Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Forgotten Past

Recently I've been spending the cold winter evenings looking at several hundred old photographs and postcards given to me by my Dad. As my Mom slips further away with Alzheimer's Dad has been going through the house cleaning out cupboards and closets that were at one time my Mom's domain. From the maternal side of my family a few of the photo's are written on the back as to who the person or persons are in them but most are blank. Lost in the past are people, relatives or their friends, a part of me that I'll never know. Here are some of the hunting photo's that sadly have no information on them. They show that I came from a rabbit hunting family. That comes as no surprise as I dreamed of hunting rabbits with beagles from my early childhood, getting my first beagle when in my early teens and hunting them exclusively up until my mid-thirty's when grouse and woodcock lured my away from my roots. On the rare occasion that I happen upon a beagle hot on a track in my wanderings I always stop and reminisce about my youth, of my wanderings through fields and woodlots following a hard hunting beagle of two, of standing and listening to the chase wondering if I had chosen a good spot to intercept the rabbit as it ran it circle, of trudging home with a rabbit or two pulling my hunting coat down my back with a beagle or two pulling on the leash wanting desperately to start just one more chase. Enjoy the looks of satisfaction on the faces of these hunters after a good days hunt and the looks of pride as they posed with their dogs.

And please date and label your photographs of your hunts so that years from now someone can say " This is my great-grandfather with one of his favorite hunting dogs" instead of having to wonder like I am as to who these hunters were and what part of my past do they fit into.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Foggy Big Savage Mountain hunt

I headed down to Big Savage Mountain just above the Maryland line for a hunt with Copper. In the nearly 30 years that I have known this cover it has changed little. Much of this cover was at one time a high mountain farm. Old stone fence rows and scattered orchards are the only reminders of the hard work done by long gone farmers eking out a living in this wild land. Grape vines, bittersweet, multi-flora rose, autumn olive, green briers and treetops broken off by ice storms and high winds make up much of the cover.
As I worked my way up the old logging road toward the top the fog became thicker.

Copper appearing out of the fog.

The old bones of a farm house. Once alive with a man and a woman and probably a litter of children, now slowly pasting time alone and empty with only its memories to fill its decaying rooms.

A bear marking its territory. These claw marks were 6 feet high.

No birds were carried off the mountain on this trip although I missed a wild flush and Copper found several, she just could not get them to hold for a point, but it was enough to know that the birds and the cover are still there waiting for the next time I decide to tackle Big Savage Mountain.

Friday, November 13, 2009

This weeks wanderings

Here are some pictures from this weeks wanderings. I had high hopes in getting Emma into the woodcock flights on this the last week of Pa.'s woodcock season, but my woodcock covers have been bare. The native birds seem to have flown south even though the weather remains warm. The flight birds from up north are nowhere to be found. Have they already slipped through? Are they still holding up north waiting for colder weather to push them southward? Such is the mystery of the woodcock.

On Monday while hunting a woodcock cover Emma pushed out a pheasant with a broken-wing. After a chase through some thick pines she made a nice retrieve.

On Tuesday while hunting a cover in Centre co. I took a shot at a wild flushed grouse (the only bird of the day) and broke a wing. Emma did her part and make another nice retrieve.
The Grulla and the grouse. Emma was a little hard on the grouse's tail so no fan picture.

After the hunt Emma waits to have the ticks combed out.

On Wednesday while Emma was nursing a sore paw, I took Copper to northern Cambria co. to hunt some nice aspen cover I had discovered in the spring. Midway through the hunt she locked up on a nice high-headed point. As I walked in a grouse flushed some 30 feet above and behind her. She remained rock-solid on point so I circled around in front of her and moved in. I could see her eyes searching the ground for the bird she was so sure was there. Suddenly a woodcock flushed between us spirling up in the textbook corkscrew flight. I pulled the front trigger then the back and made a textbook miss with both barrels :( .

Copper after the hunt waiting to be combed out. The ticks this year have been horrible.

On Thursday I hunted Emma in a series of nice thick clearcuts in Blair co. I walked into a large woodcock at the start of the hunt and later Emma flash-pointed a grouse in a spruce tree that flushed without a shot and that was the only action we had there. We then drove to the top of Snake Spring mountain to a cover that I have memories of a wonderful hunt some years ago with Hattie that resulted in a nice point, shot, and retrieve on a grouse. I walked out a well used logging road for 1/2 hour and then took this faint logging trail up toward the top.

The cover is steep, rocky and littered with grape tangles and blown down tree tops.

