Stix & Stones Apparel

 

crest

Meeting folks online, in my case on Twitter, sometimes lets me have the chance to share things with visitors to my site. Not long ago I was talking with a new follower from the wilds of Canada and they asked if I would be interested in reviewing a shirt from their product line. I was happy to help and stopped by their site Stixnstones.ca to pick out a shirt to review.

I took some time looking at not only their apparel line for folks that hunt and fish but the site itself. Nice clean layout and easy to find what you want they have the right idea of how to showcase their products.

I picked a design featuring their logo, their crest design, printed on an all white short sleeve t-shirt then waited a few days for it to makes its way south. Once here I gave it a once over to see the quality of the shirt and the printing. Once again it is topnotch, the print is done in a slightly distressed look with a large logo on the front and a smaller one on the back  near the bottom edge. A neat and different touch.

The shirt itself is well made from 100% cotton and I will admit it is a bit lighter in weight than I normally buy but that is just a personal preference the quality of the shirt is great. Not being sure of the sizing, I am a big guy, I had picked a XXL hoping it would be close. As it turns out it is fine very close to what I buy here in the States and if washed in cold water and hung to dry rather than scorching in a dryer it will not shrink.

The folks at Stixnstones have a good line of clothing for the hunter or angler from t-shirts to hoodies and now caps are available in their shop. So if you are looking for something different to wear afield rather than the same big name company take a look at what they have to offer. I hope you  do what I always try to do and support the smaller companies that produce quality products like my friends at Stix & Stones.

New Ebook Memories Shared Short Stories from the Real Outdoors

After years of writing I have edited and compiled stories for my first ebook. Some of them were featured here but now are edited into a short story version and finally available for only $3.99 through Amazon. If you enjoy what I do here I would love your support on this new venture and I have a second book in the works.

Thanks for all the support you have given over the years.

013 - Copy (3)

 

We Interrupt This Commercial..

025

 

For an outdoors show. Recently I was taking to someone online about “Pro Shows” and what they have become. During this I managed, not on purpose but still, to insult one of the big names in hunting, Michael Waddell. Now first it was used as an example not an attack on Michael who happened to be one of my brother’s favorites. I remember that at one time they talked about a possible hunt together but even my brother saw the change over time. Even after an insult intentional or not Michael took the time to give me a little ribbing online and then wish me luck which is the guy I remember from when he was just a kid starting out.

Being old I have watched for years as the industry changed our favorite outdoors folks into walking advertisements, a parody of what they were. During our conversation I was asked if Realtree showed up and offered me a show would I do it? Well, since this was an exercise in wishful thinking not something that would happen I said of course I would. But since no one wants to watch an old, fat guy hunt I am relatively safe in saying I won’t be signing a contract soon.

The infomercial turn shows have taken kept me from watching most for several years. Recently I decided to watch a few that I have never seen and was amazed at how far they had gone. The people that are in charge of these shows are making most of these people on camera look like idiots or worse. Between the stupid skits they are made to do to the constant product placement there is little time left for woods or waters. It might be hard for the behind the scenes people to understand but we want to see the hunt, we already know what they are using, if we don’t there are plenty of commercials to remind us.

I talk some with Dave Watson who has a show sponsored in large part by a bow company. I watched an episode the other day in which he stood in one place doing narration (not while hunting) wearing something from every sponsor while holding his bow. Absolutely no reason for that man to be made to do that since every shot in the show featured the products. Not only that there were products mentioned in every sentence. Product placement is one thing but this has gotten to the point of making many people lose interest in the very shows the sponsors want us to watch. (Ok, I spoke with Dave after I wrote this and he read it and it turns out he was hunting while doing his segments. Thanks for clearing that up for me Dave.)

Needing to sell and promote your product is something that keeps the shows on the air there is no question there. But at what point do hunters or the hunt itself on those shows become secondary to products? When did it become necessary for beauty shots of products to be more important than the hunt or fishing trip? Why are some of these guys made to wear makeup like the guys from Tap Out during every scene including setting around eating at night?  I have been in a lot of camps over the years and not one has anyone sat at the fire with a mask painted on their face.

