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I'm back on open water now, and that’s comforting for a couple of reasons. Even though I was able to spend considerable time on ice for the first time in my life, I always had a nagging in the back of my mind with every step or scoot of the snowmobile that a sudden crack, pop and sink COULD happen. It didn’t. The ice was two feet thick and very safe. The second reason that I'm comfortable on the home lake is familiarity. Thousands of hours on these waters have me launching the boat without a specific game plan, nothing more than a targeted species in mind. I can launch, fire up the motor and head out without marking a boat ramp or even turning on the Garmin units until I'm near my starting point.
I do plan a return to the frozen country though. The people in Minnesota were so friendly, welcoming and enjoyable...the fishing was pretty darn good too. When drilling an eight inch hole to catch fish on a lake that's eighty miles long, you better know what's under there...could be a very long day of hit and miss without open water knowledge of what becomes rock hard ice late fall through winter. Woody Woods know where to set the auger to work. He’s been fishing Rainy Lake, Minnesota on the Canadian border for 45 years. He has fished so well that his peers put him in the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame. That’s a big part of why I chose Woody as a fishing partner on this trip. His knowledge along with his easy going personality made him a slam dunk decision for me. His business is titled “Woody’s Fairly Reliable Guide Service”; his motto, “90% of our customers come back alive”.
When the engines of the snowmobiles die down, 8-10 miles up a frozen lake in late February, the silence...REAL silence starts to creep into your ears. No planes, highways or boat motors. Just a light breeze through the pines, that stretch from the thousands of islands that dot Rainy. The latest snowfall buffers the sound and it’s the perfect soundtrack for the incredible beauty that surrounds you. The only disturbance was a bald eagle that landed on the ice about 100 yards away in hopes of stealing one of our fish. He did too! Swooping in so close behind me that the flapping of his massive wings raised my eyebrows and spun my head around.
I've fished all of my life, from the Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf, to freshwater from Florida to the Rockies. This was a totally new and exciting experience. I've never been anyplace more beautiful. Put it on your bucket list, plan it and follow through. Here are a couple of tips...
Before you go...
MARCH 10, 2017
I'm asked from time to time to speak to different groups. It's always humbling to be invited and to actually stand before these groups. Even though I've been in the radio business and spoken publicly for decades, it also scares the bejeebers out of me. I'm much more comfortable alone on the bow of the boat searching out slab crappie or big bass.
When I do stand before these groups, I can tell of the 8 ponder that I caught last week. Where I found her, what bait I was throwing, water temp, water color, weather conditions and other details that MIGHT help these folks out. I can tell them about the brushpile deep in a body of water that holds mega numbers of crappie this time of year and that MIGHT help them some. I can give some stats, numbers and accounts of how remaining in your stand on guard for big bucks has paid off many times at 1 in the afternoon rather than at daylight or dusk.
But...What I have to say, or anybody else for that matter, is only yesterday's news, or a guess about tomorrow...unless...we are speaking God’s word. THAT is my only confidence. That is the only pure truth, the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. I'm not a preacher, God didn’t call me to that. I am saved by His incredible grace, and I love to tell the story of Jesus and His love, and that I can speak of with an overwhelming confidence.
There's lots of public speakers out there right now that are talking about walls, gun control, international terrorism, our suffering economy, how the US can be great again and so on and so forth. Yesterday's news and tomorrow's speculation. There is but one way to make America great again. I sure hope you'll call the family in, click on the LINK and listen to "Who is God’s Candidate?" You can have confidence when you base your vote and your daily choices on what God has to say.
JUNE 10, 2016
Your wife shoots better that you…just the facts.
Robin and I just returned from another Dallas Safari Club S.A.F.E.T.Y event.
DSC along with the Dallas Ecological Foundation host these events twice per year and have for a long long time.
6 stations including bow, rifle, shotgun, muzzleloader, pistol and shotgun.
