Sunday, December 23, 2007

12.22.07 Davidson County Waterfowl Hunt

Mark W. and I decided to give the ducks another shot. I ended up using my Nikon more than my Benelli. Mark was able to double up on a pair of mallards but I wasn't quick enough to get it on film. Luckily I got plenty of other photos (ended up with over 150 pictures).
Who says you have to kill something to have a great hunt? Of course you can't eat pictures....

Saturday, December 15, 2007

12.15.07 Davidson County Duck "Hunt"

3:30am Back in college 3:30 was a "late night". This morning it was time to get up. The third split of the North Carolina waterfowl season began today so it was up and at 'em way before the crack of dawn.
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.
6:55am Nothing
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

11.21.07 Randolph County Muzzleloader II

Returned to the same stand over in Randolph County this afternoon and despite the nearly full moon had a good hunt. Saw a button buck at 4:45pm and a ten minutes later, after hitting the grunt tube a couple times, this guy walked out. Not a monster buck by any standards but a trophy to me (and a couple happy little boys).

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Outdoor Devotion - Sharpened

I had a mind to fry some fish. There was a new bag of House Autry breader in the pantry . The dogwoods had starting blooming earlier in the week signifing the start of the crappie bite. Athough the temperature was still in the 50's Spring was in the air and it was a perfect day for fishing.
My boys and I had a seven acre farm pond, a bucket full of minnows, three bobber-laden fishing rods and a beautiful afternoon to fill the creel. And boy did the fish cooperate. Thirty minutes later we had a 5 gallon bucket loaded with crappies. When we got back to the house I pulled out the filet knife and went to work. What a mess. The first two fish looked like an alligator had been using them for chewing gum. The knife was dull as a hammer making the task nearly impossible. I pulled out the sharpener, swiped my Rapala's blade across its flint a couple times and went back to work. The remainder of the crappies went like clockwork and before long our family was dining on fresh fish and singing praises to the chef. What a difference a sharp blade makes.

The outdoors is replete with examples of equipment that need to be sharpened axes, broadheads, chainsaws, fishing hooks, knives to name a few. Honed to a fine point a good blade makes most chores more enjoyable.
The same is true in life. Proverbs 27:17 says, "Iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens another." Rather than a whetstone or grinding wheel people need other people in their lives to keep us sharp. This is particularly true of men. For some reason, we find it more difficult or possibly less important to have deep relationships with other men. Maybe it's a cultural thing to try to be the Lone Ranger and "go it alone". In truth this doesnt mean we're more of a man, it simply means that we're more vunerable. Daily life with its busyness, responsibilities, disappointments, hurts and hardships has a way of dulling us. And we need other folks be it fishing buddies, coworkers, golfing pals, etc. to keep us sharp.
Reminds me of an account in the Gospel of Luke. Chapter 5 tells of Jesus teaching in a house one day. Four guys get together and decide to bring their friend, a paralytic, to Christ for healing. When they arrived at the location where Jesus was there was such a crowd that they couldn't get in. These guys didn't give up but instead pulled the roof apart and lowered their buddy through a hole in the ceiling, playing an integral part in him being healed. In fact, Luke 5:20 states, "When Jesus saw their faith, he said, "Friend, your sins are forgiven." What a great story! What great friends! What a great example for us men! Not only do I want to be a man willing to go the extra mile to bring my friends to the Master, but I am grateful for the guys that God uses to keep me sharp.
For more information about sharpening your knife visit Buck Knife's website here.

Friday, November 9, 2007

11.08.07 Randolph County Muzzleloader Hunt

Seven Christmases ago I tore into a present that forever changed my relationship with my wife. It was an elongated box (approximately 30 inches long, 10 inches wide and 5 inches thick), lovingly covered in festive paper and shiny ribbon and it was the first piece of outdoor equipment my beloved ever bought me. Millennium Design Muzzleoader of Vermont manufactured this stainless steel barrelled, walnut stocked, .50 caliber work of art but what made it special was the fact that she had somehow picked up on the research I was doing on inline muzzleloaders and bought the exact one I had my eye on before I had a chance to purchase it.

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.
Two weeks ago some family friends gave me permission to hunt on their land. I finally got around to scouting it out and putting up a stand and four days later was sitting in that stand, scanning the surroundings and, of course, second guessing my location.
The woods were chocked full of squirrels. The gray squirrel population has got to be at an all-time high because every time I'm deer hunting it seems I'm surrounded by them (the only time I'm not surrounded by squirrels in the woods is when I am squirrel hunting!). There was one eating acorns right in front of me. Another was shuffling through fallen leaves looking for his supper. And yet another one was jumping around and scampering through the woods on my left. Directly behind me I heard squirrel number four barking at something, letting the neighborhood know something was not right. Immediately I heard the sound of footsteps through the fallen leaves and assumed it was another squirrel. I was wrong. The sound became louder, more distinct and it was quickly apparent that the incoming footsteps belonged to a deer.

