More Outdoors Pictures, January 31, 2012

The game cam’s continues to get some interesting “shots”!  Going back to the first of the month there is this one of an old doe, she’s very nocturnal, only feeds at night, whenever possible avoids feeders, and it’s been at least a year since I’ve seen her around the place, she almost looks like the deer drawings in a cave.  Because of her age, she’s only having a single fawn now.  How old is she, 8 or 9, who knows, but maybe we’ll get her next year?

Here’s a “shot” of a spike we missed this year.  Mickey Donahoo said he thought he’d seen him during the special doe and spike season, so this fellow will have to wait ‘till next year.

This young, 8 pointer was “shot” on December 6th.   His horns are just outside of his ears, a shooter based on our game laws and I was hoping he’d survive for the next season.  The second “shot” on January 23rd shows that he made it and he should be a real good one next season!
This “shot”, taken on December 8th, shows a gray fox in broad daylight.

These are normally nocturnal creatures, shown in the “shot” of January 10th and very seldom seen during the day, however, in daylight, they will respond to an injured rabbit call.

Duck Recipe

As we were driving to the Honey Hole, it dawned on me that this would be my last trip of the year to this fantastic hunting spot and for any more ducks I’d have to wait until the special teal season in the middle of September. Mickey, Patrick and I arrived at our spot, it was still wet and slippery from the rain, we’ve had rain for the past 2 days, but we slogged in, put out the decoys and settled back to await legal shooting time.

It’s always tempting to pop one a minute or two before time, but we didn’t have the chance, because no ducks showed. Ten minutes after, 5 big ducks, too gloomy to identify them, were cruising along, noticed our decoys, circled and set their wings. We popped up and greeted them, 6 booms later, 4 were down, big fat gadwalls. We picked up 2 more singles and by 9:00 we were gathering up the decoys and started our walk out.

On our way back to Goldthwaite, Patrick noticed a big bunch of ducks in a winter wheat field. We turned around to get a better look at them. It wasn’t just a bunch of ducks, there were over 2,000 feeding in this one wet, field, it almost looked like blackbirds, but rest assured, they were all kinds of ducks! No wonder we finished so early, the ducks were out feeding and not around the Honey Hole. Patrick cleaned ‘em and his take was that they were northern birds and had fattened up on their way down, in fact, I’ll have to trim the fat off of the breasts!

We have found a wonderful way to cook ducks and now with the season closing, I’ll let everyone in on the secret. Take 4 duck breasts, trim off all the fat, then soak in milk for 24 hours. After soaking, for big ducks, cut the breast in half, then wash off. For teal, no need to halve the breasts, but still wash. Cut in half 4 pieces of bacon, then slice up 2 jalapenos, we use jalapeno quarters from the store, lay the 8 pieces of bacon on the duck breasts, top each with a slice of jalapeno and grill slowly, until the bacon is done. Rice goes well with this, and if you’re a wine drinker, a good Texas Red tops it off.

On our way home we were already planning for the next duck season!

My Makeshift Blind

Either hunting quail or still hunting, deer, I had walked over almost all of the 2,000 acres of our McCulloch County hunting lease. One thing I had noticed was that in the winter the stock tanks almost always had ducks on them and many times I would flush and even pop a couple of shots at them, in season of course.

Noticing one particular spring fed, stock tank, almost a full acre, with a tall dam on one end, that was nearly impossible to sneak, I had chosen this one for my first, formal duck hunt on our deer lease. This stock tank was long and narrow and the end where I would hunt had a rock bottom and was only a foot or two deep. Since the water was so shallow, I wouldn’t even need to take Gus to retrieve ‘em and he could rest up for the afternoon’s quail hunt. There were several mesquite trees around its edge and a rough blind wouldn’t be hard to throw together, then I could put my 12, plastic decoys to good use, decoys that had been used with good results in Texas, Arizona and Georgia!

In the dark, pulling on my well used hip boots, using dead mesquite limbs, I hastily scrambled a rough blind together, then set the decoys in two groups, placing a group of 4 on my right and the other 8 on my left, leaving a space between the two where the ducks could land. In my makeshift blind, squatting on one knee, I loaded my 20, gauge pump with high velocity 6’s, (lead shot because the Gulf coast was the only place where steel shot were required) and waited.

