I met Rick in the fall of 1996 when I was invited as a guest to hunt one weekend at a hunting club in Caswell County. I needed a place to hunt so I wanted to make a good impression so I brought some moose steaks with me and grilled them for the guys. Rick in particular like it but he had a number of suggestions on how to improve my marinade that years latter makes me laugh because Rick is not much of a cook. As a matter of fact most of us who know him would avoid anything Rick said he cooked but he always had suggestions on how to improve whatever it was you cooked. I joined that club in 1997 and it started me on a lifelong friendship with Rick. Initially I wouldn’t say we were close but what really bonded us together was turkey hunting.
At the time the turkey population in the state was pretty low except for Caswell county that held most of the turkeys. NC Wildlife would use many of those Caswell county birds to populate the rest of the state. Our club was sitting in a great spot and we saw turkeys all the time so I figured what could be so hard I’m going to be a turkey hunter. Our club the turkey hunt amounted to usually opening weekend and typically by 10 o clock in the morning we empty handed hunters were headed to town for breakfast and called it a day. Most of us never even saw a turkey never mind kill one. I wanted to kill one and I knew the way these guys hunted there’d be more biscuits and gravy in my future than turkey dinner. Rick was the one guy who every year tagged out on turkeys so I knew if I was going to learn this turkey hunting stuff he was going to have to teach me. So one night in deer camp I got him talking about turkey hunting and he agreed to work with me on learning to turkey hunt. He was with me when I killed my first turkey. A hunt on the Caswell Game Lands many years ago and the start of an obsession we both shared. I’m not sure who was more excited that day him or I but we often relived those memories many times sharing our love for turkey hunting.
Anyone that hunted much with Rick could tell you he was a planner. He knew how whatever animal we were hunting was going to move through the habitat and where we needed to be. He had spent so much time hunting and observing the natural world that he was really gifted. Anytime Rick said look there or watch over there I would listen because the man knew his stuff. He loved planning hunts. I remember one year him and I had been chasing this one particular gobbler which Rick named Huey. This gobbler had been giving us the slip all season but Rick devised a plan to get Huey. Rick had a guy that had never killed a turkey before hunting with us so Rick put this guy on one of the trails we thought old Huey was using. Rick set up on one ridge and I was on the other he and I just called back and forth to each other. Sure enough we got Huey’s attention and he gobbled his fool head off walking that trail between both Rick and I. We both waited for the boom of the gun which never came and Huey shut up and slipped out of there. Some how he busted us. When we all got back together the hunter had and exciting story to tell because he practically had gobbler snot all over him because Huey had gobbled right behind him. He got busted trying to slip around to shoot him. Rick was dumfounded because Huey came a different way then he expected. That is when the hunter told him well he came the way you said I was looking the other way because I could see more that way. We all learned a lesson that day including Old Huey that made him a much harder bird to kill.
Rick enjoyed a good laugh and he and I shared a lot throughout the years. While he was a target of my practical jokes a fair amount of the time he was also great at pulling stuff on others. Rick was with us the weekend we dreamed up Hen -N- Heat and the fun we had with that. That story took on a life of its own and I suspect Rick had something to do with us getting calls from Texas and California trying to buy some bottles of the stuff. He got Michael Waddell to ask me about it at one of the hunting shows.
One of my favorite pranks we pulled on our hunting club president and Rick’s best friend Jim was making believe he was in deer hunting heaven. We kept Jim in that stand all season long by making fake scrapes and rubs all around it. One of us would be with Jim and the other would be in the woods making deer sign. Any time Jim suggested he might hunt a different stand Rick and I would argue about which one of us should get the privilege to hunt Jim’s stand. Needless to say Jim wasn’t letting either one of us hunt it so he kept going to it all season.
The hunting prank that I pulled on Rick a number of years ago and gets talked about often happened at our website’s annual swan hunt. I had gone down a few days before to photograph swans which gave me the perfect opportunity to get Rick. I called him before he came down and told him the swans were really screwy this year and it was likely the first few people will get a shot but the ones at the end probably wouldn’t. The night before the hunt the outfitter Mike met with all of us to go over the plan for the morning hunt. Seeing where there was 17 people hunting Mike wanted everyone to draw numbers for the order of the shoot. Everyone was in on it so all the little slips of paper in the hat had #17 on them. Mike went around the room and everyone drew yelling out made up numbers “I got three”…. “I got eleven”…. “I got Two”…. Until it got to Rick and he pulled out #17. The next morning you could see Rick was wondering if it even be worth it to trek out into the field. Mike couldn’t keep it going so on the second flock he told Rick to shoot and he got a magnificent swan. As I recall as Rick figured out what I did and saw everyone else get their bird he had a few choice words for me. I guess I was getting him back for the day he told me “raise the hood and tinker with the engine I’ll be right back” But that’s a story for another day.
Rick loved his family and friends and would do anything for you. I will miss the wisdom and the support he gave me as we talked about different challenges and issues we or our family were facing. In the early days, he would talk with pride about his daughter’s clogging team and their competitions. There were times we’d be trying to plan a hunt and he say “nope not that day I got to take my mother to the beauty parlor” He was always looking to help others and he genuinely cared about you and you knew it. More recently it was stories about the grandchildren and how they were growing up. Rick loved his family so much.
I guess for me Rick’s the guy I have hunted with the most over the past 20 years. The guy that on days he couldn’t make it out hunting would call me to check to make sure I got out safe. Hard to believe there will be no more days laying in a hayfield with decoys all around us waiting for geese to get off the lake talking about whatever. The news of the day being cut off by Rick barking “Mac they are getting up get ready”. I don’t know how he did it but he always seemed to hear the geese or turkeys first before anyone else.
