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How’s Your Turkey Season Going? Yeah, Me Neither

Highly successful turkey hunters are as rare as hen turkey teeth, and they will earnestly tell anyone in earshot that it is a pursuit only for the crazy. Spring gobbler hunting is tough, for so many reasons. Very tough. The weather is often cold as hell in the dark pre-dawn, you must sit unmoving for hours, call perfectly, but then move very slowly and correctly only at the precise moment when the shot is offered, and then eventually the temperature warms up and the swarming bugs come out, ticks crawl up your butt crack and into your armpits, etc.

The wild turkey itself is a fickle and troublesome quarry with the tolerance for anything being even slightly out of sort measured by the millisecond, etc. Wild turkeys can go from standing still to 50 miles per hour in about a second-and-a-half. So when they detect something wrong with the set-up into which they have been lured by the hunter’s calling, they can get out of Dodge with amazing speed. They are also incredibly tough and can withstand tremendous punishment before actually giving up the ghost. Even when they are shot fatally, a wild turkey can run or fly out of reach of the hunter.

So turkey hunting is an almost guaranteed skunk right off the bat, with success rates in Pennsylvania just above zero percent. To really effectively hunt wild turkeys in most places, and especially in Pennsylvania where hunting competition is thick and fierce, a person must have the patience of Job, the grit of Rooster Cogburn, and the faith of Moses. Not to mention the time needed to finally orchestrate the one brief moment where all these qualities briefly line up with your shotgun barrel that is itself lined up on a turkey’s neck about thirty yards distant.

Because spring turkey hunting is more than a fad, something slightly less than a religion, and has the word “pursuit” in virtually all of the turkey hunting gear companies gear descriptions, I thought I would share with the three readers of this website my own recent turkey hunting experience. It was almost like a bad dream.

It started with me falling asleep in the blind I set up on the southern side of the ravine, through which Sheep Hollow runs. My two hen decoys were 30 and 40 yards distant, on the other side of Sheep Hollow, stuck into old stumps for extra elevation and visibility. I use a slate call, and am good enough to call in some turkeys who die at 40-45 yards out with the most skeptical looks on their faces. Turkey hunting is nothing if it isn’t an excuse to get some shuteye in some really uncomfortable surroundings, surrounded by annoying insects, with hidden tree roots exploring the hidden recesses of one’s posterior and lower back. It’s great!

So there I was, head lolling around like a Hershey Park kiddy ride, chin on my chest, alternately dozing and suddenly jumping awake with a start, wondering if that crunching leaf was a sneaky gobbler (it never is). This happened a dozen times until I fell deeply asleep.

Far into one of my deepest REM sleep modes, an uncommon noise on the far side of Sheep Hollow caught my slumbering hunter-sense, and my head automatically raised up. My eyes slowly opened to slits, to look through the bug netting. Suddenly my neck extended three times its normal length as my head craned to ascertain that in fact a mature gobbler was consorting with the decoys. Like most guys on the make, he was playing both and as yet uncommitted.

Slowly I brought the shotgun barrel from its resting place on my knees to a place where it was resting on the wooden crossbar and burlap, and generally pointing at the gobbler. Then my eyes were focused and working pretty well in concert with my head and hands to align the front barrel bead with the gobbler’s head and neck area. This happened in silent, slow-motion seconds.

But, turkeys being what they are, which is essentially a CIA spy satellite with wings, complete with the latest in high-tech optics and listening capabilities that miss absolutely nothing within a 300-yard radius, the amorous gobbler went from struttin’ his stuff to suddenly looking my way. Then, mimicking my own startled reaction just seconds before, his own head telescoped three times his neck’s normal length as he stared in alarm at the strange object thirty five yards away. His big eyes bulged as he saw through my contrived hiding place and into my very soul.

I fired just as he collapsed his neck in preparation for high-velocity lift-off, and the shot pattern just clipped his neck area. It was not the solid hit it would have been if the dang bird had just stayed focused on the rubber chicken thingies meant to deceive him. So he hit the ground, rolled downhill, and began to thrash wildly in what were either death throes or an intelligent effort to escape. Anyone who has hunted wild turkeys for a while knows this moment: The hunter is either a hero, or is about to behave like the clumsiest brute in the wild woods, because the turkey is either about to die on the spot and be tagged, or it is about to lead the hunter on a merry chase across hill and dell.

The bird opted to turn me into a clumsy brute as it staggered to its feet and began heading down Sheep Hollow in a drunken stagger toward Route 414 and Pine Creek beyond. And so I played my assigned part and I myself staggered out of the blind, swatting burlap out of my way, my legs numb from being asleep for two hours. Partially running, partially bouncing off of trees to steady myself until the blood flowed back into my independent-minded feet, I headed on a downhill sidelong trajectory meant to intercept the wounded animal and quickly bring it into my death embrace.

Almost like a cartoon rendering of a buffoonish hunter after a smarter prey animal, the turkey caught my drift and picked up speed, stumbling and rolling faster down the ravine and closer to the highway. I slid on my ass down a large smooth rock face just as the bird flopped out onto Route 414. From there it was literally all downhill. Instead of some locals driving by in their pickup and jumping out to grab the bird for me, no one happened by and the bird crossed Route 414, bounced off the guard rail, and then pitched down over the tree-studded sheer cliff face to the Pine Creek rail-trail below.

