Sunday, December 30, 2012

Midge Hatches

Midges have supplied me with more fine fishing days than I can count; from tail-water fisheries to free-stone streams to reservoirs, lakes, ponds, and even sloughs. I have imitated them to fool trout, steelhead, whitefish, bass, crappie, bluegill, squaw fish, carp, and chubs.  They are imitated so easily and fish so well its hard not to like them.  A frustrating and somewhat limiting factor to tying and fishing their imitations is their size.  A #24 hook is overly dressed with just thread on it; add much else and the hook gap disappears, and the patterns effectiveness dies.  But the challenge of tying a pattern that small is unique.  Successfully tying and fishing these patterns is a joy.

Lakes midges are typically much larger in size so you feel like you're throwing a T-bone steak rather than an expensive appetizer that teases the taste buds rather than satisfying a grown man's hunger.  But when size isn't an issue often the numbers of naturals on the water can be.  Figuring out in which direction the cruising trout is headed and guessing where it wants to eat next is a challenge.  When a hundred or more trout are all feeding at once and a good percentage of them are within casting distance with 1000's of naturals on the water it becoming pure pandemonium!

Last spring we were on a tail-water fishery chasing steelhead.  The dam on this river marks the furthest most point the anadromous fish can ascend and they gather there in great numbers, on good years.  My brother Adam was home over spring break and with him came the heavy rains of April.  The rivers were blown out and heavy with sediments and the fishing opportunity looked bleak.  I decided our best bet was to fish for steelhead below the dam where some control of flows and sediment load was possible.  Adam hadn't fished for steelhead for almost 20 years and I wanted to get him a fish.

The water was relatively clear that morning but by lunch time it was pretty dark and the water level was rising; they had pulled the plug and were dumping water in preparation for run-off. Early that morningAdam hooked and landed a beautiful 25" buck on a bobber and jig set up.  It was only the second steelhead of his life so we were all pretty excited despite the slow fishing and quickly changing water conditions.

As the day wore on I watched bass, trout, and even steelhead rise and boil on the surface of the river.  Adult midges were everywhere but it was hard to tell if a hatch on was due to poor water clarity; it was hard to see anything in or on the water, especially empty shucks from recently hatched midges.  We tried some minnow patterns thinking the predatory bass and steelhead were possibly slashing at the smolt the kids were catching, but with no success.  Finally I decided to give a midge pattern a try below my bobber and jig.  The river was huge and the amount of weight needed to reach fishing depths was ridiculous.  I kept playing with my bobber stop adjusting it higher and higher trying to find bottom.  The roiling currents on the edge of the eddy kept my jig and flies suspended and I wasn't finding anything but a slight amount of frustration.

I finally had a good drift, the bobber slowing sunk out of sight in the turbid waters and I set the hook for the sake of it, not because I thought there was a fish on the other end of the line.  I was pleasantly surprised with a heavy pull and a good head shake.  I got Jakey over there, my nephew, and he battled the 26" buck into the shallows where we finally tailed it.  Hooked solid in the corner of its mouth was my red midge pattern.  Amazingly that fish, in 42,000 cfs of turbid water, picked out a #14 midge pattern and inhaled it.

Tyler and I headed down river exploring some other holes a little while later.  I kept that same set up on and picked up a few more trout, one an especially nice specimen of 19".  It was a great end to a nice day, catching fish on a midge pattern in a river so big and blown out you'd think only dynamite would bring any luck.

This video is short.   Its filmed on a local put and take lake in late fall.  The first fish Ty hooks and loses is actually hooked on a full sinking line and a #6 woolly bugger; probably olive.  It is usually the ticket on this little lake and we have exploited its success many times.  This particular day was a little windy and a small chop was on all but the lee side of the lake; the SW corner.  We weren't picking up many fish and things seemed to be "off".  We were fishing the eastern shore, our favorite haunt, when  I looked across and noticed the lake was like glass and there were fish rising in the far corner.  Incidentally the last hour before dark the whole lake was glass-like but the majority of the rises was concentrated in the same, shallow corner of the lake.

