Thursday, January 30, 2014

Deer Watching 1/30/2014

I think this was on my list of 2013 New Years Resolutions, but I really wanted to spend more time hunting in the future. It hasn't been a priority over fishing, however. But it is for my dad and my uncle, whom I like to spend time around. So, this year I spent more time in the woods. I don't think it was MUCH more, but I am making an attempt. I guess when I see a monster buck, I will really devote more effort. They are quick to remind me that you have to put in the time, which ironically, I tell beginning anglers all the time. You can't catch fish if you aren't in the water and you have to put in the time. Ironic because I put in the time and I still don't catch anything.

It's true though. You have to be out there. And, truth be told, I DO have a good time, if nothing more than for relaxation. I admit that I spend too much time drinking my Mapco peach mango tea, reading a book and sleeping than I do looking. But, every once in awhile I look up and there are deer. Maybe it isn't that the bucks aren't coming out as much as it is that I just miss them. I digress.

I DO have to say that this is the first year I have killed more than 1 deer in a season. I even managed to get 1 of those on video, which you can read about and watch in my Deer Hunting Post. That isn't because I didn't have opportunities, though. We just didn't eat enough to justify it. But, my wife has gotten incredible at preparing meals of venison and we really go through it. Additionally, I have been making a lot of deer jerky with my special EOTWAWKI Marinade, which people love. When you go through 1 pound of jerky per friend, you can go through some meat. I'm getting off topic again. I apologize.

Anyway, with this being the last week of the season, I am trying to get out as much as possible. I have been lucky to see a lot of does and fauns. Even got a lot of them on video.
Sometimes I think it's just as fun and challenging, minus the gutting and what not.

Additionally, because I have hunted more, I don't put so much pressure on every single trip, which has allowed me to take my kids out, which I wrote about in Best5Kids 1st Deer Hunt.

Yesterday, however, I was sitting in the stand as it was closing in on dark. I heard something crashing through the brush at a rapid gate. I was REALLY hoping it was a massive buck trailing all the does from the above video. Alas, it was a wiley coyote who pounced into the field, stuck to the brush lines heading away from me.

Well, killing coyotes is always a priority. But, he was covering a lot of ground and I didn't even have the rifle on hand, much less the window open or the video camera primed. So, I threw down the window, got the gun up and found him with the scope as he was ducking into the far tree line, maybe 125 yards away. All I had to hit was his hind quarters and that was rapidly disappearing .I snapped off a shot and the 30-06 round rolled him....err...flipped him. He flopped around for a second, but amazingly flipped himself into the brush.

I waited for deer to come out, which they never did. At dark, I climbed out of the hotel room that my uncle and dad build and headed across the field. Finding his trail was easy as there was blood everywhere. But he wasn't to be found. I followed the trail, but always thought about a little encounter I had a few years ago when I walked up on another coyote I had shot, who wasn't QUITE dead. Dad videoed me picking him up for a picture only to have him snap at me, to which I screamed like a girl.

Anyway, after following a massive blood trail through the thick stuff, I decided that hunting down a potentially injured coyote, at night, in the brush wasn't a good idea. Not much shrugs off that powerful of a round and I wasn't worried about him getting away. I just didn't want to step on him and find myself with rabies. My wife thinks I am crazy enough already. HEYOHHHH!!!!

Anyway, enjoy that not-so-good video of the deer. They really are majestic, when you aren't shooting at them. It's too bad they are better to eat than watch.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Best5Kids First Deer Hunt

I got ultra brave a few weeks ago and took my kids out to deer hunt for the first time. Luckily my dad and uncle build fantastic shooting houses. We fired up the buddy heater and they chowed on snacks.

The funniest thing was when Griffin got his tablet out and said:
"But where's the wifi?"

We saw a few deer, though they are used to seeing them out in the wild. It was the first time that they saw them in a hunting situation. I explained to them that it took YEARS before I ever saw a deer from a stand! And those days certainly weren't as comfortable as they were experiencing. I am so fortunate to have the ability to hunt as I would like and to have two kids who are interested (if only for a few minutes) in getting out there with me!

Video: Best5Zach and Friends React to the Last Seconds of the BCS National Championship

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I don't think words are necessary. Check out the highest of highs to the lowest of lows in about 80 seconds.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Recruiting Rashaan: More At Stake Than Just A Signature

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It's easy to give the recruitment of the top player in the state of Alabama a number. We like to assign these kids numbers like "5." As in, "5 Stars". Or "14", as in Evan's rank in the country. Perhaps the most important number is "1". I guess that makes sense, don't it? Rashaan Evans is the number 1 player in the state of Alabama. Additionally, securing this guy and his impressive stature and speed could possibly catapult either of these teams to that coveted spot....#1 and Signing Day National Champions.

Put all that aside, just for a second. Forget about the numbers. Forget about what they could or would or should mean. Concentrate on what getting Evans signature means for either of these schools.

 Wait, we are going too fast.

First, we have to have a little history lesson. In the waning years of Tuberville's era, when Saban showed up in Tuscaloosa, recruiting went to a higher gear than perhaps anyone ever dreamed. While recruiting has always been the lifeblood of winning football games, Saban brought a whole new style and energy to it, landing some of the finest classes that college football has ever seen. Quite literally, he woke the rest of the country up to what recruiting could be, though some might not agree it's what it should be. The paradigm was immediately apparent. Here is what you thought recruiting is. Here is what Saban has done. He recruiting across the country, selling his brand to kids who never would have thought to venture further than a state or two from their own home. What got lost in the shuffle was his stranglehold he put on the state of Alabama. This state, despite the perception that the rest of the country has about it's backwards ways, it's level of poverty, low education, and typical Southern traditions, has a way of pumping out some of the games finest players. It isn't even a per-capita number. Take away Florida, Texas, and California, and you will find Alabama right there among the top.

While many of Saban's classes had heavy numbers from the aforementioned states, he was routinely pulling in 15-16 of the top 20 players in the state. One of Chizik's first goals in recruiting was to stymie the flow of blue chippers into Tuscaloosa. Even after a solid 8-5 first year campaign, a National Championship, and the fruit in recruiting that his good years supplied, he was usually only able to bag 2 of the top 10 and usually 5 of the top 20. But, to his credit, he was able to get the very top of the pile more often than that. Of course, Chizik was shown to be unable to both pick recruits by more than the stars given the player OR he was unable to develop them. I feel it was a combination of both.

Malzahn picked up where Chizik left off. He came right out and said it. Recruiting the fertile grounds of Alabama was paramount. Win in the state and then look outside of it. His first full recruiting year has, by the numbers we apply to it, been a rousing success. He has gone toe to toe with Saban within the state of Alabama.

So, we look at the Top 15 in the state. Auburn has #3, #4, #7, #10, #12, #13, and #14. Alabama has #5, #6, #8, and  #9 and a proposed massive edge with Humphrey who sits at #2. You have only a couple of outsiders committed to outside schools, but it's that #1 that everyone will remember this class by, even if Alabama reins supreme on total recruits and Auburn takes the majority of the states best.

Auburn has long since been the little brother of Alabama. Even though no school has won more SEC titles in this generation, no team has more undefeated seasons, and Auburn has been on top of Alabama in the Iron Bowl since 1989, the stigma is still there. So when we see Marlon Humphrey, son of Alabama great Bobby Humphrey, everyone is ready to write him off to Tuscaloosa. We just shrug and accept it. If Malzahn doesn't win him over (though he isn't even considering Auburn at this point) we don't get our feelings hurt.

