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home : outdoors : fishing May 24, 2016

10/26/2012 5:06:00 AM
Budget outdoors

Craig Turk
Outdoors Writer/Photographer

I was in the woods trimming some shooting lanes at one of my deer stands when I had an epiphany of sorts.

“New hunting boots would be cool,” I thought.

I’ll admit it doesn’t rank high on my list of epiphanies. I guess the Cabela’s catalog I’d just received in the mail was lurking in my subconscious.

Also, my ankle had just rolled a bit as I stepped on a large branch. Gotta have that ankle support.

I did peruse the catalog later, noting one pair that I liked that was also offered in my size range. Too bad they’re not offered in my price range. I searched the fine print to see if any accessories, such as a new rifle, might be included in the luxurious price. Nope. Just the boots.

I guess my ‘as-at-home-on-the-sidewalk-as-on-the-trail’ hikers and knee-high rubber boots will continue to do until colder weather has me hauling out my pac boots.

It’s not the first time price has reduced a perceived need to a fantasy. My hunting and fishing dollars are tied up in other things, so that which could be considered a justifiable purchase is limited.

There is a relative abundance of fish and game out there thanks to the dollar efforts of those that care, though.

Yes, I mean us — hunters and anglers. Those that contribute via license purchases, ammo purchases and the like.

We do reside in the “good old days” thanks largely to our expenditures. But even as we gladly give dollars to these passions, sometimes the dollars run low.

Of course, living in the Northwoods, it should take no great expenditure to enjoy the outdoors.

Assuming, of course, that you live within a few hundred yards of land on which you can pursue your passion. Otherwise, fuel costs might require a third mortgage on your house (I’ve assumed you already have a second).

I have outdoor adventure just outside my door. And I don’t mean beneath the bird feeder. Mourning doves and cottontails are considered fine fodder, though, and they are certainly there.

When we had a cat, he was quite interested in the spot as a stand site. Occasionally, he even killed something. He never ate his kills, preferring to leave them for me. Perhaps he believed I would be pleased with such prizes, expecting that my own pursuits would result in failure.

“Well, cat, I can get my own meat, even if I sometimes have to buy it directly from the grocery store,” I would think. Besides, it was usually mice he caught. It would take like a hundred to make a meal. I do at least as well as the cat did.

But I digress.

Though I hunt several locations, the best deal is hunting in the woods right behind my house. With the savings in fuel, I doubt venison taken from here costs much more than $50 a pound. I’ve not crunched the numbers though.

Besides removing fuel from the equation, there are other ways to save. As fun as it would be, I don’t buy a new rifle or bow every year. Though it’s not like I snatched a willow and constructed my own bow and whittled cedar arrows. And I’ve certainly never constructed a rifle.

My deer rifle is a .30-06, bought used for the kingly sum of $200 in the late 80s, and my bow is a compound PSE purchased in the mid-90s for under $200. 

Then there’s my utility gun – the one that I drag along when I’m just scouting or working on something in the woods. A single-shot 12-gauge.

I purchased it as part of a package deal that included the gun, the case and an Edelbrock air cleaner that fit nicely on a ‘77 Ford F150 that was lacking one. All for $25.

Perhaps there are a few frivolities among my outdoor equipment, but I mostly make due. I do admit I bought a brand-new muzzleloader a few years ago. But it was necessity.

I had killed several deer with a borrowed .54 Thompson that belonged to my Uncle Loopy. The side-lock put quite a few pounds of meat in my freezer.

But one refusal to fire and a bullet-pulling experience kind of soured me on the traditional muzzleloader.

Have you ever “pulled” a bullet? It is an excruciating exercise requiring muscles that you don’t even have. I bought a new in-line muzzleloader with change I had saved in a large jar over a number of years. Bye-bye retirement fund.

Really, it’s a piece of cake compared to when I was a kid, though. I certainly never thought, as a kid, that, as an adult I’d pay $10 for an ounce of deer urine, for instance. Or routinely buy bait for fishing.

I was fortunate as a child, having the woods and even lakes right at hand. What I rarely had at hand was cash. My fishing gear reflected this.

“What are those strips of metal in your tackle box?” one of my friends wondered once.

“Sinkers,” I replied.

Always scrounging for tackle and equipment, I had read with great interest an article in an outdoor magazine describing ways in which one could get by when those items normally used for fishing were not available.

One suggestion was cutting strips of metal from tooth-paste tubes or the like, then bending the strips around your line to replace your usual lead split-shot.

My lot of split-shot was mostly secured to various lake-bottom structure at the time, so I was interested. For a while, I really loaded up my toothbrush in an effort to quickly secure the free sinkers that the tube represented.

It’s sad that today’s youth suffer with plastic toothpaste tubes.

Well, the toothpaste tube sinkers certainly did sink the line, but empirical evidence suggests that they also nicked and cut it, thus causing the loss of precious hooks. Hooks were even rarer than sinkers.

Bait was always an issue.

The spring wasn’t so bad. One could pick nightcrawlers or dig garden worms with relative ease. But once soil gets dry these commodities are hard to come by.

Once again, an outdoor magazine article seemed to offer a solution. A worm shocker.

That’s right. I learned that one needs only to deliver a sufficient electrical charge to the soil to get the worms residing therein to head for the surface all on their own.

I was tingling with excitement as I skimmed the article and learned how to construct my very own worm shocker. Perhaps I should have considered the tingling to be a premonition.

A cord ... wire ... blah, blah, blah. Blah, blah, blah, be careful you don’t ... blah, blah. Information ingested, I got to work.

Soon, I had severed the cord from some old small appliance in our basement and procured a wire clothes hanger. Who knew it could be this easy? In mere minutes, the parts were coupled and my prototype was ready to test.

I put my wire conductor (the clothes hanger) into the ground and ran into the garage with the cord, seeking an outlet.

The very instant my device was given a supply of electricity it failed grandly. A puff of smoke, not worms, came up. The insulation on my cord melted. And, even instantaneously unplugging the worm shocker caused burning of my fingers.

I scurried to hide the smoldering remains of my prototype worm shocker before inquisitive eyes fell upon it.

I also found the tripped circuit breaker and reset it. Luckily, I had learned how to do this at school. I was surprised I had gleaned useful information from school. Usually it was only found in outdoor magazines. Except the worm shocker idea. And the toothpaste-tube sinkers that cut my line.

Perhaps a more careful reading of the article on constructing the worm shocker would have revealed where I went wrong, but with a failure so solid, I never felt compelled to improve on my design.

Maybe, though, even now, I should approach things like I did when I was a kid and make something useful for my outdoor pursuits. The patience and experience I have gained since achieving adulthood should make such projects more fruitful.

I’m not going to make hunting boots, however. I can think of something more exciting. In fact, I recently read an instructional on building your own little boat.

“Plywood, blah, blah, blah .... caulk, blah, blah, blah ... make sure it’s sealed at ... blah, blah, blah,” it said.

I think I’ve got it – it sounds pretty easy. I should be done with my boat in no time.

Now, who wants to go on the maiden voyage? 

Craig Turk may be reached at cturk@lakelandtimes.com

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