A Jolly Rancher

In early January, Fred Walters, my neighbor and friend, asked me to accompany him on a quail hunt to his lease near Lockhart, Texas. This would be my second trip to the lease and remembering the luck that I had on ducks this past December, besides the 8’s for quail, slipped 5, number 6 shot into my hunting coat pocket

Still being without a dog, we had busted into an average sized covey and had reduced their number by 3. Luckily we found all of them, and as we looked for the last quail, in the brush ahead, was the damn of the “duck slaying” stock tank where on the last trip I had bagged 19 ducks, without shooting them on the water, with 5 shots. Fred looked for the last bird and told me to go on up and check for ducks and if they were any, take care of them.

Exchanging the shells in my pump and clipping the other 2 between the fingers of my left hand, I quickly, but quietly, walked up behind the damn and eased my eyes over the edge for a look, and to my surprise there was many, many different varieties of ducks swimming and feeding in the small tank. Quickly ducking back down, I tried to wave for Fred to come up, but he couldn’t see me through the thick stuff, so I decided as he had said, “Take care of them by myself.”

Easing over the tank dam, the surface of the water exploded as the ducks took to air! Up they came and boom, boom, boom, my 12, gauge barked! I had picked out a duck for each shot and as they caught the wind and swung back over me, I quickly slipped the 2 shells that I had jammed between my fingers into the pump and let fly, boom, boom and 2 more fell.

Glancing back into the tank, I counted 13 ducks down. I was careful in picking out just one duck, but the spread and pattern of the shot had knocked down 8 more. Dreading retrieving them, because I knew we’d be over the limit, I started picking up the ones close to shore and then started “chunking” the ones left out in the middle.

Fred heard the shooting and ran up as I was “chunking” the ducks. My tally included 2 greenheads and 2 pintail drakes along with 9 other of ducks. We each had a lot of ducks in our freezers back in Houston, so we were over our daily bag limit by 3. I was crushed, but Fred assured me there would be no problem. He said, “We’ll just clean ‘em all and leave 3 big ducks with the rancher. Hopefully, we’ll be OK!”

The rancher happily took the ducks we gave him and said, “Don’t forget that I like quail too!”

We got him some quail the next trip!

Senior Softball, 2011

We’ve already heard around town that the old guys are at it again. Even though the Senior Softball season doesn’t officially start until February 18th (weather permitting) in Pasadena, Texas, for Mickey Donahoo and I our season started yesterday. Last year our seasons ended in October, so we’ve had a 90 day, respite from our avocation.

At 1:15 PM we met at the high school baseball park and kicked off, (a poor choice of words, but this is a football town), our Senior Softball season for 2011 and were greeted by temps in the high 60’s, very little wind and a bright clear sky. Today the weatherman is smiling on us with more of the same except the temp will reach 75. Based on our ten day, weather forecast, it’ll be raining tomorrow, but Sunday and Monday look OK for workouts, then the cold and rain start up for 5 days.

We warmed up, stretched, played catch, then took 30 swings apiece and for the first day, our timing wasn’t that bad! This morning when I got up and rode my stationary bike, I wasn’t too sore, my right arm felt good, but the “swinging muscles” in my back were a little tight.

This year our season will again run until mid October, with a 2 week, break until deer season. We do have a 6 week overlap with Goldthwaite’s high school football season, but, being dedicated football fans, we’ll both work around it!

A Dilemma

Even though yesterday I was up by 6:15 AM, productivity was not a word that we used around here! Rising, 18 minutes on my stationary bike, breakfast, checking my e-mail and then on to Brownwood for Layla to get a facial, but my goal there was to get my .22 semi-auto fixed, but alas, no gunsmiths in that thriving town of 20,000 folks.

The rifle had just passed the one year warranty (that figures) and when I went to sight it in with a new 4 power scope, I noticed the bolt release catch had somehow become defective. Normally just slide it down and the bolt returns to the closed position, but not this time. The release catch didn’t have any tension and the bolt remained open. Quickly, on the hood of the jeep, I disassembled the rifle and tried to find some “catch” or spring that would release the bolt. Twenty minutes later, no luck, so began my quest for a gunsmith.

Goldthwaite, population 1,800, Lampasas with 6,000, neither had a gunsmith. The closest, according to the yellow pages is Coleman, 5,000 folks and 70 miles away, too far for a .22, for now. Being real tight, I don’t want to spend much to get the bolt released so this morning I called the manufacturer and after a 5 minute, wait, I talked with one of the repairmen.

Explaining my problem, he asked where was the closest gun shop? “Coleman, 70 miles away,” I answered, adding, “We’re smack dab in the center of Texas and are close to nothing.” The repairman said, “Our closest repair center is in Austin” and I quipped, “That’s only 90 miles southeast of us!”

