Birds of Nebraska: Newspaper Accounts, 1854-1923

Sandy Griswold. September 27, 1908. Omaha Sunday World-Herald 43(52): 10. Theatrical and Society section. Also: A Charming Hunter's Home. In Forest, Field and Stream column.

In the Chicken Fields After the Season Opens

An Unusual Scarcity of Birds and What Brought It About.

A Picture to Delight the Eyes of the True Sportsman.

Indisputably the chicken season is proving a disappointment. Hundreds of parties have already been out, but the most unanimous report is that the birds are scarce and hard to get. Together with Ray Welch and T.J. Foley I spent several days recently at the Langley lodge down below Ainsworth some twenty or thirty miles, and while we had little difficulty in securing all the birds we desired for the table, there was no denying their unusual scarcity, even in that charming and favorite region. They were only encountered in widely scattered spots and always in small bunches. In a three days' trial our dogs, and they were good ones, too, flushed out three, or four flocks with as many as a dozen birds in them. They generally got up by ones or twos, and seldom more than six or eight at a time.

But the chickens do not furnish anything like the bulk of the entertainment for the sportsman at Langley lodge, for the bass fishing on Ender's lake is unequalled, and just now the bluewing teal shooting is unsurpassed. It is no trick at all to catch the limit of black bass in a single hour or kill as many teal as you can lug out of the marsh. We met several other parties from Omaha at Langley's, among whom were ex-Governor Loranzo and W.G. Crounse and Henry W. Dunn and Captain Mostyn, and they were unanimous on the head that Langley lodge is one of the best appointed and most thoroughly managed sportsmen's hostelries in the state. But I will have more to say with reference to these charming quarters, later on.

While, as I have intimated, the chicken are scarce almost everywhere throughout the state, there is no doubt that there was much justification in the midsummer reports about a plenitude of birds in most all of the favorable districts. There is no denying that the season of nidification was a healthful one, despite the fact of the continued cool weather through May and the fore part of June. The conditions during the closing weeks of the latter month and through July and August could not have been more propitious. After the time when the chicks left the shell there were but few violent storms to kill them off. And it is a well known fact that through the efforts of Warden Carter, and the scores and scores of interested sportsmen, there was an uncommonly large number of old birds left over from the previous season and that a more than ordinary hatch was the result in all favorable localities throughout the border counties, at least.

And why this sudden scarcity after the opening of the season? That is easy. In spite of the fact that the law does not permit the pursuit of these birds until September 15. It is a notorious truth, notwithstanding the worthy and strenuous efforts of our warden to prevent it, that the killing of these birds begins in every secluded region in the state early in July, and usually by the time the season opens, there are but few young birds left, and the sportsman who respects the law must either be content with but little shooting of a satisfactory character or stay at home.

All true sportsmen are well satisfied with the present laws of the state, with a few minor exceptions in regard to those governing the upland plover and doves, and are well content to await the legitimate time, September 15, for the grouse hunting and grouse shooting. And, by the way, there is a vast difference between chicken hunting and chicken shooting, as many an ardent novice has found out. The fact is, there is no sport in either before the lawful time, in the middle of September and thereafter, up to the closing day at the end of November. If it was permissible in August, as it used to be in the lax days of old, it would be too oppressive to trudge over the dried stubble, hot, dusty prairie or through the steaming and smothery cornfields. And more than that, it would be, and is, an outrage of the most unmitigated quality, for any man to make an onslaught on a covey of the soft, flabby, pin-feathered chicklings that are only to be met with before the cool mornings and evenings of fall break and settle over the chicken country. There is neither sport in the action nor skill in the extermination of these fledgling covies.

Of course a chicken is considered at its very best when the bird is two-thirds grown, but I have always considered a full grown specimen toothsome and delicate enough to tickle the most fastidious palate, and there is no argument possible in extenuation of the killing until the birds do reach this state.

And what a pleasure it is, after the season has opened, and side by side with some genial comrade and your good old pointer ranging in front, to tramp the fields, the side hills and draws. You find an elixir in the recreation in the hazy September, golden October and brown November days, absolutely unknown to the midsummer miscreant and buccaneer.

Besides the actual pleasure you enjoy from the fact that you are engaged in greater delight to be derived from the countless beauties of the waning year.

Shut up in store or office, perhaps all through the sizzling dog days, the sights and wounds and odors of the droning country now seem to you altogether different, altogether new, although you have gone through the same entrancement many times before.

Such an outing, with the birds fairly plentiful and strong enough of wing to test both sight and nerve, it has the flavor of another existence. Each enchanted faculty brings back to you hallowed memories of other days like these, and other companions, but yet none more beautiful, more genial, or beloved than those with whom you again find yourself.

