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Woods and Waters

Discover the great outdoors of southern Oklahoma and north Texas. Each week, Mike Gaines talks about hunting, fishing, and wildlife in general.

Woods and Waters June 22 2018

 With the heat indexes running above 100 degrees and increasingly dry and windy weather, sitting in front of the air conditioning is not a bad option. But there are fish to catch and adventures waiting on us!

  This time of year there is not much hunting activity at all. Fishing for the most part is concentrated in the early morning and late evening when the temperatures are more moderate. 

   With last Sunday being Father’s Day, I hope everyone had a chance to celebrate with those closest to you and maybe embark on some new adventure! At least, I hope you had the chance to sit around in the evening and relive those special memories shared with a loved one in our great outdoors. Hopefully mosquito free!

   My brothers and I were so lucky to grow up in rural Jefferson County. Back then you didn’t really think about being in the outdoors because that’s where you spent the majority of your time. You were either working cattle, building fence, killing mesquites, on a tractor or if really unlucky, hauling hay!  When not working you still preferred to be outside riding horses, hanging out on the creek or fishing at the “concrete dam” or your favorite tank.

   Times have changed but the sport of fishing remains very popular and a great way to introduce the little ones to our great outdoors.

Slade Barnett gets it done!

   If you are lucky enough to venture west to the mountains this time of year and find yourself on a mountain stream casting a fly, you are blessed!

   Waking up to the cool crisp mornings, the smell of pine and pinion trees just add to the experience. 

   If you have a trout fishing trip in your near future, we have a few tips for you that you may have forgotten.

Memories!

   From Colorado to Maine, Wisconsin to Georgia, all trout behave the same way. How, when, and where they feed is highly predictable. Learning how to catch them on a fly rod, however, goes beyond simply knowing where to find the fish. Listed below are some tips that will get you primed and ready for every aspect of the trout game, from how what to feed them, to how to set the hook.

   Learning to read the water is one of the most important it is probably the most important skill for river anglers the world over. Do you know what a riffle, eddy, tailout, run, and pool is? If not, learn them. Fish utilize these spots for different reasons and move from one to the other at different times of year and times of day. Trout are lazy creatures that utilize rocks, currents, and eddies to hide in ambush and wait for food. Start paying attention to where you saw that last fish rise and why it might have been there. Talk to fellow anglers and ask where they’ve been catching fish. Most important, just sit for a while and watch the water. It’s amazing how much you can learn if you just slow down and pay attention without throwing a line.

   While fish eat everything from snakes to birds and mice, most trout concentrate on aquatic insects, small baitfish, and crustaceans. Do yourself a favor and learn the life cycle of the major insects in the area you are fishing-probably mayflies, caddisflies, midges, and stoneflies. The recently republished book Selective Trout is an excellent resource for this information. Terrestrial (which means land based) insects like beetles, ants, and grasshoppers are also important food sources for trout, especially in late summer and early fall when they tend to be more abundant than many water-born insects.

   Trout are often the first species of fish fly anglers catch, and they learn that setting a hook on them—especially when using a dry fly—requires a quick and smooth lifting of the rod straight up. The problem is that this method doesn’t work when switching to streamers. When working flies underwater, a lift upon the strike will usually cost you the fish. In this scenario, you’ve got to strip set with the rod low and pointed directly at the fish. When the fish hits, just strip one or maybe two more times and the fish should be hooked. After a solid strip set, then you can lift the rod to fight the trout.

Chris James starts em early!

   Almost everyone is guilty of getting overly excited as soon as you get to the river and wading right in to that first run. The fact is, you probably spooked trout between you and that run. Learn to slow down a little when you hit the river. When you find  a prime piece of water, fish your way to it instead of wading right to it. You’ll be shocked at how many more trout you catch.

   After finding a feeding fish don’t immediately cast to it. It’s tempting, but instead, stay calm, still, and quiet and watch what it’s doing for a moment. Make note of the timing of each rise and drop the fly at the right time. 

    Finally, be respectful to other anglers and don’t crowd someone who might have beaten you to your favorite spot-simply find another! Everyone likes the quiet of the woods and the sounds of the rushing water. Find your spot, be attentive and enjoy matching wits with the local trout!

   Until next week , get outdoors!

Woods and Waters June 14 2018

 Well my friends, we are into June and the only hunting season that is open is Squirrel season! When I was growing up a lot of folks I know ate squirrel regularly. I had a beloved uncle, Clevie Goodrich, who put squirrel hunting nearly on the same level as quail hunting and he enthusiastically pursued both! If you haven’t tried fried squirrel you are actually missing a treat. No, it doesn’t taste like chicken!

