Monday, March 16, 2009

Wasting Time Watching Outdoor TV Shows


I’m not a big television fan, and never have been. I would rather it and read a good book than watch the boob tube. Many people I speak with apparently agree with this rather simple philosophy.

On occasion, and I mean that both figuratively and literally, I will watch a television hunting show. I shy away from many of them because I have a major problem viewing bloody, brain-dead, fist-pumping, giggling, laughing and poorly-thought-out shows. Most are silly, some make no sense, a few start nowhere and wind up at the same place, and many show hunters as a bunch of half-baked morons acting in such a way they prove that point.

Many are filmed on a game ranch. I don’t care if the deer they shoot are raised behind a fence as long as the host informs the viewers. Too many people view these shows, and consider the host a superb hunter. Some are excellent hunters, and great shots, and some may not be but the viewer is left out of touch with what is real and what is not.

I won’t name names, and I’m not out to bad-mouth anyone. But I see things on some shows that fly in the face of what I consider good form and good hunting ethics. Some set poor examples for their viewers.

Here is an example. A guy was sitting 25-30 feet up a tree, and along comes a buck walking directly at him. The bow comes back to full draw, the deer catches the movement and stops to look up, and he shoots the animal in front of the front shoulder near the brisket.

The deer was shot in full daylight, and suddenly it is extremely dark, and they find the deer “75 yards away” after a perfect shot, they say. Does this mean that taking whatever shot the deer offers will make the viewer a better hunter? Not hardly, because they may assume that this was a good shot when in fact it was a horrible shot placement.

There are two high-percentage shots that hunters should take: broadside and quartering-away. The showing of this deer being shot in front of the front shoulder, coupled with the fact that it had apparently taken hours and perhaps more than one day to find the animal, is never explained to the viewing audience. Again, a poor example is set for novice hunters. Sportsmen who know better won’t watch these shows again.

Another show I recently watched saw an arrow hit a deer in the front shoulder blade. There was hardly any penetration, and the animal ran off with the arrow dangling down. They later found a deer, and it shows one with a round hole behind the front shoulder. It appeared to be a different deer, one that was apparently shot with a rifle to provide a dead animal for the show. Folks, you were suckered on that one, and that show lost its credibility.

Right, wrong, I’m not the hunting-show police. It’s not up to me to act as an unpaid overseer of how they produce their shows. I made a vow to my readers many years ago that I wouldn’t fib, lie, prevaricate or tell that which was not true. For 42 years I’ve kept that promise to my readers and to myself.

I write books, magazine articles, newspaper articles and columns, and now write for my personal website. I write a daily blog, and one has to have countless outdoor experiences to continue to write a story every day, but what I write is what I’ve done. I write about things that are important to me, figuring if it is important to Dave Richey, it should be of some importance to you. Of course, that i subject to discussion, I suppose.

Granted, this is just a personal observation about some television hunting shows. Each person has his or her own sense of personal ethics, but when I see someone shoot a buck in the shoulder, and when they “recover” the deer and it looks different, I have a problem accepting such things. It’s just flat wrong! Perhaps it’s one of the main reasons the turnover of television hunting shows seems so high.

Many years ago, a hunter who had numerous whitetail bucks in the record books (before they were disqualified) got into making videos. I bumped into him on a hun down south, and he wanted me to watch his latest video.

I almost walked out before the video ended. He was proud of the live “kill” and “pass-through” shots. In one scene he shot a buck, it ran off, stumbled and fell in a tiny stream. The camera zeroed in on the downed buck, blood spurting into the air and turning the creek water red, and he asked what I thought.

“That is the most disgusting video I’ve ever seen!” I said. “How many “pass-through” shots are needed? I believe your sales will dwindle if you leave the buck-in-the-creek and spurting blood in that video. We all know that an arrow-shot deer bleeds and dies, but is it necessary to video such a scene? It would be like videotaping one of your children or a parent dying. Some women will ask their husband not to view it when the children are around. Some women will just make it disappear.”

He left in the spurting blood portion of the buck kicking and thrashing in the creek, and the video didn’t sell well. Then, other video producers started an attempt to clean up some of the gory hunting videos.

This man didn’t speak to me for several years, but later admitted that he and the producer made an error in judgment. I am not the guy to say such things mustn’t be shown. I’m just a guy who feels that some things don’t deserve to be shown in all their blood-and-guts glory.

Some things are better left unsaid and never photographed or shown to the public. The outdoor magazines long ago shied away from bloody abdomens, blood around the nose and mouth, and most outdoor writers take time to clean up the animal before shooting photos. A live deer is majestic to look at but a dead deer just looks dead, even if it has been cleaned up. You can put lipstick on a pig to make it look better, but in the end, it is still a pig wearing lipstick.

Sorry to natter on so long on such tasteless topics. I just saw one of the shows a week ago, and felt I had to write about it. Journalists should report only that which is honest and true, and if it doesn’t cause other people to get wild-eyed with horror when they see it.

Frankly, I’m tired of the fist pumps, the knuckle bumps, the thumb-grip handshakes, and the phoniness of some of these shows. The laughing and giggling when something dies leaves a very bad taste in my mouth. How many emphatic wide-eyed “Yes’!” do we need in one show. I watched one guy a few years ago almost fall out of his tree stand as he hollered “Yes!” at the top of his voice while shaking his fist in the air. Where is the respect for a dead animal? Where is the respect for our hunting sports?

Class will always carry a television hunting show. A few television shows have class and many do not. It’s my individual choice to choose what few outdoor shows I watch, and we never linger long on the bad ones.

Posted by Dave Richey on 03/16 at 07:46 PM
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Sunday, March 15, 2009

Bow Hunting: Matters Of Personal Choice

Life is about making personal choices and decisions of all kinds. None of us must follow other hunters like sheep, and do what they do. We can march, with the boundaries of the laws that govern hunting and human actions, whatever we wish.

This same sense of choice applies as well to bow hunting as many other things. Every bow hunter worthy of the name has his or her way of doing things, and often they turn out right. We learn from experience or continue making bad mistakes.

Bow quivers are a case in point. Should hunters leave the quiver on the bow while sitting in a stand and shooting or take it off to minimize weight and to remove an unnecessary item that could easily tangle in tree limbs, make noise or unnessarily mess up a shot? It’s a personal as choosing the color of your pickup truck,

I’ll go first, and toss my camo hat into the ring and voice my beliefs and opinions. I climb into my tree stand, and after I’ve attached my full-body harness to the tree and my body, I sit down, use the haul rope to raise my bow from the ground, and remove the bow quiver. I often hang the quiver on a nearby but out-of-the-way limb where it will help break up my silhouette.

Once the quiver in hung, I remove one arrow, unscrew the broadhead and attach my Game Tracer string behind the FirstCut broadhead, and screw it into my Maxima carbon arrow. It’s the same thing, day after day.

I attach the release to the string, tuck the lower limb of my C.P. Oneida Black Eagle bow into my left boot, and relax. I hunt and shoot sitting down, and my stands are positioned so the buck usually comes from behind me and on my left side.

If the deer follows his normal pattern, he will approach from behind and on my left side. I’m right-handed, so when the buck comes within shooting range, and looks the other way, I start my draw and as I reach full draw, the lower limb clears my boot and is clear of my leg, the stand or any tree branches.

This allows for a minimum of movement, is very quiet, and oh so effective once a hunter becomes used to it. This method of drawing a bow wouldn’t be possible if my bow quiver was still attached.

The arrow shafts, vanes or even the quiver could get caught up in clothing, limbs or branches. But there is another reason why my quiver comes off my bow when I begin hunting.

It reduces the overall bow weight. Not much, mind you, but when hunting in a variety of locations, sooner or later a bow quiver is going to hang up on something. I remove all possibilities of that happening by taking it off and hanging it some place where it will be out of my way.

Whenever I see a television show, or hunt with someone who always leaves his or her quiver on the bow, it makes me wonder how many lost opportunities have occurred because of that quiver.

A bow is a one-shot thing. It’s not like hunting with a bolt, pump or semi-automatic firearm. Unless the wind is very strong and noisy, second shots at a buck are so rare as to almost be nonexistent.

A bow quiver on a bow, doesn’t speed up getting off a second shot at a deer. It is somewhat awkward to reach to the quiver, pull out another arrow, reach across the bow to nock it, and prepare to shoot. Chances are, any self-respecting buck with some heavy headgear will be gone if you miss the first shot.

