Monday, March 28, 2011

Shameless Brag: My Drop-Tined Buck

Here he is. And while I freely admit this post is unadulterated braggadocio, this magnificent buck is worth sharing. He proudly stands sentinel in my office, and I've had a number of positive remarks from co-workers, both hunters and non-hunters alike. I took him last fall down near Cuero, Texas.

He was mounted by Eddie's Taxidermy in San Antonio, and I think they did one hell of a job. And as luck would have it, I was able to have him unofficially scored by Dean Heffner, our fishing guide we recently hired over spring break. The old 12-pointer grossed 165 1/4 inches B&C, which dwarfs anything else I've shot. He's the biggest whitetail I'll ever take, that's for sure. But more than the score, I enjoy looking at that big drop tine, the other tine tips chipped from fighting, and the gray, grizzled muzzle -- evidence of a life boldly lived.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Gun, Meet Upper Palate.

Snapped this little doozy off the back deck five minutes ago.  I know others to the north have it even worse than us -- and bretheren to the south are chilly too -- but this is about MY weather, dammit.  We're more than a week into spring and less than a week until April.  What gives?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

SportDOG NoBark 10R: Your Neighbors Will Thank You

It's springtime (in most parts of the country anyhow), and that means the birds and critters are starting to emerge from a long winter. For me, this time of year also marks increased barking activity, particularly from my one-year-old pointer, LuLu. You can't say she doesn't have prey drive -- she's prone to bark at every robin, squirrel, and bunny that's anywhere within eyeshot.

Unfortunately, I'm a suburbanite, and barking is frowned upon by my neighbors. I've tried a number of different brands and styles of bark collars, and they seem to work fine for my two other (older) dogs.

Not LuLu. She's managed to wear out, destroy, or ignore virtually every anti-bark device I've strapped to her, save one: the SportDOG NoBark 10R. Frankly, I'm not sure what I'd do without it.

It's completely waterproof and has a rechargeable battery that lasts for weeks at a time, even under heavy use. On-board sensors detect both sound and vibration to trigger a correction -- unlike some competitors that would seem to fire off for no reason. After all, the only thing worse than a bark collar NOT working when your dog barks is a unit that works when they're NOT barking! It also has an automatic safety shut-off eliminates the risk of overcorrection.

SportDOG's latest bark limiter has three different modes of correction. "Temperament Learning" measures what level of stimulation it takes for your dog to stop barking, and sets itself to that level. It then reduces the initial warning corrections once the dog has learned to reduce barking. "Progressive Correction" mode escalates stimulation (starting at zero) each and every time your dog barks. There's also a "User Selected" option that lets you manually set the level of correction.

I can't honestly say that I've tried every mode. I just set it to Temperament Learning and let the collar do the rest. It's been a Godsend. It still allows LuLu to bark once or twice, which I think is typically a good thing -- it lets me know if something is amiss. Thanks to the 10R, my dog has learned that birds and squirrels aren't worth barking over, but meter men or other strangers in my backyard are worth bringing to my attention.

Even if your dogs aren't barkers, it's a good item to have in your kit during hunting season. In unfamiliar places around unfamiliar dogs and people, I've seen many a laid-back bird dog turn into a yapper extraordinaire. That won't win you many friends in hunt camp or motel parking lot.  At about 90 bucks, it's not as cheap as foam earplugs, but it's not expensive, either.  And it's a hell of a lot more effective.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The King of Possum Kingdom Sand Bass

Definitions.  That's probably what this title needs.  First, sand bass.  Growing up in Nebraska, I caught the hell out of these fish on Johnson Lake, but they were known as white bass.  Voracious eaters, they were always biting and a ton of fun to catch.  In Texas -- and other points south -- they're known as sand bass.  So now you know.

The other part of the title -- Possum Kingdom -- you either shake your head knowingly, or snicker uncontrollably.  Even the locals skirt the formal name and simply call it "PK."  It's a lake. In Texas.  A very pretty one at that, with beautiful limestone cliffs.  And yes, it inspired a Toadies song.  But that's neither here nor there.

What IS here -- or rather in my belly -- are passels of fillets that my son Jack and I tore up while visiting said lake.  I've been on Spring Break for the last week, most of which was spent in the Lone Star State.  On the way down (I'm ashamed it didn't happen sooner) I decided that Jack and I -- the only boys on a certain leg of the trip -- needed a diversion from the estrogen and shopping.  Naturally, I Googled possum kingdom fishing guide, and, through the greatness of Al Gore's invention, I found Dean Heffner.  And boy am I glad I did.

We showed up at the appointed time of 6:30am at Mr. C's Convenience Store (ok, 6:15, I'm terminally early), and Dean met us.  We followed him to the dock, and he promptly sat in our truck for ten minutes.  "Most of y'all don't show up on time," he explained.  He'd never met the Scampwalker family, apparently.

We started fishing at 7:40, and until 11:00, we simply tore them up.  Dean was a knowledgeable guide that still made sure we had a great time.  One fish, two fish on a line -- sometimes each of us with four-plus pounds on our line.  In all, we caught 91 fish (both Jack and Dean made sure I kept track).  But I do know that Dad hauled in just one more than son, just to keep the kid humble. 

Jack was silent almost the entire trip.  I worried that he wasn't enjoying himself.  I was wrong.  Flashing back to trips that my Dad took me on, he was simply enjoying himself, his surroundings, and his company.

And so did I. 

Friday, March 4, 2011

Road Photo Friday: World's First eCollar

I snapped this shot a couple of weeks ago at the National Bird Dog Museum a couple of weeks back, while visiting Grand Junction, Tennessee for the recently-concluded National Championship.  It reminds me of the old World War Two radios you'd see in black and white photos.  I bet that it used to shoc-- er, stimulate the hell out of dogs back in the day, don't you?

A cursory internet search (always reliable, of course!) doesn't offer much history on the collar.  It's pretty rough around the edges, I'll say that.  The Bill Boatman Company is a venerable dog supply company -- I can remember reading their photocopied mail-order catalog as a kid.  But I'm not certain if the company actually manufactured these units, or if they were simply a reseller.  Any ideas, anyone?