Saturday, December 20, 2008

Aubrey Shepherd's focal point for display of Labrador retrievers, natural-resource conservation, English language word use, outdoor sports, recreational sports and athletics

First printed in
The Morning News
of Northwest Arkansas

Aubrey's Notebook:
Old Duck Hunts Still Best
Shivering so hard his teeth chattered, the sub-teen boy kept his face down, his cold hands on the barrel of the shotgun that was almost as tall as he was and hoped his father's persistent calling would bring the small group of mallards down in front of the willow-covered blind. He and his father never had top-quality hunting clothes in those days.

In fact, the state of the art in hunting clothes wasn't especially high at the time. So being cold was an accepted part of duck hunting. His father always kept a small charcoal fire going in a big metal bucket inside the blind, but it was good only when one of the hunters took a break from watching for ducks to appear above the ring of cypress trees that hid the horizon on the northwest Louisiana lake.

Inside, the blind was cozy. Made of wood with a tar-paper roof and a canvas curtain between the sitting area and the shooting porch on the front, the blind was built high above the water, allowing part of the boat the hunters used to reach the blind to slide underneath. A brush-covered tin roof sloped back from the blind to hide the boat and limit the amount of rain that entered it while the hunters were in the blind.

The boat, the blind, the clothing, the 100 or so decoys anchored in 4 feet of water in front of the blind, the guns and the shells ‹ all of theequipment was the best the man could provide, given the fact that his wife wasn't interested in hunting, didn't like to cook or eat ducks and questioned every expenditure the man made for outdoor sports.

All of it was good. All of it would be acceptable to most duck hunters today, except the paper-bodied shells. Ammunition for shotguns had to be protected from moisture or shells would swell and hang up the guns after the first shot. That happened often enough that smart hunters kept their shells in metal containers that were easy to seal. Later, they used coffee cans with handy plastic replacement tops or sealed their extra shells in plastic freezer bags and put them in their coat pockets. But, in the 1940s, such cheap, convenient items weren't available. Shells got wet. Serious hunters also kept a stick trimmed off to the right size to ram down the barrel of a gun and force a lodged shell out of a gun's chamber. Usually, of course, the malfunction occurred when ducks were still in range.

That's why learning to make the first shot count was extremely important. There seldom were as many ducks on the lake as there were duck hunters. In fact, there were more blinds than ducks most days. Blinds were required by law to be 500 feet apart. A person who figured out a good spot to locate a blind and had success there quickly was surrounded. Others would build blinds 500 feet away, roughly in a circle around the prime spot.

This was the pattern all over the big lake, created a couple of decades earlier as a water supply for Shreveport. Less attractive blind sites might not be crowded by other blinds, but the only truly isolated blinds were the few placed far out in the open lake, where deep water had long before drowned all the timber. Such locations seldom attracted mallards, regardless of the number of decoys around them, the thoroughness of the brushing done on them or the quality of the calling from inside. They were "blackjack" blinds, where diving ducks such as ringnecks and scaup were the main targets.

When the hundred or more blinds in the shallow, cypress-studded parts of the lake were full of hunters on weekends, the open-water blinds could be the most productive places on the lake. Ducks that quickly became cautious when a barrage of calling sounded through the woods were likely to decoy readily to a big spread in open water, especially on nearly windless days, when decoys in the woods floated like the wooden chunks they were and open-water decoys seemed lively in even the lightest of breezes. Wind, however, was the factor that kept most hunters from bothering to build open-water blinds, even though sites on the lake could be claimed for a $10, one-time fee. The small, flat-bottom boats used in those days had low sides. Most were 12 feet long with a pointed bow and no decking to keep out heavy seas.

