Morning Walk, August 28, 2010

Last Thursday morning I was up before the sun, got all of my stuff on and took off for my morning walk. Walking outside, wow, where am I? The temp was 72 and yesterday’s high was around 109, only a 37, degree difference! A cool front in late August, of all things! Only in Texas!

No deer in the feed lot beside my house, the same feed lot that in 2008, in my post “[The Haystack Buck]”, I shot a nice buck. In the half-light, about half way into my walk, noticing movement on the right, whirling, this blurry “shot” of a deer was the results.

Walking on, in all of the likely haunts, there were no deer, no varmints, no nuthin’ but my neighbor’s llama, the same one that was so interested two days ago, just turned his back and started grazing.

Dropping off my camera in the old, ranch house and walking over to our new one, out in the cut, hay field, there was about a dozen deer grazing. They were not paying any attention to me and without the camera, no “shots”. But, at least, even with the cool temps, I worked up a sweat and got in some good exercise.

Houston Ship Channel Redux

Encouraged by our recent success at catching over a dozen large speckled trout along the Houston Ship Channel, we, my dad, my uncle, G.A. Pyland, aka “Unkie”, decided to try our luck at the same approximate spot the following Monday.  Before sun up, we left Unkie’s house, near Hobby Airport, with a light wind blowing out of the southeast and the tide forecast was for it to be coming in all morning, maybe another “haul”?

By the time we drove down to San Leon and got the boat ready for launching, the wind had shifted to the south and was blowing near 15 MPH, not the light breeze that we woke up to!  Our memory of the ideal conditions of the past week faded as the bay was already showing scattered white caps as Unkie said, “Maybe it will smooth out before too long?”

The boat, my 17’, deep vee, handled the cross chop very well as we almost sped across the ship channel, slowed down and started to literally bounce across the waves. To slow our drift, I deployed a three-foot drag sleeve that smoothed us out a lot, making it possible for us to cast and keep our balance.

Baiting up we cast out and began our popping routine, pop the cork, reel up the slack, pop and repeat the process.  Our corks would get behind a wave and we’d loose sight of them and have to fish “by feel”, no problem if we kept our lines tight.  Several casts later, my dad had a good strike and as the fish took off he said, ”Whoa big fella’!  This is a good one and it’s not fighting like a spec!”  Good one it was, after two big runs against the light tackle and several wallows around the boat, I slipped the net under a nice redfish that weighed, on the bait camp scales, over eight pounds!

More casts, more popping and as Unkie’s cork slipped behind a wave he reared back, setting the hook in a good fish.  Not the fight of a big red, but a determined pull and soon the fish started circling the boat, a sure sign of a good spec.  Netting the trout, a six pounder, I looked up and coming up the ship channel was our first tanker of the morning, pushing out a big wake.

We got the drag sleeve taken in, getting wet in the process, cranked up the boat’s engine and headed towards the wake.  This one looked huge, but probably was another seven footer.  It seemed to be going faster that the one last week, soon it was on us and up and over, the boat handled it perfectly.  No other tankers in sight so we putted back to our approximate location, deployed the drag sleeve, baited up and started casting out again.

It was thirty minutes before I had my first strike, my dad and unkie, also strikeless, looked on as I set the hook on a nice fish.  A long run, then circling, surely a spec, another circle with me gaining line all of the time, then wallows around the boat and my dad netted the spec, just a tad smaller than Unkie’s.

No more strikes, but on the horizon, we could see three more tankers coming up the channel, probably heading up to the big refineries of Shell and Humble Oil.  (In 1972 Humble’s name was changed to Exon.)  We couldn’t beat the first one across the channel so we rode over its wake without a problem, safely getting to the west side of the channel.   The second one presented us a much different situation, we couldn’t beat it to the launch ramp so we had to turn around and head into it, slide over, then follow the wake up towards the ramp.

