Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Christmas Eve Angel

This past Christmas eve my wife and I headed out to get one last gift and stop by the grocery store. The last minute gift wasn't due to lack of planning. My middle daughter has been asking for a fish. For months she has bombarded us with the need for a fish.  We decided to surprise her for Christmas and I didn't want to kill the thing before Christmas, so I waited until Christmas eve to buy the fish.

After we got the fish and accessories, we drove to the grocery store. While pulling into the grocery store we saw a young man who was obviously down on his luck. As he walked across the parking lot, I noticed his shoes. The tongue on one was flopping, and as he walked past, I said to my wife, Susan, "his shoes don't have any soles." and we drove by.

I dropped Susan off at the door, and as I did, my heart was breaking for this young man who was walking around with no soles on his shoes. I circled the parking lot looking for him. As I neared the end of the lot, he was crossing the street - I was too late.

I circled back to wait for my Susan. It was during this time, that the picture of this young man pierced my heart. I could not get his image out of my mind. Living in an urban area, we see a lot of destitute people. Begging for money or food on a daily basis. Most of them, seldom catch my eye. For some reason this young man did not only catch my eye, but he caught my heart. I prayed for guidance.

Susan emerged from the store and I drove to pick her up. As she got into the truck I said to her, "bear with me, I need to do something."
"OK" she said. "What are you going to do?"
"I have to see if I can find that man we saw with the bare shoes." I replied.
"OK, What are you going to do when you find him?"
"I have shoes, I am going to give him my shoes if they will fit." I said.

So we drove in the direction I last saw him. As we neared a stop light I saw him walking on the opposite sidewalk. Driving past I pulled into a church parking lot in front of him, parked and got out of the truck.

"Hello," I said as I approached.
He looked directly at me, but never spoke or slowed down. It is not uncommon for people in his situation to be skeptical of everyone who approaches.
"Looks like you have had a hard time lately." I said walking towards him.
He stopped and I asked him a question. "I wonder if you would do me a favor?"
His skepticism increased, and he just looked at me puzzled and alert. I guess he seldom gets asked for favors.
"Will you swap shoes with me?" I asked.
He looked at me - questioning.
"What size shoes do you wear?" I asked.
"Perfect, they will fit me." I said as I slid mine off of my socked feet.
"What is your name?" he asked.
"Pete, what is yours?" I replied.
"Derek." he said as we shook hands.
Derek then kicked off his shoes and revealed dirty bare feet inside the worn shoes. As he slid his feet into my shoes, I asked again, "Can I have these shoes?"
"There is no sole left on them." He said.
"Perfect! Already broken in." I said smiling at him.
I gave him some cash, shook his hand again and wished him a Merry Christmas and we left.

Derek has been on my mind and heart ever since. I am not sure why this one young man caught my attention. I am not sure what made me do what I did. But as I think about it, I want to be clear that I tell you this story for one reason.

I do not tell this story to bring attention to myself, but to bring attention to the fact that the world is full of "Derek's". It saddens me how many I choose to "not see". It pains me to think of how many other young men and women are out there with no soles on their shoes, no home or family, no hope. It breaks my heart to think of them. And it reminds me how blessed I am.

I know that many of us are simply products of decisions we make. But I also know that so many people are just one paycheck away from Derek.

As I sat in the truck praying I was reminded of a verse in  Mark 9:41 where Jesus tells us "anyone who gives a cup of water in my name will not lose their reward."

I knew I needed to offer a "cup of water" to Derek.

I also believe that Derek has helped me far more than I helped him. Hebrews 13:2 reminds us, "Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it."

Is Derek an angel? I don't know, but I do know that he has blessed me, this brief encounter has changed me in a profound way. His shoes are in my office resting on my hearth where I can see then everyday and be reminded that there are many "Derek's" out there that need assistance. And that I need to be more aware of their plight.

