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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.

Turkey Watching – My New Pastime

April 19, 2016

Well, two weeks into the NC turkey season, and I’ve determined that I haven’t been turkey hunting at all.  I’ve just been bird watching.

It’s not that turkeys aren’t entertaining.  I had a great show last Monday morning, as a big, dominant tom spent the better part of an hour keeping another nice-sized suitor away from his harem.  The interloper did what he could to slip around the edges, and finally did manage to slip off across the property line with one hen in tow.  Shortly afterward, the big tom apparently noticed the elopement, and took off out of sight to make it right… leaving the whole harem there in the field in front of me.

After he was gone, the whole group wandered right up in front of the blind and lingered (malingered) within easy bow range.  Yes, I did a lot of bird watching that morning… and the following three mornings as well… including Wednesday, when I set up in ambush at the little hole where they’ve been entering my pasture.

It was a perfect set up.  The birds had just flown down, and were congregating in the cow pasture next to my place.  The air was redolent of gentle clucks and purrs.  The tom shuffled around behind them, dragging his wing tips and nudging the group across the open field.  They were slowly making their way toward me, so I snuggled in amongst the cat claws and poison ivy shoots.  I eased the Barnett up onto the shooting stick and prepared to nock a bolt.

Except the bow quiver wasn’t attached to the bow.

I’d taken it apart the night before in order to tighten up a rattling bracket.  I could see myself removing the handy little quiver, and leaning it up against the door frame (where I couldn’t possibly forget it).  I saw myself fixing the loose bracket, and even remember thinking, “I should probably go ahead and re-attach this thing while I’m thinking about it,” but then something else crossed my mind (squirrel!) and… well… there I was, all dressed up and nowhere to go.

Finally, the next morning I was back, with the bolts, and set up.  I hadn’t seen or heard the birds yet, so i settled in and waited.  Without a sound, a brown head poked through the brush less than five feet from me.  I tried to freeze, but I blinked.  She didn’t run away, she flushed like a damned grouse and flew away into the pines.  I never even got to see the rest of the flock.  scotts_tom

There’s still plenty of time, of course, and I’ll be back at it soon.  Cardinals, wrens, crows, Canada geese, and turkeys… it’s not quite the equivalent of some birders’ life lists, but it’s mine.

Meanwhile, my damned, bloodthirsty brother stuck an arrow into a nice one over the weekend.

 

 

That Time Again!

April 11, 2016

Spring.

Dogwoods and azaleas in bloom (or, sort of, since they peaked a week or two ago).

Sunny days and gentle temperatures… except when we get those sudden dips into the 20s, as we did this weekend.

But no matter how unpredictable the bloom and bust, it’s turkey season in North Carolina.  The opening morning was Saturday, but as I had to get the pasture tilled up and ready for hay, I didn’t go out.  So, of course, about 09:30 as I was making an initial turn, I spotted a red head bobbing over the sourgrass at the far side of the pasture.  I slowed the tractor to get a better look, and sure enough, a big ol’ tom was pecking along the edge of the field, stopping from time to time to check me out.  As I was no threat, perched on the big, orange tractor, he continued merrily about his business for the better part of a half hour.  He would pop into the brush whenever I came close, and then come back out as soon as I was on the far side and out of reach.

Sunday morning found me too lazy to get out of bed, and when I did, I still had a few hours of work to do in the field.  The turkeys got a pass for another day.

Finally, this morning, I woke up and decided to get out at first light.  I had taken a few minutes to set up the ground blind Sunday evening, and I found all of my calls.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t locate the decoys… still packed since Texas.  It turns out that those dummy birds could have made all the difference.  I spent the morning watching a great show as two good toms sparred over a group of hens all morning, but never came closer than 100 yards to my blind.

The dominant bird and hens never paid a lick of attention to my calls.  The other tom, however, seemed genuinely conflicted over coming to investigate the unseen bird in the corner, or staying close and holding out hope for a stray from the little harem right in front of him.  It’s tough to beat out a live hen, especially when you don’t have a decoy out.

