Saturday, November 22, 2014

Good Morning River

The weather forecast called for rain all day today, so I made the decision not to hunt this morning. I wake up this morning what do you know- no rain. Figures. Since the weather seemed to be holding out I decided to grab my gear and hit the stream.


For years I have attempted to fish during the cold weather months and I just can't ever seem to figure it out. I had a few bites early on, but no takers. I would love to have landed or even lost a fish, but there's a lot more to it than just catching fish. It's chatting with one of the local farmers about deer hunting and trophy fish. It's a runny nose, cold hands, and snagging a sycamore on your backcast.

A bad day fishing? What's that?

..and for today's fogged up GoPro grab

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

My First Deer

Saturday morning finds me laying in bed at 4 a.m. wanting so badly to turn off that awful iPhone alarm and return to my dreams that were so rudely interrupted.When I decide to pry myself out of my comfortable bed and commit to my day I begin to feel the excitement and anticipation of spending my morning up in a big ol' tree.

There's not a whole lot of people on the roads at 4:30 a.m. On the way out of town I pass by puke stained groups of party-all-nighter's who are starting to sober up on their long walk home. Gotta love livin' in a college town. Once I hit the country roads I automatically become weary of the critters and begin to criticize other drivers for forgetting to turn off their brights as they pass by. I roll into the small gravel parking are right at 5 a.m. A bit early, but I'm glad to see I'm the only truck in the lot. While organizing my gear I realize that the batteries in my headlamp are completely dead. Great. Knowing that the small sliver of the crescent moon won't be providing me with much light, I reluctantly dig out my backup flashlight. Thankfully, after a few nervous shakes it comes to life. It's an long, but easy walk in to my spot. The damp, cool air is welcome and refreshing after last weekend's sweaty evening sit. After finally reaching my tree I quickly realize that the large handheld flashlight that I had toted in was going to make setting up my climber very difficult. After a few minutes of cussing and fumbling I finally begin my ascent.

As daylight beings to creep through the river bottom I thank God for the opportunity to experience another beautiful morning in his creation. Sunrise always brings a smile to my face. The squirrels running around above me make me question my decision to set up in a black walnut tree. I wince each time a cluster of nuts falls to the forest floor. I guess it's only a matter of time before one of those boogers knocks me right on the top of my head. Oh well, it adds to the experience I suppose.

An hour later the sounds of the local high school marching band break through the silence. I begin to get restless and decide to check the wind. A puff from my wind indicator assures me that the wind is still in my favor. I decide to pull out my camera to give me something to pass the time. After a few minutes of struggling to learn how to set up the correct shutter speed and aperture I decide that I need to put the camera away and eliminate any unnecessary movements.

Around 9:15 a.m. I start to give in and begin packing up for the hike back to the truck. On second thought, nah, I'll hang out until 10. I've got nothing to do today anyways. I spot movement to my right and turn to find what I think is a doe heading my way. I grab my bow, clip on my release, and draw as the deer walks between me and a big mature walnut tree. The high school band is still practicing, literally providing me with my own personal background music. As soon as the deer walks directly in front of my stand I realize that it is in fact a small spike. Do I take the shot? You hear it all the time- "let em' go so they can grow"- but this could be my first deer! He's stops at my 9 o'clock, quartering away at 20 yards to take a bite. I settle my pin, take a breath, and let my arrow fly. THWAK! Perfect shot! He takes off up the hill to my left and crashes within 40 yards of my stand. Silence.

Growing up I spent a tremendous amount of time outdoors. Whether I was running around the fields behind our house or hanging out at the farm with my dad I was always outside. After high school I started to develop an interest in hunting, but I didn't really know where to start. Neither of my parents hunt, but my grandfather has hunted his entire life. Due to an ongoing battle with Parkinson's disease he was never been able to harvest a deer with his bow. After hearing of my interest in bowhunting he passed along his old PSE Polaris to me to shoot around and test the waters. After a trip to the local archery shop I was quickly dialed in out to 20 yards and counting.

