Wednesday, June 3, 2009

What's a Good Day of Fishing?

Okay, so now I have photographic evidence that I too, every once in a while, can catch a fish. Yes, I did have a little help with this rainbow from the captain of the boat . Was it a good day of fishing? Well, I didn't fall overboard, I didn't throw up and the boat didn't sink -- so all in all I guess I do have to chalk it up as a good day of fishing.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Turkey Hunting Defined

Turkey hunting, in a nutshell, is when you try to fool the ugliest bird in the world into spending the rest of his life with you by pretending you're an attractive hen just out for a fling.

(from Parting Line, Game & Fish Publications, May 1996)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Staying Afloat

From Game & Fish Publications, August 2005

Some people are corks. No matter how high the waves or how deep the water, they keep bobbing merrily along on the surface, unfazed by it all.
I am a stone. My whole life has been a struggle to stay afloat. In any endeavor, I have to think twice as hard, work twice as long and overcome twice as much bad luck or I will sink to the bottom with all the other stones who wish they were corks. Nothing is easy.
In actual water, I am no more buoyant than I am in the metaphorical kind. I don’t mean that I can’t swim. I’m a good swimmer. I have to be because I’m never able to sit in a boat of any kind without going overboard.
Since I won’t give up fishing, I’ve had to take precautionary measures.
Life jackets are a must for me and for those who may have to dive in after me if I swallow too much water while begging my friends on the boat to stop laughing at me.
I carry small items doubly sealed in plastic sandwich bags in a fanny pack around my waist. I lash larger things to the boat.
If I could, I would own only things that float. Since that’s not realistic, my GPS readings are invaluable when it comes to briefing the scuba divers I hire to salvage any equipment that goes overboard with me.
Early in the season, water temperature is critical, not as much for catching fish as for catching pneumonia. For that reason I fish from shore when the water is cold.
I’ll still fall in the water reaching for a snagged lure or when a portion of the stream bank, which has remained intact since the last ice age, suddenly gives way because I am standing on it. But by limiting my exposure to the freezing water, I can lessen the severity of the hypothermia.
Jim had never fished with me before. But my boys knew the routine when we arrived at the stream.
"I get to light the fire," Brian said.
"Okay," Matt said, "but only if Sean helps me to collect the wood."
"We haven’t caught anything yet and you guys are preparing to cook our shore lunch already?" Jim asked.
"The fire’s for Dad," Brian said, "for when he…"
There was a shriek and a loud splash behind them.
"Matt, Sean, you’d better hurry with that wood!" Brian said.
I’m careful too about my selection of water craft. Large motor boats are out. For one thing, my wife Dawn, the family’s keeper of the funds, insists we wouldn’t be able to stay afloat financially with a boat payment in tow.
Another consideration is that with motor boats, there’s the temptation to go further out on larger bodies of water. For me that means a longer swim or a longer wait for the rescue party.
When I do fish big water, I must impose on others who own boats. I’ve fallen off of boats belonging to one-time friends Tom, Mike, Dave, and Vern. Actually, I didn’t fall off of Dave’s boat. The water was choppy. I got sea sick and threw up. Dave threw me overboard.
As an additional precaution, I never wager on the day’s fishing because the one who fishes me out of the water always has the biggest catch of the day.
At the other end of the boating spectrum, I’ve gained much experience with small deflatibles such as rubber rafts. Their advantage is portability.
Inflating one is safe because I do it on land. I normally use a foot pump because after four or five hours of trying to inflate a raft with a foot pump, I have little time or energy left for fishing, thus minimizing the chances of falling in the water.
Deflating a raft is tricky because I inevitably do that over open water.
I can navigate a leaky raft approximately 100 yards, considering the average rate of deflation from a typical fish-hook puncture and my maximum rowing rate, which is aided by the boost of adrenaline that comes with the urgency of knowing I am about to drown.
Modern plastic kayaks are the best small vessels. They’re portable, sturdy, and not prone to capsizing on calm water. It took me some time to figure out how to misuse them and end up in the water.
In the end, I settled on meltdown. If I couldn’t fall out of it or easily capsize it, melting it under extremely hot flame seemed the only way to go.
The lesson learned was that if I wanted a hot lunch, I should take time away from fishing to go ashore before lighting the backpacking stove. I was rewarded with a refreshing swim to shore.
I’ve perfected 101 ways to fall out of a canoe. Roughly half of them involve capsizing the canoe. There’s the Water Skier Broadside Wake method and my favorite, the Articulated, Head-first Plunge.
Some techniques require outside help. The After-the-Drowning-Dog Lunge, for instance, is difficult because to perform it correctly you must first convince an old dog that can’t swim that he should dive into the water.
The Peeved Partner Synchronized Swim is an advanced technique that demands the most of teamwork and split-second timing. It involves two fishermen going overboard at once. Done properly, it’s as lovely as classical ballet and should be performed with the accompaniment of a philharmonic orchestra.
When I capsize a canoe, I can blame myself, my fishing partner or simply curse my bad luck. When I simply fall out of a canoe, however, I have a tendency to curse the canoe even though, upright and bobbing along, it’s doing exactly what it’s designed to do.
Maybe that’s because, struggling to tread water, watching the canoe steadily drift away, I am painfully aware of the certain order of things: the canoe is a cork and I am a stone.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Playing Survivorman