The boy and his father used such a boat until 1953, when they got a 14-foot Skeeter boat. No, not the popular bass boats bearing that name today. The original Skeeter was so named because it was a lean, low, light plywood boat with sides in the kayak style, capable of skimming over still water at high speeds with a 5-, 10- or 16-horsepower engine. Few outboard engines were larger in those days. Such boats could handle fairly large waves safely. But those at-the-time prestigious fishing boats weren't made to handle the storms that could arise on such a lake in winter. And life jackets were rare. Most hunters had a Kapok-filled cushion or two and could have survived the capsizing of their boats only if rescued quickly. The boy shook more when ducks were near. He shook the same way when ducks approached even when he was 20 and 30 years old. Somewhere along the line, after he had mastered the sport and taken enough limits to know he was an accomplished duck hunter, the shaking stopped. His clothes were better. He learned to wear insulated leather boots even when hunting ducks from a boat. Finally, he learned to wear wool sweaters under his cotton or nylon coats. In the 1970s, he got his first pair of neoprene waders and camouflaged stocking caps with openings for his face. He could take the cold without shaking and he could watch ducks approaching without fear that he might fail to call them close enough for a shot. His shells were plastic-bodied and less susceptible to water damage and almost never swelled in a gun, although they could hang up!

He didn't shake any more, but he still loved to hunt ducks. He knew many ways to hunt successfully, had hunted ducks in so many different types of habitat that he not only had a plan in mind as soon as he saw a field or stream or lake or flooded forest but also could tell a credible story of past success in some similar spot. He knew the lack of shivering meant he had lost something he had enjoyed about those early hunts with his father. But he couldn't say he missed the shivering itself. Besides, as he grew older, he was likely to shiver in his living room, unless he turned up the heat or put on some of his hunting clothes. The main thing he missed were the days in the blind with his father, and the smell of dried willow leaves, charcoal burning in a bucket and strong dark-roast coffee from a thermos.

[Click here to email Aubrey]
Aubrey James Shepherd
Fayetteville, AR © 2003, 2004, 2005

Site design by Lauren Hawkins' LDHdesign

Decade-old story of duck hunting south of Stuttgart near Lodge Corner

Aubrey Shepherd's focal point for display of Labrador retrievers, natural-resource conservation, English language word use, outdoor sports, recreational sports and athletics

First printed 1/16/98 in
The Morning News
of Northwest Arkansas
Decade-old duck-hunting story from Stuttgart trip

Aubrey's Notebook:
El Nino duck season frustrating
to some but not a washout
STUTTGART – Mallards and wood ducks came sailing into Wayne Hampton's favorite flooded timber 30 minutes before sunrise. Dr. Ed Green of Baton Rouge, La., Bounty Grant's Aubunique Egg and I hadn't been there in five years; so we thought the action was wonderful.

Green and I knocked down three mallards and a woodie within 15 minutes after legal shooting time arrived in the Arkansas County bottomland a few miles south of Lodge's Corner.

Egg – a 75-pound, 7-year-old Labrador retriever who got his nickname when I first saw him at Joan Koty's Bounty Grant Farm near Beebe when he was only four weeks old and looked like a big chocolate Easter egg – retrieved happily.

My duck season was a success because of that few minutes. Missing five years of duck seasons – for three previous decades I had seldom missed five days of any duck season – made me easily pleased, I suppose. We spent most of the rest of that morning in a duck blind not far away, in one of Wayne's favorite openings in the timber. The blind wasn't there five years ago. Hampton had told us that he had allowed Henry Gray, retired former director of the Arkansas Highway Commission, to build the blind there a few years back; and, despite wearing Neoprene waders, I was as anxious as Egg to stand out of the water as much as possible. We put out eight decoys and got a few bunches of mallards in, carefully picking our shots to add three more mallard drakes and finally a single shoveler to our bag for the morning.

Then we headed to Hampton's house in Stuttgart, where his wife, Virginia, had lunch ready and duck-hunting stories filled the air. Hampton showed us a news story about congressmen from Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana calling on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to extend the season a week. And no doubt the hunting has been relatively poor in these Deep-South states. El Nino is the reason for the poor season, many people believe. Hampton's friends in the Dakotas told him the weather hadn't been cold enough to freeze up the northern water and force the ducks to head south as expected by January.