I took to the woods for the first time during the fall of 2012. A handful of tags, some cheap camo, and a brand new climber was all I needed to feel like I was on top of the world. I'll never forget how pumped up and clueless I was walking into the woods for that first sit. I didn't see a thing all evening, but I was out there. I was a hunter.

The season of 2012-2013 was a huge learning experience. I discovered the importance of hunting the correct winds and being stealthy when approaching and leaving my stand. I learned the benefits of layering and how quality gear can really make a difference. I'll never forget the day that I left my arrows in the truck... yeah, that was pretty bad. Throughout that entire season I maybe saw 10 deer and passed on a small 8 pointer that would have made the perfect first deer. I ended the season with a pocket full of tags, but I knew I was officially hooked.

Last year was a much more productive year thanks to the lessons learned during the previous season. I ended up taking a poor shot on a nice young 6 pointer that resulted in a gut shot, very little blood, and hours spent unsuccessfully tracking a wounded animal. For weeks I was an emotional mess. I ended the season without any opportunity to redeem myself. I had learned from my mistakes and I had set my expectations high for the 2014-2015 season.

Saturday, September 27th 2014 is a day that I will never forget. It took me three years, but I had finally accomplished my goal of harvesting my first deer with my grandfather's bow. That feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction is something that I can't even begin to put into words. He isn't the biggest or the baddest deer around, but I sure am proud of him!

My first deer ever,
with my grandfather's bow,
on public land,
on National Public Lands Day!

Love you Grandpa!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Starting the Summer Off Right!

This past weekend was one of the nice long, relaxing weekends that I look forward to all week long. Lauren and I started it out by heading out to the Farmers Market at the new Farmers Park on the South side of town. If you find yourself in Springfield for the weekend this is a must do cultural experience that every foodie will enjoy. We ended up walking away with a couple of bags of veggies that we picked up from various producers and a package of bison hamburger patties from Elkhead Ranch which is located East of town in Bruner, MO. We ended up grilling the burgers for dinner on Sunday evening and they turned out amazing. Bison is a lot leaner than beef, but still packs a ton of flavor. Talking with the guys from Elkhead Ranch really sparked an interest in me. My family has always had cattle, but the thought of raising bison- an icon of the American West- is something that is truly intriguing to me. I will definitely be looking further into this.

Sunday afternoon I had the chance to hit the James River for a couple of hours. The water was still a tad high from the recent rains, but I was able to wet wade to several good spots. I have been almost exclusively fishing with my fly rod the past few months, so I decided to change it up a bit and do a little spin fishing. On the water I'm guilty of being a little stubborn when it comes to lure selection. It's an awful habit that I need to break if I want to be more productive, but when you have your favorite lures it's hard to not throw them. I'm still very new to river fishing, but I have become very partial to Zoom Speed Craws when targeting smallmouth, spotted bass, and rock bass in the local waters. Zoom is my go-to for soft plastics. They're tough, come in a wide variety of colors, fairly cheap, and found just about anywhere. During my time on the water I was able to hook up with a descent size green sunfish, my personal best spotted bass for this stretch of the river, and about a 15-20'' longnose gar. Luckly, the gar ended up biting through my 6lb. after 2 huge leaps and a quick run down a fast moving riffle. I would like to purposefully catch these living dinosaurs someday, but at the time I was not in a good position to safely land one of these toothy critters.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Back At It!

I'm back! The past few weeks have been packed full of work, graduations, and weddings which made it difficult for me to get out much. Thankfully, last weekend (yes, an entire week ago! I'm so behind!) I had a wide open schedule that allowed me to get back out on my bike and spend a few hours on the water with a fly rod in my hand.

Saturday's are for Riding


On Saturday morning, despite the recent rains and possibility of pop-up thunderstorms, my buddy Nathan and I decided to take a little road trip down to Branson to ride the White River Valley trail system. This was the first time that either of us have had the chance to get back down to this trail since last summer.

