A Christmas Letter from PaPaw to his Grandkids

My Christmas letter to my grandkids starts with God and unforgettable memories.

Dear Grandkids,

I know most of your communication in today’s world is through social media and you don’t like to read something as long as this letter, but please do! One day all the gifts you get will be gone, but my Christmas letter to you will last forever.

As you continue your journey on this earth, always remember to keep God first, family second and all other things third. Let that be your guide and you will have a good life. You will make mistakes and you will have problems, but those things help develop your character. Having the morality to always to do what is right, not just what is convenient, is important.

Never get too old or too cool to give your parents and grandparents a hug and tell them you love them. If it were not for their sacrifices and guidance none of you would be the fine young people you have turned out to be. Someday you will have your own family. Always hug them and always tell them you love them.

Sam fishing in his kayak and catching fish.

I hope as you get older you will continue to discover the many wonders of nature like you have through these first years of your life. God created an amazing place for us get out and enjoy. It is worth much more than wealth and all the problems wealth can cause. It is also a wonderful place to escape and get away from the pressures of this crazy world we live in.

My wish for each of you is that God’s great outdoors in all its wonder will always be an inseparable part of who you are. May you always be amazed when you see a big buck sneaking through the woods near your secret hiding place, an eagle flying in a bright blue sky, the beauty created by magnificent sunrises and sunsets, the tapestry of colors in a fall woods, a field of wildflowers in spring, beautiful sights from a mountain trail and camping out under a million stars that light the dark night sky.

Ty with a nice bass on a Wisconsin fishing trip.
A smiling Hunter with a nice Smallmouth Bass.

May you never get tired of the sounds of geese as they head south for the winter, a turkey’s gobble in the spring, the haunting sound of a loon or the majestic bugle of an elk, bird songs filling the air, ducks coming into your decoys and the sound of water as you quietly paddle a river or lake.

May the smell of decaying leaves in a deer woods and campfire smoke around a tent or in your own backyard always bring back memories of simpler times in special places. I hope that the tug of a fish on the end of your line will always thrill you more than anything you could ever buy in a store or online.

Hunter, I hope you always remember catching crawdads, your first turkey hunt with me and dad, time with your papaw in a tree stand, how proud dad and I were for you when you got your first deer and an unforgettable fishing trip with me and dad.

Anna, I hope you always remember you and your papaw riding the ATV and singing songs, your first turkey, your first deer and the day I handed you my camera. You loved taking pictures of wildflowers, butterflies and other neat stuff and still do.

Anna’s first turkey, a special day!

Ty and Sam, I hope you always remember riding ATVs, fishing in the Northwood’s and at the Missouri cabin. Grandma and I loved the trips we made to Wisconsin bringing you bows, BB guns, pellet guns, deer rifles, hunting clothes and fishing equipment. I sometimes wish you didn’t live so far away so we could have made even more outdoor memories together.

Always remember all the outdoor memories we have made together and that you have made with mom, dad and each other. I hope for each of you, that your future spouse will love the outdoors, or learn to, and together you will teach your kids and grandkids to go make memories.

I know you are all busy and even though my buddy Ty calls me the “old man,” I am still ready to go make a few more outdoor memories with my grandkids. Call me, text me, Instagram me or whatever you do. You could even write me a letter.

Don’t ever forget that Grandma and I are always here for you when you need us.

Love you all to God and back!
Papaw

SIGHTMARK is on Target with Affordable Scope Quality

  • Sightmark riflescopes include a lifetime warranty
  • Multicoated Optics for Max Light Transmission in all conditions
  • Etched glass reticles, in red or green, are illuminated to deliver optimal shot placement
  • Easy-to-use Elevation and Windage Adjustments
  • Durable, Handsome, Affordable


By Larry Whitely
I was asked to do a review on the Sightmark Core TX 4-16×44 MR rifle scope, but I was a little hesitant since I definitely do not consider myself to be any kind of optics expert. I do however know someone that I feel is.

My son Daron does research and tests all kinds of outdoor products for our company, so he was more than happy to help his dad out in testing and reviewing this scope product. He loves doing this kind of thing, so he was smiling as he put it on one of his rifles and we took it to the range.

The other scopes he normally uses are fairly expensive models from some well-known companies. After looking through the Sightmark Scope, his first comment was, “Dad, this scope is clear as, or clearer, than my other scopes.” When he asked me how much it retailed for and I told him less than $300, he didn’t believe me until I showed him the MSRP in their catalog.

Here are some of his comments after putting the Sightmark Core TX 4-16×44 MR through some pretty extensive testing that made his Dad proud:

  • This scope is definitely worth more than what it sells for
  • The eye box is the perfect size and the eye relief is excellent
  • The lighted reticle is nice and performs very well in low light conditions
  • I really like the elevation and windage turrets
  • It has great looks that make it look like a lot more expensive scope
  • With practice I could shoot 500 to 700 yards easily with it.

He does say he recommends using their better scope rings. My optics expert son really liked the Sightmark Core TX 4-16×44 MR and says he would recommend it to anyone, including me, for long range tactical shooting as well as hunting.

The “MR” stands for Marksman Reticle.

In fact, after putting it through numerous rounds at the range, he liked it so well he left it on his rifle and took it deer hunting the following week. He said he needed to do more testing. Go figure.

Go to www.sightmark.com and check out all the other great scopes and shooting products they offer.

To learn just a bit more about these brand new affordable scopes, click the picture below to visit with Sightmark:

Missouri Winter Walk…Serendipity and Treasure

A Special Find On A Special Day

  • Finding Something You Were Not Looking For…

By Larry Whiteley

A holey rock mobile, seems very special, origin unknown.

I sit on a river gravel bar letting the sun soak its warmth deep into my bones. It’s only December, but it’s already been a long winter and it felt good. Birds were singing. Like me, they were tired of the cold too and were celebrating with song. The sound of flowing water blended with their chorus.

As my mind wanders, I poke around in rocks of all sizes and shapes that surround me. How long had they been there? Where had they come from? How did the holes get in some of the rocks? What are the fossils in some of them?

Did you know rocks are like clouds? If you look real close you see things in them. This one looks like the state of Texas, this one like a heart. Here’s one that looks like Dolly Parton. Sometimes your mind sees crazy things when you sit alone on a gravel bar on a mild winter’s day.

I stack all the “holey” rocks I find in a pile. Some will be slipped on to a length of wire and hung in trees around the house to serve as weather rocks. When you want to know what the weather is you just look outside at the rocks. If they are wet it’s raining, if they are white it’s snowing, if they are moving it’s very, very windy. Others will be used to make things like mobiles, refrigerator magnets handles for drawers, necklaces, bracelets, and whatever else my mind comes up with.

The rocks are dull shades of black, gray, tan, brown and white. Some sparkle when the light hits them just right. Most are worn smooth from being tumbled through the water. The flat, smooth rocks are what I am looking for now. These are “skipping” rocks.

All Kids Need to Learn how to Skip A Rock

I stand, stretch, and position my feet just right, look out at the water and with a sidearm motion send the first “skipping” rock flying across the water. Six skips! Not bad, but I can do better. Four skips! That was a bad throw. My feet must have slipped. Eight skips! That’s better. As I continue to try and beat my record, I think about how I taught my sons to skip rocks and they now teach their sons to be champion rock skippers. All kids need to learn how to skip rocks.

I bend down to pick up another “skipping” rock and I see it. The sun is shining on it like a beacon guiding me to it. I kneel down, lift it from the gravel and hold it gently in my hand like a precious jewel. “An arrowhead, I found an arrowhead!”

I shout silently to myself.

As I turn it in my hand I think about the hands of the Native American who made it. How old was he? How long ago did he make it? What tribe was he from? Where did they live in this valley? What was it like back then? Was this used to take a rabbit or deer to help feed his family? This was a special moment. This was serendipity.

According to Webster serendipity means to find something you were not looking for. Now, I would have never known that if not for a lady I know that is a big fan of Webster and knows the meaning of words I have never even heard of. The moment she said the word and gave me its meaning, I knew I had experienced serendipity several times in my life. The arrowhead was just another time I found something I was not looking for – serendipity.

A Special Find on a Special Day

On another unusually mild winter day several years ago, I was riding my ATV down an old logging road when a squirrel ran across in front of me. I followed the path of the squirrel as he ran through the woods. My eyes stopped at the sight of something white sticking up through the brown leaves. I hit the brakes on the ATV and backed up. What is that? Probably a limb or just some kind of fungus I thought.

Normally I would have just rode on, but this day I walked toward the white shape to find out what it was. My heart skipped a beat when I saw it was the shed antler of an 8-point buck. As I held it enjoying its beauty, I thought about how unique the antlers of a whitetail buck really are. Like finger prints, no two are alike. Since then, I have learned where and how to look for shed antlers and have found many of them. However, I will always remember the first one and the day I found something I wasn’t looking for – serendipity!

