Lake McQueeny Sunrise: Fishing Memories and the Reason Why I Fish Today

 I would go fishing often when I was young. I looked forward to the times we would go out Lake McQueeny or Lake Dunlap in my father’s old 72′ Terry Bass boat, not only for the art of fishing, you see, but so I could curiously watch my father at work and learn something from his skill. That was educational and entertaining all on its own.

We would leave early on fall mornings when the leaves of autumn had just turned golden brown. On mornings that had sunrises that seemed to have no beginning or end, we would walk out into the cold, dew swept backyard with birds chirping in neighboring  trees  as they began to scavenge for food. I would watch my Dad go through the same ritual every time we got ready to leave. He would mumble something like,  “Rods,  reels,  tackle  boxes, okay. Plenty of gas for the outboard? Yes. Two hot batteries: one for  the  trolling  motor,  one for the outboard. Okay. Hmm. Do we have it all, Dusty-Boy?” he would ask.

We would pile into his old Dodge pick-up that was about the same year model as the boat and marked with a dented blue replacement fender on the driver’s side and two-tone tan and dark brown color on the rest of the body. There was something that I always loved about that old truck. Maybe it was that my father held onto it for well over two decades. He would never give it up. When an engine went out, he replaced it. When the transmission broke, he would shell out the money to fix it. He always told me that if he kept on putting parts in that old truck, he would at least know what he had. I had trouble understanding that then but as time went by, I began to see the wisdome behind his thinking. That truck reminded me of Harry, Robert Kinkade’s truck in Robert James Waller’s book, The Bridges of Madison County.

Some might say that my father was a very unconventional man for his time.  I guess he was and remains that way today. While most other men would surely be driving new or late model trucks, he was quite the opposite. Many of the things that he owned were simple but I came to value that aspect about him as time passed. Later in my own life, I began to see that he and I shared the fact that “newer” or “faster” doesn’t always mean better.

I would watch Dad start the truck. He carried out the same ritual every time. Two steps on the gas pedal, turn the key, press the gas again, then it started. The truck was old but after it started, it ran so quiet and smooth you could hardly hear anything at all.

We would pull out on the main road as we saw the light of dawn slowly break through on the horizon and we began barreling down the road towards the lake. I think that, for both of us, the lake held part of us ransom in its beauty and called us back to it repeatedly. There was something so serene about the long moments I would stare in the distance at it as we approached the boat launches. The power that it had over me was something that I truly admired. I know that my father appreciated it too.

At the launches I would watch Dad get out of the truck, gauge the distance between the end of the boat in comparison to the boat ramp, get back into the truck, and back the boat further down the ramp’s  slope towards the water. There was almost a science related to this and I think that all boat owners can agree with me. But during those times, I never saw a man so serious about his work. There was a feeling of accomplishment with him and all his friends if you were able to get the boat trailer’s two tires submerged all the way in the water of the boat ramp without having to think much about it. The task became more of a feeling after a while.

“The Old Blue Canoe,” I would hear him whisper under a freshly lit cigarette that let off and orange glow in the darkness. That is what we called the boat: The Blue Canoe. It was older than I was but, for most of its life anyway, it didn’t look that way. I admired that boat more than many things and I did this for more than one reason. It had character about it as many old and treasured things do. Plenty of character hung out in the old things that  sat out  on  Memaw  and  Fadder Warnckes’ back property. I loved their house  for that value.

Once in place, Dad would get out of the truck, hop on the hitch of the boat trailer, unhook the harness, and push the boat out on the water. It was a ritual I had seen him do countless times and I was still amazed to watch the sleekness of him around the dark and cold water.

Dad would tie off the boat, park the truck, get back into the boat, and throttle the engine to a slow start after I was inside. I always picked up a sense of excitement when  he looked over at me, boat in motion at a steady wake speed, and turned his hat backwards saying, “Hold on to something!!”

Some days, when fishing tough on the boat and the summer weather was blazing hot, we would get a can of worms and fish for bluegill and other panfish by the McQueeny marina or down by Hot Shots, another famed place that was washed away by the infamous 1998 flood years later. Or sometimes we would walk down from the grandparents house to Lake Dunlap and sneak out onto an abandoned dock in pursuit of some quiet “perch jerking”. Those were good times.

Yet, there is one fishing excursion that will remain etched in my mind forever. It occurred when I was 11 years old, or around that time. Summer had set on the valley of an old South Texas shore of Lake Wood. Dad and I were camping. I had recently learned the fine skill of casting horizontally instead of the  traditional vertical cast with my old fishing rod. We were at a nice spot on the lake in our boat, next to a large tree stump, some lily pads, and an old bridge that was half submerged  beneath the water. I could have taken a picture of that scene and made into a calendar.

