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Woods and Waters

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

Woods and Waters November 15, 2018

Tuesday morning and outside a brisk 23 degrees, well, we know for sure we are done with mowing the grass!

 The “Eagles” is the only Jefferson County football team still in the playoffs after the first week! Congrats to both Ringling and Ryan on great seasons. Friday night Waurika hosts the “Cherokee Chiefs.” Come out and root for a great bunch of young men!

 Saturday is opening day of Oklahoma deer gun season and unlike the last couple of years, the bucks are already rutting. This might alter their patterns somewhat, but with the bucks chasing does, you never know when a big boy may show up!

 Remember, if you get a big one, send us a picture for the “Waurika News Journal Big Buck Award”!

 I am including information from The Department Of Wildlife about the upcoming season.

  Oklahoma’s 16-day deer gun season will run Nov. 17 through Dec. 2. With more than 187,000 expected participants, the season is the state’s most popular hunting event in terms of participation. It is also the deer season that boasts the greatest success rate in terms of harvest each year. Firearms accounted for 57.7 percent of all deer harvested in the 2017-18 seasons. That amounted to 62,257 deer, the highest total for gun harvest since 2012.

 

Good luck Saturday!

  All things considered, deer gun season hunters should find ample opportunities for success in 2018.

  “With timely rainfall throughout the growing season in much of the state, habitat is generally in great shape,” said Dallas Barber, a big game biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

  Acorns and other food sources are in good supply. Those hunters who take note of deer feeding patterns as the season opener approaches will have an advantage.

  The deer breeding season, known as the rut, will peak over the next few weeks, which means deer will be more active during daylight hours. During the week prior to opening day, the Department will issue its annual Deer Rut Report, which will offer hunters valuable insights on deer movement and hunting prospects using the most recent information available from all regions of the state. To get the Rut Report in your inbox when it is released, sign up for Email Updates on the left side of the Department’s home page.

 Fueling deer hunting’s popularity in Oklahoma is a management plan that serves the state’s diverse hunters’ interests by providing region-leading season lengths and bag limits along with a strong education component outlining the benefits of balanced sex ratios and selective buck harvest.

 Jerry Shaw, the regional supervisor in the Department’s Wildlife Division, said Oklahoma offers generous seasons and bag limits while still having one of the healthiest buck age structures in the nation.

 

Would you shoot?

 “Our hunters have taken the ‘Hunters in the Know … Let Young Bucks Grow’ message to heart, and the results are being seen in fields and woods across the state. Today we have more mature bucks than at any time in our state’s past. And it is all thanks to hunters following our lead and allowing many of our young bucks to walk and grow another year.”

 Central to this voluntary management approach is reminding hunters that every time they choose to pull the trigger or release an arrow, they are making a deer management decision. “Equally as important as the deer you take are the deer you pass on and let walk away,” Shaw said. “While the ODWC provides the direction, it is the hunters who are putting the management in place.”

 The statistics bear this out. Last year, 28 percent of all deer harvested were in the 0.5-year and 1.5-year age classes, while 49 percent of the harvest was in the 3.5-year and 4.5-year age classes.

 The Department’s balanced voluntary approach with its “Hunters in the Know” campaign has gained national attention in recent years. The Quality Deer Management Association recognized Oklahoma among the top five states showing declines in yearling buck harvests.

 But antler-less deer harvest remains an important component of the state’s deer management plan, Shaw said. “Adequate doe harvest is vital to keep populations in balance with the available habitat, maintain healthy buck-to-doe ratios, and synchronize fawning when conditions are the most favorable for fawn growth.

“Even if your freezer is full, you can always donate the deer to the Hunters Against Hunger program and provide nutritious, delicious food for someone less fortunate,” Shaw said.

 From the largest outdoor and sporting goods stores in the major metropolitan cities to the smallest of cafes and roadside motels in rural outposts across the state, deer hunting has a sizable economic impact estimated at more than $600 million a year.

 It wasn’t always this way. From the time of Oklahoma’s first deer hunting season in 1933 until well into the 1960s, the forests of southeastern Oklahoma were about the only places with huntable populations of whitetails. As part of what has become one of conservation’s greatest success stories, the Wildlife Department began successfully trapping and transplanting deer from the 1950s through the 1970s.

 Now, the state’s deer population is estimated to be well over 500,000 animals. And deer hunters in Oklahoma have a better chance of harvesting a deer than at any other time in the state’s history.

 Barber urged deer hunters to also do their part for future generations.

“Seeing how far we have come, it’s important to remind hunters not only to be deer managers but to share their heritage with others as well, so that this tradition of success is passed down and continued.”

 Saturday morning it starts and knows you are continuing a rich Oklahoma Heritage. Good luck to all and remember in order to acclimate yourself to the temps, come out Friday evening and cheer on your “Waurika Eagles”!

It’s about time for fishing season

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

New Heritage 40th Anniversary Tracker for $9,995.00

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

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

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

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

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

 

The First Bass Tracker in 1978

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

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

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

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

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

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

The First Bass Boat

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

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

Woods and Waters “Tools of the Trade

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Woods and Waters: Remembering Mary Ruth Brown

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

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

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

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

“Mary Ruth Enjoying Rockin H, Last Summer!”

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

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

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

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

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

“Vintage Mary Ruth And Billy Smith!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   We love you M R!

Woods and Waters: Time for Kayaking

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

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

Kayaks Anyone?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lake Jap Beaver, made for Kayaking!

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

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

Seth Cathey is ready!

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

Woods and Waters 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.

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!

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 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: “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!

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