Sidetrack, Headlight and Midnight, Purveyors of Joy

As a young boy, this time of year brought me much excitement and anticipation of the upcoming season. No, not football season, not World Series or Baseball Division Playoff season. My daddy, who had no use at all for “stick and ball games” as he called them,the season we country boys were anticipating involved a different team with some members having two legs and others having four. We were always “fired up” about the start of the fall squirrel season! The annual fall hunting season for us “kicked off” with us hunting squirrels, Gray (cat) Squirrels, Red (fox) Squirrels and finding an occasional Raccoon (coon) or Opossum was a bonus for some of our older relatives who preferred to consume those type critters.

I will confess that a small to medium coon is a very tasty animal and I enjoyed more than a few of them fried or barbecued. But, a possum was never an animal that I found palatable, even when the “over-sized growling rat” was caught and caged for a few weeks to “sweeten” it up for the pot as my grandparents used to do routinely. They would ask us to join them, especially if we had captured the “marauding marsupial” or as daddy would call them “ground buzzards”and brought him in to my step granddad’s holding pen for the fattening up process, Ugh!

But, we all loved the squirrels! any way they were prepared by my mother, or either of my grandmothers. These ladies could perform magic with most any outdoor game brought in to their kitchens! Both grandmothers made a squirrel dumpling dish that was amazing but each was distinctly different. One had a very smooth “comfort” taste and texture and the other was peppery and had various additions, depending on what was available in her garden such as carrots, celery, onions, or leeks. Both created crispy “skillet-fried” squirrel dishes that along with some rice, broth gravy and “cat-head” biscuits were a five star county boy’s dream of a meal on a crisp autumn afternoon or chilly autumn evening for a grand supper meal after a day in the hardwoods of West Alabama.

After I grew up and got busy (too busy) at making a living, I rarely took the time to go squirrel hunting over the next twenty years. However, as I got less addicted to deer hunting after my fiftieth birthday, I started going squirrel hunting again and found new joy in an old sport! I remembered hunts with my daddy, “Paw-paw Walter”, various uncles, cousins, and neighbors long forgotten. Episodes, events and memories of days afield that I had not brought into the conscious portion of my mind for years and many of them I considered totally forgotten! The mind is an amazing organ our creator bestowed upon us and I was amazed when I recalled an old squirrel hunting memory so sweet and holding such personal value, that sometimes I am compelled to stop and savor the moment, with focus and effort, to wring out every little bit of the emotion wrapped in that memory, and to drink it in like a man who just survived a trek across a desert! Just remember,old Memories can’t get old if they are never made! That is why you need to go make some memories afield when you can. If you are young and if you have children, times spent together in the outdoors can create a magic that is impossible to duplicate any where else.

Now, some of you are looking at the blog title and wondering what that title has to do with squirrel hunting and the memories it wells up in an old outdoors addict like me. Part of my very best outdoor memories knocking those bushy tails out of the tops of those tall hardwoods we had back then was my hunting partners. Not the ones I mentioned earlier in this article. I, and I bet more than a few of you, remember every dog you had as a pet and even more, every dog who was a valuable hunting partner.

Sidetrack was the first squirrel dog I remember my dad owning and he got his name by his sideways gait when he was running along behind dad’s pickup and he drove slowly down the dirt road on our little farm from pasture to pasture. As a puppy, “sidetrack” ran with that peculiar sideways gallop where his rear end was not in line with his front so someone named him “sidetrack” I was too young to know that part but, as I made my first hunts for squirrels, he was the one who could find and “tree” them  by the dozens so he made our hunts infinitely more successful and a lot more fun.

A few years later, sidetrack was showing his age and daddy got a young Feist-Cur mixed breed that the owner had already named “Headlight” due to the fact he fed the dogs at night and when he went to the kennel to fee them, this little pup had a pair of unusually bright eyes that reminded him of a set of headlights. That stuck with my dad, so “that was that”. “Headlight” was a pretty good little squirrel dog that had his life cut short by a speeding jerk in a big Plymouth that flew past our home one day and ran over the dog before it could get out of the way. I never saw that guy or that car again, but I believe I would recognize both of them today. That memory is one I had just as soon forget but, that “ain’t gonna happen”.

