Thursday, May 19, 2011

Zombies, the Rapture and the Outdoors

Note: Harold Camping had predicted the End of the World on May 21, 2011.  After the impending doom did not occur, he recalculated and found his error.  The prediction has been revised to Friday, October 21, 2011.  The ironic thing is the CDC came out with the Zombie Apocalypse plan just before May 21.  Now, as we approach the October 21 DEADline, Hornady has come out with the Zombie Z-Max ammunition.  Makes you wonder if Hornady has a contract to supply ammunition with the government in order to combat the coming apacolypse...So please, enjoy the repost as we near the End of the World, Zombie Apocalypse, and Halloween!

So I am reading the news headlines last week and I come across something I never would have expected.  The Center for Disease Control warns us to prepare for a zombie apocalypse.  You know the CDC does not take things lightly.  And with the billboards, ads, and news stories of the Rapture and the end of the world as we know it supposedly happening May 21st, it had me wondering, "Is the government hiding something?"  Now I know what you are thinking.  Yes, this is an outdoors column, and bear with me as I will have a point by the end of this column.  I think.

First, there are zombies.  There is this fungus that attacks a certain species of ants turning their brains to mush.  The fungus then sets off little electrical impulses to the ant's body causing the ant to move and do what the fungus wants.  Must be a smart fungus.  A stalk grows from the head of the ant, and the ant becomes a zombie ant.  Do not take my word for it, look it up.

Second, it is also known that this year is a really bad year for allergies with the longer pollen season and the smoke from the wildfires.  Add in the nuclear radiation from Japan and I picture a sequel to the movie "The Happening" where the pollen mixes with the smoke and becomes irradiated causing this mass zombification.

Now, I have a zombie hunting permit.  It sits right beside my terrorist hunting permit on my writing desk.  The thing I am worried about is all of you that do not have a permit.  Does that mean the wildlife officer is going to knock at your door if you take down a zombie?  Does the wildlife commission regulate zombie hunting?  I was asked one time if I saw Bigfoot in the woods while hunting would I shoot him.  I answered 'no'.  I could only imagine the fine I would get for that.  When asked the same question about a mountain lion, I also answered 'no'.  But the person asking me had a good point.  If the wildlife commission says there are no mountain lion in North Carolina, and you shoot one, how could they write you a ticket?  If there are no mountain lion, then you must NOT have shot one.

Let me get back to the point of the column though.  The CDC wants us to prepare for a zombie apocalypse.  Would you just hunker down and try to defend your property?  I envision a different way of survival.  Think of a deer and its herd.  The deer goes out on the same routine day in and day out.  As a hunter, I try to figure out that routine so I can increase my chances of success.  If I figure out the pattern successfully, I get to put meat in the freezer.  I would rather be the hunter than the deer.  So based on that scenario, I say go out looking for the zombies.  If you wait for them to come to you, they may have already figured out your routine and then the zombie gets to put meat in its freezer, or wherever zombies put their food.

I have mentioned before I love to bowhunt.  I think bowhunting would be great for zombies.  I can re-use the arrows.  In the movies I have seen, they have never climbed up a tree.  My climbing stand should do just fine.  Until I run out of arrows that are stuck in the ground.  Maybe I would take a rifle and a shotgun too.  And remove the plug from the shotgun.  I did not see where there was a limit on zombies in the regulations digest.

Bill Howard writes a weekly outdoors column for the Wilson Times and Yancey County News and the bowhunting blog site He is a Hunter Education and International Bowhunter Education instructor, lifetime member of the North Carolina Bowhunters Association, Bowhunter Certification Referral Service Chairman, member and official measurer of Pope and Young, and a regular contributor to North Carolina Bowhunter Magazine.

The Little Things Make it Special

Growing up, my cousin Chris was the closest thing I had to a brother.  My grandparents would occasionally bring him to my house when they visited each Sunday.  During the summer, we would stay a weekend at each other’s home.  One summer, my Aunt Kay allowed us to ride our bikes a few miles from the house and eat lunch at the Pizza Hut.  That little something extra changed an anticipated event to something even more special.  I was reminded of this as I watched my son, his cousin, and his friend walk to the nearby Burger King Sunday around lunch.
Each year my family takes a trip to the coast with my wife’s extended family.  Usually, I will try to take all the kids to the pier for a late night fishing trip.  This way we do not have to endure the heat of the summer sun.

