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   If I could describe my first two months in a single sentence it would to be: This challenge was the greatest awful idea I have ever had. Every ounce of my preparation leading up to the new year made me believe that it was going to be a walk in the park. Instead, it turned into a hike on the Appalachian Trail. I had a “sure thing” deer hunt planned for New Year’s Day followed by all the free time in the world to go fishing for weeks to come. Every bit of my plans hit a brick wall when I got the call saying the deer hunt was a no-go due to my friend not being available. My first thought was, “no worries, I can still go fishing over the next few weeks.” Then I got a job offer that I couldn’t turn down, resulting in my first two months being dictated by work and honey-do lists. To be fair, the hunt was canceled because my friend lives on a ten acer plot in Greensboro NC and like anywhere else in this world, if your neighbors hear a lot of guns going off in a short period of time the cops are typically involved. Because his new found besties next door like calling the police every other day, he didn’t feel comfortable letting me hunt his land when he wasn’t there. This lack of meat in the freezer resulted in my appreciation for eating what I like to call “my food’s, food.”

   I have just 4 rules to being vegetarian that I would like to share with everyone thinking my journey is interesting and might be something they would like to attempt.  

  1. Don’t eat salads all-day-everyday. You will drive yourself crazy.
  2. You are not a biggest loser contestant. Drink beer if you want.
  3. This is not a keto or paleo diet. Eat bread. It will keep you from BBQ-ing your neighbor’s cat.
  4. Have fun and remember you are only to blame yourself for this predicament.

   My diet has had health benefits that I probably could have seen coming. I am down 20 lbs since the new year, my skin has cleared up from grotesque blemishes, and of course I do feel like my energy levels are up. However the negatives sometimes outweigh the positives. For example, I have had meat dreams, causing me to wake up hungry. I have had to pick bacon off of pizza, and last but not least, my favorite sandwich shop now thinks my usual is a veggie sub. Don’t get me wrong, I would much rather be ordering a man vs food sized steak every time I’m hungry, but this veggie thing is not as hard as everyone might think. I even have a recipe for Biscuits and Tomato Gravy that will flip your idea of breakfast on its head.

   As for my challenge, I still have a hog hunt planned, along with countless fishing trips. The next adventure will transpire in March, I even signed up for the annual inshore fishing school presented by PENN Fishing Tackle here in Wilmington. After speaking to the instructors, they gave me permission to pass along a few tips and tricks from the class. I highly encourage everyone to keep an eye out the next time it rolls through because this class is well worth your time.

   Now that everyone knows that I am still alive, I will work on getting more content out on a regular basis. You can expect a few recipes, product reviews, and stories to come very soon. Thanks everyone for following along.

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The biggest shopping season of the year is upon us, and finding the right gift can be hard. That’s why I put together a little list for anyone who loves the outdoors. Nothing is better than a gift that keeps on giving. That’s why the first two are subscription based services that you can choose to keep the spirit alive as long or little as you wish. The rest on the list are awesome one hit wonders that will be cherished forever. Let me know in the comments below if you found this helpful. Happy holidays everyone!

#1

Lucky Tackle Box is a monthly subscription box for fishing. LTB will ship a box jam-packed full of the best new lures and baits every month. I am signing up for a 12 month subscription myself. That way, I can review the practicality of each box, matching it with each seasons targeted fish species.

#2

LOLJerky is the beef jerky of the month club that you want to be a part of. They deliver surprise flavors of healthy and delicious beef jerky to your door every month. LOLJerky also donates a small portion of each beef jerky subscription to local farmers. You can’t go wrong with a company showing such good values.

#3

Patriot coolers– It doesn’t matter if you are going into the field or just a day at the beach, patriot products are what you’ll need. With the soft packs keeping Ice for 3 days and the hard coolers keeping ice for 5 days you will be happy you picked Patriot. Unlike other brands, Patriot really sets themselves apart by donating 20% of their net proceeds to a non-profit organization, Homes For Our Troops, whose mission includes helping veterans who have been injured during duty.

