by Bob McNally
A funny thing happened on the way outdoors…
Humorist Dave Barry pretty much owns the comedy line, “You can’t make this stuff up.” But that zinger sure fits a lot of outdoor happenings. Here are but a few to make a sportsman shake his head in disbelief, blink heartily, and or even chuckle.
A New And Dangerous Breed Of Flying Fish
The takeoff of a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Gulfstream G-IV jet from MacDill AFB in Florida was aborted after it collided with a 9-inch sheepshead on the runway.
Sheepshead, in case you didn’t know, are a zebra-striped saltwater fish often found up to 100 feet deep on nearshore reefs and or huddled tight to structure like barnacled piers—not dropping out of the sky on an airport runway!
Investigators surmised the fish was, most likely, dropped by a bald eagle in flight.
The sheepshead caused no damage to the NOAA jet, said base wildlife manager Lindsey Garven, but added, “It left a streak of fish guts.”
No Hunter Left Behind
Cuz Strickland, of the Mossy Oak camouflage company, remembers a long-range drive to bowhunt he and some pals made. They were driving from their homes in Mississippi to Texas. The guys worked long, overtime hours to get free time to hunt, so when they left late one night, one of the crew was dead tired and sacked out asleep in the back seat of a van.
They drove through the night, and somewhere just over the Texas state line, they pulled into a small gas station for fuel. While the tank filled, everyone except “sleeping beauty” got out of the van to stretch their legs.
While they were gone, the sleeping hunter woke and went into the service station washroom. When he returned to the van, it was gone. His pals had paid for the gas, gotten back into the van and didn’t noticed he wasn’t in the vehicle.
Three hours later the van driver saw a Texas police car speeding up behind him, lights flashing, siren screaming. The driver gulped hard, everyone sat up straight and wondered why they were being pulled over.
When they stopped, the police car pulled alongside, and there was their wayward red-faced buddy, wearing only shorts, boots and an intense frown.
Heads Up: Not Your Normal Weapon Of Choice
When Terry Nowakowski, 20, broke down the door of his Zephyrhills, Fla. home to confront his girlfriend during a heated argument, Chelsea Harrison grabbed the nearest thing she could find to defend herself—a mounted deer head.
The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office reported that she “began striking him in the face and body with the ends of the antlers until she lost her grip, dropping it to the floor.”
Apparently, the buck stopped there.
Alligator heads aren’t regularly used as weapons except by live alligators. But it did occur when the ex-girlfriend of Arkansas State Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson (R) was charged with third-degree domestic battery after allegedly striking him in the head with a preserved (mounted) alligator head during a domestic dispute.
Julie McGee, 39, of Little Rock, was booked into the Pulaski County Jail after Hutchinson called police to his home late one night.
Snakes… Enough Said
A man who stopped along South Florida’s Alligator Alley to catch a glimpse of the area’s famous reptiles got a little closer to nature than he expected. The result was being air-lifted to an emergency care unit. Broward Sheriff Fire Rescue spokesman Mike Jachles said the 29-year-old from Boynton Beach was bitten on the foot by a cottonmouth water moccasin snake one evening after he and his girlfriend stopped their car and got out to watch an alligator, apparently oblivious to the reptile near their feet.
In Rowan County, North Carolina, 82-year-old William Litaker spotted a couple of poisonous copperhead snakes behind a mobile home he used as storage. To rid the danger posed by the snakes, he thought he’d “smoke ’em out.” But when his kerosene-induced smoke-snake-control-system destroyed a barn, two sheds and the mobile home containing collectibles and antiques, he was reflective.
“I thought now would be a good time to do it [smoke ’em], but it wasn’t,” he said.
A Shark’s Smile
Florida Keys Capt. Lenny Moffo had been guiding tarpon anglers only a short time and made a rookie mistake that almost cost him dearly.
In those days he used a small hand “release” gaff for holding played-out tarpon at boatside while he did unhooking chores. No problem, except he put his hand through the gaff lanyard to prevent losing the tool overboard. He used the gaff that way successfully for a number of big tarpon, until one day guiding two anglers near Seven Mile Bridge in the Keys.
Lenny put the gaff in a 90-pounder’s lower jaw and was working on the hooks when suddenly a giant bull shark came rushing in and hit the tarpon in the middle across the back. The shark pulled on the tarpon so hard Lenny couldn’t get the gaff out of the fish’s jaw, and he couldn’t turn loose the gaff because of the lanyard.
The 400-pound shark started pulling him overboard. Lenny yelled at his anglers to save him from going in with the shark, but they had frozen in shock, fear—or whatever emotions sweep through a person when they see a huge shark chewing through a huge tarpon while the guide is being pulled into the ocean.
Lenny was in a panic, but he was able to lock-hook his knees under his skiff gunnel long enough that the shark cut the tarpon in two before he got pulled over.
Lenny said he will never forget kneeling in his boat with a massive tarpon head still hanging from his release gaff.
Trout Trip To Remember, For All The Wrong Reasons
Tim Sampson, of Atlanta, had been waiting anxiously for spring trout season in North Carolina. He diligently picked the perfect remote river to fish and waited for an ideal weekend, and then he drove six hours to his selected spot. Shortly after daybreak, Tim parked his car near the river, walked in to the stream, and worked into position to begin fishing. He had a new, expensive graphite fly rod and new chest-high waders, which he couldn’t wait to use.
He climbed over riverside rocks and boulders to the stream edge, and studied the river to choose just the right fly. He placed his $400 fly rod on a large boulder beside the stream, while he selected a fly from his trout vest. That’s when he heard the clickety-clack of rocks above him on a bluff wall beside the river.
Tim looked up and saw two hat-size stones had broken loose from the stream-side cliff and were dancing down toward him. They weren’t dangerous, so he watched fascinated as the rocks skipped and bounced their way down from 100 feet above. One rock in particular hopped high as it careened downhill, smacking here and there until it pirouetted just above and to the side of Sampson, landing smack on his pencil-thin graphite fly rod, smashing it to ruin.
At the moment of impact, Tim sensed trouble and leaped to pull his fly rod to safety. But he slipped on loose boulders and fell—cutting several large gashes in his new waders.
With no other rods and ruined waders, Tim left the stream and headed for his parked car, which wouldn’t start. It was 3 miles to the nearest town, and only two cars passed him as he walked to get help. Neither of them offered Tim a ride. It was dark before he got a wrecker to tow his car to a service station. And it was late the next day before he started back to Atlanta.
“It was a trout trip I’ll never forget,” he lamented. “It cost me a $400 rod, $100 waders, $200 to have my car fixed, and another $100 for food and a motel—and I never made one cast, let alone catch a fish.”
The author’s best-selling book Fishermen’s Knots, Fishing Rigs, and How To Use Them has 304-pages with nearly 700 illustrations, making it the most comprehensive reference on the subject. It covers nearly 200 fishing knots and rigs of value to all anglers. Autographed copies are available online at www.mcnallyoutdoors.com.
The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance website is designed to provide valuable articles about hunting, fishing and conservation for members of AFL-CIO affiliated labor unions and all sportsmen and sportswomen who appreciate hunting and fishing and want to preserve our outdoor heritage for future generations. If you would like your own story and experience from the outdoors to be considered for our website, please email us at [email protected].