Frank Maus

A better title might be Our Annual Spring Hike since we have had no winter this season and many spring-like days. Regardless, traditionally, this is our winter hike.

My old work friend, Frank “Muskie” Maus and I were planning a hike. He suggested a trail at Crooked Creek, not remembering if he had ever been on the trail. The trail is known as the Longpoint Trail. I am not sure exactly how long this trail is, but it runs alongside of Crooked Creek Lake in Armstrong County, Pennsylvania. At the point where the trail turns and begins to circle back is a well-known Bald Eagle nest across the water. I showed Frank the nest and we were fortunate to watch a mature Bald Eagle fly along and land in a tree beside the nest.

The dam was backed upon a little due to recent rainy weather.

The hike yielded many nice natural landscapes. The hike produced some other wildlife to see, too. We saw a Great Blue Heron, Common Mergansers, Canada Geese and I saw a flock of Buffleheads.

We stopped to set on a log and catch up on things when I noticed something white…it was a golf ball! How the ball got in these woods will be forever an unknown.

Afterwards we went to a couple other areas to look things over. One site had a report of another eagle nest. We didn’t believe the words and upon checking we realized no eagle nests were present.

Early leaf buds

Recently, another spring-like day was being forecasted. A hike was definitely needed, and I elected to do so along Mahoning Creek.

Although the day was to reach into the sixty degrees even seventy degrees the early morning was frosty.

Teasel backlit by the early morning sun.

A most interesting view occurred early when I was able to observe a flock of turkeys fly across the waterways. I had to wonder why they flew across for the very same food supply was on both sides. They are turkeys and turkeys do what turkeys do.

The walk was somewhere between eight of nine miles in total and my old knees and lower back were aching by the time I returned back to the jeep. I had hoped to see a Bald Eagle and I may have seen two immature ones far upstream flying from the trees. I heard a lone gobbler gobbling across the Mahoning but high up the slope.

First Coltsfoot blossom of the year.

Skunk Cabbage

Over the past two weeks I have noticed the Killdeer, Common Grackles and Red-wing Blackbirds are filtering back from their annual migration.

Ringneck Pheasants

I had not walked more than fifty feet when I heard the first crow of a male Ringneck Pheasants. Another short distance and I could see one up the hill on a cut over area. The walk continued and I would hear two other birds crowing. I thought that is a god sign. The birds have made it through the worst of the winter season, although this has been a very mild winter.

I walked over an hour as I began to circle back towards the jeep. Suddenly I saw some movement in the dried vegetation. One, two, three…four male pheasants were sulking around in the cover hoping I would not disturb them. I maneuvered around to a more open area and behold, here come da birds! I began taking photos whenever more open shots came about.

The morning temperature was 56 degrees with a high reaching the upper sixties, maybe even seventy. Sure, feels like spring though the date is February 15. Laurie’s surgery is a month old, and she is getting around fairly well, although she is still required to wear a boot. She uses a knee walker and crutches. Anyway, I felt comfortable to leave her alone for an appreciative time. She agreed.

My hike would last for a little over four hours and was totally enjoyable being out in this weather. However, the winds were rough as it howled through the trees. One could refer to these winds as, the “blowing the hat off the head” winds.

One of the first interests were the two Turkey Vultures enjoying floating in those high winds. Normally, for this area the buzzards don’t migrate here until around mid-March. I watched for a few moments before proceeding.

The walk discovered many signs of the wildlife in the area. I found a tree with a hollow near the base. I gazed into the hole and saw piles of Porcupine scat. The prickly feller was, no doubt, somewhere up that hollow. probably would not be a good idea to reach was up in that hollow.

Porky scat in a hollow tree.

Porcupine gnawings

I found bear sign a few times. The bruin used the tree as a marking zone. The outside was gnawed and/or dug into with their claws. Such sign lasts a long time.

Bear sign, one of several I found.

Although I didn’t hear any gobbling, I did see turkey scat and scratchings here and there. Later I saw a gobbler far off moving left to right. His journey found him behind some briars. I moved quickly utilizing the briars and the wind to my advantage. I went around a contour and spotted the bird feeding within shotgun range. I readied the camera and waiting for a photo opportunity. There would be two gobblers…a longbeard and a Jake. I managed about eight or ten pics before they disappeared after they spotted my presence.