We trolled his fly to where the rings of rising trout was most concentrated.  We put aside the dredge gear, switched over to a floating line, dug deep in an abandoned fly box and found a few patterns we could alter with a pair of nippers to match the #10 midges hatching by the 1000's.  All the fish thereafter are caught on "midge patterns".  After Ty wore out and lost a few of our makeshift patterns I asked for a turn and hooked a trout on the dry and dropper on the same cast.  It was fun watching the tug-of-war as the trout fought each other as well as Ty's glass rod.   Unfortunately the 3 pound tippet was a little light and the fish hooked on the dropper escaped to be hooked another day.

We fished up there a few more times in the following week or two but just trolled lures with my youngest kids.  We caught some nice fish, a lot of fish, and every time, in the same corner, there were a hundred trout rising if there was one.  I never did return with a fly rod and some actual midge patterns, though I threatened to.  I'd taken a few notes the night this video was filmed on color, size, etc., so I was ready to put an epic number of fish in the boat, but this fall was a busy one; a great friend died, elk season happened, the honey-doo list was calling and I just never made time for it.  I guess next fall, around the middle of October, you know where you can find me.....................bring a 3-weight rod with a long, light leader, a flashlight, and plan to stay till we can't see our flies on the water, even when fishing facing east.

A great day with my dad and the youngest 3 of my 6!  The trout really worked the midges this day but we caught our trout deep, on lures.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Spike Only, REALLY?

Last year's 2nd bull season was a blast, if you enjoy wilderness camping and no elk.  We did manage to eat 4 pounds of Tillamook Medium Cheddar Cheese and a 3 ft beef stick with other tasty morsels, but mostly we just enjoyed the country, the company, and eventually the constipation.  But my boys put 42 miles on their boots in 4 days of hunting and only saw 4 cows a mile and a half away.  I hunted a less remote unit the first season and killed a spike.  This caused minor upheavals and the desire to kill a branch bull was outweighed by the chances of killing an elk; I had seen many more elk than 4 in the few days I hunted.

Not too many years ago, before hound hunting was banned in Oregon, we had good populations of deer and elk.  With unregulated predator numbers the hunting has deteriorated to a bleak existence.  When we moved back to Oregon the kids were excited.  They have heard the stories of successful hunts, they have seen the pictures and all the antlers hanging in the shed, they have also spent enough time in the mountains to know that NE Oregon has what it takes to be a hunting mecca.   Having lived and hunted in Wyoming makes this fact even harder to accept; they have seen good hunting, they know it exists, they know what good country looks like and they understand habitat and carrying capacity.  NE Oregon has the country, the habitat, the space, we just don't have the herds we once did.

Corey is a JV football player and his last game is today, October 25th, the second day of the first bull season.   He didn't hunt yesterday because he has to be at school to play, so it was just Tyler and Dad.  We decided to hunt where I killed my bull last year.  The snow this year was close to 8 inches deep, it was fresh, new powder that silenced most of our stumbles on the steep hillside.  The air was crisp with a winter-like bite.  The clouds hung heavy on the mountain top with intermittent fog/clouds keeping our visibility down to a minimum; it reminded me of my first elk hunt that happened on these same ridges Tyler and I hunted yesterday.

That hunt took place 28 years ago, when I was 12, and my dad had been out scouting for me and had found a nice bunch of elk with a lone spike.  He had given up bull hunting by that time hunting cows every year.  He knew the chances of killing a late season cow was better than an early season bull and with 5 kids to feed and a big freezer to fill antlers became less important.  I could have drawn a tag with him, but I wanted a bull.

