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Gaffing a fish is something that I don’t often do. On the open party boats here in Southern California, gaffing is left to the crew. I only pick up a gaff if it’s really crazy on deck, or if I’m riding a private boat. At this point, the crews trust me, but it’s a liability issue to have a sharp object in the hands of a non-crewmember. Since I usually don’t have the gaff in hand, I try to do what I can to help the gaffer get a good shot on my fish  Some things to remember are to leave the fish’s head in the water. Another is to “lay out,” or get the fish horizontal for the gaffer in order to maximize the surface area to gaff.

That said, it’s good to know how to gaff. You never know when you may need to gaff your own fish or help out a buddy get that big catch in the boat. This article from Fishtrack reviews the basics of successful gaffing.

IMG_3330Success with the gaff starts before the metal meets flesh. Good technique begins at the bridge with proper boat handling, but it also pays to consider the species and size of the fish and choose the right gear accordingly. All of the preparation in the world means nothing if the final gaff shot misses the mark.

North Carolina captain Jimmy Hillsman learned that lesson the hard way on a marlin trip earlier this year. “We hadn’t caught anything all day,” he says, “until we hooked a big dolphin.” As the angler brought the fish close to the boat, Hillsman squared up for the end move. “Everything was perfect, but I hit the fish too far back.”

As Hillsman heaved the 50-pounder over the gunnel, the fish struck the side of the boat. “It freaked out,” he says, “popped off the gaff and the hook came out.” The dolphin flopped into the ocean and disappeared. “It was the worst ever.”

A successful end game starts with a controlled set-up. Both Hillsman and fellow Outer Banks captain Tim Hagerich insist that the boat is moving forward as they bring the fish within gaff range.

Photos: Excel Sportfishing (top); SoCal Salty (above)


Signaling techniques should be practiced before you actually need them if you want to survive outdoors.

When it comes to the great outdoors, having numerous effective ways to signal for help will make a huge difference to your survival. Nowadays, distress signals can come in many forms, such as high-tech modern day electronics, to tried and tested techniques our ancestors would have used. Unfortunately, these techniques used for signaling are often under-practiced and under-emphasized in our survival skills set, which often sees people in situations they aren’t prepared for.

While it’s easy to simply rely upon our cell phones or GPS devices, they are prone to break, run out of battery power, or have no cellular coverage. For this reason it’s a good idea to have some basic signaling techniques under your belt so you don’t end up stranded in an isolated area.

Flying the Flag Upside Down

Not many people may be aware of this, but flying the United States flag upside down is a signal of “dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property.” Some people may take the flag with them when in the wilderness as the flag displayed upside down can have the same distress-meaning if you find yourself in danger and need help.


The Power of Three

The most common form of signaling is through fire. As smoke and fire can be spotted miles away this is a useful signaling technique to know. One thing to understand, though, is that one fire won’t be sufficient to grab someone’s attention from above if you require assistance.

When making a distress call with fire make sure that you have three large fires in the shape of a triangle or a row about 25 meters apart. During the daylight hours you want to focus on creating smoke that contrasts with the background: light smoke against a dark background and vice versa. To create white smoke throw green vegetation on the fire and for black smoke use brake fluid, plastic pieces, or other petroleum-based substance which will create smoke that can be seen from a great distance and will last for hours.


The universal code for SOS is “Save Our Souls,” and can easily be spelled on the ground with a vast array of materials for search planes from above. By Morse code, SOS is pretty simple to communicate as it uses a series of dots and dashes. To signal SOS you need to represent it by three dots, three dashes and three dots. If you have a flashlight on you all you need to do to signal SOS is three quick flashes, three long flashes and then three quick flashes.


Audio Signals

When a ground search is underway it’s important to gain the attention of those nearby with the use of a whistle, bell, or gun. As with the three fires to make a signal, the same rule should be applied when using a whistle. Blow three blasts five seconds apart, and then pause for about thirty seconds before giving the signal again. Sound will travel much farther than your voice, so make sure you always carry a whistle on you.

flickr/Brian Green


A signal mirror can be an essential item for your survival. A lightweight and compact signal mirror should be carried to redirect the sun’s rays to the object you are attempting to signal. This may require practice and patience, but is very effective once the signal has been made.

