RON GIUDICE: Cane Poles and the Fountain of Youths

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Chateau on the Lake – a grand hotel if there ever was one – recently hosted the 2012 Southeastern Outdoor Press Association (SEOPA) conference. Located in the Ozark hills of southwest Missouri and overlooking Table Rock Lake, this lodge, while extremely nice, seems a little out-of-place in my perceptions of the hill country of my youth.

Greatly overgrown now, Logan Springs was the fishing Mecca for me as a youngster. The pipe supplies water from a pump to the ponds.

On the drive up from our offices in Norman we traversed through the cross timbers and into the hill country. I peered out the window witnessing the trees, hills and rocks that I so loved as a kid growing up not too far from where the highway wound its way. And any of you that have driven through the Ozarks understand what winding roads really are.

More than the landscape, it was my daydreams that captured my attention in those days. As a youngster, my brother and I led typical 1950s, post-Korea, peacetime lives. Baseball in the heat of summer in wool uniforms; playground antics during recess and Saturday morning cartoons are among my more vivid memories. But the nostalgia peaks with recollections of my first fishing experiences.

Like most, I was mentored. Dad was a fisheries biologist but patience was certainly not one of his virtues and my earliest outings did not include his parental influence. Our grandfathers lived a long day’s drive away and were not around enough to offer much more than holiday company.

So it was my older brother that took up the task of teaching me the ways of fishing.

I have to think that none of this was Gary’s idea. We were raised in Siloam Springs, Ark., and just 12 miles east of town was the Logan Springs Fish Hatchery – Dad’s workplace and our frequent baby-sitter when school was out.

No, Gary had no desire to tend to little brother, but the assignment was his and he took the responsibility in stride.

While Dad was not the greatest teacher of the sport, he certainly knew how to catch fish. His favorite techniques were fly fishing and trolling, about as opposite in skill as I can imagine.

Logan Springs erupts from a Ozark hillside cave on the north side of the hatchery, dividing the property in half, supplying water to the many ponds used for raising fathead and golden shiner minnows. The owner, Mr. McVey, lived in Tulsa, Okla., and I can’t recall ever seeing him at the hatchery, although I’m sure he made occasional visits. So Dad managed the hatch and supplied live minnows to bait shops throughout the region.

Tiny Logan Springs feeds into Osage creek between the levies of two huge ponds. Osage Creek eventually dumps into the Illinois River. The Osage and Illinois were home to some great smallmouth fishing; Logan Springs was packed with green sunfish and the occasional bluegill. Gary had one place in mind for me to fish, but quite another where he would head.

Here’s proof of Gary’s angling skills. Not sure if I inherited the high-tech equipment or if they cut down a new pole for me.

So everyday, the two boys ­– starting with me at 5 years old and Gary four years my senior – would leave Dad and the hatchery barn for a walk to Logan Springs between the levees of the many ponds. About half way to the Osage was a shorter, wider stretch. There I would be equipped with the latest in homemade cane pole technology and a can of worms. Gary would depart with specific instructions for me: “Stay right here; I’ll be right back.” Of course, he was headed down creek to the bigger water.

Earlier training in the art of worming the live wiggler onto the hook was not lost and I would sit and catch fish for

what seemed to be hours on end. Occasionally, Gary would return to make sure I had not found a copperhead to throw rocks at or fallen in. He would always quiz me on my success and any hint of frustration or disappointment was met with “let’s try this,” which could have been as simple a varying the bobber setting or moving a few feet towards the other end of the hole. He’d wait and watch till I caught the next gullible sunfish and, once again, give the instruction: “Stay right here; I’ll be right back.”

As remedial as it sounds, I did learn how to fish this way and I doubt Gary knew or cared how much the experiences would be etched in my brain. I learned patience, sure, but I would never shake the feelings of excitement that came from a tug at the end of my line.

Gary caught this fish once, but failed to catch it a second time, proving that some of the best times on the water come at each other's expense.

Beginning with those long-ago days, Gary and I have since shared time on the water in probably half of the 50 states; we’ve fished far north into Canada and travelled south into Mexico and the Caribbean. In addition to our angling skills, the techniques and equipment have become far more advanced since our childhood years; our destinations these days range from exotic to familiar. But whether we’re casting flies over shallow flats for bones or waist deep in mountain streams trying to coax cuts and bows; whether we’re shoulder to shoulder on the front deck of an aluminum boat hunting for double-digit El Salto bass or sitting tandem in a Jon boat on Gary’s backyard lake, these days we relish the time more than the tug.

