A good friend of mine started a game call company called Kid Magic Game Calls. The slogan seems simple, but it speaks volumes. Take a kid hunting, they will thank you. I have always involved my boys in the outdoors as much as possible. But after I started using Kid Magic Game Calls and started believing in their message, I am a firm believer that my kids are turning into better people because of the outdoors.
I have taken my oldest three boys (7, 6, and 4) into the woods often this year and we were lucky enough to fill tags most of the time. My sons are learning how to respect the land, follow all the rules and regulations order to protect the game we pursue and enjoy the sights and sounds that the good Lord created for us each time we enter the woods. It's not all about filling tags, but it's more about making memories none of us will ever forget. My father took me in the woods when I was 5 and I've been hooked ever since. My sons are now tagging along with me every chance they get and they love it! It's only a matter of time before they start tagging out on game. I can't wait to be there to experience it with them. Take a kid hunting, they will thank you!
It’s Not All About Filling That Tag!
No matter what your passion is in the outdoors, success always makes things enjoyable. This thrill is what brings us back for more and more. “No one ever likes to strikeout”, my dad preached when growing up. There is truth to that. When I hunt, or I fish I’m going in hopes of tagging that nice buck or limiting out on whatever fish bite that day. However, success can come in a variety of forms. Some may say getting up out of bed is a success (I agree). Others might think that a day in the woods or on the water is far better than being at work (Again I agree). For me, getting outdoors and enjoying God’s beautiful woods and water, is a success in itself.
Nothing gets me more excited than listening to the sounds of the woods come alive as the sun starts coming up over the trees or the sounds of the tide rolling in to start the morning. These sights and sounds are what it’s all about for me. If I am lucky enough to harvest an animal or catch a fish, that’s just a bonus. I think most people get caught up in trying to hard to fill that tag, that they lose sight of what it’s all about.
When you’re out on your next outdoor adventure, look around and take in what you see and what you hear. Forget about your worries for a few hours, forget about trying to fill that tag and take in what a great opportunity you have to be alive and able to enjoy what God has created for us. Good luck on your next hunting or fishing trip and remember, it’s not all about filling that tag.
Often times, fisherman overlook areas that are not widely used. Just because an area does not have a ton of boats or anglers casting from it's banks, does not mean it's not full of quality fish. The fishing spots that are widely talked about are often the most fished. However, it is the spots that receive little action that can produce the best experiences.
What to do before you fish: Utilize the internet to search for areas that often get no attention. I prefer google maps or google earth to spot areas that are not seen from common roadways or highways. Once several locations are identified, start asking permission. This can be done in several ways, but I prefer to offer exchange of services. I often look for farm ground ponds and offer my services for splitting firewood or throwing up hay in return for fishing rights. Once permission is granted, always check the state game laws and starting planning your attach. Research the species of fish that the particular body of water holds and start building your supply of lures and baits geared toward those species. Check over your reels and rods to be sure they are up to par and ready to go after some fish.
What to do while you're fishing: Look for pockets and structure in the water that you believe will hold fish. Start casting short to long to ensure you do not spook fish close to you if you cast and catch a fish far from your location. Work the fan or horseshoe coast from one location and then move around the body of water covering as much ground as possible. Look for structure such as logs, weeds, brush, rocks, and change of water depth. These areas often hold fish and will produce increased results.
First Hand Experiences: The Mason Dixon Outdoor Writers Association had an opportunity to fish one of our "Off the beaten path" locations and had very good success, The pond we focused on has been fished less than 5 times all summer and holds quality largemouth bass. Around 20 outdoor writers from Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania explored an off the beaten path farm pond in Western Maryland. The levels of fishing experience varied amongst the writers, yet almost every angler landed a quality fish. It was a great success to see the smiles on the faces of many outdoorsman and woman. The certainly got a feel for what a off the beaten path location can provide!
Building Friendships That Last A Lifetime
People have many different ways of meeting new people and gaining friendships, but if you are into the outdoors you know how easy it is to build friendships that last a lifetime. My closest friends are ones whom I share a passion for the outdoors with. The comradery that comes along with hunting, fishing and anything outdoors is something that is difficult to explain, but it’s incredible. I have been enjoying the outdoors for the last 26 years and have built a solid group of friends because of it.
The times we have shared on the water and in the woods have been life changing. We have fished and hunted together in every place imaginable. We have trolled and chummed for Rock fish in the Chesapeake Bay. We have driven 20 hours north to harvest Black Bear. We run trout lines for MD blue crabs in the Severn and Choptank Rivers. We pack our gear and head to WV for a week each season chasing bucks. We have ripped lips of smallmouth and largemouth bass in the Potomac and Susquehanna Rivers. We travel from State to State working on filling our longbeard tags We fish the lakes of Canada for Musky and Walleye. We travel south each year after wild hogs. Together we attack the local Antietam creek with annual canoe floats catching every species of fish it holds (catfish, smallmouth, bluegill, carp, creek chubs, rainbow trout, walleye). We even travel to the banks of small farm ponds to load up on largemouth bass and channel cats. We have many more adventures planned for the upcoming season going after Mule Deer and Elk in Montana.
Although these trips we take are nice, it’s what we get out of them that mean the most. The time we spend together resembles a family. We laugh, smile, cry, take a ton of pictures and videos. We cheer each other on and get more excited over the successes of each other than we do for ourselves. These trips have brought us all closer together. We have been in each other’s weddings, been there when we all became fathers and have introduced our own kids into the outdoors. What we share with each other is a true friendship that lasts far more than the outdoor experiences we share.
