A couple of months ago a couple of oak trees fell on the back of the property. At first I was going to do a video and article about stockpiling firewood. As the project progressed, I came to the realization that the trees were symbolic of what the world needed most – love, respect and dignity.
If people would show everyone around them, everything, and the world itself those things things, everything would be better off. Our lives would be better, the world would be a better place, our families would be better, our children would be better,,, everything would be better.
The tree I was working on in the video is a water oak (Quercus nigra), also called a pin oak. The other tree that fell is a live oak. The live oak has a bunch of intertwined limbs that is going to make it rather difficult to cut up. The pin oak has a nice straight trunk with just about all of the limbs at the top. Since the pin oak is going to be easier to cut up I started with it.
Both trees fell across a washed out area next to a creek. The tree top was on the bank of the creek, while the root ball was on another bank. A Stihl MS310 was used to cut off the top and cut up the trunk. The bank was too steep to carry the logs up to the truck, so a tractor and rope was used to pull the logs up the bank.
When settlers moved into the southern portion of the United States they were greeted by vast forest of Longleaf and Loblolly pine trees. These were majestic trees reaching heights of over 100 feet tall.
Human greed knows no ends. Vast tracts of virgin timber were cut down with no regard to conservation or the effects upon wildlife. By the time the 1930s arrived the Southeast Texas wild Turkey and Whitetail Deer were pretty much extinct. Because their populations had been decimated, turkey and deer had to be reintroduced to regions of Southeast Texas.
The Red-cockaded woodpecker which nest exclusively in Longleaf pine trees was almost made extinct by deforestation. The woodpecker covers less than 1% of its original territory.
What lessons did we learn from deforestation and habitat destruction? Not much. Timber companies still cut down old growth oak trees to make way for pine plantations. Thousands of acres are clear cut and replanted in fast growing hybrid pine trees. Old growth forest are gone forever, or are they?
One of my projects here on the farm is to restore a few acres for old growth oak and pine trees.
A few weeks ago a buddy of mine and I got a call saying my son-in-law and his friends needed some help getting a hog out of the woods. The dogs had chased the hogs a long ways from the boat, so far that the hunting party needed help packing the hogs out of the woods.
My buddy and I hook up with the hunting party, we then spend the next 30 minutes or so wondering through the woods to where the hogs were at. The two hogs were separated by maybe 200 yards or so.
When we arrived at one of the hogs, something had killed it, and ate part of it. The wild hog had been tied up for only around 4an hour or so.
The next week I called a local wildlife biologist and told him what happened. The wildlife biologist said with multiple bite marks on the neck, the attacker was probably either a coyote or a feral dog.
We are on the final 3 month countdown to the start of hunting season here in Texas. Bow season starts in October, and rifle season starts the first weekend in November. How is the season going to turn out? I have no idea.
My new rifle, a DS Arms SA58 FN/FAL needs a scope. Even though the shots are only about 75 – 100 yards, in the late evening light the sights seem to just fade away. I thought about getting some tritium sights, but for the price of the tritium sights I could get a scope. If the price between the new sights and a scope is “about” the same, why not get a scope. Before I could mount a scope on my FN/FAL, first I had to install a new scope mount, which worked out well.
Hunting season is my favorite time of year, the weather turns off cool, we get a break from the Texas heat, bugs go away, leaves on the trees turn colors and fall to the ground.
There is just something about winter time that can not be described, the quiet and peacefulness of the woods and the wind blowing through the trees. Summer is nice, but I think winter has a certain beauty about it that summer can not touch.
If there is one thing that has me concerned about the 2011-2012 hunting season, it has to be the Texas drought we have been experiencing for at least the past 2 years. The drought is so bad, I was wondering if the oak trees were even going to have acorns this year.
Yesterday my wife pointed out that the water oak in front of my house has baby acorns on it – much to my surprise. This is a good sign, the water oak in front of my house has sprouted thousands of small acorns.
But, this is an older tree, maybe close to 60 or 75 years old. I do not know how the younger trees are doing. In 2010 a willow tree in the back yard died because of last years drought. So I am sure that the trees are still stressed.
