Category Archives: hunting

Hunting Guides I Knew

Life has had a funny way of taking me to unexpected experiences. Back in the 70’s I was drifting from one job to another. They were diverse and interesting. So when my landlady’s husband, Raymond, asked me to help out at Gull Island Gunning Club, I signed on.

Over the years, quite a few locals had worked at the lodge, and Raymond Midgett was one of them. The club was owned by Norfolk businessman Alex Kotarides and operated out of Salvo. The island is about 5 miles to the southeast in Pamlico Sound and is a unique spot on the edge of a reef that drops off into deeper water. It was and still is a haven for all kinds of waterfowl.

For $5.25 I bought a hunting guide’s license at Charles Williams Store in Avon and became an official waterfowl hunting guide. Up to that point, my only hunting experience was stalking birds on Pea Island with my camera.

I had heard stories about the good old days of waterfowl hunting on Gull Island when Ed Hooper was the head guide. I never met Ed but knew his sons well. Burt Hooper was the eldest and took over guiding after his dad passed away. Burt’s next door neighbor was Raymond who helped with the chores of running the club. For about 5 years I learned the ropes from Burt and Raymond and developed a common bond with them.

This beautiful day in 1977, I rode Falcon, a Willy Austin built boat, with Burt on the engine box and Raymond at the helm. We were on our way to Gull Island with two brush-laden skiffs to build some shore blinds on the island.

Burt Hooper showed me the art of concealment in blind construction.

I rode with Raymond to and from the island countless times. We performed maintenance and stockpiled supplies for hunting trips lasting 3 to 4 days.

In 1979, Alex asked me to restore his decoys with new paint jobs. There were hundreds of them and it took me about 8 months to complete. They were Herters decoys made of balsa with pine heads. It was then that Burt showed me how to tie a bowline knot. One knot was on the decoy end and another on the anchored end.

For me it was gratifying to watch waterfowl pitch in to my paint jobs, especially around the sink box blinds. It was an effective combination.

Picking up all the decoys after a day’s hunt had to be done in an orderly fashion. It took a while, especially in adverse conditions. Here Mark McCracken hands canvas goose decoys to Burt stacking them in the skiff.

Cap’n Raymond, as I affectionately called him, was a consummate story teller and loved to play his electric guitar. He passed away in 1988 at the age of 69.

Burt Hooper was a pillar in the Salvo community and passed away this year on March 7. He was 85. Raymond and Burt both had a lasting effect on my life and helped steer me where I am today.

 

 

 

Elvin

My last blog entry had me digging into some old black and white negatives. Along the way, it opened up some chapters of my life more than 30 years ago. With most of my photography shot in color, the black and white images have been largely unseen.

One picture that caught my attention was a negative of my friend, Elvin Hooper. At the time, I was living and working in Elvin’s home town of Salvo. There was a northeaster blowing the sound tide out, and he picked me up to go to Brick Creek to look for clams and oysters. It was rainy so I took my Nikonos waterproof camera loaded with some Tri-X film.

Elvin

I’ve known Elvin ever since I moved here.  Always a gentleman, he grew up in the village of Salvo and is a lifelong Hatterasman. The area was completely different then, he was a part of it and he loves to reminisce. He also writes, and has recently published 2 books.

Two years ago, he called me about a cover shot for his first book. Entitled Chicamacomico How it was back then, it’s a fictional piece based on experiences growing up. We chose a Kodachrome slide that I shot of Chicamacomico Coast Guard Station in 1974. It shows a weathered building in an open field with nothing around it. That’s the way it was.

chicamacomico

About the same time he had another book in progress, a collection of personal memories called Gull Island and Other Stories. It was just published and launched 2 weeks ago. For me, it has some personal significance in that I spent several years as a hunting guide at Gull Island Gunning Club. For that cover we picked a shot of the club house taken in 1979.

club house

Elvin’s older brother, Burt, also worked as a guide at Gull Island. I got to know him and we became friends. We worked on lots of projects together for the hunt club, and Elvin dedicated the book to him. We used a picture of Burt that I took while we were building a duck blind in 1977.

Burt

Books are available through the author or by contacting Gee Gee at Buxton Village Books, 252-995-2420.

New Inlet

One of the first places I explored on Hatteras Island was New Inlet on Pea Island. The old remnant bridge that’s still there, was built after the storm of ’33 cut an inlet from sound to sea. As a result, traffic was interrupted on the sand road, so the state began construction of a bridge to span the troubled spot. The new inlet filled back in on it’s own, and the state halted construction before it was completed.

I used to walk out precariously on that deteriorating, unfinished bridge to catch hard crabs on baited strings. It wasn’t uncommon to come home with a few dozen nice ones. Since then, New Inlet has always brought me a feeling of wonder and tranquility.

