Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Alfred Hitchcock's Lost Screenplay - The Squirrels

Below is an article, taken in its entirety, from the Marin Independent Journal, 12/2/2015.

It is almost too scary to read.  Please... do not read (i) in the presence of young children, (ii) if you have a weak stomach or (iii) are afraid of things with brains the size of a large pea.  It is simply too horrifying.

(The highlights and brilliant commentary at the end are mine.)


Warning issued after squirrel attacks 8 people in Novato

A vicious squirrel is on the prowl in Novato.

What’s been reported as a gray fox squirrel has jumped from trees and scampered into classrooms and garages to attack a total of eight people in northwest Novato in past weeks, and the Marin Humane Society is on the hunt to find the perpetrator before more attacks ensue.

“The fact is, we want people to stay calm,” said Lisa Bloch, Marin Humane Society spokeswoman. “It’s probably just one squirrel and a really unique situation.”

The biting and scratching attacks began three weeks ago when a squirrel reportedly leapt from a tree and onto a man’s head as he did yard work on Nov. 13. He was treated at Novato Community Hospital for his injuries. In another attack five days later, a squirrel entered a classroom at Pleasant Valley Elementary School on Sutro Avenue and attacked a student. As a teacher attempted to flee from the room, she too was attacked, according to the humane society officials.

Because the attacks have all taken place between Sutro Avenue and Vineyard Road, a single squirrel — likely hand-raised, and conditioned to feel comfortable around humans — is believed to be responsible.

“This is one of those stories that’s hard for us to hear,” said Alison Hermance, director of communications at WildCare in San Rafael. “It’s a situation the squirrel has no doubt been fed by people and has been encouraged to get close to people. When he doesn’t get what he wants — he attacks.”

Richard Williams, 78, had the most recently reported entanglement with the squirrel. On the day after Thanksgiving, Williams said he was working on small tasks around his garage, off of Vineyard Road, when he looked up to see a gray squirrel scampering towards him.

He jumped me three or four different times,” Williams said Wednesday. “I got him off my shoulder the first time. He was clinging pretty hard. When I got him off, my hand and arm were torn up. When I got him off, he’d get back on.”

Williams said his wife, Norma Williams, alarmed by his screams, ran out into the garage with a broom. The squirrel then began to attack her, he said.

Williams managed to grab the squirrel by its tail and threw it to the ground. The squirrel, dazed and in a stupor, then ran off, he said.

Williams said his right arm, hand and leg were injured in the incident, along with his lip and head. His glasses were also broken during the scuffle.

“It was just a mad scramble. I was up and down on the garage floor. It was quite an experience,” he said.

Williams’ wife was more fortunate. She was wearing a jacket during the incident and was only scratched on her shoulders, he said. The couple received both vaccines for tetanus and rabies at Novato Community Hospital.

According to the humane society, rabies in squirrels is rare, but all victims have received anti-rabies treatment as a precaution.

The squirrel’s behavior is hardly normal, Bloch said, as most squirrels have a natural fear of humans. To discourage wild animals from becoming too comfortable around humans, residents are told to never feed wild animals. If any individuals come into contact with the squirrel, they are encouraged to visit their physician as soon as possible, Bloch said. Victims should go to the emergency room if seriously injured, she said.

The humane society recommends residents in the area of the attacks cut back trees that overhang roofs and are close to telephone lines. Officials also suggest removing bird feeders and screening or blocking all possible entry ways, especially at the height of fence tops, telephone and power lines.

Hermance, echoing Bloch’s tone, said community members should not become fearful.

“It’s unusual,” she said.”It’s not something typical at all and not something people need to worry about — aggressive squirrels running around Marin County.”


"vicious"... "prowl"... "scamper"... "attack"..."mad scramble".... "entanglement"...

Holy Toledo... one gets the impression that these folks were attacked by a 600lb black bear or a rabid wombat, not a 1.5lb rodent with a fuzzy tail.

I realize this must have been a slow news day at the Marin Independent Journal but even without the somewhat provocative language, this is just silly.

Have we become so wussified (girly-man if you are from East Texas) as a society that we need warnings and are described as "victims" in a squirrel attack?  "Mad scramble... up and down on the floor".... "... attempted to flee the room"...  Really?

