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Choose your poison

July 16, 2021 - 00:00
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Possibly for you and certainly for me, those wonderful days that I’ve spent fishing and hunting are much more memorable than being in the audience for other sporting events. I mean think about it, while a football or baseball game is certainly memorable, being in the woods or on the water as an actual participant is bound to hold more permanently in your memory than watching either football or baseball on site or on the tube. These days can be recalled with great fondness for the rest of your life, well maybe fondly, maybe not.

Let’s try a few easy ones, whatayasay? How about coldest, hottest and wettest? Think about it while I write/ talk.

For me, the coldest fishing and ultimately one the wettest and mos dangerous was a during a March bass tournament at Lake Sinclair near Milledgeville, Georgia. I had thought that the shallow stained waters in the back of a creek far from the colder river flow might produc more bass, so I motored into a sheltered area in the back of a place called Potato Creek. The water temperature was 45 degrees, the air 33. It was cloudy, windy day with sleet on the way for the evening. In a word, it was brutal for a day of fishing. Back then, the middle 70s, most of us that thought of ourselves as being more professional, did not use pedal controlled trolling motors, we just stood on one foot and, by placing the other on top of the trolling motor controlled the direction and speed of the motor that way. Of course, that way of standing went away when I had to have my right knee replaced a few years later. Anyway, the wind was blowing me along, the trolling motor hit a stump abruptly stopping the boat’s direction and I just tipped over into the frigid water from my amateurish stand. I was all alone, dressed in a zip-up thermal winter cold suit, stocking hat, the heavy insulated boots, and had just launched myself right over the side head first. The water wasn’t deep and I could stand on my toes and keep my round little face above the surface, but believe me, I quickly got soaked to the bone, my clothes soaking up the frigid water like a sponge. The trolling motor was still running and I caught the rope tie down as the boat started to leave. I pulled myself up over the side of the still rocking boat and sat for a second and tried to figure out what to do. Nothing came to mind other than just getting dry and warm. Surprised? I idled out of the shallow waters and positioned to make a quick run back to the dock and eventually dry clothes. On the way back though, it got interesting. With the air swirling around me during the 5-mile trip, I got really cold and started seeing things; imagined birds, dark objects and other non-descript flying things. Back at the dock, a couple of other fishermen helped me get the boat out and I drove to the motel room to warm up. Incidentally, in the tournament the next day, I didn’t catch a single bass. 93 boats, 186 contestants, entered and one guy caught two bass and won everything.

The coldest time hunting occurred when in Canada up close to the Northwest territories. We were shooting an “O’Neill Outside” show for Whitetails. My cameraman was Scott Sawyers, never a complainer, a true tough guy, more about that later. Anyway, we hunted three days. The high temperature was 1 degree above 0, the low every morning was 18 to 22 degrees below 0 and we had to drive a four-wheeler 22 miles in the dark to get to the stand which was a pop up tent on a wooded platform about 12 feet above the ground. The wind blew a dry snow in on us and we were covered having to dust it off occasionally. We had to put those plastic kidney warming patches on the camera to keep it from freezing. In that part of Canada in December, I think, the days are short, so the hunters stay in the stand all day and try to eat sandwiches, but they were frozen by 8 a.m. Cold enough? Boy was I cold.

How about your hottest day afield? For me, it was a blistering hot opening day of the Whitetail Deer season in South Carolina, Aug. 15 as I recall. South Carolina has the first to open and longest running Whitetail season in the country. My cameraman, Jeff Alligood, and I were in one of those summer heatwaves across the South; high pressure, no wind, still, and scorching hot. We were shooting a television show that needed to air in a few weeks so I couldn’t put it off any longer. About 2 in the afternoon, dressed in full camo and facing an open field of fescue, I sat on a little tree-stand and watched a brilliant ball of fire settle ever so slowly. Six and one-half hours it took. The Whitetails were hot too, napping most of the day and had quite obviously turned nocturnal. I never saw a living thing move. I found out later the high temperature that day was 102 degrees. Boy was I hot.

And wettest from rain? Going for shark off Amelia Island one gray first of September day, Captain Jimmy Johnson and I anchored up over a likely spot, a deep hold about 200 yards off the shoreline at Fort Frederica in the Amelia River. Jimmy is an outrageously successful fisherman. Doesn’t matter what species; Kings, Tarpon, Shark, Redfish, whatever, Jimmy can catch’em. I guess we should have checked the weather more closely, but Jimmy and I feed off each other’s enthusiasm, one more confident than the other and are not easily deterred. Well, a hurricane decided to stop for a few hours before venturing inland across Georgia. We were in an open boat and endured/fished for 7 hours and got pounded by 12 inches of rain; 12 inches. OK, no one had the sense to give up and go in. After all, we were really had on some big ones including a 275-pounder. Jimmy had’em located. Boy was I wet.

Have you a story or two? Bet you do. If you can find someone to listen, you’ll enjoy the telling. I just did.