My young daughters didn’t want to go to the Grand Canyon. They were afraid that we, especially me, would fall in.
They had read and heard stories of people dying at the Grand Canyon. It didn’t help that on the week before our trip a man drove his RV over the south rim. Maybe it was a Thelma and Louise thing.
But I insisted. If we were going to be that close on our drive to the beaches of sunny southern California for vacation, we were going to take a sidetrip to the Grand Canyon.
I just wanted to see it, I explained. It’s not like we were going climbing, mule riding or even hiking. We would strictly be tourists.
We would be five of the 4 million tourists that visit the Grand Canyon each year. It seemed like a million were there on the day we went.
And some would get precariously close to the edge. But not me. My girls made sure of that, although I did slip off and snap a few photographs beyond the restraining wall, but not much beyond. I didn’t go to the edge. Didn’t want to risk falling 600 feet.
Thunderstorms and lightning made our day at the Grand Canyon shorter than expected, and I was disappointed that I didn’t get to see more of it.
If I ever go again, I will plan to spend more time. While there, it struck me that to really appreciate the Grand Canyon, it should be explored, not seen by the eyes of a tourist just passing through.
Michael Golden, president and chief executive officer of Smith and Wesson, and Leland Nichols, senior vice-president of the company, were in Oklahoma City last week for H&H Gun Range’s annual Firearms Expo.
The two sat down with Outdoors Editor Ed Godfrey for a question and answer session.
Q: The election of President Barack Obama and a Democratically-controlled Congress has been good for Smith & Wesson sales, hasn’t it?
GOLDEN: “Certainly the demand in the firearms industry changed with the election. But if you look at Smith and Wesson’s business, you look at the six months prior to the election – May through October – our handgun business was growing at a double digit rate. In fact, our handgun business in retail was growing at 14 percent.
“Our tactical rifle business grew at 100 percent over that time, so our fundamental, underlying business is very strong. Now, all bets were off when the election came. Our pistol business went up 24 percent.
Q: Do you think the increased sales before the election were due to the possible change in administrations?
GOLDEN: “One, we think we make the finest product in the world. Second, we think the overall economy is having an effect on gun purchases. We have research that shows on our revolvers that over 25 percent of purchases are first time buyers.
People are worried about the economy. People are worried about unemployment. Crime is on the increase and first time purchasers are buying our small-frame revolver. The only reason you would buy one of those is for personal protection. So we think the market is expanding.
Q: So you think the upswing in guns sales has more to do with the recession than the change in political leadership?
GOLDEN: “That’s speculation. I think it’s probably some of both. The (Obama) administration has said they are not going to make any changes to gun laws but enforce those that are in place and everyone in the industry would agree with that. But we are going to watch very carefully and be ready to react if there is a move to make changes, but up to now, we haven’t seen that.”
Q: What are your best selling handguns?
NICHOLS: “It would be a mix. On the pistol side, the M&P, military and police semi-automatic Polymer pistol, in 9mm, and .40 caliber would be number two. On the revolver side, a lot of people want conceal carry products, so a 642 which is a small revolver, five shot and .38 (ammo) and its got an an enclosed hammer so it’s good for conceal carry so the hammer doesn’t hang up when you pull it out of your pocket.”
GOLDEN: “The other category that has been extremely hot is tactical rifles, AR style tactical rifles. We have an M&P15 that shoots .223 ammo that sells extremely well. We have just launched an AR-style rifle that shoots .22 caliber rounds that we think will be extremely popular because of the price of ammo.”
Q: How is the Model 500, the most powerful handgun in the world, selling?.
GOLDEN: “The Model 500 does well. It’s three times more powerful than the revolver that Dirty Harry used. It’s for hunting. It’s not going to be something you are going to want shoot all day at the range and shoot 500 rounds of.
“But we have a large grizzly bear in our office that one of our employees shot with it, and I believe it was 200 yards with one round. So it’s very effective. Leland has been elk hunting with the 460.”
NICHOLS: “It’s a large frame revolver but has longer range. I shot an elk at about 100 yards with it. The 460 would be the world’s fastest performance revolver at high velocity, 223 feet per second out of the barrel.”
Q: Smith and Wesson is making a push into the hunting industry with rifles and shotguns. How big of a player will S&W be?
