Monday, February 28, 2011

"Magellan's Mississippi Opening Weekend"

We last heard from Magellan as he traveled up to the L'anguille Lounge Duck Club for the opening weekend of the Arkansas season.  That story can be found here: Magellan Visits the L'anguille Lounge Duck Club. After the Arkansas opener, Magellan traveled south down Highway 1 to meet up with Rick Daughtry for a few days of hunting Mississippi public land, seeing the good and bad of our infamous "draw system". Both stories were written about early in the year and can be found here: So It Really Is the Luck of the Draw - part 1 and here: So It Really Is the Luck of the Draw - part 2.

After Rick hunted a few days with Magellan, he passed him off to my buddy Quinn McClurg.  I met Quinn many years ago through mutual high school friends of mine, namely Quinn's hunting partner Cape Jones.  It stands to reason that if my old high school friends like you, I'll most likely do the same.  In short, Quinn's one of the good guys.  He's also a helluva hunter, and I was very glad Quinn agreed to hunt over Magellan.  I picked Magellan up from Quinn myself as I was over in that part of the world.  He had hunted with him a day or so, and I got the story you are about to read.

DATE: 11/28/2011
TEMP: 37 degrees
LOCATION: South Mississippi Delta
WEATHER: frosty and clear\
MOON: waning Gibbous
KILLS:  2 wood ducks, 1 blue bill, 7 buffleheads
FRIENDS: Quinn McClurg and Hayden Skipper

Due to lack of water, my usual places are DRY!  We had to go to a back up spot in order to find some water to float Magellan.  We set up on a mud flat at daylight, and it was very slow.  A couple of wood ducks cooperated and a lone blue bill committed.  After that, we picked up and moved to some cypress trees on a point and set out a long line "J hook" {author notes heavy sarcasm} with Magellan in the hook.  Several single buffleheads worked nicley and after an hour, we decided to call it a morning.

I wish conditions would have been better to get some "big duck" blood on Magellan, but it is just tough right now with the lack of water.

Magellan with a bunch of bufflehead - photo courtesy of Quinn McClurg

Funny how such a simple bird can show so many colors - photo courtesy of Quinn McClurg

What Quinn didn't say is that he took Magellan to no fewer than 4 different spots over a 2 day period in hopes of getting him on a good hunt.  Folks think I'm insane, but I'll take a bunch of buffleheads in the bag any day of the week!

MANY THANKS to Quinn and Hayden for allowing Magellan to spend some time with them.
Check back often as Magellan's next hunt is my only one with him (not to mention I killed my first Canvasback over him), and after that, he's off to hunt with some good ole boys in the timber.


Thursday, February 24, 2011


I shouldn't do this, but if a parent isn't proud of his children, they aren't doing their job.

Today, we're going to take a break from hunting stories and the like, and we're gonna give my daughter Lila Dale Harrison her moment.  She's up for "photo of the year" on Allison Muirhead's Photography site.  Allison has been taking her photos for a while now.  The photo you're voting on (I hope) is one taken during a session when Lila was 4 months old.  She's 16 months now, doing a lot of talking, walking, running and basically just checking out this big ole world.

In any case, there are 2 ways to vote, and you can vote each way ONE TIME A DAY.  So, that's 2 votes for Lila a day possible.

First way is to go to which is Allison's blog site and click on the entry entitled "CONTEST".  Simply scroll down to the comment section, enter name and email addy, and VOTE FOR #6 - Lila is photo number 6 and submit.

The second way is to go to!/pages/Allison-Muirhead-Photography/146250532098863 which is Allison's Facebook page.  You have to say you "like" her page, then click on "contest photos", the Lila's photo (second row, second from Left - or 6th photo if going left to right).  At that point, click on "comment" and simply type "vote".

THANKS TO EVERYONE and remember, you can vote each way, once a day until the end of the contest, giving 2 votes per day.

Megan and Myself, along with Lila, wanna tell ya'll thanks for the support!


