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?"


"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 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.”

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 Read his outdoors blog at 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, or to the Andrew K. Touchstone Fund at the Adirondack Foundation,

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.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Pennsyltucky foliage

We live on a right nice back road that is heavily wooded and doesn't see too much in the way of traffic. With the turnin' of the leaves in the last few weeks, the pilgrimage home from work has been rather pleasant. On a particularly nice day a few weeks ago, I jumped on the bike specifically to ride a half-mile up the road to take this picture. The lightin' ain't quite what I wanted, but I'll take what I could get.

I'm a day late and a dollar short on this post, as most of these purty leaves have long since been on the ground. There's still a few hangin' on for dear life though, so I'll enjoy it while I can.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Bowhunter's Weekend '14

We were tryin' to figger out how long we've been gettin' together for Bowhunter's Weekend, and we think this may have been the tenth year. Go, us!

As always, it was a hellva good time amongst good friends. It's a good thing the food was excellent and the beer was cold, because the deer whooped our asses this year.

We had a handful of folks out on the river over goose decoys, and they came back with a pair of honkers. We also had a handful of turkey hunters out and about, but all they had to show was a collective three whiffs. The rest of us were bowhuntin', and while there was several close calls for most of us, and a pair of whiffs by the ol' man, the only deer to come back to camp was arrowed by the camp rookie. My girl's brother Josh and his girl Lauren made the trek north. On her first trip to camp, Lauren showed the rest of us up by bringin' back a fat button buck, her second archery deer.

Bowhunter's Weekend is prolly my second favorite weekend of the year, behind the Spring Gobbler opener. It would certainly not be so without such a great group of friends, and the ridiculous generosity and patience of our camp host, Ron.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

I'm not dead

Just busy, and half the time, when I do get the urge to post, my ol' PC gives me a hard enough time that I just give up.

In the meantime, the 2014 Bowhunter's Weekend is upon us. I think damn near everyone took tomorrow off, as camp is packed already.

Stay tuned for pictures of deceased and delicious critters...

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

More ducks

When I was a kid, I cut my teeth on duck huntin'. Sometimes I get so busy chasin' deer and partakin' in the rest of life that I forget how much I really enjoy it.

After Tater and I got into the woodies on the creek last week, I decided I needed to get a little more duckin' in my system. When we jump-shot the pond after our creek hunt, there was more than a pile of 'em on there, so I shot Tater a message to see if he wanted to set up the pond on Friday. He was game, so plans were made.

We made it to the pond with plenty of dark left to get set up. We'd been screwin' around on the pond bank for almost five minutes, when all of the sudden there was a helluva commotion along the opposite bank. We stood in awe as a gaggle of geese lifted off of the pond, some flyin' right over us. The sneaky bastards hadn't made a sound until they took off.

Once we got back to our senses, we chucked the duck blocks out into place and got ourselves situated in the weeds along the pond bank. Within minutes, we had ducks lightin' on the water, but it was still plenty dark, so we stood motionless and watched.

Fifteen minutes later, we had over 30 ducks hangin' out on the water right in front of us, and I wasn't sure how much longer I could handle the poundin' in my chest. Shootin' light had arrived, so we decided it was time to turn the shotguns loose. A few embarassin' moments later, we had three ducks down. Not our best shootin'.

A few minutes later, a handful of teal buzzed into the outer edge of the decoys. Another barrage landed us only one more duck... definitely some questionable marksmanship.

To add insult to injury, we managed to lose track of two of the three ducks we'd initially knocked down. I ain't sure whether they made it to the edge of the pond and hid in the thick shit, or managed to lift off the water while we were shootin' at the teal. Regardless, I don't like losin' birds, and that situation was rather discouragin'. We picked apart the pond edge for a half-hour, to no avail.

After the teal, the mornin' turned slow, so eventually we wound up hangin' out in front of the cover, just shootin' the breeze and enjoyin' the mornin'. Sure enough, we got caught with our pants down by a pair of mallards. I was within grabbin' distance of my shotgun, so grab it I did. The hen committed, and I dropped her in the decoys, then caught up with the drake as he passed overhead. He required a few clean-up shots, but we eventually got the job done.