Zach Acevedo with his 'prize' fish.
This year my son got the itch a little sooner.  With the talk of taking Cooper on fishing for the first time, Turner grew anxious for his own fishing trip.  The moon was as close to full as we would get on a weekend and low tide would be near midnight, meaning the tide would be coming in afterwards.  From my experience, this was the making of a good fishing trip. So, I agreed to take him to the coast for an all night pier fishing trip.  Before I knew it, we had my nephew Zach and a friend of Turner’s, Todd Kelly, on the passenger list as well.  I checked some of the fishing pier websites and decided we would head to the Bogue Inlet Fishing Pier based on their success during the week.  We arrived Saturday night after a few hours’ drive.  The kids had played music from the mp3 most of the trip, and we were all getting a little stir crazy from the road.  The fishing started slow with just a few fish caught.  We did not see much action from the other fishermen on the pier either.  Shortly after midnight, the action held true to my research, and the fish started coming over the rails.  Do you want to know a secret about overnight fishing?  The others tend to leave you their extra bait when they leave, so you do not have to buy as much!  That is a side benefit.  We caught mostly spot, croaker and mullet, and there were enough fish to keep us awake and active even through two different rains.  While we had a great time, the little extra of staying up all night, long after many on the pier had given up, made the trip that much more special.  I am certain all four of us will remember the road trip, the fishing, the rain, and the all-nighter.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Fishing Memories Part 2

Well the excitement built throughout the week.  Friday night we went shopping for a Spider-Man fishing pole.  Early Saturday morning Cooper had me up and ready to rig his gear and get to the water.  I drove out to Silver Lake and spoke to an old friend, Buck Dixon, who granted me permission to take Cooper out to where I had spent so many days fishing when I was his age.

Once we hooked the first cricket to the line, it was mere seconds and Cooper was bringing in the first fish.  Here are some pictures:
You would think Cooper had fun with all the fish we caught.  You would be right!  Cooper's first fish didn't take long to get in and then they just kept right on coming!  He even allowed me to bring one in also.  I took the time to go over the different kinds of fish we were bringing in, as we had a great variety.  Cooper caught redbreast sunfish, bluegill, redear sunfish, and his favorite, longear sunfish.  I showed Cooper the scales, fins, mouth and gills.  He was particularly interested in the gills, thinking they looked like teeth.  He couldn't figure out why they had teeth on the side of their heads.

Don't forget National Boating and Fishing week!  The tab is on the side of the blog.
May your line stay wet and tight!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Fishing Memories

June 4 through June 12 is National Fishing and Boating Week.  That sounds like a good excuse to hit the water.  So I have been thinking, what could I do to make this really special?  Time to build some memories.

First fish.  Also had hair back then...

I remember as a kid, I had a fishing pole set I believe came from Rose’s.  We did not have Wal-Mart back then.  We did have Rose’s, Cook’s, King’s, and Kmart, and my best times shopping was when my mom and great-grandmother went to Rose’s each Friday.  The fishing set had a plastic reel, plastic hook, and even a plastic fish with a hole in its mouth that fit nicely with the plastic hook.  If I remember correctly, the fish was red.  Not bright red, more like a flat faded red.  My mom took me out beside the pond next to the house (not even 30 yards away) and I would whip the line in and out of the water from the bank like I was beating a bull.  As chance would have it, a poor unlucky fish happened to swim in the exact spot where I was pounding the water, and when I yanked the line back out, the bream was snagged on the plastic hook.  My mom was laughing hysterically and I was half scared and half excited.  My mom still has an old faded picture of me holding that little bream.
The big one that didn't get away.
I spent most of my pre-teen life fishing either at my pond or Silver Lake.  When I was seven, I was fishing one afternoon before supper time when I caught my big one.  I remember vividly the whole experience.  I was using a Zebco 202 with a red Mister Twister worm.  We had a cow pasture around half of the pond, and I was fishing from inside the pasture.  There was a fallen tree about a hundred yards inside the pasture, stretching fifty to sixty feet out into the water.  The largemouth loved to bed near the shoreline there and would swim to the deeper water where the limbs from the tree would offer cover to feed.  It was my second cast at that location when I got a big hit.  At first I thought I was snagged as the reel just stopped.  I realized I had a fish when the line started back out no matter what I did as far as reeling in.  I finally grabbed the line with my hand and started pulling it in.  I was on the small side for my age and when I got the bass to where I could see it I was amazed.  I could not get him up on the shore, so I pulled him over to a shallow that had some concrete blocks creating a small pool.  I was able to leave the fish there while I ran to tell my dad and mom what I had.  At first they did not believe me, but with much coaxing Daddy finally followed me back out to the pasture.  Just as we reached the area, the bass slithered over the blocks.  Daddy’s quick hands grabbed the line and the fish, slinging it on shore.   The largemouth still hangs on my wall today.
So, on this coming fishing and boating week, I am going to plan on taking my youngest son Cooper on his first fishing trip with me.  We will not be going after citation size fish, but we will be going after a memory for both of us.  I will do all I can to build up the coming week to him.  My goal is to have him asking me each night how many more days before we go.  I will likely pack a picnic lunch for us, with food of his choosing (here come the cheese puffs and peanut butter sandwiches!) along with a few juices.  My oldest son Turner loved our adventures when he was Cooper’s age.  I imagine Cooper will do the same.  After all, if all goes well, Cooper could be telling a story 35 years from now about how he went with his dad on a fishing safari and caught his first fish.

