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Ostrich Fern

I remember hearing of Buzzard Swamp in my teen years. The words I had heard were from grizzled old hunters stating of people becoming lost in the area in times past. Now I can see why. The area minus the trails and man-made ponds loos the same in all directions. the land is primarily flat.

Beaver Dam

 

This morning I left the house about 4:30 A.M. for the trip north to Buzzard Swamp. This land has been managed for wildlife through efforts of the Pennsylvania Game Commission and the United States Forest Service. The location of the site is near Lolita, Pennsylvania and south of Marienville.

   I arrived on site around six in the morning to a balmy thirty-eight degrees. I shuffled around getting my gear organized when I  remembered to turn my cell phone on. I was immediately warned of a message. I was stunned with the words from my friend, Galen Braddy from North Carolina. The message was a mutual friend Ken Crummett of West Virginia being in the hospital. Ken had had a stroke. As I type this entry I am awaiting details and further word of Ken. A few weeks ago I spent time with Galen, Ken, and Kip Feroce during the first week of gobbler season. ken and Galen both bagged gobblers locally. The news sure dampened the hiking mood for me, but I tried to make the best of the situation managing to spend some time walking around a wildlife propagation area and beyond.

 

Tree Swallow

Deer were everywhere! I have no idea just how many deer I had seen here on site and while traveling. I was blessed to see three  fawns, too.                                                                                    

Like deer, Canada Geese were very abundant. I could see a lot of goslings about, as well. I witnessed some Mallards and Wood Ducks, and later, I saw some Mergansers. I saw some gobblers and hens at various locations, too. A lot of birdlife used the area. Swallows, Bobolinks, robins, warblers, Red-winged Blackbirds…  Next entry will include some places I visited. The areas were sites that were important to me in years past or have special memories.                                                                          

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!

  I was stationary at a high point very early to listen for gobblers. The sky was cloudy with a lot of red in the eastern horizon. I was

An intersting white Iris.

thankful the sun came out later.

I was quite a bit disturbed at this time when I realized my Gore-Tex boots leaked and my socks were soaked! I purchased these boot from Dick’s on April 7th of this year. Later, this soaking would lead me to get up and walk for the early morning temperatures and inactivity caused shivering on my part. My feet were cold and very uncomfortable! I was disgruntled!

Free to a good home! Gore-Tex is crap!

I heard a distant gobbler a few hundred yards away and as I began the trek towards him another tom gobbled close and directly below me. I angled away from the gobbler and started to enter the woods and bumped a hen from the roost. She cackled as she flew and, now two gobblers sounded off. I set up about eighty yards from them. Shortly, I was hearing 4 or five gobblers roosting together.

 

Black-billed Cuckoo

Unfortunately, either the scared hen returned or another hen roosting with them began cutting and silence fell upon the early woods.

Wood Duck

I would creep in the direction once I knew the birds were not coming in. I called and an explosion of gobbling was the result. These birds, presumably, Jakes, were around forty yards from me. They would only gobble with a loud yelp series or crow call, but that only lasted a short time. (Jakes are young turkeys and last years gobblers.)

I went up and over and had another tom answer me. His gobble was only a “courtesy” gobble. He remained quiet after the initial call. By this time, with cold and wet feet, I walked along a farming road to stop and wring out my socks. Shameful! I reentered the woods and spooked a turkey where I had been calling!!!

I was actually thinking of going home and began  walking a reclaimed strip towards the jeep, I called and received an answer way across Cherry Run and the road and up a hollow. I thought my feet are already soaked so why not wade the creek and go after the gobblers. I would later get some gobblers riled up, but they eventually tired of the game refusing to cross a gulley. I circled way out around them and gobbled and heard another gobbler clear across the hollow again. Off I went and I failed to rile him up.

I began heading back to where I heard the lone gobbler earlier. By this time, I was tired and had a raspy throat from sinus draining allergy issues. Why me? I entered the woods and called and set back and took a cat nap. I walked further back the ridge and received an answer. This gobbler seemed interested.

   I was working this fellow and he was coming in slowly. I heard something walking to my left and could soon see three gobblers at about eight yards. I couldn’t see their beards because I was viewing them through my peripheral vision…no details! The great debate entered my mind. Were these all Jakes? Could their be a longbeard within this group?  I began thinking of shooting whatever legal bird appeared first. Meanwhile, the longbeard below was still coming.

