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<u><span style="color: #FF0000">THE HOMESTEAD</span></u>


The old barn block is blanketed with moss, well worn from the effects of Father Time. A crumbling hearth still stands on the western side, not far behind, the remnants of a spring house veiled in greenbriar. The weathered boards and rusted steel are all that remains of what I believe to have been a wagon of sorts. A few good sized maples now reside in the center of the long forgotten foundation.

I often sit at the base of the foundation admiring the brilliant hues that autumn again offers. The grove of silver maples is in its Fall glory and the coloration is breathtaking. To the left, a stand of pines still stand, evidently placed here as a windbreak many years ago. Looking down below, the lakes edge is not far, obscured by the fog, the noisy Canadians announce its presence. To my right the forest is nearly done in its reclamation project. A few nasty patches of multi-flora rose still cling to the creek bank, all that remains of yesteryears pasture.

The Homestead, as I’ve come to call it, has served as a favorite ambush point for many of my Fall forays. The area is a magnet for the large flocks of turkeys in Autumn. As a teenager the Homestead was within walking distance, which at that time was a necessity. Many a magnificent Fall morning found me watching Mother Nature awaken while leaning against the old stones. I never knew who lived there and often wondered what the place would have looked like in its prime. On a few occasions I found buried treasures in the soft soil near the doorway. A Tootsie Toy truck, an old medicine bottle and various other trinkets sit on my bookshelf at home. In all my visits I never encountered another person. I came to think of it as my place of solitude.

The images are burned permanently into my memory. The low flying geese returning from unknown fields, the vibrant red fox searching for a morning’s meal, and the busy fox squirrels collecting Autumn’s bounty. The aroma of rotting leaves and wild grapes permeates the area.

I hear him long before I see him. The guttural grunt’s and crunching of frosty leaves leave no doubt as to his identity. A ragged old doe is first to appear, mouth wide open, it’s apparent the chase has been on throughout the night. Although not huge by any standards, the eight point is as handsome as I’ve seen. Perfectly symmetrical, with daggers for tines he is an awesome sight. I watch quietly as he thrashes an innocent sapling. Not satisfied he focuses his attention on decimating another young maple. As he nears I vividly remember being able to actually smell him. The aroma of a rutting buck is unmistakable. The morning sun gleams from his freshly polished rack and he is the ultimate symbol of the wild. He moves on and into the pines his swagger evident in his stride.

The large flocks of turkey are what bring me here year after year. The open woods of the maple grove are a gathering spot for the birds. The pines to the left, serve as their primary roost, and the grapes and acorns above, as their preferred food. The area is a true turkey haven! Many friends and family members have accompanied me on these annual fall hunts.

The routine was always the same. Wait for first light, scatter the flock and let the fun begin. I recall no less than seven hunters taking their first turkey from the confines of the foundation. Young and old the excitement was always evident.

I had the good fortune of giving my friend Randy his final turkey hunt there several years ago. An all around good guy, Randy had hunted all of his life. We were introduced by a mutual friend and our love of the outdoors quickly became a common bond. He was a true sportsman in every sense and would have loved H.P.A. On this morning we were accompanied by his brother and another friend. Like clockwork the birds started talking as the sun peeked through the notch in the hillside. The woods were saturated with turkey talk as every bird in the area had to give their own “good morning” wishes. We had the good fortune of being right in the midst of it all. As planned, I left the 870 behind and crept to the waters edge. Still out of sight of the roosted turkeys I lay in wait. As the birds began pitching down they were soon caught between myself and the others. It would have been easy enough to take them as they fed by but the real fun was in calling them in. On cue we all sprung up and did our best to scatter the birds. Satisfied with our job we settled in for the hunt.

Twenty short minutes passed before the first yelps were heard. Soon a few more joined in and I knew it was on. The shrill whistles of kee-kee runs filled the forest as I did my best “lost bird” impersonation. Soon an old hen was yelping non-stop trying to assemble her flock. Doing her best to guide the “lost” youngster back she quickly decides to come round the confused bird up herself. Unknowingly she leads a procession of turkeys from the beech thicket above. The morning’s stillness is shattered by the 4 simultaneous blasts, and the innocence of the maple grove is lost. Four plump birds have been taken from the flock. Sadly Randy was taken way too young, way too soon, the following year. Albeit doing what he loved best. Happy hunting my friend!

For those of you familiar with my neck of the woods, The Homestead will soon be gone. A developer has purchased the lakes as well as the land surrounding them. Now heavily posted and reportedly patrolled it will soon be known as LakeView Estates. Off limits for the past three seasons I can only imagine the bucks and birds that inhabit it now. Often I’m tempted to sneak in just one last time but common sense prevails every time. It is with no bitterness that I bid farewell to yet another haunt.

Times change and I must move on. Admittingly I have not done much fall turkey hunting of late, but this year will be different. Scouting some state land this past spring I stumbled into an eerily familiar spot. Likewise a similar link to the past defines it. An old family cemetery, with several headstones dating to the early 1800’s. Just up the hollow a stand of pines reside and just below them an old foundation!

BONZ
10-26-2008





http://i233.photobucket.com/albums/ee55/bonz313/scan0002.jpg
 

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Clay,

You got incredible skills my friend and know what hunting is all about...would love to sit down at a camp dinner table with you and jut start telling the stories.

Your bud Randy and so many others are out there with us only in spirit...hunting does not die when the participant we know does, it goes on as we do...they are more powerful now to us when they are gone then when they were here...good, bad or a cruel twist, that is how God intended.

You make a great impact here...and I appreciate that, as does Randy and all those we collectively miss.

You got my best. Let's keep making them proud with our actions here and out there.

John

I once stumpled across an old homestead grouse spot here in the ANF that I then described on HPA, and afterwards I come to find out it was the remains of "trapperzeke"'s family cabin. In fact as a child he made the birdhouse that I described in my post that was in the white pine in front of the place. Talk about an errie crossing of paths. I truly believe this website is a vehicle some are meant to cross paths on..for the good of our heritage or because the ones we lost want us to know our struggles are not unique nor do we have to wade them alone.

Anyway, too many more...I look forward to them.
 

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Thanks once again , Bonz. I don't know what your occupation is currently , but there is a future in writing ! Thanks for the great read and good luck in the new hunting ground .....Finn
 

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Thanks for the read! Its a shame a place as special as that is on its way out.
 

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Bonz Great story !We live so close one of these days would like to sit down and share some tales.
Or maybe one day take a ride with me up to Warren county.Having you and Rooster swaping stories around a camp fire .... a man could almost sell tickets for that one.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Thanks guys. its reponses from fellow sportsman that really make my day
i have plenty more to share in due time.

Dave,
it would be an honor. I love the Warren county wilds!! a friend of mine had a place upriver from Tidioute and to this day i've never seen grouse hunting in p.a. like it was there!
 

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I read this the other night and it made me sleep well. You are one amazing writer Clay... I and many others here are waiting for your next little piece of writing. Even if it is just a paragraph, or a story about the days hunt... let us hear it in your way of thinking.
 
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