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 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.

More About Bow Hunting

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The cooler temperatures of the last week and this past weekend being the first full weekend of archery deer season signaled the arrival of a special time for bowhunters. I have been practicing with my bow and getting familiar with my equipment but the cool nights and the sound of crickets finally spurred me into the woods! So, I decided that Monday morning I would kick off my quest for a nice buck in the 2017 season.

I have had feeders and cameras out for over a month and a half but with very limited success. If I discount and delete the pictures of hogs, turkeys, raccoons and an occasional black cow, it left very few pictures. However, after a month, I am seeing several very small bucks and does with fawns on a regular basis. Hopefully, with more fall-like weather on the way, the big boys will  start moving more and thinking about the rut. It’s still early but I’m trying to be optimistic.

So, 4:30 Monday morning I rolled out of bed for my first cup of coffee. It’s at these times I question my sanity or my commitment. After the caffeine kicked in it was easier to become halfway excited. I had laid out my gear the night before and got dressed as I hurriedly ate a banana and bar. I loaded my bow and backpack on my Honda Pioneer; I was only going for an early morning hunt so I traveled light.

It was a short ride to the creek from my house and as I pulled up to where I park, under a couple of mesquites, I sit a moment to let the woods settle down. The moon was still bright from the Harvest Moon of last week and cast a gray light over the woods. I relaxed a little and enjoyed the moment. The air was cool and the wind relatively light as I grabbed my flashlight and backpack and began the walk to my stand.

I hadn’t gone but maybe a 100 yards through the woods when I thought I heard something moving off to my right. I turned off my flashlight and stood motionless. I certainly didn’t want to spook a deer, but surely they were still out in the fields feeding.

Then the sound of movement became louder as if was coming closer. Surely this wasn’t a deer-whatever it was apparently had no fear of me! I shined my flashlight in the direction of the noise and then it stopped. No sound at all, the only thing I could hear was my heart and my shallow breathing.

Then I hear a stirring in the leaves and the snap of a twig and an armadillo ran from behind a tree right in front of me. I almost laugh until I hear a loud crash and the sound of something big running away, crashing  through the woods! I shined the light in the direction of the noise and it ended abruptly. I thought it must have been cattle or a large group of pigs but it sounded like a single set of footprints.

At this point I could see a slight bit of pink in the east and I knew I had to hurry to get to my stand. My nerves were a little on edge but I moved as quickly as I could to my stand. I climbed into my stand, pulled my bow up and settled in and readied myself. Birds were beginning their morning activity as they flitted from branch to branch chirping. Without warning the birds erupted from the brush. Then I heard the noise again, heavy slow footsteps behind me and the sound of limbs breaking.

All I could think is this must be a monster buck. I could only see about 20 to 30 yards in the predawn light. But I waited, trying to find this buck; it had sounded so close! But the noise just ended. I then began to wonder what it was, because it had sounded just like the noise I heard coming into the woods.

The sun was getting closer to coming up and I could see a little better now. Several squirrels were chasing each other around in the trees and I relaxed as I watched them play. Then movement caught my eye, something was moving very slowly through the brush towards the feeder. It was certainly no deer and I didn’t think it was human, it looked very large in the predawn light! My imagination was getting to me. I couldn’t make it out. Then it dropped it’s head toward the ground or bent over I couldn’t be sure.

Fortunately “or not!” the feeder went off and started slinging corn. The mystery creature exploded back through the brush and crashed it’s way out of sight.

At this point my nerves were shot and my imagination was in overdrive. I begin to wonder if Bigfoot was real.      By that time I decided it was time to call it a day and I had experienced pretty much everything but a deer hunt!

As I lowered my bow to the ground and grabbed my backpack to climb down the ladder, I turned around, took one step and heard a loud crashing footstep again! As I looked up I was staring eye to eye with the biggest, mangiest horse I had ever seen! I started laughing so hard I thought I would fall off the ladder!

Until next week, 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!

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!

Woods and Waters March 29 2018

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

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

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

Houston “Hoot” Scott

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Swim baits paid off for us!

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

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

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

Woods and Waters 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 “Fishing” March 15 2018

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

My son in law Jeff Ross and Grady

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

A young Houston Scott.

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

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

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

Houston is always ready!

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

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

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

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

Get out and enjoy your Oklahoma.

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