His Adjectives Aren’t Used in Church

His adjectives aren’t used in church. That’s how I’d describe Gordon Speers. A through-and-through old-timer, full of as much P&V as he was BS. He wasn’t the biggest fan of onions, and occasionally had a quiet opinion on the cookings of others. And maybe even didn’t feel much affection for our annual scotch tasting, but nonetheless Gord was instrumental in creating the place we recall so dearly.

I felt it only be fitting that I invite one of his longest serving friends to write his place in to Scuttlebuck’s final migration. Click here for John McManes’ writing on Gordon Speers “In Memoriam”.

 

Opening Day 2015 – The Biggest Yet

Some mornings you get in the decoys and everything just works. The birds fly the right line, they see your decoys early, the wind blows consistently in one direction, the cloud cover stays late in to the morning, and everyone is hidden perfectly.

Then there’s the opposite.

September 4, 2015 Wayne Carey, Matt Lepage, Brock Bastone, Andrew Johnston, Riley Wallace, Hunter Wallace and myself made our way down to Scuttlebuck for opening day of 2015. With Andrew and I coming from Calgary, our weekend was really left in the trusting hands of Big Wayne Carey – trusting as long as you’re not a sandwich that is.

With opening day being so early now, it’s very rare to even see any snow or blue geese. As expected, the scouting report had zero snows around but about 1,000 honkers and 15,000 ducks all over the fields near the lodge. With the flood waters of 2008 still not receded, we would be forced to venture a mile or two north of the lodge where the barley fields are plentiful this year.

Every bird on the planet was funnelling in to the Balduc half section 1 1/4 mile immediately north of SBL’s lane on the east side of the road. For those familiar, it’s the half section the two metal bins have sat in for the last 35 years.

Unfortunately for us, the Adam’s family (not The Adam’s Family) was farming this section this year and were going to hunt it themselves so we were immediately thrown a curveball and forced to search elsewhere. While I went out to fire a few shots with the Wallace boys (pic below), Andrew and Wayne ventured to the south side of the lake to see if anything made its way over there.

Somewhat surprisingly to all of us, about 400 honkers had found their way immediately south of the lake, only 1 mile east of the ‘S’ pattern in the road on the south side. For those of you following along at home, it was here.

A barley field with a significant north to south incline, the honkers were piling in the filed for more than two weeks according to the land owner “Tudd”. Our plan was to go in the northwest level-crossing and travel about 300 yards south along the fence line and set a 7 man willow blind near the middle of the field. In fact, it’s pretty darn close to the pin in the map above.

The forecast was for a northeast wind and when setting up an immovable willow blind, the wind direction is pretty important. Luckily for us, weather men are rarely wrong.

We arrived around 5:45 AM and with after 15 minutes of bickering, Wayne and Andrew had decided on an all full-body-honker spread on a large ridge in the middle of the field. Shaped like an X with two extended arms (more like a chromosome really), the 7 of us got in place just as the sun started to rise behind us and the waiting game began. Within minutes of sitting down a pair of mallards came in and landed in the decoys about 5 yards from us. This was a good sign.

The weather was really strange with a severe lightning storm ongoing just west of us, buckets of rain pouring down north of us, and in the middle the 7 of us in t-shirts at 27 degree celsius. Then it changed.

With a huge smash of thunder and flash of lightning, the temperature instantly dropped 20 degrees and the wind, rain, and birds all started to frenzy together. With us facing almost directly west, the first few flocks came in perfectly and we knocked down a few in the first volley. Now the rain was really making things difficult as the water started to pool at our feet making movement a bit more tricky in such small quarters. As Murphy would dictate, the wind flipped-backwards mid-flight and the birds immediately responded by going around us and landing in-range but directly behind us.

After a quick discussion with Bill Jr., we both bolted from the blind in a dead sprint and started throwing decoys to the south in hopes of guiding the birds in front of us instead of around the backside. Giving the downpour, 50 MPH wind and slope of the barley field, this was no easy feat.

With the new spread designed and Andrew and I back in the blind, no sooner had the next flock approached when the wind chose it’s third direction of the morning – straight north. It doesn’t take Pythagoras to understand that 7 guys in a line facing west would have some difficulty shooting birds approaching from the south.

