- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 5, 2009

David Cryer asked Grandpa if he had “shooting earmuffs” to protect his hearing. The old man did, and the moment the 13-year-old slipped the device over his head and into proper position he shouldered a .22-caliber rifle and aimed at a wooden board on which circles had been drawn with a thick, felt-tip pen. He squeezed off a shot, then followed it with a second and third round; all of them landing in the bull’s-eye or close to it.

The shooting practice was the official beginning of David’s great summer adventure.

After coming to Maryland from his Brooklet, Ga., home to spend part of his vacation with his grandparents, David was excited about everything he saw.

He stayed in a house that was only a brief distance from the Port Tobacco River. His sleeping quarters were only yards away from dense woodlands where white-tailed deer and wild turkeys lived and when he was offered a chance to do some target shooting with the small caliber rifle and a 20-gauge shotgun, he displayed uncommon good sense for a boy of 13. He’d already passed a Georgia hunter safety course and the target shooting was an acceptable follow-up.

On the way to the woods, crossing a rain-filled ditch in the family pickup truck and entering an overgrown field of grass and tiny shoots of sweet-gum saplings, two deer bolted in front of the vehicle. They’d apparently been resting in the tall grass. David loved it. He even spotted antlers on one of the deer and now dreamed aloud about a hunt, steadily talking about eating venison steaks and deer burgers.

But that was only for starters.

Later, when grandpa slathered a ham sandwich with hot pepper rings, David felt honor-bound to tell the old man, “I once was in a jalapeno pepper-eating contest, and I ate 23 of them.” He said it with the kind of bravado only a teenager can muster. Never mind that nobody believed him; the lad was convinced that he was the jalapeno-eating champion of North America.

Then came the day when the kid went bass fishing on the Potomac River. He learned how to cast a lure from a spinning rod and reel and mastered it quickly. He admired the first tidal-water yellow perch that jumped on a fake dropshot shiner, then saw three bald eagles leave their sycamore and oak tree roosts along a southern Maryland creek.

When a bass was fooled by the imitation baitfish, David was totally delighted with the chubby, dark-green inhabitant of the tidal flats, but he also was a bit disappointed that other bass didn’t cooperate more frequently. He did not yet understand the vagaries of flood and ebb tides and their immense influence on fish behavior.

Thanks to good friends who owned a well-supplied farm pond, a few days later the kid from Georgia was invited to fish in their St. Mary’s County impoundment. He latched onto more feisty sunfish than a body has a right to. “I’m a pond fisherman,” he said matter-of-factly. “I know how to catch ‘em in a pond.”

And he did.

Let’s not forget our good neighbor’s boat dock and pier where on one late morning last week he tied into channel catfish, white perch, and a squirmy eel with his nearly new spinning outfit that he received as a gift. David learned about using clam snout baits and snapping lead sinkers to the fishing rigs to keep the snouts close to the Port Tobacco River’s bottom.

On the way home he asked, “Are we going to try and catch crabs this week?” And grandpa said, “Guess I’ll have to show you how to bait a trotline.”

David smiled and secretly hoped his summer would never come to an end.

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column Sunday and Wednesday and his Fishing Report on Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: gmueller@washingtontimes.com. Also check out Mueller’s detailed weekend fishing report and his Inside Outside blog at washingtontimes.com/sports.

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