Sunday, December 21, 2014

A good view on law enforcement

My family suffered yet another sudden tragedy last week, which is why posting has ground to a halt. I'll touch on that later.

In the meantime, a friend of mine from my newspaper days posted this to Facebook today, and I felt it deserved a bigger audience. He definitely leans left, and I rarely see eye to eye with him on social issues, but his post made a lot of sense to me. I had a few quiet minutes at work, and copy/paste is quick and easy, so read on.

                                  * * *

Such a terrible tragedy today in New York. We've had far, far too many this year in the United States.
 
None of them needed to die. Not the police officers in New York today, not Eric Garner, not the officers in California, not Tamir Rice, not Michael Brown, not the officers in Nevada, not Bryon Dickson.

And don't blame this on an urban or black or cultural thing. The coward who shot the officers today might have been in a gang, but the cowards who killed the officers in Blooming Grove, California and Nevada were white, anti-government fanatics.

We need to have an honest discussion in this society about how we treat police and how they treat us.

They cannot see civilians only when they are committing crimes or in danger.

And we cannot see officers only when we are in danger or we misbehave.

We have to see each on our streets. In our churches, in our stores and know each others' names.

Certain parts of society need to learn that in areas of this country the police don't have a great reputation for honesty and integrity.
And certain parts of society need to see police as part of their community.

I don't know how we change it. I'm not that smart.

But I do think there are some things that should be obvious at this point.

Training needs to be improved. Spending money on war vehicles doesn't seem to be as valuable as getting extra men and women in uniforms and on the streets.

Officers shouldn't just be in schools to guard against the next shooting, but so that a little kid can see an officer smile at them and ask them how they're doing.

There aren't enough female and minority officers in the field.
 
And we need to look at each other beyond seeing a badge dividing us.
 
We need to look at each other for who we are: brothers and sisters, countrymen all.

And here's a little tough love for both sides of the divide. If you're an officer and someone on your squad is doing something immoral, you speak up. You don't just owe it to us, you owe it to yourself. And if you think the police are keeping you down, stop generalizing. We all know there are bad apples in every profession. Don't confuse the good guys with the bad guys.
 
I keep thinking about my 3-year-old.

Michael loves seeing police officers when he's out and about. I'm fairly certain he wants to be four things when he grows up: Iron Man, Batman, a firefighter or a police officer.

Two weeks ago, we were sitting in a hoagie shop in Wilkes-Barre when two State Troopers sat down next to us. He stared at them then asked, "Are you a police officer?"

"Yes."

"Are you a good guy?"

The other officer laughed as the older one said, "We try to be."

He looked at the officer's gun. "Do you shoot people?" He has no boundaries. And, in our house, we often talk about how good people don't shoot people.
 
The officer who was laughing stopped. They both paused and looked at each other. I looked at them, hoping they weren't offended. I partially wanted them to pull a bait and switch.

The officer said they hoped they never had to shoot anyone.
 
Michael went back to his hoagie and the younger officer reached over and patted him on the shoulder.
 
"You be good, Santa's watching."

"You know Santa," Michael asked.

"We do."

Those are the interactions that can save a community.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Saying Goodbye to Deer Camp

Tomorrow is the last day of PA's rifle season, and our camp will be makin' the last minute push to get some deer on the ground. I stumbled on this article from a local rag the other day, and it got me to thinkin' about the ol' timers who have made their final trip to camp... a day we all must face at some point.

* * *


By AD CRABLE | Staff Writer


JOHN M. HERR

 John M. Herr has been making the pilgrimage to the Stony Battery Hunting Camp in Centre County since 1936.


That was the year he turned 18 and was out of high school. His father, John H. Herr, felt strongly about the importance of a good education and did not allow his eight children to miss school, even for deer camp.

The only years Herr did not make it to deer camp were the three during World War II when he was in a B-17 as the lead bombardier on bombing missions over Germany.

When he got home, his father died suddenly a week after deer camp. The oldest in the family, he took over running things.

But deer camp was a touchstone that was always there and didn’t disappoint.

He’d push deer and take his turn as a stander with his .35 Remington that he’s had since the 1930s.

Now, at age 96, for the first time, he may not make the drive this weekend to his beloved deer camp that’s been a fixture for generations of Herrs since 1907.

The retired carpenter hadn’t hunted for three years. “I just can’t walk the hills anymore,” he says matter-of-factly from his Kirkwood home where he lives with his younger sister, Verna Herr, 92.

