Archive for May, 2012

Lots to do! I started the weekend out by playing guitar for various bands at the Maple Grove Campground near Brick Church, Pennsylvania. Saturday, May 26th, was once again was music oriented. I had the opportunity to see a dear friend, Paul Eckenrode and his wife Sherene. I met Paul and his wife over fifteen years ago at this very same camground. Paul, who is a Free Methodist minister, and I became instant friends. He sings country-style gospel music and I, as a lead guitar player filled in on a number of occasions. I hadn’t seen Paul and Sherene for about six years now and I was happy to be able to musically participate with him once again.                                                                                                                                                   

Memorial Day found family getting together for a visit and cook out. In the past, I had attended the Elderton Memorial Day Parade dressed  in 18th century attire. The parade, apparently has fallen wayside for I haven’t heard anything about it recently. I hang a flag out every Memorial Day, both the observed day and the originally attended day of May 30th. This is a small token of respect for those brave heroes who have fallen for our country, America.

Mountain laurel-Pennsylvania’s state flower.

I headed for the Allegheny River on Tuesday morning to try my luck with fishing. (May 29th) I had some worms left over from my northern Pennsylvania excursions earlier this month. I had a blast catching native brook trout near Kettle Creek.

Snapping Turtle

I saw male and female mallards as I walked along the river’s bank. Two female mallards each had a brood of young ducklings. The males flew off as the females lured the little ones fast along her side. I saw 31 geese flying in a half a V formation too. I thought this to be odd at this time of the year.

Fishing was interesting. Some fish, I believe were suckers would nibble at the worms, but never would bite hard enough for me to launch a rearward rod movement to catch them. I did, however, catch one channel catfish. The fish was about one foot long. While fishing I had the opportunity to observe a rather large beaver eating vegetation on the island south of the Lock Number 7 Dam at Kittanning, Pennsylvania.

The Allegheny River

Today, May 30th, a friend Larry Delaney and I took a 13 (or so)mile bike ride from Templeton to Rimer, Pennsylvania. On our trip we saw several squirrels, a lot of young chipmunks and two deer. We, also, were blessed to see some beautiful Pennsylvania river landscape. Earlier, I removed a snapping turtle from near a road. The turtle would have surely been run over by a vehicle if he continued on its path. Strangely, the unappreciate, turtle didn’t like being carried. The entire time I was traveling towards swamp lands to release it, the mouth was opened wanting to take a chunk of flesh from my thigh.

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The humanity of Americans who have had to sacrifice so much to gain freedom and the maintain freedom is staggering to the thoughts. Few individuals, today have any inkling as to what these brave individuals needed to do to keep Americans with the liberties we have had. (Notice, I said “What we had…”We are losing many of our rights, freedoms and way of life in the political correct world of today. Most don’t even give these losses a thought. This is sad!)

Few individuals, today, have not had family members committed in “freedom maintaining conflicts or war” over the years.

GOD BLESS THEM ALL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Allen K. Smail, somewhere in Europe, with his dog, Wolf!

My father, Allen K. Smail (1923-1999) did his part in maintaining America with his efforts in eliminating the NAZI threat of Adolf Hitler in WW 2! I am so proud of him!!!! I don’t know what all he was involved with during his time in the war. (His years of involvement were 1942-1945) There were times when war talk occurred, but those times were not prevelant. It usually took some initializing, in some way, to get the words out of him. The one time that really stands out was a Saturday when we were weathered out and came home to dry out and warm up. We were alone and I laid on the floor with my cold, wet feet against the register and I asked some questions.

Time has lessened the details of some of the stories. I remember  much, but the fine detail I sometimes feel I am forgetting. Sad! I wished I would have recorded them. I urged my dad to write down his memories on a couple of occasions, but he never did.

Regardless, my dad, ALLEN K. SMAIL IS AN AMERICAN HERO!!!!!!!


My dad loved this dog!

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The fog was thick all morning. I was soaked from the mid-thigh down from walking through tall dew-laden grasses. I was feeling confident as I stood on the highest round top waiting for a gobble somewhere around me.