As shooting time neared, the 12 plastic decoys were bouncing on the ripples and I could already hear ducks quacking and whistling. Shooting time and the first ones to circle and set their wings were 5 sleek, graceful pintails, bam, bam, bam, my pump barked and 3 splashed into the water. With a minimum of calling, ducks piled in and being able to clearly identify the drakes of the various species – mallards, widgeon and gadwall, I thinned them out. One thing stands out in my memory, the teal, beautiful green wing teal that would swoop over the decoys, circle them, set their wings, then at the last moment, speed of somewhere else, there must have been 3 or 4 bunches of them.

The most important thing was proper identification of ducks on the wing, because back then, the limit was 8 drakes, however no open season on canvasbacks or redheads and we were allowed a mallard and pintail hen. So just shooting drakes, I was elated to get my limit in just under 30 minutes, all big ducks, shooting 8 with 10 shots, having to shoot two twice!

As the morning ended, there was a touch of gloom to my story, bad news, I picked up my decoys and carried 4 to the bank, laid them down next to my toesack and returned to the water for 4 more. The next thing I knew, along came a cow, stepped on a decoy and smashed it beyond repair. Now I only had 11 plastic decoys. Thinking back, I should have carried my sack out with me and only made one trip, but I’m really lucky that the cow didn’t step on all 4 of the decoys!

A Piper Cub

Driving out to my Katy Prairie lease, I had noticed on the next ranch to the east, several thousand geese rafted up in a cut rice field and with an east wind, I began figuring that if somehow they flushed, they would circle back with the wind, then, maybe their path would bring them over toward me on my lease hunkered down behind a rice levee? My chances were extremely slim, but if someone or something busted them up, maybe a 60 MM, mortar, who knew?

No football this Sunday because the Houston Oilers had lost a first round playoff game the week before and since the weather was awful, almost cold, windy, misty alternating with a light rain, I had thought this afternoon would be a great time to run out to my lease and try to bag a couple of low flying geese. When I arrived, except for 2 hunters on the far end of the property, over 2 miles away, I was by myself.

We weren’t supposed to shoot any quail, but I took Gus, my Brittany spaniel, along anyway. If anyone, like the rice farmer asked, he was retrieving geese for me and me not even knowing if he would bring in a goose because he certainly didn’t like to retrieve ducks! Wouldn’t you know it, walking out to my hunting spot, a brushy fence corner behind a rice levee, Gus locked down hard and quickly slipping two, 8’s, that just happened to be in my pocket, into my O/U, I walked into the covey, about a dozen birds, and they came rocketing out of the fence row!

To honor Gus’ point I had to shoot one, so I picked out a cock and popped him! Gus made an excellent retrieve and reloading the 4’s, I snuck the quail into a pocket of my hunting coat and, not going after the singles, walked a little faster, down to my fence corner.

Less than an hour later, that something to flush the geese proved mot to be a mortar, but a Piper Cub that swooped low over them and honking in protest, up they came! My 3 inch, magnum, O/U was loaded with number 4 lead shot, lead then since the steel shot ban wouldn’t start until the next year, then sliding 2 more shells between the fingers of my left hand, began my wait.

Sure enough, the geese, thousands of them, caught the wind and were barreling toward me. Deciding that I would wait until the first birds were almost over me, then cover them up, just like an incoming dove, let fly, quickly reload, then take 2 more shots. My plan worked, on my first 2 shots, 2 snows came tumbling down. Quickly reloading the shells from my left hand, I picked out several big birds that were swinging away from me, took two more long shots and they both tumbled down, 2 more snows.

The first 2 had fallen quite close to us and Gus was worrying over one of them when I sent him out to look for the others. With my help, Gus found one crumpled in the fencerow, then looking for what seemed like an hour, he finally found the last one. It was a runner with only a broken wing and when Gus caught it and brought it in, it was a funny sight, since the goose looked to be almost his size.

Gus had saved the day finding the last goose, but anyway, I don’t think the rice farmer will miss one quail!

The Honey Hole Revisited

Last Saturday, Patrick Berg and Brian had limited out at the Honey Hole, a good norther was coming, it was very windy and cloudy, so this past Monday, Mickey Donahoo, Patrick and I went there for a go at the ducks.  We walked into a new spot sheltered from the wind, put out our decoys that included a flying Mojo duck and a feeding one, built us some ground blinds and waited for the ducks.

Twenty minutes before shooting time there was no mad rush of ducks like on our past trips so we began wondering what was going on?  Shooting time, still no ducks and 10 minutes later a flight o 5 big ducks circled our decoys and set their wings, big ducks, probably mallards, but we couldn’t identify them in the gloom.  Seeing them more clearly, their orange feet standing out, I picked out two flying almost together, one a greenhead, the other a hen, I shot them, they plopped into the water and I swung on one making tracks for safer climes!  This was an easy shot, the greenhead was climbing and gaining altitude and all I had to do was set the front sight on him and bam, he tumbled into the water.

