Saturday, November 23, 2019

2019 Wyoming Whitetail

Over the last few years one of my favorite hunts has become a bonus whitetail hunt that I get to do in Wyoming. It’s a special Type 3 tag that runs through the peak of the whitetail rut in November, and in addition to this Any Whitetail tag I usually pick up a doe tag or two as well. 

I hunt for these tasty critters on checkerboarded state land around agriculture, and this type of hunt usually involves a lot of waiting until the deer wander off of a neighboring ranch onto public land. Then it’s a matter of getting into range and set up for a shot before the deer bust you or keep moving onto another ranch. 

I’ve been fortunate to tag several whitetail on the same section of state land 3 years in a row. This year my dad had a doe tag as well so he got to tag along, and in addition to a doe, I killed the biggest whitetail buck I’ve killed in Wyoming. He put me through the wringer waiting for him to stand up so I could take a shot over the y’all grass he was bedded in, then I nearly missed my opportunity when the doe he had been chasing around spotted me. I was finally able to connect and he is going to be turned into a pretty Euro mount and some fine steaks.

Monday, October 21, 2019

WONBass U.S. Open

This year I fished the WONBass US Open on Lake Mead in Nevada for the first time. This has been a bucket list tournament for me for as long as I’ve known about it. The Open is a huge derby and draws some of the top anglers from not only the West but nationwide. This year’s field included anglers from the BASS Elite Series, Major League Fishing Bass Pro Tour and FLW Tour, in addition to WONBass’s own roster of talented Western hammers. The Open uses a unique Pro-Am format that combines the weight of the boater and non-boater (called a AAA) each day. The next day new partners are drawn and that pair again shares their weight for the day. This format is featured in the US Open and the Arizona and California Opens, which are also WONBass events. 

Earlier this year I decided to take the leap and sign up as a AAA, or non-boater. I wanted to get my feet wet without getting in over my head with a field this big. As the summer went on, I connected with some of the guys I fished against in UBTT events who were fishing the Open and renting a houseboat at the host marina. This turned out to be a huge convenience! Not only was the price per night cheaper due to being split between several guys, but it eliminated a lot of travel time between the lake and the nearest town of Henderson, NV, where most of the anglers were staying. Every morning is was just a matter of meeting my boater at the marina and going from there.

My partner for the first day was Trait Zaldain, who I had a lot of respect for beforehand, and she her husband Chris,who fishes the Elite Series, are great people. Trait is attempting to be the first woman to qualify for the Elite Series through the BASS Opens. Trait and I fished hard and covered a lot of water but were only able to bring one fish to weigh-in. We caught quite a few small fish but keepers were hard to come by. Trait and Chris were super cool to work with and I have even more respect for them now than I did before.

My second day partner was Chris Dixon from California. Chris was a great guy to fish with and we tried a lot of spots and techniques through the day until we finally found a productive stretch of bank late in the afternoon. I caught two keeper largemouth and I believe if we had hit that stretch of bank sooner we would have had a limit. At the end of day 2 I was sitting in the 180’s but still having a great time.

On day 3 I drew Josh Bertrand, who is a former Elite Series pro and now fishes the Bass Pro Tour. Josh is a great guy and we had the best day of fishing that either of us had all week. We fished shallow and deep and were able to put together a decent limit of both smallmouth and largemouth.

I ended up finishing 159th out of 254 AAA’s and the event was everything I had heard it would be. The shared weight format gives the pro incentive to teach their non-boater as you go, because the better you fish, the better they place. I enjoyed it so much that I’ve already signed up for the 2020 Open as a boater. Can’t wait to get back on Mead!

Sunday, September 1, 2019

I'm starting a YouTube channel!

I am very excited to announce that I have started my own YouTube channel! This is something I’ve been toying with for years, and I’ve been sitting on a lot of footage of my hunting trips with no real plan on what to do with it. I decided there is no time like the present to get the ball rolling. 

My first video is about fishing for smallmouth on my home lake. I’m not ready to make any promises about the type of content I’m going to put out, other than it will be outdoor lifestyle related. As I get more familiar with my cameras and editing software I hope to figure out what type of video I do best, but until then this is all one big experiment.

Please check out my first video and let me know what you think. If it’s your cup of tea, give it a thumbs up and subscribe to the channel. Then look for more content coming soon!