So how is it that the kid just above him isn't that way for Auburn. Evans is the son of an Auburn player, though not one you remember. I mean, who would remember Bo Jackson's backup? That's no slight against him at all, that's just the truth. And you tell me that he is from Auburn High? That school I drive by when I go to every Auburn Tiger game? How is this kid not a lock? Why do we concede a kid like Humphrey and not have a lock on Evans?

Look, I understand why. Saban IS the best in the game and I don't have a problem saying that. He revolutionized recruiting. He has the trophies and he puts defenders in the NFL. And he does it in the First Round. If my kid was a potential NFL talent defender, and I had to look at what each school has done on defense....well, let's just say that there would be a lot of soul searching.

So, starting to sound like there is more on the line with getting Evans than just a signature. A kid could prosper or flop. But the statement that is made for getting a kid from your own backyard plucked will ring a long time after the kid has gone on with his life. Even from a numbers perspective. If Humphrey goes where we think he does and Evans goes to Auburn, Auburn will have done something pretty impressive. It will have won the state of Alabama. Now, Malzahn won't have that magic trophy that seems to exist for winning National Signing Day, but he will at least make Auburn more than relevant in recruiting Alabama. He will have taken Auburn from sniping a few recruits, to whom early playing time is nearly promised because of holes in the roster, to stockpiling recruits to do something Saban has done for nearly a decade. Reload. And reload again.

But what if Evans goes to Alabama? Sure, Auburn will still have a fine recruiting class and may still lead Alabama with total recruits in the Top 15. But they would feature a top heavy list including the Golden Prize who played his high school ball in the shadow Jordan-Hare and just a walk from Toomer's. The statement from either side will be huge, no matter what the final recruiting rankings show or how these prospects pan out.

For Auburn, it's show that Tuscaloosa never had a chance at taking East Alabama's finest. Oh, and by the way, the free reign over the states top recruits is over. Auburn won't take what's left to fill holes. It's toe to toe from now on.

For Alabama, it's the status quo, and by the way, Bama will also cherry pick Auburn's best. Even the kids that play their high school ball within an eagle's flight of your stadium.

It's a recruiting battles with massive implications. Some of which are easy to assign numbers and declare winners. But it's this battle with out numbers. What will the signing of Evans really mean when the ink is dried? While Malzhan is giving it his full effort, as we continue to read, it's a battle he must win.

Weekend of 1/25-26/14

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We took it pretty easy on Friday night. It had been another long-ish week for us. Even though there wasn't much to report, and we did manage to get out and go fishing on MLK Day on Wheeler, the hurdles of the week wore on us.

Besides, Saturday we had plans to attend the Eli Williams Mustangs and Muscle Car Show. For those that don't know Eli's story, I will make it brief and let you go check it out for yourself. Eli is 9 years old, which is around Aubree's,  our oldest, age. He and his family attend Church with us. Several years ago,  he was diagnosed with brain cancer called Medulloblastoma. He was in relapse for a year following 9 months of radiation and chemo but it has since returned just last month so he is back fighting this and is currently undergoing chemo again.You all can imagine what this must be like, and even when you think you don't. I know I don't. When I try and put myself in those shoes, my brain just turns off. Take some time to check out the blog of the William's life and struggle. It's called Stan's Got a Frog in His Mouth. Again, please take the time to visit. 

Well, Eli is fond of Mustangs and the Limestone Co. Mustang Club from Athens Alabama decided to throw him a car show.Word got out and suddenly this small car show blossomed into a massive event. Though I am not a Mustang guy, and even though I have been out of cars for some time, we thought we should attend and show our support. It is really amazing how so many people can put a little effort into a small gesture and for it to turn into something spectacular. I had in my mind what I expected when we pulled into Lindsey Lane Baptist Church. But I was blown away. Some have estimated that there were easily between 300-350 cars, mostly Mustangs. 

What was really awesome was to find out how many of my fellow Church friends and family were there too. I am sure they all enjoy cars, but they were there for Eli. So, we checked out all the vehicles, Aubree visited with Eli, and eventually the cold got to the kids. 

Here are some photos that my friend Taco shot. There were his choice photos. Check out all this photography at SHOT by Taco, who specializes in automotive photography.

Obviously this show was about Eli and supporting him. But, I did take satisfaction that my kids were very into checking out the cars. They told me what they liked and what they didn't like. What made me the most excited was Griffin telling me that he wanted to build a car. I make the assumption that he was referring to the Classic cars. I have been contemplating getting a classic to rebuild and seeing this one particular 55 Bel Air with a late model LS1 engine, custom EVERYTHING, and slick paint really did me in. So, more on that later....I hope.

Sunday we attended Church after making an emergency trip to McDonald'd because we were running late. Griffin and Gavin were all but convinced that we were not eating breakfast. As we drove towards McD's, which is on the way to Church, the wailing and crying of these two was so fierce and even though we pulled into the parking lot, they were almost inconsolable.  But, a few pancakes later and they were doing ok.

This quarter's class curriculum has been all about prayer and how we should teach our children to pray correctly. Everyone else might have their prayer life under control, but I don't. It was of great benefit to really listen and understand about how we are going before the Almighty God when we pray and we should devote the proper time and effort to it. That's important for a guy like me who is lucky to make it through prayer at night without falling asleep.  But, I did pass on the wisdom to my children and at least Aubree seems to understand. She always does. 

About lunch time, I received a notification via my Facebook that some guys from Tony/Harvest/Ardmore were looking for more players for their pickup football game. Some of these guys I went to middle school and high school with, and I hadn't seen a one of them for 13 years or better. They were playing at Madison Cross Roads school, which is where I went to elementary school. I hadn't been on that campus in 17 years. Ironically, we were going to play on the very same field that I grew up playing on. Every single day for years we played touch football on this field. So, I grabbed one of my flag football buddies, Nick, and we went to play. 

Play we did. For 3 hours. Wow. I won't go into the game because there was 3 hours of it. But, I realized real quick that I am way out of shape. And I know everyone says that, but I didn't realize that the few down months I had because of my shoulder had really taken me that far down. Excuses excuses. But, we had a blast! I didn't kill myself entirely, but I deff bruised some ribs and my legs are still jello. At one point I looked down on the field and spotted an old quarter. I picked it up and brushed it off. It was from 1985. Part of me knew the statistics that I probably never knew the person who dropped it. But maybe I did. Maybe it was me all those years ago. How things have changed from being a kid at MXR to where I am now. MXR is a very rural school and while it is a fantastic school, it caters to fairly low income families. It's mind blowing how I never knew any different. The world was so small and yet large at the same time. 20 odd years of perspective would love to sit down and watch me as a child for a day. Really, I would give a lot to do that. 
When I got home, we took it easy and watched a Percy Jackson movie with the kids. Aubree informed me how disappointed she was that we didn't go shooting this weekend as we did last weekend. If you didn't read it, at least go see the video of Aubree shooting for the first time

The funniest thing was Griffin's reaction to the cyclops and other monsters. HE would run out of the room sometimes, but I would see his shadow in the hall where he was still watching it. Eventually he got brave and sat with Alyse. She laughed later when she told me that his hands were clammy and shakey as he clutched her during intense moments. After the movie, I had to be pried out of my chair. In the meantime, I was able to write in my journal that my mom got me for Christmas. She wanted to to write anything and everything that I thought of. Part of what I am doing was to write stories from the past that she never knew of and that I would have been embarrassed to tell. To get a list, I texted some old friends who put in their input. In the middle of that, I had a phone call from a very good and long time friend I hadn't spoken to and we had a great conversation.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Resource Management: Water

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One of the reasons that I love watching movies and reading books, particularly those of the apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic variety, is because I *may* learn a little tid-bit of useful knowledge that may one day benefit me.

