Deer Watching, December 30, 2009

Our deer season, buck harvesting, is slipping away and will end one half hour after sunset, or 6:11 PM, January 3, 2010. Not settling for a young buck, I have held my fire, hoping the big ‘un comes along.

Monday morning, the 28th, just before sunrise, with the outside temperature hanging on twenty-three, too cold for me, I was looking out the kitchen window watching a doe when this young buck, tall rack, eight points with at least an eighteen inch spread, came out. He paid no attention as I dashed out to get some wood for the fire. Calling Layla, she enjoyed watching this fine, young, deer too! He wasn’t the big ‘un I’ve seen twice, but he’ll be pressing him next year.

Monday afternoon I was snuggled down into a cedar tree along a well used, trail when a spike ambled by. Passing on it because starting Thursday, we’ll have hunters (Grandkids), I didn’t see a big one, but maybe tomorrow?

Tuesday dawned cloudy and snowing! Our forecast was for rain all day, clouds, little wind, with the temp hovering around thirty-four. A nasty day! This was our third snow in a month and the deer will sit this out probably until Wednesday.

About this snow, this is central Texas, not Iowa. Am I going to have to get me a snow shovel?

Deer Watching, December 25, 2009

Not hunting on Christmas Day, sure enough at dusk/dark, with the wind calmed, out popped the does and yearlings. It was one of those times that I knew the deer would be moving and feeding. Thursday’s snow had almost all melted, the high winds had ended, temperatures were up to around forty and the deer were hungry.

This picture shows fourteen of the eighteen deer that were feeding in my field. There were four more to the left, but I couldn’t get them in. The closest ones were about a hundred yards beyond the fence, a real easy shot.

Logic says that, based on twenty-eight day cycles, all of these does haven’t been in estrus, so, where the does are, the bucks will be close by and that includes me on Saturday at dusk/dark!

No good, “shootable” buck was seen on Saturday PM!

A White Christmas

Thursday, as we were leaving home, a slight sprinkle of snow, our second of the year, driven by a big wind, was falling. The Christmas front had hit! Thinking to myself, If this snow keeps up, I could see my first white Christmas, never having been blessed with one in Virginia, Arizona, Georgia or my home, Houston

Layla and I drove south, pushed by the strong northwest wind, past Austin, to Buda and finished our Christmas shopping at Cabella’s. Before we left we called our Daughter, Laura, and she told us that it had been snowing all day in Goldthwaite

Driving home into the wind and keeping the speedo under sixty-five, we made fair time until we reached Lampassas, where it really started to snow, and with the temp, at thirty-two, it was sticking. The farther north we drove the temp continued to fall and by the time we reached home, snow covered the ground, and almost everything else.


At 5:30 PM with the temperature below thirty, I knew we were in for a white Christmas!


   Christmas morning dawned perfect. Snow everywhere, bright sunshine and twenty-three degrees! What a day!

Layla and I sat close to the stove in our great room, she with her coffee and me with my tea, and read the second chapter of Luke in our Bible, the story of our Saviors birth and early years. What a way to celebrate my first ever, white Christmas.

Merry Christmas, 2009

Tomorrow, on this most special day, take the time to stop and think what we are really celebrating. It’s not a celebration of the bright, shiny ornaments on the Christmas tree, not the presents stacked under the tree, not Santa’s “surprise” early morning visit to our houses, not the upcoming feast, none of these things.

We are celebrating the birth of our savior, Jesus Christ and the wonderful gift that our loving God sent to us over 2,000 years ago. He sent His Son, Jesus, his greatest gift, so that each of us might have forgiveness of our sins! Remember the reason for the season is Jesus!

Merry Christmas to everyone!

More Outdoors Pictures, December 22, 2009

My new PC runs on Windows 7 and my old one ran on XP and supported HP Image Zone. However, Windows 7, very clean for a new operating system, does not support Image Zone that I used to scan and file pictures that others sent to me. Yes, I could use a feature of Windows, but why worry with that? All I did was replace my new PC with my old one running, tried and true, XP and now I can scan pictures. All of this is a long way of saying that I haven’t been able to scan pictures for the last four weeks.

