Archive for May, 2011



  I spent the very early hours of the morning of Memorial  Day in the woods.(In fact, I wrote this blog during that time too.) What a great place to reflect! Of course, my thoughts, as they so often do, drifted back to some early years of my father and I trekking over these same hills and hollows. Further thoughts took me back to the time when my dad pointed out his name on a, long gone, memorial along the street in Elderton, Pennsylvania.  My little chest puffed out with pride! This was a big deal for a five or six year-old as it is today!

      Although, I can’t recall these memories, but, I was told I would stand at attention, when I first could do so, anytime the “Star-Spangled Banner” would be heard.

I am old enough to remember when McArthur and Churchhill passed away. These were a couple of the “big guys” from the WW2 era. I recall hearing of the passing of the last Civil War veteran, as well as the last World War 1 soldier. Now the World war 2 veterans are rapidly aging followed quickly by the Korean and Viet Nam vets!    

Our native Columbine

I remembered some details of war stories from my father. Some of the places he was and the things he witnessed could easily ruin good men. Biblically speaking, there will be a time when all things old and present will be gone and there will be no more war. What a day that will be! The way many things are falling into place I suspect the terrible times coming will not be far off before that time of PEACE.

On Sunday,Pastor Wayne Sawyer of the Kittanning Free Methodist Church had the beginning moments of the film “Saving Private Ryan” shown. I turned my head to avoid watching the man and his family at the gravesite of the captain responsible for his life. I know my results. Powerful!

Song Sparrow


Cherry Run

    Later, Laurie and I will cook some burgers on the grill and I will, no doubt, watch some war movie.In most recent years I would dress in my 18th century apparel and walk the Memorial Day parade. The man in charge of that event too has passed. Another great patriot named Herman Rupert. I had him as a teacher in high school too.

Native Iris-Blue Flag

   I did see a few squirrels and some deer. I saw a woodcock too. I left the woods after 8:00 A. M. The woods were quiet as was I. It was a good morning!

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Memorial Day causes me to ponder on the reasons of war and those involved. My father, Allen K. Smail instilled a deep respect and honor towards are veterans. He was in the European theater during WWll. He saw concentration camps and other many sites most of us would cringe in terror over seeing.

I have been searching for details of my ancestors of the Blystone side of my family who fought in that great and bloody Civil War! Also, this year is the 150th anniversary of that conflict where brothers fought against brothers.(That equals three 50 year life spans. Not very long ago in this comparison!) My grandmother on my father’s side was a Blystone. She married, my grandfather, Alpha Kline Smail. Her father (my great grandfather) was Archibald Blystone.

My great-great grandfather, John Blystone married a full-blooded Seneca (not-confirmed yet) named Anna Fultz. Their lives and their families resided in the Indiana and Armstrong County areas of Pennsylvania. They had 15 children.  Of these six males (possibly seven) were involved in the Civil War.

names on Armstrong County War memorial

Simon Blystone enlisted in 1861 in the 63rd, Company G, Pennsylvania Volunteers. (later that year brothers, William and George enlisted to.) Simon was in Gettysburg. If my memory serves me his name, at least, is on the Pennsylvania monument there at the battlefield. I found information where he was mustered into service in 1864. This confused me for Gettysburg was in 1863. Further searching proved he had renlisted in January 1864. He was killed in the Battle of the Wilderness in May of 1864. He is buried in a mass grave. There is a photo reportedly of Simon Blystone. I have only seen a poor quality reproduction.

William Blystone enlisted in the same outfit as Simon 1861 and , he too, reenlisted in 1864. William was wounded in the leg at Petersburg, Virginia and died during a leg amputation. He is buried in grave # 985 at City point National Cemetery.

George Blystone enlisted in the same outfit as Simon and William. He was wounded in the upper leg and spent the remaining war in various hospitals. He died in a mining accident in 1895.

Henry Blystone was in Company I, 46th Regiment of the Pennsylvania Volunteers.  He was with General Sherman’s “March to the Sea.”  There is a photo of an aged, white-bearded Henry in the early 1900 era. He had his uniform on with medals. He, and his descendents used the name Sherman to name sons. He died in 1912.

