Friday, November 25, 2016

On The Road Again 32 Years Later

When I met Nancy at the Skylon Marathon in 1977, she was already an accomplished, record-setting road racer. She continued to work hard after we married in 1978, and in spite of my help, she got even better. Lots better.

We've got a shoe box full of clippings and notes from most all her races. I'm going to use Cold Duck as a vehicle for revisiting some of them with family and friends. Entries will be added in reverse chronological order. I've invited Willie to set the proper mood.

November 25, 1984

Event: Philadelphia Marathon
Location: Philadelphia PA
Distance: 26.214 miles
Time: 2:47:27
Place: 2
Prize: $500
Career Prizes: $9,482

The Skinny: Barbara Filutze won the women’s race. Other than Nancy winning $500 for second place, I recorded no further notes at the time. I must have been underwhelmed at the time. You may recall W. C. Fields’ epitaph….

October 28, 1984

Event: New York City Marathon
Location: New York NY
Distance: 26.214 miles
Time: DNF
Place: DNF
Career Prizes: $8,982

The Skinny: Nancy never ran well in high heat and humidity. At NY this year, the high temp was 79°F, and it was very sticky. Since she started with the elite women and I started in a different area with the also-ran men, we began the race on different courses. When I ran into Nancy at about mile 10, I suggested she drop out and we’d try a cooler marathon later in the Fall. As you’ll read next time, this was probably a good call.

June 2, 1984

Event: L’eggs Mini Marathon 10 km
Location: New York NY
Distance: 6.214 miles
Time: 35:57
Place: 22
Prize: $100
Career Prizes: $8,792

The Skinny: Nancy and I were surprised to learn how hilly a course could be routed through Central Park. There was a strong field present for this at-the-time A-lister event; but Nancy’s time also reflected a building fatigue factor in the aftermath of training for and competing in Olympia.

That said, we got to stay in a spiffy room at the St. Regis, got $50 a day for cheeseburgers (almost enough ;-) and were invited to a VIP sitting area one night at a huge NYC hotspot that year: Studio 54.

May 20, 1984

Event: The Lilac Festival 10 km
Location: Rochester NY
Distance: 6.214 miles
Time: 35:26
Place: 4
Prize: $400
Career Prizes: $8,692

The Skinny: This was Nancy’s second of seven consecutive Lilac 10 km races. The race staff was always extremely thoughtful to her (and me), the drive over from Buffalo was not a bother, and there was always a great after-party at a saloon whose name I can’t remember (I told you they were great parties.) Nancy’s 4th place finish this year must be leavened with her Olympia marathon performance just 8 days before.

May 12, 1984

Event: US Women’s Olympic Marathon Trials
Location: Olympia WA
Distance: 26.214 miles
Time: 2:40:57
Place: 37
Career Prizes: $8,292

The Skinny: Nancy trained very hard for these first-ever women’s marathon Olympic Trials. I know she left quite a bit of herself “out there” in some very rugged runs in February, 1984. The invitation to and good performance in the Trials remains one of the high points of her career.

I am surprised to find how few mementos we’ve kept of the Trials. I have just one photo, and it’s simply of Julie Isphording and others with Nancy outside their dorms in Olympia. I’ve done a bit of ‘net searching, and found a nice account of the Trails. You can enjoy it here.

March 18, 1984

Event: RRCA National Championships
Location: Albany NY
Distance: 18.642 miles
Time: 1:50:24
Place: 6
Prize: $350
Career Prizes: $8,292

The Skinny: The Chopperthon 30 km was Nancy’s final tune-up for the Olympic marathon trials coming up in May. Anne Hird outclassed the field in 1:45:15 over a tough enough course on a grey day.

October 9, 1983

Event: Miller Lite Marathon
Location: Milwaukee WI
Distance: 26.219 miles
Time: 2:39:15
Place: 1
Prize: $3000
Career Prizes: $7,942

The Skinny: What a great race for Nancy! Her time was a new PR; it won her $3,000; it earned her an invitation to the first women’s Olympic marathon trials; and, we have recently learned, it remains the course record after 32 years.

Milwaukee was very kind to us. Post race, we enjoyed a dinner with friend Dick Kendall and his daughter at a German restaurant. By evening’s end, and much beer, the owner, by now celebrating with us, invited us to his cellar for secret schnapps. Whee! and ouch….

