Camping Season is Just Around the Corner

At a Bowling Green KOA in Kentucky, a covered stagecoach was available for camping, a special experience.

By Bob Holzhei

Memorial Day weekend is the beginning of the 2022 camping season!

Camping allows travelers to spend time outdoors in the fresh air and has become more popular than ever during the post-pandemic era. Some recreational vehicle dealers are having difficulty keeping RVs on their lots.

Camping is very budget-friendly too! It has allowed our family of six to afford more time vacationing than if we were to stay in motels. Our current RV is a self-contained 30-foot motor-home with a kitchen, dining area, bath, shower, living room, televisions, and a sleeping area that accommodates eight.

Choosing where to camp involves deciding on a site. Choices include state and national parks and even luxury full-service RV resorts offering various amenities. Some resorts provide a clubhouse for social gatherings, a swimming pool, hot tub, bocce ball, golf cart rentals, horseshoes, and shuffleboard.

Our experiences took us to a new RV Resort at Arcadia, FL. It just opened three years ago and is expanding with additional RV sites. An elegant clubhouse is scheduled to be finished by next winter. The clubhouse will have exercise equipment, a pool table and weekly activities such as dances, poker nights, bingo, and pool exercises. While we were on site, there was one weekend where seven campsites hosted complimentary snacks and drinks as a meet and greet social event. It was fun.

The spacious RV sites are 20 by 70 feet and paved with a brick base.   The bulletin board in the on-site laundry had a sign-up sheet for additional activities, including golf, pickleball and Mexican train dominos.

Our new camper found a comfortable home at an RV campground in Arcadia, FL.

During our first winter camping trip to Florida, my wife and I were surprised to discover food trailers arriving at the RV resort each week. Our initial week stay quickly turned into a one-month reservation, then led to reserving a spot for a longer time next winter.

“It looks like we’re eating out tonight,” stated Becky, a fellow camper with whom my wife Shirley made friends.

An assortment of food trailers arrived weekly, offering pizza, burritos, chicken wings, fries, filet mignon, porterhouse steaks, salmon and other fish dishes. Add other amenities, including poker nights, bingo, pool exercises, and social meeting opportunities.

Across the United States, travelers can request state campground directories. Many are free and list the locations and amenities offered. Reading through the literature during winter is a great way to prepare for the upcoming camping season.  Visit https://www.rv-camping.org/campground-directory/.

As RV parks offer new amenities across the United States, roughing it has taken on a brand-new meaning!

Grocery Shopping with My Best Friend

Just how fresh is the fish in the grocery store? I know one place, maybe more than one, where they are very fresh!

By Larry Whiteley

Have you been to the grocery store lately? I went with my wife the other day and was totally shocked. Usually, I don’t pay much attention to what she spends on groceries. Since it was just the two of us, I always figured it couldn’t cost too much. The grocery cart was not anywhere near full, and it was almost $200. It would have been a lot more, but they were out of some of the things she needed.

I thank the good lord for my morning coffee each day.

We would have also spent even more money than we did if I had been willing to pay $14 for a small bottle of pancake syrup that I used to like when it cost $8, or $12 for a box of granola bars I always took hunting and fishing with me when they cost $7. Those are only a few examples. Meat prices had gone up more than anything. The only thing I was looking for that had not increased in price was my favorite Guatemalan coffee beans that I grind myself and enjoy every morning. They had plenty of it, so I bought a bag, and I didn’t even need it. I told my wife to buy a bag or two every time she went grocery shopping as long as the price remained the same, and before they didn’t have any of it on the shelves anymore. She is more than willing to do that because she knows how cranky I get when I don’t have my coffee.

On the way home from the grocery store, I already had my coffee, but I was cranky anyway because of our grocery shopping experience. She just rolled her eyes and humored me as I went on about Washington politicians, government waste, supposed shortages, price gouging, disruptions in the global supply chain, adverse weather, rising fuel and energy prices, and a few other things I said about certain politicians that aren’t printable. I don’t know how some families make it. I don’t know how my wife made it listening to me go on about everything all the way home. I think she was glad we didn’t have to stop and get gas because that would have really set me off.

Since there weren’t that many groceries, it didn’t take very long for me to bring them into the house. I offered to help put them up, but she declined my help and told me to go cool off for a while. Well, that’s not exactly what she said but what she did say is not printable here either. I have a feeling she won’t want me to go grocery shopping with her again. I am also betting I will never know what she spends to feed us again. That is probably a good thing.

I went to my man cave, and she was glad I did. I was glad I did, too, because I was here, surrounded by my deer, duck, pheasant, turkey and fish mounts, that a brilliant idea came to me. To save my wife and me a lot of money, I needed to go hunting and fishing more! That way, I would bring home more fish and game to put in our freezer to help offset the cost of groceries. My kind of grocery shopping would be done outdoors in nature, rather than in a building surrounded by crowds of people pushing carts around and spending too much money.

A little more shopping in the woods and streams might just reduce our grocery bills, whaddya think?

I am retired and have accumulated a vast amount of the outdoor gear I would need. I reasoned that there really wouldn’t be much cost to do this kind of grocery shopping. The only cost would be a license and tags, plus gas to get where I was going. I could even stay out several days doing grocery shopping. My wife would really like that. I could just take my tent along and camp where I didn’t have to pay a fee. That would save on gas too.

As for food, I could bring the deer jerky and summer sausage I make for snacking. I could fry up fish from the freezer or some of what I caught for my meals. Grilling a deer steak would be really good too. I could also fry up potatoes since they aren’t costly. I could even boil up a pot of my Guatemalan coffee over a campfire. Isn’t this idea sounding good?

For my grocery shopping, I should be able to tag two deer and two turkey hunting. The turkeys won’t give us much meat, but they will be good in soups or cooked in my smoker or deep fryer. The deer I would skin and process myself to save money. It would mostly be made into venison burgers since my wife likes those. I enjoy the steaks, jerky and summer sausage. I like deer heart too. She definitely will not eat that.

As for more grocery shopping, there are ducks during the open season, and I should be able to bring home plenty. Maybe I can develop a good recipe for baked duck and wild rice she would like. I forgot about dove season. I might get her to try a grilled bacon-wrapped dove. Did I mention that I have to cook all the wild game at home because my wife won’t? That’s just another reason she will like this idea.

Smoked venison is among our favorite ways to enjoy the delicious wild bounty of Mother Nature.

She likes to eat fish, so she will definitely approve of grocery shopping via fishing. This is where the meat could really pile up in the freezer and save us money. If I can catch my limit of several fish species every day while shopping, can you imagine how many fish I would have in the freezer even if I make sure I don’t go over my possession limits? I can fry them, bake them, grill them, can them, and smoke them. I can also go grabbing and gigging for sucker fish. I love fried suckers, and so does my wife.

When the frogging season is open, I could go fishing during the day and get a limit of frogs at night. I love frog legs. I could even catch crawdads and boil them up. They say fried snake tastes like chicken, so I might even try that too. I don’t think I will be able to get her to try any of that. While I’m doing all my grocery shopping out there, I can also gather wild mushrooms, berries and nuts. I’m telling you, my idea of grocery shopping could really work.

In the little time I would be home and not out grocery shopping, I would care for our garden. We would also have a good supply of tomatoes, cucumbers, and other vegetables to go along with the fish and game and everything I bring home from my grocery shopping. This idea of mine is sounding better and better. Now all I need to do is convince my wife how much money I can save us with my kind of grocery shopping. Wish me luck on that.

Ticks the Season! It’s Turkey Time

Olympus Digital Camera, from the late Joe Forma photo collection

YES, that’s a dime! Blacklegged ticks are much smaller than common dog ticks. In their larval and nymphal stages, they are no bigger than a pinhead. Adult black-legged ticks are larger, about the size of a sesame seed (left to right: larva, nymph, adult male, adult female). Courtesy of CDC

By Bob Holzhei

With tick season just a few weeks away, outdoor folks – especially turkey hunters, are preparing to sit their butts down in the woods. It might be good to know about the tick prevention safety guide that has been developed by Brian Anderson, who is from Iron Mountain, MI., known as the Tick Terminator.

“The guide has been used by hundreds of safety directors, outdoor workers and enthusiasts across the country to help them learn and share new prevention ideas in the battle with ticks,” says Anderson.

A follow-up bulletin titled “The Hidden Cost of Lyme Disease” assists readers of the tick season which runs from March through November each year.

What is Lyme Disease? 

“Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdolferi and is transmitted to humans through the bite of black-legged ticks (deer ticks).  Symptoms include headache, brain fog, chills, fatigue, flu-like symptoms, neck stiffness, achy joints, bulls-eye rash including other rashes, facial palsy, heart palpitations, dizziness, vision changes, and sensitivity to light,” stated Anderson.

If left untreated the disease can spread to joints, heart and the nervous system.  It is estimated that the disease results in 300-400,000 new cases each year.

Early detection and treatment are important.  If diagnosed soon enough, within a few weeks of a bite, antibiotic treatment by an MD will be sufficient to combat the disease.  Allowing the disease to go untreated for months will lead to a chronic condition.  Many doctors treat patients early with antibiotics to be safe.  Lyme disease can take months in the body to show up positive on a test.

Where Does Lyme Disease Come From?

Ticks get Lyme disease by feeding on an infected animal, often a mouse or rodent, which is then passed on to the next host.  Using good repellants and checking for tick bites during the season is advised.

The Hidden Costs of Lyme Disease

The person infected with Lyme disease enjoys a normal active life.  Then suddenly overnight they become exhausted, can barely make it through a day of work, and can’t wait to get home to rest.  Often folks feel it’s just a temporary bug, which will pass.  Lyme disease is nicknamed, “the great imitator,” and the medical costs continue to rise.

“Unfortunately, many insurance companies do not recognize the disease, and therefore will not pay for it,” added Anderson.

Where Are Ticks Found?

Ticks are found in tall grasses and low-lying shrubs, preferring moist shaded areas.  They don’t jump, fly or fall out of trees.  They wait patiently to smell the odor of an animal or human walking by.  They then latch on and enjoy a 2–4-day, blood meal.  When temperatures rise above 32 degrees or warmer, the tick season has begun.  Ticks do not die off during the winter.  The small younger nymph ticks are the size of a poppy seed and are responsible for most Lyme disease cases. See the photo.

Preventing Lyme Disease

The use of Deet on the skin and Permethrin on clothes and gear was suggested by Anderson.

  1. Tuck in your pants into the socks!
  2. Wear light-colored pants to easily spot ticks!
  3. Walk on well-used paths and stay away from vegetation!
  4. Use 25-34% Deet on the skin.
  5. Treat shoes, socks, pants, and shirts with Permethrin.

After the Bite

Quick medical attention is advised by a physician that knows about tick-borne diseases.  The disease can be treated with antibiotics.  Early detection and treatment are stressed!

“If you keep the ticks off of you, you won’t get bit,” concluded Anderson.

For more information:

Shark Tooth Hunting – Peace River near Arcadia

  • Look for gravel on the bottom, shovel in, dig, lift, drop into a floating sifter, shake out the sand. Place your hand underneath the sifter and lift up slightly, look for the teeth. There they are!
  • Place the teeth into a collection jar, get on to the next shovel-full. 
  • It’s not unusual to find several hundred shark teeth treasures in a single outing of just a few hours n the right spot. The right spot can be anywhere there is gravel on the bottom. Dig there. No teeth? Move on a few feet away, try again. 

By Forrest Fisher

Buck called me in the afternoon. It was a Tuesday. He said, “Hey dude, I was thinking about taking my rig out of Arcadia and heading upriver for a shark tooth dig. Wanna go?” Of course, I said, “SURE! What time?!” He said, “Can you be at my house around 830ish? Then we’ll head out.” He added, “Just bring your big sifter and a shovel.” I said, “I’ll pack us some water and a sandwich for when we take a break; sound OK?” Buck replied, “Yea, that’s great.”

Buck was waiting at the door when I arrived, but I asked, “Can I see your teeth collection one more time?” He said, “Sure, come on in.” Inside his living room, there are two giant glass cases, each standing about 6-feet tall. Each has several glass shelves, and each shelf has several mounted picture-style frames of Megalodon shark teeth. Some are shiny, others are dull in color, some are black, others gray, others brownish. I could only simply say, “Wow, these are fantastic.” Buck said, “OK, let’s go.”    

Buck has a handrail built onto the boat to provide balance for standing. Note the campground in the back of the picture. Shark teeth abound here, and usually get renewed with every large rainfall.

Buck is an 80-year-old man who thinks and acts like a 40-year old. Buck is a cancer survivor, doesn’t smoke or drink. Still, he occasionally shares colorful word expressions, especially when he is driving. He says, “Florida drivers just don’t follow the rules. No turn signals. No stopping at stop signs. No common sense, for the most part, they pass on the right! Speeding too, and the sheriffs must be blind or lazy. They let it all happen right in front of them. I’ve watched it. I make up new words when these things happen, so please forgive those moments.” He smiled. “Really bugs me when folks here don’t follow the traffic safety laws. I’m from New York near Albany, but I’ve been here more than 10 years now, and it is worse than ever.” I changed the subject and asked how far it was. He smiled again and said, “OK, I get it. Time for me to stop walloping new words. Sip your coffee.” No kidding, I was laughing so hard. This was honest fun.  

Buck is a tough old guy that doesn’t shirk his responsibilities to get the job done, whatever it is. He welded up a trailer to hold his 14-foot shark tooth hunting boat, then equipped it with a homemade 4-stroke air-cooled engine from Harbor Freight and attached a custom-made 10-foot shaft and propeller. Buck added a steel guard for the propeller after the first time out a few years back, so the prop could move the boat over very shallow water at high speed. He said, “I prefer to stay in the boat until I get to where I’m going. Hey, I’m getting a little older and getting into the water in the shallow rapids. You know, there could be potholes in the phosphorous bottom around the river. I could twist an ankle – that would hamper my digging style.” Yea, he was grinning all the way. He likes the power of that homemade boat engine sounding loud enough to scare the gators on both banks into submission. 

The boat is in the water at the Arcadia boat launch site, above, but note there are no dock or handrail facilities here. Just you, your boat, a rope, and your launch skills.

We launched on the steep bank at Arcadia Park near the American Legion Post. The Peace River was really low. The gauge at the bridge said 1.3 feet. Check the gage online at https://waterdata.usgs.gov/monitoring-location/02296750/#parameterCode=00065&period=P7D.

As we headed upriver, we waved to campers set up along the river on the west bank at Peace River Campground (https://peacerivercampground.com/). Just before that, we noticed one long gator that liked to sit in the sun on the eastern bank. He was there on the glistening, hot white sand, about 25 feet up the bank from the river. A beautiful critter. That gator just continued his sleeping lesson as we headed on by. Never even opened his eyes. “He’s tired,” said Buck. “Hope he stays up there, but no matter, we are going upriver another mile or so.” Then we came to an ancient railroad bridge, a trestle, with logs, all jammed along the structure’s base in several places. At relatively high speed, we skimmed over the tree branches with Buck throttling the motor down as we crossed the spot where the prop had to be lifted out of the water. It was a manual effort to do so, but Buck had no issue with it. He was grinning and talking to me at the same time. “Darn branches! No snakes to ward off, though. That’s good.” No fear in this guy.

In about 10 minutes, we slowed up and pulled over near the base of a large swamp oak that had fallen into the river. The bark was mostly worn off from the current, but the tree was more than 100 feet long. “You’ll like this spot. It has been a treasure finder place for me and my girlfriend.” Buck smiles and grins a lot for good reasons. He is an example of an age-old, golden-era American that is hard to find these days. He will address any issue just for a friendly talk based on what he understands about it. A fun guy. Someone who never stops learning from common sense and he builds on it with every hour of the day.

Using a shovel, sifter and his heavy-duty drag-style sea-flea rake, Buck probes the gravel bottom for shark tooth fossil treasures.

We moored the boat to shore and stepped into the river. It was about waist deep at the start but shallowed up as we moved back toward the middle of the river. I was using a square-ended shovel, he was using a sharp-nose shovel and a large, heavy sea flea rake that he bought at Bass Pro. He said, “I dig a few spots in the gravel bottom areas and sift each dig. Then, I rake that same area and hope to drag in anything that fell off or couldn’t fit onto the shovel blade. You know, that’s my method. I have found many, many Meg’s in this area here. I’m hoping you find one today.” I was still looking for my first Meg after 3-years of digging the Peace River and scouring the Gulf Coast beaches. I did not have a drag device, though. Next time.   

Over the next 3-hours, we talked to about 10 kayakers paddling upstream and downstream. We were about two miles from the campsites mentioned earlier. We found new gravel areas in the spot where we had stopped and probed with our dig and sift gear. We watched one water snake cross the river, and off he went, wanted nothing to do with us people. Buck said, “That’s the way it is most of the time, with gators too, unless it is mating season. The critters leave us alone. We like it that way.”

There were no Megalodon teeth this time, but we brought back several hundred beautiful, sharp-edge shark teeth. Primarily Bull/Dusky shark teeth, though several Mako, Tiger and Snaggle-Tooth (Hemipristis) shark teeth fossils were in the treasure pile too. A good friend and shark tooth expert and his wife, Tim and Jeanie (https://www.ebay.com/usr/sharkartguy?_trksid=p2047675.m3561.l2559), have shared that most of the shark teeth in the Peace River originate from the Miocene era (5-25 million years ago). They are genuinely ancient fossils. One reason why going on these river adventures is so exciting. We are looking at history from so long ago. Tim says, “We retired in SWFL to golf and fish, which we did for the first six weeks. Then we discovered shark teeth on the beach. The first thing we did was sell the golf clubs and spend less time fishing so we could collect shark teeth. WE LOVE SHARK TEETH! There are a lot of us out there like Tim and Jeanie and Buck. Me too. Buck is not a guide, Tim neither, but they love to share the fun of shark tooth hunting with folks they meet wherever they are. I was lucky to meet both of these folks through casual circumstances. Tim will give away shark tooth necklaces to the kids looking for teeth in the surf on the beach. Quite a “hello traveler” gesture.  

With his dig, sift, and drag method, Buck has done well.

The railroad trestle is quite old and is a navigational deterrent for power boaters, but kayakers make their way through with little trouble.

A boat journey in any float craft will provide a beautiful experience, as giant cypress trees, colorful birds, and butterflies abound. The moments afloat are unforgettable.

That handsome 10-foot alligator was still in the same elevated sand spot as we neared the boat launch on our way back. Not more than 300 yards upstream, several dozen camper folks were sitting in the river, on the bottom of 1-foot deep water. They were sifting gravel in the river near the spot locals call the “cliffs” with tiny shovels. It is a shallow area where the water in the river drops about 2-feet from the upstream to the downstream side of the rapids. They said, “We’re doing great!” Happy shark tooth hunters are a good sign to try that spot next time.

Of course, anyone can hunt for shark teeth in the Peace River. Access is mostly near the boat launch areas (https://myfwc.com/boating/boat-ramps-access/). Besides Arcadia, there are several other boat launch access areas including Brownsville, Zolfo Springs, Wauchula and others.

For our efforts, I weighed our shark tooth finds to realize we had nearly 14 ounces of shark tooth treasure in the jar. Not bad for a 3-hour effort.

Good luck to all.   

Handicapped Life in the Outdoors…WITHOUT Barriers

  • A place designed for individuals with physical disabilities and their families. Big fish are waiting to greet you!
  • Located on beautiful Lake Shebandowan about 50 miles west of Thunder Bay, Ontario, the newly modernized Wilderness Discovery Centre provides outdoor adventure for disabled persons. It’s all about sharing access to the wilderness with them.
  • Visitors can enjoy a 3-season lakefront resort with modern accessibility.  Donations are welcome.
  • Bed lifts, ramp systems, aquatic lift render, grab bars, and additional assistance technology devices are used here.
  • The facility also caters to seniors, military veterans, first responders, non-profit groups, corporate retreats, non-profit groups, families for reunions, and social gatherings.

By Forrest Fisher

With songful loons sounding off at sunrise, the call of a warm breakfast in the Canadian wilds beckons to all. Especially to folks that may require assistance to enjoy a lakeside resort. Visitors to one special place called the Wilderness Discovery Center can now enjoy pontoon boat rides, accessible swimming facilities, dock fishing, lake fishing, and a warm bonfire at the sunset hour right before bedtime.

There are laughs for the fun of it, all from the heart and soul of dedicated camp administrators. The Wilderness Discovery Centre provides active participation to include everyone, regardless of disability and assures an ultimate, safe, outdoor, vacation-style experience. The discovery of “no barriers” is special all by itself.   

At the Wilderness Discovery Centre, visitors are encouraged to enjoy the unique outdoor adventure found here, by staff who maintain the principles of personal independence, dignity, integration, and equal opportunity for everyone. The staff strives to create a no-pressure camping and outdoor experience that affords all guests a “Life without Barriers.” That’s the goal of Mr. Bob Hookham, the President of the Board of Directors of Wilderness Discovery Centre (WDC), and the rest of the Board, since the facility began re-opening in 2019. 

Bob says, “The staff is fun and works to provide a fully accessible family resort that promotes a secure and barrier-free camping experience. Everyone will have fun and enjoy their time together. They work hard to engage the community in a way that fosters these values.”

Bob Hookham

Bob adds, “As able-bodied people, we take many things for granted: Fishing, swimming, having a bonfire, or even just a BBQ. This facility will allow anyone with any kind of disability to do all those things every day of their stay. We have a special pontoon boat designed with wheelchair access so that anyone can go for a lake cruise or go fishing. There will be a lift to lower individuals into the lake for a swim or a boat ride in a fishing boat. Every camper can navigate the camp using the ramp system from their cottage or the main lodge to the beach and bonfire area. They can enjoy these simple pleasures. Life here will afford our guests a ‘Life without Limits.” For the Board of Directors, dedicated volunteers, and committed carpenters, it has been a long and winding road to revamp the facility. Discover an information capsule on the history of this facility at the end of this article.  

By July of 2019, Wilderness Discovery added the final touches to cabins. In a report from TBN News Watch (www.tbnewswatch.com), Bob Hookham estimated the cost for repairs was around $1 million. Today, reservations are open for 2022. Additional revamping and expansion will likely continue with help from local support groups such as the Rotary House in Thunder Bay and many others across Canada and the USA. If you would like to help, please visit https://www.wildernessdiscovery.net/donate/.

The modernized cabins feature an open concept living room, brand new sliding door entryways, sliding glass doors leading to the sun deck with access to a meadow of colorful dandelions. The cabins feature a fully accessible L-design kitchen and 3-piece bathroom with shower stall, dining room, and entertainment area. The cabins are completely furnished, including a fully-equipped kitchen (dishes and cutlery, countertop stove, microwave, pots, pans, toaster oven, coffee maker, dish towels and cleaning supplies), essential bedding and towels (pillow, sheets, blanket, bath/wash towel), fireplace and window air conditioning, a large wrap-around deck with tables/chairs, TV’s and DVD player, with Wi-Fi access in the Main Lodge. Hard to beat all that! To book a reservation, please visit https://www.wildernessdiscovery.net/rooms-cabins/ or call 807-346-9722, or email info@wdcentre.net.

Is there good fishing in Lake Shebandowan? YES! It’s home to big walleye, smallmouth bass and northern pike. Anglers Edge fishermen stars James Lindner and Dave Csanda did a colorful and informative fishing show from the lake. This heartwarming angler duo shares a video presentation where viewers can learn finite details to locate fish in Lake Shebandowan. Lindner uses a Humminbird sonar with a MinnKota Ulterra electric motor, using spot-lock and speed control to demonstrate finding the strike zone while incorporating speed dynamics and position location control to refine angler presentations. The show illustrates how they bring Lake Shebandowan whopper fish to the boat. Lures that imitate whitefish and tullibee are the main forage base.

I plan a donation to the Wilderness Discovery Centre, and I want to visit and fish there soon! Please join me with a donation.

 

HISTORY: The history of this Centre has always been about helping others. In 1951, the land was deeded by the Carson and Cross families to the YM-YWCA as a summer camp for youth. By the early 1980s, Handicapped Action Group, Inc. (HAGI), had a dream of expanding this camp into a facility that would allow persons with disabilities and their families to enjoy life at the lake. In August 1983, HAGI entered into a 20-year lease to develop the HAGI camp. In 1993-1994, the lease was amended and expired in 2013, followed by yearly extensions until the fall of 2015. In July of 2015, Bob Hookham of the Fort William Rotary and Jeff Jones of the Hill City Kinsmen met with Minister Bill Mauro to discuss the possibility of assisting HAGI to maintain the operation of this facility at Lake Shebandowan. In April 2015, HAGI announced that they would be forced to stop operating the facility unless there was a significant change in the financial picture concerning the facility. In February 2017, negotiations culminated in an official announcement from Minister Bill Mauro regarding a new management group. On April 7, 2017, Wilderness Discovery received its Letters Patent as a Non-Profit Corporation with representatives on its Board of Directors from the Thunder Bay Rotary Clubs, Hill City Kinsmen, HAGI, and the Shebandowan Lake Campers’ Association. In July of 2017, the Corporation and the Ministries signed an Agreement of Purchase and Sale for the Lake Shebandowan Property. Since August 11, 2017, the Wilderness Discovery Centre officially took possession of the Lake Shebandowan facility that HAGI previously operated. Immediate upgrades have been in progress since that time.  

Editor note: All photographs are courtesy of the Wilderness Adventure Centre.

Spring is Coming, Isn’t It?!

Is it spring yet?

  • Inspiration abounds in spring – beautiful sunrise sunshine, birds, bees, fresh tree buds, and it seems, at least to me, there might be angels everywhere.
  • Anticipation and fun to look forward to – limits of crappie, white bass, walleye, suckers and tasty fish fry’s.
  • Special hunting treats – spring gobblers, fresh morel mushrooms, slow-cooked savory venison steaks. Thank you, Lord.

By Larry Whiteley

Circle the first day of spring on your calendar. Put that date in your smartphone and computer calendar with a special alert. Or, you can tell Alexa, Google Assistant, or whatever you use, to remind you of the first day of spring.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if, on that exact date, you got up that morning and saw a beautiful sunrise coming through leafed-out trees with a chorus of angels singing “Hallelujah”? Birds are singing with the angels, peeper frogs are peeping, butterflies are everywhere, turkeys are gobbling and wildflowers are blooming. Sounds good, doesn’t it?

Since we are daydreaming here anyway, let’s say your boss calls and tells you he knows how much you enjoy spring, so he wants you to take the week off with pay and go fishing. Did I hear the angels singing again?

As I write this, it is a March day. I pause to look out my window at icicles hanging from bare tree limbs. The ground is white, the birds aren’t singing and neither are the angels. The squirrels are shivering and their teeth are chattering. I put another log on the fire. My fishing gear is organized, re-stocked and ready. It sits in the corner of the garage waiting for spring and so am I.

I think I will quit daydreaming for a while and go inventory my turkey gear. Then, when my wife leaves to go grocery shopping, I might practice my turkey calls. I can’t practice when she’s home or she would tell me to go outside to make my yelps, purrs and cackles. Then the neighbors will yell at me and tell me to quit making those noises. I don’t want to go outside anyway. It’s cold out there!

Until she leaves, I guess I will just sit here and try not to think about the cold, windy March weather outside my door. Instead, I will daydream about spring. Wonderful, glorious spring. To me, spring is God’s gift to all of us after a long, cold winter that we don’t think is ever going to end.

To some people, the first sign of spring is a robin in their yard, leaves starting to bud out, or flowers beginning to bloom. To me, the first sign of spring is the mating call of the peeper frog. A single peeper frog is no bigger than your fingernail and couldn’t be heard if you were standing right next to it. But, when hundreds of them blend their clear, birdlike “peeps” into a chorus trying to woo a suitable mate, its music to my ears.

Other signs of spring to me are migratory birds joining year-round residents at our bird feeders and filling the air with their sounds of courtship. Joining them are the drab goldfinches of winter magically changing into the bright yellow of spring. More signs of spring are a bee buzzing around, a spider spinning his web on a bush or a lizard rustling in the leaves causing my heart to skip a beat thinking it’s a snake. There’s also a clean, fresh smell to the air.

Where I live buckeye trees are the first to leaf out. Serviceberry is the first tree to start showing off its blooms. They are followed by the white of the dogwood and the purplish tint of the redbud trees. Wildflowers begin popping through the dead leaves and so do morel mushrooms. While looking for mushrooms I never know when I will find a shed antler from a big buck and that’s a bonus. All the sights, sounds, smells and early season activities always remind me that we humans weren’t the only ones waiting for spring.

Spring to me also means limits of crappie, white bass, walleye, suckers and fish fry’s. It’s matching the hatches on a trout stream. It’s big bass and battling smallmouth. Spring is floating a river, hitting the hiking trails and getting my camping gear together for my first camping trip of the year.

Spring is also my beloved turkey hunting time. My heart always beats faster as a big old gobbler comes into my calls. I’ve spent a lot of years sitting with my back against a tree waiting for the sun to come up and the woods to come alive with the sounds of birds, chattering squirrels and flapping turkey wings. I’d like to have a dollar for every yelp, purr and cluck I’ve made on my calls.

More times than I’d like to count I did everything right and the gobbler wouldn’t respond or come in. There have been times, too, that I did everything right and then scratched an itch or blinked an eye and the gobbler caught my movement. There have also been magical times when my calls were answered by a gobble from really close by. My neck hairs bristle, my heart rate cranks up and the ache in my butt disappears. I point my gun where I expect the gobbler to appear and cluck on my mouth call. Suddenly a crinkly head appears and God smiles down on me. I smooth his bronze feathers, feel his bristly beard, admire his spurs and look up and say thank you once again for my special time in the turkey woods.

The great thing about spring is walking through the woods in search of the delicious wild morel mushroom. They are a special spring treat to me. I wash them off then slice them and sauté in butter until they’re soft and tender. Then I heap them on venison steaks or wild turkey breasts and enjoy their delicate flavor. Besides sautéing,

I also like to bread and fry them. They make great pizza toppings and I like adding them to my wife’s spaghetti. I also put them in soups, stews and sauces. If I am lucky enough to have more fresh morels than I can eat I just dehydrate them for later use. Okay, I have to quit thinking about morels. It’s making me really hungry. I wish my wife would get home with the groceries.

If only Punxsutawney Phil hadn’t seen his shadow a few weeks ago spring might already be here. But he did, so that means we have a few more weeks to wait. It turns out groundhogs aren’t the best for predicting when spring will arrive anyway. A study, probably government-funded with our tax dollars, looked at Groundhog Day predictions from the past 30 years and found that they were only right about 37% of the time.

Regardless, here in the middle of America, March will continue to seem like the longest month of the year. It drags on and on. April gets here and it, at first, teases us into thinking winter is over and spring is finally here. Then cold winds slap us in the face again. Please, God, I want winter to be over! I promise I will be good. Spring is coming, isn’t it?

Birds on the Fly…Bang…Puff – Making Powderful Memories

Family Fun at a well-managed Florida Sporting Clay Course.

  • It’s a good idea before heading out – Discuss the obvious. At all times, treat the gun as if loaded.
  • Go over the common rules – Embed them even if you know them. Assure to use the proper gauge and ammo type, check it twice.
  • The shooter sequence  – The shotgun shell goes into the gun ONLY when on a shooting station and you are to fire.
  • A Problem? – If the gun does not fire, point the muzzle downrange and wait for a full 2-minutes. 
Shotgun Fun starts with safety as brothers, Jeffrey and Jonathan Liebler, pack up the golf cart for a day at FishHawk Sporting Clays in the swamp oak countryside near Lithia, FL.

By Forrest Fisher

When my 34-year old nephew, Jonathan Liebler, asked what I was doing the day of the baby shower party set for his beautiful wife, I had a solid answer. “I’m driving your Aunt to your moms’ house for the party, of course.” He replied, “Good, you know I found out that guys are not welcome at those events. I wanna invite you to check out the sporting clay club just down the road from there, are you in? Jeff (Jon’s brother) and I go there often. It’s such fun!” There was so much enthusiasm in his voice! I was blown away by his sheer energy and anticipation. How could I say anything else except, “OK, man, that sounds great!” I was pretty excited.

Registration is required and in just a few minutes, the formality is complete, and shooters are ready to go.
My grandson, Collin, places his SoundGear hearing protection into each ear canal. The cost of these innovative devices has come down in recent years.

Jon went on to explain, “Most folks shoot the usual over-under style shotguns, but any shotgun that holds two rounds can be used. I can’t wait to try out my new Berretta 12 gauge I recently bought, I got it used at a local gun show. I patterned it, and I’m pretty pleased that it seems to shoot well. Jeff is bringing his Mossberg over-under 12, what do you have Unc?” I replied, “Well, I have my favorite Berretta 20, the black onyx model, and my old Ithaca over/under 12 from the 1960s that I gave to your cousin, my grandson, Collin. He likes that gun,  he used it to shoot trap at his old high school trap team league. He got pretty good with that gun, they won the league 1st place trophy that year. You know Collin is with us down here in Florida now.” With excitement, Jon answered, “That’s great, let’s all go together then! And so we did.

When we arrived at FishHawk Sporting Clays in Lithia, Florida, it was about 11 a.m.  Jon and Jeff met us in the parking lot and there was that special, unmistakable, magic of new adventure and excitement in the air. The facility was modern, computerized for initial registration, and fully equipped with golf carts and rental gear, including shotguns, hearing protection, and ammo. In 10 minutes, we were set to go and provided with a trail map of the shooting station layout.  Impressive.

Back to the vehicles to get our firearms and ammo, we all talked about safety first. As we moved from truck to golf cart, we opened the breach of each gun and peaked down the barrel to check for a clear, shiny reflection to daylight at the other end. I picked up Jonathan’s gun and said, “Hey, who cleaned this gun?” My sly grin gave my joking a giveaway. They all laughed. We went over the safety stuff just like when the guys were kids, treating each gun as if it was loaded. We went over the process of shooting, never to load the gun until we were at the shooting station, then finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.  After shooting, eject the spent ammo and move off the station, action open. Of course, eye and ear protection for the full time on the course.

Jonathan prepares to start the round and explains to the rest of us what he expected from each of the clay bird launchers.

When the family boys get together for a day at the shooting range, especially a sporting clay shooting range, it’s going to be a fun time. Especially when it’s a first-time sporting clay experience for one of the guys.  Jon explained the many course options as we headed down the cart trail to the range area. First-time sporting clay shooter, Collin Voss, motions toward the field and speaks to his cousin, “Can we go A then B, real quick?” Bang! Bang! Jon Liebler answers, “Nice shooting bro! You are really picking up the targets so quickly. The hardest thing about having not done this before is finding the targets as they go flying left to right, right to left, straight up and away, straight across and at you, or bouncing along the ground.” Voss answers, “It’s simple. Watch me.” Everybody laughed. Collin continued, “This is awesome fun. I love this sport.” Jon’s brother, 32-year-old Jeffrey answers, “Not bad for a bonehead kid bro.” Collin is just turning 21 this year. Everybody laughs again and the banter game is on.

Each registrant is issued an ID card and this card must be inserted at each shooting station. to turn it on. A central computer counts the number of birds you have used. Then at checkout, course fees apply.

Jon hollers above all the other group shooting sounds in the area, “Let’s go over to one of my favorite stations down the trail here, I think you’re gonna love it.  Jeff and I like this one to see if we are still on time with our hockey reflexes – it’s quick and it’s a challenge for us. See what you think.” Collin grins and gabbles back, “Uh-oh, are you guys setting me up again?”

In all, at FishHawk Sporting Clays in Lithia, Florida, there are two 8-station courses, one 11-station course and one super sporting clay course of 16 shooting stations.  Each station is denoted in a sequence via separately labeled trail marker colors (red, blue, white and green). Easy to follow on foot or in the golf cart. Each station offers from two to four clay bird release platforms. Some stations throw small clay discs (birds), and some toss regular-size clay discs. The type of target bird is noted on a clipboard hanging to the left of the shooter in the shooting platform. Type of small game or bird species. Each target as noted on the clipboard ID is a bit of a surprise. All of them are fun, especially when competition fun grows between family siblings.

Jon hollers, “How many in a row is that Jeff?” Articulate and deadly accurate, humble Jeff mumbles softly, “16, I think.” With a slight grin.

Jon hollers, “How many in a row is that Jeff?” Articulate and deadly accurate, humble Jeff mumbles softly, “16, I think.” He looks over my way with an unassuming grin, whispering, “Thanks for opening the door to all this stuff when we were kids. I remember it like yesterday, we were with my dad way back when at your East Aurora Fish and Game Club in New York. Those days were unforgettable.” I whisper back, “I know I’m getting old when I have to think about when that was.” Jon answers, “You brought me, my dad, and Jeff to the club, opened up the trap range and showed us how to hold the shotgun, aim with both eyes open, then lead the target and squeeze the trigger. You let me hold the release controller and with you holding a single-shot .410 gauge shotgun, told us to stand about shoulder-wide but to stand as comfortable as we could – as if we wanted to jump high and far. Then you said, hold the gun lightly and squeeze the trigger real soft.” I grinned from my heart that time.  Collin jumped in, “I wasn’t there for that, I wasn’t born yet!” We all laughed. “Move over little guy, who’s turn is it?” hollered Jon. Slowing things down a bit, Collin added, “But when you took me there, you placed a foam pad under my right shirt shoulder and said, pull the gun in sort of snug to my shoulder.  When the bird goes up, aim right at it, then squeeze the trigger.” You said, “You’ll get it after a few tries. Don’t worry if you miss it. It takes time. There’s no pressure, it’s just fun. You get to try again and again.” The kids didn’t know that on those first experience moments for them, I had set the machine to throw the birds straight away, making it a bit less complicated to powder a bird. By the time we left, it was a powdery day.

Jeff and I like this one to see if we are still on time with our hockey reflexes – it’s quick and it’s a challenge for us. See what you think.” Collin grins and gabbles back, “Uh-oh, are you guys setting me up…again?”  

As we navigated the well-managed course, there were no two shooting stations alike. The surrounding trees, swamps, ponds, hardwoods, pines, ground cover, and general terrain, were new and different at each stop. The differences changed the target presentation and provided a brand new shooter-view and illusion, a new challenge at each station. I thought the changes were very much like actual dove hunting, rabbit hunting, chukar, or pheasant hunting. Quick reflexes, distance judgment, target speed, and angle of flight adjustments are all required from the shooter.

The best news is that there is no closed season at a sporting clays range. When wildlife hunting seasons do open, the shooting skills of folks that practice on courses like this are better and far more accurate. During hunting season, it’s more fun in the open-season fields and woods. The shooter is trained and confident, and success feels good on the field and, later, on the dinner plate.

Thank you Fish Hawk, and thank you, Jonathan, Jeff and Collin. Was a pleasure and honor to watch each of you guys shoot safely…and so well. Each one of them is a powder-poker. Safe, efficient, accurate and full of fun. At the end of that day, I looked up and said, thank you, Lord.

To learn more about the official rules of sporting clays, be sure to check out this link: https://nsca.nssa-nsca.org/what-is-sporting-clays-2/.

Simple Spinners Fool Smart Summer Fish – “Andy Magic!”

  • Muskoka Lake Fishing Fun for walleye, northern pike, smallmouth bass and largemouth bass
  • Single-blade spinner rigs fool big and little fish…when presented in the “fish zone.”
  • How-to, what-to, when-to with expert angler, Andy Wilbur, sharing one of his secrets.
Andy Wilbur says, “There is a captivating charm and sort of bonding magic with the fish when you catch ’em on lures you make.”

By Forrest Fisher

You know, the older we get, the more we forget! I discovered this last week during a fun fishing trip with good friends to Muskoka Lake in our nearby north, about 100 miles above Toronto.

For many years now, about a dozen outdoor buddies have banded together to make this trip up north because there seems to be an uncommon mutual interest in the outdoors, in the peace and enjoyment of special fishing moments and evening round table campfires.

Add clear starlight skies after dark with an occasional streaking meteorite (a good luck shooting star), the northern lights on some nights, and never-ending conversations about guns, bows, new equipment, new outdoor seasons, and anything else that pertains to the outdoors…and you get it. All the ingredients of a great trip and lots of relaxing fun happen during these away-from-home sessions.

There was a new addition to the band of Muskoka fishing brothers this year. His name was Andy Wilbur. He lives in Central New York, and he had successful heart surgery just two weeks ago.

Understanding that, he wanted to make the trip anyway because he had always turned down previous invitations, and maybe, just maybe, this was a special year for a “big fish”. There is always that story-tale thought!

It turned out to be more than that for the big-hearted new guy. Andy readied his 17-foot Lund moored at the dock and walked up to where the group was still unpacking to ask, “Does anyone want to join me for a few first casts while I check out my boat?” A quick answer came from 12-year old Zack Buresch, “Can I go?”

So Zack and his dad, Karl, a marine infantry veteran, both jumped in the boat and off they went.

At Muskoka Lake, The Andy Wilbur magic spinner lure was a smaller size 1 Colorado blade, most were silver in color, but copper, gold and painted red/white spinner blades worked too.

About 30 minutes later, we could see the trio returning to the dock. We walked down to help Andy get the boat retied safely and to make sure he didn’t do anything silly after his hospital event. “How did you do?” asked Craig Sauers. “Any good?” Zack hopped vertically about 3 feet straight up and onto the dock, grinning, and said, “I caught my first walleye with Mister Andy!! Look, here it is!”

The fish was 23-inches long, golden yellow in color, a prize all by itself, but that was not all. There were two more on the stringer! The boys caught three beautiful walleye in 30 minutes on a waterway where walleye are known to exist but are rarely caught with any consistency.

After the excitement went into a brief rest mode, everyone wanted to know how, what, where, and all the details.

Chris Sauers asked, “Were you electric motor trolling Andy?”

“Nope, just casting from my anchored boat,” he answered with a whitebeard grin. “Andy just showed us some new magic boys,” Karl said, “I think you might want to see how Andy fishes!” Zack was still beaming.

Andy explained his new old trick for catching walleye here was just as simple as his open water boat. He used an unassuming spinner and worm rig with just a few beads and a single-snelled hook, threaded a half-nightcrawler onto that hook and then cast the line out. In front of the rig, a few split-shots that are heavy enough to take the rig down to the bottom in 20 feet of water or so. Then he simply reeled it back very slowly. Spinner flash, worm scent, color from the beads…..wham! Fish on!

One-fish luck can happen to anyone, but three fish in short order is a demonstration of something more than luck.

There it was, “Andy Magic.” Maybe this was why Andy finally made the trip this year. He had some unique fish-catching charm to share that would change how the “band of Muskoka brothers” fish for all time.

Young Zack Buresch, 12-years old, caught bass, northern pike and unforgettable fun memories at Muskoka Lake, all on the Andy magic homemade lures. 

Andy mentioned that he had brought his spinner parts just in case he needed to make some more. Needless to say, there was a spinner/worm rig-making seminar on the kitchen table in the cabin five minutes later. All 12 guys (a big place) were rigged up with at least one. Young Zack had a few extra!

Andy shared with everyone that there is nothing more special to him than watching a youngster hook his fish on a rig that he can tie. “There is captivating charm and bonding magic with the fish when you catch ’em on lures you make,” Andy says. His words hit an exclusive memory chord with me.

The whole experience took me back in a time warp to a time when my dad, who just recently passed away, showed me how to make fishing lures for the first time. A new lane was opened in my mind. This experience with Andy had opened up a direct link I forgot about when I was a kid, to a time when dad was passing on his local fishing lore.

When dad always taught us to save money because we didn’t have too much of that. He knew I loved to fish (he taught me), so he took me aside one day and brought a fishing lure components catalog to my side. The Herter’s catalog was my favorite (I still have a 1953 version), but Netcraft was a close second. With that, he shared the details of how to make a spinner and worm lure. Not a fancy spinner/worm rig like we use on open Lake Erie today, but a straightforward rig, like what Andy was using.

At Muskoka, the blades we used mainly were smaller size 1 Colorado blades, most were silver in color, but copper, gold and painted red/white spinner blades worked too. Just like dad taught me, Andy showed us to slip a clevis into the tiny hole located at one end of the blade first, then slip the line through the clevis, add four or five small beads and tie on a size 4 hook bait-keeper hook, where we threaded a small worm for bait.

