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Steve Sutton Memories

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Steve Sutton Memories
Hey all,

I was wondering if y'all would be interested in helping me with something. I was down visiting Debby this weekend and I asked her about if she has thought anything about a memorial for Steve. She said she has, a little, but is overwhelmed with the entire process and is still overwhelmed with just getting through all the stuff that needs doing now so a memorial is kind of on the back burner. One of her sister-in-laws has been sort of nagging her about it and Debby is like....well you plan it and I'll be there. She said the venue would need to be a large venue just for the amount of family that he has and if anyone other than family showed up (which she thought was pretty low of very many people coming...I disagree but that's not important right now). She said that maybe at the one year mark for the timeframe, which she acknowledged would be a bad time of the year for people who hunt because that would be November. But it got me thinking.

She has kept all of the cards and notes that people have sent (she has some that she leaves out to look at that have pictures and little stories of Steve and the author) and it kind of gave me an idea. I was thinking that it might be nice to collect a bunch of pictures and stories from people who have hunted, fished, carved, just hung out with Steve and then I could take those and create a book for her so that she could be reminded of how many people liked/admired/loved him from all over the place.

I THINK the easiest way to go about this would be for people to post on this thread and then I could copy the stories and pictures from this thread into some sort of document. I can begin researching the best places to get a book like this made and what I have to do formatting wise so if anyone has ideas on this I would appreciate it. Part of why I think posting on this thread would be good would be because it would allow everyone to share some stories with each other. I know Debby had mentioned at one time perhaps two for family and one for his hunting/fishing/carving friends. I know she isn't up for planning two memorials any time soon. I have thought of taking the reins for the hunting/fishing/carving friends but I wouldn't know where to start, how well attended it might be and right now I'm a bit overwhelmed with things. So, in creating this thread it could be kind of a memorial for the hunting/fishing/carving community.

I know that Steve was not always politically correct and could be quite outrageous sometimes so if you have stories/pictures you would like to share that you don't feel should be posted in an online forum but wouldn't mind sharing with Debby, then you can email them to me at

If y'all think this is a good idea and would be open to me creating a book from y'alls stories to give to Debby then feel free to post stories and I'll begin looking for different publishing companies. I don't really have a deadline set in stone on this but since Debby mentioned that maybe at the one year mark, that would be November 13, 2020. I figure that if I had everything together by October 1, 2020 then I could probably get the book printed out for her and have it ready for the memorial service. That way if there is only one service and there are people who would like to come but can't make it for whatever reason, y'all are there in spirit.

So, I suppose here are the "rules":
  • One story per post please, makes it easier for me to find where I left off in saving all of the stories to one document.
  • At this point there is no limit on how many stories you wish to share or pictures you wish to post with the stories. I don't know what printing books cost but if it becomes super expensive, then folk with lots and lots and lots of stories (if there are people like that) will be asked to choose which ones they'd prefer to see printed. I don't really want to limit people in telling stories they think are worth remembering and sharing, but I have no clue how much something like this would cost.
  • At this point the deadline is September 1, 2020 for posting stories that will get put into the book. If people continue to post stories after that, maybe I can include them in the book but until I know how the book creation thing works I'd like to give myself a month for formatting and fixing punctuation stuff (like the insertion of question marks that should be something else).
  • The stories don't necessarily have to be hunting related. They can be carving related, fishing, lobster fests, carving shows, boat shows, outrageous things that made you laugh that he did, acts of kindness that really touched you....basically stories that y'all would like to share about Steve.

I would like to keep this thread here so that I'm not going all over the internet trying to collect stories for this project. Plus it gives me a gauge on how much interest there is in a project like this. If there isn't much interest, then I will move on from this idea. I know though there are people who posted in the original thread who do not visit often so if y'all know people who would possibly be interested in this, shoot them this threads link. They don't have to post here...they can email me at the email above if they would like. I just don't want stories posted all over the internet that I have to keep track of.

Sooooo I guess...are you guys interested in this?

Maybe Eric could make this a sticky if people are really on board with this.

And y'all please continue to keep Debby in your thoughts.

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Re: Steve Sutton Memories In reply to
I'll go first.

Steve could definitely tell stories but I think he was better at making gatherings more fun through his wit and willingness to be a spectacle. The first time we met he gave a hint of this, but it wasn't until we spent a week on Pool 9 hunting with the Mighty Layout Boys that I observed first hand just how he could turn a hunting trip into rolling laughter. On one morning of the hunt we decided to take a break from hunting Cans and target mallards instead. With the entire group lined up on the shore of an island a pair of mallards, the only ones we'd see all day, gave our spread of decoys a look. Just at the moment it looked like they were going to decoy Wes stepped on a stick making a loud cracking noise and the pair flaired with great urgency. Every member of our party went to the plug yet not so much as a feather was broken and the mallards kept on trucking. While everyone else was thinking "Damn, we blew it. We really blew it.", Steve, with his quick wit firing faster than I could ever dream of, jumped up and raised his fist at the two ducks and screamed "AND DON'T COME BACK!" Everyone bust out laughing as the mood immediately swung from disappointment and embarrassment to great laughter. I use that line every year with my son and his friends, and even though I can't deliver it like Steve, they laugh.

