Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Enjoy Everything

We get one shot at this life. In this column each week I share either personal stories of small things that make me happy, or stories of others accomplishments and experiences in the outdoors. Occasionally I may offer a bit of editorial opinion as well. They are all done in order to convey ideas and thoughts of what we can all capture in this one life we have.

I was covering an ACC basketball game back in December and happened get a shot of a player at the top of his jumper. Above him, blurred in the background but prominently displayed was an LED advertisement with the words ‘Enjoy Everything.’ It struck me a certain way and I decided to make it my motto and end goal for 2016.

If we make it our commitment to enjoy everything, can you imagine how much not only our life, but those lives around us will benefit? After a 19 year career that was making me miserable I pursued a passion. My wife, my kids, and I can certainly tell a difference in our life quality. We do not see it monetarily per se, but we see it in our actual living.

One of the running jokes lately in the angling community is a picture of either a sunset or sunrise. This particular photo means you obviously did not catch any fish and are trying to make the best out of getting skunked. It is funny. And it is most of the time true. However if we truly enjoyed that sunset or sunrise, then all is good. It can be enjoyable. It can add quality to your life and wellbeing.

My career path now has it where I travel much more, but only for a couple or few days at a time. I get to see things I have never seen before. I am able to both take in what I am experiencing as well as appreciate the past experiences and things I currently have. I enjoy everything.

I set my goals each year. I have goals for my business. I have goals for my writing. I have goals for my outdoors adventures. It helps keep me on a path towards accomplishments even if failures alter the course at times. But it allows me to enjoy everything.

This year I have many plans, and likely will not be able to do them all. Either way, I am going to enjoy everything. A five day paddle trip through the Everglades in February with some fellow pro-staffers in pursuit of snook, redfish, and speckled trout? Yes, I will enjoy that. A photographic journey into the heart of tundra swan and snow geese? Sure, I will enjoy that too.

I will enjoy trying to harvest my first turkey with a bow in the high mountains in April. I will enjoy a hunt for alligator in Georgia with a bow and arrow while on a kayak in September. I will enjoy another adventurous trip to the Texas hill country seeking a trophy whitetail come November.

Yes, all of these are goals that I plan for. But all lead to that key end goal for my 2016. I hope you can dedicate yourself to the same. Enjoy Everything.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Two State Records, 24 Hours

When we think of big game, the first thing that comes to mind is North America’s number one sought after big game, the whitetail deer. Within seconds though, our minds will follow a track of black bear, leading to grizzlies, and maybe run over images of elk. Once we have painted the image of the elk, then we may envision a moose with big ole slabs of envy on each side of his head.

Our minds may conjure an African safari with pursuit of the Dangerous Six; the lion, cheetah, hippo, rhino, elephant, and cape buffalo. Yes, if you consider yourself a worldwide hunter, or even an African big game hunter, you are kidding yourself if you haven’t pursued one of those big game beasts in an attempt to adorn your trophy room.

However, only pelagic anglers tend to think differently in regards to big game. Their imaginations run wild with a different type of beast. Their pursuits involve a hunt in three dimensions, not just the plane of the land’s surface, but the added dimension of depth of the ocean deep blue.

Fish weighing over a ton with long pointed bills, such as the various marlin species., come to their minds. Tuna, enough to fill tens of hundreds of cans, fighting hours upon end against an angler, his rod and his reel, are their big game pursuits.

Yet, throughout our state, we have another big game animal living all around us that we don’t always see in that regards. Perhaps it is because when we meet this creature, it usually is just a few pounds. We know it gets bigger, but we feel it is more fantasy than reality. It has a name of both a land animal and a sea creature, the catfish.

Zakk Royce knows the fantasy all too well. His reality is the rest of us’s fantasy world. For over 15 years, the Murfreesboro native who now lives in Wilmington, has sought after catfish on Lake Gaston. And it hasn’t been just the two to three pounds variety either. He has looked for the big ones.

He studied their habits and their habitat. The big blues was his goal. Blue catfish can get big, and by big meaning bigger than typical whitetail deer we hunt for.

Zakk’s passion drove him to guide with Blue’s Brothers Catfishing Guide Service in order to help others develop both a respect for and passion of catching the blue catfish.