Dad would say, “You just need to use enough beads so that when the beads are strung onto a leader, they take about as much space as the blade is long plus a little. That way, the blade doesn’t hit the hook where you put a small worm, and it will turn OK when you cast it out and reel it back.” Andy sounded just like dad. Then he would say, “You can use any color beads you want, but red or green always seem to work well.”

The “Band of Muskoka Fishing Brothers” share laughs and fresh-caught fish for dinner.

Andy said these very same words like it was 55 years ago, at least as I remember it all. Magical, mystical, extraordinary, the conversation brought all those things.

The trip was simply outstanding, the boys enjoyed moments to never forget, and a massive release of sharing went on. No boasting or bragging, that would not be the way for anyone in this humble group of likable outdoor friends. Just fish tales, simple humor, a few practical jokes, and a lot of fun in the outdoors. It doesn’t get any better! The Canadian beverages were pretty good too!

That wasn’t all. On the last night of the stay, another old friend joined us to fish. Young eight-year-old Alex Denz, joined Andy and Chris in the now-infamous “Andy walleye boat.” Alex hooked into a whopper 23-inch walleye on the simple rig as sunset turned to nightfall.

“Yes!” said Alex, “this is the best day of my life! I love walleye fishing, but I could never catch one! Now I caught one! Yes! Thank you, Mister Chris and Mister Andy!”

Fishing is so much fun! Congrats Alex! Andy presented Alex with the spinner rig with which he caught his first walleye. A wall-hang prize and treasure for the youngster!

The whole experience of “going back to simplicity” made me think about how things have changed here on Lake Erie. Tackle shops sell spinner and worm rigs now that feature photo-prism blades with unique beads that cost seven dollars these days! Wow! In a bad economy, some things never change, like the rising cost of lures. Not sure the high-priced spinner/worm lures work any better than existing Lake Erie models out there for half the price.

Nothing tastes so good as deep-fried, fresh caught walleye

However, one word to the wise. Even the half-cost models are complicated. What if we all went back to tying our own simple one-spinner blade rigs with a few beads and only one hook? The blade turns at about a half-mile per hour! Fish attractor? Yes. Right color? Yes, we can make them any color.

Right size? We’re going to find out!!

Do you know what I’m doing today? It’s time to get simple and see if these simple rigs, which can also be used effectively in a very slow drift, work up here for hard-to-catch Lake Erie walleye.

We finished the Muskoka trip with lots of walleye for our every other day fish fry up there. We caught walleye like never before in a lake where walleye are only caught once in a great while. There is a new old lure in Muskoka town today!

You might want to try it in Lake Erie and the Finger Lakes and other places too.

The “Andy magic rig” really works that well!

 

 

Zack and his dad with a pair of behemoth largemouth bass from fishing near the Muskoka Lake weedbeds.
40+ inches each of Muskoka Lake northern pike, a good catch for the Chris Sauers family on those good days.

New Edge for Fishing – in so many ways!

 

  • Catching fish is a lot about knowing how….there’s one source to check in the future if you are heading to Florida: Darcizzle Offshore TV.
  • Keeping and eating your catch requires training and a sharp knife: Check out the Darcizzle fillet knife from Smith Products in Arkansas.
  • Keeping the blade sharp is no easy task, until now. See about the “2-Step Tool” in the story. 

By Forrest Fisher

When Florida cold fronts approach, thick-scale saltwater Sheepshead go on the hot bite. Catch ’em and discover that they are tough to fillet with an ordinary knife blade. The Smith Darcizzle fillet knife simplifies the deal.

Fish on! The Pompano are running! The Sheepshead are biting! Anglers everywhere share a common goal to catch fish when the fishing is hot. Putting fish on the line is pure passion for so many, me too. Except I did not know a thing about catching Pompano or Sheepshead. I’m new to Florida. When you need to learn, I do what everyone does today, I check YouTube.

Scanning the YouTube channel for “How-To-Catch,” you can type in pompano or sheepshead, or anything else. I hit the brakes when I watched a bright-eyed young lady in a bikini screaming “Fish On!” As she reeled in the surf of the Atlantic Ocean near Miami, another rod went off that was set in a beach rod holder. Excitement! 2-hook line sets, snag-wire weights, dropper loop knots, Fish-Bite baits, all were there. Great show. Her TV show is called Darcizzle Offshore and features Darcie Arahill and her boyfriend mentor, Brian, nicknamed Puddin’. They visit a variety of waterways using a multitude of tactics that always end up in their kitchen. Watching the videos allows the viewer to learn from top to bottom, start to finish. Of course, before the kitchen, there is a clean-the-fish job that needs to be completed.  The next show featured sheepshead. Learning in the modern world can be simple.

With each show, Darcie demonstrates how to clean the catch. The eye-stopper for me on this recent show was the EASE with which she cleaned their recently caught sheepshead. The tasty sheepshead is no easy task to fillet. They offer tough, heavy scales and a structural, thick-boned rib cage. Darcie provides easy-to-watch videos that simplify the process.  While she did not mention the name of the fillet knives she was using, it aired at the end of the show. I watched for it. Identified as the Darcizzle 6-inch and 8-inch curved-flex fillet knife, the knives come from Smith Consumer Products in Arkansas, USA. After Darcie quickly transformed the half-dozen tough-skinned sheepshead into delectable fillets, they moved to the kitchen at their house where Puddin’ shared how-to cooking secrets for the meal that followed.

Never thought I would purchase yet one more knife for my cleaning drawer, but this one made a difference. Even my wife likes it for everyday kitchen work.

There is nothing like a great knife that holds its edge. Every fisherman I know is always looking for another “best knife.” So, I had to do it. Did I need another knife? NO. But…yes, I got online and found the Darcizzle knife products at https://smithsproducts.com/knives-9.  In a moment, an invisible force pushed my mouse pointer to “BUY.”

2-Step knife sharpening tool with 3 adjustable blade angles all on the same tool. Gotta love innovative products!

The 2-Step Tool: A few pages later, I also found the 2-Step Diamond Adjustable Knife Sharpener that features two diamond rods and two ceramic rods with 3-preset sharpening angles of 15, 20, and 25 degrees. The first time I have ever seen this idea. This is an uncommon kitchen gadget innovation in my eyes, and it fits in a pants pocket. Just switch the tab to match the factory angle on your knife blade, and achieve a razor-sharp edge in no time. Three or four strokes through the carbide sharpening slots will restore the edge on a very dull knife in seconds. Follow that with two or three strokes on the other side of the stone, where the matched angle ceramic rods provide a quick-touchup finish of the knife edge.

After having used the Smith Product Darcizzle knives for about 5 weeks now, the edge retention is great, they are corrosion resistant in saltwater use (3Cr13 Stainless!), the non-slip ergo-friendly handles keep you safe, and the slip-on sheath that has a locking sheath (it never falls off until you take it off) that allows this sharp tool to stay within easy reach when kept in your kitchen drawer.

Once or twice a day, my wife says, “Where’s my Darcizzle knife!?” OK, so I borrow it every now and then. The point is when my better half for the last 53 years likes a new knife that much, there is something special about it.

I learned more about catching Pompano and Sheepshead, cleaning each of these species, a surprising new knife product and how to keep it sharp – all in an hour or two of flipping through the Darcizzle Offshore Fishing channel on YouTube…and my wife loves me more.

Hard to lose with all that going on. Just saying…you might wanna try one of these new blades.

An Outdoor Paradise for All Seasons

Summer or Winter, there is one place to add to your Bucket List!

  • In Winter, the Switzerland Alpines can be found in Gaylord, Michigan – snowshoeing, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, and river rafting peace and quiet
  • In Summer, relax and unwind with camping, hiking, biking, swimming, fishing, boating, kayaking, surf-boarding, wake-boarding…the list is long!
  • All year round, enjoy the forests, fields, the peace of sinkhole lakes, rivers and creeks –  all offer adventure and opportunity
During the winter season, scenic rivers offer the adventure experience of a winter wonderland from a river drift boat.

By Larry Whiteley  

Are you thinking you would like to go somewhere this year where you can get away from all the politics, COVID and the division that’s going on in America? Do you want to go to a place where you can really enjoy all the great outdoors has to offer and not have to worry about any of that other stuff? No matter what season of the year you want to go, I have just the place for you.

When you get there you will feel like you are in an alpine village in Switzerland, but instead, you will be in the small town of Gaylord located in beautiful Northern Lower Michigan. Gaylord and the surrounding Otsego county area is an outdoor lover’s paradise. You can just relax and unwind from all that’s going on in the world or you can choose to enjoy a plethora of outdoor adventures.

If it’s water you seek for your adventure, Otsego County has over 90 inland lakes and the headwaters to five major rivers start here. The sinkhole lakes in the Pigeon River Country State Forest is also something you have to experience to believe. If you’re a fisherman, this is truly paradise. You can catch tiger Muskie, northern pike, walleye, yellow perch, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, bluegill, rainbow trout, brown trout and brook trout just about any season of the year. Choose from open water, hard water or flowing water. Otsego Lake, the county’s largest lake, offers the opportunity to try and catch huge sturgeon which can grow to over 7-feet long and weigh up to 200-pounds. During winter Otsego Lake is known for its great ice fishing.

Depending on the season you can also enjoy canoeing, kayaking, boating, wakeboarding, wake surfing, water skiing, tubing, swimming or just relaxing on a sandy beach. There are plenty of rental places for whatever fun you want to try and several sporting goods stores where you can purchase your fishing license or anything else you might want for any season.

If hiking or biking is your passion there are 282 miles of trails in and around Gaylord for any age or skill level. The trails wind through meadows, along lakes and streams, and they climb the hills. When you get to the end of the trail, your reward is the view of the valley below. If you come to Gaylord in the spring, wild birds will be singing their songs, trees will be leafing out, and the mating song of peeper frogs fill the air. You’ll see butterflies fluttering around the wildflowers that include Trillium, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Bloodroot, Marsh Marigolds, and many others are everywhere. Bring an empty sack with you just in case you find some delicious Morel mushrooms during your journey. You and your family might also be thrilled to see a baby rabbit, a young black bear or a newborn fawn.

The Gaylord area is also known for its enjoyably mild summers, so now you know it’s not too hot to be on one of those many trails in the area. Sunsets and sunrises are magical during this time of year. If you visit during the fall season, you will never forget it. This area is known as one of the best places in America to enjoy the beautiful fall foliage. A kaleidoscope of colors awaits you. Brilliant displays of red, orange and yellow are everywhere and if you are on the trails or on the water, these are among great places to enjoy the view. It’s also a fun time to visit the local farmer’s markets and pumpkin farms.

Come during the winter season and truly experience a winter wonderland. The trails now become fantastic for snowshoeing and cross country skiing. Snowmobiling is also a popular wintertime activity. If you come during the winter season you have to try rafting on the scenic Sturgeon River. It’s another adventure you do not want to miss. Your whole family would also love taking a sleigh ride. You can also enjoy downhill skiing, snowboarding and tubing at either Otsego Resort or Treetops Resort. Both also offer golf in the other seasons on renowned championship golf courses. There are 17 other golf courses in the county making it a mecca for golfers. If you enjoy camping there are lots of places to pitch a tent or park your RV. There’s also plenty of cabins, resorts, hotels, motels and even a dude ranch to choose from.

There are plenty of things to do between all your outdoor adventures. Gaylord has that small-town charm but still offers plenty of dining and shopping opportunities. While you’re shopping, be sure and purchase some of their famous and delicious chocolate-covered potato chips to take home with you. There’s also another trail you might like and it is right in Gaylord. It’s the Craft Tap and Beer trail leading to craft and micro-breweries throughout the town for your tasting pleasure. Don’t miss taking a trip to the city park to see the elk herd that the city takes care of for locals and visitors’ enjoyment. The Call of the Wild Museum is also a great place to visit. To really appreciate any place you travel to across America it makes it even more special if you know the history of the area so I also suggest you visit the Otsego County Historical Society.

If I have painted a good enough picture with my words to get you thinking you might just like to travel to Gaylord and Otsego County, then I encourage you to get on your computer and visit https://www.gaylordmichigan.net/. Watch the videos, enjoy the pictures, and read about all there is to see and do. My hope is you will pick a season and go experience this beautiful part of America. I am willing to bet you will love it so much you will return again to sample another season and then another season and then another season. Gaylord, Michigan, and Otsego County will stay with you forever in your memories. It is an outdoor paradise for all seasons.

 

Larry Whiteley to be inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame

Larry Whiteley to be inducted into Missouri Sports Hall of Fame

  • Conservationist & Outdoor Journalist, U.S. Navy Veteran.
  • Host of the Great Ozark Outdoors from 1976 to the present.
  • Public Relations Manager for Bass Pro Shops for 23 years.

By Dave Barus

You might say that Larry Whiteley is a common and uncommon, outdoors Christian man. You would be correct, but there is so much more. He shares his life with others in a special way. With listening, honest caring and effective suggestions.

Larry Whiteley is a 1964 graduate of Nixa High School. A military veteran during our country’s time of need, he served in the U.S. Navy. Whiteley has hosted an outdoor broadcast show through The Great Ozarks Outdoors, Inc., his family corporation, since 1976. That includes 30 years for the award-winning Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World Radio, carried by more than 1,200 radio stations – including those as part of the American Armed Forces Radio Network.

He also was the Corporate Public Relations Manager for Bass Pro Shops for 23 years. Additionally, his voice was the one carried over every Bass Pro Shops store in America, as it welcomed customers, noted the latest sale and gave outdoor tips. He also was a crucial part of conservation and kid’s outdoor education programs.

To date, Whiteley has voiced more than 18,000 radio shows and written more than 5,000 articles communicating the great outdoors to people worldwide. He still writes for newspapers and magazines, including Hook & Barrel, Outdoor Guide, Show Me, CrappieNOW, ShareTheOutdoors.com, and Missouri Conservation Federation.

Whiteley, a winner of numerous awards through several outdoors associations, also is an inductee of the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame. Through all this activity, Larry Whiteley, the gifted communicator that is everyone’s friend, has remained a humble man at every turn. Never looking for credit at any time, Larry is always encouraging others to step in and get going. With an ear-to-ear grin, he is a human spark plug for inspiring others.

Missouri Sports Hall of Fame CEO & Executive Director Jerald Andrews unveiled the Class of 2022 in early December. The inductees will be honored on Sunday, February 6 at the Ozark Empire Fairgrounds. A reception presented by Reliable Toyota will begin at 4 p.m. that day, with the evening program to follow at 5 p.m. Associate sponsors are Advertising Plus, Bryan Properties, Great Southern Bank, Hiland Dairy Foods and Hillyard, Inc.

Hats off, and hearty congratulations to Larry Whiteley!

 

 

Winter Fishing the Niagara River (NY)…Without Ice!

Mike Ziehm continued to use a No. 4 spinner to take nice steelhead like this one from shore in the Niagara Gorge.

  • Niagara Falls USA Fishing Forecast for Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2022
  • From Destination Niagara USA
  • Happy New Year!
Capt. John DeLorenzo of Niagara Falls caught some dandy steelhead while he tested the waters before running a trip this week.

As the fishing action starts to improve again in the Niagara River, remember that the walleye daily creel limit in the Lower Niagara River changes this time of year. Hopefully, recent winds will not muddy up the water too badly. In the meantime, it is important to remember that the daily creel limit on walleye changes after the first of the year to March 15 to help protect large females. The daily limit drops from 3 to 1 fish with a size limit of 18 inches.

In the lower river, steelhead and lake trout are both being caught in the lower river section below Niagara Falls – from the gorge to the Niagara Bar.

Lisa Drabczyk of Creek Road Bait and Tackle in Lewiston reports lake trout action on the Niagara Bar has been good. Steelhead and brown trout have been hitting in and around Artpark.

For the boat guys, live bait like minnows and shiners are working well, along with Kwikfish and MagLips fished off three-way rigs. Shore guys are using spinners and jigs, as well as egg sacs and beads and fished under a float.

Capt. John DeLorenzo of Niagara Falls caught this lower Niagara River steelhead this week on a BnR soft bead.

Capt. John DeLorenzo of Niagara Falls sends word that even though the water is finally clearing, the steelhead fishing has still been a little picky — probably because the river is full of bait. He’s never seen so many birds feasting on minnows and large numbers of baby smelt. The best bait for him has been beads, but he recently switched to BnR soft beads in chartreuse, peach, orange and pink, very effective for him.

The Bar has been pretty good the past week with golden shiners. He has been catching mostly lakers, but a few nice brown trout have started to show up there, too. Hair jigs and blade baits have also been good to use.

In the upper Niagara River, Scott Gauld and his son Alex of Tonawanda had some banner days on smallmouth bass – one on New Year’s Eve. Using Ned rigs to take a pile of bass, all catch and release. Trout and walleye are still being caught at the Foot of Ferry Street on big minnows according to Lake Effect Bait and Tackle in Tonawanda.

Scott Gauld of Tonawanda and Nick Sanderson of Williamsville with a pair of Niagara River bass caught on New Year’s Eve!

Tributary action off Lake Ontario saw an uptick in fresh fish after recent rains. Trout are being caught, although fishing pressure has been limited. The coldest day of the winter so far was Monday, but it will be in the 40’s today, so it’s anyone’s guess what will happen to the tributaries with rain and snow in the forecast.

This is the Ned rig that worked best on bass for Scott and Alex Gauld, as well as Nick Sanderson. This was a green pumpkin candy 3-inch Venom Salty Sling they were dead dragging on the bottom.

 

 

Stay safe out there!

Frank Campbell, Director, Outdoor Promotions

Destination Niagara USA
10 Rainbow Blvd.
Niagara Falls, NY 14303
p: 1-877 FALLS US | 716-282-8992 x. 303
We know that brighter days are ahead. Until then, let us be your destination of hope. Click here for our video message.

 

The WAR. The WOODS. The FAMILY. The STORY.

He could still hear the sounds of bombs exploding, the whir of helicopter blades...

By Larry Whiteley

     When he came back from war over 55 years ago, he never wanted to touch another gun. He never wanted to smell gunsmoke in the air. He never wanted to see blood staining the ground again. Family and friends knew he had served in the military but never told anyone his stories. They all knew it was best not to ask. But, they were still there in his heart and mind. It was partly because of how they were treated when they came home, but mostly because he didn’t want to remember.

Photo courtesy of The National Archives

Sometimes though, he could still hear the sounds of bombs exploding, the whir of helicopter blades. He could still feel the ground rumble as tanks went by, and he would remember. He awoke some nights to the screaming of wounded buddies and lay there in the dark with his eyes open for hours as his wife slept peacefully beside him. He kept it all hidden from those he loved.

They had no idea he also felt really guilty because he got to come home, raise a family and have a good life. So many of his buddies did not get to go home. At times, it even bothered him that he escaped the nightmare of that place with no visible scars and no missing limbs. He was one of the lucky ones, but he didn’t see it that way. He had scars alright, but they were hidden.

No one said anything, but they probably wondered why he didn’t want to watch war movies or any movies or TV shows involving shooting and killing. He would even walk out of the room when the news came on. He didn’t want to see or hear anything about people being shot or killed.

When friends tried to get him to go deer hunting with them, he politely declined with some kind of excuse. One of his grown sons got into hunting with friends. He told his dad how much he enjoyed it and that it was not just about killing a deer. It was about all the special moments out in the woods with his kids or by himself, whether he got a deer or not. The grandkids also encouraged him to join them on a hunt.

    He came up with an excuse each time they asked and declined as he had his friends. But, then one day, he saw the disappointment on his grandkid’s face and the pleading eyes of his son when they asked once again. “Okay,” he said, “Teach me what I need to know to hunt these deer.” He couldn’t believe he spoke those words, but then he saw the smiles of joy on his son and grandkids’ faces. He would do this for them.

His son loaned him one of his rifles, and they went out to sight it in. When he was handed the rifle, thoughts of all the times he held an M16 rifle crossed his mind. He took a deep breath before the first time he fired it and again had to wipe away memories going through his head. It got a little easier with each shot.

Forrest Fisher Photo

The morning of the hunt, he put on the camouflage hunting clothes his son had bought him. As his wife slept, he quietly poured a thermos full of coffee and waited for headlights to come up his driveway. He sat there and tried to concentrate on making good memories this day and not think about bad memories that for all these years had crowded his mind.

Lights shined through the window, and he went out the door into the dark. “Are you ready for this,” his son said. “You’re going to love it, papaw,” a grandchild told from the back seat. He took a deep breath, sighed and then smiled. “I will do my best,” he said. His son gave him lots of tips and told him stories of what to expect on the drive to the woods.

They pulled off the dirt road and parked. The grandkids were old enough to hunt on their own, so they wished everyone good luck and went off to their favorite treestands. The son took his dad to an enclosed blind that he felt would be safer than having him try to climb a tree with a gun and sit in a stand when he had never done that. The son didn’t know that dad had done that many times a long time ago in a place far away that he tried hard to forget.

The son wished his dad good luck and went off to his own treestand. As he sat there in the dark, the sun started peeking through the trees. The sky was a beautiful shade of orange. Birds started singing and fluttering around from limb to limb. A fox came walking through and had no idea he was there. Squirrels were digging in the dry leaves. His first thought was it sounded like the enemy advancing on his position. He dismissed that thought and enjoyed watching them.

The field he could see out the windows of the blind could have reminded him of battlefields, but it didn’t. The shots he heard in the distance could have put him on alert for advancing enemy soldiers. Instead, he hoped it was his grandkids, and they were successful.

In this particular moment, in this special place, he silently talked to God. He asked his forgiveness for not thanking him a long time ago for watching over him during the war and bringing him safely back home. He also thanked Him for creating all the beauty of nature that surrounded him that morning. He started thanking Him for his wife and family and was wiping a tear from his eye when he saw something in the field before him.

The buck had his nose down following the scent of a doe that had come through the field during the night. He remembered everything his son had told him. He raised the rifle, looked through the scope and put the deer in the cross-hairs. His heart raced as he clicked off the safety just as it had many years ago. He squeezed the trigger, gun smoke drifted through the air, and the buck dropped where it stood.

What his son hadn’t told him was that he could see Dad’s blind and the field from the treestand he sat in. The buck had walked right under the son’s stand, and he didn’t shoot. He knew Dad had been in the war even though he never talked about it. He knew that Dad needed this moment to hopefully help free him of his nightmares.

There was blood on the field that morning as the son joined his father where the buck lay. They hugged, and the tears flowed. The grandkids joined them and hugged their papaw too. They also knew their papaw had been through a war, but dad had told them not to ask him about it. They all dropped to their knees, put their hands on the buck and bowed their heads to honor it for giving its life to help a troubled man heal.

The war was over.

Organic Foods – Life Lessons too

What does organic food really mean? Higher cost or Better Health?

Wild mushrooms are organic by nature, let’s go shopping…in the woods.

By Larry Whiteley

I went grocery shopping with my wife the other day. I’m usually not much of a shopper unless I am in the local outdoor store. It can take me hours and cost me a lot of money when I go in there. I always need to replace something I broke, lost or wore out. Plus, there is always the latest and greatest new product I just have to have.

Anyway, as I followed her around the store, I was amazed at all the organic foods with their green and white labels. Some labels were not green and white but still said they were organic but not as organic as the green and white ones. The prices kind of amazed me too. They sure weren’t cheap, and some of those labels were in my wife’s grocery cart. I could have bought a lot of fishing lures for what they cost.

When we got home, I brought the groceries into the house, and she went about putting everything in its proper place. I went into my office, opened the computer, typed in “organic foods,” and hit the search button. I found that organic meats are supposed to be free of antibiotics, growth hormones or other drugs, and according to the USDA, not genetically modified or unnaturally “enhanced” in any other way. Organic livestock raised for meat, eggs, and dairy products must also have access to the outdoors, giving them more room to move around, provided with organic feed, and not inhumanely cramped up in a crowded pen.

Organic crops must be grown without synthetic pesticides, bioengineered genes (GMOs), petroleum-based fertilizers, and sewage sludge-based fertilizers. It also said that how food is grown or raised can have a significant impact on the health of your body, including your mental and emotional health. Organic foods often have more beneficial nutrients, such as antioxidants, than their conventionally-grown counterparts. People with allergies to foods, chemicals, or preservatives often find their symptoms lessen or disappear when they eat only organic foods. 

My wife’s organic shopping.
More of my wife’s organic shopping.

In addition, organic farming is better for the environment. Organic farming practices reduce pollution, conserve water, reduce soil erosion, increase soil fertility, and use less energy. Farming without pesticides is also better for nearby birds and animals and people who live close to farms.

Organic meat and milk are richer in particular nutrients. A 2016 European study showed that levels of certain nutrients, including omega-3 fatty acids, were up to 50 percent higher in organic meat and milk than in conventionally raised versions. I guess I might be forced to admit that the price of organic foods is justified by all that.

Maybe organic foods are also worth the price just to know that you do not have pesticides, petroleum products or sewage in the food you eat. That is kind of gross, don’t you think? As I leaned back in my desk chair, pondering everything I had just read about organic foods, I thought about that. 

As I pondered all this, a picture of the old farm where I was born and grew up caught my eye. We milked cows by hand, raised and butchered hogs, had chickens to fry and their eggs to eat. We also hand-tilled and grew our own vegetables in the garden. All of that was done without the use of any chemicals back then.

While I continued to ponder, I looked around my office. On the walls were deer heads, turkey fans, duck mounts, pheasant mounts and fish mounts. Pictures of myself and kids and grandkids with fish and wild game hung on the walls and sat on shelves around the room. They brought back great memories and got me thinking that I have been eating natural organic foods for years. Even before it became a buzzword that some marketing companies came up with.

I hit the search button on the computer once again and typed in “health benefits of wild game and fish.” I found that the venison, wild turkey, ducks, pheasant, and other wild game I hunt and eat are all organic. Wild game is the original sustainable, free-ranging, grass-fed meat. And, it’s lower in fat, cholesterol, and calories than most other meat. It’s also high in protein, iron and vitamin B, yet low in saturated fat.

Great tasting organic crappie, my kind of shopping.

The fish I catch and eat are naturally organic. So are the wild mushrooms I find and prepare with my fish and game. The wild blackberries, raspberries and other fruit and nuts are a special treat and are also organic. 

The exercise, fresh air, and other health benefits from harvesting all kinds of natural organic foods are enormous. It’s good for my body, my mind and my soul. Anyway, that’s what the computer said, and that’s what I am going to tell my wife. I will also tell her that all the natural organic foods I bring home are cheaper than what she buys in the grocery store. Suppose I say that, though, I have to hope she doesn’t get adding up the cost of all my guns. In that case, the gun safe I put them in, all my hunting clothes and equipment, my ATV, the trailer to haul it, my boat, I don’t know how many rods and reels, tackle boxes and at least a zillion lures. I almost forgot all my camping gear. On second thought, maybe I better not say that.

Hmm! I wonder if I could start a market of my own. Instead of a Farmers Market, it could be an Organic Outdoorsman Market selling wild game, fish, mushrooms, wild fruit, etc. Or, maybe The Organic Outdoorsman Restaurant. Can you imagine the menu? Appetizers could be fried frog legs, or boiled crayfish tails dipped in melted butter we make from a wild buffalo we milk by hand. Entrees could include grilled venison tenderloin with sauteed morel mushrooms, fried walleye or crappie with potatoes and onions (that I grew myself), baked wild turkey or wild pheasant with wild rice. For dessert, maybe gooseberry pie or wild blackberry homemade ice cream. I might even make enough to buy more fishing lures. But, on further consideration, I’m thinking that a lot of work would cut into my time outdoors doing my kind of organic market idea.

I quit my daydreaming, shut off the computer, then head out to my workshop to grab my fishing stuff and hook up the boat. Before I leave, I stick my head in the back door and tell my wife I’m going shopping for organic food and that I will be back in a couple of hours. She just rolls her eyes, shakes her head, smiles and tells me to have a good time shopping.

Please feel free to use any or all of the above information with your wife to help you get away more from organic food shopping when you need to. You just have to hope she doesn’t figure out the real cost for all your organic shopping. 

Lake Trout Limits on Lake Huron – No Monkeying Around!

Lake Trout tussle very well in Lake Huron near Alpena, Mi.

Bob Holzhei and first mate, Justin Grubaugh, admire the size of one of our lake trout.By Bob Holzhei

Lake Trout were targeted on this fishing trip and it wasn’t long before the first fish was boated. It was caught on a Monkey Fish lure. Then another and another until our limit was met! It was exciting! Gaylord, Michigan, was the selected Annual Conference site for the Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers (AGLOW). Journalists, corporate members, and radio and television personalities from all across the United States are part of the trilogy that comprises the membership.

On this day, our morning departure from the Treetops Resort began at 8:00 A.M., arriving at the Alpena City Marina an hour later. Our boat was a 21-foot Voyager named Depth Charge with Captain Kevin Drummond.

We began fishing in his “honey hole,” in 110-120 feet of water, using 8 rigged fishing lines to cover the depth, which ranged from 30 feet to 120-foot depth. “I began fishing as a kid at 16 years old and only lived a block from the lake. Lake Huron has an amazing lake trout fishery, and I get pleasure from watching people catch fish,” stated Drummond.

The author strains as the 15-minute fun battle with another tenacious, large lake trout continues.

Also on board among my fishing partners was David Gladkowski, a staff writer with the National Turkey Federation and Brady Laudon, Assistant Director and Sales Manager for Visit Bemidji, Minnesota. Each year, three locations are chosen by AGLOW to present a conference bid, that is, to host a future conference.

“I’ve never done any fishing like that, being a South Carolina boy.

Of course, I’ll be back. I was thrilled! Gladkowski stated. This was also the first time Brady Loudon fished Lake Huron. “Our fishing party limited out on Lake Trout. I couldn’t believe how the honey holes produced so many fish,” added Laudon.

In addition, to a yearly conference, AGLOW – along with corporate sponsors – offers “Communicator Camps,” which consist of 6-10 outdoor journalists. Members apply for a spot and are selected by the tourism bureau. The Communicator Camps provide opportunities for CVB’s to gain additional exposure.

The excitement throughout the morning and afternoon continued, and soon, there were three lake trout in a battle to free themselves at the same time.

The anglers had to slow down the pace at bringing the fish in. The fishermen on our boat took turns landing the fish, allowing time to rest from the strenuous battles. Drummond spoke highly of the success with the Shimano Tekota reels and Talora Shimano rods. The reels spooled with a 20-pound test line, one item among the tools used to reach our limit of lake trout, a couple steelhead and a salmon.

“Lake Huron is also a world-class Atlantic Salmon fishery, perhaps the world’s largest landlocked Atlantic Salmon, and the finest angling,” according to Jim Johnson, a retired fisheries biologist with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

According to Johnson, Lake Superior State University faculty and students have been stocking 20,000 to 35,000 Atlantic salmon in Lake Huron annually since the late 1980s.

Thanks to Captain Kevin Drummond and his first mate, Justin Grubaugh, on a boat named “Depth Charge” for a successful and unforgettable fishing day out of the port at Alpena, Michigan.

A significant difference between the Atlantic’s and Chinook salmon is that the Chinooks die after spawning. At the same time, the Atlantic’s can spawn multiple times and live longer. The Atlantic’s have been marked by removing the adipose fin and implanting a tiny coded wire tag in each fishes’ head. The tag provides information about the stocking date and location, which assists the DNR in measuring the stocking success. Anglers are asked to forward the heads to the area DNR office.

As we boated ashore, the rich memories of this fishing trip would resurface until I returned to fish with Drummond again!

For more information, contact: Gaylord Area Convention & Tourism Bureau 1-800-345-8621, www.gaylordmichigan.net and Alpena Convention & Visitor’s Bureau, 1-989 354-4181, www.info@visitalpena.com.

Jake’s Lost Life: Gun Safety is #1 – for ALL Hunters, for ALL Ages

Remember that Gun Safety is #1 at ALL TIMES. James Monteleone photo

  • With a profound passion, Jake loved to hunt for deer, turkey, waterfowl.
  • Does a deep passion for hunting and familiarity with firearms contribute to a lack of discipline for firearm safety? Keep safety rules in mind….always.
  • Shooting a firearm MUST INCLUDE THE COURAGE  TO CORRECT A FRIEND for any lack of gun safety: Where are the bullets? Where is the gun pointed?  
  • Read, learn, share with others – GUN SAFETY FIRST!

By James Monteleone

Jake, to my immediate left, was interested in the outdoors and hunting from a very early age. 

Dear Mr. Average Teenager – I turkey hunted once with a kid named Jake. Yes, I know there is a strange connection to the young hunter’s name and a young turkey. Jake’s real name is Jacob, and other than Jake, he is called “Spud” by those in his close circle of family and friends. I was introduced to Jake by a friend, and our paths crossed when I was co-hosting a Youth Day seminar. It was easy to see that Jake had the benefit of some good instructions when it came to using a friction call. His notes and cadence on both a box call and a slate call were better than the average man, much less a young teen.
The day we hunted was pretty ordinary as turkey hunting days go. Chuck Tiranno (my friend) and Jake headed down to the far end of a long field. I split off to the left to cover a long stretch of woods that bordered the same field. There was some gobbling from my left and I was set up in a great place to intercept the birds as they closed in on my position. I called in and saw four “jakes” that morning. They did their usual hard-gobbling routine and put on a little show for the decoy, but they were not my intended target that morning.
After 8am, I heard three shots coming from the spot where Jake and Chuck had set up. The timing of the shots led me to believe that someone may have missed. When we met up at about 9am, I found out that Jake had, in fact, killed one of several birds that came in to his calling. His shots were an attempt to anchor the bird that was a little farther out than the effective range of his shotgun. Chuck, who lives across the street from Jake, has been a mentor to Jake and wasted no time putting the teenager in his place for shooting at what he considered an extreme distance.
Jake, who developed a proficiency for trap shooting and archery hunting for deer, loved waterfowl and turkey hunting too. His ability to call in ducks, geese and turkeys gave him a unique ranking within his peer group and allowed him to compete with adults in pursuing these sports. Chuck always insists on youths like Jake patterning and sighting in their firearms. In addition to these steps, Chuck stresses the need for practice and safety. These are all part of the collaborative effort on which we focus during Youth Day seminars and lectures to all age groups.
In some ways, Jake is just an average 15-year-old boy. Although his hunting and shooting abilities are comparable to an adult level of participation, he, like many 15-year-olds, thinks he is a “top dog”. I think it’s great when a youth has an outlet for his energy and takes an interest in the outdoors. Jake won’t see his 16th birthday. Jake won’t be out for the deer season, and we will never know what Jake may have been able to offer the youth of future generations.
Jake lost his life to a terrible accident. Not an accident that you would have foreseen in his future. He died due to a gunshot wound that came while he and a friend were handling a gun before a waterfowl hunt. The other details are not necessary. But these young men have been drilled at almost every opportunity in the safe handling of firearms. I will not speculate as to the actual events other than to state the obvious. If you question why I would state the obvious, then think about what any and all of us could do to avoid situations like this in the future.
It’s too late for Jake. It’s not too late for the rest of us to take a lesson from a situation where a young boy who grew up around guns may have failed to take charge of a situation where his friend was not being safe. There was an adult in the home when the accident occurred. Could there have been a stricter approach to the firearms being handled that day? Of course, we can all use hindsight to say “Yes” emphatically. But that time has passed, and we need to honor Jake’s memory and the other people who have lost their lives in firearm-related mishaps. How do we honor those people?
We never miss a chance to reinforce the need for safety in handling guns and other weapons. Those basic rules like “treat every firearm like it’s loaded” and “always point the muzzle in a safe direction” and “be sure of your intended target” and “supervise all young and new shooters in the use of firearms.”

When more than one hunter is in a group, firearm safety becomes the ultimate consideration. Muzzle direction, chamber open, safety position. National Shooting Sports Foundation Photo

This has been difficult for the parents, Jake’s young friend and the community in general. I saw and heard the grief yesterday as I stood in front of the casket of a 15-year-old boy. He was dressed in camouflage, and the pictures displayed at the entrance showed a young man with a passion for the outdoors. He posed with his turkeys, some geese and several of the deer he had taken. The pride of competing in a man’s game and winning was etched on his face. Ironically, Jake had taken a deer with his bow only days before this tragedy took place.
Having had Jake as one of the participants in my presentation at the Youth Day seminars and seeing him in death was a painful reminder that nothing should be taken for granted no matter how many times we preach the safe handling of firearms. We cannot over-emphasize safety. No one is invincible or immune from a lapse in judgment. Don’t be embarrassed to remind people (and insist if necessary) that safety is an absolute part of our sport. It doesn’t matter how long you have hunted or how proficient and knowledgeable you are about firearms. Danger doesn’t take a day off. Yes, people can be dangerous; guns are only a part of the equation.
Put safety first. I have said to Jake and many others, “There is no deer, turkey, elk, bear or any other animal that is more important than coming home safely.” We all stress that “you can’t take a bullet back once it’s fired. You have lost any control that you have over the outcome of that shot once you pull the trigger”.

Hunt in pairs to stay safe, but always remember that guns are dangerous when safety rules are taken for granted. National Sports Shooting Foundation Photo.

There are no “do-overs” where guns are concerned. I doubt that anyone among us has not witnessed the poor and unsafe handling of firearms. Are you embarrassed to remind the offender of his duties to protect himself and others? Jake’s parents wish someone would have done that for him. If you appreciate this reminder, don’t thank me, thank Jake. He gave up his life to a lapse in judgment. His father said to me yesterday, “I hope something good can come from this,” and I told him then, “We have to be Jake’s voice now”. That’s my objective in writing this the day Jake will be buried. I want to be Jake’s voice. Not just today, but every day when there is a firearm present.
Will you join me and honor Jake by being his voice? It’s so much more important than “Good Hunting and Great Memories.”

From my friend, Tony TirannoMay Jake rest in peace.  I pledge to be “Jake’s Voice”.

THE 12 GOLDEN RULES FOR SAFE GUN HANDLING:

  • Always treat the gun as if it is loaded.
  • Always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.
  • Always keep your finger straight and off the trigger until you are ready to shoot.
  • Always keep the gun unloaded until you are ready to use it.
  • Never point the gun at anything you don’t intend to destroy.
  • Be sure of your target and what is beyond it.
  • Learn the mechanical and handling characteristics of the gun you are using.
  • Always use proper ammunition.
  • Be sure the barrel is clear of obstructions before loading and shooting.
  • If your gun fails to fire when the trigger is pulled, hold your shooting position for several seconds, then with the muzzle pointed in a safe direction, carefully unload the gun.
  • Don’t rely on the gun’s mechanical safety to keep it from firing.
  • Be aware of your surroundings when handling guns so you don’t trip, lose your balance or accidentally point and/or fire the gun at anyone or anything.

New York Canada Goose Seasons OPEN September 1st in many areas of State

New York Canada Goose Seasons Open September 1st

One of the first seasons to open every year is the September “resident” Canada goose season.

Although they may look the same, “resident” Canada geese are those that breed in the United States and southern Canada, unlike “Atlantic Population” (or “AP”) Canada geese, their relatives that breed in northern Canada and migrate through New York. Typically, resident geese produce more young per pair and survive at a higher rate than AP geese. As the resident goose population has grown, season lengths and bag limits have been liberalized and hunters have successfully stabilized the population.

The September season is an important opportunity for New York hunters, as AP goose seasons have been restricted to 30 days and a one-bird bag in most areas to protect this more vulnerable population. For more information on the differences between resident and AP geese, visit DEC’s website.

You can find details on waterfowl hunting regulations, season dates, hunting area boundaries, and bag limits for both the September and regular seasons on DEC’s website.

To participate, hunters must: (1) possess a 2021-22 hunting license; (2) register for the 2021-22 New York Migratory Bird Harvest Information Program (HIP; see below); and (3) all hunters 16 years of age or older must have a 2021-22 federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp (i.e., “duck stamp”) signed across the face of the stamp in ink.

Photo courtesy of T. Van Liew

Anglers’ Best Tool Kit, and Where to Keep It – 3 Essential Tools No Angler Should Be Without

Can't find your Clippers? Not anymore.

  • 3-Tool Package: Scissors, Needle-nose Pliers/Crimpers, Hook Remover 
  • Cut wire, mono, braid easily…and will cut off hook shanks when required
  • High-Quality – priced under $45
Today’s fishermen are gearheads, no doubt about it. There are a myriad of specific rods, reels, lures, terminal tackle, and accessories to help them be successful in freshwater and saltwater, no matter the targeted species. Regardless, there are three tools all anglers should always have – pliers, scissors, and a hook remover. The Anglers’ Best Tool Kit conveniently combines all three, each of the highest quality designed to last a lifetime. All for under $45.
The scissors are razor sharp, with a non-slip handle and are perfect for trimming everything from line tag ends to jig skirts and more. The needle nose pliers are designed as a multi-purpose tool, ideal for everything from crimping to removing lure hooks of all sizes. To accommodate the different types of lines, the pliers are crafted with a special place to cut braided line. A non-slip handle provides a perfect grip at all times. The hook remover in this kit is an oft-overlooked tool that not only makes hook removal quick, safe, and simple, it also helps you remove the hook from fish without hurting the fish itself. It creates less wound and increases the chance of the fish survival rate in water almost significantly. Thus, a fishing hook removal tool helps you to save fish and enjoy the fun of angling at the same time. The Anglers’ Best Tool Kit is sold individually, suggested retail price – $44.99.
Best of all, every tool in the Anglers Best Tool Kit is designed to fit in the Lazy Joe, Anglers’ Best’s patented-designed tackle box and accessory holder that fits around your boat seat pedestal. It keeps your baits and accessories within reach without having to leave your seat or trolling motor. It saves valuable deck space and rotates around the pedestal for easy access to all your tools and accessories.
Tool storage is easy. The Lazy Joe pedestal tool and accessory holder comes standard with three Bait Boxes. Suggested retail price is $149.99.  The weather resistant, angled body keeps the Lazy Joe out of your way while keeping your tools and accessories within reach.

For more information, visit www.anglersbest.com.About Anglers’ Best: Headquartered in Danville, Ala., Anglers’ Best is a designer and manufacturer of state-of-the-art fishing accessories. For additional information on Anglers’ Best write to: Anglers’ Best, 8237 Danville Road, Danville, AL 35619; Call: (833) BAS-SNET or visit www.anglersbest.com.

A Lucky Little Boy

The dreams of a little boy begin with memories from fishing with his dad.

By Larry Whiteley

He sure is lucky, this 4-year old little boy asleep in his bed. He’s going fishing for the first time today. Mom promised him she and dad would take him if he kept his toys picked up. Even though some toys are just pushed under the bed or back in the closet, his room looks pretty good. His little basketball goal sits against a wall waiting for him to make another 6-pointer.  The bookcase is filled with books he likes dad or grandpa to read to him.  Mom can walk across the floor now without stepping on a Lego.

In the corner, near the door, sits his new fishing rod and reel. Dad got it for him. This is no Mickey Mouse outfit. He thinks it looks like the ones dad uses. Next to it sits his new tackle box. Dad took him to the outdoor store to buy it. He got to pick out the one he wanted. There are some red and white plastic bobbers, sinkers, hooks, and a fish stringer to put in it. Dad gave him some of his old lures. Plastic worms, frogs and lizards. He likes playing with them. There’s also a small toy or two tucked away in one of the compartments.

He is snuggled up to his favorite stuffed animal. A turtle named “Tucker”. Great-grandma got it for him. A few others are scattered around the bed. As he sleeps, there’s a smile on his face. He must be dreaming about going fishing. In his dream, he hears someone calling his name. He feels someone kissing him on the cheek. Through sleepy eyes, he sees mom. In his grogginess, he hears her say, “You better get up. It’s time to go fishing.” His eyes widen, and he reaches up and hugs her. Then the family dogs burst into the room; they jump on the bed and start licking him. Now he is really awake and ready to go fishing.

