Tag Archives: Sporting

Deer Season

Huntsmen

New York State has a long deer hunting season, that starts with bow and muzzleloader seasons, after which comes the regular firearms season.

Son-in-law Matt and Grandson Maximus are avid hunters, going back several generations in the hamlet of Buel, five miles north of Engleville. It’s been quite a while since I stalked deer with a gun, and I’ve moved on to a new hunt. With my camera.

I’m a catch-and-release fisherman. Except for a couple of shore dinners while camping up north at Forked Lake, I measure, photograph and release the fish I catch. I decided that since I’m past the game-taking stage in my life, I’d start a new thing: “Shoot and release”.  It’s unlawful for members of a hunting party to be unlicensed, so I have my big game tags on my back as we pursue our quarry. However, my Nikon is the only thing I shoot with.

Opening day I joined the lads and a couple other hunting buddies, Mike and Jeff, and we went on a couple of deer drives in Buel. Push-hunting, or driving, is a method that calls for a couple of members of the party to take a stand at advantageous spots, while the “drivers” start along the opposite side of the area (typically woods, swamps, marshes and the like) and we make noise and hoot as we drive the deer out towards the shooters.

After a couple drives in Buel, we headed to daughter Kerry’s farm, where Matt and Max have box blinds. These are raised stands enclosed by walls. We spent a few hours in the blind, until dark, without seeing any deer. Max got himself a good nap, though.

The day after opening day, Max got his buck. He and his Dad were at Kerry’s, and Matt drove the swamp towards Max. A fine 6-point buck was Max’s reward. It was a beautiful deer, in good health, with no sign of ticks.

 

Max’s buck

As the only unarmed member of the hunting party, I’m always a driver, or “pusher”. I get some great exercise and see some trails and terrain that’s new to me. The hunting party is actually glad to have me, as fewer and fewer folks pursue hunting these days. Back in the when, there would be a dozen guys assembled for some big drives. Sometimes the group would take more than one deer in a single drive.

I’m a little conflicted in the sense that I myself don’t kill things, and also I love all of nature and all its creatures. Thanks to Disney and The Yearling, many of us get emotional over seeing a deer killed. Thankfully, my over-sized human brain is able to understand the concept of overcrowding. There was a time when predators would take their fair share of deer, and there were no fields full of corn or pumpkins to feed them. Nowadays, deer get plenty to eat, and have power line right-of-ways and rear easements to wander through safely. If we don’t take responsibility for reducing the deer overpopulation, they’ll all suffer with starvation and rampant spread of diseases. They’ll also run out in front of your car or even occasionally crash through a picture window into someone’s living room.

For me, I’ve taken to joining the hunt to spend time with my grandson and favorite son-in-law (okay, so he’s my only son-in-law, but still…) in the great outdoors in all weather. It’s a fine adventure for an old Armchair Zen grandfather, and I am easily mesmerized by the many photo opportunities that present themselves. Alas, I’ve yet to “shoot” a good deer on a hunt.

Mostly it’s about taking game, but nearly as important is the camaraderie of the hunt. Jeff arrives with “tomato pie”, very popular in Utica, from which he hails. Between drives we’ll talk about the deer we saw or didn’t see, yesterday’s drive, tomorrow’s plan. We recall names of those that hunted before us and have since passed on. Max’s grandfather Mert, Mike’s cousin Ken (they say don’t mention Ken Jones locally, he was a real character. Loved or hated, no in-betweens). A neighbor stopped to ask where we were hunting and if we had permission, and after a couple of well-timed name-drops, the neighbor was glad to have us nearby. And “Yes!”, she said, she’d be glad to get some venison if we were successful.

So, another year of trucks lining the roads on weekend mornings, guys walking around armed like soldiers, and the sound of shotguns and rifles ringing out through the hills. It’s not for everyone, but it’s a good respectable sport, and we are responsible sportsmen, and we have some great times out in the snow and mud of November.

Until next year!

Take care and keep in touch,

 

Paz

Walk With Me

Let’s Walk!

I so often talk of our Wonder Walks and trails and woods behind our home. It occurred to me that a virtual tour of our beloved space might benefit the reader, put images to the names and places, like Widowmaker Field, Little Beaver Creek, the Rifle Range and the Wonder Woods.

Grab your jacket and join us, won’t you?