Time continued on until I heard a gobbler somewhere out along the ridge. the sound was not very loud. This, however, could be due to the fog and foliage muffling the gobble. I did some calling , but never heard another gobble.

I walked along a fencerow near the round top field. the fog made seeing any distance difficult. Suddenly, there he was a gobbler only about 50-60 yards from me exiting the woods.  I lowered myself and erected an artificial fanned gobbler tail. this was to try to lure him closer and to conceal me more. remember I am along a fencerow.

After awhile I eased the tail up peering under it through dense fog. The gobbler was higher on the hill now and began to strut upon seeing the tail. I did some calling. Still no gobble!

An hour elapsed and I have yet to hear another gobbler. I peaked again and no turkey could be seen. I became braver and scanned the field I could see. He was gone.

I crept over to the other side of the round top and called.  I slowly walked along when there it was… the top of the fanned tail.  This hill has many contour deviations in terrain so this fact allowed me to move farther aalong into a better position.   I clucked and still nothing to indicate any interest at all.  I decided to slowly ease up to look for that tail’s top again. The head popped up and the bird was down!

Dew-soaked gobbler

I ran to collect the gobbler and saw another bird flying away. What just happened here? The gobbler I shot was a jake with a 6-inch beard. I never saw any other turkeys all morning while watching the gobbler. I was slightly disappointed, but still relieved the shot was true and humane. The young bird will nourish our bodies.

I had seen some baby ground hogs with their parent. I had heard many species of warbler music, yet the big birds were not vocal at all. The fog was lessening as I drove home.

As a note: I saw my first firefly this morning.

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Foggy morning

I was high on the hill at 5:10 A.M. waiting to see what the new dawning would bring. I heard a “Swoooosh” directly behind me and immediately turned to see a whip-or-will passing within feet of my head! I could hear another on off in the distance doing its familiar call.

I went farther south into the Cherry Run watershed this morning. The hills become dramatically steeper and higher  a short distance from where I had been hunting. I find these abrupt variances amazing!

Cherry Run Watershed

I heard a subtle gobble and then another. I turned to try to focus in to the direction of the source. Gil-obble-obble!  Aha!  The bird seems to be far across the big watershed valley across the road and across Cherry Run.  Off I go!

As I reached the top of the adjacent hill all was quiet in turkeydom. I began a sneak and call and soon received an answer…a gobble! The bird was  along a hilly field above where he was earlier roosting. I was soaked, by now, from running across high grasses (reclaimed strip job) and the exertion. I eventually walked to about a hundred yards from him. He soon went silent again.

Gobbler fans!

I eased among multiflora rose brambles to peek into the field  I saw a hen and shortly spotted three full-fanned tails of adult gobblers. The shape of the terrain allowed to only see the upper third of the turkeys. I watched them stay within a 20-30 feet area strutting about. The birds went over the grade and I called again and one gobbler came back over and strutted to about 50 yards from my position. The field is on a round top of the hill with plenty of contours and irregular hollows, etc.

The field..the gobblers were along the edge.

The birds went out of site and I decided to work around the round top and position myself in the direction they were leaning to.  After some time I could see a hen, but no gobblers. OH NO! I retraced my path and peeked over a crest in the field and the turkeys were strutting within 20 feet where I had been calling from!They had left the hen!  This seldom happens!

White Clintonia Lily

I went down slope and worked around and peered out through the foliage again and I could see strutting gobblers about 100 yards from me. I did some soft calling. No gobbles!  I eased out a little later and one gobbler was about fifty yards. away. I thought this could work!

I heard a hen way down slope and after a spell I heard her clucking near the field’s edge. Not again!  My final peek and all birds were gone. I started a slow and deliberate sneak and heard a gobble. I crept into the woods and the bird(s) were about 150 yards away. I began calling and was answered!  The hen began cutting and cackling and I gave her angry calls in return. She came in to within 20 feet of me. the gobblers were moving too.

