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James Drake

ďEducation is the best provision for old age.Ē

The above quote is attributed to Aristotle and those words he spoke over 2,000 years ago still ring true for us today.

The modern firearm season for deer is about to get under way throughout Maryland -- Nov. 24 is opening day -- and thousands of hunters will take to our fields and forests with the hope of putting some nutritious and delicious venison into the family freezer.

Sadly, we can expect some hunting accidents to happen and, real regrettably, most all of them will have been preventable.

By now, we all know the fundamental safety commandments such as only point a gun at something we intend to shoot and be absolutely sure of our target and whatís beyond it.

However, most hunting-related accidents donít involve any weapons at all. According to Marylandís Department of Natural Resources, tree stands are, by far, the most dangerous component of the whole deer hunting experience.

People fall getting into and out of their tree stand and others tumble down when they fall asleep up there. These types of accidents are most certainly preventable with the proper use of a harness.

Bowhunting has been going on now since early September and while a dozen states require their hunters to take and pass a required bowhunting course, Maryland does not.

Such a course offers tips on things such as judging distances, arrow and point selection and shot placement, but safely hunting from treestands is also one of the most emphasized subjects.

It wouldnít be a bad idea at all to review some of these lessons before going afield with any kind of weapon.

Earlier this week, I spoke to Marilyn Bentz with the National Bowhunter Education Foundation and she told me you can take an online bowhunting course for free if you opt not to get an official certificate of completion.

Go to, pick any state listed and have a go at the course. You donít need a computer for you can even do this today on your Smartphone.

Bentz also told me about an excellent tree stand video available at

The video is also free to watch. I just did, and I do believe most folks would benefit from a viewing for the safety harness tips alone were useful and most worthwhile to review.

Aristotle was right you know. A little education just might enable you to live a bit longer. Iím giving you an opportunity here, donít pass on this.

Good luck and good hunting and stay safe out there.

Bird trial

Americaís 48 million bird watchers might be interested in two lawsuits pending verdicts happening right now up in Toronto, Canada.

These cases were brought by two environmental groups, Ecojustice and Ontario Nature. They claim three adjoining Toronto glass office buildings were responsible for the deaths of about 7,000 birds in the past decade.

According to The Outdoor Wire, the building owners were charged under Canadaís Environmental Protection Act with discharging a contaminant (light reflected from the glass) causing harm to the birds.

In addition to fines under that law, these companies also face another maximum fine of $60,000 under the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act for causing the birds to be in distress.

There are also allegations that between one and nine million birds are killed in building collisions annually in Toronto. Because of this, since January 2010, designs for new construction and significant renovation in Toronto must be bird-friendly.

Builders and architects in the United States are paying attention to these cases, for there is cost-effective technology that already exists to greatly reduce these unnecessary bird deaths.

San Francisco currently has laws mandating bird-friendly construction as does Minnesota and many other local governments are considering them.

A study done in 2006 estimated that 100 million to a billion birds are killed by collisions with buildings annually in the United States.

Some of these huge glass structures are seen by the birds as apparent sky, trees or other natural structures reflected in the mirror-like surfaces. Light coming from the buildings or landscaping also attracts the birds only making the problem worse.

As part of a national program to reduce the already massive and growing number of bird deaths caused by building collisions, the American Bird Conservancy has a 58-page guide, which can be downloaded at, that should be helpful to architects, planners and building owners.

Fishing update

The big striped bass are moving back into the Chesapeake Bay.

Ken Lamb from the Tackle Box in Lexington Park reported that trollers dragging umbrella rigs and tandems, parachutes and big bucktails are finding plenty of the smaller domestic rockfish from 20 to 35 inches and now a few of those bigger 40-inch-plus real crowd pleasers.

Up and down the Shipís Channel, look for the birds and especially the larger gannets to show you the way. If youíre going to jig in those breaking schools, try to get your presentation down deep.

Lamb also says both the lower Patuxent and Potomac rivers have nice-sized stripers. In the Potomac, the deep trench off St. George Island is giving up some of the ocean-going big fish and expect good action around Sea Breeze in the Patuxent, too.

More Patuxent rockfish schools are found as far north as Sheridan Point. Surfcasters are still getting some fish at Cedar Point and Point Lookout. Superstorm Sandy chased away most of our visiting bluefish.

Andy Andrzejewski with the Reel Bass Adventure guides (301-932-1509) told me that a Mannís Sting Ray grub has been his preferred bait now in the tidal Potomac for largemouths hitting along the main river and creek ledges.

Fish it on a 1/4-ounce ball head jig, hook exposed and coated with a generous dose of Smelly Jelly and you might even scare up a nice catfish or striper. Andrzejewski is finding the crappie schooling up in marinas and around boat docks.

The fall trout stocking is over for the season and those trout that are now swimming in many local waters will hit Powerbait, flashy spinners or even nightcrawlers, said Anthony Hancock, assistant park manager at Gilbert Run Park in Dentsville.

That park will be open Nov. 17 and 18, but after that, you may park outside the main gate and walk in to fish. Park managerís discretion will decide if they open on any of the warmer weekends during the upcoming winter.