Category Archives: Fishing Ramblings – My Fishing Blog

Random thoughts and musings about fishing

Cutting Firewood

  I miss cutting firewood.  A “memory” popped up on my Facebook page from just three years ago. A picture showed my pickup loaded with wood.  The comment from that day said, “not a bad hour’s work, especially since I had to gas up and change chains.”

    I had cut down a dead red oak, cut its trunk into sections about 26 inches long to fit into my wood burning insert, and loaded them in the truck. They were big enough that three filled the bed across, and there were about 21 pieces total.

    In 1981 when I moved into my current house it had a wood burning insert.  I bought a Sears chainsaw and learned to use it; I had never used one.  I also learned a lot about different kinds of wood, how much effort it took to split wood with a maul and the best way to load my insert and get a good fire that would last all night.

    The first five years here I did not even light the pilot light on my furnace.  We put a sheet over the stairwell to the unused upstairs and used a fan in the doorway to move warm air into the bedroom. Then one March while I was gone for six days to fish a Top Six tournament, Linda got pneumonia and could not get wood or build a fire.

    I lit the pilot light as soon as I got home.

    Splitting wood was always my least favorite part of the process.  After I turned 60, using a hand maul hurt!  A gas splitter solved that problem and made it go much faster.

    I liked red oak wood since it cut cleanly, split evenly and burned down to good coals that lasted a long time.  White oak was similar but the grain was not quite as clean. Hickory was great but I did not have many hickory trees I could cut, and I saved them for grilling.  I mostly cut trees that had died in the past year, the wood was still good and I did not remove live trees from my land.

    I liked burning pine and popular during the day since I didn’t need to produce good coals.  Both split easily, were light weight to carry and easy to light and get burning fast.  The smell of burning pine is my second favorite burning wood smell.  And the “pop“ of burning popular was not a problem in my enclosed fireplace insert.

    I never cut down a cedar tree on my land, but after having some timber clearcut there were a dozen big cedars that were damaged.  I cut them and used some trunks for posts, but cut most of it up into two-foot-long sections.  I would add one to the fire during the day and make the yard and house smell wonderful!

    Sweetgum was just about impossible to split by hand but my gas splitter handled it fine.  Sweetgum really doesn’t split, its twisting grains just tear apart with enough pressure.  It burned without producing coals, but it was the most plentiful type of tree on my land and was pretty useless for wildlife.  So I cut and burned a lot of it during the day to produce fast, hot first that warmed the house quickly..

    I haven’t been able to cut wood for two years now and have not had a fire for the past two winters.  Maybe again someday.

Sandboxes and Eating White Dirt

Do any kids still play in sandboxes?  I see plastic sand boxes advertised online, and they even come with bags of sand.  My sandbox was different.

    Daddy nailed four six-foot long 2x6s into a square, put a lip on top with 1x4s and filled it with sand.  To get the sand we drove to a sand road a few miles south of the house and filled the bed of the pickup with sand from the ditch.

    I spent hours making sandcastles. Many times they were made for toad frogs.  Tunnels were dug big enough for a toad and sometimes I would put a quart jar at the end so they had “windows.”  We caught toads and put them in the castles and tunnels and watched them move around.

    The most amazing sand structures I have ever seen were on the Baja Peninsular on a trip to the Sea of Cortez.  We stayed overnight in Loreto Mexico on the sea.  There was a big festival and part of it was a contest making sand statues on the beach.  Everything from forms of people that were very lifelike to airplanes, cars and buildings had amazing detail.

    A pier there was closed off and people were grilling different kinds of food to sell.  Across the entrance to the pier was yellow police tape with the words “Caution, Men Grilling!”

    I lived on Iron Hill Road, so named for the red clay and rocks everywhere.  Our farm was near the fall line where Georgia’s topography changes from rolling hills with lots of clay and rocks to flat sand lands.

    On the farm we never bought anything we could get for free. “Free” meant no money, much of that free stuff, like sand, required a lot of work.  Many times I helped shovel sand into the pickup to take to the farm for everything from making cement for chicken houses to filling in depressions in the yard.

    The difference between the farm and the area a few miles south is amazing. Sand Hill road is only a short drive from Iron Hill Road in McDuffie County. We never saw rattlesnakes on the farm but they were common in the sandy areas a few miles from us.

