Friday, May 31, 2013

Adversity Overcome

Note: Starting next week I will begin a weekly podcast, Outdoors with Bill Howard.  Please check out the page HERE and subscribe (for free!) or check it out on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, and maybe this blog site...if I can get it to work correctly on this blog site!

     Adversity is one of those events in life that no one wishes for themselves or towards anyone else, yet when it is overcome, it can inspire many.
     Five weeks ago I traveled twenty two miles down the Neuse River by paddleboard.  What I did not share in that story is just before the trip, actually minutes before the trip, I injured myself.  I thought it was just a bruise to begin with and therefore decided to continue on with the trip.  Two days afterwards I realized I had broken one of my ribs.
     I was a little upset with myself for several reasons.  One, I did the trip alone and the injury could have easily gotten the better of me.  Two, I am absolutely sure paddling twenty two miles on the paddleboard did the injury no good whatsoever.  Three, due to the injury and the rest required for it to heal, my pursuit of my first turkey with the bow had come to an end for this season.
     My luck has not been kind in my pursuit of the ole bird.  I have actually been fairly fortunate in regards to my encounters with the bearded devil.  I have seen plenty within range, have had plenty of interaction with the gobblers, but even though I have had several occasions in which the bow was drawn, I have yet to finger the release and set the arrow flying.
    Let’s back up several years.  Actually, let’s back up to 2006.  I began shooting the bow at the end of 2005 and my father and I had a bison hunt planned for November of 2006.  This was to be a very special hunt as it was the first big game hunt my father and I were doing together.  The bison, one of the special beasts to roam not only North America, but in my opinion the planet, was destined to be my first big game animal I would pursue with the bow.
    I practiced almost daily and became competent and proficient with the weapon even though I taught myself.  Then in June I felt a sharp pain in my neck and shoulder area.  By July, I was only getting a couple of hours of sleep due to the intense pain in my left shoulder and began losing feeling in my left hand.  Three vertebrae in my neck had collapsed on a nerve bundle and after the neurosurgeon diagnosed the problem, we planned surgery two days later.
     I was out of work for two months for recovery.  Loss of income, and the potential of missing the hunt of a lifetime, caused me to become deeply depressed.  Adversity had temporarily taken the best of me.
     Towards the end of that August, I refocused my thoughts.  I became determined to not miss this special hunt and turned my bow back to 35 pounds of draw weight.  At first I could not draw it more than a few inches.  But after several weeks, the bow became my rehabilitation and in October I was pulling 70 pounds again with no trouble.
    That November, I was successful in taking one of the greatest land animals with nothing but a bow and arrow.  I overcame adversity.
    With my history of turkey hunting, I could have easily fallen down on myself once again.  It is only natural human response.
     Instead, I turned to this past experience to focus on other things.  I fished more for instance.  And then this last weekend, just five weeks from when the injury occurred, I pulled back the bow.  In fact, I pulled it back nearly two hundred times, shooting as consistently as I ever have.

     The second weekend in June brings a new national archery tournament whose first leg will be held in Lawndale, NC.  This tournament will be the fourth I have ever shot, and has become me new symbol of defeating adversity.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Jet Ski Fishing

Extreme sports are usually thought of as snowboarding, motocross racing, or skydiving.  They are hardly ever mentioned with hunting or fishing.  There are plenty of subcultures within the outdoors community such as kayak angling and traditional bow hunting however.

My new 'fishing boat'
One subculture sprung up in New Zealand and Australia a few decades ago that just in the past few years caught any type of following here in the United States.

Jet skis have only been taken seriously as a recreational type of vehicle.  Even though they are basically a small version of a boat, the laws are considerably different regarding their use.  The small following taking place for their use as a viable means of fishing knows exactly what they are.

