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!

Woods and Waters February 22 2018

When I was a youngster and began my outdoor adventures, it seemed every product made for the outdoors was “Made In America”! In most instances nowadays that is not the case. Imports rule our lives as global trade and cheap labor have moved the manufacture of many items we use to foreign shores.

Bear Grizzly, Still Produced today!

With that being said, there were many items designed for the outdoorsman first made and manufactured in the “Good Old USA” and they remain the standard in their fields. Today we’ll take a look at a few of the icons.

One of the most recognized would have to be the Remington 870 shotgun. I could do without the rest of my guns and hunt with the three 870s I currently own. And I am hardly alone. There have been more than 11 million 870s made—everybody has one, or five, in the gun cabinet.

The most popular shotgun of all time, the 870 is a triumph of mass production far greater than the sum of its cast and stamped parts. Designed to replace the finely machined, expensive to manufacture Model 31 pump, the 870 could have been made to look cheap, but instead it was great.

Slick, shootable, endlessly reliable, and affordable, the 870 has been made in Ilion, N.Y., since its introduction in 1950. Produced at a factory that originally fronted the Erie Canal in the 1800s, the finished guns were dropped onto passing barges.

With stock dimensions designed to fit the average shooter, the 870 has earned the reputation as the shotgun that everyone shoots well. So while I might miss some of the fancy checkering or scrollwork of my other guns, I wouldn’t miss any more birds.

Another icon was the first offering of a new manufacturer of firearms, founded in the late 1940s by Bill Ruger. Ruger’s first offering was the “Single Six”, a single action revolver in 22 rimfire.

Ruger Single Six, An Instant Hit!

The story goes that Bill Ruger released the Single-Six in 1953 to capitalize on the popularity of TV Westerns and the demand they helped create for single-action revolvers. It was a good idea. The Single-Six, still made in multiple versions, became one of the bestselling revolvers in history.

Bill Ruger didn’t stop there as he introduced the 10/22 in 1964; this classic rimfire hit a perfect trifecta for a .22 that would grow up with you. It was accurate, inexpensive, and exceedingly customizable. You didn’t have to be a gunsmith to tinker with the thing. You start off like I did, happy as a clam with the off-the-shelf version and a decent scope for all the squirrel hunting and plinking a youngster could ever want to do. But as your shooting skills sharpen, and your rifle interests mature, it isn’t long before you are sucked into the aftermarket 10/22 playground. You can add a target barrel, laminated stock, drop-in trigger. You can do  all this yourself without being a gunsmith! The Ruger 10/22 is not just the rifle you grow up with. It’s the rifle that grows you up.

Ruger 10/22, Changed Everything!

Switching gears a little, probably the most iconic addition for bowhunters who grew up in the 50s and 60s was the introduction of a quality mass produced recurve bow.

Fred Bear originally marketed the Grizzly as “the working man’s bow.”

Like all Grizzlys, mine was 58 inches long and weighed about 2 pounds. Not that the specs mattered; my idol, Fred Bear, had designed and made the thing and that was enough for me. I might add, that I was lucky enough to meet both him and his wife at an archery shoot at Cobo Hall in Michigan in 1970! There were other pioneers of modern bowhunting, but no man brought the sport to the masses like Bear. He debuted the Grizzly in 1950 and sold the heck out of the sleek, one-piece, known for easy handling and accuracy.

The first year I bowhunted for deer in the late 1960s, it was in the northern Indiana woods and I toted my 40-pound Grizzly.

I shot rabbits, squirrels and carp and poked holes in many a target over the years. I eventually took several deer with a recurve. But it all started with that Bear Grizzly. It’s the bow that made me a bowhunter!

Hope you enjoyed looking back at some of the tools, produced in the USA, that forged your young life as an outdoorsman and hopefully you still use them today. Take good care of them; your grandkids will enjoy them! Oil them up and clean them, then head out to your Oklahoma outdoors.

Tools for the outdoorsmen

 

Monday morning, eighteen degrees, seriously! So much for my talk about spring fishing and bass boats last week! Well the groundhog did say 6 more weeks of winter, brrrrr, I am so ready for spring and rain.

Vortex Viper 10X42

One solution is to grab your binoculars, wrap up and get outside. This time of year there are significant numbers of waterfowl and raptors still in our area. Soon they will begin their journey back to far north to their summertime homes.

One of the most enjoyable and useful tools for the outdoorsman, hunter or fisherman is a quality pair of binoculars. Over the years binoculars have been improved and designed to offer great value for a reasonable price. Good quality binoculars can be found starting at about a hundred dollars and range upward into several thousand; let your budget be your guide.

