Sunday, May 31, 2009
In this same vein, I wanted to share a few more quotes from Grouse Feathers and More Grouse Feathers. In a chapter in Grouse Feathers regarding what it takes to make good grouse cover, Spiller wrote:
Of one thing, however, I am firmly convinced. Back of all the chaos which we call life, beyond the realms of unmeasurable and unfathomable space, in which millions of celestial bodies move with unfailing accuracy, there is some definite and perfect plan. You may call it what you will--coincidence--nature--God. Neither your opinion nor mine can alter a single sequence of it. It is inexorable. When its fitful shadow hovers malignantly close, we shudder at its harshness; and yet it is always just.
Whether fly-fishing or birdhunting, contact with nature definitely helps me to see and appreciate the order, the mysteries, and the miracles everywhere around us. At the very end of this same chapter, as he writes about the ruffed grouse's love for apple buds and apples and caring for his own orchards, Spiller intentionally gives away his own belief on the source of this perfect order:
I prune and fertilize and spray. God, from His largess, gives the increase and, in His infinite wisdom knows, I hope, who gets the apples.
Yellowstone Cutthroat-"Even Solomon in all of his glory was not arrayed like unto one of these. "
Many of you who follow the blog may have read, "The French Brittany and the American Dream," in which I wrote about how the breeding of the French Brittany stemmed from man's innate desire to be free. In More Grouse Feathers, Spiller wrote something that goes along with this theme:
I believe it is the inalienable right of every boy to have a dog for his very own, and if he is to hunt with one later in life the early lessons he learns will be invaluable to him.
Truly, there is something special about the relationships that we share with our dogs, especially when we are together in the uplands. The line between master and servant becomes blurred and we become partners, even buddies in the mutual pursuit of happiness. It's hard to explain, but sometimes commands become unnecessary and it's almost like we can read each other's minds. Maybe, it's our spirits communicating. Indeed, as Spiller so aptly stated, every boy should, as a matter of right, have this unequaled opportunity. It will not only help him to better understand and appreciate the natural world around him, but also to become a better person.
After a successful blue grouse hunt, Sunny and I relax on the banks of an alpine lake.
I can definitely see why Burton Spiller was dubbed "the Poet Laureate of Grouse Hunting," but his writing touches themes much deeper than birdhunting. I believe this is why his works have become timeless classics. Here's to you Mr. Spiller.
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Fishing with my family on Memorial Day.
This past weekend I took my family camping and fishing at a fun little creek beneath lofty peaks. Before this trip, I happened to have a four-weight G. Loomis that I don't use very often. On the drive over, I told my nine year old, Jenness, "Nessy, if you can catch a trout all by yourself on this flyrod, you can have it." Nessy eagerly accepted the challenge.
We camped not far from one of Idaho's peaks over 12,000 feet, named "Diamond," due to its triangular shape.
On Monday morning, Nessy and I spent some one-on-one time on the creek. We were fishing the G. Loomis with a home-tied Dave Whitlock's Red Fox Squirrel Nymph with a strike indicator. At first, I tried to show Nessy how to cast. She picked that up quickly and could cast well enough to make a decent presentation. It was hard for me to just stand back and let her learn on her own. I tried to be generous with praise and sparing with words of criticism and instruction. Believe me, I prayed that a naive trout would cooperate!
Soon enough, Nessy picked up the line to re-cast and, to both of our surprises, Nessy had on a trout. . . her first fish on a fly rod! She squealed with excitement as she felt the small fish tug against the rod. Call me a sap, but I almost cried! For so long, I have wanted my kids to understand and experience the joys of fly-fishing and it finally happened for Jenness. "Congratulations Nessy, you just got yourself a new fly rod.!" I exclaimed. Nessy beamed with pride at her newfound skills and rod. She repeated this feat two more times in my presence.
Nessy and one of her first trout on a fly.