A yearling stepped beside me and walked on through the woods. Next came a doe, followed by another yearling. The doe was very skittish as a light breeze was blowing across me and into the deer's path. She licked her nose and stuck it higher into the air, sniffing and trying to figure out what she was smelling. Eventually she walked on through and joined the yearlings, feeding on acorns and other mast. I guess curiosity got the best of her and she walked back toward me. I had it in mind to hold out for a buck but as it got darker and the deer continued feeding right around me I decided to opt for meat in the freezer and take a doe. As I shifted my weight and raised my muzzleloader barrel, one of the yearlings spotted the movement and blew a warning. I squeezed the trigger and boom, the world exploded with the sound of a .50 Hornady Lock-N-Load sabot being propelled out the 1 in 24" rifled barrel and deer running everywhere. Triple Seven smoke filled my vision making it impossible to see more than five yards in front of the stand. As the smoke cleared an eerie silence fell over the woods and a quick check revealed the doe was not there. I got down and checked the area, finding blood and feeling better. Then I headed back to truck to get a flashlight.

Whitney, my buddies' teenage daughter, wanted to tag along so we tracked the deer ten yards at a time periodically marking the blood trail with small strips of toilet tissue. Being somewhat discouraged by the lack of blood I began to question the shot but continued forward, energized by the enthusiasm of my tracking partner. Forty-five minutes and a hundred or so yards later we found her. Not a trophy by most standards but a great prize in my book.

Friday, November 2, 2007

11.01.07 Thom-a-Lex Canoe Adventure

The plan was for this to be a fishing trip. I'd been wanting to take my boys over to Lake Thom-a-Lex to try fishing from a canoe that had been gathering dust in our backyard. Of course they were gungho and ready for any outing that included their father, water and even the smallest hint of danger.
When we arrived at the boat ramps there were a couple older fellas sitting at a picnic table shooting the breeze. I should have known by the knowing twinkle in their eyes that I was in for it. Apparently they knew all too well how much trouble a dad, two small boys and a canoe can get into. When I asked them to say a little prayer for me I thought one old codger was going to fall off his perch in laughter. With a couple fishing rods, a tackle box, a bag of snacks, a camera, life jackets and oars loaded into the canoe we launched into our inaugural canoe expedition.
It was a beautiful, fall morning. And after rowing several minutes all my worries subsided and my boys were content to put their hands and feet in the chilly water, soak in the surroundings and watch their daddy partake in the rigorous cardio vascular exercise of propelling eighty pounds of children and many more pounds of parent across the lake. We pulled into a pretty little cove and they began casting worms and bobbers into the coffee stained water. Immediately I spotted movement off to the left, along the bank. Two mallard slipped off the shoreline and into the water and began to swim away from our approach, wary of the canoe full of humans.
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.
That was the highlight of our morning. We fished for an hour or so and only got one bite. We spent the next hour eating snacks and searching for lost bobbers along the shoreline. It was a great day!

Monday, October 1, 2007

Outdoor Devotion - License

li·cense - noun - A legal document giving official permission to do something.
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

09.28.07 Forsyth County Goose Hunt

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

9.20.07 Randolph County Pond Fishing

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

9.11.07 Davidson County Dove Hunt

Took my boys out on an afternoon dove hunt. The snacks their mother was kind enough to pack kept them occupied long enough to shoot three birds which they took turns retrieving. We were only in the field for a forty-five minutes but had a great time.

Monday, September 10, 2007

9.07.07 - Davidson County Dove Hunt

We found a great spot for doves. The field had been cut for about a week leaving plenty of corn on the ground and birds were using it like mad. I spoke with the farmer and procurred permission to hunt. The plan was to pick the boys up from school and take them out for their first dove shoot. Boy, were they excited.
It was a beautiful afternoon and with everyone, especially Si and Zane, had an enjoyable time in the outdoors. Not many doves were shot but a lot of grapes and oatmeal cookies got eaten and the boys are already asking, "When can we go again?"