I know that shows and the way people on them are portrayed has changed with no going back which is in a way a sad statement.  So many new hunters think it is all about how much you spend and if you don’t have all the bright shiny expensive goodies then you might as well stay home. This is one reason I try to buy from small companies without a “celebrity” name attached they have good products but may never see their products on a national level. The other part is what I have talked about before, hunts that cost in the thousands if not tens of thousands of dollars showing nothing but huge animals being taken. While it is fun to see at times most of us know that one or two days in a stand doesn’t usually equate to a 190” deer on the ground that these shows make look easy. The problem is many new hunters do not understand simply because they are new. They watch these shows thinking that if you haul all this stuff to the woods then deer will follow. For these folks I hope they find an experienced mentor that can explain the difference between infomercials and how 99% of us hunt.

In the end we all know that the shows and pros need to make money, period. Hopefully at some point the producers will realize that (A) we aren’t stupid, we know what we are seeing. (2) they have lost much of why we watch their shows. (3) we will still buy what they have without it being crammed down our throat.

I know with these radical ideas I won’t be getting invited to hunt with any of these guys any time soon but I wish I could see a few shows done the way they were way back when. These folks work hard at what they do, travel along with days on stand away from family and home for months. I for one hate to see what the people paying the bills think on screen folks should be doing to sell more and think that is what we want to see. I know that is typical disconnect for large companies that are run by people that have little or no experience in the outdoors but many of these companies are not that. For the producers out there try, I know it would be hard, but try to remember your audience, we know what you are showing and a 30 minute commercial really isn’t what most of us want to see. I know there are many fans of many shows and this is nothing against the folks we see on screen but rather the people behind the scenes dictating what we see.

I hope everyone is have a safe season and are filling your freezer. Thanks for stopping by.

Old School Innovative

2013-10-29_07-35-27_746-1After a month of archery season going by without seeing a deer for the first 3 weeks then not having a shot when deer did show things finally changed. I got up on a Wednesday morning to 60 degree weather and drug myself to my blind anyway not exactly enthused with the prospects. Glad I went.

Before season I rebuilt my blind at the long end of a small field that deer love. I went to the other end and then east about 20 yards to cut shooting lanes for a tree stand  I wanted to try facing away from the field but toward great trails. Thing is the deer weren’t really using this spot yet. After three weeks tracks started showing up then I saw a set of buck tracks along with the does. Problem, they were behind my tree and too far from my blind for a bow shot. What to do?

This is where doing something others might not think of just might get you a good shot. As I walked to the truck I saw a pile of old tires stacked up 3 high and 4 wide about 6 yards off the edge of the field. Small trees had grown up at each end of the pile providing some cover. As soon as I saw it I knew what I was doing when I came back. Next trip I set up behind them  but got busted when some does came out of the woods to my right. This didn’t bother me since it was a quick set up. When I got ready to go I took about 15 minutes to brush the spot in by cutting trees to span across the space above the tires. I hung cedar and oak branches from these and added brush behind and to each side of me.  I had a seat in my other blind so I moved it down then added a fourth tire right in front of the seat for a shooting platform. Done.

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My next set in my new spot yielded a buck cruising through about 7:15 in the morning, nose down on a mission. As I was leaving I found a fresh scrape 15 yards from my new blind and fresh rubs. The next morning a south wind was bringing temps up which wasn’t a good wind for this spot but oh well, can’t kill ‘em on the couch. I got to the blind  got set up then waited. After an hour and a half I looked up to see a buck step out at about 16 yards. He stopped then looked to his right away from me which gave me time to shift a bit, turn my camera on (I hit the record button too fast it never came on) then realize I had one limb in the way. This was the worst part since he was acting like he wanted to turn downhill if he did that was it, no shot. He stood there checking left and right, left and right then did what I hoped for, took those three steps I needed and stopped like he was a backyard target. As soon as he did I pulled the trigger.

