In mid afternoon, after the four, plus, hour drive from Houston, Layla, and I pulled up at the house at our lease in McCulloch County, Texas. We had “snuck” away early from our jobs and, as expected, were the only ones there that day.  All of our gang would be up the next day.

We changed from our business clothes, slipped into jeans and camo shirts and along with Gus, our Brittany spaniel, happily trotting beside us, quickly headed out to the “secret” stock tank.  On an earlier trip up I had found a spring fed stock tank tucked behind a butte, or small mesa, and way off the beaten path.

The “secret” tank lies in the oak trees, just below the saddle in the two hills.

About an hour before sunset, the mourning doves started coming into the water. Our set up was ideal. The tank had a rocky, gravelly bank all around, a couple of dead mesquites at one end and several live mesquites at the other end that we used for shade and concealment.
The doves came in singularly and in groups and were met with our bam, bam, bamming and soon we had neared our limits. It was great sport, and a lot of fun, watching Gus retrieve the birds that fell into the water.

Gus, pictured in one of his dryer moments.

Finally he rebelled. As I knocked another one down into the water, Gus walked over beside me and shook himself vigorously, liberally dousing me, and plopped down beside my foot. “Fetch him up Gus,” I commanded with no response. “Gus, fetch the bird,” more forcefully as he looked up at me and rolled over on his back!  He was “done” for the day!

Trying to get Layla to retrieve the last bird for me, she declined also. It was left for me to either jump in, or to chunk rocks and cow patties at the bird to wash it close to the shore.  I chose the former and unceremoniously waded out and picked it up.

So much for delegating!

Scouting For Birds

On a fall morning, just at first light, I lowered the 22 footer into the canal behind our Bayou Vista home, headed down it and chugged, speed limit 5 MPH in the canals, into Highlands Bayou.  Opening up the big, outboard I skimmed the back way into the Intercoastal Waterway.  This was the same track Randy and I took several years earlier when he collided with a live, oyster reef and I did a flip.

Having a 11:00 AM meeting with customers, it would be a short trip this morning, but hopefully a productive one.  My destination, with the tide coming in and a light southeast wind, was the sand flats and reefs that ran from Green’s Cut up to South Deer Island.  The target was to find sea gulls (birds) working over feeding specks, the specks driving shrimp toward the surface and the birds gobbling up the shrimp the fish missed.  Classic food chain stuff!

Armed with a 7-1/2 foot, popping, rod, 12 pound line spooled on a green reel, rigged with a popping cork over a live shrimp hooked through its horn with a small, treble hook, I was ready for action. The action wasn’t long in coming. Of all things, I noticed several shrimp hopping out of the water and casting right in front of them, bam a big strike.

The fish took off peeling line from the reel, not the circling fight of a 3 or 4 pound trout, not the weight of a big red, then the fish, a skipjack or ladyfish, (Bodianus rufus) cleared the water.  They’re real hard fighters, jump a lot, but aren’t good table fare.  Many times they will be feeding on shrimp, driving them to the surface where the ever hungry, birds will congregate over them.  Landing the skipjack, I released it and continued my scouting for birds.

Two hundred yards away, several birds were sitting on the water, this is a likely sign of a school of fish that has that has cleaned up the shrimp in one area, or of one or two big fish randomly feeding.  Pulling up to within 50 yards of the birds, the light wind and incoming tide soon pushed me within casting distance.  Letting fly, when the cork and shrimp hit the water, it was one of those rare times when the cork kept going down, almost jerking the rod out of my hand.  This was a good one!

Several trips around the boat, I slid the net under a 4 pound speck!  Thinking to myself, I’ll keep this one for Layla’s and my supper tonight, then my 11:00 AM meeting flashed into my mind and by the time I motored back, cleaned the fish, hosed out the boat, showered and drove the 45 minutes to my meeting, I’d better be scooting.

My salesman and I made the meeting on time and closed a big deal.  Mixing business and pleasure was neat and these quick fishing trips were a big advantage of living right on the water!

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 the fish hit almost as soon as it hit the water.  The question about stocking was answered!  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.

In the next fifteen minutes, using my trusty Piggy Boat, pictured below, 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(Lampropeltis triangulum annulata). I dug this picture up 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!

The Dove’s Revenge

Thinking back, one of the best places that I ever hunted doves was on the St. John’s Indian Reservation, south of Phoenix. In the early 70’s an individual hunting permit was a whopping $5.00 and $10.00 for a family. This allowed the hunters access to some great hunting.

The doves were feeding in a large grain field and then flying into a watering/roosting area in very thick brush. The afternoon sun was to our right and the birds flew south to north, coming out of the field and heading right over us. We usually arrived around 3:30 PM and positioned ourselves in the brush along a fence line and within two hours would generally have our limits.

Incoming, or head on, shots are easy. Track below the bird, cover it with the muzzle, fire and follow through. The bird flies right in to the shot string yielding a clean kill and falls near the shooter. This meant a lot on a hot, Arizona day!

This particular afternoon’s flight was pouring over us, heated barrels banging away, doves falling and the birds kept coming. Here came an easy head on for me, I tracked and fired, puff, a clean hit and the bird rocketed straight for my chest. Holding out my hand, I was going to be real cool and catch this one. But, at the last moment, the dove gained a little lift rising over my outstretched hand and smacked me right between the eyes!

The force of four ounces traveling at, I guessed, 35 MPH, applied right between my eyes, knocked me down. I got up and through my broken shooting glasses, my blood and the dove’s blood, I saw the bird had a broken neck.

The dove got his revenge, but $100.00 later for a new pair of shooting glasses, I was not to be deterred, and soon, the next free afternoon found me back at my favorite spot banging away.

More Outdoors Pictures,September 3, 2014

This fella’ is 4-1/2 years old and, I suppose he’ll get shot this year!  He’s only 9 points, (only) and definitely a “cull” buck, but I have “raised” him since he was a fawn. He was the buck that got the doe a bigger buck was following that I shot in 2012.  He was the one that was stirring up dust, challenging the big one to a fight, the big one is on the ground on the left of the picture and last he was the one rearing up on his hind legs and getting corn right out of the feeder, but he’ll get shot this year.
Last Thursday as I was walking out of the house, I looked up and four bucks were running across my neighbors field!  Each jumped the fence and crossed the road and came on to my property, but they were masked by the undergrowth and lost to me.  They w