But on that trip I also learned something else about Steve. He could make you feel incredibly appreciated and wanted. This was the trip where I bagged my first ever Canvasback, from a layout with the Mighty Layout Boys no less. Within seconds of the bird being retrieved and me out of the layout Steve grabbed his camera and took a picture of me with a huge smile and the Canvasback proudly held in my hands. He had thought it all out and wanted to capture that moment for me. He knew more than I did at the time it would be something I'd cherish and with forethought he was ready. Back home a few weeks later I received a surprise letter in the mail. Included in the mail was the picture of me with my first can, and several more pictures taken with the tasteful touch Steve had for waterfowl photography. I never saw him take those pictures. He made certain to get the best quality pics he could without me having any idea. I really think Steve delighted in doing kind acts for friends, and that is how you make people feel special and appreciated. He was such a unique person.


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Eric Patterson: Mar 8, 2020, 10:49 AM
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Steve sure knew how to make an impression upon first meeting.

I was 21 years old when I first met Steve. I was still in college, probably overly suspicious of new people, painfully shy when meeting new people in person and Steve had invited me to go on a hunt with him and John Hitchcock. I "knew" Steve and Hitch from duckboats but this was going to be my first meeting in person. I told everyone I should that I was going to be driving three hours south, meeting two guys I'd never met before except through the internet in a McDonalds parking lot in the middle of the night so that we could go duck hunting. Now that doesn't have red flags written all over it does it?

I showed up at the parking lot and Steve was there waiting. I thought to myself, ooooohhhhhhh boy, what am I getting into? Here's a BIG guy that I met online but I talked myself out of the Pimp Mobile and I went over and introduced myself. Steve was nothing but kind and gracious. He even had a cup of coffee waiting for me that he bought in McDonalds. We small talked. Well, he small talked and I tried. He told me later it truly was painful for him watching me try, but I tried. I began relaxing a little more around him while we waited for Hitch. I was no longer imagining him as an axe murderer or something. When Hitch drove up we did more of the small talk and introductions for a short while and then we went to the boat ramp with the airboat.

I gotta say that riding an airboat through a marsh with cattails over your head, in the middle of the night, going 45 mph is a pretty exhilarating ride. We zoomed through the marsh, zoomed up the front side of multiple dikes, zipped down the back side of those dikes and I had a blast. We got out to where we were going to set up and we were in the middle of the marsh. I had NO CLUE where we were but Hitch was going to set us all out in little puddler boats and he'd hide the airboat. The thought of "hiding" an airboat at first to me was like HOW DO YOU HIDE AN AIRBOAT? It's monstrous. Well, we got out there with lots of time to spare, we put out decoys and two of the little puddler boats but for comfort we were going to sit in the airboat until much closer to shooting time.

It was a clear morning. The stars were incredible and there was so little light pollution that all we had really was moonlight and star light. And the occasional Qbeam when someone would get too close. We could hear the teal calling from time to time as the morning progressed. With all those stars though, Hitch and Steve began talking about space and then aliens. I thought initially "oh goody, a topic that I also find fascinating." I don't recall the particulars of the conversation but I do recall the alien tdiscussion getting weirder and weirder. I didn't really participate though Steve tried to draw me in. And it kept getting weirder and weirder.

And then it hit me once again only this time it was worse. I am out in the middle of the marsh and no clue what marsh or where in that unknown marsh. On a boat that at first seemed huge but began feeling really small. No way home except this boat. Two BIG guys now instead of one. I met them on the internet. And here they are talking about some really weird stuff. Am I going to make it home?!?!?!?

It seemed like a long wait for sunrise and we were FINALLY all split up into our boats with our own little wads of decoys in front of us. My relief was probably palpable when I was dropped off in my little boat. But we were still close enough to chat with each other. The birds began flying and I began relaxing as I was introduced to a kind of duck hunting I'd never before experienced: LOTS of ducks and what was essentially layout shooting. I think that hunt is responsible for cementing teal as being one of my favorite ducks ever. My fascination and awe with the morning won out over the thought of being trapped with two crazy guys in the middle of the marsh.

As the flight died down later in the morning, Steve really started trying to get me to participate in conversation and to relax more with them. He had his work cut out for him that morning for sure. He never gave up though: chatting and asking questions, gently teasing me, getting really goofy and making me laugh. I can't say I ever totally relaxed that first hunt but by the time we got back to the boat ramp I wasn't ready to hop in my car, peeling rubber as I left the two psychos in my rear view mirror. Steve had gone to great lengths to find the key to get me to relax and enjoy the day, at the same time showing me that meeting new people doesn't have to be terrifying. Despite my morning thoughts of horror of WHAT HAVE I GOTTEN MYSELF INTO, I was actually looking forward to the next time I would get to hunt with him and Hitch again...

I had no clue how my life would change because of the efforts that Steve took on that first hunt.
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Re: Steve Sutton Memories In reply to


I just noticed this posting and am pleased to contribute. I met Steve through my sons and their good friend Ira McCauley. I have several memories of my times with him. One time he came to our camp in Missouri with Worth Matthewson to hunt rails. During a slack time Matthewson decided to shoot some doves and came back with a couple of bluejays! He did write a great story about the rail shoot in Wildfowling magazine though but didn't mention the "dove hunt." And on another occasion Sutton came here to shoot a wild turkey with McCauley's then fledgling guide service, Habitat Flats. McCauley asked me to guide him. We selected a spot overlooking a good strutting field and sat shoulder to shoulder with our backs up against a big oak tree. After several hours of calling, a gobbler approached from my side. I tried my best to alert Sutton but he couldn't hear a damn thing. When the bird was in range I finally yelled at him, but he didn't react in time, the bird spooked, and I had to shoot him. I could go on and on.