I often use my bow to help camouflage my upper body and head. I wear a face mask while hunting, and can still turn the bow inside my left boot so the handle and upper limb breaks up my silhouette. If a deer offers a shot, a simple and slow half-turn of the wrist will point the bow toward the animal as the hunter comes to full draw.

Such a movement may or may not be necessary, and that is a debatable point, but it would be impossible to do with a bow quiver attached. For me, that is a strong reason for removing the quiver.

The slight added weight of a bow quiver (even a three-arrow quiver like I use) can allow a hunter to unknowingly cant the bow to that side. Is it enough, under the pressure of a nearby buck, to throw the arrow off its intended course?

I don’t know and don’t care to test the theory. My preference is to shoot a bow unencumbered by a quiver. It’s my thought that it simplifies things, reduces weight, eliminates canting, and besides ... it works for me.

Anyone willing to plead their case for keeping a bow quiver on a bow while hunting is encouraged to contact me. You won’t change your mind, I won’t change mine, but I’d love to hear your philosophy.

Posted by Dave Richey on 03/15 at 06:24 PM
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Saturday, March 14, 2009

I Was Late For The Celebration


A friend, who keeps track of things much better than I, emailed me recently with kind words of congratulations.

My mind hurriedly ran through all the obvious things: my retirement several years ago, 32 years of marriage, good kids, gobs of grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

I didn’t hit the lottery so it wasn’t that. I knew it wasn’t because I never buy Lotto tickets.

Eventually he offered his congratulations on having hit the 2,000th consecutive daily weblog. Two thousand of anything is a bunch, but that many without a missed day surprised even me.

I emailed him back, thanked him for belatedly bringing this to my attention, admitted I’m a bit inept when it comes to keeping track of such things. If there had been a quiz, and the prize was $1 million if i could answer what landmark event was happening that day, I’d have dropped the ball and driven home penniless.

So, taking a backward look at 2,000 consecutive daily blogs, what do we have? We’ve seen the numbers of readers go from 10 to 15 per day to 25,000 to 30,000 on a daily basis. We’ve seen reader numbers rise and fall with the seasons, with the highest numbers from September through June, and watched them tail off a bit during July and August.

The number of “unique hits” has gone from a paltry 200 per month to a high of 850,000 per month. My monthly average readershipnow unknown because the counter doesn’t work. However, that number was more than many outdoor magazines I’ve written for over 42 years.

Many people have become friends because we share some of the same philosophies, enjoy the outdoors, and we share our successes and failures in the woods. We often like fishing and hunting books, and one person is a very thoughtful and kind man.

This blog business means trying to be timely on a daily basis, providing solid how-to and occasional where-to information, and writing blogs that anglers and hunters want to read. The next statement probably should be left alone, but that’s not my way.

Some blogs are perhaps more meaningful to me than to my readers. I’ve written quite a few stories about my twin brother and I, and the things we did together as adults and kids. He died Sept. 10, 2003, and I began my string of daily blogs in November that year.

The blogs have come from everywhere outdoors. I love to help people develop their five senses, and that has been featured here. I’ve written about all types of fishing from bass to trout, and all types of hunting from bears to muskox. I write from my heart, and if a story makes you feel like you are with me on the trip, I’ve accomplished my goal.

I’ve railed against urban sprawl, the loss of wildlife habitat, working on streams to control erosion, fishing the hex hatch, some great techniques for hunting rub-lines and scrapes for deer, and how I never look a game animal in the eye or think about killing that animal.

My list of blogs appears endless but it hasn’t reached that point yet. I’ve covered the failings of the DNR in recent years in their mismanaged way of controlling antlerless deer, and why in some areas there are too few deer now, even by DNR admission.

One squawk of mine is that Region II turkey hunters get shafted every spring. We can’t obtain private-land turkey tags although birds come and eat bugs in our clover fields, and yet when drawing time comes for spring hunts, drawing a 1st season turkey tag is difficult. Private-land tags are available in Regions I and III, but not up here.

We’ve documented the apparent slow demise of Lake Huron salmon, and what may be a slower year fof Lake Michigan salmon anglers. People, including me, are wondering where the coho salmon are. No one seems to know.

I try to write informative articles on all types of fishing, and bow hunting for whitetails is a special love for Kay and I. But, we can’t write about deer every day so we also cover hunting ruffed grouse, waterfowl, woodcock and ringneck pheasants. We touch on fox and coyote hunting, and love to write about fishing for bluegills, crappies, salmon, trout and walleyes.

It’s my intention to make you feel what I feel on my fishing and hunting trips, and allow you to learn some of the things I know or learn. A life spent in the outdoors is a never-ending quest for adventure, knowledge and outdoor observations.

I’m old enough to know there is more to fishing and hunting than catching and killing. Sometimes just being there is enough. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll end this and prepare for tomorrow’s fishing trip for early-season steelhead.

Thanks for celebrating this landmark occasion with me, and thanks to my friend for telling me about it. Happy trails.

Posted by Dave Richey on 03/14 at 07:05 PM
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Friday, March 13, 2009

Recalling Some “George” Moments


Almost six years ago, my twin brother George passed away after a four-day known bout with multiple forms of cancer. Besides losing a brother, I lost my best friend and my life has changed in the years since his passing.

We were inseparable from our 1939 birth until this untimely separation. We grew up during World War II, and being little kids we had no concept of bombs but we used to stand outside our home in Clio and try to hear them explode. Thank God we never did.

We began fishing in lovely Clio Creek, and caught a few bluegills, carp, suckers and sunfish, but we were anglers at a tender age. We had our first jobs at age six, and have never been out of work. We collected newspapers in the late 1940s, sold them in Flint, and it took all summer to make enough to buy our own bicycles.

Dad was a barber, didn’t make much money, but he provided us with the incentive to work toward buying our own bikes, and they were better than any that the other kids had. Ours were a top-of-the-line Schwinn, and they had a horn, fender-feelers and go-fasters.

We spent summers camping and fishing on the Sturgeon River in Cheboygan County. No one would let their kids fend for themselves as pre-teenagers, but our parents trusted us and we had a wonderful time.

George and I both played baseball, but I quit early because I had eczema, which was aggravated by getting dirty. But I learned how to catch steelhead, and quickly taught him, and again we were inseparable on the water. We could catch more steelhead than almost anyone from the Sturgeon River in the mid-1950s.

We prowled Luzerne Pond for brown trout, made forays for big browns to the upper Rifle River, and were soon fishing most of the major steelhead streams long before the salmon were planted. We pioneered guiding Great Lakes tributaries, and were the first fly-fishing guides.

We developed flies and fly fishing methods back in 1967 that are still in use today. Fishing two flies for steelhead came about in 1967, and there are people today who claimed they invented the system but they are wrong.

We traveled together in the off-season, giving seminars on fly fishing for lake-run brown trout, chinook and coho salmon, and steelhead when most people thought it was in its infancy. Again, they were wrong because we’d been catching browns and steelhead on flies for many years.

George loved fishing more than hunting, but would willingly go hunting with me because he enjoyed my company. For me, George was more than a brother and a great friend, he was my soul mate. We were often together late in his life, and once we learned he had cancer (while at the Wood-n-Water Outdoor Weekend show,) we spent his final four days and nights together.

We played “Remember When.” I’d ask is he remembered catching his first steelhead, as well as when and where the event occurred. He nailed that one. I asked if he remembered making that great long-range shot on a trophy desert whitetail in southwest Texas, and again, even though his body was failing him, he remembered it.

He remembered the night we fished for big browns after dark on the Sturgeon River, and both caught a pair of fish between seven and nine pounds each. He also remembered celebrating at the old Meadows Bar with a beer and a burger.

George was widely loved by all who knew him. He could ferret out lures like a beagle with a cold nose, and he was an expert at tying flies, something he did commercially for many years. He invented several steelhead flies that are still in use today, and invented the Michigan Squid, Laser Squid, Crinkle Fly, Sparkle Fly and others, and for years his squids and trolling flies were the best on the Great Lakes for salmon. They still are.

He was a well-known lure collector and historian. He wrote three books—Made in Michigan Fishing Lures, Made In Michigan Fishing Lures II, and Dodgers & Squids For Larger Salmon & Trout. He co-authored the revised edition of The Royal Frontenac Hotel with Pete Sandman. He wrote countless lure collecting stories for Woods-n-Water News, edited the National Fishing Lure Collectors Club Gazette for many years, and wrote many other magazine articles.

