Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Christmas/New Year's End Gift

As another year draws to a close, in the life of this Pastor there is the little matter of using my professional reimbursement. This year is no different!

This morning Lynn and I drove to Best Buy and purchased an Ipad Air for my ministry work. I'm very excited to have this tool and am going to be working to intergrate it more fully into my everyday ministry.

I'm so thamful for a wife and ministry partner who is willing to push me to use technology to the fullest extent to help me magnify my Savior!

I Remain, 
Pastor Steve

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas 2013 - An Adventure!

Around our house when the entire group gets together it is always an adventure and this year was no different!

Everyone arrived on the 23rd and that in and of its self was a bit of a surprise, Lynn and I had not expected everyone that day but with quick work the house was readied, beds were made and pizza ordered for supper!

When I got up on the 24th I found Amy and Nate already awake and Amy in terrible pain! After much discussion and consternation the decision was made to take Amy to the ER! Diagnosis .... Gall Stones!!! Most of us envisioned our Christmas eve and Christmas day spent in the hospital as Amy revcovered from surgery! But it was not to be!

After much consultation and really good pain killers ... Amy was sent home and after a few hours she felt much better! Christmas was right back on schedule!

Thankful that Amy is feeling better and we all know it is just a matter of time before she will be having surgery but for now .... Merry Christmas to all and to all GOOD HEALTH!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Adam???

What an incredible surprise ... all of the kids (Daniel, Amy, Philip & Susan), spouses and grand-kids showed showed up on Monday afternoon and evening for our family Christmas. this was about 24 early which was a great surprise!

Pizza was eaten, games were played and after the littles had gone to bed ... gifts were wrapped.

Daniel informed us that the 23rd of December is Christmas Adam because everyone knows that Adam comes before Eve (Christmas Eve)!!! 

There is nothing like having everyone together at Christmas!

"Thank God for this gift too wonderful for words!" 2 Cor. 9:15

I Remain, 
Pastor Steve   

Friday, December 20, 2013

Not A Lot To Say ......

Wow! When is the last time you heard a preacher say they didn't have a lot to say!!!

As always very busy this time of year .... can't even find time for coffee with friends! That is flat being too busy! But we are looking forward to having everyone home for Christmas. Maybe getting a chance to catch our breath!

Hunting season has been a bust, so far, this year with me driving a bus route full time it makes every early morning and late afternoon activities tough. Nevertheless, I'm planning on hunting the late muzzle-loader season which falls during Christmas break! Archery season will be open at the same time ... looking to harvest a couple of deer in the next few weeks.

More Later .... I Promise!

I Remain,
Pastor Steve

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

What To Do????

I'm in somewhat of a quandary!

I'm not at all sure what to do with my blog .....

1. I'm not posting as much as I should (At All).

2. I'm not sure anyone is even looking at my blog anymore.

3. Maybe it has run its course.

Thinking about what to do next.......

I Remain,
Pastor Steve

Monday, July 01, 2013

June 2013 - What a blur!

I just realized that it has been a month since I have posted on the blog! So, it is time for an update!

June was a very busy month as the camping season at the Iowa Regular Baptist Camp got underway in full force. The first full week of June is Special Camp, a camp for those with mental/physical handicaps. I have the privilege to be the director of this camp each year and am responsible for the program, activities and finding counselors. I would love to say that I do all of this my self but I have gathered a great leadership staff that helps me carry out these responsibilities! This year we had 81 campers, plus an incredible staff! We had a great week and it was as always very rewarding!

The very next week was Jr. Boys Camp! At Jr. boys I served as a counselor, and this year I have 9 boys in my cabin. 2 from my church and 7 from another. What a great group of guys! Jr. boys is a long tiring week of camp with a group of guys that never seem to wear-out or lose any energy; but this old guy hung with them fairly well!

After two full weeks at camp I was more than ready for a break! But, now it was Lynn's turn! Jr. Girls camp 2013 was on her agenda and a week of office work / yard work and catch up was on mine! It never ceases to amaze me how fast stuff piles up when you are gone for a bit.