Mom sends him to the bathroom to do his morning big boy duties and brush his teeth. He rushes back to his room. She helps him get his “Daddy’s Fishing Buddy” t-shirt grandma got him. He puts on his “Born to Fish” cap great-grandpa sent him. He’s a lucky little boy to have so many people and dogs that love him.

Mom had breakfast ready, so the little boy and dad came in and sat down at the kitchen table. They all held hands, bowed their heads and dad thanked God for this special day and all their many blessings. It was sure hard to eat when you are a little boy and ready to go fishing.

They loaded the coolers, the snacks and the dogs in the truck and they were off on this great adventure. At least it was to a 4-year old. As dad drove, questions came from the little boy sitting in his car seat. How much farther, dad? Why do fish have fins? Did you get my fishing stuff? What color are fish? Dad patiently answered all the questions and smiled. Mom smiled too.

“I can see the water”, the little boy yelled as they drove across the bridge. Soon he was helping dad back the boat down the ramp. The boat motored away from the ramp with life jackets on all the occupants. Dogs too. They made a quick stop at the marina so dad could get some worms. Guess who had to go with him?  Back in the boat, they came out of the idle zone, and dad pushed the throttle forward. The look on the little boy’s face was priceless as the boat motor roared to life.

Dad had been on his college bass fishing team. He still fishes bass tournaments when he can. The boat has every kind of electronics imaginable. Dad works for the company that makes them. The little boy wanted to know about every one of them. This day was not a fishing tournament, though. It was all about a first fishing trip for a little boy. He idled down and drifted into a shaded cove. The lucky little boy got to see an eagle flying in the sky, a deer drinking at the water’s edge and a big heron fishing along the bank.

It was a great place to have a picnic lunch, play in the water and catch the first fish.

That was the only thing on the little boy’s mind after they anchored and tied up the boat. He was ready to go fishing. Dad tied a small sinker and a bobber to the line but no hook, and then showed him how to cast and then helped him cast. Then he let him try casting by himself. That was hard for a 4-year old. Dad told him he would help.

Dad and the little boy walked along the shoreline hand-in-hand. He carried his fishing pole and dad carried the tackle box and worms. Mom took pictures. The dogs came along too. Dad found a good spot and put a hook on his line and a worm on the hook. The little boy wanted to put the worm on. Dad told him to watch how he does it first and then when he’s bigger, he can do the same. He knows dad is smart, so he’s okay with that.

First fish!

Dad gets on his knees, puts his hands around his little boy’s hands and helps him cast the worm into the water. Mom said it was a great cast. They all smiled. She got a great picture. Dad told him to watch the bobber and when it went under, he would help him set the hook. Just as he said it, the bobber moved sideways and then started bobbing up and down.

Dad helped him set the hook but let him fight the little fish and reel it in. Mom was frantically taking pictures as the little boy reeled it up on the bank. Dad and he posed for pictures with the fish. Dad took out the hook to release it, but the little boy wanted to touch it first. With one finger, he did. The dogs came over and wanted to smell the fish.

Then he said goodbye as dad put it back in the water. He gave a high five to dad and mom and hugged the dogs. First fishing trip, first cast, first fish.

He wanted to fish some more, so dad put another worm on and cast it out again. Almost immediately, the bobber started moving toward deeper water, and the two fishermen set the hook. The little rod bent nearly double. Dad had to help him with this one. It took line off the reel. They would gain some of it back, and it would strip more line. Mom’s yelling and taking pictures at the same time. Dad was just hoping the line or the rod wouldn’t break. A determined look was on the little boy’s face as he and dad fought the fish. Dad told mom to get the dip net from the boat. She held it in the water as the little boy and his dad brought the fish to it. A good size largemouth. For a little fishing outfit and a little boy, it was a monster.

Two best friends for a little boy and his family.

They posed for pictures again, and dad beamed with pride. He would be sending that picture to all his bass fishing buddies and showing it off at work next week. Mom was already sending it to Grandparents and Great-grandparents. Two casts, two fish. Dad tried to explain to him it’s not always that easy. The little boy was so happy he didn’t care right now. He had caught a fish like dad catches. They watched it swim away.

Knowing that they would probably not catch another fish like that, dad talked him into playing in the water so he wouldn’t be disappointed if they didn’t. They all paddled around and played for a while. The dogs, too, and they got hungry. The little boy sat on dad’s lap eating, talking about the fish and yawning. They decided to pack up and go home. The little boy was asleep before the boat reached the loading ramp.

On the drive home, mom turned around and took pictures of a tired little fisherman with his “Born to Fish” cap tilted to one side. Two tired dogs were asleep on each side of him. He was probably dreaming fish dreams. He’s a lucky little boy.

 

Mulligans…In the Woods, On the Crik’s – Do it Again!

  • Mulligans can offer new and better opportunity for the next time.
  • Mulligans are do overs, but why not do the good things over too!
  • Keep the grins and giggles nearby, God wants us to share those too.
Family hunting trips can offer prime opportunity for Mulligan sharing.

By Larry Whiteley

Simply put, a mulligan is a “do-over” in the game of golf. Hit a bad shot? Take a mulligan and replay that stroke. Drop a ball on the spot from which you just played, and replay the shot. The bad shot is not counted. Our son Kelly loved to play miniature golf when he was younger. We still laugh when we talk about all the mulligans he wanted to take during a round of miniature golf with the family.

Don’t we wish we could take a mulligan for all the bad things that have happened in our lives? Don’t we wish we could replay things? Don’t we wish we could have a “do-over”? I would like to go back and take a mulligan on several things that have happened in my life. You can probably say the same.

I remember a fishing trip when my line broke on the biggest bass I had ever seen. It had to be at least a state record. I knew my line was getting old. I knew I needed to put fresh line on but didn’t – Mulligan!

Then there was the time I got into my deer stand, reached into my pack to get my bow release, and it wasn’t there. I knew I should have double-checked. I then had to sit there and watch three bucks bigger than anything I had ever taken with gun or bow walk right under my stand – Mulligan!

In a time long ago before digital cameras and smartphones, I was on a camping trip and the beautiful northern lights were dancing across the sky. I reached for my camera and started taking pictures of this beautiful sight. You guessed it. There was no film in the camera – Mulligan!

I needed a “do-over” on this Canadian fishing trip.

I would also like to take a mulligan for times I was too “busy” and my kids wanted to go fishing, or my wife wanted to go hiking or on a trip. Oh, believe me, there are many other things I have done that I would like to take a mulligan on. I am just thankful I have a God that forgives me for the mistakes I have made. The hardest part is forgiving myself. All we can do is try to live the rest of our life, so we don’t want or need to take a mulligan.

Believe it or not, there is a national holiday every year on October 17th called Mulligan Day. But, don’t wait until then. Mulligan Day can be any day. Whether it is a former relationship with a friend or loved one, an old hobby that you abandoned, or a past mistake that needs rectifying – you can take a mulligan.

Everyone deserves to have a second chance in life, right? And that is what mulligans are all about. If you don’t succeed at first, try and try again! After all, we aren’t perfect. There has only been one perfect man. We are going to make mistakes. We should not feel bad about doing something wrong. We should see it as an opportunity to learn and do it better the next time.

Aren’t second chances and sometimes even third chances good for everyone? Although we always want to do things correctly right away, immediate success is not always possible. In fact, it is very rare. We should embrace our human faults. Don’t simply admit failure and give up. Instead, take a deep breath, think about where you went wrong, learn from it, and try it again.

Go fishing with your grandkids over and over! Mulligans for the sake of sharing fun in the outdoors.

Mulligans help us to be more confident and accepting of ourselves. We can also use them to encourage other people too. When you see someone failing at something or struggling to get it right, give them encouragement, and offer them advice if they would like some. Imagine how much better a place the world would be if we all had this sort of attitude and helped others achieve their goals!

Take a mulligan and give yourself another chance to do something the right way that previously went wrong. After all, mulligans are about second chances and doing something again. Hey, God gives us mulligans all the time if we just ask Him.

You can also use mulligans as an opportunity to learn some new skills. Whether playing an instrument or learning to fish, use it as the catalyst to help you try out something new. You shouldn’t have any fear of failing or needing to do something, again and again, to get it right. After all, the struggle makes the achievement even more enjoyable at the end, and it is definitely better to try than not give it any sort of effort at all, right?

Here’s a great idea! If mulligans are “do-overs” for bad things that happened, why can’t we have “do-overs” for good things that happened in our lives? Deer camp with friends or family – Mulligan! A trip my wife and I made to Glacier National Park – Mulligan! Going fishing with my grandkids – Mulligan! Deer and turkey hunting with my son’s and grandkids – Mulligan! Time alone around a campfire – Mulligan! The list goes on.

Sometimes life gives you a second chance, or even two. Not always, but sometimes. It’s what you do with those second chances, those “do-overs,” that count – Mulligan!

The “SpoonCrank” Tackle Box provides Tangle-free Lure Access

  • Lure organization for crankbaits and spoons – tangle free lure access means less wasted fishing time
  • Wet protection, rubber seal barrier in the cover
  • Transportation vibration isolation, keeps shiny lures shining
  • Partition by color, size, lure type – store up to 90 spoons or 50 crankbaits, or any combination
This durable box will organize all your lures with room for 50 crankbaits or 90 spoons, or any combination of these two quantities – or more if you double up on some spaces.

By Forrest Fisher

Ever ask yourself, what’s essential in a tackle box? Most fishermen don’t think about it. Most go to the store, search available inventory, then pick out what might work to carry their selection of lures. Anglers usually do not look for separation and organization, and easy access. Now they can get all that in one tackle box. Imagine a tackle box with lure separation, easy one-look fast access, and keeps lures dry even when it’s raining, or the waves are crashing over the sidewall? Not many boxes can do all that. When visiting the Niagara Falls Outdoor Show last year, I found a new tackle box aptly named “The SpoonCrank Box.” This durable box will organize all your lures with room for 50 crankbaits or 90 spoons, or any combination of these two quantities – or more if you double up on some spaces.

The box consolidates the usual wasted tackle box air space of many other tackle boxes with divider separation and wet-protection capability. Nobody needs rusty hooks. Water cannot get into this box with the rubber seal around the inner top cover. Walleye anglers use assorted stickbaits with lots of treble hooks. Bass anglers, too, use lots of crankbaits with multiple treble hooks. They’re all sticky sharp and can catch fingers or other lures easily. The separation dividers provide isolation from travel vibrations that can wear out a shiny lure finish. Spoons big and small, a favorite lure selection for salmon and trout trollers, are aptly and safely stored for easy access in this same box.  

Done fishing? Close the cover; the lures are safe and ready for next time – tangle-free. That’s not all. The box’s top lid provides a hidden compartment for pliers, snippers, clippers, fluorocarbon leader reels, snap clamps, and various personal preference gear. In using the box for a while now, I also discovered one other option.

The “hidden compartment” sits above the lures under the handle.

If I remove some of the vertical separation panels, there is enough space to add two or three small compartment boxes (jig heads, split shot, hooks, etc., and a fishing reel or two. Yep, still all in one package. Of course, I’ve got way too many lures to do that. The box was designed to safely provide lure transportation, protection and access for the focused angler. There is no other box that can safely carry and protect 90 lures in an

organized, easy-to-find and easy-to-remove fashion. The box is high quality, durable, handsome in outdoor marine green color, fully functional, and affordable. The SpoonCrank Box helped to make me, a sometimes messy angler, appear quite organized and systematic.

While I am not usually that way, I have been trying to that my whole life! Worried about security? The box is lockable. You could chain it to your trunk or the boat deck if that was needed. The box is available in two sizes. Visit www.spooncrankbox.com to review size options or to order one.

The bottom line is that you can be a more effective and successful angler when you can find the lure and color pattern you are looking for when you need it. No wasted time.

Get out fishing with a new organized focus! I like this box.  

 

America is Rediscovering the Outdoors – RV Sales set New Records

FLORIDA KEYS, LOWER KEYS — Beach-front camping can be found throughout the Florida Keys. Campgrounds vary in size, with some capable of accommodating recreational vehicles, others only tents. Some sites offer lecture programs and guided nature walks conducted by park rangers. Photo by Bill Keogh/TDC/NewmanPR

  • Family Campfires set new pace for outdoor fun as RV Sales Skyrocket during Pandemic

By Bob Holzhei

Sales of recreational vehicles (RV’s) have skyrocketed during the pandemic, as people discover a safe way to embrace nature! Enjoying the outdoors while camping is a safe way to travel while social distancing during the post-coronavirus pandemic era.

There are a lot of first-time buyers as well as veteran campers wanting to upgrade and travel. Folks are tired of being “locked down.” Camping provides one safe way to maximize family time while controlling the environment. And yes, RVs are becoming harder to find, with companies on lockdown.

Each morning and evening, I went to the Manistee Lighthouse to capture the many moods of Lake Michigan. Bob Holzhei photo

According to the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), recreational vehicle sales were up more than 75 percent in May of this year. Many folks are discovering the joy of tent camping while cooking meals over a campfire. There’s something intrinsically worthwhile about enjoying the outdoors and getting back to nature. The RVIA adds, “The median annual usage of RVs is increasing from 20 to 25 days per year. This increase is indicative of the changing attitudes towards remote work and the ability for more people to be able to work from a destination more frequently than traditional vacation days afforded in the past.”

The author admits, that having a fresh fish for supper is an added bonus to camping.

Outdoor activities offer many benefits. A 40-minute walk each day reduces stress and calms people. 

I’ve camped in my backyard to experience a change of scenery. Camping at home allows me to think about things I need to take along on the first camping trip of the season. A picnic around a campfire in the backyard is a great way to wind down and discover a new perspective on life while slowing the pace of life down.  

Take a walk or hike as part of your daily routine, capture the memories by taking photos and share them later with friends and family.

Our family started camping with a nine-by-nine tent, eventually upgrading to a used pop-up camper, then a used Del-Ray pickup camper, which had a foot of floor missing by the entrance door. The $600 cost of the camper was affordable, and I repaired the flooring with a piece of steel and plywood. We owned this camper for 16-years before selling it for $400 to a gentleman who wanted the furnace and stove to place in his horse trailer. Tales can be told about that stove!

Eventually, a 26-foot new trailer was purchased, which had a bathroom in it. My wife was finally pleased to have indoor plumbing. The following RV was a 34.5-foot fifth-wheel followed by a drive-around 26-foot motor coach, which now allows us to explore the Wild West.

Many healthy outdoor opportunities await discovery while slowing down the pace of life.

 

Informational resource: https://www.rvia.org

Milford Lake offers Kansas Wonderland for Giant Crappie

Joe Bragg, operator of Thump 30 fishing guide service, scouted Milford Lake for spawning crappie.

Acorns Resort (www.acornsresortkansas.com) is on the Farnum Creek arm of Milford Reservoir, offering cabins, camping, pool, and a restaurant.

By David M. Zumbaugh, images by Jon Blumb

A generous offer for a guided May crappie fishing trip on a premier reservoir in Kansas buoyed my spirits after the restraining misery of the COVID-19 pandemic. Being a long-time member of the Outdoor Communicators of Kansas (OCK) has its privileges! The weather predicted for the weekend was invitingly mild, but was to be accompanied by the classic, relentless, gusting south wind. I packed an assortment of outdoor and camping gear and headed west to Milford Lake, the largest in Kansas, impounding 16,000 acres.

Milford Dam, seen from East Rolling Hills Park, which includes a swimming beach in the foreground, a playground, picnic shelters, two boat ramps, and lots of walk-in access to the water.

The first stop was an enlightening tour of the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism’s Milford Lake Fish Hatchery. Pioneering work on the propagation of striped bass, developed here, has been shared with other USA hatcheries to enhance the stocking of many lakes throughout the country, according to hatchery manager Daric Schneidwind.

Daric Schneidewind, Manager of the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism’s Milford Fish Hatchery, answered questions from members of the Outdoor Communicators of Kansas.

A tour of the Milford Fish Hatchery was given to the Outdoor Communicators of Kansas by Daric Schneidewind, Manager.

Walleye and other popular sport fishes are grown and distributed from this facility to aquatic impoundments. When they mature to keeper size, they put smiles of delight on many a Kansan face.

For supper, the OCK conference group was invited to an old-fashioned fish fry at Grandpa Boone’s Cabin (www.lakemilford.com) in Milford, Kansas. Ironically, the lake was named after this city, which had to be moved to a new location as the lake was created by damning the Republican River in 1967. Brad Roether is the proprietor of Grandpa Boone’s and the nearby Milford Tropics (a great place for a “cold one”) and the Mayor of Milford too!

Outdoor Communicators of Kansas held their spring business meeting, led by President Nick Neff, at a cabin at Acorns Resort.

It was rewarding to get reacquainted with OCK pals, meet new members, and interface with Michele Stimatze from the Geary County Convention and Visitors Bureau. Mike Miller, Assistant Secretary of the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, received a special award for his contributions to the Outdoor Communicators of Kansas.

After a scrumptious meal, our group gathered at Acorns Resort for more camaraderie and a “Bottled in Bond” bourbon tasting session.

Four selections of Kentucky whiskies were featured in a tasting conducted on Friday evening by member Rob McDonald.

While no one over imbibed, I doubt anyone can remember the favored rankings of selected spirits. This resort features cabins of various capacities, an RV park, yurts, boat rentals, The Cove Bar & Grill, and even an events center. A popular place for outdoor recreationists throughout the year for sure.

I arrived at my comfortable Army Corps property campsite at a reasonable hour, only to be disturbed by some happy campers until the wee hours. Unfortunate, as entrepreneur Roether promised to put me on a longbeard at an early hour the following day. He did not disappoint me. With clear eyes and intent mission, I stealthily conspired to slay a gobbler. For temptation, I placed my hen decoy in a newly planted field. 

Soon, two curious Toms espied the imposter and had a contest to see which could puff up the most disgraceful display of feathery testosterone; but the pageantry occurred just out of range. Unluckily, three white-tailed deer browsing for breakfast interrupted the ambush by wheezing and snorting, warning my quarry to safer quarters in the creek bottom. When hope for a turkey dinner faded, I dejectedly trudged out of the woods for a 9 AM rendezvous with Joe Bragg of Thump30 Guide Service (www.thump30.com) to pursue his specialty, crappies.

Photographer Jon Blumb and I were welcomed aboard Joe’s well-fitted, very comfortable boat and prepared to angle for speckled treasure. We did not have to wait long. Joe put us on fish almost immediately, and the bite was intense and frequent. With Buck’s graphite poles rigged with Z-Man jigs, the fish couldn’t resist. In just a few hours, we had enough fish in the cooler to keep us busy at the fillet table, a few whoppers exceeding two pounds.

Bucks Graphite Jig Pole, a favorite of Joe Bragg, is available in 8, 10 and 12 foot lengths.

Other OCK conference attendees were successful landing species Milford is renowned for, including smallmouth bass, walleye, and blue catfish. May is a prime time for hitting Kansas lakes, with both bank fishing and on-the-water opportunities plentiful.

Mike Miller, left, past Secretary/treasurer, received an award for service to the Outdoor Communicators of Kansas, presented by past President Brent Frazee, center, and President Nick Neff, right.

KDWP&T publishes a Fishing Atlas, providing access locations throughout the state, presenting bountiful opportunities regardless of your skill level or favorite fishy preferences. A search of the KDWP&T website will identify kids fishing clinics, always a novel way to introduce youth to the outdoors.

Kansas in spring is a wonderland. Hiking and biking trails abound, along with other popular outdoor pursuits. Paddle sports (kayaks and paddle boards) are gaining momentum with rentals available at various locations, including Council Grove Marina.

Saturday’s creel of crappie, from the boat guided by Joe Bragg, was ready to be cleaned and chilled at Grandpa Boone’s Cabin in Milford, Kansas.
Joe Bragg stretched one of his favorite favorite crappie baits, the Z-Man jig, to demonstrate its amazing strength.

Mushroom hunting in eastern Kansas can be outrageously good. May is a key month for bird migration, and all habitat types are represented, from deciduous forests and marshes to arid grasslands.

More than 450 species have been confirmed in Kansas. Did I mention wild turkeys? While fishing at Milford, bald eagles were competing with us, noisily complaining about our success.

So, get outside and take a field trip to the Sunflower State soon.

Contact Info:

Snake Boots FIGHT the SWEAT & the BITE

Lightweight Snake Boots that eliminate sweat! Irish Setter Boots.

Not many folks think about snake boots for hunting with sweat and scent control, but if you hunt or live in areas where the heat index soars to above 110 degrees, you really do need to consider this primary element for a successful hunting experience.

On this note, I found the MudTrek snake boots from Irish Setter to accomplish scent and sweat control for your feet while staying protected from venomous eastern diamondback rattlesnakes and cottonmouth water snakes that we have in Southwest Florida.

The Irish Setter TempSens technology helps regulate the temperature within the boot to maintain constant foot comfort. The system reacts, so moisture is hyper-wicked away from the foot in hot conditions, allowing for evaporative cooling. This helps keep feet cooler, drier and comfortable. In colder conditions, the system also pulls moisture from the skin but traps it to create a thermal barrier that helps maintain a constant, comfortable temperature inside the boot. Warm or cold, the ScentBan™ antimicrobial scent control helps eliminates odors within the boot. I found all-day underfoot comfort with these “safety boots” and excellent traction in slick or tough-walking terrain. The self-cleaning lugs help remove mud and dirt with every step. The vulcanized rubber upper design makes them waterproof and durable.

Also important, these snake boots are light, and they offer a traditional, roomier full fit with a wider leg and ankle openings. And, there is a convenient side zipper for easy on/off. I need that (I have big feet!). They are 17-inches high and are vulcanized rubber in a brown color boot design that features foot and lower leg comfort with resistance to fangs and thorns. These elements make the Irish Setter SnakeGuard boots the essential comfort tool for hunters and hikers in snake country. They cost about $230; visit www.irishsetterboots.com to learn more.

Wes Logan, Local Pro, Gets First Bassmaster Elite Series Victory At Neely Henry Lake

Wes Logan, of Springville, Ala., has won the 2021 Whataburger Bassmaster Elite at Neely Henry Lake with a four-day total of 57 pounds, 9 ounces.  Photo by James Overstreet/B.A.S.S.

In Gadsden, Alabama — Wes Logan said memories came flooding back to him throughout the Whataburger Bassmaster Elite at Neely Henry Lake.  That’s bound to happen when you’ve fished a place since you were 5 years old.

Logan now has countless new reasons to think fondly of his home water after claiming the tournament title here on Championship Monday. The 26-year-old from Springville, only a 30-mile drive from the Gadsden City Boat Docks, caught a four-day total of 20 bass weighing 57 pounds, 9 ounces. He capped the competition with a 14-1 limit Monday, the third-heaviest of the day.

Logan earned $100,000 for the win, his first in 26 B.A.S.S. events.

The second-year Elite Series angler charged into the lead on Day 3 with a 16-15 bag that tied for the heaviest of the tournament. That made him the last man to weigh in Monday and the only one with a chance to knock Connecticut pro Paul Mueller from the hot seat.

Logan peeked silently at the scale while his bass were weighed. When his winning total flashed on screen, he let out a victorious yell and pumped his right fist over his head. Then he hugged Mueller and hoisted his first blue trophy for his home-based fans to see.

“I started tournament fishing with my dad when I was 5,” Logan said. “We’d come here, Logan Martin and Weiss … I went into practice trying to not put pressure on myself. I wanted to fish like I’d never seen the place before. I wanted to figure out a pattern.”

Having an open mind, even on water he knows so well, was critical this week. Neely Henry was a difficult read for most of the 98 anglers who started the tournament on Friday, postponed by a day because of heavy rains earlier in the week. The storms sent the water table rising and shot sediment throughout the lake. The Elites scrambled to find stable water, many relying on junk fishing to see which lures and techniques produced the best bites.

A trio of lures worked best for Logan — a 5/8-ounce Dirty Jigs Matt Herren flipping jig (black/blue skirt) with a Zoom Big Salty sapphire blue Chunk; a Dirty Jigs No Jack swim jig with a Zoom Super Speed Craw trailer; and a frog, which he used to fill his Day 3 limit.

Logan started the tournament strongly, putting 14-1 on the board Friday, good enough for ninth place. He caught 12-8 on Day 2, climbing to eighth and surviving the cut to 48. He made his move on Day 3 with the 16-5 haul, pointing to a pair of unusual catches as the turning point.

“I caught two bass under a bridge right by the Gadsden City Boat Docks on a crankbait,” he said “I’m not a crankbait fisherman. It was about 11:30, and I only had two keepers at the time. But I caught a 2 1/2 there, and then two casts later, I caught a 5 1/4. I only got one more bite that day.

“When you get that kind of bite when you’re not supposed to, that let me know I had a chance to win. Stuff like that just doesn’t happen all the time.”

Logan didn’t divulge specifics on the crankbait, other than to say it’s specially painted, similar to a black/chartreuse combo.

“I keep that one in my hand around here,” he said. “It’s a confidence thing.”

Logan planned to fish down-lake from the start, but low water in that area made him choose otherwise. Each of the 20 bass he weighed was caught between Cove Creek and Minnesota Bend — both only a 10-minute run from the Gadsden City Boat Docks.

Mueller, meanwhile, went straight for the lower end of Neely Henry and found success. He seized the lead after Day 2 and was in second place going into Day 4, trailing Logan by just more than a pound. Mueller caught the heaviest bass of the tournament Monday, a 6-6 largemouth, but his 13-13 closing weight wasn’t enough to overtake Logan.

“My pattern went away today and I knew that would be the deal,” Mueller said. “I had to fish new water. I was able to catch some fish, and I had a good day. I’m glad at the way this turned out. As short as the morning bite was, I could have been sitting in sixth or seventh right now.”

Mueller caught his best bass, including the 6-6, on a Deps Evoke 2.0 squarebill crankbait (chartreuse/brown back). He earned an additional $2,000 for having the Phoenix Boats Big Bass on Day 4 and overall.

Alabama native Gerald Swindle caught the second-heaviest bag on Day 4 (a 15-0 limit) and finished third with 54-2 overall.

Mueller took home an additional $3,000 for being the highest-placing entrant in the Toyota Bonus Bucks program, and fourth-place finisher Jason Christie of Park Hill, Okla., earned $2,000 for being the second-highest placing entrant.

As part of the Yamaha Power Pay program, Logan earned $4,000 for winning while Christie claimed an additional $1,500 for being the second-highest placing entrant.

Minnesota pro Seth Feider finished 12th in the derby and didn’t qualify for Championship Monday, but he still left Gadsden with a commanding lead in the Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings. His season total of 525 points gives him a 41-point cushion over Patrick Walters of Summerville, S.C., (484) with three tournaments remaining.

Brock Mosley of Collinsville, Miss., is third with 464, followed by Brandon Palaniuk of Rathdrum, Idaho, with 462 and Christie with 457.

Bryan New of Belmont, N.C., is leading the Rookie of the Year standings with 372 points.

The City of Gadsden and the Greater Gadsden Area Tourism hosted the event.

2021 Bassmaster Elite Series Platinum Sponsor: Toyota

2021 Bassmaster Elite Series Premier Sponsors: Berkley, Humminbird, Mercury, Minn Kota, Nitro Boats, Power-Pole, Ranger Boats, Skeeter Boats, Yamaha

2021 Bassmaster Elite Series Supporting Sponsors: AFTCO, Bass Pro Shops, Garmin, Huk Performance Fishing, Marathon, Rapala

2021 Bassmaster Elite Series Conservation Partner: AFTCO

About B.A.S.S. – B.A.S.S., which encompasses the Bassmaster tournament leagues, events and media platforms, is the worldwide authority on bass fishing and keeper of the culture of the sport, providing cutting edge content on bass fishing whenever, wherever and however bass fishing fans want to use it. Headquartered in Birmingham, Ala., the 515,000-member organization’s fully integrated media platforms include the industry’s leading magazines (Bassmaster and B.A.S.S. Times), website (Bassmaster.com), TV show, radio show, social media programs and events. For more than 50 years, B.A.S.S. has been dedicated to access, conservation and youth fishing.

The Bassmaster Tournament Trail includes the most prestigious events at each level of competition, including the Bassmaster Elite Series, Basspro.com Bassmaster Opens Series, TNT Fireworks B.A.S.S. Nation Series, Carhartt Bassmaster College Series presented by Bass Pro Shops, Mossy Oak Fishing Bassmaster High School Series presented by Academy Sports + Outdoors, Bassmaster Team Championship, Bassmaster B.A.S.S. Nation Kayak Series powered by TourneyX and the ultimate celebration of competitive fishing, the Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk

Shark Tooth Hunting in the Peace River – Florida

Shark Teeth Anyone?! Ancient fossils that share a story of evolution.

  • Take a good cooler for food and beverages – protect yourself and friends from dehydration.
  • Gear includes a 15” x 24” gravel sifter, shovel and shark tooth collection jar.
  • Wear sneakers or beach shoes, pack a cell phone, emergency toilet paper, venom-extraction kit – and tell someone where you will be for the day. 

 

When carrying a sifting screen, shovel, sunscreen and food supplies, it was a VERY nice surprise to learn that our Grizzly cooler would float and was waterproof to internal storage!

By Forrest Fisher

Ever take a river-bound shark tooth hunting trip? It’s a treasure hunt adventure, but unlike any other hike you might ever take. Why? Because it’s a challenging hike – over logs, through cattails and swamp grass, through slimy mud, it’s a swim, and it’s a dig. It’s a sweaty workout, but it’s authentic deep south fun!  

A shovel used to spank the water surface to notify alligators and critters along the river that an apex predator is now on the scene, please go home. It works. We are rarely bothered.

There is something to be said for trusting one day of your life in sweltering Florida sunshine with a heat index of 109F, crossing a river with too much gear in hand, only to discover one special, sweet surprise. The beverages and food are ice cream cold in the cooler, and you learn that your GRIZZLY cooler is so durable and dry that you can drag it in the water – or use it as a float to take you safely downstream! It has an elastomeric seal to seal the exterior from the interior in a groove around the cover. Nothing outside gets in (including river water), and the cool ice stays inside, mostly un-melted, as we discovered. 

When I ordered the Grizzly 15, I looked for something not too big, but large enough to hold supplies stable and chilled for a one or two-day trip for two people, and light enough when fully loaded to be an easy carry. The Grizzly 15 is the perfect answer. At 12-pounds unloaded, it is lightweight and yet has a rugged, padded, adjustable shoulder strap that is actually comfortable. The rubber-like latches assure compartment integrity, and I found that the cover will not unsnap if you drop the cooler along the way on rocks or anything else. I liked that since I dropped the cooler about three times on our slippery hike through swamps and down the Peace River in Southwest Florida. We went in search of ancient fossilized shark teeth treasure. 

The worst part of the trip was discovering my wide-rimmed shovel weighed more than the cooler. The best part of the trip was finding out that the cooler would float high and dry when fully loaded for a day-long adventure. It made walking down the river easy! In bright orange color, it was also a potential life-saving color beacon. So on our short trip to this never-never land of Florida jungle with critters among us (a few snakes and gators), we found lunchtime security with our Grizzly. 

As we made our way in and out, we carried two gravel sifters, two shovels, a dry bag with our wallets, cell phones, a sidearm, a backpack, our cooler, shark teeth collection jars, a venom extraction kit, sunscreen, emergency toilet paper, a knife/plier tool, and we each had a Florida fossil collection permit from the Florida Program of Vertebrate Paleontology. Visit www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu/vertpaleo/home or call 353-273-1821 to obtain such a permit ($5 fee). 

Shoveling bottom material of sand/gravel into the sifting screen (1/4 inch mesh) allows identification of shark teeth…and lots of rocks too!

We collected over 1,500 shark teeth during our one-day trip. The teeth gods looked were favorable upon us! Finding where to dig for teeth involves walking the river and searching out the bottom with your feet for an area that offers a sand-gravel mix. A few shovel scoops and a quick sift will reveal if we should spend more or less time at that spot. It’s fun, it’s a workout, and it’s always an adventure. Tim Snyder is an expert at shark tooth hunting; he runs a business entitled Shark Art by Clark. You can find him on eBay or Etsy with prices so low that it amazes me (about $5 for 30 teeth, which can include a shark tooth necklace!). Snyder says, “All of my teeth for sale are real fossilized shark teeth. They mostly come from the Miocene Epoch (5 million to about 25 million years ago), and orders can include teeth from Hammerhead, Lemon, Tiger, Whaler sharks. Whaler sharks include Bull, Reef, Dusky, Black Tip and Whitetip sharks. Whaler shark teeth are difficult to identify as their teeth are very similar, but most people just call them Bull shark teeth. They’re all pretty cool looking.”

Placing your hand beneath the sifter will allow for easier finding of the shark teeth. Can you find the 2 in this picture?

Besides the pride we took in finding so many shark teeth, the other best part of the trip was using the Grizzly 15 cooler product.

Better yet, the cooler is made in the USA, and if it ever does break, it carries a lifetime warranty.

We thought that was pretty cool, too. Find them online at www.grizzlycoolers.com. We had filled it with six water bottles, four beers, two sandwiches, and two bags of chips—no dehydration or starvation in the day plan. 

We also carry a Sawyer Extractor Kit in the event we need it for a bee sting, wasp encounter, snake bite, spider bite, or the rest.

The kits are small in size, affordable (around $15), and can be used with one hand; no razor blade is needed.

Get out and enjoy the outdoors! 

 

 

 

 

These were about half of the shark teeth we discovered on this one trip to the Peace river near Zolfo Springs, Florida. Fun times!

Branson Fishing Lakes rank among BEST-IN-AMERICA

The Tri-Lakes area of southwest Missouri and northern Arkansas includes fishing hotspot waters, including Lake Taneycomo, Table Rock Lake and Bull Shoals Lake.

  • World class fishing is found everyday in the famous Tri-Lakes region of southwest Missouri.
  • Lake Taneycomo, Table Rock Lake & Bull Shoals Lake offer trout, bass, crappie, walleye, catfish, perch and more.
  • Visitors discover affordable family fun, family fishing, family entertainment and restful accommodations. 

Big trout live here, including this 40-pound 6-ounce Missouri State Record Brown Trout from Lake Taneycomo.

By Larry Whiteley

Where can you go and fish three different lakes for 23 different species of fish in one trip? The answer is Branson, Missouri. Located in the famous Tri-Lakes area of southwest Missouri and northern Arkansas, this family fishing hotspot includes Lake Taneycomo, Table Rock Lake and Bull Shoals Lake. All have been ranked among the best fishing lakes in America. In 2018, Branson was named #1 in ”Top 10 Lake Towns,” then in 2020 was ranked #2 in ”Top Affordable U.S. Lake Towns” by www.realtor.com.

Wrapping around the eastern border of Branson is Lake Taneycomo, renown as the “Trout Capital of America.” It is internationally known for world-class rainbow and brown trout fishing. The Missouri state record brown trout was broken twice in 2019 with a 34-pound 10-ounce fish, followed seven months later with a 40-pound 6-ounce brown. The world record is 42 pounds 1 ounce and was caught in New Zealand. In 1997, a dead brown trout was found floating in Taneycomo that was 41.75 inches long, and based on those measurements, it would have weighed over 44 pounds. Will the next world record come from Lake Taneycomo? The fabulous trout fishing is not the only great fishing that Taneycomo offers. The diverse fishery also features catfish, crappie, bass, sunfish and walleye that all thrive in the cold, nutrient-rich waters.

Massive fish thrive in the Tri-Lakes region, like this 65-pound 10-ounce Missouri State Record Striped Bass from Bull Shoals Lake.

Tasty yellow perch are among colorful fish to be caught here. This 2-pound 7-ounce Yellow Perch was taken from Bull Shoals Lake, it’s a Missouri State Record.

Table Rock Lake is also a big part of the fishing and fun in the Branson area, with shorelines covering both Missouri and Arkansas. When I say big, I do mean BIG! The 43,100-acre reservoir has excellent bass fishing year-round and is annually ranked in Bassmaster Magazine’s 100 Best Bass Lakes listing. If you have dreamed of catching the “Triple Crown of Bass” (largemouth, smallmouth, spotted), this is the place you could make it happen. White bass are also in these waters, so I guess if you caught one of them along with the other three, you would have a “Grand Slam of Bass.” There are also a limited number of striped bass, but I have no idea what you would call it if you caught one along with the other four. A miracle, I guess, and something you can tell your grandkids about. In addition to all the bass species available in Table Rock waters, there are also white and black crappie, walleye, goggle-eye, channel catfish, flathead catfish, carp, bluegill and longear sunfish. If you are into catching something really different, Table Rock is also home to ancient paddlefish.

Bull Shoals Lake is a short drive from Branson, and like Table Rock, is in both Missouri and Arkansas. It, too, is nationally known for its excellent bass fishing. Largemouth weighing up to 12-pounds have been caught here. There is also hybrid bass, smallmouth bass spotted bass, stripe bass, and white bass too. Bull Shoals is not known for hybrid bass, but a local angler recently caught a state record 29-pound 1-ounce hybrid that might very well also be a line-class world record if it passes all the judging criteria. A 65-pound, 10-ounce state record striped bass was also taken from these waters. Bull Shoals is also nationally recognized as a fabulous walleye lake. The Missouri state record at 21-pounds, 1-ounce came from Bull Shoals. Crappie fishing is also popular and, if you’re into catfishing, there’s plenty of those too. There are a limited number of rainbow trout and a few of the historic paddlefish here. Another fish in Bull Shoals, and conservation folks are not sure how they got there, is the yellow perch. This species is very popular in America’s northern lakes and in Canadian waters. The Missouri state record is 2-pounds, 7-ounces, which is a good size for this good-tasting cousin of the walleye.

Besides fishing, there are many family fun things to do in this beautiful area of America. Go to www.explorebranson.com and check it all out for yourself, then come explore all that Branson, Missouri has to offer for fishermen and families. For additional information regarding travel or accommodations, you may also  contact the Branson Visitors Bureau by phone: 1-800-296-0463 . 

Rare Gulf Sturgeon caught in the Surf – near Orange Beach, Alabama

David A. Rose with a rare Gulf sturgeon caught in the surf at Orange Beach, Alabama.

  • Weighing 120-130 pounds, the rare fish fought for 40-minutes, was landed, then was carefully unhooked, and safely released alive and well.
  • Gear: Penn Battle II – 5000 series spinning reel, 8-ft Penn Battle II surf fishing rod, 20-lb Silver Thread mono, 40-lb test shock leader, and a Dusty Hayes Pomp Rig w-1/0 Circle hooks.
  • Secret: Live ½ shrimp bait, wrapped to hook w/Atlas Mike’s Spawn Net & Magic Thread.

Story by the angler, David A. Rose

When it comes to surf fishing the freshwater beaches of the Great Lakes and inland lakes near my home in the Traverse City, MI area, I can usually hold my own. On the other hand, when it comes to casting and proper fishing in saltwater, I’m an apprentice.

Ever so slowly, though, I learn something new about surf fishing in the Gulf of Mexico. The sugar-sand near Orange Beach, AL, provided the fun. The date was March 6, 2021, and my regular morning catch included the usual whiting, croakers, flounder, Gofftopsail catfish, and the like. Then at about 11:35, one of my two rods signaled another tell-tale hit. The day was about to change! About 40-minutes later, after coming close to spooling me twice, this fish, a Gulf sturgeon over 6-feet in length – a fish with prehistoric roots – was tailed, beached, and released.

This particular fish—one of the rarest species on earth and protected by the Endangered Species Act–would likely have been the all-time world-record catch for hook and line. No one on hand recorded any official length or girth before the behemoth was unhooked and freed to swim away, no worse for wear. I didn’t want to take any chances of injuring the fish.

To get an idea of the sturgeon’s length, I spread out my arms—which have a span of about 6 feet. The nose and tail of the fish were both well beyond my reach. I tried rolling the fish over to remove the hook from its mouth, but it was too heavy. The fish was on the sand, it was impossible to move the fish without possibly harming it, and I estimated that it weighed 120 – 130 pounds. It wasn’t until a large rogue wave rolled in that I was able to gain enough leeway to swing the tail so it could swim out. It still had the hook secured in the mouth, but thankfully, it could swim out, taking about another 100 feet of line with it. I reeled the giant in once more, this time to water about 2 feet deep. That’s when the fish could be turned belly up, and I was able to finally remove the hook.

The rig I used was a hand-tied “Dusty’s Pomp Rig – 2/Drop,” with multi-colored floats made by Dusty Hayes of Sam’s Bait & Tackle, of Orange Beach, AL. The fish ate half of a live shrimp that I purchased from nearby Lost Bay Tackle & Guide Service and I had wrapped with Atlas Mike’s Spawn Net & Magic Thread in orange color.

The fish ate half of a live shrimp purchased from Lost Bay Tackle & Guide Service in Orange Beach that I had wrapped with Atlas Mike’s Spawn Net & Magic Thread. It’s a neat trick that kept the bait tight to the hook during the cast, allowing the scent and sight of the bait to work as it should. The rig was a hand-tied “Dusty’s Pomp Rig – 2/Drop,” with multi-colored floats made by Dusty Hayes of Sam’s Bait & Tackle, also of Orange Beach. The rig is comprised of 20-pound-test Momoi Diamond monofilament and size-1/0 Mustad circle hooks. I fished the rig in the building surf with a 4-ounce pyramid sinker.

The rig is comprised of 20-pound-test Momoi Diamond monofilament and size-1/0 Mustad circle hooks. Mamoi photo

As for my gear, the reel was a 5000 Penn Battle II spinning reel spooled with 20-pound-test Silver Thread AN-40 monofilament, tied up a 20-foot shock leader of 40-pound-test Berkley Big Game mono. I used a Uni-to-Uni knot to bring those lines together. The rod was an 8-foot graphite moderate-fast-action Penn Battle II surf spinning rod rated for 12- to 25-pound mono. As a combination rig, it was enough to subdue the goliath.

Before getting a good look at the fish, there was no doubt in my mind that I had hooked some species of shark. But when its back broke the surface, there was no dorsal fin. By the time the fish was reeled in, over 100 spectators had gathered. When the fish started to tire, an onlooker—who, it was obvious, had some knowledge of fishing—tried tailing it for me. The armor plating of the fish was too slick. So, I asked my wife, Carol, to hand him my Rapala Fisherman’s Gloves. These allowed him to get a firm grip. That’s when the Sturgeon was able to be beached.

An educated guess, at the time, had me thinking the fish was an endangered species. So, I made sure the head and gills stayed in the surf while I posed for a very quick photo and checked for any tags. None of the latter were found.

Earlier that day, I had chosen my casts in the 2- to 3-foot surf along a section of a riptide that was flowing into the Gulf, thinking it would be an area fish would congregate to forage on bait wafting out with the current. My guess was correct. This particular fish was hooked out front of the Phoenix VI condominiums, about ½ mile west of the Perdido Pass jetty.

Gulf Sturgeon reside in the Mississippi Delta and east along Florida’s Gulf side. Via social media, a few people stated they’ve seen Sturgeon breaching at the mouth of Perdido Pass. After another post about this catch on the Alabama Gulf Coast Surf Fishing Facebook page, I hoped that local biologists might become aware of the catch. The ploy worked.

I discovered that the Gulf sturgeon is an anadromous fish (living in saltwater but spawning in freshwater). “Overall, these rare fish spawn in the freshwater rivers of the Gulf region in spring,” says Jeff Powell, assistant field supervisor from the Alabama Ecological Services Field Office for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Powell added, “Our studies are showing there may be a few that migrate and spawn in the fall, as well. The Gulf sturgeon you landed is most definitely a once-in-a-lifetime catch.”

The one thing I love most about fishing saltwater? You never know what species you’ll hook next. This fish, a species so rare to even see let alone catch, is proof of that.

Shipwreck Fishing in Southwest Florida – Red Grouper and Snapper Fun

Red Grouper fun in Southwest Florida. Rod, reels, rigs and how.

  • Fish: Red Grouper, Lane Snapper, Vermillion Snapper….30+ miles out
  • Rig: 200# test braid, 80# fluoro leader, 10-oz slip-sinker, 9/0 Gamakatsu Circle Hook
  • Bait: live shrimp, live sand perch, frozen squid, frozen ballyhoo

Nick Weaver with one of the healthy red grouper we landed while fishing not far from a sunken offshore shipwreck.

