Friday, September 12, 2014

It is TIME!

When I played baseball in high school I remember a talk the coach, another player, and myself had prior to our first conference game of the season.  The other player was our leadoff batter. He was fast and in practice could spray the ball to any field easily for a base hit. I was not as fast of a runner, nor did I hit as well as he did.  However, for some reason, he was struggling in our non-conference schedule and I was getting on base regularly whether by walks, hits, or fielding errors.
I could go in to a number of reasons why this occurred. One, the other player admitted he was extremely nervous leading off. My role was to take pitches to give any runners on base a chance to test the catcher’s arm to set into motion our base running plans. Even with the bases empty, I stayed in that frame of mind, and it allowed me to get to base by taking bad pitches.
Our meeting was to inform the two of us we would be switching batting positions. As the leadoff batter, I had to get on base. No matter what our third base coach would signal, I had the green light to steal second base whenever I felt I had an advantage. Again, the goal was to test the catcher’s arm so we would know how aggressive we could be when on the base paths.
Each evening leading up to that first conference game I would fall asleep envisioning that very first at bat.  I would watch the opposing pitcher during warm-ups to determine what pitches to look for. The umpire would signal the last warm-up pitch and the catcher would toss it back to the second baseman as the ball would flow around the horn and back to the pitcher. “Play ball!” the umpire would grunt loudly motioning towards the field.
In real life, those steps played out exactly as planned. The pitcher threw a lot of curve balls during warm-ups and I planted my feet squarely towards the front of the batter’s box. “Let’s see what you’ve got,” I thought to myself. I could see the break in the pitcher’s wrist as he released the first pitch. The seams of the baseball grabbed air as it rotated towards me. I clearly saw the curve ball was on the way and could tell where the break would occur. Instinctively the bat reached out across the plate making contact with the rawhide. The ball hugged the barrel just before launching down the third base line. The angle was right and I watched the ball sailing towards the outfield. As I neared first base I watched the ball clear the outfield fence by about 20 feet.
“Foul ball,” the umpire called out as he waved his arms towards the other team’s dugout down the third base side of the field.
Although the ball was foul, I had played the moment through my head so many times that nothing in the scenario up that point was foreign or surprising. I was confident in the moment. I was ready. For full disclosure, I struck out on the next two pitches as the pitcher had a heck of a fastball that I could not catch up to standing there in the front of the batter’s box.
Now, nearly 30 years later, I lay down at the end of the evening doing much the same thing. There I am, in my tree stand with hours to go before sunrise. I hear crunching below as a couple of does and a fawn chew on the corn in the field. The moonlight catches something way out in the field, however it is still much too dark to see what it is. Or is it? No, I can see now that the light is glistening of a couple of tree limbs.
No, wrong again. Those are antlers. They are moving towards the stand. As he approaches I can only hope he hangs around until day break. The nervousness departs as I become comfortable watching this beautiful specimen establish his alpha dominance over the smaller bucks coming in.
And I fade off into my dreams of the night.
You may think to yourself, “Bill, this mental preparation dreaming didn’t work too well for you 30 years ago as you struck out.”
Yes, but I finished the game with two hits and three stolen bases.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Four Wheelin' and a Contest!

The trail was clear, although the terrain was rough. Hills and rocks and slides were as much a part of the trail as asphalt is to a highway. Throughout the whole length, a short step too far would carry you over the edge which dropped hundreds of feet where the only thing to break the fall was the ground itself.
My wife, daughter and son were taking this treacherous route. Since the trail lead to nowhere, I kept thinking to myself this is why mountain climbers seek the pinnacle of a majestic outcropping of rock and earth made from eons of plates colliding with each other. We just wanted to see what lied ahead, remember what was behind us, and enjoy the present.
While making the trek, I caught a high pitched rumble behind us. The noise gradually grew louder and I motioned for my daughter and wife to stay close to the inside of the trail near the upward mountainside. Bears, bobcats and even a rumored mountain lion, though highly doubtful, are said to roam the area. This was no predator though.
In a flash three motorbikes broke around the curve and passed us. They were so quick all we could really catch sight of was three helmets and dust being thrown from the rear tires.
I had never been on the off-highway vehicle trail system that encompasses Brown Mountain, but on a weekend getaway we thought the family would enjoy running the four wheelers on a trail such as this. Over 33 miles of trail exists there, and even though there are plenty of bikes, all terrain vehicles, and Jeeps testing their skills and just enjoying the adrenaline rush of acceleration and maneuvering, the trails remained open enough where you were not constantly looking over your shoulder or peeking around the corners.
With the kids with us, we stayed on the easy trails. There are much more difficult tracks to take, and each trail marker has a symbol showing not only the difficulty of the run, but which types of vehicles are allowed to traverse the trail as well.
We spent several hours exploring just the main trail which was highlighted with turnoffs, steep climbs and descents, powdery dirt and exposed rocky outcrops. We stopped twice on the 12.6 mile ride, once for pictures near a large boulder, and once just to talk and take a five minute break.
The cool mountain air was crisp and refreshing compared to earlier in the week where the temps reached the lower 90’s and we soaked in all we could.
As far as the mountain goes, it is filled with mystery and history, and having both covered, seen, and studied the famous Brown Mountain Lights, I wondered just how they emanated from the mountain.
Even the United States Department of Agriculture acknowledges the floating orbs but the explanations are as much a mystery as the lights themselves. This being my first time actually on the mountain, I paid special attention to features that you just cannot see from afar during the night.
That evening, as we tended a fire near the small two room cabin we stayed in and melted s’mores over the flames; we recanted the tales of the mountain and others from the nearby area. We ate well, slept deeply, and continued a bond between ourselves and the land.
The Brown Mountain OHV Trail is located less than thirty minutes from Morganton, NC and requires a pass that can be purchased at the entrance.

