Cats, Carp and a Crescent Wrench.

Greetings Hunters,

Although this story doesn’t take place at SBL, it involves some of its members and should provide an enjoyable read for any outdoorsman. It is is a tale of the time two goose hunters tried their hand at catfish fishing. I apologize for the delay in posting this story.

Wayner had been pestering me for months to take him fishing for cat fish – similar to a kid tugging on his dad’s pant leg at the check-out aisle, asking him for a candy bar. This request was somewhat perplexing, as I barely knew how to tie a hook onto my line, never mind how to fish for catfish. Still, he finally caught me at a weak moment, and I reluctantly obliged and we set a date in mid-July. Surely there are worse ways to pass the long summer days while we anxiously await Christmas morning (opening day) in September.

After consulting with numerous Portage locals, Wayner and I agreed that the Portage spillway was the spot to go. We purchased the finest heavy-duty rod/reel combos that Wal-Mart had to offer, plus about a dozen packs of fresh beef liver, and a bag of frozen shrimp, and we were off. (I will intentionally leave out the many details surrounding the fiasco of directing Wayne where to meet me in the thriving metropolis of Portage la Prairie — I think he would have had an easier time meeting up with me if Dinger was behind the wheel…).

It was a beautiful July evening. A rare fluffy cloud dotted the bright blue Friday evening sky, and a light North breeze helped maintain a comfortable temperature. We set up our catfish rigs on our newly acquired poles, and lobbed the heavy globs of liver that we set on our hooks into the middle of the spillway channel. One could watch the rapid current carry the line down stream slightly as the bait settled to the bottom.

(insert pano photo of scene described above)

After only a few short minutes of watching the nearby Pelicans fish for their dinner, Wayner frustratingly declared that he had a snag, as he aggressively pulled up on his rod to no avail (typical Friday night for Bubba…). But then, our eyes widened as we heard the intriguingly angry buzz of line being pulled out of the drag on his reel. Evidently, that “snag” was a live one!! Wayne fought whatever was on the end of his line. He maintained a repetitive **reel-reel-reel, pull up, reel-reel-reel, pull up**, which was quickly followed by the ‘zzzzezzeezzzzzezzzzz’ of the line that he had just reeled in returning down to the depths of the channel. This was a true beast-vs-beast battle. However, that lusty little twinkle in Wayner’s eye glimmered, and the fight began to tilt in his favour. I prepared the net and readied myself to pull up the first catch of the night – a satisfying 25″ channel catfish! (Wayner’s first!)

(insert photo Bubba holding catfish)

Now that it was in the net – what do we do with it?! The fish was furiously flopping around in the net. And that hook was deep into the fish’s large mouth. Having watched the folks on “Hillbilly Hand-Fishing” simply grab catfish by their mouth, Wayner (mistakenly) believed it was safe to do so, and grabbed this ugly creature by the lower jaw. The catfish, much like you or I instinctively would, slammed his powerful jaw down on Wayner’s hand, almost bringing him to his knees. “HELP! HELP! HELP!” he yelped. So here Wayner and I are standing on the shore, both pulling at the bear-trap jaw of this incredibly strong fish. Wayne’s verging on tears of pain, I’m almost in tears laughing – as are all of the new Canadians who were fishing down the shore from us. Finally the pneumatic vice opened and Wayner could retrieve his fingers from the mouth of his fish.

Apparently, catfish have a row of very fine, sharp teeth on the inner margin of their upper and lower “lips”. The best comparison I can offer would be those traditional hair brushes with the black bristles which are set into the pink rubber cushion. Except instead of long coarse black bristles, they have very small, razor-sharp, white teeth, which could be closely examined in the tip of Wayne’s finger tips once the blood was wiped away.

Wayne then grabbed the fish by the gills, which led to another retaliatory clench from the fish, again almost bringing Bubba to his knees. Wayne quickly ordered me to grab his pliers from his tackle box to retrieve the hook. Unfortunately, no pliers could be found. So, Wayne suggested I used my knife to “make his smile bigger” in an attempt to retrieve his hook from the margin of the fish’s mouth. Mission accomplished, and the fish was returned to the depths, mostly unscathed.