One of my favorite movies and novels of this genre is "The Road" by Cormac McCarthy. While it is a fantastically bleak and powerful work, it still provided me a teaching moment that has been invaluable. In one of the opening scenes of the movie, we see that something has dire has happened. Though we are never told what it is, we assume that it is either the precursor to, or is the extinction event itself, that drives the plot of this movie. The dad, whom we are never told his name, immediately fills any basin in the house with water. He stops up the sinks and tubs. He fills any and all containers with water.

Additionally, we learn that he keeps his family inside his home, blocking up windows, locking doors, but most importantly, keeping an extremely low profile as to avoid any attention from the outside. We aren't told if he and his wife and child stay inside 100% of the time but we do know that the wife is slowly driven crazy with such a meager existence. What we also learn is that it is understood that life outside is death, for whatever reason, as she eventually departs and is never seen again.

What I find interesting is the relationship between the man's actions early in the movie and his ability to outlast most everyone else, though it's obvious its because of his ability to avoid confrontation as well as make quick decisions that will provide great dividends in the future. Simply said, his willingness to stay in his house, bunkered down, despite being well equipped, served him greatly. While there may have been many other ancillary reasons, it can me safely assumed that riding out the storm was the most important and intelligent thing he could have done. Yet, without the proper resources, it would have led to death just as the outside world promised. However, he was able to take stock of what he had, maximize it, and realize that he didn't have to survive forever on these items. He just had to survive everyone else.

How was he able to do this when it was obvious that he hadn't taken any great pains to prep, as we have so discussed? How would I be able to apply this to my own situation, would it arrive at my doorstep as it did in this movie? Going back to the single action that I identified earlier. He immediately stopped what he was doing and maximized the single most important resource he would need to survive and outlast. He stockpiled water.

Ever since I saw this movie, almost a decade ago, that one moment has stuck with me. This was before I even considered myself a casual prepper. But, I saw what he did and I applied it to my checklist of things to do in the event of any emergency. But, to be fair, I had some experience with this exact problem back when I was a teenager. My area was devastated by a large F4 tornado that went right through my homestead. We lived on top of a hill surrounded by woodland. The downed trees trapped us on top of the mountain for several weeks. It became evident what resource was truly precious after about 3 days. Sure, we were down to eating things for meals that we would never have considered "dinner", potted meat and canned tomatoes, for instance, but we were fed. What we didn't have was water. See, living on top of a hill, we had a booster pump to supply us water. With no electricity, we had no water. It took 2 days to drink all the sodas and juices. After two days of profuse sweating and hard work, it was hard to be around each other due to a lack of hygiene. Not to mention how the hard work and sweating was affecting the hydration of our bodies without pure water around. That isn't to say we were in any trouble of dying or anything. We weren't. We had friends come help us after a day or two. But it has always stuck with me how quickly the water was gone, how precious it is, and just how much a human needs to function.

It doesn't take much time in researching other common natural and unnatural disasters to see what the number 1 supply brought in by aid programs really is. Additionally, after disasters, the most common cause of sickness and death other than trauma is diseases through contaminated water supplies or dehydration itself. According to some quick research, the human man needs around 3 liters a day just to function. A woman needs a little less at 2.2. And, as everyone knows, it only takes around 48 hours to die of dehydration. And, that doesn't cover the needs if humans are in a situation where they are under physical duress. Additionally, water is needed for more than drinking. It's needed for waste control, hygiene, and other things. But, it's easier to concentrate on the human need to consume in order to function.It doesn't take a genius to do some simple math and come up with the needs for your family on a day or month basis. For my family of 5, which is my wife and 3 children, let's say we need 12 liters or a little over 3 gallons a day, or say around 90. But, 100 is a nice round number so let's use that. We need 100 gallons a month for consumption alone. Additionally, I started thinking about how much time a family might need to buy themselves, hunkered down, to wait it out. As we have seen in many disasters and based upon the numbers I have seen researchers put out, when supplies dry up, there is a high death rate right at 30 days. Sounds good to me. Let's go with it. We want to stay bunkered for 30 days in typical urban America. Our critical resource is water, of which we need a minimum of 100 gallons for consumption alone.

So, with that in mind, I started wondering about all the different ways that you could meet this demand. Keep in mind that I am considering only people living in urban areas where you have people living next door and across the street. You don't have a water supply such as a stream or river that you can easily get to, and if you could, you wouldn't because you don't want to expose yourself to the outside. So, I thought of several ways to bunker up and meet your water quota. You could store it last minute using available containers. You could go out and buy a supply of water. You could source water from the rain. You could try and recover the water with a "closed loop" approach. Immediately I (and I know you') identify potential problems with each of these. And, all you smart people are already thinking "you will need a combination of these". Well, for those that aren't so savvy, let's talk it out.

Storing Water from the Tap in Available Basins
Ironically, I was in the shower the other day when this topic came up. I called my wife into the bathroom and asked her how much water we could possibly have on hand, in the event of an emergency. Make the assumption that we wanted to turn the lights off, lock the doors, and pretend no one was home in order to avoid any conflict. What was our capacity? What would we have on hand? How long would that buy us. Lastly, how would the compare to the people around us, who ultimately may become the most dangerous of adversaries. Now, I understand that your neighbors that you have known for 10 years aren't going to turn into crazies over night. Nor do I believe in zombies. But, let's make the assumption that whatever is outside is bad and you wouldn't prefer to stay indoors at all times. So, we added it up quickly.

  • We have two bath tubs, each holds approx 30 gallons, so 60 gallons
  • We have 3 sinks, one of them a double sink. Each holds an average of 1 gallon. So, let's assume 4 gallons.
  • Around the house, we have several pots and pans, buckets, and other containers. If I were to use these, I would guess I could have another 50 gallons. This includes coolers, water coolers, buckets, etc
  • I have 2.5 cases of bottled water, each about 0.125 gallons. Each case has 24 bottles. Let's round that to 7.5 gallons of water
That gives us a total of 120 gallons or 450 liters, give or take. So, at absolute best case, with no losses do to leakage, evaporation, or use for other purposes such as cleaning or sanitation, my family of 5 could stay indoors for 37 days. Let that sink in. A little over a month on your internal supplies alone, and that's assuming that you are above average, given that you jumped on the water savings immediately, you had containers, and some stock of bottles water. 

Now, I know many of you are saying that this is an over simplified example, and you would be correct. I will address some of the holes in my logic, but ultimately that 37 day estimate is fairly accurate, if actually on the high side. While I can't speak on every town and city in America, it can safely be assumed that you will still have line pressure from your city supply (or whatever utilities you have) for several days. But, so will everyone else. That could be a good or a bad thing, really. Sure, you could store more water by going out and getting more containers, but that would defeating the purpose of avoiding danger. 

Additionally, we discount the ability to source outside sources. Even if at some point, things will slow down and you would have the ability to seek an outside water supply, you wouldn't want to attempt this. Not only does it go against the purpose of the exercise, but consider that the further into this apocalyptic event we go, the more desperate people will be for nearly anything of value. You may live next to a perfectly good water supply. But so do everyone else around you. Again, the name of the game is to wait it out.

