Fall is for Whitetail Deer

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I have always loved fall, having been born a scorpio, and of course finding the many thrills and rewards of whitetail deer hunting in my later years has certainly added to the enjoyment of this special time of year.

I was on stand before first light for the opening day of rifle season in Wake County. It had been unseasonably warm, but luckily that morning had a slight chill to it. It sort of felt like fall. Our weather has been out of wack yet another year, but at least the deer have made a comeback from the EHD outbreak from recent years.

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There was no wind in the forecast, however, after perhaps an hour following first light, a good breeze crept up in the woods. But that wasn’t all that crept up. As they are often described, as simply appearing out of nowhere, the three-and-a-half-year-old doe could have been teleported to my position for all I could surmise.

I hadn’t thought of shooting a doe on the first day, but this deer was by itself. I watched her for a few minutes and she made as if she was going to run off. She scampered a few yards and paused; it was all I could take. The 30.06 made the first crack in the morning light and the deer was down. I was on Harris Lake gameland, and I hadn’t heard a shot yet.

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I descended the tree I’d climbed before dawn and returned to my truck to drop the stand, change clothes, and take my processing gear down to begin the work I’d gladly asked for. She was skinned, quartered and cleaned of meat in an hour or so and my opening day morning was in the book. Backstraps hit the grill the next night.

Four days later, I finished work around midday and noted the wind was right for an area I wanted to explore. It was a power line section on the other side of the lake from where I’d hunted on opening day.

I was on stand around 3:00 with the sun to my back and the wind in my face. It was warm, but not hot, and the wind was a variable 5mph out of the north.

I ended up having one of those unreal experiences.

I actually found myself in the presence of two bucks fighting for twenty minutes plus. They were in a thicket I’d taken a position on, and did the majority of their rumbling in there, and out of sight. It was absolutely nerve-racking. Crashing off trees and running around, I was sure it was a bunch of squirrels or crazy-ass raccoons.  The ruckus went on for over a half hour. After a while I knew there was no way it was deer.

I’ve seen them rub trees, scrape the ground and lick branches, even a little light sparring, but never actually fighting. But then, the first and bigger deer stepped out, he looked like a good deal of steaks to me, but I was in shock and hadn’t put the pieces together yet. I wasn’t thinking of a bachelor group. So when his sparring partner chased him into the clearing I was in, once again, it was all I could take. 

The 30.06 cracked again and the buck tumbled, but regained his footing and made for the opposite side of the power-line. I gave it a few minutes and decided to get down and see if I could find blood. This is a situation hunters do not want to find themselves in, but at times find themselves there regardless. I knew I had a good bit of light left, so I took my time and soon found what I was looking for.

The whitetail wasn’t completely expired however when I found him. I approached cautiously, but could tell he wasn’t going anywhere. I knelt by his side and placed my hand on his side. He protested slightly, but settled and remained calm. I was with him as he took his final breaths and I passed water to his lips, as I have on many occasions in the past, although never when I knew the animal was still alive. I guess it’s a last offering to quench the animal’s thirst that will become sustenance to extend my life, and I have always done so when I had water with me.

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I only wish non-hunters could experience not only the thrill of that evening, but the reward of the harvest, the connection to the land, the personal and deep connection between man and sustenance; man and wildness. There was no jumping and celebrating, no high-fives or fist-pumping; only gratitude and experience.

If you can fool their noses, you can learn their worlds, and see things most could never fathom; all while obtaining the cleanest meat you can find. This hunt had nothing to do with a set of antlers, nor to ‘release’ anything within me.  But, the way I see it, I am not absolved of the responsibility of the death of the animals I eat, because someone else raises and slaughters them. So, until the day I decide I can no longer be a meat eater, which I believe will come sooner because I do obtain much of my own meat, these moments will be about life, not death, regeneration and the circle we all are bound to, and living it as honestly and intensely as you can possibly imagine.

So, since the early gun season has been good to me, I’ve been processing meat….

