Sunday, December 2, 2018

Deer Hunting wrap-up, 2018

This was a great and memorable deer hunting season for me, just throwing it out there to start.  To re-visit, unlink many of my fellow hunters who begin bow-hunting in early September, I compress my personal deer season down to two partial weeks, both using my personal favorite weapon of high-powered rifle. Week #1 starts in south-central West Virginia, where I am granted the privilege of hunting the 1st two days on the most beautiful private land I've ever had opportunity to hunt.  Following that in the next week is a week of public land hunting on Maryland's beautiful eastern shore, specifically on my beloved Deal Island.

OK, so we open in West Virginia, home of the Mountaineers.  I arrive to my hunting destination Sunday prior to season, but in time to carefully sight in the scope on my Remington 30-06.  Monday morning arrives, and I can't WAIT !!!  After a hearty breakfast of bacon and eggs, we head out on my buddy's 4-wheeler to our hunting spots.  I'm riding "bitch", meaning that I'm sitting behind him on the same 4-wheeler, which I'm really just about getting too old to do but maybe I've got one year left.  I'm the first drop at about 75 yards from my stand, as my buddy Pat plans to roll on to his stand about 1/4 mile away.  Just near my stand Pat realizes that he has lost his back pack, and we must now back-track.  Five minutes back-tracking on steep terrain, we find the pack and resume our journey to our stands.  This has cost us a precious 10 minutes, typically not a big deal but we had cut our timing close this morning and I arrived at the road to my stand at 6:35AM, putting me in my stand at 6:40- dawn was soon breaking over the steep mountains.  After putting my 2nd foot in the 15-ft high stand, I quickly began to organize m self and my gear, including finding mu bullets, loading my clip mounting clip to rifle and then chambering the 1st round.  Last thing I recall is giving one quick grunt using my deer call.  Within 2 minutes of the grunt call, no exaggeration, I hear what I estimate to be a sizable deer crashing though the woods on the mountainside above.  Looking in the yet still dark through the woods uphill, I see a dark silhouette of a deer, and I'm pretty sure topped my a pretty nice set of antlers.  Game ON !!!  I raised my gun to see this deer through the scope, and quickly recognize that I've got at least a 6-8 pt buck crossing down the hill above my, right to left.  With many large trees between me and this buck, I then moved the scope to the left, placed at where I estimated the deer would eventually walk into in short time.  And exactly as predicted, this buck moved into the cross-hairs of my modest 3-10x40 Bushnell scope, and the kill-shot was placed.  This buck dropped instantly, just the way I like.  845AM 1st day of the season, SCORE  8pt!!!

Two hours later almost to the minute, buck #2 comes walking across the hillside above me, also hiding behind the trees.  But I knew this was also a nice buck, so I play the same game, moving scope to the left and waiting for him to walk into the cross-hairs.  And,... POW!!!!, that, he did.  This won was also an 8 pt, but atypical with 5 points on one side and 3 on the other.  So here's the one part of this story so far I haven't told,... I have family about an hour and a half west of here that I never see and have mostly lost touch with, except for one cousin, who I love dearly.  I had prayed (to the Lord) to be able to kill 2 deer my first morning, so that I would have time to visit her with my remaining brief time in the area.  Same scenario unfolded 3 years prior.  And both times, my prayers were answered and I was given a great time of fellowship with my cousin.

OK, fast-forward to the next week, Monday after Thanksgiving.  I've set up camp at my Deal Island camp location.  I've become pretty successful at taking 1-2 smaller deer (by comparison) here each year.  I was warned in advance that not many deer available to shoot.  Scouting the local public land on the preceding Sunday, I concurred as I observed the state had not left any crops in the fields as they usually do.  So as Monday rolled around, I was eager to take the first deer I saw.  The deer down here usually come at shots of great distance, and one of my faults is being able to judge the caliber of deer at long distance (150 yards +).  Monday evening, I roll into the public hunting area in Dames Quarter and proceed to take the Cemetery location, overlooking the SE corner.  At 4:10 a smallish deer emerges from the opposite corner, and I waste no time in placing a bullet right where it belongs.  Upon gathering the deer after retrieving my cart and depositing my weapon, I wished I had halted and waited to see what might have followed.  Yes, at 55, I am still learning,... but deer #3 nonetheless.