Wayne prepared his hook again, threw his line in the water, and begrudgingly staggered back up the shoreline to his truck in search of pliers. While he was gone, another fish took his line. I reeled it in for him, only to discover it was a small little bull-head who easily released the hook for me. Bubba returned after a short while with a small crescent wrench which we then used to remove the hooks from the catfish with … ahem… surgical precision.

(insert photo)

Then, began the feeding frenzy. We could barely keep up with this hungry catfish. They seemed to take a liking to the frozen shrimp over the beef liver, and it quickly became our go-to bait.

(video of Wayne reeling)

We watched the shadows grow longer and longer over the spillway channel before it became time for us to bring out the headlamps. We fished well-into the dark and enjoyed a sky-full of stars as we reeled-in and released over two dozen healthy catfish (two of which turned out to be Master Anglers!). The slaying eventually slowed down closer to midnight. We were just about to pack up and leave when Wayne’s rod almost jumped out of his hand and into the spillway. After another healthy fight, we netted the last catch of the night – which turned out to be a Master Angler Carp!

(insert photo)

This was Wayner’s (and my) first time catching a catfish (and Bubba’s first carp, as well). It proved to be an enjoyable evening, although my forearms paid the price, as I could barely move my arms the next day after reeling in all of those lunkers.

And although reeling in big catfish was a rush, it was a weak drug compared to the exhilarating rush provided by that first flock rising up over the early morning fall horizon.

See you soon, hunters.






Wayne, meet Tom.

Dear Hunters,

This is a story about the time a goose hunter became a turkey hunter. Coincidentally, it is also a story about the time Mr. Wayne Carey was at a loss for words – which, I’m sure you know, is a rare occurrence.

It was a lovely Sunday in late April, 2015 when Wayner and I decided we would knock the rust off of our Benellis, and try to put some turkey on the table. Even though Bubba is no stranger to hunting in Manitoba, he had yet to shoot an Eastern Wild Turkey. This can be a somewhat tedious task, especially for a man as grand as Wayne, since wild turkeys have phenomenal eye sight and can be described as leery, at best. However, a camouflaged ground blind helped tip the odds away from our keen-sighted adversaries.

Working in Portage has allowed me to form some very valuable relationships with local farmers. In particular, the owner of a large dairy operation, who has noted a large flock of turkeys on his land over the last several years. He was gracious enough to allow me onto his land to take a big ol’ tom last spring, and extended the same offer this year. He noted strong turkey numbers this year, and he suggested I bring a friend along as well, to help thin out the population. Naturally, when I heard ‘thin’, I thought of Wayne.

As planned, we were all set-up in (what we thought was) a good spot, just before sunrise. However, when I said ‘knock the rust off our Benellis’… perhaps Bubbs should have maybe tried that at home before the hunt, as his choke tube was seized in the half-way threaded position and temporarily rendered his gun useless. I promised Wayner that I would put him on a turkey, so our group hunt transitioned to a guided hunt, and he used my gun for the remainder of the day.

We had a scouting report from the land owner, stating that the turkeys tend to roost in trees to the East, and make their way to his dairy operation to the West to feed on the silage. We chose to set up on a long field of naturalized grasses between the apparent roosting and feeding locations. After an hour of watching the sun climb through the trees, and anxiously turkey-calling to no avail, we finally saw movement in the bluff line at the edge of our field. Unfortunately, it seemed as though we were actually deer-calling, as 9 does decoyed right into our spread and came within throwing distance.

One gal took exception to us, and let us know with a series of huffs and stomps. I figured this was not advantageous for us, so I exited the blind and chased them out of the field. While I was up, I decided I would take a gander at the dairy operation to see if perhaps we had missed the migration from the roost to the silage. Sure enough, after the mile-long trek to the dairy, I spotted 6 large turkey silhouettes making their way to feed. Wayner and I packed up our gear and moved to where the turkeys were.

Shortly after sneakily setting up our blind approximately 150 yards East of where the turkeys were feeding, we spotted a big red fox. He was straight out in front of us, and proved that we were not the only hunters that day. Through binoculars, we watched him hunt the long grass and he caught a partridge! It took a lot of counselling to talk Bubbs off the trigger when the fox came within range. I think Wayner was more interested in the partridge than the fox, but nonetheless, we allowed them to pass unscathed, as to not disturb our turkeys.

