Friday, September 28, 2012

Chronicle of an Outing By Luke Clayton

As published in North Texas E-News on September 24, 2012

This past week’s outdoor adventure was a month in the planning. While setting around an aspen wood campfire at elk and bear camp in the mountains of northern Colorado earlier this month, my longtime friend and frequent hunting partner Mark Balette invited those present to his ranch in Trinity County for a teal hunt. The assemblage consisted of Larry Large, my partner in the elk hunting operation, Billy Kilpatrick, our camp manager and cook, Bob Hood, longtime Texas based outdoors writer, myself and of course Balette.

Mark’s invitation was instantly accepted by all and the date was set for last week. You would really have to spend a bit of time around my group of ‘running buddies’ to get the full impact of their vast experience in the outdoors. These old boys know how to do it all when it comes to hunting and fishing. For grins one evening, we did a rough estimate of how many years combined, that we all had enjoying the outdoors. Between the five of us, it tallied somewhere around 255 years! That equates to a great many sunrises, sunsets and short nights in hunting and fishing camps. When you do the math, you can readily ascertain that several of us have reached out sixtieth birthday!  We might not have quite the ‘go’ we had thirty years ago but what we lack in energy we more than make up in experience! 

Large spent his early life hunting and fishing in the Pacific Northwest and for the past quarter century, guided bass trips on Lake Fork and for elk in Colorado and New Mexico. Balette grew up hunting and fishing on his family ranch and now hosts hunters from across the nations on hunts for hogs, deer and exotics. Kilpatrick grew up camping and fishing and for the past many years, guided crappie trips on Lake Lavon. He can kindle a fire and have supper ready by the time hunters have time to change out of their hunting clothes for the evening meal! Hood is a well known outdoors writer with more than 45 years spent writing about the outdoors and is one of the most well rounded outdoorsmen I know.  My group of buddies is never at a loss for hunting and fishing tales around the campfire; they all have plenty of past experiences to reflect upon!  

We arrived at Mark’s ranch in early afternoon with plenty of time to get a couple dozen decoys out and blinds brushed in. In a little over an hour Mark and Larry had the elk quartered and the meat chilling in the walk in cooler, the rest of us were busy bass fishing. I had thrown my little Frontier 12 boat by Nucanoe in the truck and as always, found the rugged little craft ideal for getting me into tight areas that were holding fish. We caught bass on everything from top water plugs to spinner baits to Texas rigged worms. The recent cool down of the water temperature had put the fish in the feeding mode. 
After a few hours of chunking baits and fighting bass, Mark asked if we thought it a good idea to break into two groups and go for a late afternoon teal hunt. 

“I know it will be a banner shoot in the morning but with all these birds present and two lakes to hunt them on, I don’t see why we can’t enjoy two hunts. What do you think?” asks Mark, knowing that we would be ready to go. 

We settled into our blinds an hour or so before sundown and after the first shot, teal were buzzing our decoys from every direction. Teal are suckers for decoys and they will readily decoy to anything from magnum mallard decoys to those made specifically for teal. Back at camp, we quickly turned the evening shoot into the makings of one very tasty duck dinner. Teal breasts, with a slice of jalapeno and wrapped in bacon are very tasty when grilled over hot coals. 

Teal hunting was great in East Texas for Luke and a few of his best friends but memories were made that will last a lifetime. photo by Luke Clayton
We debated on whether to enjoy grilled duck breasts for the evening meal or stick with the original plan of fried crappie. Billy had brought enough crappie fillets to feed the entire crew….twice! The teal breasts would freeze nicely for another meal. Teal are the tastiest of waterfowl but we all know how good those snow white crappie fillets are when fried crispy in hot oil!

The after dinner conservation went from recapping our recent hunt in the mountains for elk and bear to the upcoming white tail season. As we all joke, it doesn’t take long to spend the night at hunting or fishing camp but we managed to turn at a decent hour.
Morning’s first light found us back in the duck blinds, eagerly awaiting what we hoped would be a banner teal shoot. The birds took wing at first light and, as is usually the case, flew well for the first hour or so; long enough for us to add plenty of ‘new’ birds to the freezer bag of duck breasts back at camp. Bass again beckoned and we cased out shotguns and broke out the bass tackle. Fishing equaled that of the previous evening. 
By nine a.m. we headed back to camp, broke out Mark’s homemade wok made from a plow disk with two horse shoes welded on the side for handles. About 15 years ago, Mark made a couple of these very useful outdoor cooking utensils, one for himself and one for me. We’ve packed them along on many, many outdoor adventures. Our morning meal consisted of breakfast tacos made from elk sausage, eggs and potatoes, all cooked in the wok. 

Does it get any better than this? I think not, at least not for a bunch of outdoor types that have learned how to make the most of their “banker's holidays.”

DUCKS UNLIMITED BANQUETS - Ducks Unlimited banquets are being held across the country. For a listing of events closest to you, go online to www.ducks.org and click “events.” 

For many years, I’ve been present at the annual Dallas Ducks Unlimited Banquet. If you have never attended, I strongly advise you go this year, even if you might have to do a bit of driving to get here. This huge even it well worth your time and thousands of dollars are raised to held to benefit waterfowl. This year’s event is the 75th Anniversary Banquet and will be held at the North Texas Banquet Center at 677 W. Campbell Rd in Richardson. For more information, go online to www.dallasducks.org. I’ll see you there! 

Listen to Outdoors with Luke Clayton and Campfire talk with Larry Weishuhn at www.catfishradio.com. Email Luke via the web site with outdoors news from your area.

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