God's speed Derek.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Hunting with a Handgun

Someone asked me recently, "what is the difference between a pistol and a handgun?" Technically they are both handguns. However the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms bureau defines a pistol as "any handgun that does not contain its ammunition in a revolving cylinder." So, by definition, there are pistols and revolvers.

When it comes to hunting with handguns, I know there are those who will hunt with a pistol. Those choosing to use a semi-auto tend to use the 10mm since it is one of the biggest cartridge available for this action. Other than the Desert Eagle .50 Cal. Others will use single shots or bolt action pistols usually chambered in larger calibers. Some of the single action and bolt action pistols actually come in what are typically rifle cartridges including, .243 Win., .308 Win., and even .30-06 Springfield in some configurations.

But the very largest cartridges are reserved for wheel guns. The big .41 Rem. Mag., .44 Rem Mag, .454 Casull, .460 S&W Mag., and the .500 S&W are behemoth hand cannons that are a beast to shoot. .45-70 Magnum research (also available in a single shot) Colt .45-70 Peacemaker. Then there are the Freedom Arms available in .475 Limbaugh and the .500 Wyoming Express. Truly giant handguns. And at almost $2500 each a true investment.

Personally I really enjoy shooting big handguns. Some practice has taught the proper technique so as not to get hurt physically when shooting them. Having said this, I have never shot a .50 caliber handgun, so I may have to eat those words one day.

The rifle cartridge handguns pack a wallop on both ends, and the blast is extensive which is why they need long barrels and a good rest. None of these rifle cartridge handguns are intended to shoot freehand. A small bipod is a good idea for many of them.

And while I have shot a fair number of the single shot guns, my preference is towards the wheeled guns. The smooth cocking, easy trigger in single action mode and the ease of carry make them my preferred choice. Having said this, I just encountered a new Taurus Raging bull model 444 chambered in .44 Rem. Mag. (my personal favorite caliber for handguns). While it does not come drilled and tapped for a scope mount, that is an easy fix with my local gunsmith. The 8 3/8" barrel and built in muzzle brake make it a pure joy to shoot. I cannot wait to get it into the field for some hogs this winter and see the damage it will do on some swine.

I compare handgun hunting to bow hunting, only it is a lot louder. Handgun hunting requires you to get a lot closer than with a rifle, it requires you to focus on shot execution and recovery. Similar to bow hunting. When choosing a stand location for handgun hunting you have to consider different elements than rifle. Similar to bow stands.

One thing I can see as I get older, I enjoy more of a challenge to hunting. To increase the challenge, I took up the handgun several years ago and have really enjoyed the pursuit and limitations of the handgun. It is the perfect still hunting weapon. Easily portable, light weight and capable of killing big animals.

if you are looking for a greater challenge in the field, consider dropping the shotgun or rifle and picking up a pistol or revolver and see the joy of shooting a smaller gun with big rewards.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Who is My Audience?

Who is My Audience?

