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Important Announcement From The Hog Blog

April 1, 2018

Effective immediately, this site will not be hosting our (mostly) annual April Fool’s post.

Seriously.  Due to several factors, it has been deemed unnecessary to flood the Internet with even more frivolous, fake, facetious, fractious, and otherwise false stories.

Moreso, it would be pretty blatantly obvious to run some wild tale today, April 1, after having not posted a single thing since February 7.  I think that even the most gullible reader would see right through that one.

See you next year!

Water, Water Everywhere…

February 7, 2018

We are becalmed.

We have entered the doldrums, as it were, at least here in North Carolina.

Big game seasons are over.  Waterfowl seasons have ended.  Small game is still open, at least for another couple of weeks, but February begins the cruelest months around here… that gap when the guns sit idle, and cobwebs hang dusty on the fishing rods.  The days are wet, cold, and windy, and the ocean roils with restless energy… too rough for small craft, which is fine because most of the nearshore fish are down south with the warm currents around Florida.

In California, this is when I’d turn my attention to hogs, of course (as if they were ever far from my mind to begin with).  When the ridge tops were snowed over or too muddy for the truck, I’d hike in from the paved road, exploring public lands between guiding gigs, or private land hunts at places like the Tejon Ranch.

In Texas, not only were there hogs, there were exotics of all sorts… especially axis deer.  I kept the Savage loaded beside the kitchen door, ready for action should something tasty stray into my pastures… or for friendly invitations to the neighboring ranches.  Friends from out of town would call, and I’d coordinate exotics outings with local outfitters.

But here, in this southeastern edge of North Carolina, I find myself a bit adrift.  I hear rumors of hogs, of course, and not too far away.  It’s all pay-to-play, though, and the budget I have set myself does not permit that sort of extravagance.  It’s a test of patience.  It always was.  I’ll find some hogs.

In April, turkey season will begin.  Spring will begin to raise the ocean temperatures, ushering in the false albacore, the bonito, and close behind, the cobia and spanish mackerel.  I’ll pull the cobwebs off the rods and reels, and shake the spiders out of the kayak and hope for calm winds on the weekends (for a change).  Better yet, maybe there’ll be a boat this year.

Until then, the place could use a controlled burn, but that’s beyond my skills.  The timber here is not mature enough to interest a logging company, and I’m not sure I want the heavy equipment turning my land into a quagmire anyway.    So, for now, I’ll tune up the chainsaw and the bush hog, and take advantage of the defoliated brush to add a few new trails and thin the over-dense thickets.  Maybe I’ll get a couple of new cameras set out.  That should keep me busy for a bit.

So, I’m not quite ready to shoot the albatross just yet.  But winter can be long.

Listen in my own voice.

The Fight For Public Lands Just Got A Little Uglier

January 10, 2018

Battle lines are forming.

(This is a long one, and it’s a lot more political than I would typically be, so settle in.)

I come more and more to the conclusion that wilderness, in America or anywhere else, is the only thing left worth saving.

Edward Abbey

Yesterday, I received an emailed press release from the Safari Club (SCI). In the release, the SCI took to task certain hunter/conservation organizations, such as Backcountry Hunters and Anglers (BHA), for pushing a “leftist” agenda in defense of Bears Ears and other public lands. Earlier in the day, I’d seen an almost identical diatribe posted by an outdoors writer on Facebook.

The language in the messages was not new. It echoed, exactly, the justifications from the Trump administration for reducing the size of the monuments. There are frequent references to the phrases “land grab” and “traditional use.” It threw in the names, “Obama,” and, “Clinton.”  It suggested that the monument designation was a threat to access for hunters and fishermen. It stated that the designation was contrary to the will of “the people” who live in the area. It argued that this was all about ensuring public access, and suggested that organizations like BHA are actually hurting hunters through their support of this “liberal agenda”.

Much of this has been debunked by folks better informed than I, and I’m not going to repeat all of that right now, except for a couple of points. The land was already publicly owned, and that did not change with the monument designation. You can’t grab land you already own. Also, there was nothing in the monument designation that precluded the current uses, including hunting and fishing. All it really did was protect the land from industrial exploitation.

