Thursday, January 31, 2013


Preparation is an interesting concept.  From the old scouting motto of ‘be prepared’ to the new word of the day ‘doomsday preppers’, it means one thing; being ready.
For deer season, preparation includes things such as planting food plots, scouting for funnel areas and game trails, setting stands, and sighting in weapons.  Even the daydreaming that consists of visualizing the big buck come out and taking the shot is a form of preparation for what may come.
And then there is over-preparation.  This will sound strange and contradictory but I am not a believer in over preparation myself.  However I do believe you can convince yourself of something and become so expectant on the foreshadowed result that when it does not go exactly to plan, mistakes will result.
For instance, I have been fortunate to escape the anxiety of so called ‘buck fever’.  Granted, I have only been in a position in which I was even within shooting range of the ‘big one’ a couple of times, and then only when I could not take the shot due to either legal shooting hours or the shot just not presenting itself to make it ethically.  On opening day last year I was prepared to take a big doe or buck.  I did all the things mentioned earlier.  I knew when the deer would come out.  In fact, the first doe came out within 10 minutes of when I expected, at exactly the location I expected.  She walked up to within 10 yards of my stand.  The problem was I was not prepared for the other five deer than came out right behind her and kept looking toward her.  By looking at her, they were also looking in my direction, making it all but impossible to draw the bow for the fatal shot.
For those that do not know, I am an avid bowhunter.  Over the last decade of my life the bow has become as much a part of me as any piece of clothing or facial feature I may have.  I bowhunt year round, and have become extremely fond of bowfishing as well.  But I have never competed in an archery competition.
Until this weekend.
I have shot in a couple of 3-d tournaments in which I did not keep score.  A 3-d tournament is one in which targets designed as game animals are placed at different yardages in natural cover (usually in the woods) so that the archer has to judge distance and accurately hit the target in what would be the vital area of a real animal.  The vital area is then sectioned off to smaller circular areas that count for higher points if hit.
The first tournament I shot in was at Cherry Point.  It was mainly a way for me to, here comes that word, prepare for hunting seasons by visualizing the game in a natural setting.  The second tournament was located in the mountains.  It was a charity fundraiser shoot.  My nephews and oldest son tagged along and we got to walk a beautiful course in a fun and challenging location.  Each time I shot my hunting bow the way I have it set up for hunting, you know, since I was preparing for hunting season.
Now we are to this weekend.  I recently took a position with Ben Pearson Archery as their Marketing and Media Director.  Basically it means I write some stories for them, assist in some social media advertising, and get the thrill of being associated with the oldest bow manufacturer in the U.S.  It also meant I would be abandoning the bow I have used for the last five years.  Short story here is I sold my old bow and ordered my new Ben Pearson bow.  The two week void between the new bow arrival and the sale of my old bow left me feeling as if I forgot to wear clothes.
Even worse, my new bow arrives within days of when I am to leave to Florida to shoot competition in an environment foreign to me.  How do I prepare for this?
I prepare the same as with anything.  I just have to be a lot more flexible in my preparation so I can expect whatever may happen.  In this case, it is like preparing for the hunt before you know what you will be hunting with.  I still scout, only this time by studying the animal targets that will be used.  I still study where I will be ‘hunting’, only this time by watching videos of last year’s competition at the same facility.
I stay focused, but ready for whatever may be encountered.  I just have to focus on a much larger picture with more variables rather than a singular task.
And as I prepare, and I now start setting up my equipment, I find that I have prepared myself to understand my equipment better.  I have the forethought to be ready quicker without taking shortcuts and jeopardizing the experience.  I have also found a lesson in preparation that will carry over to future quests.
The Western North Carolina Archery Circuit is composed of five clubs and will resume their competition February 9, 2013.  The schedule and locations can be seen at
The Central Carolina Archery Association consists of eight clubs and will begin their schedule on February 10, 2013.  They can be found at
The Downeast Archery Coalition consists of five clubs and will begin their schedule on February 17, 2013.  They can be found at
Each association is off this weekend for the Archery Shooters Association (ASA) Easton Pro/Am in Newberry, Florida.