People thought the world of George, and he reciprocated. He was always ready to help a new lure collector get started, and was known far and wide for his vast store of knowledge about lures made in this state and many others.

He was an icon, a person people respected and looked up to. His sense of humor was infectious, and it’s easy to find people all over this state who have their favorite George Richey stories. I’ve shared a few of mine here, and there will be more in the future.

I loved my twin brother, love my memories of him, and today I had to write something about the man who meant so much to me. To pay a tribute to his 64 years of life, and to show people how much I truly miss him. He’s gone but far from being forgotten.

Thank you for reading this small tribute. It means a great deal to me.

Posted by Dave Richey on 03/13 at 06:41 PM
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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Thinking Muskies In Mid-Winter


It’s always difficult to drag me out of the deer woods in October and November, but there is one thing that will do it for several days.

The chance to fish one of several Michigan muskie lakes for this freshwater water wolf will drag me from my tree stand or ground blind. Cold and nasty weather, and a touch of winter in the air, puts muskellunge on the prod and I like to be there to meet them.

They move freely, feed like gluttonous pigs, and it’s one time of year when the largest fish of the season can be hooked. Hooking a big hen muskie is a tough task, of that there is no doubt, but it’s even tougher to stay hooked with one after a savage strike.

Murphy’s Law rules muskie fishing with an iron hand, and if anything can go wrong, it does. That is why I’ve been working on some of my fishing tackle now during the off-season.

I don’t want a bait-casting reel drag to freeze up when the fish is first hooked, and is plunging toward bottom. I want the fish to work for any line he takes with those head-shaking lunges they make, but I don’t want a sticky drag to cause a broken line, leader or snap swivel.

It makes me angry when a cast goes sailing out, comes to a pinched line, and the plug or spinnerbait splashes down away from where I wanted it to go. My lures are all tuned ahead of time even though I often tweak the tuning process before I begin fishing a lure.

I have three full tackle boxes crammed to the gills with muskie lures. There are casting and trolling lures; gliders, jerkbaits, spinnerbaits and surface lures that are favorites.

The lures are available in a wide variety of colors although I admit to being partial to black, orange, red or yellow jerkbaits. Some of these lures float, and some sink, and there are those that are supposed to float and dive on the jerk caused by my rod-tip English and I expect them to perform properly.

I’m partial to black and red bucktail spinnerbaits, and favor an orange spinner blade although silver, black, copper and other colors have produced. The gliders come in a variety of colors, and the same holds true for trolling lures.

I troll on Lake St. Clair when muskie fishing with Steve Van Assche of Harrison Township, and his favorite lures are the Loke and Wyle. I have a few of Homer LeBlanc’s old Swim Whizz lures, and I break them out when casting, more as a tribute to Homer than anything else although I’ve caught some big fish on them over the years.

FireLine in 50-pound test is my favorite no-stretch line. I dislike using wire leaders, and one hooked muskie can kink a wire leader badly. Keep using that wire leader, and it can cost an angler a trophy fish. Big is one of the rules for lures used during the fall months. Some measuring 12 inches are used.

Often my choice of a leader is a hard 24-inch length of 50 or 60-pound monofilament. I’ve lost big fish when they roll, but I’ve had little problems with fish biting through the leader. My perception is the lure has a much easier action when tied with a loop knot than when using a wire leader with a snap swivel.

I’ve been whittling away at sharpening and triangulating hook points on my muskie lures at different times when I have some spare time. It’s my prerogative, and for me, a sharp set of treble hooks is three times better than having one really sharp hook point while the other two are fairly dull.

Working on these hooks with a file is finger-cramping work. I’ll do six or eight lures today, and some more tomorrow or next week. I usually wear a pair of Kevlar gloves while sharpening hooks. The gloves won’t protect from sharp-pointed hooks, but it has saved me many rasped knuckles.

Ask 10 muskie fishermen what they prefer to use in the fall, and most will come up with 10 different ideas about which lures to use. However, what most of them do agree on is it’s necessary to use big lures.

Just how big is big? Again, it depends on the angler. I have some 12-inch lures, others measure 10 inches, and the smallest I generally use is seven or eight inches long. Fall muskies want a big mouthful, and that’s exactly what they get from me.

If I have my druthers, two lure types work best for me during the autumn months. Big spinnerbaits fished hard and fast along the inside and outside edges of weed beds can be a very productive technique. Another that works well is to fish jerkbaits along weed-lines, and in the shallows near shore or around humps or sunken islands.

Mind you, there have been times when reeling a deep-diver along at 15 feet below the surface can be productive, but it is very hard work. Make no mistake about it: fishing late-fall muskies is hard work, often in nasty weather, but when a big fish hits, remains hooked, and is landed as snow flakes whistle past your ears, it’s a head trip of the best kind.

Posted by Dave Richey on 03/12 at 03:05 PM
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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Best Fishing Time Of All


It was a lesson I learned a good many years ago. The best time to go fishing is when you can.

In days of old, and I was taking care of my four children while recovering from a broken back, the first sign of the afternoon school bus was when the old man got up, stumbled around a bit, and once the kids hit the bathroom, we’d jump in the car and drive five miles to a small inland lake where the water came right up alongside the road.

We could park at a wide shoulder along the road, and it looked like one of those circus clown tricks where people kept tumbling out of the car. I’d grab the can of worms, set the bobber at three feet, and we’d go fishing. It may not have been pretty like cake and steak but we were fishing.

One after another of the kids would hook a bluegill, crappie or sunfish, and I’d sit there on the road shoulder and unhook fish and bait them up again. A wire mesh submersible container held the fish in the water, and it didn’t take the kids long to catch a great huge mess of tasty fish.

We’d fish for two or three hours or until they carried on about being starved, and we’d go home. The fish would be cleaned, and it didn’t take long to cook up a big mess of fish, and the scoffed down the fish and corn bread as fast as the Old Man could cook it. I’d keep cooking as long as they kept eating, and being the chef, it was important that I sample everything just to make certain it was fit for human consumption.

Going fishing on a schedule is what I’ve had to do for many years as a full-time outdoor writer. Meet a charterboat at 5:30 a.m., and head out onto Lake Michigan, Lake Huron or Lake Erie for chinook salmon, walleye or whatever. I’d come in, rest up a bit during the middle part of the day, and head back out in the late afternoon and early evening for more fishing action.

It was like working in a factory. Be here at a certain time, eat lunch at another time, and punch out at a different time. Much of fishing is regulated a good bit like being in military service. Fishing or hunting conditions dictated when to eat, sleep and work.

Been there, done that, and now that I’m a bit older, I’ll play the fishing-by-schedule game when it’s necessary but frankly, I enjoy going fishing when it suits me. Give me a four-hour respite from pounding the keyboard to write my daily blogs and other stuff, and I’m as likely to slide out for two or three hours of bluegill fishing, chasing brook trout on a few local but unidentified cold-water trickles, or fishing for salmon of steelhead, depending on the time of year.

Over many years of fishing for a variety of game fish, I’ve learned one important thing. Fish do not wear wrist watches, never look at clocks, and have absolutely no concept of time. They feed when hungry, and don’t feed when they are not.

It’s not a bad life except small fish always run the risk of being eaten by a larger fish, and I suppose that is a bummer, but fish don’t think like humans do. They react to instinct and stimuli, and when the belly rumbles, they go looking for dinner.

There are exceptions to every basic rule. Fish often feed well in the early morning, and again as daylight fades into darkness. Those are commonly accepted times, but there are exceptions, such as the spring Hendrickson hatch. Those insects, somewhat like quail, get going in the early afternoon at a reasonable and gentlemanly time of day, and are unlike the Hex hatches that occur about the time most people are heading for bed.

Fishing is a sport with many wonders, and I’m a firm believer in trying to learn something new every time I go fishing. Sometimes I do, and on occasion, I’m not only skunked by the fish but fail to stick a little tidbit of fishing knowhow in some hidden recess of my brain.

Fishing, to me and many other people, is not a competitive thing. Most of us find little necessity in catching more fish than the next person. We fish because we enjoy areas where fish are caught, and feel better about life when we have a pleasant day on the water.