By Forrest Fisher

The hi-energy growl of the 400 Hp Mercury Verado coming out of the hole is a beautiful sound. As we departed the Placida boat launch, Nick Weaver brought the flared high-bow of his 26-ft Caymas (boat) up to plane quickly. We were soon skipping along at a humble 25 miles per hour in Lemon Bay and then made the turn west as we slid past Little Gasparilla Island into the Gulf of Mexico.

Controlled boat positioning is among primary keys to offshore bottom-fishing success.

It was a relatively calm day. The open seas forecast of one to three feet looked good as Nick moved the throttle forward and kicked the boat into high speed. I looked over to fishing partner, Marty Poli; he had a broad smile on his face as we both reversed our hats, rims to the rear. The boat came to cruising speed as Nick set the Raymarine electronics to autopilot for the destination 36 miles out: the Bayronto shipwreck. After surviving a U-boat torpedo attack in 1917, the 400-foot-long Bayronto ship went down during a hurricane while traveling to Tampa in 1918. In our modern times, more than 100 years later, the fuselage has become a fish-attracting magnet for anglers (and divers) that make the offshore trip. Forage and predators abound! Nick still had to consider the gently rolling swells that were about 200-feet apart on this calm day, so he slowed the boat down to 35 mph. Even at that, it didn’t take long to get there.

We all talked on the way out. Nick shared rig details, gear options and what we had for bait selections. Then he offered the fish plan to identify our goals.  We were going to first focus on the wreck for yellowtail snapper, after that, the bottom-feeding, reef-dwelling, red grouper. If time allowed, we would then target amberjack after that. We all grinned a bit as he said,” Why not? We have the whole day!”

The plan was to stop short of the wreck to catch live sand perch, known locally as squirrel fish, for bait. In 88 feet of water, Nick deployed the MinnKota Ulterra, and we zeroed in on the bottom for a bait school. Hitting anchor lock, the boat stopped and stabilized, maintaining our location. We delved into the bait well, where there was 18-dozen beautiful live shrimp (TNT Bait & Tackle, El Jobean, FL). Cutting the shrimp in half, we used lighter Penn rods equipped with open-face Penn Fiarce II 5000 series reels, 65# braid, 35# fluoro leader, 3 oz hot-pink hog ball (Captain Chappy).

After we caught some bait, along with some vermillion snapper, lane snapper, and other species like blowfish and remora, we moved onto the wreck. It was time to the Penn Battle II 6000 series rod and reel, 80# braid, 40# fluoro, 6 oz slip-sinker, 3/0 Gamakatsu circle hook (Fish’n Frank’s Bait and Tackle, Port Charlotte, FL).

On a sunny day without shore in sight, we enjoyed many fun moments of “Fish On!”

On the first drop, I had removed the shell from half-a-tail of shrimp – an old friend told me that the fish will eat that no-shell shrimp bait faster – from pure scent attraction. It hit bottom in short order. Not 5-seconds later, I held the rod in my hand when the rod tip dipped swiftly into the water from a vicious strike. I yelled, “Fish on!” The reel drag was pretty tight but was screaming. The fish was swimming so fast, going away in the opposite direction. It was a throbbing, bobbing action on the rod tip. My hands were wet from the shrimp and I was worried about the rod slipping away. I gripped the rod tighter as this fish was massive in strength. Nick hollered, “You got a big mangrove snapper! There might be amberjack here, you might have one of those.” A few moments later, the line snapped, my fish was gone. My heart was beating so fast! “Ugh,” I groaned. “I lost it.” Nick said, “Reel in Forrest, let’s see what she did.” The brand new Spectra braided line was sheared and was ragged at the breakpoint where the fish had apparently headed for the safety of the wreck on the bottom. “Whatever you had, it was huge,” Nick added.” We’ve got lots more hooks and sinkers, tie one on.” This was going to be a fun fishing day!

We moved from that spot to stop at three different places before finding what Nick called “live bottom.:

Here we discovered a rock-hard bottom (w/coral-like caves) surrounded by bottom growth all around the spot, and, of course, this was home for a large school of red grouper and various multiple snapper species.

After you locate a “live-bottom,” maybe the most challenging part of the fishing plan, enjoy the catching. Once you find such a spot, save the GPS location to your electronic memory.

We switched fishing rigs to level-wind Penn Fathom II line-counter reels (FTHII30LWLC) with matching Penn Carnage II rods (Fish’n Frank’s Bait & Tackle, Port Charlotte, FL). Our connection to the fish was not fragile. The reels were filled with 200# test braid, with a 10-ounce slip-sinker to a 200# swivel, then a 5-foot long 80# Yozuri fluorocarbon leader, all terminating to a 9/0 Gamakatsu circle hook. Nice rig. So powerful. We would discover that this rod-reel rig was such a powerful workhorse set up as we hooked and landed more than 50 fish in the next 3 hours.

A 10-ounce slip-sinker, 200# swivel, and a 9/0 Gamakatsu circle hook…that was the hot rig.

The target fish (red grouper) were big, were plentiful, and the best part, they were hungry. It didn’t take long before we ran out of our live bait perch, but Nick’s emergency backup planning paid off with his last-second find of frozen ballyhoo (10-12 inches) at the bait shop. These worked as good as our diminished supply of live sand perch.

We each kept our fish limits, and thanks to Nick’s knowledge and investment in an air bladder venting tool (www.oherofishing.com) and a descending device called a SeaQualizer (https://seaqualizer.com/product/seaqualizer-descending-device/), we also safely released everything else to live another day. With the fish we kept, Nick provided colored plastic tie-wraps to identify whose fish was theirs and make it easy to remove the harvested fish from the fish well – it saves the fingertips. Saltwater fish have big sharp teeth.

The venting tool allows the angler to simply expel the fish’s air bladder so it can swim back to the bottom. The SeaQualizer is equipped with a jaw clamp that connects to the fish and allows the fish to be securely descended and safely released at a predetermined depth of 50, 100 or 150 feet using a secondary fishing line rig with a heavyweight. All that without venting the air bladder. Conservation at its finest!

The venting tool was used to exhaust the bloated air bladders to allow the fish to swim back to bottom in the deep water.

As the sea winds began to change direction and kick up a bit, we decided to stow the Ulterra and head home for a fun time of fish-cleaning. We had a healthy supply of fish to fillet. Nothing can replace the fun (and sweat) of reeling in these hard-fighting red grouper. Our legal grouper limits of fish ran from 23 to 27 inches in size and were quite heavy.

Vermillion snapper, lane snapper and other species were among the catch.

The grouper fillet slabs were about two-inches thick, and my wife suggested we slice them in half to make grouper sandwiches. We vacuum-packed the slab harvest of grouper and snapper to keep them unspoiled for future delicacy meals.

The moral of this story is simple: Use adequate gear (rods/reels/line/MinnKota Ulterra) without disturbing the bottom.

After you locate a “live-bottom,” maybe the most challenging part of the fishing plan, enjoy the catching! Once you find such a spot, save the GPS location to your electronic memory. Tried and true deep holes are usually repeatable all year long. Some of the best spots are rocky, snag-filled and rough in structure content. Use new leaders and replace them often. Remember that fluorocarbon leaders are much more durable than braided line. Don’t believe that? Ask Josh Olive, charter captain and publisher of the weekly Sun-News Waterline Newspaper Magazine (https://www.yoursun.com/coastal/boatingandfishing/), to demonstrate. I was surprised too. We never stop learning.

Visit the brand new Fish’n Franks location (4425-D Tamiami Trail, Port Charlotte, FL, 33980, 941-625-3888, https://fishinfranks.com/) for advice and gear. Don’t forget to carry a sharp knife, pair of needle-nose pliers, hook-remover, sunscreen, sunglasses, a wide-brim hat and lots of bottled water. Dehydration is common on offshore trips.

One last note, Marty and I never stop learning from Nick Weaver. The deep waters we fished were probably never fished by anyone else ever before. Imagine that?! Nick has a passion for healthy water, healthy people, working hard, sharing knowledge and natural resource conservation. Let’s all never stop fighting for clean water. Might be good to start that all of us learn about and understand more about the outflow of Lake Okeechobee, maybe put it back to the way nature wanted it. The Everglades depend on it.  There’s so much more to know.  Visit Captains for Clean Water, please: https://captainsforcleanwater.org/.  We gotta save and restore our ecosystems.

Tight lines, everyone!

Marty Poli enjoys the red grouper fishing fun in Southwest Florida. 

A Talk with Dad

  • Was it the owls and crickets, or the stream flowing nearby…that brought dad back into mind?
  • The old days and the days of today, there was love in both places, but so different.
  • It’s something about campfire smoke in the morning at sunrise, it makes your eyes wanna cry.

By Larry Whiteley   

He woke up from a good night’s sleep and lay there in his tent, listening to owls hooting and crickets chirping. For some reason, he got to thinking about his Dad. “Haven’t done that in a long time,” he thought to himself. He slipped out of his sleeping bag, put on some clothes, and went out into the early morning.

There were still a few hot coals in the campfire, so he added some kindling, blew on the coals, and the fire came to life again. He gradually added bigger sticks until the fire was ready for his coffee pot on the grate. As he waited, he looked up to see stars still twinkling and listened to the sounds of flowing water in the nearby creek. He enjoyed his time alone in the outdoors, but he was beginning to miss his wife and family.

Maybe that’s why his Dad kept sneaking into his thoughts that morning. His Dad had been gone for many years, but there were things he needed to say to him and never had. It was a good time to do that. To tell him something that had been in his heart and mind for a long, long time. And, no one was around to think he was crazy talking to someone that wasn’t there.  

You know, Dad, I don’t remember you ever telling me you loved me. I don’t remember you ever putting your arms around me and hugging me. I’m sorry, but it’s hard for me to tell you I love you when I never heard or felt it from you. I realize now that your father never did that with you, so you didn’t know-how. That’s probably the way he grew up, so he didn’t know how either.

All I remember about Grandpa is he never smiled. He never seemed happy. I guess his Dad was probably that way, too, so not showing someone you loved them got passed down to you. I wish it had been different, but it wasn’t. Excuse me for a minute, smoke from this campfire must have got in my eyes.

I do remember the only time you took me fishing. You and my other Grandpa took me along to the river with you. But you never let me fish and never tried to show me how. I do remember getting in trouble for throwing rocks in the water. I also remember the turtle I hid from you because I was afraid if you found out I snuck it back home with me, I would get in trouble again.

That was when we lived with Grandma and Grandpa down on the farm. I don’t remember you doing much with me as I grew up there. You worked for the railroad and were gone a lot. Mom worked in town, and grandma was always busy helping with chores and cooking our meals. At least she would take the time to put her arms around me and kiss me on the head once in a while. I loved her smile. Grandpa had to milk the cows, feed the pigs, butcher the hogs, cut and put up the hay, fix what was broken, and a lot of other stuff, so he didn’t have much time for me either.

When I was young, I spent a lot of time by myself wandering the fields and forests around the farm. I remember pretending to be a soldier like you were. My imagination had me fighting the Germans. When I wasn’t fighting them, I was dodging arrows from the Indians and riding off on my horse. You weren’t around to see me doing that, Dad.

When I got old enough to help around the farm, I gathered the eggs for grandma and helped her pluck the chickens. Grandpa taught me how to milk the cows by hand and take a bucket to the spring to haul water back for grandma. He never said thanks, but at least I got a pat once in a while. That’s something I never got from you, Dad, but I know you were busy working. Wow, smoke’s getting in my eyes again.

Two things happened during that time that would eventually end up being a big part of my life. When I got my work done, Grandpa would let me use his old fishing rod, and I went off and taught myself how to fish. Later he let me use his old .22 rifle, and I became a hunter. The love I was seeking from you, I found in the great outdoors. 

Were you proud of me when I joined the military, Dad? I wrote you, but I don’t think I got any letters back. Guess you were too busy. I’ll be right back. This campfire smoke is nasty. Got to blow my nose and wipe my eyes.

O.K., where was I? Oh yeah, were you there when I got married? I don’t remember that either. Like you, I made mistakes too, and for that, I am deeply sorry. God forgave me, and I forgive you, Dad. 

My wife and I tell our kids and grandkids we love them, and we hug them. That’s important in today’s world. They have grown up fishing, hunting, camping, and in church. It has helped shape them into the good adults and young people they are. They have a lot of happy memories. Our kids have passed it on to their kids, and they too will pass it on to their kids and grandkids. You will be glad to know that the chain is broken. What a better world it would be if all kids grew up knowing that they are loved. It would be even better if kids grew up learning to enjoy God’s great outdoors and all it has to offer. It changes lives.

Well, I have to go now. My son and grandson will be here in a little while, and we’re going fishing. I’m glad we had this talk, Dad. I’ve been needing to do this for a long time. 

He finished his coffee, wiped his eyes one last time, smiled, and started getting his fishing stuff together.

 

 

Ducks and Gators forge new Wetlands Preserve Partnership

Photo by the Late Joe Forma, a life-long supporter of wildlife conservation.

  • Ducks Unlimited and the University of Florida work together for conservation at the DeLuca Preserve
  • Land donated to the University of Florida by Elisabeth Deluca

Photo by the Late Joe Forma, a life-long supporter of wildlife conservation.

Thanks to the tremendous generosity of Elisabeth DeLuca, more than 27,000 acres of iconic Florida prairie and wetlands habitat have been permanently protected through a unique partnership between Ducks Unlimited (DU) and the University of Florida.

The land was donated to the University of Florida by Elisabeth Deluca, and a conservation easement was set up through DU’s land trust – Wetlands America Trust. The easement will protect important wildlife habitat and natural values on the property in perpetuity.

“This Kissimmee Prairie landscape is in the Everglades headwaters, yet at the edge of central Florida’s tourism and development core and is now a permanently protected piece of the conservation puzzle,” said DU CEO Adam Putnam. “For generations to come, students and researchers will make new discoveries alongside migrating waterfowl, endangered red cockaded woodpeckers and grasshopper sparrows on this massive outdoor laboratory. Future ranchers, water-fowlers, nature lovers and wildlife scientists will be able to apply what they’ve read in textbooks to what they’re observing on the landscape, thanks to Elisabeth DeLuca. This partnership between the University of Florida and Ducks Unlimited benefits waterfowl, wildlife and millions of Floridians who value clean water and the protection of the natural landscape.”

This property will continue to be grazed using sustainable methods, thereby protecting its grasslands, one of the most threatened ecosystems in the country. Rates of grassland conversion in the U.S. have continued at a rapid pace, with a significant portion lost to non-agricultural uses.

“Elisabeth DeLuca’s generous contribution of such a significant property is a gift to all Floridians and really, to people everywhere,” said UF President Kent Fuchs. “The preservation of this land and what it will enable our scholars to learn, teach and achieve will reverberate around the globe.”

Through a multi-faceted partnership, DU and the University of Florida will utilize the property for education, outdoor engagement and working-lands conservation, including the training of future generations of natural resource and agriculture professionals in a living laboratory. The easement serves as a perfect launching pad for Ducks Unlimited’s expanding conservation programs in Florida. While this is the first conservation easement held by DU and WAT in Florida, DU has conserved more than 33,000 acres in the state through other programs. This easement is also the largest in the history of Ducks Unlimited.

“Located between a global tourism destination, with the Turnpike as a boundary, the DeLuca Preserve is an epic win for conservation, and an international model for research, education and outreach,” Putnam said.

This property, along with other state and federal lands, comprise 250,000 acres of protected areas of the Northern Everglades Headwaters which is an important ecosystem for wildlife corridors, watershed protection, flood mitigation and endangered species habitat. Livestock grazing is a highly compatible and economically important management strategy on this landscape.

The Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s Outdoor Fund provided critical funding via the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida to help endow Ducks Unlimited’s permanent conservation easement and other costs associated with this once-a-generation gift of land.

“We’re thrilled to partner with Ducks Unlimited and the University of Florida to help conserve this outstanding habitat, which will serve as a national model showcasing how wildlife management, water conservation and ranching can thrive together,” said Bob Ziehmer, Senior Director of Conservation at Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s. “We are grateful to our customers who, by rounding up purchases in our stores and online to the Outdoor Fund, directly support key conservation projects like this.”

Ducks Unlimited Inc. is the world’s largest nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving North America’s continually disappearing waterfowl habitats. Established in 1937, Ducks Unlimited has conserved almost 15 million acres thanks to contributions from more than a million supporters across the continent. Guided by science and dedicated to program efficiency, DU works toward the vision of wetlands sufficient to fill the skies with waterfowl today, tomorrow and forever. For more information on our work, visit www.ducks.org.

Colored Egg Sacs and Mag-Lip Lures catching fish in Lower Niagara River/Lake Ontario

Dave Mika of Tonawanda, NY, with a lake trout he caught while fishing out of Olcott.

  • Niagara Falls USA Fishing Forecast for Wednesday, March 31, 2021 from Destination Niagara USA

Capt. Ryan Shea of Tonawanda, NY, with a Niagara Bar lake trout. 

Happy Easter! April 1 is the traditional opener of the state’s inland trout fishing season. Of course, this does not include Great Lakes tributaries (they are open all year). However, it does include Gill Creek, Hyde Park Lake and Oppenheim Park Pond. Due to COVID-19 concerns, the state will not be announcing a specific time and date for when fish will be stocked. One way to keep tabs is to call the fish stocking hotline at 358-2050 to see when fish are stocked after the fact. They are usually stocked the first week in April. The NYPA Fishing Platform, including the elevator and the fish cleaning station, should be open starting April 1. Check the hotline at 286-6662 to see the status. The upper reservoir and the water intakes in the upper river are both open as well. Some mixed smelt reports in the lower river. We heard of one decent report prior to the water changing color, but most are coming up empty. Water temps are good and there are an awful lot of lanterns on the Canadian shoreline across the river.

Dave Mika of Tonawanda, NY, with a lake trout he caught while fishing out of Olcott.

Water clarity took a serious hit in the Niagara River after the wind and rain last week. With more wind and rain in the forecast, it will continue to have an impact on fishing success. Mike Ziehm of Niagara Falls reports that he was down in the gorge this week and found 1-1/2 feet of visibility. He did manage to catch a small female steelhead using an orange/chartreuse No. 5 spinner. There should be some fresh fish around when the water starts to clear. Boaters have really been struggling, but a few fish have been caught on live bait like minnows and plugs like MagLips. Brightly colored egg sacs are also producing a fish here and there, which is what Capt. Joe Marra of Lewiston was using last weekend down river Anthony Gomez Jr. and Sr. from West Seneca. Capt. Steve Drabczyk of Lewiston found some steelhead in Devil’s Hole.

For Lake Ontario, the kings are starting to hit off St. Catharines, Ontario, according to reports this week, which means it will not be long before kings will find their way off the Niagara Bar, Wilson, and Olcott.

Mark Mika of Newfane reports that he wanted to share some early season action out of Olcott. He boated 15 Lakers, all big healthy fish, fishing with his brother Dave of Tonawanda and Paul Karelus of Williamsville. They were fishing in 60 to 65 feet of water between Olcott and Somerset using spoons and homemade body baits. A dozen were taken on an old Sammy Pac 07 that he repurposed for some added fun.

Capt. Richard Brant of Tonawanda was out on the Niagara Bar fishing for lakers this week and he got into them well trolling east in 65-75 feet of water on spoons with chartreuse and gold colors.

Evan Dietter of Ancramdale, NY, with a lake trout he caught in the lower Niagara River fishing with Capt. Steve Drabczyk of Lewiston.

Todd Ceisner with In-Fisherman was out trying to jig up bass and lake trout last week while fishing with Capt. Frank Campbell in the river and out in Lake Ontario. He pulled a walleye from the river that was released immediately, and then had several hits on lake trout using a jig tipped with a plastic smelt imitation. Swim baits worked the best.

Karen Evarts at The Boat Doctors reports that steelhead fishing has been good at Burt Dam. Egg sacs or egg imitations like beads. Action was good off the piers but slowed after recent storm activity.

Capt. Vince Pierleoni of Newfane,NY, with a big Lake Ontario lake trout he caught off Olcott.

Scott Feltrinelli with Ontario Fly Outfitters to his first smallmouth of the year last weekend with some customers. After that last rain, lake run trout are dropping back and out of the system while smallmouth have started moving in. It is a slow pick of scattered singles in the tributaries now.

The Niagara County Bullhead Tournament is coming up April 9-11. This is a shore fishing only event, with anglers vying for the best 2 bullheads total weight to win the prizes. The contest starts at 5 p.m. on April 9. Weigh in on April 11 at the Wilson Conservation Club from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. when the tourney ends. For more info call Eric at 628-6078.

 

Frank Campbell – Director, Outdoor Promotions

Destination Niagara USA
10 Rainbow Blvd.
Niagara Falls, NY 14303
p: 1-877 FALLS US | 716-282-8992 x. 303
We know that brighter days are ahead. Until then, let us be your destination of hope. Click here for our video message.

Bass Bite Begins – Steelhead, Lake Trout and Browns offer Tough Bite in Lower Niagara River

Brendan Walsh of Niagara Falls with a lower Niagara River smallmouth on a jigging spoon.

  • Warm weather has encouraged anglers to visit waterways in boats and from shore.
  • Lack of rain and runoff have allowed extremely clear water conditions – it’s a tough bite on those days.
  • Lake trout, steelhead, brown trout and smallmouth bass have all been landed by fishermen, though. 
  • Niagara Falls USA Fishing Forecast for Wednesday, March 24, 2021 from Destination Niagara USA

Andrew Bartlett of Lockport with a steelhead from the lower river he caught fishing with Capt. Vince Pierleoni of Newfane. 

Unseasonably high temperatures have brought out the fishermen to the streams and on Lake Ontario. Some boats have started to work the waters in the main lake. Remember that if your boat is less than 21 foot in length, everyone on board should have a personal flotation device on (wearing it) until May 1.

Capt. Joe Oakes of Newfane reports he did well catching brown trout and lake trout out of Olcott last Sunday. The lake is warming up already, at 36 to 38 degrees. The brown trout fishing now is tough due to the lack of rainfall/runoff making the inside waters really clear according to Oakes. If possible, try and find some dirty water if looking for browns says Oakes. Best baits for browns are stickbaits and smaller spoons.

Capt. Joe Oakes of Newfane with an Olcott lake trout.

The lake trout action is extremely good right now between 50 and 100 feet. Any lure with some flash will work if fished towards the bottom. Capt. Matt Yablonsky of Youngstown reports he fished the lake on the Niagara Bar the last two days and did well. The brown bite is slow right now, though. A few bites early then it shuts off. The water is clear and cold, 36-37 degrees according to Yablonsky.  The laker bite between the green and red can on the Niagara Bar is good.  MagLips on 3-way rigs or trolling with spoons on riggers and divers has been working well. In the river, Yablonsky reports the bite is pretty much non-existent for boaters. With the fish spawning and the crystal-clear water conditions, the bite is tough.

In the streams, Jim Evarts at The Boat Doctors in Olcott reports there is good trout action at Burt Dam, some fish are being caught off the piers in both, Wilson and Olcott.  Olcott harbor is producing steelhead and perch with minnows.

Despite clear conditions, Mike Ziehm of Niagara Falls caught some dandy steelhead – like this one – in the lower Niagara River. He was using a homemade jig. 

In other tributaries, Scott Feltrinelli of Ontario Fly Outfitters reports that the streams have been reduced to a very slow pick of scattered singles. There has been no rain or meaningful snow melt in 2 weeks. Warm weather and low, clear creek conditions have created full on spring conditions early this year. That could all change with a warm rain Friday. That should bring in more steelhead, as well as smallmouth bass.

Mark your calendars for the Niagara County Bullhead Tournament set for April 9-11, 2021. This is shore fishing only. Best 2 bullheads total weight wins the prizes. Weigh in on Sunday at the Wilson Conservation Club. For more info call Eric at 628-6078.

The LOTSA pen rearing project work party is at the Town of Newfane Marina at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, March 27.

The big news for next week is that the NYPA fishing platform, as well as the other NYPA fishing facilities (Reservoir and upper river at the Water Intakes) – they will open on April 1. They hope to have the elevator working, too, on the platform, but no guarantees.

Action has been slow in the lower Niagara River according to Lisa Drabczyk with Creek Road Bait and Tackle.  The main reason is clear water.  The rain in the forecast for later this week should help.

Shore anglers are using spoons, spinners, and jigs. Mike Ziehm of Niagara Falls reports catching 3 steelhead on Sunday, all above the whirlpool.  All were taken on homemade white and silver jigs. Water was low and slow with at least 7 to 8 feet of visibility.

No reports on smelt yet. Brendan Walsh of Niagara Falls was in search of smallmouth bass and found some bass using a jigging spoon over the weekend in the lower.  Remember that for almost all locations around the state, it’s catch and release with artificial lures only…if you are targeting bass.

We know that brighter days are ahead. Until then, let us be your destination of hope. Click here for our video message.

Tom McKelvey of Long Island with a big Lake Ontario brown trout he caught fishing with Capt. Matt Yablonsky of Youngstown this week. 

Frank Campbell – Director, Outdoor Promotions
Destination Niagara USA, 10 Rainbow Blvd., Niagara Falls, NY 14303

Firearm Industry Economic Impact RISES 232% since 2008

National Shooting Sports Association Photo

  • Total economic impact for the USA firearm and ammunition industry increased from $19.1 billion in 2008 to $63.5 billion in 2019.
  • Some 342,330 full time jobs are supported by the firearm industry, averaging $56,400 each, in wages and benefits in our economy.
  • Over 100 hundred million law-abiding Americans rely upon the firearms and ammunition industry to  to safely enjoy the recreational shooting sports, as they exercise their right to keep and bear arms.

National Shooting Sports Association Illustration

St. Patrick’s Day 2021 brings us stunning data regarding positive economic news from the firearm industry. Just released in a report from the National Shooting Sports Association (NSSF) – the total economic impact of the firearm and ammunition industry in the United States increased from $19.1 billion in 2008 to $63.5 billion in 2019, a 232 percent increase! The total number of full-time equivalent jobs rose from approximately 166,000 to over 342,330, a 106 percent increase. The data is according to a report released by the National Shooting Sports Foundation®, the industry’s trade association.

On a year-over-year basis, the industry’s economic impact rose from $60 billion in 2019, to $63.5 billion in 2020. Total jobs increased by more than 10,000 in the same period, from nearly 332,000, to over 342,330. The broader impact of the industry throughout the economy, supports and generates business for firms seemingly unrelated to firearms, at a time when every job in America counts. These are real people, with real jobs, working in industries as varied as banking, retail, accounting, metal working and printing among others.

The firearm and ammunition industry paid nearly $7 billion in business taxes, including property, income and sales-based levies.

“The firearm industry has demonstrated amazing resilience and these economic impact figures are the result of every man and woman who comprise our industry,” said Joe Bartozzi, NSSF President and CEO. “These professionals are the reason our industry continues to grow and contribute to our communities, states and nation. These workers and our member companies produce the highest quality firearms and ammunition that over a hundred million law-abiding Americans rely upon to exercise their right to keep and bear arms and safely enjoy the recreational shooting sports. This growth equals more jobs that add to our local economies, averaging $56,400 in wages and benefits. Since 2008 we increased federal tax payments by 170 percent, Pittman-Robertson excise taxes that support wildlife conservation by 89 percent and state business taxes by 125 percent.”

Data supplied by National Shooting Sports Association

The Firearm and Ammunition Industry Economic Impact Report provides a state-by-state breakdown of job numbers, wages and output covering direct, supplier and induced employment, as well as federal excise taxes paid. Access the full report here.

About NSSF: Formed in 1961, NSSF has a membership of thousands of manufacturers, distributors, firearm retailers, shooting ranges, sportsmen’s organizations and publishers nationwide.  NSSF is the trade association for the firearm industry.  Its mission is to promote, protect and preserve hunting and the shooting sports. For more information, visit nssf.org.

Overpopulation of Deer?

Photo from the late Joe Forma deer picture collection 

  • Warm winters, High summer nutrition, Fewer hunters = TOO MANY DEER
  • Do we need DNR to consider additional expanded seasons?
  • Farmers need help, Home Owners have property damage and deer disease concerns (Lyme, CWD, etc.)

Wintering deer herds salvage food from all available sources, but there are concerns for overpopulation in many parts of the country. Concerns for spread of Lyme disease via deer ticks is one more concern. Photo from the late Joe Forma deer picture collection 

By Bob Holzhei

Within a one-mile radius of our farm in Clinton County, MI, I counted over 40 deer. They were traveling in two different herds on our property, woodlot and an adjoining property.

This population of deer was much higher than in previous years, increasing by about four times what I had witnessed in the past.

What factors accounted for the high numbers? A mild winter this past season was possibly one factor. The immediate question is, do the high deer numbers have consequences as apparent overpopulation occurs?

“Overpopulation is more deer than the habitat can support.  This numbers growth occurs simply by having survival exceed mortality. We may be witnessing the survival theory that may have occurred for a more prolonged period of time than thought.  “The distribution of deer can vary throughout the year,” according to Chad Stewart, a Biologist and Deer/Elk Population Specialist with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

“During the spring-time is when deer are clustered on the landscape, primarily around food sources. As green-up occurs, deer numbers redistribute themselves to more normal levels, and the concentration of deer in large numbers is likely to diminish,” added Stewart.

One way of looking at it might be that a reduction in hunter numbers means an increase in safe spaces for deer to evade hunters. Add high summer nutrition to high winter survival rates and mild winters, we might expect the trend to continue. For farmers, I am a farmer, crop damage occurs when deer numbers are high. The field edges are hit hard, but damage can extend into field centers as the deer numbers increase.

Healthy deer numbers are increasing rapidly with fewer deer hunter numbers. Photo from the late Joe Forma deer picture collection 

“Clinton County, MI, has seen increasing trends in populations over the past 6-8 years,” stated Stewart. “Research has shown that about 20 deer per square mile is the threshold for detecting deer damage to forests.  Keeping deer numbers below that threshold is ideal for forestry management.”

“The Michigan DNR, in an effort to manage deer numbers, has liberalized the license structure by offering more flexibility for hunters to take antlerless deer with a combination license during the firearms and muzzleloader season.  The antlerless licenses are also transferrable between counties and properties.  A late antlerless season has also been extended in southern Michigan,” concluded Stewart.

If you enjoy healthy, high-protein venison steaks and burgers, this coming season could be a very special time for you and your family. AND, you could be helping the farmers with your harvest.

About the author: Bob Holzhei is a published author with more than 450 published outdoor adventure stories from across the United States. He has authored four books, including Canadian Fly-In Fishing Adventure, Alaskan Spirit Journey, The Mountains Shall Depart and The Hills Shall Be Removed. The latter was nominated for Pulitzer Prize consideration. His books are available at Amazon.

At Niagara Falls, USA – Steelhead Bite is Good, but use Long, Clear Leaders

Gary Hall of Niagara Falls with a chunky lower Niagara River steelhead caught over the weekend. Capt. Frank Campbell photo

  • Niagara River is fishable, clear water and mild temps beckon to attract more angler action
  • Longer fluorocarbon leaders help get Steelhead bites for boaters.
  • Smaller Lake Ontario tributaries of Niagara County, NY are holding trout when weather allows shore angler access
  • Fishing Forecast for March 17, 2021 from Destination Niagara USA

Kerry Dillon of New Jersey caught this fine steelhead in the lower Niagara River this week fishing with Capt. Ted Kessler of Grand Island. 

Happy St. Patty’s Day!

With the arrival of spring this coming Saturday, March 20, it will not be long before area foliage will be turning green. We have more mild temperatures in the forecast and there are rumblings that the ice boom off Buffalo may be coming out soon – another sure sign of Spring.

Mike Rzucidlo of Niagara Falls caught 3 nice steelhead like this one using a No. 4 spinner on Tuesday. 

In the Niagara River, action has been tough due to clear water conditions. Lisa Drabczyk with Creek Road Bait and Tackle in Lewiston reiterated that, combined with some cold north winds making fishing that much more difficult.

From shore, Mike Rzucidlo of Niagara Falls reported 7 to 8 feet of water clarity on Tuesday, and he used No. 4 spinners to take 3 steelhead in a couple of hours.

In boats, Mike Ziehm of Niagara Falls reports that he has been out twice the past week and that bucktail jigs have been really working well for chrome, catching two rainbows and a steelhead in the Whirlpool and beyond. In some back eddy pockets, water is crazy clear at 6 feet plus. Down river of the power plant it is a little more stained, but still clear. All these days with the southwest and west wind gusts have been making it tough to drift bounce. Jigs in orange and white and all-white jigs have been working for Ziehm. Water seems to be getting clearer with each passing day.

It has been a bit tough for the boaters, according to Capt. Joe Marra of Lewiston. Minnows were working well for him over the weekend on Saturday. With super clear conditions, extend your leader a bit longer and use fluorocarbon line. Smaller hooks when using egg sacs or minnows will help with hook-ups. Sunday it was a different story as fishing became much tougher.

The Niagara Bar has been yielding some brown trout and lake trout when the north wind is not blowing.

Clint Bentley of Rochester caught a couple big steelhead in the lower Niagara River fishing with Capt. Joe Marra of Lewiston. 

Remember that walleye season is now closed. It reopens on May 1.

Lisa Drabczyk with Creek Road Bait and Tackle reports that some of the smaller tributaries along Lake Ontario are holding trout. Steelhead fishing at Burt Dam and 18 Mile Creek has been decent according to Karen Evarts at The Boat Doctors in Olcott. Egg sacs or egg imitations are good baits to start with.

The Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Association will be getting their salmon and trout pens ready for DEC stocking on March 27 at the Town of Newfane Marina in Olcott starting at 9:30 a.m. Normally they would ready the pens the first weekend in April, but that is Easter weekend this year. Bring wire cutters.

On another note, the first week in April is normally when Hyde Park Lake and Oppenheim Park Pond are stocked with trout by DEC, but there will not be a formal announcement prior to the stocking to avoid crowds due to Covid. These waterways will be stocked some time in early April.

Frank Campbell – Director, Outdoor Promotions

Destination Niagara USA
10 Rainbow Blvd.
Niagara Falls, NY 14303
p: 1-877 FALLS US | 716-282-8992 x. 303
We know that brighter days are ahead. Until then, let us be your destination of hope.

Sandbar Pompano at Sanibel…During Spring Break!

Sanibel Island sandbar Pompano. Shelley Crant Photo

  • The tide flow is key for picking WHEN to fish.
  • The place WHERE to fish can change from day-to-day. Newly formed sandbars and emerging weed flats hold both – baitfish and predators.
  • Fish often hold to the current boundaries- FIND them, find the feeding fish

Shelley Crant shares, “Fishing lightweight jigs with the right retrieve, the right place – that my husband seems to able to find on every trip, can result in tasty Pompano near Sanibel Island.” Forrest Fisher Photo

By Forrest Fisher

There is nothing so fun as going fishing with friends when the fish are biting! When chilling inshore winter waters begin to transition to their annual warming trend in spring, coastal species of many saltwater varieties take note. On the incoming tide, it’s feeding time! 

Fishing near Sanibel Island and Fort Myers, a slow boat ride at low tide with polarized sunglasses will often reveal newly-formed grass flats and sandbars. Holding hotspots for baitfish and predator species know that. The island and beach areas are constantly changing with winter wind and the related current flow changes. As March begins, new grass is growing on the flats, and that draws even more baitfish.

We were rigged with lightweight jigs targeting Pompano on this day. Add a 7-ft medium-action spinning rod, 30-series open-face reel filled with 15-20 pound braid, and a short 3-ft length of 30-pound fluorocarbon leader – we were set for inshore fishing magic of any sort. The new YoZuri TopKnot Fluorocarbon leader has proven it is tough and abrasion resistant, and it’s essentially invisible to the fish. 

Heading out to fish, Dan said that there are several places where all boats are required to slow down to allow Manatee safe passage. There are so many more boats today than 30 years ago, it’s a good idea.” Forrest Fisher Photo

With the Sanibel Lighthouse in the near distance, our drift started in just 2-feet of water. We were within casting distance of small slots and caverned hollows in the sand where the water looked about 3-5 feet deep. The water was crystal clear.

Dan dropped the bow motor down and kept the boat angled. All four of us would have a primetime chance to cast alongside the depth break line and into the swift current edge occurring with the onrushing tide. We could hear beachgoers enjoying the clear water and warm sand in the far distance.  

Shelley took the first cast, and before the lure went 5-feet, she smiled and said, there’s a fish! Using a ¼ ounce silly jig with a little sparkle fly that Dan had added to the rig, we all watched as the rod bend seemed to dance to the music from the beach. A minute later, Shelley was smiling with an ear-to-ear grin as she brought aboard a 2-foot long Ladyfish. “Oops, guess they’re here too! They’re fun to catch!” She unhooked and released the fish that many consider an excellent baitfish for other saltwater species. 

All the fish we caught, like this beautiful speckled trout, were carefully handled and safely released alive and well. Forrest Fisher Photo

A minute or two later, Dan hooked a beautiful speckled trout of about 25-inches. We were releasing all the fish today, except for Pompano, the one legal species we had planned to keep for the day.

In the next hour, among the four of us, including my better half, Rose, we had caught 18 fish among five species, but no Pompano yet. A local expert, Dan whispered in his ever-humble voice that we might have to move out just a bit, but not too far – a few hundred yards or so, to find the Pomp’s. Finding a similar bottom area with subtle drop-offs that went from 4 to 7 feet along several sandbars, we started a new drift. In the next hour working that area, we caught another 20 fish. Among these were Spanish Mackerel, Jack Crevalle, Speckled Trout, Lizardfish, two different species of Blowfish, and, yes, Pompano. 

Dolphins – not a usual friend of anglers, seem to chase predator fish away as they feed on baitfish in the same areas we fished. Didn’t affect our catch rate! Forrest Fisher Photo

Jigs from 1/4 oz to 1/2oz were among our best artificial baits for the day. Forrest Fisher Photo

Dan was casting a ½ ounce chartreuse color jig, Rose was using a 3/8 ounce in solid pink, Shelley was tossing a ¼ ounce in pink/white, I had a two-tone chartreuse/white jig in the 3/8 ounce size. We all caught fish. Rose said, “I’ve never seen so many fish caught in such a short time! This is fun,” and grinning while she added a new whining joke-tone, “But now I’m getting sore arms.” We all laughed. Shelley said, “That means this has been a great trip!” Dan said, “Well, it’s almost noon, about time to head back. Is everybody up for one more pass?” Indeed, we were.

Shelley’s pink/white jig was the hot bait for the day, including for the Pompano. Her finesse method allowed the lure to sink slowly to the bottom of the deeper edge areas, then flipping her rod quickly upright about 1-foot or so, in vertical jig motion, then reeling in a few feet of line to let the jig drop again and repeating the action all the way to the boat.

The lightweight braid allowed for long-distance casting, and the heavy-duty leader allowed for surprising durability as we caught fish after fish. It was a blast!

Coated with choice of sour cream or mayonnaise, then covered with a mix of bread crumbs and spices, 4-minutes in the microwave is all that is necessary for a perfect, healthy, fish dinner. Forrest Fisher Photo

Inland waterway charter fishing trips are not expensive here in Lee County, Florida. We had used lightweight lures, fishing specifically for the sight-feeding Pompano. Still, we had also caught so many other species – that is a testament to the clean waters found here. On one drift, we were treated to watch surface-feeding Tarpon – that happened on two separate occasions with two different fish. It was amazing. Such big fish! Then on another pass, a 10-foot long Manatee came in, swimming right under and alongside the boat in the shallow water we were fishing. That was another thrill! 

There is nothing like a healthy ladyfish for a lady fisherwoman to add some fighting fun to the end of your fishing line! Forrest Fisher Photo

Fishing, sunshine, clear-clean water, giant Tarpon, Manatee, beach sounds of fun in the distance. Sound good? It was! If you’re looking for a place to stay, a guide to fish with, or a pristine beach to visit for the fun of finding the treasure of seashells and fossilized shark teeth, check this link: https://www.fortmyers-sanibel.com/order-travelers-guide, or call toll-free, 1-800-237-6444. Ask for their free guidebook. The pictures in it are amazing.

Invite yourself and your family to this party.

Carefully releasing fish we caught was part of our conservation-minded fishing trip. The future is in our hands. Forrest Fisher Photo

 

Niagara Falls USA Fishing Forecast for Wednesday, March 10, 2021 – Fish are Biting

Mike Ziehm of Niagara Falls with a lower Niagara River steelhead he caught from shore using a homemade spinner.

  • Weather in warm-up mode, spring on the way.
  • Mag-Lips w/Kishel Scent is hot lure for steelhead drift fishing n Lower Niagara River.
  • Shore fishing on upswing too, w/sacs+beads under a float

Capt. Nick Calandrelli of Lewiston (left) and Kevin Kishel of East Aurora with another steelhead caught on a MagLip lathered with Kishel’s Fish Scent.

Air temperatures are scheduled to break the 60 mark today so being outdoors is a must. While it will be cooling back into the 40s by the weekend, spring is just around the corner. March 15 is the final day for walleye, pike, pickerel, and tiger musky action in the state, but there is still plenty of trout fishing to be had here – in both the tributaries and the Niagara River. Our tip of the week comes for Captains Ernie and Nick Calandrelli, who took Kevin Kishel of East Aurora out on Tuesday in the lower Niagara. The trio did very well on steelhead using Kishel’s Fish Scent on MagLip plugs, and fished off 3-way rigs. It really seemed to make a difference. Lower Niagara River trout action is picking back up again and best baits have been egg sacs or egg imitations, minnows or shiners and any kind of a body bait like a Kwikfish or a MagLip from boats, all fished off 3-way rigs. Water clarity is good.  Fish can be found through the river and the Stella drift was productive last weekend.

Mike Rzucidlo of Niagara Falls caught this steelhead Tuesday in the lower Niagara River, casting a white hair jig from shore.

Shore guys can still catch some trout consistently by tossing spinners or jigs according to Mike Rzucidlo of Niagara Falls, who caught some good fish in the gorge on Monday. Drifting sacs or beads under a float will also catch fish. Rzucidlo even caught a nice chunky 5-pound rainbow just above the upper rapids above Niagara Falls on a spinner on Tuesday.

For the Lake Ontario tributaries, the warm rain in the forecast for late Thursday could be what the fish doctor ordered to pull fresh fish into the streams. Some reports on the sly show that action has already been picking up on 18 Mile Creek and Burt Dam. Egg sacs and egg imitations are good baits to start, but jigs tipped with a wax worm will also work. Scott Feltrinelli of Ontario Fly Outfitters reports that waters were cold Tuesday from ice melt. He will always make sure to fish his fly “low and slow” in these conditions.

Mike Ziehm of Niagara Falls with a lower Niagara River steelhead he caught from shore using a homemade spinner.

One sure sign of spring is the Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Association’s pen rearing project preparation. Assembly for the pens will take place at the Town of Newfane Marina in Olcott on March 27 starting at 9:30 a.m. Dress warm and bring your side cutters to clip zip ties. The work party is early this year because of an earlier Easter.

Frank Campbell, Director, Outdoor Promotions

Destination Niagara USA, 10 Rainbow Blvd., Niagara Falls, NY 14303

Fish-Catching, Beaches, Baseball and Sunshine. A GOOD Winter Day!  

Fishing for Saltwater Gamefish near Fort Myers, Florida, in the Winter.

  • The conjunction of natural creeks and man-made canals in the Fort Myers saltwater canal system are where big fish can hide.
  • Circle Hooks allow for easy presentation of live forage bait and quick release of gamefish.
  • After you hook a few trees, then catch a few fish, the positive state-of-mind begins to form for the next fish. The fun begins!

Rich Perez with a young snook taken from a canal waterway off the Caloosahatchee River near Fort Myers, FL. The fish was held gently and carefully released a few seconds after being out of the water.

By Forrest Fisher

Within the bustling livelihood of Fort Myers in Lee County, Florida, the Caloosahatchee River and its many tributaries form a network of lush vegetation and age-old mangroves within the fertile canal systems found here.