During this time folks still have been sending some very good outdoors pictures to me.

David Buck, a Nephew, on the right, bagged this nice one on his lease in Burnet County, the week before Thanksgiving!

Randy Pfaff woke up one morning and looked out of his kitchen window, and lo and behold, there stood a mountain lion! He got this “shot” of it.

Randy also sent me this picture of some “good” rattlers.

A Dual Scaring

The mountain lion pictured below, was shot on opening morning of Texas’ deer season just outside of Junction in Kimble County. The big, male was in prime condition.

Seeing the picture reminded me of a story that also took place in Kimble County, told to me by O.H. Buck, better known as “Pa-Paw” or “Buck”. In 1971, he was on a deer lease with a group of his friends. The lease was outside of Junction and was located in extremely rough, canyon country. His blind overlooked a canyon and the trail to it wound around the edge.

This particular afternoon he saw several nice bucks, but not the one he wanted. As he told me, “About dark thirty, I rounded up my gear and slipped out of the blind. The moon was half full giving me enough light to safely walk back to the camp house. Rounding a sharp curve in the trail, I came face to face with a mountain lion!”

“Wow, a cougar”, I exclaimed and he continued, “It scared the hell out of both of us! The cat jumped straight up and beat a hasty retreat and I turned around and ran back to the blind. After composing myself, I got out my flashlight and made a lot of noise going back to the camp house.”

Buck, a tough guy, later told me the cat had scared him so bad that he quit deer hunting for the rest of that season.

A Big, Big Goose

In December of 1956 we left our homes in West University, a west Houston suburb, well before first light for the thirty minute, drive to a rice field that we had permission to hunt on. After spending over an hour spreading out our decoys, Will Reynolds, a friend and neighbor, and I were laying along the edge of a levee in an eight hundred acre harvested rice field with a mud road bisecting it. The Katy prairie it was cold, with low hanging clouds and a steady north wind, providing us a day made for goose hunting.

In the far northwest corner of the field, probably five thousand geese had roosted the previous night and they now provided a serious impediment to our decoying efforts. We were doing our best to imitate these sounds and coax the six young snow geese to “come on in” and land with the large gaggle of geese, really our decoys, already on the ground, on our side of the large rice field.

This were not your normal goose decoy spread that you see now days with hundreds of large, full bodied, plastic and foam ones, geese “flying”, wings spinning rapidly, hunters dressed in white overalls, packing heavy, three and a half inch, magnum shotguns; but ours was newspapers, old diapers, piles of mud with goose feathers stuck into them and us with “early” camo parkas, green waders, packing, twelve gauge, pump shotguns with two and three-quarter inch, paper shells. But it worked for us!

Setting out the decoys wasn’t rocket science. Spread the diapers over clumps of rice, wrap a full sheet of newspaper so it looks like a goose head, set it on a clump of rice stubble, attach a glob of mud to each in order to hold them so the wind won’t blow them away and now you have a very usable goose decoy! The “mud” decoys were the easiest, just make a pile of mud and stick goose feathers into it, not like a porcupine, but slicked back like a goose.

Young geese make mistakes, and these six did, setting their wings and “falling”, looking like leaves drifting down from a tall tree, right into the decoys. Up we jumped, let loose on them and four tumbled to the ground. We picked them up and unceremoniously propped their heads up with rice stalks and added them to the decoy spread.

Later in the morning, with two speckle bellies down and added to the spread, Will and I noticed that the large gaggle of geese in the northwest corner of the field were agitated, some starting to take off, some up and circling and the entire group filling the air with a noisy cacophony of goose sounds. We snuggled down behind the levee and waited, and soon were rewarded with the sight of thousands of geese taking the air, and heading right for us!

Whispering last second instructions to Will, “Wait until the leaders have passed over us, then pick out a bird and shoot him before you get on the next one.” The noise of the approaching geese and the numbers of them were astounding as closer and closer they came. The leaders passed over us, the sound deafening, I shouted, “Take ‘em”, we both stood, shouldered our shotguns, we both had two additional shells stuck between the fingers of our left hands, and let go on the geese.