Most of all, we learn that fishing on an unscheduled basis can be fun. What do I have left to prove? That I can catch more or bigger fish than someone else?

Naw, that’s not me. Fishing is supposed to be a contemplative pursuit, where being there is every bit as important as catching fish, and in some cases, more important. So, for me, it’s every bit as much fun to fish when the mood strikes rather than when other people think we should be on the water.

In my dotage, I’m become a bit more like the fish. I eat when I need to, sleep when I must, and spend the rest of the day outside enjoying the best that nature has to offer.

Posted by Dave Richey on 03/11 at 08:16 PM
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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Turkey Talking 101


Is calling as important to a turkey hunter as some sportsmen would have us believe, or is calling just the frosting on a turkey hunters cake? If it isn’t, it should be.

It’s one thing to choose a spot to ambush a gobbler when he walks by. It’s still another to make the longbeard come to you, one or two tentative steps at a time; its head up and looking and listening, the roar of a return gobble, the sight of a snowball head moving slowly through the woods toward the hen call.

Turkey hunting is exciting and fun. Calling a gobbler to the bow or shotgun is just about as much fun as anyone can have while wearing camo clothing. Is calling hard and must we be an expert to succeed?

Good questions. No, one doesn’t have to be an expert and calling is not extremely hard to learn. A good ear for proper cadence and tone is helpful.

A diaphragm call is far more difficult to learn than an aluminum, glass or slate friction call. The wood box call is perfect because it is one of the easiest calls to master, and the easiest of all to use is the push-button call that produces realistic sounds.

The most difficult turkey call of all to master is the wing-bone yelper. Anyone who can run a yelping sequence on a wing-bone yelper or trumpet is a person who has my admiration. It is extremely difficult to master, which is why few people use them in the northern states. They remain fairly popular among older southern hunters, but the yelper seems to be losing the popularity contest because of the difficulty of making the proper sounds.

There is one important thing to remember: turkeys, like humans, have different voices. I’ve listened to world champion callers, and once spent a week deer hunting in Alabama with Dick Kirby of Quaker Boy Calls. He was prepping for the World Championship of turkey calling, and he could make truly realistic turkey sounds that were as clear and pure as the brittle tinkle of an icicle breaking with a gentle tug.

“Championship calling is different than an in-the-field situation,” Kirby told me. “Hunters who can cluck, cutt, purr and yelp can call birds. Championship-type calling isn’t required because no two turkeys sound alike. The key is more about the cadence and rhythm of a call than the quality of the sound. The biggest secret is knowing when to call, which call to make and not to call too loud or often. A caller who calls much too often will scare more birds than he will attract.”

Box calls - Hold the call lightly in the palm of the hand. Many callers hold a box call horizontally, and draw the paddle across the top of the box. Some hunters, especially in southern states, hold the box vertically and hold the striker between their index and middle fingers to strike the lip of the box. Both methods work well, and what it boils down to is using whichever method that feels the most comfortable.

A turkey show was on television recently, and the host was using a box call in a horizontal position, and would then hold the call in a vertical fashion. He didn’t look very comfortable with either method. Use whichever feels most comfortable, and there’s no need to switch back and forth from horizontal to vertical. It’s a waste of time and too much motion.

Make a cluck by popping the striker (handle) against the top of the box. It is a sharp one-note sound. To cutt, make a series of sharp clucks in rapid fashion. Yelps are made by moving the handle across the lip of the box and cover the sound chamber to accomplish the two-note call. Purring is simple and works best early in the morning when birds are roosted; move the striker lightly and slowly across the lip of the box.

Diaphragm - Kirby could make astounding sounds with a diaphragm call but mine sound like a gobbler with an adenoidal problem. However, my diaphragm calls are effective. Remember, notes need not be competition perfect. Just understand the cadence of each call, and know when to make that particular call.

To cluck, exhale air across the reed(s) and say “putt.” Cutt by making three or four clucks quickly and sharply. They can be made loud or softly, and much depends on how far away the bird is and how he responds to the call. A soft cutt often excites birds when they are within 50 yards.

A yelp begins high (and can be strung out) and falls off into a lower note. Yelps can be strung together quickly or done just once but jaw, mouth and tongue movement can affect volume and tone. Experiment until it sounds good. A purr is fairly difficult to do, but I find it easier than breaking off the high end of a yelp into the low tone. My yelps sound like a bird with tonsillitis but gobblers will come to it.

Aluminum, crystal. glass or slate calls are quite easy to use but require both hands. I favor these calls when a turkey is a good distance away, and as the bird moves closer, I switch to the diaphragm call so both hands are free to handle the shotgun.

All three materials require the use of a peg or striker. Strikers are made of glass, graphite or wood. To cluck, hold the striker like a ballpoint pen but turn the tip at an angle pointing toward your body and drag it toward you in a skipping motion. Press down harder to make a louder cluck. Cutting is done by making a series or fast and irregular clucks for five to seven seconds. Cutts can be soft or loud, and long or short in duration. Yelping is done by dragging the striker with some pressure in a circular motion or a straight line. The more pressure of striker against the call, the louder the sound. Purr by lightly dragging the striker across the call. This is one of my favorite calls early in the morning because it sounds like a contented bird ready for a new day.

A recording of these sounds make more sense for a beginner than me trying to put down what each sound is like. Hunters also can talk to an accomplished caller and learn these basic sounds.

Some gobblers are, by nature, downright call-shy. Gobblers often call from the roost, and four or five Toms gobbling back and forth sends chills down my spine. As a general rule, don’t call as often as a gobbler; let him wonder where the hen is and come looking for it. I often give one or two soft tree yelps after I hear the first crow calling at dawn. If there is no response, try again five minutes later. If a gobbler responds, sit still and say nothing. Wait for the gobbler to call again, and then softly cluck or purr for five seconds and shut up.

A big limbwalker will probably boom back a return call but let him wait again. As he gobbles, birds in other areas may respond with a gobble so wait for a few minutes after silence is restored. Try another soft purr, and if it is full light, slap an old turkey wing against a tree or your pant legs to imitate a bird flying down, and give one short and soft yelp to sound like a hen on the ground.

Muffle some calls like a hen moving around on the ground, and listen for the gobbler to fly down. Give him another yelp, and if he gobbles, let him come. If the bird stops 50 yards away, purr or softly cluck and scratch in the leaves with your fingers like a hen feeding. If the bird keeps coming, stay quiet and let him come. If the gobbler stops behind a tree within range, purr or cluck softly and shoot when he steps out and lifts his head to look around.

If a gobbler hangs up, try a trick that has worked for me many times. Use two calls at once: yelp softly with a diaphragm and with a box or slate call to imitate two hens calling for Tommie. This trick has produced many gobblers for me and my friends. Or, try creeping backwards and turn and call softly to imitate a hen moving away.

Try to set up so the bird can come into a semi-open area to look for the hen. Gobblers will move through thick cover if necessary but they like to see what lays ahead and if it appears dangerous. Calling isn’t particularly difficult but it requires some practice is rerquired. Do it in the car, not out in the field. The first time you call outdoors is when you have a shotgun in hand.

The above advice is just some of the basics of calling a wild turkey within range, and it represents some of the tricks that work. Give ‘em a try when the April-May turkey season is open, and work at learning something new every day. Studying turkey behavior and their calls will pay off.

Posted by Dave Richey on 03/10 at 08:18 PM
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Monday, March 09, 2009

Protecting Our Natural Resources


I took it as something of an insult. I’m sure the reader didn’t mean it the way it came out in his email, but I took it as a personal insult.

The reader told me recently that I have an archaic sense of protecting our fish and game from poachers. He chided me for being so concerned about the welfare of our birds, fish, fur and game.

He said I should let the DNR worry about it. They are trained to do the job, and if they can’t catch the poachers, too bad. I wondered whether he had ever picked up the phone and dialed the RAP Hotline phone number (800-292-7800) to report a poaching incident in progress. My guess was he hadn’t.

I’m sorry but I don’t feel the same way he does. Poachers are basically opportunistic people, and break the law whenever they think they can get away with it. That line of thinking is dead wrong.

Years ago I did a newspaper story about a joker who was proud of being arrested more times than anyone else in the state for fish and game law violations. He boasted that he’d been arrested on one or another charge over 50 times.

The guy is a bit younger than me, and I once figured up that he’d spent a few years in the hoosegow. Man, everyone wants to be known for something in their life, but being the state’s most arrested poacher?