My lure was a bit unusual that day; a plastic gray top water mouse with two sharp hooks protruding from its belly. This was a great bass rig. I had landed my first fish of the morning with this lure so I decided to continue using it in hopes for more success. It was time to cast out. I was anxious.

I held the rod out, cocked the release of the reel, and practiced my forward stroke a few times before I put my newly learned method into practice. I began to whisper what I had taught myself for doing this correctly: “Slowly back, thumb on spool, use the wrist, forward swing.” WHAP! I heard my father scream like I had never heard a man scream before and realized that the lure had never even left the boat. It had, instead, caught something totally unexpected – my Dad!  And in that moment, I wanted to laugh and scream so hard  all  at once. I didn’t know what to do first, so I began to hysterically laugh. That was one of those feelings that you have and never forget. Dad chuckled a bit after the pain wore off.

I quickly realized in a shy, adolescent way, that I would never hear the end of this one. It would be one for the record books of father and son history. Perhaps a news header might read: Father and Son Go Fishing. Son Catches Father, or something to that effect.

Dad had to complain in a very open and joking tone from that day on about how his son had both beat him in the number of fish we caught and beat him with a small gray topwater fishing lure. For a while, he looked snake bit from the two hooks that only briefly caught into his skin.

I love my father for that kind of humor and thank him for the laughter that he has given me. His simple ways and loving manner have helped shape me into who I am today. Like him, I don’t place value in a lot of new and expensive things. I try to live simpler life basing value off of the people and experiences with them that bring me joy.

I owned the Blue Canoe for a few years. My father gave it to me for a keepsake, for high school graduation, as a memory of life and days passed by. My rod and reel that carried me through my younger years is now an antique. It was a gift from my Opa Shaefer before he passed away. The boat is now gone but the little things, like that K-Mart spinning reel, will always be with me.

Memories still remain, lost in the water of the Fall mornings when fishing weather was good, and the sunrise was breathtaking. When life was not so busy, and I had more time to reflect on what mattered to me the most.

When schoolbooks, backpacks, and other formal education garb were thrown aside on late Friday afternoons for a different kind of education. And although the days of  fishing with my father are now few and far between, a part of me is still in the water we used to frequent. The lake still calls to me  on  those  cold and dry mornings and I go, knowing that I will forever feel the laugher and peace it provides.

One of my favorite high school fishing memories was freshman year in the late summer of 1994 with my Dad and his friend J.P. when we were fishing for channel and blue catfish using bait shrimp on a night when the mayflies were so thick in front of dock lights that the catfish were scooping them up with their mouths on the top of the water and were biting on everything that hit the water with a hook in it. We could hardly lift the fish basket out of the water at the end of that night after we limited out. We lost a few that jumped out of that floating basket and that was when J. P. famously said, “Easy come, Easy go.”

I have fished many waters in my adult years. Freshwater, saltwater, brackish – it all provides me a remembrance of why I started loving those McQueeny sunrises as a young child. I have caught bull reds in Venice, Louisiana, fought big fish off both the East Coast, West Coast and Gulf Coast and spent countless hours with my own son teaching him the basics of catching fish in local community lakes. It all has a special meaning and sort of therapy that makes me feel centered and grounded, no matter what the world throws my way.

One of my outdoor writing buddies, Cal Gonzales, recently passed away and I am reminded of a podcast Chester Moore, Cal and myself did together at ICAST (the annual fishing trade show) one year. Cal was on dialysis for kidney issues and while he was hooked up to the machine, he had a woman die right next to him while also being treated. He was haunted by the sounds of the defibrillator machine as they tried to bring the woman back to life. Fishing was his release for this stress and many other issues he faced in life. Fishing made life better in many ways for Cal and has for me as well. It’s therapy in it’s simplest form.

I joined Cross Water Outfitters in 2012, a Christian fishing ministry that serves people from many walks of life. The work I have done over the past decade with CWO has been so deeply meaningful and it is all around a pastime I love so deeply.

Fishing will always mean something to me as it refreshes my soul and brings me back to focusing on the things that matter most in life: God, people, places and overall experiences. I fish to remember the night of the mayflies and the basket of catfish so heavy you could hardly lift it, the grey top water mouse, McQueeny sunrises, the blue canoe, my Dad and the joy and memories all of this brings me every time I encounter a lake. Fish on!

Money, Things and Values: Use it Up, Wear It Out!

We live in a world of microwaves when long term success requires a slow cooker and is a journey and ongoing process, not a destination. Our young people in generations of the past wanted to be astronauts or basketball players when they grew up. The youth of today, if you ask many of them, just want to be super rich and insta-famous for no other reason than to be rich and famous. This is due largely in part to the change in our culture and what we see value in as a modern society.
 
