Department of Game and Inland Fisheries honors Kit Shaffer at Thanksgiving
THIS IS AN UPDATE ON KIT SHAFFER. WELL WORTH THE READ. MY FIRST EXPERIENCE HUNTING TURKEYS WITH A DOG WAS WITH KIT. THIS WAS AT A TIME WHEN NO ONE HAD EVER HEARD OF SUCH A THING, MUCH LESS ACTUALLY HUNTED IN THIS MANNER. Dennis Campbell
From: Craig Shaffer
Sent: Thursday, September 15, 2011 2:21 AM
Subject: 09.15.2011 Update on Kit Shaffer
Dear Friends of Kit,
For those who hunted with Kit--particularly during the Fall Season--you might agree he looks better now than he did after each relentless hunting season. As Kit said once in an interview with his old buddy and Roanoke Times outdoor writer Bill Cochran:
"Well, as a turkey hunter, my health deteriorates. I can’t sleep. I set the alarm for 4 a.m. and wake up at 2 a.m. By the end of the season you are a zombie. You are irritable, you have lost weight, your eyes are sunken, your body is scarred, you have neglected your family, your friends, your job and your church. You can’t help it. You are an addict. Once that turkey bug bites you, you are helpless."
The old hunter is very, very weary. He's almost too weak to lift his arms, let alone his scarred L.C. Smith 12-gauge. Yesterday we thought he was ready to hike up to the Great Hunting Grounds a dozen times. He would open his clear gray-blue eyes, look up at the ceiling, grab my hand, and mumble a prayer or a God Bless You. At 94, his wiry body is just wore out. Only the good Lord and a forked stick know when he'll be ready.
For example, on Saturday night, I drove up from Lynchburg after dark to spend what I came to believe were my last precious moments with him.
I gently sang "Sweet Low Sweet Char-i-otttt" to him. Read the 23rd Psalms and recited the Lord's Prayer. I read him Bill Cochran's great column from last August (see below) along with a page from his signature turkey article, "Old Blabbermouth." I held his hand as he gripped it tight, telling him it was okay. "Don't be afraid, Pappy," I said crying. "You can rest now. Your work is done."
The moment came when I stared intently at him...waiting for his eyes to go hazy and his chest to stop heaving like a deflating balloon. I waited for him to utter some profound hickory nut of wisdom to savor as his eternal imprimatur. I watched his toothless mouth struggle to hold forth. "You can let go now, it's okay," I whispered. He said: "Son, I really gotta pee."
That was Kit. He's so enjoyed hearing the emails you guys have sent. He talks about each one of you, telling stories and experiences. He's now extremely hard to understand beyond a nasal mumble. That would be less his deteriorating condition and more his refusal to put in his false teeth.
Last week he was still playing Bingo in a wheelchair and flirting with the Special Care nurses who dote over him.
Last Thursday the head nurse at the Elks National Home called to inform the family that he probably only had days, not weeks. He'd fallen three times in three days, and he was all banged up. He's hardly eaten for more than a month and has slept nearly 24/7 over the past few months. He's down to 143 lbs. There was a time he was 250 and wore size 46 slacks, that is, until 3/4 of his stomach was removed in 1974 by Dr. William Pugh, his legendary hunting buddy.
He saw his daughters last Friday and Saturday and he told them over and over that he loved them and his beloved Jan.
Monday night he was remarkably lucid. We got his teeth in and he talked about his life here at Mulberry Hill and in the field with the Department of Game & Inland Fisheries. He seemed to have turned the corner. There was a glimmer of hope that he might not be quite ready yet.
Nan Puckett Seales called to say she'd had a lively visit with him Monday. That he was in fine spirits, conversant and cognizant. Wicked funny.
Tuesday night's visit was less encouraging. As Kit might have said, he looked "like Death taking a crap." Another of his jewels was apt: "His eyes looked like two peeholes in the snow."
On Wednesday morning, several nurses were crying, gathered around him, holding his hands and patting him. "He's scared," said Arline. "We're trying to calm him down."
My sister Sandee called on speakerphone. In a quavering voice, wretchedly off-key (none of the Shaffers can sing a hoot), she valiantly attempted the Doxology.
"Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost."
Choking sobs and cracking notes squelched her reverie.
After she hung up, Kit was asked: "Do you think Sandee can sing?"
He shook his weary, white-maned head emphatically. "NO!" he declared.
The toothless lion had spoken.
All of the Shaffer family thank each of you for writing or call with such kind, thoughtful words about Kit. Several of you have inquired whether he could have visitors. Last week and on Monday and Tuesday of this week, it would have cheered him up to see an old friend. After today, however, he's so tired and medicated that it's probably not a good idea.