Still, I worry about the obviously real and growing threat of unprovoked squirrel attacks and, as a public service, I offer the following advice in the event you are, in fact, attacked by a squirrel.


1.  Do not panic.  Squirrels, especially fox squirrels can literally smell fear.  They have an extra nostril designed just for this purpose.

2.  Whatever you do, DO NOT LET THE SQUIRREL GET YOU TO THE GROUND!  This is where they can really do their damage with their 4 little feet, 2 OF WHICH THEY CAN TURN IN THE OPPOSITE DIRECTION!

3.  Protect your neck.  Squirrel will not actually attack your windpipe or vascular system there but will use the neck hole of your clothing to gain easier access to vital organs.

4.  Every attacking animal requires a different response.
Sharks = punch them in the nose.
Grizzly bear = play dead.
Black bear = fight since they want to eat you.
With squirrels, apparently the best response is to scream like a little girl and curl up in the fetal position.

5.  Carry 1-2 lbs of hickory nuts or pecans with you at all times.  When attacked, scatter them like a sea cucumber disgorging itself, to distract the marauding squirrel and buy you precious seconds of time to escape.

In all seriousness, it is a proven fact that most squirrel-related deaths are not related to the attack itself but the victims dying from embarrassment after admitting to others they were attacked and injured by a squirrel.


A Man in the Woods who has Survived Every Time a Squirrel Attacked

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

A Perfect Way to Die

80-year-old man dies while deer hunting

Honestly, I cannot think of a better way to die.


A Man in the Woods

Thursday, September 24, 2015

To Kill a Rhino

Months ago, I started a significant "media holiday".

The evening news, the radio talk shows, the radio news, the dead-tree news (i.e. newspapers) have all become monochromatic.  How many stories to you really need with the following headlines?

"Black Person shot by White Cop"

"Riots in ________ in Response to Shooting"

"Black Person who was initially portrayed as literally an angel was actually trying to kill the White Cop"

"Bruce Jenner is now a Chick"

"_______________ Kardashian shows her _______ in Public"

"Muhammed _______________ killed a bunch of people with a car/bomb/knife/gun/... and even though he was screaming 'Allahu Akbar' while doing so, we will report it was not in the name of religion"


After a while, they all run together.

So, to replace the airwave news in the car on the way to and from work, I started listening to a various podcasts.  Some are on self-improvement, others are economically oriented or perhaps humorous.

A growing favorite is a podcast by National Public Radio (NPR) called RadioLab.  Their website includes the following description:
Radiolab is a show about curiosity. Where sound illuminates ideas, and the boundaries blur between science, philosophy, and human experience.
Ok, getting past "right-brain" artsy goggly-gook, I like this program since they cover a wiiiide range of topics.

Recently, they put out a story called 'The Rhino Hunter'.  It was a decent, relatively even-handed story about the auction of a black rhino hunt and the motivation and use of the proceeds.

I encourage you to take some time to listen.

Be warned:  Unfortunate, many folks who have issues with hunting and hunters have the genetic predisposition to drop a bunch of F-bombs while they are threatening to kill the hunter as they express their views on how killing is wrong.


Take-Aways from the story and the topic:

  • Most of the same people who claim to love animals will not spend one red-cent on helping prevent poaching, habitat improvement, etc.
  • Like many other species, black rhinos are in trouble in Africa because of habitat destruction (usually due to cattle ranching) and poaching, not because of a handful of legitimate hunters.  Stop the Asian appetite for rhino horn and you'll stop poaching of rhinos.
  • The Namibian government, wanting to raise funds to help the herd and help conservation efforts, put this hunt up for auction.  This seems to be lost on many people.  This was as "legitimate" as possible.  
  • The same people who complain about the US' "Western-centric" views of the world have no issues with forcing their views on Namibia.
  • Regardless of your views on hunting and trophy hunting, most animals killed on safari are butchered and the meat consumed by humans.


A Man in the Woods (and who is particularly excited now that Summer is behind us)

Friday, June 26, 2015

Super Rabbit

What happens when you mix 3 baby rabbits, one big black snake and a really, really motivated momma rabbit?

I was shocked.  The only thing missing in this video is the soundtrack from The Terminator.

Makes me worry a bit about the next time I'm blowing a distressed rabbit call in the woods.


