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Saturday, January 31, 2015

Saturday at Home (Blog 227)

Since deer season ended  four weeks ago, Elaine and I have spent our weekends at home, except for the one at the annual Richmond fishing show.  After hunting or scouting every weekend from mid August through early January, I have really enjoyed a leisurely pace.

Today, I worked on a story for two hours, walked three miles, and cleaned the hen house before lunch. Then after lunch, I cut wood and did Timber Stand Improvement behind the house for several hours.  It is a real joy puttering behind the house, doing nothing of great consequence, but still gaining great satisfaction by building up our supply of firewood and freeing up some hardwoods so that they produce more mast.

After dinner and after a very disappointing North Carolina basketball loss, Elaine and I played Scrabble and listened to Prairie Home Companion.  Elaine soundly defeated me in Scrabble, winning by over 100 points.  I conceded defeat when there were still some 20 tiles left.

Not an epic day, but a relaxing one.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Turkey Hunting Goals for the Spring (Blog 226)

Last week, I wrote about my river smallmouth fishing goals for the year.  This week, my mind has turned to what I would like to accomplish this spring in the turkey woods.
1. Call in a gobbler for my son Mark.  I have taken Mark turkey hunting a number of times, but I have rarely put him in a position to kill a bird.  This year I want to.
2. Learn how to use a wingbone call.  I have gone turkey hunting every spring for the past 10 years-plus with my mentor Larry Proffitt of Elizabethton, Tennessee.  With his trumpet calls, Larry has called in a number of birds for me.  I've witnessed first hand how effective this call can be.
3. Learn how to make better and more consistent gobbler yelps.  I can do this in a satisfactory manner with many slate pot and pegs.  But I need to be more consistent with my efforts.  And I also need to learn how to make this sound with something other than a slate.
4. Learn how to more effectively use a pileated woodpecker call.  This is an offbeat locator call that has more potential than many people realize.  On several occasions, I have had hens respond to this call but never a gobbler.
5. Learn how to make better purrs with a box call.  Mine are just too loud.  It's strange that I can make much better purrs with a diaphragm than a box.

Month after next, I hope to be hunting in Tennessee for that state's opening day.  I can hardly wait.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Thinking about Where I Want to River Smallmouth Fish This Year (Blog 225)

It's winter, and the water temperature on Virginia and West Virginia's upland rivers is likely hovering in the upper 30s and lower 40s this morning.  I have already been fishing on the New River once this year, with no success, but that was more because I am a mediocre at best, probably, in reality much less than mediocre, wintertime angler than because the fish weren't there.

This year, I would like to do the following concerning angling for river smallmouths.

1. Finally become competent with the jig and pig in cold water conditions.
2. Spend more time on the Maury River, a fine underrated smallmouth river near my Botetourt County, Virginia home.
3. Not become so consumed with spring gobbler hunting in Virginia and West Virginia that I don't go fishing for river smallies as much as I should.  This will be the hardest objective for sure.
4. Return to the upper Rappahannock for the first time in several years.
5. Go on more late afternoon smallie excursions on the James in Botetourt County.
6. Go fly fishing for smallies at night on the New River with guide Britt Stoudenmire of the New River Outdoor Company.

Readers may note that there's no mention of my goals for catching 20-inch smallmouths.  I've always felt "they will come when they will come." If I am reading the water correctly and making good decisions, I will catch fish in the 14-to 18-inch size range and eventually a 20-incher will be mixed in.  If I am making poor decisions, then I will not catch big fish.

We will see how things work out.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Thinking about Spring Gobbler Season (Blog 224)

I know that several months must pass before I can even anticipate the beginning of the spring gobbler season in Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia...the three states that I hunt in every spring.  But Saturday morning I took my first tentative steps toward preparing for the event.

My  2 1/2-year-old grandson Sam and I hauled the Christmas trees from his house and Elaine's and mine into the woods to a white oak that lies at the left turn of a seeded logging road that runs across much of our Botetourt County, Virginia's 38 acres. I positioned the two evergreens around the white oak, telling Sam that we were building a fort.

Of course, Sam may end up playing there this summer, but this spring I hope the little citadel may be a place where I can call in a gobbler.  The two downed trees should offer some concealment, and I will add some other cut cedars and pines in the weeks to come.  At that same tree, I called in and killed two fall turkeys in December, so I already know the place is a favored locale.

Catawba Creek lies just over the ridge, and turkeys have long roosted there.  Anyway, the fort building was something to do on a bitterly cold January morning.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Enjoying Foods from Hunting, Gathering, and Growing (Blog 223)

One of the articles I wrote during the holidays just came out on the Quality Deer Management Association's website...  As the link indicates, the article is about my cooking and eating deer tongue.  Some folks may find it incredulous that I would eat such a thing, but I really enjoy experimenting and eating what nature has to offer.

The deer tongue was especially good on a salad I had Christmas week, and also in December Elaine and I dined on persimmon/walnut cookies, wild turkey leg soup, all kinds of venison dishes, and, of course, egg dishes courtesy of our chickens as well as Rome apple bread from our backyard tree.

We have ordered from various seed catalogs, and the freezer is full with deer and turkey meat, plus quart bags of wild berries.  I look forward to more experimenting in the coming year.