Second installment of special outdoors memories column covers a lot of ground, and air

Last month I opened the New Year with a “special outdoor memories” column. The response was overwhelming, both by readers then and the many comments that came in afterwards. 

And I realized I shared many of those same memories, like the first deer, or an eagle in flight. So, hopefully on a monthly basis, I will continue with that topic. Here is the next installment.

Sherry Widmer of Canandaigua, a photographer and outdoor lover, sent along the following tale of one of her favorite outdoor memories:

“There are few events in nature more breathtaking than a bald eagle in flight. The sheer power, majesty and strength of this bird of prey is awe-inspiring. One day I set out to take my dog for a walk in Seneca Lake State Park. As I neared the swimming beach an adult bald eagle flew in from the lake, and landed in a tree just as I was pulling into the parking lot. 

“I grabbed my camera and my dog and headed for the tree, trying to stay out of the eagle’s line of sight by moving from tree to tree. I found a good vantage point within about 50 feet of the tree in which he was perched, and settled down to watch the eagle as he surveyed the lake. He was on a branch right at the top of the tree with a perfect blue sky behind him. 

“Eventually the eagle opened his wings and gave a mighty flap as he pushed off from the branch. Then he spread his magnificent wings and soared right over my head. I was very fortunate to catch this take-off sequence with my camera, but even without any photos, this memory will be with me forever.”

I clearly remember my first sighting of an adult bald eagle as it and an immature eagle flew over the Sassafras River near the Chesapeake Bay. Magnificent or extraordinary hardly does that memory justice. Imagining Sherry’s elation at her encounter is truly understandable.

Anyone reading the Sports section of the Daily Messenger is probably aware that Bob Chavez is the editor of that section. Here is his special outdoor memory:

“I’m a latecomer to the world of hunting and didn’t start until I was 38 years old, but my first deer will always be the most special moment. I’d gone out quite a bit in my first season and learned a lot by blowing a lot of opportunities.

“But late in shotgun season, I got my first. In a stand in Bloomfield. I got there late and it was COLD. But not long after I sat, I saw what turned out to be a button buck coming toward me. I remember my feet being blocks of ice and I wanted to sniff my runny nose in the worst way, but I held quiet and still until the shot presented itself. 

“I pulled the trigger and I knew right away I was on point. The chill in the air disappeared and my adrenaline was flowing like I’ve never felt it before. I was fortunate that the deer dropped within sight and after a minute, the woods were quiet again. I sat (had to, because my knees were knocking), and stared at the deer. I was thrilled, sad, overjoyed, humbled and bewildered all at the same time. I still get this way whenever I take a deer. Nothing else in my lifetime compares to the experience of taking a deer, then preparing it for dinner.

“I’ve learned so much since then, like how to know if it’s a button buck and that I should let it walk, but my friends forgave me for that since it was my first deer. And even though I still have 30 lost years of knowledge to make up for as a hunter, there are plenty of future memories to come. But that first deer will always be the best deer for me.”

There is a good chance that every deer hunter who has ever harvested a deer experienced those same or similar emotions. I certainly did, and still do.

Douglas Vittum of Middlesex, a retired New York State Trooper, sent along the next part from his long list of special outdoor memories:

“Years ago, when most of my hunting took place, I never had a camera with me. Too bad, because I had a few experiences that were ‘memorable’ if not just plain interesting. Like the one time in the 60’s when we were hunting pheasants in Bloomfield, in the fields where Crossman Arms is today. My buddy, Dan Szymusiak of Webster, and I decided to each walk the opposite sides of a small hill. 

“Dan was carrying a 3 shot Remington model 58 semi-auto shotgun, I had my trusty Ithaca Model 37 pump. We planned on each walking his side, and meeting at the other end, about a quarter of a mile away. We hadn't been walking 2 minutes, just barely out of sight of each other, when I heard, bang, bang … bang. I knew just what had happened (from many past experiences), a bird (pheasant) had gotten up and he shot twice ... and the bird kept flying, so he fired his last shot. I kept watching ahead, kind of expecting the bird to crest over the hill and come down on my side. But the bird never came. 

“Now I’m thinking he might have actually hit the bird (Dan wasn’t the greatest shot), and was looking for it. You see, back in the early 60’s, you didn’t need a dog to hunt birds. There were enough birds you could kick them out yourselves, and usually being fairly close shots, one shot kills were the rule, thus an easy find. 

“Well being curious, I yell over, ‘Hey Dan, did you get one?’ All I get back is … ‘Get over here quick, I need help locating one.’ What the heck, did he actually get a double (2 male birds at once)? So I back tracked, and caught up with him. Then he tells me, ‘I have two, YOU, have one.’ Naw, couldn’t be. A triple got up (3 male birds), and Dan actually hit all three? But sure enough, that’s what happened. He had found the first two easily, but the third was out a ways. After maybe 10 minutes, we found MY bird.

“We walked back to the truck a different way, and I kicked up a pair of birds, a hen and a cock. I shot the male. We were all limited out within 30 minutes of starting our hunt. Shortest hunt we ever did.”

My thanks to Doug, Sherry and Bob for their contributions. All are great stories, and all will always be great memories that we can now share.

Len Lisenbee is the Daily Messenger’s Outdoor Writer. Contact him at lisenbee@frontiernet.net.