The sun was just breaking the trees when Robert Pitman tried to make the cast. A broken finger on his casting hand made using the antique rod and reel almost impossible. Nevertheless, the lure, a true antique, covered with real frog skin hit right on target. We were supposed to be having a fishing contest, he with antique gear, I with my usual. That wasn’t going to work.
Outdoors By John Sloan
Outdoors By John Sloan
Blog entries categorized under John Sloan - Outdoors
The snow has slowed to an occasional flurry and the wind is dropping to bearable levels. I snuggle in against the slick scree and try to be nothing more than another rock on the long slope above the valley. He lowers his head and tears at another clump of something I can not see. When he raises his head, I come to full draw and the pin is right behind his shoulder. About then I wake up. I have again been on one of my dream hunts.I get it all the time. “What is your favorite game to hunt?” That or some version of that question comes my way on a regular basis. I have been fortunate to hunt in many places and for a variety of game.
As far as favorite hunts, I have three and I rank them in this order -- elk in the mountain meadows; caribou on the Tiaga; and big whitetails in the swamp timber.
Behind that, I guess mule deer and antelope fall in there and perhaps bear in Canada maybe is ahead of them. Turkey ranks quite low. My equipment of choice has always been the bow and arrow.
Usually, whoever is asking the question wants to know about hunting in Africa. I know little about it despite being invited to hunt S.A. on a few occasions. If I were to go, I would bowhunt and there is not much over there I care to hunt. The few animals that do interest me, I could never afford-that being the big cats.
However, there are some animals I have not hunted that I would have loved to in my youth. I am too old now. First on that list is the Rocky Mountain Big Horn. I had chances. Billy Joe Coy asked me several times to come to Wyoming and hunt with him. We went to college together and he was guiding for them back then. He was on them big time because he lived right about where they did. The invitations came when I was actually working either guiding or doing videos and could never leave the deer woods long enough. My old rodeo buddy, Stan Steen from Montana sent me a picture of a dandy ram he killed in his home state. He said he had applied for the draw in that area for over 20-years before finally drawing the tag. It was in an area that was not very rugged, either.
I would like to hunt the Red Stag of New Zealand or just about anywhere. Oddly enough, I have a standing invitation to go to Zealand and hunt. I write for a bowhunting magazine published in Australia that covers Zealand. All it will cost me is a plane ticket. But those suckers live where there is a short supply of oxygen. I just cannot handle it anymore. But I went on some truly great hunts.
One of my favorite and most exciting hunts was one deep in an Alabama swamp for whitetail deer. It was hot and sticky and a full moon. There was a bad thunderstorm approaching. With lightning splitting the sky, I sparred in seven bucks in 20-minutes. The seventh I shot. He made the AL record books by a mile and was far past Pope and Young minimums. I love hunting big woods deer and the deer do not have to have huge antlers.
I would love again do a deep swamp hunt. I love boating back into the heart of real swamp, setting up camp and then taking the jon boat back through some shallow slough to an island large enough to hold deer. When the water was right, the islands would be reachable only by boat. There were several of those in Cocodrie, maybe 50-acres in size. They held some big deer and there was little pressure. Lots of work but enjoyable.
Some of my elk hunts and bear hunts have been ones I would love to repeat. My caribou hunts, with one exception, have always been tremendous. On one, after killing a nice bull, my hunting partner and I waited out a sudden blizzard with terrible winds by huddling under two giant rocks.
I love the mountains, the boreal forests and even the bare and forbidding tundra. Maybe I just love hunting in new places. Hunting with a bow made it even better. Having some good hunting partners made better yet.
I would do a moose hunt. I would have a battalion of guides to pack the meat out. I would have another to pack out the head and cape. In addition, I would have at least six to pack me out. Come to think of it, maybe I would not hunt moose.
When I look around my office, when I gaze at all the memories, mounted and hanging on my walls, I can almost see the empty spots. There is room for a Bighorn and a Red Stag in amongst the deer and caribou and elk. But I am too old now. Actually, it is not the age; it is miles and the toll the miles have taken.
So take heed young hunters, start a savings account now. Each week or month, put aside a few dollars. When you get an unexpected windfall, slap it in the account. Maybe that is where the tax refund goes…if you ever get one. Might have to keep it secret from the spouse and that is okay. That is acceptable in special cases. Then, in a few years, when there is sufficient money. Go for it. It is better to borrow the money then pay it back than to look back and say, I wish I had gone.
