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Dick Ellis Blog:
10/9/2019
Fall brings with it something for everyone in the field from the angler to the hunter.  Just a few recent sessions of shooting the bull tell me that autumn is for the youngest of outdoorsman just learning the games to those of us more seasoned with our eyes focused dead ahead on for example, the whitetail rut. James Wallace captured this great buck on trail camera during summer scouting. James Wallace, my nephew-in-law (is there such a ...
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Searching for the Perfect Cover Shot…

As you read this Lori and I will be in Florida.  Life-long buddy Mike Hart and I will be working the surf near the Floribama line for pompano and whiting and coming up with the occasional Ray.  Lori and Kerry Hart will be catching another kind of ray.

As a long-time outdoor writer who dove into the publishing game late, and who is responsible for virtually all On Wisconsin Outdoors cover photographs, I discovered quickly the importance of working ahead; way ahead.  Ours is a bi-monthly, so if we capture a great strutting Tom in April, we’re not going to publish the photo in the May-June issue which usually demands a fishing photo to coincide with the new open water season.  The photo goes on file until next March-April issue.  You get it.

Another example would be the upcoming November-December issue. I’m looking forward to having you guys seeing my friend Craig Cutts on the cover. I layed on my belly in a field of alfalfa near Oshkosh last November during the rut and “shot” Craig through the antlers of his beautiful 9-point arrowed buck with him in the background in the tree stand, and kept shooting until Cutts recovered his prize.  Not sure what we’ll use but two are worthy of a cover. For every 100 potential “covers” I go after, only one or two turn out.  I have a way of blowing things, and models like keen-eyed turkeys don’t usually cooperate.

So why am I telling you this? Yesterday was Thursday before Good Friday.  As I drove my old rattle trap called a pick-up truck down the highway there was a beautiful, big Tom strutting his stuff for the ladies.  His body language said it all:  “I’m a big, senior letterman….lookie me…lookie me.” It’s what all of us males do instinctively. I’m just glad Lori doesn’t expect me to suck in this white belly on the beach. That’s an injury waiting to happen.

Anyway, Tom was strutting on a paved road that winds and rises up to a tilled field that will someday be a neighborhood.  The road edges were overgrown with weeds and it just looked like a possible unique future cover. I had already shot Tom through the truck’s open window but not nearly close enough. I parked the rattle trap in a church parking lot, grabbed a camo coat and hat, snuck back across the highway under the cover of a treeline, and did the stalk. 

I ended up on my belly in mud, slithering through thorns trying to locate the big senior letterman without blowing my under-cover cover. There’s always a predominant voice for some reason that enters my mind at a time like this. “What…are you an idiot?  You’re 55 years old. You were just going to the driving range to further perfect your 4 and 5 irons that you finally mastered last time out…”

“Shut up,” I answer me.  “This is the shot of all shots.  The big senior letterman….”

Now, I am wearing blue jeans which are not conducive to fooling Tom, or any kind of Tom foolery (that just seemed to fit. It’s 4:00 am Friday). But wearing blue jeans is conducive to not getting arrested in the church parking lot in my underwear just for trying to get into my camo pants.  Proving once again that I are a very smart outdoor riter.

I’m lying on a slippery down grade and the gobbler is up the road a bit so I have to get slightly into the open to take that one good shot. I can’t do it safely and out of his keen site unless I swing a 180 so that my legs and blue jeans are up the downgrade and remain in cover and my top-half with camera emerge from the vegetation ever-so-slowly first from my cover. Then I will softly use my mouth call to get my model to pose correctly. And click…I’m my own hero.

Instead, I slip the last couple feet right down the mud head first gaining momentum, crack the bush a bit too loud at vegetation’s edge, spill a bit of myself into the field and recover my flopping legs just in time to see Tom is no longer the big senior letterman at all. He’s Chicken Little running in front of the girls for the hills.

“We’ll that probably wouldn’t have worked anyway,” I reason.  “Look at this big piece of mud on the lens?”

Is talking to one’s self a bad sign? I file this episode with the last 98 cover tries under “Failure”. And I go to the golf range, excited still to nail down the swing that I had finally found after years of filing every game under “Failure”. 

I don’t think I hit one good shot. I know I stunk.

I arrived home and Lori said “hi” with her usual smile before her eyes dropped to my blue jeans.

“Oh,” she said, for some reason never too surprised when her husband comes home muddy despite there being no apparent reason to come home muddy.  She never even asks why I’m muddy.  She has other questions.

“Do you mind throwing your clothes in the washer?  The house is clean…Did you have a nice day?”

Well yes, as a matter of fact.  I did.

Connect with Firearms, Inland fishing, Upland Game, Outdoor News and other pages on this website to see what’s new in the world of Wisconsin’s fish and game.  Connect with our homepage YouTube and watch OWO contributor Jim Olsson and friend tag gobblers with the bow.

Thanks for connecting with On Wisconsin Outdoors. Shoot straight.

Dick Ellis

Below are a few shots from Jim Olsson's 'Opening Turkey Day' Video from the OWO Homepage
Pictured with John Ford, Randy Rydzik and Randy 'The Tom Decoy' 

 
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