Four Limits

Eldred Lawrence was a friend of Buck, my former father-in-law and we had been acquaintances in years past, but hadn’t seen one another in 8 or 10.  Purely by chance, on a Saturday afternoon in 1990, he and I met up.  At the time he was looking for another gun on a 2,000 acre, quail/dove lease down in Crystal City, Texas.  The next day Layla and I drove down, looked it over and quickly decided it would work out fine for us.

Being on the lease for three years, from first hunt to last, this was some of the consistently best shooting I have ever experienced!  It was a three-hour plus drive from our home in Cypress, so I could leave at 5:00 AM and be hunting by 8:30, then be back by 8:30 PM and, thinking back, gas prices were around $.75 per gallon.

In January of 1992, Randy, and I had planned a hunt to tie in with quail season and the special dove season and, wouldn’t you know it, one of us had a conflict.  He had to be back to Cypress by 6:00 PM for an event at his church.  This past summer, Randy had received, and accepted, the call to enter the ministry and had just entered Southwest Baptist Seminary in Ft. Worth, so we decided to leave early and try to get away right after lunch.

Just outside of Crystal City. Gus and I are “on point” and walking in on the birds.

We arrived early, it was a chilly morning for south Texas, and along with Gus, my Brittany, were hunting as the sun came up.  The shooting was good and within an hour we had half limits of quail.  We were hunting around an old WW II, Quonset hut full of milo seeds.    Milo is a sorghum grass that heads out and is harvested for cattle food and both white wing and mourning dove, along with quail, find the seeds irresistible.  As we walked toward the hut we could see the doves swarming around it.

Randy picked a spot at one end of the hut and I got on the other, the shooting was fast and furious, so we took a break and counted up, both of us had our limits.  We stopped shooting and both said this was too easy!

Gus was worn out from retrieving doves.  He would sit by my leg, run out and get each bird I shot, then run back and let me take it from his mouth.  He was coughing and spitting out feathers because when a dog picks up a dove, his teeth will cause the feathers to come out in his mouth. Since we had a time limit and our dog was worn out, I revived him with a can of dog food and soon he was ready to hunt some more.

Randy and I enjoyed the break and by 10:00 AM we were chasing a bevy of “blues”, (scalies or scaled quail), noted runners and the race was on.  The bob’s on this lease were excellent runners, but the “blues” left them in the dust.  This covey ran us and left us panting, but we thinned their numbers by 6 birds.  And soon, we ran across another covey of bobs and filled out our limits.

Gus retrieving one, of the many quail we bagged on our Crystal City hunt.

Taking stock of our situation we knew that we each had limits of doves, along with limits of quail and looking at my watch I saw it was 11:00 AM.  We sat down, skinned the quail, breasted the doves and by noon our hands were washed, the birds iced and we were headed home.  Randy made his activity on time and since 2004, he’s been a Baptist Pastor in San Marcos, Texas.

Four limits in four hours, on two species of game, still stands as a family record.

More Outdoors Pictures, December 28, 2011

No collection of outdoors pictures would be complete without a picture of the big buck that Colton shot on Christmas Eve, not the “shot” of a happy hunter beaming over a good buck, but a European mount (to be) of the old deer.  The picture also includes Colton’s knife and his bloodstained truck.

More pictures of the young buck, now named the “reacher”, that definitely has broken the code and figured out how to maximize his “chow time”!  He’s shown reaching his nose and mouth into the feeder mechanism and getting his fill and punctually, every morning around 8:00 AM, he comes by and helps himself. Daily, we count on him coming by MaMaw’s blind and putting on his show, but this morning, Wesley and I were waiting in ambush at the blind, the “reacher” came by, but no show.  We both wondered if shooting the big buck scared him some?
This time of year, driving by the stock tank on the corner of Highway 16 and County Road 406, I always look over and check to see if any ducks are present.  These “shots” shows some northern shovellers, Anas clypeata, AKA, spoonbills, spoonies, smilin’ mallards, heads down, using their spoonbills to browse and a widgeon drake, a pretty duck that almost looks like a decoy.  He was the only widgeon on the stock tank, obviously waiting for more of his breed to show up.


