Category Archives: Fishing Ramblings – My Fishing Blog

Random thoughts and musings about fishing

Some Cold Weather Fishing Memories

Some Cold Weather Fishing Memories

For some reason, the song “Baby Its Cold Outside” kept going through my head last week. Putting a heat lamp on my well and my outboard motor lower unit is a common winter job, but it seems I haven’t had to do it for a few years. As always, weather changes from year to year.

Over the years I have had some interesting, experiences in the cold, some fun, others not so much. I seem to remember many very cold winters in my preteen years, but memories are often fallible. But some of the times outdoors over the years stand out.

Dearing Branch ran near our property line through the woods and under a culvert at Iron Hill Road. Where the pipe dumped water on the downstream side of the road there was the biggest hole in the area, about ten feet in diameter. The water was a few feet deep and we caught a lot of small fish there in the summer.

Most of the winters back then were cold enough that the surface of that hole froze solid. I learned to “ice skate” on that ice, sliding and falling across it. More than one time we broke through and had a cold run the quarter mile back to the house in wet pants and boots.

The ice was usually a couple inches thick. Luckily the hole was not deep enough to really be dangerous. If we broke through the ice it would wet us only about thigh deep at worst, and there was no danger of getting trapped under the ice as can happen on bigger waters. But mama fussed a lot, anyway.

Later, after I started bass fishing in the winter, I found out how important good clothes can be. I think I was one of the first people in Georgia to ever own a snowmobile suit and boots. But even with suitable cold weather clothes, there were a few times nothing I had was enough.

One Christmas Linda and I were staying in our little camper beside my parent’s mobile home at Raysville Boat Club. We had an electric heater running and we were comfortable in the bed. During the night our dog Merlin jumped up off her usual place under the bed and got into bed with us, a very unusual happening. She never jumped into the bed.

The next morning we found the reason. Her water bowl on the floor was frozen solid. The little heater produced enough heat to keep it bearable a couple feet above the floor, but on the floor, it was freezing.

That morning the thermometer on the porch showed five degrees, and the wind was blowing hard. I tried to go out fishing anyway. After putting the boat in the water I idled out of the cove and started hitting waves. The splash from the waves hitting the boat froze before they hit me, forming sleet between the boat edge and my snowmobile suit, hit it and fell off.

I turned the boat and went back to the ramp! No fishing that day.

Bass will bite even when it is extremely cold. One Sportsman Club tournament proved that. When I went through town on the way to Sinclair, the First National Bank thermometer read 11 degrees. We had problems at the ramp, when a boat was launched the water running off the trailer as it was pulled up the ramp froze

It was a scary feeling backing down the ramp and feeling your truck slide toward the water. As soon as the back tires got to the water the ice ended and the truck would stop. But trying to go back up the icy ramp was trouble. You had to spin your tires and basically melt the ice as you went up the hill.

We didn’t catch a lot of fish, but I managed to win with seven keepers by fishing a crankbait so slow it barely moved. And every cast we had to dip our rods into the water to melt the ice in the guides. On the way home that afternoon the bank thermometer read 17 degrees, the high for the day.

My pond has frozen over several times in past years but not recently. I caught my only “ice fishing” fish one year by knocking a hole in the ice at the end of the dock and dropping a bait through it. The small bream that I landed was enough to say I caught one, so I left.

Skipping a rock across a frozen pond makes an interesting sound. I found that out years ago when I threw one out to see if it would break through the ice. It didn’t but as it skittered over the ice it made a strange ringing sound. Several more proved it was the norm. I have seen videos on Facebook that showed the same sound.

Newer boat motors crank fairly well in cold weather, but old ones used to be very hard to start. But a worse problem is frozen steering cables. At more than one tournament we have launched boats, got the motor cranked only to find they could not be steered. Several tournaments have been won by people forced to fish around the ramp using their trolling motor because of that problem.

I got a scare a few years ago at a tournament at Jackson. It had been very cold, but my motor cranked. As I ran up the lake right at daylight suddenly a loud crunching sound made me think my motor had blown up. I stopped but the motor seemed to idle fine. Then I looked around and realized there was a sheet of quarter inch ice all the way across the lake. The sound was my boat acting as an ice breaker.

