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Morning fireball

I walked the dark hours to a predetermined place to watch a field. I could easily see the Big Dipper and Orion in the pre-dawn sky. A frost engulfed everything. This is the first frost of the season.

Just about seven in the morning I could see the forms of two deer entering the field. I believed just by their bulk indicted big male deer. I was correct. They walked just out in front of me and I could see their nice racks despite the early time frame. Eventually the two walked out of site. Three doe entered the field to my left. Unfortunately, I was having difficulty observing them due to goldenrods next to me. I eased up by stretching my neck. Whoa… directly in front of me was a back of a feeding deer. This deer was about thirty-five yards. I got Jeremiah ready for a shot.                                 

This deer fed closer before raising the head. It was a four-point buck. He watched the does and gradually moved away. I remember thinking what great photo opportunity I just lost.  I believe trying to get my camera in position would have been observed.

Anyway, back to the does. I eased up a little to see over the goldenrods and they were still feeding. However, the old doe sensed something amiss with my slight movement. They fed awhile, but she led them away into the woods. My fault completely!

I began moving around and setting occasionally. I saw some more deer but too far for shots.

I crossed the road top circle around to the jeep when I came upon two feeding does. I couldn’t get a shot. I was between the landowner’s home and her hobby building. I know she wouldn’t mind me shooting as long as the shot was safe. I couldn’t shoot. The deer eventually moved off the cross the road I had just came from.

I moved back trying to see if I could waylay them.  I was, once again, crossing the field looking left. I turned right and there was a doe feeding. I was about forty yards and she never saw me! I missed again! How could this be?

   I went off moving around searching for sign of a hit. Nothing at all. I went over the hill where the deer went and saw a doe standing. She was feeding. Could this have been the same deer? I believe it was. With that I decided to head to the jeep.

I set up an old muffler I found in the ditch line and shot. The shot was low. Tomorrow I will be using Old Jacob, my 50 caliber flintlock. I need to check this new sight out on the smoothbore.

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The following letter was printed by the Schenley Distilleries magazine in August 1945. The magazine was called REMARKS OF MERITS. My dad, Allen

Allen K. Smail on the right.

K. Smail, wrote to the company he worked for locally just prior to the war and after the war was over. The Joseph Finch branch was located here at Schenley, Pennsylvania in southern Armstrong County until the early 1980 era. The printed letter was edited for space. Any wording in parenthesis are my extra notes. Dad would have been 94 on June 4, 2017.

Allen K. Smail (I have this uniform.)

Allen Smail, Finch writes: “I really enjoy getting REMARKS OF MERIT. It sort of brightens up these weary days to be able to read about the happenings around there and also to find out what your old buddies are doing. It makes you feel good to know that you are being remembered by the folks back home and you strive all the harder to get your job finished so you can get back to those folks and share in the things you are fighting to preserve… now that it is over over here, we are allowed to tell of our experiences and places where we have been.

In England I was about thirty miles from London at a 9th Air Force Airbase. Being so close to London we were subject to a lot of air raids. Later when the Buzz- Bombs  started coming we were right in “Buzz-Bomb Alley.” We were lucky as none landed on our field but they did drop all around us. From England I flew over to France by C-17 and landed near Paris but moved to Chartres. (D-day 13)I didn’t stay there long, but moved on to a little town in Belgium named Jodigne. I met up with the Buzz-Bombs again. We had between three and four million gallons of gasoline and oil there and with those bombs dropping around I considered it a good place to stay away from. (Buzz-bombs in World War Two were explosive like missiles that would be fueled up and sent towards a target by the Germans. They made a buzzing noise until the fuel was spent. Silence would then tell anyone hearing them that the bomb was now free-falling. My dad told me how frightful it was, especially, once the buzzing stopped.)