Just so you don't get comfortable ... as soon as Jr. girls was over Lynn and I left for the GARBC National Conference in Dearborn, Mi. We departed Clear Lake on Sunday afternoon and drive to Michigan City, In. and spent the night. The next morning we drove the rest of the way into Dearborn. The conference was fantastic! Always good to see friend from all over the nation as well as meeting and making new friends! The conference itself was very good again this year, the preaching sessions & workshops were very good and I was challenged and learned a great deal.

June turned out to be a very busy month indeed! But what a blessing to be used of God in the lives of special campers, Jr. boys and Jr. girls. Then get the privilege to attend a refreshing conference.

July is upon us and here is our agenda for this month:  4th of July church picnic and fireworks over the lake, Jr, High camp where Lynn & I will serve as counselors, Family Camp #3 where I will be the evening speaker, Sr. High Camp where Lynn will be  counseling!

Hang on...We're off!

I Remain,
Pastor Steve    

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Red-tails, Mallards & Walt Disney‏

            Fearless Predators -- Nurturing Partners
         The Most Amazing Red-tails I’ve Ever Met

Like all of you, I enjoy watching birds and have a variety of bird feeders scattered around the yard.  Observing the birds as they come and go provides endless hours of entertainment.  This year’s spring migration has been our best ever -- an incredible listing of 56 bird species seen from the kitchen window so far.

In addition to the more exotic neotropical migrants, we also receive daily visits from several of the more common bird species.  One of the more unusual entries in this category -- at least for my backyard -- is a nesting hen mallard.   Ever since the snow melted this spring, a good portion of my backyard has been underwater.  Consequently, the area I normally mow is now a pond.  This development did not escape the attention of a pair of mallards who soon claimed the “temporary wetland” as their own.  Before long, the hen became visibly heavy with eggs and soon began disappearing into heavier cover.  Within a couple of weeks, the drake was on his own again.  From then on, we only see the hen during a brief period each afternoon when she emerges from wherever her nest is hidden to get a drink and to scavenge whatever seeds may have been spilled from the feeders.  I have fully expected raccoons to discover and devour her nest but, so far, all has proceeded on schedule --- that is until yesterday afternoon.

Shortly after arriving home, I peered out the kitchen window and was pleased to see the feeders humming with activity.  But when I returned less than five minutes later, the scene had changed dramatically.  So much so, in fact, that I could scarcely believe my eyes.  As usual, the hen mallard had appeared in the yard; but on this occasion she wasn’t looking for spilled grain.  Instead, the duck was lying flat on the ground -- less than 15 yards from the house -- with a red-tailed hawk standing on her back.  Who would believe it?  Racing for the camera, I began to document the incident.  After obtaining several ‘voucher photos’ through the kitchen’s double-paned glass, I dropped below the window opening and attempted to quietly slide open the frame for a sharper picture.  Just as I was about to make my move, the mallard suddenly flexed her left wing.  Could the hen still be alive?

Surveying its surroundings for possible danger, the red-tail remained still as a statue -- one foot completely wrapped around the hen’s neck, the other on the ground.  Maybe the hawk had caught the duck mere seconds before I discovered the scent and had not yet dispatched its prey.  The question was answered when the hawk caught the movement of my hand at the window and immediately took wing.  Just as quickly, the mallard was back on her feet -- ruffled, but apparently otherwise unharmed.  Ignoring the nearby pond and spilled bird seed, the terrified hen lost no time in returning to thick cover.  As she disappeared, I couldn’t help but wonder if the duck would ever realize how very fortunate she was.  Once a red-tailed hawk has its foot securely wrapped around a bird’s neck, the chances of that bird surviving are virtually nil.  My arriving home and looking out the window had cost the hawk its meal, but had also spared the mallard’s life.  Whether my accidental intrusion was good or bad is purely a matter of perspective. 

