#29: Overrated, Underrated, and Properly Rated

Show Notes:

Are Power-poles overrated?  What about Mud motors? Mojo Decoys? Shimano reels?

Plus – Tacos?

Keep and Release:

Nate & Kaley’s Keep item – the Little Gasparilla Island Facebook Group

Trav’s Keep item – Barkeeper’s Friend

 

Follow Cast and Blast Florida . . .
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Want to experience a world class duck hunt or fishing charter?
E-mail Travis to book today . . .

Connect with the gang on social media:

Travis Thompson – @travisthompson – InstagramTwitterFacebook
Nathan Henderson – @nhenderson77 – InstagramTwitterFacebook
Emily Thompson – @lovedaloca – Instagram

Who Killed Waterfowling?

Does it seem like everyone is grumpy these days?

Not enough ducks, not enough land, too many hunters – the list is longer than a goose gun in the 40’s.

It felt like, maybe, it was time to lay out who, exactly, is to blame for the state of our waterfowling.

Is it Duck Dynasty, and Duck Commander, and the entire Robertson crew, spreading waterfowling from the swamps and speakeasies of rural America into 10 million living rooms every Tuesday? Or is it Social Media, a medal-less competition to see which Instagram account can post the most dead ducks each season?

Was it too many wannabe pro-staffers, stacking piles upon piles on top of their Yeti’s and tailgates?  Or was it too few guides taking a personal responsibility and a stewardship view of the resource, trading a few bookings for a generation’s future hunts . . .

Maybe it was all the Duck ID posts, driving folks like me up the wall as we answer, for what seems like the billionth time, whether that’s a Mottled or a Mallard . . . Or maybe it was too few of us taking the time to answer, thoughtfully and respectfully, which choke is best, or which gun is best, or, maybe, just maybe, actually identifying the Mottled in that picture . . .

Kids, there was a time not that long ago when you went waterfowling, shot ducks, and the only folks who may have known were your friends at school and your family, maybe 10-15 people.  Now, we don’t get out of bed for less than 250 likes . . .

Was it motorized decoys, and e-callers, and e-collars?  Was it surface drives, or maybe longtails, or airboats, or all of them?

Is it the number of hunters at the ramp, or in the blinds, day in and day out?  Or is it the number of ramps, too few to accommodate the growth, leaving swaths of public land completely unreachable?

Perhaps it’s the sale of hunts in previously unmanaged fields north of wherever you are . . . the lease rights to a cornfield driven up by a second crop of bands and bills, leading to short stops and slower migrations?  Or landowners de-icing ponds that should’ve been frozen solid by early December, convincing the mallards that, hey, snow ain’t that bad . . .

Was it the $28 boxes of shells, or the $2000 guns, or the $40k boats?  Maybe it’s all the brands with their logos stitched and hashtagged and @ symbols on the side of their truck wraps . . .

Can we blame the Game Commissions doing a lousy job of managing your state’s resources, or would it be better to blame one of the non-profits for spending your money somewhere else entirely, making sure that only the upper echelon sees the fruits of their labor?  Or maybe the Federal system for making a mess of the NWR’s all over the country?

Is it YouTube, and Vimeo, and Facebook, and Snapchat?  Or was it the podcasts and TV shows and magazines and books?

Who, exactly, is to blame for the state of our waterfowling?

Maybe we should all take a look in the mirror.

Dogs I Have Known

I’m not exactly sure how or when my infatuation with hunting dogs began.

I came by this naturally, I suppose . . . My maternal grandfather was a quail hunting tour-de-force, almost always with a pointer or 3 leading the way.

My dad raised beagles when we were very young, so gun dogs were abundant.  There were always 2 or 3 in the kennels, until a litter came along.  Toby and Max and Dutchess and Bear wandered through my adolescence with their tri-colored saddles and soulful howls.

But somewhere, and I don’t remember the switch exactly, we ended up with a Brittany.  Abracadabra was her name on paper, which we shortened to Magic.

Magic was an appropriate name for her, as she promptly disappeared anytime there was gunfire.  She had those piercing green eyes that come standard issue on Brits, and I was determined to cure her of gunshyness.  My plan was two fold – I took my portable electronic drum sticks, complete with belt attached speaker; I would crank the lawnmower up, and have it idle in the background so my parents would think I was mowing, plus it added to the noise.  Then I’d stand over poor Magic, that speaker precariously close to her ears, and bang on those imaginary drums.

