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A Year of Hovey’s Outdoor Adventures, Jan. 21, 2013

January 5, 2013
Bon Bald with one of his swan decoys and calls.

Bon Bald with one of his swan decoys and calls.

This show may be heard  following its broadcast date by clicking on the following link If it is not the current show, it is still  available as an archived show and on iTunes.
2012’s adventures started with a bang with swan hunts on the year’s first two shows and ending with a reading of my original play “A Visit from Auntie Thresa Claus” on the Annual Christmas show. Twenty-three original shows were produced with two 1 1/2-hour shows and one 2-hour show.
NRA ShowEvents covered included the Shot Show, Atlanta Blade Show, NRA’s National Convention and Quality Deer Management Association’s Annual Meeting. Communities featured in the occasional “Hunting Small Town America” series were Dawson, Helen and St. Marys, in Georgia as well as North Carolina’s Outer Banks and Ashland City, Tennessee. Successful hunts included swan, wild hogs, turkeys and deer featuring muzzleloading shotguns, blunderbuss, pistols and crossbow along with bowfishing Tennessee’s Cumberland River.
Limited finances in a down economy restricted 2012’s activities largely to the Southeastern States, but nonetheless provided some unusual show opportunities, such as investigating the Gray Fossil Site near Johnson City, Tennessee, where Miocene elephants, rhinos, tapirs, bears and alligators are found as fossil remains at a site that is even more productive than the La Brea Tar Pits in California.
Old Auntie Thresa Claus soon to be young Princess Thresa Claus

Auntie Thresa Claus

Besides the usual hunting stories, two original stories were aired including a Christmas reading of my play “A visit from Auntie Thresa Claus” and  “Watermelon Smith” which is about a slave who wins his freedom after a successful Mississippi River boat race where he de-scales a boiler by throwing a watermelon onto the boiler’s red-hot coals.

Downloads from steadily increased to about 20,000 a week, with the most popularly downloaded shows being those about the trade shows, handgun hunting and outdoor personalities such as Larry Weishuhn, Bill Booth, Margaret Hice, The Swamp People and The Turtle Man. The most frequently searched for items concerned Hice and the now-discontinued Tree Lounge Tree Stands.
Related activities included publishing softcover and E-book versions of X-Treme Muzzleloading: Fur, fowl and dangerous game with muzzleloading rifles, pistols and smoothbores,  and an updated E-book edition of  Practical Bowfishing.  Over 100 YouTube videos were published during the year which received 300,000 views. Many of these videos were related to subjects covered in “Hovey’s Outdoor Adventures Radio Show Blog,” which had 19,000 views and my “Backyard Deer Hunting Blog” which had 100,000 views last year.  A 20-video series on “Starting your own outdoor business” is included among among the current 180 videos on the wmhoveysmith Channel.
Kickstarter Projects that were attempted and failed during 2012 included funding for the production of  my play A Visit from Auntie Thresa Claus (read on my annual Christmas shows) and funding to permit an upgrade of this radio show. Sponsorships continued to be elusive during 2012, and this lack of support threatens the survival of the program. Although there has been a lot of activity, this has not generated sufficient income to sustain the show.
The first show of 2013 also got off to a shooting start with two successful hunts on Georgia’s Ossabaw and Cumberland islands for deer and hogs with muzzleloading pistols, including CVA’s Optima .50-caliber single shot, Cabela’s stainless steel 1858 Remington-pattern Buffalo Revolver with a 12-inch barrel and adjustable sights and Traditions’ 1858 Remington Sheriff’s Model with a 5 1/2-inch barrel which performs duties as a back-up muzzleloading handgun to kill a small wounded deer at 50-yards.  A link to my Cumberland Island hunt YouTube video appears below:
YouTube video on hunting Georgia’s Cumberland Island

2012 in review

December 31, 2012

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 19,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 4 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.

Muzzleloading Hunts on Georgia’s Ossabaw and Cumberland Islands, Jan. 7, 2013

December 21, 2012


This show may be heard  following its broadcast date by clicking on the following link: If it is not the current show, it is still  available as an archived show and on iTunes.

