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Thursday Quickies

November 13, 2014

Once again, I find myself required to work in order to earn my paycheck, so there’s just not much time or focus for a post today, so here are a couple of quick notes.

Blog Roll Additions

I don’t know if anyone pays attention to blog rolls or link lists anymore, but if you do, you may have noticed a couple of additions to mine.

My friend, Dave Campbell is re-entering the world of online publishing with his Dave Campbell Outdoors blog.  I’ll be right up front and tell you that Dave makes no bones about his political and social points of view, and they’re not for the weak of heart.  But I share his link, not for the politics, but for the quality writing and his knowledge of guns and ammo.  As the founding editor of the NRA Shooting Illustrated publication, he’s been around the block.  What he doesn’t know, his friends will certainly fill in… and some lively discussions are likely to ensue.  If I know Dave, the blog won’t just be gun talk, though.  Dave still has a great love of hunting and hunting dogs, so I expect we’ll see a good mix of content.  But it’s his site, not mine… so don’t hold me to account.  Check it out for yourself, and make up your own mind.

Another voice that I, personally, am happy to see returning to the blogosphere is Jim Zumbo.  I’ve been reading Mr. Zumbo’s articles since I was just a kid, snatching my dad’s Outdoor Life magazine right out of the mailbox every month.  I can’t quote his words or anything like that, but to me (and to a lot of folks) he represents a time when the hook-n-bullet magazines were actually worth sitting down to read.  And by this, I mean sitting down in a comfy chair, or on the couch and really reading some real writing… not sitting on the toilet to while away a few minutes.  (An irony, perhaps, because nowadays I can knock out everything that’s worth reading in an edition of Outdoor Life or Field and Stream in a single visit to the toilet… and still have time left to daydream.  For the first time in over 25 years, I’m actually thinking about letting my subscription to Outdoor Life lapse… it’s just become that worthless.).

Of course, most folks today know Mr. Zumbo’s name from the events of February, 2007.  In his usual fashion, with blunt and subjective language, Zumbo derided the “Assault Rifle” on his blog; and in no uncertain terms, declared these guns unfit for the field, and even went so far as to call them “terrorist rifles”.  It was an ill-considered post for many reasons, but the fallout was unexpected and unprecedented.  Within 36 hours of the post hitting the Web, calls to his sponsors from “concerned” and zealous gun rights supporters resulted in the loss of sponsorship.  His blog (under the Outdoor Life banner) was shut down and his name was removed from the magazine’s mast head.  He also lost his television show, disappeared from both print and online media, and for a (fortunately) brief period, appeared to become a pariah in the industry.  That all passed, eventually, and Zumbo has regained some of his previous momentum.  As he says on his initial blog post, “that was then, and this is now.”  I’m glad to see him back at it, and hope all the foolishness hasn’t blunted his approach to writing about guns, hunting, and the outdoors.

Blogging Peeves

I’m seeing a trend, or the resurgence of a trend on the blogs I visit these days.  I don’t know how many of the bloggers I link to still visit the Hog Blog, and this isn’t intended as a personal criticism to any of them, but here goes.

More and more blogs are requiring some version of registration in order to comment on their posts.  This means that, before you can post a comment, whether just to give kudos for a good piece, or to join a conversation, you have to be registered with the site or some registration engine, like Google.  Once your information is stored, you can then access the comment functions by entering a password.

I understand the rationale… that this will help to reduce the number of SPAM posts and maybe encourage some level of accountability for the comments.  I haven’t done recent research, but I also suspect that having registered commenters is like having subscribers, in that it makes your site more appetizing to potential advertisers and sponsors.  So there may seem to be a good reason, in the minds of the blog owners.  Anything to bring in more money, right?  Who wants to do this stuff for free (besides me, and a bunch of other bloggers I know)?

But as a reader/visitor to many of these blogs, the need to register and to enter a password simply to type in a few words of feedback is asking too much.  There are millions of other blogs out there, and with social media sites like Facebook, it’s a whole lot easier just to get some instant gratification elsewhere instead of taking the extra effort to create a profile, remember yet another password, and then log in.  That’s just a pain in the ass, really, and an unnecessary one at that.

Is that really the experience you want your readers to have?  Is it worth the tradeoff in readership/interaction?  How many bloggers out there really have the kind of traffic in the comments section that would justify adding that layer of complexity?  And maybe, if you have this registration in place and you’re not seeing huge traffic in the comments section… well, maybe that registration is part of the reason.  Like any other software application, you’ve got to make it as easy as possible for your users to interact with the program.

The real power of blogging, in my opinion at least (and it’s not a unique opinion), is the ability for your readers to interact with you and with each other.  A successful blog is one that creates an active community of users.  That’s why it’s called “social media.”

So why not dispense with that registration foolishness?  Turn it off, install one of the reasonably decent SPAM blockers, and call it good.  Your readers will thank you.

It Was Only A Matter Of Time

I’m going to close with a product release I just received in my email.  This is one of those ideas that I, and I bet many of my other waterfowling friends have bounced around from time to time.  The waterfowler’s dry suit!

PredatorGear3NEW ORLEANS, LA – Predator Gear has launched the first and only drysuit made specifically for hunting. Its revolutionary design uses a neoprene neck seal, latex wrist seals and completely waterproof zippers to keep you dry and in the field longer.

The one-piece Predator Gear Drysuit is designed to increase comfort and safety for hunters who venture out in the most challenging conditions. Instead of needing breathable waders that leave you wishing for better fitting boots and a waterproof jacket for warmth and protection up top, the Predator Gear Drysuit solves both needs in one product. Unlike waders, you remain agile even while walking in soft mud. Since the suit won’t fill with water like waders. you are safe even if you end up swimming.

