Note: This article first appeared in Mid-America Waterfowl magazine
Chances are if you are a duck hunter, you have heard the stories of people involved in accidents. Guys who sank their boat; the guy who fell through the ice and drowned chasing a crippled duck. Most of us hear these stories and genuinely feel bad for them and their families, because as fellow duck hunters, they are our brothers and sisters.
Yet, the messages of these stories tend to go through one ear and out the other. Recently a buddy and I were involved in the kind of incident most of us think will not and cannot happen to us — but it did!
On Sunday, November 11, three friends and I began our day at a draw-in waterfowl area. But as each of us drew a pill from the box, it became apparent we would not be hunting there that day. Instead then, we hustled an hour and a half to a lake that has been real good to us duck hunting-wise the past few years. We had a spot in mind, reached it by boat, and began setting decoys for a shoot.
It was raining, freezing rain, flurrying. Then it stopped — and began to rain mallards. There were ducks everywhere, and of every kind. Between the four of us, we had 10 greenheads, 3 hen mallards, and a mixture of other ducks.
In all the great shooting, fun and excitement, it never crossed our minds that for a couple of us, this hot-barrel duck hunt might be our last.
It was getting close to 1 o’clock. I had promised my folks I would be home by 2 for a Thanksgiving dinner. So, Trent decided that while two of our friends started picking up the decoy spread, he and I would motor across the lake to my pickup. He would then run back and shuttle the others and the gear across the water to their vehicle.
As Trent and I were idling along (yes, I said idling), we were still amazed at the amount of birds flying. Even though we had limited out and were getting off the lake, there were still tons of birds in the air. It was a day of duck hunting every duck hunter dreams of.
At the same exact instant, we both shifted our gaze from the sky … to the stump in front of us!
“Stick!” we yelled simultaneously.
The stump, angled just right, made the boat go straight up and sideways at the same time. It all happened in a matter of seconds. The four life jackets that had been within arm’s reach now seemed miles away as water poured into the boat. Trent yelled, “Grab the life jacket!”
I ended up grabbing one; however, thinking back as the boat was rolling, I just kind of stood there. So MANY things go through your head in seconds and I froze, thinking “this is really happening.” Trent hopped out the back of the boat by the motor as I jumped away from the boat. Once again, everything took place in a matter of seconds.
I went underwater and popped back up — but not without a struggle.
The water was cold, and even though I’m a good swimmer I was finding it difficult with my waders and amount of clothing I had on. Luckily I was with someone who was calmer and was able to direct me in what to do. He shouted, “Kick your waders off and relax!”
Thinking back to those stories we’ve all read before, I remembered that’s the first thing they always tell you to do in such an incident: kick your waders off. I always thought if that was me, I would drown because it takes a person to stand behind me and pull my waders on. So how was I supposed to get them off in an accident?
However, when I undid the straps, my waders seemed to just fall off. I swam toward the boat. We were probably 75 yards from shore at this point. Trent tried to pull me on top of the boat with him. But it was not going to hold the weight of both of us on top, so I stayed in the water and held onto his hand and a handle on the boat.
Trent yelled back to our buddies who were picking up decoys, “Hey, call 911, we flipped the boat!” We were 200 yards from where we were hunting, so I can understand why one just looked over and yelled “What happened?” But it didn’t take long to for him to see what was going on. Then both of them bolted out of the water and grabbed their cell phones. Well, one of them grabbed his cell phone — the only one out of the four of us who even had his phone.
While I was sitting there floating, freezing, panicking, I heard Trent make the comment, “Man, my boat is trashed, huh?”
That was the last thing I wanted to hear! I told him, “Your boat!? What about my gun, what about my Canon camera?”
Just as that last word rolled off of my tongue, my camera came floating to the surface in its Pelican case — right in front of me.
I looked at Trent and told him, “I am going to float on this and kick my way to shore.” He said he would only let me go if I knew for sure I was going to make it.