Brian Lockwood with a cobia at sea.
Brian Lockwood, also known as ‘Jet ski Brian’, began using his jet ski to catch bait fish for offshore fishing a while back.  He began in the sounds off the North Carolina and Virginia coasts as well as some of the tributaries.  As he continued this practice he realized the fuel was cheaper, it was easier to take out than a large offshore boat, and if properly equipped, he believed he could possibly use it for even larger trips.

And large trips could be considered an understatement.  Brian has taken his jet ski as far as 100 miles offshore.  Just last year, he caught 120 cobia, with one weighing in excess of 77 pounds.  A vessel he once considered a play toy became his primary means of his pursuit for water based big game and popular near shore and inshore fish as well.

Properly equipped also became a phrase to live by.  Safety would have to be the number 1 priority.  Items ranging from SPOT locators to GPS devices to VHF radios had to be integrated onto the jet ski in order to take the passion to the next level.  He wired in back up batteries to control both the electronics and provide a second source of energy for the starting system.  Emergency flares, water dyes, mirrors, whistles and even navigation lights, even though it is unlawful to use a jet ski at night, became the norm.

Brian primarily fishes the Chesapeake Bay area and routinely heads out to sea off of Cape Hatteras for everything from cobia to stripers.  He has fished for sailfish, dolphin and tuna, and will scuba and free dive to spearfish from the Jet Ski.

I first heard of Brian a couple of years ago.  Last year he was featured in a segment on Animal Planet’s Off the Hook: Extreme Catches television series.  His passion and love for Jet Ski angling has driven him to share everything he knows and has learned over the years.  He will hold seminars and speaking engagements and bring along his ski and gear to show any that are interested.

I have long wondered why a jet ski has not been used for this purpose.  Now I know it has.  I now daydream about trips down many of the rivers throughout North Carolina.  My thoughts encompass how to properly rig the ski in pursuit of largemouth, smallmouth, and catfish.  I look at jet skis in a different way thanks to Brian.  I cannot wait to head out with him myself later this summer.  Brian, myself, ocean as far we can see and a few rods as we try for Wahoo, amberjack, and anything else that will take the bait.

Then, maybe a day trip down the French Broad or Yadkin.  Maybe even the Cape Fear or a trip up north to the Potomac.  Just like with opening the mind to using jet skis for fishing, the imagination is the only limit.

If you would like a little something different on your next trip, contact Brian Lockwood at and click the contact button.


Friday, May 17, 2013

Back to the Basics

About once each year most organizations will go through a ‘back to basics’ training session.  These companies realize personnel will and can get caught up in certain aspects of their positions that they neglect and forget the foundations of what makes them successful.
The same concept can be said of just about anything whether it is business or not.
If you walk into any outdoors department you can be overwhelmed with types of lures, types of rods, bait scents, colored lines of different materials, and even hook styles.  Since every one of the products promises to be the greatest and only item you need to catch more fish, it is a wonder you have ever even had a fish swim by your bait.
One of the newer techniques in fishing is Tenkara.  Basically it is a fly rod without a reel in which you swing your bait over to where the fish are located.  “It is all about approach,” the Tenkara anglers say.
When I was young I learned how to do this and did not even realize it.  Of course, I used what we called a cane pole.  Sometimes we even used a cork but it wasn’t necessary.  We would find a bream bed and just dangle the cricket in the water.