“Predator Gear is proud to be partnering with Mossy Oak,” said John Loe, Founder and CEO of Predator Gear. “The combination of either Mossy Oak’s Shadow Grass Blades® or Break-Up Infinity® and Predator Gear’s revolutionary design will give dedicated hunters the ultimate advantage. After years of dissatisfaction with waders you can’t walk in, jackets that leak and gear that isn’t as serious as we are, we’d had enough. So we invented the world’s first drysuit for hunting. The Predator Gear Drysuit is the solution for hunters who will stop at nothing to reach the birds.”

The Predator Gear Drysuit is for any hunting that involves small boats, open water, bitter cold or walking extended distances. Drysuits, when properly worn and maintained, can make hunting in tough conditions safer. While waders can fill with water leading to hypothermia and drowning, a Predator Gear Drysuit keeps water out making it safer and warmer.

The Predator Gear Drysuit is made of a 4-layer waterproof, breathable polyester laminate. It is available in sizes medium to extra large. For more information or to purchase, visit www.predatorgear.com. Be sure to follow on Twitter @Predatorgear and Facebook.

Predator Gear is an official licensee of Haas Outdoors Inc. Haas Outdoors, headquartered in West Point, MS, was established in 1986 and is home of Mossy Oak (www.mossyoak.com). Mossy Oak specializes in developing and marketing modern camouflage designs for hunters and outdoorsmen. Mossy Oak patterns can be found on a multitude of products worldwide. Haas Outdoors Inc. is the outdoor industry leader in modern camouflage design, international licensing and marketing. Haas Outdoors Inc. markets its services and products under widely recognized brands including: Mossy Oak, BioLogic, Mossy Oak Productions, MOOSE Media, Nativ Nurseries, GameKeepers and Mossy Oak Properties.

Seriously, it’s basically neck-to-toe waders!  I can’t count the times I wished I had something like this hunting the refuges in California, or the salt marshes in NC where the ducks always stay out there just out of range of the nearest good cover.  You know, if you could just slip out there and sit in water up to your neck, you could get those elusive shots.  Plus, you can always use them to go do a little spearfishing if the birds aren’t flying!

Seeking Advice On The Internet

November 10, 2014

I probably spend too much time on Facebook.  It’s not as much as some folks apparently spend, and I can certainly offer all sorts of justifications and rationalizations for being there, but nevertheless, I spend a lot of time there.  Before Facebook came around, I spent too much time on various Internet forums, and before that, it was AOL chat rooms.  I wasn’t really involved when The Well was happening, and CompuServe was just a little too labor intensive and geeky for my tastes, but for all my criticism, I’m as infected by social media as anyone else.

Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of stuff that really made me shake my head.  And it still does.  But there’s something I’ve observed since the beginning, and after another recent experience, I realized it was good fodder for a blog post.  Maybe it’ll even be helpful.

There’s a sort of aphorism floating around out there that says, “everyone is an expert on the Internet.”

It doesn’t seem to matter what the topic is, whether current events, politics, or science, once it pops up online it’s like every layperson on the Web suddenly has something “intelligent” to add.  The thing is, a lot of the information floating around isn’t worth the pixels on your monitor.  You have to take anything you “learn” from the Internet with a spoonful of salt (a grain isn’t enough).  It doesn’t mean the person providing the misinformation isn’t well-meaning, but good intentions don’t necessarily mean subject matter knowledge.  And in some cases, whether due to an agenda or simple malice, the information is intentionally incorrect.  Social media has done wonders for folks studying meme theory.

The point is, if you’re trying to learn something online, you can certainly do so.  The best approach is to research credible sources, and then double-check the research.  It seems like this would go without saying, but the last place you should go for objective, factual knowledge, is to social media.

It’s a great place for opinions, of course.  If you want for an opinion about a certain rifle or scope, post the question on Facebook or a hunting forum and you’ll get all sorts of input.  People love to give their opinions, and the anonymity of the Internet allows them to be as critical as they want without fear of repercussions.  You can incite a pretty extensive (and sometimes heated) discussion, and glean all the information you ever wanted from the results.

But this really isn’t the most effective way to get factual information, and it’s a really bad idea when the information you want concerns the law.

Far too many times, I’ve seen posts from individuals asking for information about hunting regulations.  This is not a topic where you want to rely on some stranger’s interpretation or opinion.  There are a bunch of people out there who think they know the law, and a significant number of them are wrong.  But that doesn’t stop them from trying to educate you anyway.

There is one reliable source for information about hunting rules and regulations, and that is the documentation provided by the State or Federal wildlife agencies.  At this point in time, I think every state now provides online access to the full regulations, and most publish a digest version that highlights the most frequently asked questions.  These documents will give you, in writing, exactly what you need to know.  They are, literally, the letter of the law.

Now I’ve heard some people complain that the regulations aren’t decipherable by normal humans.  While I think most people who complain about this simply don’t want to make the effort to read through the whole document, I have to agree that, sometimes, the legalese can be a little convoluted and confusing.  Folks just want a specific answer to a specific question… and they want it right now.   This leads them to the veritable font of instant gratification, social media.

Here’s the problem with that.  Ostensibly, researching a law or regulation suggests that you want to ensure that your actions do not violate said law or regulation.  And typically, your reasoning for this is that you don’t want to be cited, fined, or arrested.  This seems like a pretty simple, logical chain of thought.  Then why would you put yourself at risk by asking anonymous strangers to interpret the laws and regulations for you?

