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Saturday, June 28, 2014

Night Fishing

Night fishing can be some of the most rewarding fishing that there is to be had.  In the summer time it's especially good as it allows you to escape the heat and dodge all of the boat traffic…leaving you to float alone on the lake as if you're floating right there with the stars above you.  

Constant trips to the lake can get expensive.  Between fuel, snacks, and chewing tobacco a man can run up a handsome bill in a hurry…oh yeah…tackle too.  Those costs become even more painful when the trip turns out to be unproductive…i.e. you get skunked.  I got to wondering if I could find a way to get more experience without taking the hit to the wallet that comes with actually going fishing.

Given that fishing, like flying jet fighters, is expensive, I thought it might make sense to look to the military for clues on how to do things more efficiently.  Often times in the military the budget is tight.  Jet fuel and aircraft maintenance are expensive, so rather than actually go flying…pilots simply practice flying in a simulator.  

Now, I won’t lie to you…aircraft flight simulators are expensive…lucky for us we don’t have to buy one.  What I am proposing here is a night-fishing-simulator…something that gives us the essence of night fishing without the expense of gassing up the truck and the boat, buying a bunch of tackle, and consuming hours of time.  After a few moments of sage-like rumination, it occurred to me that night-fishing is well suited to this type of simulator training.  After studying how my night fishing trips normally unfold, I was able to concoct a simulator from commonly available tools/stuff.

My night-fishing simulator requires a few initial steps to get set-up, but once you have the basics you won’t have to do much work at all.  The first step is to get your hands on your favorite baitcaster.  Once you have it in your hands I want you lighten both the mechanical and magnetic drags to their absolute lightest settings and tie on a light lure.  On the next really windy day I want you to give this set-up to the left-handed girl who lives next door and ask her to try her hand at using a bait caster.  Tell her to just let it rip, as hard as she can, directly into the wind, and that you’ll check on her progress when you get back from the pet store.

Yep…you’re going to the pet store for the next step…to buy a bat.  Any size bat will do but bigger is usually better…trust me on this.  
They will probably give you your bat in a bag as they are nocturnal creatures and daylight tends to freak them out…and we don’t want a riled up bat in the truck with us…it just wouldn’t be safe.

When you get home, collect the bird-nest-infested baitcaster from your neighbor and thank her for her help.   Now you have all of the components for your night-fishing simulator so let’s put it to the test.  I want you to take your fouled baitcaster and your new pet bat to the darkest closet  in your house.  With the closet light off, sit on a stool with your reel in your hand, then reach down gently, grab the bag, shake it like there is no tomorrow, and then open it.  Have someone outside the closet start a timer and see how quickly you can untie the knots in your baitcaster with an angry bat dive bombing your head before you freak out and give up.

This is the essence of night fishing.  Aside from the cost of the bat it’s virtually free (and if nothing goes wrong you can generally re-use the bat).  The simulator lets you get just as creeped out and frustrated without the all of the fuel and bait costs associated with an actual trip to the lake.  As I wrap this up I think there may be one cost I left out…that of paying someone to remove the bat from your house after your wife discovers your simulator…and those costs may be more than monetary in nature…on second thought maybe there is no cheap alternative to night fishing. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Of Squirrels and solutions…one mans problem

My name is (name redacted to protect the innocent), and I have a problem...a squirrel problem.  This is a problem that has haunted my home and family for years.  I’ll spare you all of the humiliating details but know has been a long and difficult process for me and my family.  Sometime late last year I hit rock bottom and knew something had to change.  Here is a brief history of my struggle. 

As is probably too common, at first I didn’t even realize that i had a problem.  I didn’t take it seriously and basically took half hearted measures to control it, paying it only lip service really.  My first pellet gun purchase was a Daisy 10-pump type gun.  

The old 10-pump Daisy pellet gun wasn’t great for hunting was more of an ‘assisted suicide’ type gun.  If a squirrel was begging for a mercy killing I could get it done...but beyond that it wasn’t too great.  It’s range was short and it’s power inadequate for anything other than very simple tasks.  After a few shocking episodes demonstrated the inadequacy of that gun for my task I knew I had to replace it.  