Let’s head east, through the Great lawn, reserved for our famous Leaf Pile Party. The lawn was mowed last weekend, and now will not be mowed again until after the party. Don’t want to chop up our leaves!

 

We’ll walk the old R/C Airplane runways, past the Sumac Stand, wherein we will find Jeff’s Rest. Named for my best human friend that gave me the chair. It’s cool and welcoming in summer. It’s a nice place to sit in winter, too, brightly lit when the leaves are gone. Through the sumacs and bear to the south, we’ll go east up the Rifle Range, to the top of the hill.

We walk the trail in all seasons. We walk in the sun, the wind, the snow, even the rain.

A wise dog once taught me:

“I would not let the rain keep me from this walk. It is filled with beauty, and the rain is part of it.”

Past the pine stands, or perhaps on the North Loop, the other side of the Pine Grove. Our course meanders, typically chosen by my canine companion. Walk, wander and wonder, I call it, and we find the grandest things right here in our back yard.

We’ll top Nishan Hill, named for its owner, and have a good long look around. On a clear day, you can see for several miles. Always a breeze, welcome in summer. At other times, we’d call it the blustery wind. If we wander to the south, we’ll cross Widowmaker Field, where the wind whips up snow devils, and dries the mowed hay in June.

 

Through Chuy’s Trail and on to Wonder Woods Trail, we arrive at the forest. Herein we can walk down to Little Beaver Creek. We can cross the Tree Bridge to get to the swampy other side. Just a bit further and we’ll come upon the old rail bed, abandoned in the early seventies. The bridge is still intact, of course. The Wonder Woods see all sorts of activity, from walks with kids in the full summer, to squirrel hunting in the fall. A couple of tree stands dot the woods for deer season, and camouflaged turkey hunters will secret themselves at the cross-trails.

 

We’ll linger long in the summer. Linger more briefly when it’s 12 degrees and a fifteen mile-per-hour wind is rumbling down the lee of Victory Mountain to our west. From atop the hill we’ll “put the sun to bed”, as often as we can be here at just the right time.

Rainbow’s End

I’ve spent many an hour atop this hill, gazing out across the grand landscape. Many long, luxurious moments feeling the sun on my face, listening to the visiting winds that blow, watching as the Earth moves through the thousand seasons I will share with her.

Like a child, I want to stay longer. It always seems too soon to go in. Chuy and I would “be in trouble” in the old days, staying out so long. Well past dark in some seasons. Curiously, I will always feel the same way, even after a long walk in the pouring rain or howling wind.

I feel like I belong when I am out in The Magic, The Wonder of all that is laid before us. When I am all alone (well, except for the company of a canine), I feel most in touch with our blue ball, this spinning rock suspended in space. When the floor beneath me is earth or snow, and the only walls surrounding me are sturdy giants called pines and maples and beech and hemlock. Where everywhere is a window, and the ceiling is twelve miles high. Here the smells and sounds and motions come racing to me. Here, surrounded by light and shadow, green and gray and brown and black.

Here, safely in Mother’s arms.

Shadow Paintings

We’ll explore the Wonder Woods in depth, and follow the trail where it leads us.

Next time on Life In Engleville.

Take care and keep in touch,

 

Paz

The Game

Where my niece Michele went to high school, she was in a class of 1,300.

Family had reservations, appointments for commencement. An hour’s window during which our progeny were scheduled to cross the stage in a mass-production graduation machine. I believe the entire commencement took something like eight hours.

In my little school (yes I know I’m old and we’re talking about the last century, but it was 1977, not 1877) we had a graduating class of about 65 students. We all knew each other quite well.

When we were shopping for The Ark, one of my criteria was that the school needed to be fairly small, like mine was. My wife’s class was bout 300 kids, if I recall. I liked the idea that a kid, especially if a kid had a little trouble, could not be lost in anonymity.

In Sharon Springs, the graduating classes had an average of slightly less than 30, until Ryan’s class came along. All of a sudden there was a mini baby boom, and there were 45 students starting that year! The school had to scramble to get another teacher, and establish a second classroom for the grade.

Fast forward about 20 years, and now daughter Miranda and her family live just north of us, in the big town of Canajoharie. Canjo is a bigger school, by my standards, and I think the classes are a bit larger than a hundred students.

Grandson Max plays for Canjo’s basketball team, which meets each Saturday for intramural games with neighboring schools of similar size. I had a good time on a recent Saturday, taking some photos at the game, trying for a Sports Illustrated shot. Number 32 is Max.