In addition to posting the regulatory documents online, most states also offer online access to actual game wardens or agency officials.  In some cases, there’s an online form you can fill out, or in other cases there is an email address you can use.  Response rates aren’t always what we’d like them to be, but the response that you do get comes right from the horse’s mouth.  Even better, it’s in writing.  If you don’t want to wait for an electronic response, there’s an old-school approach you can always use.  Pick up the telephone and call the agency directly.

I know.  Sometimes the information you get from a game warden (or any law enforcement officer) is filtered through that individual’s own agenda and opinion.  I expect that some of you out there, at some time in your hunting career, have run into a game warden who seemed to be less informed about the regulations than you were.  If you haven’t, you probably will.  These guys can’t be expected to memorize the entire Fish and Game Code, much less the state and federal laws.  Ask yourself, though, are you more likely to get reliable information from an agent of the State responsible for upholding the law, or from someone you’ve never met, whose intentions you don’t know?

So one more time, this is not compound versus recurve, or 30-06 versus .270.  The stakes are real and potentially significant (high fines, loss of hunting privileges, confiscation of equipment, etc.).  It makes no sense to gamble on faulty information from social media, when you can get accurate information with a little extra effort.

Just don’t do it.

 

And Now For Something Completely Different…

November 4, 2014

I got this press release in my email on Friday, and at first glance, I started to dump it.  But after a moment or two, I decided it would make an interesting post to share.

OETKER COLLECTION’S LE BRISTOL PARIS CELEBRATES HUNTING SEASON

Le Bristol Paris table setting

You really need to click this image to see it larger. Now THIS is a table fit for a king.

PARIS, Oct. 31, 2014 – Hunting season has officially commenced at Le Bristol Paris. Hunting has always been a true source of inspiration in both art and cuisine. To pay tribute to these traditions, Le Bristol’s hunting table will be recreated and featured as a still life hunting exhibit in the foyer of the famous Parisian luxury hotel.

Precious crockery, silverware, Saint Louis crystal and stuffed game birds are adorned by fruit and flowers dressed in autumn colors. Each element arranged on this 18th century table will be overseen by interior decorator Lydwine Labergerie. This harmonious ensemble will also evoke the still life paintings of 17th century Dutch painters.

The beginning of fall also marks the arrival of game on the menu at Epicure, Le Bristol’s triple Michelin-starred gastronomic restaurant. Its master Chef Eric Frechon is looking forward to the arrival of these new products, which he greatly enjoys preparing. For example, Hare à la Royale, served with Jerusalem artichoke ravioli with black truffle, celeriac and chestnuts with horseradish is one of his works of art. Thirty years of research has perfected this classic French dish for Epicure’s gourmet customers to enjoy. Wild duck and hen pheasant will be added to the menu throughout the autumn.

If the hunting season proves fruitful, Epicure’s clientele will occasionally be treated to off-the-menu dishes recommended in person by Epicure’s Manager Frédéric Kaiser, winner of a Best French Craftsman award in 2011.
This staged scene is a temporary exhibit, to be admired at Le Bristol Paris until November 10th.

ABOUT OETKER COLLECTION

Oetker Collection is one of the most inspiring selections of masterpiece hotels in the world. The name ‘Masterpiece Hotels’ includes a pledge; a commitment to provide service of the highest quality, every hour of every day. The pearl as a symbol combines singularity, beauty and quality. The individual pearls bind together to form a unique string of pearls. Each property is one-of-a-kind, reflecting the unique European heritage and sharing the highest levels of service internationally with exceptional and historic architecture & interiors combining with great attention to detail.

Oetker Collection embraces eight luxury hotels:

  • L’Apogée Courchevel – a luxury chalet with a warm and family atmosphere offering the most desirable skiing experience at the top of Courchevel 1850 in the French Alps.
  • Brenners Park-Hotel & Spa – the most iconic grand hotel, amidst a sprawling private park in Baden-Baden, Germany. The historic Villa Stéphanie will soon open its doors to offer Europe’s most refined and innovative spa experience.
  • Le Bristol Paris – an authentic Parisian palace completely refurbished, the ultimate reference for French art-de-vivre, ideally located on the prestigious rue du Faubourg St-Honoré.
  • Château Saint-Martin & Spa – a romantic chateau of excellence nestled in the heart of Provence, boasting breathtaking views over the Mediterranean coastline.
  • Eden Rock – a luxurious retreat in St Barths built on a rocky promontory, surrounded by white sandy beaches, and turquoise sea; French art-de-vivre in the heart of the Caribbean.
  • Fregate Island Private – a jewel of conservation featuring lush forest, wild fauna, and overlooking the crystal waters of the Seychelles. Unique on the Planet.
  • Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc – a legendary luxury hotel at the centre of a scenic private park, where old-world glamour meets modern luxury at the tip of the Cap d’Antibes.
  • Palais Namaskar – a peaceful oasis with contemporary and sophisticated design set in the Palmeraie, the most exclusive residential area in Marrakech.

Biographies and further information available: www.oetkercollection.com

The email included a small photo of the aforementioned table setting, but it’s too small to see anything.  I sent an email asking for a larger photo, but since I had no response, I figured we’d go with the release as is.

What I, personally found interesting was the sort of juxtaposition of the rough and rural (hunting season) against the opulence of this luxury hotel.  It reminded me that the way we see hunting as Americans isn’t necessarily the same in other countries.  In many parts of Europe, hunted wild game can be sold on the market, and it is available in restaurants as a seasonal treat.  I love that this particular hotel recognizes and celebrates the season with such flair.

Of course, I’d love to go there and spend a week, in order to provide all of you readers with a first hand report of the quality of food and service at Le Bristol Paris, so if any of you feels like generously sponsoring such a trip, let me know.  I’ll be sure to credit you and offer the most sincere gratitude for your largess.

