Posts Tagged ‘photography’

We used to go on more hikes and more adventures with our canine friends, but over time, work and illness limited what we’ve been able to accomplish.  Last year we went to Joe Kurz WMA one time in the off season with the dogs, and just walking around the loop at Lodge road from the gate wore most of them out. It was a hot day, and even with a trip down to the river, the dogs were plain tired when we got back to the truck.

Fast forward a little over a year, and Brody is gone.  While discussing where to take the dogs on a day off last week, I pointed out that we had never hiked Red Top Mountain state park, because ten years ago when we first went there, my wife didn’t feel well and we only walked for about fifteen minutes before deciding to drive home again.

So we got our supplies together and packed up the truck. Cinders, Missy, Zelda and especially Gretchen were going nuts because RIDE IN THE CAR! HIKE! YAAAAAH! I always carry a LOT of water on these hikes, along with other gear.  What I should have taken was a wheelbarrow, because three miles into a five mile plus hike, Zelda was done.RTM_Zelda

Zelda lost the genetic lottery on just about every level.  She has severe allergies to most proteins, and is moderately allergic to rest of the proteins on the blood test.  She has seasonal allergies. She has the ‘slope back’ inbred German Shepherd shuffle, she’s near sighted (she walked into a tree on the hike, face first. She didn’t even hesitate, just ‘trudge, trudge, BOOP, whaaaa?’)   When she stands still, her back legs are touching each other, and her back feet are splayed out at a 45 degree angle. We may have to get her tested for Degenerative Myelopathy, because she’s seven now, and getting worse in her clumsiness.  We have a chain of rugs all over the house because she has a panic attack if she has to cross open hardwood floors.   At this point, she’s on antibiotics because she decided to stick her nose in one of the cats’ faces one too many times (WHAP!) and it got infected, and because of her chronic skin infection, she’s on steroids for the skin issues as well, and Apoquel, which is twice a day for her allergies.

This is a dog that gets stuck on the couch, because if we call her name from the dining room, we’re on the other side of the couch, and she can’t figure out how to get down unless we come over to the front of it. I’m not joking.

We decided on the Homestead trail, a 5.8 mile loop that has a decent amount of lake shore views, and honestly, it’s one of the nicest, easiest trails that I’ve been on in a long time. It’s wide, fairly rock-free, (some areas have loose stones, but that looks like erosion, not like some of the trails I’ve been on, where it looks like volunteers intentionally rake rocks on the trails because they never actually use them.  I’m looking at you, Pine Mountain.) and whoever graded the trail to begin with made the elevation changes very manageable.  There are benches spaced throughout the trail, and it’s very well marked.

So there we are, with Cinders, our twelve year old German Shorthaired Jerkdog (he’s a jerk. You’d have to know him to know how big of a jerk he is, but we love him.) had been PULLING me all day, because despite having done this dozens and dozens of times, being on a leash, to him, means ‘Pull, pull hard, never stop pulling…’  So, in the front of the hike, I’ve got the oldest and youngest dogs, Cinders and Missy, with Cinders pulling for all he’s worth, and at the back of the hike is Lisa with Gretchen and Zelda, and Zelda would prefer to be carried. All eighty plus pounds of her. There is no couch. There is no TV, she doesn’t want to be here, at all.

When we got to the loop intersection of Homestead, my wife said ‘I don’t know if the Pointed Dog can make this hike,’ because Zelda was already looking tired.  We discussed it for a bit, and finally decided to go ahead, but take it slow. Halfway through the loop, almost exactly, we realized we’d made a mistake.  She would walk for ten to fifteen yards, trip over her own back feet, and lay down. The wife would  help her stand again, and the process would repeat.  We had forgotten her boots as well, because the dog will not or cannot pick her feet up, so she was starting to get sore spots from dragging her back paws when she walked.  I noticed on the walking app that we were, by this point, parallel to one of the roads, and suggested that we walk to the edge of the road, where the wife could wait with the dogs and my pack, and I would speed-walk back to the truck and come get them.  And that was the final plan.

The splits on the walking app look hilarious. 53 minute miles,  until the last 1.3 miles, which I did by myself in under twenty minutes.