September 25, 1983

Event: WBEN AROCC 20 km
Location: Buffalo, NY
Distance: 12.418 miles
Time: 1:11:54
Place: 1
Prize: $0
Career Prizes: $4,942

The Skinny: On weekdays Nancy trained almost exclusively on the loop in Delaware Park. She was quite prepared for this 20k held on a glorious Sunday morning in September. Her time was the 9th best 20k performance of all American women in 1983.

Nancy was introduced to the local media after this race. She was quite a hit, and was often the “color commentator” for occasional local broadcasts of racing events.

The autumn of 1983 was a high point in Nancy’s racing career. It was Good to be Queen.

June 5, 1983

Event: Linde Run
Location: Buffalo, NY
Distance: 6.214 miles
Time: 35:20
Place: 1
Prize: $300
Career Prizes: $4,942

The Skinny: The Linde Run — Linde is now Praxair — was held in the afternoon, somewhere near 5 or 6 o’clock. That was not Nancy’s favored time of day for racing. Further, she had been traveling and racing quite a bit over the preceding month and a half. Her time, if not her prize, is reflective of her fatigue.

May 28, 1983

Event: L’eggs Mini Marathon
Location: New York City
Distance: 6.214 miles
Time: 34:46
Place: 15
Prize: $100
Career Prizes: $4,642

The Skinny: L’eggs Mini Marathon was a biggie back in the ’80s, attracting the world’s best women racers, including Greta Waitz who won it 5 times.

Nancy is pictured here with her Moving Comfort teammates including Ellen Wessel, Eleanor Simonsick, Elizabeth Goeke, and Gail Kingma.

May 22, 1983

Event: CTFA Senior Championship
Location: Southern Ontario
Distance: 6.214 miles
Time: 34:00
Place: 3
Prize: $392US
Career Prizes: $4,542

The Skinny: I’m surprised that I have no photos, newspaper clippings or notes about this race, as it is Nancy’s career PR at 10 km. There must have been a very good field, as 34:00 and $500C is pretty rich for a 3rd place finish in 1983.

May 15, 1983

Event: The Lilac Run
Location: Rochester, NY
Distance: 6.214 miles
Time: 34:02
Place: 1
Prize: $600
Career Prizes: $4,150

The Skinny: On Nancy’s first ever visit to the Lilac Run, she set a new PR and the course record. In this initial and in subsequent years, the Lilac Run proved to be generous sponsors and great friends. Those were very happy times!

Here’s Nancy and men’s winner Sosthenes Bitok mugging with their awards.

May 7, 1983

Event: The Elizabeth River Run
Location: Norfolk, VA
Distance: 6.214 miles
Time: 34:41
Place: 1
Prize: $1,000
Career Prizes: $3,550

The Skinny: The Elizabeth River Run turned out to be a wonderfully enjoyable affair. Nancy was treated like family by personable race director Roberta “Bert” Cake of The Virginian Pilot. Nancy smashed the old course record in 34:41. And we both got to enjoy watching his girl friend haul star runner Adrian Leek around by the ear.

January 27, 1983

Event: The Birth of Paul Donnelly
Location: Buffalo, NY

The Skinny: Nancy’s sister Martha raised 4 wonderful children who are now outstanding young adults.

In addition to being whip smart, Martha’s kids have become very good athletes as well. I often send them additions to this blog not just to acquaint them with their favorite aunt’s accomplishments, but also, because they’re so fiercely competitive, to maybe fire them up to pursue even greater accomplishments.

“The kids” have grown up in a microchip age and, like their hip peers, are firmly dialed in to the digital age. They might be wondering why Harold Tinsley, in the prior entry, sent us a hand-written letter instead of just texting us. I guess the kids could be forgiven not “remembering” that there were no text messages 32 years ago. Remember? They hadn’t yet been born!

But that has changed overnight. Today’s entry therefore does not reference Nancy’s racing, but rather celebrates the birth of our godson Paul Donnelly 32 years ago. As Nancy was at the beginning of her racing successes, just so Paul was at the beginning of his life. I’m proud and happy that they both have succeeded so well in their missions.

