Traveling Trails Less Traveled. By Buckshot Anderson
For September 26th, 2008 Edition.
As you read this article, let it be known we who live in Northern Wisconsin are on the eve of one of my favorite days of the year, -- the opening of duck season! I’ve often stated before if I were (God forbid) forced to choose one and only one outdoor activity I’d keep duck hunting without a second’s hesitation! I became infected with the incurable affliction at age eleven and there seems to be no cure in sight.
Three weeks ago Belle and I embarked on a mission, an annual mission that I have taken for nearly six decades. It was a Sunday morning and the Packers were scheduled to play on Monday night, so I had all day to complete the much needed and much anticipated project. It was time to get the old family duck blind ship-shape for the upcoming waterfowl season.
Belle figured out immediately what was in the wind as soon as I removed my hip boots from the wall of my workshop and slipped them on my feet and legs. My pal began to prance and dance, eyes wild with anticipation with her tail wagging sixty per.
Now to the uninformed, getting a duck blind primed and ready for action may seem like a fairly simple task. Wrong! As with most undertakings in the wonderful world of Ma Nature, the dreaded “Murphy’s Laws” often enter the mix. You know his main law, “If anything can go wrong, it will.” Well, it did!
The first step in preparing to get the old duck blind ready for occupation is to cut a substantial pile of balsam boughs, which are used to camouflage the exterior of the blind so the sharp eyed mallards, teal and wood ducks won’t see the nimrod(s) hunkered down inside the enclosure. Said boughs must be harvested on private property, as it is a serious “no-no” to harvest any type of living vegetation on state or federally owned land. Lucky me, Wifee Poo and I own a fifteen-acre swamp, so harvesting boughs or whatever else that grows there is no problem. Except for Murphy!
Many different species of wildlife live in swamps. And at this time of the year the most dreaded and dangerous critters that inhabit swamps are evil hornets, both yellowjackets and white-faced models!
Both varieties frequently build underground nests in the spongy floors of swamps, especially under clumps of sphagnum moss that often encompass ancient rotting tree trunks. Over the years I’ve encountered these hidden traps quite often, which has resulted in many up close and personal encounters with the residents, as well as a few “ouches.” If one quickly realizes they have stumbled into one of these hidden underground nests and vacates the immediate area rapidly, generally you’ll escape without getting harpooned. But if you do get harpooned, -- you’ll know it!
Well, the balsam bough harvest went well, that is until I began dragging the bundle of boughs out of the swamp. Yep, you guessed it, - I stumbled upon an underground yellowjacket nest! Suddenly the air around me was filled with angry buzzing armed hornets! Trying to run wearing hip boots while dragging a large bundle of balsam boughs does not resemble a track star doing the 100-meter dash! Especially when seventy-year old legs are trying to do the running!
But luck was with we! Probably due to the relatively low morning temperature, which was hovering in the upper 40s, the squadron of attackers was a bit groggy. Had this event taken place later in the day the conclusion of this chance encounter would have probably been much different.
I’m sure most of you know hornets become highly aggressive as we sink deeper into summer and approach early fall. Anyone who has hummingbird feeders knows those sugar-flavored feeders often attract more hornets then hummers during this period. The best way to fight back is to exterminate as many of the poisonous pests as possible. My suggestion is to buy or make a hornet trap.
There are several different commercially built hornet traps on the market. Take your pick. But it is also simple to make a highly effective hornet exterminator without spending any money or wasting time shopping for one. I’ve explained how to build one before, but for those who missed that article, here’s a recap.
Take a large plastic or metal bucket, - those five gallon utility plastic buckets are perfect. Put about two inches of water in the bucket. Suspend a chunk of cooked chicken, or steak, or better yet, the freshly filleted carcass of a fish inside the bucket above the water. Place the bucket outside on a table or chair or a stump or whatever and sit back and wait for the buzzers to arrive.
Here’s how it works. Hornets like meat. Hornets are also gluttons, -- chowhounds, -- compulsive eaters. They will land on your offering and eat, eat, eat until they are too heavy to fly. When they take off, -- it’s like watching a plane attempting to take off an aircraft carrier with insufficient speed! The overloaded hornets will crash-land in the water and having no life vest, -- they drown! Try it, you’ll like it!
Now, the rest of the story. The harvested camouflage was transported to my canoe, which was the vehicle needed to transport Belle and I to our destination. Along our route we encountered numerous red-winged blackbirds, a pair of kingfishers, plus a family of wood ducks and several mallards.
The church spire shaped tamarack tree that has towered over the old family duck blind was still cloaked in iridescent green needles, soon to be changing to yellow and finally gold, when the wicked winds of November will remove them. The speckled alders were still fully leaved. Majestic stands of cattails waved in the gentle breeze and the dark blue sky above was laced with fleecy cumulous clouds. Ma Nature knows how to decorate her home!
After the fresh balsam boughs were properly distributed around my blind I settled back on the time weathered wooden bench that has supported my weight and that of friends and family members for oh so many seasons. Needless to say, fond memories were numerous.
Before leaving, Belle and I said our silent thanks to the spirit of Siah, our 5th black Lab, as her ashes were scattered around this cherished location on the final day of the waterfowl season in the fall of 2006.
Tomorrow, plus numerous times during the next sixty days, we shall return!
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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