We had fair shooting for the next 20 minutes, fair shooting, but excellent dog work, we bagged 4 more, then it stopped, nothing was flying, so we packed everything up and walked out.

Not a bad mornings hunt, our bag was 3 mallards, 2 gadwall, a teal and a ring neck, pictured above. We then made tentative plans to make another trip on Thursday.

Before sunup on Thursday, we were creeping into a strange area on the other side of the Honey Hole, creeping because we were following the map on Patrick’s hand held.  Finally arriving at the spot, we got out and began unloading, loaded up the cart and headed for a spot blocked from the wind.

We picked out a nice spot (to us), a secluded little opening in the weeds where we placed the decoys, positioned our ground blinds and waited for shooting time.  Shooting time came and went, a lot of ducks were flying, but our decoys attracted no attention.  The ducks were landing about a hundred yards out from our decoys, so we decided to move closer to the action.  Going into high gear, we moved the ground blinds and decoys, but all of this took up 15 more minutes.  Thirty minutes into our hunt, we hadn’t popped a cap!

Finally a ring neck buzzed past the decoys, looked them over, set wings and bam, Patrick dropped him.  This started a trickle of ducks, all of us scoring, but we only knocked down 3 more ring necks, a single teal and a gadwall drake, 6 ducks after missing the best part.  Patrick had a lunch appointment so at 9:00 AM we cut it off, packed up and headed back to Goldthwaite.

Here’s Mickey and our morning haul.

The Shortest Hunt

Early this past Friday, the 13th if you’re superstitious, Mickey Donahoo and I took off for his hunting lease, a 4, hour drive from Goldthwaite, with the objective of bagging a javelina, or collared peccary, Pecari tajaca and a feral pig.  The lease is situated 15 miles off the beaten track between Sonora and Ozona and it’s nearly 4,000 acres of rough and tumble, west Texas, including lots of rocks, is a beautiful place!  A little after 11:00 AM we arrived at this “oasis” in the desert, 2 cabins and a quite livable, old ranch house, where we stayed for the next 2 days.

Finishing the chores, filling the corn/protein feeders and resetting the feeder timers, Mickey cut them back to one second’s worth of corn and protein cubes at 7:00 AM.  After a quick lunch that we finished at 3:00 PM, we were headed out into a big flat, to a blind, feeder combination to await a hoped for javelina, when we rounded a corner and by a water trough, (like my old one, see my post “[The Water Trough], September 15, 2011”),  were 43 turkeys.  Here’s a shot of the water trough, with 10 of the big birds, they were spread out way too far for a wide angle “shot”, so I got the next one of 13 more, then they flushed, almost like a covey of quail.

Arrival at the blind was anticlimactic, especially looking at the crude structure pictured, it was near falling down, in fact I told Mickey, “I don’t think the blind’s floor would hold the both of us, 200 pounders!”  We took along an old tarp for a little head covering, draped it over the blind and awaited the “hoped for” javelina.  The feeder went off and during its process, out walked a javelina, a good sized one that we weighed later at 45 pounds and I shot it, possibly the shortest javelina hunt on record!  We took these pictures and a close up of the animal’s tusks.


Not 15 minutes later, out walked more javelina, big ones and little ones rooting around for the corn and protein.  We didn’t notice anything about the food being thrown by the feeder, but as we were leaving, we found a dog chow sack on a 4 wheeler suspiciously owned by the owner of the blind we used.  The picture shows 5.

The next morning, up before the sun, with the temp at 24, we bundled up and headed out in the other direction, to the top of the flat mountain for a go with the feral pigs.  My blind was the most spacious and comfortable one that I had ever used, a true pleasure, but these super digs, including the rooting around the feeder, didn’t yield a feral pig.

One for two isn’t bad anyway and the javelina’s back strap will be wonderful, grilled with bacon and jalapenos!

The Corn Feeders, January 14, 2012

As the end of our special, extended doe and spike season nears, (Sunday, 30 minutes after sunset), a lot of wildlife, deer of course, come around the corn and protein feeders.  Young bucks come by, some after dark like this young 8 pointer.  He’s been seen before, in fact I’ve seen him twice, both times when I hunted (camera less) out of MaMaw’s blind.