Leave Markers

If you need to leave where you are you should give some indication as to which direction you went in. This can either be by leaving a large arrow that contrasts with the ground pointing in the direction you took or tying bright colored tape around tree trunks or bushes as you leave a trail with a message that indicates where you have gone. Using permanent marker and reflective material will mean that even in bad weather at night they will catch someone’s attention.

These basic survival signals will help you attract the attention of rescuers should you find yourself lost in the wilderness.


Gumbo is universally known as a seafood dish, but stocking your roux with game birds really kicks things up a notch.

Using game bird in your gumbo is another way for you to enjoy the fruits of your hunt, regardless of what game birds you might have bagged. Gumbo-making is an art, so take out your notepad and break out the pots.

This is how I make game bird gumbo:

Since I grew up in a Cajun family, gumbo night was always my favorite time of the week. While chicken and seafood gumbos are the norm, the best I have had are game bird gumbos.

Pheasant, goose, duck, quail, dove and turkey gumbos really bring my favorite dish to its pinnacle.


Hunting desert bighorn sheep can be tough, but a successful shot can result in a once-in-a-lifetime trophy kill.

J. Alain Smith from the TV show “Rugged Expeditions,” took on the challenge of hunting desert bighorn sheep in Baja, Mexico.

The scorching heat and rugged terrain were no obstacle for this sharpshooter, as he spotted and killed a bighorn sheep the size of a deer.

That is certainly a rugged expedition.

That ram was huge!


Love to elk hunt? So do we. And here’s our top ten favorite places to kill an elk in the U.S.

There is no experience that is more awe inspiring for the American hunter than elk hunting. It’s an experience all of its own, and so different than hunting whitetail.

From Pennsylvania to Oregon, we’ve gathered the best places to kill an elk in the country. So if you’re ready to plan your next elk hunt, consider one of these. Even if you don’t get a bull, it’ll still be a trip you’ll never forget.

1. Grand Junction, Colorado

Grand Junction, Colorado, could be called a hunter’s mecca. No matter what direction you go, you’re surrounded by prime hunting land for nearly 100 miles. And with the largest migratory elk herd in the county, you won’t ever want to leave. Not only is there plenty of elk and beautiful scenery, but 70 to 80 percent of western Colorado is available to public hunters, giving you opportunities that few other states offer.


2. Cody, Wyoming

In Cody, Wyoming, it doesn’t matter if you want to use a bow or a rifle, it offers you the best of both. With its beautiful scenery and picturesque landscape, you can hunt for a day around camp or consider going deeper into the wild. Wyoming offers you some of the most remote land in the lower 48, and with options of packing in on horses or mule, you can experience the hunting trip of a lifetime.


3. Los Alamos, New Mexico

With a tough lottery, it can take years to be eligible to elk hunt in New Mexico. But if you’re one of the lucky few who get drawn, Los Alamos offers public hunting that will give you an experience you won’t forget.

With an 80 percent success rate, you can get your chance to harvest some of the biggest, most magnificent trophy racks in the country. But beware, New Mexico mandates non-residents have a hunting guide, so you best be ready to fork over cash for this trip.


4. Coconino National Forest, Arizona

Many elk hunters know that Arizona has its fare share of trophy bulls, and the Coconino National Forest has some of the best. Although it’s not the easiest place to hunt, no motor vehicles are allowed, you won’t mind once you set your eyes on some of the massive racks that come out of these woods. Yes, the lottery is a pain in the butt to wait for, but you won’t regret it once you see the size of these elk.


5. Ashley National Forest, Utah

Between the Flaming Gorge and the Unita Mountains, the variety of wildlife you encounter in Utah’s Ashley National Forest will astound you. And with a herd of over 68,000, Utah is the place to be kill an elk. It’s home to some of the best older bulls in the county and in 2008, a world record rack was taken from its public hunting grounds.


