March 10, 2016
I’ve been pretty busy and preoccupied of late, and updating the blog has simply not been at the top of my agenda. Apologies for that. I’m taking a breather now, just to jot this note today (and to keep the blog feed alive).
I have made a mental effort to crank something out, here and there. I just haven’t been able to get traction, potentially because I’ve been idle for so long that the backlogged ideas are totally overwhelming. There’s a lot going on, from Missouri where there’s a proposal to ban sport hunting for feral hogs, to Minnesota’s proposed ban on lead shot in a wide swath of State-managed land. Turkey season is just around the corner, my hunt for huntable hogs is ongoing (but not going far), and I’ve got some new boots to review.
Of course, there’s politics. Talk about being overwhelmed!
But then, I tend to stray away from general political commentary for many reasons, not the least of which is the knowledge that I’m sorely under-qualified to make meaningful analysis of most of it. There’s a lot I don’t know about economics, foreign policy and diplomacy, and so many other things. The big picture is far larger than my personal experience, and while I certainly may discuss ideas and opinions with certain individuals, I’m not sure they’re entirely informed. When I do talk politics, I usually try to talk as much to get educated as I do to educate.
Sadly, an awful crowd of folks aren’t similarly constrained.
A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Take that literally. With a lot of knowledge, you can build the hydrogen bomb, but with a little knowledge, you can use it.
February 23, 2016
I don’t think it’s a stretch to suggest that, when it comes to public relations, the firearms industry and lobby has sometimes been its own worst enemy. While organizations like the NRA have done a reasonably good job at recruiting a strong membership of gun owners, they’ve done so with fairly polarizing tactics and a bit of all-or-nothing rhetoric that has turned away many gun owners, not to mention alienating folks who don’t own, and don’t like firearms. (I say this, by the way, as a fully-paid Life NRA member.)
The truth is, outside of the “faithful”, most people have formed a lot of ideas about what the firearms industry is about… and to many of those people, it’s not a pretty picture. A common perception is that the firearms industry is focused only on getting as many guns into the hands of as many people as possible, and to hell with any negative consequences. So, for example, when a child gets his hands on a gun and accidentally shoots someone, a lot of folks want to lay blame for the problem at the feet of the firearms industry because, “all they care about is selling guns.”
That’s a shame, because it’s not an accurate assessment.
Despite the NRA’s prevalent place in the public eye (and public opinion), it’s fair to say that the NSSF (National Shooting Sports Foundation) is the real face of the firearms industry in the U.S. As the trade association of the U.S. firearms industry, with the stated goal of promoting, preserving, and protecting hunting and the shooting sports, the NSSF speaks for most gun and ammo makers, and holds an influential position when it comes to driving policy and public relations for its members. In that role, the organization has done a number of things that deserve the spotlight… but due to the hyper-politicized nature of the topic, those programs have remained relatively obscure.
One of those programs is Project ChildSafe. I’ve written about, or mentioned, the project several times over the years (such as here, here, and here), but I feel like I need to keep pushing what they’re doing.
Most people I’ve spoken to, including many hunters and gun owners, have no idea what Project ChildSafe is about. The handful who have heard of it think it’s a program to give out gun locks… which is accurate enough in a small way. But that’s not all.
Here’s what the organization says about itself:
Project ChildSafe is a real solution to making our communities safer. More than 15,000 law enforcement agencies have partnered with the program to distribute more than 36 million firearms safety kits to gun owners in all 50 states and the five U.S. territories. Through vital partnerships with elected officials, community leaders, state agencies, businesses, the firearms industry and other stakeholders, Project ChildSafe has helped raise awareness about the safe and responsible ownership of firearms and the importance of securely storing firearms to help reduce accidents and access by unauthorized individuals.
In other words, what Project ChildSafe is about is safe storage, which can include gun locks, but also revolves around education and information.
I had the chance a week or so ago to chat with Bill Brassard, NSSF Director of Communications, and talk to him about the project. I hoped to get a little better understanding of Project ChildSafe, and what might help get the message out to more people.
One of the first points Brassard made is that the project relies on its partnerships with communities and local law enforcement to promote the message. “Our goal is to have community partners,” he told me.
The way this works is, the NSSF provides media kits, information, and gun locks to community organizers (usually law enforcement). The partners then manage and host gun safety events, using the materials the NSSF provided. The idea is for these partners to manage communication with local media outlets to publicize their local events. As more agencies and communities learn about the program, they can engage with NSSF to host their own events.