   But, if you are not into bushytails and aren’t willing to chase hogs this summer, then now is the premier time for fishing. And I’m here to tell you that the reports I’m getting show that it doesn’t matter if you’re on the lake, a stock pond, a creek or wherever there is water, the fishing is great. I have even seen some energetic young men pulling some nice fish from the ditches along side of the roads.

   When I was a youngster, this time of year was marked by my grandmother, Abbie Gaines, loading us up for a day of fishing. We would spend time digging worms and catching grasshoppers for bait, then loaded our equipment and heading to the North Pasture tank. Our equipment consisted of cane poles, bobbers and an assortment of hooks, not very sophisticated by today’s standards. Babbie, as we called her, could spend hours watching a cork bob! Most of the fish we caught back then were mudcats and perch, but they were great fried up!

Canyon Carter lands a nice bass with help from Gary and Jane!

   Things, and especially equipment, have changed a lot since those days but there is no better way to spend a warm summer morning than on your local pond!

    Stock ponds or tanks have been around for years and they have fed families and provided angling recreation ever since I can remember. You don’t need a lot of money or a fancy boat to fish them. A lot of us were introduced to fishing on their banks, and some might wish to go back to those days when the sight of a bobber slipping under the water was all we needed to make us happy.

Farm ponds, stock tanks, watershed lakes, by whatever name – they’re small waters that are easy to learn and on which we can hone our skills.

“Farm ponds come anywhere from a half acre to thirty acres, but I’ve always thought that fifteen acres or more leans toward a lake,” says Bill Dance, television fishing icon, avid pond fisherman and lake designer. Some farm ponds are constructed in gullies or valleys, some are impounded and some are just round dish-type holes in the ground.

Most ponds have a dam of some sort. Many have off-color water, sometimes even muddy. Ponds can provide good fishing for bass, bluegills and catfish. Don’t expect crappies in small bodies of water, though—the species is so prolific that crappie populations occupy too much of the available water space. In fact, most game and fish departments won’t even consider stocking crappies unless the body of water is at least 50 acres in size.

A small pond is a miniature version of a big lake: Fish do basically the same things in each body of water. They relate to key structural features that are available. They’re affected by water temperature and by water clarity just as their big-water cousins are. Anglers should look for them near the same sorts of cover and structure, and fish for them accordingly.

    If fishing for bluegills/sunfish, keep as many of the sunfish you catch as the law allows; you’ll have the makings for a great fish fry regardless of the size of the fish, and you’ll be doing the pond fishery a favor. A pond’s sunfish population can get out of control in a hurry. A number of female bluegills might all spawn with one male, so breeding success each year is high. Removing stunted sunfish will increase the average size of the survivors within a few summers.

Our niece, Nikki Green, caught this nice cat off the patio during Texoma’s flooding!

   Catfish, whether bullheads or channel, tend to prowl close to the banks during low-light periods. Look for most to stay in the deepest portion of the pond or around drop-offs near currents during warm weather and the brightest part of the day.

   Fish earthworms or scented baits under a float, with the bait positioned near the bottom. If the water is too deep to use a clip-on or pegged float, use a slip bobber. Otherwise, try tight lining, by sliding a small barrel sinker on the line, tie on a small barrel swivel followed by 16—20 inches of monofilament, and then add the bait hook.

    Nowadays a lot of farm ponds are stocked with channel catfish, which do well in small waters with minimum current. If channel catfish are present, fish for them at low-light times with in-line spinners, such as those made by Mepps and Blue Fox. Channel catfish in farm ponds are especially predatory in early to midsummer, when the fins of nearly spawned bass and sunfish are still in the”soft-ray” stage of development. 

   Regardless of which type of fishing you prefer, your local body of water has a lot to offer. Get out and enjoy fishing in your Oklahoma and call and let me know when the “fish fry” is on!

Woods and Waters June 7 2018

 As I write this, we are enjoying a fabulous Sunday afternoon with temps in the 80s and moderate winds. Quite a relief from last week – whew! It was flat hot!

 If you haven’t started fishing yet, then you better get going before the summer passes you by. It’s difficult for me not to think about fishing, living next to the Cathey boys and getting many calls a week from Hoot about his most recent lunker bass!

   Well, we have talked about getting our fishing gear ready and cleaned up for the upcoming season and with the current temps , it seems like the time might be here.

