Monday, December 27, 2010

I'm Back...

My sincerest apologies for dropping off the face of the earth.

It wasn't really planned, and I don't really have an excuse.  I wasn't despondent over the Husker loss (disappointed though), I didn't come down with some terminal disease (that I know of), and I didn't have some terrible accident.  I just unplugged.

Yeah, I honest-to-God haven't logged into my blog (or read any other blog) since the day I wrote my last post, almost a month to the day.  While I've missed reading everyone else, it's been a nice break.  I never wanted this blog thing to be a chore, and it was starting to feel that way.  So I took an unpaid sabbatical.

During that time, I've logged over 6,000 road miles while hunting in three states (shooting deer, quail, and pheasants), said goodbye to my wife's dear 98 year old grandmother, and enjoyed the Christmas holiday with my wife and kids.  It's been a busy month!

This morning finds me in the Texas Hill Country with my children, visiting my parents.  Mrs. Scampwalker will join us tomorrow, along with NotHemingway and his growing family.  It's shaping up to be a great week.

Today, I will take my son Jack deer hunting for a fat whitetail doe.  Expect a post in the near future on that one.

So yeah, I'm back.  Thanks to those of you who wondered, or maybe even missed me.  I missed the blogosphere.  A belated Merry Christmas, and an early Happy New Year.  I'll not be a stranger.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Saturday Night I'm Going To Party Like It's 1978

It was probably the late 1970s or early 80s, and I was sitting around the dinner table, dining with my parents and brother. On this particular evening, we had the TV tuned to the local news -- mostly as background noise.

It was a rare night that I wasn't enjoying my meal -- a casserole of some sort (of which I'm still not a fan today). "I hate casseroles," I muttered to my plate and no one in particular.

Across the table, my father's fork audibly dropped on his plate. "Young man, hate is a strong word. You can dislike your meal all you want, but you're not allowed to hate it. The only thing you're allowed to hate is that man right there."

My father pointed to our small Emerson television. Barry Switzer, coach of the Oklahoma Sooners, was talking. And that was my indoctrination into Husker football.

Of course, Dad wasn't entirely serious about hating Coach Switzer. In fact, in the years since then, I've always had a fondness for the Sooners. Back then, the Cornhuskers and Sooners were the two heavies that could always be counted on to fight for the Big 8 championship, and most likely a national one.  Epic battles between the brash, foul-mouthed Switzer and the bland, choir boy Tom Osborne.  My allegiances never faltered from the Huskers, but I did always secretly love (and love to hate) Coach Switzer.

Then came the Big 12, and like everything else in sports (and life I suppose), it became all about money and power. Our yearly duel with the Okies ended. And the power (and money) shifted to Dallas and Austin. I'm not here to debate who's at fault -- there's plenty of blame to go around, and what's done is done.

I pondered all of this last Friday, as I watched the Huskers drub the Colorado Buffaloes (always an enjoyable thing) from our seats in Memorial Stadium. Both teams will soon head off to different conferences and different futures. While the game was great, something felt amiss. I'm no longer able to look forward to annual games against the K-State Wildcats, Kansas Jayhawks, or Missouri Tigers -- the schools where my co-workers and hunting buddies attended. Their stadiums are all a short drive from home.

I'm trading that for far-flung Ohio State and Michigan -- great schools, for sure, but I don't know a soul from either institution.  They're strangers to me.  That'll change over time, but next year is going to be weird.

But for the next week, I'm going to set that all aside and fondly anticipate Saturday night's throwback throwdown between two historic (and hopefully future) powerhouses. And however things turn out, I'll be satisfied that the old Big Eight had one final, proud curtain call.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

And The Winner Is...

Lots of good entries... well, actually, there were surprisingly few entries, but damn fine advice from the folks that did enter.  We'll highlight all of this stuff (cuz as far as I can tell, it's all good endorsements from good people), but without further ado, here's the winner - who can email me at

Here's to tryptophan.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

True American Dog and Last Chance to Win

Completely random pre-Thanksgiving thoughts today...
I have no idea what the True American Dog blog is about, but it's weirdly fascinating.  And you can submit photos of your own dogs for publishing -- come on, fellow bird-doggers!

And why haven't more people submitted entries on my gadget contest?  It's a free hunting vest, really.  No strings attached.  I won't stalk you or offer you my Nigerian uncle's inheritance in exchange for your bank account's routing number.  Right now I have fewer than ten entries, so your chances are pretty good.  Winner announced tomorrow.

