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.
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.
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.
April 11, 2016
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!
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.