Deer Sheds in Hiding Offer a Special Sort of Serendipity.

I also remember hiking in the woods one winter. Spring woods are filled with wild flowers and budding leaves.

Fall woods offer a kaleidoscope of color and summer woods are ticks and chiggers and snakes.

Winter woods are quieter with the faint musky smell of decaying leaves.

Trees and bushes are bare allowing you to see things that might have gone unnoticed any other time.

You might see icicles hanging off a rock bluff sparkling like diamonds in the sunlight, a bleached out turtle shell, unusually shaped trees, animal tracks or even the animal that made them.

You Never Know What You Will Find Alone On A Gravel Bar.

On this particular day, I suddenly realized I was walking along an old road bed. Trees had grown up in its path but if you looked hard enough you could still see where others had gone many years ago. As I walked, I wondered who had used this road. Was it loggers, lead miners, soldiers, or people who lived here?

I kept following the old road until it crossed a dry creek bed. There, lying half buried in the gravel was the metal rim off a wagon wheel. Here, at this place, a long time ago, they tried to cross this creek and the wagon wheel must have broken. In my mind’s eye, I could see it happening. The wood of the wheel had long returned to the earth but the rusted metal rim remained to be found by me when I wasn’t looking for it – serendipity!

One spring, I was hiking to a special little waterfall deep in the woods that I liked to go to. I had been there many times but this time I went a little different way than normal. As I followed the sounds of the water I came by a big flat rock and sitting upright on the rock, was a soda pop bottle that dated back to the 1940’s.

Like me, someone else enjoyed coming to the little waterfall. The bottle they had been drinking from had remained where they had set it for over 60 years. I came along and found it even though I wasn’t looking for it – serendipity!

I hope there are many more serendipity’s to come in my life and in yours. Those special places, special people, special times and special things that come along when you are not looking for them – serendipity!

 

WATERFOWL SEASON…Effective Gear that Works

  • Decoys, Calls and Dry Gear to Bring Home the Birds
  • Get a Waterfowl Shotgun that is Dependable

 

By Larry Whiteley

Waterfowl season is here or almost here depending on where you live. If you are addicted to waterfowl hunting like my family, here are some of the products my family and I use and depend on. You might want to go to your favorite outdoor store or hop online to check them out for yourself.

AVIAN-X

No matter how good you are at waterfowl calling, if your decoys are old and beat up they probably don’t look like the real thing and if waterfowl don’t feel comfortable with what they see they will probably flair off and not come within range.

The life-like detail and quality of Avian-X decoys is amazing. Because of the marine grade foam they use in their new Top Flight Foam Filled Fusion Mallard decoys we got for this year they are never going to leak even if I accidentally shot one. Yes, I will admit that has happened.

Is it real or is it AvianX?

We also have their Topflight Pintails with weight forward swim keel design and they look so real they even fool me but so do all their other decoys. During teal season we used their teal decoys and had a great season. You don’t have to worry about chipping their decoys when you bang them around either and that’s a big bonus.

There are plenty of other species in lots of poses for you to choose from besides those we use. I guarantee that you are never going to regret using Avian-X decoys. www.avian-x.com

ZINK CALLS

If you haven’t already done it, you need to clean your calls and inspect the reed. If you intend to buy new duck calls and haven’t done that yet either I highly suggest getting the best you can buy.  The difference it will make in your success is worth the expense.

Hunter Whiteley in his Frogg Toggs rain suit and waders making duck music with his Zink Calls.

Our personal favorites are Zink Calls Power Hen PH-1 Open Water Single Reed especially for windy days, Zink’s Green Top Rocker because of its top end volume yet we can still do soft chatters, and their Nothing But Green Single Reed Acrylic call when we want to make sounds of multiple hens plus it has a huge range of tones but they have plenty of other calls for you to choose from.

Find a place outdoors where you can practice calling at normal volume levels and record yourself, comparing your calling to recordings of live ducks. When you practice, call as if you are working a flock of ducks and just ignore your wife and neighbors yelling at you. www.zinkcalls.com

FROGG TOGGS

Waterfowl season is nearly always cold, nasty and wet so you need a really good rain suit. We are kind of partial to Frogg Toggs so all the guys wear their Pilot II Guide rain suit during waterfowl season. We also wear their Co-Pilot Insulated Puff Jacket zipped into the rain jacket to give us an extra layer of warmth during those duck days with cold rains, snow and sleet. My 18-year old waterfowl hunting granddaughter uses their women’s Pro Action rain suit.

All of us wear their Grand Refuge 2.0 camo chest waders except my granddaughter and she wears the Grand Refuge 2.0 Jr. Both have a liner system you can zip in and out according to weather conditions and lots of other great features.

When we are hunting and don’t need waders we wear their men’s and women’s lightweight Grand Prairie Mudd boots. www.froggtoggs.com

BENELLI

When I bought our waterfowl shotguns I wanted the best, most reliable guns I could get for us without spending a whole lot of money. It’s just pretty hard to beat Benelli and it’s nice to know they will still be downing waterfowl for many years to come as we pass them down from generation to generation.

A gun to be passed down for generations, the Super Black Eagle II.

We use the Super Black Eagle II semi automatic which has now been replaced by the Super Black Eagle III and the SuperNova pump. www.benelliusa.com

Comfortable, quality clothing and dependable equipment mixed in with a bunch of water and lots of waterfowl can make your hunting trips a lot more successful and enjoyable.

 

How to Be a Better Deer Hunter

  • Stay dry, Stay Still, Stay Safe – Here’s How
  • Smell like the woods, Know Where You Are and Want To Go, Bring the Deer to You – Here’s How
  • Deer Down, Time for Venison Jerky – Here’s How
Big deer on the scale are a prize and this young hunter was mentored by a savvy whitebeard from another generation that was using the right stuff.

By Larry Whiteley

Deer hunting season is here if you are a bow or crossbow hunter and the firearms season will be here before you know it. I hope you are properly outfitted so you can enjoy your time and be successful in your pursuit of the white-tailed deer.

Here are some of the products my family and I use and depend on when deer hunting that you might like too. Don’t just take my word for it though. Go online or to your favorite outdoor store and check them out.

FROGG TOGGS

Most rainwear is not quiet and even slight movement’s causes sounds that can spook deer. The folks at Frogg Toggs solved that problem with their new Dead Silence rainwear. They took brushed camo material and made the quietest, driest, yet breathable jacket, bibs and hoodie I have ever owned in my 50 some years of hunting. I actually use it even when there is no chance of rain.

I really like all the pockets that help me put things I need where I can get to them. I don’t like being cold out in the deer woods so I just zip in their insulated Co-Pilot Puff Jacket and stay comfortably warm waiting for a deer to come by my secret hiding place. www.froggtoggs.com

Controlling human scent will make every hunter “rut ready.”

SCENTLOK

I have been wearing their clothing and using their OZ Chamber Bag since archery season opened this year and I also spray exposed skin and equipment then re-spray everything once I am in the stand to keep myself scent free. I have not been busted and have had plenty of opportunities to take deer but it’s still early and I am being picky.

Just in case you didn’t know it, deer have 297 million scent receptors in their nose and they even have a scent gland in their mouth as well as 2 large scent processing areas in their brain. If you’re not doing everything you possibly can to eliminate your scent you will get busted no matter how good you are. www.ScentLok.com

HUNT COMFORT

I don’t know about you but the number one thing that causes me to squirm around and move too much in my stand or blind is my butt getting uncomfortable.

This year I’m using a cushion called Fat Boy made by Hunt Comfort that is made with Gel Core. I can’t explain how it works but I do know it does and that’s all I care about. My butt is very happy! I’m also using it in my office chair as I write this and in my truck for long trips. www.huntcomfort.com

HUNTER SAFETY SYSTEMS

According to statistics, nearly one out of every three hunters who hunt from an elevated stand will fall at some point during their hunting days. That scared me after I read that so I now use their Ultra-Lite Flex safety harness and their Lifeline that keeps me safe going up and down my stands.

I also will not allow any of my family members that hunt to ever get in a tree stand again without both of these lifesaving items. I hope for your sake and your loved one’s that you will do the same. www.huntersafetysystem.com

There are ways to bring those rutting deer to you for a close shot, false scrapes can help – here’s something that works for me and my friends.

ScrapeFix

Bucks make scrapes in clearings or fairly open areas like old logging roads, power line cuts, field edges and edges of timber clearings. So, I make mock scrapes using their products for early season and right before the rut in these same areas but where they are in good range of my stand, blind or game camera.

