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Windham: Remembering an old friend

Windham: Remembering an old friend

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Windham: Remembering an old friend

This photo was taken a short time before Fred Werkmeister was involved in a vehicle crash that left him paralyzed from the chest down. My “regular” group of hunting/fishing/camping buddies had met to see if we could shoot down a drone. We did, several times! Wermeister eventually had a bit too much lead on the drone and damaged some critical components. Of course, we ribbed Werkmeister about ruining our fun for the day. Werkmeister can be seen here holding the “dead” drone with his prize money. I don’t remember what we had for prize money, but there must have been a good reason. Fred Werkmeister was a “one-of-a-kind guy. We’ll miss you in camp, Brother.

I hope everyone has gotten their 2022 off to a good start. Colder temperatures may benefit hunters. It has brought more waterfowl into the area. Remember too that turkey season is still going, the late anterless deer season has another week to go and the recent snowfall makes small game hunting a lot of fun.

I had a downer tossed at me Christmas day. Fred Werkmeister, a long time friend and hunting/fishing companion, died. Werkmeister was a regular part of my camps for years and added a lot of wisdom and cheerfulness. Fred was just fun to be around.

Werkmeister was in a very serious vehicle accident a few years back and that accident left him paralyzed from the chest down. He had some movement in his arms, but very little strength. Even with his injuries, Werkmeister still loved the outdoors and especially shooting. For the last couple of years he had been working on a highly customized Ruger 10-22 target rifle that he would shoot from a custom built rest attached to his wheelchair.

A flood of memories from past trips and camps came back with Werkmeister’s passing. I relived a turkey hunt where we only used Winchester 101 shotguns. I thought about prairie dogging in northern Dawson County. One great wiper fishing trip at Elwood Reservoir flashed back to me. One of the stories that brought the most immediate chuckles was a drone shoot I had with Werkmeister.

It was maybe 10 years back when drones were just becoming part of the outdoors vernacular. There were cases of groups like PETA using drones to harass hunters. The town of Deer Trail, Colorado, tried to cash in on this and wanted to issue drone hunting permits for a small fee. I know a couple guys who sent off their money and now have an official drone hunting permit. I thought we needed to have an actual drone hunt here in North Platte, so I asked Kent Elmshauser to build a RC plane we could shoot down. Elmshauser is one of those people who can build anything.

The day finally came when we were ready to test our wing shooting skills against the drone. We met at Golden Point Ranch, east of town. Werkmeister, Rodney and Roger Aden of Gothenburg, Tom and Larry Golden and I discussed how we would do this. Elmshauser pointed out that we did not want to hit the main servos, radio receiver or battery, located in the forward part of the drone, if we wanted to shoot the drone down more than once. That meant we had to shoot only the rear fuselage and tail control surfaces of the plane. This would take a bit of precision shooting.

Those of us who were the shooters lined up about five yards apart. Elmshauser launched the drone and orbited it around us. He then banked the drone toward us and over the “firing line.” Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom! Everyone took a shot and we could see the drone shudder each time it was hit. On the second pass we had chewed up the tail section of the drone enough that Elmshauser lost control and the drone went down in the tall grass near us.

It took Elmshauser about 15 minutes to patch up the damage and get the drone airborne again. I think the drone got patched up and flew again three times that afternoon. On the fourth flight, Werkmeister had a touch too much lead on his shot and hit the battery and radio receiver. At Fred’s shot, the motor on the drone stopped and it banked to the left in a shallow dive. Smoke began trailing from the drone and it spiraled into the trees. It looked like the gun footage you see in a World War II documentary. Our drone shooting was done for the day — and of course everyone blamed Werkmeister and ribbed him a lot about ruining everyone’s fun for the afternoon.

Elmshauser’s wife, Sue, was there that day to video the event. I got a text from her the morning she saw the obituary for Werkmeister.

“I see Fred Werkmeister passed away. So sad. He was quite a guy,” she wrote. “I’ll never forget shooting down Kent’s airplane and his laugh. You were all like a bunch of kids out there! You guys laughed and laughed!”

It was a good day and a lot of fun. That was generally the way all out get-togethers and camps were. We’d laugh until our sides hurt! I’m considering getting another drone commissioned and having a memorial shoot. Fred would have liked that.

Werkmeister will be missed greatly in future camps. Vaya con dios, amigo!

Wind chill

If you have stepped outside in the last few days you know what wind chill is all about. According to the National Weather Service, wind chill is based on the rate of heat loss from exposed skin caused by wind and cold. As the wind increases, it draws heat from the body, driving down skin temperature and eventually the internal body temperature. Therefore, the wind makes it feel much colder. It is important to note that wind chill applies to both people and animals.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration developed a chart with wind chill temperatures calculated from wind speed and ambient temperature. Ambient temperature is the temperature of the surrounding environment. It began as a complex formula to calculate wind chill that was first developed by researchers in Antarctica in the 1940s to accurately calculate the temperatures they would face being out in the elements. This allowed them to better prepare for dangerously cold weather. Today, we use a newer formula, developed in 2001 by the United States National Weather service using the newest technology. Look it up at NOAA’s website.

Here is an example: We had minus 10 degree temperatures recently with 35 mph winds in some areas. That translates to a wind chill of minus 41 degrees. Wind chill can make you more susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia. Frostbite results when water in the skin and surrounding tissues freezes causing tissue cells to rupture resulting in infections, gangrene, possible amputations and, in some severe cases, death.

Hypothermia is a real medical emergency that occurs when your body loses heat faster than it can produce heat. This causes your core body temperature to lower. Normal body temperature is around 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Hypothermia can begin to set in when your body temperature falls below 95 degrees. At this point, your heart, nervous system and other organs cannot work normally. Untreated hypothermia can lead to complete failure of your heart and respiratory system and eventually to death.

We think of hypothermia most often when we think about falling in cold water and icefishing conditions are building. There are a few hard water anglers out on the ice already, and I hope they stay warm and dry. The beginning and end of ‘icefishing season’ is when we have most of the accidents of people falling through the ice.

Enjoy the outdoors; just remember to dress for the weather when you go outside. Be smart and be safe.


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