Dad didn't argue or even try to persuade me to hunt cows with him, all I got was an, 'are you sure?'  So, with limited time off, one horse, and me in school dad found a herd of elk on Mt. Emily for me to hunt.  We borrowed uncle Sig's 4x4 truck to make it through all the snow we had that year and dad and I left EARLY; it was a good thing too.  A tree had fallen in the night and Sig didn't have chains, an ax, or even a jack in the truck.  Dad used his bone saw to cut the tree through and then manhandled it out of the way, just far enough to the truck through; we were still on time.  To put this in perspective the tree required cutting from both sides to get all the way through.  I sat in the old, tan Chevy and roasted in my winter clothes while dad worked hard to make sure I was successful.  I remember on the trip dad hit a bump that jostled us so bad I bounced off the seat and hit my head on the crossbeam that vehicle manufacturers conveniently place right where your head would hit if something like that happened.  We got a good laugh out of it and I got a nice goose egg.

The elk were right where dad had bedded them the night before, except the spike had wandered off.  When we spotted the elk in the draw we made a mad dash down hill so I had a clear shot through the trees.  I remember dad slipped and fell, sliding down the steep hill on his back side looking completely in control.  He jumped up, rifle ready and in good shape, waiting for me to catch up and make the shot.  I remember giggling from excitement!  It was funny to watch my dad eat it, but I remember thinking how cool it was that he was so natural in that setting.  The fall would have flustered most men and the recovery would have been awkward and difficult in the deep snow with a pack frame on, but not for dad, it was like it was an everyday occurrence, a mild interruption to an otherwise normal day..........I wanted to be just like him, I've always wanted to be just like him!  Because of the time he spent with me I'd have so say I have come pretty close.  Today I was him and Tyler was me, but this time there was a spike in the herd. 

Tyler and I dropped off the top, made our way through an alder thicket, and side-hilled around toward the thickets to our south.  We were half way there, I had stopped and was having a good conversation about life with Ty, when he spotted a bull below us; he saw the antlers move as the bull turned its head. We glassed the area good but never did see another elk.  The bull, just 60 yards away, finally trotted back from where he came.  We hustled along finding a small clearing torn up with elk sign; we'd bumped a good sized herd.  We moved slowly through the trees glassing as we went and finally heard the calves talking ahead and a little above us.  We circled above them but found our path would take us through an old burn where we'd be in the open, so we dropped back down and continued along our original path.  

Ty spotted them first, 10 or so elk, feeding in the trees above us; despite the swirling wind they never smelled us.  We stood still and I glassed the heads looking for spikes.  All we saw were branch bulls and cows.  A 6-point finally noticed us and stood statue still watching us for 5 minutes, completely in the open and less than 75 yards away.  It would have been an easy shot and Ty whispered he wished we were in a unit branch bulls were legal, but we weren't and had to be content just watching.  Soon we had 3 branch bulls in front of us with a "spike".  He was definitely a yearling, but he had a crown of 3 tines on his left and a forked antler on his right so all we could do was watch.  It took close to 10 minutes for the elk to finally get nervous and move off behind us, where we all came from.  I found a spike just as they were leaving but it was through thick cover and Ty didn't have a shot.  

We tracked them down and I spotted 2 of the branch bulls in thick, new-growth trees at the top end of the draw.  I soon found other elk and finally found the spike.  Ty and I belly crawled through the snow to a good shooting position. Ty was freezing as the sweat had dried, the wind was blowing, and he was layered for hiking, not sitting in the snow watching elk.  The bull finally was clear of the cows and Ty put a well placed bullet into its chest; his follow up shot was a little too far back, but sealed the deal.  The bull walked out of sight and we waited....................there wasn't a sound from him going down in the snow, but cows ran up out of the thicket of small trees he'd entered and looked back, nervously. I told Ty he had his bull; elk don't act like that unless something is wrong.  

I left Tyler to watch and make sure a wounded bull didn't slip away while we looked for  him.  I could smell him before I saw him, he hadn't gone far.  We quickly called everyone on the cell phone (its amazing how easy it is to communicate with the world with today's technology) and took some pictures.  The pack out wasn't bad, two trips each, and we were home before dark.  

