2017: A Great Year To Come Home!


2017 was a good year to move back to West Virginia. After working for the U.S. Navy for 30 years, I decided that I wanted to go home. A place where the outdoors is a way of life. Many people ask me about “retiring” from the Navy, but I only retired in name, not reality. I put in 19 years, active and reserve, six years as a government contractor and five years in government service, all intertwined to equal 30 years. Confusing huh? Let’s just say I joined the Navy in 1987 and left in 2017 and leave it at that. Needless to say, I made a good choice. I have never been healthier, never been more at peace as I have been since I moved home.

I got back to West Virginia on a Saturday, and unloaded my bed, and some belongings so that I could have a place to sleep that night. After a good night’s sleep, I got up early Sunday morning and had a cup of coffee and sat outside enjoying the cool breeze and just taking it all in. I decided to walk to the creek and see if I could catch a bass. After about 10 casts of my buzz bait, a musky hit and for the next 15 minutes of fighting, he just spit it out. It was a great welcome home for me!


For the next few months, I spent a lot of time with family, fishing with my nephews, taking my niece to the movies. It was a great summer, and catching up with everyone was priceless.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We caught fish, turtles and really had a good time, just the way summers used to be when I was growing up.

 

 

 

 

As summer ended, I needed to get back to work.

Of course going back to work, meant
that my time spent with family and in the outdoors was going to be limited. But I still had time to hit the woods a few days.

 

 

 

 


 

I was able to spend a day here and a day there working the trail cameras that were set and each time we looked at them, it was like Christmas morning, we were always surprised. First morning of rifle season and all the preparation paid off, when I took my largest buck to date.

 

 

But the biggest highlight of 2017 for me, was being able to be with family for the holidays. It had been many years since I had been in West Virginia for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and I can say it was worth coming home for.

I believe that 2018 will be a good year for me, but 2017 was a great year!

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WV Bananna: Paw Paws, The Unknown Fruit (And Deer Food)


So everyone has heard the old children’s song about the “Paw Paw Patch,” that goes like this:

Where, oh where, oh where is Susie?
Where, oh where, oh where is Susie?
Where, oh where, of where is Susie?
Way down yonder in the paw-paw patch.

Chorus:
Picking up paw-paws; put ’em in a basket.
Picking up paw-paws; put ’em in a basket.
Picking up paw-paws;put ’em in a basket.
Way down yonder in the paw-paw patch.

But did you know anything about the Paw Paws they are singing about?

Paw Paws (also known as the WV Banana as well as other states claiming it to be their banana) is a fruit that grows in eastern North America forests and unless you know what you are looking for, you might just over look them.

In West Virginia, there are many festivals and celebrations that celebrate the fruit. The Paw Paw is a very tasty fruit and can be eaten raw (after it ripens and turns brown) and is also an ingredient in Paw Paw pie.

One of the things with being an outdoorsman, I am always looking at what wildlife eats. One day I was hunting squirrels in October and as I was sitting there, I kept hearing a loud plop in the hollow below me. I ignored it at first, but then I heard more plops and deer began to show up. After a while the curiosity got the best of me and I walked toward the sounds only to find Paw Paws hitting the ground and just like a deer feeder throwing corn out, the deer came running, eating them as fast as they were falling.

When you are looking to see if you have Paw Paws, here are a few photos to help you recognize them.


 

 

Here is what the leaves look like.

 

 

 

 

 

The trees are slender but tall and the weight of the Paw Paws make the trees lean.

 

 

 

 

Here are how the Paw Paws look in the trees.

The key to hunting around Paw Paws is to make sure you are in the woods when they start dropping for two reasons:  1. You want to be there when the deer are in there feeding and 2. you want to be able to pick some for yourself before the deer and wildlife eat them all.

 

Many people have never seen Paw Paws before, but in WV, they are all over the place and easy to find, if you know what you are looking for.

Watch this video that I made, showing a good Paw Paw patch. Enjoy everything the outdoors has to offer, live off the land and live healthy!

 

 

 

 

 

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Starting My Own Business: Little Ads, LLC


Finally, after 30 years of working for the Navy, I decided to move home to West Virginia. I had many reasons for moving back, the weather, the hills and mountains, wildlife, family and to start my own business.

