One of the best part of being in the outdoors is the stories we glean from our experiences
It was early morning one day last week, and I was busy reviewing e-mails when one grabbed my attention. Jud Peck of Guyanoga (Branchport), an old friend and retired lieutenant with the DEC, had sent me a note with his “musings” that, quite simply put, blew me away. Here is some of what he wrote, in his words:
“As I spent today, the last day of the early duck season, in my blind I realized that this was an opportunity to a longer life. Think about my hunting friends, it's slowing time down. In a stand or blind time nearly stands still. Seconds become minutes and minutes become hours. This continues for most of the time spent gazing skyward or surveying the brush and woods.
“Then my friends, all of a sudden time races ahead. That time is the last five minutes of legal hunting time. What caused this was the flight of ducks that are high and circling but won't drop close to within shooting range, or that buck grunting in the brush only fifty yards away but not in sight in the fading light. Oh well, the good news is that there is tomorrow or next year. The bad news is it only took me a little over 60 years to figure this out.”
And I suddenly realized that I was there, too. Oh, not physically there, but I had been there many times with my own situations in my own duck blinds or on my own deer stands. His thoughts in writing were the same as my thoughts in memories. Time did slow down, and events were too numerous to completely recount. But they were there, nonetheless.
And that caused me to wonder. How many others had their own special memories? Probably everyone. What about my friends and readers who enjoy, even love, the outdoor world around us? Did they have special memories they wanted to share with other readers? So I sent out a request on that topic.
And the results, the many replies I received, were overwhelming. Here are some of their responses.
Helen Heizyk of Potter, (who’s birthday is today):
“When we moved to our home in Yates County 18 years ago, many of our friends and family members thought we were out of our minds. Most of them probably still do, but we love it here on our one-lane dirt road in the middle of the woods. Sure, there is no cell service or pizza delivery, but those are small issues to deal with at the end of the day when you can see and experience nature the way we do.
“One such occasion, four of us were sitting outside in total darkness gazing at the stars. All of a sudden, something swooped down from the roof, soared right over our heads and landed somewhere off the side of the deck! Before we could recover from our first shout of surprise (or was it shock?) it happened again, and again!! I ran into the house to flip on the lights, and returned to find everyone laughing instead of running for their lives. There, on the bird feeders we have mounted off the side of the deck, were several flying squirrels, their large, bulging eyes shining back at us in the bright light! Wow, what a sight.
“Another memory that sticks out was that moment of panic I experienced on the lawn tractor when I bumped the pole with 2 bat boxes mounted on it, and hundreds of bats dropped out above me! Every day brings a new ‘adventure’ out here but watching a mama River Otter over the course of several weeks this summer teaching her two pups how to hunt for fish in our pond, and catching a glimpse of them all in the creek every now and then, will always remain at the top of my special memories list.”
Dave Monahan, a close friend and lifelong resident of Canandaigua (until he and his wife, Judy, moved to Florida a few years ago) sent along the following memory about his first (and best) pheasant hunt:
“I was 14 years old at the time. My first pheasant hunt was across from the end of the Farmington Town Line Road, off the New Michigan Road. I had my 6-month-old beagle ‘Scamp’ with me, and was hunting with the dog's Mother (Penny) and Aunt (Pokey) who Gar Rundel owned. Gar, and Jack Russell worked with my Dad at the post office, and took me with them for the day.
“As we walked down the hedge row, the older dogs took off on a rabbit. Little Scamp and I walked along the hedge row as the older men headed out toward the area where the big dogs were chasing the rabbit. Little Scamp had no idea what to do, so she stayed with me.
“All of a sudden my little Scamp stopped, looked around, and started to yip … Then to my amazement, up flew the most beautiful rooster pheasant I had ever seen. He crossed over the hedge and through some trees as I mounted my first shotgun, an old N. R. Davis 12 Ga. double. (I still have that gun). With one blast out of the 30-inch full choked barrel, and a Winchester High Base load of No. 6’s, I somehow folded that bird right up. My little puppy ran over to the bird and began to tussle with it ... She thought it was a play toy or something. I got over to it, and got it away from her as the men came trotting over to see what had gone on.
“There I stood with my first pheasant, proud as all get out. From that day on, whenever my beagle would be running a rabbit and crossed a pheasant's path, it would take off on the pheasant, much to a beagle man's dismay. I guess she thought that is what she was supposed to be after since that was the first game she ever put out.
“Over the years, I have kept that shell in a little envelope marked: MY FIRST PHEASANT was killed with this shell ...14 years old ...+ … Scamp. It now sits in my museum collection.”
John Adamski of Dansville, a fellow outdoor writer and President Emeritus of the Finger Lakes Museum & Aquarium, also answered my request for a favorite memory.
“My favorite outdoor story goes like this: A number of years ago we were on a family vacation in the Quebec wilderness. We rented a cabin on a small island in McGillivray Lake. Early one morning I took my kids fishing. My son John was 8 and my daughter Jennifer was 6.
“We were trolling for walleyes in a 14-foot aluminum boat. I stationed each of the kids at opposite ends of the middle seat and instructed them on how to position their rods so they wouldn't get their lines tangled. They wanted me to fish too, but I said that trolling three rods out of a small boat was a surefire recipe for a tangle. They insisted, so I cast a large perch-colored jointed Rapala well behind each of their lines and propped my rod almost straight up between the transom and the 6-gallon gas tank.
“As we trolled into a back bay, a beaver that had been swimming toward us, slapped its tail and submerged. We putted along for a few minutes while discussing the beaver experience when both of my kids shouted ‘Your pole! Your pole!’ I turned to look at my rod and saw that it was bent as far as it would go and the tip guide was almost touching the water. And drag was going out like crazy.
“I was convinced that I had snagged the beaver. I told my kids to reel in their lines while I hung on to my 7-foot spinning outfit with both hands. There was no way that I could even get in a single turn of the reel handle, much less retrieve any line. Drag was still going out and it was going out fast.
“After a few minutes, the situation changed. The line stopped spooling out and the boat started to move. I went up into the bow. I was certain that the beaver was towing us along _ until I saw a large dorsal fin porpoise out of the water about 50 yards away. I was able to retrieve some line but still felt a heavy resistance on the other end. As the boat moved, I continued to reel in line while standing in the bow of the boat.
“After 20 minutes or so, I was able to reel an enormous northern pike alongside the boat. It had tired from towing the boat around, which is what enabled me to reel it in. I told the kids that we'd never land it _ we only had a bass-sized net _ but I did want to get a good look at it before cutting it loose. But my son insisted that we try and suggested that he'd get the pike's head in the net and I could grab the tail. Believe it or not, the attempt worked and I was able to haul the fish aboard with the net handle in one hand and the fish’s tail in the other.
“That's when all hell broke loose. The pike flipped and flopped around so much that it dumped my tackle box and had us sitting on the gunnels. It took another 20 minutes for the fish to settle down. Today, that pike hangs on my wall, and the memory of that day is firmly embedded in my mind. Incidentally, it was 44-inches long, 22 inches in circumference, and weighed 24 pounds. And I landed it on 8-pound test line. I still can't believe it.”
What a story! What a memory! As I stated earlier the response to my request for memories was simply overwhelming, with literally dozens of reader responses waiting to be shared. As a result I am planning more “special outdoor memories” columns in the coming months. If you have a special memory, why not send it along. And remember, it does not have to be exciting, just memorable.
My sincerest thanks go out to every responder, and a Happy New Year is wished for everyone.
Len Lisenbee is the Daily Messenger’s Outdoor Columnist. Contact him with questions or your own special outdoor memories at firstname.lastname@example.org.