#4

Anyone who loves the outdoors knows that weather can change on a dime. Having a good set of wet weather gear can make or break a trip. The trick is to have it be compact enough to not bog you down. That’s why I am a big fan of Huk Performance Fishing Gear, they offer a high quality packable top and bottom that packs into itself making it easy to throw in a bag and go.

#5

This one is a no brainer, having a headlamp gives you the ability to see what you’re doing once the sun goes down. You don’t have to go all out with this one. However, most of the time you get what you pay for. I personally get a new headlamp every two years spending anywhere between $20-$60 each time.

#6

The MeatEater Fish and Game Cookbook– If you spend any amount of time hunting and fishing for your meat, this is a must have. It is full of delicious recipes covering a wide variety of fish and game meat.

#7

Last but not least, BBQ equipment. Anyone can slap a piece of meat on a grill and set it on fire, but having the right tools turns a simple grill out into a high quality dining experience. That’s why I always recommend getting a few items such as grill mats, a veggie trays, and or a fish basket. All of these options will allow the user to cook meat and veggies without it sticking to the grill. You can normally find them on amazon for $30 or less.

Happy Holidays Everyone!
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     Every time I embark on an adventure I can’t help but to think of all the trophies I will be able to bring home, either in the form of meat or a great story. One might believe that the physical trophy is what keeps us engaged and coming back. However, I would say each time I have an un-successful trip I learn something new and my lottery daydream grows even greater, giving me another chance to prove myself the next time around. This year so far I have been deer hunting with an amazing non profit organization called “The Fallen Outdoors” who looks out for veterans during and after their time in service by providing hunting and fishing excursions. I also had the opportunity to take 3 days off of work and school in order to target the prized El Toro Rojo (Bull Red Drum) with a close friend. Even though both trips resulted in a meatless salad for dinner, it did not keep me from wanting to drop everything and do it all over again the next day.

     On October 6, I found myself deer hunting in Cumberland County N.C. This particular day I had my heart set on bagging a deer with a newly purchased Barnett Whitetail Hunter II crossbow. Being that it would be my first whitetail deer, it was hard not to get overly excited once the trail cam pictures started being passed around. After I was in the blind my excitement only intensified with each pop and crack of the surrounding forest life. When the hunt started the deer were still bedded down and taking their time to come our way. Only when we were down to the last 30 minutes of legal shooting light did a perfect freezer doe start to walk out. It seemed to be coming from behind us making its way to our right. Hearing the footsteps on the forest floor made it harder to tell the beat of my heart from the steps of the doe, then something strange happened. I heard a loud smack! Followed by one to two seconds of silence. Then it happened again, Smack! Silence. I had no earthly idea what was going on. The deer seemed to be coming closer and closer stomping its hoof every three or four steps. Just when it was about 15 yards to my right, it let out a screech-like sound that caught me off guard more than before. I look over to my partner sitting next to me in the blind and ask, “what’s going on?” he replied with, “it knows we are here, it just doesn’t know where we are.” Up until this point I have never heard of a deer being mad at a hunter for being in its area. Normally I have only seen deer act skittish and run away. I had to calm myself because my hands were shaking with excitement. She only needed to move 10 more feet to the left and it would have been right in our shooting lane. Sadly, we ran out of light before we could safely get a shot off. Even though we came home empty handed, I feel like I took home the best trophy of the day: the sense of excitement that will keep me coming back.