The challenge, he explained, is that in many cases communities wait until something happens before taking any action. Not that it’s ever too late to get the message about safe firearm storage, but the idea is to prevent shooting incidents before they happen.
The other challenge to this reactive scenario, of course, is that the story becomes about the guns and the tragedy. As Brassard pointed out in our conversation, the media (particularly the major media outlets) tend to focus on the politics of guns. To an increasingly cynical public, the NSSF coming in after the tragedy with a safe storage program seems almost disingenuous. The actual message is lost in the uproar.
What is that message?
I asked Brassard to nail it down for me.
“Secure storage is the number one way to prevent firearms deaths,” he said. “There is a safe storage solution for every circumstance, and every budget. There is no excuse for leaving a loaded firearm laying around.”
It is absolutely true, as he pointed out, that unintentional shootings have declined steadily over the years, largely as a result of improved education (hunter safety, firearms handling, etc.) and the increased accessibility of safety equipment such as locks, storage boxes, and safes. Statistics show pretty clearly that safety campaigns have been quietly succeeding, even if most people have not noticed.
But statistics don’t mean squat when it happens to you or someone you care about. This is why the message of Project ChildSafe is still important. “Own it? Respect it. Secure it.”
If you’ve bought a new gun from Winchester, Browning, Savage, or several others, you have probably seen that little badge inside the box… right there, in the package beside the cable lock. It’s a great reminder, but of course it only reaches the folks who just bought a gun.
I think, as a tagline, that’s OK. But personally, I’m more in line with Mr. Brassard’s words. “No excuse.”
There’s no excuse not to secure your guns. These days, with affordable biometric hand safes, a lock in every gun box, and even the modicum of common sense, I have a hard time believing anyone who claims they “couldn’t” lock their gun away. You could. You just chose not to.
You can’t teach a kid not to pick up a gun. You can teach a kid that it’s “bad” to play with guns, but no amount of teaching can overcome the juvenile monkey-brain. If you listen to interviews of the parents of kids who have shot themselves, or shot other kids, almost all of them “thought” their kid “knew better.” Kids do stupid things because their minds aren’t fully developed. They don’t really comprehend permanence. They don’t think Mom or Dad would leave a gun laying around if it were really that dangerous. It’s just a second… and that’s all it takes.
And it’s not just kids. That gun you keep by the bed for “security” isn’t very secure while you’re at work. The shotgun in the closet… just keeping it out of sight doesn’t keep it out of reach. This is how guns make it to the streets and into the hands of criminals.
Look, if you have a carry gun (and a legal right to carry it), then carry it. Don’t leave it laying in a place where someone can walk off with it. If you don’t want to pack it, then store it. Lock it up. Do us all a favor. Do yourself a favor.
There’s no excuse not to.
Learn more about Project ChildSafe on their website at http://www.projectchildsafe.org.
January 26, 2016
In a moment, I am going to share a full-page ad from the NSSF (National Shooting Sports Foundation) with a small grain of salt. I am not in lockstep with everything this industry organization has to say. I think, at times, the NSSF has pushed the bounds of reason (e.g. using misleading and unbased information to garner opposition of the lead ammo ban). By and large, though, the NSSF is extremely consistent in what it is… a foundation to represent and promote the interests of the shooting sports industry. Understand and accept this, and their messaging is logical and en pointe.
What is presented in this “Open Letter” is pretty much spot on, and while I’ve heard a lot of anti-gun voices contesting these points, it is difficult to deny the facts.
The NSSF has, indeed, taken a wide variety of actions to address illegal firearms sales (pushing for NICS enhancements, promoting the “Don’t lie for the other guy” campaign against straw buyers, etc.), promote and enhance firearms safety (firearms training for retailers, Project ChildSafe, gun lock campaigns), and encourage the enforcement of existing firearms legislation.
It’s also a fact that many of the Presidential statements on gun control, as well as those from some other Democrats, have misrepresented the realities of firearms commerce and availability in this country. They have done so, relying on the viral nature of misinformation to spread across the uneducated voter base. Unfortunately, the NRA has such low credibility (because they too often use the same tactics), that any counterpoint they offer is dismissed out of hand by the general public. That’s the NRA’s own doing, though… their own diseased chickens, come home to roost.
Nevertheless, in the interest of offering up a counterpoint to the vocal and widespread arguments of the anti-gun contingent, here’s the NSSF’s “open letter” to the President. Take it as you will, keeping in mind the source… and feel free to offer your rebuttal here if you’d like. However, I am unlikely to dive into a deep argument about the 2nd Amendment or firearms regulation on this site.
