The Boys Of Summer

I began thinking about a painting featuring White-tailed Deer in velvet sometime in May.  As always, the thoughts became some quick thumbnail sketches working on a composition. These roughs may be only about three by five inches. Eventually, I came up with a composition I liked and began doing a rough layout to size, in this case, an eighteen by twenty-four inch painting.  Using tracing paper, I traced that rough making further changes and refining as I believed would be best.

Rough sketch

Once I was fairly content with the rough composition I began refining the drawing once again. The next step for me was preparation of an 18 X 24 inch Masonite board. I applied three coats of gesso while sanding some in between each coat. I transferred the drawing onto this prepared board. Even at this stage I may refine the drawing or make changes. Notice on the layout on the left I had distant mountains, but I changed that concept to a field with fence posts.

The next step was to paint the sky. Once complete I began what I call the, “slapping stage” where I hastily block in color to keep the drawing close to what my intent was. I am not concerned much with color at this time, only applying paint to get the form of the image to my plans. Any person looking at the board  would think what is this guy trying to do. Now, I begin slapping the paints but in a more controlled method further getting the forms to where I want them to be.

The painting begins to slow down as I do stages with more detail. I worked the field in and background trees followed by more rough work with the tree and closer grasses. From this point on it is a matter of jumping around the panel placing more paint here and there all over the art. Detail gradually slows down even more and the painting begins to come to life. more.

I generally try to complete most of the background before detailing the deer in this case. The percentage of completion might be something like 65%. I continually look the art over and refine the details as needed. I slapped on more paint but  in a more

Into the “slapping paint” stage

controlled way until finally I began to detail.  The detailed deer began to take hold quickly. Sometimes it all happens faster than I would have thought. I keep adding paint as needed until I look at the art and deem it complete.


I like to set the art back for a day or two to see it all fresh light. Sometimes even then I will adjust things.

Finally, at some point, I look at the art and say I think I better stop painting. The next step is to varnish the art. I used acrylic paints on this painting, and like oil paints, once complete and dry the artist varnishes the painting.

Hope you enjoy the stages of this painting.





A little more defined.


Color from photography is off.


Starting to detail the deer.

More Bear Art

A few days ago, I stopped painting on a summer buck painting and switched to doing some bear art. I have done other art similar to these on deer and elk shoulder bones. These two examples were done on Black Bear shoulder bones.

I usually don’t put the amount of detail on shoulder bone art as I would on a painting. However, they do make an interesting conversation starter at a home. I make sure the bones set up on a level surface. Some require a little removal of bone, many set perfectly without any additional bone sculpting.

The worst part of doing  bone art is the cleaning of all residue from the bone. If the bone has been in the elements for a long period of time the bones will be perfect for painting. Otherwise I have to scrape and pull all tissue from them. The second step is submerging them in bleach to whiten and further remove any thing I may have missed.

I find taking photos of irregularly shaped bones difficult. The contours on the bone allow for shiny sheens from the varnish. You will see some of those sheens with these photos.


Button Bush










I have left the house early the last two days to do some hiking. I walk around early to beat the heat. For example, the temperature  is forecasted to reach in the ninty-degree range this day.

I awakened close to three-thirty in the morning for a nature call. My original intent was to go to the creek and set a minnow trap and go after some river fish. I didn’t act on that idea, but checked the long-range weather only to see rather warm nights for a long time. This morning was cool and fall-like with a temperature in the mid-fifty-degree range.  I made an executive decision and decided to go walking while it is cool. I will fish another morning. I needed some walking time anyway.

Yesterday evening a walked a mile long walk to pay the taxes and, of course, the place was locked up. I left the check in a lock-box supplied, but I was

Black-eyed Susans

angry. I am sick of all this BS happening over this very dangerous virus with a survival rate of over 99%! The political deception is running amuck. People are living i fear. I have not used a mask yet, but I don’t go many places anymore because I do not appreciate the looks and businesses bringing it to my attention. I have asthma and have an excuse, but in a free society I shouldn’t need an excuse. Sorry for the vent!

Back to the walk. The morning was cool and I had on a flannel shirt and was quite comfortable until the sun rose higher in the sky. I could feel the heat beginning to soar.

Birdlife was abundant. I did see some deer and fawns on occasion. I saw around six adult turkeys in a field and I couldn’t see any poults at all. Hmm, I hope that isn’t an omen in declining numbers this year.

I located one bear track in dry dirt and saw some ripped wood on a couple of utility poles.

I drove home on some old back roads I hadn’t been on for many years.


Even the spiders are messed up in the 2020 year!


Common Mullein









Wild Bergamot



Butterfly Flower


Canada Thistle


Downy Skullcap




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 at that time. I watched the deer cut diagonally to my left 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. However, 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.


Carp Chasing


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 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

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)



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.