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Hog Blog Gear Reviews – Buck Buck Moose Is More Than A Cook Book

September 6, 2016

buckbuckmooseThe same could be said for any of Hank Shaw’s books, I suppose, in that none of them are written like the stereotypical, catalog of recipes.  His latest, Buck, Buck, Moose, is a nicely written piece of work that happens to consist primarily of cooking instructions related to all things cervid…from antelope to moose meat.

If you’ve followed Hank’s work, either here on the Hog Blog or elsewhere, you recognize the cadence of the book title.  Previously, he released Duck, Duck, Goose, which, as you’ll probably guess, is all about cooking with waterfowl.  Who knows what’s next… Fish, Fish, Clam?

To the topic most recently at hand…

Buck, Buck, Moose really is a cookbook, of course.  In it, as he does so well, Hank offers a variety of options for the successful hunter (or for the lucky recipient of gifted venison).  There are ideas from around the world, literally, with everything from Romanian sausage to Icelandic Gravlax to Scottish Hough, to Wisconsin to Kentucky to Japan and so on.  You’ll never need to wrap your venison in bacon or drown it in canned soup again… unless you like that sort of thing.

He also opens the book with a pretty solid, and thorough, introduction to basic game processing… from skinning through cutting it up to storage options.  There are more extensive sources for any of these topics, but this is not a bad overview for someone who’s never done it before.

Personally, I’m not usually one for following recipes.  I like ideas, and cookbooks do provide those, but as my high school chemistry teacher could attest, I have never been big on sticking to a formula.  But Hank’s books don’t necessarily read like cookbooks, and to me, that’s what sets them apart.

When I got my copy of Buck, Buck, Moose (I paid for this one via Kickstarter… another story in itself), I flipped it open to skim through.  I figured I’d take a look at what he’d done, maybe scope out an interesting recipe, and then put the book on the shelf.  A couple of hours later, though, I’d totally tuned out everything else and had read half the book.  It’s simply a pleasure to read.

It’s a little early yet for most of us to start talking about stuffing Christmas stockings, but deer season is open or opening all across the country over the next couple of months.  That seems like a good excuse for a lovely gift.  If you’re a hunter who is looking for some new options for cooking this year’s harvest, or if you’re the one in the kitchen left to figure out what to do with Nimrod’s pile of meat, you could do far worse than Buck, Buck, Moose.

Oh, and a gold star to anyone who recognizes certain names that may have found their way into the interludes…

 

 

Sharing Your Joy – Say, “Cheese”, But Not, “Cheesy”

August 23, 2016

People have been sharing pictures of their successful hunts since the earliest bloggers sketched stick figures on cave walls.  Hunting and art were both a little tougher back then.  Nowadays, you don’t even need basic skills with a burnt stick, since your telephone will take a digital photograph and post it to your virtual cave wall for the whole world to see…. and as best I can tell, all you have to do is say, “Phone, take a picture,” et, voila!  You’re practically Arny Freytag!

Of course, as you probably know, I certainly have no issue with posting success photos (hero shots, grip-n-grins, whatever you want to call them).  I’ve certainly posted enough of that kind of thing here on the Hog Blog, as well as on Facebook.  I share my own (when I have them), and I sometimes post photos from friends and readers.  I think it’s a great way to share your excitement and the joy of success with fellow hunters.

But…

At risk of falling into the Cult of Inoffensiveness, I do want to suggest that folks take a critical look at the photos you’re about to share.  Think about the story it tells.  Consider that when someone else looks at your photographs, you’re not there to tell the tale yourself, so everything rests on the thousand words the viewer takes away from that image.

I’ve posted on this before (here), but with hunting seasons already underway, I expect we’ll be seeing a lot more pictures on our feeds over the coming weeks and months.  It also comes to mind in the light of the Josh Bowmar fiasco.

Haven’t heard of that one?  Bowmar was hunting bears up in Canada, and decided to kill his bear with a spear.  I don’t know the regs, but it appears to have been a completely legal option (although in light of the outcry, Alberta is considering a ban on spear hunting).  From an ethical perspective, while most people probably don’t have the skills to heave a spear accurately at game, Bowmar appears to have practiced a good bit, and his shot was good.  Beyond that, I can’t see where a razor sharp spear is any less lethal or humane than a broadhead.  From a technical perspective, it actually seems much more effective.