The three turkeys began putting some and I knew they suspected something amiss. They began walking towards the gobbler. I could see they were all jakes now. I pulled up and bagged a gobbler at 35 yards.  No regrets, but I can’t help wondering what would have happened had I not shot. I suspect quiet on the western front, but one can never know with a surety.  I began the very long walk back to the jeep.

Getting Closer!

 

Getting hot!

Thursday, May 18th, I elected to hunt near my old homestead. I walked to a high point in a field to listen for gobbler talk. Around  5:30 A.M. I heard a very far and muffled gobble. I began to get the feeling as to “C’mon which direction was that gobble?” I walked another fifty feet listening for another gobble

 

 

Suddenly, I heard a gobble way off at the end of this field at a place I have tried over the years to work gobblers.(About two hundred yards.) Before I began the trek  I heard another tom much closer and behind me. However, after thought I decided to move towards the more distant gobbler and set up along the field where both of these toms could easily hear me. (Not the best move of the day.)

 

Female Scarlet tanager

I set up in the brush and began calling. Now there were five turkeys occasionally gobbling. I began to wish I would have chosen

My allergic rashes

a better place to set up. After fly-down time was upon me I saw three gobblers coming out of the woods across the field. (Theses birds were the from the closer area that I failed to move on. There was a lot of woods debris and Multiflora Rose and I didn’t believe I could get to them without being spotted or heard.)

The three birds came to about seventy yards. The contour of the field didn’t allow a positive ID, but I suspect they were three young gobblers or Jakes. I couldn’t get them any closer. The other two gobblers had quit by this time and game was over. I quit hunting early for I had some commitments, both, in the mid-morning and afternoon.

However, I had a plan for the next morning!

Today, May 19, I moved out to the end of the field very early and sat down to await whatever the morning would offer. My plan was to adjust my positioning as needed once I heard a gobbler. Little did I know that 5:20 A.M. gobble would dictate my position and I was already in place!

 

My unused shotgun!

The gobbler was about forty yards from me. I couldn’t chance moving now! I looked the set-up site over and realized many negative things, but I had hope on a couple of positive things as well. Directly between the gobbler and me were some tree-tops from an earlier lumbering operation. Directly to the right of this tree top was a small opening where a gobbler may walk through, and to my left was another opening. I had to try to be confident.

The one gobbler gobbled until 6:40. A second tom gobbled several times in that time frame.  I heard a primary wing feather rubbing against a limb. Gobblers here tend to just soar to the side of the hill and walk to the lower field. Gobblers roosting here can see two fields once daylight is upon them. Setting up without being spotted is very difficult. The shotgun remained in a semi-ready position most of that time. I sat like a stone until seven o’clock after the last gobble. The morning was done!

Later, I turned to the field behind me. I watched a lone hen eating.

I decided to head through the lower field and try to stir one up with lustful calling. I walked the field’s edge to another woodland setting. I walked a ways and stirred up nothing. I did, however, find three Box Turtles! Two of them were together.

The mile long walk across hills and hollows was hot as I arrived at the Jeep at 9:30.

 

Bobolink

Other interesting critters I saw was a Bobolink. I haven’t seen one of those birds in a very long time. I saw a buck, and some squirrels, too. I formulated another plan for tomorrow if I hunt. The plan is a very risky move on my part, but time will tell. However, the gobblers will need to be there as well!

 

‘Possum!

The season since I bagged a gobbler has been interestingly slow in regards with gobbling. Today began  no    different. I heard a gobbler gobble about four times. I believe this may be the same bird for in past days I heard him gobble once, three. five times on a any given morning.

The turkey was roosted behind posted property. I hoped to get next to the line and call him out if possible. However, by the time I had crossed the road and creek and worked around his turkey talk had long been finished. Downhearted, I went back across the road to listen on the other side of the hill after all it still wasn’t even six-thirty in the morning. I sat down to listen and heard something walking. The source of the sound was an opossum! I squeaked the animal in to me before he smelled my stench and turned away.

Baby Red squirrel

I formulated another plan. I would again cross the road and bear left up a long hollow and move up and over the top. I would then work the property behind the posted property. Maybe, this gobbler would work into that area.