We were almost caught in the Bulge last December, however the Germans were stopped in time. (My dad told me he of hearing the artillery, etc.  approximately forty miles away.) I’m now in Frankfurt in Germany working with the Ordnance as a guard. (I have his MP (Military Police) arm band here at home.) I suppose you have heard of the K-9 Corps in the Army. Well, I’m in something similar to that only I’m hooked up with dogs that are used for guards. They are trained to attack and bite any intruder who might wander on your post. It’s just too bad for anyone who doesn’t stop when you halt them.” (My father’s dog was named Wolf.)                                                                                                      

Dad and Wolf. He loved this dog!

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  I was out for a couple of mornings over the last few days. The purpose was to complete several things. One was to listen for   gobblers. Another was to take photos of spring and various things of spring. One more item was to search for the elusive Morel Mushroom.                                       

I really enjoy this time of the year. The rejuvenation of the woodlands always inspires me. I have hope when I see the greens and yellows explode with new leaves and vegetation. Of course, those who know me understand how I appreciate the numerous and varied wildflowers. they have been emerging with rapid growth.

  A recent morning was foggy, but the turkeys were already down. I walked up on two and later walked into about eight birds. I

Non-native: Mustard Garlic

crossed a very steep and deep ravine because the White Trilliums are thick enough to almost resemble snow. I wanted to observe.  Wild Leek is common in places. Other flowers were the rue Anemones; Spring Beauties and Purple Trilliums.                                                                    

As I reached the opposite hillside I could hear a hen yelping behind where I had come down over the hollow. I called some when I heard a distant gobble in a field behind me. I would ease to the field’s edge and see what I could find. I saw three toms and one hen way out in the field. Occasional gobbles came from these birds.                                                                                          

I would find eight Morels but I only picked four since some were small. I failed to find any others as I traveled about. 

This morning was at another locale and was saddened at first when I failed to hear any gobbling. A dark cloud bank was coming in from the south and I believed that darkness may be interfering with the turks.  However, two Canada geese flew through honking away and their noise caused a distant gobbler to explode twice.

I walked a field and heard nothing as I watched the sun sneak from the east. I walked back the same way planning to turn into an area with vines to   search for morels when one tom gobbled close. I entered the tree line to observe the field. Another gobbler, and yet another began gobbling to my left. The bird up front crossed the field to the other two gobblers. I watched them exit the field. Back to morel hunting. I found only one!

  In another area from where the other turkeys were I could a gobbler. Soon, A couple of more gobblers joined in.                                                                              

I set down and enjoyed their singing. Some of us consider gobbling to be musical!

I continued circling around and watched two Great-Horned Owls flying about. I managed one photo albeit the quality isn’t the best.

Virginia Bluebells

As promised I needed to go my cousin’s place to help with his fish pond. I brought to my creek about seven frogs.

  While traveling I saw three longbeards and a hen and. later six turkeys far off in a field. I would see four deer today and a couplemof squirrels.                                                                                      

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dsc_0001 The weather people were stating a warm up was coming for the weekend. I needed to hike some more in snow before this  melted.dsc_0018 We did not have very much snow locally this winter.  My decision was to hike the area of Crooked Creek Park. I was hoping to get some eagle pics as they are always in the area.

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I was traveling early and was fortunate to witness a few moments of sunrise. Cloud cover was dominate, but hints of sun would occasionally peak  dsc_0034through. (Later in the day the sun was more prominent.) I arrived on site around 7:20 A.M. The hike was on!

dsc_0025  The lake follows the old creek bottom. It is easy to see how Crooked Creek became known as such. The original waterways meanders in a very crooked manner. At one point which is the current beach area one can stand with water on three sides.

Sycamore seed pod

Sycamore seed pod

While I stood on the, now abandoned, beach area I saw over fifty Canada Geese flying over and landing on the lake. It was obvious the pairing off of the geese was on. Also, on the lake were mergansers and wood ducks. No eagles!

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I walked along a high ridge and spotted an immature Bald eagle at about thirty yards or less. However, the branches of hemlocks would not permit a single photograph. Of course, the eagle wasn’t going to allow much time to find a good opening. This would be the only eagle I would see this day.

I hiked below the overflow area. the creek was high since the dam was allowing for back up water to escape. I saw two Great Blue herons flying over the waters.

dsc_0042     Deer were plentiful. I saw twenty deer this day. Some were bedded and others were feeding.