In 2012 I wrote my duck-hunting memoirs in a book I called Duck Fever: Reflections on a Fifty-Year Addiction to Waterfowling. It is guaranteed to cure any insomnia one might have. In one of the last chapters I described my "Top Ten Duck Hunts." One was with Sutton on Puget Sound. The following is a transcript of that story:

I had hunted with Steve Sutton, from the Seattle area, on my first sea duck hunt on Penobscot Bay in 2001. He had organized the group hunt through an internet forum I occasionally frequented. Over time I got to know him pretty well. His intensity toward waterfowling rivals mine, and I found we share many of the same values. We both carve decoys. We both love waterfowling history and lore. We both have a goal to harvest all of the huntable North American waterfowl species. He allowed that if I could get to Puget Sound to hunt with him, he was confident I could fill in some more blanks, particularly the harlequin, greater scaup, and Barrow's goldeneye. During the Maine shoot I was able to bag several common eiders and one oldsquaw, but the surf scoters that some of the others shot, eluded me. Sutton assured me I would have chances at them, as well as the other scoters, during a hunt with him on his home grounds.

We had a Ducks Unlimited Conservation Programs Committee meeting scheduled in California during hunting season in January 2003. It would be a perfect time to hunt with Sutton on either side of the DU trip, if he was available. Fortunately he was and we booked it. I described the entire trip in detail in a previous chapter, "Road Trips II." The following are excerpts that describe those unforgettable hunts:

Sutton selected a point and, before anchoring, began deploying the decoy rig. Like Wasson [our guide in Maine], he preferred to do it solo. He had an ingenious system of buckets, long lines, and drop lines with special clips to attach the blocks. He could do it blindfolded. His rig consisted of a mixture of sea ducks (surf scoters) and divers (goldeneyes), all either handmade or hand-painted.

The stool looked great. As the sun began to burn the fog off, I got my first look at the surroundings. It was not as pristine as I had imagined. Penn Cove is ringed with beautiful homes, mostly on top of the steep hills above the sea.

Our objective for the day was variety rather than quantity. Sutton had really nailed the spot and we had a perfect hunt. The following is the entry in my Hunting Log:

"Put Steve's 20' boat in at Coupeville ramp. Followed Ben Welton out & set up on nice point. Fog didn't help, but a few birds flew all day. Great variety, mostly pass-shooting. Great day for me getting scoters & harlequin. Steve is a great shooting partner & his Lab, Buddy, is the best mannered dog I've seen. I thought we shot pretty well, losing only one cripple. Neat decoy rig, E. Allen scoters, cork goldeneyes."

We stayed out all day in Sutton's comfortable boat. At the end of the day, I had harvested two surf scoters, two whitewing scoters, one harlequin (all personal firsts), one greater scaup (probably a personal first) and one common goldeneye. Sutton bagged three skunkheads, one whitewing, one harlequin and one Barrow's goldeneye. I had never seen harlequins before. Both of ours were drakes and they are absolutely gorgeous, rivaling the wood duck for best-looking honors. The day could not have been better for me. Sutton's friend, Worth Mathewson, wrote a good book; Waterfowling: Best Days. This was certainly one of mine.

We turned in early and, having bagged our harlequins, planned to return to Penn Cove in the morning. All I needed was a Barrow's goldeneye, and maybe a black scoter, to round out my Puget Sound Grand Slam. It was colder this day. There was no fog, but only a light wind. Sutton selected a spot he called "The Stairs" for our set up. He announced he would concentrate on spotting for me, especially for Barrows. It kind of put the pressure on! Here is what I wrote in my Hunting Log:

"Since I got my harlequin yesterday, we went back to Penn Cove after goldeneyes today. No fog, but fewer ducks. We moved once after seeing no ducks at first set up near mussel pens. Steve let me do the shooting & I killed about everything that came by. I did miss at the first bunch of Barrows, but redeemed myself on a single later?a beautiful specimen. Steve is a great guy to hunt with. Great time here."

Having achieved our goal, we picked up in mid-afternoon for the return to Seattle. Sutton invited me to spend the night at his home, but having booked an early morning flight to Sacramento, I elected to get a hotel room near the airport. This had been a truly remarkable hunt?one I will never forget. We saved a few birds for mounting, but they were lost in transit and never caught up with me. They are probably long gone now, but I sure wish I had that harlequin and Barrows as a reminder of this awesome road trip.

This experience includes many of the elements you would expect to find on a "Top Ten" hunt, camaraderie, considerable effort, a beautiful setting, working birds, good shooting, and excellent dog work. The thing that distinguishes this one for me is the fact that we had set pretty specific objectives in terms of the species we were targeting, and in almost every case were successful. I harvested several personal firsts including the harlequin, Barrows, greater scaup, surf and white winged scoters, an incredible feat, "Top Ten" for me for sure!

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Jeff Churan: Mar 23, 2020, 1:45 PM
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Re: Steve Sutton Memories In reply to
Jeff, Really enjoyed your post about hunting with Steve in Washington. However I need to correct one thing: During the sora rail hunt in Missouri we did go out after doves. There were next to none around. So to pass the time I shot something else. It wasn't blackbirds! I shot two blue jays. I thought that like crows they were not protected. I wanted them for the feathers. I had a good friend who tied flies and I had brought him back jay feathers from my trips to Scotland. I think they are used in a pattern for salmon. At any rate, it had been a few years since I had given him feathers, so decided to see if the feathers from our jay would work. Can't remember now, but think they did. After I had shot the two Ira walked down to see what I was shooting at as there were no doves around. He told me that our jays are protected, and I felt embarrassed. But again, the feathers came back to Oregon with me. Hope you get that boss gobbler! Worth
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Re: Steve Sutton Memories In reply to
Thanks for correcting me Worth. I corrected the story.

