Social media can be a great and powerful tool. Facebook, Instagram, and other platforms connect people who have similar interests, went to high school together, family members who otherwise would never see or hear from each other, and entertain and inform us on subjects ranging from the silly to the profound.

On the plus side of Saturday’s Fish On Texas! Toys for Tots fishing tournament at Lake Waco, the temperature was above the 20s — unlike last year. On the minus side, the breezes were well above the 20s when it came to wind speeds.

Outdoorsmen are well-known for being innovative. When you’ve realized that Plan A isn’t playing out the way you drew it up, you’d better have a couple of backup plans ready to avoid having to stop by the grocery store on the way home.

Hunters are finding big-bodied bucks with massive antlers throughout Central Texas, and conditions should keep things that way for the foreseeable future. But most reports I got came on the promise of being “off-the-record” — and I always keep the confidence of folks giving me information. Many hunters are still waiting to see what turns up on trail cams and while they’re in the blinds, and are holding off on harvesting until they’re sure which deer they want to shoot.

It’s supposed to be cold and rainy this time of year. Thanksgiving is around the corner, football season is red-lining, and the cold weather – teamed with the whitetail deer rut, or mating season – has got both deer and hunter alike energized and ready for action.

As I drove down a service road near Lake Waco last week on my way home from work, I saw a big bird fly from a stand of flooded timber and land in the roadside ditch. I slowed to a stop, readying my phone camera to capture video of a hawk or eagle flying out of the soggy ditch clutching a rabbit or squirrel that had ventured into the open at the wrong time.

I could’ve sworn I heard Johnny Cash’s voice last week, asking, “How high’s the water?” In the course of seven days, Lake Waco’s water level has risen more than 20 feet – and rising.

Saturday was my dad’s birthday, and I really miss that old guy. He taught me to fish at an early age – I think I was about 3 when he took me on my first trip to a lake near San Angelo, and when we got back home a couple of hours after dark, I had my first fish still in my hand.

Hunters and anglers are pretty particular about products they use. Some folks will only use one particular type – or even type and brand – of fishing line, lure, ammo, or other gear. In fact, I once heard a guy say he’d just give up fishing if they quit making chrome crankbaits. That’s why it’s smart to just get a gift card for your outdoorsman’s birthday or Christmas present.

The north wind came in like it had been watching the calendar as the first day of fall really felt seasonal on Saturday. My morning sabbatical to watch night turn into day didn’t find any dove hunters in the wet fields — at least within earshot — but as the skies lightened, copious numbers of dove were on the wing.

Shots started cracking through the Central Texas air Saturday morning at sunrise, and from the sound of it, some folks were seeing lots of birds flying. Of course, on opening day, it’s hard to tell whether there’s a bounty of birds or just a bunch of folks wanting to blast some shells after a long off-season.

When you’re at the coast, you owe it to yourself to get your toes in the surf and have a seafood dinner. A trip to Washington, D.C. isn’t complete without a trip to see our nation’s monuments, memorials, and famous buildings. And if you’re in the pine thickets of eastern Texas with a travel pole and fishing tackle, you’re bound to get a line wet.

It’s a great time of year for sportsmen — preseason football season started last week, and area hunters have also been busy, from the increasing sounds of gunshots in the area, taking target practice in preparation for opening day of dove season Sept. 1.

A lot of people bristle when they hear the word “regulation”, but just like the slot limit regulation on Lake Waco’s blue catfish creating more big blues and improving the population structure overall, the federal regulations imposed on red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico have also paid off big, with reports that in just 10 years, the 20 year projections have been exceeded.

Imagine being in the water with an 8 foot, 300 pound fish having a torpedo shaped, armor-plated body and the head of an alligator – complete with the teeth. If you’ve ever been swimming in Central Texas lakes or rivers, you’ve lived that scenario.

The big tropical system that was supposed to come ashore from the Gulf and soak Central Texas this week seems to be fizzling, which is disappointing in terms of drought relief (we’ve only gotten 8 of the 16 inches of rainfall that typically falls through the first half of the year) and for those looking for a break in the unseasonably hot temperatures our area has faced through the first half of June. Meteorologists are scaling back their forecasts of heavy and replenishing rains, but we’ll see.