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I left the dentist office around one 0’clock in the afternoon on Monday, January 9. Preliminary work was completed for the process of having a tooth again. (I broke my tooth off a week ago.) I went home and decided a should grab the flintlock and try for a deer in the remaining time.

I arrived at the site I had planned to hunt around 1: 40 P.M. I was excited with the changing weather conditions.  The sun had been out some this day and the temperatures and risen from the single digit temps previously. the winds were not as strong either. Also, I had seen 5-6 deer feeding as I was driving to this hunt. Maybe the deer were out feeding due to the changes.

Immediately, I noticed the eastern slope was not as noisy as the previous two hunting days for me. The snow has softened and the frost seemed to be exiting the ground.  That observation changed as I climbed the hill. the top was still crunchy and most of the woodland steps produced the twin sounds of compaction of snow and busting frost.

I was sneaking along on the eastern side of the hill when I saw a deer’s body about eighteen yards away. I readied Old Jacob and tried to determine which side of the body was the vital area. I COULDN”T SEE THE NECK OR HEAD due to brush! With the flintlock read I leaned to my right and saw the definite view of a deer eye and ear. As experienced sneakers know, often the deer will react immediately upon reaching the point of direct eye contact. the doe was up and gone in a second. I saw one more deer this evening.

We were told via the weather people  January 10 would have snow early changing to freezing rain by 9-10 and turning to rain later.  I didn’t plan to hunt for this all sound problematic for a flintlock rifle. If that black powder gets wet the result is a failed shot. However, by 11:00 I decided I should gamble and go hunting. The snow was fresh and no rain had fallen. I was ready to go just prior to 11:30 and I noticed a little very light rain.

I decided to go to a local state game lands to try my luck. Before I pulled out of the drive the rain had picked up still I was going to try a hunt. The five miles produced slightly heavier rain.  I saw a ringneck hen flush.

I soon would look over an embankment to see two deer feeding. I froze. they were about 70 yards. A third deer materialized. A deer began moving towards me at an angle and I was hopeful all of this would come together. The deer stopped at about 45 yards. I couldn’t get a clear shot due to limbs, briars and vines. I could only hope as I noticed the wind wasn’t right for me. The deer would begin snorting, but she held her ground for another five minutes. the other two deer were still feeding but moving away. The close deer eventually moved to them and they all three moved around a hill into posted property. The rains increased.

 

'possum

‘possum

I still-hunted through an area with a lot of oak trees. Deer feeding had occurred sometime this morning. I was startled to see a mid-size opossum feeding on acorns. I took some pics as the rain increased. the snow in the hour since I started this hunt had decreased by about fifty percent.  I was really wet with an all attempt to keep the rifle dry. I used a treated piece of leather draped over the lock.  dsc_0013

I spotted a deer standing at about fifty yards, but brush didn’t allow for a clean shot. A second deer was spotted. She had two steps to complete her stance for an open shot. The first deer turned and moved and the second deer turned to join. This gully had a section of very thick brush about thirty feet in length and 15 feet in width. If the deer moved out in any direction they would be visible. A major problem for me was a growth of vines and briars blocking my view.

I had set down on a leg in the wet snow figuring the shot was at hand. After five minutes, my leg was soaked and I was getting cold. I believed those deer had to have bedded down. I stood up and moved a couple of steps to my left as I watched two deer jump up and move out. Oh well! I decided to head home. I shot the flintlock as I reached the vehicle and he went off perfectly despite the heavy rain.

I returned home and received a call that the dentist had a cancel and I went and had my tooth completed repaired!     dsc_0012

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George Miller showing Laurie some things of interest.

George Miller showing Laurie some things of interest.

This morning, Laurie and I, attended the Antique Firearms and Indian Artifact Show. This annual event was held at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds near Brookville, Pennsylvania. This would be Laurie’s first time on her feet for an extended time since her back surgery. She did well!

Reconstructed pottery from a dig.

