Woods and Waters May 10 2018

Every week we take a look at all things outdoors, fishing, hunting, camping and anything that gets us out in our great Oklahoma outdoors. This week we’ll look at one of the most important tools that we use, regardless of our activities and that would be knives. They have been around in one form or another since the beginning of time. It’s hard to imagine going afield without one!

  Growing up on a ranch near Claypool it seemed every boy I knew had a knife by age six. It was a necessity, you used it everyday and it seemed a “right of passage.” Opening feed sacks and cutting bailing twine, yep, they didn’t always use wire! Cleaning quail after a successful hunt, working cattle, making a needed repair to your saddle or splicing a broken rein, it was one thing you needed with you at all times.

  Maybe nothing more important than sitting in the shade and whittling on an old stick, it was a much needed tool for life in the country. Most times your first knife was a Case Sodbuster, a single blade utility knife that is still made today.

  It’s hard to believe in this day and age but we would spend nearly every recess outside of Claypool School at our favorite dirt patch playing Mubbly-Peg! My brothers, Jim Howard, Haskel Breshears, McLain Rose, Boyd Gear, Jimmie Huskey and the Porterfield boys, Richard and Finley and I’m sure some I don’t remember but you had to have a knife!

  Even in high school at Waurika I don’t know a boy that lived in the country that didn’t carry a knife to school. You never knew if you might have to cut a ribbon for your girlfriend’s hair! It was just a way of life. Can you imagine that today; there would be SWAT teams arriving by the first bell.

  Knife-like tools were used at least two-and-a-half million years ago. Originally they were made of rock, bone, flint, and obsidian. Knives have evolved in construction along with technology. Now blades are being made from bronze, copper, iron, steel, ceramics, and titanium. When the white man first came to America, the Native Americans used flint as their primary knife blade. But as steel and brass were introduced, it changed everything. They obtained these blades through traders and they were prized additions to their arsenal. Due to its role as man’s first tool, certain cultures have attached spiritual and religious significance to the knife.

Corner Tang Flint Knife Blade, Burnett County Texas

  I love knives and always find an excuse to buy another, although I avoid the expensive custom knives. They are great with unbelievable workmanship. I had a Bob Sky custom hunting knife given to me by my wife years ago, custom hardened steel blade, silver bolster and elk horn handle. I scrimshawed a deer head on the handle and also kept track of all my adventures on it! It is still somewhere on a deer lease in the Texas Hill country and has been since 1978. No more high dollar custom knives for me!

  Knives can be found in any configuration you can think of and in many different blade materials. Even today you would be hard pressed to find a farmer, rancher, cowboy or outdoorsman without a knife on his belt or in his pocket. They are a mainstay of rural Oklahoma. They may not be used for all the things they were years ago but when needed are irreplaceable!

The original Sod Buster.

   As invaluable as a knife was in the “old days” there are still many uses in our modern lives! One that comes to mind is being trapped in a burning vehicle after a vehicle accident. Your seat belt might be locked and the doors won’t open. A modern knife will quickly slice through the seat belt material and you can use the pommel to break the door glass and exit the vehicle! I never leave home without one.

  I’m an old guy but I still feel naked when I leave home if I don’t have my knife. You would probably be amazed at how many youngsters still roam the creeks and hills of our beloved Jefferson County with that familiar feel of a knife in their pocket. Get out and enjoy our outdoor Oklahoma and don’t forget your knife!

Woods and Waters May 3 2018

 What a blessing a week of forecast sunshine is! A few weeks ago my daughter Toby and husband Jeff Ross made their annual trip up for the “Snake Hunt”. Although it was very cold and windy, the little ones, Colton, Ryder and Grady loved it!

    All the rides and watching the snake handlers were a high point but the real excitement was when Ryder purchased his first pet. With his birthday money, he bought a small Red-Eared turtle. The little critter still lives in Frisco, TX and his name is D.J. and I am told, he is a Cowboy fan! Well, what about turtles…….

  As long as I can remember folks have talked about “why did the chicken cross the road?” Why did the chicken cross the road? Well it was to get to the other side! A play on words meaning the other side of the road and because the chicken apparently has a death wish, to most definitely be struck by a car and get to the “other side!”

  We don’t see many chickens crossing these days but how about turtles? If you are like me and wonder why this time of year we see so many turtles of every variety crossing the road, we may be able to help.

 I’ll bet many of you did not know that World Turtle Day is May 23, so I wanted to remind everyone to be conscious of these very special animals that share the roads with us!  Where we live, we are surrounded by ponds, creeks and lakes. But there are highways and roads that also surround these waters. This often means that native turtles do not fare well when they need to cross the busy roads.

  April through October are the months that you will see many turtles actively crossing roads in Oklahoma.  They do this for many reasons; in the spring, males are looking for females and territory to call their own.  May and June is nesting season.  At this time, egg-bearing female aquatic turtles leave the water to find terrestrial nesting sites, and this often requires crossing a road.  During late summer and fall, hatchling turtles are digging up from nests, looking for water.  Then later in the year males and females are heading to safe places for winter hibernation. Other times they will migrate to find a more suitable spot to live.