As the calendar began to turn from 2015 to 2016, Zakk’s pursuits culminated into something that again proves our fantasy is Zakk’s reality.

On December 20th, Zakk brought in his Moby Dick, his great white whale. Only this one had whiskers. After the official weigh-in on certified scales, Zakk broke the state record with a blue cat hitting 91 pounds. Zakk was also quick to announce that the fish had been released, alive, back to the dark bottom of Gaston where he came from.

As the congratulations were coming in from all over the state, Zakk went out to the lake once again. Zakk has been known to stay out three to four days at a time and in fact got a tent for a Christmas gift that would allow him to pitch it on the bow of the boat.

When someone has a passion for something, they don’t just stop doing it because they have just broken a record that has stood for nearly a decade.

The very next day, Zakk made an announcement to an ever growing friends list, “As many of you already know I broke the NC state record blue catfish yesterday, it was certified at 91 pounds today. After releasing that fish today we decided to fish more, as unbelievable as it may sound I ended up landing a massive 105 pound Blue Catfish today shattering the record I had just broken yesterday with the 91 pounder.”

Yes, two records in two days, and actually within 24 hours.

Dedication, commitment, and overall enjoyment fuels the passion Zakk has for catching big blues. Those attributes paid off, twice.

Zakk will be teaching seminars on how to hunt big game blues in Raleigh at the Fishing Expo at the state fairgrounds this weekend and in Doswell, Virginia at the Richmond Fishing Expo January 15-17.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Midnight Paddle

It was a dark and stormy night during the winter season. The moon cast an eerie glow over the wind whipped waves battering the wooden pier as it peered through the thick and menacing clouds blowing by overhead.
Sounds like an opening to a Stephen King or Edgar Allen Poe novel, right?
Actually, it was an evening this past week as I made my way to the coast for an evening paddle and fishing trip. My final text to my wife before heading out as the radar showed a few hours of light to no rain ahead read, “Paddling in the Basin. I reckon I have done crazier things. Love you.”
I guess that statement could have been right up there with “hey man, here hold my beer” as a foreshadowing of something bad was about to happen.
But it was not bad at all. I have to admit, there is something a bit unnerving as you get sloshed around in a kayak with a circling current with minimal light other than a few street lights on shore, some running lights from several tug boats in the bay, and a filtered gray glow from the clouds overhead.
I thought the woods could play tricks in the dark; the water plays outright dirty pranks in the dark.
One I was in a spot where I thought I could bring in a few panfish, I dropped anchor. Next I baited two poles and dropped the bottom rigs as well. Honestly, the waves slapping the side of the kayak and the dark skies made it nearly impossible to tell if I had a hit or not. I did feel a series of bumps on my right side, at least I thought I did. I could not tell anything from the rid tip though, as the steady rocking had the tip dancing all over like a 1960s hippie that had too much happy flowing.
I grabbed the rod, and by gosh, I was able to feel the pop-pop-pop of the fish’s tug. A mid-sized sea mullet had feasted on my bit of shrimp and managed to get a hook through its lip.
By this time, the rain had turned to drizzle, and the drizzle turned to mist, and the mist turned to a fog rising ever so higher. It appeared as if a cloud was a couple dozen feet above the salt water. The water’s surface had also calmed down. It wasn’t like glass by no means, but there were no longer choppy white caps slamming the side either. Where the river current was flowing into the basin, the water was smooth but ever changing. Imagine a freshly washed sheet gently swaying on a clothesline from a soft spring breeze.
One of the panfish I ended up catching provided bait for a bigger hook, rod, and reel. Another rod was adorned with a trusty metal jig set to entice a gray trout somewhere beneath.
As the moon broke through the cloud cover and the stars made an appearance, two of the tug boats sprang to life. Those two tugs and myself were the only things on the water that night. I turned on my light to mark my spot in case the tug boats passage was heading in my direction. Several of the guys waved and pointed, as I am sure they thought it was crazy to see a kayak angler fishing in the dark on the salt water. But, I reckon they have seen crazier things.
Over all, it wasn’t that crazy. It was a well needed paddle and a short adventure, and the last thing of the year to bring sanity into my otherwise hectic world.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Invisible Fencing for Dogs

As many may know who follow me on social media, I am a dog lover. My family has four, three of which are rescues, and have five and four if you count my oldest son's dog Ziggy (he is in college and has his dog with him).