Midnight” was a jet black mixed breed dog  of questionable breed type but, was a superstar in the squirrel dog world, so much so that daddy bought him from a fellow up in Brookwood, near Birmingham and though he never said, I heard he paid $50. bucks for the dog, which was almost a week’s salary for dad in the early 1960s. “Midnight” was as good as they come in terms of a squirrel dog’s hunting prowess and we got invites to a number of different farms to squirrel hunt just so the other folks could watch the dog “work”. We killed hundreds of squirrels with “Midnight” leading the way. We had him for six years and he went missing about two weeks before one squirrel opened so dad always figured someone “needed him worse than we did”.

As family pets. “Sidetrack”, ”Headlight”, and “Midnight” were wonderful dogs to interact with. In the woods, they transformed in to intelligent, no-nonsense hunting partners that brought all of us a lot of joyful moments long ago and far away in the sweet smelling, deep hardwoods, of those cool autumn days  of my youth.

There is a lot of magic to be found you just got to get to the woods and find your own!

Until next week..


Buckmasters Deer Expo, Simply SUPER!

This past weekend, Mr. Jackie Bushman brought his deer Expo home to Montgomery for another great show that was in a word, SUPER! I thought it was one of the best Buckmasters Expo events ever! From the front doors where all the volunteers and Buckmasters employees were taking in the admission “fee” of canned good for donation to the local food bank to help those in need, to the BTR rack scoring team in the back, scoring some of the very impressive buck racks on a lot of great whitetail mounts, it was amazing.

The Swamp People, Troy Landry and his crew were signing autographs fast and furious as they have been seen pulling in a big gator and smiling for photos with strangers who were all clamoring to see the folks who “CHOOTEM! all those big gators on the hit TV Show.

The event had hundreds of exhibitors selling every type of hunting gear, hunting supplies, ammo, camo, scent controls and all at some really deep discounted deals. Local sporting goods Dealers such as WCI – Walter Craig of Montgomery had a special Buckmasters Sales catalog that is still good until 8-31 so you still have time to save on a great selection from the folks at WCI. The Minnow Bucket had a BIG exhibit and offers some great guns selections at steeply reduced rates. Luther and the folks at the Minnow Bucket know how to put on a show, at the show ! One of my favorite local shops is Bennett’s Archery of Wetumpka, Mike Bennett and his team of bow hunting specialist are the folks to see if you are getting ready to ”stretch some string” in the fast approaching fall bow season, check him out at -

Ms. Rebecca Wood, Whitney Wood and the Ladies of Outdoor Women Unlimited were there with their exhibit to help introduce other ladies to the wonderful outdoor sports. Women are the fastest growing group of outdoor enthusiasts in America and The ladies who have organized this great group can show you ladies that hunting is not just a “guy thang” for more info – go to

The Down and Dirty Outdoors team and Eddie Salter, the master of turkey hunting was the favorite for me at the event. I have met and talked with Eddie through the years and he has once again proven to be the King of the turkey callers with his new “turkeyman” series of mouth diaphragm calls that are realistic and easy to run. They were blowing a new gobbler tube call named the “Haint” that is a very realistic call that creates gobbles so real you will think about “knocking the safety off” for more info check out their website and they also have an awesome video of the “Haint” call on YouTube.

The Montgomery Lions Club had it members out selling tickets to the annual Blue Gray Charity Deer Hunt that will benefit the Lions’ Charity and is an incredible bargain since you get to hunt some premier, private BlackBelt properties during the prime part of Deer Season and the ticket is a charitable deduction for a great cause! Get your tickets before they are sold out ! Just click here !

There was a young man who said he had taken a break from college to volunteer for the Forever Wild Foundation and he was handing out cards informing everyone of the need to vote YES on Amendment 1 on the November 6th ballot to renew the funding for the Forever Wild Foundation in Alabama. This is a great organization that has secured thousands of acres of land to provide the outdoor loving public a great wild place to get out and enjoy all our outdoors has to offer including hunting. PLEASE VOTE YES ON AMENDMENT 1, NOVEMBER 6TH!! See this web site for more .

Thank Jackie Bushman and the rest of the crew at Buckmasters next time you see them around Montgomery. They did a GREAT JOB!

Dove Season is almost here!! Time to go and shoot some clay before opening day

Send me some comments and I will be back blogging next week!


Whitney Wood, board member of Outdoor Women Unlimited at Buckmasters!

Whitney Wood of Outdoor Women Unlimited

Buckmasters Expo is coming to Montgomery!

This coming weekend will be a great one for us hunters around the river region and across central Alabama as we are once again treated to the annual Buckmasters Deer Expo! The event will start on Friday at the Montgomery Civic Center and like always I expect it to draw a huge crowd of hunters from across the south who know this is a premier hunting show!

