Monday, October 19, 2009

Quick Fishing Lesson!

I was fishing with a friend once in the south end of Otter Creek, just off of Route 7 about 20 miles south of Rutand, Vermont. The Rainbow trout, though stocked, were plentiful and now fully adapted to their environment. I was using a Mepps lure; just a little one, and occasionally switched to a Panther Martin. I had a very high end shiny, gold colored tournament style fishing reel on my pole and when the strike came, the fish was right up out of the water, not unlike what one might see on the cover of an Outdoor Life magazine. My friend ran to my "aid." (I put that in quotes to note the sarcasm).

Gee what would I have done without his help? Okay, so the gesture was nice. He ran to my line and wrapped his hand around it, so the fish "wouldn't get away." Yep you guessed it!


Not exactly what I'd had in mind. It happened so fast I stood there dumb-founded. Quickly looking at by friend I said, "What in the heck were you thinking?"

He shrugged, "Just trying to help man. I heard your reel slipping!"

Okay, um...some advice for people that are out with their friends, fishing, and you hear the drag on their reel slipping......don't touch their line!

Reels are set up so the drag can be tightened or loosened. Pull on your string when you set up the line on your reel. If the drag doesn't slip at all no matter how hard you pull, it's set way too tight. A big fish will snap your line like a power-lifter would snap a pencil in his fingers. The line set like this is fine for small brook trout or perhaps sunfish and bluegills. But if you're after a fighter, like a large trout, Bass, or Northern Pike, you'd better set the drag so it will slip after a few pounds of force.

As the fish maintains a steady pull, slowly tighten that drag, enough so he isn't going far, but loose enough so he won't snap your line. Be patient. There's no hurry once he's hooked. With a 6 lb test line you could hold an olympic swimmer from going anywhere if you knew what you were doing with the drag setting. It will take practice, but the drag is there for a reason.

Incidentally, if you're new to fishing, I'd recommend the Zebco 33. Many bass have found there way to my dinner table with that reel and it's a great way build your confidence. They cast very well. I usually carry my Eagle Claw tournament spinning rod and a Zebco 33. Then I'm covered. But.....I still tend to fish alone now....or at least, out of reach of "friends." :)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Taking of a Whitetail Deer

It was 0430 when the alarm went off. I got up and quickly went to the kitchen in my long underwear and sat down and fed myself with the apple pancakes I'd made the night before. I just popped them in the toaster for a bit, then smeared on the jelly,wolfing down the filling flapjacks and keeping the smells in the house to a minimum. Washing the cakes down with 2 cups of freshly ground Kona coffee, I started the hot bath, dumping in a small box of baking soda.

The Vermont air was cold just 4 days before Thanksgiving, but I was determined that today was the day. My rifle was already in the truck and my clothes had been sitting overnight in a contractor back filled with hemlock. Having been washed well in baking soda themselves, most of the smells would be well neutralized as I went into the woods before daylight. I put two more cold pancakes into a ziploc and crammed them to the bottom of my camouflaged coat pocket. Stepping out into the cool morning air, now fully dressed but leaving my coat off, I made my way to Whiting, Vermont. The walk to the swampy area was nearly a half mile so when I got out of the truck I put my army pistol belt around my waste and tucked my jacket between my lower back and the belt and began my walk. This would prevent excessive sweating. Not only important for the smell issue, but also to stay dry so I'd be warm.

Other hunters would be coming out soon and I wanted to be sitting at my favorite up-rooted tree before anything else moved in the woods. I had a flashlight, but I wouldn't use it. After my eyes adjusted to the dark I made may way to the swamp. I loaded three 175 grain bullets into my 7mm Remington Magnum. Taking my time and moving quietly down the fence line to the swamp, I arrived at my spot a good 20 minutes before the horizon started to brighten. Before sitting down I drank down a full bottle of water, then used the empty bottle to relieve myself, capping it off and sinking it into the mud beside me until the time I left, when I would bring it out and use the first garbage can I came to. I was very odor conscious when I hunted. A deer's sense of smell is many many times that of a human in terms of sensitivity.

For hours I watched, I studied, and I listened. The sun had come up and was now high in the sky. I took stock of my appearance, smirking to myself, knowing that many hunters would say I was insane for not dressing in orange, on the chance I may get shot. My theory was, if I used orange, I'd just be a better target. A safe and responsible hunter won't point his rifle until he knows what he's pointing at.