The squirrels and dove come around regularly, but this “shot” shows 2 birds that I can’t identify.  The back one may be a female cardinal, but I’ve not seen any of them around for the past couple of weeks, however, the one in the foreground has me stumped.

This “shot” is of a coon bowin’ up to a red fox, the coon, in spite of its bluster, beat a retreat, leaving the field to the fox.
This young buck, a 6 pointer, has figured out that if he wants corn, to raise up and balance himself with his forepaws, then use his nose, or tongue, to turn the feeder spindle, making the corn come out.  This feeder, by the tree stand, is nearing empty, so the buck’s efforts may be to no avail, but this fellow has a lot of practice rooting the feeder in front of MaMaw’s blind.
Finally, this cottontail rabbit stopped by to try the corn that is very scarce at this feeder.

Stop The Charge

Remembering my first trip to Rick Haney’s ranch, north of Abilene, this trip set the tone for the rest of my visits for the next 10 years! This time I was exposed in grand style to the excellent food prepared in an old, original, bar-b-que pit, to the fabulous hunting, the inherent dangers and, surprisingly, to an unnatural being!

After a 6, hour drive from my office up to the ranch, it was too late for much of a quail hunt, so we decided to go out and try to shoot a feral hog. Driving for a couple of miles to the place where the road ended at a creek, Rick and I got out of his truck and walked across the shallow, stream. After crossing, he sent me up a hill to watch for a hog in the small valley below and then he walked to the next hill and took up his position.

At last light I hadn’t seen anything, but Rick’s rifle boomed and shortly he walked up and yelled toward my “hide”, “Hey, come and give me a hand.” Heading his way, we drug the 100 pound, plus young male, hog back to the truck. He gutted the hog, we loaded it up, then headed back to the old ranch house.

We processed the hog, ate a late supper prepared on the old pit, then hit the sack with visions of quail dancing in our head. Waking up once during the night, I heard a clump, clump, clump out on his porch, that circled two sides of the house, but I paid no attention thinking it was Rick walking around.

Early the next morning when we got up, it was cold and I asked Rick if he had been up walking around during the night? His reply was, “No, it must have been animals under the house. They bump into the cross beams and make noise.” Pretty good answer, I thought.

Starting near his house, we worked east toward the creek near to where he shot the hog yesterday. Putting Gus out, soon we bumped into a nice covey of birds and shot 4. A good start as we continued hunting along the creek. Finding several more coveys, for the morning hunt we accumulated a good mess of birds. We loaded up Gus and headed back to the ranch house, cleaned and iced the birds, ate a sandwich, took a quick “power nap”, then got in the truck and headed back to the creek. Walking across, we put out Rooster and began our afternoon hunt.

Not having gone a hundred yards, Rooster locked down on a hard point, we walked in and “Whirrrrr”, a nice covey of about 20 birds took flight. Bam, bam, bam, bam, we unloaded on the birds and 3 fell to our fusillade. Rick and I fetched a bird each and Rooster hunted dead and after several circles, found the last one. Rick said, “I marked those birds going over the hill, right by those mesquites. I’ll loop around and try to push them back toward you. You walk on ahead and we’ll meet about 400 yards up the creek.”

Rooster ranged out up over the hill and loosing track of him for a minute, I pressed on up the creek. The next thing I knew, here came Rooster running fast and right behind him a really big hog, 250 pounds or more! Rooster was heading my way with the hog in hot pursuit. What to do? No trees big enough to climb! I can’t out run him! Shoot him with my trusty, 20, gauge, skeet grade, pump, loaded with number eight shot? Since hog’s have a thick, muscle like covering, over their shoulders and head, bird shot won’t faze them, and my trusty .22 mag pistol, was back in the truck.

Then, I remembered a line from the late author and classic chronicler of African hunting adventures, Robert Ruark and a novel about lion hunting, that if you shot a charging lion in the nose with a shotgun, it would stop the charge. So I stood my ground, shouldered my weapon, and shooting right over Rooster’s back, bam, bam, bam, as Rooster ducked behind me, I noticed the shots didn’t even faze the hog, Ruark must have been using 00 buck! The hog came so close to me I could clearly see his tusks, the moisture droplets on his nose and even the individual hairs on his back. It literally blew past me, within six inches of my left leg and as he passed by, my trusty dog, Rooster, quickly moved to my front.

The hog kept going. Sitting down on the ground, in case of a return engagement with the hog, I reloaded my shotgun as Rick walked up and said, “Birds? You OK?” I replied, “Yeah, but do I have a story to tell you.”