The SCI hatchet piece went even further, drawing a clear line of conflict between hunters and other outdoors folks (kayakers, hikers, bird watchers), painting the non-hunters as an enemy to hunters’ interests. Patagonia, the outdoors equipment supply company who came out strongly opposed to the reduction of the monument, was also targeted. As justification for their attack, the SCI called out the fact that almost nothing sold by Patagonia contributes to Pittman/Robertson funds… giving the impression that these folks were leaches, taking a free ride on the public land that we, the hunters, are paying for. (Nevermind, of course, that tax dollars pay for a large portion of federal land management, in addition to P/R funds which are more specifically earmarked.) It was a textbook example of inflammatory propaganda.

Of course, the whole thing reeks of a centrally produced, smear campaign, not unlike the “green decoy” campaign a few years ago. I expect a slightly intrepid reporter could quickly connect the dots to find that these editorial attacks are coming from the same, D.C.-based sources, and funded by the industries who stand to gain from opening the wild lands. That’s pure speculation on my part, but I’d stand by it.

“Wilderness is an anchor to windward. Knowing it is there, we can also know that we are still a rich nation, tending our resources as we should — not a people in despair searching every last nook and cranny of our land for a board of lumber, a barrel of oil, a blade of grass, or a tank of water.”

Clinton P. Anderson

Sadly, though, in conflicts like this one, rational thought seems to be the first casualty.

It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to look at the actions of this Administration, and see who these actions are designed to benefit. From the tax cuts, to stripping environmental regulations, to taking away protections on public land, everything traces a straight line to the bank accounts of the corporate giants. It’s not about you or me, Joe Public. Any benefit to us is purely incidental, and will probably be short-lived.

None of this should be a mystery either, because it’s pretty much exactly what Trump promised he would do during the campaign. He would create an environment where US businesses could thrive in their own country. In itself, I think that’s a reasonably honorable goal… or at least it’s honest in its intent. I don’t think there’s anything particularly honorable about achieving this goal at the cost of consumer and environmental protections, but at least I can understand how this would get some support from a faction of the country. Short-sighted lust for profit has been a hallmark of American “progress” since the very beginning, and a lot of folks still think that’s just fine.

But I’m okay with that philosophical difference. We can debate and disagree.  What bothers me is the blatant lies that are used to implement this strategy. They’re not shrinking Bears Ears to protect anyone’s access to hunt or fish. That monument had no impact on hunting or fishing access. That argument is a cynical misdirection, intended to garner support of traditionally conservative hunters… and totally reliant on the hope that these people are generally (and intentionally) uninformed about the issue.

They’re shrinking the monument precisely because it will allow some corporations to make a profit. If the Administration could get away with it, they’d sell off every bit of that land to the highest bidder. Since that’s not really feasible, they’re essentially opening it up for free. Then again, giving it away for free makes for a better bottom line anyway.  Keep in mind that mines and oil rigs close off our lands to us. Building a mine or setting a drilling pad is no different than building a house or a hotel. It becomes private property and off-limits to the general public. Worse, when these operations shut down, the huge clean-up tab usually falls back on us, the taxpayers. In essence, we pay for the corporations to strip the resources from our lands, and then we pay to clean up behind them when they leave. It’s a pretty sweet deal for those big companies… not so hot for the taxpayer.

Meanwhile, they sell their plans to the public by turning Americans against one another… in this case, casting folks who are concerned about the environment and the protection of public lands as, “leftists,” and, “tree huggers,” and portraying them as the enemy to good, red-blooded, American hunters. Somehow, they’ve turned “environmentalist” into an epithet… anathema to all that hunters hold dear. If “environmentalists” want it, it must be bad for hunting… or at least that’s the bill of goods that’s being peddled to anyone who’ll buy in.