I watched the bolt all the way, saw it punch through just a little higher than I would have liked but almost a perfect shot. As it passed through I heard a loud CLANG. I got a big smile on my face, I had shot through the buck and hit an old steel barrel laying on the ground behind him. No problem finding my bolt. The buck spun in place then took off back down the trail he came in on. I watched him run out of sight then listened for him to fall, no luck. I waited for the shakes to slow down then got out to check my bolt. It was covered in blood and lung tissue which is what we want. Then I couldn’t find a drop of blood, nothing. I took some more time to get things organized while I calmed down more and went over what happened after the shot. I remembered seeing the hole in his ribs so what was going on?
I walked the path where he had run and found blood about 30 yards away. Not heavy but enough. I slowly made my way along the blood trail taking my time, stopping when needed to scan ahead or even right by my feet at times. He was headed downhill along an old road cut by the landowner at the bottom of the hill he crossed a ditch to follow a rock fence. Just as I saw the ditch I looked up to see a white belly shining through the trees.

Now at this point I only know this is a buck, a decent buck but that is it. As I walked up I was joking with myself saying I hope there isn’t much ground shrinkage. There really wasn’t, he was a good deer for me with a cool looking rack, split brow tine (my first) and later I realized this was my fiftieth deer!  The fact I didn’t get it on camera is bugging me but there isn’t anything I can do about it.

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Rather than worry about climbing 30 feet into a tree or spending hundreds of dollars I don’t have on ground blinds I took advantage of what was there to take a good buck. I don’t run trail cams, see sentence above concerning $, I scout and hunt the way I did as a kid. I built that blind in fifteen minutes with a pair of limb cutters and 4 zip ties. I sat on a five gallon bucket with a piece of plywood that was on the property when I got there. The best part is deer here have seen these tires their entire life so they pay no attention to a little added brush. I feel like I have done something special doing it old school with a bit of innovative thinking to fool a deer at eye level under 20 yards.

I hope all your seasons are great. Good luck to everyone, be safe, wear your harness and let us know what you kill.

 

Change of Seasons

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Man what a way to start deer season. I spent time getting things ready for deer opener, cutting lanes, getting new locations picked and a little food plot planted. Every trip to do some work I had deer blowing and stomping so I knew opening weekend was going to be good even if I didn’t get a shot I would see what was there.

Opening day got here, I was set up in my new stand location and……..nothing. Next trip, nothing and every trip after that. I finally went to my favorite spot over an hour away then only saw three deer all day. What was going on? I wasn’t seeing deer in fields when I went to glass, I wasn’t seeing deer in the woods, I wasn’t seeing deer. Three weeks into the season without anything like a good start. I was fed up.

On Friday morning of the third week I was reading on a forum and someone mentioned that it was fall turkey season. Really?!! I had forgotten since I was obsessing about deer. I waited until the afternoon then grabbed my CVA 12 gauge and headed over to a spot just 4 minutes away. When I started to turn in I had to bust a flock out of the driveway then at the other end of the drive I busted a second flock. I jumped out of the truck to see which way they went, sure enough they headed to the corner of the field they always do. I got back in the truck and drove around the farm to get on the other side of the woods so I could still hunt back toward the flock. If I was right they were inside the woods a couple of hundred yards from me and I might be able to call one in.

I got out and slowly slipped back through the woods stopping to listen every twenty to thirty feet. As I got within sight of the field I heard a couple of birds kee kee looking for the rest. I slipped behind some weeds at the field edge and did one kee kee as soon as I did a bird came running out into the field about 60 yards away. It ran about 70 yards to two other birds I hadn’t seen. I did a couple of more calls and all three came walking straight to me. When they got to about 15 yards I shot the lead bird, total hunt time maybe ten minutes. The good part was I saw the two color phase hens I wanted to hunt when I pulled in so I was excited about the next couple of days.

All weekend I had one thing after another go wrong from a dove hunter blasting away  to the owner showing up to ride around the field it turned into no chance at the color phase birds. On Tuesday I went again sure enough when I pulled in the flock was standing there watching me about 30 minutes before they normally show up. They headed into the woods but they weren’t  really spooked. I slowly followed them through the woods until they went downhill and out of sight. I called a couple of times only to have the boss hens call the others back to them.

I went to another spot to wait but didn’t see or hear one so I decided to walk back to my truck.  I walked slowly along a treeline until I could see into a cut corn field. I stopped to take a look and saw a head move a couple of hundred yards away. I got out my binoculars to see what it was and there was the whole flock feeding. Now what to do? The birds hadn’t seen me so I eased back into some heavy cedars on my right then cut downhill to get even with the flock. By staying back from the treeline at least 40 yards I was able to get into a spot to watch them feed and I was now between them and their roost.

