Thursday, July 26, 2012

Madness in Colorado

Warning, this week’s column is not about the outdoors.  It does not contain the warm story that can bring back memories of youth.  Instead, it is one of heartbreak and terror.
Last weekend our country experienced something sinister.  A lone gunman stepped into a crowded theatre and began to unload round after round into whoever happened to be in front of him.  He calculated each move he made, working it to precision until his firearm jammed.  At that point he ceased and waited for authorities to come and apprehend him.   He did not wish to die in his brief act of evil.  He walked into a building where he knew no one would be armed, while protected by armor himself just in case.
He was diabolical and heinous.
Life does not pretend to be fair.  Everyone goes through something they should never have to.  A parent should never have to bury their child.  A stranger should never have to pay their respects to another who sacrificed the one thing they can never get back so that stranger could see live.  Unfortunately this happens.  It has happened before and it will happen again.
Often these situations start political feuds.  One side will contest if guns were harder to get then a tragedy such as this would never have happened.  The other side will counteract the argument with the premise if the gunman would have known someone may fire back that it may have deterred him.  I do stand on one side of the argument, but I will not make the argument in respect to those who have lost their lives.
Again life is not fair, but is just as equally unfair to think if someone of this man’s madness wanted to make the insidious statement he did, that he would have found a way.  Madness never belongs in the argument.  Timothy McVeigh did not need a gun to cause the destruction of property and lives that he did.  Eric Rudolph did not need a firearm to injure more than 150 people and kill two during his time at large.  You cannot create enough barriers to prohibit madness from finding a way.
If there is anything that can be learned, it is this.  Life is short.  There is no way of knowing exactly when the end is near.  We can be taken from this earth by accidents, by health, or by consequences of evil.  No one knew that evening when entering the theatre that they would not see the film to its conclusion.  Because life is short, we must cherish and respect every moment we have.
It is not fair what the people of Aurora, Colorado had to endure, and will have to endure in the next few months.  Many lost their life; many more lost their loved one.  Meanwhile, the one, and only one, responsible gets to live out a dream of being the key character in his own fantasy movie.  In all likelihood, he will have a short time remaining to come to grips with his actions.  Then it will be God’s turn to incorporate punishment upon the guilty.  Life may not be fair, but God’s judgment certainly will be.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Day on the Water

I have spent plenty of time on a boat in my life.  The boat was not always in the water, but I definitely spent time in a boat.  We had a decent size boat when I was young that had a cuddy cabin.  I thought this was the best hiding place there had ever been.  It had a really cool V shaped ‘bed’ where I could pretend to sleep while playing with my imaginary friends.  Of course, it was a padded bench seat, but when you are young, you are fairly creative.
Once I hit the teenage years, there was very few weekends I was not on the water.  Skiing, hydro-sliding, diving off the side of the boat and swimming near the shore of the local lake was the best way to keep cool.  I have not been on skis in many-a-year now, but I know it would not take long for me to be up and skipping across the water again.
We would even hit the coast each year bottom fishing for spot and croaker.  The fish would drop in regularly and it would not take long to fill the cooler.  I hated cleaning them though!  That was what Mom was for.  We catch ‘em, she cleans ‘em!
A couple of years after my wife and I were married, we spent the weekend at the coast.  On a whim, we decided to take one of the party boats out to some deeper water.  On the way out to sea, one of passengers decided they just could not handle the rough water.  All I could think about was the trip would be another 6 hours and how I was glad I was not him.  In fact I had never been sea sick…until that day.  Whether it was the sun, the heat, the motion of the waves, or a combination of all three, I could care less at that time.  I could feel the basketball sized knot in my throat and had no way of figuring out how to get rid of it.  My wife caught fish and I caught heck!  That’s one of the sad things about irony.
Back in 2006 I had surgery for three collapsed vertebrae on a nerve bundle.  I was out of work for nearly 2 months.  I hated that time in my life.  I understand how people get depressed having to stay cooped up inside all day.  The last day before returning to work, my wife convinced me to get up and do something, even if I did have to endure a little pain.  I got the small creek boat and got it ready.  I decided I would take my daughter out on a boat for the first time.  After hitting one of the small creeks near the house, I realized it was a great day to be alive.  Her amazement of a world she had never witnessed before restored my energy that I had lacked over the previous 3 months of pain and rehabilitation.
Last weekend, I decided again to hit the water.  I have a small john boat I have restored and wanted to get it wet again.  It had seen better days when I took it over.  Several large gashes were in the floor and the transom was torn away from the sides.  I sealed the bottom and put bedliner in to protect it, then rebuilt the back and had the transom welded.  I am rather proud of the rebuild.  As I backed the boat out of the driveway, my wife and youngest son were coming back to the house from walking.  Cooper asked, “When can I go out with you?”  Without hesitation, I told him to jump in the truck and let’s go!
Once we got to the reservoir, I removed the straps and prepped the boat for the water.  Cooper studied everything I did.  I gave him the job of holding the boat while I parked the truck and trailer.  After donning his life vest, he was also allowed to be the first one in the boat.  We headed out to a corner of the lake where I thought there may be gar.  I originally went out to scout the waters and test the boat.  I was only out a few minutes when I changed my mind.  I wanted him to see what he had never been able to before.
The nutria, the turtles, the fish breaking.  Bull frogs and spiders.  There is a poem here somewhere about this is what little boys are made of.  We only stayed out in the water for a little less than an hour.  It may have been the best 45 minutes I have spent this year.  And neither of us became sea sick.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Gear Review: Hawke Optics XB30 Crossbow Sight

