EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the third of a three-part series about the Jimmie Ridge Hunting Club.
Clear skies, no wind and an inch of ice was the picture painted by Mother Nature for our second day at Jimmie Ridge. During the night, the temperature had dropped into the teens. Jim Roskelley’s decision to hunt a different blind, break up the ice and hunt over only goose decoys would turn out to be a wise choice.
Declaring a no-fly day, the ducks, fighting to keep the water open, rafted together in great numbers on the nearby refuge. The only exception was a lone black mallard that became our first and only duck kill of the morning. As the sun climbed, small groups of Canada geese began traveling from the refuge to dry grain fields and Jim suggested our opportunity to be successful would be when the big birds headed back to the sanctuary of Crane Lake. Again, his observation would be “right on,” as in the next hour we would get our chance to score.
A group of five noisy honkers responded to our pleas and headed, wings set, toward the icy decoy spread. The two closest Canadas fell stone dead and we stared in amazement as the other three frantically headed skyward. Either we had all taken aim on the same birds or we simply missed.
No sooner had the two geese been retrieved than another larger group headed in our direction. However, these birds were more leery, making several passes before Roskelley whispered, “guys, you better try ’em.” The team managed to knock down three honkers out of the sky, actually the only three within 12-gauge range. “Better shoot that cripple,” someone cried, “or you’ll need a pair of ice skates for the fetch.” The job was immediately accomplished. To be honest, harvesting five geese and a black duck far exceeded my expectations, considering the frozen water situation and overall weather conditions.
As quickly as our action began, it came to a screeching halt. The sky was clear blue and void of any waterfowl. At that point, our group began the usual exchange of hunting stories to fill the void and entertain. Each hunter spun his best yarn, hoping to outdo his buddies. When it came to Jim Roskelley’s turn, it was “game over.” “Ol’ timers swear it’s true,” began Jim, “and they have passed it along to each generation and anyone else who would listen.” His tale went something as follows:
During the Prohibition era when mobster Al Capone was “King of Chicago,” he and his henchmen would travel to the Illinois Valley for a combination of business, pleasure and duck shooting. A historic home still standing in Bath was said to be headquarters for the gangster and his guests when they were in the Grand Island and Crane Lake area. After a day’s hunt, ol’ Scarface would assemble his pals atop Jimmie Ridge for a photo shoot. They would be pictured holding their guns and daily kill along with Al’s bodyguards standing among the group cradling Thompson submachine guns. Legend further declares that two federal game wardens sent one day to investigate the Capone party were never seen or heard from again.
Jim concluded his story by stating that an exhaustive search for a photo of a Capone hunt has thus far been unsuccessful. Either they were destroyed or like so much historical evidence have been lost to time. However, the search will continue. His tale of Al Capone left the party spellbound until the silence was finally broken when Jim suggested, “You boys ready to head in and have some food?” All hands were raised in total agreement and hunters with gear and game were packed on the ATVs for the ride to headquarters. We would relive the morning before departing, the memory lingering in our minds.
After lunch, Don and I thanked Dave, Randy and Jim for the hunt and the hospitality and the group awarded Jim “Best Story of the Season.” As we loaded the truck for our trip home, I asked Jim if he thought the legend of Jimmie Ridge was fact or fiction. With a broad smile, he replied, “I really don’t know for sure, but I always seem to win the tall tale contest. Thanks for coming, guys.”