Thursday, September 6, 2007

"Big Honkin Deal" - 9.06.07 Goose Hunt

Last September and October the geese had used this field heavily. Like clockwork they'd fly in at daylight and gorge themselves on the cut corn. There must have been a couple hundred Canadas in there each day. Finally, by mid-October, a group of us were able to get permission to hunt the field. (Thank God for farmers that value the depredation and wildlife management tool called "hunters".) We'd set up prior to sunup, putting out silhouette and full body decoys and three layout blinds. Just like clockwork a flock of geese flew into the decoys and the three of us limited out ending the hunt as quickly as it started.
The North Carolina Wildlife Commission estimates the population of resident Canada geese at well over 100,000. To keep this population in check NC has established a special hunt throughout the month of September with a liberal bag limit of 8 geese per hunter per day.
With that in mind we set up a couple dozen silhouettes and a handfull of shell decoys in the predawn darkness and then Ken, Mark and I crawled into our layouts. There is something to be said about sitting next to friends, watching the sun rise over Carolina farmland.
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.
This scene repeated itself several times until we had all limited out. By eight o'clock the gear was stowed and the back of my pickup loaded with twenty-four Canada geese. But, the work had only just begun. Do you have any idea how long it takes to clean twenty-four geese?

Monday, September 3, 2007

9.02.07 Little Boys/Little Pond Redux

The weekend's cooler temperatures and the cancellation of evening Church services due to the holiday, necessitated a little father/son fishing adventure. Mark and his son, Bailey, Joel and his boy, Yusef (and daughter, Mercy) and me with my two little fellas, Si and Zane headed to Mark's little honey hole with some fishing poles and a tub full of nightcrawlers.
We arrived right at dusk, an ideal time for angling. Zane and I walked onto the pier first and in two shakes, his hook was baited and his bobber was floating on the pond's dark green surface. It only floated five seconds before disappearing beneath the water. Zane shrieked and began reeling like a madman. When he had it up to the dock I grabbed the line and hoisted his catch up. A nice little bass.
I picked another worm out of the bucket and rebaited. "Splash," and his bobber was bobbing once again. Seconds later it disappeared again. No hesitation, it was just there one second and gone the next. "I got one." Zane yelled but this time he forgot to reel. "Zane you've got to reel," snapped him to his senses and he began turning the handle on his Zebco like crazy. The sight of this fish, a healthy bream, being brought in sent the rest of our fisherman, who up to this point had been taking their time wetting their lines, into overdrive.

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.

Next to act was Yusef. His bobber began to dance and then submerged. He reeled his little heart out but the fish let go. The poor little fella was downcast, as only a fisherman who loses his catch can be, but kept at it. Finally he had another strike and this time the hook stayed true. Joel grabbed the line and swung Yusef's trophy over the pier railings. Their excitement was matched by little sister, Mercy, and everyone as we celebrated Yusef's fine catch.

The last to connect was Bailey. He's fished patiently the entire time but had yet to land a fish. Finally, just at last light his bobber took off and he was able to set the hook. It was a small bream but it was a welcomed catch nonetheless. He dropped the panfish back into the water and we packed up our equipment and headed back to Mark's place. We were mosquito bit, sweaty and tired but everyone was happy with yet another successful trip to the little pond.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

9.01.07 Randolph County Dove Hunt

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

Outdoor Devotion - Scent

I remember seeing my daddy's mama making the dough in her old, shotgun kitchen. The smell, predominately vanilla, would permeate her home and make my saliva glands go into overdrive. But I knew, no matter how good it smelled, the dough was not for eating but for fishing. You see the dough in question was Granny's top-secret catfish bait. The ingredients were never written down and she took that treasure to the grave but it was deadly on those old channel cats, I guess because of the attraction of the smell, very similar to a little boy being summoned to the stove by the smell of homemade chocolate chip cookies they just couldn't resist that bait.
The first deer I took with my bow was drawn in using that same sensorial draw. I placed an open bottle of Tinks 69 on the ground 15 yards in front of my stand and an hour later he walked up and stuck his snout right up to the bottle, completely unaware of the hunter up in the white oak, placing a fibre optic spot directly behind his front shoulder.
Smells are important. Sportsmen spend millions of dollars on scent eliminating clothing and sprays as well as attractants in the form of sprays, gels, powders, baits, etc. As believers we are to give off a fragrant aroma in our everyday lives. Often I end up smelling like the dead fish stink of sin rather than the floral perfume of salvation. God expects us to give of the fragrant incense of Christ, using the way that we intereact with others to draw them to Himself. May the scent of our lives be pleasing to Him.