Next I got a Crosman break barrel gun...and it was good.  This is the gun that ‘laid down the law’ at my house.  Prior to its arrival the squirrels were running the show around here.  They would chew on my house with impunity, destroying everything in their path.  The squirrels were unleashing wanton destruction upon my homestead.  The Crosman TR77 changed all that.  It was the line in the sand.  It marked the day I would stand up not just for myself...but for all mankind (except maybe for  hobo’s and hippies that live in vans and under bridges and stuff).  No longer would I stand idle and suffer the cruel urges of Scurious Carolenisis...otherwise known as The Eastern Grey Squirrel.

The Crossman TR77 did a good job.  The squirrels learned to respect it as a new authority.  When squirrels woke me up by chewing on my home it literally became the long arm of the law.  No squirrel was safe on my roof.

After 6 months of sustained combat, the TR77 had fought hard enough to buy me some breathing room.  No longer was the house covered in squirrels.  No longer did I have to suffer the indignity of watching squirrels chew up my wooden deck out longer would I have to watch my children weep as these vermin lurked in the trees above them and destroyed their home.  For now at least there were some rules...there was some order.  The Crosman TR77 had become a plague upon those squirrels.  

The TR77 racked up a body count of 58 squirrels in it’s 6-month tour.  Today the hard-core group is long gone...dead and buried.  While it may seem fitting to sit back and basque in the security provided by the Crosman, it’s important to remember that nature abhors a vacuum.  Slowly, steadily, squirrels are infiltrating from neighboring properties.  It’s nothing unmanageable, but these squirrels are smaller, and a little more skittish.  The new squirrels spend a lot of time hanging out at the far end of the effective range of the TR77.  In a way it’s just natural selection...the squirrels that were most comfortable being close to my home are the ones who’s genes were stamped out of the pool.  

The new squirrels represent a unique challenge, requiring a shift in strategy.  My goal is always to strike like the Grim Reaper.  I want a squirrel to drop in his tracks...for his ghost to still be standing there holding an acorn when his wood-chewing, home-destroying-body hits the ground.  I don’t want my nemesis to suffer...but to meet a lightening quick and humane demise.   

The problem is I can’t guaranty that type of exit for him at 20 yards and beyond with the current gun.  Nor can I allow these squirrels to linger in relative safety just beyond my effective range, massing for a counter attack.  No, the only acceptable solution was that I needed to extend my range.  I needed to extend it straight into the heart of their destroy their morale through attrition.  

What came next was a blur of research that took me into the darkest corners of the internet.  To places where men secretively discussed topics such as Foot-Pounds-of-Energy, Hammer Spring Tension, and Standard Deviation of Velocity.  It was here, in these small dens of online resistance, that these freedom fighters provided me with the solutions I so desperately needed.

After countless days of planning, research, and risk analysis, I decided that the solution to my problem...was the Benjamin Marauder.  The gun was advertised as quiet, accurate, and powerful.  Most importantly was the claim on accuracy, for if this held true then there was nowhere in my area of operations that a squirrel was safe.  This was the weapon that could bring the rule of law to my yard...forever.  Eternal peace was within my grasp. 

After a few weeks of tense anticipation it all came together today.  I configured the weapon to fit my mission profile then I settled in to get it zero'd.  

I used a few quick shots to walk the scope to zero, then I grabbed a magazine and settled in for my first 10-shot group.  The compared to my TR77...was breathtaking. 

I was simply not prepared for the level of accuracy that this gun delivers.  It is SO different from what I was used to.  It is so accurate that as the pellets stacked up one on top of the other I started to think that something was broken...nothing could be THIS accurate.  Surely the gun had fired one or two pellets but not 10...surely it couldn’t have stacked 10 pellets into a group this small.

After a quick check of the empty magazine and the target itself...I was startled to learn that it had indeed worked perfectly.  This gun had shrunk my groups from 6 inches...down to well under half an inch.  At 25 yards and beyond I now had the secret weapon.  I now had the ability to strike from a distance at which the squirrels were totally unaccustomed.

Sitting there, alone in my backyard gazing the target, seeing what I saw, knowing what I knew...I felt a sense of awe flow deeply and completely over my soul.  This must be what it felt like for the scientists in the Manhattan Project during WWII the first time they tested a nuclear bomb.  It was an earth shattering and fundamental shift in weaponry.  It validated everything I suspected, it rewarded all the hard work...I now had the ultimate solution.  With this new weapon in my hands...I would never fear another squirrel again.