And, as always, if it gets ugly I’ll apply the Delete key with extreme prejudice.
January 6, 2016
I’ve started and stopped this one a dozen times or more. Hell, I started trying to write this before Christmas, and here it is, well into the new year, and the days are running by like they know where they’re going.
Hemingway strove, each day in Paris… maybe throughout his career… to write “one true sentence.” That’s something like what I’ve been after here, but I guess it’s hung me up. (Hemingway also said something along the lines of, “if you can’t write, don’t write.”)
Last Friday, New Year’s Day, was the end of my first deer season at the new house in North Carolina. I reflected on that as I sat under the maples and gum trees in the pre-dawn, the crossbow balanced on my knee, and some unseen creatures moving closer, and then away in the darkness. But within two hours of daylight, my nose running from a wicked head cold and my stomach growling for breakfast, I called it off. There’s a little room in the freezer, but I don’t think we’ll be buying red meat in 2016.
That’s not really what I wanted to write, though.
Anyone who’s followed the chaos and cacophony that has been The Hog Blog knows I generally steer clear of politics. It’s not that I don’t have my own opinions and convictions, but I learned a long time ago that trying to hash that stuff out on the Innerwebz is a fool’s errand. Nevertheless, I’m compelled to write something.
It seems to me that we’re at a unique and strange point right now, both politically and socially. I don’t think it’s just this country either, but all over the world, things feel like they’re teetering on a tiny, sharp point.
Maybe it’s just the inundation of information, both from the mainstream news media trying to stay relevant in the digital world, and from non-traditional media that appears to be blazing new trails and constantly blurring the lines between fact, opinion, and fiction. Maybe it’s age and my growing cynicism. Whatever it is, I can’t avoid the sensation of tension near the breaking point… between races… between religious zealots… between economic classes… between political extremes. It’s like a big wave rolling onto a sandbar… all the energy condensing, forcing the roiling water into a peak that’s growing higher and beginning to crest and curl.
When I moved to Texas, part of my plan was to essentially pull a big rock over my head. I would live out my days on the frontier (and it truly is as much of a frontier as you’ll find in this country), happily doing my own thing, and leave the world out there to go to hell as it might. I would turn my back on political bullshit that seemed to, more and more, consume people’s lives (and attitudes). I figured that, no matter how screwed up things got, this would be the last place to feel the effects of political or even economic upheaval… or at least, it would be the place where I could ignore it the longest.
Maybe it would have worked out. The truth is, though, I can’t just not care.
I can’t not care that our political process is rapidly declining into pig slop. Elections at every level have all the integrity and dignity of Jr. High School politics. Rather than the ideal of an informed and engaged electorate, the general voter pool appears to be increasingly susceptible to the most ridiculous rhetoric, intentionally ignorant, and focused on knee-jerk reaction rather than thoughtful consideration. As a result, we’re seeing everything from a growing movement to surrender Federal lands to State and local ownership (which is the fast lane to privatization), to blatant erasure of any aspect of our country’s history that may give offense to any portion of the citizenry.
I can’t not care about the evolution of extreme ideology. The ugly realities of xenophobia and racism, never extinguished but at least dimmed for so long, are being blown into full flame under the guise of “patriotism” and “common sense”. Good people are being sold a bill of goods. The currency of the day is fear and loathing (Hunter Thompson should be here now). Part of me wants to think they deserve what they’re getting, but really, it hurts something inside of me to see it happen. Negativity breeds negativity, and that affects everyone, bystanders included.
All is not darkness, of course, and if I turn off the news and step away from the Internet for a few minutes, things brighten appreciably.
2016 is full of promise on a personal level. The Texas house is sold, the new house is bought (and one day, the rain will stop and they’ll finally get the new house in place), and I can start to re-learn the home place. Hunting season is pretty much done for the year, but after a mercifully short (I hope) winter, it will be time to focus on the ocean. Last summer was practically a loss, but this year will bring fishing and diving. I can’t wait for the first dinner of fresh, grilled, spanish mackerel, or grouper speared on one of the offshore wrecks.
From a blogging perspective, I’m pretty sure I’ll still have something to write about. Guns and hunting aren’t going anywhere, despite the panicked rhetoric. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little concerned about the future of public lands, especially in the West, but the direct impact on me… I dunno. I still want to hunt the wilderness in Montana some day. I know I’ll be making the occasional trips back to Colorado for elk, and that relies on public land and access. But really, I’m pretty sure that, like most hunters, I’ll find a way to keep doing what I do.
