Stadium by kickoff, snuck in as planned and watched TU whomp Rice 33-14.

The intrepid hunters made a decision not to hunt in Cedar Bayou for a while and to stick to chasing geese, on anybody’s property, on the Katy Prairie.

The Birthday Present

One of the original 12 plastic, decoys, on display on the gun rack in our old ranch house. Of the 12, 9 remain after 55 years of yoeman service!

In 1952, for my seventeenth birthday, my parents gave me twelve, plastic decoys, manufactured by the Animal Trap Co. Of America, Lititz, Penna. I wonder if they are still in business? These were the latest in hunting technology, twelve Mallard Duck decoys, six drakes and six hens, brightly colored and “almost guaranteed” to bring the Ducks in.

Having previously acquired both a Duck and Goose call, our neighbors wishing I had chosen other endeavors, daily gaining in Duck calling proficiency, and by coincidence, the Duck season just opening, my Dad was ready to go out with me and give my twelve, new plastic decoys their baptism of fire.

The place of our choice was one of the many small lakes near the mouth of Cedar Bayou, that originates between Dayton and Baytown, Texas and flows into Trinity Bay east of Baytown. Then, and now, a one-hour plus drive from our West University home. The area around the mouth of the bayou is still a most productive hunting and fishing venue.
Early on the Saturday morning of our hunt, my Dad and I rented a wooden skiff from the Cedar Bayou Bait and Boat Rental Co. (it still remains open to this day) and attached our new, 5 HP motor. We then motored about two miles up the bayou turning into the second lake, where one of Dad’s friends had built a blind, put out my twelve new, plastic decoys and proceeded to shoot our limits of Blue Bills and Red Heads!

My calling skills were expanded, since you call these diving Ducks with almost a squawk. We picked up my brand new, plastic decoys, retrieved the ducks, motored back, returned the boat, cleaned the ducks and drove home.

At the time, I said to my Dad, “This duck hunting, especially with my 12 new, plastic decoys is really something, and not too hard either.” My Dad just smiled.