That was the extent of the excitement for the day, but it had already been a helluva day. We collected our stuff and got gone.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Turkey Call Auction

I've been wantin' to post this for a while, but it kept gettin' shuffled to the back burner. I'm finally gettin' caught up...

I may have mentioned my tendency to hang out on the forums on a regular basis. I find 'em to be a great source of information for just about anythin' huntin' related, and Pennsyltucky huntin' in particular. There's also tons of stories and pictures from successful (and not so successful) hunters in our state. There's also a lot of interaction within the membership, both online and in person. Overall, it's purty tight-knit for an online community.

Rick Harro, an HPA member and one of many great turkey call makers in our state, recently found out that one of his neighbor's daughters was battlin' leukemia. With the help of the HPA community, he put together an unusual fundraiser back in September to help out; a turkey call auction.

Anyone that knows me knows I have one helluva weakness for turkey calls, so I knew that I'd be goin', come hell or high water. It'd be a good chance to help out a local family, scratch my itch for turkey calls, and it would also be a good chance to meet some of the fine folks that I converse with on the forums.

I managed to connive Spanky into drivin', and Tater met us there. Let me tell ya, Rick did an awesome job of puttin' the whole thing together. Pennsylvania is home to many of the best callmakers in the country, as evidenced by the piles of awards that come back to PA from the call making contests at the annual NWTF convention. Rick managed to get donations from a staggerin' amount of 'em. Not only that, but he got donations of artwork, knives, firearms, gift baskets, and other huntin' related accessories. To sell it off, he snagged a celebrity auctioneer from Barrett Jackson. There were piles of food and drinks that were donated by local stores to cater to the couple hundred bidders in attendance.

Many of the call makers that donated were in attendance, so I more or less wandered around in a daze for the first hour or so, just in complete awe. When I finally managed to pry my jaw off the ground and utter a few words, I was pleasantly surprised at how easy most of them were to talk to. They all had a story to tell, and most had a few jokes up their sleeves as well. Most of the call makers and bidders were excellent turkey hunters as well, and they were willin' to offer up some sage advice. I wonder how many longbeards have been collectively tug over the years by the folks that were at that auction? It has to be a staggerin' number.

The auction itself was quite a show. I love to hear a good auctioneer, and it was plain to see how that fella came to work for the likes of Barrett Jackson. He was excellent at engagin' the audience and gettin' those extra few dollars from the stubborn bidders, and was quick to crack a joke here and there.

I bid on several call and a few pieces of artwork before I finally pulled the trigger and won a fine wingbone yelper made by Tony Ezolt of Kutztown, PA. I've been admirin' his wingbones for a long time, and I was ecstatic to finally have one of my own. Now I just have to learn to run the damn thing...

I won the lower call... a fine piece of artwork, for sure.

Tater bid for and won a beautiful runnin' pot call made by Austin Botts of Jim Thorpe, PA. He had to leave early, so I picked it up at the end of the auction. Let me tell ya, after runnin' that call a few times, it made it very, very hard to relinquish it back to Tater the other mornin'. That's one good soundin' call.

Of course, Miranda and her family were the guests of honor. One of the highlights of the day was call maker Andy Snair, of Rockhill, PA, presentin' Miranda with one of his beautiful custom wingbone yelpers. It was very emotional for the family, and purty movin' for the bidders. I think I must caught a piece of dirt in my eye about that time... started waterin' up a bit.

Rick's goal for the auction was to raise $5,000. After seein' the quality of calls and the number of bidders in attendance, it was no shock to me that the auction raised more than $11,000.

I had a helluva good time, and it was a great way to burn a September afternoon.

Hat tip to Tater for most of the above pictures, since I was too busy yappin' to take many pictures of my own.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Creek woodies

Last year, I got Tater to come up to the farm to hunt the creek for woodies, and we had a helluva good day. We decided we'd better try to do it again this year.

Thankfully, we were able to make it happen again on Tuesday mornin'. It wasn't quite as fast and furious as last year's hunt, but we managed to catch up to a few of 'em.