In the photo below, Paul is seen with his young and lovely mother Martha lo those many years ago. I hope your birthday, and every day, is perfect, Paul!

Editor’s note: Nancy tells me that some of the preceding language may be construed as insensitive. She reminds, and I append with apologies, that Martha remains lovely to this day.

Thanks to AP, AN and ACDA for their effusive support and encouragement with this entry.

December 11, 1982

Event: The Rocket City Marathon
Location: Huntsville, AL
Distance: 26.219 miles
Time: 2:39:41
Place: 2
Prize: $0
Career Prizes: $2,550

The Skinny: Jane Buch beat Nancy over this hilly course. But Nancy’s 2:39:41 set a new PR and got her plenty of notice in women’s racing circles.

Harold Tinsley communicated with me in hand-written notes like this one. This was less a thoughtful and classy gesture (although Harold was certainly all that) than simply the way things were still commonly done in 1982.

July 17, 2014

Location: Buffalo, NY
Career Prizes: $2,550

The Skinny: Events in this blog happened 32 years ago today. This one, however, seems like it happened only yesterday. That’s probably because it happened just yesterday.

Our local newspaper published an article that referenced Nancy’s absence from a certain local race some years ago. The reference provides half the answer to the question of why there are so few local races mentioned in this blog.

July 11, 1982

Event: The Utica Boilermaker
Location: Utica, NY
Distance: 9.321 miles
Time: 0:55:45
Place: 2
Prize: $50
Career Prizes: $2,550

The Skinny: Earle Reed once again invited Nancy, this time a past champion, to have an enjoyable gambol over severe hills on a hot, sunny morning. What’s not to like?

Nancy had a good day, but couldn’t keep pace with Laura deWald (54:41) over the last 3 miles. The ice-cold post-race beer was, as always, superb.

June 6, 1982

Event: The Avon International Marathon
Location: San Francisco, CA
Distance: 26.219 miles
Time: 2:45:50
Place: 10
Prize: $2,250
Career Prizes: $2,500

The Skinny: The first-ever women’s marathon was scheduled to debut in the 1984 L.A. Olympics. Avon used their race and its relatively lavish prizes to focus attention on the considerable abilities of female distance runners.

The invited athletes got a pre-race bus tour of the course, and not surprisingly discovered that it was quite hilly. On a warm day, Lorraine Moller’s winning time was a modest 2:36:12. Of the 13 racers headlined in Avon’s pre-race press literature, Nancy beat all but 5 of them.

Nancy’s prize was her first large paycheck. It was huge for its time, but specially so for a 10th place finish in a women-only event. The incentive of such prizes fundamentally altered the way that Nancy would select and train for events in her racing calendar.

April 19, 1982

Event: The Boston Marathon
Location: Boston, MA
Distance: 26.219 miles
Time: 2:44:17
Place: 10
Career Prizes: $250

The Skinny: Charlotte Teske won the race on a blue sky 65°F day that was a bit warm for many marathoners’ preferences. Nancy’s 10th place finish established her as a serious runner on the national stage. The BAA medal she earned, while among the smallest she ever won at an important event, remains a talisman of one of her proudest achievements.

December 12, 1981

Event: The Avon Series
Location: Deer Creek, FL
Distance: 6.214 miles
Time: 34:30
Place: 2
Career Prizes: $250

The Skinny: The Avon Series was not just a lot of fun for a great many female athletes, but it also was a launch pad for a number of successful racing careers. In this race, Nancy broke her own PR at 10 km, and nearly ran down Nancy Conz for the win. We were both a bit surprised and delighted.

There was an after party that we traveled to by boat at night. It was a long time ago, but I recall that we all enjoyed a great night.

October 17, 1981

Event: The Skylon Marathon
Location: Buffalo, NY
Distance: 26.2 miles
Time: 2:40:48
Place: 1
Prize: $200 appearance fee
Career Prizes: $250

The Skinny: The day dawned cool, blue and windless, and it had Nancy all pumped up for a good race.

As usual, Nancy started at a conservative pace and gathered steam as she went. Onlookers were letting her know that she was the first woman, and this caught the ears of several of our male running club friends. They fell in step as sort of an honor guard, and that happy crew chugged along until near the very end.

Here’s a photo of Nancy setting a personal and course record just above the Horseshoe Falls. On her feet are a pair of the orange and white Etonic “Eclipse,” by far her favorite shoe over her career.