4 mega bus loads of Jr High and Sr High school students
4 mega bus loads of Jr High and Sr High school parents
0 cell phone activity allowed during the day
150 or so DSC/DEF volunteers
1 really, really, REALLY nice west Texas ranch
The kids, most of whom have never touched a bow or a gun receive one on one instruction at each station and have the time of their lives.
The parents, most of which have never touched a bow or a gun receive the same treatment…if time allows after each student takes his/her turn.
I have been blessed to work several S.A.F.E.T.Y. events thru the years and have observed enough to know that your wife shoots better than you.
I teach shotgun at these events and no matter the experience, I teach each student/parent the same thing. Four simple steps…
1-mount the gun properly…
2-lay your cheek on the stock…
3-weight forward…(on the left foot if right-handed shooter/right foot if left-handed shooter)
4-shoot the nose, or leading edge of the target as it flies
You would be amazed how many first-timers break all 6 targets that we throw for them. The students listen and take instruction pretty well. The moms listen and take instruction better. We men…uhh…miss. I will take the first time lady shooter over the first time male shooter every time in a friendly wager.
Women step up to me on the range and eagerly listen. Men step up and, many times, ask me how far to lead the target. I have learned to just say fifty yards and let ‘em have a whack at it. They’re not listening anyway. The women break 4-5-6 targets. The men 2-3-4. Averages. The bottom line? Students, moms, dads, instructor’s all have an incredible day together.
New target shooters and hunters are born at this event, right before our eyes!
Bad thoughts and beliefs about guns disappear right before our eyes!
Hurting family relationships are HEALED right before our eyes!
Meek and mild ladies become sharpshooters right before our eyes!
Male ego’s are in need of a 911 call as they wilt right before our eyes!
I am a hard headed male, so I know of these things. My wife tries to tell me things but she just doesn’t understand. I already know! I’m way ahead of you honey…I’ve got this! Of course I miss the target about 100% of the time when I do that. So the S.A.F.E.T.Y. event is a good reminder to me that my male ego needs to calm some too. It’s a good event, and it’s good for all of us involved.
Please consider volunteering at next Spring’s DSC S.A.F.E.T.Y. event and look into starting an Outdoor Adventures Program in your local schools. The DEF has already written the curriculum, and it is a huge plus in the lives of every kid that participates. It actually replaces P.E. for those that are not involved in athletics and for those who just don’t like P.E…they love the OA class!
Til next time, keep your weight forward and your eye on the beak of the bird…and I can STILL outshoot my wife!
OCTOBER 5, 2016
Dove season is upon us! The first domino to fall in a chain of fall splendor! Are you ready? Let’s visit about how to be prepared for those 55 mph gray rockets.
First and foremost is not practice, it starts at your favorite sporting goods store. You will see a LOT of shells on sale at unbelievably low prices right now. Be careful! Don’t buy junk. The best shot in the bird field will drop big time in consistency when under-shelled. I like a one ounce load at least, in 7’s or 8’s. Dependable names are good, American made a must. *12/20/410? I'm a 12. I carry a little lightweight 20 o/u while hunting quail and most other upland birds, so why a 12 when dove shooting? Several thoughts...
-I'm usually closer to a covey rise of quail than I am a high flying dove
-The quail shot, 95% of the time, is a straight away shot about 6-12 feet off the ground-dove are at all angles, heights and speeds
-I'm standing still in a single spot most of the time while dove hunting as opposed to walking many miles chasing quail, the lighter 20 is a must for the hike-the added weight of my 12 doesn’t bother me in a still hunting situation-I do have a sling on my 12, allowing my shoulder to bear the weight during lulls
-Camo...don’t go overboard. Camo has become big business and the birds don’t care how stylish you are...find something that matches your terrain as much as possible...that might be a gray t-shirt and shorts...cover up any shiny jewelry...check your local army surplus store for a bargain.
