Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Early Joys of Outdoors

It’s funny how something can happen so fast you never see it coming.  For instance, my son and I were bowfishing during the redhorse sucker spawn last year.  My son fired a shot into the water from the shoreline, and began backing up while retrieving his line.  In what seemed like slow motion, I watched as he took a step back too many, and plummeted down an embankment landing flat on his back in about 18 inches of water.  He wasn’t hurt, and we got a good chuckle out of it.
Sometimes though, things happen so slow you never see it come either.
As a child, I cannot remember a single weekend when a bb gun was not involved.  My friends and I cherished the first snow for two reasons.  First, we loved to play football in the snow.  I guess when you were tackled it didn’t hurt as bad; you know, the snow would either cushion the fall or you were so numb from the cold you just didn’t feel it.  Second, we somehow thought we could track rabbits and actually take one with the ole Daisy Red Rider air rifle.  It was a great beginner gun, and you could actually see the bb as it left the barrel.  We could track the rabbits, but there was NO way that gun was going to harm one.
During the summer, we would head out to one of several ponds within a bike ride distance, with rod and reel in hand.  We had either cork, hook and worms, or a beetle spin, and would catch more bream and crappie than you could count.
As we got a little older, and our parents trusted us more, we carried firearms that could do more damage.  We could hunt dove on our own after opening day came in.  Then when winter came, we would head out to the edge of the woods and kick around the brush looking for coveys of quail.  We didn’t have trained dogs, but we knew where the birds were, as we were in the woods year round.  Occasionally we would get a shot without being startled to death when several birds would flush.
Over the years, we either stopped hunting and fishing all together, or we only pursued whitetail deer.  We forgot about small game.  Occasionally, squirrel or rabbit hunting excursions may pop up, and we would have a blast while doing it.  Then it was over.
It wasn’t until recently; I discovered how hard it is to find the small game anymore.  With the expansion of the deer population over the last twenty years, and the encroachment of humans, small game habitat is dwindling away at a slow but steady pace.  We always hear of how people are responsible for the habitat loss, but we do not recognize the deer impact.  Quail and rabbit, for instance, thrive on edge cover.   That same edge cover is what deer graze on, and it doesn’t take long for the deer to completely deplete it.  North Carolina knows of the deer problem, which is why we now can take unlimited doe, and even has urban archery seasons in many places.  Without some control over deer, we may never gain quail and rabbit populations to what they were except in limited managed areas or preserves.
Small game is where we learn and earn our passion for hunting and fishing. Squirrel and rabbit hunting allow many shot opportunities and help a child with confidence in the use of their firearm.  The old bream ponds, if you can find one, offer fast and sure action for a youngster.  It’s guaranteed to keep their interest.  And, when you take a child, you may actually relive some of those fond memories of years past.

Bill Howard is a Hunter Education and Bowhunter Education Instructor , a Wildlife Representative and BCRS Program Chairman for the North Carolina Bowhunters Association, and an avid outdoorsman.  Please forward any pictures or stories you would like shared to

Friday, January 14, 2011

Goal Setting

Each year we put together resolutions to better ourselves regarding our health, personal finances, and family.  We devise elaborate plans to help our businesses grow and profit.

Recently, while talking to a hunter who holds several bowhunting state records and one world record, he asked a question that isn’t asked in this context very often.  “What is your goal?  What are your goals for hunting this season; in three seasons; in five seasons?”

It made perfectly good sense.  If you want the best odds at succeeding in something, you set your goal, and put together a plan to obtain that goal.  You would not expect to become a doctor without first getting the educational requirements needed.  Nor would you expect to get that education without researching what schools offer the programs for profession.  Many times in our outdoor endeavors we work a plan, but have no real goal.  We may scout, lay food plots, and practice with our equipment.  However, we may have not really thought out what our true goal is.  Is it to limit out?  Is it to bring in the biggest buck?  Are we trying to catch the most fish, or are we trying to catch the most legal sized fish that are edible?

I pondered the question long and hard, and put down my goals.  In the hunter education classes I teach, we go over responsibility, safety, knowledge, and involvement.  I wanted to hit on each attribute, so I broke my goals down to each.

It is easy to say I want to get the largest bass I have ever caught, or take a turkey.  However, if that is your goal, but you do nothing to prepare for it, then it is much less likely to happen.  You cannot guarantee a state record, but you can put yourself in position to have the best odds at a chance for something great.

One of my goals is to learn and hunt each of the game animals in North Carolina.  I may not take a trophy buck each time I go out, but I can take a trophy experience.  Another goal is to mentor my kids, as well as others that are new to hunting.  By learning about each of the game animals, I hope to share those trophy experiences with others, and introduce even long time sportsmen/women to things they may never have thought of trying otherwise.