Thankfully, the weather decided to hold off and the trail was dry enough for us to become reacquainted with this excellent trail system. We were pleasantly surprised to come across several improvements that have taken place in the past year that have made the trails more rider friendly and sustainable. Any mountain bikers living in the Ozarks should do their best to take a day and experience everything that White River has to offer.

After a couple of hours of riding we packed up and took a dip in the lake over at Table Rock State Park to cool off and clean up a bit. We looked like complete dirtbags, but who cares. Gotta do whatcha gotta do! After a quick change of clothes we headed into Hollister and grabbed a bite to eat at the Ye Olde English Inn. Really cool old inn and pub with awesome food and cold drinks without the Branson crowds. Definitely check it out if you're in the area.

Sunday's are for Fishing


I finished out my weekend on the James River with a fly rod in my hands and smallmouth on my mind. Unfortunately, I was unable to hook up with any smallmouth throughout the afternoon, but I did get into a handful of sunfish and a chunky Goggle-Eye (Northern Rock Bass). I fished with various colors of Clouser Minnows and Wooly Buggers, but I'm wondering if I need to get a little deeper or provide the fish with a meatier presentation. Looks like I need to learn to tie a few smallmouth patterns!

Until next time...



Sunday, May 11, 2014

Bikes & Cameras Just Go Together

I've been itchin' to hit up the trails lately, but I was afraid the recent rains would make for unsuitable conditions. All of the trails around here seem to have different drying times, but I'm always afraid to make the drive out to a location and find the trails to be unrideable. After talking it over with Nathan, we decided to play it safe and headed to a little known trail system that is made up of mostly gravel access roads with some offshoots of singletrack. Our thought behind this was if we discovered that the singletrack was too muddy we could still get in a good ride on the access roads. Plus, Nathan had never been to the location and it gave him a chance to test out his new Nikon DSLR.

Nathan riding through a CRP field that underwent a controlled burn this past winter
I love the distortion that the GoPro gives the trees
The access roads were dry except for a puddle here and there and a few small crick crossings (yup, I said crick). The offshoot trails were a bit damp, but doable. There were plenty of spots that gave Nathan the opportunity to try out his new camera. Check out his Instagram page to see a few of the pictures from our ride.
Yeah, my arms are super pale. I wore a cutoff for a reason.

My favorite GoPro picture of the day. Crick selfie!

I completely forgot to start my Strava, but according to Nathan's our ride only consisted of about 5 miles. We spent quite a bit of time off the bikes messing around and taking pictures. It was just nice to get outside, do some exploring, and get in a bit of exercise.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Another Weekend of Whites

GoPro Hero 3+ Black Edition
This past Saturday I decided to head back up to the Little Sac to see if I could get into some more white bass. I set out for the same hole that I fished a couple of weeks ago in hopes of fishing a brush pile that they had been stacked up in. I became a bit disappointed when I found another fisherman working the brush pile that I had been salivating over all week long. After a few minutes of conversation, I decided to settle into a spot about 100 yards upstream from the other angler. The first 30-45 minutes went by without even a nibble, but after doing a bit of walking and wading I started to find the fish. The presence of the other fisherman turned out to be a blessing in disguise because it forced me find new water and structure to fish.

Throughout the afternoon I managed to bring 17 white bass to hand along with a couple of tiny largemouth. The fishing was considerably slower than it had been a couple of weeks ago, but it was a great learning experience. I made an effort to frequently check my line and retie throughout the day. I did manage to break off one fish, but it was still a great improvement over my last outing.

Canon AE-1 Program
I'm sure that the peak of this spring's white bass spawn has come and gone, but I'm planning on heading out there sometime next week with Lauren to see if I can still scrounge up a few more. I might also attempt to put a hook in a couple of the carp I saw loafing around in the shallows and maybe put out some limb lines for catfish.