My father is a disabled veteran.  He lost a lot of strength and cannot pull back a compound bow like he used to.  With the law changes for crossbows in North Carolina, he purchased a PSE Tac10 crossbow last Christmas so he could take advantage of the extended bow seasons.

In the process of the purchase, he let me know he was interested in the XB30 Crossbow Sight from Hawke Optics.  Guess what my Christmas gift to him was?

The XB30 is a nice sight that is easy to install. Once we had it on the crossbow, it had a sharp tactical look that was very impressive.  Next, we needed to get it sighted in.

The instructions were pretty simple.  Set the speed dial on the sight to the crossbow bolt speed, then sight it in at 20yards.  Yep, that is simple enough.

We took it to a local archery range.  I was hoping for a chronograph to get the actual speed, but it was down that particular day.  So we set the speed to PSE’s specs on the Tac10.  The sight was blurry, but Dad had moved it way out of whack when he installed a yellow filter lens cover.  After loosening the lock nut, we adjusted the sight until we had a clean clear sight picture.  The crosshairs are designed to be set up in 10 yard increments.  Then, we proceeded to take our first shot.

6 inches high, 6 inches right.  We removed the covers for the horizontal and vertical adjustments.  Each click represents ½ inch MOA.  Wanting to take it easy since it was our first shot, I made adjustments for basically what a 3 inch change in each direction would dictate.  We used a penny to turn the adjustment dials.

Next shot, 3 inches high, 3 ½ inches right. Pretty close what it should be. Again, we adjusted the horizontal and vertical.  Dead on with the height on the 3rd shot, slightly right.  One more click.  4th shot, nearly perfect.

Satisfied with the way things were going, we moved in the crossbow to 10 yards.  Dad shot and vertical was just a little high, horizontal was in the bullseye.  I shot once as well and was way high!  Of course, I forgot to shoot with the 10 yard mark! I shot once more, this time using the correct crosshair, and nailed the same hole as Dad.  For hunting, this would be no problem at all.  Still, we wanted to pinpoint it as much as possible. Figuring our speed may be slightly different than specs and accounting for the shot being a little high, I deduced the crossbow was likely a little faster than specs (which would make sense as the crossbow string had not had time to stretch and the bolt’s fletching was also brand new perfect as well).

After dialing the speed up about 5 feet per second we shot again.  20 yards; bullseye.  To confirm the accuracy after changing the speed, we shot again from 10 yards.  Still a bullseye.

