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Donald Shade is a man for all seasons

March 23, 1999

Donald ShadeBy DON AINES / Staff Writer, Chambersburg

photo: KEVIN G. GILBERT / staff photographer




WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Almost lost in the clutter of what Donald Shade calls "a room of a thousand memories" is a trophy that has stood the test of time, an 11-pound, 3-ounce bass.

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There's no angler's altar for the record-setter he caught in the old Chambersburg reservoir 15 years ago, just an inconspicuous spot on the wall among scores of antlers, dozens of powder horns, walking sticks, fishing gear, tools, hornets nests and other bric-a-brac from decades devoted to outdoor pursuits.

"I come close every year. The biggest one I caught last year was 10 pounds, 7 ounces," Shade said. In the meantime, the older bass remains the largest ever caught in Pennsylvania.

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"That's my ambition. To catch another state record bass," he said.

Shade, 63, of 13743 Welty Road, also held records for bass and brook trout in Pennsylvania and Maryland that have since been eclipsed. Soon he'll go out again to hook the big one.

As winter officially gave way to spring Sunday, Shade was in his tiny shop working on a few dozen other things. He retired two years ago as supervisor of the Waynesboro Water Department but doesn't waste much of life's most precious commodity, time.

Over the winter he made 90 powder horns, using bull horns and walnut, a coping saw, rasp and sandpaper. Several are adorned with his scrimshaw work depicting bucks, wild turkeys and other wildlife.

A rack holds a dozen or more walking sticks he's been working on. He shows off one that took him more than 100 hours to carve, including a black snake wrapped around the staff and an elk horn handle.

The sticks are made of hedge apple, oak, wild cherry and sassafras. Some have a spiral design caused by vines wrapped around branches.

"That's the kind I hunt, anything that's got character to it," Shade said. Once he finds a unique piece of wood, Shade tapes it to a broomstick for a year to let it cure before he begins carving.

Armed with a coping saw, Shade treks through the woods, spotting treasures he's trained himself to see over 50 years.

In the past winter, Shade found 11 bucks that hunters had shot with bows or rifles but apparently failed to find.

"People shoot a deer and don't know how to track it," he said.

Those antlers become the raw material for flash picks, pan brushes, bullet starters, key rings and other items he markets through area sporting goods and hunting stores. He also peddles his art at area craft shows and from the basement of his 19th century home, The Horn Shop.

Shade can tell you the history behind any of the buck racks and mounted heads on the wall of his shop. He said he's bagged 32 bucks with a bow and arrow and more than 100 with flintlocks in several states.

"It's got to be at least an 8-point before I shoot it," he said.

Shade also has his own fish hatchery and raises wild turkeys and pheasants. "I let them die of old age," he said when asked what he does with the birds.

He raised one wild turkey, Big Dirk, that tipped the scales at 52 pounds before it gave up the ghost.

He makes his own flies, "gidgets," jitterbugs and other lures. Shade said he'll spend three or four nights a week fishing, dusk to dawn, to try and break his own record.

"These things are deadly on bass," he said about a grub lure he was working on. He said the darker the night, the better for fishing.

"A lot of people hook big fish, but they don't know how to set the drag," according to Shade. He also changes his line weekly.

"I hate to lose one without seeing how big it is," he said.

Shade spends his winters working on powder horns and other crafts.

"You never get paid for your time ... but I always loved making them," he said. "The good Lord gave me a good set of hands."

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