GOLDEN: “We believe over time we can have the same share with hunting that we have with handguns. It will take time. We will have to broaden out the product line to do it. There are some good companies in the hunting industry, some big brands that we are going against, but Thompson/Center is a very high prestige hunting brand.
“About 2½ years ago we purchased Thompson/Center arms, which was our first move into the hunting market. We think hunting is a big opportunity for us. The market is larger than the handgun market.
“Thompson/Center was basically a blackpowder company that we have expanded into bolt-action rifles with the Icon. We are just launching this summer the Venture, a bolt-action rifle off the Icon frame but it’s at a much more affordable price for the masses. It will retail for under $500.”
Q: And how has Smith and Wesson’s entry into the shotgun market been received?
NICHOLS: “Our side by sides and over and unders are doing really well. It’s a product that really has features of guns in the $4,000 to $5,000 range but sell in the low $2,000. It’s a nice, finely crafted product, very comfortable to shoot. The side by side is 20-gauge and the over and under is 12-gauge.”
Q: What do you think of the H&H Gun Range?
GOLDEN: You don’t see facilities like this in every major town in the country, whether it be out west or in the northeast. I would put this facility up against any in the country, and there are some nice gun ranges in the country. The citizens that live here have an opportunity that most people don’t. I live in Hartford, Conn., and we don’t have this kind of opportunity (to shoot).
Kelly Tanner of Oklahoma City wanted everyone to know the recent efforts made by Rondi Large and the WildCare Foundation in Norman.
Tanner is a purple martin landlord and the extreme heat in Oklahoma was killing the birds.
Tanner, and several other purple martin landlords, took their birds to WildCare where Rondi cared for them.
At one time, Rondi was caring for as many as 60 birds, staying on her feet for hours, feeding them crickets.
“She went above and beyond the call of duty,” Tanner said.
I don’t know why it took so long, but Oklahoma’s deer harvest numbers from last season finally have been posted by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
Hunters had a very good season in 2008-09. In fact, it was the second highest ever with a total of 111,427 deer taken in the state.
That number is 7,922 shy of the state record in 2006 of 119,349.
Bow hunters had a record year. More deer were checked in last season by bow hunters than ever before in Oklahoma, a total of 17,784.
Oklahoma deer hunters also set a record for the number of antlerless deer harvested with 48,358.
That pleases state wildlife officials who have been trying for years to get hunters to shoot more does to better balance the sex ratio in herds.
The total number of deer checked in by all hunters increased by 16 percent increase from the previous season.
Oklahoma’s deer harvest has exceeded more than 100,000 seven times this decade.
The top producing counties were Osage (4,409), Pittsburg (3,834), Cherokee (3,402) and Atoka (3,062).
To see county and public wildlife management totals, go to www.wildlifedepartment.com/deerharvesttotals.htm
Noodlers have gone from obsucurity to media darlings.
The latest show about catfish noodling in Oklahoma is the BBC production, “Gordon Ramsay’s F-Word.”
An episode showing Ramsay noodling for flatheads in Oklahoma airs tonight (July 15)…
One of the youngest noodlers at last weekend’s Okie Noodling Tournament was 15-year-old Quaddy Jones of Temple, who noodles with Skipper and Scooter Bivins, last year’s winners.
Quaddy also has quite a tale to tell about grabblin’ with an estimated 100-pound blue cat last year.
Quaddy is an avid grabbler whose grandfather Robert Jones of Temple was one of the best in the state, having caught by himself an 84-pound flathead from the Red River in 1976, that nearly cost him his life.
Quaddy is like a coon to water and fearless at going after any size of flathead. He will go fully underwater in the hole with the fish to get his catch.
Last year, at age 14 and weighing only 150 pounds, Quaddy wrestled an estimated 100 pound blue cat from a hole in a deep water creek in southwestern Oklahoma.
“You don’t know what your going to come out of a hole with until you see it,” Quaddy said.
While in that hole, the blue cat bit Quaddy, taking in his whole foot.
He was able to force the mouth open on the fish with his other foot and reach in with his hands and pulled it out of the hole, but not before losing the skin on his feet.
Blue cats cannot be noodled legally in Oklahoma so the fish was released.