I plan to attend it at least two of the three days and fully soak in the hunting atmosphere that will be flowing at full tilt all around the event! There is simply so much to see and hear. Products to buy, archery contests to watch, and speakers to hear!

The concert Saturday night featuring Clay Walker is reason enough alone to come down Saturday, that guy is a great country act! (you must get tickets in advance) Then there are the deer mounts brought in from around the state that folks get scored by the BTR Full Credit scoring system. I am always amazed at some of the nice bucks taken around Alabama and to see a bunch of them like the Buckmasters brings out fires me up about the upcoming hunting season!

If you have young hunters, or kids you want to get interested in hunting, then by all means, bring them to the Young Bucks area where they will see the Buckmasters Mascots Bucky and Droptine!

Celebrities of the hunting sports Michael Waddell, Bill and Tyler Jordan of Realtree and one of my very favorite hunters Travis “T-bone” Turner will be there!


Hunting season is coming! Mark your calendar! Dove season is only 4 weeks away, starting on September the 8th! To me, this marks the “official end” of the summer season and the drought of  “no hunting season” that will refresh my spirit and hunter’s soul all the way until sometime in May 2013! WOO HOO!!

Check out all the hunting season dates according to the ALDCNR website here-

Hope you have a great week and start thinking about getting your game plots ready! Now is the time to spray some RoundUp and start knocking out that excess grass and weed that create extra work for your bush hog and plow. Eliminate some of that with a good spraying of herbicide and will will sure make the planting go smoother and the results grow better! I like to get the ground plowed and limed and then plow it again in two to three weeks for a great seed bed to place those increasingly costly seeds and that outrageously priced fertilizer.  Anyway, more on that in the coming weeks.. 

I hope to see you at the Buckmasters This weekend!






The AWF, Working for Alabama’s Wildlife & Wild Places

I had the distinct pleasure this past weekend to get a first hand look at one of the premier Wildlife and outdoor habitat preservation and conservation groups in the Southeast. A group we are privileged to have headquartered here in Central Alabama on the beautiful grounds of Lanark Sanctuary here in Millbrook.

The Alabama Wildlife Federation has been working for the wildlife, and outdoor way of life, that many of hold so dear for more years than many of us have been alive! This weekend, they put into action another great event that gave over 250 youngsters a great morning of catfishing on the two ponds at Lanark. The event was outstanding again this year, with many large “cats” caught and even more smiles caught on the many cameras flashing as they reeled in the “big ones”.

I spoke with one young lady who was visiting her grandparents, who live locally, and she exclaimed she came all the way from Seattle Washington for a visit and catching some fish was a real “highlight” of her visit. What a great story she will be able to share with her friends about our great outdoors in Central Alabama! The Catfish, no doubt were a big hit on many dinner tables Saturday night after a great morning of fishing at Lanark, the event was no doubt a big hit for the many adults who helped the kids fish. I took a photo of one young fisherman who caught a big catfish over 5 pounds and happily released it back in to the pond after he and his dad celebrated and got a photo of the “bigun”. He is definitely a future conservationist in the making!

Saturday afternoon and evening, the State Finals for the AWF Wild Game Cook-off Competition began with the winners from all across the state who qualified as the best at their individual competitions cooked a wide variety of ingenious recipes using everything from venison, wild pig, and coon, to the other end of the spectrum with shrimp, fish and wild turkey. I tried numerous sausages  created from various critters, or mixes of critters and a couple of them beat any of the best store bought I have had from a grill!.

The event was a well attended one by several hundred ardent supporters of the AWF and they were not disappointed at all! There was of course the great food, drink and atmosphere galore. Some of the finest outdoor collectibles, outdoor prints, and even Auburn and Alabama prints that I have never found at another venue! It was great!

My oldest son, Hunter, and I really enjoyed the State Finals of the Wild Game cook-off and have made it an annual father, son activity that we are already looking forward to the next one, the Tri-County cook- off in the spring. We saw several good friends who share our passion for the outdoors and the AWF, got to discuss the upcoming hunting season, enjoyed some good easy listening music provided by a really good entertainer, and to relax! That is a great Saturday! Especially for a Summer night!

Check out more photos from the event on the gallery tab.

The AWF and Lanark are true treasures of our area!  Check them out

Summer is on the way out! Dove Season will be here in just a few weeks!  Time to go shoot some skeet so you won’t miss so many doves! You know you need to!

Until next week – postoak, out…..doors.