Lost in this nonsense is the fact that, at its root, conservation is environmentalism, and hunters are (or claim to be) conservationists. When we apply our time or our dollars to preserve habitat, we’re being environmentalists. When we shoot deer, feral hogs, or snow geese to manage populations and protect the ecosystem, that’s environmentalism. Cleaning streams and protecting watersheds to keep a fishery healthy… there it is again.

It’s the same when it comes to protecting public land. It’s in our interests to ensure that public land stays public, and that the habitat and eco-systems it supports stay healthy and intact.  Habitat dies?  Wildlife dies.  Hunting dies.

I’ve had my own philosophical differences with BHA, but when it comes to their work to protect and preserve our public lands, I fully support everything they do. Despite the portrayal by SCI and other detractors, BHA is not about preserving public land for some elitist group of users. In fact, they’re about the exact opposite… protecting public land from elite, private interests… whether it’s protecting wild places from incursion by extractive industry, or keeping Federal land in Federal hands.

It’s hard to place a value on wild places, however; it’s easy to put a price tag on them. I, for one, would sure hate to see that happen to our public lands.

 

Listen in my own voice.

Snow Days And The Melt

January 8, 2018

There’s something melancholy about watching the snow melt.

That’s what I was thinking as I sat out on the porch this evening, sipping my sundowner and watching what is, probably, the last snowy sunset I’ll see here for a while.  For the first time in four days, the temperatures got above freezing, rising almost into the 50s by mid day.  They’ll tap the freezing mark tonight, and by late tomorrow afternoon, they’re calling for temps in the 60s.  Rain will follow, and by the end of the week, it’ll be getting real close to 70.

That’s winter in southeastern North Carolina.

This snowfall was predicted by the thunder that rumbled in the night sky almost two weeks ago.  It’s an old wives tale, of course… winter thunder will be followed by snow within 10 days… but it sure came through this time.  With it came an odd streak of frigid cold, with night time temperatures in the single digits, and some days barely getting out of the teens.  But you probably saw this on the news, so why repeat it?

Being here, all the sensationalism of the news aside, it was a pretty spectacular thing.  This doesn’t happen here very often, and when it does, it’s usually a sloppy, muddy mess within hours of the first flakes.  Not this time, though.  It began as sleet and freezing rain, but switched over in the night to a dry, powdery snow that felt more like something I’d see in the Sierra or Spokane.  By the time it was done, there were probably four to six inches coating the place in a beautiful, pure blanket.

The kid in me rejoiced.

The adult in me, because I had nowhere to be, rejoiced.

The dog, once he got past the strangeness of it all, rejoiced as well.

Snow day!

The horses weren’t as thrilled, and neither were the pipes out at the barn.  I’d winterized, of course, but not with anything like this in mind.  Those plans I’d made for putting the valves underground, and adding a box around the water trough… well, procrastination took its toll.  That’ll teach me.  It also cost me.  I stood in more than one line of customers, buying PVC, glue, and fittings to make repairs.  I’ll be ready for the next freeze… even if it is 25 years before we see anything like this again.

Unfortunately, deer season has been closed for a few days.  I have always loved deer hunting in the snow, but it’s something that I rarely had the opportunity to do… maybe once in North Carolina, and only a few times while guiding up in the Sierra, at Coon Camp Springs.  But there’s something pretty magical about slipping through the snowy woods, maybe following a fresh track.

The duck hunting is usually off the hook around here when we get this kind of weather, as the backwaters freeze over, pushing the birds out into the river and the sound.  Unfortunately, road conditions (or the fact that as I’ve aged, I’ve become a little less impulsive) kept me from journeying out to take advantage.  I did find that the birds are thick on the little pond I call, “the Hog Pond,” and while I wasn’t able to capitalize (long story about wet ammo), I’ll be there in the morning.  I’m looking forward to getting back out on the Cape Fear this weekend, although the frenzy will likely have dwindled significantly by then.

But, “all good things…” as they say, and snowy landscapes don’t stick around long down here.  So I found myself kicking up my feet on the porch this evening, watching the sun set, listening to the melted snow dripping from the roof, sipping a single malt, and thinking about stuff.  It’s pretty while it lasts, and even though it can be a hassle, it sure feels a little sad to see it go.