Picking out a huge Canadian, not over fifteen yards away from me, bigger than any goose I had ever seen, swinging, putting the barrel of the shotgun about two feet in front of the giant goose’s bill and shooting, the giant kept flying? Quickly shucking another shell into the chamber of the full choked, Model 12, I fired again, nothing? Shortening my lead on the giant, I fired my third and last shell, nothing?

Quickly reloading the two, back up shells, the giant goose being long gone, I acquired new targets, two snows stretching out for altitude and dropped them cleanly, probably forty yard shots. Looking over toward my accomplice, who was standing there shaking, I asked, “How many did you knock down?” He replied, “I shot five shells and never hit a bird. I got excited and shot into the flock on my first three, reloaded and just kinda’ shot twice at another goose. Nothing!”

As we picked up our “decoys”, the diapers, newspapers and goose feathers, I remarked, “Eight birds isn’t bad, but you should have seen the one that I took three shots at and missed. It was twice as big as the rest of the geese. I first thought it was a swan, but it had distinctive Canadian goose markings. I don’t know how I could have missed it?”

Driving home, we thought our eight goose day should have been at least a dozen, but when we got home, my Dad almost lectured us, saying, “Boys, whenever you can go out, on your own and get eight, nice geese, be thankful of that! I don’t want to hear anymore grumbling about it!” I said, “But Dad, I really messed up not getting that giant goose and I still don’t know how I missed three shots at fifteen yards.” My Dad replied, “Boy, that’s easy, at fifteen yards the pattern of your shotgun has probably a six inch diameter and the shot string length is probably ten inches at the most. It’s easy, you led the goose too much!”

Later that day, Wes and I were talking with a neighbor Dub Middleton, who hunted ducks and geese regularly with our Dads. He told us, “The giant Canadian goose that you missed was a Canadian alright, a Canadensis Maxima, the largest of the species and supposedly extinct since1922! However, several sightings of the giants have been reported during the past few years.”

Thinking out loud I replied, “Missing those three shots wasn’t so bad after all.”

Family Stories – More

Below, we pick up Howard Bryan’s tale of another turkey that succumbed to his muzzle loader. At the time of this story, Howard still lived on his farm in Appomattox County, Virginia.

“Turkey Stories
By Howard Bryan

A few years later I was headed to the back of our farm, hoping to get some tender venison for the freezer. Again I was carrying the flintlock. As I approached the edge of the mature oak woods that covered the Western part of the farm a flock of turkeys flushed, and flew to the West.

I thought that they would fly across the creek bottom behind the ridge where I flushed them and that they would go to the next ridge over, so I ran as quickly as possible to the Northern edge of that ridge. I had no sooner settled between a large oak and some thin cedar scrub when I heard the turkeys talking to each other. I did have time to get rid of the bright orange scarf I wear when moving about during hunting season before a doe and a young, slightly spotted fawn approached in company with the leading turkeys.

Now turkeys, with their keen eyesight and sensitivity to color; and deer, with their keen sense of smell and their acute hearing; are a bad combination for a hunter. Either will give an alarm, and everything close around the alerted animal will flee. Fortunately the slight breeze was in my face, and I had not walked into the area where the deer were moving, so scent was not a problem.

As I raised the rifle barrel the lead turkeys veered slightly away, just over the ridge, so all I could see were bobbing heads. The doe and her fawn saw the movement and froze. None of them spooked. The decision was, doe or turkey, since both were in season then.

I decided on the turkey, since I would have to shift about 30 deg. left to cover the deer, which was already alert. Sure enough, one turkey’s head and neck bobbed right into the line of the barrel. I aimed and shot, breaking the turkey’s neck. The distance wasn’t great, about 35 yards, but it was one of the most difficult shots I ever made; one that my wife still calls the luckiest shot she ever heard of. It’s difficult to impress some women!”