A Man in the Woods with a Newfound Respect for Rabbits

Monday, June 15, 2015

Squirrel 911

I’m at work, fresh from a vacation.

Phone rings.

14 year old is in tears.

Dog maimed a tomato-eating, pear stealing squirrel in the backyard.

I’m instantly jealous since she got to hunt and I’m stuck at work.

Squirrel is by base of tree, moving, but not well.

14 year old says it has a broken leg.

Being knowledgeable of both her limited orthopedic training and a fox squirrel’s will to run away from danger , I suspect internal wounds and a broken spine.

“Give the phone to your little sister.”

10 year old, the blood-thirsty one, concludes she is not strong enough to kill it.

10 year old mentions we are not really supposed to shoot guns in the neighborhood. (WHOA!!! Not what I had in mind.)

10 year old now in tears.

“Give the phone to your oldest sister”.

She can’t talk right now.  She is the shower.

17 year old, freshly cleaned up for her squirrel execution duties, calls back.

We have a quick discussion which included phrases like “butch up”, “circle of life” "end his suffering" and covers the merits of shovels versus butcher knives.

We discuss the intricacies of cervical dislocation (“breaking his little squirrel neck with a shovel” if you are from East Texas).

We hang up.

3 minutes later, I get a blow-by-blow summary of the execution.

Comment of the day:  “I did not know squirrels were so big!”.

I thank her.  Not quite as easy as killing a deer with a rifle... is it?


A Man in the Woods

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Hitchhiker

My location and timing were not ideal.  They never are.  You just have to play the hand you are dealt and proceed accordingly.

I was exploring an unfamiliar area near my new deer stand.  I like to do this sort of thing in the off season since (i) it is fun and (ii) a lot can be learned about game trails, movement patterns of animals, etc. without spooking the game closer to actual deer season.  Plus, it was a beautiful, cool morning and snakes and chiggers were low on the list of concerns due to the temperature.

Behind this stand is the thinner end of a gully.  As this gully heads north to a creek about 1/4th of a mile away, it is joined by other small gullies like a network of veins meshing their way back to the heart.

Heading north, I hit one of these minor gullies and turn east, simply watching and listening.

Take 3 steps.  Listen.

The wind is good considering the direction I'm forced to walk in.

Take 2 steps.  Look for a snake.  Step over a log.  Listen.  Smell.  Look.

The closer I moved towards where the minor gully joins the main gully, the thicker brush grew.  I'm having to stoop down, crouch and generally duck-walk my way through small, open pockets in the brush.  As is typical, I walked through several spider webs.  Like cockroaches, for every one you see and avoid, there are probably 10 others you did not see.  No big deal; they are just spiders.

As I stand up to survey for a way, any way, to cross the complex of gullies, the brush about 30 yards away starts teeming with activity.  I had stumbled upon a group of sleeping hogs who were now on the hoof, confused and moving slightly away through the thickness.

I crouch down, listening, watching.  Twice I have the rifle at my shoulder looking for a clear shot, the scope capturing branches, leaves and patches of moving black fur.  Twice I lower the rifle, not desperate to try to thread a bullet through the brush and wound or lose an animal.  Beside, I'm not entirely sure how I'd recover the animal if I were able to kill it in this mess.

I just wait, trying to control my breathing.  The pigs are still in the area and are probably waiting for me to move first.  For all I know, they probably think I'm a cow or another hog but they are not stupid either.  This might take a while.  I once had an honest 12 minute long staring match with a surprised boar once, neither of us willing to make the first move.  (The .308 and I won when he dismissed my camouflaged figure as an ugly bush and started to trot away.)

A leaf brushes my ear.  It tickles a bit and I brush it away with the back of my right hand.  A few minutes later, crouching and listening, the leaf hits my ear again.  I brush it away more aggressively this time.  This is distracting and I really need to keep movement to a minimum.  I lean forward away from an unseen bush behind me.

I'm simply waiting, listening, thinking and daydreaming.

... it is now actually hot enough to worry about snakes and chiggers.
... I should have left my jacket on the 4 wheeler.
... what pictures might be on my game camera card by my new deer stand?
... I should have eaten breakfast.
... what might be causing the battery drain in the red truck?
... what chores am I going to tackle when I get home from "playing in the woods"?

My mental state is then interrupted.  The leaf is back at my ear.  But this time, something is different.  This time, it jumped onto my ear.