Thursday, January 24, 2013


Dove hunting was by far my favorite hunt growing up.  The weather was usually nice with a touch on the hot side.  Well, it was actually very, very hot, but as a pre-teen and teen and a baseball player, 90 degrees seemed normal.

Duck hunting on the other hand, just wasn’t my cup of tea.  Don’t get me wrong, I liked shooting.  But duck hunting was alien to the bird hunting I was accustomed to.  It was cold for one thing.  Bitter cold.  The wind was usually howling and for some reason that God can only explain to me, if it rained, it meant the hunt would be even better.  Really?  Cold, wet, and windy meant this would be a good hunt?

But this was not all!  My dad and I would spend several hours getting the boat ready, packing the decoys, getting our clothes situated then drive several more hours so that we could get in a boat in this terrible weather, drive the boat in dark for another 30 minutes, throw out several dozen plastic birds, and then sit in a blind to wait for the sun to come up.  And yes, I hated the ‘early’ part of the hunt also.  Dove season would come in at noon.  Ducks, they flew thirty minutes before sunrise.  Curse those ducks!

I think I was around thirteen when I shot my first duck.  Nothing special.  Not a magnificent shot at all.  In fact, the hen ruddy duck just kind of flew in and landed.  We didn’t call her in.  I don’t think we noticed her until we saw and heard the splash of her landing.  We scared her up so I could get the shot.  But it was my first duck.

Over the years, especially the last ten or so, I enjoy duck hunting much more.  The variety of species intrigues me and I am like a kid in the zoo when I spot one that I don’t usually see.  In all likelihood though, I think my taste for hunting ducks lies mostly on lifestyle.  Not the lifestyle of living large, or even living lower.  More in the lines of my day is not taken completely away by heading out for ducks.  My wife is less frustrated than if I sit in a stand all day and show up an hour after dark.  I still do not like getting up early, but it is tolerable and I have more discipline as an adult to force myself to get out of bed.

My oldest son’s first experience with hunting waterfowl had the makings of both a miserable hunt and a first class experience.  We hunted swans near Lake Phelps in the northeastern part of the state.  It was hard to find camo for his small frame, but we pieced some things together.  We also had absolutely no luck in finding BB steel shot for the 20 gauge side by side he would use.  He shot 4 shot instead.  The #4s are great for ducks such as woodies, but I was warned that the swan was so big he would not be able to bring one down.  Still, we had to use what was available.

The party hunted from a ditch in a field that must have been more than 10,000 acres and the guide was calling only by mouth with his hands cupped over his lips.  There were about a dozen of us hunters.  Turner was too short to reach from one side of the ditch to the other, so he settled his feet in the bottom and leaned against one side.  Within seconds his boots were completely underwater and he whispered to me that they were soaked.  I kicked with the back of my heel a small shelf into the side of the ditch and he dug his heels in the shelf to stay out of the water.  I could only sympathize for him about how the hunt was starting.

The first time he used the Ithaca 20 gauge was just a few months before on opening day of dove season.  He didn’t even shoot a box of shells, but did bring down a few birds.  I saw he was trigger shy.  He was still learning.  When to shoot, when not to shoot, would someone be upset if he missed, would others laugh; all those questions were certainly flowing through his mind.

This day was not much different.  I shot five times that day to get my first swan.  The swan I shot was actually a follow up shot after Turner’s first shot.  Turner had hit him, but he didn’t go down.  Turner took one more shot that day, folding a young swan nearly 70 yards away.  The small shot with a small shotgun that was fired by a small 9 year old was no small feat.

