Fact & Fiction Hunting & Fishing Stories is a book for anyone who loves to hunt or fish. It is an anthology of short stories both fictional and non-fictional all taken from author Chambless Johnston's own experiences. Have a son or daughter who likes to hunt or fish with you? There are many stories here for you to read about similar experiences that you possibly have had with them and maybe learn a lesson or two. Want to take a quick trip to Africa, India, or Central America to hunt or fish without ever leaving you own home? You will travel around a lot by reading this book. Have a special dog in your family? There are dog stories too. There is a tale in the book for nearly every kind of outdoorsman. Fact & Fiction Hunting & Fishing Stories contains a story on everything from bass fishing to big game hunting. Written with the insight of a Hemingway and the enthusiasm of Zane Grey laugh and maybe cry a bit as you read these special stories.
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Fact & Fiction Hunting & Fishing Stories
By Chambless Johnston
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2010 Chambless Johnston
All right reserved.
Chapter OneFactual Stories (or Close to it)
It is not only for what we do that we are held responsible, but also for what we do not do. -Johann von Goethe
When I was about six years old my grandfather owned a fabulous place in Missouri that bordered the Mississippi River. It was a farm that was really a duck farm. The place was called the Triangle Duck Club. My father and his brothers had helped to build this club into a fine place complete with a multitude of cabins and other outbuildings. There was a caretaker on the place who spent most of his time planting corn and other grain in fields that would later be flooded when the ducks started pouring down from Canada.
I remember one of the first times I ever went to the place. I was very young, but one evening my parents let me stay up late with the big folks to watch television. In the main lodge there was a beautiful rock fireplace, which had a variety of ducks mounted and placed upon various spots. Other game animals such as deer were on the walls as well. In fact, there were many deer on the walls of the place but usually no one ever hunted them. After all, this was a duck hunting club. It was also to be an early training ground for me as a hunter. But as for that first night back in my memory of the place all I did was lay on a bear skin rug and watch the original version of King Kong. I believe that I was about five years old at the time. The movie scared me to death!
About a year later I was back at the club with my father. I had learned how to shoot a single shot 4:10 shotgun, and somehow it was deemed that I was old enough to go duck hunting that year. My father had started hunting a year earlier than I did at the age of five. Word was he could not get the gun to his shoulder so he would put it on a log and try to aim it and fire it. On this particular trip my grandfather Gale was to be my guide and I was thrilled to get to go out with him.
It was the caretaker on the place who motored us out in a john boat to one of the blinds through a little slough surrounded by trees. Finally loaded in the blind I remember listening in the quietness, which was only broken by the sound of wings on air and an occasional "Quack! ... Quack!" Soon my grandfather looked over at me and told me, "Load your gun, Chammie!" It was not hard to do. I only had to put one shell in the gun.
When the sun rose I could see that there was a problem. I could not see over the edge of the blind. I quickly told my grandfather about this fact, and he was ready for the situation. Milk crates were scattered about the blind. "Here you go," he told me as he handed me a crate. "Stand on this!"
I put the crate at the front of the blind and having loaded my gun I was ready. It was not long before the action got hot. Duck after duck began piling into the hole as my grandfather called to them, and each time one came into range I would step up and shoot. I do not believe that I ever hit a duck all morning, but somehow each time I shot a duck would fall. "I believe you got that one, Chammie!" granddad would tell me. Finally he told me, "I believe we have our limit!" Heck, we had not been in the blind an hour. "Let's just sit down and see what happens ..."
From that time on we took no more shots, and it was because of this fact that I witnessed a sight that I only saw one more time during my lifetime but not to the same extent. Mallards and a few other species began piling into the whole not one or two at a time but by the hundreds. Eventually, there were so many birds in the hole that there was barely any room for another flight of them. Many swam right underneath our blind, while above us it looked like a tornado of ducks went up and down in the sky. I was so excited I was about to pee in my pants. The scene was too magical for either my grandfather or I to speak to one another. One time I looked over at my white-haired grandpa and all he was doing was smiling the biggest smile you ever did see.
After a while I heard the puttering of the john boat's motor and the club's caretaker soon arrived at the side of the blind. "Do any good?" he asked us.
"Got our limits!" I told him.
"Yes, it was a beautiful morning," said Granddad.
We soon were back at the club. I do not remember much after that but I would never forget that day. It was not long after that that my grandfather passed away. My father and his two brothers had to sell the place. I wish it had not been so. The place was indeed magical.