Meanwhile I was still trying to cross Route 414 while pulling clumps of leaves and twigs and other forest floor detritus out of my pants. Upon reaching the guard rail I looked down and saw the turkey laying in the middle of the rail trail. He was not looking real healthy and it was possible he was going to simply peter out there, if left undisturbed for a couple minutes. Then I could tag him and lie about what a perfect shot I had made on him to my friends.

But such are the plans of mice and men, or something like that. Because what is a rail-trail if not a place for humans to ride their bikes? Especially when it is the only brief moment in the year the place must be left undisturbed for just a couple minutes. The rail-trail is not the designated dying area for severely wounded wildlife. And so when the nice lady in her pink Gore-Tex get-up came riding her bicycle along the rail-trail, toward the listless creature, and making a gentle crunching sound in the fine pea gravel that even I could hear a hundred yards out, the bird felt like it was being pursued once again. And it decided that, in fact, rail-trails are not the dignified place to die. So it weakly flopped its way over the rail-trail and down to the edge of Pine Creek.

Meanwhile, I had seen what was coming. Determined not to lose the bird to the rushing water, I sat down and again rode the next steep incline down on my butt, and once again bouncing from tree to tree in an effort to slow down my headlong speed and prevent serious breakage of some part of my body. This stretch of the rail-trail is actually part of our property, and it is also about the most useless part of our tax parcel. Except for now.

Of course I reached the margin of the rail-trail in a dramatic flourish of flying leaves and branches, a mini avalanche of stones and dirt and curses, just as the pretty in pink lady on her bike arrived. The dying turkey heard the commotion and rolled down the stream bank and into the edge of Pine Creek. Now a dead animal at the water’s edge is nothing new and no big deal. But a dead or dying animal out in the current is something else altogether, and so not having time to explain my bizarre appearance to the nice lady, who had come to a stop to either gawk at the camo-clad madman or ask if I needed medical/ mental help, I bolted across the rail-trail and once again pitched head-first over the stream bank. Launching myself head-first at the turkey, whose carcass lolled gently with the stream current against the bank, my fingers came up just inches short as the rest of my not-insignificant bulk made its crash landing in the rocks and thorns along the stream’s margin.

With its last ounce of dying energy, the turkey rolled itself out into the stream current and immediately began floating away at a rapidly increasing clip. My friend Scott and I had just floated Pine the week before, casting for trout (thank you to the Big Brown Trout Club run out of Wolfe’s General Store at Slate Run for the amazing fish we caught), and the substantial rains over the past few days had turned a high but fishable river into a near-maelstrom with a really fast current. So I crawled on my hands and knees into the water and then rushed toward the disappearing turkey carcass.

Down through the run we went, bird, white caps, and human in pursuit. Under normal conditions, this part is a good fast stretch with trout under the trail-side cut bank and beavers denning on the far side bank. But today, it was practically a white water, with literal white caps from the high speed water slamming into boulders under the surface. Although at one time I had taught lifesaving and certified lifeguards, and I had been as comfortably aquatic as a human can be short of being a trained Navy SEAL, I was quickly beginning to doubt the wisdom of my ways. Pine Creek was at about 48 degrees that day, and despite my ample natural insulation against cold, I was beginning to really feel the chill tug at my willpower to continue. In fact, I was starting to wonder if I was going to drown. Making the situation worse, I passed an otter laying on the edge of the little island we had now reached. Never have I seen more disbelieving eyes in human or beast than the look on that animal’s face as the bedraggled human (me) splashed by.

Comical sounding yes, but at that point I was actually scared that the one minute I had presently spent swim-chasing after the now-dead gobbler was going to be my last on earth. My physical ability was rapidly diminishing. But all good things come to an end, and the powerful run quickly petered out at the end of the island, where Pine becomes a large pool below Miller Run Natural Area. It was here that the high-velocity turkey suddenly became just a piece of random flotsam that I was able to splash my way up to and grab.

With my prize finally in hand and dragging lifelessly in the stream behind me, I sloshed my way to the shore, clambered up the bank, dropped the turkey at my feet, and laid down on some large rip rap boulders. How long I huddled there, soaking wet in the thin sunshine, I don’t know. Probably fifteen minutes had gone by before I had the strength to look around and get up the nerve to collect the bird and head up to the cabin. But my wet camo and death-like stillness had fooled one more animal, the otter I had passed on the way downstream, who came in at a mad dash along the boulders, grabbed the dead turkey, and dove head-long back into the water.

And oddly enough, my only thought was “At least I didn’t fill out the tag yet, and my season is not over, so I get to keep hunting.”

Like I said, spring gobbler hunting is for either the mentally retarded or the crazy. Whichever I may be, go ahead and be the otter. Take your pick. I stopped caring.

 

 

White liberals confessing they are systemically racist

The bizarre phrase “systemic racism” is being bandied about an awful lot these days. Mostly it is being used as an accusation against the whole of America, as though racism is everywhere in America. We shall see about that in a moment, but first let’s consider what this phrase even means.

When something is “systemic” it means that the infection or disease is coursing throughout the body, and that it is system-wide. In medical terms, something that is “systemic” probably cannot be fully treated. The body is probably going to die from this system-wide infection. Which is what makes this accusation so intriguing in political terms. It means that America is supposedly, allegedly, so racist that it is going to die, and needs to die.

The people using this phrase the most are white liberals, those lawless hardcore partisan Democrat Party adherents who have been goose-stepping, vandalizing, burning, looting, and murdering throughout American cities over the past year. White liberal politicians at every level, white liberal judges, white liberals employed by activist organizations and at purported “news” outlets like CNN and the New York Times, white liberal charitable foundation staff, white liberal teachers, white liberal public employees etc are all in on promoting this allegation of “systemic racism.”

