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Archive for the ‘Misc. Nature’ Category

Golden Rod

Yes, the summer season for the year 2020 is heading down the road to the autumn season.  Recently, this past week, I went for a walk to a state game lands pond approximately a mile back in. I obtain the benefits of walking plus fishing during one excursion. I have placed posts from fishing this pond in the past. I enjoy catching Carp on light tackle or even a flyrod.

One observation being very prominent this past week were the end-of-season wildflowers. Yes, with the golden fields of the Goldenrods the frosts can’t be far away, in fact, as I type this on  September 18, frost watches and warnings are being forecasted for counties north of SR 422. This land area includes northern Armstrong County where I reside. Oh well it is the last half of September.

Turtlehead Wildflower

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New York Aster

 

Spotted Jewelweed

 

Bullhead Catfish

Dew-laden Mullein leaves

This excursion yielded two flocks of turkeys, one deer, a flock of Canada Geese and a very brief glimpse of a Black Bear at about thirty yards. The fishing wasn’t too bad either for I landed some Bullhead Catfish. I lost a few Carp due to the four pond test line on my light tackle rod and reel.

Buffalo Creek

 

 

Yellow Jewelweed 

 

 

 

 

 

Monday of this past week found my walking shoes along Buffalo Creek looking for whatever I could find to observe. I found a Red-spotted Newt. (Removed a Box Turtle from the road, too.)

 

 

 

 

 

Red-spotted Newt

 

Cocklebur

 

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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 heart 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

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Good morning

 

 

 

two buck

 

 

 

 

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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

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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

 

 

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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.

 

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Hunting turkeys has been challenging so far this spring. I am hearing and seeing birds everyday. However, every time I have moved to a roosting gobbler, so far, hens have been roosting either with them or really close. The norm has been for gobbler shut mouth as soon as they all get together on the ground. This morning, for instance, (May 12) I actually was about a hundred yards away. I could see the birds fly down and in a short time the woods became silent. The cool temperatures and windy conditions made for any time setting to turn into shivering bouts.

Yesterday, May 11, I set up close to a gobbler. At fly-down time I began to hear two hens and then a third. I could see the one hen roosting. The gobbler flew down and all went quiet. I did get a couple of gobbles out of him after he hit the ground until the hens met up with the old boy. I did see another gobbler with two hens at a field’s edge, but on a posted property line.  The one hen saw me and he followed them farther onto that property.

Jack-In-The-Pulpit

This morning of the 13th looked great. The sky was cloudless and the winds were not too bad, however the morning was cold. I truly expected the day to be a good hunting day. I heard one gobble so far away it was barely audible. I know from experience the birds always go to a field which is close to a homeowner’s place. Regardless, he only gobbled six, maybe eight times. Oh well, I thought, the time is only 5: 40 A.M. I expected hearing gobblers directly below me at any time, but the remaining day was gobble-less. I was disappointed. I hung around this site until eight o’clock before moving to an area I have been having fun with turkeys. I arrived on the hill top at 9 and waited around until a little after eleven. NO GOBBLING!

I did see some interesting sights. I saw a ‘coon and turkey eggs. Lots of warblers are in the area now that migrating season is upon us. As viewed above, I found a little fawn snuggled against a tree’s base.

Rain is being forecasted for the next several days. I don’t know how much hunting I will get in over those days.

Lots of photos below.

 

 

Turkey eggs

 

 

Black-throated Gray Warbler

 

Raccoon

 

 

Frost on False Hellebore

 

Bluejay

 

Black-throated Green Warbler

 

Toad eggs

 

Dogwood blossoms

 

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

 

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Scarlet Tanager

Seems to me there was a movie made years ago with this title or close to those words. I felt like such a man this morning. The temperatures in the pre-dawn woods were in the mid twenty degree range. As I walked in the woods the full moon was shining brightly towards the west. Some clouds could be viewed, too. By 5:30 A.M. the entire sky was covered with clouds!

Ice on spider web.

A breeze would begin about the same time followed by increasing winds. I would witness sleet, snow, snow squalls and even blizzard conditions.

I moved up onto a plateau to listen for gobbles. I heard a Barred Owl. I didn’t try to sneak up onto the area where the turkeys have been often

Morel

roosting. The leaves were very crunchy due to the frost. Those birds were quiet, however, I heard a gobble in the opposite direction. He wasn’t very talkative. I moved in and realized about where he was roosting. I set up. His gobbling didn’t have much enthusiasm. After about half-an-hour I was shivering. I was happy to have put long underwear bottoms on, but I still became cold due to temps and inactivity.