For many years after that I was hooked on duck hunting. I hunted with my dad at Reelfoot Lake. Fell through the ice picking up a duck one time there and almost died from exposure. I was only about eight years old. Many years later I hunted with friends on Kentucky Lake and Old Hickory Lake in Tennessee. At one time I was very active in Ducks Unlimited, a great conservation organization, and I helped to raise many dollars for that group. It is a fact that it is hunters and not non-hunters whose license fees and fund raising efforts support the wildlife in our country. Those who do not actively help just cause a reduction in wildlife due to their personal needs, which leads to a lack of habitat-sometimes a big problem for wildfowl. One year I hunted 3 to 5 days a week for an entire season and never fired my gun. We just watched the ducks fly back and forth over a refuge. The thought occurred to me that ducks were not unlimited. Each time I drove home back to Nashville, Tennessee along I-40 I would see deer grazing on the side of the road. I decided that I would still try to be a great conservationist but I was going to curtail my duck hunting in lieu of becoming a deer hunter. The next year I shot my first whitetail buck and I have taken at least one deer every year since except for one year. That was over thirty years ago.
Despite my later lack of success with the ducks, I never forgot that morning of hunting with my grandfather and later trips with my dad. It was those early experiences that encouraged me to go after ducks, quail, doves, rabbits, and deer years later. It was those experiences with my teachers that helped me to teach and train my own future hunter with a love and affection for the outdoors ...
The Making of a Saltwater Angler
While my writing is on the flow I'm going to write as though I'm still in the Everglades As hard as I can go- Not only writing history But reliving it for you. -Totch Brown from Totch A Life in the Everglades
When I was about ten years old I went to Florida on a summer vacation trip with my family and the family of my dad's oldest brother, Gale Johnston. It was a trip to Ft. Myers back in the days when things were not as commercialized as they are today. Once there, we had barely unpacked when I grabbed my fishing rod and tied a white bucktail jig on the end of the line and I headed for the Gulf of Mexico, which beckoned just a bit away from our hotel.
I really did not know what I was doing. The jig I happened to pick up just happened to be in a tackle box that we kept for freshwater fishing. I had never caught a fish on it. Anyway, I thought I was ready. By this time I was a fairly accomplished freshwater fisherman but I had never caught a saltwater fish. I had learned that the fish in the ocean were bigger than the bass and bream I had caught back in Tennessee. I made that first cast into the surf with great intentions and began to swim that bait back to me slowly jigging it with the tip of my rod.
The jig had not gone very far when there was a thump at the end of the line and I pulled the rod back in response. The rod bowed further and a battle was on. After a short fight I brought a feisty little Jack Crevalle up on the shore where I admired it. It was a beautiful fish I thought with various hues of green and yellows and silver. My dad wound up mounting the little fish for me and it still sits on a wall today.
A day or so later during that trip we went over to a large pier near to the hotel. While there, one of the old salts who worked at the place told me about a fish that was supposedly the best eating and hardest fighting fish in the Gulf. It was called a snook. I determined right then and there that I was going to catch one of these fish and so I set out to do so. Well, what I learned was that catching a snook off a large pier was not so easy as had been the catching of the small jack.
I learned from others that the likelihood of catching one of these snook was better after dark. I would start fishing for them about the time the sun went down and keep on fishing until about ten or eleven o'clock. All the while my family and my uncle's family, including my cousins, would be off doing other things. I fished, and I fished, and I fished some more but I just could not seem to catch a snook.
Finally, on the night before we were to leave suddenly I got a hit at the end of my line. I brisk battle ensued and after a bit I hauled up a small fish to the top of the pier. It was about a two pound snook. Not large by any means I was still proud of my accomplishment, and this was the beginning of a life long love affair with catching that species of fish.
A couple years later, my father took our family back down to the Gulf at Naples, Florida. I remember the day of our arrival well for the place where we were staying had basically been carved out of the mangrove swamp that surrounded the hotel. We arrived after dark and each of us in the family got about a hundred skeeter bites on the way in with our luggage.
As usual, I was most interested in going fishing and lucky for me my father arranged a trip over to Chokoloskee at the Everglades where the snook were supposed to be biting. I was thrilled when we finally pulled up to meet our guide for the day at his house. The fellow was named Peg Brown, and I would never forget him.
I was very interested in catching a snook, a big one, and so I immediately inquired about the possibility.
"Yes," said Peg. "In a minute will motor up the crick a few yards and catch you about a twenty-five pound snook. Would you like that?'
When he said the word snook, he made the oo sound like a u instead.
"Sure would!" I told him. "I have never caught a big one!"
I looked back behind Peg's house and he had a boat tied up to a dock, which indeed was located on a small creek.
"Well. Let's load up!" said Peg.
After some instructions Peg tied a lure called a Zara Spook onto the end of my line. Then he gave me some instructions as to how to fish it.
"When I tell you, you just cast that bait up as close as you can to where I show you along the mangroves. Slowly twitch it on the surface but try and make a little water fly up, like it is a baitfish that is injured. Then, be ready and hold on!"
By the time we got going in the boat I was so excited I was bout to pee in my pants. Peg had not exaggerated. My father and I both had thought he was telling us a tale when he said we were only going to go a few yards up the creek, but he was telling the truth. I don't believe we went more than a hundred yards when he stopped the boat and we started fishing.