These ttrips and time together have made us better men, better friends, better fathers and mostly importantly, better people. If you never got into the outdoors, I encourage you to do so. You don’t have to hunt and fish to enjoy it. Go out camping, take nature hikes, white water rafting, take bike rides or anything else you can think of involving the outdoors. Take time to see what God has provided for us and do so with family and friends. It will bring you closer to each other and you will thank me for it. Now head out, explore the outdoors and build those friendships that will last a lifetime.
Author: Andrew Kaetzel
The Flowerbed Buck
On the drive home from work, I often looked in amazement at the amount of deer feeding and bedding in the yard of a small brick rancher. The home was surrounded by a housing development on both sides, but the property backed up to a small lot of hardwoods owned by the same development that I knew held deer. I contemplated every time I drove by and saw deer, to stop and inquire about permission to hunt.
Finally, on a Friday heading home from work, there they were again. 16 deer were feeding in that tiny little yard surrounded by houses. I slammed on the brakes as I passed the house, swung a quick U-turn in the entrance of the housing development and pulled into the driveway. I finally worked up the courage to ask. I quickly scanned the yard as I approached the front door and to my surprise, the deer still didn’t run. I was contemplating ideas through my head of what I could offer in order to hunt as a rang the doorbell. Before a good idea popped in my head, a sweet little old lady named Ms. Bell (as a later came to know), answered the door. I could tell by the shape of the yard and the peeling paint that she probably lived by herself. I introduced myself as a local school teacher who admired the amount of deer I see in her yard each day on the ride home from work. I asked if there was anything I could do to help her around her house in exchange for bow hunting her property. Ms. Bell smiled and explained how each morning the same “horned deer” would eat my bushes and rub on my cedar tree in the back yard. “The deer are everywhere around here”, Ms. Bell explained. “I call him the Flowerbed Buck”, as she laughed. I offered to mow her grass, paint the trim around her windows, and anything else she needed help with. She gladly excepted the exchange and asked when I could start “saving her flower beds”. Ms. Bell walked me around back and showed me where the deer enter her yard. At this time, the deer finally made their way to the little patch of woods behind the house. I noticed a mound of brush that she had compiled over the years close to where a heavily traveled deer trail entered her yard. The wind was blowing perfect for this spot. I knew this would be golden spot. I kicked out some leaves around and made a quiet place to set up for my hunt the next morning. The excitement of gaining new hunting ground kept me up a little later than I would have liked.
The alarm startled me as it went off at 4:45 am. I quickly threw on my hunting clothes, brushed my teeth, and headed to my truck. I made my routine stop at the local Sheetz (their breakfast pizza is amazing-highly recommended) and then I was on my way to the city limits. I pulled in the driveway and parked my truck where Ms. Bell had directed so I wouldn’t block the driveway. I gathered my things from the truck, sprayed my clothes with scent killer, and made my 40 steps to the back of her yard to my natural blind (a mound of tree limbs). I was in my spot well before first light, the wind was perfect, and the wait game was on.
The first noises of the day came from the birds in the nearby trees, and then the neighboring barking dogs as they were beginning to be let out for their morning duties. The sound of passing cars on the road began to drown out the sounds of nature. Then the leaves started rustling on the ground and the deer started pouring out of the woods like cattle during milking time. Ms. Bell was right, the deer were headed down their usual trail beside my set-up. I picked up my Matthews Switchback and prepared for a shot. One by one they came down the trail. I could see a white rack coming from behind the string of does, and up over the low hanging oak limbs, the Flowerbed Buck was headed right to me. My emotions started rolling, my heart began to beat faster and my breathing quickly increased. This buck was no young deer, his rack was high off his head and way out past his ears with a long nose and big mature body. The does had already made their way out into the yard and were feeding on the tall grass. When the buck disappeared behind the brush pile I wash hiding in, I drew my bow. When he stepped out on the other side, he was 7 yards from my Rage broadhead. My sight was on and my aim was true as I released the string and the Rage hypodermic took care of the rest. The Flowerbed Buck turned and ran to the corner of the yard and never made it out of sight. To my surprise the rest of the deer only scattered and began feeding again looking ever so often at the expired 8 point.
I knocked another arrow and began to wait for the deer to return back to the woods to give me a clear and safe shot. After about 45 minutes, here they came. One by one going back into their hiding spot. When the biggest doe in the yard returned back up the trail, my second arrow found its mark. The deer never took another step. I eventually had to stand up and walk out from behind my set-up before the deer would leave. I couldn’t believe I had a nice 8-point buck and a mature doe down before 8:00 in the morning. As I do after each successful hunt, I looked up and thanked God for the opportunity. I stopped to thank Ms. Bell before I left and she came out to admire my deer. “That’s him”, she said, “now my flower beds can stand a chance”. I returned the next day to mow the grass and paint some window trim to honor my promise of exchanging service.
Still to this day I mow Ms. Bell's grass and help her with tasks she cannot handle on her own. She is 86 years old now so I am not sure how many more years I will have to hunt this place, but for now I make sure to find myself in that pile of brush a few times each season. I have taken over 10 deer from that property over the last 5 years. I found a honey hole and it’s no surprise that I am loading up and limiting out in the city limits. Thanks Ms. Bell!
Author: Andrew Kaetzel