“That catfish shook me like a rag doll and chewed me up,” Quaddy said…
Noodling is not just a man’s sport. Ever seen the “Grabblin’ Girls” video? Keely Crook, 19, of Stella, Mo., was the top female noodler at the Okie Noodling Tournament. Crook noodled a three-fish stringer of 86.8 pounds with the big fish being 32.6 pounds.
Like a true noodler, the winner of this year’s Okie Noodling Tournament wouldn’t reveal where he and his partners from Kansas and Missouri caught the winning stringer of 178 pounds and the biggest fish of the event, 68.9 pounds.
“Way north,” was all Jon Bridges of Bartlesville would reveal about the location of the biggest flathead ever checked in at the Okie Noodling Tournament…
The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation doesn’t keep a state record for the biggest flathead catfish ever noodled. But the agency does keep state records for the biggest fish ever caught on a rod and reel and in an unrestricted division, which is everything else. For flatheads, the state record on a rod and reel is 76 pounds, caught just last month on the Poteau River. In the unrestricted division, the state record flathead is 106 pounds, caught in 1977 from Wister Lake on a trot line…
I heard someone at the tournament Saturday night wondering what happens to all of those fish after they are weighed in. Well, Bridges was planning on keeping his fish alive in tanks and releasing the flatheads back in their home waters after the tournament. Another good reason for not saying where he caught them.
Last year’s champ, Skipper Bivins of Temple, donated his fish to people in Pauls Valley…
In case you don’t much about noodling or hand-fishing, the reason so many flatheads are caught by hand at this time of year is because it’s nesting season. After the females lay their eggs, the males will stay on the nests (any underwater crevice they can find) to protect them from predators, including noodlers. The catfish will aggressively bite a noodler reaching his hand in the hole, and the noodler has to grab it and bring it out…
The fact that flatheads are on the nest is why some states ban noodling. At least that’s Missouri’s publicly-stated reason for outlawing noodling, that too many catfish would be harvested and too many eggs destroyed if hand-fishing were allowed.
State wildlife officials in Oklahoma say there are not enough noodlers around to harm the population of flatheads. Not surprising, only .03 percent of anglers in Oklahoma say they have ever been noodling, according to the last state Wildlife Department angler survey…
Some estimated the crowd around Bob’s Pig Shop in Pauls Valley Saturday night at 6,000, making it possibly the largest crowd ever.
The national media hasn’t lost interest in Okie noodling either, even though this was the 10th year for the Okie Noodling Tournament.
Fox News had a reporter in Pauls Valley who broadcast live on Saturday. Bradley Beesley, who produced the first Okie Noodling documentary that started this craze and who did a sequel last year, was following Bivins around Saturday with a camera for a documentary for The Discovery Channel.
And Lee McFarlin of Stillwater, part of the first Okie Noodling film, is reportedly heading to Spain to wrestle with giant European catfish for the National Geographic Channel…
On the fishing hierarchy, fly fishermen would be royalty and noodlers the peasants. But Kevin Sheridan, fly casting instructor and manager of Bob’s Pig Shop in Pauls Valley, site of the tournament weigh-in, said noodlers have earned his respect.
“What I learned about noodlers is, they will experiment,” he said. “They will go out and look at the worst places.”
And he’s learned that noodlers are not really any different than other fishermen, except for bloody knuckles and skinned arms.
“When they find good spots, they don’t want to tell anybody,” he said. “All fishermen are the same way.”
If you want to know even more about the 10th annual Okie Noodling Tournament, go to twitter.com/okienoodling. You might still have time to register to win an autographed T-Shirt.
And see more photos by The Oklahoman’s Bryan Terry at http://blog.newsok.com/photo/2009/07/12/okie-noodling/
Dove hunters will get an extra 10 days in the field this year, although few people will care.
Most people dove hunt on opening day (Sept. 1) and then are done with it.
But if you are a diehard dove hunter, you get an extra 10 days this year. The season will open Sept. 1 but will be extended to Nov. 9, instead of closing Oct. 31.
The Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission voted on the new dates at this month’s meeting.
The daily bag limit still will be 15 doves, but no limits this year on Eurasian collared doves.
In the state’s southwest dove zone, dove season will open Sept. 1 and close on Oct. 31. It will re-open on Dec. 26 and run through Jan. 3.