Here’s to snow days.

Pondering It All From 16′ In A Tree

December 5, 2017

From 16 feet up in a lock-on stand, the evening chill sets in from all directions. It sneaks up through my boots, and blows down my collar. It even finds a loose spot under my shirt tail. I scrunch my shoulders and adjust myself on the seat as quietly as I can. My thumb fidgets with the safety on the old Savage, running gently over the familiar, ridged hump.

The final half-hour of daylight is waning fast. Squirrels run rampant through the brush and leaf litter, keeping me at full alert. A cardinal flutters onto a branch above my head. A thrasher (the most perfectly named bird, ever) is digging at a pile of dry oak leaves somewhere just below the stand. I tighten my grip on the rifle. If the deer are going to move, this feels like the time for it.

These are the sounds of evening in the woods, and they’re all as familiar to me as the sound of my own breathing… and just as much a part of my life.  And the thing that crosses my mind, as I’m reveling in it all, is, “how can I write about this in a way I haven’t already done to death?”

I’ve been going hunting for about as long as I can remember.  I have been writing about it for about half that long, on one level or another.  I’ve used up most of the conceits, from the purple to the poetic.  I’ve leveraged assonance and alliteration.  I’ve tried to make it artsy, and I’ve tried to be bluntly practical.  I’ve even tried to sneak in a little moral lesson here and there, and at some points or other, I turned it into a politically tinged essay.

Where has it taken me?

Honestly, back in the day, when the Hog Blog was running strong, I had a glimpse of opportunity.  I got interviewed by CNN, The New York Times, USA Today, and The Washington Post.  I was even quoted in the draft of a Wildlife Management text book (no idea where that one ended up, and I can’t even remember what it was that I said).

I got to go on a couple of cool hunting trips, and got to play with a bit of cool gear.  I’ve met some really cool people, including a few of my outdoors writing idols, and I’ve made some great friends (and that’s probably the best thing of all).

But I still work for a living, writing training documents and programs for a medical software company.  I haven’t written the book of world-shaking essays, or published my own version of the Great American Novel.  I’m not travelling to read at colleges, or signing books at little, hippie book stores. Reporters from major media outlets aren’t trekking through the woods to my secluded little hermitage to score a sound byte or two.

I’m not really sure that’s what I want out of life anyway, but I guess part of me thought that might be a possible future, you know?  It’s a fun fantasy, like the teenage quarterback dreams of playing in the NFL, or the argumentative little girl dreams of growing up to be a Supreme Court Justice.  I could be the great novelist… the reclusive, slightly eccentric writer who they’ll all talk about after I’m dead.

But when it comes to it, I realize (I think) that I write for the same reason that I hunt.  It feels good.  It’s my nature.  There’s a sort of grounding liberation to it.  At any minute, maybe that monarch of the woods will walk in front of my bow, or just the right set of words will flow into my head that makes the music play.  But the joy comes from the search… from the hunt.  It’s not the meat in the freezer or the words on the page that drive me.  It’s the feeling that comes with trying to put it there.

A tree stand is a great place for contemplation, but it’s a little tricky to write up here.

 

A Hog Blog Political Rant

April 1, 2017

Ya’ll know I don’t generally go in for political discussions here, particularly politics beyond those directly affecting our outdoor lives.  But I just feel like this is my damned platform, and I can use it anyway I like.  Considering that I haven’t used it at all since March 6, I ought to do something with this space.  So I’m going to rant.

Or not.

Ya’ll caught me.  It’s April 1… April Fool’s day.  As tradition requires, I’ve been beating the bushes of my brain in a battle to beget a beguiling fib.

But it dawned on me yesterday that it’s hard to find as much humor in prevarication while we’re in the midst of this whole “fake news” mania.   You might think that, with the intensified focus on false or misleading news, people would be getting better about believing some of the purely unbelievable bullshit that’s flying around out there.  If you thought that, you’d be wrong.  It’s as bad, or worse than ever.  Every time I turn around, someone shares a link from a satire site or a fake news site (they’re a real thing) and it sparks an outraged response from people who think it’s real… no matter, apparently, how unreal the story may be.  Often, the person who shared the story doesn’t realize (or care) that it’s untrue.

