Wednesday, December 26

Christmas Eve Hunt

Christmas Goose(s)...or Geese!

With a full Christmas Eve day schedule, including church at four and dinner to follow, could we squeeze in a morning goose hunt? How could we give up the opportunity for a Christmas goose!

  With the hot chocolate stowed and decoys loaded, we left in the dark. Arriving at close to sunrise, we humped our gear out to the field blind, which the Wildfowl Ninja had taken his limit the Saturday before.

  With even just a dozen shells and half a dozen silouettes, it seems we are loaded down Gunga Din Style. When did the blind bag get so heavy? Ah, yes, the Ninja's gear this year. Last year, he only brought himself and not his Weatherby, shells, snacks, etc.

Benelli Keeping Watch

  High winds early in the week had blown down much of the pine boughs and the grass we used to brush the blind.  After filling in the front of the blind with fresh grass and setting up the decoys, we settled in. We ended up extending the blind with ultralite Camo Systems netting.  This stuff is packable, light and provides great concealment while allowing me to look through.

Blind Extension with Camo Systems Netting

  The birds that were flying were focused on the scores of geese loafing on the creek about 50 yards behind us. It was interesting to hear them so close, and I used the opportunity to mimic their calls with mine. There were some high fliers, but we started to think that a waxing moon had provided night feeding opportunites.

  Walking back to check on the geese on the creek, three or more dozen lifted off in a crescendo of roiling water and wingbeats. We may have helped some folks down the creek.  Overall, there were alot of hunters out, based on the staccato sounds of shotguns in the distance.  It was a holiday and I assume there were many weekenders in from D.C. with their guests filling the blinds.

  As it warmed slightly and the wind remained calm, movement started. First, it was a few dozen about a 1/2 mile out and more began to criss cross above our position.  Three circled in behind us at about 100 yards high and flew directly out.  I flagged.  As they came back for another look, they canted their wings dropping in quick. 

  Cupping their wings and flying in about 40 yards out but coming in straight, I quietly said, "put down the hot chocolate and get ready".

  Time seemed to slow down as I looked out of the corner of my eye at my partner. He moved with deliberate action, knowing fluid slow movement was required.  "Ready?", I said. "Now", I declared, as I stood and they flared about 25 yards out.  I swung on the last bird and took him with a solid shot.  The Wildfowl Ninja shot next, as the remaining two banked hard and accelerated.  My next shot hit the second goose and he pinwheeled into the soft clay.  The third goose was out of range and I did not want to take the chance on a crippling shot.

  Guns on safe, we gathered our birds and brought them back to the blind.  Walking the distance on the birds, the first was at ~30 yards and the second at ~40 yards. Though I have counted the $$ when I pull the trigger on Hevi-Shot, the #2 payload from the 3 1/2" shell delivered a solid knockdown of both geese.

  We settled back into the blind hoping for another flight. I looked down at the full hot chocolate cup on the uneven ground between our chairs.  Put down with celerity, he had not spilled a drop.  Nice work, partner.


Monday, December 24

Merry Christmas to All!!

  From everyone at Eastern Shore Outoors, we wish you a Merry Christmas and are thankful for your support over the last year.

An ESO Christmas Tree (thanks to Cabela's for the idea)

Saturday, December 22

Grilled Goose Breast Extravaganza

 With six fresh goose breasts bathing in saltwater brine at home, I had the perfect opportunity to get the recipe for cooking a goose breast.  We were at a lovely Santa lunch with the Wildfowl Ninja and his sister (moniker to follow) and I saw a friend who is a trained culinary mystic and wildfowl afficionado.

  "So", I started, as I cornered him at a table ready to take another bite of his lunch. In retrospect, this was a dastardly move on my part, but frankly, I needed the goods, as I heard so many people referring to goose as  a third rate meal, akin to olive loaf.

