Keep up with all things, outdoors, with Big Billy Kinder...
With the virus popping up on every checkout counter, workplace and TV channel that you associate with, most folks have been looking for a way to space themselves from fellow humans. Depending upon who you listen to, there is either not as much to the COVID as first thought, or it’ll drop you in your tracks before the day is over. Heck, the Governor of California seems to think that you catch the COVID by attending church. From the sound of things “out there” your best bet for a healthy tomorrow is to get in line with a mass of protesters and then tear down a John Wayne statue out at the airport. I personally like John Wayne. In fact I’m a big fan. Sometimes when I’ve had enough of the panty-waist politicians and street-gang thugs on TV, I flip it over to the Duke. It’s refreshing to watch him smash a bad guy’s face into a tree. Of course, that was back when folks knew the difference between right and wrong, good and bad. Hit a cop on the head with a stick...bad. Run an outlaw's face into an old oak...good.
If you’re not into protesting, looting or burning cars, you might try fishing. A lot of people have so far in 2020. One of my friends in the fishing industry recently told me that in the spring, the fishing business was up 200 percent! Wow! What church burning and window busting are for gun sales, the virus is for fishing poles! People put their masks on and went to Wal Mart. They bought a rod n reel and a few bass lures or maybe some stink bait for catfish. Some put the stink bait on the new bass lures. Some bought those disgusting looking dead minnows in the shrink wrap. Some dipped the stiff dead minnows in the catfish bait before hooking them on the bass lures. All of the above is okay!! In fact, its better than okay, its wonderful!!! When folks made the gear purchases, probably without even knowing it, they made a contribution to conservation. With that fishing purchase, they actually made America better and they didn’t even have to turn a police car upside down on the sidewalk. They proudly held that new fishing rod upside down, they reeled it backwards, they threw those brand new lures high into trees or over high line wires, never to be thrown again.
So…put the mask back on and now that you’re an experienced angler, go to Bass Pro Shop. You might pass out when you round the corner and see all of those glorious lures. You can buy stink bait by the bucket at BPS! You can even buy a shirt that makes you look legit, until you throw that new $18.00 Whopper Plopper up there next to the Wal Mart lures. At some point through dogged determination and countless casts, it will happen. Your bass lure will be firmly affixed to the mouth of a game fish, but like my late and wise friend Ray Sasser once said “it’s you that will be hooked” and you couldn’t be “hooked” on anything better than God’s great outdoors. It’s a wonderful side to a terrible virus, people are getting outside. Getting away from the news channels, honey-do’s, computer screens and frozen pizzas. In Minnesota there is an explosion in teens buying fishing licenses-TEENS! In fact, state after state are reporting big license sales. Do you have yours?
Let’s get started…
A 5 to 6 foot, lightweight spinning rod and reel combination or spin cast rod and reel combination. Less than $30 at Wally World. Small pan-fish hooks, bobbers and weights or sinkers. About 5 more bucks.
A box of worms. Couple of bucks unless you run into some COVID worm price gouging. From the bank of any creek, pond or lake, pinch off a small portion of worm, just about half an inch. Thread it onto the hook that is 4-6 inches below the weight, which is about 8 to 12 inches below the bobber. Cast to within a few feet of rocks, logs, boat docks or any kind of shade or structure in the water. When the bobber swims off or goes under, lift the rod tip and turn the reel handle at the same time to set the hook and reel 'em on in. There ya go! Your hooked!
Clean your fish. Yes, you can. Watch YouTube videos on how to fillet (boneless) or traditionally clean (bone in) your fish. Very simple. Wash the meat thoroughly. Bread your wet fish with cornmeal, salt and pepper mixture and place the fish in a deep fryer or hot skillet. (I fry my fish in a deep fryer at 355-360 degrees) It doesn’t take long. TIP: In a deep fryer, when the fillets float I give em another minute or so then pull them out.
Smile big at the dinner table, tell BIG stories to the family! YOU…are a fisherman. YOU have disappeared into the wilderness with rod in hand and reappeared at the dinner table with delicious fish. YOU…are something else!
