Give lightning some distance, because a bolt packs quite a jolt

The folks at the TV station had cautioned everyone about the possibility of thunderstorms in our area. OK, so we had been warned, so while we kept our eyes on the skies, life around our house was continuing as normal, one morning about a year ago.

As rain began falling, I made sure our garage door was closed and I settled down with my morning coffee inside rather than taking my usual treasured spot on the back porch. Kay was folding laundry as we watched the rain fall, the sky darken and periodic flashes of lightning and accompanying thunder draw closer.

Without warning, it sounded as if a bomb had detonated inside our house. The explosion was ear-splitting and with all the tall pines around our house, we knew that a bolt struck one of them.

Recovering from the blast, I cautiously stepped into the garage to begin assessing the damage. Strangely, the garage door I had closed only moments ago had opened by itself. Hitting the switch to close it, nothing happened; the bolt had knocked out the remote control.

Next, I checked our alarm system; it was also dead. The biggie, though, was when we activated the central air system and it was inoperative.

The sum total of damages resulted in replacement and repair costs approaching $2,000. Fortunately, homeowners insurance paid a portion but we had to pay the difference.

I began a search later that day for the tree that lightning had struck to cause such damages to our home. It was not until several weeks later that I noticed the tell-tale results of a dying tree, the little white globs of resin that begin showing up once a tree begins its demise. Bugs had started working on the tree that lightning had struck, a tall pine that stood within 10 steps of our garage.

Lightning is something that can be deadly. A typical lightning flash is about 300 million volts and about 30,000 amps. In comparison, household current is 120 volts and 15 amps. Wow, no wonder we experienced damage when it hit a tree so close to our house.

When lightning strikes a tree, water in the cells instantly begins to boil, creating steam and the expanding steam can explode, cracking or stripping off bark.

Another source said that lightning is one of the leading weather-related causes of death and injury in the U.S. Did you know you can be struck by lightning when the center of the thunderstorm is 10 miles away?

Several years ago, I witnessed the aftermath of a lightning strike on a big oak at Lincoln Parish Park. The tree was virtually blown apart with strips of bark catapulted several yards from the trunk.

On another occasion, hay was being baled in the pasture across the road from our home with round bales on the ground waiting for pick-up. A bolt of lightning struck one of the bales and I watched in amazement during a heavy rainstorm as the bale had caught fire and was burning. 

This is the time of year when folks are out on the lake fishing, boating or skiing and it’s also the time when thunderstorms can crop up quickly. If skies darken and the rumble of thunder is heard, it’s time to leave the water and seek shelter until the storm passes.

Lightning can be deadly and can do strange things, like causing a garage door to open by itself or setting a hay bale on fire.

EDITOR’S NOTE

Congratulations to our outdoors columnist, Glynn Harris, for adding to his legendary awards stash in the recently-announced Louisiana Outdoors Writers Association writing contest.

LOWA celebrated its 75th anniversary last weekend with its annual convention in Thibodaux. Excellence in Craft awards were presented and Mr. Harris collected three for articles he wrote for various publications before joining the Shreveport-Bossier Journal this spring.

He won first and third-place awards for his syndicated articles, and a first in the “magazine short story” category. He is one of the most acclaimed outdoors writers in LOWA history.

Harris is a weekly contributor to the SBJ, appearing every Thursday.

Contact Glynn at GlynnHarris37@gmail.com


Thoughts on bass fishing, by a novice

With photos of big double-digit bass constantly showing up on social media, I began thinking about fishing for bass from the perspective of a novice, a non-pro — in other words, from me.

I love to fish for bass. Something about the explosion on top of the water when a bass smacks a topwater plug gives me the jitters. Ditto for when I feel the tap-tap on the line when fishing a plastic worm and seeing the line begin moving to the side. Catching a glimpse of white beneath the surface when a bass smacks my spinner bait is something else that gets me worked up.