The eddy currents formed at the conjunction of natural creeks and man-made canals often allow the tidal flow to create deep pockets where big fish can hide. The constant tide reversal and related current changes beckon to schools of forage stocks to find relative safety among the mangrove roots, with the occasional live oak tree acting as a mangrove bundle anchor. The big fish in the area know the forage is among the roots, as snook, redfish, speckled trout, tarpon, and other species often spend feeding time here. There is magic to be found in this silent and peaceful water flow system.

For the fish, it’s breakfast and dinner with a menu. For the anglers that can learn the secrets of tidal flow profile, consistent fish-catching adventures await them.

A power-pole makes anchoring in the canal system easy and silent – that makes fishing more fun.

A decades-long Floridian, humble Rich Perez shared with me that he is new to saltwater fishing, but with a confident voice, added that he is learning more from savvy fishing friends each day he can make it to water. A busy family man, when time allows, he explores new fishing areas and generally reverts to time-tested live bait methods. Using Circle Hooks to present wriggling live shrimp or live forage minnow bait, such as pinfish, he knows it’s easy to verify that a spot may or may not hold fish with live bait. With the minnow bait, he carefully threads the Circle Hook through the hard-nose area to keep the bait alive and in the free-swimming state. Perez says,” I’ve learned that this is the ultimate live bait meal method to use for roaming gamefish, sometimes, really big gamefish.” He catches fish often.

First, though, besides learning to be a perceptive fisherman, he is a hard-worker. He believes that good fishermen should catch their own live bait. They don’t go the easy way and just buy it. So he has practiced hard and learned to throw a 12-ft cast net. Of course, succeeding in this native art form of bait-catching is not painless. It takes time to practice, with a skill developed over time. He’s been doing it for 3 years now and is tossing near-perfect circles to 15 feet from the boat. He admits that he visits the local live bait supply shops on some days with his busy work schedules.

“With a full baitwell, you can ensure your bait is fresh and enjoy perfect live bait presentations no matter where you explore new areas. I like to invite friends and family out fishing too, so I try to make sure the baitwell is well-stocked. It’s not always easy to find the forage, but eventually, with some patience, you do find ’em. I look for diving birds or surface ruffles to find the forage schools, that’s the easy way.” 

With a 7-ft semi-stiff fishing rod, medium power, Perez uses Penn 40-series open-face fishing reels loaded with 20-pound braid and a 2-ft long/30-pound fluoro leader tied to a 2/0 or 3/0 Circle Hook. He doesn’t lose fish, day or night. “The hardest part for most newbies like me is casting precision. You really gotta get the bait right alongside the edge of the mangroves, especially during daytime. The fish are usually there with an incoming tide current,” Perez adds.

Perez continues, “Sometimes we catch yearlings, other times we catch old fish, big fish, all with this simple, uncomplicated live bait system. We release all the gamefish to live another day. It’s great fun and even more fun to watch my dad or friends land a nice fish…or catch a big mangrove treetop. We laugh a lot. We joke about who caught the biggest tree for the day. With the fish, we take a quick picture and watch the fish swim back home. It’s a good feeling.” 

Perez throws a 12-ft cast net to catch live forage bait, though this native art form takes time and practice to develop effective skill.

Over the day, Perez shared that good fishing is really a matter of gaining enough confidence to make that perfect cast every time. After you hook a few trees and then catch a few fish, the positive state-of-mind fun begins to form for the next fish, even the next trip.”

I could not agree more that good fishing is a state of mind. When it happens to you, it’s a sure thing that the next trip is not too far away.

This Fort Myers area is home to a fleet of charter captains and fishing guides that share their skills in the nearshore waters and far offshore. To discover more about the outdoor adventure and pristine beaches found here, or to just rest for a few nights between fishing fun, you can request a free guidebook from the visitor’s bureau online at https://www.fortmyers-sanibel.com/order-travelers-guide, or call toll-free, 1-800-237-6444.

There’s more than fishing too. During March, near Fort Myers and Sanibel Island’s Beaches, the Boston Red Sox and Minnesota Twins are back for spring training and competition in the Grapefruit League. I love baseball! The Lee County Visitor Bureau also has a free mobile savings passport for locals and visitors with access to exclusive deals on attractions, restaurants, and experiences here. Sign up at https://explore.fortmyers-sanibel.com. The passport will be delivered to your mobile phone via text. Redeem it on your mobile phone at participating businesses. Pretty cool.

Fish on!

Extraordinary Fun Fishing in the Gulf of Mexico

  • Fishing sunrise to noon, we caught 8 species of saltwater fish, and well over 150 fish total, as a 3-man group.
  • Captain Terry Heller, Fish-On Sportfishing Charters, was savvy, funny, and deadly serious about having fun – we laughed a lot out there! So good for our pandemic souls!
  • We experimented with Circle-hooks vs. J-hooks. The circle-hooks hooked and landed fish 80% more effectively…a lesson for all.

Vietnam Veteran, Randy Baugus, retired minister from Burlington, KY, with a hard-fighting Gag Grouper that was released to swim another day.

By Forrest Fisher

It was dark when I left the house in Port Charlotte, Florida. The stars were spectacular, gleaming brightly above, but there was a warm orange glow on the eastern horizon, the sun was about to rise, suggesting a nice, warm February day – a sunscreen day. A great winter day.

About 30 minutes later – it was 6:25 a.m., I joined the right-hand turn signal line to enter the Placida Boat Launch area, a state park-like zone with a boat launch, ice-filling station, and restroom facilities that can accommodate about 100 cars and boat trailers. There is a frozen bait and live bait tackle shop (Eldred’s Marina) right next door, wonderfully convenient for boaters and anglers heading for Gasparilla Island shore fishing spots.

Affable Captain Randy Heller, Fish-On Sportfishing Charters, with another  nice porgy we caught, a tasty fish for the table.

Not long later, I met my fishing guide for the day, Captain Terry Heller of Fish-On Charter Sport Fishing, an ever-friendly source of fishing knowledge. He made catching fish easy and fun and seemingly transparent – like you’ve had the necessary skills all along, even with newbies and veteran anglers alike – young and old, no matter. Onboard, I met 70-years-young Randy Baugus from Burlington, Kentucky, a minister and Vietnam veteran, and his brother-in-law, 78-year-old Gary Barnes, originally from Columbus, Ohio, but now a happy southwest Florida native who is enjoying his retirement years in the Sunshine State.

Captain Terry started up his nearly silent 225Hp Yamaha as the wide, spacious and sturdy 24-ft Polar (fiberglass boat) gently idled away from the dock. As we moved into Lemon Bay toward the Boca Grande Causeway Bridge, a bald eagle showed her head on one of the nearby island treetop nests. The tide was at a complete low as we came up to plane in the channel in Gasparilla Pass.

With Captain Terry using the navigational GPS map technology onboard, he marked safe passage for us. It wasn’t long before we were at 35 mph cruising speed on the way to secret offshore spots that Heller has identified over his years of local fishing here. About 20 minutes later, we slowed, shore was no longer visible, and after making a few circles into an area seemingly in the middle of nowhere, Heller dropped a marker buoy for boat position reference. Settling his electric motor into the water (with a 7-foot long shaft), he used blue-tooth technology to move away from the buoy toward one of three spots that we would eventually fish. All of them were within 200 yards of the brightly colored marker. “The marker is for letting others know that this is our fishing area for the moment. Other guys usually honor the courtesy of staying away from your fishing zone,” he said that with a half-smile.

Heller opened up two of his three live bait wells to show us that if we wanted to keep any fish, they could go in there and that he would let us know what fish was legal and what was not. “Now for the fun, guys!” He passed out a fully-rigged rod for each of us with a small bucket of cut-bait ready to rig. The rods were 7-ft long and were equipped with open-face Penn fishing reels. The 30-pound test braid mainline was attached to a 2-ounce egg sinker, then an 18-inch long leader of 20-pound fluorocarbon leader, and a size 3/0 or 4/0 circle hook.

Randy Baugus with the second Remora that we caught that day, a nice 25 inch specimen. Remora usually are attached to the skin a shark. We released the fish to find a new shark buddy down below.

Heller is a happy sort of guy as he quipped, “Now guys, listen, you’re gonna catch a lot of fish out here, so if you get tired of reeling ’em in, don’t worry, we’ve got plenty of beverages onboard, and you can rest up.” We all looked at each other and sort of rolled our eyes a bit. Randy said, “Sounds like your pretty confident Captain!” Gary said, “I wanna drop my line.” A moment later, Heller showed us how to slide the cut baits onto the hook. He rigged all the lines for us.

“The water is 48-feet deep here, guys, so it won’t take too long for your baits to reach the bottom. When they do, reel up two turns or so and watch closely for a bite. When you get one, start reeling to set the hook. One more thing, there is one rule on board here, for good luck, you gotta yell, FISH-ON! You all know that’s the name of my charter. It’s for a good reason.  Our adrenalin flow talks to the fish!”

About 10 seconds later, Randy hollered,” FISH-ON!” His rod enjoyed a healthy bend toward the water. A few moments later, Gary shouted, “FISH-ON!” Before both lines were not yet in the boat when I, too, shouted out the same. A 3-Fer! Half-giggling and laughing a bit, Captain Terry said, “Are we having fun yet?!” We all agreed.

We moved around to a few other fishing zones on the bottom. They were configured sort of like the moon surface with craters and high points, next to cavernous hollows a few feet deeper around the crater edges. “The fish come out of those little holes down there to test your baits. They’re always hungry out here in this secret place.”

Gary Barnes, originally from Columbus, OH, is now a Florida resident and enjoys fishing in his retirement years. He released this small grouper.

We moved to other spots a few times, and in each location, we caught at least 50 fish among the three of us.

The live wells were getting crowded with good-eating reef fish. These included Porgy, Squirrel Perch, and some Key West Grunts., some were nearly 2-pounds each. We also caught Blowfish, Remora, Gag Grouper, Red Grouper, and Spottail Snapper. My shoulders and arms were getting sore as Heller said, “C’mon guys, let’s reel up and go try one more spot where there might be some bigger snapper and grouper.

About 10-minutes later, we motored northward, we arrived about 1/2 mile from the 9-mile reef. The electric motor came down, and we were fishing. Wham! “FISH-ON! Randy hollered. A few seconds later, Gary screamed out too, then me. Four hours into our trip, it had been a fantastic day on the water. The sea was smooth, the water so clear, and the fish were definitely biting.

Our cut baits consisted of octopus, shrimp, squid, and sardines. All of these worked.  One of the cool things about fishing with Heller, his charter – Fish-On Sport Fishing, provides all the licenses, all the gear, and all the bait you need. Plus, you are welcome to keep your catch, and Heller will clean and fillet it for you. Maybe the most significant part not mentioned with “things provided” is Heller’s precision savvy about where to drop your line. That part is priceless!

Happiness is! Fishing dreams are made for days like this. I met new friends, caught lots of fish, laughed for about 5-hours! So fun. We released this small, hard-fighting grouper. Terry Heller Photo.

As we motored back to the Placida boat launch, it was 1:30 p.m., and the air temp was 87 degrees. A slight sunburn on all of our faces, I joked to Gary, “Pinch me, I think I miss shoveling my driveway back home in East Aurora, NY.” He groused back, “Yea, me too, NOT! I love it down here.”

Captain Heller asked us to follow him back to his nearby home, and he cleaned 81 keepers. It was probably about 1/3 of the number of fish we actually landed, as we had to release all the short gag grouper and red grouper. We had caught dozens of them—an excellent sign for the future of Florida fishing. We split ’em up, and there is only one or two choice words for the meal that followed later at my home. Scrumptious! Delicious!

There is nothing quite like a fresh caught fish fry! My better half does these up with four, egg and crushed crackers coked in olive oil…healthy!

I fell asleep that night with my ears ringing a bit. It was that tune from earlier in the day…”Fish On!” Can’t wait for the next time out. To fish with Captain Heller yourself, you can check schedules and open dates at: Fishing Booker.com 

Tracks in the Snow

  • Kids love the winter cold and sparkly snow!
  • Birds, squirrels, deer, mice and more…all tell a story of their journey.
  • The coffee tastes especially good on snowy mornings…a good time to share quiet time.

 

By Larry Whiteley

In the quietness of the early morning, he sat staring out the window at icicles hanging from the roof. The same white scene greeted his eyes as it had for several weeks now. He got up and went to the kitchen to pour another cup of coffee. The outside thermometer showed the temperature was in the single digits again as it had been for many mornings lately. At least it wasn’t windy and causing below zero wind chills.

He loves watching shows like “Alaska…The Last Frontier”, “Mountain Men,” “Life Below Zero,” and others. But this was southern Missouri, for goodness sakes. What happened to global warming?

As he stood there looking out the kitchen window, sipping his coffee and staring at the cold, he watched birds coming into the feeders. The woodpeckers pecked at the frozen suet cakes. That’s no problem for a woodpecker.  Other birds pecked around anywhere they could find a seed. They needed the food to warm their little bodies. Among the birds were more bluebirds than the man had ever seen at one time. Usually, he didn’t see them until spring, when they were ready to start nesting.

Suddenly all the birds scattered as a red-tailed hawk dove into the snow, trying to catch breakfast. He missed and flew away, probably thinking that catching a mouse would be easier. A friend had recently sent him a picture of a woodpecker frozen to a tree and another of a bluebird a friend of his had found frozen, but managed to nurse back to life. Winter is hard on those that have to live out in it every day.

The birds soon returned, and he made a mental note to put more bird feed out. He went back to his office. Most days in the past few weeks had been cloudy, dreary, and depressing. But, this day the sun was shining and the snow sparkled like millions of tiny diamonds scattered on top of it. His smartphone made a turkey sound, and he picked it up to see several pictures of some special kids from church playing in the snow. They all had big smiles on their faces. He and his wife had gifted them with their grandkids sleds several years ago, but there had never been enough snow to get out and have fun on them. Along with the pictures was a text from their Dad that said, “They love it!!!!” and the man smiled.

He and his wife had been watching out the windows lately at their little neighbor, buddy Hudson, out playing in the snow with Mom, Dad, and friends. Hudson also had one of their grandkid’s old sleds. He too was enjoying it, and so will his sister Lilly when she gets big enough. Adults were having as much fun as the kids. The man smiled again, thinking about it.

He looked out the window once more. In past days it had looked cold, cloudy and uninviting. With the sun shining and after watching the birds and thinking about the kids having so much fun, the snow suddenly seemed beautiful and inviting to him. He took his final sip of coffee, got up from his chair and started putting lots of clothes on. He figured if the Kilcher family from his favorite TV show could do it, and if those kids could get out in this kind of weather and have so much fun, he could get out and enjoy it too. After going through a pandemic during this past year, nothing seemed that hard anymore, anyway. He knew that this wouldn’t stop him from being out there in a treestand if it was deer season. He had even gone crappie fishing in this kind of weather. Besides, he had read somewhere that getting outside is good for your body and soul no matter what kind of weather.

A turkey sound went off again and he picked up his phone to read a text from a friend. Knowing that he loved watching Alaska TV shows so much, the friend had sent him a story about a lady in Alaska who went to the outhouse. When she sat down on the hole, a bear bit her on the butt. When her husband heard the screams and came running, a very stinky black bear came out from under the outhouse and ran off into the woods. Her husband successfully treated her wounds, and they will now have quite a story to tell their kids and grandkids. She probably won’t be showing her scars though.

Since the man didn’t have an outhouse and black bears should still be hibernating, he chuckled and finished putting his clothes on. After putting another log on the fire, he ventured out into this winter wonderland. The first thing he did was feed the birds and put out a little water for them since everything was frozen. He then started a fire in his fire pit, so he could warm up if he got too cold. Then, he reached in his pocket for his smartphone, clicked on the camera and started walking through the snow.

He was amazed at all the tracks he saw. There were many bird tracks around the feeders as well as tracks and a body print of a hawk who missed. Rabbit tracks led into the tall bushy grass and also under a storage building. Squirrel tracks could be seen in the snow clinging to the sides of trees, then across the snow to another tree and another. Near their tracks were holes where they were looking for acorns. The tiny tracks were probably field mice. Deer tracks were on the hill behind the house near where the garden is in the spring. Dog or coyote tracks were there also. Raccoon tracks were on the dirt road behind. Tracks of little kids and sled tracks were nearby.

As he walked down the plowed driveway to the front of his house, he noticed something strange in the front yard. There were places with tracks and some disturbed snow, but no tracks leading to or from them. Was it a mouse or a mole? Did a red-tailed hawk finally get a meal or two? Maybe it was aliens! The mystery may never be known.

He kept walking around, taking lots of beautiful pictures of the snow and the sun glittering off the icicles. He saw even more squirrel, rabbit, and deer tracks. The snow tracks were proof to him just how many wildlife critters also call this place home. You just never know what you will discover when you get outdoors away from the television and other electronics that steal so much of our time every day.

May some of the tracks you find in the snow be your own.

National Deer Association (NDA) has Solid Plan to Empower Deer Hunters

NDA Photo

  • Education, Biology, Legislation, Recruitment included in the new plan.
  • Karlin Dawson named as Deer Outreach Specialist to Work with Missouri Conservation (MDC)
  • Special focus on Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) and Field-to-Fork Programs

NDA Photo

During July 2020, the National Deer Alliance and the Quality Deer Management Association joined forces to merge their two groups, combine the strengths, resources and core initiatives to better serve deer and hunters more effectively when the need is greatest. Then in November 2020, they announced their new group name: the National Deer Association. They are a non-profit group and beyond a name and a logo, they also assembled a unified team, created a new strategic plan, and announced a Board of Directors. 

The National Deer ASSOCIATION is planning to focus on four critical areas: (1) education and outreach, (2) recruitment, retention and reactivation, (3) policy and advocacy, (4) deer diseases. Teaching the non-hunting public about the keystone position of deer in all wildlife conservation (success or failure) will be among new goals. Similarly, the new group will empower hunters to be more informed, and hence, more successful and engaged stewards of deer and wildlife, including mentoring young hunters. Deer diseases, including the invariably fatal chronic wasting disease (CWD), present a severe threat to all deer species’ future and related wildlife conservation/health. Wildlife policy and legislation are part of that new goal, at the same time bringing hunters, the non-hunting public, and wildlife managers together with a common education and realization theme. The new group includes memberships across all 50 states and Canada.

The National Deer Association (NDA) is pleased to announce that Karlin Dawson has joined the organization as a Deer Outreach Specialist in northern Missouri. A Missouri native and lifelong deer hunter, Karlin comes to NDA from the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC), where she served as the naturalist for the Runge Conservation Nature Center.

Highly qualified Karlin Dawson has joined the National Deer Association (NDA) organization as a Deer Outreach Specialist in northern Missouri. Photo courtesy of NDA

“I am honored and excited to be joining such a wonderful organization,” said Karlin. “I cannot wait to continue my work in conservation and supporting our natural resources.”

As a Deer Outreach Specialist, Karlin will assist MDC staff with the facilitation of the state’s Deer Management Assistance Program (DMA). Among mission objectives will be to provide guidance to landowners and deer hunters conducting deer population surveys and other data collection efforts, host local habitat management training, work with private landowners to establish and support Wildlife Management Cooperatives, coordinate and assist with chronic wasting disease (CWD) sampling training, and organize hunter recruitment and mentoring initiative – like NDA’s Field to Fork program, in northern Missouri. She will also serve Missourians by helping promote numerous private land assistance programs alongside MDC staff. 

Karlin’s duties will include helping increase NDA awareness by recruiting new members and publicizing NDA’s national programs and conservation partner programs.

“I am excited to have Karlin join the NDA staff,” said Matt Ross, NDA’s Director of Conservation. “Her past experience working as a public educator and naturalist for the state of Missouri, her enthusiasm for wildlife and the sustenance it provides, and her general knowledge and passion for the outdoors make her a perfect fit for this position.”

Karlin received her Bachelor of Science degree in biology from Westminster College, where her study emphasis was in conservation, ecology and field research. In addition to her recent position as a naturalist with MDC, Karlin worked as an assistant manager and whitetail guide at Safari Unlimited LLC, a Missouri-based commercial outfitting business specializing in worldwide hunting and fishing adventure travel and offers a free-range deer and turkey hunting service in the Show-Me state. She is a certified Hunter Education instructor, a certified CWD sampling technician and has substantial experience in virtual and interpretive conservation programming, including a unique content series about wild edibles, game recipes, and cooking. 

Landowners and deer hunters in northern Missouri who want to learn more about DMAP, deer management, or with interest in establishing a Wildlife Cooperative can contact Karlin at karlin@deerassociation.com.

Special Thanks to Brian Grossman and the NDA for details regarding Karlin Dawson.

Firearm Industry Embraces Real Solutions Over NEW Gun Control Call

  • Demands that Congress ban the modern sporting rifle (MSR).
  • Call to repeal the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), a law passed with wide bipartisan support.
  • Reality of crime is that more murders are committed with knives, fists and clubs than all rifles combined.

With a reminder note from the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) in Newtown, CT – the anniversary of the tragic and senseless murders in Parkland, FL, three years ago remind us why the firearm industry is committed to Real Solutions. Safer Communities®. The loss of innocent lives because of the unthinkable acts of a criminal defies explanation but deserves our efforts to try to prevent them from occurring again.

President Joe Biden’s call for his gun control agenda is not working to address the shared American goal of reducing criminal misuse of firearms. His demand that Congress ban the modern sporting rifle (MSR), which he knowingly mislabels an “assault rifle” and “weapon of war,” denies the reality that more murders are committed with knives, fists and clubs than all rifles combined. Over 20 million MSRs are in circulation today, used daily for lawful purposes.

President Biden’s call to repeal the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), a law passed with wide bipartisan support, panders to the radical base of his party. Rolling it back would be akin to allowing activist lawyers to sue Ford for the wrongful deaths caused by drunk drivers.

The criminal responsible for the horrors thrust on Parkland, and the nation, must be held accountable for his crimes. Anything less is a whitewash of the failures of local, state and federal authorities to act on any of the 45 instances of warnings, tips and police responses prior to his final terrible crimes.

The firearm industry has been willing to take on this hard work. It has not waited. The firearm industry provides Real Solutions, including partnerships with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and local law enforcement to include:

  • Partnering with 15,000 law enforcement agencies to distribute 40 million firearm safety kits, including locking devices, for safe firearm storage through Project ChildSafe®.
  • Fixing the FBI’s background check system by changing the law in 16 states and in Congress to increase reporting of disqualifying adjudicated mental health records, resulting in a 266 percent increase.
  • Partnering with the ATF to prevent illegal firearm straw purchases and warning it is a crime punishable by 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
  • Improving security at firearm retailers, with ATF, to deter criminals from stealing firearms.
  • Matching ATF reward offers up to $5,000 to bring criminals to justice that steal firearms.
  • Preventing firearm suicides with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and Department of Veterans Affairs.

The firearm industry is committed to the shared goal of reducing and ending criminal misuse of firearms, as well as accidents and suicides. That is the common ground. These are the proven answers to achieve this goal. Click here to learn more about Real Solutions®.

About NSSF – NSSF is the trade association for the firearm industry. Its mission is to promote, protect and preserve hunting and the shooting sports. Formed in 1961, NSSF has a membership of thousands of manufacturers, distributors, firearms retailers, shooting ranges, sportsmen’s organizations and publishers nationwide. For more information, log on to www.nssf.org.

One Man – His Fishing, His Family, His Favorite Boat

  • 64-year-old Polar Kraft Jon Boat looks and works even better now than it did in 1957!
  • Memories are one key to future fishing fun, make them with your family
  • Humble Pat Richardson has won 43 fishing tournaments, his story follows

Humble, but savvy angler and friend of the outdoors, Pat Richardson, is ready to cast a line from his age-old Polar Kraft Jon Boat. 

By David Gray

One thing can be said about the sport of fishing, it doesn’t take long for extraordinary memories to start. Pat Richardson, a fisherman from Louisiana, will be a young 80 years of age in April this year. Like many of us that enjoy a passion for fishing, he remembers his early start with squirming fish from a very young age.  His introduction to fishing came at age 5 when he participated in an annual family tradition.  Pat’s Dad fished, but it was his Mom who really got him started as a fisherman. “Mom liked to fish, and she always used a cane pole.” Every Good Friday, the family would gather at the Bayou with cane poles, lines, hooks, and worms.  The fishing fun started upon arrival, and after catching enough Bream, everyone headed for the traditional family fish fry.  Delicious.

While Pat has enough fond family fishing memories to fill volumes, he went ahead from those early years to make new ones.  Pat used his cane pole to fish until he was 14, that’s when he got his first store-bought sport rod.  It was a fly rod.  When asked why not a casting rod? Pat said, “Back then, casting reels and glass casting rods cost more.” The fly rods and reels were in his price range.  Pat noted that first fly rod is gone, but he still has that fly reel in the original box with a price tag that says $1.05.  The whole rig, 8-foot rod, reel, line, and tippets went for $7.50.  It was easy to catch Bream on the fly rod, but catching Bass on it was another thing.

It wasn’t long before some Fenwick casting rod blanks became available. A friend wrapped them up and Pat went in search of Bass with casting gear. The challenge, then, was that Bass were not as easy to catch as Bream.  So Pat began paying attention when and why he caught them on some trips and not on others.  With special consideration to details and conditions, he learned more.  The more fishing logic he acquired, the more Bass he caught.  Pat said, “Dad was a kind of fair weather fisherman, but when the bite was on, he liked to go, so I would take him.”

We were fishing in old wooden boats back then.  You know the type—paddle some, bail some, fish some – the whole day.

One day Dad surprised us by saying, “You boys (3 brothers) love to fish, and I am going to buy you a good boat. They are making boats out of metal now, and we are going to get one.”  Off they went to the Western Auto Store in Gonzales, La.  Dad negotiated for a new 14-foot Polar Kraft Bateau, a 12Hp Wizard outboard, 2 life-preservers, and a paddle.  All for $300 – the year was 1957. For those not blessed in the language of the Louisiana Bayou, a Bateau is a flat bottom Jon boat.

Following the initial clean-up and restoration process, the Polar Kraft Bateau (Jon Boat), is ready for paint and new gear.

That Polar Kraft Bateau served them well.  The boat helped Pat learn more about how to catch Bass.  Pat got quite good at catching Bass, so he decided to try fishing tournaments.  At first, they were “Fruit Jar” tournaments.  All the anglers gathered at the launch ramp Friday evening and put $10 in the fruit jar.  They launched, and the tournament weighed in at midnight. The winner got the jar.

Pat needed a boat upgrade to fish bigger tournaments so a bass boat with a 45hp outboard was purchased. The Polar Kraft Bateau was retired to the back of the backyard.  Pat won 43 open tournaments in the next 8-year period.  Pat also joined a Bass Club and took first in 11 tournaments and second or third in 7.  Pat said, “At one of those tournaments, I took first place, big Bass for the tournament and big Bass for the year.  Then the club switched all their tournaments to Sunday.  I never fish on Sunday, and the club knew that, so I guess it was a polite way to ask me to look for another club. I got my son, Patrick Wayne, fishing and at 14 he fished his first tournament with me.  I like fishing tournaments, but it was never about the money. It was the competition and camaraderie that made it fun for me.  Because it was fun, I kept entering open bass tournaments and did pretty well. Well enough that it caught the attention of some sponsors.  My last tournament rig had a 225HP motor. Quite different from the 12 HP Wizard on the Bateau from which I learned so much about Bass fishing.

One day I got to thinking about the Bateau.  We had caught thousands of fish, literally tons and tons of fish out of the Bateau.  Bream, Gar, Bass, and when not fishing, we used it for pleasure cruising.  The Bateau was a family heirloom, a part of our family, and I thought about it lying in the backyard with junk piled all over it.  So in 2019, I decided to pull this 60-year-old Polar Kraft out of the pile and see what shape it was in.

I took it to the welding shop and was sure it needed a new wood transom board.  I asked them to check the entire hull and fix everything and anything needed to get it back in the water.

When I went to pick it up, the shop said, “This was a well-built boat.  We only had to replace 3 rivets and tightened 6 others.” That was all it needed.  The 60-year-old Polar Kraft Bateau was ready to fish.

But Pat decided that was not enough.  He would totally upgrade up. “I decided I wanted to convert to bass boat style and dedicate it to Dad, who took us to buy it.  The family approved of the dedication idea to Dad. We added fishing decks, Bass Boat seats, a new 20Hp Merc 4-stroke electric start, Xi3 trolling motor, bilge pump, and a Lowrance sonar with map. My Dad’s name was Clyde, he died in 1976, so we all agreed to name the boat after him and to honor his US Navy military service. So we added Mr. Clyde and Pacific Theater 1944 and 1945 to the new paint scheme.

At 64-years young (old for a boat!), the famed childhood Polar Kraft Jon Boat is restored and ready for the water – the high hand rail is an aid for access and exit at the dock for Pat Richardson.

This 63-year-old Polar Kraft Bateau is not only seaworthy, but it was ready to help us catch thousands and thousands more fish. I added a hoop hand-rail to help me get in and out of the boat, at my age, when I’m at the dock.”

Pat added, “It is those fond old memories of family tradition and fishing competition that helps me share that love for squirming fish and free fun on the water with family and friends, and others. Remember this, if you don’t have family, you don’t have anything.”

Author Note: Special thanks to Kristen Monroe for details and interviews noted in this story.

Winchester SX4 Hybrid Hunter Woodland Shotgun

Gotta love the new durable camo coverage and protected metal-part finish on the new Winchester firearms in this modern world.

The Winchester® Super X4 Hybrid Hunter Woodland features a classic Woodland camouflage paired with a Cerakote Flat Dark Earth finish on the receiver and barrel. The is combination is an functional eye-catching performer. Rain or shine, fast cycling is never an issue with the proven Active Valve Gas System. Adding an extra level of durability is the chrome-plated chamber and bore.

This model includes 3 Invector-Plus choke tubes – including a choke wrench, TRUGLO® fiber-optic sight, reversible safety button, larger opening in trigger guard, and larger bolt handle and bolt release with a Nickel Teflon coating on carrier and bolt release button, .

To learn more about the features and specs, as well as access downloadable hi-res images, please visit:

Super X4 Hybrid Hunter Woodland

Super X4 Shotguns

Features:

  • RECEIVER –  Aluminum alloy; Flat Dark Earth (FDE) Cerakote finish
  • BARREL –  Chrome-plated chamber and bore; FDE Cerakote finish; Ventilated rib
  • ACTION –  12 gauge – 3 1/2″ and 3″ chamber; 20 gauge – 3″ chamber; Gas operated with Active Valve system;
  • STOCK –  Composite; Woodland camouflage finish with an Inflex® recoil pad
  • FEATURES –  Three Invector-Plus™ choke tubes (F,M,IC); TRUGLO® fiber-optic sight; New Inflex® Technology recoil pad; Length of pull spacers; New larger bolt handle, bolt release and reversible safety button; New larger opening in trigger guard; Sling swivel studs

MSRP is $1079.99. For more information on Winchester Firearms, please visit winchesterguns.com.

Browning Maxus II – Autoloading Rifled Deer Shotgun

This new Browning shotgun has a number of features that elevate it above run-of-the-mill deer hunting shotguns. For 2021, the evolutionary new Maxus II sets its sights on whitetails with a Rifled Deer model.

The Maxus II is a fast-handling autoloading shotgun designed for hunting deer with a fully rifled barrel for accurate use with slugs.

A 22″ long, thick-walled rifled barrel includes an attached, cantilever Weaver-style sight rail that makes attaching optics and cleaning the shotgun without affecting zero a snap. Always important to accurate shooting, the Maxus II Rifled Deer features the precision Lightning Trigger that offers a lighter, crisper pull with less overtravel than other designs. Hard-hitting 12-gauge, 3″ slug ammunition is ably cycled by the proven reliable Power Drive Gas System.

The Maxus II Rifled Deer also includes a new stock design with a straight heel buttstock that allows for customizing the length of pull by either adding spacers or trimming the stock down. The 1 ½” thick Inflex recoil pad features directional deflection and is coupled with the new SoftFlex™ cheekpad, both of which are designed to soften recoil against your shoulder and face. Rubber over-molded panels on the pistol grip and forearm improve grip and feel. Enhanced operational features include an enlarged trigger guard that is ramped for fast loading, oversized bolt handle and release that are easier to use and a traditional threaded magazine cap. The raised rib sight picture and flat point of impact puts shooters on target faster and more consistently. To learn more about the features and specs and to access downloadable hi res images please visit:

Maxus II Shotguns

Maxus II Rifled Deer

Features:

  • Mossy Oak® New-Break-Up Country® camo finish
  • 22″, thick wall, fully rifled barrel for use with slugs
  • Cantilever, Weaver®-style scope mount for easy optics attachment
  • New SoftFlex™ cheekpad increases shooting comfort
  • New oversized bolt release and bolt handle
  • New composite stock can be trimmed and is shim adjustable for cast, drop and length of pull
  • New rubber overmolding on stock and forearm add grip in all conditions
  • New trigger guard is ramped for easier loading
  • Nickel Teflon™ coating on the bolt, bolt slide, shell carrier and bolt release
  • ABS hard case included

For more information on Browning products, please visit browning.com.

Delicious Venison Gumbo – for 10

By Fern Fisher

The perfect quick-to-make meal for Super Bowl Sunday, or any other day. Most everyone has these simple ingredients in their everyday pantry.

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs ground venison
  • 6 cups of diced (3/8 inch) white potatoes
  • 2 cups diced sweet white onion
  • 2 cups sliced celery
  • 2 cups sliced carrots
  • 2 TBS minced garlic
  • 1 TBS table salt
  • 1 TBS black pepper
  • 1 TBS basil
  • 3 TBS salted butter
  • Two 15 oz cans of black beans
  • One 15 oz can of cannoli beans
  • One 15 oz can of sweet corn
  • One (1) 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
  • One (1) 28 oz can of plum tomatoes
  • One (1) 24 oz can of spaghetti sauce
  • 16 oz box of Rotini noodles

Cooking Instructions: Add the potatoes, carrots, celery, 1 cup of diced onion and 1 TBS minced garlic to a 2-gallon cooking pot. Add enough water to cover the mix by 2 inches or so. Add 2 TBS of butter, salt, pepper, and bring to a boil. Set to simmer for about 30 minutes or until potatoes and carrots are soft.

In a large fry pan, add the burger, 1 cup of onion, 1 TBS butter, 1 TBS garlic, a dash of salt and pepper, and about 3-4 TBS of water, and cover. Cook to a gentle steaming simmer until the burger is browned. Add the burger to the potato cooking pot.

Now add the tomatoes and sauce, cover. After reaching a gentle boil, add the black beans, cannoli beans, sweet corn and Rotini noodles. Bring back to a slow simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the noodles are cooked and expanded. If not, simmer a bit longer. The noodles absorb the watery flavored liquids and add gentle chewy stock to the gumbo.

Serve: Spoon it out to a large coffee cup or soup bowl. Add a slice or buttered bread or a sliced roll.

Enjoy. Delicious!

Turkey Hunting: Making the Box Call Sing

  • My favorite Turkey Call is the Box Call, it can make turkey music.
  • The type of wood can make a huge difference, reasons why some turkey hunters carry more than one box call
  • The 4-Play call is single box call that can make more notes, at more different pitches, than any 2 to 4 standard box calls combined!

By Mike Roux

I give dozens of game calling seminars and demonstrations each year.  Every single time I pick up a call, I explain to the folks watching and listening that the device in my hand, although it is described as a game call, is really no more than a musical instrument.   I also tell them that game calls operate on the same two principles as do all musical instruments.  Those principles being, rhythm and pitch.

If you can master the rhythm and pitch of a given call, you can be successful in the field as you use that call.  And, like a musician, practicing their instrument alone, imaging what it would sound like with the full orchestra, you must practice your calls imaging what they will sound like outdoors, at some distance.

Over half of my seminars each spring deal with calling and hunting the wild turkey.  The spring gobbler is still one of the toughest and most sought after game trophies to collect and his popularity grows each year.  Mastering the turkey call can make you a hero in your hunting group.

My favorite turkey call, by far, is the box call.  I have had lots of professional experience calling turkeys.  For over 40 years I served on the Pro Hunting Staffs for a couple of national call companies.  So, my box call is like an extension of my own hands.

Not all box calls are created equal.  You must be very selective when choosing this call.  Not only does the type of wood make a huge difference, but also the workmanship itself is critical to the performance of a box call, just like any other instrument.  Box calls that are made of plastic, or stamped-out mass-produced wooden calls will not give you the sound or the success you desire.  Pay the extra money, up front and get a custom-built box call that will drive the toms crazy.  That is why my box call preference is now the 4-Play Turkey Call.

Until recently I carried 2 box calls in my turkey vest.  One of these makes the sweetest yelps on the planet.  But its clucks leave a lot to be desired.  Likewise, the box call I cluck with is not worth a plug nickel for yelping or cutting.  That is why the 4-Play Turkey Call is the ONE box call I carry now.

The 4-Play call is made of different woods within the same call.  It has four sound rails, all of which can be different wood types, instead of just two.  By rotating the paddle around one end of the call you put 2 different rails into play.  This single box call makes more notes, at more pitches, than any 2 to 4 standard box calls combined.

Once you have decided upon and purchased your box call, you must learn how to play it.  I do like the box call because it is so easy to use.  But do not be fooled by that statement.  It still takes lots of practice to “master” all the sounds that this call can make.

All too often, turkey hunters fail to operate, or play, this instrument correctly.  Pressing the paddle onto the box may help increase volume, but will likely cause you to loose the desired pitch.  Quality custom-built box calls are designed for the weight of the paddle to be sufficient pressure to make the box play.  Most paddles will have a sweet spot.  Find this spot and you have found the key to your spring success.

Yelps are easily reproduced on a box call by dragging the paddle over one of the box lips.  At this point you are looking for, and listening for, pitch.  I will remind you that if you practice indoors, the pitch will sound profoundly different outside.  Practice outdoors as much as possible.

Once you have mastered a single yelp, line-up several yelps into a short run of calls.  At this point you are working on rhythm.  Combining rhythm and pitch will give you a very accurate imitation of a wild turkey.

There are a couple of different ways that you can hold this instrument as you play it.  My preferred method is to hold the box upright in my left hand and operate the paddle with my right hand.  This allows the weight of the paddle to do its job correctly.

Another variation that I have seen, but do not subscribe to, is holding the box upside down with the paddle in your left hand, striking the paddle with the box, which is held in the right hand.  To me, this method is cumbersome and eliminates the true resonance that the call can produce.  Either way, learn to play your box call with the method that is most comfortable for you.

By laying the paddle on the lip and popping it sharply upward, you can make an excellent cluck with your box call.  Putts can be made in much the same way.  By slowly dragging the full width of the paddle over the lip, a very seductive purr can be accomplished.

One of the most exciting and effective sounds the box call can reproduce is cutting.  To do this, hold the box in your left hand, paddle up and laying on the lip.  Use your left thumb as a “bumper”.  Tap the paddle with your right hand allowing it to rebound off your left thumb.  Practice this until you get the pitch, then work on the rhythm.  This call can really fire-up old tom and vastly improve your chances for success.

The key to this turkey call and to all others is practice.  There is no substitution for listening to live birds and reproducing the sounds you hear them make.  I would like to recommend a specific box call for you to try this spring. The 4-Play Turkey Call is the most versatile and productive box call I have seen and used.  Get one.  You will not be disappointed.

About the 4-Play Turkey Call: This innovative call is hand-manufactured by Cutting Edge Game Calls, a forward thinking company intent on creating and bringing to market innovative alternatives to help hunters be successful. Among their hunting products is the 4-Play Turkey Call. The company is staffed by creative-minded people who love hunting and whose innovative ideas are brought to life by talented craftsmen. To remove all risk about the 4-Play Turkey Call, they offer a 30 day trial! We realize the 4-Play is new and different, but that shouldn’t stop customers from trying it out. Order one today, try it, love it, or return it within 30 days for a full refund! For more visit: https://4playturkeycall.com/.

About the author: Mike Roux is an award-winning outdoor writer. He freelances more than 100 outdoor magazine and newspaper articles each year. Adding to his list of talents, he is also an accomplished speaker who annually books several speaking engagements nationwide – including banquets, game dinners and other outdoor events. Mike Roux has been a professional guide and game caller for over two decades. He has worked with the Pro Staffs of several outdoor products manufacturers. He is a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of American, as well as the Missouri Outdoor Communicators. For more, please visit www.mikeroux.com.

Winter Contest Idea…to Increase Fish Line Recycling – $30,000 in CASH PRIZES!

  • $30,000 in cash prizes on the line for best solutions

Ever wonder what happens to the discarded fishing line you put inside this recycling tube? It’s not pretty, according to BoatUS Foundation. But maybe you have a solution.

Winter is annual maintenance time for many anglers. Re-spooling with new line is a must-do task. Ever thought about what happens once you dispose of the old line in a fishing line recycling tube?

It’s not pretty. Turning fishing line into new products is labor-intensive, requiring a series of workers to manually comb through, sort, clean, remove hooks and weights, and separate out miles of encrusted debris in entangled fishing line. So as you pile up a few reels of line to be recycled this winter, the BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water is asking for your ideas on how to help grow the volume of line recycled each year.

Teaming up with fishing tackle company Berkley, the BoatUS Foundation’s Recast & Recycle Contest seeks out new ideas and improvements to the process, new ideas for recycled products, or technology breakthroughs for the current process that will increase the volume of line and soft baits that are recycled. Entry is simple – all you have to do is send a short video or one-page summary explaining your idea. Thirty thousand dollars in prize money is at stake for the three best ideas submitted through May 14, 2021.

“It’s great that anglers recycle,” said BoatUS Foundation Director of Outreach Alanna Keating. “Now we need to ask for help with scaling up recycling with a greater volume of line, whether it’s a time- and labor-saving process improvement or creating a new market to fully sustain recycling efforts.”

Judges will add weight to contest submissions that actually work, are practical, innovative, and have the potential to have a significant impact.

The first-place prize is $15,000, second place receives $10,000, and $5,000 will be awarded for third place. Contest submissions can address any part of the process (or multiple parts) of taking discarded fishing line and soft plastics from end of life to a new beginning. Professionals, amateurs and students alike are encouraged to apply, as are school teams and groups. Contest entries can be submitted with as little as a link to a video demonstration of the idea or a one-page graphic summary. Videos are limited to 4 minutes.

Contest rules and conditions, details on the current recycling process and videos on how various plastics and soft baits are recycled can be found at the Recast & Recycle website BoatUS.org/Contest.

Spring is an active time for wildlife!

  • Be prepared for encounters, do your best not to disturb them

Springtime is an active time for wildlife in Florida, with sea turtles beginning to nest on beaches, manatees leaving their warm-water winter refuges and gopher tortoises starting to stir outside their burrows.

Sea Turtles are laying eggs along the sandy beaches in spring. Florida FWC Photo

With warmer weather, a variety of species around the state are following their internal biological clocks that tell them to move, mate, feed and nest. These species include black bears and their cubs, nesting waterbirds and snakes.

Florida Blackskimmers on the beach. Florida FWC Photo

Because of heightened wildlife activity in springtime, people are more likely to see and encounter all kinds of animals, both adults and their young. Florida’s residents and visitors can help by being aware of how to avoid disturbing wildlife during the rites of spring.

“Viewing wildlife is one of the pleasures of being outdoors during spring,” said Kipp Frohlich, who leads the Division of Habitat and Species Conservation at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). “It helps if kids and adults know the importance of not disturbing wildlife. Keep your distance, so you don’t startle a sea turtle, gopher tortoise, manatee or nesting bird that you happen to see during your outdoor adventures.”

