Tuesday, December 30, 2008

12.30.08 Waterfowl Hunt

Mark coasted his Suburban into the public impoundment parking lot at 4:15 and we all breathed a collective sigh of relief. No other vehicles were there meaning no other hunters had beat us to our spot. Our departure was postponed due to a 6 1/2 hour drive back home from my inlaws' place in Kentucky. I'd hoped to catch some zzz's in the back of the Chevy but between catching up with Mark W & Mark M and the adrenalin about the upcoming hunting coursing through each vein I didn't catch a wink.
We had a 2 mile hike to our spot so after piling everything into a couple sleds my two compatriots had been smart enough to bring we took off.
The air was crisp, the temperature was around 35, and the sky was clear as a bell. With no street lights, houses or any other form of manmade illumination nearby it was still bright enough that we didn't need our headlamps to follow the trail. I have only seen stars this bright one other time in my life. A group of buddies was surf fishing on Hatteras at the Point a couple Novembers ago but that's a different story for a different time.
It took us over a hour to get to our spot. Not wanting to get sweaty (or to pass out from exhaustion) we paced ourselves and stopped every so often. About half way through we came to ankle high water and as we got closer and closer the water got deeper and deeper slowing progress and making calf muscles burn.
We unloaded the sleds, threw out decoys, hung our bags from nearby branches and devoured biscuits that Mark M had stuffed with country ham. Then we waited. In the beautiful, predawn silence of a Carolina morning we waited.
It didn't take long for the world to begin waking up. Off in the swamp an owl began hooting. Song birds began chirping and flitting from tree to tree. A pair of mourning doves began cooing and a wood duck squealed as it flew over our heads. Eighty yards away a half dozen ducks splashed down into the water and as the sky began to lighten flocks of ducks could be seen circling our locale. The second hand on a watch never moved so slow as it did this morning. It felt like legal shooting time was never gonna arrive.
At 7:00 I slipped my ear plugs in and looked over to check out my buddies who were stationed thirty feet or so to my right. They were whispering and watching the sky intently. At 7:02 I heard a safety click off and watched Mark W swing on a bird and then apparently decide not to take the shot. My own safety clicked off as a trio of ringnecks flew into range. I picked out the first one and fired but he continued unaffected. I fired again and he buckled, regained his composure and circled to my left. A few seconds later he coasted into the water to my left and expired.
There were ducks everywhere. They were circling in us groups of two to ten. I have never seen so many birds. Unfortunately the spot they were interested in landing was eighty yards in front of us. A split decision was made to wader sixty yards forward into a cluster of trees closer to the X and risk spooking the ducks. It was a great decision. Shrouded in the branches and limbs of small scrub oaks we were able to shoot at many ducks and actually hit eleven. My shooting was horrific to begin with but I stuck with it and was able to scratch out a couple drake ringnecks and a beautiful hooded merganser drake.
We hunted until around 11, picked up decoys, reloaded the sleds and trudged our way back to the truck. It was a tiring but rewarding day. We stopped at a little restaurant on the way home and ate a great breakfast. I feel asleep on the way home....dreaming of ducks.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

12.09.08 Outdoor Devotion: Home

Coming home from the hunt.
Nose running
Fingers and feet shivering.
Smell of burning oak.
Porchlight gleaming.

Glowing lights streaming through windows.
Laughter of loved ones from within.
Home from the hunt.

It's an almost indescribable feeling. No place evokes the emotions or feelings associated with home.
A couple years ago we were spending the weekend on the family farm. While I was chasing whitetails my family was hanging out at the cabin. The boys were playing and watching Noggin while their mama was reading a book and working on supper.
It was a great day to be in the woods. An impending front had the barometer rising and the critters moving. I saw several deer though none came into bow range and a flock of turkeys though it wasn't turkey season. As the sun was setting the temperature dropped like a lead balloon and the wind picked up, whipping through the woods and knocking down the few leaves still attached to branches. The first rain drop smacked me square in the face and then the bottom fell out. Within minutes my parka was drenched and my ears and fingers felt like they were going to fall off. I carefully lowered my bow, climbed down out of the tree and began the 1/2 mile trek back to the house. By the time I reached the yard I was miserable and feeling pretty low. But when I spotted the cabin, lights glowing from within, smoke curling out of the chimney my heart was instantly rejuvenated. I ran the last 100 yards and grabbed the door handle with a huge grin on my face and a flood of relief in my heart. Like Dorothy said, "There's no place like home."
As a Christian the word "home" has a completely different connotation. The Word teaches that believers are not of this world. We are aliens while on the Earth. Our home, heaven, awaits us and is the place we're anticipating. Not sure about you but I'm looking forward to my homecoming!

Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. John 14:1-3

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

12.02.08 Outdoor Devotion: Black Friday

Black Friday! Just the mention of this phrase sends shivers down my spine. Retailers lick their chops in anticipation of the day after Thanksgiving, one of the busiest, most lucrative shopping days of the year. Places like Walmart, Kohls, Target etc. open early, like 4am early, offer extra incentives like door prizes and, last but not least, promote big discounts to lure customers through their doors.
Outdoor stores like Bass Pro Shops, Gander Mountain and Cabelas are no different. Like most outdoorsmen I received the flyers from these places and drooled over all the gear bargains.
About 2000 years ago there was another Black Friday. Of course there were no $300 laptops, X-Box bundles or 2-man ladder stands on sale. On a hill in Israel an innocent man was killed on a cross between two convicted criminals. As he breathed his last breath, the sun refused to shine and day turned into night; the sky turned pitch black. See this story, found in Matthew chapter 27, below:
Now from the sixth hour darkness fell upon all the land until the ninth hour. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, "ELI, ELI, LAMA SABACHTHANI ?" that is, "MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?" And some of those who were standing there, when they heard it, began saying, "This man is calling for Elijah."Immediately one of them ran, and taking a sponge, he filled it with sour wine and put it on a reed, and gave Him a drink. But the rest of them said, "Let us see whether Elijah will come to save Him."
And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit.
And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom ; and the earth shook and the rocks were split. The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised ; and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they entered the holy city and appeared to many. Now the centurion, and those who were with him keeping guard over Jesus, when they saw the earthquake and the things that were happening, became very frightened and said, "Truly this was the Son of God !" Many women were there looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee while ministering to Him. Among them was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee. When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who himself had also become a disciple of Jesus. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock ; and he rolled a large stone against the entrance of the tomb and went away And Mary Magdalene was there, and the other Mary, sitting opposite the grave. Now on the next day, the day after the preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered together with Pilate, and said, "Sir, we remember that when He was still alive that deceiver said, 'After three days I am to rise again.'"Therefore, give orders for the grave to be made secure until the third day, otherwise His disciples may come and steal Him away and say to the people, 'He has risen from the dead,' and the last deception will be worse than the first." Pilate said to them, "You have a guard ; go, make it as secure as you know how." And they went and made the grave secure, and along with the guard they set a seal on the stone.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

11.28.08 Randolph County Deer Hunt

I got in the stand a little late this afternoon but still had high expectations. The woods were quiet as a funeral parlor. After a while the stillness affected my senses and I began to daydream of the big, no not big, monster bucks that would soon come ambling by my stand. Large bucks from my past came to mind. Big deer that had gotten away and had haunted me since:

On this fall day I really wrestled with whether or not to bother. The wind had blown 15-20 mph for a couple days and a full moon the previous night indicated the deer had fed all night and would be bedded down throughout the day. At around 2 in the afternoon I eased into a nice comfy ladder stand and rocked in the breeze. This particular stand was located at the intersection of two old logging roads with ten year-old pines growing all around. I began glassing these roads, more out of boredom than anything else, hopeful that at least some turkeys might wander by. There were plenty of deer tracks crossing the sandy road to my right and I was surprised to see a fresh rub on a baseball bat size loblolly but the coast was clear. I scanned to my left and and soon as the road in front came into focus I spotted a deer with it's head to the ground, feeding along as it walked. When it lifted it's head I nearly dropped out of the stand. I hadn't been hunting very long but this was definitely the largest buck I'd ever seen. His rack was thick, very dark and heavy looking and it was getting thicker, darker and heavier looking by the second as he walked right toward me. I was in such a stupor it didn't occur to me that my Winchester model 70 was laying across my lap. The buck got to within 75 yards of my location and stopped, licked his nose and stuck his snout up into the air. Two things happened at this point. One, I remembered why I was sitting sixteen feet up in a tree and, two, I felt a gust of wind hit me in the back of the head. I tried raising the .270 slowly but my scent had apparently reached the buck's nasal passages and he bounded one time into the pines and was gone in the blink of any eye.

Two seasons later, near the end of the bow season, I had it in mind to sneak into a stand I'd erected over an oak flat adjacent to a food plot on lease over in Guilford County. Weeks before, to keep noise to a minimal, I had bushhogged the path leading to the stand. This allowed me to sneak along to the stand without alerting all the deer in the county to my presence. A brief drizzle earlier in the day had quieted the woods even more and I was pumped about getting to my spot with stealthly. The path crossed a small creek and then veered around a hedgerow to the right. I always checked the creek bank for tracks this day was no different. There were several fresh tracks and one set of huge prints, very wide with dew clews clearly marked in the mud, indicating a heavy, mature deer had crossed there recently. After studying the tracks I jumped over the creek and walked around the bend. There, standing right in the middle of the trial, was a humongus buck. He was just as surprised to see me as I was him. And we stood there for what seemed like hours staring at each other. Finally he turned and ran into the woods and I just stood there.....dumbfounded.

The following season I was perched in a bowstand less than 80 yards from the same creek. My stand was chained to a huge white oak tree that set beside a well-worn deer trail and overlooked a two acre foodplot. Thirty minutes before sunset I heard the distinct sound of hooves crunching leaves as deer, possibly several deer, made their way toward me. It proved to be four deer, all does, and every one of them walked directly beneath me, filtered into the plot and began munching on brassica, winter wheat and Austrian peas. I considered dropping one of larger ones and calling it a day but that little voice in the back of my mind, the one that had seen too many hunting shows on tv and read too many articles in outdoor magazines, told me to wait. Sure enough, fifteen minutes later I heard the sound of another deer walking my way. Through the branches below me I saw the glint of antler. After pausing briefly at the edge of the field he walked out and stood ten feet from me. I drew back my PSE, picked out a spot just behind his shoulder and let her rip. The shot was true. He kicked his back legs and ran off, circling back into the woods from which he came. I sat down and took a deep breath, my legs had turned to jelly. As I was attempting to regain my composure, pillowy gray clouds that had been gathering all afternoon began to sprinkle rain and I began to worry. Normally I would wait for a while, from 30 minutes up to an hour, to track an arrowed deer but with the drizzle coming down I was concerned about the blood trail would wash away. I climbed down, pulled out my flashlight and began tracking the buck. Big mistake. I followed the trail until it entered the woods, found a pool of blood ten yards into the timber and then nothing. I searched and searched. I spent two hours looking and found nothing. Finally I decided to come back the next day. Early the following morning I returned and searched some more I found the arrow and nothing more. Four agonizing hours later I realized the deer was gone.

