Welcome to Ron’s Blog …..

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     I’ve been looking forward to having this forum for a long time and am excited about having a chance to talk about the outdoors with those who hold similar interests.  My goal is to share useful information and insights along with stories and pictures of friends’ and clients’ hunting and fishing successes. In addition, I’ll post reports from guided hunts, such as my annual public-land hunt in Kansas, turkey hunts around the country, and gator hunts in Northwest Florida. For more information about these and other services we offer, please visit our website.

This page will typically display postings dealing with the current season. The newest postings may be found on the left side of the page, listed by title under “Recent Posts.” As a season ends, the relevant postings will be archived under the appropriate “Categories,” also listed on the left side of the page.

I sincerely invite you to weigh in with your own comments. I’m looking for the coming hunting and fishing season to be memorable for all, made even more so by our sharing stories, successes and, yes, even lessons learned here on Ron’s Blog.

More Gator Data for Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties (FL)

With the onset of the gator harvest in Florida there have been some questions about what sized gators one might find here in the Escambia and Santa Rosa County areas. The 14+ footers and 1,000 pound behemoths harvested in Central and South Florida and the 14+ footer recently harvested in Alabama simply aren’t found here.

The complete records may be found at the FWC gator management website. For those who don’t want to make that trip I have culled the top three gators taken each year for each county. [To see what some of those beauties looked like just click here.]

Santa Rosa is by far the best local producer, so I have listed it first:

2010 855 SANTA ROSACOUNTY 12 ft. 9 in. 09-28-2010 YELLOWRIVER
2010 855 SANTA ROSACOUNTY 10 ft. 6 in. 10-10-2010  
2010 855 SANTA ROSACOUNTY 9 ft. 8 in. 09-21-2010 ESCAMBIARIVER
2009 855 SANTA ROSACOUNTY 10 ft. 4 in. 08-27-2009 BLACKWATERRIVER
2009 855 SANTA ROSACOUNTY 9 ft. 1 in. 10-10-2009 ESCAMBIARIVER
2009 855 SANTA ROSACOUNTY 8 ft. 2 in. 08-15-2009  
2008 855 SANTA ROSACOUNTY 10 ft. 4 in. 08-24-2008  
2008 855 SANTA ROSACOUNTY 9 ft. 4 in. 10-16-2008 YELLOWRIVER
2008 855 SANTA ROSACOUNTY 8 ft. 6 in. 08-18-2008  
2007 855 SANTA ROSACOUNTY 9 ft. 1 in. 09-17-2007 SIMPSONRIVER
2007 855 SANTA ROSACOUNTY 8 ft. 11 in. 10-28-2007 SIMPSONRIVER
2007 855 SANTA ROSACOUNTY 8 ft. 10 in. 08-19-2007 ESCAMBIARIVER
2006 855 SANTA ROSACOUNTY 10 ft. 11 in. 10-12-2006 BLACK CREEK
2006 855 SANTA ROSACOUNTY 10 ft. 9 in. 08-16-2006 ESCAMBIARIVER
2006 855 SANTA ROSACOUNTY 9 ft. 0 in. 08-29-2006 YELLOWRIVER
2005 855 SANTA ROSACOUNTY 9 ft. 0 in. 09-05-2005 BLACKWATERBAY
2005 855 SANTA ROSACOUNTY 8 ft. 9 in. 09-26-2005 Mouth of EscambiaBay
2005 855 SANTA ROSACOUNTY 8 ft. 8 in. 09-30-2005 EscambiaRiver
2004 855 SANTA ROSACOUNTY 11 ft. 3 in. 09-10-2004 BLACKWATERBAY
2004 855 SANTA ROSACOUNTY 9 ft. 5 in. 09-01-2004 EscambiaRiver
2004 855 SANTA ROSACOUNTY 9 ft. 1 in. 10-08-2004 East River
2003 855 SANTA ROSACOUNTY 9 ft. 6 in. 09-02-2003 ESCAMBIARIVER

Escambia County doesn’t produce nearly as many but still offers some trophy opportunities:

2010 817 ESCAMBIACOUNTY 7 ft. 2 in. 10-30-2010  
2010 817 ESCAMBIACOUNTY 7 ft. 0 in. 09-25-2010 RIVER
2010 817 ESCAMBIACOUNTY 5 ft. 0 in. 09-25-2010 RIVER
2009 817 ESCAMBIACOUNTY 10 ft. 6 in. 08-15-2009 ESCAMBIARIVER
2009 817 ESCAMBIACOUNTY 8 ft. 7 in.   COTTONLAKE
2009 817 ESCAMBIACOUNTY 7 ft. 11 in. 10-17-2009 11 MILE CREEK
2008 817 ESCAMBIACOUNTY 8 ft. 7 in. 08-19-2008 ESCAMBIARIVER
2008 817 ESCAMBIACOUNTY 7 ft. 11 in. 08-19-2008  
2008 817 ESCAMBIACOUNTY 7 ft. 1 in. 10-30-2008 ESCAMBIARIVER
2007 817 ESCAMBIACOUNTY 9 ft. 0 in. 10-20-2007 ESCAMBIARIVER
2007 817 ESCAMBIACOUNTY 8 ft. 7 in. 09-28-2007  
2007 817 ESCAMBIACOUNTY 8 ft. 0 in. 08-22-2007 ESCAMBIARIVER
2006 817 ESCAMBIACOUNTY 10 ft. 4 in. 08-22-2006 ESCAMBIARIVER
2006 817 ESCAMBIACOUNTY 10 ft. 2 in. 08-22-2006 ESCAMBIARIVER
2006 817 ESCAMBIACOUNTY 9 ft. 10 in. 08-30-2006 ESCAMBIARIVER
2005 817 ESCAMBIACOUNTY 12 ft. 7 in. 09-10-2005 escambia river
2005 817 ESCAMBIACOUNTY 10 ft. 2 in. 09-16-2005 EscambiaRiver
2005 817 ESCAMBIACOUNTY 8 ft. 6 in. 09-30-2005 EscambiaRiver
2004 817 ESCAMBIACOUNTY 11 ft. 0 in. 09-05-2004 ESCAMBIARIVER
2004 817 ESCAMBIACOUNTY 7 ft. 2 in. 10-05-2004 ESCAMBIARIVER
2004 817 ESCAMBIACOUNTY 6 ft. 5 in. 09-02-2004 ESCAMBIARIVER 

A trophy gator is one over 10 feet long. As you can see, there are only a few taken each year, at least by hunters with tags, so it really helps to partner up with an old hand until you get the hang of the game. Those old lizards aren’t as stupid as they look. There’s a reason they have survived long enough to get so big.

Goodbye Turkeys, Hello Gators!

So, enough about the turkey season already.

 The bumper sicker declares that it’s always Happy Hour because it’s always 5 p.m. someplace. Well, Florida’s gator season starts today at 5 p.m. and if you don’t get fired up by the thought of wrestling one of those big lizards into the boat then you need to check for a pulse.

 Most folks think gators are totally protected and are surprised it’s legal to hunt them. Unlimited hunting came close to wiping them out by the first part of the 20th century. The state tried mandating minimum take sizes as far back as 1943 with little effect. They finally banned all hunting in 1960 and gators were included on the first list of endangered species. Continue reading

The Road to Rogers: The 2012 NTA Convention and Competition

It all started with a phone call from John “JR” Roberts of Troy, Alabama. In addition to being the founder and president of Airtek Construction he is also a serious turkey hunter. He had harvested his Grand Slam in one season …no mean feat …and was looking for a top notch set of mounts to display in his office.

Strutting Eastern

We agreed that one way to confirm that the mounts met his expectations was to take them to the National Taxidermists Association Convention and Competition and let the judges evaluate them. Over the next few months we coordinated closely on the pedestal design and agreed on posing a strutting Eastern (from Alabama), a standing Rio (from Texas) and a gobbling Osceola (from South Florida). [We found some issues that prevented getting the Merriam’s ready in time so I will complete that mount later this year.]

To allow me to concentrate on the rest of the mounting process, I enlisted the help of Tommy Knight of Cantonment to prepare the heads. Tommy is a seasoned taxidermist with a number of competitions under his belt. My wife, Cathy, completed the team with her habitat decorating expertise. Continue reading

Summer’s excellent day of fishing

Summer King had spent a long day fishing for King Mackerel in the 2011 Queen of King ladies’ tournament. They were almost out of time when something hit her line. It was her first Wahoo. It weighed in at 81 lbs. and took 30 minutes to land.
 
We had some delays getting this mount completed but finally got it done. Summer still remembers vividly how beautiful it was as it came out of the water.The fish now hangs on her office wall at Kingline Equipment in Cantonment. When asked how the mount compares to the real thing she exclaimed,”I love it – it is perfect!”
 

Slammin’ the Merriam’s – Edwin Scores

We turned in Friday night thinking we had a rosy forecast for Saturday but another weather system moved in and we wound up with a cold, nasty, windy, rainy, snowy day, with some hail thrown in for good measure. It had an Old Testament feel to it and we were waiting for pestilence and plague to strike. In fairness, they hadn’t had rain for 7 weeks but I wish it could have held off for a few more days. It did not look good for killing turkeys.