For three days after the hike, I was very worried about Zelda. She wouldn’t even stand up without help. I had to carry her up and down the stairs to out to the yard, and once out there, she would just stand in the grass and look at me.  But my wife reported that when she got home, the dog was stiff, but up and moving and doing her business outside with minimal help. (I worked twelve hour midnight turn the three days after the hike) It occurred to me that Zelda wouldn’t get up and move because she thought I was going to make her walk ‘forevers’ again.

So, on to the next plan, getting her into better shape, one short walk at a time, until we can go back to hiking more often.

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He Was My Friend

Posted: 07/25/2017 in dogs, Hunting
Tags: ,

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Brody, at his best.

Sometime in early 2008, my wife sent me a text with a photo of a German Shorthaired Pointer in bad shape.  She was working as a manager at a major pet store chain, and a customer had brought in a dog that was in bad shape from neglect.  The customer told my wife that they had noticed this dog, and it’s condition, and had confronted the owner, who promptly said ‘take it then.’

He was between 37-40# when we brought him home.

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All he really had left was a kind of quiet dignity.  He was physically very weak, having to stop and catch his breath multiple times just to walk around the backyard.  I was in physical therapy for my own injuries at the time, so I could feed him small amounts every other hour or so at first, to get him used to eating again. It was heart-breaking to watch him painfully lay on the ground and root under the cabinets for any stray piece of food the other dogs might have knocked out of their bowls.  It took almost a month to get him used to regular meals again, and probably a year before he stopped searching for every piece of kibble, every meal. During that year, his strength came back, and he shed completely as good nutrition finally started to repair his coat.  The vet guessed that he was between three and four years old, but we’ve never been sure of his age.

He had nightmares.  We noticed that he had bad scabs from sleeping on what we guessed was a concrete pad. He didn’t know how to drink water out of a bowl,and would stick his face in it and clomp his jaws.  After the first few days, he was allowed to walk around the house with the other dogs, since they were used to him being there and could socialize more. The first time I brushed him, he was scared of the brush until I started to gently work on his coat, then he looked at me with an amazing ‘whut the heck is that?’ look on his face. (We’ve always used a kind of Sam Elliot voice for him.) The pattern of discovering new, pleasant things included: soft dog beds. Couches, my chair, a soft carpet and sunbeam near an AC vent, in case he got too hot in the sunbeam.  A fire in the fireplace, Thanksgiving and Christmas, which at our house usually included a tiny meal mirroring what we had for dinner on top of their kibble. (A tablespoon of mashed potatoes with a spot of butter and gravy, a nice piece of turkey sans bones, a small scoop of my country stuffing with minced chicken livers in it, you get the idea.)

As his body became used to good nutrition, the gas was nearly enough to trigger an evacuation of the living room.

Brody had a way of moving his eyebrows, and using body language, that led to years of us saying ‘Ah wuz abused, you shud give me sum o’ what yer eatin’…’   He used that face and general look to good advantage over the years.  He never did really learn to wag his tail though, the stub would just jerk back and forth without any rhythm.

After about a year, we had to have some of his molars removed. The vet guessed that he had been chewing on rocks when he was starving.  In time, other issues included a heart murmur (which no vet could ever seem to remember that we had the problem checked out, which at the time was NOT inexpensive, and would bring it up like it was a new condition) and a large, fatty tumor on his chest that had to be removed so he could walk normally.

The fatty tumor surgery required a drainage tube, so Brody ended up helping us at one of the 323 Archery shoots, when we were still running them, so that I could keep an eye on him.  He managed to use his eyebrows and general body language to get a bite or two of hot dog off of everyone that bought one.  And when we went to shoot ourselves, Clay’s wife reported that at least two people bought him his own hot dog while she was watching registration. That led to years of another staple Brody-joke “Gimme yer hotter dawg…”

He loved hikes.  He loved water, ponds, streams, it didn’t matter to him, as long as it wasn’t a bath, though eventually he gave up and let us ‘take his stink’ every month, since it became obvious that we weren’t going to let him keep it.  (Around that time, I parodied Judas Priest’s song ‘Breaking the Law’ into our monthly sing along of ‘Washin’ the Dog’ “This here dog is really stinky, it’s time for a good bath….”  If you know the original song, it’s REALLY FUNNY to sing the dog wash version, we just made up new lyrics every month.)

Brody particularly loved snow.  This being the suburbs west of Atlanta, snow is rare, and really doesn’t stick around, so in short order, the world would turn ‘Brody colored,’ that is, white with brown spots, and the darn dog could disappear standing still.  He would jump around and this spinning, bucking dance that we always called ‘having a happy.’  Brody having a happy was a sight to see, because all of his great, dearly held dignity went right by the wayside as he spun, ducked, jumped and grinned.

