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!
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
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Hunting is a passion I share with many outdoorsmen and the table fare that comes from a big game harvest, especially the “sweet meat” of an Axis deer, is really hard to beat compared to store-bought meat. There is a sense of pride that also comes with breaking down your harvest into primal cuts and preparing it for the freezer to store for later meals and, more importantly, the table to share with friends and family.
I bought my first “game processing” knife set about a year or so into the time period when I first started taking hunting seriously in my early 20s. It was a decent set of kitchen knives but they seemed crude compared to the modern kits and knife sets we have in the hunting and butchering world today.
Enter the AccuSharp 9-Piece Game Processing Kit. As an avid hunter now in my 40’s, I like refined tools that help me do a sometimes dirty job as efficiently and effectively as possible. As my Dad often says, pulling the trigger is the easy part. The real work begins after that part of the hunt if your bullet, slug, bolt or arrow meets the hair, hide and bone of your chosen quarry and results in meat on the ground. My Dad and both Grandfathers all three taught me to have the right tools for the job and this kit has just about anything a hunter might need. Those three men also taught me to let the tools do the work and these are some of the best tools for the job you will find in a processing kit on the market today.
This kit includes three knives with different purposes and a 6″ bone saw, all made from 420 stainless steel and non-slip textured handles. The convenient carrying case allows the hunter to neatly store everything in it’s right place and makes transporting the set easy fairly compact. Included as a bonus are a pair of disposable gloves and some zip ties for game tags. These were a great addition to the kit as you can resupply both zip ties and gloves for mere pennies and I almost always need both when tackling a field dressing, skinning/quartering or full on processing task outdoors or in the kitchen.
This AccuSharp Knife Set is a bit larger than others I have owned but I can still securely fit it into my hunting day pack. The case is durable and keeps everything secure and locked into place when not in use. The included rib spreader tool helps keep the body cavity open when field dressing and a needed tool I almost always wish for when doing a field dressing chore by myself in the woods – especially in the dark.
One of the great values of a kit like this is that the knives alone could cost $15 or so each if purchased separately. Add to that a diamond honed tungsten carbide AccuSharp Blaze Orange Knife and Tool Sharpener to the mix and that would cost another $11.00 or so on Amazon. That makes this set even more of a stellar value. Now, the kit has a spin off of the knife sharpener and the Gut Hook/Skinning Knife if you do want to purchase these separately but the best value is in the set. What really impresses me about this set is the 6″ bone saw and I hope to see that as a spin off/separately sold tool in the future as well. It is one of the best bone saws I have used and is a much improved companion compared some of the tools I have seen passed off as bone saws in other game processing kits I have used in years past.
You can certainly use this kit for just field dressing but doing processing on your own is an educational, enriching, inspiring and rewarding experience as you can go at your own pace and cut the meat however you wish. Now, keeping in mind that I still use local game processors in my area even using a kit like this. I will drop off boned out meat and trim for burger and bulk sausage grinding. That is an affordable and easy option for many hunters these days. After all, you don’t have to do all the hard work yourself. Skinning your deer, wild hogs or exotic game animals and deboning the meat saves you money and gives you many other options than just dropping it off field dressed at a processor. I have even learned how to skin and quarter up deer and wild hogs on my pick up truck bed and tailgate without a gambrel and winch or hoist. It is a bit more challenging but not as bad as doing it from the ground level.
When I mentor new hunters, I recommend keeping your backstraps/loins, tenderloins and roasts whole, steaking them out right before you are ready to cook them or just cooking them whole. There are few things as enjoyable as cutting your own meat from your own harvests and taking wild game from the field all the way to the table. A knife set like this gives you a lot of different options and, like guns, you can never have too many knives! Don’t repeat this sage advice in front of your significant other in your life too loud. That is, unless, you want them to buy this kit for your next celebration of a birthday or Christmas gift.
I write, film and record many review pieces like this through articles, blogs, podcasts and videos and the main theme that comes up again and again is one word: Value. This product is an incredible value for the money. Learn more about AccuSharp’s sharpeners, knives and multi-tools at www.accusharp.com.
Get this AccuSharp 9-Piece Game Processing Set Here.