I walked away and he was still on the roost at seven. I went for a warm-up walk to tour and call. While walking I was quick to notice the wilted Skunk Cabbage and Mayapples. Later, as the temperatures warmed some, they were almost all back to normal.

Eventually, I moved into the area I was initially hoping to hear birds. As I approached the top of the hill I saw a hen flying off the top and down the hollow. I figured my approach spooked her.

I found some morels before hearing hen talk. I couldn’t determine if the talk was a real hen or a hunter. I suspected a hunter may have been in place. I left and walked away in case the sounds were from a hunter.

I need to find the rest of this turkey!

I called after I went over the back side and heard a gobbler. I set up and he went quiet. Were the earlier sounds a real hen that went over to the bird? I didn’t know. Were the sounds from a hunter and had he heard the gobbler and tried to walk over? I didn’t know, but my instincts told me to skedaddle and I left to be on the safe side.

I was going to drive south and try again, but elected to call it a day. Snow was falling hard enough to actually cover the ground at times.

I, also, heard a Great-Horned Owl and saw a Raccoon.

 

Wilted Mayapples

 

SNOW!

 

Wild Geranium covered with snow.

 

Old tree with character

 

Wilted Skunk Cabbage

 

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The first day of the 2020 Spring Gobbler Season was, indeed, an enjoyable morning afield. I hadn’t scouted at all the area I chose to hunt. I wasn’t sure of the amount of hunters I may encounter. Interestingly, I never heard  or saw a hunter and this was the first day.

The first gobble I heard occurred at 5:15 A.M. I know this for I struggled to view my watch in the darkness. I continued to go uphill and soon I was across a hollow from the gobbling bird. If this had not been the first day I would have moved closer to the bird, but I know sometimes another hunter who I have met on several times hunts the top of the hill.

After some time additional gobbling occurred near the first gobbler. I could hear other gobblers very far off in the distance.

Early sunshine and Spicebush density.

Eventually, I began moving towards the gobbler after he had left the roost. I moved cautiously knowing if I heard what might be a hunter’s calls, I would reverse the movement.  As I moved I quickly realized the gobbler was moving uphill towards the flat area. Much of this woodland area has Spicebush  growing  making for some dense cover, however, once one begins upslope the woods become much more open. I could see the rim of the flat and decided to call and see what the turkey would do next. Moving closer could end up with those unfortunate meetings. The tom loved my calling and was gobbling a lot. Suddenly, off to my left and hidden by the Spicebush density was explosive gobbling and close! Now I had a dilemma: where should I concentrate my viewing. I worked the eyes under the face mask.

The gobbling included young birds for sure, but one seemed very loud and deep. The bird above me was still gobbling well. In front of me and to my

Early Dogwood blossom

left I saw movements of turkeys. WOW, all five gobblers were Jakes or first year gobblers.  They worked uphill and, as soon as they, maneuvered up and over the hill’s top the other gobbler fell quiet. My theory is these five gobblers  may have been bossing the single two-year old bird around causing him to shrink away into the distant woods.

I worked to the top to try to stir up the single bird, but had the jakes gobbling again. Shortly, I could see the fan with the longer tail feathers.  I enjoyed the show, but  quit calling and they drifted out-of-site. I moved again and in time they five birds came in again. No adult birds! I decided to walk away and see if I could stir another bird at another area. I did find a few morels on the walk.

I carried some Ramp stalks and a few Virginia Bluebells with me and I planted these eat some varying lace hoping they survive, thrive and spread in future years.

Rabbit

Getting back to the hunt… I crossed the road and circled the hill not hearing any gobbling. Just before ten o’clock I called prior to entering a field. In seconds a hen appeared and took off on a run. I stepped ahead to see a nice longbearded gobbler. He had little concern for that blob at the field’s edge as he turned and followed the hen. As I was heading to go I saw two more jakes with a hen.

I called it a day for I needed to go to my mother’s and mow a steep a bank and trim.

I saw a total of nine deer, two squirrels, two rabbits and ten turkeys.

 

 

 

 

 

Morels

 

Virginia Bluebells

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Morel

The day was beautiful and I couldn’t get out and enjoy for many hours. I had called a doctor’s office in Pittsburgh with questions about an upcoming appointment for my step-father, Bob Miller’s cancer  issue. So, I remained close to the phone anticipating that call that never came.

I guess remaining home wasn’t all that bad. I finished a painting on spring wildflowers. I tinkered around the yard while Laurie remained near the phone.

Around five o’clock , after our meal, I believed the call wouldn’t be happening buy this time so I took off for an evening walk.

White Violet

I didn’t see a lot of wildlife, but I did see a deer up close and three rabbits, but I finally walked upon some tasty MORELS!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Early Spring Wildflowers- the painting.

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