I watched hunters pass within a hundred feet of me. They never acknowledged they saw me, and it's likely they didn't. I didn't move. I don't smoke. I didn't eat. The art of camouflage involves patience as well. It involves thinking about how you are broadcasting yourself. They'd come and they'd go. At this point, many hunters will get up and leave. I will not. I waited. I watched. I studied and listened.

The norm for many hunters is to hunt in the morning and then again at night. I make it a habit to be a little more patient. I watch the sun come up and go down from the same spot. This day however, it was around 1300 hrs when I decided it was going to be my day. First I heard the Blue-jays in the distance. Then I heard the sound that was a dead give away. I heard...nothing. That silence told me, they were there. And I saw him. Like a ghost he moved toward me. He sniffed of the ground, and the antlers looked very nice. Very healthy deer, I thought to myself. He was about one hundred yards out, and moving toward me. I watched him through my binoculars for about five minutes. Then I traded to my rifle scope. I placed the crosshairs on him and kept following him. He sniffed and walked. So quietly and so beautiful. Then he'd stop. He'd lift his head, ears flickering, nostrils flaring, checking his back trail. I let him keep coming. By this time most would have squeezed the trigger. I waited. He was comfortable. Totally relaxed, yet alert and being careful. My edge was that the wind was blowing from west to east, and he was traveling from north to south.

Now he was about fifty to sixty yards away. It was time. I let the cross-hairs find the area right behind his shoulder. Right where I knew his heart would be. I wanted it to be instant. Such a beautiful creature deserves that respect. I'm a hunter who loves animals. Sounds like a contradiction, but I don't care what it sounds like. It is what it is. He stopped. Perfectly still. I inhaled and exhaled, then inhaled again and held my breath. My left hand was wrapped tightly in the sling and the rifle was as steady as the water on an early morning bass pond. I squeezed. The animal dropped. One or two kicks and it was over.

Happy with myself for the shot, the patience and the respect I had for nature, I field dressed the animal, leaving the foxes, skunks, and coyotes their portion, and dragged the deer from the swamps, out to my truck and then to the Game warden to report it. This one weighed in at 158 lbs. Not huge, but very good eating meat. The warden commented on my bullet placement. He said, "You know, everyone you bring to me, every year is always a perfect shot. Do you ever miss?" I simply responded, "If I was going to miss, I wouldn't squeeze the trigger."

To my readers, this isn't just a deer story. It's a number of lessons. A lesson in preparation. A lesson in safety. A lesson in respect for nature. Please, if you're going to shoot at an animal, be it a deer, partridge, turkey, squirrel, rabbit, or whatever, please don't guess or take chances. When it comes your time to die, I'm sure you don't want to suffer. Treat them with the same respect.

Thank you.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Numbers Game

Ever get tired of statistics? All through school, as a child, as a teenager, and then on into adulthood, we have been judged in reference to our knowledge by a letter or number grade. Check this out. A straight-A student all of the sudden loses time at school because of being sick or some other distraction. He or she drops to a "C." Does that mean they are any less smart?

I graduated High School with a 1.47 GPA. Shortly after graduation I developed (for some strange reason) a love to read. I was reading everything. One year later I took a test to get into the army. I qualified for any job in U.S. Army Intelligence that I wanted. I chose Morse Code Intercept. I graduated High School in 1981 with absolutely no interest in continuing on with education. Why? Because I was scared to death of the numbers. 27 years later, in 2008 I enrolled in a college program through Colorado technical University. I graduated with an Associates Degree in Business Administration, with a 3.79 GPA. I'm currently going after my Bachelors in Criminal Justice and so far my GPA is 3.67 (and will be a 3.8 by graduation).

Numbers, numbers, numbers. Average life expectancies. Cancer patients have _____ many months to live. You only got a B? What the hell's the matter with you kids? Speed limits. Money. Your net worth. God forbid you're a minute late to work...,they'll dock you ten minutes.

Society measures everything with statistics. Progress cannot be taking place if today's numbers aren't better than yesterday's.

What ever happened to just being oneself? What ever happened to just being happy? How long will this go on? We'll hold our breath. Maybe someday life itself won't be measured. Maybe stress levels will drop when we stop worrying so much about numbers.

I'd write more but the clock just struck 6:30. I must go weigh out my 6 ounces of meat and so many vegetables and be sure to drink my 8 ounce glass of milk and my 6th bottle of water today. My weight was 8 pounds heavier at my last doctor's visit and at my 6'2" height I must be careful if I wish to live to my 80s. Yes, indeed..., I must go win the numbers game.