"LOOKING BACK ON A LIFE IN THE OUTDOORS" by Luke Clayton Luke Clayton About this time each year, around the Holidays, I often get a bit retrospective and reflect upon the wonderful times and people I have met, thanks to my lifelong love of the outdoors. I feel privileged to call outdoor celebrities such as Bill Dance, Larry Weishuhn and Jim Miller friends. But not all the friends Ive made have become household names. Theres a host of others that I am equally proud to call friend. As I approach my sixtieth year on Planet Earth, Im fortunate to be blessed with vigorous health. I can still wade a duck marsh and drag a buck out of the woods; these laborious tasks might take me a little longer that twenty years ago, but I can still accomplish them. My zest for heading out on my next adventure, whether it be catching bluegills with the grandkids at the gravel pits near my home or anticipating a bow hunt in North Dakota, has not diminished one bit through the years. Hunting and fishing makes me feel like Im sixteen years old again and for that I am truly thankful. Looking back, WAY back into the early sixties, I remember zipping my 30/30 Marlin in a leather case and, each fall, riding a bus to south east Texas where I was allowed to miss a few days of school each year and hunt deer with Poppa Dinkins. Could you imagine boarding any public conveyance today with a firearm? How times have changed! Poppa was not blood kin but he treated me like the grandson he never had. Back in 1964, when I first began spending a week with him, Poppa was 84 years old, I was fourteen. If my math is correct, he was born back about 1880. Poppa was a slightly built man but, tough as nails, thanks to a life of living in the outdoors, working cattle on his 2,400 acre ranch and, of course, hunting. Poppa grew up in an era and experienced things that would be totally foreign to most of us today. He was a great story teller and I remember him telling me about the old days when he hunted deer from horseback and used a double barrel 10 gauge shotgun loaded with buckshot to collect his venison. A total of 36 trophy buck mounts adorned the walls of the living room of his ranch house and he vividly remembered harvesting each and every one, the old shotgun with Damascus barrel shotgun hung alone in a rack over the fireplace. Because of his grit and small stature, Poppa was the one that went into a wolf den as a young man back around the turn of the past century and drug out the pups (yes, red wolves were common in southeast Texas back then). Never did tame those danged pups, I remember him telling me. Had to let the rest of them go back into the wild after a couple chewed a hole through the fence and escaped. When he was close to 90 years old, Poppa and his ranch foreman found a whitetail buck tangled in a hog wire fence. The pair hog tied the deer and transported him back to a chute used to work cattle. The buck regained part of his strength and gored Poppa in the stomach. The old outdoorsman never fully recovered from this injury late in life but came close. I remember driving him to visit a backwoods family cemetery back in the late sixties after a big Thanksgiving dinner with some of his old friends. I think he knew his time here on earth was coming to a close. He passed away the following year. I will never forget Poppa or the many things I had the opportunity to learn from him. I first learned the ways of the whitetail deer from Poppa; where to look for scrapes and rubs and how to take care of the meat once the buck is down. He taught me how to use a feather suspended below a tree branch to attract bobcats to my traps. Back in the day, a prime bobcat pelt sold for more money than I could make throwing newspapers the entire month. Photo by Luke Clayton If you have the opportunity, consider devoting some time to mentoring a youngster, there is no better place than out on the water or at hunting camp to provide the tranquil setting needed to escape todays fast paced world. Youngsters today are bombarded from every angle to perform. From sports to the state sponsored Tests that must be passed in order to move on the next grade, youth of today are subjected to many more pressures than were kids of my generation. Making good grades and performing well in athletics is important but Im not sure that either of these endeavors accomplishes the soul gratifying, long lasting effects of spending time with family and friends at hunting camp or fishing. My training days in the outdoors certainly left a positive impression on me, why else would I be able to vividly remember the great times I spent with one of my mentors well over 40 years ago. Youngsters need to be taught to enjoy the entire outdoor experience and not receive pressure to perform. Ive seen adults carry the competitive attitude necessary for success in team sports over to the outdoors with their young charges. Hunting or fishing should never be a numbers game, especially when youngsters are involved. Granted, a veteran deer hunter might target a buck larger than the ones he or she has previously harvested but kids should be taught that harvesting a deer, duck or mess of crappie for that matter, is a small part of the rewards gleaned from being outdoors. That first spike buck or doe is every bit as much a trophy to a youngster as a Boone and Crockett buck is to the veteran hunter. OUTDOOR TIP OF THE WEEK: Prospects for the second split of duck season look good: If this mornings hunt is any indication, the second split of duck season (opens Dec. 12) should be very good. I hunt a series of remote gravel pits and saw lots of gadwall, widgeon and several flights of mallards. Todays bag even included a blue wing teal. Ive yet to use my spinning wing motorized decoy but with no wind this morning, it would have surely convinced more birds to commit to my decoy spread. Decoys setting still on the water do little to entice passing birds down within shotgun range. There is plenty of time to do maintenance on your decoys, anchor ropes, etc. If you hunt from a permanent blind, it might be a good idea to cut some fresh cattails and fill in the holes. Late season ducks are usually a lot spookier of blinds than they are during the early season. Want even more of Luke's hunting/fishing tips and tricks, wild game recipes etc? Listen to Outdoors With Luke Clayton for a new show each week at www.catfishradio.com and check out the new fishing videos at lukeshotspots.com Contact Luke at firstname.lastname@example.org The BOC has a virtual library of Luke's stories right here on the forums; just about anything you could want to read about the outdoors. Click here to see a boat load of information!