David Tomlin (Harmony, NC) and his son in 2009
I look back on this day after reading an email from David Tomlin.  David shared with me how his hunts changed after having a child.  Then he emphasized ‘for the better.’  I realize how blessed I am to have been with my son on the swan hunt, the dove hunt, and the many other hunts we have done since.  I realize how blessed I am as I teach my daughter the same skills.  I anticipate the opportunity to teach my youngest son and experience everything again for the first time through his eyes.  And as I think about these events, I realize how blessed my father and grandfather were to experience the same with me as I encountered my ‘firsts.’
Definitely for the better.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Wife Knows Best

I first want to thank both the Wilson Times and Yancey County News on these last two years of allowing me to share stories with their readers. January 18th marks 2 years since I had my first deadline. Also, I want to share that Bill Howard's Outdoors will now also run in the Concord Independent Tribune, Hickory Daily Record, Marion-McDowell News, Morganton News Herald, and the Statesville Record & Landmark. I look forward to many years of sharing and promoting the outdoors.

      Sometimes you should just listen to your wife. Like the time I was told to wash dark clothes in warm water and light clothes in cold water. Or was it dark clothes in cold water and light clothes in warm water? See. I should have listened. My camo came out more tie-dyed than when it went in the washing machine.
      Rusty Owens had one of these moments recently as well. Not with washing his clothes, but still…
      The last day of deer season Rusty headed out to his hunting club. The weather was nasty. Wet, cold, windy. Not really enticing unless you are duck hunting. Those ducks, well they like the nastiest weather. But for deer hunting, they just don’t get up and out like the ducks do in weather like that.
      Rusty chatted with his hunting buddies for a while that morning and then headed back to the house. He got back in time to eat lunch with his wife Windy. This is not the part where Rusty should have listened to his wife. Not yet anyway.
      Rusty thought about the season after lunch. He remembered this unique buck he had on camera back in July. That buck was on the hit list. He patterned the buck for a couple of months. The buck appeared on camera as regular as a senior on prune juice. Things changed once September rolled around though. The deer was not seen. Not on Rusty’s trail camera anyway. And none of the other members mentioned seeing the unusual buck during the season.
      Rusty tried to watch television, but couldn’t settle on any particular show. The flashback of the season just kept playing in his mind. Windy could tell he was antsy. Finally, here it comes, Windy told him to just go on back out to the hunting club and give it one last shot. “It’s the last day of the season,” she said, “You’ll regret it the rest of the year if you don’t go one last time.”
      Rusty didn’t listen. You see, women are wise. Women become wise somewhere between “I do” and the birth of the first child. I have seen many women make mistakes before this stage in life. I have very little experience of women making those same mistakes after this stage in life. Granted, I really only have my wife and my mother to truly relate to this theory, but based on that the theory holds 2 to nothing.
      Rusty moped around the house for while longer. Then, around 3:45pm, Rusty had an epiphany. Windy is usually right! “I’m going hunting!” he told her. He quickly donned his hunting clothes and drove the 30 minute drive back to the hunting club.
      He was up in his stand at 4:35pm. There was less than an hour left in the season and several of the other hunters were running dogs earlier that afternoon. It did not seem promising, but he figured he would close the season out just the same as he started; he would sit the same stand and appreciate the little time he had.
      Rusty constantly scanned the fields, and at 5:25pm he spotted a buck walking toward him. The buck kept his head down toward the ground as it strolled. Rusty could make out it was an 8 pointer. The antlers were also extended past the outside of its ears indicating this was a shooter. The last day, the last few minutes, and here was an opportunity.
Rusty steadied his .25-06 Browning A-bolt. With the sight locked in, Rusty gently squeezed the trigger. The 115 grain Nosler Boat Tail ballistic tip bullet spiraled toward the vitals and the buck dropped in its tracks. Rusty’s last shot of the season was true.
      As Rusty approached the downed whitetail he spotted an extra tine at the base of the left antler. Could this be? He knelt down after confirming the kill and it became apparent. This was the deer. This was the one on his hit list. The uniqueness of an extra ‘beam’ protruding about 3 inches below the main left beam just above the eye was the same as he saw nearly half a year earlier on his trail camera while the deer was still in velvet. The same deer that none of the other hunters had even spotted but also vanished from Rusty’s scouting notes. He was successful.
      He listened to his wife.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Big News!