Not only did he want to kill the bear with the spear, but he wanted to get it all on video… and then share that video on the World Wide Web.  I think this is where he went wrong, at least in the eyes of the general public.  To begin with, he’s killing an animal with an extremely primitive-looking weapon.  Most non-hunters don’t understand how weapons kill, and to many, primitive means “ineffective”.  It seemed brutish and cruel.

But what I think really got to people was his reaction on hitting the bear with the spear.  It was, not to put too fine a point on it, pretty over-the-top.  Maybe he was genuinely, uncontrollably excited, or maybe he was hamming for the camera.  Either way, he came off looking like a total ass.  Let’s be clear here, I’m not saying he was a total ass, but that’s how he came across to many viewers.  And that’s my point.

Once the picture (or video) leaves your direct control, then you no longer have the ability to speak to it or to manage who sees it.  It’s a lot like firing a bullet.  Once you pull the trigger (or click Submit), it’s too late to call it back.

So, as we all go out this season with our cameras or phones or burnt sticks, keep a few things in mind.  Here are some general suggestions:

  • Keep it clean(ish).
    • Wipe up excess blood, and avoid sharing extremely gory images with the general public.
    • Put the animal’s tongue back in its mouth if it’s hanging out.
  • Show some respect.
    • You don’t have to be crying or praying over the animal, but there’s no need to share your victory dance with the world.
    • I would avoid the too-common “ride the pony” pose (sitting astride the recently deceased beast), and just kneel or sit beside the animal.
    • And for heaven’s sake, don’t pose the animal in sexual or demeaning ways.
  • Tag your animal.
    • Most states require immediately tagging a big game animal.  It’s easy to forget this step before jumping into photos, and while it probably doesn’t hurt anything in the moment, remember that viewers are only going to see an untagged animal.  It gives a bad impression, and can potentially lead to a visit from a game warden.

Most of us don’t have professional sponsorships to lose, and I realize that some folks will never be satisfied with any hunting photo, so you may be thinking, “what the hell difference does it make?”

Truthfully, it probably doesn’t make a huge difference for most of us.  But sometimes, it’s just the little things we do, and people we don’t even know take notice.  It’s not that hard to take good, quality, respectful photos and video.  Why not just do it?

And hey, if you want to be “funny” for your buds, go ahead.  Just don’t share those private moments with the world.

 

 

 

 

 

NSSF Teams With Association For Suicide Prevention To Reduce Firearms Suicide Rates

August 10, 2016

It seems to be a recurrent theme from folks who dislike and fear firearms.  “The gun industry is just sitting back, raking in profits.  They don’t care about the people who are killed or injured by guns!”

I understand it, of course, since the truth is that efforts by organizations like the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) don’t generally get a lot of publicity.  Folks outside of the gun industry probably have no idea, and even many firearms owners are pretty much in the dark. Most people don’t know, for example, that the NSSF is on the leading edge of the industry in efforts to promote safety ( such as Project ChildSafe), efforts to educate firearms dealers to prevent crime (e.g. the “Don’t Lie for the Other Guy” program), and efforts to work with the Federal government to improve the quality of background checks (e.g. the FixNICS initiative).  What people do hear is when the NSSF echoes the NRA hardline on certain firearms issues.

To do my own tiny part, I think it’s worth sharing the press release I just received from the NSSF.  I think it’s simple enough that it doesn’t require my interpretation.  Here it is, in its entirety:

NEW YORK, N.Y. – A new partnership between the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), the nation’s largest suicide prevention organization, and the National Shooting Sports Foundation® (NSSF®), the trade association for the firearms industry, will allow for both organizations to embark on a first-of-its-kind national plan to build and implement public education resources for firearms retailers, shooting ranges and the firearms-owning community about suicide prevention and firearms.

According to recently released data by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly half of all suicides were by firearm in 2014, and suicide accounted for almost two-thirds of gun deaths in the same year. In addition, 90 percent of suicide attempts with a firearm are fatal. By working together to develop and deliver suicide-prevention resources, AFSP and NSSF hope to help stem this loss of life.

“This partnership has been a true collaboration since we started conversations last year. AFSP sees this relationship as critical to reaching the firearms community,” said Robert Gebbia, AFSP CEO. “One of the first areas identified through Project 2025 was a need to involve the gun-owning community in suicide prevention. By joining forces with NSSF, we reach both firearm owners and sellers nationwide to inform and educate them about suicide prevention and firearms, and offer specific actions they can do to prevent suicide. Through Project 2025 analysis and the work of this partnership, we know that this public education has the potential to save thousands of lives.”