If you have dogs, this guest post could be very beneficial to you, so please read and consider the options.

Would an Invisible Fence Keep Your Dog Safe?

Most dog owners know that perhaps the most important way to keep your dog safe is to keep them close. Once your dog is off your property and unsupervised, you have little control over what happens to them or what they encounter. Unless you have a trained hunting dog, you don’t want them to stray. If you’re fortunate enough to have a large yard for your dog to enjoy, enclosing it with a fence is the safest and most practical option. Traditional fences are one type, but would an invisible dog fence be another viable option? Here are some of the things you should consider when deciding on the safest way to enclose your yard.

Your Dog’s Typical Behaviors

Invisible dog fencing is not appropriate for every dog. If you attempt to use an invisible dog fence on the wrong dog, you will likely be disappointed in the results. Aggressive dogs are the most likely to break through their electronic fence boundaries when they’re hyper-stimulated, and they’re the last type of dog you want to take a liability risk with. Hunting-breed dogs who are well-trained are generally okay with invisible fences, although less obedient dogs may be inspired to ignore their boundaries if they spot attractive prey just beyond their reach.


Dogs who are adept at breaking free from traditional fences may be better contained with an electronic dog fence or a combination of both. For example, dogs with a penchant for digging under the fence will be deterred from this behavior once they’re trained on an underground dog fence. If your dog is typically well-behaved or generally reluctant to stray too far from you, an invisible fence alone should be enough to keep them safely contained in your yard. 

Outside Factors and Threats

While an electronic dog fence may keep your dog inside your yard, it does not keep anything else out. Depending on where you live, there may or may not be significant outside threats you need to be concerned about. If coyotes, wild dogs, and other animals are lurking nearby, you may want a traditional fence for added protection for when your dog is outside alone, even if just for short periods of time. Something else to consider is the presence of anything nearby that’s attractive to your dog but also dangerous, such as a lake or rapid-moving stream.

If your dog has been known to bite or become territorial or aggressive, and you live in a populated area, you may want to consider using more than only an invisible dog fence to contain your dog. You don’t want to risk the consequences of your dog acting out if a small child or stranger wanders into the boundaries of your yard and unknowingly frightens or threatens your dog.


The Training Component

The single most important factor that will determine the success of your invisible dog fence is training. While installing a DIY electric fence can take as little as one or two days, training your dog takes about 45 minutes per day for up to two weeks. If you are not able to make the time commitment required, or if you’re unwilling to put in the consistency and effort required for proper training, then you should not invest in an invisible fence.

As long as you’re aware of what’s required for proper training, and you’re committed to doing it, most dogs will learn and obey the invisible dog fence system with relative ease. If you have a professionally trained dog, a hunting dog, or if your dog is well-trained or well-behaved in general, they are likely to quickly get the hang of the electric dog fence system and be successful with it. Dogs who are particularly stubborn, spoiled, or resistant to training will have a difficult time.

On-the-Go Containment Needs

If you travel frequently with your dog, and if your dog is the type who would benefit from and be successful with an invisible fence, you may also be able to use it on-the-go. A portable or a wireless dog fence can be brought with you to the houses of friends or relatives, hotels, campgrounds, or anywhere. People who spend a lot of time outdoors with their dogs, camping or on RV trips, for instance, may benefit most from a portable electric dog fence. A generous perimeter can be established with your tent or RV at the center, and your dog can have a higher degree of freedom (with less worry on your part, too).

For most dogs, an invisible fence is a reliable safety tool. Dogs that are experienced with e-collar training are usually quickest to learn and begin obeying an invisible dog fence. It’s also important to know that there are many different types of invisible fences and e-collars, and the ones you choose will depend on several different factors, such as the size of your dog and the size of your yard. Spend some time perusing various online invisible fence reviews, and you’ll be better informed on what features to look for and what type of fence system to purchase. After all, the safety of your dog is well worth the careful consideration of all available options.

This information on dog containment has been provided by our educational partners DogFenceDIY, the leading online retailer of do-it-yourself invisible fence systems. If you have any questions or concerns about electronic dog fencing, please leave a comment.