C’mon, it’s the latest hot trend that doesn’t require you to sleep on a city street in Seattle or try to bust the CNN plate glass with your skateboard. (bettin that dude regrets that move) Really live it up on your radical journey to the neighborhood pond and tell someone Merry Christmas, Back the Blue or God bless John Wayne!
July 17, 2020
I hear that song about My Favorite Things around Christmas time each year. Some ol’ boy named Richard Rodgers wrote it back in the 50’s, then Julie Andrews made it famous in “The Sound of Music”, which I am proud to say I’ve never seen. I have, though, turned the volume up on the radio and listened to the lyrics of the song. That part about crisp apple strudel always conjures up a picture for me. I’m not a Broadway guy. Not much of a movie guy. I probably can’t name 5 show tunes with any confidence and that they actually came out of a show. In fact, I’m having trouble getting to two right now. But, ”My Favorite Things” kinda got me to thinking. We all have favorite things or situations that we cling to a little too much or dwell on while we should be thinking of more productive efforts. But what the heck, it’s okay to idle away a few minutes here and there I guess. You’re doing it right now, so, in no particular order...
The thump that you feel in the cork handle of a good crappie rod. The force with which a crappie sucks in a small jig is actually strong enough from 18-20 feet deep to send a vibration up the line to the rod tip and then to your hand that triggers a reaction in the brain, to send the thump back down the line and set the hook in ol spec’s mouth. All of this takes place in about 1 second. The thump is absolutely one of my favorite things.
Good dogs on point and birds that hold tight. It is amazing to watch what God put into a bird dog. The indwelling drive to hunt game birds. I’ve watched ‘em for years running at ¾ speed through dusty, windy, dry, rainy, thick cover. Meadowlarks, sparrows and chee-chee birds of all sorts popping up and flitting away as the dog runs, but he gives them none of his attention...none! Not even a glance, but 1 single molecule of scent from a quail, pheasant or grouse makes the dog flip back-end over front and land with a hard stop! Head and tail high, smoking the pipe. The dog breaths scent in with his nose, exhaling with his mouth which in turn makes his cheeks puff out and back in...giving the impression of a pipe smoker. Many times, a covey of bobwhite quail will hold tight on a snowy morning, so will early season young birds that have never met a birddog before. Walking up to that view will always be a favorite.
A big bass jig swimming from that shallow little pocket that you threw it in to. You know it didn’t come to life and start swimming on its own. No, a bass has that jig in her mouth and she’s headed for deeper water with her prey much like a dog will seek out a private spot to enjoy a treat. You “catch up” to her with your reel, then set the hook like your name is Klein, Brauer or Evers! Oh, what a feeling and favorite.
Any fish on a topwater bait. Matters not if its sunfish on a little popper delivered by your fly rod or a big 6 inch walking-bait targeting bass. When the lightning fast explosion occurs, that very second is on my favorites list. You want to see it again and again, the feeling never grows old! You could do this all day, but the sun climbs higher and the topwater bite dies off. Special moments reserved mostly for short periods of time and then left to bounce around in your mind while you should be listening to the preacher.
Pre sunrise in the pasture or on the lake. The temperature drops another degree or two as if the night is tightening its grip on your world not wanting to let go. The first birds of the morning, outside of chuck willows will or an old owl, start to make their presence known. Faint light begins to creep into your surroundings like water seeping into a marsh. The sun’s not officially up yet but is steadily working on it and is precisely on time, the same today as it was on that first morning when God put it in motion. The world is waking up around you. Barely visible are a couple of deer. How did they get there! I’ve been watching so closely, every second! It’s like they grew straight up out of the ground. Unseen turkeys lightly yelp from the roost and get more vocal as they fly down. In the stillness of pre-dawn you clearly hear the flapping of their wings and they depart the tree limb for breakfast. The slow gentle ride across quiet water to a favorite fishing hole with red and green lights leading the way. Trying not to spill your coffee as you go, you have just enough light to see “feeding rings” on top of the water, raising your expectations and thinking about that trusty old “Pop R” that you tied on last night.
