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Longnose Gar

I set my minnow trap around 4: 20 A.M. in preparation for a fishing excursion along the Allegheny River.  I was at the river by six in the morning to catch the “big un.”

The fishing was actually good this morning. The weather was beautiful although we had I witnessed several times where some rain fell. None of these events were long enough or hard enough to make anything wet. the usual swift current was workable for a change. I only lost one hook where I usually snag  often. I had watch my broken fishing pole sink into this water here recently.

  I caught varied species of fish. They species included: White Catfish; Flathead Catfish; Walleye and Smallmouth Bass. All of these species put up a nice fight and I truly enjoyed their participation.  However, I caught two fish of another specie…the Longnose Gar.

The gar is not an easy fish to catch due to an extremely bony long “nose” full of sharp teeth.  Simply put; getting a hook to becoming set is difficult. The best wat way to catch gar is to allow them

The narrow-long mouth area with sharp teeth

to run with the bait until they get it into proper position to set the hook. The problems are: most of the time you get a hard bite and do not know it is a gar so the fishermen reacts normally thinking a bass or similar fish is the one biting.  the fisherman heaves back to set the hook only to feel no weight of a catch. And if the fishermen actually knows the fish is a gar, at what time does one believe the fish has the minnow in place for a catch. Not easy!

Most of my fishing adventures over my years never once realized any gars. They were native to my area, but had been gone for many decades. The cleaning up if the Allegheny River allowed this specie to, once again, flourish locally. the Paddlefish has been reintroduced and is doing well, too. That specie gets big.

The Longnose Gar will reach 24, or so, inches in length and up to four pounds. However, they put up a good fight. As stated, I managed to catch two.

Interestingly, I believe a school of this specie must have been in the area, for I missed some fish bites. These bites were hard with a heavy pull and a strongly, bent rod. At some pint after catching two, I began to think some of these misses may be other gars.  I even tried dropping the bail and allowing the fish to take off before settling down a bit. The fish would take off again and I would heave and fail to catch.

I saw a Musky fish-tailing the water.   I saw some Wood Ducks and Mallards, Great Blue Heron and some Ring-billed Gulls, too.

Flathead Catfish

One bird I saw and watched for a time was a Common Loon. This loon was an immature, non-breeding loon.  I was fortunate to have the camera on this bird as it raised up and flapped the wings.

Common Loon

 

 

 

Purple Loosestrife

 

The Pines

The Pines

I am not sure how most artists are, but I have always felt a little sadness upon the time when a painting becomes the owner to another. However, I am not a young person anymore and I have to let things go.

The painting called, THE PINES, was inspired by an actual deer hunting event that happened awhile back. Three shots were heard up and over the hill. Approximately a half an hour later I heard a snap only to see a buck to my left at about thirty, or so, yards.  This buck was not legal due to the four-points to one side law in Pennsylvania. I watched the deer cut diagonally to my let and stop at times. This buck was looking around when I heard another disturbance to my left. I eased my eyes strongly in that direction and I could see antlers  sticking out from behind a tree.

I knew this buck had a really nice rack although, at this time, I could only see partial antlers. Now, I was in a bad way. How do I get the flintlock rifle up and in place without buck number 1 seeing the movement. I slowly brought the rifle up. I still wasn’t positive of the point count.

Why do deer do unpredictable movements? Normally, the last deer will follow the first deer, but this buck turned and began slowly moving upslope. Unfortunately, I was turned sharp to my left and in an uncomfortable position. The shot would have to be soon or the deer would be in a position where I would be unable to get a shot.

Now, I could see the whole rack and was, almost, ready to squeeze when some limbs stopped my attempt. In seconds the buck was up and over the ridgeline.

The buck in the painting was never this visible for a shot, although I came very close on squeezing the trigger. Fate is like that when hunting is involved. Little things can make or break the shot.

Interestingly, I saw this same buck on the last day of the season close to quitting time. The range was farther than I wished to shoot with my flintlock. I tried to move and waylay him, but he must have went in a different direction.  Moments later the season was over.