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

"Magellan Visits the L'anguille Lounge Duck Club"

On November 20-21 Magellan visited the L'anguille Lounge Duck Club.  As it so happens, this was the opening weekend of the Arkansas duck season.  Altough work prevented me from taking Magellan myself to hunt over him at the club, there was no doubt were he would be that weekend.  Opening weekends are always good hunts for us at the LLDC, and this one was no exception.  There are a few things which must be done on the way though, one of which is a visit to the "package store" on the way up:

Magellan in front of the Country Liquor Store
Photo courtesy of Ramsey Russell

After that, everyone settles in for the other opening weekend traditions at the camp:

Photo courtesy of Ramsey Russell

Magellan in his 'bed' - photo courtesy of Ramsey Russell

Pat and Magellan watching something Tennessee, or Mash,
or 2 and a Half Men, or, or, or

Lastly, it wouldn't be a trip to the LLDC without Magellan visiting the famed "Millhouse Dead Mount".  Legend has it, about 3 years ago, this was the only pair of ducks anyone knew without a doubt my buddy "Millhouse" actually goes the legend anyhow.

Millhouse's Dead Mount - photo courtesy of Ramsey Russell.

And now, the hunts:

DATE:  11/20/2010
TEMP: 40ish
WEATHER: foggy, south wind, full moon
LOCATION: LLDC Riley East pit
KILLS: 2 mallards, 1 pintail, 11 teal, 10 shovelers, 6 specs, 2 snows
FRIENDS: Ramsey, Forrest, and Duncan Russell and David Hurlbut
DOGS: Delta

Photo courtesy of Ramsey Russell

The day was perfectly slow, with duck limits by 11 a.m.  The Russell sons shot excellent, and Hurlbut put on a clinic.  Everyone shot hens except me (Ramsey).  Great morning, unless you were a duck.

(L to R) Duncan, Forrest, David - photo courtesy of Ramsey Russell

Photo courtesy of Ramsey Russell


DATE: 11/21/2010
TEMP: 50ish
WEATHER: overcast, south wind, full moon
LOCATION: LLDC Wampler Field pit
KILLS: mallards, pintails, greenwing teal, specs, and snows
FRIENDS: Pat and Patrick Pitt, Mark Barnett, Robert "Millhouse" Hillhouse, Dave Hurlbut
DOGS: Lottaboom and Woodrow

Thousands of birds roosting made it a tough morning.  While passing on shovelers all morning long, we managed to kill 19 mallards, pintails, and greenwings.  We also managed to kill 2 specs and 3 snows.  Patrick's "Lottaboom" and Millhouse's "Woodrow" made quick work of the retrieves.

Photo courtesy of Ramsey Russell

Photo courtesy of Ramsey Russell

Many thanks to the guys of LLDC for the quick recap of the hunt and the photos.

Be sure to check back often as we'll review the first couple of days of the Mississippi opener and visit more South Mississippi delta haunts.
THANKS - Justin

Friday, February 18, 2011

"Magellan Heads to Missouri"

Magellan in transit - photo by Adrian Smith

Having already hunted Monday and Tuesday, we felt successful despite poor numbers.  Our blind was nestled in some milo and almost invisible.  The birds were definitely in the area but the combination of low pressure and rain kept them sedentary.  There were a few things that bothered me about our decoy spread.  I wanted some birds in the flooded corn, not just the sheet water.

Perfect place for our block of cork and cedar.

Magellan with the spread - photo by Adrian Smith

All morning long, pairs and small groups trickled in.  for one in my life, everyone was spot on in their shooting.  Absolutely nothing was left on the plate.  There were no limits, there were no bands, but, there were no regrets.  This was one hunt where the fog was not a hindrance and the shooting was on time.

DATE:  November 17, 2010
TEMP:  40 degrees
LOCATION:  Undisclosed, Missouri 
SPECIES HARVESTED: Mallards, Gadwalls, Teal, Shovelers, Ringnecks, Wood Duck, Wigeon
FRIENDS:  Adrian Smith, Scott Bates, David Bridgers
WEATHER CONDITIONS:  Heavy fog; South wind 3-5 MPH
GUIDE: Dan Hargraves

Many thanks to Adrian, Scott, and David for taking time to document Magellan's trip with them to Missouri.