I make the scrape by clearing out debris in about a 2 foot area under an overhanging tree branch about head high to a buck because they lick and chew branches at a scrape and won’t make the scrape without them. I then put a small amount of their product on the licking branch and the ground. If there is a place I really want to put a scrape but it doesn’t have a limb at the right height I just use their Vine and make my own. Believe me folks making your own scrapes really works in helping bring in the bucks. www.scrapefix.com

onX HUNT MAPS

I have this app downloaded on my smart phone, tablet and computer. Boy does it help with my deer hunting.  It gives me maps for all fifty states, with detailed public and private boundaries, landowner names and even hunting districts. I can even put tracks to and from my stands. I can’t believe that even when my network is nonexistent, which is often, my GPS in my phone still works offline. You sure get a lot of helpful information with this app.

Hunting app’s with maps can be a very useful tool, especially on state lands or extra large tracts in your new hunting areas.

You can go online and sign up for a 7-day free trial to see if you agree with me. It is one useful tool to put in your deer hunting arsenal. www.onxmaps.com

OUTDOOR EDGE

When it comes to field dressing a deer I have their Swing Blade series of knives and I highly recommend them. I don’t know who came up with this idea but with a push of a button the Swing Blade changes from a drop point skinner to the best gutting tool I’ve ever used.

They have a jillion styles of knives to choose from and I really like those that come with replaceable blades so I don’t have to sharpen them. Plus if you process your own deer they’ve got everything you need for that too. www.outdooredge.com

HI MOUNTAIN SEASONINGS

If you eat a lot of venison like we do, these folks have a great selection of all kinds of seasonings for grilling your deer steaks and burgers, making deer fajitas and tacos, marinating your venison and more. I use a lot of their jerky and snack stick kits in several different flavors. My grandkids at college and their friends love it when I make up a big batch for them the deer we harvest.

If you don’t have the time to make your own jerky they are now also offering jerky bagged and ready to eat.  www.himtnjerky.com

Everyone Needs a Special Place

Wisconsin grandkids loved to find “Beautiful” rocks and holy rocks

  • A floating leaf in the current, watch it, discover an unmatchable journey
  • Listen…the sound of creek gurgle and babble, they play Nature’s music
  • Learn the outdoors from the same place through all seasons…a mesmerizing experience that never ends.

By Larry Whiteley

A special place for making memories

I close the book I was reading, lean back and watch the autumn leaves flutter through the air before landing on the glassy surface of the creek.

My eyes pick out a single leaf still clinging to the tree above me. It moves with the gentle breeze until a gust of wind causes it to relax its grip and start its dance to the water. The water slightly ripples when it lands and it just sits there for a moment as if resting. Then the current grabs it and it floats away. I watch as long as I can then wonder how far it will travel until it reaches its final resting place.

With the leaf gone, my eyes turn to the beauty of the trees reflecting in the water. My ears listen to the soothing sounds of flowing water. My mind wanders back to all the memories that have been made at this special place on this special creek.

It’s called Bull Creek. It starts as a gurgling spring and winds its way for many miles through the hills and valleys of the Missouri Ozarks. It meanders along under rusted bridges, past limestone bluffs, old cemeteries, open fields, and a cabin on the bluff above the creek.

Near the cabin, rushing water had carved out a deep hole, perfect for fishing, swimming, and snorkeling. It is here I now sit, book in hand and staring at the water, thinking about all the memories.

Here is where one grandson and a granddaughter caught their first fish. Now they’re grown and it won’t be long before they are taking their kids to catch their first fish.
Spring rains would always flood the banks. The awesome power of spring runoff was something to behold and fear. Spring also meant dogwoods, redbuds and wildflowers reflecting in the blue water. I would always listen for sounds of peeper frogs and kingfishers announcing that spring was here.

As early summer arrived, it was time to take the annual first swim of the year in this cold, spring-fed creek. The grandkids tradition was to push their PaPaw in and then laugh as I came up screaming and gasping for air. They always thought I was kidding, but I wasn’t.
As summer continued, this special place played host to family, friends, and neighbors. Fishing continued, air mattresses dotted the water and lawn chairs lined the banks.

Grandson Hunter Whiteley now fishes for the Kansas State University Bass Fishing Team.

Saving tadpoles trapped in little pools of water and moving them safely to the creek was a favorite grandkid activity. Catching crawdads was enjoyed by young and old alike. Those “rotten” grandkids would laugh again when PaPaw would get pinched by an upset crawdad.
The clear waters of Bull Creek made snorkeling a popular thing to do for everyone who visited. The underwater world is fascinating!

Bluegill would swim right up to your face or nibble at you as you floated along in the water. Bass and hog suckers didn’t want any thing to do with these homosapiens that had invaded their home and would skitter along ahead. Sunfish usually guarded their nest or hid back under a rock ledge. A multitude of colorful baitfish would swim around in schools, continually battling the swift water.

I remember the time I snorkeled under the water and took some real lobster claws and placed them where they stuck out under a rock ledge so they would look like the granddaddy of all crawdads lurking under a rock. I then watched as my neighbor Bob snorkeled closer and closer to where I had hidden them. I still laugh when I think about the look on his face when he came up out of the water.

Wisconsin grandkids loved to find “Beautiful” rocks and holy rocks.

If you were really lucky or unlucky depending on your fear of snakes, you might even get the opportunity to swim along with a 4-foot long water snake. No, it wasn’t a fake snake and no, I am not scared of snakes. At least as long as I knew they weren’t poisonous.

I was a little nervous once though, when I dangled a crappie jig in front of this same snake and he struck at it and caught the hook in his mouth. I didn’t have much experience unhooking a writhing, very mad, water snake, and was sure thankful the line broke before I had to figure it out.

When it was hot outside and you had the creek all to yourself, there was nothing cooler or more relaxing than heading to the creek, sitting a lawn chair in the water under the shade of a big old tree and reading a good book. I could usually get through a couple of chapters before the rippling water lulled me to sleep.

As summer gave way to fall, I still enjoyed taking a book to the creek. If grandkids came down we fished or had rock-skipping contests. When our Wisconsin grandkids came, they liked to find rocks with holes in them, or “beautiful” rocks, on the gravel bar.

PaPaw and granddaughter Anna (now a freshman in college)

This was the time of year when you might surprise a pair of wood ducks as they paddled along in the water, catch a glimpse of a whitetail deer or wild turkey at the waters edge, or even see a beaver busily working on his winter home.

Trips became infrequent when winter arrived. Sometimes I would wrap up warm and go there to see the frozen water along the banks. I was always hopeful I would see an eagle perched in a tree or flying overhead. If the day was not too cold, I would sit down, enjoy the peaceful serenity and think about all the things that took place there.

As the grandkids got older they stopped coming. This special place had lost its magic to them. They would rather go boating on big lakes or do other things. Now they’re off to college.

Grandma and I got older too, so we eventually sold the cabin on the bluff to a young couple with twin 6-year old girls. Now they make their own memories. I still come back once in a while to enjoy this special place on the creek.

The leaves continue to fall and now cover the water like a multi-colored blanket. I stand, put my book under my arm, wipe the tears from my eyes and soak in the beauty one more time before turning to get in my truck and go back home to grandma.

Everyone needs a special place to go make memories.

PARTLY CLOUDY AND A CHANCE OF RAIN

Pilot ll Rain Suit

  • Be Ready and Be Prepared for Undivided Outdoor Fun
  • The ONE THING I carry everywhere I go, maybe not what you Might Expect
  • Cold or Hot weather, How I stay Comfortable

By Larry Whiteley

Dead Silence Hunting Rain Suit

We all want to know what the weather is going to be like if we have outdoor plans for the day. So we check our local forecast on TV, computer, smart phone or even smart watch and notice it’s going to be partly cloudy with a chance of rain.

But what does it mean when they say a chance of rain? Is it going to rain or not? Should you cancel your camping plans, hiking adventure or fishing trip?

Your local weatherman or lady will tell you that summer is the most challenging time of year for them to forecast what will happen. There is typically plenty of moisture and instability during summer that helps bring scattered showers and thunderstorms, particularly in the South and Midwest.

The things that cause rain development can be really hard to pinpoint in the summer. Rather than distinct warm and cold fronts, summer thunderstorms just sometimes flare up for many different reasons. Because of this, the warmer months are difficult for forecasters to provide a yes or no answer for rain where you are going to be.

If there’s a 30 percent chance of rain, that means there’s a 70 percent chance of dry weather where you’re going and you don’t know for sure it’s even going to happen. So you think those odds sound pretty good and are certainly not a reason to cancel any plans. Then, when the fishing, camping or hiking begins, so does the rain. You’re wet, your family and friends are wet, and no one is happy.

Pilot ll Rain Suit

That’s exactly why, no matter what time of year it is, I always have rain gear with me. I keep my frogg toggs® Java Toadz™ lightweight rain suit rolled up into a stuff sack and under the seat of my truck. It is in easy reach just in case one of those pop-up showers hits just as I am ready to go into a meeting, church, or getting ready to go into my favorite outdoor store to do some important shopping.