In November and a month later in early December, I participated in two primitive weapons hunts on Georgia’s Ossabaw and Cumberland islands. These hunts are respectively managed by the Fish and Game Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and the National Park  Service. The hunts are  similar in habitat, methods and game sought, but differ in administrative details because of the different management agencies. In both, residents and non-residents may apply, water transportation is needed to get to the islands, they are three-day hunts, one camps on the islands, showers are provided, indoor toilets are available and walk-in coolers are furnished to keep the game.  I have two sets of photos on these hunts on Flickr at .


These hunts are also similar in that their purpose is to help keep the islands’ populations of deer, and particularly wild hogs, in check. Hogs are difficult to control because they breed rapidly, and both islands have designated hunters who shoot hogs year-around to help protect the habitat and also the nests of endangered sea turtles.   Deer hunter success  rates on Ossabaw were often 100 percent or more in previous decades, but dropped once hunters could also take hogs because of the additional time needed to transport and process them. On both islands, an unlimited number of hogs may be taken.

On Ossabaw the hunters are transported to their pre-selected hunting areas on a “cotton wagon” before dawn. These areas may vary from about 20 acres to over 200 acres in size. Most areas are assigned to individual hunters, although some are so large that multiple hunters are permitted. There is also a walk-in area near camp which is open to any hunter. In late morning, there is a pick up, and hunters with game go back to camp with their animals. They return in early afternoon and hunt until full dark.

A rapidly filling deer cooler attest to another good Ossabaw hunt.

A rapidly filling deer cooler attest to another good Ossabaw hunt.

After some misadventures with blunderbuss, I took a CVA Optima .50 caliber pistol and spine shot a 60-pound doe (average size for a 1 1/2-year-old doe on the island) knocked it down and then made a save when it got up with five shots from a .44-caliber  Traditions Sheriff’s model 5 1/2-inch revolver made by Pietta. Three of the five shots struck the moving deer at ranges of out to about 50 yards. The fatal shot penetrated both lungs, and the bullet was recovered from under the skin after passing through the off-side shoulder. The revolver was loaded with 30 grains of FFFg black powder, an over powder felt wad, ball and  a wax wad over the ball. I had intended to use this gun for point-blank shots to finish game, but having this revolver kept me from possibly losing this deer in the heavy cover, as spine shots leave very poor blood trails. The load used in the Optima was two Hodgdon White Hot pellets and a 295 gr. PowerBelt bullet. This load would have had a better effect, if I had made a better shot. I was using a red-dot sight on this gun, and now believe that a pistol scope would have allowed better shot placement.  A link to a YouTube  video of this hunt follows: .

On Cumberland hunters walk out to designated hunting areas which are large enough that they share them with others. The average hunter walks about two miles to his area and leaves camp about 4:00 AM in order to make it to his stand location before daylight. If he is fortunate enough to score on an animal early, he drags it to one of the  principal roads and uses his smart phone to text the Ranger for a pick up. He must accompany his animal back to camp. If his phone does not have texting ability, like mine, he drags his animal/s back to camp. In an administrative change to previous practice, he may now use one of the camp’s wheeled game carriers or carts to get his game back to camp.

The first morning of the hunt I shot two hogs which had a combined dressed weight of 150 pounds. I had the foresight to use a Cabela’s game carrier to take my stand in that morning and bring my game out. These hogs were taken with single shots from a .44-caliber Cabela’s stainless steel Buffalo Revolver with a matt black nitride finish applied by H&M Metal Processing of Akron, Ohio. The load used in this gun was 40 grains of Hodgdon’s TripleSeven powder, a felt over-powder wad, round ball and an over-ball wax wad. Shooting precision is considerably enhanced by this gun’s adjustable sights and 12-inch barrel.  I have two videos of this hunt. The shorter version provides the hunt-load information and the longer one more about the trip in, cultural features, etc. A link to the shorter video follows: .

Each year there is a designated archery hunt (bows and crossbows), primitive weapon hunt (bows, crossbows and muzzleloaders), gun hunt (cartridge firearms, muzzleloaders, bows and crossbows), parent-child hunt and late season hog-only hunts. On Cumberland Island, cartridge pistols may also be used on their primitive weapon hunts.