It didn’t work.

Copper was a natural, another Brittany who pointed a covey of quail his first time out.  He was dad’s dog, really, orange dappled with style on his points.  A freak accident took him from us before his time . . .

Daisy was an English setter – a Llewellyn, to be exact, with blonde feathering beneath the silky white.  Daisy was another born natural, minus a couple of quirks . . . She covered so much ground that she’d be on point in the next county before you’d get near her; also, she hated me.  This one is still baffling, as when she was small she slept in my room, my hand in her crate all night.  But, for some weird reason, she would not come near me.  My sister, who never spent any time with the dogs, Daisy would lick her in the face; me, begging to show her affection, nada.  She would run in circles, just outside of arms reach the whole time I was in the yard.  In hindsight, Daisy was like a prep course for my first marriage.

Ozzie, the gigantic liver and white Brittany who towered over my mother but had no interest in hunting.  Swish, the ill named and incestuously bred Brit that yelped every 4 seconds for 7 straight days.

Toby.  Sport. Penny.  Ginny.

Alf and Chuck.  Max and Ace.  Kasey.

Even today, my house is alive with the clatter of nails on hardwood as two French Brittanys clown their way through life.

I’d love to romanticize the idea – a cold, rainy, winter’s night; the hunter sits in his chair, in front of the fire, reading a Ruark novel, the Brittany asleep at his feet, worn out from the morning’s hunt.

In reality, though, I’m probably watching a rerun of the Office, one dog chewing on my shoes while the other dog lays in front of the fire, but not too close in case he farts and ignites the entire scene.  Having just taken them out to pee in the rain, the smell of wet gun dog mingles with the smell of the fire, some mystical humidifier from hell permeating the room.  My wife, like a million wives before, will come in to chastise the pups for some trash can they’ve overturned, or bed they’ve unmade, or chew toy they’ve destroyed, and I’ll watch as they cock their head and look at her, trying to understand, and I’ll smile, and I’ll think . . . there’s just something about huntin’ dogs . . .

#27: Listener Questions

Show Notes:

This week, we empty the mailbag and tackle YOUR questions about anything and everything, from “How to get your kids more involved in the outdoors” to “who wins a fight: a taco or a grilled cheese” . . .

Keep and Release:

Nate’s Keep item – SladeNW Youtube Channel

Trav’s Keep items – BackCountry Hunters and Anglers

 

Follow Cast and Blast Florida . . .
InstagramTwitterFacebookWebsite

Want to experience a world class duck hunt or fishing charter?
E-mail Travis to book today . . .

Connect with the gang on social media:

Travis Thompson – @travisthompson – InstagramTwitterFacebook
Nathan Henderson – @nhenderson77 – InstagramTwitterFacebook
Emily Thompson – @lovedaloca – Instagram

Waitin’

You had to wake him up 3 times just to get in the truck to head to the water.

You bought him Pepsi, but it turns out he prefers Coke.

You swing through McDonald’s, and he orders a chicken biscuit, but it’ll be 10 minutes before they’re ready.  You talk him into a Sausage McMuffin and head down the road.

At this point, you realize you really should’ve filled up the the truck night before.  10 minutes at the gas station, call it 15 after you track down an attendant to unlock the bathroom door.

You pull into line at the boat ramp 9 boats deep.  Any urgency usually put into getting the thing ready to launch is lost on today’s partner; he’s dozing in and out of sleep in the backseat while 15 guys wearing high end sunglasses and driving high end boats are muttering cuss words under their breath at you holding up the line an extra 2 minutes.

You finally get the boy into the boat, the boat into the water, and begin idling out of the marina.

The fishing stinks.  2 short trout, a few “trash” fish . . . One decent bite and run, but whatever it was broke him off.  He may have cried.

Boats break down.  Lines snap.  Reels fail.  Ice chests get stolen.  Pliers get misplaced.  Engines sputter.  Winds shift.  Barometers rise and fall. Weathermen make stuff up.

All these things, on these trips, go “wrong” or “imperfect” – you just want something, anything, just one thing good to happen.

As you pull back into the driveway that night, sunburned and probably riddled with the Zika virus, this is the question you ask yourself: when is something good going to happen?

The boy has been asleep for the entire trip home.  You look back to see his Mountain Dew spilling onto the leather next to him.  You sigh as you turn onto your street.