After filleting the fish, we stowed everything in the boat and my Dad remarked, “Not a bad day considering the heavy south wind.  You know, if every time we had a meat haul like last week, our sport would be called catching, instead of fishing!”


Morning Walk, August 26, 2010

Starting off my walk on this past Tuesday morning there were a few wisps of fog hanging in the trees. Right away, not two hundred yards down the road from my house, there was a deer.

Taking the “shot” with barely enough light and the deer then running off, I continued on down the road.

Coming to a slight curve, I saw a skunk just going into the grass along side of the road. By the time I walked up to it, it had moved under my fence, almost into the thick stuff. Trying for a “shot” before really shooting at it, I took this picture. The quarry was a striped skunk, Mephitis mephitis, the areas leading carrier of rabies.

Then, unlimbering my .22 pistol, with a 1-1/4” barrel, I tried to “guesstimate” an aiming point. Three shots later it ran off, no skunk, so I continued on my walk.

The three shots put every wild thing in the area to seeking suitable cover, but I walked up on one of my neighbor’s llama, Lama glama, with its ears perked. He uses this South American camelid to protect his sheep and goats since they are fearless and great guards against the many predators around here.

Tuesday’s walk had a little bit of everything, some hasty “shots, some poor shooting, some excitement, my right knee didn’t hurt and I worked up a good sweat. What a way to start the day!

Specs Along The Channel

August is probably the hottest month along the upper Texas coast with the water in the shallow bays, East and West Galveston Bay and Christmas Bay, heating up to the mid eighties causing the big trout to seek cooler water. The cooler water we were heading out to this mid August morning in 1968 was along the Houston Ship Channel. The channel was begun in 1875 and not really completed until 1914. In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s it was widened to its present size of over five hundred feet, with a depth of forty-five.

The weather forecast was a good one, light winds, tide coming in, with scattered thunder storms, in the afternoon. Our plan was to finish up by lunch, so we didn’t anticipate any bad weather or problems.

In my seventeen foot, deep vee pictured, we, my Dad and Uncle, Alvin Pyland, better known as Unkie, launched at the bait camp at San Leon and made the short run out to the ship channel. We went about two hundred yards on the Smith’s Point side of the ship channel and started our drift. In the years before the ship channel, at low tides, cattlemen would drive their herds across the five, plus mile, wide bay, using the reef that extended from Eagle Point to Smith’s Point, but the channel changed all of that!

Our tackle was six and a half foot popping rods, red, Ambassaduer reels filled with fifteen pound, mono line. We used a popping cork with a three-foot, leader, a light weight and a small treble hook. Our bait was live shrimp. We’d cast out, pop the cork, reel up the slack, repeat the process until we either had a strike or we retrieved the rig back to the boat, then, cast back out and repeat the process.
Unkie and my Dad cast out and hadn’t made one or two “pops” when they had big strikes, both fish were good ones, taking line and circling the boat, a sure sign of a big trout! Netting Unkies fish first, a real nice five pounder, my Dad’s fish put on a show around the boat for us and we could see that is was a little bigger than Unkies.

Finally I cast out, popped the cork once and “bam”, had a big strike. A twenty-yard, first run, highlighted this fight, along with two circles of the boat, with a lot of wallows on top before my Dad slipped the net under the spec, a twin of his.

We were probably fifteen miles up from the Galveston Jetties, the mouth of the Houston Ship Channel and in the distance, south of us, the morning’s first big tanker was heading our way. My Dad said, “Boy, you’ve never seen the wake these big ships throw up, have you?” “What wakes?” was my answer. Unkie chimed in, “Six or seven footers, that’s what and we’d better get everything in the boat squared away!” This got my attention quick. We quit fishing and knowing that if you’re in heavy seas, you head into them and don’t get caught broad side, I started the engine and here the came the wake.