I sat there for about 45 minutes watching them feed along with having a couple of big gang fights. Finally I saw the boss birds about 90 yards to my right heading to roost exactly where I didn’t want them to be. Both color phase birds had already gotten past me but I took off toward the rest of the birds keeping a very small cedar trunk between us. I was in deep shade inside the trees and moved as quickly as I could since the birds were in bright sun it was hard for them to see into the woods. The trailing birds were looking towards the ones ahead of them and never looked my way. As I got to within 40 yards two birds stopped right beside each other silhouetted against the sunlit field. I thumbed the hammer back, put the dot on a spot between their heads and touched the trigger. As soon as the shot went off I ran through the cloud of smoke, as I got clear I saw both birds had dropped without taking a step. A double with a muzzle loader that was spot and stalk, not too bad for an old fat guy using a smoke pole.

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While my deer season continues along in the worst way at least my turkey season has gone really well this year. So far I have 6 birds including my two best toms and my first fall birds ever. I am keeping my fingers crossed for the rest of deer season but sometimes it isn’t a bad idea to have a little change of seasons.

Sorry for the bad pics I left my big camera at home since I knew I would be doing spot and stalk so the cell phone had to do.

New Series Featuring Hawke Optics

 

Here is something I am really looking forward to sharing with you and it has been in the works for quite awhile. This is just a first peek at what will be an ongoing series featuring optics from Hawke Optics being used in as many ways as I can think of. We will be starting with one of their crossbow scopes going on a Ten Point crossbow and a rifle scope which will be going on a CVA Kodiak Magnum muzzle loader. During the series we will go over how to mount , sight in and use the scopes in the field, what works and what doesn’t.

We will be featuring 1.5-5x32IR Crossbow SR which is the most advanced crossbow scope I have seen it has a 1” mono tube body, fast focus ocular and ½ MOA turrets. This model has aiming points out to wait for it…..wait……100 yards! Yes you saw that right 100 yards and adjustable for speeds from 275-425 fps to insure accuracy. This one will take me a bit to figure out. It comes with see through flip up lens covers which is a nice addition. The first thing I did once I got the focus set was wonder about the speed settings. I downloaded the PDF file from the Hawke Optics website which explained how the speed dial works for adjusting the scope. Do all of this before you get the scope mounted to be sure you understand how this works.

The other scope I will be using is a Sport-HD IR series which is 2x7x32 with lighted reticle which like the crossbow scope can be run in either red or green depending on what you like. The crosshairs are a set of 4 posts pointing to a separate center cross. I already like this design for what I have in mind as it allows fast acquisition of the target then your concentration shifts to the center cross for aiming the shot. This is not from the literature this is what you realize shortly after looking through the scope and focusing on a few things. It is very fast for this style of scope and especially at lower power it will make a fine addition for a close in hunter.

Like all of Hawke Optics glass I have looked through both of these are crystal clear. Some people feel that at prices Hawke Optics sells so many of their products that quality is going to be missing which is not the case. Clear glass, crisp clean etching, along with distinct indexing on the turrets all are there to show the high standards you can expect.

This series will be fun as it provides a lot of information on what to do in the field as well as looking at some good products. A special thanks to the great folks at Hawke Optics for helping me make this series available to all of our friends that follow along.

Fishing Shardane

 

Eagleville, TN, just a short 8 miles north on Hwy 41 from me. There isn’t much there being a typical small town, a few stores, a Co Op, some very zealous police when it comes to speed limits and a handful of small businesses. Not much to do on a weekend unless you happen to like fishing then Eagleville has something for you.

As I traveled back and forth to work a few years ago I watched an area near a creek get dug out. At first I thought the landowner was selling top soil  but soon I realized he was making a very nice pond. Not long after a full 8 1/2 acres was underwater with nice landscaping all around. As time went on I saw signs go up advertising fishing on the weekends and couldn’t help but notice the groups of folks enjoying fishing in this new lake.