Skipping over my non-productive Tuesday and Wednesday morning. both of which were embraced in cold temps (mid-30's) and gale-force winds, I ventured out Wednesday afternoon to the public area on Deal Island. I was the only on hunting, to no surprise as it was brutally cold and windy. In fact, I would have forecasted that no deer would venture into these conditions.  But wouldn't you know it, a hungry small spike buck emerged from the edge of the woods exactly at 4:10PM, and I placed a 30-06 round perfectly in young buck's neck, ending his show right then and there. 

And that is IT!  A couple of final thoughts,... I winterized my center console (maybe prematurely, but it was "time",..) that same week.  The rifle has been cleaned, and I am DONE (for now).  For the next 3-4 months, my beloved wife gets her full-time husband back, an I continue to pray that she will allow me to do it all again next year.  I have a LOT of venison in my freezer, and I will be making jerky as fast as I can.  Contact me of you need some.  I'm loaded up on rockfish, oysters, and softcrabs too. It's going to be a great winter, but I can't WAIT for spring !!!

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

November crabs, rockfish too 11/3/18

Ever since I was a teenager, we have always crabbed somewhere around the 1st week of November, using the opportunity to catch the season's nicest crabs and also to winterize and shut-down our camp at Deal Island.  Now that I am the sole user, and live nearby (one hour), I don't close up camp until (usually) early December, and even the am able to re-open in about 20 minutes.  Nov 8 is my brother's birthday, and often we would use that as a time to catch the year's last crabs.  In recent years I've become more interested in October/November fishing, and for the last 2 years hat has even eliminated my opportunities to crab.  This year, thanks to extreme wind oddly enough, that rare chance presented itself.

Saturday Nov 3 was forecasted to be an extremely windy day, and it did not disappoint.  Far too windy for me to consider launching my center console into Tangier Sound to fish, I knew from history that even though it would be difficult I would still be able to get my jon boat out into the Dames Quarter marsh to catch some crabs.  My fishing buddy Dan joined me on this trip- he has been on the island 2 years but not yet seen what I was going to show him on this day.  We launched in a steady 25-30 mph wind, restricted to using an electric motor, so it was quite a challenge.  We got down past the first dyke just after 1030 and planted the 14.4 ft jon boat in the center of the creek.  No good, wind blew us off our plant, even with two capable anchors out bow and stern.  Next move was to plant the bow in the marsh, which served to steady us but made it difficult for Dan (sitting in the bow) to have access to any handlines, baited with turkey necks.  We finally got the boat positioned in another spot with the wind at our bow, and we were able to hold.  Using 10 handlines, the crabs slowly started to bite.  I knew right away this was going to be special, as we started netting the biggest, prettiest male crabs I have ever caught.  We were even catching these monster crabs simply swimming by on the surface, as the water was flowing back toward the dyke.  This continued until about 1330, at which point we had 3/4 bushel of gorgeous crabs (definitely enough for us to eat), and I was getting tired.  So, we called it a day, took our crabs back to Dan's, steamed the crabs to perfection, and ate them while we watched WVU beat Texas.  All the cras were 6-8", and most greater than 7".

Sunday 11/4, the winds had laid down enough to fish.  TJ would join me for this.  We launched at 0900 in advance of a 1050 high tide.  People were telling me fish were being caught in the Manokin and in Dames Quarter Creek, but I didn't listen.  I staked my effort on South Marsh and later on Little Deal Island, both of which produced fish casting jigs, but all on the small side.  On the way out to South Marsh, it was blowing 15-20 mph and with and easy 3ft chop.  The birds were swarming in the air, but the baitballs, not visible due to the rough waters, seemed to be moving and breaking up as soon as they formed. We tried dropping metal jigs down into them, but we could never get squared up with an active school of rock feeding on the menhaden.  Hours later and on the way back across the Sound and with far calmer waters, the birds had completely disappeared.  With the remainder of my November mostly tied up with travel and hunting, any remaining chances at big fall rockfish might be over.  In total, we put 4 smaller fish in the cooler.  Until next time, at which I should be detailing some deer hunting, this is #dealislandrandy

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Squirrel Camp and Rockfish, Oct 2018