Goldthwaite Wins State

In the most exciting high school football game that I have ever seen, last Saturday, in Jones/AT&T Stadium, in Lubbock, the Goldthwaite Eagles, finishing the season at 15-0, won the Class A, Division 1, State football, championship! They beat the number one ranked, Canadian Wildcats, 29-25. Canadian had won back-to-back state championships, while Goldthwaite, state ranked number three, hadn’t won one since 1994.

Pundits, sports writers and those in the “know”, said that Goldthwaite, in their “old fashioned” wishbone formation couldn’t keep up in a scoring race with the high tech, spread offense of Canadian. But, football is a funny thing! Goldthwaite gained more yardage both rushing and passing than Canadian, and, and, passed for three touchdowns! Goldthwaite also had the edge in time of possession thirty-three and a half minutes to fourteen and a half! Goldthwaite lost no fumbles, suffered one interception and had only three penalties, while Canadian lost two fumbles, had two passes intercepted and had seven penalties.

Goldthwaite opened the season with a shutout victory over Collinsville and I forgot to take my camera to the game, so I didn’t mention it on Outdoor Odyssey. Sensing this could be a good year for the team, I didn’t want to jinx them, so I didn’t mention any of their games, but with eight shutouts, it was hard not to. These shutouts weren’t against “patsies” but state ranked, excellent football teams.

And, by the way, our Grandson, Colton, Goldthwaite’s middle linebacker, led the team in tackles for this big game, for the season too and, as a sophomore, was chosen second team All State!

Family Stories

Besides blogging, I have spent time researching my ancestors and particularly intriguing, was why my 2G Grandfather, John Bryan, sometime prior to 1847, changed his surname from Bryant to Bryan. Having drawn to a dead end trying to trace his forebearers I stumbled onto an old Bryan, family tree, then researching various wills, probates and other family trees, surmised that indeed, he changed his name.

Posting a story on Ancestry about the name change, soon I received a note from Howard Bryan in Virginia thanking me for clearing up a similar problem he had with John’s Father, Benjamin Bryant. It turned out that Howard and I, besides a common ancestry, enjoy hunting.

He sent me two excellent, stories about his turkey hunting exploits with a muzzle loader! Each is a neat story and I want to share the first with everyone.

“Turkey Stories

One year while we were living on our farm in Appomattox County, VA, I was doing taxes on the last day of deer season. Needless to say, it was an irritation. While the old computer was digesting the expenses for the winery we were operating at the time, I was preparing to clean my flintlock rifle so I could put it away until the next year. It still had a charge in the barrel from the previous day’s hunt. As I was about to discharge the weapon to clear it, I decided that taxes could wait for a few minutes, and I walked into the woods about 200 yards from the winery.

I went into the woods a few yards to a small stream and leaned against a tree where I had been seeing deer. In a very few minutes I heard some scratching, and a turkey flew down off a ridge to the South and landed in a tree. She was followed by several more – I counted eleven in all, and all of them were looking at me, in my blue sweater and red shirt. The closest bird was about 110 yards away, which is a very long shot for a flintlock, even one as good as the one I was carrying.

Jim Hash of Appomattox County, had made the rifle for me a few years before, and he had stocked it with part of a wild cherry log from our farm that I had given him. It is a .50-caliber weapon with a 41-inch half round, half octagon barrel rifled for round ball. I have shot 3-shot groups at 50 yards with that rifle that overlapped like a clover leaf. All the mountings are iron except for a thumb piece of coin silver so it is a real hunting rifle, not a flashy thing.

I watched the turkeys for a minute, trying to decide how to sneak up on them while they watched. Finally I decided to be brazen about it, and walked towards them, zig-zagging my path, whistling a tune. I was able to nearly halve the distance before the nearest bird started acting anxious. By the time she started shifting like she was going to fly, I was behind a large poplar that served as a rest for the rifle. I needed that rest, for I was no longer exactly calm.

The 13-lb hen started moving at the flash from the pan, but the ball caught her at the wing roots, and she fell at the base of her pine tree. Needless to say, I went back to the taxes with a better frame of mind once the bird had been cleaned.”