And yet what is so intriguing is that when we look at the basic statistics (violent deaths, violent crime, joblessness, children born out of wedlock and into poverty, failed public school systems, failed public services with high taxes, urban blight etc) behind the human behaviors resulting in the deaths and mayhem attributed to “systemic racism,” we find….these are all Democrat Party-run cities across America, run almost entirely one way or another by…white liberals!

Gees, you try rubbing, you try scrubbing, and no matter what, these darned white liberals keep popping up everywhere as the problem child in every disastrous American city. White liberals run literally all of the institutions that run the cities harboring all of the victimized minorities.

Just about every major city in America is run by the Democrat Party and its local police force, and we are told that the police forces in these cities are “systemically racist.” Because these big city police forces are staffed by and run by the Democrat Party and its systemic white liberals, this means that white liberals totally own this issue. If there is racism of any sort on these police forces, or in the policies and ordinances these cities have, then by gosh, they are wholly owned and caused by white liberals. White liberals are the genesis, nexus, and end-result of all this racism and racial discrimination. The minorities living in these urban places are totally victimized by their white liberal overlords.

America itself is not systemically racist. At least not the regular hard-working, tax-paying, community-volunteering white people who live outside the big urban shitholes run by the Democrat Party. America is overwhelmingly populated by really nice, tolerant people who don’t give a crap about skin color or other people’s religious views. But they are up against a bizarre group of psychologically twisted white liberals who accuse everyone else of what white liberals, they themselves, are – freaking rampant racists.

Because white liberals tend to politicize everything, like every little thing, it is logical to see this false broad accusation of “systemic racism” against America and against America’s really nice heartland citizens as a political punch. And yeah, it is that. But it is also something else, much deeper and more important. This accusation is a subconscious effort by white liberals to come clean about what is really going on in their own heads.

This false accusation against America is really a gigantic confession by white liberals that they are racist as hell and they want forgiveness from everyone living around them.

The question is, given just how badly white liberals have treated all of the minorities living in Democrat white liberal Party – run urban shitholes, can they be forgiven? Or are white liberals such a systemic problem and such a dire threat to the American body politic that they must be utterly eradicated, like any other disease that threatens the body?

Weis soda instead of Coca Cola Coke soda

“Woke” companies like Delta Airlines and Coca Cola Coke have been leading with their chins lately, daring their own consumers to punish them for having turned against their consumers. Leading with your chin means that you run the risk of being punched back on your chin, and really suffering.

I myself run a small business devoted to achieving public benefits using private markets. Whenever possible, I buy land and try to get it folded into the existing public lands around it. State Game Lands, state forests, state parks, etc; if we have a public partner on a given property, then we can conserve that land.

But I would be blowing up my own business if I directly attacked the very people I need to do my business with, like Delta Airlines and Coke have been doing. For some odd reason, these two companies have joined with the National Football League, the National Basketball Association, and now Major League Baseball to crap on the very people who they want to have as customers. Who they expect to be customers. It is the oddest thing, really. It probably stems from this notion that a certain segment of aggressive Americans have that all of these enterprises, including America itself, are just too big, too rich, too successful to ever fail. Which is, of course, foolish. Every enterprise can and will end at some point, but doing things that directly harm your own interests just serves to hasten your own end faster than it would naturally come.

So the latest with Coke and Delta Airlines is that they did what they could to punish the state of Georgia for passing a voting law designed to protect voting rights. Somehow, the decision makers at Coke and Delta Airlines were confused into believing that the Georgia law is a bad thing, when in fact it is a very good and important thing. Voting is the basis of our entire American enterprise, and if voting ceases to mean anything, the entire thing ceases to mean anything. So anything that can protect the concept and practice of one person-one vote is a good thing. Except in the eyes of Coke and Delta Airlines executives.

Maybe they are so tight with China’s leaders, who desire to use weak American voting laws to elect people in America who are favorable to China, that they have thrown America overboard.

So people like me, who value voting rights and counting all legal votes, are unhappy with Coke and Delta Airlines. As a result of our unhappiness, we have been looking for alternatives to these two products. After all, we would rather support companies that are at least not at our throats.

Therefore, I am happy to announce the discovery of a very refreshing alternative to Coca Cola Coke, and that is the Weis brand of sodas (see photo below) (I “discovered” these refreshing Weis sodas at my friend Scott’s house, in an ice chest cooler, on his porch). Most generic, off-brand sodas are not very tasty or refreshing. I mean, let’s face it, Pepsi and Coke spent decades perfecting their products to meet the widest taste acceptance possible. These two companies have been so successful they now completely dominate the soda market.  Very few competitors can even try to take some market share from them. And that means that most competitors who do show up have expensive alternatives, or their products are not very good tasting. Until now.

Whatever Weis is doing, their diet cola tastes a lot like diet Coke. It is very close to the same taste soda drinkers enjoy. It is also cheaper than Coke. Weis is a regional company, run by a family from Sunbury, Pennsylvania. Weis has been a part of my own food shopping experience since I was a child, and they still are now in my adult years. So see if you can find a local Weis, and try some of their sodas. I was more than pleasantly surprised at how good they are; actually, I was almost shocked.

If you are looking for a good alternative or substitute to Coke, try Weis. You will like it, and you will be supporting a local family run business, not some global corporation working hard to make friends with America’s worst enemies, and punish Americans for protecting America.

