Minus six…

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This evening unable to stand being pent up in the house any longer I put on my heaviest jacket, gloves, and the big floppy Elmer Fudd hat with the big furry plaps that cocer your ears and headed for the river. It was about an hour till dark and already in the single digits headed for a below zero night. You know how the Weather Channel gives the temps for all the little towns surrounding the city? Well tonight we were the cold spot, it would be minus six when I went to bed later that night. Looking out my second story window you can see the little weather station perched atop a building across the street so that reading always hits home. It sure was beautiful down by the river thoogh. And still, nothing moved except for the open water flowing by. I did find that several deer had moved thru the river bottom last night but no small critters, no squirrels or even rabbits. Along the bike path a fox had traveled though I imagine he had a hard time finding dinner in the midst of last night’s snowstorm. No big adventure tonight an hour slipping through the empty river bottom was enough before thoughts of the fire at home turned me around.
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The plastic grub

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I river fish sixty or seventy days a year most years and you won’t ever catch me on the water without a three inch plastic grub. If I’m wading and not carrying alot of tackle I might only have a couple colors but one will be smoke metalflake. It just looks so much like a generic minnow in the water with just the right amount of flash and I have caught so many fish with it over the years that I just have alot of confidence in throwing it. I’m also pretty big on the various orangish brown combinations out there because I feel like they look alot like many of the darters and sculpins in the river and bounced along the bottom make an okay crawfish imitation. Seventy five percent of the time I fish a grub on an eighth ounce plain roundball jighead but I will go up and down in weight. If I find fish feeding in a run but not on the bottom (white bass alot, sometimes smallies) I’ll go to a lighter weight to let the grub swim down the run on a tightline rather than hug the bottom.
I also think sauger, in comtrast to most other fish, actually like a bit of resistance when they hit and If I’m catching more sauger than bass I’ll fish a quarter ounce jighead. Ill also go heavier in swifter deep water like say below a lowhead dam. I think you allmost have to work at fishing a grub wrong, just chucking it out and reeling it in will produce some fish tho most time I try to swim it slowly just off the bottom or let it sweep thru a run on a tightline, again just off the bottom. In slower water like a hole or around a bridge abutment Ill sometimes tightline the grub to the bottom and bring it back in a series of lifts or slow sweeps. This is also a good way to pick up a nice channelcat or two also. Some of the nicest channels Ive caught have been on grubs. It certainly wakes you up to be smallmouth fishing and tighten up on a ten pound catfish! Thats one of the grubs main strengths, in a river like the Little Miami you might catch any of seven or eight different species of fish on one on any given trip.

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Winter Skinny Dipping

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Every winter when I’m freezing on a tree stand trying to tough it out or maybe busting the ice out of my guides while sauger fishing I’m reminded of the winter Tecumseh spent jumping in the Little Miami. Even when he was a young boy the Shawnee sensed greatness in Tecumseh. Possibly because of this in the winter of 1776 Tecumseh’s father the great warrior Black Fish summoned him and told him it was time to seek his Pa-wah-ka. A Pa-wah-ka was a magical object thru which one could talk to and recieve power from the Great Spirit. Black Fish told Tecumseh he must strip every day and run naked to the nearby Little Miami and plunge into the river before returning home. Well this went on day after day. Through snow or cold sleet and rain he ran to plunge into the Little Miami. As winter wore on he would have to break through the ice formed on the river’s edge. All this barefoot and naked mind you. What a test of sheer willpower this must have been for Tecumseh. Finally in mid-January Black Fish told Tecumseh that the next run would be his last, that Tecumseh was to wade to the middle of the river and dive to the bottom and close his hands on whatever he touched and bring that back to Black Fish without looking at it. Tecumseh ran naked to the river, plunged in and returned with a small white quartzite rock. Black Fish declared this his Pa-wah-ka and Tecumseh forever afterward wore it on a cord around his neck. I imagine it must have been priceless to him considering what he endured to earn it.
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Trail Camera Pics…

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snowy night…

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Often in winter I take walks along the railroad tracks. It’s convenient and quiet. In one stretch there is a huge pile of railroad ties higher than my head. Many paths, worn slick thru the leaves and grass testify to its usefulness to the local wildlife. Several times I’ve startled a groundhog and had it rush home to shelter under the woodpile.Twice I’ve seen possums here. One I followed for seventy five yards down the track, quietly stepping from tie to tie watching it forage before it spotted me. It back up under a tree sheltered in the roots staring balefully waiting for me to go.