Co-Pilot Zip In Insulated Liner

It is also an important part of my gear no matter what kind of outdoor adventure I am going on. When I am packing to go camping I take it out of the truck and put it with all my camping gear. If I am going hiking it is always in my pack. I don’t go fishing without putting it in my tackle bag just so a little rain doesn’t stop me from catching fish. The fish don’t care if it’s raining and they don’t stop biting because of it. I just keep fishing in my rain suit unless, of course, it starts lightning and then I am off the water.

Since my Java Toadz™ is camo pattern, I even keep it with me in my game pouch when I am on early season dove hunts and all my other gear during the early teal season. During spring turkey hunts, it’s in my turkey vest. During deer season, it’s always in my hunting pack. To me, it is as essential as just about any outdoor gear I have. A pop-up shower or thunderstorm is not going to keep me from enjoying the great outdoors.

Now at the risk of sounding like a commercial for frogg toggs®, I have to tell you I also have their camo Pilot II™ Guide rain suit that I wear when fishing in early spring or fall, which is exactly when chances are best for rain most of the day.

On winter fishing trips and during waterfowl season, I wear their Co-Pilot™ Insulated Puff Jacket zipped into the Pilot II™ rain jacket to give me the extra layer of warmth during those cold rains, snow and sleet.

Java Toadz Rain Suit is also available in women’s

Frogg toggs® has just come out with a new rain suit for deer hunters called Dead Silence™. This suit is what all deer hunters want when out there waiting on that buck of a lifetime. I love deer hunting, so I didn’t hesitate to order one for this season. Besides being quiet and very waterproof, it has all kinds of hand warmer pockets, plus zippered pockets for valuables like your wallet, cell phone or radio, and other gear you need to keep safe and dry. The fabric breathes, so I won’t get too hot, but it also won’t let the cold air in. Plus, I can even zip in my Co-Pilot™ Puff Jacket that I also wear with my Pilot II™ rain jacket mentioned earlier.

No, I am not on the frogg toggs® Pro Staff and they don’t pay me for writing about them, but I do believe in their affordable, quality products designed for folks like you and me for any outdoor activity when there is a chance of rain. Go to their website at www.froggtoggs.com.

 

 

 

THIS COULD BE YOUR LAST DEER SEASON

Bonus time. Click the picture for the story.

  • Some 300-500 hunters are KILLED ANNUALLY in tree stand accidents
  • Some 6,000 hunters sustain permanent injuries ANNUALLY
  • FACT: 1 out of every 3 hunters who use tree stands will fall during their hunting career

By Larry Whiteley

Go online, search for “tree stand accidents”. Read all the stories about people just like you who fell from a tree stand and it changed their life forever.

Did that headline scare you? I hope so because I wanted to get your full attention. For your sake and your family I want you to read every word of this article.

There’s nothing quite like sitting in your stand watching as the sun starts gradually peeking through the trees is there? Bird songs welcome the morning and squirrels start their chatter. Sometimes you’re rewarded with a fox or bobcat sneaking through the woods. It’s a special time to be high in a tree watching and waiting for a deer to come by your secret hiding place. If they do, that’s a bonus.

How can you prevent this from being your last deer season? Wear a safety harness with a lifeline before you climb into any kind of stand.

You may not want to hear this, but this could be your last year to sit in a tree stand. When you hear or read “hunting accident” the first thing that probably comes to mind is an accidental shooting. However, according to Tree Stand Safety Awareness (TSSA), tree stand accidents are the number one cause of serious injury and death to deer hunters.

It is estimated that 1 out of every 3 hunters who use tree stands will be involved in a fall sometime in their hunting careers. Did you understand that? 1 out of 3!

Tree stand accident injuries can be fatal and those that do survive can be permanently disabled. Some 300-500 hunters are killed annually in tree stand accidents and about 6,000 more sustain permanent injuries, according to a study by the International Hunter Education Association (IHEA).

Could this be the year you are one of those statistics? I certainly hope not, but the odds are not in your favor. I know you probably think it could never happen to you, but you are wrong. Go online and search for “tree stand accidents”. Read all the stories about people just like you who fell from a tree stand and it changed their life forever.

Read about Mike Callahan who is one of the few lucky ones who can still hunt. Except now he hunts from a wheelchair with the assistance of a friend. He finds flat areas in the woods or a field to roll onto, and behind camouflage material, rests his crossbow or shotgun onto a shooter’s rest. He aims it with a bar controlled by his teeth and activates the trigger with an air tube.

Survey’s also show a lot of hunters own one or both of these devices, but don’t always use them. The day you don’t have them both on is probably the day the accident will happen.

Also read about Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost. He was checking a tree stand on his property in Missouri when the bottom fell as he attempted to clip on his safety harness. He dropped 20 feet, crushing his pelvis and coming very close to bleeding to death. Had it not been for his cellphone and good cell reception, he admits he would have died.

Also read the stories from spouses, family members and friends talking about how life has changed for them since their loved one was paralyzed or died. You see, you are not the only one that would be affected if you fell from a tree stand.

How can you prevent this from being your last deer season? Wear a safety harness with a lifeline before you climb into any kind of stand. You can still fall, but you won’t fall to the ground because you are safely attached to the tree at all times with the lifeline.

Survey’s also show a lot of hunters own one or both of these devices, but don’t always use them. The day you don’t have them both on is probably the day the accident will happen. You have to use both the safety vest and the lifeline.

86% of tree stand accidents don’t happen while you are sitting or standing, they occur while ascending or descending the tree or getting into or out of the stand. I don’t care if you hunt from a hanging stand, a ladder stand or a climber, it can happen to you in an instant.

I started doing research several months ago for this article and it scared me so bad that I went out and bought a Hunter Safety Systems Ultra-Lite Flex safety harness and lifeline for myself and for everyone in my family that deer hunts. AND, they have all been told they are never to get in a tree stand again without using them.

Go online right now or to your favorite outdoor store and buy the best safety harness and lifeline you can buy. Then go home and practice using it over and over until you are totally comfortable with it. Make it second nature to put it on every time you go out hunting.

I hope I have scared you enough that you will never again get in a tree stand without a safety vest and a lifeline. Do it for yourself and do it for your family. It will help insure that it will not be your last deer season and that you will be around to watch birds singing, squirrels chattering, sunrise through the trees and wildlife sneaking through the woods…for many years to come.

Check out Hunter Safety Systems full lineup of products to keep you safe in the deer woods at http://www.huntersafetysystem.com/.

Bonus time.  It’s a special time to be high in a tree watching and waiting for a deer to come by your secret hiding place. If they do, that’s a bonus.

A GREAT FISH STORY

Stockton Lake white crappie are large, plentiful, fun to catch and tasty!

  • Answering the Call
  • Learning about Life, Love, Fishermen and Jesus
  • Stone Creek Lodge, Stockton Lake…a Place to Visit
  • Great Fishing Trips, Vacation Fun…Creating a Legacy and Passion for Sharing

By Larry Whiteley

As a young man Kris Nelson loved to go fishing every chance he had.  He fished in all the lakes and streams of southwest Missouri near his hometown of Willard. While other young men were playing sports or doing things they shouldn’t, Kris was fishing.

When he graduated from high school he worked and saved his money, then got into buying houses, fixing them up and selling them for a profit. His success gave him the time and money to go fishing.

In 2008, when the housing market went bust, Kris lost virtually everything and had to go out and find a job. Through it all though he still found a way to go do what he loved. Fishing helped him through the tough times.

While working at a factory job in Springfield, a friend told him, “Kris, what are you doing here? This is not for you. Your heart is in fishing.” Not long after, he found out about a job in Florida as a fishing guide, so he sold his boat and off he went to follow his dream.

In 2011 after a few years of guiding and even being captain of a charter fishing boat, Kris decided it was time to go back home to the Missouri Ozarks.

Stockton Lake walleye can be elusive, but Kris Nelson (guide) says, “There are ways to find them!”

Shortly after getting  back from Florida he was fly fishing for trout below the dam on Lake Taneycomo and having great success, when another fisherman who wasn’t having the same success came up to him. He wanted to know if he would show him how he was catching them. Kris patiently helped and then smiled as the man started reeling in fish.

Crappie fishing is prime time fishing fun at Stone Creek Lodge.

It turned out the man was in Branson with some friends and he asked Kris if he would guide him and his buddy’s the next day, and they would pay him. Since he needed the money, Kris agreed, but he didn’t have a boat, so he rented one from Lilley’s Landing and Resort. The day was a success and the fishermen were happy.

That got Kris to thinking that maybe there were other fishermen willing to pay him for guiding them on Lake Taneycomo. Unable to afford a boat to guide, a good friend named Justin Hayden loaned him his boat and Kris’s guide business was off and running.

He eventually saved enough money to buy his own boat and began expanding his guiding business to Stockton Lake and Pomme de Terre Lake, as well as Lake Taneycomo.  He called his business, “Tandem Fly Outfitters.”

About that time, another very special thing happened in Kris’s life. His cousin set him up on a blind date with a beautiful girl named Amanda and he was totally hooked.