The first time that Brody saw a bird bigger than the ‘popcorn birdies’ (that’s what our cats call them anyway) was at the horse barn.  One of the other boarders had, for some unfathomable reason, brought a bunch of chickens to live at a boarding barn.  The hawks got most of them, but there were a few still running around, and we took the dogs to the barn one day to see how they would interact with the horses, and hike around the trails.  Brody caught sight of one of the roosters and locked up in a near-perfect point. So did Cinders, but after looking at us, and back at the birds, Cinders thought ‘nah, the hoomins aren’t interested, I’m off to find something else.’ Brody?  We had to physically pick him up and turn him around so he couldn’t see the bird to get him to break point.

He was usually a very laid back dog, completely the opposite of Cinders, who is, we’re certain, the result of a mad scientist blending Red Bull into bird dog DNA for no particular reason.  Even at twelve years old, Cinders is still a hyper dog.  On the other hand, Brody was very, very ALPHA.  I’ve seen him walk into a room with thirty other big dogs (by this time, he was at his healthy weight of 85-90 pounds) and take the room over by walking to the edge of the ‘dog’ zone and standing still.  The people at the dog day care he ‘worked’ at for a while (another of the wife’s jobs over the years) called him the Peace Maker. Because when Brody was around, there would be Peace, or there would be Angry Brody.

The only time I ever saw him react negatively to a person, ever, was one delivery driver pounded on the front door very hard. I have no idea why, he just pounded three or four times like he was trying to wake the dead.  What he got was Brody hitting the other side of the door at chest height, roaring more like a lion than a dog.  I couldn’t get outside before the driver got in his truck and floored the gas.

On the other hand, Brody would brook no dog trespassers on HIS turf.  Before we had him fixed, taking Brody outside was a constant challenge, because while he knew very well what the limits of the yard were, he wasn’t about to stay inside an imaginary line if he could sniff so much as a molecule of ‘dog in heat.’  And this dog could vanish without a trace if you took your eyes off of him for more than two seconds.  Once he made it several miles before deciding that he’d had enough and wanted back inside, so he went to the nearest house and sat on their front porch until one of the semi-terrified homeowners gathered the nerve to check his collar and call me.

By the time I got there, everyone in the house was petting him. And yet, the father told me they were all terrified of big dogs.  Brody was like that, he could convert a cat person if given a few minutes to work on them. He grinned a bit of a doggy grin, wandered over and got in the passenger side of my car. He slept good that night, and we still wonder if there are Cocker-Brody’s running around, or maybe a couple of yellow labs with suspicious brown spots and the urge to point at birds.

After we got him fixed, he’d still pull this trick now and then, I’m certain he was just checking how loud I would yell before he’d trick me by reappearing after ten or twenty minutes of frantic searching in the woods, the neighbor’s yard, etc.

Brody was fine with other dogs, provided they didn’t flat-out challenge him or threaten his people or his pack.  But when the rare times that it was just the two of us, usually because he was on a different vaccination cycle than Cinders and Gretchen, he was amazing.  I swear I could have taken him anywhere with me and he would have heeled and been the best companion ever.

We also used to have a problem with stray dogs in the neighborhood. And I mean ‘stray’ dogs, not the ones our old neighbors owned, but let run crazy.  I opened the back door one day and there were two pit bulls standing in the back yard, no collars, just marking over top of Brody and Cinders’ scent.  I yelled at the dogs to get gone, but they didn’t listen.

Brody moved me out of the way then knocked the bigger dog tail over teakettle for about ninety yards, until the other dog gave up and ran as fast as it could.  Keep in mind, this started in the back yard, and my dogs herded these intruders around the house and down the driveway.  Cinders was snapping at his target, while Gretchen was letting war-woo’s out that probably rivaled air-raid sirens in volume.

Our house sits back in the woods a bit, so we have a front neighbor.  Once, that house was occupied by a nice man named John, his wife, and their big German Shepherd, Bishop.   By that time, we had rescued a German Shepherd as well, Zelda, and despite being fixed, she thought Bishop was very interesting.   Brody thought Bishop should stay in his house. All the time.  Bishop tried to sneak up our driveway for a sniff or two of Zelda one day, and Brody ran him all the way back to John’s garage, then sidled up to John for a good ear rub while grinning at Bishop, who was cowering in his kennel.

