More Outdoors Pictures, July 30, 2013

The first “shot” is of 5 doe and 2 fawns at the corner feeder.  We have a lot of deer on the ranch, doe are sometimes a problem, but when the rut starts the bucks come in, literally from all over the county, and the fun begins!  We’ll have to shoot several doe and 2 spikes to keep up this year, to keep the deer herd from overrunning the place.

Now for the vultures, Cathartes aura, we call them buzzards around here.  On the 26th, 2 were sitting on the water trough and another dropped in.  It looks like 2 high flyers with white wing tips and one that is all black, probably an adult.  It’s been so hot around here I can see where they need a drink too!

Now for the big buck, he’s a 9 now but I bet before long he’ll be a 10.  Look at the right horn tip it’s getting bigger now ready to sprout, he’ll be a big one!  Also note that he’s already 3 plus inches outside of his ears.

Thinkin’ Back

My summer job for Uncle Shelly was to drive across the Brazos River, just above the falls, over the barely flowing river, to his ranch along Perry Creek, that was across the river, but still in Falls County and, at least, there was a concreted, low water crossing for my daily trips. Falls County is one of the few counties in Texas that spans a major, river, obviously a carryover from the Texas colonization days with Mexico. The good part was that taking this route eliminated a 20, mile drive through Marlin to the Perry Creek Ranch.

The trips were for checking the several hundred cattle on the ranch for screwworms, a blight on the cattle industry, and certain death if the grown animals weren’t treated within 5 to 7 days and a calf in 2 to 3! Screwworms were a terrible pestilence that hounded our State’s cattle industry until a cure was found.

The cure, developed at Texas A&M during the 1960’s, was the releasing of millions of sterile, male, screwworm flies. This procedure saved our cattle industry and spawned the terrific deer herds that we now have across Texas! Treatment was begun in 1962 and by 1966 screwworms were eradicated. Texas hasn’t had a recorded case of infestation since August 1, 1992.

Most days I’d pull a horse trailer and a saddled horse, spending my day in and out of the saddle, but behind the seat in the truck I always carried my fishing tackle because there were 2 stock tanks on the Perry Creek place that were full of bass. And even back then, I’d rather fish than eat! By late afternoon, after making my rounds and checking the cows for any evidence of screwworms, I’d stop by my favorite stock tank, get out my rod and reel, with my favorite plug, a Piggy Boat spinner bait, and make a few casts.

As the cows used the water up, it had been getting lower and lower, until most of the moss was gone and now I know that most of the oxygen was too! That particular day, my first cast was met with a solid strike and after a couple of jumps I reached down and slipped my fingers between the bass’ jaws. However, something was wrong with the bass, it had lost most of its coloration, was a pasty, white color with very little green showing. Throwing that pound and a halfer back in the tank, I made another cast and my spinner bait was gobbled up just as the bait hit the water and this one, a nice 2 pound bass made several leaps before I lipped it and same results, a lack of colorization.

Pitching the bass back in, I thought I’d better let Uncle Shelly know that the bass weren’t doing very well, but before I started the drive back it dawned on me to go check the other stock tank. Same results as the first, moss dying, water getting lower almost as I watched, greedy hungry bass with a lack of color and now I believe that the lack of oxygen and food caused this feeding trauma with the bass. Over supper we discussed the strange color of the bass, but couldn’t come up with an answer or reason.

During the epic drought of the 50’s the stock tanks never went completely dry, but fishing in them never returned to the excellence of past years. By the time the drought had broken, I had gone into the Army and Uncle Shelly had sold the ranch across the river. At least for me no more hazardous river crossings, but Shelly did tell me of once that when the water was flowing over a foot over the concrete, he drove his pickup and horse trailer across, scaring him sufficiently, so he came back the long way through town.

