Thursday, February 20, 2014

Duck Hunting

My very first outdoor column for the Statesman-journal daily newspaper was of  a hunting experience in Pocatello, Idaho.  Prior to the hunt I was proof-reading  for the paper in the newsroom one night in 1953  when Sports Editor, Al Lightner poked his head in the room and asked if there was anyone who would like to write the outdoor news.  I quickly volunteered and a new vocation started for me.  I wrote those columns from then until 1982.
Back to that first hunt.  Our little family had travelled to Pocatello to visit relatives and when my brother-in- law suggested a duck hunt I was eager.  I didn't have my shotgun with me at that time so he borrowed one from a friend.  The gun was a 10-gauge pump and was so heavy it really needed wheels for transporting. After packing it all day from pond to pond I'm not sure I would have had the strength to lift it into firing position had a duck flared up in front of me.  But, the outing did give me the material for that first column. 
One day back in Oregon another brother-in-law and I ventured to a flood-formed pool on a Hop ranch near Independence, Oregon and  set up our decoys.  The birds were flying high that day and wouldn't drop down close enough to be in range of our guns.  Shortly after legal shooting hours we waded out to pick up our decoys when a loner flared in like he wanted to visit.  The range was a bit too long but we each tried anyhow.  He flew away unscathed. I started  to grab some more decoys and noticed a state game enforcement officer standing by the edge of the pond.  Where on earth did he come from?  We were had!
After chatting with us for awhile he asked us to help him get his patrol car out of the mud back to where our vehicle was parked.  We did and then he obliged by writing each of us a ticket and confiscating or guns and decoys.  To get them back later we each had to pay a fine of $39.50 to the court.  I later saw that same officer trudging down the highway with a gas can in hand.  Normally, I would stop for a fellow motorist in need.  But, not that day!
On one successful goose hunting trip I was fortunate enough to bag a big Canadian honker who was leading a gaggle of geese headed south.  I really looked forward to eating that boy.  After I had him all prepared Cook Extroidinaire Grace put him in a roasting pan with all the fixins and put the heat to him in the oven.  It smelled sort of strong and was so tough we couldn't bite into the meat.  Grace tried adding it to a gravy mix and cooking it some more. We still couldn't eat it.  So, we finally gave some of it to our always hungry-for-people-food dog. He turned his nose up on it, also.
The garbage can got the remainder and in the future I steered away from the leader of the flock.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Of Cops and Biologists

During the 25 years that I wrote outdoor columns for a daily newspaper in Salem, Oregon I had interesting experiences with state wildlife biologists and state game enforcement officers.  Some of them became good friends and all had my respect for their dedications to their work.  It is because of all of them in past years that we enjoy what we have today.  Field trips and contacts with them gave me much material to write  about then and now.

One fellow, name of Joe, invited me on a number of his field trips, most of which were educational and sometimes funny.  Like the day Joe invited me to hike up to a mountain lake to catch some photos of a airplane planting small trout on the fly. It was a grueling hike to reach the lake and we got there in time to get our cameras ready.  Joe warned that the plane would drop in quickly over the trees on the west side of the little lake, release its load of fingerlings and buzz off at the east end to clear the trees.  "It will happen quickly", he said, "so give him plenty of lead to catch it all."  The plane came in as quick as advised and our cameras clicked.  We moved in close to the shallows of the lake and could see those little guys scooting for cover to protect themselves from predators.  The stocking was successful.  Later, as we had our film developed (long before digital cameras) we found that I got a good shot of the airplane motor and Joe shot most of the tail above flume spraying out the fingerlings.

Another time Joe invited me to go with him to stock small trout using a special float boat in a lake atop the Santiam Pass in the Cascade mountains.  The boat was a small 12-footer that looked conventional  except it had a float ring to keep it from sinking when full of water.  In the transom was a gate plate to pull up to let the water in the boat flow out.  With the boat on the water at the shoreline a fish stocking truck showed up and filled  the little craft with small trout.  Off we went rowing and when far enough from shore, Joe pulled the gate plug and started rowing to encourage the little fish to swim out. It worked except Joe did have to scoop out a reluctant few with a bucket. A couple of boats saw us "desperately sinking" and motored over to offer help.  It was nice of them but not needed.

I didn't actually take a field trip with  game officers but often saw one  who was always willing to tell me when he was about to "bust" someone for a violation.  I saw him one day standing on the side of the highway looking down at a small fishing boat with an adult male and two small boys headed for a nearby marina.  He said, "See that guy", he pointed, "I have seen them catch way more than an allowable limit of trout." I watched the officer walk up to the guy with the kids and start searching their gear.  He found the extra loot of fish in their lunch box.  The officer was quite ticked off.  "What kind of an example did that father set for those little boys", he growled later.

I came across that same game warden alongside a small lake next to the Santiam highway one day while he watched a fellow out on the lake blatantly  casting spinner and worms to some eager trout. The officer remarked as I watched,  "he has earned a ticket, also,"!  The officer was standing next to a very visible sign that read, FLY FISHING ONLY.  

Deer hunting is a period when game violations can occur--some of which can make a law-abiding citizen shake his head. Hoping for some material to write about I stood by at a check-out  station Opening Day one year at a restricted hunting site and much of it was dull watching until one hunter and his young son pulled up  in a pickup truck to the gate.  "Any luck, see anything?" the officer asked.  "Naw, nothing," came the reply".  "Oh, how about this?" the officer snarled as he reached in under some coats behind the seat and pulled out a deer fawn!  He must have seen some blood or fur to get a clue. Another father teaching his son that crime doesn't pay.

So beware when out enjoying some outdoor sport, you just might come across one of those officers whom I have heard about that will arrest even their mother if they catch her violating game laws.