March 15, 1981

Event: The Cherry Hill 10-Miler
Location: Cherry Hill, NJ
Distance: 10 miles
Time: 0:57:10
Place: 1
Prize: none
Prizes: $50

The Skinny: Nancy and I flew into Philadelphia with tickets provided by the race director. He also found lodging for us with a well-intentioned couple eager to host an invited “star.” The couple was ever so sweet. They fussed around Nancy in anticipation of her every need, insisted that we take their bedroom, and were completely and impossibly nice. We phoned the race director and begged him to please get us a quiet room at the race hotel.

We breakfasted on race day with Bob B., a fellow we’d met some years before at the Maple Leaf Half Marathon in Manchester, VT. He was a middlin runner who was well enough connected to appear “at all the right races.” Over oatmeal, he casually mentioned that Ellison Goodall was going to win the race going away “because no one else is here.”  Nancy appeared to let the remark slide while we were at table, but she actually took it like a hard punch to her gut. Channeling Knute, I reminded Nancy of Bob’s withering assessment on several occasions prior to race time. Nancy made a point of finding Bob at the post-race ceremonies so she could ask him how he’d done. Like the commercials say, “priceless.”

Miss Goodall was a gracious good sport after the race. She not only congratulated Nancy, but promised to talk to her sponsor (Adidas) about adding Nancy to its team. Both Goodall and Adidas came through, although those particular shoes never proved to be a good fit for Nancy’s foot.

Her first place finish at the Cherry Hill 10-Miler was a significant victory for Nancy, bringing with it her first sponsorship and several invitations to coming races. She had arrived on the regional scene.

January 3, 1981

Event: The Charlotte Observer Marathon Race
Location: Charlotte, NC
Distance: 26.2 miles
Time: 2:47:08
Place: 1
Prize: none
Prizes: $50

The Skinny: The Charlotte course is quite hilly, and is not a place where a racer is likely to set a PR. Nancy did, however, smash the former course record by 11 minutes and 18 seconds (!!) with her time today. This win set the tone for 1981, and even better things were soon to come.

The men’s winner was Steve Podgajny. He and his wife Marjorie became new friends after we met at the post-race ceremonies. The morning-after headline: Editor’s Nightmare as Podgajny, Mieszczak win Charlotte Marathon.

We’d driven to Charlotte, lugging a case of one Canadian beer or other to share with friends we were making “on the circuit.” While recovering from the race with these potassium-enriched fluids, we heard of deteriorating weather in Pennsylvania and western New York - we used to have “old fashioned” winters then - and so, after we’d all polished off the case, we decided to head home around 3 a.m. Everything went smoothly if darkly through North Carolina. But we ran into some snow in the hills of West Virginia, and it continued to worsen through the swing east at Erie. The stretch from Pittsburg to Erie was a real bear after having driven red-eye all night and with the west winds now making the driving treacherous. I recall two campers who were very happy to arrive home two or so hours later.

July 13, 1980
Event: The Utica Boilermaker
Location: Utica, NY
Distance: 9.321 MI
Time: 55:02
Place: 1
Prize: $50 appearance money
Prizes: $50
The Skinny: The Boilermaker is a tough, competitive race. 15 KM is a long way; in the severe hills surrounding Utica on a hot and steamy morning, this race ain’t no day at the beach. Winning this race did a lot to establish Nancy’s regional and national bona fides as a competitor tough as, if you’ll forgive, a boilermaker.
This great photo popped up in newspapers all across the country:

For those keeping careful score at home, notice that this race was the first in which Nancy either received appearance money or won prize money. Stick with her here: she’ll do even better soon enough. 

June 22, 1980

Event: Mentholatum 10K
Location: Buffalo, NY
Distance: 6.214 MI
Time: 35:48
Place: 2

The Skinny: Almost exactly one year later, Nancy still almost catches Jackie Gareau.

Moving off the “32 years ago today theme,” it was on this very day 35 years ago that Nancy D. moved in with Michael M. And exactly one month later, they were married. Aw shucks.