Our gobblers are not fired up yet.

I hope all is well on your end. It's all good here.


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Jeff Churan: Mar 23, 2020, 1:47 PM
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Like others, I experienced Steve's passion for bird hunting and his exuberance for life. My story is a little different than others and the shenanigans happened online. I first "met" Steve online in a different waterfowling forum. On that forum we were not required to use our real names or identify ourselves. So no one really knew who the others were unless you met and shared your avatar name. I gradually figured out who "Thor" was, but because of my job I was pretty good about hiding my identity(ies) online. We had never met even though we both lived in Washington and both knew mutual hunting buddies. We engaged in numerous threads about various topics and generally had a lot of fun discussing migratory bird hunting, decoys, and whatever. Steve's passion and deep knowledge was obvious and permeated his posts. He shared lots of banter, pictures and great stories about hunts. Generally, I found him pretty good at sharing his knowledge with other hunters. I usually posted either straight facts or explained the biology/regulations/rationale for managing migratory birds hunting. But one time Steve was wrong in such a big way and posted a great story with pictures that I felt I had to correct him before other hunters decided to do what he had done. Yeah, I know the proverbial internet game cop.....but I felt I had to call him out. Steve had come back from one of the other flyways with tales of the great rail hunting and how underutilized the rail resource in the Pacific Flyway was. He went rail hunting in some marshes up in the Puget Sound area and shot a fine bag of rails. He photo documented his hunt and wrote a fine story about and posted it up on the forum. He was encouraging others to get out and hunt and was planning another hunt soon. Well, one small problem that I felt I should share with Steve----Rail hunting is illegal in the Pacific Flyway! Yeah, there are no rail bird seasons in Washington or any of the other states in the Flyway. Long story short, but there are 2 endangered subspecies of rails in the Flyway and no tradition of hunting rail birds here. So I posted up to explain it all to Steve (and the other readers of the forum) and suggested that he might want to take down that post despite his fine writing and photography since it documented an illegal harvest. It took me and a few others a few posts to convince Steve that he had done wrong. So what did Steve do? Did he take down the post? Did he protest that we had called him out? Did he get mad that he had egg on his face or rails on his breath? No. He posted the regulations and admitted that he had been wrong. And then he marched down to the local Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife office and turned himself in as guilty of committing this crime. I don't remember what if any punishment was bestowed upon him but it is my recollection that they pretty much brushed it off because he came in with pictures and confessed. I'm not sure that any of us would do as he did, but he fessed up and was prepared to pay the price.

Now since that time Steve gradually figured out who was behind that avatar and asked me once and I admitted it. We laughed about it and it was always a joke. While we never hunted together, we met at various occasions and shared hunting information freely. When he moved to Florida, I bought a bunch of decoys and stick ups from his brant rig and a few of the scaup and canvasbacks that he carved for my rig. He also placed on permanent loan several decoys that were carved for him and given to him as gifts. He said he couldn't agree to sell them because they were gifts but as long as he could come hunt over them with me, he would let me store them for him.

Steve also was very generous with information about hunting once he moved. We were planning on having a beer this past September when were both in Montana chasing sharptails, but the hurricane delayed his departure from Florida. But we shared many texts and photos about our exploits and fighting rains, rattlesnakes and low birds numbers. We texted the night before he died and he was giving me suggestions on his old stomping grounds in eastern Washington. Once again he was sharing his knowledge and passion. Vaya con Dios Steve.

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Brad Bortner: Apr 10, 2020, 9:43 PM
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I met Steve about 20 years ago through Bill Kell which was my carving mentor at the time. Steve and I talked and emailed regulary about decoy carving and chasing ducks during those first years of our relationship. Barry, Steve's brother, invited me to go hunt Washington state sea ducks with he and Steve, one winter, which turned out to be a very memorable trip. Steve picked us up in Seattle and said we would be hunting Puget Sound for Scoters, Harlequin and Barrows Golden Eye, so we would have a good drive ahead of us, and would need to spend the night somewhere along the way. I had visions of a comfortable warm bed in a cheap hotel. We ended up sleeping in a WAL - MART PARKING LOT. I wasn't sure of what I had gotten myself into. Arriving at the boat ramp, I realized that I was not in Alabama anymore. It was cold. So cold that the salt water had frozen.We put his center consoled, jet drive boat in the frozen salt water and pulled it off the trailer. Steve said the steering is a little tight this morning and proceed to force the steering wheel to one side. This force caused the steering cable to actually break. Imagine being two hours from anywhere on a Sunday with a broken steering cable. We managed to find a marina open two hours south of us at which we became our own mechanics and made the repair in record time. Day two, we launch the boat in the frozen salt water and headed straight. We needed to turn right by the big rock point he said. At 30 mph Steve turns the steering wheel right, and the boat went LEFT. I laugh as I remember the confusion and chaos. Thankfully we did not get thrown out of the boat. We had put the steering cable on backwards. We spent the rest of that trip navigating with a boat that went the opposite way that we thought it should go. I laughed more on that trip than ever. I harvested my first see ducks including my Harlequin, shot my Barrows, and saw seals pop up in our decoys. I saw my first black tail deer, first black bear, and a sunrise that will never be seen in sweet home Alabama. That trip set off a life long friendship that is unlike any other. Steve and I could love each other and be angry with each other and love each other again in a two minute span. We hunted ducks, geese and snipe together in Washington and Alabama. We fished together, carved together, and loved life together. We vacationed together, bread dogs together, cooked together and sang songs together. He taught my boys to sing "I like to go swimming with bow legged women" at an early age. He had an influence on my entire family. I am thankful for the time together and memories made or trying to be made. We once spent five days trying to watch a rocket launch at Cape Canecral that never happened until the day after we left. I miss sharing baby turtle pictures with him and getting pictures of nesting sea turtles in return. Little things that are not cherished until it is to late. Love the people around you. 1 corinthians 13.
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Re: Steve Sutton Memories In reply to
Steve abhorred rust with a passion. It aggravated him greatly. It was always a source of amusement for him but also great aggravation that I am a rust magnet. For the longest time he would joke that he wouldn't even let me look at his fancy "twice barrel" except from afar because he was afraid that my just looking at it would cause it to begin rusting.