Proof that I do remember a thing or two from those boyhood days at Logan Springs, here's a nice crappie courtesy of a Oklahoma farm pond.

With a last-minute decision on our drive back from SEOPA, Tonya and I decided to make a visit to the old hatchery. We knew years ago the business and the property had been abandoned, but I simply wanted to see it again. Sure enough: tall weeds, trees and dilapidated structures were dominated the scenery so central to my prized childhood memories. But the water still runs clear and cold from the cave, and I have a hunch my honey hole still offers some great action.



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PAULDEN, Ariz. – After sending more than 1,000 rounds down range through his Smith & Wesson M&P9 and M&P15; traversing multiple shooting courses and polishing his skills of engagement in simulated-threat, room-to-room environments, BHC’s Matt Rice took the time to sit down in front of the camera and reflect on one of his favorite destinations: Arizona’s famed Gunsite Academy

There, some of the world’s foremost firearms instructors train elite military and law enforcement personnel – as well as free U.S. citizens – in the safe and effective use of small arms.


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Perhaps you’ve read “A River Runs Through It.” Perhaps you saw the movie; or maybe you did both. But aside from Robert Redford’s stirring voice-over work,Brad Pitt’s charming, devil-may-care attitude or the stir you felt watching young men connect with nature and understand their father through their passionate pursuit of fly-fishing mastery, you no doubt remember the name Norman Maclean. And now, even 20 years after his death, his family name continues to influence all things fly fishing.

The legacy of Norman Maclean, the eldest of the two Maclean boys central to the book and movie (as played by Craig Sheffer), who left his mark on outdoors with a book that has inspired and drawn many to the sport of fly fishing, is carried on with his son, John, who visited Montana recently as part of a fundraiser for the Boy Scouts of America. During his visit, Maclean spent a day on Montana’s Madison River with Steve Wagner of Blue Heron Communications, who documents the memorable experience for

ESPN Outdoors: Maclean Runs Through It


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The Halfway River winds its way through prime elk and bear country in this part of British Columbia.

FORT ST. JOHN, British Columbia – Few places can pour fuel onto a passion for big-game hunting like stalking elk and bear in British Columbia. Together in camp with my dad, the two of us sharing hunting camp in this western big-game Mecca tasked solely with making memories and pursuing game, our expectations were as high as the spruce boughs that waved in the winds that signal autumn in this northern latitude. And Canada didn’t disappoint, as big-game excitement seemed to await us around every birch trunk and thicket, be it bugling elk, meandering moose – or a circus bear.

Hunting, second probably only to fishing, has been the genesis of more campfire whoppers and barroom exaggerations than gridiron glories of yesteryear and romantic conquests. So I suppose it would only be natural to dismiss this seemingly tall tale – but hear me out.

We hunted with my uncle, Larry Jarnagin, on land that he purchased in the early 1980s, a stretch of prime game habitat that covers more than 13,000 acres of the province. On the third day of the hunt, as Larry took dad to a bear stand, the two of them noticed something passing through the woods – something out of place in this realm of quadrapeds. Like something out of the circus, they reported seeing a bear cruising the woods walking upright, on his hind legs. Their stories were consistent: the bear walked this way for at least 60 yards; stepped over logs and behaved as though it was enjoying a mid-day stroll.

In short time, I was teasing them for trying to tell me that they saw bigfoot. They denied the accusation, maintaining that what they saw was a big bear walking upright.

To say that I was hard pressed to believe their yarn would be putting it mildly, but I came from a long line of bad spellers – not big liars. The two of them went on and on about this bear, and with the clock ticking down on my chance to fill an elk tag, I hit the same woods hoping for a shot at a trophy bull and a glimpse of this circus bear. The way they described this bear, should I find it, I halfway expected it to be carrying a picnic basket along side his sidekick, Boo-Boo.

I chose to elk hunt in a field near the infamous walking-bear site on the fifth evening, I already filled my bear tag, arrowing a very nice blonde earlier in the hunt, so shooting the walking bear wasn’t an option. But I had to see it for myself.