I didn't see any deer on this night, other than the bucks of hunts past, but I left the stand hopeful that there will be big bucks in the future and maybe, just maybe everything will come together. At least I hope so.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Upcoming Wildgame Supper

Go here for more details.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

11.08.08 - Opening Day Waterfowl Hunt,

It's been a while since the alarm clock heralded 4am at our house. My watch's beep, beep, beep beckoned me through sleepy haze as I considered staying under the covers just ten more minutes. An elbow shot to the ribs courtesy of my beloved, startled me to consciousness and I was up and at 'em. I quickly donned shirts & a long sleeve t-shirt (forecast said it was going to be 60 degrees and I was going to put waders on anyway) and slipped into ninja mode, attempting to sneak out of the bedroom without further aggravating the aforementioned elbow throwing beloved. "Be careful. I love you." said she and I grinned to myself thinking about the progression we had made after nearly fifteen hunting seasons: First it was"Honey, don't go. Stay home." Followed by, "Have a great time." Then we had the "It's 4am, you're crazy" years. And finally we are at our current stage.
An hour later I was sitting in a blind with Mark and Ken awaiting the arrival of some ducks. The decoys were strategically placed 20-30 yards in front of us. There were fake mallards, ring necks and even some canada geese wobbling in the waves of the lake.
A couple minutes before legal shooting time shotguns were loaded, ear plugs were put in and the blinds inhabitants went into stealth mode. Surely when the clock struck LST we would be bombarded by feathered fiends. Alas, the dreams of sportsman seldom become reality. So we continued our camouflaged vigil, occasionally spotting ducks or geese and although a couple groups checked out our spread, none would commit to landing amongst the decoys.
Around 9 I heard the distinctive but faint of hrrronk of a goose in flight. At first it sounded like a distant hound barking but the rhythmic honking grew louder and louder. Mark and Ken both said "geese" at the same time and subtle glance over the front of the blind revealed a flock of eight Canadas flying straight toward us. Closer and closer they came, dropping as they approached and looking more and more like they would soon kamikaze right into us. Grips tightened on shotgun forearms and even with ear plugs in I heard someone whisper, "They're coming."
I'm not sure what the signal was, usually Mark growls, "Take 'em!" or Ken will just start blasting, but this time we all stood up simultaneously and began shooting into flock. After months of anticipation and preparation it came to this; eight prey and three predators. I made the rookie mistake of flock shooting, firing at multiple birds rather than picking out a target, and watched as Ken and Mark each dropped a bird and Ike was sent to make the retrieve. Usually such a poor performance brings about mental self abasement or at least blaming the Benelli however looking across the blind and seeing the smiling faces of my two friends immediately squelched any disappointment.
We stopped at a truck stop for breakfast on the way home. It had been a slow hunt but hot coffee, warm grits and sharing the morning with a couple of buddies made it a banner day.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

9.21.08 Benjamin Moye Classic

Yesterday I had the privilege of helping out with the Benjamin Moye Classic Kids Fishing Tournament at High Rock Lake. This event, which was sponsored by Sportsmen for Christ, teamed kids from the Baptist Children's Home in Thomasville with anglers from all across North Carolina. It was a great day on the water.
Below is a slideshow of the event.

Friday, August 1, 2008

8.01.08 Outdoor Devotion: Empty Handed

Yesterday was a perfect day for fishing and I was in the perfect spot. As I approached the edge of Lake Hickory I could see schools of baitfish moving along the water's surface with periodic swirls of larger ichthyic specimens preying upon them. Overcast skies, a little stain to the water and a slight breeze made conditions right for a willow leaf spinnerbait.
In my mind I pictured the first cast. 30 yards to the left, 10 feet past a large rock the lure would land with barely a splash. I would allow the spinnerbait to sink to the bottom, blades fluttering sporadically as it made its descent. On the count of three I would began reeling in the slack and when the line became taunt a little jerk would ensure the blades were turning correctly. As my bait passed the rock I would simultanesously see a swirl and feel the tug of a hungry largemouth, enhaling its breakfast. It would be perfect.
I reached down to feel the cork grip of my 6 foot graphite rod only to discover it wasn't there. Day dreams surrendered to reality and I remembered what had brought me to the lake. Work had brought me to a planning conference at Holyfield Leadership Training Conference and althought I'd packed a lot of stuff but there was no tackle to be found. I was empty handed.
Lately I've been thinking about the Christian walk. Maybe its cultural, maybe traditional but we Christians often think that we can do certain things; pray more, attend Church more regularly, tithe a little extra or increase our busyness for the Kingdom and God will love us more. This idea that we can earn our salvation has been prevalent throughout time and has been a hurdle in my life as well. What He desires is that we humble ourselves and surrender our desires to Him. We are most powerful and most useful yielded to the Father and empty handed.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Outdoor Devotion: Accumulation