If we didn’t have crickets, well we would dig our own worms.  We did not need special imported muscled up super worms.  No, simple earthworms worked.  Maybe, if it was the right time of the year we would collect a few catalpa worms.  I have always pictured the catalpa worm like a chocolate covered long john for fish.
When the fish were really biting we would improvise.  Crickets and worms depleted, we would pull out our lunch bag that our moms packed for us.  The top of the peanut butter sandwich would become our newest bait.  We would pack tight small bread beads and slide it on the hook.  If I were a betting man, I would say that is probably how the open faced peanut butter sandwich came to be.  Someone was pulling in the fish as fast as he could get the hook in the water, ran out of bait, and thought to himself that the fish might like bread.  He then grabbed his sandwich and sacrificed one of the slices of bread in order to increase his catch by a few more.
We also did not have to worry about how to hook the fish or when to set the hook.  We could catch as many fish just by relaxing while the hook was in the water.  We would pass any dead time by laying back and watching the puffy white clouds pass overhead.  In fact, we probably caught more fish by not staring at the line intently as we did while actively waiting for a bite.
Even when we used rod and reel, our baits consisted of lures such as Mister Twisters, Devil’s Horses, Jitterbugs, Hula Poppers, Rooster Tails, and Beetle Spins.  We often picked the lures out based on how cool they looked, the neat sounds they made in the water, or the funny ways in which they ‘swam’ when you reeled them in.
Now, checking the inventory of the fishing isles brings us Alabama Rigs, Umbrella Rigs, and Twin Rigs.  There is nothing special about them other than there are more hooks.  If we wanted to fish with a minnow back then, we either used a live one or a Mepp’s.  We were good enough to catch the lunker with one; we did not need a whole school of them.
The basics, that is what we need to get back to.


Friday, May 10, 2013

Faith in the Field

I entered the room and immediately started hearing tales of great adventures.  The stories were always interesting.  Gradually more and more people arrived, greeting one another and talking about the chili that would be served for dinner.

This was the monthly Faith in the Field meeting.

John Surles and I met a few months back.  We started talking about hunting and fishing, sharing a few of our own stories with each other as well as what we had coming up in the near future.  He then told me about Faith in the Field.

His brother started a program in the Piedmont area of the state where sportsmen could get together and talk about the outdoors as well as how their faith made them who they are today; A testimony of their love for nature and God.

John moved from the area and decided to start another branch himself.  The group was formed by different people from different denominations, yet they had the same passions in life.

One gentleman painted a picture with his words of an early morning on Oregon Inlet.  The surf was rather calm, a few wispy clouds, and the large warm sun cresting the horizon in the East.  The water was a beautiful blue that blended in with the pastel pinks and oranges of the rising dawn.  “How could one deny such a sight was anything but drawn in Heaven,” he said.

As his words sank in, I thought about some of my past hunts.  When I taught hunters’ education, one of my own lines as I would explain the great opportunities here in North Carolina was “North Carolina may not be Heaven, but you certainly have to pass through here to get there.”

I was blessed to be the featured speaker and hoped my words would be worthwhile.  After the initial nervousness wore off and I got to the flow of my talk, I surveyed the group in front of me.  I am much more comfortable on my own in the wilds of nature than I am in front of several dozen people.  But I have learned that I can break the anxiety by focusing on each person individually and talk to one person, then move on to the next and talk while presenting the speech to the whole.  It is similar to hunting.  Find the one spot and focus.  Put everything else out of your mind other than that one field, that one animal, that one spot.

The group consisted of several ladies, and then roughly three generations of men ranging from high school/early college to early middle age to retirement aged seniors.  I watched as they intently listened.  Between the initial greetings that started the meeting until the point where I was nearing the end of my testimony, I pictured each enjoying what they love.

I could see the one gray haired gentleman in his skiff tossing the line for a big red, another gentleman, an obvious dog lover, watching in awe and pride as his pointer marks a covey of quail.  Still another ambitious soul is the vision of the athletic adventurer; young, muscular, and ready to see all that this world has to offer.

Afterwards, I spoke with many individually and the impressions were nearly all correct.  Everything from bowhunting to fly fishing to dog hunting to spear fishing was represented, yet one thing was minutely consistent; their faith.

I spoke with one older gentleman at length.  We discussed how much we both missed the days when quail were plentiful.  He convinced me that one of the greatest sounds you can hear is the bellow of a dog striking a game animal’s trail.  He didn’t hunt as much anymore.  He did however have memories of a lifetime of enriching experiences in the outdoors that he was willing to share without delay.

I can only hope that I can do the same in my latter days.