So, barring early arrival of tomorrow’s rain, Iggy and I will be back in the blind at first light tomorrow.  The Barnett RAZR will be locked and loaded, and I hope to put a big ol’ bird in the bag before the work day begins.

Wish me luck!

Ch-ch-ch-Changes… Turn And Face The Strange

April 1, 2016

Time may change me…

In 2012, I moved from California to Texas, and swore I’d never look back.  I found my own little version of paradise in the Hill Country, and built the home where I planned to live out the remainder of my life… whether that remainder was 10 years or 50.

I had a plan.  The gods thought it was hilarious.

Last spring, I left the Hill Country in my rear view mirror.  I found a pretty decent place in North Carolina, and have spent the past eight months working my ass off to turn it into a new, final, home.  I’m close to my family again, and it’s been really good to spend time with my mom and brothers again.

I swore I wouldn’t ever move again, but I also recognized, based on recent history, that sometimes things aren’t completely in my control.  But dammit, I’d fight tooth and nail before I willingly packed out of here.

I find myself de-clawed and snaggle-toothed.

My line of work is sort of strange in today’s job market.  When I started in the 1990’s, I was in a pretty singular niche, but since then, the industry has caught up.  Now there are college degrees in what I do, and the market has become flooded with fresh-faced youngsters, eager to do the same work for less money.  At the same time, employers’ attitudes toward telecommuting have become more conservative.  That’s tough on me, since I choose to live in rural places, far from the hubs of industry.

All that is to say, when I find a good gig, I want to keep it.  The days of jumping from job to job at will are pretty much in the past.  The money isn’t there like it used to be, and as I get a bit older, I find that I have grown a new appreciation for the benefits of full-time employment, like health insurance and paid time off.

Have you figured out where this is going?

I’ve found a great job with a company I like and I’m part of a solid department of professionals.  In a fairly short time I have worked my way into a senior position and oversight of education for an entire business line.  My manager is happy with my work, but we’re challenged because our department is not getting the integration with the product development and marketing teams that we need to really be successful.

The Development and Marketing teams are based in Plano, TX.

After some extensive (and not altogether pleasant) discussion with my manager, it’s really come down to two options.  If I want to keep my current role and career path, I need to be in Plano.  Travel back and forth is not an option due to budget constraints.  My other option is to step down from the senior role, a decision that will likely have a negative impact on future advancement.  We don’t have head count to hire a new person in that role, so unless someone else on our team is willing to make the move, we may have to make a “staffing adjustment”.

To really make this a tough call, Kat pissed off some thin-skinned executives at work a couple of weeks ago.  You just can’t say things like that to a VP, no matter how childish they may be acting.  Smashing her coffee cup on the conference table was probably icing on the cake.  While it’s likely she’ll find something else fairly soon, the job hunt has been moving pretty slowly.

It seems like my choice was being made for me.

I loved the Hill Country, but I really despise the Dallas/Ft. Worth area.  Plano is a nightmare of freeways and a sprawl of corporate clutter.  I can probably find a place out in the fringes, but in order to commute every day I’ll need to be relatively close.

I should be flying out there on Saturday, April 2, to take a look at properties.  But I won’t because today is April 1, and you just can’t trust anything you read on the first of April.

 

 

 

 

“Sport” Hunting And Conservation – Yeah, That Old Saw

March 23, 2016

This piece from the UK Independent has been bouncing around for a week or two now.  It’s not really news, nor is it particularly revolutionary thinking.  But then, since it references statements from Prince William, it carries a certain panache that it would probably lack if it came from some bourgeois layman like… say… me.

That’s a hell of a long way around to the point.

Oh, and that point…  African trophy hunting, despite social media outrage, provides significant benefits to conservation.  Stepping around the sensational stories of “Cecil” and endangered white rhino hunts, the fact remains that properly regulated and managed sport hunting more than pays for the animals it removes from the habitat.

Did we really need to hear that from the second-in-line for the crown of Great Britain?

It’s hardly news.  Hell, every time trophy hunting comes up on the Interwebz or in the major media, a swarm of folks from SCI to wildlife management experts chime in with the numbers and statistics that show how important the revenue from hunters funds everything from habitat protection to anti-poaching patrols.  But when all is said and done, public opinion generally sides against the bloodshed… against logic.

