Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Trucks For The Mobility Impaired

According to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center, there are about 12,000 new spinal injuries each year.  Add to that the number of young men and women who are injured on the battlefield and the unexpected diagnosis of a debilitating disease by the average American and you can imagine that the demand for a good driving solution is tantamount to an ever-increasing population of people.

Aww man, stuck again?
For years the only answer for anyone was one step above the family station-wagon.  That's right, the minivan!  Nothing says OUTDOORS like the clean lines of a soccer-mom-mobile (the SMM) huh?

To most men, this is akin to being neutered.  Not only have we lost the ability to walk and do things normally, but it feels like we also hand over our "Man-Card" when we are forced to drive the SMM.

Steve Kitchin
Steve Kitchin
Fortunately, a fellow disabled outdoorsmen was also fed up with the options of vehicles and decided to think outside the box.  Steve Kitchin, with the help of a friend who is an engineer, designed the first and original mobility truck. In 2007, he introduced it to the market place and changed the game forever.  Goshichi trucks revolutionized the field of driving mobility.  Finally, a man could get his "Man-Card" back and drive something that had power and ground clearance.  Something that could go into the outdoors and back without dragging the entire forest back home under the body of the SMM (no exaggerations, my van has done it!)

Now the world can be a fickle and nasty place, especially when money is involved.  Somehow, Steve Kitchin found himself on the outside of his own invention.  Another company stepped in and bought it out.  But, did that stop a determined man?  Not a chance!  In life, it is out of our worst moments that sometimes our brightest futures can be birthed.  No hard feelings, just move forward!

All Terrain Conversions
ATC's Gull Wing and Hydraulic Lift
You see, the original design was all electric.  It was a very heavy drain on the battery.  It was exhaustingly slow and had a lot of room for improvement.  So, Steve and his team went back to the drawing board and began a new company with a vastly improved product.  Out of the upheaval, came All Terrain Conversions  LLC, better known as ATC. They used a redesigned hydraulic lift instead of the all electric one.  Not only was it less taxing on the battery, but it also provided more lifting power.  The gull wing design is fast and gives you some cover when the weather isn't cooperating.  They are constantly researching to make the design even quicker and more dependable than ever.  I like a team that doesn't settle for the average and ordinary.

ATC strives to convert any and all trucks as well as some SUV's but understand this, everything is dependent on your chair and the amount of room your vehicle of choice has.  ATC can convert Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra trucks quickly.  Once it is in the queue, it typically takes around six weeks to complete the conversion.  It is a great idea to contact them with the specific specs of your wheelchair and what type of non Chevy/GMC truck or suburban you would like converted in advance to determine feasibility.

For a complete list of Chevrolet and GMC makes and models, Click Here.

One other tidbit that was of high importance was the type of hand controls available with ATC's conversion.  The answer - any and all.  Even the fully computerized EMC style of hand controls can be fitted for these trucks.

So, there it is.  It's time to trade in the SMM.  Go get your "Man-Card" back!  Get Out There!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Be A Big Fish Magnet
For years people have managed to make catching large fish a very difficult task.  One day completely by accident, I discovered something that has made that goal a very easy process and has been successfully duplicated many times.  Once spawn season ends and the weather turns warm.  Bass metabolisms skyrocket.  They will aggressively feed and can become quite easy to catch.

If you have fished for very long, then it has likely happened to you.  You have what seems to be a decent hit.  But, when you reel in your prize, it is no bigger than the lure.  You have just caught the over-achiever...or did you?
If it fits, it's edible!
It is well known that bass of all species will attempt to eat as big of a target as it can.  Ducks, frogs, snakes, their own, bass do not like appetizers.  Instead, they are interested in the big entree.  In nature, it is always a matter of results divided by the amount of effort it took to get those results.  Bass are masters at making the most of their big mouths.

With that knowledge in mind, fishermen the world over have known for millennia that larger baits produce larger fish.  The late, great fisherman, Jose Wejebe stated on numerous occasions on his show The Spanish Fly, that you catch and use a smaller aggressive fish to then go and catch an even larger aggressive fish.  You simply move up the food chain.

Earlier I mentioned that I discovered this very thing by accident.  Years ago when I still had the ability to fly fish, I was fishing for bluegill and was having a terrific afternoon.  One big bull bluegill after another was taking my fly.  I had just hooked up with another one and was stringing it in when all of sudden Jaws showed up.  I felt a huge fish take the bream.  The fly hook was super small and I knew it wouldn't penetrate through to the larger fish, so all I could do was hold on.  The big bass finally released it.  I happened to have a bass rig laying beside me.  I pulled the shell shocked fish off the fly hook and placed it's half scaled body on the bass hook and returned it to the water.  Sure enough, she inhaled it again.  (See Note Below)
Courtesy of Mike Long Bass Pictures
I had the same thing take place in a large lake except it wasn't a bass that took the bream, it was a huge blue catfish in excess of 10 pounds.  Now, some states prohibit the use of bream as bait.  Be diligent and research the laws in your area. If it is illegal, no biggy, trade the bream out for a large golden shiner purchased from your local bait shop and the same results will follow.

