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I have a ton of great Christmas memories, many of them spent outdoors. Unconventional for most folks, but just perfect if you ask me. Think about it. That very first Christmas morning was spent outdoors, with critters all around. Perfect!
It was warm last year on Christmas day. Robin and I had no family around, so we set out for the lake early on Christmas morning. We spent the entire day on calm waters chasing after big green bass. I don’t recall the fish count at the end of the trip, but I do remember a cool, calm, quiet day surrounded by God’s beautiful creation and my beautiful bride.
My cousin and his wife have sold the place now, but for years they owned a ranch with a grand ol' two story house located out by the blacktop at the front of the place. The house was built, and built well, back in the 1800’s and had a huge fireplace that we kept crackling and popping for a full week. It was Christmas time, and I had permission from ol' cuz to spend Christmas with my family there. Robin’s folks and sisters were there, and since my family lived close by, they were there each day too. We cooked big meals, told tall stories and enjoyed each other’s company in this secluded old ranch house. Christmas morning came with a reading of the birth of Christ, sharing gifts, and a huge country boy breakfast. It had started snowing on Christmas eve and it snowed a lot for Texas. Maybe six inches or so. It was a white Christmas and that was rare! It made this special time even more special. About 9 or so, we turned the bird dogs loose from right there at the ranch house. Across the new fallen snow they went...past the cows in the big mesquite pasture and down toward the creek bottom. The red brittanys we could see pretty good. Those white setters, not so much. Once the dogs hit the creek bottom, the run was over and the hunt was on. The bob whites had congregated in the bottoms. The dogs would point tight coveys, not wanting to leave their warm resting place. We’d kick 'em up and scratch down what we needed for a good fried quail dinner on that Christmas day. Special.
I have hunted on a place in west Texas for almost 20 years now. It's dandy quail country that will hold birds even when the surrounding places are bare from drought or over grazing, and when populations are low. Several Christmases have been spent there, in the camper located in the old roping arena on the ranch-Robin, our son, Troy and me. Big Christmas morning, then lunch with the rancher and his family at the main house. One Christmas eve, when ol' Troy was about 10 or 12, I told him to take the pickup and go find the perfect Christmas tree. Cedar, mesquite, didn’t matter...”Just find one that you like, mark it somehow, then come back and get us.” I wanted him to have some adventure on his own. Life away from home would come sooner that I wanted. I knew that a boy driving a truck a few years before having a legal document in his pocket, on the nearly 6000 acre place would be an exciting mission and a big responsibility for him. He did well! On the far backside of the ranch, next to old cattle pens that had done their job for nearly a hundred years, Troy found a fine little mesquite that would serve as our tree on Christmas morning. He made it back to camp without incident, and the three of us loaded up the ornaments, lights and small generator. It began to snow as we trimmed the tree, and the next day, in the pre-dawn darkness of that Christmas morning, we fired up the little generator and plugged in the lights. WOW! What a sight! A campfire breakfast, the Christmas story, gifts and God’s grace in the absolute middle of nowhere. A thick snow was on the ground and it outlined the tree limbs and fence rails on the cattle pens. I’ve driven through that pasture on many hunts since that wonderful Christmas morning, never once though without taking a good look at that little Christmas mesquite that now stands three or four times the size. They don’t stay little long.
As you make your Christmas memories this year, please accept the warmest wishes for blessed time with your bunch, from all of us here in the camp-house at BBKO radio.
DECEMBER 20, 2016
Turkeys are one of my absolute favorite hunts. They are unpredictable, tough as a rhino, and nervous nelly when it comes to anything that looks or especially moves out of the ordinary. Just when you think you’ve got 'em figured out, they surprise you with a totally different game plan for the day. I hunted turkeys on a ranch near Junction, Texas a few years back. Broke traffic laws for 400 miles to get to the ranch before dark. My goal was to try and locate birds and roost them for the night, giving me a distinct advantage over them the next morning. “Roosting” your birds is simply watching the flock and which tree or trees they choose to sleep in. This happens as the last drops of daylight slip through the hourglass, just before dark. More times than not, they will fly down the next morning in the same direction that they flew up. Slip in pre-dawn and get set up right, and you're in good shape for a wonderful turkey dinner.
Well, I made it in time and stood in wonder, mouth breathing and wide-eyed as I watched the biggest flock of turkeys that I’ll probably ever see go to roost. I estimate 400 to 500 birds. Believe it or not, they flew across a shallow creek that ran along the base of a cliff and filled up the live oak trees halfway up that cliff! It was wonderfully amazing to see. They HAD to fly down to the same open area that they had used as a launching pad. They weren’t going to fly up. They were mine! No escape! Next morning I make the 8-10 mile drive in the dark over rough ranch roads for my rio roundup. I parked a half mile away, an hour and a half before sunrise. I was taking no chances. This was a slam dunk and I didn’t want to mess it up. I walked in by moonlight and settled under a small live oak. The scrub brush around the base of the tree provided a great natural blind. After settling in, I blew the owl hooter to reassure myself that they were still high above me on the cliff. They were. It sounded like hundreds of gobblers answering the locator call. It was a long wait, like the days leading up to Christmas morning for a youngster. Finally I heard soft yelps on this cool clear morning. I mimicked what I heard with my mouth call. Decoys set up and ready at 15-20 yards. Finally! One, two, four and eight at a time they started to fly down. It took twenty minutes for the trees to unload all of those birds. Problem…they chose to fly further than the launch pad to a rough, rocky, boulder riddled area that you’d NEVER suspect they’d use...except for two little hens that did exactly what I wanted the masses to do. These two came down to the soft open launching area and started slowly feeding over towards my decoys while the other 498 birds hit the rocks and headed in the opposite direction. The little hens came within 8 feet of me, circled me and my decoys twice and pinned me down, keeping me from plan B...moving along the creek bottom to get past the birds that were now headed in the wrong direction. Heckle and Jeckle hung around until the flock was gone and then took off trailing behind. Everything was perfect...I had done my work...I had the fool proof plan...then, the unimaginable happened, and I never fired a shot.
Life is that way. We make family, retirement, short term and long term plans, fool proof, every base covered and it's gonna be great. Then life changing news comes our way. That’s when we see how small and insignificant we, and our plans are. In the Bible, Proverbs 23:4 tells us not to trust our own cleverness. The one thing that stands through it all is a never changing God. The same yesterday, today and tomorrow. Full of love and grace for you and me. If you know Him as Lord and Savior, and He is your all in all, life’s curveballs and hard knocks are not nearly as devastating, and hope becomes your most prized possession! He is the only source of true hope!
APRIL 15, 2016