Sunday, December 23, 2007
Saturday, December 15, 2007
4:25am I meet MarkW, MarkM, Keith and Ken at Ken's house and lump my two bags and floating gun case in Mark's already stuffed Suburban. Funny how awake you can be as you cut up and reminisce with good friends. I hope a tightened the lid down on the thermos. Hot chocolate does very little for hunting garb or shotgun shells.
5:15am Only two other vehicles at the public ramp. That's either a good sign or a bad one. 40 degrees but 15 mph winds make it seem a lot colder.
5:30am Blind preparation and decoy presentation
6:00am The wait begins. Someone was supposed to bring provisions to make breakfast. This would have been a great time for that if only...
6:45am Time to load the guns and pull down the face masks. Legal shooting begins in 10 minutes and with weather surely ducks will pour into the setup momentarily.
7:30am Nothing. Time for some hot chocolate.
8:00am Nothing. Time for some snacks.
8:30am Nothing. Ike (MarkW's lab) wants to play fetch. Search begins for the retreiving dummy. Some hot breakfast would be nice...
8:45am Nothing. Ike tires of playing. Licks hot chocolate off thermos.
9:00am Another flock of commorants skim the decoys. Sea gulls are flying really good today.
9:15am Nothing. Keith find an old soccer ball lying by the blind. Soccer game ensues.
9:20am Nothing. It's hard to play soccer with waders on.
9:30am Nothing. Time to go. They're still serving breakfast at the diner.
9:35am Just finish picking up decoys and some mallards fly right over the boat.
10:00am Boat loaded, suburban repacked. Five "hunters" head to breakfast, empty-handed but happy.
A motley crew of camo clad warriors await the arrival of some ducks.
Snack Time! Vienna Sausages (correctly pronounced Vy-ee-na) and granola bars make an excellent gastrological experiment.
Ike launches with reckless abandon to fetch a retrieval dummy.
Thursday, November 22, 2007
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Friday, November 9, 2007
For six seasons I've tried to take a deer with this prized rifle. I'd come close several times. Two years ago I had the hammer pulled back and crosshairs placed behind the shoulder of a Guilford County doe only to be disappointed by a metallic "click" when I squeezed the trigger revealing the fact that I'd forgotten to put a primer cap on the nipple. Last year I watched a spike buck through the scope but decided to let him grow. However, I never could seem to close the deal.
Friday, November 2, 2007
I continued paddling toward the ducks and although they seemed very skittish they did not take off. I could not believe how close they allowed us to get to them. As we continued to the end of the cove five more mallards appeared out of brush lining the banks and began paddling away from us. Without warning they lept from the water and flew right over us, less than 25 feet from the tops our heads.
Monday, October 1, 2007
This morning I filled out the paperwork for my daughter, Micah's, lifetime hunting and fishing license. Like many states North Carolina offers a comprehensive sporting license, covering hunting, fishing (and just recently saltwater fishing) in our great state. If you apply before your child is a year old the cost is $275. The adult cost is $675. As I was filling in the blanks on the application it brought a smile to my face, and maybe a tear or two to the eye, thinking about my baby girl as a little girl, as a teen, as a young woman, as a lady, as a senior adult enjoying time in the outdoors. What an honor to make a provision for her so that, other than a federal waterfowl stamp, Micah will never have to pay for a licence in the state of North Carolina.
li·cense - noun - Freedom to deviate deliberately from normally applicable rules or practices
It brought to mind another purchase made by a father many years ago. With the hammering of nails into flesh and wood and with the subsequent rolling away of a tombstone, my Father made a provision for my life that I would never have to pay for the wrongs that I used to commit, am currently committing or will commit in the future. What an awesome thought to know that the natural process of going through my life, dying and reaping the results of a Godless lifestyle in a sinners hell does not apply to me. I pray you know Him as your Savior and can experience this sweet license.
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1
Sunday, September 30, 2007
I'd riden by this farm since I was a kid, admiring the beautiful pond and wishing the No Trespassing signs did not apply to me. Last week a friend of a friend acquired permission hunt there. Apparently several flocks of geese had been frequenting this farmer's field and he wanted them gone.