Each October, my college buddies and I rendezvous at a cabin in the remote mountains of southwestern Virginia, specifically in Mountain Grove, VA (population 100?).  The nearest "real" town is Warm Springs, if you're looking for it on a map.  One of the guys has a cabin that has been passed down through generations, he walls of which I'm sure hold many colorful tales.  Since I was in college in the '80's they have gone there each October to squirrel hunt, since it represent one of the season's early hunting opportunities.  I use to join them back in the 80's and early 90's, and now that the kids are grown and time is somewhat more available, I've rejoined them the last 4 years.  There is a core group of about 8 guys, and 2 of the others lived on my floor freshman year at WVU.  Another is a classmate who I remember from Biology lab, and yet another is his son, now a student at WVU.

This Fall was remarkable in that the summer continued right up until this weekend, Oct 13.  In fact, I arrived wearing shorts and a t-shirt, with the temps at home in the mid-80's the day I departed on my 350 mile (each way) journey.  Add to that one of the rainiest years on record, and trees had not yet even begun to change color (this was very soon to change).  This made for very tricky hunting, and the 22-sharpshooters (most of the guys) had to adjust somewhat to finally outpace the shotgunners (me) on the 2nd day.  Day 1, I hit three in the morning, one of which stubbornly became forever lodged in the bark of a tree.  And between 10 and 2- nothing.  After 2pm, the squirrels became active once again and I quickly put 3, 4, and 5 in the bag.  Squirrel number 5 died suddenly with an acorn tightly wedged between his sharp teeth- a fate I have observed once before with these same guys.  Squirrel #6 came late in the day, around 4pm as I was making my way back to where I had started.  

By the way, we actually hunt in WV, the cabin being very near the border.  So, counting the one that got stuck, I killed 7 on Day 1 (limit is 6).  Day 2, already exhausted, was windy, like- crazy windy.  This does NOT make for good squirrel hunting.  I killed one around 8 AM, and then proceeded to be taunted by several others that were quite adept at dodging the 16-gauge lead I was slinging at them. Having committed to cooking seafood for these WV hillbillies, and an early dinner at that, I called it a day around 1 pm, not willing to wait another hour for the possibility of seeing some more.  On the menu was fried oysters, fried softcrabs, and blackened rockfish.  These guys never see softcrabs, and never fresh oysters or rock so quite a treat for all.  Incidentally, yes I eat the squirrels (later).  Admittedly, I'm still searching for the magic approach at cooking them.  Saving only the hindquarters, my next attempt will be to cook like chicken wings- deep friend and then crock pot conditioned with my favorite Carolina wing sauce.

The following weekend, (Oct 19), I had a brief opportunity to get my boat out in the morning before the ensuing small craft advisory at 2pm, and subsequent gale warning for the rest of the weekend.  I launched at 8AM, and quickly began casting a couple of my favorite jig options.  First location up was the jetty just outside Wenona harbor, where I caught several in short order.  Wanting to quickly engage the sheltered coves (SW winds) around north side of South Marsh Island, I moved across Tangier Sound and began casting.  As soon as I rounded the northeast point of the island, I began hooking up.  These were really nice fish, all 15-18" and great tasty pan size but too small to legally keep.  This continued all they was up to Gunbarrel Point, at which point the incoming tide had ended.  The end of the tide coincided with the escalation of the winds, and although I continued to cast, this was the end of today's harvest.  I don't know how many I caught, maybe 15 or 20.  There were other boats around too in the same area- this obviously was no secret. but I caught more than I saw being caught.  The successful lure of the day was the DOA 4" shad tail, in Day glow with a chartreuse tail, mounted on a 3/8 oz white jig head.  See pic below.  My buddy Mark had better luck, getting his 2-man limit of 4 keepers, and he used softcrabs.  At $35/dozen and hard to find, I'll stick with casting.  I know I'm going to convert Mark yet.  #dealislandrandy

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Oct 6 2018- a rare freshwater update

About 4-5 years, I sold both of my freshwater boats and for the most part completely discontinued freshwater fishing.  Not because of any dislike for the sport or for any reason of being challenged.  I simply did not have to time to do it.  Translated, I didn't have the time to work, salt water fish, brew beer, hunt, make jerky, play guitar, serve in church, spend time with my wife, and everything else that was and is part of my life.  There is a clear observation here- the older I get, 1) the faster time flies, and 2), the less time I seem to have.  Mathematically, I just doesn't seem to add up to me.  Maybe some day I will understand the equation. 