Stay tuned!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Turkeys, Trails, and Hillybilly Coho

Friday: Hillbilly Coho on the Little Sac
A few weeks ago I headed up to the Little Sac River for the first time to try my hand at catching white's on the fly. I was able to land about half a dozen fish that evening, but I had to wade through the crowds to do it. While I was out there I ran into a guy who knew the river and its inhabitants very well. After a few minutes of conversation I ended up following him down miles of dusty gravel roads as he pointed out some off the beaten path fishing holes. On Friday I was able to cut out of work early and decided to take advantage of the day by trying out one of these newly discovered spots.

I promise the truck was in park!
Each spring warming waters trigger white bass to run up tributary creeks to spawn, similar to the salmon runs in the northern states. While it's not as artistic as salmon working their way up the rapid-laden waters of a picturesque mountain stream, the white bass run does produce some of the most exciting fishing of the year. When they're at their peak, it seems like you can catch a fish on every cast with just about anything you throw at them. To me, nothing beats catching them on my fly rod using hand tied streamers.

After an hour drive and a quick hike I was streamside. As I was tying on a chartreuse and white Clouser I saw several fish break the surface. Two casts in and I was already hooked up with a descent sow.

Hooked up with my first white bass of the day

My first of 6 healthy whites

This snag produced most of the afternoon's fish
Biggest fish of the day

I also spotted a few carp tailing in a shallow pool just down stream. Looks like I'm going to have to tie up some John Montana Hybrids. Check out his blog here.
A sign of a good day of fishing. First "bass thumb" of the year.

Throughout the afternoon I landed a total of six keeper sized whites and one tiny little largemouth. Although I didn't catch any lunkers, all of the whites that I landed were quite a bit larger than the small males I was catching a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, I did miss several hooksets and managed to break off 4 flies while fighting fish. Missed hooksets are just part of fishing, but the 4 break-offs were a bit concerning. I'm not sure if the problem was due to sloppy backcasts, poor knots, or fighting several fish before retying. While I'm fairly new to fly fishing, I have been bass fishing for years, so consistently checking line and retying often is nothing new to me. I'll be paying closer attention to my knots and tippet to see if this problem persits.

The afternoon also allowed me the opportunity to test out a couple pieces of gear. So far I have really enjoyed my Goal Zero Nomad 7 Solar Panel that I received for Christmas this past year (thanks Mom and Dad!). I had completely forgotten to recharge my GoPro after my last fishing trip, so it was the perfect opportunity to break out the Nomad 7. All I had to do was plug the camera into the USB port on the solar panel and throw it up on the dash for the one hour drive to the river. That one hour charge was enough to get me through the afternoon. This is one piece of gear that will be getting quite a bit of use in the future.

Goal Zero Nomad 7 solar panel paired with the GoPro Hero 3+ Black Edition

Saturday: Turkeys and Trails
Saturday saw me up at 4:45 a.m. clad in camo and headed out to Paris Springs Access in search of some thunder chickens. I have only been hunting for a couple of years now and I have yet to harvest an animal with my bow. I feel like I finally know what I'm doing when it comes to deer hunting, but turkey hunting is an entirely new experience for me. As soon as legal shooting light set in I heard several gobblers sounding off in the distance. While hiking along the edge of a recently planted corn field I spotted what I thought was a jake about 150 yards away. I know enough about turkey hunting, especially hunting on public land, to know that you should call the bird to you to avoid any accidents involving other hunters. After a few minutes of calling I started to notice that the jake that I thought I was calling in was actually a decoy. **Sigh** I quietly packed up and moved on. By 7-7:30 a.m. the birds completely shut down. I continued to hunt until about 11 a.m. without spotting any real birds. I did end up running into the hunter that had the decoys set up while I was taking a quick lunch break. We talked for about half an hour and parted ways. He left me with a bit of encouragement and a few tips for finding birds. While I didn't see a single turkey, it was still a good morning to get out.
Neat old barn
Paris Springs Access is a beautiful conservation area that I would highly recommend checking out. Beware that there aren't really any trails except for a few narrow foot paths around Turnback Creek. 
Later Saturday afternoon Lauren and I headed out to Busiek State Forest to do a little hiking. It was a bit busier than what we would have preferred, but we both agreed that it was nice to see people enjoying the outdoors. We quickly hopped on the yellow trail and escaped the crowds.
The Carter Family Cemetary along the yellow trail
I can't get enough of the Ozark hills.
Indian Paintbrush growing within a cut cedar. For more information on Indian Paintbrush click here.