 

Carlisle’s “Truth & Reconciliation Commission”

Carlisle, Pennsylvania, is home to the northern-most military attack by Confederacy troops during the first (or second, if you justifiably count the Revolutionary War as the first one) Civil War. It also houses Dickinson College, the Dickinson School of Law, the Army War College, and the Letort spring creek, one of central PA’s better native trout fisheries. But now, Carlisle is even more infamous.

Last month, the Carlisle borough council passed a resolution establishing a “Truth and Reconciliation Commission” with the purported purpose of “improving racial justice and racial equity within the scope and jurisdiction of the borough council…including policies, practices and actions that have contributed to racial inequity and systemic racism.”

How refreshing this is. Really, I mean it, I am not being snarky here. This commission is a huge step forward for white liberals/leftists/ Democrat Party members to begin their inward-looking process of accepting the corrosive effects of their own racist white liberal thinking that has so badly damaged every minority in America since 1865.

Because the Democrats never forgave the Republicans for taking away their slaves in 1865, the Democrat Party has ever since losing that Civil War devoted itself for 155 years to regaining power, re-asserting slavery and control every way possible, over as many Americans as possible. They used Jim Crow laws, the Ku Klux Klan, lynchings, burnings, the poll tax, and a slew of other patently illegal and undemocratic ploys to keep American blacks from voting. And despite all of these methods being morally wrong and illegal (so is stealing elections), the empirical evidence visible to everyone’s eyes is that the Democrat Party has been wildly successful.

One way we can measure white liberals’ success in achieving their 1865 goal of re-establishing slavery and racial inequity is by the huge number of American cities, municipalities, and boroughs today that are majority minority (mostly black or Latino), bankrupt, violent, high-tax, low-municipal services, financially and socially failed, and which are nonetheless run by white liberals.

My own city of Harrisburg is like this, filled up with poverty-stricken minorities and kept that way decade-by-decade by their white liberal slave owners. Oh sure, the poor minorities are thrown tidbits of welfare and taxpayer support by the white liberals, but they are never allowed to leave. Any black or Latino who dares to speak out against white liberal racism is denounced as…a racist. By white liberals, no less. This same situation is found elsewhere, notably Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco, Saint Louis, etc.

Another way of measuring the Democrat Party’s inbred lust for absolute power and coercive control over every breathing and dead person is their stolen 2020 election, from which the they have launched an all-out assault on the individual freedoms enshrined in the US Constitution and Declaration of Independence, through a multi-prong effort to white-out Free Speech, Self Defense, Freedom of Assembly, Freedom of Religion, and a whole host of other absolute rights. It is mind-boggling how in just a few months America’s white liberals have designed a totalitarian federal government that fits every American like a glove. It is almost like they have been thinking about this for a very long time…but hey, when you are looking to expand your pool of slaves from 40 million to 340 million, ya gotta go big, and so that is what the Democrat Party has done. Enslave an entire nation, to big coercive, forceful, unaccountable, unjust, lawless, untouchable federal government.

So this racial justice business in Carlisle offers its white liberal progenitors some real tangible opportunity to come clean, to own up, to ask for forgiveness for the sins of generations of white liberals. For all the pain and suffering they have inflicted upon American blacks, especially, the forced inter-generational dependence on white liberals, and the forced failure, so that dependent minorities never, ever escape their grasp again.

Man, do I really look forward to the Carlisle Truth and Reconciliation Commission getting the ball rolling on this. I know that the Republican Party kind of lost its raison d’etre after they defeated the Democrat Party Confederacy in 1865 and gave American blacks voting rights in 1964, but here is a real opportunity for the Cumberland County GOP to help these poor white liberals come to terms with their own racial inequity and systemic racism built into the Democrat Party. After all, the Democrat Party could not have won any elections, real or stolen, without at least the appearance of Black loyalty at the stuffed voting box.

Let the education, honesty, and reconciliation begin, right at home where it started, with white liberals.

“Stop Asian Hate,” manufactured crisis du jour

America is being manipulated daily by a partisan media-entertainment complex intent on shaping our beliefs and values by shaping our perceptions. Shaping our perceptions is achieved both by shoving crap in our faces, and by censoring competing information out of our reach. So this week we are suddenly told, out of the clear blue, that it is time to #stopAsianhate. That is, Stop Asian Hate. As in, we must all gather together to stop Asians from being hated, not stop Asians from hating us.

Where this bit of racialist activism comes from is anyone’s guess. The few Asian people I know and asked about it rolled their eyes, or arched their eyebrows, and said “I have no idea where this comes from.”

Asians in America tend to be more affluent and materially successful, and more politically conservative. That correlation is likely to continue on, unless someone can get in between Asians and their perceived sense of belonging, acceptance, and integration. Most of the Asians I know are married to Caucasians, and they have very handsome and bright kids. To my knowledge, they feel fully integrated into American society. So someone with a political ax to grind is trying to alter this situation.

Or worse, this faux cause du jour is timed with the faux political confrontation with China. China owns the Biden family lock, stock, and two smoking barrels, and so perhaps the Chinese are trying to use our feewings to make us Americans feel badly about rejecting Chinese genocide and attempts to take over America.

In high school and college I dated two Asian women, one Chinese and one Korean. The parents of the Korean lady were openly racist towards everyone, especially “white” people, except for Jews, who they said were smart. Both of the women I dated have gone on to be wildly successful in their fields, making scads of cash and living very happy lives. With Caucasian husbands.

