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.