Another chapter in the life of Kris and Amanda began in 2017. He was doing so many guide trips on Stockton, he started renting a room at Stone Creek Lodge. That way, he wouldn’t have to drive back and forth to Branson each day. The owner of the lodge had noticed how Kris’s guide business was thriving and approached him about buying the lodge.

Amanda had to drive back and forth a lot so she could be with Kris when he wasn’t guiding, so the two talked it over and decided to take a big step and buy it. To make it all even more special, three days after writing up a contract on the lodge, they found out Amanda was pregnant and they are now the proud parents of a pretty girl named Lilly.

Today you will find Amanda and Lilly running the lodge, snack shop and tackle store, while Kris is out on the water making sure their customers are having a good time and catching lots of fish. When the day’s work is done, you will usually find Kris walking around their property with one arm around Amanda, holding Lilly in his other arm and smiling.

I have fished both Taneycomo and Pomme de Terre with this young man and, to be honest with you, I have been with guides all over the U.S. and Canada, but I have never had a better fishing guide. He is knowledgeable and wise far beyond his age. You will catch fish and you will catch a lot of them. I would not hesitate in recommending Kris Nelson to anyone wanting to experience a great fishing trip.

God has been good to Kris Nelson and, in his wonderful Ozarks accent, he is quick to give Him all the credit and praise for what has happened in his life. I would just bet his favorite bible verse is Matthew 4:19. Look it up and you will understand what I mean.

After reading this, I think you will probably agree that the amazing life of Kris Nelson, his family and their business, all makes this a really great fish story.

To book a trip with Kris go to his Facebook page @Tandem Fly Outfitters or call the lodge at 417-276-1700.

Amanda, Kris and Lilly Nelson offer top fishing fun and share their joy for life and love with everyone that has ever met them.  Meet these great friends of mine at Stone Creek Lodge on your next outdoor adventure.  Larry Whiteley Photo

DAY DREAMS and NIGHT DREAMS

The author in his camo Costas.

  • Turkey Hunting, a Giant Gobbler, I Raise my Gun
  • Geese Fly Overhead in V-Formation, it’s a Signal
  • I Draw My Bow…that Green Arrow, “Oh Yea, My Story Takes a Turn

By Larry Whiteley

The old gobbler is searching for me.

I’ve done a good job making him think I’m a hen.

He’s literally tripping over his beard as he comes in looking for love.

His bronze feathers shine in the light of the early morning sun and the red, white and blue of his head stands out against the emerging spring greenery.  

I give a soft putt with my mouth call and he comes in a little closer. To show me how handsome he is, he puffs out his body and spreads his tail feathers.

My heart is pounding out of my chest as I stare down the barrel of my 12 gauge and slowly move to click off the safety. Suddenly there is a buzzing in my ear.

What is that? The biggest gobbler I have ever seen disappears as I reach across my body to shut off the alarm clock.

My wife sleeps peacefully as I lay there for a moment trying to get the cobwebs and thoughts of turkeys out of my head. My feet hit the floor and my morning daily work week ritual begins. It’s off to the kitchen to put on the coffee, a quick visit to the bathroom and then turn on the TV to catch the weather forecast. When I drink too many liquids before going to bed, the order of events sometimes changes. It can’t be because I’m getting older. 

It’s back to the kitchen to pour my first cup of coffee, check the thermometer in the kitchen window and back to the TV just in time to see the local weather girl.

After thirty minutes of exercising, it’s on to the bathroom again to shave, shower, brush my teeth, and get rid of the first cup of coffee. Back to the kitchen I go again for my second cup of coffee.

Now it’s shirt, pants, socks, shoes and I’m dressed for work. I grab my briefcase and head for the kitchen again to fix my lunch. Before I head out the door to my truck, it’s usually one more visit to the bathroom to get rid of the second cup of coffee.

As I wash my hands, I look in the mirror and wonder if it really is because I’m getting older.

I stop by the bedroom to tell my wife I love her and then it’s out the door and another morning routine has ended.

As I start my truck, back out of the garage and head down the driveway, I wonder if I am the only one who does things in the same way, at the same time every morning. I think not.

As I drive my eyes are always on the watch for deer at the forest edge. Maybe I’ll see that fox pouncing on a mouse in the field again. That is if the red-tailed hawk doesn’t beat him to it. Man, six road-kill skunks at the side of the road within two miles. That has to be a record! Around this curve is where I nearly always see turkeys. There they are: Six hens, a gobbler, and two Jake’s. I wonder if that’s the gobbler in my dream?

I’m sitting at a stoplight waiting for the green arrow and I see geese flying in a V-formation heading north. I wonder why we seem to notice them more when they’re heading south for the winter rather than north for the summer. I want to roll down my window and yell at the lady next to me, “Hey, look at the geese flying north! Do you know why they fly in a V-formation?” She would think I was a crazy man, so I think I’m better off keeping them to myself.

Did I hear a goose honk? No, that’s the guy behind me, telling me the light’s not going to get any greener. I make my turn and he passes me. Is he pointing at the geese in the sky too? If he is, it’s the wrong finger.

I exit on to the interstate highway filled with cars and trucks driven by people who have just finished their daily morning routine and are now off to work like I am. It’s only a few miles before I will exit again, but this is a special time to me. Unlike those around me, I don’t have the radio on listening to loud music or talk shows. This is my time for day dreaming.

My day-dreaming each morning takes me to many places far from the busy highway. Sometimes I’m on my way to our cabin. I’m watching all the hummingbirds swarming like bees around the feeder or I’m down at the creek and I’m fighting a big smallmouth.

Other times, I’m heading north to the hunting cabin. You can’t believe all the morel mushrooms and deer sheds I’ve found in my day dreams. I’ve also drawn my bow back on the biggest buck I’ve ever seen.

Day dreams have also taken me back to the mountains of Colorado, Montana, and Idaho. I’ve also been to the mighty oceans, walked the sandy beaches with my wife and battled saltwater fish.

My day dreaming this day was of a special grandson and playing in the waterfall at the cabin, using toy road graders to make roads in the gravel bar, and fishing with him in the creek. Someday dreams come from your imagination, others from fond memories.

The clicking sound of my turn signal interrupts my day dream and brings me back to reality. One more stoplight and I’ll be at work. I pull into the parking lot, shut off the engine and take a deep breath. No time for day dreams here.

One of my most useful tools, my camo Costa sunglasses.

At the end of the work day I will get back in my truck and head back down the same roads and I will day dream again on my way home. Day dreaming is my escape from worrying about the price of gas, work that needs to be done, or our inept politicians in Washington.

Yes, I’m a dreamer. Always have been, always will be. I enjoy my day dreaming and tonight, I look forward to where my night dreams will take me. Maybe I’ll get that old gobbler this time.

SAVING OCEANS, SAVING PEOPLE, SEEING the LIGHT

  • Vision Clarity, Eye Protection, Seeing All Things Better
  • About Sunglasses, Don’t Leave Home without These – Learn Why
  • My Old Eyes Have Been Opened! …By a Company that CARES.

By Larry Whiteley

The author in his camo Costas.

I have owned a lot of sunglasses in my lifetime.

Most of them were inexpensive, made in China sunglasses that didn’t protect my eyes from harmful UV rays and sure didn’t help me see any better.

That all changed last year when my grandson who fishes on the Kansas State University Bass Fishing Team won a certificate for a free pair of Costa sunglasses in a tournament.

He kept telling me, “PaPaw you can’t believe how comfortable and how much better they are when it comes to seeing fish.”

He was right!

I would have never believed that a pair of Costa sunglasses could make such a difference in not only my ability to see fish, but everything outdoors has a totally different perspective when I look through them.

I like them so much I even got a camouflage, non-reflective pair to wear when I go hunting.

Costa makes it simple and easy to find the right pair of sunglasses that match your outdoor activities, whether it’s fishing, hunting, hiking, biking, boating, driving or anything else. Each lens color has a different purpose to keep specific spectrums of light out of your eyes and focus on certain conditions that will enhance your clarity and visibility.  Made in both glass and polycarbonate, every lens is polarized and gives you 100% UVA, UVB, and UVC protection.

Best of all, they are made right here in the USA.

Fishermen love their Costas.

I could go on and on about Costa sunglasses, but instead I invite you to go to www.costadelmar.com.  Click on this link, then go learn all about the different styles and find a retailer near you to go try them out for yourself.

My Costa’s are much more than the best quality sunglasses I have ever owned.

Costa is not a company that just cares about their bottom line. They care about our world’s environment and they are actively involved in doing something about it.

Kick Plastic

Through their Kick Plastic campaign, Costa is working with organizations to reduce the impact of plastic on our environment. Even Costa frames are made of a bio-based resin rather than petroleum-based plastics. Almost all plastic that has ever been produced is still around. We use millions of tons of plastic just once and then throw it away.

The equivalent of a garbage truck of plastic is dumped into the ocean every minute.

