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Tuesday, January 22, 2019
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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: “Snipe” Hunting

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

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

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

Alrighty!

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

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

There are Snipes everywhere.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The real Snipe, a game bird!

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

    I was probably getting a little concerned 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Woods and Waters June 28 2018

 As you read this you will be enjoying the first day of summer for 2018. If you don’t believe me spend some time outside this weekend! Next week is the “4th Of July” and many of you will be spending time at Waurika Lake!

   I can’t imagine anyone in our area not knowing about “Waurika Lake” and I hope you realize what a gem it is. The lake was conceived primarily as a means of flood control and a large water reservoir. Locals began working on the plan for a lake in the fifties and sixties to control flooding of downtown and the surrounding area. It took a lot of hard work from my uncle, George Brown, Fred Richardson and others in the business community to finally see its completion in the early 1980s.

    It has become a premier fishing lake, offering many species of gamefish including largemouth bass, crappie, sunfish, channel catfish, flathead catfish, walleye, sand bass and certainly hybrid striped bass! Folks come from long distances to try their luck at some of the best hybrid striper fishing to be had anywhere. If you want something to test your tackle then these hybrid stripers will certainly fit the bill!

Sunset from Waurika Lake!

  The fact that the lake area is right in our backyard makes it much more special. The scenic irregular shoreline and gently sloping land to the water’s edge is an open invitation for outdoor family fun and relaxation. There are six recreation areas located around the lake that include such facilities as boat launching ramps, campgrounds, sanitary facilities, picnic tables and shelters. Boating and skiing enthusiasts will be pleased with the large areas of open water and the scenic shoreline. There are four large embankments and a number of smaller coves that make boating on the lake a real pleasure.

  Visitors to Waurika Lake will find the dam structure an impressive site.  A road runs across the top of the dam and access roads are located at each end. The lake is set in rolling prairies interspersed with croplands and timbered areas.  Protection and blending with the natural environment was a primary concern in the design and construction of Waurika Lake. Trees, shrubs, and other desirable vegetation were left in their natural state in order to maintain the environment whenever possible.  

In the beginning!

The Overlook and Wichita Ridge Pavilion are accessible to non-ambulatory persons and excellent places to view the scenery. The Kiowa II and Chisholm Trail day use areas, as well as several miles of paved roads and many primitive access points around the lake provide scenic areas and wildlife viewing from an automobile.

  The lake offers many swimming opportunities for visitors. There are swim beaches located at the Kiowa Park I and Chisholm Trail camping areas that are open to campers and day users.  Both of these areas have shower facilities.  Boats are prohibited in these areas for the protection of the swimmers.

   Walker Creek Trail is a 13-mile trail that can be used for hiking or horseback riding. The trailhead is located 5 1/2 miles north of the dam on Walker Creek.  The trail winds along the creek over gently rolling hills and through wooded areas which  are abundant with wildlife. Spring and summer offer excellent opportunities to view native wildflowers. The trail is marked with fluorescent orange posts and mileage is indicated by metal mile marker posts.  Water is available for horses at many points along the trail. Water for human consumption must be carried in. The trail is closed to hiking and riding during deer gun season. 

Beaver Creek Trails are a series of interlocking dirt hiking trails that are accessible by non-ambulatory persons, weather permitting.  These trails can be entered from the Project Office as well as from Moneka North and South.

  As awesome as the Lake experience is, it is greatly enhanced by the fact that it has a full service marina located just past the west end of the dam in Kiowa Park II.

  Eddie and Nan Reese purchased Waurika Lake Marina on September of 2000 and have continued to operated it today. They’ve put in a lot of hard work and certainly not without some tragedies along the way! The severe drought of a few years ago left them sitting on dry land for some time until the heavy rains of May 2015 finally broke the spell, as the lake rose rapidly. Things seemed to be getting back to normal with a lot of hard work until February 29, 2016 when they suffered a devastating fire to the retail area of the marina. There literally was nothing left, including all the merchandise and they had to completely rebuild that portion of the marina! Again, with hard work and perseverance, they were fully open on May 24, 2016, in time for Memorial Day!

Waurika Lake Walleye!

Next time you’re at the lake, stop in for a coke and a snack and say hi. Their hours of operation are- Closed Monday, Tuesday thru Thursday 7:30 to 2:00, Friday and Saturday 7:00 to 5:00, Sunday 7:00 to 2:00! The Crappie House is open seven days a week from 5:30am to 8:00pm.

  They also have R.V. Hookups from $30 to $50 and three clean mobile home units for $80 to $100 a night! In addition they have 4 cabins for rent with kitchenette for $60 a night.

  Kudos to Eddie and Nan Reese for their hard work  and determination to continue to supply our lake with a much needed addition. Next time you are out fishing or just enjoying the lake, stop in and say hi, maybe pick up some minnows or tackle! Get out and enjoy your Lake Waurika!

Woods and Waters May 24 2018

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

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

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

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

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

My new ride!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kyle Northcut is ready to go pro!

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

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

  Get out and enjoy our great Oklahoma outdoors!

Woods and Waters 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!

Tools for the outdoorsmen

 

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

Vortex Viper 10X42

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How many can you find?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Woods and Waters June 14 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 June 22 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Slade Barnett gets it done!

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

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

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

Memories!

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

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

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

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

Chris James starts em early!

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

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

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

   Until next week , get outdoors!

Woods and Waters: Remembering Mary Ruth Brown

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

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

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

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

“Mary Ruth Enjoying Rockin H, Last Summer!”

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

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

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

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

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

“Vintage Mary Ruth And Billy Smith!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   We love you M R!

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