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 May 31 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Poison Ivy is not fun!

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

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

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

Beware of Cottonmouths!

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

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

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

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

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

Summer Fun With the Catheys!

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 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 “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: “Snipe” Hunting

 As I write this on Monday morning it’s 36 degrees outside, so much for our “magic fishing time!”

   We’ve spent the past couple of weeks discussing fly fishing on your local waters, but with turkey season just around the corner, we may need to switch gears. We are blessed in our little corner of Oklahoma with the boundless opportunities we have for outdoor adventures.

With deer, dove, quail, turkey, waterfowl, predators and of course, feral hogs, there is always hunting available for the outdoorsman.

Alrighty!

   I started hunting on my own around 8 years of age and by the time I was 10 I would saddle a horse, grab my .410 or 22 and head to the back of the Valley Pasture – was not uncommon in those days. I had the thrill of hunting every critter that crawled, flew or slithered!

   You can imagine my enthusiasm when my older brother Dick, asked if I wanted to go hunting with he and Randy Howard, the next warm spring day.

There are Snipes everywhere.

   To say I was excited was an understatement, however he was always too busy to give me many details. All he would say was that we needed to wait ‘til the moon was right. Having been coon hunting with Perch King a couple of times I thought this was going to be good.

   The time finally came as he told me to be ready tomorrow night. I could hardly sleep that night, knowing the big hunt was just around the corner!

   After getting home from school, I took care of the show calves and my chores and waited. Finally just as the sun was dropping in the west, Randy Howard pulled up; the time had come!

    Walking to his pickup I asked what did I need to bring and Dick advised that Randy had brought all the needed equipment. By the time we crossed the cattle guard it was getting dark. We headed north toward the Claypool School and proceeded several miles north of the Howard Ranch.

    It wasn’t long before we turned east on a side road and after another mile or so pulled over. As we were getting out they both lowered their voices and began to explain the hunt. Stealth was very important and the need for quiet paramount. The excitement was building as they explained we were going to catch a creature that looked like a cross between a jackrabbit and a squirrel! I was told they had done it several times, with much success. I could hardly wait as they handed me a tow sack and two small rocks. They explained that the critters made a clicking sound by snapping their teeth together and used that to attract a mate.

   The plan was simple, all I had to do was stand in the road and hold the bag open between my legs. When they hollered that they had flushed one I was to click the stones together several times and hold the bag  open and it would run into the bag.

   I was ready as they both headed out into the pasture to flush my prime catch. Once they left, it was so dark you couldn’t see your hands-they advised I couldn’t have a flashlight as it would scare them off. 

    It didn’t take long before I heard Dick’s voice shouting “one on the way”! I clicked my stones and waited……….guess I might have spooked it! 

The real Snipe, a game bird!

   This went on for some time, each time they flushed one, their voices seemed further away. I just continued to click my stones and hold on to that bag. It was pitch black and I had no watch and it seemed like over an hour had passed with no noise. Finally, I called out- no answer! I couldn’t imagine what happened. Finally I headed back down the road we had come in on, all the time wondering, how many critters were hidden in the grass.

    I was probably getting a little concerned 

(Scared) when I started to hear laughter up ahead! Soon I could see the back of Randy’s pickup and they were both sitting on the tailgate laughing! As I approached Dick shouted “guess it just wasn’t a good night for “Snipe Hunting!”

   Growing up I had never heard of a snipe. I’m sure all of you know what a Snipe Hunt is! A snipe hunt is a type of practical joke, in existence in North America as early as the 1840s, in which an unsuspecting newcomer is duped into trying to catch a non-existent animal or bird called a snipe. While snipes are an actual family of birds, the snipe hunt is a quest for an imaginary creature whose description varies in different parts of the country.

   The target of the prank is led to an outdoor spot and given instructions for catching the snipe; these often include waiting in the dark and holding an empty bag or making noises to attract the prey. The others involved in the prank then leave the newcomer alone in the woods to discover the joke. As an American rite of passage, snipe hunting is often associated with summer camps and groups such as the Boy Scouts.

   While the snipe hunt is known in virtually every part of the United States, the description of the prey varies: it may be described as a type of bird, a snake, or a small furry animal. In one version, the snipe is a type of deer with a distinctive call; the dupe is left kneeling and imitating the snipe call while holding the bag to catch it.

   Hopefully you be successful on your first Snipe Hunt, if not, you have the memories.

  Looking back it was a rite of passage and a great memory of growing up in our Oklahoma!

Woods and Waters 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!

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!

Tools for the outdoorsmen

 

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

Vortex Viper 10X42

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How many can you find?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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