There are certain tasks that we know are necessary but it seems to take forever before we get to them. Flossing teeth, changing the oil, cleaning out gutters, cleaning shotguns and giving the dog a bath just to name a few.
This afternoon I performed one of those tasks; cleaning a shotgun. As I stripped down the Benelli (which by the way can be done with no tools and apparently without any instructions) I was shocked to see the amount and variety of debris that had accumulated within its inner workings. There were bits and pieces of sand, leaves, muck, weeds, grit and bark from every hunt since I last cleaned it ten months earler.
Another to-do item that I was able to put a checkmark beside this week was cleaning out my truck. It was amazing. Shotguns shells (non toxic, dove shot and a couple turkey loads), rifle shells (at least two different calibres), muzzeloader bullets and primers, maps, breakfast and granola bars, various lures, hooks and weights (egg, pyramid, bullet, splitshot, you name it), a leatherman tool and folding knife, a flashlight and a headlamp, wader repair kit, some leaders, bug repellant, first aid kit, regulations booklets (from several states), turkey and duck calling instructional cds, ear muffs, various straps, cords and rope, binoculars, a rain poncho and a goose call.
Occasionally, like that dirty shotgun or the cab of that pickup, my life will get cluttered. Usually this stems from getting priorities out of balance. Maybe I become entangled by a sin, distancing myself from the Father's will. Sometimes I will get a little OCD over a work project and neglect my marriage or possibly a conflict with a coworker, friend or family member damages a relationship. It takes a spirtual spring cleaning to get these things under control. Prayer, reading the Word, sharing with an accountability partner, fasting and earnest worship are all helpful in eliminating the accumulation and getting back on track.
My prayer for each of us is that we will allow God to clean the accumulation from our lives.

"...if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin." I John 1:7

Thursday, June 12, 2008

6.12.08 New River Smallies

Having just returned from a trip overseas and still firmly in the clutches of jet lag I had no business getting up before dawn this morning to go fishing. Alas, the call of the outdoors is ofttimes greater than the restraint of common sense. So at 5:30 I pulled into a Krispy Kreme parking lot, the designated rendezvous point for myself and Jeff of Jeffrey Wilkins Flyfishing. Jeff and I were soon zooming down the highway in his Honda Accord (like many other sportsmen his SUV remains parked as fuel prices continue their climb) chatting like old friends and laughing and smiling like all men that are about to fish laugh and smile.
The ride up I-77 was great. Beautiful mountainous surroundings coated in morning fog and shrouded in spring green amplified by recent rainfall. Even at 70 mph the view was unbelievable. Around 7 Jeff pulled off the road into a narrow make shift parking spot. You could smell the river before opening the door instilling a sense of urgency in two anglers. Immediately we began putting on wading boots and throwing gear together. My arsenal included a 7 weight flyrod and and 6 foot ultra light spinning outfit. I crammed a box of lures a box of poppers and various flies, some granola bars and peanuts and a bottle of water into my vest while Jeff emptied the contents of the Honda's trunk into his William Joseph pack. For some reason I'd opted to leave my waders at the house so when I reached down and dipped my fingers into the New I was pleasantly surprised at its temperature. Rather than cold it was instead luke warm, almost bath water tepid.
We waded to almost the middle of the river spooking baitfish and baitfish eating bass along the way. Perched upon one of many rock outcroppings I made my first cast of the day. My fly rod felt awkward, almost foreign to the touch but after way to many false casts my Anthony Hipps soft bodied popper landed with a satisfying kerplunk into the deep green waters.
We fished all day and caught more fish than I can remember. Jeff knew this section of the New like the back of his hand and was gracious with his knowledge. With the blink of an eye we were back at the Honda, storing away wet gear and driving back down the mountain.
Prior to departing we stopped to give thanks to God for a great day in the outdoors and great fellowship among brothers. I look forward to fishing with Jeffrey again and chasing those New River smallies.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Outdoor Devotion: Imitation

My favorite all-time fishing lure has got to be the Rapala minnow. Not just any Rapala but the original, floating minnow in silver. Without a doubt this is my go-to bait. I have full confidence that if I was to walk up to a farm pond, lake, river or stream I'd never fished before and cast this lure a fish would strike.
The Rapala was designed to mimmic a wounded minnow having a "wiggle fish can't resist" and if you cast it into still water, allow it to sit a few seconds (until the water's ripples have disappeared) and give it a little twitch, it drives bass crazy. It's lifelike movement triggers a piscatorial reaction anglers have appreciated for years.
It has been said imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. My prayer for you, brother or sister, is that your life will be an imitation of our Savior, Jesus. Your coworkers, neighbors, family and complete strangers will see the way you live and say, "There's something different about him/her." That difference is the Spirit of the living God working in His followers, forming and shaping us into the very image of Jesus. The word christian literally means "little Christ". May our lives imitate Him and may we wear His name in a worthy manner.
"...be imitators of God, as dearly loved children." Ephesians 5:1

