Monday, December 29, 2008

Hunting and Journaling

As the 2008/09 waterfowl season begins to wind down here in Oregon, I know that my days afield are limited. Not just because the season will close soon, but more so due to the current weather and landscape conditions.

The Klamath basin has gotten hammered with close to 2' of snow and sub zero temps over the past several weeks. Fully covering the Klamath River with a solid sheet of thick ice and what little grain there was in the fields with snow. These are the most difficult conditions to draw in birds that I have experienced. Had I one or the other to work with, (open water or standing grain) it would not pose near the challenge or difficulty which is now before me. It's like inviting your friends to dinner and not having any food or water for them. Just a well dressed table with all the accouterments of what is to come, yet never does. It doesn't take but a few invites and you end up with only yourself at a well dressed table. Those late season Canada Geese are savvy and have seen a lot of decoy sets and heard a lot of calling, the good and bad of both. Not having neither food or water to offer leaves me with sparse optimism to lure in the big boys from the north. In stark contrast to the western valleys of Oregon and Northern California. Those remain prime hunting areas til the last day of the season. Offering both food and plenty of open water for lots of late season duck and goose hunting.

Let me digress for just a moment. I have shared many photos with you all that are from the pages of my "Waterfowl Gunning Log". While it's fun to look back with my hunting friends at the success we've had, the journal serves also as a guide for what has worked in tough conditions and those wild ideas that we just crossed off the list. Maintaining a journal is an excellent way to see trends in species, numbers of waterfowl, weather and habitat. Also I can recollect as to what type of decoys I used, how many and in what configuration. So now is the time I find myself turning the pages and reading my notes from years past, hoping to find some antidote for the current situation. So far no luck, yet I do have another idea to try and I'll let you know what the results are after my efforts. In the past I have used black plastic (visqueen) over ice to give the illusion of open water on the Klamath River. I have also tried a green tarp in the field over snow in hopes that Geese would consider stopping by. Both of those attempts were unsuccessful yet I continue to persevere.

Here in Oregon, specifically the Klamath Basin where I waterfowl hunt the duck portion of the season is typically fairly short. This is due to several factors primarily drought and water restrictions during the breeding season. This has had a big impact on production of local birds and thus lowering the number of ducks using the area which I hunt. It takes generations of ducks to insure historical migratory routes. Once that chain has been broken by drought, lack of food, or nesting habitat it takes many many years to regain that portion of the migration if ever. This is the situation I am faced with where I hunt. Though the number of ducks I've harvested this season may seem like a lot to some of you, considering the number of days and hours I have spent hunting it is an average take thus far. Noting that most of the ducks came in the early portion of the season and dropped off markedly when temps began dropping below freezing around Thanksgiving. I was fortunate to get a daily limit of 7 ducks, 3 times which equated to almost half of my season total. Those were local birds and I was tickled to have such success as it doesn't happen very often anymore. Lest I not mention the days this season when I came home empty handed, of which there were several. Many years ago in the mid 80's we had good late season duck populations in the Klamath Basin, yet due to loss of habitat, water and food we no longer have such. We have lost most of the historical migrating diver population. And as far I can see we are no where even close to regaining those numbers and I am not sure we ever will.

These are observations made from years of hunting and keeping a journal of such. I still continue to be optimistic that eventually the late season diver hunts will once again return. I remember having the choice of hunting divers or hunting geese on the same day. Which one would I start my morning with and just how much plucking did I want to do? Now days it is not an option. I put in as many duck days as I can early season after my big game hunting is over, because I know soon after freezing temps arrive the ducks will be gone. Then I am left with very challenging conditions for primarilary geese only. If this were a numbers game I lose before I even get started. For every 4 or 5 days I spend in my layout blind goose hunting, I am lucky if I get a single goose. Clearly it is not the reason I hunt and put forth all the effort I do. It is for that one brief moment in time when a window of opportunity swings my way. When those distant geese finally come and circle my spread of 4 dozen G and H shells that I've been laying in for 3 plus days and decide to drop in. Just for a few minutes I forget about all the work I've done and the cold leaves my body as adrenaline surges through my veins. Their calls echoing in my head as they stretch their landing gears reaching for the ground. My heart beats faster with every vocal they make as I wait for that perfect moment to shoulder my gun in an effort to knock one down. I try not to move and give myself away, yet I don't want to miss my chance either, it's a fine line. You've put your time in and paid your dues. Now is your opportunity, perhaps the last one of the year. Make it count, stay calm, you know what to do, you've waited this long just a minute more. The next pass they make you're ready and as they stretch their feet and necks looking to spot their landing, you unleash both barrels and 2 tumble to the ground. You reload just in case you have a cripple or maybe a third got hit and needs to be chased down. You clumsily extract yourself from your ground blind and run down any cripples. You are elated with your success and rightly so. A long sigh follows and the hours and days you've put in finally pay off.

