All American Trapshooter Visits Dawson (2006)
by: Tom Armbrust
On our semi-annual spring trip to the Dakotas in 2006, our first stop was in Mitchell, South Dakota, to Precision Reloading to meet Keith. We talked about the various non-toxic shot and reloading components he has available to the handloader such as: steel shot, Bismuth, and lead, which is still legal for upland birds in most areas. Keith's outfit has a very detailed reloading manual featuring all the latest components with a good number of specialty loads titled "From Blanks to Supersonics".
We discussed at length the three newest non-toxic shot pellets just recently legalized by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. New from Remington in 2006 is Wing Master HD. A true round pellet that runs ten percent heavier vs. a lead pellet of the same size, available in 10 GA, 12 GA, and 20 GA offerings with shot charge weights from 1-1/8 oz to 1-3/4 oz in Sizes BB, 2, 4, and 6 shot. Another very welcomed addition to the waterfowl lineup is Winchester Xtended Range Hi-Density loads also ten percent heavier than lead. Mike See, a shooting buddy of mine, had very good luck with Winchester 3 inch 12 GA loads pushing 1-3/8 oz of Size 2 Hi-Density shot to a high velocity of 1450 FPS. This load did a number on high snow geese in Nebraska this spring teamed up with his "Pattern Master" choke tube. This Size 2 shot went clean through birds in the 60 yard range bracket.
Now fellow duck and goose hunters hold on to your camo hats and don't chomp off the end of your calls! The new ultra heavy hitter is Super Shot. These ultra dense tungsten based shot pellets are sixty-five percent heavier than a same sized lead pellet. The pass shooting clan will be in tenth heaven on cloud dusting web feet; not to mention the serious turkey hunter who wants to put every last ultra high density pellet he can into a big Tom's head and neck. Your whole hunt may come to just one shot at the outer limits of gun range. If the hunter does his part, Super Shot will not let him down. I harvested a gobbler at 58 yards going away, with Size 5 shot. Penetration was excellent putting six pellets clean through the 21 pound bird.
C.J., Marty and I were itching to put our trigger fingers on a few rounds of this Super Shot in conjunction with the spring light snow goose season in the Dawson, North Dakota, area. Light geese were far and few between on this trip. In fact, just 50,000 snows were on the Sand Lake Refuge compared to one million plus last spring. On a scouting trip one foggy day with drizzle, driving between Gackle and Dawson, we finally found a small flock of about 100 snows feeding in a corn stubble field. We had a shallow ditch line to try a sneak attack somewhat hiding our advance. At around ninety yards the birds got suspicious, with all heads up and within moments they lifted into the air. An eaglehead blue was the nearest goose to me as I shot three times with my 12 GA Remington 870. Much to my amazement three birds fell out. The first one was stone dead and the next two were on the ground within a few yards. After my three shots, C.J. then came into action and dropped two more snows with three rounds of Super Shot. They were 2-3/4 inch 1-1/4 oz Size 5 shot reloads. If I told you the distances of his birds, you would think I was a damn liar. Then Marty's big Bonehill hammer double spoke with authority, dumping a very tall snow with a 10 GA Magnum BB Bismuth load. The confused flock of snows may have lost us in the ground fog coming back out over Marty's position after C.J. and I had shot. So this Super Shot had proved its worth by making a big difference in our hunts success. That was our only chance to make it good, and Super Shot really did come through in a big way! For pricing and more information contact: Kyle Smith, 424 Bridge Court, Wichita, KS 67230, phone 316-841-7119, or www.tungstensupershot.com.
Some people say young people are now lazy, unwilling to work with no real direction in life. Well, I can tell you that this is not in any way true of C.J. Homuth. He very much knows what he wants out of his life and is working very hard staying focused on his dream. At fifteen years old, he is a very remarkable young man. Out of twenty other trap shooters in the country, C.J. had to compete very hard to make the Sub Junior All American trap shooting team. I for one, can attest to the many hours of repetitive practice, shattering thousands of clay targets at our McHenry Sportsman's Gun Club that has paid off big dividends for his effort. C.J. told me he shot 8600 registered clay targets and 17,000 total targets, counting practice, in 2005-talk about endurance. His shooting highlights for 2005 were winning the Great Lakes Grand, the Wisconsin State Shoot, and 99 X 100 from the 22 yard line winning the President's Handicap at the Illinois State Shoot. Just recently he won the Southwest Grand at 16 yard singles with a 195 X 200 which is a great start for the 2006 season. Check out C.J.'s web site at www.youthtrapshooter.com to keep up with his upcoming trap shooting events.