I don’t fish bass tournaments; never have. I fish for bass simply because I love the sport.

It all started for me when as a kid, my dad gave me one of his old hand-me-down reels, a Pfleuger Akron casting reel without any of the fancy stuff reels come equipped with today. My reel was spooled with black line strong enough to pull a mule out of a bog; this was before monofilament line came on the market. The reel was fastened to a Tru-Temper steel rod.

I carried the lures he gave me in a brown paper bag and they included some that would likely be collector’s items today. When is the last time you went to the tackle shop and saw a Shakespeare Dopey; a River Runt; Dalton Special or Hawaiian Wiggler on the shelf? Those were the lures with which I learned to fish for bass. You could spend a couple of bucks and be pretty well outfitted with fishing lures. However, they were treasured products you didn’t want to chance hanging up and losing.

I remember fishing for bass in Molido Creek behind the house, a creek that was home to not only bass but sharp-toothed chain pickerel. We called them “jack fish.” I made a cast with my much-loved River Runt and the lure plunked down next to a fallen log, a perfect hidey hole for a bass.

I began my retrieve when I got a solid hit. Raring back on my rod, I was set to fight what felt like a really nice bass when the fish I had hooked sprang from the water with my River Runt dangling from its toothy jaw. I panicked when I realized this was no bass, but a jack fish which promptly severed my line taking the only River Runt I had with him. I have felt resentment and dislike for jack fish ever since.

I remember the first squirrel I ever shot; the first deer I brought down; the first gobbler I called in and downed, the first duck I ever shot and I remember the first bass I ever caught.

I was a little bitty shaver and was fishing the same little creek behind our house. Casting a Hawaiian Wiggler next to a stump, I promptly got a strike, set the hook and six inches of bass was catapulted out of the creek and over my head. I grabbed the squirming fish and hot-footed it through the woods to the house to show my mama what I had caught.

Recently while headed back home for our high school reunion, I paused when crossing the bridge over Saline Bayou and looked toward the railroad bridge just on the other side. This was a spot when as kids, we could seine crawfish, head for the sandy banks with cane poles and toss a hook baited with a crawfish into the current.

If things went as I hoped, the line would straighten, quiver and I’d be setting the hook in a bass that used that sandy stretch of water for spawning. We called them smallmouth bass when in reality they were spotted or Kentucky bass.

I never dreamed of becoming a bass fishing pro nor did I ever want that lifestyle. Having the chance to see the swirl, feel the tug and know I’m connected to a bass has given me a lifetime of fishing pleasure, and the opportunity to share it with friends and readers.

Contact Glynn at GlynnHarris37@gmail.com


When (mourning) doves fly, how often do hunters make them pay?

Rather late in life, I joined the cadre of hunters who open hunting season in September. When I was growing up, I didn’t hunt doves. I don’t know anybody who did and it could be that there wasn’t a season on these fast-flying gray missiles back then.

Years later I got in on the sport and really, it’s hard to call dove hunting dove “hunting.” It is more of a social gathering where friends get together in a field of bush-hogged sunflowers, millet or wild goat weed, have a barbecue beneath the shade of a big oak and scatter out, bellies full, to find a shade to sit under and take a crack at doves flying over.

We’re a few weeks away from opening of dove season this year as it traditionally opens on Labor Day weekend. In the meantime, research is ongoing concerning doves to see what effect hunting doves has on the overall population.

Marty Edmonds, retired employee of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, is involved in research and provided information about these popular game birds.

“Mourning doves nest in every state except Hawaii. In Louisiana, nesting is observed throughout the year with peak nesting period being from May to July,” Edmonds wrote.

“The male picks the nest site and both male and female doves incubate. The nests are poorly constructed with both males and females building nests that may take from a few days to a week to construct. The pair averages about five young per year.”

According to information Edmonds furnished, doves feed almost entirely on plant seeds such as goat weed, rag weed, poke salad, foxtail, sunflower, corn and wheat.