Henry Blystone is second from left.  (Front row)

Henry Blystone is second from left. (Front row)

John Blystone was in the POT., Company E, 54th regiment of the Pennsylvania Infantry.  He is listed as to being in the war only a few months. I would like to know the reasons for this.

Archibald Blystone, as I stated earlier, was my great-grandfather. I have found two reports as his units. One was the 102nd, company H, Pennsylvania Infantry and the other listed as Company K, 107th. He was wounded at Dabney Mills, Virginia. The wound was a bullet graze across the crown of his head. The scar was permanent. He died in 1899.

Walter Blystone is the man with some unknowns. He died of typhoid fever either while joining the war effort or after. His date of death is listed at one site as “around 1860”.  Another site claims his death to be in 1861.There is one report discovered stating three of the Blystones boys died in the Civil war. Walter may be, indeed, the third.

I am humbled and proud of these ancestors. Although I may never be able to pull enough information together to tell their complete stories I intend to look for details.


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Dandelion seeds ready for a wind

   I took Bob out to another area to hunt. I described the hike to the top would be a long and gradual climb. He was OK with the effort. We reached the field’s edge at 5:20A.M. and shortly heard a distant gobble. Within the next five minutes we heard 5, possibly seven,  different gobblers. At least, several were way across the hollows and roads. This is a most deceiving area to hunt. Turkey hunters know how a bird half a mile or more away can sometimes sound much closer in such circumstances.

We set up and one gobbler and within a few minutes the birds were all silent. Occasionally, for the next ten minutes or so, a distant gobbler was heard.

We began a quick tour of  the area and within a few more minutes all was silent. Although, I had taken allergy meds I began having symptoms in my eyes. the top of this hill had a large hay-field.

   Bob was becoming admittedly tired and we were both very wet from the high wet fields and steady light rain. I suggested we quit early and he was in agreement.  I did hear two gobbles upon leaving on a very distant ridge.

We saw a couple of deer and a great blue heron. I, also, stopped along the Cherry Run Road to remove and relocate a box turtle from the road. This turtle would be the second box turtle I have seen this spring.

Readers of my blog recognize that Bob is my step father of a couple of years now. He did say to me this morning if he would have had his own son he would have hoped he would have been like me.  Wow! I thanked him!!!

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   I continued the elevation along the hill until I entered a gas line. I called and was immediately answered by a gobbler up on top of the grade. I walked up and called prior to going up and over the crest. He answered again and much closer. I searched for a good set up place and finding none I squatted low among the ferns and limbs, shotgun ready. I called again and an answer. I visualised the event as my friend Kip Feroce always says to do.

Shortly, I could hear the drumming sounds of a gobbler in strut. Hearing these sounds means one thing to the turkey hunter. ..HE’S CLOSE! I could see the fanned-tail at the crest of the hill. The bird continued looking and strutting.  The sights were aligned and the gobbler was harvested. Laurie has turkey for her famous meatball recipe again!

   The shot was at 26 yards. the bird was over twenty pounds with a beard length of eleven and three-fourth inches. The pointed 7/8 inch spurs told me he was a three-year old gobbler.

However, the day up to this time, had some issues. I set up on a gobbler at another hunting site. I was approximately 100-125 yards from the roosted bird. The woodlands were relatively open and I was on the same plateau as he was. All seemed good. His last gobble, still from the tree, was at 7:00. His next gobbles (three of them) was across the hollow and towards the top. I figured had to be a female (hen) involved somehow.

I edged along the side listening up and over when suddenly the coughing associated with asthma began to occur. I muffled the first series. I eased up over to look across an open woods and just as I began to call the second phase hit me and hit hard. I coughed loudly and saw a hen and gobbler running. The third series forced me to throw up some phlegm. After that I was tired. frustrated, and not sure what to do. I laid down for a sleep and later wrote down some writings for future ideas.

Bob thought it was a grouse!