This winter I tried to impress upon my 13-year-old daughter that if she continued to go hiking and camping with me, it might be a good idea if she learned some survival skills.
"Is that because you're always getting lost?" Stephanie asked.
It's really ironic that the more time she spends with me, the more she's turning out to be just like her mother.
"No," I said. "Anyone who ventures into the woods could find himself in a survival situation. If you're properly equipped and mentally prepared, you stand a much better chance of making it out alive."
To teach my daughter the valuable survival skills she needed, I did what any true outdoorsman would do: I plunked her down in front of the television.
"We're going to watch the Survivorman marathon," I said.
"Isn't that the guy who eats bugs?" Stephanie asked. "If that's what it takes to survive, I'd rather die."
"We don't have to start at that extreme," I said. "We can begin with other skills, such as how to start a fire or build a shelter."
After several episodes Stephanie issued the challenge.
"Dad, do you really know how to do all of the things he's doing?"
That weekend we trudged into the woods through the knee-deep snow. She had double-dared me to start a fire and build a shelter. I was confident in my fire-starting abilities, but the pressure was on here. This was mid-winter. Everything was wet, buried under the snow. Would Stephanie think I was a fraud if I couldn't get a fire started?
We found a spot sheltered from the wind, wiped the snow off of a couple of logs to sit on and cleared a spot on the ground to build our fire. I carved some fine shavings for tinder from a standing dead tree, then collected some birch bark and small branches also from standing dead trees.
I used one of those magnesium fire sticks with a metal striker to scrape a shower of sparks into the tinder. It took some doing, but at last a spark caught. I quickly moved a stub of a candle into place to ensure my little fire would stay lit until the wood was ablaze.
"This is where Survivorman would roast grubs on stick for his dinner," I said. I reached into my fanny pack.
Stephanie's eyes widened. She was worried about what was coming next. I took out two foil packets.
"Survivorman might have grubs," I said. "But Survivor Dad brought hot cocoa mix."

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Economic Stimulus for Outdoorsmen?

Where's the stimulus package for outdoorsmen? It seems that Washington took care of many segments of society, but left those of us who hunt and fish out in the cold.
Okay, I know it's February and most of us are out in the cold anyway, except those of you down south who are cursed with all of that monotonous nice weather.
What I mean is that we were overlooked when it came time to hand out the hand-outs. Where's our economic boost? Unemployment figures are soaring. What do the bureaucrats think all of these out-of-work people are going to be doing?
The unemployed could stay home and watch CNN reports on how much of our money is going overseas to help countries that will still hate us anyway. Or stories on how China is slowly but surely taking ownership of our country. Or feel-good accounts of how we're giving free college tuition and healthcare to illegal aliens who really should be given nothing more than a parachute and a drop-off into Mexican air space.
No, it would be too depressing to sit around and listen to all of that. I've got a feeling that a good number of the unemployed will go fishing. So by helping the fishermen, Washington might be helping a good number of the unemployed.
There should be a special tax break just for those who hunt and fish. With more people unemployed and therefore more people spending more time hunting and fishing, we will be boosting the economy through sporting goods sales.
That would be fair payback. After all, sportsmen have paid millions in special taxes over the years that were attached to the purchases of sporting goods.
There should special check boxes on our tax forms. Check a box if you hunt or fish and receive a rebate so you can go out and purchase more guns and fishing rods, thereby stimulating the economy and getting us out of this slump.
Crazy idea? You're probably right. Let's just keep giving more money to bank executives. They're the ones so stressed out by this financial crisis that they have to keep taking expensive business trips just to keep their sanity.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

One More Gun?

Despite the sagging economy, it seems that gun sales are doing extremely well. With the depressing prospect of the Democrats running things in Washington for the next few years, maybe gun enthusiasts just need a new acquisition to cheer them up. More likely it's a matter of "buy them now before they're banned."
I'd like to do my part to show my support for the Second Amendment and buy a new gun this year.
"It's the principle of the thing," I told my wife Dawn. "Buying a new gun is the best way I can think of to make a statement."
"The only statement I'm concerned with is our bank statement," she said. "We have no money."
Naturally I've never let a little thing like "no money" stand in my way. The big question is, what should I buy? Right now I have rifles, shotguns and handguns to fill most of my hunting, plinking and defensive needs. Of course, buying a new gun should never be just about "need."
Any suggestions out there?

