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It’s not your fault. Being happy for me is hard. And 99% of outdoor bloggers are on Blogger. So….here I go again. This time I stay or quit.

Thank you for everything. And no, I have no idea what it will take.

Peace –

Casey

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And I will try to prove that out this year.

Duck hunting has always been an endeavor that everyone thinks you need to get up hours before dawn to do. Well, in most cases that is right, but a few of us know that you don’t HAVE to be out on the marsh early. Good hunting can be had later in the day, after 99% of duck hunters have headed home to watch their football games. I’ll hit the woods and streams, thank you!

I will admit, though, that “later-in-the-day” duck hunting is slower than morning hunts, mostly. It’s perfect for this duck hunter, as I like to do other things while I’m out wandering. I have to make time to experience the trees and waters. Have a seat now and then and meditate a bit. I usually end up meditating more than hunting. But I believe this communing, which is more important to me, is what helps me be successful. I wish I could teach you how to commune with the outdoors, but that is done by every person differently, as it should be. It’s personal.

Trapper watching a fox squirrel on the muddy bank across the creek

Sunday, Trapper and I slipped into a spot along a creek that still has a log next to an elm tree I set there last year. Floods didn’t wash it away, thankfully.

This entry into the woods happened after the noon of the day, and I wasn’t expecting any action soon. Usually by then, ducks have found their refuge and will rest as much as they can before getting active again closer to sunset. But, like I said, I’m a communer. I sit and listen, and watch. And ask.

Bores my kids thoroughly. And Trapper.

But I need to make the time to watch and feel the clouds thicken to a darker shade of gray, threatening rain. See the gusts of wind touch the glassy surface of the slow stream, rippling with the skies reflection. Listen to birch and maple leaves and acorns tumble down the treetops to land on the ground, or plop into the water. I need to see the small carp that leaps from the water and splashes down with a slap, and the painted turtle that pops his head out of the water, slowly floating by, keeping an eye on Trapper and me.

And if I have done things right, and it pleases the spirits, I may be gifted with a duck or two flying by or floating in. This day, a flock of six wood ducks streaked across the stream above the treetops, leaving me with no chance of even trying to raise my gun. On alert, I listen for the sound of their wings and their return, or a splashdown in the backwaters behind us. Nothing.

We pack it in at about 6 p.m. and start walking out to the open marsh, hoping for a shot out there before heading home. I decide to check on a small pond about 100 yards to the east of the creek on our way out. And there they are. The six woodies that flew over us an hour before, most likely. Two drakes had their heads held high, looking out for trouble while the others were lazing about. Using tree trunks and high grass, my stalk was successful. I made my presence known and they got up, the drakes one behind the other and they both fell with my first shot. A hen in front of them acted like she had taken shot in her backside, so I followed through on her, spilling her on my third and final shot.

I looked at the time. 6:10 p.m. Got my limit of wood ducks in the last hour of legal shooting. It can be done. You don’t HAVE to get out there early.

We took the fox squirrel while walking into our spot along the creek, about 5 hours earlier

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I asked my son after he had killed his first squirrel, “Did you get that heart-pumping feeling?” He said, “Not really.” And I know where he is coming from.

My first kill was a blue-winged teal about 30 years ago. I didn’t have time to get that feeling I get now when I hear a squirrel or rabbit scampering closer or when a flock of ducks decides to give my decoys a second look. I think that hunting and what it means becomes more of a real thing as you get older, and when you are younger, you’re not really sure why you think you’re a hunter. We don’t really grasp everything that comes with it until we are mature enough to reflect on it. This may sound like I have had too many Oktoberfests, but the truth is I’ve only had four.

And kind of a follow-up to John’s comment on my last post. As far as that glow a father should get? It hasn’t happened to me, I must say. I actually feel that a MUCH heavier weight has been laid on my shoulders. That glowing feeling will come when I am looking back on life and know that I have raised a responsible, ethical, thoughtful, respectful hunter. That is when I’ll be proud.

So – without further adieu – the second part of Bear Heart’s hunting lessons. And thank you to all who read the first part.

From the book –

“I was about eight when I killed my first squirrel. I used something similar to a slingshot and got pretty good with it. Before I shot the squirrel I said, ” My little brother, I’m going to take your life. I have an old aunt who has come to visit and she’s not feeling too well – she’s blind and can’t do anything for herself at home. I understand that our four-legged relatives have medicine that can make humans feel better and I want this for my aunt. In time, when my body ceases to live and is put down into the ground, from it something will grow so that your people might eat and keep on living. That was the understanding between your people and mine. I will not let you suffer a long time, but I need you and the meat that you carry with you. I’m doing it for love.