Deer Season, December 26 2011

The last game cam “shot”, taken this past Friday morning of the pot bellied buck.

Saturday morning I went outside to wait for Colton and was chased back in because it was raining, not heavy, but a good sprinkle.  As he and I walked out to MaMaw’s blind, the rain had let up and a light north wind was to our back, this was perfect, since the wind was blowing toward the blind.  We took the long way, sneaking in and climbing a fence, but we reached the back of the elevated blind, climbed in quietly and waited for shooting time.

First out after the corn/protein feeder went off was a young 6 pointer, he browsed around, but nervously kept looking to our left into the heavy thick stuff, like he heard, or saw, something.  Ten minutes later behind the fence on the feeder, out walked “Pot Belly”, checking the wind and surveying his domain as I nudged Colton.  This morning he was using my .270 with some of Brad’s reloads, 115 grain BTHP’s smokin’ out of the barrel at over 4,000 FPS, a real white tail eliminator!  We didn’t look directly at the buck, didn’t take any pictures and “Pot Belly” took his time nosing around on the corn.  Finally he cleared the side of the fence, the .270 boomed, “Pot Belly” dropped in his tracks and I took this “shot” from the blind and next is a game cam shot of us backing the tractor up to the buck.
Here’s Colton with his trophy.  Talking with him Saturday afternoon, he was already boiling the head (outside of course) to make a European mount.

Below is a picture of “Pot Belly’s” front teeth, his incisors, he only had 2, the others being worn down and, based on his molars he was aged at 7-1/2 years well past his prime and ready for harvesting.

As we were walking back to get the tractor, Colton said to me, “You know Poppy this is the second nice buck you’ve helped me to get.  We’re going to have to do this more often.  See my post on October 18, 2011, “[First Buck]”, about Colton’s first buck.

Merry Christmas And A Happy New Year

My hero, Ronald Reagan, said it best, “In spite of everything, we Americans are still uniquely blessed, not only with the rich bounty of our land, but by a bounty of the spirit, a kind of year-round Christmas spirit that still makes our country a beacon of hope in a troubled world and that makes this Christmas and every Christmas even more special for all of us who number among our gifts the birthright of being an American.” It can’t be said any better!

Today we celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Remember, we aren’t celebrating the brightly wrapped packages, the steaming Christmas dinners or the sumptuous deserts, but we are celebrating Jesus’ birth!

Jesus lived and died on the cross for each of us, so that by our acceptance of Him as our personal savior, we may have eternal life! If you haven’t received Jesus, ask Him into your heart today!

Layla and I wish everyone a very, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

We have had one of the best early Christmas presents possible, our prayers answered with a good rain, three-quarters of an inch, putting the final touch on our crippling drought. We’ve had more rain in the past 3 months, over 11 inches, than we have had in the past year. Our last good rain was Christmas, 2010, since then unseasonably hot weather and drought!

Deer Season, December 24, 2011

Today, as this is being read, Colton and I are in MaMaw’s blind awaiting the arrival of either one of the 2 fine bucks that graced this corn/protein feeder yesterday morning.  First to arrive at 7:32 AM, (still haven’t fixed Daylight Saving on this box) was “Pot Belly”.  He’s an old buck, Mickey Donahoo, a taxidermist, guessed his age at 7 or 8.

He fed for over thirty minutes then at 8:06, a new buck came up with similar looking horns, maybe “Pot Belly’s” son?  This buck, not as hefty as his probable sire, had been wounded in the chest, not life threatening, but he has never been sighted in camera “shots” or visually.

They fed for a short time, then “Wounded” buck moved off, leaving “Pot Belly” alone to browse and he stayed around for a total of 30 minutes.
We will be waiting, in ambush, well before sun up and, hopefully, we’ll harvest either one of these fine bucks!