Yet, when reviewing this 37 day estimate and how it would fair in waiting out the storm, all I could think of was "the average household has the same capability." That doesn't mean the average household would approach our own "lockdown" approach, but it does certainly mean that "waiting them out" for an appreciable amount of time isn't going to happen. We would need a lot more water to buy us a lot more time. Additionally, these would be open air containers that would be severely susceptible to leakage, contamination, and evaporation.

Buying an Appreciable Water Supply
Obviously the easiest way to fix this problem would be to supplement my stores of bottles water. While you can't put a price on safety and your welfare, the fact remains that bottled water is incredibly expensive. Ok, so I know everyone was raising their eyebrows at me. It's just bottled water, right! Are you that cheap? Well, we aren't talking about needing a case or two. We are talking about needing 100 gallons. Just a quick internet search shows that you can buy a gallon of water for $5.70. So, you could spend $570 dollars and buy yourself a months worth of water. But where are you going to store it? I sure don't have a place for that much water. Maybe you do. And, if you do, you either have no kids or a lot bigger home than I. I know these people exist, and good for them. We have seen them on those TV shows and you have probably read about Doomsday Bunker Dwellers on my blog. When money isn't an issue, you can do these things. But I can't. Money and space aside, this is a fantastic option for many reasons. Perhaps the best reason is that the water is sealed and impervious to becoming contaminated. Additionally, you will not have any losses from evaporation or leakage. 

Rainwater Collection
What about rainwater collection. Ah. Now we are getting somewhere! Again, let's make the assumption that you can safely collect water without exposing yourself to others. What do you have to collect water in? We added all the collection devices we had above. Even if we used every cup and bowl we had, we might double that total available collection to 100 gallons, but the amount of rainfall is the true driver. And, it has less to do with available volume of your containers than the surface area.  In my state of Alabama, the average rainfall averages around 65 inches a year. Let's say that's 5.5 inches a month, since we are talking in terms of days and months. Additionally, the heaviest rain we might ever see is around 5 inches in a period of 3 days. Again, another nice number when we contemplate the time of dehydration, being around 3 days. 5 inches is about 1/6 the height of the average 5-gallon bucket. We said that we had 100 gallons total, or 20 5 gallon buckets. That gives us around another 20 gallons total. That's not even good enough for another 2 days.

Again, rainwater collection is a complicated formula of available basins and rainfall. The other potential answer is the application of cisterns. For example, for under $500 you can add a water water collection system to your house which will collect all the water from your roof into a collection tank via a T added into your drain spouts. While you can add as big of a basin as you like, the average system uses a 40 to 50 gallon drum. My father uses one of these for his garden and it took 1 large rain to fill completely up, though it is a function of the surface area of your roof. Going back to our math we used in the above paragraph, if the weather averaged 3 rains a month, that would provide you with 150 gallons a month, provided you quickly and efficiently maximized the storage.

Which means, without taking into consideration losses in the system, in an average year, you would be able to sustain yourself with a rainwater collection system indefinitely. If you lived where I love, in soggy Alabama. There are some assumptions to be made, even then. The first assumption being that you experienced AVERAGE rainfall and that the water was usable or in other words, not tainted. Alabama is a very moist climate. In fact, Alabama led the nation in rainfall. Even here we can go through severe dry spells, sometimes in terms of a month. In much of the country, the rainfall for the year is nearly nonexistent. Arizona, for example, has a 24 inch per year average. Ohio has a 47 inch average. Maryland checks in at 50. In fact, most of the nation experiences an average of 30 inches of rainfall per year. So, our use of Alabama is best case. On the average, you would be lucky to experience half of the rainfall, meaning that you would still have to supplement your rainwater collection with a minimum of 15 gallons of water sourced from somewhere, or you would have to expand the capacity expected from a single rainwater collection system. Again, not really a problem to expand. You just need another roof and another rainwater collection system and luck that you don't go through a dry spell. Additionally, if you already had this system set up, you would possibly have an instant 50 gallon surplus in addition to anything else you had on hand.

Water Recovery
Obviously, the best answer in a "closed loop" system, or as near to it as you could reasonably achieve. That is, recovering used water from urine, sweat, and other by products. And, by "best" I speak in terms of efficiency. You could buy or design such a tool and it would be used to do all the work for you. But, unless you have developed "still suit" technology a la Herbert's "Dune" there is virtually no way to close the system entirely. The best you could hope for is to recover water from urine and a fraction at that. While this is certainly achievable, it departs from the more simplistic methods listed above. You either have to have a filtration system on hand, which can be quite expensive, or you have to build your own. Again, you have understand that even this isn't a closed loop system. You will still loose a significant amount of water per day to unavoidable losses such as respiration and sweat, just as you would lose much of your water to evaporation. A quick search shows that a human produces around 0.8 liters of urine. Meaning that you would, at absolute max, recover 40% per day of your water intake, not taking into account other minerals in the urine itself which would be filtered out. That's not much, but it is more than the average person would be able to recover. And, we said from the beginning that weren't trying to survive forever on what we had in our home, we just wanted to survive LONG ENOUGH. After all, when the traffic dies down, procuring supplies such as water will be easy. And, you wouldn't have subjected yourself to the dangers outside. Of course the downside is, you are drinking your own urine. Ok, so I can get around that. But, with a homemade system (even with off the shelf systems) you run the risk of poisoning yourself because of some filtering error.

So, where does that leave us? Hopefully you have at least identified which of this techniques would work for you. At a minimum, I hope we have learned that having guns and dehydrated food is great, but it isn't the resource we need every other day and in great supply. Just as reading a book taught me one small thing, hopeful reading this and my other Last Man on Earth Studies will get you thinking on how best to prepare yourself.

Ok. Back to where we were, saving water in terms of waiting the outside would out, it would ultimately be nice to have enough water stored to not have to worry about it. There are people out there that already have already done that. Chances are, if you are reading this you have either done this or at least considered it. Many have thousands of gallons stored away. But, I don't have the money for it nor the space to store it. But, what we can do is to maximize our in home capacity as much as we can. After reviewing the prospective techniques and tactics above, it seems fairly intuitive that the average person would have to rely on multiple, if not all, of the techniques. To be successful, a person would have to immediately identify the problem at hand and set in motion a plan to stock up and sustain the one most basic and essential commodity that humans need, and need in vast quantities. Like we noted, my family alone would need 12 liters or 3 gallons a day just for consumption in normal operating environments. That doesn't take into account the needs for sanitation and hygiene which really are extensive, especially with 3 kids. Perhaps most importantly, this doesn't take into consideration the potential losses to evaporation and stagnation. It's hard to put a number on that for every locale, but you can reasonably take the 100 gallon need for consumption and add a 20% buffer to account for losses. Add in another 50 gallons for miscellaneous sanitation and other uses and you would need 170 gallons a month. Which means that my home would need to essentially do everything listed. We would need to immediately store as much water as we could in bathtubs, sinks, bottles, and buckets. We would need at least 1 rainwater collection device capable of collecting 50 gallons per month. Additionally, we would also need to be able to recover 20% of our urine water. And that would be just to break even on an average month. The easiest solution to that would be to stockpile more sealed containers of water.