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And making jerky…

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And there has been a nice drop of pecans from a favorite tree as well…

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I love fall…did I mention that?

 

 

 

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Fort Fisher Plundering

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photo: Doug McNay

Three members of my family hit the grass flats at Fort Fisher, NC this past weekend.

My brother, mother and myself launched our kayaks from the beach side as the tide was starting to come in. We made our way across a waterway and soon found ourselves surrounded by big, blue sky and light-green grass-lined banks that stretched in all directions.

We tried throwing skitterwalks on top for a little while, but no one hooked up. However, we could see that bait and fish were present. My brother started throwing spinnerbaits and mirrorlures, while I resorted to fresh shrimp rigged on a carolina-rig with a 1oz weight.

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Joey and Mom started into a few channels, still using artificials, and I posted up on a set of small islands of grass. I cut the shrimp into tiny offerings and lobbed a cast at the middle of the triple-chain to my right. It wasn’t a few seconds and fish were biting. I almost never fish with live or dead bait in freshwater, but when hitting these remote salty areas, I like to up my chances on blue-bird days. I’ve learned over the years these types of days can be difficult, as far as angling, and the effort to reach the destinations is extreme, so I will gladly take the ego-punch and defer to more reliable means to fill a cooler, and have a blast in the process.

The first area provided a few small croakers, but seemed void of any larger predator fish, so I broke my grass knot and moved further into the marsh. I never take an anchor in there anymore, the grass is easily tied into a knot around a kayak handle, which makes for a silent-makeshift-anchor, and less gear in the boat. It can be a little itchy sometimes, but its easily dealt with when you find yourself out of the wind, motionless, and catching fish.

I moved as quietly as I could through the many channels and found another spot that looked really active. Bait was present, some mullet were breaching the surface, and I could see swirls that looked to be drum. It was another area with many features, rather than an even-lined channel. I tied to the left side of an island, with another island to my back, and a channel cutting through straight ahead.

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One cast to the point just before the channel, and within a moment, my rod was bouncing wildly. Drag peeled off the 7′ outfit, and I knew I had a drum on. The fish fought for several minutes, darting across the water in spurts, before I saw it was not a red drum, but a large-shouldered black drum. It’s dark vertical lines gave it’s identity away. These fish fight and taste almost exactly like their cousins the redfish, except they have bigger shoulders and a taller profile.

After boat-flipping the fish, I unhooked it quickly and put it on ice. And after another cast to the same spot, another drum quickly inhaled the bait. The same process was repeated and I had a second fish-taco-supplier aboard my craft. I casted again a few times, but both fish had put up quite a ruckus, so the area filled with pinfish, the dreaded bait-stealers. I figured the area could use a rest, so I went to find my family.

They were at the end of the channel section we had entered and posted up on two opposing points. Joey had caught a nice keeper redfish, and a few rats, and Mom had also resorted to shrimp, but had found the pinfish that came in on me. We tried that area a while, and Joey caught a keeper flounder, but the wind picked up and I talked them into going back to the area I had left to rest.

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I got Mom to get into a spot across from the point where I’d caught the black drum, and I positioned myself across from her, on the other side of the point. She threw her bait in and was immediately hooked up. Something was really giving her a tustle, and Joey paddled to her to assist. I was sure it was a big red drum, but after a little while they determined it was a big stingray.

She was a little disappointed, but we told her to throw back in there. From then on, she kinda kicked our butts. I mean, Joey and I still caught more fish, but she repeatedly hooked up and landed red rum, black drum, pinfish, and croakers. It was really fun to watch her fight all those underwater denizens, especially since we were celebrating our birthdays. And she loves fresh fish as much as we do.

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Soon, the water started to rush out on us though, and we had to retreat quickly to avoid being stranded in the marsh. But we had a great day and two coolers full of fish! So we opted to head home and join other family members in celebration. It was a great weekend.

Love the family and grass-flats!

 

Had Another Front Page on Ncangler this week!

