"OUTDOOR RESOLUTIONS FOR THE NEW YEAR" by Luke Clayton Luke Clayton About this time each year, many of us that enjoy spending time on the water fishing or in the field or woods hunting decide we need to make a few changes in the way we operate. Looking back over the past 12 months, I can find many areas in my outdoor activities that would bode well with a little tweaking. There are many little things that can be done to increase the fun aspect of an outdoors experience and lessen the work; after all, hunting and fishing does require a good amount of spent energy. Sportsmen detest calling this work but when one is in his or her upper fifties, as is yours truly, its time to take stock and hunt and fish a bit smarter than in those early days when there was a bit more energy to expend. I find myself doing many things the same way Ive done them since I first cut my hunting and fishing teeth. Take field dressing and quartering game animals for instance! When the time comes to quarter a deer or wild hog, in years past, I simply found a stout low hanging limb, tossed a rope over it, tied a loop on the other end and, by pulling on the rope with one hand and lifting the critter with the other, managed to lift it high enough to butcher. WAY too much work for an old guy! I now have a rope rigged with a couple of pulleys in my pack. With this system, I can hoist the biggest buck in the woods with ease. When it comes to duck hunting, Im still doing things they way they were done, post the second World War. Yes, I still cut lengths of cord for anchor lines for my decoys and use everything from old bricks to rocks as anchors. It seems Im spending more time rigging my decoys than hunting ducks. There are several decoy anchor/tether line combinations on the market and I vow before next season to have my decoys rigged with these time saving devices. Ive also got to make some changes to the way I manage, or mismanage as is the case, my bowhunting equipment. Bowhunting requires a good bit of stuff. Broadheads must be kept sharp, releases and quivers must be constantly monitored to insure they are in working order. Bowstrings must be checked for wear and replaced regularly. Then, time must be devoted to practice. Its possible to pick up a rifle once a year before hunting season, take a few shots and shoot accurately. Not so with a bow, at least not for me. I have to shoot several times per week to keep muscles toned and to remember exactly which pin to use for the various yardages. Theres lots of preparation necessary in order to be a skilled bowhunter. I vow to keep my gear more organized and spend more time in serious 3D target shooting. In the course of year, I fish for everything from blue gills to blue catfish. Obviously, my tackle ranges from medium heavy rods and reels with high line capacity to ultra light spinning rigs. Maintaining all this tackle is really a chore and I need to learn to devote time to oiling the reels, spooling them with the appropriate line and generally keeping them ready to go on a moments notice. Likewise with the hooks, weights, lures and baits necessary for catching the various species. I plan to spend some time this winter organizing my tackle for the various species. Guess Id better start with the heavy tackle first, those big stripers are biting at Texoma and a fight with a double digit redfish at Lake Fairfield is on my fishing calendar soon! I have a list of GPS coordinates a mile long for hotspots on the lakes I fish. Being an old surveyor, accustomed to keeping good notes, I keep track of the coordinates for humps, ridges and the end of submerged points in a log book. When Im planning a trip to a particular lake, I decide which spots I wish to fish, then plug the numbers into my handheld GPS unit, WAY too much effort, especially these days when chips are available with built in maps of all the major reservoirs. Then theres the matter of transportation in the field. My little tough as a boot 14 year old Toyota truck has served me well but its been retired to more close to home duties. Im now driving a Jeep and making the necessary adjustments from using a pickup with a camper to a more compact vehicle. I love the Jeep, its good on fuel and very comfortable on the longer trips but its got one inherent problem; no place for conveniently hauling harvested game. I tried putting tarps down in the back and placing the critters there but soon discovered that when hunting alone, its somewhat of a chore to load a 200 pound hog into a space almost 4 feet off the ground. The answer to this dilemma is one of those expanded metal carrying racks that mount to the hitch. These units are close enough to the ground to facilitate easy loading but high enough for good ground clearance, Ive seen them in use on vehicles such as mine and they work great. Im guessing you can compile a list similar to mine; things that if done, would make your hunting and fishing trips run more smoothly and efficiently. But, possibly youre still young enough to consider all this as unnecessary work, frivolous and a waste of time. If thats the case, I suggest you save this little column, print it on some good paper and tuck it away to read again in 20 or thirty years. Im betting this idea of planning ahead will sound better then! OUTDOOR TIP OF THE WEEK - As a youngster growing up in rural northeast Texas, January and February were traditionally the months when my dad made sausage and ham. Today, I devote time to making sausages and curing ham at home from game Ive harvested this season. Curing and smoking ham and sausage is really very easy and the end product is plenty of great tasting treats to enjoy throughout the year. If youre new to home sausage making, I suggest you go online and visit the web site of Allied Kenco Sales (www.alliedkenco.com), a company that offers everything from casings for stuffing sausages to jerky making seasonings and supplies. For a free catalog, call 800-356-5189. We just returned from an early winter quest for fresh pork with B&C Outfitters (www.easttexasexotics.com) in Trinity County and found the porkers plentiful and hunting excellent. For more information, call Mark Balette at 936-642-1892. Photo courtesy of Luke Clayton Listen to Outdoors With Luke Clayton at www.catfishradio.com and check out the new fishing videos at lukeshotspots.com We have a virtual library of Luke's stories here on the BOC; just about anything you could want to read about the outdoors. Click here to see a boat load of information!