There would be no more waking up early to the noise of my home being destroyed.  There would be no more walking out back with a beer to relax, only to find wood damage on my deck.  There would be no more stolen tomatoes or chewed up shingles.  No sir...the tide had turned.  There would be no more...squirrels.  
***Certain aspects of the actual story may have been embellished by the author for emphasis and entertainment but the material portions of the story are that the TR77 was good but the Marauder looks to be world class...not quite as powerful as Fat Man or Little Boy...but world class none-the-less.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Confusion and chaos

My story is a scary one.  It began on a calm Sunday morning where I had hoped to sleep in and rest from a long week of laboring and paying taxes.  My slumber was deep and restful, until…until it began.  There was a grating, gnawing sound echoing through my chamber.  At first I was confused, why was I awake?  What was that noise?  Would it stop if I just closed my eyes?  

Quickly it dawned on me that the noise was being made by none other than Sciurus Carolinensis (the eastern gray squirrel).  It was upon my roof, directly over my bed, gnawing on my home.  A sharp anger quickly rose within me, I pounded upon the walls arrogantly believing that my tantrum alone would frighten the beast away.  But no…no it did not take fright…it did not leave.  After a moment of inquisitive silence (just long enough for me to get back in bed) it began anew.  

Rage.  Rage filled me at this point.  I ran up the attic stairs and pounded directly on the plywood of my roof.  Surely my tempestuous outbreak would mortify Sciurus Carolinensis.  Finally, there in the attic, I heard silence...blessed silence.

Satisfied, I returned to my chamber and lie down in my warm, comfortable bed.  And began...again.  I was apoplectic at this point.  I bolted from bed, flew down the stairs, grabbed a pellet gun and blasted out the front door.  I looked up in time to see him.  There, perched high upon my roof, just at the corner where the gutter turns, sat my nemesis.  He had an acorn in his hands and he gazed down at me with a look of impetuous, whisker faced scorn.  As I returned his steely eyed gaze my hands were busy pumping a clackety old pellet gun…one…two…there he goes…three…over the pitch…four….five…he was gone long before I could get to ten pumps.  

Too angry to return to bed, I went to the garage.  I got a bow-saw and I began cutting down every crepe myrtle on that side of the house.  If I couldn't kill him I would deny him access.  I must have looked out of my mind.  On a calm and beautiful Sunday morning, just after sunrise, I was at the side of my house madly sawing away dang near in my skivvies.  My small and ineffective gesture felt good at the time but it fixed nothing.  The next week I was awoken again.  

My family felt bad watching me under gunned.  Time and time again a squirrel would be gone before I could "pump to ten".  For my birthday they bought me a Crosman TR77 break barrel pellet gun.  Now it would be a different game, now the odds were in my favor.  My adversary had long gotten used to my response times.  Sciurus Carolinensis knew how long it took for me to get to the window, he KNEW he had time.  He could count the pumps and be on his way long before my weapon was ready.  That day though, that day would mark the start of a very different game for Sciurus Carolinensis.

No longer could he dwell and lolly gag.  As technology boosted my abilities, my body count began to grow.  Week by week I took a steady toll on the squirrels.  Mine was a wrath that would not soon burn out.  As the furs piled up, my Sunday mornings grew quieter.  No longer did they wake me in the mornings.  Perhaps it was a peace offering…but it was just too late.  They drew first blood, not me.  

My war continued unabated.  I shot them on the weekends, on weekday mornings, when I got home from work…anytime was fair game.  I would show them no mercy.  If they dared gnaw on my home or wake me then this is the fate they justly deserved…they called down the thunder, and hell was coming with me.

After 5 months of steadily knocking the squirrels back on their heels (body count stood at 57 last I checked) my primary weapon went down.  Suddenly I found myself defenseless.  My home was once again susceptible to the juvenile and vandalous impulses of Sciurus Carolinensis.  

In the mornings as I left for work they'd be there…once again fearless.  Today I could take it no more.  I have a family and castle to protect.  I ordered a Benjamin Marauder (.177) and should have it by the weeks end.

Now the squirrels will have a new and infinitely more fearsome weapon to deal with.  Increased range and accuracy will lead to increased lethality.  As the Marine Corps says...”Distance favors the trained marksman.”  

There is a rule at my house (a joke but it's fun to say its a rule) and it goes like this "if you wake me up, you die".  It is generally delivered to my 14 year old son and his friends when I turn in the for evening and they are still up playing video games….it helps to keep them quiet.  But for the squirrels…they found out the hard way about the rule.  They woke me up, and for that they will pay a terrible price…for as long as I live.