I wasn’t the first one to get enjoyment there. Long before, there were fish camps where locals could hunt and fish for sustenance. It must have been a beautiful, bountiful outpost.

skiffOne of the first photographs that I made at New Inlet was taken in 1979 as I was testing a brand new 400mm Novoflex lens for the first time. I parked my truck on the shoulder of highway 12, stood in the bed and made 4 handheld, identical exposures to see how the lens worked. The shot later became a somewhat iconic image as the cover of Hatteras Journal, written by Jan DeBlieu.

bridgeI took a similar shot in 1982. John Herbert’s sail skiff, once again, served as a crucial element in the composition.

St. ClairBy January of 1985, the fish camp once owned by St. Clair Midgett had dropped from it’s foundation into the water. Later that same year, when Hurricane Gloria blasted through, it took what was left, completely away.

fish campIn May of 1985, I shot this smaller camp just northwest of St. Clair’s. It too was taken out by Gloria.

 

Hunter, Gatherer

More than once, Robin told me that he was a living anachronism. From his early years as a kid in Delaware, he was already interested in hunting, fishing, trapping and archaeology. He loved the natural environment as a gift, and learned how to use it.

By the time I had him as a neighbor here in Waves, he was quite adept at all of those interests. At times, for our small band of surfing brothers, he was a provider.

snow geese

With a light dusting of snow, the geese were flying by in formation. Robin got 3 right off the bat behind our trailer in Salvo. 1977

deer Robin had just shot this deer in Buxton Woods, and came by to show BJ and me when we lived in Salvo. Susie, his black lab was a great bird dog and didn’t normally hunt deer with him.1977

camo Robin would often jump shoot for his water fowl. In this 1985 photo,he used my chesapeake bay retriever, Boca, for some teal hunting.

diving  In this 1991 photo, Robin was free diving for fish over the 1891 shipwreck, Strathairly. His spear fishing exploits were largely successful.

s-curve In 1978, the S-Curve area had a wave that walled up beautifully and was uncrowded. Robin rode a single fin 6-10 winger-pintail that he made. He was not using surf leashes yet, and was about the only one in the water that knee paddled for his waves.

clammer Robin and I went clamming on Ocracoke Island frequently. In 1994 we raked this nice basketful.

 

The Day of the Disappearing Goose

Robin was a great storyteller. Some seemed lavishly embellished, but many were true. Being Robin’s occasional co-conspiritor, I had the chance to see some of these exploits first hand.

One cold January morning in 1987, Robin came to my house to pick me up for an exploratory road trip down the island. A dead sperm whale had washed up and experts from the Smithsonian were on site at the South Point performing a necropsy and taking body parts. By the time we got there, the area was littered with huge chunks of blubber and someone from the media was taping a news release of the event.

We looked around, and took some photos. When we had enough, we got back in his trusty, rusty Toyota truck. It was then that it struck us how badly we smelled. The whale oil that permeated the beach was now on our boots. We got a good chuckle out of that and drove along the pole road towards Hatteras Village. Again we stopped on the beach to look at some shells and driftwood.

Then from out of nowhere came a honking canada goose pitching in nearby. The goose landed behind a sand dune about a hundred yards away. Robin’s eyes lit up, and he had “dinner” written all over his face.

Robin had a shotgun behind the seat and didn’t waste any time retrieving it. He crept up to the dune where the goose had landed. As I had witnessed many times before, he jumped up quickly, and was ready to fire. The goose was nowhere to be found. We looked everywhere for signs, tracks, anything to prove to ourselves that this really happened. We found no trace to verify what we’d just witnessed.

By that time it was late in the afternoon and we drove the beach toward Cape Point. Robin had hunting on his mind and was determined to bring home the bacon. He knew right where to go in Buxton Woods.

When we got there, near a large shallow pond known as the Dynamite Hole, Robin proceeded to wade in above his knees. He was out of sight when I heard a shot. He reappeared, walking toward me holding one of his favorite things, a nice black duck. He stashed the duck in the back of the truck and said he was going back to get something else. This time I heard another shot, and like the last time, he reappeared. This time to my surprise, he was holding a swan.

We hightailed it out of there and when we got to my house, he cleaned the black duck for supper. Then in somewhat of a spiritual experience, he took out the heart still warm with life, seared it in a skillet, cut it in half and we ate it. It somehow gave us a burst of energy, and we consumed the rest of the duck.

Dick Darcey, my neighbor next door, came over to see what the commotion was all about. Dick was an avid “by the book” hunter and was shocked to see all this in front of him. He knew, not only hunting a swan was against the law, but also hunting season had ended the day before.

As with many of Robin’s exploits, the story got new life in future revelations, and become known to us as the day of the disappearing goose.