For me, this spectacular true-life, backyard birding adventure was highly unusual to say the least.  The event was also extremely puzzling.  There is no denying that red-tailed hawks are formidable predators.  And although winter hardened red-tails routinely subdue larger prey such as cottontail rabbits and fox squirrels; their fierce aggression usually wanes as smaller prey species such as mice, ground squirrels and garter snakes become abundant in summer.  Why this particular red-tail chose to take on a full grown mallard -- in a backyard -- on the 29th of May, will likely remain a mystery.

What is not mystery, however, is the hawk’s identity.  I know the bird very well.  He’s an adult male and we’re practically on a first name basis.  The hawk and I have, in fact, been neighbors for the past eleven years.

The red-tail and his mate currently have a nest on the edge of a mile-long cattle pasture on the south side of Clear Lake.  The nest is located about a mile from my house; at least as the crow -- or in this case the buteo -- flies.  I first became acquainted with the pair in 2002.  That’s when they moved in and built a nest in a small oak woodlot where I sometimes hunted for deer.  [Red-tailed hawks exhibit a wide range of plumage variations and both members of this pair had unique markings that made future identification a breeze.]  Life was good for the red-tail pair --- catching mice and thirteen-liners, eating snakes, raising babies, riding the thermals.  Following a few successful seasons, the good times ended abruptly one winter when a pair of great horned owls appropriated the nest for themselves.  It’s a fairly common occurrence, and the hawks responded by moving a half mile east and building a new nest.  Although the new location offered fewer trees and less protection from the weather, the pair enjoyed several good seasons and usually produced at least two young each summer.  But the good times ended once again when a violent summer storm swept across the pasture in 2010, completely destroying the second nest.  I didn’t see the hawks again until weeks later when I spotted the female limping along near the south edge of the pasture.  Dragging her left wing, the bird appeared to be in rough shape.  Whether the injury had been caused by a collision during a hunt or by the previous storm was anybody’s guess.  It was mid-August and what was certain was that the bird had been rendered flightless, and flightless raptors simply don’t survive in the wild -- or do they?

Returning to the pasture some time later, I spotted the hawk again.  This time, she was at the edge of the pavement feeding on a road killed raccoon.  To see this formerly magnificent and successful raptor reduced to feeding on carrion was a sad event and starkly depicted how desperate the situation had become. 

Later that day, I saw the female again.  This time she had company.  The male was with her, and I began to wonder if it was possible that he would attempt to care for his mate in the same way he would attend to a grounded fledgling.  As it turned out, that’s exactly what the male did.  He fed and protected his grounded mate until weeks later, her injured wing began to slowly show signs of improvement.  In time, the female was able to hop to a low perch, to the top of a wooden fence post, and finally to a low branch.  Slowly but surely, the red-tail was recovering.  Weeks later, I spotted the female along with her faithful companion, perched on the wooden cross bar of a power pole.  Although the female was still favoring her left wing, I began to believe that she really might live to survive the injury.

The hawk grew stronger by the day, and by early October she was back riding the thermals and hunting for herself.  In February of 2011, the pair began constructing their third nest.  This time, the birds chose a sturdier tree located about 20 yards from where the last structure blew down.  During the summer of 2011, the pair raised two beautiful young.  Last year was also a success and, although I don’t yet know many babies are in the nest this year, the pair is currently raising their 2013 crop of young.  What I do know, is that these red-tails have had an incredible life together so far.  They also represent the one and only example that I know of where one hawk has successfully rehabilitated another.  As far as I’m concerned, this raptor pair definitely belongs in the Red-tailed Hawk Edition of the Guinness Book of World Records.  Walt Disney himself couldn’t have dreamed up a more amazing story or happier ending.  In the great out-of-doors, fact truly can be stranger than fiction.
Lowell Washburn 
Clear Lake, Iowa  
May 30, 2013

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Morel Madness‏ By: Lowell Washburn

Although definitely winding down, this year's spring mushroom season continues -- at least in the extreme northeast corner of the state. 