This is, as advertised, an easy sight to adjust quickly.  After we get some shots through the crossbow and the string stretches some, instead of having to adjust to 5 or 6 different distances, we would just need to turn the speed down on the sight and then take a confirmation shot from each distance.  How can it get any easier?

Other features of the XB30 include a lighted reticle that can be dialed to different intensities or off completely.  The crosshairs are thin (which I like) for accuracy, or when lighted, become right much bolder.  This works well depending on how well your eyesight is.

The scope is also vacuumed and sealed to prevent fog and moisture intrusion in the lens.  For a crossbow scope, it is very bright and clear.  I have seen comparisons with the XB30 scope to other scopes.  After reading them and noticing the XB30 was rated less bright but still very bright, I always found the scopes it was being compared to were rifle scopes.  Those comparisons should never have come to pass! Always check any reviews you read!
So, in the end, I would have to say the XB30 not only met our expections, but clearly exceeded them.  Quick recap: the adjustments are very close to being dead on, the speed rating adjusts the reticles properly, the lens is clear, and the lighted reticles are not overbearing.  This makes it a definite ‘buy’ in my book.  If you have a crossbow and need a scope, do yourself a favor and check out the Hawke XB30.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The World's Best Fishing Bait

In a recent discussion about the Alabama Rig and how effective it is, we went off on a slight tangent on what is the best fishing lure period.  First, let me talk a little about the Alabama Rig to catch you up on the progression of the conversation.
The Alabama Rig made its mark on the fishing world around a year ago.  Basically, the rig has a fish jig head where the line it tied.  Trailing behind the jig head is an ‘umbrella’ of small wires that end with loops to attach up to five more lures.  This presents a ‘school’ effect and the largemouth bass cannot stand it!  The rig has been responsible for a number of professional fishing tournament wins and has brought out the voices to outlaw it.  Some municipalities and wildlife agencies have even researched whether the rig should be allowed for recreational fishing.
Now this sounds like one of those golf ball advertisements you can see every now and then with the fake news headline ‘Ball Flies So Far it has Made Courses Obsolete.’  However, from what I can see, the Alabama Rig is the real deal.  But, the Alabama Rig is NOT a lure.  Nope.  It is a rig in which you put lures on it.
So, that is where we came to the best lure.  One way to think of this is if you have one artificial bait to fish with, what would you use?  Not just for bass, or crappie, or catfish, but to make sure, to insure, you would get the rod tip bent and the line tight.  Notice, this discussion is on artificial bait.  Live bait could have its own arguments as well, but personally, in a survival situation, I would say earthworms would dominate.  They are easier to find than a bunch of crickets, and a whole lot easier to catch and hook.  One worm can also be torn into several pieces providing multiple baits from the same body.  See how easy it is to go off on a tangent?
Back to the best artificial bait.  My opinion, and yes my opinion is not worth a bunch unless it can be backed up, is the beetle spin provides the best opportunity to bring in a fish. The beetle spin is a small jig head with a single hook where a small plastic worm or ‘beetle’ is slid over top.  The jig head is attached to a small wire that is elbowed with a spinner at the opposite end.  The fishing line is tied where the elbow is located.
One of the great things about the beetle spin is the number of different colors and combinations of beetles that can be used.  Some of the more common ones are grub looking beetles that are solid white with a red dot, black worms with yellow stripes, yellow worms with black stripes, and a vast assortment of solid colored worms such as white, yellow, and green.
But we are trying to narrow it down to one lure, not an assortment of possible lures in the same setup.  I have had great success with the beetle spin for over 35 years.  Hard to believe since I am only 29 years old…(see, fishermen lie about more than the size of their catches, or near catches).  To pinpoint the best bait, it comes down to four specific worms for use on the beetle spin.
The first is a green/brown almost transparent, well maybe the best word is translucent, with two black stripes.  If you fished with a catalpa worm on a hook, think of what the insides look like after a small bream has attacked it with the ferocity of a piranha on a blood soaked chicken leg.  I know, not an image you want to keep in your head very long, but honestly, that is what it looks like.  It is a great color combination for the fish and the spinner does the attraction.  But still, this is not the best lure.
Another of my favorites is the white grub with a single red dot.  I often like to use this with a split tail.  I don’t know why I prefer the split tail with this particular plastic bait, other than the possible extra movement is enough to get the bites.  Again, this is a great spinner bait, but the next two are the finalists for world’s best bait.
Black worm, two yellow stripes.  You would think the mostly black bait would be hard to see, but the fish find it.  The spinner once again draws the attention and then the yellow stripes seal the deal.  Remember the squashed catalpa worm vision from earlier?  No, I didn’t rehash it to make you queasy.  But this is exactly what this bait looks like, except before it gets squashed.  If you have never fished with a catalpa worm, you need to find one.  Back in the day, we had four catalpa trees near our pond.  The summer was spent hooking the worms and tossing them in the water.  The line would constantly alternate between wet and dry.  Why?  Because we would have to keep pulling those fish in!
Now, as great as that sounds, this final beetle spin setup is by far my favorite, and my vote for world’s best.  Solid yellow body with two black stripes ending in a split tail.  I have always said it reminds me of a bumble bee.  My son and I entered a small tournament several years ago.  The tourney had prizes for most fish, largest fish, and smallest fish.  I explained in typical parent/mentor to son/protégé the significance of the knowledge I was about to share with him.  The bumble bee beetle spin is the Holy Grail of lures, yet many just do not possess the intellectual capacity to understand how wonderful it is.  It was one of those moments when you could hear the angels singing in the background and the earth tremble with the passing of the wisdom.  We caught the most fish that day.  Proof is in the pudding as the saying goes.