Two days later we jumped those elk again, this time with Corey.  We tracked them across another mile of county and I finally found a spike in thick trees.  Corey and I crawled through deeper snow to a vantage point above the thickly treed draw the elk had stopped in.  He had to snake a bullet through a huge Doug fir halfway to the elk as well as the opening in the trees immediately around the bull.  The bullet was deflected and his follow up shot was just a click; he had ejected the spent shell but failed to move the bolt far enough to grab the next one.  There was no blood and we followed the elk to edge of private property a mile from where he shot.  We jumped a HUGE 6x6 in the trees on our way back to Ty but never caught up with the spike again.  We enjoyed a hot fire, some food, and the scenery before climbing out of that hole to where the truck waited.  We went bass fishing on the Snake River the next day instead of hunting elk again; it was Corey's choice.  It was an incredible day of fishing with lots of smiles and pictures.   Our freezers were pretty much full and Abbie still had a deer tag to fill, we had two elk already in the freezer and the Swedes were coming for the 2nd bull season; we had time to fish.   

I often think of that day with my dad 28 years ago, specifically when I look at the outline of the mountain or talk of elk hunting.  The fact that I didn't get a bull that day, that someone below us, without a tag, shot 4 bulls out of a big group we were watching at 250 yards is inconsequential to me now.  The most vivid memory I have is of my dad sliding down the hill in the deep snow and the excitement I felt to be with him, sharing the experience and being allowed to love what he loved and to make memories, ones that would one day be stories I could tell those that would listen, of a wonderful day that shaped me as a hunter and more importantly as a father.  

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Abbie's Elk

Abbie is 12 this year and so can hunt big game with dad and the older brothers.  As far as girls hunting in my family, only my sister Aria ever hunted, a few of my dad's sisters and my niece Mori.   I wasn't sure how excited Abbie would be about shooting something and I didn't want to kill her off the first year with hunts miles from the truck, so I put her in for a few muzzleloader hunts offered in our area.  I put in for the same tags so I could legally help her.  As it turned out I didn't draw a tag and she got both, an antlerless elk tag and a white-tailed deer tag (any deer).

Abbie and I hunted a local herd of elk without much luck on September 7th and 8th.  The elk were in the area but staying on the private ground adjacent to the patch of timber we could hunt.  The tag is a depredation tag for the valley and elk, specifically antlerless, can only be shot within one mile (straight line) from plowed ground.

A few day prior to us trying our luck a friend of my dad's killed a large bear in the area we were hunting in one of the abandoned orchards that dot the flanks of the valley.  I think his gun shot probably put the elk off the public ground because the days prior to him killing the bear, the elk were heavily using the public parcel.

We weren't too discouraged but I was feeling some pressure because we had less than a month to hunt, the weather has been dry, fire hazards are extreme, and my weekends are filled up leaving very little mornings to hunt.  The elk bed up off the valley floor during they day and make their way into the fields at night; a morning hunt is best as they move back to their bedding area.

Monday I was in a meeting at work, it was 3:30 PM and with the amount of work still to do I wasn't getting out of there any time soon.  Kim called me during my meeting but I ignored the call, she immediately sent me a text so I knew something must be up.  I excused myself from the meeting and called her back.  My cousin called to say a rancher had some elk in his fields and needed one shot.  I wasn't immediately available but he said he'd take Abbie is we were okay with it.  I told Kim where to find the tag, muzzleloader and needed supplies and then I arranged to leave ASAP so I could maybe make the hunt.

As it turned out I didn't, making it there just before she shot her cow.  But Darren had his camera and got most all of it on film (see above).  A mutual cousin-in-law of ours just landed a job harassing elk for the rancher and that night elk got inside his high fences wiping out a good chunk of hay.  He has lost a lot of crop this year and is in the process of blocking his fields using high fences.  They are not completely up and so the elk have found their way in.  The cow Abbie was hunting was inside and moving deeper into the private ground.  When she was found a few calls were made and a the hunt was organized.