His first suggestion, pull back the bolt and lift and pull back on the bolt release, and clunk the bolt snapped forward. This fixed the problem and working the bolt back and releasing it a couple of times, it worked properly.

The manufacturer is sending me a schematic of the gun’s action. I guess that since I bought the gun on sale at well known discounter, the price didn’t include a schematic!

Publishing My Own Book With Createspace

Today, January 20th, outside it’s cold, 32 degrees and the wind’s blowing 25 with gusts and, after successfully planting my Vidalia and Texas 1015 onions, I have started on a new project. This project is self-publishing my second book, a saga of many of my hunting exploits, appropriately named, “Why It’s Called Hunting”.

My choice of publishers is Createspace, the online publishing subsidiary of Amazon.com. Knowing that Outdoor Odyssey is a blog that primarily focuses on outdoor happenings and expecting many trials and tribulations during my publishing experience, it is my plan to chronicle these on the blog as I go forward.

Why, I ask myself, would chronicling this project be of interest to others? Maybe someone who reads this blog would want to write and self publish a book? Maybe it would be a help to others? Maybe the process would be interesting? At least, it will be a new experience for everyone!

My objective is to self publish a 50,000 word book, with pictures, of many of my hunting experiences and the first thing to accomplish is the development of a plan that covers from concept to the finished product. My first cut at a usable plan follows:

1. Study Createspace’s offerings, be familiar with them and during the process, chose the ones that I’ll use.

2. Organize, rewrite (as needed) and arrange in chronological order the best and most interesting hunting stories from my blog.

3. Write, or rewrite, one word, one paragraph and/or one story per day.

4. Touch up, and if necessary, rewrite the Foreword, Acknowledgments and Prologue.

5. Organize pictures and change to 300 DPI.

6. Figure out the best way to change the entire book from MS Word to PDF.

7. Edit, Edit, Edit, Edit! If possible, have the book professionally edited.

Well, that’s my plan and I’m stickin’ to it (I hope)!

More Outdoors Pictures, January 22, 2011

When I was looking through the pics from the game cams there were several that were quite unusual.  The first one was “shot” on January 6th and showed a doe and a ‘coon both inside the wire of the feeder.

In Texas, we can hunt game over bait either cast out by hand or in a stationary feeder.  Most of us fill our feeders with corn, however many have switched to high protein pellets.  One very unusual pic the game cam caught was the feeder actually feeding and casting out the corn.

A lot of game is drawn to the feeders; deer, ‘coons, feral pigs, rabbits, squirrels and birds.  On the 17th a bunch of doves descended on the feeder, 18 of ‘em, guards were posted, in this case a dove and a squirrel and then they put on the feed sack.  The funny thing about this feeding picture is that it takes place at 1:48 PM.  Generally, doves feed early in the morning and later in the afternoon.

The next day, the 12th, the doves showed up around their normal, early morning feeding time.  This time the guards weren’t posted and all 18 of ‘em chowed down.

It was much too early for the squirrel to stand his post!

More Outdoors Pictures, January 20, 2011

Putting a game cam near the feeder that is close to the tree stand, I didn’t expect much, just a lot of doe.  When I picked up the game cams and shut them down for now, there were pics of several bucks, a couple of them that had survived the season, were pretty good ones.

First there was a six pointer, a 2-1/2 year old that had picked on a bigger deer and got a couple of his tines broken off.  He kinda’ took over the feeder.  He showed up before midnight on Christmas day and since then has been a regular customer.


Then on January 11th, the motion sensor worked and these good, long horns appeared.  It was a good one, a shooter for this past season          and for next year too!

Thinking the one spike that I saw opening morning had been shot during the past season, all of a sudden, it turned up on the 13th.  We’ll get him next season, but I hope he hasn’t gone nocturnal.

On the 16th a new buck, another survivor, showed up.  It’s a young one, but with another years growth, should be a shooter and have much better horns next year.

Including me, this past season, hunters that I had talked to, within a couple of miles of my ranch, shot 5 nice bucks and I was worried that next season would be a little light on the buck side.  However, seeing the pics from the game cams and with the 1 buck limit our fine State has hung around our necks, I bet that next season will be a good one too!

Within a month, I will place one game cam along a well used trail and see what comes along and the other will be on a feeder, hopefully, checking for turkeys.  Maybe, I “need” one or two more?


Bekah’s First Deer

On Sunday afternoon, my Granddaughter, Rebekah, now 13, shot her first deer, a doe.  This feat was accomplished on the last day of our State’s Special Late General Season that ran from January 3rd to the 16th.   She went hunting with me in 2007, see my November 26, 2007 post, [“Rebekah’s First Hunt”] and we didn’t get a deer, but we had good memories..

She took this doe, pictured below, at a friend’s house, near San Marcos, where her Dad, Randy, is a Baptist Pastor.

After the deer was moved by tractor back to the cleaning station, Bekah helped her friend gut it.  We definitely have another hunter in the family!


