The winter had been and still remained yucky, clouds, wind, rain and the weekly northers, that seemed to always hit on Friday night and with our work, it cut our fishing down considerably. Easter and the warm currents in the Gulf couldn’t get here soon enough for my fishing friends and me, but as we moaned our fate, an opportunity showed itself!

In 1984 the savings and loan (S&L) industry was rolling, particularly the companies around Houston. We were all likely prospects to buy beachfront property either for personal use, or investment and did this one S&L have some prime stuff! Not only did they have properties, but also a 45, foot, cruiser complete with Captain and crew, docked in Cozumel and they invited us on a weekend, all paid, fishing excursion and we gobbled up the chance!

Friday of the first weekend in March we boarded and Aero Mexico flight to Cozumel that arrived in time for supper and the next morning, as the sun was rising, we loaded up on the 45 footer and headed out into the Yucatan Channel. The channel, or the Straits of Yucatan, runs between the island and the mainland and is the boundary between the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico.

White marlin, our quarry for the day, were just showing up south of Cozumel so we headed down, at speed, to almost Belize before we came about and began trolling back up the channel. We had four lines attached to our outriggers, with one teaser drug off of the transom. Our bait was ballyhoo, skipped on the surface at a nice clip and our gold reels and medium weight rods were loaded with 50, pound mono.

Next thing we knew, a white was beating the teaser to a frazzle with his spear! It was a beautiful sight, the marlin was “turned on” with a myriad of neon colors and whopping the teaser, when, pop, an outrigger snapped and the mate grabbed the rig, set the hook and handed it to me and I promptly refused! We thought we had made it clear to the Captain that we were going to set the hook and fight the fish. Reluctantly one of my friends fought the fish, brought it in, tagged and released it.

Procedures refined, a short time later, another white attacked the teaser, but this time there was no resulting strike, so I asked the Captain if I could troll a surface plug in place of the teaser. He growled a yes, the mate set me up and within thirty minutes, up came a white, appropriately “turned on” and struck my plug. Not only struck it, but almost jerked the rod and reel from my hands. Not having to worry about setting the hook, I held on as the white took off and the other lines were taken in.

Run, run, jump, tail walk, jump some more, run some more, until the white was exhausted and I brought it in, we tagged and released it. More trolling and next, another pop as an outrigger released. A friend grabbed it, applied pressure setting the hook and waited, as the line peeled off the reel, for the jump, but one never came. Was the marlin hooked deep? Could it be another species? Ten minutes later, our questions were answered as a stripped, silvery blue, fish, a wahoo, flashed by, saw the boat and took off on another long run. Wahoo are one of the fastest fish in the ocean as this ones line, peeling runs would attest. The wahoo, fine table food, was finally subdued, gaffed and put in the cooler, for a tasty meal that night.

As we were trolling we marveled at the Mayan watchtowers spaced atop the bluffs overlooking the beaches. These all had to be at least 6-700 years old and what were they watching for, the Spaniards, I guess? Another pop from the outrigger, another white, another fine fight and we tagged and released it. This was a pretty good day, 3, white marlin. 1 wahoo, good fishing and we were never out of sight of land!

Of course no pictures were taken, only mind pictures, but Saturday night was a night of good food, hard partying and, no, we didn’t answer the call for a half days fishing. We caught the afternoon Aero Mex flight back to “civilization”, Houston, but, a sad note, when the S&L’s crashed, another casualty was the 45 footer!

More Outdoors Pictures, February 25, 2011

From southern Colorado, Randy Pfaff, a Pastor and a hunting guide, sent me this picture of icicles hanging off his shed.  Up there it was super cold, in the – 20’s or more.  Cold is still cold and our 7 was cold enough for me!

More pictures from the snow country.  One of Bob Baugh’s associates in Nebraska sent him this “shot” of a truly nice buck chasing a doe.  It looks cold up there too!

Finally down here in warmer climes.  It’s only February and the rattlers are out. My neighbor, James Crumley, sent me this picture of 3, “good”, rattlers.

They were holed up along a creek bank not 2 miles, as the cow flies, from my house, he gassed them, they groggily came out and he dispatched them.  He went by the spot this past Monday and another one was out sunning and he dispatched him too!