  Although pre-dating dinosaurs by several million years, turtles everywhere are disappearing quickly today. The “hide in my shell and wait it out” strategy has enabled turtles to weather the geological changes leading to the extinction of countless other species. However it has proven of little use in surviving the peril posed by fast moving trucks and cars.

  The only way we can help them in this situation, if it is safe to do so with existing traffic, is to pull over and slowly approach the turtle and gently pick it up by the shell, midway on both sides, and carry it to the other side of the road and set it down facing in the direction it was going. You might want to know that normally a turtle, when picked up from the ground, will empty their bladder, so don’t drop it when this happens!

Don’t pickup snapping turtles!

  The worst threat to snapping turtles is vehicle traffic. Each year many females get killed in their search for nesting sites. Often vehicles will not stop or will even deliberately hit turtles because snapping turtles are disliked by many people. Nests on road sides and in gravel pits are often destroyed by vehicles and road grading. Hatchlings on their way back to the water are frequently run over.

  However, if you are going to relocate a snapping turtle, I would be very cautious. They can be very aggressive and have a very long neck; they can bite nearly halfway back on their shell and are very quick. I would suggest you use a stick or something to prod them along or push them to the other side!

  Whatever the reason a turtle is traveling, their destination can take him or her miles away from where they live.  As humans continue to encroach upon their habitats, turtles will be crossing more roads.  Research has shown that aquatic turtle populations across the United States have uncommonly high proportions of males because so many female turtles are being killed on roadways.  Turtles have a long lifespan, take a long time to reach sexual maturity, and have low survivorship when newly hatched.  Because of this, turtle populations suffer greatly!  With turtle populations requiring high levels of adult survivorship, every individual is important to a population’s stability.  This concern is even greater in recent years because many U.S. turtle populations are becoming displaced and progressively smaller.

My grandson, Ryder, with DJ!

  We may never know for sure about the chicken! But hopefully this will help in your understanding of why we see so many turtles crossing the road! Get out and enjoy our great Oklahoma outdoors!

Woods and Waters April 26 2018

 Hopefully, the rains of this past weekend, which covered most of Oklahoma, offered some much needed relief to those who have been suffering from the horrific wildfires to our north!

   The many hardworking ranchers in that area have lost nearly everything. Growing up in rural Jefferson County, fighting grass fires was a way of life. Back then most was done with cattle sprayers and wet tow sacks. But the fires that have been raging to our north have been devastating and the videos and pictures are heartbreaking. Continued prayers for the many affected.

This spring has certainly been cool and damp, and while many of you are wishing for temps in the 90s and up, I could put up with this at least ‘til fall! The fishing has been great, certainly in the ponds, and we have yet to have the hot days with lots of sunshine to drive the fish to deeper waters.

While fishing and camping are foremost on many minds this time of year, I know some of you are daydreaming of the fall-hunting season and already making plans.

Quail are making a comeback, but these days most bird hunters have given up their bird dogs and have limited access to quail country.

But it seems everyone has a place to hunt deer, hogs and varmints. With this in mind, it leads to the question; what means will we use to pursue our intended quarry? For most, the rifle comes to mind and certainly gun hunters outnumber all other forms. Bowhunting follows close behind and it happens to be my favorite method for deer hunting. Hunting with a bow, be it a recurve, longbow or compound, is a challenging sport to say the least and limits you to very close range.

But there is a form of hunting for any size game, big or small, that falls between rifle hunting and bowhunting. It happens to be handgun hunting. Back in the ‘60s and ‘70s I read a lot of Elmer Keith’s articles (he promoted and helped develop the .357mag and 44mag). His intent was to develop a handgun round powerful enough to hunt big game. Handgun hunting was then in its infancy and at that time the 44 Magnum was the most powerful handgun round in production. That round certainly gained more fame from being used in the “Dirty Harry” movies. It was used by Clint Eastwood in a S&W Model 29! “Make My Day” became a buzzword.

Ruger Redhawk 44 Mag!

When I first started handgun hunting, I used primarily a Ruger 6” .357mag and a Ruger RedHawk in 44mag with a 7.5”barrel, both in stainless steel. I took deer, black bear, and hogs with these, out to 50 yards. While being limited to a shorter range, it’s amazing how quickly you adapt when being able to roam the hills with a handgun weighing 2lbs versus a rifle weighing up to10 lbs.

The sport of handgun hunting took a huge leap when Thompson-Center Arms brought out the “Contender”, a break-open, single-shot handgun with interchangeable barrels. The combinations were endless. I settled on a 14in barrel in .30 Herret caliber. You had to make the cases by fire forming 30-30 Winchester brass but the end result was amazing. You had a handgun that fired 140 grain spitzer bullet at 2775fps. That’s rifle ballistics!

This combination allowed me to take several antelope, mule deer and whitetail at ranges out to 275 yards.

My first mule deer killed with a hand gun.

In hunting revolvers currently in production,  there are several modern (post-1980) revolver cartridges. Currently the most powerful production handgun round is the .500 Smith and Wesson Magnum. While firing a 350gr JHP bullet, it can exceed 3000 foot-pounds of energy, at nearly 2000fps. The “Big Smith” is followed by the .480 Ruger and .475 Linebaugh which also exceed the .454 Casull by a wide margin.

Handguns work for bears.