As I walked to my stand, I had a brief conversation with a local farmer who let me know that earlier in the afternoon he saw a bear in the road that walked on its hind legs. With this unsolicited, third-party information, I started believing that there may be some truth to the tall tale.

Carefully working my way down the damp road, I encountered a bear on the path’s north side. All that separated us was a small ditch and 20 yards, which is no safe distance should a startled bear have the inclination to charge. I paused to see what it would do, and watched in disbelief as it raised itself onto its back legs and began walking parallel to the road. I picked up the pace and tried to get as close as possible without being spied by the stroller. As I walked, I frantically retrieved my video camera from the pack strapped to my shoulders, for I knew – without evidence – no one who would believe such a tale.

The bear walked 20 yards on his back feet before it disappeared into a large depression in the ground and out of sight of the camera just as the machine powered on. I know what you’re thinking: that Jarnagin Clan either needs a family outing to the eye doctor or they are the biggest bunch of B.S.ers this side of Saskatoon.

But I kid you not.

This bear actually walked on its hind legs as a way of staying mobile. Upon further investigation, we found that the bear has a damaged front paw and has adapted its mode of transportation accordingly, finding the most efficient (and likely the least paintful) way to get around so it could continue to forage and stay safe.

It turned out to be one of the greatest evenings I ever spent in the woods. Not only did I see a wild circus bear, but I also anchored a nice bull (I’ve got pictures to prove this part of the story) and fulfilled every hope I had for my first (of many to come) Canadian hunting adventure. Game on the ground? Memories for a lifetime? Check and check. Not bad for one night in British Columbia.


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Incredibly accurate and capable of taking extremely big game, Smith & Wesson X-Frame revolvers can wreak havoc on optics when improperly mounted. Photo by Kevin Jarnagin

Since Blue Heron represents both Smith & Wesson and Thompson Center Firearms and since I have always enjoyed tinkering with firearms, it was only natural I became “the one.” You know, the one who sights them in; the one who cleans them and mounts the optics.

After mounting at least a jillion scopes (actually more likely 100 or so) I have learned some tricks – mostly the hard way – to successfully put a scope on one of Smith & Wesson’s X-Frame revolvers and have it stay there. As interest continues to increase in these incredibly accurate and powerful handguns and as more and more sportsmen and women around the world take them into the field in search of big game, I figured it would be a great time to share some of the lessons I’ve learned.

Start by selecting good quality rings, bases and scope. The X-Frames subject rings, bases AND scopes to forces they were never designed to receive. I have had base screws – literally – break in half and scopes slip in the rings to the point where metal was shaved off and piled up at the back edge of the rings. Several scopes have “lost their minds,” making it impossible to shoot and hold a group. Base mounts have even bent like a diving board. I solved these problems by going to all-steel rings and bases, particularly rings with three screws on top. These rings are wider (and provide more surface area with which to grip the optic) than a standard two-screw ring.

Thoroughly degrease all screws and screw holes. I prefer to use plain rubbing alcohol. I even go so far as to wipe the interior of the rings and anywhere else I see oil or grease. I found out the hard way the tiniest amount of oil or grease will not permit Loctite to properly cure.

Mount the base and tighten all screws until very snug. Make sure none of the screws extend past the bottom of the screw hole (yes,it happens). Next, take out one screw at a time and put a drop of Loctite (or similar product) on the threads. Snug all screws, then start at one end of the mount and tighten each screw – one after the other until snug (about 35 inch pounds, or as tight asyou can get them using the small torque wrench usually furnished with the base mount). Go back over each screw and see if you can tighten it just a little more. *NOTE: Be sure to let the Loctite cure for at least 24 hours. If you shoot the X-Frame before then, you most likely WILL bust the Loctite loose. Believe me!

Assuming you selected a Picatinny or Weaver base mountand ring set, it is VERY important when placing the rings on the base mount to make sure the key (or metal rectangular piece) SITS SNUGLY AGAINST THE FRONT OF THE SLOT.Press down and forward on the scope to do this. Bad things will happen if you ignore this. Don’t forget this is the time to also level the reticle, making sure it is horizontal and set your eye relief with the scope. Most handgun scopes are pretty liberal with eye relief, which is good because the X-Frame requires full extension or your arms. Just make sure your scope rings do not touch either the scope turret or rear ocular or power ring. Again, bad things will happen to the scope if you let this happen.