It is estimated that the mortality rate of doves is in the 70 percent range whether doves are hunted or not. Although they have the potential to live several years, most live only a year or so.

A research program is ongoing, headed by Jeff Duguay, Dove Research Program Director for the LDWF. Doves are being trapped and banded not only around the state but nationwide at this time to determine the impact hunting may have on doves.

“The trapping and banding program is part of an overall program to gauge mortality. Banding and recovery of bands gives us information on hunting mortality,” said Duguay.

“When a hunter harvests a banded dove, he goes online and reports the band number. This gives us an idea of what percentage of banded doves are bagged, which gives us an overall estimation of dove harvest not only in Louisiana but nationwide. It’s similar to the waterfowl banding program in this regard,” he said.

How do you capture doves for banding and release? Duguay said that doves feed on bare ground and when suitable areas are located either on wildlife management areas or private acreage where permission has been granted for banding, feed such as milo, wheat or cracked corn is used to attract doves to the area, which can take a week or two before birds begin regularly coming to feed.

“This is when we put out the wire traps which feature a funnel entrance that birds can readily utilize but can’t figure out how to exit. There is an opening on top where birds are removed for banding, recording band numbers and (then) released,” Duguay explained.

This coming season, I’ll not only be on the lookout for doves flying over my shade tree. But just like in duck hunting, I’ll get an extra thrill should I be fortunate enough to hold in my hand, a dove when a silver band on its leg.

Contact Glynn at GlynnHarris37@gmail.com


The crappie fishing’s hot on D’Arbonne, but for how long?

Lake D’Arbonne has been on fire lately as tournament circuits from around the country have been focused on the lake as one of the country’s best hot spots for catching crappie.

However, a potential problem has emerged regarding the lake’s ability to continue to produce bragging-sized crappie. As a result, the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission has proposed new regulations focused on these popular fish.

Ryan Daniels, freshwater fisheries biologist with the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries based in Monroe, oversees Lake D’Arbonne, near Farmerville.

“The Commission adopted new regulations for crappie on the lake. The proposal calls for the establishment of a daily limit of seven fish over 12 inches in length with the overall daily limit continuing at 50 fish,” said Daniels.

The reason for the restrictions on fish over 12 inches, said Daniels, is that studies are showing a decline in the numbers of large fish in the lake. Setting the daily limit at seven for the larger fish adds protection of larger fish, he added.

“We realize that during crappie tournaments, participants can weigh in seven fish each day and we want to keep it at seven in consideration of tournament anglers,” he said.

Some crappie fishermen have for a long time been concerned about keeping the daily limit at 50 feeling this puts too much pressure on the population and adding that there is no need for anglers to bring that many fish out of the lake each day.

“We have done creel counts many times at boat launches and have found that very few fishermen are keeping even as many as 20 fish. We did not see a single angler with 50 fish. By keeping the daily limit at 50, we are attempting to encourage fishermen to keep more of these smaller fish because there is no shortage of smaller fish in the lake,” Daniels said.

Wesley Miller, a professional crappie fishing guide, believes that the new rules are headed in the right direction.

“The piney woods that make up D’Arbonne’s watershed don’t have a lot of nutrients so the crappie don’t grow as quickly as they do in more fertile bodies of water. I have a problem with the 50-fish limit as I believe that is far too many fish per day. Today’s technology is making it so much easier to catch fish more consistently,” Miller said.

Miller pointed out that he fishes lakes in Texas and Arkansas, states that have more restrictive daily limits. “There are much better crappie populations there than here in Louisiana, both in numbers and size,” Miller added.

Keith Johnson, a former Ruston resident who regularly fished for crappie on D’Arbonne, is happy that the limit for fish over 12 inches is being proposed but, in agreement with Miller, believes the daily limit of 50 is too high. “I think they should drop the limit to 25 fish per day. D’Arbonne is a jewel of a crappie fishery and in my opinion, dropping the daily limit is the responsible thing to do,” Johnson said.