Anyway, my fishing buddy Dan invited me to join he and some friends of his that are part of an organization called Heroes on the Water (H.O.W).  Their mission is to bring healing to veterans through kayak fishing.  I enthusiastically accepted the invite, only I didn't realize until that Dan had invited me as a participant, not as a volunteer. As a veteran, I had never counted myself as one adversely affected by my service, but rather as one who had benefitted so immensely.  And, that is a story, a big story, worthy of sharing in and of itself some other time.

At 6:50 AM Saturday morning, I show up at this secluded and restricted access pond near Salisbury that has been granted exclusive access to for this event.  The "regular" volunteers are already there, having camped in the night before.  Dan is there too, and I stagger around for a brief while drinking my coffee, meeting the guys, and forming a vision of what may develop as the daybreak draws on.  I had visions of 10 volunteer guides, me among them, and 20-30 veteran kayaking/fishing participants, ready to slay largemouth in a small lake rarely visited by men with hooks.  What developed was more of the opposite- 20-30 volunteers, and less than 10 participants.  Well, since the regular guides already had a good experience base, I quickly became just a veteran fisherman, blessed to fish this unexploited hone hole.  

We didn't launch until ~8:15 AM, which was a little unfortunate.  It was a warm, still, overcast  morning, but the clouds parted soon thereafter and with it came full blue skies.  Just after launching, I hung a nice 15" bass on my all-time fav topwater lure- the "Hula-Pop".  There is absolutely no re-counting how many bass I have caught in this lure.  Unfortunately, at least briefly, this would be my last top-water catch of the day.  I next turned to a 4" lizard (in watermelon seed color) on a 1/8 oz jig head, so simple.  The sides of the lake were drowned pine, and structure was aplenty.  I soon hooked another nice one, but then the sun came up full-strength and this show was over.

My next move was to the opposite side of the lake. The fall sun was rising at an angle, and there was plenty of shade on the opposing shore, so that's where I headed.  As soon as I got there and got out my first cast, BOOM- money. For the next 60 minutes, I caught a largemouth on nearly every cast.  It became ridiculous,... At one point, I had to set my rod down and grab a drink of water.  As I grabbed my drink of water, I left my rod tip hanging over the bow of teh kayak, with the lure dangling 6 inches in the water, unsupported of course.  Now- by now you know where I'm going with this.  Yes, for real- a bass grabbed that dangling lure and almost ripped my rod over the side of the kayak.  Nore pic- hat pulled down low- I forgot my sunglasses.

I needed to leave just after 10 AM to get back and watch a WVU football game with my wife.  Yes, we have dates like that.  I'm told by Dan that the fishing was great the rest of the day also.  I'm hoping for the opportunity to fish there again, and also to fish with these H.O.W guys again, regardless of there or somewhere else.  Next up is Squirrel Camp near Mountain Grove, VA (actually we are fishing in WVU.  More details on that next week.


Monday, October 1, 2018

September 2018 wrap-up, (slight) return of the Specs

Final weekend of September brought gorgeous sunny weather, west-northerly breezes, and most welcome- cooler temps.  Since it had stayed so warm so deep in the year, I was sure I would be able to time a perfect outgoing tide in the Manokin River with hungry rockfish.  I launched out of St. Peter's Creek in Champ, MD, flying solo and determined to fish until dark and trust my GPS to get me back to the dock.  I'm starting to get more comfortable launching and especially re-trailer the boat in the dark ,and even solo when necessary.  I just installed new roller guides, and I think they help position the boat as it is coming up on the trailer.

On Friday, 9/28 I anchored at 4:30 pm at the mouth of the small creek draining St. Piere Marsh, which I had mistakenly called Teague Creek in the past.  It's actually on the Champ side of Teague Creek (north).  I must have cast 5000 times between then and 7:00 pm (sunset 6:50), and I rotated my rigs every few casts.  I was using top-water, shallow diving, and also 4-inch bass assassins on 3/8 oz jig-heads.  The only takers were two small (sub-14 inch) speckled trout.  But- noteworthy were that these fish were the first speckled trout I had connected with this year.  And, they coincided time-wise with some of the better spec fishing I had experienced last year.