Friday, July 19, 2019

Hyrum Lake Largemouth

Although I love catching smallmouth bass, sometimes it’s good to have a change of paceman chase some largemouth! This pst week I headed down to Hyrum reservoir in Utah in search of a a few green fish. 

Hyrum didn’t disappoint and I was able to catch some greenies around shallow cover. Most of my fish came on a BOOYAH Pad Crasher frog and a War Eagle flipping jig. These are lures I don’t get to fish much back in Wyoming and it was fun to break them out. 

Hyrum is a pretty small lake but holds some quality largemouth. It does get hit hard by pleasure boaters on the weekends, but the fishing can still be great. I’ll definitely be bringing the Bass Cat down to this lake more in the future.  

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Flaming Gorge Smallmouth Transplant

The smallmouth bass population on the Flaming Gorge took a huge hit several years ago with the illegal introduction of burnout into the fishery. These fish are native to many parts of the west, but not to the Green River drainage. The burbot are an aggressive feeder and tend to outcompete bass and trout for food, as well as gobble up their young, taking a big toll on their population. Although bass and rainbow trout are technically non-natives to the region, their popularity with fishermen and ability to coexist in this ecosystem created the need to manage this new invasive species. 

The Wyoming Game and Fish and Utah Department of Wildlife Resources have begun efforts over the last few years to replenish the bass population in the Gorge and eliminate as many burbot as possible. Fishing regulations on the Wyoming side of the Gorge prohibit keeping smallmouth and releasing burbot, and during the winter events such as the Burbot Bash Ice Fishing derby have helped to reduce burbot numbers and simultaneously boost bass and trout numbers. 

Another practice that has been a boon to the bass population in Wyoming has been the capture via hook and line of fish in the Canyon region on the Utah side of the Gorge and relocation to the Wyoming side. This event is organized by the Game and Fish agencies from both states and relies on volunteers showing up to catch as many bass as possible to be moved via trucks. I was able to participate in this event this year and the results were pretty incredible. 

Even with the challenging afternoon winds, we were able to beat the old record of 1,430 by collecting and relocating a total of 1,445 bass in about 7-hours. The average size was 8.27 inches and 0.25 lbs (goal less than 12-inches). There was a total of 58 participants in 20 boats, from multiple groups including (but not limited to) the Wyoming Bass Federation and Nation, Utah Bass Federation and Nation, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, US Forest Service, WGFD, UDWR, Dedicated Hunters, and volunteer anglers that just wanted to help support the fishery.

Thanks to Dave Richter, Bubba Oneill and Bubba's Mother-in-law for all the drinks and lunch from Jimmy John's and Brad Tribby for the raffle and prizes to kick off the event.

Monday, June 17, 2019

The Smallmouth are spawning!

After waiting through a long cold spring, it looks like the smallmouth on Flaming Gorge are starting to spawn! This is a fun time of year to fish the clear waters of the Gorge and find some of the biggest fish of the year. Smallies are super aggressive on the bed and it can make for some exciting times on the water. 

I have two presentations I use when aight fishing. The first is a white Texas-rigged YUM Christie Craw. This bait is easy to see in stained to clear water, and will usually get the bass to react. I’ll also throw a drop shot with a bright colored worm, and the advantage of the drop shot is you can let it sit in one spot for as long as you want, and sometimes that’s what it takes to tick off a bass enough for them to bite. You can even drop it on the bed, open the bail on your spinning reel and back away, leaving the bait in place. More often than not, your line is going to start moving sideways. Then just reel into him! 

Some people don’t like the idea of sight fishing for bedding fish, due to the possibility that it could impact the success of the spawn. I don’t have any issue with bed-fishing, but I do take extra precautions to take care of the fish and get them back into the water as soon as possible. This way they get to do their thing and I still get to enjoy catching trophy quality fish. 

Monday, April 29, 2019

2019 Utah Turkey

Turkey hunting is something that few people really get into, but those who do REALLY get into it. People like to draw comparisons between turkey hunting and elk hunting, and I do think a lot of the same characteristics apply to both. You’re calling to a male animal, and trying to convince him to go against his instincts and venture over to the sounds of a sweet-talking female. You have to set up just right to give yourself a shot as the turkey or elk comes in, and then you have to calm your nerves and shaking hands enough to pull off a clean shot when if and when you get the opportunity. 

