On the Ridge: Please allow me to introduce myself

Published: 1/23/2019 8:36:14 PM

Hi! My name is Joe Judd. I’m a hunter and a sportsman. For the past 50 years, I’ve run the ridges of New England, and the northeast, along with nine other states in this great country of ours hunting everything from Alabama mallards to Maine moose.

Much of my youth was spent hunting with my father, who I owe so much to regarding my early love for the sport. Since that period, I’ve been blessed to spend time — both hunting and learning — from some of the best hunters in the country who gave me opportunities I never imagined. Many of these people also taught me how to elevate and appreciate the sport of hunting in an almost spiritual sense. Now, I do my best to pass on what I’ve learned to others whenever asked or given an opportunity. And, at the age of 67, my hope is to continue participating in this sport for many years to come 

When it comes to writing, however, I never really thought of it as a career. I began writing in 1979 in the most humble and unassuming environment imaginable. Since that time, my columns have appeared locally and throughout the Northeast for four decades with my first book, a small work that I hope folks will enjoy, in print as I write this. Now, the Recorder has given me another opportunity, which I take very seriously, mainly because this space has been a beacon of excellence for 45 years or longer by a respected writer who I’ve always admired, and have been pleased to call a good friend for many moons. 

I say all of this not to be too serious, but to offer an understanding of my feelings toward the prior keeper of this space, Gary Sanderson.  Gary, it seems was a born writer, while my beginnings, as already mentioned, were humble and laced with uncertainty. I honestly wonder at times how I managed to continue this, “Odyssey of the written word” going for so many years. But enough about me.

Gary Sanderson’s writings were eloquently written with topics that were not only interesting, but well planned and meticulously thought out, where each paragraph became a “page turner.” Through his columns, his knowledge of local history and genealogy became nothing short of legendary. I truly believe that Gary never met a cellar hole, or an old Native American path, that he didn’t like. He had a way of catching people’s attention and imagination with his knowledge of these topics.

Once he was on the trail of something, he was like a hound running on soft February snow following a fresh scent. In other words, he never gave up. And he did all this while never compromising his love for hunting. Upland game and pheasant hunting with his beloved English Setters was his passion. He was, and still is, a master bird hunter.

I hunted woodcock and pat’ridge with Gary a few times and quickly learned that hunting with, “Bags” was no easy feat! The guy is relentless when it comes to keeping up with his dogs, plowing straight through the, “briars and the brambles where a rabbit wouldn’t go.” That encompasses Gary and his bird hunting passion to a tee! But Gary was more than just an upland game hunter, as his exploits of chasing whitetail deer and turkeys are well documented in the annals of his writings. And his words would take you with him every inch of the way.

The first column of Gary’s I read was in the late seventies or very early eighties. We were both young men then, and I remember being impressed as I read his story. The column was about deer hunting and I was taken in by every word. I did my best to follow his column from that time on. Since then, the impressions made by Gary’s writings that, by now, have been enjoyed by thousands of readers, have never diminished. Moreover, I am certain that things he wrote, in different ways, also touched many of those readers. That says volumes about Gary Sanderson. So, perhaps you get a little better understanding as to why I take this opportunity seriously. Not only do I want to keep the standard of this space high, I also want to keep a much trusted friend and colleague comfortable in knowing that I’ll do my best to carry on what he started and nurtured for so many great years. 

That said, my columns will not appear quite as often as Gary’s. In addition, they will be different from Gary’s as most of the time the only topic I will really expound upon is the outdoors and hunting. That encompasses a broad perspective of topics, ranging from what’s going on in our region and state, to highlighting people and their stories both funny and sometimes not so funny, as well as different hunting seasons, discussing issues from the Division of Fish and Wildlife, to perhaps just a story about a day with me or someone else, On the Ridge.

For example, deer season has just ended, and countless stories abound in our area and beyond, regarding people’s hunting experiences. Now, if I wrote a piece about this past season and use myself in the story, I’m sure writing about the deer I harvested would take up about three sentences as, even though I was grateful to have good luck, the story behind the hunts were uneventful. Real hunters everywhere would understand this as, “sometimes that’s just how it goes.” But, if the topic was about area families who celebrate deer season for reasons that go well beyond those of just harvesting a whitetail, then maybe you as the reader might find that a little more interesting? I know I would!

So, let’s go there for a moment and begin with a family from Shelburne. Bob, Wade, and Toby Bassett are for sure ridge-runners who hunt hard and never give up until the last hour of the last day. Any seasoned hunter will tell you that putting in the time is 75 percent of the battle. This family hunts for reasons that go beyond that. Their history as deer hunters goes back to Bob’s dad Ralph and before. Bob’s daughter Kim also loves to hunt and gets after it whenever she can.

The Gould family, also from Shelburne, has a rich tradition in deer hunting that began with Edgar and Helen Gould and carried on with their son Leonard, grandson Eric York along with many other family members, on both sides, which included some of their daughters. Even Larry Gould will get into a conversation about hunting if you catch him on the right day. Sandy Jenks of Shelburne would hunt with the Gould’s every season. And, speaking of Sandy, his sons Tommy and Steve Jenks are just like him … hunting hard and smart every day they possible can.

The Hicks family of Charlemont, Paul, Ryan and Gary, are also deer hunters who love the sport and carry on the traditions of a hunting family. Jeff and Digger Neipp from Leyden are another pair of good guys who love the sport of hunting. They have a great place to hunt in Leyden and they use it as often as they can. And, like the others mentioned, they’re both committed to the future of hunting.  Individual hunters like Richard Kulis of Greenfield, a forester and woodsmen, who really is as good as it gets, hunts for all the right reasons and relishes all aspects of the hunt win or lose. He also has great stories, such as this past year when he found good area, quietly slipped into it, and a few hours later came out dragging a great buck behind him. Dick told me these days he hunts smarter rather than harder.  However, I know that he’s always hunted smart. And I can prove that statement.

Jimmy Burnham from Shelburne, good hunter and good friend, who hunts for all the right reasons, always has good stories. Like this past year as he’s dragging out a deer only to look up and see another one just standing there staring at him! Turned out to be a short season for Jimmy. Bob Pike, another Shelburne lad, who hunts smart and hard, always ends up with venison at the end. Ronnie Gleason from Greenfield, another ridge runner who just has a nose for the sport. But a better sportsman you’ll never find as Ron puts far more back into the sport then most folks will ever know. 

All that said, these are only a fraction of the countless people, stories, and topics that are happening here amongst those who love the outdoors and hunting in Franklin County, just as I do. And, as time moves on, I hope to find a few more, “kindred spirits,” in the crowd as we travel together, On the Ridge.

Joe Judd is a lifelong hunter and outdoorsman. He is an outdoor writer, seminar speaker, and consultant. Joe is currently an active member of the Quaker Boy Game Calls, Bass Pro Shops and Cabela's Pro-Staff.

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