Sleeping with Tarantulas

Hope Shack

   It was pitch dark as we returned from a day of military maneuvers. This was a tactical exercise, so no lights were allowed. Days begin early in the military and all I wanted was to crawl into my pup tent and go to sleep.

    The night before I had hurriedly erected my tent over a tarantula hole. We were bivouacking in tall weeds and brush. Tarantulas were everywhere. I had pounded the hole shut. Spread my poncho on the ground, since our tents didn’t have floors. Rolled out my sleeping bag and went to sleep.

    We were in Puerto Rico training on a National Guard base. This base no longer exists, but at that time it was tarantula paradise. Tarantulas holes were everywhere. These holes were easy to distinguish by the web that lined the holes. You could wiggle a piece of grass or stick and the entrance and they…

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A Dog Named Brownie

Hope Shack

  Brown Dog I have owned many hunting dogs over the years. These included retrievers, pointers, and hounds. My first dog was given to me as a pup, by my grandmother. I thought that it had the look of a coon hound. I had friends that hunted coons with hounds and it sounded like fun. Actually Brownie was just a mutt. When he grew up he resembles a Labrador retriever only smaller and brown. Brownie was my buddy and companion growing up. He would protect my siblings and I, when we would ride our bikes past the neighbor’s dogs. He would never hesitate to tackle any dog that came after us regardless of it’s size.

    Having a pet was alright, but I wanted a hunting dog. Particularly a coon hunting dog. Brownie loved to hunt, but he never showed any interest in raccoons. I even took him hunting with other guys and…

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Terror in the Night

Hope Shack

I have had some scary moments in the outdoors. Some close encounters with bears, but one of my most terrifying moments in the outdoors came from the cowardly coyote. I say cowardly because normally they are very afraid of humans. I have hunted around coyotes for nearly forty years. I’ve watched them from the deer stand.  I’ve called them into a predator call when hunting them. I have had them follow me at night, with the occasional howl or yelp. It seems to me that coyotes are much braver at night, and will approach much closer than in the daytime. I don’t usually use a light at night, preferring to let my eyes become adjusted to the dark.  Maybe that has something to do with it.  I think they are more curious than anything.


If you have ever heard a pack of coyotes cut loose, than you know what a…

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Fish-Stealing Dolphins

Hope Shack

Not long ago, I was with my son Greg, fishing for Red Snapper in the Gulf of Mexico. My long time friend, Dave, and Greg’s friend John, were accompanying us. Snapper season had just opened and we were anxious to tie into them. I had been Snapper fishing one other time and I was amazed at how they fought. Therefore, I was really looking forward to catching them.  Not to mention the fact that red snapper make excellent table fare. They are very good eating.

According to my son, who has fished the Gulf extensively, you only find most species of fish where there is bottom structure. Fortunately he has many of these sites programmed into his boat’s GPS, and finding them is not a problem. They all seem to have names, such as the ‘chicken crates’, where a load of chicken crates were lost in a storm. Their owner’s loss has…

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An Odd Deer Tale

Hope Shack

“Nobody will believe this story”, I thought to myself as I trudged back to my truck in the darkness. It had been a long day of deer hunting covering many miles. I carried with me a large ten point deer rack. It was from a deer I had hunted all day, but didn’t kill.


I live in  the middle of the Hiawatha National forest in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. I had heard old stories of hunters taking the track of a buck and staying with it for hours on end and eventually getting a shot at the deer. As the day wears on the buck becomes less cautious and probably more annoyed by the pesky person that keeps following him. Eventually the buck becomes careless. Maybe doesn’t jump up and run soon enough. Eventually the hunter may get his chance. Of course this would only work in the big woods where you…

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Learning to Love a Porcupine.

Hope Shack

porcupine3My dislike for porcupines began shortly after my wife, Linda and I were married. We had traveled from southern Michigan, where we lived at the time, to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, known as “The U.P.”    We were on a duck hunting trip.  Rather, I was duck hunting and Linda went along because she loved the U.P. After a four hundred and thirty mile drive we arrived at our destination. We would be camping at Swan lake in the Hiawatha National Forest. It was late when we arrived, so we set up camp and went to bed.

We were miles from anyone, so I didn’t bother to put my two Labrador retrievers, Sport and Buddy,  on their leases. I had owned and hunted these dogs for some time. They were well trained. I knew they would stay stay close by.

We awoke the next morning to a nippy fall day. I…

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Lost in a Swamp

Hope Shack

cedar swamp

I live in the middle of a national forest in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.  A national forest that comprises approximately one million acres. Where I live, there are literally tens of thousands of acres that may not see a human being in years and years. It is a wild area consisting of hardwoods, conifers, cedar swamps, bogs and lakes. This is the terrain where I hunt. I give you this information, so you will better understand what I am about to say.

I have spent more than fifty years hunting and roaming the woods. During that time I have never used a compass. I simply never felt the need for one. Let me explain with an example.

Many years ago when I was yet a young man, I trailed a deer into a large cedar swamp. I had come across an unusually large set of deer tracks. By trailing it I hoped…

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Hiking Roosevelt National Park

Hope Shack

Early morning at Theodore Roosevelt National Park

I left Belfield, North Dakota early in the morning and drove north on highway eighty-five. I had an extra day and planned to spend it exploring the north unit of the Roosevelt National Park. I had been past it several times and in the surrounding area, but never actually in the Park.

Today I planned to change that. There is a fourteen mile scenic drive that goes through the park. I drove about half way to the Caprock Coulee trailhead. According to the information sign there was a prairie dog town about one and half miles down one trail. It was still cool, so I decided to walk there and back.

 A half hour later I was taking pictures of prairie dogs. The prairie dogs I had seen before were always very skittish. These were apparently more used to people and allowed me to take several close up pictures.


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One Mad Water Moccasin

Hope Shack

Water MoccasinMy brothers and I, plus some of the nephews had come together to float and fish the Buffalo National River in Arkansas. This is a designed wilderness river. The area we were floating would take five or six days to canoe. During that time we would see no signs of civilization. It was early in the year, and we had the river to ourselves. Our family is scattered across the country, from the Allegheny Mountains to the Rockies. It promised to be a great time to spend some quality time together. We would be fishing to supplement our food supply. In fact, fish would made up the majority of our meals.

On the second day out my brother  and I were in a canoe together. We were busy fishing and had lost sight of the rest of the gang. The smallmouth bass were biting, the weather was perfect. We were…

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