To illustrate how strong he was at his best, once years ago I flopped face down on my bed, a game the dogs knew very well, but usually only Cinders and Gretchen would play it with me.  (Cinders – 40 pound GSP, Gretchen, 70 pound Blue Tick hound)  Once I flopped on the bed, I’d cover my ears with both hands and pretend they weren’t there. The two of them would burrow under my arms, play-pounce on my back, and have a grand old time until I would laugh and roll over to pet them.  The one time when Brody played, he just stuck his nose under my rib cage and flipped me like a leaf.

To illustrate how clever he was, once at dog daycare, during a rainstorm the dogs all had to be herded into the building.  My wife (who would watch the small dogs, because if she was in the yard with our dogs, our dogs just spent the entire day being a protective detail) told the other dog handler NOT to let Brody inside the building without first putting clips on all of the indoor boarding kennels.  The handler didn’t listen, so Brody opened every single kennel (I think there were nine?) and proceeded to eat every bite of food in every kennel. Right in front of the occupants of the kennels, regardless of breed or size. And none of them dared protest.

Nine years.  Nine years of one of the most wonderful dogs I’ve ever known. That makes him between twelve and fourteen years of age.

He’s still here, for today. Tomorrow is a maybe.  A month would be a miracle.  But I doubt very much beyond that.  The vet doesn’t really know exactly what’s wrong, the best two educated guesses are a tumor on his liver, or heart failure of one kind or the other.  His belly is distended, and obviously causes him discomfort.  He’s having a difficult time standing up, and he’s back to having to walk, take a break, walk, teak a break to go thirty yards.  He is in bad shape, and before long it will be the end. He’ll most likely never have a happy again.

It’s breaking my heart.

(I wrote this last Thursday – this morning, 7/24/2017, Brody passed away.  It feels like somebody has ripped my heart out of my chest.  There is so much more to Brody’s story that I didn’t have the strength to record that day, or today, but hopefully soon the pain will be bearable.)

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That’s ‘5’ as in ‘5 years now, and counting.’  I’m not done this year, but at this point, I’ve started thinking about turkey hunting more in terms of ‘how far am I going to hike with my Remington 1100 today?’

I hit Paulding Forest both days last weekend, Saturday I hunted north of highway 278, Sunday I headed south of the highway.  I didn’t hear a bird on Saturday, but I did find a couple of sets of tracks and dust wallows.  I also  practiced with my handheld GPS: I’ve had the unit for years (it’s a Garmin eTrex about eight years old,) but never really used it or studied how to use it properly, so shame on me for not learning how to use a good piece of gear.  I also took my Remington 1100, a pair of VERY CHEAP decoys, a slate-style call and water.

Saturday, I followed the WMA ranger road for roughly a mile, calling softly every few minutes to see if I could get a gobble, with no luck.  At the end of that particular road, I hiked out to a point where I could sit and call into the bottom.

Nothing.

After an hour and a half, I used the GPS to navigate back to the truck using the most direct route.  I had started my fitness app on the phone when I left the truck, and paused it every time I stopped, at the end of going up and down all of those hollows, my fitness app told me I burned 2,190 calories.  My legs told me they wanted a divorce. (If you don’t know me personally, I look like the result of Sasquatch going on an all pizza diet for a decade. Yes, I can probably curl an economy car, but anyone who can sprint would easily get away if I was chasing them. 🙂 )

So, I consulted with my Paulding Forest WMA expert, and he said ‘you look tired.’ *insert drumroll here* – Just kidding, he said to scout SOUTH of 278 because the hunting pressure is much lighter on that side of the highway.   So Sunday, that’s where I hunted.

After finding a WMA marker (which is somewhat difficult in places), near a small power line, I decided to pop out of the truck and walk into the woods for a bit.

I would like to point out, both days I entered the woods after dawn – I like to get into the woods an hour BEFORE dawn, but when I don’t know a location, I don’t like taking the risk of an injury, or screwing up somebody else’s hunt, or even ending up on the wrong side of a property line.  Being safe, courteous, and legal is more important to me than what time I get in the woods.