I can remember back in the early 1970's when the town of Tulelake in northern California was the mecca of waterfowl hunting. This was the place to be, bar none. There were guides and outfitters, yet they didn't call themselves the latter. There were hotels, motels and restaurants that catered to the hunters and a duck processing plant as well. Those days are long gone and I am sad to say the once booming town of Tulelake is now, all but a ghost town. Their high school mascot is still the Honker, and they still make the best horseradish this side of the Missouri.

So, these are the present day circumstances of a well documented flyway. Perhaps I will not see the flocks of one thousand Pintails circling the fields of Lowlands as they did in the 70's and early 80's. Nor the large influx of migrating Diving ducks come December and January. The habitat and historical migratory routes have drastically changed over the course of my lifetime. Modest returns for the efforts put forth these days. No doubt raising the appreciation factor for ones successes. Hunting is about opportunity and to be a successful hunter/huntress, one has to put in the time. So as long as the season is open, then I know I at least have a chance of harvesting a goose. Perhaps if we get a big thaw, then I may even see the opportunity for a few more ducks. At the very least I will enjoy seeing whatever it is that unveils itself to me, along with learning something about my quarry and their environment.

Women's Hunting Journal Integrity For The Hunt

Monday, December 22, 2008

Oh So Fast The Time Flies By !

I have a feeling that most of my duck hunting is over for this year. That big arctic blast and the continuing storms have turned my hunting area into an ice rink. No open water means no ducks. Yet there is still the opportunity for some late season goose hunting. Which is a much slower pace.

Typically my goose hunting days when in the field and not on the rivers edge, consists of a very long and quiet day laying on my backside in a ground blind in hopes that I will get an opportunity to shoot. Hence it is called a wild goose chase for obvious reasons. It also means very cold days in the snow and without Jet at my side to converse with. She stays in the cabin sleeping, and waiting for my return. Not understanding why she doesn't get to be with me. I do have a field blind for her and when it's not to cold I do bring her. She is not the most patient, especially when we aren't able get in a couple days of jump shooting ducks to kinda tire her out before hand.

When I left Lowlands (our hunting club)I wasn't able to drain the cabin pipes as they were frozen. I may have quite a mess when I return, not to mention a job too. The pipes are Pex and not pvc, so with any luck I may be alright. Think I'll pick up a roll of heat tape for when I head back down there. If nothing has broke, then maybe the heat tape will work its magic.

Otherwise it has been a good duck season with approximately 54 ducks shot and 51 recovered.
Mallard 16
Bufflehead 11
N. Shoveller 8
G.W. Teal 6
Common Goldeneye 4
Lesser Scaup 3
Widgeon 2
Gadwall 1
Snipe 11
Pheasant 2

In looking back over the season thus far, it is not difficult to see the distinction between local early season birds and the influx of migrating birds. Both in species and numbers harvested. From here on out hunting in the Klamath basin will be a process in patience and a reminder of why I pursue waterfowl. It certainly is not to limit out but more importantly to be a witness for another season's migration. As well as the great joy and pride it has given me when watching Jet do her thing. Be it retrieving crippled ducks, breaking a thin layer of river ice for Buffleheads or catching up to and flushing wiley Pheasants. She is now on "auto pilot" having learned so much in her 8 and a half years. I hope I get the opportunity to get her a few more birds this season. Then again if not that is just fine too. She seems to enjoy the indoor comforts a little more each year as we get further into winter's deep freeze. With a little break in the storms I hope to get back to Lowlands before the year is up. If not, it's always been a fine place to bring in the New Year. Maybe Santa will have sent some Honkers there for when Jet and I return.

