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Success! We'd Rather Be In The Woods sold 36 pre-orders by March 31, 2017, was queried to 19 publishers, and will be self published.

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We'd Rather Be In The Woods

The Adventures of Lee and Jimmy

Lee and Jimmy are two boys growing up in the Suburbs of Baltimore, MD. Unlike the other kids in school, Lee and Jimmy would rather be outside exploring the woods and streams instead of playing baseball or hanging out at the mall. Follow along as they find adventure and discover themselves in the process.

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Manuscript

Young Adult Adventure
50,000 words
100% complete
Keymar, Maryland
3 publishers interested

Synopsis

"We'd Rather Be In The Woods" - The Adventures of Lee and Jimmy is a young adult / middle grade book of 50,000 words covering the adventures of two Baltimore suburban boys who would rather be fishing the local pond over playing baseball or hanging out at the mall. Their experiences provide growth in appreciation for nature and assist in the transformation from boys to men.

The 21 chapters of approximately 2,200 words each read as a stand-alone short story.  Chronology, the reader follows Lee and Jimmy through one adventure to the next learning about nature, self reliance, friendship, and being true to one's self as they grow from middle school students into men after high school. Because each chapter is a stand alone short story, this format lends itself to the middle school reader who finds it difficult to sit and read for long periods.

Outline

We'd Rather Be In The Woods

The Adventures of Lee and Jimmy 

Lee and Jimmy meet in homeroom on the first couple of days of middle school. They build a special friendship through their shared enjoyment of being out of doors instead of being like the other kids who play sports and video games. Together they explore the local woodlots streams and lakes fishing and hunting.

                           Outline

Chapter 1          Last Day of Summer 

Chapter 2          Lee and Jimmy Become Friends

Chapter 3          First Hunt Together

Chapter 4          Bluegills at the Fishing Hole

Chapter 5           Shad Fishing    

Chapter 6           Crappie and Cows 

Chapter 7           First Bow Hunt of the Year 

Chapter 8          Crappie at Snyder’s Pond

Chapter 9          Turkey Hunt in the Mud

Chapter 10        Mountain Deer Hunt  

Chapter 11        First Car Fishing Trip 

Chapter 12        Shooting Carp for Gas Money

Chapter 13        Muzzleloader Car Camping

Chapter 14        To the Beach 

Chapter 15        We’re Going to be Duck Hunters

Chapter 16        Spring Escape

Chapter 17        Mr. Bean Wood Ducks

Chapter 18        Cold and Snowy Hunt 

Chapter 19        Flooded Oct Duck Hunt

Chapter 20        Jeeps, Girls and Catfish

Chapter 21        Bow Hunt Before Leaving

Audience

In the beginning the Lee and Jimmy story started as a series of short stories published in the Fishing and Hunting Journal. The intended audience then was outdoorsmen who could relate to the stories and would trigger their own memories of growing up in the woods. When the series was complete, I felt there was a bigger audience and went to rewriting and adding a few chapters. The book today is directed to the younger reader who might be going through some of the same growing pains Lee and Jimmy experienced with not being like the rest of the kids. Also directed to the younger audience, the stories in the book exposes the reader to exploring the out of doors and experiences outside the perceived norm of a middle schooler or high school student. An important aspect of the book is that because each chapter is a stand alone short story, this format lends itself to the middle school reader who finds it difficult to sit and read for long periods.

Author

Andrew Aughenbaugh has been writing about the outdoors for 20 years including his long running outdoor page feature column in the Sunday issue of the Carroll County Times.

In addition to his regular column, Andrew has also contributed to the Fishing and Hunting Journal, North American Whitetail, Wildfowl, JP Magazine, Mid-Atlantic Game and Fish, North American Hunter, Chesapeake Angler, Low-Range Magazine, Huntingnet.com, and Sportsmen Channel Magazine.

Andrew is an every man’s sportsman. When not writing or photographing, he can be found exploring the country in his latest 4x4 rig in pursuit of outdoor adventure hunting whitetails, attempting to decoy waterfowl, casting to smallmouth from a canoe, or running down a rough trail in his 4x4 to see what is over the horizon.

Andrew has never claimed to be an expert in any one outdoor endeavor, his passion is to experience outdoor pursuits according to the seasons providing as much time as possible in the open air experiencing life.