Well, let's get the 'official' part of it over with first:


Ben Selman, National Sales Manager for Ben Pearson Archery, has named Bill Howard III as Marketing and Media Director.

Howard is an avid bowhunter and is an outdoors newspaper columnist in North Carolina.  He is also a freelance writer who has contributed for many regional and national magazines including North Carolina Sportsman, South Carolina Sportsman, North Carolina Bowhunter, The Bowfisher, and Stick and String magazines and published Bow Adventures magazine in 2012.  Howard also writes and runs the blog

Howard is also a lifetime member of the North Carolina Bowhunter Association, associate member with the Pope and Young Club, and an official measurer for both organizations.  He is a certified instructor for both hunter education (IHEA) and bowhunter education (IBEP) in North Carolina as well.  He currently holds four North Carolina bowhunting and bowfishing state records.

A native of Wilson, North Carolina, Howard attended North Carolina State University with a major in English: Writing and Editing.  Howard is married to Susan and they have three children together.

Ben Pearson Archery is the oldest archery equipment manufacturer in the United States and is located in Pensacola, Florida.  The company currently manufactures bows for both competition and hunting and is dedicated to strong Christian values.  The company’s website is
What does this mean?  It means I am about to get REAL busy!  But let's look at a little history first.
     Ben Pearson was responsible in a large part for the growth of bowhunting and archery in the United States.  In 1926, Ben Pearson competed in the Arkansas State championship using his own equipment and finished next to last.  Upset, but focused and dedicated, he redesigned his equipment and in 1927 he became the Arkansas State Champion.  He continued to shoot competitively afterwards finishing as high as 7th nationally.  The same year he finished 7th, another archery legend, Fred Bear, finished 31st.
     Pearson began what has now become the oldest archery manufacturer in the United States.  The company grew in size to meet the demand as it focused on affordable archery equipment and sold that equipment through department store catalogs, making it available to everyone.  In 1963, Pearson was selling between 3000 bows per day and up to 4000 arrows per day.
     Today Ben Pearson archery is but a fraction of that size.  However the company has a superb lineup of bows and the future looks very bright.
     I came into the Ben Pearson family through a pro staff query.  Ben Pearson Archery was developing its competion shooting class and had/has top of the line competition bows.  The problem with me is I do not shoot competition.  So then the thought shifted to having me start as a field staff shooter, allowing me to do what I love most; bowhunt.  We continued discussions and we even considered developing a larger field staff before I recieved a call from Ben Selman, the National Sales Manager for Ben Pearson Archery.
     After a few days of communications by phone and email, we laid out the plan for my inclusion within the company and today I am happy to share the announcement above.

     While I will be working with Ben Pearson Archery in marketing and media, it does not mean the blog will disappear.  It also does not mean this will become a sales leaflet for Ben Pearson, although there will be many pictures including the Ben Pearson Archery Stealth II bow since it is the bow I will be hunting with.  I do invite everyone to check out Ben Pearson Archery on their website at, on Facebook at and on Twitter at

Now for a little Ben Pearson business...if you are interested in shooting a Ben Pearson bow sometime, no matter what state you are in, shoot me an email at and let's talk.