Two-lane blacktops and worn dirt roads, especially those that you’ve never travelled before. Wonder and excitement, looking at new country and looking deeply for the flash of a white tail or a summer herd of elk. Snow topped high places in June. Ripe Montana choke cherries growing wild along a public right of way or wild West Texas sand plums in a pasture, ready for picking and making jelly. An old dry goods/grocery store from a bygone era that somehow manages enough business from area farm families and wide-eyed adventurers to keep the lights on. A winding Ozark farm to market road that leads toward the farm, not the market. As it leads you across the creek for the 3rd time, you catch a glimpse of a flock of eastern turkeys running up into the thick southern woods.
A crackling fire. The fireplace on a chilly winter’s evening, reading old Gene Hill stories for the 15th time. Maybe it’s a hot bed of coals with fresh logs popping on top, circled by satisfied hunters after a day in the field. Some facing the fire with glowing faces and cold hands extended, palms out, others warming their backsides with hands stretched backwards. Someone’s telling a story. You’ve heard it before and know the ending well, but the moment is so agreeable that you in quiet eagerness give it your full attention. The story is good, but so is the thick blanket of quiet that follows that laughter.
Smells...fresh gunpowder in the air on a clear blue morning, fish on your hands, spring flowers in the turkey haunts, smoke from the last pipe that exists in deer camp.
Time, places, experiences, tools of the trade, some people, well-mannered dogs. What was that?? Sounds. Peach pie in summer and my old Ruger Red Label 20 gauge. Just a few of my favorite things.
February 6, 2020
As I sit here at my computer deep into January, my thoughts more and more every day are filled with budding trees, gobbling turkeys, flowery banks along the lake, 60 degree water and jigs! I guess it’s my favorite way to bass fish. Flipping a big ol’ football jig with a proven trailer into a likely spot that just might hold a photo op! My only double digit bass came on a big jig. The video loop in my mind is still vivid. Murky muddy April water less than a foot deep. I know of a place where the creek channel runs 6 to 8 feet deep with a brushy flat that runs about 15 or 20 feet wide from the edge of the creek to the shoreline. That flat is 2 feet deep or less. It was that flat that I was targeting with a ¾ ounce football jig, dark skirt and watermelon/red rage craw. The water was too stained to sight fish, or visibly locate bass on spawning beds, so I was flipping the big jig close to the bank and slowly hopping it, inches at a time toward the creek channel where I would let it tumble down.
Big females will visit the shallow spawning bed to lay eggs, then move out to the deeper channel nearby, and revisit the bed, or even another nearby bed to lay again. On one particular pitch I landed the jig within a couple of feet of the bank. Hopped it back slightly 2-3 times, and then it happened. The visual that all jig fishermen are familiar with. My line started swimming out towards me. A large percentage of the time the fish will swim with your jig towards deeper water. Along the way she is trying to crush the meal in her mouth while she goes. In other words, she’s likely gonna hold on to it for a bit. A fast reel is necessary. Many times you’ll need to “catch up” with her or reel up your slack line before setting the hook. When I did set the hook that day and the fight began, I quickly realized that this was a new experience for me. I had never felt that “setting the hook in a stump” feeling that I’d heard about with giant bass before, but this was it.
When I set the hook, she didn’t turn, but she did shift gears and pulled the nose of my boat lake-ward. I always use 55 lb braid so breaking off wasn’t likely. When she surfaced I looked into a mouth that was similar to the top of an oversized coffee can. The big 3 pound can. I was alone, so I did the netting myself, and the weighing (10.3), and the photography then released her to finish her springtime chore. Away swam the only 10 pounder that I’ve ever seen on the end of my line.
Since that day there has been one other that might have broken the magical mark, but I never got my hands on her. After a short fight, she came up, shook next to the boat and threw my jig. But I had seen a mouth like that before. She was quality. Sometimes, its swimming line, sometimes you can visibly watch the spring spawner pick up your bait, sometimes you flip that jig into a bush and the whole thing shakes or the grass in the lake moves, the water swirls from a mighty tail doing a 180 to pick up your jig! It’s an exciting way to bass fish. Jigs are certainly not a spring only option, they work well all year, but for me in the springtime the flipping stick is in my hands more than any other weapon. I can safely say that the biggest majority of my 5 to 8 pound largemouth have come on a jig.