You can visit to see more of what it is about and start your own groups.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Fish Rubbing - Gyotaku

I first heard of Gyotaku a couple of years ago.  The only problem is I could not remember the name or how it was spelled since I am not fluent in Japanese.  I was mainly interested in it because of what it was; a unique and artful way to display and memorialize a great fishing experience.

In Japanese, ‘gyo’ means fish and ‘taku’ means rubbing.  Hence, gyotaku is a ‘rubbing of a fish’.  I thought it was great because it is something you can do yourself and it is inexpensive to create.  This also makes it the perfect creation for the little one’s first fish.

The first step in creating a Gyotaku print is to catch a fish.  Since my new year has not been all that kind to me, I had to enlist help for this part.  My now eight year old son Cooper provided the ideal fishing partner.  It was just two years ago that he brought in his first fish.  Each time we go out, he always finishes on top with the number brought in.  I am not sure if it is because he is just that much better than me or if it has to do with my time is being used to bait his hook, help him cast, help get his hook loose from a limb when he decides he can cast the bait better, or just witnessing his youth and awe of nature.  Either way, I am happy to assist in his success.

For this story, the fishing started out a little slow.  We fished with some Canadian nightcrawlers on a small #8 hook with a cork bobber.  I had a spot picked out under a bridge just in case it rained.  Funny thing about that spot; there was more traffic under the bridge than on top where the road was.  In a space of a few hundred feet, we had acquired no less than twelve different anglers using a variety of tackle.

 None of which had so much as a pretend bite.

I convinced Cooper to let’s head to another location and try our luck.  It did take some convincing.  As much as he likes to fish, he really, really gets bored if nothing is taking the line.

So we ended up at an old fishing hole I knew about and threaded another nightcrawler.  By the way, the nightcrawler farm had the best catch phrase for their bait.  “Our worms catch more fish, or they’ll die trying!”

It did not take long before Cooper brought in his first fish.  A small bluegill that was too small for the project.  A little later, he brought in a beautiful pumpkinseed.  He liked the name of the species and started figuring out why it carried such a moniker.

I made one last cast and left the line alone as we packed up everything.  After loading the truck Cooper asked where my rod was.  I told him and we walked over to where I had it sitting.  However, it was no longer standing up.  It was now flat on the ground twitching.  I finally caught a fish!  We had a short fight with the monster bream (well, average sized bream for most people) and we both laughed now that the slump was over.  He would work great for the Gyotaku print as well as provide a small meal.

Part two of the print is the preparation of the fish.  You want to clean and dry the fish completely.  Use dish detergent or vinegar in the cleaning to help kill any bacteria.  After washing, take paper towels and pat dry.  Pay special attention to the gill area and other openings.  Push the paper towels up into those areas to dry as well.  Flare the fins and use something underneath them if necessary to keep them flat.

For part three, there are several options.  This is where the actual printing process will start.  Take a paint, it can be anything from a water color, to an oil base, to an acrylic, and brush the fish with it.  For fish that are multicolored or fade from one color to a lighter version, you can brush with different mixed paints as well to simulate the actual colors.  For our print, we used a non-toxic paint since Cooper was involved.

Now we get to the ‘taku’ part of the print.  Gyotaku was originally invented in the mid 1800’s as a way for Japanese fishermen to show the size of their prized catches.  Rice paper has historically been the medium for the prints as it is light weight and flexible enough to reach all the contours of the fish.  We did our print a little different but I will explain the process first.

Take the paper and lay over the fish.  Begin rubbing the paper onto the fish so the details of the scales are seen.  Be sure to press the paper into the fins in order to get a good print as well.  On our particular catch, we placed the fish on a piece of canvas and approached the rubbing from the opposite way, pressing the fish instead of the paper.

When completed, it makes an excellent display.  And if used for your kid’s or grandkid’s first fish, it will also make a treasured heirloom.  You can repaint the fish to make a few other prints to share with grandparents and loved ones as well.