Tuesday, May 31, 2011

"Magellan Hunts River Run - Day 2 and 3"

DATE: 1/3/2011
LOCATION: Beaver Run
WEATHER: temps (24 low, 50 high), Sunny, South wind at 5-10 mph
KILLS: 3 Greenheads and 1 Hen Mallard, 2 Blue Geese
FRIENDS: Jimmy Cobbs and Jared Mott

After a freeze, we didn't rush out of the camp at daylight.  Rather, we slept in, cooked some breakfast, cleaned up the camp, and finally left for the fields about 9:30.  Magellan was one of about 250 decoys we put out after breaking a good-sized hole in the "Middle Middle" field.  Jimmy had left me know that Magellan had acquired the nickname "Magician".  Well, he lived up to that billing.  After flying a thousand miles, I was looking forward to some hunts in my old stomping grounds, having heard Jimmy describe tales of quick limits and fast shooting the prior two days.  Well, the "Magician" flat made all those ducks disappear.  We languished in the "Middle Middle" field until about 2 p.m. without so much as a snapping off of a safety.  Finally, we decided to move to the next field to the east.  We picked up ALL the decoys and moved 'em.  We were ready at the new spot by 3:30, just in time to watch mallards pour into the neighboring property.  We were able to peel a few off, shooting four.  It took a lot of calling, but I was able to drop a few birds, including some seriously wayward snows in the spread around Magellan.  Frustrating day, but it was good to salvage some birds in the last two hours.  But the "Magician" wasn't done.  Returning to camp, we discovered a dead snow goose on the roof of the camp, apparently the victim of a neighbor shooting from his yard. 

After a heated bout of "Rock/Paper/Scissors" to see who was going to clamor onto the roof of the double-wide before the stinking started, I climbed a table, a chair and the roof of the deck before gaining access.  A few tentative steps later, the goose was tossed down and I managed to extricate myself from the roof without breaking any bones. 

Better tomorrow, and hope springs eternal.

Day 2

DATE: 1/4/2011
LOCATION:  Beaver Run
WEATHER: 40 degrees, partly cloudy, SW wind
KILLS: 2 Greenheads, 2 Drake Wood ducks
FRIENDS: Jared Mott, Jimmy Cobbs

The morning started off with a flurry of wood ducks giving passing shots, but no shots were taken.  I shot a greenhead landing in the decoys early.  All of a sudden, no birds were flying.  So during this time Jared decides to start calling the park service in Maryland to reserve a blind for Saturday morning after his return flight home.  After he gets a blind, we do some old school hunting as 5 wood ducks start swimming down the ditch behind us.  We shot two drakes.  Then only one greenhead works the decoys and we get him.  Now it's time for us to make the annual trip back to Oxford to eat at the Pizza Den.  Will do some scouting  after eating some food.  Maybe the ducks will cooperate after Magellan leaves and before Jared returns back to Maryland.

Friday, May 13, 2011

"Magellan Hunts the Black Compound"

DATE: 1/2/2011
LOCATION: Black's West Blind, Tallahatchie County
WEATHER: 28 degrees, North wind at 10-15 mph, clear
KILLS: 3 Greenheads and 1 Hen Mallard, 1 Wood duck drake, 5 Green Wing Teal, 5 Shovelers
FRIENDS: Wayne Black, Mitch Black, Chris Reed, Darron Anderson

The ducks are roosting on us and heading to the "Irby Woods", so at daylight we watched thousands leave.  Like they have all week, ducks swarmed the woods like bees and those hunters were through quick.  We could only scratch a wood duck and a couple of teal early.  At eleven o'clock they started coming back.  We had until noon to get what we could get before Chris had to leave for a game warden meeting.  Between eleven and twelve, we landed a single, a pair, a group of 8 and were about to land 20-something when dad started whacking at the kamikaze duck without seeing the group.  I broke a pin in my gun and never fired a shot.  The hard cross wind played it's toll on the three other hands.  One mallard out of all that is embarrassing.  Glad I wasn't missing.  Magellan got to see more ducks than he probably cared to see over the woods, and is happy to head North.  See you later in January at Beaver Dam!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

"The Elder Rig"

It's been said that in order to find yourself, you must first be lost.  So it was but a few months ago that I was "lost" in the carving world.  A man without a country so to speak.  I was struggling with carving and painting and finding my place in the carving community.