     October 19, my friend Garrett and I were finishing up a three day fishing trip on the N.C. coast, bouncing around from Wrightsville Beach all the way up to Oak Island. On our final night there was an extremely large moon with just the right amount of chill in the air. So we decided to test our luck surf fishing in Carolina Beach for Red Drum. We primarily used the blue fish we caught from days prior as bait with medium/large sized circle hooks. About an hour into fishing, something hit my 12 foot surf rod hard. I ran over to see what it was and about the time I picked up the rod, the clamp on my leader gave way and the fish was free. Not wanting to have that happen again, I decided to tie up my own leader, removing any unnecessary equipment and strengthening the overall rig. Not more than 30 minutes from my first strike I got a second, this time it was much bigger. The rod bent over so fast that it pulled my sand spike out sending my gear straight into the dark abyss of the ocean. I knew I only had seconds before I lost my equipment. Sprinting towards the water I barely made it while it was being pulled into the surf. I picked up the rod and tightened the line making sure the hook was set before I started to reel in the monster fish. At this point I was already having issues with sand and salt jamming my drag. I couldn’t loosen it fast enough to let the fish run so I started chasing it down the beach fighting it the best I could on the 20 pound mono. After seven minutes of fighting, the line finally snapped and yet again another fish was free. You would think that I would be upset, however all I could think about was getting the reel fixed and putting the line back in the water. These kind of failures drive me to work even harder. Being that close pushes me to appreciate the thrill of fighting such a powerful animal. Just remember: Live, Learn, and grow. The real trophies are the memories we take with us.  

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     Fall is a great time to go saltwater fishing here in Eastern N.C., we have flounder, drum, sheepshead, and most importantly, speckled trout. The trout species holds a special place in my heart after growing up in Utah. I have fished for brown trout and rainbow trout most of my life, however, living in Wilmington N.C. I have the opportunity to target a saltwater cousin of the same fish I grew up learning the ropes on. On October 30, 2018 I had the great opportunity to join my friend Gary Ream for a day of inshore fishing on the InterCoastal Waterway targeting speckled trout. Needless to say, I was excited.

     My morning started at the boat ramp in Wrightsville Beach arriving 45 mins early in-order to get out and throw the cast net before my friend arrived. Catching bait in the same area you plan to fish has many advantages. Besides saving money, you are more likely to catch fish if you can successfully match the hatch, as the saying goes. By the time Gary arrived I already had a bucket full of finger mullet which would save us time allowing him to focus on getting the boat ready. Only minutes later we were in the water and eager to take off, heading north towards a favorite spot of mine called Big Lollipop Bay. I knew that if we were able to get in place before the sun smiled down on us then we would have action right away and boy, was I right, there were at least 15 redfish tailing around us as the current drifted us down the bank. It only took a few casts using a simple spinner bait before I hooked up on a 16” puppy drum that put up one heck of a fight on my light tackle. We chased the drum for about 30 minutes before departing to our next spot trying to find what we came for.

     After fishing few cuts on the water way we finally landed in the mouth of Nixon Channel on the ICW side, this is where we caught the most fish of the day, cast after cast we were pulling in trout as if we had some kind of unfair advantage. We were using mirror lures and they were working extremely well. With these lures all you have to do is cast them out and let them settle down, slowly jigging them in letting the action of the sinking lure do all the work. Unfortunately we landed over 60 fish and not a single one was 14”, but thats okay, that means the fish will be keepers in a few weeks the next time I go out. Just for fun I threw out a Carolina Rig with the finger mullet I caught using the cast net and landed a sea bass, I could tell it was too small to keep due to the easy fight it produced. However on light action gear everything is fun.

     Once the tide started to come in the trout disappeared and we moved locations back to Big Lollipop Bay, here we landed on a group of flounder hitting hard on Berkley Gulp mud minnows and a simple jig head. We both caught a few throwbacks before we had to load the boat up for the night.

     Even though we came home empty handed, it was still a great day on the water. If you get a chance to get out on the ICW between Topsail Island and Wrightsville Beach, you can find the locations I talked about on google maps. Also, I highly recommend using an app called “Fish Rules” which allows you to have access to all the fish rules and regulations in your area at your fingertips. Good luck and happy fishing, maybe I’ll see you out there.

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   As the 2018 year starts to come to a close, I am preparing for my journey starting the new year. I have already planned a few fishing trips and hunts with friends and local guides throughout 2019. I will highlight each event as they unfold, handing out tips and tricks that I have learned along the way. I feel the need to let everyone know that I am by no means an expert among all of these skills. I have had the privilege of tagging along hunts growing up and have been an avid fishing enthusiast throughout my life. However, I will be accomplishing a lot of firsts this next year. I am always willing to hear some feedback, so feel free to speak up if you would like to. I have most of my gear already and will go over my pack list after each adventure. I plan on using gear that can be found in your local outdoor shop or online, giving the everyday person a fighting chance to join me on my journey if they so choose. I also plan on giving honest reviews on the all the products throughout.