We were able to catch intermittent glimpses of the group of turkeys at the dairy as they milled around the silage piles. There were 6-7 of them, but the group appeared to be made up of entirely hens. We were unable to elicit the heart-stopping ‘GOBBLE’ from any of them with our calls, and could not see a fan or beard in the group. Eventually, the gals decided to head back for a late-morning nap, and they made their along a fence-line about 40 yards in front of us, and into the bush. Once they were gone, Wayne and I decided to re-locate our blind to the fence that they adhered to when leaving.

Not long after moving our blind for the second time, a large, round, black silhouette crossed over the road at the end of the field, coming in our direction. This bird was so magnificent, Wayne thought it was a big dog that crossed over the road, rather than a gobbler. However, that tom wanted nothing to do with us, as he took a few uninterested glances in our direction, flared his fan a few times and made his way back across the road. Luckily though, he treated us to a few hearty, but distant, gobbles before leaving. Watching Wayner ride the emotional roller coaster was truly something to be seen. Seeing the exciting glimmer in his eyes when we heard the first gobble compared to the glistening tear in his eye as the tom left, made guiding just as exciting as actually hunting.

All of that excitement had me tuckered out, so I decided to leave Wayne on watch-out duty and found slumber in the grasses behind our blind. As you can imagine, I faced ridicule for this. My nap was short-lived, though, as I woke to “Saw. Saw! MATT!! THERE’S A TURKEY!”. I felt like a father being woken up on Christmas morning by his son telling him Santa was there. I rolled over and drowsily crawled back into the blind and glassed the unmistakable golden and brown fan of a tom turkey at about 200 yards. Bingo. Nap time was certainly over. It was now turkey time.

I put in my diaphragm mouth call and gave him my best hen call. He looked right at our 2 hen decoys, gave us a gobble or two back and started towards us on a line. However, our calling helped draw 2 actual hens out of the trees from our left, which grabbed our tom’s focus away from us. The 2 real hens were very vocal, and were fighting us for the tom’s attention. Calling immediately after their calls was about the best calling-practice you could get, as we tried to closely mimic them.

The sight of a strutting tom is an incredible sight. His head went from a dull whitish-purple to the brightest blood-red that you can imagine, and then back to purple. His fan was impeccable, and his fluffed chest and waltz-like movements sparked an adrenaline rush. He was definitely interested, and was working hard to impress his future damsels (plastic, or otherwise). He began to head towards the real hens, but lucky for us, the real hens started towards our decoy hens. After an excruciating 20 minutes of calling and watching, trying to fight off the adrenaline and remain motionless, the hens were walking along our side of the fence line, straight toward our blind, about 30 yards out. The tom had made his way across the field and was also walking along the fence towards us, roughly the same distance away, but about 5 yards on the other side of the fence. I carefully pulled out my video camera and began taping. I knew Wayne was about to experience something completely surreal as he readied the shotgun towards the tom.

The tom continued to strut hard as he walked towards us. Binoculars were no longer required to see his beard, his eyes, his spurs, his gorgeous fan, his incredible fire-engine red head and neck. It was incredible. Even though Wayne had the gun, I was overcome by gobbler-fever and my hand began to shake while video-taping this oncoming tom.

25 yards. Stop. Fan. Strut. “Get ready, Wayne.”

20 yards. Stop. Fan. Strut. “Wait for a neck-shot.”

15 yards. Stop. Fan. Strut. “Any time now, Bubbs!”

— “I CAN’T SEE HIM!” a frantic Wayner whispered to me. The angle that Wayne was on while looking out the front window of our blind prevented him from seeing the very close Gobbler approaching from the side.


I ripped the side window open to see what happened. I guess Wayne had leaned forward in his chair, and he said that all he saw was a bright-red head with 2 beady eyes looking back at him from the end of his barrel and then it was all over. Out the window, all I could see was a cloud of smoke and a motionless pile of feathers laying 11 short paces away. He was so close, I was about to reach for my knife to give to Wayne instead of a gun.

There we were, laughing and cheering like a couple of kids, hugging and high-fiving , when Wayner suddenly pushes me out of the way, rips the zipper open and runs out of the blind. I honestly though he was losing control of bodily functions. He was pulling up his pants as he took off on the short run for his bird.

“What’s the rush…? He’s dead!”

“Oh… well on all the hunting shows in the US, they run out and jump on them to prevent them from flapping around.”