So, that's a pretty razor thin edge. When you have a family, the edge is not where you would prefer to be. Ideally, you want a nice cushion when it comes to consumables, particularly water. So, the logical answer is that you would need the combination of at least 2 of the proposed techniques.  I don't know about you, but even though I am engineer, I really don't want to drink my or my kids pee. And, it's relative efficiency is low. To me, it's a great long term solution, but not in the timeline we are talking about. That doesn't mean I wouldn't do it. I would, without any trouble. But it wouldn't be my choice. In  terms of buying a water supply, I don't have the room or the cash to go out and buy 100 gallons of water, but I do have some on hand and I have no problem buying a little at a time and storing it as I have room. I have the option, as does everyone, of storing water in available open air containers, but I don't necessarily like this technique because it isn't efficient due to leaks, evaporation, and the general ability to keep the water viable. That doesn't mean it isn't a great last ditch effort OR a way to supplement your own supply. In particular, this is probably the best way to provide yourself a "general use" supply of water. A rainwater collection device is almost a necessity. It does cost a little money, but it easily collects and stores water with no effort from you. It is renewable in the since that you will have a supply as long as it rains. But the downfalls are that it is unreliable in terms of dependable rainfall. And, in terms of what you are bunkering down from, the water could be useless, though that is probably a stretch. After all, if radiation or chemical warfare is the concern, you're probably dead anyway.

There are many combinations of these 4 different process and they can be used in any situation. I realize that everyone's situation is different. We really only considered one particular situation: The typical urban American home. But considering that's where the vast majority of American's life, I believe the example is pertinent. But it's important to understand what your situation is. In mine, rainfall usually isn't a problem. With the combination of 50 gallons of bottled water and a rainwater collection system, I would get by for a month. The point is, you have to realize that water is ultimately the most valuable resource. It's the only resource you must have in great supply and one you can't go very long without. In a situation where you have identified that you want to wait out the storm, as we covered on McCarthy's "The Road"  you have to take steps that you have enough of this resource or a way to collect and use it without exposing yourself to the outside world.

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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Save the Date: "Fishin' for a Mission" to Benefit Eagle's Wings, Inc

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Many of you know that half of my wife's family lives on Tuscaloosa lake. I try and get down there to fish it whenever I can. One of the reasons I grew to enjoy fishing this lake was because her uncle Tony and I participate in the annual "Fishin' for a Mission" tournament to benefit Eagle's Wings, Inc. 

What is Eagle's Wings all about? Here is their synopsis taken from their website:

"Eagles' Wings, Inc. is a non-profit organization that provides day habilitation services for adults with mild, moderate and severe intellectual and physical disabilities, including those who are medically fragile.  We strive to provide a wide array of services to meet their spiritual, physical, emotional, social and vocational needs.  Our primary objective is centered on happiness for each individual in a respectful, secure, nurturing and structured environment which maximizes potential for independence, productivity and integration
with the surrounding community."

My mother is an occupational therapist at United Cerebral Palsy Center and I grew up with a very good understanding of how difficult it is to have and raise a child with special needs. It doesn't stop when they grow up, yet much of the help and support does. Eagle's Wings strives to support and help!

We have the opportunity to help them with their goals by participating in their fishing tournament. Here is all you need to know.

Additionally, you can contact Becky for more info.

I have fished this tournament 3 years and have absolutely loved it! My accounts of it can be found here:
Eagle's Wings 2012
Eagle's Wings 2011
Read about me making the Tuscaloosa News

If you are from Tuscaloosa and love to fish, there is no excuse for you not to go! I love fishing the lake. It offers a fantastic ability to catch magnum spots by the dozens or you can go largemouth hunting! Most of all, it's a chance to help out Eagle's Wings!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Review for "Ark" by Stephen Baxter

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You can find this book on Amazon here. 

Baxter is an author that I continue to find his works without actually looking for him. I frequent The Book Shelf, which sells used books. I admit that I am commonly a "visual" buyer and that I frequently pick up books because of their cover. I then read the description on the back and then usually read a selection of reviews on Amazon.

His books always find themselves in my hands and he generally has good to very good work. So, I picked up this book because, as usual, it fits my perfectly in my main interest of novels: post-apocalyptic, near-future science fiction, and space travel. This one has all of these things in one book. I was a little hesitant to pick it up as it is the sequel to his other work, "Flood". But the reviews I did read said that each was a stand-alone work.

Here is the description as found on Amazon:
Baxter's riveting follow-up to bestseller Flood tempers the hope of humanity coming together in the face of a crisis with an often brutal undercurrent of realism, resulting in a sequel that surpasses the original in almost every way. Set during the later years of the earth-destroying flood, the book follows Holle Groundwater and her friends as they go from being six-year-old students of an experimental space academy to a years-long trip through the cosmos in search of Earth 2. The best-laid plans are often, and unexpectedly, disrupted at almost every stage; the ship must deal with stowaways, unqualified applicants, infighting, and even mutiny. Characteristic of Baxter's writing, the novel can be depressing at times but still serves as a study of humanity's ability to adapt and make painful decisions for the greater good. 

What I really like about this novel is that it presents particular struggles that readers like me haven't considered,  though they are based on ideas that we have known about since childhood, AKA: Noah and the ark. What if the end of the world was presented in such a way that was so slow and methodical, yet so far fetched that we humans simply refuse to accept until it's too late? Would we be able to find a way to save everyone? Or would we have to come to terms that humanity on planet earth was doomed and that we would resort to finding refuge among the stars for only a few? If we chose to accept this fate, could we adapt and overcome the modern technical and physiological hurdles in time? Perhaps the hardest question is: when faced with a long journey of decades in a tin can, could we manage to keep from going insane? Could we govern ourselves? Could we adapt to a lifestyle so opposite of our evolution in such a short time?

Several of the aspects and plot drivers of this book were very interesting to me because of my background as a NASA engineer. In particular were the physics of building a launch vehicle that must both house a multitude of people for a decades of space travel when, to date, we have been unable to do so for more than a year at a time. Additionally, how the characters in this work managed to overcome the known limitations of physics to develop a faster than light propulsion system when chemical rockets were the state of the art.

One of the other aspects I enjoyed thinking about was the ability of a 80 person crew to coexist in a very small environment for a very long period of time. Additionally, as generations were brought into existence on the ship, how would they be different from their parents. Would they be better suited to their environment? What other struggles would exist on such a mission?

From an engineering perspective, how would such a fragile ship continue to function in such a razor thin environment, such as space. How would "close loop" systems react for long periods of time? Could humans keep from falling into degrading routines that would ultimately spell doom?

Lastly, how would they do on a completely new planet?

What I liked about this book
The flood, which is obviously the plot driver leading up to the departure of the 80 man crew from earth, really is an interesting end of the world concept. It isn't something that just happens in an instant and takes the earth from "fine" one minute to a "wasteland" the next. I found it very thought provoking on how the seas crept up a little each day, forcing man to recede deeper into the continents. The population density went up exponentially as the available land and resources depleted. How would I conduct my life? Would I be like all the other people who lived day to day, or would I be like the main characters who understood from the beginning what would happen and form a plan, even though it ultimately leads to the end of all but 80 lives on earth?

The next provoking thought would be, could I find satisfaction for the 20 years leading to the launch that human life would go on after I was dead? Could I use the last years of my life working tirelessly with virtually no reward in deplorable conditions just for hope? Knowing that ultimately I would face a terrible death at sea? As a father, how would I feel about sending my child off through the galaxy to spend their entire life in a tin can, on the hope that they could find a habitable planet?  As a potential crewman on this ship, could I deal with spending DECADES with the same people on a tiny ship? Could I deal with spending these decades of my life just to show up a possibly lethal planet? Could I ride the razors edge of this spacecrafts existence for all these decades, knowing at literally any second, I could die?