Set up your plan now, in January and February. Look at lake maps for ideal spawning areas to target. Go get a heavy backbone 7 ½ foot flipping/pitching rod and a quality reel that a giant fish won’t strip the gears in. It is truly a shock when you feel the strength of a BIG bass. A fast reel is crucial, 7:3 minimum. Practice in the back yard and get good at hitting small targets 20-30 feet from you. The before mentioned coffee can is a perfect pitching target.
*Keep an eye on the water temp. 60 degree water is the number that I watch for. Bass will start thinking about moving shallow at 55 degrees, 65 degree water is game on!
*The bigger females will spawn first. I don’t know if it’s a pecking order or a metabolism thing or what…but they do.
*As mentioned before, the females won’t spend all of their time on the nest or bed. Try running a chatterbait in nearby deeper water as well. I like a chatterbait that mimics a sunfish. Sunfish are bass egg eaters, and bass will attack them in defense of the nesting area.
*Send me a picture! www.bbkoradio.com
January 22, 2020
Often, I fish with a buddy as a co-angler. Trips in my boat are much easier, because loading my gear over to another guy’s vessel is much akin to inventory week at Bass Pro Shops. You at this very moment might just have a “yep, I know” look on your face. Sometimes we are fishing a tournament, and I want all of my “tools” at my disposal. Spinning gear, rods with various backbone and tip. Heavy flippin' stick, medium weight for throwing lighter weight baits and a truckload of medium heavy rods rigged with various ready to go baits; we are just getting started. My tackle bag weighs somewhere in the neighborhood of fifty pounds. It’s like carrying a bale of alfalfa hay with you all day when your in another guys boat. He, rightfully so, is using all of the storage space because he never misses a sale at the local bait n tackle store either. So…there’s Bertha the bag. Smack in the middle of everything and surrounded by eight rigged rods ready to go.
Sometimes it’s a fun trip. Just fishin'! You meet your buddy on the dock as he motors in toward you, all the while explaining "how the large-mouth had been schooling for forty five straight minutes and would eat a lug nut if you threw it in their direction. Never seen anything like it…had to leave em to come get you.” Fun trips are easier. More like moving from a small apartment rather than a six bedroom three story. Here are a few common sense ideas for fishing from the back of the boat for fun and tournament fishing.
On a fun trip, think convenience-Convenience for yourself and your buddy. If everything you bring has three sets of treble hooks, the boat captain is gonna get sick of taking you to your hang-ups. Unless there has been an incredible crank bait bite or jerk baits are the only way to catch em right now, I lean towards single hook setups from the back of the boat. Your gonna hang up, it’s just a part of fishing. If you’re not fishing where the junk is, you’re more than likely not going to catch them. But, single hook setups cut the numbers waaaaay down. I think top, middle, bottom (water column) and bring one rod and reel for each depth. I take along a spinning rod with 10 or 12 pound fluorocarbon for drop shots and finesse stuff in case of a tough bite. I include a bait cast setup with 12-14 lb mono for search baits. Typically a spinner-bait or swim-bait. A second bait cast setup has heavier fluorocarbon, 14 lb for flipping creature baits into flooded timber, shoreline habitat boat docks/houses etc. With this mentality, I’ve now dropped from 6 or 8 rods to three. I’ve also left Bertha at home and now carry three bait boxes. A spinner-bait/chatterbait/swim-bait box, a finesse box with small terminal tackle and a worm box with bigger soft plastics, hooks, weights etc. Nothing you borrow will fit you better that your life vest. It’s the one you have confidence in and it’s important to bring it. Snacks, a couple of bottles of water…good to go.