“I just didn’t want them to worry about me while I was out hunting.”

Understandable since the camp has always done its deer hunting with strenuous drives up and down mountains. “When I first started, you never even heard of a treestand,” he points out.

The old hunter’s last deer drive was in 2008 when he underwent heart bypass surgery.

But he remained camp cook until two years ago. The hunters awoke to sizzling sausage and scrapple each morning to get the oomph to get over those mountains.

But Herr still oversees paying the camp’s bills, as well as the log of who gets a deer — and who misses.
And he’s always been in camp for, like, forever. And he always stays two weeks. He was there in October for the annual woodcutting weekend. He didn’t tell anyone then he wouldn’t be in camp for the season opener Monday.

That’s because he just made the decision a few weeks ago. Various health issues forced his hand. He’s had heart bypass surgery, a hip replacement and two ailing knees that were never replaced.

“I’m going to miss it, you better believe,” he says. “I will miss everything. The fellowship. I’ll miss all of that and they’ll miss me too.

“We had a fellowship that you won’t find in most camps. We just got along. It was always that way.”
His brother, William, 92, who has heart problems, won’t be going either, not that that’s any consolation.
At one point in the interview, when asked what he will miss most, John Herr blurts out, “I’m not saying I won’t go up.” He does drive to camp by himself each year.

But his sister quickly responds, “ I am saying you won’t go up!”

That defiant notion suppressed, Herr gets back to imagining a deer season without deer camp.

“I’ll be thinking about it, yeah,” he says. “You can’t get that out of your head. That’s part of life.”


CHARLES W. BOOK
Many deer camps can be on the rustic side. But for almost 40 years, Charles W. Book and fellow hunters braved the elements in tents or two primitive open-sided stone shelters in a clearing off a dirt road in Potter County.

The dinky 5-acre Prouty Place State Park was the setting for a lifetime of memories for “Bud” Book, 85, a retired Lancaster city firefighter.

Fellow bowhunters George Martin and Henry W. “Hen” Fischer and others made the pilgrimage, same time each year, for the archery, rifle and flintlock deer hunts.

Eventually, the shelters, built by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Depression, were torn down and the hunters set up large tents and placed tarps over picnic tables to eat.

Heat was generated by a good sleeping bag and light by gas lanterns.

Over time, Book lost many of his hunting companions. Then, Fischer, too, was gone.

Around the time Book retired, in 1989, he started hunting back in Lancaster County on a farm in Drumore Township.

He hunted there for years until his knees got so bad he had to walk across the fields with a cane to get to his treestand. Eventually, it got too hard to climb into the tree-stand.

In a completely satisfying transition, Book started putting his son, Charles “Chuck” Book, and grandchildren in the treestand while he kept a watchful eye below.

“I didn’t even take my gun along then,” he recalls. “I just went down because I wanted them to get a deer. I’d let them sit up in my treestand and I sat under the tree. I’d be half asleep and I’d hear their gun go off and it would scare the daylights out of me.”

He was present when his grandson, Garrett, got his first deer, a doe, with a flintlock. And when another grandson, Zach, got his first doe with a rifle.

Zach was eager to take the deer home to show his mom. Book told Zach’s dad, Mike Daminger, to take over the treestand. By the time he drove his grandson home, his son-in-law also had taken his first deer.
A few months after Garrett got his first deer with Book’s original .243 rifle, he found it wrapped under the Christmas tree. Book bought another .243 and gave it away also when Zach bagged his first deer.

“I loved going out with my grandkids,” he says. “I was just never interested in getting a deer when they were along. I just wanted to see them get one. As a matter of fact, in later years I wasn’t even interested in getting a deer. I believe I got a little mellower as I got older and I didn’t want to kill anything.

“I’d aim at them, put the crosshairs on them, take the safety off and say, ‘Gotcha!’ then put the safety back on and put the gun back down on my lap. I did that more than once. Now, anytime a nice buck would come along, I wouldn’t have done that.”

He remembers the oldest hunts most vividly. “Some of my best hunts were Hen, Chuck and me. We’d build a campfire every night and talk,” he says.

Book hasn’t gone on a deer hunt for close to six years now. But he’s OK with that.

“I have grandsons and a granddaughter who love hunting. I’ve just had a good life. I never got many bucks but I always had a good time, and that’s what’s important.”