Have a great weekend, and be sure to check back early next week as Magellan visits the killing fields of Northeast Arkansas!


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

"Grand Passage - Magellan Visits the Upper Flyway"

Up to this point, Magellan had made 2 early season teal hunts with me and some friends.  If you haven't read about those adventures, please check here:  MAGELLAN AT WILLOW BRAKE DAY 1  and here: MAGELLAN AT WILLOW BRAKE DAY 2.  Shortly after this whole deal came into my head, I had a conversation with my good friend Stephen Shepherd.  He thought the idea was solid, and wanted to take several different decoys from the TRAVELING DECOY RIG, including Magellan.  He had a bunch of days in October scheduled for North Dakota.  This is an annual trip he and a group of friends take, which is what this is all about.   So things worked out perfectly.  I shared in that conversation with Georgia (his nickname) that I didn't care about the kills, but wanted a photo from him that symbolized the "start" of something.  I think my friend delivered and the photo fits the of a new dawn on our tradition and heritage.  One depicting the beauty and glory of the morning.  One that shows even the non-believers among us there's something bigger than us out there.

Sunrise in North Dakota - photo courtesy of Stephen Shepherd

And now, Magellan's story in North Dakota....
Hunting had been tough the previous 4 days, and the high winds threatened to keep the birds nestled in their "out of the way" holes.  We stood atop a small hill 1/4 mile to the south and glassed the surrounding fields in hopes of another fantastic hunt.  Seeing only a handful of birds on the water, we marched through the corn toward the cattail lined pothole.  Twenty-five yards from the edge, the pothole erupted with enough mallards to make the most seasoned hunter stand in awe.  easing into the cattails, we only had enough time to get out a single decoy before the birds, mostly mallards started to filter back in.  
First a group of six, then a group of four circled overhead.  A few soft quacks from my JJ Lares T-1 lined up the two groups of birds that had now merged together.  With the birds just a couple of feet from the water, I called the shot...Six shots quickly rang across the North Dakota prairie, and four ducks laid dead on the water.
For the next two hours, singles and pairs floated back into our small spot of paradise.  The shooting and the birds were slow according to our standards, but to shoot over a hand carved decoy made by a friend proved to be one of the highlights of our 2010.
DATE: 10/20/2010
TEMP: 57 degrees
LOCATION: Undisclosed, North Dakota
TROPHY STATS: 9 mallards (7 drakes/2 hens), 2 gadwall, 2 wigeon
FRIENDS: Stephen Shepherd, Shane Wilson, Carl Gulledge
WEATHER CONDITIONS: Sunny, clear skies, North winds 15-20
Thanks go out to Stephen and his group of friends.  Really great addition to Magellan's journey!
Hope everyone enjoyed this as much as I have, bookmark us and check back often!

Monday, February 14, 2011

"Grand Passage - Magellan and His Traveling Rig"

When's the last time you were humbled?  I mean truly humbled, to the tune of being nothing short of "in awe"?  For me, it's been going on since teal season, only just now culminating in a sincere disbelief.  For those that don't know, let me introduce "Magellan - the traveling decoy":

This photo was taken before I placed the tack eyes and added the nail...not to mention it was one of my first birds to carve from my own pattern and paint in oils.  But, enough of that, that's not important, Magellan's story is.  In fact, for many reading this, it's YOUR story.  The day I lost all control of having anything to do with Magellan was the day I sent him off the first time...after that, it's the guys here that made it work.

Work you ask?  Yeah, work.  Think about it.  You get a duck in the mail, hunt over it, write about it, photo it, add stuff here and there...all in a matter of days and have to make sure the next guy gets it.  Not one person failed to live up to their end of the bargain.  Not one.  I've seen countless "traveling decoys" on other forums get bogged down, hunts missed, "shoulda been here yesterdays"...not this one.  Magellan made it to each and every hunter without fail - if mail wasn't quick enough, these guys drove to the next guy.  I'm both humbled but not surprised.  The folks that took Magellan and the rig under their wing are first rate in my book.