C.J. is also taking classes to become a paramedic and goes on fire calls and other types of accidents. He has entered a house filled with smoke to simulate a real house fire equipped with a respirator and air tank. Talk about being focused at a young age, already thinking about a future career. Another requirement is a scholastic B average to become a paramedic. So C.J. has a lot of hard work and studying in front of him.
C.J. very much enjoyed visiting the home of Harold Duebbert in Fergus Fall, MN. They both shared their lover of duck hunting, as Harold related a number of great wildfowling stories with us. Harold shot his first mallard at the age of ten around Wellington, MO. This area, in earlier years, had its share of market gunners when millions of ducks made their spring and fall migrations up and down the Missouri River. As a young lad, Harold caught the tail end of an era of these aged duck hunters, and they left their mark on him. These men shot 12 GA Hump Back Browning Auto 5 shotguns with extension magazine tubes that took a heavy toll on ducks.
Becoming very interested with the habits of ducks and studying them intently, young Harold at the age of fourteen, carved his first duck decoy. What a rare treat for us to view Harold's decoy collection that he has hand carved over these many years. They are working decoys that Harold and his close friends shoot ducks over. In fact, we saw a half dozen decoys that were ready to go out the door to customers. An eaglehead blue goose really caught my eye as the paint scheme depicting the feather pattern was a real work of art! In fact, I put in an order for one myself.
During World War II ammo was very scarce. Harold got some 12 GA shells from a mail order outfit that were very reasonably priced. These bargain shells spelled disaster for his Remington 12 GA Hammer Damascus double on the 4th of July in 1944. To help celebrate on this occasion a few blasts were in order. But a base wad must have stuck in the bore causing an obstruction, as the right barrel about eight inches from the breech burst. Harold was not hurt but his grand old duck gun was now permanently put out of commission to become a wall-hanger that we all viewed. I thought to myself, what a tragic accident for that fine old shotgun to meet its end like that. If that old shotgun could talk, what yarns it could have spun!
C.J. gave a little duck calling demonstration to Mr. Duebbert before our departure. His duck music has earned him third place in various calling contests. I think between C.J.'s duck calling and shotgun handling skills and Harold's life like hand carved decoys, ducks would have to be darn smart or very very lucky not to be on the menu!
Harold worked for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for 31 years as a waterfowl research biologist. He intently studied the various nesting habits of different species of ducks throughout the Dakota country. He told us that the dramatic decline of nesting rate success was due to an increase of predators in the nesting site area.
Harold did much of his hunting in North Dakota in the Prairie Pothole country right in some of the same areas we hunt today. He loves the old traditional ways, shooting his beloved side by side L.C. Smith shotgun over his handmade wooden blocks. His handmade wooden duck skiff still does not leak a drop after well over 40 years of service. Harold has some years on him, but he is still young at heart when he is knee deep in wood shavings working on decoys or studying the habits of ducks and geese in his Dakota duck country.
I will have to find C.J. a copy of Harold Duebbert's book, now out of print, Wildfowling in Dakota 1873-1903. This book contains a fantastic collection of duck and goose hunting short stories appearing in "The American Field" and "Forest and Stream" well over a century ago when countless millions of ducks and geese were a normal occurrence in the Dakotas.
We had a great visit with Dave and Debbie Lang of Dawson. Dave was very busy with their cattle, as he had 40 calves being born while we were there-with many more to come. Dave and Debbie's son, John, and C.J. really hit it off together. They are just months apart in age and shared many of the same interests like hunting, fishing, baseball and four wheelers. In fact, C.J. was glued to a four wheeler one afternoon riding around and exploring the many new interesting areas.
The Lang's had a litter of six beautiful eight week old puppies that I fell in love with. They were so cute. A strange combination of a lab mixed with an English setter. Yet they had predominate lab features. Two of the pups pointed a goose wing that we had put in their kennel. They should make great hunting pointing labs.