The owner of the painting was the hunter who had fired the three shots prior to the buck coming to me. I think that is a nice closure to this painting.

Detail

Carp Chasing

CARP

I enjoyed some fine time in the cool of the day while chasing Carp. I enjoy catching these fish on light tackle and I always find a few days afield pursuing them. As I walked the distance to get to this fishing site I heard a gobbler sound off. later I would see him and a few others.

This morning proved to an interesting one, indeed. The Crap, apparently, are in the midst of their breeding season. Crap were right against the shoreline. One might see, as many, as five Carp   together as they splashed around. I crept up within feet from some using the vegetation as cover. I dangled the bait at the surface or I allowed it to settled right in front of them and the bait was ignored.

Oxeye daisy

Soon, I realized they had other things on their minds, so I cast out farther from the shoreline. That worked! I began catching carp and some Bullhead catfish, as well. Fishing was good enough that I ran out of bait quickly.

I’ll be back again. Last week while fishing the Allegheny River where I caught Smallmouth Bass and a twenty Inch Channel catfish until my rod broke. I don’t know what I had caught. I could feel the actions, atlas, the half of the fishing pole is somewhere in the waters of the Allegheny! I snagged on an old log or something. I had hoped the fish would work out of the snag, but the pole and line had another plan and that was to BREAK!

 

 

 

 

 

First Monarch Butterfly of the year.

 

Turkey Vulture

I was on the move early for I wanted to be somewhere along Keystone Lake to watch the sun rise. (Keystone Lake is in Armstrong County, Pennsylvania.) I parked and walked along a narrow, old fishermen trail to get down to the water’s edge.  Fog was over much of the lake, but not heavy enough to cancel out seeing the water. I began to take photos wherever I could do so. Vegetation was dense and to the shoreline in many places. I was surprised as to how high the trees had become at many places.

I visited other places that held dear memories for me and my father, Allen K. Smail. We had fished these waters much in years past catching Largemouth Bass, Bluegills, Walleyes and such. There was a time when we caught bass as big as eighteen inches. Those were the days. The years seemed to have reduced such size and I gradually had forgotten about the lake for fishing.

  I remember my dad taking my cousins and I fishing on the first day of bass seasons in the past. We always had a good time. One extremely foggy  morning we were situated along the grassy shoreline. I could hear something before seeing my line grow taut causing  a sharp pull only to hear voices. I then saw the reason for the noise. A small trolling boat had come close to shore and the fisherman’s line caught onto mine. As hard as I tugged I would have yanked the rod and reel out of his hands. However, he had the pole locked onto the boat’s side.

I remember fishing for bass and Bluegills with a fly rod. That proved to be quite a fight!

A sad memory flooded my thoughts as I visited the lake. In early November in 1976, we received a call after dark about someone very close to me being missing. My brother-in-law, Bob Hudson, my dad and I took off to look. We checked an area known as Reefer’s Cove for my uncle liked to hunt waterfowl back in this area. I remember hollering, but his car was not in the area. We circled around and came up the eastern side of the lake only to look across the lake and see lots of lights. We hurried to the site.

I didn’t realize what was happening at first, but quickly put the events together as I saw people carrying a man covered with a white sheet. I could see my uncle’s black hair only. I lost myself and walked away and up the township road. Carl E. Smail had died with a massive heat attack while hunting waterfowl. He was quite a man and uncle. He was a taxidermist, and a deputy game warden. I enjoyed our times together hunting and fishing. I helped him skin wildlife to mount and make artificial molds for the mounts. He had a wildlife menagerie in his back yard featuring bear, bobcat, elk, deer, wolverines, turkeys and so many other species. he gave me a Brittany Spaniel named Smokey. I could add many more points of interest.

   That memory was one I wished had not happened to me this day, but it was vivid.

Wildlife was plentiful this morning. I saw deer, a doe and her new fawn, several flocks of turkeys, and a Great Blue Heron.