I hope I don’t make any more extremely cold memories this winter!

Have You Ever Been On A Snipe Hunt?

If you grew up like I did in rural Georgia, you may have been invited to a snipe hunt. You had to go at night and one person, you, got to hold the sack while your “friends” drove the snipe into the sack. Of course, they left you “holding the bag” out in the dark while they went home.

There really are snipe around here. They live in wet area and probe the mud for worms with their long bills. When spooked they make a strange squawk and take off in irregular, darting side to side flight.

When young I was very curious about them and other birds. Like James J. Audubon, I wanted to examine them up close, so I shot them when I could. Over the years I shot everything from field larks and starlings to killdeers. If they were not good to eat, I killed one to examine and was satisfied.

One bird that was very elusive was a brown one that lived in a marshy area on our farm. I would see them every year but could not get very close, and when I did get into range I could not hit them with my trusty .410 when they flew.

I finally killed one. It was brown with a long, thin bill and I found out in my Encyclopedia Britannica, my google back then, that it was a snipe. I discovered they were related to woodcock, hard to shoot as I knew from experience, and good to eat. But that was the only one I ever killed.

Tomorrow is the last day of woodcock season in Georgia. Woodcock are popular upland game birds further north but here they are mostly limited to the north Georgia mountains. Some folks do hunt them in Georgia and they are good to eat. I think woodcock and snipe are considered the same for the season since they are closely related. And you need a shotgun and dog, not a sack, to get them!

Fishing and Hunting Traditions

Fishing and hunting have always had traditions that have been passed down generation to generation. Many of those traditions are threatened by a huge variety of forces. Will any of them survive?

In 1974 Jim Berry got me in the Spalding County
Sportsman Club and I fished my first bass tournament with him that April. Although I had never been competitive in anything, I fell in love with tournament fishing and am still fanatical about club tournaments 43 years later.

I did not play any sports in high school, never was much for games of any kind and liked solitary, contemplative activities like hunting and fishing. But something about bass tournaments changed that and made me want to compete in what had always been a different kind of recreation.

Bass tournament have grown to a huge business over the past 40 years. Top pros win millions of dollars over their careers and appear on TV and in advertising like any other pro sports figure. They are looked up to by many youth as role models.

As much as I love tournaments, I fear we have lost something. Fishing has become a media spectacle with live coverage of tournaments, interviews with pros, some of whom are cocky and showy, and way too much glorification of their skills.

Growing up I sculled wooden jon boats for my uncles, paddling quietly so they could cast their lures in farm ponds. Those were learning times for me, with quiet conversations discussing everything from fishing methods to the mysteries of life. Catching fish was fun and I loved it when I got a turn to fish, but it was about so much more.

Now bass fishing consists of screaming around a lake in a bass boat, often at 70 plus miles per hour, working hard to get a bite rather than relaxing, and showing off with everything from fist pumps to dancing around on the boat, often with exclamations that would make you think catching a bass was the same as scoring a touchdown.

It takes skill to catch bass consistently and there is no doubt good fishermen are skillful. But to listen to some fishermen when they catch a fish you would think they have achieved some great victory. It is like they overcame some huge handicap to do something no one else could do.

Tournament fishing did change something else. In the past most fish caught were eaten. Catch and release has become a religion for many bass fishermen, with anyone keeping bass to eat condemned. But some of this religion only extends to show.

One tournament trail bans nets for several reasons but one often used is that netting a bass harms it, removing the protective slime on their bodies and lowering their chances of survival when released. But in those same tournaments fishermen are shown “boat flipping” bass they hooked.

Boat flipping is getting a bass near the boat and pulling it out of the water with heavy tackle. The bass flies through the air, slams into the carpet in the bottom of the boat and thrashes around until the fisherman can pick up.

There is no way that does less damage to the fish than a net.

Most tournaments have become about money and fame. That is why I like club fishing. So far, my clubs don’t make it about money, although some want to raise entry fees and turn it in that direction, with higher payouts. There are some bragging rights in doing well in those tournaments but most of it is low key with few show-offs.