Time always passes too quickly on your vacation, and already it was time to say goodbye to the Langs. Always seems too long a wait till the end of October to visit all our great friends in the Dakotas!
Another special guest that C.J. got to meet, and very much enjoyed on our North and South Dakota trip, was Wallace Labisky of Aberdeen. At 83 years of age, Wallace has hunted upland birds, ducks and geese for many more years than he cares to remember. C.J. was in awe when Wallace explained that on a number of different occasions he saw his father run a box of twenty-five shells without a miss on China birds. This statement is even hard for me to imagine. As now the pheasant population is nothing like it once was in South Dakota when countless millions of birds were in "Labisky Acres". In fact, Wallace cut his teeth with a single shot .410 shotgun at about eight years old. In short order he became good enough to drop birds on the wing with this "Pee Wee" bore. Grabbing his shotgun after school and heading out the door, Wallace remembers his mother saying, "Wally don't shoot those tough old rooster birds, just hens". Hens were legal in the game bag back then.
C.J. told Wallace about the many varieties of beautiful ducks he had seen on our spring journey to the Prairie Pothole Country in the Dakotas. Being fascinated by the big drake Cans and the long sprig tails on the male pintail, this brought a good story to Wallace's mind that he related to us. His parents had left for Aberdeen on a beautiful spring morning. So he grabbed his trusty little .410 bore to try for a big bull pintail he had spied on a nearby pothole. He belly crawled to within spitting distance of the pond's edge, obscured from the birds eye view by some sparse cover. Sure enough, right in front of him, not more than twenty yards, was his prize. With his heart pumping a mile a minute, Wallace reared back on the hammer as the sprig sprang into flight off the water. In a few short moments it was all over, and the deed was done. Quickly taking off his shoes and rolling up his pants legs, he waded in to retrieve his duck. When he picked it up, much to his astonishment the bird was banded. Now great fear sank in. Thinking the Feds were keeping track of this special duck, and would surely miss it if this pintail did not return to wherever it came from. Rushing home with the pintail rolled up in his jacket, he dug a deep hole and buried the bird. He then promptly hid his shotgun in the barn till the heat wore off. Looking back over all those years, Wallace wished he still had that spring pintail band.
During the war years Wallace told C.J. that the Sand Lake Refuge held two million plus mallards which is almost more ducks than in our whole flyaway now. Both duck, goose, and upland bird hunting by now day's standards was almost unbelievable back then--having upwards of fifty thousand mallards in just one state area like Scatterwood Lake. Wallace's father, the old "Duck Buster", shot mostly prairie chickens in his early years and then ducks, pheasants, and geese by the thousands during his lifetime. More than most hunters will never even dream of now.
Wallace's first published article was during the war years, I believe on snipe hunting, in Mr. Harding's Fur, Fish, and Game Magazine. After an exchange of letters on the great hunting in South Dakota, Ed Harding was hooked. He came out to the Labisky farm (Poverty Acres) during World War II to sample some of the fantastic pheasant hunting in those days. Wallace and his father really filled the game larder for the boys. Shotgun shells were very hard to come by during the war years, so Mr. Harding brought along plenty of extra ammo to be left behind to help ease the shortage. The hunting party was in awe with the vast number of China birds in the area. If Wallace's memory serves him right, the possession limit was around 35 birds a man then. No one went home empty handed!
Wallace stated, "Those bygone days will never again be experienced by anyone". Two big reasons for this are: hunting pressure is way up and the wetlands and upland habitats are shrinking at an alarming rate in our country. Like his father, Wallace has seen great days in the field sharing many grand memories afield with us each year on our annual visit to his home.
Wallace has authored well over 600 articles on hunting, gun tests and reloading in too many magazines to mention, plus a book printed in 1954 titled Waterfowl Shooting. C.J. was really thrilled when Wallace personally autographed a copy of his book to him saying spring sprig tails are off limits!
I for one always hate to say goodbye to Wallace, as his stories about hunting in those bygone times are so very interesting. His excellent memory and attention to details are a rare treat in this fast paced world. Once these Dakota people are all gone from that era their stories will be lost forever if they are not written down and passed on. This is why we have taped so many of Wallace's stories as they are a part of the Dakota history!