Hunting Hogs In The Great Smoky Mountains

May 26, 2016

No, not me, unfortunately.  While I do plan to make some trips up to the mountains for hogs in the future, I doubt they’ll be letting the average Joe Nimrod into the National Park to hunt hogs.

But it’s kind of a cool story from NPR, and as you’ll see, it plays out pretty much like you’d expect, if you’ve ever had the opportunity to guide a reporter, with recording or camera gear along.

So check it out.  I know I enjoyed it.

Turkey Season Wrap And A Gear Review

May 16, 2016

Wow.  How long since I last posted?

Too long.


So turkey season is well past and I don’t have so much as a feather to show for it.  As I’ve mentioned, I saw birds, but just never got the right opportunity.  And, truthfully, it occurs to me that I guess I’m just not all that dedicated as a turkey hunter.  I could have put in some more time… hit a few different places away from the farm… but I just never got that motivated.

Maybe I’m just getting spoiled.  Maybe I’m preoccupied with other things… getting the new house in place, working on the property to improve the hunting opportunities, and so on and so forth and all that jazz.

Whatever.  I didn’t kill a turkey.

What I did do, however, was get the chance to really appreciate a good pair of knee-high, rubber boots.  In this particular case, they were a pair of Irish Setter’s “Rutmaster 2.0”, sent to me for review earlier this spring.

I haven’t worn rubber boots since my childhood, when my standard hunting boots were picked up at the discount store.  They were uninsulated, clunky, and made for a lot of really miserable mornings on the deer stand.  My feet would sweat while we were driving out to the hunt and walking to the stand, and then the sweat just sat there and chilled until it sucked every bit of body heat right out of my feet.

I gave up rubber boots when I started to buy my own gear, but I also watched over time, in the magazines, television shows, and at the SHOT show, as knee boots became a really popular thing for deer and turkey hunters.  It didn’t escape my notice, though, that their popularity was usually in the South.  At this point, I was hunting in CA, which wasn’t really the place for rubber, knee boots.

Even in Texas, the Hill Country took a lot of up and down in some pretty rugged stuff, and while the protection of a knee-high boot was inviting, I always felt better with something a little more solid on my feet.

But now I’m back in North Carolina.  My place is on relatively high ground, as this part of southeastern NC goes, but it’s flat as a pancake and often pretty wet.  The longest hike I’m likely to make is a mile or so, but even the short hikes are often through catclaws and blackberry brambles.  So when I got the chance to try out the Irish Setter boots, I figured turkey season would be the perfect opportunity to see what I really thought about them.

My first impression?  Rubber, knee boots have changed a lot since I was a frozen-footed youngster, and the change is definitely for the better.


The boots are really lightweight.  They’re made of a composite that includes neoprene and vulcanized rubber that somehow provides good strength, but keeps these 17″ high boots down to a little over two and a half pounds per boot.  That’s enough heft to feel like you’re wearing something, but not enough to feel like your feet are encased in blocks of concrete.

This particular model comes with 800 grams of Thinsulate, which makes them reasonably well insulated for most of the NC hunting seasons.  The weather this spring has been really sort of weird, with lots of chilly mornings that turn into warm days.  It hasn’t been exceptionally cold or hot.  I think I’d probably want something a little more insulated if it gets really cold, but I found them really comfortable on every outing.

Just to really push them a little, I wore them while cutting the brush out of my ditches… wading through six to ten inches of water and pushing through brambles and briars.  It was about 85 degrees out, with matching humidity.  I figured my feet would be soaked with sweat by the time I was done, but that really wasn’t the case.  Whatever they’ve done to make this boot breathe, it’s working.

The outsoles have what they call the “Mudclaw RPM II” design.  It’s a fairly aggressive tread, and holds traction pretty well in the snot-like swamp mud that forms around the edges of my pasture.  However, the sole is relatively soft.  That’s great for walking quietly.  They’d be perfect for slipping through the pines to get to my morning tree stand, but I wouldn’t want to have to wear these over the jagged, volcanic rock like I encountered in parts of Northern California deer country.

I remember walking in those old boots of my youth, and how they tended to slip and slide over my heels. Within a couple hundred yards, I could guarantee a hot spot that would quickly become a blister if I kept going.  Rubber boots tended to have one shape, and very little give.  That’s changed too.

One of my favorite things about these Rutmaster boots (which I think is standard in most of Irish Setter’s current line) is what they call their “Exo-Flex technology”.  This allows the boot to expand over the back of your foot when you put the boot on, and then locks in over your heel to keep the boot really secure, no matter what sort of terrain you’re navigating.  It’s not quite like wearing a lace-up boot or athletic shoe, but it made these things really comfortable for walking over uneven ground.  The only challenge to this Exo-Flex heel is that I had to use a boot jack to take them off.  Maybe it’s just my advancing decrepitude, but I couldn’t bend over and pull them off by hand.

I can’t speak yet to the durability of the Rutmaster boots, since I’ve only had them for a couple of months so far.  I’m sure I’ll be using them all summer as I work around the farm and doing habitat projects, and I’ll definitely be wearing them to the stand come September.  If there are any updates, I’ll be sure and share them here.