Standing on the beach looking out to sea will put some things into perspective. You’re at the land’s end with hundreds, sometimes thousands of miles between you and the person on the shoreline who’s looking out from the other side. The sea’s size and strength are immense, and we have a better picture of the surface of Mars than we do of our own planet’s ocean floor.

Back in 1998, the National Wild Turkey Federation kicked off Women in the Outdoors, a program designed to meet the growing demand for outdoor skills training and activities for women and girls.

Back in college, I lived on a thoroughbred ranch owned by my Uncle Sonny — rent free in exchange for looking after his and my Aunt Lynn’s racehorses. Down the road a half mile or so was our nearest neighbor, Sam Rice. Sam was in his 70s, and his family had lived in that same house since before the Battle of the Alamo.

Last week’s rainy weather served up just what area lakes and streams needed — a timely and significant infusion of water to bring levels up closer to normal. Lake Waco’s pool level rose more than a foot over the past few days and isn’t too far from where it should be.

Saturday morning’s brutal winds caused a lot of outdoorsmen to alter their weekend fishing plans, especially those who had an eye on getting their boats out an area lakes.

If you can’t be on the water fishing, one of the next best things is to watch somebody else catching fish, which is what I got to do Friday afternoon as area angler Keith Rodriguez broadcast a live fishing trip on social media The video featured Rodriguez and a fishing buddy hauling in a boatload of white bass and hybrids from Lake Waco using bait they had netted back at the dock.

When outdoor legend Earl Golding was writing this column, he’d occasionally file one that was titled, “Long Shots and Short Casts” or “Short Shots and Long Casts” – I can’t remember which.

Matt Rambo is accustomed to being in big schools. As a Waco ISD teacher and administrator, he has worked in some of the biggest schools around, so it’s no surprise that he handled last weekend’s encounters with huge schools of white bass like it was just another day at the office.

The old saying about Texas weather came true last Sunday morning while I was on an early-morning fishing trip to Lake Waco. My daughter Haley and friend Mark Terry had taken an evening drive around the lake, and decided to stop at a boat ramp to toss the cast net for some bait.

How long has it been since you’ve heard the distinct whistling call of a bobwhite quail? For me, that time is measured in years, and for a lot of Central Texans, I’d bet it has been decades if ever.

The focus of last week’s Tribune-Herald outdoor column was on the negative impacts that the months-long Central Texas drought was having on area lakes and streams, and the shaky chances of a strong white bass spawning run if we didn’t get some significant rainfall soon.

It doesn’t have to be searing hot for a drought to set in, and after a fall and winter with insignificant rains, area lakes and streams are showing the effects. One ranch I visited recently had more bank than tank, and the rancher said he might have to start pumping in water if we don’t get some significant relief soon.

Central Texans are fortunate to live in a place where, with the exception of a handful of severe weather days each year, we can enjoy our outdoor pursuits – whether fishing, hunting, golfing, hiking or biking, camping, or just cooking out on the patio.

Kids today have it a lot easier than we did back in the 70’s. Not only did we have to be near a wall when we talked on the phone, but if we were gonna catch rainbow trout, we had to talk our parents into driving us at least as far north as New Mexico.

A U.S. Border Patrol agent was killed near Uvalde on Christmas Day, but it wasn’t at the hands of marauding miscreants — his death, along with those of two others, resulted from a wild hog crossing the highway late at night.

Deer hunting has transformed over the generations from being a way of simply putting meat on the table into a multi-billion dollar industry, with today’s game ranches using selective breeding and feeding regimens to produce a reliable supply of trophy bucks that would seem like science-fiction to our great grandparents.

Outdoorsmen have always tried to gain an advantage over their prey, and whether through lure color selector gadgets, electronic fish finders, game cameras, night vision equipment, or other technology, we have been on the cutting edge of technological advances.