Again, enough of that.  I'm not a numbers guy.  Fact is, I just don't care. But, I'm proud of what my friends pulled off this year and want to share it.

Magellan, hunted, saw killed, traveled and witnessed:

- 5 states
- 51 total days (a number I a bit surprised at, but considering travel, I shouldn't be)
- saw 740 birds be killed
- traveled roughly 6,684 miles

He witnessed 5 bands (4 straight up plus a kicker on a double band), 18 species, and was there for a dog's 500th retrieve.  He saw sun, wind, rain, sleet and snow.  He hunted hallowed ground at Beaver Dam (twice), 2 days at L'anguille Lounge Duck Club, and several at Double Cypress Duck Club.

He saw the beginning of the flyway for many of our ducks, hunting in North Dakota in mid-October.  He eventually made the long trek our Mississippi south delta, where many winter.  He witnessed mallards, black ducks, canvasbacks, and a score of other birds harvested.  He hunted with grandfathers, fathers, sons and daughters.  Once in a pit - 3 generations.

He saw 9 year olds on their first hunt, and 67 year olds doing it all over again, as well as every age in between.  He saw 4 or 5 children kill their first ducks.

On 6 different occasions, Magellan felt the excitement and tension of "the opener", be it teal season, a different states opening day or a hard working man getting back home to hunt for the first time.

He boated into places of duck hunting lore such as "Hanwercker Stand" and sat on "Chubby Andrews Dock".  A strong group of friends took him to "Atlanta West", better known as Matthews Brake.  He visited "Riley", "Wampler", "Millhouse's DeadMount", and drank Captain Morgan's with Pat "thewaterfowler" Pitt at L'anguille.  Watched sky bustin', levee shootin' and ticket writin' at Mahanna.  He was there the day my Canvasback saga ended, and watched my 9 year old lab "Gauge" make the retrieve. 

In every way, shape and form, Magellan saw the good, bad and ugly that IS duck hunting - sissy's need not apply.

But, take all that, all you just read, and swipe it aside...because it simply doesn't matter.  Magellan got to see some of the finest families and friends carry on the heritage and tradition that we know as waterfowling.  I'd love to say "I" handpicked the folks you are about to read about, but that would be a lie.  The idea was wrought, the decoy was carved, and the people that appreciate the old school charm of cork and wood came to me.  Simply put, they are the ones who got this done.  I only carved and painted a VERY ugly decoy.

A last bit about numbers.  If you add in Magellan's "brothers" in the rig, you get a feel for the enormity of the whole thing:

1) harlequin, Barrows goldeneye, blue bill, canvasback, green wing teal, eider, redhead and black duck decoys for the rig.

2)  add, Alaska, Utah, Texas, South Carolina, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Nova Scotia, Canada to the state list.

4)  add White Wing, Black and Surf Scoter; Oldsquaw, Common Eider (atlantic, northern, and possibly Pacific), King Eider, Harlequin, Barrows Goldeneye, and Redheads that I know have been confirmed...exception being Pacific Eider to date.

5) decoys saw as far East as you can generally go and as far west - being Nova Scotia and ADAK island, AK.

6) killed over 1000 birds

7) saw close to 30 species being harvested.

The rig as a whole hunted also in pits, from boats, in timber, from layouts, and in sink boxes.  It hunted on rice paddies, brakes, oxbows, rivers and oceans.

Over the next few months, you'll read a lot more about Magellan and his travels, not the mention the rig as a whole.  You'll read of some fantastic hunts and some that we've all had too many of.  I truly hope you enjoy what's about to transpire and realize that while we may not all be killing ducks, we can all hold ourselves up to a higher standard.  A standard of tradition and heritage, I believe, made higher and redefined by the very people you are about to read about.

Duck hunters, buckle your seat belts.