On a good day, it could be some of the best smallmouth fishing you are going to find. Anyway, it use to be. On a bad day, it sucks. Seems to be a lot more of those suckin days lately. For sure, with rare exceptions, it has gone downhill from a fishing standpoint.
It is a puzzle and it can be heartbreaking. Go three hours without a strike, then, in a few minutes, put five in the boat that weigh 20-pounds. I have done that several times. At least I use to. Not lately. Sure not as it was 20-years ago.
However, on the pleasant side, a surprise came in the form of a new book from Otha Barham. Otha is an old friend and longtime outdoor writer. He has put together a delightful book on Turkey hunting. It is not a how to…thankfully. It is a book you will enjoy reading.
Otha Barham is a turkey hunter consumed by the body of lore associated with hunting this great bird. What stirs his passion thoroughly are accounts of actual hunts. Every experienced hunter has a plethora of these stories, and it would be difficult to declare the account of a single hunt uninteresting.
Even a 20 minute episode from an owl hoot to the shotgun blast is a shining star in a dark sky of exhaustive chases filled with failed trickery by the hunter that may last hours, days or sometimes years. Does the gobbler finally fall to the gun, or does it remain forever unattainable by a hunter and submit only to nature's plan of finality.
In Barham's book, “Spring Beckonings,” there are 37 blow-by-blow accounts of adventures directly associated with the hunt. Selected stories also offer interesting aspects of the people involved.
In the pages of “Spring Beckonings” turkey hunters will recognize themselves and the birds they have sought. Selected accounts also offer interesting aspects of the lives of the hunters involved. Other readers will enhance their understanding of the powers that so seductively lure wild turkey cultists into the spring woods, hypnotized by the mating rituals of a game bird that for two months becomes one of the earth's wildest creatures.
The author is described as a “turkey junkie” by Jill Easton, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association. In addition to her comments on “Spring Beckonings,” nationally known writer/hunters Tom Kelly, Jim Casada and Jim Spencer favorably endorsed the book. Kelly offers in the book's foreword; the writer, “gives you a chance to wallow in the presence of the bird and its surroundings...Don't loan this book to anybody. You might not get it back.”
Jim Casada commented on the book. “Otha Barham is a master at capturing the sport's essence.” And Jim Spencer notes, “This book is going into that small area of my bookshelf reserved for those books I absolutely must read every February and March to get my engines properly revved for the upcoming season.”
“Spring Beckonings” contains 59 captioned photographs, 17 of which are the work of award winning photographer Kye Clearman (12363 Hand Road, Collinsville, Mississippi 39325.) Contact Clearman at his address or telephone (601) 479-9199 for wildlife photographs. See samples of his work at south.shutterfy.com.
Order signed, inscribed copies of “Spring Beckonings” from Old Ben Publications, Otha Barham,3100 38th Street, Meridian, MS 39305.
Send check or money order for $15.95 plus $5 shipping and handling. Mississippi residents include $1.12 sales tax.
Plain good fishing & eating
On another note, the crappie fishing has been good to excellent.
The larger fish have steadily moved up and both numbers and size are good on Old Hickory. I cannot tell you where to go. There is no certain place.
We are using only jigs in about 1/8-ounce size and colors vary from pink to chartreuse and everything in between. We are using tube lures and twister tails. Mostly we just work along a bank casting at every piece of structure. Some hold a few fish, some don’t but it only takes three to feed two.
Turkey season is over so of course, the yard is full of birds. And say, isn’t it about time to go camping?
The sun is starting to set now. It does it every day and often, in more ways that one. The steaks are sizzling just the way steaks should, Jackie is keeping an eye on them and the potatoes are baking. There will be peach pie for desert. However, this column is not about food. Mostly.
Scene two: The three of us are kicked back on the balcony of our room at Edgar Evins State Park up on Center Hill. Jackie Taylor, Jerry Reed and I are up there fishing. It is the first time the three of us have fished together since 1978. That is way too long. I am feeding the crows.
We go through a process, we who prowl the hills and hollers and explore the waters, hunting and fishing our way through life. We grow and metamorph not unlike a butterfly. Trophies and limits mean little to us. We have changed. Our step has slowed, our hearing going, our sight dimmed and our desires softened.