   Timing in the new year is going to be key. Let’s not forget that I am a full time student in college and I work part time. I plan on using the hunting seasons in my favor as much as possible. New years day will be a my final attempt for whitetail deer this season, hopefully I can bag one and get some meat in the freezer, starting off the year with a bang. Following deer season I will be going back to basics with some good old fashioned squirrel hunting, along with some salt-water fishing. This, along with a couple of duck hunts and a wild hog or two will be my main food source. April is turkey season and already I cant wait. My good friend Garrett Collins, who on April 13, 2013 broke the N.C. record for longest beard on an Eastern typical male turkey, fortunately agreed to take me out and show me the ropes for my first turkey. His 17” long beard record still stands un-challenged to this day.

   As for fruits and veggies, I will be taking a visit to a few local farms/markets to see what is growing during each season. I want to eat as seasonal as possible, however I am realistic and know that I will need to buy items such as rice, beans, and other items that have a longer shelf life to get me through the year. I will also be highlighting a few chefs using seasonal produce combined with game meat in their own dishes along with the methods of cooking. Stay tuned for those recipes, you don’t want to miss out.

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   My heart is always filled with joy when making the decision to buy a new firearm. My mind races with questions like, what brand should I get? Or, which size caliber/gauge is going to be the best for my desired hunt. Sometimes there are too many variables to just pick one. Realizing you can always buy another for a later hunt seems to help settle the building anxiety. Just keep in mind that wives are uniquely expensive when you try to bribe your way back into their good graces after a “much needed purchase.”

   This year I had my sights set on a shotgun within my $200-$300 price range. The purpose of this particular shotgun would be to hunt deer, waterfowl, bear, boar, and turkey. In order to accomplish this I would have to make a choice between new or used. Used, being the more budget friendly option. Taking into consideration the foreseeable reaction my wife would have after bringing a new firearm home, I decided to take this as an opportunity to shoot two birds with a single pull of the trigger. I could use my old kayak, which only took up much needed storage space, as a means to barter for a “new” shotgun. Believe it or not, it actually worked. I put that bad boy up on craigslist and within a week I got a response. The gentleman who responded offered me one of two firearms to choose from. An almost new Marlin 30-30 lever action or a 10 year old Maverick Model 88 12 gauge. Even though I knew I needed a shotgun, I felt slightly heartbroken throwing away my dreams of being a 19th century lawman. Disregarding my wants to shoot the lever action, I chose the Model 88. Now, it’s never a good sign when someone strongly recommends one over the other due to the “wear and tear.” However, I made my decision and that’s final.

   Upon meeting this gentleman, I presented the kayak, and of course everything went swimmingly. Afterwards he slowly opened the gun case revealing what looks to be a shotgun that could tell more hunting stories than my whole family. This model 88 was covered with scratches and dents from the trigger all the way to the front bead, it had mountains of surface rust covering the bolt as far as the eye could see. After looking at it thoroughly, I only had the ability to mutter three words, I’ll take it! Most people would have run from this deal, but the action still worked and now I had the ability to come home with a shotgun plus cash. What more could I ask for?

   The moment we left each other’s line of sight, I took my new found cash as an opportunity to order a custom stock and forearm. I even got an alert from amazon saying it shipped before I parked my truck in the driveway. Excited about my purchase, I spent four hours cleaning the entire gun that night, two of those hours was spent on the bolt alone. Afterwards it smiled back at me like a redneck prom queen. Two days later the stock and forearm arrived, making her look like a million bucks.

   Applying a little elbow grease to an aged piece of metal like this will spark a level of accomplishment like no other. In a way it’s giving that rusty old firearm another shot at life.