I was lucky again, because that big hog could have inflicted major damage to my body parts!

Hunting with Rick for the next 10 years, I became intimately involved with the midnight thumping too!

More Outdoors Pictures, January 9, 2012

On Dec 26, (Boxing Day in some parts) 12 dove are feeding.  They sure don’t look like 12 drummers drumming either!

The big wounded deer was “shot” just after 8:00 AM on Dec 23, with a wound on his brisket.  Then he was “shot” a little after 1:00 PM (still haven’t set the clock back) on the 26th going after a doe.  Judging by the width and makeup of the horns, this is the same buck shown on Dec 23rd “shot”, however, in this picture, the wound doesn’t show, but maybe, just maybe, he shows a nick on the front left.  The “shot” on the 26th is the last time that he’s been around, hopefully, he’s survived the last week of the season!
Just after 8:00 AM a Bobcat came by the corn feeder at MaMaw’s blind on Jan 4.  Two weeks ago, I saw this one in the County Road and still I can’t tell what variety it is, my guess a female.  Two years ago, on the last day of deer season, see my post on January 3, 2010, “[Wesley Breaks The Ice]”, we both scored, he collected a nice doe and I claimed a big, male bobcat.

Probably the last spike, game cam “shots” showed we had 4 coming around the feeders, 2 have been harvested, one ran afoul of a barb wire fence, so this is the survivor.   Tuesday morning, Mickey Donahoo is coming over to try his hand on a spike or doe and his rifle is resighted in, so no miss this time (hopefully).


Another Trip To The Honey Hole

This past Monday, way before sunup, Mickey Donahoo, Patrick Berg and I met at the Baptist Church and loaded everything into Patrick’s truck, then headed off for the Honey Hole, see my post of December 22, 2011, “[Covered Up]”.  On our arrival there were 2 more hunters getting ready to walk in, but they told us they weren’t going in very far, so we decided to walk the extra half-mile to give them plenty of room.   In the dark, we loaded everything on to Patrick’s cart (pulled by him of course) and headed on out.

Getting the decoys out, including our Mojo duck, setting up our ground blinds, we finished everything 20 minutes before legal shooting time and waited for the sun to come up.  Ten minutes before shooting time, one bunch of teal swooped by, circled around, set their wings, looked over our spread, didn’t like something and headed off for a safer destination.  This time we weren’t treated to a “duck explosion”, but had to settle for singles and doubles, creating a problem for yours truly!

Wanting to shoot 3-inch shells, I had left my twelve gauge, autoloader (2-3/4 shells only) at home and took my O/U, that turned out to be a big mistake for me!  The O/U is a great gun for shooting clay birds or pigeons, see my post of March 6, 2008, “[The Pigeon Shoot]”.  The gun handles well, points sweetly, but for shooting fast flying, teal, it’s a little barrel heavy and unlike spring, summer and fall shooting sports, when you’re bundled up for the cold, it doesn’t shoulder very good!

For the first 2 teal, I was “a day late and a dollar short”, with Mickey and Patrick knocking down both birds.  Mumbling under my breath, I hadn’t yet figured out the problem, all I could do was cover back up and wait for the next ones.  The next teal was a crossing shot that Mickey downed before I could even get the gun pointed, then the wind changed from our backs, the north, to the west, now blowing from our right to the left.

Being on the right of our set up, the birds were now decoying to my right in a spot between the edge of our spread and a dozen coots, confidence decoys that Patrick had put out to help draw in the ducks.  As the first 2 teal plopped into the opening, my partners sprung to the attack, firing 2 shots and splashing both.  This was nice, making our total 5 ducks, but their shots were fired over my head, not to my liking.

Sitting out the rest of the morning, I didn’t take any more shots, only dispatching a couple of cripples and like my daddy once said, “Boy, if you got limits each time out, they’d call it shooting instead of hunting.”  Not a good day for me, a big fat zero on ducks, but Mickey and Patrick did limit out making our drive home bearable.

However, there is a sequel to this story.  For Christmas Layla gave me a .17 HMR revolver, better said she surprised me, literally floored me, however there was a problem with the pistol.  The pistol wouldn’t cycle properly and the spent shells wouldn’t eject.  Taking it back to where she purchased it, they allowed me to swap them the malfunctioning pistol for a new, pump shotgun that will handle 3-1/2, 3 and 2-3/4 inch shells.  We’re going back to the Honey Hole on Saturday and I’ll let everyone know how well (I hope) it works.