Since Mothers Day is this month, I thought I might do a couple columns on the female type sports in our outdoors. This is the second one. JLS
They come from everywhere and do everything. One from Los Angeles owns a women’s professional basketball team and is an entertainment litigation attorney. One is from Detroit and works for the school board. One works in a shipyard in Mississippi. One is a high school student in WI. One is a physician in Oregon. As I said, they come from everywhere and do everything.The sound of women’s laughter fills the air, accompanied by the screeching that women often do when they meet someone they have not seen in a year. As could be expected, they are doing a lot of comparing of clothing. Not to be expected is the style of clothing and the piles of equipment that is rapidly mounting on the big front porch. The clothing is camouflage and the equipment is composed of bows, arrows and knee-high boots.
Following a desire and push by Robert Pitman to get more women involved in hunting (he put his money and efforts where his mouth is), Does and Bows grew. The annual bow hunt for women only, grew from seven the first year to a capacity of 33, a few years later. At that time, women bow hunters were not on television every week nor were they the sexual centerfolds for hunting magazines. We had a waiting list for hunters.
To see this group of women unpack the latest in hunting equipment and know how to use it was definitely not the norm. However, in a few years, it became so. Hunter skill level varied from entry level to professional with world champion archers rubbing quivers and trading tips with beginners. Actual competition did not exist. When one woman killed a deer, they all celebrated. The pros spent hours coaching the newbies.
Does and Bows became an industry pattern for a few other outfitters. Hosted by the famed, now closed, White Oak Plantation near Tuskegee, AL, it was the first such venture in a struggling industry. “It is the women who take kids to soccer and dance and ball practice.” Said Robert Pitman, owner of the sprawling lodge. “We need to get them started taking the kids hunting.” A few years later, one hunter brought her 13-year old daughter to the hunt and they became regulars.
Strangely enough, industry wide, women began to show up in serious magazine articles and on television. Today, it is hard to find a television, hunting program that at some point does not feature a woman. Make no mistake they are not just there for window dressing (most of them). They can hunt with the best of the men and some of them may be better hunters.
Over the 13-years, the hunt existed. I saw a lot of growth in the skill level of the hunters. I saw several women kill their first animal at White Oak and made note of how they had grown in hunting ability since their first year there.
The archery/bow hunting industry also took note of women during these years and began to provide products designed just for them. Shorter, lighter bows became stock items with every bow company. These were serious bows, bows designed to shoot fast, accurately and kill animals up to elephant size. Women’s clothing began to show up in real camouflage designs and other manufacturers started taking notice of the “new” corner in the market. One year, according to a survey, women were the fastest and maybe only growing segment of the hunting industry. I would not be surprised if it is not still.
I am proud to have been a part of the formation of Does and Bows. I was at every hunt. I grinned as suddenly other outdoor writers began to see the marketability of stories on women hunting and more than happy to share information with them and get them with the women for interviews. I grinned even more as other outdoor guides and outfitters tested the waters of hosting women hunters.
Many made a logical and common mistake. They dumbed down the hunt. They allowed women to only kill does, not trophy animals. They did not regard the women as serious hunters. They quickly learned. I pushed hard to do more with women in the hunting sport.
Hunting today, especially bow hunting is alive and well. PETA and other so-called animal rights organizations are learning to leave hunting alone and fund their sky-high salaries by begging money to save poor, bedraggled pets. Each year I hear stories and get pictures of women with their kills. Lately, the women have been young…as in teenagers. I like seeing that.
It feels good to look back on my half-century of hunting and think of the changes. My earliest mentors would not think of going to the hunting camp without their wives. They were not there to cook, either. As a youngster, growing up in LA, I just assumed all women hunted. It was somewhat normal in LA.
As I became involved in the hunting industry, I was again surprised they were not. Only a few hunted and in most camps, were degraded by the men or relegated to doing the camp cooking. Even fewer bow hunted.
That changed at White Oak and at many other locations. At Does and Bows, there were no men with whom to compete; only other women and you could not really call it competition. The women were comfortable.
Today, it is as common to see a woman in camouflage as it is a man. Not just at Wal-Mart, either and not as a misguided fashion statement complete with tattoos and pierced noses. You can quickly tell the hunters from the rest.
I am glad to think hunting is in good hands. I think Robert Pitman’s goal has been reached. I truly think the women are taking the kids to soccer, dance and…Hunting.