    What brought all this to my mind was seeing “white dirt” for sale in a local store.  Growing up, some of my friends at school from the sandy area brought chunks of this white dirt to school to eat.  It is a form of chalk and many very poor people ate it just to fill their stomachs. And it helped stop diarrhea.

    In the early 1960s mining companies came to my area and dug pit mines to get the seams of white dirt. We found out it is kaolin and is used for everything from making medicines and cosmetics to making the slick covering for magazine pages.

    Many of those mines were very deep. When they stopped the mining, the pits filled with water. I have never seen water that clear anywhere else.  It was a very light blue and seeped in so there was no sediment. You could see the bottom 25 feet deep.

    Unfortunately, with the steep sides, they were very dangerous.  Every year it seemed someone drowned in them on a swimming trip when they could not get back out of the water.  

    Its almost scary the memories seeing something as simple as white dirt for sale can bring.

Fishing and Birds

 The laughing, haunting sound of a loon floating across the water at dusk was a sound I read about but did not think I would ever hear.  Then, years ago at Christmas, I heard something I had never heard before while fishing at Clarks Hill and guessed it was a loon.

    I tracked the sound down to a gray and black bird swimming low in the water. I watched as it dived, looking for dinner.  I could not believe how long it could stay down and how far it would go on one dive.

    Loons are common on area lakes in the winter now. As their populations increased, they migrated farther south looking for ice free water where they could feed. I still love hearing them while fishing, and often use them to locate schools of baitfish and bass.

    Gulls and terns are also common on our lakes in the winter and can help find schools of fish.  I have caught many bass, stripers and hybrids by running to an area where gulls and terns were diving from the air, feeding on injured herring and shad from fish feeding under the water.

    Gulls and terns come to our lakes to escape rough weather on the coast.  There are many more of them during the winter.  Gulls are bigger and watching them is more consistent for finding fish since they usually don’t soar along watching for bait near the surface like terns will do. 

    I call terns “Judas terns” since following them is often frustrating.  Unless they circle and concentrate on one spot, you can follow them a long way without finding any fish.  But a circling group of either of the white and gray terns and gulls is a good sign to go fish there.

    A few years ago in a January tournament at Oconee I saw a couple of big white birds diving to the water surface. I was surprised and had to get closer to confirm they were pelicans.  I had never seen those birds on a lake. I guess they came inland to escape a storm. I have seen many pelicans, from one up close on a dock at Islamorada, Florida to watching them dive on schools of baitfish in the Sea of Cortez. 

    Travel has exposed me to many birds this country Georgia boy never expected to see.  I have pictures of me squatting on the ice in Antarctica with penguins waddling by close enough to touch and have watched wild parrots in trees along the Amazon River in the rain forest. Watching an albatross soar behind a ship without flapping its wings for many minutes is amazing.

    But local birds are my favorites.  One year while driving home from Jekyll Island I saw a bird soaring over the surrounding pines that made me stop and pull to the side of the road. I watched it for several minutes, trying to figure out what it was. 

I got out my bird book and found out it was a scissor tail swallow.  Its long, forked tail feathers were very distinctive.  They are native to the Southeast but rare. Their contrasting black and white markings on the bird makes them stand out, and they are a little bigger than a crow. They soar low over trees looking for food in the branches.

Canada geese don’t really migrate through Georgia and I had never seen wild ones here until the Georgia DNR started a stocking program.  They brought in adult Canadas and clipped their wings so they could not fly. 
Some big wire enclosures were built on coves on Clarks Hill and they were kept there.

As they raised young and increased in numbers, they were allowed to leave the pens.  Nests were built on stilts to protect eggs from predators and numbers increased a lot.    Since the young had not been taught to migrate, they stayed here year-round.

One night sitting on my deck at Clarks Hill on a moonlit night I heard the haunting honking of geese as they flew by.  It gave me chill bumps since I associated that sound with northern wilderness areas.  I had heard domestic geese honk but this was very different, hearing it out on the lake at night.

Geese have become so common now it is unusual when you don’t hear and see them. I now call them “pigs with wings” since their droppings leave a mess where they feed and I have seen some docks where they roost at night so covered with droppings you could not step on it without stepping in it.

Kildeers fascinated me when I was growing up.  They were common in our big field but I could never get close enough to them to get a good look at them. Then one day I was able to sneak up on one and shoot it as it flew off the ground.

It was a beautiful bird with brown and white markings with gold highlights.  I satisfied my curiosity and never tried to shoot another one.

