Category Archives: Hunting

You think this is fun?

If my kids were writing this blog, it would probably go something like this:

Dad is so nuts.  Every Saturday, I’m talking about every one, he’s all like “we’ve got to get up
at the butt crack of dawn and go do something.  It’s like he’s got this crazy lens for looking at “fun” and it’s all about hunting and fishing and Bass Pro shops and taking boat rides.  He’s out of his mind.

Yeah.  I mean, he’s always pointing things out to us, like the whistle that a wood duck makes, or how to tell when a snook strikes, that distinct “pop” sound . . .

How to tell which way a gobbler is going, and whether he’s already on hens.  The right time to take the ducks as they’re dropping into the decoys.  How to set the decoys out so that the ducks will want to land inside them, not outside.  How to let a shrimp drift just right, so it doesn’t appear to be hooked at all, but still be able to detect the bite . . .

I’m saying, he’s so bananas that he holds classes on the boat to teach us how to tie a knot, or bait a hook, or how to get more distance out of a cast.  I mean, who does that?

What high school freshman girl needs to know the difference between a full choke and improved cylinder?  What 8 year old boy needs to be able to identify every shark indigenous to Florida?

He’s even gotten us hooked on bird dogs!  Do you know how awful a wet Brittany Spaniel smells?  Like soured fertilizer baked on oysters . . . but my room doesn’t feel the same without that faint odor . . .

His latest thing is the smell of rubber boots – like some tire factory has captured their essence into a perfume . . . we get to the snipe field and he’s like “smell that – the dew? And the grass? The dogs and those boots?  Doesn’t it smell magical?”

He thinks this is fun?!?!?!?

We’re seriously thinking about having him committed . . . we just can’t find the time to do it . . . maybe after turkey season . . . no, then it’s tarpon time . . . then redfish . . . then dove . . . then ducks . . . deer . . . small game . . . oh well, maybe it is kinda fun . . .

At least, I hope that’s what they’re thinking . . .

 

on bird dogs . . .

I’m not exactly sure how or when my infatuation with bird dogs began.

I came by this naturally, by the way.  My maternal grandfather was a quail hunting tour-de-force, almost always with a pointer or 3 leading the way.

My dad raised beagles when we were very young, so gun dogs were abundant.  There were always 2 or 3 in the kennels, until a litter came along.  Toby and Max and Dutchess and Bear wandered through my adolescence with their tri-colored saddles and soulful howls.

But somewhere, and I don’t remember the switch exactly, we ended up with a Brittany.  Abracadabra was her name, which we shortened to Magic.

Magic was an appropriate name for her, as she promptly disappeared anytime there was gunfire.  She had those piercing green eyes that come standard issue on Brits, and I was determined to cure her of gunshyness.  My plan was two fold – I took my portable electronic drum sticks, complete with belt attached speaker; I would crank the lawnmower up, and have it idle in the background so my parents would think I was mowing, plus it added to the noise.  Then I’d stand over poor Magic, that speaker precariously close to her ears, and bang on those imaginary drums.

It didn’t work.

Copper was a natural, another Brittany who pointed a covey of quail his first time out.  He was dad’s dog, really, orange dappled with style on his points.  A freak kidney stone accident took him from us before his time . . .

Daisy was an English setter – a Llewellyn, to be exact, with blonde feathering beneath the silky white.  Daisy was another born natural, minus a couple of quirks . . . She covered so much ground that she’d be on point in the next county before you’d get near her; also, she hated me.  This one is still baffling, as when she was small she slept in my room, my hand in her crate all night.  But, for some weird reason, she would not come near me.  My sister, who never spent any time with the dogs, Daisy would lick her in the face; me, begging to show her affection, nada.  She would run in circles, just outside of arms reach the whole time I was in the yard.  In hindsight, Daisy was like a prep course for my first marriage.

Ozzie, the gigantic liver and white Brittany who towered over my mother but had no interest in hunting.  Swish, the ill named and incestuously bred Brit that yelped every 4 seconds for 7 straight days.

Even today, my house is alive with the clatter of nails on hardwood as two French Brittanys clown their way through life.