Because he detested rust so much, he tended to buy expensive tools that would be rust or corrosion resistant. Fishing pliers: he would buy nice aluminum or titanium ones. He frequently bought two of everything because one was often missing when you really needed it. And because he detested rust so much, he would refuse to use my pliers while fishing for fear of tainting his tools with my rust juju.

Steve and I had gone on a fishing trip one weekend. While we were out on the first morning, we got into a monstrous school of Spanish Mackerel. They were just on fire. They were hitting all of our little silvery Yozuri lures that we had. We didn't expect to be fishing for Spanish Mackerel so our leaders were just flouro line. As a result, a number of fish made off with our lures. For over an hour it was nonstop action. We would throw our lines out and we had fish on! It was one of the most exciting and fun days of fishing I've ever had. We easily caught over a hundred Spanish Mackerel, the smallest no smaller than 20". When we were down to only a couple of lures left between us, Steve quit fishing mostly and just would take fish off the line for me, release the fish, check my line for tears and wait for the next cast so that he could take that fish off the line for me. If I lost my lure then he would replace it and check the knot. At the time I had a tendency to tie poor knots so he took pity on me so that I wasn't losing lures to poorly tied knots AND toothed critters. I had a blast reeling in the fish, dancing in my excitement that I caught yet another fish and couldn't wait to catch another. They were big enough to be lots of fun to fight and small enough that they weren't ever "work" to reel in.

As I said, Steve detests rust and would refuse to use my pliers always favoring his own. Well, after working the fish over pretty good we had a great and efficient system down. I'd cast, fish would bite, I'd fight the fish, Steve would grab the fish, remove the lure, toss the fish out, check my line for frays, toss my lure out, I would reel in the line, cast the lure out and bring in another fish for him to dehook for me. Spanish Mackerel have wicked teeth so Steve would use his pliers to help remove the hooks from the fish. We were running along in our fish catching and releasing program and I was down to the last lure. Steve was taking extra care with the line and was retying the line whether he could feel frays or not after every four or five fish just to be safe. It was a quick, fun, wet, slimy process and we were having the time of our lives. I reeled in a fish and he was going through the whole routine when he dehooks my fish and throws his pliers out into the water instead of releasing the fish!

The look on his face was priceless! I was laughing as he looked at his hand full of fish and his other hand empty of pliers. "Well that was stupid" he said as he joined me in laughing at himself. He wasn't totally amused by it though as he did like to buy quality tools and quality tools aren't cheap. My pliers were on hand from when I had been taking care of my own fish and he turned his nose up at my pliers when I offered them to him as he bit off the line to the lure and retied the knot on fresh line for me. As soon as he was done, he rummaged for his second pair of good pliers and he was back to happy again. I cast my lure to the mob of fish, hooked another, had fun bringing my fish up to the boat, got it boatside, Steve brought the fish on board, used the pliers to remove the hook and then proceeded to release the pliers to swim another day in the great wide ocean! Twice in a row he was left with a fish in his hands instead of his fancy, expensive, nice pliers! The shock on his face! He was speechless for the first few seconds after he realized what he had done! AGAIN!!!

Once his brain kicked in though, he had a lot to say on the subject and I found great amusement in what all he had to say.

The good thing was Steve didn't let that ruin the incredible day we had had. He also had what seems to me to be a unique ability to know how to laugh at himself, even when he was aggravated with himself. He still refused to use my pliers (though they did get put on the console), I was down to our last lure and the fish were beginning to turn off so we headed back in to go find some beer, new pliers (which weren't so expensive and a float was added as well) and look for bait or new lures. We did stop along the way to look at sea turtles and watch the occasional tarpon jump when it got hooked. But all I had to do was see my pliers sitting on the console in the seat of honor for his tools and I would start laughing all over again.

Every trip out with him was an adventure.


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Dani: Jul 20, 2020, 11:20 AM
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Re: Steve Sutton Memories In reply to

God bless you for assembling this work. Steve was near and dear to so many of us. Here is my submission.

The one and only Steve Sutton

The internet can be a wonderful thing. Many friendships are forged. I heard about a website for boat builders called From this excellent page, many great friendships were borne.
First off, I was struck by the wisdom the participants shared. One Steve Sutton was certainly a stand out. His vast knowledge was immediately apparent, and his willingness to share such knowledge spoke to his generous heart.

My business, the Mighty Layout Boys, was founded on With the support of the members on Duckboats... Steve, in particular, we created a webpage with Duckboats contributor, Sean Peters. In short order, and on our page, I got the idea to start holding "Conventions" in North America and Canada. These were simply hunting trips to various waterfowling meccas. Anyone was welcome to join the fun. In particular, Steve Sutton joined us on trips to Pool 9 on the Mississippi River, hunts across Washington State, and Lake Manitoba.

