Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Tennessee's Free Hunting Day - August 25, 2012

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Dad's 100th Birthday

                Born May 23, 1912, Dad would have been 100 years old today had he lived. That he would have been 100 is easy for me to remember. He was born six weeks after the Titanic sank and this is the 100th anniversary of that notorious event. And the date of May 23rd is easy to remember as well. Mom was born March 23. Brother Loy and brother-in-law Dave were born April 23rd. Dad’s birthday is the 23rd of the next month - May.

                That he has been gone 30 years is hard to believe but easy to remember. Andy turned 30 this year. Andy was born 12 days before Dad died – the day after Loy and Dave’s birthday. The little fellow and his granddad never met one another. What a pity that is.

                While I’ve often mentioned Mom lately due to her fight with cancer, I’ve not written about Dad in a while. He’s certainly not forgotten. In fact, I think about him every day. I have a picture of Mom and Dad on the table in my office that I face as I sit at my desk. I’m guessing it’s circa 1957 or 1958 and reminds me of them from my childhood perspective. I had a great childhood. A substantial number of my memories of Dad revolve around his teaching me to hunt and fish.

                “Good hunting begins with good conservation,” he’d say. Dad practiced good conservation techniques throughout his life. “If you’re not going to eat it, don’t kill it,” was the corollary to his conservation mantra.

                He drilled safety in the field and on the water into the psyche of my brothers and me. “There is no substitute for safety. No shortcuts. Not now. Not ever,” Dad would preach.

                “That’s why they call it hunting – not killing,” was his universal refrain when I complained about an unsuccessful hunt. “Hunting’s like courting,” he'd say, “90 percent of the thrill is in the chase!”

                I imagine it’s rather common to routinely reminisce about a parent who’s passed on. Remarkable is how intense some of those memories have been for me in the past few years.

While involved in a tense campaign for the Tennessee Senate four years ago, it seemed Dad was ever-present – especially during the dark, difficult days. All those clichés of his that I came to loathe as a teenager, I kept hearing over and over again in my mind. I found myself repeating them aloud on the campaign trail, i.e. “There’s a reason God gave you two ears and just one mouth” or “There’s always going to be someone smarter; just make darn sure they don’t out work you” or “Hard work makes up for a lot of other deficiencies.”

Dad’s presence on the campaign trail prompted my media consultant to base my first television commercial during that Senate campaign on Dad’s wisdom. Our campaign strategy to unseat a three-term incumbent was to knock on doors for six months and then get up on TV in mid-September and stay up until Election Day.

The strategy and particularly the commercial worked. While my reception on folk’s doorsteps was cordial before the TV campaign began, the reception after “My Dad” began airing was powerful. People recognized me before I ever got to their door. Many greeted me on their sidewalk or on the street before I could ever get to their doorstep. I heard over-and-over again “I love your commercial” or “Your dad was a smart man!” I’ve always known, deep within the recesses of my heart, Dad won that campaign for me.

Dad has won many a campaign for me over all these years and especially since he’s been gone. Life’s full of campaigns. I was and am so very blessed to have had a father whose influence upon me has transcended his death and molded me into the person I am. I miss his physical presence but he is with me always.

Happy Birthday, Daddy!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Mother Earth Began her Delivery of Reelfoot Lake 200 Years Ago Today

By Mike Faulk

In a cataclysmic event felt as far north as Quebec and as far south as the Gulf of Mexico, mother earth began her delivery of Reelfoot Lake 200 years ago today. ” Several of the largest historical earthquakes to strike the continental United States occurred in the winter of 1811-1812 along the New Madrid Seismic Zone, which stretches from just west of Memphis, Tennessee into southern Illinois. These earthquakes produced at least three temblors between magnitude 7-8, and hundreds of aftershocks.”

A little perspective is helpful. “On the basis of the large area of damage (600,000 square kilometers), the widespread area of perceptibility (5,000,000 square kilometers), and the complex physiographic changes that occurred, the New Madrid earthquakes of 1811-1812 rank as some of the largest in the United States since its settlement by Europeans. They were by far the largest east of the Rocky Mountains in the U.S. and Canada. The area of strong shaking associated with these shocks is two to three times as large as that of the 1964 Alaska earthquake and 10 times as large as that of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.”