Also, now I know that in 1845 or 46, to enlist as a Texas Ranger following a border incursion by the Mexicans into Texas, one of my relatives, a great uncle, Buck Barry, crossed the Brazos, at this same spot, over a hundred years before, on a trip from Sulphur Springs to the new capital of the State, Austin. Between the two towns, that were well over 100 miles apart, the one settler he had seen along the trace had located at the falls of the Brazos, the same spot where I was standing!

It turned out the settler was the only survivor after a Comanche Indian raid and when Buck arrived on the scene, just missing the Indians, the settler had lost everything, his slaves, cattle, horses and women. This was Buck’s initiation to the Comanche’s and by far, not his last one!

Perils Of Racing

At sunup, as we reached the end of the Galveston Jetties, we set our course to 150 on the compass.  Earlier we had stopped by our friendly, ex German submariner’s, see my post [“Invasion”], to buy some cigar minnows and were told by him that the shrimp boats could be found about 20 miles out on a course of 150.  The breeze created by Bob Baugh’s big, boat cruising along at 35, was refreshing to Brad and I and 18 miles out, sure enough, we sighted the first shrimp boat.

Pulling alongside of the shrimper, the mandatory swap beer for some chum, was made.  Beer is the legal tender of choice out on the Gulf and can be a barter item for shrimp, chum and even ice.  The trade made we baited up our medium weight rods, loaded with 20 pound line, a 3 foot, light wire leader and red reels, with cigar minnows purchased from our German friend, tossed out a couple of handfuls of chum, small fish culled from the boat’s night of shrimping and awaited the inevitable strikes!

The strikes weren’t long in coming.  All 3 of us got almost simultaneous strikes, and the race was on, 3 kingfish, roaring away at full speed, the reels nearly smoking as the fish pulled out line.  We gained a little line, then the kings took off again and two of the kings decided to battle it out on the top.  Many splashes later we gaffed two, but kept one in the water because we only had 2 gaffs and gaffing the last one, we whacked all 3 with our “kingfish persuader”, admired the 3, 20 pounders and into the cooler with them.

We repeated this scenario two more times, long runs, splashes on top and grudging fights alongside the boat and added two more kings, 20 pounders like the first 3, to our cooler, then Bob said that a person could eat just so much kingfish and we should leave these fish alone.  Because, this past week, he’d heard about a new rig, 50 miles out, in about 150 foot of water, that should have some amberjack around it.

Bob figured out our new course, this was using Loran way before GPS, and we headed out, the slick seas letting us make the 30, mile run in just under and hour.  Soon we saw the rig on the horizon, Bob’s calculations were right on, so we pulled up to it and trolled around it a couple of times with no luck.  Next, we pulled up to the rig and tied on, then let our cigar minnows out to drift in the current, then, not 5 minutes later, I had a savage strike, the fish heading south, then jumping several times.

The fish, later identified as a 25 pound barracuda, put up a savage fight all the way to the boat and, trying not to hurt the fish too much, we slid the gaff into the point of its chin and hefted it aboard, a nice catch, but no eating for this one.  Barracuda in southern climes, many times carry a disease, ciguatera, that they contract from other fish that eat the shellfish on tropical reefs, so we’d take no chances with this one. No amberjack at this stop, so we caught several more toothy, barracudas, then with the seas still flat, we untied from the rig and headed back in.

As usual, not a mile from the end of the jetties, we picked up a race, with a sleek, 30 foot inboard with, obviously, 2 big diesel engines and built for speed.  Full bore we were racing when we spied a crew boat heading our way.

Both little boats veered to the right, but both boats caught the edge of the crew boat’s wake, a 4, foot wave and both, slammed into it.  It’s a wonder both boats weren’t destroyed, but Brad and I were tossed around the fishing area of Bob’s boat and going down, my watch, a Rolex, hit a sharp object cutting my wrist and breaking the watch band.  Rolex bands aren’t cheap, even back then in the 80’s, and $200.00 later, with a new watch, band, I was ready for whatever the Gulf could bring my way, I thought.

