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Posts Tagged ‘Hunting’

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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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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A dream of mine would be to one day write an outdoor story that would be fitting for the back page of an outdoor publication, or even be included in a short story collection somewhere. So imagine my surprise when I received an e-mail from Sporting Classics asking if I would consider posting a story from their July/August issue.

Hell ya! I would LOVE to! And they are giving me that very opportunity. It is an honor for me to host fantastic writing in a field that I adore, and aspire to contribute to.

Before I get to the story, I would like to let you know that you can visit Sporting Classics online here. You can receive a complimentary copy and also purchase a subscription. Please consider it if you are a fan of fine outdoor writing and art. And if you are so moved, let them know Casey from The Countryside Round (a future contributor) sent you!

Also, if you are a Twitter user and enjoy this post, please click the “Tweet” button at the bottom of the page. This can be done with any of my posts if you feel they deserve it!

The story I picked is, of course, close to the Countryside Round me. Minnesota. And grouse hunting! A bird I haven’t hunted or eaten (it’s delicious) in many, many moons. Please enjoy!

Tales To Tell by Micheal McIntosh

Meeting up with the Bridge Bird would prove a final,

fitting salute to the place and the time and the

many grouse that had given him the slip.

Peter Grant turned off the road where the graveled surface ended. This spot had once been occupied by a house trailer, but the owners had long since towed it away, much to the betterment of the countryside. Now the only view was of woods in every direction. He could have driven to where he was bound, but he’d always preferred to walk the last mile down the narrow dirt road.

Grant opened the rear hatch and shrugged on his vest, checked to see that he had a half-dozen cartridges in each shell pocket, and unbuckled the top of a canvas and leather gunslip. The gun he drew out had been built in London more than a hundred years before, sleek and elegant in its lines, with graceful triggers and hammers filed to a perfect mirror image of one another. It wasn’t the ideal grouse gun, but it was the most beautiful of those he owned, and the one he wanted to carry this day. Draping the gun over his shoulder, Grant set off slowly down the road.

It was an October day such as can only be found in northern Minnesota – cool and still under a brilliant blue sky, a few yellow popple leaves still clinging to their branches, fragrant with the smell of ripening wood fern and the occasional musky thread of stink left by a whitetail buck in rut. It was all familiar, and Grant found himself treasuring the familiar more and more.

The woods on either side had once been productive grouse coverts, but now the growth was too old to be attractive to the birds. A dog might have found one that had strayed there for reasons known only to itself, but Grant had no dog. His old Brittany had died two years before. He had loved her fiercely through 11 seasons and a long retirement, and Grant no longer owned the energy to train and keep pace with a puppy.

And there was only one bird he hoped to meet that day.

At length, the road curved sharply to the west. That place, too, had once been a good covert, marked by a disused Minneapolis-Moline tractor that had sat there for years, slowly rusting toward oblivion. It was now gone, hauled off to some scrap yard or rescued by a collector who thought it could be restored.

A couple of hundred yards beyond the bend, Grant turned south again at the lane that led to the old farmhouse. Partway there he left the lane and walked a few yards into the woods, found the place he wanted, knelt and brushed leaves from a flat-set granite gravestone. “Laura Peterson – 1882-1898” was all the chiseled legend said.

Laura died nearly 50 years before Grant was born; was even four years older than the gun he carried. She had been 16 when she succumbed to tuberculosis. Grant knew this because he had once talked with some members of the Peterson family, old people then, who told him of their little sister. They described a spritely girl and the sadness they all felt when she died of a disease that was little understood and not treatable in any effective way. Grant had come upon the grave many years before and visited it every time he came to this place. No visit to the old Peterson farm felt complete without a few minutes of silent respect paid at the place where Laura slept.

From the beginning, Grant had felt her as a presence in these woods, lending some elegiac tone to his own presence there. At times, some lines from Thomas Gray echoed in his mind. At other times he simply felt certain Laura was looking kindly upon his roaming where she had roamed and didn’t think him an intruder.