It is bad when you are an old guy, have one ball and lose it. It is worse if you also have a loose screw. It is terrible if you are a young blunderbuss trying to make its first kill on big game and both maladies befall you.  On Ossabaw, blunderbuss had its .54-caliber ball fall from the barrel and a deer at 20 yards was shot at with only a cardboard wad. Although the bare-ball load shot 2-inch groups on the range at that distance, it does take a projectile to kill deer. This situation was corrected by making up a load of 80 grains of Hodgdon’s TripleSeven, a card wad, 25 grains of Cream of Wheat, over-filler wad, bare ball, and now an over-ball wad. On Cumberland I had a 200 pound hog below the stand at about 15-yards. I shot at it and the ball did not touch the animal. In this case the barrel-retaining screw had fallen from the gun on the trip in and the free-moving barrel discharged its ball in an unknown direction. Now, with a ball-retaining wad and the barrel secured to the stock with several wraps of electrical tape, I continue my quest to take a deer or hog with the blunderbuss, now known as Wonderbuss, as it is apparently a wonder if it kills something.

On the cooking segment of the show I discuss cooking wild-hog meat over oak coals in the hunt camp and making up stews, soups and chilies which are taken frozen to the camp, ready to quickly thaw and feed hungry hunters. This section is sponsored by SIN, Inc. (Synthetic Industrial Non-nutritives, Inc.) who makes eatable products from the best of coal tar, petroleum and agricultural waste by-products.  In this episode SIN announces its new glow-in-the-dark popcorn and synthetic hogs with the experiencing-enhancing packets of hog hair and wood dirt to add the feeling of having an outdoor experience to the meal.

Applications for Georgia’s quota hunts may be made by going to These hunts include not only hunts on Ossabaw Island but also over 100 wildlife management areas, special waterfowl hunts and alligator hunting. There are also  hunts for the handicapped, seniors and lady hunters.  Licenses, which include a three-day big game non-resident license for $90 and a WMA license for $73.00 would be required.  All  hunters older than 16-years old must also show that they have completed a Hunter Safety course in their home state, or elsewhere.

Young Kolby Faust scored again on Ossabaw Island.

Young Kolby Faust scored again on Ossabaw Island.

Hunters younger than 16 may participate on these hunts, but must be accompanied by an adult and hunt within arm’s reach. They need not have passed their hunter safety requirement. Georgia offers a 3-day Apprentice Hunting License for $3.50 for residents and $20 for non-residents to encourage young hunters to participate. Young hunters may use cartridge rifles during primitive weapon hunts. One gun that is commonly seen is the Youth Model H&R single-shot in .243 Winchester, which has a short stock, comparatively little recoil, is easy to load and can mount a scope. Cumberland Island hunts are applied for by going to and using the site’s search function to find  the Cumberland Island Hunt Application. Dates may be reserved starting June 1 with the payment of a $35.00 fee. In addition, the ferry trip from St. Marys will cost an additional $30, paid at the time of the trip. A Georgia hunting license will be needed, but no WMA license is required.

Christmas Show, Dec. 17, 2012

December 18, 2012

Whitehall with snow Feb 2010

This show may be heard  following its broadcast date by clicking on the following link: If it is not the current show, it is still  available as an archived show and on iTunes.


This special edition features a reading of Hovey’s original Christmas play, “A Visit from Auntie Thresa Claus,” a cold Christmas at Copper Center, Alaska, making Southern cornbread dressing, recent activities and a sign-off from the Christmas Chipmunk.

Auntie Thresa Claus, Santa's not-so-nice sister.

Auntie Thresa Claus, Santa’s not-so-nice sister.

The uninterrupted reading of the play is sponsored by Velcro Wall, the leader in child suspension systems, who introduces the “Rent a Dungeon” for the 2012 holiday season so you can hang up your kids for a couple of hours while they play Dungeon in a sound-proof room. Velcro also reminds listeners of their “Kid Harness Division” which allows kids to be harnessed up for doing healthy work such as pulling sleds, carts and plows, rather than getting no exercise while being transported in cars or being pushed around grocery stores in shopping carts.Updates are given for Ursus, a once overweight yellow Lab, that has successfully undergone knee surgery and weight reduction; hunts related in the Blunderbuss Chronicles; an interesting deer-save with an 1858 replica percussion revolver and the still-pending results from Hovey’s standing for a re-examination for the renewal of his license as a Professional Geologist.