It was tight quarters where we were to start. The little creek was maybe twenty yards wide at the most.
"Let's let the boy fish here," Peg told my dad. "It is too tight for all of us to fish. Cast over there, sonny," Peg told me, and soon I let fly with a short cast.
I did just as Peg had told me. The lure kind of went side to side as it slowly jerked across the water. Suddenly the entire lure was engulfed by a large fish. I was in for the fight of my life. The snook did all it could to get into the mangroves and several times it almost succeeded. Somehow I averted disaster as the fish jumped and attempted to throw the hook. Through some miracle, based on my inexperience, I was finally able to land the fish. Indeed, it was a snook of about twenty-five pounds just as he had said it was. To say I was thrilled would be an understatement, and when I looked over at my father he was beaming with pride. The snook was plopped into the boat and we were off on the remainder of our adventure.
To say that everything else that happened that day was anticlimactic would not be true. Things just kept getting better and better. We caught several more smaller snook and then we began to catch other varieties as well. There were sea trout, sheepshead, and redfish brought onboard our small craft by the dozens. Finally, Peg pulled us along a little cut in some oyster beds where the tide pulled fast and steady. Even though the tide was pulling hard the water was calm as glass, and since it was not very deep one could see everything that passed by us.
Giant tarpon cruised past us in three foot deep water. Beautiful leopard rays floated under our boat and you could touch them with your rod's tip. We hooked and caught a couple of Blacktip sharks. Eventually large schools of greenbacks began to drift past us and when they did the predator fish were not far behind. I caught the largest Jack Crevalle I have ever caught at that spot. It was probably around twenty-five pounds. Dad was doing well too.
Suddenly one of those great pictures that remain in your mind happened to me. I had cast a large silver spoon out past one of the large schools of greenbacks and was speeding it back toward the boat while hoping to catch another one of the giant jacks that were tearing up the small baitfish. Just as the lure got to the edge of the school of bait three monstrous snook came swimming toward the bait and the largest of the three opened its large gullet and sucked the spoon in. I hooked the fish and the longest contest between a fish and me that I had ever experienced unfolded. Round the boat the snook went trying to cut me off on the sharp edges of the oysters.
Looking back, I would estimate that this fish was much larger than the twenty-five pounder I had caught that morning. Maybe it was thirty-five pounds or so. I did my best to catch this giant but finally the line went limp and the fish moved on. Though I hooked other large snook none were as big as this one. It would be nearly forty years before I was able to do battle with one as large as this one again.
Later that day we saw manatee and other things such as the bird life of the Glades that was so outstanding at that time. I felt like I had died and gone to Heaven. It was as if nothing we did that day could go wrong, but finally the day did in fact end. Back at the dock Peg was almost affectionate toward me. I think that he could tell how much I had appreciated the day. My father was obviously thrilled as well. Though he had traveled the world with his wealthy father and had pretty much fished and hunted wherever a sportsman might want to go, I am sure that he had never had a better day of fishing than that one. I am sure that having me along and watching me have success made it that much more special for him.
Years later when my son had just turned eighteen he and I fished in the Glades with a guide that asked me if I had ever fished there before. I told him "Yes, I have," and he asked me who I had fished with. I told the names of a couple of guides and when I mentioned the name Peg Brown he told me that Peg had just died a couple of years before. He also told me that Peg's brother, Loren "Totch" Brown had written a book that was available at a local store, which outlined the life, he, Peg, and their family had lived in the Glades, and as luck would have it I was able to find and buy the book.
Excerpted from Fact & Fiction Hunting & Fishing Stories by Chambless Johnston Copyright © 2010 by Chambless Johnston. Excerpted by permission.
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Table of Contents
The Making of a Saltwater Angler....................5
A Picture in the Mind....................11
The Greatest Fishing Trip Ever....................17
My First Real Deer Hunt....................23
A Day Remembered....................27
One More Fisherman....................31
Captain Blood's Redfish....................43
A Boy's First Deer....................49
The Sure Thing....................55
The Swimming Deer....................67
Floats Down the Harpeth....................87
Pope & Young Buck....................99
Turkey Double Header....................105
St. Maarten (Giant Snook Sequel)....................115
Season of the Buck More Deer Tales of the Hunter (Minus His Best Hunting Buddy)....................123
The Hunting Dog That Never Hunted....................137
A Fine Southern Gentleman....................143
The Trip to Petronius....................147
Season of the Doe....................153
An Unusual Fish....................157
The Old Man Versus Goliath....................163
The Legacy of a Father....................171
A Thanksgiving Hunt to Remember....................179
The Man-eater of Muktesar....................191
Heaven or Fishing?....................205
The Most Dangerous Game....................209
The Final Lesson....................245
The Smallmouth Revisited....................259
The River's Revenge....................343
The Gentleman Adventurer....................351
A Deer Story....................411
Sad Conclusions ... But Hope For the Future....................417