Thursday, December 28, 2017

Deer Hunting Christmas 2017

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Try as I might, I haven't been able to get my kids interested in bass fishing as much as I'd like. I admit that I am not a great "fun fisherman." In my quest to get better as a tournament angler, I have lost some of that charm. 

You can imagine my surprise when suddenly all three kids are interested in deer hunting. To me, I would think it would be the other way around. Bass fishing can be done in pleasant weather and it's typically a lot more action-packed. Obviously, you can go days without seeing the first deer and in many of those days, the weather can be downright awful. 

But, when the kids ask to go, you gotta take them, right? Of course, we had to separate into shifts as three kids didn't fit in the shooting houses, even as nice and large as they are. 

For the second time in the last few years, I had a shot when I had the kids with me. This time it was my two older kids. And, like last time, I likely rushed the shot and I probably shouldn't have done that considering it was bordering on 300 yards. The doe just stared at me and I racked another round, presented with another golden opportunity. This one missed as well and I didn't bother to shoot again as I had taken my time on the second shot and realized the gun must be off. 

The next day, I took Aubree and we did some sighting in. Sure enough, the gun was 6 inches low at just 75 yards. We remedied that and it was time to hit the woods. 
First trip, I took Aubree, the oldest. We were able to see a big four point and a couple of smaller deer, but no bucks or does worth shooting, much to her chagrin. Over the next few days, she begged and begged me to go, but it was the boys' turn next. I went to the store, got them snacks and drinks and warned them NOT to drink it all and NOT to fight. Well, you can guess what happened! 

On the next trip, we again saw the 4-pointer and it was awesome for the boys to get to watch him. I didn't see my first buck for probably three or four years of hunting! They got so excited that their movement scared him away. I couldn't be mad. They were really enjoying themselves.  As darkness moved upon us, we were presented with several does, but each of them had a faun with them and I thought it would be bad form to shoot them, especially with the boys with me. 

But, an opportunity presented itself in the form of an injured deer limping across the field. It was nearing dusk and I didn't have much time to put the binoculars on the deer to see what kind it was. In the end, I made a judgement call that no matter if it was a buck or doe, I needed to put the deer out of its misery as it was limping badly. I warned the boys and pulled the trigger. The deer went down and the boys witnessed their first kill. It ended up being a small buck that had a front shoulder completely out of place. The boys didn't mind. They were very excited! 

A few days went by and my dad killed a really nice buck. Work had been slow and I was looking at an afternoon of sitting in the office, at home or perhaps hunting. The issue with hunting was that the wind was pretty bad. In my experience, high wind is normally a killer for deer hunting. It throws off multiple senses for the deer and they stay hunkered down.

I texted my dad and he said that the rut was on and that it would easily cover up the wind, as far as the bucks were concerned. I took his word and, besides, what did I have to lose? 

Since the kids were with my mom, I knew this was the best opportunity for me to get a good buck. But, after the first hour, the only deer I had seen was a little spike that I have seen several other times. However, knowing that the rut was on, this was the perfect chance to use him as bait for a bigger deer. I broke out the grunt call and began grunting, as long as he was in the field. 

He made two complete laps of the field and every 15 minutes, I would make some grunts. Around 4:45, movement caught my eye and it was the last place I expected to see a deer. For at my back, just yards away, was the Flint River. A set of deer had crossed the river and were now just on my side of the tree line. One was obviously a buck, so I picked up the binocs. At first glance, it looked like a big six. 

Though his antlers stood outside his ears ( a club rule), a six pointer didn't meet the agenda. But, upon further review, he did have a set of brow tines that made him an eight. I took the shot and the deer dropped.

It ended up being a gorgeous young buck. He wasn't a monster, but he will be mighty tasty! Now it's time to find a giant! 

Monday, December 18, 2017

Fishing Report for Pickwick 12/16/17

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It doesn't feel like it had been two weeks since Brad and I made the trip to Pickwick for a few hours. Alas, it has been. Funny thing is, looking at the pictures of our last trip, I am wearing jeans and a t-shirt. That's not quite the clothing selection I had on this past Friday. It was 22 degrees on the drive from my house to McFarland and about 25 when we dunked Big Booty Judy. 

On our last trip, we didn't get to fish until about 830 or 9 and had to leave around 1. It took the better part of the trip to find any fish. In fact, we had to search for nearly two hours to get our first bite. Using jerkbaits, we found fish on a small stretch of bluffs. We hammered down on them and caught a fair amount of fish before we had to leave. Surprisingly, no big fish and no smallies. Go read that report by clicking the link below.

Fishing Report for Pickwick 12/1/17

Still, it was a good day. So, we decided not to reinvent the wheel and go right to where we had been catching. Ok, that's a lie. It was so cold that when Brad asked "where we gonna start" I dropped the trolling motor inside of McFarland and said "right about here." Shoot, I wasn't gonna run ANYWHERE in 25 degrees if it wasn't tournament day. 