I like to rig this setup with a very large round plastic bobber.  This helps keep the bait off the bottom where it will try to hide to evade the larger fish who will use it as a combo meal.  I also like to tie a small bell sinker about 4-6 inches above the hook.  This helps keep the bait in the correct depth of about 3-5 feet below the surface of the water.
Customize to your liking!
You can use either circle hooks or wide-gap hooks.  You just want to make sure the hooks are big enough to get past all that flesh and into the targeted species mouth.  A good rule of thumb is nothing smaller than a #3 or #4 hook.  I like to place the hook just under the dorsal fin where there is the most muscle.  Try to place it in such a way that the bait will not come off when tossing it out but not too deep.  You want the hook to rip free of the bait when you set the hook.

The hook set when using this rig is very important and can demand some trial and error.  You need to be patient.  Allow the fish some time to take in the bait.  When fishing from the bank, I have had the pleasure of watching the fish take the is an awesome display of nature.  Still, patience is the rule.  As the fish takes the bait and begins to swim, the hook will naturally catch the corner of its mouth.  As you feel the weight of the fish, load up.  Not a bad idea to set the hook two or three times just in case the bait has gotten in the way somehow.

Many times there will be one or more big fish with the one that is being caught.  When fishing with a friend, always be thinking to throw near the bait that is getting bit to catch a monster double.

One final thought is to please release as many of these big fish as you can.  I understand keeping a trophy but catching big fish using this method is not difficult.  Be mindful of the health of your local waters and be a good conservationist.  Please send me some pics of your big fish catches using this setup.  I would love to share them with everyone.

*Note - Some states may prohibit the use of bream as live bait.  Be sure to check your local laws.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Deer Management For The Handi-capable Hunter

Handicapped Outdoors Logo

Doe Browsing
I can hear you now, "Hey, Anderson, it's fishing season, so why are you writing about deer?"  Great question!  Let me give you a heads-up.  From the time of this writing, it is precisely five and a half months until opening day of bow season here in Louisiana.  If you want to be successful in October, then you need to get busy in April.

There are two ways you can go about hunting.  One is to roll out in your wheel-chair under a tree and hope to get lucky.  The other is to prep, plan and execute a good strategy for the area you plan to hunt.  Right now is a wonderful time to get outside and do some of the work you wanted done last November but didn't want to spook any deer in the area.

Fact is, this is the time of the year that you can have the greatest impact on the deer herd you plan to harvest this coming fall.  There are a few simple steps, that if taken now, will make a massive difference on what your deer will look like when the seasons begin to change.

The first thing you can do is supply minerals that deer need to develop those impressive antlers.  There are many different types of mineral licks, blocks and rocks you can purchase to aid them in this critical phase of growth.  Although their are many types of plants they can browse in the spring of the year, nothing can replace essential minerals for bone growth, mass and length.  These minerals also aid a fawn as they develop inside the doe.

Spring gives way to the heat of summer all too quickly.  With the heat comes a reduction in the growth of forage for deer to browse especially in drought prone areas.  This is when food plots planted in the spring are key.

When it turns hot, a doe will sometimes have a hard time producing enough milk for their fawns.  A small food plot can give them the necessary forage to sustain them during this stressful time.  Good nutrition will help them fight off disease and injury as well.

I want to address a major myth.  Some hunters have a mistaken idea that the area they are hunting is too small to even worry with taking the steps necessary to develop their herd.  Many hunters believe that a food plot isn't going to be successful unless it covers many acres.  Not true!

The place I hunt covers 25 acres.  A long driveway and a house take up about 15 acres of the total.  Of the 10 acres remaining, we actually hunt about 4-5 and concentrate in about 3 acres.  Don't be fooled!  We saw fifteen deer last season and harvested two.  We could have shot more but passed to let them grow. There are people who pay hundreds of dollars to lease a lot of acres and never see one deer.  I love my 3-4 acres and they love me right back.  You see, those few acres butt up to about 1,000 acres of nothing but wilderness.

In the graphic below, notice that we are planting two small plots. One plot will have a clover mix that will cover about a quarter of an acre.  Clover is a great source of protein which is necessary for bucks to grow monster antlers.  Unlike other types of forage that can be eaten away entirely in one evening by deer, clover is a perennial and loves to be grazed.  The more the deer eat.  The more it grows.    A plot like this typically lasts between three and five years.