“I think so,” I said.
The air-tight camera case was all I had for a floatation device. All other life jackets were lost as the boat rolled … including the one I once grasped in my hand. When your boat flips, it is like a hand grenade goes off inside, especially if the wind is blowing. Spare gas cans, marsh seats, guns, even the ducks you shot that day … go every which way and you wonder if you will ever even see any of these things again.
That is, of course, after you worry if anyone will ever see you again.
I swam for shore. I was within 30 yards when I felt like my efforts to reach shore were not working out. I wasn’t going anywhere anymore. So I decided it must be my coveralls and rain jacket dragging me down, just as my waders had. So I kicked them off as well, keeping my coveralls in one hand and my camera case in the other. I figured if I was going to survive, I might as well keep something, considering I had lost all my other things. Also, I didn’t want to have to replace everything in my wallet.
I made it another 15 yards and once again my momentum quit. But this time, as I kicked my feet in another panic, I felt one foot touch bottom.
Then I hit the ground running. I ran to my truck shedding clothing, socks, shorts — every layer I had on, figuring wet clothes weren’t going to do me any good.
I got to my truck, turned the heat on, took my phone out of the glove box and dialed 911. They barely got out “911 what’s your emergency?” before I was shouting where I was and what happened. The lady asked if I was okay and said that someone had already dialed 911, that I should stay in my truck and wait for them, and that is what I did.
About five minutes after I reached my truck, help arrived. But before it did, I received a casual call from my Dad, just wondering how the hunting had gone that day. What he got was me crying saying I was so sorry and that we had flipped the boat and where we were at and that I was so sorry. I told him it was just me and that Trent was still out there — and he immediately assumed the worst. He informed my Mom, and they both headed out to where we were. By the time they got there, the Conservation Department had already arrived with a boat to pick up Trent. He, too, was escorted to an ambulance and treated for hypothermia and pneumonia.
I was worried my Mom would be mad that I had single-handedly ruined our early Thanksgiving dinner plans. Yet to my surprise, she was not. I was embraced by both of my parents in a way that you could feel their relief.
All and all, everything turned out okay that day. We had to give the sheriff’s department and Conservation agents our statements of what happened, and we both were allowed to go home without taking an ambulance ride to a hospital. Even my camera was bone-dry inside the Pelican case!
However, my gun, shell bag, and waders, including Trent’s boat were now property of the lake.
We were lucky to be alive in my opinion. God was really watching over us that cold, windy Sunday.
But it doesn’t end there! The following Wednesday, God was with us again as Trent was able to recover his boat. When they dragged the boat in, it acted like a scoop across the bottom and they were also able to recover my gun, waders, shell bag, even the ducks I had shot that day! Sounds like a great story, right? Everyone turned out unscathed, and everything was recovered without damage except a swamp seat or two.
You know, my sister asked my Dad a week after the event if Trent and I could have really died. My Dad paused and said that we very well could have but we were fortunate enough to know we had to kick our waders off and get out of the chilled water. We owe that knowledge to stories such as this one.
In addition, to highlight our mistakes, we had four life jackets in the boat, all within arm’s reach. But in seconds, they were out of reach.
Things could have been a whole lot worse. I hope as a duck hunter that none of my fellow hunters ever have to go through something such as this. As you know though, things happen in an instant that we can’t explain. To break this thing down, be prepared, wear a life jacket, have a cell phone, make sure someone knows where you are hunting, and try not to panic if things do take a turn for the worse.
To everyone, have a great hunt, but most importantly — make it a safe hunt.
As the sun set the other night on the highway coming home from snow goose hunting, it was almost like it was setting on my season as well. Every year I say that I am probably not going to get to hunt as much as last year and then the next year rolls around and I say the same thing. Well this year was no exception either. As the fall rolled around instead of going to Highland Community College like I did last year, this year I was going to Kansas State. And you guessed it like the previous years before I said to myself, “hmm probably not going to get to hunt as much this year because of college.” Turned out I was completely wrong.