Covered Up

Wednesday morning, up well before the sun, in fact 3:30 AM, I hurried to dress and grab a bite of breakfast, then went to town and met Brian Jernigan and Patrick Berg, for the drive to the Honey Hole, a name accurately assigned to this spot by Brian.  This was a new one for me, duck hunting near Goldthwaite!  You actually think of the central Texas area a prime deer country, let me tell you it is that, but adequate fall rains can make this a duck paradise!

After a short drive we arrived at the Honey Hole, unloaded the truck and Patrick’s lab, Tank, loaded everything but the guns on his ingenious cart, pulled by him, of course and walked in over a half mile to a likely looking spot, then the work started.  Along with a “Mojo” duck, Patrick put out the decoys, while Brian and I set up the ground blinds and snuggled into them to wait for shooting time.

After being so busy, under our layers of clothes, we were sweating.  The temp was around 30, because we could see ice collecting on the “pull” cords, my feet were cold too, but as shooting time neared everything started to warm up!

The ball would start at 6:58, sun up, but for the 10 minutes before we could shoot, we were treated to a show of ducks, we’d never seen before!  Hundreds of ducks, big ones and little ones, buzzed by us, with some even landing among the decoys, you talk about apprehension as Patrick counted down to shooting time, “5 minutes, 3 minutes, 30 seconds,” then, “Take ‘um!”  In out excitement we probably took 7 or 8 shots, and only knocked down a single, green wing teal, but for the next 3 hours, we shot many holes in the sky, but still succeeded in getting our limits, 6 ducks each.  Even after all these years, I’m still not sold on steel shot!

It didn’t matter if we were covered up in the blinds, or sitting up exposed, the ducks still bored in on our spread.  The picture shows Brian, Patrick and the dog, watching some ducks flying to the right of us, and kudus to Tank, for doing excellent work retrieving the downed ducks!

Having our combined limits of 18 ducks, we knocked off a little before 10:00 AM, started picking up the decoys, folding the ground blinds, picking up all of our spent hulls and the last thing we added to the load was the “Mojo” decoy.  All of our movement didn’t deter the ducks from piling in, we probably had 10 to 15 other shots we could have taken, but having our limit, we declined!

Hot shooting, as this picture of Patrick, Tank and our limits, attests.

It’s a shame the young guys have to work, because I could do this every day!

Smilin’ And Drivin’

In 1969, a close friend and I went in together on a 250, acre, duck/goose lease 4 miles north of Katy, Texas, right in the middle of the [Katy Prairie], see my post of January 29, 2007. This was my first hunting lease and for the next several years provided my family, friends and me with a world of enjoyment.  At 5:00 AM, using the back roads, it was a 25, minute drive to the lease from my home in Sharpstown, in southwest Houston.

The first hunt on the new lease found me hosting one of my employees, Norman Shelter.  Norman had considerable experience hunting the Anahuac area, east of Houston.  Norman and I arrived well before sun up and set out our decoys.  At shooting time, we were covered up with ducks, our calling skills weren’t even tested, and we had our limits by 7:45 AM, well before the first flights of geese.  We loaded up everything, took the ducks to a processing house in Katy, then changed into our business clothes and went on in to work.  This was almost too easy, but it gave me an idea.

Always getting into work very early, what harm would it do if for one or two days I got in around 9:00 AM?  If I took my business clothes with me, I could hunt until around 8:30, change clothes and head on in to work, also missing what I thought then, was the heavy traffic on I-10.  Even now with 12 lanes and HOV lanes, the traffic is unbearable and the drive from Katy to the Medical Center, where my office was at the time, takes over an hour!

Implementing my plan, not two weeks later, after a successful early morning hunt I was driving into the office on I-10 and tying my tie in the rear view mirror, when I heard a horn honk right beside me.  Looking over, I saw the new Cadillac, and oh no, I was caught, my boss, Tommy Walker, waving, smiling and driving along.  Tommy and another manager, John Maddley were smiling and waving to me, but I knew that when I got into work, I’d had it.  My drive on in to work was a nightmare, what was I going to do, lie, no way, I’ll just take my medicine.