The real mission of this weekend was to reposition the camper at the fishing camp.  For years I/we had been encroaching on the neighbor's property, and it was finally time to correct that.  As a result, I didn't get out on the water until 4:30 pm on Saturday 9/29, and I was quite exhausted when I got out there.  I spent the first hour casting jigs toward the south end of Little Deal Island (facing west).  It was blowing straight out of the west, and the water was quite rough.  When I finally rounded the south end of the island and gained protection from the wind (and now the tide just starting to ebb), that's when the fish started to bite.  First up was a really nice speckled trout.  I was using a brand new Penn reel and had not had opportunity to dial in the drag, and I think the loose drag cost me this spec right at the side of the boat.  Estimated length, 18 inches.  Over the course of the next 45 minutes, I caught 3 rockfish, all a tasty 16-17".  If only I had more time, but the sun was setting, I was tired and wanted to try the jetty outside of the Wenona harbor.  I should have stayed behind Little Deal Island.  Next trip not planned to be for 3 weeks, as I 'm on track to go to Squirrel camp Oct 11.  #dealislandrandy

Sunday, September 23, 2018

September catch-up

It's been a real bummer of end-of-summer fishing for me. Some of this was self-inflicted, some not.  To start, I had two weddings to attend in September, one being my oldest son.  Both were awesome, as I knew they would be.  Aside from that, we have been deluged with rain. Rain. Rain. More rain. Then when I was just getting tired of rain, some technical difficulties with my boat trailer.  And the latest bit of fun, the necessity to move my camper and all that comes with that.

In teh midst of all this, I did manage to fish twice.  Yes, twice in one month- what was last year one of the best times of the year.  First time was early September, in the Manokin.  It has been blazing hot, and this day was no exception.  The word (according to Bruce) was to be at the fishing location prior to daylight, and casting topwater lures. We threw Bomber Badonkadonk lures and caught a few 16-18" rock, but apparently had had just missed the big blitz the prior few days.  Water temp was near 85F, needs to cool down.  Fast forward to 9/21, same location, but late in the day catchign the end of the outgoing tide.  Bait everywhere, and it was blowing a gale.  Dan and I (OK, Dan) caught 2 specks and one rock.  Bruce was there in his boat and reported catching a few, but blasting them the prior week in 79F water after dark.  As usual, time and timing are my biggest issues. I'm hoping to try again next weekend and tide timing will be right.  We'll see.  Talked to Bruce today, and he thinks the fish have left the river and are out in the bay.  I disagree, the water is still too warm and I thin the bait are hanging in the river.  We'll see.  We'll see. #Dealislandrandy

Sunday, August 19, 2018

August 10, 2018- Scouting trip (meaning, no fish)

August 10, another blistering hot Friday.  Took the day off to get a few chores done, including hauling the boat back to Fruitland to fill it with ethanol-free gas, and mowing my knee-deep grass at the Deal Island camp.  This was a solo fishing adventure, and as much as I enjoy fishing with friends and family, once in awhile it is neat to get out alone.  Fishing solo, I'm unencumbered by the drive and necessity to put my passengers on fish.  I take it as an opportunity to explore new places and assess their potential for fishing, perhaps at another time.

As I already mentioned, it was brutally hot, and it has been for well over a month.  Water temps were in the upper 80's, so while the rays and skates are still thriving in the shallows, the rock, trout, and everything else are not.  At least not in the daylight hours.  I've been pouring over my nautical maps in attempt to identify new fishing spots.  I described one in a recent post, on the east side of South Marsh Island.  What I have been looking for are mouths of creeks that are draining marshy areas.  But rather than looking for creek mouths that are simply draining marshes on the outgoing tide, I'm trying to identify creeks that cut through the islands in a more or less north-to-south manner, where the outflux from the creek mouth will be on the INCOMING tide.  And on this trip, I found a really cool new spot.  This was located on the northeast side of Smith Island, with nice deep water (5-8 ft) leading up to it.  

And even though I did not catch anything here (it was between 3:45 and 5:45pm), I can see in my mind's eye this place producing fish once the water cools.  I am certain to return,.... #dealislandrandy