At 2:15 a.m. local time on December 16, 1811, the first principal shock is estimated to have been 7.7 on the Richter scale. “The second principal shock, M7.5, occurred in Missouri on January 23, 1812, and the third, M7.7, on February 7, 1812, along the Reelfoot fault in Missouri and Tennessee. The earthquake ground shaking was not limited to these principal main shocks, as there is evidence for a fairly robust aftershock sequence. The first and largest aftershock occurred on December 16, 1811 at about 7:15 am. At least three other large aftershocks are inferred from historical accounts on December 16 and 17. These three events are believed to range between M6.0 and 6.5 in size and to be located in Arkansas and Missouri. This would make a total of seven earthquakes of magnitude M6.0-7.7 occurring in the period December 16, 1811 through February 7, 1812.”

“The earthquakes caused the ground to rise and fall - bending the trees until their branches intertwined and opening deep cracks in the ground. Deep seated landslides occurred along the steeper bluffs and hill slides; large areas of land were uplifted permanently; and still larger areas sank and were covered with water that erupted through fissures or craterlets. Huge waves on the Mississippi River overwhelmed many boats and washed others high onto the shore. High banks caved and collapsed into the river; sand bars and points of islands gave way; whole islands disappeared. The region most seriously affected was characterized by raised or sunken lands, fissures, sinks, sand blows, and large landslides that covered an area of 78,000 - 129,000 square kilometers, extending from Cairo, Illinois, to Memphis, Tennessee, and from Crowley's Ridge in northeastern Arkansas to Chickasaw Bluffs, Tennessee.”

Mother Nature’s delivery was completed on February 7th, 1812. “Several destructive shocks occurred on February 7, the last of which equaled or surpassed the magnitude of any previous event. The town of New Madrid was destroyed. At St. Louis, many houses were damaged severely and their chimneys were thrown down. The meizoseismal area was characterized by general ground warping, ejections, fissuring, severe landslides, and caving of stream banks.”

The lake that was born out of those cataclysmic events over 59 days some 200 years ago is indeed a beautiful child. Tennessee’s largest natural lake is home to bald eagles, migrating waterfowl, crappie and bald cypress trees.

I first saw Reelfoot Lake during my college days at UT Martin in nearby Weakley County, fell in love with it, and returned to it annually either to fish or duck hunt. The pictures that follow I offer as proof of its beauty and allure.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Dogs' Wall of Fame

The Dogs’ Wall of Fame
By Mike Faulk

“Children and dogs are as necessary to the welfare of the country as Wall Street and the railroads.” – Harry Truman

Our friend, Chuck Alexander, has a farm in North Dakota. There’s a Quonset hut for storage of equipment. Trees and bushes on the north and west sides are meant to mitigate the wind. An old windmill bears witness to the ever-present wind. And there’s a traditional high plains farmhouse in the center of the curtilage.

The farmhouse is cozy, comfortable and convenient to the nearest town of Parshall. Decorating the walls are prints of ducks, geese, and, most significantly, pheasant. The amenities are hunter-friendly. It’s a fine place to relax after plowing through six to eight sections a day of heavy cover, coulees, or recently-harvested grain fields.

Couches and recliners often hold members of the happy hunting party napping after a hard day’s hunt. Significantly, dogs are welcome on Chuck’s furniture. A good dog covers probably ten times the ground traversed by his master during a pheasant hunt. Such dogs are no less tired or entitled to a comfortable place of rest.

That good dogs are revered at Alexander’s farm is beyond debate. Most striking about this farmhouse is the kitchen. A wallpaper border rings the top of the walls just above the tops of the cabinets. And on that border are the names of all the dogs which have proved themselves to be man’s best hunting friend in the grain fields and impenetrable cover where pheasants hide.

Much like a parent whose child is about to play his or her first ball game, I was nervous about my dog’s first pheasant hunting trip. We would be hunting with some fine bird dogs and accomplished upland game hunters. And, he hadn’t shown much promise last fall.