By 2050, there could be more plastic than fish in the ocean (by weight).

Sadly, in today’s world, one in four ocean fish tested have plastic in them.

Costa is actively taking their Kick Plastic campaign across the country to educate people on what is happening to our environment. Costa is inviting all of us to challenge ourselves to Kick Plastic!

OCEARCH

Costa is proud to be a long-term supporter of OCEARCH, an At-Sea Lab led by explorers and researchers who generate critical data and put science on the side of sharks.

You may not live near an ocean, but you should be concerned that 190 sharks are killed every minute.

Sharks are the lifeblood of our oceans, and they’re disappearing.

If the oceans lose their top predator, the entire ocean ecosystem is in trouble.

The Costa+OCEARCH Collection features new sunglasses and gear, inspired by the sharks that keep our oceans balanced. Your purchase of these products helps fund future OCEARCH expeditions and their mission to protect sharks. You can also help spread the message at #DONTFEARTHEFIN.

Project Guyana

Arapaima are the world’s largest freshwater fish.

Costa sees sport fishing itself as conservation and is on a mission to protect the world’s waters by promoting sport fishing.

In the waters of the impoverished nation of Guyana’s unspoiled rain forest in South America, Costa found a place where sport fishing could preserve the country’s natural resources and culture.

Costa appreciated their efforts not to pillage their natural resources and was especially interested in the opportunity to bring in fly fishermen and give them a chance at catching the world’s largest freshwater fish, the Arapaima.

Arapaima grow up to ten feet long and can weigh over 800 pounds, they are known as living fossils.

Today fly fisherman all over the world are coming and helping tourism in Guyana to grow.

Because of this, schools are receiving more resources, the country’s infrastructure has improved and their natural resources have been protected.

Costa hopes this success will continue to grow throughout Guyana and spread to other countries.

Bluefin-on-the-Line

After many years of over-harvest, Costa is helping to bring back the tuna.

Commercial overharvesting and other factors have all but wiped out the Bluefin Tuna population from the waters around Bimini and Cat Cay islands to off the coast of Florida.

Now, Costa through their Bluefin-on-the-Line program, along with the legendary Merritt family, is on a quest to revive an island, a sport, and a legacy by bringing back the Bluefin Tuna.

There are getting to be more companies like Costa who are giving back for conservation and our environment.

We need these companies, we need more of them and we need to support them by buying their products.

 

 

CHRISTMAS GIFTS FOR THOSE WHO LOVE THE OUTDOORS

  • Make Your Own Jerky, Easy and Tasty
  • Oh Say, Can You See Below the Water?
  • Chow Line…Call the Fish to Feed!
  • Send the Flying Bug Critters AWAY!
  • Fishing Games for the Young…and the Elder Kids Too
  • Keep Warm in Chilly Weather, Clothes to Last Forever

By Larry Whiteley

I work with many outdoor companies throughout the year to test their products in the field and on the water. Here are some of those companies I have worked with, and will be working with again in 2018, that I am proud to recommend their products for Christmas gifts or a gift you give yourself.

Hi Mountain Seasonings

With Hi Mountain’s jerky seasonings and kits, I have made many different flavors of delicious, easy-to-make venison, fish and turkey jerky, as well as snack sticks. My grandson’s roommates at college and people at my church, will attest to how good they are.  In 2018, I will be doing more on their other great products to help you discover all the ways you can better prepare your fish and game.  I’m getting hungry just writing about it.  Their products are available at your local grocery, outdoor store, or go to www.himtnjerky.com.

Costa Sunglasses

Costa sunglasses are by far the best eye shades I have ever owned and I look really good in them, although some might argue that point.  I use their Tuna Alley for driving and fishing, and their Fantail for hunting.  You can check out their great selection of sunglasses at www.costadelmar.com, plus find out all the many ways Costa is involved in doing things to protect our environment.  One of those is using bio-based resins in their sunglasses, instead of plastics as part of their “Kick Plastic” initiative to protect our planets waters from all the plastic products that pollute them.

HydroWave

95% of professional bass anglers use the HydroWave system because it takes catching bass to the next level.  When it is turned on, it sends out vibrations to a fish’s lateral line, that causes them to feel there are smaller fish around and other fish are feeding on them. Their natural competitive instinct drives them to want to feed as well.  It is something that you have to see to believe. They also have units for crappie, walleye, catfish etc.  My grandson, Hunter, uses it fishing for the Kansas State University Bass Fishing Team and he says, “This is a game changer for every angler.”  He has qualified for the college national championship in 2018 and he believes HydroWave can help him win it.  Learn about how to use it from Kevin VanDam at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Qc1hy88VD8.  Check it out for yourself at www.thmarine.com.

ThermaCELL

I hate mosquitoes and mosquitoes hate ThermaCell products.  Their portable repeller units, lanterns, and torches are all powered by a tiny butane cartridge. Heat is generated and a small mat saturated with a natural repellent is inserted on top of the metal grill the heat disperses the repellent from the mat into the air, creating a 15 ft. x 15 ft. zone of protection around you.  Mosquitoes and other flying critters don’t want anything to do with it.  It is so much better, and healthier, and easier to use, than those messy sprays and lotions.  Learn more about how and why they work by going to www.thermacell.com.  I hate ticks too, and if you have them in your yard and on your dogs you might also want to check out their easy to use Tick Control Tubes.  I love ThermaCELL!!!

Rapala Pro Series Video Game

I received an e-mail from Bob Ringer on behalf of Rapala back in October wanting to know if I would like to test Rapala’s new Xbox One/PS4 fishing video game.  I suggested sending it to my 20-year old grandson, who also writes and does social media for us, so he and his college roommates could give it a real test.

After a few weeks of trying the game here are some of their comments: “This is the best fishing game that I have played. It’s a good way to beat the winter blues when the boat has been winterized and it’s too cold to get out.  The selection of lures and different kinds of fish you can catch is awesome.  This is better than any fishing video game out there.”

Not much more I can say except, it’s a lot less expensive than most video games. Do an internet search to watch samples and teasers of the game, see You-Tube reviews and find places to buy it.  Amazon carries it and has offers for free delivery.

Filson

The year was 1897, the place was Seattle, Washington.  C.C. Filson Co. started making quality, durable, clothing for local miners, prospectors, lumbermen, hunters and anglers.  Filson’s philosophy has never changed in over 120 years: “Make sure it’s the absolute best.”

My Filson work shirt shown underneath the Christmas tree is the most durable, best quality shirt I have ever owned. I wear it for everything from cutting firewood in the fall to layering underneath a jacket in the cold of winter.  It’s even my favorite shirt to wear to church on Sunday’s.  Two other things I like about Filson products are – they are made in the U.S.A. and they help support outdoor organizations with the mission of sustaining and promoting outdoor recreation. Take my word for it and go to www.filson.com if you want the very best.

I will be doing testing on a lot more products in 2018 and writing about them. Frogg Toggs rain suits and waders will be one of them.  Go to www.froggtoggs.com and check them out.  While you’re there you can save up to 35% on your order, but be sure you do it by December 15th.

Have a Merry Christmas and don’t forget the reason for the season!

 

DEER CAMP – It’s About CHARACTERS

  • Memories, SPECIAL Times and Mice
  • Practical Jokes, Sunrise, Sunset, Nature and DEER 
  • Great Food, Great Stories, Great People, FUN

By Larry Whiteley

Sitting around a campfire at deer camp offers time for “deer talk”, secret camp recipes and special moments in time.

Every deer camp has its cast of camp characters. Individuals with their own special uniqueness, but when blended together like spices and seasonings in a recipe, make deer camp so special.

My deer camp has Dean. He is a bundle of energy and wise cracks that hunts deer and moose and elk, but is afraid of a little mouse. His mouse-phobia has brought great joy to all the rest of us camp characters. We’ve never seen anyone get out of a sleeping bag as fast as when a stuffed mouse “accidentally” got in the sleeping bag with him. I will also never forget how high he climbed and the look of horror on his face when he thought the noise in the old wood stove was a rat instead of the bird it turned out to be.

You could call Dean our “camp coordinator.” He makes sure the camp cabin is properly stocked and clean, collects the dues, buys groceries, and helps hang stands. His most notable contribution is the annual Saturday night “boil”, a grand feast of shrimp, kielbasa, mushrooms, broccoli, potatoes and corn on the cob boiled together in a big pot and dumped on the table for hungry hunters. He always cooks too much, but taking home a bag full of “boil” is part of deer camp.

Dean is constant movement, washing dishes, emptying trash, picking up the cabin, bringing firewood in for the night, setting the alarm clock, and asking everyone where they will hunt the next day. His energy is endless and he is always the last one in bed. The rest of us wouldn’t want him to know it, but we don’t know what we would do without him.