Don't eat too much, yall.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Garrison Brothers Distillery: Hye Times For Brown Liquor in Texas

Being an unapologetic Texaphile, every so often I imagine myself 120 years ago, sitting in the dark and smoky Menger Hotel bar, drinking a glass of whiskey with Teddy Roosevelt as he recruits me to join his Rough Riders. Or I daydream about sititng in the richly-appointed Driskill Hotel bar in Austin, as dusty cowpokes mix with wheeling-and-dealing politicians. And once again, I'm sipping a bourbon.

Even back then, if bourbon was your firewater of choice, you probably weren't drinking anything made in the Lone Star State. Now you can.

Garrison Brothers Distillery, located in the Hill Country hamlet of Hye, is the first-ever bourbon distillery in Texas. (And yes, contrary to popular belief, true bourbon can be made outside of Bourbon County, Kentucky. Law dictates that Bourbon must be a whiskey made of at least 51% corn and undergo two years aging in new, charred oak barrels, among other things, but there are no geographical limitations.)

After calling to set up an appointment on a balmy Saturday afternoon, we were met by owner Dan Garrison in his small, yet busy stillhouse. He and his ragtag staff are literally working around the clock to brew their whiskey. Like any Texan, Dan is proud of what he's got going, and he has every right to be.

In the center of the room was the "Copper Cowgirl" -- a 100-gallon still that works overtime and has seen duty at the Wild Turkey and Buffalo Trace distilleries. They make this stuff by hand, in ridiculously small quantities, redefining the term "small batch." Their mash contains West Texas corn ground on site, wheat that's grown on premises, and malted barley from the Pacific Northwest. That recipie results in what they say the highest fermentable sugar content available. That, of course, makes for smooth, complex bourbon.

And one that's apparently quite popular. The 2008 vintage was released on November 3rd and within ten days, all 1,800 bottles had been snapped up -- reportedly to a tune of nearly $90 for each 750ml vessel.

Dan doesn't apologize for the price, nor should he. The batch we tasted was simply the smoothest bourbon to ever cross my lips. Normally, I like my whiskey on the rocks -- even the premium brands tend to open up a bit with a slowly melting ice cube or two. The Garrison Brothers we sampled was served neat -- and what a pleasure it was. Smooth without being syrupy, warming without burning, with all the vanilla and caramel flavors that define a good bourbon.

Thankfully, Garrison is expanding his facility and was meeting with a builder the day we met him, so there'll hopefully be more opportunities to snap up a bottle or two of this uniquely Texan spirit.

Photos taken from the Garrison website... I was an idiot and forgot my camera.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Best Hunting Gear & Gadgets You Never Knew About - Enter and Win!

Anyone that even remotely knows me understands that I'm something of a gear freak. I can't help it. I completely understand that no amount of technology can take the place of experience and dedication, but dammit, hunting gear is just plain fun!

It doesn't have to be specifically designed for hunters though -- in fact, it's even more enjoyable if it's not. Nor does it have to be expensive. I love discovering little-known or little-heralded tools or technology that make our lives afield just a bit easier.

Not sure what I mean? Here's just a smattering of my must-have hunting tools and technology:

Sirius-XM Satellite Radio. For a hunter who spends long hours on the road, this is really must-have technology. Commercial-free, hi-fidelity music makes those long miles fly by, and it's great to have the news when you need it (Three years ago, I fondly recall getting word in remote Montana from XM that the economy had cratered and my 401k was all but worthless). My only complaint is the college football lineup is pretty haphazard.

Little Giant Duraflex Feed Bowls. These rubber bowls don't absorb bacteria, can be hammered on if they freeze over, and are chew-proof save for the most determined dogs (cough-LuLu-cough). Plus, they're skid-proof and they don't make all sorts of noise when kicked around a kennel like a steel bowl. They can be found at any Tractor Supply or Fleet farm for six or eight bucks apiece. I've had a couple for nearly 20 years now.

Moist Towelettes. The maximum bang for the minimum buck, bar none. Did you just clean an entire covey of quail in the middle of nowhere? Eliminate the avian influenza heeby jeebies with one. Did that eight-mile hike leave you a little less-than-fresh? Fake a bath with one. Was that Allsup's two-for-one breakfast burrito special a bad idea? You get the idea.

So what's your favorite outdoor or hunting gear? Post your submissions in the comments section - all (reasonable and appropriate) entries will be thrown in a cowboy hat and one lucky winner will be chosen at random by Jack. The winner will receive one new Boyt hunting vest, size large, as well as the undying adulation of your peers and complete strangers.