Social media has certainly come with its biases, and we are surrounded by “influencers” that are spread a mile wide and an inch deep as a result. Where is the true value and meaning in men’s body builder muscles and bikini-clad “insta-models” anyway? Now I have a decent following of my content and I have nothing against having a large following or looking like a super hot mamma or stud muffin hunk.
 
Through our technology, we can have a lasting impact on the world more than ever, but we have seemed to grow as a culture to love things and use people as a result instead of the opposite of loving people and using things.
 
To that point, we find people neck deep in student loans, credit cards, mortgages and car payments that feel hopeless when they look at all of their debt only to keep up appearances to impress people they don’t even know or like.
 
The older I get, the less having new and expensive possessions matters to me. I find more value in the experiences I have in my life and the relationships I nurture with others around me as well as the work I do to help the greater good in my life.
 
Everything within the last several years in our world has come online and on demand. We are a nation of “access” more than ownership in what we view and listen to things these days. The way we shop online, watch TV and movies, and a multitude of other things has all become simpler and more on our own terms than ever before.
 
That all being said, the one thing that penetrates this on-demand theme is that many things have become disposable and replaceable. I will go as far as to say that I see humans treating other humans this way as well and it is true. Just look around for a moment.
 
In a world where we can replace things we use so easily and a world that sells us the idea that new is always better, I have a saying I borrowed from a survivor of the Great Depression of the past century:
 
“Use it up, Wear it Out, Make it Do or Do Without”.
 
During some of the harder times our ancestors went through, a person didn’t have fast food and coffee shops on every corner. You had to work hard to even eat some days and this made for true grit inside the people that went through that time in history. My grandfather never threw away things he could reuse or repurpose as he never knew when he might need them again.
As generations have grown up since the decades since that period of history when the stock market crashed and people struggled to make a living as dirt poor farmers and share-croppers, we seem to forget what history taught us about value and precious resources. We tend to take things like running water, electricity, heating and air conditioning for granted as we have most likely always had these things in our lifetime.
 
When we visit outside of our normal comfort zones to other parts of the world, we see that around a billion people slept on a dirt floor last night. It is said that 1 out of every 7 people in this world struggles to eat every day while others more fortunate with food availability still have food scarcity at times.
 
I bring up these facts because comparison is the thief of joy and most of us can be found comparing ourselves to what we lack in comparison to what other people we admire already have. Envy is a waste of time. Chances are you already have all you need to life a reasonably joyful life. But joy, my friends, is a choice.
 
Gratitude, being thankful in all circumstances, is a powerful tool for an empowered and optimized life. Being thankful for all you that you already had, have and shall have in the future is a powerful way to fight back greed and envy. An attitude of gratitude is key here.
 
You will find me piling my clothes and other things I use every day which have been torn or have holes or other defects in them so I can repair or repurpose them. Old t-shirts are repurposed into cleaning or workshop rags or gun cleaning patches. Not much that I have goes to waste if I can help it and that was just the way I was raised.
 
I do not buy new and trendy items or upgrade to newer and bigger houses or fancier cars not because I can’t afford them. I most certainly can afford far more than I have. It just goes back to my value system. I do not find value in financing something I already possess to impress anyone, including myself.
 
The point of all of this is to say make more of what you have go further instead of disposing of everything once you have had your use of it. Get some extra mileage out of the things you have not just to save money but to extend the value of things. And don’t forget, as The Minimalists duo likes to say at the end of their podcasts, to love people and use things – because the opposite never works.
 
Another takeaway from this is to seek meaning and purpose in relationships and experiences by not impulsing on worthless “stuff” that will inevitably result in more clutter and even more regret with the credit card statement shows up. You don’t have to spend like a drunken sailor to be happy in life. Stuff cannot bring you joy for long after all. We are social creatures.
 
We need to put more value in people, not things. We need to deepen our life’s purpose and realign our desires on what we really need and want to accomplish in our lives, not what the world sells us as the most marketed to modern culture in the history of the world.
 
True value comes from loving people, learning new things, and serving others in need with the resources we have available to us. There are countless opportunities to practice these three activities without looking very hard at all.

WHY DO I CHOOSE GRIM REAPER BROADHEADS?

I have hunted with compound bows and crossbows for well over a decade now and love the thrill of being close to the game I am hunting. There is an adrenaline rush that comes with clearly seeing the whites of the eyes of the animal you are hunting without binoculars or a high-powered scope and the rush of that feeling is what keeps me coming back for more year after year, again and again.

Let’s face it, there are a ton of broadhead companies and seem to be new companies popping up every year that claim their broadhead brands are the champion of the field. Call me a traditionalist but I believe in finding something that works, tuning what works best, and then simply rinse and repeat.

I have written extensively on mechanical, fixed and hybrid broadheads as well as done numerous videos and podcasts on what you need to consider in making your next trip to the field a tag-punching and freezer-filling success. I play to win in life and hunting is no exception. 

