The old saying says if you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day — but if you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.
I guess if you decide to offer your fish to a watchful raptor along the river and it accepts, then it really might be a wise old owl.
That’s exactly what happened to 21-year-old Cody Taylor, of Savannah, Ga., who was fishing on the Ogeechee River with his buddy Cody Landon on Aug. 30 when a curious owl befriended the pair — and picked up some easy meals in the process.
They were trolling down the river south of Savannah on a bass and bream trip when the owl came out of the woods and attempted to grab a bream that Taylor had hooked on a Beetle Spin.
“It was like he was trying to get the bream off my line,” Taylor said. “So I got to thinking — if he’s going to go after that fish I was reeling in, he might get it out of my hand.”
The next bream was offered up to the owl, and sure enough the bird took up the anglers on their generosity, gracefully swooping down and plucking the fish out of Taylor’s right hand.
The only problem was they didn’t video their first encounter with the bird.
“We didn’t think it was going to happen and we didn’t want to look stupid doing it,” Taylor said with a laugh. “Then he grabbed it and disappeared for about 10 minutes.
“We just looked at each other and said, ‘Man, we just screwed up not videoing that. We could have probably got some money for that.’”
So they chalked up the experience to a cool brush with nature and kept on fishing. Incredibly, the owl showed up again — and wound up snatching four more bream from the pair over the next hour along a 3-mile stretch of the river.
“He would go branch to branch and follow us and wait until we got a fish,” Taylor said. “He’d go right in the woods a little bit from where we were fishing, eat it and then the next thing you know, he was coming right back down the river.”
Taylor, who works for International Paper in Savannah, said the video is totally legit and wasn’t edited, and that the owl was a wild bird.
“I’ve got two videos where you can see him flying, and I’ve got pictures of him where you can see him right next to the boat sitting on branches,” he said. “I’ve also got a video of my buddy doing it, too.”
Michael Seymour, a non-game ornithologist with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, reviewed the video and identified the bird as a barred owl, which is common here in Louisiana.
“They’re definitely well known for taking crawfish and frogs,” Seymour said. “They’re getting their feet wet all the time. For the most part, they’re a bottomland forest species that likes bayous and things like that.”
Seymour was a bit surprised the bird would risk taking a fish out of someone’s hand, but said it wasn’t uncommon for that particular owl to be hunting in broad daylight.
“They are nocturnal just like other owls, but barred owls in particular would be likely to hunt throughout the day,” Seymour said. “That’s not surprising at all.”
He attributed the bird’s apparent lack of fear to being very young — or just very hungry.
“It could be it was an inexperienced bird that didn’t really know it was potentially putting itself in danger doing that,” he said. “Also, it could be pretty hungry if it didn’t have a lot of experience hunting.
“That may have been part of it, too — the bird may have had to settle for what it knew it could get and saw a free meal and took it.”
Taylor said the bird wasn’t known in the area for ever doing that before, and he hasn’t been back to see if it’s still around looking for an easy meal.
“I haven’t been back to see if it’s still there, but I will one day,” he said. “I’m too busy saltwater fishing right now.
“All the spottail bass (redfish) are running.”