There was zero flapping.

Wayner had placed a perfect neck shot with a 3 1/2″ – 5shot – 3oz. turkey load at 10 yards. We engaged in a 20 minute photo-session with Wayne and his bounty, and then went to clean the meat. It was a successful hunt, which turned out exactly as planned. I know that I won’t forget this day any time soon, and I know that Wayne won’t either.

One funny, but really sad footnote — once we had cleaned the turkey and put the meat on ice, we didn’t want it to over-heat in Wayne’s truck while we headed back out to try to shoot another bird for myself. So we tucked it under the back tire of Wayne’s truck, in the shade, well wrapped up in a zip-loc bag inside of a black garbage bag. Well I’ll be damned if the neighbour’s dog from down the lane doesn’t come over, sniff out the meat, and take off with Wayne’s bag-o-turkey. If we had realized at the time what the dog had in his mouth as he pranced away from the dairy, we would have had a lot more cleaning to do.

Sorry for the long post, but I hope you had as much fun reading it as we did experiencing it. Stay tuned for the pictures/videos!

I also hope everyone wintered well and look forward to seeing you all again in a few short months. Except you, Dinger, I’ve seen enough of you.

Matt Lepage


Getting the proverbial monkey (or goose?) off my back

Greetings Hunters,

Forgive me for the tardiness (not to mention length) of this post. I promised Mini Billy Friar Johnston that I would post a compilation of my favourite Scuttlebuck experiences from last fall (2013). Given that it has unfortunately been several months since last fall, it is difficult to know where to start. Additionally, it would be very difficult to record ALL of my favourite Scuttlebuck memories in one entry. So, I suppose I will provide account of a day that is very close to my heart – the first time I laid a Canada Goose to rest.

Bill Jr. (Andrew) and I left from Brandon to the beloved Scuttlebuck lodge on a Friday afternoon in early September. As we made the final few gravel turns to the lodge, the sun was at the beginning of it’s descent. Andrew was listing off the landowner of every piece of land we passed, along with an amusing story about each of the said landowners (…sorry for the McDonald’s wrappers, big sexy).

Every body of water that we passed seemed to be a resting spot for hundreds of ducks and the rare honker. Since I was still waiting for the ink to dry on my recently acquired hunter’s safety card and migratory bird license, I had not had a chance to familiarize myself with the various species of ducks and geese.  Andrew rattled off identifying features and characteristics of seemingly every bird imaginable and was quick to point out different species as we passed. Finally, we pulled into Scuttlebuck (and were pleased to see the excessive rain as of late had not washed out the driveway). We unloaded the truck, made sure there were no blackbirds in the yard, and told a few pigeons to vacate the premises as well.

Mr. Bubba Carey finally showed up after we had put a case of BB’s through Friar’s beretta. We didn’t mind his late arrival, as he came bearing a hearty smile, and deer burgers!! We barbecued the thick venison patties and enjoyed some beans as a gassy side. A few Mooseheads topped off our barrels and we were off to bed – not before setting out our gear for the next morning, and finding a mice nest in the pocket of Andrew’s camo. This held a silver lining though, as Wayner had been wanting to practice hitting a pitching wedge through the open patio door for a while. A late addition to the group came after dark in the way of the wee pinap, Mr. Paul Johnston. The four of us found slumber (separately), and dreamt of the fluid wing beats and disorganized orchestra of Canadas on the horizon.

5:00am came VERY early the next morning. Perhaps if we spent slightly less time topping off with Mooseheads, we could have enjoyed slightly more rest. Either way, morning was here, and corporate roll-over was not an option. The previous evening’s scouting report indicated strong numbers near the dump field. Thus, we loaded up the decoys and headed southwest, racing against the pending sunrise.

It wouldn’t be a weekend at the lodge without careful deliberation between Bubba and Friar over what the most effective decoy arrangement would be. This was amusing for some, and visibly infuriating for others. I’m sure you all know who fell under that latter umbrella.

Once we had the decoys spread out to (some of) our liking, we found comfort in our goose chairs and pop-open blinds and began waiting for our bounty. The beautiful pink and then orange and then yellow sun began to rise, giving light to how clear the blue sky was that day. We exchanged goose calls with each other as we awaited the flight. This proved to be invaluable practice time with my new goose call.