The only one of these I have fired is the .454 Casull and that was unpleasant to say the least!

For a beginning handgun hunter I would recommend starting with a .357 Magnum or .44 Magnum in either a Smith & Wesson or a Ruger revolver. The next step is practice, practice, practice, until you can keep your shots in an eight inch circle at the range you wish to shoot. Scopes are a great help with sighting and also add weight, which helps reduce recoil.

You don’t have to forsake the rifle, but this fall, consider strapping on that handgun and when that doe walks by at 20 yards, give it a try! It could add up to more venison chili this fall.

It’s just another way to enjoy our great Oklahoma outdoors!

 

 

 

Woods and Waters: Remembering Mary Ruth Brown

By the time you read this, I am sure that most of you know, we lost a true icon of our little town of Waurika.

   Mary Ruth Brown (or MRB as Brad Scott called her) passed away peacefully in her home Sunday afternoon surrounded by family. She had such a profound impact on the youth in our area, always helping and offering support and encouragement. She sometimes dished out some iron-willed advice, not only to Dick, Pat and I, but also to many others as they grew up in our little town of Waurika.  There were many others but to name a few, you would certainly have to include, along with the Gaines boys, Steve Snider, Phil Scott, Hank Bradley, Robert Beavers and Jimmy Biffle. I am sure many would certainly add their names to this list!

    Growing up, Mary Ruth or “Poo-Tye” as we called her back then, (I have no idea where that came from), taught us how to catch crawdads, fish, shoot doves and the occasional plover and offered tips on riding calves. To say she grew up a tom boy is an understatement, she probably could beat most of them.

   As we grieve along with her daughter Toby Ann Walker and brothers Rusty and Chuck Brown and her many grandchildren and great grandchildren and of course her many friends in our hometown, we can rest assured that she, George, Margaret Bradley, Jerry and Thyriza Shelton, Toby and Bettye Gaines, Don and Vella Howard and others are having quite a party in Heaven!

“Mary Ruth Enjoying Rockin H, Last Summer!”

   I remember the summer I was working at Woods Elevator, while sitting out on the loading dock, having a coke during a break, a green and white car whipped in the parking lot and sped toward the elevator honking its horn in a cloud of dust! 

   It skidded to a stop and Mary Ruth stepped out, tossed me the keys and said “I hope you like your car!” Needless to say I did! A green ’55 Chevy with a white top. Wow! My Dad had decided I didn’t need a car but Mary Ruth decided otherwise!

   What follows is a story of Mary Ruth’s life that she helped me write for the Smithsonian opening, I hope you enjoy it.  Mary Ruth Gaines Brown

   Mary Ruth Brown was born on December 8, 1920 in Waurika Oklahoma, to Laster and Abbie Gaines of the Claypool Community. She was the only daughter and had an older brother Laster Gaines Jr (Toby). She attended school at Claypool Consolidated School District No. 52 where she graduated in 1938.

   Upon graduation she attended Brantley Draughton Business College in Ft. Worth, TX. After completion she returned to Waurika to a job at the local tag agency. Shortly after, she got a job at Walters, OK at Farm Security Administration, which was civil service and is now the Farmers Home Administration. 

“Vintage Mary Ruth And Billy Smith!”

   In December 1941 she moved to Duncan where she went to work at Oklahoma National Bank. 

   She was married to George Brown in August 1944, and moved to Altus Air Force Base where George was stationed as a Air Force pilot.

    After George’s discharge he enrolled college at Oklahoma A&M and transferred to Oklahoma University the following year where he graduated in 1951.

    They moved back to Waurika and purchased Denny Drug in April 1951. Upon purchasing it they changed the name to Brown Drug, where it stood until 1984, on the corner of Main and Broadway.

      Mary Ruth’s youth was spent as any rancher’s daughter of that time would be, working hard and enjoying a rural life that in this day and age is lost to many. It is thought by many that she was much tougher than her older brother and most of the other kids in that area. She could ride with the best of them and stood out when it came time to ride calves, hoping her dad didn’t find out they were doing it! In 1932 she won the Jr Calf Riding Championship by beating eleven boys her age! Her cousins Glen and Ray Keith Gaines said they wouldn’t let her play basketball because they were afraid she would hurt the boys!

    In 1973 she was elected as President of the Waurika Chamber of Commerce and was the first woman elected to that post in the state of Oklahoma.

   She retired from the Jefferson County Election Board at the age of 85.

    As her nephew I can attest that her accomplishments pale to the kind acts that she gave the many youth of this area. She certainly taught us Gaines boys the art of crawdad fishing at an early age!

   We love you M R!

Woods and Waters: “Snipe” Hunting

 As I write this on Monday morning it’s 36 degrees outside, so much for our “magic fishing time!”

   We’ve spent the past couple of weeks discussing fly fishing on your local waters, but with turkey season just around the corner, we may need to switch gears. We are blessed in our little corner of Oklahoma with the boundless opportunities we have for outdoor adventures.

With deer, dove, quail, turkey, waterfowl, predators and of course, feral hogs, there is always hunting available for the outdoorsman.

Alrighty!

   I started hunting on my own around 8 years of age and by the time I was 10 I would saddle a horse, grab my .410 or 22 and head to the back of the Valley Pasture – was not uncommon in those days. I had the thrill of hunting every critter that crawled, flew or slithered!

