- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 4, 2004

Hope you don’t mind, but this is the start of a new year and I’m looking at a pile of outdoorsy items that I’ve saved with thoughts of them becoming the stuff of columns.

Alas, for most it’s too late, but not too late to share some of the more interesting tidbits that have been gathering dust in the computer:

• When the Law breaks the law: From the Northern Virginia Daily’s Front Royal section came word that a Warren County Sheriff’s Office deputy went hunting, which is fine. But the fact that he shot at a lifelike decoy deer put out by state game wardens isn’t OK. The Law breaking the law. Imagine that.

Sgt. William Allen Smoot, 29, who currently is assigned to county jail duty, has been charged with shooting across a road (which is illegal) and attempting to shoot a wild animal from a vehicle (which is super illegal). Smoot’s friend, Michael Albert Jenkins, 46, who was with him and who carried a loaded firearm in the vehicle, also has been charged.

Some hunters in Smoot’s county fear that the wildlife cops will give Smoot preferential treatment, kind of a courtesy pass. They’re afraid that cops tend to take care of one another. But the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries promises to treat Smoot no differently than anyone else. We’ll see.

• The most popular bassin’ method: Bass fishing in fresh or tidal waters is the favorite hobby for well over 30million Americans. So what do the professional tournament heroes say is the most consistent and effective way to hook a largemouth bass?

BassFan.com says die-hard competition anglers, or those who simply hope to catch more and bigger fish, should learn how to flip soft, plastic baits. A BassFan.com analysis showed that during the 2003 tour season, flipping soft plastics accounted for more wins and high finishes (second through fifth place) than any other technique. Fishing lipped crankbaits and spinnerbaits tied as the next winningest techniques, followed by Senko-type baits, and then jigs and buzzbaits (tied for fourth).

The all-time money winner on the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society pro tour, Denny Brauer, is a jig’n’ craw and plastic-worm flipper. Any questions?

• Pennsylvania’s huge black bears: Absolutely enormous bears were shot by Pennsylvania hunters during the recent season that might have been the best ever in the commonwealth. By Dec.2, hunters had gotten 2,952 bears, and there were still some days left on certain wildlife management units.

And look at the sizes. In one week, Pike and Monroe counties hunters shot three bears exceeding 800 pounds each. That’s astonishing when you consider that a healthy adult black bear usually weighs between 250 and 300 pounds. The largest came from Pike County, an 864-pound male.

Let us also not forget 14-year-old Benjamin Long, of Coudersport, in Potter County. The teenager shot a 725-pound black bear. Totally awesome.

• Bill Dance moves to OLN: Bill Dance, 1970s tournament angler and one of America’s most popular fishing show hosts, dropped us a note to say, “‘Bill Dance Outdoors’ is moving from TNN to OLN [cable TV networks].”

Dance says many of the outdoors shows have left TNN and no one seems to know why. He’s not talking — yet. At any rate, Dance’s show aired on OLN last Friday and will do so every Friday throughout the year at 8:30p.m. then again Saturdays at 9:30a.m. and Sundays at 11:30a.m.

Dance joins other famous fishermen who have shows on OLN, including Roland Martin, Al Lindner, Hank Parker and Shaw Grigsby.

• The winning boat name is …: In December, Boating Magazine held its 11th annual Boat Name Contest and the winner was Sotally Tober, a 23-foot Sea Ray from McKeesport, Pa. Runners-up included Floating Doc, a boat owned by a Texas doctor, naturally. Wet-Ever was an other worthy mention. It is berthed in Crestview, Fla.

And guess what the magazine’s cheapskate owners presented the winners? A lousy T-shirt and a hat.

Incidentally, the same magazine also named the best-looking-ever film stars who appeared in swimsuits. We’re talking the best of all time. The winner was Bo Derek in “10,” followed by Daryl Hannah in “Splash,” Halle Berry in “Die Another Day,” Ursula Andress in “Dr. No,” and Phoebe Cates in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.” My top votes go to Andress and Berry.

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column every Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: gmueller@washingtontimes.com.

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