  "The Wildfowl Ninja limited out yesterday and he helped with breasting them, which was easier than I had thought", I rambled as he eyed some french fries. "They are in brine, so how should I cook them?", I asked.

  "Cook them like a steak; if they are plump, butterfly them. Use a little salt, pepper, and garlic powder, and cook them medium rare. They are so lean that they will dry fast", he replied nonchalantly.

  With the grill pumping out mesquite smoke, I grilled per instructions and the result was worth every bit of the efffort.  Moist and pink in the center, there was a nice olfactory detonation of garlic and mesquite filling the air.

Mesquite Smoked Dry Rub Goose Breast...Medium Awesome!!

  In talking with my brother last night, I related that we worked on many tasks to bring these geese to table.

  We built the blind; setup the decoy spread; called them in; took them home and breasted them; cleaned and cooked them.  "Yes, but you did not build the fire", he said to me.  True, and we did not make the shells or their delivery system.  I have so much to learn and I relish every minute of it.

Sunday, December 16

The Wildfowl Ninja's First Goose Hunt

  You have to start at the beginning to appreciate the end.

  We had spent the previous Sunday building two field blinds on a cool, muddy day, interspersed with rain.
Walking a pine forest to find limbs and other brush, we spotted two fallen trees that must not have done well in Hurricane Sandy.  Hatchet and loppers in hands, we dragged and filled a truck bed full of brush.

  It was a good day of hard work, for we had never built a blind and give me a hatchet and a design plan in my head, and I am a happy man. Here are a few pictures of the first blind, which had a good set of natural cover behind us.

Stakes Ready for Backing
Backing Ready for Camo Cloth
Brushed Up with Pine and Cedar

  The second blind was on the edge of a field and was comprised of a simple camo screen. The Wildfowl Ninja suggested the grass. It turned out to be a great suggestion!

Second Field Blind against Marsh Grass
Grassed Up at the end of the Work Day

  Little did we know that it would pay off in what I considered the less concealed of the two blinds, on a bluebird morning that next Saturday.

  Arriving close to sunrise, we were treated to a Hunt Breakfast with scrambled eggs, bacon, toast and coffee. The Wildfowl Ninja's grandmother was so kind to prepare it for us and it was just what we needed to start the day. After carrying more gear than a Sherpa on the way to base camp, we settled in at the second of the two blinds and made quick work of setting up our spread. With no wind, I set up three "pods" of four oversize shells on motion stakes, with five silhouettes at our 1 0'clock position to close off that part on the "X".

Looking Out over the Dekes

  This left a nice landing zone in front (with a range decoy at 35 yards) and after we added some camo netting, we settled in.  The Wildfowl Ninja was using his Weatherby SA-08 in 20 GA, with an extended IC Carlson's waterfowl choke and 3" Hevi-Metal #2's; I had my Benelli SBEII, with an extended Mod Carlson's choke and 3 1/2 Hevi-Shot #2's. If there was anything within the range decoy, our heaters were up to the task. But were we?  Early on, it seemed we would be skunked.

The Wildfowl Ninja wearing his Xmas Present!

I was vigilant in looking for birds, but not good on blind banter.  Changing that, before long we were laughing and I looked up to see six geese doing a fIy by fifteen yards out and banking up over us.  Whoops...I hope this was not the only set. From 8 a.m.  to 9:30 a.m., we had seen high flying birds coming from our 9 to 3 o'clock position and some had gotten close. Out in front and 100's of yards out, we had flagged in some for a closer look but no one was committing. I went out and checked the blind for any tell tale giveaways and "opened" up the spread a little, making more room between decoys.

Awaiting the Honkers

As the sun warmed things up, so did the action. There were a few flights that came in close and then a set of eight came in from our 8 o'clock position at 50 yards high. They looked like they would fly straight out and away, until they banked back toward us, dropped and came by for another look.  I dropped the flag, gave one last call and told my partner to get ready.  They cupped their wings and committed.