Birds are amazing, especially when you learn amore about them.    I used to carry several bird identification guides with me everywhere I went, but not all that information is available with a few taps on your phone!

Shooting Deer At the Lake

Many of my Christmas trips to Clarks Hill involved shooting deer. I say shooting since no hunting was involved.

    Back then, deer season was the month of November, with a bonus season from December 26 to January 1, with most of that week either sex days.  I kept my Marlin lever action 30-30 in the boat, just in case I got a chance to shoot a deer for the freezer.

    One year after eating Christmas dinner in town with my folks I went back to the lake, got in the boat and headed over to “Broken Rod Cove to fish until dark.

As I idled into the cove I saw a spike buck walk out of the woods and lie down in the warm sun.

    It did not move and I got within 50 yards of it before turning off the motor.  I got up front on the trolling motor and got within 50 feet of it, examining it with my scope.  I didn’t shoot, season didn’t open until the next day. Although it was just a little over 12 hours away, I did not want to break the law.

    I went back and fished around that cove every afternoon the rest of the week but never saw him again.  But one afternoon, as I eased along casting a crankbait to a clay bank, I saw a doe standing 50 feet back in the woods looking at me.

    Boats on the water were so unusual back then they really did not spook the deer.  This one watched as I picked up my rifle, made sure the boat had stopped moving so I would not break the law by shooting from a boat under motor power, and shot it.

    Another day as I fished into “Sunk Boat Cove” I saw a deer standing about 25 feet back in the trees. I picked up my rifle and shot and it dropped.  I caught a flicker of white, saw another deer and shot it.  Then I looked closely – there were five more deer still standing there looking at me!

    I didn’t shoot again since I had my two deer limit.

    The next day as I fished a long narrow point nearby, dogs started barking back in the woods. I heard splashing on the other side of the point and cranked up and went around there.  Five deer were swimming across the creek, getting away from the dogs. I am sure they were the same five from the day before.  I watched as they safely made it to the bank and ran off.

    My Uncle Adron invited me to hunt with him one year.  I didn’t see anything and got back to my trailer about 10:00 AM.  While sitting on the picnic table drinking coffee, I saw two does across the cove, just standing there. 

    I guessed they were about 150 yards away, a long shot with my 30-30, but I had to try.  I got it out of the van, braced against a tree, aimed at the top of the doe’s back to allow for bullet drop, and fired.  The doe stumbled, got up and walked slowly back into the woods.

    I quickly got in the boat and idled across the cove. When I got to the bank I saw the doe standing there looking at me. I shot again and she dropped.  When I got to her, I could see my first shot hit her in the lower front leg.

    A couple years late when the lake was very low and the cove almost dry, I stepped off the shot distance.  It was 250 yards!  No wonder I hit her in the lower leg on my first try. I have no idea why she didn’t run off rather than waiting on me to shoot her again.

    The fifth and last deer I killed at the lake at Christmas was the most unusual.  Linda, our dog Merlin and I were fishing the long narrow point where I had seen the five swim a few years earlier.  That point is a long narrow island when the lake is full but in the winter it is connected to the land.

    I saw several deer up in the woods about in the middle of the point. I cranked up and went to the clear gap between the main bank and island and got out.  I told Linda to take the boat to the other end, get out and slowly walk toward me, hoping to drive the deer to me at a walk.

     A few minutes later I heard noise and looked up to see five deer running toward me.  I shot and one fell, then emptied my gun at another one but missed every shot.  One of the deer almost ran over me in its rush.

    Linda got there and said when she got near the bank
Merlin jumped out and took off toward me. She spooked the deer and they ran rather than walked my way, headed to the narrow gap and the main bank.  My plan almost worked.

    By the early 1980s I started seeing lots of people going hunting in boats. They would beach their boats and walk into the woods to hunt.  That stopped my hunting up there, deer got very wary of boats and people around the lake.  Now they are more likely to take off running as son as they see a boat rather than stand and look at it.

    Things change with time, not always to my liking.

Clarks Hill Christmas Fishing Memories

Thursday, December 10, I drove to my place at Clarks Hill, got up Friday morning and drove up to Hartwell to get information for my January Georgia Outdoor News Map of the Month article.  Back at Clarks Hill Saturday morning, I got my first cup of coffee and went out on the deck at my mobile home at Raysville Boat Club and looked at the lake.