Emma hunting the steep cover. We moved 3 grouse for no shots in the rocky terrain.

Emma drinking in scent from below.

A view from near the top of the mountain.

Today I'll spend my time in my local woodcock covers in a last minute attempt to find the elusive woodcock.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Roaring Plains

I made the long drive back into the Roaring Plains of West Virginia for the first time in several years. Other covers closer home had kept me satisfied for awhile, but the call for a wilder type of hunt led me back to these high mountain haunts. The birds were there, but as usual they used the thick spruce-rhododendron cover to make good on their escape route and although Hattie has several productive points I was never able to get off a shot. Hope you enjoy the following pictures of my adventure. The pipeline is the path to the top of the plateau. Pushed through in the early 70's, it prevented this area from becoming a wilderness area. So while the Dolly Sods wilderness area gets overrun by backpackers looking for the wilderness experience this 20 some squaremile area, which is just as wild except for the long pipeline scar running through it, gets few visitors.
A view of the pipeline on top stretching eastward.

The mountain holly were a bright red against the green spruce background.

A windswept hawthorn, a living testament of the harsh weather that rules this land.

Springs abound in this high mountain plateau.

Hattie working through some open cover.

The walk back to the truck.

Hattie at the end of the hunt.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A Change of Diet

Although I'm starting the hunting season 10 lbs lighter than last year this isn't about my diet. It's my 16 gauge Grulla that will be fed a diet of 2 1/2 inch roll crimped shells this year. You may be wondering why I would be going to so much trouble when a trip to a local sporting goods store could result in shells that would kill grouse and woodcock. I attribute it to my quest to be different. Just as I'm a grouse and woodcock hunter in a land of deer and turkey hunters. Just as I'm a 16 gauge shooter in a land of 12 gauge shooters. The reasoning is plain to me.........because I know of no one else who does this.

I've reloaded my own shells for some years now and the move to roll crimping was just a natural progression for me. Maybe its the need to be even more of an oddball that drove me to purchase the tools and spend hours in the basement working up loads and then spending time at the patterning board looking for the prefect recipe.

What ever the reason I'm committed to using these little beauties this season loaded in 3/4, 7/8, and 1 oz. loads.

Below are the tools of the art of roll crimping.

A home-made hull cutting tool. Using a dowel rod approx. the size of the inside ID of a 16 gauge shell, I drilled a hole big enough to drive a blade from a exacto knife up through it and added a large headed screw to the end to adjust the length of the hull cut. It's an excellent, speedy way to cut plastic hulls.

A hull cutter from http://www.leadtradingpost.com/. I find this cutter works better on paper hulls than my home-made one.

A hull vise from Ballistic Products Inc.

A modern roll crimping head mounted in a drill press.

This is an old hand roll crimper made in the late 1800's that still does an excellent job.

The Results.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

October Time

Time to experience the thrill of a pointing dog with nerves strung to the breaking point.

Time to travel abandon logging roads. Letting them lead me where they want to.

Time to visit old homesteads. Silent reminders of days long past.

Time to visit old friends that I have found over the years and contemplate their lives and deaths in this rugged mountain land that I love to roam.

Time to enjoy life in the uplands.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Allegheny Mountain Smallmouth Bass

Fishing in the Alleghenys to me means Smallmouth Bass. On my eastern slopes there are small secluded streams that flow against steep ridges and along isolated meadows where you cannot find a footprint of another angler. Often you have to walk through unproductive shallow waters to find the stretches that hold fish, but when you do its well worth the exercise.

My great-nephew Caleb is my usual fishing partner (when he can find time in his busy schedule :) ).

A few evenings a summer my wife goes with me fishing. Large or small she enjoys the tug on the end of her line.

My wife's best ever Smallie, an 18 incher, taken on a mole worm.

Fishing alone it's impossible to get pictures that honor this KING of all fish but here are some nice fish that I've taken while fishing without a companion.

I use light spinning tackle for my Smallie fishing. My favorite lures are plastic lures that I hand-pour myself. You will usually find this worm called a "mole worm" tied to my line 90% of the time.

Crawdads can also tempt a Smallie into a strike.

When all else fails a Rebel Teeny Wee Craw will catch you a fish. It may be a Smallie, a Rock Bass, a Fallfish, or a Sunfish but it is a deadly fishcatcher. Caleb jokingly refers to it as the small child and woman lure.

It's more than just the fish that draw me to these lovely little secluded streams. It's the wondering of what's just around that next bend that pulls me on.