We also checked out a nearby pond before we left, and wound up with a teal to add to the mix. I screwed up and got up the pond bank before Tater, and the ducks flushed before he was in position. We shoulda had a few more, but that was my fault.

It was an awfully purty mornin' to boot, and the company was exceptional. Hopefully we can keep this at least an annual event.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Great Bike Trip - Day 7

My final day was likely the most adventurous, although not the good kinda adventure.

After a surprisingly restful night of sleep in the back of the pickup, I was awoken by the first of the mechanics rollin' in on his bike. We exchanged pleasantries, and I filled him in on the previous evenin's activities and shot the shit for a little while. The shop manager soon arrived with the keys, so I got the bike pushed around the back as the rest of the staff arrived and got the shop opened up. I'd shot a message to the service manager the evenin' before while I was waitin' for the tow truck, so he wasn't surprised to see me when he rolled in.

After gettin' the shop opened up, they got the bike and and went right to work. We decided to scratch the first tire, so a brand new tire and tube went on. The mechanic himself took the bike around the loop to make sure the wobble was gone and to make sure everythin' else was kosher, and by 10, I had a clean bill of health. I was prepared to pay for the second tire, as the staple the caused all the trouble in the first place sure wasn't the shop's fault. However, the service manager shocked me by tellin' me that they wanted to help me out, and there would be no charge for the second tire. To say I was shocked would have been an understatement. Not too many places would take care of an out-of-towner like that. To the fine folks at Jacksonville Powersports: Thanks for puttin' up with me. To have a staff like yours that was willin' to take care of me and my bike while away from home meant alot.

As I was on a first-name basis with half the shop at this point, I went through and said my goodbyes, crossed my fingers, and once again headed for the interstate.

One of the trip highlights happened just as I got back on the interstate. As I rode along, I noticed somethin' out of the corner of my eye. I looked to my left, and there, barely 40 feet off the ground, was an eagle flyin' along right beside me. That just about beat all I've ever seen.

Another feature of Florida is that they don't skimp on their bridges. This was another gem that I crossed shortly after I saw the eagle.

State aesthetics aside, I won't lie... I was really, really damn happy to make the Georgia line. With a little over 800 miles to go and on my last day, I fell into the I-95 groove and pushed hard for home. The weather got nice again, and I was feelin' purty good about the rest of my journey.

When I got a few hours from Fayetteville North Carolina, I texted my friend James, who I was supposed to stay with the night before. My arrival in his neck of the woods worked out with his schedule, and we were able to meet up a the local Cracker Barrel for a quick dinner.

When I went to start the bike after dinner, she barely cranked over. I was just about to panic, when all of the sudden the engine took and fired to life. I wasn't sure what the issue was, but the bike was runnin', so I kept headin' North.

As the sun dipped below the horizon, I started noticin' my neutral indicator light flickerin' on the dash. That purty much told me that my issue was a little bit more complicated than a deceased battery. Some sorta electrical gremlin had taken control; not a good thing with 400 more miles to go, and less than ten hours until I had to return to work.

A quick back story here... Most bikes have what's called a reserve tank. It's not really a reserve at all, but it's simply a petcock control that releases the fuel left in the lower section of the tank. For the last year or so, when my bike gets close to that level, it tends to just cut out. The aforementioned petcock is controlled by vacuum via the carburetor, and I guess the vacuum isn't quite strong enough. When it cuts out, I simply wait a minute or so, choke the bike and crank it 'till she fires back up, then find the nearest gas station. It's a hassle, but not to the extent that I've spent the money on fixin' it.

Fast forward to my current situation, and now that little tidbit was more than a hassle. With my battery bein' drained, I needed to be a little more prompt about stoppin' and toppin' off, so she didn't have her little hissy fit and leave me sit along the highway.

Well, sure enough, my dumbass pushed her just a bit too far, and there I sat with a dead bike along one of the most brutal interstates in the country, in the dark. I was less than enthused.

Once again, I called my insurance to line up a tow, but in the meantime, I started pushin'. The fuel station I had been plannin' on stoppin' at was about three miles up the road, so I figgered if the tow truck took as long as it did the night before, I'd make the station before the truck got to me.