Reconstructed pottery from a dig.

This event is spearheaded by my friend, Ken Burkett from hawthorn, Pennsylvania. Ken  is an archeologist. He has done much work locally at the Parker’s Landing petroglyph site along the Allegheny River. he was instrumental with dogs at the Fishbasket site along the Armstrong, and Clarion Counties. He, and I, are members of the North Fork Chapter. His wife, Cheryl was helping. Other friend were, Ed Kaufman. I had met Ed a long time ago when he, Ken, and I visited the Parker’s Landing site to prepare for a painting. I saw local friends, Rob Watt, and Rich Schall, too. These fellows are actually neighbors with me. Another dear friend, was George Miller. I met George a long time ago on a trip to the National Wild Turkey federation headquarters at Edgefield, South Carolina. We became instant friends. George, at that time, was a commissioner for the Pennsylvania Game  Commission.  he was active in atlatl throwing competition. George played a prank on a young fellow. he gave this lad a copper pipe sating it was a deer call. the lad bit blowing on the call. The result was powder on his faith. (I fell for such a trick years ago, only water was used.)

 

Lots of firearms, and nobody was shot! Imagine that!

Lots of firearms, and nobody was shot! Imagine that!

Another friend who showed up was Dana Gould of Distant, Pennsylvania. We have been friends for a long time as well.

Atlatl throwing.

Atlatl throwing.

Members of the Venango Chapter #30 had a display of a large clay, and dirt ball surrounding many pieces of Indian pottery. he would demonstrate the method of removing the surrounding dirt. Once completed, the tedious task of working the broken pieces together begins. Thankful people take the time to save such artifacts.                                                               DSC_0007

 

Cleaning away the dirt!

Cleaning away the dirt!

Along with seeing friends, many muzzleloading rifles , and such abound. powder horns, artifacts, and about anything one can imagine from our early history can be viewed . Flintknappers showed interested people how the Indians chipped away at flint to make beautiful , and lethal points.

We managed about half a day before deciding it was time to head home. (This was, of course, after lunch!)

There were a lot of flintlocks, percussion rifles, Civil war era rifles, swords, knives, tomahawks, and yet no killings occurred.

 

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DSC_0026.JPG  My good friend, Dana Gould, contacted me to participate in a walk to search out various mushrooms, and fungi. The walk would, also, be joined with Pastor Bob Ryver. Bob has a lot of knowledge with various mushrooms found in south western Pennsylvania.  The walk would be to see something special, too. Dana wanted to show me a rock wall meandering through the woods.

We all met up in New Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, for breakfast prior to heading out for our adventure.

 

Eagles

Eagles

We stopped at a known eagle nest to check on the inhabitants first. We could watch an immature eagle feasting while an adult perched alongside. I had taken photos of the adult birds earlier this year before nesting.

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The excursion began, as we passed the remnants of an old stone foundation from long ago. A short walk along a field, and the sight of the stone wall began. We explored along this stone wall, admiring the beauty of early unknown populace.  Rocks were purposely placed, and interwoven together to make for an attractive wall. Questions continually came to light as we pondered the reasoning for such intense , and time consuming efforts. This wall was averaging from about forty inches across to over ten feet in places. Some places found the height to be around six feet. Why? Was this a property line marking? The length is approximately a half mile or more.

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DSC_0032 We were standing along the wall when a doe with her fawn were viewed running hastily across a soybean field. I managed to get a number of photos. I have included a few here.    DSC_0024

We walked the woods in the area and discovered the dry conditions have not produced many mushrooms as of date. We found a few here, and there, but few would be the best description on this jaunt.

We saw six turkeys during our travels, two small-racked bucks, some does, and a few squirrels.

 

Scarlet Tanager

Scarlet Tanager

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Black Cohosh

Black Cohosh

We had an enjoyable time together discussing everything from mushrooms; turkeys, and deer hunting, problems occurring in America, and many aspects from a spiritual side of life. Thanks Dana for the invite, and thanks Pastor Bob Ryver for your kindness, and newly found friendship!

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