San Diego Feral Hog Eradication Success?

April 21, 2016

This, if it’s accurate, is sort of a big deal.

It appears that wildlife agents and professional hunters/trappers (along with some help from the drought) have managed to wipe out the feral hogs in an area near San Diego.  According to several articles popping up in my feed today, like this one from the San Diego Union Tribune, there are only approximately eight feral hogs left in the area where there were once, by some estimates, as many as 1000.

There’s still a lot of disagreement about how the hogs got there, as well as how many there were.  There’s also been a lot of back and forth about what to do about them.  Like many others in CA, when I first heard about the hogs appearing down in that part of the country, I expected the population to run amok like it has in other parts of the state.  When they decided to let (actually, encourage) sport hunters to go after these hogs, I was pretty sure that any hope of thinning  the numbers of these animals was fleeting.  Sport hunters really aren’t very successful when it comes to eradication.

But then they brought in the professionals, even though some of us thought, “too little, too late.”

Most of us naysayers didn’t really count on Mother Nature tossing in an edge to the humans for a change, as the drought in CA concentrated the hogs, and also limited their expansion in the arid habitat.  Hogs are tough, resilient, and able to make-do in almost any conditions.  Desert, however, doesn’t seem to suit them.

So it looks like they’re whupped, and that doesn’t often happen.  Apparently.  Proof is in the pudding, of course, so let’s see what happens in the coming months.

Turkey Watching – My New Pastime

April 19, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



That Time Again!

April 11, 2016


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wish me luck!

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

April 1, 2016

Time may change me…

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

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

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

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

I find myself de-clawed and snaggle-toothed.

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

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

Have you figured out where this is going?

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

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

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

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

It seems like my choice was being made for me.

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

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





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

March 23, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Just A Quickie

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.


Hog Blog Gear Review – Firearms Guide Goes Online

March 2, 2016

It’s sort of become an unofficial, perennial tradition to review the latest version of the Firearms Guide, firearms reference (previous reviews are here, here, here, and here).  This began with my first meeting of Editor-in-Chief, Chris Mijic and his wife, Ksenia, back in 2010, at SHOT.  Every year since, I’ve come to look forward to seeing them in the Press Room at SHOT, and every year since, they’ve sent me the latest version of their excellent reference guide for review.

I’ve enjoyed watching the evolution from CD-ROM to DVD, as well as a constantly growing list of features and content.  For 2016, they’re finally taking the big step to a full, online offering.  The new Guide is subscription-based, and the new format will enable the team to update and make corrections constantly (the current plan is 26 updates per year… basically, an update every two weeks).  The possibilities this brings are as wide-open as the challenges Mijic and his team faced to make this huge platform change.

At its heart, the Firearms Guide is a searchable database of firearms, and even in the initial iteration, it was amazingly comprehensive.  I believe this, the sixth edition, includes something like 61,000 firearms.  This, alone, made the Guide an excellent resource for writers and gun aficionados.  In addition to listings and detailed descriptions of the guns, the list includes schematics and take-down instructions, which makes this a valuable reference guide for gunsmiths… both professional and amateur.

With each iteration, the Guide has added new features.  Some, like printable targets, are just cool little add-ons.  Some are useful functions, such as the guide for matching up U.S. calibers with European equivalents.  Others are real value-adds, such as the ability to compare firearms, features, and MSRP which makes the Guide a one-stop shop for folks interested in buying a new gun.

New, this year, they have added gun values (based off of the 100% – 30% condition ratings) to each listing. This makes the Guide even handier for folks looking to buy, sell, and trade used guns.  While resources have long been available where you could go get a gun value, most of them serve that single function.  The Firearms Guide has the benefit of offering all of the other features, along with gun values.  It’s something I think every gun shop and smith should have at their fingertips, and as I mentioned, it would be pretty useful for the amateur as well.

So, how’s it work?  Chris sent me a temporary subscription so that I could go in and get a feel for the system.  Honestly, it’s pretty good, but there is still room for some tweaks, particularly in the search functionality.  However, if you just want to look up a Stevens 311, or a Barrett M98, that’s pretty simple.  And once you find the gun (or guns) you’re looking for, getting the rest of the information is really easy.  All of that being said, the very nature of an online resource makes it ideal for tweaking and adjusting based on user feedback.

What about the subscriptions?

To allow for varying levels of need and expertise, there are multiple subscription levels from All Access ($49.95/yr) to Handguns Only ($19.95/yr) or only AR/AK platforms ($14.95/yr).   There’s even a monthly, recurring subscription of $5.99/mo.    The subscription options are all clearly laid out on the website.

It’s probably not the kind of thing every hunter needs to have laying around, but it’s an excellent resource if you find you need (or want) a deeper view of guns and ammo.  For the writer who writes about guns, either full-time or occasionally, it’s a really good research tool.  For the gunsmith, it’s a good way to stay up to speed on the guns that are out there, as well as to find the schematics for assembly/disassembly.  And for the gun shop owner, buying, selling, and trading guns… I think it would be as indispensable as the old “blue book”.  If any of this sounds like you, I’d suggest checking it out.

Another Hog Blog Spotlight – Project ChildSafe

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






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