Traveling Trails Less Traveled. By Buckshot Anderson
For November 9th, 2007 Edition.
As always, Belle and I begin our early morning adventure nearly an hour prior to the time dawn generally paints the eastern horizon pink. The downstream journey by canoe is always invigorating, mentally, physically and spiritually. And although I have made this trip at least a couple hundred times over the past six decades, it is an experience I always look forward to with considerable eagerness.
This morning the sky above us is dark and starless. A nippy northeast wind gently whispers through the nearly bare branches of the tamaracks that line the stream bank and a bit of misty moisture tickles the exposed skin on my face and hands. This is the type of morning a duck hunter prays for!
The trip will take almost exactly twelve minutes. Waiting for us is what I fondly refer to as the “old family duck blind.” Although my present destination is not where the old family duck blind has always been located, it is but a stone’s throw from the original site.
Once the light from the “cat eyes” attached to the brim of my hat is extinguished it takes several seconds for my eyes to adjust to the nearly jet black environment. Before me lies the dim outline of the flowing stream, and the route is one I might possibly be able to navigate with my eyes closed. My built in computer silently reminds me, “keep to the left, watch out for that dead alder jutting out from the right bank on the second bend.” Other well-memorized instructions will follow.
During our silent journey we are almost certain to come upon an unsuspecting muskrat, which will dive just in time to avoid being run over by some monstrous, silent surface running creature. My dog always gets a laugh out of these chance meetings. Sometimes it is the riders in the canoe who get surprised when the muskrat actually turns out to be a beaver and the sharp warning tail slap on the water makes us cringe just a little.
Today the decoys must be set against the far bank, and slightly upwind from where any potential shots may be taken. Birds, like airplanes, always approach their favored landing zones into the wind. (Duck Hunting 101)
Upon reaching the bank where the blind is located the canoe is dragged into the jungle of speckled alders and tipped over to hide it from educated high-flying eyes. The well-used path to the blind is easy to follow, and the rustic wooden stools secured to the time weathered plywood floor are fashionable pieces of furniture for a guy wearing muddy waders.
Without even looking at my watch I know legal shooting time is still over a half-hour away. But this is the time I cherish most. Those minutes that seem to pass so slowly, while I watch and listen to Ma Nature’s world come to life, provide me with a quiet, peaceful time in which I reflect on my future and re-play past outings in this hallowed place. I find this half-hour to be highly therapeutic to body and soul.
Among other things, I count this setting as my personal front row church pew in the most beautiful cathedral our creator ever created. Directly above me towers a magnificent tamarack, shaped like a skillfully constructed tapered church spire. And the music of the wind whispering through its branches could be any of a thousand traditional hymns.
On mornings when it is clear the sky above me is filled with twinkling stars and reflective planets. This is when I am reminded of the total insignificance of mankind. And as I gaze upward I always wonder, “What’s really up there?”
My thoughts eventually shift backwards in time, to memories of a young lad sitting next to his dad awaiting the morning flight. The lessons I was taught in this classic outdoor classroom were eventually handed down to our son and our oldest daughter, both of which have fond memories of sitting beside their dad waiting for the morning flight.
A whistle of wings above in the pre-dawn gloom ignites a whine from Belle. My personal radar set always lets me know when the objects of our quest are up and about. This in turn changes my memory channel to recalling all the wonderful dogs that have been my companions and friends.
Old Pat, a curly haired black cocker spaniel was the first. He gave me 14 wonderful years of memories. Next came Duke, a square headed 110 pound black Lab male that made me a “black Lab” man forever. His only shortcoming was his bullheadedness, but mom always pointed out that all men are bullheaded. No argument there!
Next came Teal, a laid-back 60-pound girl that was all heart. But at 14 even her strong heart gave out while on a hunting trip and she died as I held her in my arms. Now that’s what I call “going out with class!” Maggie was next, a rough, tuff gal who wouldn’t have backed down to a grizzly bear, who could hunt all day and ask for more. Then it was Sadie. A first class lady if there ever was one with a nose like a blue ribbon field champion. Siah was next. She took to retrieving like a duck takes to water. She made her first retrieve when she was only 8 months old with little or no advance training! Two years ago on the final day of duck season Belle and I spread Siah’s ashes in and around this very spot. And now before me sits Belle.
As I peek through the screen of balsam branches her faint outline is etched against the rippling water of the creek. Her head turns ever so slowly left and right and her gaze is skyward in search of what we have come here for. I know full well that at my age Belle most likely will be my last dog. But I’m sure to go out with a champion. She’s a genuine hunting machine who is fully in love with her master. And visa-versa.
I’m now almost finished with my third cup of coffee. A check of my watch indicates it’s only four minutes till legal shooting time. Ducks have already been landing near our decoys and that’s a good sign.
I quietly put my thermos in my gear bucket and take out my duck calls. Next I slip three number 3 steel duck loads into my faithful shotgun. The metallic clank of the bolt closing coaxes another low whine from Belle. She, unlike my gun, has been primed and loaded since before we arrived on site.
And now it’s time.
Mr. Leon "Buckshot" Anderson is one of the few old time hunting and fishing guides left in Northern Wisconsin. Buckshot is a personal friend of the family and has known and worked with my grandfather, Howard "Pop" Dean, both of whom are members of the fresh water fishing hall of fame, Legendary Guide. Buckshot has authored 7 books on the great outdoors. All of his books can be purchased directly from him, at a discount, by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to: 2220 Deadman's Gulch Road, St. Germain, WI 54558.
Books by Leon "Buckshot" Anderson Click Here
Yes; Deadman's Gulch is the correct name, I have been on that road many times. Sincerely David D. Cruger
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