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Tucked away in a quiet north western corner of Nebraska among the ranches in the Sand Hills is a very special place. A cozy and comfortable cabin that’s happened to host a who’s who of archery since it was built. Fred Bear was among the earliest guests, and legendary Glenn St. Charles and his wife, Earl and Ann Hoyt, Ted Nugent, and others have hung their hats here for some fine bowhunting, good fellowship and great food.
I was honored recently to be a guest at Plum Creek, thanks to my friends the owners of the camp, Dick and Carol Mauch. The Mauchs are legends in the sport of archery. Dick is a gentle giant and a true living legend among our ranks. He has bowhunted with Fred Bear, been an early investor in Bear Archery, was there for the early days of Pope and Young, and is basically a walking encyclopedia for archery from the 1940’s or so through today. In addition, Dick’s just one of the good guys. Carol is a hard core bowhunter who has taken a lot of big game with her bow, including a current world record caribou.
I did a series of shows at the Ponca State Park in Nebraska and Dick and Carol drove over and joined me. The cabin at Ponca had plenty of room and we enjoyed the activites which included a series of exhibitions, a drive over to Yankton, South Dakota to visit with Ted Nugent and do a show for his “Ted Nugent Camp for Kids” at the NFAA headquarters and a fine steak dinner in Yankton. Then we attended a party at Tom and Bonnie Ferry’s home in Ponca, a home that had a three story game room. When the Ponca event wound down Sunday we headed for Plum Creek for some Autumn turkey hunting.
Before heading to the cabin, we spent one night in Bassett at the Mauch’s home. Dick is what I’d call a master chef, and he feeds you well for every meal. We visited, shared archery stories, and I looked around at some of Dick’s bowhunting gear. He is 84 now and has a lifetime of memories and stories, and I am happy his memory has stayed sharp so that he can tell the stories with vivid details and facts.
The next morning we loaded up the gear, the two dogs Two and Kat, and away we went to Plum Creek. You learn when you spend any time with the Mauch’s that Two and Kat are part of the family!
We drove through farm country and then drove up to a gate that was the entrance to the ranch. At first it didn’t look like hunting country, but as we drove in I started seeing canyons and draws, and it began to look like good deer and turkey country. Dick has managed the land and has made improvements, all to benefit the wildlife in the area. Plum Creek winds through the property and allows for a beautiful setting.
You drive down into the canyon and as you come around a bend, there tucked in among some trees is the famous cabin. Plum Creek flows across the front of the cabin a stone’s throw front the front door. It’s beautiful. I’d seen photos of the cabin over the years and I was excited to finally stand at the cabin. A place where bowhunters like Fred Bear, Glenn St. Charles, Ted Nugent, Earl and Ann Hoyt, Ann Clark, and others had been guests. I wondered what the appeal of the hunting here was. Was it the quantity of game? The quality? The Cabin? The meals? I hoped to find out during my time there.
Carol would be deer hunting and Dick and I would concentrate on turkey. I would only have a day and a half to hunt, so we had to cram alot of fun into a few days. Carol is a serious deer hunter and she’d spend her time concentrating on a big buck. Dick and I would be able to see the Ranch, do some stalks, and I would watch Dick work the dogs and do some prairie chicken hunting.
When you walk in the cabin at Plum Creek, you reach for the door knob and find a vintage Bear bow screwed down to the door that serves as the doorknob. You have to pay attention to details here, there are small touches like this every where. Next thing you notice when you walk in is all the mementos from the famous guests. There are signatures, arrows, bows, and other items from celebrity bowhunters. The heavy denim curtains that are in front of each bed are pulled across at night for privacy. Fred Bear started a tradition in 1982 when he took a marker and signed his curtain.
From that point on that became Fred’s bunk. Since then Nugent, Earl and Ann Hoyt, Glenn St. Charles, Rob Keck, Ben Lee, and others have joined Fred in signing. Some of these folks have passed on but the memories and signatures and other items at Plum Creek remain.
Laughter is a big part of the experience at the Plum Creek camp. We had great fun and Dick is a master story teller. He also has a sharp recollection of so much archery history, he’s amazing. Carol, Dick and I enjoyed our time. Although the mood was dampened when an email I recieved while in town told me of Glenn St. Charles’ passing. Dick and Carol both got the same email. St. Charles was an archery pioneer, one of the founders of the Pope and Young club, and a living legend.
We were saddened about Glenn St. Charles passing. True to form, his last words had been, “Such a deal.” Dick shared with me that when Fred Bear passed they had built a bonfire in his honor. So that evening Carol made a homemade apple pie, Dick rummaged around and found one of Glenn’s old cedar hunting arrows tipped with a Bear razorhead, and I found some firewood and built what I hoped would be a good fire. I tried to stack the wood so that it would give us pretty flames, we weren’t concerned about heat as much as having a pretty fire.
I got the fire going and Carol brought out a piece of her fresh apple pie on a plate. She explained that Glenn loved pie and she’d written “Such a deal” on the paper plate. Dick brought the arrow and said a few words on Glenn’s behalf. He recited, “Death, the collector” by Edgar A Guest and changed a few lines to apply to Glenn. Then he laid the arrow across the fire. Next they added the pie. The three of us then sat around the fire sharing stories and some laughter, and a tear or two. It was a fitting tribute to Glenn St. Charles, who had been a guest at Plum Creek and a friend of the Mauch’s for many, many years. I’d first met St. Charles around 1990 and have some treasured cards and notes from his late wife Margaret. I last saw Glenn after my exhibition at the 2007 Pope and Young National Convention. We had talked by telephone as recent as last year but I had not seen him for a few years.