Now is the time for anglers interested in the crappie fishery on D’Arbonne to take advantage of the 60-day comment period to express concerns and make their wishes and suggestions known.

At the end of the period, the Commission will vote on whether or not to put these regulations into effect.

“I look for the decision to be made at the earliest in November,” Daniel said, “but it will probably be in early 2023.”

Contact Glynn at GlynnHarris37@gmail.com


Burton boys turn raising worms into brisk business

What do you do when you build an earthworm bed so you can have worms for fish bait, and the numbers start growing rapidly? According to Clay Burton, you start selling them.

“We started growing worms for us to fish with and they started multiplying so fast we decided maybe we ought to try and sell some,” Clay said.

With that declaration, Burton Boys Worms business was launched this past December and it has started growing rapidly.

So, who are the Burton Boys? I learned about them and their enterprise while sharing lunch with Carl Burton, their grandfather and a long-time friend. What Carl told me smacked of a good story so I set out to learn more, meeting the boys and their parents recently at the Ruston Farmer’s Market where they had set up shop with their fishing worms.

The dad is Dusty Burton; mom is Kristy and the family lives near Quitman in north Jackson Parish.

“We got to thinking about what we might want to get the boys as an extra special Christmas gift,” Kristy explained. “We love to fish and had ordered some European night crawlers, worms that are different from the Canadian night crawlers. The Canadian variety requires refrigeration;  otherwise they don’t survive. Not so for the Europeans, which can tolerate temperatures between 50 and 80 degrees.

“Our fishing worm supply started growing so fast there was no way we could use them all so we decided to introduce the boys to the business world by setting them up in a business of growing, marketing and selling the earthworms. We have business meetings every week in order to plan and discuss how to turn the business into a profitable venture,” she added.

Clay has a vision problem, amblyopia, commonly known as “lazy eye.” It was his idea to use some of the profits of the business to help others with similar problems.

“I have to wear special glasses for my eye condition. I want to use some of what we make by selling worms to help other kids who have the same condition and may need some help to get glasses,” Clay said.

How do you raise enough earthworms to satisfy your fishing needs with enough extra to put on the market?

“Our worm nursery consists mainly of peat moss with some dirt added, We feed the worms such things as banana peels, egg shells, cardboard and grain,” Clay explained.

Kristy came up with the idea that in order to attract potential customers, there has to be an attractive presentation of the product.

“We found someone who came up with the design for the containers that are attached to each box of worms. The design features the two boys – one wearing glasses – in a circle surrounded with the logo “Burton Boys Worms.”

The young growing business has already attracted the attention of at least one tackle shop owner, K&M Bait Shop in Farmerville, where the products are available to sell. Hopefully, other bait shops will soon follow suit. A tip ‘o the hat is in order for Dusty and Kristy Burton for inspiring their sons to want to launch a business.

Oh, one other thing of interest are the ages of these two budding entrepreneurs. Clay is 7; Cole is 5. 

Contact Glynn at GlynnHarris37@gmail.com


Here’s some family history I’m proud to share

I grew up in the hills of north Louisiana not knowing until much later that not too far back in my lineage was a rather famous relative, long-time state Superintendent of Education, Thomas H. Harris.

I have a vague memory of meeting him as a youngster when “Uncle Tom” came to visit his older brother, Ausie, who was my grandfather.

A book given to me by a dear friend and former co-worker, Rae Tatum Malone, is one of my prized possessions, “The Memoirs of T.H. Harris.” In this book he tells of his 32 years as Superintendent of Education but also talks about his growing up years on a 250-acre farm in the Arizona community of Claiborne Parish located between Homer and Lisbon.

