One of the great things about being the sort of outdoor writer I am, is that you never run out of things to write about.
See, I don't usually write about outdoor or sports shows or stuff like that.
That is what daily papers and television are for -- more reporting than writing.
I'll answer this question I hear asked a lot, lately.
Those oddly painted and decorated bulls you see outside area businesses are to promote and show support for the National Junior High Rodeo Finals, coming to the James E. Ward Ag. Center June 19-25.
It's a big deal. This is for national titles.
By now, most of you deer hunters have heard about the change in the regulations concerning what is checked in as a buck. For many years, if the animal had antlers three-inches or more, it must be checked in as a buck. A deer with shorter antlers but still visible was classified as antlerless and checked in as something besides a buck.
From day one, I opposed that. My stance was and is, if it was a male animal, regardless of antler length, then it was a buck and should be checked in as one.
"It is all about the kids and getting the kids interested and involved."
Robert Pitman was talking about the new fishing package White Oak Plantation is offering.
But that focus isn't really new. White Oak, located just outside Tuskegee, AL exactly 342-miles from my driveway, has long been family and youth oriented.
I am a handicapped fisherman.
I do not know how to use the fancy electronic equipment that all tournament anglers and many weekend anglers rely on.
I have two fancy depth finders, as I call them. They provide me with a lot of information of which I have no clue.
I have resisted writing this column for quite some time. The reason being, I do not feel this is something that can be answered with a straight, yes or no answer. I'm not sure I can answer it in one column because there is no finite answer in my opinion. It is quite complicated.
However, it is news and it is in the news almost daily. I felt it needed to be addressed.
What is my stance on gun control? When I am asked that question, it opens a huge Pandora's Box.
What would happen if Bass Pro Shops-BP were to buy Cabela's? The truth is, we don't know. We can only speculate. It is almost a sure bet, such a merger would transform the hunting and fishing world somewhat for the consumer. But of major and in my opinion, of greater impact would be the effect on thousands of private lives.
Let us examine this a little closer.
Gotta be one of my favorite fish, both to catch and certainly to eat. Call 'em whatever you want -- bluegill, perch, sunnies, bream, shellcracker or chinquapin or redear -- they fight like crazy and when it comes to an eating fish, they make about as great a meal as you will eat.
For kids and learning -- best fish swimming.
6:45 a.m.-on the bank, as we launch my boat, two gobblers are trying to convince a half-dozen hens they are the real deal.
An osprey glides across a roseate sky. Atop the rock pile, a loon and a gander debate Trump's qualifications.
We glide to a stop across the silken surface of Percy Priest. The clouds are leaving, clearing. I haven't even put the trolling motor down.
Thought of something the other day. Have y'all noticed that now that everyone is carrying a cell phone that takes pictures like a camera, you don't hear quite so much about UFO's?
See, I was sitting, most likely in a nest of copperheads and ticks, waiting for it to get light enough for this gobbler to fly down.
I wasn't really exactly where I wanted to be. In fact, I was not 100% sure, where it was, I was.
It started March 26 and kicked off a continuation.
We that being the Judge and I, on 3-26, were fishing for bass in our secret hole that less than 1,915 people know about.
At that same time, some high-dollar crappie tournament was taking place out of Flipper's store/dock. Since we were not crappie fishing, we didn't care.
I wonder how many times I have been fishing in my life. Just a guess and probably a conservative one; I guess over 10,000 and probably quite a bit over that. I have been a member of F-F-F for many years.
Why? Why go fishing that much?
The mountains unfolded around me; a palette of colors. A light breeze from the north kissed the meadow grass in the basin. The sun was playing hide and seek with the clouds and the golden grass in the mountain park was dappled. I scarcely gave it a glance.
I wish then, I knew what I know now.
Happens every year and I write about it every year. Some years I even go. Turkey season. That's what I'm talking about. It will happen this year. In fact, it will open April 2 and run through May 15. That's plenty long enough for me.
I'm worried about R.D. "The Reflector" Denny, though. He is running for office and he may have to cut his hunting short to campaign. So I'll vote for him and then, if I have to, I may even hunt for him.
I am going to have to try longlining for crappie. I got word from Richard Simms, the great fishing guide down in Chattanooga cceniccityfishingcharters.com.
He and his client caught over 50 crappie in one day and had 30, big keepers.
I have come to believe the most valuable piece of equipment you can have on your boat, (in terms of catching spring bass), is your thermometer. Transition bass, those just starting to move toward their regular spawning areas, react strongly to water temperature.
One or two degrees can make a huge difference in both where they are and if they will bite. As the water starts to warm, they begin to move progressively shallower, always keyed to something. It may be structure or deeper water or baitfish.
It was one of those cold, windy, bleak days that hit us this time of year. I picked that day to read, "The Bear Hunting Obsession of a Driven Man". It is book, co-authored by Bill Weisener and my good friend, Glenn Helgeland. Both have almost lifetimes of bear hunting experience.
Bill has been hunting and guiding for bear for most of his adult life, in several states and Canada. He is a much sought after seminar speaker at many outdoor shows. Glenn has hunted black bear in various locations for many years.
Two news stories -- both involve poaching and illegal practices. One is in Rutherford County and the other is in Alaska. The reasons for both are varied. The outcome different.
In one state, wildlife laws are taken seriously and punishment is accordingly. In the other, not as much.
It is pretty hard to predict, that day in the spring -- early spring -- when the fish are going to get hungry.
I have had some outstanding days in early February and even a few good days in a row in March. In fact, one of the best days I can recall was March 3, many years ago. We had five bass - largemouth and smallmouth - that would probably have weighed 25-pounds. In total, we probably caught 15-20 fish. You just never know when.
The reports are starting to trickle in. Not a lot of them, not the real big ones, but some crappie are being caught.
On the warmer days, some of the knowledgeable crappie anglers are beginning to pick up a few fish, especially on Percy Priest.
During the 20-year period when I was running or helping to run whitetail guide services, a great deal of my time was spent scouting.
Post season, spring, summer and pre-season. I was in the woods looking, learning, making notes. As many as 70-days a year were spent in scouting.
What an educational period that was.
Too cold and nasty to go fishing. Hunting season closed for anything I care to hunt.
Perfect day to just consider stuff over which I have no control and in many cases, little interest. Truth is, most of it confuses me.
I get a second chance at Christmas. When the one here is over, I go to White Oak Plantation for a second one.
We gather every year, the Pitman family and a couple adopted members like me to share three or four days of hunting, fishing, storytelling and just, kicking back with friends.
Always, the weather dictates what we do most.
This is a special column for me.
This column marks 40 continuous years of writing an outdoor column in Wilson County. I asked Lisa Snuggs, executive director of the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association (SEOPA) to do some research for me. As far as she could determine and the best we could tell, this is the longest continuously running outdoor column in the United States and maybe in the world.
Providing I survive another Christmas with the G-kids, I'll be leaving early Sunday morning. It is once again time for the Christmas gathering at White Oak Plantation, in AL. Just a few years ago, the lodge would be full of the Pitman family and a scattering of paying hunters.
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