50.3 F
Waurika
Monday, October 22, 2018

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!

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 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 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 July 5 2018

Hope you had a great “4th of July” holiday and had a chance to celebrate the founding of our great nation! In doing so I also hope you had a chance to get on the water and enjoy a little fishing.

   While out casting on your favorite body of water catching bass, crappie, catfish or whatever your quarry is, hopefully you didn’t encounter any snakeheads! What is a snakehead you ask? Well, I’m going to tell you more than you probably wanted to know about them.

   Snakeheads (Family Channidae) are native to Africa and southern Asia. About 28 species have been identified. Equipped with a lung-like organ, these fish can gulp air and survive in waters with low dissolved oxygen levels. They can also live out of water for several days if they are kept moist. All snakeheads are aggressive predators and may eliminate other fish in waters they invade. They have even been known to bite humans who got too close to a guarded nest. The northern snakehead (Channa argus) is fairly cold tolerant, and could probably survive winters in many parts of the United States. This species also has the ability to cross land by wriggling or “walking” on its pectoral fins. Snakeheads have been imported to North America for the aquarium trade, and at one time were sold live in Asian-style fish markets. It’s thought that in some instances some of these live fish were released in waterways to reproduce as they are a sought after food source in Asia.

Native Bowfin

   That was prior to the Snakehead being added to the list of injurious wildlife under the Lacey Act in October 2002, which banned import and interstate transport without a permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  Snakeheads were sold in pet stores and in live food fish markets and some restaurants in several major U.S. cities, including Boston, New York, and St. Louis. Live specimens have been confiscated by authorities in Alabama, California, Florida, Texas, Virginia, and Washington where possession of live snakeheads is illegal. Some snakeheads living in natural waters of the U.S. may have been released by aquarium hobbyists or those hoping to establish a local food resource. Also, some cultures practice “prayer animal release”, a faith-based activity in which individuals purchase, then release, an animal (fish, amphibian, reptile, or bird) to earn merits with a deity.

You Don’t Want To Lip A Snakehead!

   Snakeheads are a freshwater fish with little, if any, tolerance for saltwater. Within their native and introduced ranges, they live in small and large streams, canals, rivers, ponds, reservoirs, and lakes. Many species can tolerate a wide range of pH, and one species living in Malaysia and parts of Indonesia prefers highly acid waters (pH 2.8-3.8). The northern snakehead and several other species prefer to live in somewhat dense aquatic vegetation where they feed and reproduce. Northern snakehead may tolerate a wide range of water temperatures and environmental conditions which contributes to their success as an invasive species.

   During all stages of their life, snakeheads compete with native species for food and habitat. A major concern is that snakeheads may out-compete and eventually displace important native or other established predatory fish that share the same habitat.  As adults, snakeheads can be voracious predators. Should snakeheads become established in North American ecosystems, their predatory behavior could also drastically disrupt food chain and ecological conditions, thus forever changing native aquatic systems by modifying the array of native species. This could be disastrous!

Northern Snakehead!

   In the summer of 2002 and again in late spring 2004, Channa argus, the northern snakehead, generated national media attention when anglers caught these fish in a pond in Maryland and, more recently, in the Potomac River in Maryland and Virginia. Fisheries scientists consider snakeheads to be invasive species because they have the potential to threaten native fish, the recreational fishing industry, and aquatic ecosystems.

   A mature northern snakehead female can carry as many as 50,000 eggs, although some will not develop and others will be eaten by insects and small fish following fertilization. Depending on water temperature, eggs can hatch in about 24-48 hours. The fish also can spawn several times a year.

   Snakeheads are easy to identify with their large mouth-full of sharp teeth, a mottled appearance much like a snake and a dorsal fin that runs back to their tail. They have a slight resemblance to the native bowfin common in our southern states but they are not related. 

   Hopefully you never run into these creatures but you can search YouTube and pull up videos of people fishing for snakehead fish in the northeast.

    But for now you don’t have to worry about swimming in Lake Waurika. Get out and enjoy our Oklahoma.

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 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.

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 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!

 

 

 

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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