I’m heading to the SHOT Show in two weeks. I’ll only be there a couple of days, but I have no doubt that it will be a couple of days dominated by political discussions of varying logical and factual integrity. I intend to drown the noise in the general chaos of the Show floor, inspecting new products and (hopefully) rekindling relationships with various vendors and PR representatives. Fingers crossed, I’ll be looking for some quality products to review over the coming months.
As long as the world doesn’t end between now and then.
December 16, 2015
Sorry, Mr. Haggard, but I had to borrow that.
It’s not cold here, actually (c’mon, the point isn’t literal), but I’ve got to say this month is dragging on and flying by all at the same time.
The big thing is this new house. Pulling it all together, getting all the moving parts aligned, and actually figuring out when it’s going to happen has been a killer. It’s mostly the waiting.
To begin with, there were the soybeans in the field where I wanted to put the house. Due to the ridiculous amount of rain we’ve had this fall, the soybean harvest has been delayed all across the state. That, of course, didn’t jibe with our timing. We’d expected the beans to be gone by the first or second week of November. We’d planned on getting the house in place (it’s a modular) probably near the beginning of December. Things pushed on the house, which is good, because the rain kept the farmer out of the field.
But then I got the call. The house will be shipping at the end of this week. The guy showed up to do the initial recon of the site, and in addition to the beans still on the homesite, there are questions about getting the big tractor-trailer rig and the huge crane they use to set the house down the dirt path to the field in the first place.
Before I knew it, I was contracting with someone to grade the drive and build in a gravel driveway. Meanwhile, the weather guy is saying we’re in for another storm tomorrow with up to an inch of rainfall… on top of thoroughly saturated ground.
We haven’t even got the foundation in place yet.
And the bank book is getting skinnier and skinnier at a frightening rate.
I’m getting stressed just writing this, but I expect you get the idea.
Not to vent, but dammit, what good is a blog if I can’t vent from time to time.
Oh. And Christmas is next week. Santa hits the trail a week from tomorrow. It will be the first time in years I haven’t had to travel across the country for Christmas. We even put up a tree, which is something else I haven’t done in ages. This year, we can run down to Wilmington to visit with mom and the family, and then I can drive back to my own place. These are good things. But somehow, my thoughts of relaxation, comfort, and joy are getting tamped down too tight to burn.
I know. Take a breath, right? I learned a long time ago that nothing lasts forever. This, too, shall pass.
If we can just make it through December.
October 31, 2015
I haven’t done a lot of updating in my blog rolls in a while, but in case you noticed the sudden absence of three key links, I thought I’d share the reasoning… and maybe make a call for action.
As much as I’ve enjoyed the writing of Bill Heavey, Phil Bourjailly, and (most of the time) Dave Petzal, I have removed all links to the Field and Stream blogs from my site. This is due, in main part, to the fact that I’m sick to death of auto-play, video advertisements that pop up the moment I enter the site. I’ve commented on this before, and have made my opinion clear on the blogs and on the F&S Facebook feed.
I know the loss of me as a reader, and the loss of those links from my little blog really aren’t going to mean much to the corporation that owns and operates Field and Stream. But you’ve got to take a stance somewhere, right, so here’s my fart in the whirlwind.
But hey, if you’d care to join this Quixotic tilt, I encourage you to do so. But, before you drop out, drop in on their blogs and leave a comment calling for an end to the auto-play ads. Let them know what it is you object to. It probably won’t mean shit, but then again, maybe it will.
(And yes, I know there are ad-blockers and settings I can adjust on my side to limit this sort of advertising, but it seems odd to me that the onus should always fall on the consumer.)
October 6, 2015
In passing, since insomnia seems to be the order of the day (or night, more appropriately)…
Barnett sent me the cocking device for the RAZR, and I had the chance to play with it yesterday. A couple notes:
First of all… holy crap!
This thing is fast. I don’t have a chrono, but it’s advertised at 400 fps, and I have no doubt these bolts are reaching something near that speed. There’s a catch, though, since the bolts at such a high velocity are blasting right through my disintegrating Black Hole target. They also pass almost completely through my Yellow Jacket.
The problem with the Yellow Jacket is that whatever that magical stuff is inside tends to grab hold of the fletched end of the bolt, and it’s pretty much impossible to retrieve it without stripping the fletches off.
Summary note: I need more crossbow bolts. It doesn’t take long to destroy three of them. I also need a new, serious, crossbow target. Time for a stop at Gander Mountain, next time I’m up in Raleigh/Durham.
Why Gander Mountain?