I killed that squirrel with my first shot. Before picking it up, I placed my hand over it’s head and made a circular motion, saying, ” Mah-doh [thank you].” The circular motion made with the hand symbolized the circle of life – humans being fed by animals, then animals feeding on the plant life after humans have been returned to the earth. A never-ending exchange.

Then I pulled the fur from the forelegs and buried it at the base of the tree where I’d found it to ensure that many more squirrels would be born to take the place of the one I killed. As I headed for home, I carried that squirrel carefully. Once we picked up the kill, we tried not to let it fall to the ground until we got back to our home because dragging it on the ground showed disrespect. The animal, even if involuntarily, gave itself to us – it was a gift.

I had a cousin who cooked for us and, knowing that I wasn’t supposed to eat my first kill, when I got home, I gave the squirrel to her to cook for my aunt. I went back outside and was stooped over a wash basin washing my hands when all of a sudden – whack! My cousin whacked me with that squirrel, right on my rear end. I had forgotten all about it, but knew immediately what it meant. They did that with your first kill to make you a better hunter. She hit me on behalf of the squirrel, as if the squirrel itself was tagging me for killing him. Now we were even – I killed it but it hit me. It was a way of balancing everything out so that I wouldn’t feel guilty about taking it’s life.”

Until I can write again –

Your friend –

Casey

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Ummm, I don’t have a whole lot to say,  I guess, but please enjoy the photos I took this weekend. First up – pics from Saturday afternoons walk with my youngest at Sweet Marsh. Had to see how high the water is for this weekends duck hunting.

I wonder if there is a nice buck calling this place home. I've run across some nice tracks a couple of times in this area.

Love the deep blues and greens of fall in the marsh. See the maples in the treeline turning?

Lowest I've seen the water in the 35 years I have been shooting wood ducks back here.

Believe it or not, that blue in the sky is not "photo shopped."

It was quite a stretch for my puny camera, but these are sandhill cranes. This marsh has a breeding pair or two.

Butterfly trying to suck up the very last bits of nectar from this thistle's fading blooms.

AND – I took my boys squirrel hunting Sunday. I could get into quite a spiel I guess with my feelings about this. But I’m pretty sure you have an idea whats happening in my chest and brainbox.

He could have had a couple more, but he was a little axious. Happens.

Dryad saddle - edible in the spring when young and fresh.

One of my most favorite places on earth - a spring flowing out of a woodland hillside.

Drank some brew, also –

Not as good as last years, but still good. More Octoberfest to come now that my cold is almost gone!

Peace and take care –

Your friend –

Casey

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I was hoping to bring you this week, a story about my oldest boy making his first, purposeful kill while out hunting. We were defeated by nature in this quest on two fronts! First, the father and mentor in the family (yours truly) was under the influence of some sort of bug that dashed our hopes the first two days of the weekend. And on the third, Monday morning, the bottom lands of my favorite squirrel pocket are still plagued by mosquitoes in biblical proportions. We did not last long, even with other folks in the woods popping off their .22’s. The squirrels are there, that I knew, but the Deep Woods OFF hardly fazed the bloodsucking skeeters.

So I’ll share with you a story from one of my all-time favorite books The Wind Is My Mother by Bear Heart, also known as Marcellus Williams, a Creek medicine man. These are his first hunting lessons. The second part will be his first kill, it being a squirrel. My boy’s first quarry, hopefully next weekend.

From the book :

BECOMING A HUNTER

As much as we learned from our parents, Native American children received most of their education from their elders. The boys received their training from either an uncle or grandfather, and the girls received theirs from an aunt or grandmother to learn the women’s ways.

My uncle Jonas Bear told me that a long time ago humans were able to talk to the animals. We were that friendly with them. They could understand us and we understood them, but at some point humans got into such a tight spot we had to take the life of certain animals for food and then we started getting sick. It turned out that various animals, even fish, were angry at us because we were eating them, so we started getting illnesses such as deer sickness and fish sickness.

A council of our people got together with all the four-leggeds, creatures of the waters, and those that fly in the air. We gave them offerings and told them, “My relatives, we have great need for you in order to live. When we hunt, we’ll try to kill you quickly so that you will not suffer. In time our bodies will lie down inside this Mother Earth and something will grow there so that our animal relatives can sustain their own lives. A cycle will be formed, an exchange, for the continuation of all life. In this way, we ask how to make our people well from the sickness you cause.”

So the animals told us how to cure the illnesses and allowed us to hunt them because they knew that we were not killing them for sport; our need was to feed hungry people, and we used every part of the animal for our survival. As long as we kept our word, no sickness came.

That was the origin of how our people began to have knowledge of curing different illnesses. And that is why our children were taught when they went out to hunt: “Never kill out of anger, nor for sport to see how man animals you can kill. Take just enough for survival and always be respectful of the four-leggeds. If you must kill, present an offering and talk to the animal, explaining, ‘I need you for my family.'”