Jet and I wish all of you a safe, warm and very Merry Christmas!

Women's Hunting Journal Integrity For The Hunt

Friday, December 19, 2008

Thoughts About Oregonians by Jeff Foxworthy

If someone in a Home Depot store offers you assistance and they don't work there, you live in Oregon.

If you've worn shorts and a parka at the same time, you live in Oregon.

If you've had a lenghty telephone conversation with someone who dialed the wrong number, you live in Oregon.

If you measure distance in hours, you live in Oregon.

If you know several people who have hit a deer more than once, you live in Oregon.

If you have switched from 'heat' to 'A/C' in the same day, you live in Oregon.

If you install security lights on your house and garage but leave both unlocked, you live in Oregon.

If you can drive 75 mph through 2 feet of snow during a raging blizzard without flinching, you live in Central, Southern or Eastern Oregon.

If you design your kids Halloween costume to fit over a snowsuit, you live in Oregon.

If the speed limit on the highway is 55mph--- you're going 80, and everyone is still passing you, you live in Oregon.

If driving is better in winter because the potholes are filled with snow, you live in Oregon.

If you know all 4 seasons: almost winter, winter, still winter and road construction, you live in Oregon.

If you find 10 degrees "a little chilly", you live in Oregon.

If you actually understand these jokes and forward them to all your OREGON friends, you live in Oregon.

O.k., I do find these quite funny and TRUE! I am a native Oregonian and although I haven't worn shorts and a parka at the same time the rest pretty much applies. Gets me wondering about Tom and his family over at Base Camp Legends. He's only recently moved to Idaho. I bet you he is pretty versed with the above list too. How 'bout it Tom? Come on, spill the beans, fess up.

Women's Hunting Journal Integrity For The Hunt

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Cold Blast Freshens The Pot

I am of course referring to the fact that there were new birds in the Klamath Basin this past weekend. Finally got the big cold blast from the far north to push in some fresh waterfowl, as well as getting a lot of birds pushed off the Upper Klamath Lake.

Jet and I headed to Klamath early Friday morning ahead of the pending storm. We arrived in time to get settled in to the cabin and have a quick lunch. Then out to the field we went. We checked the back ditches just in case their might have been a fat mallard lazing about, but found nothing at all. So we headed to the Klamath River in search of divers and perhaps a pheasant if we were really lucky. The skies were overcast and the clouds were beginning to crowd the surrounding mountain tops. The wind was calm for the time being, yet forecast for 30 to 40 mph range come late afternoon. As we walked the river dike their were quite a few divers swimming in the river and even a few flying. This was a good sign. The weather was working its magic and getting things stirred up. Just be patient, only a matter of time before the show really starts.

So Jet was working a patch of Long Stem Bulrush and Tules next to the river. I was walking slowly keeping an eye on her, just as she was me too. I got to thinking after a few minutes that there must be a Pheasant in there. She is thoroughly dedicated to this pursuit. Bobbing and weaving and looking for an avenue when she runs into a wall of tules and continues her pursuit. I start to think that maybe that Pheasant got the better of us, and then suddenly out it jumps. Startling me and with fast wing beats and a flat body flying with a tail wind I raise my gun and swing on it squeezing off 2 shots and missing both times! Shot right over the top of it. Blankety Blankety Blankety Blank Uggh! I immediately watch with the keen vision of a hawks eye just where that fast elusive wing beater lands, and then get set for another go. I am on a mission now! It takes me about 5 minutes to finally call Jet out of the Tules so we can start after it again. I feel horrible not holding up my end of the deal after Jet works her little heart out. Anyway, I did mark it and we made a wide swing out in this field before cutting back in towards the dike. I kept Jet at heel til we both were in range and then I told her to "get'em up, find the birds" and she was off like a shot. We went into the taller cover then Jet double backed and I followed, just then the Pheasant flushed at the edge of the tall cover and this time I dropped it first shot! Finally I thought to myself and somewhat disgusted with my earlier attemps. It hit the ground running and so did Jet. I don't think I've ever seen her run so fast as she did after that bird. After about 25 yards it fell over stone dead and she brought it back and delivered to hand. I'll tell you all, I don't think I have ever seen Jet work so hard, be so focused and make such a beautiful retrieve as this one. I am so proud of her. Also relieved that I held up my end of the deal. I think this may well have been the same Pheasant that eluded me on my birthday weekend. I did the same thing, missed on both shots. So we'll call it a bit of redemption I suppose.

