Monthly Archives: September 2010

Maggie: I Keep on Loving You

The 2010 early teal season opened a couple of weekends ago. 

For the first time in 14 years, Maggie is missing from the author's duck blind.

And when it did, there was a hole in my duck blind the size of Texas.

Not to mention a gaping hole left in the recesses of my heart.

Red River Magdalena Sue — my black Labrador retriever for the better part of 14 years — was not in that early season teal blind.

At least in bodily form, that is.

But her incredible retriever’s heart, soul, and spirit lived on as wings whispered overhead borne by an early autumn breeze.

Blessed with an indomitable will to hunt, Maggie defied the odds for years. Every time I thought of retiring her because her hips were giving out, her eyes were going bad, or her hearing was shot, she refused to go quietly into the night.

Literally, I might add.

For at least four autumn waterfowl seasons beyond what I thought she was capable of giving, my Lab – the most beautiful girl dog in the world as I often called her – would raise her head and look up from her “canine den” beneath our coffee table.

No matter how quietly I tried to traipse down the stairs.

Once she was up at o’dark thirty, there was no stopping Maggie when she saw camouflage, cased shotguns, and a bag of decoys.

I tried reasoning with her, telling her to leave the retrieving chores to other younger dogs.

But if I dared to leave her behind, this quirky Lab – who had a thing for sleeping on the couch even when she wasn’t supposed to – would ensure that my better half didn’t rest peacefully after the front door was quietly closed.

And since it is totally true that if momma ain’t happy…well, let’s just say that Maggie understood how to keep herself in a duck blind, aging body or not.

Even if I had to lift her gingerly into my truck over the last few years.

Unlike my previous late hunting dog Molly, a yellow Lab who made some spectacular if not outright dangerous retrieves during her 13-year long career, Maggie wasn’t the flashiest duck dog in the world.

But she was perhaps the most eager retriever I’ve ever seen.

Almost from the moment she came home — purchased from a litter of pups that belonged to my good high school bud Jeff Camp — it seemed evident that Maggie’s spirit would not be stopped.

Let alone slowed down.

Early on in her tenure in my backyard, she discovered that she was a canine track star who could leap our fence in one single bound.

Over and over again I fought the good fight to keep her in the backyard.

And over and over again Maggie won that fight, cruising the neighborhood, winding up in the local school yard, venturing off to swim in a nearby creek, or saying a friendly “Hello” to every barking dog on the block.

Many was the night that I went looking for her wandering form, only to hear the click of her toe-nails on the pavement, the familiar jingle of her collar, and the sudden appearance of a black Lab emerging ghostlike from the darkness of the night.

And when she would show up in a streetlight or underneath my front porch light, her tail would be wagging and her canine smile would be a thousand watts or more.

Until I started scolding her, at which time her smile would turn into an “Oh crud! I’ve done it again!” embarrassed snarl.

Hence one of her nicknames: “Snarly Dog.”

One night, the vagabond Maggie was hit by a car on one of her neighborhood jaunts. Or more appropriately, she hit the car by running into its side as it motored by.

No worse for wear, Maggie’s wanderlust kept her on occasional adventures. Those trips were only curtailed down through the years by her aging body and her growing inability to leap the fence in a single bound.

No problem…she turned to climbing up and over the fence. And wandering the neighborhood some more. Before lying down on the front porch waiting to be let in.

Put Maggie in a duck blind however and there was no wandering soul.

There she was all business, the retrieving DNA coursing through her veins finally taking full control of Miss Mags.

So intent was Maggie at fulfilling the Creator’s genetic code birthed within her that she would creep forward to the edge of the frigid water — sometimes actually sitting in the H2O — to better mark incoming ducks.

Once a duck hit the water, Maggie was going to get it.

She might not do so in the most flashy manner. Or in the fastest period of time. Or with the best nose on the block. But nothing…nothing…would stop her determination to fetch ducks for the boss.

Take this last duck season on a chilly, blustery morning. With ducks flying fairly well, yours truly, my two sons, and Denison football assistant coach Scott Rozell shot just well enough to keep Mags busy on the final morning of the season.

And on what proved to be the final morning of Maggie’s duck fetching career.

As it came time to pick up the spread, to head for the truck, and to get to church on time, a wigeon found its way into the airways above our spread. And into our shot columns. And onto the water below.

But a clean kill it was not, which meant a difficult and lengthy retrieve for the gray-bearded Maggie.

It took her a while on a duck that kept repeatedly diving and finding its way into thick cover.

But slowly, dutifully, and thoroughly Maggie fought on.

Finally emerging back into the frigid water, her aging body willing her way back to our blind…with the duck firmly in tow.

It is quite simply a retrieve that I will never forget.

Especially this fall when the first waterfowling season I’ve spent without Maggie painfully unfolds.

Her body is gone. But her spirit lives on.

And as it does I’ll be remembering a tearful country tune.

The one that Reba McEntire crooned on the radio during Maggie’s final day on this Earth this past July.

“I keep on lovin’ you.”

Maggie, yes indeed girl, I certainly will.


Hunting the Eye of a Blue-Winged Storm


In September, there are few things better than hunting in the eye of a blue-winged teal storm.

In close to two decades of chasing blue-winged teal across the Red River Valley during the month of September, my success has been…well, it has been modest at best.

Each season has produced one or two teal here. And every so often, two or three teal there.

But never a four-bird limit of blue-winged teal.

A hunt years ago with Sherman, Texas attorney Craig Watson and former Austin College assistant football coach Vance Morris was simply a day late and a dollar short.