The game was against Mayfield, the school across the lake from my own alma mater. The gym where the game was held has the kind of bleachers that fold flat against the wall. Attendance is good at basketball, and there were probably more than a hundred spectators from the two schools. Still on the small side, you’ll notice the benches of Mayfield and Canjo hold barely enough students to make a second string.

Max drew a few fouls, and made some baskets. I don’t have the stats. It was a great thrill to watch them play. I played a little hoop in school and loved it, and all three sons played for Sharon Springs. (Daughters preferred soccer and softball). There’s something a bit timeless in school sports. At least basketball. How much can change, really? The game looks the same now as when I played, though I’m sure our uniforms were better looking.

 

dsc_0934

The Crowd Rises

Alas, after an all-out effort and a lobbed shot at the buzzer, The Cougars could not rally against Mayfield, and the game was lost. The teams lined up and passed one another, shaking hands and declaring “good game”.

So close.

So close.

Until they meet again.

Take care and keep in touch.

Paz

Two Ponds Saturday

South Bank View

South Bank View

My grandson, Maximus James, made a visit to the Engleville Tick Ranch last weekend. He can last only so long without a pilgrimage to the grandparents’ old homestead, the place where he spent his days as a preschooler. Where the school bus picked him up and dropped him off during kindergarten and first grade. Mam & Pop’s place served as daycare for him, and sister Elizabeth for a couple of years. Mam their governess, the Ark their second home.

Nowadays they live far away to the north. Well, okay, they live in the next town over, about fifteen minutes away, but still, a trip to Mam & Pop’s is like a mini-vacation.

So, after Saturday chores; going to the dump, bike-joring with the Chusky dog, mowing the lawns, we headed for Engleville Pond to do some Bullhead fishing. Max has caught a wide variety of fish, but not a bullhead, and that was his intended quarry today. He made up a mess he called dough-balls or stink-balls, wads of bread or dough with smelly attractants. Usually these are made with raw dough and the stuff chum is made of. In this case, Max grabbed a slice of deli turkey and some mayonnaise and made something of a club sandwich ball with English muffins for the bread.

Upon our arrival, we were greeted with the honking of geese as they drifted slowly away from us toward the far bank. The air was still, and the water like glass. The colors of fall leaped at us from all sides including below as the oranges and yellows reflected off the mirror surface.

Max had a tough time getting the soggy English muffin to stay on a hook. We grabbed a big hunk of muffin and dipped it into his turkey-club-jumble, and that stayed on long enough for a few casts. I fished for about five minutes before I was overcome with the need to grab the camera and get some snapshots of the beautiful Saturday afternoon. As luck would have it, while I was shooting across the pond a flock of geese flew in from the east. They cackled raucously as the 150-bird formation slowed, with fixed wings, descending towards the smooth surface of the pond. I took advantage of the opportunity to shoot some geese on the wing, so to speak.

We plied the waters of Engleville Pond a while with no luck, and decided to relocate to Bowmaker’s Pond. Back in the when, we called it Bowmaker Swamp. Because it was a swamp. The Department of Environmental Conservation dug out much of the swamp to open the water up a little, I guess, and maybe help with flood control or drainage. Now there’s quite a patch of open water, and the cattails have begun their slow march, spreading year by year. The milfoil and other aquafauna are also vigorously trying to reclaim the territory. Here, too, we found Canada Geese gathered. Resting and feeding as they pass through on their long migration to the Gulf of Mexico.

We had some fair fish action at Bowmaker’s, curiously catching five fish of five different species. First Max caught a Crappie, then a Bass. After a few more casts he caught the ubiquitous Sunfish (Bluegill). Finally I landed one, a nice pickerel about nineteen inches long. The only fish I didn’t get a snapshot of. Lastly, Max caught a little yellow perch.

It was a bit of a last hurrah for shirt-sleeve weather. By the time it neared sundown, a chill was in the air. The geese at Bowmaker’s lined up on the pond for some nice photos. At one point, you could hear their conversation starting. At first just a few honks, then bit-by-bit the rest of the flock joining in until there was a unanimous chatter. This meant they were readying for takeoff, and I got a few pictures of them running across the water, big wings flapping, honking the whole way. Finally they would take to the air, and with another minute of avid honking the birds ascended, circled, and faded off over the eastern horizon along with their noise.