Ursus and Bill Krantz

Although looking embarrassed and “hang-dog” in this photo, Ursus is now completely recovered and up and about his “activities of daily living.” The operation resulted in a complete recovery.

It is bad when you are an old guy and have only one ball and loose it. It is even worse if you are also considered to have a screw loose. The situation is terrible  when you are a young blunderbuss out to make your first kill on a big game animal and suffer both maladies.  On a hunt at Georgia’s Ossabaw Island I had a deer at about 20 yards, shot, and only the wadding was ejected towards the deer.  During the previous hauling around and walking the ball had dropped out of the gun’s barrel. Although I shot 2-inch groups with an unpatched ball at this range and had no problem with the ball remaining against the powder, the gun had not been subjected to the vibrations caused by walking miles over dirt roads and woods. Admonished, I now loaded a wad over the top of the ball and a month later on Cumberland Island, I had a shot at a big hog at a range of about 15 yards. This time there was a ball in the barrel, but it flew off to parts unknown and failed to hit the hog. This time the barrel retaining screw had fallen from the gun and the loose barrel discharged its projectile somewhere in a downward direction, but not into the hog.  These blunders with blunderbuss have now been corrected with over-ball wads and several wraps of electrical tape to hold the barrel on the gun. Hunting continues as I try to get this unusual gun its first kill on big game.

The Traditions Blunderbuss is only available from the Sportsmans Guide catalogue company.

The Traditions Blunderbuss is only available from the Sportsmans Guide catalogue company.

After the blunderbuss’ failure on Ossabaw Island, I hunted with the CVA Optima .50-caliber single-shot pistol. Using the gun’s Red Dot sight I sighted in on a deer at about 50 yards and shot. The deer went down at the shot. but was “lively.” The spine-shot deer managed to struggle to its feet and start to move away. Taking a 5 1/2-inch Pietta .44 revolver imported by Traditions, I fired five of the gun’s six shots at the departing deer. Three of the five struck the deer. One was in the rear flank, another clipped the top of the spine and the fatal shot penetrated both lungs – killing the animal. This was a tiny doe with a field dress weight of 53 pounds. Although the Sheriff’s model gun did what was required of it as a back-up gun the load of 30-grains of FFFg and a round ball failed to penetrate through the deer. The bullet was recovered under the skin after it had passed through the ribs and a bit of shoulder-blade. I am now using a more powerful load of Hodgdon’s TripleSeven powder in the gun for better shot performance.  I have another Pietta revolver of the same caliber, but in stainless steel, with adjustable sights and a 12-inch barrel that is imported by Cabela’s. This gun is much more effective and will develop energies on the order of 500 ft./lbs. When using revolvers as a primary hunting gun, I prefer to use the longer barreled Cabela’s Buffalo stainless revolver. Recently, I took three hogs with four shots with this gun.

Making Southern cornbread dressing is featured on the cooking section. This is cooked in an external pan and consist of crumbled egg bread, hoecake, onions, celery, salt, pepper and some of the drippings remaining from cooking the turkey. Usually the breads are made up the day before and the dressing cooked on Christmas morning so that it can be served hot at the table. Both the egg bread and the hoecake are best cooked in a seasoned cast-iron frying pan. Although the hoecake may be cooked on top of the stove (traditional) it may also be cooked in the oven. Homemade biscuits are often substituted for hoecake or added to the dressing mix. My mother would also throw in 4 slices of toasted white bread into the mix.

The end result of a successful hunt for a wild turkey.

The end result of a successful hunt for a wild turkey.


2 cups white self-rising biscuit flour, 1/4-cup of shortening (lard), 2 tablespoons margarine, pinch of salt, 1/2 cup of milk, 1 teaspoon baking powder if regular flour is used.