Yes, I know, I cannot draw on my own personal experiences to shape my reality. I must accept that there are larger trends happening outside of my own personal experience. But one thing I can tell you firmly and with great confidence is that this #stopAsianhate (again, it is probably not about Asians hating people) is a fake issue, not based on anything really substantive. Like so many other fake issues emanating from the Left side of America, this issue arises from some other goal or problem. If I were to guess, I would say it is the Left’s China problem.

The Left in America is loyal to China and they are disloyal to America. The Left hates America and is using America’s government to destroy America. Now that is a hate I could get into stopping right now.

Here is the manufactured political issue du jour propagandized by YouTube, a big piece of the partisan media-entertainment complex. On review, I think my YouTube interests are pretty neat.

 

Keith Oellig, another American keeping America moving forward

Every day of his life, Keith Oellig was one of the few Americans who, rain or shine, kept America moving forward. He grew the crops and raised the beef that Americans across America take for granted every day that they simply buy and eat these products.

Raised on a central Pennsylvania farm with chores and work, work, work before play, Keith’s friendship was as strong as his nonstop work ethic. He was a dear and devoted friend to many fortunate people, including me, and he died unexpectedly last week from a life-long heart condition he managed as best he could until it caught him by surprise one last time. He was just 56 years old.

This essay is my way of memorializing this amazing human being, and saying goodbye.

Keith was a representation of everything the farming life is supposed to be – down to earth, honest, truthful, hard working, generous, natural, patriotic, devoted to community and fellow man. He served on many boards, including the Dauphin County Farm Bureau, the Central Dauphin East School Board, the Dauphin County Planning Commission, and others I can’t recall off the top of my head.

His heart was golden, always ready to do a kindness for someone, and the more distant the stranger the better. Almost every year he grew great patches of sweet corn and donated much of it to his church food pantry, and to any others in need. But they would have to pick it themselves. Straight out of the Bible, which is what inspired him, drove him, filled him.  (Those friends who merely enjoyed sweet corn got the phone call that it was ripe about three days after everyone else in true need had had a shot at it)

Keith was politically active, but he had mixed feelings and thoughts about politics, because so much of it is divorced from the sacred walk of life whose values he cherished.

Every election he and I would run around his farms putting up signs, especially really big ones along the road frontages and both sides of I-81 by Penn National Race Track/ Hollywood [!?] Casino.  And as hard as he worked putting them in, Keith would also grouse about career politicians, even about the person whose sign he was putting in. He even did it to me when I ran for state senate. Like out of a comedy movie: “Sure, I’ll help ya, and I’ll bet you’re going to be just as corrupt as everyone else. Now hurry up because we have a lot more signs to put in the ground.”

Here he is with one of two big banners we put up last October at his main farm, one on either side of I-81.  Every.Single.Vehicle.Driving on I-81 honked at us. We used a loader with bale spikes and twine, and it was hard but fun work. 
This is how many of us will remember Keith, with his innocent, gentle smile and loving eyes.

Keith and I worked as a team to fell dozens of dead and dying ash trees, and some oaks and poplars (see background), in an area where he wanted to expand the cattle pasture. I ran the chainsaw while he pushed with the front end loader. It was dicey and scary work, as his smashed windshield shows. A week later, a huge limb carved a gigantic V in that cab, but Keith just kept on, peering around either side of the destroyed metal and glass to see where he was going.

I am sure going to miss you, buddy

America’s Voice gone but not silenced

Sadly, America’s Anchorman Rush Limbaugh has died.

Anyone who regularly listens to his show is not surprised, as the stand-in radio show hosts have been daily for the past couple of weeks. Their daily presence was an indication that Rush was physically unavailable, due to his increasingly severe cancer. And it was only that kind of bar that would keep Rush from sitting at the EIB Golden Microphone himself. His love for what he did was clear.

Rush’s impact on American culture and world-wide politics was unprecedented. He represented the thinking of at least half of America’s citizens. He raised unique questions about the world’s best political system, America, and he posed piercing analysis of the players in it, including members of both major political parties.

Ironically, Rush was a product of a politically partisan mainstream corporate media that had fully merged with the Hollywood entertainment industry. Had the mainstream media actually produced real “news reporters” that simply reported the facts, instead of mounting nonstop daily attacks on Heartland America and the conservatives who represent it, Rush Limbaugh would not have had an audience. Because there would have been no demand for Rush’s service.

Rush’s greatest service to America has been to point out the obvious lies and partisan hypocrisy in the American media and establishment cultural centers, and to be a powerful force for limited government, individual freedom and liberty.

“Rush’s death is a huge loss. He was the best, period. He had a way of articulating the seriousness of politics in a way that didn’t depress the listener. He was a relief to listen to, and of course understood the real nature of politics and politicians better than anyone,” says Central Pennsylvania political activist Ron Boltz.

Right on, Ron. Perfectly said.

I myself was introduced to Rush Limbaugh in 1991 by my friend Kenny Gould in Potomac Maryland, when I was working at the US EPA. Listening to Rush changed my life for the better, and to be frank, I don’t think any radio hosts come close to his performance. Of all the radio hosts I have heard, I believe that Mark Steyn comes the closest to capturing Rush’s analytical way and also his positive, personal way interacting with radio listeners who called in to the show.