In the past 2 weeks we have gotten more rain then in the last 6 months. Maybe the recent rain helped the oak trees start their acorn production? If that is the case, will we get enough rain for the acorns to mature. Only time will tell. I was wondering if the oak trees were going to sprout acorns at all this year due to the drought. We have acorns, now if they will just make something.
For those of you that do not know what this means, Texas has been under a very bad drought for the past 2 years. We are probably 3 or 4 feet below normal rainfall in the pact 2 years.
Its so bad, Lake Sam Rayburn is about 9 feet below normal.
But then again, if the acorns do not make very well this year, maybe the deer will bunch up around other food sources.
The local wal-mart go their deer corn in last week, its almost $9 a bag. I wonder if this is just early season price gouging, or if the price of corn has “really” gone up due to the widespread drought?
At $9 a bag there is no way I am going to be able to afford to have a feeder going. If prices stay like that, I will just have to set a ground blind up next to a creek bottom and play the waiting game.
This deer season, I am thinking about adding a 5 gallon bucket and a boat cushion to my gear list. I can store some snacks and water in the bucket, go into the woods, pick me out a spot overlooking a creek and have a seat. There is one spot that I have in mind between 2 hills that overlooks a nice stream. With oak trees all around there is plenty of food for the deer and hogs.
Last year when I went down into that same creek bottom, I saw all kinds of hog tracks. Maybe I should go back there this year and see what I can get.
Only 3 more months until rifle season starts – August, September and October. Rifle season in my part of Texas starts at sunrise on the first Saturday of November.
Hunting season is my favorite time of year. Not because I get to go out to the woods and shoot something, but because I get to be in nature without burning up with this Texas heat. The weather turns off cool, the deer start moving, the bugs slack up on their blood sucking. Being outside in December is much more enjoyable then being outside in July or August.
Another thing that I enjoy about hunting season is being outside with my kids. When we are walking to the deer stand, or even sitting in the stand, the wind will start blowing, the birds are flying around looking for something to eat. The sun starts to set, the sky turns beautiful colors, the leaves on the trees are a golden color and as the setting sun streaks through the clouds, its a beauty beyond description.
Some of my favorite members with my kids are of when we were hunting.
One year my son and I were sitting in a stand when a doe walks out. I took the shot and thought I had missed because the deer ran into the woods. My son thought the deer was a little further back from where I thought she was. After looking around for the blood trail we found the trail, and were able to find the deer.
Or the time my youngest son got his first deer. I had put my sons rifle on lay-away at a gun store and made payments over the course of 2 months. The day we got the rifle off layaway, we went to the camp sighted it in, then went to the deer stand. Maybe 5 minutes after getting in the deer stand a nice 6 point comes walking out. My son fired off a round, the deer ran maybe 30 feet and hit the ground.
Or the time my daughter and I were sitting in a stand, when the sun was just starting to set a group of coyotes let out a howl. My daughter looked up me with eyes as big as silver dollars and said something like “whats that?”.
Last year on opening weekend, my dad and I met at the deer lease around 5:45am, stood under the stars for a little while and just talked before we headed to the stands.
Hunting is more then about killing something, its about enjoying nature, building memories and enjoying life as life was meant to be enjoyed.
The day started off kinda early (for a Saturday anyway). The plans were for my son and I to get up around the crack of dawn, get a shower, get something to eat and head out. But things did not work out that way. Instead of getting on the river around 6am, it was more like 8:30. But even if we got a late start, it was still a beautiful day, the gators were out and the fish were biting.
We launched the boat at Bevilport, which is a public boat launch off Highway 63. Coming from Jasper, Texas, you turn left at the VFW sign, then drive for about 4 – 5 miles. On the way your going to pass some nice looking fields with traces of old pecan tree plantations. There is one rather large field where the cows share the shade provided by a few oak and pine trees.
When you reach the boat launch, you veer to the right, then make the circle to the left, so that your aligned up with the boat launch. From there, its a matter of taking the straps off the boat, making sure the plug is in, one last check to make sure we have life jackets. From there its just a matter of backing the boat trailer into the water and launching the boat.