Mix the ingredients and make up the dough. This should be a stiff sticky ball. Cover with more flour so that you can pat it down flat into the bottom of a frying pan. This should be a layer about 3/8ths inch thick. Put in oven at 350 degrees and cook until brown at the very edges of the pan, but still mostly white with perhaps the first hint of brown on top.  Crumble when cool or else everyone in the house will consume it before the dressing is ever made. As this is something that is likely seldom or never seen in the house, go ahead and cook two pans so that you are assured to have some for the dressing.

Cornbread (Eggbread)

2 cups yellow corn meal (or 1 1/2 cups meal and 1/2 cup white flour), 2 eggs, 1 tablespoon melted shortening, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon sugar, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1/4 cup of milk.

Throughly grease 12-inch frying pan. Mix all dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add eggs, milk and shortening and mix. This dough should be just liquid enough to pour from the bowl into the pan. Add additional milk as needed. Once mixed, immediately pour into pan. Shake to remove bubbles and put into pre-heated 350 degree oven. Cook until brown at the edges of the pan and feels solid to the touch. In a pre-heated oven this should be about 10 min. When cut it should still be steaming slightly and a little moist. As with the hoecake, it is best to make enough for the family to cut wedges and have warm with butter and syrup. Crumble remaining Cornbread as soon as cool enough to handle.


1 pan crumbled Cornbread (Eggbread), 1 pan crumbled hoecake, 4 toasted slices  crumbled toasted white bread, 4 eggs, 1/2-cup finely chopped celery, 2/3 rds cup finely chopped Spanish onions, pan drippings from roasted turkey, chicken, goose or swan.

The desired product should be thin enough to spoon out into a pan, but not thin enough to pour. Sufficient stock should be added so that when a spoon is run over the top of the dressing dough, the mix should immediately glisten with oil. Save the remaining turkey stock for gravy. In two or more frying pans make a layer about 1/2-inch thick. This mix will not rise. Cook in oven at 360 degrees. When brown on top and celery is done, remove from cooking pans, slice into about two-inch squares and serve while warm.

Story Time and Georgia Clay, December 3, 2012

November 22, 2012

A typical float from a past Kaolin Festival.

This show may be heard  following its broadcast date by clicking on the following link: If it is not the current show, it is still  available as an archived show and on iTunes.

Washington County, Georgia’s, Kaolin Festival has been held in Sandersville since 1956, and this year Hovey presented two sets of three stories which included five original stories. Three of the five describe his  hunts with unusual muzzleloading guns, one was a verbal extract from his book-in-progress, The Order of the White Magnolia Burial and Beneficent Society, and each set began with his relating the origin of the Universe and the state’s kaolin deposits. As a geologist, the author of Kaolin Deposits of Central Georgia  and a former employee of one of the county’s kaolin companies, it fell to Hovey to explain the origin of the state’s deposits as well as present other stories as part of the childrens’ events.

Story time.

One of the stories was about a segment of the life of Watermelon Smith.  As a young black man Smith was bound as a slave to the company that owned a Mississippi River boat, the Alexander,  that was challenged to a race by a new boat, the Arkansas Queen. Smith was instrumental in winning this race by using a watermelon to de-scale the boiler  to increase the Alexander’s speed. This act not only won him a nickname, but also his freedom. He later became the first black steamboat master on the lower Mississippi  and even had a town, Smith’s Pass, named after him.

Bouncing Bounty shown with “saddlebags” used to tame the gun’s recoil.

D. Pedersoli’s Howdah Hunter.

Hunting stories related on the show are “Bouncing Bounty,” which tells how a flintlock pistol with a 14-inch barrel was tamed sufficiently to successfully kill a Florida deer; “Howdah Hunter,” that explains how different  loads were development for each barrel to enabled a double-barreled pistol with no rear sight to successfully take a hog from the nearest equivalent to a howdah that could be arranged in Texas; and “Armadillo Safari” that suggest the proper usage of a Japanese matchlock smoothbore gun based on the author’s hunting armadillos on Georgia’s Buffalo Creek