Things change when you are fishing the back of the boat in a tournament situation. The thing that you need the most is the easiest and lightest thing to pack...knowledge. Homework is key. Previous tournament results, successful seasonal patterns, your boater's preferred techniques, the weather forecast and lake knowledge-all important pieces of a winning strategy. With that said, a lot of gear goes along with it. Baits that have had success on this body of water, the rigs that will fish them properly, rain gear, top middle bottom baits to match your boater's preferred areas (where the trolling motor goes, you go). Time and the thrifty management of it may be the difference in cashing a check and posing for pictures. Rods rigged and ready are big time savers. A half dozen on the deck. A pattern emerges during the day on a bait that you’d never have suspected…good thing you brought Bertha along…”cause I know I have a couple of those in here somewhere”. You’re gonna need your stuff. New backpack and specific to co-angler bags are on the market now that allow you to carry a ton of stuff (if not all of it), lunch and a few drinks in them. I use one of the new backpacks that allow me to stow my big bait boxes vertically rather than Bertha’s horizontal option, cutting storage space down to the floor between my seat and the front deck...perfect co-angler option. I can also lift and carry this backpack with one hand instead of needing both, meaning one trip from the parking area to the boat. One of the greatest discoveries that I’ve made is a lunch idea. Uncrustables! PB and J sammiches!!! Pre-made, individually wrapped, compact, crust trimmed away just like mama used to do it, time savers, sealed edges to prevent grape jelly on the carpet, delicious and perfect for boat or blind! And….they taste great.
Manners are another item that takes up no space but gets you invited back. Less is more, pack light. Pay for the gas, it's expensive to run all day or two. Bring the ice. Be handy with the net for your boater, back the trailer at launch and load. Offer up the Uncrustables...You're both gonna want several throughout the day. Share info without being a know it all. Pay attention to your boater. If he/she likes to talk…talk. If they don’t...shut the pie hole and fish. Cast to your water, it’s in the back like you, unless the boater invites you to forward cast. Don’t depend on the boater to supply your gear. Baits, culling clips, pliers, baits, rain gear, line, hooks, weights, towel, stuff...buy the big backpack!
June 28, 2019
Outdoorsmen and women are in a holding pattern right now. It’s mid-February and one of those "tweener" periods for much of the country. The cold fronts that rotate with the South winds make the fishing very unpredictable. The weather is still harsh in a lot of areas; in others, it’s just not comfortable enough to sit in the boat fighting the wind and catching little. It’s a great time of year to check your gear and set-ups for the approaching Spring. When the calendar starts to round the curve from winter to spring, it’ll all ramp back up...and quickly. When it does, I like to BE ready, not GET ready.
I spend a lot of garage time on the chilly windy days re-spooling reels for various applications: fluorocarbon for drop-shotting, clear water, deep cranking and other low line visibility needs, braid for the flippin and pitchin gear, and mono for most murky southern waters that I spend a great deal of time on. It's also time to check the tackle bags and reload terminal tackle needs: various hooks, sinkers, beads, rattles, bobber or weight stops, swivels and snaps, split rings, weights etc.
Finally, it’s time to reload on the baits that worked so well last year in those spots that you’ll visit again this year. I always make sure that I have a variety of soft plastics in watermelon with red flake for the closest (making it the most fished) bass lake to my home, June bug soft plastics for Florida waters, and small bait fish themed swim baits for my smallmouth trips up north, hard baits that were lost to deep water structure, overhead obstructions and shallow areas that I couldn’t reach with the boat. Hard baits with multiple treble hooks are predestined for loss. Snagged and stuck in an area that leads to broken line and with today's prices, broken hearts and wallets. What extremes would you go to to retrieve that $20 Whopper Plopper? For me, crank baits and golf balls are the same...I’ve never retired one from old age.
Top-water baits, hard swim baits, spinning and chatter baits...the list of off-season chores is truly endless but all part of the excitement. The first steps to landing that giant starts in the "tweener" time out in the garage. So, pour another hot cup of coffee, start undoing that big pile of treble hooked baits that have worked themselves into one big deadly ball and practice your pitching technique in tight quarters 'til it’s finally time to hook up to the boat. The Lord tells us to “Be anxious for nothing…” but it sure is tough just weeks before the shallow water spawn and gobbling long-beards!
February 17, 2018
I’m about to share one of the most fun recipes that you’ll ever come across! Proof? Okay, it requires that you go fishing...how’s that? It’s a cooler than normal August in Texas, but it's still August in Texas...Brutal heat that doesn’t really go away even at night. When I arise dark and early, I count is a blessing if the temp is below 80 and the humidity below 90. The heat and what to do about it is a standard part of every conversation. Well, here’s one of my favorite ways to battle the heat of a Texas summer. Ceviche!!!