If ever the expression "Larger than life" fit an individual, it applied to Steve. He was a gentleman, a scholar, a comedian, and a person that you wanted to be a friend of. And on that note, he was always willing to make a new friend. On the Trip to Pool 9 to witness and hunt the single largest concentration of Canvasback ducks anywhere on the Earth, we spent several glorious days and nights, both hunting, and reliving the hunt over dinner.

A fascinating thing about Steve was his uncanny knowledge of all things Waterfowl. I thought I knew a lot, but I often went to Steve for what I knew would be the best advice. One particular day while layout hunting Cans on Pool 9, Steve and I were sitting in the boat that tended to the gunner in the layout boat. We were both discussing what the appeal of this stretch of water was to the most regal of Ducks... the Canvasback. Obviously food was the greatest draw. The Latin name for Canvasback is Aythya valisineria. This name was selected by Scientists to best describe this Duck by the food it feeds most exclusively on, which is Wild Celery. The Latin name for this emergent plant is Valisineria Americana (Wild Celery). It grows in profusion in this stretch of the Mississippi River. Most of the Canvasbacks that are bred in the Prairie Pothole region of Canada stop in these waters to feed, rest, and strenghen themselves as they migrate down the Flyway. Steve and I were in a serious conversation about all things Canvasback when I saw a tendril of Wild Celery floating near the boat. I pulled it from the water, examined it, and took a bite of it. Steve watched me intently, reached over the side of the boat, grabbed a shoot of the same Plant, and ate it as well. Without saying a word, we both wished to know more of this "King of Ducks".

And that is how I best remember Steve. Could he entertain a large group of people with is tremendous wit and charm? Of course. Would he take the time to laboriously type out an answer (always correct) to anyone on a Waterfowling page, regarding a question they had? Without fail. But it was his insatiable desire to LEARN that is what impressed me the most about this Man among Men. As I said earlier, I am honored to be on the list of people that Steve Sutton called "Friend".
Mark Rongers

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Re: Steve Sutton Memories In reply to
Im not a great writer, but I did have one pretty incredible hunt with Steve. Steve wanted to come over and Hunt the Pend'Oreille river with me in the Northeast corner of Washington. It was late December. He drove cross the state in snow storm. I offered to let him stay at my house, but he got hotel right off the river. He brought over a BBSB, Fatboy DP, and 3 dz cork and wood decoys. We met at the hotel and he followed me to the ramp. The first ramp was completely frozen in. There was no way we could launch there. We went upstream to another ramp, about 2 miles further from where we were planning to hunt. We get there and I tell him that where we re going to hunt is now bout 6-7 miles north of us and we should just take my boat. Steve wouldn't do it. He wanted a picture of his BBSB and those decoys on the PO in the snow. We set out in the snow, Steve following along behind me. When we got about half mile above the first rampthe wind hit. We kept going. Its getting worse, and I look back and Steves light is not behind me anymore. It is way back and far east of where it should be. I head back and I find Steve standing in the water nearly straight across from where we started our morning. His Fatboy is upside down and nearly all of the decoys have blown away in the wind. I beach my boat and wade out to help Steve. Now Im only 5'8" and I think Steve was at least 6'2" He wants help pushing the Fatboy up out of the water and up onto the shelf ice so it can be emptied out and dragged to shore. Easy for him to say, I'm within 2" of filling my waders, its windy and snowing and I just couldn't push that boat up any higher. We worked at that until we got it on the ice, got all 3 boats to the shore and by now its getting light. I headed back out to look for decoys, spent 2 hours I think going up and down the river finding scattered decoys. I have hunted that river for 20 years or more. That was by far the worst wind I have seen up there. It was rough, my 16 ft Vhull was about t its limit. In the end, I think I recovered all but about 3 decoys. The wind eventually died down, so I took Steve north on the river to where we had planned to hunt. There was huge flock of Divers, Scaup, Redheads, Cans and Wigeon. We headed back to the launch and planned to hunt the next day. Before I had even gotten home, Steve called and canceled. He was headed back to Settle for work. So he spent at least 10 hrs driving, 2 days of time, didn't fire shot, swamped boat in below freezing temperatures and lost a few hand carved decoys to get picture he didnt get. Told me later he still had fun and would try again another time. I went the next day, and shot easy 7 bird limit of Redheads, Scaup and Wigeon.