I circled around on my return trip towards the Jeep, I happened to look down and spotted a buck shed. The antler was a two-point. I looked around but failed to find another. Not many years ago I found two shed within a few feet of each other.

Deer shed

The Fiddle

I have wondered about obtaining a fiddle for a few years now. The hope for me is to learn enough to add some fiddle notes on the CDs I make. A month ago, I acquired a fiddle, but as the photo shows the instrument is in need of some love and maybe a few repairs.

Inside the fiddle states this instrument is a copy of a Jakobus Stainer and made in Germany.

The neck was completely off the fiddle’s body. The fiddle nut was missing. the nut is a wood or bone piece that fits at the end of the neck board. There was no bridge for the strings to rest on. Two metal fine tuners were missing. Also, the bow used to drift along the strings to make the sounds did not have any horsehair. The horsehair is stretched on the bow.

So, once I assessed the needs I began searching and ordering parts. I have all the parts needed including strings. I have been working on making the nut out of bone. The neck and other wood repairs have been reglued with Hide Glue. My next step is to glue the nut in place once I have all the sizing completed with the string guide slots filed in.

I as given a fiddle this past week. It too has seen past issues, but it helps to use it for the measurements often in millimeters.

One point all the readers of this post must know. I do not know how to play a fiddle! Ha ha. I hope to work on that once the fiddle is all completed. Wish me luck!

Winter Escape

Late last year (2022) I began sketching some ideas down for a Whitetail Deer painting. The plan was to work on a number of thoughts and being finalized by early January. The plan fell in place on the time schedule. Laurie was scheduled to have a food surgery on January 17th. I imagined I would work on the art while being near to help as needed. However, since I quit hunting with the flintlock early, I began the painting process for the above completed painting.

I made a number of “thumbnail” sketches. The thumbnail is an artist term used to make small sketches or thoughts. These thumbnails are studied until a direction is finalized within the thoughts. I made around six or seven of those thumbnails,

The thumbnail I decided to work the plan on. This sketch is around 4 by 6 or so.

After the thumbnail idea is decided on, I then think about what size the finished art is to be. The original size was 16 by 20. However, once I sketched the rough to that size and deemed my concept was “crushed” mush too much and elected to the size of 16 by 24. What that term of crush means here is that the drawing was too busy within the space. the 16 by 24 allowed to put my desires in the painting and not having the details to be lost with the elements of the painting. BUT… I happened to have a frame of 16 by 23 on hand so I shortened the length by an inch and adjusted the sketch as needed.

Notice some changes here with some rough ideas of farm buildings.

I began actually painting earlier this month of January and finished it rather quickly.

Another rough sketch drawn to size. Notice the varying ideas being adjusted on the two.

It is up to viewer to decide what the deer are escaping from. Was it a human? Was it a coyote? was it a much bigger buck challenging this buck? It is up to you!

I was unsuccessful during the flintlock season. However, I should not have been unsuccessful. Something has happened to me as I aged. Readers of my blog know of the sighting issues I have had in recent years, and I had taken steps to try to curtail those problems. I am going to take the long barreled flinter to the range under extremely controlled conditions to rule things out in regard to the sights. I have lost confidence in my abilities, and I am thinking the loss of confidence has affected my psyche. I am believing my issue is in my head telling me I am going to fail, and I do. Whatever, three misses that should not have been misses caused to quit hunting this year. Also, dealing with health issues with my mother and stepfather has me feeling down.

With all of this being said I did have some interesting events unfold while hunting. I will include a few here for my personal journal remembrance. First of all, I saw a lot of deer! I saw a flock of turkeys, a couple of rabbits, fisher tracks, lots of squirrels and various other small wildlife.

One day behind my homestead, I saw five bucks running together. They were out of range, but I went at an angled and circled around and crept upon them to about forty-five yards. I was bringing up the rifle on one I deemed legal because I could easily count the legal points, as per Pennsylvania law, when the buck spotted me. I froze, but he and the others walked off and crossed a township road into posted properly. I would have missed anyway, no doubt.

One day, I stalked a feeding doe. I was closing the gap when she began walking towards me. I eased Old Jacob out from behind the tree and shot only to see the doe standing. She walked off turned and returned. I had reloaded behind the tree and missed again. I was frustrated.