-decoys...again, you really don’t have to buy the most expensive latest and greatest to get a doves attention...an old-time method of mine that works VERY well is inexpensive and effective...a cheap piece of rebar from your local hardware store bent into a U shape...push the ends down into the ground and use cheap clip on dove decoys...I’ve seen birds perch on the rebar with the decoys...that said...I DO LOVE the Mojo motion decoys. I've also seen birds try to land on top of them, while in motion, many times.
There are the basics, now take your GOOD shells to the sporting clays range and shoot a few rounds before the opener. You’ll amaze your under-shelled, under-gunned under-prepared buddies when the real thing rolls around.
If you pick up your empty hulls and discard them, you're much more likely to be invited back to a dove field again. While you're at the hardware store pick up a roofer’s magnet. It’s a magnet on a stick that will collect your hulls without you having to bend over!
AUGUST 5, 2016
I was blessed two and a half decades ago to be exposed to some very talented bird dog men. I was flabbergasted with what God instilled in a bird dog and wanted to sponge up all I could learn. So I asked a lot of questions and listened intently to men like Charlie Henry out of Arkansas, Lester Arnold from east Texas, and the whole lot of trainers that gathered at field trials all across the country. The information was never ending. Tricks of the trade, training aides that actually worked, how to use those aides properly, scenting conditions, young dogs, old dogs, problem dogs, exposing talent...and on and on and on. But what stood out to me as the golden rule was quite simple. I heard it again and again from learned bird dog men all across the country...”Birds make bird dogs.” That will always hold true.
Bear will be fourteen if he makes it to spring. He lays beside me as I write this and travels with a limp in his gate nearly every step that I take. We've been side by side since he was five weeks old. At one year of age when I normally begin formal training with my bird dogs he wasn’t ready to start. I read my dog and was patient. That patience would pay off. By the time he was three, when most dogs are “finished”, he was well into what the others had learned a year ago, but way behind. He did his yard work fine, but transitioning that into the bird field was not a connection that he could make. He insisted on making an effort to do it all by himself. He’d point, then break and flush, then chase. Trying desperately to get that bird in his mouth. That would be his reward. Several folks were asking me if I was ready to give up on him...they thought that he just didn’t have what it takes to be a solid bird dog. But ol' Bear and I trudged on. Then one day, the light came on!
When the “light comes on” with a bird dog, it’s a remarkable thing to watch. It's an "OHHHHH O.K." moment for a young dog when they couple what you have hand taught them with what God instilled in them. For Bear, it was the old windmill pasture down by the river. A small pasture that typically holds lots of birds, and they were in there on this morning. I first turned ol' Joker loose. An older white pointer that was as reliable as grandpa’s watch and had true talent in his nose. Joker pointed, and I scooted up in front of him to flush. Birds kept coming up...and kept coming up...and kept coming up. There were singles scattered all over that 250 acre pasture. I put Joker back in the trailer and pulled Bear out.
We were alone. No other bird dogs in the field with us that morning and these birds were now his to either put it together or blow it completely. Bear was one of the hardest running dogs that I’ve ever witnessed. He totally blew up the “Brittanys are shoe polishers” theory. Destroyed it in fact! After a few minutes of hard running to “blow out”, he started paying attention to his nose. A few short seconds later he slammed to a stop...then flushed and chased...again. After another fruitless effort like that, the light came on. He pointed and didn’t move this time. I didn’t say a word to him. I just stepped in front, flushed the single and shot it. He delivered what would be the first of I don’t know how many wild birds to come to my hand. We did that 14 more times within an hour and a half. When we were finished Bear was a bird dog. I witnessed after only a couple of birds his light coming on. It was like flipping a switch. Bear realized that if he was ever going to get that bird in his mouth, his reward, that he must stand dead still...not disturb the bird...and allow my old over and under to bring the bird to the ground.