Is that something to be proud of? I think not. One might think he has fish eggs for brains after having speared as many steelhead as he did during a long and largely unproductive poaching career.

A few weeks ago I wrote about apathy among anglers and hunters. It’s becoming more prevalent by the day. Apathy is alive and well in the sense that poachers are seldom apprehended even though their family and neighbors know they are potting deer out of season.

Does this make them feel proud? It apparently must, because for them, outwitting the conservation officer is a game. If they get caught, they pay their fine, and go right back to breaking fish and game laws again.

Apathy is running rampant as people shake their head and mutter: “Old Uncle Pete got himself another deer last night. Oh well, he’ll get himself hooked up again.”

It makes one wonder why they don’t turn Uncle Pete in. Ten or more days in the slam might wake him up, but even that is doubtful. For most poachers, it is a game of beating the local game warden at their game. Trespass is a major problem throughout the state.

Some poachers are ingenious in their willingness to test the game warden’s skills. They go out of their way to concoct ways to mislead the officer so they can operate in impunity.

Sooner or later, their worst nightmare comes true. The conservation officer steps out from behind a tree, and catches them red-handed with a freshly killed deer that was taken out of season or after dark.

Those who catch and keep more than their limit of fish are just as guilty as deer poachers. So too for those who put out 10 tip-ups during the winter, and when caught, shrug their shoulders, pay their fine and do something else that breaks our fish and game laws.

People dither, complain a bit, and soon everything blows over and the poacher is back at work. Family members, who could call and ask to remain anonymous, sit on their hands and wonder why nothing is done. The answer is they are afraid to take that first step by making a phone call to the authorities.

Sad but true, there seems to be little improvement in the number of people arrested for breaking our wildlife laws. Conservation officers are spread too thin, and in some counties, there is only one fish cop to cover too much ground. If he is patrolling the north end of the county, and things are happening at the south end, the chance of the violators being caught are very small.

Our sense of protecting our fish and game tells me that this is a matter of education. We must start with the school children, and teach them that what Uncle Pete does is a crime against everyone in the state.

Children have to learn that shooting game out of season, setting a web (small gill net) across a spawning stream, jacklighting a deer at night, and all the other things that poachers do, is wrong.

In days of old, when knights were bold, poaching of the King’s fish and deer in England, was a risky proposition that some poachers gladly accepted.

In some parts of Africa today, poachers are summarily dealt with. The law officers who try to protect the elephants and rhinos are both judge and jury, and the sentence is delivered immediately. A hail of bullets and a sudden death is what happens to many African poachers. Most don’t have the guts to do that again.

A snide and very impersonal remark? I don’t think so. Poaching is big business, and educating long-time fish and game thieves is a battle we seldom win. Caught, they are fined and possibly serve a short prison sentence, and once they are back out they return to poach again.

Where is the justice in that? There isn’t any.

Of course, in this country, using some of Africa’s short and swift punishments would be considered cruel and unusual punishment. Poachers think little of our rights, but we must consider theirs when they are caught. A flaw exists in this argument.

Shooting poachers may be too harsh, but locking them up for a longer period of time and handing out much higher fines and restitution fees might make a difference.

It’s my thought that we must deal with this problem in a different way, and teaching our children that poaching is wrong, is just the first step. If the kids start ragging on the old man whenever he takes game out of season, perhaps knowing that the kids are watching would do the trick.

It’s certainly a good place to start, providing the Old Man doesn’t bat the kids around for opening their mouth at the wrong time. Dealing with this problem is a touchy situation, and it never gets any easier. It will only get better when enough people begin to care about our natural resources.

Posted by Dave Richey on 03/09 at 06:53 PM
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Sunday, March 08, 2009

Those Were The Days, My Friends, ….


My, how times have changed. Fifty-five to 60 years ago, when my twin brother George and I needed nightcrawlers for pir summer fishing, we’d head for the Clio High School football field. Once the sun went down, the nightcrawlers would come out, especially on a night of drizzling rain.

He and I would pick crawlers two or three nights each week to satisfy our bait needs. My flashlight had red cellophane across the lens, and it didn’t scare the big worms as did a bright, white beam of light.

We picked the football field until Alice Boyce, one of the Clio high school teachers, spotted red and white lights dotting the football field. Clio’s finest, our city police, arrived to catch two nefarious little kids picking crawlers. They shagged us out of there, but we’d sneak back the next night.

Come winter, and we needed corn borers for ice fishing, dawn would find us in a patch of field corn with a sharp knife. We would cut the stalks length-wise, remove the white grubs, and within an hour have enough corn borers to last two days.

If we needed wigglers, we use a length of seine, and one person would wade upstream, kick around in a muck bed, and the other would stand downstream with the net and pick out the large mayfly nymphs. Three people worked even better because we could use two kickers, and the netter would attach one end of the net to a pole, anchor it to bottom and stretch the net tight.

We soon learned that some muck beds were better than others. Some just held more and bigger wigglers.

We collected grasshoppers with a tennis racquet. We’d walk through a weed field, and when a grasshopper would jump into the air, one swipe would be taken with the racquet. We’d pick them up, and a brown fluid would come out of the ‘hopper, and we always called it tobacco juice. A can with a hinged lid, and a small piece of nylon would work well.

The hopper would get its feet tangled in the nylon material, and it made grabbing one for the hook much easier.

We caught black crickets for bluegills under piles of old boards, and found there was nothing any better for deep-water roach (bull bluegills). These fish would hit a cricket hooked through the body, and we’d either cast way out or drift with the wind while a small weight allowed the cricked to tumble along bottom in deeper water. Summer bluegills—the bigger ones—were often caught in 25 to 30 feet of water, and drifting downwind allowed us to cover more water and catch more big fish.

Fifty-five to 60 years ago is a long time in the past. Money was tight and hard to come by in those days, and if we wanted to go fishing, we went out and caught our own live bait. We even caught our own leeches, and found they produced well when hooked to a jig or live-bait rig, and trolled along bottom on a sinker, leader hook rig similar to the now-popular Lindy rig.

Dennis “Curly” Buchner owns Buc’s Bait in Interlochen. He is the largest live-bait dealer in the state, and both of us began our weblogs at the same time. He says that most of the kids of his era collected their own bait even though his father, Earl, started the live-bait business many years ago.

“The average person doesn’t have time to collect bait now,” Buchner said. “Most of our nightcrawlers now come from huge farms in Ontario, and few people can compete with the quality and size of their crawlers. Ontario pretty much has the locks on the nightcrawler business.”

He said that most of his leeches come from northern Minnesota, and his wax worms come from Indiana. Few people have worm farms now like they did 35-40 years ago. Wiggler diggers are the tough ones, he says, noting that they often dig for wigglers at various times of the year although there is a summer moratorium on digging for mayfly larvae.

Gone are the days of prowling the neighborhood yards and the football field for nightcrawlers, and much of the corn now is resistant to corn borers. Leeches and wigglers must be dug, and crawlers are imported from Canada for Michigan’s bait fishermen.

Many minnows are purchased, and even live suckers for winter tip-up fishing, now come from a wholesaler. It’s men like Buchner, who covers Michigan from Sanford Lake north to the Mackinac Bridge, and the eastern half of the Upper Peninsula, who are probably the last of their breed.

They keep the bait container filled at local tackle shops, and their hours are long and tiring, but in the end, if you hook a minnie or a nightcrawler to your hook this spring, summeror fall, chances are good that Curly Buchner stocked the live bait at a bait shop near you.

It’s a long step from catching your own bait. I know I don’t miss the sore back that always came when walking hunched over while trying to pick nightcrawlers before Alice Boyce could call the cops on us. Sometimes it was a hard run to make our escape, but it didn’t matter very much.

We were the only kids committing such crimes against our little city. Besides, at times, I think the cops thought it was fun chasing down two little twirps who didn’t have an evil thought in their head.

Posted by Dave Richey on 03/08 at 06:51 PM
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Saturday, March 07, 2009

Are We Superstitious Anglers & Hunters?


We’ve watched the antics of baseball, basketball, football and hockey players. Each sport has its own little rituals.

Call them superstitions if you will. The world is full of baseball players who refuse to step on the first-base or third-base line or some other bit of foolishness.