Tips on how to enjoy and help conserve Florida wildlife during spring:

  • Sea turtles – Help sea turtles by keeping beaches dark at night and free of obstacles during their March–October nesting season. Bright artificial lighting can disturb nesting sea turtles and disorient hatchlings, so avoid using flashlights or cellphones on the beach at night. Turning out lights or closing curtains and shades in buildings along the beach after dark also will ensure nesting turtles aren’t disturbed as they come ashore and hatchlings won’t become disoriented when they emerge. Clear away boats and beach furniture at the end of the day and fill in holes in the sand that could entrap turtles.
  • Manatees – Look out for manatees when boating. Chances of close encounters between manatees

    Injured wildlife are common finds by outdoor adventure folks. Call for help. Florida FWC Photo

    and boaters increase in the spring, as manatees leave their winter use areas and travel the intracoastal waterways along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts and other inland waters. For boaters, it is a critical time to be on the lookout for manatees to avoid collisions with these large aquatic mammals. Boaters should follow posted speed limits as many areas have seasonal zones in spring that reflect manatee migration patterns.

  • Gopher tortoises – Spring days are a good time to spot a gopher tortoise, as Florida’s only native tortoise becomes more active, foraging for food and searching for a mate. If you see gopher tortoises or their half-moon shaped burrow entrances, it is best to leave them alone. You can help a gopher tortoise cross a road by picking it up and placing it in a safe location along the roadside in the direction it was heading. But only do this if it is safe for you to do so, and Remember the tortoise is a land animal, so never attempt to put it into water.
  • Nesting birds – Keep your distance from birds on the beach or on the water. If birds become agitated or leave their nests, you are too close. Disturbance can cause birds to abandon their nesting sites, which exposes their eggs and chicks to predators, sun exposure and other harm. Because shorebirds and seabirds build well-camouflaged shallow nests out of sand and shells on beaches, their nests, eggs and chicks are vulnerable to being stepped on unless people look out for them. Wading birds, such as herons and egrets, and pelicans also are nesting now on mangroves and tree islands.
  • Bears – As spring temperatures warm, bears become more active, increasing the opportunities for conflicts with people. Don’t give bears a reason to stay in your neighborhood. Remove anything that might attract bears, such as unsecured garbage or pet food. If they can’t find food, they’ll move on.
  • Snakes

    Scarlet King Snake. Florida FWC Photo

    Watch out for snakes in your yard or when hiking. What should you do when you come upon a snake? Just stand back and observe it. Snakes don’t purposefully position themselves to frighten people. They’d much rather avoid encounters and usually will flee.

  • Injured and orphaned wildlife – If you find a baby animal, it is best to leave it alone. Baby animals rarely are orphaned; a parent may be nearby searching for food or observing its young. Instead, report wildlife you think may be injured or orphaned to the nearest FWC Regional Office.

It’s illegal to disturb or harm wildlife, so if you see someone not following the rules – or spot an animal in distress – call the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline: 888-404-FWCC (3922) or #FWC or *FWC on a cell phone.

Learn more about where and how to view wildlife at MyFWC.com/viewing.

Finally, a GUN SAFE made in the USA

  • WAY TOO HEAVY to carry, but this safe assembles in pieces easy to ship and move
  • 21 million NICS checks were conducted for the sale of a firearm in the past 12 months
  • NSSF estimates that 8.4 million people purchased a firearm for the first time in 2020

By Forrest Fisher

Anyone that owns a firearm, one or more, is concerned about safe storage of their ammo and guns. Especially now. According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, Americans have registered record-setting firearms stats earlier this month.

The National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) reported that 21 million background checks were conducted for the sale of a firearm in the past 12 months. That’s a 60% increase from 2019 with 13.2 million background checks, and it shatters the previous record of 15.7 million in 2016. NSSF estimates that 8.4 million people purchased a firearm for the first time in 2020.

Outdoor friend Kim Emery says, “It’s a good time to share gun safety information with new gun owners as well as those increasing their firearm collections. Gun safes are an essential component of this training.” From my perspective, what could be better than protecting your firearms with a fire-insulated safe made in the USA? There is such a company: Steelhead Outdoors.

The best safes are big and hard to move, so Steelhead Outdoors makes their safe products modular. Modular gun safes are easily moved and assembled by two people. You will not need to hire a specialized safe-moving company, which is costly, or enlist your family and friends on a dangerous do-it-yourself heavyweight moving adventure each time you move.

In a recent interview, Steelhead Outdoors co-founder Corey Meyer says, “Don’t wait until you have found your “forever home” to invest in proper protection and security of firearms and valuables. We created Steelhead Outdoors to solve the problem of fitting a safe into your lifestyle and home space. Modular safes can be moved into spaces that a traditional safe cannot. Plus, at Steelhead Outdoors, with our custom-designed options, we can literally create your dream safe.”

The classic Steelhead Outdoors Nomad series offers ceramic fire insulation rated to 2300 degrees and is non-moisture trapping. That means no dehumidifier is required (and will not release steam into the safe in the event of a fire). How cool is that?!

Size: Model 26: 26” x 18” x 54” assembled. The Nomad Model 26 is the perfect safe for smaller gun collections and small spaces. It is perfect for apartments, townhomes, temporary living situations and fits beautifully into most closets. The assembled safe weighs 375lb, every panel is easily moveable and weighs less than 100 lbs. The interior can be configured from 6 to 15 long guns.

The Model 38, size: 38″ x 24″ x 60″ assembled. The Nomad Model 38 is the perfect safe for larger gun collections and can be assembled in places a traditional safe could never get to. The assembled safe weighs 600lb, every panel is easily moveable and weighs less than 150 lbs. The interior can be configured from 10 to 34 long guns.

Both safes are available with a mechanical dial lock or a push-button digital lock. Custom color options and configurations available. To learn more about modular gun safes and the best options, visit SteelheadOutdoors.com. Follow on Instagram.com/SteelheadOutdoors, on Facebook.Com/SteelheadOutdoors, and watch how-to videos on their YouTube channel.

About Steelhead Outdoors: Founded in 2016, Steelhead Outdoors is an innovative safe company offering the only American-made, modular, fire-insulated gun safe available currently on the market. Longtime friends, engineers, and avid outdoorsmen, Charlie Pehrson and Corey Meyer, searched for a gun safe made in the USA, was adaptable, and offered a respectable level of fire and theft protection. Still, they soon realized this product didn’t exist. Since they couldn’t buy it, they decided to build it. Learn more at SteelheadOutdoors.com

Shark Teeth, Beach Treasure for Fun in the Sun…from Ancient times

  • HOW and WHERE to find them ON THE BEACH – 5 Methods
  • Shark Teeth found on the beach are fossilized – 10,000 to 15 million years old!
  • Back to the Future…fun on the beaches at Manatee Key in Southwest Florida

Southwest Florida beach shark teeth are found in all colors and sizes, drawing the attention of beachgoers from near and far. Forrest Fisher Photo

By Forrest Fisher
There are shark teeth to be found all over the world.  If you are looking for a great place to spend the day frolicking in the Gulf of Mexico, lying in the sun, taking a long walk at water’s edge and looking for the treasure of fossilized shark teeth, here are a few tips on what, where, and how.

Shark Teeth are a precious authentic prize for vacationing visitors to Southwest Florida.  You can find them on your own, it’s fun, and it’s the best excuse to RE-VISIT the beaches…”TREASURE!”  If you are new to shark tooth treasure hunting, here is some advice on gear, methods to use, and places to go.

Gear: For first-timers that want to stay very affordable, visit a local store to buy a (noodle strainer) colander ($1-$3).  If you want to spend a bit more, visit a local beach store to purchase a “sand flea scooper” with ¼ inch mesh ($10-$20). Folks use the colander or sand flea scoopers to scoop the surf for shark teeth. Of course, you can also just pick up shark teeth when you see them at the top of the surf on the beach with your bare hands. Lastly, carry an empty prescription jar or plastic bag to store your shark teeth as you continue the hunt.  Now you’re set.

Finding Shark Teeth – 5 Methods:

  • Method 1: The Surf Line. Keep it simple, put your sunscreen on, keep your head down, and just saunter along the surf line, where the waves hit the beach, being careful not to bump into any beachgoers doing the same thing going in the other direction. Remember, keep your head down!

    Shark teeth, seashells, sunshine, and gentle surf offer appeal and fun for all age groups.

    The usually black-color shark teeth are easily and clearly visible as they sort of pop-up in the firm sand. Each wave can bring more than one, at times. Just pick them up and add them to your collection bag, usually a small sealable plastic bag or an old plastic medicine bottle.

  • Method 2: The Storm Line. If you look along the beach between the tall marsh grass to the water’s edge, you will note that there is a distinct line of demarcation where the sand sort of changes texture and composition. You will usually see a collection of millions of small shells here too, yes, right in the middle of the beach, parallel to the waterline. There are tons of shark teeth here. You might not be the first to search, so look around for a 10 by 10-foot area that appears to be untouched. Drop your picnic blanket down, open up your lawn chairs, put up your portable beach umbrella, and set your cooler down.

    Amidst the thousands of feet of the shell lines to be found on nearly every Manasota Key beach, look closely at this photo, there are treasured shark teeth!

    The sound of the surf will put you to sleep as you sift the sand “down the line” of your intended search area. My family and usually do this and find about 100 teeth per beach visit. As we talk about life, listen to the sea birds in constant chatter too, we enjoy a cool beverage and thank the good Lord for this blessing of a sunny day at the beach…with shark teeth.

  • Method 3: The Chair Line. My shark tooth collection expert friends, Tim and Jeanie Snyder, internationally infamous and brazenly simple in their shark tooth-finding process, they are extremely efficient and prefer this method to find beach teeth by the hundred. Bring your own or rent a shallow height beach chair. Walk to the water’s edge, now look left and look right. Find a little feature point of sand that sort of sticks out along the usually long and straight beach line. Go there. Set your chair in the surf line on either side of this point and about 3-feet or so into the water. You’re about to get wet (feels so good). Use your hands, a small screen scooper, a colander, or a little minnow net with an extension handle. Put your sunglasses on, keep your eyes open and watch for the shark teeth with each wave. You might find many dozens per hour this way, fresh from the sea!
  • Method 4: The Snorkel/Mask Line. Don your snorkel and mask, walk out 20 to 40 feet from the beach sand and you’ll note a sort of “deep spot” before it starts to get shallower as you continue to walk out. Go back to the trench, this is the “shark tooth trench!” If the water is clear and not too wavy, walk-swim-float, and search the bottom. You’ll often see multiple sets of teeth laying right there for the picking. Shells too. This method can be very productive when the waves are soft and small.
  • Method 5: the EASY WAY – Shark Art Online. Even if you are happy with what you collected, or maybe your trip was cancelled, if you want a perfect collection of shark teeth for vacation talking-moments at your next family gathering, consider this: You can buy assorted shark teeth collections or buy shark tooth art, fully supplied in a small kit for very little money. Prices for simple shark teeth package assortments vary from $3 (for 30 teeth and a free shark tooth necklace) to about $15, based on size and number of shark teeth. The shark art kits vary from $10 to $20 plus shipping – these are 5 x 7 and 8 x 10-inch art, respectively, and are awesome. Each of the art kits is all-inclusive with the shark teeth, artboard (complete with the profile where you glue the teeth), and directions. These kits are inexpensive and make an awesome gift.

    Tim Snyder, the Shark Art Guy, in his favorite shark-tooth treasure hunting place, the Peace River, 25 to 50 miles from where it enters the Gulf of Mexico.

    Visit this link to order direct: https://www.ebay.com/str/sharkteethandsharkartbyclark or email sharkartbyclark@gmail.com. If you become a repeat customer with three orders of $50 or more, Snyder will offer an invitation to you for a day of collecting teeth and fossils (get your Florida fossil permit, the cost is $5) on the Peace River (Tim reminds each guest that there are no guarantees on weather, water conditions, water level, how many teeth or fossils are collected and, of course, he is not responsible for any accidents or injuries. You are invited as a friend taking a friend to the river.) I did this trip! Under Tim’s direction of the process, Tim’s shovel and Tim’s sifter in hand, I collected 386 teeth in 5 hours! These are perfect teeth, no rounded edges from the surf. Unreal! It was such fun!

Where to find Shark Teeth – 1 Florida Key, 4 Beaches:

Shark tooth hunters of all sizes, young and old, head for the beach to find prehistoric treasure. Not everyone is successful but study the methods outlined here to learn shark tooth hunting options for your success.

Manasota Key is an long island-like land mass near Port Charlotte, Florida, that offers four popular shark tooth hunting beach spots. All of them are among favorites for locals and visitors alike, and include (north to south): Manasota Beach Park, Blind Pass Beach Park, Englewood Beach, and Stump Pass State Park.

Large and small shark teeth are a common find on the beach. The lightly worn edges of the shark teeth found on the beach is common, this wear is from the rolling wave action. All shark teeth are a treasure.

There is no fee or toll to enter Manasota Key on the north bridge or the south bridge that crosses Lemon Bay.

  • Manasota Key Beach, located at the north end of Manasota Key, offers easy access to the Gulf of Mexico and Lemon Bay (bay side), has free parking (6 a.m. – midnight), is not usually over-crowded and like so many Florida Gulf beaches, offers that perfect orange-sky sunset. The facility building offers changing rooms and restrooms, multiple beach access points to the ocean, squeaky-clean sand, there are often lots of sharks teeth and even more tranquility here.
  • Blind Pass Beach, also known as Middle Beach, offers access to the Gulf and to Lemon Bay, more than ½ mile of beach frontage, a hiking trail through the mangrove forest on the bayside, and a fishing dock.

    A good day on the shark tooth treasure hunt! 

    We have never found less than 50 shark teeth here during a day at this beach. Great spot, relaxing, quiet, wonderful. Changing and restroom facility here too, free parking (6 a.m. – midnight).

  • Englewood Beach, with Chadwick Park, is a favorite for residents and visitors, clear water and frequent blue skies bring kids of all ages here to go shelling and shark tooth hunting for hours on end. Life is all about “beach therapy” when visiting Florida. If you are thirsty, there is a little Volkswagen Bus business stand near the changing facility that offers tasty smoothies – they’re delicious! If you need food, walk across the street and choose from several walk-in restaurants. Eat, drink, and go back to the beach. Parking at Englewood is by parking pay stations (very reasonable/hr), open 6 a.m. – 9 p.m., they accept credit cards. There is a large changing and restroom facility here.
  • Stump Pass Beach State Park, our personal favorite shark tooth place. Open 8 a.m. – sundown, it’s located at the southernmost end of Manasota Key where visitors will find one mile of Gulf beach where seashells and shark teeth are wash ashore.

    If you had trouble finding shark teeth, there is one easy cure.  Try one of these Shark art kits, they include the shark teeth, artboard, and directions, are inexpensive, and make an awesome gift. Visit https://www.ebay.com/str/sharkteethandsharkartbyclark.

    Anglers can fish the surf too and there are lots of shark teeth here for everyone. It’s not a bad idea to arrive early and get one of the 60 or so parking spots. Cost is $3 for the day, bring the exact change, the park rangers are not allowed to make change. At least there is a fair system in place to wait for a spot to open. They have two lines, one to exit and one to wait for a spot to open up. We have never waited more than 20 minutes. The really good part about this beach is that the water is very close to the parking lot. Visitors come to this secluded beach to enjoy the year-round swimming and sun-soaking. Shelling and finding shark teeth in the wave wash is excellent during the winter months. A hiking trail with Lemon bay on one side and the Gulf on the other passes through five distinct natural eco-communities that provide a home for many species of wildlife; covered picnic tables are located along the trail. Visitors can launch a kayak and paddle around the two islands just east of the park land base. While at the park, watch dolphins, manatees, gopher tortoises, snowy egrets, terns, and many species of sea birds. Ranger-led nature hikes are on the calendar during winter months. There are stand-up paddleboard and kayak rentals, lessons, and guided boat tours here too.

At all of these beaches, the intra-coastal waterway side of the parks offers a diverse network of mangroves, marsh grass, many species of birds (more than 150), many species of fish (more than 200). It’s perfect for fishing, kayaking, birding, and wading. The Gulf-side of the parks offers sand, surf, sunshine, seashells, and lots of shark teeth.

Remarkable Hunting – Lightning, Rain, one Old Barn and one Old Deer

  • As I sat there, I thought, “Deer hunting is about sunrises and sunsets, the wildlife that go about their daily routines not knowing you are there. It’s about all the memories you make with family and friends or alone in a barn.”

By Larry Whiteley

The rain stops. Through my binoculars, I see a buck by himself – he has a weird set of antlers. Then I think about next year.

The forecast for opening day of the firearms deer season was for rain with a chance of thunderstorms. My son was out of town, and my grandson was at college in Kansas. It wouldn’t be the same without them, so why not just stay home? Wait a minute, this is opening morning I’m talking about. A tradition for goodness sake. How many years in a row have I enjoyed this special day? I had to be out there even if I was going to be by myself. Even if it was raining.

The alarm jarred me from my sleep. I got the coffee pot going, brushed my teeth, did my duty, grabbed my hunting clothes and rifle, filled my thermos, and was out the door. I could see stars in the night sky, so maybe, just maybe, the weatherman was wrong. My truck came to a stop at the metal gate on the gravel road, and I got out to open it. No rain! I drove on down the road, crossed the creek, and pulled up to the old barn sitting majestically in the field.

My plan was to leave the truck there and hike across the field to a tree where my stand waited for me. I got out of the truck, thunder rumbled, and lightning cracked and lit up the dark sky. I was sure thankful I had gone to the bathroom before leaving home. My hair would have stood on end if I had any.

I quickly decided I did not want to walk across a field with the lightning while carrying a rifle to go sit in a metal treestand. Then the sprinkles started, the thunder and lightning continued, and I got back in my truck. As I sat there thinking about what to do, the sky lit up again, and it seemed like heaven opened. I swear I heard the angel chorus singing hallelujah and trumpets bugling. There before me was the answer that would save this day. I would deer hunt from the old barn hayloft. My son, grandson, and granddaughter had all taken deer from the old barn before, and so had I.

I jumped out of the truck, grabbed all my hunting stuff, and ran inside. Then I remembered I had a folding chair I used when hunting in blinds, it was still in the truck, so I ran back out to get it. The rain was getting heavier, but the old barn would keep me dry. It was still dark, so I was in no hurry to climb up in the barn loft. I looked around with wide eyes, and my headlight assured me there were no wild animals in the barn ready to attack me. I also made a mental note not to step in all the groundhog holes in the dirt floor.

 

The old barn was built over 100 years ago by a gentleman named Christopher Columbus Meadows. I remembered the old black and white picture the owner of this land had shown me of Christopher Columbus holding a horse by the reigns and standing next to the barn.

My headlight shines on, the big stacked rocks and hand hewn beams light up. These are the foundation on which the old barn has stood for over 100 years. I look at the ax marks on the wood, and I see, in my mind’s eye, Christopher chopping and shaping the log to become this foundation. I imagine him in the wooden wagon, pulled by the horse in the picture, going down to the creek to find the flat rocks for the beam to set on.

I look around at all the weathered wood that covers the old barn. There was no electricity in this valley when the barn was built and wouldn’t be for another 30 years or more. So how did they get this wood to build it? How has the wood lasted this long? There is no paint or sealant of any kind on it. Where did they get the old rusted hinges and nails? I will never know the answers.

My mind travels back in time, and I see the horse in the picture standing in a stall. I see corn stalks stacked in another area. Maybe this was where they milked the old cow. Is that daylight coming through the cracks? It sounds like the storm has let up. I better get up in the loft.

I climb the stairs that are just as sturdy as they were when they were built but step carefully around rotted boards on the loft floor. I set up in the big opening where they once brought hay up from below to be stored in the barn loft. My chair is comfortable. I pour a cup of coffee and stretch out my legs. This is a great way to hunt deer, even if it’s not raining.

I look around the old loft, still amazed at how they built the old barn this big and how it has stood this long. The owner tells me it’s home to barn swallows, field rats, mice, a pair of black vultures that come here to raise babies every year, and the groundhogs who made all the holes, these will probably be the biggest reason the barn comes down someday.

The rain stops. Through my binoculars, I see a buck by himself – he has a weird set of antlers. On the left, it is normal but only three points. On the right, it is short with two points and ugly. He slowly saunters across the field with his head down. I figure all the bucks have teased him about his weird rack, and the females don’t want anything to do with this ugly buck.

I think for a moment about putting him out of his misery and click off the safety. But then I think maybe next year when he grows back a new set of antlers, they will be prominent and handsome. Then the ladies will be attracted to him, and the bucks that made fun of him will regret it when he kicks their butt. I click on my safety.

Rain starts again. He will be the only deer I see this day, but that’s okay. I don’t know why we have to get older to realize that deer hunting is not just about getting a big buck you can put out on social media to brag about. Deer hunting is about sunrises and sunsets, the wildlife that go about their daily routines, not knowing you are there. It’s about all the memories you make with family and friends or alone in a barn.

This day will be added to my storehouse of memories. Before I get too old, and as long as it remains standing, I would like to have a few more days of deer hunting from the hayloft of the old barn.

Conservation Pioneers, a Never-Ending Love Story

Bob and Barb Kipfer – medical professionals, parents, conservationists, heart-warming people – two lives well-lived through sharing.

By Larry Whiteley

From time to time in life, you meet people with hearts as big as the outdoors they love. It is hard for those who know these two unforgettable people, Bob and Barb Kipfer, to think of one without thinking of the other. They are husband and wife, but they are more than that. They are friends, they are a team, they are life partners in a life well-lived.

The first chapter in their book of life begins at Kansas University Medical Center. Bob was a medical student in his first year of patient care in the hospital wards. Barb had just arrived as a newly graduated nurse on her first job. During his daily classwork around the hospital, Bob took particular notice of Barb. One-day, Bob saw her going into a room where nurses went to dump bedpans. He followed her in, closed the door, and asked her out on a date. He thought he might get dumped-on too, but she said yes. They were married on September 4, 1965, and another chapter in their life had begun.

Two years later, Bob received his draft notice, then served with the infantry in Viet Nam as a battalion field surgeon. That meant he traveled into battle with the troops and worked in field hospitals in the battle zone. Barb continued nursing back in Kansas and caring for their newborn son, Mark, hoping Bob would make it back home. I am sure there were times when Bob wondered the same thing. Like most Viet Nam veterans, he doesn’t talk much about that time in his life. Needless to say, he did make it home to his family after his tour of duty ended. They settled down to somewhat normal life during four years of his residency at the Mayo clinic. Their family also grew with the birth of their daughter, Amy. Life was busy, life was good.

Bob, on right, during his tour in Vietnam on the field surgical team.

In 1973 Bob and Barb and the kids moved to Springfield, MO to start a new chapter in their lives. Bob practiced Gastroenterology and Internal Medicine at a local hospital. Barb began to teach at a school of nursing. They bought a home and moved into an urban neighborhood where they still live today. Their lives were busy, but they managed to find time to go fishing, canoeing, kayaking, and sailing on weekends. They played tennis. They traveled. They made lots of friends at work, in their neighborhood, and through social activities. One of those friends owned land with a cabin in the Ozark hills of southern Missouri, where Bob and Barb visited often, and they soon started looking for land of their own. That search led them to land with a clear-flowing creek running through a beautiful valley with forested hills and lots of wildlife. They fell in love with this special place, and another chapter was to be written.

Bob and Barb continued to work at their medical jobs during the week and stayed at their home in town. Unless they were traveling to places all over the world, visiting their kids and grandkids in other states, or going to social events, they were at their valley cabin on weekends.

Ten years after buying the property, Bob decided it was time for another chapter to be written. He had been working in medical administration, in addition to his medical practice, but having more fun on their property, he retired. He gave up tennis for a chainsaw and a tractor down in the valley. Barb waited two more years before retiring just to make sure Bob was house broke.

Retirement started another chapter to their story. During their time spent in the valley, they started working with the Missouri Department of Conservation to clear trees to bring back glades that were once there. They also worked with the department to plant trees for bank stabilization to protect the stream and their land. They even planted over 2,000 tree seedlings themselves for the same purpose. This all sparked their interest in conservation and fed their desire to conserve and protect this special place.

Barb provides an educational ecology tour for kids.

Their transformation from medical professionals to dedicated conservationists and conservation educators is an amazing chapter in their book of life. It’s about how their love for conservation grew and changed not just their lives but changed and touched the lives of so many others—more than they will ever know.

They became involved with the Springfield Plateau of Missouri Master Naturalists. Bob writes an informative blog for the group, Barb represents them on the Grow Native board. She leads educational tours of their urban yard in Springfield, where she has planted over 100 native plant species. She even made a video tour of what has been accomplished so far to be used for virtual education. Barb spends a lot of her time in the valley trying to rid their land of any kinds of invasive species or plants not native to the area. They have restored warm-season native grass fields and work at endangered species protection. They collect native butterflies, raise moths, volunteer at special events at the Butterfly House, and host mothing events at their property. A somewhat unique event.

They implemented a forest stewardship plan for their property, and it is now a certified Tree Farm. They were named State Tree Farmers of the Year in 2015 for all their work with timber stand improvements and even hosted a Missouri Tree Farm Conference.

Their land in the valley has grown to 400 acres and includes another cabin with their land additions. The valley and the house are used by college students for stream ecology studies. The Audubon Society has access to bird counts and education.  They have hosted Missouri Department of Conservation tours, a black bear study, Boy Scout activities, wildlife studies of plant and animal species, wild mushrooms studies, and field trips for groups studying plant and wildlife identification. Their land is open to other conservation-minded groups for retreats and ecology field trips, woodland management, and stream education.

Bob conducts a hands-on session sharing secrets of life in the outdoors for kids to learn more about conservation.

They were named the 2017 Conservationists of the Year by the Conservation Federation of Missouri. I would bet if you asked them what they have enjoyed doing most of all the things they have done, it would be their work with the public schools’ WOLF program. They teach fifth-graders in weekly classroom sessions and host kids in their valley for educational classes several times a year. Bob and Barb have profoundly impacted conservation in the lives of all the kids and people they have taught. The kids love them and will never forget Bob and Barb. This world could use more people like the Kipfer’s. Their impact on conservation has been immense.

One of these days, I hope in the far distant future, Bob and Barb will no longer be able to manage their land. When that time comes, they have donated it to Missouri State University under a protected agreement to sustain the valley’s natural ecology and use it to educate students who will be our future conservationists and conservation educators.

When Bob and Barb are gone, their ashes will be added to the old cemetery in the valley they loved. Their passion for conservation will continue through these students, the Wolf School kids, and all the other lives impacted by these two people. It will not be the final chapter of their book of life, though. Their story will go on through all the lives they have touched. Those people will pass on their passion for conservation. The Bob and Barb story will continue.

That makes this a never-ending story.

Sitting on a Big Flat Rock in Winter

A big flat rock in the middle of a warm winter is more than a big flat rock. Larry Whiteley photo

By Larry Wisher

It’s a warm day. For winter, that is. I’m sitting on a big flat rock in the middle of the woods. The sun soaks deep into my bones. Days like this don’t come that often in winter, here where I live.

I take my jacket off and use it for a cushion and insulation from the cold of the rock. Except for the sound of a deer mouse rustling through the dry leaves enjoying the warmth too, or the occasional chatter of squirrels or crows talking to each other – it’s quiet here.

My eyes get heavy. Just as I start drifting off to sleep, an old dead tree comes crashing to the ground and startles me back to reality. What is that old saying? If a tree falls in the woods and nobody is there to hear it, does it make a sound? My heartbeat slows back down to normal. I stretch my legs back out and enjoy my rock again.

You know, I hadn’t noticed so many dead trees out here before. The wood-eating insects must have got to them. Then the woodpeckers got to the insects. Then the holes the woodpeckers made became home to other birds and flying squirrels.

Someday, when no one’s around to hear it, they too will fall. Then mice will build nests in them, snakes will hibernate, and they will be an excellent place for storing nuts. Eventually, though, they will return to the ground from which they came. It’s amazing what you think about when you’re sitting on a big flat rock in the middle of the woods…on a warm winter’s day.

Looking skyward, the trees are like me, recharging for spring. Larry Whiteley photo

The musty smell of decaying leaves reminds me of how unique nature really is. In a few months, tiny buds will start appearing. Soon after, green leaves will burst out and unfurl. These woods, which now seem dead, will come to life again because of the nurturing power of the decaying leaves mixed with sunshine and rain.

As I scout for turkeys or begin looking for mushrooms, I will notice the buckeye trees first because they are the first tree to leaf out around here. The oaks, maples, hickories, walnuts, sycamores, and all the others will soon follow. Serviceberries, with their dainty white flowers, will be the first to bloom. They will be followed by the redbuds with their tiny purplish flowers. The white blossoms of the dogwood will not be far behind. Their colors add beauty to the spring woods.

It will be so much different than it is right now. Except for the brown leaves, blue sky, and green of the pines and cedars, I kind of feel like I’m watching an old black and white television. Don’t you remember those? Well, you probably wouldn’t unless you’re getting as old as I am.

The fully leafed trees add cooling shade to these woods as I come here for morning hikes in summer. Summer also brings ticks, chiggers, and snakes to these woods. Because of that and the hot and humid days, I’m not here as often as I am in other seasons.

As summer ends and fall begins, the chlorophyll that gives the leaves their green color begins to break down, and the true colors of the leaves are revealed. These woods become a kaleidoscope of red, gold, orange, and yellow. Trees drop their nuts to the ground while deer, turkey, squirrels, and the mice that call this place home, enjoy the bounty. Once again, I will be hiking, scouting, hunting, and sometimes even camping. It’s my favorite season of the year and a beautiful time to be here.

A little bit of wind, a little snow, and the acorns of autumn will bury and join the life of spring a few months from now. Larry Whiteley photo

But then, those same leaves that burst forth in spring will wither and fall to decompose and give nourishment to the same tree that gave them life. How does that song go? “Just remember in the winter far beneath the bitter snow, lies a seed that with the sun’s love in spring, becomes a rose.” Here in these winter woods, it will be beneath the dead leaves and sometimes a covering of snow. It will be a seed or a nut, that in the springtime with the sun’s love, sprouts and becomes a maple, dogwood, redbud, oak, papaw, buckeye, or hickory. Maybe even just a scraggly bush. Life goes on.

Wow! Again I will say it’s amazing what you think about when you’re sitting on a big flat rock in the middle of the woods on a warm winter’s day. If a man talks or sings to himself in the woods and no one’s around, does anybody hear him?

I feel a little like an acorn.  My eyes are getting heavy again.

4-PLAY for Christmas! …A Love Story

  • Woodsy turkey call sounds combine screech and scratch controls
  • Henry C. Gibson and Eric Steinmetz each provided sound innovations about 120 years apart
  • Tone and tune change in one box that allows clucking, purring, yelping and cackling is about pure genius 

By Larry Whiteley

Now some of you probably read that headline, and your mind drifted off to another kind of foreplay. However, this is not that kind of foreplay. This 4-Play is something that can get a turkey gobbler all excited to come looking for love.

Let me begin with how this kind of 4-Play started. You see, the first box-style turkey call was patented in 1897 by an Arkansas farmer and fence supply manager, Henry C. Gibson, of Dardanelle. Though there may have been box calls before his patent, Gibson sparked a new industry with many imitators creating box-type turkey calls.

For over 120 years, the turkey box call has never really changed much from the original wooden box and paddle design. Then along came avid turkey hunter Eric Steinmetz. Eric built his box calls for years and had terrific success with them. He even sold a few to local hunters. Eric couldn’t get the thought out of his mind about coming up with a call that was more versatile and more effective than the standard box call design. He would think about it as he drove down the road with his traveling sales job. When he was home and wasn’t turkey hunting, he was in his shop tinkering with different designs and wood types.

He finally came up with the idea of building one with a forward-mounted wheel that would allow the paddle to be moved to both sides of the box. That way, it could be used on any of four sound rails, each made with different wood types to have four different tones. Thus came the name for his call, the 4-Play. He also found that since the wheel allowed the lid to be moved forward and backward, he could strike the sound rails in multiple locations, adding to his box call versatility. The 4-Play is a turkey box call like no other you have ever seen or used.  

The U.S. Patent Office agreed that Eric’s box call was so innovative they awarded him a Utility Patent. 4-Play turkey calls are available with Cherry, Walnut, or mahogany bodies, and all have sound rails made of walnut, eastern red cedar, sassafras, and poplar. If you’re a turkey hunter, you have to have one of these. For more information, watch videos, read reviews, and order, visit https://4playturkeycall.com/shop. Or, give them a call at 610-984-4099. They would love to visit with you.

“It is a versatile call,” says Eric. “With a little practice, you can make an almost unlimited number of tones and pitches. I just want hunters to use it and then hopefully send us pictures of them and their Gobbler. That’s what would make me feel successful.”

Eric has since sold the 4-Play patent to Brian Benolken, but he is still involved with the business, working shows, building calls, and of course, turkey hunting. He’s even won several calling competitions with his 4-Play. Brian is busy growing the business under the name of Cutting Edge Game Calls, and his goal for the company is to offer you products for making you a better and more successful turkey hunter. Brian and Eric both are continuously thinking of new innovative ideas.

This old turkey hunter has never seen anything like it in all my years of turkey hunting, so I just had to have a 4-Play. I love it! I can’t believe all the sounds I can make with it. I’m clucking, purring, yelping, and even fly down cackling with it. I can’t wait until spring turkey season. My wife can’t either! Can you believe she banned me from the house and makes me take my 4-Play and practice out in the barn?

If you are a turkey hunter, you might try hinting to your wife or girlfriend that you would surely like to have 4-Play under the tree for Christmas. If they look at you like you’re weird or something, you might have to just order online or call Cutting Edge Game Calls to order one for yourself. But if they smile, this could be a very Merry Christmas in more ways than one.

 

 

 

2020 Renegade Bass Classic Championship, TEAMWORK and LURE SELECTION was key

  • Drop Shot Rigs with finesse soft plastics was the secret bait key
  • Scented tubes, high-floating drop-shot baits and creature critters were most effective
  • Tough weather dictated our fishing plan, the rigs we used, and boat-positioning tactics

Lenny Devos is a finesse fisherman – his new secret fishing baits have helped him and partner, Jeff Deslodges, win fishing contests all over the Canada and the USA. 

By David Gray

Lenny Devos is a fisherman’s fisherman.

He loves to fish. Fishing is his passion.

Lenny loves to talk about fishing and loves to think about fishing, and he loves to tournament fish. Lenny is very successful at it and, at my humble request, he is willing to share some secrets with us ordinary fishing folks that toss lines for bass.

We might all learn a few things from Lenny and his teammate. His tournament winning formula is simple: use the team approach.

It works and is easy to do. Lenny and his tournament partner, Jeff Desloges, are very competitive by nature. They complement each other as a team. Lenny says, “We make a great team, we think similarly, we like to fish the similarly, and we can often fish the same cover more effectively using different, but similar, tactics to figure out the fish.” Style, lure types, colors, size – all these things can make a difference. 

The Teamwork approach has produced three Renegade Bass Classic Championships, including their most recent win: the 2020 Renegade Bass Canadian Tour Championship.  

Winning the 2020 Championship did not come easy. Day 1 of the two-day Championship delivered good weather and a variety of patterns were identified. Lenny and Jeff weighed in 22.51 lbs for third place but were more than 3 lbs behind the first-place team of Scott Lecky and Steve Bean. They had weighed in an impressive 5 fish limit of 25.66 lbs. On the St. Lawrence River, where giant smallmouth limits are the rule, making up more than 3 lbs would be a challenge for Lenny and Jeff.   

Two happy anglers, Lenny Devos and Jeff Deslodges, add one more championship to their wining streak.  

On Day 2, the weather took a significant shift with a front produced heavy rain and very high winds. The combination made boat control challenging. Precision deep-water bait presentation was, therefore, also difficult to achieve. The 30 to 40 mph winds also increased the river current (speed) and added to boat control difficulty. The extreme weather change played havoc with the shallow water patterns learned on Day 1 and challenged the precise bait presentation needed for the deep-water bite. 

The “STH-Drifter” is only 2.75 inches long, and has proven deadly for finesse applications like drop-shot, jig head and the bottom hugging Flatty Jig (shown above). The drifter floats, is super-soft, salted and scented, so it moves freely off a drop-shot without having to shake it.  The “3D eyes” add to life-like appearance. 

Lenny and Jeff continued to throw the Netbait STH Finesse Series of soft baits, including the Crush Worms and STH Drifters (American Baitworks), that’s what worked on Day 1. But the heavy wind did not let up. Lenny said, “It was difficult to present our baits the way that the smallmouth wanted it.” Then teamwork kicked in. Lenny says, “Jeff and I know how each other fishes, so I concentrated on boat control to allow Jeff to focus on lure presentation.

That teamwork strategy paid off, and despite the adverse weather, we had a good day. Our Day 2 bag of 23.06 lbs gave us a tournament total of 45.57lbs, and our 3rd Renegade Bass Championship win. It took a team to win as precise bait presentation was the key.” 

The Finesse Series Tube are 40% body and 60% tail, to deliver a new undulating action, quite improved when compared to other tubes, as the slightest twitch of the rod allows a fully exposed hook in the tail section. The 60% feature allows you to trim your tail to match feeding activity. Results mean improved hook ups with hard-mouthed smallmouth bass.

Born and raised in Kingston, Ontario, Lenny loves his job as a Fire Fighter because part of the job is helping others when they need it. When he is on duty, he thinks about being a Firefighter, but Lenny thinks about fishing the rest of the time. Lenny says he is always thinking about lures, techniques, reading the water, and figuring out new lakes. Lenny was not born into a fishing family but remembered “the Day” he became a fisherman. Even though his Dad did not fish, Lenny had a driving urge to go fishing and kept asking Dad to take him.

So Dad got a crash course on how to fish from a friend, borrowed a rod and reel, and took Lenny, his 6-year-old son, fishing. Lenny recalls, “All we had was that one rod and reel, a bobber, a hook, and a worm.” That was all it took to unlock Lenny’s lifelong passion for fishing and his drive to compete in tournaments.  

Lenny credits his tournament fishing success to several things. One is planning by thinking about an upcoming tournament. We like to make a plan based on how far or close the lake is on either side of the spawn. 

Knowing that helps you target where the fish will be. Also, there is no substitute for time on the water, which is crucial for success. We use that time on the water to tell us where we will fish and what we will fish with. To quote Lenny, “A day on the water with nothing learned is a wasted day. I usually learn the most on the worst days, especially those days when you are marking fish or seeing fish, and nothing seems to be working.”

Another plus is a great tournament partner. Since Jeff and I fish the same way, we both contribute to tournament planning and strategy. Lenny started tournament fishing in 1990, and a lot of anglers are calling Lenny Devos the best bass jig fisherman in Ontario.  

Robert Greenberg, who owns the innovative American Baitworks company, and is himself an accomplished tournament angler, says Lenny could be called the “Best Bass Angler in Canada.” Quite a compliment to be called the best bass angler in a country where some say the national sport should be fishing!

Questions and Answers

Question:  What lures did you use to win the Renegade Bass Championship?

Lenny: On Day 1 we used STH (Set-The-Hook) Drifters, Finesse Tubes and the Net Bait Kickin-B Chunk off a drop-shot rig. On Day 2, after the weather change, we used Carolina Rigs with a fluorocarbon leader with the Net Beat Kickin-B Chunk. 

Question:  Lenny, what are your favorite “GO-TO” baits and techniques?

Lenny: For Smallmouth, I like to throw tubes with Green Pumpkin as a favorite color. For Largemouth, a Flipping Jig is my favorite.  

I use a stout rod, but with a more flexible tip than most guys flip with. The softer tip really helps with good hook sets. My favorite is the Halo 7’5″ KS-II Elite with 50 lb braid tied directly to the jig. I do not use a leader. I also enjoy throwing topwater frogs. The Scum Launch Frog is one of those baits that just catch fish. When conditions are right, it is hot.  

The new KSII ELITE is light, balanced and built with a custom two-finger reel seat that exposes a portion of the blank to heighten the transition of the bite to the hand. The handles are triple grade-A cork for greater comfort and sensitivity. 

Question:  What is your favorite body of water to fish?

Lenny: In Canada, my favorite is the St. Lawrence and Lake Ontario. In the US, I really like Stick Marsh in Florida.

Question:  What are you looking forward to in 2021?

Lenny: I always look forward to the start of the open water season and, of course, the first tournament of the year. I have been working with Freedom Tackle this year to develop several new bass jigs that work really well, and I’m excited about fishing the first production models in 2021.   

Question:  Do you have sponsors you can recommend?

Lenny: I have some sponsors that I am very proud to recommend as they do a great job taking care of customers. Hunters Bay Marine in North Bay, Ontario; Triton boats and Mercury motors; Ultra Tungsten Weights; Vigor Eyewear; American Baitworks Brands. 

 

 

Florida Youth Hunting – First Deer for Kingston, 11-years old

  • Learning to shoot well, whisper in the stand, control our scent and be there at the right lucky time…made it all happen.
  • Face camo adds to the youth hunting fun, making that first shot good sure makes it unforgettable.
  • The crossbow allows a friendly introduction into accurate shooting potential at the very young age of 11 for my son.
  • An unbelievable experience, for dads and moms too!

That first moment of deer hunting success is hard to capture, but my son Kingston overcame the odds (trembling) to make an accurate shot on this healthy 7-point Florida buck in south Florida. My heart rate might have been a bot elevated too! 

By Jeff Liebler

Kingston, my 11-year old son, has always been in love with the outdoors. Fishing, hunting, campfires and more. So this summer, I made a deal with Kingston – if he completed his Florida Hunter Safety Course, put in some serious practice dialing in his crossbow – from the ground and in the treestand, we could hunt deer together and he could try for his first-ever deer. I was excited that he was excited from the get-go! Together with his cousin (Hunter), we needed to rebuild the old tree platform at his grandmother’s house where we hunt. It was a big chore, but Kingston was all in.

Last year, when he was just 10, we hunted the same stand together and he became familiar with watching for deer and using the range finder for yardage. He was my lucky charm, he helped me take a beautiful 11-point archery buck from that stand. It was fun, sharing with him in whisper-tone things about scent awareness and sound control.

Our trail cam allowed to understand there were some good bucks in the area, and lots of doe as well.

This year, he completed his hunter coursework and after practice shooting his crossbow dozens of times, checking trail cams, replenishing food sources, and hours of tree stand bonding, Kingston made it happen. 

Here’s how it went:

On Saturday, Oct. 3rd, two days after the harvest moon, we decided to try our luck in the light rain. We’ve actually spotted more deer together on rainy days than we do on dry days. We knew that day we had a chance for good luck if we could ride out the afternoon precipitation. We threw on some light camo gear and scent blocker, then snuck into the stand at 3:20PM. The black-bellied whistling ducks were sounding off above us, and eastern gray squirrels scurried around the tree trunks below us. We were crunching down on our treestand favorites, red apples, and cracker jacks. A quiet first hour, then another quiet hour, and I was becoming doubtful. Then suddenly, just before six o’clock, a doe and her yearling came by to sniff out some corn but didn’t hang out long. This was a fortunate opportunity to study their reaction to our scent and position. With optimism, we adjusted and used their presence to prepare for a shooter buck to come by. The woods went silent for a bit, the light rain kept on, and we finally ran out of things to whisper about as we approached “buck time,” usually about 6:30-sunset this time of year. 

We were right this time, and just two minutes past seven o’clock, the usually nocturnal antlered king of the swamp used the damp woods floor to silently creep into our whole corn and apple buffet feeder area. The northwest wind was on our side as the brute showed us his target zone long enough for Kingston to set his crossbow for a good shot. I picked up my phone to record the action as I watched Kingston’s elbows tremble. I mumbled, “30-yard shot, breathe, exhale, hold, then take your shot.” He squeezed the trigger.

Taking the shot in the rain, and then Kingston’s reaction. Unforgettable!

THUMP! Then a massive kick from the buck as Kingston sent the most perfect bolt home. We watched the burly buck hit the turf only 40 yards from us, and we cheered with each other.

Kingston was still shaking as he properly approached his downed deer from behind.