Christmas is a time for reminiscing and sitting there took me back over many years of spending Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays at Clarks Hill.  Memories flashed across my mind like the lights of a fireworks display on the Fourth of July.

Saturday morning was the kind of day I love, not a ripple disturbed the reflecting pool of the lake surface.  The only sound was an occasional craw of a crow or the bark of a squirrel, disturbed in his search for breakfast. I was at peace with the world.

Weather always played an important of my trips. One of the best, about 30 years ago, an unusually warm winter found me fishing in jeans with no shirt or shoes.  The water was 61 degrees and big fish were active.  I caught six largemouth weighing more than five pounds each and five hybrids weighing six pounds each in three days on Shadraps.

The other extreme was one winter when my dog Merlin woke me at midnight jumping in bed with me in my small camper.  That was unusual, she always slept on the floor. The next morning I found out why. Her water bowl on the floor was frozen solid. The small electric heater kept the air tolerable from a couple feet off the floor to the ceiling but could not keep up with the 5-degree low that night.

I called my neighbor back in Griffin and asked her to check to see if she heard water running under my house from burst pipes.  She said she did not but the well pump was running. I came home fast and found the well had run dry from pumping water out of 11 holes in pipes.  I learned to solder copper pipe that afternoon.

Another winter on Christmas Eve the wind was howling and it was sleeting. I tried to fish but it was bad, so I went behind an island to get out of the wind. I caught an eight- and one-half pound bass on a jig from a rockpile there. After landing it I figured I had had enough and went in to show it off.

Some foggy mornings I unhooked my boat battery charger, pushed off from the bank, put the trolling motor in the water and started fishing.  As soon as I got a few feet from the bank everything disappeared in a white haze. Outlines of trees were the only indication anything was near.

I could image I was the only person in the world.  The fog dampened even the sounds of crows and squirrels, and the only disturbance was the whirr of my reel and splash of the lure as I cast.  Sometimes the sound of a jumping bass, barely seen in the fog, added to the excitement.

I loved being up there by myself. Back then nobody fished during the winter.  I had the lake and boat club to myself.  One year I went to the boat club Christmas afternoon after dinner in town with my family.  For a week I slept when I was sleepy, ate when I was hungry and all the rest of the time I either fished or built brush piles.

That year I did not see another person for five days.  The only reason I saw people the sixth day was a trip to town for boat gas.

I had never built brush piles but had heard how effective they can be for fishing.  A bank I like to fish near my trailer was bare clay except for two stumps about 50 feet apart.  I could usually get a bite by the stumps if they were in the water, but that year the lake was down seven feet and the water just touched the outside edge.

Up on the bank someone had cut down some big cedar trees, cut the trunk out for posts and left the big bushy tops.  One afternoon I drug two to the edge of the water, tied the base of the trunk to the stump and flipped the top out into four or five feet of water.

The next morning I cast a crankbait to the tip of the trees and caught two pound largemouth from each.

An old roadbed crosses the creek, rising on a hump out in the middle.  There are three-foot drops, from 12 to 15 feet deep, on each side of it where it was cut into the former hill. I pulled two of the cedar tops out there and finally got them to sink by tying 5-gallon buckets of cement to them.  I put them right on the edge of the drops about 100 feet apart.

I caught fish out of them for years, including an eight and one quarter pound bass one winter.  Three years ago, I won a club tournament fishing those same two trees, they are still there.  Cedar does not rot when completely submerged under water.

I have many more fishing and hunting memories from this time of year at the lake, but those are for another time.

Deer Camp Memories

 As I threw another log on the fire, my mind wandered over the past 40 years of deer camp here.  When I first joined, the “old” men mostly stayed in camp and didn’t hunt much.  For several years “Captain” was the old man in charge of the fire.  Now it is my “old man” job and I don’t leave camp much.

    After spending almost half my life in the club, memories are plentiful. Hundreds of nights sitting around the fire, eating parched or boiled peanuts and sharing stores, some of them mostly true, revive past experiences. And the same ones are told over and over, drawing amazed reactions from young members and smiles from us older ones.

    And we celebrate and morn lost members. Many of the young members fathers I watched grow up and become men over the years.  They pass on their traditions to their children, just as their fathers passed them on to them. The never-ending cycle of outdoor and hunting life.

    Many of the stories are funny and draw laughs every year.  Tales of cut shirt tails, stories of first blood, memories of members walking to their stand in a circle in the dark and ending back up at camp, all bring chuckles.

