"THIS WEEK IN THE OUTDOORS" by Luke Clayton Luke Clayton I have a good friend that has been penning a very successful weekly outdoors column for over forty years. When asked why he believes his words intrigue and captivate readers, he stated, Folks like to hear what youve been doing in the outdoors. Keep it real and write about what you love and the passion will show through. Write to THEM, as though they were hunting and fishing buddies. Well, hunting and fishing buddies, this has been a very exciting week in ole Lukes life. I am fortunate to live in a part of the state that affords easy access to some very diverse opportunities. In less than two hours from my home, I can be setting in a tree stand at the Big Woods in Eastern Texas or fishing for stripers and catfish in the Red River on the Texas-Oklahoma border. Just over four hours of steady driving puts me in the bays of the upper Texas coast. Want to hunt mule deer? Then head the old truck west across the Pecos to the Glass Mountains. Earlier this week, I enjoyed a couple days of deer hunting in the mountains and the drive took just a tad over two hours. Considering that I live about thirty miles southeast of Dallas, WHERE would I find mountains within a 2 hour drive, you might ask! The Palo Pinto Mountain Range, situated in Palo Pinto County, only 15 miles long, is proof positive that Texas has a little bit of everything. The juniper and oak covered peaks such as Sugarloaf and Crawford and Antelope Mountain, that average about 1,450 feet above sea level, rise from Brazos River bed and stand in stark contrast to an otherwise relatively featureless landscape. These scenic and rugged hills were home to several tribes of Native Americans and the reason is obvious, once one gets out and spends some time exploring the region. Adjacent the serpentine course of the Brazos lies an abundance of sheltered valleys that are ideal for campsites. The country is still relatively remote and unsettled, thanks to the fact that there are some very large ranches in the area. Photo by Luke Clayton Ive been fishing and hunting on the Holt River Ranch (www.holtriverranch.com), situated just west of Graford, since this past spring turkey season and have had the opportunity to learn a bit about the region. My friend, John Bryan, is in charge of the hunting and guides fishing trips for catfish and bass on a 5 mile stretch of the Brazos River that traverses the ranch. Early this week, I headed to the ranch to spend a couple days bow hunting deer but, after a check of the trail cameras, determined the whitetail herd had temporarily abandoned the feeders in favor of their favorite food source, acorns! There was an extremely good acorn crop in the region this year and bow hunting will be tough until the easy pickings are depleted. Luckily, I packed my TC Triumph 50 caliber muzzleloader. Loaded with 100 grains of Pyrodex and shooting 250 Grain Shock Wave Sabots, this rig is a very effective game getter out to 200 yards. A couple days before the hunt, I topped the smokepole with a new Bushnell Elite 3X9 scope. When I left my makeshift shooting range near my home, the rig was printing a 1.5 inch group 3 inches high at 100 yards. I felt very confident when I left my bow at camp and headed to the woods with the fifty caliber. In hunting, having confidence in your rifle, shotgun or bow is a must and there is no way to gain that confidence other than practice. As I walked to my stand, the hills were illuminated by a moon just one day away from being full. There have been several studies that proved moon phase has little to do with deer movement but after more than four decades of deer seasons to reflect upon, I disagree. Ive shot a few bucks during the first few minutes of daylight during a full moon but deer usually bed early under these conditions, after spending the night feeding. I watched several does and what appeared to be a 130 inch buck moving just inside a woodline but hunting was predictably slow. On the Jeep ride back to camp, Bryan and I spotted a herd of what appeared to be twenty or so hogs, probably heading to thick cover to their beds along the cool banks of the river. John pulled the vehicle to a stop and pointed to a patch of Prickly Pear. Ever notice cactus covered with all those little white spots? These plants are infested with an insect called the Cochineal. These bugs burrow into the cactus plant and lay their eggs which become larva that manufacture a dye that was used by Indian tribes in the Southwest. Mixed with animal fat, the dye was used for war paint and in its natural state, for decorating lodges and clothing. I pulled a piece of the white material from a cactus leaf, squeezed it and discovered I had just dyed my thumb and index finger a dark Maroon. The stains are still present after 3 days! We enjoyed a great dinner of homemade Mexican soup and ground venison steaks wrapped in bacon and made plans for me to return next week, during the dark of the moon! Back at home, I loaded my little Nucanoe, a craft that is half canoe, half kayak, into the truck and did a little scouting for ducks on some backwater sloughs near my home. About a quarter mile back in into the marsh, I jumped about 50 teal, 20 or so wood ducks and even a flock of Gadwall. I selected a couple of new blind locations and marked my route through the backwaters so that I can locate the spots during early morning. Life is good in the outdoors and I sincerely wish that you can find some time to get out soon and enjoy the beautiful creations God has given us. 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!