As it turned out even with working part time and taking 15 credit hours this year’s season was good to me! I still found time to scout and hunt sometimes even quick ones before class. Although the spring conservation order for snows is still not over yet; I just feel as though my season is at a close with being deep into this second semester and work piling up! (I am taking 18 credit hours this semester and working 20 to 30hrs a week.) Nevertheless, this year we still managed to scratch out 198 ducks, 103 Canada Geese, 1 speck, and 529 snows. I realize there are people out there who have shot way more than this and way less than this but I feel like it’s a good number for people who have a lot on their plates.
The main thing I want to emphasize is to never set the standards of your season before your season. This year I focused a bunch on quality of hunts instead of quantity. I knew that I was going to get to go on many hunts so the ones that I did go on I had to make them count. So scouting played an important role this year, especially hunting in an area I am not entirely familiar with! Although the odds seemed to be against us at times everything still turned out okay in the end. Sometimes it’s not always about train wrecking the birds each hunt. Sometimes it’s just the experience.
Just like the young K-State basketball team, even though we didn’t win the national championship we had some good games! Just beating KU at home should be considered a success; it goes back to the quantity VS quality. Although we didn’t rack up a huge win streak (quantity) we still had (quality) by beating KU. Just like Wichita State. If you look at the grand scheme of things yes, it was a bummer they didn’t win the national championship either, but if I was a senior on that squad you can end your season knowing you went the longest run undefeated!
It’s February, 24, 2014. That means only 8 weeks until Ohio’s spring turkey season opens! Now if you follow me on Twitter or read my past blogs, you’ll know turkey season is by far my favorite past time. There’s nothing better than hearing a gobbler sound off on a crisp, cool morning. But since I have 8 weeks before I head into the woods after some hard-headed gobblers, I need to do some preparing.
Here are just a few steps that I take when preparing for spring turkey season.
- Dust off those calls-I break out my calls in February. Sometimes I think my fiancée starts to get irritated by all the yelping, clucking & purring, but she understands this is a passion! One of the best tips I could give is to take your mouth calls with you on car rides and throw them in while you’re driving. You won’t irritate anyone and you’ll be able to fine tune your skills.
- Gear Inventory-Now’s the perfect time to go through all of your gear. I like to sit down and make a list of all the turkey hunting stuff I have and will need for the season. I take this time to go through and make sure my decoys are good to go, along with make sure I have enough shells to make it through the season.
- Pattern your gun-I always spend some time on the range before season. I like to know just how far my gun is effective at. Now I don’t spend a ridiculous amount of money on shells, so I know I’m confident to about 40 yards. Some like to know their guns are capable of shooting a turkey at 60 plus yards, but I’m not spending $40 for a box of shells. My $20 box will do just fine!
- Scout, scout, scout-About 4 weeks before season, I like to get out and walk the woods to see where the turkeys are hanging out. Because I generally hunt the same few properties each year, I have a pretty good idea. But the time I don’t scout will be the time the turkeys change their spring patterns. It’s also good to drive around in the evenings and listen to where the birds are roosting at night. I know the old saying of “Roosted Ain’t Roasted,” but I’d much rather know where he’s sleeping and try to kill him off the roost than to go in blind.
It’s here—the end of archery season. For many of us, that’s a bitter-sweet time. On one hand, you’re able to kick back and relax. Maybe spend some time with your family. On the other hand, that means you have a while before it’s time to climb back into that tree stand. There are a lot of different things you can do to keep you occupied. I’ve compiled the top 5 things I like to do until that magical time in September.
1. TURKEY HUNT: Turkey hunting is by far my biggest past time. Nothing gets me more jacked up than hearing a big ole gobbler sound off in the distance on a sunny morning. As soon as opening day comes in April, I’m in the woods as much as I can trying to fill my tags.
