Fishing With Face

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November 13th, 2012 at 10:42:26 PM permalink
Face
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Come late summer, I hang up the poles. The crick is like a bath and the fish are still gone, the ponds are thick enough with weeds to walk on, and even Erie warms up to the point the fish head deep. I usually use this time to fix up my gear, tending to worn and bent hooks on lures, re-lubing reels, and re-organizing a thoroughly muffed up tackle box. I leave one pole in service, taking Jax to the crick for our weekly fishing to catch crick chubs and shiners, and to hunt for crayfish. Don't be fooled, it's still a banging good time. The chubs are fat with summer, and I still find joy in catching absurdly large specimens, even if they are only 8 inches. And the crayfishing is out of this world. Previous trips to catch bait or feed the fish in my tank turn into contests to catch the biggest, and some of the ones I've caught boggle the mind. I'm half tempted to start a NYS record page for these as well. The key is to find the largest, most unmovable rock, and somehow move it. If you can, and can do it in a manner that doesn't muddy the water too much, you, too, could surprise yourself with something beyond imagination.


The best thing about late summer is that it's immediately followed by Fall, and Fall is when Salmonid fishing explodes. Once the weather cools the water to 50* and the rain gets the cricks up, trout and salmon hit with full force for their second run of the year. The weather is better, the run is more predictable; it's just like Spring, only completely better in every sense.

Once the bowhunters hit the woods, I begin my weekly walks to the local tribs checking temps, clarity, and depth. I have a few key holes to use as indicators, and once I see a fish or evidence of fish in one of them, I hit it hard. It seems everywhere you look, no matter how unlikely of a spot it is, there are monster trout to be found. Wally caught this beauty in a crick that barely runs in the summer. In the fall, even after constant, continuous rain, it flows like a garden hose, practically a trickle. As can be seen in the pic, a grown man could simply step over it with not so much as an elongated stride, let alone a hop, yet even trickles like this house multiple monster steelies.


In the Catt, the rapids are chock full of running steelies. After much observation, the rapids (which I've always hated due to the difficulty in fishing them) have become my favorite places of all. I've found that Salmonids are constantly staging up in these areas. In the wide, slow flowing areas, these fish constanly patrol back and forth, never stopping in any one spot to keep their O2 levels up. In the rapids, there's no need due to the rushing water and they just stay put. Fish will sit, right at the end of a rapid in the turbulent water, waiting to make the dash up the rapid. Once they get up the gumption to shoot it and succeed, they'll stop, right at the top of it where the water's still rushing, and charge up again from the exertion. In the magic year of '09, Wally and I found the "Super Secret Spot", ironically named because it was the easiest, most right-in-town location, yet not one single person seemed to know about it. The Catt splits around a rock island formed by massive flooding and rejoins just a few hundred feet later, making a weird convergence current that has massive flow without massive force, if that makes sense. Steelhead staged up there as they could get the high flow and oxygenation to recoup, while at the same time not expending alot of energy to stay there. It was there, in that magic year of '09, where our double digit catches happened, and every single one of them was a line breaking monster.


It seems everywhere you turn, in every crick you've ever noticed or completely missed, there's trout to be had. We spent '09 hitting every crick we could think of, every one we could find by car, every stretch of blue we seen on Google Maps. No matter how big, how small, how improbable or how impossible it was to get to, we got to them all and caught fish in them all. And the best thing about Fall, there's never a reason not to go. Hurricane remnants aside, even a torrential downpour doesn't put a damper on things, as the cold doesn't have that wintery bite like Spring does. You can't tell by the pic, but it was raining so hard we had to shout to each other just to hear ourselves at this picture taking distance, and this was about the 5th trout we'd caught in this same hole.


Fall is also the time to enter an entirely new world, the tribs of Lake Ontario. Fishing here is completely the same and absolutely different. Unlike Erie Salmonids, which are locked in the lake due to Niagara Falls, Ontario Salmonids have free reign to exit the St Lawrence River and spend their lives in the Atlantic. If the 50 mile spawn from Erie to my local tribs are epic, the hundreds and hundreds of miles these fish travel from deep sea to local stream is beyond words. Fishing here takes on a completely different tone, and the specimens you catch are unlike any you might be used to. Once entering the fresh water, salt water Salmonids change drastically. Most noticably is the mouth, where the jaws grow and hook into horror film contortions. The two illustrated examples below are the same fish and show the extreme transformation these fish endure.


Fish here spawn and die. The cricks and streams are littered on every side and every hole with carcasses, making a potpourri of death and decay only found in places such as these. To most, beyond wretched. To me... well, I just went back for the first time in 24 years last week. That funk of death and decay hit me, and I just smiled. It smelled like my childhood, like the happiest time in my life. It almost brought me to tears, which eventually did come later when I saw the very spot my salmonid life came to be. 1988, just before my 8th birthday, where Pops would do the unbelievable and not only take me on a Man's Fishing Trip, but pull me out of school on a Wednesday to do so. I couldn't find a pic of the 36lb'er I caught, but I found a pic of my first - a nice, 24lb king. (sorry about the pic size, I can't seem to suss these things out =p)


In addition to the fish, the fishing itself is completely different. While I'm more nature oriented and like the far out of reach place and the serenity, these places are packed and reside in the suburbs. Fishing Olcott, which is my trib of choice for Ontario, has it's own name - Combat Fishing. Men stand literally shoulder to shoulder, sometimes casting right at the feet of a wading fisherman. It's not a place to kick back and relax, not a place to take in the beauty. It's a place to catch a big damn fish, and probably have some harsh words with some beer bellied dick bag in the process. I've seen grown men hurling obsenities across the crick as they battled with tangled lines, eventual settling for a fat guy tug of war until their lines break and they land on their stupid, selfish faces. It's really a shame, but such is today's culture of "me, me, me". I'd actually consider this fishing traffic as "light to average" for Olcott. Take a pic of the pool or rapids, and it'd look like some kind of Black Friday sale.