One of the most shocking bits of news he revealed in the book was the fact that Thomas H. Harris was not his real name. Here’s how he describes it….”My name is not Thomas H. Harris, but Lee Marcus Harris. The name by which I have been known all my life developed as follows: When I was about three days old, my next older brother, Ausie, three years of age at the time, was invited to inspect his baby brother. Ausie looked me over and said, ‘Little Tom.” And Tom I was thenceforth and forever.”  The middle initial “H.,” which stands for nothing, was added later.

When my job transferred me to Homer in 1964, my memories of my Great Uncle Tom were vague at best. I was more interested in squirrel hunting on Middle Fork, deer hunting with

Bill Bailey and his hounds around Summerfield or fishing in the brand-new Lake Claiborne. I was to learn later that a goodly portion of the land inundated by the popular lake was acreage on which my grandfather and his more famous brother grew up.

I was also aware that the community of Langston south of Homer had been renamed in honor of my great uncle. It is now known as the Harris community with a school there, a school that is now a church encampment, the Harris Baptist Encampment.

Scores of college students down through the years have had at least a portion of their tuition paid for by being recipients of the T.H. Harris Scholarship. I regret missing out on that honor; I was having too much fun with college life to have qualifying grades.

Buildings on college campuses around the state today are named after my great uncle. In Grambling, for example, you’ll find the T.H. Harris Auditorium, constructed in 1960.

When I received word that a memorial plaque was to be erected in honor of Uncle Tom, I wanted to see it. Recently, my sister and I motored up to Homer to see if we could find it, and we did. Located along Highway 2 between Homer and Lisbon, the marker sits within two miles of where T.H. Harris and my grandfather grew up. We also found another marker along Arizona Road marking the site of the Arizona Academy from which he graduated.

This column, I realize, is not my usual outdoors related missive. It has little to do with my coverage of hunting and fishing experiences.

I may not have many famous kin but it is gratifying to know that I had one, and even had the honor of my grandfather naming him. Lee Marcus just doesn’t have the same ring as “little Tom.”


Remote feral hog trapping offers possibilities

The frightening commentary about feral hogs around much of the country today is this – if you don’t have hogs on your property now, just wait; they’re coming.

So, what is the problem with having feral hogs on your property? Aren’t they just another species of wildlife that have a right to compete for living spaces? Not exactly – wild pigs not only can but do horrific damage to the landscape, rooting up food plots and fouling water sources.

They’re worse than that. Feral pigs also are disease carriers of up to 37 parasites with at least 30 diseases that can be transmitted to people, pets, or wildlife. The case is thusly made that wild pigs need to be eradicated or their numbers reduced.

But how do you go about that? You can try to shoot them but when harassed just a bit, they become as wary as deer and start doing their damage under the cover of darkness.

Trapping efforts thus far have only a margin of success as when some are caught, the others become wary of traps. In wide open spaces like south Texas where they present a serious problem, hiring a team of shooters firing from helicopters has been somewhat successful.

The use of poisoned bait will take out hogs, but more species than pigs are attracted to the bait. Surely there must be some method that has promise of working.

According to Union Parish resident Peyton McKinnie, there is a way that can put a damper on feral hogs, but it only works in one area at a time, unless the general public gets behind the effort and coughs up the dollars necessary to get it done.

“Feral pigs began showing up on our hunting club over the past few years,” said McKinnie. “We did some research and learned that there are an estimated 700,000 feral hogs in Louisiana. We felt we had to try and do something about those in our area.”

Contacting a company headquartered in Sterlington, he and some of his hunting club members invested in a product manufactured by Hog Boss, a system that utilizes a pen and gate that can be triggered remotely when hogs enter the pen.

“You can purchase the whole package for around $4,000 but if you build your own pen with panels that can be purchased at several area businesses along with t-posts, you can purchase the gate from Hog Boss that includes a control system with a remote camera that can be activated by a cellular phone,” added McKinnie. “We built our own pens and purchased the gate and control system for about $1,300.”

