May 2010
Happy Hunting Ground

Happy Hunting Ground

Dogwoods are blooming, turkeys are gobbling, deer are dropping antlers and pretty soon fawns will start being born and this means one thing: winter is over and spring is here. While this winter’s temperatures may or may not have been records, I think it’s safe to say all of us here in the Deep South are darn glad to see it over. If you spent any time this winter in either a shooting house or a tree stand, global warming was a matter of opinion. I don’t think I need to tell you mine.

When I lived in Wyoming, we were told there were two seasons of the year, July and winter. One of the worst snowstorms I ever saw occurred on Mother’s Day weekend. We knew, if you hadn’t gotten a big one by Mother’s Day, it was going to be a bad one. Even though that experience is nearly 40 years old, I still eye Mother’s Day with a little caution.

But spring is here and I guess its time to hang up the shotguns and break out the fishing rods and filet knives. Yes folks, as my dad used to say, "It’s time to wet a worm."

Fishermen puzzle me. It’s their goal system I can’t quite figure out. When you talk with a deer hunter, you can be assured he wants to kill a buck with the biggest antlers. Body size is ok, but it’s the headgear that counts. This is a system I can understand. Turkey hunters, although we are in pursuit of the longest spurs and longest beard and while we really feel lucky with any gobbler we are able to put in the bag, it still is a system where bigger is better.

Fishermen, and women, are not quite as simple. Take my dad for example, a fishing junkie/guru if there ever was one. All of my life he dreamed of catching "The Big One." But yet, he admitted if he ever caught the big ten pounder he went to sleep thinking about, he wasn’t sure if you could both mount and eat the fish.

At other times, size doesn’t matter, but how many you caught does matter. My first thought is, ok, when we are dealing with a smaller-type of fish like a bream (stump knockers my dad called them), they are only going to get so big, so you have to catch many to make a meal. This means these folks are like our quail and dove-hunting brothers (and sisters) where the game is only going to be so big and the number you harvest is what attests to your skill.

My problem is, you never hear dove hunters talk about the big "mature" dove they killed, just how many. You never hear a squirrel, rabbit or quail hunter talk about the monster that nearly got away or stepped out right at dawn so the hunter could make the perfect shot, you just hear how many they got and, in the case of quail hunters, how many coveys they found.

My blood-brother fishermen however, talk about both. Using my dad as an example, as I said, he dreamed of a monster fish and caught more than a few big trout, catfish and bass, but I never could figure out which was better, one or two big ones or a mess of smaller ones. You don’t hear deer hunters bragging on taking a "mess" of does.

Now don’t think I’m making fun of or picking on fishermen, I’m just trying to figure out how us guys can keep track of who’s winning and who’s losing, because you ladies know us guys are going to compete.

As I think on this, I feel like I may have figured my dilemma out. (Dad used to tell me not to over-think stuff, so sorry Dad.) Fishermen are just a different breed of outdoorsman. They have nothing to prove to anyone, so the size of a particular fish is irrelevant when discussing how many you caught.

By using my dad as a typical angler, I think I can get inside his head and crawl around a little and figure this thing out. My dad and his uncles were all about the same age and therefore grew up together and fished together all their lives and they all loved nothing better than to go fishing, catch a bunch of fish and hold a monster fish fry for all the grandparents, cousins, aunts, other uncles, fathers, brothers and sisters. That I guess is the goal of a fisherman, feed as many people as possible, sit back and watch the fun, and know you had a hand in helping it happen.

Ralph Ricks is the manager of Quality Cooperative, Inc. in Greenville.