Summer in the Carolinas means vacations from work and school for some folks.
For everyone, though, it means blistering temperatures, the kind of days only suited for mad dogs and Englishmen.
This summer, the thermometer has approached triple digits for several days at a stretch and many outdoor endeavors have been pretty much impossible. There are some things sportsmen can do to stave off mid-summer cabin fever, though. The following are a few suggestions for dealing with “swelter season" Taken at a slow pace, with a cool drink close by,they are good ways to pass the time until cool fall breezes signal the onset of deer hunting and fall fishing.
1) Go catfishing - One of the positive aspects of angling for catfish is that they will bite pretty much any time of day, even in hot weather and it doesn’t require a lot of strenuous effort. Another is they are especially active at night and can be caught in nearly any of our state’s fresh waterways. A chunk of chicken liver, shrimp, cut fish or maybe home-made stink bait will usually get results.
Another wonderful aspect of channel cats or one of the other species common in these parts is they are delicious on a plate. Fried catfish fillets, served up with slaw, hushpuppies and iced tea, are the true essence of summer in the South. A good time to catch some is late in the afternoon or even after the sun goes down and things begin to cool down a bit. (Just remember the bug spray.)
2) Set up trail cams – Bow season for deer is only about two months off and this a good time to do some off-season scouting. The only problem is it's hard to look for deer sign when your eyes are filled with sweat and you're fighting a running battle with mosquitoes and deer flies. The answer may be to let someone else do the scouting for you. In this case, the someone else might be a trail camera. Set up along a game path or near a stand site, it can record the comings and goings of all kinds of critters – maybe even that ten-pointer you've been suspecting lives in the area. You'll end up with an idea of how promising a spot is and you won't have to sacrifice your body or sanity to do it.
3) Learn a sporting skill – Nothing is quite as satisfying as catching a braggin’- size trout or a bluegill. Nothing, that is, except getting the fish to hit a lure you made yourself or on a rod you constructed. Fly tying and rod making are rewarding pursuits that require just a little instruction and some time. The instruction is available in books, online, or from a mentor like one of the members of the Cape Lookout Flyfishing Club. The time is a byproduct of the summer season, at least as long as the air conditioner keeps doing its thing.
4) Gig a flounder – One of the best places to be on an unbearably hot summer day is best approached several hours after the sun goes down. It's the knee-deep waters on the back side of our state's barrier islands or the lower ends of our
brackish, coastal rivers. Flounder lie in those shallows, waiting to ambush minnows and presenting tempting targets for fishermen wielding long-handled gigs. The necessary equipment can be as elaborate as a shallow-draft boat with multiple underwater lights and various creature comforts, or as simple as a Coleman lantern, a stringer and a gig. The keys are to pick a likely spot (near an inlet is best), a good tide (dropping and near low) and learn to spot flounder lying on the bottom. The last is an acquired art that gets better with experience. Also make sure you know the applicable laws: a saltwater fishing license is required, and creel and size limits apply.
5) Try some new wild game recipes – Mid-summer is a good time to put your culinary skills on display or maybe develop some new ones. That venison, duck or wild turkey you have in the freezer can be prepared any number of ways and should be used soon. Capt. Jerry Dilsaver's recipe for Duck Tacos, found in "Cooking on the Wild Side" by Ty Conti, is a wonderful summertime dish, especially served along with a cool beverage on the patio as the sun dips below the horizon.
6) Do some dog training – No, we're not talking about putting a gun dog or hound through his paces in the mid-day sun – unless, it is a retriever and the dog is a cool swim in an alligator-proof waterway. Practicing basic obedience or refining a dog's nose can be done at night when it is cooler. For example, a hunter who thaws some venison for kebabs on the grill (see above) can save the watery blood from the cut and use it to lay down a circuitous trail in the backyard for his retriever to follow. A treat at the end of the line will help the dog get the idea that following a blood trail is a good thing and a valuable skill when his master goes bow hunting in the fall.
7) Try some shade tree plinking – Target shooting can be tough when the temperatures soar, even for serious marksmen. An air rifle, some small targets and a suitable backstop in the backyard, or even in an air conditioned basement or garage, will give a hunter the chance to keep his eye sharp and have some fun at the same time. Speaking of eyes, safety glasses are mandatory. Bbs can ricochet a surprising distance.
8) Do some cane pole fishing – Sure, this is fishing in the heat of day but it's more about attitude than exertion. An old-fashioned cane pole, a can of red worms and a shady spot on a creek bank are all that's needed. Throw in a cold Pepsi (this is eastern North Carolina after all) and a pack of square nabs and you may wish fall would never come.
Ed Wall can be reached at email@example.com or 252-671-3207. His web site is www.edwalloutdoors.com