Traveling Trails Less Traveled. By Buckshot Anderson

For October 29th, 2010 Edition.

I would guess I’m not the only person in the world who looks forward with great anticipation to the beginning of a trip/vacation to some favored location. As indicated in last week’s column such an event began early on the morning of October 9th when the Not So Magnificent Seven and their four retrievers headed their trucks west towards the Land of Endless Potholes in the broad expanse of the western prairie country.

This, my 11th annual trip west in quest of waterfowl and cherished memories, has become the highlight of my fall hunting season. Over those eleven pilgrimages to the promised land I’ve shared the experience with many friends, acquaintances and a variety of pooches. The 2010 annual excursion allowed three newcomers to experience the adventure for the first time and all three opted to be included when we (hopefully) head west again in 2011.

Much of the personal joy I receive during our annual weeklong waterfowl hunt is watching the first time members of our group in action. Many of my most memorable memories are of events that take place beyond the confines of the duck blind. A random sampling of which follows.

Our first night stopover takes place in Devils Lake, North Dakota. We always dine at a five star supper club called “The Ranch.” One of the specialties on the menu is bar-b-qued ribs. New members of the group are warned to avoid ordering a full rack of ribs due to the amount that is delivered on a platter rather than a plate.

However, men will be men and when the newcomers read the menu and it refers to those who order a half-rack as “sissies” they always order the full rack, which when delivered to the table makes their eyes almost pop out of their heads! Which also means, all of us snack on “take home’ ribs the following day.

Once we settle in at our rental unit, a quaint old but modernized farmhouse out in the middle of nowhere, senior members of the group take turns providing an evening meal. The only requirement is the main entrée MUST contain duck, goose or both.

A few years ago, after five waterfowl dinners in a row, Terry Byrnes quipped, “Is there a McDonalds anywhere nearby?”

Sorry Terry – no such luck!

Dogs always play a big part in creating lasting memories. And because good retriever are an important cog in the hunting machinery we allow our dogs to live in comfort in the old farmhouse right along with the old hunters.

This year JR DeWitt brought his four-month old female yellow Lab, Nova, along to keep his veteran retriever, Rusty, company and in turn Rusty would help teach the new kid on the block a few tricks of the retrieving trade. On our first evening during our after dinner BS session in the living room Nova continued to do what pups do – mainly cause trouble.

Nova kept climbing up on our laps, jumping on the couch, chewing on the ears of Rusty, Bear and Belle, etc. etc. Her master finally loudly scolded his pup and likened her persistent activity to that of a pesky blowfly. The room erupted in laughter and poor Nova contracted her first nickname!

My current veteran retriever, Belle, enjoyed her eighth western duck hunt. Her first trip west took place in October of 2003 when she was only seven-months old. On our first hunt my hunting companion, Dr. Tom Tilkens, my veteran retriever, Siah, Belle and I canoed to a very tiny island on a very large pothole for an afternoon hunt. While I set up our portable blind, Tom, with the aid of two black Labs, put out our decoys. The last decoy being a battery operated, wing flapping model called “Robo-duck” that rests on a metal pole about two feet above the surface of the water.

As Tom readied Robo for action young Belle stood just behind him watching with curious eyes wondering what was taking place. Once Robo-duck was ready for action Tom flipped the switch and Robo began waving his rotating wings amidst a distinct chattering sound.

I kid you not – dogs can walk on the water! Belle levitated – nearly turned herself inside out and covered the twenty yards of water to the shore in less than a second! Then, with tail between her legs, hair standing upright all along her back while peering between my legs at the electronic decoy, she barked her head off!

Tom and I still get a deep chuckle every time we mentally replay the initial confrontation between Belle and Robo.

Several Octobers later while Tom, my son Chris, Belle and I were spending an afternoon scouting for new potholes to hunt Belle gave us an even more memorable performance. I was driving, Tom occupied the front passenger seat, Chris sat behind me in the rear seat with Belle at his side behind Tom. We stopped atop a high ridge to allow Tom to glass a large pothole below us with his binoculars. Much to our delight the pond was loaded with ducks and geese! However, a deep-throated growl from Belle alerted us to the fact something besides ducks and geese were about!

Our location was south of the pothole and the wind was roaring out of the northwest. Belle’s growl caused us to scan the open prairie side hill between the pond and us. At first we could see nothing out of the ordinary despite the fact Belle continued to growl and her growls were growing in frequency and intensity!

Chris spotted the offending object and pointed it out to Tom and I as his giggles intermixed with Belle’s growls. A huge tumbleweed was being blown uphill towards my truck. It bounced and jiggled like some unknown monster atop a pogo stick. Belle’s eyes were glued to the oncoming weed as the distance between it and us rapidly narrowed.

The course of the tumbleweed was such that it would miss hitting the side of my truck by a few yards. So, I slowly backed the vehicle keeping it in direct line with the approaching object that was causing such fear in my dog.

As the tumbleweed struck the side of my truck Belle jumped sideways onto Chris’ lap with fear etched in her face in an attempt to avoid being devoured by the monster!

In honor of the event we named the pond “Tumbleweed Pond.”

Our final morning hunt for 2010 took place on Tumbleweed Pond. Belle and I occupied a location at the northwest corner of the pond and were entertained by numerous small tumbleweeds rolling past our blind. Belle ignored them.

The two of us ended our annual October hunt in grand style. My veteran companion retrieved two drake mallards and a canvasback. And no growling took place

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:  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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