You back the trailer into it’s spot, and you hear his door slam shut as soon as you put it in park.  You do a quick rinse of the boat before slipping your shoes off and stepping in the back door, the one that leads him into the kitchen . . .

“And daddy triiiiiiiied to get me a chicken biscuit but they were all out of them so I ate a sausage one instead and it was. So. Good. And Dad let me steer the boat and we hooked something really really big but we don’t know what it was but Daddy thinks it was a shark or a redfish or a gigantic megladon – don’t laugh – he really thinks that – and then we caught tons of fish but none of them were keepers and Daddy got sunburnt but he didn’t let me get sunburnt ’cause he brought my special floppy hat and guess what? He brought Mountain Dew AND Pepsi and he let me drink as many as I wanted and we saw a dolphin and a manatee and I heard the oysters clicking under the boat and Dad thinks we may have seen a school of redfish but they just wouldn’t bite today and . . . ” On and on.

Finally my wife directs him to the shower and turns to me, grinning from ear to ear.

Almost as though she knows, she looks at my face and says “Still waiting on something good to happen?”

It already did.

If you enjoyed this column, you’d probably like this one, or this one.  We’d also love it if you’d check out our weekly podcasts . . . We talk about stuff like our favorite Boat Songs or Bucket List Trips or Unwritten Rules of the Outdoors or, well, you get the picture!

Keep & Release

Every podcast recording session starts out the same way: Emily, exasperated, looks at Nate and I and asks, “Do you guys have a ‘Keep’ and ‘Release’ for this week?”

If you’ve never heard the show, a) consider yourself lucky and don’t click this link, and b) Keep and Release is the segment where we give a little shout-out to whatever the one thing is that we want to talk about this week in a positive light (Keep), and the one thing that irritated us or aggravated us in the previous week (Release).  A release could be leaky waders or faulty spinning reels or lousy internet service or duck ID posts on social media or any of a litany of things.

In fact, it’s become a bit of a joke behind the scenes, the rants that accompany release.  So much so that, while listening to the show last week, Will looked at me before we even got to “Keep and Release” and said “Dad, what do you hate this week?”

“Hate?  I don’t hate anything?”

“Dad – you hate EVERYthing . . . “

His exasperation hit me kind of heavy.  I took a breath, right there driving to school, and replied:

“I love a lot of things, too.

I love hot summer mornings when your shirt sticks to you before you step outside, and the chill of an ice-cold window unit AC when you get back home.  Fall mornings when there’s just a hint of crispness in the air, and winter days when they’re gloomy and overcast and your breath hangs around all day, and spring time when the greens are so bright they hurt your eyes.

I love duck hunting, and decoys, and dogs and hearing the birds before you see them and the way a wood duck whistles or a mottled grunts and the noise a huge flock of divers make, feathers and wings and air harmonizing on this weirdly deafening rumble.  I love the quacks and the tweets and the burrs, the kerplunk of a fresh shell, the chill in the air, how your hands can’t ever get warm once your glove gets wet, and ‘Take ‘em’ and ‘Cut ‘em’ and ‘Kill ‘em’ and ‘Shoot’ and ‘Fetch ‘em up’ and ‘last one’ and ‘think they’re done’ and ‘I got that one’ and ‘y’all wanna go get breakfast’ . . .

I love bird dogs, wacky and rangy and as distracted as a teen-aged boy at a cheerleader convention, locked up and birds brought to hand and sharing peanut butter crackers in between stops . . .

I don’t hate everything.  I love snook, and that glorious pop that sounds like someone launching potatoes into the shallows, the way they’ll chase your lure and tap it around and not commit, or the way they’ll over-commit and miss it entirely, big ones and little ones and in between ones right in the slot, and watching all of them swim away.  And I love redfish, the way they have to almost turn upside down to inhale a topwater plug, and the wake behind your bait right before everything goes crazy, and the tips of their tails signaling you on low tide to stop and hang out for a few.  And don’t forget tarpon, man, I love tarpon, cartwheeling and catwalking and somersaulting and basically doing things that would’ve gotten them burned at the stake in the 1600’s, 120 lbs of gills rattling and tail smacking fun, turning the beach into swiss cheese . . .