2. 3D SHOOTS: The spring & summer is a perfect time to tune your archery skills at your local club’s 3D shoots. I recently started shooting 3D, and I have to say, it’s a blast! It’s a great time to go fling some arrows, and it definitely helps improve your accuracy.
3. TRADE SHOWS: This time of the year is when I like to catch up on all of my local trade shows. I try to attend as many as possible to keep up on what’s going on in the hunting industry and see what new products will be coming out. In Ohio, I generally attend the Columbus Deer & Turkey Expo and the Cleveland Outdoor Adventure Show. In fact, CollegiateCamo will have a booth at the Monster Buck Classic in Kansas Jan. 24-26! Stop by and see us.
4. GEAR INVENTORY: It’s always a good practice to make sure all of your gear is in working order. I like to go through it all, clean it up, and put it away for next season. It definitely helps make everything last longer when it’s take care of.
5. FISHING: What’s more enjoyable than sitting on the lake or pond fishing? There’s not a whole lot more that can be as relaxing as casting a line and just chilling out for a few hours.
The BCS bowls were released Dec. 8, so now is when you should start planning on your party for your team’s big game. Below is a list of the games with dates & times.
- BCS National Championship: Florida State Seminoles vs. Auburn Tigers
- Orange Bowl: Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Clemson Tigers
- Sugar Bowl: Oklahoma Sooners vs. Alabama Crimson Tide
- Fiesta Bowl: UCF Knights vs. Baylor Bears
- Rose Bowl: Michigan State Spartans vs. Stanford Cardinal
Your team not in a BCS bowl game? No problem! CollegiateCamo has more than 40 schools available for official camouflage apparel, decal and gear.
Let me start that no hunter should ever expect to fill a tag. It is a privilege that we are able to hunt and being in the woods is part of the reason I love hunting so much. That being said I had high hopes going into my vacation. I had planned it out for almost a year and thought that since I killed my buck last year on November 2 that I would try a bracket that date and then leave some time for after that date in case rutting activity had not fully exploded.
My camera was revealing mature bucks were in the area but limited movement during the daytime. No matter I was still excited to be hunting feeling that that could change any day while I was on vacation. I was keep contact with fellow pro staffer Brad Tansey and we were comparing notes. Neither of us was really seeing the activity we were expecting.
Best opportunity was on Nov. 2 at about the end of shooting light I had a mature 8-point come by and stops at my stand 20 yards. I contemplated shooting him for 10 minutes and decided to let him pass being I had a whole week of hunting left. Looking back maybe I should have released that arrow.
I continued to talk with Brad during the week that I still wasn’t seeing the rutting activity that everyone else was experiencing. Checking forums and seeing pictures coming across social media of big bucks being taken had me wondering if I was in the wrong spot on the property, or was the doe to buck ratio out of control on the property I hunt? I was running every imaginable possibility through my mind.
I ended my vacation on Nov. 11 without filling my buck tag as of yet. Still have a lot of season left.
Let me just start with the fact that I’m having mixed emotions this year about the rut. I’ve hunted more this year since moving closer to home with my fiancée. With anticipation of November coming up, I decided to take two vacation day Nov. 7-8 to hunt the Ohio rut. Here lies the problem. The rut wasn’t in. I’ve been seeing things all over Facebook & Twitter about how bucks are chasing does and the rut was in full swing. Not in my neck of the woods.
I kept in close contact with fellow Pro Staffer Chris Travers via text to see how his Ohio rut was panning out because he took some vacation time as well. He had some activity, but nothing that truly indicated the rut was full-blown. I tried to read up and form a general opinion about all of the rut guides and professionals giving their advice for rut hunters across the country. My opinion is that the rut happens at different times for different areas. I know that might sound like something that’s common sense, but if you really think about it, different deer do different things at different times. Common sense, right? Well with all of the rut guides and tips out there, it’s easy for hunters just getting started to believe the rut is going to be the same few days in Iowa as it is in Northeast Ohio.