The Federation Top Six tournaments have moved in the wrong way in my opinion. When I started fishing them in 1979 there was competition, mainly for the right to move up to the regional tournament but some between clubs for bragging rights, not individual glory. At the first regional I fished with the state team in 1983 the 12 of us worked together, sharing information every night and trying to help everyone do good and finish high as a team. Our team won.

The last one I fished in 2010 it was everyone for himself, with little information sharing on the team. It was so bad that one night when I told the team of a small pattern I thought I had found another team member told me I could not fish those places, those were his fish. Our “team” finished near the bottom.

In the past you fished with someone from another club and shared the places fished during the day, with each of you having half a day to run the trolling motor. You had to qualify for the Top Six by doing well in your club the year before.

I fished the Federation Nation Top Six at Lanier this past week, after this was written. Now, with that Federation, clubs still send teams but others can “buy” in, paying to enter the tournament even if you didn’t make the club team. It a pro/am format, with the boater having control of the boat all day. Entry fees have gone up and it has become more cut-throat.

If it went the way I am afraid it will go, it will be the last one I fish.

I will continue to fish club tournaments as long as I am able. Maybe its my age, I am not keeping up with the times, but I hope I never see the changes locally I am seeing at the state level and up.

Something about fishing has been lost. There is nothing wrong with tournaments, but sometimes I miss sitting in the back of the boat, sculling for an adult while they fished and shared their life experiences and knowledge with me.

Bad Cold and Deer Hunting

I’ve had a cold I would not wish on anyone but people wanting to take my guns and those wanting to ban hunting. I came home from Lake Lanier two weeks ago today, got in bed and pretty much stayed there for 12 days. I knew I was sick when I had to force myself to get up and go do research for two magazine articles.

Several people I know have had this mess with chest congestion, coughing, sneezing, runny nose and a headache. And just feeling total run down without any energy. I hope it does not get widespread in our area.

Deer hunters in central Georgia should be having a great time right now. Doe days opened last Saturday, November 4, so it is a good time to fill your freezer. And this is the height of the rut in this area, meaning bucks are losing their minds chasing does. They expose themselves to hunters more than any other time of year. And does running from a buck they are not attracted to may blunder into your range. There is a lot of movement of both.

The only negative is the bright moon. Lots of light at night makes deer move around more then than during the day when it is legal to hunt. And all the acorns have pretty much fallen. A good many are still on the ground and deer are scattered feeding in many areas. It won‘t be long before acorns are gone for the year and food plots and other food sources like green briar and honeysuckle will attract deer to specific areas.

Making Bows and Arrows and Stone Axes

Bows and arrows fascinated me when I was growing up. We searched woods and fields for arrowheads and were constantly on the look-out for any rock that resembled one. Most of what we found were just random pieces of rock somewhat arrowhead shaped but we were sure we had found something once used to take down game.

At six years old I really did not understand differences between kinds of rocks. Our farm had a lot of soft sandstone, a good bit of granite from chunk to boulder size, and a few flint rocks.

The sandstone would break easily and there were all kinds of shapes of stones. I now know it is easy to shape but too soft to be of much use for anything but crushing softer stuff. But we thought arrowheads could be made of that reddish rock.

It was easy to shape it by breaking off small pieces and even by rubbing it on the granite boulders. It did not flake, it just came apart as small pieces and sandy residue. And an ax head made from it would break as soon as you hit a tree with it.

Looking back its funny, but we tried to make stone axes by shaping rocks with the blunt end of our steel hatchets. Talk about going backwards! And getting a stone chunk to stay on any kind of handle was a joke. We tried the way we had seen in pictures, splitting a stick handle, putting the stone between in the split then lashing it into place with baling twine.

Little did we know you needed something much tighter than that twine could be tied. If lashed on with leather strips then soaked in water, the leather shrank as it dried and got very tight. With our home made stone axes the head often flew off the handle before the head could hit the tree and crumble.

We did make some realistic looking arrowheads from the sandstone but did not realize they would have been useless. No matter how carefully we worked the edges could never be sharp. Flint flakes into sharp edges when chipped, sandstone merely gets rounded on the edges. But we had fun making our axes and arrowheads.