   In fact, as I was working on this article, I got a call from Houston Scott and was asked to accompany he and his brother, Lodge, for an afternoon of fishing on some of their ponds. We had a great trip, caught several bass and crappie, with all returned safely back to the water. No monsters but spending an afternoon with two quality young men in the outdoors is hard to beat! They certainly come from “good stock”!

Houston Scott

  Growing up it was different, fishing was such a simple affair back then. A quick trip to the barn or my mother’s flower beds and in a few minutes you would have dug up enough juicy worms to fill up a tin can; it was going to be a good day! It didn’t matter if you were after catfish, perch or anything, they were all suckers for a fresh red worm. A simple cane pole with a hook and cork was all you needed to be masters of the water. We could sit for hours and watch that cork “bob” on the water waiting for that slight twitch which signaled a fish was interested.

  Back then a mess of perch and yellow cats was a good day! My, how things have changed. With thousands of lure and bait options available it’s easy to get lost in the process and sometimes it gets so complicated you feel like you need a degree in fishology, if there is such a thing!

  On a brighter note, it doesn’t have to be that complicated. You don’t have to use a cane pole, but they are fun if you haven’t tried them. Just grab your rods and reels, hooks, sinkers and bobbers, if you wish, and some bait. As we mentioned, tried and true worms are hard to beat but if you are after catfish you might add some chicken livers and bait shrimp! I might add if you use bait shrimp be sure to wash your hands well before returning home. Your wife will appreciate it!

  Now that we have everything together let’s head out to our favorite fishing hole, whether a pond, lake or creek it doesn’t matter. This is a great time of year for creek fishing if you don’t mind snakes. A hot day in the shade of a tree while sitting on the creek bank is a pretty good way to spend the afternoon, especially if you have a nice breeze. An occasional bite and the company of a good buddy, like grandkids or your spouse just makes it better.

What a beautiful Monday!

  Fishing should be relaxing and a time of peacefulness and reflection. OK, I’ll admit those days when the sand bass are running, and you’re wearing out a silver jig or small spoon, thinking your arm will fall off from casting so many times are pretty hard to beat. But so is sitting on a quiet pond or creek in the early morning while watching the woods come alive with bird and wildlife – it is hard to beat!

Take a buddy!

  Remember our Saviour, Jesus Christ was the greatest fisherman of all time and he didn’t have a bass boat! Slow down and take time to witness and enjoy all that our Creator has blessed us with and get out and renew your acquaintance with our beautiful Oklahoma outdoors!

  And remember, take someone with you!

Woods and Waters May 31 2018

A recent article in “Field And Stream” mentioned that “From the first of June to the end of August, you have 92 days to fish, hunt, camp, and have the time of your life,” so let’s get started! So much to do and so little time. Great advice and with that in mind this week might be a good time to take a look at the “DOWNSIDE TO BEING OUTSIDE”! Sounds funny doesn’t it, since we discuss ways to get out and enjoy our great Oklahoma outdoors every week. But there are some concerns and issues we need to be aware of, especially when we are accompanied by our little hunters or fishermen.

  Most of these affect us more this time of year, by far, than they do in late fall and winter. During those times the main issues are exposure and possibly frostbite.

  It doesn’t matter if you’re hunting, fishing, hiking, biking, boating, camping or anything outdoors, you need to take precautions and be aware of your surroundings.

  Many years ago, my brothers and I had the pleasure of deer hunting the ridges and canyons of the Fort Stockton area in south Texas as the guests of Joe Parker Sr and his sons, Joe Jr and Jim Parker. To say it was quite a hunt was an understatement! It was said that in that area “everything bites, sticks or scratches”. You have no idea how true that was. While not that severe in southern Oklahoma we can’t overlook the issues we have.

  Probably the most common problems come from the insects right outside our door. First would probably be mosquitos; not only are they annoying, but now with the issues of West Nile and Zika virus they become more of a health hazard. Blackflies or Buffalo Gnats are very troublesome also, while they do not pose as big of a threat. Ticks are also a big concern as Lyme Disease can be very serious, if gone undetected.

  Chiggers may not be serious but tell that to someone who spent the afternoon sitting in the grass fishing at their favorite pond!

  Fire ants are a problem that were not present when I grew up but they are now; thank Texas for those! They, along with wasps and bees, can be a real problem especially for younger outdoorsmen. They pose the problem of anaphylactic shock in youngsters with some allergies.

  The good thing is that a quality insect repellent with “Deet” will ward off most of the pests, if applied properly.