I wanted to move back for many years, but it wasn’t until a year ago I made the decision to take a leap of faith and do it on the 30th year of joining the Navy. Joining the Navy in September 1987, I had many jobs, starting out as a Hospital Corpsman, Store Keeper, Boatswain’s Mate, and a few others, finally settling in on the job of a Journalist (now called Mass Communications Specialist, MC). While I was working as a Journalist, I learned to write, take better photos, layout and design and editing. I found out I was pretty good while working as the editor of Shift Colors, The Navy Retiree Magazine, and I began to get a lot of feedback from many of the 260,000 readers who received it.

When my enlistment ended, I applied for a government contractor job that opened at Navy Recruiting Command as a Public Affairs Specialist and was hired. After six years the job was converted to a Government Service position as a Public Affairs Specialist.

While I was working there, I decided to help out some local WV folks with their election campaigns. Living in Tennessee I was able to build ads, and run their social media campaigns from 700 miles away. It was then that I felt that I could make a business out of that type of service. In October, 2016, I decided that I would make the move.

Fast forward to June of 2017, I made the move. Once getting back to WV, I applied and received my business license through the state of WV and came up with the name “Little Ads, LLC.” 

   

 

 

If you are looking for ads, graphics or help promoting yourself or your business at a reasonable price, visit us at https://nicholsoutdoors.com/little-ads/ or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/littleadsllc/ and we will work with you. We serve people and businesses who do not want to hire a large firm.

 

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What Historical Person Would You Like to Share a Dram With?


As published in the Bourbon Zeppelin Newsletter .

Since I was a young boy I have been fascinated with the old west characters. Heroes who tamed the cow towns and brought justice to a new big land. People like Wyatt Earp, Wild Bill Hickock just to name a couple. But If I had one chance to sit down and have a drink and a cigar with someone, I would like to have done that with John Wayne.john_wayne

John Wayne has always been at the top of the list not just because of his iconic movie roles, but that he had stated that his portrayals of lawmen in his movies came in part from meeting and talking with Wyatt Earp when he was a young man working as a prop boy in early movies.

I would have to say at first, I know I would be awestruck and mention how much I loved his movies and the no-nonsense way he took care of business. Above all, I would like to sit and talk about just being a cowboy. In my mind, no one ever paid homage to the Wild West like he did. I would tell him how much I appreciated the fact that he had Cowboy Ethics, and lived by that code, even in life. In the movies, he never shot a man in the back and was very adamant about that. He treated people with respect until he was disrespected and that stayed with me my whole life.dw_jw

I think that before we had that drink, I would ask Mr. Wayne if he would take a ride on horseback with me and maybe take in some target practice, just so I could say that I shot alongside of him. We would then sit down and discuss everything from movies, politics to horses and shooting. Then I would ask him one thing, “Tell me about Wyatt Earp.”

John Wayne was a man above men, back when handshakes meant something and you didn’t talk unless you had something worth saying.

We could use a few more like John Wayne these days.

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Squirrel Alert: Using Natures Sentries to Score.


I have lived in Tennessee for close to 16 years, hunted deer a few times here, but most of the time, I would drive back to West Virginia to hunt. When I did hunt in Tennessee, it was on TWRA land, and myself along with other hunters who didn’t own land to hunt on would be there.

This year I was fortunate enough to have a land owner offer his land to allow me to hunt and the best part, it was only five miles away. So, opening day of gun season came around yesterday, it was sunny, but cold. The wind was blowing pretty hard and the ground was soggy from the storms the night before. I can’t really remember a time that I went into the woods and never saw a deer, but opening day 2016, that is just what happened. img_4119I stayed out all day, trying different locations, knowing the deer were bedded down, but one of the other parts about West Tennessee, is that it is fields and brush.

So as tough as it was to admit I didn’t see a deer opening day, I got up early the second day (today) and decided to try a new strategy. I started out in a 50 yard open woods (pretty much the only open woods on the land) that I had placed a game camera in img_4117before season. I had seen many does, turkeys, and what I thought (and still do) to be wild hogs. I hoped that something would come by. But as the time went on, nothing, and so I moved.

 

I decided to set up behind a log, near a large field. Hoping that I could glass the fringe of the brush. Around 10 a.m. I heard a squirrel barking and I knew something was there, I just could not see it.img_4122

After about 10 minutes of listening to the sentry alarm, I caught a glimpse of something on the ground. At first I thought it might be a rabbit or the sentry, but as it came up over the rolling field, I saw the first deer in the past two days of hunting. It was a nice one, not a wall-hanger, but a trophy for the plate. So I waited until he stopped walking and shot. He began to run, so I shot again as he ducked into the woods.