Then again, the whole science of meme theory and its collision with social media is a fascinating phenomenon to observe.  For example, on Facebook, yesterday, a couple of folks jumped the gun and put up some April Fool’s jokes.  In particular, Vortex Optics deserves a special mention for the video they released.  Bullet Cam is an “ad” for their new collaboration with Hornady to create a bullet-mounted, digital video camera.  Ostensibly, this will allow the shooter to get an immediate view of the results of their shot.

Now, a practical and logical mind would (or should) immediately recognize how unlikely this technology is.  Some folks in the comments on YouTube and Facebook definitely did challenge the technology, debunking the video with “carefully considered, scientific explanations” of why the video is “fake” or (and this was even more entertaining) why they wouldn’t use these bullets because they won’t perform accurately.  Others were fascinated with the idea, and did a little speculative, reverse engineering to figure out how Vortex was able to make this work.  A handful, of course, commented on the obvious… the video was posted on March 31/April 1.   Happy April Fool’s Day!

So it can be entertaining, but at times, it’s also infuriating… even frightening… to see how easily manipulated people can be.  And yeah, I have to include myself in “people”, because I’ve stepped into the trap a time or two.  It’s too easy to let a confirmation bias overwhelm our critical thinking… whether it’s an intriguing “new product” or a political smear job.

We believe because we want to believe.  I thought about that as I reviewed some of my past April 1 posts and your comments, and I realized that one of the reasons they worked so well was that some of you guys really wanted to believe I’d scored an awesome hunting spot and a new rifle.  You were excited for me that I was going to hunt an escaped buffalo.  Some of you were thrilled to read that I was moving back to Texas, after being uprooted to North Carolina.

I toyed with that emotional connection, and leveraged it to mislead you.  Today, with everything going on, I just don’t have the heart to do that to anyone.

And that’s not an April Fool’s joke.

Be well, my friends.  And remember… trust, but verify.

A New Year’s Drabble, At The End Of A Long Season

January 3, 2017

There is something about sitting in a deer stand in the pouring rain, waiting for sunrise, secure and dry in good, waterproof gear.

The rain dampens and drowns all other sounds, dripping from the limbs overhead and plopping dully into the sodden duff.  A cardinal call peals from the brambles, and the song seems oddly piercing.  But it is just as suddenly muted, soaked up into soggy air.  Geese gabbling on the pond sound like they’re miles away, but I can see them in the dim light paddling, only yards from my perch.

Misty rain makes shadows that swim at the edges of the light.  It is the tricky time, as night and day wrestle for command.  Hyper-alert, my senses struggle to adjust.  Familiar forms are alien, morphing, shifting shades.  Is that a bush or a bobcat, branch or antler?

My rifle rests on the shooting rail.  My face is freckled with chilly sprinkles.  Perfect droplets run off my hat brim and drizzle into my lap.  I breathe breaths of clean, wet air.  Wrapped in warmth, I take it all in until I’m filled with something that I can’t define.

The wind blows and the rain comes down, and nothing moves but little birds and bushes.

Welcome, 2017.

I’m not ready for another year, but, to be honest, I wasn’t ready for the last one.

Or the one before that.

In fact, it seems to be a recurring theme as time goes by and I get older and an hour seems to get progressively shorter… dropping a few seconds at a time until weeks feel like days.  Maybe it’s true that there is such a thing as a “hill”, and once you’re over it, you begin a steady, downwind run.  Driven before the wind, it’s easy to forget how strong it’s blowing and things just go rushing by.  You can find yourself off course before you know it, with no easy way to correct.

That’s sort of how it’s felt, anyway.  I used to sort of like living at the edge of control, but I’m older now.  To keep to the nautical metaphor, I feel like I need to throw over the sea anchor or even luff the sails for a bit and let the wind out of them.  Maybe this year will be the year that I can do that.  I don’t know.