  One of the most annoying things is poison ivy. While it doesn’t attack, if you get a good dose of it, you surely may feel like it has. While it is the most common, we must include poison oak and poison sumac in this group. Whether you’re just gardening without gloves, taking a walk through the woods or building fence, you need to be aware what it looks like and avoid it! Remember “leaves of three, let it be”! Also if working or playing in an area with poison ivy, wash your clothes thoroughly as the oil from the plant may remain on them.

Poison Ivy is not fun!

  The sap of the poison ivy plant contains an oil called urushiol. This is the irritant that causes an allergic reaction. You don’t even have to come in direct contact with the plant to have a reaction. The oil can be lingering on your gardening equipment, golf clubs, or even your shoes. Brushing against the plant, or anything that has come in contact with it, can result in skin irritation.

  Last, but certainly not least, are the venomous snakes of our area. We have a variety of rattlesnakes, copperheads and the cottonmouth water moccasin and all are considered pit vipers.       The cottonmouths are certainly the most aggressive of the group. They are normally found around creeks or ponds. Also keep in mind we have a common water snake which many times is mistaken for a cottonmouth.

  Water moccasins, or “Cottonmouths,” are relatively short and wide. Water snakes are longer and more slender. Water moccasins bask on land, or on logs and stumps near water surface. Water snakes are good climbers and spend a lot of time basking on branches hanging over water.

Beware of Cottonmouths!

  Water moccasins move slowly and defend their territory while water snakes move quickly away from disturbances.

When swimming, cottonmouths keep their heads elevated above the water and bodies riding nearly on the water surface. Water snakes keep their head and body low and below the water surface.

Cottonmouths always cock their heads at a 45 degree angle on land. Water snakes keep their heads level with the ground.

Both snakes feed on fish, frogs and other prey found around aquatic habitats.

  Don’t let any of this keep you from enjoying our great Oklahoma outdoors, just be aware of what’s OUTSIDE!

Summer Fun With the Catheys!

Woods and Waters May 24 2018

Last week we took a peek at the sport of paddling and kayaks with an emphasis on kayak fishing. It’s a sport that has really exploded over the last few years. That’s easy to understand when you look at the relatively low investment it takes to get into the sport. It’s also a great and relaxing way to enjoy being outdoors, with the benefits of exercise and catching a few fish!

   There is nothing like casting a line from a kayak, while watching the sun sink in the west. Also paddling slowly around a tranquil bay, in the predawn light, in search of that of that big bass!

   Kayak fishing can be as simple as you wish. I carry a couple of rods, an assortment of swim baits and spinners, a net, bottle of water and of course a paddle! The other end of the spectrum might include depthfinders, some form of pedal system, gear boxes with rod holders for an additional 5 or 6 rods-the choice is yours. Two things I never go without are sunscreen and some form of insect repellent.

   In the past, if you really wanted to get into kayaking, you had to find books to help learn the sport. The great thing about technology is now you simply need to pull up YouTube. Every facet of the sport is available and you might also pick up some great ideas!

   I know a lot of folks, much like myself, who don’t have a pasture full of tanks, well-stocked with fish or a $20,000 boat to cruise the fishy waters of Waurika Lake. Well, don’t despair! If you didn’t realize it, you have access to one of the true jewels of this area! And you don’t need anyone’s permission. All you need is a valid Oklahoma fishing license and adhere to the rules that are posted as you enter the area.

My new ride!

    Being only 4 miles northwest of downtown Waurika makes this a wonderful fishing and recreation area. The reservoir I’m talking about is Lake Jap Beaver. It was constructed by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation in 1953 and first opened to fishing in 1955. When first opened, the lake was known as Waurika Lake. After the construction of the 10,000 acre Waurika Lake, the original lake was named Lake Jap Beaver after longtime Jefferson County Game Warden, Jap Beaver, who was also very popular.

     Lake Jap Beaver is a beautiful small lake; it encompasses 65 acres with an average depth of 10 ft and a maximum depth of 30 ft. There are roads providing access to both sides of the lake including the dam. A boat ramp is located on the west side and also a small fishing dock. It’s a great place to enjoy a sunrise and watch for birds and wildlife. My wife Jana and I often will sit out on the shore in the late evening and watch for beaver and deer.

  It’s a great place to cast while walking the shoreline or just take the lawn chairs and watch your cork “bob.” The most common species are bass, channel cat, crappie and sunfish. I’ve caught white bass on occasion but these were probably added by some well meaning fishermen!

  Hunting is allowed in the surrounding area using a shotgun for small game and game birds and archery equipment during archery deer season. During high school, Jim Hagg and I would duck hunt there on a regular basis.

Chris James provers that a farmer tan can’t stop you from Kayak fishing.