Some baseball pitchers won’t shave the day they pitch, and I’ve heard of players who feel compelled to pull the right sock on before pulling on the left. Ben Wallace seems to wear his hair tight for one basketball game, and big and wide for another. Who knows the reason why, but there has to be one.

Others use a certain color of toothbrush on game day while some won’t talk to a reporter if they pitch that day. The world of major league sports is filled with such idiosyncrasies. Some folks would call them superstitions.

We try not to walk under a ladder ... but why? Then there is the black cat theory, and “step on a crack, break you mother’s back” song chanted by girls playing a sidewalk game, at least back in the old days.

Some of these things border on being compulsive, obsessive or superstitious while others border on doing something based on something that happened in the past.

Years ago, when I fished Cheboygan County’s Sturgeon River, there were no beliefs based on superstition. However, if the fish were in the river, and a distant rumble of thunder rolled across the sky, it didn’t matter where I was. The sound clouds slapping together put me on the move.

I’d make a mad dash for the car, and head for one spot. This particular hole didn’t look like much to me or anyone else, and most people ignored the spot and never fished it, but by chance or luck I learned that if a steelhead was holding in that hole just before the rain fell, I would catch it.

Why, I have no clue. But it paid off for me so many times, that it became a ritual. If I could smell rain, I headed for that hole, and sometimes would get only one cast before the rain began to fall. That one cast would produce a steelhead nine out of 10 times.

For many years, my trademark was a red Jones-style hat that I wore. It was with me on more adventures than I can remember, and whenever I was wearing it, we’d catch fish. I decided after Kay and I were married that it looked better on her than me, and she began wearing it and my luck continued to hold even though I would switch hats. As long as one of us wore the hat, the fish bit and the game moved. There are no known reasons why this happened, but who am I to question a mixture of luck and skill.

Is this all a matter of coincidence? Is it luck? Or is it a figment of my imagination? Who knows or cares, because I’ve never tried to root out the reasons why things work or don’t work. If wearing that hat led to better catches and more photos for a full-time free-lance outdoor writer, why not wear it. Why step on the third-base line if you don’t have to?

Years ago I had some skin-tight Gortex rainwear. I began wearing it in Wyoming’s Big Horn Mountains while hunting mountain lion. There was a great deal of walking in deep snow, and a lot of sweating, and I wanted something that would keep me warm and dry without wearing long underwear, jeans and other clothing. It worked perfectly, and my lion was shot with a bow at six paces as it stood, bayed on the ground.

That rainwear was like a lucky rabbits foot for several years until I took it to the Northwest Territories’ Little Martin Lake for a Central-Canada Barren Ground caribou hunt. I wore it on that hunt, killed a caribou bull that at one time was No. 9 in the world. My guide wanted the rain wear, I wouldn’t give it to him but gave him a hefty tip instead. He happily took the money, and helped himself to the rain wear when I wasn’t looking, and then I began shopping around for something else that would work.

Do I consider myself superstitious? Nope, but some good things happen when certain types of equipment are used. I own a pre-1964 Winchester Model 70 .264 Winchester Magnum. I used to handload my own ammo for that rifle, and it can shoot straighter than I can hold it. I’ve killed plenty of game out to over 400 yards with that rifle, and although my handloads are now made to perfection by a friend, that rifle has been with me on many fine hunts.

During my 10 years of guiding fishermen, a Shakespeare Black Beauty fiberglass fly rod was the main tool of my trade. It was a sweet rod, tough as nails, and over 10,000 (that number is correct) big browns, salmon and steelhead were landed with that rod. Several years after I retired from guiding, I took an old client fishing for fun, and hooked a big Chinook salmon.

I heard a soft but ominous creak in the rod as I led the big fish to shore, and once the king was unhooked and released, I headed for the car. My buddy asked where I was going, and I told him I had just retired my favorite fly rod. That rod now hangs in a special place of honor, where it is rightfully recognized as one of the most fish-catchin’est rods in history.

It’s a funny thing though. I don’t catch as many fish now as I did when I used that old fly rod, but I blame that not on the rod, or bad fortune, but on my poor vision. We all need a good excuse at times

Posted by Dave Richey on 03/07 at 08:42 PM
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Friday, March 06, 2009

Eliminate Seasickness This Fishing Season


It’s a malady that can knock a grown man to his knees faster than a sucker punch, and it’s the type of thing that can happen to anyone, at any time. It can strike young and old alike. It’s called seasickness, and we’re rapidly approaching the open-water fishing season.

My buddy was deep in the throes of this marine illness. He was gut-wrenching seasick. Knee-walking ill. Puking his guts out. A feeling of dizziness overwhelmed him. His face was pale, perspiration dotted his forehead, and he was sucking air like a person having run 1,500 meters at 10,000 feet. He was in sad shape.

We were only 10 minutes out of port on Lake Erie, and the boat was bouncing and rolling in five-foot swells pushed by a stiff northwesterly wind that was blowing the foam off the top of the whitecaps. Five minutes after reaching open water, he was hanging over the rail while I kept him somewhat upright by grabbing his belt and hoping his buckle held.

All this didn’t make him feel any better. In fact, it made him feel even worse but I was trying to keep him from pitching head-first into the rolling foam-flecked waves.

“Oh, God, I’m sick,” he sputtered, vomit dripping off his chin. “How long will this last?”

The skipper, unsympathetic as most are to those people who are afraid others will think they are a wimp if they take medications to prevent getting ill, said: “It will last until I turn this boat around and drop you off on shore.”

Bob’s ongoing vomiting brings truth to an old saw often told by ancient and modern mariners—when a person first get seasick, they are afraid they will die. After a prolonged bout with seasickness and the dry heaves, they are more afraid they won’t.

This is how Bob felt until we took him back to shore. Five minutes after his feet touched dry dirt, and he kneeled to kiss the ground, he experienced a miraculous five-minute recovery.

Seasickness can affect anyone, at any time, and its causes are many and varied. The only sure cure is firm ground beneath your feet, and even then, nausea or queasiness in your guts can linger for hours. That one sure cure would mean never going fishing on big water.

What is seasickness, and how can it be treated? I’ve never (the sound you hear is me knocking on wood) been seasick, although I’ve had a mighty upset stomach on several occasions. What causes the illness is hard to determine exactly although there are many guesses as to its causes.

Boating sickness is another name for this malady. Motion sickness is another. It can occur in a car, boat, bus, roller coaster, or Ferris wheel, airplane ride, to name just a few. Motion upsets the middle ear, which helps humans maintain their balance or equilibrium, and this sets up a feeling of exaggerated movement within the body. Rough water isn’t the only thing that can make people feel ill.

One major triggering factor in seasickness is fear. Few people will readily admit to their friends that they fear the water, but deep down inside, they may be very uncomfortable being on big water, regardless of the boat size or the skill of the skipper. They subconsciously think about the boat tipping over, them being thrown overboard, and they become nauseous and ill.

This part of it is all in their head. They manage to talk themselves into getting sick, and this is the one thing over which they do have a certain amount of control. Put on a life jacket, tell your friends you are a weenie, and go fishing and quit thinking about the waves, the motion and the queasiness in their guts.

What an angler or boater eats or drinks also can trigger seasickness. What a person thinks or hears also can do a nasty job on those people who may be on the cusp of becoming ill.

Heavy drinking of alcoholic beverages before a trip or during a boating excursion is another cause. A booming morning hangover after a long bout on the juice also can lead to a naval disaster.

Certain foods are known to precipitate a bout of motion sickness. Orange, grapefruit or other citrus juices are high in citric acid, which can help trigger seasickness. Avoid tomato juice as well, and apple juice can make some people very sick.

Little or no sleep will do a number on most people prone to this problem. Too much coffee or soda pop are major factors that lead some folks to becoming sick on the water. Eating fried eggs, hash browns and bacon or sausage for breakfast, and then chasing it down with a large OJ, is a great recipe for on-the-water barfing.

Sometimes, even talking about motion sickness makes people ill, and some old salts who never get seasick seem to take savage delight in talking about the illness. I once watched a father talk about getting seasick, and he talked his son into leaning over the rail to upchuck his breakfast.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” I told the father. “Sometimes that kind of comment will come back to haunt you.”

His son recovered, and then the Old Man got sick. He got zero sympathy from his kid or me. Keep such comments to yourself, and it will make for a more pleasant fishing experience for everyone.

Impending seasickness is quite easy to spot. The victim usually begins to sweat and often feels nauseous. Gradually, skin color becomes pale or white, and cramps hit the abdomen.

