PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

January 18, 2014

Chester Moore column: Most frightening moments in the great outdoors

Chester Moore
The Port Arthur News

PORT ARTHUR — Recently someone asked me what my most frightening moment was in the great outdoors. Despite having a few close calls, the following two accounts are the ones that got to me the most.



Nothing frightens me more in the wilds of Texas than bees, particularly the deadly Africanized “killer” bees. These bees are spreading and have firmly established populations in the Brush Country and part of the Trans-Pecos and Hill Country.

The sting of one bee might only cause some pain (unless you’re allergic) but the wrath of a swarm could spell death.

In the spring of 2003, I had a truly frightening bee experience. While using a box call to lure in a lonely gobbler, I heard what I literally thought was a low-flying plane in the distance. All of a sudden, a shadow passed overhead and I looked up to see a massive swarm of bees less than 30 feet up. I remained calm, said a little prayer, and watched the huge swarm pass by.

After talking with ranch officials, I learned the Africanized kind is present in the area, and thanked God the swarm did not sense how frightened I was. In fact, I was filming a segment for Keith Warren’s television program and once the bees moved a great distance, I told the cameraman to hit record.

“They say bees can smell fear,” I said.

“That’s not true! I was just more frightened than I have ever been and about 10,000 bees flew over our heads.”

A few years before, I guided my father on a hunt for red deer out in Kerr County. After bagging a big 8-pointer, we hoisted it into a strong oak and began to skin it. Suddenly, thousands of bees moved in, started buzzing all around us, and began to cover the animal. Dad backed his truck up under the deer, I cut the hoist down, and we moved more than a mile away.

Despite the scary nature of that bee encounter it was not my most intense outdoors moment. Not even close.

Back around 1997, I was running a trotline in a deep hole in the Sabine River. My cousin Frank Moore and I had trotlines about 200 yards apart and had been catching a few blue catfish.



This was in the middle of winter and we were targeting huge blue catfish. In previous days I had several large hooks straightened and had visions of 75-pound blues in my mind.



As I went to check my line, I noticed most it was not parallel to the shore but drifting out across the deep, instead of on the edge. The line had been cut (or so I thought).



Immediately not so kind words flowed through my mouth to whoever cut the line.  But then as I started to pull it in something happened.



The line moved!



I pulled in a little more and felt great weight at the end of the line and soon realized I had a seven-foot long alligator garfish on my line. In the Moore family, gar trump blue cats any day of the week so I was excited and even more so when I saw the huge gar barely moving.



Gar will often drown on trotlines (seriously) and this one looked a little worse for the wear so I though it would be easy pickings.



I pulled the line up to the beast, hooked my gaff under the only soft spot on the fish, which is directly below the jaw. I jammed it in there good to make sure it would hold and to see how lively the fish was. It literally did not budge. The fish was alive but did not seem lively.



I then took a deep breath, mustered up all the strength I had since this was a 200-pound class fish and heaved the gar into the boat. That is when the big fish woke up.



It pulled back with full force and all of a sudden I found myself headed down into 30 feet of water with the gar. In an instant I realized one of the other hooks on the trotline had caught in my shoe and I was now attached to 200 pounds of toothy fury.



I had just enough time to take a breath and went under.



All I could focus on was getting back to the surface and toward the light. I am not sure how deep I went but according to my cousin, who was just down the shore from me, I did not stay under very long. A 200-pound gar and a 200-pound young man snapped the lead on the line but the hook amazingly remained in my shoe as a reminder I was very near death. Make sure not to run trotlines alone. That was my first mistake.



Also be careful to run the line along the side of your boat and not allow the hooks to fall in the boat. That was where I messed up. Catching fish on trotlines is loads of fun but it can be dangerous. Just make sure your desire to catch fish does not override safety as it did for me in the heat of the moment.

In case you did not notice, this was the story from my introduction. It was my closest call with death in the great outdoors and looking back it is evident God was not through with me.

(To contact Chester Moore, e-mail him at cmooreoutdoors@gmail.com . You can watch him on "God's Outdoors with Chester Moore" Saturdays on GETV.org at 10 a.m. and listen to "Moore Outdoors" Fridays from 6-7 p.m. on Newstalk AM 560 KLVI.)