6. Craig, Colorado

One of the best things about hunting in Craig, Colorado is that only seven miles from town, there’s a million acres of public hunting grounds, filled with elk. Let me say it again: one million acres. Not only is there ample hunting ground, but the area holds two of the largest known elk herds in North America. There’s not much more you could ask for than that.

7. Gallatin National Forest, Montana

With over several million acres of prime elk hunting, Montana provides excellent hunting for both the novice and experienced. And with nearly 50 percent of the state’s elk harvest coming from the southwest, Gallation National Forest is the place to be. With its Block Management Program, you can have access to some of the best public and private hunting lands in the state. But you best be in shape; Montana’s landscape isn’t for the faint of heart, or the weak-legged.


8. Siuslaw National Forest, Oregon

Hunting Roosevelt elk is an experience all of its own, and there’s no better place to do it than the Siuslaw National Forest in Oregon. Not only were 17 of the top 25 Boone and Crockett bulls harvested from this woods, but with over 8,000 elk harvested from public lands each year, you’re chances of a kill are greatly increased.


9. St. Joe’s National Forest, Idaho

If you like to hunt in the vast wildness, then St. Joe’s National Forest in Idaho’s panhandle is perfect. These woods give you a hunt you won’t forget, but you best be prepared to do your part. Due to the rapidly growing wolf population, elk numbers in northern Idaho are starting to fall. But that doesn’t mean it’s a bad experience. If you know what you’re doing and you’re looking for a challenge, you’ve met your match with St. Joe’s.


10. Elk County, Pennsylvania

You may not get the giant trophy bulls you find out west, but Elk County, Pennsylvania, can easily be considered one of the best places to elk hunt east of the Mississippi. Nestled deep in the middle of the Allegheny Mountains, Elk County provides you with the opportunity to find huge herds sometimes so abundant you have to drive through them. But you better plan your trip well in advance. Pennsylvania’s elk hunting runs on a lottery system, and there’s only a limited supply of licenses available.


These picturesque spots across the country would make great vacations, which is a great excuse to get away. An extra bonus would be to bring back a trophy elk.

Happy elk hunting!


It saddens me to read stories about how overfishing is depleting fisheries around the world. Several species are being fished to the brink of extinction. As much as it sometimes hurts to deal with new regulations around size limits, protected areas, or reduced bag limits, I’m happy to know that the sport I love is going to be around for my kids and grandkids to enjoy. Thankfully, the United States has a robust fisheries-management infrastructure, so we’re saving the resource for future generations.

Conversely, it makes me really happy to see fishery restoration successes. One example is the brook trout fishery in the Great Smoky Mountains. Read about it in this article from The Daily Times.

smoky_flyguyThe six-year-long closure of Lynn Camp Prong in Great Smoky Mountains National Park to fishing could be coming to an end.

Fisheries Biologist Matt Kulp said a long-running restoration project to reintroduce native Southern Appalachian brook trout to several streams in the Tremont area has been going well. He expects that a proposal to reopen the area to fishing will be presented to park managers soon. “I’m very hopeful that it will reopen. There is no reason it shouldn’t at this point. I’m excited.”

In 2008, the park closed an 8-mile segment of Lynn Camp Prong, a half-mile section of Indian Flats Prong, Marks Creek and all tributaries of the Middle Prong of the Little River in order to poison nonnative fish in the streams. Park biologists used Antimycin A, a fish poison approved by the Environmental Protection Agency, to kill nonnative rainbow trout in the affected streams, which were restocked with the native fish.

Populations of brook trout are on track to surpass the numbers of rainbow trout in the streams previous to the treatment in the next year or so, Kulp said. The brook trout populations have grown despite an attempt to sabotage the project by unknown parties, who began restocking the streams with rainbow trout in the year-or-so after efforts began.

Photos: Cornell University (top); The Daily Times (above)