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Summertime fun.

This happened several years ago, on one of those hot, humid, late-summer mornings that Oklahoma is noted for--famous even, if you think about it--which was something I was trying not to do.

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The time was about 8:30 a.m., not a cloud in the sky, and the barest hint of a breeze slightly rippled the water. Everything seemed perfect. A swirl, followed by a heavy splash, ruptured the calm surroundings close to the shoreline as a broad, scaled back pushed through the shallows. Yep, a big, female carp was violently spraying eggs in a shaking roll, followed by the ghostly shapes of two smaller males. At the same time, a screeching whoop shattered the sticky morning's quiet; one of my sons had obviously connected.

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With that yell encouraging me, I slowly entered the water. My tennis shoes--a very old, worn out pair--eased through the mud, sending up a crawling line of bubbles gradually reaching the bottom of my cut-off jeans. The sensation was that of insects crawling up my legs. Yuck! The water felt cool at the onset, though I'm sure the surface temperature was in the high 70s.

Reaching a row of waterlogged weeds that just poked the surface, I loaded up. My gear at the time consisted of a Zebco 808 reel loaded with 60-pound braided nylon, a solid fiberglass fish arrow tipped with a Warhead fish point and a Fishgetter bow rod to keep everything straight. My bow was an old Bear Grizzly, 50 pounds, and the reel, set on a screw-in reel seat, was mounted just below the grip. Since then, there have been many improvements in bowfishing gear (most of which I have availed myself, my kids and grandkids of), but this was an earlier time.

Perspiration fogged my Polaroid glasses, and globs of sweat ran off my nose, making pretty little rings in the water at my waist. Nocking an arrow and double-checking that everything was clear and straight, I . waited patiently, eyes riveted to the long string of grass. I didn't wait long; a shadow slowly rose from the three-foot depths, a gar. My shot cut the water over its back. 0 for one, I mused as another shout of success came from up the shoreline

It takes a few shots to figure out the amount of light refraction the water causes and where to aim, unless the carp are flogging the banks in a lust-induced egg spraying frenzy where direct shots are the rule. Otherwise, the angle of refraction is quite another story. Cranking back my arrow, I was ready again. And in short order, another shape appeared, only this time it was about a five-pound bass that presented a perfect shot at its broad, black lateral stripe. I didn't shoot but began to wonder if I should be fishing with different equipment! Now, up and down the shoreline the air was rent with excited yells, splashing and loud conversations. The kids were having a ball!

That, in a nutshell, is what bowfishing from shore with a bunch of kids is all about. Kids love to shoot, get all sloppy and muddy and covered in fish goo. It is good for them; that's what I tell my wife Sue, anyway!

My kids cut their teeth bowfishing; shooting at lizards, snakes, snapping turtles and whatever else they could find that would not get them into trouble. Today, things that take place outside are things too many children cannot or do not try to do. That strikes me as sad. As my kids got older, they moved on to other things; sports, cars and girls, naturally, but big game has been on their minds since that first carp was stuck long ago. I'm proud of that and how well they have done.

I don't go bowfishing too much anymore, at least from shore. My feet just don't go where I want them to. But I do keep a bow ready in my boat: it's always best to be prepared for the unexpected. Sometimes the gar are rolling or giant spoonbills are cruising (fast shooting but not many hits) or the carp will be on the banks (easy targets). No matter the species, it's always fun!

Let's get back to the water that day long ago. The sun had risen straight up; there was no shade and the water no longer felt cool. Along the edge of the grass, a long shape drifted though, the scales as big as silver dollars, the head long and streamlined with eyes as big as marbles. The arrow hit behind the dorsal fin as it darted away. It was not a good hit, barely deep enough, but somehow the Warhead held firm. The battle was long and lively, my 60-pound line all but gone, held only by the knot on the spool, but finally I slid her onto the bank; 31 pounds of shimmering fish. My son Darrall came running to see.

"What's that?" he asked.

"Grass carp," I replied. "I've never seen one before."

Yes sir, the unexpected sure adds to the fun!
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Title Annotation:TRAIL'S END
Author:Dougherty, Jim
Publication:Petersen's Bowhunting
Date:Aug 17, 2012
Words:850
Previous Article:Value and performance.
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