Tuesday, November 30, 2010

GRAND PASSAGE - Magellan at Willow Break (Day 1)

If I told you the most important thing concerning the annual Willow Break Teal Hunt and Social was shooting teal, well, I'd be lying. As DuckSouth (the message board that most hunting over Magellan are members of) it became apparent that many on the board were either cut from common cloth or needed a place to meet and air out differences. For my part, I've been on both sides of those fences, but have never been left out. The truth of the matter is, I owe the guys running DuckSouth.com and Willow Break an awful lot - particularly when it comes to counting friends.

With that in mind, it seemed only fitting that I'd be, not only the first to hunt over Magellan, but to do so at Willow Break.

Like I said, the hunt is the after thought. Temps that are slowling falling, breezes that find there way out of the North for a day or so, last weeks dove hunt, what's on the grill, and will the ducks "get down" this year are the talk. To that end, Willow Break never fails to deliver:

Willow Break Teal Social

After that, all that was left was to shoot some teal.

On the Water

Sam, Jeff and Magellan

The birds chose not the cooperate that day though if you look, one blue wing was shot over Magellan, thus making it debut all the more worthwhile. No, the birds didn't fly, but it didn't matter. After a year long hiatus, three men were acting like kids...and having the conversations to boot.

More to come, Justin

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

"Grey Duck"

Better than a mile off the nearest road or four-wheeler trail, seperated by two sloughs of epic proportion and what once was a feeder creek to an old river, lies a place of special significance to me. It's one of those places you dream of in your sleep. It's a place that most any man could spend time, thinking and working out "life". A place whose only noise is ducks overhead, deer running through the flooded timber, and the occational squirrel angrily chattering and warning others of the hawk flying overhead.

It's name is derived from an answer I commonly give folks that ask where I've been hunting, "oh, just an ole grey duck hole." Over the years, I've shortened it to simply "grey duck." No real facts to base this off of, but I'm quite certain that the grey duck wackage to other ducks killed is probably 2:1. And, I don't go often. Just when I need some exercise, to think a bit, or I really need to kill something. It is rare that it has failed to deliver on any of the three.

In physical stature, one would call "grey duck" a fortress. An extremely hard to get to fortress. As mentioned, the distance of the walk is significant and quite a stretch with gear in tow. Sloughs ridden with beaver runs and cypress knees cause even the most experience to second guess their footing. Then there's the buck brush. As difficult to penetrate as has ever grown. I know of one "easy" way into this hole - under the guard of two sister cypress trees. They silently keep watch over a duck hole that really shouldn't be there. Just ask my friends.

Friends? Honestly, in regard to this hole, I have very few. It's that special of a place. Sometime, several years ago, I was on a squirrel hunting/looking for duck holes expedition with a few college buddies that liked to hunt. We had walked quite a few miles to be sure, all in the hopes of finding a hole I thought I saw ducks falling into the year before. Due to the high water that year, I just couldn't get to it but made a mental note. As far as Reggie knows, I never found that hole that day. We were tired and thirsty for the cold beer at the truck and quite frankly, I had worn out my "just a bit further's". As I finally gave in, deciding I had my bearings wrong, I turned to follow Reggie out. And, I saw it. Not a hundred yards through the timber, I noticed the unmistakeable opening in the canopy. That opening is something everyone that scouts for duck holes is looking for.

I asked Reggie to stop and go a bit further, but he was uninterested. Really, in his defense, he wasn't much into hunting, but he did like his brew. This was the last time anyone has been asked to go to "grey duck".

I, however, did go check it out. What I found just felt like a duck hole. Gigantic cypress trees towering over an old river bed. Actually, this had to be a old bend in the river as it forms an "L". And it's fairly big and deep. Many a cold, blustery morning has this hole stayed open enough to keep shooting, making the walk in worthwhile.

Over the last several years, many a migrating fowl have been worked into that hole. Many shot at, and less have died. Today was no different. Most big ducks were interested, some wouldn't finish, others wouldn't die. Maybe one of these days I'm gonna work on my lack-luster shooting, I know I need it.

It's been said so many times before, by so many people that have a far greater grasp of the English language than myself; but, I'm quite certain that when God created "grey duck", He had His game face on.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Magellan and the Traveling Decoy Rig

Sometime ago, while reading different duck hunting talk forums, I noticed many had a "traveling decoy" that the guys would ship around and hunt over.  By all accounts, this type of thing was really popular at every site visited.  I emailed a few folks that I've hunted with off DuckSouth to see if there'd be interest in both hunting over one of my hand carved decoys, along with trying to pull off the Traveling Decoy idea.  There seemed to be a tremendous amount of interest, so I started carving the decoy that has become known as "Magellan".  Due to the overwhelming response, and thanks to my very good friend Ramsey Russell, owner of GETDUCKS - It's Duck Season Somewhere, it was decided to go one step further - a Traveling Decoy Rig.

To that end, 9 Decoys have been carved to be hunted over across the US and Canada:

1) Greenhead Mallard - Magellan
2) Blue Bill/Scaup
3) Greenwing Teal
4) Harlequin
5) Barrows Goldeneye
6) Blackduck
7) Common Eider
8) Canvasback
9) Redhead

Magellan has already hunted North Dakota, Missouri, and is currently at my camp L'Anguille Lounge Duck Club Facebook Page being shot over.  By all accounts, the shooting has been good at L'Anguille this opening weekend.  He will hunt with approximately 20 different groups from DuckSouth over approximately 6 different states. 

The Scaup will see action on in Louisiana, Mississippi and the Great Salt Lake.

The Greenwing will be hunted over in Louisiana and Mississipi, with Florida a possibility.

The Harlequin and Barrows have been shipped to Captain Tim Bouchard, owner and guide for ALASKA WILDFOWL ADVENTURES to spend the season up there.