So, What is your BEST DAY EVER? Kolpin Powersports wants to know!

That title sounds like something you’d read in a friend’s Facebook post as a caption for an awesome photo or video, doesn’t it?  Well, it is actually, or will be soon, thanks to Kolpin Powersports.
On Friday, August 15, 2014, Kolpin Powersports kick-offed a social media video contest asking ATV fans to showcase their Best ATV Day Ever by submitting a video for a chance to win a Grand Prize pack from Kolpin worth $1,000. 
The Grand Prize is $500 in cash plus a $500 Kolpin online gift card (coupon code).  But if you don’t win the Grand Prize, don’t worry, there are nine other prizes being offered, including four Runner-Up prizes of $250 in cash plus a $250 Kolpin online gift card, and five Honorable Mention prizes, which earns winners a $200 Kolpin online gift card.  Gift cards are only available for redemption at

Kolpin is making it really easy to enter the contest. Here’s all you have to do:
1)                 Make your video
2)                 Upload your video to YouTube or another video hosting site and once the video is live, copy the URL.
3)                 Paste the video URL to Kolpin’s Facebook Best Day Ever contest tab which is located at KOLPIN FACEBOOK COMPETITION PAGE 
The contest has one round of voting and the winner will be determined by a combination of social media fan votes and a judge’s panel comprised of ATV and video buffs who will look for originality and video quality. 
Here’s a BIG TIP for you:  once your video is posted, quickly give your friends the URL - email it, text it, post it on your social channels – heck, do everything possible to get as many people as possible to vote for your video. But be quick about it, because voting ends at 11:59 CST on Sunday, September 14, 2014.
This awesome contest is sure to be entertaining, with hilarious, exciting or otherwise excellent videos, so even if you aren’t planning on making a video yourself, be sure to visit the page early and often to vote for your favorites!
If you haven’t heard of Kolpin Powersports, they’re the industry leader in ATV and UTV accessories, offering universal accessories that work with every brand of ATV and UTV. Kolpin has been around since 1943, so you can trust their products, and rest assured that they’re constantly innovating and engineering new equipment to add to their large assortment of other ATV and UTV accessories.
For more information about Kolpin Powersports, call them at 1 (877) 956-5746 or visit their website by clicking HERE.
Note: This is a sponsored post by Kolpin Powersports.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Know Your Choke