Since Mothers Day is coming up, I decided to devote a couple columns to the women and mothers in the outdoors. I think they deserve some special recognition. JLS
Surrounded by dogs, horses and a houseful of hunting trophies is a hardcore huntress. Kristi Lynn Hair is passionate about hunting. In fact, that is about all she does. Along with Idaho hunter, Meagan Johnson, she formed Hardcore Huntresses, an online community for women to come share their hunting experiences. It is catching on. I think it is a neat deal.
It is no surprise that someone would remember the first deer he or she killed. It is right up there with the birth of a child or the first girl with whom you ever made love. You don’t forget those things. What is a surprise, at least to me, is that I can remember the first largemouth bass I caught. Among my fishing memories that go back almost 65-years are bits and pieces of several fish I caught or did not catch.
The Honorable Foster Butt once said, “Make sure your taxes are in and then hit the water.”
What he meant was, mid-April is a hot time to be fishing in Tennessee. April 15, would have been the Ides of April back ole Julius Caesar’s time. Famed smallmouth angler, Harold Dotson swore it was the best time to fish Center Hill especially on a rainy day. Both largemouth and smallmouth bass get right about then.
He always pronounced it Ahhpreel. Then, he would smile and spit for emphasis. He told me one time, “Boy, in da munt of Ahhpreel, you can do mose anyting.”
He always had snuff juice in the corners of his mouth and a twinkle in his eyes. He dipped Tuberose snuff and often drank Old Crow, sometimes, at the same time. I reckon he was close on to 80 when I first met him.
Wet on my face, little drops on my rod and line. A thick fog, the kind you can smell and taste. The kind my father called phawg. Of course, he also called the Texas Panhandle, the Texas Pothook.
The skeletal trees still standing in the warm water, kept weaving in and out of sight as they hid behind the moving, sometimes roiling blankets of thick mist. Of course, that is all fog is, mist. I once tried to catch a handful of it and mist. It can be spooky, fog. I kinda like it at times.
Cold and dreary. Just coming daylight and the woods filled with booming gobbles. This was going to be easy. I looked at Toby and he nodded. Gary Holmes, tapped my arm and pointed to the now lightening, east. “Just over that ridge.” He whispered. “Camera light soon.”
So opened turkey season in Missouri years ago.
They said it would rain. It did rain.
They said it would be windy. It was windy.
They did not say one word about it being dead calm some of the time and the rain ending and it getting almost warm toward hot. It did that. I have never much trusted weather forecasters. They are bad to lie.
Last week’s column, regarding things to worry about, rattled some cages. I spoke about closing of the tail waters below 10 dams. See, here is what is happening.
Two years ago, the Nashville District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began a plan to barricade waters below ten dams along the Cumberland River system where sportsmen have fished for decades.
Sometime back in late December, I put an important sidebar next to my column. It warned about the closing of tail waters at some dams to fishing. I urged sportsmen and women to contact their congresspersons protesting this stupid move by the Corps of Engineers.
Then it all got quiet for a while. It seemed nobody but a few outdoor writers were concerned. And maybe Lamar Alexander got a little concerned.
I expect to hear one or two any morning. The Music City Star will come by about 5:50 and sound their cursed horn. One or more will sound off as a reflex. The later it gets into the year, the more will sound off.
This is a mixed up month. You never know what to do. One day the crappies are hitting and the next you could freeze your tukus off. You may hear a turkey gobble or get cold hands catching a walleye or sauger. It is a great month for striper…if you have any desire to catch one and one some days; it is just dandy for floating a stream.
A good thing happened Jan. 24. Caving to pressure from hunters, anglers and other outdoor enthusiasts, the huge, long-running Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show (ESOS) folded their tent and cancelled their show in Harrisburg, PA.
So what? What does that have to do with someone here in Cedar City? A lot. As I have said before, I am not concerned about banning assault weapons because the whole thing is not about guns. It is about control, it is about taking away of rights-yours and mine. Guns just happen to be the vehicle to which it is tied. The outdoor/hunting/sporting industry let it be known, that would not happen. They were willing to take the financial impact of taking a stand and saying, “Hell no! Not on our watch.” They did so in a way that works far better than 1,000,000 words in print and lip service. They did so by hitting the pocket book.
See, here is what happened and how it shook down. The ESOS has been running for a long time. It runs for 10 days, scheduled to open Feb. 2. However, the giant exhibition halls stayed dark. Back on Jan. 17, they decided to ban assault rifles and large magazines from display at the show, some of the items Sen. Feinstein has on her laundry list legislation. A company named Reed, from Great Britain manages this show and some others. I guess they did not think anyone would mind or maybe even notice.
