Captains trade rod and reels for bows and guns

Craig Mann shows off a buck he took last November on his lease in Americus, Ga., where he is currently looking to take down another.

After the last fish is hung in the Destin Fishing Rodeo on Oct. 31 each year, several of Destin’s captains turn in their rod and reels and pick up their bows and guns and head off into the woods.

“It’s time to get away from a rocking boat and see a different terrain,” said Tony Davis, who captains the Anastasia.

For the past five years, Davis has been traveling up to Kentucky and hunting on a lease with one of his guys that comes down and fishes with him during cobia season.

“We almost froze yesterday,” Davis said Thursday afternoon of the 40-degree temperatures.

But he’s not complaining.

“It’s peaceful up here and you don’t have to worry about anything. You just go sit and take your time and relax,” Davis said.

Davis said they had seen some deer but he hasn’t shot one yet.

“I’m trying to shoot a whopper.”

For Justin Destin, who captains the Full Draw, he said, “It’s something I do every chance I get. It’s just another way to keep enjoying the outdoors. It’s another way of harvesting off the land and enjoying some of God’s creations.

“We only get so many sunrises and sunsets; got to get out and enjoy them,” Destin said.

Although he gun hunts, Destin said, “I prefer bow hunting. I hunt deer and pigs — anything that is willing.”

Plus there’s a lot of tradition in hunting. Destin said that he always looks forward to going hunting with his dad at Thanksgiving.

Capt. Eric Thrasher of the Daybreak likes to take the kids and go hunting on their lease just north of DeFuniak Springs.

“It’s not so much about killing something anymore as it is about getting away,” Thrasher said. “Just getting in the woods and relaxing.”

Thrasher is usually already in the woods by now, but due to a shoulder injury he had to pass on bow hunting deer.

“But I’ll probably go duck hunting on Saturday,” he said.

In addition to hunting deer and ducks, he also likes turkey hunting.

Thrasher noted that turkey season coincides with the start of cobia season. And they have been known to go turkey hunting in the morning and come back and catch a cobia in the afternoon for a little “surf and turf” as he called it.

Craig Mann, who captains the Mary Lou, has been hunting the last nine years on a 100-acre lease in Americus, Ga.

“When Oct. 31 hits, it’s like somebody flips a switch and all the people are gone, which is a perfect opportunity to come and sit in the woods,” Mann said.

Mann says he’ll stay in his little cabin in Americus for about four or five weeks.

“I’ve seen a lot of young bucks that I let walk and found some bigger ones that I couldn’t get a shot at,” Mann said.

But he has taken two, a 175-pound buck and a 120-pound doe.

“I prefer bow hunting,” Mann said. “It’s a little more difficult because you’ve got to get closer. I think it’s just a little more sportsmanlike.”

But the thing he likes most about hunting is “it’s secluded and serene. Plus it’s a good time to reflect on the season and the season to come.”