Rueben is a rescue – a shelter dog. Rueben and I became a team in September, 2010. I got him from A Place to Bark in Portland, Tennessee. He was literally an hour from extinction when Bernie Berlin, who runs A Place to Bark, picked him up for me from the municipal shelter. Mostly chocolate lab, Rueben has some Weimaraner in him. He’s taller than most labs, has a longer snoot, thinner fur, and bigger ears. At just 22 months, he’s had no formal training at bird hunting.

He was scared to death of all the shooting during his first dove hunt in mid-September last year. In October a year ago, he accompanied Art Swann and me on a brief woodcock hunt on Strum Island. On that hunt he encountered his first scent of game birds and actually pointed one. Mostly that day he was just a puppy annoying Art’s seasoned bird dog, Suzy.

Later in 2010 Rueben went with me to Reelfoot Lake for a weekend duck hunt. He resented having to stay in the dog box wanting instead to be in the blind with me – and all the other hunters – and their loaded guns. That would not be safe and was not allowed. He shivered, whined, and wanted no part of the cold water.

If Rueben is to be just my big old pet, it would be fine with me. But I’ve truly hoped he’d also become my faithful hunting companion. This past summer we worked regularly on his retrieving skills with some success. The fruits of that training became apparent during an opening day dove hunt this year when he retrieved 16 of the 17 doves Art or I shot.

During our 25 hour drive to the Alexander farm, Rueben, Suzy and Callie each had separate crates for transportation but acclimated to one another with little difficulty. Some adjustment to the five other dogs participating on this hunt was necessary on day one. Chuck’s dog, Max, seemed to think a neutered Rueben was a girl dog and behaved toward him accordingly. Rueben did not care for that type of attention!

Reuben and I hunted by ourselves the first afternoon. The plan was to get him in a field with lots of bird scent so he’d take to the task of chasing birds instead of chasing after the other dogs. He behaved like a kid on Halloween with far too many sweet choices. Fortunately, he didn’t get too far ahead of me staying within shotgun range and he checked back to see where I was on a regular basis.

Nothing does more for a child trying a new sport than a little success. So it was with Rueben. He watched the other dogs work our first couple of fields on Day Two. By the third field, Rueben went on point, flushed the bird as I approached, and retrieved the downed bird – all like a seasoned professional. He had his first pheasant and I showed my excitement and appreciation showering him with ‘good dog” and praise.

While he spent too much time behind me or beside me and not enough time ahead of me in his job as the “advance scout”, his first pheasant trip exceeded expectations.

Rueben spent his share of time on the couches and in the recliners as our days ended. He earned every bit of comfort they afforded. On our last morning, he pointed, flushed, ran down through the brush and retrieved the last bird I shot. For that work, he earned Art’s shout of affirmation: “That dog’s a champion.” My chest bowed up with father-like pride.

Postscript: Chuck tells me I’ll find Rueben’s name on the Alexander kitchen Wall of Fame when I next come to the high plains of North Dakota!

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Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Fourth Saturday in August

In Tennessee, we revere fall Saturdays. Many of us cope with the long, hot weeks of summer especially suffering through the Dog Days of August on the hopes of cooler weather, renewed pigskin rivalries, and satisfaction of our hunter/gatherer gene.

In east Tennessee, there’s nothing bigger than the six Saturday “reunions” of the Volunteer Nation. A little over a hundred thousand members of the family meet at Neyland Stadium for each of these. Eating and playing games fill the agenda for such reunions. Small children are taught the importance of Saturday reunion attendance is on par with the importance of Sunday church attendance.

“Rocky Top” is the anthem of the Vol Nation. Unlike other national anthems, it is played intermittently, preferably often, throughout the Saturday football game. Its lyrics are imprinted on the brain (genetic I suspect) of each member of the Vol Nation. Those lyrics seem to flow as freely as does the favored beverage of certain members of the family:

Corn won't grow at all on Rocky Top
Dirt's too rocky by far
That's why all the folks on Rocky Top
Get their corn from a jar

Rocky Top you'll always be
Home sweet home to me
Good ol' Rocky Top
Rocky Top Tennessee,
Rocky Top Tennessee

At one of these Saturday reunions every other year, clans from Alabama are invited to be guests at Neyland Stadium much like the Christians were invited to be guests at the Roman Coliseum. Al Browning wrote a book about this particular date: The Third Saturday in October.