Photo courtesy of Outdoors Niagara

So why deal with it? Why would someone like me, whose prime reason for fishing is the nature, the beauty, the serenity, why would I subject myself to such conditions? The short answer is - I don't. For 24 years I was more than happy to meander my old stomping grounds, looking at bugs and rocks and trees, and catching my beautiful, pure, local steelhead and wild bred bass. But, somewhere inside my body, under my old-world attitude and simplified country lifestyle, I'm an American. And Americans do it big. When that need creeps up, when I need to do it big, there's only one way to do it. Grab your greed, load up on toughness, and buckle up, baby. It's time for Combat Fishing at the Dirty Burt.

Photo courtesy of Great Lakes Fisherman
Be bold and risk defeat, or be cautious and encourage it.
November 25th, 2012 at 7:03:01 PM permalink
Face
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Member since: Oct 24, 2012
Threads: 61
Posts: 3167
As it is November, the WNY fishing season, for me, at least, is coming to an end. My days off from work are the days I spend with my son and the cold weather makes it too difficult to get out. What little free time I do get is completely centered on my hockey season, so I use my random spurts of daydreaming to reflect on the season. What I did right, what I did wrong, a decision I made that wound up filling the live well, or a decision I made that resulted in loss of life. It is this practice of reflection that gave me both the appreciation of the wonders of nature, as well as the depth of knowledge I now have. Since FrG showed some interest, I’ll share some of the stuff I’ve learned over the years.

First is simply the respect of life. By “life”, I mean not only the fish, specifically, but fish, fowl, plant, invertebrate, even the waterway itself I consider “living”. All of these things are finite resources, ones that depend on us to protect and preserve. I’ve seen a number of ponds become destroyed by man’s actions; some intentional, some merely fallout from an unrelated project. Realize that your actions could have severe consequences and know what the dangers are before acting upon your waterways.

One of the ways I’ve seen a habitat get destroyed is by the introduction of new life, and most times it came as the result of an attempt at positive change. For instance, I know of two ponds that were gorgeous. The fish numbers were high, the plant life about perfect; they were both prime examples of local pond life. In both cases, persons involved with these waters wished for the fish contained within to be bigger than they were, so prey fish were introduced. Never, never, never, ever do this. Not once in my life have I seen the introduction of another fish go the way it’s planned. Usually, the thought is that giving the predator more prey makes them bigger. What winds up happening is that the prey fish just pressure the prey fish already present by competing for the same limited resources. In one of my favorite ponds, bluegill were the prey fish. Someone introduced ciscos into the habitat and bluegill dropped off the map. The ciscos absolutely exploded in number, taking over the entire pond. Even the bass have virtually disappeared; I assume the established bass are dying off naturally with no replacement, as the ciscos decimate their nests and fry every year. This was a place where a day equaled catches of average sized fish numbering in the teens. In the last 4 or 5 trips combined, I’ve caught 1, and everywhere you look are massive schools of ciscos too large for anything to eat. Remember that in any established habitat, nature will take care of itself. The numbers and sizes of fish within will level off at a point where that habitat can sustain it, period, end of sentence. If you absolutely demand that your bass or whatever be bigger, the only thing you should do is…remove more bass. It sounds counterintuitive, but less bass equals less bass competition, allowing the remaining ones to get fat on the extra resources. So mind the limits and have yourself a barbeque. Rolling the dice with new introductions is a recipe for disaster.

There are also unintentional introductions, which I’m sure nearly everyone on the planet is aware of. Asian carp, the snakehead, zebra and quagga mussels, hydrilla, the goby, the lamprey, on and on the list of invasive species goes. Always empty all bilges, live wells and coolers of all water and life before setting off in a new waterway. Ensure canoe bottoms and boat trailers are free of plant life, and never release live bait fish (or pet fish!!) into the water. With global industry and more and more people traveling farther and farther for recreation, invasive species are cropping up every year, sometimes several at a time. I can think of probably 15 examples off the top of my head in my lifetime. With that are diseases like VHS (Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia), a plague that is ravaging nearly every species in the Great Lakes. Our actions have consequences, ones that are building and will continue to do so. Don’t be part of the problem, be part of the solution, and encourage others to do the same. When heading to the water, “Bring only hope, leave only footprints.”

FrG raised a concern of a friend of his, and one that many of my more sensitive friends and family have also mentioned, and that is the ethics of fishing. I hope my previous post addressed it sufficiently, but there’s more you can do as a fisherman to maximize a fish’s chance at survival post-release. Handling is very important, and not a year goes by that I don’t cringe at my fellow fisherman’s treatment of these magnificent creatures. First off, the “slimyness” of a fish is their protection from disease and pollutants and must be preserved. Hands should be wetted before handling to prevent this mucus layer from being stripped. I’ve seen the repercussion first hand. This year, my tank got hit by a common freshwater problem, Ichthyophthirius multifiliis, or what aquarium owners refer to as “Ick”. Ick is actually a protozoan parasite common in freshwater, which enters the tissue, matures, and then worms its way out again. On the skin, it causes ulcers and affects movement of water through the tissue. In the eyes or gills, it effectively destroys them, leaving a fish blind or unable to breathe. Many of my fish fell victim to some sort of infestation this year. The smaller rock bass, many of which were transferred by grasping around the body thereby removing the protective mucus, were completely overrun and several perished. Fish that were caught by trap and transferred by bucket remained unaffected. In fact, a few are still fit as a fiddle and swimming in that same water right now. Since contact with a fish’s body is often unavoidable, minimize your impact by wetting your hands before touching, and minimizing the area touched.