After a while he put his hat back on and continued his slow pace down the lane. This brought him to the house. When he’d first begun hunting here, it was no longer occupied and hadn’t been since. Now it was teetering toward collapse under the weight of time and exposure to the elements and mindless vandalism. Grant had sometimes taken shelter there from rain. Once he’d shared the long, bare, dusty front room with a grouse that apparently had wandered in for the same reason. Grant sat quietly on the floor at one end and watched the bird pace nervously at the other, bobbing its head and keeping a watchful eye. In the end they had struck a truce, though the bird barreled out through the open front door the moment the rain subsided.

Today, he didn’t approach, preferring to remember the old place as it once had been.

The house faced a broad pasture, now much overgrown, that sloped south to the creek. The original path was obscured by the remnants of summer grass, but Grant knew the way. He slanted southwest, toward the bridge and the bird he wanted to find.

The Bridge Bird was something of a legend among the few who hunted this place, always referred to in the capital letters that denoted a given name. The far end of the old timber span was screened by a narrow band of alder and brush that opened to the uphill woods beyond. It was a tiny piece of cover but ideal for a single grouse, and one was all Grant had ever found there. But one always was there, and Grant had often wondered how many generations had supplied the residents.

The Bridge Bird was thought to be especially cunning, able to elude any opportunity for a clear shot. Clear shots indeed were rare, but the reason had more to do with the environment than with any ubergrouse sensibility. Unless a hunter wanted to wade the creek either upstream or down, the bridge was the only access. The difficulty of negotiating the first few yards of cover and the ruffed grouse’s natural wariness gave the bird a clear advantage. It knew that some potential danger was at hand well before a hunter set foot upon the bridge and had only to scurry to the open side and take wing. Grant had heard more of them there than he’d ever seen.

Whether by sheer chance or the vagaries of fate, he had killed two or three Bridge Birds during the 30 years he’d spent trying to thwart their chances of a safe escape, and despite a grossly lopsided average, each one had been worth all the effort. To Grant, one Bridge Bird was as satisfying, or more, than daily limits taken under less trying conditions. The Bridge Bird lived somewhere deep in his soul.

Moving as quietly as he could through the grass, Grant gained the near side of the bridge. Like everything around him, it spoke the consequences of age. The timbers and crosspieces were rotting, and the downstream side tipped lower than the other. But it was solid enough to support a crossing, and Grant stepped softly in his rubber-bottomed boots.

The creek ran glossy, deep and dark, fed by spill from an old beaver pond. Grant knew the water was cold enough to support trout, but he had never cast a fly upon it. At any time of year, this was a place for birds.

He stopped at the end of the bridge, dropped two cartridges into his gun, closed the action and cocked both hammers. He had traversed many an alder-brake without enjoying the trip; this one was no different. Holding his gun high in one hand and using the other to fend away the branches while still using them for support, he moved the first few yards with neither mishap nor an unexpected flush. But in this covert the unexpected could be depended upon.

Free of the alder tangle, Grant stopped and waited. The silence alone could sometimes prompt a grouse to flush, like any other ground-dwelling gamebird. Nothing. After a minute or two he pushed into the brush, moving slowly, feeling flutters and pangs in his chest and a familiar pain beginning to gather in his lower back. Too long on your feet, my lad, he thought, and kept moving ahead.

He was nearly out of the brush when the Bridge Bird lost its nerve and hammered up from the edge, angling right to left, into the open. It was a shot Grant seldom missed. He swung up the flight line, passed the bird, lifted his leading hand and fired into the treetops.

It felt like a fitting salute to the place and the time and the many birds that had given him the slip.

Back across the bridge, he hobbled up the slope and found a sunlit tree to lean against as he sat in the grass underneath. He dug out his pipe and tobacco pouch, filled the old briar and set it alight. Exhaling plumes of fragrant smoke like fumes from a censer, he sat for a long time looking at the bridge covert, hoping that as many generations of birds to come would find it, as had the many that came before.

At length he struggled to his feet and set off back up the hill. He would stop to have a look at the old house and pay a respect at Laura’s grave. Then he would make his way down the lane and along the road, knowing beyond all certainty that he would never see this place again.

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