I'm not sure of the exact length of the yellow trail, but I'd put it at about 4 miles. Its a great hike with plenty of rugged ascents and descents that keep things interesting. Be sure to watch you foot placement in some spots or else you might end up at the bottom of the hill faster than you would like. Lauren and I always joke about who will have the stumble or trip of the day (it's usually her!). If you ever find yourself with some free time this spring, consider heading down to Busiek for a quick hike and a refreshing splash in the creek. If you find yourself with even more free time, I wouldn't suggest chasing wild turkeys or white bass.. I've heard its not very fun...

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Enjoying the Weather on Two Wheels

Ohhh man I can't get enough of this weather! Don't get me wrong, I love all of the seasons, but spring is just so refreshing. Birds are singing, flowers are blooming, and the fishing is hot. For me, the toughest thing about spring is deciding what I'm going to do with my free time. Do I head home from work and grab the fly rod or should I string up the hammock and chill out under the redbuds in the backyard? Chase turkeys on Saturday morning or hit up the local singletrack? Lucky for me, my decision on what to do after work on Monday was an easy one. On my way home, Nathan gave me a call and asked if I wanted to go for a ride on a new route he discovered here in town. ..Uh, yeah! I'm always down for finding new routes weather they be on-road or off. After a quick change of clothes I strapped on the GoPro and we hit the road.

Pickwick Ave.
We began our ride in the Roundtree neighborhood and then cut across Glenstone and proceeded East on Bennett. After a quick left on Barnes and we proceeded right onto Catalpa. Once we hit Catalpa Street the scenery began to improve. I started to see why Nathan liked this route so much. Catalpa Street is a low traffic street that is full of beautiful homes and great views of Pierson Creek.

East Catalpa Street
We took a quick water break near an awesome old log home off Farm Road 193. I wish I would have read the historical marker that was next to it. If only this old cabin could talk..

The Dryer Home
After our break we continued on to Cherry Street and then headed south on Farm Road 189 back to Catalpa Street.
Cherry Street

We headed back the way we came and wrapped up our ride in front of Pickwick House where we ran into a few friends who were playing music for the weekly Roundtree get-together.
Goat Milk Honey plus a few
According to Strava, our route was a total of 13.1 miles and took us just under an hour. Total elevation gain for the ride was about 530 feet.

If you are a cyclist or runner I highly recommend the app Strava. It is a very useful tool for tracking your workouts and finding new routes.
I have to say that this is probably my favorite road route that I have been on since I have lived in 417 land. This is an easy, low traffic route that I would suggest to anyone looking for a quick ride with some beautiful scenery. Although I'm not much of a road cyclist, this is a route that I plan on revisiting very soon.

Monday, April 14, 2014


Over the past few years I have become fascinated with journals. I always seem to find some sort of inspiration from other people's photos and written work. I've spent many of my lunch hours (and undergraduate "study" hours) surfing through outdoor blogs like Rustic Man and The Fiberglass Manifesto, or scanning through the latest images on my Instagram feed. Sometimes it's epic stories like those put out by Sitka Gear of chasing public land elk out west. Other times it's pictures and stories from the average Joe about their weekend float trip. Even if the only thing I get out of it is an idea for my next grip-n-grin fish picture, or reassurance that I'm not the only one who's had to hike their bike out a few miles because they forgot their tire pump in the truck, I enjoy reading these posts. I figure it's about time that I share my own thoughts and experiences with friends and family. I can't write like Hemingway and the photos of my little adventures are far from National Geographic worthy, but I hope that you'll enjoy my snapshots and ramblings. Stay tuned!