Does it work? Consider that since deer season ended this year, McKinnie and his friends have trapped and disposed of 145 feral pigs, and they trapped these on just two hunting clubs in Union Parish, plus another area they had permission to trap.

In a statement on the Hog Boss website (hogbossgates.com) the owners said, “In just a few nights, feral swine can decimate lawns, native habitats, and pasture lands. Common feral swine damage includes rooting, wallowing, and trampling of sensitive vegetation totaling an estimated $1.5 billion in damage annually.

“Hog Boss gates are the most effective cellular-controlled hog trapping system on the market. The gate includes a cellular control unit, long range antenna, and solar panel. It requires cellular activation that can be operated for about $100 a year. The gate requires a 12-volt battery and cellular trail camera, and our system will work with any cellular trail camera.”

We inquired of McKinnie as to what happens to the pigs that are trapped.

“All the meat is donated, and we have had no problem finding individuals or groups who are happy to make use of the meat,” he said. “We have been pleased with the way it has worked for us and encourage any group to invest in the system to help in reducing the numbers of these

destructive animals.”

For more information, contact Hog Boss Gates at 800-726-9930 or email hogbossgates@gmail.com.


Dogs I have known and loved

When you grew up in the country as I did, dogs were as much a part of life as the chickens that pecked around your yard, the milk cow chewing a cud in the pasture and the pig in the pen waiting for the weather to get cool enough to be converted into hams, bacon and sausage.

I mention this because we just became foster parents to a tiny puppy. More about that later.

Some of the dogs I remember living in and around the Harris household back then were Tippy, Rusty, Boots and Bitsy. Maybe there were others but time has erased their memories.

After leaving home, graduating from college and starting a family of my own, dogs have been a part of my life.

The first one I recall was, Jody, a little half Cocker Spaniel. Instead of being a pure-blooded Cocker, the mom apparently met up with a mongrel down the street. Before his pedigree was determined, we even had his tail docked like his mom. Even though he turned out not to be a full-fledged Cocker, we loved that little guy and were devastated when, out chasing a girlfriend down the road, he crossed ahead of a car and the Buick won.

Then there was Bambi, a little fawn-colored Chihuahua. She was a tiny little bundle we loved until her old age meant we had to have her put to sleep. I’ve had to do that with others that followed but Bambi was the first and it hurt the most.

Trixie was next and she came to us in a most unusual manner. Kay, my wife, was working downtown when someone came by her office holding a bedraggled little white pup she found wandering the street, a dog she couldn’t keep. Kay brought it home, we took her to the vet to get her cleaned up and learned she was a full-blooded poodle about two years old.

She came to us with no name and we tried calling her by several names to see if she would respond. When we said “Trixie,” she perked up so we assumed her former owner we never knew had named her that or something similar. We put a notice in the paper about finding her but never got a response, so Trixie enjoyed a full life with us until we had to do for her what we did for Bambi.

Then there was Rufus. We had started scanning the ad section of the paper for puppies available for adoption and located one, a Papillion, that caught our attention. It was love at first sight and we brought little Rufus home with us. He enjoyed a charmed life for over 16 years.

It was one of the saddest days ever when our good boy that had grown deaf, nearly blind and developed serious health issues had to be put to sleep over a year and a half ago. Kay and I decided that maybe our lives with dogs as companions was over; it hurt too much to have to part with those little fellows we had loved so much.

A lot can change in a year and a half. We finally came to the conclusion that after memories of Bambi, Trixie and Rufus had faded, our home was missing something we had enjoyed for years. We decided we needed to get another pup to fill the void and began praying for divine direction to be sure we were making the right decision.

It was almost by accident that we discovered a source that would soon be having puppies available for adoption. The sire was a long-haired Chihuahua and the dam a registered Yorkie. We put our name on the list for one of the puppies.

Easter Sunday afternoon, we brought our little eight-week-old Chorkie home, all two pounds of her and gave her a name, Coco, that seemed just right for her.

It feels good and right to be back in the puppy business again.