The other plot will be winter oats that will be planted in mid-September.  It also will cover about a quarter acre and will give them a reason to hang around when the acorns are done in late season.

Food Plot Graphic - Handicapped Outdoors

To be content, a deer needs to be able to come and go at will with no perceived danger, have multiple forage types with a water source nearby and cover for bedding down.  With these two small plots, we are actually going to be pulling deer from that massive 1,000 acres and keeping them around throughout the year all on that tiny 5-10 acre patch.

Get off the couch and take the time to prep for next season.  It's fun! This coming fall when that deer you have been seeing on the trail camera steps out and your heart skips a beat because opportunity is about to meet destiny, remember, that it will all have been because of your hard work, your effort and your planning right now.

In closing, deer management is an ever growing and expanding science.   Dr. James C. Kroll, better known as Dr. Deer, has been at the forefront in making hunters more aware of the impact they can have on their deer herd.  He is a wealth of information and I encourage every hunter to check out his site for more information on management practices to suit your specific situation.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Texas Rig For The Handicapped Fisherman

Over the years, nothing has been more deadly in the hands of fishermen than your standard Texas Rigged soft plastic bait.  Fish simply cannot refuse it and will bite it over and over.  Ever set the hook and the blasted worm or craw sits down on the hook?  The fish spits the bait after your big move and you want to cry?  C'est La Vie...that is life, right?

Texas Rig

Truth is the Texas Rig can be a difficult rig to fish.  It is tough to get that hook through all that plastic sometimes.  A disabled angler needs every advantage to connect with fish and today's article will help you gain that edge.

It is a rare thing for someone who has fished their entire lives to have a true break-through, a-ha moment, but I did.  A few weeks back I mentioned that I was sight fishing for early bedding male bass.  That day, I caught almost every bass I targeted.  At the time, I thought my hook set perfection was mainly due to the fact that I was watching the fish pick the bait up.

gamakatsu luck e strike finesse worm hook bullet weight
Gamakatsu Luck-E-Strike
Finesse Worm Hook
Although this was a tremendous advantage, it turns out that a strange tackle change was also the reason for a major improvement in cleanly setting the hook on those fish.  The first fish I began targeting was very far away from my bag.  My buddy Kyle's bag was about 10 yards away.  He suggested that I try a hook he had been tinkering with and put a crawfish soft plastic bait on it.

The hook is made by Gamakatsu and is called the Perfect Finesse Worm rig.  It also goes by the name Luck-E-Strike Finesse Worm hook.  Essentially, it is a Texas Rig with the bullet weight molded onto the hook.  You tie directly to the weight and thread the soft plastic on just as you would any other Texas Rig worm, craw or any of the new fangled extra-terrestrial looking baits.

I noticed an immediate change while using this hook.  Every time I set the hook on the fish, the hook embedded into the upper pallet of the fish's mouth.  In fishing terms, this is a perfect hook set.  A bass can only rarely throw a hook that has penetrated passed the barb in this area of it's mouth.

Courtesy of Conquistador Tackle Company
Courtesy of Conquistador Tackle Company
Remember, at the time, I thought much of this success was because I could visibly see the fish pick up the bait, however that was not the case this passed weekend.  I was at a different pond.  Water color was muddy to badly stained.  I would've needed Bald-Eagle-Eyes to see the fish.  I felt a solid bump.  I set the hook with as much force as I could muster and when I reeled the fish in what did I find?  The hook again was in the upper flesh of the mouth protruding through one nostril...perfection.

I believe there are several factors that have dramatically increased my catch ratio using this rig.

Courtesy of
Courtesy of
First of all, the weight does not run up the line.  This has always been a point of frustration for me with Texas Rigs.  I need the weight to stay on top of the hook to gain leverage on the fish  when I set the hook.  With the Luck-E-Strike, the weight plays a big part in aiding the hook to successfully exit the plastic and stick the fish.

Secondly, the bend in the hook just under the weight cause the hook to turn upwards into the perfect spot for the very best hook set.  This is a confidence thing more than anything else but who couldn't use a little more confidence?

Third, there is no pegging necessary.  Anybody who has fished a while will agree that the weakest point on the line is typically at the knot.  In the old Texas Rig, you tie a great knot and then to keep the weight at the head of the hook you have to jam a toothpick or some other obstruction into the top of the bullet weight.  This immediately causes concern in the integrity of the line and knot.  A big fish will test your tackle to the limits and the last thing you want to hear is the sound of the line going, "TINK," as the fish swims off with everything you have.  This rig already comes with the weight attached so that the integrity of the knot will remain true. It is also deadly when circumstances demand that you punch through grass mats or throw into heavy cover.

As you give this a try, please shoot me an email or a message and let me hear of your personal successes.  I would love to share some of those stories to the world!