That all started to change when I read Geoff Vine's current article in Wildfowl Carving Magazine.  He has written a wonderful two part tutorial on the "Blair" style decoys, including some much needed blending techniques for painting.  After devouring the first part, I started trading emails and phone calls with a few noted carvers, namely Jode Hillman and George Strunk (see links to the right for each carvers website).  My ever increasing interest lead me down a road of further research into the "Delaware River School of Carving", mostly likely unmatched on a historical basis.

To be sure, another couple of individuals who I'm constantly "Googling" are Sean Sutton and Rick Brown (again, links on the right).  While Sean has since evolved into one of the most complete carvers a man could hope to be, Rick still pumps out eye-appealing, classic Delaware style.

A couple of internet forum conversations, in which it was impressed upon me that the "Blair" style is a great starting point for someone attempting oil paints, led me to carve and paint my own, not to mention an "English" bird, whose style I was beginning to really enjoy.  I did things a little different I guess.  For one, my decoys stink, which is different from the masters of course.  Secondly, I wanted to deepen the colors of the birds, making them richer.  This is readily apparent in the breast/side pockets of each.  I'm color blind, so what you see is what I see (or like when I see it).  After 35 years, I've learned to live with it.  Lastly, these decoys have no eyes...nor will they.  I wanted to carve and paint varying styles with as little monetary input as I could get away with.  I figure (and this is the great thing about carving your own decoys) that I could add anything I wanted on subsequent birds if I enjoyed the style and they turned out.

I started with the "Blair" style and fell into the "English".  I don't believe you can have one without the other, and make your Delaware rig complete.

In any case, some history:

In the late 1800's, two men off the Delaware River carved some of the finest gunning decoys to ever grace the planet.  Besides the how nice the decoys were, forgetting how sought after as collectables they are today, the thing that caught my eye as much as any other was the fact that both "styles" of carvings are touched with just a little mystery.  Those men?  John Blair and John English, respectively.

According to the "Father of Decoy Collecting" Joel Barber, author of "Wildfowl Decoys", Mr. Blair was a sportsman who carved all his decoys and hired out a Philadelphia portrait painter "of considerable note" to paint the birds.  Later, Bill Mackey stated that John Blair himself was a portrait painter.  It was thought that Blair was in fact a banker, not a portrait painter. In any case, the decoys were so elegant that they were carried to and from the Delaware River, each in it's own canvas bag for protection.  Another issue is that at the time of the penning, editing, and printing of "Floating Sculpture - the Decoys of the Delaware River" in 1982, at least 100 "Blair" decoys where known to exist, having been found in 9 different states.  Mr. Bob White, a Delaware River decoy expert AND an extremely accomplished decoy carver himself stated in "Floating Sculpture" that for 100 to have survived a century, he would have had to have carved thousands.  Years later, when his grandson Colonel John Blair III was asked who painted his granddads decoys, he responded, "A trolley painter..."  According to "Floating Sculpture", John Blair was in fact a wheelwright.  He made and repaired wheels and also made carriages AND most likely was the owner of a carriage making firm.  The trolley painter was most likely in the employ of Blair, painting carriages for the elite of Philadelphia.

Now, let's move on to the John English mystery.

To date, my favorite "style" of decoy.  The long and the short of it was that many of English's birds were given credit to another master decoy carver of the time and area, John Dawson.  According to "Floating Sculpture", "Now we know that all of the sculptured classic "Dawsons" are in reality repaited John English decoys.

Hope you enjoyed a bit of a history lesson (as I understand it in any case) and my feeble interpretation of two masters of American folk art.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

"Magellan at Beaver Run - day 1"

DATE: 1/1/2011
LOCATION: Beaver Run near Marks, MS
WEATHER: Cloudy, NW winds at 10-15 mph, 45 degrees
KILLS: 8 Green Wing Teal, 2 Gadwall, 8 Mallards
FRIENDS: Jim and Jimmy Cobbs, Chris Robertson

The year has been average at best up to this point.  It rained 1.5 inches last night, with thunder storms everywhere, and then Magellan showed up.  We started the morning off with a "Scotch double" on greenheads.  The day was starting to shape up into something special.  I have not had ducks like this work all year, and it finally happened.  Ducks were coming from everywhere.  Didn't take a lot of shooting because the ducks were thick and in our faces. 

All that's left now is to cook them.

Saute 1 chopped onion and 3 chopped bell peppers. 
Add thinking sliced duck meat and cook together.
Add mozerella cheese and melt
Coat hoagie roll with mayo and horseradish for a duck cheese steak.
Magellan heads off to Tallahatchie county to hunt with Wayne Black, and then back to me for another hunt at Beaver Run...can't wait.