Naturally, I enjoyed reading about the engineering and how they overcame technical hurdles both in design and in-situ. I appreciate that they forced themselves to overcome these technical issues when there seemed to be no solution, not giving up because the fate of humanity was at stake.

I appreciated the heavy decisions that had to be made during the "flight" when things did not go as planned, as they never do. These decisions were hard on personal levels, but had direct impact on the future of all humanity.

I liked reading about how the generations post-flood evolved and adapted. I enjoyed thinking about how different the thought process would be for generations born on the ship than those born on earth. How life in their eyes would be so much different than mine. I was looking forward to seeing them re-adapt to a new planet. As a parent, I was very interested in how parenting would be difficult in such a situation.

Baxter did a fantastic job of showing the human ability to cope, prosper, and adapt. He also did a fine job of showing how humans can also degrade over time, if they are so inclined or left to their own devices.

What I didn't like about this book
Most of all my grievances on this novel are over the physics and plot holes.

Overcoming the "faster than light" propulsion system hurdle was a major factor...if not the biggest factor other than the flood. But, despite the ins and outs of the physics never being clearly explained, it's baffling how such a quantum leap in engineering was made in one system alone, but not in other systems around the ship, which would have made the decades long flight so much safer and easier. We never really hear on how the ships are powered, aside from a vague comment made about a nuclear reactor.

Additionally, being a NASA engineer, there were fundamental problems with the engineering on direct lifting 80 people and the supplies needed for them for decades. The "pusher plate" design may be feasible, but the basic engineering for the structure required is impossible. Regarding the former point, are we supposed to believe that a whole nuclear reactor was flown into space with all the aforementioned equipment? That doesn't even scratch the surface on how it would integrate with the remaining consumables such as water.

There are no real mentions to the major issues with long term space flight: radiation poisoning, long term degradation because of zero-g, and the lack of a closed-loop system. The middle issue was, honestly, confounding. There is a little mention of the effects on the passengers when they get back to gravity, but after spending a minimum of 10 YEARS in zero G, it could honestly be life threatening simply upon re-entry. In fact, in the last chapter, crew members WALK on the surface of a planet. Impossible.

One of my biggest problems with this novel is that there is only 2 major catastrophes on the ship and neither destroys it. Now, I'm not saying that either one would have, but the fact that these ships fly for decades without succumbing to a single other equipment failure. In space flight, near death experiences happen on a regular basis.

Lastly, the closed loop systems....I just don't understand. When you talk about the consumables needed for 80 people coupled with the fact that there is NO closed loop system, then you factor in a 30 year just isn't possible.

Regarding the writing of the book itself, the pace was slowed to a crawl when the mission began. That's mostly because life would be a crawl. Life would be monotonous. But Baxter fills it in with pages of filler that isn't needed, while leading open ended questions for future books at the expense of the reader.

The characters are numerous and largely faceless. The only characters who seem to grow and evolve do so in a negative way, which isn't necessarily bad. Things don't have to always be for the positive, but it's weird that some characters remain completely unchanged after 30 hard years.

Some of the decisions made in the latter half of the book, those made during flight, were appreciable. I understood how hard it would be to make them, yet the decisions some of the crew made were absolutely confounding.

The ending is, frankly, terrible. I won't spoil it. It was just obvious that we are left waiting for another round of books on the subject when it wasn't needed. Or wanted....

I really liked and enjoyed the beginning of the book, leading up to the engagement of the warp drive. I appreciated the technical hurdles, the feeling of being up against a wall with pressure mounting on the candidates as they competed for spots on the ship while trying to face down the technical hurdles. I flew through the book until that point. However, trying to make it through the last 100 pages or so was extremely hard for me, especially getting to the end and having the answers to my questions half way answered in such confounding lack of physical robustness. I wished the characters were developed better. Only about 4 or 5 of them had any face to me.

I did enjoy the book despite the technical issues, which were almost impossible to explain away anyway. I would have rather some mystical solution be given, however, than for the hand waving that was done. Despite my issues with this particular content, the book made me contemplate on how I would act, which really is a compliment. My wife and I had some discussions on how we would act and what we would do. To be thought provoking is what most authors aspire to do. Baxter did manage to do that, so I give him a lot of credit.

3 Stars 

Recreational Shooting 1/19/14

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After writing my post on Understanding Your Rifle Through Trials and Tribulations, I decided that it was time to get out and do some shooting. After all, it's no fun to stock up on ammo and not shoot it all up, right?

While shooting is fun, I did have some real reasons that I wanted to shoot. First and foremost was to finally try out my new AR15 that I just recently completed. After all, a gun isn't much good if it doesn't work. And considering who it was (me) that built it...ANYTHING was possible. It may work great. It may not work at all. It just might blow up in my hands. Not to give anything away, but the fact that I am typing should tell you that the latter didn't happen. (Whew! I am as surprised as you are, believe me).

One of the other things that I wanted to do was to acclimate the two older kids to shooting. Griffin has never been scared of guns or shooting them. Just like me, Aubree is terrified of loud noises. Heck, I still can't stand to be the person who isn't shooting. Not only do I want her to get over her fear of the sound of guns, I want her to learn about them for safety reasons. How to use them, how to treat them, etc. Fact is, we hear of heartbreaking accidents between kids and guns all the time. I'd venture that 90% of them are because children either don't understand the danger of the gun, don't understand how to safely handle them, or a combination of both. I look at my childhood, for example. I understood what a gun could do to a person because I saw the  results on animals all the time. Additionally, I was brought up to respect firearms. So, by the time I was 10, I knew where the firearms were. I knew how to use them, but I respected them such that I never once took one out without a parent around. By the time I was 13, my parents trusted me enough to hunt whenever I wanted to without supervision. Believe it or not, I look back and realize that they were completely right in the way they taught me.

First things first. To learn and understand, you must at least be around firearms as they are being shot. So, I busted out the new Ruger 10/22 that I put together. I started by simply firing the gun with her next to me, which naturally terrified her. But, we told her it wasn't loud and we provided ear plugs and ear muffs.  After she was acclimated to the sound, I took the ear protection off of her and showed her the holes it made and how the gun worked.

After this, I figured the closest we would get to her shooting the gun was for her to hold it as I pulled the trigger. Luckily, my wife holds the same beliefs that I do about gun safety and where I was willing for Aubree to be done, Alyse was not. She forced Aubree to shoot the gun for the first time. And then something I never expected to happen DID happen. Aubree shot it. By herself. Then she looked up and me and asked if she could shoot it more. We got it on video!
Soon after, my friend Neil from Metalloid came by. You may recall that he is my supplier for Metcore 57 and Gun Green Oil. These are fantastic cleaners and protectors for your firearms. Anyway, he and his friend Jen wanted to do some shooting. So, we lined up some targets and laid out the firearms that we wanted to shoot.
Like I said earlier, I wanted to try out my new AR. It's a good thing too, for several reasons. Well, let me back up. I have recently finished the first AR and I am halfway through the second, after assembling my 2nd lower. After I was done with the second, I noticed a spare spring. That's never a good thing, when you have spare parts. Try as I might, I couldn't figure out WHY it was there. The trigger and hammer seemed to operate fine when separated from the upper assembly, so I assumed it was a spare part I was shipped by accident. Well, I put that lower on my new PSA upper and it fired just fine. But, it didn't eject the old round. I soon figured out where the spring went.....but I digress. Again, at least it didn't blow up in my hands.