“The firearms industry has long been at the forefront of successful accident-prevention efforts and programs aimed at reducing unauthorized access to firearms. Since two-thirds of all fatalities involving firearms are suicides, we are now also in the forefront of helping to prevent these deaths through our new relationship with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention,” said Stephen L. Sanetti, NSSF President and CEO.

Currently, the two organizations are collaborating on this initiative through AFSP’s firearm and suicide prevention pilot program, which involves six AFSP chapters, located in Alabama, Kentucky, Missouri and New Mexico. The goal is to take the program nationwide within two years.

I always encourage folks to think for themselves, do their own research, and learn about issues with a skeptical eye.  This is no different, and I wouldn’t blame the cynics in the crowd who will look for some sort of self-interest on the part of the industry.  But I think it’s important to be aware that the leading organization representing the U.S. industry, the NSSF, is doing some solid work behind the scenes to reduce firearms death, injury, and crime.

Oops, It Happened Again

July 27, 2016

Oh, look!  I have a blog!  I should write something…

On a Facebook page I follow, I saw a post about a guy in California who booked a hunt with an outfitter he found on Craig’s List.  The outfitter had a website that listed references and other realistic information, but when the time came to hunt… you guessed it… a no-show.  Not only did the guide not show up, but he took the hunter’s deposit with him into the ether.

Not long after the post appeared, a small gaggle of “me too” posts followed.  This ersatz guide did pretty well for himself… as long as he can avoid some really pissed off hunters.

This should never happen, but it does… every season, and especially in the last minutes before a season opens.  Folks are desperate to find good ground.  Time slipped away, and suddenly the opener is looming.  Whatever the reason, they start grinding through the usual routes to find a guide.  Of course, the reputable guides are generally booked well in advance, or their prices are set a little high.  The search gets wider, and before long, a Craig’s List posting, or maybe an ad in the local paper shows up.  A couple of phone calls or emails get exchanged, a plan gets made, and the deal is done.

Often, it goes well.  The guide is maybe new to the business, or maybe it’s just someone who has a good hunting opportunity and wants to make a few bucks on it.  The hunter has rolled the dice and come up a winner.

But sometimes, it doesn’t go well at all.  In the worst case, the hunter gets stood up and the crook absconds with deposit money.  In some cases, the hunter finds himself facing trespass charges because an unscrupulous outfitter has dropped him on someone else’s property.  Other cases include blatant misrepresentation… such as how much property is actually available (10 acres instead of 100) or even the actual presence of game (crawling with sign turns out to be an old game trail).  The “comfortable lodging” turns out to be an old chicken coop.  The “hearty meals provided” are snack crackers for lunch, and MREs at dinner.  And so on… I’ve heard all of these things from jilted hunters.

It seems odd to me that, for all the distrust and skepticism people demonstrate in daily life, hunters so often fail to do a little due diligence prior to paying someone to take them hunting.  Caveat emptor, folks!

When the fellow on Facebook posted his sad tale, I quickly jumped to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s registry of hunting and fishing guides.  In seconds, I found that the alleged guide was not listed in the directory.  That would have been my first move, and what I found would have been a significant red flag.

Apparently, the fake guide had a website too.  It listed “references”, and provided some other good-looking information.  When I asked on Facebook if the victim had actually contacted the references, I never got an answer.  I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that he did not call.  The presence of references on the website was enough to give the appearance of propriety.

Point is, I can see how someone would find themselves in this situation, but I also believe it’s 98% avoidable.  I’ve written a time or two in various places (like here)about how to select a guide.  However, to break it down to a bullet list:

  • Define your expectations clearly before you ever contact an outfitter or guide. You need to know what you want before you can tell someone else.
  • Communicate these expectations to the outfitter or guide. Don’t be afraid to be specific about what you’re hoping to get for your money. You don’t have to be a jerk, but be upfront and honest.
  • Be completely clear about what you will accept, and what you will not (e.g. high fence, hounds, road hunting, etc.).
  • Be prepared to be flexible. These are wild animals. They don’t always do what the guide expects them to do. Sometimes you have to be willing to adjust if you want success.
  • Verify what is included in the price of the hunt (guides, accommodation, food, skinning/field dressing, etc.). The more you pay, the more important this is. You may find that what one outfitter offers for $1200 can be had from another at half that price.
  • Ask about success rates. Guided hog hunts usually have high success rates, but if anyone advertises 100%, then question them. Also note that some outfitters advertise “shot opportunity” instead of actual success. Be sure you understand and agree about the definition of “shot opportunity” before you book the hunt.
  • Ask for referrals AND THEN CALL THEM. (Be sure to ask for successful as well as unsuccessful referrals.)
  • Oh… and ask about tips. The outfitter may hedge, but it’s always good to feel out the expectation.