It is amazing how fast you can simultaneously change mental focus and spring into action.  I violently reach up and whip the hat off my head.  To my surprise, the leaf is not a leaf at all but a large, brown spider about the size of a nickel.  It was desperately trying to find a way off of my head and my ear was a convenient launch pad to a nearby branch.  I had been chasing it back onto my head with each swipe.

This was probably enough movement for the hogs to get the message I was, in fact, not a cow.  They were never seen or heard again.


A Man in the Woods

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Mixed Bag Hunting and Falconry, the Hard Way

"So how did you get a hog AND a rabbit?"

Well... you just never know how an "average" day in the woods will turn out.

The hunt started off like most hunts... the promise of a new day in the woods transitioning into quiet yet slight boredom.

I start by the bridge heading behind the pond, downstream of the creek, heading towards the river.  Slowly, slowly moving just listening and looking.  It is so beautiful in there.  One of my favorite places.  A few ducks landed in the pond to my right.  Other than that, it was surprisingly quiet.

At about 8:10, I finally saw a squirrel.  The .308 in my hands might be a bit overkill so I keep inching along.

Step...listen.  Step.... listen.

I'm slipping  down a tight trail which had ranged from 10' to 2' wide.  To the right is a heavily overgrown field that is thick with vines and brush, limiting visibility to about 15'.  To my left is a steep drop-off overlooking the creek/river bottom.  The edge is about  20-30' away and is too steep to comfortably or safely climb.

I'm creeping along, covered in head-to-toe camo, trying to not make any noise when the brush around me erupts.  Hogs.  4 of them.  About 100lbs each.  They had been bedded down, overlooking the drop off.  They seem to like these sorts of high points.

Wind was negligible so at least it was not working against me.

The quartet moves a few feet.  They saw something but had no idea what I was and are obviously confused.  I pull the rifle to my shoulder and while doing so, apparently breathed DIRECTLY into the eyepiece since the scope was completely fogged when I looked through it.


There is a hog RIGHT THERE, broadside, at ~10 yards and all I can see are two shadowy, dark images.  I look again, lower the gun, bring it back up, aim the best I can, .... and fire.

Hogs explode in all directions and for a split second I'm afraid they are coming my way.  I start to reach for the 9MM on my hip with the intention of just jettisoning the long gun.

Now they are turning, heading for the really thick stuff to the right.  At least I'm not being charged.

The next two shots are more by feel than anything.  I'm not even trying to look through the scope but am just pointing and shooting the best I can.

I think, but am not 100% sure, the 2nd shot was at the lead hog.  It might be hit but keeps running.  The 3rd shot is at the first hog I shot, bringing up the rear of the pack, wounded.  She is going slow with a broken right leg and a hole through her sternum.  The 3rd shot hits her a little far back but takes out the lungs.  She goes down and dies quickly.

The above took place in a matter of ~2 seconds yet felt like 2 minutes.  It is amazing how tunnel vision kicks in when the adrenaline hits and you can take in and process a million little things at once.

I hear a few grunts to the right and, thinking I hit the lead hog after all, go into the brush with the 9mm.  After about 20', I realize this is simply crazy.  I can barely see AND there are thorn vines AND poison ivy everywhere AND there might be a injured hog within feet of me.  I circle back twice, see no blood and give up the "chase".  (In hindsight, I should have looked more.)

After the shaking stops, I gut hog #1 and glance at the map on my phone to get a feel for where I am.  Continuing on the trail, I eventually hit a larger trail that runs parallel to the river.  While walking the  2 sides of the 1/4 mile long triangle back to the 4 wheeler, a big hawk takes off about 50' away.  He had been on the ground.  Curious, I ease closer to see what had his interest.

There, in the grass, is a still warm, cottontail rabbit, deader than a hammer with just a small mark on his side and head.  I started to take the rabbit but realized this was the hawk's breakfast so I put it back.

After getting the 4 wheeler and proceeding to get lost in the field only to have to abandon the 4 wheeler to find the hog and ..... the rabbit was still there after an hour.  Realizing that possession is 7/10th of the law, I strapped the rabbit to the 4 wheeler and headed back to camp.

.... and THAT is how I happen to come back to camp with both a hog and a rabbit.