What’s it all mean for the Hog Blog?

I don’t know that either.  January usually means SHOT Show.  I’ve got my credentials for the show, but it’s very doubtful I’ll make the trip this year.  I think I mentioned the last time that I’m just not getting much out of the show any more.  Based on press releases and media invitations I’ve seen so far, the emphasis on “tactical” has doubled down this year.  I’m not sure what else they can put picatinny rails or digital camo on, but I’m just not interested in ARs, super-duper-long-range-automated-rangefinding-sniper-rifles, or other pseudo-combat gear, tailored for the civilian market.  Here’s my Man Card, if you want it.

On top of that, I’m not feeling much incentive to write frequently, which leads to reduced readership, which results in less interest from manufacturers or vendors to send me stuff to review… and if all they offer is tactical, I don’t really want to review it anyway.  It’s also true that active readership is pretty much down all across the blogosphere.  Facebook and Twitter have shortened attention spans, so if you don’t have fresh content every five or six minutes, you’re passe.  I know a few folks are still making a go of the blogs, but they are getting paid for it (or paying someone to do it for them).  I’m neither.  My biggest thrill from writing this blog was the participation of readers.  You just don’t see that any more, and I’m a little hoarse from yelling into the desert (vox clamantis, and all that).

Any of you who have been around for a while (and thanks, by the way) have probably noticed that I haven’t done much (any) hog hunting in a couple of years.  While I’m still working on that, the reality is that if I want to hunt hogs, it’s going to be a pay-to-play thing here in NC.  It’s honestly a mystery to me why hogs haven’t spread as widely here as they have in other states, but they haven’t.  I’ve heard of some good places, but it’s private land, and opportunities carry a price tag.  Public land hog hunting, as anywhere else, is either really poor or a carefully guarded secret.  So hog hunting content here will be taking a back seat to other hunting and fishing… or, to be honest, no content at all.

Sometimes, I enjoy writing for the sake of writing, so I’ll probably keep doing it from time to time.  I still follow the issues and topics that I find interesting, including lead ammunition discussions (still fairly active), and, of course, wild hogs.  I suppose I’ll share the occasional news piece, if it really strikes me as relevant or important.  I do think that, with the new administration in the White House and Congress, for better or worse, the lead ammo issue will die a quiet (if ephemeral) death… at least on the federal level.  But we’ll see.  Some states are still bouncing it around.

So, I’m not quite ready to call the Hog Blog dead, but I don’t think 2017 will signal a grand renaissance either.

California Waterfowl Steps Up Their Advocacy Game

November 8, 2016

Let me start with this.

Many years ago, when I first got involved with Ducks Unlimited, I stayed with the organization because they were focused.  Waterfowl habitat preservation and management were the name of the game.  The organization did not veer off into the divisive politics of the 2nd Amendment, or involve itself in hunting topics that were not directly related to waterfowl or habitat.  “It’s for the birds,” was not just the axiom, but the reality.

Later, when I moved to California, I joined the California Waterfowl Association for similar reasons.  They were focused on waterfowl, specifically CA waterfowl.  It made sense to me, to belong to both DU and CWA, since California is such a huge state, with very localized issues that are critical to the Pacific flyway.  Like DU, they were seldom involved in political issues that did not relate directly to the mission.

But that may be changing…

This morning, in my email, I saw the following press release:

CWA Establishes Legislative Action Fund

The political climate in California for hunting, guns, water supply and land management issues is dire.

That’s why California Waterfowl formed the California Waterfowl Legislative Action Fund. With your help, the CWLAF will protect waterfowl interests and sportsmen from this ever-worsening erosion of our rights.

Our Goals:

  • Better educate officials, particularly state and federal legislators, about water conservation, wetlands and hunting heritage issues.
  • Improve access and influence for waterfowl interests and sportsmen at the State Capitol and Washington D.C.

California is becoming more urban, and a greater number of state and federal officeholders are elected who do not understand the important role hunters play in wildlife conservation.

Meanwhile, animal rights and anti-gun organizations are increasing their influence at the state and federal levels.