In reality, there are only two basic ways to cook these out-of-this-world taste treats --- indoors or outdoors.  Or to put it another way, civilized or uncivilized.  The indoor method utilizes clean natural gas and can often involve complex recipes.  The outdoor method utilizes natural fuels gathered from the same woodlands where the mushrooms were gathered.  Other than the morels themselves, this method involves but one additional ingredient -- butter.  For open fire cooking, I prefer to use a flat cast iron utensil.  While waiting for burning wood to become coals, I use the time to clean fish or halve the mushrooms.  Most people think that, before cooking, they need to cut, wash, salt, soak, and then carefully inspect each and every morel before they can even begin to think about cooking.   This is nuts.  Anyone who would treat a fresh morel that way should have their stick matches taken away and be forced to eat at fast food drive-throughs.  Culinary works of art, morel mushrooms are much too delicate for such barbaric treatment.  The only thing that washing and soaking will accomplish is that the mushrooms will become tasteless, soggy and fall apart.  Fresh morels deserve respect.  They should be consumed; not tortured.  Once captured, morels should be taken directly to the fire, cut in half, and cooked in butter.  That's it; nothing else -- no washing, no salt, no nothing.  Well, a hint of olive oil maybe; but since we're hunting and cooking in northeast Iowa's dairy country, I'll stick with the butter.  

"What about those insects," you ask?  Not to worry.  As things start to heat up most insects, especially the larger species, will quickly escape the morel's folds -- but much to their dismay, will usually not survive the swim through bubbling butter.  No matter, once exposed, the drifting insects are easy to work around.  Smaller insect life?  Also no problem; you usually can't see and never will taste them -- so just eat and enjoy. 

By the end of the annual mushroom run, any hunter worth his salt will smell like wood smoke, have consumed more bugs than a missionary, and will have blood samples running about 25 percent butter.  Although the morels will soon be gone, I'm already looking forward to September's first batch of chicken-of-the-woods.

I Remain, 
Pastor Steve

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Birds of Spring 2013

I am not a fanatic birder by any means but this Spring hes been one of the best I can remember! Even with a 14 inch snow on May 2nd, we have enjoyed a vast number of birds at out feeders. Here are the different varieties that we have seen and these are not actual pics of our birds but stock photos:


Rose Breasted Grossbeak

Northern Oriole


Indigo Bunting

Scarlet Tanger (Seen @ Camp)

I Remain, 
Pastor Steve

Monday, May 20, 2013

Avian Sweet Tooth -- Fun With Plums‏ By: Lowell Washburn

To me, it's always amazing how quickly birds can discover and exploit new food sources.  Put out a new hummingbird or oriole feeder, for example, and the species you hope to attract will often show up within hours -- sometimes within minutes.  Birds do the same thing, of course, with natural foods -- always exploring, always on the lookout for the newest bird food buffets.  Last week, the wild plums came into full bloom all across Northern Iowa; their brilliant white flowers appearing like snow drifts against the greening backdrops of spring.  There are two nice plum thickets near a woodland where I've been trying to photograph wild turkeys and I couldn't help but notice the birdlife the plum flowers were attracting.  Like the birds themselves, I decided to capitalize on the opportunity.  Although an overwhelming majority of the birds visiting the plums were goldfinches, I soon discovered that a good number of other species were also arriving for their sugar high -- with the list including orioles, warblers, and at least one siskin.  Birds utilized the plum flowers in different ways.  Goldfinches appeared to be mainly interested in eating the pollen.  Others, such as Tennessee warblers, ruby throated hummingbirds, and orioles simply guzzled the nectar.  While visiting birdlife are receiving their rewards now; I'm planning on returning for my sugar load in late summer when this year's crop of wild plums turn sweet and purple.