   You can imagine my enthusiasm when my older brother Dick, asked if I wanted to go hunting with he and Randy Howard, the next warm spring day.

There are Snipes everywhere.

   To say I was excited was an understatement, however he was always too busy to give me many details. All he would say was that we needed to wait ‘til the moon was right. Having been coon hunting with Perch King a couple of times I thought this was going to be good.

   The time finally came as he told me to be ready tomorrow night. I could hardly sleep that night, knowing the big hunt was just around the corner!

   After getting home from school, I took care of the show calves and my chores and waited. Finally just as the sun was dropping in the west, Randy Howard pulled up; the time had come!

    Walking to his pickup I asked what did I need to bring and Dick advised that Randy had brought all the needed equipment. By the time we crossed the cattle guard it was getting dark. We headed north toward the Claypool School and proceeded several miles north of the Howard Ranch.

    It wasn’t long before we turned east on a side road and after another mile or so pulled over. As we were getting out they both lowered their voices and began to explain the hunt. Stealth was very important and the need for quiet paramount. The excitement was building as they explained we were going to catch a creature that looked like a cross between a jackrabbit and a squirrel! I was told they had done it several times, with much success. I could hardly wait as they handed me a tow sack and two small rocks. They explained that the critters made a clicking sound by snapping their teeth together and used that to attract a mate.

   The plan was simple, all I had to do was stand in the road and hold the bag open between my legs. When they hollered that they had flushed one I was to click the stones together several times and hold the bag  open and it would run into the bag.

   I was ready as they both headed out into the pasture to flush my prime catch. Once they left, it was so dark you couldn’t see your hands-they advised I couldn’t have a flashlight as it would scare them off. 

    It didn’t take long before I heard Dick’s voice shouting “one on the way”! I clicked my stones and waited……….guess I might have spooked it! 

The real Snipe, a game bird!

   This went on for some time, each time they flushed one, their voices seemed further away. I just continued to click my stones and hold on to that bag. It was pitch black and I had no watch and it seemed like over an hour had passed with no noise. Finally, I called out- no answer! I couldn’t imagine what happened. Finally I headed back down the road we had come in on, all the time wondering, how many critters were hidden in the grass.

    I was probably getting a little concerned 

(Scared) when I started to hear laughter up ahead! Soon I could see the back of Randy’s pickup and they were both sitting on the tailgate laughing! As I approached Dick shouted “guess it just wasn’t a good night for “Snipe Hunting!”

   Growing up I had never heard of a snipe. I’m sure all of you know what a Snipe Hunt is! A snipe hunt is a type of practical joke, in existence in North America as early as the 1840s, in which an unsuspecting newcomer is duped into trying to catch a non-existent animal or bird called a snipe. While snipes are an actual family of birds, the snipe hunt is a quest for an imaginary creature whose description varies in different parts of the country.

   The target of the prank is led to an outdoor spot and given instructions for catching the snipe; these often include waiting in the dark and holding an empty bag or making noises to attract the prey. The others involved in the prank then leave the newcomer alone in the woods to discover the joke. As an American rite of passage, snipe hunting is often associated with summer camps and groups such as the Boy Scouts.

   While the snipe hunt is known in virtually every part of the United States, the description of the prey varies: it may be described as a type of bird, a snake, or a small furry animal. In one version, the snipe is a type of deer with a distinctive call; the dupe is left kneeling and imitating the snipe call while holding the bag to catch it.

   Hopefully you be successful on your first Snipe Hunt, if not, you have the memories.

  Looking back it was a rite of passage and a great memory of growing up in our Oklahoma!

Woods and Waters March 29 2018

Well, the warm early spring weather continues throughout our area. A cool down is forecast for this week, which may slow the fishing for awhile, but we are close to the magic time of the year.

The high winds we have endured in March have made it rough on local anglers. But my fishing buddy, Hoot, called last Thursday and we decided to give it a try. So, late that afternoon we were prowling the banks of one of his favorite ponds.

With winds approaching 30mph, fly fishing wasn’t practical, so we went the traditional route with rods and reels using swim baits. While the conditions weren’t optimal the results were great! While Houston landed the biggest, we both caught well over 20 fish with a mix of bass and crappie. I had to leave early but he continued to reel them in ‘til nearly dark. My, that boy loves to fish!

Houston “Hoot” Scott

Last week we looked at the use of a fly rod for bass and panfish, so let’s continue exploring it.

Many beginning fly anglers seem to think bass pay little attention to their safety and feed with total abandon. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Maintaining stealth during your approach and your presentations can often determine whether or not you find success on ponds. Move slowly and quietly at all times, and make your first presentations count. Pay attention to the distance of your casts and the water you’re targeting. Work a section of water thoroughly and then move down the bank so that your next cast has your fly landing into fresh water. This will ensure you’re not spooking fish.

Always make multiple casts to your target water before moving on. Bass aren’t always convinced on your first cast. Sometimes it may take a dozen attempts before you convince the bass to eat your fly. Keep your confidence and believe every cast is going to the be the one that ends with big bass on the end of your line.