Thursday, January 1, 2009

My New Year's Wish List


This coming year it's going to be great to be outdoors. I know because I've just finished my list of New Year's resolutions, and on paper at least, it looks like I'm in for some incredible hunting and fishing.
My wife, Dawn, is not so optimistic.
"Just writing it down won't make it happen," she said. "I mean, you could make some ridiculous resolutions, such as saying you'll shoot the top Boone & Crockett buck or catch a new world record rainbow trout, but you'd have to be an idiot to think you had any realistic chances just because you resolved to do it at the beginning of the year."
I picked up my pencil and began to erase the first two items on my list.
"Sometimes you have to aim high to hit a long-range goal," I said in my defense. Dawn grabbed the list from me.
"This isn't a list of resolutions," she said. "It's a wish list. It's a fantasy, an outdoorsman's day-dream. How did you come up with this?"
"Well, you know how the Chinese designate their years with animals -- Year of the Dog, Year of the Rat -- right?"
"Year of the Rat? How appropriate. In order to do half of these things you wouldn't have time to work for a living. How about Year of the Sloth?"
"No. What I had in mind was more like Year of the Deer, Year of the Turkey, Year of the Largemouth Bass."
"How about Year Without Mosquitoes, Ticks and Black Flies?"
"You laugh, but I don't see any harm in setting out to accomplish some things outdoors this year that I've never done before."
"True, but buying a new, fully-equipped off-road 4x4 pickup may be a little out of reach unless you also list winning the lottery as one of your other resolutions. Besides, this looks like the same list you've had for the past 15 years. Most people resolve to quit smoking or to cut down on other bad habits."
"You know I don't smoke, and working on changing my bad habits has always been your job. But you're right. I should come up with a more realistic list."
Dawn decided she was going to help. We took out a clean sheet of paper and we were ready for our brainstorming session.
"Remember now," I said. "These are just resolutions for my outdoor activities. Don't try to sneak in anything about cleaning the garage or remodeling the attic."
"Okay," she said. "I'll stick to realistic goals, too. You cleaning the garage or remodeling the attic will have to stay on my wish list."
"Here goes," I said. "First I resolve to explore a couple of new remote trout ponds this spring. How's that?"
"Fine," she said, "but before you go exploring, why don't you resolve to learn once and for all whether you're supposed to add or subtract from your compass reading to compensate for declination. Otherwise, do me a favor and resolve to increase your life insurance."
I ignored her last comment and continued.
"Second, I resolve that during deer season, I'll stay on my deer stand all day, if necessary. The deer always seem to be coming in just out of view when I get impatient, start moving around, and scare them off."
"Fine," Dawn said. "Since you never have any trouble sitting in the bathroom for hours on end, why don't you resolve to erect an outhouse in the woods and fill it with the thousands of old magazines you stuffed in the attic and resolved you'd read one of these days."
"Wait a minute," I said. "The attic has to be cleaned out before it can be remodeled. You're dangerously close to crossing the line here. Confine your suggestions to outdoor-related topics, please."
I looked back down at my list.
"Here's a good one," I said. "I resolve this will be the year that I learn white-water kayaking."
"Very ambitious," Dawn said. "Why don't you make a resolution to trade our canoe for a row boat that you can't tip over as easily and that has oars instead of paddles that always seem to float away from you."
I was determined now to find something on my list she couldn't criticize.
"Ha, I don't think you'll have any objection to this one. I resolve to organize all of my tackle boxes according to the types of fishing I do."
"Too late," she said. "Remember a couple of months back when the boys all needed tetanus shots after digging through your tackle boxes trying to find your long-nose pliers to straighten your aluminum arrow shafts before you found out that we used them to support the tomato plants in the garden?
"Well," she continued, "I guess maybe you never did hear the whole story. Anyway, I threw away all of your lures with rusty hooks -- you really should resolve to drain the water out of the tackle boxes after they fall overboard. You only had enough lures left to fill one small tackle box, so I let the boys use the others to store their marbles, baseball cards, and fossil collections."
"I hope you didn't do any similar housekeeping in my gun cabinet because I've resolved to put a new stock on that old .308 rifle. I've decided to improve my pistol shooting as well, maybe enter a few fun shoots."
"Not if we have to pay somebody to remodel the attic, because you'll be too busy off by yourself doing all of these selfish little things."
"Well, then, what would you suggest?"
"I was hoping you'd resolve to put away your stuff when you get back from a hunting or fishing trip, instead of leaving a mess in the living room for everyone to step over. But why don't you just resolve to buy a new boat?"
I couldn't believe my ears.
"A new boat! Do you mean it?"
"Sure," she said. "Of course you'll have to remodel the attic yourself and if there's any money left over, you can buy the boat after you clean out the garage so we have a place to put it."
Next year I'm going to resolve to go hunting or fishing instead of making any New Year's resolutions.
(From TheParting Line, Game & Fish Publications, January 1997.)