PIKE ON THE EDGE by Doug Pike

COMMENTARY by Kendal Hemphill
January 25, 2018
EDITOR’S NOTES by Chester Moore
January 25, 2018

Go For It

T O PEE OR NOT TO PEE. That is the question.

It’s actually not a question, but that thought certainly was on the minds of countless foot-tapping deer hunters this past season.

On that burning issue—bad choice of words—On that issue and others faced routinely by Texas outdoorsmen, I’ll shed a little light in this space.

Around the time we opened the 2017 deer season here, I came across a piece written months earlier by Darren Warren in which he disclosed the results of studies on urinating from or near deer stands. The story caught my eye because, as a fan of hydration in general and coffee specifically, I’ve been on many deer hunts that outlasted my bladder.

When I was young and had no clue, I’d relieve myself into screw-top bottles and dispose of the unwanted liquid later. The older I got, though, the more I thought about how many animals are urinating in the woods and that deer probably weren’t likely to associate the different smells of urine with specific animals. They know what it is, but they don’t know what left it there or whether the “urinator” is still nearby. 

Research done by Warren, Dr. James Kroll and Dr. Karl Miller, independent of each other, confirmed my unscientific conclusions. Urine tells a great deal about animals, especially during reproductive cycles, and many species certainly can discern between urine left by their kind and urine deposited by other creatures.

In the woods, though, day to day, deer don’t get spooked by every piddle and puddle they encounter. That goes for bucks and does, too. So, if you have to go…go.

Something else I’ve heard debated often is whether waterfowl, especially snow geese, are spooked by hunters’ shining faces. If you’re among those who don’t think a goose can spot a human face among 800 rags and decoys, you’re wrong.

I spent 14 years guiding waterfowl hunts, and not a season passed—not a week passed—without a hunter tilting an uncovered face into bright sun just as a group of birds was almost in range.

I’m back there calling my brains out, blowing until I hyperventilate behind my face mask, and some freckle-faced guy from Ohio can’t help but take a peek—and it’s over. Birds flare. Reset and try again.

On the bright side, more Texas goose hunters are shooting now from those ground-hugging, flip-open blinds that hide your whole body. You’re on your back and able to watch the entire show, even if it is through bits of straw and stubble.

If those blinds had been available back when I guided, along with 200 other pros on the goose-stacked prairies east and west of Houston, we might never have experienced an overpopulation of snow geese.

We shot our share—my best strap of birds taken within 25 yards was 70-something geese and at least two dozen ducks. That was over nothing but rags. 

One note that should relax a few goose hunters, is the false notion that movement flares geese. Contemporary spreads are loaded with motion—same as live flocks.

Decoys with flapping wings, decoys on carousels, guys waving rags on sticks. That takes a lot of heat off hunters to remains still when birds are on final approach.

Move around,but keep your face covered or at least shaded—and for goodness sakes, no mirror sunglasses.

The late Lyle Jordan, a pioneer of goose hunting on the Katy Prairie, welcomed his grandchildren and anyone else’s children into his spreads. He dressed them in kid-sized white parkas and encouraged them to run and holler—in that high-pitched, children’s way— among the decoys. Geese that guessed wrong rarely finished their low passes through his spreads. 

One of the oldest rules in fishing says you’ve got to be quiet to be successful. Depending on the type of noise, that statement’s either true, false or a little of both.

A study done about 25 years ago with electronically tagged bass (by whom I’ve long forgotten), proved two things:

1. Bass aren’t much bothered by the sound of fishermen talking, even loudly, in a bass boat.

2. When a big bass hears the sharp thud of something like a paddle or tackle box hit a boat deck, that fish shifts into high gear and may swim several hundred feet before coasting to a comfortable stop.

I’m convinced that the same holds true, generally, in saltwater. Topside conversation doesn’t seem to bother trout or reds much. However, drop an unopened soft drink or beer can on the deck, and the whole school will hug bottom and shut their mouths for a while.

One more point of frequent discussion around outdoorsmen’s tables is the question, does loud music on boats scare fish?

Maybe—but probably not as much as it irritates nearby fishermen.

If it looks as if the guy in the next boat is screaming at you, but you can’t hear his voice, your music is too loud.

Turn it down.

Long-term, that’ll protect your hearing, so you can hear that big buck sneaking up behind the deer stand while you’re hosing down the grass beneath it.

 

Email Doug Pike at [email protected]

 

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