Wouldn’t you know it, they parked right beside me and the first words out of Tommy’s mouth were, “Jon, did you move.  I thought you lived in Sharpstown?”  Jim laughed and said, “Maybe he’s got a girl friend out west?  Just kidding.”  Replying, “ No guys, to tell the truth, I’ve been duck hunting this morning and changed in the car while I was driving in.”  Tommy asked, “How’d you do?”

Nothing else was ever said about my early morning hunts, but on several occasions Tommy teased me about the way my car smelled.  In the summer he said it smelled like old softball clothes and in the winter, like rice field mud.

Authors note:  This is the same Tommy Walker that was shot in the eyes during a quail hunt 4 years later in central Arizona.  See my posts on January 13 and 15, 2010, “[Walking Wounded]” and “[Part 2 of Walking Wounded]”.

Fallen Glory

In Arizona, Jake Shroder, another Texas boy and I, enjoyed many years of excellent hunting and fishing together. Our search for quail, arrow heads, artifacts and bass, led us over the entire state from the beauty of the Mogillion Rim to the starkness of the Sonoran Desert and it also led us to find some, surprise, ducks. We found them by accident, on the McDowell Indian Reservation, not twenty miles from our homes in Paradise Valley.

We purchased hunting permits for $5.00 on the several thousand acres of the Reservation, the Verde River bisecting it, and, one afternoon, we were looking for quail on the flats besides the river, when ahead of us our Brittany’s, Candy and Rooster, flushed several green heads out of the water. The ducks flew right over us, and us, without duck stamps, held our fire.
Being first to remedy the duck stamp situation, two days later my dog and I were back along the Verde and up came some ducks, but about sixty yards away and too far to shoot. Noticing they jumped from the slack water behind a small island, my mind started clicking. What if I came out here early in the morning and put the decoys out right where the ducks jumped up? Not a bad idea, bring my waders, slip quietly in, put out the decoys, build me a quick blind, unlimber my call and I’d be in business.

My hunt ended at sundown and starting the two, mile drive out, most of it in four wheel drive, low, I finally reached the main road on the reservation. For the drive home, I stopped to put the truck back into 2 wheel drive, but I couldn’t get it out of 4 low. Knowing that in 4 wheel, low I couldn’t drive it the 20 odd miles back on a hard top road, trying to rock the truck forward and backwards, still, I couldn’t move the shift lever out of low and even tried driving slowly and forcing it out, but nothing would work. Being stuck, I creeped up to the Blue Moon Inn, the local Indian beer joint, and made a call (no cell phones then) for Jake to come and get me.

All ended well. The next day I rented a trailer and “coaxed” some of my salesmen to assist me in recovering my truck. The repair job was minor, a worn shift lever and the
next Saturday morning, daylight found Jake and I on the small island in the Verde River.

He was on the west side and me on the east, about seventy-five yards apart. The 12 plastic decoys bouncing slowly in the current in front of me, when I heard, Bam, followed by a splash. Jake had shot something as I became alert and saw him wade out into the main current and pick up a Canadian goose, a real bonus. He yelled at me, “Beech, it came in real low, just one.” As I turned back around, without any warning, 2 mallards were hovering over the decoys and raising up, Bam, Bam, splash, splash, my new 20 gauge, over and under, had worked just fine!

While we were out of town during the summer of 1971, my trusty 12 gauge pump that I had shot for over 20 years, along with all of my other guns, a new TV set that I won in a sales manager’s contest and my brand new Buick Electra 225, had been stolen. The car was found undamaged the next week, but nothing else was ever recovered.

Retrieving one of the ducks proved to be a challenge. It had fallen on the edge of the current and had drifted down, getting stuck in a pile of debris. Picking up one duck and pitching it toward my makeshift blind, I began wading down the shallow river for the other. The water wasn’t knee deep, but I could feel the cold and the rocks were really slippery and me with no “Moses Stick” for balance, only my new, over and under.

Balancing as best I could and sliding my wader’s boots over the rocks, I happened to look up and coming around the bend of the river, right at me, were three mallards. Automatically, up came my gun and down I went, into the shallow water, butt first and the cold water rushed into the back of my waders and I uttered some unprintable words! Bouncing up quickly, the water pooled in my waders around each foot, but it was too late for a shot, I wonder what scared them off. Hearing Jake laughing in the distance, I uttered some more unprintables in his direction and let him know I was ready to go home and get in some dry clothes.