Looking at the wake, it came toward us, obliquely, in a long line, soon it was only fifty foot from us, then, here it was! The deep vee in my boat’s hull cut smoothly through the seven foot, wake and rode up and down it. It would have swamped us if we’d been broadside to it!

Going back to catching specs, before the tide changed we put a dozen more five to six pounders into the cooler. We experienced three more big wakes, got back to the launch ramp before noon, filleted the fish and missed the forecasted thunder storms.

More Outdoors Pictures, August 22, 2010

Last Tuesday I drove over to Temple and visited with my knee doctor and got the same old report from him, “In two or three years you’ll need a replacement for your right knee.” Not liking his report any better this time, on Wednesday I drove up to Irving and, despite the killing heat, 115 on Thursday, played in five, Senior Softball games. It was so hot and humid that our third game on Thursday was canceled.

As a side note, during the two-day tournament, three players fell out, with one having to be hospitalized for heat stroke. All three ate no breakfast and drank only sports drinks, no water. Replacing electrolytes are fine, but you have to replace the water that is sweated out!

After getting home from Temple, late Tuesday afternoon, I was able to get a couple of “shots” of a big, buck. This one is probably the one I mentioned in my August 14, post, [More Outdoors Pictures].

There was a group of 6 deer and the big one, the buck, in the middle, has his head down browsing.

After the heard broke up, the big one is still in the center of this “shot”. Cropping the picture helps some to see his size.

A third “shot” of the big one and more cropping shows the excellent size of this big boy!

I wonder if that young, dark one is a melanistic deer?

Morning Walk, August 20, 2010

Having really been in a white-out, fogged in situation before, see my September 17, 2009 post, [White Out], yesterday morning as I stepped out for my third try at a morning walk, there were wisps of fog hanging off the ground in the trees.

Thinking nothing about the fog, that in the middle of August is unusual around this part of central, Texas, I walked on. As I reached the old windmill on Crumley’s property and looked out over his field, there wasn’t much seeing since the fog was heavy and everything was fogged in!

Finishing my fog bound walk, of course, I didn’t see any deer or get any “shots”, but there was one real positive thing that happened – my right knee felt fine and didn’t hurt. Playing softball, with my Unloader Brace on, I can hit and run, but walking irritates the bone-on- bone situation, but today my knee felt fine!

This spring and summer having tried two other times to start my morning walks and both ending with a sore knee, this was a great step (no pun intended) forward and I even worked up a real good sweat!

Scouting For Doves

Since dove season opened up in two more Saturdays, Bill Priddy and I had gone up to our McCulloch County hunting lease to check out the prospects. A lot of birds were flying around, prospects looked good and we even took along our fishing rods. Our objectives this early morning were to see how many doves came into water in the big, two acre, stock tank along Highway 190 and to see if we could catch some bass out of the tank where we hadn’t fished before.

There was a heavy growth of mesquite trees around the perimeter of the stock tank meaning it was an old one, but neither we, nor the rancher, knew if it had ever been stocked before. Bill’s first cast put all of this behind us, he was using a silver, Rebel, a small plug with a suggestive, wiggle, that a fish hit almost as soon as it hit the water. After a spirited battle, Bill slid the almost three, pound, bass on to the sandy, bank. Unhooking it, we admired his catch as he released it, sliding it back into the water. Our question about stocking was answered!

In the next fifteen minutes, using my trusty Piggy Boat, pictured at left, I hadn’t had a strike, while Bill had one more. Knawing doubt crept into my mind, Should I change to a Rebel?

At the same time, in my peripheral vision, I noticed movement to my left. Turning toward the movement, along came this brightly colored snake, a big one, almost five foot long, dark, red bands, with black, yellow and black rings. First thing that came to my mind was the old saying “Red and yellow kills a fellow. Red and black is safe for Jack.” Letting it slide on past, I thought it was some kind of a king snake, but later after consulting some “herp” books I determined it was a Mexican milk snake. I dug up this picture of one from Wikipedia.