I called with some shrill yelps and immediately was cut off by a gobbler. I estimated him to be eighty yards or so.  The area he was in was a mixture of sassafras and maples. The diameters of most trees would be from 8-12 inches. The woodland floor was very open. No chance to move to this area. I had to settle to stay on top in old spruce trees.There he was at least! I might have a chance to work him. Silence was the norm. I waited to see what his next move might be. He gobbled on his on but had moved to my right. We played a little back and forth before he became silent and moved on. I feared hens finally lead him off and his interest in me waned.

I circumvented the property again and settled in on the opposite side of this hill. My plan was to head home at ten unless… I returned home at 10:30. I saw  some deer and a Grey Fox, too.

Yesterday, May 15th, I hunted until 1:30. I walked for miles calling and listening. The only bird I heard was in posted property and he gobbled only three times and way off. The remaining day was silent. I did bump a turkey from the edge of a farmer’s lane. I saw two Black Snakes. One rattled his tail like a rattlesnake!

Brown Thrasher

On the 14th of May I heard the gobbler one time. He was very far off and barely audible. I arrived to the site about an hour and fifteen minutes later. I called  before I circled the end of the hill. I walked up and over and gobbled and was immediately cut off by a gobble about 120-140 yards away. I had a glimmer of hope. He would not call again until I gobbled once more. He answered, but had moved off. I shocked gobbled him, but he wasn’t interested in my hen talk.

I returned to the jeep about noon and began heading home. I saw eight turkeys about a mile from where I was parked. As I circled the hunting area I spotted a longbeard moving through grassy areas towards to where I had heard the gobbler. Go figure?

Tomorrow the temps are to reach 90 degrees. My hunt shall be short. The allergies will be worse tomorrow. I struggled today.

Barred Owl

Thursday had me feeling very fatigued and a little dizzy. This morning, however, I felt good and headed out for some  gobbler hunting.

I climbed a hill and listened and called for an hour and a half. I worked on a future Bible study idea while setting on a log. At 7:30 I was setting in the jeep with the heater running. I became chilled. (Don’t tell anybody, but I actually dozed off in the jeep.)  I resumed hunting at 8:15 walking quietly and calling occasionally.

I was circling low along a hill when I saw the Barred Owl setting and watching me. Blue jays were tormenting the owl. I managed to take about eight shots with the camera before the bird flew away. I always enjoy seeing owls of any species.

I continued circling until the point was reached. here I walked diagonally until I was almost to the top. I called and heard nothing. I gobbled and was cut off by a thunderous gobble a hundred yards or so ahead of me. I set up to wit his next move. Fifteen minutes later I gobbled and , once again, gobbled. This time he was a little farther away. I circled below and tried to entice him with some sweet and lusty hen talk. He was done. I could set down and wait or search for another gobbler. (Later, as I drove along the road I saw another gobbler in yards heading uphill directly where I was walking.)   

 

Happy slugs

I slowly walked to another hill calling and listening to no avail.  At 11:30 while circling back towards the jeep my calling was interrupted by a hen. She was yelping, cutting, purring and clucking. I set up hoping to call her in to me with a gobbler in tow. She came in and I managed approximately twenty photos of her.

After I left the area I spotted eight hens and jakes going into a woods about a mile south of where I was hunting.

Porky

 

Porcupine

Another morning searching for a receptive gobbler. Another morning without hearing a single gobbler. I

Dogwood

believe this lack of gobbling may be due to the current full moon period. I would go to three areas all of which have produced turkeys for me and/or my father. I did see one hen.                          

A highlight of this morning’s wood’s time was a porcupine. I heard something walking first and upon looking saw this animal covered with quills ambling by me. Of course, it became photo-taking time! The porky didn’t realize I was standing until the critter quickly paused once he/she came downwind of me. the porcupine smelled me and I even bathed last month. The animal decided to not take any chances and climbed the nearby oak tree.

 

I can still see my dad at this site…

 

Golden Ragwort

I did see some deer and squirrels throughout my morning’s pursuit of turkeys. Allergies began to hit my eyes and nostrils around  nine. I made that unforgivable sin of touching my eye when I first felt an itch. The allergy game was on!  I sure would enjoy spending time hunting turkeys without all the various symptoms from allergies. Oh well… I am still breathing!

the business end!