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

8.17.07 Fishing Lake Thom-a-Lex

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

7.25.07 High Rock Revisited

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

Outdoor Devotion - Amongst 'Em

I love to wade when fishing. Whether it's the frothy surf of Cape Point, the meandering current of the New River or the murky waters of a local farm pond. There's something uniquely special about what I call "being amongst 'em." For example, several years ago a couple buddies from and I headed down to the Uwharrie River near Denton to fish for bass and bream. We had our ultra lights and small tackle boxes full of rapalas, beetle spins, rebels, rooster tails and other micro sized lures. There was no need for neoprene or breathable waders as it was a hot July afternoon and the cool coffee-colored waters felt great. We had a successful trip as we caught numerous largemouth, panfish and even a couple smallies. But what really made the afternoon was being smack dab in the middle of the fish's environment.

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

7.01.07 Little Boys/Little Pond

Nothing screams summer in Carolina like chasing bass and bream in a small farm pond. My friend Mark called Sunday after Church and suggested we do a little fishing. After the boys finished their afternoon nap we loaded up a spinning rod, two Zebco 202s and a tub of nightcrawlers and drove over to Mark's.
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:
  1. 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.
  2. Don't forget your camera, sunscreen, insect repellant, bottled water or snacks.
  3. Remember most kids have a shorter attention span than adults. When they're ready to go leave.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Outdoor Devotion - Trespass

Preseason scouting and hard work had paid off with a couple of prime stand locations. The one I had picked out for the first morning was hanging sixteen feet up a white oak, surrounded by at least a dozen year-old rubs on thigh-thick cedars and situated in the middle of three well-worn game trails. My stands were up by mid-July and the area was allowed to settle down for the September opener.
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.

Several counties away and roughly twelve months later, a beautiful, autumn day had seduced me away from office duties and lured me to my favorite stand overlooking an established food plot. After donning head-to-toe camouflage and filling my fanny pack full of unneeded necessities, I begin the short trek to guaranteed bowhunting success. I had taken 30 steps or so when I caught movement out of the corner of my eye. Rather than a trophy deer or some other type of critter there was a man sneaking through the hay field with a fishing pole. I can still picture the willow leaf spinner bait twirling in the September sunlight. You see, this particular parcel of property has a couple ponds chocked full of bream, crappies and bass and this fellow had it in his mind to crawl under the barbed wire fence, sneak past several No Trespassing signs and try his hand at landing a largemouth. When he spotted me staring at him through binoculars he quickly modified his plans and decided to reverse his direction. I must confess as I chased him off the property, with less than congenial intentions, my mind raced through possible locations to dispose of his body. He escaped, unscathed and I was forced to ask God’s forgiveness for the ungodly thoughts that had run rampant through my mind.
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

06.28.07 Inshore Fishin in Ocean Isle

Few things match the beauty of a coastal Carolina sunrise! Romans 1:20 states, "From the creation of the world His (God's) invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what He has made..." As we, my buddies Mark, Joel and I, motored along the waterway in Mark's Southern Skimmer, we had a front row seat as the world around us shouted God's unseen qualities. A horizon of junipers, liveoaks cedars, sea oats and sand dunes gave way to the intense orange of the sun, a sliver, a wedge, a half, a red orb. With the sun rising the water's color changed from a deep dark blueish hue to shimmering green. If only you could bottle times like these...

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).
Before either of us could make a cast Joel's rod doubled over and line began to peel from his reel . Unbelievable! I put my rod back in a holder and tried to help out. It was a good fish and was giving Joel all he could handle. After several long minutes we could make out the shape of the fish and then the tell tale spots of a speckle trout. Joel worked the fish well, leading him right to the side of the skiff. Unfortunately Mark had left the net at the dock so I laid across the gunwale trying to get a hold of the trout, praying he was hooked well and hoping I didn't mess this up. Seconds later Joel's first saltwater fish, and largest fish of his life was in the boat. What we perceived as a good omen turned out to be a false indicator. Joel's trout was the only fish we boated but it was the smile on his face, the excitement of trying to land that huge trout and the great morning three friends spent together in the outdoors was definately a memory worth saving.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

"High Rock'd" 06.18.07 NC Bass Fishing

Normally I like Mondays. I know saying this can get you flogged among the cubicle set but I like the opportunity to start afresh the first day of the work week brings. Yesterday was different. By noon I was spinning my wheels and pulling my hair. Luckily my cell phone rang saving me from a certain office place meltdown. My buddy Greg had the day off and rather than calling to rub it in he was inviting me to ride down to High Rock Lake for some bassfishing. It took about 1/10th of a second to think about it and we made plans to meet up later in the afternoon. It was gonna take some time to wipe the cobwebs out of my fishing gear and change the surely decripid mono filament on a couple reels.