            I was listening to a podcast recently that sort of rattled my chains. During this podcast the interviewee made some comments that got me to thinking. He is an outdoor writer and he made comments like (and I paraphrase) “you need to identify who your target audience is and write to them.” And then he said, “Define your niche and write in that niche, too many aspiring writers are generalists and not focused enough.”
            As I listened to this, I became despondent. I have been writing for almost twenty years in the outdoor industry. I have published over one thousand articles, stories and reviews. My writing has been acknowledged by numerous agencies and groups with nearly forty respectable awards. Yet, as I thought about this, I could not for the life of me identify ‘who my audience is.’
            Then as I continued to think about it, trying to identify my niche was even more depressing. My niche has evolved, changed a few times and eluded me at others. My ability to write about a lot of different topics has been my niche. I have embraced being a generalist. The guy that can and does cover it all and does it all fairly well. I am not a whitetail deer writer, although I will publish a dozen or more stories annually on whitetail deer and how to hunt them. I have never been known as a gun writer. But this year I have written more stories about guns and reviews on guns than anything else. I do not believe I can be labeled a turkey writer, but this is perhaps my most favorite animal to hunt and write about.
            I have written stories on so many subjects and species that I cannot remember them all. I have written about Whitetail deer and mule deer, black bear, turkey, feral hogs, elk, moose, coyotes, bobcats, fox both grey and red. I have written stories on how to hunt squirrels, rabbits and quail. Many a story has been spun around ducks, geese and decoys. Stories about woodcock and grouse. Articles of dogs and how to select them and train them. Stories about knives, bow and arrow, target shooting, optics and accessories. I have written about the nuances of the bow and arrow. From selecting the best bow, arrow, rest, sight, release and quiver to why not to do so. There are stories about black powder rifles and handguns. Stories about crossbows, recurve, longbows and compound bows. I have written about catching largemouth bass, striped bass, spotted bass and smallmouth. If you look you will find stories on how to catch bluegill, redbreast, shell cracker and crappie. There are stories on catching walleye, northern pike in remote lakes and every catfish available. Then there are the trapping stories. How to catch coyotes, fox, bobcats and raccoons. I have written mostly about hunting, fishing, trapping and life outside.
            But of all of it, most of what I enjoy writing is not about the ‘how’, as much as it is about the ‘why’. I do not enjoy writing about the ‘how’. Although that is the only thing most magazines will buy. I do write about the ‘how’ – I just do not enjoy it nearly as much as writing about the ‘why’.  There are plenty of writers out there who are far better than I am about telling you ‘how’. I love writing about ‘why’ we are there in the first place. What is it that draws men and women into the distant wilderness or neighborhood creek? What is the allure? What is the essence of the why? I write stories about sitting around campfires, sleeping in tents far from civilization. I write about traveling to distant places or nearby woodlots. About floating rivers and wading streams. About climbing mountains and slipping into frozen ponds. It is my belief that the ‘why’ is far more important than the ‘how’.
            I can tell you how to catch a trout. But I long to tell you why you should want to catch a trout. I can explain the biology of the rut in deer, but I desire to capture the reasoning why we sit out in sometimes miserable conditions hoping for just a chance to see a buck. It is relatively easy to explain how to catch bedding bluegill. But to clarify the feeling of the fight from a panfish that causes grown men to tear up at the excitement is something difficult.
            I have written volumes on how to kill turkeys in the mountains, plains and everywhere in between. But trying to understand the man who is as transfixed by the sight of his two hundredth bird as he was on his first – now that is good literature. And that is what I aspire to write.
            So, who is my audience? My audience is everyone who understands that the why is far more important than the how. My audience are those men and women who crave for one more day, one more sunrise, and one more starry night. Those who inwardly smile at the perfect set of decoys, or the point of a setter. The man or woman who come across an old fence and marvel at the family that built it to survive. My audience is the little boy with his first BB gun. Or the girl on a pond bank praying her bobber will bounce.
            The outdoors is a magical place. It is a place where we can experience the perfectness of creation and the tranquility of our own soul. It is a place where we experience things that cannot be experienced anywhere else. Whether you are traversing ancient glaciers or sitting in your backyard, the majesty is everywhere.
            So I write for you. For everyone who dares to wonder and imagine. For everyone who looks out a frost covered window and dreams. For the upland hunter more interested in how his dog performs than he about his shooting prowess. For the big game hunter who enters vast wilderness in search of adventure. For the angler on a remote lake mesmerized by the loon and ripples. I write for you. For those who look into the flickering flames of a campfire and know. For those who don’t mind grounds in their coffee, or ice in their boots. I write for those who hunt the high country to go to sleep to the sound of bugling bulls and are transfixed by the millions of stars that are watching.

            My niche? It is the outdoors. My audience – well it is you. All of you, all of you who want, need and live the outdoors. I hope you enjoy the times I try to capture. For the moments in time that are stilled long enough for you to come along. I hope you can feel the breeze on your cheek, and smell the fresh pine and decaying leaves of the mountain stream. I pray that through reading my simple words, you will know you are part of something far bigger. Your life in this vast place has purpose and meaning. You are valuable. So, I will write for you, my audience who live the outdoors. 