So at 6:05 this morning Mark, Mark and I were leaning around my truck bed, talking over our game plan and passing time until it made more sense to be out there. By 6:15am the decoys were placed, the layouts were set out and the wait was on. Sunrise was at 7:16am making the start of legal shooting at 6:46am. So we set in the darkness and waited.
Around 7:10 the first group of Canadas made their appearance. They came in from behind us, flew over the set made a 180 degree turn and headed straight into the decoys. In the blink of an eye six geese lay on the ground, one of which I'd hit with the one shot I fired.
Several other groups flew in following this first volley. They were all noncommital, flaring at the last minute or refusing the come it at all. Work commitments forced us to cut the hunt short. I began to put away the decoys as Mark and Mark combed the field for any cripples. Wouldn't you know it, a group of ten geese flew into the field and glided, with little or no apprehension, right into the decoys, ten yards in front of me. All I could do was stare, dumbfounded, my Benelli harmlessly resting in the back of the Tundra. The two Marks stood a two hundred feet away, laughing. I stepped forward to pick up another decoy and they took off, heading directly toward my two buddies. Then it happend. Boom! Boom! Boom! Mark W. shot three times and three Canadas dropped to ground. A great way to end another great day in the outdoors.
Thursday, September 20, 2007
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Monday, September 10, 2007
Thursday, September 6, 2007
I heard the first honks when they were a long ways off. At least I hoped it was honking. Ears and eyes strained, looking toward the horizon trying to hear another one over the sounds of travelling cars and trucks on a nearby road. There, directly in front of us I heard it again. "Here they come," I said yet doubt lingered in the back of my mind. "There they are!" Mark hissed, "Coming right at us!" I still couldn't see anything. A fabric seam in the blind was constricting my vision. Finally I spotted them. An elongated V of Canadas stretched across in front of the rising sun and they were in fact coming right at us. Waterfowlers use the phrase "being on the X" to describe a hunt where your location is in the exact location that ducks or geese want to be, so much so that they will fly into your range without the use of calls or sometimes even decoys. It became apparent very quickly that we were on the X. With reckless abandon a dozen Canada geese were locked up, landing gear out, and coming straight into our set. "Take 'em" boomed from my right as Mark loosened three shots from his Super Black Eagle. Ken's Extrema barked almost simulatneously. My Supernova remained mute as the barrel and sling had gotten tangled in the blind. Hoorahs and high fives were cut short by the appearance of another group of geese. These too seemed intent upon landing in our midst. When they were a hundred yards out my blind, the same one that had failed to open properly just minutes before, popped open. I gritted my teeth, grabbed both sides and pulled it back closed only to have it pop open again. DOH! I frantically pulled it back together and held it with my left hand, checking to see if the geese had flared. Nothingn doing, they were coming and had been unalarmed by my clumsiness. When Mark yelled "Take 'em!" this time I was ready. The SuperNova shouldered effortlessly and two geese dropped to the earth following three pulls of the trigger. Mark and Ken had shot as well leaving several geese dead on the ground. Ike, Mark's lab had remained in the kennel this morning so Mark and Ken chased down a couple cripples while I rounded up dead birds.
Monday, September 3, 2007
Si's orange bobber was the next to vanish. As he set the hook (read "began reeling furiously") line tore off his little reel and the rod nearly doubled over. This fish was not interested in being brought in and made a beeline for the pilings beneath the pier. My heart sank as I saw him wrap around a submerged brace. In slow motion I saw the worm and hook drop from his mouth. Fourtnately the hook stuck in his gill plate and held fast allowing the bass to be maneuvered from his quandry and lipped by an exhuberant little boy and one very proud father.
We rebaited and cast Si's line back to the same spot. Unbelievably, moments later, his bobber was gone again. Si had walked over to get something from the tackle box when this violent strike occurred. I was happy to set the hook and attempt to help my boy land HIS catch. I couldn't believe it, this was another dandy fish. As the line was pouring off Si's little rod I was trying to remember what pound test line I'd loaded it with. We were fearful this fish was more than my boy's rod & reel could handle. Everything held and we were able to drag another beautiful bass up on the shore. Sometimes lightning does strike twice.