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My buddy Scott and I hit Jordan Lake again on Sunday for the afternoon, and the fish were really active.

The weather was crazy, with the tropical system quickly passing to our west, the winds were up and down, cloudy one minute, sunny and humid the next. But, the bite was on.

I was trolling KVD 1.0’S all afternoon and caught a ton of fish. Lots of perch, (including a double) largemouth bass, crappie and even a catfish, however, most were smallish.  But after we paddled across the lake, when the wind reached a point from the southeast that pushed the waves to white-capping (trying to escape) we found an area virtually unaffected by the weather and saw a couple bald eagles retreating to a tree approximately 200 yards from our position. Scott loves photographing birds and so we split up for a bit.

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photo: Scott Kroggel
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photo: Scott Kroggel

He got photographs of eagles and egrets, while I tried to figure out how to fish that side of the lake. After an hour or so, the wind lightened and we were drifting back across the lake, and over a hump; that’s when the bigger bass, maybe 3 pounds plus, hit the slightly moving tiny crankbait. It doubled the rod over and started shaking its head so violently, I was sure it was a striped bass. The fight lasted probably 4 or 5 minutes too, this bass was a really hardy character, which allowed Mr. Kroggel to get some really cool pics….

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photo: Scott Kroggel
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photo: Scott Kroggel

….which led to the front page on Ncangler.com Monday morning. I even had a violently-ill crappie stick a hook in my finger for this effort!! The audacity of that pound for pound superior fighting fish! Actually, I boat flipped it green and paid the price lol.

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photo: Scott Kroggel

Anyhow, I was really happy my friend was able to receive some validation, only a few months after starting to perfect a new craft. And great fishing made it that much better. To many more adventures…

It was a perfect Sunday.

 

Kayak-In Camping

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photo: Scott Kroggel

My good friend, Scott Kroggel and I decided to do some kayak-in camping Friday night.

I escaped society a few hours before he did and went ahead to find a spot and gather firewood. I launched at Ebeneezer boat ramp on Jordan Lake around 4pm and cruised across Beaver Creek towards an area I had in mind.

We weren’t really going to fish, but I knew with cooling temperatures the fish would be shallow, especially in the evening, so I made sure to bring a few dozen crappie minnows along.

After unloading gear and gathering plenty of dry wood for the night’s fire, I sent a minnow soaring across the water on a float. The water was calm, as winds were light and out of the east, and after a few moments the bobber plunged under the water’s surface and I had the first fish on. The small largemouth bass fought hard, and was returned to the lake after a quick photograph.

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That bass was followed by another a few minutes later…

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Then, there was a lull in the bite and I decided to do a little exploring. I always enjoy figuring out what sorts of inhabitants use the same woods I do.

It’s good to see tracks from whitetail deer all around the lake again. EHD seems to be backing off from central NC’s deer herd. I hope for good. The sunset was really nice.

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It wasn’t long after the sun dove beyond the horizon that I started fishing again. I brought a red light-up bobber and soon enough it was dancing wildly across the water.

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From that point on, schools of crappie came through every five or ten minutes and while most were small, there were some slabs….

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photo: Scott Kroggel
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photo: Scott Kroggel
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photo: Scott Kroggel

Scott is becoming quite the photographer, and he spent a good portion of the evening perfecting his craft. Some of these pics are really cool.

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photo: Scott Kroggel
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photo: Scott Kroggel

A Season Ago…

To be a green leaf on a tree, to be unaware, yet alive. In the spring I would come forth, vibrant, youthful and strong. My spine would be devoid of aching; resilient, beautiful in form and measure. Early season thunderstorms would push me around violently, but I would hold no grudges, nor would I recall the fright of such shocking and intense imagery. Later, I would sway in the soft breezes of lingering summer days, I would feel the heat, and thirst for a drink at times, but would have no inkling of what was to come. To be born young, live an enviable life, only to fall to an unknown place at the end of the year. My colors would have become beautiful beyond explanation in my twilight; reds, yellows and umber. There would be no ceremony, no sadness, no remorse, no lost memories or tasks unfulfilled, nor dreams fallen short and unaccomplished. To live without the effects of a human life; would, I think be a gorgeous dream. And in the end, to go back to the earth from which I’d come, lacking the scars certain to be accumulated from this thing we call life.  