Ceviche is a cold salad or salsa of sorts that includes any number of different ingredients, according to your personal taste, but one common denominator is FRESH fish or shellfish. Oh sure, you could visit the fish market and pick up some shrimp for your ceviche, but for less money, and in my opinion, equally great in taste when used in ceviche, sand bass or white bass or maybe they’re called silver bass where you come from, are delicious! Plus, you're way more likely to have a boat or a friend with a boat capable of catching up with some "sandies" than you are a shrimp boat so...let's go shopping...I mean, fishing!
Sand bass are plentiful in these United States, found in waters from Canada to the gulf coast, and catching them in the summer is an absolute blast! When we are in the mood for ceviche, as I am headed out to crappie fish or bass fish, I keep two rods ready and available for the sand bass. One is a small jigging spoon, the other a top water bait. During the hot summer months, sand bass will push huge schools of shad to the surface and gorge on them. This feeding frenzy will make the water appear to be boiling. When this happens, I drop the crappie stick and reach for the top water bait. Over the past few days that’s been a Whopper Plopper, but I’ve caught them on Zara Spooks, Buzz Baits etc. It is so much fun to watch the retrieve of a splashy top water bait as the sandies swipe at it. Sometimes they will hit the bait body, but not the hook and the lure will go airborne. Sometimes two fish will grab it at the same time. Sometimes it will go straight under on impact with the water. It's crazy!
These top water frenzies sometimes will last only a few seconds, sometimes 20 minutes. When the water stops boiling the fish are still there. Use your big motor to stay up with the moving pod of sandies and bait. When your screen is covered with bait, drop that spoon or slab directly down to the proper depth and vertically jig it up and down. My good friend, Omar Cotter with Luck O’ the Irish Guide Service in north Texas specializes in these fun to catch fish. He tells me that even when the top is boiling, he employs the jigging method, because the bigger fish are down deeper. Whatever floats your personal boat. In Texas, to keep a sand bass, the fish must be at least 10 inches
Five 10 inch sandies are required for this recipe. Once you have your fish, head for the grocery store. You’ll need:
Finely chop the vegetables and dump them in a mixing bowl. After filleting your fish, cut into small chunks, and add to vegetable mix. Add salt, more than you think you’ll need, but don’t go nuts. You can add more salt tomorrow when the ceviche is finished. For a little crunch, add sliced almonds. Cover contents with lime juice and stick it in the fridge, you’re done!
When you come back tomorrow, the first thing you’ll notice is that the fish has turned brilliantly white. Key indicator that your ceviche is ready. You’ve just cooked fish with chemistry! The acid in the lime served as your cooking element! Break out the chips and dip away the summer time blues. This is fun from catch to crunch for the entire family...Enjoy!!
August 10, 2017
I’ve spent my fair share of nights sleeping in uncomfortable situations. Pickup beds, rotted out farm houses and dilapidated old travel trailers, and of course the cold hard ground. I can remember a deer hunt that was so cold and wet that my hunting partner and I zipped our sleeping bags together to fend off the frost bite. On another trip, I dumped the lump out of my pillow case. The lump was a field rat. I awoke one morning so stiff from the pickup bed I’d used for a mattress, that reaching down to tie my boots seemed impossible. I’d do it all again too!
Our passion for this hunting and fishing heritage that we live can lead to some tough places and times, but it doesn’t have to be that way. I’ve also been spoiled with some fine lodging, dining and terrific hunting and fishing opportunities. Robin and I have spent the past week at one of the absolute finest resort hunt/fish destinations that I’ve ever, yes I used the ever word, visited. Joshua Creek Ranch has the credentials. Two Tridents from Beretta, ORVIS Endorsed, heck, George Strait even visits for a little wing shooting from time to time. Everything, and I mean every detail at JCR is tended too. Your mattress, your view, your meals, your linens, your lodging, your everything will be the finest offered. It’s flying first class, and it's good! This is our third trip to this wonderful ranch located about an hour northwest of San Antonio, Texas.
The same detail that’s woven into your lodge experience is applied to the habitat on this near 1,400 acre ranch as well...Two decades plus of back breaking work by the Kercheville family. Years of cedar removal, planting, pond building, etc have produced perfect habitat for the wildlife that love this place. IT'S LOW FENCE. The critters have a choice where they spend time browsing, loafing and raising babies. That’s the best testament to this conservation project-an endorsement from the wildlife on this free range ranch in the Texas Hill Country region.