I’d love to romanticize the idea – a cold, rainy, winter’s night; the hunter sits in his chair, in front of the fire, reading a Ruark novel, the Brittany asleep at his feet, worn out from the morning’s hunt.  In reality, though, I’m probably watching a rerun of the Office, one dog chewing on my shoes while the other does lay in front of the fire, but not too close in case he farts and ignites the entire scene.  Having just taken them out to pee in the rain, the smell of wet gun dog mingles with the smell of the fire, some mystical humidifier from hell permeating the room.  My wife, like a million wives before, will come in to chastise the pups for some trash can they’ve overturned, or bed they’ve unmade, or chew toy they’ve created, and I’ll watch as they cock their head and look at her, trying to understand, and I’ll smile, and I’ll think . . . there’s just something about bird dogs . . .

Mailboxes and catalogs . . .

When I was little, getting the mail was a big deal.  And I’m a little sad that that’s coming to an end.

This is probably a foreign concept to my kids, but, back in those days, you rushed to the mailbox.  The mailbox was a Pandora’s box of dreams come true.  You never knew when you’d receive a letter, or a postcard from a more adventurous relative.  Maybe birthday money.  Or the hopes that were contained inside the Publisher’s Clearinghouse envelope, the one promising you 6 million dollars.

Magazines were big for me, too.  Field and Stream and Florida Wildlife and Sports Illustrated* and Florida Sportsman all showed up on some sort of interval, bringing a sort of mini-Christmas with them.

*It was very important, come February, to beat your Southern Baptist mother to the mailbox for your date with Kathy Ireland, otherwise the swimsuit issue would land in the garbage.

But, for me, the highlight of the mail run was the catalogs.  Remember, this is 10 plus years before Amazon would become a mainstream word.  There was just something so thrilling about opening the mailbox and seeing the latest from JC Penney, or Sears.  Or, the greatest of all, the outdoor companies . . .

Cabela’s and Gander Mountain were standard affairs . . . I’d circle and fold all of the things I knew a 13 year old Florida boy needed – an 8 person tent, a sleeping bag that would warm to -60 below, knee high snake boots.  Canada goose decoys and pronghorn antelope calls and snow colored camo and bear repellant.  Dog training aids and lamps with bobwhites mounted under glass and pheasant pelts were must haves.

Clicking it into a higher gear were Orvis, and LL Bean, and Dunn’s.  Only a true gentleman would hunt woodcock with a side by side Greener, while wearing a wool vest over a houndstooth shirt.  Sure, that Browning Citori would cost more than my college degree, but the knowing looks from the gentlemen I hunted with would surely be worth more in social currency.  A Billy Pate fly reel would surely catch handsomer fish . . .

I’d sing from the heaven’s, if, come Christmas morning I unwrapped a watch with a greenhead on it, or a vintage ammo sign, or a plaid shirt color matched to a grouse . . . anything that came from those tattered pages . . .

I only think about this now, in this age of 24/7 online availability.  In fact, I can buy 3 or 4 Greener’s right now on Gunbroker, and have them before the end of quail season.  I debate about whether I need a different shade of camoflauge on my jacket, or whether or not the 7 1/2’s pattern better in one of my guns than the 8’s do . . . about which hats to wear duck hunting vs dove hunting vs turkey hunting . . . about sealed bearing drags vs traditional drag systems . . . lures that walk in circles vs hooks sharpened by moon rocks and lasers . . . I can guarantee, that at this very moment, I have carts with items waiting to be bought at Bass Pro, and Cabelas, and Mack’s Prairie Wings, just begging for the “checkout” button to be clicked.

And it makes me think about the simplicity of a boy that just wanted to be outside, circling dreams in a catalog as place holders for ducks he’d one day shoot, and fish he’d one day chase . . .

on Yeti Coolers . . .

In the history of the world, only 3 things have been Roto-moulded. All 3 are insanely cool.

Apollo 11. You think Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin went to the moon in some sissy-ass metal contraption? Think again. Marked top-secret, NASA plans actually show that Apollo 11 was bear proof as well as awesome.

The Bat suit. Boom. Thought Apollo 11 was cool? Think again. Bruce Wayne was cruising around with a jet engine strapped to his car, a butler, and crushing chicks like Catwoman. Think that’s because of his schmuck sidekick, Robin? No. His secret? Roto-moulded pecs.