Friday, May 16, 2008

5.15.08 Beaufort NC: Skinny Water

Yesterday I fished with Tom Roller of Water Dog Guide Service. His clients had been very successful over the last week so Tom's sage advice was to take his 23' Parker out for bonito, spanish, amberjacks and some big blues. While tempted I had tailing reds on the brain and being a bit of a hard head I opted for the afternoon bite in skinny water.
I'd tried for at least a year to hook with up with Tom on either a fishing trip or waterfowl hunt but the logistics never worked out. However, when a last-minute family vacation to Emerald Isle opened up I called the good captain and luckily we were able to set it up.
Around 1:30pm I pulled up to the West Beaufort Water Access and met my guide. Tom was launching his Jones Brothers Bateau and although the ramps were in pitiful condition he made quick work of it. After brief introductions we were off.
The skies were robin's egg blue with an occasional cloud here and there. Air temps were in the mid seventies but it was a bit breezy. Not exactly ideal for topwater but a beautiful day nonetheless and as the old saying goes, "A bad day fishing is better than...." Tom killed the Yamaha and we coasted into a likely looking flat. He dropped the Minn Kota trolling motor into the wa ter and directed the boat parallel to the shore using a remote control strapped to his wrist while I began casting a white spinner bait style lure. Had several small strikes, probably pin fish, but no takers. We spent a while blind casting, pitching lures in fishing spots without any success working our way through the flats and soaking in our picturesque surroundings.
There comes a point in every outing where expectations meet and ofttimes collide with reality. Before any trip I find myself daydreaming, visualizing what I hope will happen. Prior to this particular adventure I had pictured myself making a perfect 50 foot cast, plopping a clauser right in front of the snout of a ravenous redfish, watching him devour the fly, setting the hook, fighting him mightily on a 7 weight flyrod and netting him with a flourish. The conditions however were dictating a different scenario and although I was not regretting my decision to chase reds. Captian Roller wasn't making it any easier as he talked about the success he had experienced earlier in the day, fishing in the ocean as he had recommended to me. No sooner had that thought crept into my conscious than it was quickly squelched by observing my surroundings and remembering that I was doing what I loved. Snapping back to reality I cast a Berkley Gulp five inches from the grassline and was instantly slammed by something that peeled line off the Shimano spinning reel and put a strenuous arc on the St.Croix rod. Fighting like a mack truck there was no question mister redfish was making an appearance on the other end of the line. Every time I got him within reach of the boat he would make another dive, taking line and causing the reel to scream. All too soon however the battle was over and the 23" drum was in Tom's net. A couple quick pictures and the fish was returned to the sound.
Captain Tom decided the tide was proper for some wading so we relocated to even more shallow wader. He dropped the PowerPole into the brine and we ventured out of the boat and into the cool water. That was my kind of fishing. As I've said here before, there's just something about being down amongst 'em. I was elated...that is until I stepped into a two foot deep mud hole and lost my Keen sandal. It took some doing to get the shoe free and after laughing at my misfortune I promised myself I'd be more cautious. I was also introduced to a worrisome urchin Tom referred to as periwinkle clams. Beautiful and diminutive in size the periwinkles were just small enough to slide into my sandals but too large to come back out on their own accord. So I found myself walking with an awkward, side to side gait until my most unwelcome passengers could be released.
We trudged and occasionally limped through ankle deep water looking for tails, wakes or other evidence of feeding reds but never saw what we were looking for. Either the tides, the windy conditions or maybe recent rains had moved the drum elsewhere. So we jumped back into the bateau, changed tactics and relocated to another spot.
Our final spot was a tidal creek mouth. With the rising tide our quarry was stage in this type of ambush locations, ready to devour any unsuspecting prey that came along. My gulp paddle tail jig happened to come along and BAM! the fight was on. Another redfish, this one 20" was brought to the net. I quickly put another cast into the same location, hopeful there were other reds there. The jig hit the water and BAM! another great strike. This fish was not a drum however but turned out to be a nice 18" chopper, aka bluefish. A couple more cast came up empty and before we knew it our time was up. Riding back to the ramp I was grateful for another day of life, a beautiful time on the water, the fish that we caught and a chance to hang out with a neat guy, Captain Tom Roller. However, I'm now ready to get in the ocean and check out those bonitos and amberjacks!

Monday, May 12, 2008

5.10.08 Davidson River Flyfishing Retreat

This past weekend was the 2008 Sportsmen for Christ Flyfishing Retreat in Brevard, North Carolina. Below are some pictures from the trip.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Outdoor Devotion: Shed

Shed antler hunting has become a very popular pastime in the outdoor community. I guess it's an opportunity for hunters, beleagured with winter-induced cabin fever, to get back into the woods. Maybe its those childhood memories of treasure hunts or games of hide and seek. I like to get out in early spring and look for sheds. Not only is it good exercise and an excuse to get out but it's a great opportunity to do some scouting next season. Deer trails are more easily noticed, rubs and scrapes are still visible and if you find a dropped antler or two you know you're onto something.
Each year whitetail bucks shed their antlers and begin the process of growing new ones. In North Carolina this usually takes place in late February through March dependant upon winter weather conditions.
A couple months ago I was out scouting for a turkey hunt. When walking along the edge of a large food plot, looking for turkey tracks, strut marks, droppings and other sign that would indicate a good place to set up a blind I spotted something glimmering in the midday sun. Closer inspection showed it to be a large, right sided, five-point antler. Ten yards away was another smaller, right side antler. There was absolutely no turkey sign whatsoever in that field but I will definately be checking out that location again prior to next deer season.
When we begin our walk with Christ He says that we are a "new creation.' Not only is it important that we shed habits, tendencies, relationships and other things it is imperative that we embrace a new worldview. Other people, situations, decisions, etc must be seen through the eyes of Christ influencing how we speak, act and even how we think. As a friend recent told me, we must live lives that reflect the very nature of Jesus. May God give you strength to shed.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 2 Corinthians 5:17