Currently, Andrew operates an outdoor adventure website, augiesadventures.com, continues to write his outdoor page column for the Carroll County Times and is working on a few exciting book projects.

Promotion

Augie's Adventures brand is an active website with a strong readership and will be the hub of promotion for the book. Augie's Adventures also has a strong and growing social media following on Facebook and Instagram. Some of the marketing activities planned include a radio interview on a local Maryland radio program, a book opening at the Carroll County Arts Council, where I am a current member as well as attending book signings at bookstores and regional art festivals. The goal for the coming year is to improve on the branding of Augie's Adventures through hosting guided hunting, fishing and overlanding trips as well as the introduction of Augie's Adventures products. At the heart of the branding is the marketing of not only this book but several future books that are currently in different stages of development.

Competition

Competition for We'd Rather Be in the Woods is a interesting subject because many of the similar books are older classics. Current books like Hatchet (1987) and The Hay Meadow (1994) by Gary Paulsen are the closest in competition. Both of which are over 20 years old and nearing the classic designation.

Books like The Old Man and the Boy (1953) and Old Man's Boy Grows Older (1961)  by Robert Ruark are similar in the short story format telling the tale of a young boy coming of age, but where Robert's books are about the relationship between a boy and his grandfather, We'd Rather Be in The Woods is about the friendship between two younger boys.

Jack London's The Call of the Wild (1903) and Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huck Finn (1885) are timeless classics all growing boys should read, but as time passes, it comes a time for refreshing the story of boys growing up exploring the fields and streams, and this is where We'd Rather Be in The Woods fits into today's market.

Samples

Chapter 1

Lee and Jimmy
Chapter 1
The last day of Summer

Jimmy’s last day of summer

Jimmy’s sharp blue eyes gazed at his red-and-white bobber floating in the small creek. The last day of summer vacation was coming to a close; tomorrow would be the first of many days of middle school. The sun was closing in on the western horizon.

Jimmy had spent the day alone fishing. He preferred it that way. While the other kids in the neighborhood played war battles using toy guns and ran the streets looking for things to get into, Jimmy spent most of his time in the local woods and streams.

His fishing hole was small, a deep-cut bend in the stream that was no bigger than the bed of a pickup truck. A fisherman could easily cast from one bank to the other. Jimmy had found this place a few weeks earlier during one of his morning bike rides.

The creek originated from a large swampy area, on the other side of a busy industrial road, where it flowed through a large square concrete tunnel, behind a brick factory, and into the woods. After two bends of the waterway, the industrial world was left behind and the creek became a quiet stream in the woods. The first time Jimmy had looked at the deep water of the bend, he was intrigued by what he might catch there.

Jimmy was an early riser by most suburban kids' standards. Before most kids of the neighborhood sat in front of their TV watching cartoons and eating a bowl of cereal, he would be out on his BMX bike, racing along the network of trails through the park woods. This was where he felt he belonged; out in the woods. He would return wet from the morning dew with a racing stripe of mud painted up the back of his shirt by the bike's knobby rear tire.

He didn’t mind. Adventure was dirty business, and the park and surrounding woods were his place. Riding his bike on the trails, he daydreamed of wild adventures: hunting trips to Montana or Africa, fishing trips to Alaska and other exotic places.

Two summers earlier, the county had seen the large track of woods as the perfect place for ballfields, tennis courts and paved hiking/biking trails. Jimmy had watched from his bike seat as his woods disappeared, eaten away by massive construction equipment. Patches of woods remained, but the ability to get totally lost and immersed in trees was gone. Jimmy made the most of what was left, even if he now had to share his woods with tennis players.

That day at the fishing hole was only one in a string of countless afternoons he'd spent catching bluegills, ever since finding the spot. Using a small piece of nightcrawler as bait on his number 8 size hook, the small pan fish bit readily. But today, his mind was on more than the fish. Even the steady dunking of his bobber, tugged under the water by a fish on the hook, couldn't keep his mind off the first day of middle school. Tomorrow, he would be leaving his comfort zone and riding the bus for the first time to the big school with kids he did not know. An adventure of a different sort, one he was not totally looking forward to experiencing.

Would he miss the bus? How would he find his homeroom and other classes? In elementary school, all of his classes had been in the same room. Now, he'd have to walk from class to class in a big, unfamiliar new school. More than anything, Jimmy wished he could freeze time to stay here and fish a little longer, but he knew his mother was expecting him for dinner.