Yeti coolers. Hits just keep coming.  That’s why fisherman love Roto-moulded coolers.

Roto-moulding: conquering other planets, Michelle Pfeiffer, and keeping your beer cold.

Since 1963.

Accounting for Fishermen

“Babe – we could leave at 6 am Saturday morning; we’ll be home by 3, 3:30.  All it’ll cost is gas to and from the boat ramp . . . maybe $40, and that’s high . . . ”

What follows is a map to get you to the point where your Saturday adventures really only cost you $40.  Think of this as a helpful guide.  Please note that numbers are approximate, to be used only for reference . . .

To go fishing, you really need a boat.  Not just any boat, either mind you.  I mean, you only get to go so often, so, when you do, it makes sense for it to be on a vessel that you enjoy.  Think names like Maverick/Hell’s Bay/Pathfinder.  Let’s say you can find a really nice one, used, for $20k

Now – no self respecting angler is going to roll out his new boat with a bunch of pickle poles from the bargain bin at K-mart, am I right?  No sir – you’ll need the latest Shimano creation with 84 ball bearings and liquid filled nitrogen drag washers.  Of course, it’ll need to be spooled with a space age polymer line that is used to hold the doors closed on the shuttle, and mounted on a rod made with a special carbonite/kryptonite/kevlar blend, and invisible guides.  This combo will run you about $500.

But wait – you can’t just have one combo – what if some googan fishing partner steps on it or drops it overboard.  Safest bet is to have 3 or 4, exactly the same, just in case.  Plus, that allows you to have them rigged differently – top water, live bait, soft plastic . . . your arsenal is ready . . . $1500 (call it 2k, and add in the original combo, too)

Wait a second – you only get to fish, maybe, what, two weekends a month?  What if a tarpon crashes the party?  Are you supposed to miss out on the fish of a lifetime because you limited your combos to only those targeting inshore species?  That, boys, is what we’ll call a “rookie move” – go ahead and get a couple of combos, both larger and smaller than the ones above.  Keep them top of the line, though.  $2k

What are you going to catch these fish with?  Mirrolures?  Zara Spooks? Live Targets? Gulps?  Honestly, you need 10-12 of everything – hard baits, topwaters, divers, soft baits, suspenders, plastic shrimp, plastic fish, plastic eels, plastic crabs, plastic octopi – plus, and this is key, you need at least a duplicate of every one.  Lord knows that if a snook breaks off your only bone colored spook, you can’t very well leave the water and go buy another one.  Gotta have a spare.  $500

Plus you need a tackle bag to keep these things in – $100

I shudder a little, when I think what happens when that tarpon leaps, you fight him for 20 minutes or so, then he throws the hook.  You were going to release him anyway, but you didn’t get the picture.  Enter the GoPro, complete with all the mounts.  That’s an easy $750.  You should also look into a drone, because those pictures will definitely trump your buddy’s.  $3k

Also, you should get a water proof submersible case for your phone.  $80

Have any of you thought “but wait – fishing isn’t fishing without beer?”  Not to worry – pick up a Yeti (must be tan) – Yeti’s are space age engineered bear proof roto-moulded boxes of magic that will keep a 6 pack of Ultra cold for up to 7 years without any ice.  $300 +$30 for beer

Throw a few sandwiches in the Yeti ($30) and you’re good to go for the day.  But what if the fishing is really hard.  Sometimes, it’s best to get off the water for a little while, regroup, strategize, and figure out the rest of the day.  This should be done in a dive bar/restaurant over a frosty beverage and grouper sandwich.  Also a slice of Key Lime Pie.  You can do the same thing if you’re slaying the fish, as a celebration of your awesomeness.  $50

Push Pole – $400.  Power Poles (dual – duh) – $2500.  Remote controlled trolling motor with GPS and Xbox attachment – $1500.  New batteries that weigh less than a ham sandwich – $800.  Fly rods – $75,000*.  Fish finder (even though you’re in 5 inches of water) – $800.  GPS (even though you can see the Skyway bridge) – $800.  Non ethanol fuel for the boat – $160.  Bait (not that you’d ever use bait, but just in case) $40.

*Attention wives – most fly rods didn’t actually cost $75k – nope – I bought all of mine at a garage sale to benefit homeless puppies.  I think I got them out the door for $40 bucks or so.  Amazing deal, right?