Anyhow, on we go after a big round of hugs and praise for a job well done to Jet. We walked the river dike and it wasn't more than 20 minutes later that the wind markedly picked up from the west.The shelf ice was beginning to stretch out from the river bank. I said to Jet that this is it, the storm has landed and is only going to get worse from here on out. We ended up jump shooting 3 Hen Buffs and a Drake Scaup from the river just as the first flakes of snow began falling. Time to head for the cabin and get the birds field dressed before dark. It wasn't much after I got those birds plucked that the wind was pushing 30 and let me tell ya' it was COLD! I gutted the birds and then rinsed them under the frost free hydrant and my hands were froze. It hurt like the dickens when they thawed. Oh boy, here we go, this is it. I asked for it and got it in spades. Hence the old saying goes; Careful what you wish for , cause you just might get it! Truer words were never spoken.

Women's Hunting Journal Integrity For The Hunt

Friday, December 12, 2008

First Arctic Storm Is Almost Here !

Yea, we can all rest a little easier knowing there are fresh birds coming our way. It has been a poor season generally speaking this year. With very few storms from the far north to push new birds south for their annual migration. We as hard core waterfowlers have had to scour the bowels of what few flooded fields we've had as well as those ditches that fed 'em. The so called local nesting population of waterfowl are either in my freezer, Hunt Eat Lives!, NorCals, Hunter Angler Gardner Cooks, a friend of ours or they have managed to scathe away to a secret hidey hole.

I was pleasantly surprised last Saturday when I shot my first Goldeneye of the season, not knowing that they were a week ahead of this big arctic storm that is only hours away. I am so excited I can hardly stand it. I have been frantically calling all my hunting buddies to see who can come and hunt with me on the Klamath River this weekend. The forecast is for strong winds gusting up to 34 mph and snow accumulation as well. Excellent, this will finally push those ducks off the Upper Klamath Lake and force them to find other areas for protection. There have been a few thousand ducks on the Upper Lake that I have driven by both going and returning home each hunting trip. They have been like the proverbial carrot in front of my nose and just out of reach. Driving on Hwy. 97 at 60 mph. I identify the waterfowl and continually shake my head from side to side. Scaup, Buffleheads, Ring Necked, Redheads, Widgeon, Canvasbacks and the list goes on and repeats. Causing guttural sounds from within along with a slight dis contentedness.

This storm with it's strong winds will whip up that large body of water like a Cuisinart on high. There won't be a duck left on it til days later after the storm passes on Monday or Tuesday. I anticipate excellent diver hunting with plentiful opportunities. Fast flying divers wind driven and skimming the tops of the white caps. I can already see shot strings and skipping Buffs, horizontal snow flurries, the smell of wet dogs, wet wool, and excited hunters. This is what I've been waiting for. Say so long to the mild sunny days of this years waterfowl season and welcome the wrath of winter and the waterfowlers dream. I bid you adieu lest I not be late for the arrival of the last big drake!

Women's Hunting Journal Integrity For The Hunt

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Well Hello Five - O, OMG ! Pt. 2

Oh yea, the afternoon Snipe hunt. That's where I left off. Alright so Jet and I had some food, I processed the ducks from earlier this morning and needed to get ready for round two.

More coffee as I grabbed my boxes of # 7 steel shot from my gunning box and began switching them out with the # 3's that I use for ducks. I got my hunting vest loaded with 7's and an extra box in the back pouch of my vest (just in case). Switched guns and double checked the chokes in my Beretta Silver Snipe 20 ga. making sure they were the most open ones I had. Alright, "Jet are you ready to go"? She was indeed and out the door we went at 1:30 p.m. for some fast flying Common Snipe action.

