The Flying Kayak

Hunting, Fishing, Rambling, and Complete Outdoor Hilarity

Year: 2010 (page 1 of 10)

Champion Tree

Not much to report on from my most recent hunt. I got up before light and drove back out to Devil’s Hammock WMA to where I had seen the group of hogs the week before. I found where they’re bedding and also found a few wallows, but unfortunately could find no hogs. Before leaving, I drove to a different area and hiked down a trail while looking for squirrels. I ran into a sign that said “Champion Tree”. Just a sign. No spectacular trees anywhere in sight.

But upon closer inspection, I could make out something large about 60 yards into the woods. And there it was, the ‘Champion Tree’. I had actually read about it prior to going out there, but had never seen it. It’s the 2nd largest Live Oak in the state of Florida. And boy…Is it big.

Crossing the Waccassassa

Thanks to the bizarre hunting season schedule down around Gainesville, the deer season general gun is already over. Small game opened the 27th of November and lasts until the end of December. It’s legal to take hog during small game season as long as it’s not with a center-fire rifle. This translates into shotguns with slugs.

I drove out to Devil’s Hammock WMA after lunch on a Sunday. I decided that I would walk out to the Waccassassa river that flows through the middle of the management area and then hunt along the edge of it. I brought with me a hotdog and some bank lines in case I saw a suitable area to catch catfish.

I made it about 30 yards from the Jeep before I stumbled across a dead turkey. At first glance, I thought that it had been shot and left. However, upon closer inspection, I noticed that its neck was broken and had no other wounds. It appears as though Mr. Turkey flew head on, into a nearby tree, and broke his neck. I took this opportunity to grab a bunch of feathers for arrow fletching and fly tying.
Having filled my backpack to the brim with feathers, I proceeded out to the river. I saw a good bit of hog rooting as I got closer to the river, but soon ran into mud too deep for my boots. I turned back and grabbed my hip waders from the Jeep and headed back out.

At that point in time, I hadn’t decided that the 12 ft wide, 2 ft deep creek that I had seen was in fact the river. Therefore, I decided that I’d cross it in order to get to the REAL river. Shotgun and walking stick in hand, I proceeded to find a suitable looking area to cross. The water was surprisingly clear and I took a step out into it.

It became apparent, as I sank up to my thighs in mud, that crossing the river wasn’t going to happen. Even while using the walking stick for help, I was stuck deep in the mud. I sat there for a moment, deciding what I should grab hold of nearby to yank myself free. As I pondered this, I noticed something sticking out from under a submerged log about 10 ft away. It looked a lot like a gator tail. Then it moved. Then I flew.

I grabbed the log next to me and was semi-instantly out of the mud and back on dry land. I snapped the above picture of the protruding tail only after I was back on land.

I decided that I’d had enough of that area and trekked back to the Jeep. I drove down to the western-most entrance to the area and parked at a small picnic area that overlooked the river. The area looked promising so I took a walk along the river’s edge. There was hog sign everywhere, but no hogs. No squirrels for that matter and I had specifically bought a box of bird shot for them. After about 45 minutes of nothing, I decided to call it quits. I walked back to the Jeep and, upon arriving, heard some squirrels barking at each other in the woods behind me. I quickly changed out the slugs for birdshot and took off after the squirrels. No sooner had I found them and put the sights on one, I heard something making a TON of racket through the woods nearby and it was coming my way. Only a short moment went by before I realized that it might be hogs. I quickly ejected all three shells and put in two slugs. However, reloading a shotgun might be the noisiest thing I’ve ever done in the woods and as the slug moved into the chamber, the hogs spooked.

It sounded like 4 or 5 of them and I only saw 1 for a split second before it vanished. I waited for about an hour for them to return, but no dice. In frustration I returned to squirrel hunting and headed for home with only one squirrel and no hogs. I’ll have to head back to that area again and hopefully redeem myself. Devil’s hammock has a hog season from January-February and you’re allowed rifles so I’ll be bringing my SKS down from Pensacola over Christmas break.

Thanksgiving Beach Fishing

The Monday before Thanksgiving I headed out to Pensacola Beach to do some surf fishing. I knew that the reds HAD been running, so I tried my luck. Upon arriving at the beach, I noticed that the water’s edge was nearly straight. The only cut that I could see…of course…already had someone at it. I opted to walk 1/4 mile down the beach and set up on a spot that looked decent.

After 2 hours of catching nothing but one catfish, I packed up everything and headed back for the truck. I noticed that the guys fishing the cut were quite a ways down the beach and the cut actually started about 75 yards from them. Seeing this, I decided to set up one last time. I managed to pull one 25″ red from the cut and watched the other guys as they reached their bag limit on reds.

Wednesday soon came around and Chelsea had off from work. She had never caught a legal redfish so we decided to give it a try back at the beach. We drove down to Ft. Pickens and set up on an incoming tide in the afternoon. We weren’t having much luck aside from a few catfish and the sun was sinking quickly.

However, right before dark, one of the rods doubled over and started screaming out line. Chelsea grabbed it and the fight was on. After a few minutes, we had the fish to shore and I dragged it up to the cooler to measure it.

A 29″ Redfish! Bigger than any I’d ever caught myself (have yet to break slot limit still). After a few quick pictures and an explanation as to why we couldn’t keep him, I waded out to release the fish. It only took a few seconds to revive the fish and with jolt, it disappeared out into the darkening water.

Saturday we decided it was MY turn to try for an over-slot red. And no…I’m not bitter. Chelsea, my dad and I drove out to Ft. Pickens and fished around the pass. Luckily for us, the weather was a nipply -50 with a chance of a gale. We used cigar minnows and, thanks to the wind, made staggering 15 ft. casts. Absolutely nothing hit for hours.

Just after it got dark, the rod finally bowed over and started ripping drag. I grabbed it, knowing that a huge red had finally taken the bait. The fish ran, and ran….and ran. I cranked down the drag, worrying that I might not stop the fish. When if finally stopped, I had thrown out the idea that it was a redfish…I was thinking shark. But alas, I was fooled.

Who knew Cow-nose rays would hit a cigar minnow? I always thought they were filter feeders like a manta ray. Thanks to a circle hook, the ray was quickly released with some hook-outs.

With that, I finished my Thanksgiving trip and my quest to catch a huge redfish. Hopefully, there will still be some around come Christmas.

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