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Last night again, I took a walk along the railroad tracks. The ground lay covered in fresh snow and it was work just walking. When I came to the great woodpile, I found several sets of rabbit tracks leading into and out of the pile of old railroad ties, a snug winter shelter from winter’s storms. White throated sparrows and one cardinal flitted thru the trackside brush.

As I followed another set of rabbit tracks up to the pile, a starling fluttered off the ties down onto the snow in front of me. It sat there for a moment then flushed into a head high bush then tumbled once more onto the snow. The cold and the snow were tipping the scales against the unfortunate bird. It fluttered a few feet up the bank then hopped back into the shelter of the ties. I backed quietly away not wanting to give her no chance by stressing her further but knowing the poor bird probably would to make it through the fast approaching night.
The starling did not seemed injured I wondered if it was age or just a bad three or four day run along with the weather that had brought her to this?

I’m sure the woodpile, being adjacent to the tracks, is on several foxes daily route. If the cold doesn’t get the poor bird, a fox surely will.The railroad track seems to be a great favorite of fox. I’ve often seen where one would jump up on the rail and walk it for great distances before hopping off again. A great way to travel silently I’m sure.

Walking back through the lovely winter landscape was a sobering experience realizing the struggle for survival the winter animals are locked into. Our perception of thing is often completely wrong. Whizzing along in a warm car the woods seems a winter wonderland cloaked in snow.

It amazes me that the small birds most of all survive in the harshness of winter. Squirrels, chipmunks and mice have their stores of food and dens. The groundhogs and reptiles and amphibians sleep away the worst weather and the deer and turkey have their sale to sweep away the snow and find food. The little birds have none of that and seem to live right on the edge all winter.

But then I saw two cardinals chasing each other thru the snowy woods. Bright red and beautiful against the white, they were like the hawk in the rain, oblivious to all that, just living in the moment. After all what else is there?

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Winter and the Oregonia bridge

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Making a primitive bow and arrow…

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When making my handmade bow I really didn’t expect the first couple tries to turn out so I used Oak, probably not the best bow wood but I had a woods full. After it was all said and done though I was really pleased with the way it shot. And after a hundred or so shots the limbs only follow the string less than an inch.
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After roughing out the bow with a friends band saw I glued a narrow strip back on for the riser section. This seemed easier to me than leaving a bunch of wood on for the riser and then rasping it away.
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After roughing in out I then began to taper the limbs with a rasp. This takes forever by the way. The back of the bow needs to be a single growth ring its entire length to keep a splinter from raising and/or the bow breaking. After the limbs began to bend I took a 2×4 and cut a notch in one end and drove wood screws in till only about a quarter inch below the heads showed an inch aprt down the length of the board. This allowed me to bend the bow an inch at a time and step back and see how it bent. I took forever to do this over several evenings, maybe I was being overly carefull but I knew this was the most important step. When the bow was bending real well I backed the bow with sinew.
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Sinew is the dried tendons that conect muscle to bone. I used dried deer sinew. After the sinew is dried you can pull it apart into tough stringy fibers. I glued the sinew on with hide glue I made with a piece of deer hide. To make glue you put I piece of hide in water and boil it. And boil it and boil it, I think it took around ten hours for mine to turn into glue. You know its done when the water becomes a thin golden liquid kind of like watery maple syrup. After the sinew was applied I let it dry for a week then finished tillering out the bow. Once this was done I put a little bit of sinew down the belly (the side facing the shooter) of the bow and put a sinew ring around the bow every few inches to try to guard against breakage. I then let the bow cure for a couple weeks before I shot it.
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I also made a sinew string for the bow besides the dacron string I’ve been using. I’ll probably practice with the dacron string to save wear and tear on the sinew string since it took like six hours to make the sinew string by twisting strands of sinew soaked in hide glue together into three sperate strings then wrapping these three into one string.
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The quiver I made of a piece of goat hide I got at a garage sale. The wood arrow is poplar and is fletched with feathers I found on walks glued on with hide glue and sinew wrapped.
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The broadhead is patterned after trade points that were cut out of old barrel bands and sold to the Indians in the early 1800′s. I cut mine out with a hacksaw and shaped with a file just like it would have been back then. It shoots an inch lower than my aluminum arrows and field points but does fly straight. I’m going to try the whole works out on a whitetail next fall.
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