The other day I had time to stop and meet the owner and do a quick interview with him. Danny Cottey and his wife Sharon are now the proud owners of Shardane Fishery which is open to the public Friday through Monday offering catfish, bass, carp and panfish fishing for a very reasonable rate. For $5.00 each you can fish all day. Now this is a catch and release lake but you can keep some panfish for free or buy catfish if you want to keep them by the pound. Anything over 10 pounds gets put back, period. Along with fishing in a beautifully kept lake you can buy bait or snacks at the main pavilion.

Danny has a nice farm just on the edge of town and as we spoke he told me that one reason he started his fishing business was health related. He has medical problems but this allows him to do something he enjoys and gives him a way to stay busy while providing fun for families.

If you are near Eagleville drop by and try an afternoon of fishing and picnicking at Shardane. If you need a unique place for a party just give them a call for rates and available dates to rent the lake and pavilion. This is a great idea for a never to be forgotten party.

Contact them at 615-604-2995
Facebook.com/ShardaneFishery

Shardane Fishery
1454 Hwy 41-A South
Eagleville, TN 37060

Fri-Mon 8 a.m. till Dark

Basics Revisited

 

Hard to believe I got excited about squirrel season this year. It has been a tough year for me personally, not much fishing, no hunting since May and life in general not going well. Squirrel season was a chance to go have some fun and get out of the house.

As I got to the spot I wanted to hunt it didn’t take long to fall into old habits, moving slow, moving quiet, listening for the patter of falling hulls or the soft swish of leaves moving under the weight of a feeding squirrel. As I spent time watching and listening I thought about the fact that this is how I, and in fact many older hunters, started to learn our woodcraft.

The art of stalking slowly through the woods while picking up all of the information coming in takes long practice. Small game is still one of the best ways to teach a new hunter and to relearn those lessons of our youth. In today’s all digital, instant info, look how big my deer/turkey is the small game gets pushed aside. The little guys just don’t have the glamour of  the big species which is sad as I know our new hunters are losing out on one of the best ways to learn. Today for many it is simply about the kill not the skill.

Many will think I mean that the time they spend planting plots, hanging stands or checking cameras is a waste. Not true since I do much of that myself and have for years. What I mean is the reading of sign, the ability to hear and interpret, to understand the whole of an area not just why you put a camera or stand in a certain spot. Without the skills to read everything you see when you do need to move, without a good all around knowledge of game and the reason they do what they do, you might be in trouble.

Years ago I hunted a place that was hunted for years by a guy that killed deer more by accident than plan. He showed me several of his stands and the whole time I was thinking why would you put one here? He couldn’t have placed them more randomly if he had thrown darts at a map then put a stand where they hit. He had never been taught to hunt. As we walked I finally pointed out a tree and said that is the spot when he asked why I explained it to him. He looked at me kind of funny like I was a bit off but didn’t say anything. After I had shot my third deer in two weeks he figured out I knew what I was talking about and asked me to show him some better spots. Had he spent time learning how to read the ways the animals used the land and why he wouldn’t have wasted time in nonproductive spots. Small game would have helped him out.

As bad as it sounds I think when we start new folks out on big game it does them a disservice. They quickly equate big animals and big stories with “real” hunting meaning to them that small game hunting serves no purpose. The loss of true hunting skills for that person is on its’ way to being permanent. Again I am not saying they aren’t really hunting I am saying that other skills needed in the woods are being left behind. To remedy that is simple, go kill a squirrel, rabbit, groundhog, something other than big game. Teach them how to read the woods, track, find natural food sources and stand locations based on that knowledge. Teach them to enjoy the little critters that are being overlooked in this era of bigger is better.
If we, as experienced hunters, go back in time and remember the fun we had along with all we learned while chasing small game it is easier to want to take someone new. You get to start earlier, not worry about pressure, have time to scout for deer or turkeys as well as pass along skills that smart phones and game cameras are taking away.

I hope with season about to start everyone has a safe year and plenty of luck. Wear your harness and be careful out there.

August on Logan Martin

 

Logan Martin, the home lake for my friend Gary Hanson and a fine fishery, that was the target for this trip. I got another chance to head down to fish with Gary for stripers and bass last week after he called to say he was on the fish. I got loaded up and pointed the truck south.

I won’t say exactly where we fish on Logan Martin since Gary has a couple of spots that are easy to access but really unknown to people. We were fishing in current most of the time but for many of the stripers we were in a spot I would have never imagined you would catch fish there. A small creek channel runs out into a large mud flat, the fish are at the back of this flat in a few feet of water feeding on the shad schools that cover the area.