Tyler and Dan Hansen (the new cousin-in-law; he married into the Denny Waite Family) circled the cow pushing her back towards Abbie and Darren and Darren called her in using his cow call.  It worked pretty slick and Abbie severed the spine of the cow with a shot from the .50 caliber muzzleloader; she dropped in her tracks.  Darren had to help support the heavy gun so the shot wasn't recorded but the aftermath is there.  Tyler got a few pictures with his cell phone and we will upload those when we get them off the camera.

Monday, August 6, 2012

When You Find Yourself Up Lard Creek Without a Paddle

Lard Creek...........where is it you might ask, the answer requires a little story.

Many years ago my Aunt Penny and Uncle Irv had a neighbor who wanted to hunt elk here in Oregon and my dad was the chosen guide.  The story explaining where Lard Creek is located was told by the man, Ed, that came to hunt that one year.  He was hunting Mule Deer in Washington's Okanogan Valley with his son and some friends.  They had shot a few and a passerby came into their camp to look at the bucks they'd shot and to do some digging to find out their "secret spot".  When he finally asked where they killed the bucks the man's son immediately answered, "up Lard Creek".  The answer was so quick, so nonchalant, and so WRONG it surprised most everyone in camp because non of them had ever heard of Lard Creek.......especially the newcomer.  He eagerly asked where Lard Creek was at, to which the son answered, "up a pig's a**". 

Well, this gem of a trout stream is called "Lard Creek" to me and my son.  It was featured in Fly Fisherman Magazine a dozen years ago and its popularity has grown, unfortunately.  We have caught hundreds of browns, rainbows, cut-bows, and a smattering of brookies on this wild little stream.  They average a little better than 10-inches, fight hard, taste great, and rise easily to dries; I personally have seen fish (browns) in the 18-inch range and my brother-in-law, who I have spent countless hours fishing with up Lard Creek, has seen one (also a brown) over 20.

Amazingly its not that wide, typically not too deep, but holds a solid pH in the lower 8's, keeps a decent flow throughout the critical summer time, maintains good O2 levels,  and has a healthy population of stoneflies, mayflies, and lots and lots of caddis.  The only negative is the sediment load.

Geologically the limestone based mountains are capped with Rhyolite.  There are huge landslide deposits sandwiched between the old oceanic floor and newer volcanic materials.  The canyon is so steep, the vegetation so sparse in the high-desert environment, and the run-off so intense from thunderstorms and spring run-off that landslides are common.  They build natural dams on the creek that cause pooling in the upper reaches.  These pools are typically filled with brook trout.  The deluges of spring break these dams down in a few years and the pools disappear.  The excess sediment is deposited down stream, covering the spawning gravels.  The following spring's high flows wash them clean again and the trout population doesn't seem to notice; its a constantly changing free-stoner and probably my favorite trout stream!

Lard Creek fish don't have too much preference when it comes to flies.  If its subsurface an egg is deadly year round with red-copper johns and hare's ears, sporting a peacock herl wingcase, running close seconds.  I don't fish subsurface during the dry fly season becoming a purist around the end of run off into the brown trout spawn.  When it ices over I fish the slots between ice blocks in deeper pools with egg patterns and nymphs.  It's difficult to discern the take on frigid winter days, but very rewarding when you finally realize the pause of your line was a take.

During the dry fly season, Lard Creek is forgiving in that match-the-hatch fishing isn't too critical; its an attractor pattern paradise.   But fishing a pattern relatively close in size, outline, and color is very productive.  Casting accurately, keeping a low profile, and presenting your fly well (without drag) is necessary.  Some sections of the stream, like the one you see here today, see so few anglers that even some pretty sloppy casts work out pretty well.  The sections along the road require more stealth, smooth, delicate presentations, and a good eye; fish lay in the shaded shallows and at the lips of the pools, spooking easily and spoiling good water with their frantic escapes.  Today the fly of preference was my creation, the PG Chernobyl Adams; yes, its that ugly, that big, and the fish up Lard Creek LOVE IT!