Hope you enjoy, please bookmark us and check back often, Justin

Friday, February 11, 2011

"The Congressmen"

February does something to me.  It happens every year, for whatever reason, right about now.  I start thinking turkey, and I can not get them out of my head.  I break out the calls, get the vest down, make sure the camo that is old and bleached from too many washings is still good enough to wear, and call my daddy to see what he's caught on the cameras.  We have a rule we started several years ago, you get one turkey and no more.  This was done because we saw a drastic drop in our turkey population on daddy's place some years back.  I'd like to blame Hurricane Katrina, but I think it was much more than that.  I think the turkeys were already dealing with a disease and predation, both of which plowed head long into that hurricane and thousands of acres of timber loss, creating an imperfectly, perfect storm.

Long story short, one bird apiece.  If you take a guest and they kill a bird, you're done.

As it happens, the first year Megan and I were married, I had killed my one down on daddy's place pretty early.  After that, I started going down to my father-in-law's place on the Bogue Chitto River.  We call the camp simply and affectionately, "The River".  I love it down there, never more so than the spring crawfish season...well, maybe Christmas holidays, but that's another story.

The morning I met "the Congressmen" was one of those spring mornings that make you glad you woke up.  It was brisk early, but not cold.  The dogwoods were starting to bloom, as was the honeysuckle.  Walking out to the truck, I couldn't help noticing there wasn't a cloud in the sky.  Just a picturesque morning that no long bearded turkey could resist gobbling too.

And, they didn't.

I'm a big believer in just allowing the woods to wake up versus hooting up a storm in order to get a bird to gobble.  Maybe it's superstition on my part (or stupidity), but I feel like it does more harm than good most of the time.  So, I just sat and watched the river bottom come alive.  Shortly into my wait, a lone turkey gobbled across the river.  The best I could tell he was roosting very close to the water's edge.  Then he gobbled more and more - single gobbles, double gobbles, and just a whole mess of gobbling.  It didn't take long for me to figure out there was more than one bird making all that racket. How many I couldn't tell as they were so close together.  Possibly, these loudmouths were in the same tree.

A hill bird hunter by birth, I learned a very valuable lesson on this day.  That being, water ain't no step for a river bird.  In the hills of south Mississippi, I've seen birds hang up on rain swollen branches of water that are normally dry.  Over the last several years of hunting on my father in laws place, I've watched turkeys walk out on sand bars, fly across the river, mill around, only to fly back later that day.  A river bird is just not affected the same way by water as the turkeys I grew up hunting.  Up until this particular morning though, I had no clue.

As it happened, after a few hours of constant gobbling (and, I do mean constant) and very little movement from the birds, I had had enough.  I got up from were I had been sitting, and started slipping through the woods.  I remember telling myself the birds were probably on the edge of a little field just on the other side of the river.  Figuring and ciphering in my head, I realized I could walk out on the sand bar on my side, slip up to the bend, and peak over the saw briars to get a better look.  What I saw when I peaked over was a sight all turkey hunters hope to see - four big, long beards in full strut.

To be honest, I was at a loss as to what to do.  The birds were on the other side of the river, out on a sand bar that was several hundred yards long.  This situation wasn't going to allow me to get any closer.  I told myself I'd just wait them out, and when they went off in the woods, I'd swim the river, get on the other side and try to get around them...never happened.

After watching these birds gobble at each other for what seemed like forever, I decided to take out a slate call I had turned for the season and give it a run.  It sounded like crap, I knew it, but I still wanted to "play" it.  What happened next, if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes, I wouldn't have believed it.

I slid that "bodoc" striker across the slate a few times, making a noise very much similar to a mule that just stepped into an electric fence - YEEEOWP, YEEOWP, YEEOWP.

The single hen that was still giving these gentlemen the time of day broke camp, took off running down the bank towards me, and flew across the river, landing basically in my lap.  Without even realizing what was going on, I looked up and all four of those gobblers were following suit.

If you've ever seen photos, watched video footage, or hunted Atlantic brant, you know the sight I was seeing.  These turkeys were inches above the water, flying single file, decoying hard to the hen that gave up on them.  I remember thinking, "I outta shoot the sucker flying over the water" but I didn't.  When the birds pitched onto the sandbar, they all immediatedly started strutting and gobbling - about 10 ft away from me.