    One of mine is finding the perfect place for my climbing stand, easing up the tree in the dark then staring another club member in the eyes in a tree only 30 feet away.  Or the time I helped build a permanent stand with a friend, only to have him not be able to hunt it opening day. He doesn’t laugh much when I mention the big nine point I killed from that stand on opening day, but everybody else does.

    Four wheelers stuck in the creek are both funny and scary.  Turning a four-wheeler upside down on top of you in a creek is not funny until after you are safe.  It is funny now to remember the work of the six of us laboring for hours to get it out, but at the time it was only exhausting.

    Some of the scariest stories are the one or two about stands breaking and tumbling members to the ground. Fortunately, none ended up with serious injuries, just injured pride.

    Many of my memories revolve around a stand I have hunted for more than 30 years.  It is a simple stand, 2x4s nailed between two sweetgum trees about 24 inches apart 20 feet off the ground with a 16-inch piece of plywood nailed on top of them.  Spikes driven into the trees 30 years ago are sticking out barely enough for a boot hold now.

    The stand has been sweetened over the years. A small shelf is placed in the perfect position to hold my coffee cup.  Sticks cross the area above my head, placed just right for a black plastic bag to stretch over and protect me from rain.  And a nail holds my hanging rifle in position to raise it without excess movement.

    I found the place for the stand by accident.  I found a creek hillside that seemed to be perfect for a stand, near the very end of one of our roads.  I loaded materials to build it in the truck then headed to the end of the road.

    Before toting everything through the woods, I remembered hunting too close to the other club member so I walked around a little. Sure enough, there was another stand, hidden in an oak tree, looking over the same hillside.

    I went back to the truck disappointed and started driving slowly back out, watching the ground on either side of the road carefully.  When I spotted a trail crossing it, I stopped and followed the trail though some pines to where they stopped at the edge of hardwoods.  There was a slight opening along the edge from an old logging road.

    Careful inspection proved there were no other stands for at least 200 yards in any direction.  I built the stand with help from a fellow club member.  The first morning I hunted it I was shocked how close it was to Highway 18.  The bends in the road fooled me.  I could glimpse 18 wheelers traveling along the road, and their tire noise often make it hard to hear.

    Even with the noise problem I have killed more than 40 deer from that stand.

    Some of those kills I was very proud of, some not so much.  One day I glimpsed a deer facing me about 50 yards away at the very end of the old logging road.  Young pines hid part of it but I could clearly see its head and chest since it was facing me. I shot it with my 30-30 in the chest and it dropped.

    When I got to it, I was shocked how small it was.  Although it was doe day and I was hunting meat, I wanted a bigger deer since the limit was two a year back then. I was able to pick up the 40-pound yearling by its back legs and carry it over my shoulder, not drag it out.

    I quickly gutted and skinned it and took it home, since I did not want to take it back to camp and get kidded about its size. I quartered that deer, cut its backbone in half and froze it.  Each piece fit in a big crockpot!  But it was some of the most tender venison I have ever eaten!

    I was very proud of a big ten point I shot from that stand, but I really didn’t put any effort into finding it, it just happened to wander by me.  It fell near the camp road and I drove to it. As I drug it to the truck and started loading it, another member stopped on his way out of the woods and helped load it.

    He gave me a sour look and said “I have been hunting that deer all week!”

    Don’t miss a chance to make memories in a deer camp.

I Am Thankful for the Outdoors

Although 2020 has been a crazy year, I have much to be thankful for, even this year.  Thanksgiving brings back many great memories and makes me realize what a good life I have had for 70 years.

    Most of all I am thankful for a wonderful wife that has put up with me for 49 years.  Only one time in all those years has she complained about my hundreds of fishing and hunting trips as well as other things.

    One year at Thanksgiving my mama planned Thanksgiving dinner at our place at the lake.   Every year I headed to Clarks Hill Wednesday afternoon with my boat as soon as school was out for the holidays.  Most years I got up and fished a couple of hours
Thursday morning, then went into town for a big meal at lunch with my family.

    That year mama had dinner at the lake so I could fish more hours.  I went out early that morning with the warning “be in early enough for dinner” from mama. I told her I would come in early enough to get cleaned up for the extended family that was joining us.

