Clayton: How to enjoy a Texas summer in the outdoors
By Luke Clayton
It’s easy to sit in an air-conditioned office and dream about being out on the water all day, boating and catching one after another of your favorite species of game fish. It’s quite another proposition to actually spend time during the heat of the day in a boat without shade, especially on a calm day without cloud cover.
How about hunting during the summer months? I absolutely love a summer hunt when conditions are right and those conditions always include a cool place to spend mid-day and a method of keeping the harvested game chilled.
Almost without exception, fishing is best this time of year during the cooler periods of the day. Granted, channel catfish will readily bite during the heat of the day in a hole baited with soured grain and even the highly touted largemouth bass can be enticed to take a deep diving plug or soft plastic properly presented over a submerged deep water hump or creek channel when the thermometer is at or approaching double digits.
But, to my way of thinking, fishing during the next three months needs to be centered around the cooler time of day and, unless one wishes to fish at night, this means getting on the water at first light and being back at dock loading the boat no later than about 11 a.m.
Night fishing is definitely an option. In past years, I have enjoyed some great fishing “tied up” under a bridge with lights in the water, using live minnows for bait. This type fishing often produces a mixed stringer of white bass, crappie, yellow bass and catfish. Big schools of baitfish are attracted by the light and game fish show up for an easy meal. This is a great way to beat the heat during the summer months for those willing to lose a few hours sleep.
There was a time when loss of sleep was not a factor. I could get on the water around 8 p.m., get anchored and be fishing by dark. I thought nothing about fishing until 1 a.m. or so. This often equated to getting to bed around 3 in the morning. If the trip was successful, there was a cooler full of fish on ice to be filleted the next day, sometime before heading out to work. Those days are long gone. I would be comatose the next day if I tried this as a mature (old) fisherman.
No, these days I’m all about getting to bed early and getting up well before first light, in time to be heading out to fish at the break of day. There is just something I like about being there and, as my dad used to say, “waking up with the fish.” There are only just so many sunrises we have to enjoy and I dearly love being out there to witness every one.
Many species such as stripers, hybrid stripers, largemouth and white bass can often be found during early morning in relatively shallow water feeding on shad and it’s a common practice to follow them out to deeper water as the sun climbs higher and the shad they are feeding upon disperse. The top water bite that I enjoy so much is also at its peak at first light.
Summer hunting for exotics has become very popular in the past few decades, especially for axis deer, which are distributed throughout Texas, both on high- and low-fenced ranches. Axis can breed throughout the years but early summer is a peak time for their “rut.” During this period, the bucks are on the move, just like with whitetail bucks during their fall breeding season. Hunters from across the nation come to Texas in the summer to hunt axis deer and much of the hunting takes place during the summer months. It’s a long time until fall and the traditional hunting seasons and the fresh meat from a successful summer hunt is welcome.
I hunt hogs throughout the year and enjoy the taste of wild pork, which is much leaner than that of domestic hogs and, to my way of thinking, much more flavorful. This time of year, if I have hogs coming to a feeder, I will get in the blind 30 minutes or so before daylight and stay until around 9 a.m. One of my favorite summer tactics for hogs is to settle into a blind an hour or so before dark and stay put until I kill a hog or around 9 p.m., whichever comes first. The temperature drops with the setting sun and an evening hog hunt is usually very comfortable.
Equipment is important when hunting during daylight and, after dark. After all, one has to first SEE the hogs in order to harvest them. I use a Wraith digital scope by Sightmark. This scope shows a color image during the day and when darkness falls, I keep hunting. It has an IR (infra red) illuminator that facilitates making shots out to 125 yards and beyond but I usually set up around a feeder and most of the hogs I kill are 75 yards and closer. The Wraith also has a built-in camera and filming is as easy as pressing a button.
Summer hunting has one big challenge and that is keeping the meat cold. When hunting around a camp or lodge with a walk-in cooler, the problem is solved but most of my summer hog hunts require loading a 120-quart cooler with 20 pounds of ice in the truck just in case I do harvest some pork. Granted, there are times when hogs are not taken and the trouble of packing ice is wasted but when an animal is taken during the heat of summer, the last thing I want to do is go driving around looking for ice. I quickly quarter the hogs and get the quarters and backstrap on ice.
Insects, especially mosquitoes, can be a problem when night hunting or fishing for that matter but a Thermacell unit will solve that problem.
It’s a long time until cooling fall temperatures and we are just going into the hottest period of the year but, take a cue from the fish and game and move early and late and take it easy in the coolest place you can find during the heat of the day!
Contact outdoors writer Luke Clayton via email. His website is www.catfishradio.org