More Outdoors Pictures, July 14, 2014

On July 1st, a new buck showed up at the corn/protein feeder at MaMaw’s blind, but he’s not shown up since.  He’s just a 6 now, but he’s budding out and will probably be another 8, he is on the right in the second “shot”.  As these 2 “shots” show, his horns are taller than the 6 that’s been running with the real good 8.
Really, both of these 6’s will probably be 8’s by the time of the rut.  It’s probably not even mid point in horn development so who knows?

Coming into the water trough the 6 pointer, that is a very good 3-1/2 year old buck, looks like he’s growing some more points more studying on him finds that he’s budding out also.  This “shot” looks like both of his horns have an 8th point on them.


A Big Balloon

Having walked across the spillway, all the time worried that the big balloon that held the Texas’ Colorado River in check would break I finally reached the other side. The big balloon was around 300, foot in length, 20 feet in diameter, touching it and running my hand along it, it looked like a dirigible from WW II and actually held the river back. It was stretched across the river and was anchored on both sides by giant concrete pilings. Tidal water, from the Gulf of Mexico, 15 miles south, was to my front and behind me, behind the huge barrier, was the fresh water from the river that was used for irrigation of the many rice fields in the area.

Tying on an artificial shrimp tail lure, casting it into the brackish water, on one of my first casts, surprise, it was picked up by a nice fish and after quite a fight, 5 minutes later I was stringing the 8, pound channel cat. Several casts later, my rod bowed as a big fish hit the lure and headed down river for the Gulf. This wasn’t a cat and, because of the apparent head shaking, I identified it as a big red. My gear at the time, 6-1/2, foot fiberglass, popping rod, a big red reel loaded with 200 yards of 15 pound line, should be sufficient to stop this fellow’s run.

Hopping down off of the spillway and running along the bank, I was able to gain some line and soon the fish slowed and made another shorter run, but something was out of whack, this fish was fighting deeper than a red. Maybe it had swallowed the lure? Gaining line and easing the fish up out of the depths, I had my first glimpse of a big striped bass, probably 36 inches long.

Having caught some in South Carolina, but never in Texas waters, I wanted this one for, at least, a picture and as I bent over to “lip” the striper, all the while trying to keep my line tight, the single hook on the plug, pulled out. I could only watch, and I still have the mind picture, as this silver/greenish, striped beauty slowly finned down out of sight.

There is a small striped bass fishery in the Trinity River, below the Lake Livingston damn. Having fished Trinity Bay, around the mouth of the Trinity River, many times, I have caught reds and specs but never a striper, although I’ve heard tales of anglers regularly catching them. I’ve fished around the salt water, barrier on the San Bernard River and no stripers. I think there’s too much pollution around the Brazos/New River system for them and have never caught one around there.

All I can imagine is that this striped bass either came into the Colorado from the Gulf, or came down Trinity to Galveston Bay, then into the Gulf for, forty miles, then up the Colorado?

Whatever, it certainly did some traveling.

More Outdoors Pictures, July 3, 2013

Something neat happened on June 12th, a pair of ring necked dove, along with a squirrel, showed up for a “shot”.  This was neat because for the past 3 plus years and all the “shots” taken during this time I had never got one of a ring necked dove.  It’s true that these dove will take over roosting places from both white wings and mourners, but they are wonderful table fare and on top of that, they are much bigger than white wings.

Then, at the water trough on June 28th, a doe and her fawn showed up for a drink.  This fawn is around 3 weeks old, has grown some, but still depends on the doe for survival.

With it’s horns formed, the buck, pictured on July 1st, now shows final development, he will be wide, an 8 pointer, with definitely good genes.  It’s a real shame that without a lot of luck, he will be harvested this next season.  He’s 4-1/2 this year and he’d be a mighty buck next year and the year after.

The buck in the background will be a nice one this season too, but he’ll only have 6 points.  I haven’t guessed his age yet, but he’s probably 3-1/2.