Piggy Boats, “safety pin” spinners, are great for stock tanks and small lakes, over the years I’ve had super luck using them, so, I thought, No changing for me. More casts, no hits, as Bill plugged away, out scoring me with his Rebel. Casting down, parallel to the bank, about two feet out from the shore, my Piggy Boat stopped. These plugs, with the hooks installed properly, are virtually weedless and thinking I was fouled on some unseen, underwater obstruction, pulled on the object until the reel clicked as the drag paid out, but this wasn’t a “foul up”, it was a fish!

The fish headed away from the shore for deep water, taking line, more like a redfish, then it came to the surface clearing the water and I saw it was a big, big bass. More runs, more jumps, the splashes attracting Bill as he walked over to me, but I was winning this “fight” and soon I slipped the big, bass up onto the bank. Lipping it, unhooking the plug from the corner of its mouth, I held it up for us to admire. He had a Deliar in his pocket and we weighed the bass, eight pounds, twelve ounces, not a twelve pounder, my personal best, Bill was with me when I caught that one too, see my August 6, 2007 post, [“A Really Big Bass”], but still, this one was a nice one too!

Keeping on fishing, we didn’t notice any doves coming into this tank and as the morning heated up, still no doves, the bass stopping too. It turned out, the doves weren’t watering at this tank, but we found two more that afternoon that they were using and had wonderful shooting, two weeks later.

Continuing to fish in this tank and catching some nice ones, it appears that we answered the question though, that the tank had been stocked once before!

More Outdoors Pictures, August 16, 2010

One of my softball teammates, Ev Sims, sent me these pictures of some real good deer he and his Son have coming into one of their feeders on their ranch. Last year, before deer season opened, Ev sent me the picture of a ten pointer they had caught on the game camera. This, the best deer they had seen on their ranch, was on my post [More Outdoor Pictures, November 6, 2009]. After the season opened, Ev’s Son shot the big one and posted it on November 19, 2009, “[We Got Him]”. This year, some excellent deer are already showing up on their game camera.

This one, a nice deer, is pictured on the right.


Picking up all this corn is really tiring. Must be time for a nap.

Finally, this last picture shows some good deer, but the one in the back by the blind, is really a “keeper”. Blowing up the picture, this deer has a drop tine on its right. If I were more technical I would show the blown up “shot”, but, still, it is a big one!

More Outdoors Pictures, August, 14, 2010

My friends send me a lot of good outdoors pictures, but sometimes I get lucky and get some good “shots”. Last Monday afternoon was one of those days.

Preparing to bale our hay, on August 9, we cut our twenty-five acre hay field. We finished before 6:00 PM and within an hour, the deer, probably around twenty, scattered all over the field, started showing up to browse on the exposed forbs and cuttings. Some of my “shots” follow.

My last “shot” was on a young buck about two hundred, yards away.

Tuesday morning, I saw, but didn’t get a “shot” of a great deer, eight points with at least a twenty-inch spread. Seventy-five yards from our back porch, he looked to be four and a half years old and he was with four other bucks, including the one in the picture from the ninth.

Gone For More Softball

Today, Stumpy and his Texans will be in Irving, Texas, playing in the Southwest Regional Championships. We’ll be playing against our instate rivals, the Greyhounds, finally getting to play Oklahoma who we haven’t faced since Irving in March, 2009 and we’ll get to square things with Kansas City, a team that, in an earlier tournament, in two innings, scored ten runs on us, with the ball being hit out of the infield, only twice. This was in my July 6 post of, “[Been To Kansas City]”

As we get ready for the Nationals in Dalton, Georgia, we’ll be only missing two of our players, so we should make a good showing, but who knows, what will take place. Who knows, since we’ll be playing on a square field, using a round ball and a round bat? But, like General Lee said in 1864, “Texans always move them!” We’ll try to move them, win the tournament and get prepared for Dalton on September 2.