America is a poorer place with Rush Limbaugh removed from our national conversation. His quotes and voice will live on, as will the pro-freedom America-first movement he helped start. We will miss you, Rush. Godspeed to wherever you are headed now.

p.s. Rush’s “bumper music” in his radio show was usually the 1970s fun disco/funk stuff from a time when skin color boundaries were being broken by music and generally people felt good about being together. Here is one song that he especially liked: Every 1’s a winner by Hot Chocolate.

p.p.s. for those people who claim that Rush Limbaugh was “racist” etc, they obviously never listened to his radio show, and therefore had no justification for their ridiculous accusation. Rush was the canary in the coal mine for American conservatives, who are now being silenced for “wrongthink” by Big Tech, Big Media, and the Big Political Establishment Uniparty, all of whom try to badmouth and impugn anyone who disagrees with them.

 

Rusty ducks and ammo

My friend called me and asked if I wanted to hunt ducks on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Same general location that my son killed his first deer; a vicinity I have fished for many years. Several other guys would be along, all but one I already knew and liked. Sounded like a fine plan, and I signed up to share a hotel room with my friend and his son.

As the days went by my pile of preparatory hunting gear got bigger. Neoprene waders and boots, check. Huge and super warm waterfowling jacket with super old school camo pattern I bought at LL Bean decades ago, check. Shotgun in waterproof case, check. Wool long johns, wool shirts, scarves, bison wool hat, gloves and glove liners, warm boots, check check check.

Ammo. Right…hmmm…shotgun shells for the shotgun. What about the steel shot we have had to use since the 1990s ban on lead shot for waterfowling? Although I knew I had some already, I needed to get a good supply of that shot in twelve gauge, because ducks in general and sea ducks in particular are fast as hell and easy to miss. For every duck a hunter brings to hand, he might fire four or five shells. She might fire three or two, by the way.

So on an unrelated trip to that area several weeks ago, I checked Cabela’s in Hamburg, PA. I found a guy on his knees studying eight boxes of shotshells, and describing his find to someone on the other end of his cell phone. And I mean eight boxes total out of what had been a shelving system five feet high and forty feet long once filled with thousands of shotshells, and now containing a grand total of eight boxes of 25 shells each. And four were in 20 gauge, useless to sea duck hunters, who need the maximum power and shot load of a 12-gauge magnum.

So that left four boxes of 12-gauge #3 steel shot, which is OK for regular fresh water ducks but of limited use on sea ducks, which are bigger and tougher. And the guy kneeling down studying them was running his hand over the boxes, and describing them to some unseen prospective buyer chum.

“Tell your friend on the phone that if you don’t buy that 12-gauge right now, I am buying it,” said I to the guy studying the ammo.

“Buy it! Buy it!” came the cry on the other side of the cell phone.

And so I departed Cabela’s with only a flashlight and no steel shot. What the hell people are doing hoarding steel shot is beyond my ability to guess or even imagine. No civil wars will be won with steel shot. No home invaders repelled with steel shot. I don’t believe there are so many waterfowlers that every daggone shell produced is being used as we sit and read this.

And so it went at the other outdoor stores I visited, including mass retailer Bass Pro, where ammunition is usually sold by the truck load. Nothing, nicht, zero. Which then drove me past the retail approach and back into my ancient stashes of hunting ammunition. And indeed, I discovered a wide assortment of waterfowling ammunition accidentally stored in all kinds of odd and dubious places, like wader pockets, inside boots, PFDs, and in crumbling boxes moldering away in musty corners. But at the end of my search, I discovered in total about two boxes worth of steel shot, ranging from 2-3/4″ to 3-inch magnums to half a box of 3.5″ super magnums. Some of the shells needed help, though, before they could be fired in a gun.

And so a Dremel with heavy grit sandpaper was employed to remove heavy rust, and then a small wire brush at high RPMs to give a decent polish. Yeah, I was that desperate, but the work paid off. I was happy to have what I had.

I am pleased to report that the rusty old ammo garnered a healthy haul of ducks, which could be dubbed the rusty ducks.

 

A ring necked duck, an uncommon visitor to the Chesapeake Bay’s southern waters

Rusty old ammo, and happy to have it

Turning rusty old ammo into dubious but functional ammo that worked and got ducks

Sunrise off of Tilghman Island. What life is all about

 

PA’s must-do 21st century deer management policy

When Gern texted me on November 12th “planning to plant the entire farm with grass next Fall… 100%  hay… can’t afford to feed wildlife. Going broke trying to make money,” I knew that my best deer management efforts had finally failed over the past 13 years.

Every year I work hard to make sure our deer season is as productive as possible. Because our tenant farmer pays us a per-acre rent every year, which covers the real estate taxes and some building maintenance, and for 13 years he has grown soybeans, corn and hay in various rotations across the many fields we have. Our arrangement has generally worked out well both ways, but that text message ended my  sense of satisfaction.

While I do wear dirty bib overalls when I run the sawmill and also when I try to impress people who don’t know me, Gern is the actual farmer who tills (broad sense), fertilizes, plants, and harvests a very large farm property in Dauphin County, some of which I own and all of which I manage. Our property is one of many that comprise about 30,000 acres of farm land that Gern and his family cultivate in Central Pennsylvania. To say that his family works hard is the understatement of all understatements. Gern embodies AMERICA! in flesh and spirit, and to see him so utterly beaten down by mere deer is heartbreaking.

Over the years I knew that both overabundant deer and bears were taking a significant toll on our grain crops (Gern’s primary source of family income), and so I worked hard to recruit the kinds of good hunters who would help us annually whittle down the herds, so that the pressure was taken off of our crops. About five years ago I proudly photographed one of our late-summer soybean fields, at about four super healthy feet high, indicating a minimal amount of deer damage. When I passed the soybean field pictures around to other farmers and land managers, nothing but high praise returned. And so I patted myself on the back for our successful deer management, and congratulated our guest hunters, who were killing about 25-35 deer a year on our property. Our hunters were filling an impressive 50% to 65% of the roughly 54 DMAP deer management tags we hand out every year, as well as some of their buck tags and WMU 4C tags.