 "Now", I called out, and as he stood, they tried to gain altitude. He took his first shot and the goose pinwheeled to the ground. I stood up and took a shot, as he took his second.  My first shot connected and so did his second. My last shot went high.

I looked at him and he was beaming. Hours talking over strategy on the skeet range; setting up blinds and all the times he came as an observer paid off. In a big way. Two shots. Two geese. We put our guns on safety and went into the field. The last bird was winged and after I checked the other two, we went after him and brought him back to the other two.

It was a fine first goose hunt and I told him, "This was a good day, but there will be many times we won't bring home birds". Looking at me with a knowing smile, he replied, "I know". We did not need to say it. It was being together that was the true bounty. In learning from each other and spending time in the outdoors we always "limited out" And today, he did. On his first goose hunt. How cool is that!

Wildfowl Ninja with Half of His Limit!

Friday, November 9

2012 Waterfowl Festival

Headed South on Washington Streer

  Arguably, the country's premier festival concentrating on waterfowl, the Waterfowl Festival in Easton, Maryland has items of interest for all.  From collectible decoys to working decoys; from retriever demonstrations to sculptures of labs; old time punt guns to the latest from Benelli, all parts of the waterfowl world are represented.

  On the Atlantic Flyway,  Easton is in the "funnel of the flyway", where ducks and geese land in the prodigious  fields of corn, milo and sorghum. Prior to the late 1950's, most birds would fly farther south to Pamlico Sound  North Carolina. Prior to widespread use of harvesting by machinery, most crops were picked by hand, leaving far fewer feed on the ground. With the advent of mechanized harvesting, combines were used to collect more bushels. More bushels in less time. More feed on the ground. You can almost hear the geese hitting the air brakes as they stopped short of Pamlico.

  This is great weekend to be in this town, where I moved six years ago.  You get to see all those friends you missed over the summer and show the visitors a progressive town, founded 65 years before Independence from King George was declared.

Town Seal

  The epicenter of the Waterfowl Festival is the old Armory building, which houses the foundation year around, but during the Festival is where most waterfowl paintings are exhibited.

The Armory; now Waterfowl Festival Inc. HQ

Closeup of the Bronze Sculpture at the Entrance to the Armory

  Below is an example of the type of photo realistic paintings that might be on display.  Interestingly, about a third of the works were of non-waterfowl, including giraffes on the Serengetti and bears fishing for salmon, with most of these wildlife artists hailing from Northern California.

Canvasbacks in Acrylic.  

  Down the street from the Armory is Albright's Gun Shop.  Albright's is one of a few fine gun shops in the area.  While it may not have the space for all the waterfowler gear, they have a fine selection of new and used guns.  Sean Mann of Sean Mann Calls is out front with a booth.  His father owned the shop before Larry Albright bought it thirty years ago, and he recounts fond memories in the shop, which sits diagonally from a town landmark, The Tidewater Inn. Mr Mann is a six time World Goose Calling Champion and his flagship call, a flute style model called the Eastern Shoreman is easy to learn and will bring in even the wariest of honkers.

Albright's Gun Shop: Happy 30th Anniverary!!

Sean Mann Working the Booth. 

  Easton High School houses the decoy and antique waterfowl gear vendors, as well as the Goose and Duck Calling competions.  In addition, there are displays which have artifacts from the market gunning days and gunning clubs, from the Susquehanna Flats, at the top of the Chesapeake Bay to the mouth of the Chesapeake near Norfolk.

Decoys for Sale or Trade

One of Dozens of Tables of Old and New Decoys
    In a local park, the Sportman's Pavilion was set up. The tent housed about two dozen vendors who had everything from calls, to new blind setups.  Outside was the Dock Dogs area, where dogs were being measured on the longest jump inot a pool of water. This was a huge draw for the kids.