Suddenly, the gobbles came from within range. I steadied the shotgun and I couldn’t see them through the multiflora roses. Come on show yourselves!

The hen for whatever reason decided to take flight and she veered over the gobblers back in the direction they had all come from. The woods went silent. I heard one more gobble back away from me and silence!

I saw opossum; groundhog babies; squirrels, deer, including a couple of bucks and at least, seven different turkeys in all. This is why it is called hunting and not getting. I was so close at different times all morning.



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Red-spotted Newt-land stage.

Prior to leaving for the woods, I placed eye drops in both eyes and used a nasal spray in hopes of warding off much allergy problems. I was almost to where I wished to wait in the woods and at 5:10 a tickle in my throat couldn’t be suppressed. I coughed several times into my sleeve. Fifteen minutes later, I once again coughed once. Could these spells thwarted any gobbling?  Well Duh!   

Unkown beetle-note caddis fly attached.

If the bird was there he didn’t gobble at all. In fact this would be the first time out where a gobble wasn’t heard! I met up with , my step-father, Bob around 7:30. he went to help my brother-in-law and I drove about a mile and walked up over the hill. Bad move! The allergies were scratching my eyes and red splotches formed over my arms and  the misery was taking over my desire to try for turkeys. I was heading home by 9:45 A.M.

However, I did see several deer including two different bucks. Squirrels were about. I was descending a hill and discovered a wood turtle. I picked up the fellow and carried him to the bottom to the creek. He seemed to enjoy the water.

Weather pending, i am attempting to try this all again. I will be carrying my eye drops; nasal spray; pills and rubbing alcohol. Wish ne luck!

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     Sometimes I must be squirrely! I didn’t get to bed until 11:30 P.M. ,yet, I woke up at 3:45 A.M. to try to go turkey hunting! I crept into a position and fought sleep while in the woods. I would go into a slight stupor state, yet aware of te sounds around me. I heard one gobble, but I wasn’t sure if the bird was on my side or across the road. I moved 100 yards farther along the ridge and set and waited for a second gobble in order to locate him. That second response never happened. I heard another bird farther down the hollow. He, too only gobbled once. I think they communicate a battle plan against me at times!

Box turtle

I became chilled and started to walk in the direction of the second gobble and about 9:00 I walked into a bird. Of course, the turkey saw me at the same time. I decided to try another area.

Teasing me!

Now,  the heat was starting to be felt and, to make the morning worse, the allergies were acting up. Now, I am very tired, warming fast and itchy eyes; sneezes and a few welts on my face.  By 11:00 in the morning the venture was lost for me. I decided to abort the mission. While leaving I saw two longbearded birds and two hens. They were all in private property and I didn’t try to call to them. These birds were not gobbling and one was strutting.

I went home and I changed clothes and slept until 5:00!!!

I did see some deer and squirrels. I watched a pileated woodpecker fly within twenty feet of me. that is rare to see these birds up close. I walked onto abox turtle. This makes four of these turtles this spring.

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Black Moshannon

    I was up and about early this morning of May 17th. I planned to head to the Black Moshannon Forest area to see what I might do…hike…fish… ??                                    

I traveled through Renova, Pennsylvania and headed south towards the Black Moshannon Forest. I was blessed to see many beautiful landscapes along the way. I stopped at various places to stand in awe and take photos. Many hollows would have thick fog settled in giving the illusion of cotton candy.  At some of these sites I could literally see for many miles. WOW!

Beaver lodge

I arrived at the forest around 9:00 A.M. and began to hike an eleven mile Moss-Hanne Trail. I chose this trail for the challenge of often being in bog and wetland areas. These areas have wildflower species one can not find elsewhere. I hoped to see some of these flowers and others. I wasn’t disappointed!

Fringed Polygala

Painted trillium

I found a number of Painted Trilliums. This specie seems to need the rich areas of the state with acid in the soil. I don’t believe they are found in Armstrong County, Pennsylvania. They are smaller in size than the white and purple trilliums found locally at home. The smaller size, however, yields much more color on the three petals.