I’m here to hunt my favorite protein-Axis deer. Axis are found free ranging in very few places across North America-Florida, Hawaii and here in the Hill Country of Texas primarily. They love it here; I guess the country is very similar to their original home in Sri Lanka. Everything about an Axis is good! They are beautiful critters with an orangish brown coat accented by snow white spots just like a whitetail fawn. God must have favored the Axis a little more than the whitetail, because He allows them to keep their spots for life. Axis are bigger than most whitetails too...Up to 250 pounds for the bigger bucks, or "bulls", your choice. They are more closely aligned to elk than whitetail deer. Typical males will grow three points on each side-main beam, a couple of impressive brow tines and secondary points about halfway up the main beam. Thirty inches and longer is considered trophy. They are gorgeous animals and fine, fine, fine dining! That’s 3 fines from the red neck that has consumed a lot of wild game. No wang, no wild taste, better than beef! Axis are a challenging hunt as well. They are spookier than whitetails. If you bang or booger something up in their neighborhood, you might as well move along. They did. Unlike the whitetail rut where single males cruise the country, axis stay in groups most all of the time. Lots of eyes to spot you. They will flock to feeders. If that is legal in your state, jump on it. One of the coolest reasons to hunt axis deer is non-typical hunting times. Axis are considered exotic game in Texas, and can be hunted year round. It's June, and it feels great to be in the deer blind!
My most regrettable miss with rifle came about five years ago right here on JCR. I had a nice 30 plus inch axis in my sights after three days of hard, HOT hunting...Shot right under his belly at 135 yards. The bullet made a cloud of dust, and I’ve watched him run off in my head over and over again...Again this week, three days of hard, not quite as hot hunting with no meat to show for the effort. There are probably 25 to 30 blind locations on this ranch. We have hunted daylight to dark most of the time and visited maybe 10-12 of those blinds. We have glassed a lot of Axis deer too. Several hundred I’d say, searching for the right buck. About 1:30 yesterday afternoon, we made a move to a blind that we’d not hunted yet on this trip. When we rounded the corner in the road, I knew instantly that this was the exact spot in my reoccurring nightmare miss. I had been here before in person and many more times in bad memory. We spotted a small herd of Axis back in the thick cedar brush and one of them was a hard horned buck. I was hunting with Billy Torkildson, JCR guide, who can take a 5 second look at an axis buck and tell you how long he is to within a half inch of antler.
At about 4pm, the herd made a move, and out he stepped. Five seconds of analysis, and Billy T said, “shoot him”. I was situated in the same blind, taking aim from the same window, with a 30 plus inch Axis standing about 30 yards behind the missed shot from five years ago. I put that old memory behind me and collected my breathing and focus. Does were milling about, and I had to hold my shot for a couple of minutes, waiting for them to clear. When the opportunity opened, I was ready, and he fell in his tracks. 30 inches on his right side, 31.5 on his left, heavy bodied and beautiful! The ghosts were gone. Billy T had no idea that I had missed from this exact location before, or that this was my birthday. When I finally had my hands on this magnificent animal, I shared the story with him. Back at the lodge, I would enjoy a hot shower, delicious pan seared Axis steaks prepared by Chef Holden and an incredible mattress for the first full eight hours of sleep in several days. This time though, the dream was different!
If you go...
Axis can shed, be hard horned or in velvet at any time of the year, however, late May to September are the most active rutting and hard horned times. Take plenty of gun. These animals are extremely tough, and probably bigger than the whitetails you’ve been hunting. My setup: Weatherby Vanguard in .270/Winchester ballistic silvertip 130 grain. If you normally hunt with something smaller (.243) I’d step up a bit. The 300’s are good choices. Dress cool! Talk to your outfitter before you go. Will you be stalking or blind hunting. Stalking these critters is very difficult since they run in herds. If you are still/blind hunting, shorts, t-shirts etc. Light, cool clothing. Stay in the blind. Yes, they are active at the most popular times, dawn and dusk, but, you will see them meandering mid-day as well. Patience has killed more critters than Tarzan. Range finder. Great tool. In the rolling terrain that Axis favor, depth can be deceptive. Naked eye would tell you that my shot would be 120-130 yards. The laser reported differently-169 yards. Depending on bullet rifle combo, that’s enough distance to affect trajectory.
