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2020 Annual Report
The year 2020 has been different to say the least. Perhaps even frightening at times. I would be remiss if I didn’t reflect on the year. Despite having had perhaps 400 snow geese decoys out, I took only 4 snow geese. It seems hardly worth the effort except that I enjoy watching those birds circle my decoys. So like the Chicago Cubs of old, I find myself saying “wait till next year.” Plans call for an even larger decoy spread as several of us have decided to combine our decoys in the hopes of luring in more snow geese. There were, however, some successful crow hunts prior to snow goose hunting in the months of January and February.
During the month of March, I was fortunate enough to do some bass fishing in Florida. Although still searching for that mythical ten pounder, I did catch several nice dark bass for which Florida is famous. The family went to SeaWorld just prior to it shutting down the day right after we left due to Covid. The virus was new at that point, and no one, (let me repeat that) no one knew just how bad it would get. We flew out of Orlando for our trip home after standing in long lines with one rare person wearing a mask. I have a very good idea how Orlando must look today with testing and masks required. I believe it was in March that our African trophies arrived at Wildlife Gallery to begin hide preparation before being sent to our local taxidermist, Doug Tuttle. Almost as quickly as they arrived the Governor of Michigan shut the state down. I am not going to comment on whether that was the right thing to do or not, only to say we each must do what we deem to be the right thing to do in fighting this horrible virus, which has claimed so many lives. I will only add that getting my trophy back in a timely manner seems pretty petty when you consider what Covid has cost us.
April saw me take one turkey during the Missouri turkey season. It was a fun hunt with me harvesting my bird on opening morning. Because of the silence, I had doubts about me taking a bird, but around 10:30 I heard one lone gobble easily within a hundred yards of my set up. More calling failed to produce anymore gobbles and I almost felt as though I had dreamed the entire thing. I was sitting in my Ameristep pop up blind. I had quit calling since the bird no longer answered me. When I checked my decoys I was shocked to see a tom strutting in among the hen decoys. I watched him over the rib of my shotgun barrel before eventually pulling the trigger and ending the hunt. The final two weeks saw me battle an elusive tom who gobbled his head off, but would fail to come in. For at least seven mornings taking Sunday off from hunting I had changed calling locations. Each morning I would talk to him and think that this was the morning I would hang his spurs on my necklace and turn the tom into breaded turkey nuggets. But each morning, I would leave the timber dejected and whipped. My hopes are the tom survives the winter and we meet for round two of a second season. I am not ready to throw in the towel, but that tom whipped me and whipped me good!
May was supposed to have seen me black bear hunting in Canada, but Covid once again changed all of our plans, including that hunt. It is a minor thing when compared to the human suffering in this country and around the world. The hunt is already paid for whenever I take it so we can wait until the danger will hopefully pass. This will be my final bear hunt unless I can take my grandson when he is of age and wants his own bear hide. However, there was good black bear news as during the year – my chocolate bear mount was completed and now resides in our basement. That mount brings back many memories including the harvest, as well as a black bear fight which occurred just prior to sunset. The victor followed a path which would lead him to within less than 40 yards of my stand. I would let him know that I was there by saying “Hey bear” twice. The final time he simply raised his head and stared at me. I will never forget looking into those beady, yet menacing little eyes. He did not run, simply turned and walked away with a little King Kong attitude as if to say, “You are not worth the trouble!”
The summer saw our small family stay away from most of the world as we attempted not to be exposed to the virus. There was lots of boating on Mark Twain Lake throughout the summer, as well as catfishing on the Mississippi. Among the highlights was a catfishing trip with my daughter, Amanda, and grandson, McCabe. He would end up catching the big fish of the morning which we have on video. The boat we were using is known as the Davy McCabe named after McCabe’s great grandfather who purchased the boat in 1968. Whenever I use the boat for either fishing or hunting I feel Dad’s presence as if he is almost with us. I know he is not, but I see him sitting in the back of the boat where he sat for many years running the outboard and fishing nets on the Mississippi. Another catfishing highlight was watching David “Skippy” Lemmon battle a very nice catfish in the fast water below a wing dam for over 15 minutes. While the fish was not a monster, Skippy was using the wimpiest fishing rod in the boat. The rod and the current made for a memorable fight. This trip occurred the week before Skippy was to begin his freshmen year at Mizzou. My final highlight catfishing this summer was being able to fish with my great nephew, Carter and my brother, Kent.
September would find us repeating the annual family tradition of dove hunting. There was a campout and cookout the night before with a lot of storytelling and reminiscing about previous hunts. Opening morning saw enough action for all of us and a rain that came through did not dampen our spirits. We simply returned to camp for an early dinner and returned to the field once the rain cleared. Always truly a good time regardless of how many birds we took and like Christmas there is a certain sadness when the cars are repacked and everyone heads back home.
One of the highlights of the year occurred when Doug Tuttle called me to tell me that the horns from our African animals had been delivered. I also had gotten two back skins that I had not known were coming. They were beautiful. A short time later the hides that had been wet tanned arrived and he is now in the process of working on those trophies along with the countless whitetail deer he has to complete. When he asked me to select the form for each animal he also asked in what order I wanted them completed. My dream of going to Africa was to harvest a Gemsbok, so naturally I wanted it done first and since it is perhaps the largest of my four animals it will require the most room. As I write this story, the animal will be on the wall within days. I can hardly wait.
There are several downsides of the year including my family’s suffering with Covid, as well as the suffering of close friends with the loss of family members. Here is hoping that 2021 will be a more normal year, but I doubt it as life can be dangerous on this big ball where we are not in charge. God Bless!