Larger fish also need to be treated more carefully than their smaller counterparts. A giant, 50” musky shouldn’t even be taken from the water, but since everyone wants a picture, the proper techniques should be followed. Never hold one of these fish by the gill plate and let it dangle. For one, the jaw structure isn’t strong enough and could be dislocated. For two, the internal organs can’t handle the stress and could tear. Fish of such length and weight should be fully supported and held horizontally. Also, the bigger the fish, the more difficult their recuperation is. All fish, especially the monsters, should be held in the water until they leave of their own accord. “Throwing” a fish back could result in them being unable to swim on their own, and now they’re too far away for you to grab again.

Bad hookups come with the territory. Since I don’t support myself by fishing nor rely on it to live, I snap off or crush down all the barbs on my hooks. While I might lose more fish as a result, it makes those bad hookups easier to deal with without ragging the fish all to hell. Some sort of skinny pliers, like needle nose or specially designed fish pliers, should be one of those things you never leave home without. A fish hooked deep in the palate is almost impossible to get out with man-hands, you’re going to need something that can get at it. Occasionally, fish will be hooked through the optic area of the skull, especially if your hooks are large relative to the size of fish you catch. Be gentle and cut your barbs, and the sight may well be saved. Should you pierce the eye, well, it is unfortunate, but don’t write it off. Fish use “six senses” to catch prey, and I’ve caught more than a few blind fish of remarkable size. Be very careful if one should be hooked near the gills, you want to avoid any injury whatsoever in this area. Should you hook the gills themselves, consider harvesting. That fish will almost certainly die. And should you gut hook a fish where the hook is completely past the muscles of the throat and not visible, consider cutting your line. A simple “J” hook left inside is not a death sentence. The elements, the digestive tract, and the act of eating will remove or dissolve the hook and the fish will survive. I’ve caught fish with line in their mouth, obviously gut hooked and cut free. It was alive, and it was eating. Attempting to dislodge a gut hook will with 100% certainty cause internal injuries and kill the fish.

“Trophy hunting” bothers me to no end. Big fish rear big fish via their genetics, and taking home a world class specimen effectively removes yet another chance to see one again. In this day and age, technology has made the killing of such fine creatures completely unnecessary. Nowadays, fiberglass recreations can be made spot on, and there is no excuse for not releasing a monster fish. Simply measure length, girth, get a quality photo, and the entire fish can be completely recreated for display at your home. Release the fish to be caught again and let it make monster babies for your children and grandchildren to enjoy.

On the subject of measurements, weighing is also a big peeve of mine. Today’s scales all involve dangling a large fish by the mouth parts, which we’ve already determine to be unhealthy. Some at least have a gripper end like pliers to grab the fish by, but others simply have a hook to impale the fish on. I can do you one better. Just bring a tailor’s tape, one of those cloth ruler-type things, and stuff it in your pocket. If you catch a whopper, measure the length from the bottom jaw to the fork in its tail, and the girth at the fish’s widest point. As a general formula, (Length x Girth x Girth / 800) will nail any fish’s weight within a few ounces. If that’s not good enough for you, several formulas have been specifically made for different fish. For trout, use the same (L x G x G / 800), for bass (L x L x G / 1200), walleye (L x L x L /2700), and so forth. Besides being easier on the fish, it’s much easier to carry a small wad of cloth tape that can get as dirty as you please rather than a clunky, possibly battery operated box that can’t get wet or muddy. Most of us here are WoV faithful. Simple math ain’t gonna kill you and you could probably do it in your head. So take a measurement, do some math, (be a true fisherman and add at least a pound to the number you get ;)), and set the fish free.

I suppose this post was extra long because I’ve not much more to say. That “one last try” I promised EvenBob was all for naught, as both of us got blanked. We saw some whoppers caught by other combatants, be we just couldn’t hook up ourselves. I had then hoped for another “two last hurrahs” to include yesterday and the first of December, but in our yearly Thanksgiving Turkey Bowl football game, I dislocated my pinky and then broke it trying to yank it back into place. Oddly, I was fine to play hockey the next day and even scored a goal, but I can’t manipulate a rod properly. Perhaps if the snow doesn’t stick, I’ll forsake a trip to the slopes, suck it up, and get in that one last cast, but for now…until next year.