Well, in short, Kat stopped in to buy a gun recently, and her experience was wonderful. The guys in the shop treated her like a customer, not an unwelcome intruder (a la some shops back in CA and TX). They were appropriately attentive, not patronizing, and professionally friendly. She can’t stop talking about it, and to me, that’s a pretty big deal.
In other news…
I’m starting to think I am going to need a rifle to kill this 8-point. I’ve seen him almost every evening I’ve been in the stand, but never closer than 100 yards. Tonight he really messed with me by feeding out into the soybeans, and then standing broadside at 132 yards for at least five minutes. This is starting to feel like a challenge!
That’s all for now.
We return you to your regularly scheduled programming.
September 9, 2015
What is the sound of one cobweb spreading?
One or the other or both of those things are what you’ve heard (figuratively of course… since this is a text-based medium you don’t hear anything, but you get that, right?) around the Hog Blog for the past few weeks. I broke my rule of posting at least once a week, and to be honest, I’m not real sorry. I just haven’t felt like writing.
But fall is falling.
Kat and I dusted off the shotguns last weekend for the dove opener (I shot like I expected to shoot, having not touched the gun in six or seven months… but we ate grilled doves for dinner last night). I got my first tree stand hung on the edge of the soybean field, and there are two more in the back of the truck, waiting for me to get back out to the place and get them set up. The Mathews is dialed-in for the archery opener this coming Saturday.
It’s all happening… or, at least, it’s about to happen. It’s that magic time of year.
No, not Christmas or Halloween… it’s the beginning of hunting season! But, if you follow the Hog Blog and others like it, you probably already know this. And some of you are already at it. My friend Michael, up in Alaska, has already filled his caribou tags. Jeff, down in SC, has been guiding whitetail and hog clients since mid-August. And, of course, my friends back in California have been chasing blacktails since the middle of July.
But I’m not in CA, SC, AK, or even TX anymore. I’m back home in North Carolina, and already settling back into the groove of the seasons as we move from the beach to the swamp. It’s still muggy and hot. The skeeters, ticks, and red bugs are going full bore, and the cat claws, poison ivy, and blackberry vines cover the trails almost as quickly as I can clear them. To a lot of people, this feels nothing like hunting season. But to me, it’s as familiar as the heady scent of moldering pine needles and the “gronk” of tree frogs after the rain.
And it made me want to pull the Hog Blog up, open up a page, and drabble on a bit. So I did, and here it is.
For what it’s worth…
August 11, 2015
I’ve been working hard to get psyched up for hunting season.
In CA, of course, I’d already be done with my archery season, and into the first week of rifle. Some of my friends back there have been teasing me with photos of hogs, and of course Facebook is loaded with photos of A-zone blacktails (many of them taken in familiar locations).
In Texas, deer season doesn’t start for a little more than another month, but with the availability of exotics and hogs, I’d be hunting pretty much continually. And I had an invitation to run down to South Carolina for the deer opener this coming weekend, but I’ve got grown-up responsibilities (moving into the new place), so it’ll need to wait.
North Carolina archery season opens on September 12. A week prior to that, the dove season will get underway. One way or another, I’ll be right in the middle of it, I suppose.
The new place is loaded with deer and turkey sign, but I have yet to get out there and really scout it out. I’ve jumped bedded animals on the couple of occasions that I did get out to explore a little, but I really need to figure out their routes, their hangouts, and all that sort of thing. Buried somewhere in my storage unit right now are my cameras. Time to get them out and see what’s what.
The layout of the property is promising. Almost two thirds of the 35 acres is heavily forested in a mix of oak, maple, pecan, and the ubiquitous pines. The edges and openings are lined with scuppernong grapes, and catclaw briars. It sticks out like a thumb into agricultural fields, and the 11 acres of cleared land is planted in soybeans. I expect I could go lean a ladder up against a tree in the corner of the field and call it good (and probably kill a few deer too), but that’s too easy.
I hauled the tractor out there last weekend, and this weekend along with some painting in the house, I hope to get out and start laying out trails. The undergrowth is nearly impassible, but with the machete and brush cutter (the “Whopper Chopper”) I should be able to get something started in time to set out the cameras and stand locations. Eventually I’ll probably open up a little bit for food plots, although the natural feed (mast, grapes, etc.) is already pretty plentiful. But still, I need to do what fire hasn’t been allowed to do in these woods for at least a few generations.
So much to do, it gets a little overwhelming. In the meantime, I have to maintain the day job, get moved into the new house, and get settled into a new routine.
But hunting season is almost upon me… and that’s a good thing.
August 5, 2015
So, the papers are signed. The check has changed hands.
Now the work begins…