We celebrated his life and shared that special bond and heartfelt feeling of harvesting his first deer together. Ecstatic would be an understatement at this point, so we took extra precaution and waited a bit while we gathered our gear to safely climb down from the tree stand. When we aren’t in the woods together, Kingston and I enjoy watching Buck Commander and other hunting videos on YouTube. I took out my phone again for a video of our own. I was able to record Kingston walking up (from behind, like he learned in his hunter safety course) on his first harvested deer, a beautiful buck. The excitement on Kingston’s face as he wrapped his hands around the chocolate-colored antlers and burst out with, “It’s the 7-point!” It’s a moment I will never forget. After talking about shot placement and recording our official Florida harvest report, we snapped a quick interview to talk about how it all came together. He was so excited! Then the work and after-celebration began. Kingston’s cousins, who have also been hunting since they were kids, came by for moral support and heckling too, with his first buck, and they helped us field dress and quarter the deer and into the cooler. The rituals and shenanigans were flowing. Some of those stories are better left at deer camp with the guys if you know what I mean.

Days after a successful hunt, the work is still ongoing, but there’s something about it that doesn’t feel like work at all. On Sunday, “Mama”, as Kingston calls his mom, cut up and vacuum-sealed a little under 10-pounds of backstrap butterfly steaks and tenderloins from this Florida stud buck. Yesterday I surprised Kingston by signing him out of school early so we could go back and walk the footsteps of that first-deer memory at the tree stand one more time. Then we stopped to drop off some critical cargo, the deer head, and rack, to JC Taxidermy in Lithia. Kingston was overjoyed to now be “one of the boys” with his cousins and have his very own trophy on the wall coming soon. To complete the hunt and harvest, we drove to Riverview to stop at Al’s Wild Meat Processing, where they will be packing up roasts, maple venison sausage, and ground meat, that we will eat and share over the next year. Now that my little guy took down his big guy buck, I’m hoping to look for similar good fortune with my compound bow, as I set my sights on adding to the freezer with more local organic deer meat.

We shared that special bond and heartfelt feeling of hunting together, and sharing the outdoors.

As you know, hunting and sharing the outdoors is a true gift from our Creator.

We thank God for hunting, fishing, and wild animals every day during dinner grace. I’m happy to have a next-generation hunter as the numbers of hunting support enthusiasts are in decline. Indeed, I have high hopes that there will never be a food shortage in our family. 

Family Hunting Background:

I am fortunate enough to have my Uncle Dave, Forrest Fisher, NYS Hall of Fame Outdoorsman (and many more titles) teach me everything I know about archery hunting, starting with ethical hunting. “There’s no better way to do it than the right way – we follow the rules,” he would say every year as we walked the woods together, then we would discuss how to stay quiet, movement control, safety, how to stay warm, and more. Numerous years hunting with him have taught me about patience, silence, scent block, and how/when to let an arrow fly. Thanks to my favorite Aunt Rosalie Barus, for providing years of lodging, meals, and hugs of encouragement while I came up to visit East Aurora, NY. It’s where I could slow down and learn to hunt with arrows. I always picture her great smile in the mornings before hunting, when she would say, “Go get ’em Jeff-waa! I can’t wait to see your text that brown is down!” Graciously, I want to thank my good buddy Michael Garrido for sharing his hunting knowledge with me for the last 10 years and providing hunting opportunities to experience and ultimately pass down the tradition. I’m blessed to share our hunting enthusiasm and appreciation for harvests. Cheers to many more, Mike! 

Huge thank you to Kingston’s Granny Lois Johnsonfor providing our hunting spot and her encouragement each year for a successful hunt. Granny always reminded Kingston, “I love venison, get me some.” Kingston said he knows his late Papa was with him on this hunt, and I told him I was sure Kingston made him proud! Venison steaks headed your way soon, “Granny”! Lastly, to my amazing wife, Tiffany, who does so much to help make it possible for us to spend time in the woods together? Her excitement and “you got this” texts, while we hunt are always encouraging and makes this proud dad moment event sweeter (I needed to turn off the beeper). Her venison chili is out of this world, too! 

It takes friends, family, the right equipment, and shared passion to carry out successful hunts, especially with youngsters. Learn more about the Florida hunting rules at MyFWC.com/Deer, including the new deer harvest reporting requirement.  I’ll leave you with some product knowledge of the gear we used.

Our Gear: CenterPoint Archery, crossbow – 20” bolt with 100gr G5 Outdoors, fixed broadhead; Quaker Boy, doe bleat; Thermacell Hunting, Sawyer permethrin spray for deer ticks/bugs; Fyland UV tracker flashlight; Vortex Optics, Diamondback HD binoculars; HALO Optics, XL600-8 range finder; Wildgame Innovations, trail cam; Under Armor Hunt boots; Hunting-Made-Easy truck hitch game hoist; Wildlife Research Center, Scent Blocker; Outdoor Edge Knives & Tools, swing blade skinning knife.

The Old Man in the Mirror

Father and son hunting buddies that can say, "I love you Bub!" Molly Meyers photo

  • Hunting, fishing, frog-giggin’ and sucker -grabbin’
  • Freckles, frowns, wrinkles and specks of gray…is winter here?
  • Kids, grandkids, heartwarming memories…thank you Lord.  Pass it on.

Deer camp camaraderie and hunting family fun.

 

By Larry Whiteley

     He was up early getting ready to pick up his son to go deer hunting. He had brushed his teeth and was washing his face. He paused to look at himself in the mirror and saw an old man staring back at him.

The old man in the mirror…yes, that was me! Where has the time gone? 

     Maybe it was because his 74th birthday was on Christmas, and it would be here in a few more weeks. He stared at the old man in the mirror and saw wrinkles carved by frowns and smiles through the years of his life. He looked at the bags under his eyes. He saw his skin sagging down on both sides of his chin and looked like a turkey wattle hanging below. What little hair he saw was gray. The old man in the mirror was in the winter of his life.

     He pulled into his son’s driveway and smiled as he loaded his deer hunting stuff in the truck. He was proud of the husband and father, his son, had become. He moved over to let him drive. His old eyes didn’t see as well in the dark anymore. The interior light of the truck revealed specks of gray in his son’s hair. It was hard for him to believe that it wouldn’t be long until his son would be a grandpa for the first time. He was in the fall of his life.

     Not much was said as the truck traveled down the road to their hunting place. The son glanced over at his Dad. He realized that his Dad was getting older. He wondered how many more deer and turkey hunting trips they would have together. Dad was still very active and his health seemed good, but at his age, you never know.

     As he drove, his mind wandered to times when he was younger, and Dad took him rabbit hunting, squirrel hunting, and dove hunting. He thought of frog-gigging trips, fishing trips, and especially sucker-grabbin’. Camping and trout fishing was fun too. 

     He thought to himself how he needed to thank him for the time they had spent together in the outdoors and all the outdoor things he had done with his son and daughter when they were in the spring of their lives. This would be a good time to tell him how important all that was to him and them. They drove on in silence.

     The truck came to a stop, the older man got out to open the gate. The night sky was dark, but getting lighter. They had to hurry to get to their stands before the deer started moving. They wished each other good luck and started in opposite directions. The son stopped, turned around, and watched his Dad walking away until he disappeared into the dark.

     The older man got to his stand and started the climb up. It wasn’t as easy as it used to be. He settled into his stand, got everything ready, and sat in silence waiting. He thought about the old man in the mirror that morning and wondered how many more times he would be able to do this thing he loved so much. Right now, he still had the strength, the will and the desire, but he knew at his age, that could change at any time. He didn’t want to think about that anymore.

Were those deer looking back at me? On some days, it’s ok to let them walk by.  Joe Forma Photo

     The dark turned to light, and the wildlife started their day. Birds sang their songs, and crows talked to each other, and squirrels sounded like deer as they rustled about in the woods. He watched deer traveling through the frosted field below but out of range. 

     As the morning wore on, his thoughts turned to memories he had from being outdoors with his kids, grandkids, and friends in the summer and fall of his life. He even thought of a time when he was fishing and would look over to watch his wife reading a book. He wished there had been more time spent in the outdoors with his son and grandsons that lived in another state. Where had the time gone? It went so fast. He looked up to the sky and said thank you for blessing him and forgiving him.

     In another stand, in another place, his son sat waiting. He too, had seen and heard the wildlife. He too, had seen deer out of range and even a few that he let have a heartbeat for another day. He too, also thought about outdoor memories with Dad, his wife, and his kids, and the memories he would make with his grandkids someday. The outdoor traditions he loves would be passed on. He too looked up and said thank you. He even thought about how he was in the fall of his life, and winter was coming.

     There were no deer to field dress and load that day. They talked some on the way home, but it was mostly a silent trip again. The old man was thinking to himself how he wished his Dad would have spent time with him in the outdoors, but he didn’t. He thought about how he never heard his Dad tell him that he loved him. He had no good memories from the spring of his life. 

     It might have been a perfect time to talk to each other about all the things they thought and talked about. Why is it so hard for men to look at each other in the eye and tell them how they feel? A day will come when they will wish they had.

Morning sunrise from the tree stand offers an amazing moment.

     They pull into the driveway. Hunting gear is unloaded. The old man says, “I love you Bub!” The son says, “I love you too,” then watches until his Dad has driven out of sight. He goes into the house, kisses his wife, and goes into the bathroom to wash his hands. He looks in the mirror and sees the gray in his hair. His thoughts from the day sweep over him. He thinks of his Dad being in the winter of his life. “I will be right back,” he tells his wife. “I need to go tell Dad something.”

Rocky Mountain National Park – EXPLORE the Amazing and Unique Alpine Tundra Ecosystem found here

  • Elk, Moose, Black Bear, Birds, Fish, Mountains – Great Views…Bring a Camera!
  • Take note of National Park Entry Permit Requirements, VISIT www.RECREATION.GOV
  • One memory here can last for All Time, especially when you stand on the Continental Divide, located here. East to the Atlantic, west to the Pacific. Wow.

Black Bear in Rocky Mountain National Park. Photo and story, courtesy of National Parks Service at Rocky Mountain National Park – Colorado, USA

Compiled by Forrest Fisher

Our bears are searching for something scrumptious!

With a nose 280 times more sensitive than humans, they are world champs of food hide-and-seek!

This time of year, Rocky’s black bears (there are no brown bears in the park) are especially hungry as they prepare for hibernation—a phase called ‘hyperphagia.’ Rocky has seen an uptick in bear-related property damage in the past few weeks. There are many ways our visitors can help keep our bears wild as well as protect themselves!

• When visiting by car: Store food properly in LOCKED cars with all windows ROLLED UP during the night and day. Do not store coolers (even with only water in them) in truck beds. Clean dirty dishes before storing.
• When backpacking: Store all food and scented items (deodorant, toothpaste, chapstick, sunscreen) in a bear canister. When sleeping, place this canister at least 200 feet (60 m) from your tent.
• When camping in campgrounds: do not cook or eat in your tent. Do not bring food inside your tent. Lock all food in provided food storage lockers.
• Dispose of trash promptly and appropriately (in bear-proof bins when available.)
• If you see a bear, act big! Yell and clap, and it will likely move away. Do not run from a bear, and do not abandon food in a hasty attempt to leave.
• Report any bear-related incidents to a ranger.

Rocky Mountain National Park is home to some of the most spectacular scenery in the world.

It’s also home to some of the most fragile. While only 0.2% of the US land area is alpine tundra, Rocky is lucky to say that almost 1/3 of the park is comprised of this amazing ecosystem. Because of its fragility and susceptibility to changes, it provides a canvas for scientists to explore change over time through long-term monitoring.

Sunset on the Alpine Tundra at Rocky Mountain National Park. NPS/C Hernandez 

Since 2015, Dr. Sarah Schliemann, a professor of environmental science at Metropolitan State University of Denver, has been investigating the release of carbon dioxide from alpine soils, also known as ‘soil respiration’ (#ParkScience).

We are celebrating the amazing alpine tundra this year at Rocky Mountain National Park! As part of that, we are sharing Dr. Schliemann’s work through a 4-part series of posts. This is the first in that series. Visit Rocky Mountain National Park on Facebook to learn more about Dr. Schliemann’s work and other park research. See more here: https://www.nps.gov/rlc/continentaldivide/research-highlights.htm

Elk enjoy feeding on fresh growth on the unique Alpine Tundra in Rocky Mountain National Park. Kiley Voss photo.

From NPS Park Ranger, Kiley Voss, “I’m beyond excited as a Park Ranger in Rocky Mountain National Park this summer season! I’m overjoyed for the opportunity to spend a summer living in the mountains on the west side of the park, for a moose study, for a town surrounding an alpine lake, for search and rescue training, for the headwaters of the Colorado River, for helping update signage and photographs, for a Colorado October full of aspens, for wildlife watch programs and tundra stewardship, for historic site talks and ranger-led campfires.”

Reservations are required to enter all areas of Rocky Mountain National Park from 6am to 5pm. Learn more at https://www.nps.gov/romo/planyourvisit/fees.htm or simply visit www.Recreation.gov.

American Baitworks catches Doug Minor!

Doug Minor has a passion for fishing and sharing his expertise in building award-winning, fish-catching lure teams. 

By David Gray

Doug Minor just embarked on his latest fishing adventure.  Although this is a business adventure, it is very much about fishing.  It took some talking to get Doug, who led Strike King lures through 37 years of innovation and growth, to consider coming out of retirement just weeks after retiring. But American Baitworks, a new and innovative tackle and lure-manufacturing business, was doing the talking. After every call with American Baitworks, Doug said he came away with a smile on his face.

Doug was honored for the opportunity to join the team. Their commitment to providing the angler with excellent products of superior quality at a fair price is exactly what Doug Minor believes in.  As an angler, Doug knows that understanding lure performance provides an advantage in helping to create new fish-catching lures.  As a business manager, Doug knows that combining manufacturing quality control with fish-catching passion is a philosophy that creates satisfied customers.

An angler from a very young age, and after many years in the outdoor industries, Doug says, “The most important thing about every product is that it delivers consistent performance.” As anglers, we have all experienced that on occasion, when one crankbait out of 5 or 6 of the same lures will catch more fish, they all should be the same. Doug and American Baitworks aim for the manufacturing of their lure products to consistent standards.

For Doug, fishing and hunting are everything. He was blessed to have a father that introduced him to those outdoor sports at an early age. Doug remembers being taught how to skull a small Alumacraft boat from the front seat.

Paddle in one hand, never disturbing the water and rod in the other.  Dad also instilled in Doug a love of waterfowling at an early age. So early that Doug sat in the waterfowl blind in diapers!   Doug said his Dad’s philosophy was “no baby sitter no problem,” a change of diapers and Doug went to the blind with Dad.

A passion for fishing and hunting served Doug well when it came to his work in guiding lure makers.

It is essential to design and develop new lures that work.  Many companies put more physical movement into a lure that includes life-like images with more color, but fail to spend the time to thoroughly field test the product before releasing the product for sales. According to Doug, the action is the most critical part of a lure.  And that does not mean just more movement that the angler sees.  Bass are ambush predators and the action that the bass responds to is what is essential.

An angler only sees the action from above; a fish sees the action differently. Lots of field testing is needed to make a quality product with the type of action that interests the fish.

Take one of the American Baitworks lures the NetBaits – Paca Craw. Doug knew, like so many bass anglers, that the Paca Craw is an excellent weighted hook and jig trailer that outperforms many similar types of baits. The first time Doug looked at the Paca Craw in the technical test tank, not just an angler view from the surface, he was amazed at the action and knew why it was so effective.

The deadly action of the Net Bait Papa Craw is unique, effective, deadly. 

Another passion for Doug is serving the angler well. Doug got his first tackle job in a small hardware store in Dixon, TN.  His knowledge of fishing and hunting prompted the store owner to task Doug with setting up a fishing tackle department and then expanding to hunting and firearms.  They were the only store in the area that took guns on trade, so Doug learned a lot from trading and how to treat all customers fairly. After his 37 years at Strike King, we asked Doug what his fondest memory was.  Doug said, “The team spirit. No one was the star, and there were no heroes. We were a group, a team working all together to create great products and great service collectively.”

We asked Doug, “What got him to come out of retirement and join American Baitworks?” Doug said, “The consistent striving for excellence in product performance and quality by the American Baitworks team, and selling it at a fair price.  All on the team are committed to superior lure performance with consistent quality lure to lure.” Most anglers have had the experience of a soft plastic that comes out of the bag with a bend or twist that is not part of the lure.  Doug says, “The customer paid for a bag of lures, and every lure should be consistent and perform the same.  The customer deserves that.” Doug added, “The commitment to quality is so great at American Baitworks that if one toe on a soft plastic lure is not working right, we will not sell it until we fix it. Then we know it will catch fish.”

We asked, “Why did American Baitworks acquire ScumFrog and SnagProof who have the oldest of surface frog lures on the market?” Doug answered, “There are many frog bait lures available, but none have exceeded the fishing-catching performance of these original designs.

The new painted trophy series of ScumFrog patterns are attractive, affordable and fish-catchy!

These frog baits caught so many fish when they first came out, and they still do. They represent pure perfection in frog lure-making, they have great action. The action is the most important factor to a fish and these frogs deliver that. We manufacture each of these great baits in a new Trophy Series now, to a consistent performance quality that delivers performance and value for the angler.”

Anglers can expect new lures from American Baitworks soon; they are in development.  As soon as they are thoroughly field-tested, and we know they deliver fishing catching performance, we will be offering them to anglers at a fair price. What’s next? The Freedom Tackle Mischief Minnow will be available soon. Michael Tamburro designed it, the Einstein of evolutionary and competent lure designers, urging perfection with every wiggle, waggle, sound, movement, and fish-attracting feature.

New ideas from master design experts are among notable trademarks for Doug Minor.

Each of the American Baitworks brands is managed with quality by skilled people that share a passion for fishing.

Doug said, “The new NetBaits Flex Worm is a finesse bait made with injection molding that is second to none. It has tantalizing action, and the quality of manufacture, bait-to-bait, is perfect. That’s one of our goals.”

Doug shares, “It took me a while to get used to the weekly American Baitworks staff meetings. Instead of jumping right into business, each person starts talking about the fishing trip last weekend. Things like they caught a 4-pound smallmouth and were so excited.  After that, I realized it is the embedded fishing passion that drives this company to make fish-catching products at the highest measurable quality levels and sell them for a fair price. Maybe good for an angler to know the best part.  We offer great lures with great action that catch fish, and they are made in the USA whenever possible.”

That says it all.

Frog Fshing! Time for BIG Summer BASS

  • Summer is here, frogs are breakfast food for big bass
  • Not all frog lures are created equal, learn about differences below
  • Heavy frogs, light frogs – when to use each of these

Plastic frogs have come a long way as an angler bait and they catch fish, big bass, when the summer weeds seem unfishable. LiveTarget photo

By Forrest Fisher

Did you know that bullfrogs never sleep? Some say that’s why big bass never sleep either! With summer water temperatures following the countrywide heatwave this year, the weeds in our waterways are thick and matted. The result is shade for massive bass that wait in ambush for critters that share use of the matted weeds for ease of movement, including frogs, bugs, mice, and the like. So it makes sense that fishing with an artificial frog bait might be a good idea to catch some of the bass hiding in their new weed shadows. Truth is, the biggest bass seem to always be in those weedy shadows.

I discovered “frog fishing” with artificial surface frogs about 60 years ago. As a kid, at first, we baited real frogs, but after we ran out we would head home and try to find more. Into the early 60s, plastic frog lures were invented and we learned how to use them. It was much easier than trying to catch live frogs. Our light rods were flimsy for what was needed, that’s all we had, but the explosion of the fish making their way through the weeds to engulf our plastic frogs was exhilarating. So we used our flimsy rods anyway!

Fishing with fake frogs was noisy, even spooky fishing, but most of the time we lost the fish because of our gear. As we grew older into our teens, my brother and I transitioned to start fishing the frogs with short deep sea fishing rods and wide-spool, open-face fishing reels loaded with 40-pound test Gudebrod braided line tied direct. Those old plastic frogs were very basic and most were only hollow, air-entrapping, plastic caricatures of frogs that floated. They sank after a while.  Today, there are new “super frogs” out there, with many offering a popping action and you might say they are sophisticated frog lures. The new frogs are more durable and are “killer-effective,” the fish seem to love ’em.

Scum Frog designed the shape of the original Trophy Series with single focus to create Topwater Froggin’ perfection. Scum Frog Photo

Among the top choices in frogs, the age-old Scum Frog. At the Scum Frog factory (Southern Lure Co.), they do nothing but design and manufacture hollow-bodied frogs. They are among the originals in the industry and are among the true innovators in the design and development of frog fishing from way back when. They offer a painted trophy series that features 10 new hand-designed colors relying on a proprietary system that digitally patterns the frog color. The Scum Frog Painted Trophy Series is durable too, and was designed to give anglers all of the benefits of many high dollar frog baits at an unbeatable price (under $6). The Scum Frog displaces water, an excellent attractant quality, and is available in 1/2 and 5/8 ounce options (solid brass weights), so casting is easy. The new skirts are made from silicon, they float higher and accentuate the movement action of a live frog. DEADLY. Best yet, these Scum Frogs come with a pair of tough, sharp Owner Hooks perfectly fitted for big bass dentures.

Many pro anglers say that summertime bass yield to the white color frog more than any other. Why? The difference between oatmeal and hominy grits is what I think. Very little, but it seems to matter if you live down south, not sure why. Plus, white frogs allow the angler to see the bait a little better while working it. I like ‘em for visual identification of where they are.

Most frogs offer a two-hook design with extra strong hook points that cozy up to the collapsible plastic frog body, making them weedless. The only thing between you and the fish is your line and if you fish these in thick cover, you will need to check your line often. Use a good, modern, braided line and a positive knot with an extremely stiff rod that will allow you to haul the fish out of the thickest weed cover you might imagine. I like the 60-pound Gamma Torque braided line, you simply cannot break it. Other brands work too, but I think you could tow a tree with Gamma and it is thinner and slicker to cast than most others, this allows greater casting range. Visit: http://gammafishing.com/.

Another favorite is the “Signature Series” frog from LiveTarget Pro Angler and TV personality, Scott Martin. It features a hollow body frog popper that has become a favorite in the topwater tackle box for many anglers. The frog has a narrow profile with a cupped face that makes this bait unique when you walk it across the surface.

With either of these two frog brands – there are many more, the popper face creates a unique sound message below. “Hello, I’m food, c ‘mon, get me.” It offers a different sort of visual splash attractant message to join with that sound message.

I tried several colors over the years and while I like the white for ease of sight, the natural green frog colors seem to get the biggest hits, especially in heavy, super-thick cover. It is still a mystery how the fish can even see the bait in really thick summer weeds like we have this year.

The acid test for your frog gear? Here it is. Drop a 5-pound anchor in the thickest weeds you can find, then move your boat 30 feet away and see if you can rip that anchor up and out without breaking your line, your rod or the gears on your reel. That is your goal. This is tough fishing for really big bass, but that’s how I measure the gear. If you can’t put a rig together like that, go fish a frog anyway. It is unbelievable fun!

For the frog, don’t forget about frog size and frog weight. The thicker and heavier frogs are for working extra-thick matt and the lighter frogs are for thinner lily pad cover.

If the bass don’t wack it in the weeds themselves, they seem to panic and inhale the lure when the popping action occurs at the weed edge. They don’t want that easy meal to get away. To learn more, see additional color offerings or to buy the frogs described, please visit: https://americanbaitworks.com/pages/scum-frog and https://livetargetlures.com.

Have fun fishing!

The Last Cast

Time for One Last Cast

  • Sunrise, Sunset, Starshine…life-long breathtaking moments
  • Family, Fishing, Memories, Doctors…and Reality 
  • Radiation, Chemo…Time to Re-Rig 

A Morning Alone on the Lake

By Larry Whiteley

He was alone on the lake. The sunrise was breathtaking. He had seen lots of mornings but none this beautiful. His first cast landed near some bushes. He felt the thump and set the hook. The largemouth came out of the water, trying to shake the bait. It fought hard but soon tired. He gently lifted it from the water, smiled, and released it.

There would be many more fish to visit with that morning. One was the biggest smallmouth he had ever caught in all his years of fishing. The sunlight glistened off its bronze body. He managed to take a selfie of him and the fish. As he hit send on his smartphone, he smiled. A son texted back, “Nice one, Dad.” Another son replied, “Good fish, old man!” A grandson asked, “What did you catch it on?” His wife texted, “Are you doing okay, and how are you feeling?” He smiled and texted back each of them with only the words “I love you” and then went back to fishing.

The Thrill of Fishing

It suddenly occurred to him that he had not heard or seen another boat all morning. Kind of felt like he was fishing on his own private lake. He heard crows, ducks, and geese. He saw deer and turkey at the water’s edge. Birds were flittering around everywhere and singing their songs. A hummingbird even came buzzing by thinking he was a big flower. He said to himself, “Is this what heaven will be like for a fisherman like me?” He smiled again.

Sometimes even the blind squirrel finds the nut.

The afternoon sun was high and hot. He motored into a shaded cove and shut off the engine. The slight breeze felt good there in the shade. He tied the boat to a tree, sat back, and relaxed. Thoughts of the first fish he ever caught went through his mind. He saw the bobber, the worm, his cane pole. He felt the little perch squirming in his hand. The particular feeling, he had that day alone on that creek, was unlike any other. He was hooked. It was the first of many fish he would catch in his lifetime.

As he stretched out in the boat, he looked up at the sky and saw a cross formed by clouds and a jet stream. He grinned and said, thank you. More memories flooded his mind. He wished his Dad would have taken him fishing, but he didn’t. He thought of times he took his son’s fishing, recalling the look on their faces when they caught their first fish. He wished he hadn’t been so busy trying to make a living and would have taken his boys fishing more. But, they both grew up to be fishermen. They both became good husbands, fathers, and Godly men. Their kids became fishermen too. They had a dad that took them and a papaw too. There was no doubt in his mind that his grandkids would also take their kids fishing. He smiled once more and was proud. He hoped that more people would discover the magic of fishing and pass it on.

With the gentle rocking of the boat, his eyes got heavy. A nap came easy. It was a much-needed rest. The hospital visits and all the medicine had taken its toll. Late afternoon, he awoke to the screeching sounds of an eagle flying in the sky above him. It was out fishing too.

As he lay there watching the eagle, he wished he had more time left. He thought that he would go back to Canada fishing for walleye and pike with his son and grandson. Travel with his other son and grandson’s to the Northwood’s for those good-eating yellow perch. Going back to catch a snook or grouper in Tampa Bay or speckled trout at Gulf Shores would also be on his list. A limit of crappie, some trout fishing, or maybe catfishing would be good too. Grabbing a mess of suckers and frying them up on the river bank would really be fun, one more time. He even thought about going wade fishing in a creek or sitting on a farm pond, on the bank. Alaska salmon and halibut fishing were on his bucket list. So was fishing for redfish. It had never happened, and now there was not enough time.

It Was Like Heaven Was Opening

The sunset was beautiful in the western sky. The bats began their dance with the approaching darkness, it was feeding time. He listened to the owls and the whip-poor-wills as they started their nightly chorus. The smell of new-mown hay and someone’s campfire drifted through the air. He knew he should be heading home. His wife would be worried. In the gathering dusk, he wanted to fish just a little longer.

The doctor had told him the radiation and chemo was not working. This was his last time to fish. He was at peace with that because he knew where he was going. He had messed up his life at times. He had made mistakes. He had gotten his life straightened out and was walking the path he should have been all along. He wished he had more time to tell his wife and family he loved them and make more memories. He wished he had more time to say to others that no matter what they did wrong, they could still go where he was going.

A Reminder From Above

The boat roared to life, and he headed for his favorite fishing spot near the ramp to make another cast or maybe two. In the half-light, he cast toward the bank. The topwater bait gurgled across the surface. A massive bass slammed it, and the fight was on. When the battle was finally over, and he lifted it out of the water, it was bigger than the one earlier in the day. He removed the bait from its cavernous mouth, lowered it back into the water, and in the dim light, watched it swim away. He looked up into the night sky filled with millions of stars and, with a tear in his eye and a smile on his face, said, “thank you!”

“Just one more cast,” he told himself. The lure hits the water. A fish engulfs it. The battle begins and then suddenly stops. He’s snagged. The line snaps. “That’s okay,” he says to himself and smiles again. Too dark now to re-rig. It’s time to go home. He looked up at the night sky, and it looked as if heaven was opening. It was his last cast.

The Eagle Sees the Round Rainbow

  • Eagles are an American Icon
  • Eagles signified majestic strength from the ancient times of Babylon, Egypt and Rome
  • Eagles are part of Native American tribe mythology
  • Eagles…respect, honor, tradition, nature, awe.

What it must be like to be an Eagle…!

By Larry Whiteley

A symbol of our nation.

The bald eagle’s role as our nation’s symbol goes back to 1782 when it was added to the Great Seal of the United States. The eagle was selected because of its great strength, stately looks, long life, and because it is native to North America. The design went on to appear on official documents, currency, flags, public buildings and other government-related items. The bald eagle became an American icon. To us as Americans, along with our flag, the bald eagle represents freedom and all that freedom stands for and is worth fighting for.

Since ancient times the bald eagle has been considered a sign of strength. Babylon, Egypt and the Roman legions all used the eagle as their standard, or symbol. Eagles figure prominently in the mythology of nearly every Native American tribe. In most Native cultures, eagles are considered medicine birds with impressive magical powers and play a major role in their religious ceremonies.

In some of their legends, an eagle serves as a messenger between humans and the Creator. Eagle feathers were earned by Plains Indians as war honors and worn in their feathered head dresses. In some tribes today, eagle feathers are still given to soldiers returning from war or to people who have achieved a great accomplishment.

Sitting on a limb on a mountain high.

Eagles are also mentioned 17 times in the Bible. My favorite is Isaiah 40:31, “Those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

In the wild, a Bald Eagle will live 30-35 years. A full-grown Bald Eagle has a wingspan of up to 7-feet. They can fly up to 30 miles an hour and dive at 100 miles an hour. Eagles feed primarily on fish, supplemented by small mammals, waterfowl and carrion.

Bald Eagles mate for life and an established pair will use the same nest for many years. Over time, some nests become enormous and can reach a diameter of 9 feet and weigh as much as 2 tons. The female lays 2 or 3 eggs and both parents share incubation and guard them diligently against predators. While the chicks are small, the parents move about the nest with their talons balled up into fists to avoid harming them.

For such a powerful bird, the Bald Eagle emits surprisingly weak-sounding calls that are usually a series of high-pitched whistling or piping notes. The female may repeat a single, soft, high-pitched note that is said to be unlike any other calls in nature.

Fishermen who recognize the sound of an eagle usually stop fishing just to watch this majestic bird soaring in a bright blue sky. The bonus is when they dive from the sky to the water to do a little fishing themselves. Campers, hikers, canoers and kayakers are sometimes also treated to the sights and sounds of an eagle. It’s a memory that stays with you forever.

Fishing for a meal.

Many years ago I was flying back home to Springfield, MO from Chicago in an old prop airplane. The plane flew very low all the way back. As I watched out the window I thought to myself, “This must be what an eagle sees as he fly’s around.” I pulled out a piece of paper and started writing a poem and finished it before we landed.

A round rainbow is called a “glory.”

The line about the round rainbow was added later and the title was changed after my wife and I were flying back from Florida. When we looked out the window of the plane, we were amazed to see a round rainbow with the shadow of the airplane right in the middle of it.

Rainbows are created when the sun reflects off rain drops to mirror a multitude of colors. Most people don’t realize that a rainbow gets its traditional semicircle shape from the horizon because we are only seeing half of it. When the same atmospheric conditions that create a rainbow are observed from an airplane or by an eagle, a rainbow is a full circle. A round rainbow is called a “glory” that NASA defines as an optical phenomenon. To us, this “glory” was a sign that God was watching over us that day. He still is!

What must it be like to be an eagle…!

THE EAGLE SEES THE ROUND RAINBOW
By Larry Whiteley

What must it be like to perch on a limb
in a tree on a mountain high?
Then look above and spread your wings
and fly into the sky.

The eagle sees the round rainbow
that has no beginning or end.
He sees the flatlands, hills and valleys
and places I’ve never been.

What must it be like to look below
at cloud shadows on the trees?
It must be wonderful
to be so wild and free. 

The traffic on the roads must appear
like ants continually on the go.
Following straight and winding roads
to places only they know. 

What must it be like to fly along the rivers
carving out the land?
Over ponds, lakes and oceans
all created by God’s mighty hand. 

The patchwork quilt of the fields below,
the prairies, the deserts, the plains.
How could you ever get tired of looking
when what you see is never the same? 

What must it be like to fly over rows of houses,
giant factories, malls and other stuff?
For a majestic bird so used to nature’s beauty
neon lights, billboards and concrete must be tough. 

I wonder if tears come to an eagle’s eyes
and they fall to the ground.
When he sees streams filled with trash instead of fish
and pollution all around. 

What must it be like to fly above
when the seasons come and go?
To see the landscape turn from green to gold and red
to the white of a winter snow. 

What must it be like to be an eagle
and soar way up high?
Oh the sights we would behold
if we could see through an eagle’s eyes.

 

It’s Amazing what can Happen…When you Teach a Boy to Shoot a Bow

  • Mentors play an important role in our outdoor heritage and future

David Merrill with a huge elk that didn’t get away.

By Larry Whiteley

David Merrill grew up hiking, fishing, and camping in Oregon’s Cascade Mountains. It was an amazing place where a young David would discover many life experiences in the great outdoors as he roamed through the mountains and valleys of this beautiful place.

In 1996, when he was 14-years old, his Uncle Kendall introduced him to archery. It was the beginning of a life-long passion for shooting a bow and bow-hunting. That passion continues to burn deep in his heart today. This world needs more people like Uncle Kendall who take the time to introduce kids to archery. It could change their lives, like it did David’s.

Later on in life, David moved to Alaska and lived among the wildlife and wild places of what is called the last frontier. While there, he spent every free moment he had out in the wilds, hunting Dall sheep with his bow and fishing for salmon.  The adventure and wide open spaces of Alaska is something a lot of us only dream about. I dream about it every time I watch the Kilcher family and life on their homestead on my favorite TV show – Alaska: The Last Frontier.

It was hard to leave Alaska, but with a growing family of his own now, he felt the need to be closer to extended relatives. So, in 2013 David and his wife, Crystal, moved and started their family among the mountains of Wyoming. Their two boys are the joy of his life. Here, he continued his passion of bow hunting for wild game. David says, “I cannot think of a purer way to feed my loved ones than with wild, free-range, organic game.”

In 2015, David was on a backcountry elk hunt with a friend. His bow was strapped to his pack as they walked along a mountain trail. They came around a corner in the trail and walked up on a huge bull elk. His friend hurried to unstrap David’s bow from the pack. He finally got it out, handed it to David and he drew it back, but it was too late. The elk of a lifetime was gone.

The vision of that monster elk still haunted him on the drive back home. He told his friend that he was never going to let that happen again to him or anyone else. That same passion he has for bow hunting started him creating prototypes of a product that would allow him to carry his bow safely and securely, but within easy simple reach to get out.

My grandson Hunter carries his bow with a Bow Spider.

After much trial and error, he got his product exactly how he wanted it. He called his lightweight, round bow holder – the Bow Spider. You attach an aluminum arm to your bow’s riser and that slides into a slot on the round receiver. The bow is held securely in place on the back of your pack with a gravity-locking system, but slides out easily when you need it. “If you can scratch the back of your head you can grab your bow and pull,” he said. “You’re going to be able to manage your bow very quickly and efficiently, to get it when you need it. It works with any backpack and any bow, whether you’re on horseback or on foot.”

Using the belt that comes with the Bow Spider, you can easily attach it to your backpack, hip, binocular harness, truck headrest, blind or tree. Using the bolts that come with it you can also mount it to any sturdy flat surface for storage. It is the most innovative bow packing system I have ever seen. My grandson has one, loves it and can’t wait to use it this fall out west.

The Bow Spider comes in green, tan or black. The $84.95 price is well worth it to keep you from having bad dreams about the huge elk or monster buck you might have tagged if you could reach your bow quicker and easier.

If you’re a bowhunter after western big game and strap your bow to your pack, you need a Bow Spider. If you are a whitetail hunter and need your hands free to get to your stand or if you’re trying to work your way through the woods stalking a big buck, you need a Bow Spider. Go to www.bowspider.com and check them out. Watch the online videos to see how easy the Bow Spider works.

The Bow Spider System.

If you are a crossbow hunter like me, you are probably thinking it sure would be nice to have one of these to use with my crossbow. Well, your wish is granted. A Bow Spider for crossbow hunters is coming soon.

Being a veteran myself, I think it’s great they give our veterans a 15% discount. All you have to do is call them at 307-438-9290 to place your order and get your discount. “We owe everything we have in America to the veterans that have served and are serving to keep our freedoms alive,” Merrill said. “Our discount program is simply a small way for us to say thank you to those who have done so much for us.”

David’s products are 100% made in America and I love that. David, Crystal and their company also give a percentage of their sales to several recognized American conservation organizations. To me that says a lot. These organizations make it possible for hunters to go to these wild places across this great land to enjoy our hunting traditions.

The aspens are displaying their brilliant colors. There’s a coolness to the air. David is sitting on a rock looking at the majesty of the mountains that surround him. Ravens are talking to each other. An elk bugle echoes in the distance. He is thinking of his Uncle Kendall and the day he taught him to shoot a bow. He is thinking of the game he has taken since then and the places he has hunted. He is thinking it’s time to teach his boys to shoot a bow. He is thinking there would not be a Bow Spider if it were not for Uncle Kendall. It’s amazing what can happen when you teach a boy to shoot a bow.

Click the picture to visit with Crystal Merrill – see how to use the Bow Spider! 

USA Veterans CATCH FUN and FISH at Lake Erie WALLEYE EVENT

  • Chautauqua County, NY – Veterans enjoyed this free event sponsored by WNY Heroes, Inc. – they caught fish and line-stretching fun departing from Chadwick Bay Marina/Clarion Hotel.
  • Chartreuse stickbaits (Yaleye Lure) and spinner/worm rigs (Eye-Fish Rigs) were the hot lures
  • Wind and waves did not deter volunteer charter captains from finding the walleye

As wind and waves whipped up the water surface, the walleye went on a big feed. I’m holding this 9-pounder up for a picture with Barb Erdt. Jim Klein Photo

By Forrest Fisher

As military veterans parked their cars and trucks in the limited spaces available near Chadwick Bay Marina, located in downtown Dunkirk, NY, Program Director Lynn Magistrale from WNY Heroes Inc. (www.wnyheroes.org) led the charge at sunrise registration activities on Friday, June 26, 2020. Magistrale was joined by event master-mind planners, Captain Jim Steel and his wife, Diane, in conjunction with their volunteer promotion of this event at Innovative Outdoors Tackle Shop HQ (https://innovative-outdoors.com/), along with other volunteer groups and professional resources to make this event unforgettable for military veterans that had registered with WNY Heroes, Inc.

Some 24 volunteer expert boat captains joined forces with WNY Heroes, Inc., to share walleye fun for military veterans that had served our country during any era. Forrest Fisher photo

Military veterans filled the boats of 24 volunteer fishing crews that shared their on-the-water fish-catching skills and expert watercraft leadership. The crews donated their time, gear and special services for this impressive extravaganza fishing event during this time of worldwide pandemic. All, just to say thanks to our military veterans. Hats off to all the volunteers.

With 18 walleye in the live well, we headed back to the dock and the fish-cleaning station. We had brought 22 fish to our lines during the morning trip, releasing the smaller fish. Forrest Fisher Photo

It was a privilege to meet retired US Navy Petty Officer 1st class, Barbara Erdt, and many other veterans. The fishing was absolutely great as we shared rod-exchanging maneuvers in fire-drill mode with exciting line-stretching moments for the next 3 hours, catching 22 walleye, keeping 18 for the freezer, while fishing aboard Eye-Fish Charters with Captain Jim Klein. I shared my experiences as a US Navy veteran with Barb, but I left after 4 years as a Petty Officer 2nd Class, serving during the Vietnam era on the flight deck aboard the USS Independence/CVA62, maintaining A6-Intruder fighter-bomber jets. Erdt had served during the era of Operation Desert Storm and Operation Enduring Freedom from 1989-2004, then with the US Navy active reserve. We compared locker room stories and laughed about morning reveille at boot camp.

The new Eye-Fish THUMPER BLADE was among the hottest lures on board. Forrest Fisher Photo

 

 

 

 

One of the hot lures, the Yaleye commemorative lure designed for the recent Southtowns Walleye Association 9-day tournament.

With a strong west wind of 12-14 mph at the morning take-off, we headed west about 15 miles and focused on 45 to 65 feet of water. While trolling an assortment of crankbaits and spinner/worm rigs, we enjoyed moments of 3-fish on at the same time on several occasions. The sizzling hot lure was a 2-hook Eye-Fish Firetiger (color) spinner/worm rig (https://www.eye-fish.com) and the commemorative Yaleye Mooneye fish lure (chartreuse w/faded blue rib color, www.yaleyefish.ca) from the recent Southtowns Walleye Association 9-day fishing contest. Barb caught the biggest fish at 9.04 pounds, adding to the total number of really large and healthy walleye already swimming in the live well.

Wind and Waves – We fished from 8AM-11AM and headed back to port as the wind srated to peaked with 22 mph gusts. Forrest Fisher Photo

The presentation method was not complicated, but the boat location and speed was fine-tuned as the wind picked up pushing 24 mph gusts from the southwest. Klein said, ”We caught fish from both sides of the boat using four lines on the big boards and two riggers.

Running the downriggers near the bottom produced fish, but then popping them with the Eye-Fish spinner rigs caught fish too. Forrest Fisher photo

The boards were trailing the lures on 5-color leadcore with a 40-foot fluorocarbon leader and riggers with spinner/worm rigs set back 50 feet while deployed 35 to 55 feet down. The boat speed was 1.4 to 2.6 mph, walking the boat in and out from shore, northeast to southeast, then northwest to north east, as the boat was pushed laterally due east with the strong wind. We never even had time to put the diving planes in! Was a fun time!”

Captain Jim Klein (L) and retired USN 1st Class Petty Officer, Barb Erdt, enjoy the picture taking moment on the trip back to the dock. Forrest Fisher Photo

Barb Erdt said, “I can’t wait to tell my brother about this Lake Erie trip. He fishing quite a lot, but for some reason says walleye fishing is tough this year. Captain Jim made it look pretty easy, thank you Captain!” Erdt added, “I can’t wait to share these fish with my two kids and my two grandkids.”

Event master-mind and organizer, Captain Jim Steel said, “While we scaled down this event to about ¼ of what it usually is, due to the pandemic social distancing rules, we still had 24 boats out there today, including two out-of-state charter captains that volunteered their time for our relatively local Western NY event.

They stayed at the Clarion Hotel, paid for their own fuel and food, never asked for any expenses.” Captain Jim followed, “These two long-distance volunteers, like all of our other master-angler volunteers on the water, just said they wanted to be here to say thanks to those who served to provide the USA freedoms we enjoy each and every day.” Diane Steel added, “The NYSDEC provided free fish-cleaning services for the veterans today too, preparing more than 100 walleye to take home for their kitchen dinner meal. From the conservation side, the DEC biologists and technicians collected age and health data for their study and record books too.”

NYS Department of Environmental Conservation staff volunteered efforts to clean fish for the veterans. Forrest Fisher photo.

Besides a big resealable bag of fresh walleye fillets (they sell for $19.95/pound in Florida!), every veteran left with a red/white/blue fishing rod/reel outfit and a tasty box lunch for the trip back home.

The mission of WNY Heroes is to provide veterans and their families with access to essential services, including financial assistance and resources that help support their lives and sustain their dignity. To help support their life-saving services, WNY Heroes does rely on volunteers for many functions. To learn more about them check out www.wnyheroes.org.

For area accommodations, vacation lodging, charter fishing contacts and services and hotel information/discounts, visit www.tourchautauqua.com. 

 

Firearm Industry in support of HISTORIC Senate Passage of Great American Outdoors Act

Rules, Regulations, NICs check - all required for legal firearm ownership in the USA. Photo courtesy of NSSF

NSSF®, the firearm industry trade association, praised the U.S. Senate’s passage of the Great American Outdoors Act, (H.R. 1957). This historic legislation, which received overwhelming bipartisan support, is among the most meaningful legislative measures for sportsmen conservationists ever. The Senate’s approval is a major step forward toward delivering on the promise of sustained wildlife conservation, public land hunting and recreational shooting on behalf of current and future generations of outdoorsmen and women.