These  hunts, along with details about the guns and loads, are recorded in Smith’s new book X-Treme Muzzleloading: Fur, fowl and dangerous game with muzzleloading rifles, smoothbores and pistols. This book is available as a softcover and E-book from and many other sources. It may also be ordered directly from his website or, along with his other outdoor titles, by clicking on the book image on my WebTalkAmerica show page. Descriptions of all his outdoor books may be found at:

Jennifer Ferrin, the Vice President of the Washington County Chamber of Commerce, and Chamber President Charles Lee discuss the history, events, practical aspects of putting on such festivals and how the festival highlights the County’s continuing growth and prosperity. These activities not only includes the kaolin industry, agriculture and natural gas-powered electrical generation, but will also soon include energy production from coal and solar power. Plans were also recently signed for the construction of a wood-pellet producing plant based on the County’s ability to rapidly grow pines and other trees. The chamber may be contacted by visiting their website   or by telephone at (478) 552-3288.  A vodeo about Washington County may be viewed on my YouTube site at:

Ads on the show include one for “Festivals, Inc.” which is a business that compiles statistical and other information from the Nation’s craft and performance festivals to be a one-stop source for designing new festivals for any-size community. By comparing programs from existing festivals a prospective-festival-holding community can see what other towns of similar size have done, what themes were used, how events were organized and determine probable costs and benefits. Sad to say, there is no such organization; but there easily could be.

All About Crossbows, November 19, 2012

October 12, 2012


Although these deer were taken with the Stryker, one of the world’s most powerful crossbow, they were shot at 30 and  7 yards, within the capabilities of  almost any modern crossbow.

This show may be heard  following its broadcast date by clicking on the following link: If it is not the current show, it is still  available as an archived show and on iTunes. 

   Hunts with 10 crossbows from seven makers are featured on this show as the author of the popular book, Crossbow Hunting,  describes his experiences with these hunting tools taking game as diverse as squirrels, deer, wild hogs, black bear and alligators in places as far-ranging as Alaska, Eastern Canada, Idaho and Georgia, his home state. 

Barnett RC 150 deer with tree stand.

Not only does he use the higher priced crossbows, he very often hunts with the least expensive crossbows in a company’s line on the theory that if these low-priced crossbows will kill game, it is likely that the higher-priced ones will too. These hunts include many around, and even in, his home town of Sandersville where he describes taking two deer on a single hunt in a friend’s backyard and another two from a small parcel of wooded land within the city limits.

Blue Moon Hog taken with TenPoint Phantom.

Crossbows featured on the show were produced by Barnett, Horton, Excalibur, TenPoint, Parker and Fred Bear. Bear once made crossbows, but discontinued them from their line. The featured crossbows ranged in price from about $150 to over $1,000,  with the cost of some 2012 crossbows reaching $2,000.

  Modern trends in crossbows are for faster and faster arrow speeds with many 2012 models having 200-pound pull weights. For taking deer, bear and similar game at ranges of 40 yards and closer (the recommended range for most crossbows) pull weights of  150-175 pounds are adequate. Such bows are usually in the mid-price range of most company’s offerings and offer excellent buys as $400-500 crossbows.

Idaho black bear taken with Parker Tornado

If you want the best in modern technology including carbon-fiber and titanium components, cocking accessories, monopods and high-quality optics combined with a brand-name camo stock, this will push the price to the upper end of the manufacturer’s range.

  The best service, supplies and support are from companies such as Horton, TenPoint, Barnett and Excalibur who only make crossbows rather than from companies who primarily produce other outdoor items and added crossbows as a sideline. Some, like Fred Bear, discontinued crossbows, while others revamp their crossbows almost every season, sometimes even using component assemblies bought in from other companies.  

  Modern crossbows allow a young hunter like this to go into the field with an appropriately sized hunting tool that will take deer sized game and older shooters to continue to archery hunt decades after they can no longer pull a hunting-weight bow.

Crossbows were, and are, effective close range hunting tools with sufficient diversity to fit almost anyone’s needs to hunt anything from small game to elephants. I have a number of YouTube videos up about crossbows.  Links to two of the most popular are given below:

Alligator Hunting and Gator Cooking
Backyard Bear Hunting

Hunt Elephants and Rhinos in Eastern Tennessee, Nov. 5, 2012

October 7, 2012

Dr. Blaine Schubert inside the public exhibit area of the Natural History Museum at the Gray Fossil Site. Tapirs, the most common large animal at the site, are shown in the background.