 

While The Kat’s Away, The Mice Will Make Lemonade…?

October 14, 2014

A couple of Fridays ago, I posted about Kat’s big adventure in North Carolina and how empty Hillside Manor feels without her here.  It was a sort of melancholy screed, and, well, honestly… the place still feels empty and if I had it to write all over again, it wouldn’t change.  It’s a drag.  It sucks.

Whining about it certainly isn’t going to change it though.  The truth is that, given some of the things going on in the world, a lot of people out there would happily trade their troubles for mine.  No matter how big a deal this may be to me, to the rest of the world it’s pretty picayune.  And that’s all I’m gonna say about that (probably).

So, what then?

Well, one thing that occurred to me Sunday evening, as I sat in front of the TV, recovering from the 25 hour drive back from Raleigh, was that I could sit around in front of the TV as much as I wanted.  But, truth be told, I already did that before… probably much more than I should have.  The only difference is that now I can spend more time watching hunting shows.  It’s not that I didn’t watch them when Kat was here, but she never cared for them (often ridiculed them) and I’d usually find something that we could both enjoy together.  I didn’t mind changing the channel, because for the most part, I don’t really like most hunting programs.  To be more precise, I intensely dislike several of them, barely tolerate a few others for the horn porn value, and actually enjoy one or two of them.  But I watched them because, well, they were hunting and I wasn’t.

So I’ve got hunting shows.  And as I sat there on Sunday, making snide and condescending remarks about yet another gut shot animal or something, it occurred to me that I should do more than just watch these shows and talk to myself.  I should watch these shows and talk to you folks… the Hog Blog readers (all two and a half of you…on a good day, not counting bots).

It’s hardly a novel idea.  I’ve done several critiques and reviews of hunting television over the years, and even briefly made it a regular thing (over on my original site).  Since then I let it sit, either uninspired or unmotivated, until Michelle Scheuermann at the Bulletproof Media blog sounded a general call to quarters for outdoor TV reviewers.  That got me thinking about it again, but since I wasn’t watching the shows regularly, I didn’t pursue the idea.  But now…

I still haven’t worked out the whole campaign, but I’ve got some thoughts.  To begin with, the Hog Blog is not going to become all TV reviews, all the time.  If that looks to be the direction, I may create a new blog just for the reviews, because the Hog Blog has its own raison d’etre.  But really, it will provide some new content and keep things moving around here… or so I hope.  I mean, you can only read so many stories about my unsuccessful hunting trips, and the broken record about the Lead Ammo Ban, while it will continue to play, has just really been beaten to death.  So why not spice it up with something new?

I’ll also offer this bit of foreshadowing…

Reviewing TV or video is all about opinion, and I have plenty of that when it comes to the topic of hunting.  I’m a pretty harsh critic, and most hunting programs offer an awful lot to criticize.  I call it like I see it, and since I’m not receiving any compensation from the networks or programs, I have no reason to hold back.  The flip side of that coin is that any praise I offer will be well-deserved.  You don’t have to agree with me, and I encourage open discussion and debate (as always on this blog).  I know that I will probably tip some sacred cows (I’ve done that before), and that will draw the ire of lockstep fans.  I will police the comments as carefully as ever in an effort to keep it to a reasonable level of civility.

I believe that televised hunting should portray the hunt at an elevated level of behavior.  This means that while there may be an effort to, “keep it real,” the producers must adhere to a higher-than-average ethical standard.  There may be any number of mitigating factors in the field, but the viewers only get to see the final output… and that’s how the show will be judged.  And that’s how I’ll critique it.  I’ve had producers in the past contact me to tell me that my comments were “wrong”, and that I just didn’t see what really went into a certain shot or situation.  My response was, and will be, that I saw what every other viewer saw.  Behind the scenes is irrelevant if it stays behind the scenes.  How are the viewers supposed to know if you don’t show them?

I recognize that many of the individuals involved in hunting television are really amateurs in the field of TV production.  Most of them are serious hunters who have found a way to get paid for what they love to do.  I’m not ever going to knock that.  I’ll admit that there have been times when I wished it was me.  And even while they’re amateurs, several of them have really advanced by leaps and bounds in the production quality and technical skills (or they’ve hired quality staff).  But while the technical abilities have advanced, too many of these folks still don’t seem to understand (or believe) that the viewers only get part of the story.  It really is about what-you-see-is-what-you-get.  You seldom get the opportunity to explain what someone saw.  Well, the Hog Blog will give them that opportunity.

We’ll see how all this goes.  I think I’ll start with one post per week, and let’s arbitrarily say that will happen on Wednesdays.  I haven’t decided if each week will focus on a single show, or if it will be some sort of smorgasbord of the previous week’s viewing.

So, if anyone is actually reading this, what do you think?  I mean, I’m gonna do it anyway, but I’m always curious for feedback.

Oh, and don’t get me wrong.  This is hardly consolation for Kat’s absence, and I’d trade it all, including the TV itself, to have her back here.

 

Friday? Already?

October 3, 2014

Where did the week go?

It seems like I’ve barely unpacked from Colorado, and the week has already flown by.  So here it is, Friday, and I haven’t put up a single post all week.

Bad Phillip!  No biscuit.

It has been an eventful week, although not on a level that really suits the Hog Blog.  I got out for a few evenings (and one morning) hunting my local whitetails, but aside from bouncing an arrow off of a branch on the opener, I haven’t even drawn on a deer.  That’s not what was eventful… and the rest of this post isn’t about hunting.  In fact, I doubt the rest of this post will hold much interest for most of you.  But it’s my blog, and I’ll write what I want.