  In additon, there were some boat manufacturers, including Bankes Boats from Canada, who had two models out.  The Pumpkinseed model below, would be towed out to an open water rig as a layout boat. Made of hand laid fiberglass, it is a stable platform with a lot of room inside, including shelves for ammo, lunch etc.  It was 10' in length and could also be brushed up as a blind. Also on display was one of Bankes Open Water Duck Boats.

Bankes 10' Pumpkinseed

Bankes 17' Freedom

Super Gator!!

  The Waterfowl Festival is one of a few events every year, which helps to bring in tourism into a county that has a 40% poverty rate.  While that is not as high as other rural areas, every $ helps out those in this beautiful part of the Mid-Atlantic.

A Banner Hangs Over a Busy Sidewalk Scene

Tuesday, October 2

Skeet with Peyton

  You never know who will show up at your local skeet club...This is high speed High Definition video at 240 frames per second...

A Good Day at the Rod and Gun Club...Wildfowl Ninja filming..

It was a report pair from the high house on Station 7.

Love the new camera!!

Monday, September 3

Opening Day - Dove Season: Getting our Mojo On!

Time: 0930 a.m.

Weather: initial light rain, overcast, mid 80’s , humid

Location: East of Easton, MD

  We were at the field a little over two hours before the opening time of noon. We had never hunted opening day in this field and did know how many hunters to expect. The clouds were moving in and we waited out a short rain shower in the truck, getting into the field at half past ten. Other hunters started to trickle in close to 11.
Getting our Mojo On!

  The field is large, at approximately 800 yards long and 200 yards wide. We set up on the edge closest to power lines near a state road. There was also a roosting area that was in pine trees to our north about 100 yards away. The decoys were set up in the most northerly swath so there was no one behind us. This was the first hunt for the Wildfowl Ninja with his newly minted gratis license, and I wanted to make sure it was a safe one in an unfamiliar public managed dove field. In addition, based on initial scouting, the power lines were closest to this location and the prime roosting area nearby. The battery powered Mojo Dove was set up at the end of the swath, and into the end cut, so that it could be seen from as many angles as possible. Five sets of two decoys were set up in an “X” behind it with one feeding and the other acting as sentinel. A wind powered Air-Dove was set up at the other end of the ground decoy configuration.

our spread

 The Wildfowl Ninja was to my right and slightly in front of me. He had the bucket; I had the scissor seat. He had his Weatherby SA-20 with Federal 8 shot game loads; I had my Benelli SBEII with Federal 7 ½ game loads. We greeted arriving hunters with a nod. One came over and, after exchanging pleasantries, he gave us some valuable intel on the dynamics of the field: the dove would fly east to west along a line from power lines to their roost; and north south from a prominent cedar on one side of the field, at mid field, to the aforementioned roosting spot. He told us we were in a good spot, which made me happy considering my dove hunting experience is limited, to say the least. He also gave some the Wildfowl Ninja some good hunting tips (though they also applied to me), which were: call “mark” when you see a bird and I will do the same, as this will allow for all to pick up on these evasive demons; and you do not need to be quiet, but you need to be still.

Wildfowl Ninja

  At 11:58, I turned on the Mojo (so to speak), and four minutes later, a dove came to land in our spread. I told the Ninja to take the shot and he had a good confident swing and a solid shot. He had no hesitation, but was admittedly, behind the bird. Others were buzzing by and considering our vantage, it was hard to track them until they were over us. The weedy stalks that were growing between the sunflowers hampered our view, but provided cover. I needed to increase my field of view, so I crushed these tough weeds in a circle, seven feet in all points on the compass. This helped considerably, as I was not used to having to pick up and track a bird that was quick on the wing and appeared out of nowhere. Shots heard in midfield affirmed the flight path tip we were given earlier.

Should have gone a little darker Camo

  Then, a bird crossed thirty yards out at my 10 o’clock position. Standing, I mounted, shot, missed, shot again. As its wings folded, I tracked to where it cratered. This was my first dove (other than with a Falcon II wrist rocket as a teenager), and I was happy I did not wing him. We spent the next two hours talking, scanning the skies and trying to stay cool in the midday sun. Later that day, we continued on our way to a Delaware beach, a pilgrimage I have completed for the last 44 years.

