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