He's been in the Elks Home since Feb. 12, 2005 and he's been very happy there. For a man who could be a tough nut and formidable adversary, he's been such a sweetheart in recent years. He read The Bible nine times, though in a pinch he can't recall Zachias or King Herod. Some of you visited him. One of the best times of his life was last August when Mike Roberts, Dennis Campbell and others organized a surprise birthday party at the Peaks of Otter to honor him. It was a splendid event and he talked about it for weeks. He was also delighted to have received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Boutetourt Longbeards branch of the National Wild Turkey Federation.
He's spoken fondly about many of you, both living and long gone: Jack Raybourne, Andy Huffman, Joe Coggin, Chester Phelps, Johnny Red, Hal Meyers, Sam Putt, Charlie Perry, Jim Monahan, Bob Duncan, Mike Roberts, Dennis Campbell and many many others.
It's been a treasure to hear the tales about the battle to introduce Spring Gobbler Season, about Blaze Orange, the resurgence of the wild turkey population, the elks from Yellowstone, the George Washington National Forest, the Peaks of Possum, Old Blabbermouth and so forth.
Please send your stories and recollections. Was Kit really involved in the guidance for VDOT to seed the infernal pestilence of kudzu across Virginia as a roadside ground cover? Was his hand behind the scenes in the genesis of Virginia's deer overpopulation? Why did the coon trapping operation at Ragged Island to populate Southwest Virginia with coons fail so badly? How did he manage to spend so much time hunting turkeys and arrowheads and still be considered one of the top five all-time most influential people in the DGIF? What was he like to work with, hunt with, collaborate or clash with?
When the time comes for the hunter to come home from the hills (his longtime epitaph, already engraved on his tombstone), I'll let everyone on this list know. If you would be so kind, spread the word through the hills and valleys, drum it from the mountains to the swamps. St. Stephens Episcopal on Perrowville Road in Forest, VA is a small church, so your prayers will be appreciated as much as your presence. The family knows how much C.H. "Kit" Shaffer was admired, respected and loved.
For those that do attend his service, whenever it is (he could once again resiliently bounce back as he's done time and time again), there's a simple request for the turkey hunters among you:
Bring your turkey caller. Have it ready at hand. During the eulogy, I'll signal for a rousing chorus of turkey calls.
For Kit, it will be an honorary equivalent of a "21-Yelp Salute." Deep thanks to all of you! With kind regards,
Craig Shaffer and the Shaffer Family Sept. 15 2011
p.s. Attached is Bill Cochran's article from August 2010. Thank you Bill.
the pictures of Cassie's last day and the poor old people who were with
her on Craig Shaffer's site. Without knowing the whole story, for
anyone who ever had to put their dog down, just look at these
4 pages (click on Page 1 of 4 Next >> >)
and you'll understand the pictures of this fine Setter:
Praying_For_You | Last_Pets | Running_Home | Bone_Cancer | Beyond_The_Healing_Touch | Cassies_Last_Day_Mulberry_H | Bye_Bye_Life | Back_To_The_Earth | Hold_Me | Happy_Trails_My_Love | Feel_The_Light_Shining | Going_Gone
years ago, I read some things Kit had written on turkey hunting with a
dog and had the pleasure of speaking with him on the phone a number of
times. His inspirational quote has been the first thing our viewers
read when they visit our website ever since. In 5 years, no one has
said it better.
Kit was named an Honorary Member in August 2006 and a Life Member in February 2010, to recognize him for all the contributions he made and to have future generations remember his work to keep the turkey dog tradition alive. Next time you're enjoying that beautiful fall day with your dog, call one in for Kit and his dogs Jill and Chris.
Friends of Kit,
The Hunter is home from the hills. He passed away at 5:18 p.m. on Friday afternoon while listening to a Virginia Wildlife article about his life and a recount of his signature turkey story, "Old Blabbermouth." The story is about a legendary turkey near Leesville Reservoir that became Kit's personal Grail or Moby Dick quest. He took his last breath upon the words "King Turkey."
How ironic that he was known always to the Shaffer family as "The King."
He was at peace and passed on knowing he was dearly loved by many friends and family.
Everyone is welcome to attend his memorial celebration this Thursday, Sept. 22 at 2 p.m. Sincerely,
****************************Obituary for Charles Henry Shaffer in the Lynchburg News & Advance, Bedford Bulletin, and the Somerset Daily American. Contact: Craig Shaffer, 434-420-3777 Tharp Funeral Home & Crematory Bedford, Va
C.H. “Kit” Shaffer (8/8/1917 - 9/16/2011)
Charles Henry “Kit” Shaffer of Lynchburg, VA died peacefully on Sept. 16, 2011 at The Elks National Home while listening to his son read his favorite turkey hunting story. Kit lived a robust 94 years as a renowned game biologist, conservationist, wild turkey evangelist, master hunting guide, story teller, collector, loving father and loyal friend.