The other thing about Steve is that he would turn up in all kinds of strange places. I ran into him and Dani out hunting in Eastern Washington, in the middle of absolutely no where. It was early season, hot, dry, dusty. We were hunting pheasants. As we are driving out, we go by a truck, and I tell my stepdad, I know that guy! Steve and Dani were taking a break from pheasant hunting by the side of the "road". Ive never seen another vehicle on there before or since.
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My good friendship with Steve came to a rather abrupt end. Can't remember the exact circumstances, but revolved around a heated dispute between Steve and Dave Hagerbaumer. That was followed by a donabrook between Steve and some key members of the Washington Brant Foundation, which was more than a shame as Steve played a major role in the formation of that organization.
Actually I had no dog in either fight. But aside from my wife, Marge, I considered Dave as the best friend I ever had. Therefore, from the sidelines, I backed Dave. That apparently irritated Steve, and he ruled me as one of the enemy. I couldn't help but notice he placed all my books he had for sale on this site's classified section.
But there were happier times! I first heard from Steve in a nice letter he mailed me while I was with Wildfowl Magazine. Along with the letter he sent me a number of photographs. I sent these along to Dave Hagerbaumer and we both agreed that Steve was certainly a highly skilled waterfowler. From there things got better. Steve was remarkably helpful in selling my books to other members of this site. He once brought a noted wildfowler from England by my house for a visit.
During a time Marge and I hunted turkeys in southern Oregon a couple of years Steve hunted the same ranch. He and the guide he used would stop by our camp after the morning hunt to talk. There was more or less competition between us over who shot the biggest gobbler.
But the thing I most owe Steve for is that he included me in a sora rail hunt in Missouri. That hunt had more historical value than nearly any other hunt I have done. And it was outstanding!
Aside from the rail hunt I was only with Steve once more. But we didn't hunt together, were just on the same bay. The bay was Willapa in Washington. We were hunting black brant. Steve was with Ben Welton and another fellow. All three had Barnegats.
I had my scull boat. They launched at a boat ramp at the lower end of the bay. That required about a two mile run up bay to where the brant were.
I used oars for my scull boat and didn't want to row that distance. So I drove up to Oysterville and put the boat in off the beach. It was high tide and the water was like glass. The brant were out at about a half mile. I rowed out to them and it was all very simple. I made a short scull and shot my two birds. Under most conditions sculling brant is very easy. Almost not fair chase.
I took my time coming back to shore and enjoying the day. At the oyster plant at Oysterville I got a pint of small oysters, some hot sauce and a quart of beer. The day couldn't have been more wonderful! Then I started the drive back to Oregon.
But on the way past the boat ramp I pulled in and put a number of brant feathers under the windshield wipers on Steve's truck.
About the time I reached the bridge over the Columbia River into Oregon the weather changed like flipping a switch. It suddenly grew almost inky dark with a gale force wind. Willapa Bay is dangerous, and I remember thinking that I hoped Steve and the others were not still on it.
As I learned later, they were. The storm came up so quickly they were caught by surprise. They almost left the decoys.
Steve told me that it was a total nightmare trying to come in. Steve and the other fellow had spray shields on their boats. Ben Welton didn't. He came very close to swamping totally, and the boat was more than half full of water when reaching the boat ramp. Steve also told me good naturedly that finding the brant feathers on his truck was about the last thing they wanted to see that day.
As mentioned, I had some good years being in touch with Steve, and have always felt badly that things ended as they did.
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Re: Steve Sutton Memories In reply to
Back in the mid to late 90?s, forums were the rage. The internet was fairly new and was about the only thing that I knew how to find! Anyone who was a frequent participant couldn?t help but notice the big online personality of Sutton. He was a really knowledgeable guy about a variety of topics and really knew his stuff on about everything waterfowl. And, he damn sure wasn?t scared to let his opinion be known!

As others have mentioned, Steve and Worth came for a small game slam hunt. We poled Schupp?s railboat and shot and threw tennis balls and killed Blue Jays and got drunk.. Schupp killed 2 bucks with his truck at the same time in my cloud of dust on the way to the teal hunting spot one morning. The backstraps were good!

Sutton recounted the story about crossing the border coming back from Canada to the US. The agent asked him if he had anything to declare. Being the eternal smartass, Steve said, ?I?d like to declare that my wife has a nice ass!? The agent told him to pull over and put him in solitary detainment?. Surely Steve was trading jabs here and there and those guys don?t take that lightly?. Things went downhill and Steve wanted to call a Politician back in Washington to try to help him out. He said, they made it very clear that there was no jurisdiction over them. They demanded that he consent to a full body cavity search and he would be freed. Or, he could decline and at the end of 24 hours, they would perform a full body cavity search anyhow. In comes Dr. Hugehands and the search was performed- thoroughly. It was all ?yes sir and Ma?am from there? and let that be a lesson to us all!!

Another time, Sutton came turkey hunting with me and we started off in KS. Back then, we would just crawl in a sleeping bag and wrap up in a tarp at night somewhere near the hunting location. We were hunting out of my big boat on public ground. The first night was super cold and the next morning we took about a 1.5 mile ride across the upper end of a KS reservoir to get to our spot. We called in a pair of gobbling jakes and the wind REALLY started to blow.. I decided that we better get going and the lake had 5 footers with sea smoke blowing off the tops?. No way we were going to try that. On, on our 3 mile hike out, we sat down in a good location and I called as hard as I could in the 60 mph straight line winds. A resounding crash of a huge cottonwood tree was not the response that I was hoping for. Sutton looked at me and said ?if we are sitting here for my sakes- I vote we run!? We spent the night on a riverbank and had one close the next morning, but Steve couldn?t see him. That afternoon he closed it out with a double right by our sandbar camp- see photo. Several times during that trip, Steve said, ?you know the other name for turkey hunting, right?? I replied no. He reported ?taking your gun for a walk!?

Another story that he would deliberate on from time to time was that he was not a perfect man and that bothered him. I?d ask if he wanted to talk about it and he would start in?. Well, you know, I?m smart. And, I?m damn good looking. Im charming, athletic, etc?. I guess one of these days I?ll have them cut those extra 3? off my pecker so that I don?t have to be bothered by that anymore!

I cherish the Rail decoys and a clock that he made for me. Steve was right. He was talented and smart?. I don?t need to know about the 3??..

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I never got to meet Steve, we were just friends through this page and email. When he stopped posting on the page, I kind of left too. One of my memories of Steve was he shared a recipe of coot marinade sandwiches.... I had know idea what a coot was because I hadn?t seen any In my area. So I looked it up, and it was a funny looking bird.

Coot marinade sandwiches sounded as good to me so I tried the marinade on some bufflehead.... well it didn?t taste good an I knew from that point on Steve had an incredible sense of humor.