 

From 2008 to 2015 I hunted a few urban areas that were densely populated but out of the city limits and the challenge when I first started this journey to of urban and suburban “neighborhood  hunting” was to make a clean and ethical shot and for the deer not to run more than 100 yards before it expired. I won’t mention any brand names of other broadheads but I tried a few that failed miserably in my beginning days of my urban bowhunting career.

My bowhunting buddy and professional Texas hunting guide Jake Davis told me to try Grim Reaper mechanicals along my journey after me telling him my stories of watching deer run off into woodlots with other brands of broadheads, never to be recovered, due to poor terminal performance. I will remember that first Grim Reaper kill that very next season with reverence for many decades to come.

I literally watched the whitetail doe I shot run less than 50 yards, circle in a stationary spot, and hit the ground like a hammer, dead in her tracks. No need to follow a blood trail on that kind of scenario but there was a short and gruesome trail of red if one needed to do so. I became a believer that day and have since filmed countless videos, written several articles for major magazines and record more than a few podcasts on my successes in the field using Grim Reapers. 

I filmed my first hunt in 2012 and felt like a rock star when I filmed my first recovery of a blood trail that looked like a homicide scene. The next year I shot two deer in one sitting and then two hogs in one sitting after that, recovering all 4 animals within mere minutes of the tracking journey. My son Jackson and I have hunted together since he was a very young child and he can recite the equipment I use and why I use it with excitement as a result of his own experiences hunting with the gear we trust as well with Grim Reaper being at the top of that list. 

Here are some of those urban hunts on I self-filmed using crossbows and Grim Reapers in action. The third video is one of my all-time favorites as you get to watch both deer haul until they fall on camera in the wide open in the back of a neighborhood development:

 

 

 

 

There are so many options with archery equipment and gear you can pack in with you to your stand or spot and stalk hunt with these days. The Archery Trade Association (ATA) trade show is full of companies that all claim to have the best of the best in archery and hunting equipment. What has finally changed for the better is that the consumer market has weeded out the trashy products that easily break or have poor performance an durability for the most part – on USA soil at least.

 

What has also changed is the reliability of durability of mechanical broadheads and the newer “hybrid” technology of combining fail safe fixed blades with the best parts of a mechanical. Grim Reaper mechanicals have no fail-prone parts like O-rings or bands to break or come off when the moment counts the most.

Some will use the analogy of revolvers versus semi-automatic handguns when comparing fixed blade to mechanical. In years past this may have been true but with the technology that goes into mechanicals these days, I trust Grim Reaper mechanical heads on any game animal in North America and beyond for terminal performance as much as the reliability of fixed blades and I have the proof on my walls of my home and office and in my freezer to show for it too. This isn’t just talk, my friends. Video evidence doesn’t lie.

What’s more is that I have talked many times on camera about the fact that you can rebuild a Grim Reaper in many cases after it has been shot through an animal time and time again so long as the main body (ferrule) is not bent or otherwise damaged. Although Grim Reapers are premium broadheads, this is a great overall value point I make with many hunters looking for the best bang for the buck. Rebuild kits cost about half of a new pack of standard or pro-series broadheads and are a great way to make your dollar stretch a little more.

So with a crowded and noisy marketplace of broadhead companies, why do I go back to Grim Reapers time and time again? I think I have made a few points to strengthen my choice in this article but if you need more, here we go:

  • I have yet to lose a whitetail deer, wild hog, trophy ram or other Texas-sized exotic (and we have more than a few I have shot here in Texas) in my bowhunting career so long as I have hit them in the vitals. We are talking many dozens of shots, not all of them perfect by any means. Meat in the freezer and photos, videos and taxidermy to prove it. Success in its greatest forms.

 

  • I have watched almost every game animal I have shot with Grim Reapers haul until they fall or could follow a blood trail in a tracking job that even a very novice hunter could follow. “What em’ Drop” and “Shorter Blood Trails, Longer Stories” aren’t just slogans that sound cool after all. We are talking real life experience here.

 

  • I have never had a blade not open or a broadhead fail even partially. If they closed after the shot and you made a solid pass through, that was most likely due to the kinetic energy doing its thing with the magical flight of the arrow or bolt.

 

  • We all want good bowhunting experiences. I have had more successes in bowhunting that I can attribute to the use of Grim Reaper than anything else, hands down.

So, with all of this being written, remember, find what works for you archery and bowhunting and rinse and repeat. Grim Reaper has made me an overall better bowhunter in many ways and one of my life goals is to share my experiences through what I write and record in audio and video with others. When the moment of truth counts the most, have the best equipment with you on the task. For broadheads, it doesn’t get any better than this.

Story by Dustin Vaughn Warncke