The gobbling shook my lungs inside my chest it was so loud.

Now, you may be asking yourself, "why hasn't Justin shot yet?"

Well, I only say this because I'm used to screwing, I don't mind a little self-deprecation when appropriate.  Truth of the matter is, I attempted to shoot when the first bird hit the ground...but, I had forgotten to take my safety off.  Yep, in the heat of the moment, the mighty hunter yielded a flacid killing iron.

Then, I had to wait for one of them to turn around.  They were strutting with their butts looking at me.  It was all very embarrassing.

But, a little bit later, one finally did, and he met his end.  Mercifully I might add.

That morning when I got to my in laws house, I retold the story to my father in law, leaving out that whole "safety part".  I mentioned to him that I could only guess those gobblers stood around all day, yelling at each other, getting nothing accomplished.

His response?  "Sounds like a bunch of congressmen."

I couldn't help but laugh.

1/4 of the "Congressmen" and the now retired worst sounding call in history

Hope you enjoy, have a great weekend everyone! Justin

Monday, February 7, 2011

"Carl Lewis - a Turkey Hunter's Tall Tale"

It's been almost 20 years since Magic and myself face down "Carl Lewis".  With each passing year, the legend grows.  I finally got around to writing about our adventures chasing the "Carl Lewis bird", and can say, this tale is 100% truthful and factual...well, SORTA.

"Meet me at the graveyard in tree hours, and don't forget the corn."

That was all Cajun said as he slammed the door shut on daddy's old '76 mustard yellow chevy and took off, leaving a wake of dust a mile long.  You see, me and Buff Magic had just introduced him to "Carl Lewis", and we could both tell he had angered ole Cajun Jim.

I'm a firm believer that no other hunter on the planet knows the anger and hate an animal can stir within the confines of a man's soul, than the turkey hunter.  And Jim was no exception, nor was "Carl Lewis."

Magic and I had literally fooled with this turkey every chance we had for the first 2 weeks of the season, and it had become apparent that we didn't have the salt to take him out.  It only took Jim a single meeting with Carl to realize he was going to be difficult - and, I'll go to my grave believing that Cajun thought he may not have the salt either.  For two weeks Mr. Harold and Chunk (Buff Magic's dad and brother), daddy, and Cajun had heard all the stories, but only now, after Cajun met "Carl" did I think they believed us.

How did "Carl Lewis" get his name?  He was a runner, just like the Olympic athlete that was so popular back then.  When you struck Carl, you better do nothing but sit down because he was coming.  He rarely gobbled, but when he did, you can bet he had folded up shop and was running to you.  It was the running that got us initially.  We would start walking and he'd close a 200 yard gap in seconds.  Several times early on in the chase, we'd round a corner in a logging road, only to come face to beak with Carl, and watch him fly off putting.

"Carl Lewis" was mean too.  The surrounding house owners swore there was a big gobbler that would come out in their yards and whoop their dogs.  Not really for any other reason, except he just could.  They had been trying for months to shoot him, but never could.  He'd either run around a corner and disappear, or drag off a wailing dog  into the woods to whoop on him some more.  In fact, Magic swears one day early in the season he had the shot, only to get mesmerized by "Carl" whooping up on a coyote...can you believe it?  A turkey beating up a coyote.  Any other turkey I wouldn't believe it either, but this was "Carl Lewis" and anything was possible.

I always thought he was part ghost.  You would see him coming from way off, running breakneck through the woods, only to disappear and end up right behind you.  At that point, he'd see you, put real loud and fly off.  Once, when I was hunting him, he got behind a white oak tree and just disappeared.  A step forwards or backwards and I would have had him...but, he just disappeared.

Couple all that with the area of daddy's place he lived in, and it was really no wonder he was so hard to hunt.  Part of it was nothing but hundred year old white oak trees, surrounded by a thick, almost bullet proof cut over.  Years before, daddy had a bulldozer cut a road through it, and push out a plot right in the middle.  I always felt weird going down there.  It was like the woods were mad at us for being there.