Sensitive Fern

 

 

 

 

 

Great Blue Heron

 

 

Good morning

 

 

 

two buck

 

 

 

 

Mama Skunk

Yes, many know of my experiences with skunks over my life. I have been sprayed several times, once by a direct hit on the face. That one had my eyes burning like fire, but I survived. Many laughs have been enjoyed over the years from when I went to school after entanglements with skunks.

The school gave me some cash and told me to walk to a local grocery store in Elderton, Pennsylvania. The purchase was to be tomato juice. The. supposed. remedy for the smell did not work. Like I said the experiences allowed for many laughs then and those memories from school mates still bring laughs today, at times.

Several weeks ago I was perched on top of a hill waiting to hear some gobblers. I heard something and casually looked behind and failed to see anything. I thought maybe some item in my shoulder bag may have shifted causing a noise. I heard the sound again and turned around only to see a skunk about ten to twelve feet from me. The skunk made the noise again and I knew moving slowly was critical. I walked backwards only to see the skunk follow. I picked up the pace and once out of range I moved quickly. Wheeeew… Close call!

The noise I was hearing was from an action made by the skunk. Many do not know, but a skunk will give warnings out, often, prior to spraying their perfume. The warning consists of the animal raising slightly up and coming down hard with the front feet. This action was the sound I had heard three times. Black Bear will do the same thing. The skunk wants to warn and prepare the intruder first. I reacted wisely and escaped the wrath. I am assuming she may have had a den nearby.

I think that was the last time I hunted turkeys this spring. Allergies, asthma issues, heat and bugs finally convince me to abort the mission.

This morning, June 7, I walked outside around 5:30 A.M. to enjoy the world. I saw a skunk. I have seen this skunk many times  here since she has babies around eight feet from my basement door. usually, the sightings are in darker conditions. I quickly reentered the house and grabbed the camera and managed  some shots. She walked around and entered the den. Moments later I could see black and white movements around the entrance. BABIES! Due to the area and landscaping I couldn’t get any photos of those little ones. I believe, at least, three different babies were viewed.

Since I was already outside with a camera I took some flower photos.

Blue Flag (Native wild iris)

 

Yellow Flag (Non-native iris, but naturalized throughout the area)

 

Rhododendren

Foggy Nap

I almost didn’t go out to hunt on May 23. I had one of my asthma-related, coughing spells early. However, I managed to get some control and decided to head out to see what happenings awaited me.

The first thing I noticed was the heavy fog enveloping all places. I moved up towards a field where I could hear around. I heard a Whip-Or-Will sounding off and I heard the predawn sky ritual of a Woodcock. (Later, I would walk onto a Woodcock.) I was climbing higher when I heard that sound. I stopped and looked at my watch and the time was 5:08 A.M. The gobbler was way off on the opposite of a big basin in the landscape. This basin area had been stripped and reclaimed many years ago, but the outside perimeter has mature trees and the tom was roosting in one of them.

  My plan was to wait and listen for gobblers downslope from my perch site. However, I decided to not listen anymore and go after the gobbler. Eventually, I was in those mature trees and the gobbler was to my left as I set up. I feared getting closer because of the openness of the area. I was around 110-120 yards, at most. I liked the set up…open woods, remnants of an old road below me and a grassy right-a-way behind me. Three options and all I range!

My calls were met with gobbles and I was surprised to hear him fly down early, and even more surprised to hear him gobbling as he walked away from me.  Earlier I thought there may be two gobblers, but I only heard one now. Soon I would know why the silence…a hen!  I heard hen chirps and it was over.

I walked the road in the fog listening and calling to no avail. Eventually, he gobbled at some crows and he was behind me. I had walked past the  gobbler, but he was higher upslope. I circled back around and set up until about seven. I figured the best thing for me would go back to the field and listen as I had previously planned anyway. Maybe this gobbler would open up later in the morning.

I stood and listened until after 8 when  before I realized just how tired I was from the early morning asthma coughs. They knock the sap out of me! I couldn’t see any of the surrounding areas just field grasses.  This was a little eerie not seeing anything. I kicked off the dew and rain from the grasses and laid down in the field and slept off and on until almost 9. After I finally woke up I waited until around 10:30 before moving on. At ten, a lone gobble was heard way off and in the woods below a house. I guess he heard something he liked. The fog lifted fast once the ten o’clock hour arrived.

