Saturday, June 27, 2009

Vacation Highlights

This is an extremely long blog post, and I realize most of you don't care what I did on my vacation this year, but this is mainly for my family's viewing pleasure.

This year we decided to take a family vacation with my side of the family. We rented a big 4-bedroom cabin in the Smoky Mountains near Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. We did lots of fun things on the trip, and these are just some of the highlights.

Since we have two little ones, we decided to take our time on the long drive to Tennessee, that way the girls wouldn't have to spend all day in the car. So we did a few fun things along the way.

The first day we drove to Little Rock and watched a minor league baseball game between the Arkansas Travelers and the Tulsa Drillers.

Next, we stopped in Memphis and rode the monorail over the Mississippi River to Mud Island River Park where we toured a museum and strolled down the river walk, which is a replica of the Mississippi River. Each stride you take while walking along the replica is equivalent to about one mile on the actual river. The replica ends at the Gulf of Mexico, which is about an acre of water where you can rent a pedal boat.

The next day we traveled on to Nashville, where we met up with the rest of my family. Several of us went to the Grand Ole Opry where we saw such country music greats as Little Jimmy Dickens, Vince Gill, Rhonda Vincent, Hal Ketchum, Point of Grace, John Conlee, The Whites, Mike Snider, Jim Ed Brown, as well as several other performers. The highlight of the night was getting to hear my favorite female country artist, Alison Krauss. She performed several songs, but the one I enjoyed the most was her rendition of the old hymn "It Is Well". She has the purist voice you will ever hear! My brother-in-law, Mark, made the comment that she could have sang the dictionary and it would have been good.

We had the "Peaceful View" cabin reserved beginning on Sunday, and it definitely lived up to it's name. Here is a picture of the cabin and a few shots I took from the balcony of the cabin (which had a hot tub I might add).

On Monday we went to the Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies in Gatlinburg. This is the best aquarium I have ever been to and would recommend it if you are ever near Gatlinburg.

We also went to the Comedy Barn in Pigeon Forge on Monday evening. This is a family show that sort of reminds me of Hee-Haw. It is definitely worth seeing.

On Tuesday, my wife and I, along with my sisters and their husbands went hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We hiked the Rainbow Falls trail up to the 80-foot tall waterfall and back, which was 5.4 miles roundtrip. This was my favorite part of the whole trip.

On Wednesday morning, we went on a 5-mile whitewater rafting excursion down the Pigeon River. My sister has the CD of pictures we purchased from this trip so I don't have those yet. It was a fun trip and our guide was a really neat fellow.

Wednesday evening we took the girls to an arcade/playland and got them some matching airbrush t-shirts as a souvenir from the trip.

We decided to make the long drive back in one day on Thursday, and believe me, it was a LONG day!

It was a very fun and eventful vacation. It was nice to get away for awhile and enjoy the company of family and take in the beauty of God's creation. I don't want to go back to work on Monday.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

A Few New Trail Camera Pics

I was able to make it out to the hunting lease again this weekend and swapped out memory cards on my trail cameras. I only had about 16 pictures, but there were a few that were notable. (Note: You should be able to click on the pictures to open them up and view them full-size.)

It's still too early in the year to tell much about what their antlers are going to look like in the fall, but this little guy looks like he will have some pretty nice bases. I'd be interested to see what you all think the age of this deer is. Remember this is in the Western Cross Timbers region of North-Central Texas, and the average mature buck in this area will only field dress at about 110 pounds.

I know this picture is awfully blurry due to the rain drops on the lens, but does that look like an antler to you?

I liked these two pictures. This youngster sure is learning to use those legs.

Friday, June 12, 2009

TPWD Increases Hunting/Fishing License Fees

The following is an excerpt from a news release issued by Texas Parks & Wildlife Department:

Hunting licenses will increase from $23 to $25, while the popular Super Combo all-inclusive license increases from $64 to $68.

Non-resident hunting licenses increase by $15 from $300 to $315, which also reflects a five percent hike.

Fishing packages will also increase by $2. The resident freshwater fishing package increases from $28 to $30 and the saltwater fishing package increases from $33 to $35.

The biggest increase in license fees approved by the commission affects lifetime licenses. The resident lifetime fishing and hunting licenses will increase to $1,000 and the lifetime combination license increases to $1,800.

"We have not increased the cost of a lifetime license for 12 years," said Gene McCarty, TPWD deputy director of administration. "Frankly, these licenses have been undervalued and could represent significant lost revenue over time if not adjusted."

I wish I would have purchased a lifetime hunting license ten years ago when they were $600. It would have nearly paid for itself by now. With an increase to $1000, I don't see myself being able to get one of those anytime soon.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Throwback Thursday

This week I am taking a look back at a special duck hunt I went on back in January of 2005. My friend Jason Vickers is originally from Stuttgart, Arkansas, which is the duck hunting capitol of the world. Growing up, Jason was friends with and went to church with now president of the Rich-N-Tone (RNT) duck call company and 3-time World Champion Duck Caller, John Stephens. Jason invited me to take a weekend trip to Stuttgart with him to do some duck hunting. I had read about how good the hunting was over there, and had seen duck hunting television shows filmed there, so I wasn't about to pass up this opportunity. He had another close friend named Ken who allowed us to stay at his house and hunt on his family's property the entire weekend.

The first morning's hunt was the best of the whole weekend. Jason's friend Ken had managed to pull some strings and got us permission to hunt on the Stephens' property. I've never seen so many ducks in all my life! We got our limit easily within an hour. But, according to both Ken and Jason, the hunting was slow compared to normal conditions. I was used to hunting public lakes here in Texas, where you see more duck hunters than you do ducks. I was in duck paradise! It was a mecca for Mallards! Geese were flying over in droves!

Jason had actually given me a Rich-N-Tone call just a few weeks before the trip, and I was very impressed with the sound of the call. While we were there, we stopped by the RNT factory where we were given a personal tour by John. It was neat to see the different stages and machines used in making the duck calls. They have some really nice products and a very professional looking website. Check it out: RNT Calls

Jason's friend Ken and his family were very hospitable, as was the entire Stephens family. We went to church with them Sunday morning at First Baptist Stuttgart and had dinner with a group of several families after church. I enjoyed getting to meet them all and really appreciated their hospitality.

Here are some pictures from the trip. We were hunting over flooded rice fields.

This is Jason (left) and Ken, Sr. (right). Ken, Jr. had to work while we were there and didn't get to hunt on this particular morning.

Here is a typical view of the flooded rice fields we were hunting. You could drive down the roads heading back into town and see these fields absolutely covered with ducks!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Trail Camera Pics - (April 25 - June 6)

Here are some of my most recent trail camera pictures.

Camera #1: Cuddeback Capture IR
These are the piglets I have been seeing and getting pictures of for the last few months.

Here are a few bucks starting to sport their new headgear. It will be neat to watch how fast the antlers grow throughout the summer.

Here is a nasty looking song dog.

This was the last picture on the camera, from just a few days ago.

Camera #2: Cuddeback Excite
These cameras aren't too far apart, so the piglets had posed for this camera as well.

There were a few bucks on this camera too.

This doe looks to me like she is very close to giving birth.