Growing Up – WW II

As my generation calls it, The War, really started in 1919 with the Treaty of Versailles and the unreasonable reparations forced on the German people. Their slide into National Socialism and Nazi dictatorship was almost inevitable, with Hitler “solving” all the problems caused by the reparations. For our Country The War began on December 7, 1941 and as our president put it, “A Day That Will Live In Infamy!”

The next day, December 8th, my dad went to the Marine recruiting center to join up. He was a former Marine and a veteran of one of the last scrapes in the Banana Wars in Nicaragua, however, since he was 40, he was too old for service.

For the next 4-1/2 years The War held up both my hunting and fishing development. To me it seemed that all my friends and I did was work, collecting paper, scrap metal and keeping up with the war. Everything was rationed and in short supply, BB’s and .22 ammo were hard to find, most men, including my brother and uncles, were off training or fighting and since we lived on the outskirts of Houston, by necessity we walked, bicycled or rode the bus much more than drove.

The highlight of each day was the evening news, the war news, either H.V. Kaltenborn or Walter Cronkite. The latter was from Houston and attended San Jacinto High School with my aunt, Hazel Wallace Pyland, so he was our family’s favorite.

The War in Europe had ended in May and on August 15, 1945 Japan’s emperor, Hirohito announced the surrender of all Japanese forces. The first thing Mom and I did was to catch a bus and go to downtown Houston where the people were literally going crazy. Getting downtown, we then walked over to Christ Church Cathedral and prayed thanks for our victory and end of war. Then we walked outside the Church and joined in the festivities.

After the war ended, it was a time of learning about firearms, their safe handling and my first stumbling hunting attempts. My high school friends were a mix of hunters and fishers and, I believe, that I was the only one who was a “switch hitter”, loving both sports.

Growing Up – White Fright

Today, even though I have walked away from a head on accident prior to seat belts and air bags, heard the zip of .308 bullets fired over and around my head, slid and fell down a steep canyon wall only missing a 200 foot drop by inches, lived through 5 tornadoes, been in the eye of 4 hurricanes and survived a 120 car, fog bound, pile up on Beltway 8 outside of Houston, through all of that you’d think that fear would only be a word that I just use! However, when I go into a doctor’s office, I experience a terrible case of “white fright” my blood pressure goes up twenty to thirty points, my heart rate up twenty beats or more per minute and I have even fainted while getting a shot in my arm and, just think, all of this was caused by a dog bite when I was 5 years old.

As I was running outside and the door slammed shut, the last words I heard Aunt Myree say to me were, “Jon Howard, you be careful and don’t play with that dog!” “That dog” in question was a terrier mix and my aunt and uncle, Myree and A.C. Turner, had it on a leash, attached to a clothesline in their backyard because it had been acting funny. Their backyard was in Huntsville, Texas, one block off of old Highway 75 and my mom, dad and I had gone up to spend a weekend with them and their two, young sons, Bill and Roy Peyton, known then as “Bubba”.

Once outside, being five years old, the first thing I did was go right up to the dog and try to play with it and it responded, not very playfully, by jumping up on my chest and biting me! The dog went for my throat, but because of its restraints could only jump to my chest. Inside I ran bleeding and crying, not caring about all of the “we told you so’s” heaped on me.

The biting event occurred on a Saturday morning and the first thing Monday the dog was euthanized and my uncle took its head to Austin, and sure enough, the dog was rabid. My family got the results on Thursday and Friday morning found me and my mom and dad in Dr. Talley’s offices, in the old Medical Arts Building, in downtown Houston, for the first of 22 rabies shots, spaced around my navel, timed every other day. It was the biggest needle I had ever seen, and thinking back, it must have had one or two ounces of an unpleasant looking, green serum.

The shots saved my life, but by the third morning, I resisted the shot so bad, that before it could be administered, it took 4 adults to hold me down with me being only 5. This went on for the next 19 shots and scarred me forever.

Camp Fire Quail

Having been blessed to have hunted all the species of quail on our continent, over the years I have had ample opportunity to sample quail cooked many different ways. Through trial and error I have been able to invent one of my favorite dishes, that can be cooked over a campfire or on a stove, “Quail Jon”, that I would like to share with you.