And now for the half-assed legalese...

Estimated MSRP of the vest is approximately $100.  Vest may vary from previous hyperlink, but it's the closest I could find.  Winner to be announced on this blog on Thanksgiving Day. If you don't want the vest, enter anyway... you can designate the winner. Undying adulation is at the sole discretion of peers and strangers. Boyt Harness or its subsidiaries are in no way affiliated with this contest. Each entrant may include up to three entries (each different product will be considered a separate entry). Scampwalker will pay for ground postage to winner. No warranties are expressed or implied. All entrants agree to completely indemnify Scampwalker's blog and real-world persona from any liability or damages. Final decisions are solely that of Scampwalker, and more importantly, Jack. No whining. And no, I am not an attorney, but I know some good ones. Keep it clean, legal, and have fun!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Tips From The Road: Freezing Game

The Kansas upland season is just starting, as it is in much of the U.S. of A.  And with any luck at all, we'll all be coming home with a few birds for the freezer.  With that in mind, I thought I'd share my method for storing birds for later use.

I was under the impression that everyone did it my way, but I've encountered plenty of serious bird hunters (and fine cooks) who simply toss their harvest in a ziploc bag and drop it in the dark recesses of the deep freeze.  That's a sure invitation for freezer burn, which dries out any exposed surface area of the meat and generally makes your hard-earned birds taste like freezer plastic.

Instead, take ten extra seconds and fill that bag with just enough water to cover the contents before you freeze it.  The water protects the meat almost indefinitely.  I recently thawed and ate a package of quail from the 2008 season that had managed to hide itself deep within the deep freeze -- with no deleterious effects.  The method does take up a bit more room, but it also encourages you to clean things out for the next season.

Just make sure you label your packages -- nothing's a bigger bummer than looking forward to a meal of Hungarian partridge and realizing you've just thawed a package of woodcock.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Wisdom From Jack: 2010 Kansas Upland Youth Opener

On Saturday I had the pleasure of taking my ten-year-old son out for the pheasant and quail opener in Kansas. I handled the dogs, and Jack toted his 870.

What follows are few choice exchanges between father and son during our time afield.


(before first field, father and son relieve selves by the side of the road)

Jack: I love peeing outside. Girls are really missing out.


(after one of my lengthy dissertations on gun safety involving where to stand, when to disengage the safety, why it's always ok to pass up an uncertian shot, and what the "Blue sky rule" is)

Jack: There sure is a lot to think about before you pull the trigger.


(while walking)

Jack: Hey Dad, what's a radioactive isotope?

Scampwalker: Well, they're not good for you. I, um, well... I think they kill cells and stuff. To be honest, I don't really have a good answer.

Jack: That's ok Dad. I bet mom will know.



(While sitting on the tailgate, eating lunch)

Jack: Hey Dad? I know you're not supposed to shoot birds on the ground because there are other people and dogs around. But what if you are hunting alone and you don't have any dogs with you? Can you shoot birds on the ground then?

SW: Not really. It's not considered sporting or ethical.

(long pause)

Jack: I know that politicians make hunting laws, but who decides what's ethical?


GPS: Arriving at pheasant milo, on right.

Jack: Cool! It'll say the words that you type in?

SW: Yep. Don't ask me how, but she knows how to speak words.

(long pause)

Jack: Can we type in bad words and make her say them?

(long pause)

SW: Sure, go ahead.

(Juvenile snickering ensues from father and son alike)


SW: I've had a great time with you, Jack. I really enjoy hanging out with you, buddy.

Jack: Yeah, thanks. And it really doesn't matter that we didn't see anything, its just fun to be with you.

(SW covertly wipes tear from eye)

Jack: Hey Dad, now can we go shoot something?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

When The Going Gets Hot, The Hot Go Redneck

It wasn't all birdhunting on my recent trip to Montana. For more than a couple days, our efforts were stymied by mid-80 degree heat. I'd like to say we stopped for the dogs' safety, but truth told, those temps are damned hot for the hunters, too.

To pass the time, we spent a couple of lazy afternoons target shooting. We had my AR-15, a Savage .223 bolt-action, a Ruger Blackhawk chambered in .357, and a Charter Arms .38 snub nose.

Good fun was had by all, although I wouldn't rate any of us as ready for sniper school. We found a few prairie dog towns, but after the first shot or two, they wizened up and the closest shot we had was at least 300 yards away. That's a wee bit far for wingshots like us.

No matter -- we shot a couple hundred rounds' worth and had a ton of fun doing it.