I put the upper on the other lower and it fired, but also with problems. It didn't like the PSA bolt and carrier group. It would shoot and jam. Still not sure why, as the upper came assembled from PSA with the bolt and carrier group. I took my DPMS AR15 apart and swapped the BCGs between the two guns. Both fired and did so extremely well. Still don't know why the new gun didn't like the new BCG. I plan on doing a little work on it to see what the deal is.

So Neil brought his new Mosin (ok, it isn't new since it was made in the 40s). But, he had never fired it. I shot one a few years ago down in Auburn. Ah...that was THIS day.

Anyway, here is Neil shooting his gun for the first time!

So, we shot and shot and shot some more! Here were the results, though we didn't find nearly all of them. And, of course, we cleaned our guns after use! 

Fishing Report for Wheeler 1/20/14

Make sure to check out the Fish of 2014 Page to see how many fish I have caught, where, and on what lure!

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Luckily for us, our kids daycare is open on most holidays. Many people aren't off for MLK Day, so they stay open. In my situation, it provides daycare for my wife and I to be able to do something fun. With the weather looking for be in the high 50s and sunny, I couldn't think of anything else I would rather do than go fishing. After all, how many times do you get to fish in such weather in January.

My wife was a bit skeptical, wavering from "maybe" to "no" back to "possibly" by that morning. I'm a man, so any answer that isn't an emphatic "no" means there is room for negotiating. In this case, I had to give up my cold gear.

We dropped the kids off at 8am and then had decide where we wanted to go. Because of the kids, we wanted to stay within an hour, in case of an emergency. I have taken a "no Guntersville" stance until after the Classic. Too many boats. Too much pressure. Every fish in that lake gets hooked once a day and twice on Saturday. I really wanted Alyse to have a good time and catch some fish. I thought about fishing Wheeler, right under the Guntersville Dam. But that ramp is touch to use for anyone other than an experienced tandem and impossible to use for a single person. We fish the Ditto and Triana area enough as it is, and we have had some great days. Here are a few of them. Recreational Companionship  , Alyse Smokes Me, Fishing in September.

So, I thought we would go to Ingall's Harbor and fish Decatur.

I have fished out of Ingall's about 5 times now and I have never done much good. The best time I had was with BassWhacker. You can find that video here. Other than that, it's been insanely tough. But that's why I wanted to fish it. I wanted to learn.

So, we loaded up and headed to Decatur, which is only about a 30 minute drive, and it's one of the nicest ramps out there, which made it easy on us. We pulled out of the harbor and ran to a spot that I had caught a few fish on. Alyse snapped this selfie of herself as we ran. I don't recall it being that cold, but I guess all my nerve endings are dead!

I had some good intelligence telling me how to catch some fish on the Bama rig. So, I opened up with that. (boy, am I feeling it now!) After fishing a rock dike without any luck, I pulled out a crank and went to town. I was retrieving it through rock and a fish slammed the Strike Kind series 3 right at the boat. The line snapped! I wasn't sure how big the fish was, other than it had popped the line. I was more upset that my lure was gone. That's what I get for starting a new year with old line. I couldn't help but think of what Jesus said about new wine and old wine skins. HAHA! Not sure if that applies, but my weird stream-of-consciousness went there!

Any way, as I sulked about it and started the daily tally of dollars lost, Alyse spotted a dying fish. She said "hey, look at that dying fish over there. It's got a lure in it's mouth!" Of course, I knew what had happened, so I trolled over and picked up my lost lure. It wasn't a bass. It was a massive shad!
The area didn't give up any more bites and it was too windy to throw a slow moving bait like a jig or shakey head. So, I headed up river to another spot that I had caught fish, and one that would lend itself to Alyse's style of cranking a ledge and hopping a shakey head.

Alas, it didn't produce any bites and she soon got bored and went to looking at the newly installed Hummingbird 798. As I trolled, she asked me what things were on the screen and why they looked like they did. At one point, she told me we went over a big hump. It was a new thing for me to find, if indeed it was a hump. She explained what she had seen and we discussed where it was in relation to the boat and why it appeared like it did. The hump was offshore and away from any natural features on land, meaning it *may* not get fished much. So, I pulled out a Spro Little Jon DD and starting throwing it. Since we had trolled over the hump and I hadn't seen it myself, I had to guess about where it was and locate it with the crank. It was in 20 feet or better of water, so I fan casted the crank around. About the time I thought to myself "oh, there it is", a fish hit the lure. I boat flipped in my first bass of 2014.

No, he wasn't big. But, it is the first of what I hope will be many fish of 2014. Which reminds me to start a Fish of 2014 Page. Anywho...made a few more casts and didn't have any luck. I was impatient, so I headed off to find a new spot. I managed to find a lot of "interesting" things with sidescan, but none that offered up fish. I could tell Alyse was bored and I was frustrated, so we decided to call it an early day.

However, my wife continues to prove to be the love of my life. As we pulled on to the home stretch to drop the boat off, she told me to pull in to Los Trojas for a margarita. Even though the fishing was tough and we spent a whole day on the water, cold and aggravated, it was all made better by spending 30 minutes watching NBA basketball, munching on chips, and drinking a margarita together. So, here's to you stubborn fish for making that happen. 'Preciate that.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Stick Baits: Not Just a Last Resort

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Contrary to what I see the Pros do and what I read in magazines and fishing reports, the tough days on the water out number the good days by an order of magnitude. If you are like me, you are head strong. You will spend 6 of your 8 hours on the water throwing the bait YOU want to catch fish on before resorting to trying something else. I admit it. I think I am smarter than the fish and I think I know what they want. I am frequently wrong.  By the time I realize this, I have used up much of my fishing time and essentially all but given up anyway. I become content to throw a stick bait halfheartedly in the aspiration that maybe a lunker will come and snatch it up, though I all but suspect any bite will be a little squeaker.

In the past, the stick bait has been a last resort for me. When I did use it, it was always on a shakey head and I always used the same technique....dead slow. An inch at a time. A shake here. A twitch there. While dead sticking or crawling a shakey head is a sure fire way to get at least a few bites on the toughest days, the true versatility of the stick bait sometimes gets lost as it is frequently categorized (wrongly) as "last ditch effort bait."

I'm not ashamed to admit that I am sorta-kinda lazy, at least mentally. I like throwing a crank bait and reeling it in. I like throwing a frog out there and hopping it until something smashes is. But, after a few different trips in 2013 where I FORCED myself to get better with finesse baits, I had an epiphany of sorts. I was fishing the Eagle's Wings Tournament and we were fishing brush in 28 feet of water on Holt Lake in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. We knew the fish were there, but we couldn't get them to bite. I was dead sticking this stick bait on a shakey head, working it through the brush, with no avail. During one retrieve, I found the top of some brush as I was trying to work the shakey head through, I kept banging the underside of the limb. So, I hopped it hard. The shakey head went through the brush, up into the water column a few feet, and BAM! A nice spot. Odd. So, I cast back out to the same spot, found the brush, popped it off the bottom and BAM! Another nice spot! I did this over and over.

Later as I thought about this, I thought about how I utilize my other techniques. I don't ALWAYS straight retrieve my crankbaits. Sometimes the fish like specific speeds. Sometimes they like it when I hit the breaks randomly. Sometimes then like me to "pump" the bait. What about frog fishing? Same thing. Sometimes they like a constant hop. Sometimes they like me to pause it on blow up holes. In both cases, color and style ALSO matter. So, why is fishing a stick bait any different?

