Hop’s Worst or Best Claim of All Time
It was Friday, September 23, 1988 and Whitewater Lake had been bone dry all summer. We had hunted the third Chain Lake on opening day the week before, but now thanks to some heavy rains, a few geese had settled in on a couple of wet spots out where Whitewater Lake had been. In part due to a late night and in part due to the unlikelihood of much success, Wayne Elwood Couling, (hereinafter called “Hop”), our chief claimer, chose to sleep in and join us later in his own vehicle.
So John McManes, Jay Winburn, Gordon Speers and I set off in the darkness to the shoreline on the South side of Whitewater Lake, north of George Franklin’s. As we hiked in along a road allowance, a prairie chicken ran across the rut road in front of us. Gordon was ready with his side-by-side and knocked down a young cock which he dispatched with a quick ring of the neck. Rather than carry the bird all the way in to where we were going to set up for geese, Gordon decided to simply hang the bird on the barbed wire fence that ran parallel to the road. In plain sight, hanging dead on the top wire, we would simply pick the bird up again on our way out or so we thought. We set up near a wet spot and had shot a few geese (one beautiful specklebelly by the way) when along about 10:30 AM we could see Hop arrive all by himself in his van. I watched him park the vehicle, then with gun and ammo in hand, I could see him start to walk out towards us as planned. I was looking out towards the lake when out towards the vehicles, a shotgun blast sounded – ker blam. Oh, “there must have been more chicken there where Gordie had gotten his”, I remember thinking.
We all should have known better. Soon Hop arrived at our setup with a plump sharptail in hand. One chicken- one shot he told us proudly. Soon after Hop’s arrival, the goose flight ended and the five of us gathered our gear and began the trek out. Well as you have probably by now guessed, we just couldn’t seem to locate Gordie’s chicken that he had shot and left on the fence on our way in. “Couling shot it again while it was tied to the fence” Gordie insisted but Jay came to Hop’s rescue. “No way” insisted Jay “Not even Hop would pull a caper like that.” Years later Couling confessed and Jay Winburn still describes this incident as “A new low” for our illustrious comrade.
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