November 4, 1979

Event: Avon Series 
Location: Ottawa, Ontario, Canada 
Distance: 12.42 MI 
Time: 1:15:52 

The Skinny: From the Buffalo Evening News: “Nancy Mieszczak of Buffalo’s Checkers Athletic Club finished fourth in a 20-kilometer race here Sunday and won a trip to the Avon National Championships in Pasadena, Calif. next spring.”

In a pre-race article the Ottawa Sunday Post wrote: “Among the Americans traveling to Ottawa is Nancy Mieszczak of Buffalo…. She is the Road Runners Club of America 1978 20K Champion.”

The winner of the race was Karen Doppes of Cincinnati. Karen, Julie Isphording and Nancy would become friends over the years of the Avon circuit. It’s a small world. Two years ago, I met Bill Cosgrove whose Springer was competing at a local field event. Bill is quite a star - deservedly so - in the spaniel world. We got to jawing about this and that. While making small talk, I may have mentioned Julie as another name I recalled from Cincinnati. He knew her well: she used to run around with his wife Karen… Small world, indeed.

June 24, 1979

Event: Bonne Bell
Location: Buffalo, New York
Distance: 6.21 MI
Time: 37:56
Place: 2

The Skinny: This was one of the slowest 10Ks of Nancy’s career. My notes are sketchy, but I suspect race day must have been hot, or the course perhaps a bit long. In any event, she was the first local finisher, and second only to that pesky Jacqueline Gareau woman. Nancy recalls that Tom Donnelly paced her on his bicycle.

In the pre prize money era, the Bonne Bell bell was a tasteful and sought after prize, and it still remains in the trophy case. We’ve always liked this photo taken at the awards ceremony.

May 13, 1979

Event: The Ottawa Marathon
Location: Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Distance: 26.2 MI
Time: 2:55:58
Place: 3

The Skinny: Nancy and I enjoyed racing in Ottawa. We’d drive north several days ahead of the race and visit with Doc and Mom Dragoo. Then we’d overnight in Ottawa the night before the race and scoot back home when it was over.

Nancy set a PR at this race even though she developed a bad set of blisters en route. She was third to Jacqueline Gareau who ran 2:47:58.

This was the first of several races having a Husband - Wife Division where I gravy trained my talented wife’s performance with a modest one of my own. We still have the beer mugs proclaiming us Labatt’s Husband - Wife Champions of Canada.

September 24, 1978

Event: Maple Leaf Half Marathon
Location: Manchester, VT
Distance: 13.1 MI
Time: 1:20:00
Place: 2

The Skinny: Nancy had not been racing quite a year when I met her in October, 1977. She had done very well in that time, including victories - as a rookie! - in two marathons. In one of these races, she absolutely destroyed a particular fellow who was desperately trying to keep pace with her.

We know this because Guy Thomas told her so, on the phone, when he invited her to run his inaugural Mapleleaf Half Marathon in Manchester, VT. He was a great sport, and in no time we became friends with Guy and his wife Vivien.

For some reason, I neglected to keep a journal record for this race. Nancy didn’t take a lot of seconds in those days, so I suspect whoever beat her was quite good. It may well have been Patti Lyons, a superstar in road racing in 1978. In any case, Guy’s promotional efforts and the fast 1978 times helped the race to grow in stature over the years.

Nancy and I were there again a year later when Patti set a world record with a 1:14:03 time. You can see Patti hoisting the cutting board that was a cool prize in those just-before-prize-money days. Nancy has one, too; we’ll use it to chop some cheese the next time you’re visiting.

May 14, 1978

Event: Revco Classic
Location: Cleveland, OH
Distance: 10 KM
Time: 36:40
Place: 1

The Skinny: Revco was a fore runner of stores like Walgreen. Its chain was wide spread and healthy back in 1978, so its signature race attracted strong men’s and women’s fields for both the 10 KM and marathon events. Revco disappeared after its stores were bought and renamed by CVS in 1997.

Nancy beat second-placer Kitty Consolo by 43 seconds, finished 68th overall, and continued to garner regional and national attention.

I had a good race, too. I finished in 32:33, at the time a personal best that was good for 23rd place and bragging rights as first western NY finisher.

This race pre-dated the prize money era in road racing. One of the attractions of the event was the offer of Revco merchandise in addition to traditional “statue trophies.” I don’t remember what Nancy won; but my age-group award was included in Webster’s definition of irony: a hair-drying iron.