The coincidence of the fall football and hunting seasons causes considerable consternation amongst those of us who enjoy both. In fact, my favorite UT joke addresses this subject. “Why do Vol fans wear orange in the fall? So they can go from the tree stand, to the ball game, to the drunk tank, and then to the road crew without having to change clothes!”

Only Vol fans will fully understand this next statement. At the Faulk house, anticipating of the fourth Saturday in August was on par with anticipating the Third Saturday in October!

Squirrel season traditionally opens in Tennessee on the fourth Saturday in August. Ushering in all the fall hunting seasons, this much anticipated date was the harbinger of good things to come: cooler days, foggy mornings, sleeping with the windows open, meat on the dinner table, turning leaves, and near silent mornings in the hardwoods.

Much of what I learned as a child about the character of my father, I learned preparing for and participating in hunting. Among those character traits were a strong conservation ethic [“good hunting begins with good conservation” and “if you’re not going to eat it, don’t kill it”], appreciation of the journey [“hunting is 90% of the fun; harvesting 10%” and “that’s why they call it ‘hunting’ instead of ‘killing’”], and self-control [“what you do when no one’s looking defines the your measure as a man” and “safety first, safety last, there’s never a substitute for safety in the woods”].

The excitement of that first day in the woods, squirrel hunting, and the build up to it is strongly with me today – the fourth Saturday in August here in Tennessee. I believe it always will be. This day has me humming: “Good ‘ol Rocky Top. Rocky Top, Tennessee!”

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Friday, August 26, 2011

Tomorrow is Free Hunting Day!


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

State legislator gives senate watchdog a voice via Twitter - WKRN, Nashville, Tennessee News, Weather and Sports |

State legislator gives senate watchdog a voice via Twitter - WKRN, Nashville, Tennessee News, Weather and Sports |

Thursday, January 06, 2011

New Years On Reelfoot: A Pictorial

First light

High winds

Bald eagle sanctuary

Dog gone good time!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Happy Holidays from Strum Island!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

How Come?

Maybe it happens to all hunters. Maybe not. But it seems more than coincidental that I see plenty of game when I'm hunting, but rarely the game I'm looking for or the game that's in-season when I'm hunting. How come?

My usual practice is to harvest a doe during bow season. I can then be selective during muzzleloader and rifle seasons. One deer supplies me with all the venison I need from one season to the next. The meat from my second deer goes to friends or one of the area homeless shelters.

I had a couple of long misses during bow season but was hindered mostly by the fact that I've been trying to introduce a new dog to the duck blind.
I bow hunted out of the sluice duck blind. The deer travel-corridors are between 40 and 50 yards from this blind so I wasn't surprised that long shots were all I had.

I had a shot during muzzleloader season out of this same blind - roughly 85 yards up hill. With only a four inch hole to shoot through, I missed a neck shot on a six pointer.

Yesterday was cold and crisp and followed a dark night. Tennessee Valley Authority wasn't scheduled to generate electricity from the upstream dam until later in the day so the water flow was near its normal low point. Deer seem a little more relaxed getting into a placid stream rather than a roaring torrent. It had the makings of a good day. I saw two does - it being buck only hunting in Hawkins County.

But yesterday was also opening day of duck season. The shotgun blasts were numerous. I saw a couple of dozen shootable ducks out of this duck blind over the course of the day.
Two wild turkeys flew across the sluice within 40 yards. Another flock of turkeys worked down the island about 80 yards behind me. River otters played out front of the blind. Geese traded up and down the main channel of the river. But I was deer hunting for a buck.

Patience paid off today. Took a nice little 5 pointer about 10 a.m. So now I can make jerky and summer sausage for Christmas presents. And there'll be plenty of venison in my freezer to get me through the winter.

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