The afternoon was warming and the marsh was so still you could see ripples if a pin dropped. The ducks in the river were napping with heads tucked under their wings slowly moving with the flow of the current. No one was making a sound. We made our way out into the shallow flooded fields where the Snipe had been the weekend before. Jet was rested, recharged and fully immersed in the mission at hand, or shall I say paw? None the less, my heart is beating faster with each step I take, knowing full well at any second I am about to be startled. The silence broken by a flushed Snipe vocalizing its high pitched alarm: SCAMP SCAMP SCAMP! It so un does me for the first few flushes, then I settle my nerves, refocus and become hyper alert to the details on the ground around me. If you move slowly enough and train your eyes you can see the Snipe (sometimes) before they flush.

Alright, we have two in the bag and six to go for a limit. There are several flocks of about 15 to 25 Snipe per flock. This is great, I thought the cold temps might have pushed them south, lucky me! We continue to walk slowly ready at every second for a flush and Jet is having way to much fun. She is definitely doing a personal hunt of her own. She seems to have very selective hearing when we are Pheasant and Snipe hunting. Oh S--T, another one missed, and another, didn't even see that one get up. Geeze, my eyes are not getting any better, that's for sure. Ahh darn-it! Now you know why I grabbed that extra box of shells. O.K. time to get down to business. Stop trying to swing and shoot these little guys, do it like I know I can. Point and shoot, get my head out of my way and let my instincts work for me. Boom, 1 down- SEE? There you go, get'em as they flush going away!

After about an hour we had our 8 bird Snipe limit and proceeded to the Klamath River dike to sit a spell and pluck awhile. We did good not losing a single bird and one we knocked down got up and flew off again. So I don't think it was to worse for the wear. Facing south the sun reflecting off the water felt warm and jet was already sleeping again. Sometimes I wish I were a Lab. As I sat there plucking and watching some Buffleheads swim down river I am tickled with such a fine day in the field. Truly one of the best days ever. The first time that I have gotten a limit of divers in the morning followed by a limit of Snipe in the afternoon. Not only that, but shooting my Beretta Silver Snipe 20 gauge ta'boot. Not sure how I'll top this one. Pretty special indeed.

So far this fifty thing seems to be working pretty well for me and frankly, I'm real happy to be right where I am. I am thankful for my health, friends, 4 legged hunting partners and the ability to pursue my passions. Thanks to my fellow hunting bloggers for your support, encouragement, feedback, comments and for welcoming WHJ into your lives. If it weren't for you folks, I wouldn't be writing this, so Thanks! Looking forward to the second half and we'll see you in the field. CHEERS!

Women's Hunting Journal Integrity For The Hunt

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Well Hello Five - 0, OMG ! Pt. 1

Yep, that's right, over the hill, the big fifty, as in 5-OHMG! I made it and boy what a memorable 50th. birthday it was with my best (4 legged) friend Jet. As you all know the weather has been anything but "ducky" this season and the past weekend was no exception. The low temp down to 23 degrees and the afternoon highs around 50 or so. Just cold enough to put a thin covering of ice along the edge of the Klamath River and a little thicker ice layer in the ditches. Plus she had her new vest that was a birthday gift from my friend Dan. Lucky dog. Oh, and he gave me 2 boxes of steel shot #7's too. Thanks Dan, we both loved our gifts!

It was Jet and I on another all woman hunt. We got up earlier than needed, excited as usual. Jet is always happy to get up early and eat a bowl of chow, then catch another hours sleep before heading out. Such a Lab! So it was and we left the cabin at 0625 and got into position at what we call, Porto's Point along the banks of the Klamath River. So named for a member who loved to hunt divers there. Anyhow, the weather was clear and a thin skin of ice paralleled the banks of the river. Varying in width from 15 to 50 feet or so depending on the prevailing current. Thankfully the ice was thin enough for Jet to swim through and other than being cold, didn't pose a safety risk to her. So we were in position for yet another, golden sunrise along the banks of the Klamath River.