We met up at the local Walmart where I placed my gear in Greg's 20 ft. Ranger and placed myself in the front seat of his Silverado. Since I hadn't had a chance to hang out in a while we spent the ride down catching up. Definately one of the best parts of fishing is the fellowship!

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?

We fished a couple of Greg's favorite spots, mostly points and brush lined banks. We were both throwing plastic worms. I was using a 8" grape with metallic flake Power Bait, while my boat mate was throwing a smaller "french fry" in blue. The first thirty minutes proved promising with several strikes and even a pick up but we were unable to put a fish in the boat. This pattern continued even after moving to many others spots.

The wind picked up so Greg decided that we should get off the main channel. He picked a likely cove and we resumed our fishing. I continued casting a worm while Greg switched to a crankbait. Immediately he hooked a small, healthy looking bass. After releasing it he cast again and caught another. I grabbed my tackle bag and grabbed his tackle box and helped myself to an identical lure. My first cast landed right beside a large stump. I turned the handle on my baitcaster twice when boom it happened. Nope not a largemouth. It thundered off in the distance. "Where did that come from?" The wind was blowing a bit and there were some clouds but nothing ominous so we continued fishing. Thunder became more frequent and the sky grew darker. Greg manuevered the boat around the point of the cove and back into the larger channel. Instantly we could see where the thunder was coming from. A humongous, dark cloud covered the horizon and was coming directly toward us. I looked over at Greg and said, "We better get outta here." Before the word "here" came out of my mouth he had the trolling motor back in it's bracket, had jumped off the casting deck and was hurrying back to his seat. The 225hp roared to live and he slammed the throttle to full power steering the Ranger right at the impending storm. A minute later Greg shouted, "We're about to get wet," and the first rain drop smacked the lens of my sunglasses. My captain let off the gas and quickly donned his Frog Togs, I pulled my packable anorack over my head but before I could get my arms into the sleeves the heavens opened up. Greg hit the throttle again but could not drop the hammer because visibility had shrunk to about 20 feet. After what seemed like an eternity (probably five minutes) we could make out the outline of a bridge in the distance and we headed in that direction. We finally reached the shelter of the bridge and Greg tied us off to one of the trestles. Water was everywhere. Rather than protecting my the elastic sleeves on my jacket was holding water in. We were both DRENCHED.
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

Outdoor Devotion - "Before the Fall"

After a successful day of trout fishing at Stone Mountain State Park, including catching my first fish on a self-tied fly, my buddy Jack and I headed home on the gravel road leading to the blacktop. As we approached the park entrance Jack noticed a flock of turkeys feeding at the edge of the woods. A couple days prior to our trip to the mountain I had purchased a diaphragm call and had brought it along to practice and subsequently irritate my fishing buddy. With both windows rolled down, I put the call on top of my tongue and gave her a whirl. Each series of yelps was followed by a thunderous response from the tom. Man, was I feeling good about myself. This turkey calling was easier than I thought. After several minutes of my carrying on Jack had had enough and asked me to stop. “Watch this,” he said and slapped the truck’s horn with his palm. Immediately the gobbler responded to the sound of the horn. Jack’s smirk became raucous laughter as my HS Strut call was bested by his GMC pickup and my humiliation was complete.

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

Outdoor Devotion - "There He is."

Repeated casts on the Roanoke that early, spring morning proved fruitless. Although the striper run was in full swing a front pushed through eastern North Carolina blanketing the sky in cumulus wonder and turning off the bite like a switch. We threw the entire tackle box, cloussers, spooks, deer hair jigs, even live bait to no avail. No fish, not even a bite, nothing, nada. It was going to be a long, long day.
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.

“There he is.” also indicates spiritual success. Every person who accepts Jesus as their Savior is called to be an imitator of Christ. As we walk through our daily lives, as Christians, it is important for us to live in such a way that those around us, witnessing the way we treat others at work, the way we talk to the waitress in our favorite restaurant, the way we react to the actions of others in traffic, see Jesus. They should be able to take one look at our lives and say “There He is.”

”Be imitators of God, therefore as dearly loved children.” Ephesians 5:1

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

04.11.07--Alabama Turkey Chase III

Morning comes even earlier the second day in hunt camp. We weren’t quite as responsive to the alarm’s clarion call. Stumbling from room to room gathering socks and gloves and calls and other assorted paraphernalia scattered about the cabin. I stepped out of the cabin onto the porch and instantly noticed the cool dampness. Everything was dripping wet. Clouds covered the moon and stars and a whipping wind masked all other sounds. At least it was no longer raining.
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.