In the mean time, I’ll still be here. Questions and comments are welcome and encouraged. And although this is “Fishing With Face”, I’d wish for anyone to share a story or self-taken picture of anything nature related. Whether it’s a photo-op found on a road trip, a hike through a National Park, or something cool you found in your own backyard, bring it on. It’s winter here in WNY, and I welcome any reminder that there’s still life out there ; )
Be bold and risk defeat, or be cautious and encourage it.
December 1st, 2012 at 12:49:44 AM permalink
odiousgambit
Member since: Oct 28, 2012
Threads: 75
Posts: 1688
Quote: Face
In the mean time, I’ll still be here. Questions and comments are welcome and encouraged. And although this is “Fishing With Face”, I’d wish for anyone to share a story or self-taken picture of anything nature related. Whether it’s a photo-op found on a road trip, a hike through a National Park, or something cool you found in your own backyard, bring it on. It’s winter here in WNY, and I welcome any reminder that there’s still life out there ; )


Still reading, Face.

per your request, the Tom I bagged this spring. Just finished the last of the turkey soup from the carcass and leftovers [I am more fanatical about 'no waste' with game than I am any other food]. Should have taken a pic of it coming out of the oven too. Story later maybe.

Mustard:You like Kipling, Miss Scarlet? Sure, I'll eat anything [from movie]
December 1st, 2012 at 4:47:28 PM permalink
Face
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Member since: Oct 24, 2012
Threads: 61
Posts: 3167
Thank, OG =) I don't mind sitting here talking to myself, but a little back and forth is always better.

That bird's a beauty. Kudos also to your 'no waste' practices; too many guys mount the tail, pick at the breast, and toss the rest to rot. It warms my heart to hear of others practicing good sportsmanship.

Not to press, but if you want to share the story, I'm all ears. Perhaps if I share my own, it'll give some motivation ;) But first, check this out...



Wally's little sister bagged this monster in his own backyard just two days ago with a muzzleloader. He and his little brother are livid. They've been tracking this buck all summer and all season long. She pops in for one day, climbs his treestand, and nabs it out from under him! I've been teasing him incessantly and he's about out of his mind with envy. Beautiful woman, blackpowder, and big bucks - God, I love being a country boy =)

Anyways, my story. I was on what turned out to be my last hunting trip ever. At this point I had shot two deer; one was a 140lb doe, my first, that I got at 40 yards. Heart and both lungs, dropped it where it stood. The second was barely passed the fawn stage, maybe 75lb dressed. The only reason I ever mention it is that I paced the shot out at about 120yds, between two trees not 4 inches apart, and got another heart and both lungs, dropping it without a step. The added funny part about that one is that my first shot hit one of those trees, and the deer stopped from the noise. I hunkered down on a fallen log, resting the gun on the log and bringing my 'pump hand' back on top of the stock. While it gave me sniper-like accuracy proven on the kill shot, there was nothing holding the gun. The recoil drove that hand on the stock back into my face, breaking my nose lol. That was some 14 years ago and Pops still doesn't fail to remind me about it just about anytime we shoot =)

I digress. On this last hunt, we were at a family friends land. It was about 80 acres, split 30/50 field/wood. The area is long and skinny, probably 5 acre squares wide by 16 acre squares long, and capped at either end by roads. On one side it was flanked by a hedge row, the other a railroad. Now, the property fell into a valley, rising at each end to meet the road. Since the one side was the railroad, a great ridge was built to keep the rail level. With trees being cleared for the rail, the rail was flanked on each side by thick, nearly impenetrable scrub brush. As we set off that day, we all of course headed for the wood, splitting up once we reached it. Pops and John went in deep, to parts I had never been in. I hit the woods just to get out of the whipping wind, where I sat for a moment trying to think out where I'd go. The valley that created the rail ridge began pretty much where the field ended. The deeper into the woods you went, the higher the ridge, and I felt no deer was going to fly up and down that when an easy way through was a short trot away. I ended up staying near the field edge. Here the ridge was only a few feet high and had that thick scrub for cover. Just behind me was a vast oak grove for food, and off to my left was a swampy pond for water. I had what I though to be a triangle of habitat, and set myself up where I thought to be the nexus of it all.

It was cold and windy that day, although there was no snow. Without the snow to make myself a blanket, I got cold quick. I half thought about making it a stalking day, but decided to see if I could meditate the discomfort away. I made a bed of leaves and pine needles for a comfy seat, undid my pants and boots to promote blood flow, piled leaves over my legs, and hunkered down for a sit.

A funny thing happens on a sit, it's one of my favorite parts of hunting. Fresh out in the woods, your civilized mind can't seem to make sense of anything. You hear noises, but it's just noise; wind blowing leaves, branches scraping together, the sound of your own pulse in your ears. But as I sit and meditate on the task at hand, I fall into almost a daydream. There comes a point where I can almost feel myself fall into it, feel civilization falling away, and feel the hunter emerge. Wind noise isn't just noise, you can almost see it. I can hear a rustle far off, know it's wind, and can tell when that gust will reach me to where I can feel it. Rustles aren't just rustles anymore; certain rustles identify themselves as a branch of dead leaves moving in the wind, another one is a squirrel hopping around and digging in the detritus, another is a rabbit bolting from the scrub. The din of nature becomes a picture in your mind, every sound revealing it's identity. You fall into complete hunter mode, completely comfortable inside your own self. The coldness is gone, the pain in your bum and back is gone, you're just there, hunting. Sitting completely still for hours, not moving so much as your eyeballs, just seeing everything with your mind. I've sat so still for so long in these states I've had grey squirrels climb right up on me, hopping onto my boot and looking around, tail flicking in the air. Up my leg, into my lap, crouching down and staring right into my eyes, giving off the little chuck-chuck barking chirps, making me half wonder if it's gonna light opon my face.