2013 Goals Scheduled

     My goal for this year is to experience what North Carolina has to offer the outdoorsman.  This wonderful state has a unique geographical landscape that offers plenty of different and exciting opportunities and challenges that many of us never knew was right in our own backyard.
     For the coming year, here is what you will be able to expect from this column.
     I separated the wildlife into twelve categories, of which I will give due diligence to both participate in and report on over the year.  They are whitetail deer, black bear, wild turkey, small game, invasive game, upland game, waterfowl, freshwater fishing, bass fishing, trout fishing, inshore fishing, and offshore fishing.  There are not many states that can boast such a large diversity when you break it down this way.
     I also want to witness the glory of each of the seventeen river basins located in North Carolina.  As much as I would like to hit all seventeen this year, I realize there are just not enough weekends in a year to do it all.
     Last week I mentioned I wanted to spend time with my family and help nurture their passions as well.  Luckily, I have found a way to intertwine these goals to allow them to be met.
     For instance, in late March, my oldest son Turner and I will head down the venerable Neuse River during the height of the annual striped bass migration.  It is not uncommon to bring in over 50 fish in one day with triple digit catches possible.  Memories-check.  Neuse River basin-check.  Bass fishing-check.
     The opening weekend of youth turkey season will see my daughter Julianne and I head out for her first turkey hunt.  Just the two of us, a blind, a few decoys, and my expert calling skills.  Ok, adequate calling skills.  We will be warming up her bow over the next couple of months as she wants to go after the wiley gobbler with archery equipment, which could not make me happier.  Memories-check.  Turkey hunting-check.
     In June, my youngest son Cooper and I are scheduled to hit the waters for bream and crappie.  The old lake where I learned to fish holds some secrets that I hope are still intact some 25 years later.  A few little spots around the dam, a couple of clusters of trees out in the open water, and a hidden growth of lily pads down a little known tributary could hold the secrets to some monster sunfish and largemouth and I intend on sharing that knowledge with him.  Memories-check.  Tar River basin-check.  Freshwater fishing-check.
     During the summer I will also be taking my wife Susan on an adventure she has never encountered.  We will pack up some supplies and head down the Cashie River for an overnight trip.  We will stay on the river in one of the many camping platforms built by the Roanoke River Partners.  The platforms are located on the water and you paddle right up to it.  We will pitch the tent and watch and listen to the wildlife.  If we are lucky, we may spot creatures ranging from raccoons to black bears.  It is not often I can get Susan to agree to do something like this, so when I do, it gets scheduled!  Memories-check.  Roanoke River basin-check.
     Speaking of black bears, I will hit the Pisgah area once again and hunt them under the shadows of the great Mount Mitchell, the tallest mountain east of the Mississippi.  I may even run a spot and stalk on a whitetail while there during the archery season.  Memories-check.  Black bear-check.  Whitetail deer-check.
     Of course during all of this I will do the usual such as dove hunting, pier fishing, and swatting off mosquitoes.  It is what we do as outdoorsmen.  It is what we do as lovers of nature and her inhabitants.
     Along the way we will discuss things important to us as far as regulations, safety, tips (take my advice for what it is worth) and issues that present themselves.  But none of these things are more important than the sharing of one little bit of heaven that God has given us here on Earth.  Whether you are sharing it with family and friends, or it is just you and God’s presence, this is the most important.
You can find my goals for 2013 listed here.
What are your goals?

Monday, January 7, 2013

Using a New Firesteel Fero Rod

<This is a guest post>

     A ferrocerium rod, otherwise known as a ferro rod, is a great device to start a fire. Ferro rods, unlike a lighter or matches, do not have any moving parts to break and they last longer, making this a great tool to have for starting fires when in the great outdoors.
     Now when you buy and receive your ferro rod brand new, make sure to remove the black coating on it. The black coating is used as a safety precaution to prevent accidental sparks from occurring during transit. To remove this black coating, get a scraper and start scraping all around the ferro rod, until you see the shiny metallic surface which is underneath (this is the ferrocerium). For safety reasons, scrape far away from any combustible or flammable materials that you have no intention of setting on fire.
     Once you have the coating removed and if you haven’t used a ferro rod before, it’s time to start practicing. One key pointer to remember is to always have a steep angle between the rod and the scraper. Another good tip would be to always keep the scraper still, while pulling the ferro rod towards you. This ensures that the sparks the ferro rod sets off fall directly on the tinder, and not just in any direction. When purchasing ferro rods, the Firesteel brand is a great choice as some models have an integrated whistle on the scraper that can be used during an emergency.