A  Man in the Woods

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Conditioned Response in Buzzards

I'm amazed at what animals "learn" with just a few repetitions (i.e. conditioned responses).

Examples include:

Pavlov's dogs salivating at the ringing of a bell after the sound is associated with food.

Cats learning that if I catch them in my yard using a flowerbed as a toilet that it best to "run" before the barrage of curse words and bullets start.

Grizzle bears coming to the sound of a rifle shot since they've learned to associate it with food (usually a fresh elk or mule deer gut pile or a slow, fat hunter).

After a successful hog hunt this past weekend, I took two hog carcasses to the field where hides, bones and guts are usually discarded.  I guess it has been slim pickin's for the buzzards since deer season ended a month ago.  After dumping the pigs, I turned around to what looked like the opening scene from The Birds.


A Man in the Woods

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Tips on Moving a Deer Stand

True hunters generally view the world from 1 of 2 perspectives, depending on the calendar.

 There is hunting season.

And then there is the "period of time for activities in preparation of hunting season" season.

Through the grace of God, miracles of sexual reproduction and geography, I was born and live in Texas.  Texas is awesome for more reasons than could be contained in a book (little snow, no state income tax, tort reform, reasonably real estate markets, thriving economy, state legislature only meets every other year so they have less time to muck things up, guns, trucks, and long deer seasons.)

I'm blessed to be on a lease with special rules approved by the Texas Parks and Wildlife department.  Our "official" hunting season is 3 months long but that is really just for deer.  Hogs, squirrels, fishing, etc. never really has to slow down.

So, after a wildly fun, thrilling, relaxing, therapeutic and successful hunting season, we have transitioned into hunting-preparation season.

After 5 years in a particular area, I decided it was time to move my main deer stand.  I had topographical reasons for this but a main reason was I simply wanted a change of scenery that was a bit more open.

Most new deer stands are brought out to the woods in pieces and assembled on site.  This is the easy way.  But an assembled deer stand is an entirely different beast.  They are heavy, bulky and frequently in various stages of disrepair or rot.  It is one thing for 3-4 guys to pick one up and move it 5 feet but quite another to move it 500 yards, through the mud.

Sometime back, prior to me joining the lease, someone build an official "deer stand moving trailer" out of an old boat trailer.  This is redneck / garage engineering at its finest.  The wheel base is very narrow to allow it to be pulled over a very narrow bridge.  The semi-rotted plywood top is about 3' from the ground and contains the obligatory protruding nails.  The trailer is very top-heavy BEFORE you load a deer stand on it but literally "teeters" when a 400-500lb deer stand sits atop.  It would be fine to drag around a paved parking lot but over hill and dale with mud, ruts, branches and logs is simply asking for trouble.  It is best to have one person slooooooowly drag the trailer / stand combo with a 4 wheeler while another person walks along side to steady it when needed, all the while being prepared to jump for their life in case it flips.

But, before any of THAT particular brand of fun can happen, you have to first load said deer stand onto said trailer.

The key here is to control the effects of gravity.  Two guys can push it to lean over the waiting trailer but 3-4 guys could not stop its descent as it makes its way to the ground at 9.8m/s2.

We had the brilliant idea of tying a long rope to the top of the stand and taking up the slack with another 4 wheeler.  Once we got it started leaning, one guy slowly backed-up the ATV and gently lowered the stand onto the trailer.

This worked better than we imagined.  The deer stand was leaning over until it touched the edge of the trailer and with a bit of effort, we had it on its side.  Now, we just needed to slide it forward about 4', tie it down and move it to the new site.

But as David and I pushed, pulled, lifted, sweated, and grunted, we could only get the stand to move a few inches and then it was like someone had welded it to the trailer.  We pushed, we pulled, we lifted, we checked for nails sticking out or the edge of two pieces of plywood hung up on each other.  It was officially stuck and for no reason either of us with our 113 years of life experiences could see.

Taking a rest to let our discs de-compress, we noticed something.  The rope which was currently tied to both the deer stand and a 600lb 4 wheeler 30' away was banjo-string tight.  With each pull, lift or push, we were pulling, lifting and pushing an additional 600lbs which happen to be in gear with the parking brake.... locked.

Needless to say, once this little fact was discovered, the rest of the loading was pretty much uneventful.