I have been blessed to own some mighty talented bird dogs in my life. Dogs that any man would absolutely love to hunt behind for a day and love much more to partner with for life. Bear would become the best hands down that’s ever shared my kennel, and later my home. He won the Lone Star Region N.S.T.R.A. Championship in 2010, defeating a 25 time N.S.T.R.A. and 4 time National Champion in the final hour of the grueling two day endurance format. He won his way into National Championship field trials from coast to coast, but my most precious memories with him will always be in the wild bird field where he was just simply amazing.
A lot of us are just like ol Bear. Hard headed and single minded with no room for God in our day to day lives. For many, entire lifetimes pass by without coming to the saving knowledge and grace of Jesus Christ. But oh how sweet is the journey if we do hear the Word, realize that we are sinners in need of a Savior, and believe in our hearts that Jesus died for our sins, rose again and lives at the right hand of God His Father. Thank You Lord, thank You for Your patience with me, Your slow and steady correction in my life, for never giving up on me and for that precious moment when my light came on.
DECEMBER 15, 2015
I told him to be careful in the old boat seat...”it’ll go over with you”...I said. I told him that many times, but he just had to set the hook like he was Jimmy Houston on TV...and over the side he went. I must admit that I was more than amused and it’s given me a great story to tell at hunting club meetings and field trials over the years. It was one of those cheap clamp on seats that swivel, but a first class addition to the leaky old 12 ft v-hull aluminum vessel that I was so proud to own. It had a 5 horse motor on the back that was dependable enough, would start on most occasions after a little priming, and much rope pulling.
My friend that enjoys a surprise dip in the midst of a fishing trip is Kevin. We have lots of stories to tell on each other and all of them are from hunting/fishing trips. We’ve watched each other’s kids grow up and have kids, we’ve buried the dead together, laughed, cried and love each other. He’s the guy that I could call at 2am if I needed to. I knew that even during that horrible period when we got mad and didn’t visit for a while...ALL his fault. Actually, I’m more to blame than anybody and I’ve asked God and Kev to forgive me. Well, I know I talked sincerely to God about it, pretty sure I mentioned it to Kevin.
When Kevin went into the lake...backwards...feet above head...fishing pole still firmly clenched in his right hand...I could see his eyes, under water. They were real big and sinking. I did what any hero would do in this crisis and swiftly took his fishing pole from him. As I sat admiring my new pole and thinking how it would be mine if he would only stay down there longer than his lungs would allow, he rudely and abruptly reemerged from the lake. It was a lot like the last scene in a horror movie when the gruesome killer that you thought was for sure a goner blasted through the surface of a serene and peaceful hillside water. He grabbed the little boat by the side and started to lift himself up to a drier climate. That’s when I swatted his hands with my, uh, his fishing pole...”climb in back by the motor or you’ll flip the boat over” I said...I’ve always had to do the thinking part in our relationship. Once he was seated again, socks drying out on top of the motor, I felt that it was time for me to give him some constructive chat...”first of all” I taught, “when your jig taps a log, don’t set the hook, you must learn the difference between a fish and a stationary object in the lake.” I’ve taught him a lot through the years and he has never, that I can remember, said thanks. There are Kevin-Billy stories from the trout streams, to the cold quail pastures of west Texas, bass and crappie holes everywhere, pickup cabs, countless cafes, Montana, Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas and obviously the bottom of Lewisville Lake. Treasured times and tales from decades of life on the water and behind bird dogs together. The bond of hunting and fishing together; It can overcome a hurtful argument that mars an otherwise blessed relationship.
Hunting and fishing are activities sometimes filled with long periods of time without action, but you press on with your son, daughter, spouse, pappaw or long time friend. There is no TV to flip on and dull both of your senses, no computer, no instant entertainment that says “I’m more important than your present company”. You depend on each other for conversation, entertainment, honesty, safety, chores and breakdowns. You build up a trust that you know is more solid than hapless ugly words. You build a security and comfort that no matter what happens in this life, you won’t have to go it alone.