He may put up a front for being a fun-loving tough guy, but I know the real Dean. He’s the guy who takes his young son Conrad on a youth turkey hunt and cries when he gets his first gobbler. He’s the guy who helped my son when he first came to camp and took time to guide him on a successful turkey hunt one spring. He is also the guy who caused the lump in my throat when he showed up unexpected at my mother’s funeral.

Conrad is the youngest of our deer camp characters and like his dad, he’s a bundle of energy and constant movement. I love his imagination. Computers, television and video games keep a lot of kids from developing an imagination in today’s world. What a shame! When I was a kid, my imagination took me to the mountains where I trapped beaver and muskrats and fought wild Indians and grizzly bears. I don’t know where Conrad’s imagination takes him, but it will help shape his life, along with mom and dad (and maybe some deer camp characters), into the man he will be.

Our deer camp characters even include a celebrity, although I don’t think he really considers himself one. Jerry co-hosts an outdoor TV show, is a member of a pro hunting team, and has hunted and fished around the world with country music stars, NASCAR legends and even generals. I’m sure if you asked him, he would say “I’m just an old country boy who has been lucky enough to get to do some things I never dreamed would be possible.” I think he would tell you being in deer camp with the rest of us deer camp characters and his son Flint or daughter Chase is one of his favorite places to be.

Then there’s John or “J.B.” as we call him. Deer camp wouldn’t be the same without J.B., his Wisconsin accent and holey underwear.

Through his wise cracks and jokes, he doesn’t fool me. He has a heart of gold. There’s nothing fake about J.B. He is who he is. He’ll never change and I’m glad because I wouldn’t want him any other way.

Ed is a business executive, who is under a lot of pressure and stress so he looks forward to deer camp with the rest of us characters. He enjoys his time in the woods not caring whether he gets a deer or not. Ed was with Dean when Conrad got his first turkey and he too shed a tear. He delights in the hunting success of Daron and Flint and Chase. I will never forget my son’s face when Ed passed on to him, one of his still very good and very expensive bows. Like some of the rest of the characters, Ed’s an old softy too!

Mike adds his own uniqueness to the mix. He’s the consummate outdoorsman, serious about his hunting with the knowledge to back it up. Slow to smile, he was the object of probably one of deer camp’s best practical jokes. Mike had taken a nice buck and brought it into camp with the adhesive tag around its antlers. Where he is from that’s the way they tagged them, but in our state they must be tagged around the leg. Dean told him the rule and that he better switch the tag to the leg or it could be illegal. Of course, this was next to impossible without tearing up the tag. Dean and I left to check our deer at the local fire station and set up a mock arrest of Mike for “mis-tagging” a deer. Although Dean and I weren’t there, those that were said the firemen played it perfectly. They even took a picture of a very serious looking Mike posed with his illegal deer thinking he was about to lose his hunting license, rifle and deer because he tagged his deer wrong. I’m sure Mike will find a way to get even.

Larry’s book still waiting to be finished.

The last member of our camp characters is a very special young man, my son Daron. I am so thankful that Jerry got me in as a member of deer camp many years ago. If he hadn’t, I’m not sure Daron would ever have gotten to take as many deer as he’s harvested over the years and especially wouldn’t have had the chance to take some of the quality bucks that now hang on his wall. Unlike most of us, he doesn’t drink, chew, smoke or cuss, but he sure enjoys being around all the deer camp characters and they all think the world of him. Deer camp has brought us closer together as father and son, and created memories that will last a lifetime.

I forgot to mention one camp character and that’s me. I’m the “old man” of deer camp, the one who cooks the annual opening morning breakfast and helps Dean with his “boil”. I’m the one who is content to harvest doe’s to help fill our quota. Most years I tag out as early as possible so I can use my ATV to help others get their deer out of the woods or help with deer drives. I look forward to deer camp every year. It is important to me to be with the rest of the deer camp characters. It’s more special for me because there are fewer deer camps left for me than the others.

Deer camps are not just about filling your deer tags. They’re about wood ducks whistling through the trees or the ka-honk of a goose high overhead. They’re about a wild turkey, a coyote or a bobcat happening by your secret hiding place. They’re about two fawns playing chase underneath your tree stand, squirrels rustling in the leaves, birds flittering through the tree tops, sunrises and sunsets. They’re about sitting around the campfire or the old wood stove and telling stories and jokes.

Most of all deer camp is about sharing these special moments in time with your fellow deer camp characters.  That’s when we wish we all had more time.

This story is a chapter in a book called “Seasons” Larry Whiteley has been working on for 20 years. Some day he swears he’s going to finish that book.

 

 

HELP FEED THOSE IN NEED THIS DEER SEASON

When I take my truck full of venison to the food pantry it is usually close to Thanksgiving and again near Christmas. At these special times of the year, it is a blessing to know the venison I am delivering is going to help someone in need. Please join me.

  • Donate All or Part of your Deer
  • 4,280 Hunters Donated 198,277 Pounds of Venison in 2016
  • SHARE THE HARVEST Program is Sponsored and Coordinated

By Larry Whiteley

There are thousands of struggling, needy people here in Missouri (and everywhere). Even with government assistance, it’s sometimes hard to have enough food to put on the table and feed their families. If you end up taking more deer than you can use or you’re trying to control your buck to doe ratio, here’s a great way you can help these people. Many states across the country have a program to help the hungry.

In Missouri, for example, the Conservation Federation of Missouri (CFM) and the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) administer a program called “Share the Harvest.” It is available to deer hunters like you so you can donate any extra venison you might have to help feed those families through food banks and food pantries.

There were 4,280 hunters that donated 198,277 pounds of venison last year. That’s a lot of high-quality, naturally lean protein for people who don’t get near enough of that in their diet. Since the program started back in 1992, over 3.6 million pounds have been donated by deer hunters just like you.

To participate, you will need to take your deer to an approved meat processor and let them know how much venison you wish to donate. To find an approved processor in your area go to www.huntfish.mdc.mo.gov/hunting-trapping/species/deer/deer-share-harvest or call the MDC at 573-751-4115 or CFM at 573-634-2322. It can be as little as a couple of pounds of venison burger to as much as a whole deer.
The processor will then package the meat to be picked up by a sponsoring organization who in turn takes it to a designated food bank or food pantry in your area for distribution to those people who pass their guidelines for receiving the meat.

When you donate a whole deer, the cost of processing is your responsibility, but CFM reimburses processors a pre-determined amount for each whole deer donated when funds are available. That helps the processor to reduce his processing fee to you. Some processors have other money available from local groups so that processing fees are free or at a reduced cost. This program is usually for whole deer donations only.

Sponsors of this cost-reduction program are the Missouri Department of Conservation, Shelter Insurance, Bass Pro Shops, the Conservation Federation of Missouri, Missouri Chapter Whitetails Unlimited, Missouri Chapter Safari Club International, Missouri Chapter National Wild Turkey Federation, Midway USA Inc., Missouri Deer Hunters Assoc., United Bow Hunters of Missouri and Missouri Food Banks Association as well as numerous local sponsors.

Volunteering to help local organizations is another way you can be involved. You simply donate your time and vehicle to pick up and deliver the venison to the designated distribution organization. I have been involved in both, donating deer to Share the Harvest and also delivering deer for Share the Harvest in southwest Missouri for over 20 years.

When I take my truck full of venison to the food pantry it is usually close to Thanksgiving and again near Christmas. At these special times of the year, it is a blessing to know the venison I am delivering is going to help someone in need.

To me this great program would not be possible without the generosity of Missouri deer hunters.

They spend a lot of time and money in pursuit of the white-tailed deer and then to turn around and donate all or part of their venison to those less fortunate than themselves is truly exceptional.

Stump Sitting Time – Charm of the Autumn Outdoors

  • Sounds of the Earth…the Birds, Deer, Turkey
  • Sunrise Charm, Autumn Streams, Rising Fog
  • Mountain Colors, Ornaments for your Heart and Soul
  • The Smell of Pouring Thermos Coffee on the Mountain

By Larry Whiteley

The fall air is crisp as I start my journey up Dogwood Mountain. It’s really a big hill, but I named it that because I love the mountains.

Here in the Ozarks area of southern Missouri we don’t have mountains like out west, just big hills. The Dogwood part of its name comes from the hundreds of trees with their showy white blossoms that bring beauty to the “mountain” in the spring.

For a moment, I listen to the soothing sounds of water as it tumbles down Dogwood Mountain Falls and then glance over my shoulder as the sun starts peeking over the trees behind me.  The curtain is rising and I’m not in my seat.

My pace quickens as I head up the trail that follows the falls, then turn onto another trail that winds its way to the top of the top.  My leg muscles burn as I climb over rocky areas in the trail, but I continue on to the top.

Finally, I see it.  To some people it may just be an old stump where someone cut down a tree a long time ago, but to me it’s like an old friend waiting at the end of the trail, waiting for me to come sit awhile.  I hurriedly remove my backpack, take out my thermos and pour a cup of coffee.  It’s stump sitting time again.