A pair of Scaup whizzed over the water just out of range as the sky began to lighten. Just about shooting time and the next fly by was going to be sighted at the end of my barrels. BOOM, BOOM ahh sh--! Scaup I missed, darn it. The next was a single about 20 feet high out over the river. A big duck, and as I squeezed the trigger and it dropped stone cold dead I was scratching my head as to what species? Ummm I thought, white breast, dark upper with white wing patches, yet not a Merg; Oh it's a Drake Goldeneye! Wow what the heck are they doing here so early I wondered to myself? There must have been a cold snap way up North for them to be here already. Good enough, I am all to happy to have Goldeneyes around. The next fly by was a pair of hen Buffs (Buffleheads) just off the deck by about 10 feet high, I missed my first shot and got'em both on my second. Known as a "French double", why? I have no idea. On with my story. . . More Buff's flying low. Dropped a single then another French double. This time a hen and a drake Buff, very cool. Jet was doing great with the 6 swimming retrieves so far. It was approaching 0900 and I was getting hungry and thinking about heading back to the cabin. Discussing my thoughts with Jet (this is a team effort, you know) she was in agreement. Just then here came another whistler (Goldeneye) and I whirled around just in time to drop my second Goldeneye of the day and season. This time a hen, wow a pair of Common Goldeneyes. What a fantastic morning hunt and it wasn't even o930 yet. It doesn't get any better than this I thought.

A limit of divers and we didn't put even a single decoy in the river. That was pretty cool, plus Jet got to field (swim) test her new vest and found it to her liking. Especially on the last few ducks she was getting a bit tired. They were long swims for her. So we enjoyed our casual walk along the river dike heading back to the cabin. Jet was running up and back and happy to be moving again. Also she was quite pleased with her performance, and rightly so. She still doesn't like sitting in one place very long. At least not until about day 3 when she is tired. Then she's happy to lay down and sleep through most of the hunt. That is until there's a retrieve to be made, then she will gladly pitch in.

So we got back to the cabin and I made some coffee and gave her a light snack. Then spent some time processing the mornings bounty and appreciating the hunt. After that I fixed myself a nice Venison backstrap brunch with some eggs, home fried poatatoes, toast and another cup of strong coffee. This is what we call; Pig Out and Pass Out, for obvious reasons. None the less it is getting on about 12:30 and I still have my afternoon Snipe hunt to get ready for.

Don't go far, part 2 is just around the bend.
Pt. 2

Women's Hunting Journal Integrity For The Hunt

Friday, December 5, 2008

What's Going On ?

I am sure that I am not alone in my thoughts about the lack of weather this Fall. For central Oregon we are only at one third the typical precipitation amount of 10". Mt. Bachelor is not even open and for the Thanksgiving Holidays they actually trucked in snow to offer a very limited amount of skiing and then closed immediately afterward.

That is making it difficult for both hunter and those animals that are being hunted. The deer and elk are still up high due to lack of snowfall and come down primarily for water. During Elk season it was so dry I couldn't even attempt to bushwhack without alerting every animal within 200 yards of my presence. I stayed on game trails and old logging roads to keep my walking as quiet as possible. The early rain we did have back around late September and early October was just a tease, and is all but a distant memory now.

I sure would like to see some big storms out of the far north start pushing the waterfowl south. I'm talking areas like Northwest Territory, Saskatchewan and then continue to push them out of the Columbia Basin further south. I am cautiously optimistic that we will still see northern birds before the season ends. I have my fingers, toes and whatever else crossed that I can cross. Then when they do arrive, most likely early January I hope there will be open water for them and they'll stay awhile. Reading The Downeast Duck Hunter and The Maine Outdoorsman blogs I am growing increasingly envious of the storms they've been getting. Shoot, and what do we have ? Bluebird weather in December, Oh pleeeze!