Another time we were talking about duck calls, and I mentioned that I was using the shaker call, but removed the rubber portion of the call. Well Steve?s quick wit just got all over that and made the connection to a horses dong. He implied that I must have been ok calling ducks through the working end of a horse dong... to this day I laugh my ass of because I still have that call... but hardly ever use it now.

How can I miss a man I never met? Well Today, I found out it?s possible.

Proud to be a DHBP Member Cool
Shoot them in the lips!
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Re: Steve Sutton Memories In reply to
Well I am hearing all this for the first time now. Very sad to hear. I discovered this site in the mid 90's. Steve posts where ones that I always enjoyed reading especially when he made fun of Torrey! While I never met Steve we corresponded a fair amount in those early years. I was fortunate that after college I got to work on many of the estuaries in N. CA to WA and we would compare notes. He sent me a couple Wild Fowl issues when I asked about an article he was talking about and never asked for a thing in return. I am now up in Willapa and will think of him when the brant return.
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I told Dani I would do this quite a while back and I am a bit behind in collecting my thoughts.
Like many here I never met Steve in person. But back in the beginning he really stood out. When I discovered this board I was a new husband and a soon to be father. Trying to explain to your wife why you have the house gutted for a remodel and no sheet rock up on the walls...... BUT a brand new KARA framed up in what was to become a living room was all part of the Wild West of the early internet and Wives were not the only ones who found parts of this whole new information technology to be less than perfect. Many of us had to learn the hard way what was alright and what was not. Some took a long time to figure it out. Many friendships were made. But not all were long lasting. Strong opinions and personalities often got the best of us.
But one thing was clear. This board took on a huge number of participants who were passionate about Waterfowl and Boats. Steve was no exception. And like many he had strong opinions. Many of which were based on hard won experience or extensive research. These type of board members stood out. I did not get to the early meet ups with my new family. But did manage to meet in person quite a few of the MA, RI and CT guys. We all were here for the information being shared.
Steve always provided information in high quality and with really clear detailing. It was his way, do it to the best of his ability.
As the board and board life heated and cooled with the ebb and flow of the seasons people came and went.
But I always looked forward to a good post from Steve. And I still have on a drive somewhere a copy of that photo of the Barnegats out on the Columbia loaded down with hand carved blocks, grassed up for a hunt.
I really loved the BBSB Hank Garvy built and I believe Steve had a matching boat.
Both used theirs to the fullest.
I came to really see a different side of Steve as Eric came to a point in his life that he needed a rest from the "Work" that a hobby web page requires. Many of us used and enjoyed the board. But Steve dove in and did his best to keep it from vanishing. I can only imagine the "Back End Stories" that Eric and Steve's Wife Debbi could tell about all the adventures that must have been a part of that. But after a solid time of some really great content being created it appeared to be coming to an end for Steve as a moderator. I had a few PM's with him over the years but all small stuff. Even so, I knew how much this all had meant to him from reading his many posts over the years.
Because I was so grateful for his service to a board that had been so helpful to me I hatched a plan for a tribute. Knowing how much Steve loved ML Bob's carving and how close he was with Dani I reached out to them and Eric first. A private message chain was created to raise funds for a Decoy carved by Bob as a tribute to Steve's Moderator service. I chose a Black Duck as Steve had commented on Bob's birds before and I believe I remember him having hunted them in NJ. I also felt it was a perfect fit for a BBSB rig(Even if they were not in the Flyway on the West coast where Steve was at that time).
When it was finished we presented that decoy to Steve. I remember waiting for that package delivery like a kid waits for Christmas.
This is where the story gets personal for me. I received a hand written note from Steve and no less than 4 phone calls where we talked like old friends about that bird and the boats and hunts we loved. Being out of season Steve made a promise to hunt that decoy, just as it should be for a working bird. On cue the next season a detailed post showed up on the board of a hunt in WA with that decoy and the birds that made their way into the spread.
Like too many things in life I never made good on getting to hunt with Steve and his Black Duck. But I always bring my Two Favorite Black ducks on my hunts now no matter what we are hunting or where. Its a reminder to stay the coarse and keep your commitments to those that mean a lot to you.
I, like many, never thought I would have the chance to hunt with Steve taken away. I can only imagine the stories we might have shared over our Black Duck Decoys that meant so much to us.
I hope that bird is in some rig or on a mantle and it is bringing as much joy to whoever has it now, as it did to me and Steve.
Thank you Bob for your amazing art, Dani for keeping the memory alive, and Steve's Wife Debbi for sharing him with all of us.
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Hey y'all, I didn't know whether to post this on the sticky up top or do a fresh post....wasn't sure who all would see it up there and I wanted to give an update to the site on the book so I decided on a fresh post, though I will add the same info to the book sticky up top. A huge thanks to Jeff Churan because he helped me through the whole publishing process. He made it very easy on me!

I got it finished and it is published through Amazon. It was a pretty simple process for publishing with them. I am pretty pleased with how it turned out. Initially, I had the price set super high because I really didn't do this to make any money. After talking with Eric, he mentioned that some of the contributors of the book might like their own copy so I dropped the price to something quite reasonable in case they wanted their own copy. Here is the link to the book:

Debby wasn't home to receive her book on the 13th but it was there waiting for when she got home. She really loved it. She was very appreciative of all who shared memories with her.

A huge thanks again to Jeff and to everyone who contributed stories (both stickies contained stories and memories of some kind so I believe there were close to 30 or so contributors to the book).

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Thanks for the link Dani, although having never met Steve, I am looking forward to reading the memories that been shared in the book.

All the best this season and the upcoming holidays.

"Pass the Tradition Along"