Monday, April 28, 2008

4.26.08 Children's Fishing Tournament Oxford, NC

"Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world." James 1:7

Doing something nice for a person who cannot repay you is goodwill in its purest form. Saturday I had the privilege of seeing this kind of love in action. My friend, Greg, and I volunteered at the Oxford Children’s Home Fishing Tournament at Buggs Island, a 50,000 acre reservoir located on the Carolina-Virginia border. Greg has been involved since the event’s inception in ’06 and invited me to tag along. With his glowing report I was eager to get involved.
In the predawn darkness Greg hooked up the Ranger to his Silverado as I stuffed rods, tackle, snacks, camera equipment and other miscellaneous gear into storage compartments. By 4:30am we were headed north to Virginia. With stops at Hardees in South Boston for biscuits and a great tackle shop in Clarksville called Bobcats we arrived at the ramp at 7 o’clock sharp. Blast off time was thirty minutes later. Seasoned anglers were paired up with a child and a chaperone and off they went for a day of fishing.
I stayed ashore for the morning session, taking pictures and helping the younger kids who fished from the bank. At noon the boaters returned with tall tales and taller appetites.
After lunch I jumped in Greg’s boat and we motored up the lake with our fishing buddy, James. James, a fourteen year old who has lived at the home for over seven years, was a fishing fanatic. Both he and Greg were bouncing around the boat in excitement. A quick peak in the livewell revealed why. Before lunch he had hooked a citation, fifteen and a half inch crappy. It was a monster, the largest I’d ever seen in person. James was thinking trophy, I was thinking House Autry and cheese grits. In addition to the crappy there were a couple largemouth swimming in the well. The task at hand was to add to the bag.

Our first spot was a steep, rock-strewn bank with several large blow downs. James was throwing a small, white spinner bait. Jack, his chaperon, had a popper, Greg and I were throwing larger, willow leaf spinner bait. I had a strike on my second cast and had a fish follow the bait to the boat on the third cast. Greg missed one and then I connected with one and handed my rod to James who reeled with all his might. Unfortunately the bass jumped right before it was netted and he got off. Moments later I got another strike and was able to put this one, a one and a half pounder, in the livewell. The wind picked up dramatically and the bite turned off.
Greg attempted t o put us on some other spots but nothing seemed to work. With about an hour left before weighin something went awry with the Ranger’s battery keeping the boat from starting. Fortunately the trolling motor had juice so our captain began slow progress toward the ramp. James, was a great sport and without complaining simply dropped a crank bait off the stern, trolling it in our wake. Wouldn’t you know it, right before we pulled ashore, a small striped bass hit the lure and James was able to pull him in.
One of the highlights of the day was the tournament weigh-in. The kids (and their fishing partners) were elated to show off their catch. There were bass, bream, catfish and crappies and among them were some very nice fish. Every group caught fish, some more than others. One team had almost twenty fish in their creel, another had twin catfish over three pounds and another had a largemouth weighing 5.4 lbs.
Following weigh-in was the trophy ceremony. Earlier in the day each child had been given a new rod and reel combo as well as tackle and other goodies. Now, every participant received a medal and prizes were award for largest fish in several categories, most fish, heaviest stringer, etc. By the time it was over, with sporting goods, trophies, toys and other treats, the picnic area looked like Christmas morning. And the looks of pure joy, gleeful giggles and ecstatic enthusiasm on the young peoples' faces was the true gift
Event organizers, Mike and Paris Routh, put together the Oxford Children’s Home Fishing Tournament with the purpose of creating wonderful, maybe even once-in-a-lifetime memories for the children. I’d say the Routh’s have accomplished their goal but it’s hard to say who is blessed more by this day, the volunteers or the participants. I plan on being there next year!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Outdoor Devotion: A Master at Work

Last night I had the privilege of seeing a true master at work. I attended the Sportsmen for Christ Campfire over in High Point. Campfire is a monthly meeting where outdoor fanatics get together for Bible study, a little good-natured ribbing, tale telling and of course, food consumption.
The featured guest was fly-tyer extraordinaire, Anthony Hipps of Lexington. After sharing a great devotion on temptation Anthony launched into a demonstration of how to tie his infamous foam-bodied bass popper. Starting with an empty hook, Hipps, added layer after layer of foam, thread, glue, hackle, paint, and other materials, meticulously molding and shaping until the fly resembled a perfect popper. Wrap thread, add material, turn the vise, glue, add material, wrap, spin, strip, wrap, adjust, paint, spin, adjust, motion after mesmerizing motion. Minutes later, as if conjured from some magical Orvis catalog, a perfect bass popper appeared. A true work of art, the handiwork of a master.
I have recently had the chance to watch another Master at work. My friend, Scott had been going through a really tough spot in his life. Very similar to the trials this life throws at us all: tough times at work, financial difficulties, relationship issues, marital discord, health problems, addictions of one sort or another, or maybe just disappointed with the daily grind. Scott's issues were compounded by the fact that he didn't have a relationship with the Lord.
After a particularly rough day, Scott decided he could take no more and threw up his hands in desperation. God was waiting. Through His providence one of Scott's buddies, a believer, was there at his time of need and he was led to the throne of the Creator. God reached down, grabbed Scott and embraced him as only our loving Heavenly Father is able.
As Scott has continued to surrender, God has been molding and shaping his life, his hopes, his dreams, his family into a true work of art. It has been a beautiful transformation to behold. A life full of pain to a man full of promise. The handiwork of The Master.
Is your life a mess? God, the Master, is waiting to transform you into His masterpiece. Why not talk to Him today?