Wind plays just as much of a role on ponds as it does on big lakes. It creates current, pushes and concentrates bait and influences bass to feed more in certain areas. If you’re fishing a pond and you’ve had consistent winds for a period of a couple hours or more, you should first focus your fishing on the downwind side of the pond. Generally, in this situation, the majority of the fish will prefer to position themselves and feed on the downwind side of the pond.

Just like in trout fishing, bass fishing also demands that you retrieve your fly in the correct water column or depth of where the fish are located. Bass are not always going to be willing to come to the surface to feed. Particularly if they’re positioned stationary in ambush points in deeper water. Start out by working your flies on or close to the surface and then continue to move them deeper if you’re not getting bites. Pause to let your fly slowing sink to help you control the depth of your flies. Also slow your retrieve down if you feel your flies aren’t getting deep enough.

Look Close, That Is Half a Catfish Sticking Out Of His Throat!

Retrieving your flies with a stop and go retrieve often works better than keeping a steady or constant retrieve. Doing so, your fly will resemble a dying or injured baitfish and it also can trigger reaction strikes by triggering the predatory instincts in bass. A stop and go retrieve also works great for keeping your fly in the strike zone longer, where sometimes a few extra seconds is the key to getting a strike.

Many anglers lose their confidence when the water is murky or stained. It’s actually a good thing most of the time, because it pushes bass into shallow water, close to cover and also provides added stealth for you.  Just remember that dirty water limits the distance bass can see, and they will rely more heavily on their hearing and lateral line to locate and zero-in on food. Choose flies that push water, make noise (rattles or surface commotion) and in a color that’s easier for the bass to see in stained water.

During the summer months or when there’s lots of smaller baitfish available in the pond, you often can have more success if you downsize your fly patterns. If you’re not having luck with your larger fly patterns, try matching the size of your fly with the size of the most common food source.

Swim baits paid off for us!

As the weather warms there is nothing like casting a popper bug to the calm water, letting it set and then start short retrieves followed with a pause! Be ready for the explosion that could happen at any time. Another great choice during this time of year is a deer hair frog or mouse pattern.

Remember, if you’re not getting any strikes, try something different, bass can be very fickle!

Relax, it’s just another way to get out and enjoy our great Oklahoma outdoors!

Woods and Waters March 22 2018 Fishing

Before church Sunday morning, I was visiting with a good friend when she mentioned an upcoming trip to the Beavers Bend area. Fishing is in the air! She and her family will be trying their fly fishing skills on the resident trout population-that sounds like fun to me! Regardless of the type of fish you pursue, now is the time to kick it into high gear. With temps this week in the mid 80s, the big bass will be cruising the shallows of your favorite waters. Just remember that those temps will also cause our local snake population to be moving around, also looking for a springtime snack! If you haven’t tried fly fishing, you are really missing out! It’s a sport that offers a journey for a lifetime. It can be as consuming as you wish it to be, but one thing is sure, you will always be learning something new. Add the element of tying your own flys/lures and you have a hobby for life! I’ve probably spent just as much time fly fishing on bass ponds in my life than I’ve spent traveling around chasing trout. Fishing farm ponds is where I originally found my love for fly fishing. Dave Whitlock is a well known fly fisherman and craftsman. He creates some of the most beautiful and effective flies for bass I have ever seen. He really opened the door to fly fishing for bass back in the 70s and 80s with his books on the subject.

The book that started it all for me.

My first outfit was crude at best with a $10 reel and a 9 foot fiberglass rod, that seemed to be as heavy as a shotgun. Heavy and cumbersome but it worked! With no fly fishing stores around, everything was mail order, but every time a package showed up it was like Christmas. Prior to that time my exposure to fly fishing was limited to articles in “Field & Stream”, “Outdoor Life” and other outdoor publications. I spent hours at the pond below our house, in the Valley Pasture, trying to fool the local bass and crappie populations. I wasn’t always successful but I was learning a sport that I have loved for nearly 50 years! Fly fishing for bass on ponds is a great way to get into the sport. There’s usually plenty of fish, and you always stand a good chance at catching them. One of the greatest things about ponds, in my opinion, is that most of them are small enough to fish their entirety from the bank. And the smaller the piece of water you’re fishing, the easier it is to locate fish. If you don’t agree, go out to a big public lake, and you’ll quickly understand what a bonus this is for an angler. The many hours I spent fly fishing bass ponds in my younger days, I learned a great deal. Below is a list of tips that I’d like to pass on in the hopes it will help others find success. It didn’t take me long fishing ponds to figure out the best method for consistently catching fish was casting my flies parallel to the banks of ponds. The reason it’s so effective is because it allows you to cover water systematically and thoroughly. When you cast parallel to the bank you can work your fly along the natural contours of the pond. Keeping your flies in similar water throughout your retrieve. Instead of spending your time casting out into deep water and working your flies back to you, start out casting your flies just off the bank, then slowly working your parallel casts outward into deeper water. Doing so, you’ll be able to locate where the majority of the fish are located and feeding, eliminate unproductive water and concentrate your efforts and first casts in the hot zones. Early spring, when the shallow waters warm quickly, this will work wonders!

No explanation needed.