April 17, 1978

Event: The Boston Marathon
Location: Boston, MA
Distance: 26.2 MI
Time: 2:55:00
Place: 20

The Skinny: In the week before the race Nancy and I flew to San Diego for a National Council of Teachers of Mathematics conference. Although working math teachers and genuinely interested in the Conference’s programs - specially hands-on events using those new personal computer thingees - we were also delighted to absorb some sun and get in some easy training before flying into Boston for the Marathon.

A woman for whom I’d worked earlier in the 70s was nice enough to host my fiance and me for dinner at her club in La Jolla. I recall gentle conversation and a great view of the ocean. The evening was a special engagement present to a couple of starry eyed kids. Thanks, Mrs. Kellogg.

In Boston, we crashed with my school days pal Peter O. We slept either on floor-laid mattresses, or futons, or something; I don’t exactly recall. Except that if we slept on them tonight, we’d be dead by morning.

Anyways, we got up, went out for breakfast, and - incredible for us - finally committed around 9 a.m to actually starting the race.

Nancy’s 20th place was therefore darn good. If Cold Duck lives long enough, I’ll be able to blog an even better finish.

March 19, 1978

Event: AAU National 30 KM Championship
Location: Albany, NY
Distance: 30 KM
Time: 1:58:23
Place: 1

The Skinny: Nancy and I were engaged at the time of the 30 KM Nationals in Albany. We bunked with Richard J. and his lovely wife Kathy. Cold Duck regulars will recognize him as Cousin Richard of Speculator fame.

A day after the race, I kissed Nancy goodbye and while she headed back to Waterford, I drove home to Buffalo. In addition to teaching math there during the day, I was also teaching applied trigonometry to machinist apprentices at night. I had a tradition - enabled by an administration that looked on with benignly blind eyes - of taking the class out for an adult beverage after I’d rated the last student’s terminal exam.

After buying the first round and reporting that everyone had earned a passing grade, I discovered that the men were still thirsty - and generous. An hour and too many beers later, all tongues were loose, if a bit thick, and conversation flowed freely. Proud of my bride-to-be's recent win, I blurted out that I was engaged to the national trucking champion, except that I did not say "trucking."

After the slightest of pauses, the guys all gave me a look - visualize the Last Supper - and asked in one voice, "You're marrying the national trucking champion?" And a spontaneous cheer broke out.

This story is now known word for word by the whole extended family, down to our nieces and nephews’ college friends. There’s usually a call for the story, somewhere after the second bottle of wine, at all the major family feasts.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Duck Season? Wabbit Season? Woodcock Season!

When I first started reading my mentor’s cast-off sporting magazines around 1960, I was as drawn to articles about casting dry flies to stream-bred trout as a brookie to a #16 Royal Coachman. Hunting “The King” in the North Woods was also high on my very short bucket list. Everything else was pretty much just OK… in a ham-and-egg sort of way.

I didn’t start the hunting part until Christmas, 1978, when my newly acquired father-in-law introduced me to hunting snowshoe hares behind beagles in the cedar swamps of his going-back farm north of Malone, NY. By Valentine’s Day, 1979, I had my first shotgun — a 20-gauge Mossberg 500 — and my first beagle, Jupp, who’s pictured at the right with some other old buddies.

Those first 10 years’ hunting were among the best in my life. Jupp and I chased snowshoes in the North Country, and cottontails when we were back home in western NY. But here’s the thing: even though Jupp was strictly a rabbit hound, we still shot more grouse then by accident than we have lately while in vigorous, dedicated pursuit.

After Nancy’s parents passed, we sold the family farm in 2004, and I’ve pretty much pursued partridge only on public land ever since. Specially here in western NY, public land birds are scarce because public land is not managed for birds. While I like to avoid politics here, it appears that our public lands are managed for spruce graveyards.

As it turns out, my upland hunting’s been saved by the woodcock, a bird often mentioned back in those 60s magazines simply as a sort of consolation prize. American woodcock — Scolopax Minor to some, the little russet feller to others, and timberdoodle to still others — just love to nest in and migrate through my home ZIP code. I’ve learned to cherish hunting this sporty little bird very close to home as The Main Event; grouse are neither present, nor needed. That he’s damned tasty medium rare out of the sauté pan doesn’t hurt his VIP resumé, either.