Wherever we went today, the bright sun and golden colors of fall surrounded us. The sky held but a few ribbons of clouds, and the air was mild. Back at the Ranch we’d have a nice dinner, walk the dog around, and settle in for Saturday Night at Pop Pop’s. This means watching Ghost Hunters or Finding Bigfoot, or perhaps a Godzilla movie as we await ten o’clock and the ritual viewing of Svengoolie, and his own mix of monster movies.

There would be recliners and blankets, pretzels and green tea. Falling asleep in the chairs and moving to the bed (or couch) at 2 a.m. Sunday would leave us little time, though we managed another run with the mushing dog and at some point we made a walk around hunting squirrels. Max bagged one Pine Squirrel, which interested Sassy June the Chusky Dog greatly. Max kept the trophy tail, and we gave the carcass to Sassy, who quickly lost interest when she saw the thing wouldn’t run.

Mushing, Fishing, Hunting, Movie-watching, two ponds, trail hikes and chores, it was an action-packed weekend. I savored every moment with my grandson, my little dog, the honking geese and the colorful trees.

Sometimes I ask myself out loud:

“Am I dead? Is this Heaven?”

October Sunrise

October Sunrise

Take care and keep in touch.

 

Paz

 

Squirrelly Sunday

Max On The Lookout

Max On The Lookout

Grandson Max, his father, Matt, and his cousin Pierce came over a couple of Sundays ago to do some squirrel hunting. We gathered up our “22’s” (.22 caliber rifles), and headed for the hardwood stands out back.

Max & I Head For The Woods

Max & I Head For The Woods

It was overcast and cool, around 30, and as we walked the top of Widowmaker field, a few downy flakes drifted by. In just a few minutes, the mini flurry stopped. This season of hunting is better with a snow cover. It’s much less noisy when walking, and tracks in the snow can lead us to the haunts of squirrels and bunnies. Today, we’d be crunching around on a six-inch deep carpet of autumn leaves. Even thinking about walking made crunching sounds.

Little Beaver Creek

Little Beaver Creek

Matt took up residence in a tree stand at the transition line, where the forest meets fields. Pierce took a stand north of there, while Max & I “drove” the hardwoods from the south. For those unfamiliar with the term, “driving” is to have some members of the hunting party transit the area, working toward those on stand (in a fixed location). The idea being to drive the game toward the awaiting hunter.

Seasons Past

Seasons Past

Max & I saw two squirrels on our foray, but didn’t get a shot off. Matt bagged just one, and Pierce went scoreless (we’re keeping score for the season.)

In days past I entertained some hunting interests. Over the last couple of decades, my preferences have changed. I don’t mind keeping a fish or two for a shore dinner at camp, but I am no longer interested in killing anything else.

For Max’s benefit and the camaraderie of men’s company, I tote my Savage .22 inherited from my father. It’s even loaded with bullets. I’ll let Max believe we’re hunting together, and I’ll congratulate him and other members of the party on their kills.

“Not sure what I’m going to do if I see a squirrel.” I confided to Matt out of Max’s earshot, “Maybe I’ll just shoot the branch below it.”

Luckily for me and the squirrels, not so much Matt, Max or Pierce, the little critters managed to elude us anyway.

After the marching about, the others headed to the rifle range as I walked around with Chuy the Wonderdog. He has always had a fear of loud noises. Thunder turned him psycho, and he’d climb up into the chair or onto the couch to hide behind me, trembling like a leaf. Thankfully, age has reduced his hearing, and he hardly seems to notice thunder anymore.

Likewise, in the past he was terrified at the site of guns, knowing they were loud. He’d run for the back door as soon as he saw someone carrying a long gun. During hunting season, with shotguns going off all around all day, he’d confine himself to the house.

His hearing may be diminished, but he watched from a distance as those guys milled about the place where guns were often fired. He watched for a few seconds. As soon as he heard the first discharge from the .22 magnum, he made a bee line to the house as fast as his 105-dog-year-old legs could carry him!

Is That What I Think It Is?

Is That What I Think It Is?

Happy Birthday to Chuy (originally named Scooby Doo by Ryan). January first is his observed birthday. As of the first, he’s officially fifteen!!

Birthday Boy

Birthday Boy

Take care, and keep in touch.

 

Paz