I love lots of things.  Turkeys and trout and teal.  Yeti’s and Yellowfins and Searks and Carolina Skiffs, the tackle department at Stone’s and gas station Cuban sandwiches and chumming for whitebait and Spanish Mackeral and under-slots and decoy bags and Zara spooks and picking up spent shells after the hunt and cutting down palm fronds for blinds; wet bird dogs and the way they smell, 2 stroke motors burning oil, cork rod grips and Cabelas catalogs and Mack’s Prairie Wings catalogs and podcasts and new waders and long lines and hi-vis PowerPro.

I love taking you and your sister outdoors, and kids’ first ducks and dogs’ last ducks and limits of mangrove snapper . . . Sunsets on the boat, and sunrises on the boat, sometimes in the same day; wade fishing, and shrimp runs and mullet runs . . . Beagles and Berettas and bobbers and bream . . .

When you say I hate ever-“

“Dad” Will interrupted . . .

“You still hate Duck ID posts, right?”

We hugged.

Why are we Fishing?

When I pulled up to the school, I was ready.

The back of the truck had rods and reels rigged to go. I’d picked up earthworms from the local bait shop, and my buddy had given me a tip to a pretty solid bluegill bite.

As his art teacher opened the door, Will hopped in the truck . . . We made normal small talk about how each other’s days were, lunch, pretty girls, the usual. We stopped for an Icee, and it wasn’t until we pulled up to the bank of the creek that he exclaimed . . . “Dad, are we going fishing? WHY?”

Why? Why are we fishing?

I began to unpack the tackle and bait hooks as I answered him . . .

“Why are we fishing? WHY ARE WE FISHING???”

“To sit on the bank all afternoon with my son, watching the storms building and debating about whether or not it’ll head our way.”

“To watch to dancing of a bobber as an unseen bluegill or catfish or trout decides if it’s worth the risk . . .”

“We’re fishing because it’s part of who we are, a legacy passed down from fathers and grandfathers to their sons and daughters . . . A heritage of harvesting a few bream for the frying pan, or watching a big spawning bass swim away to make more babies. It’s getting skunked and realizing that great blue heron is a vastly superior angler. It’s the rattling of a kingfisher
doing acrobatics overhead. It’s the dolphins and the manatees and the snakes and the bobcat we saw that one time . . . It’s pitching a frog onto a lily pad . . . It’s skipping a greenback under a mangrove, just in the perfect spot . . . It’s earthworms and eagles and channel cats and stringers and tackle boxes . . . ”

“We’re fishing because of possibility . . . Because we have no idea what’s going to come tight on the other end of that line, or when . . . Because of a 5 lb redfish who thinks they weigh 50 lbs . . . Because of the bass that eats the breadball and puts on an aerial display to rival a tarpon . . . Because we love the idea of the drag screaming as line peels off, no idea what’s attached to the
pointy end of our rig . . . The sight of a topwater plug, worked beautifully across a point, knowing, just having absolute certainty, that it’s going to get slammed . . . And that feeling you get when it happens . . . And that feeling you get when it doesn’t . . . ”

“Why are we fishing? WHY ARE WE FISHING? We’re fishing because it’s romantic; it was the vehicle of Hemingway and Walton and Grey . . .We’re fishing because it’s nostalgic; we fish accompanied by the ghosts of our fathers and their fathers before them . . . Why are we fishing? We’re fishing because it’s a challenge, from crappie and carp to tarpon and trout, there is no lure in the world that can MAKE them bite . . .”

“Will, you may not realize it now, but we’re fishing for you . . . To ensure that you know that in this time of xboxes and iPads, that there is a REAL world outside, full of hope and wonder and beauty and nature . . . That somehow, by being disconnected you can actually be more connected, if that makes any sense.”

“We’re fishing because this is America, and that’s what we do. We’re fishing because it’s fun. We’re fishing because it was a cheap way to kill three hours this afternoon and maybe bring home dinner. We’re fishing because it’s a great way for a father and son to spend an afternoon, talking on a creek bank.”

“Son, what I want you to understand is . . . ”

“Dad,” Will interrupted me, staring wide eyed as my rant had gone on for several minutes . . .

I looked in his eyes, bright brown, the only reminder of him as a baby as now here stood a young man before me. I smiled, believing this was one of our moments, that he got it, that he understood what all this meant to me, and what all of it meant to him . . .

“Dad, what I meant was, ‘why are we fishing’ when today’s your anniversary? Weren’t you supposed to be at dinner, like, 20 minutes ago???”

Good talk, son . . . Good talk . . .