I began moving around and calling and, in time, I was back in the area where I had heard the morning gobbler. I could not utter anything that worked him up to gobble.  I edged around a curve on the earlier mentioned road, and could see a gobbler with a 6-7 inch beard. We eyed each other before he ran up the road. Was that the gobbler I heard? NO! but was, probably, the second gobble I thought I heard at one time. I moved a little farther and saw a hen running up the road followed by a nice longbeard. It was over! the time was almost 11:30.

  I started in the direction of the jeep calling and listening to only hear nothing. I spooked a turkey that I could not identify as I walked along.  I reached the jeep around 12:30 and decided to go home and take a normal nap.

The rest of the week looks to be very hot and humid. If I get out to hunt it will be for only a few hours.

 

 

 

 

Drenched!

Good Morning

I watched the weather and decided to go hunting anyway. One needs to remember the forecasters had said all this week were chances of rain and they were wrong. I made a decision if the rains become too heavy I would simply quit for the day.

  I woke up and began to cough due to asthma. I used the inhaler and seemed to have control. I had taken  an allergy pill last evening. I hate to take pills so I wait until I am bad. Those with superior knowledge, like my wife, claim I need to take them regularly to build up defense within my body. So I didn’t sneeze much this morning while in the woods.

While traveling in the predawn, I heard two Woodcocks doing their ritual, sky mating searches. I was introduced to this ritual as a boy. My dad pointed this out in the abandoned field beside the house.  I heard a Whip-Or-Will, also.

I climbed to the highest point on the hill which is a round top field of about 8 acres.  Sometimes after 5:30 I heard my first gobble down over the hill. Of course I headed towards the bird and set up around a hundred yards, or so, from his roost.

Moments later I heard some light hen chatter. Later, another hen was heard. This one actually walked around among the vegetation. I never saw her due to the darkness in the early woods. This gobbler gobbled occasionally at my calling, but others exploded farther out along the slope. I estimated three, possibly four, additional gobblers. I assumed they were Jakes of last year and they were for I would see them later on.

The two hens and gobbler moved uphill onto the round top field. I saw them, and later, would try a break up. The break up actually worked for the hens flew down over the hill and gobbler ran off in the opposite direction. I walked away planning on coming back later, and that was when the rains began.  I heard another turkey in a tree  but didn’t identify it as male or female. Like I said above, I did see the Jakes. I saw a total of nine birds. Did I mention of the rain falling?

By 7:30 I was about fifty percent soaked. I returned to the breakup site and called but didn’t hear any gobbling. The rains increased. I decided to make a tour towards the jeep and try to locate a tom. I did see some deer and an Opossum. The intensity of the rain was gaining and I was getting soaked. By the time I reached the jeep I was 95% drenched and twenty pounds heavier. I thought it best to quit and go home.

 

 

 

 

‘possum

Dame’s Rocket

I have been missing some turkey hunting due to allergies and asthma issues. I still have a second spring gobbler tag ands would like to challenge another one to enter in front of my sights. I tried to go out on Wednesday morning, but quickly aborted the hunt. It is hard to tramp through woodlands when you feel miserable with sneezing, burning eyes and tight chest sensations hurting to breathe. ( I may try again tomorrow the 22nd depending , also, on the weather.)

  I had to do a few things at my old homestead for my mother and step father so I left early to take a short walk near a creek. The morning jaunt was for about a quarter of a mile lasting around forty minutes, if that. This woodland has been special to me all of my life. As a kid at home I would play along this waterway. I carried a tackle box, fishing rod and worms just to catch some chubs, maybe reaching eight or nine inches. I would catch “crabs” here during the day and wait for my dad to come home from work so we could go to the Allegheny River to fish into the early dark hours. Yes, this is a special area.