Which leaves us, I think, with the tow vehicle.  Lord knows you can’t roll up to the ramp with this rig behind the Windstar – you need a man’s truck.  Preferably one with mud tires and black rims.  Nothing too egregious, we’ll keep it under – $40k.

Hmmmm . . . $40k plus $40 plus $160 plus $800 plus $800 plus $75k . . . let’s see, carry the 2, carry the 3 . . .

So, since all the above money is accounted for, all the trip really costs is $40 or so.

Right?

Make sure to tune in soon – we’ll teach you how to duck hunt 3 times a week, all season, for a grand total of $75.00, including ammo and decoys.

While you were away . . .

Well, actually, most of you were here all along.  It was I (we) who went away.

Late 2013 was a weird period for us.  We had some pretty major lifestyle changes, and our custody arrangement changed, and we took what most of our family termed “the best vacation ever” to Washington, DC.

I won a second straight neighborhood Fantasy Football championship, narrowly, over my daughter.  Will finished speech therapy, and his “r’s” and “l’s” are coming along wonderfully.  Liv was accepted into the International Baccalaureate school, a pretty big deal.  Both kids are bringing home straight A’s (with a very occasional B).

We bought a grill, and started actually liking our puppy, and both of us got new jobs and we rediscovered Popeye’s Spicy Fried Chicken and discovered (for the first time) PDQ Buffalo Chicken Tenders.

Anyhow, we’re back – maybe not as religiously as we have been in the past, but back none the less.

If you want to get caught up, here are some of the highlights:

On being 14

The time I went to church and got booed

Our 2nd anniversary

On Step-parenting

I have to tell you something

The vicious hamster story

Stuff on Coley’s head

A dove(less) hunt

The time Gilly caught our TV on fire

Thanks for reading, and for coming along on our ride!

Come here, little hamster

One of the “benefits” to my kids having split residences is that they have pets in both places.  Since Gilly is allergic to cats, we could never have one at our house, so the kids have two at their mom’s.  We have the dogs.  And currently, at their mother’s, Will has a pet hamster – Nibbles (can we just say, ya’ll, that, for the first six months he had Nibbles, he mispronounced it “Nipples” which, you guys, I can’t even begin . . . )

Actual photo of the real Nibbles . . .

Actual photo of the real Nibbles . . .

Recently, the kids’ mom has changed her work schedule around – this means that, in addition to getting the kids every weekend, I now am taking them to school and picking them up from school a couple of extra days each week.  Even though it means leaving the house way earlier, I’m thankful for the extra time with them.

So.  Now that the stage is set, let’s get to the meat of this little story.

Friday morning was the first morning I’d be picking them up from their mom’s to take to school.  Will has to be dropped off between 7:35 and 7:50, so, accounting for a school morning traffic pattern, I asked them to be ready at 7:20.  At 7:16 (I know – I looked at my phone before deciding to leave it in the car), I proceeded up the steps to their mother’s apartment.

I knock.  I hear Liv say “Dad, is that you?” and then “Will – it’s okay, Daddy’s here” in a voice that indicated reassurance.

The door swung open.  One of my ex’s cats darted across the living room.

Liv:  “Dad – we have a bit of an altercation” – (you have to love Olivia – she totally meant “situation” but was so flustered, and honestly not quite awake yet)

I looked past her, down the hall, where her brother stood, wearing a Duck Dynasty t-shirt, navy shorts, and no shoes, huge crocodile tears welling in his eyes.  Looking back, I feel guilty that my first thought was, “um, that doesn’t look like it’s gonna meet the uniform code at school . . . ”

“What’s going on guys?  Will – why are you wearing a Duck Dynasty shirt, bud?”

“Nibbles is gone”

I went into full on hunter mode.  Have ya’ll ever seen that Duck Dynasty where they lose the lizard?  If not, here’s a pretty good synopsis.  We’ll wait if you want to watch it (the best part is at about 1:43 when Phil shows up with two methods of dispatching the “elusive reptile”).  Well, that was me.  And the kids.

By the crack of the door, sealing off any escape, were a toy from McDonald’s, a light saber, and a box of honeybuns.  Situation: Locked down.