Tip From The Road: in a pinch, empty .223 brass makes a great makeshift trailer door peg when you accidentally drive off without securing a padlock.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Follow-Up Gear Review: L.L Bean Technical Upland Boots

Since purchasing my L.L. Bean Upland Technical Boots in late August, they've hunted in four states over approximately 24 days and a total of 120 miles.  They've seen sage country, prairies, coulees, rolling hills, thick popples, marshes, creeks, and cactus.
While not without a few important shortcomings, I can emphatically say that without a doubt, these are the most comfortable, most supportive boots I have ever worn.

I'm a gear guy, and as any of my hunting buddies will tell you, I usually bring two or three spare pairs of boots on any given hunting trip. It's been my expereience that I always wind up soaking a pair or developing a blister and I frequently switch around my arsenal of boots.

My Upland Technicals are the only pair I've worn this season - they're that comfortable. The Boa stainless steel lacing system cinches the boot around your foot as tight or as loose as you want it -- perfect for different terrains and temperatures. I found myself lacing them up pretty tight during cool morning trips, and loosening them slightly during the warmer afternoons as my feet began to swell.

I hiked moderate hills (both rocky and sandy) while wearing the Techicals, and they passed that test with flying colors. I wouldn't recommend extensive sidehilling in these, but for prairie hills and Montana coulees, they couldn't be better.

I dropped in a pair of Dr. Scholl's Custom Fit Orthotics (the stock insole was a wafer-thin joke), and I think that helped to make a difference as well. Never did my feet show signs of plantar fasciitis like they did a year earlier.

Another key feature of these boots is the "Superfabric" uppers, billed as puncture resistant by L.L. Bean. To test this assertion (against my better judgment), I poked my boots with native Kansas and Montana cactus, and sure enough, the needles bent and never penetrated the fabric.

Much to my disappointment however, a recent trip to Texas demonstrated that these boots aren't as puncture proof as I'd like. My boots were pierced not once, but twice by prickly pear cactus -- without me even trying. It was a disappointment, for sure. If you do a lot of hunting around prickly pear or mesquite, these might not be the boots for you.

The other major disappointment (but not entirely unexpected) was the boots' waterproofness. On my first hike through a praire of wet grass, the boots became waterlogged within a mile. Major bummer.  I treated them with some Kiwi Camp Dry Heavy Duty Water Repellent, and it helped.  I could ford streams and brief bogs and sloughs in Minnesota grouse country without getting soaked. As a general rule, I think Gore Tex is fine for brief splashes, but it's been my experience that prolonged exposure to moisture will compromise any breathable membrane.

This season, completely by coincidence, I began using a boot dryer that mitigated this issue. More on the boot dryer in another post.

I have not yet tested these boots in cold weather, but I don't typically like a lot of insulation in upland boots -- I prefer to regulate that through sock thickness.  They did not seem to be particularly hot during early season hunting, at least no hotter than any other boot I've worn.

Finally, I recently noticed that part of the toe rand (the rubber bumper that protects the leading edge of the boot) was coming loose from the Superfabric. It doesn't appear to be anything major, but it seems a bit early for adhesives to start breaking down.

At $190, these boots aren't cheap, and because of that premium price, I expect them to last for at least a couple of seasons.  Add in $40 insoles and $10 waterproofing material, and these treads get downright expensive.

Despite their flaws though, I absolutely love these boots. They are like wearing a comfortable sneaker and require absolutely zero break-in period. The lacing system makes a lot of sense for the varied terrain most upland hunters encounter.  Because of the toe rand coming loose, I may ask to exchange these boots. Thankfully, L.L. Bean has a generous return policy that would allow me to receive a new pair of boots before I send my old ones back.

Taken from L.L. Bean website
That's welcome news -- because after a month in my Bean Technicals, I don't think I want to go back to wearing my old boots.

Note from Scampwalker: L.L. Bean has sold out of these boots and their web page has been removed from the website. In a call to a L.L. Bean hunting specialist today, I was told that they will not be available again for sale until June 2011.

Second note from Scampwalker: I paid full price for these boots and I did not receive any compensation from L.L. Bean or anyone else for this review.

Final note from Scampwalker: Yeah, I know.  They're goofy looking, and you should hear the snickers I get when my buddies hear me clicking up the lacing system.  But if the shoe fits...

Friday, October 22, 2010

Road Photo Friday: A River. In A Bar.

Hunting traditions are funny things. For three years now, Jon and I have visited the Montana Tavern in Lewistown. It's a friendly dive, just the way we like it.