Warm water species of fish are very similar to trout, in the fact that they spend most of their life span staying close to their food sources. The majority of the food found in ponds is located in close proximity to the banks. This is even more true when you’re fly fishing on ponds that lack lots of cover and structure. If you take the time to look along the banks, you’ll find bream and juvenile bass, newly hatched fry, frogs and tadpoles, dragonfly and damselfly nymphs and crayfish. All of these species use the banks, and it’s vegetation in and out of the water for cover and safety. If they venture out into open water, they know they’re sitting ducks for predators. Bass use two methods for foraging on their food sources. They either set up stationary in ambush spots close to cover or structure awaiting prey, or they stay on the move, slowly patrolling the waters where the majority of their food sources are located.  The key here, is to have a strategy with your presentations. Don’t randomly cast your flies around the pond. Hopefully I have stirred some interest in fly fishing your local ponds, next week we will continue our look at this exciting sport! Meanwhile get out and enjoy your Oklahoma. Before church Sunday morning, I was visiting with a good friend when she mentioned an upcoming trip to the Beavers Bend area. Fishing is in the air! She and her family will be trying their fly fishing skills on the resident trout population-that sounds like fun to me! Regardless of the type of fish you pursue, now is the time to kick it into high gear. With temps this week in the mid 80s, the big bass will be cruising the shallows of your favorite waters. Just remember that those temps will also cause our local snake population to be moving around, also looking for a springtime snack! If you haven’t tried fly fishing, you are really missing out! It’s a sport that offers a journey for a lifetime. It can be as consuming as you wish it to be, but one thing is sure, you will always be learning something new. Add the element of tying your own flys/lures and you have a hobby for life! I’ve probably spent just as much time fly fishing on bass ponds in my life than I’ve spent traveling around chasing trout. Fishing farm ponds is where I originally found my love for fly fishing. Dave Whitlock is a well known fly fisherman and craftsman. He creates some of the most beautiful and effective flies for bass I have ever seen. He really opened the door to fly fishing for bass back in the 70s and 80s with his books on the subject. My first outfit was crude at best with a $10 reel and a 9 foot fiberglass rod, that seemed to be as heavy as a shotgun. Heavy and cumbersome but it worked! With no fly fishing stores around, everything was mail order, but every time a package showed up it was like Christmas. Prior to that time my exposure to fly fishing was limited to articles in “Field & Stream”, “Outdoor Life” and other outdoor publications. I spent hours at the pond below our house, in the Valley Pasture, trying to fool the local bass and crappie populations. I wasn’t always successful but I was learning a sport that I have loved for nearly 50 years! Fly fishing for bass on ponds is a great way to get into the sport. There’s usually plenty of fish, and you always stand a good chance at catching them. One of the greatest things about ponds, in my opinion, is that most of them are small enough to fish their entirety from the bank.

My grandson, Ryder – the future of fishing!

And the smaller the piece of water you’re fishing, the easier it is to locate fish. If you don’t agree, go out to a big public lake, and you’ll quickly understand what a bonus this is for an angler. The many hours I spent fly fishing bass ponds in my younger days, I learned a great deal. Below is a list of tips that I’d like to pass on in the hopes it will help others find success. It didn’t take me long fishing ponds to figure out the best method for consistently catching fish was casting my flies parallel to the banks of ponds. The reason it’s so effective is because it allows you to cover water systematically and thoroughly. When you cast parallel to the bank you can work your fly along the natural contours of the pond. Keeping your flies in similar water throughout your retrieve. Instead of spending your time casting out into deep water and working your flies back to you, start out casting your flies just off the bank, then slowly working your parallel casts outward into deeper water. Doing so, you’ll be able to locate where the majority of the fish are located and feeding, eliminate unproductive water and concentrate your efforts and first casts in the hot zones. Early spring, when the shallow waters warm quickly, this will work wonders! Warm water species of fish are very similar to trout, in the fact that they spend most of their life span staying close to their food sources. The majority of the food found in ponds is located in close proximity to the banks. This is even more true when you’re fly fishing on ponds that lack lots of cover and structure. If you take the time to look along the banks, you’ll find bream and juvenile bass, newly hatched fry, frogs and tadpoles, dragonfly and damselfly nymphs and crayfish. All of these species use the banks, and it’s vegetation in and out of the water for cover and safety. If they venture out into open water, they know they’re sitting ducks for predators. Bass use two methods for foraging on their food sources. They either set up stationary in ambush spots close to cover or structure awaiting prey, or they stay on the move, slowly patrolling the waters where the majority of their food sources are located.  The key here, is to have a strategy with your presentations. Don’t randomly cast your flies around the pond. Hopefully I have stirred some interest in fly fishing your local ponds, next week we will continue our look at this exciting sport! Meanwhile get out and enjoy your Oklahoma.

Woods and Waters “Fishing” March 15 2018

Daylight savings time arrived this past weekend, and it signals my official start to “get ready for fishing season!” With the temps in the 60s and 70s in the afternoons and with plenty of sunshine to warm the shallows, the big bass will start cruising the shallows of your favorite spot.