The absolute coolest thing that day occurred after the family finished up with lunch. Nessy eagerly asked me: "Dad, do you mind if I take my rod and go and try to catch another fish?" "Not one bit," I responded. She took off for the creek with her rod in hand and her cousin Blake beside her. I was interested to see how she would do without me looking over her shoulder. Within five minutes, Nessy yelled excitedly: "Dad! Dad! Come quick! I caught another one all by myself!" I sprinted down to the creek with camera in hand anxious to see her trout and to capture the moment. The elation in her eyes and her wide smile were unforgettable. It reminded me of why I love fly-fishing and the outdoors so much. I hope you all enjoy the pictures and that they catch-in some small degree-the excitement of a child and her first trout on the fly. In a word, Priceless!
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Orphaned Mountain Lion Cub.
In my last post, "One Hot Tom," I wrote about a recent turkey hunt in southeastern Idaho. A few weeks before our hunt, the landowner (on who's property we hunted) was asked by the Idaho Fish & Game to go up into the mountains near his home and pick up a mountain lion cub who's mother had been illegally killed. The landowners went up to the area, found the fiesty cub, grabbed it by the scruff of the neck, and threw it into a gunny sack. They have graciously been taking care of it until it can go out on its own. Guess what they feed it? Live chickens!!!
The cub was not at all happy for Matt and I to be around, but he still needs to work on his roar (which was more like a hiss).
Monday, May 18, 2009
The weekend before last, my good friend Matt Lucia and I had the opportunity to chase some turkeys in Southeastern Idaho on some prime private property. Neither of us had hunted this particular property before. On Friday morning, we arrived later than we'd hoped, but immediately commenced our hunt. As we donned our camoflauge gear at the truck, we both clearly heard one gobble in the mountains to the south. There would be no easy riverbottom hunt for us this morning . . . the hills were calling.
The turkeys had moved from the flat river bottom to the steep wooded ridges.
As we worked up the switchback dirt road, we listened carefully without calling to see if our quarry would give away his position once more. Out of shape from winter's inactivity, I sucked in the fresh air, but the exercise felt good.
As we steadily made our way up the mountain, we distinctly heard a hen call, Rrt Rrt Rrt rrt. The hen was less than seventy-five yards away and was oblivious to our presence. Matt suggested that we set up in some trees off the road and see if we could call in the hen and, of course, any nearby Tom.
Sometimes, when turkey hunting, you feel like a camoflauged ninja.
As we positioned ourselves, with me closer to the calling hen, and Matt behind me, we heard a mature gobbler fire off his lusty call to the hen. Gobblblblblblbl! Things were looking good as we were only twenty minutes into the hunt and we had yet to make a call.
While we sat, the distinct sound of footfalls came down the game trail off to the left. At first, it seemed that the rapid movement might be the turkeys, but we quickly realized that it was two coyotes- a bedraggled female out in front and a male in pursuit. Our camouflage worked superbly as they did not notice us. Not more than a minute later, the flirtatious couple circled back around and came down the same trail. However, this time the curious female veered off the trail in my direction and stood not ten feet from my position--so close I could hear her breathing. Had I been hunting coyotes, she would have been dead. Worried that she might attack me, I whispered: "Get on out of here!" The already ghostly coyote quickly assessed her danger, tucked her tail between her legs, and blasted back up the trail. Unfortunately, we soon heard the distinct call of frightened turkeys as they fled from the four-legged pursuers. The hunt for these particular birds was over before it even began! This was not the first (and I'm sure it will not be the last) time coyotes have ruined one of my turkey hunts. Matt and I hunted hard for much more of the day, with no workable birds.
The view from up top was worth the effort to attain it. You gotta love idyllic Idaho!
That night, from the road, we listened for toms gobbling in the roost and again heard one faint gobble on the same ridge we hunted earlier that morning.
Early Saturday morning, we quietly hiked up the dirt road in the half light of dawn. Matt and I enjoyed the sunrise as we worked our way up to an open flat area with good sign. Although myriad rooster pheasants called like there was no tomorrow, some from groves at the very tops of the mountains we climbed (I kid you not!), the turkeys were silent. More than once, we commented on the pheasants who seemed to think that they were grouse by the coverts they had chosen. "How do you explain that?" I asked Matt, "Are these birds-because of the loss of farmland habitat-adapting to a totally different terrain?" "I don't know." Matt honestly replied.