Adventures With Wood Ducks -- Spring Nesting - By: Lowell Washburn

Of all the waterfowl species that migrate into Iowa each spring, perhaps none is more brilliant in color or elegant in style that the wood duck.  As unique as it is beautiful, the woodie has adopted a lifestyle like no other.  As equally at home on land or in the treetops as it is on water; wood ducks can run through cover like a pheasant or scurry along tree branches with the agility of a squirrel -- or so it appears.  But getting a good look at wood ducks can be a challenge: shy and secretive, the birds are most comfortable in dense and wooded wetland habitats where they're safe from prying eyes.  While bow hunting turkeys this spring, I dummied into a real spring wood duck Honey Hole -- a tiny pond located inside a woodland.  Although the pond was small -- maybe only 40 feet in diameter --  wood duck traffic was heavy.  During late April, the place was like a beehive with cavity searching pairs constantly coming and going from before sunrise until around 10 o'clock or so.  By the end of April, a majority of hens were busy sitting in cavity nests and the previous 50:50 sex ratio quickly became skewed toward drakes.  By mid-May, the balance had tipped even further with drakes accounting for most of the ducks visiting the pond.  On my last visit, I counted eleven loafing drakes but only two hens -- a good sign that the nesting season is going well so far.  Since female wood ducks have a profound tendency to return to their natal area, the number of pairs utilizing the pond this spring would make it appear that past nesting success has been high.  The two active nests I know of should be hatching this week. 

Saturday, May 18, 2013


"Now to Him who is able to protect you from stumbling and to make you stand in the presence of His glory, blameless and with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority before all time, now and forever. Amen." Jude 24-25 (HCSB)

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Achilles Gobbler -- The Rest of the Story‏

In the Great Out-of-Doors; the next big surprise may be waiting just around the corner. . . .

Gone but not forgotten, Snowstorm Achilles has been entered into the Weather History Book.  Beginning with a two-inch rainfall, the jack hammer storm system dumped and additional 16 inches of wet and heavy snow on Northern Iowa during May 2 & 3.  I was able to spend most of both days playing in the weather, mainly shooting photos while trying to bag a fourth season turkey.  During both storm days I encountered a magnificent gobbler with a long thick beard and sickle spurs.  I soon dubbed the bird as the "Achilles Gobbler".  This is the first time I've hung a personal name tag on a bird; I guess that record book storm just had me all wound up.  Much to my dismay, the Achilles Gobbler completely vanished after the storm.  A few days later I figured he was out of my life -- for good.

I started hunting different timbers.  When I shot a gobbler on May 10, I was thrilled that the bird was in the real Wall Hanger class.

The following morning, I was reviewing some of the snowstorm photos when I ran across the shots of the Achilles Gobbler.  In one of the pictures [Close Call Gob] I noticed that the turkey had a healed over cut just below the knee on his left leg -- an injury probably sustained while trouncing up on a group of some puny three or four year old toms.  Anyway, something bothered me about that photo, but I didn't know what it was.  A few minutes later, the light bulb suddenly came on.  The turkey I had just shot also had a similar cut on one of his legs.  Rushing to examine the slain gobbler's legs, I was delighted to discover that his left leg was a perfect match -- the healing wound was as distinctive as any personalized tattoo.  Another photo of the [live] turkey showed a similar cut at the base of the middle toe on the same foot.  Again it was a perfect match.

"Praise God", I exclaimed!  I had actually bagged the Achilles Gobbler and didn't even realize it until the next morning.  I realize that I may be taking this a bit out of context [or maybe not] but the Lord truly does work in mysterious ways.  The bottom line is that I'm extremely grateful to have had the experience and, needless to say, am grateful for the bird.  Although I've never done a full body mount on a wild turkey, this memorable gobbler is currently on its way to the taxidermist. 




Monday, May 13, 2013

Achilles Gobbler Is In The Bag - ‏ By: Lowell Washburn

Friday, May 10,2013:   Had an exciting -- actually two exciting -- hunts this morning.  Got into the woods early and, when daylight began, I saw a total of 12 birds roosted in the tree tops.  One nearby tom was strutting on the limb, and turkeys started coming down while it was still half dark. Some of the birds, including three jakes and two toms, touched down within 30 yards of where I sat.   Although I was soon treated to an incredible struttin' and gobbln' show, none of the birds ever got closer than 25 yards before hens led them in the wrong direction.  Even though I hadn't received a shot, the noisy close encounter had already made my day.  Considering the number of hens I'd already seen or heard, I figured it would be awhile before those toms would be looking for company.