My son in law Jeff Ross and Grady

The crappie bite and bass spawn is just around the corner we should all be smiling. It’s early spring—that funky time of year when the bass bite isn’t dead but it isn’t exactly on fire either. During the prespawn and spawning periods, when the water is still chilly, success with big bass has a lot to do with patience, being methodical in your presentation, and giving the fish a meal they can’t pass up no matter how lethargic they’re feeling. The beauty of early-spring bass fishing is that while bites may be fewer, you’re a lot more likely to connect with true trophies in the form of egg-laden females looking for some solid protein before taking to spawning beds, or heavy girls protecting their beds. If you struggle at this time of year—or don’t fish at all because you don’t think the bite is on—these tricks will help catch some big bass long before your favorite summer bite kicks into high gear.

A young Houston Scott.

During winter, fish often hole up in deep water with a soft bottom, and that holds true for both  lakes and ponds. In the early season, you’ll find these fish in those same winter haunts before the water is warm enough to prompt them to move shallow to spawn. These bass can be glued so tightly to the bottom that you won’t even mark them on your sounder, and it’s not uncommon for fish to have mud streaks on their bellies when you catch them.

They tend to be lazy, so presenting a bait that takes minimal effort for them to eat is key. It also doesn’t hurt to choose a lure that will kick up puffs of mud as it moves, like a sculpin or crayfish, to help draw attention.

Soft-plastic tubes shine in this scenario. Where you can get away with a long cast over a prime location, sometimes simply letting the tube slowly drag on the bottom works best.

Houston is always ready!

Jerkbaits are one of my favorite early-season lures. When bass begin to transition from deep water to the shallows, these baits cover plenty of water, which is key because the bass are often cruising a large area. Jerkbaits prompt reaction strikes, which is why you’ll see many anglers working them as hard and fast as possible. It’s a great technique during warmer times of year, but in early spring, it pays to pause for a long time.

When my jerkbait first touches down, I’ll give it a few hard rips just to make it dive, but after that, I’ll let it sit for five to 10 seconds without doing a thing. A suspending jerkbait works best for this method, although a floating model that rises slowly can be just as effective. The initial movement often catches a fish’s attention, but this time of year, the bass may not swim over at 100 mph to crush the lure if you continue moving it. The long pause gives any fish attracted by the initial motion time to swim over for a look. Sometimes they’ll strike at the paused bait. Most of the time, however, I find that the hit comes during that first twitch right after the pause.

As the waters continue to warm, early mornings and late evenings are my favorite times to cast. I like to cast and retrieve a spinner bait over likely spawning areas. You might try  slow retrieve of a slider type rig with a soft plastic trailer works great!  While using short lifts and pauses through likely spawning areas. You watch your line carefully to detect any movement of a soft take.

There is nothing any more satisfying than to be on your favorite Oklahoma waters, watching the sun give us another glorious sunset, while you pause a moment to thank “Our Creator” just before you return that six pound bass back to it’s home!

Get out and enjoy your Oklahoma.

Woods and Waters and Skunks

Oooooh, what is that smell? Mercy, it’s making my coffee taste bad, roll down the windows please! Living in southern Oklahoma we all know what it is and this time of year it is really bad! It’s one of those cute little black and white striped furry creatures we see flattened on the road. Sadly enough they have given their lives in the name of “love!”

You see, this time of year is when skunks start their mating season. Their minds are definitely on something other than watching the road.

Even with their potent defense, there are predators who can attack swiftly enough to carry off a young skunk before a mother can spray. Great Horned Owls strike from above and without warning. Other predators include coyotes and domestic dogs. However, the main threats to skunks have been human, who either killed them casually or out of fear. Also there are a large number of skunks that are run over by automobiles.

Striped Skunks are the chief carrier of rabies in the US, especially in the Midwest. At one time Striped skunks were hunted and trapped for their fine and silky fur.

The mountain men of the early fur trade wore fur caps they made from the entire skin of a striped skunk. In those days with infrequent baths and questionable hygiene, the caps may have introduced the first use of musk cologne!

There are several types of skunks commonly found throughout the United States, including the striped skunk, spotted skunk, hog-nosed skunk, and hooded skunk. They all have slightly different appearances and habits but also share may commonalities. For example, most adults grow to be about the size of a house cat or small dog. Some of the North American species have specialized diets but most are omnivorous and eat what is readily available, like grubs, plants, small animals, and even garbage. Finally, skunks all use a foul smelling spray to keep predators at bay.

Striped Skunks are the most common throughout North America and can be found from Northern Mexico to the Northwestern Territories of Canada. Their distinctive markings are used to identify them. Striped skunks have white stripes running from the tops of their heads to the tips of their tails.

Spotted Skunks are most often encountered in the Eastern U.S. where they live in woodlands and prairies. They keep a diet of field animals, insects, wild plants, and farm crops. Despite their name, spotted skunks are not actually speckled. Instead, their black fur displays swirls of white stripes.

Hog-nosed skunks are typically found in the Southwest. They are easily identified by their stark white tails and the large, solid white stripe that runs down the length of their backs. These skunks also have relatively large noses that they use to root through the soil for food.

A pod of perfume

Hooded skunks are desert-dwelling mammals that primarily feed on insects. They are somewhat similar in appearance to striped skunks, but have longer tails and thick patches of fur around their necks. Some kinds of hooded skunks have two thin white stripes running down their backs and tails, while others have single, thick stripes and solid white tails.