Now, I realize that many of you fishermen are probably rolling your eyes. There are some lakes where shakey head fishing is the only thing that will work consistently, so I am not telling you anything new. You know a hundred ways to get a bite on a stick bait. I know that on many lakes, all people throw is a stick bait backed shakey head. That's ok. Just click on the next post if that's you. It won't hurt my feelings. But, for much of the rest of the sport, stick baits are a last resort. And I am trying to educate these people, who just like me, roll our eyes at the thought of throwing a stick bait.

All of that being said, how can you use that stick bait? Well, like I said earlier...the stick bait offers a ton of rigging options that can be used in ANY setting. Here are my favorite ways:
  • Wacky Rigged
  • Drop Shot
  • Shakey Head
  • T-Rigged
  • C-Rigged
  • Weightless 
To me, each of these lends itself to the cover, terrain, or water column you are fishing. It may be rip-rap banks, grass lakes, deep creek channels with brush, laydowns, fish suspended under docks and the list goes on. That covers the entire gamut of lakes I fish. Let's take a look at these lakes and how I might use them:

If I am fishing rip rap banks on Wheeler, I will back a shakey head with a Sick stick. Throw it out, work it between the rocks and wait for them to come knocking. You can retrieve it as slow or as fast as you would like. You can drag it or hop it. More importantly, let the fish tell you what they want. They may want it to dead stick for a few seconds. They may also want you to hop it around like it's on it's 3rd pot of coffee.

If I am skipping docks on Logan-Martin for magnum spots, I will wacky rig it. Depending on where the fish are holding, I can easily adjust the fall rate. Skip it under the dock, let it fall and hold on!

If I am on Table Rock, I will Drop Shot my way to victory. Or, if the fish are suspending, I will wacky rig it and let it slowly fall between the submerged tree branches.

One of the most surprising technique I have employed in the last few years is a texas rigged stick bait on braid while fishing the thick grass on Guntersville. While lizards are usually my bait of choice while T-rigging on Guntersville, sometimes the fish want a more subtle bait. The stick bait is perfect because it doesn't move nearly as much water. Perhaps more important is it's ability to work in the grass without fouling. The bigger bodies of magnum lizards and ribbon tail worms frequently have problems with this. Either they can't work through the grass without snagging, or they won't fully fall to the hard bottom between the grass. The stick bait has no issues with this, gliding easily between the clumps and falling all the way to the bottom.

A technique I have been experimenting with in the last year on Wheeler, I call "flipping the shakey." It employs the same principals of flipping in that you can quickly cover a lot of water by eliminating extraneous time outside of the strikezone and couples the presentation of the shakey head. What do you get? A technique for covering an entire bluff of rip rap bank efficiently with a technique that maximizes bite potential. I can use either a spinning rod or a bait caster (6'6" med hvy with 10-12lb flouro) and a 1/4 ounce shakey head. With the spinning rod, I maintain line pressure with my right hand. With my left, I hold the shank of the hook, pull back and load the rod, then let go. Pop! The bait shoots right where I want it to go. Bounce it down the bluff where the fish are holding (you have to know what depth they hold) and then retrieve. Rinse and repeat.

Now, even within these different techniques, you can customize the retrieve. If you are wacky rigging it, you might pump it through the water. Maybe you like to jiggle it a few seconds after you let it settle to the bottom. You can do the aforementioned "hop" with your shakey head. Go weightless and twitch it on top of a grass mat. Slide that stick bait on a shell bed with a C-rig. Sometimes trying just a little different presentation makes all the difference!

And, speaking of presentation, don't forget about customizing the bait itself. Whether it's a smelly additive, a change in length, or even a completely different looking stick bait. Lately, I have been high on the PowerTeam Lures 5" Sick Stick.. That's not to talk badly about other bait companies. They all make great baits. But, I love the subtle differences in the Sick Stick and how I can use it.  They come in 17 different colors. It will cost you $4.59 for a pack of 7.

What are the little differences I like? It is flat sided instead of round. The flat sides do several unique things. First off, it increases the drag in the water which does a few things. That slows down its fall. The second thing it does is give it a lot more quiver when you raise the tip of your rod. Perhaps the most important thing the squared edges do is to trap air underneath the bait which escapes in the form of bubbles as it falls. So, even if the fish missed it falling into a grass bed, it will see the bubbles and start wondering..."what's going on over there?!?!?!?!"

While figuring out which technique to use on each of these lakes may take a little more expertise, a stick bait is absolutely deadly for beginning fishermen. We all need those confidence days. Days where you catch enough fish that you fall in love with the sport and have confidence to both go out again and to use a specific bait you believe in.

My wife has started fishing with me regularly. Naturally, days when the fish are biting crank baits make it fun and easy for her. But, what about the days where the bite is tough? Women don't really like sitting on the deck of a boat in hot weather, especially if they aren't catching fish. A few trips of teaching her a few basic techniques, mostly dead sticking, she was able to start catching fish on tough days. Check out this day she had on Wheeler!

Even for experienced tournament fishermen, going to the shakey head early may make all the difference. Let's not forget the first rule of tournament fishing: bring in a limit. One thing I did this past year in my tournament fishing was emphasize catching a limit of fish as fast as possible and culling up. This was a departure from my previous years of fishing where I had concentrated on big fish, but repeatedly came in short of the field because I didn't have a limit. Now, I realize that when the fish are active, most techniques are about equal. It takes about the same time to reel in a crankbait limit as a top water limit as a stick bait limit. However, those days are far and few in between. Stick bait fishing is the only technique I employ where I KNOW I can get 5 bites an hour. There is no bigger confidence booster in a tournament than filling out your limit, however small, in the first hour. Even though it may be small, the help to your psyche will do wonders. The opposite is also true. If you struggle all day and pick up the stick bait in the last hour, your are probably mentally frazzled already, and the chances of you making good on those 5 bites you need may not happen.

Going back to the complaints most people have about stick baits. The one I hear the most is that it doesn't catch many large fish. Well, in one of my tournaments this year on Wheeler, power baits weren't producing and Josh and I had to scale down to stick baits. The first few fish were small. But as we figured the technique out, the size went up. And up. And up. We brought in a 15 pound bag on Wheeler in the deep summer including a 5 pound smallie. Almost unheard of.

This year, my partner and I racked up 13 pounds of spotted bass on Logan-Martin lake with nothing but stickbaits! We were catching a fish every few minutes all day!

Using stick baits, you can put as much....or little....effort in to the method and catch fish. It's a terrific bait with a thousand different uses I know of...and more that I don't. It's a bait that must be on your boat deck every time you go out, regardless of what lake you are fishing. It isn't a glamorous bait and it isn't what people consider "power fishing". Yet, it gets a bad name because everyone associates it with light line and dead slow, producing only small fish. It is usually the technique people pick up after abandoning their early gameplan. But it doesn't have to be. If you experiment with it, you will find that it has many killer abilities if you use a little creative thinking. You can maximize it's potential by picking it up early and tinkering with it until you find exactly what the fish want. Then you can load the boat.

Simply put, it is the bait that, if fished , will produce some bites, and if used correctly, and can result in your best day. In 2014, one of my biggest largemouths and my biggest smallmouth both came on a stick bait. So, before you go looking for that next bait that will save the day, maybe consider the stick baits and just think of a new presentation.