As we stepped onto the open flat, Matt pointed to the crest of the ridge that lay before us. Silently working their way over the summit were approximately ten to fifteen turkeys. One lone bird-we guessed to be a mature Tom-stood on the skyline with his neck outstretched like a periscope and watched warily as we stood dumbfounded. In a word, we were Busted!
Fresh sign tells us we are in the right place.
In our defense, we were very quiet in our hike up, but the wary birds were absolutely silent. We had no idea of their whereabouts before they were on to us and over a hundred yards away straight up the steep hillside.
We worked our way up to where the birds had crossed over into the steep narrow valley below. At the top, as he crawled on his hands and knees, Matt heard one nervous hen yelp. Rrt rrt rrt. . . and then the birds were silent. No doubt, this flock of turkeys would be near impossible to hunt.
As any experienced turkey hunter will tell you, when a particular group of turkeys will not cooperate, look for some more. Don't give up because things can change in a hurry! With this in mind, we decided to work our way around the bowl-shaped ridge top and listen for other gregarious birds. This plan quickly panned out as we distinctly heard a gobbler two ridges over.
"Let's work our way around this peak and not call until we get over to the ridge where the turkey is gobbling," Matt suggested. Looking at the task before us (and clinging to the principle that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line), I asked, "Would it be better to just hike straight down this draw to the other side?" "No, if we work around the bowl, we can hear the gobbler, better locate him, and set up on him. Down in that canyon, we won't be able to hear anything." Seeing the steep terrain ahead, I stated with a sigh, "It's gonna take us a while to get over there." Even as I said it, I knew this was a good plan, so I sucked it up and kept moving.
Matt using his Billy White box call to attract a hot Tom.
As we hiked around the bowl, we bumped numerous blue and ruffed grouse. . . a good omen. Upon reaching the far ridge, where the gobbler had first called, Matt and I broke out our box calls. Matt uses a Billy White box call, which sounds and carries better than any call I have ever heard. To our delight, the Tom liked what he heard and instantly responded, Goblblblblble! But he was still a ways away.
I steadily made my way through the trees to an opening on the desired ridge. I could hear hen calls at various intervals and, having lost sight of Matt, I couldn't tell if it was him or a real hen. Meanwhile, the gobbler was firing off at each call and rapidly getting closer. I slowly walked downhill towards the calls, hoping to discover Matt's whereabouts. Soon enough, Matt whistled and waived me to him.
As I quickly bridged the thirty yard gap between us, the now extremely close Tom, gobbled just below a patch of scrub trees that we stood at the top of-the only cover now separating us from the fired-up Tom. Wanting me to get the first shot, Matt whispered with confidence, "Andy sit right here in this thicket. The Tom will come up this open two track to our right." Matt then positioned himself about fifteen yards behind me beneath a tall sage brush and started to purr and putt with his slate call. With every call, came the thunderous reply, GBLBLBLBLBL!
As I sat there, with the high sun blaring in my eyes, my heart pounded as the gobbler approached. Any second I just knew that his read head would appear . . . would I make the shot? However, the cracking twigs soon declared his approach was not coming from the two track to my right, but from behind me to the left. Our quickly thought out plan to put me into shooting position had failed. Instead, the sneaky gobbler worked his way up a narrow game trail that cut its way through the thicket on the left and caught Matt off guard just as he was setting down his slate call. At that instant, the redheaded lovestruck bird realized that something was awry and he putted once, stuck his head up to assess the danger, and Matt quickly put the bead on his head and pulled the trigger. . . . Boooom!
"Did you kill him?" I asked to confirm what I already knew. "Yep!" Matt replied. We ran over to the downed bird, a beautiful Merriams with a creamy band along the fringe of his fan. "Alright Matt, good shot! We got one!"
Wildflowers in the spring are enough reason alone to go out turkey hunting.
Monday, May 4, 2009