     Always remember, before setting out on any adventure with your ferro rod, make sure to practice in a safe area that is away from flammable material. A bucket of water or a fire extinguisher next to you would be a great idea, just in case your “practicing”, gets a little bit out of hand.
     I cannot emphasize enough the needed for practice. If you are serious about protecting yourself and your loved ones in less than ideal and “normal” circumstances, you need to practice and perfect your skills. Using a ferro rod may seem very simple and it is not hard. After you practice with it, this along with all of your other survival skills, will become an unthinking second nature, freeing your mind to consider other necessary things. So get your ferro rod and start practicing making sparks fly.

Craig Caudill teaches wilderness survival training and freely shares his knowledge at Dan's Depot.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

2013 Goal Setting

     I sat in the stand this last weekend of the year as well as the last weekend of deer season and it pretty much summed up 2012.  As I walked onto my land, which is gated and posted, I encountered three people in orange vest carrying rifles.  I approached them and as I did it reminded me of the dangers that one can come on that are not expected, just as I wrote about just a few weeks earlier.
     Then on Sunday as I walked to my stand, there were eight atv’s riding around, again on my land.  This continued until dark which in turn promised another unsuccessful hunt.
     Well, not really.  I am an opportunist.  I look for whatever opportunities that may present themselves.  As the deer were certainly frightened off, over the weekend I did manage to arrow three squirrels.  Small game at its finest.  Small targets to test my abilities.  Nothing wrong with that.
     Then on New Year’s eve, I learned my neighbor’s brother had passed in an automobile accident in New York.  My sympathy, thoughts, and prayers are and were with her and her family.
     The lesson continues.  At the beginning of the year there is hope and anticipation.  Opportunities may pass and be passed as other larger dreams are waited upon.  But there is no guarantee.  Just as with my deer season.  Just as with my neighbor’s brother.  We do not know what will come.
     We can plan.  Resolutions are common at the beginning of the year, and I am certain as many of you read this column, that some of these resolutions have already been broken.  Without planning, without dreaming, we will never experience the things that are life changing, memorable events.  While it has been shown above that even with the best made plans, that success is not guaranteed, the best way to not reach a goal is to not have a goal.
     This year, I have looked into my planning a little different.  Not only will I be planning the big things, I will plan the small things too.  It is easy to tell your 7 year old that we will go fishing one day.  It is much more difficult to find that ‘one day.’  So I will mark a weekend on the calendar, hype the trip, and watch his eyes glow as we get closer to that date.  And, if there is a great day to hit the water before then, we can still go that time as well.
     I want to take my oldest son on an overnight float trip fishing for both largemouth and smallmouth.  What better way to make sure it happens than to plan it in advance.  Well in advance.  Not the weekend before.  We become one in planning, execution, and hopefully success of the adventure.
     My daughter wants to shoot her bow more.  I have always had things in the way.  It is easy enough for me to get a little practice time on the spur of the moment.  It is much more difficult to get practice time for the two of us.  We’ll plan it so there are no excuses.
     I am going to sit down with my wife and plan a weekend getaway for the family; perhaps another camping trip.  We will pick a location, a date, and the activities to surround it.  It will be memorable.  Things like this always are.
     Of course I still have my own trips, my own hunts, to plan.  I am working on a couple of books as I type this column that I need photos for.  This has to all play into the planning of the new year.  I have to look at the seasons that are coming, the expected migration runs, the anticipated breeding times.  Without some type of knowledge and planning my goals will not be met.  With goals and planning for those goals, I am at least on the right track.  There is no guarantee I will be successful or even able to do some of the things I plan.  There is a guarantee I will not be successful if I do not at least try.
     Set big goals, set small goals, plan for both.  Experience 2013, do not just let it slip by.  Enjoy it with the people you enjoy.