I soon decided to pull up stakes and move to another part of the timber.  By the time I reached my destination, the sun was well above the horizon.  Within ten minutes of popping up the Double Bull, I spotted a single hen coming through the oaks.  I called, she responded, and I got a few photos.  That was the last turkey I saw or heard for the next hour, which was about the time I spotted a mature gobbler.  He was around 150 yards away walking across a grassy area located at the base of the ridge I was sitting on.  I struck up the Kirkman box call, and the gobbler hit the brakes.  I called again, and he stretched his neck about a mile.  When I hit the call a third time, the tom gobbled back.  We went back and forth for awhile until the tom finally began to strut in place.  But although the bird was clearly interested in my yelping, he appeared to have no plans of changing course.  The standoff continued; the gobbler quit strutting and I could tell he was losing interest.  To me it was obvious that this bird was about to take the show on the road.
Hitting the panic button, I began trying to start a fire with the box call. 
If I live to be a hundred, I'm not likely to forget that gobbler's reaction.  After briefly stretching his neck for a second time, the tom suddenly put his head down and charged my position.  When I use the word "charge" I don't mean the usual jogging often referred to as the Turkey Trot.  Instead, I mean the turkey was coming toward me at an all out sprint.  I doubt he could have gone any faster if a hungry coyote had been six inches off his tail.  Within seconds, the running bird was lost to view as he hit the bottom of the ridge.  The ridge top  was narrow, and I knew that when I saw the tom again he would likely be within thirty yards -- maybe less.

Suddenly, there he was.  No longer at a sprint, the tom was now approaching at a steady walk.  The early morning light was perfect, and as the gobbler made his way around gooseberry bushes  and  through patches of Dutchman's Breeches, I couldn't resist taking my first shot with the camera.  By the time I had made that decision the turkey was already too close for very much fooling around on my part.
Unfortunately, my thin mosquito netting was right in the way and I couldn't risk making a new opening at such close range.  Taking advantage of the only opportunity I had, I fired away and the attached "Final Strut" photo is the somewhat blurry, through-the-net result.
Laying the camera aside, I picked up the longbow and took aim again.  I was using a primitive 45 #, Osage orange bow crafted by Dave Thomas, and as I pulled back on the string I  quickly rehearsed my mental check list of 'shooting points'.  The broadhead hit home, passed completely through the tom, and the arrow came to rest a short distance away.

The tom sported a 10 1/2-inch beard and was armed with 1 1/4-inch, needle sharp spurs.  He weighed in at 21.5 pounds -- which was a quarter pound lighter than my biggest-ever jake bagged with the same bow in Clayton County in April.  Praise God for another exciting morning in the Iowa out-of-doors!

It isn't often that a person gets to enjoy two great turkey hunts in a single day.  


Saturday, May 11, 2013

A Great Article From Lowell Washburn...

Schulte’s Pasture

We all have favorite places.  Favorite deer stands, favorite places to hunt ducks, favorite turkey woods.

With Iowa’s spring turkey season currently at its peak, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about one my favorite places.  For me, there are few destinations that conjure up such a vast collection of fond memories.  This special place is simply known as Schulte’s Pasture.

Located in the rugged bluff country of northeast Iowa’s Clayton County, Schulte’s Pasture has been in use for a long long time.  For generations now, herds of Holstein dairy cows have gained sustenance here; the black and white bovines kept in place by the sagging, three-strand barbed wire fence that leads from farmstead building site to ridge top meadow.  Where growing saplings have sprouted too close, the rusted wire is forever entombed by several inches of wood and bark.

Completely surrounded by timber, Schulte’s Pasture is a veritable turkey magnet.  Small but mighty, the four acre plot is the first spot to green up each spring, and the short cropped grass presents an ideal backdrop for gobblers to strut their stuff as disinterested hens forage on new plant growth or take advantage of emerging insect life.  Although turkey traffic can be heavy, human hunters are rarely seen here.  In reality, few people even know the place exists.  Located completely out of sight and a good three quarters of a mile from the nearest county roadway, the pasture remains a well-guarded emerald secret.