Some folks can’t cut the mustard when it comes to these tougher to achieve, long lasting qualities, and they fall away after a while. Maybe they came along to see what you could do or provide for them, maybe they only want you to put them on fish or game in a spot where you’ve had success, maybe they want to take advantage of your ability to keep a clean camp or change a flat tire...or maybe they see a lasting, real and deep relationship that they want, and don’t have. The only way that you’ll find out is to spend some time with them in the field or on the water, through situations both easy and tough...time will tell the truth.
SEPTEMBER 23, 2015
I fried up some crappie a couple of nights ago along with fresh sliced tomatoes, some steamed squash and a few fried potatoes. That’s a meal that never diminishes in excellence. It is always better than I remember, and I remember that fried crappie is pretty dandy! Well, everything was wonderful except those dang tomatoes. The tomato industry should be ashamed of the product they lay out for us. It's kinda like modern day Nashville. They roll out a product that looks good, but is way short on the real reason you bought the product. Tomatoes are a whole nother story. Back to the crappie and how to land them in your grease.
Ahhhh, springtime! Spring is the absolute favorite time of year for most anglers. The various species move to the shallows to spawn and defend the nest against anything that comes within smacking range. You can load up a mess of keeper crappie this time of year, and they are accessible to anglers that don’t fish from a boat. I do fish from a boat, or at least use the vessel to get me in an area that I want to fish. The crappie will look for a hard surface for a spawning area. Hard clay or rocks maybe. The keys to look for are:
I employ several tactics in the springtime. If the fish are spawning on the rocks along a dam or bridge, I will place a float, or bobber about 6-8 inches above my jig, and as I drift or very slowly troll along the rocky bank, I allow the bobber to do the same thing. Very effective method. Another great way to sack em up is to look for shallow flats that are occupied by lots of button willows, or cattails, or stumps. PARK THE BOAT. It's too shallow to get into these flats with most boats anyway. Tie it off so it won't blow away and slip into your waders! Slowly, without disturbing too much water as you go, move from brush to brush to logs to other cover. A 9 to 12 foot lightweight jigging rod is recommended. This will keep you far enough from the fish to not spook them. Only allow about 6-8 inches on line with jig attached to dangle past the tip of the rod. With your free hand, pull the line and jig up snug to the rod tip so that there’s no slack. Ease along, much like a feeding heron does, and slip the tip of your rod at water level, deep into the cover. NEVER turn loose of the line in your free hand. Ease the jig down into the water and wait for the thump. When you feel it, pull the line with your line hand to set the hook and pull the fish up to the rod tip. Back him out of there quickly. Without constant control and contact with your line hand, you will be miserable, losing fish and tangled in brush all day. Stay in control of the line at all times. AND, check the last 2-3 feet of your line regularly. Your fishing in abrasive stuff and line wear occurs often. Re-tie, don’t break off that nice one.
I often see bank fishermen set up in a spot and stay there all day, which can be very productive if the fish favor that spot and the weather hasn’t moved them around or out. But how much more productive could you be with an inexpensive set of waders that help you cover a lot more water. Slip em on, slip out into the water, and slip up on some cover, then slip em into the cornmeal and grease.
A few thoughts:
The majority of crappie that you catch on spawning beds are males. They build the nest, mate with incoming females, then stay and guard the fry against predators. The females will be at the nest only long enough to lay her eggs and move back out. If there are hardwoods or stumps or other cover in nearby deeper water, don’t forget to check them regularly as well. That’s where the big girls are hanging out while not visiting the beds. You’ll more than likely catch your bigger fish here.
When? 62 degree or warmer water seems to be a key factor for the crappie spawn. A string of 60 degree or warmer nights (air temp) are a big deal too. When you have a string of 60 degree nights and a full moon in the forecast, mend the hole in the waders and string up new line on the long pole! Good fishing to you! Send me a picture or two of your success for the BBKO Braggin Board... and a basket full of home grown, vine ripened tomatoes!
MARCH 24, 2017