Well, this time, nothing was doing. After a 4 hour sit, I figured I'd make a long stalk to find Pops and I got up. I half knew where he was, so I planned to stalk right against the scrub ridge and hopefully push something his way. I began a stalk, and I mean a proper stalk. Each forward step took 15-20 seconds to complete, very slow, very deliberate, not making a sound. Every 3rd or 4th step I'd stop, look, and listen, I'm talking full hunter mode. I was in the zone, and I just knew that today was the day. You ever have that feeling? Well, I had it then.

After a half hour, I had made maybe 30-40yds of progress and could see the scrub at the ridge. I wanted to get a little closer, took another step, and that's when I heard it. tick-Tack...TACKticktick. Not a general noise, but a definitive noise, a confined noise. In my hunter's mind's eye, I knew it was branches, but not branches on branches. That was antlers on branches. I ain't ever even seen a buck on a hunt, but I just knew it. Without even thinking, I dropped to the ground, folding my right leg under me and sitting on my foot, bending my left up to use my knee as a rest, and leveled my Remington 870 in the direction of the noise. A few more ticks and tacks, then I hear the rhythmic tit-tit, tit-tit, tit-tit...that's hooves in leaves at a trot, that's a deer. I readjust where I'm pointing. The noise gets louder and more scrambled as it hits the thick edge of the scrub, I can finally see movement, and...

Out steps a majestic buck, even bigger than the one posted above. It looked like a friggin' cartoon; I half thought it's antlers were part of the scrub until it came all the way free with it's rack still intact. And I, gun up and at the ready, had it dead to rights. The angle I was at was almost head on, and I wasn't terribly comfortable making a chest shot. It hadn't seen me, was only 30 yds at the most away, so I decided to wait. I watched it break free and go about browsing, dipping it's head and rummaging through the leaves, tail flicking, every now and again it's head would snap up, bob, then lower again to resume browsing. I watched it all with the bead sight of my bird barrel right on it's chest. It began to turn and walk broadside to my left. Now, when I sat down, I took cover behind a tree to block me from it's view. After sitting, I had the foresight to scootch back a bit to allow me to swing my barrel left or right and not hit the tree. Sure enough he went left, and that's where the tree was. My barrel followed it as it moved, staring down the barrel now at a tree 2 inches from the business end, but seeing through it in my mind at the outline of a broadside monster. A few more steps, mate, just a few more. I see the nose and antlers come from behind the tree, then the head. It dips to browse. Another half step, there's the neck. One more baby, just one more. Suddenly...

It's head snaps up. It looks straight ahead. Snaps left, looking off behind me. Snaps left, looks right into my eyes. I freeze. Don't move, dont blow it. Cock, locked, ready to rock, frozen solid, looking down the bead sight at the very edge of the tree, I just need inches for a shot. It looks dead frozen, no tail flick, no head bob, black eyes staring right into my soul. I finally break. I barely, I mean barely, lean a tick left, and that sumbitch is shot from a cannon. BOOM! 0-60 in an instant, runnning just off to my side. I spin, lock, man, I can still see my bead tracking the broadside of that buck right now, through the trees. It gets dead broadside at 20 yards...BOOM! That's my good shot, my kill shot. Rack it, track it, BOOM! Rack it, track it, still got a good shot, BOOM!

I sit and listen as it crashed through the trees, feeling that buzz of adrenaline, hearing that ringing shock of shotgun blasts after hours of complete silence sizzle in my ears. I listen to hear it fall into a heap, but heard nothing. Business being done, I'm right back into hunter mode. I spin back to my original stance and start pointing out markers, where the deer first bolted, the path he took, where he was when I took my shots. First shot, the kill shot, there, I mentally mark it. Second shot, the follow up, ther...dammit. A tree shines yellow where my slug blew it apart. Third shot, there, OK. I walk up to where the first shot was. There's the tracks, line it up to where I was sitting...yes! Hair! Nope, that was cattail fuzz. What about...let's see...umm...here! Blood! Nope, that's just water on a dead, red maple leaf. I damn my colorblindness, look around, and move up to where the third shot was.

Pops found me an hour and a half later, crawling on my hands and knees. I'd gridded the entire kill zone out, some 200 square feet, placing my palm on the ground square by square, then looking at it for traces of blood. When he showed up, I made him help for another 45 minutes after that, before finally accepting...that I'd completely missed. To quote a scene from "Kill Bill" - "I'm a fucking surgeon with this shotgun". I can drive a nail at 20 paces. I used to dazzle my friends shooting skeet by launching my own clay, grabbing a single shot, break action 20, loading it, cocking it, and getting the clay before it hit the ground. Hell, in our games I'd pay them $5 if they shot 5 clay in a row. I'd have to pay them if I missed 1 in 10. I never even got paid, as there was no contest they deemed as fair. When it comes to shotguns, I simply do not miss. Yet, at a mere 20 paces, I missed the proverbial barn door.

Our friend Jon was stationed up at the other edge of the woods, and said he seen it trot through the field some 200 yds away. When I asked to confirm if he seen the one I shot at, he only said "It was a fucking moose, no way I couldn't have not seen it". To this day, I do not know what happened. Some say buck fever, but I was ice cold that day. No jitters, no shakes, I saw that bead right behind the shoulder when I touched off that first shot. Not one single synapse in my brain thought there was even a possibility of missing, and, to be honest, I can't even admit it now. I more inclined to believe it was a spectre than I missed.

