Sacrilege, you say? Realtree’s Fishing Editor makes a pretty good case for spending time on the water, even during the rut
Fall is the best season of the year. Spring gets all the glory, but that’s only because everyone’s sick of winter. In March, even a 48-degree day with spitting rain seems nice. Give me that same day in autumn, and I’m stoking the fire. Unless I’m after smallmouth bass.
One place I absolutely would not be, however, is sitting in a treestand. There’s no worse place to be in the rain. No matter how you cover up, or which way you lean, water will find its way down your back. For deer hunters, this comes with the territory.
Now don’t get me wrong, I like deer hunting. Well, really, I like deer eating. But given the perfect crisp October day, when the forest floor is crunchy, the bucks are chasing does, and the chili is on back at camp, I can be convinced to climb into a stand.
Still, if push comes to shove, I’d rather go fishing in the fall. And here’s why.
I don’t care what part of the country you live in, fall is a primo time to fish. Up North, the fish are preparing for the same dismal winter that you are. Rather than stack wood, they pack on the pounds through voracious feeds. Muskies, bass, walleyes; even crappies go bananas in October. You can offer them a variety of dinner options, and they’ll gladly accept them all.
Here in Florida, fall means summer is finally over. The witch is dead. The cooling water signals offshore species to migrate in to the coast. The mullet run comes back to the beaches. For six weeks, mullet of all sizes surround ports up and down the Atlantic and migrate into the backwaters, where everything big enough to eat them, does. It’s like a flowing river of beer at a college tailgate.
In the fresh water, bass suddenly reappear after hibernating during summer daylight hours. With a winter breeding schedule, the big mouths are in pre-spawn come November. Ever hear of pre-spawn?
Point is, fall fishing is insanely productive. But that’s not the only reason to love it.
2. Gutting Stuff Sucks
Gutting anything sucks. I don’t care if it’s a moose or a squirrel, opening up the belly and pulling out the entrails of an animal is never appealing. Especially a deer. Be careful not to nick the stomach or intestines, as the partially digested material within, which I refer to as undercooked poop, will splatter out.
Some people gut fish, too. I never really understood that, given that God created fish in a perfectly consumable form, with all of their meat on their sides. There are no hams in a fish. No roasts to trim. You can cheek-out a really big fish, but that’s mainly a novelty cut for guests at a dinner party.
4. You Don’t Need a Meat Pole
You need to butcher a deer. Or hire a butcher. This, of course, comes after the animal is gutted (see above), and hung up to drain. Once, when I was about 20 years old, I tried to hang a real big buck up in a tree by myself. Looks easier than it is.
I’ve never hung a fish in a tree. Anything that big, you release to fight again. And that brings up another good point.
I love to eat fish. But there are times when I want to go fishing for the fun of fishing, and not deal with knifework at the end of it. I’m sure hunting could feel the same way. Once, when I was sitting in a stand, I contemplated shooting a deer with a paintball gun, just to know that I had a successful hunt without having to put up with the rest of it.
Then again, there are guys like my dad, who does catch-and-release hunt to some degree. He’ll spend hundreds of hours each season, just watching deer pass under his stand. The man has shot his fair share of monsters. I think he’s got 14 on the wall. His reasoning for rarely drawing his bow is simple: why shoot anything smaller than what he’s already got mounted?
Chances are Dad’s season this year will end just like last year, with a doe or two for the freezer on the last couple days. It’s probably for the better, as Ohio’s late bow season usually features a bit of snow, making for an easier drag to the truck.
6. You Don’t Have to Drag Fish
The thought of dragging out a deer brings up another good point: I’ve never had to drag a fish. Now, I’ve dragged a stringer full of Lake Erie walleyes off a pier. But believe me, when you’re to the point that you’re dragging them out, you’re glad to. Deer hunters might feel the same way, but probably only for the first 10 yards.
I once drug a gigantic buck that my father shot (see above) out of a ravine. It was one of those times when he suddenly had to be at a meeting, leaving a buddy and me with quite the task. I remember Dad saying he thought, “it might have gone down over the hill a little ways.” This was one of those ravines that, when you look down in to it, you reach over and hold a tree. I thought we’d never get that big sucker out.
I wash my fishing clothes, and afterward, they smell a little like Tide. I’m good with it. And I store them in a closet like everyone else, not a garbage bag or big tub. I wear normal shoes, not knee-high rubber boots, to breakfast on Sunday. Scents and thermals are never out to get me.
8. You Don’t Need Pee in Your Pocket
Speaking of scent, I never, ever, pour urine of any type on anything, yet alone drag it around with me, or keep it in little canisters in my pocket.
Once the sun’s good and up, I get a few things ready and head out to go fishing in the daylight. This reduces the number of times in my life that I have to do things while holding a flashlight in my mouth. It works out well.
10. Full Moon? Warm Weather? Wrong Wind? I Don’t Care.
So today, with a light breeze and no chance for rain, I’ll head down to the boat ramp and drop her in. I don’t care what phase the moon is in, I won’t curse the balmy conditions, and I will never be disappointed by a noisy squirrel. I will fish, come home, and have dinner. Without cleaning under my fingernails.
Regardless of the outcome, it’ll be a good day on the water. Maybe I’ll get lucky and catch a few. Or maybe I won’t. That’s fine.
Maybe a buddy will call after dark for help in finding his deer. And maybe he’ll pay me off with a backstrap.