When I was in the Klamath basin last weekend there were still White Fronted Geese (aka Specs) flying around. That is unheard of, typically Specs are gone before Thanksgiving in early November. They are not as tolerant to the cold as are Canada Geese. Had I not taken my boat and hunted the Klamath River for divers, I doubt I'd have come home with many birds. As it was even the divers are now decoy shy. My friend Dan and his son Zac were with me and we shot a little over two limits of ducks altogether. Mostly hen Buffleheads, also called "butterballs" for their wonderful plump layer of fat on their breasts. We shot two Scaup, one of each sex and no other divers at all. Not any Redheads, Ring-Necked or Cans. Note that Canvasbacks are completely protected this year, none can be harvested. As for the likes of Goldeneyes(Barrows and Common), well they are known as the harbingers of winter. Once they are in Oregon you know the season is drawing to a close. They are the last to arrive from the far north. They are one of my favorite divers to hunt. They are as tough as they come and you'd better hit them with your whole pattern or say adios! If you cripple one be ready to load and keep loading because they can take a hit. Not only that but they are notorious for diving and not coming back up. They will grab whatever vegetation there is and hang on with their bill and die. I've had that happen more than once and also with Scaup too. Very aggravating to say the least.

Alright all you die hard waterfowlers out there, I am asking you to get involved and start doing your nasty weather storm jig cause we need it big time! Do it before you go to bed and when you wake up in the morning. It can be part of your daily cardio if you like, better yet make it so. I think it is going to take a group effort this year, so times a wastin'. Lets get to wishin' and dancin' for some big ol' nasty, cold and long winded northern storms to come barreling like a freight train into the Pacific Northwest and points south! I want rain, horizontal flurries, frozen rivers, ground fog, and a steady 20 to 30 mph north wind. Does that really seem like I'm asking for to much? I have conditioned myself for those extremes. Both physically and mentally I have prepared myself, just as I have done for the past 30 plus years. Cause when the conditions get really bad the waterfowl hunting gets really good. No doubt us diehards are a breed apart and I would never subject an inexperienced hunter or huntress to such elements. I wouldn't want to lose their interest in waterfowling. There are the fare weather hunters and then there are the rest of us. Some may think we're a half bubble off plumb. Well truth be known, we may well be and wouldn't trade it for nothing!

Women's Hunting Journal Integrity For The Hunt

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Worth The Time

There are few things as wonderful as something that is "home made". Especially when you get to use it every night. Have you guessed what this might be that I am talking about? It is a down pillow.

True indeed, and trust me it does take a lot of Geese to make a down pillow. I still have my very first (and only) down pillow that I made back around 1988 or so. It is a wonderful pillow with many memories within.

Those of my Yellow Lab "Teak" who is no longer with me and the Black Brandt she retrieved at Savannah during an all woman Halloween Hunt. Also memories of a very dear friend, Mark Keiser who is no longer with us. I grew up with him hunting, fishing, and ski racing. Next to my dad, he has had the most impact on my life to this very day. At some other juncture I hope to write a story about Mark and some of the fun times we shared.

The process of saving the down is a timely one. In all I guess that it took the down from approximately 40 - 60 Canada Geese. First I plucked the contour feathers off the breast, belly and neck making sure not to leave any quills or blood. Then I made sure my hands were relatively free of blood and started plucking the down. Only the finest, softest down and no pin feathers or bloodshot feathers. I then put the down into a medium size garbage bag and saved them. I had about 10 garbage bags by the time I had enough down. Then I found a seamstress who was willing to help me. I used the traditional blue striped ticking fabric that has been around since the second world war. It is a tight weave and excellently suited for down pillows. I figured that I had enough down to make a supportive, king size pillow. Next step is to pre-wash the fabric, then sew one end closed and the other end at least 1/2 way closed.

Then the fun begins, stuffing the down from the baggies into the pillow to be. Turn off all fans and moving air sources prior to doing this. Best suited for an environment free from any air disturbances. Be patient when doing this and after about an hour or so (maybe less) you will be ready to finish sewing the end of your pillow together. If you are concerned about cleaning the down, you can have your finished pillow dry cleaned. I strongly suggest you write your name on the outside of the fabric with a permanent sharpie before giving it to a dry cleaners. I have had more items lost at dry cleaners than I care to remember.

I have been saving down for about the last 10 years in hopes of making my second goose down pillow. I may already have enough, yet I am going to gather just a couple more bags worth to be sure. My pillow has travelled many places, been lost and found a few times and is still full of loft.

It is really a unique pleasure to sleep on a down pillow that you made. I find the memories within my down pillow comforting beyond the physical level. It keeps me connected to the things I cherish most in my life. That of old friends, dogs, and the pursuit of waterfowling.

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