Such is life. But man, I can't complain. Hopefully that beast is still roaming about, making beastly babies and giving other guys stories of "The Spectre". And after all, we do this for the stories, the experience. And it just goes to show, even a "bad day" can give you plenty of those.
Be bold and risk defeat, or be cautious and encourage it.
December 2nd, 2012 at 5:46:37 AM permalink
odiousgambit
Member since: Oct 28, 2012
Threads: 75
Posts: 1688
Quote: Face
Anyways, my story. I was on what turned out to be my last hunting trip ever.


Still catching up on all your wrote, Face, but will skip to that one [edit: read it, the deer story, will comment later]

I was wondering if you were a hunter, but this sounds ominously like ex-hunter, will have to find out.

I've written my story before, so can quickly kick it out here. Written in a certain style. Anyone figuring out where and under what user name where would really impress me. [g]

WARNING: the intended audience is other hunters, so there is no attempt here to make it a kinder, gentler story. For example, hunters readily say they killed something, not "bagged" or "took" so much. And are not put off by full description. I have decided not to clean it up much, so readers are warned.
_

Killed a Tom this Spring, which was thrilling for two reasons, for one my hunting days are the most limited they have been for a long time, and for another thing it has been a while since I have bagged a turkey Spring or Fall either one. So a sort of jinx has been broken.

We tend to go in as a team to our favorite spot, about 300 acres that always has 'gobbling' it seems. ... Recently I have been on the hunting but have not been the shooter. And the 300 acres is not big enough to guarantee anything, it is a sport where when one of us gets one, you remember the times you got skunked too. The durn birds are fickle and wary.

This time around we get a spontaneous gobble early on. There are plenty of leaves and the tactic chosen is to set up maybe a little far back to be sure we don't spook him getting too close by accident. Two shooters set up on a slight rise, the bird will have no barriers and can go slightly up hill [same level or higher is always best]. He gobbles some more but clams up, probably has hens. So we decide to get closer and it's risky but the feeling is if he came in silent he has us made already without us seeing him, he has been silent maybe 30 minutes. But this time *no gobbles*. Uh oh. Before too long we just get closer and call once in a while. All of a sudden he gobbles while we are all standing in a road and he is super close. We all sit down at the base of a different trees immediately now. We weren't seen! Within minutes there is a response to some calling that is LOUD AS THUNDER! The gobble is so loud the ground nearly shook! Like always happens it seems: you don't see him, you don't see him, then all of a sudden there he is! about 30 yards and my gun is not pointed close enough to the right spot to shoot. If I move it he will see it and react like lightning. So I wait till he walks behind a tree and I raise the gun ready to shoot when he walks out. Then there he is! and he gives off a warning cluck! He saw some motion or just doesnt like what he sees! But he is still mostly puffed up and it's too late, my shot is lined up! Boom! I still see a bunch of feathers, something tells me shoot agaiin and I do. I run up there and grab him around the neck. He is not quite ready to hang it up, by golly, I have to wring his neck and bust his head, meantime he whips me with his wings hard enough to knock off my glasses, but that bird is not going anywhere Sir!

My partners had to rib me since they heard a cluck and heard two shots! The movie in their heads is a miss! Nope, even though he saw something he didnt like it was too late. I'm pretty happy about this one, guys, picture has been posted for a while. Hope you like my story.
Mustard:You like Kipling, Miss Scarlet? Sure, I'll eat anything [from movie]
December 2nd, 2012 at 11:34:10 PM permalink
Face
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Awesome, OG =) I can almost feel it - Hear the gobble and get excited, more time goes by in silence and feeling that excitement fade, then BAM! GOBBLEGOBBLEGOBBLE right in your face. Good stuff!

I gotta ask - how was that hand-kill? Killing game kind of seems impersonable. I mean, it's more intimate than going to the deli, but after the BANG!, something just dies, or runs away and dies, leaving you with a corpse by the time you get there. One time, a guy hit a buck damn near right next to me, and it dropped just steps away, falling into a ditch. I remember walking up to it as it tried in vain to gain it's feet again. Watching it struggle to get it's feet, hear it's rasping breath through blood foam which turned into the death rattle, was a sobering, somber experience. I've often wondered what it'd be like, as by the end of my hunting career, I was very minimalist. I'd often carry only 2 or 3 rounds max, and in my hours of daydreaming, I wondered what I'd do if I crippled a deer and had to take it out manually. I don't mean to glorify death, that's not my intention, but I'd like to hear how it felt, if you could describe it.

Quote: odiousgambit
I was wondering if you were a hunter, but this sounds ominously like ex-hunter, will have to find out.


You asked, so here goes. "Ex" may be a little extreme. Let's call it a long hiatus. I guess it was a culmination of events that eventually pushed me out of it. The thing I loved about it most was the brotherhood. Me, Pops, my cousin, my uncle, all going out and being men. It was great as a young teen, 15-16yrs old. My uncle suffered a heart attack in the field with my cousin when we were about 18, which was the start of a long struggle with his health. He never returned to the woods. Without him, and I imagine the trauma of the experience, my cousin dropped out, too, leaving just me and Pops. Pops started hunting with some of his buddies, many of whom were, to be perfectly blunt, alcoholic assholes. The type to get hammered, get loud, shoot at anything that moves, even if it was 300yds away. It was just a bad scene and not what I was into. Pops eventually went through marital problems, and dropped out himself. Brotherhood terminated.