However, all wasn’t lost! The thieves who broke into my house and stole my stuff were finally caught in 1974, after they had opened a used furniture store in east Phoenix on Indian School Road. They had just committed another robbery, a TV and some guns, and, of all things, the latest victim showed up in their store, looking for a used replacement for his TV. Spotting a TV just like his stolen one, he looked a little closer and saw his Social Security number that he had engraved on the back. He left the store without a purchase, went to the police and thus ended the careers of a vicious gang of thieves. My guns went to Mexico and someone in the Phoenix area got a real good TV.

In 2003, while playing in a National Championship Senior Softball tournament in Phoenix, I had the opportunity to visit the McDowell Indian Reservation again. Taking the old stagecoach route over Reata Pass and down the east side of the McDowell mountains, in places the old road came within a stones throw of the Verde River reasonably close to our duck spot. Many changes have taken place, the Reservation now is very clean, new homes grace the area and I’m sure they don’t allow hunting any more, especially since they have a thriving Casino!

Deer Season, December 16, 2011

The last 4 days, Sunday through Thursday, have been drippy wet!  Not so much rain, but warm and foggy, misty, along with a few showers and all of this moisture totaled .8 inches of rain, Praise The Lord!  Around noon on Tuesday, during one of the breaks in the weather, I went out and sat in the mist for over an hour, seeing nothing, my hopes were high that I’d see a shooter, or even a spike, but nothing.

Not knowing if he’d been shot or not and hearing tales that maybe he’d been hit by a vehicle, the big 8 pointer, that I call “Pot Belly” showed up yesterday morning at 7:25 AM and stayed around for 12 minutes.  Both “shots” show him to be healthy, however, all this running around during the rut has trimmed his “pot” and now he’s a svelte, big buck!
Funny thing, this morning found me in Layla’s blind, where “Pot Belly” stopped by yesterday.  Climbing into the blind before the sun was up, I barely cracked a sliding window just enough to get the gun and camera lens outside and waited.  Just after sun up this nice 8 pointer came by, he’s young, but by next year he should be a nice one.

Then, after the feeder went off, up came a young 6 pointer, the 8 was still around and I got this nice “shot” of both of them.

The 8 trotted off in his quest for a hot, doe, but the 6 thought he’d stay around for some of the protein and corn.  Being lucky, having the camera out and focused, I took this “shot” of the 6 balancing on his hind legs and attacking the corn thrower. This one is smart, having figured out where the food comes from!

I wonder where I’ll be before the sun comes up tomorrow morning?

Three For Three

No, this isn’t about yours truly going 3 for 3 in a softball game, but about an unusual duck hunt one of my friends and I went on.

On Friday night in mid December, Bill Priddy and I met at our duck and fishing lease near Danbury, Texas, then went to the local caf© and ate a steak that I still remember and turned in early in preparation for the next day’s duck hunt.  Up well before the sun, we ate a breakfast of pancakes, eggs and bacon prepared by Mrs. Atkins, 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 the decoys and our guns, then followed them into the skiff, 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 around.  There’d be a flurry about shooting time and, after that, it would stop completely.

We “hit the nail on the head”, because right at shooting time, had one flight of green wing teal buzz our decoys and we obliged by shooting 4 holes in the sky.  We waited for 45 more minutes, saw no ducks, then 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 out, replaced the outboard with a trolling motor, started fishing and not 50 yards from the dock, Bill picked up a small bass.

In a bad, old picture, Bill holds up my 3 for 3 on bass, showing the 2 big ones, with the smallest being behind the bass on the right.

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 2 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, along with a nice run, I lipped it, hefted it up and guessed, 4-1/2 pounds!  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 3 pounds!  Wow, 3 for 3, nice bass, 2,3 and 4 plus, pounds and Bill just sat and watched the show.

For a duck hunt, this wasn’t a bad fishing trip!