That actually paid off pretty quick as I fished the barge tie-ups, specifically the eddy line, with a PTL Sick Stick on a shakey head. A fun fight led to this super chunky spotted bass which is probably my biggest of the year.

The next cast, another fish jumped on the line and I started getting really excited that I had found a pile of fish. Alas, it was a drum. 

We moved to some other community hole areas without a bite before moving to the bluffs where we had success. Throwing a Smithwhick Perfect Ten jerkbait resulted in fish after fish. However, they weren't very big and they were all spots. Nothing wrong with that, but eventually we wanted to find the brownies. 

We continued down the bluffs before Brad caught this chunk on the jerkbait.

I followed that up later with this nice largemouth.
We noticed that the bigger fish were all alone. We would catch five to seven smaller fish but would find a bigger once close to, but not directly with, the pile of smaller fish.

After awhile, the sun came out and the jerkbait bite began to decline. We would still catch some, but I began to notice that I wasn't marking bait on the straight bluffs. We can upon a slopping bluff that extended pretty far into the river. Instead of a straight drop to 14-18 feet, it tapered off slowly. I also began to mark fish. So, I pushed the boat out and picked up the trust Strike King 6XD. It might also have something to do with the fact that I bounced my Rogue off a rock and came back with half the bait. 

And then I went to town. This 50 yard stretch of sloping bluff held a ton of fish and Brad and I must have caught 10-15 from the exact same cast. But, like all things, it went away. Likely because we caught them all.

With the day coming to an end, we decided to go back to the area that seemed to be holding better fish, however sporadic they may have been. I had a suspicion, based upon this tapering bluff area, that I may have been sitting on top of the fish.

So while he tossed the jerkbait, I threw the 6XD parallel to the bluffs. This resulted in a couple of 2.5 pound fish, just no big ones. Eventually, I did get that big one to load up and as I fought the fish, I could tell this was a big smallie.

Sure enough, I got a great shot at a massive brown fish about the time she threw the crankbait. That fish would have boosted our sack to around 17.5 pounds and put us around 30 fish for the day. Not a bad winter's day fishing trip! 

Monday, December 4, 2017

Fishing Report for Pickwick 12/1/17

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It's hard to believe that it has been three weeks since I had been fishing, but man....has it been busy! Between the Thanksgiving holiday, work and football, I haven't had much time to get out and fish. It's a shame, too, because I needed one solid trip to break last year's mark of 283 fish. You can read about my Fish of 2017 here. I needed just 12 to break the mark. 

Friday was looking like a beautiful day. Highs in the mid-60s without wind and not a cloud in the sky. Of course, that's NOT good if you are looking to catch some smallies. We had been seeing some of the Basswhacker Guide Service guys WRECKING the fish. They were doing it on Wheeler, Wilson and Pickwick.

Brad and I decided we would get out and we went with Pickwick as we believed the versatility of the lake would allow us to find some fish, even if the weather wasn't optimal for smallie fishing. To us, Wilson was too dependent on the Wheeler dam current and Wheeler lake was so far down that we just didn't have faith that we could catch fish with such low water levels. 

Of course, the extra drive meant we would be on the water a good bit less and we wouldn't actually be on the water until around 9:30. 

So, based on what we had been reading, we went to work on the bluffs across from McFarland with a combination of Bama rigs and jerkbaits. No such luck, even when we covered several miles. 

I also noticed that I wasn't marking any bait or fish. In addition, a look at the TVA app showed that there was only 32,000 CFS being pushed through Wilson dam, which is about half of what you REALLY want to get the smallies biting. 

That's a bad sign. And, we didn't get bit for around the first three hours. THREE HOURS! 

That included making some moves to areas that we have consistently caught fish on over the last few years. We made it as far down river as the end of Seven Mile Island before sitting down to really contemplate what we should do. Obviously, our experience was hurting us, so we decided to fish all new water.

We picked a stretch of bluffs that were just a touch different than what we normally fish. We normally fish straight cliff bluffs. We targeted rocky bluffs this time around and in an area I've never fished.

First one bite on the jerkbait with a solid two pound largemouth. Then another. Then another. In a 100 yard stretch we had caught around seven fish, five on the jerkbait and two on the A-rig. Most of them were small, but we had a solid little limit going.

We went back down the stretch and only caught two fish, but both were in the three pound range. 

Moving on to another stretch, we caught a few more fish. Then a straight bluff without a bite. Then down a rocky bluff were we caught more fish.

Soon, we had a pattern, but we ran out of time. 

In the end, we caught around 17-20 (Brad corrected me on Facebook when I said 20-25). The best five would have gone between 13-15 pounds. Strangely, they were all largemouth and spots. Not a single smallie! It really wasn't a surprise. There wasn't any current, high skies, and no wind. 

A Smithwick Rouge MD jerkbait did the vast majority of the damage with the A-rig kicking in another 3 fish.