I tried a little after that, but the "country hospitality" of my and Pops youth has all but vanished. Vast farmland has been parceled out for homes. Rich city folk bought up monster plots of land and guard it like rabid dogs. I remember when meeting a guy in the woods resulted in at least a wave, maybe a little encouraging conversation. The last stranger I met in the woods resulted in him leveling a pistol at my chest, as the woods we hunted since I first carried a gun were now "his". The only places I had left were public, and after that guy plunked the buck I mentioned above damn near at my feet, I didn't reckon a deer was worth getting shot by some jackwagon that couldn't see a 6', 200lb, walking wall of blaze orange.

Personally, I was dealing with my own issues. In my early 20's, I was mired in addiction. The core things I loved like the outdoors, fishing, and hunting, were pushed aside to make room for getting high and chasing girls. By mid 20's, I'd kicked the harder stuff and the party lifestyle, but I was still a junky. I had to have that rush, and all my free time was freestyle motocross, snowboarding, street racing and stunting my bike. And bottom line, I've always been a conservationist. I never craved game; I don't find it gross or unappealing, but I never desired it. If I wasn't going to eat it, I wasn't going to kill it. Mix my personal issues with the loss of brotherhood and lack of desire for fresh meat, and there was simply no reason to go into the woods with a gun.

But I will be back. Sharing stories like we have helps me remember why I did it in the first place. My Sheriff buddy just retired to a Federal job out in Wyoming, and has been blowing my mind with stories of elk hunts, moose encounters, the roaming herds of bison, and is demanding I let him take me out. And seeing the reaction of Wally's sister's first buck, well, my boy is growing fast. I remember vividly the excitement of "man trips", and he's already hooked on fishing. What kind of father would I be to rob him of the thrill of the hunt, the art of tracking, teaching him conservation? It will be done. It must. It's the duty of the father to pass on what I learned from mine and he learned from his, the "immortality" I spoke of to FrG in a WoV religious thread. To rob him of that would be something I'd never forgive myself for.

So my ear's still to the ground. I still follow hunting, still support it 100%, it's just been a while since I've toted a gun with the intention of taking meat. But it's coming, I can feel it. Even before we started talking, my financial situation had me considering hunting to supplement my fridge. It's just a matter of time, now. I just need a nudge ;)
Be bold and risk defeat, or be cautious and encourage it.
December 3rd, 2012 at 12:17:19 AM permalink
odiousgambit
Member since: Oct 28, 2012
Threads: 75
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Quote: Face
I gotta ask - how was that hand-kill? Killing game kind of seems impersonable. I mean, it's more intimate than going to the deli, but after the BANG!, something just dies, or runs away and dies, leaving you with a corpse by the time you get there. One time, a guy hit a buck damn near right next to me, and it dropped just steps away, falling into a ditch. I remember walking up to it as it tried in vain to gain it's feet again. Watching it struggle to get it's feet, hear it's rasping breath through blood foam which turned into the death rattle, was a sobering, somber experience. I've often wondered what it'd be like, as by the end of my hunting career, I was very minimalist. I'd often carry only 2 or 3 rounds max, and in my hours of daydreaming, I wondered what I'd do if I crippled a deer and had to take it out manually. I don't mean to glorify death, that's not my intention, but I'd like to hear how it felt, if you could describe it.


One of these days I'm going to comment more on your thread. I keep saying that [g]

But let me answer a few things quick.

#1, a clean shot on a deer kills them pretty quick. We won't go into un-clean shots. [g] But a turkey is harder to kill. The brain/spinal cord is too small of a target, and the other vitals are protected by that thick breast meat. Finally, the wary bird must be taken as soon as opportunity permits. If you wait for him to get closer to point-blank range you are asking for failure. Fact is, if the bird is knocked down and doesnt fly, you have really clobbered him. But dead? Probably not yet. Shotguns are generally the legal weapon and I aim for where the neck comes out of the breast like I am trying to blow it off right there. At range that is going to mean a chance to hit brain/spine, but also he will be hit hard lower down and not generally missed. Ask any turkey hunter, you just don't count on them dropping flat dead, although that does happen too.

Small game often has to be finished off. With squirrels you famously swing them and whack them on the head on a nearby tree. Frankly I don't think much about the personal nature of finishing them off, probably similar to someone who kills chickens to eat. I naturally want to know the way to do it fast. A bird fortunately has a head that connects delicately to the rest of the body. A small bird like a dove, you can pop the head off in a snap. Throttling a turkey is about snapping that spinal cord I think. I never tried but suspect if you tried you could get his head completely off without too much trouble. Birds have light bones for flying and a whack to the skull is very effective too.

A comment on that deer you missed: You could have been shooting over him. I keep wanting to experiment to prove this, but I am pretty sure a shotgun is sighted so that the trajectory in the first few feet is high; a rifle, the trajectory can be high out to 50-150 yards or more, depending on where it is zeroed in. You don't zero in a shotgun, but for a few feet I think this is true too, and of course at first the shot is all grouped together. Additionally, aiming up [or down] the effect is greater. There are many, many stories about someone aiming for the head of a turkey that did indeed get into point-blank range, and missing. IMO typically that is shooting over them. The hunter can be quite astonished at the miss, confident that adrenaline didnt ruin their shot. For me, another reason to aim at that spot I mentioned: less likely to shoot over the game.
Mustard:You like Kipling, Miss Scarlet? Sure, I'll eat anything [from movie]
December 3rd, 2012 at 2:55:03 PM permalink
Face
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Quote: odiousgambit
One of these days I'm going to comment more on your thread. I keep saying that.