You’d think it would go without saying, but you have to do your homework.

 

 

 

 

News And Reviews – CA Lead Law, MO Hog Regs, Rapala Skinning Knives, Browning Headlamps

June 29, 2016

I suppose a lot of folks think it’s a little early for hunting news and gear reviews, but the truth is that we’re just a couple of days out of July, and while most of the country is still sweating it out in the summer doldrums, and most sportsmen are focused on finned quarry; deer season is just around the corner in California.  A zone deer hunters will start bowhunting the second week of July.  South Carolina and a couple of other states will open up in August.

So, first the news…

Lead Ban ChroncilesCA hunters are reminded that the second phase of the lead ammo ban will come into effect on July 1.

This phase adds upland birds to the list of species that must be taken with lead-free ammunition.  Also, lead free shotgun ammo is now required for taking resident small game mammals, furbearing mammals, nongame mammals, nongame birds, and any wildlife for depredation purposes.  (For some reason, if it’s any help, you are still permitted to use lead shot for Eurasian collared doves.)  Remember that the lead ammo ban has no effect on ammo used for target shooting.  It is only for hunting.  The final phase of the lead ban will kick in on July 1, 2019.  You can learn more about the lead ban on CA DFW’s website.

Feral hogsIn Missouri, the State has determined that, when it comes to feral hogs, sport hunting and eradication efforts are not compatible.  As a result, the state is shutting down sport hunting for feral hogs on any lands owned or managed by the Missouri Dept of Conservation.  This does not affect hog hunters on private land.  Since I’m not a resident of MO, nor do I hunt there, I can’t speak to the impact on the Show Me State’s hunters, but there is an unsurprising uproar from that population.  Personally (not that my opinion is crucial here), it’s probably the right call.  As I mentioned in a Facebook post earlier, feral hogs are either a destructive pest that needs to be eradicated, or they’re a game animal.  It really doesn’t work to try to have it both ways.

Rapala Drop-Point SkinnerNow, on to some gear reviews…

Fishermen have known about Rapala fishing knives for eighty years (since 1936).  I’m pretty sure my first fillet knife sported that recognizable, light, wood handle and leather sheath.  It made sense as a “first” fishing knife, since it was not only inexpensive, but it was extremely durable.  I don’t remember where or how I finally lost that thing, but it survived years of harsh use in the saltwater environment.

I’ve graduated to a “professional” knife at this point, with the white, “comfort-grip” handle and stainless blade, but it’s still a Rapala… and it’s still affordable.

I was intrigued to get an email a couple of weeks back, informing me that Rapala is now adding the Classic Birch line of hunting knives to their long list of quality products.  Even better, they offered to send me one to check out.

Rapala drop point in handThe new line includes several classic designs:

  • 3.75″ Drop point (MSRP $34.99)
  • 4.5″ Clip point (MSRP $34.99)
  • 3.75 Gut hook (MSRP $39.99)
  • 4.5″ Skinner (MSRP $34.99)
  • 3.5″ Caping knife (MSRP $34.99)
  • 3.5″ Bird knife (MSRP $29.99)

While I’d love to get my hands on all of these, I could only pick one, so I asked for the drop point.  That’s the design I personally prefer for all-around work, and the 3.75″ blade is a handy size for anything from squirrels to hogs.

I’d love to tell you I put it to work right away, but the truth is that there’s nothing around here for me to skin right now.  Still, I did play with it around the kitchen for a bit.  The edge on the sample they sent me is wicked-sharp, which is no surprise for the Rapala knives (made in the same J Marttini factory in Finland that produces their classic fishing knives).  The wooden handle is rough, and almost feels unfinished.  However, after messing with it for a few minutes, I realized it gives me a really sure grip, even under water (in the sink).  I can’t wait to get this thing bloody, but that probably won’t happen until September or so.  You can bet I’ll report back on how it performs in the field as soon as I get the chance.

Browning Blackout 6VI’ve also been holding onto a new headlamp, the Browning Blackout 6v.  This particular light is part of Browning’s Black Label Tactical line, and it’s definitely built to take a beating. Instead of the plastic body that most of the consumer headlamps offer, the Blackout comes in a waterproof (to a meter) aluminum body.