In addition to spending the last four days getting back into the swing of work, I’ve been gearing up for another road trip.  Kat has decided, in the interest of her career advancement, to take up house in Raleigh, NC.  This will allow her to be in the office regularly, working closely with the people she needs to deal with on a face-to-face basis.  Ideally, this will provide some opportunity for advancement that she won’t get working from the remoteness that is Camp Wood, TX.  And ideally, that advancement will enable her to create some security for the future… as neither of us is a spring chicken, and we really need to be casting an eye in that direction.

So she’s gone back there and found herself a townhouse.  It’ll be a place to live while she’s working out this career thing, and will provide an investment for when she comes back here (which is an eventuality that I hope is sooner than later… but we don’t know).  She packed up her Grand Cherokee with the cats and some basics, and went ahead last weekend to get the house opened up, set up DSL, buy some basic furniture, and that sort of thing.  I’m following this weekend with a U-Haul full of her other stuff.

That U-Haul holds a lot of things.  Packing it yesterday, it didn’t feel like packing for a temporary trip.  It felt like she was moving out.

I've come a long ways from this.

I’ve come a long ways from this.

The Manor is pretty empty right now, and I have a feeling that when I get back from Raleigh next weekend, it’s going to seem really empty.

Sure, there’s a lot more in here now than there was when I first started working on this place.  I’ve come a long ways from the days of setting up my office on a folding TV table, and watching DVDs on the laptop.  There’s a real bed where the inflatable used to be, and I’ve even got a real, dining room table.  There’s an oversized TV in an oversized (Texas-sized) entertainment center, and I watch that TV from the comfort of my leather recliner.  There’s patio furniture on the patio, and porch chairs on the front porch.  Hell, I’ve even got some pictures hanging on the walls.

But it’s still pretty empty.  There’s a vacancy here that has nothing to do with Stuff.  The echo that I hear isn’t the sound of my voice, bouncing off of bare walls.  It’s a little more subtle than that.

Pardon the maudlin.  It’ll probably pass.

Mostly.

Who knows what the future holds?  There’s no expiration date on this experiment.  There’s no defined target or criteria for “success”.  I have no idea how long it will go, or what the catalyst will be that changes things again… or, for that matter, what the next change will entail.

What I do know, though, is that things always work out… one way or another.

 

I Was Going To Join Backcountry Hunters And Anglers But…

September 8, 2014

I’m really not a big “joiner”.

I’ve been a part of a handful of organizations of course, over the years, but I don’t really spend a lot of time looking for new causes.  When it comes to conservation and hunting organizations, I’m particularly cautious about throwing my hat in the ring until I understand a little better what I’m getting tied up with.  For example, I’ve been a member of Ducks Unlimited since childhood (my dad bought my first few memberships, and I sort of kept it going from there).  I know the work that DU does, and I really like their focus.  It’s the same reason I joined California Waterfowl when I was in CA.  They do good work with minimal, overt political agenda.  A few years ago, after some hemming and hawing, I decided to send a few bucks a year to Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation… mostly on the same grounds.  RMEF is focused on elk and elk habitat, and that’s what I want my donations to go toward.

Recently, I’ve been looking into a fairly new organization, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers.  When I first became aware of this group, I was pretty sure it was something I may want to join… at least inasmuch as dropping the annual membership fee, and maybe attending the annual “Rendezvous” when I could.

It sounded like the organization shares a lot of the same values as I do.  In particular, we share a passion for the backcountry and wilderness areas, as well as a desire to protect them.  Even though I don’t spend as much time hunting and wandering public lands as I used to, I am a strong believer in the need to keep those lands open and accessible… not just for hunting and fishing, but for everyone.

Here are the key points from the Backcountry Hunters and Anglers mission:

  • ORV Abuse: BHA works to protect traditional, non-motorized hunting and fishing experiences and the lands that support those activities. While we recognize that Off-road vehicles (ORVs) are useful tools used by many people, BHA works to protect fisheries, clean water and wildlife habitat from excessive motorized traffic and abuse. BHA educates the public on proper and legal use of ORV’s and the importance of enforcing fines and regulations for illegal use that impact fish and wildlife habitat, migration, and breeding.
  • Gas, Oil, and Mining: Oil and gas leasing is important economic activity, but America’s hunger for energy must be balanced with our responsibility to pass on healthy land and water for future generations. BHA will address energy development projects that impact fish and wildlife habitat, migration, breeding, and sportsmen’s hunting and fishing opportunities, by educating decision-making agencies, legislative bodies, and local stakeholders. Mining: We all use minerals in our daily life and mining is important. However, if done irresponsibly, mining can leave lasting scars that pollute water and degrade habitat. BHA will address mining projects that will impact fish and wildlife habitat, migration, breeding, and sportsmen’s hunting and fishing opportunities, by educating decision making agencies, legislative bodies, and local stakeholders.
  • Education and Outreach: Part of BHA’s mission is to educate people about safe, enjoyable and sustainable backcountry hunting and fishing. In particular, we educate the next generation about this ancient tradition. The Backcountry Journal, our quarterly publication available to all members, and our national gathering, the North American Rendezvous, are our main educational activities. The Backcountry Journal is a 16-page glossy magazine with educational stories, hunting and fishing tales, project updates, and public land issues updates. The Rendezvous is a weekend of camaraderie, hands-on seminars, speakers, banquet dinner and auction. BHA also visits numerous sports shows around the country to visit face to face with local sportsmen about the issues they are facing and the work BHA is doing in that state.
  • Backcountry: BHA’s members greatly value the remaining undeveloped, natural areas of our national forests and other public lands. We work to maintain the backcountry values of solitude, silence, clean and free flowing rivers and habitat for large, wide-ranging wildlife. We work to deploy a variety of legal and administrative tools to maintain those values, including the Wilderness Act, where appropriate.