The Blackduck is currently being hunted in the salt marshes of South Carolina, and will also be hunted in the Virginia/Maryland area, Massachusetts, Nova Scotia, and will be used in Rhode Island by Captain Bryan Rhodes, owner and guide for THE SWAMPERS WATERFOWL GUIDE SERVICE.

The Eider will also hunt Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Nova Scotia as well.

The Canvasback will hunt South Louisiana, Mississippi, and possibly also the Great Salt Lake.

And, lastly, the Redhead (which will be finished this week) will be hunted over in South Texas with my friend Mike Hruby...it's a strong possibility I'll hand deliver the decoy to Mike and hunt over it myself. 

There you have it, the 2010/2011 TRAVELING DECOY RIG.

Check back for updates, hunt stories, recipes, photos and anything else we can dig up.


Friday, November 19, 2010

"It Either Sticks, Stings, or Bites - Hunting South Texas Rios"

They say that in deep, South Texas, if it don't sting you, stick you, or bite you that it ain't from South Texas. After a few days down there, I agree:

South Texas Landscape

South Texas Fence Line

Even the flowers carry a certain bite about them:

Prickly Pear Flower

My good friend Busky Goodwin, his friend Wayne and I arrived at camp early Tuesday afternoon, and within five minutes of our introduction to the ranch manager and his ranch hand Doug, I knew this was going to be a very interesting trip.

After our initial introductions we received the "camp instructions". They went something like this.

"Boys, down here it's been extremely dry, so if you smoke watch your cigarette butts. Oh, and be careful where you sit because the mesquite and prickly pear will tear you up. Also, boys, ya'll be VERY careful when you step. The country is flat eat up with rattle snakes - Nacho, bring that photo of that snake over here - yep, flat eat up with em. Good thing is, they'll generally let you know where they are before you get there...generally. Hogs generally keep them beat down, but be careful all the same. While I'm thinking about it, if you see lil pigs, there's a momma around that'll peel your skull and if you choose to mess with a Javelina, make sure you got a tree to climb close by. Well, that's about it, we just need ya'll to communicate with us so we know when ya'll are on the ranch and when you're not. The wetbacks are on the move boys, so we need to be able to keep up w/ you and your whereabouts...had thirty Border Patrol at my front door this morning. Oh, don't worry, most of em aren't armed except if you see a couple carrying back backs. That's drugs and they'll have some heavy guns with em. If you run up on them, let your camo work for you but for God's sake, defend yourself any way possible. Any questions?"

Snakes......cactus and thorns.......dry conditions....Hogs.......Mexicans with guns and drugs......

And, I'm suppose to hunt???

But, I did:

Rio Feathers

And, was successful at it:

Me and Rio in front of Prickly Pear

About the only thing more interesting than the terrain down there is the little hole in the wall eateries:

Yomi's restaurant

Well, maybe the signs. This may well be the most interesting sign I've ever come across. Truly, one stop shopping:

One Stop Shopping

Coming back yesterday we all had many stories to tell, but the one thing I kept seeing in my mind was the strutting Rio Grande turkey coming through the mesquite. Our Easterns are monsters with booming gobbles, but their Western cousins (the Rio's and the Merriams) with their frosty tips can really get under your skin:

Rio On Rock

Time to start researching the Osceola and finish this.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

"Homemade Pizza"

If anyone knows me, they know I could eat pepperoni pizza every meal for the rest of my life. Or, at the very least, those meals that aren't substituted w/ a homemade half pounder burger, topped w/ rotel cheese dip and homemade BBQ, toting a side of home fries.....though, I digress.

As I was saying, I love pizza. It's a fault according to Megan, but I'm cool w/ it.

Given my propensity to enjoy pizza, I started trying to perfect my own. While Domino's is good stuff in a bind, the pizzas found at pizzeria's across the country are the one's I've tried to emulate.

As such, I thought I'd share my dough recipe with ya'll. The dough makes or breaks the pizza, IMHO, though a lot of credence should still be allowed for the right red sauce and cheeses - both of which are beyond the scope of this thread, and quite secret I might add.

This isn't perfected, yet, but I like it enough to tell ya'll about it. It's forever evolving I guess, but started with a bread recipe my mom serves w/ homemade BBQ ribs of all things. It's grown (or, regressed would be more appropriate) from her recipe.

Crunchy Pizza Dough:

- 2 cups of All Purpose Flour
- 1 1/4 cup of luke warm water
- 1 package of Fleishman's yeast
- 4 heaping TBS of EVOO
- 3 heaping TBS pure honey
- pinch of salt (hard to say, small bit in hand)

In a small bowl, whisk the water and sugar until dissolved. Much like making a beer, you need to feed the yeasts. Once dissolved, add package of yeast, EVOO, salt, stir all in, and let sit for 15 min (or more if you can).

Once done, you should see what's called a "starter". Add flour to this and stir in. I'm not good at the water - flour ratio, so I go off feel. If I think it's too thin, I add more flour, too thick, a bit more water.

Cover with a towel and let sit overnight -- yes, it takes planning.

Next day, turn oven on BAKE to 450. This temp gives a crunchy finish, if you like a bit more "fluff" to your crust, cook at lower temps. While oven is heating, knead in a few handfuls of corn mill. Cover cooking surface (either a stone or pizza pan) with a little EVOO and corn meal, and flatten.

While the dough is cooking, melt some butter - REAL butter not that margarine crap - in a sauce pan. Around the 12 minute mark, give or take, take the crust out and wash the entire thing w/ the butter. Place back in the oven until cook through and golden brown - usually at least another 10 minutes.

Once cooked to crisp, add toppings and enjoy.....My version of a perfect pepperoni pizza:

Homemade Pepperoni Pizza