    I will never forget weighing the 7.1-pound bass that hit a Shadrapap on my DeLiar scales, then looking at my watch and noting it was 12:01 PM.  I thought it was wonderful mama had planned dinner, not lunch, or I would have not caught it.

    When I went in at 5:00 to get cleaned up for dinner, mama and Linda were not happy.  Maybe it was a Freudian slip that made me forget mama always said dinner for noon day meals and supper for nighttime meals.   Everyone that had come for dinner had already left and I missed seeing my brother and his family, several uncles and aunts and some cousins.

    The only thing colder than the cold stares I got that afternoon from mama and Linda was the cold turkey sandwich I had for Thanksgiving “dinner.”

    I am thankful for growing up in a family with parents that were tough on me but loving.  Discipline was strict, but I was given a lot of freedom when all my chores were done.  I could go out early in the morning hunting or fishing with my friends and the only rules were get my farm work done first and to be in to eat supper with my family.

    I am thankful I leaned to love the outdoors, respecting nature and its awesome power and beauty.  I am thankful I never learned to love killing, but understood it is part of nature.  Every animal I have shot, from squirrels to deer, made me respect death and the fact those animals died so I could eat them.

    I am thankful that I grew up in a free country that did not restrict my right to own guns, hunt and fish.  Unfortunately, that is changing, and I do not know how much longer it will last. 

    I am thankful I grew up on a farm and learned the value of hard work and the rewards from it.  I have had a comfortable life, mainly due to Linda and me working hard, often at two jobs each, and enjoying the rewards of being frugal, saving and planning for the future.  That allowed me to do what I wanted, have a bass boat all my life and go fishing when I wanted to go, without spending on frivolous things just to impress others.

    I am thankful for learning to be good leader from my daddy and Laymon Hattaway.  Daddy was my principal in elementary school, and I taught school with Mr. Hattaway as my principal for seven years.  My career as a teacher, central office administrator and principal was strongly influenced by those two men, and I would not have been as successful without their influence.

    I am thankful Jim Berry gave me the opportunity to fill a lifetime dream of being a writer.  Berry’s Sporting Goods sponsoring my first articles in the Griffin Daily News in 1987 gave me a start on a fun, fulfilling second career.

    I am thankful Linda got a second job as a cruise travel writer, allowing me to see things this country boy never imagined seeing. From squatting on the ice in Antarctica with penguins waddling by close enough to touch to catching salmon on a fly rod in Alaska on my 60th birthday, her love of travel has made me go places I will never forget.

    I am very thankful for the advances in medicine that seems to have cured my cancer.  Daddy died from chemotherapy treatments from his cancer in 2000.  It destroyed his kidneys, causing him to need dialysis which he hated. 

    Although the seven months of chemotherapy and radiation I took two years ago had some rough times, I never missed a fishing trip, going at least five times a month the whole time.  I think my drive to go fishing helped me through it, giving me something to look forward to during the rough times.

    Most of all I am glad to still be alive after all these years, with the hope of more to come.  I hope to make even mor memories in the time I have left.  

Fishing and Hunting In the Rain

 “Rainy days and Mondays always get me down.”  Although I like the song, I have to disagree with the Carpenters on rainy days.  I love hunting and fishing on rainy days.

    Hunting squirrels during a hard rain was tough, they tended to stay in hollows and nests. But during a light rain or after a hard one, with wet leaves on the ground, I could slip quietly through the woods and get close enough for a shot without spooking them.

    Deer hunting was similar.  Although I usually stayed in my tree stand, I could still hunt, slowly moving parallel to deer trails and along ridge lines, watching for any movement.  Although the deer usually spotted my movement before I spotted theirs, I did slip up on a few.

    One day while hunting near Griffin I was easing along during a hard rain.  I spotted something that looked out of place down the hill.  I studied it and it did not move.  I though it might be another hunter sitting on a stump in a rain suit, so I did not raise my rifle to get a close look thought my scope.

    I decided to slip back the way I came, hoping the other hunter did not see me.  But, of course, as soon as I took a step, the “hunter” flipped up its white tail and ran off.  Although I did not get to shoot that deer, I still think I made the right decision for safety.

    Since I usually stayed in my tree stand, I made a frame over my head with limbs and carried a big black garbage bag with me.  If it rained, I could put the garbage bag over the frame in a few seconds and have a nice cover to keep the rain off.

    Now several companies make camouflage umbrellas with ways to attach them to the tree to do the same thing.