I can’t find much to argue with there.  I “Liked” the BHA on Facebook and started following the discussions.  For the most part, I appreciated what I was seeing.  There seemed to be a mix of folks sharing backcountry experiences and some discussion of important issues, such as the movement to handover ownership of Federal public lands to the states… or worse, to privatize public lands.  The very idea that the states can, or will, manage these huge public lands is naïve at best, and generally ridiculous.  That’s a cause that seems, to me, to be pretty damned well worth fighting for.

So I started fondling my checkbook.

But then the conversations took a different tack… the conversations turned to contentious, ethics topics like high fence hunting, banning drones, and long-range hunting.  And, as with any discussions of ethics, the holier-than-thou, elitists showed their true colors.  I put my checkbook away.  This was going to require some more consideration.

I read some of the BHA leadership’s comments in regards to these topics with some dismay.  It isn’t so much that these guys express their opinions.  I value that, even if I don’t agree with them.  What bothers me is that the organization appears to be willing to leverage the power of its membership (and the members’ dues) to influence laws and regulations which, to my mind, have nothing to do with the focus on backcountry hunting and angling… or with the protection of the backcountry.   Drones, for example, are an issue about which the BHA has been quite vocal.  They have lobbied legislators and state governments to enact bans on the “use of drones for hunting.”

Now, generally, that doesn’t seem all that bad.  To the general, uneducated public, it seems like the use of drones for hunting would be a bad thing.  But the truth of it is that drones are a non-issue.  I’ve written about it before (here and here, at least) so I’ll spare the extended discourse… but in short, the drones available to the general public are barely useful as hunting tools in any way that would provide a meaningful advantage to hunters in any setting.  In the real backcountry, they’d be about as useful as tits on a boar hog, since you’d have to carry the damned things in, deal with limited battery life and range, and manage the additional challenges of operating a line of sight system in rugged country.

What’s worse is that most of the legislation is vague and barely enforceable.  It’s a waste of time, energy, and money… and it has almost nothing at all to do with the concept of backcountry hunting and angling.  (I do, however, agree with certain restrictions on these devices in national parks and other places where the thoughtless and inconsiderate operators are negatively impacting the experiences of other visitors… not to mention harassment of wildlife.  But that’s really a different thing… more akin to problems associated with OHV use and mountain biking.)

And then there are the divisive topics like high fence hunting.  Again, there’s nothing wrong with having the discussion.  There’s nothing wrong with having a strong opinion, one way or the other.  But unless the BHA can make a damned, solid argument about how this debate has any real bearing on the backcountry, I question the value of the organization’s involvement.  Let the individual members hash it out to their hearts’ content, but is it really in the best interest of an organization to segregate itself from a fairly significant potential constituency by taking some arbitrary, moral/ethical position?  Where are these guys headed, in the longer run?  Do I want to give my money or my name to that organization?

Don’t get me wrong.  These organizations absolutely should be involved in issues that are relevant to their mission statements, no matter how controversial (as long as their positions reflect the will of the members).  For example, RMEF has been very active in the discussion about delisting wolves and hunting them to control their numbers.  It’s a hot and divisive subject.  But it makes sense that RMEF would take a stance, because failure to control the wolves could very well upset all of the progress RMEF has made in restoring elk and elk habitat… not to mention the impact these predators would have on other species.  This is right in line with the organization’s Mission Statement.

And I have no issue when organizations like the Pope and Young Club or Boone and Crockett want to take a strong position against practices like high fence or long-range hunting.  They can set their ethical standards as high as they like, because they are using those standards as rules for inclusion in their record books.  In this case, it makes sense to draw firm, ethical parameters (because that’s what rules are, isn’t it?).  And if you join one of these groups, you know what you’re getting into.  That’s why I am not involved with either of these organizations.

With Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, I get the feeling that they’re stretching a little too far.  Maybe it’s because there’s a perceived need to make a splash, and hot topics like drones and high fence hunting get a lot of attention (and thus, drum up more membership).  Or maybe it’s that some of the BHA leadership want to follow their personal agendas and drag the organization along with them.  So they take a popular position on a hot issue, and it plays well with the general, knee-jerk activists on social media.  It gets people talking.

But what I see, standing here with my wallet in my hand, is a bad case of scope creep (or mission creep, if you prefer).  I see a message at risk of being diluted.  And I see an organization that may not be quite clear on where it wants to go… or even where it wants to be right now.

And so, here I am.

I recognize some basic realities… not the least of which is that my individual membership in BHA really isn’t going to amount to much one way or another.  I’m not some mega-rich patron with the potential to fund big programs.  I’m not a widely read outdoors writer with an audience willing to go where I point (and spend their money while they’re at it).  I’m just some guy… albeit, some guy who really likes the idea of a conservation/environmental organization founded and directed by hunters and fishermen that is dedicated to the protection of our wild places.

But I also recognize that, to borrow from Tyler Durden, I’m not a unique and beautiful snowflake.  If I’m thinking these thoughts, then someone else is probably thinking them too.

 

 

 

Fall Is Coming

September 4, 2014

I felt it last night.

It didn’t come like I’d expected, blowing down on a high pressure system out of the north.  No, this came from an unexpected quarter, as the outer bands of tropical storm Dolly washed up from Mexico, the cool winds blew up from the southwest.

But I felt it.

I wrapped up work for the evening and stepped out onto the front porch.

Instead of the stifling, oven-like air that has greeted me for so many weeks, there was a coolness.  It wasn’t “brisk”.  Definitely not “chilly”.  But cool.  Mid-70s cool, which is, you know, pretty damned nice at the end of a long, Texas summer.