Bacon wrapped breast
  At the beach, and cleaned up after a long day, the dove breasts wrapped in bacon were served hot of the grill. It was a good day.

Sunday, August 26

Gear Review: Benchmade Mini-Griptilian

Benchmade Mini-Griptilian

 If you want a solid folder, with excellent edge retention, a vault like lockup, and great handling characteristics, the Benchmade Mini-Griptilian is hard to beat.

 A good folding knife is the gift that keeps on giving.  When you need it, it is there.  I have collected knives since my first Barlow. It was a workhouse and I learned to appreciate it as a tool and not an object to show pals in the confines of the house.  It lived in my jeans for years. Always on the lookout for a quality knife that will hold up as an everyday carry tool, my “go-to” for a decade was a left handed Spyderco Pilot with a serrated blade.

 The Benchmade Mini-Griptilian came up on my radar in early 2002 and I bought one the same year.  I knew of Benchmade’s quality and early reviews were positive.

 After ten years of service, this knife has held up exceptionally well, and well worth the ~$75USD.   The design by Mel Pardue, features a 3” modified sheepsfoot blade with 1/3 serrations and 440C blade steel (now in 154CM; see Benchmade specs at the end of this review)

 It is a great utility shape with thumbholes allowing for a solid one finger opening, and jimping at the base of the blade lets you “choke’ up for detail work. The pocket clip on the scales can be reversed and the handle is well-dimpled for a very solid grip. 

 The lock on any folder is the weak link, and this knife has a very solid lockup. With its AXIS locking mechanism, the blade locks into place with twin springs and a hardened bar that runs the width of the liner. While I have not stressed it to test the lock, I have worked it hard enough and never felt uncomfortable that it would have a lock failure.

AXIS Lock - Ambidextrous Use
The blade has held an edge well, and just needs a little work to get it back to shaving sharpness.  In addition, the serrations provide a quick cutting capability on tougher materials, with one deep serration, followed by two lesser serrations.  I have found in my experience that serrated knives are worthwhile, as if the material slips on one serration, it is “caught” on the peak of the next serration, and the overall serrated edge gets uniform attention, with not part dulling quicker.

 Made from Noryl, the handle is not unlike Zytel in stiffness, and strength to weight ratio.  It is heavily dimpled, for a firm grip even when wet. The clip allows for a deep pocket carry and is well attached with three Torx screws. A sizeable lanyard hole will accept a paracord loop.

 Overall, I believe that this knife deserves all the accolades that it has received (see Outdoor Life write-up:  and is my primary carry knife.

 Although, it is tough getting used to a lighter knife, and the dimples are pretty aggressive on your hands until worn down, I find little fault in this knife: the blade quality and design is excellent; edge retention is admirable; the price and Made in USA are selling points.

 The only option I wish I had when purchased is the custom Mini-Griptilian that you can build at the Benchmade website. Not unlike the way Buck allows you to not only build a knife, but a knife personalized for your blade options, color combos, etc. If you want a larger blade, go with the Griptilian. Either way, in my opinion, you cannot go wrong.

Specs (from Benchmade):
Model 555HG
Blade Length: 2.91"
Blade Thickness: 0.100"
Handle Thickness: 0.510"
Blade Material: 154CM Stainless Steel
Blade Hardness: 58-61HRC
Blade Style: Hollowground Modified Sheepsfoot; Ambidextrous Thumb-Holes
Weight: 2.56oz.
Pocket Clip: Tip Up, Reversible, Black
Lock Mechanism: AXIS
Overall Length: 6.78"
Closed Length: 3.87"

Wednesday, July 11

“I Don’t Think About The Heat, I Think About What I Need To Do”

On the Way Out 

  Peering through my binoculars from a bulkhead across from the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, I watched as the fleet of Optimist class sailboats passed each other.