  At 9:30, I decide to head to another spot. I felt the need to get away from these hills and hollows. I have been concentrating at these areas for Bob’s sake. It is fairly easy for him to walk about across the hollow. (Bob saw several turkeys and a deer smelling his decoy.)

I returned to the car to see a feather on the wiper. This is cousin Donnie and my way of communicating a kill. He called in two 2-year old gobblers and bagged one.

I arrived  about a mile away and crossed Cherry Run and began the climb to the top. The rest of the story is above!!!

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    The wait proved fruitless for gobbling activity until I heard a turkey clear across the hollow. I circled and set up and he answered. Oh Boy I thought then a silence I couldn’t explain. Later I learned the following. I called my mom to see if Bob was hunting . He wasn’t but he came out immediately when I said the gobbler was at the spot he spends a lot of time at. I didn’t know this until later. A heavy fog covered the area until after 8:00.

Bob walked up and saw a turkey at the field. The bird saw him too! After 8:00 I heard two gobbles across the hollow where I had come from. (no surprise here) I trekked back across and heard nothing until a helicopter flew nearby. the bird shocked gobbled and was only 150 yards or less from me. My calls and patience did not produce another gobble.

Heavy A.M. fog

   I worked back across and saw Bob’s car. Later, as I approached Bob’s big tree, I could see a gobbler in the field where he had gobbled earlier. I searched for Bob came back to the tree and could see the bird laying in the high grass. I searched more and realized h, like Elvis,e had left the building. Later the bird was gone. Bob told me he had seen 4 turkeys in that field at one point of time.

     The woods became very warm as the noon hour occurred. I left the woods at 1:15.

While sleeping by a pine tree I was awakened by toe on bark noises. A red squirrel was directly behind me and actually jumped upon my head. I couldn’t hold the laughter in!

Box turtle

   I saw a red fox; squirrels; several deer, including one inquisitive doe and one gobbler. I, also, found a box turtle.                                              

Swallowtail pals!

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Wild Geranium

   The gobble exploded only 80-120 yards below me. I had crept in quietly prior to 5:00A.M. to await this exact moment. My plan was right on thus far. I was close and above the gobbler, the forest was open and obstacle-free. The turkey was outside of the posted land.

As the minutes continued on towards daybreak I softly called and was answered! Soon a jake exploded  his presence. Fifteen minutes later a hen began to chirp too. My heart sank as I heard her calls. The woods became silent. The longbeard only gobbled 10-12 times all morning.


  Suddenly, I saw it.. a turkey tail only about 60 yards away. These birds were closer than I had believed. The foliage had slightly muffled the sounds. Two birds flew out and dropped down behind the posted line.  A third bird followed. I had the shotgun across my knee in anticipation. Two more birds departed the roost. A saw three of the five birds land.

The wait was long and none of the turkeys came up towards me. I expected the hen (s) lead the gobblers deeper into the posted land. They had all landed just behind a slight rise in the land so I couldn’t see them on the ground. This is something hens often do. They don’t want the competition of the heard but not seen hen…me!. I began to call excitedly in hopes of angering her for a return. The plan failed.

Whay's causing this on the mayapples?

   I later departed  to another hunting site. I had walked and called about one mile from my vehicle when it started…an allergy attack! What misery I felt. I had the itchy, burning, swollen eyes. I had sinus swelling with the need to blow my nose often. I was sneezing. I had red, itchy welts on my arms; neck, upper chest and forehead. What torment!

I started the long and miserable hike towards the car. Fortunately, the symptoms abated as the distance was closed. I was at te car at 10:00. As I type this, I am completely exhausted with swollen and watery eyes. The other symptoms are gone for the moment. I have slept for over two hours. Tomorrow, if I hunt turkeys I will be medicated as a precaution. How did people manage without pills 100 years ago?

I saw many squirrels and several deer including two different bucks. Of course, I saw three turkeys out of five. I, also, saw one adult and one red fox kit.


One of the Orginal 200

    Another box call from my collection is “One of the Original 22” from Kicking Bird Game Calls. This is a gift for doing their art and logo some years ago. Tim Murphy is the owner and Howard Meyers is the founder. Their site is: http://kickingbirds.com

Wayne Williams call

  This aluminum call was a gift. The late Wayne Williams made and signed this call. Wayne passed away in 2008. great siounding call!