I think I need to shut up and give you a chance to, which I'll do, right after these last few comments ;)

I haven't had the small game experience you described. I've never shot "large" small game like turkey, duck or goose. My only small game experiences came from my younger days doing mercenary work on farms, ridding them of varmints. Whether sniping with a .22 or with waves of #6 shot, anything we hit went down instantly. Squirrels, rats, chipmunks, pigeons, boom. Done.

With all due respect to your shotgun comment, I can't admit to myself that that's the case. Like I said, man - Surgeon. lol. Both deer I shot, one at 40yds, one at 120, hit dead where I wanted. Bottom of the chest, both lungs and heart. I mean pin point, right at the bottom of the heart where the ventricle walls and septum converge in a thick wad of muscle. Boom. Hamburger meat, completely shredded, dropping them instantly. And if I can hit a 1"x4" clay pigeon in profile flyng at 30-40mph, I should be able to hit a kill zone on a buck that 10x's that size, or at least some part of the deer 100x's that size.

No. That deer was a spectre, an apparition, a bullet-dodging construct of my imagination. It must've been, because I. Do. Not. Miss. ;)
Be bold and risk defeat, or be cautious and encourage it.
December 4th, 2012 at 12:11:21 AM permalink
JB
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Quote: Face
...and to hunt for crayfish ... And the crayfishing is out of this world. Previous trips to catch bait or feed the fish in my tank turn into contests to catch the biggest, and some of the ones I've caught boggle the mind. I'm half tempted to start a NYS record page for these as well. The key is to find the largest, most unmovable rock, and somehow move it. If you can, and can do it in a manner that doesn't muddy the water too much, you, too, could surprise yourself with something beyond imagination.

When I was young I used to love catching crayfish at our family camp using a small strainer (kind of like this one) and a stick. I would move a rock to find a crayfish, place the strainer a little ways behind it, and then place the stick in front of it to spook it. That would make it take off backwards at 100mph and land in the strainer. Eventually you reach the point where you can guess with high accuracy whether or not a rock has a crayfish underneath it, and the size of the rock usually correlates to the size of the crayfish it houses. The majority of the ones I caught were 1 to 3 inches long, which were good to use as fishing bait. Occasionally I would find some big ones like the size in your picture, but I would only catch those for the thrill, show them off to the family, and release them. Sometimes I'd find some so tiny you couldn't do anything with them; they were practically transparent and not even half an inch long.

At a place near where I grew up, I was able to catch big crayfish with a fishing pole and a worm - they would grab onto the worm & hook with a claw, and I would gently pull them up and out of the water. Sometimes it took 2 or 3 tries because they might let go after leaving the water.

If you started a page with crayfish pictures, I know I would enjoy it. They are fascinating little creatures!
December 4th, 2012 at 2:41:45 PM permalink
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Quote: JB
If you started a page with crayfish pictures, I know I would enjoy it. They are fascinating little creatures!


I don’t know if I have enough to fill a whole other thread, but feel free to post in here =)

I share your fascination with these things. I’m not sure where you live, but here we have rusty crayfish (orconectes rusticus)( Gimme a break, I’m a former biology major and kind of a nerd =p). I’ve always loved catching these things ever since I was shown how. Same as you, I always catch them from behind. The giant one in that picture I had to use two 16oz Solo Cups , one set behind and the other scooped forward and held. It wouldn’t fit in one cup by itself, it was so huge!

Nowadays, my favorite tool is a 20oz pop bottle. Cut off the top, peel the label and you have a perfect, invisible trap. I set it behind the bugger and wiggle my finger in front of its face. He’ll either feel the water pressure or my finger will brush his antennae and back into the bottle he goes. $0.05 for a trap that never breaks, you can’t beat that =) If I need to pull in a lot, I’ll bring two. Every time I catch one, I’ll hand it off to my little boy, who’s pleased as punch to run it to the bucket on the shore. While he does that, dad gets the next one. If I can keep him focused on the catching rather than getting distracted by playing with them, we can get a week’s worth (30 or so) in 10 minutes.

Those little dime-sized guys are great, too. In the spring, they are everywhere. Feeding my bluegill is always a challenge, as it’s no guarantee I’ll be able to find a wad of crickets or worms or whatever, and catching minnow fry is beyond frustrating. Those tiny crayfish have kept my smaller fish alive more than once.

Have you ever caught one that’s just molted? It always freaks me out because I’m never expecting it. You grab it up expecting it to feel like a rock and it winds up feeling like a hot dog without the skin, just all soft and mushy. I don’t catch them often, and it’s always a shock when I do.

It’s kind of funny you showed such an interest now. Back in the day, my best friend and I had our first “business”, selling crayfish to pond owners at $0.10 a pop. Since I still go out and catch these things every week all summer, it’s always remained on my mind. “Could I make a business out of this?” I’m familiar with hatcheries of many kinds, and with VHS and the now-regulated bait scene, perhaps I could manage to be a supplier of sorts. I’ve kept crayfish in captivity over long periods of time and it’s quite easy. They’ll eat just about anything, from leaves to worms to dog food to the other fish in the tank and even each other. As long as you have enough structure for them to hide as individuals, they’re set. If you don’t have enough “houses” for each of them, they’ll fight to the death over the ones available. The only thing I’m not yet sure of is breeding. How it’s done, what do they need, could their eggs and recently hatched offspring survive in captivity? Well, I’ve got about 10 still in my tank since spring, where I put them in as a food source for my smallmouth. They’re still fit as ever, so I’m keeping them over winter to see what we see. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t completely excited to see what happens =)
Be bold and risk defeat, or be cautious and encourage it.
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