I developed it last summer on our annual pilgrimage to the in-laws when water was unseasonably high, water was a little turbid, and I was tying flies for 6 people; most of them kids.  I wanted a high-floating, easy-to-see fly in a fish-catching, time-proven color, without all the steps required to tie a stimulator and that was wulff/humpy in appearance.  I started with a #10-12 hook, tied in a wide, bushy tail of elk, immediately dubbed a female adams body, then, using the butt-ends of the tail, I made upright and divided wings.  I have an older, brown neck cape (Metz) that I have picked through well.  I was down to mostly #18 and smaller feathers or #12 and larger so I used up a bunch of larger sized hackle; it worked perfectly.  Tyler and I had only 4 or 5 today that we wore out on sharp trout teeth, but I had tied up some H & L variants and a few floating fools to round out the fly selection.  We tried stimulators but the fish weren't interested.  We found a few pteronarcys exoskeletons on bank side vegetation and boulders in the stream but the hatch was well past.  Oh well, we hit it big with the peacock bodied flies and my pregnant mutant wulffy adams. 

Tyler has been fly fishing with his own gear since he was 12.   He has caught steelhead and all western species of trout on a fly rod and has amassed a decent collection of rods for a 16-year old; a 5-weight, a 5/6-weight glass rod, a 6/7-weight, his 8-weight steelhead rod, and a recently acquired 6-weight switch rod with which he can jack out an 80-foot bomb to a small lie against the far bank of our local steelhead stream.

He actually started fishing with me the spring before he was 2.  I'd put him in the backpack, give him a bottle, and wade up the lower reaches of the Provo River.  I carried diapers in my vest next to my fly boxes along with other necessary items, like a change of clothes and a plastic bag for the major blow-outs babies/toddlers are known to have, and extra formula.  When I kept fish for dinner Tyler always wanted to hold them, so I'd kill them, hand them back to him and he'd basically suck the slime off them; I called it his organic binky!  He would fall asleep to the sound of fly line cutting the air over his head.  I fished almost daily my first semester getting straight A's in reading water, fly selection and tying, and I got extra credit due to my high catch rates.  My fly boxes were stuffed and my waders were wearing thin.  My other classes, like Calculus, Chemistry, Statics, those grades didn't fair so well!  When Corey was born the following spring, I put him on my chest, Tyler in the back, and we fished for hours together, as well as all four seasons, to my wife's dismay, catching lots of browns.   

I grew up in Eastern Oregon and fished some good water, but I hadn't fished the match-the-hatch tail waters of the Rockies where my skills would be refined.  I'm to the point now that I just really like a good challenge.  I like a difficult fish in a hard to reach lie, I like catching big fish on small hooks, and anymore I really don't care if I land one, I just want to see it rise confidently to my fly or see the dip of my indicator, raise the rod tip confidently and feel the pull.  Unless its a steelhead, things get pretty serious when my spey rod is in my hands and I know fish are in the river.  But what really floats my boat is watching my kids love it.  Tyler reminds me a lot of myself on the Provo; you just can't catch too many fish, there aren't enough angling hours in a day, and he could honestly become a certified trout bum without feeling too much guilt.  He is eager to fish any water, try his skills on any fish, and most importantly, he wants success.  He reads all he can; he has subscriptions to magazines, has purchased books, watches videos on line and is always "checking out Sage's new rod", drooling over the Beulah Platinum Series Switch Rod he wants, or reading the historical account of the Lamson company; basically he is showing symptoms of an honest to goodness addiction. 