Well, "Carl" had met his match this time.  He had made ole Jim mad, and no turkey lived to see the next roost tree when that happened...well, there was "Him"...and, the "Snorkeler" made famous because Jim saw him swimming Jay Bird creek once...and, there was "the Gravel Pit Ghost of '91".  But, that's other gobbler lived through such maniacal schemes as Jim could cook up.

So, it was with that thought in mind as we made our way to the graveyard, loaded down with bags of corn.

"Jim, I think the guys at the Co-Op are starting to suspect something.  They keep asking us what we're doing with all this corn, and giving us funny looks.  Could you do something about that?"  That's Magic, always worrying about the law.  Course, I have to admit, it wouldn't look great being locked up at the ripe old age of 16 for supplying a moonshine bootlegger with his 'personals'.

"Neva you mind that Magic, I'll take care of thems.  Figure they prolly out of shine and want some more.  Hate giving snort away, but I s'pose it could be worse - they could want money.  In any case, here's my plan for that turkey..."

That evening Cajun talked late into the night concerning what we were gonna do the next morning.  Interestingly enough, he had inserted himself into our plans.  This was okay by us, as we just really wanted someone (anyone) to kill ole "Carl" at this point.

The plan was fairly simple.  We knew the general area "Carl" roosted in - he did so every evening.  So, we were going to walk in hours before daylight, split up and surround "Carl" while he was still on the tree.  At daylight, we were going to set the woods on fire with calling - no tree yelps, no wake up calling, no fly down.  Rather, it was going to be an all-out assault on "Carl's" senses.  We were going to force him to gobble and make a decision to run.  And, someone was going to rid the woods of that bird...or so we thought.

I was so confident that during my sleep that night, I remember having a dream.  All the home owners of the surrounding houses through a parade in my honor for ridding the woods of the heinous and horrible "Carl Lewis" bird.  In my dream, I was given the key to the city and told I would never have to pay for another chile cheese burger and root beer float at "Wards".

That next morning, everything was going as planned, but a heavy fog was rolling in.  My dad was even going to go and just sit close to Jim,  offering what he called "moral support" - which was to say, he was making sure Jim wasn't already drunk.  I went south, Magic north, and daddy and Cajun east closest to the truck.  For my part, I didn't spook any birds coming in.  The weird thing was, I felt like something was watching me.  I can't explain it, but I just felt like the woods knew someone was there that shouldn't have been.  Later, I found out no one everyone else felt the same.  I can only assume the pea soup thick fog rolling in had a part to play in those feelings.

We all just sat there watching our the time, and as the sun started making it's slow accent in the sky, waking the woods up, it happened.  How, or why, "Carl" did what he did I'll never know, but as the dawn was breaking and that thick fog was creeping into the bottoms, he gobbled.  Only, it sounded more like a war cry than a gobble from any turkey I had ever heard.  I remember looking down and feeling goose bumps on my arms, looking up and seeing that bird fly down out of his roost tree, heading straight for Jim and Daddy.

I fully expected a gun shot at any second, but it didn't happen.  Next thing I remember was seeing "Carl Lewis" bolt out of the timber and head toward Magic's direction...again, a gun shot was expected but not heard.

In what seemed like hours, but could have only been seconds of silence, I saw a body to my right.  I glanced over, and it was gone...then to my left, I cut my eyes - nothing.  Then, right behind me, only yards away, I heard the spitting and drumming of a gobbler...then, "Carl" let out another war cry and there he was, right in front of me.  He was in full strut, his fan would have made a Peacock jealous.  His head was fire engine red and was the size of a watermelon.  Sporting a beard that dragged the ground behind him, he literally plowed the ground as he walked, his spurs were so big.  If I'm lying, I'm dying...we planted corn in the rows he plowed that year.

He was only 15 yards away, right in front of me, and staring at me with yellow, cat-like eyes.  He had drool coming down in bucket loads, and I could tell he wanted to fight me.  He took one step towards me, and I clicked my safety off.  He stopped.  Looking at me, right in my eyes with those beady, yellow eyes of his, he stretched his neck and shook the timbers with his war cry.  I could tell it was either him or me, and I was bound and determined for it to be him.