The gentleman who asked me the question, Randy Mabe, put together his goals several years ago.  One goal was to take the North Carolina Grand Slam (deer, bear, turkey, wild boar) with the bow.  Another was to take the North American Wild Turkey Grand Slam (Eastern, Osceola, Merriam, Rio), which he did with both a shotgun and bow.  He said however, this third goal was one of his greatest.  He introduced his wife to hunting.  He did not force her into it.  But he did work to find what she actually enjoyed, and then helped her in pursuing her goals.  It allowed his marriage to grow stronger, as it gave them another connection.   They enjoy the wilderness, the travel, and the adventure together.  She is an animal lover, and together they now run a kennel, training and raising Verein Deutsch Drahthaar hunting dogs.

If you have ever wanted to take that dream expedition for other game animals or fish; put it on paper, and prepare.  Take it in steps, and have the plan span not just one season, but over a period of time.  The longer time period will help you manage your land for quality and quantity, and put together the resources and knowledge for that dream trip.  Great successes come from preparation and involvement.  Just ask Randy.  Note: Randy Mabe can be reached from his website at

Bill Howard is a Hunter Education and Bowhunter Education Instructor , a Wildlife Representative and BCRS Program Chairman for the North Carolina Bowhunters Association, and an avid outdoorsman.  Please forward any pictures or stories you would like shared to

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Hooded Merganser Recipe-Guaranteed Good!

When I was a child, I loved bird hunting, but I just could care less about hunting duck in the cold.  My dad would drag me out, occasionally going to the coast to hunt, and the wind, water spray, and bitter temps just made my life miserable.  As I gained some years, and some insulating pounds, the cold didn’t bother me as much, and I grew to appreciate waterfowl hunting.
Each season I try to follow how the birds do up north, so it’ll give me an idea of how they’ll be when they migrate south to North Carolina.  I work on my calling (I need a lot of work!), and study how others do decoy spreads.  And of course, when the season has begun, I start asking other hunters what is flying and at what times.
The word in the field is the mergansers are hot and heavy.  Hoodies, as they are affectionately called,  are beautiful birds, colored in black and white with a huge crest, and are commonly found flying with wood ducks, mallards, and ringnecks along with other waterfowl.
I included a recipe below that should help if you happen to take one while hunting the swamps or open water.

1 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons red chili paste
1 (4 to 5 lb) whole merganser
1 teaspoon salt
4 slices of ham
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoon corn starch
4 slices cheddar cheese
8 slices bread
choice of vegetables

1- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2- Coat shallow roasting pan and rack with non-stick spray.
3- In a small bowl, combine and mix wine, honey, lemon juice and chili paste.
4- Rinse merganser, and cut down center of back to butterfly.  Pat dry.  Pierce skin several times with metal skewer.  Salt and pepper skin.
5- Place cut vegetables in pan below rack.  Place merganser on rack, skin side up.  Place in oven.
6- After 20 minutes, baste with honey/chili mixture.  Roast for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, basting every 15 minutes.
7- With 5 minutes cooking time remaining, place 4 slices of bread out.  Place ham and cheese on slices of bread.
8- Remove merganser from oven, place on platter and keep warm.
9- Combine orange juice and corn starch.
10- Strain pan juices in sauce pan.  Discard vegetables.
11- Bring to a simmer, adding any left over baste.  Thicken with corn starch mixture and add salt and pepper.
12- Cut merganser into pieces (leg, thigh, wings, breast).
13- Toss merganser and sauce into trash.  Top remaining 4 slices of bread with mustard and place on 4 prepared slices of bread, ham, and cheese.
14- Enjoy your sandwiches!
Bill Howard is a Hunter Education and Bowhunter Education Instructor , a Wildlife Representative and BCRS Program Chairman for the North Carolina Bowhunters Association, and an avid outdoorsman.  Please forward any pictures or stories you would like shared to

Monday, January 3, 2011

Early withdrawal!

The deer season passed without me getting a chance to hunt on the last day. You know, family reasons...

But today I found myself with kids at school, and the wife at work.  What can I go do?

How 'bout some tree rats?  Been a long time since I've hunted just for squirrels.  They were always 'collateral'.  They would be the target when nothing else was coming out to play.

It resulted in a TREMENDOUS time!  No arrows lost-yes, I did hunt them with the bow.  I missed pulling the string, and those little critters make hard targets. What's even neater is with the bow you do a LOT of stalking.

Anyway, it absolutely cured the withdrawal symptoms of deer season passing last weekend.

Bill Howard is a Hunter Education and Bowhunter Education Instructor , a Wildlife Representative and BCRS Program Chairman for the North Carolina Bowhunters Association, and an avid outdoorsman.  Please forward any pictures or stories you would like shared to