We accidentally stumbled onto Schulte’s Pasture during the late 1970s.  That’s when Steve Schutte, Ed Kotz and I first began prowling the adjacent hardwood timbers.  It was a time when newly restored turkey populations and the mysterious sport of turkey hunting were both enjoying unprecedented adolescent growth spurts.  And although turkey populations were sparse by today’s standards, we usually managed to hear and occasionally even see birds.  Turkey seasons were short, turkey decoys were illegal, and hunting was only allowed during the morning.  But in spite of the many challenges, one of us usually managed to bag a turkey each year which statistically kept us at average or above. 

By the late1980s, turkey hunting had undergone dramatic change.  Turkey populations had soared and our success rate had followed the trend -- at least on the good days anyway.  By now, we were all busy raising families; and as we made our way into the 1990s, we began introducing a new generation of hunters to the unmatched thrills of turkey hunting.  The growing squadron of young hunters included my son Matt; Steve Schutte’s boys, Brad and Dan; and Ed Kotz’s son, Wesley.  By then, my brother Sterling and his son Justin had also joined the party.

Matt bagged his first gobbler along the northern fringe of Schulte’s Pasture.  It had been a tough hunt.  There had been three days of abnormally cool temperatures and driving rain.  Matt had contracted a World Class head cold, and both of us were bone tired and discouraged.  At around 5 o’clock on our final afternoon, the rain suddenly stopped.  The skies cleared, and we decided to give it one last try. 

Working and calling our way along an abandoned logging road, we soon detected the faint sound of distant gobbling.  As we hustled through the woodland, the continued gobbling led us straight to Schulte’s Pasture where we determined the bird was sounding off from just inside the timberline on the opposite side of the plot.  Cautiously creeping forward and finally taking our seat against the base of sturdy hardwood, we began calling.  The gobbler roared back, and immediately headed our way.  A slight ridge runs along the pasture’s centerline, and the first we saw of the approaching gobbler was the top of his magnificent tail fan -- vividly backlight against the late afternoon sun.  The tom quickly topped the rise and continued his approach.  After awing us with a final and spectacular display of gobbling, the tom stepped into range.  Matt’s 20 bore rocked the timber and his very first gobbler was in the bag.  The tom sported a long thick beard and needle sharp, inch-plus spurs -- a magnificent bird by any standard.  The day had provided both of us with a good lesson of just how quickly turkey hunting can spin on a dime.  The hunt is a memory we will forever cherish.

The mention Matt’s head cold, reminds me of a time when I didn’t feel too well myself.  Steve Schutte and I were enjoying a four day turkey hunt when I suddenly fell victim to the flu.  I spent a miserable night and when it came time to roll out the following morning, my temperature was pegging the thermometer at 102 degrees.  The weather had taken a sudden turn for the worse as well.  What had been ideal spring weather the day before had now become a significant late season snowstorm.  Alternating between sweating and freezing, I felt absolutely horrible and seriously considered staying out of the woods.  But after several minutes of just lying there and considering my options, I finally decided to at least try and go out for the first hour.

By the time daylight arrived, I had seriously begun to question the wisdom of my decision.  Wet and sticky, the snow was coming down so hard that visibility was severely limited.  Cold and soggy, the forest hardwoods were painted stark white on one side; while remaining dark and somber on the other.

There was, of course, no early morning gobbling.  Using a high pitched Tom Turpin Yelper, I tried sitting and calling at several locations as I worked my way through the timber -- desperately hoping to raise a response.  Eventually arriving on the south side of Schulte’s Pasture, I decided that this would be my final stop.  After calling for 10 minutes or so, I was about to pack it in when I heard a familiar sound --- the aggressive fighting purrs of male turkeys squaring off.  The purring continued to increase in volume until I figured the birds were within a literal five or six feet of my vibrating eardrum.  The only problem was that the turkeys were on my right side [I shoot right handed] and far enough to the rear that I couldn’t see them.