I crept into a wooded area and sat down to watch one morning. Shortly I could see a doe feeding towards me. She bedded down. Too far for me to shoot, but close enough I could see her chewing her cud. The doe eventually put her head on the ground to sleep. Isat for almost three hours and I was shivering at times and cramping up. I decided to crawl while her head was down to close the gap. I hadn’t moved far when her head came up again. I froze. After a bit she arose from her bed and began to walk towards me again, but gradually moved away at an angle. Interesting to be part of, to say the least.

The day I quit hunting found me watching four deer, one being a six-point buck. The buck was nice but illegal, so I eased my camera out of my shoulder bag to attempt a photo if he allowed for it. Meanwhile, a doe that had walked at an angle out of site returned and walked close to me at about forty yards or so. I missed. I spent an hour and a half searching to make sure. The decision to abort the became reality.

The future of my flintlock hunting has many opened-ended questions and concerns for me to resolve. I really do enjoy the flintlock season and hope with some range work and possibly some soul searching, I can resume next season as a new and confident hunter.

The man in the above photo has been a friend for a number of years. I believe we first met some years ago after the formation of the Kit-Han-Ne Local Chapter of the Pennsylvania Wild Turkey Federation. With time I became less active in the organization, but Bill still stayed on fulfilling various positions and committees. We worked together a long time with local chapter banquets, too.

Late last year I received a message of Bill’s son, Greg about the painting, “LAUREL FLUSH.” Greg wanted to surprise his father with the original painting for his birthday. Discussion followed and Greg recently picked up the painting.

Laurel Flush has found a home and I am pleased to see the painting was received by Bill. The son said Bill was surprised and a few tears of emotion were viewed. As the artist, I can’t ask for much more than such reactions. Thank you, Greg and happy birthday, Bill.

Our 2022 Christmas

Mother, Ruth all with smiles

Our 2022 Christmas had me facing mixed emotions. My mother, Ruth, now at 93 years of age is dealing with dementia-like symptoms, and this proves to be difficult for me at times. My stepfather, Bob Miller has been dealing with cancer for three years. Both are losing weight. So, I can’t help wondering how many Christmas get-togethers we all will have.

Anyway, we had a nice day together opening gifts, including our dog, Trixie. She loves to rip apart gift packaging and chasing red laser lights. Her antics brought many smiles. Sister, Ruthie sported a nice set of antlers. We had plenty to eat, as well!

Mother and Laurie. Laurie hates getting her photo taken.

Passing On Deer

I haven’t hunted deer much this season, however, the days I have been out I have seen deer and passed on shots a lot. Since my goal was makin’ meat, I am looking for good shots to take on medium sized deer. With my age I am not looking forward to dragging a two-hundred pounder. For instance, Friday December 9, I literally passed on small deer five times with ranges of 25-to 35 yards. Come flintlock season maybe I won’t be as picky. Laurie is to have surgery and has been told she is to not do anything for two weeks after the cut.

A few short stories of this day’s hunt. I was sneaking on a flat between two slopes when I saw a deer coming. I moved into position beside a tree. The little deer came so close that I jumped at her to scare her to educate. She jumped and ran a short distance to stare.

Later I sat down in an open area among White Pines. I watched a small deer feeding. The little button buck bedded down with a great range. While seeing this event happen, I noticed another deer feeding from in front of me. This deer was small, but she allowed for a bunch of pics.

Another example was a little deer from my right at twenty yards. With camera in hand, I was about to face a dilemma. About ten yards behind this little deer came a mature doe and I couldn’t move. The doe’s head went behind a tree, and I lowered the camera. By the time I got the rifle up the deer had moved to about fifty yards. I was planning the shot when I saw her ears funneling towards my right again. The button buck was walking past me. He was bleating. Any shot on the doe was lost. Oh well, I was enjoying all the other action.

Later I sat down at the head of a big hollow. About eighty yards to my right was posted property. Two deer showed up and it appeared they may come right to me. She spotted something about me and began staring. Eventually the two began walking again going at an angle below me. Shooting at this time would, probably, have the deer run over the steep slope into posted property so I waited for a better shot. A third deer showed up and the doe went to that deer. They came to about fifty yards below me with her still staring at me. Suddenly, the third deer began snorting for my scent was drifting down. They all went back into the posted property.

I would see other deer some were small ones and some too far to identify with certainty.

Crossbow bolt I found.

I was talking to a young mother last week. She told me of her young son hitting a buck with his crossbow on nearby property. This happened in archery season. I found this bolt and sent her a photo, and this was the shaft her son was using. I returned the shaft.