Sunday, September 2, 2007
For some folks Labor Day means a long weekend, beach trips or cookouts. Where I come from Labor Day is synonymous with dove hunting. If weather permits, farmers have been cutting their fields and the doves have been getting fat on gleaning grain that the combines have either missed or spilled. The hunt begins much earlier than twelve noon on opening day. Dedicated dove hunters spend much time, tire tread and fuel riding the roads, scouting prospective fields and seeking access to prime fields. Time is also spent patterning shotguns, busting clay pigeons and securing other wingshooting necessities.
In times past I would have been afield before noon, swatting mosquitoes and burning up in the midday sun. As I've gotten older (and hopefully more wise) I now wait until later in the day, when the weather's a little cooler and the doves are actually flying better.
Mark P., Mark W. and Bailey showed up at my house at quarter till 3. I'd spent an hour getting my stuff together, shells, ear plugs, walkie talkies, bottled waters, snacks, etc., so when they arrived I was ready to load up and hit the road.
By 4 we were sitting in a cut corn field. Awaiting the arrival of our quary. It didn't take long for doves to show up. The cooler temps and the overcast skies had the doves moving pretty good. Of course there were may delays in the action and no huge flocks poured into the field however, there were plenty of doves.
In fact, opportunities abounded. Doves where coming into the field at a steady pace. Great news for the doves, my shooting was rusty. Although I'd shot clays a week or so earlier it took a while to adjust timing and lead in order to connect with each evasive target. 10-15 mph winds weren't making things any easier. By the time I knocked the cobwebs loose it was sunset and the hunt was over. My vest carried a rather paltry take of three doves and my companions had not fared any better.. As we we loading up the truck two pairs of doves flew within 10 yards of four unarmed hunters. Of course they mave have been safe even if our guns had been loaded...
Saturday, September 1, 2007
For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. 2 Cor.2:15
Saturday, August 18, 2007
The plan was to be on the lake before sunrise. I was to stop by and pick up Joel then drive over to Mark's place where the Skimmer would be hooked up and ready to go. A quick stop at McDonalds to pick up our breakfast put me a little behind but there's ample forgiveness if you show up with biscuits for everyone. Mark is always ready ahead of schedule so when we pulled onto his street it was no surprise to see the Surburban's running, parking lamps, radio and AC on. Gear stowed away, we pulled out of the neighborhood, the green digits on Mark's radio read 6:13, we'd be there with time to spare.
Driving over the bridge toward the marina we were expecting to see several boats at the ramp but all was clear. There was a truck trailering a boat across the street in the parking lot which was odd. As we neared the lot the mystery was solved. Aircraft cable spanned the driveway to the ramps, keeping wouldbe anglers from unloading their crafts. A sign in the lot stated the lake did not open until 7am. Odd, I'd never heard of that before.
So we stood around the boats, cutting up, mapping out our fishing stategy and listening the lake come alive (funny how many waterfowl you see when you're not waterfowl hunting). A few minutes before 7am the Cedar Lodge store, adjacent to the ramps, opened so I walked in to get a bottle of water and to ascertain some advice about the lake. The proprietor was very helpful, giving ample tips regarding location and tackle to use. Now, when the ramp opened we would have a great plan of attack.
With the rising of the sun, the already warm temperatures became more intense. The humidity was high and the lack of breeze made it sticky and uncomfortable. Mark fired up the 90hp Suzuki and pushed us out of the launch area. The slight breeze our forward momentum created was refreshing. Mark picked a likely cove and we began casting along the shoreline. Joel was throwing a weightless worm, Mark a buzz bait and I was heaving a large topwater lure. We had a great morning, talking, laughing and even doing a little fishing. We caught a nice,"slab" crappie, a little catfish and small bass. The surprise of the day happened as we were about to leave. I'd stowed my gear and was watching Joel fish, hoping to record him hooking a bass. But a beautiful grass-line point prompted me to break out my casting rod outfitted with a top water plug. As Mark was piloting the skiff, Joel was casting off the bow so I cast off to the side, trying to place my balsa offering close to the grass. Nothing hit the bait but it sure looked good zigging and zagging through such "fishy" looking territory. As we rounded the point I made one more cast to the stern of the boat, the lure splashed a couple feet past a stick protruding from the grass. A couple of twitches illicited an explosive response and "uh oh" was all I could say. As I fought to bring this lunker to the boat, Mark and Joel began an Abbott and Costelloisque routine of looking under, around, in the midst of all the gear, trying to find a net, and bringing back memories of our Ocean Isle expedition (mental note - buy Mark a landing net). Before they could come up with anything I had the trophy lipped and in the boat. Wow! What a fish! After snapping a couple photos we released him, exchanging high fives and having a hard time believing what had just happened. What a blessing to spend time on the water with friends and to top it off with a great fish. We left the lake, grateful and looking forward to our next trip to Thom-a-lex.