The little turd is almost as tall as I am, now and is beginning his junior year of high school.  He just past the written part of his drivers license, went to Japan on a cultural exchange wrestling trip this summer, and will be off to college and on a mission in 3 VERY SHORT years.  I just don't know what I am going to do without my fishing partner!  Thankfully Kim and I had 6 kids, so I'll have to brainwash some of the next 5 so I have someone to go out with.

Corey doesn't quite love it like Ty.  Ty will go fishing over just about EVERYTHING.  Corey has other interests he spends time on.  I think my best bet is Cole, he got his first fly caught steelhead at the age of 7 and fishes as much or more than Ty.  I can probably con him into a few trips.  Jared is definitely addicted, but is only 7.  I have to spend most of the time helping him, not fishing with him, so he has some work to do before he becomes a fishing partner.   Abbie will go sometimes but has other things she likes WAY more (Kim has one she can rely on) but Lyndie is fishing crazy!  I need to get her catching bluegills on a fly rod, that would definitely seal the deal.  

Today was not a great day of fishing, it was a good day.  We landed somewhere between 30 and 40 fish total and had half that many more rises between us.  The big one was broke off at the hook set by yours truly and we didn't make it all the way back to the highway; we had to climb out on some really nasty deer trails that were made for things with four legs NOT carrying a 8-foot-9-inch fly rod with felt soled boots on!  And the other boys and girls opted to swim at the local pool rather than brave the truck sized boulders and fast runs of Lard Creeks upper reaches.  Family events are WAY better than the solo excursions!  What fun is fishing without someone you love to share it with.


Thursday, April 12, 2012

Peacocks and Wild Turkey

Wild turkeys are dumb!  They are the only bird I know that can fly, but can't figure out how to get past a fence!  They will run up and down it franticly because they can't get past's 4 feet high, there is boundless sky above it, they have wings, but they can't cross.  The only bird I've seen fly, bigger than a turkey, is a peacock.  My great uncle Elden Waite had some property on the south side of the Grande Ronde Valley that he was kind enough to let me hunt on.  It had a few scattered pheasants, lots of quail, huns if you could find them, enough rock chucks to keep my .22 barrel hot all day, pigeons in the barn, and, at one time, before some trespassers shot them, a flock of least I think that is what they are called........nope, I just looked it up, it's a muster.  I used italics for the same reason everyone uses look smarter than I really am!  In the verbal.....ha ha, sorry oral language we use quotes with our fingers to look smarter..........or just really annoying!

So, there was a muster of peacocks on uncle Elden's place until scum shot them, and I was almost a scum the day dad took me hunting up there for the first time!  It was my first year of bird hunting and we were looking for something to shoot at......I don't think dad thought I'd hit anything any more than I did, thats why I say "shoot at".   We hunted the foothills SE of the old homestead circling down and around into the barnyard.  We were almost to the buildings (remember I'm hunting, I have a loaded gun and a severe blood lust!) when a bird, big enough to block out the sun, with REALLY long tail feathers (think rooster pheasant here) gets up (meaning flushed-from-the-tall-grass-at-my-feet) and landed in the Hawthorn bush in front of me.  I struggled to get the gun to my shoulder because I was small, weak, and trying not to crap myself..........IT SCARED THE DAYLIGHTS OUT OF ME!  I remember my dad yelling not to shoot, so I didn't.  I also knew enough to realize, after the shock of it all, that I wasn't looking at a bird I'd come to kill.  So, we headed to the barn to wait for one of the wild pigeons to offer up its life to Mr. Stevens.  Finally, a lone pigeon landed on top of one of the buildings.  Being a true sportsman, I slipped out of the building we were hiding in and sluiced it off the peak of the old barn with that trusty, old Stevens 20 gauge, bolt-action shotgun; my first kill with it.  It was a sweet victory!

We hunted up and around the old rock wall, headed north, until I flushed a small covey of huns, hitting one lightly.  We followed it to where it landed and finally got it.  My first kill on the wing; another small victory and another notch in my belt.  We drove home along the marsh, down Pierce Rd, towards B & K auto, finding a pen raised rooster crouched near the road, in weeds that just didn't quite cover him.  Dad handed me his 12 gauge and I shot his head off.  I didn't even get out of the back of the truck; I just decapitated him right there.  It was a glorious day.

