December 2010
Howle's Hints

Give of Your Time This December

"We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give." — Winston Churchill


Peyton Merrill displays the arrows he made with materials around his home.

December is a busy month, but it is also the month in which we recognize the benefits of giving. Giving to others without expecting anything in return can provide some of the richest blessings. This is especially true when it comes to giving your time to someone. Whether the time is to someone in the nursing home or a youngster on a squirrel hunt, to quote a famous television program…that is "Time Well Spent."

Arrow Fletching From Tail Feathers

I’m always looking for innovative tips for the Howle’s Hints column each month, and I found a multitude of ideas from a 12-year-old boy from Ranburne. His name is Peyton Merrill, and he is a true outdoorsman. Speaking of giving time, his Dad, Jason Merrill, spends countless hours taking his son fishing, hunting and camping, and that time has paid off in the form of a truly innovative youngster.

Peyton shows a knife he made from metal and deer antler.


Peyton loves the idea of primitive hunting with spears and bows. He selects the straightest saplings he can find to carve out his spears and arrows, and he chips out his own flint rocks for arrow and spear heads. Finally, I witnessed first hand how he added fletching or feathers to his arrows. The tip of the arrow shaft is split with a knife, made by Peyton with sheet metal for a blade and a deer antler for a handle, and a feather is slid into place and secured tightly with tough fibers from grass weeds. This allows the arrow to travel smoothly through the air.

Peyton happens to be a friend and classmate of my son, Jake, and I discovered Peyton’s talents on a recent campout at my home. Peyton handcrafted about four authentic-looking arrows while sitting around the campfire, but it wasn’t until the next morning I discovered where he got the feathers. My rooster was hiding in the chicken pen away from the rest of the hens, and I knew this was out of character for him. When I drove him out of the chicken pen, I noticed all his tail feathers were missing. Peyton Merrill has true outdoor skills, but a rooster isn’t safe within a mile of him. We need more people like his Dad who are willing to spend time and share woods wisdom with youth today.


Mark the handles of posthole diggers for accurate depths.

Post Hole Measurement

Digging postholes is a tough job made easier only through Decem-ber’s cooler temperatures. Many corner posts or gate posts need to be up to three feet in depth to give the post optimum stability. It can be a real hassle to stop in the middle of digging to see if the hole is deep enough with a tape measure. An easy way to solve this problem is to mark the posthole digger handles with a black, permanent marker at common depths of two and three feet. This way, you can spend more time digging and less measuring.

Wire Roller

A wire roller can be made from discarded lawn mower handles.


Barbed wire was a great invention for keeping cattle inside a fence, but it can be a recoiling, scratching mess when it gets tangled up. A convenient wire roller can be made from a set of handlebars from a push mower. Round, metal tubing serves as the roller around which the roll of barbed wire rotates. An axle can be made from any steel and a quick release clip can be used to slide the axle out allowing for the reloading of another roll of barbed wire.

Stabilize Your Gas


Gas stabilizer can ensure smooth cranking come spring.

The winter months can be the worst on your gas-powered equipment because it is a time of cold temperatures and inactivity for things like garden tillers and lawn mowers. When gas gets old and sets up, it can ruin the delicate working parts of the carburetor with a varnish-like substance. Adding gas stabilizer to the gas tank while the engine sets up over the winter can help prevent this varnish buildup. If the gas was older than 30 days old when you put it in the tank, it’s best to drain the tank. The gas stabilizer will increase the odds your gas-operated implement will fire up and run properly come spring.

Go Hawgs! I mean I really want you to go…

I’m not talking about obnoxious football fans; I’m talking about feral hogs. These animals can rip up food plots, laying waste to hours of time spent planting forage for plant-eating wildlife. Some of you in our readership have been dealing with this problem for years.

Some who haven’t dealt with this problem might have mistaken a slight amount of rooting by armadillos for hog rooting. When armadillos root around in a food plot, it looks like small Dixie cups have been pushed into the ground. The armadillos are searching for grubs. However, when hogs start in on a food plot you might mistake it for someone doing backhoe work in your fields.


Mike Pentecost with a hog harvest from food plots.

I was recently hunting with the president and call-maker of Woodhaven Custom Calls in Heflin, Mike Pentecost, and he harvested a 300-pound boar in an area where no hogs were supposed to be. Even though domestic hogs can provide plenty of high-quality pork, if the fence containing these animals is faulty, the domestic hog can quickly turn feral when it is out in the wild for a few months. Your local game officials can be your best line of defense in developing a plan for trapping or removal of these destructive animals.

December is a month when we expect to give gifts in celebration of the birth of Christ. Let’s make sure this December we don’t forget to give of our time as well. Whether it’s a 92-year-old in a nursing home or a nine-year-old on a squirrel hunt, that time spent will result in plenty of blessings.

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.