From my stump, I see a thin haze over the stream that winds through the valley below.  There’s a hint of smoke in the air from the cabins and homes in the distance.  Crows call to each other high on a ridge and a fox squirrel scurries through nearby treetops breaking the silence.

I know that somewhere below, turkeys have flown down from their roosts and are feeding in the fields.  A doe and her yearling have probably joined the turkeys as a buck watches them from his hiding place.  The kingfisher squawks as he flies through the mist over the creek.  He’s probably fussing at a heron that’s fishing for breakfast or a busy beaver.

The sun rises higher and the show begins.

The gray of the morning is suddenly changed to a kaleidoscope of color.  My eyes feast upon the bronze of the oaks, yellow of the maples, red of the dogwoods, and green of the cedars and pines.  The blue of the sky and the white of the fluffy fall clouds add their special touch to nature’s painting.

It’s too bad more folks don’t take time for stump sitting.  In today’s hurried, pressured, fast-paced world, stump sitting can be an escape for just a little while.

Good stump sitting time only comes in autumn.

Somehow, stump sitting helps you forget about all your worries and work that needs to be done.  You are drawn to simply concentrate on this magnificent moment in time.

The sun is high now and good stump sitting time is gone.  I finish off the last of the coffee, put the lid on the thermos and put it away in my pack, take a deep breath and start back down.  A few yards down the trail I stop and look back at the stump.

Maybe tomorrow will be good stump sitting time again, but there’s always next year.  My old friend will be there waiting for me.

 

 

 

THE FASCINATING WORLD OF FRESHWATER SNORKELING

Colorful fish, like this Niangua darter male, with good color, bring new life into our understanding of the lake, the stream, the pond.  Missouri Department of Conservation Photo

By Larry Whiteley
When most people think of snorkeling they think of sandy beaches, blue saltwater and coral reefs, but Missouri’s freshwater streams and lakes can also be a fascinating snorkeling adventure.
We don’t usually think of our local fresh bodies of water as a place to grab your mask, fins and snorkel for an adventure but after you read this I think you will change your mind. You would be amazed at the opportunities that are available for snorkelers in Missouri and all you have to do is go find them.

Largemouth bass might be youth anglers best friend, but they also help keep the balance of pond life in order. Missouri Department of Conservation Photo

The marine life can be as diverse as that found in saltwater, just maybe not quite as colorful. There are many species of fish to be seen as well as turtles, snakes, crawdads (crayfish, crawfish or whatever you want to call them), hellgrammites and other forms of tiny aquatic life.
My wife and I have had a cabin in the Missouri Ozarks for over 20 years.
The clear water of a creek that runs through our land makes snorkeling a popular thing to do for everyone who visits on a hot summer day.
Bluegills swim right up to your face or nibble at you as you float along in the water. Bass and hog suckers don’t want anything to do with these homosapiens that have invaded their home and skitter along ahead. Colorful sunfish and goggle eye usually guard their nest or hide back under a rock ledge. Multitudes of baitfish swim around in schools continually battling the swift water. Colorful darters hide among the rocks.
If you’re lucky, you might see a turtle or a huge crawdad. There was the time I took some real lobster claws and placed them where they stuck out under a rock ledge making them look like the granddaddy of all crawdads was there. I then watched as my neighbor snorkeled closer and closer to where I had hidden them. Cost of the lobster claws – $35. Cost of the camera to take my neighbor’s picture as he came up out of the water – $250. Look on my neighbors face – priceless!
If visitors are really lucky or unlucky, depending on your fear of snakes, they might get to swim along with a 4-foot-long water snake. No, it’s not a fake snake and no I’m not scared of snakes. At least as long as I know it’s not poisonous.

Bluegills are a special treat with all their color, appetite and attitude around docks for when kids are dunking worms.  Missouri Department of Conservation Photo

I was a little nervous once though when I dangled a crappie jig in front of this same snake and he struck at it catching the hook in his mouth. I haven’t had a whole lot of experience unhooking a writhing, very mad water snake, and was thankful the line broke before I had to figure it out. I guess he forgave me, because he now lets me swim along underwater with him. He does look at me funny some times and he would probably stick his tongue out at me if there wasn’t a crappie jig in the way.
I think what people enjoy the most while snorkeling in the creek is underwater fishing. We use either a small kid’s rod and reel combo or a tiny ice fishing spinning combo baited with a worm or crawdad. You float along with your mask and snorkel watching fish take your bait. Then you set the hook and reel in the fish, all underwater. I think the adults love it as much as the kids. Now how many of you can say you caught a fish while underwater with the fish?
Another thing we do is have someone stand on the bank and cast different artificial baits into areas where fish are holding and then we snorkel underwater to watch how fish react to the different baits. Doing so has helped us all become better fishermen.
Snorkeling around with an underwater camera or a smart phone in a waterproof bag is another thing we enjoy doing. It is amazing the fantastic photos you can take underwater in freshwater.
So what are you waiting for? It’s July, it’s very hot and it’s a whole lot cooler when you’re snorkeling. Plus it’s a whole lot of fun!

FINDING HIDDEN TREASURE in SUMMER

  • They Exist Near Your Home
  • They Beckon for Your Next Cast
  • They Can Hold State Record Fish

By Larry Whiteley

I love to find hidden treasure, but not the gold or silver kind.

Hidden treasure for me is finding jewels of rarely fished small waters.  By small waters, I mean privately owned farm ponds, strip pits, businesses with water retention ponds, and even golf course water hazards.  Places a lot of people don’t even pay attention to or don’t even know they are there.

Many city parks departments and state fisheries departments stock small waters for public fishing, but a lot of these get very little fishing pressure.

There are thousands of these hidden small water treasures across America and are great places to catch fish in uncrowded conditions.  Most are full of bass, crappie, perch, hybrid bluegill and catfish.  All you have to do is search them out.

They are perfect for just walking the bank, launching a small johnboat, canoe, kayak or float tube. If you only have a few hours to fish, they are great! You can pretty well count on certain areas holding fish every time you go.

Unless they are public waters though, they are private and accessible only by permission from the landowner or the person in charge.  You can try calling, but it is much better to get permission in person.  Be courteous and thankful.  You might also offer to share your catch if they allow you to keep fish.

My best tip for catching fish on small waters is to make as little noise or vibration as possible.  In small bodies of water fish can see you.  In fact, vibrations travel farther in small waters, so even if they can’t see you, they can tell someone is near the edge of the water.  If fishing from the bank, walk up quietly and stay out of sight.  It’s a good idea to even wear camouflage clothing.

Look for channels, humps, brush piles, lay down trees, weed beds, moss, cattails, lily pads, logs and tree stumps — anything that offers habitat for feeding fish.

For catfish, go with all the normal stinky catfish baits, as well as worms and I also like using shrimp bait.  If it’s crappie you’re after, jigs and minnows are always good, but I have also caught some really big crappie in small water on crankbaits and spinnerbaits.

Perch jerkin’ is always fun and even more so if you go with ultra-light equipment. If the small waters happen to be stocked with hand size hybrid bluegill, you are in for a real fight and a great time.  

For baits, look around for natural baits the fish are already feeding on. Catch some of these natural baits and impale them on a hook or match them as close as possible with artificial baits you have in your tackle box.

The crown jewel in the hidden treasure of small waters is the largemouth bass. America’s most sought after fish can grow very large in small waters, as long as the forage is right.  So don’t let the size of a lake fool you into thinking there are no big bass in it.

Remember, George Perry’s world record bass came from Montgomery Lake in Georgia which is little more than a muddy slough — the silted-in remnants of an oxbow off the Ocmulgee River that continues to flow just a few yards away. Studded with cypress knees and shaded by Spanish moss, it is narrow enough to cast completely across.

Dixon Lake, a small city lake located in Escondido, California, is well known for several potential world record bass.  One was caught and released and another was found dead.

I personally believe that the next world record largemouth bass could very well come from small waters like a pond, small lake or strip pit.  It might just be your state’s record bass, but you would settle for that wouldn’t you?

With spinnerbaits and crankbaits, I can make a lot of casts and cover a lot of water.  Plastic worms are good too, and use frog baits through the moss and lily pads.  If I am fishing at night there’s nothing like the heart-stopping moment when a big bass hits a topwater bait.

After you are done fishing for the day, make sure you leave the property more clean than when you arrived.  Now, go find the person that gave you permission and thank them for a great day, and offer to share your catch if you kept fish.  Ask if you can come again, is it OK to bring a family member or two…and should you contact them each time?

Now, clutch them to your chest and love them like a wealthy uncle because yea verily I say unto you, these places are small treasures worth their weight in gold. Well, clutching them to your chest and loving them may be a little much, but make sure you let the property owners know you appreciate them.

Do everything you can do to insure you can keep coming back.  Lastly, keep your small waters to yourself and don’t tell any of your fishing buddies where you found your hidden treasure.