After trying topwater baits early without a single hit Gary broke out his cast net to get shad for some live bait fishing. Once we had enough to start we headed over to the spot where he had caught a bunch of fish the day before. We cast and cast with only a swirl or two then we moved down the channel maybe 30 yards and picked up a couple of smaller fish. This wasn’t what we hoped for so we headed to a different area to give that a shot.

We got set up in the next spot, tossed a couple of shad toward the bank and as soon as they hit the water big bass started blowing up on the baits. They would push some to the surface then blast water out as they swirled around the shad. The problem was the same as downstream, the fish were swirling but not taking the bait. We did mange several good spotted bass up to around 4 pounds. We picked up more fish in the afternoon but not what we hoped for. We sat that night trying to figure out what was going wrong since for us that was a bad day. Gary said he had caught a lot of fish the day before later in the day so maybe we were looking at an afternoon bite.
The next morning we went later than usual thinking that he was right about the later bite. We gathered up some shad and eased into one of his best spots…….nothing. We moved down the channel and picked up a couple but still not much so we headed back upriver to try. The areas from the day before gave us nothing so we just drifted in the current letting the shad swim along when Gary’s bait gets blasted by a striper. We got one more there then a few yards downstream we start getting hammered by spotted bass. But then they turned off just as fast. By now we need more bait so we run back to the mud flat to reload.

After getting enough bait I said we should try the channel again but in a spot we haven’t fished yet. After a couple of casts we picked up 3 stripers in three casts, nothing big but fun. As we drifted down a bit I cast back to the spot I had just caught one and saw a fish slam the shad as soon as it hit the water. Since all of these fish feel strong I didn’t realize this was a bigger fish until about halfway through the fight. Turns out to be around 13 pounds.

We moved one more time maybe another 20 yards to fish a bend in the channel. As we came into range I dropped a bait at the edge of the channel and watched as it started to swim. It took off and the float disappeared in a swirl. Gary dropped a cast into the same area with the same results. We landed 6 stripers in six casts. These weren’t big fish, most were 4-6 pounds but they are a blast. There is something about watching that float dance around then disappear or seeing the shad pushed to the top and a fish blast water into the air at the strike that never gets old.

After a few more casts the stripers had moved on, I had a bait out as we talked about heading back upstream but the shad wasn’t moving. I twitched the rod to try and wake the shad up but the float just didn’t act right. I started to reel but didn’t get the handle turned once when the float took off but not like a striper hit. I set the hook, got the fish turned then saw the unmistakable flash of green and black that says bass. I got a good fight out of it so I figured it was a decent fish but as it got to the boat I saw how big, this one was about 6 ½ pounds of largemouth. Sadly the pics make it look about 4 pounds but it was a great fish.
We caught at least 20 fish the second day which is a good day anywhere but really just a marginal day in Gary’s spots. The weather may have been a factor as a stalled front from the north and a tropical system fought it out just to our east and south. The rain moved in that night so I headed back home.

Gary is a top notch fisherman and goes after the fish with whatever method it takes to put them in the boat. I have fished live shiners for bass in Georgia but this was the first time I had fished them for spotted bass in a river system. The stripers are always fun and to have them in a few feet of water with nothing really to worry about as far as hanging up is a great time. I have fished for stripers in middle Tennessee for years and they are a tough catch here. I have gone all day without a hit and a two or three fish day was rare. I caught more with Gary in two days than I will catch here in a year and remember these were slow days for Gary.

Live bait or artificial makes no difference to me I just want fish in the boat. I know that the fish on Logan Martin will make for a great trip when I get a chance to head back down. The only down side to fishing this spot is they tell you not to eat the fish because of chemicals used by Monsanto years ago. Amazing to me to catch this quality of fish out of waters that are deemed unsafe.

If you ever get the chance to fish Logan Martin I hope you get the chance to experience the striper and bass action like I did. This is becoming a favorite spot for me the only problem is the 3 ½ hours of driving it takes to get there. That might be a good thing though since it keeps me from trying to find a way to go every day.

Good luck on the water and be safe.

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