And Off They Go!

  They were parallel to a starting line and counting down from a three minute horn blast. At zero, they will turn and head toward the first buoy of a triangular course. Later, I was told that it was 102 degrees on the water and this was the third of four days of sailing at a US Sailing Junior Olympic regatta. Most of these sailors are 12 and under and the heat was more of a nuisance than an impediment to performance.

Heading Toward The Mark

The Wildfowl Ninja was in his second regatta in as many weeks. Each day, the fleet of ~35 boats will race 4-5 races and will be on the water from about 10:30 am until 3 pm, eating lunch and hydrating on the water. Although not as physically demanding as other outdoor pursuits, these sailors must remain focused and mentally sharp and endurance in this heat will keep them closer to the front of the pack.

Looking Good, Stormbreaker!

  Having found a spot in the shadow of a 30 foot sailboat on a trailer, I look down at my pack: the equivalent of my blind bag. Water, lunch, binoculars, camera, sunscreen, folding chair, sunglasses, and hat are all in my pack. The sailors are about 200 yards out from me when they round a mark (or buoy). The instructors, in their inflatables and Boston Whalers, circle the sailors like a hen watching her ducklings venture out: close enough to give support, but far enough not to get in their way.

Post Race Tow In

  Through practice and competition, these sailors gain skill, self-confidence and self-reliance. As the sun shifts overhead diminishing my shade and cooking me slowly, I think of the mental focus that they retain in this heat. Last night, I asked the Wildfowl Ninja about sailing in this heat. His reply was nonchalant and indicative of the young man’s maturity. “I don’t think about the heat”, he said coolly, “I think about what I need to do”

Thursday, June 14

Tom Foolery

  I considered deep sixing the alarm clock as it read four a.m. and beckoned me to rise. Despite the pre-dawn wake up, I was excited to see the sun rise on my first turkey hunt.

A Woolworth's Reduced Price Gem

  My hunting partner received a permit for a managed hunt at the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Dorchester County, Maryland. This is a 27,000 acre refuge, which was created as a safe haven for migrating ducks and geese on the Atlantic Flyway, and still provides valuable habitat for many wetlands animals, including the elusive Sika Deer.

  We scouted the night before and, of four possible areas in our 1,800 acres hunting tract, we found a forest of mature pines and limited ground cover. As we left the area, the Wildfowl Ninja and his sister confirmed that this was the place to be. They commented that the six turkeys we had seen earlier in a nearby field was a harbinger of the next day's hunt.

  The moon was bright as we unloaded our gear from my truck and stepped through the high grass under the clear skies. Doused in DEET, we meandered on our 100 degree compass bearing to the forest and set up with our backs against a fallen pine. We both deployed ground blinds to cover our movement and provide further concealment. Then we waited....the rising sun illuminated our blinds and the tornadic spiral of mosquitoes a foot from my head. My partner had a Thermacell; I was covered in a fine layer of DEET (least my clothes were). The sun rose and changed from red to bright yellow, as we called and listened.

  As I soaked in the solitude of the area, I felt much more a part of the forest. I entered as an interloper, but now I had blended into my pine needle hide and comfortably surveyed my temporary home. But I have always felt comfortable outdoors, so this was no different, but my attention to concealment and quiet movement attenuated my feeling that at that moment there was nowhere else on the earth I would rather be. I guess that is my definition of “living in the moment”: knowing that not only was my location where I wanted to be, but more importantly where I had to be, as it was contributing to my development as an outdoorsman.

  The day warmed and we heard nary a yelp, or gobble. We packed up and surveyed a few other areas, calling intermittently.

  As we packed the truck and commented that we were in the best spot and just had no luck, I still knew that it was a 50/50 chance it would be successful. If I was behind my desk that day, the probability is zero.