Friday, December 1, 2017

Proper Baiting Tactics for Whitetail Deer

Baiting is one of those topics that really bring out some heated discussions. Should you bait or not? Is it ethical? Does dumping a pile of corn on the ground change behavior? Is putting food out for deer the same as mineral licks or water holes?

The debate can go on for days. In fact it has gone on for years in many areas of the country. Today's post is not to debate the merits of bait. It is not to discuss whether it is legal, ethical or merited. It is simply to look at methods of baiting and how to do it in the most effective manner.

It has been my experience that baiting can draw deer from other areas to the bait station. It has also been my experience that baiting does not necessarily cause deer to alter their behavior. If anything, the only thing baiting has done is create a generation of hunters how do not know, nor care to learn woodsmanship.

Recently I was scouting a location for the upcoming trapping season. I was walking along the edge of a mature soybean field. Beautiful chest high soybeans. When I reached the edge of the field near a back corner I stopped in my tracks. There on the edge of the soybean field was a large pile of corn! My fist thought was 'what an idiot'. Who would waste their money and time pouring out corn along a soybean field? That is akin to dumping corn in the middle of persimmons, or along the edge of a ridge of white oak trees while they are dropping their acorns. The deer are coming to the soybeans anyway, the use of corn or any bait in this situation is wasteful, and ignorant.

Bait is best used when there are NO alternative native food sources available. Let me say that again. Bait is best used when there are NO alternative native food sources available. If there is a good acorn crop there is no need to bait, the deer will always choose acorns over corn or any other bait. When there is green soybeans, the deer will always choose soybeans over corn or bait. Bait for this discussion is the placed food source. corn, carrots, alfalfa, pears, apples etc. anything that is placed by hand, feeder or other methods and does not naturally grow or planted.

Bait is often not used well because of its location. Deer do not like to expose themselves during daylight. If you are putting bait out in the middle of a field, clear-cut or other big opening you will not draw bucks to that food during daylight except in extreme situations. Bait stations near cover or in the woods are best for bucks. They need to feel safe. In Texas for example they like to put bait along roadways that are cut through the middle of thick bedding cover. the bucks can come our feed and retreat and still fee safe. In the southeast, bait stations that are in the thick cover get a lot more attention than those in the open. The closer to cover the better the deer like it when it comes to placing bait.

Another mistake hunters make with bait is only baiting during the hunting season. The deer will get skiddish quickly when the pressure is on them. Begin your baiting regimen months before the season opens. One method we began that seems to work is to begin using our feeders in July before the opening of season on September 1. This allows two things to occur. We can get a good survey of the herd, and it conditions the deer to the bait and the location without much interference. It also allows them to begin to associate our interference as a positive. They learn quickly that the sound of the four wheeler means food. Many times when hunting bait. We will drive the wheeler into the area, let out a hunter, and leave. Fooling the deer into thinking new food just arrived. On many occasions this has resulted in a kill at the station shortly after the machine is out of hearing.

Using timed feeders or manually dispersing has advantages and disadvantages. For the absentee land owner, the timed feeder is excellent because it feeds when you are absent. It keeps things rolling while you are away. The downside of this is that it limits your options of what you can use for bait. it is hard to use carrots, apples or pears in a spin feeder. So if you use one of these you are limiting yourself to corn or pellets.

In our experience when using corn for bait, the cob corn tends to work a shade better. It seems that the deer take a lot longer to eat the cob corn so it last a lot longer then the shelled corn. There again, when using a feeder, shelled corn and some minerals is all that can be used.

Baiting can be effective at certain times of the year and under certain circumstances. Relying too much on the dumping of food to kill a deer is not the best use of your time. Finding the animals, locating their bedding, feeding and travel corridor is essential to placing a good bait station.

Baiting is legal in many areas, so if you are going to do it, do it well.