I finally noticed that I was on a slight downhill... maybe just enough to be able to push-start it. I popped open the fuel door with the key, so I didn't have to turn the bike off at the gas station, and started rollin' her up to speed. Sure enough, I popped the clutch and she fired to life. My challenge now was to keep her runnin' the remainder of the trip home.

I made the fuel station and topped off, then called and cancelled the tow. Once again, I crossed my fingers and headed up the road.

I quickly realized that havin' the fuel door propped open, in addition to the up-draft caused by the windshield, was not a good combination. The fumes from the tank were blowin' directly in under my helmet, which made breathing a lot more interestin' than I wanted. If I turn up with cancer in a few years, now you know why.

Fumes aside, I was runnin' purty good until I hit Richmond, VA. A local tow truck pulled up beside me and started flashin' his lights. It took me a moment to realize what he was tryin' to tell me, but then I looked back and saw my taillight was out. To the gentleman from Hanover Towing that alerted me to this: If you happen to read this, thanks for lettin' me know. Not havin' a taillight on a bike, with Richmond, DC and Baltimore to get through, is damn near a death wish. It was a hard decision to make, but I decided to pull off at the next gas station, shut her down, and try to find the source of my wirin' woes.

Naturally, I wound up at the sketchiest damned gas station in Richmond, but I didn't really have a choice. I shut her down, and purty much tore her down right there. A half hour later, with no luck findin' anythin' obvious, I put her back together. I got out my flashlight, said a little prayer for some extra battery life, and duct taped the light to the tail light lens. It wasn't perfect, but it was damn sure better than nothin'.

Shortly thereafter, I discovered that damn near nobody in Richmond has a set of jumper cables in their cars. Givin' up on that option, I cussed and fussed for a half-hour tryin' to push start her on the flat lot, but to no avail. I finally pushed the bike up to road to another gas station, where I finally found an awesome chick that not only had a set of cables, but knew how to use the doggone things. We got the bike runnin' in short order, and off I went again.

Despite the finest efforts of several construction zones around DC that had a surprisin' amount of traffic at a stand-still in the middle of the night, I finally pulled into the driveway around 3am. To my surprise, I had a welcomin' committee waitin' awake for me. After the long road home, it sure was nice to give that girl a kiss again. I had just enough time to take a shower and cook breakfast before I headed to work for one of the longest 12-hour shifts I'd ever worked. I was flat out whooped.

In seven days, I'd traveled 4,756 miles, covered 14 states, burned around 120 gallons of fuel and only got nabbed for one ticket. I got to have a few brief visits with friends and family along the way, and the gremlins thankfully stayed at bay until after I'd accomplished my goals. Most importantly, I'd covered the distance without meetin' an untimely demise, saw some of the greatest things our country has to offer and got lots of quality thinkin' done. It was truly an awesome experience, and nothin' can beat the memories that will last a lifetime.

For the two of you that read all my ramblin's and checked out my pictures over the last few days, I thank you for followin' along.

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Great Bike Trip - Day 6

Florida was already much more of an adventure than I'd anticipated, so I was ready to make my escape. My sixth day was set to be a leisurely trip to Fayetteville, North Carolina, to stay with some more friends from my newspaper era.

When I finally arose from my slumber, I threw in a load of laundry and took a nice, long shower... both were badly needed. When the laundry was done, I got my things together and let myself out.

By now, I had over 2,000 miles on that used tire I'd picked up in San Antonio, and from the looks of things, tryin' to get the rest of the way home on it wasn't the best of ideas. As it was just after lunchtime, and I only had around 400 miles to go that day, I decided to nip it in the bud and get another thrown on. I jumped on the internet, made a few phone calls, and found a shop just north in Jacksonville that could take care of me. I loaded the bike back up, and off I went.

I found Jacksonville Powersports with no problem, as it was right off I-295. Within 15 minutes, they had the bike on the lift, and I was walkin' out a happy customer 45 minutes later.

Then, once again, the day went to shit.

I'd no sooner got back on the interstate than I started to feel a wobble. I yanked the bike to the shoulder... sure enough, the new tire was flat. I called the shop and explained my dilemma, and before long they had a runner there to pick me up.