Post script: Riding my bicycle this morning, I came upon a hen and eight poults. They were about 20 yards away and I was slowing, but still bearing down. As I got closer, they began to take flight, following their mother across my path and over a stand of pines. 10 yards from contact, I see a tom take flight and shock gobbles as he passes within 15 feet of my handlebars. Then out of nowhere, the last chick, no bigger than my fist, pops up and arcs within 3 feet of my bike. As it passed, we made solid split second eye contact and its confident gaze said it all. “Whad you looking at?”

Sunday, April 22

The Road Less Ridden

Not A Car to be Seen
  Rainy, chilly, and windy. Perfect conditions for a ride at the tailwnd of the weekend. I love to ride in less than perfect conditions, as it requires more attention to keep up an average speed and focus. Today was no exception as I had to contend with wet metal grating (super slippery, at any approach angle other than perdendicular) and a turkey ambush (more on that later). But I did have the All American Fuel, Slim Jims, to keep me going.

  After riding among open fields, the road leads through a few forests, as in the picture above.  When I ride this in the pre-dawn hours and my light illuminates a small cone of asphalt, I get this Ichabod Crane-esque vibe. After I emerged from this hollow, I was getting ready to go into a left hand turn when something caught my eye in the ditch to my left 15 feet away.

  My mind registered pheasant as it got on the road to get traction for a good takeoff. Logic soon shot down that id possibility as I saw it clearly take off and accelerate to the trees. It was a turkey hen and I was again pleased at how well you can come up on creatures silently on a bike. Hard to swing on it with no hands on my bike, so will have to work on my gun mount. Earlier posts suggest my bike as more than just exercise and transportation, but a scabbard will need to be fashioned.

Pedaling into a stiff headwind and being pelted with rain, I thought of how awesome it was to be out and feeling much more a part of my surroundings, more connected with the land I rode through. The high pitched call of an osprey redirected my attention as he flew over me and banking I could see his talons gripped a large field mouse. The cycle of nature continues with or without me, but I prefer to be an observer to its wonder.

Monday, April 9

Back in the Saddle…Again!

   Eyeing the partially deflated front tire, I paused and pumped it back up to a respectable 95 psi. Two weeks prior, I gave the Ironhorse a tune-up and rotated the tires, so I thought it must have been a cold weather event. This was my first ride of the year, as work and pre daylight savings time has hampered my time on my bike. Excuses…excuses.

   The bike started feeling “squishy” around mile three and then I was riding the wheel rim. Peeling onto the shoulder, I was getting ready to patch and pump, when I noticed the leak. At the base of the valve stem, the rubber had torn. Very hard to patch and not having an extra tube, I called the pace team. As they soon pulled up in my Tacoma, I tossed it in the bed and went home. My spirit was not deflated and I went on to yard chores.

Resting Ironhorse

   Only after the requisite Easter Egg dying with visiting nieces and nephew, did I get back to the bike and put a new tube in, rechecking to make sure there were no punctures through the tire. Riding out, it felt solid after mile five. I was under a time constraint so did a 14 mile “out and back”, which was a good first spin.

   On the Eastern Shore, it is beyond flat. You could stand on a beer can and see the Western Shore of the Bay. The roads are in good shape and the motorists are comfortable with bikes on the road, which makes you more at ease since every other vehicle is a large SUV or a pickup. The roads radiate from the county seat of Easton (#40 on 2011 Outdoor Life’s Top Small Towns for Sportsmen) towards the towns of Oxford and Saint Michaels. This provides variety of scenery but you can also plan your ride based on wind conditions (id est, do I want it easy on the way out and headwinds coming home, or vice versa)

   There are a number of excellent routes that are close by and on the weekend, the roads begin to fill up with weekenders from DC going to their houses and cyclists here for the scenery (and post ride, the local brewery)

Riding up to the garage to put my bike away, I ask myself, “Self, would you have rather shot skeet or go out on a ride?”