Bows and arrows were interesting, too. We thought any bent stick with a string on each end would suffice but, if the stick did not break when bent back, it had no strength to spring back to propel an arrow. And baling twine was probably not the best bow string.

Any somewhat straight stick could be an arrow, but they never worked. We did not know about wetting and heating sticks and straightening them. We just used them how they grew, and sweetgum, the most common type tree on our farm, is useless for bows and arrows.

Trips to the north Georgia mountains on summer vacation introduced me to blowguns, something Cherokees used for hunting small game. The ones we bought at tourist traps were about three feet long and came with a couple of rubber tipped darts. They never worked well, having a range of just a few feet.

We tried to make them, too, with pieces of cane that grew along Dearing Branch. It did not take long to give up trying to hollow them out by boring through each joint. If daddy had made me work as hard on the farm as I did working on blowguns I would not have liked it. But again, it was fun trying to make them.

I sometimes wonder if kids have any experiences like those I had growing up. I hope so.

Getting Bait

Getting bait was always fun but sometimes we tried weird baits. Like all good fishermen, if we heard the fish were biting something we had to try it. That is why there are such huge selections of colors and types of plugs and worms at Berry’s Sporting Goods!

One time this desire to use anything we were told fish were biting taught me a lesson. Uncle Slaton and his family was visiting from Texas and we were all camping at Clarks Hill. As usual, we fished for bass, bream or crappie during the day and ran trotlines at night for catfish.

One afternoon Uncle Slaton came back to the camp from fishing and pulled out a nice catfish. He said he was fishing in a cove and found a trotline. The catfish was on it and since the line had not been checked all day he took the fish.

More important, he held up a half of a black plastic worm. He said it was on the hook the catfish was on and the rest of the line was baited with other pieces of black worms.

We immediately pulled out all our black plastic worms and started cutting them up. That night we baited all our trotlines with them. The next morning we didn’t have a fish on our lines.

I do not know how Uncle Slaton smothered his laughs. He later told us he played a trick on us, there were no plastic worms on any of the hooks where he found the catfish.

We had to go to the store and buy more black worms for our bass fishing.

One time I heard catfish would bite little chunks of Ivory Soap. That sounded like a nice clean bait to use rather than the stinky chicken guts we usually used. You washed your hands every time you baited a hook.

We cut bars of soap into half inch squares and baited a bunch of hooks – one time. We did not catch a fish. I may be slow but after one night I gave up on black plastic worms and Ivory Soap on trotlines!

Spottail minnows are one of the best baits for many game fish, no joke. Guides on Lanier and other lakes bait up places with rice to draw them in and either set out traps for them or catch them in a cast net. Spotted bass love them.

The biggest spottails I have ever seen were less than three inches long, a good size for most game fish. Last weekend Jack “Zero” Ridgeway called me about them. He had been fishing from a dock at West Point lake and had caught some spottails six inches long. He sent me a picture of one of them.

Neither of us had ever heard of spottails that big, and that would bite a bait so you could catch them on a hook. I looked them up and found out that spottails are a type of shiner minnow and their average size is two to three inches, but they can grow up to six inches long. They range from Canada as far south as the Chattahoochee River drainage in Georgia. Since West Point is on the Chattahoochee River that fits right in.

Building Tree Houses – Growing Up Wild In Georgia

Do kids still build tree houses? That was always a favorite summer activity of mine. From the one in the pecan tree in my front yard to the ones we built down in the woods, they ranged from simple platforms ten feet high to complex ones so far up we put side boards on it to keep from falling out.

The house I grew up in had five pecan trees. There was a huge one in from of the house, another big one to one side and a third in the edge of the field past mama’s flower bed. There were two more smaller trees right beside the ditch on Iron Hill Road to the same side as the flower bed.

One of those smaller trees had a big limb about ten feet from the ground that was perfect for the base of a tree house. Boards nailed to the tree trunk provided a ladder for access. Then two by fours nailed to the limb made the base, with braces going back to the trunk below them.

I rebuilt that one several times over my youth as the boards rotted and became unsafe. I spent many summer days sitting in it, cooled by any breeze that filtered through the limbs and shaded by the leaves above me. I felt completely hidden from the world watching the occasional car or truck that passed just a few feet away. And although mama knew where I was, I could not see the house from my platform.