Our host had declared war on the numerous feral hogs that were on his ranch. He was hunting and trapping them, but it seemed his efforts were all futile. The more he killed, it seemed, the more he saw. Finally, he made a deal with some locals to trap and eliminate the hogs, once and for all!

On this particular late, January morning, after quailing for a while, the rancher and I were admiring three nice hogs that overnight the locals had trapped. Somehow, as the hogs were being unloaded from the trap into the cage on the back of the truck, one big, boar hog, a 200 pounder, wriggled free, and all ‘Hell’ broke loose!

Onlookers scattered, everyone looking for a suitable tree. As a note, most mesquite trees, of which there was a copious number of them on the ranch, offer little in the means of protection. Two of the locals, showing great ingenuity, jumped up on to the hog trap. Running was out too, since a hog can run faster than a man. Maybe it was just better for me to stand my ground?

While standing my ground, the rancher yelled for me to shoot him and unlimbering my .357 Mag. revolver, my first shot at 20 yards missed! The hog hesitated, stopped, and my second shot hit him dead center, rolling him! The third shot, in the ear, finished him. Two of the locals hefted the hog into the back of their truck and probably made ‘puerco’ tamales out of him!

Finally, a strong, hog proof, high fence and lots of trapping (and a lot of tamales) actually eliminated the hog problem.

More Outdoors Pictures, January 14, 2011

Cleaning up some game cam pics from last year, I came across a few unusual ones.

The first is of buck and a doe.  She’s jumping out of the feeder pen, obviously going to chase after the buck!

The second one is of a squirrel climbing to the top of one of the feeder’s fence posts.  He must think there’s some corn on the top, or else it enjoys the scenery from up there.

The third is of the melanistic deer.  It showed up around noon of the 29th with a doe and another yearling.  Then, later that same afternoon it showed up with a doe and 4 other yearling.  Next year it will be much harder to keep her from being shot and, of course, I’ll tell all my hunters not to shoot her, but if she strays to another ranch, that’s another story.
Finally, Billy Hill, a new Senior Softball teammate who lives on Lake Travis outside of Austin, sent me this picture of a coyote that on December 16, 2010 was nosing around his backyard feeder.  Yes, the feeder is in his backyard, and yes, Billy hunts and has a hunting lease outside of Richland Springs, 35 miles southeast of Goldthwaite.

But if I had to guess, he doesn’t hunt deer off of this feeder.

Really Hammerin’ ‘Em

Sometimes it seemed to me that there were too many ways to fish for speckled trout. One mid winter night back in the late 50’s, my Dad and I were heading down to the mouth of the Colorado River to meet a neighbor, Dub Middleton, and expose me to another way to catch Mr. Spec, fishing under the lights.   We were headed to a nondescript, bait camp, near Matagorda, Texas, close to where the Colorado River empties into the Gulf of Mexico to fish for specs at night under some bright, flood lights.    This is the same Colorado that is in my post of May 11, 2009, [“The Salt Water Barrier”].

The principle was that the reflection of the lights on the water drew small fish and shrimp in to feed on the minute sea life and the abundance of small bait drew the larger predators, the trout. The action can be fast and furious, and finally, it was!

Starting about 8:30 PM, the three of us beat the water to a froth and to show for the effort, had only caught and released 4 small ones. At that point, Dub and I choose to take a nap on the couches inside the bait camp and two hours later, my Dad rushed in and woke both of us exclaiming, “Get up quick and come see all the fish!”

All the fish was right. The tide was beginning to come in and with it, bringing in stained, almost sandy, water, and in the reflection of the large lights, the water was dimpled by hundreds of specs slashing through the thousands of bait fish that were carried in by the tide!

Savoring the spectacle for maybe 5 seconds, our primal urges kicked in, and we began casting into the melee. Using a Tony Acetta #5, silver spoon, with a yellow buck tail attached, every one of my casts resulted in a hard hit and a spirited fight and resulted in a 1-1/2 to 2 pound trout flopping on the dock.

Left is my old Tony Acetta, #5, silver spoon, with the original, yellow, buck tail. This spoon is lighter than a Dixie Jet, and worked slow to medium, has a better flash. It was a perfect imitation of the bail fish the specs were feeding on. Over the years, the hook has been replaced several times, but his spoon is over 50 years old and has been used countless times, just be sure and wash them thoroughly in fresh water, and they will last a long time.

This action continued for about 30 minutes. Then, the tide changed heading back out toward the Gulf and with the change of the water movement, the bait and predator fish followed. As hot as the action was, it was all over now. Nothing remained except for us to ice down the fish, collect our tackle, bid adieu to the camp operator and start our 2 hour drive, back to West University.

At the time, my family didn’t have a freezer, so all of our friends and relatives enjoyed the fish we happily gave to them.