It's old school, with pool tables, a long bar, and precious little in the way of foo-foo drinks.

Every year, despite my better judgment, I order a shot of Yukon Jack here, and every year I swear it's going to be the last time I subject myself to that rotgut.

The jukebox is decidedly 21st century, wirelessly piping in damn near any tune you can think of. When the jukebox is silent, you're entertained by the din of a surprisingly active police scanner behind the bar -- a nice touch.

I'm not sure if we fell into the actually, apparently, obviously (or ridiculously) camp.

But the wackiest thing about the Montana Tavern is a feature that we somehow missed for the two previous years. A river runs through the damn place.

It's sort of hidden in the corner, but there it is, sure as shit. Enclosed in pine, plexiglas and rebar, you can look down through a cutout hole in the floor and see an honest-to-God artesian spring creek flowing underneath the bar.

Lewistown was built over this spring creek, and it has flowed through the bar for as long as it's existed. Local lore has it that the original owner fished while he worked, and reliable sources confirm that there is indeed a decent-sized brownie that frequents the watering hole (so to speak). It's also said that bartenders used to keep the kegs chilled in the cold spring-fed water. The rebar gate was added when locals would float the creek after the bar had closed and help themselves to purloined refreshments.

It's hard to argue with this claim.

Above the river shrine rests these treasures. A portrait of a bare-breasted indian woman and an apparent knockoff of same to the left, a couple fish mounts, and a really odd-looking beaded, feathered antelope horn mount.

If you're ever in the neighborhood, it's a must see. Heck, you might just start a tradition of your own. Just stay the hell away from the Yukon Jack, hoser.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Montana 2010: LuLu's First Point

This video requires a bit of setup.  LuLu, my 8 1/2 month-old pointer pup had only brief wild bird contact prior to our trip to Montana.  Over the course of our two weeks in Big Sky Country, she started figuring it out.  She pointed several times, including one where the hun covey flushed wild, and another where she mistakenly crowded a flock of sharptail into flushing.

This time though, she put it all together.  We had just put her down and were gearing up two other dogs to run a nice-looking strip of sage along a wheat field.  Before I finished collaring Dottie, my Astro indicated that LuLu was on point.  Sure enough, 50 yards behind us, just above the bar ditch, she was rock solid, pointing into the field on the other side of the road we had planned on hunting.

The video picks up after we crossed that fence (Dottie is the first dog you see in the video).  LuLu is the second, to my left.  Please forgive the overenthusiastic whoops and hollers -- but I can assure you that they were borne of true excitement, not outdoor-TV-manufactured idiocy.  (Honest idiocy, if you will.)

Forget the double-double.  That little pup slamming on point is something I won't soon forget -- having it on video was icing on the cake.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Montana 2010: Final Wrapup

Yes, I am alive.

I've received several notes wondering what the hell has happened to me over the past three weeks.  Unfortunately, my blogging about hunting and life in general has taken a backseat to, well, hunting and life in general.

After a week or so unpacking, refamiliarizing myself with family and office, and repacking, the kids and I are now in grouse camp in northern Minnesota, and I'm writing this post, fittingly, around a roaring campfire.

More on that later -- but first I've got to recap the Montana Odyssey.  Here goes.

The chukar hunt that started things was something of a harbinger for the entire trip.  We had a ton of fun, had (mostly) great dog work, met some kindred spirits, ate, drank, and generally lived it up.  I'm never one to measure the success of a hunting trip by body count, but this year was our most successful in terms of birds pointed and birds taken home.

We learned a lot about huns, and we're starting to think we might have them figured out.  Here's the secret. 

They're mostly found in sagebrush.

Or grass.

Or coulees.

Or wheat stubble.

Or near rattlesnakes.

But the nice thing is that when you finally do locate a covey, they always hold for the hunters to arrive, and they always fly together.  Unless they don't, which is typically the case.  But when they do, when it makes it all worthwhile.

The only complaint was that it was hot -- really hot.  Halfway through the trip, I called my family who was in Dallas with relatives.  She was lamenting how cool it was there -- a balmy 72 degrees.  In Lewistown that day, it broke 90.  Al Gore was right, apparently.

It wasn't all us, though.  We hunted a couple days with a local -- one of the finest, most knowledgeable bird hunters to walk the high plains.  And I'd tell that straight to Ben O. Williams, and I'll bet you he'd agree, too.  But no, I'm not gonna tell you who he is.

But the real talisman?

The moustache.  Behold the power.