With the bike back on the lift back at the shop, they quickly found the problem... somewhere in the nine miles of the new tire's life, I had picked up a staple, and it had punctured just enough to shred the shit outta the tube.

The old heads of the shop got together, and decided that the tire could probably be resurrected, although there was a little bit of damage from the tube spinnin' around inside of it. Twenty minutes later, I was on my way again.

Except I wasn't. I felt one helluva rear tire wobble as I left the parkin' lot, so I turned around and went right back. By now, they were officially closed for the day, but I managed to catch the service manager and the mechanic as they were leavin'. We yanked the bike back in, but after pokin' around for a half-hour, we couldn't find anythin' that would be causin' the wobble. I decided that I could live with it to get home and that I'd take my chances, so we hemmed it up and off I went.

Well, this time I made it about eight miles, then... flat again.

I weighed my options, then finally called my insurance company's roadside assistance for a tow back to the shop. In hindsight, I shoulda just pushed the damn thing. By the time the tow truck got there almost three hours later, it had long since been dark and the skeeters were feastin' on me somethin' fierce.

After gettin' situated back at the shop, I finally came to the realization that in all the excitement, I'd never really had anything to eat or drink all day. With that thought in mind, I bit the bullet and walked up the street to a Waffle House. As hungry and thirsty as I was at that point, I'da paid a million for that junk food. It was phenomenal.

After gettin' my fill, the only thing left to do was to wait 'till mornin'. I didn't really want to draw any undue attention to myself to the local gangbangers or law enforcement, so I set up shop in the bed of the parts truck out front, where I couldn't be seen. With a saddlebag for a pillow, I commenced to gettin' a surprisingly good night's sleep after a purty much worthless day.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Homebrewed broadhead target review

Takin' break from chroniclin' my motorcycle odyssey for a day...

A few weeks back, I set about whippin' up a cheap broadhead target whilst gettin' ready for the bow season.

Well, I commenced to sendin' some arrows through it the next day, and somethin' bad happened.

On my ninth shot that day, I heard a weird noise upon releasin' the arrow, and felt a slap at my wrist. Sure 'nuff, I'd gone and blown the bow up.

Granted, I've got nobody to blame but myself. It'd been at least nine years since I'd had a new string put on the ol' gal (the powers that be recommend a new one every two to three years). I've sent thousands of arrows a'wingin' in that time, so that ol' string didn't owe me a thing. I just got lucky and didn't get hurt when it decided to go.

But, back to the target...

I managed to get nine shots on target before the bow blew. The first three arrows almost knocked the target backwards, so I took the target back into the shop and added a few small 2x4 lengths to the back of the frame to help brace it against the ground. After that, it worked flawlessly.

At eight inches thick, it had no problem stoppin' my arrows from punchin' through.

The only special treatment it's gettin' is that I'm takin' the practice heads off the arrows before yankin' the arrows back out. This not only makes it easier to remove, but it'll help the insulation panels to last a little bit longer. Also, to help distribute to wear a little more evenly, I'll shoot at the small dots in the corners at closer distances, rather than the large center dot. That helps keep me from bangin' up arrows as well.

The only downside is that the insulation leaves a bit of a film on the arrows after a few shots. I know a lot of the 3D target shooters use a special (expensive) arrow lubricant on their arrows to avoid this. Since I'm cheap, and I already have the practice heads screwed off, I find it just as easy to use the blunt edge to scrape the junk off.

I picked the bow up from the shop after my trip, and have since thrown close to 150 arrows through that target with no problem. Based on the current wear rate, I imagine that I'll have to replace a couple of the center panels every 300 shots or so.

Overall, for around $10 and the time to build it, plus a few bucks and a half-hour to replace a few panels here or there, I got a solid, portable broadhead target. Not too shabby at all.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Great Bike Trip - Day 5

The fifth day was set to be a long but adventurous day. I would be headin' from St. Pete to South Florida, then ridin' through the Everglades en route to the Keys, then back to St. Augustine Beach in the northern part of the state to stay with another cousin and his wife.