Ad Crable is a LNP outdoors writer. Email him at acrable@lnpnews.com. Read his outdoors blog at adcrable.wordpress.com. Follow him on Twitter at @AdCrable.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Huntin' Weekend

This was one of my long weekends, and bein' the middle of the rifle season, I planned to spend all of it huntin' somethin'. Friday, I planned to spend explorin' Loyalsock State Forest in Northeast PA and try to find a bear to track down. Saturday, I'd be huntin' around camp for the doe opener, lookin' for some easy meat. Monday would be another day to clean up any tags yet to be filled.

Of course, they call it huntin' and not killin' for a reason.

Friday's hunt coincided with some purty bad weather movin' in. I had a great time explorin' the Loyalsock, but damned it I didn't even see a critter at all, not even a squirrel. I saw plenty of deer tracks and cut four sets of bear tracks, but none of my sets worked out. I hiked almost four miles around the McIntyre Wild Area.
I found several places where bears
had gone out of their way to walk
the length of a nearby log.

One side of the split hollow I was watchin' on my third sit.

Purty little spring I crossed on the way out.

As the light started fadin' and the mist moved in, I worked my way back to the truck. By the time I got back to the truck and got situated for the drive to camp, it was just damned ugly out.

The ugliness continued all day Saturday. Just cold, wet, nasty shit. By the time we all converged back to camp on Saturday night, we were a buncha drowned rats with borin' stories of no deer movin', with only one deer and a few shirttails hangin' on the meatpole. Given the shittiness of the weather there wasn't much in the ways of pictures bein' taken.

Of course, today is absolutely beautiful, albeit a bit chilly. We did some light chores around camp, and I took a few minutes to soak in the hot tub with a few cold ones. We got it rough here at camp, fer sure.

Spanky and I are huntin' tomorrow yet... hopefully the good weather carries over and we can find a few deer to bring home...

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

My condolences to the Main Line...

In my previous post, I linked to one of many awesome reads from the Main Line Sportsman.

I had noticed that he hadn't posted for a while. I finally looked a little further into it, and was incredibly saddened to find that he succumbed to a heart attack at the end of October.

We had talked a few times about making plans to meet up for a waterfowl hunt, but they always fell by the wayside. Part of my sadness is that I never got to meet the man in person.

Godspeed, Andrew, and may the duck-filled marshes of Heaven be every bit as good to you as they were down here.

* * *

Andrew K. Touchstone, 51, of Gladwyne, a Philadelphia lawyer and small-game hunter who loved to work his bird dogs in the marshes of Delaware, died of a heart attack Tuesday, Oct. 21, at his home.
A Bryn Mawr native, Mr. Touchstone graduated from Harriton High School, Lehigh University, and Penn State’s Dickinson School of Law. He was a longtime resident of the Main Line.
His first job was with the law firm Swartz, Campbell & Detweiler in Center City. He worked for several more years at Smith, Giacometti & Chikowski before starting his own firm, Touchstone & Associates, in 2005. The firm specializes in workers' compensation cases and commercial litigation.
Outside the office, Mr. Touchstone had widely ranging interests. He was an avid waterfowl hunter, and enjoyed training and dispatching his bird dogs to flush out ducks and geese.
He enjoyed serving as a boxing agent and manager for a few fighters as well as hosting a weekly radio show on boxing.
Mr. Touchstone loved lacrosse, having played through middle and high school. He also was a music aficionado, his favorite style early Motown. He was a partner and owner of Chris' Jazz Club in Philadelphia from 1999 to 2005.
Mr. Touchstone blogged on his website - Main Line Sportsman - about his hobbies. On Sept. 8, for example, he told how to make dove breast empanadas from several "fat, healthy birds" he had killed.
"Ultimately, after all the preparation and the placement of decoys and the time in the field, it becomes about the eating," he wrote.
"I winged the recipe [no pun intended] and sautéed some shallots and added the chopped breast meat and two tablespoons of peach-pecan jam. . . . I reduced liquid and then cooled the mixture. After folding the meat into circles of Pillsbury crescent roll dough - and baking - these appetizers were a huge hit during cocktails."
Mr. Touchstone was also known as a reader and knowledgeable historian, and for having a vast vocabulary and a legendary sense of humor.
His passing "leaves a gaping hole in the fabric of life for many friends and family," said his relatives.
Surviving are his mother, Phyllis; his wife, Teri; daughters Elizabeth and Courtney; a son, Joey; two brothers; and nephews and nieces.
A life celebration will be held at noon Saturday Oct. 25, at 444 Devereux Dr., Villanova. Burial is private.
Donations may go to Diversified Community Services of Philadelphia, via www.dcsphila.org, or to the Andrew K. Touchstone Fund at the Adirondack Foundation, https://www.generousact.org/funds/andrew-k-touchstone-fund.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