Many years ago my grandfather used to hunt quail religiously. He had an Ithaca side-by-side double barrel 20 gauge shotgun in which he sawed much of the end of the barrels off.
When I began hunting, my first experiences with real firearms were with that Ithaca. My father always warned me in the dove field to “stay down until they are right up on you and then pull up and fire.” I always thought it was because he was unsure of my newly developing abilities and a close shot would give me the best chance of downing the game bird.
It was not until I was well into my twenties that I finally realized why. The sawed off barrels would not hold a tight pattern for the shot very far. This was the reason my grandfather modified the shotgun. The quail would usually wait and fly after being marked his dog when he was right upon them. They would flush in a loud whoosh of flapping wings and he would throw the shotgun up and pull the trigger. He was not trying to aim. He was trying to get the shot out of the gun and into the bird.
I find many people never really grasp what type of choke to use. As a quick lesson, the choke is the amount of constriction of the barrel. The tighter the choke, the more focused the shot are as they exit the muzzle (end) of the barrel.
Think of the sprayer on your water hose when picturing the choke patterns. When you are spraying your flowers or grass you want an open spray that covers a large area. However, when you are trying to wash bugs off the headlamps of your vehicle you want a focused stream to attack the leftover mush of a bug.
The choke works the same way. There are many combinations of a choke, but there are four main ones.
The open or cylinder choke is basically a straight barrel with no constriction. This is what my grandfather accomplished by sawing off the end of the Ithaca. It is used for tight quarters and close shots. This is great for that quail hunt when you want to just throw the shotgun up and fire.
An improved cylinder begins to alter the constriction of the choke. Again, this is used in situations where you think the game will be close by for the shot. Personally, I have used this for hunting wood ducks in swamps where they come in fast and close between the many trees.
A modified choke constricts the muzzle more tightly than the improved cylinder, therefore it offers a tighter pattern and the ability to focus the shot pattern at a greater distance. In many cases, this will be an ideal choke for open field hunts, such as for the coming dove season. This choke also is widely used for duck and goose hunting on open lakes and reservoirs as the goal is to draw the waterfowl towards your decoys which may be positioned several dozen yards away from the blind or boat.
The last of the four primary chokes is the full choke. This is the most focused and constricted of the basic chokes. It allows for shots of greater distances but the pattern is very small on close shots.
Discussing a dove hunt with a fellow hunter several years ago he mentioned how he always missed on his first shot but rarely missed as the bird was flying away and he fired his second shell. He could bring down a bird from above the trees but for the life of him he could not hit one that would nearly land on top of him. After talking about and laughing at the way hunts go sometimes we checked his shotgun and sure enough, he had a full choke screwed into the muzzle. It was not his lack of ability, but rather the equipment he was using.
So before you head out to the dove fields in the coming weekends, know your ability and know your equipment. After all, you don’t want to choke when you get the shot.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Do You Have Everything Prepared?

Several years ago a friend set up the perfect hunting property. He surrounded an existing box stand with  a lush food plot he planted in the Spring of that year.  He positioned channels to allow for rain run-off that would both keep the plot fed with water but not allow it become flooded.
The plot was built beside a tree line entering a rather large wooded area. The cover of the small forest was perfect for all types of game animals, especially whitetail deer, turkey and bear. The tracks through his food plot proved the point.
The trail cameras were set six weeks before the season and he was able to give an itinerary for each deer that came on the property. He knew which does would enter first with which fawns. He knew the tall eight pointer was likely two and a half years old that followed. He also knew the non-typical twelve would usually rush the scene and establish the field as his domain just before sunset.
Prior to the gun season opener for whitetail, he sighted in his rifle with the ammunition he would be hunting with, Remington Core-Lokt 180 grain cartridges for his 30-06 rifle. Whether the shot was from 100 yards or 300 yards he could plant the hole in the target in a circle as small as a quarter.
His hunting clothes were washed with scent free detergent. He made sure he had his tags and license. His hunter orange was packed and ready to go. His anticipation for opening day was only enhanced by his preparation.
The friend skipped the morning hunt. He knew the only thing that would appear would be a few turkeys, a fox squirrel, and several of the does. There was no reason to offer a chance of spooking his main target by going to the field that morning. Instead, he entered the field around 4 pm.
Carefully and quietly walking on the side of the field the deer never entered, he almost had a skip to his step. In fact, he probably would have skipped all the way to the box stand if he did not think it would create too much commotion.
He strapped his rifle over his shoulder and began the climb up the wooden ladder. The door to the box stand opened inward and he gently turned the knob as he pushed it forward. That is when lightning struck.
No, not lightning from the sky, but rather a swarm of evil beasts that could only be motivated by the devil himself. The wasps’ nest was on the ceiling of the stand and the door was all it took to bump the nest and send the black buzzing pain bearers down upon him.
Eight feet to the ground he dropped, landing on his prized firearm and top of the line scope. Still, the wasps continued to strike without mercy, not caring about how bad the fall affected him. Luckily he survived the fall, the multiple stings, the broken scope, and the bruised and embarrassed ego.
As the season nears and we all are getting ready for our own Mr. Big remember all the preparations that need to take place.
Bows need strings and d-loops checked as well as being sighted in. Rifles need to be checked for operation of the firing mechanism and safety.
Hang-on stands and ladder stands that may have been left out during the year need to be checked also. A tree grows each year and can severely damage any type of strap that holds them secure through the stretching. Replacement of any rusted metal bolts and nuts may cost ten to fifteen dollars but could save ten thousand in medical bills.
And of course, check for any flying creatures that may have taken harbor in any box stands.