If you’ve followed the Hog Blog for very long, you know I’ve got a soft spot for quality headlamps, and I’m always looking for the best thing I can get my hands on.  I’ve tried out a bunch of lights over the years, and while most of them were pretty good, I had yet to test one that I thought was suitable for blood trailing.  That’s sort of my grail, when it comes to this sort of thing, and I’d sort of decided that my bar might be set a little high.  I have seen a couple that would probably work, but those exist on a higher plane than I do as a simple blogger, so getting a test unit has been an exercise in frustration.  Even if I could test them, I think that the $250 – $300 price tag would dampen the enthusiasm of most hunters.

The Browning, though, at an MSRP of around $99, advertises a 730 lumen output and the pure, white light definitely looks bright enough to show blood on the ground.  Again, since nothing is currently in season, I haven’t been able to really put this to the test, but walking around the yard at night, this thing cuts right through the dark to show incredible detail.  The Blackout is a spot beam, and not adjustable, but that suits me fine.  It also offers two lower settings to conserve batteries, as well as a green mode to preserve night vision… which can be really nice when going into the stand in the wee early darkness.  I also think it’s going to be great in the canoe or kayak when duck season rolls around.

Are there downsides?  Sure, a couple…

The light is a little bulkier than I’d prefer for a headlamp.  It extends about 2.5″, and weighs almost six ounces.  That’s not really a lot, until you’ve worn it for a couple of hours.  Maybe I’m sensitive, but it starts to make my head hurt.  It does fit nicely over my Stetson, though, and is a lot more comfortable worn that way.

The lithium, CR123A batteries are a little pricier than AA or AAA, but this light does need the extra power to achieve that bright beam.  According to the literature, I should see about 3 hours of use at full power, though, and that’s pretty good.  A comparably bright, high-end ($275) headlamp runs down in about half that time.  On the lowest setting, it’s supposed to give me 48 hours of continuous use.

Like many of the high-powered LED lamps, the Browning gets really hot after a short time.  I mean really hot!  I didn’t really notice the heat while I was wearing it around the house for about an hour, until I reached up to turn it off.  I learned real quick to be cautious, and make sure I avoided touching the lens or the front cap.  It will get your attention.

Overall, though, I think this light is a winner.  At $99 it’s not cheap, but compared to the cheaper headlamps I’ve tested, I think the Browning will last as long as you can keep up with it.  That’s the catch with all of these small pieces of equipment, though… they’re easy to lose.  Other than that, as far as I can tell, the only thing you can do to hurt it is to leave the batteries in too long and let them start to leak.

As always, I’ll follow up on both of these items as they get more time in the field.  I can say that I like both of these products enough to plan on using them this coming season.

Technology Again…

June 22, 2016

Thanks to my friends at Orion, I followed a link to this article on the Izaak Walton League website.  It sort of tees up an easy shot for pretty much anyone who’s interested with the title, Technology vs. Ethical Hunting.  In the parlance of the Interwebz, that would be called, “clickbait.”

So, of course I seized the opportunity to pick some of that low-hanging fruit for myself and write an easy blog post.

The content of Technology vs. Ethical Hunting is about what you might expect.  The writer ponders technological development since the days of his recurve and birch arrow shafts… or the changes since our forefathers carried flintlocks and powder.

Hunting has changed a lot since our forefathers walked into the woods with black powder rifles and iron sights. Today, we have rifles that can shoot unheard of distances, scopes with built-in range finders that adjust for myriad external factors, and bullets that are manufactured to extreme tolerances that allow consistent shooting patterns. And anyone can download bullet calculators and punch in the zero range, caliber, bullet type, and weight. You can even factor in different temperatures and wind speeds. You can print out the exact bullet drop out to several hundred yards.

Is this good or is it bad?  Has “hunting” lost something in the transition?  These are, of course, the questions the essay begs us to ponder.

To begin, I think it’s worth pointing out that hunting technology has been evolving since our species first hunted for our food.  Obviously, the change was initially driven by necessity, and we’re some pretty clever monkeys when it comes to getting dinner.  Once it stopped being about feeding ourselves, however, I think it became more about pushing the envelope just to see how clever we can be.

And we’re pretty accomplished at pushing that envelope.  Hunting has become more comfortable, more efficient, and, to a lot of people, more fun.    It would be silly to argue that it hasn’t also, in many ways, become easier as well.  Still, it is only as easy as any individual chooses to make it.  I believe that’s a key point that gets overlooked any time this discussion comes up.

It mystifies me, why some hunters take such offense when some other hunters don’t hunt according to the same standards.  Why is it so important to criticize the other guy?  What does the way I hunt take away from you?  It’s not like the treestand hunter is trying to force the backcountry guy to climb a pine and sit tight.  The crossbow hunter isn’t making any effort to force the trad bow guy to switch gear.