They had me sleep in Fred’s bunk, which was a big honor. However, unlike a friend of the Mauch’s that once requested the same sheets Fred had used, I looked at them, grinned, and said, “You have changed the sheets since 1984 haven’t you?” We all laughed aloud. The evenings were full of laughter with those two.
The next morning before my morning hunt I took one of my hunting arrows and dug through the ashes and embers of our fire to find the Bear razorhead from Glenn’s arrow. Once I found it I took it in to Dick so that he would have it for safekeeping. I saw a copy of Glenn’s book on a shelf and I laid the broadhead on the book for a photo. The book was Glenn’s “Bows on the Little Delta”. The book has a chapter on hunting in Nebraska and time spent at Plum Creek with Dick and Carol. I especially like the photo of Glenn and Margaret in a canoe coming down Plum Creek.
I did some hunting that morning but didn’t see or hear any birds. While I was out on the morning hunt, Dick was busy making his famous sour dough waffles. He got the starter for the sour dough at the Little Delta cabin in 1964. He’s kept it going since then. If he ever offers to make you some of his famous waffles, accept the offer. When you add some of Carol’s homemade rose hip jelly to it you have a breakfast fit for a king. Dick and Carol also introduced me to another Nebraska speciality, Dorothy Lynch salad dressing. It is the best dressing I ever tasted. Everything I had with the Mauchs was good. You eat well when Dick is around. To paraphrase our friend Ted Nugent, if Carol kills it Dick grills it. He also shoots some duck, prairie chickens and other critters for the supper table although I didn’t have any when I was there.
Dick and I spent some time looking for birds. We found some and I did a few stalks. I never did connect but came close to getting a shot at one gobbler when he ducked under a fence and disappeared. We also saw a good buck along one of the ranch roads. We’d later tell Carol about it so she could set some trail cameras and try and get it’s pattern down. As we toured the ranch, Dick shared with me improvements he’d made to help the wildlife and the quality of the ranch. It’s impressive to see how well Dick and Carol have maintained and improved the property.
At the cabin Dick had mentioned having me shoot an arrow into the interior log wall. Fred Bear had shot an arrow into the exterior of the cabin in 1982 and it was a huge honor to be asked to sink an arrow into a log inside a cabin already filled with tokens from some of the sport’s greats. I think nine or ten members of the Archery Hall of Fame had been guests at Plum Creek over the years. I took one of my stage arrows, added a number to it, #36, and then signed it to Dick and Carol. I drew my 60# Hoyt bow back and let an arrow fly. My first shot was a little to the right. A flu flu from a compound at point blank range isn’t a shot I’d ever attempted. The arrow chipped a piece of bone off of a creature Dick had installed on the wall made from deer bone.
We all laughed at me missing at point blank range. So next I took a piece of chalk and made a small circle on the wall. My next shot hit the top of the chalk dot. The Muzzy head buried into the log walk and the feathers sprayed out from the impact at point blank range. I told Dick I had a trophy cabin to my credit now. He reminded me that Fred had shot the cabin, and so I added, “Yeah, but mine scores higher than Fred’s because it’s a non typical… you have added porches since then..” We all had a good laugh.
At lunch Dick served up another fine meal and then Carol brought out the markers. It was time for me to sign the curtain. I looked around and picked a top corner, about Earl and Ann Hoyt, to the left of Nugent, and left and up from Fred’s original signature. Now future guests at the cabin will see two tokens of my visit, the signature and the arrow. It is a conversation piece I suppose.
We hunted some more that evening but I didn’t have any luck. It was a good day with good friends anyway. I finally figured out what it was that drew people like Bear, St. Charles and others to Plum Creek. It wasn’t the animals, although there are plenty. It wasn’t the land, which is good land with abundant places to hunt and walk around. It wasn’t Plum Creek, which is beautiful. It wasn’t the food, although the food was fantastic. While all of these enhanced the experience, the real truth is that Dick and Carol are why Plum Creek is such a special place. They are such fine people and good hosts, and just fun to be with. 100 years from now the cabin may still stand, the creek still flow, and all the quiet reminders of those of us that loved them and loved hunting with them may still be there, but without Dick and Carol Plum Creek just won’t be the same. They are the magic. Luckily, at 84, Dick shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. There wasn’t a rocking chair in site at the camp. Dick doesn’t sit still long enough for that. Carol’s a go getter too.
I’m happy to have spent time there and walked some of the same ground Fred and Glenn and others have walked. I’m prouder of the quality time with them, the stories Dick and I shared, the jokes, and the meals. It was a fine experience and I hope to get back there soon. It isn’t everyday you get to hangout with two legends and two spoiled dogs….
Addington, 43, writes the Straight Shot column for bowhunting.net and celebrity interviews. He will soon celebrate 44 years in the sport of archery and 26 years on stage as an exhibition shooter. You can read more about him at www.frankaddingtonjr.com Be sure and read the celebrity interview with Dick Mauch in the archives of this site.