Maybe some future day I’ll dither into new thickets that are lousy with grouse. But until then I’m not going to spend much time hunting for grouse that aren’t there when for 45 sweet days I have this terrific seasonal bird right under my dog’s nose. So, joined with a few local friends who love li’l bec as much as I do, I offer a toast

 to our genial guest who makes every October delightful. Cheers!

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Annual Youth Pheasant Hunt Is A Blast For Everyone

My shooting and release club will hold its annual Youth Day next Saturday. Boys and girls who have completed a hunter safety course are eligible to attend the 9-to-5 program that contains hour-long sessions in, among other things, skeet shooting, game laws and ethics, archery, turkey calling, dog training, and more. Then there is the very popular session where the kids have two pheasants — a rooster and a hen — planted for them so they can hunt them over a member’s “guide dog.” The idea is to recognize and therefore not shoot at the hen. This isn’t only educational, but also offers an opportunity to praise a kid for not shooting: what a good idea!

About 15 years ago, my AWS “Bean” was invited to be a guide dog; and as he didn’t drive, I was invited as well. It has each and every time been an unmitigated, if you’ll forgive the term, blast. The kids are receptive to coaching and extremely safety conscious; more so, for sure, than some adults I’ve introduced to bird hunting. It’s true that I happily donate a bit of my time so that the kids can have a great time outdoors. It’s probably more accurate to quip that the kids put in their time so that I can have a fabulous time working with them outdoors. They’ve all been polite, appreciative, safe, and eager to learn. Ditto the parents, relatives, and friends who’ve registered the kids and who accompany them on their assorted rounds. I relish my chance to work with all of them every year. I can’t wait for next week!

Here's some smiles from over the years.

These two, however, are my all-time favorites:

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Gordie's Stats for 2015 NY Woodcock Season

NY's woodcock season this year ran for 45 days, from Oct. 1 to Nov. 14. Gordie, I, and frequently a friend or two, hunted 36 of those days. Hunts averaged, I’d estimate, 75 minutes. When I had guests, we worked a little longer; hunting alone on warm and dry early-season trips when birds were scarce, I’d cut Gordie's day short. We have the time and the temperament to prefer a short but daily hunt to, for example, big slogs on the weekend.

I keep woodcock logs for the NY DEC; for the Federal FWS; and for a bunch of (us) crazy old coots who subscribe to Grouse Tales. I’m using data from these three to mention 4 statistics from our 2015 woodcock outings.

1) Gordie averaged just under 3 flushes per hunt. If my 75 minute/hunt estimate is pretty close, that’s a flush every 25 minutes. I tried very hard not to count reflushes, and so Gordie’s total flush count would actually be higher than listed. But I’m pretty sure we moved a new bird about every half hour we hunted.

The best period for multiple flushes ran from Oct. 21 to Nov. 1. From the 21st to the 25th, Gordie flushed 4, 5, 4, 6, and 5 birds; successful shooters in this period were Rick J. and Dids. From Oct 30 to Nov. 1, Gordie flushed 4, 5, and 8 birds; successful shooters in this period were Joey K. and I;

2) Almost 50% of the birds Gordie flushed were shot at. This requires some explanation. I count for logging purposes dead birds by *dog*, not by gunner, as I’m a “dog man” first. So the shooting involved here was done not just by me but by my guests as well. I probably shot at fewer than 50% of the flushes I saw, as I don’t like to shoot at birds in very, very thick cover which offer a long, uncomfortable, and possibly fruitless chance for a retrieve. OTOH, my guests, many of whom are relative newbies, take shots such as they can;

3) Only 20% of the birds flushed were killed. This percentage acknowledges that we hunt in very, very thick places, and that newbies are often the gunners. I like to leave my gun at home when I take guests so that they’ll *know*, when a bird goes down, that they’re the successful shooter. But lots of stuck safeties and “oh, is *that* a woodcock?” tend to depress this statistic; and

4) About 40% of the birds shot at were killed (this follows algebraically from #2 and #3 above.) Given all that comes before, killing 40% of birds in tough places, with newbies often taking the shot, ain’t half bad.

