Lynn Burkhead — Five outdoor ways to celebrate the Fourth

Herald Democrat
The Fourth of July promises to make Lake Texoma a busy place this holiday weekend. Boater and angler numbers will be high, so play it extra safe on the big two state reservoir over the next several days.

Odds are, you’re probably aware that this weekend marks the nation’s annual Fourth of July holiday.

And with Independence Day happening on Sunday this year — and many businesses taking Monday off to observe Uncle Sam’s 245th birthday — there’s a three-day weekend coming up for most of us.

That means that weather permitting, there will be plenty of opportunity for Texomaland residents to get outdoors and enjoy themselves before and after the fireworks get shot off.

And with that in mind, here are five ways to enjoy the Fourth of July weekend, outdoors style, that is:

Boat Safely — As the pandemic wanes, a cool and wet spring fades away, and Uncle Sam’s birthday bash arrives, there’s little doubt that boat ramps and waterways are sure to be crowded this Fourth of July weekend.

While paying attention to boating safety measures at Lake Texoma and beyond is always important, it’s especially so over a busy holiday weekend when there are swarms of boats everywhere you look.

That means paying close attention to such safety principles as wearing a life jacket; learning and knowing how to swim; closely supervising children around boats and in the water; using a kill switch when operating a boat or personal watercraft; taking a boater education class; being weather aware; and of course, never driving a boat while under the influence of alcohol.

That last idea leads to a phrase I’ve used more than once in this space down through the years, a Fourth of July saying that comes from my late friend Raymond Copley, known as “Honey,” to his family and friends.

Copley was well known for serving up wedges of ice cold watermelon after the City of Denison’s annual fireworks show. But he was even better known for uttering this catchy phrase to his guests: “He who goes forth on the Fourth with a fifth, often doesn’t come forth on the Fifth.” Sadly, that’s far too often true.

Go Fishing — If there’s a more enjoyable way to catch a fish right now than on a topwater lure or fly, I don’t know about it. And while the dog days of summer are quickly approaching on most area lakes and ponds, it’s been cloudy and cool enough in recent weeks that there’s still hope for a surface plug enthusiast wanting to grab a few hours of angling time this weekend.

If you’re after striped bass at Texoma, a big clear or bone colored Zara Spook tossed along the shoreline or over a main lake point just before and after sunrise is a good bet. If you want to land a lunker largemouth, a Zara Spook, a Pop-R, or even a buzzbait can bring a big bass boiling to the surface early and late. And if you enjoy throwing a fly like I do, an Orvis 2/0 popper in either white, chartreuse, or froggy green will often work when the lighting is low.

If none of the above is your preference this holiday weekend, you can simply relax with a light spinning rig coupled with a crappie jig or minnows fished around a marina slip or boat dock.

And if you’re after something really simple, how about trying a cane pole or light spinning rig that has a bobber, a gold wire hook, and some crickets or grasshoppers attached. If you toss such a rig into an area filled with bluegills, redears, and other sunfish this weekend, you’re almost sure to get a few bites!

Practice Your Shooting Skills — If you like to hunt, there’s no better time than the present to start getting ready for autumn hunting seasons. After all, with the appearance of Uncle Sam’s birthday on the calendar, there’s now less than 60 days until dove season starts!

One way to start getting ready is to practice your shooting skills. While ammo is in short supply at most local stores, if you’ve got several boxes of shotgun shells in the closet, you might spend an hour or two this weekend powdering some clay pigeons.

If deer are your preferred hunting target, hunters with a box or two of rifle shells might fire a few rounds this weekend, punching paper to make sure that their scope and rifle are still zeroed in.

And if you’re a bowhunter, there’s always punching foam 3-D targets or bag targets in the backyard with family and friends. Or maybe even getting together with some hunting buddies for an impromptu 3-D tournament.

Cook Something Wild — Have some leftover venison in the freezer? How about a few ducks from last winter? Or maybe there’s some elk meat, a pheasant or two, a few mourning doves, or some striper fillets still lurking in a corner of the freezer.

If that’s the case, why not make your holiday cookout a little bit on the wild side this Independence Day weekend, opting to both clean the freezer out in preparation for this upcoming fall as well as providing some great tasting table fare for your holiday guests.

If you’re looking for a venison recipe to try out this weekend, how about Shaw Grigsby's Buck Burger recipe?

"I use the beer-can method to make a pocket in the patty," Grigsby told me in an interview a few years back. "Wrap them with a strip of bacon. Then fill the pocket with whatever you want."

Grigsby, who is a regular competitor on Major League Fishing’s Bass Pro Tour, says his favorite pocket filler is Gorgonzola cheese and chopped jalapeño peppers.

"Bryce, my grandson, likes cheddar and bacon," said the Florida bass pro. "Cook the burgers on the grill over low indirect heat for approximately one hour until the meat reaches your desired level of doneness.”

To find the full recipe, visit the Game and Fish Magazine website at www.gameandfishmag.com/editorial/4-backyard-recipes-for-the-fourth/378633.

Read About the Outdoors — A final thing you can do this weekend is to curl up in a hammock at your camp site, slip into the recliner, or even disappear out onto the back deck with a good outdoor book or magazine to read.

In the periodical world, I’m partial to Wildfowl, Gun Dog, Quail Forever, Ducks Unlimited, North American Whitetail, Bowhunter, Petersen’s Bowhunting, and Fly Fisherman to name a few. And when it comes to books, there’s John Grave’s Goodbye to a River; the Old Duck Hunter series by Gordon MacQuarrie; and anything by E. Donnal Thomas, Jr., Thomas McGuane, or John Gierach.

But for this weekend, let me recommend The Last Wild Road, a brand new book by T. Edward Nickens, who regularly writes for Field & Stream, Garden & Gun, and numerous other publications.

Available at area bookstores and through Amazon Prime, this is a terrific new book by one of America’s best outdoor scribes.

In fact, I think I hear it calling my name right now. Because if you can’t be outdoors over the Fourth of July holiday weekend, then the next best thing is reading about it, right?