    Fishing in the rain seems to be better than sunny days too. Since bass do not have eyelids and their pupils cannot contract to limit light, they do not like bright sunlight. They tend to feed in shallower water on rainy days and they cannot see my lure and tell it is fake as easily, so they are easier to catch.

    I have been fishing on some miserable days in heavy rain. Often I pour a cup of coffee and am never able to finish it, the rain keeps my cup full.  All too often rain is so hard it makes my automatic bilge pumps run constantly.

    In a November tournament a few years ago at Lake Lanier it rained like that.  I found out my waterproof boots were not, and even my best heavy rain suit, Cabela’s GuideWear, let some water in, mostly down my sleeves. 

That is one of the few tournaments I have come back to the ramp early.  I caught my fifth fish with about an hour left to fish and decided I would go with what I had. That sounded better than staying out in the rain and being miserable for another hour trying to catch a bass that would cull one I had in the livewell like I usually would.

Luckily, I won so it was a good decision.

Although I have caught some of my biggest bass on rainy, cold days I do have my limits.  One Christmas at Clarks Hill the wind was howling and sleet was falling.  I found some shelter behind an island and caught an eight-pound largemouth. After landing it I decided I had enough and went in to show it off.

Another day there I put my boat in on an extremely cold, windy day. It was not raining and I was dressed for the cold, but as I idled out of the cove with the ramp and hit the wind and waves, drops splashing from the front of the boat froze in the air before hitting my jacket and fell off as ice. I turned around and went in!

Some days are just too bad for even me to fish.

Falling Leaves and Pecans

When I was young I watched leaves start falling with mixed emotions.  The big pecan trees in our yard dropped what seemed like tons of leaves that needed raking. But they also dropped delicious nuts.

    By the time I was eight years old I was spending hours with a rake in my hands. Before that, I would help pick up pecans, dropping them into a small bucket then dumping it into a croker sack. We would go over the yard picking up pecans first, then rake the leaves into the ditch in front of the house.

    Times were much more peaceful back then. The quiet whoosh of the rake was soothing, unlike the high-pitched whine of leaf blowers now.

    After raking the leaves, daddy would take a fishing pole and knock the lower limbs to make more nuts fall so we had to go over the yard again to pick up newly exposed nuts as well as the ones he shook loose.  When I was a little older he would let me climb the tree and shake the limbs I could get to without falling with the nuts.

    The huge tree in front of the house was hard to climb since the lowest limb was way above my head and the limbs were so big they were hard to shake.  But four other trees were smaller and I could reach lower limbs, climb up to each limb, stand on it while holding tight to a higher limb and jump up and down.  It was effective except for the highest limbs.

    We always burned the leaves in the ditch.  I really enjoyed that part of the process.  I still get warm, good memories when I smell leaves burning in the fall.  We would stand around the ditch with our rakes, trying to avoid the smoke, and make sure the fire stayed in the ditch.

    When the pile burned down, daddy would take a pitchfork and turn the embers over, exposing lower leaves that had not burned from lack of air. This made sure they all burned.

    After the fire was mostly out I would get down in the ditch and rake around for pecans we had missed.  There were always some under the ashes and, although some were burned too much, many were roasted just right. I don’t think I have ever eaten a better pecan than those that were still in the shell and hot from the fire.

    We repeated this process three or four times each fall, filling many 50-pound sacks with nuts. We kept them separated by variety.  One tree had what we called “thin shell” pecans, nuts with very thin, easy to crack shells.  Another tree we called “peewee” pecans, small nuts that were half the size of the other trees.

    I hated picking them up since it took forever to fill a bucket. But for some reason they brought more money per pound than the bigger nuts.  We sold many pounds of pecans, taking them to a buyer in Augusta. We often had a half dozen 50 pound bags to deliver.

    Although we sold many of the nuts, we cracked and shelled many pounds for our own use.  All summer long we had sat around the TV at night shelling peas and butterbeans, but in the fall we did the same with pecans.

    Daddy would take the nuts and crack them with a nutcracker, then mama, Billy and I would shell them, Daddy could crack them so most of the shell came off easily but without damaging the nut.

    The goal was to get out whole halves.  The halves went into one big bowl while the pieces went into another, keeping them separate for different uses. The halves had to be worked on to get the thin bitter string out of the groves on top of the nut. We had special picks to scrape them out.

    Each night as soon as we got enough mama would cover a baking sheet with nuts, put them in the oven and roast them. While shelling them we ate the warm, salted nuts.