So the power line was a small one, single pole, maybe three actual cables, it doesn’t show up on the WMA maps I printed, and it wasn’t what we think of as a power line cut here in Georgia, which are usually large enough to park an aircraft carrier inside of without touching the trees on either side.  I started walking down the hill, and immediately found wildlife.

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Just after taking the photograph, I heard a gobble, and my heart started thumping.  Working quickly and quietly, I moved to a bend in the cut and set up my hen and jake decoys, then found a patch of thorn bushes to sit behind where I could see and shoot if I had the opportunity.

I hit my slate call with a few clucks, and three gobblers responded.  Three.  One across the road behind the strip of woods behind me, one down the hollow that was a fair distance away, and one that sounded remarkably close.  I waited forever (three or four minutes) and hit the call again, more aggressively this time, and again, three gobblers responded immediately.  I should point out that my skill at using a turkey call is minimal.  As in ‘I can get it to make noises that sound turkey-like.’  For all I know, what the gobblers were hearing is ‘Bug water tree rock! Fat leaf dirt dirt!’ instead of ‘Hey big boys!’

Based on an hour and a half of calling, and an hour and fifteen minutes of gobblers responding, I’m pretty sure I confused all three of the birds to no end.  Yes, I’m sure these weren’t other hunters, the chances of three other hunters ONLY using gobble calls, in those three directions, are very slight.

An hour after the gobblers stopped responding, I decided to pick up the decoys and wander down the hollow to see if I could either tease a gobble after moving a few hundred yards, or locate some tracks or other game sign for information.  I did find some interesting spots in the little creek bottom, but no sign of turkey or other critters.

But there’s always next week.

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I spent an hour or so somewhat shed hunting – I say ‘somewhat,’ because where I was shed hunting, I couldn’t actually pick the sheds up and bring them home.  That’s OK, I just wanted to FIND them more than have them.  I was looking in the area I spotted this buck last November:

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I didn’t find any sheds, but I’m pretty sure I spotted him sneaking away from a patch of woods I was walking through, I couldn’t get a decent look at him, but the body language, low and steady, but still fast, with no tail flagging, just made me think that it was a mature, confident buck, just sneaking out of his patch.

I found multiple tree stands, in an area where there shouldn’t be any tree stands, and game trails that looked like the trails you find in a pasture that has been used for dairy cows for decades.

It was a fun walk, the area was much more open than the photos I took in November would lead one to believe.

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I may head back, and hopefully this time, I’ll remember my camera.

Last Sunday, a few of us met a fantastic outdoorsman named Jason for a bit of squirrel hunting over trained dogs. (Treeing Feists, I believe, though I never asked Jason specifically what breed the dogs happened to be.)  I’ve never actually hunted squirrels with dogs before, though I’ve been in the woods with a .22 LR rimfire, my GSP Cinders and said the words ‘find me a squirrel,’ I’m pretty sure most of what Cinders did was mark every fifth tree for two hours and burn off energy. It was still fun.

We hunted for about three hours. This is nearly the end of the season and it was quite warm on Sunday, we were all in tee shirts and jeans, so the squirrels were pretty much determined to stay in their dens, but we did see three and manage to bag two of them.

The dogs were amazing, watching the two of them dash from tree to tree, using their noses to determine if a squirrel had been on the tree recently, and if so, how recently.  If the dogs thought the scent was hot, they would bark, letting us know there may be a squirrel above.

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The older dog, Spoon (the white one) was getting mad at us because most of the trees had hollows that the squirrels were NOT coming out of. Jason would call ‘In a hole!’ and the dogs would move to a new tree. By the time we had been hunting for an hour, when she heard that, she would look at us like “Y’all aren’t very good at this! There is a SQUIRREL up there!”

When we finally killed the first one, I thought she would do backflips.

The second squirrel we spotted bolted straight into a hole in the tree, so there was no chance of getting that one.  The third squirrel, when it hit the ground, was immediately snatched up by D.J., the younger of the two dogs.  He immediately showed Jason the squirrel, then dashed to each one of us in turn, as if to say “See?! THIS is what one looks like!”

It was a great time, lots of fun, good exercise for us and the dogs, and overall better than being cooped up in a house.

I took  a few photos of what Jason and Clay called ‘wild lemon,’ and I have to say, I need to grow this stuff around the house as defense against everything. The thorns were 1-3″ long.

