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A few days ago I ran into an old friend at the barber shop. Actually this place was more accurately a small reception area for the nimble-fingered unisex hair stylist. Geez, I really do miss the old-fashioned barber shops; but the point is: while waiting our turn to get a haircut, we had a little time to chat.

My buddy had his grandson in tow, and it was quickly evident these two were best friends forever.

The young boy was about ten I'd guess, and there's no doubt he had manners, didn't interrupt and absolutely adored his grandpa.

The boy's father is on his third tour of duty in Afghanistan, but is due home in just a few weeks and already has a stateside job lined up. Yes, good times are directly ahead for this family.

After catching up on general family news, our conversation topic quickly got around to hunting for the youngster had recently gotten his first deer.

In fact, it just happened a few days before during this year's Maryland special Junior Hunt Day.

Grandpa played the part of mentor, and it appears he is absolutely doing that job real well.

This hunting duo stayed together in a ground blind during this Junior Day deer hunt. “A lot dryer, warmer and safer than a tree stand on a misty morning,” Grandpa said. Only the boy had a weapon - his own Mossberg .20 gauge Bantam shotgun. Now, this isn't hardly a Purdey over and under like you might see coming out of a Mercedes or BMW trunk at some fancy, private gun club; but it is perfectly adequate as a first deer hunting weapon.

I hear the boy can shoot pretty well with it, too; for he and grandpa both told me they like to go to the practice range together.

On this very first deer hunting excursion, they were on stand before dawn and did see a few deer during the morning session, but none of them came close enough for a safe shot. Grandpa had bought the young hunter a good luck gift to celebrate his first deer hunt, a stainless steel thermos just like the one grandpa carries, except this new one would normally hold hot chocolate inside instead of coffee.

I guess it takes awhile for the good luck to rub off, for it wasn't until later on in the afternoon when the young hunter first had an opportunity to bag his deer.

“Got it with one shot,” the proud grandpa told me. “Right in the heart,” added the young sharpshooter.

Upon butchering, the deer filled up the family freezer; and I hear venison tenderloin is on the menu for a family feast when dad finally gets home.

This first deer was a doe, but as the boy explained to me, “It will taste better than a buck's, and is good for the herd to be removed because there will be more food available for next year's bucks to get even bigger.”

You can't argue with that logic.

They are going afield again together; after all, grandpa has a freezer to fill, too.

After that, the young hunter would like to take one more deer, “and donate it to a homeless shelter,” he explained.

When dad gets home, they already are making plans for expanding to a waterfowl hunting trio.

I'm hoping to get invited along to make it a quartet. If I do, I want to make sure to take a big sip of that lucky hot chocolate.

Kids and MSSA

The Maryland Saltwater Sportfishing Association was originally founded to protect the Chesapeake Bay and the fish within it. That purpose still drives this organization, but the Southern Maryland Chapter of MSSA is also working to ensure a strong future for our sport.

This past summer they worked directly with nearly 300 children at Point Lookout State Park, Camp Greenwell and other regional fishing camps/rodeos to teach fishing, hold casting competitions and even cook up meals for visiting children and their parents.

Several MSSA members from the Southern Maryland Chapter helped out by taking children fishing on their own private boats, worked with all children to develop basic fishing skills and improve further on that knowledge and literally helped hundreds of young ones to truly master and enjoy fishing and the whole marine environment.

They even donated 98 spinning rods and reels so the kids could continue to enjoy the sport long after their summer camp experience was over.

During one session, SMC Secretary Jerry Gaff asked the kids aboard his boat to tell him about their overall summer camp and he asked them what was the best part of it.

“This fishing!” One young camper quickly replied and the others all immediately agreed.

About all these children's activities the Southern Maryland Chapter of MSSA supports, writes Gaff in his summary report, “

It is a classic case of enjoying the opportunity to do good for others. And helping in some small way to shape the future of recreational fishing and conservation of our marine resources.”

Thank you MSSA.

Wood duck survey

Private landowners who manage wood duck nest boxes are asked to participate in a survey sponsored by the Maryland's Department of Natural Resources and the Maryland Wood Duck Initiative.

They hope to gain a clearer understanding of how nest boxes support bird populations and want to get better numbers from both private and public lands.

The basic information needed is the number and general location of where your nest boxes are located and estimate of the numbers of birds using them. You can do this online or by mail.

Willing participants should first contact Cliff Brown, Director of MWDI, at 703-447-5142. or email cliftonabrown@aol.com.

Fishing update

The big ocean-running striped bass are coming into local waters now at a pretty good rate. Anywhere from the bay bridge down has been good water. Especially nice catches have been made around the mouth of the Potomac and Patuxent mouth near Buoy 77.

Down at Lake Anna, more stripers are available. Some larger fish are often caught pulling Water Bugz planer boards rigged with big live bait over shallow flats. Of course, you can always follow the birds.

If you want a little help, Anna guide Jim Hemby (301-967-3313) is a resident striped bass expert.

zbasser@aol.com