Taking sandwiches and a drink up in the tree to eat made many summer lunches pass quickly. In the fall there were always pecans on the platform for a snack. One special place was a limb knot hole right beside the platform where I often found pecan hulls where a blue jay or wood pecker had stuck a nut in the small hole and used it as a vice to hold its lunch as it pecked away the shell and ate the meat.

The highest tree house we ever built was in a huge pine tree behind Harold’s house. My memory tells me it was way too high but it was probably no more than 30 feet from the ground, still scary enough for a 12-year-old. It was hard work hauling the boards up that high, either pulling them up with a rope or passing them hand over hand between Harold, Hal and me while we perched with one leg hooked over a limb.

The platform on this one was probably 10 feet square, sitting on a big limb parallel to the ground. Another limb below that one that ran up at more of an angle provided a great place for supports so we could build it bigger. It was cross braced and around the edges we had nailed one by eights to provide a small lip.

We actually slept up there in our sleeping bags one time but near the base of it was our camp. We made prefab walls and a roof and struggled to get them the couple of hundred yards to the site. The three sided shed was a great place to store wood for a dry fire starter and some tools we used every time we camped there.

A rock fire pit with a homemade spit, made from two forked limbs and a cross piece with the bark stripped, was used for roasting squirrels and birds. We cooked breakfast in our mess kits on that fire and also put our “camp dinners” on it. Those were the big patty of ground beef topped by potatoes, onions, carrots and butter wrapped in tinfoil.

Other tree houses ranged from not much bigger than what I now put up for a deer stand to platforms we could lay one and stretch out. We never had anything like the fancy prefab “tree” houses on posts you see in yards nowadays. They are often nowhere near a tree, usually put up by the parents, and very complex.

I can’t help but believe kids are missing something by building their own houses down in the woods, all by themselves, with no adult supervision or help, like we did.

Damming Dearing Branch

Damming Dearing Branch was always a favorite summer activity when I was growing up. The branch entered our farm in the woods that ran along the edge of our big hay field. It came under a fence at the adjoining property line and left the other side of our land, running under another fence and going into a culvert under Iron Hill Road.

The woods were about a quarter mile wide from our field to the pasture on the other side at Rodgers’ Dairy. Right where it first hit our woods it was about eight feet wide and the area around it was flat and sandy. In other sections it had cut deep and was only three or four feet wide with two feet of water in that ditch area. The sandy area was only a few inches deep unless there had been a big rain.

About 20 yards past the fence on the upper end two big trees squeezed the water into a narrow gap three feet wide. We wanted our own private swimming hole and those two trees made a perfect place for a dam.

The first time we tried we quickly found that no matter how fast we shoveled sand between the trees it just washed away with the current. I don’t know where we got the idea for sand bags, probably from reading books, but we got croaker feed sacks from the barn and filled them with sand. That worked.

We would dig sand from the bottom of the shallow area to fill the sacks and struggle to drag them to the trees. As the water rose at the gap between the trees it would start running around either side so we extended the dam out to the sides.

Our best effort was one summer when we got an old cross tie and drug it across the field and through the woods to the dam site. It took all the strength three 12-year-olds could muster but we got it there and in place. It made a great base. We then started digging sand and filling sacks.

That summer we had a pool almost four feet deep, coming about chest high on us. We could almost swim in our 20-foot-wide, 20-foot-long private pool. Since it was down in the woods we didn’t bother with bathing suites, we just wore what we were born with. Skinny dipping was so exhilarating!

Every summer our dams would wash away with the first big rain and we learned a lesson about the power of moving water. But the cross tie was such a good base it held up for a couple of months. After a very big rain it, too, washed enough to turn the cross tie sideways, moving it from the trees and destroyed out pool. But that was a memorable summer.

It took a tremendous amount of effort to make the dams. Dragging the cross tie was the worst, but just filling bags with shovels and moving them a few feet was strenuous work. If our parents had made us work that hard we probably would have been upset but our own effort was fun and worth it. That was another lesson learned, if you wanted to do something no amount of effort was really “work.”