Then, the cagada hit the oscillator. One after another by the dozens, then hundreds, huge companies such as Cabela’s, Ruger, Ford Trucks, John Deere, Dicks Sporting Goods, Jack Daniels, Mossberg, Savage Arms, Winchester and other outfits large and small refused to come…just pulled out. Said, “Nope, if you are going to refuse us our second amendment rights, we just won’t show. The last list I saw numbered over 300 exhibitors that had backed out.
Then the seminar speakers, the big names from television almost to a lot did the same. Even Uncle Ted said no to a speaking engagement. Think about the economic impact that made on that show. By Jan. 23, hundreds of exhibitors and speakers had pulled out. It is comparable to all of the Super Bowl commercials cancelling and then, most of the players refusing to show up. Those folks stood up for all of our second amendment rights and put their money on the line to do so.
This show for some is the biggest of the year. To withdraw is a huge hit to their income. For many of the exhibitors, missing this show would hit their annual bank account by as much as one-half. They did not miss a beat. Even companies with no ties or interest in guns pulled out. For some outfitters, it was the only show they worked all year. They might book 90% of their clients there and there was a waiting list for booth space.
I worked the show for many years. For me, it was a big payday. I have not gone in some time. Had I been booked, I would have joined the boycott immediately even though it had nothing to do with the archery industry and basically, nothing to do with me. That would have meant a loss to me of $6,500 and expenses. I had to grin as I saw one archery company after another, large and small, join the boycott and say, “No, not on our watch.”
Then came the wash of demands by ticket buyers for refunds and entire busloads cancelled their trips. You see, ESOS draws as many as 500,000 attendees a year. They just let it be known, they were not going to come to a show that was being boycotted so heavily. Let that number rattle around in your head for a few minutes.
A half million spenders. The last figure I saw came from someone with the government in Harrisburg. They claimed it would amount to nearly $80-million direct and in trickle down money. That is serious money. But not to Reed. They are a huge business and ESOS is small potatoes to them.
Therefore, Reed canceled the show. They said they would refund all money spent on tickets in advance and probably the exhibitor fees. However, I am not sure that will get them out of trouble with the American outdoor industry and Americans in general.
Reed also produces the mega-giant, Shooting-Hunting Outdoor Trade Show-SHOT Show. Although Harrisburg is a relatively small show for Reed, the SHOT Show in Las Vegas is not. The National Shooting Sports Foundation owns it. Think of it as the Detroit Auto Show except for shooting, hunting and outdoor equipment. It is gagalopicle big. As you might guess, they were not too pleased with Reed’s decision to ban “black” guns. To lose that show would be a hit in the old Euros for Reed. NSSF said they were taking a wait and see approach.
Now, I do not know how much national media attention this will garner. Probably, outside of outdoor writers and outdoor programming, it will get very little. It is too far on the wrong side of mainstream media. It did make national television news on Jan. 24. One sentence was about it and that was incorrect. In addition, the mayor of Harrisburg made one of the most ridiculous statements I have ever heard. She blamed the NRA. Likely, it will get her unelected in the next election.
However, this one event may provide our government officials with a scary look at just what Americans will do when their second amendment rights are tampered with by anybody. Oddly, it came on the same day Sen. Feinstein offered her ridiculous proposed gun control bill.
In addition to the millions of tax dollars, it cost the state of PA and the city of Harrisburg, the HRI folks in and around that city took a huge hit. Hotels that sold out for 10-12 days were empty. Eating joints and the folks who supply them had plenty of room. We are talking about a tremendous amount of revenue that just did not happen. It went away because as an industry, we said no. We will take the financial hit for what we believe in and so you will you. That is exactly how citizens make a difference. They attack the pocket book. No amount of marching and rhetoric will have the impact of dollars lost.
I don’t know but I suspect the ESOS is for sale. I cannot imagine Reed trying to smooth things out. They insulted too many of the wrong people. However, a show that size will come back. I believe under new management, good old U.S. of A. management. In addition, it will once again be one of the major shows for the outdoor industry.
And…they will have guns on display…lots of guns.
The turkey crawl
It is what a spring afternoon should be; warm with a slight breeze and the warm air redolent with honeysuckle and other sweet-smelling blooms. The true turkey hunters have not arrived. Bo and I are taking a busman’s holiday and going for a turkey crawl in the Alabama pinewoods. When we were younger, we use to do that now and then. We don’t do it all now.