Adorned in Lars’ camo (thanks Lars), and wielding Andrew’s beretta (thanks Friar), I found it difficult to fight off the adrenaline rush as the first line of birds was called out on the distant horizon. The slits on the goose chairs made visualization of the flock somewhat tedious, but their course of flight was definitely in our direction. Not seconds later, my excitement was quashed as a hunter down the line identified the flock as seagulls. This gave me a few more minutes to practice how I was going to operate a right-handed weapon as a left-handed shooter.

Finally, the unmistakable patterned wingbeat of Canada Geese appeared over Whitewater lake. It was go-time. Andrew alerted the geese to our spread with the flag decoy as the rest of us vocalized our location to the incoming party. *okay, right thumb safety off, right hand forestock, left hand grip, shoulder, align beads, trigger, trigger, trigger, reload, repeat*

As the flock neared, I was overwhelmed with how many birds actually approached. How was I going to pick one (or two?..or three??) to shoot??? There were dozens of them! Little did I know, this task would become much less cumbersome within the next 2 minutes. My excitement wavered slightly as the flock seemed to turn off just before reaching our spread. It was as if Andrew could read my thoughts of whether or not I could shoot that last, closest bird right then, as he instructed “waaaiiit…”. Sure enough, as if he had them on remote-control, they looped around us, “waaaiiit…” and came up behind us “waaiiit…” (I later realized that they prefer to land into the wind). I knew they were close, very close, “Waaaaiiiitt….” but didn’t want to turn around to see where they were, as to not spook them. “TAKE THEM!” I exploded out of my chair, right thumb safety off, grip, shoulder, align beads, and as if I was in a dream, an elegant honker was nearly motionless 15 yards in front of me, 5 feet off the ground, frantically flapping his wings in an attempt to escape my sights. Without hesitation, BOOM. My shock quickly subsided and I realized that I had hit it! I shot my first goose! I thought it was going to cry! Or maybe piss myself? Whatever that feeling was, it gives me goosebumps thinking about it again right now.

I jumped from my chair, one hand on my gun, the other held victoriously in the air. “I SHOT IT! I hit him! That one!!” It was then that I realized the rest of the group was still shooting. Not this guy. Thankfully the rest of the hunters were accurate, responsible shots and aware of my rookie status, as I was already a few paces into my retrieval. My initially short retrieval distance quickly turned into longer one as my prize was waddling through the stalks away from me. Hey! Wait! I shot that goose, why isn’t it dead?? This wasn’t in the manual.

I could hear laughter as I took after my goose, not entirely sure what I planned to do with it once I caught up to it. I caught distant instructions to “grab his neck!” Grab his neck?? Hell no. He’s pissed!!! (Granted, I would be too if some rookie shot me in the ass).

This small, 12 lb creature became surprisingly intimidating as he began hissing and flapping at me while walking in my direction. Briefly, the hunter became the hunted. However, another 3″ BB ended the reverse-pursuit pretty hastily. This day contained a lot of learning, as I was informed that a second, short range kill shot is a no-no, and makes for a messy clean-up later. But, the hunter jury was slightly divided on that…

I may have shot another small number of geese over the remainder of the morning, but who could care? I just shot my first goose! It might as well have been my limit, I was so content. The other hunters were clearly more lethal than I, as we were only a handful of birds from reaching our group limit after a couple of short hours. We decided to listen to our disgruntled stomachs, packed up our spread and our bounty and headed back to the lodge for breakfast.

The remainder of the day contained a Caesar or two, a few clay pigeons, perhaps a goose snooze or two, some tactful ribbing of the other hunters, a few ducks shot, a few more Caesars, a delicious dinner of wild game (prepared by Dinger in his smoker, who had arrived in the afternoon), a few more Caesars, and perhaps a Moosehead or two to top it off. It was safe to say, I had caught the Scuttlebug.

I enjoyed several lodge weekends after that one. My PAL had yet to arrive, so the Johnston’s, along with Wayner, always generously outfitted me for the hunt, and for that I am grateful. I have since added my first gun to my arsenal (a delightful left-handed Benelli Super Black Eagle II), and am very hopeful that I will be able to continue enjoying the Scuttlebuck experience for years to come. Also – shut-up, Dinger.

Happy Hunting,

Matt Lepage