Some may disagree, but that’s my honest opinion. From now on, I’m going to stop putting so much emphasis on what the guides say and more on what my deer are actually doing. As I write this blog on Nov. 13, I would say the rut is probably picking up in my neck of the woods. I started seeing some scrapes and rubs toward the end of last week when I had to go back to work. Go figure!
Whether the rut was in or it wasn’t, I still had a blast. I wouldn’t trade being in the woods for anything. You can bet I’ll be out there again Hoyt in hand ready to release an arrow.
Well November has arrived and here in Ohio it has blown in with a force. First morning in the stand and I felt like I was riding the Tilt-a-Whirl at the local carnival. Afternoon and evening sitting turn into all day affairs. Warmer clothes, lunch in the tree and keeping your friends updated at work on what’s going on in the woods.
Over the past year I have developed a friendship with fellow pro-staffer Brad Tansey and it has allowed us to push each other to be better hunters and people. This is what hunting is about to me – enjoying what nature as to offer and the friendships that are built from hunting. I hope in a few years I will be able to pass the passion I have for hunting and the lessons I have learned onto my children.
Team Realtree says it best – “Family Friends and the Outdoors.”
Happy and Safe Hunting!
As the ol’ saying goes “oh the places you’ll go” I have never felt this statement to be more true until this year at K-State. As a part of the 5th Class of Wildlife and Outdoor Management program I have gotten some amazing opportunities in the past month. I have met with Larry Potterfield of Midway USA to see how he and his hardworking staff strive to be the number one business in America. In addition I got to attend a Q & A session with James “Dr. Deer” Kroll. And let me tell you they don’t call him “Dr. Deer” for nothing. More recently however we students got to go to Raton New Mexico to spend a week at the NRA Whittington Center to learn about firearms and firearm maintenance, as well as shooting range design and maintenance.
It was an incredible experience. On the first day we spent the day touring all the multiple ranges that they have to offer, which is basically everything. They have everything from skeet to five stands for shotguns, various pistol ranges, and even a 1000m range to accommodate the long range shooters. We talked about how each range was designed back when the center was established and what they would change if they could go back and redo it all. We also talked about the various shooting events that are held on each ranges like 3 gun nationals, and FCSA long range competitions.
In the next few days we had to opportunity to learn and be certified in handgun and rifle safety and operations. Once that was completed the shooting began. We are a cohort of 48 students on this trip but that didn’t mean we weren’t able to let off some rounds. I can honestly say I have never shot so many pistol and rifle rounds in one day! The highlight of this day however came when we got to see a massive bull elk harvested by one of the guests of the Whittington Center. Yes, I said bull elk. The Whittington Center is unique in that in can accommodate all types of shooters but also hunters. Because of the topography and location of the ranch they are able to host trophy bull elk, mule deer, and pronghorn hunts!
And speaking of elk on the final day of our trip to New Mexico we took a trip up the mountains to tour Ted Turner’s Vermejo Park Ranch. It is one of the world’s premium hunting, fishing, and tourism resorts. We were led on a tour through the departments and all the various aspects of the park that make it world class. We listened to the parks Range Manager, talked about their natural gas wells on the park, and even had the opportunity to get up close in personal with one of the bison herds that roam the ranch. (The Bison being only 1 of 6 pure bison herds left in the country)
It was a week full of experiences I will never forget. Not to mention the wealth of knowledge that was passed down to us from people like Wayne Armacost, and Robbie Roberts from the Whittington Center, and Mark Kossler and staff of Vermejo Park Ranch. I cannot thank these guys enough for taking time out of their busy schedules to accommodate the 5th class of Wildlife and Outdoor Enterprise Management Students here at K-State!
For those of you reading this don’t forget to share your recent trips or hunting adventures with CollegiateCamo on Facebook and Twitter! Be safe as the hunting season starts to really pick up here in the next few weeks! Happy Hunting!