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 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.
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.
After 5 years, the Producers of the Award-Winning Heartland Bowhunter present Heartland Waterfowl! HB Executive Producers Michael Hunsucker and Shawn Luchtel have teamed with passionate Midwest waterfowl hunters Ronnie Philips and Logan Burditt; who have pieced a quality team that have enthralled themselves with the HB concept. This successful concept will offer a waterfowl show unlike any other in the industry. Like HB, Team HW tells a compelling story through creative filming and honest experiences while incorporating and promoting the true ethics of waterfowl hunting and endorsing the sport to women, children and those less fortunate. As Heartland Bowhunter has strived to be one of the most watched outdoor television programs available, it is of the same mindset that Heartland Waterfowl incorporate professional production guidelines and expectations to motivate this team to be the very best in the industry!
“I’m honored and humbled to be working with the very best in the industry of outdoor television. Heartland Bowhunter TV has set a whole new standard to the word “quality”. With my experience in entertainment, marketing and promotions with my passion for waterfowl hunting, I’ve been able to establish an amazing working relationship with the HB Team. My Heartland Waterfowl TV partner and co-host, Logan Burditt, has a tremendous amount of waterfowl hunting experience. He also fits in our concept extremely well with his knowledge and understanding of what it takes to live up to the HB standard. Heartland Waterfowl will be aggressively traveling the country this fall to capture the most compelling story lines and creative footage, as the show is projected to air in July 2013.”
~ Ronnie Phillips
Be sure to check out the trailer at http://www.heartlandwaterfowl.com/
The Colorado State University Rams Shotgun Team is hosting their annual Memorial Shoot on Saturday, April 28th 2012. This is an event to remember two girls who changed many lives for the better and to cherish new friends made through the team. The shoot is open to everyone who would like to join us at the Kiowa Creek Sporting gun club. It will include a full round of Sporting Clays and a Flurry for new and experienced shooters alike.
To give you a little background, Abi Rice and Heather Nielsen left us pre-maturely in 2003 and 2005, but they did leave a legacy of fun and friends with the CSU Shooting Team. It was never important to be the winner, but instead to have fun and make sure everyone around you was having fun. While these two young ladies will be greatly missed, we take their lessons to us dearly to heart. Always tell your family that you love them and your friends are the family you choose. The team has continued to be like a big family – from leaning on each other for times of need and sharing accomplishments, to laughing and crying, fighting like siblings, and helping with classes. These two remarkable young women have found a way of bringing strangers together and growing acquaintances into lasting friendships.
Every year we remember them in our own special way, with a day of shooting while in the presence of great friends, family, and fellow shooters. The money raised helps the Colorado State University Shotgun Sports Team to continue on making wonderful memories and to compete with other colleges in shotgun sports. Come join us for fun and shooting!
If you would like to sign up for a day full of fun, here are the details:
Kiowa Creek Sporting
46700 E. County Road 30
Bennett, CO 80102
Registration & Entry Fees:
Individual = $60.00
4 person teams = $200.00
Flurry After Lunch
CSU Shotgun Sports
Madeline Robinson by April 20th
Last week I attended the 44th Annual ACUI National Clay Target Championship in San Antonio, Texas at the National Shooting Complex. This shoot gathered almost 50 institutions with 510 competitors in total, a new record for this competition. It was this year that I realized… it’s about so much more than the actual competition.
This is a competition where outdoor enthusiasts congregate with the common interest of shooting clay targets. Even within that main group, it gathers trap shooters, skeet shooters and sporting clays shooters; everybody usually has their specialty within the shotgunning world. While on the field or course, shooters are doing everything humanly possible to bring a respectable score to the board to represent their school. Off the field, new friendships are being created and established friendships are being rekindled; there is not a distance possible to extinguish these relationships.
One particular day, I was on the sporting clays range giving moral support to “my team”, Colorado State University (CSU), and we were following the new University of Texas (UT) squad. A little over halfway through the course one of the UT shooters (who used to shoot for CSU) had a gun malfunction which was causing the top barrel in his gun not to fire. Naturally, I wandered his way to ensure that the situation was under control and to calm him after this frustrating incident. We discussed his options and he decided to use his backup gun for the rest of the course.
After completing the course his father took his gun to a local gunsmith to take a closer look at it. Then I got a phone call from the shooter saying his gun couldn’t be repaired in time to shoot the rest of the competition. Understanding his frustration, I offered to look and see if there was something I could do to help. We met up and realized we didn’t have the necessary tools to do the job… Other fellow shooters saw our distress and came to our rescue. Competitors from three different institutions generously let us borrow their tools so we could get a closer look.
The boy’s father brought over the new firing pins that he had recently purchased… now came a new hurdle… After ho-humming a while, more fellow shooters came over to offer help. When all was said and done I wouldn’t be surprised if we had 25 generous helpers compiling our knowledge to help a fellow gun enthusiast to be able to shoot the rest of the competition. These students belonged to schools such as Kansas State University, Southeastern Illinois College, Lindenwood University, UT, CSU and I’m sure several others. Finally, it was complete and the problem was resolved.
When all was said and done, a few shooters and I hung back awhile and discussed how unique the shooting industry is. This is probably one of few to none competitions where rivals and competitors came together to help someone from another team to fix their equipment so they could continue the contest. Through this, new friendships were born and many more were