The ingredients are quail legs, however, dove, small bull frog, teal or woodcock legs can be substituted, but I have found that large duck, or pheasant, legs are too tough. Depending on how many legs, the ingredients are, one or two jalapenos, sectioned into 1/8, inch slices. Halve the jalapenos, remove the seeds, then slice. I prefer cleaned and sliced garlic pods, or a copious amount of garlic powder, 1 stick of butter (no margarine!) and fresh lemon/lime juice to taste. Remember, you can’t use too much garlic or jalapeno!

Clean and wash the legs and prepare your ingredients. Be sure and wash your hands thoroughly, at least 2 times, after slicing and deseeding the jalapenos! Melt the butter in a cast iron skillet, and when melted, add all of the ingredients at once and simmer, covering the skillet with a lid, for 15 minutes, then stir and turn the mixture, recover and cook until done. Feeds as many as you have legs for. Small legs are very good served as appetizers. Large frog legs can be the main course and are excellent cooked this way. Best if served hot, but be sure and eat all the peppers!

The sauce; butter, garlic, lemon/lime, and jalapenos, can also be used with small fillets of any white fleshed fish. Speckled trout, or “Trout Jon” is very tasty prepared this way, but take caution, don’t overcook, the fish being done when the meat flakes.

Who knows, maybe one day, I’ll come across a better recipe?

The Stump

After the end of deer season, what do a bunch of good ole’ boys, girls and kids do for fun?  They have a party and pull up a worrisome tree stump, that’s what!

In 1992, when we acquired our ranch, there was a large, old, oak tree that had died the year before and we cut it down, split it up and it provided firewood for several families.  The remaining stump was about 4 feet inside of the old fence and it stayed there until we decided to get us a new fence.

Prior to building the new fence, we had our County come out and bulldoze down the brush and small trees, and were left with a cleared strip of land along the County Road.  Then, the fence was a snap to construct, but the stump was still within 4 feet of the new fence.

The stump remained near the fence for 5 or 6 years until Layla tired of having to drive around it on her inspections of the property.  She said, “Sweetheart, why don’t you pull up that old stump?  It’s just in the way!”  Sounds like I had just been assigned a job.

As luck would have it, in December 2003, prior to Brad’s deployment to Iraq, we hosted a get together for our family and all of his military buddies and their families..  The get together was a fine opportunity to get this job done.  An added bonus was the plethora of 4WD vehicles driven by all of the good ole’ boys, both family and military.

After dinner the folks were restless and were looking for some activity that would work off the pork ribs, venison, enchiladas and plentiful desserts.  I had just the “work” in mind, the stump and everyone piled into their trucks, we rounded up a heavy chain and were off to pull it up!

The bosses, Jim Buck (facing Bob and me, now deceased), Bob Baugh and I, plan the removal of the stump.  Note the heavy chain I’m carrying, but don’t worry, it will be put to use by others in the stump removal!

First to pull, with no luck, was my 4WD Suburban.  Next my 4WD, 35HP, tractor, made a great noise, reared up like a stallion, but didn’t budge the stump.  Several more 4WD’s tried with no luck.  Then, David Buck, a nephew, hitched his Ford, F350, 4WD, diesel with big tires and he stump moved.  We let out some chain, the big truck grumbled, the wheels dug furrows in the ground and up came our adversary.

David poses besides his big truck.

All in attendance cheered, David accepted the congratulations and we returned to the house for a proper celebration.  With my tractor the next day, after filling in the hole left by the stump, I hooked up the chain and pulled it out of the way to where it still sits.

Maybe we could have a stump burnin’ party?

More Outdoors Pictures, February 14, 2011

My friends keep sending me some neat outdoors pictures and one very unusual one from Dave Lazor, a Senior Softball buddy from Washington.  He sent me this one that shows a pride of mountain lions.  I always thought that mountain lions were solitary and wouldn’t covey up like these pictured.

One of my teammates from last year, Everett Sims, sent me some pics from game cameras on their ranch in Jackson County, on the Texas coast.  The first pic taken on, January 25th shows 2 bobcats, with one of them exiting through the fence wire.