With his fishing rod and tackle box tied to his bike frame, he left his comfort zone—the fishing hole—behind and pedaled toward home.


Lee’s last day of summer

All summer long, Lee had been thinking of the ponds down at the end of River Road. Last Christmas, when his uncle from Florida had come for a visit, Lee listened to his father and uncle retell story after story of the fish they used to catch at the River Road ponds.

Those ponds were a place of great allure to Lee, but with the end of summer just one day away, he had yet to make the long bike ride. His ten-speed bike was up to the task of climbing the steep hill on the return trip, nonetheless Lee worried that his long, skinny legs wouldn't hold up to the climb. He stood a few inches taller than most kids his age. With the height came a thin frame. No matter how much Lee ate he never put on much mass, and his legs tired more quickly than the other boy' when they rode their bikes. It was a long, easy downhill ride to the ponds, but the ride up was what worried Lee.

If he was going to make the trip to the ponds and the largemouth bass he had heard so much about, today was his last chance. Tomorrow would be his first day of middle school. His father was in the middle of his three-day shift at the firehouse and would not be home until tomorrow after Lee got home from school. His high school brother was somewhere with his buddies; Lee did not know where and didn’t really care to find out. Mom was busily cleaning the house after what she called “a summer of dirt monsters.”

This was it. Lee was ending the summer on an adventure. He bungee-corded his fishing rod to the frame of his ten-speed. To keep things as light as possible, he filled the pockets of his cut-off jean shorts with spinnerbaits, a few rubber worms in his favorite colors of purple and black, and even stuffed two perch-colored crank baits in his front pocket.

“Mom, I’m going to ride my bike down to the river ponds,” Lee yelled from the garage.

She was in the kitchen mopping the floor. “OK! Be home for dinner,” she tossed back without a hitch in the long, swooping strokes of her mop.

“Maybe she didn’t really hear me,” Lee thought to himself, surprised that his mother didn't seem to care or worry about the monumental adventure he was about to undertake.

Every safari starts with that first step. In Lee’s case, his adventure started with that first push on his pedals. Down the street he traveled. Left off his street, down the busy main street of his neighborhood, past the high school, then a right at the red light and a long, coasting descent down the long hill to his destination.

Lee was standing over his bike, waiting for the light to turn green, when he heard the unmistakable sound of air escaping from the restraints of his front tire.
Lee climbed off his bike and squatted down to look at the tire. It would be totally flat soon—his adventure was over before it had begun.

The walk back to the house left Lee mad at the world. Why didn’t his brother take him to the ponds when he went with his friends? Why did his father have to work all those days in a row? Why did he have to get a flat, today of all days? He tossed his bike into the garage without removing the fishing rod or fixing the flat.
“Take your shoes off before you come in the house!” His mother yelled. She had finished cleaning the kitchen and was making lunch when Lee walked in. He told her about the flat tire and his busted fishing trip. As she listened, she put together a bologna, cheese and ketchup sandwich—his favorite—and slid it in front of Lee.

Finishing his late lunch, Lee laid on his bed and spent the rest of the day reading the present his uncle had given him at Christmas: a book about trout fishing. As Lee laid on the bed, the fishing hooks in his pockets poked at his leg reminding him of the failed attempt to the river ponds. Lee wanted so much to be fishing the ponds, but instead he gazed at the colorful photographs of fresh caught mountain stream rainbow and brook trout. Tomorrow, middle school would begin. Lee flipped the pages of the book and gazed at his new school clothes folded on his dresser. He was not ready for the summer to end. Lee wanted a few more days of summer with his fishing rod in hand.

Chapter 17

Chapter 17
Mr. Bean’s wood ducks

One fall night, when most of Jimmy’s senior class was at the Friday night football game against rival Glen Burnie Park High School, he was manning the store. He had the closing shift at Bart's Sporting Goods.

Jimmy didn’t mind closing the store; it gave him a chance to handle the guns when putting them in the safe for the night. Besides, there were always at least one or two old guys that would stop in and chat. They would disguise their intent to get out of the house and chat with the young kid at the store with an excuse to purchase some reloading supplies, fishing line, shotgun shells, or to check out the new shotguns they had just received in stock.