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   Hello everyone, I apologize for the long gap between this entry and my first. I have been getting everything ready for the fall hunting season. For those who did not see my first post, this blog is about living off the land for the 2019 calendar year. It will include stories of my adventures, along with some much needed how to’s for those who may not know where to go or how to do something. I like to think that stories shared around a campfire after a hunt or a long day on the water are exactly what needs to be expressed in order to keep the memory of adventure alive. That being said, here is one of my favorites from my childhood.

Choctawhatchee Bay, FL 2006

   Like all fishing trips, my stepfather and I had a routine to get everything ready before the simpletons woke up. Drinking coffee while going through the checklist was the only way to get things done. “Rods?” I asked “Yup,” he replied. “Tackle?” “Yup.” “Boat?” Silence. Then he lowered his coffee just enough to hide the smirk from my line of sight followed by deep eye contact, giving off the feeling that he wasn’t mad, just disappointed in my question. This early in the morning, I couldn’t back down. So I responded with, “Well dad, is it there?” Silence. Refusing to let him win, I peaked my head around the corner in-order to commit to my checklist. I heard a faint laugh coming from the inside of the garage. Lo and behold, we are negative one boat. While a sinking feeling rushed over me I heard, “well son, is it there?” Still lost for words I hear him say, “stop screwing around and lets go wake everyone up.” I later found out that he moved the boat, without telling anyone, to the other side of the house after filling it up with gas the night prior.

   Wake up call was always my favorite part. If everyone was not up before the time we finished the checklist, you could expect to hear some early 2000’s Heavy metal. To be exact it was Chop Suey! by System Of A Down every time. He always tiptoed past the bedrooms, made his way to the central stereo system of the house and paused. It was as if he felt guilt for what was about to come, shortly followed by a maniacal smile. With two joyful taps of his finger the stereo was powered on and the song was set.  He worked the volume knob as if conducting a symphony. Carefully keeping the volume at lower levels throughout the Intro and milliseconds before the first verse he would flick his wrist, Max volume! The chain reaction caused by this was remarkable. All of a sudden, everyone was wide awake and begging my dad to turn down the music as he basked in the vibration the sub was producing around him. Thirty minutes later everyone would be loaded up in the truck and we were ready to drive for an hour to our destination.  

   This particular day we had seven people including myself on our 25 foot pontoon boat. This amount of people in one confined area made every task much more difficult, especially when it came to throwing a cast net for bait. Now, when it comes to netting bait you have three types of people. Those who can, those who don’t care to try, and those who desperately want to but look like a person losing a fight with an octopus. Even though it would have been funny watching someone tangle themselves up in a net, we had our hearts set on filling the freezer. “The sooner we get to our honey hole the faster we can accomplish our goal.”  my dad would say. Which is why he made the executive decision to destroy the hopes and dreams of those who wanted to become a master net caster that day. After getting everything we needed, our boat was in the water and we were full steam ahead to our secret spot.

   Now you would think our odds would be higher than normal considering we had seven people fishing right? Well it was, but towards the middle of the trip things really got interesting. All day long we pulled up fish, one right after another. Except for my younger brother, who at the time was 11 years old. He would try every trick of the frustrated fisherman’s handbook from fishing in the same spot the last fish was caught, to always switching rods and rigs with everyone thinking it was just his gear giving him bad luck.

   This went on for over three hours. Finally he gave up and said, “I’m done, I don’t want to fish anymore!” If only he would have realized that patience could have benefited him. Not even two minutes after he sat down “his rod” was hit so hard that it almost fell overboard. Lucky enough my mother was there to catch it in time. While she was struggling to get this monster of a fish up to the boat. My brother started to wail,“That’s my rod! That’s My fish! Give it to me!”  