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Well, Saturday the 14th I decided that after thirty years, it was time to go squirrel hunting again.  I’ve supposedly been out squirrel hunting twice in the last few years, but both times were simply deer scouting trips, with the thought that if a squirrel was stupid enough to still scamper around with my giant frame wandering through the woods, I’d take a shot.

I drove out to Paulding Forest WMA in the morning, and the radio station (97.1 ‘The River’) was just perfect. Too perfect, I missed stopping at the WMA kiosk for a map and double check of the rules, and if I needed to sign in or not.   I turned around at the county line and drove back the six or seven miles, then headed towards decent squirrel woods. I must need to get up earlier on Saturdays, because every spot to pull over and park near decent big timber had a truck already there, so I drove on to Supper Club Road, where I know I can park at the gate and walk in. (This is where Danny and I killed a timber rattler a few years ago.  Needless to say, I kept my eyes WIDE open walking into the woods.)

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Closeup of the rattlesnake’s head

As soon as I parked, my wife sent me a text asking if I wanted to go on a hike today. Well, yeah, it’s going to be 70′ in January, of course I want to hike.   So I told her I’d poke around Paulding for about an hour and head back.  I wandered into the WMA for about half a mile, until I could find a decent log to sit on with a good view of a hillside, and sat down to see if any squirrels decided to come out and play.  After half an hour or so, I hadn’t even seen or heard a bird, so I wandered back to the truck and cruised the forty miles or so back to the house to pick the wife up and head to Arabia Mountain. (Half an hour isn’t very long to sit in a squirrel wood, but the wife was waiting, so off I went.)The trail head (at least the one we parked at) is roughly forty miles in the other direction, East of the house, and with typical Atlanta traffic, it took about an hour to get there.

And it was packed.  No shock, really, the good weather had a lot of people headed to their version of nature.   I say ‘their version of nature’ because my idea of a nature hike doesn’t have eight foot wide paved hiking walkways, but to each their own.  We walked the mile long trail across the top of the old granite quarry, then headed further down the paved trail towards Panola Mountain, but it wasn’t long before the pavement started bothering us, and we turned around, for a total of roughly four miles, but we did enjoy the granite part of the hike.  My wife took one photo of me standing near what had to be the quarry office, but I’ll spare you the ‘shaved sasquatch’ image.

After that, since we were already east of Atlanta, I decided to head toward Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center, because I’ve wanted to go there for a long time, and why not now?  We had a good time on the drive (another 40 miles, that seems to have been the magical distance to everything Saturday) and when we arrived, we were surprised at how nice both the museum and the facilities looked.  I had never questioned the name “Charlie Elliott,” figuring it was either a DNR donor or politician, I was surprised to learn that he was a naturalist and that the museum had rebuilt his study as one of the displays.  I would very much love to have a den like the study Charlie Elliott created for himself.

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So, in one day, I walked Paulding Forest Wildlife Management Area a bit, Davidson-Arabia Mountain trails, and managed to squeeze in a walk through the Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center museum.   That’s what I call a good day.

**Update** And 2016 claims Carrie Fisher as well.

So.. my 2016 goal was to get back to being an outdoorsman, and the only way to chalk that up as a win is to compare 2016 to 2015 and 2014, in which case I succeeded.  I still didn’t get out nearly as much as I wanted to or expected to, not once did I go fishing, so far no small game hunting (though if I hadn’t fallen ill over the holiday week, I would have spent yesterday squirrel hunting with Gretchen and Cinders.  I wouldn’t have actually expected to get any squirrels, or if I did get them, manage to get them INTACT, since Gretchen thinks ‘all squirrels are mine,’ but it would have been fun.)

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Gretchen and Cinders when they were young.  Cinders played with toys, Gretchen would tackle him.

I did get a nice hog in January, and managed to see a nice number of deer this November,  including a stunning buck, the deer just happened to be where I can’t hunt them.   I managed three or four hikes, but that was my goal per month, not for the whole year.

We lost my father-in-law, unexpectedly young (early 60’s), which was devastating to the family: Dennis was so cool, whenever the wife and I would dream out loud about taking a vacation across Canada by train, or going to Yellowstone, Ireland, wherever, we were always including how much Dennis would enjoy it.

The world lost a vast number of celebrities of various types this year, and since George Michael passed away Christmas Day, all we can do is keep our fingers crossed for the next few days to get out of 2016 with what the world has now.