Children were not allowed to hunt until they became skilled with their weapons. We were taught the anatomical structure of each animal and exactly where to hit so it would die quickly and not suffer more than it had to. When we brought back the kill, even that was a ceremony. We gave an offering to the animal, honoring and explaining why we took it’s life.

Young boys were taught never to eat their first kill – they were to give it to an elder. If you just killed and ate it yourself, that’s about all you would be able to do – you would not become a great hunter because you weren’t showing much respect for the animal you killed. But if you killed and made a sacrifice, giving that meat to others, then the motive for taking that life was based on generosity and respect. Those were the traits of a good hunter.

**************************************************************

Part two coming next week.

I can agree with a lot of this. Your thoughts?

Peace and take care –

Casey

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This past week or so, after the flurry of posts I wrote during my 4 days off work, I decided to take a break from the interweb. Refreshing it was, and a couple of things happened that I feel good enough to occupy some space with. Also, a thing that really sucks.

First, a not so good thing, I’ll whine – to get it out of the way. Since Monday, August 30, I have had to deal with a cold or allergy or something. And it has dashed this opening weekend of squirrel season. My oldest boy really wants to get out, but my condition would completely ruin everything with the sneezing, coughing, hacking, clearing my throat. But I have decided no matter what – damn the consequences – we are to get out Monday. I am not going to let this little hiccup get in the way of the only thing this particular son of mine likes to do outside.

Alright, on to the good stuff. The gracious generosity of my sister- and brother-in-law brought me this Scanoe! Yes, a scanoe. A 16-foot canoe with a flat bow on it that can take a small outboard motor – up to 5 HP, as I understand. But a motor, even an electric trolling motor, is a long way off in the future. I’ve got to get this thing registered and PFD’s need acquired. All that takes money, and if you haven’t figured it out by now, that is something thin for this household.

There are a couple of faults with this boat. The conduit that runs along the bottom has a split in one spot, only an inch or two long, and there are no midship thwarts ( supports between gunwales). I’ll get over all that, I’m sure. That is nothing compared to the good that will come of it!

I have also made the time to put together my birthday present from last December (yes, I’m a Sagittarius – explains a lot about me, really). A treestand. To make a long story short, it was bought at a HUGE reduction (the money thing again), and I have finally found out why. It is missing quite a few parts, but I am lucky enough that the safety harnesses are NOT the missing items. A support needs to be made that attaches the ladder to the tree, though, as there is a pretty nice bow in the middle of it without that support. It shouldn’t be that hard to make a safe, serviceable piece. Then the only other pieces it is missing are the ones to make a shooting rail. I’m not too worried about that, it would just get in the way while bow hunting anyway.

Not much to write home about, but it does feel good to check-in. Here’s to hoping that this dude from northeast Iowa can share stories and adventures using these two new pieces of equipment in the not-too-distant future. I can see the scenes now, picturesque waterways and autumn woods. Won’t promise anything, but the future looks bright!

Until I can write again, take care and I’ll see you on your blogs!

Your friend –

Casey

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This is kind of a part II to my last post, where I was wondering why I do this. And being something I’ve done before on my other blogs, you are excused if you don’t feel like reading it. And if you loathe free-verse, you are excused, also or again, as the case may be.

Inspired by fellow Iowa blogger, Norseman, and a walk along the Volga River this morning.

I Wonder. Then I Don’t.

I sat awhile, on the dewey, grassy banks of the Volga river,
Just sitting. Yet noticing the minnows and white suckers
Kiss the sandy bottom, while smallmouth bass
Lay tight against limestone blocks in deeper currents,
Waiting sustenance to wash over underwater ledges or
Try to dash past, unnoticed. Rock bass rise
To the surface, staring down debris floating on the film,
Hoping for a bug. All of them timelessly, patiently, waiting.

There I sat, letting them be. Wondering.

Can I teach someone to find wonder? How to
Sit in the wind and wonder if the air that brushed their skin
May have brushed the skin of an ancient, being
Photosynthesized millions of years ago but had not yet been used. Or
As they wade a stream, wonder if the water molecules that are
Passing between their toes were created eons ago,
Having never left our atmosphere, and may have also
Touched the skin of an ancient.

I wonder if I can teach just that. Wonder.
How they are walking in beauty.

I don’t have to wonder if I have been shown. I have
Sat in the wind and stood in the currents many times
For the sole purpose of learning this.
I look down stream, and above the elm, ash, maple and
Walnut trees, is a line of branches reaching up. Attached to these are
Flattened leafstalks, bearing shiny leaves that seem to sparkle
Among the greenery, even in the slightest breeze. Cheery, friendly trees
Poplars are, waving to us, and brief in life. An example to share this
Beauty and wonder while we can.

This is what I must do.

– Casey

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