If technology doesn’t suit you, then don’t use it.  I know, that’s a super-simplified response.  This is simple, though… or it ought to be.  If you’re not breaking the law, harming the resource, or threatening public safety, then hunt the way you want to hunt.

So, there’s this other thing that some folks like to trot out when these discussions come along.  “This technology looks bad to non-hunters.”

We’ve all heard it.  Some of us have probably said or written it.  And I’ve challenged it time and again.

Here’s the reality.  Most non-hunters don’t have a clue what happens when we hunt.  Most of them don’t even realize the levels of regulation we deal with, much less the subtleties of ethical behavior.  Many non-hunters think that we just go out and shoot stuff, with whatever we want, however we want.  They generally think we kill stuff every time we go out, and a ridiculous number of them are actually surprised to find that we eat what we kill.  Maybe there’s a vague recognition that there are seasons and limits, but I’ve found that even these basics come as news to a lot of people.

The other reality is that most non-hunters really don’t give a damn about hunting.  To be sure, this makes them a little more susceptible to well-managed propaganda campaigns, but day-to-day efforts by anti-hunters generally fall on deaf ears.  There’s always a risk at the tail end of an election cycle, of course, when hunting bills are on the ballot.  People tend to believe the worst, and when it comes to issues that don’t impact them directly, they vote on the most recent thing in their memories.  This, though, is really more about managing election campaigns than about who uses trail cameras or high-powered rifle optics.

I’ve said all of this before, and it looks like I’m going to keep repeating it.  When I look around social, and even traditional media, the most vocal outcry about bad hunting ethics and abuse of technology is coming from hunters, not from the antis.  If anyone is tainting the public mind about hunting ethics, I say it’s the hunters who scream about other hunters using everything from tree stands to drones… often without even really knowing much about what they’re screaming about.

I probably shouldn’t even have to add this, but I will.  There is “bad” technology.  Not that anyone is really doing this, but arming drones is probably bad.  So is computer-based hunting (using a computer and a networked camera/gun system).   Ethical questions aside, firing a gun at something that you can’t see with your own eyes is an inherently unsafe activity.

I also have no issue with discussions about the esoterica of hunting ethics.  I think it’s great to aspire to the ultimate ethical high ground.  I think it’s awesome to challenge yourself as a hunter, to test your woodsman-ship and stamina, and it’s good to encourage other hunters to do the same.  But seriously, if I choose to sit on my back porch and pot deer when they come to my food plot, how does that take away from the guy who backpacks 20 miles into the wilderness with a self-bow and hand-knapped broadheads?

It doesn’t.

Technology vs. Ethical Hunting presents a false dichotomy.  It’s good click-bait, and can make for a lively, online discussion.  But at the core, it’s a self-defeating topic, and rife with the potential to be both destructive and divisive.

 

Yo Ho Ho And Choppy Seas

May 31, 2016

Sunrise C-BeachThere are those days when the Atlantic is more lake than ocean… its waters slick and mirror-like, and only the fringes of foam along the tideline indicate its incessant roll.

Today is not one of those days.

I push the kayak out into deeper water, and even as I’m clambering aboard, the wind shoves me north while the tide pulls me south.  She wallows for a moment as I dig with the paddle, until forward motion stabilizes the narrow hull and I’m making way across the choppy inlet waves.  I’m not skipping along, but at least I’m moving.

My planning was skimpy for this trip, so I didn’t really consider that I’d be hitting the water at the changing tide when the wind is at its worst, and the currents are confused.  Sure enough, the wind is steady and strong, and the rip is pronounced, especially over the shallow bars.  The swell, only a couple of feet yesterday, has come up, running ahead of the tropical depression that’s formed down in the southern corner of South Carolina.  Here at Carolina Beach, almost 200 miles from the disturbance, the churning tide and strong wind have turned the water into a roiling mess.

It’s my first time out for the season though, and reports of hungry Spanish mackerel and even a few stray kings motivate each stroke.  My shoulders feel strong, and I take a line on the cut between the shoals where the chop isn’t too bad.  Way off in the distance, about a mile away, my goal is the sea buoy.  I hope the water will settle down a bit once I’m clear of the shallows, but the steady moaning of the buoy as it rolls on the swell tells me I’m probably due for disappointment.