Safety above all. Photo is courtesy of National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF)

“This is a monumental achievement that demonstrates a continued legacy of bipartisanship on wildlife, public lands and outdoor recreation issues,” said Lawrence G. Keane, NSSF Senior Vice President and General Counsel. “When enacted, this legislation will fulfill a promise to future generations that conservation, access to public lands and outdoor recreation including hunting and recreational shooting will be safeguarded well into the next century.”
The Great American Outdoors Act, introduced in the Senate by Sens. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Steve Daines (R-Mont.), would ensure full, dedicated funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and address the maintenance backlog of public lands and water projects across the United States. Those projects include wildlife habitat conservation, road and trail repairs and increased recreational access to our public lands and waters.
The legislation next heads to the U.S. House of Representatives for approval before it goes to the White House for signature, for which President Donald Trump has already indicated his support.
NSSF is especially grateful for Sens. Gardner and Daines sponsoring the legislation, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) for placing this as priority legislation in the Senate and for Sens. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) for their bipartisan leadership. The legislation was introduced with 55 bipartisan co-sponsors.
The legislation builds upon the success of the NSSF-supported John D. Dingell Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act, which also enjoyed overwhelming bipartisan support and was signed into law by President Trump in 2019.
GAOA will provide $9.5 billion over five years for deferred federal public lands and waters maintenance projects, with $3 billion set aside for infrastructure restoration on hundreds of millions of acres for increased access for America’s sportsmen and women. The Great American Outdoors Act will also provide $900 million annually for permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The legislation would also ensure that a significant portion of LWCF funding is dedicated to increasing public access for hunting, recreational shooting, fishing and outdoor recreation.
Sportsmen and women play a critical conservation role in the nation’s wildlife resources and to date, hunters and purchasers of firearms and ammunition, collectively, are the single largest source of wildlife conservation funding, contributing more than $13 billion since the enactment of the Pittman-Robertson Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act.
About NSSF – NSSF is the trade association for the firearm industry. Its mission is to promote, protect and preserve hunting and the shooting sports. Formed in 1961, NSSF has a membership of thousands of manufacturers, distributors, firearms retailers, shooting ranges, sportsmen’s organizations and publishers nationwide. For more information, log on to www.nssf.org.

June 27-28 is Free Fishing Weekend in New York

Rain or Shine...fish in NYS for free. Photo courtesy of Erie County Federation of Sportsmen

Fish for free…in New York, SPECIAL DAYS for Residents and Non-Residents

Group of anglers

Every year, six days are designated in New York that allow people to fish without a fishing license. Two of those days are coming up so it’s a great time of year for those to try it for the first time or introduce someone new to the sport. (All other fishing regulations still apply.)

Future free fishing days are as follows: September 26, 2020, November 11, 2020, and February 13-14, 2021.

Not sure how where to start? DEC’s I FISH NY Beginners’ Guide to Freshwater Fishing is the perfect go-to guide for every beginning angler.

Black Bass Fishing Season Opens June 20

Photo courtesy of Bill HIlts - Niagara USA

Black Bass Fishing …could be the most fishing fun for all ages.

Not only does June 20th mark the first day of summer,St. Lawrence smallmouth bass but it’s also the traditional season opener for black bass (largemouth bass and smallmouth bass) in New York. They’re considered the state’s #1 sportfish for good reason – they’re a lot of fun to catch and they’re found throughout the state.

The statewide black bass season runs from the 3rd Saturday in June through November 30, followed by a catch-and-release season that begins on December 1 and continues until the start of the regular season. During the traditional harvest season, anglers can possess up to five bass as long as they are 12 inches or longer. Some waters have special fishing regulations, so be sure to check the current fishing regulations before heading out to fish.

For an effective and easy-to-rig set up, check out the Wacky Rig article on DEC’s website.

Shooting Range…Building Out Your Kit, Go Prepared

  • Want to have a more successful and safe shooting range trip? Make sure you’ve got the right gear
By Blake Tabb
  Do you want to have a more successful and safer shooting range trip? Make sure you’ve got the right gear! Preparation for range day begins with the right range bag and ends with it being filled with all the things you need to have a fun and productive day.
  The right range bag is the Ulfhednar UH010 Long Day Range Bag. It’s designed in Norway from ultra-tough Cordura nylon, with best-in-class YKK covered zippers and an ergonomic carrying strap with a non-slip material, so it will stay snugged up against your shoulder no matter how far you have to walk. A large exterior side pocket has a fold flat “table” with a soft pad for small cleaning/repair jobs, and there are even more, well-padded exterior and interior pockets. The Molle system on top and on one side makes attaching and removing extra pockets and accessories quick and easy. The bag measures a generous 23.6 x 15.75 x 9.85 inches, and is Ulfhednar’s signature grey. It’s built Viking tough to last a lifetime.
Being steady is a must for long-range precision rifle shooting, which means you need a support from which you can rest both the rifle’s forend and buttstock. Properly resting the buttstock is best achieved with a squeeze-type pillow, which is placed under the buttstock and slightly squeezed to allow it to expand to fine-tune the elevation position of the rifle on the target. Ulfhednar’s UH105 Squeezy Support Pillow is perfect for the task. Measuring 3 x 4.3 inches and weighing just 12 ounces, it’s made from a soft, yet rugged, neoprene material, and has easy access to customize. It’s the choice of many serious competition shooters around the globe.
  How about a sling? The Ulfhednar UH303 sling is so much more than an inexpensive rifle carrier. This sling features PRS non-elastic web and adjustable cam-buckle so you can adjust the sling length quickly; one of the two solid plastic clamps adjusts the total length of the loop, the other locks the loop around the arm. Together they ensure that once an adjustment has been made, it will stay there until you physically change it. The sling is also so light that it is not felt on your arm. It’s been designed to help keep you steady in all shooting positions.
  To carry ammunition and stack it next to your shooting position for quick and easy access, the Ulfhednar UH110 Versatile Ammunition Folder is made from water-resistant Cordura nylon. It features a durable carrying strap and holds up to 40 rifle cartridges. It can be set up in a triangle and locked with Velcro. There’s also an exterior waterproof table pocket that can be removed and replaced with the four included cartridge strips, each holding 10 rounds each. Two and two cartridge strips can be mounted together so that you get two cartridge strips with 20 shots in each.
You also need a rifle case. Usually, a rifle case is a rifle case, but how about a gun case that doubles as a top-end shooting mat? That’s what you get with the Ulfhednar UH040 BASE CAMP. Sporting backpack straps on the underside in addition to a top carrying handle. The UH040 is easy to sling on a shoulder and tote to the range or into the field. Once there, the bag folds out to reveal a full-length shooting mat measuring 41 x 79 inches. While an integrated shooting mat is pretty useful on its own, Ulfhednar takes it to another level by utilizing a rubber material (like you’d see in car tires) on certain surfaces of the mat to add friction. The rubber is laid specifically on the mat to give shooters a little resistance while shooting, so shooters’ elbows and/or the firearm itself doesn’t slip when firing. The product also has a lot of storage pockets, Molle web for attaching extra pockets or other equipment, a zippered inner storage pocket, a channel for storing your cleaning/push rod, and a detachable pocket for tables, and it also comes with a two-foot extension lower leg mat and extended bipod mat. It’s made from Cordura nylon and features covered YKK zippers.
 
About Ulfhernar – Ruggedized Norwegian produced precision shooting gear. Founded and managed by a
40-year champion shooter, Ulfhednar is producing a line of products that are incredibly innovative, durable, and exactly in time with the growing PRS market in the US. Long Range/PRS are the largest shooting sports in Norway boasting 6,000 registered competitors. 
For more information, please visit WWW.ULFHEDNAR.NO.

New York Online Hunter Education Course…24,000 NEW HUNTERS!

  • DEC Announces Extension of Online Hunter Education Course Through August
  • Offerings Now Include Online Bowhunter Course

24,000 Hunters Have Completed Online Course since April; New York State Sporting License Sales Up Nearly 10 Percent

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos today announced that DEC’s online hunter education course will continue to be available through Aug. 31, 2020. All hunters must complete a mandatory hunter education course before purchasing a hunting license. In addition, DEC is making an online bowhunter education course option available beginning July 15. Since mid-April, more than 24,000 hunters have successfully completed the online hunter education course, about 20 percent more than typically take it. Of those completing the online course about 40 percent were women, compared to 27 percent female participants in the traditional in-person course. In addition, almost half of the people taking the online course were 30 years of age or older, compared to 30 percent for the in-person course.

“Many new hunters went afield for this year’s turkey season and we look forward to continuing to welcome new hunters with this online safety course,” Commissioner Seggos said. “Hunter safety is our top priority, and expanding the availability of these online courses will help us engage more New Yorkers who are ready to be a part of our state’s proud hunting tradition.”

All hunters who wish to hunt big game with a bow must complete a mandatory bowhunter education course in addition to the required hunter education course. The online hunter education course was first made available in April after in-person hunter education courses were cancelled to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. The online course provided an opportunity for first-time hunters who wanted to go afield during New York’s spring turkey season to receive their hunter education certificate before the season started in May. Extending the availability of the online course and adding the bowhunter course option will allow first-time hunters and new archery hunters the opportunity to get their required hunter education and bowhunter education certificates prior to the start of the fall hunting seasons.

DEC’s Hunter Education Program (HEP) is partnering with Kalkomey Enterprises, a company that specializes in hunter education, to offer the online courses that can be completed in six to eight hours. The online courses cover all the topics of traditional in-person courses including firearm and bow safety, tree stand safety, hunting ethics, wildlife conservation, and New York State hunting laws and regulations.

Students who successfully complete the online courses and pass the final exam will receive their hunter education certificate or bowhunter education certificate. The courses are available to individuals 11 and older, but only those 12 or older may purchase a hunting license. Students can complete the courses from a computer, tablet, or smart phone at any time. Visit DEC’s Hunter Education Program page to learn more or to sign up.

To take and receive a hunter education certificate or bowhunter education certificate through the online course, participants must be New York State residents. The cost of the hunter education course is $19.95 and the cost for the bowhunter education course is $30. Both courses can be accessed at DEC’s website. The online courses will be available through Aug. 31, 2020.

Sporting License Sales Increase Nearly 10 Percent in 2020

As New Yorkers continue to recreate locally to prevent the spread of COVID-19, DEC has seen a nearly 10 percent increase in sporting license sales overall. For the period that roughly coincides with New York State on PAUSE, resident turkey permits increased 49 percent, junior hunting licenses increased by 60 percent or more, and resident hunting licenses increased by 130 percent. Certain types of lifetime licenses also increased by as much as 146 percent. A combination of factors, including the availability of online hunter education for new hunters and time available to participate in the spring turkey season, likely contributed to the increase.

Tens of thousands of additional resident fishing licenses were also sold compared to the same time last year, with increases of 30 percent for annual and one-day fishing licenses. Non-resident and senior fishing license sales decreased as anticipated following the COVID-19-related guidance issued by New York and other states.

For more information on recreational opportunities available in New York State visit DEC’s website. New Yorkers are encouraged to engage in responsible recreation close to home during the State’s ongoing response to COVID-19. DEC recommendations incorporate guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the New York State Department of Health for reducing the spread of infectious diseases and encourage New Yorkers to recreate locally, practice physical distancing, show respect, and use common sense to protect themselves and others. For more information, go to DEC’s website.

Salmon Tourney Winners Find Big Spring Fish! Wilson, New York

Photo courtesy of Bill HIlts - Niagara USA

Winner of the Wilson Harbor Invitational Tournament June 6 was the U-Betcha team led by Capt. Chris Vogt of Albion.

Congratulations to the U-Betcha team led by Capt. Chris Vogt of Albion. They won the Wilson Harbor Invitational Tournament and nearly $15,000 in cash last weekend. The tournament is based on the best six salmon for the day and their 6 fish weighed in at 90.92 pounds for a total score of 150.92 points based on 10 points per fish and a point per pound.

Second place team was Elise K. from Michigan, less than 3 points behind the winning U-Betcha team.

Second place was the Elise K team from Michigan, less than 3 points behind. The Hound Dog team from Wellsville was less than a point behind them. Big fish for the tournament was a 22.34-pound king salmon reeled in by the Tri-Lakes Sportfishing team headed up by William Jennings. Vogt found his winning combination between 4 Mile Creek and the red buoy marker drop off on the Niagara Bar in 250 feet of water. Rigged cut bait and Stingray spoons worked best for him during the tournament.

Blake Kowalski of Tonawanda holds up a couple king salmon for the Tough Duty 2 team that placed 5th in the Wilson Harbor Invitational tourney last weekend.

Capt. Mike Johannes of Ransomville, has been doing good about 6 miles west of Wilson in about 150 to 300 feet of water. Mostly dark spoons such as Carbon 14 and Seasick Waddler patterns have been best in the magnum size. Some fish have come on divers 150 feet back with 8-inch e-chip flashers and flies, too. Karen Evarts at The Boat Doctors reports that fishing is tough but 200 to 280 feet of water right out in front of Olcott has been producing a few big kings over 20 pounds.  Depth varies. Mag spoons in green, white, black, and lemons.   Chartreuse and glow flies or meat rigs are working, too.  Some perch have been coming from 12 Mile Creek and Tuscarora over in Wilson.

Whether you are fishing above or below Niagara Falls in the Niagara River, pay attention to the border. Canada has once again shifted its policy to keep anglers and boaters from entering Canadian water space, announcing huge fines and possible boat confiscation for violators. The change took place June 1 and it will be revisited again on June 21, but it could be extended again.

Lower Niagara river action has been hampered by the arrival of the moss according to Lisa Drabczyk with Creek Road Bait and Tackle. Fishing has been a bit slow. There are still a few steelheads up in Devil’s Hole believe it or not with water temperatures into the mid-60s. Bass action has been tough. Best spots have been at Joe Davis and the Coast Guard drift for boats. Tubes work best.

Mike Rzucidlo and Mike Ziehm of Niagara Falls with a white bass double header in the lower Niagara River.

From shore, Mike Rzucidlo of Niagara Falls has been using jigs. Bass action has been tough. About the only fish really cooperating has been sheepshead and he has caught some bruisers this week.

Mike Rzucidlo of Niagara Falls is feeling a bit sheepish with a bomber of a freshwater drum in the Niagara Gorge on light line.

On the Bar near the green buoy, Capt. Frank Campbell of Lewiston reports some decent Coho action on MagLips off three-way rigs. Upper river bass action has been tough according to Capt. Ryan Shea. Fish are on the beds. Ned rigs have been producing a few fish, but you must work for them. There are some walleyes around, too.

This is National Fishing and Boating Week through June 14th. Get out there and enjoy our waters. Charter captains are back operating again. Stay safe!

Bill Hilts, Jr. – Outdoor Promotions Director

Inline image 2
Destination Niagara USA
10 Rainbow Blvd.
Niagara Falls, NY 14303
p: 1-877 FALLS US | 716-282-8992 x. 303

Recreational Red Snapper Season open in Gulf State and Federal Waters

Photo courtesy of Brice Williamson

The recreational Red Snapper Season will opened on June 11 for Gulf state and federal waters, and will remain open through July 25, closing on July 26.

“I’m excited to announce the beginning of Florida’s recreational Red Snapper Season in state and federal Gulf waters beginning Thursday, June 11,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “Florida is the Fishing Capital of the World and we are proud to welcome Floridians and visitors to participate in Red Snapper Season as our state moves forward with the safe re-opening of our economy.”

“Red Snapper Season is one of the most anticipated and exciting saltwater fishing seasons that contribute to Florida being the Fishing Capital of the World,” said Eric Sutton, FWC Executive Director. “The years of collaborative work with stakeholders and partners has resulted in a significant increase in the number of fishing days over the past few years, from just a few days to 45 red snapper fishing days in Gulf state and federal waters this year.”

For-hire operations that do not have a federal reef fish permit may also participate in the season but are limited to fishing for red snapper in Gulf state waters only.

If you plan to fish for red snapper in Gulf state or federal waters (excluding Monroe County) from a private recreational vessel, even if you are exempt from fishing license requirements, you must sign up as a Gulf Reef Fish Angler or State Reef Fish Angler when signing up after July 1 (annual renewal required). The Gulf Reef Fish Angler designation will be expanded statewide and renamed State Reef Fish Angler starting July 1. To learn more, visit MyFWC.com/Marine and click on “Recreational Regulations” then “Gulf Reef Fish Survey” or “State Reef Fish Survey” under “Reef Fish” tab. Sign up at GoOutdoorsFlorida.com.

Gulf Reef Fish Anglers and State Reef Fish Anglers might receive a questionnaire in the mail regarding their reef fish trips as part of Florida’s Gulf Reef Fish Survey and State Reef Fish Survey. These surveys were developed specifically to provide more robust data for management of red snapper and other important reef fish, and have allowed FWC the unprecedented opportunity to manage Gulf red snapper in state and federal waters. If you receive a survey in the mail, please respond whether you fished this season or not.

When catching red snapper and other deep-water fish, look out for symptoms of barotrauma (injuries caused by a change in pressure) such as the stomach coming out of the mouth, bloated belly, distended intestines and bulging eyes. When releasing fish with barotrauma, use a descending device or venting tool to help them survive and return to depth. Learn more about fish handling at MyFWC.com/FishHandling.

To learn more about the recreational red snapper season in Gulf state and federal waters, including season size and bag limits, visit MyFWC.com/Marine and click on “Recreational Regulations” and “Snappers,” which is under the “Regulations by Species – Reef Fish” tab.

The federal Gulf season for for-hire operations with federal reef fish permits is June 1 through Aug. 1.

Family Entertainment, Visit the Great Branson Indoors and Outdoors

  • Endless adventure with hiking, biking, camping, canoeing, kayaking, horseback riding, bass and trout fishing, hunting, trap and skeet shooting, spelunking, rock climbing and more.
  • Visit public parks, resorts, campgrounds, forests or one of Branson’s three crystal clear lakes.
  • Water ski, boat or go bass fishing at Table Rock Lake, or kayak and trout fish on Lake Taneycomo

By Larry Whiteley

It’s time to start getting back to normal and plan a weekend getaway, or a week-long vacation that offers something for everyone in the family. The place to do all that is located right in the heart of America in Branson, Missouri.

There may be no better place in America to experience family entertainment and all the great outdoors has to offer in one place, than in the beautiful Missouri/Arkansas Ozarks with its forested hills, pristine lakes and clear-flowing streams. Plus, it’s only a short flight or within a day or two drive from two-thirds of the United States.

Lake activities are a great way to enjoy Branson. Water sports are available on each of Branson’s great lakes. Guests can swim, water ski, wakeboard, tube, boat, sail, scuba dive, Jet-ski, parasail, ride a hydro-bike, paddle-board, kayak, canoe and fish.

There are more species of fish to catch in Branson than almost anywhere else in America. Choose from rainbow trout, brown trout, cutthroat trout, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, Kentucky bass, striped bass, white bass, rock bass, catfish, crappie, walleye, yellow perch, four species of sunfish and even the historic paddlefish. Unfamiliar with fishing in Branson? Book a guided fishing trip through one of the many guide services on any lake. Want to get some physical activity in? Branson has more than 200 miles of miles of hiking trails, with varying lengths, offering natural views of water, woods and wildlife.

Table Rock Lake has nearly 800 miles of shoreline and is one of Missouri’s top fishing destinations. Marina’s offer boat and equipment rentals, or bring your own, as there are multiple public and privately-owned locations to access the lake. Want to relax on the lake? Enjoy a lunch or dinner cruise and show aboard the Showboat Branson Belle or take a cruise on the Spirit of America catamaran.

Lake Taneycomo’s water comes from the bottom of Table Rock Lake, making it a cold-water lake perfect for trout fishing. The pristine, clear, water is stocked annually with approximately 750,000 rainbow trout, making it a world-class trout fishery. The state record brown trout came from these waters and many believe the next world record is swimming around right now in Taneycomo’s waters. This lake is also perfect for kayaking and there are plenty of resorts and other lodging along its banks.

Branson also offers plenty of family-oriented RV Parks and Campgrounds near and around the lakes. Spend quality time together with the comforts of a full-service RV site or unplug and reconnect with the family at a campground near one of the beautiful lakes. Prefer something more upscale? Stay in a log cabin, resort, lodge or hotel – the options are unlimited.

Looking for more outdoor adventure? Try trap or skeet shooting, visit a cave or enjoy the high-tech sport of geocaching. Ride a zipline through the hills and valleys at Shepherd of the Hills Adventure Park or at Branson Ziplines at Wolfe Creek Reserve.

In addition to all the outdoor opportunities in the Branson area, visitors can enjoy Silver Dollar City theme park, nature parks, waterparks, museums and aquariums in the area. Have a great meal at one of the many restaurants or take in a dinner show. Play a round of golf at one of our 10 world-class golf courses, or have fun at one of the many miniature golf courses.

Branson is one of the leading entertainment cities in America. With over 100 shows playing throughout the year there are more seats than Broadway in Branson. It is a truly remarkable city with so much to offer. There is always something to fill your days with lots of fun-packed activities. Or, just come to relax and recharge your body and soul away from home. Go to www.explorebranson.com and check it all out.

Come for all the experiences in the great outdoors. Come for the all the entertainment. Go back home with lots of memories from Branson, Mo.

 

Best Binoculor NAMED for Spotting Birds…German Precision Optics (GPO-USA)

  • Waterproof and fog-proof, tough aluminum eyecup tubes
  • Lightweight and compact, custom-molded hard case
  • Lifetime Warranty from German Precision Optics (GPO)

GPO USA PASSION™ 8×42 ED Binocular Wins Best Birding Binocular Award – Best Binoculars Reviews (BBR) has awarded the GPO PASSION 8×42 ED binocular with its 2020 Best Birding Binocular. Now in its tenth year, BBR awards the very best binoculars they have fully tested and reviewed in the past 12 months in a range of categories.

BBR website publisher commented about the quality of the GPO 8×42 binocular: “For just about all uses, but especially important for birding, an image that is of excellent quality and true to life is a critical feature. This is because it not only ensures you can fully appreciate the beauty of the birds in all their glory but sometimes, tiny differences in plumage colorations can make the difference when trying to positively identify one sub-species from another.

“As most birders will know, having a wide field of view is another extremely important feature as it enables you to more easily find and then follow your subjects, this is especially true of the small faster-moving ones at closer ranges! At 426ft wide at 1,000 yards, these GPO binoculars have an extremely wide view that ranks up there with the very widest 8×42 binoculars currently on the market and which is why I would certainly describe them as being a wide angle binocular.

“As with the predecessor, another reason I chose these over the other contenders is down to them having an excellent build quality level and with it a performance that was well above what I would expect to find in just about every area.

“Indeed I would go as far as to say that these GPO binoculars have no major weaknesses, which makes them a very versatile instrument that will not only stand out in most types of birding but also many other areas and thus I feel they rank up there with the best binoculars for 2020 overall.”

To be eligible for a BBR Award and be considered one of the best binoculars for 2020, it has to have been fully reviewed and tested by BBR. According to the website, BBR reviews are written after thoroughly researched, used and then tested and compared to other binoculars in its class.

To read the extensive review on the GPO PASSION 8×42 ED binocular, visit https://www.bestbinocularsreviews.com/binocular-awards2020.php#bestbirdingbinoculars2020.

About GPO USA: German Precision Optics was founded on the premise that design, engineering and quality management is 100 percent controlled in Germany to its strictest standards, yet products can be produced at some of the largest production facilities worldwide. This unique corporate structure allows GPO to offer the highest quality products with better features at a significantly better price. The company is 100-percent confident that all its products will not only function perfectly but also exceed all expectations. Therefore, GPO USA has created an industry-leading Spectacular Lifetime Warranty™. With outstanding professional service, GPO USA will take care of its products before, during and after the purchase at no charge— EVER. Founded in 2016, GPO has its U.S. headquarters in Richmond, Va. For more information on GPO USA, visit www.gpo-usa.com or call 844-MY-BINOS (844-692-4667).

Bow Spider: The Ultimate Solution for Packing Compound Bows Afield

The product is proudly made in the USA and gives one percent of all sales to conservation. The company also offers veterans a 15 percent discount on all products.

  • You see the Buck, the Elk, the Moose…but your bow is somehow unreachable. Now, a proven solution.
  • Reduce FROM a the game of CHANCE…TO a game of CHOICE. 
  • Mount on your hip, on your treestand, on your backpack while hiking in. The Intuitive design makes bow retrieval fast and easy in any situation.

One of the big hassles of hunting with a compound bow is figuring out how to securely and safely pack and carry it afield, yet keep it handy enough that you can immediately spring into action should an unforeseen opportunity arise. The solution is simple: Bow Spider — the quickest and easiest bow retrieval system on the market. Whether you are a backpack hunter, spend your time up a tree, or need both hands free when crossing a field while carrying decoys, blinds, and other accessories, Bow Spider is the answer you’ve been looking for.

The concept is simple and revolves around a lightweight, roundish bow holder that comes with a sturdy belt and long bolts, allowing for multiple ways to secure your bow. Use the belt to attach your bow to your pack, hip, truck headrest, blind, or tree. Bow Spider can also be easily attached to a binocular harness or backpack. In fact, it can be mounted to any sturdy flat surface for secure and easy storage – even a wall.

Here’s how it works. An aluminum arm attaches to the bow’s riser, and slides into a slot on the lightweight, injection-molded receiver, which can be worn on the included belt or attached via long bolts to other objects. The bow is held securely in place via a gravity-locking system, yet slides out with minimal effort. You have to either pull it out or turn it upside down to get the bow out. With Bow Spider, you can:

  • Mount on Your Hip: Use the straps provided to mount the Bow Spider to your side using a belt or on your pack frame belt. Or you can attach it to your pack frame waist band. Both of these options provide for easy access while hiking or exploring for game as well as during professional archery shooting competitions.
  • Mount in Your Tree Stand: Use the Bow Spider to secure your bow when hunting from a tree stand for quick, quiet access. Carry it up securely on your back and cinch to the tree! This eliminates the need for a pull rope to pull your bow up after you are already in the tree stand. Once in the tree stand utilize the provided strap to attach the Bow Spider to the tree for quick access.
  • Use on Your Pack: You can choose either to temporarily or permanently mount Bow Spider to your pack. By using the provided straps it can be mounted temporarily. For a permanent or semi-permanent mount you can use the provided bolts. This is a true game changer for those long backcountry hikes.
  • Safe Storage for Home or Travel: Use the provided strap to affix the Bow Spider to your seat while driving. You can also screw the Bow Spider to the wall for long term storage in your home.

The Bow Spider is available in green, tan, or black, and has a MSRP of $84.95. To see how it works, check out this short YouTube video quick access: Click Here

When every second counts, quickly swing your bow into action thanks to the amazing new Bow Spider. For more information, and to order visit www.bowspider.com.

About Recreational Archery Development LLC (RAD, LLC): Founded in 2019 and headquartered in Kinnear, WY – RAD, LLC is a leading designer and manufacturer of innovative products for the outdoor industry, including the Bow Spider brand of products. Bow Spider’s intuitive design makes bow retrieval fast and easy in any situation. The product is proudly made in the USA and gives one percent of all sales to conservation. The company also offers veterans a 15 percent discount on all products. (To take advantage of this offer, orders need to be called in directly to the company at (307) 438-9290.) For additional information on RAD, LLC and the Bow Spider brand of products write to: RAD, LLC, PO Box 171, Kinnear, WY 82516; call (307) 438-9290; email info@bowspider.com; visit www.bowspider.com.

Coming Home to Fletcher Lake Lodge…OPEN after June 21st

  • Loons, Lynx, Trophy Fish…Unforgettable Fun at Fletcher Lake Lodge, Canada
  • Arrive by air (bush plane) from Kenora, Ontario…exciting and fun!
  • Visitors find hugs, smiles, peace, quiet…and great food

By Larry Whiteley

Between fishing for and catching trophy walleye, smallmouth bass, northern pike and musky, there are sightings of moose, bear, lynx, bald eagles, fantastic scenery, sunsets and sunrises, and the love sounds of the many loons. Not to mention sitting around a campfire. It’s unforgettable fun.

Jeanne MacLean has owned and operated Fletcher Lake Lodge in Northwestern Ontario for 39 years. During all those years she has always looked forward to welcoming guests that return year after year. It is like going back home for them. They have become like family to Jeanne and her staff.

Her “family” and first-time visitors all arrive by Canadian bush planes out of Kenora, Ontario. When “family” arrive there are lots of hugs, smiles and laughter. When “first timers” step off the plane onto the dock and look around, big smiles appear and you hear them saying things like “WOW, this is awesome!” or “Oh my gosh, this is perfect!” And, that is before they have even been on the water catching trophy smallmouth, walleye, northern pike and muskie.

The “first-timers” soon realize what Jeanne’s “family” already know: This special lodge on this special lake and the memories they will make will remain in their hearts and minds forever. They are now “family” too.

Don’t take my word for it though. Here are what some of Jeanne’s guests have to say –

“Jeanne, thanks again to you and your staff for my 15th consecutive, knockout fishing trip with you at Fletcher Lake. Of course, the fishing was fantastic. I must tell you that the facilities, staff, food and lodge are frosting on the cake. I can hardly wait to come back 15 more times.” – Paul

“For the past 35 years, three generations of our family have come to Fletcher Lake Lodge. During these trips, the ladies of the family have enjoyed their experience as much as the men and can’t wait to come back again. The walleye, northern pike and smallmouth fishing has continued to improve with each trip and our family always catch trophy fish in each species every year. Jeanne and her staff provide a warm family welcome. We can’t wait to keep coming back. – Nancy

“Fletcher Lake Lodge is an outdoor paradise, made even better by Jeanne and her staff. They are hands down the best hosts anyone could ask for. You really feel like you are part of the family when you stay here. – Abby

“I just wanted to thank you again for the top notch fishing trip. Will definitely be spreading the good word about Fletcher Lake Lodge and the fantastic people who make it a family like atmosphere. See you next trip.” – Jason

Fletcher Lake Lodge was established in the mid 1960’s and is the only lodge on the lake. Jeanne purchased it in 1982. In 1995 they implemented a conservation fishing practice in order to ensure a healthy fishery for many years to come. Five years later Jeanne teamed up with the Ontario Government to create a unique Trophy Waters program that has dramatically increased both the quality and the quantity of fish in Fletcher Lake. It has set this area of Canada apart from many other regions in regards to trophy fish being caught, documented, pictures taken just in case they want a replica mount made and the fish are then released back into the water to be caught again another day.

Guests have a choice of a full service, fly-in American plan or a housekeeping package. The lodge is nestled into a bay with a sand beach and great fishing right from the dock.

During the 2019 fishing season guests caught over 261 trophy walleye, northern and smallmouth along with many eaters and that doesn’t include all the other fish that were released. There are also two portage lakes north of Fletcher Lake that provide fantastic muskie and perch fishing. You can eat fish everyday, if you want, or enjoy all the other delicious home-cooked meals too.

Even though a high percentage of guests are “family” and return every year, there is room for “first-timer’s”. Go to https://www.fletcherlake.com/ and check it all out. Then call Jeanne at her office in Minnesota at (218) 386-1538 or at the lodge (807) 224-3400 and tell her you want to come home.

                                           SPECIAL NOTE

As I write this, the Canadian border and Canadian provinces remain closed because of COVID-19, but Fletcher Lake Lodge “family” and “first timers” will be able to return on June 21st, 2020.

The lodge will be open into September and there are a few openings for “first timers” throughout the summer if you would like to be one of them. Right now, Jeanne is busy taking care of her “family” and letting them know that there is a new beginning in sight with regard to COVID-19 rules.

EDITOR NOTE: All photographs are courtesy of Fletcher Lake Lodge

 

Newborn Wildlife, You Can Look but Don’t Touch

  • Be careful, view animals from a distance and do not touch

By Jason Houser

In the next several weeks, wildlife throughout the country will be bearing young. This is an awesome time of year and is a chance to see newborn elk calves, deer, pronghorn fawns, as well as many others. At the same time, I hope you know that when you come across young animals, please leave newborn wildlife alone and keep a distance.

It is so tempting when you see a young, fragile animal, to want to step in and help. It is the instinct of many people to feel compassion for the animal, but that animal was more than likely put there by its mother for safekeeping.

It is an amazing experience to get the chance to see the splendors of the outdoors, but please view animals from a distance and do not touch. Spring is an important time in a newborn’s life, and interference from humans can put their life at risk.

Most mammals hide their young and return periodically to nurse. People finding young animals with no adult around often assume the newborns have been abandoned, but this is rarely the case. The mother knows where her young are and will almost certainly return to care for them.

Young birds sometimes fall out of or leave their nests before they can fly. The parents continue to care for the young bird while it is on the ground, bringing food and trying to protect the youngster while it is in this vulnerable situation.

Getting too close to newborn wildlife can be very dangerous. The mother to the newborn animal will display very aggressive behavior when humans get close to their young. Leave the area immediately if you encounter aggressive wildlife with young. Yes, even whitetail doe’s that look so harmless can be aggressive. It is in their nature to protect their young, just like human parents will do anything to protect their children from harm.

The best option for people who come across newborn wildlife is to leave them alone. I had a case just last spring when a curious whitetail fawn that I did not know was in the area decided to go for a walk. The newborn was just born hours before that same day, we later learned through eyewitness accounts. The young deer left her hiding spot in the fencerow behind my home and entered my yard. As cute as the animal was, and even odd to see it in my yard, we left the baby to be. Watching it out the window of our home it was not long before its mother found it. Never assume the baby is an orphan unless you see the mother dead.

Most state and federal laws forbid possession of game and many nongame animals, so adopting newborn wildlife is illegal. Citations can be issued for possession of newborn wildlife with a possible penalty of up to a $1,000 fine.

Mother’s Day Gifts for the Outdoors Woman

  • Significant Gifts for that one Significant Other, Outdoors Mom’s are special
  • Colorful 3-season and 4-season quilts, comfy outdoor footwear, bacteria-safe cutting board, a unique Wok w/ burner system

By Jason Houser

Mother’s Day is fast approaching, and significant others and children are not always the best at picking out gifts. Flowers die and chocolate is gone way too soon. This year get her something she can use and will last for years to come.

Cutting Boards and More

Mothers are great cooks (most mothers). Instead of letting her use the same old cutting board that is an eyesore, get her a cutting board that will last a lifetime and looks good in the kitchen. John Boos & Co. located in Effingham, Illinois, has been manufacturing cutting boards since the late 1800s. These boards can be found in kitchens across the country and on the sets of your favorite cooking show.

Cutting boards should last and that is exactly what a properly cared for cutting board from John Boos will do. It is not just cutting boards though. John Boos offers a wide selection of butcher blocks, countertops, worktables, and stainless-steel products.

If you can think of a need for it when it comes to this type of product, John Boos has probably already thought of it. Whether it is a block designed for cutting fresh herbs, holding your I-pad or your fresh loaf of homemade bread and everything in between, you will find it at John Boos.

If a durable and attractive board isn’t enough for you, then consider this. A scientific study conducted by Dr. Dean Cliver, Ph.D. has proved that maple cutting boards inhibit bacteria growth, while plastic boards have been scientifically proven to harbor bacteria inside the cut grooves. Also, wood cutting boards are known to be easier on your expensive knife blades.

Durable WOK with BIG KAHUNA Burner

Who doesn’t like cooking with woks? Eastman Outdoors is home to the best wok and outdoor burner on the market. Ideal for stir-frying, deep-frying, boiling, steaming, braising and simmering, this deep wok + powerful burner combination delivers versatile cooking, to decks, patios, backyards and campsites alike.

This outdoor wok kit is complete with accessories for styles of cooking. The 22-inch stainless-steel wok is 50% deeper than most traditional woks, allowing your favorite cook room to make your plenty of your favorite foods.

The propane burner has adjustable legs (18″ to 26″) making it perfect for not only the Wok, but the top surface flips to accept skillets and small pots but also tall pots.

Included in the kit are a stainless-steel wok spoon, spatula, 12-inch AccuZone (TM) thermometer, and an instructional DVD with recipes.

Boots

Every lady needs a good pair of boots. I bought my wife a pair of Vaprtrek from Irish Setter Boots.  We recently returned from a turkey hunt in southern Illinois.  To say that good footwear was important in the uneven terrain is an understatement.

I can only guess how many miles we walked on the days it took for us to scout and to fill our turkey tags. And, it was no walk in the park either. On this hunt, we both chose to wear the Irish Setter Vaprtrek. Walking over uneven terrain, crossing small streams, and experiencing mild temperatures, these boots were perfect.

Normally, we like to break our boots in before trekking through the wood’s miles from another pair of boots.  Not doing so is only asking for sore feet and blisters.  After trying these boots on for the first time, my wife felt comfortable enough to wear them hunting the very next day.  These waterproof boots proved their weight in gold as we were on our feet all day long, day after day.

So, how does Irish Setter explain the Vaprtrek? VaprTrek™ boots were designed with the athletic hunter in mind.

Whether your deer hunting, scouting, searching for sheds or chasing that spring gobbler, you’ll appreciate how light yet rugged these technically advanced, high-performance boots are. Their innovative RPM™ sole, ScentBan™ scent control, and sleek profile combine to meet the demands of the most active hunters.

Quilts

These are not your grandma’s quilts. Quilts by Zenbivy are manufactured with the outdoorsman and woman in mind.

If you’re better half enjoys camping, she will enjoy one of these quilts. Unlike a sleeping bag that has a zipper to deal with when laid flat, these quilts do not have the extra weight to contend with. And, many people would rather not sleep in a sleeping bag that constricts their movement. It is much easier to cover up with a comfortable quilt for a good night’s rest.

Available in a variety of colors, it will not be a problem to find one just right for her.  With three temperature ratings to choose from, there is one for every season. The 40º version is just as soft, just as light and just as packable as their 25º down quilt, but is built for warmer nights and tighter budgets. Built for 3-Season use, the 25 Degree down Light Quilt is one of the softest, most durable, lightweight quilts you can find. The buttery-soft 20º fabrication sets the 10º down Light Quilt apart from its more “purist” 10º competitors. Built for the widest range of temperatures, it’s a true 4-season ultra-light quilt.

The quilt is great, but be sure to check out the pillow, mattress and dry sack from Zenbivy to complete your sleeping comfort.  These might not be the traditional Mother’s Day gifts many think of, but I am sure she would enjoy them for years to come.

BOOTS that bring your FAMILY out for a WALK…LOWA Boots

  • After comfort and wearability, there is only long-lasting comfort and long-lasting wearability

By Larry Whiteley

Yes, my closet is full of LOWA’s – gotta love these boots. Larry Whiteley Photo

My family has several traditions: The opening day of firearms deer season, going fishing the last day of trout season, hunting for morel mushrooms and looking for shed deer antlers, and more. A different kind of a tradition for the Whiteley family seems to be that a lot of us are wearing LOWA boots.

LOWA’s great ambassador Ingrid Niehaus. Photo courtesy www.womensoutdoornews.com.

I got my first pair of LOWA’s several years ago thanks to a good friend, Ingrid Niehaus, who worked for LOWA. A Bavarian cobbler named Lorenz Wagner founded LOWA in 1923. She told me of the company’s belief in corporate responsibility, taking care of their employees and social commitment. They also support non-profits that are working in environmental conservation and nature protection.

She also explained to me the quality and workmanship that goes into their boots and then talked me into a pair of LOWA’s, the Renegade GTX® Mid, which is one of the best-selling boots in the world. It is also the #1 selling boot in Europe, plus it was named to Backpacker Magazine’s Hall of Fame.

When they arrived and I opened the box I could tell these boots were much better than any boot I had ever owned and worthy of their status. The minute I slipped my feet into them and laced them up I was so glad she convinced me into getting them.

I kept raving about my new LOWA’s to family members and anyone else that would listen. That’s not something I usually do, but I had never worn a quality boot like my LOWA’s. They were so comfortable that’s all they were ever seeing me wear everywhere I went, including to church.

My wife heard me going on about how I love my LOWA’s so much she decided she wanted a pair too and we got her the Ladies Renegade GTX® Mid. She enjoys hiking and had several pairs of good hiking shoes, but now I never see her wear anything else.

My wife modeling her LOWA’s. Larry Whiteley Photo

I liked mine so well, I later got another pair of LOWA’s, but this time in a high top boot for hunting, hiking and just to wear. The Zephyr GTX Hi TF® were exactly what I was looking for, with the same great features and just as comfortable as my Renegade GTX® Mid.

My grandson was getting ready to do college summer intern work with a wildlife biologist where he would be working in some really rough terrain. He started hinting to me that he could sure use a pair like mine and, of course, his papaw got him a pair too because he’s a good kid and I wanted him in good boots as well.

Later my son says to me, “You, Mom, and my son keep going on about those LOWA boots and I think I might like a pair too.” Since he works on his feet all day in a cabinet shop, as well as enjoys walking and hiking with his wife and Max, the dog, I agreed. As a gift to him, I got the Zephyr GTX Mid® and now he is also a big LOWA fan.

While I was getting his, I decided I wanted another pair of LOWA’s for myself and got the new Zephyr GTX Mid TF® as a gift to myself. A man can’t have enough boots! It’s just like we can’t have enough guns or fishing rods! They are everything I have come to expect from boots. I am betting that my daughter-in-law, my granddaughter and my future granddaughter-in-law will soon also be a part of our LOWA family.

My son and his LOWAs. Anna Whiteley Photo

Ingrid recently decided to give up her work in order to travel and enjoy life. I will miss seeing her, but wish her the best on the rest of her journey through life. Thank you Ingrid for helping the Whiteley family start a different kind of tradition. Our feet really thank you too.

One of my favorite John Muir quotes says, “In every walk in nature one receives far more than he seeks”. When you walk in nature wearing LOWA boots, you also receive far more than you could ever imagine.

If the Whiteley family story has piqued your interest in LOWA boots, then I encourage you to go to www.lowaboots.com and check out their huge selection of boots. You will never regret owning a pair or two or three of LOWA boots. Only then, you’ll understand, the LOWA family is where you and the outdoors make friends for all time, wherever you go.

Venison Meatball Rigatoni Mug

A tasty deer camp “Cup of Energy.”  Recipe by “Kitchen Kate.”

Makes 8 Servings, what you’ll need:

Noodle/Cheese Ingredients:

  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella
  • ½ cup parmesan cheese
  • 1 jar marinara sauce
  • 1 box (12 oz) rigatoni pasta, cooked
  • 1 tsp chopped basil
  • One 12-ounce coffee mug for each serving
  • Olive Oil

Meatball Ingredients:

  • 1 lb ground venison,
  • 1 TBS garlic
  • 1 TBS oregano
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/2 tsp salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 egg, whisked
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs

Let’s Get Cooking!

Step One – Prepare and Cook the Meatballs:

  • Add all meatball ingredients (in order) to a mixing bowl and mix
  • Shape into evenly-sized balls
  • Place in the frying pan with 2 TBS olive oil to brown over medium heat until all sides are lightly brown and oil is relatively absorbed.
  • Add ½ cup water or organic chicken or vegetable broth
  • Bring to boil, turn to simmer, cover, 20 minutes.

Step Two – Bake Noodles/Cheese:

  • Pre-cook your noodles, as per box instructions
  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees
  • Add a few drops of olive oil to the bottom of each coffee cup
  • Place ¼ cup mozzarella on the bottom of each 12-ounce oven-safe coffee mug
  • Cover the cheese with 1-2 heaping TBS of marinara sauce, then add an inch or two of rigatoni noodles.
  • Add a 1-2 heaping TBS of marinara sauce to cover noodles
  • Add 1 or 2 meatballs.
  • Cover with marinara sauce.
  • Add a small sprinkle of parmesan cheese
  • Add a small sprinkle of mozzarella cheese
  • Bake the mugs at 375 degrees for 20 minutes (The cheese top should be melted).

Step Three – Eat from mug OR invert onto a plate and add another meatball or two.

Enjoy!