Now tighten your ring screws as we did for the base mount. Tighten all screws until snug; remove them one at a time putting a little Loctite on the threads and retighten to snug. Pay attention to the gap between the rings halves to keep them as even as possible. Tighten each screw a little tighter, starting at the rear-most screw continuing to the front screw. Doing this several times is better than tightening each screw as tight as you can get it one at a time. This helps avoid putting additional stress or flex on your scope. Now all you need to do is give it a final check before using a bore sighter and heading to the range for sighting in.

Again, I have to stress the importance of using quality rings and bases. Then just mount your optic like many others before me have advised – just pay careful attention to the measures that need to be taken to ensure that your handgun scope can withstand the workload of the powerful X-Frame. Let me know if this has been of any value to you or if you’ve come across any other secrets to mounting optics on or shooting X-Frames.


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Tonya revels in purple mountains’ majesty with one eye while navigating the Centennial State’s notoriously winding roads with the other.

Not everyone gets to take a real vacation and travel is typically synonymous with the very thought of getting away from the workplace. So put vacation and travel together and out pops summer.

Summer travel was a great package when the kids were young but ours are all out on their own now looking for their own escape ideas. Nowadays, we try to take any vacation we can sneak in during the winter. But the opportunity came up so off we went on an August journey.

It’s not that we don’t travel… quite the opposite. The job takes wife, Tonya, and me to the east coast, the west coast and a bunch of points in between. But business travel, even with Tonya along, is anything but a vacation. We typically put in long hours before and during these outings, so a real vacation is a wonderful objective.

And that leads us to last week. Our summer has been full of good, solid work – both in the office and out. Maybe a short break wasn’t on the doctor’s prescription pad, but Tonya and I had visions of high peaks and clear streams; of interesting little shops with trinkets we didn’t want to buy and of wonderful, hidden cafes and restaurants.

We packed our bags and off we trekked… to Colorado. Though just a state over from Oklahoma and a few hours down the road, the journey west was filled with anticipation. A funny thing about those bags we packed: about two hours into the trip we realized we had packed our suitcase into the Mustang but failed to include the hanging clothes. Either turn back and lose at least four hours or journey on.

The decision process took about a split second.

We would buy a souvenir T-shirt everyday at a new location. And so we did and now have a pile of souvenir logo T-shirts from just about every Colorado town we visited.

First stop was Tucumcari’s Safari Motel, built during the Route 66 heyday, and the first shirt came from Teepee Curios, a teepee-shaped, concrete structure right on the main drag. They were stocked with plenty of shirts as well as chaparrals, bison and elk heads carved from wood or molded in plastic. This was a trinket store deluxe with plenty of Route 66 collectibles. We fondled the rubber horny toad but kept our purchases to just the shirts.

On to Ouray the next day and the search for our next wardrobe change. Outstanding weather was the rule and gorgeous scenery poured into the Mustang from all angles – much better than the view of the computer screen back in the office, regardless of what screen saver one might have.

Day trips out of Ouray were somewhat planned before we left but we kept our schedule loose. A day in Gunnison and the nearby trout waters was relaxing and included a great conversation with Mark Williams of Dan’s Fly Shop. He knew the area waters well and our primary destination was one of his favorites. Our talk was mostly of flies and trout, but we soon found we had mutual friends in Florida and talk turned to redfish and sharks as we made sure to buy a handful of his recommended flies. The Gunnison day even saw a cow moose near one of our trout streams.

We did accomplish our primary travel goal: returning to Grand Mesa and capturing it’s unbelievable view looking south and west to the distant Uncompahgre and La Sal peaks and Gunnison and Colorado River basins below.

After five short days we returned home, but we enjoyed a couple of thousand road miles (many with the convertible top down) in the Rocky Mountains; met some super people that have no idea how lucky they are to spend everyday in such a beautiful place… and each added to our wardrobe five new, screen-printed T-shirts from the places like Telluride, Ouray and Durango. It was a nice escape from the triple-digit temperatures of Oklahoma.

I have to admit, most Blue Heron vacations are spent fishing or hunting. But on rare occasion, a simple drive in the mountains is all a soul needs.

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