I, like many of you I’m sure, have a great deal of fond memories of time spent in the outdoors during the past year. In retrospect, the entire year blends into a blur of great times hunting, fishing and generally enjoying God’s creation but what I remember most is the wonderful friendships I’ve shared with a great number of special people. Some of these folks I’ve shared the outdoors with for many years, others I’ve only known a short time. When one gets a bit “long in the tooth” like me, friendships are bonded more quickly. I’ve got several new friends that I’ve known no longer than a year that I bonded with instantly and we all comment on the fact that “it seems as though we’ve known each other a lifetime.” Maybe this is one of the advantages of getting older, I don’t know but I have talked with many people near or over the age of sixty that agree.
Long gone are the days when I measured the success of a hunting or fishing trip in antlers and meat or fish fillets; the older I get the more I have come to appreciate the wonderful times I am honored to spend with people that share the same love of the outdoor lifestyle as I.
A few years ago, I met Brad Fenson, a well known outdoors writer from Canada. Brad helped “connect” me to the smorgasbord of outdoor adventures his country offers and I met some fine Canadians in the process. Brad has also enjoyed spending time with some of my Texas friends and developed new friendships. This past summer, we fished at a remote fly in camp owned by Brad’s friend Bryce Liddell. Just a couple weeks ago, Bryce and his buddy Gary came down to experience some of what our state has to offer in the way of hunting and fishing. Several of my buddies joined forces and outdoor skills to show our new Canadian friends what we Texas outdoors folks do in what we call “wintertime.” Before the week was up, many of the guys who had only known each other for a few days, were great friends and by the time Bryce and his buddy boarded the plane bound back for the far north, we had all planned a summer fishing trip for pike, walleye, and lake trout. Once a devout fisherman experiences fishing in the pristine waters of the north, one trip is just not enough. Those hard fighting northern pike, walleye, and lake trout keep calling you back.
This past September was my last as an elk guide in northern Colorado. I spent time up in our high country camp this past year and managed to keep busy helping to retrieve harvested elk, fishing and “fooling” around camp but because of very bad vision in low light conditions and aging knees, I felt it better not to be actively guiding. That job is best left to younger men. I got my eyes fixed but my knees still have plenty of wear and tear on them. I plan to get the most use out of them as possible! I certainly don’t plan to stop hunting the mountains but plan to do the hunting by myself rather than be responsible for a couple of other hunters. I actually “hunted” the mountain country of northern New Mexico this fall for mule deer thanks to an invite from some good friends that own a ranch up in the area. It was a big change from the responsibility of guiding others and I must say I thoroughly enjoyed hunting on my own again.
As an outdoors writer, I have the opportunity to visit and hunt and fish in some amazing places but truthfully, I enjoy spending time in the little “patch” of woods close to home as much as anything. One of my favorite things to do year around is to settle into one of my stands about an hour before sundown with my rifle and night scope and collect some fresh pork. This past year, I have taken a total of 6 wild hogs in this manner close to home. I also spend a good bit of time here in a bow stand whitetail hunting. So far this year, I’ve yet to connect with a mature buck, I plan to hunt the last few days of the season and hopefully put some whitetail meat in the freezer. That New Mexico mule deer was heavy but won’t supply enough venison to last until next deer season.
There is a great deal to do in the outdoors during what we often refer to as the “dead of winter.” The big blue catfish are biting at Lake Tawakoni, there is quail to hunt, and we are right in the middle of the peak of duck hunting. I’ve noticed the past week that those big green heads are showing up in numbers on the ponds on the property here close to home. I’m hoping to enjoy at least one goose hunt down in the farm country between Waco and Corsicana with my friend Rick Hrncir and Family Affair Guide Service. Each winter, after the corn fields up in Nebraska and Kansas ice up, there is usually good numbers of “stop over” geese that winter on the green fields and shooting can be very good during late morning and well into mid day around the conservation lakes as the birds come back from the feeding fields for water.
Here’s wishing you a happy and healthy new year in the great outdoors with family and friends.
Listen to “Outdoors with Luke Clayton and Friends” on radio stations from Nebraska to Texas on weekends or anytime online at www.catfishradio.com.