Dove season opened a couple of days ago, and against my better judgment, I went on out on opening afternoon.  I hadn’t seen a bird move against the bright, blue sky all day.  When I got out there, I knew why.  My weather station told me it was 97 degrees, with a heat index in the neighborhood of 104.  The humidity was so high, it felt like breathing water as Iggy and I walked across the pasture.  By the time I found a place to sit, in the shade of a cedar bush, I was already soaked with sweat.

Three birds hopped up from the trees as I walked in, but in the heat they only flew 50 yards or so… just enough to stay out of range… before setting back down into a denser part of the thicket.

On a cooler day, I’d have pursued them.  Then again, on a cooler day, they’d have flown much further.

Nothing else flew.

I lasted less than an hour before I said, “the hell with it,” and came back to the house.

No matter what the regulations said, it wasn’t “hunting season” yet.

Last night, though…  last night gave me a hint of what’s coming.

It won’t last, of course.  Even this morning, the humidity has built back in and I can tell the heat is coming back when the sun gets up.  Summer is far from over.

But it gave me the first taste, and that taste aroused something that has been relatively dormant throughout the torpor of summertime.

Two weeks from today, I’ll be packing up the bow and some gear and pointing the truck toward Colorado.  Somewhere in the wilderness, high above Montrose, I hope to encounter an elk.  If all goes well, I’ll be driving home with a cooler full of fresh meat.  And if not, I’ll still have spent a week hiking the high country.  And up there, it will feel like hunting season.  I’ve been watching the weather up there, at least in Montrose, where it’s been in the 70s and 80s during the day, with temperatures dropping to the mid-low 50s at night.  Up in the Uncompahgre, it will be even cooler.

I expect (hope) the first of the aspens will be starting to turn.  The elk will be in, or near, the rut.  Bulls will be bugling through the canyons and over the ridgetops.  They feel it too.

By the time I return to the Hill Country, October will be in the wings and the worst of the Texas summer heat will have receded.

Last night, that promise was carried on the wind.

 

 

Wildlife Food – Persimmons

July 29, 2014

PersimmonsA walk through the horse pastures the other day showed me something I didn’t really expect.  It looks like my wild persimmons are going to provide another bumper crop this season!

That’s good news for the deer, of course, but also for pretty much every other living critter roaming the area.  When these things start to come ripe, they become a major food source for birds and beasts (and bugs too).  The coons and foxes will come out of the woodwork to nibble the rich, sweet fruits.  Deer love them, and will munch their way around the bushes until the ground looks like a “fairy circle”.  I’ll know when they’re ripening, because the ground will be covered with purple scat, punctuated with the big, round seeds.

Coming ripe alreadyAnd I like them too.  When I can get to them before the critters, which is always a race, I like to eat them right off the bush.  I’ve done a little reading on things to do with the fruit, including jams, preserves and even wine… but it’s tough to find enough ripe ones that the animals or birds haven’t already sampled.

These are a native persimmon, by the way, unlike the big, orange ones you find across the country.  When ripe, this fruit will be a dark, purplish black, and they’re smaller than golf balls.  Still, the flavor and consistency is pretty similar to the Asian variety.  And if you eat one before it’s ripe, you’ll get that same astringent bitterness that will turn your mouth inside out.

Deer season is still a couple of months out, and I doubt there’ll be too many fruits left by then.  But every bush on the Hillside Manor is loaded like this, so as long as they last, I expect the deer are going to be getting fat and happy.

Is This Where Social Media Is Bound?

July 23, 2014

I guess I first logged onto the Internet around 1988 or ’89.  If I remember correctly, my first foray was setting up a CompuServe account.  I had the World Wide Web at my fingertips.  I didn’t really know what to do with it at the time, until AOL came along with a user interface and my first taste of social networking (and yeah, I know about The WELL, but I wasn’t part of that).

It was pretty cool then, and it’s pretty cool now.  Social networks provide us with an opportunity to share opinions and information… to debate… to vent… to commiserate… and so much more.  I’ve met a lot of good people.  I’ve discussed topics that I cared about, from hunting and the outdoors to literature and music.  And, of course, I’ve written this blog.

But of course there’s the darker side.  The Internet provides anonymity.  Anonymity leads to abuse.  People say words they would never voice in the presence of other people.  Pretend to be someone they’re not.  With anonymity there is no accountability.  Lie, and call it “truth”.  Make threats without fear of retaliation.

Sometimes, it gets a little overwhelming… as if people have agreed to set aside common sense, decency, and respectful discourse.  Politics has become a game of name-calling and the propagation of memes that rivals anything the 18th and 19th centuries could have thrown at us (unlike our ancestors though, we have no excuse in the 21st century, since we have access to the facts and research from the best minds in the world).  Considered, logical, fact-based debate has devolved into ideologically polarized dogma.

Apparently, when some of us can’t win the battle with wits and words, we turn to technological sabotage… hacking.  Disagree with a site?  Shut it down with a denial of service attack, or hack the site and add bogus content.  Plant virus-laden links.  Or just bombard it with hate-filled vitriol.  Silence those with whom you disagree by any means necessary.

These attacks, lately, have been turned more and more to pro-hunting websites and social media pages.  It’s become so bad, in fact, that hunting advocacy organizations are forming defensive ranks in an effort to fight back.  Here’s the most recent release from the US Sportsmen’s Alliance (USSA).

Task Force Formed to Counter Cyber Threats to Hunters

(Columbus, Ohio) – Sportsmen, conservation organizations and outdoor personalities met at the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance (USSA) headquarters yesterday to develop strategies to counter the recent increase in cyber-attacks on hunters.