Watson had discovered a sizable number of teal on Lake Texoma a few days before our hunt. But an overnight cold front and the here-today, gone-tomorrow flighty nature of bluewings left us with only a bird or two in the bag.

A hunt with my old high school pal Mike Bardwell several years back produced a really good shoot when a couple of good flocks screamed into the decoys. With four hunters in the blind, our bag of 11 teal wasn’t bad.

But it wasn’t a limit.

A year or two, a jump shooting effort on a North Texas stock tank brought me as close as I’ve ever been to a limit of blue-winged teal.

When the shooting was done, a surprising triple had been scored by yours truly.


But it was still one bird shy of a limit.

All of which might help explain my skepticism a week ago when pal J.J. Kent of Kent Outdoors ( ; (903) 271-5524) messaged me with the following: “Lynn, please call me! I have permission to hunt THE SPOT!”

Now it wasn’t that I doubted J.J.’s ability to find the little ducks.

Hardly – the Buck Gardner Calls, Mossy Oak, and Tanglefree Decoys pro-staffer is one of the top waterfowlers and guides in the southern Great Plains.

But given my past history, I’ll admit that I did doubt that the stars would align the next morning and that bluewings would swarm around our decoy spread as Kent promised.

To hear him tell of his scouting find, our hunt would be on the proverbial “X” and the swarms of migrating teal would be buzzing around our heads like a scene out of an Alfred Hitchcock movie.

In essence, Kent told me to get ready for something like an outdoors television show on the Texas Gulf Coast where bluewings buzz around like mosquitoes and limits are all but a foregone conclusion.

So the next morning at O’Dark Thirty I found myself pulling up to a field with a good amount of sheet-water left over from Tropical Storm Hermine’s wet remnants as they passed through the region.

Teal Time! Texas waterfowl guide J.J. Kent uses a Buck Gardner teal call to try and coax a flock of September bluewings into the spread.

After covering up with Realtree Max-1 camo to match the green surroundings, I sprayed down with mosquito repellent, put on waders, and marched to the blind sitting in several inches of water. 

Despite my protests, Kent insisted that I shoot first and bag my limit before he did.

So as shooting time arrived, I loaded up.

And waited.

For all of 30 seconds before the first blue-winged teal buzzed by, circled hard and fast, put on the brakes and dumped into the decoys.

So quickly that I missed.

As I grumbled to myself “Here we go again,” a roaring sound filled my ears as a flock of 30 bluewings screamed by at Mach 1.

This time I straightened my barrel out a bit and knocked down the first teal of the day, a bird promptly fetched up by Kent’s young black Lab Bo.

This action was followed by an even bigger flock of teal roaring in as daylight gathered.

And while they were buzzing the decoy spread, even more teal joined the aerial circus. Followed by even more teal.

Soon, a swirling hurricane of wings – all tinged powder blue – were roaring by as I watched in amazement. In flocks of twos and threes, 10 to 15, and 20 to 30, the sky was soon a chaotic mass of one of the most beautiful duck species that there is.

Perhaps 200 teal were in the air at one time, so many that I was reluctant to shoot, afraid that I would knock down too many.

I should have known better.

But one by one, I began to make progress towards my four bird limit.

Finally, as a lone blue-winged rocketed over from left to right, my weathered Remington 870 pump gun followed the streaking form as I drove the bead ahead of the small duck and squeezed the trigger.

And just like that, all was calm – at least in my hunter’s heart and soul – as I sat in the eye of a bona fide Category 5 blue-winged storm.

Nice work Boss! Black Lab Bo and Texas waterfowl guide J.J. Kent admire a stringer of blue-winged teal.

With my first ever limit of blue-winged teal.

A limit that would be followed up shortly by Kent as he knocked down one, then another, and then a brace of bluewings to score his own four bird limit.

Less than an hour into the day, we were high-fiving, laughing, shooting digital photographs, and enjoying the glory of a Gulf Coast style teal hunt.

In a patch of tropical storm produced sheet-water right here in Texomaland.

As we packed up the decoys and left, I couldn’t help but think: “After all of these years, finally, I’ve got a limit of bluewings.”

Hopefully the next limit will not take another 20 years to come by.

Arizona Strip Mega Mulie

Matt Liljenquist shows off his massive 2010 archery mule deer buck. The huge velvet antlered mulie was taken in recent days in the Arizona Strip and has a reported gross green score of 240-inches.

Gagger. Stunner. Toad. Hawg. Mega-Monster. Freak Nasty.

Whatever descriptive phrase you’d like to use, they all fit the huge mule deer buck recently arrowed by PSE archer Matt Liljenquist.

I received word of Matt’s big mulie today by way of an e-mail forwarded to me earlier today from a friend. The e-mail originated with Chad Smith of Vaquero Outfitters, Inc.

In Smith’s own words, here are the details of Liljenquist’s high-end record book archery mule deer buck:

“Matt Liljenquist with his 2010 Arizona Strip Archery Buck. With his dad, Randy Liljenquist and good friend Blake Chapman in position to help with hand signals, Matt and I stalked to 52 yards of this bedded buck. After a short wait in the 95 degree sun the buck got up and walked to 32 yards broadside. I gave him a grunt and Matt sent Rusty Ulmer’s new broadhead on its way. Matt’s buck gross scores 240 and has a gross typical frame of 228 7/8 by an official measurer – net score is pending 60 days drying time. I can honestly say Matt and Randy are some of the nicest people you will ever know and it could not be more deserving. I am grateful that they let Blake and I be part of their fair chase hunt.


Chad Smith

Congrats to Matt on taking one of the best archery mule deer bucks of all-time!