Monday, August 13, 2007
After our last fishing trip was rained out (see 6.19.07 post "High Rock'd: NC Bass Fishing") Greg and I agreed to give High Rock another go shot. Our schedules finally aligned a month later and we headed down to "the Rock" early one Thursday morning. The fishing turned out much better with Greg catching a small largemouth within minutes of first wetting our lines. A short while later I connected with an even smaller white bass. However, the highlight of the morning turned out to have nothing to do with angling. About mid-morning Greg trolled towards a likely looking spot and as we cast plastic worms into blow downs and other structure, a large crash and a brown whirl flashed out of the pines in front of us. What I thought was a owl, then a heron, then a hawk turned about to be a BALD EAGLE. This was a first. I'd seen eagles in Alaska but never in my home state. What a special blessing.
In regards to fishing, Greg and I caught several including a nice football-sized largemouth at one point in the day. He was suspended under a downed oak, waiting to ambush any unsuspecting baitfish that swam by. Luckily my unspecting topwater bait came along first. It was a textbook strike one that every bass fisherman dreams of. I'm sure I'll be setting the hook again tonight in my sleep.
Wednesday, August 1, 2007
As much as I enjoy wading I also love to bowhunt. What began as a way to prolong the deer season (in the central region of NC bow season opens approximately 2 months before gun season), quickly evolved into a passion. I bought my first bow off a clearance rack at the Dixie Deer Classic in Raleigh. I paid $75 for a brand new, bare bones, PSE F2 Maxis cam and spent twice that accessorizing it and purchasing a couple dozen Eastons. The first time I shot it at my friend Rusty's house the arrow struck soundly into his 3D buck target and I was hooked.
I practiced for several months and readied myself for the upcoming season. Rus helped me hang a couple stands on some property I'd acquired access to and a couple weeks after opening day I finally had a chance to hunt. I shimmied up into a huge split oak and
began my vigil. A hour or so later I heard the crunch, crunch, crunch of a critter walking through the woods behind. Thinking it was yet another squirrel looking for its mast supper, I disregarded the sound and resume my watch. The snap of a twig or limb caught my attention again and with it additional footsteps, this time closer. My heart beat increased as I realized this animal, whatever it was, was no squirrel. I craned my neck and strained my eyes, looking down the trail that headed from the hardwoods to the cornfield my location overlooked. It was a deer, actually three deer, a doe with two small fawns and my heart began pumping wildly, sweat poured off my forehead and my knees began to quiver. They walked under the oak in which I was perched. eased into the field and began eating grain. I could see the rise and fall of their lungs as they breathed, their eyes blink as they constantly surveyed their surrounds, the twitch of their tails as they repelled the flies that were beleaguering them. I could even hear the crunch of corn as they chewed their supper. I never thought about pulling back my bow, being so close to these beautiful, wild creatures was quite enough for that hunt.
The common theme between wading and hunting is the idea of being "amongst 'em". Being in close proximity to your prey intensifies the experience. This also brings to mind a spiritual truth that is very applicable to our walk with Christ. The closer our proximity to God, the more time we spend in His Word, the more often we reflect or mediate on His Truths, the more time we spend in prayer, conversing with our Creator, the more enjoyable, the more vibrant our life will be. A life lived within close proximity with God. Nothing can be more rewarding.
"Just a closer walk with Thee, Grant it, Jesus, is my plea, Daily walking close to Thee, Let it be, dear Lord, let it be." (Old Spiritual, Author Unknown)
"Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you." James 4:8
Monday, July 2, 2007
It was a pretty little pond tucked back in the woods. There was pretty little pier spanning from one bank half way to the other side. And as we approached the waters edge a bunch of pretty little bluegills left their circular beds and headed for deeper water. I baited up the boys and within seconds both their bobbers were, well, bobbing. Almost immediately we were into fish; small green bass, and beautiful bluegill as large as your hand. The smiles on two little boys' faces were much larger!