 This show may be heard  following its broadcast date by clicking on the following link: If it is not the current show, it is still  available as an archived show and on iTunes. 

It is possible for properly motivated individuals to hunt for elephants, rhinos, saber-toothed tigers, ground sloths and many other species in Eastern Tennessee by participating in on-going excavations at the Gray Fossil Site, near Johnson City.

Miocene rhino. No horns on this species.

An unusually complete selection of eastern Miocene plants and animals are being excavated each day from the remains of a muddy pond that was formed when the roof of a cave collapsed and formed a 2-3 acre sinkhole.  The existing oak-hickory forest was in an area with sufficient erosion  to keep a flow of sediments washing into the sinkhole to rapidly cover  animal remains. The result is that this deposit contains an unusually complete record of past life with many species resembling animals that still live.

  The hour show features interviews with Blaine W. Shubert, PhD, Director of both the East Tennessee State University and General Shale Brick Natural History  Museum  (aka Gray Fossil Site and Museum) and the Center of Excellence in Paleontology  and others who work at the site excavating and preserving these fossils. 

  Located at the town of Gray about 6-miles northwest of  Johnson City, the Natural History Museum consist of  public exhibits, workshops, offices as well as a number of temporary structures where dug materials are being processed. To date, about 2 percent of the site has been excavated, and some spectacular finds have been uncovered, including previously unknown species. So far as the completeness of the fossil record is concerned, this site is perhaps best compared to the LaBrea Tar Pits in California, although the Gray Site also preserves plant materials whereas, at LaBrea, the predominant remains are animal bones.

  Tapirs, a hog-sized semi-aquatic animal that still lives in South America, and turtles are most numerous.  Also present are relatives of present-day alligators, snakes and salamanders. Camels, horses, sloughs, and panda bears that are now only known as wild animals in Asia, are also uncovered, including a small bear, the red panda. Work at the Museum not only includes species found at this site but also at locations throughout the world to obtain a more complete understanding of the evolution of these animals.

Horizontal scale exaggerated 1.7X.

  More than a year’s work has gone into rebuilding this rhino skull. The polymer and metal reinforcings are necessary to add strength to the large fossil so that it can be safely moved and stored.

  Work at the site is time-consuming and labor intensive. Volunteers and interns from both academic and non-academic backgrounds do much of the tedious tasks of excavating the site, washing and sieving all the material, removing larger bones after installing a protective coating of  plaster of Paris and burlap (“jackets” to protect the materials and help keep the blocks from drying) removing and preserving the fossil bones.  Many of the fossils are fragmented and require reassembling as giant three-dimensional puzzles. It may take a year or more to reconstruct a single rhino skull and replace the missing pieces with sticky resins and aluminum mesh so that it may be safely handled and stored.  Unlike some fossils that are replaced by silica and other minerals, these bones have undergone little mineral replacement and are relatively delicate; but not so fragile that they cannot be handled.

  As interesting as the science may be, opportunities for paying work in Paleontology are few and primarily found at large institutions and with petroleum companies (interested mostly in micro-fauna recovered from drilled rock fragments). With its ongoing excavations, the Gray Fossil Site will continue to need interns and volunteers to work up the vast amount of material that will be removed. This is an ideal way to obtain hands-on experience in how to property excavate a site and preserve fossil, archeological or forensic remains.  

  For information about the museum and its activities go to their website If after reviewing the site, you would like additional information, you can correspond by calling (866) 202-6223 or writing to   Dr. Schubert at 1212 Suncrest Dr., Gray, Tennessee, 37615.

  If you have the passion, the patience and are willing to spend a month or more delicately uncovering a single fossil bone from a 12X18-inch block of smelly clay with the hope of  finding some previously unknown animal or plant, work at the Gray Fossil Site is an opportunity to do exactly that.  At the least, you can discover if  this type of  hunting is for you.