After three quick hours of sleep, I slammed a cup of coffee, got my things together, said my goodbyes and headed out. First thing's first though, I was about due for an oil change. I yanked it into the nearest Hellmart, got the items needed, and changed the oil right there in the parkin' lot.

That done, I jumped on I-75 and headed south.

The weather had made a full U-turn from the night before, and it was about a purty a mornin' as I could ask for. There were palm trees and gulf water as far as I could see as I crossed the lower Tampa Bay... definitely a right purty place.

I saw three bald eagles on the trip, and all were in Florida. I didn't get any pictures, but as I don't get to see but a few of 'em a year, I tend to remember the sightin's well. The first one I saw just north of Naples, which made a bright and beautiful mornin' even better.

I jumped off I-75 onto U.S. 41 at Naples, and headed off into the Everglades. I saw my second eagle floatin' above me somewhere in there, but I was disappointed that I didn't see any panthers or gators. The Glades themselves are very vast and beautiful... another place I wish I could have taken more time to explore.

As I rode along, I saw some rain developin' up ahead. It didn't look to be anythin' more than a few drops, so I donned the helmet and left the raingear in the bag. Questionable decision... twenty minutes later, there wasn't a dry thread to be found. However, it was in the 90's, and it was a warm, tropical rain, so I damn near enjoyed it. I rode back into the sunlight, and was dry again within a few hours. All things considered, it was the only solid rain I ran into the entire trip, so I can't bitch too loud about that.

On the other side of the Everglades, I saw signs for Key West, so I followed 'em. They took me to Homestead, which is more or less the last outpost before you head out to the islands. By this point, it was early afternoon and I knew I wasn't gonna get to cousin Nate's house anytime soon. I thought briefly about scrappin' the islands and just headin' north, but I'd come that far so I decided to push on. I topped off the tank and was on my way.

I prolly shoulda done a little more research. When I was thinkin' about ridin' out to Key West, I was envisionin' a few small islands and a lotta bridges. Boy, was I wrong. It's 127 miles from the mainland to Key West, and most of it is island with 35-45mph speed limits. Couple that with construction zones and cops everywhere, and it was very slow goin'. In other words, it was damn near seven hours straight of continuously monitorin' my speed so I didn't get pulled over again... very stressful on the brain. While I'll treasure the memories of doin' it, I have absolutely no desire whatsoever to do it ever again.

All that said, it was hellaciously purty out there. I've never been to the tropics before, so to finally see the turquoise water in person was neat. In hindsight, I shoulda stopped for a few minutes and dipped my feet in for a little bit, but at the time I was too overwhelmed with how late I was runnin' and tryin' not to get yanked for speedin' again. The bridges I encountered were fun to run, and it gave me warm and fuzzies to stare out over all that purty water.

It took a little doin' to find it, but I finally got to the Southernmost Point of the U.S., and spend a few minutes there takin' pictures. Not too many folks get to do that on a bike, so I was rather pleased to have made it.

Once again, I got to take in another gorgeous sunset as I headed back across the Seven Mile Bridge.

I got back to the mainland well after dark and stayed north on U.S. 1, and that's when my penchant for avoidin' toll roads when possible bit me in the ass. Let's just say that downtown Miami is purty much batshit crazy, even at 9:30 on a Tuesday night. After narrowly avoidin' an untimely demise several times, I finally was able to jump onto I-95 where I had some room to breath again.

By then, I had exhausted my supply of road snacks, and I was startin' to drag ass. I knew I was in for a long slog up to Nate's place, so out came the headphones blarin' Pantera and gum to keep me awake. Even still, I had to stop several times in addition to my fuel stops to clear the cobwebs.

I finally rolled in to Nate's around 3:30am. As Nate is a former Texan, I was again greeted with a handshake and a cold beer. The late hour be damned, I thoroughly enjoyed that beer, and another, as we caught up for an hour or so. He finally decided to head back to bed for an hour before he had to leave for work. By then, his wife was already up and gettin' ready for work, and I passed out on the floor while waitin' for her to get outta the shower. Bein' on the floor didn't matter... I was wasted tired and still slept like a baby. It was a fittin' end to a fustercluck of a day.