Hampton explained that hunting had been fine early in the season but that ducks that arrived early had become wise to hunters' tricks and no longer decoyed readily. Hampton said that the extremely long season exhausted him – at age 79 – and that he hadn't hunted since New Year's Day, explaining why ducks were not extremely wary in his special spot. Hampton, Green and I agreed that extending duck season might get congressmen some votes from frustrated hunters but that in the long term no good could come from the proposed extension.

Remember, Hampton and his son Rick own some 4,000 acres of Grand Prairie wetland. Their main crop is rice, attracting ducks and geese in uncountable numbers. People such as Jerry Jones, owner of the Dallas Cowboys, and the governors of both Arkansas and Oklahoma are among the many who choose to hunt with the Hamptons. The Hamptons manage the land for the benefit of waterfowl as well as deer, squirrels and other wildlife.

Wayne Hampton had hunted practically every day of the first two-thirds of the season. Green and I had hunted one day in 1998 and none in 1997. But there is no way to determine which of us loves ducks or duck hunting the most. I can't imagine either of them or anyone else loves ducks or duck hunting more than I.

But that brings out the pivotal question in the effort to extend the hunting season. Who really cares about the ducks? As much as the three of us love hunting ducks, we love the ducks more. I started hunting ducks with my father in 1948. No single activity, not even baseball, has held my imagination more since then.

The existence of healthy waterfowl and the habitat they need to continue to exist, whether hunted or not, is an extremely important aspect of life to me. The recent nesting success of waterfowl on the northern prairies has increased waterfowl numbers to a level I never saw during my childhood.

Limits are extremely generous and the 1997-98 season was exceptionally. El Nino may have saved some duck's lives by letting them stay in the northern states long after those states' seasons ended. That can only help insure the success of future seasons. Let's be grateful.

[Click here to email Aubrey]
Aubrey James Shepherd
Fayetteville, AR © 2003, 2004, 2005

Site design by Lauren Hawkins' LDHdesign

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Audubon Society to meet at 6 p.m. today at Fayetteville, Arkansas, public library

Northwest Arkansas Audubon Society (NWAAS) will have an important
meeting Dec 17, 6-7:45, in the Williard & Pat Walker meeting room of
the Fayetteville Public Library. Because of the short time available,
please come a little early. The only business of this meeting will be
whether or not NWAAS will continue to function. I urge anyone with an
interest in the outcome -- whether or not you are currently an Audubon
member -- to come. If you think NWAAS should dissolve, your voice will
be welcome. If you wish to see NWAAS continue into the future, your
voice will also be welcome.
Joe Neal

Saturday, the Highlands chapter of the Ozark Society will bushwhack into Dismal Hollow in Newton County, visiting an abundance of waterfalls, bluffs and deep gorges. Although the distance is less than 5 miles, the route is rated difficult because of steep slopes.
Participants are to meet at 8 a.m. at FirstCare Medical in Fayetteville or at 9:30 a.m. at the country store in Deer.
For details, call Bob Cross at (479) 587-8757.
On Sunday, the group will explore the trails at Pea Ridge National Military Park. The trail is nine miles long and is rated easy. Participants are asked to meet at 9 a.m. at Root Elementary School in Fayetteville or at 10 a.m. at the park's visitors center in Pea Ridge. E-mail martykerns@juno. com for details.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Mallard drake swimming after two hens on December 6, 2008

Please click on image to ENLARGE photo of mallard drake swimming after two hens on December 6, 2008

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Northwest Arkansas Times reports that Coody breaks tie to approve Southpass sewer cost share

Balanced budget : Aldermen pass budget that leaves reserves untouched
BY DUSTIN TRACY Northwest Arkansas Times
Posted on Wednesday, December 3, 2008
2009 budget balanced Coody votes for Southpass