Savannah had her gobblers in the bag so she made the best of a bad situation by going out in the mess to ride horses. Edwin and I kept looking for a break in the weather so we could move back out into the woods. We did not relish going home empty handed. It finally cleared for about two hours, just long enough to get the turkeys moving to eat. The same thing happened Friday except we got a longer, 5-hour reprieve.

Edwin came through. He was walking through the woods when he spotted the turkeys. He used the terrain to get as close as possible, then clucked a couple of times. They came to him and he jelly-headed two, a gobbler and a bearded hen.

According to the National Wild Turkey Federation, about ten percent of adult hens have beards (a few even have spurs) and they are legal to take in most states. Since they generally produce normal broods, hunters will usually pass them by unless they need a full body mount to round out their turkey display. This was Edwin’s first and it is a good one.

We are packing up tonight for an early Sunday-morning run back to Denver and our flight home. The weather has been challenging, some of the worst I have experienced on a Spring hunt. But we got some beautiful birds, had some great fellowship and Edwin and Savannah are one step closer to their Grand Slams.

Slammin’ the Merriam’s – Savannah Rules

After an early morning run-in with a surly ticket agent, my gun case getting waylaid in the baggage handling system, and missing our connecting flight on the last leg from Colorado to Nebraska I was beginning to wonder if this trip was supposed to happen.

We overcame those obstacles, though, and rolled into Chadron late Wednesday night and hit the woods early Thursday morning. We heard lots of birds and worked 6 different ones but couldn’t make the gobblers break away from the hens. I tried calling the hens in and got them just outside shooting range several times. Then the wind got up to about 40 knots in the afternoon and shut the turkeys down.Savannahcrawled through rain and mud to get a shot at three gobblers but couldn’t quite seal the deal.

One other highlight – a 150 lb. mountain lion walked by about 20 yards away. How cool is that? I think he must have been stalking me until he found out what I was – tough, tasteless and armed.

The rain kept us in Friday morning but as it lifted things calmed down and we were able to get into the woods for some afternoon hunting. The Nebraska National Forest is gorgeous country and it is bustin’ at the seams with turkeys. About 3 pm Savannah bagged her first Merriam’s. By close of business she had shot at four, killing two of them.

Saturday will be our last day to hunt and it’s forecast to be perfect. Stand by for more excellent news from Nebraska!

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“From shot to wall we do it all!”

Slammin’ the Merriam’s

A few weeks ago I experienced one of the best turkey hunts of my life when we harvested a number of fine Central-Florida Osceolas. From April 25–29 I will try to top that hunt as I travel to Nebraska with John Roberts, Edwin Henry and my daughter Savannah in search of the Merriam’s turkey.

The Merriam’s size is comparable to the Eastern, but it has a blacker appearance with blue, purple and bronze reflections. As seen on the handsome fellow to the right (who now permanently resides in my shop), it appears to have a white rump due to its pinkish, buff, or whitish tail coverts and tips. These tail feather tips are very conspicuous when the strutting gobbler appears against a dark background.

Originally native to the western mountain regions of the United States, its historic ranges were in the Ponderosa pine forests of Colorado, New Mexico and northern Arizona. They have now been transplanted into Utah, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, California, Montana,Wyoming, Nebraska and South Dakota as well. Read the National Wild Turkey Federation’s (NWTF) great summary of information on the Merriam’s by clicking here.

The purple areas on this map show the Merriam’s approximate range in comparison to other subspecies. We are using a local outfitter and will be operating out of Chadron, located in the (very purple!) northwest corner of the state just below the South Dakota line. We will be hunting both public and private lands in and around the Nebraska National Forest just south of Chadron. (Click on the map to enlarge.)

Lewis and Clark reported wild turkeys in present-day Nebraska in 1804 but over-hunting and habitat destruction eventually drove the birds out. In 1959, 28 Merriam’s from South Dakota and Wyoming were released in Pine Ridge. That population grew to about 3,000 birds in only four nesting seasons. Nebraska’s first wild turkey season was in 1962.To read the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission’s great review of wild turkey hunting in Nebraska just click here.

While the gents are understandably fired up about this trip it is especially exciting for Savannah. She already has her Eastern and Osceola, so if she gets her Merriam’s this trip she will only be a Rio away from her Grand Slam. If she doesn’t then my name will be mud.

Stay tuned to this site as I plan to provide running commentary and pictures from the scene of the action.

“From shot to wall, we do it all.”