   “You move your feet, you lose your seat!” My mother cackled. At this point my brother was crying so loud that my eardrums felt like exploding. After we got the fish onboard I helped get the fish unhooked, seconds away from dropping it in the fish well, a screech from the deepest parts of hell came out of his mouth inches away from my face. This is where I lost control of my motor functions. Next thing I knew, I was swinging this 7 pound Gafftopsail Catfish across my body directly at the source of my pain. The split second before it made contact with the left side of his face, time stood still. Our eyes were locked. I could tell he wanted to duck down or even close his mouth before it made contact. Unfortunately for him, I was faster. It collided with his face so fast it was like watching a UFC knockout blow. Down went my brother. Everyone on the boat was silent for five seconds. As he stood back up, the first glob of catfish slime fell off his face. My dad laughed so hard I thought he was about to pee himself. He was laughing so hard he was gasping for air. Everyone besides the two of us was joining in on the laughter at this point. We both just stood there at ground zero staring at one another not knowing what exactly happened. After wiping his face off, he silently walked back over to his seat, sat down and kept to himself for the rest of the trip. Shortly after, we finished up for the day and headed home with a haul of over 30 pounds of catfish. By the end of the night we were all, including my brother, sitting around the dinner table joking about the smackdown as if it was on a SportsCenter highlight.

   Now some of you might think of me as some kind of monster for what I did. Heck, I even look back and think, wow, that was messed up. However, I can honestly say the ride back home was nice and quiet. Not to mention, he was never a poor sport while fishing again, nor did he let this discourage future fishing adventures. In fact, as an adult years later, he often enjoys taking his own family fishing. It’s quite beautiful to think that this small piece of happiness was notched in our hearts that day over something so childish, allowing us to cherish it as another lasting memory of my stepfather’s uncanny ability to bring joy to our family through a simple day on the water.

-In Loving Memory of Robert S Drysdale.

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 Hello, my name is Skylar, like most of you I grew up loving the outdoors. I can still remember the first time I accompanied my dad fishing. I was basically his shadow, trying to imitate him in every way, just in hopes of catching my first whopper of a fish. These memories are what shape us into who we become as adults. One of my favorite things to do as a child was, sit around the fireplace listening to my grandfather and father talk about their previous adventures they have been on. Some funny, some thrilling, and of course the times when nothing went right. I look back and think of the absolute joy it brought me to daydreaming of the adventures I would have on my own one day. Now as an adult I get out to fish and hunt whenever I have free time, but nothing like the stories I remember as a child. My grandfather always used to say how they never had to buy meat. Boy wouldn’t that be nice. Knowing exactly where your food comes from, spending less money on food that is readily available/convenient and eating what you really wanted to in the first place.

   As a hunter and fisherman, I will be the first to admit that my pride takes over whenever the hypothetical conversation comes up about the economic system crashing and all the people in cities going berserk, followed by lack of resources in stores and everyday marketplaces. I normally respond with, “I don’t need stores. I can catch, grow, and hunt for my food.” But let’s be honest here. When was the last time you went a whole year without eating out? Follow that up with, when was the last time you went a whole year only eating fruits and vegetables within the correct seasons? If you’re thinking to yourself, he has a point. Then we are on the same page. I plan to embark on a 365-day challenge to myself. Starting January 1st, 2019, I will clear out my deep freezer and only eat meat that I catch or hunt. Now because I also work and go to college I will not restrict myself from buying fruits and vegetables, however I will try to stick to correct seasons of such items. I also will not be eating out due to the potential of breaking my own rules. If I do, it will be for salads only.

   Now if you haven’t seen me, you wouldn’t know that over the years I have put on a fair amount of weight. So, I fully expect this to not be easy. As I joke with my Wife Nikki, I’m either going to get really fit, or be extremely successful. (aka: Fat and happy) This being said, safety comes first. I plan on getting a full blood workup prior to starting, along with one every 3-4 months. Just so I can keep an eye on my health. I would like to prove to myself that it’s not just a story my grandfather used to tell. On the plus side, everyone reading this will get the opportunity to experience the stories/ adventures along the way. I will include my game plan in more detail the closer it gets to New Years. I might even throw in a few stories that happen leading up to this embarkment. Stay tuned, and please feel free to give me feedback, tips, and tricks. I will be conducting this experiment in the state of North Carolina, If you happen to live here and would like to meet up for a hunting/fishing trip please let me know. I am always excited to gain new hunting/fishing friends.

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