Some other special things are here in the is area. They are big trees, wildflowers and steep hills. The sun hadn’t reached the hollow yet, but the light was present. I

Rupp Run 

took some natural photos with trees and flowers. It is always great to spend time in old haunts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Native Blue Phlox

 

 

Success!

I am smiling!

I moved farther south to hunt gobblers in the big hollow.  I needed to be at a specific area way prior to roost gobbling. So I was settled against a big old tree waiting by 5:00 A.M. to hear that first awakening racket. If any gobbler is present, at this spot ,the bird will be a hundred yards or less. I was disappointed with my strategy for I have taken two gobblers at this site acting in the same manner with an early approach. This morning there were not any toms present. This site is one of those areas where a hunter needs to be in place for trying to approach them once the gobbling starts will almost always result in a certain detection.

However, I thought I heard two non-enthusiastic  gobbles way down over the hill. Later, I would locate a gobbler way down the hill in a hollow. Maybe this was the bird.

I moved to higher ground after 6:00 A.M. and eventually heard a gobbler way across this deep hollow high on the next hill. I debated going after the bird. I was imagining he would get with hens soon and shut up. However, he kept gobbling. Off I went.

I was approximately seventy-five yards from my jeep when a gobble exploded behind me and to my right in a hollow. My plans abruptly changed and I moved in and began calling. This was, probably, the source of those two gobbles from earlier. The other gobbler across the hill was still hard at it. I heard hen talk with the hollow gobbler and I decided to go after the talkative bird and return later to this bird if need be. Maybe his hen would be gone later in the morning.

Up the road I went. I had to cross a bridge and headed diagonally towards the high-hill bird. I knew exactly where his last gobble was heard.

I was climbing the steep hill and was almost to an old logging road where I was going to set up and call. Didn’t work at all! The gobbler decided to move along this same road and I bumped into him at about twenty-five feet. Hens were cackling way down over the hill, but there were none with the gobbler.

Later, I returned to the first gobbler and failed to get any answers.  I circled this hollow to a right-a-way line and climbed it. Here I found a Box Turtle and tried to get a photo of it. That little bugger

Box Turtle

would not come back out of the shell. I laid down in the grass beside the turtle and fell asleep, but not a deep sleep. Almost an hour later and he still hadn’t come out. I glanced behind me and a hen was feeding in the grass, eventually, she spotted me and ran off. I climbed to the top of this hill and called to no avail. I returned and the turtle had not moved, but he was looking around. This allowed for some photos.

Oh yeah, I forgot this is turkey season.  I finally moved down slope and called and the hollow gobbler answered my yelps far off. I moved closer. This gobbler would only gobble occasionally. If he responded to my calling once he would not gobble until some time elapsed. I crept in farther and set down by a tree. I hadn’t been at this spot a minute when I could see a turkey moving some eighty yards or so out. The woods here is beautiful, but as fate would have it, there were a number of smaller trees between the turkeys and myself. This would be an issue soon.

I could see a feeding gobbler at times and sometimes a hen. I didn’t, at this time, identify the size of the bird, but hey were coming towards me. Suddenly to my right in a grassy opening popped up a strutting gobbler. My shotgun was pointed towards the other bird’s direction. He was about 42-43 estimated yards away. The Jake and hen emerged and were feeding between the tom and myself. They came closer and closer, but the gobbler just strutted for the most part. I had been able to level my shotgun towards the tom and I waited. As the two turkeys moved closer, the gobbler finally went out of strut and began moving, too.

The Jake spotted something about me and his suspicion became aroused. Maybe my glasses had a shine about them. He was now at about twenty yards. I was becoming concerned he would react and ruin this hunt. Luckily the adult tom moved closer and my sights were aligned. I waited for an opening and BOOM! The shot was thirty-eight steps. I prefer 35 yards or less.

  The long walk back was now the issue. It was getting hot and carrying a big bird can become a chore.

I stopped at the landowner and teased him about his denial of butchering the gobbler for me. He never has said yes to doing that feat.

The turkey had a nine inch beard and weighed just shy of twenty pounds. Both spurs were exactly one inch in length.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bob Miller, my step-father, holding the gobbler.