The situation escalated to a crisis when the purring of one bird suddenly became an alarm putt.  When a second bird began sounding the alarm, I knew I was in trouble.  My only hope was to execute a rapid about face, identify a target, and fire.  We all know from painful experience just how quickly a wild turkey can vanish.  And though I realized that my chances for success were slim or none, making the attempt was all I had.  There was also a question regarding the reliability of my firearm.  I was shooting a double barreled Navy Arms muzzleloader.  The gun, like everything else in the timber, was soaking wet.  Although I had tried to keep a more or less dry glove across the nipples, there was still a good probability of a misfire.

Something had to give, and it was now or never.  Rolling myself away from the tree, I twisted to the rear and back to the right as far as my skeleton would allow.  The turkeys -- which turned out to be a trio of jakes -- were already airborne.  Identifying all three as legal game, I quickly framed the head of the closest bird between the cocked hammers.  I pulled the front trigger and the 12 gauge roared.  Best of all, the retreating jake fell stone dead at a distance of 14 paces.  Returning to camp, I got into some dry clothes, crawled back into bed and slept until noon.  When I woke up, my fever was gone and I was ready for lunch.  The snow had stopped and Steve ended up shooting a nice tom the same afternoon.

But time moves on.  The boys grew bigger.  Hunting skills improved.  One by one, more gobblers were carried from the forest as the Beard Count grew.  Over time, our limited collection of turkey hunting stories became expanded to a library.  A good share of those outings took place at or around Schulte’s Pasture.  Many of the adventures were documented on Kodak film, and I enjoyed the unique privilege of photographing the boys as they posed with their first turkeys.   

But nothing stays the same, and times change.  The years and the seasons pass all too quickly.  Boys become men.  Kids grow up, leave home, and are soon having kids of their own.  Today, Brad Schutte is a financial planner living near Kansas City.  Dan Schutte is an environmental educator at Duluth.  Matt Washburn serves as a Conservation Officer with the Iowa DNR.  Wesley Kotz is a captain with the United States Army and was awarded the Bronze Star during a 2011 deployment to Iraq.  Justin Washburn sells commercial real estate in the Des Moines area.  Life used to seem simple; but not any more.  Young people have busy schedules and getting everyone to turkey camp at the same time presents a monumental challenge.

There are other changes as well.  Landowners age and retire; at least one has passed on.  And although the sagging barbed wire fences are still there, the black and white Holsteins no longer visit Schulte’s Pasture.  The leisurely open air grazing of contented dairy cows has been replaced with the stark confinement of modern day steel roofed, high-tech milk factories.

But there is also some good news.  Although now mostly abandoned, the pasture and its associated timbers remain.  As they have in times past, wild turkeys still come here each spring to gobble, strut, and to compete for hens along the pasture’s wooded margins.  Whenever I’m in the neighborhood and time allows, I still take the long walk back to this favored spot.  Sitting against the base of an ancient hardwood, I lean back and slowly close my eyes.  One by one, I try to recall the hunts, the gobblers, the successes, and the near misses.  Most of all, I remember the people -- the lifelong friends and family who helped create the countless memories that make this place so uniquely special.

As I suppose is the case with most of you, I often wish that I could turn back the hands of time.  I’d love to go back and hear the daybreak sounds of the waking forest.  I’d love to relive all the wondrously spectacular sunrises.  One more time, I’d like to see my friends as they [we] were when the sport of Iowa turkey hunting was still brand new.  As much as anything, I’d love to see the excitement in the eyes of all those young hunters.  I’d love to go back for a retake of all of those “first turkey” photos.

Like you, I have an endearing passion for wild turkeys and for the sport of turkey hunting; and I hope to see a lot more gobblers before I’m done.  But when the time does arrive for that inevitable final hunt, I have but one wish.  I hope that the very last gobbler I hear greeting the spring sunrise will be sounding off from somewhere along the shrouded margins of an emerald paradise --- A favorite place simply known as Schulte’s Pasture.
Lowell  Washburn                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                McGregor, Iowa
May 6, 2013