Category Archives: Fishing Ramblings – My Fishing Blog

Random thoughts and musings about fishing

Fishing Alabama Lakes

I love fishing Alabama Lakes.  I am constantly amazed how different they are from our lakes in middle Georgia.  Coosa River lakes are full of big, hard fighting spotted bass and the water is often full of grassbeds, something we just do not see here. And the current makes a big difference in the bite, and it runs most of the time.

Tennessee River lakes are big and full of grass, too.  And they have smallmouth, some of them excellent smallmouth fishing.  The tailraces below the dams provide fishing that is just not available here.

Lakes in south Alabama are similar to our Eufaula and Seminole.  Their tannic water is covered in the shallows by grass and cypress trees and largemouth are king. 

Last week on Tuesday I fished Logan Martin on the Coosa River near Pell City. I-20 crosses its upper end and it is usually a great lake. Unfortunately, I was staying in a motel near I-20 about 40 miles from Birmingham where a tornado killed someone in a motel there. Strong storms came through the area with thunder keeping me awake most of the night, then the morning dawned bright and cold, something not good for fishing.

We had about five hours on the lake and caught some small bass, but nothing like what I had hoped.

I was on Lake Weiss last Saturday, a cold, cloudy day. Fishing was tough and disappointing.  We did not catch a fish in the 43-degree water.  After noon, we were fishing an area with several other bass boats nearby.  They were in a local tournament.  We heard two of the teams talking and both said they had not caught a fish that day. Another team we talked to said they had one little keeper.  So it was not just us.

Fishing should get better soon, with longer days affecting the bass and making them want to spawn. They will start their annual movement toward spawning areas but will stay deep and not feed much until the water starts to warm.  With lows most nights in the 20s and highs only in the 40s “forecast” most days for the next ten days, it will take a while.

I put forecast in quotations since it seems it is at best a guess.  I call meteorologists “Weather Guessers” since that seems to describe their forecast.  Last week I kept watching the guess as what the weather would be at Lake Lanier this Sunday for the Flint River Tournament and my four-night camping trip to Don Carter State Park on the lake.

It started last Monday saying lows Saturday night would be in the low 20s with snow Sunday morning, and a high Sunday of 43 and clouds all day.   By Tuesday night the forecast was low of 34 Saturday night and a high of 56 Sunday with mostly sunny skies.

    A few years ago we postponed a club tournament at Sinclair the following Sunday due to the forecast at meeting Tuesday night.  By Sunday it was a beautiful, warm day and I went to the lake and caught several bass, including a five pounder.  The next Sunday, the day we postponed the tournament to, was windy, cold and miserable.  And the whole club caught fewer fish than I had caught the Sunday before!

    I never make my plans based on weather guesses a few days in advance and encourage my clubs to wait to the last minute to cancel a tournament if we have to do so, and only for dangerous conditions.

Making Up State Mottos On Fishing Trips

Crossing the Georgia state line driving home from Lake Weiss last Sunday, I was reminded of crossing many state lines on my annual trip to northern Wisconsin.  For ten years I left Griffin on Labor Day and drug my boat 1100 miles north, taking about 18 hours to get to Rhinelander.

    I listened to audio books on those trips, they made the long drive better. But I also paid attention to scenery and the road.  When I crossed a state line each state displayed their “Welcome to __” sign and some had mottos or sayings with them. I started making up my own for each state based on my experiences in them.

    Crossing into Tennessee at Chattanooga and knowing the climb then downhill run of the mountains ahead, I looked for a “Welcome to Tennessee – Use Low Gear” sign.  My experiences on the interstates in Kentucky made me think there should be a sign “Welcome to Kentucky – Watch Out for Potholes!”  One I was unable to avoid on the interstate due to traffic I hit so hard it knocked my GPS off the dash.

    I usually got to Illinois and drove through much of it in the dark. It seemed there should be a sign “Welcome to Illinois – Stop, Smell Skunk.”  It may have been because it was nighttime, but it seemed there was a dead skunk every few miles. They replaced our dead possums.  At least hit possums don’t stink up the air for several miles after they are hit.

When I finally crossed into Wisconsin there should have been a sign Welcome to Wisconsin – Watch Out for Construction Barrels.”  Since it was the end of summer and it was still warm enough to work, it seemed every mile of road was lined with orange construction barrels.

My host, a lifelong Wisconsin resident, said they had four seasons there – Early Winter, Winter, Late Winter and Construction Season.  More than one year I was fishing the week after Labor Day in my snowmobile suit in the snow and sleet!  Another fisherman in our group said he wanted to invest in the construction barrel industry in Wisconsin.

Coming home, I was always very happy to see “Welcome to Georgia” but always wanted to add “Warp Speed, Scotty!” No matter how fast traffic was flying coming out of Chattanooga, everyone always sped up when they crossed the state line.

Now, on my trips to Alabama, I can only expect to see a sign “Welcome to Alabama – Stop, Become A Football Fanatic.”

Winter Woods Walks – with A Gun

  “All the leaves are brown, and the sky is gray.” Although I went for many a walk on a winter’s day, unlike the Mamas and Papas in California Dreaming, I would have to say the leaves are gone, not brown.  The woods and fields in winter are stark but beautiful.

    My winter day walks always included a gun.  Most days, from the time I got it for Christmas when I was 12 years old, it was my semiautomatic Remington rifle with the 17-round magazine.  It had a variable three to nine power scope on it.

    Sometimes I carried my single shot .410.  Those days I planned on kicking brush piles on field edges hoping to jump a rabbit. My usual luck was to jump a rabbit when carrying my .22.  I shot at a few with my .22 but never hit one.  I shot many squirrels with my .410 but preferred the .22.

    I was a little jealous of my friend Hal with his over and under .22 and 410.  He could switch from rifle to shotgun with the push of a button. But both were single shot, and I liked having multiple rounds in my .22 rather than having to take my eyes off a squirrel I missed to breach the gun and load another round.

    I loved my scope, too.  Even with good eyes back then, it was amazing how a gray squirrel could run up a big oak tree and disappear.  Sometimes there was a hollow for them to hide in, but often they just hunkered down tight to a limb and didn’t move. 

    About the only way to find them was to scan every limb with the scope, mostly looking for tell-tale ears sticking up.  I often gave up before finding them.  But sometimes a nest was the logical place for them to hide.  The balls of twigs and leaves were very obvious in the leafless tree.

    With my .22, I sometimes shot into the nest.   I could tell by the sound of the bullet if I hit a squirrel.  Since I was shooting blindly into the nest, it was usually a wounding shot and they would crawl out and fall.  But I climbed more than one tree to get to a squirrel I heard my bullet hit but did not come out.  Finding a wounded one while hanging from a high limb was always a thrill.

    I got very frustrated one day when I shot a squirrel and it fell a few feet then got tangled in vines.  I could not climb that tree, its trunk was too big to hug and there were no lower limbs.  I shot that squirrel and the vines around it many times trying to knock it loose but never did.

    All winter when hunting that area, I would go by the tree and look at the carcass of the squirrel that frustrated me so much. I hated to waste meat.

    Cold winter days often meant building a small fire to warm my hands while in the woods.  On dry days it was easy, with dead leaves and twigs littering the ground.  Wet days were a challenge, but finding a cedar tree with somewhat dry lower dead limbs and peeling dead bark near the trunk usually meant success.  And I always carried strike anywhere matches with their heads dipped in wax to keep them dry.

    Take a winter walk in the woods and enjoy the beauty.  Deer season is over and the woods are mostly empty, so you can relax and enjoy yourself.

….

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.