    I had a “pet” red ant bed in the ditch where we burned the leaves and I always worried the fire would kill them. But as soon as the ground cooled they would dig out of their bed and start working, clearing the tunnels and making a small circular mound.

    All summer I would kill flies and take them down to the bed and feed the ants. I loved watching an ant find the dead fly and carry it back to the tunnel. I could sit for hours watching them move dirt grains around and make their home.

    Although they often crawled on me, I never got bitten by one. These ants were big, much bigger than the smaller black ants that lived around the house and made smaller mounds.  I still do not know what species of ant they were but they fantasticated me.

    Back in those days simple things kept kids interested.  And we always had chores to do.  I wonder if any kids now have any similar experiences.

Whiteoak Acorns

 Whiteoak acorns have been falling like rain at my house.  I blew off my driveway between my house and garage and within 48 hours I could not walk across it without stepping on acorns.

    Whiteoak acorns are a wonder of nature.  Big trees drop thousands of them each fall, but almost none will fill their destiny of producing another mature tree.  Some will rot, but most will be eaten by wildlife.  Without them some species would not survive.

    Deer depend on them to fatten up in the fall for the lean winter months when food is scarce.  Squirrels eat some on the spot but bury many more, sniffing them out during the winter when they, too, can not find other food. Birds of many species eat them with abandon when they are plentiful

    Whiteoaks and acorns have played an important part of my outdoor life.  I have spent hundreds of hours sitting under various trees, holding my .22 Remington semiautomatic rifle or my single shot .410, waiting on a squirrel to expose himself. When they came for dinner they became my dinner.

    I have built deer stands in them or near them all my life. Their spreading lower limbs offer good anchors for a built stand. Most of the time I put my climbing stand near one in a popular or pine, giving myself a good shot at any deer that comes to feed.

    When I was a kid, I read in one of my outdoor books that Indians ate acorns.  I tried one, it was very bitter, and I immediately spit it out. Then I read the
Indians pounded them into meal, soaked the meal in water to remove the tannin, the chemical that produced the bitter taste, then used the meal for cooking.

    Since there was always plenty of cornmeal in the cabinet in the kitchen, I never went to the trouble to try that.

    Whiteoak wood makes good firewood and I have cut down hundreds on my property, usually one that had died, and split them up for firewood for my insert in my great room. The first five years I lived in my current house I heated it totally with the wood burning insert, putting a sheet over the stairwell going upstairs to keep the heat in the downstairs living area we used, and using fans in doorways to move the heat into other rooms.

    I stopped doing that and lit the pilot light on my furnace when I was out of town for a tournament and Linda was home alone. She got sick and could not bring in firewood and keep a fire going. Even after that experience, most of my heat still came from the burning wood.

    They say cutting wood for heating warms you seven times.  When you cut it, load it, unload it, split it, stack it, carry it inside and finally when you burn it.  I can attest to that, especially on warm fall days when I was doing all of the above except burning it!

    I always wanted to be a “survivalists,” studying different kinds of edible natural plants I could gather.  Mushrooms were one thing I avoided, but there is an amazing amount of food available most of the year if you know where to look.  And game and fish provide plenty of protein if you can catch or kill it.

    Although I have never tried most of them, there are many ways to preserve food for the winter when food is not available to gather.  Like squirrels and deer, if you are going to survive in the wild, you have to store food for the winter or try to fatten up to make it through lean times.

    Storing it is much better than trying to get enough fat stored to starve and burn it when no food is available.

    We did that on the farm.  We had a big walk in pantry off the garage and by this time of year there were hundreds of jars in it. Everything from string beans, tomatoes, potatoes to jams, jellies and preserves were canned ready for winter.   Add in the freezer full of other vegetables and fruits and we ate good all winter.

    I am listening to a book about a terrorist attack that destroys our electric grid and plunges the
US into chaos.  Millions of people in cities run out of food in less than a week, and they have no idea what to do other than loot and steal what they want.

    I think I am too old to survive on my own now, but I think I still could get by better than most.  Very few people have a clue how to produce their own food. They think meat comes in nice Styrofoam packages with clear wrap, vegetables are clean and grouped in bins and canned goods magically appear on shelves.

    If we ever decend into chaos like in the book millions would die.  Could you survive on your own with out our food supply chain and heat from electricity and gas?  Most could not.