To your ear the morning and evening piccolo of the golden-vested meadow lark, as he perches proudly in the top of the tallest fence post, or prominent tussock, standing jauntily on his cream colored legs, or tilting on swaying sunflower or ragweed stalk, never sounded half so plaintive, or half so beautiful. The sight, too, of the ruddy-breasted robin hopping nimbly along the dank stream's bank in quest of venturesome worm, or flashing athwart the brown meadow in pursuit of fly or miller, is a sight of which the eye never tires. But instead of the homely, but sweet carol of his yellow beak, a sharp, petulant staccato, that tells you in so many words that he soon intends to leave you. And the flowers of early fall-the moose's heart, the adder's tongue, the wind flower, poppy, gentian, lobelia, goldenrod and indian plume-open their smiling faces amidst the dinge and dirt of drying grasses, at every step and more than cheer your ardent way.

And there is still much more of pleasing melody and pleasing vision. The querulous caw of the crow as he flaps his solitary way low down across the broad fields, the faint tinkle of the black-breasted bunting, and the sharp and almost incessant twitter of massing and passing black birds.

Off, over the low, glistening sandhills, from river, lake and marshy expanse, occasionally sounds the honk of an early goose or the quack of some old hen mallard who has reared her fuzzy brood amidst the flags of the bordering swail, while from above comes the shrill cry of the sharp-shinned hawk, poised on motionless wing, intent upon some unwary rabbit, mouse or creeping thing.

Stretching away before you flows the broad prairie, with its endless undulations of sereing grass, silent as the tomb. Most all of the feathered songsters have hushed their joyous throats, and over this limitless plain, down through the gray hills and leafless groves of cottonwood and alder, across lake and through sombre valley, you feel, is marching southward, noiselessly, imperceptibly almost, as yet, in these chicken days, but sure and certain as fate, the advance guard of a host-cold, bitter, white and cheerless soon to overrun all this rhythm, all this color, and make itself heard and felt throughout all the now bleak land.

"But look! There is Old Sport on a dead stand, over there on the edge of that wave of wild flax. Careful now-lets both make a double!"

A Charming Hunter's Home.

The Langley Lodge, spoken of in another article in this issue, and where with Gerard, T.J. Foley and his son, Sidney, and Ray Welch, I spent a pleasant week bassing and real shooting, recently, is presided over by Clem Langley and his estimable wife. It is a hunter's home and general store combined, and situated as it is, in the heart of the charming lake country of Brown county, is one of the most charming resorts to be found anywhere throughout the great west. Clem Langley is a thoroughgoing sportsman-both angler and shot-and one of the best fellows in the world. Those who visit this place during the fishing and shooting season, will make no mistake. Enders lake, which lies, like a huge sparkling gem at the lodge's very door, is teeming with black bass, and the adjacent lakes, marshes and sloughs are favorite grounds for all kinds of wild fowl.

The lodge is modernly constructed affair, with fourteen commodious rooms, supplied with everything to be looked for in an up-to-date hotel with the possible exception of a heating plant. Fine large bath room, with a limitless supply of either hot or cold water. Anything needed by fisherman or shooter can be had at the most reasonable prices at the store. There are plenty of boats and of the very best make, and the chain of lakes conveniently accessible, are Ender's on which the lodge stands, Clear, Muskrat, Willow, Long and numerous smaller ones. Bass are to be taken in Ender's Long, Willow and Clear lakes, and blue-gilled sunfish and croppie in Long and Rat lakes.

The fishing is good from the first of May until about the middle of October, but is best in May, June, July and August, in which months the black bass, croppies and blue-gill sunfish are easy to catch and of good size. The bass weighing as high as four and five pounds, but more of them are caught weighing from two to three pounds. The croppie are of course smaller, and the blue-gill sunfish about the size of a man's hand. Mallard, canvas back and blue wing teal nest here in large numbers every year and the young duck shooting is good in season, which usually lasts until the flight from the north begins, when the sport is unequalled anywhere. The prairie chicken hunting is fair, but as is well known, the chicken hunting in Nebraska is not what it used to be, although a man should have no trouble getting the limit any time during the season. There is no beer or liquors of any kind sold anywhere in the region, but Langley has plenty of ice, so that you can keep your birds or fish to take home. The lodge is thirty miles southwest of Ainsworth, and about forty miles from Dunning. Ainsworth has good hotels and four livery stables, where conveyance can be secured for the trip to the lakes. Langley's lodge is really an ideal place for a sportsman to spend his vacation, and accommodations are such that you need have no hesitancy in taking your wife or family along with you.