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Great Read for Hunters, Anglers, and All Who Love the Outdoors

Many books about fishing and hunting are written by people who are skilled in those pursuits, but sadly lacking in writing expertise.

M.R. James is not one of those. The memoir of his life, Hunting the Dream, is one of the best written books about the outdoors that I've ever read. And you don't have to like hunting to enjoy this book. If you appreciate good writing, enjoy reading about life during a simpler time, and love nature, you'll like this book.

Written in narrative style with lots of dialogue and showing instead of telling,  it more resembles good fiction, as readers join James on a vividly detailed trip through his life, starting as a small-town boy growing up in Illinois during the 1940s and 1950s. Following his passion, he became a world-class bow hunter and founder of "Bowhunter Magazine" as his life moved full circle, to sharing love for the outdoors that he developed as a child with his son and grandsons.

Although I liked all of the book, the first of three parts was my favorite overall.  It featured "The Longest Day," about the sudden death of a friend, and another about "elephant trunks" and "the C-word," as James shared the pain, innocence, and, in retrospect, the wry humor of childhood.

In the second part, anyone who's ever known the love and loyalty of a good dog will love the story of "Sadie," the stray who adopted the James family and enriched their lives for 15 years.

And love him or hate him, Ted Nugent is brought to bigger-than-life by the author's excellent prose in "Hangin' With the Nuge," as he relates his relationship with hunting's most outspoken and outlandish supporte

For the hunters, and, especially the bow hunters, James offers plenty in the third part, as he details memorable hunts for deer, elk, moose, bison, and even muskox.



Nature-Deficit Disorder

The average child spends 4 to 7 minutes outdoors daily in unstructured play and more than 7 hours in front of a screen, according to Child Mind Institute (CMI). How sad is that?

Yet studies show that kids who play outside are smarter, happier, more attentive and less anxious that children who spend most of their time indoors. My book, Fish, Frogs, and Fireflies: Growing Up With Nature, details the many lessons about life that I learned by spending my childhood with nature.

Please, if you have kids, introduce them to the real wonders of nature, not those on a screen.

CMI also says this:

While it’s unclear how exactly the cognitive functioning and mood improvements occur, there are a few things we do know about why nature is good for kids’ minds.

  • It builds confidence. The way that kids play in nature has a lot less structure than most types of indoor play. There are infinite ways to interact with outdoor environments, from the backyard to the park to the local hiking trail or lake, and letting your child choose how he treats nature means he has the power to control his own actions.
  • It promotes creativity and imagination. This unstructured style of play also allows kids to interact meaningfully with their surroundings. They can think more freely, design their own activities, and approach the world in inventive ways.
  • It teaches responsibility. Living things die if mistreated or not taken care of properly, and entrusting a child to take care of the living parts of their environment means they’ll learn what happens when they forget to water a plant, or pull a flower out by its roots.
  • It provides different stimulation. Nature may seem less stimulating than your son’s violent video game, but in reality, it activates more senses—you can see, hear, smell, and touch outdoor environments. “As the young spend less and less of their lives in natural surroundings, their senses narrow,” Louv warns, “and this reduces the richness of human experience.”
  • It gets kids moving. Most ways of interacting with nature involve more exercise than sitting on the couch. Your kid doesn’t have to be joining the local soccer team or riding a bike through the park—even a walk will get her blood pumping. Not only is exercise good for kids’ bodies, but it seems to make them more focused, which is especially beneficial for kids with ADHD.
  • It makes them think. Louv says that nature creates a unique sense of wonder for kids that no other environment can provide. The phenomena that occur naturally in backyards and parks everyday make kids ask questions about the earth and the life that it supports.
  • It reduces stress and fatigue. According to the Attention Restoration Theory, urban environments require what’s called directed attention, which forces us to ignore distractions and exhausts our brains. In natural environments, we practice an effortless type of attention known as soft fascination that creates feelings of pleasure, not fatigue.

Wagamons Pond Yields Second Delaware Record Bass

With little Wagamons Pond yielding two Delaware record largemouth bass in less than four years, it's logical to wonder if the same fish was caught twice. After all, double-digit bass are a rarity in general that far north, and, in a 41-acre impoundment, they would seem even more so.

But the11.10 (11 pounds, 1.6 ounces) bass that A.J Klein caught on Feb. 20 just might be one of a number of trophy bass that thrive in that unique fishery, along with the 10-pound, 10-ounce largemouth that James Hitchens caught and released in 2012. That's because the reservoir on the Broadkill River has both hydrilla and an unusually rich forage base, with a fish ladder providing entry for both alewives and blueback herring.

At the very least, though, that 11-pounder once again is swimming in Wagamons because Klein released it after quickly weighing and measuring it and getting it certified by a Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control official.

"It swam away slow at first because it was in shallow water," said the angler from New Castle. "But once it got to deep water, it jetted off. It was healthy, and we were so happy. We were relieved because that was the one thing we were really concerned about."

Klein caught the fish just as he and friend Joe Lattis were about to leave the pond because the bite was slow. As he slow rolled a Strike King Bleeding Shad spinnerbait near the bottom, he felt a subtle hit.

"I set the hook and thought I was snagged," he said. "Two seconds later, my line dropped, and I had a crazy fight on my hands."

Finally, Lattis netted the fish for him. "Once the bass was in the boat, we both just sat there and looked at each other," the angler said. "We didn't expect the bass to be that big."

Klein used 14-pound Berkley monofilament, a Daiwa Megaforce rod, and an Abu Garcia Hank Parker baitcaster to catch the Delaware record largemouth. Hitchens caught the previous record on a live shiner.


Intersex Male Bass Found in Lake Champlain Tributary

Sixty to 75 percent of male smallmouth bass in a tributary of Lake Champlain are "intersex," meaning they bear eggs.

The watershed for the Missisquoi River already has been a cause for concern because of runoff agricultural pollution that feeds blue-green algae blooms in the lake.

"The alarm to me is that these chemicals are present. They're in our water. They're in our food. We're exposing ourselves to them. To me, that's the alarm," said Vicki Blazer, a U.S. Geological Survey scientist and one of the report's authors.

She added that humans aren't exposed in the same way that fish are, since they aren't constantly in the water and our drinking water is treated. "But that doesn't mean we're not exposing ourselves to many of the same chemicals."

James Ehlers, executive director of Lake Champlain International, added, "I think they're basically Franken-fish. It's a canary in a coal mine, except it's bass in a river, and there's something monstrously out of balance in the natural system."

The herbicide atrazine could be a possible cause, as could the hormones contained in livestock wastes from factory farms.

"The big thing to me is that we don't truly understand the mix of things fish and other organisms are exposed to," Blazer said.

Intersex bass also have been found in the rivers and streams near and in wildlife refuges in the Northeast, as well as the Chesapeake Bay watershed.