Mr. Bean was Jimmy’s favorite nightly visitor. The old, grizzled man carried an air of the woods with him. His salt and pepper colored hair poked wildly out from under his dusty, threadbare baseball cap. The whiskers on his face were too short to call a beard, but it had been a few days since a razor had touched his face. The wrinkles on his face read like a road map of the places he had explored in his hunting exploits. His old, duck brown Carhartt carpenter jeans and faded flannel shirt showed the wear of a man who had spent more of his time out of doors than inside them.


Mr. Bean was from the eastern shore of Maryland, a place dubbed the waterfowl capital of the world by those in the know. Three years ago, he'd had a heart attack; after that, he moved to the civilized suburbs of Maryland to live with his daughter and son-in-law. The heart attack left him unsteady and resigned to walking with a cane. The cane was carved from an oyster tong handle and spoke of his hardy past. His days of sunrises viewed from the duck blind were behind him, or so he felt. Jimmy was easily mesmerized by Mr. Bean's stories of the old duck hunting days of the ‘shore' and dreamed that one day, he might live such a life too.

Jimmy took the stool from behind the glass showcase that held the handguns and set it out for Mr. Bean to sit on. Jimmy leaned on the glass counter next to the cash register eager to hear a story or two. As Mr. Bean sat on the stool, he remarked, “You know tomorrow is opening day of duck season. There was a creek that ran behind the old farm house that my grandfather had built when he first arrived in Maryland. When I was a kid, my father would take me back there on opening day for our first duck hunt of the season.”

Interrupting, Lee burst through the front door of the store. “Hey guys, what’s happening?” he asked. Lee had been at the football game, trying to blend in with the in crowd, but he left when the marching band devolved into a mess of students barking orders at one another. For both Lee and Jimmy, the adventures of the woods and fields were infinitely more interesting, and had a much stronger pull, than high school drama.

“Not much, we’re kind of slow tonight. But Mr. Bean was just telling me about a place his dad used to take him duck hunting,” Jimmy said.

“Yep, we used to shoot enough ducks on that old creek, we would have wood duck for Thanksgiving instead of turkey. My grandmother would roast four or five wood ducks stuffed with oyster stuffing. Better than any damn store bought turkey, that’s for sure,” Mr. Bean said.

“Man," Jimmy said. "I sure would like to shoot a wood duck. That would be cool.”

“Those little guys fly just at first light. They're fast, too,” Mr. Bean told him. “We would toss a few decoys in the creek, but most of the time they didn't land in the decoys. We would pass shoot as they sped on by.”

Jimmy often dreamed of hunts like the one Mr. Bean had just described. He glanced over at Lee and, with a slight smile, set the bait. “Sounds like a blast. Sure would like to try that sometime,” Jimmy said.

“Why not tomorrow?” Lee questioned. “Call me crazy, but I’ve got an idea. Do you still have permission to hunt that creek, Mr. Bean?”

“Sure, the farm is still in the family, but these old legs ain’t up to the hunt anymore.”

Jimmy chimed in, “We could carry the decoys and do all of the work! How close can we drive the truck to the blind?”

A crooked smile crossed Mr. Bean’s face. He felt the anticipation of the hunt coming on—it made him feel young again. “We should be able to get the truck right up to the edge of the creek on the old lane. There’s no blind on the creek anymore, and I don’t even know if any ducks are even around..." He trailed off, torn between his own excitement and not wanting to disappoint the boys.

"You guys sure you want to do this?” he asked.

“Yea!” They chorused together.

Mr. Bean left Lee and Jimmy with directions to his daughter’s house, where he'd lived since his heart attack. They were to pick him up at three thirty am, bring plenty of shells, dress in full camo since they did not have a blind, and not worry about decoys. He knew of some in the old barn.

At three o'clock the next morning, Lee drove up into Jimmy’s driveway and cut the motor. A vague shape in the pre-morning darkness, Jimmy tossed his shotgun, a box of shells, and his new hunting jacket into the back seat of his best friend's Chevy Blazer. Neither boy spoke as Lee started driving again—they just grinned at each other as the truck's headlights cut through the darkness of the neighborhood.