I entered the arena room.  It was as though every one of my senses were tingling.  Man vs. beast.

“Will – make sure you brush your teeth . . . ” Liv was obviously more concerned with her brother’s hygiene than the fact that Nibbles was working to elude us plus two feline predators.

Now.  At this point in the story, it’s important to note that Will’s room at his mother’s house is FULL.  It’s not a very large room to begin with, and they’ve seen to it that it is stuffed with, well, stuffed animals (is that redundant) . . . at least 100 of them.  Old school backpacks and paperwork from year’s past.  A recliner.  Approximately 4 million miscellaneous plastic toys, cars, cooking utensils, legos, and action figures.  If you could get those hamsters from that hamster commercial where they drive the car, put them in a room with a whiteboard, and asked them diagram the perfect battlefield, this is pretty close to what it’d look like (they might’ve requested more pine shavings) . . .

Place where actual skirmish happened . . .

Place where actual skirmish happened . . .

I quickly and systematically begin taking everything out from under stuff and piling it onto his bed.  I moved the recliner.  I dug through books, including a Tigger book that makes a clanking pot sound periodically – “ClinkBangBoom” (it has one of those little touch pads on the side).  I emptied, I’m pretty sure, his backpack from kindergarten.  Cats are scratching at the door.  I move to the toybox area – nothing.  I move to the closet – I relocate the smart cycle, a gigantic toy he hasn’t played with since we got a wii (2008?) . . . I pause and listen, hoping for the sound of scurrying.  What time is it?  Left my phone in the car.

I finally get to the bed.  Will still uses the red race car bed my parents bought him when he was 2.  It’s pulled about 10 inches from the wall, apparently so we can stuff that space as full as possible with toys.  This would be where we would meet.  I felt a chill run down my spine.  You guys, it was just like that scene in Braveheart, right before they do the battle and Bruce is charging everyone up and I’m blurring between a vision of Catherine McCormack and a Blue Webkinz Jr. Rabbit . . .

I begin systematically digging the toys out, piling them on the bed.  I get from the front bumper of the car to the passenger side tire when I see a movement . . . NIBBLES . . . at this point, Liv is involved in the hunt.

Only.

EVERYONE IS AFRAID TO TOUCH HIM!!!!

Now, I’ve dealt with some critter removal in my day.  The neighbors call me when snakes get into their porches.  I’ve conducted armadillo relocation efforts.  I once rescued a flying squirrel from my sister’s cat.  But, I’m glancing around at my cohorts on this mission, and let me just say, they are not exactly displaying any courage.  And I’m starting to wonder just how vicious this creature must be . . .

I flail blindly into the gap between the bed . . . I have him for a brief second . . . he bites me and wriggles away . . . the whole world seems to speed up . . .

“LIV – WATCH HIM!!!”

“I see him dad”

Slide the bed away.  Oh no.  He’s racing for the recliner.  I pick the recliner up, set it on the bed, which is now piled taller than I am.  I make a mental note that my ex will probably have some less than jovial words about this mess.  I make a mental note about the fact that I’m chasing a vicious hamster around her apartment at 7:30 in the morning.

He beelines for the dresser.  One more dive and . . . I got him!  Biting and squealing (did ya’ll know hamsters could squeal), I cram him into his cage, still in the same condition it was in when he escaped.

I walk into the kitchen, open what I (correctly) guess to be the junk drawer.  Grab a roll of shipping tape (is my ex running a fed-ex?  Who has shipping tape but not Duck Tape?); race back the room.  The kids had placed a couple of large books over the door Nibbles keeps opening.  I straighten the stack and begin wrapping.  I wrap the other door, the one to the wire part of the cage.  I tape the entire structure together.  With a couple of stamps, Nibbles could have been well on his way to, well, wherever hamsters are from . . . China?  Africa?  Auburndale?

Finally done, I walk out, verifying the cats aren’t in the room with the hamster.  Will’s got his shoes on.  Liv’s gathering her school work.

Out the door.  Down the steps.  Into the car.

Pick up my phone.  It’s 7:31.  Halfway to school, after some laughing and recapping and reassuring that Nibbles will never be free again, there’s a pause.

“Oh – Daddy – I almost forgot – because it’s free dress day.”