Spring Stripers, White bass & Crappie

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I got out on Jordan Lake this afternoon and found striped bass, white bass and crappie feeding heavily.

It was a perfect afternoon; the cloud cover was thick, rain was light to non-existent, and the wind was light. I couldn’t stand it.

Launched the kayak around 1:00 and started into a narrow area I’ve found fish laying before. I started with both rods rigged with KVD 1.0’s; the pics will show what happened…after just a few moments, one of the rods bounced, and I decided to reel it in and make sure it was clean; the area I was fishing was shallow and there was no reason to pull crap around. But on the retrieve, as I was approaching a fast rate, the rod doubled over with my first striped bass of 2018.

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I didn’t want to be disrespectful to the fishing Gods, so I tossed it back after a quick pic.

Then after a few more minutes, and having no luck, I thought to myself, I’ve seen this movie before, let’s speed this up, and within seconds this nice crappie joined the party. Well it is spring….burn em!!!!

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After that, the pattern had revealed itself and the fish repeatedly fell prey to the same technique. Stripers, catfish, perch, crappie, and white bass couldn’t resist the tiny crankbaits.

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Then, after a short break, cuz my legs were burning…my first double of the year, a duo of white perch that were far more trouble to document than they were worth…

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I was releasing everything today, and these were no exception.

Then…more stripers!

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And the clouds got really scenic for a bit…

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They seemed to roll in some direction I was supposed to follow, so I did, and then…bam!!

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And then…bam again!!

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At this point it was kind of embarrassing.

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More Cedar Scrimshaw Commissions

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I’ve been catching up on more cedar scrimshaw commissions over the last few weeks.

The piece above is a cardinal one of my neighbors wanted. She didn’t want any flowers, but agreed to allow for a tree branch… This particular piece, as with the last few bird inspired scrimshaws, has no etching, nor does it have any inked lines at all. This seems to make these particular pieces appear more realistic.

I also got a Grateful Dead, Steal Your Face piece done for another client, and this one is totally engraved. He still has to decide if he wants any color, or if he wants to keep it simply line art.

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And then I did this one for a very special person…

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This one does have some lines inked, but only in the darker areas, and there is no engraving, save the signature on the back. It’s my favorite hummingbird to date.

Then, I had another good friend who needed a cedar board and help with finishing it. He had a cast iron replica of an old car passed down to him by his grandfather. So we cut a piece to size, belt-sanded the rough cut lines and then mounted the car. This was a fun little project and I was honored to help preserve and display the piece.

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So the new mill is getting worked out and I’ll have more project updates soon!

New Cedar Scrimshaws

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I’ve been creating new cedar scrimshaws lately for a few commissions, and also stock for the store in Cary.

These pieces are inspired by a good friend’s suggestion after seeing some of my cardinals. As usual, they are crafted with aromatic eastern cedar, and the artwork is original. I used pastels, color pencils and ink after cutting and sanding the wood to prepare for the artwork. The only thing engraved on these cedar scrimshaws are the signatures.

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After milling a few logs lately….

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I have plenty of canvasses to do things like, maybe this…all on one piece…but with varying species of birds and flowers.

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Here are some ‘process’ milling pics from yesterday. Log #2 is under my belt. The Alaskan chainsaw mill is working great!

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Milling an Eastern Red Cedar Log

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I finally got the ripping chain for my chainsaw; let the milling of eastern red cedar slabs begin…

The four boards (above) were milled today from the same eastern red cedar log. I bartered a job with a customer for a dead-standing tree on their property, a few years ago, and this log has been waiting to show what it has hidden within ever since.

At first, as I was trying to get the feel for this new contraption, I rocked the saw back and forth while cutting because it was quicker. That is a mistake, and will only result in more sanding time. I quickly realized I had to trust the system, and push, straight-armed to gain maximum control, and maintain as steady a speed on the saw as possible. This gave me the smoother lines as evidenced in the center two pieces from the feature photograph.

I would say, it is crucial not to overrun your saw. I have run and owned multiple chainsaws, over many years, and I did use a ripping chain, and additionally cedar is in fact a soft wood. However, my saw almost overheated a few times as I became familiar with the speed I could run it while cutting with the grain, as opposed to cross-cut. Make sure your saw isn’t smoking, and if it does, shut it down and let it cool immediately.

Here was the beginning of the process after assembling the mill to the saw.

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I used an old u-channel post for a rail for the first cut; simply screwed through the holes, which were already provided, and leveled.

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The first cut was rough, but I had a feel for the setup and made adjustments. I used braces and screws to stabilize the piece and continued.

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These are really going to be rewarding to work with. Stay tuned!

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Don’t Get Sick, Get Echinacea

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Getting sick plain out stinks. So don’t. Get Echinacea.

Most people I know may have heard of echinacea before, but they don’t know much about it. For over a decade now, I’ve used it to fight colds and flu. But here’s the thing, you don’t fight off the symptoms of the colds and sickness, you simply never get sick in the first place, and I have used it with almost complete success for a long time. But there is a secret to using echinacea.

So I’m going to start out the New Year by giving up a seriously well-kept secret. I don’t know why it’s a secret; it shouldn’t be. I don’t even recall how I learned about this wonder-herb, but luckily for me, the person who divulged the herb to me, also thought it pertinent to tell me how to use it.

Echinacea is a flowering plant in the daisy family found only in eastern and central North America – lucky us. The leaves and flowers are edible and the plant, in its entirety, have been used in medicinal tinctures for longer than any of us have been alive.

Now if you go online and read about echinacea, you will come across a great variance of information; some pro and some con, but I will tell you only of my experience with it and what has worked for me. As with any drug, herb or substance you are not familiar with, proceed with as much information as you can.

I have never had any sort of reaction but awesomeness from echinacea.

So here is the trick.

Echinacea is not to be used like a vitamin. Your body will quickly build a tolerance for it and you will not receive the plant’s vital qualities when you need them. So here is my criteria for administering the herb.

First, keep it on-hand. It’s cheap and readily available at your grocery store, and no, I have seen no difference in the effectiveness of any one brand over any other. In fact, I would recommend always using different brands of products, once you use up a container, for varying reasons. I like to get a new bottle every year.

Second, only use echinacea if you have been in contact with a sick person. Do not use it as a daily supplement. It will not hurt you to do so, but as already has been stated, the herb will lose its effectiveness if this is done.

So here is what I would recommend. Let’s say you and the family have been visiting friends or neighbors over the holidays, and their ‘little Johnny’ was feverish and you could actually see the germs flying towards you while you celebrated with your friends. As soon as you get home, take one pill, or however many the brand you select says is a single dose, and eat a little something with it. Do this with each meal, at least 3 times a day for the next 3 days. Do not delay, if you don’t have it at home, stop and get it on the way back. Don’t wait one meal, or the germs will certainly do their job.

I have, a few times, woke up in the morning with a sore throat (sinus draining) and hadn’t known I’d come across a sick person (probably random contact with a door knob) and started the above treatment and staved the cold off. Once I did that a few times I was a serious believer.  However, if I had waited a day to start taking the herb, I am sure it would have been a waste.

That’s it. It really is that simple. I hope this helps!

 

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?

 

 

 

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!