He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion
until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Tangled Lines 4.02.08 Kids Fishing Trip

Growing up with a grandmother that loved to eat fish was a plus. Growing up with a grandmother that loved to catch fish was even better. I can close my eyes and picture my grandmother, affectionally known as "Granny," sitting in a lawn chair on the banks of the lake, under the shade of a battered straw hat, worn but adequate cane pole in hand , smiling as she pulled in bream, bass and catfish.
Granny was full of angling wisdom and would occasionally cast her pearls among swine and I, being her ever-present fishing buddy, was there to soak up the knowledge. One thing she always said was, “Fish bite better when it’s raining.” I’m not sure if her statement was based upon experience or if it was merely a ploy to keep her fishing buddy optimistic when foul weather loomed. I will say this, we caught some of our best stringers during spring showers .
Granny also said, "Never fish with dead bait." Being a consumate worm dipper, cricket sinker and minnow dunker, she was always sure to offer fresh bait on the hook. My mischievous side greatly relished her wrinkle-nosed response anytime I could convince a fish to partake of the bloated cadaver of a well overused nightcrawler.
Another of Granny’s precious nuggets was, “When the dogwoods bloom it’s time to go crappie fishing.” With this phrase in mind my friend, Greg and I mapped out a little fishing trip with my youngest boy, Zane, and his little buddy, Jacob. I would pick the boys up from school at lunch (yes, it is acceptable to get your son out of school to go fishing with their daddy) and Greg would hook up his boat and meet us at the Walmart parking lot.
We hit the water, ahead of schedule, and were blasting down the lake in Greg’s Ranger. Zane and Jacob lay on their bellies on the front deck and howled with delight as we sped along. (There are few things in this world better than the laughter of little boys.)
In minutes we were at our first spot, a beautiful rocky point off the main channel where someone had begun constructing a new pier. The sun warmed riprap and the protective structure of pier pilings made this an ideal location for prespawn crappies. We had Zebcos rigged with bobbers and mini jigs of varying colors at the ready and before the prop had stopped spinning, Greg had one on the hook. He handed the rod to Jacob who reeled in a nice, little fish, a nice start to the afternoon.
When the bite slowed we headed to another area and fished there a while.
The sun hid behind clouds and the wind picked up making our bobbers dance and jigs dance seductively beneath the waters surface but the fish could not be enticed. Apparently it was nap time for crappies. That meant snack time for crappy fisherman and we were amply stocked with all kinds of goodies (thanks to Zane's sweet mama): Lance peanut butter crackers, fruit rollups, Little Debbie Oatmeal cookies, and some leftover Easter candy to name a few. After snacks we decided to return to our original spot.
We caught a half dozen more, finishing the day exactly where we had started. Although we didn't catch enough to supply a fish fry it was a great day of fishing. I sure wish Granny could have been there!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Outdoor Devotion: Trophy

Hang around in outdoor circles very long and you’ll hear certain words and phrases. One word that is used to the point of being overdone is “trophy.” Enthusiasts such as ourselves spend a lot of time and energy pursuing trophy bucks, fishing on trophy streams, etc. When I first started my sporting escapades I too was after the heaviest creel, the largest buck, the tom with the longest beard and spurs and other outdoor trophies.
Ironically a trophy, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. On a recent, Alabama turkey hunt with my eldest son, Si, I realized that over the years my definition of “trophy” has changed.
Although we didn’t harvest a bird, or even hear one gobble for that matter, here are some true trophies I took on that hunt:
  • The wonder in his eyes as he watched a yearling doe munch rye fifty yards from our blind, oblivious to our presence.
  • The sound of his raucous laughter as we drove just a little too fast on the four-wheeler.
  • The ecstatic joy on his face as Mr. LC taught him how to drive the Kubota.
  • The groggy stupor as he struggled to get out of a comfortable bed way before the sun got out of his.
  • His sweaty, end-of-the-day aroma frequently accompanying a little boy that has played hard in the outdoors.
  • The sound of him wrestling with his gloves and facemask, snapping limbs of a pine tree, wiggling in the leaves, whispering silly questions and chewing a crisp apple as I strained to hear the morning’s first gobble.
  • The mischief in his eyes as he tried to sneak snacks out of my turkey vest.
  • The ravenous way he attacked his egg sandwich, apple, poptarts and powdered sugar doughnuts for breakfast.
  • The sweet, innocent tone to this voice when he ask, “Daddy can I hold you hand?” as we walked out of the woods after dusk.
  • His sincerity and the strength of his hug as he said “Thank you Daddy . I had a great time with you.”

Recently a friend told me the story of two cousins. The eldest brother had a little boy and wanted to start taking him along on his outdoor adventures. The youngest pitched a fit, stating the boy would make too much noise, get tired too quickly, and would make a general nuisance of himself. Several years later, the youngest cousin wanted to take his son along to hunting camp. Long forgotten were the words he had spoken to his brother regarding kids in the outdoors. Apparently having a child of his own changed his perspective. Funny, having children has changed mine also!
God has trophies as well. He doesn’t have taxidermy hanging from the walls of His home but Heaven is full and will be full of things He treasures. Just thinking about the things He created: mountainous splendor, meandering rivers, creatures in all shapes and sizes, starry skies, majestic sunrises, etc, etc. etc. you know that God enjoys beautiful trophies. However, what He prizes most in this world is YOU! He passionately pursues people because having a relationship brings Him (and us) true joy. This pursuit has cost Him more than we can ever imagine. But the Lord was willing to give up the best that He had for us, His trophy.