PA Deer Camp

Tomorrow mornin', the Pennsylvania woods will look like a pumpkin patch, as the damn-near world-famous "Orange Army" descends upon the landscape in search of "da turdy-point buck". It seems there are less and less camps bein' filled around the state, but for many of the 750,000 Pennsyltucky hunters, the traditions that come with Opening Day continue to live on. Since I lucked out and got a buck with the ol' stick and string, I'll be absent from the Deer Eve festivities up at Ron's this year, but I hope to make up for it the first weekend, when the doe season opens.

I've posted this before, and I'll post it again. I'll never be confused with an emotional critter, but this fine piece of prose does the trick every time. H/T to the Main Line Sportsman, a most excellent wordsmith. Best of luck to you, my friend, and to all the hunters out there in PA.

* * *
Opening day has varied meanings in different regions. To baseball fans it is the first pitch. To fly fisherman it is a morning on the stream.To Keystone state deer hunters it is the Monday after Thanksgiving when deer are hunted with rifles.For me, for many years, it is a trip to Deer Camp in Pike County and a cabin on a ridge above the Delaware river in Pennsylvania's northeast hardwood deer country.The experience and the memories begin during the drive. Beeches,Oaks and Hemlocks are framed black against the failing sun as you turn off Route 209.

When you drive off the paved road, there is the weathered grey wood sign "Camp Reform" bearing a carved outline of a high-powered rifle shell. The trucks and jeeps are parked in the wet leaves around the cabin and a dull yellow light pierces the Pocono darkness from the front window. Mounting the porch you see the jugs of spring water and the stacked cases of beer. The door always sticks so you give it a hard yank and you are met with the smell of cigar,woolen clothes,gun oil and the earnest greetings of the boys...your brethren,your hunting buddies. These are guys you went to ollege and law school with, as well as local old timers who grew up in and around Stroudsburg.In this cabin there is no pretense or posturing; just hunters gathered for a yearly pursuit of bucks and camaraderie unique to a hunting cabin.

At the table is Chick, 80 years old and still hunting. He wears the same black and red checked hunting cap, which is probably from a pre-war Woolrich catalogue and faded fatigue green khakis. He is fond of cranking up the wood stove and putting a galvanized pail of water on top.This arrangement gets the cabin sweltering like a botanist's hot-house... even though some years it is 60 degrees and raining outside. If you screw up and miss a shot, Chick will call you a Dutchman. He remembers guys who used to trap with your Grandfather. You covet his old deer rifle and feel privileged to talk to a sage old hunter of his wisdom and years. He says little but when he does speak we listen and it is either deer hunting wisdom or some damn funny story from a hunt 40 years back.

Benzley is at the table, a face and carriage like John Wayne and a Lucky Strike perched in his mouth. He is the Captain and you pay deference to his experience and woodsman's knowledge. He was a Marshall and a Sheriff and even in hunting clothes and a wrinkled orange cap has a distinct aura of law enforcement authority. He makes you feel welcome and will put you on a good deer stand the next morning because you are Jon's buddy from Lehigh. Benzley fries the eggs and scrapple in the morning and makes coffee that could erode a slab of Appalachian rock. He drops you off at a carefully selected deer stand in his old Chevy truck and leaves you in the cold dark morning with a wish for good luck and usually a remark about not missing. Benzley picks you up when the sun drops over the ridge and by that time of the late afternoon your cold toes and hands welcome the light glow of his headlights coming up the logging road. He tells you where to watch for does and following bucks near a certain tree or stand of Rhododendron because he knows. Most of what you know about deer hunting comes from listening to Benzley and from hunting with him.

Roy stands up from the big table in the middle of the cabin and slaps your back. He asks how the goose hunting has been and wants to show you his new rifle...all the while hurling loving insults at Larry. Roy can drop a deer at 85 yards that is at a full run and put the lead projectile right in the "engine room" behind the front shoulder. Roy's wife has sent up 3 pans of lasagna for dinner. The sauce is from a jar and she uses too much ricotta...but it is filling and you eat 3 plates full out of respect. Roy can help you zero in your scope and knows the best loads for your .35 Remington for different stands where your shots are at varied distance and maybe thru thick brush.