Rose of Sharon

My mother loved flowers. Although daddy thought planting anything you could not eat was a waste of time, he made sure she had a nice flower bed that ran between our side yard and the field on the other side. It was about 200 feet long and ten feet wide and contained a huge variety of flowers, including annuals and perennials.

There were also a few blooming bushes, like the Rose of Sharon that grew right at the end of the bed closest to the house. This was her favorite and she thought it was a biblical flower. But it was really a Hibiscus syriacus, a deciduous flowering shrub native to east Asia.

I always wanted one in my yard and thanks to my mother-in-law I do. There is a big one at her house and she gave me one of the sprouts that grew up around it. I planted it near my woodshed but it had a rough life.

A big limb fell and broke it to the ground the third year it grew. But it recovered and was about six feet high when a fire in my woodshed killed the trees around it and, when they were cut down, it was again broken to the ground. But it recovered again and is now about ten feet tall and covered with blooms.

For years I had daddy’s attitude and planted only edible things. But then some of my mama came out and I started planting some flowers. I was never real serious about it, planting marigolds around my tomatoes and some impatiens in a shady bed near my carport, but I did try to have a bed similar to mama’s.

I have always liked wild flowers or flowers growing wild in ditches and old home places. When I worked as transportation director and rode all the back roads of Pike County checking bus routes I kept a shovel and bucket in my truck. If I saw a flower in the ditch I would often stop and dig it up and take it home.

I made a long, narrow bed across my back yard between the woods and yard, something like my mother had where I grew up. It contained several kinds of daffodils, many tiger lilies, another of my favorites, and one of my favorites growing up, butterfly bushes.

Mom never had butterfly bushes but they grew in ditches around my house. I’m still not sure what they are, and they may just be weeds, but some nurseries sell them. They are small and have bright orange feathery flowers. I found several to bring home.

Tiger lilies, or what we called wild lilies, grew everywhere and I had a bunch of them. These bright orange striped flowering plants can be grown from the roots or from seed and they make a great border plant.

A rare flower I saw in the woods sometimes is a pretty, white cup-shaped flower on short stem. The one flower on a plant stands out under trees. I found out they are wood anemones. I tried bringing a few home, but they are hard to find and do not transplant well, so I never had much success with them.

One plant I had way too much success with and should never be planted in your yard is wisteria. I planted a small piece of root by an eight-inch-thick oak tree by my woodshed and another in the edge of the yard. I let the one by the wood shed grow up the tree and kept the one in the yard trimmed, trying to make it umbrella shaped, with hanging bloom clusters.

Both were a big mistake. Within a few years the vine growing up the oak tree was thicker than the tree and all the trees around it were covered in vines from the roots spreading from the original. The one in the edge of the yard spread with roots just under the ground everywhere and I have to cut them away from my garage and yard light pole. They got so thick on the pole they covered the light until you could hardly tell when it came on. And it almost killed the fig bush daddy brought me to plant by the garage.

Although the grape like clusters of lavender to purple flowers are pretty, I wish I had never brought this one home!

Daffodils are pretty and easy to transplant and grow. They line the edge of my flower bed and start blooming before anything else. They are often the only color in late February when everything else is drab browns and grays. The splash of yellow reminds me spring and good fishing is close.

Daddy did like his fresh fruit. We had a huge fig bush by the side door and he planted peach, apple, pear and Japanese Persimmon. And one of my favorites was the overhead scuppernong arbor. I loved standing in the shade under it and reaching up to pick the golden fruit.

Somewhere I tasted Niagara Grapes. You cannot buy them in the store, they do not ship well, but they are delicious. I made trellises around my back yard and planted three Niagara and three Concord grape vines. Home grown Concord grapes taste better than any you can buy, like most anything else you grow.

I was warned we are too far south for those varieties to grow successfully. My vines produced abundant clusters of grapes for about five years then died. Now wisteria covers the old trellises. But they surely were good when I had them.

Fruit trees take a lot of work, and if you don’t spray them they will not produce. My plum tree gets a disease that makes the fruit rot when it first starts growing and I always forget to spray it in the winter when it is dormant. And my pear trees got what I was told was “phony pear” disease, causing the trees to grow tiny fruit like a Bradford pear.

Maybe I should stick with flowers.