A Man in the Woods (with only 8 months to go until deer season!!!!!)

Monday, January 19, 2015

How to Make Sandhill Crane Decoys on the Cheap (Sandhill Crane Quest - 2015)

This blog entry is Part 1 of 2 of Sandhill Crane Quest - 2015


There are subtle distinctions between "focused", "obsessed" and "bat-feces crazy".  I shall let the dear reader decide where I might fall on this particular continuum.

I've been intrigued with sandhill crane hunting for a number of years.  (My wife would frame this as being obsessed with them).  Thoughts usually jumped into my head about chasing them after a wonderful morning in the woods during deer season.  It is not uncommon to see several groups of cranes on various fields on the way home.  More than once I thought about stopping at a local farm house and inquiring about the possibility but the timing was never right (or I was covered in mud or blood and would NOT make a good first impression).

Occasionally I'd see them on the "prairie" at our hunting lease.  The "prairie" is a generally open gigantic field with a few trees in areas but mainly grazing lands for cattle.  2015 was the year I finally proactively got in gear to get ready for sandhill crane hunting versus just thinking about it.

I had most of the needed gear:  shotgun, brain, camo, 3" BB goose loads, ... but from everything I've read and people I've talked to, I decided I needed some crane decoys too.

There are some cool looking crane decoys from SilloSock.  I acquired a set but was disappointed since they (i) were expensive, (ii) looked like geese and (iii) were the lazy way out.  Plus, I only had 12.  12 decoys on a 1,000+ acre prairie seemed a little sparse.  Plus, where is the sense of accomplishment and pride in "doing" by just buying some decoys?  Anyone with a credit card can do that!

I was fine with a silhouette.  From a distance, they should look convincing and would be easier to make and store.

After a few hours reading up on cranes, looking at crane pictures online, about 3 trips to Hobby Lobby, and 2 to Home Depot, the following is what my 10 year old and I worked up.  (By the way, when you are buying dull, grey colored cotton fabric at Hobby Lobby, be prepared to be questioned by some nice old lady about exactly what it is you are doing.  She asked "what are you working on to get her (my daughter) so excited".  After looking at my feet and muttering "sandhill crane decoys", she just laughed and said that was probably the last answer she thought she'd hear.)

Materials needed:
  • 4x8' sheet of 1/2" foil-back insulation/radiant barrier foam from Home Depot (for crane bodies)
  • 20' of small diameter CPVC pipe (crane legs)
  • 1 can of flat black Rustoleum spray paint (legs)
  • 2 canes of Rustoleum flat gray primer 
  • 1 can of Rustoleum gray primer (brush on)
  • 4-5 coat hangers (crane leg spikes)
  • black electrical tape (to attach crane leg spikes to crane legs)
  • 1-2 yards of cheap, NON-REFLECTIVE cotton fabric.  Take some crane pics with you to match the color the best you can.
  • red felt (dark, bruised red if you can find it)
  • glue (3M spray adhesive is best but I used some wood glue for the felt)
  • darker gray paint (mixed from white and black) brush on fabric paint (just a little for feathers, beaks, etc.)
WARNING:  Cranes have excellent eyesight.  (Their eyes are larger than their brain if that gives you an idea how well they see.)  Avoid anything on your decoys or on your person that is shiny.  Many people, when hunting them, immediately pick up spent shotgun shells for this reason.

Below are the steps I followed along with suggestions as to what I'd change next time around.

Step 1:  Research
Study about 300+ crane pictures.  Study their postures, coloration, etc. while naturally standing in fields.  Study pics of hunters holding dead cranes to get a feel for the size.

Step 2:  Template
Draw a crane template and tweak until you are happy.  This will be used to make all decoys.  It does not need to be perfect, just enough to get a crane within about 40 yards.  I made 10 copies of the same decoy so they would stack and store easily.

Step 3:  Paint
Paint the dark lettering on foam board with gray primer to keep the color from showing through.  (I'm not 100% sure this was needed but it is what I did.)

Step 4:  Layout
Layout 10-12 decoys on foam board.

Step 5:  Cut
Cut out your decoy silhouettes.  For the first few, I used a jig saw.  After giving myself the first reported clinical case of "foam lung", I switched to a really sharp utility knife with a long blade that I used like a handsaw.  Be careful, go slow.