The next pic shows  2 bucks, one a 10 pointer with a palmated antler and he’ll be a shooter next season!  Down south of us the bucks haven’t shed their antlers.

The most unusual is a “shot” of a young buck and a bobcat, both within the feeder wire.  The buck is keeping an eye on the cat who’s busy with something else.  I wonder if the bobcats are eating the corn?


Driving home Wednesday afternoon, on a stock tank right beside State Highway 16, (the Texas forts trail), there was almost a hundred pintail ducks, or sprigs, crowded into the less than half acre tank.  Pictures of the ducks taking to air with their white plumage, would be “neat” for my blog, so making a mental note to remember my camera and stop by on Thursday afternoon and take, hopefully, some action shots, the only ducks sighted were these 2, male, canvasbacks, or “cans”.

According to Wikipedia, traditionally, in the winter, the Chesapeake Bay on our east coast, supported the majority of canvasbacks, Aythya valisineria, but because of the loss of aquatic vegetation in the bay, their range has shifted to the south and west, to the lower Mississippi valley.  It’s interesting that valisineria is the scientific name of wild celery, canvasback’s food of choice, but market hunters and habitat loss has all but eliminated this fine, table duck.  After one duck hunt, my mom cooked several red heads that are very similar to “cans” and, far from it, those red heads weren’t “fine table fare”!

The recent severe winter storms that we have encountered must have pushed these ducks over and down to us.  Having hunted for years on the prairies and saltwater bays of the upper and mid Texas coast, these 2 “cans” are the first two that I have seen up close.  Years past, the breeding stocks fell to alarming levels, and most years the season was closed on these big ducks or the limit was one male of the species.  They were rare and in over 30 years of duck hunting I never shot one and only saw one killed.

Identification of this canvasback was easy because of his “slanty” bill, while a red head duck’s head is a more rounded, traditional duck shape.  Male red heads and canvasbacks are very similar in coloration, so in flight, look for the “slanty” bill and head shape.

That Time Of Year

It’s that time of the year again! Wind blowing hard out of the south, then coming back with a vengeance from the north, temperatures swinging wildly, high 60’s in the afternoons, below 30 at night, snow, sleet and ice, the ingredients of what, around here, is called winter. But, this one has been a real doozy!

Last week we had our fair share of winter, 4-1/2 days of below freezing temps and last night another “norther” blew in. This morning the temp was 16, wind howling from the north, last nights sleet covering the car windshields (and windows on the north side), then it started to snow. Because of the wind the snow didn’t accumulate on the ground, so it must have blown all the way to San Saba or Llano counties.

There is a bright side though because one of my neighbors said he was “covered up” with gray foxes and for me to come over and try my luck. This sure beats my job of the last 2 days, cutting and splitting firewood. Last weeks cold snap completely exhausted our supply of split oak, putting me to work.

However, better times are ahead! Starting Saturday the forecast is back to normal for this time of the year, no new “northers” on the horizon, afternoon temps in the high 60’s and low 70’s, evenings pleasantly cool, so it’s back to fun things like softball, or working on my new book, but yesterday (before the front) I did cut down a dead, oak tree, so I’ll have to temper cutting and splitting wood with my softball and writing.

Status Of My Book, February 7, 2011

Starting my second book, Why It’s Called Hunting, on January 20th of this year, it’s time for an update on my progress, or lack thereof. Now’s a good time to look at my original plan, which was:

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 After Word.

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.

As of today on item 1, there hasn’t been any review or work of Createspace’s offerings, but I’ve been faithful on organizing in chronological order and writing at least one story a day and I’m halfway through the stories! So far, I’ve completed rough copies of the Foreword, Acknowledgments and After Word.

Learning from my first book, The End Of The Line, I’ve already set up a folder and page number for each picture, but I’m waiting until the rough draft is finished to change all of the pictures to 300 DPI, the same for changing from MS Word to PDF. As each story is reviewed, I’m editing it and this will be the first edit of many.

Three weeks into the self publishing project, my status review shows that I’m making progress of finishing the rough draft of the book, setting it up, editing it on the fly and I’ll worry about the “nitty grittys” after that.