I’ve hunted Rio Grande turkeys in the Utah general turkey season for the past few years, mostly due to the fact that I can get to Utah turkeys about an hour from my house. Wyoming turkeys are several hours away in the central to eastern parts of the state, although their range is expanding so that may change in the near future. 

This year I did something I have never done before, and that is kill a turkey on the opening morning of the hunt. Come to think of it, I’ve never done that with any animal. Some may look at that as getting cheated out of a lot of quality time in the woods, but more often than not I end up short on time and short on success, so there was no way I was going to pass up this shot. 

As I got to my spot opening morning, I heard a Tom gobbling down the hill from me as I loaded up my gear. I took off in his direction, and although I was able to get him to respond to me, he was very quickly moving away. The last gobble I heard was almost inaudible, and I decided to call off the chase. I started working my way around the mountain headed toward the other side of the road where I’ve seen and heard turkeys in years past. 

As I was sneaking along I heard a gobble not too far ahead of me. I grabbed my Pistol Creek slate call and have a few yelps, getting him to respond and nearly cutting me off. We continued our conversation as we moved closer to each other’s location, and I found a good spot to set up on the edge of a small clearing with a backdrop of a couple of pine trees and some good shooting lanes. The bird went silent but soon enough I saw his bright red and blue head peeking through some brush as he made his way into the clearing I was set up on. At this point he was under 40 yards and as soon as I had a clear shot, I let the Winchester bark. 

Hunting turkeys out west for me involves big country, and there is almost always a good breeze or wind blowing. I’ve had the best luck calling with crystal pot-style calls because they tend to cut through the natural noise better than true slate calls. The Cut Over from Pistol Creek has become my favorite because in addition to having the right frequency and volume to reach turkeys across the landscape, it also sounds very realistic and natural when you are calling softer to turkeys in close range. It has become my go-to call without a doubt. 

Time to fry up some turkey strips and celebrate a successful opening morning! 

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

The Gorge is Turning On!

It’s a sure sign of spring when you find smallmouth bass cruising the shallows looking for a meal. I was able to get out on the Flaming Gorge for a few hours, mostly working on dialing in a new prop, but I also took the opportunity to hit a few coves and do some fishing once the wind picked up. 

The first few spots I hit didn’t produce any fish, but one cove did. I was cranking a Wiggle Wart along a rocky point when this nice smallie hammered it. I was running out of time and the ever-increasing wind was making the run back to the ramp look like a real rodeo, so I had to call it a day. Good to know the bass are on the move and hungry. With the water warming up it should only get better from here on out!

Monday, April 8, 2019

Cowboy BASS Qualifier at CJ Strike

The Cowboy BASS Nation qualifier was this past weekend on CJ Strike reservoir in Idaho, and as usual it was a great tournament. Overall weights were a little lower than we’ve seen in years past, but there were still some big sacks brought to the weigh-in. 

I spent most of my time fishing coves and rocky points up the Snake River arm, and although I was around fish throughout the tournament, I never got on any really big fish. The co-anglers I drew were great to fish with and we had a good time on the water. 

I did manage to qualify for the state team as a non-boater. That means I will be fishing the 2020 BASS Nation Western Regional next year. Looking forward to the announcement of where that will be and ultimately fishing the event. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Shady Rays

Doing a little public land exploring and giving these Shady Rays sunglasses a test drive. These ice blue polarized lenses seem like a good all-around choice for an outdoor lifestyle. Plus, the wood finish is a classy touch. Can’t wait to get these out on the water in the spring.

Not only are they great sunglasses, but every order of Shady Rays provides 11 meals to Feeding America as well, with over 3.6 million meals provided to date! I love supporting brands that give a little something to the community, whether it’s in the outdoor space or the broader mainstream.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Wyoming Conservation License Plate

They’re here!! Follow this link below to get your Wyoming Wildlife Conservation license plate!

Proceeds from the sales of these plates go directly to building and improving wildlife corridors, crossings and game dances along Wyoming’s highways. State legislator Stan Blake led the charge on this one, along with Muley Fanatics, and tremendous support from Wyoming’s sportsmen and women. 

The "Public Land Owner" T-shirt that I'm wearing is available here: Backcountry Hunters & Anglers.