All these numbers are fun for math geeks like me to fiddle with. But as the MasterCard commercial avers, to hunt 36 days with my 11 year old dog both alone and with friends new and old in familiar thickets is priceless. What a great year!

PS: The Shot of the Year was made today as the season ended. Gordie flushed a bird from a stand of dogwood and it offered an easy shot as it flew low to the ground down an open lane. Jim S. drew a bead, but then as Gordie came rushing out of the brush after the bird, he safely raised his gun and held fire. Good job there, Buddy.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Fishing in NY 2015

(Entries will be added chronologically below)
May 4 — Wyoming County
I finally got to wet a line this year. I waded into the creek and began working the very first run with a #16 Adams Wulff. On about the third cast I had a splashy rise and refusal from what appeared to be an average size fish hereabouts. I thought “Wow! It’s going to be a great day!” Naturally, that was the last fish I saw all day.
Nevertheless, it really was a great day. It started in fading sunshine and 79°F, a wonderful change from our frigid and snowy February. On the way home, I stopped at the ice cream shop in Sandusky and had the season’s first ice cream cone, one scoop each of Fool’s Gold

and of Caramel Praline Turtle.

I thought “Wow! It’s going to be a great year!”

May 24 — Wyoming County
I fished the No-Kill section of w. NY’s best trout stream that runs parallel to Route 39. I was surprised that I had the whole stretch to myself on a holiday weekend, as there were no cars in the upstream DEC parking spot. After I got on the water, I understood why. Let’s just say it was a bit claustrophobic. If I ever go back there again, it will be after Pai Mei teaches me to punch a tight 30’ loop with an 8” fly rod.
The water was certainly nice, and I in fact had splashy refusals in each of the runs I had an opportunity to cast to. But there was too much bushwhacking and not enough fishing for my tastes.
On the drive home, I stopped at Mar Mac for a Byrne Dairy ice cream cone. Two scoops of Holy Cow restored my happy mood. 

June 22 — Cattaraugus County
Today I fished a favorite stream near Delavan for the first time this year. Spring run-off always alters the stream bed, and last year's honey holes are often blown out before opening day.
And so it was for the first three quarters of the beat I fished. But what holes and runs had been destroyed downstream were replaced by really attractive runs upstream. In one of these new holes, I caught a chunky rainbow maybe 9” long on a #16 Adams Wulff. The splashy rise suggested a smaller fish, but as I stripped in line to get him off the hook and released, he seemed to gain weight. What a fine fish! Of course, when I went to take his photo, the battery in my camera was dead. Rather than search my pack for the iPhone and risk losing him, I simply held him upstream in the current until he felt strong enough to fin his way back home. I googled for a fish that was close in size and color, just to post a fish pic rather than an ice cream cone’s.

In a new pool upstream from there, I had a splashy refusal from a trout that looked considerably bigger than the fish I released. No kidding. I’ll be back there again this summer.

July 13 — Cattaraugus County

Today I went back to Cattaraugus County to the same stream where I’d had good luck last time. I knew I’d be fishing two different sections of the stream. Because I hadn’t tried my brand new GoPro yet, I elected not to baptize it on the longer stretch on which I started the day. Too bad. I caught 3 nice rainbows on a #18 Royal Wulff in the same pool where I’d caught a nice fish last time. Dang!

Another reason I didn’t wear the GoPro is that there’s a long march on the rural roadside from where I stop fishing back to the car. The locals thereabouts always wave and say Hi when they see the amusing geezer with his quaint fish pole wobble by. But that same guy, I feared, might get a warmer reception if he looked instead like some space alien. Think of that nerd kid in Sixteen Candles:

My second beat was shorter, and that’s where I strapped on the GoPro for its test run. I put it over my backwards baseball cap — hate that look… — and adjusted it as seemed about right in my reflection in the car’s rear window.

I was surprised at how easy the gizmo was to use. One click started the video camera; one click stopped it. Rinse and repeat. I wouldn’t know until I got home whether the camera was focused on The Action, or at the treetops, or at my feet. Turns out, no worries. Brainless, and thus perfect for me.

The attached vid shows, at a second or two from each endpoint, first a small “refusal” and then a really exciting refusal (I think the lens must be some sort of wide angle affair. That would explain why it’s so easy for the camera to record where you’re looking, but also why it makes the center of the action look small and far away).