I found a lot of Pink Lady’s Slippers on the hike. These flowers are a very demanding flower. The needs are crucial for their survival. Never pick them! This flower, sometimes called the Moccasin Flower, is native in Armstrong County. I know of a few sites where they can be found. Past land practices have destroyed many of these beautiful and interesting flowers from our area.

Pink Lady’s Slipper

I found a specie I had never seen before. I looked the small deep pink flowers up. They are the Fringed Polygala. This flower is only a few inches high. The book claimed this specie is found throughout Pennsylvania except the western counties.


I was shocked to see another specie, I knew of, but had never viewed before. This flower is known as the Bunchberry. It grows on an eight inch stem and looks a lot like a dogwood blossom. The fall seeds are even red like dogwood. This one specimen was the only one I found. It requires high elevations and bog areas.

The hike ended up on a paved park road.I began to have difficulty with my feet. The rubber boots caused much heat and discomfort and I need to walk 3.5 to 4 miles to reach the car. The temperatures were climbing too. A ranger hauled my appreciative “butt” the last mile. I would remove my boots and walk barefoot for a while at times.

I decided to head to Clearfield, Pennsylvania to check out the gun stores and hopefully locate my friend, Howard Meyers’ home. After asking several people where the road was I was able to locate it. Now, to find his home! I had a phone number, but apparently I wrote down a wrong number for I would get a business.

Eventually, I located the address on a mailbox.The house set back in the woods so I had driven past it. Howard had left 15 minutes before I arrived. He later tried to call my cell but I had turned it off since I couldn’t call home yet.

I arrived home later in the evening, happy to see the family again.

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  Bird life wakes me at five in the morning. Cardinals; robins and a host of warbler music makes for a great alarm clock. The crows, also, announce a new day by 5:30 A.M.

The mountains were engulfed in fog. I decided to travel east towards the Alvin R. Bush Dam area and visit some other communities I had heard of since my youth as a hunter and fisherman. These names include the Hammersley Forks; Cross Forks (This community is known for the annual rattlesnake Hunt every June.) and , of course, the famous Kettle Creek. This stream is well-known as a great trout fisheries. I planned to be around the dam area as the fog was lifting.   

I stopped at the community of Renova for a fill-up. I pulled into a station and was surprised to see a full service gas station. These are rare! The elderly gentleman and I had a nice chat and I shook his hand as I left. The other communities were surprisingly much smaller than I had envisioned them to be. They are quiet and quaint communities.                              

While traveling I saw many deer and squirrels. I was blessed to see a bear too. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get a good photo. the always present geese and mergansers were viewed often.

Terrain I hiked.

I did a 5-7 mile hike up and over a mountain this morning. I was hoping to see a rattlesnake for ophotos..well sort of! This, potential, sighting needed to be in my terms. I found some Pink Lady Slipper wild flowers. These are in Armstrong , but they are rare due to the past land practices. I know of two sites. I watched a barred owl  land near me. Its big black eyes staring me down. I almost shot the photo when a blue jay chased the beautiful bird farther back into the woods.    

Each hollow had a beautiful spring-fed waterway flowing down towards Kettle Creek. While walking up the stream was on my right when suddenly I noticed I couldn’t hear any water.  I went about 1500 feet and the fast water was, once again, present. This source found a route underground for quite a distance. At another hollow, I could hear rushing water when suddenly there the source was. The water was exploding out from below a rock. I stooped to drink the cold water.

eventually the walk circled back to the road. here I removed a black snake from the road surface. The 40 incher didn’t appreciate my efforts as I scrambled him to the woods again. You’d think , at least, a smile could have been mustered in thanks!

Beaverdam Creek

I fished a small stream known as Beaverdam Creek. One thing I wished to do on this outing was to fish again for native brookies. I wasn’t disappointed! I caught 8-10 and lost about that many. I missed some too.  While fishing I noticed the darkening skies. Light rain began to filter through the hemlock boughs as I walked the 1 1/2 miles back to the car. Along the way I discovered elk tracks.