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I walked over to find a bright red trail and within 20 yards, there he was.

 

 

Trophy for the plate, a nice six point. Every day I am able to hunt, I thank God for the beauty he put on earth and the food to fill my freezer.img_4130

 

Even on days that I don’t see a deer, I call it a success, because I am able to enjoy the outdoors.

 

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Women Hit the Woods: Inspire a New Generation of Hunters


By Jeff Nichols

There is a whole new generation of hunters coming up and I am very proud and impressed by their ethics and skills. To top it off, I am very happy to see a very large number of women and girls who are starting to hunt and enjoy the outdoors. Eva Shockey, Kendall Jones, Taylor Altom, and Stephanie Ray just to name a few, are some of those women who are showing the world that there is nothing wrong with hunting ethically and harvesting game for food. You see the photos, read the articles, but there is more to hunting than pulling the trigger. That is just the beginning, after the animal goes down, then the work starts, field dressing, dragging, skinning and processing. But they all do it with excitement and a smile on their faces. Those smiles and those actions have caught the attention of a lot of young girls who see what these great role models are doing and are beginning to follow in their footsteps.

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Stephanie Ray hunting with her grandfather’s Winchester model 12 shotgun.

Stephanie Ray, from southern Michigan is one of the women above that has taken to the outdoors to enjoy nature and engage in ethical hunting.

What got her into hunting is the question most people will ask, and for Stephanie and just about every other hunter, the answer is usually the same. “I hunt because I love the outdoors, the sport, and the challenge. I have a sense of pride that I can provide meat for myself and my family,” Stephanie says. “Being in the woods also gives me time to relax and enjoy the beauty of nature while spending quality time with friends who enjoy the same things I do.”

After growing up in the city Stephanie decided to move to the country eight years ago, and it was seven years ago, she decided to see what hunting was about. “I went and sat in a blind with the guy I was dating at the time on a bow hunt,” she recalls. “He shot a nice buck, and me, always up for a challenge, wanted to try it too. So I bought a bow and the deal was if I practiced, and was consistent, I could go.”

Like so many other hunters, with practice and the right equipment, she set out to become proficient and comfortable with her bow.

steph_practice

Stephanie practicing during the off-season.

“Within a week, I was consistent. My first time out, I shot the first deer I saw, and watched it fall,” she says. “Although I was able to tune out, ‘shoot her, shoot her’ and focus, we walked up on a button buck. I was still so happy, and honestly wasn’t sure if this was a bad thing – I grew up in the city. This was all new to me.”

 

Although women have been hunting since the beginning of the human race, it wasn’t until a few years ago when they began featuring women hunters on prominent hunting shows and in outdoor magazines. Now with a new group of young women hunting, the sport has gotten a whole new generation interested in the outdoors.

Like many others, Stephanie loved being in the outdoors and after harvesting her first deer with a bow, she decided to try gun hunting. “After I shot my first deer I was pretty hooked, she said. “Gun season rolled around here in Michigan and I figured I better get a gun.” So she bought a Remington 870 20 gauge shotgun and shot two does that season.

steph_8_pt

Stephanie’s first buck.

The following season she shot a nice eight point during gun season, and many people told her that she would never take another buck that large. “I’m honestly glad that was my first buck,” Stephanie stated. ” He humbled me. Set my standards and the bar high. I’ve let dozens of smaller bucks walk, and I’m OK with it.”

Over the past few years, hunting has become a passion for Stephanie. She hunts small game, waterfowl, turkey, and  fishes. “I’m very lucky to have a great support system, my friends and boyfriend that offer their wisdom and experiences, share their passion, and share the fun.”

steph_grandparents

Stephanie’s grandparents circa 1940s.

One thing that Stephanie holds close to her heart is the Winchester model 12 shotgun her late grandfather left to her father. Her grandparents hunted small game growing up and now she uses it to hunt squirrels and geese.  “It’s awesome to hunt with! I shot my first squirrels and geese with it this year,” she said. “The first time I took it out I had tears in my eyes.”

With the legacy she found from her past, Stephanie is definitely making the most out of her time in the field and sharing stories and experiences with others. This is what role models do and for years to come, women like Stephanie will not only be helping with conservation of wildlife, but teaching young men and women how to enjoy the outdoors.

 

 

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