  Back in the 60s and 70s my Uncle George Brown and his fishing buddy Babe Cephus spent many hours fishing for bass and crappie in their float tubes, with great success.

  If you have a kayak or canoe it’s a great place to launch them and spend time fishing the entire lake. Also, just take the kids out and paddle around the area! If you don’t have one it’s a good time to visit Academy. The lake is safe in the respect that, with its smaller size, wind is not as much of an issue as on its big brother, Waurika Lake!

Kyle Northcut is ready to go pro!

  If you haven’t spent time at Lake Jap Beaver in a while, give it a try! It’s been around for over 60 years and is still as beautiful as ever. In the last few years, the Conservation Department has put up new signs posting the regulations for the area. When using the area please adhere to the regulations and above all “take your trash with you.” As with any public use area it’s up to the users to help keep it clean!

  This is just another reason to be proud of our part of Oklahoma! I remember, while in high school, hearing rumors that kids used to frequent the area on weekend evenings to watch the “submarine races,” but I never knew for sure!

  Get out and enjoy our great Oklahoma outdoors!

Woods and Waters: Time for Kayaking

“Time Marches On”, yep, we are nearing the end of May with the Memorial Day weekend just around the corner! If you haven’t been fishing yet, you better get it in gear. Hopefully, with the winds of recent weeks coming to an end, your time will be more pleasant on the water.

 Bass boats were the norm around Waurika Lake for years but the severe drought of a few years ago caused many to sell their boats. Thankfully there is an option available for a quality fishing experience with a much lower price point. I know we have talked about kayak fishing before, but the sport continues to grow with the abundance of quality fishing kayaks available today.

Kayaks Anyone?

 You can spend as little as $300 for a fishing kayak, however, do your research first. Most of the kayaks at this level are plastic boats with a preformed upper and lower hull that is bonded together and their longevity is limited. It’s similar to purchasing a bicycle for $50 from a discount store; it will get you started but probably won’t be useful in a year.

 Any boat that you should seriously consider should be made from  roto-molded  polyethylene. They are very durable and relatively lightweight; they will last for years and give you many hours on the water. Quality fishing kayaks can be found from around $500 up to $5,000 depending on what you want to use it for.

  For myself, I like the somewhat minimalistic approach and prefer powering mine with a paddle and a little effort.

  For years while living in Missouri, we floated rivers in canoes and kayaks. Talk about a great way to spend the day, peacefully paddling and taking time to fish for smallmouth and goggle eye, and having lunch on a shaded gravel bar. In our part of Oklahoma we don’t have that opportunity but we are blessed to have Jap Beaver Lake and Lake Waurika easily available. 

  A peaceful morning on Jap Beaver is hard to beat and launching a kayak is very simple at the boat ramp! A calm day spent on a neck or bay of Lake Waurika can be very rewarding with many species available including bass, crappie, walleye, sand bass and hybrids!

  You can find a fishing kayak at any price to handle any situation.  A few years ago I decided to try a “Hobie 12ft Angler” and, while a fine boat and very well made, I found it was way too much boat for what I wanted to do. It was equipped with the Hobie Mirage Drive system which was pedal driven and I continually bent the flippers on the stumps in Jap Beaver Lake. Plus, fully loaded it weighed over 150lbs, not something you just loaded in your truck and carried to the water. I had to purchase a special trailer made for it and when finished probably had close to $3,500 tied up in it! Wow, that had gotten totally out of hand!

Lake Jap Beaver, made for Kayaking!

   Now, I am back to simple, both of my current kayaks weigh in the 50 to 70 pound range and are powered with a paddle and a little sweat. Both are well made of roto-molded polypropylene and cost between $500 and $1000! At that price range there are many quality fishing kayaks that come with features like rod holders, track systems for mounting accessories and even seating space to take a little buddy along for a ride. Easy to load in a truck or car top if you need and drive to your favorite spot.

 I see my neighbor, Seth Cathey, drive by often with his “Pescador 12” made by Perception on top of his Jeep. You can bet he catches plenty of fish! His is a sit-on-top style which happens to be my favorite type. You sit up higher than you would in a kayak that you sit in and have more room to move around. The “sit in” kayak does have more protection from the elements and you tend to stay drier which is a plus if fishing late fall or early spring.

Seth Cathey is ready!

 Regardless of which style or size you decide on, they are all fun and give you another way to get on the water. Next week we will take a more in-depth look into fishing kayaks and also the fun and benefits of the sport of paddling. Until then, get out and enjoy your Oklahoma.

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!

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