The box call shown here is one of many I have from the Dale and Jody “Putt”Rohm.  This call is personlized by Dale Rohm. A great looking and great sounding box call.   

Personalized Rohm Box call

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Interesting tree

  The stars and moon shone bright as I slowly walked towards a listening point.  By 5:35 A.M. I heard gobbling clear across the big hollow. I went towards the sounds and discovered two gobbling birds within posted grounds. I set up, once again, to attempt to lure one of the birds to my calling.

Scarlet tanager

   One bird om my side of a hollow left the roost and walked almost out of hearing before coming back towards me. He was approximately 400+ yards away, I estimated. The other bird was across this hollow and about 200 yards from me.  I had to try. The closer bird flew out from his roost and I got a glimpse through the foliage. He went silent. Later I heard some hen chatter in his direction.

The other, and distant, bird heard my very loud calling . Eventually he became silent after gobbling for over one and a half hours. I became chilled, since I dressed light, and went up and over the edge of the hill. I called and a gobble followed by another stopped me. The bird still in posted land was just over 100 yards. I hurriedly set up. The bird went quiet. Did he see me setting up to call?


  After a wait, I went across the hollow and road to check on Bob. While we were talking a gobbler blasted us from the hill I just left. I crept back and spent the morning  without any luck. I had to begin leave the woods at 10:00 since I was expected to be at the museum later this day. I found leaving the woods this morning difficult. I know something would have happened later on.

I saw a number of deer and squirrels. I, also, saw a baby woodcock.


The Lucky Clucker

   Sometime ago, my friend, the late, Frank Piper called me for a  get-together  with wives for a meal out. He surprised me with a wooden box filled with turkey calls and other things related to turkey hunting. The box’s lid had one of my ink illustrations on it. Frank, at that time, was the owner of Penn’s Woods Calls. (His nephews now own the company.) Frank was a super great guy!!!! One of the calls in the box was the Lucky Clucker. it is great call for clucks; putts and purrs! Their site is: http://www.pennswoods.com

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General Grant (Walt Marr)

  Today was the 2011 grand opening for  Armstrong County Historical Society’s Museum. Highlights of the day’s event was General (and later President) U. S.Grant. General Grant was portrayed by Walt Marr of Elderton,. Pennsylvania. Sue Hutchison portrayed his wife Julia. Grant was the general of the Union Army helping to end the Civil War.   

Nash-8 Year Old soldier

   Also, on hand were a group of dedicated Civil War      reenactors and historians. The group make up the John T. Crawford Camp #43. This camp was located in Kittanning, Pennsylvania during the time of the Civil War.  

A dedicated group!!!

Visitors of the museum could set, chat and have tea and cookies with the general and his wife. Also, visitors are always encouraged to ask questions to the Civil war group. These people are anxious to tell the important story of the great men who fought and, often died, during the great and terrible war.      

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I purchased a pair (makes sense since I have two feet) of regular farmer boots. They are not as comfortable as normal hunting-style boots, but my feet stayed dry today!

Chipping sparrow

  I climbed a hill in the dark and just as I reached the plateau to listen, I bumped into three deer… snorting deer!!! These deer snorted at me for close to ten minutes. I heard a distant gobble and instinctively went towards the direction I believed the sound came from. Moments later I knew I was correct, unfortunately the big bird was several hundred yards into posted land. I worked through adjacent land when loud alarm putts were heard directly overhead. I could easily see the form of a turkey silhouetted against the lightening sky. The bird flew out and I couldn’t see any distinct beard.

I settled in to lure the gobbler to me when clucks and yelps occurred approximately 35 yards behind me. Another turkey! A gobble exploded below me where the previous bird had flown from. I suspected a jake by the sound. (A jake is a gobbler hatched the previous spring.)

Fungus on aspen

  Shortly, a called in a gobbler. I could easily see the gobbler’s head and black colors. The tom walked to 17 steps from and I could see a short beard on it’s breast. I jumped up to scare this bird away. I didn’t want him to interfere with any approaching adult bird. He flew 20 yards or so and continued puttin’ at me. He circled and the other bird, a jake, flew down too. The big gobbler became silent.