On top of all that, competing demands for water continue to increase, while waterfowl habitat is threatened by urban growth.

The California Waterfowl Legislative Action Fund was formed to fight these trends through political advocacy, education and public outreach efforts.

It is critical that we be as effective as possible in informing legislators and the general public about sportsmen’s important contributions to society.

By supporting us, you will make those necessary education and outreach efforts to decision-makers more successful.

You will also help us fight back against anti-hunting and anti-gun extremists threatening to take our outdoor heritage and rights away.

So donate today! Visit www.calwaterfowlactionfund.org.

At first glance, I was a little bit disappointed to see this.  While the goals stated above appear to maintain the focus on waterfowl and habitat, I saw it veering into the murky realm of defending “gun rights”, and possible entanglement in the sucking morass that is the battle against anti-hunters in Sacramento.  While I’m not a member now (I don’t live in CA anymore), I don’t think I would have been happy to see my membership fees diverted from habitat protection, acquisition, and management.

In comparison, this is generally ground that Ducks Unlimited does not tread, and I think they have benefited from keeping clear.  DU funds go to the specific mission, and nothing else.  Bypassing the divisive political issues, like 2nd Amendment or broad ethical fights that have nothing to do with waterfowl or habitat, has allowed the organization to keep a fairly diverse membership across the country.  Of course, their position has not come without criticism, but the results have been largely positive.

Still, Cal Waterfowl is not DU, and California is not the whole country (plus Canada and Mexico, where DU is also engaged).  There are very real and specific, localized threats to all hunting in the state, including waterfowl hunting.  The more I thought about it, the more I recognized that this change is probably necessary.

Most of the organizations in California that profess to hunter advocacy have morphed, in one way or another, into gun rights organizations.  The focus has shifted to fighting gun policies, which is mostly justifiable, but the platforms are verging on NRA-level extremism.  The fact is that many hunters do not agree with these extremist positions, and as a result, they withdraw both their support and their engagement… and with them goes a critical degree of political strength.    In California, of all places, hunters need all the political clout they can get.

With the exception of the Sportsmen’s Alliance, Golden State hunters really have no organization committed to fighting the myriad threats to hunting, whether it’s misguided legislation or threats to hunting access on State and Federal lands.  And no other sportsmen’s organization is taking on the water issues that are wracking the state right now.  CWA is generally respected and well-positioned to take up that banner.

Like I said, I’m not in CA any more, and if I’m completely honest, I’ve sort of surrendered much hope in changing the political direction of gun and hunting policies in that state.  It’s one of the reasons I chose to move away.  But for those who are still living there, by choice or by necessity, I think it’s worth giving the Cal Waterfowl Legislative Action Fund a close look… and maybe giving them a few of your hard-earned dollars as well.

Arby’s Has The Meats… Even Venison?

October 27, 2016

I’m no fan of fast food these days (with the notable exception of Bojangles chicken… it’s a weakness), but I’m not going to play the elitist snob who dismisses those who still eat that stuff.  I get the convenience, and I grok the fact that a lot of people actually enjoy some of it.  I know I used to.  Hell, I still get nostalgic over the thought of a Hardee’s cheeseburger and fries, soaking through the paper bag.  If I close my eyes, I can almost smell it… almost as if I’m back in the backseat of that old station wagon, counting the seconds until we get home, where I’ll devour the greasy treat.  Those were the days.

I also developed a thing for Arby’s roast beef sandwiches, back in “the day”.  They were a “sophisticated” departure from burgers, and you could mix that “Horsey” (horseradish) sauce with their sweet, red barbecue sauce to make a runny, orange mess that invariably dripped all over your t-shirt on the way to the mall.

But I let fast food drop out of my diet over time, and now, when I do eat it, most of it literally nauseates me (except that damnable, fried chicken).  That should be a sign of some sort, but I still catch myself out of necessity or nostalgia, stopping along the highway for a quick bite.  I’m often left disappointed by the experience, and wishing for something a bit more toothsome.  Apparently, I’m not alone.  In response to declining sales, the fast food industry has stepped up their campaign to bolster both the quality of their food and the variety on their menus.

