Duck hunter, 80, accumulates collection of a lifetime
BY KELLY BOSTIAN Outdoors
Sunday, February 03, 2013
2/03/13 at 6:54 AM
Go to Kelly Bostian's blog Original Print Headline: Collection of a lifetime
Sam Daniel has been collecting birds for half his life. Now that he's 80, the years spent hunting fowl have added up and the collection is complete - mostly.
Never mind the many geese, grouse, cranes and quail he has collected from Mexico to Montana to Scotland and Spain. He has personally killed and collected 37 species of migratory ducks in North America. That covers the gamut of legally hunted ducks on the continent.
A collection that began by chance turned into a lifelong passion that has taken him and his family around the country.
"Did he tell you about his book?" asked his son, Ted Daniel, who lives in Dallas. "It would be more like a diary, I guess, something for family to pass down. He has pictures of all those birds and he was writing an account about each one."
Escaping to the outdoors has long been a passion for Sam Daniel, the only son of affluent Tulsa parents.
"I started when I was 15," he said. "I was an only child and my dad had a bachelor friend by the name of Clay Jennings and he was an outdoorsman. He talked my dad into building a duck blind on a pond in the Mennonite country near Inola."
That was in the mid-1940s, just after World War II. "It was before they built the lakes," he said. "We had ponds and the mallards came down through that Inola valley and there were plenty of 'em."
The collection of taxidermy mounts goes back to a first mallard drake shot 40 years ago at a 1,500-acre ranch he owned off Grand Lake. Others line the walls and rest on shelves around a room in the home they call Mary Lou's living room.
"She has been wonderful," Daniel said of his wife, Mary Lou. "She has put up with these birds for a long time."
Relaxing over one glass of wine at the home of the longtime Tulsa attorney and founding member of Tulsa's NatureWorks and the local chapter of Ducks Unlimited provides little time to hear the stories about the birds, but that just leaves room to come back another evening for more post-duck-season remembrances.
The stories begin with a big green-headed mallard drake. He decided to get it mounted. Then he shot a gadwall a little later on and mounted that one. "I thought, 'Sam, why don't you start a collection?' That was the beginning.
"I shot them all, personally," he said, starting a short tour around his home. A common eider from Penobscot Bay, Calif., a canvasback drake from the shipping lanes outside San Francisco, a black duck from the Thousand Islands off New York, a cinnamon teal from Lubbock, Texas, Harlequin ducks from Washington's Puget Sound, Barrow's goldeneye from Alaska. He's hunted the coast of Maine and the Baja Peninsula, Laguna Madre and Kodiak Island.
His favorite is the black scoter shot on a trip out of Anchorage. His hunting party lay on a rocky beach where warm ocean currents created thick morning fog. "You couldn't see your hand in front of you," he said. "We were in an area where there should be scoters. I heard whistling of wings and splashes and looked out and all I could see was the gold noses of those scoters. We flushed 'em up and shot at those gold beaks. They're black and they were in the fog, so that's all you could see ... It was an amazing experience," he said.
At 80, he now shoots a 20 gauge Remington 1100 semi-auto instead of a 12 gauge. The old quail hunter's snap shooting isn't quite what it used to be, but he hasn't slowed much. He hunted in Mexico with son Ted this year. "He still is the best shot I've ever seen, and I've hunted with a lot of people," Ted Daniel said.
And he still needs one more duck. "I've got them all except the King Eider, that's the last one," Sam Daniel said.
The King Eider may prove to be his Holy Grail, however. Daniel modestly says he doesn't think he would go get the eider because it requires a trip "600 miles west of Anchorage to an island they call Island X."
Ted Daniel, who has accompanied his father on most of his hunts, casts the tale about the energetic octogenarian with a different twist.
"He was ready to go!" he said of the King Eider adventure. "About three years ago he had this 'guaranteed King Eider hunt' all lined up in January in Alaska."
The younger Daniel said he insisted on investigating it more thoroughly before he signed on. Their "adventures," as they call them, have added up to a collection of priceless memories, but there is a limit to the level of adventure desired.
"I started looking at the website and it was saying to be prepared for 20 below and the possibility of being weathered-in for three weeks. I just said, 'I'm not going.'" But, Ted Daniel added, "I'm sure if I had said I would go, then he would have gone all the way out there."
Sam Daniel holds a pair of harlequin ducks he brought home from a hunt at Kodiak Island, Alaska. It's just one pair the 80-year-old hunter has collected from across the continent the past 40 years. KELLY BOSTIAN / Tulsa World