Kit’s memorial epitaph reads: “The Hunter Home From The Hills.”
He is survived by his son, Craig Christopher Shaffer, of Lynchburg, VA; daughter Sandra Shaffer Johnson and son-in-law Brian Robert Johnson of Asheville, NC; and daughter Sherry Shaffer Housholder of Dandridge TN. He was husband for 64 years to the late Janet LeBeau Shaffer.
Kit became widely known as Virginia’s “Mr. Wild Turkey” during his 33 years as biologist supervisor and field coordinator for the Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries (DGIF). He is considered to be one of the game commission’s top five all-time most influential people.
He and his colleagues are credited with heralding the successful repopulation of wild turkeys across Virginia; for introducing Blaze Orange, and for the adoption of Virginia’s spring gobbler season.
According to Roanoke Times outdoor writer Bill Cochran, Kit was “the DGIF scientist who guided Virginia into the age of modern turkey management; what’s more, he also was one of the most skillful turkey hunters of his generation and an ambassador of the sport.”
Bob Duncan, DGIF Executive Director, has said that “Historically, the name ‘Kit Shaffer’ has been linked to the establishment and management of wild turkeys in Virginia. This man is a natural storyteller and teacher who draws on years of experience. His sense of humor is his hallmark.”
Kit was also a founder of the National Wild Turkey Federation in Fredricksburg, VA in 1973. The NWTF now has 250,000 members in 49 states and conserves 17 million acres for wildlife habitat.
* * * * * *Born on Aug. 8 1917 in Jennerstown, PA to Walter Brubaker Shaffer and Marion Zimmerman, Kit and his two sisters grew up poor during the Great Depression. The young senior class president met his future wife, Janet Elmira Lebo, at Somerset High.
He attended Franklin Marshall College in Lancaster, PA where he earned a B.A. in biology and was a Phi Beta Kappa scholar. To pay his own tuition, he held down five part-time campus jobs, including washing dishes and making beds.
The scrappy athlete became an All-Star center on the FM football team back in the days of leather helmets and rough combat. He sustained seven concussions and got his front teeth knocked out by football legend Vince Lombardi. He was also a star basketball guard.
Kit and Janet were married in New York City in 1941. She attended Columbia University in journalism and he worked as an industrial supervisor at Gem Safety Razor and at Sperry Gyroscope.
They moved to Blacksburg, VA in 1945 where he received a Masters in Wildlife Management from Virginia Polytechnic Institute in 1947. He and Janet spent a rugged six months trapping raccoons on a wilderness island near Back Bay for his thesis. They moved to Timberlake, VA to nurture three children, big gardens, and legendary turkey dogs.
Over the years, Kit became known as the state’s authoritative wild turkey missionary. From public meetings to civic groups, he went from county to county as a grassroots activist to promote hunting ethics, conservation, and wildlife stewardship. A fierce opponent of timber clear-cutting, he lobbied the U.S. Forest Service and state legislators to enact selective harvesting and sustainable reforestation.
He published more than 100 articles as outdoor editor for The Turkey Hunter magazine and was a frequent contributor to Virginia Wildlife. Kit received numerous professional awards from local, state and national organizations, including the Governor’s Award as Virginia’s “Conservationist of the Year” in 1979.
He served on boards or was active with the Izaak Walton League, National Wildlife Federation, National Wild Turkey Federation, The Wildlife Society, Virginia Outdoor Writers, and the Virginia Archeological Society.
Kit was also a member of the Forest Lions Club and the Elks Club. He served as a deacon at St. Andrews Presbyterian and as an active member of St. Stephens Episcopal Church in Forest, VA. While at the Elks Home from 2005 to 2011, he read The Bible nine times, visited the sick, and was a well-loved character.
Kit’s life will be celebrated on Thursday, Sept. 22 at 2 p.m. with an informal memorial service at Timberlake Pavilion below the dam at the west end of South Timberlake Drive off Old Plantation Drive. If available, guests are optionally encouraged to wear an item of camouflage or Blaze Orange or to bring a turkey caller.
The service, in conjunction with Tharp Funeral Home, will be followed by a light reception from 3-5 p.m. In lieu of flowers, please consider donations to the National Wild Turkey Federation or to the Elks National Home, Special Care unit. His ashes will be buried at St. Stephen's cemetery and scattered across the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Kit Shaffer Memorial Celebration Program (pdf) September 22, 2011 | Timberlake Pavilion Park
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