The first southern volley knocked down 3 good sized honkers (2 of which glided – must have been Jago who shot them), and left us all with ringing ears and headaches. Andrew and Basty went on the chase to pick up the 2 cripples and immediately dropped to the ground as another flock of twelve circled up and came our direction. With Wayne manning the goose calls, and me feebly trying to flag in 30 MPH wind, the four bottom geese cupped up and committed to our spread. I don’t recall any of them being particularly large in appearance which is strange given what happened next.

When Bubs yelled, “Kill em'”, Jago, Wallace X2, Bub and I popped up and hammered on the four lower honkers crumpling the southern most birds and getting a delayed kill on a third. With Andrew and Basty laying out in the field – separately I should clarify – I was the next in line for retrieval. I immediately grabbed the leg of the first bird that lay dead about 8 paces from the blind, and quickly picked up the second about 10 paces north of the first before sprinting 30 paces to the third that had fallen slightly down the hill north of the blind. With birds coming again, I ran back to the blind but not without noticing the foot in my hand to be remarkably close to the size of my hand!

As I ran back to the blind, I could feel the compound fracture in the bird’s wing against my knee as I showed Wayne, “This one is a pretty good bird”. Without much thought I threw the birds behind the blind and clambered back in to the blind in time for the next volley.

The action lasted another hour or so and with a booty of 18 opening day honkers, we took a field photo and headed back to the lodge for a much needed nap. As is customary at SBL, Andrew grabbed the Guest Registry and started to weigh and record the Honker Harvest from the morning.

With the first few ranging from 9 to 11 lbs., the fifth one weighed shocked everyone, especially Andrew, the owner of SBL’s largest goose ever.

Fourteen pounds, eight ounces. How is that even possible? Believe me, it is. We weighed it 4 times, on 2 different surfaces, 5 hours apart. It’s true, there’s a new King in town. The amazing part is that none of us even knew which of the birds it was when we shot it. You’d think an absolute monster like this would have stuck out in the air, but it didn’t. At least I don’t think it did. Between the lightning, thunder, rain, wind, backwards decoys, sideways geese, more rain and thunder, it all kind of became a blur. Everything except one detail – the compound fractured wing that rubbed against my knee.

I honestly don’t have a clue who shot it, but I know it was one of the two birds I picked up immediately in front of the blind on that volley. His feet looked like a pterodactyl’s and had a big mallet head like we’ve become accustomed to seeing. And who shot it doesn’t really matter in the end as most are group efforts anyways. The important thing is there’s a new Sheriff in town, and a new goal to achieve. 15 lbs. is coming, it’s not “if” but “when”. Dad’s bird from 1997 still gets my vote as the most impressive (15 years as the biggest, and by a two pounds at least), but Andrew’s monster from a few years back was also incredible.

A hell of a way to start the year. Will ’15 be the year of the 15 lbs? I think yes, but you’ll never get it sitting there now will you.

~LJ

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.

BOOM!!!!

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

 

2014 Annual Report

Greetings Fellow Goose Hunters:

2014 Annual Report

Overland flooding in late June was still wreaking havoc all through the fall in the Winchester R.M. and at freeze up the lane to the lodge was still covered by 18 to 24 inches of standing water depending upon which way the wind was blowing.

Speaking of which way the wind is blowing, the new Reeve and Council elected in October seem to be more “drainage” orientated and the recent Tender for Gravel in the Brandon Sun appears to suggest that road repairs are going to form a huge part of this year’s budget.

Despite the terrible access problems due to flooding, the Harvest Count was 178 (more than half Honkers) and ranked 11th overall out of 34 years of record keeping. We did put two new Honkers on the Top Ten Chart (both in November) in the 4th and 5th positions (13 lbs. 12 oz. & 13 lbs. 13 oz.).

As we enter our 35th year, the harvesting of our 5,000th goose is a real possibility as the cumulative total now stands at 4,790 so we need a kill of 210 to put another mount on the South wall of the front room.

We have killed well over 210 geese in four of the last five years (see harvest analysis) so i think it is likely to happen sometime around Thanksgiving Weekend.

We collected no Bird Bands this year. We are anxiously awaiting confirmation by the CWS that a Rudy Duck was harvested in Manitoba this year (a true Scuttlebuck team effort).

Look forward to seeing you all in the fall.

– RHJ