The group makes up the Hunter Advancement Task Force with most members sharing a common theme of having been targeted by animal rights activists through social media.

“This is a great opportunity to start developing ways to hold those responsible for the recent wave of cyber-attacks against sportsmen accountable,” said Nick Pinizzotto, USSA president and CEO. “The task force is not only working to stop direct attacks on hunters but also discussing how best to educate the public on the vital role sportsmen play in the conservation of all wildlife.”

Attendees included outdoor television personalities Melissa Bachman and Jana Waller, Colorado hunter Charisa Argys along with her father Mark Jimerson,  Doug Saunders of the National Wild Turkey Federation, Bill Dunn of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, John Jackson of Conservation Force, Dennis Foster of the Masters of Foxhounds Association, Tony Schoonan of the Boone and Crockett Club and Mark Holyoak of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. Other attendees included USSA President and CEO, Nick Pinizzotto, Evan Heusinkveld, USSA vice president of government affairs, Bill Horn, USSA director of federal affairs, Michelle Scheuermann of Bullet Proof Communications and author Michael Sabbeth.

Bachman, a television producer and host, found her life and career threatened after posting a photo of an African lion she harvested to her Facebook page last year. Almost immediately, Bachman came under attack from anti-hunters around the world. Bachman also found herself the target of death threats that “hit way too close for comfort” when anti-hunters showed up at her office.

“Regardless of your beliefs about hunting, Americans can all agree that threatening someone’s life is simply unacceptable.” said Bachman.

Other members of the task force have also had personal experiences with cyber-bullying including Waller who has had not only threats to her life, but also to her career. Waller, the star of Skull Bound TV, found herself having to defend her livelihood after an anti-hunter called her show sponsors to accuse her of poaching.

“The whole issue of harassment is so important,” said Waller. “I am scared it is going to deter people from standing tall and proud as hunters.”

While attacks on outdoor-celebrity hunters have been going on for years, average hunters have largely avoided the wrath of the anti-hunting community.  Earlier this year, however, Charisa Argys was thrown into the spotlight when a picture of her legally harvested mountain lion appeared online. The image brought a flood of criticism and threats not only to her, but to family members as well.

“Just because some anti-hunters in Europe went ballistic over a legal hunt, this issue is going to be associated with me for the rest of my life,” said Argys. “It is never going to go away. It’s going to be there forever. It could affect my job prospects and my life.”

This initial task force meeting was just the first of many to develop short and long-range strategies to protect hunters from cyber harassment.

“In the short term we are developing aggressive legal approaches to pursue both civil and criminal legal actions to prosecute anti-hunting harassers.” said Bill Horn, USSA director of federal affairs. “In the long term, we would like to cultivate strategies to provide additional legal protections for hunters who are finding themselves the target of cyber bullying.”

Pinizzotto added, “What this group discussed today and the ideas generated are a terrific first step in protecting hunters now and in the future. We have some of the brightest minds in our industry working on this critical issue. I look forward to continuing this discussion and adding additional key groups and individuals to the team in the coming weeks.”

 

Pissed Off By Politicians – Sportsmen’s Bill Derailed By Political Shenanigans

July 10, 2014

I don’t usually, and I’m not now, wrapped up in the general political discourse.  There are things I agree with and things with which I disagree… but that’s not what I want to spend my time writing about on the Hog Blog.  But it’s no secret that there’s some serious dysfunction, and because of that dysfunction, things that matter don’t get done… things like the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2014, legislation that would have ensured and enhanced access to public lands for hunters, fishermen, and other outdoorsmen.

At any rate, as much as I have to say about this, I think this press release from the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership says it better.

Political Gamesmanship Sinks Sportsmen’s Bill

Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act fails in Senate for second time as sparring legislators derail bill

WASHINGTON – Broad public support, strong advocacy by hunting and angling groups, and 45 bipartisan cosponsors couldn’t save the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2014, a commonsense package of measures intended to enhance sportsmen’s access and opportunity that failed to advance in the Senate this morning.

The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and others in the sportsmen’s community were deeply invested in advancing the bill, and the TRCP lambasted today’s actions as an “opportunity lost” due to political gamesmanship.

“The Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act, an historic piece of legislation comprising some of the most important measures in years to benefit America’s 40 million sportsmen, has failed due to political infighting, a dysfunctional amendment process, and the extreme wings of both parties, who are more interested in scoring points than legislating on behalf of America’s hunters and anglers and the values of the population at large,” said TRCP President and CEO Whit Fosburgh.

“We are deeply disheartened that a bill with 45 bipartisan cosponsors and the support of the national sporting community could fall victim to a fundamentally broken Senate, where some legislators’ support for sportsmen is only a talking point,” stated Fosburgh. “While we support an open and deliberative legislative process – including Congress’ right to engage in debate and offer amendments – we believe that this process should not come at the expense of advancing commonsense legislation that benefits natural resources conservation, public access and the nation’s outdoors economy.”

A similar package of sportsman-focused legislation likewise failed to advance in the Senate in 2012.
Future opportunities for the bill to advance are highly uncertain, although the bill’s sponsors have indicated that they will try again to pass the bill before year end.

The Remington Outdoor Company, a TRCP corporate partner, reiterated the bill’s value and urged its passage.

“The Remington Outdoor Company fully supports the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2014,” said Teddy Novin, Remington director of public affairs. “This legislation will enhance the experience of America’s sportsmen by preserving the rights of hunters to choose their own ammunition, providing state fish and game agencies greater flexibility to build and maintain public shooting ranges, and improving access to public waterways and lands for hunting, recreational fishing and shooting.”

 

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