There are two main styles or shapes of binocular and these are determined by what type of prism they use, either a Roof Prism or a Porro Prism design.

You may ask which is better, but the answer is neither, as both have their unique advantages and disadvantages, and so it is often down to your specific needs and preferences as to which you should choose.  I will go through these and explain their main features, advantages, shortcomings and what they are best used for.

One of the two main styles of binoculars is the Roof Prism. This refers to the type of prism used in their construction. In this design, the prisms are aligned with each other in a straight line, and thus they tend to be sleeker and more compact binoculars than the Porro prism design. You can easily identify a roof prism binocular as the eyepieces and the large objective lenses line up with each other.

The roof prism is my favorite being a compact design with fewer internal parts than porro prism design, so less to go wrong and it’s easier to make them dust and waterproof.

The image quality of roof-prism binoculars can suffer slightly because of the aligned prisms, although the top models of the roof-prism and porro-prism binoculars are now generally considered to have equal optical quality. To be really good, roof prism binoculars have to be in the high price range. Do not attempt to economize on roof prism binoculars.

How many can you find?

These are great for general use, wildlife viewing, hunting and sporting events.

The Porro-prism models are larger with the offset look of yesteryear. They are heavier, however the quality of viewing can be much better than the roof-prism. If you have ever watched old WWII movies of naval battles you would have seen these huge binoculars used by the military.

Hopefully you already have a good pair of binoculars, and if so, carry them with you when out driving around our great state or simply walking around enjoying hopefully a warm afternoon. There are so many wonderful critters in our Oklahoma, and showing them to our youngsters and allowing them to identify them is priceless.

When I was young I loved duck hunting and decided I wanted to identify every species common to our area. It took several years; I kept a list of dates and times of each kind I had found. It was fun and very educational.

Watching and identifying the birds common to our area is also entertaining. Its amazing how many you may have never noticed before. Bird watching has been around for years but that is understandable because it is so much fun. While living in Missouri I discovered birds common to Oklahoma also. However Missouri had many species that I had never heard of before.

If you have a camera with a telephoto lense you can double your fun with some great pics. If not, you might look into a PhoneScope device that couples your smartphone with your binoculars for some great closeup shots.

Be it wildlife or birds it doesn’t matter, binoculars are an important tool for the outdoorsman or wildlife enthusiast and just another reason to get out and enjoy your great Oklahoma outdoors!

It’s about time for fishing season

Fishing is just around the corner, although with a temperature of 18 right now, it’s a little hard to imagine. It won’t be long however before I start  getting pictures of Houston Scott and Slade Cathey with huge bass taken from their local ponds! As warm afternoons and sunshine raise the temps, the big bass will start hanging out in the shallows.

New Heritage 40th Anniversary Tracker for $9,995.00

This really signals the beginning of fishing season and the lake bite will quickly follow. With that in mind it’s time to start getting your fishing rig ready to go. We discussed a few weeks ago about working on your tackle during this down time but now you need to concentrate on your boat.

After being winterized and stored for a few months, we need to do a complete check; batteries, controls, electrical and have the engine serviced, including oil change. Hopefully, making that first trip to your favorite spot trouble-free.

It doesn’t matter if your ride is a $40,000 bass boat, Jon boat, pontoon or your family pleasure boat as long as you get out and enjoy our Waurika Lake.

A lot of you may not remember, but in the early 70’s, “bass boats” existed, but not as we know them now. They were small, around 14ft and very narrow to have access to brushy shoreline areas. They were driven from the bow seat using a stick drive, which took a little practice to get used to!

Skeeter Boats, I believe, was the first to manufacture what would be known as a bass boat.

 

The First Bass Tracker in 1978

The earliest of what could truly be called a bass boat is credited to Holmes Thurman who founded the Skeeter Boat Company of Liberty, Texas in 1948.

The first Skeeter boats were part flat-bottomed jonboat and part powerboat. The name came from the appearance of its distinct bow. Thurman thought it looked like a mosquito. Made from molded plywood, the first Skeeters rapidly became popular with Texas and Louisiana anglers.

Skeeter began building improved fiberglass models in the early 1950’s. The 1961 Skeeter Hawk was one of the first mass produced fiberglass bass boats available.

The basics of the modern bass boat came together for the first time; more hydrodynamic hull design, swivel fishing chairs, bow mounted electric motor, and rod holders. Not quite a Wright Brothers to space shuttle difference but close.