But, change is life’s biggest constant, and while I rested on my hunting laurels, deer hunting changed under my feet. The past few years have seen a lot of change in the hunting world. First and biggest change is that hunters in Pennsylvania and other states are aging out en masse, with fewer replacements following them. This means that a lot less pressure is being brought to bear on the deer herd. Which means a lot more deer are everywhere, which is not difficult to see if you drive anywhere in Pennsylvania in a vehicle. There are literally tons of dead deer along the side of every road and highway, everywhere in Pennsylvania. We should be measuring this at tons-of-deer-per-mile, not just the number of dead deer and damaged vehicles. Frankly this overabundant deer herd situation is out of control not just for the farmers who feed Americans, but for the people who want to safely drive their vehicles to the grocery store. Hunters are sorely needed to get this dangerous situation under control, and yet Pennsylvania’s deer management policies favor overabundant deer herds to keep older hunters less crabby.

So, because I am about to break out the spotlights and AK47 to finally manage our farm deer the way they need to be managed (and yes, PA farmers are allowed to wholesale slaughter deer in the crops) (and yes, I feel the same way about our favorite forested places in the Northern Tier), here below is the kind of deer management/ hunting policy Pennsylvania needs via the PGC, if we are going to get the out-of-control deer herd genie back into its bottle and stop hemorrhaging farmland on the altar of too many deer:

  1. Archery season is too long. At seven weeks long, the current archery season lets a lot of head-hunters stink up the woods, cull the very best trophy bucks, and pressure the deer enough to make them extra skittish and nocturnal before rifle season begins. Even though rifle season is our greatest deer management tool. The same can be said of bear season, which is the week before rifle season. So shorten archery season and lengthen rifle season, or make the opening week of deer season concurrent with bear season, like New York does.
  2. Rifle season must be longer, and why not a longer flintlock season, too? Is there something “extra special” about deer come the middle of January, that they are prematurely off limits to hunting? Most bucks begin to drop their antlers in early February. Have three weeks of rifle season and then five weeks of flintlock season until January 30th, every year. Or consider flintlock hunting year ’round, or a spring doe season in May.
  3. More doe tags are needed. There are too few doe tags to begin with, and most doe tags sell out and are never used. This is especially true in WMUs 5C and 5D, where despite enormous tag allocations, tags quickly become unavailable. That is because individual hunters can presently buy unlimited numbers of doe tags, for some reason having to do with the way deer were managed in the 1980s…c’mon, PGC, limit of two or three doe tags for each hunter in these high-density WMUs, and at least two doe tags in Big Woods WMUs like 2G and 4C.
  4. Despite good advancements in reducing the regulatory burden on deer hunters this past season, there are still too many rules and restrictions. For example, why can’t our muzzleloading guns have two barrels? Pedersoli makes the Kodiak, a fearsome double percussion rifle that would be just the ticket for reducing deer herds in high deer density WMUs where the PGC says they want more deer harvests. But presently it is not legal. Another example is the ridiculous interruptions in small game seasons as they overlap with bear and deer seasons. This bizarre on-again-off-again discontinuity of NOT hunting rabbits while others ARE hunting deer is an unnecessary holdover from the long-gone, rough-n-ready bad old poaching days of Pennsylvania wildlife management. PA is one of the very few states, if the only one at all, with these staggered small game and big game seasons. Bottom line is hunting is supposed to be fun, and burdening hunters with all kinds of minutiae is not only not fun, it is unnecessary. Other states with far more liberal political cultures have far fewer regulations than Pennsylvania, so come on PA, give fun a try.
  5. Artificial deer feeding with corn, alfalfa, oats etc on private land during all deer and bear seasons must end. Not only does this “I’m saving the poor starving deer” nonsense lead to spreading deadly diseases like CWD, it artificially draws deer onto sanctuary properties and away from nearby hunters. Or it is baiting, plain and simple. Feeding causes overabundant deer to avoid being hunted during hunting season, but then quickly spread out on the landscape where they eat everything out of house and home when hunting season ends. This year up north (Lycoming and Clinton counties) is a prime example. We had no acorns to speak of this Fall, and whatever fell was quickly eaten up by early November. As the weeks rolled on through hunting season, the deer began leaving their regular haunts and unnaturally herding up where artificial feed was being doled out. This removed them from being hunted, and creates a wildlife feeding arms race, where those who don’t feed wildlife run the risk of seeing none at all. So either completely outlaw artificial feeding or let everyone do it, including hunters, so they can compete with the non-hunters. And yes, people who buck hunt only, and who do not shoot does, and who put out corn and alfalfa etc. for deer during hunting season, are not really hunters. They are purposefully meddling in the hunts of other people by trying to keep them from shooting “my deer.”
  6. PGC must better communicate to its constituency that too many deer result in unproductive farms that then become housing developments. Because the landowner and farmer must make some money from the land, if farm land can’t grow corn, it will end up growing houses, which no real hunter wants. So real hunters want fewer deer, at numbers the land and farms can sustain.