That was 1982.  Since then I have killed more pheasants, quail, chukar, ducks, grouse, and huns than I can count.  I've killed deer, elk, antelope, bears, a cougar, coyotes, squirrels, some cats, a few cows, some pigs, chickens, and sheep, as well as lots of things I can't mention or my mom will beat me!  I've done it all.  I've outsmarted quite a few animals that, in their own right, were pretty sneaky.  Given the average intelligence of a turkey, this would be easy.  WRONG!  My first attempt at turkeys, I'm referring to a season, not an outing, was horrid.  I didn't have one chance at a turkey all year.  I didn't even find a tom on public ground; I did hear one at a distance, but that was it.  My friend, an experienced and highly successful turkey hunter, took us out, said he had a guaranteed tom for us, which it was, right up until the landowner drove up scaring off the one chance we had all season.

We didn't have wild turkeys in NE Oregon when I was inadvertently hunting a muster of peacocks on my great uncle's place.  Turkey hunting wasn't even interesting to me.  I remember getting my Outdoor Life magazine each spring with all the turkey articles and wanting to cry.  I hated turkey season, I wanted big mule deer bucks, elk bugling, and water buffalo charging from the thick, deep grass of Africa.  I wanted Jack O'Connor shooting Dall Sheep and caribou in the north, I wanted steelhead articles, spring bear, and I wanted to be outside hunting shed antlers.  Why would anyone want to chase a turkey around?

When we moved to Oregon from Wyoming I knew our hunting opportunities would pale in comparison.  Deer hunting is embarrassing here.  The deer numbers are so low, the average size of bucks so small, and the difficulty in drawing tags so great that I worried about giving my kids a chance to love what I love.  So turkey hunting was a new avenue of success, or so I thought, and anyway you get a tag with the purchase of your sportsman's pack.

 But this is a new year.  I did a little preseason scouting, I bought some calls and practiced, and I had a network of knowledgeable people to draw from.  As it turned out the network paid off.  I didn't really find much scouting; it was a little frustrating; a reminder of last years season; but a friend called to say he'd found me some turkeys if I was interested.  I happily took down the information and we planned our hunt.

This hunt was kinda special because we had Mr. Hall, the super-duper-4th-grade-teacher with us.  He came to Oregon for spring break and stopped to steelhead fish with us; we took him turkey hunting as well.  We took off a little late; work was a disaster and I couldn't leave when I had planned to.  So our first spot was taken.  We made fast tracks to our back-up spot and I spotted the turkeys almost immediately.  We piled from the Yukon, hustling up the hill and made a quick set up.  Nothing happened. Finally I heard the toms gobbling at my yelps.  We moved up the hill to intercept them but our second set up was still a little too far out.  We made a mad, quiet dash to close the distance and I got the decoy set up (Sweet Sally) and rolled out of the shooting lane none too soon.   There were 3 or 4 toms that came in.  Tyler and Corey were split and I was laying safely between them; Mr. Hall was behind a Ponderosa watching close by.  The turkeys came to the decoy, checked her out, turned to walk away when the boys started burning some powder.  We had got two!  It was pretty sweet stuff!  High fives, hugs, pictures and lots and lots of smiles.  It was a lot of fun sharing our first turkey kill with Mr. Hall, the creator of the true Thanks Giving Dinner.  For those of you not familiar, its a chance for kids to bring all sorts of interesting game to eat as a dinner at school around our national holiday.  Tyler LOVED it; of course he eats bugs, raw fish eggs with a little gut attached, and Kim's burned chilli without flinching!  

This is Mr. Hall and his awesome wife Kay-law-nee; in this picture they are at the Portland Temple on their way to our house.  Thanks Mr. Hall!