Arby’s joined the fray, and their current campaign is, “We have the meats!”  In addition to beef, they serve chicken, turkey, and pork belly sandwiches.  I stopped in the other day to meet up with my mom and some of her friends, for whom a trip up I-40 often includes a stop at Arby’s.  It was my first time inside an Arby’s in years, and I was surprised at the variety of new offerings (but I still opted for the regular, roast beef sandwich).

Never, though, would I have anticipated their next move.  Beginning next week, Arby’s is going to start selling venison sandwiches (in a limited, trial market area).  It’s true, according to the press release that’s been making the rounds.  It describes the new sandwich as:

The Venison Sandwich at Arby’s features a thick-cut venison steak and crispy onions topped with a juniper berry sauce on a toasted specialty roll. The venison is marinated in garlic, salt and pepper and then cooked for three hours to juicy, tender perfection. The juniper berry sauce is a Cabernet steak sauce infused with juniper berries, giving the already unique sandwich another signature twist.

For the more knee-jerk inclined, hold your water.  Nobody is going to start market hunting North American deer again to supply this demand.  The venison comes from farmed stock, not wild, free-ranging populations.  Much of the commercially available venison in the U.S. comes from Argentina or New Zealand, but there are farms here in the States that also supply “game” meat.

There has been some other discussion, though, among a diverse range of opinions.  Some people applaud Arby’s for putting venison out there in a very visible way that might help form positive attitudes toward eating game meat.  Others seem to be concerned that a “fast food treatment” of game meat will cheapen the experience, and maybe even turn people off to eating venison.  Some foodies are turning up their noses at the idea of farm-raised game altogether, but then, I wonder how many foodies eat at Arby’s in the first place.

For my own part, I don’t see myself rushing out to buy one of these new sandwiches (I couldn’t if I wanted to, since the nearest trial restaurant is Atlanta, GA), but I don’t know that I’d knock it.  I’ve eaten farm-raised venison at fancy restaurants (it was amazing), and I’ve also had it at less fancy places where it would be polite to call it, “mediocre.”  My guess is that Arby’s version will feature a largely flavorless piece of meat that will rely heavily on the sauce for crowd-pleasing flavor.  But don’t be discouraged by my preconceptions.  You’re welcome to form your own.

In the meantime, no matter how good or bad we may think the venison sandwich will be, I’ve been absolutely loving the supporting ad campaign! Check it out.

I’ve Got Tales To Tell

October 17, 2016

Sitting in my stand the other evening, watching a trio of foxes hunt mice in the pasture below me, I realized there are stories to share, and I’m not doing it.  I have blamed all these other factors, but the fact is, all I need to do is put down a few words… or better, dig the video cameras out of their boxes.  I can let nature do the talking.

Oh, yes, most of my gear is still packed in boxes since leaving Texas.  Some has been pulled out, briefly, then re-interred in the shuffle of moving, removing, and settling down.  When I loaded the Savage for the opener of rifle season this weekend, I realized I had four rounds.  Somewhere, in all that stuff, I’ve got boxes and boxes of ammo.  But all I could find was the four cartridges strapped to the rifle sling.

The other morning, I practically turned the spare room we’ve been using for storage upside down, looking for my pop-up ground blind.  I gave up, angry, and went out to the old barn to get the chainsaw.  There, half-obscured in spider webs and dust, was my ground blind.

Etc.

But just because I’m not shooting anything right now (I almost shot something Saturday evening… but that’s one of those tales) doesn’t mean there’s nothing to tell.  There’s the pileated woodpeckers, working on the dead gum trees in my “swamp”.  Carolina wrens flit and chitter.  And the squirrels… oh, for the first frosty mornings and the air rifle.  Wood ducks are roosting in the retired hog lagoon on the property next door (flushed out by the neighbor who bought it), whistling in at last light to whine and splash.

So, I’m officially dusting off the Hog Blog.  I’ll get those cameras rolling.  And I’ll see about breathing some life into this place.

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