The rest of the evening was spent seeing how far and how frequently they could cast. There was an occasion snag (in the trees, on the pier, they even snagged one another) but everyone had a great time and miraculously no one was hooked. As we drove home both boys were already asking, "When can we go fishing again daddy?" I can't wait to go again myself.
Notes: When you take your young children fishing keep in mind a couple things:
- It's not about you. You're not going to get to do much fishing. Most of your time will be spent baiting hooks, giving casting lessons, untangling bird nests, unhooking fish (hopefully), taking pictures, getting snacks, etc. Take a rod for yourself but don't be disappointed if you don't get to use it much.
- Don't forget your camera, sunscreen, insect repellant, bottled water or snacks.
- Remember most kids have a shorter attention span than adults. When they're ready to go leave.
Sunday, July 1, 2007
Work duties kept me from my bow stand the morning of Opening Day so afternoon found me walking to my honey hole anticipating a successful hunt. As I approached the spot where I planned on spending the evening I got the feeling something was not right. I couldn’t put my finger on it but the negative feeling intensified when I spotted a set of ATV tracks. When I got to the large oak where I had hung the lock-on, my stand was lying on the ground at the base of the tree.
Thirty yards away sat a four wheeler and twelve feet above it, in a small pine, sat a camouflage clad hunter holding his crossbow. Months of preparation flashed before my eyes as anger chased disbelief from my spinning mind. After a brief, albeit tense, conversation, it turned out the other hunter was a new member of our club who had misread a map and chosen the wrong spot to hunt. Luckily nothing irreparable was said or done in the heat of the moment. Forgiveness proceeded apology and the situation was resolved.
We have all been in situation where we felt wronged. How many times are we supposed to forgive someone who cuts down a deer stand, someone who trespasses, someone who steals a scouting camera, someone who poaches private property at night? Jesus said we are to forgive seventy times seven. In other words, when we call ourselves Christians we are called to go above and beyond when mistreated. Before reacting to others’ actions it is important to recall the numerous times we been in the wrong.
“…if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matt. 6:15
Thursday, June 28, 2007
For a while we trolled, paralleling the surf but quickly decided to head back into the sound. I handed Joel a spinning rod rigged with curly tailed jig (red body with white tail) as the skiff neared a likely spot. The attached Mitchell reel held a special place in my heart as it had belonged to my now deceased father. Mark and I readied our rods, he with a Mirrolure, me with another lead headed jig (white body, pink tail).
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
As the Ranger's hull slipped into Flat Swamp I took a minute to look around. There were no other vehicles or trailers parked at the ramp. The sky was overcast with a slight breeze, temperatures were in the mid-80's and the barometer was on the rise. It was a BEAUTIFUL day for fishing. Wonder why there were no other vehicles or trailers parked in the lot?
Eventually the rain let up and we decided to fish a couple docks before trailering the boat. Just before leaving I hooked a small bass and quickly chunked him back into the lake. Luckily the camera was stored away as it was probably the smalled fish I'd ever caught, identical in size to the crankbait I caught him on. At least I didn't get skunked!
Friday, June 1, 2007
Another fly fishing adventure found me casting for Dolly Vardens along Alaska’s Baranof Island. My brother, Eddie and I had taken an excursion from the family cruise and were hoping to hook into some salmon. It turned out we were a couple weeks early for the run but were assured by our outfitter that the Dolly Vardens would provide ample challenge. As we waded into the water and I made my first couple casts I looked over at the other members of our party and couldn’t help but chuckle. Floating lines were flying in all direction and the creek was being whipped into bubbly froth. With plenty of fly fishing experience I was awash with smug satisfaction that surely I looked like a pro to these rookies. That is until my wader boot caught on a large river rock submerged in the chilly waters in front of me and I instantly went from angling premadonna to soaked, bumbling yahoo.