As Lee and Jimmy pulled into the driveway, a single light shone from the kitchen. The house was a typical vinyl-sided suburban home, similar in size, shape, and color to the rest of the upper middle-class neighborhood around it. Even though Jimmy lived in the same type of neighborhood, he often referred to them as plastic house farms.

An old Blazer sat in the driveway, looking out of place among the tidy, uniform homes. Gray primer coated the most recent attempt to stop the rusting cancer. Lee turned to Jimmy. “The old man drives a Chevy, just like me. I bet that thing has seen some good times,” he said. The light went out and Mr. Bean slowly pulled the front door shut, trying not to wake the other inhabitants.

Jimmy jumped in the back seat to let Mr. Bean take the front passenger seat. Mr. Bean carried his cane but did not use it as he walked down the driveway and climbed in the truck. “Good morning guys, a great day for a duck hunt, don’t you think?” he said.

“Sure is,” Jimmy answered with a grin.

They made their regular stop at Dunkin' Donuts, where they each got two donuts and a cup of coffee for the hour-and-a-half drive ahead of them. Mr. Bean pulled out an old Thermos, its silver finish dull and dented from years of use. “Ain’t a duck hunt without a full thermos to keep warm,” he informed the two boys, adding several packets of sugar to the steaming liquid.

After an hour of driving east on Route 50, Mr. Bean broke the silence: “Take a left up here. The farm is down this road about a mile. Make a right at the old anchor. My grandfather found that anchor when he was digging the foundation for the house and he thought it would make a good marker for the drive. It’s been there ever since.”

The boys were in silent awe as they drove the last mile to the farm. Jimmy glanced over at Lee, barely able to contain his grin. Lee let out a small laugh. Nothing was said between the two, but each felt the other's excitement to be on a real hunting adventure, even if they were also a little apprehensive about missing when they got to shoot at the ducks.

Memories of past hunts—a past lifetime—flooded into Mr. Bean's mind as they turned into the drive.

“See that barn on the left?" he said. "Stop there and let me grab a few decoys.”

Jimmy quickly jumped out of the back seat to lend a hand as Mr. Bean, stiff from the drive, slowly shuffled toward the barn, leaning on his cane. Jimmy slid the heavy wooden barn door, which was in need of a fresh coat of paint, to the side. The two entered the dark building. Lee turned the truck and pointed the headlights into the barn so they could see as Mr. Bean walked over to the last stall on the right and opened the half door. Jimmy stopped and stared at what lay inside: several dozen hand-carved, hand-painted wooden decoys covered in a thick coat of barn dust.

Mr. Bean picked up one of the decoys and brushed his hand over it to wipe the dust off. “We’ll have to wash them off in the creek," he told Jimmy, his voice a little hushed. "But these old wood duck decoys should work just fine. Grab a few.”

Following the two-track lane along the field edge, they could see a line of trees that hid the creek they intended to hunt. “Stop here and pull off to the side. This is the spot,” Mr. Bean told Lee.

In the darkness, it was hard for the two to see the creek beyond the single line of trees. “Look for a board crossing the ditch,” Mr. Bean explained. “And grab the decoys, would you?” Lee was out of the truck like a shot, proclaiming in a hushed whisper that he'd found the single-board bridge.

A few yards across the drainage ditch and through the line of trees, they found the creek edge. Even in the darkness, the open marsh stood out across the other side. Mr. Bean felt fifteen years old again. He stood at the edge of the creek, looking over into the marsh it fed, worshipping the morning darkness on his skin the way only a duck hunter could. Jimmy walked up and stood next to him, enjoying the same cool, quiet promise of an eventual dawn.

“Cool place you got here,” he said, trying desperately to sound as if he did this every day.

“Yep, best place in the world.” Mr. Bean responded. “Now, rinse off the decoys and toss them in the creek, right in front of that down tree. Woodies favor hiding close to down wood in the creek.”

The color on the decoys came to life when Jimmy rinsed off the patina of dust. The iridescent chestnut and green glimmered in the light of the truck's headlights, and the white neck stripe and outline on the head highlighted the black, dark purple hooded head. They were the most beautiful decoys Jimmy had ever seen.

Mr. Bean and Lee arranged a hide behind a large pin oak stump, placing fallen branches against and to the sides of the stump. The old monarch of a tree had fallen, branches dangling in the creek, leaving a deep impression where its roots had been. Lee and Mr. Bean set their gunning bags in the dirt behind the stump and climbed in behind the branches. With the three freshly cleaned decoys swimming in the creek on the outgoing tide, Jimmy joined Mr. Bean and Lee in their makeshift blind.