Native Brook trout

Approximately 3:30 the thunder and lightning began to grow in strength. I made it to the car moments before the torrential downpour began. I couldn’t see well to drive so I pulled into the dam’s parking area.  I searched the radio for a local station just as the warning sounds started. I was in an area where dangerous storms with heavy rains; hail and high winds were to be. The high winds would affect the high peaks.

Rains coming!

The skies continued to look threatening so I drove south eight miles to a small community of Westport. here I found a motel. Later, I would walk the railroad tracks as the evening skies changed from a threat. I could have used the tent after all!

Kettle Creek

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God’s Country

    Evening comes on fast in the north central mountain range of Pennsylvania. The sun drops below some of the high peaks around six int late afternoon casting a darkened shadow allowing for the illusion of sunset.

I had the tent ready and a nice glowing fire as I prepared for my first evening near the Sinnemahoning Creek of Potter County. The sounds of nothing but nature was so relaxing.  All I could hear were sounds of woodland insects and the waters of the distant creek. This was pure joy for me. Later, after dark I heard the soothing hoots of a barred owl. Strangely, I heard Canada geese erupting with sounds of honking. I suspect some ‘coon approached their nest or babies.

Area I fished

I arrived at the George B. Stevenson Dam earlier in the day and taken back by the beauty of the area. I had been away far too long. I stood in awe watching the vultures soar all around. The long-ago memories of my brother-in-law, Bob Hudson and I came flooding back to my thoughts. (Bob died in a tragic accident in 1987.)  I found myself getting somewhat emotional with all the sights and thoughts.

I spent time just driving around taking photos for my new memories. I actually spent some time fishing in the dam’s back waters. I saw many bluegills; perch; suckers; bass and a water snake.  Geese, mallards and mergansers were always near to see too. I would catch a bluegill with almost every cast.                                                    

I watched continually for eagles and ospreys, but failed to see any. There are, at least, two nests along these waters. Deer were prevalent all along my travels.

   Sleep should have come easy for me as I  set near the fire and wrote down entry notes, but I had a sense of not wanting to miss anything nature might offer. I would be up early to explore farther east waters and mountain country.

This is truly God’s Country!                                          

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This was the best morning all season in regards to the weather…high pressure system; cool and no wind. I had stealthily maneuvered myself 130 yards  within the site where the big gobbler usually roosts. I was about 100 yards below the crest of the hill. A Lenni-Lenape warrior would have been proud!

Shortly after 5:00 A.M. the gobbler from way off in the posted area sounded off. I mentally spoke to myself refusing to fall for that temptation.  I could hear another gobbler  later.  I elected to sneak back out to the gas line even after telling myself the manuever I had just completed was the best thing to do.

As I rounded the point of the hill I heard a gobbler much closer and he was across a shallow gully in an open woods. I raced up hill and quartered around to plan my attack. Gil-Obble-Obble-Obble directly behind me was loud and clear. My earlier plan was right on. He was about 120 yards from me. The other bird was about 200 yards from me. I decided to try from this tree.

The big bird apparently henned up for after about 8 gobbles he was quiet. Now,I focused on the other bird who was down from his roost and walking uphill away from me. I bee-lined at an angle and soon realized this gobbler had made his position on the top of the hill. I set up and called and was immediately answered back. In moments the big bird was strutting and gobbling about 120 yards from me at the crest of the hill. He began to walk downhill as I kept the Remington 12 gauge focused on his vital area.

    The bird was coming at such an angle that I needed to adjust my head and eyes. Bad move! The glasses began to fog up and I purposely forced my breath (I brushed this morning!) from the side. I moved my trigger finger slowly and attempted to clear my right eye area. I could see the turkey, but he was clear. The site, however, was on and the shot taken.

The gobbler was just shy of twenty pounds. He sported a one inch spur and an 11/16 inch spur. The beard was 9 3/4 inches long and rather thin.

I saw three hens and 6 deer while driving home. I located my cousin, Donnie Smail’s truck and followed our usual custom by placing a feather on his windshield.

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