As time went on, a  few more jake gobbles, I began thinking about taking a jake. the weatherman was saying another low pressure system is coming and I have some commitments that will take me from the woods earlier next week.

I called more and a jake appeared about 12 steps from me. I didn’t shoot. the bird stayed around a few moments and flew into the tree behind me. the other jake walked by farther out and gobbled some and eventually all was silent.

Bear sign

   I began a tour and call method without success. I crossed the road and spotted a gobbler in the field. He was alone and not interested in hens at all. The tour continued.

I talked with my friend Kip Feroce. He wished I would come to a specific place to try for a gobbler he knew about from the day before. I decided to leave and meet him. I reached the Brick Church community and saw the signs of bridge closure. ( I was a sign foreman for PennDOT so these signs were very familiar.) I called him and cancelled. The time to get to Kip now would be increased by 35 minutes or so. I went back to my original area. Kip late called and said he couldn’t locate the gobbler this day.

I failed to hear or locate any gobblers either. I left at 1:15 since Laurie and I had plans for later this evening. I would need a rest.

I saw two red fox kits; a woodcock; some squirrels; five deer;  a pileated woodpecker; heard a ring neck rooster crowing;  kingbird; mockingbird and a host of many other birds. Overall the day was great. We even had a few times of sunshine.


My old Lynch Box Call

  Another call of mine is the famous Lynch Box call. My dad bought me this call prior to my coming of hunting age. I wanted it for Christmas!

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Fire Pink

   More rain! I don’t remember a spring with as much rain as we have had this year. I hate to admit it , but, I have the blahhhhhhhhs. Most turkeys seem to have it too. I heard two gobbles (maybe a third muffled one as I circled the hill behind where I thought he was.) and didn’t have a chance to locate him.

Feroce box call

I was fortunate once again to hear the woodcock doing his mating ritual. These little birds fly into the air in the pre-dawn or dusk to then do a spiraling descent. They land and do the raspy call that sounds similar to the word “snipe”. This little guy landed on the gas well road I was on and close. I used my flashlight to attempt to see him. I followed the sound, but the sound is very deceiving. The sound seems to always be  just ahead of where you believe he is. This occurred three times while I waited. I, also, saw two of the red fox puppies. (kits)

A Kotchey slate call

  Anyway, once the silence was realized, I began a walk and call tour about the area. I couldn’t muster a gobble if hearing it would save my life. I did see six deer and several squirrels while I walked  about.

Later, I drove to the site where I saw the two turkeys yesterday in the rain. I toured that area without an utterance. I settled into a beautiful woods, called and sat down on a log. I placed the shotgun across my lap and placed my chin into my left hand to wait and listen. I fell asleep!  I realized just how tired I was over these several weeks of early mornings, hill and holler walks and little sleep. I decided to walk and call back towards the vehicle and go home for some rest. 

A Gilbert custom call

  I walked along a mowed fence row to avoid the high, mid-thigh grasses. I called and soon saw three turkeys out front. Of course, they didn’t answer and I spooked them. One was definitely a gobbler. the other two appeared to be toms. I just had a glimpse of them before they ran into the woods. The Smail curse strikes again!

Upon returning home and eating, I laid down for a nice nap before heading off to look for footware…DRY FOOTWARE!


I have included a few photos of turkey calls from my vast collection. The box call, shown above, was made for me by my friend, Kip Feroce. This call was created from  sycamore wood .Check out his web site at: http://ferociouscalls.com/

The slate call is from another friend, Shawn Kotchey. I met Shawn over a year ago. Another friend, Dana Gould and I hunted his land last fall. Shawn showed me how to make a diaphragm turkey call while we visited his home. His company is: Millcreek valley Game Calls. His web site is: http://millcreekvalleygamecalls.com/

The third call was a gif t from Lonnie Gilbert of Ohio. He doesn’t have a web site yet. His company is: Buckeye Boxes.

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