It’s an interesting conundrum, but I’m not sure it needs to be so enigmatic.  In fact, I’d go so far as to say it’s pretty simple.  People who don’t hunt really don’t understand those of us who kill animals for “fun”.

To be sure, there are things they grudgingly accept, such as when some of us claim to hunt for food.  There are also things they reject, such as the notion of hunting animals merely to collect the trophies (antlers, horns, mounts, etc.).  And, nowhere more than in the case of African hunting, do hunters appear to be out for nothing more than the experience of killing exotic (insert other adjectives here, such as majestic, regal, proud, etc.) animals in order to bring home the trophies.  That will never sit well with non-hunters.  Truthfully, it even makes many hunters uneasy.

Here’s where this dovetails into another perennial debate (discussion, argument, donnybrook).  Hunting ethics and “fair chase” have become hugely divisive topics in the hunting community.  While many of these differences have existed all along, social media has created a platform where individuals can criticize without the direct accountability of face-to-face communication.  In this virtual environment, it is becoming more common to see people embrace unrealistically idealistic stances on ethical behavior, and then to hold others to that same standard.

At the same time, the Internet, along with the rapidly growing outdoors television industry, have exposed hunters to practices and traditions they have never experienced and do not understand or appreciate.  For example, western hunters accustomed to hunting large expanses of public land see the east coast treestand hunters, sitting over feeders, bait, or food plots.  It’s a very different set of tactics, and on first glance, may not seem like a very rewarding way to hunt.   In fact, it may even seem to be “unfair”.  Rather than embrace the differences or educate themselves, many folks choose to judge and denigrate the others.  The most common justification for the criticism is that the behavior, “makes hunters look bad.”

These issues come together when we see something like the recent fiasco with “Cecil” the lion, or the auction of a hunt for an endangered species.  Emotional and uneducated responses flood both the traditional and non-traditional media.  While it’s no surprise that anti-hunters and non-hunters would jump on that bandwagon, I’m a little nonplussed to see the number of hunters who rush to judgement as well.  To be clear, the circumstances surrounding the killing of “Cecil” are suspect, and it appears that laws were broken.  No one, hunter or otherwise, should condone that.  But over and above that, the outright indictment of African hunting is not justifiable, and I was a little ashamed to see the number of hunters who were right there with the antis, calling for abolition without a clear understanding of what it is that they want to abolish… or of the real effects that shutting down the industry would have.

I realize as I’m writing this, that I may have bitten off more than I can necessarily chew in one meal.  Because here comes another tangent…

I can’t help thinking, as I watch things like this unfold… the ongoing posturing of, “my ethics are better than your ethics,” or, “my way of hunting is right and yours is wrong,” has a lot in common with this whole thing that seems to be taking place on college campuses (and in some communities), wherein the emotional security of the individual supposedly supersedes a free and open exchange of ideas and opinions.  At risk of over-simplifying a complex situation, what I see here is a whole new level of selfishness, regardless of the potential cost to the bigger picture.  “I am personally offended by something you are saying or doing, therefore, I am in my rights to tell you, and everyone like you, to stop.”

From the academic perspective, I think the logical progression of this argument is obvious.  At the very least, it throws a wet, burlap sack over much of history, art, and literature.  It’s tearing down Civil War monuments because they remind people of slavery.  It’s throwing away great works of literature because they include racist, sexist, or hateful themes and language.  It’s chipping the genitalia off of the statue of David because, well, genitalia.  Over time, if this were allowed to become the norm (I honestly doubt it), the scope and value of education would be so diluted as to be pretty much worthless.  Universities would become technical schools, and instead of scholars, graduates would be technicians.

For hunters, it’s sort of the same thing.  If we continue to ostracize other hunters and squelch their traditions based on nothing more substantial than that they offend our sensibilities, what can we say when non-hunters do the same to us?  And then, what happens when hunting goes away?  Maybe we can use what we know of Africa as a guide there.

 

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