“Five minutes until shooting light,” Mr. Bean told the boys as the first tinge of brightness showed on the horizon. Feeling as if all the years had fallen away, he was doing something that he'd thought he would never be able to do again.

As if on cue, they heard the first set of wings pass in front of them, traveling up the creek, a hurried whud-whud-whud-whud as the duck beat the air to keep itself aloft.

“OK boys, we got birds!" Mr. Bean told them in a half-whisper. "Load up and get ready.”

An orange glow lit the eastern sky: Shooting light had arrived. A pair of drake wood ducks dropped from the brightening sky, winged locked just two feet off the water, aiming for the three decoys.

“Take ’em!” Mr. Bean yelled. Lee and Jimmy stood and fired together. Six shots rang out, three from each of the boys. The two ducks flew free of harm.

Mr. Bean could not contain his laughter. “Load up and get down. More ducks will come in soon.”

Jimmy was in heaven. It didn't matter that they'd missed the ducks; every nerve ending tingled. He felt more alive than he had ever felt. Mr. Bean touched his knee and explained, “Take your time when shooting. Get your cheek down on the stock and lead through the bird.”

Lee saw the single first. “Mr. Bean, a single coming from the left, you take it.”

“OK, I’ll show you two how it's done.” The mature, fully plumed drake wood duck—a twin to the decoys on the water—pitched wildly as it cupped its wings and extended its feet, dropping down to the water. A single shot rang out and the woodie floated next to the antique decoys.

Jimmy jumped up and waded off the bank to retrieve the first morning prize. Mr. Bean held the duck and looked it over. Many years had passed since what he'd thought was his last wood duck. Thanks to Lee and Jimmy, he had one more hunt.

The sound of shotguns surprised Mr. Bean. He had been so immersed in his own bird, he did not see the next wave. This time two birds floated with the tide as Jimmy waded out into the knee-deep water and retrieved his and Lee’s first wood ducks.

“Unbelievable! This is way too cool,” Jimmy said as he climbed back up the muddy bank, his voice full of excitement and a little too loud for their surroundings. He'd barely gotten back to his position in the hide when Lee announced more birds arriving. A large group filled the sky over the creek.

“Take ’em!" Mr. Bean yelled again, as caught up in the experience as the boys.

The three fired: Mr. Bean once, Jimmy once, Lee twice. Three more wood ducks were added to their bag, two drakes and one hen. They had just limited out with two ducks each. The hunt was less than thirty minutes old, and the sun was only just cutting through the eastern treeline.

Mr. Bean turned to the boys.

“We could stay and hope for some mallards, but I think we’re pretty much done for the morning, gents. How about we call it a hunt and go get some breakfast? My treat.”

The old diner had not changed much since Mr. Bean's last visit. Sure, the waitresses had gotten younger, but the walls still held the same duck hunting scenes. Their hot breakfast arrived as he was in the middle of a story; Lee and Jimmy had hardly said a word since sitting down.

A voice in the background spoke up.

“Is that you? You old fart! I thought you had moved to the wrong side of the bay?”

Mr. Bean recognized the voice, and with a smirk, turned his head around.

“Wilson, hey! You still walking the earth? How you been?”

He turned back to Lee and Jimmy with a grin. “Boys, this is Wilson, one of the best goose callers to wear a call. Why, I once saw him call a goose across the bay and right into our spread.”

The stories went on for an hour after the eggs were gone, Lee and Jimmy listening in awe.

Jimmy was all chatter on the ride home, asking questions about ducks, geese, calls and the correct blind sites. As Lee pulled the Blazer into the drive of Mr. Bean's daughter's house, Jimmy found the three wood duck decoys still in the truck.

“Hey, Mr. Bean!" he called. "We forgot to put the decoys in the barn.”

Mr. Bean smiled, feeling younger than he had for years. “I thought that you might need them. Why don’t you hold on to them for a while?”

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Andy Aughenbaugh

Andy Aughenbaugh

Andrew Aughenbaugh has been writing about the outdoors for 20 years, including his long running outdoor sports column in the Sunday issue of the Carroll County Times.

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