Pride, it’s one of our most common spiritual maladies. It seems most prevalent when we try to compare ourselves to others for the sole purpose of boosting self esteem. In the process we end up thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought to and usually it ends up costing dearly. When pride is involved it’s quite easy to go from hero to zero for as the God’s Word says, “Pride comes before the fall.”
Jesus was our perfect example of how to live a humble, pride-free life. Although He was the only Son of God, He considered it nothing to leave His home in glory and come to live among mankind, eventually dying on the cross, at the very hands of those He came to save. Take Christ’s example at the Last Supper. Jesus, God incarnate, got up from the meal, got down on His hands and feet and washed His disciples’ nasty feet. Sort of puts things into perspective doesn’t it?
“Pride comes before destruction and an arrogant spirit before a fall.” Proverbs 16:18
Tuesday, May 1, 2007
Around noon, as the first ray of sunlight broke through the cloud cover, our fishing fortune changed. A quick glance up the river revealed doubled rods and fisherman smiles in almost every boat. Simultaneous cries of “there he is” from the stern and bow of the skiff signaled the stripers’ barometric-driven hibernation was over. The bite was on.
Another Carolina Spring morning found me enveloped in thick foliage waiting for a Caswell County monarch to make an appearance. After half a dozen different calls including my favorite, Lynch’s Fool Proof, and several location changes, covering a couple hundred acres without so much as a peep, I finally had a tom declaring his intentions of paying me a visit. Ten minutes later, with a subtle nudge and a whispered “there he is,” a bronze feathered figure appeared in the wheat field. After a brief, amorous dance in front of two hen decoys the old tom met his end. “There he is.” That one sentence signifies hours, days or even weeks of preparation and hard work are about to pay off. No other phrase more aptly decries impending, sporting success.
”Be imitators of God, therefore as dearly loved children.” Ephesians 5:1
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
After Emory finally got his boots on we walked to our spot for the morning. I put out a couple decoys in a wheat field that backed up to a swampy bottom full of oaks, poplars and hickories and we concealed ourselves in some young pines and brush along the field’s edge. Eventually the sky turned from black to gray to lighter gray. Once again our setting was ideal and yet again it proved pointless. We waited approximately an hour before packing it up and heading back for some breakfast. Maybe the weather (or at least the wind) would let up and our afternoon hunt would be better.
PM - It was pouring. The gentle, spring shower had become a deluge. Thunder reverberated across the horizon and the wind was bending ancient oaks like they were saplings. I crawled into a shooting house, overlooking the clover field to escape the conditions and pulled out my small, camouflage Bible to pass the time. The swaying of the wind and the sound of raindrops hitting my tin roofed refuge combined with the sleep deprivation always associated with hunting trip put me right to sleep. I was awoken by the thump of the New Testament I’d been reading earlier hitting the bottom of the stand. I looked out the windows, the rain had stopped, and the sun was shining. The wind however, continued its blow so I decided to remain in my current locale. A glance at my watch showed I’d been “resting my eyes” for almost thirty minutes. I pulled a slate and striker out of my vest and began a series of purrs and clucks. Twenty minutes later I did it again. Nothing. Motion in the corner of my eye caught my attention. It was a decoy turning in the wind. Maybe I should pick up, cross the dirt road to another location and try it there? As I planned my new plan of attack I began to doze again. Again, motion in the corner of my eye. This time it wasn’t a decoy. A hen walked out on the field, feeding along the edge oblivious to my presence. She fed along the tree line and turned back to toward the woods. As she turned I noticed an appendage hanging from her neck. She was a HE and as he came closer it became more and more apparent that he was a mature gobbler. My call was lying at the bottom of the shooting house and picking it up would have meant putting my Benelli down and possible noise. So I decided to wait him out. Then he noticed the decoys in the field. His attention was captured and he meandered toward them and closer to me. When he reached the thirty yard mark I let him have it…3 ½ inches of Winchester #5’s right across the beak. He never made another move. I took a deep breath, gathered my stuff up and went down to check out my prize. He was an old bird. Eleven inch beard, long, rounded off spurs and beautiful coloration. I thanked God for this blessing and went to pick up the decoys. Emory walked up a minute or so later with a big grin on his face, which became even bigger when he saw the bird on the ground. We headed back to camp, two happy campers.