I had him and he knew it...thinking about the parade folks were gonna have in my honor, I squeezed the trigger.  I remember the weight of the trigger as it gave way....CLICK.

Had I really forgotten to load my gun?  "Carl" growled and showed me a mouth full of teeth - yes, TEETH...on a turkey, can you believe it?  It was at this point when I knew "Carl" was fixing to eat me that I heard people running through the woods, screaming my name.  Knowing he was outnumbered, "Carl" looked at me, sneered and then just vanished into thin air.  If I hadn't have seen it, I wouldn't have believed it.

I was still staring at the last place I saw "Carl" when Cajun grabbed my shoulder.  I was so flustered I screamed.

"Justin, let's get out of here.  We don't own these woods.  Something, well, something weird is going on here."

No one said a word until we got to the house.  At that point, we all shared our stories.

The first victim, as you remember, was daddy and Cajun.  Per Cajun, Carl flew out of the roost tree, hit the ground, climbed up another tree using claws that were about 4 inches long, ran out on a limb, jumped and landed right between daddy and Cajun.  They both drew their guns as if in some wild West standoff, and realized they were aiming at each other just before they pulled the trigger.  They said they heard "Carl" laughing as he went behind some privet hedge and disappeared.

Apparently, he had Magic so turned around that he snuck right up behind him and bit him on the butt.  Magic fainted.  Luckily, "Carl" didn't break the skin.  We figure he was just wanting to taunt Magic.

After hearing my story, Cajun's face got white and he looked sick.

"Justin, your gun didn't be unloaded.  You were so upset at the truck, I unloaded your gun for you - 3 shells shucked out."

We never hunted "Carl" again, and there was never another confirmed sighting.  There were, however, many home owners in that part of Jeff Davis county that lost dogs and cats during the night for years to follow.  We could only guess that "Carl" had gone nocturnal.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

"Duck Camp Breakfast Stackers"

This recipe takes about 45 minutes total, and while you do have multiple things going at the same time, the end result is great.


Depending on the size of the group in camp you're cooking for, I take about 8 duck breasts and cut them in 1/2 inch strips.  After they are cut up, I then place them on the cutting board and pound them flat with a mallet.  This further tenderizes the strips.  *I cover the strips in plastic wrap to keep the blood from splattering everywhere.*

Once flattened, I place in a container with milk/egg mixture, cover, and shake - this gives a good coating of milk/egg.  After that, I dredge in seasoned flour (flour and a bit of cayenne pepper), and place in a skillet with hot (350 degree) oil and fry - approximately 2-3 min/side.


Pour off excess oil from skillet, and add approximately 1/2 cup of flour to the drippings at high heat (think roux - almost).  Stir and add 1 can of Rotel and 2 cups of water.  Continue stirring and turn heat to simmer until reaching desired thickness.



Biscuits have always been tough for me.  For every bunch that comes out right, the other three are like eating a waterlogged hockey puck.  The following recipe and method are not my own.  I have found this to be the recipe I enjoy and can pull off.  It's a recipe found in Chef John D. Folse's book - After the Hunt, ISBN#978-0-9704457-4-2.  It is a wonderful book that can be bought at  AFTER THE HUNT by Chef John Folse or at

In any case, here is the recipe for "Captain John's Cathead Biscuits".

Prep time: 30 minutes
Yields: 8 biscuits


- 2 cups flour
- tbsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/3 cup shortening
- 4 tsps butter
- 2/3 cup buttermilk


Preheat oven to 450.  Sift flour, baking powder and soda, blending well.  Cut in shortening and butter, blending until batter resembles coarse cornmeal.  Next, blend buttermilk into batter until moist.  Lightly flour surface and knead dough until it comes together.  Do not overwork dough - less handled = lighter/flakier biscuits.  Break dough into 8 equal portions 1/2" thick onto baking sheet.  Place about an inch apart.  Bake 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove from oven and brush with melted butter.   

Open biscuits and lay flat.  Top with egg, then fried duck strips, the gravy.  Garnish with honey.

Enjoy, Justin