This weekend only, through Sunday night at midnight, AccuSharp is having a SALE on AMAZON! Only $9.99 for the original AccuSharp Knife and Tool Sharpener (001C), the AccuSharp Fillet Knife Sharpener (010C) and the BLAZE ORANGE HUNTING Version of the AccuSharp (014C).
Its essential to have one of these in your tackle box or gear bag, in the kitchen or in your day pack. These also make some great stocking stuffers for the holidays or just all around great gifts for your friends and family.
The diamond honed tungsten carbide blades in all three of these sharpeners are reversible and replaceable and work on serrated blades as well as straight blades and have a lifetime guarantee as well.
These sharpeners are quick and easy to use and very safe compared to many other ways of sharpening your knives as well. Check out the sale price while it lasts and thank you all for checking out the blog!
And a lot has happened since last August. New job, multitudes of opportunities… but I am still a blogger and outdoor writer at heart. I left Texas Fish & Game back in December of 2019 for a Marketing Manager position at AccuSharp Knife and Tool Sharpeners. It was a good move and I work with some great people. I will deeply miss TF&G Magazine and the people there. It was a good opportunity but sometimes we need to move on.
I plan to keep this blog active and feature some great hunting and fishing products I am using in God’s Great Outdoors. Here is a bit of what I have been doing lately:
Gearing up for Bowhunting
Grim Reaper Razor Tip Whitetail Special 2-Inch 3 Blade, 100 Grain: https://amzn.to/2DHf2Zb
Grim Reaper Hybrid Broadhead 100 gr. 3 pk. https://amzn.to/3gAM9fR
Grim Reaper Crossbow Broadhead 125 gr. 1 1/2 in. 3 pk. https://amzn.to/30EMPvb
Gold Tip Hunter Pro Arrows: https://amzn.to/2DIF3ae
Gold Tip Ballistic 425 Crossbow Bolts: https://amzn.to/3a2B8RT
Lumenoks Lighted Arrow Nocks https://amzn.to/3gCl6jY
Barnett Whitetail Pro Crossbow Dustin Uses: https://amzn.to/2PwAKlc
Sharpening My Knives with AccuSharp
Keeping your edge in the field is important. Now that I work for AccuSharp, I have learned so much about knives, multi-tools and knife sharpening. Here is one of my favorite sharpeners this year, the AccuSharp 4-in-1 Sharpener that is a great value for all it does. Learn more at www.accusharp.com.
Staying Cool in the Texas Heat!
Arctic Ice packs have accompanied me on many outdoor adventures this summer and kept my coolers cold on their own or with the aid of old fashion ice. These are revlutionary, easy to use and clean. No more messy coolers at the end of your trip!
Some Artic Ice intel!
Beer, soft drinks and other COLD drinks: Chilln’ Brew Series : https://amzn.to/3iT4QMf
Keeping Food Cold: Alaskan Series: https://amzn.to/2E5gGnU
Keeping Things Frozen: Tundra Series: https://amzn.to/34d2Ryv
VASTFIRE FLASHLIGHTs are offering my viewers and fans a limited time 20% off discount off the flashlight in this video. It’s not too early to start shopping for birthdays or the holidays. This is a great zoomable interchangable LED flashlight on Amazon Prime. Promo code 20ON29FJ here: https://amzn.to/2PygYpj or this link with the code included here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/mpc/A2H63L2…
I have missed writing for the outdoors and I am glad to be back. Have you missed me? E-mail me directly at email@example.com! Thanks for reading! You Guys Rock!
I have reviewed a wide variety of flashlights over the last year from various brands you can find on Amazon.com. VASTFIRE has had the most diverse selection of affordable flashlights I have ever encountered and I own many of them because they all have their unique uses. What has amazed me is the quality you can get in a low-priced flashlight for for wild hog and varmint/predator hunting, blood tracking and general navigation at night. Sure there is night vision optics out there but I do most of my writing towards a working man’s budget so I am always thinking cost-effective for the common hunter. Hunting, after all, is getting really expensive compared to other outdoor pursuits so saving money where you can is important.
Here are a few lights that have made my list of serious consideration for your hunting pack and future hunting adventures. Feel free to email me with any questions you have and I promise to respond! As always, thanks for reading!
Are you listening to our Texas Fish & Game Podcast, The Best of the Outdoors? We drop a new episode every two weeks and have been going at it for 4 years now! Here are the latest episodes for your listening pleasure!
Thanks again for reading this blog!