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

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Legend of the Golden Gobbler

Several years ago, my oldest son and I headed into the Pisgah National Forest for opening day of turkey season.  Neither of us had ever taken a turkey.  I was trying, as usual, with my trusty compound, and Turner, as usual, had the old Ithaca 20 gauge side-by-side in hand.  We had purchased some turkey load a few weeks prior for the 20 gauge.
I had been on a bear hunt in the Mt Mitchell Bear Sanctuary on a permit I drew that previous winter, and was impressed with the number of gameland gobblers in the area.  While I did not bag a bruin, I did get some scouting time in on the turkey.  Note: I didn’t go empty handed, but I did get skunked on the bear hunt, but we’ll save that for a future column.
I printed a satellite and topographical map of the area from the internet, and had my gamelands maps as well from North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission.  I gave a copy of the maps with some ‘pink’ sharpie coloring the area we would be hunting and sleeping in to my beloved wife along with our hunting plan.
I have to tell you, Turner was beside himself with excitement.  We were going to rough it for the weekend, sleeping in the woods each night starting that Friday, hunting all day Saturday, then do some scouting Sunday for future hunts in the area.  Turner was just excited to be in the woods, and frankly, so was I.  We had very poor cell service, and that suited me just fine.
We got in the field, an approximate two acre area of grass with a few small trees in the center, early enough to beat any other hunters that had an idea to go there.  I set up the ground blind in the back left corner, and set Turner up under one of the trees in the center.   The hen and jake decoys went to the left of the field, where Turner would be shooting toward the south, and I would be shooting to the southeast from the blind.  I hit the decoys with the rangefinder (more for me than Turner) from each of vantage points, and Turner had a 35 yard shot, I would have a 25 yard shot.  Both distances were well within our comfort ranges.  After day break, I would hit a crow call occasionally, and eventually heard an answer.  Once the gobble had sounded, I began hitting the cluck.
After what seemed as several hours, we could hear the tom getting closer, but could not see anything coming in.  Turner dozed off for a bit after the initial excitement of the turkey gobble had worn off.  I continued to cluck, and all went silent.  No gobble, no real hen clucks, NOTHING.
That’s when it happened.  A jake (the beard was maybe 3 or 4 inches) appeared about 50 yards from the decoys.  The jake had a golden brown body and tail feathers, while the wings were dirty white.  I wondered if it may have been a cross between a domestic and wild turkey. The jake would not come any closer to the decoys, and only stayed a few minutes.
The Golden Gobbler
Turner and I continued hunting throughout the day with no luck.  We decided to pull out about an hour before sunset and packed up the blind and decoys and headed back to the truck.  Instead of going back to the campsite immediately, we drove towards the edge of the forest, and saw in a fenced pasture a couple of dozen turkeys.  One large tom with a beard dragging the ground strutted around his harem of mates.  A few yards from the group was two jakes, one of which we had seen earlier that day.  Turner and I got out of the truck near a group of bushes and filmed about 10 minutes of strutting turkeys and hens pecking.
We drove away and stopped at a pull over on the creek side several miles into the forest.  There we met a father and his children fishing.  “Turkey hunting?” he asked.
“Yes sir.”
“You didn’t happen to see the golden gobbler did you?” he continued.
“Yes we did!  You’ve seen him too?”
“People have been trying to get that bird for years.  Don’t let the beard fool you.  He’s been shot at plenty.  He’s old and wise.  He’ll make a beautiful trophy one day.”
The gentleman was correct.  He made a beautiful trophy, just not on the wall.  The memory of the hunt will stick with us for a long time.
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