For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

Friday, February 1, 2008

1.26.08 Forsyth County Waterfowl Hunt - The Last Hoorah

Having work assignments most of the day on Saturday, I hoped to squeek out a last-minute waterfowl hunt before the close of the season. Mark and his son Bailey had hunted this pond in the morning seeing plenty of mallards, some mergansers and a flock of geese. They were unable to get a shot but were confident that would change in the afternoon.

I rushed home from the office, picked up my oldest boy Si (it was his turn on the rotation), grabbed a bunch of gear and headed to our rendezvous point. Bailey had other plans so Mark and Mark M. were stationed on a point in a makeshift blind. From afar it looked like they were covered up in geese. As we walked closer it was apparent these were decoys. The set looked great. Surely we'd get a shot a some birds this afternoon.
Mark M was quick to show us a fine, bull mallard he'd taken just prior to our arrival. He could only stay a while longer, he muttered something about a "date night" but at least he'd scored. With his departure we settled into our spots, awaiting what would certainly be a great shoot.
As is common in waterfowling, deer hunting, bass fishing, or any other activity afield, ideal conditions do not necessarily equate with a full cooler. We hunted the rest of the day, having a great time cutting up and fellowshipping with each other, but never saw another bird.

With things so slow a decision was made to break one of the cardinal rules of duck hunting: never pick up the decoys early especially on the final day of the season. We gathered, stacked, and stored several dozen dekes and made our way to our trucks. As we rounded the final curve in the pond and were about to cross the pasture something caught the corner of my eye. Wouldn't you know it, a hooded merganser drake plopped down into the pond and began to preen, completely unaware of two men, a boy standing right out in the open. Unbelievable! Mark quickly loaded up and Si put his ear protection on. I shouted and waved my arms frantically and when the hoodie jumped he made an arc and rather than flying away from us, veered right over us. Mark made a beautiful second shot and the duck plummeted into the chilly waters. Ike rocketed off the bank, swam a beeline right for the drake and had it retrieved and in Mark's awaiting hand in short order. What a beautiful bird. And what a great way to end the hunt and the season.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

1.17.08 "Snow" Goose Hunt

Ever had something just "felt right"? A favorite pair of boots, the smell of the air right after a rain shower, a well worn recliner, or maybe breakfast at your grandma's house. This morning was one of those moments. Daylight found Mark, his dog, Ike, and me sitting along the bank of a local farm pond. We'd thrown out just four mallard decoys and were waiting on the shoreline for some geese or quite possibly some ducks to show up. Two pair of long johns, sock liners and wool knee highs, a pair of goretex bibs, a waterproof parka, a wool shooter's sweater, warm gloves and a thick toboggan made sitting on the bank pretty comfortable. Wind-forced waves caused the decoys to dance perfectly. And, in spite of sleet bouncing of the back of my neck, all was right with the world. This was what duck hunting weather was supposed to be like.

Water the color of liquid lead.

Steely clouds camouflaged the sunrise.

The air smelled of cold, damp and faintly of a fire from a distant chimney.

Frozen rain hitting the pond, icey branches creaking inthe wind, crows arguing with one another and an occasional car traveling very carefully down an adjacent roadway.

Just after sunrise a small group of mallards dropped into middle of the pond. They came from nowhere and were in the water before I spotted them. I asked Mark, "Hey man, what was that noise?" and looked over to see him staring at something, left hand tightening on his Benelli, right hand reaching for one of the calls hanging from his neck. Ike was staring in the same direction, quiet and still except for the involuntary spasms of excitement ranging through his body. Following their gaze past our four faux ducks I saw three larger-than-life ducks swimming eighty yards from our location. The hen was fussing mightily at the other two for the error of their ways. Mark tried to lure them within range but like phantoms they were gone as quickly as they came.

An hour later sounds of geese in flight filtered across the farmland. They were coming our way so we hunkered down and anticipated their arrival. Sure enough a large flock, over thirty birds, was coming right to us unfortunately they veered to our right, circled around a stand of hardwoods and landed in a hayfield a hundred yards behind us. Lickity-split Mark was up, "I'm going after them. Maybe I can sneak up on 'em." We mapped out our plan and put it into action. Mark would try to sneak to the right while Ike and I would stake a spot to the left on the edge of a small clump of trees. Hopefully he would get within gun range and upon shooting would spook the now feeding geese toward our ambush.
Ike whined as we waited. It seemed like an eternity but in reality only ten minutes pasted until I heard the alarm call of one of the flock's sentries followed by the raucous cries of geese on the move. However, even as the geese flew away there were no shots. Just then, two more geese flew into view and they were coming right at Ike and I. Just as I was about to shoulder my gun, a three simulataneous booms rang out and the lead goose dropped to the ground. The other kept flying and when it came within range I attempted to draw a bead on it's outstretched neck. Little did I know that my sling had become wrapped around my parka preventing me from shooting. Eventually, after getting untangeled I raised my twelve's barrel but it was too late.
I released Ike who took off after the canada while Mark walked up grinning from ear to ear.

Not exactly the hunt we had in mind but a great time nonetheless. I can't wait for our next winter storm.