OUTDOORS

From turkey hunting to a creek fishing trip, there are plenty of ways to stay busy in the outdoors at this time of year.

Fall remains my favorite time of the year, but spring runs a very close second place.

In early fall, we have all the hunting seasons to look forward to, with the exception, of course, of spring turkey.

But right now, we can enjoy some of the best fishing of the year for many species during a period when the Texas weather is often on its best behavior. For those who eagerly await the opportunity to pursue spring long beards, we have over a month to get out in the fields and woods with our turkey calls and decoys and attempt to dupe a turkey gobbler.

To my way of thinking, this month offers the best of both hunting and fishing.

I’ve adjusted my schedule this week to allow time for a spring turkey hunt up in Palo Pinto County with my longtime friend, Randy Douglas, who manages the Dale River Ranch, a piece of outdoor heaven situated right on the banks of the very scenic Brazos River several miles below Possum Kingdom Lake. This coming weekend, I’ll also be fishing the Yantis Catfish Classic at Lake Fork with my buddy, Jeff Rice.

As with any outdoor endeavor, the getting-ready part is almost as much fun as the hunting or fishing. I have enjoyed many fun hunting trips to Dale River Ranch with Douglas.

I used to set up a tent camp on the banks of the Brazos and hunt for deer or turkey or fish in the nearby river. This year, I’ll headquarter in Douglas’ camper on the ranch and probably plan a tasty camp dinner for the two of us – I’m thinking wild pork fajitas would be fitting, but who knows what the two of us will be dining on.

With a bit of midday luck the first day of the hunt, we might just be eating chicken fried – or should I say turkey fried – strips and cream gravy with rice on the side.

Douglas tells me the hunting on the ranch has been best in the afternoon when the gobblers are on the prowl looking for receptive hens. This is often the case.

I’ve been hunting turkeys a long time and I’m usually out in the morning well before daylight, hoping to call in a gobbler when he hits the ground under his roost tree, but looking back over more than 35 years of spring turkey hunts, I can honestly say that I’ve killed the majority of my birds from mid-morning to mid-afternoon. It’s tough to coax a gobbler away from hens during the first few hours of the morning.

I’ve also been rigging some of my custom catfish rods for the Yantis Catfish Classis this weekend. I use the word “custom” rods tongue in cheek – the rods I rigged are what most fishermen call “cane poles.”

I did a column a few weeks ago about a creek fishing trip a group of friends and I enjoyed in east Texas, fishing with cane or bamboo poles that I cut and rigged. My friend and I will be using these poles along a creek that runs adjacent his land on the upper end of Fork in the tournament. 

We have had lots of laughs discussing what some of the serious tournament catfish anglers might think of our crude, or often very effective, method of catching whisker-fish. 

In a tournament competing with anglers fishing from $60,000 boats, we will definitely be in the minority, but we’re going into the event with confidence. During the many years I’ve fished for catfish, I’ve caught a ton of them from creeks, especially this time of year and especially after a period of heavy rainfall such as we’ve just experienced. All sorts of food is washed into the creeks and catfish move in to enjoy the easy pickings.

The Yantis Catfish Classic offers hourly payouts and our plan is to weigh in the first chunky catfish we land. I’ve fished several catfish tournaments from boats and thoroughly enjoyed each event, but it will be nice to be able to walk along the bank and possibly enjoy a midday fish fry of fresh catfish (the smaller, “eater” size), of course. 

The fish fryer, corn meal and cooking oil will be nearby, packed away in the ole pickup along with some pork and beans, onion, catsup, potatoes and bread. We have developed a plan for this tournament based on having fun.

If we luck out and catch a big one, that will be icing on the cake.

I’m excited about a totally new endeavor, at least new for me. I’ll devote one day this week to meeting in Greenville with the local top personality, “Friendlee,” and beginning a weekly outdoor show that will be highlighted on social media.

Friendlee and Gabe Median have been producing their very well-received “Friendlee News” for several months now and wish to add an outdoor show hosted by yours truly.

We’re still working out the format and I immediately saw the need to have a co-host.  My good friend, Jeff Rice, is a lifelong outdoor enthusiast like myself and also very good with a camera and later in the editing room.

As an outdoors writer accustomed to taking you with me via newspaper and magazine articles, I welcome the opportunity to work in another medium that will help to get the word out about how much fun living the outdoor lifestyle really is.

The first show will be airing the first week in May. You can “like” “Friendlee News” on Facebook and check it out.

I understand the show will be on Twitter, YouTube and Instagram as well. I’m still thinking of a proper name for the show, something along the lines of “Luke Clayton‘s Outdoor World with Jeff Rice.”

 

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