One Second After and One Year After Books

In the last two weeks I have listened to two audio books. “One Second After” and its sequel “One Year After” by William R. Forstchen take place at a small North Carolina town near Ashville. The first starts with a normal day in small country town with life as normal. But suddenly every electrical device stops working.

Later you find that two of the countries that have been promising to destroy the US got their hands on enough technology to set off three Electro Magnetic Pulse bombs that cover the US and more that cover parts of Europe and Asia. Those bombs send out a strong burst something like a sunspot does and it burns out anything that uses electricity.

These doomsday books follow a retired Army Colonel that was teaching at the small local college as he and his neighbors try to survive. The author is very good with explaining the big things as well as the little details that would probably happen as civilization falls apart.

Other movies and books like these have made me want to become a survivalist, and if I was not so old I might make preparations. Other doomsday scenarios include nuclear war, epidemics, and invasion by aliens that totally disrupt out way of life. They do make you think about what would happen.

Within weeks, about half the population of the area in the book are dead. The first to go are those on life support at hospitals and nursing homes. Then the folks that depend on daily medication that is no longer available at your corner drug store. Since almost no vehicles run, out of shape people walking to find food and water or cutting wood for fires and trying to carry it home die of heart attacks. But the biggest threat to somewhat healthy people are that most deadly animal, other people.

Riots and looting start within the first day. Hording of food may give you something to eat, but it attracts hungry folks that will kill you for it. Then, when things get brought to a semblance of order, people start starving and dying of diseases like salmonella and other bacterial infections from lack of sewage processing plants. And the folks of the small town, who have tried to keep order and ration what little food they have so they can survive, have to fight off city folks by the thousands arrive wanting to “share” their scant provisions.

One thing surprised me. When folks realize their frozen and refrigerated meats, fresh fruits and vegetables are going to spoil they start gorging, eating all of it. The professor does try to salt some of his meat down with a bag of road salt he has stored for the winter.

I was amazed that no one thought of making jerky and pemmican. Those relatively simple processes will preserve meat and fresh berries for months to years.

Many of the folks in this rural area know how to hunt and do have guns. They have some outdoor skills. But, without matches, it is amazing how many can’t even build a simple fire for boiling water and cooking game. And many of the ones that manage to build a fire burn their houses and themselves since they do not have a clue about safety with an open fire.

Game starts disappearing but too many, in my mind, do not consider a lot of sources of food. The squirrels the professor kills go to his two golden retrievers rather than to his family. Of course, pet dogs become a serious problem, in several ways, when dog food runs out.

The professor does kill a couple of possums, but they don’t have a clue how to cook them. And it takes weeks for them to realize songbirds are edible. It seems the only wild plants they know is edible are dandelions.

No consideration is given to other wildlife like bugs and grubs, although the book talks of people going into grill type restaurants and scraping grease traps for something to eat. The author does know a little about surviving like people did 200 years ago, about the level society degenerates to, but misses important points.

Bullets and guns become invaluable. In one place he says five .22 bullets will buy you a rabbit or squirrel, after they finally realize tree rats are edible by humans. And higher caliber rounds are horded for protection.

Few realize the value of good boots and clothes that protect you. Many are barefoot, especially those fleeing the cities, since their shoes wear out within a few days of walking. Bathing is almost non-existent since soap would quickly run out.

In the second book the small town has survived for two years and is somewhat stable since they were able to grow some food during the two summers between books. A few small farmers and the professor realize the importance of keeping some seeds for the next year as well as keeping some breeding stock of pigs, chickens and cows rather than eating them all.

But then a bigger threat arrives, in the form of “help” from the reforming US government. Of course some bureaucrats and politicians survived in well stocked bunkers near Washington, DC and some of our military assets from other places not affected by the EMP blasts, like the middle east and South Korea, make it home. And some of our navy ships survive and return.

The problem is many of those government type officials think they have power over everyone else and want to take from them, but have no clue what it takes to survive without confiscating others supplies. Tin pot “supervisors” that become little dictators when sent to places like Ashville to establish regional government are a scourge, almost destroying what the survivors have worked to establish.

These books are interesting and make you think of what could happen, and how important basic outdoor skills can be, even if they are depressing.