Back to that Alabama Rig briefly.  I wonder how great I could be on the professional bass fishermen’s circuit with five beetle spins tailing the back of that setup? 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

SportDog Brand Conservation Fund

Help SportDOG Brand® Pick
A Winner for Conservation!

The SportDOG Brand® Conservation Fund is entering its fifth year, and to celebrate, we’re inviting you to join us in picking a deserving winner for the Future Forward Fund Contest! We’ve upped the ante this year and will be giving $25,000 to the winning project.

We’ve already provided nearly $100,000 in annual grants to groups and projects focused on wildlife conservation and habitat enhancement. Now we’d like the sporting community to help us decide where to donate our 2012 fund.

Here’s how this groundbreaking conservation initiative works:

Conservationists are asked to submit their application via SportDOG’s webite by August 31, 2012. To submit an application, go to The Future Forward Fund Committee will review all applications and choose seven qualifiers who will be announced Oct. 1, 2012. Commencing with the announcement and continuing through Nov. 30, 2012, you can vote for the conservation project you believe to be the most deserving of the $25,000 first prize. The runner-up will receive a $5,000 grant.

Votes can be cast via SportDOG Brand’s Facebook page (, Twitter feed (, the SportDOG website and the email address, through Nov. 30, 2012. The winner will be announced in December, and grant money will be awarded in January 2013.

Past grant winners have run the gamut from individuals working on grassroots projects to large-scale projects backed by national organizations such as Ducks Unlimited, Pheasants Forever and the Ruffed Grouse Society, to name a few.

Regardless of the size and scope of any conservation project, what they all have in common are people who are passionate about building a bright future for wildlife and the outdoor lifestyle we all enjoy.

At SportDOG Brand, we like to say we’re working for the game that is still “20 years out of range.” Won’t you join us?

For more information on the SportDOG Brand® Conservation Fund® Future Forward Fund Contest, please visit

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Bow Adventures Magazine Summer 2012

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Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Coast2Coast Outdoors

My guest appearance on Coast2Coast Outdoors July 2, 2012.  Be sure to follow Coast2Coast on Facebook and Twitter to catch all the latest information and notices of future guests.

Watch live streaming video from coast2coastoutdoors at