In other changes, September’s resident Canada goose season will now overlap with the early teal season.
The early teal season will open Sept. 12 and run through Sept. 27. Resident Canada goose season will open Sept. 12 and run through Sept. 21.
Since resident Canada goose season will be during the same time as teal season, using electronic calls and unplugged shotguns will not be allowed to hunt resident Canada geese as in the past.
It’s a logical move. Waterfowl hunters would prefer to hunt both geese and teal at the same time rather than having a separate resident Canada goose season and using unplugged shotguns and electronic calls.
State wildlife officials had allowed electronic calls and unplugged shotguns in hopes of getting more geese killed, which have become a terrible nuisance in places.
But it wasn’t making a big difference.
With the 10th annual Okie Noodling Tournament just a couple of days away, I once again pose the question for which I have never found a definitive answer.
Why is hand-fishing for flatheads in Oklahoma called noodling?
Other states allow hand-fishing for catfish, but use terms such as grabbling, graveling, groping, tickling, dogging, hogging or stumping. So why do Okies call it noodling?
Skipper Bivins of Temple, last year’s winner of the Okie Noodling Tournament and a frequent champ with monster cats from the Red River, said when he was growing up in southwest Oklahoma noodling was always called grabbling. He never heard the term “noodling” until the tournament started.
Jerry Rider, who you will often find noodling on Lake Eufaula and once appeared on the David Letterman Show to demonstrate his craft, did some research on the origin of the word.
He said noodling may have been derived from a 17th century term when opals were dug or “noodled” from Australian mines.
Who would have guessed that noodlers are also intellectuals?
Three years ago, I wrote a column in The Sunday Oklahoman asking the same question. Here’s the responses I received:
“Flathead catfish are as slippery as wet noodles.”
“To catch a flathead by hand, fishermen must wiggle their fingers like wet spaghetti to entice a giant catfish to bite.”
“After a monster flathead gets through shaking your arm, it dangles from your shoulder like a wet noodle.”
“Early-day noodlers would fish in their birthday suits, thus exposing their noodles.” (I didn’t publish that one in the newspaper).
“The Scottish brought it to Oklahoma. “Guddling” is an old Scottish word that is phonologically close to noodling which describes catching trout by hand.”
And, of course, the most common theory for the origin of the word: “People who blindly explore underwater crevices to get a giant catfish to bite them must be off their noodle.”
One definition of noodle is “a stupid person.” I found that in Webster’s Third New International Dictionary.
So if anyone really knows why hand-fishing for flatheads is called noodling in Oklahoma, please tell me.
Twelve-year-old Trevor Yates of Norman is the Central Division Champion in the Bassmaster Casting Kids contest.
Yates – the champ in the ages 11 to 14 age group – flipped, pitched and cast for a score of 140 out of possible 150 points in the recent Bassmaster CastingKids competition in Greers Ferry, Ark.
Yates now advances to the National CastingKids Finals in Florida in October, where he will compete against five other regional champions.
Yates is a member of the OKC Junior Bassmasters Club…
Help needed to take kids fishing
Volunteer boaters are still needed to take 150 kids from Oklahoma Children’s Hospital for a morning of striper fishing on Thursday at Lake Texoma.
The kids are attending Camp Cavett at Lake Texoma, a week-long summer camp for patients at Oklahoma Children’s Hospital. Striper guides are taking the kids fishing Thursday, but more boats are needed.
“Any sort of boat will do — striper rig, bass boat, pontoon or ski boat that will carry from two to eight kids,” said Gene Gilliland, fisheries biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “Local guides will be among the group to help boat captains get the kids into fish.”
Volunteers are asked to call Ron Ludwig at (580)924-7901 or email him at email@example.com.
Hunters who applied for any of the 2009-2010 controlled hunts in the state can find out if they were selected for any hunts on Wednesday (July 8).
The results will be available by 8 a.m. on the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s Web site, www.wildlifedepartment.com.
The state Wildlife Department offers 140 different controlled hunts, most of them on government-owned managed lands.
Hunters pay $5 to apply for as many hunts as they want. Winners are selected through a random drawing.
The most sought-after hunts are the bull elk gun hunts on the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge.
That is followed by deer buck gun hunts on the refuge, then the archery deer hunts at the McAlester Army Ammunition Plant.