June 9, 2017
Take me to the woods without a trigger to pull, and I’m just fine, as long as someone else is in charge of the trigger. Same story with a fishing pole...Preferably that someone else is a youngster just beginning their outdoor journey, or maybe a fella that loved hunting and fishing as a kid but career and commitment kept him on concrete for several decades. I love the hunt. Doesn’t matter if I’m hunting deer, turkeys, quail, doves, walleye, smallies...you get the picture. It’s the chase, the hunt, the research, the piecing together of the puzzle, and the smiles and stories that come from fresh eyes and ears.
What a glorious time spring is! It's just February, but it's all about to unfold for antoher trip around the outdoors' calendar. I’ll be in Florida chasing big green bass in a couple of weeks, then on our fertile Texas crappie waters. Turkey hunting with the world in springtime bloom is near and dear to my heart and so is a cool spring night of predator calling. It’ll be time for a South Dakota walley trip before long and then a fall full of axis, elk and whitetails. It's all on the way, and I look forward to every experience, but the 2016 trip that I’m most excited about won't put me behind the gun or flipping a jig into heavy shallow spring cover.
You’ll hopefully hear the show in early April after I venture into the woods with my pastor, his dad and 3 little boys. We plan to shoot a couple of pigs, but we're hunting for something bigger. Real big smiles and lifelong memories for the young’uns is the goal of this hunt. Thanks to my friends, Keith and Barbara at Northern Sky Outfitters for making this trip a possibility complete with cabin, cooking and care while we're on their ranch. They can do this for you too, I recommend it! I’ll take the 22, and the boys can take turns tearing up a target or two, dad and grandpa will do the pig shooting with the boys as witnesses. If the stories start to stretch, maybe the shot gets longer or the pigs grow after death, the boys can straighten that right up.
This is a turn key, comfortable way to persue our now legendary wild pigs in Texas. If you’ve been thinking about it...book it. Spring is a perfect time weather wise to hunt 'em under the stars with hog lights, or spot and stalk em during the daylight...Or both. The ranch will hunt you both ways if you prefer. Take the kids, put the sausage in the freezer, make a lasting memory with a newbie, or maybe with a long time absentee from the hunting environment.
FEBRUARY 5, 2016
It's September and for a lot of us that means shotguns, rifles and bows for the next several months. All too often I leave home for a hunt with all of the gear that I think I will need for a successful hunting trip. I carefully go through the checklist for gear that is necessary for a deer hunt, pheasant hunt etc. I often forget one key piece that can add a ton of pleasure to a hunt though...a fishing pole. The upland and big games seasons occur in the fall of the year for the most part, and that’s a particularly good time to fish. Most species will be gorging themselves with bait over the next few months in preparation for winter and then spring spawn, and the weather is starting to cool and fall color adds a special element to an already beautiful trout stream.
Last week Robin and I made a run to West Texas to hunt doves. We had an exceptional shoot, so good in fact that after the morning hunt each day my limit was in the ice chest. It’s 8:30am and I’m done for the day. Had I brought a rod and reel I could have enjoyed playing with the 3 to 5 pound bass in one of the ranch’s stock ponds, or dumped the boat into lake Alan Henry just down the road to search out the crappie bite. I had plenty of time.
Upland hunting is a different story, we hunt all day and there's no spare time. Montana is a good example. When we haul the dogs to Big Sky country, it’s usually for two weeks, but after 4-5 days of hunting, the dogs and we need a break. I’ve always stored the fly rods in the dog trailer for that trip, and for that 2 day break. Clean clear water and abundant trout are always close by in Montana. Two days in the middle of a two week bird chase is perfect. We hunt pheasants in South Dakota each fall. From my cabin, I can walk 30 yards down to Lake Oahe, a tremendous smallmouth/walleye fishery. There is usually a fish pretty close to your hunt, take advantage of that. A two piece rod that breaks down and fits behind the back seat of the pickup, and a small tackle container with just a few of the basics are great additions to your hunting gear.
SEPTEMBER 17, 2015