Larry is the much loved and dumpy jester of the crew.His face is more Norman Rockwell hobo than anything else. He is in his early 70's and makes gag-inducing dandelion wine...but excellent syrup from a Maple sugarbush on his land. Larry's homemade scrapple is the best you'll ever get....made with buckwheat instead of cornmeal from a pig he kills every November. Larry has a bone saw in his garage and will butcher your deer for you.... a skill he learned in the woods but refined working at the A&P. He also dabbles in making "shine" and when you sit down, he hands you a "Veryfine" juice bottle of corn liquor that surprisingly has some color and age to it and hits the throat with less burn than you anticipate.The whiskey adds to the warmth of friendship you feel in the room. Larry is a guileless rural gentleman who asks questions about events in Philly and how the Eagles will make out. He is sure to remind you that Roy is a candy-ass and old Chick will out-hunt all of us and that John is getting uppity since being elected mayor and then Common Pleas Judge. Larry can shoot an acorn off an Oak at 100 yards and has great Navy stories. Larry used to be a bit wary because he figured you have money...but years of hunting together filed down that edge.

Jon is there at the table cleaning his .45 side arm. He carries this Colt revolver to his stand and swears one day he will drop a buck with it. A Lehigh and Law school classmate with a disarming smile,a wealth of charm and country wit and a surgical intellect and intelligence that he keeps well hidden at Camp... but unleashes on the County Bench in his role as Judge. He pitched for Lehigh, excelled in Law school and is engaged with passing to his sons the etiquette and ritual of Camp. Jon asks about the pheasant hunting, your wife and kids and makes his yearly excuse about missing the Lehigh v. Lafayette game. He spits his Skoal wad in a styrofoam cup and gets you up to date about his kids, his wife, County politics and where the deer are moving. Jon is the Co-Captain of the Camp and has killed his share of deer and knows these woods like a bookie knows the line on the Eagles/Cowboys game. Much of the ground we hunt on was taken from his grandfather by the Federal Government via eminent domain when they built the dam on the Delaware and created the Delaware Water-Gap National park. This affront still stings him and he is no fan of the Park Service or their intrusions. He knows I am from the Main Line but gives me a pass because I know what a "farmer's rain" is and because some of my people came to his County in the 1700's and because my Grandfather grew up in a house down the street from his and hunted and trapped these woods and rivers in the '20s, and because I know my way around a deer camp, and around these woods and around a duck blind and have a good bird dog of my own. You know Jon is one of the best guys you will ever know and you mentally kick yourself in the ass for not seeing him more often.

Bammer is another Lehigh crony who happens to live in New Jersey now and apologizes for it frequently. A broad shouldered ex-football player,he gives you a bear-hug and belts a shot of moonshine with you and makes sure you always have a fresh cold beer from the porch. Bammer makes the evening meal a sporting competition and can consume massive amounts of whatever is plated before him. He can drag a deer 2 miles through Pike County woods like a John Deere tractor and will always show up to help you gut and skin whatever deer you may shoot. He also expects and demands that I bring at least 2 of my Mom's Shoo-Fly pies. These are the wet-bottom variety that eclipse the cake-like junk fed to the tourists by the Amish down in Lancaster. These pies are from her great-grandmother's recipe and my Mom hits the ball over the fence every time she makes them. The pies are the first thing Bammer asks about after releasing the bear hug.Only after the pies have been produced from the truck does he ask about how things have been going since you last hunted together.

After dinner the Sunday night football game is flickering on a piece-of-shit 19 inch TV wedged in the corner. Smoke from the stove mixes with cigarettes and cigars and the stories and raunchy jokes pierce the humidity of Chick's water bucket heater contraption. Talk soon turns to where we will hunt the next morning and where the big bucks might be. A few hands of cards are played but the heat and the whiskey make you drowsy and you hit a bunk earlier than normal because you are getting up at 0-dark thirty. As you drift off and ignore the snoring and the creaking racks... you have a child's Christmas eve-like hope that you will clip the big buck the next morning. You inventory your hunting gear in your mind and the comfort and familiarity of deer camp is your last thought before sleep.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

First snow of the year

Three to six inches in our local area. This is about when it started fallin' last year... hopefully this year ain't as bad, but who knows.

I love snow. I just hate drivin' in it and shovellin' it.