Getting rid of skunks in an area first requires identifying the creature. Skunks are usually hard to miss, especially with the black and white striped body, bushy tail and scampering gait. If you encounter a skunk, pay close attention to whether it stomps its feet as this is a pre-spraying warning sign. Skunks start to move around in the springtime when temperatures get warmer and they begin their search for a mate and food. Since skunks can accurately spray between 10 to 15 feet, it’s important to move as far away as possible as they may assume you pose a threat. Getting rid of skunks can be challenging.

Skunks can be a pest, however, they do help control insects and other pests around your home.

Whew!

Growing up I remember the smell and horror experienced when a skunk got under your house, boy that was pleasant! They would manage to get into the crawl space in the foundation. Of course the best defense was to make sure these were areas were covered with screen or something to keep them out. If they did manage to get under the house it took a few days for breakfast to taste normal again!

The best advice is to admire them from afar! It’s time to get ready for fishing, get out and enjoy your Oklahoma!

Woods and Waters “Tools of the Trade

Wow, what a difference a week makes. Last week we were coming out of a bitter cold stretch with no meaningful rainfall since last fall.

Mother Nature gave us a cold front early last week and the resulting rainfall and ice followed it. All of Jefferson County has received a much needed 4 to 5 inches of rain! Temperatures are forecasted  this week to be in the 60s and 70s and sunshine. You can drive out to your wheat field, roll down the windows, and sit and listen to the wheat grow! That was a drought buster, at least for a while.

This week we are going to continue our look at things produced in the US that have changed or improved our outdoor experience.

The Marlin Model 336 is certainly in that class. Because there’s one in just about every big-woods deer camp, this classic lever action is the only one still made here it’s  the original company. Marlin was purchased by Remington a few years ago, and they continue to produce the same quality rifle. Introduced in 1948 the 336 in 30-30 or 35 Remington has accounted for untold numbers of whitetail over the years.

We have to mention the Colt 1911 pistol, used for years by our military. It remains to be one of the most popular, shootable pistols out there. The 107-year-old design is the “American fighting pistol”, having proved itself from the trenches to the jungles to the deserts. Nothing points like it. And it rides pretty well on your hip while you’re checking trail cameras, too.

The 1911 pistol is produced by many manufacturers today and has been customized more than any handgun in history.

Shifting gears, let’s take a look at a couple of items that were designed to make our time afield more bearable and comfortable.

Beginning with our feet! In 1936, four years after Charles Danner opened the Danner Shoe Mfg. Co. in Chippewa Falls, Wis., he took note of the caulked logging boots that foresters were wearing in the Pacific Northwest, and thought, “Now those are some dang tough boots!”Rugged people, he realized, needed rugged footwear and were willing to pay a premium for it. So he moved the operation to Portland, OR where the company has been making hard-wearing boots for loggers, ranchers, trappers, and hunters for more than 70 years.

In the mid 1990s, Danner introduced a 10-inch, all-leather, waterproof hunting boot with all the toughness of their previous offering.

The true icon of outdoor wear would have to the Woolrich Shirt! First produced in 1830 by the

“ Woolrich Made in America Buffalo Wool Shirt Company”, yep, that was the name! Located in Woolrich, PA, they have continued to produce the same quality shirts for nearly 200 years.

I remember back in the 1950s when my granddad, Lee Fentress, would come down to quail hunt, he would always wear his red Woolrich shirt with his pipe stuck in the pocket! When you took a break he always had a great outdoor tale to share. Those were the days.

In 1964, Buck Knives released the Model 110. It was a folder, and there was nothing new about folders; the Roman legions had marched with them. But this was different. It was big. It was heavy. It was clunky. But it had a brass frame and Macassar ebony handle scales, and it was gorgeous. It was also extremely strong. The 110 had a new type of locking mechanism that allowed you to do things that had heretofore been the province of fixed-blade knives.

The 3 3/4 inch stainless-steel blade could be easily sharpened, and rust wasn’t a problem. All you had to do was put a drop of oil on the hinge pin every so often and you were set for life. The 110 was too big to carry in a pocket, and so Buck sold it with a leather belt sheath.

You saw 110s on the belts of just about everyone who worked with their hands. I don’t know how many people I’ve hunted with who, when it’s time to start field dressing, reached for a 110. The new version is sleeker, but still does everything. Since 1964, Buck has sold 15 million Model 110s. Think of that; 15 million!

This last offering I would bet if you’re my age you have owned several!  No matter where you live, you probably have a red-and-white Dardevle spoon in your tackle box. So recognizable is this piece of metal that it’s become the go-to model when a lure needs portraying on anything from a fishing-themed birthday card to a Santa Claus ornament. I clearly remember my grandfather giving me my first Dardevle, and though I’ll admit I didn’t use it often, every time I looked at it, I imagined myself battling giant bass. Of course, while I was dreaming, thousands of anglers were (and still are) using the classic Dardevle to fool everything from huge muskies to heavy lake trout and trophy walleyes.

Red-and-white will always be the iconic color scheme, but Eppinger actually produces more than 100 different patterns in an enormous variety of sizes, all of which are made in Michigan as they have been since 1912.

Hope you enjoyed remembering these items and get out this week and watch the wheat grow!

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