Step 6:  Paint
Spray paint the decoys with the flat, gray Rustoleum primer.  (Next time around, I'd glue the fabric feathers on first and paint everything at once.)

Step 7: Glue
Make a cardboard template for the "skirt".  Cranes fold their wings along their sides.  The wingtip feathers form a black "tail" that moves a bit in the breeze and adds to the realism.  Glue the skirts on with the spray adhesive.  "Feathers" will be cut with a pair of scissors later.

Step 8:  Glue
Study the pictures some more and make a red felt "template for the red patch of skin on their heads.  I made mine too big and too bright but they seem to work OK.

Step 9:  Paint
Mix up some dark grey paint.  Paint the beaks (which I made too thick because I was afraid they would break) and, after studying the pictures again, some long looking feathers.  The final product should look something like the following.  After the paint dries, cut some feather "strips" out of the tail and touch up with dark grey paint.

Step 10:  Legs
Cut the CPVC pipe to ~12" sections with an angle on one end.  (My prototype cranes had 2 foot long legs.  After killing a crane and studying the bird, I realize my cranes were WAY too tall.)

Paint these flat black and after dry, double tape a 6-8" piece of coat hanger wire.

Step 11:  Admire your handiwork!
Below are the SilloSocks decoys and my first homemade crane decoy.  To my eye, the SilloSock crane decoys look too dark.  Mine might be too light.

Inaugural Sandhill Crane Hunt

I was able to convince my buddy Kevin to go with me to chase cranes.  We set up under a large live oak tree where I'd seen crane numerous times with the decoys about 30-40 yards out.  The "plan" was to have the birds land into our spread into the wind.  Below is our view for the next few hours.

The problem is, the oak canopy provided excellent cover but also hid the cranes that showed up.  They would look at our spread but not commit to landing.  We were able to take a few pass shots that were too long.  ALL of the cranes in the area landed about 200-300 yards away near NO COVER.  On the ride home, we strategized for the next attempt.

Observations and Lessons Learned

  • We needed to get a call.  Calling with you voice did not seem convincing.  Once cranes landed nearby, they would loudly and wildly call to other cranes in the air.  The airborne birds would fly directly over to the calling cranes after giving our decoy spread a minor look.
  • We had to find a way to hide in the open.  ALL cranes we saw that landed were not near any over.  This only makes sense.  Unlike ducks which can use water to their advantage, cranes are always near something (hunters, coyotes, dogs, cats, ...) looking to jump and eat them.  The problem is, the field in which we were hunting is flat with some brush sticking up 6" every so often.  We discussed everything from blankets to ghihillie suites to digging a small trench.
  • Related to the above, dark camo sticks out like a sore thumb on a light colored, grassy prairie.
  • Bunch your decoys.  Cranes will really bunch up once they find a place to their liking.  After a few hours, there were two places on the prairie with at least 200 cranes each with a few pairs elsewhere.  Perhaps we had spread our decoys out too much.

The next outing (blog pending) was successful with two cranes killed!  Of course, this then required more modifications to the cranes (which generally needed to be darker).


A Man in the Woods

Thursday, January 15, 2015

How to Cheer Yourself up in 8 Seconds or Less

Anytime I feel down...

     or start to complain about my health...

          or grumble about traffic, or the weather or anything else...

I stop and say to myself ... "Well, at least I'm not suspended by my testicles while trying to get lunch".

I sincerely hope this squirrel died instantly.  If he did not, I assume he wish he had!


A Man in the Woods who has been chasing Sandhill Cranes lately

Monday, January 12, 2015

Marriage Enhancing Moves of a Duck Hunter: Evidence

When his wife returned from her trip, all seemed relatively normal at first.  Perhaps her husband had a calm, normal time by himself after all.  The laundry was done, kitchen was clean, he had even bathed the much hated 3-legged dog.  Yes, everything seemed in order.

But little things seemed off.  There was a little extra spring in his step.  He seemed to daydream with a far away look in his eye more than normal.

Another woman?   Perhaps, but unlikely.

A secret, hidden purchase?  A new rifle?  No, this was different.

The telltale duck feather in the kitchen sink was all the evidence she needed.  Her special fear was realized.... he had been cleaning game in the kitchen again while she was away.


A Man in the Woods (and in the Swamp sometimes too!)