Gone huntin' (and workin')

The way my work schedule's laid out, I more or less have a "heaven" week and then a "hell" week. I'll work five 12-hour shifts in seven days, then only work one 12-hour shift durin' the followin' seven day stretch. There's a smatterin' of milkin' shifts and bar shifts thrown into both of those scenarios which also make life interestin'. Regardless, I run myself into the ground with work for a week, then run myself into the ground chasin' adventures the next week. Hence, the reason you don't see nearly as much from me here as you used to. It was a helluva lot easier to keep this blog up when I made my livin' in front of a computer....

Anyway, November is purty much one of the best huntin' months of the entire year. The whitetail deer rut usually peaks in the first week, durin' the tail of our archery season. Then it's on to Bear Camp, our annual Thanksgivin' mornin' waterfowl hunt, then Deer Camp. Sprinkle in a mix of pheasants, rabbits, ducks and geese into the mix, and you got one helluva busy huntin' month. Work is merely a nuisance that keeps me outta the woods a few days a week.

Now that everyone's stopped readin', I'll get to the good stuff.

I had to work the Tuesday after Bowhunter's Weekend, and then I had two more days off before my "hell" week began. Since it was the final week of archery season, I planned to spend both days in a familiar stand at the farm.

Wednesday yielded plenty of deer, but no legal buck. I got to enjoy yet another beautiful sunrise, so not all was lost.

Thursday mornin' was about the same, although I had a very close encounter with a beautiful pair of red foxes that were eye-level with me at less than five yards. I did manage to unstring an arrow at one at about 20 yards, but wasn't able to anchor it. While I was down retrievin' that arrow, I decided to move my stand about 60 yards, which turned out to be a good plan.

On a side note, I was sittin' there for damn near three hours before I discovered my little brother's bow hook, forgotten in a tree less than five yards in front of my face. Seems Joe and I both thought this to be a purty good spot.

The rest of the mornin' passed uneventfully before a hellish sleet storm moved in. After sittin' through that for over an hour, the deer started to move. Before long, a nice buck ran a doe right under me, and I finally managed to get him stopped. He took the 100-grain muzzy right through the boiler room at 40 yards... it was a better shot than either of us deserved.

Between the cold and the adrenaline, I was shakin' uncontrollably, so I got myself outta the tree before I fell out. I found my arrow, and a short 60-yard track led me to a piled-up buck. With 90 minutes left in my archery season, I'd been blessed with a little bit of luck.


He's a young deer, but my best archery buck. He'll make for a very nice euro mount. I may even get froggy and try the power-washer method, as recommended by CenTexTim.

On another side note, I became an uncle again a few hours after I shot my buck. Jesse's wife gave birth to a healthy baby boy in the wee hours of Friday mornin' I was purty much on Cloud Nine all day Friday after all the excitement.

And, of course, the best part of gettin' a fat ol' deer is the obligitory tenderloin feast a few days later. Some folks are weird and put 'em in the freezer, but not me. Those delectable little morsels are usually enjoyed within 72 hours of the harvest. A little Old Bay seasonin', some pepper out of the grinder, and fried in butter beside some sauteed mushrooms and onions.... some damn good eatin' right there. Enjoy with a rum and coke for better appeal.

Durin' the gaps of the followin' hell week, I was able to get the buck cut up and in the freezer, so when I finally came up for air, it was time to go huntin' again.

First thing's first, Joe and I hit up the range last Friday for some trigger therapy, and to make sure our deer rifles were ready to go. On the way home, we stopped at a local gun shop and found a right purty Mossberg 835 12-gauge. Joe's buddy Batts had been lookin' for the right deal on a good pump gun, and this was it. The next day, with new gun in hand, the three of us headed for the local game lands to try to score a pheasant. With the very first pull of the trigger, Batts put down a beautiful rooster with his new gun. That was our only action that evenin', but it was still a nice tromp through the switchgrass.

Monday mornin' found me up at Bear Camp, ready to do some chasin' with the gang. I damn near stepped on one durin' our first chase, but the mountain laurel was so doggone thick that I never was able to see the bear. I'd guess he was within seven yards when he busted out, so the ol' ticker was definitely tickin' for a few seconds. We had four good chases that day, but that was our only action. Those boys are a helluva lotta fun to hunt with, and although I only made it up for one day, I had a great time.

So, tomorrow mornin' will find the Ol' Man and us kids in a duck blind somewhere, as we do every Thanksgivin' mornin'. Then, Dad and Joe will be off to Deer Camp, with Jesse and I followin' the next weekend when doe season opens.

It sure is a busy time of year, but it's damn near the best time of year.