Bottom line is I could tell you a hundred stories of the things we did together and I could fill notebooks with all these great memories. I trade them all for one more hunt with my friend Rick…. Godspeed my friend until we meet again.
Very soon dove season will be upon us here in North Carolina. Its my favorite time of year. College football kicks off, and the hunting season kicks off along with it. As others on our forum have said, the main reason why I love September doves is because I know all the other hunting opportunities for the upcoming season will soon be here. The long hot summer will be over and give way to cool fall with crunchy frosty autumn leaves. That’s not to say that there’s no enjoyment of the dove hunting itself. Some of my favorite memories happened in the dove field.
Below is an image showing the hunters lining up for a pre-hunt lunch. This was back when the season opened at noon instead of sunrise.
And here’s what they were after.
Over the years a number of entertaining stories and incidents have taken place. There was the time the same hunter shot two doves in a row and both of the birds struck him, the second of which lodged its beak in his leg, requiring him to pull it out and stuff a handkerchief down his pants to stop the bleeding.
Another time I had the unsettling experience of seeing a loaded 12 gauge pointed at me by a 13-14 year old kid who was intent on shooting the wounded bird that was fluttering up in the air between the two of us. He was probably 40-50 yards away, but I didn’t wait around to find out if it would hurt. Instead I yelled and waved my arms at him before chasing down his bird for him.
One of my absolute favorite memories happened while I was hunting a draw field on public land in eastern NC. Everyone filed out into the field and set up along a tree line. Every 30 yards or so, there was hunter on his seat waiting patiently for the birds to begin flying again. A late arrival walked down the line of hunters carrying his dove bucket and accompanied by his yellow lab pup who looked to be about half grown. The dog stopped at each spot to see if the smelly human in camo had anything for him to eat, before being pulled on by his owner.
The pair filed all the way down to the far end of the field where they set up. As anyone who has sat in a dove field in NC on a hot afternoon knows, its common for the doves to quit flying for hours at a time, usually between 1PM to 3PM or so. This day was no different. As the day wore on, water was drunk and nabs eaten. But no doves were shot. All that changed around 3PM. A group of four flew over and the entire tree line erupted, downing two. This was followed by an unbelievable ruckus and much cussing and laughter.
Looking down the line of hunters I saw the lab pup running for all he was worth back down the line of hunters to the truck, dragging the dove bucket he’d been tied to as he’d slept during the afternoon lull. The contents of the dove bucket were spread out along the entire line. Nabs here. Soda bottle there. Box of ammo here and tons of loose shells over there. The dog was being pursued, rather slowly but loudly by his owner who kept stopping to pick up something from the bucket as he chased the dog. To his credit, the dog did wait dutifully by the truck for his master to finally arrive. He loaded up and we didn’t see them again.
Finally, several years ago, I got to take my girlfriend’s son dove hunting at Conman’s. He was hooked. Seeing the birds come in and hearing the gunfire erupt and then hearing the pellets settle from the sky made him ask me repeatedly to go the next year and the year after. He wasn’t ready for the accidental head removal on the first downed bird, but he got over it. He stuck out long hot days and enjoyed blasting holes in sunflower heads when nobody else was around. Now he’s old enough to shoot a 12 gauge on his own and he still goes out with me whenever he can.
Yea…I love dove season.
North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission is holding meetings across the state to get feedback on future management strategies and what direction they should take. There is a lot of factors and different interests that will certainly come into play. I don’t think everyone will be happy with whatever the outcome will be. Just some random thoughts I have about the ideas being tossed around…… will cutting the firearm season in the east to about a third of what is has been be the straw that breaks the back of the hound hunters? what will be the impact on hunting leases? Will you be willing to pay the same amount to hunt a lot less time or will you roll that money into a trip out of state to hunt for a week where you have better odds of getting a crack at a trophy? Economic impact in some of the poorest rural parts of our state….. less travel for hunts, less lunches and dinners sold, gas, other services. The impact on the deer herd while it maybe down a bit now if it bounces back will the State be nimble enough to make adjustments regionally to reduce the herd or will we see even more outbreaks of blue tongue and other diseases. What is the impact of predators on the herd and what is the plan to keep them in check? Less days afield for hunters and an increase in road kill seems to suggest some boon days for the yotes. The flipside A more balanced healthy herd is what we expect from good management. Bigger bucks? Letting the young one’s walk will help us get there and a 2 buck limit statewide seems like a good idea. As you can see there is a lot of factors that come into play so its worth your time to get out and have some say on what our future holds.
Just a quick update…
There are a couple of changes. The turkeys on the main page have been replaced with something new since turkey season is over. 🙂
I’ve also enabled SSO (Single Sign On) for all members of NCH&F. So if you are a member you should automatically be signed in to the blog as well as the forums when you login. Later on this will allow us to grant people privs to write their own blog entries for us if y’all want to.
Next step is to get something set up so that new posts like this can be pushed directly to the forum so everyone knows when something changes.
Now a request…if things are set up correctly, you should be able to comment on this blog post. Give it a try and let me know if it worked!
Welcome to the new NCH&F Landing Page and Blog. This space will continue to evolve as we try out new themes and new formats until we find something that we enjoy and looks decent.
Have a great day and get on over there to the forums and post up! You can use the menu at the top or the big button below.Forums