Sucking noises are often heard as the victim tries to take in enough air through the mouth to offset hyperventilation and to ease stomach cramps. The next step – nausea—usually continues until the stomach is emptied and dry heaves set in.

It’s not fun for the victim. And frankly, bystanders never enjoy watching the results of this malady in other people. It can be somewhat contagious, and if one person gets sick and throws up, that action often results in others doing the same.

What can be done to prevent seasickness? Numerous over-the-counter medications such as Dramamine are available. One or two pills should be taken the night before a trip and one should be taken at least 30 minutes before leaving the dock. Check with a doctor to see if Dramamine or any other motion sickness pill is right for you.

Don’t take anti-motion pills after becoming ill. They may prolong the sickness. Scopolamine, an anti-motion sickness medicine, is released slowly into the skin through a behind-the-ear patch, and it works for many people when properly used. The patches are obtained with a doctor’s prescription. It’s recommended that a patch be applied the evening before a boating or fishing trip.

If you start feeling ill, start doing some boating chores. Don’t sit motionless and hope the queasiness will go away. It won’t. Don’t go below and sit in the head (bathroom) because that will only aggravate the problem and make things worse.

Rig tackle, watch other boats, study the rods or look at the distant shoreline or the horizon. Stand in the fresh air, hopefully with the breeze in your face, and breathe deeply. Don’t inhale gasoline or diesel exhaust fumes, and try not to sit or lay down. It will only make matters worse.

Avoid unpleasant odors. A lack of ventilation and close quarters can combine to trigger an attack. Never go below decks or lay in a V-bunk if seasickness strikes. Stay out in the fresh air, and remain upright if possible, and look at the horizon. Another trick is to never look down at the deck or down at the water.

Try eating dry bread, gingersnap cookies, lemon drops or mints. Eat slowly, try not to swallow air and concentrate on something other than a queasy stomach. Do not drink milk, alcoholic beverages or soft drinks. Bottled water and mints are good to rinse out a mouth after vomiting and the mints freshen the mouth and relieve some of the aftertaste of this sickness.

Seasickness can strike anyone, anytime. I’ve been lucky, but someday I’m sure my time will come. Hopefully I’ll be able to follow my own advice, and conquer the problem before it overwhelms me.

Posted by Dave Richey on 03/06 at 07:19 PM
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Thursday, March 05, 2009

Who Will Take Them Fishing?


Who will teach our children to fish? Will it be you or me? Your neighbor or perhaps a relative?

Or will no one step forward to teach the kids. Must today’s kids become a lost and forgotten generation who will never enjoy the pleasure of catching a fish and spending quality time on a lake or stream?

Are the people of today too lazy or selfish and self-centered to give something of themselves in order that the great and noble pastime of fishing will be carried forward into the future? Why is it that Dad can go fishing, and leave the kids home? Why? I’d like an answer to these questions.

So many questions, and so little time to spend fishing with our children before they grow up, move out, get married, develop a career and as the old man grows older, there will be no one to take him out onto the water for a day or two. Those who do not give, do not get.

Some, and certainly not all, but some adults are sorely lacking in how they handle their parental duties. Others are wonderful parents, provide a good home, but offer spend no quality time with their kids. It’s a shame.

My children were fishing for bluegills before they were four years old. They were battling 25-pound chinook salmon by the time they were nine, and catching 15-pound brown trout from Lake Michigan before they reached teenager status. I gave of my free time often, and enjoyed that time spent with my kids.

Mind you, as a full-time freelance writer and fishing guide when my kids were young, I was often busy. But I took them fishing, made certain they were having a good time, let them help me set downriggers, and taught them how to watch for strikes. Along the way, between fish, we talked fishing and I answered their many questions.

Are my kids lucky? I’d like to think so because even back in the mid- to late 1970s, I was doing things with my kids that their friends were not doing with their parents. This fishing business is a one-time opportunity for most parents and their children, and kids who aren’t exposed to fishing at an early point in their life, are likely never to take it up later.

I like those “Take Me Fishing” ads on television. In one, an older man says “Take me fishing because I miss my sons.” Another has a child saying “Take me fishing because I’ll be married before you know it (or something like that).”

The one of the elderly gentleman reminds me of myself. Fortunately, my son David does take me fishing and there are no words to express how much I enjoy fly fishing with him. We go for spring steelhead, fall salmon and occasionally for summer trout. Bluegills figure in there too.

He’s kind and courteous, helpful, and once I’m on some fish he’s gone to check out another area. He checks in with me hourly or even more frequently, and he does well on the fish. My vision isn’t like it used to be, and although I know all the moves, I miss some strikes.

Do I care? Not hardly! Being out fishing with a friend or a son isn’t about catching baskets filled with fish. It is about fishing, hearing the river chuckle around a log jam, watching the sipping rise of a trout, and enjoying my time on the water with a child, regardless of his age.

It isn’t competitive. On occasion, I may catch one or two more salmon or steelhead than David, but there are many more times when he takes the daily “top-rod” honors. I’m happy he does, because my angling career has been filled with many heavy catches and many released fish. I still love to eat fish, but many of my fish are released these days because I no longer need the ego-stroke of a limit catch.

But back to the topic at hand. When are each of you going to take your children or grandchildren fishing? When will you experience that first thrill as a child struggles with a nice fish, a bright smile creasing a young face? When will you give up some of your time to teach the sport you love to your children?

There will come a day, and hopefully it’s long after I’ve fished around my last bend, when angler numbers will be in short supply. Will there be a need to stock fish in lakes and streams if no one fishes? It’s a question that needs an answer but I don’t have one to offer.

Will the honorable sport of fishing die because of angling apathy? Will you be proud to be a part of the slow demise of this grand and honorable sport?

It’s time to start taking kids fishing now. Take your wife fishing. Take your children fishing. Set aside your rod, and spend some quality time teaching them how to fish. It may be one of the most wonderful angling experiences of your life.

Fail to take the time now and you’ll live to regret it later

Posted by Dave Richey on 03/05 at 07:40 PM
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Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Start Prepping Now To Outwit A Fall Buck


It is often mentioned that does get the brains and bucks get the antlers. One might think so because outwitting most bucks is much less difficult than fooling a wise old doe that has survived several hunting seasons.

Bucks, by the time they have some antlers on their head, seem to realize they are something rather special. Does, fawns and younger bucks defer to larger bucks, and this serves as something of an ego massage.

We’ve all seen does and fawns check things out from a distance, check again once they draw closer, and do a last-minute recon check before committing to what could be a dangerous move. The buck stands back, often somewhat aloof from this danger business that does seem accustomed to, and when they decide to make their move, out they come with little apparent regard for any possible danger problems.

Watch a buck near a food source. If a doe or smaller deer, including another buck, approaches, the buck often will run them off. They usually don’t go very far, and keep coming back and getting chased off again, until the buck either moves or allows the lesser deer to feed. They will tolerate other deer, but only up to a point.

This is a confidence builder for the buck. Nothing in his life has prepared him for anything other than being what he is and acting the way he does. It’s little wonder that savvy hunters soon learn that shooting a buck can be much easier than shooting an old doe.

A doe is an animal in dire need of a steady tranquilizer habit. They are high-strung, and constantly checking for danger. I’ve watched does cross an open field of rolling hills and narrow valleys or through open woods, and they may stop several times while crossing.

A buck may move slowly, but if he wants to cross a field, he’ll cross it. Some may walk across. Others trot across, and some will cross on a dead run. Sometimes they run or walk headlong into danger.

Outwitting an old doe is a chore. They’ve stayed alive this long because female deer are born with a make-up that is instinctive but it almost seems as if they sense danger. I believe they do senseand react to it. A buck senses himself, acts as if he owns the world, and it’s why some big deer get shot every year.

Don’t take this the wrong way. A buck isn’t stupid, and one that has lived as long as he has, has done so through some acquired instincts that were probably inherited from his mother.

Hunters who don’t know any better say bucks act stupid during the rut. I’ve seen many instances where that would appear to be so, but have seen more cases where bucks act cautiously optimistic around estrus does. They may make an occasional mistake, but if the hunter can figure out how to keep from being heard, seen or winded by a doe or fawn, the chances are much better of getting a shot at a nice buck.