 

My Aunt Jess

A little birdy just flew away. It was always a small, gentle, and delicate little thing, and especially so in its final days here on Planet Earth. A lifetime of cigarettes and other things took a toll on her body that even the best of genes could not resist, and tonight there was so little of her left. Now she has spread her little wings and flown the coop, moving into a different place, perhaps a different dimension.

In her side of our family, most people live a long time. Like into their late 90s and well into their 100s; so long that the people around them are eventually like “Look, why don’t you just die already.” My Aunt Jess made it into her 80s, a young’n by our family standards, and had she not attacked her own body with cigarettes and too much other stuff, she would have outlived me and most of the rest of the family.

I owe so much to my Aunt Jess, because she is the one who introduced me to the great outdoors, to Mother Nature, to fishing for brook trout in small Berkshire streams, to patiently watching a humming bird flitting undisturbed among trumpet flowers, sipping nectar from each one. Nature has been the central focus of my life and career, really as a result of Jess’s introduction to it so long ago.

One of my most vivid childhood memories, from 52 years ago no less, is Jess walking along Route 8 with me in Blandford. She pointed out some raccoon tracks in the sand along the road edge, and we studied them closely for a long minute. The long claw marks sticking out from the toes, which were splayed out from the foot pad, really spoke about the kind of beast that owned them. All this fascinated me, and then she gasped and led me twenty feet further along the guard rail.

There, digging a hole in the sandy soil was a mother turtle. We watched her slowly scoop and push the soft dirt away while she created a pretty deep hole for such stubby little legs. She, too, had claws, and they dug deeply into the dirt, so that she could eventually squeeze out her little round, white eggs into the hole. In there they would remain hidden and cool, incubating until they hatched cute little baby turtles. Aunt Jess and I stood there for half an hour, just watching the mother turtle, until she eventually pushed the last bit of dirt over her clutch of eggs and then slid down the bank toward the small brook. Whether it was a wood turtle or a box turtle, I do not now recall, though I am inclined to think and also kind of remember the yellow squiggle pattern of a box turtle.

Another time Aunt Jess threaded the two of us back into the large bog in the woods behind the farm house where my grandparents had retired. Small little carnivorous plants lived there, and she showed me how they lured the ants and other insects into their acidic stomachs. All of this was fascinating to a little boy, and because it was not explained in an academic way, it was even better. Jess’s love for the outdoors and for all things great and small propelled her forward every day. Every little living thing (well, almost all) was a source of love and intrigue to her, though the bears that raided her bird feeders in later years occasionally got a good whoopin’ with a broom. She could tolerate only so much gluttony and welfare mentality.

To wit, one day she was volunteering at Bartholomew’s Cobble, the natural area near her home, and a lady brought in a starling with a broken wing in a shoe box. Jess met the lady at the main counter, and peered into the box. The lady insisted that Jess do something to help this poor starling. Jess resisted, and explained to the nice lady that the starling was a rude invasive bird that destroys a great deal of other birds’ nests and young. Not a bird worth “saving.”

Undeterred, the lady pushed the shoe box back at Jess across the counter and once again insisted that the starling be healed in some way. Jess reached into the box, picked up the starling, wrung its neck, placed it back in the shoe box, and pushed the box back to the lady.

“There. Now it doesn’t have to worry about its broken wing,” Jess said to the unhappy lady.

Despite her antipathy for starlings, or perhaps because of it, Jess enjoyed bird watching, and as a naturalist she racked up a great many bird sightings in her Audubon bird identification book. At one time she traveled far and wide to see some little dickey bird or another, including by canoe, but in later years she was content to put out a rich enough smorgasbord to bring in all of the cool ones, including grosbeaks and warblers that should be far, far away.

Jess taught me how to jig a garden worm on a size twelve Eagle Claw hook for tentative brook trout, so skittish that the slightest movement by any body part other than the rhythmic movement of the wrist and fishing rod would send them scurrying under cut-banks and submerged tree roots for cover. In my own wanderings, I had a fishing guide in Alaska and another in Montana tell me I was the best fly fisherman they had encountered, and I chalked it up to many days spent fooling wily brook trout in small Berkshire and Central Pennsylvania streams (confession here: as a kid I also poached the hell out of the Harpster stretch of Spruce Creek with a fly rod, which required real finesse with a rod and as a Scottish Highlands stalker staying out of sight of the humans; but let’s not talk about that now), all begun by my Aunt Jess.

Last week I told her on the phone that while I was deer hunting this winter, I had at one point been surrounded by juncos and chickadees, whose tameness around humans never ceases to amaze and entertain me. In their sweet chirps and happy flittings, I heard and saw Aunt Jess, and so I told her that whenever I am sitting alone some place and I hear juncos or chickadees, I will hear her voice. She cried, and then I cried, both of us knowing we would miss the other so very much. Gosh, what a gentle soul she has been.

The magic of Nature has never stopped inspiring me, and the passion for conserving it has never left me, to the point where I spend my days working to leave a scant legacy of bird and turtle habitat alive and well, so that future aunts and nephews can take walks and discover magical little moments like a mother turtle laying her eggs, or a rising brook trout in a small plunge pool. I owe all of this to Aunt Jess, who tonight left us, as all flesh must eventually do. But too soon for her clan, and so I must end with this admonition: Please do not smoke cigarettes. They destroy not only the body they enter, but also the hopes and dreams of the loved ones surrounding the smoker.

If you feel like you really have to walk on the wild side and play with fire to get a high, get involved in politics. Or feed the little brown dickey birds in your back yard. Just don’t leave your family too soon, for such an unnecessary reason as cigarettes. My Aunt Jess would heartily agree.