 

I think we, as a civilization, lost sight of something when we removed our bare-feet from the earth, and ceased to live hand-to-mouth. We lost the immediacy and intimacy of the hunt, the gratification of the enrichment of soil, the true purpose of angling, the essence of life. And from these losses, we have forgotten the smiles of our loved ones, which would have given us renewed energy on a daily basis, as we provided for them vital, clean sustenance in their youth, taught them ourselves, the patterns of the earth around us, the cycles of the seasons, and when this or that was best accomplished as they grew into young adults. This is valuable, this is meaningful, this is how we amassed knowledge, interacted with one another, and passed our days. We used to be born with, live with, and die with our families and our communities; just like the leaves from the trees that tower above us still. In those earlier times, as we wandered along, so unaware of our utter importance and self-awareness, we may have lived shorter lives, but I would offer we were much richer, and without a doubt, more alive. We made what surrounded us stronger by our individual and combined presence, and that was innate. It came forth without teaching or indoctrination. It hasn’t been so long, but we have forgotten. If one of our own was sick, we cared for them, if they were unproductive, we cared for them, if they were angry, sad or lonely, we cared for them, if they were lost, we found them.

 

Of course there is debate as to when we first walked this planet; a few thousand years ago? An immeasurable quantity? Or perhaps somewhere in between. But, just a short time ago, when the only weapons we needed were crafted with our hands, from wood and earth and that which we harvested from her, our communities, or villages were certainly devoid of the technology and convenience we see today. But we lived much purer lives. In every conceivable way we lived more honestly with our environment. Our food, our daily rituals, the way we medicated ourselves were all done in much different ways. Our water was pure for centuries, at least, our skyline uninhibited by pollution, our ground untainted by poison. But our technology causes us to forget, and our convenience is killing us. Lost without calculators to tally simple numbers, and do any of us remember how many phone numbers we used to be able to recall? I would be surprised if a tenth of those that may read these words even remember their closest family members numbers anymore. Now, we live apart from those which are the closest to us in the universe, and for the majority of our lives. We rush across the planet in myriads of different directions, to find our fortunes, to stand on our own, to forge our own path. We leave those we are connected to by blood and past lives as a right of passage under constant societal pressure and judgement; in such a rush to find our life’s calling; we leave it completely unawares. And we do so at the cost of every relationship we’ve ever known. And so we pay for this. We lose ourselves into a race for wealth and things. We are bound by artificial timelines to graduate here, marry and have children here, retire and die here. It’s a lie. And it has bred absolutism, the most heinous of human traits. But it has not only bred absolutism, combined with our technology, our systems of communication and governance; it has bred societal absolutism. This has not been seen or discovered or publicly studied in our times. Not only have we become a polarized society with absolutist views, which lie mostly on one side of the political spectrum, or the other, but we have also, and simultaneously decided in unison, to look away from the assaults the information age has begun upon our foundational belief systems; religion, governance, marriage, etc. And thus we have become a race of people allowing themselves to be removed from any chance at redemption, enlightenment or positive furtherance.

 

We have become accustomed to violence and death, suicide and addictions as if those we once cared so deeply for are lost, in such short periods, for we no longer seek to find each other when we are gone, because we don’t go home at night anymore. What we become conditioned to, as humans, is horrifying. And we cannot see it for the trees. We don’t see individuals anymore, we see numbers. We don’t think anymore, we regurgitate and judge, and we do so based on a lack of knowledge, not a wealth of it. We read memes online and take the thought as scripture, as long as it fits our narrative, or our fractured view of the world we reside in. Even though an eight year old can create a meme. We watch one media outlet, as long as it tells us what we want to hear, and we lose the rest because it’s ‘negative’, or depressing, and we don’t want to hear the bad stuff ‘our side’ is capable of. And so we marginalize ourselves, long before anyone else has a chance to try.