So, back to the outdoors: once again, I’m going to try to ramp up my outdoor activities in 2017.  I have six points saved for an alligator tag here in Georgia, so that should come to fruition this year, and I look forward to figuring out how that will work.  I finally have a camper shell on my truck, so taking the Woofs to outdoor adventures should be easily accomplished, and my daughter is 18 and driving, so that’s no longer on my plate.

The property in south Georgia is covered in turkey, so in a few short months, I should be able to, once again, be totally frustrated and skunked by the antics of the mighty Thunder Chicken.  For me, turkey hunting feels like those old comedy gags where there is a chase scene in a long hallway with doors everywhere, and people are going into and out of doors in a random sequence where they can never catch who they are chasing, but the people being chased can never seem to quite get away either.

Fishing will happen, even if I just have to go find a public lake and put a worm on a hook.

I also need to find property where I can fossil hunt – I haven’t done that since I was a kid, and it might be a way to lure the reclusive Wife out of the house.   She still thinks armadillos are these flat things on the side of highways.  I told her the fastest way to find an armadillo is to go deer hunting near hardwoods, where the leaves are good and crunchy, but she doesn’t believe me.

So, all in all, farewell 2016.  Here is to hoping 2017 is a better place for everyone, everywhere.

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Another Sunday, another hike!  I told the wife and Little Bear that I was hitting the White trail at Sweetwater Creek State Park this morning, even though it was a bit chilly out.   The wife had to work today, and Little Bear had a friend visiting, so I was going to solo the hike.

Great! Five miles of solitude and nature, all to myself!

Or so I thought.

See, the Georgia Ultrarunning and Trailrunning Society had a 30 mile trail race on the White Trail this morning.

30.

Miles. 

So, while I was doing my peaceful, solo, 5 mile hike… I kept getting lapped.  Which was hilarious, because it went from “Good morning!” or “Howdy!”  to “Good morning again!” and “That’s three laps!”  I know several of them lapped me four times.  That’s TWENTY MILES to my five.

My ‘Map My Walk’ fitness app said I walked 5.15 miles for 3,600 calories.  Even if they just WALKED that far instead of, you know, RUNNING it, that would put them at 20,000 plus calories for the event.

I made the decision as soon as I saw the sign at the trailhead that said ‘GUTS: Wrong Way’ to hike against the ‘flow’ of traffic, this let me see them coming and get out of the way, because I take up a lot of trail.

Still, it was a good hike. Not as much of an elevation change as the Yellow trail, but lots of rough terrain.

Here are a few of the photos, including one of the New Manchester Manufacturing ruins, the rest are in THIS ALBUM on the 323 Archery FaceBook page.

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(Yes, I actually typed ‘Day One: 2015’ and had to fix it…)

I don’t really make ‘New Year’s Resolutions.’  I just don’t – I’m in the latter half of my 40’s now, and probably spent 1980-2000 making resolutions that were broken (or, in my early 20’s, forgotten) very quickly.  Regardless, I had said in 2015 that I was going to get out in the woods and waters more, and generally get back to being an outdoorsman.  That didn’t happen at all, in fact, the reverse happened. Between work, foul weather, and other issues, I only managed three archery shoots and a week of bear hunting in Maine that had been planned for a year.

So, while NOT claiming it’s a New Year’s Resolution, I will make up for this lack of nature experiences in 2016.

I sent a text to Danny this morning to see what he was doing, without really having a plan.  I told him I didn’t care if we went squirrel hunting, shooting, hiking,  as long as it was outside.  We quickly decided to go sight in my new Mossberg Patriot .308, and we decided to do so up at Johns Mountain WMA, which has a public rifle range.  The weather report showed a low chance of rain, with temperatures from a low of 40 to a high of 57.

Yeah, they were being very optimistic on that high end, let me tell you, because it was cold in Atlanta, let alone an hour and a half north of Atlanta.

We drove up to the range, my first time there, and found it to be packed full, with people waiting for room at one of the four actual sit-down benches.  After about thirty minutes of people shooting, finally somebody called the range cold and folks started putting new targets out.  With no idea how long it was going to take to get a bench, and no actual range master running the show, we opted to just drive some of the forestry roads and take a look at the area, then drive home.  We did get out and walk about a few times to look at some trails, but we didn’t go far. We hadn’t brought the right clothing for a hike.

Still, I managed to get some photos, the best of which are below: some moss, a cool looking downed cedar, and a tree that looks like it eats small children who were bad for the holidays…

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