By the time I’ve made the edge of the inlet channel, I’m not feeling quite so strong.  Paddling a 13’ kayak in a washing machine will take the starch out of most folks, especially folks like me who spend most working days sitting over a computer.  I’d hoped the deeper water would be a little less troubled, but it isn’t looking good.  I keep thinking maybe I’ll go ahead and drop the diving plug off my trolling rod and let it follow me out, but every time I stop paddling, the boat starts to turn and I have to dig in to point it back into the wind.  If by some wild chance I should hook a fish, I don’t know how I’d fight it.

Against my better judgement, I keep paddling.  I leave the beach behind, but the buoy is still way out there.  On a calm day I could turn and drag my lures along the shoals, but that’s not an option with the frothing rip and windblown chop.  I need to hit open water, or I need to turn back.

Over my shoulder, I hear the rumble of big diesels.  I turn to see several boats from the Carolina Beach charter fleet heading my way.  These are the big boats, 45 or 50 footers, so while these conditions may be slightly uncomfortable for the clients, they’re hardly a barrier to a day of fishing.  I’ve also noticed, however, that no small boats have attempted to run offshore this morning.  I realize that my plan for fishing the sea buoy from my kayak is not going to bear fruit.  It’s just too rough.

Even as I’m holding position in the chop, the last charter boat pulls alongside.  One of the hands is yelling at me.  I can’t get every word, but the gist of it is clear enough.  “Turn back, you idiot.  We don’t want to have to rescue your ass.”

At first, I’m a little offended by the implication.  I’ve paddled worse water, and I know how to handle it.  But he doesn’t know that.  He only sees a tourist in a tiny boat, fighting the wind and the tide on an increasingly nasty day.  And, of course, I recognize that even as he was yelling at me, I had already reached the same conclusion.  I’m not going out there today.

It’s easier to turn back, though, when I realize that in the entire time I’ve been on the water I haven’t seen a single bird diving on bait.  If the birds were working, I’m pretty sure I would have put in the extra effort to get out there (charter mates be damned).  But there is nothing to encourage the effort, so I put the boat around and head back to calmer water.

I spend the next couple of hours dragging a plug up and down the inlet, but it’s pretty pointless.  The fish are on the outside, and there are no stragglers this far inshore.  Nevertheless, I just enjoy paddling along, feeling the boat on the water and the sun on my face.  But I see the beach getting busier, and I decide to head for the hill before the tourist traffic peaks.  I can stand a rough ocean, but getting hung up in a flood tide of bad drivers is more than I can handle.

Hunting Hogs In The Great Smoky Mountains

May 26, 2016

No, not me, unfortunately.  While I do plan to make some trips up to the mountains for hogs in the future, I doubt they’ll be letting the average Joe Nimrod into the National Park to hunt hogs.

But it’s kind of a cool story from NPR, and as you’ll see, it plays out pretty much like you’d expect, if you’ve ever had the opportunity to guide a reporter, with recording or camera gear along.

So check it out.  I know I enjoyed it.

Turkey Season Wrap And A Gear Review

May 16, 2016

Wow.  How long since I last posted?

Too long.

Anyway…

So turkey season is well past and I don’t have so much as a feather to show for it.  As I’ve mentioned, I saw birds, but just never got the right opportunity.  And, truthfully, it occurs to me that I guess I’m just not all that dedicated as a turkey hunter.  I could have put in some more time… hit a few different places away from the farm… but I just never got that motivated.

Maybe I’m just getting spoiled.  Maybe I’m preoccupied with other things… getting the new house in place, working on the property to improve the hunting opportunities, and so on and so forth and all that jazz.

Whatever.  I didn’t kill a turkey.

What I did do, however, was get the chance to really appreciate a good pair of knee-high, rubber boots.  In this particular case, they were a pair of Irish Setter’s “Rutmaster 2.0”, sent to me for review earlier this spring.

I haven’t worn rubber boots since my childhood, when my standard hunting boots were picked up at the discount store.  They were uninsulated, clunky, and made for a lot of really miserable mornings on the deer stand.  My feet would sweat while we were driving out to the hunt and walking to the stand, and then the sweat just sat there and chilled until it sucked every bit of body heat right out of my feet.

I gave up rubber boots when I started to buy my own gear, but I also watched over time, in the magazines, television shows, and at the SHOT show, as knee boots became a really popular thing for deer and turkey hunters.  It didn’t escape my notice, though, that their popularity was usually in the South.  At this point, I was hunting in CA, which wasn’t really the place for rubber, knee boots.