 

I believe we took a wrong turn in the path of humanity a short time ago, and we see the painful results of this almost on a daily basis now. The only good news I can perceive, even though we seem to think it was so long ago, it was only a season, and if we can remember what family is, what true loyalty is, perhaps we will find our way back to what used to be the most important things in life.

 

I haven’t written this to debate anything, nor for ‘likes’ or ‘shares’, nor to alarm anyone. I personally have a lot to do yet. I wrote it because I think we all need to hear it. But honestly, if there is ever a next time, hopefully, I’ll be a leaf.

Sunday Thoughts

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We’ve allowed falsehoods and misinformation to permeate every facet of our society. Because we have stopped listening to each other, and we, or at least those who seek to understand the wider world around them through the media, now only listen to one side of the aisle.

We, as a society, and our near total inability, as a society, to battle cognitive dissonance, have allowed this to occur very easily. We have become so divided because we have lost the ability to be considerate and empathetic, unless of course, there’s a natural disaster. Otherwise, as soon as we hear or see something we don’t understand or agree with at face value, particularly when it involves any of our foundational belief systems, we, for the most part, become angry at the mechanism of the information, or who revealed it to us. Instead of seeking to understand that which we find so offensive, we instead demonize those who bring it to our attention. Instead of learning, growing, becoming introspective individually and further enlightened humans, we choose to give in to our lowest forms of humanity, in mass.

This is how wars are started, this is how the very wealthy few drive total strangers to kill one another. And it is repeated again and again in our history because it is our nature to be angry and evil towards that which we do not understand. It’s the easiest perceived way out. This has led to war, genocide, animal extinctions and ethnic cleansing all over our planet since the dawn of societies. It’s heartbreaking. There is nothing more painful, than to be aware of such things, and to be powerless to stop it. I don’t wish this sort of awareness on anyone. But the lack of logic and objectiveness that has taken hold of the citizens of this great country drives me to write these words. Thank God there are those left in this world that care not for the opinions of those who risk nothing, while criticizing those who risk everything for no gain whatsoever. We will all remember this is who we are at our core as a society and country before our individual ends.

All of our leaders have become purposefully divisive, corrupted and have no intentions of helping the ‘common man’. Instead they seek to render us powerless and marginalized. Our systems of media have become mouthpieces for the corporations and banks that feed the media machine. If I were to see one thing become universally understood by my fellow citizens in these times, it would be this. ‘The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil, is for good men to do nothing’. -Sir Edmund Burke.

 

Jordan Lake Bassin’

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I had a couple hours after work the other day and decided to hit Jordan Lake for the last hour bite.

The weather has been back and forth, but I’d been noticing north winds on the lake when I drive to work in the mornings, and with days getting shorter, I figured I could find some shallow fish. Didn’t have much time, and I would be in the yak, so I opted to leave the stripers alone and go after largemouth bass instead.

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I found them feeding almost straight off after getting to a place that’s always been productive for me this time of year. I saw a small pod of threadfin-shad busting the water, actually leaping out, and after throwing a small crankbait, I was hooked up.

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The fish weren’t full-on busting, but at times small pockets of surface busting cropped up and I was able to take advantage. The fish were mostly small, until I had the double-hookup (feature photo). Those bass were the biggest of the outing; it was just a fluke they were caught paired. I wish I could explain the excitement of this sort of phenomena occurring on freshwater lakes to non-anglers. It’s easy to get flustered and make mistakes, but if you calm yourself and focus, you can catch fish after fish til you leave; really non-stop action.

I caught everything on a small crankbait and a small spoon and had to really burn the baits to get bit. After trolling a bit when the fish seemed inactive, and only getting a few more bites, I headed to the ramp.

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