Once we were on the river, my son and I headed south towards BA Steinhagen Reservoir and Dam B. The river was smooth, almost like glass, with the sky and trees reflecting in the still waters. There were a few cranes flying around the river – probably looking for a morning snack.
We were looking for a series of cuts off the river and provides access to some slews. Google maps shows a rather large network of cuts and slews just north of the Forks of the Rivers – which is where the Angelina and Neches Rivers come together. Before we headed out I had printed a map off Google map, the problem is, there was no latitude of longitude, so I had to go off how the river looked on the map and compare that to the real thing, and then figure out where the entrance to the slews were at.
One slew we turned into was filled with gators and stumps. I was a little worried that we would run up on a stump, poke a hole in the boat and have to swim to shore with gators all around us. So instead of running the gas motor, the trolling motor was dropped and we inched our way through the first slew. After exploring the back side, I realized that we were in the wrong place, so we headed back to the main river.
We had gone too far south, so we headed north.
After bouncing in and out of a couple of slits in the river, we found the one we were looking for. It makes a horse shoe looking turn, that gets narrow for maybe 100+ yards. At first look it appears to be a dead end, but it makes a 180 degree turn in the woods, and opens up into a nice sized pond and the series of slews that we had been looking for has been found.
If there is one word that I would use to describe the area, it would have to be beautiful. The cypress trees seem ageless, there is a calm there that can not be described with human words. Except for the boat, and the sounds of other boats on the river, its like stepping back in time 10,000 years. As you ease through the water-ways, the gators sit in the water watching you pass by, the birds fly from tree to tree, and the squirrels play in the tree tops.
When we first started fishing, I was using a worm, perch hook and cork setup – but the minnows and perch kept stealing my bait. The worms were probably 18 inches under the water, and I was fishing around the weeds. I could see the minnows and small perch rush out from the weeds, grab the worms, and rush back to the safety of the weeds. After only catching 1 perch, it was time for a change. So I fixed up a Texas rig with a pumpkin seed colored artificial worm. With the new setup I caught 3 bass, but only 1 of them made it into the boat. The other 2 got off the hook right before they got into the boat – and that aint no fish story.
My son was using a tiny torpedo top water lurer, and only caught 1 striped bass. I think the water might have been a little warm for the bass to be feeding on the top, but that is just a guess.
After working our way through the series of cuts and slews for about 2 hours, we decided it was time to head back. As we were working our way back through the cuts, my son spotted a baby gator swimming close to the bank. I’am just guessing the gator was about 24 – 36 inches long and it was making a barking sound. I figure the barking was kinda like a distress signal to its mom – “hey mom, these people are looking at me.” Just to be on the safe side, my son and I kept our distance from the baby gator, and kept heading on our way.
Being raised in Southeast Texas has presented a vast opportunities to go camping. This includes everything from my parents taking my brother and I to local parks, to camping on the bayous with my buddies, to camping at the lake with my kids, hiking in and camping at remote areas, to take my kids camping on the river.
While I’am sitting around the camp fire looking at the coals and staring at the stars, I often wonder about the people that came before me. And I’am not just talking about the people in the last 100 years.
Did the neanderthal look up at those same stars and wonder where he came from and where he was going?
While Julius Caesar was fighting the Gauls, did he sit around the camp fire with his troops, look up at the stars and talk about humanity?
There is a certain peace and quit in the woods that being at home can not substitute. Its a natural peace, something that just turning off the TV can not match.
For those you in Southeast Texas that are looking for a little adventure, the Army Corp of Engineers has something you might want to look into. And that is a series of primitive camping spots set up along the Angelina and Neches rivers.
The Corp calls these camping spots “Primitive Campsites” and here is a list from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers website. As of July 18, 2010, these is no fee to use these sites, and they have to be reserved. To reserve the site, you just fill out a form, fax mail or hand deliver it to the Town Bluff Project Office (phone number 409-429-3491) and they will give you a permit to use the spot. These primitive camping spots are reserved on a first com first served basis – so do not wait until the last minute to reserve the spot you want.