Friday, September 16, 2011

The year's first dove shoot (and a new wing shot and retriever in the family)

Not much of a post, tonight, I suppose...and I promise the next one won't involve hunting (fingers crossed)....but I wanted to mention that our seasons began in earnest last weekend and it seemed fitting to mention a little about it.

Archery season opened and while my oldest and I were present and accounted for early Saturday morning, the deer were not cooperative in the slightest. But if you have ever been very still in the woods as night turns to day, you know how rewarding it is to hear the owls begin to hush up as the daylight grows while the crows and other day critters begin their shifts and make the day all noisy. It was a fine morning.

We took a bit of a break and then the afternoon brought the first dove shoot of the year. Now, while deer hunting is mostly a solitary and quiet affair, a good dove shoot involves quite a few folks heading into an open field and doing a fair amount of socializing while spotting birds and yelling 'heads up' directions to the other hunters as the birds come in. It's a remarkably loud and fun way to expend a whole pile of gunpowder at some very fast-flying birds. I ought to mention that despite the number of hunters and guns, it's a very organized endeavor with some basic rules to keep everyone safe.

Our younger boy came along and this year was promoted to full gun-bearing hunter as opposed to previous years when he came along for the ride, mostly, and to gain some experience. We also had Lilla, the new Boykin, along to see what she could do. The boy was equipped with a single shot 20 gauge and minimal experience with moving targets. Lilla brought a nose and some serious energy.

One thing to note about doves is that they seem to have magic in their flying. Some come through straight and slow and make you shoot way too far ahead of them....some come through at what seems like 100 miles an hour and manage to execute 90 degree turns just as you pull the trigger at a point in the air where the bird no longer is. I dare say more shotshells are spent on doves, per bird, than any other game animal.

But it was a good shoot with more than enough doves to miss and still allow most folks to get their limits. I was especially proud of my little man who collected 8 birds with that single shot. That's no mean feat for a first-timer. And as for Lilla, she did a fine job of retrieving birds and finding a few in some mighty thick cover that otherwise would have been lost. I have to say, I'm loving these spaniels.

Heres a portrait of the crew at the end of the, tired, and very happy.

 And I'll do my best to make the next post about mass transit issues, the decline of print media, or something other than hunting.

Have a great weekend!


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Fall Isn't Here (Just Yet)

In the last few posts between Savannah and myself, we’ve referred to a few things common to the leading edge of Fall down here in southeast Georgia. Some of them can be a little bit conflicting - hunting seasons that we generally associate with cooler weather elsewhere are in or approaching, but the squirrels still have young’uns in the nest, for example, and it’s still hot as Hades when dove season opens. (For the record, though you can hunt squirrels starting in August, we don’t for that reason...we usually wait until the first of October or so when the little ones have left the nest and are fair game. Whatever else you might think about us, we do respect squirrel maternity.)
The hot weather is still with us but there’s just a hopeful hint in the breeze that the heat’s on its way out and relief is on the horizon. Some of that may just be wishful thinking at this point but there IS that day you step outside and sniff around and think, “Ahhh, Fall!”.
Another bit of contrariness to this particular time of year is that you end up at times out in the woods working to prepare for the Fall with its cooler weather while the summer critters are still out and in full force. Chiggers, ticks, sand gnats, and mosquitos have no respect whatsoever for the calendar and can’t be convinced to migrate further south (or north). And then, there are the real potential annoyances, such as this evening.
After work, my oldest and I had run back to finish setting up a deer stand for the rapidly approaching bow season, aided by the afore-mentioned heat and blood-suckers, and when we finished up, he suggested we stop and get a drink of water at the old well in the woods. This is an artesian well that’s been flowing out of a pipe in the middle of the woods for I don’t know how long, but I’ve never met anyone here living or now dead that hasn’t drunk from it. Just a simple pipe running 24/7 with nice cold water at your convenience and once dug by I don’t know who or for what original purpose, but a lot of folks appreciate it and it’s a fixture.
At any rate, by the time we pulled up with the truck it was full dark and we had the headlights on the pipe. Which was a good thing as it turns out. As I leaned over and took the first sip, my eye caught a pattern that was both familiar and fortunately just far enough away that we could still get our drink without some sort of Mexican standoff first.  It turned out to be another of those summer fellows.
This is a canebrake (or timber) rattlesnake, and a pretty good-sized one. He was patient enough to allow us to snap a picture or two with the phone.  They are fairly common on the hammock, more common than their cousin, the diamondback, at any rate, and you’re most apt to see them around dusk. Good to remember if you’re bow hunting when the temps are still in the 90’s and you’re walking out of the woods just at dark. If you’re interested in snakes, you can find some general info on this species at 
We had just run into one of these a few weeks back near the same spot, and we’re thinking that with the dry weather, this was likely the same one and had found a prime spot by the well to ambush small prey that came to get a drink. It also made us wonder if the lab-like dog we lost not long ago might’ve stopped for a drink also and run afoul of this fellow. Generally speaking, these are not an aggressive snake and as such aren’t a real threat to anyone except when surprised or annoyed by being stepped on or some such. This one just wanted us to go on about our business so he could do the same.
Done deal.
Happy hunting,

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Bloodhound's Back (Pun Intended)