I spend much of my time watching does, and seeing how they react to different stimuli. I also spend great amounts of time watching bucks as they respond to the same stimuli, and in many cases the does are moving away from danger while the buck appears to still be processing information at a much slower pace.

Learn how does react to various things. I’ve seen some run headlong for heavy cover when a bird flies overhead. I’ve seen them sniff a stand where a careless hunter left his scent behind. Does that spend an inordinate amount of time checking tree stands can help a hunter ambush a good buck.

Figure out which tree seems to bother a doe, and set up somewhere within 50 yards of the doe’s line of travel, and if she examines the tree that must have spooked her at one time or another, every trailing buck will examine the same tree. That gives a hunter a wonderful edge and an opportunity to draw and shoot the trailing buck.

To fool a buck often means fooling the doe. If the doe detects no danger, the buck will prance along like he owns the land. That can work to your benefit, but it only works if the doe remains totally clueless about a nearby hunter.

It’s a simple concept that requires nothing more than fooling the does and fawns. Fool them all the time, and fooling the buck is a much easier program.

Posted by Dave Richey on 03/04 at 07:19 PM
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Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Outdoor Writing Is A Personal Love Affair


My first magazine article was banged out on an old Royal manual typewriter in October 1967, and was sold to Sports Afield that fall. The story with photos appeared in 1968.

Between the first and the sixth magazine article was a stream of success stories. Everything I wrote was sold to a paying magazine, and two of my six pieces went to Sports Afield magazine. That was some pretty heady stuff.

I’ve been at this writing gig since, and have written scads of stuff: 7,300 published magazine articles, 24 fishing or hunting books, 14,000+ newspaper articles and columns, and I did a radio show for several months. I’ve sold thousands of b/w and color photos here and there, and spoke to large and small audiences as a platform or seminar speaker. I dabbled in all kinds of outdoor endeavors because, in 1967 as is true in 2009, it’s difficult to make a full-time living at just writing.

And then, I began writing internet articles on my personal website. This has led to the publication of nearly 5,000 more articles over five years. Is writing still fun? You bet!

Do I enjoy writing and photography? It is the best job in the world, and nothing makes me happier than to help educate anglers and hunters to this outdoor world that we enjoy so much.

I write some of the how-to stuff, as does everyone else in the outdoor writing game must to pay some bills. I also write some where-to stuff for the same reason, but I’m a firm believer that part of my calling is to write why-to stories.

People need to read why we fish or why we hunt. People, judging by the fact that readers are hitting my website to many thousands of times each month, means they enjoy the why-to stories as well. New sportsmen need to know why ducks circle into the wind; why low-lying wet spots in the middle of a cornfield are so important to Canada geese; why cottontails run a tighter circle and snowshoe hares make an elongated oval; and why trout have different rise-forms ... plus much more.

Outdoor writers have an obligation to inform, but we have no obligation to lead our readers by the hand to a small pothole lake brimming with 5-pound bass that would easily be fished out in a week if it were publicized. We have a strong obligation to help protect our natural resources rather than to take a do-nothing approach that could cause catastrophic harm.

We need to be willing advocates of our sport, and help make these great pastimes of fishing and hunting even more respectable than they are. We’ve made great strides in pointing out that poaching is wrong, but it takes far more effort to inform our readers why it is bad.

We need to work hard to mentor children and adults just getting into fishing or hunting what is right or wrong. A new hunter who gets lashed up with a person who winks at our fish and game laws, shoots game after legal shooting hours have ended, or kills more than their limit of ducks have not learned what is most needed.

They have not learned to have and to show respect for the fish we try to catch or the game we hunt. Without respect, not only for other sportsmen but for the fish or game we seek, we have reduced our angling and hunting population to a point where only a limit catch or shooting a big buck is important.

The question of why we hunt or why we fish is sadly lacking in much of today’s outdoor literature. People want to know the latest way to catch more walleyes or become better at deer hunting. We, as outdoor writers, must take our readers beyond the how-to and where-to, and try to teach them something about the seldom talked-about, why-to.

I had a phone call some time ago from an old friend who also is one of the most prolific outdoor writers I know. He was talking about respect, and doing something to help those outdoor writers who are no longer active. The organization he and I belong to wants to give something back to writers who helped mentor him and other budding writers.

It’s a great idea. I still write, and continue to mentor writers. I’ve had a major hand in helping two local outdoor writers, and perhaps 50 other writers across the country, and about 10 others in this state. The idea of them helping others is great, and I will also continue to help in my own way.

Much of what being an outdoor writer means is giving something back to what we’ve enjoyed for so many years. It can be giving publicity to organizations that do good work for our lakes and streams; mentioning local hunting clubs who build and install wood-duck boxes; it means helping out with local Hunter Education programs, and it also means lending a hand when something need to be done. It means getting involved with outdoor projects.

And I’ll bet you thought this outdoor writing gig was easy. The writing and photography is reasonably easy with the proper mind-set and tools, but the most difficult thing of all is to get through to our readers and make them think, and that’s one reason I enjoy writing “think-pieces.”

Instead of wondering what the DNR is going to do for you this year, consider what you can do for other hunters and our natural resources. That mind-set will help our fish, game and the environment. What helps those three things will help us.

Posted by Dave Richey on 03/03 at 06:18 PM
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Monday, March 02, 2009

Whoa Baby! Look Out! I’m Bad Sick.

Trust me on this one. I am sick, almost knee-walking sick, and I haven’t had an alcoholic beverage in more than 25 years.

Don’t know what snuck up on me, bushwhacked me from behind. It seemed to back off for about 15 minutes after the initial punishment, and then it began taking me over the hurdle, one slow agonizing step at a time. Sweat, feel all wrung out, my back hurt, head hurt, spine feels like Hulk Hogan tried to separate it from my rib bones, and then my legs began to shake. This was a real good time.

I went with my wife to the doctor, and he put her on a regimen of high-priced drugs, but nothing came my way. I didn’t have an appointment. Tough luck, kid.

She had to go into the hospital for a scan of her skull, and I’m thinking I’d be a goldmine of good times for the radiologist. I felt like if they scoped everything that hurt, it would probably cost 10 grand. That’s not my idea of a good idea.

She came home from the hospital, and the very few times I missed writing my daily weblog was when the silly computer went on the fritz. I do my blog every day, regardless of how bad my case of the punies happens to be. I set down, and up to this point I’ve probably misspelled 100 words so far tonight. Back track, try to type it right, and make another two mistakes trying to correct one.

Whatever has hold of me has me by the backstraps, and it feels like one of my tenderloins is missing. Sure, I know that is a ridiculous thought all the same. Back up three words to the word “all,” and I misspelled an easy three-letter word three times. I got “akk,"a;;" and “amm.”

Some fiendish creature is beating a tattoo on a bass drum inside my head. My eyes hurt, which is never a good thing, and this same potlicker has me by my funny-bone nerve, and is prying it up and down with a cold chisel. It feels as if my right elbow is broken, but it really isn’t unless someone crawled into my bedroom last night and methodically took me apart, one painful piece at a time.

Mind you, I don’t vomit. One time, and that was it since I’ve been 13 years old. I’m at my computer right now, hovering over the waste paper basket, wishing I could upchuck everything in my season. Sadly, some little quirk of my physical make-up doesn’t allow that to happen. Oh yeah, I can retch, get the dry heaves but nothing comes out.

So Kay is being a good girl, and took out the garbage tonight. I sat inside, watching out the window for her return and stalling for something, anything, to put tonight blog into temporary abeyance. That didn’t work. My sense of dedication to my blog and my faithful readers wouldn’t let me take a pass.

So, here I am, stumbling all over the page, having to correct countless spelling and grammatical errors and wondering if I’m going to be able to get this thing done. Does anyone really want to read about my miseries and woes about the feeling of having to puke but knowing it ain’t gonna happen?

And then, the shame of it all, my verbal bleeding all over the page. Am I feeling sorry for myself?

Hell, yes I am, and anyone in the same predicament feels like they are going to die and are half afraid they won’t. I’m about one step above that point, and the sad thing is I know I’ll feel even worse tomorrow than I do tonight. And that won’t kill me either.

It just makes you wish for some peace. I must have been a bad boy last week, and now am catching the dirty and short end of the stick. Just be grateful for one thing: it’s me and not you. Ta-ta, I’m going to bed. Check in tomorrow night to see if I made it through the night.

Posted by Dave Richey on 03/02 at 06:42 PM
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