In October, Fayetteville Mayor Dan Coody presented the City Council with a proposed 2009 budget that involved dipping into the city’s reserve funds to the tune of $ 535, 000.
Two months and three budget meetings later, on Tuesday night, the council voted unanimously to pass a budget that didn’t require reserve money to have a balanced general fund.
“This year it was a little tamer than last year, but I think then we did a little more venting, which paved the way for calmer discussions this year,” Ward 2 Alderman Kyle Cook said.
The council started hacking away at the original proposed budget by trimming $50, 000 marked for speed tables at its first budget meeting in November. Later on, staff found $59, 000 in unallocated capital-improvement budget funds, and the council saved $10, 000 by cutting proposed Dickson Street kiosks. The city also found out its workers' compensation bill was $ 100, 000 less than expected.
Finally, the council decided to cut its road-overlay program by about $300, 000 to make up the difference, which meant the city would be able to pave only about eight miles of street instead of 11 to 12 miles. But, on Monday, City Engineer Ron Petrie said that there was a $ 249, 000 surplus in the city’s bridge-construction fund, which was recently discovered after state bids came in lower than expected. Petrie proposed using that money to help balance the budget and taking only about $50, 000 out of the overlay program. The council agreed Tuesday night.
Paul Becker, director of finance for the city, said that the city would take all the cuts it made from the capital improvement budget and make a one-time transfer of $ 417, 900 to the city’s general fund budget, which would balance it.
The last thought for the 2009 budget came from Ward 4 Alderman Lioneld Jordan, who is also the mayor-elect. He asked Becker if the council could revisit the possibility of using any excess money in 2008, if the city finishes 2008 in the black, for a cost-of-living adjustment for city employees. Becker said he wouldn’t know the end results of the 2008 budget until April of 2009, after the city’s first financial quarter of 2009 ends.
The council decided to send a $2. 15 million cost share with developer Tracy Hoskins to reroute Arkansas 112 back to the street committee. The cost share would partner the city with Hoskins to reroute Arkansas 112 just south of Sam’s Club diagonally northwest and reconnect it at Howard Nickel Road. Hoskins would then build his proposed mixed-use development, Park West, in the area.
The $2. 15 million would pay for only a quarter of the whole road. Petrie said that, if the contract passed, the road would essentially end in the middle of Park West. The contract guarantees that Hoskins will give the city the right of way to finish the road. City Attorney Kit Williams said the contract will be void and the money will be refunded to the city if Hoskins has not begun construction of Park West by November of 2010. Jordan, chairman of the street committee, said he felt more comfortable taking the issue back to the committee because the committee was given the cost for the whole reroute and not the $2. 15 million cost for a quarter of the construction. “We agreed we liked the realignment but we wanted to know what the cost was going to be, but we were never presented that until the past couple of weeks,” he said. There were some protesters and supporters who spoke about the development.
Aubrey Shepherd asked the council to turn the agreement down to protect the wetland prairie area the road and development is proposed to be built over. “If there’s a road built across that wetland prairie it should be on stilts, and we shouldn’t be doing it to encourage development,” Shepherd said.
Steve Rust, director of the Fayetteville Economic Development Council, asked aldermen to pass the agreement and encourage the development. He read part of a letter from an individual Rust said represented a prestigious hotel chain; Rust would not disclose which chain. The section of the letter Rust read stated that the hotel chain was interested in building a hotel in the area near Sam’s Club but it would not be interested if the road wasn’t redirected or the Park West development was not built.
Ward 4 Alderman Shirley Lucas expressed some concern about spending so much money to build half a road when there’s no guarantee more development will come to the city.
“What’s the phrase? ‘If we build it, they will come.’ We don’t even know if they’re going to come or not, and we’re spending a lot of money,” Lucas said.
The council also barely passed the tail end of the SouthPass development. Coody broke a 4-4 tie that entered the city into a $ 1. 4 million sewer infrastructure cost share for the 900-acre mixed-use development proposed for the south side of town.
“If this is for the contract, I don’t get a choice on how to vote because I don’t want to see the city get tied up in a lawsuit,” Coody said before he cast the final “yes” vote.
He was referring to the fact that the city (HE) had already signed a contract with developers John Nock and Richard Alexander for the SouthPass agreement and the council was advised at its Nov. 6 meeting by Williams that, if they failed to pass the development, the city could be subject to legal ramifications.
Jordan, Lucas, Ward 2 Alderman Nancy Allen and Ward 3 Alderman Bobby Ferrell voted against the cost share.
Copyright © 2001-2008 Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Inc. All rights reserved. Contact:

The Morning News reports that Geesepeace group offers to scam some money from Bella Vistans

Geesepeace knows what it is talking about. But why the big prices? Just eat the eggs when you find the nests and save money on breakfast. Kill a goose and cook it if you have a license during the season. The plan sounds as though it might work. But why spend thousands of dollars on a border collie?" Get one cheap from the pound, borrow one or just use a neighbor's Labrador retriever. Heck, even an Irish setter probably can do the job. They love to swim and chase big birds and never run out of energy.
What happened to the plan to invite people in other rural areas to adopt the geese? Volunteer conservationists are great. But professional conservationists sometimes get greedy. This ain't rocket science! And what is so bad about a golfer getting a little something messy on his cleats. Are they all just weak-kneed pansies or what? Is golf more important than wildlife?

The Morning News
Local News for Northwest Arkansas

Organization Delivers Bella Vista Goose Plan
By Anna Fry
A goose population control program suggested by GeesePeace would cost the Bella Vista Property Owners Association $10,860 initially, then less than $5,000 annually, according to a report released Tuesday.
GeesePeace, a Virginia-based nonprofit group, promotes nonlethal methods for controlling Canada geese. The Bella Vista Property Owners Association invited GeesePeace representatives to visit after residents complained about a board decision to use a federal permit to shoot 100 geese. The board revisited the issue and decided to pursue different methods.
The village has an estimated goose population of 1,000. Many say geese droppings foul the community's lakes, parks and golf courses.
GeesePeace's suggestions change from community to community, but the formula is similar and uses the same techniques, Director David Feld said.
GeesePeace suggests the association oil eggs in April. That means coating eggs with corn oil to seal pores so oxygen can't get in and biological processes stop. That's only done to eggs in which the embryos haven't developed lungs. Treated nests are taken down.
The association should do intensive "site aversion" between mid-May and early July, according to the report. Site aversion means making areas inhospitable to geese. Bella Vista could use one border collie to chase geese but a second dog would be helpful in the first year, the report states. The border collie should flush the geese from parks and golf courses during the first week of May. Handlers should transport the collie by boat to flush geese from lakefront properties and the lakes.
The intention is to make geese feel the area isn't safe so they'll move elsewhere. The collies don't need to flush all lakes every day, but the collie should return on a random cycle.
A border collie would cost $4,500 and can live with a host family, who would receive a monthly stipend of $110, the report states.
GeesePeace also suggests the association buy handheld lasers for $80 a piece. Workers can point the lasers around geese, who will fly away, Feld said. Border collies are much more effective, but the lasers are quiet, he said.
Site aversion stops between early July and mid-August because the geese can't fly when they are molting. After molt, site aversion with the border collie starts again and continues until geese begin looking for nesting sites, in February, Feld said.
The report gives a brief history of the nation's problem with resident Canada geese. In the first half of the 20th century, they were captured and had their wings clipped or legs weighted so they could be used as live decoys that drew other geese to bodies of water. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and some state agencies started a repopulation program and required the release of captive geese in the early 1960s because hunting threatened the population with extinction, the report says.
The descendants of captive geese and those born from the repopulation program don't migrate to Canada because geese nest in the area of their birth.
The association doesn't have money set aside in next year's draft budget for goose population control, Chairwoman Roberta Dale said. The board was waiting for GeesePeace's report to make a decision about implementation and could make one at a quarterly budget review next year after consulting with the Lakes Committee, she said.

Fast Fact

Canada Geese
If Canada geese can find open water when the temperature is 10 degrees Fahrenheit, they'll stay warm enough because they have down on their stomachs and chests that insulates them.
Source: GeesePeace Report