Bloodhound’s Back (Pun Intended)
Well, I obviously haven’t been a recent or even semi-consistent contributor to the blog, but it’s time to change that. Fall is approaching and with it all the really good things like cooler weather, fishing and hunting, and, of course, football....all of which make it my favorite time of year. And so it’s a fine time to get going with the blog again. But before I get started being current with my posts, and seeing as how Savannah has alluded to it on her end, I figured I’d give a little account of the Fall From Grace that occurred almost a year ago that broke my back and a few other things and which put me pretty much out of commission until just a couple of months ago.
Larry Munson, the great Georgia Bulldog radio announcer, always made a point of starting each broadcast of a Dawg game with “Get the picture....the Dawgs are taking the field wearing red’s a sunny 66 degrees here in Athens....” So, with apologies to Larry, get the picture:
It was just before the archery season for deer, which in South Georgia starts well before the summer heat breaks, and I set out to hang my tree stand - something I’ve done countless times before. It usually doesn’t take long, but the stand and the tree were cantankerous that day and what ought to have been a quick 30 minute project lasted more like 2 hours on a day you could’ve baked biscuits in the shade with no oven required. 
By the time I was happy with the setup of the stand and dropped my safety harness to the ground ready to climb down, I started feeling the effects of heat stroke or some such and ended up dizzy as could be. I made, in hindsight, the poor choice of sitting down in the stand, sans harness, until the dizziness passed rather than climb on down.....and I went out cold. I woke to a sudden, loud “thud” that turned out to be me hitting the ground. The result was three smushed vertebrae, some cracked ribs, and a broken pelvis.
There are several things I learned from this.

1. If a man falls in the forest and there’s no one there to hear him, does he make any noise? Answer: He makes a lot of noise and is grateful no one else is there to hear it. 

2. Falling at whatever velocity and angle at which I was traveling when the ground hit me  resulted in the air completely leaving approximately 458 million of the 500 million alveoli in my lungs. One can still make a surprising amount of noise using the remaining 42 million.

3. You can climb back up into a tree stand with a broken back if you lie on the ground and see your cell phone up there and know you can use it to call for help.

4. There was no cell service back on the ground after having climbed up and down again and gotten my cell phone.

5. You can walk a long way hurt, if that’s what gets you to the truck, cold water, and help.
6. And lastly, when there are no beds in the emergency room available and you sincerely suggest that you cannot simply cannot sit in a chair or stand any longer and fully intend to happily lay down on the floor in that little triage room where they do the intake, a bed can appear.
At any rate, by now a difficult year has passed and though it still hurts, things are getting more and more back to normal.  You’d figure that with all the extra time on my hands, maybe the blog could’ve been kept up, but it’s amazing how being injured can occupy your mind (Getting to the dining room was akin to planning D-Day). Just me, I guess.
Anyway, I am grateful for the loving support (that is to say, putting up with my pitiful self) of my wife and family and that I am able to be prepping once again for an upcoming season rather than be on the inside looking out. I cannot help but be grateful to still have the use of my body, and this coming season stands to be a good one for that reason alone, regardless of how successful a hunter I turn out to be.
I hope to keep the blog posts current as well. Savannah has suggested a series of some sort...any ideas? I’ll be happy to put a story together mixed in with the randomness.
Take care and happy hunting!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Message in a Bottle

If you’ve ever walked the beach, you’ve probably noticed that area up near the dunes where the flotsam and jetsam brought in by the ocean is deposited and left by the highest tides; the ‘tide line’ it’s called. Around here the bulk of that line usually consists of the remnant canes of dead Spartina marsh grass mixed, unfortunately, with occasional bottles, cans, fishing and crabbing floats, and the like.

A similar line exists further up in the estuaries where the marshes are. On good spring tides with a stiff wind behind them, all but the highest portions of the marsh are underwater and anything floatable is brought up out of the grass and flung along a line where the water finally stops and retreats. This tide line in the marsh is off the beaten path and, unlike beaches, never gets cleaned up. There’s a lot of stuff out there. The result is something of a history lesson – you’ll find bottles for soft drinks that haven’t been made in years or see old glass bottles and new plastic ones for the same product, for instance. I walked up on a dead mule out there years ago. No clue where that thing floated in from, but he was history.

There aren’t many reasons to go slogging your way along the marsh tide line, but we manage to find one every so often and it is always interesting. Two of our finds were messages in bottles and these, I think, are special. Special mainly because of the sheer unlikelihood that anyone would locate them where they finally managed to land. They weren’t going any further and not many folks walk through that marsh. Even then, what catches your eye about that bottle when you’ve walked past a hundred seemingly just like it?

But I said these walks are something of a history lesson and these messages were snapshots of different times. The older bottled message was written in pencil on a fragment of stiff paper. It’s very faint, but as near as I can tell the address listed doesn’t exist anymore and the phone number belongs to someone else. The more recent message we found a couple of months ago and this one was written on computer and includes the sender’s email address. This one wished us a Happy Valentine’s Day 2004. If you, or someone you know, are, we love you too. Since it’s very legible, I’ll reseal it and set it adrift again with an added note.

I find these messages special, too, because someone once, for reasons of their own, decided to write a note, seal it up, and fling it, with some sort of hope, to the current. It makes you wonder who they are (or were), and what was going on in their lives when they sent that message out. In my mind they’re good people, but who knows?

I think to some degree that’s how Savannah got me on board with this blog. Maybe this is our little message in a bottle. Hope you enjoy.


Oh, this is the older note…found about 35 years after it’s launch. I’m using the fellow’s name since he didn’t mind doing so. And who knows, maybe he’ll hear about it:
"Dear Finder,
Please write me at 1XXX Lee Street and tell me you found the bottle. Phone 264-XXXX. Date 10-26-71.
Pete Smith (peace sign)"