Even in Texas, the Hill Country took a lot of up and down in some pretty rugged stuff, and while the protection of a knee-high boot was inviting, I always felt better with something a little more solid on my feet.

But now I’m back in North Carolina.  My place is on relatively high ground, as this part of southeastern NC goes, but it’s flat as a pancake and often pretty wet.  The longest hike I’m likely to make is a mile or so, but even the short hikes are often through catclaws and blackberry brambles.  So when I got the chance to try out the Irish Setter boots, I figured turkey season would be the perfect opportunity to see what I really thought about them.

My first impression?  Rubber, knee boots have changed a lot since I was a frozen-footed youngster, and the change is definitely for the better.

 

The boots are really lightweight.  They’re made of a composite that includes neoprene and vulcanized rubber that somehow provides good strength, but keeps these 17″ high boots down to a little over two and a half pounds per boot.  That’s enough heft to feel like you’re wearing something, but not enough to feel like your feet are encased in blocks of concrete.

This particular model comes with 800 grams of Thinsulate, which makes them reasonably well insulated for most of the NC hunting seasons.  The weather this spring has been really sort of weird, with lots of chilly mornings that turn into warm days.  It hasn’t been exceptionally cold or hot.  I think I’d probably want something a little more insulated if it gets really cold, but I found them really comfortable on every outing.

Just to really push them a little, I wore them while cutting the brush out of my ditches… wading through six to ten inches of water and pushing through brambles and briars.  It was about 85 degrees out, with matching humidity.  I figured my feet would be soaked with sweat by the time I was done, but that really wasn’t the case.  Whatever they’ve done to make this boot breathe, it’s working.

The outsoles have what they call the “Mudclaw RPM II” design.  It’s a fairly aggressive tread, and holds traction pretty well in the snot-like swamp mud that forms around the edges of my pasture.  However, the sole is relatively soft.  That’s great for walking quietly.  They’d be perfect for slipping through the pines to get to my morning tree stand, but I wouldn’t want to have to wear these over the jagged, volcanic rock like I encountered in parts of Northern California deer country.

I remember walking in those old boots of my youth, and how they tended to slip and slide over my heels. Within a couple hundred yards, I could guarantee a hot spot that would quickly become a blister if I kept going.  Rubber boots tended to have one shape, and very little give.  That’s changed too.

One of my favorite things about these Rutmaster boots (which I think is standard in most of Irish Setter’s current line) is what they call their “Exo-Flex technology”.  This allows the boot to expand over the back of your foot when you put the boot on, and then locks in over your heel to keep the boot really secure, no matter what sort of terrain you’re navigating.  It’s not quite like wearing a lace-up boot or athletic shoe, but it made these things really comfortable for walking over uneven ground.  The only challenge to this Exo-Flex heel is that I had to use a boot jack to take them off.  Maybe it’s just my advancing decrepitude, but I couldn’t bend over and pull them off by hand.

I can’t speak yet to the durability of the Rutmaster boots, since I’ve only had them for a couple of months so far.  I’m sure I’ll be using them all summer as I work around the farm and doing habitat projects, and I’ll definitely be wearing them to the stand come September.  If there are any updates, I’ll be sure and share them here.

 

 

 

San Diego Feral Hog Eradication Success?

April 21, 2016

This, if it’s accurate, is sort of a big deal.

It appears that wildlife agents and professional hunters/trappers (along with some help from the drought) have managed to wipe out the feral hogs in an area near San Diego.  According to several articles popping up in my feed today, like this one from the San Diego Union Tribune, there are only approximately eight feral hogs left in the area where there were once, by some estimates, as many as 1000.

There’s still a lot of disagreement about how the hogs got there, as well as how many there were.  There’s also been a lot of back and forth about what to do about them.  Like many others in CA, when I first heard about the hogs appearing down in that part of the country, I expected the population to run amok like it has in other parts of the state.  When they decided to let (actually, encourage) sport hunters to go after these hogs, I was pretty sure that any hope of thinning  the numbers of these animals was fleeting.  Sport hunters really aren’t very successful when it comes to eradication.

But then they brought in the professionals, even though some of us thought, “too little, too late.”

Most of us naysayers didn’t really count on Mother Nature tossing in an edge to the humans for a change, as the drought in CA concentrated the hogs, and also limited their expansion in the arid habitat.  Hogs are tough, resilient, and able to make-do in almost any conditions.  Desert, however, doesn’t seem to suit them.

So it looks like they’re whupped, and that doesn’t often happen.  Apparently.  Proof is in the pudding, of course, so let’s see what happens in the coming months.

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