As anyone knows, if you wanted a boat of any kind in the 1970’s, you went to the dealer of your choice, picked out the model you wanted and then decided what kind of motor and other accessories you wanted on the boat and paid them to rig it out.

The first boat of this type I bought was from Lakey’s Marine in Wichita Falls in 1975. I can’t remember the brand but it was a 14ft green and white fiberglass boat that was so narrow that sitting in the bow seat you could rest your hands on the gunnels without reaching! Rigged with a 25hp Johnson motor, I thought it was the cat’s meow.

The First Bass Boat

That all changed in 1978 when Johnny Morris introduced the first “Bass Tracker”, the industry’s first fully accessorized, ready-to-fish boat, motor and trailer package at an unheard-of nationally published price of $2,995 and advertised it in their fishing catalog. The boat was an instant hit; I remember seeing my first tied up at my friends dock on Lake Arrowhead in 1979 – I was impressed! Then in 1982, TRACKER Boats opened its first plant in Lebanon, MO. It was dedicated solely to the manufacture of TRACKER fishing boats. In 1988, the company’s custom boat trailer factory opened in Ozark, MO. Each trailer is factory matched, custom fit, sized and color coordinated to the boat it will carry. In 2008, TRACKER Boats celebrated 30 years as the #1 builder of aluminum fishing boats, and as the acknowledged leader in innovative aluminum boat technology. Today, Tracker still builds some of the best, most affordable fishing boats in the nation.

There are a lot of great bass boat/fishing boats out there these days for you and your family’s enjoyment, hope this gives you an idea of how it all got started! Get in one and get out and enjoy your great Oklahoma outdoors!

Time to hunt predators and do some fishing!

As we near the end of January, we are enjoying a week of mild temperatures! It is a great improvement from just a couple of weeks ago with lows in the single digits. Deer season is now complete and next week we will announce the winner of our big buck contest.

This is a great time to be out predator hunting and hopefully lower our population of coyotes, bobcats and even some feral hogs if you’re lucky. The local deer and quail populations would appreciate it.

Waterfowl season is still open and I know that Clay Forst and Stuart Ranch Outfitters have provided their clients with some great shooting opportunities over the last few weeks!

Clay had a post on Facebook this weekend with his great dog “Wrigley”, who had just completed his 1000th retrieve this weekend! If you haven’t seen Wrigley, you have certainly missed out; he’s not only the largest Golden Retriever I’ve ever seen but also a great looking dog. Congrats to Clay and Wrigley- an accomplishment that took a lot of hard work.

Clay Forst and his great dog Wrigley

As we get into February next week, many of us will start turning our attention to warm spring days  and fishing. The early crappie bite isn’t too far off and we all know how great they are on the table.

Now is the time to get your rods and reels cleaned up and lubed, replace the line and inspect the ferrules for nicks which could cause abrasions to your line! Also take some time to go through your tackle box and clean those favorite lures also replacing any bent, rusted or dull hooks.

If your fishing is done using a watercraft of some sort, it is a good time to check that equipment also.

Spring is on the way!
A guide to spring fishing

If you fish from a kayak, canoe or float tube this part is relatively straight forward. It mainly consists of checking for any damage and repairing it prior to your first trip.

A boat and motor, whether a simple setup or a state of the art bass boat, needs a little more attention. A total cleanup and a coat of protective wax is a great idea along with a general cleaning. Also wipe down all upholstery with quality vinyl protection such as “303”.

Don’t forget to check your trailer lights and lube the wheel bearings. These 60 degree afternoons are great for taking care of these things and will insure your first trip to the water will be trouble free!

Soon the time for spring fishing in Oklahoma will be here, so grab your favorite rod and reel and be ready to hit the water!

Blizzards and ice storms are still a possibility in Oklahoma in March, but typical March weather includes some mild and sunny days during which the bass in farm ponds get really aggressive in the sun-warmed shallows and can provide excellent springtime angling action.

On sunny days the downwind sides of the ponds may be several degrees warmer than the upwind sides as the breeze pushes the warmer surface water across the pond, displacing the cooler water there.

A variety of lures can produce action. Typically it’s a little too early for plastic worms to be effective, but crank baits, jigs and spinnerbaits can be good choices. My favorite lures for March pond bass-fishing are 1/8-ounce spinnerbaits or big Beetle Spin lures. Carrying a small thermometer to test the water temperature can sometimes be a good way to tell the best areas to fish.

You can also locate early spring bass in a lake in shallow areas close to the bank especially on warm sunny days!

Get your gear ready and grab your poles and get out and enjoy your great Oklahoma outdoors!

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