“Tough call”, I answered, “as either is an extension of myself and are thus a part of who I am”

I go back to my first love and, even after my initial setback, I answer my question a la Steven Tyler.

I'm Back in the Saddle Again, I'm Back…..

Monday, April 2

Shoot the Old One!

A Workhorse
   No, this is not a post on getting rid of old automobiles.  That is easy...Use one cup of Domino's sugar for every gallon of gas; shake well and make sure you have on comfortable shoes for the long walk.

   The Wildfowl Ninja and I were on the skeet field yesterday and he had just finished on Station 7. After a few shots with his great little 20 gauge Weatherby SA-20, I decided on a round of skeet and, more focused, I was crushing birds. I always take my "everything" gun. It is the one I use for everything and is a Benelli Super Black Eagle II in left hand with a 28" barrel.

   He suggested I shoot a round of "Pieces" next, whereby I shoot two shells for each bird and with the second shot pepper the large pieces of the broken bird. However, in my case, I am generally using the second shell to do the breaking. Reaching for my Benelli, I hear, "but shoot the Old One!" I smiled.
Lock N' Load.
A Proven Design

   The Old One is a Savage 720 with a 26" barrel that I found in a house that we lived in near DC. Rambling around in the walk up attic, I saw blued barrel steel poking up from the insulation and uncovered this A-5 Humpback design copy. It was rusty and pitted, but I cleaned it up. It was the hunting piece of an old submariner skipper who became an Admiral. He had passed away and his daughter was left to sell the house.

One of the Great American Firearms Manufacturers

   Even with a short stock and barrel, this thing was a solid piece of steel and when the action cycled the first round, it was like an old anti-aircraft gun, "Kah-Chunk!"  It was fun shooting it and I did better with the 720 in hitting secondary pieces than with my SBE II, which was kinda cool. I guess it is not the arrow.

Tuesday, March 6

Sportsmen Vote!

Wildfowl Magazine has created a new website that provides information on the state and federal issues that impact sportsmen and sportswomen in the United States.

Found at, this site reviews the Hot Button issues, such as Clean Water and Concealed Carry, as well as providing information on the stances of the current crop of presidential candidates. This site provides an excellent overview of the major issues that impact us, but we must take the next step and get involved with local, state and federal elected officials.

As we look to the next fishing and hunting season, I look to the future of my children's outdoor landscape and the promise that it will hold.  For me, being active now on the outdoor issues helps provide that my young conservationists follow in my footsteps and enjoy the bounty in the Bay and sow the seeds in the dove field.

Sportsmen Vote! is a forward thinking initiative which allows my comdrades with arms to act on issues important to them and those who take up the mantle when they finally put that A-5 to rest.


Sunday, March 4

The Way of the Wildfowl Ninja

  The Wildfowl Ninja continues his training with recent exploits in the classroom. He passed Maryland Hunter Safety Course yesterday.  Here he fashions new blaze orange that was a gift to commemorate his passing the course.

The Wildfowl Ninja says "Safety First"

  Having also completed 4H Shotgun Safety Training,  he is gaining the fundamentals of becoming a responsible sportsman.

  We spent another Sunday afternoon today on the skeet range and he is progressing well in his ability to feel confident with his shotgun and he is working on his mount and swing. The first time out, we spent our time shooting the low house on Station 7, but he is now making his way around to the other stations, though I have been holding off on having him shoot doubles. 

  One Bird, One Shell.  

  Last week at Station 7, he turned to me and asked if he could load two shells.  I nodded and he asked for a high and then a low, basically what is known as a report pair (where he calls for the first target and I release the second when he pulls the trigger)

  He crushed the high house close to the mid field stake and acquired the low and snapped the trigger. The sky was momentarily clouded with a fine ash as the wad arched softly to the ground.  He turned and I saw it on his face: that mix of satisfaction and confidence that comes from applying what classroom and field work into a disintegrating achievement.