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2015 – Looking Ahead, But Not Too Far Ahead

January 5, 2015

golden valleyOne of the lessons I learned from hunting open country is to always look close before you look far.

There’s a tendency, when the visible horizon is miles away, to focus your eyes on distant places in an effort to spot faraway game.  As a result, you often stumble onto critters that are practically under your feet.

They run away.  You curse and shake your head.  And off you go again… doomed to repetitive error until the lesson finally sinks in.

If you think about it, there’s a life lesson in there too.

Seems like, lately, I may have forgotten to apply that wisdom to my own life.  I’ve been so fixed on distant plans that I didn’t necessarily notice some more immediate things.  Now, those immediate things have made themselves clear, springing up from underfoot, so to speak, and demanding my attention.

I’ll dispense with the stuff most pertinent to my private life, but a few things will definitely have an impact here at The Hog Blog.

No 2015 SHOT Show.

I know, it’s a damnable, sad shame… a shame that I’m not paid, handsomely, to attend this huge, industry event every year.  I get a real kick out of it, and occasionally come away with some great ideas, gear reviews, and plenty of new contacts to pester.  But I’m an independent blogger, and these days, my only “pay” for what I do is to have someone manage my site and handle the technical details.  It’s been a few years since I last published outside of this blog, and even that was done for exposure and paid “in copies”.

With one or two exceptional years, SHOT has been little more than a vacation in Vegas for me.  This year, due to some of those aforementioned “immediate things”, I just can’t justify the expense or the time away to attend.  So, it’s being set aside.  I’m sure I’ll pout about it, especially when I start so see all the posts and articles about the Media Day at the Range (when us media types get to go shoot everything we can put our hands on), but there you go.  Maybe next year…

Sporadic Blog Entries

This isn’t new, but it will probably continue for a couple of key reasons.  One is that I have to put more, better focus on the day job.  Since leaving the relative comfort and security of a full-time gig, and returning to the consulting life, every hour has a price tag.  That will probably mean prioritizing paying work over stuff I really enjoy… like blogging.  I’ve recently tried to keep up a post-per-day during the workweek, but that may not be sustainable as I’m going through some of the other changes that the coming year will bring.  All I can say, right now, is that I have no intention of dropping the Hog Blog.

Finding a New Base of Operations

And here’s the biggie… a prime example of making god laugh by telling him your plans.  It looks like I’ll be packing out of the Lone Star State, and moving this show back home to North Carolina (the other, and arguably first, lone star state).  I honestly thought Texas would be my last home, but I got caught looking into the distance without paying attention to things right in front of me.  It’s a really, REALLY painful (and costly) decision, but given the alternative I had in front of me, it was not a hard one to make.

From the perspective of a writer, of course, any major change is usually good for content.

In this case, it’ll be the search for a new piece of ground, and the work to make it as special (to me, anyway) as the Hillside Manor.  There’s always something to write about there.

The hunting in NC is about as good as I had in TX, with plenty of whitetail deer, a growing hog population, a booming turkey flock, decent numbers of waterfowl, and a handful of upland birds.  I won’t really have the opportunities for exotics, and I’ll sure miss that, but I’ll be trading that for the proximity of my old love, the Atlantic ocean.  King mackerel on live bait… Spanish mackerel on fast-trolled spoons… spearfishing for grouper, lobster, and snapper… diving the wrecks in warm, generally clear water.  Hell, I might even dust off the old surfboard!

So it’s certainly not the end of the world.

I don’t have a clear timeline yet.  Getting a place in NC is completely contingent on selling the place in Texas, and that may not be easy to do.  But the ball is in play.

And there it is.

Personally, I’m sort of ready to be done with upheaval and such.  Growing up a service brat, I had my fill of moving away, just as I’d get used to a place.  But entropy leads to atrophy… stasis begets stagnation.

Change?  Well, the occasional optimist in me looks forward to unexpected opportunities.  It’s really not a bad thing, even if it isn’t convenient… or predictable.

At this point, I’m not about to guess what lies beyond 2015.  I think I’m going to keep my focus short for a while.

 

First Weekend Of 2015

January 2, 2015

Up a creek off of the  Northeast Cape Fear River, looking for wood ducks.

Up a creek off of the Northeast Cape Fear River, looking for wood ducks.

It’s pretty cool that, just two days into 2015, we get a weekend.

That seemed like a cool thought when I thunk it.

At any rate, it’s been a long couple of weeks of holidays and I’m ready for a real weekend.  In the meantime, though, I’ve made the best of the time back home with some quality duck hunting.

Here’s hoping that you all had excellent holidays as well.

Welcome to 2015.

My guide (AKA brother), Scott and his dog, Macy waiting eagerly for shoot time.

My guide (AKA brother), Scott and his dog, Macy waiting eagerly for shoot time.

 

Happy New Years From The Hog Blog

December 31, 2014

Happy New YearIt’s over… or it will be in a few, fleeting hours.  2014, for all the good, bad, and yet-to-be-determined that it brought, will be history.  2015 will take its place.

Some of us will look at the change with relative indifference.  Another year past means another year coming.  Same as it ever was, and so on.

Others of us are going to make poems, prayers, and promises… keeping traditions that some of us don’t even understand, for reasons we may not even comprehend.  Fish scales, black-eyed peas, champagne, resolutions, sweeping the house, special underwear, fireworks and noisemakers…

There will be parties.  Be careful out there.  Don’t drink and drive.  Even if I don’t know you, I’d just as soon that you not get out there and get hurt… or hurt someone else… or hurt me.

Tomorrow, there will be hangovers.  There will be broken resolutions, barely born, still dripping amniotic fluid.  There will be sleeping in.  There will be overeating.  There will be football games, both on TV and in the empty lot down the street.  For some of us, there will be sunrise in the deer stand or duck blind.

The New Year, like the old, is what you make of it.  I wish you the best, but it’s up to you.

So, happy New Year!

Hunting Back Home – Iggy The Duck Dawg Makes My Day

December 29, 2014

I usually try to find some time to get into the field when I’m back home (in NC) for the holidays.  My brother, Scott, is always good for finding a way to set up some sort of opportunities, whether it’s chasing whitetails at his place, or getting out along the Cape Fear river for ducks… and that’s what we did on Saturday morning.

It wasn’t exactly an “epic” hunt, but as I don’t get many opportunities to hunt waterfowl these days, it was an excellent morning.  It was cold, but not too cold.  A low fog kept things interesting, and kept us hidden.  Wood ducks aren’t generally bad for flying around in the stratosphere, but they seemed pretty happy to buzz us at tree top level… offering reasonable shots with low levels of frustration.

But the best thing was that Iggy finally got the chance to do what he’s bred for… retrieve waterfowl.  He’s fetched doves for me (which he hates).  He’s retrieved squirrels.  And, as I’ve written many times, he’s a pretty darned good blood-trailer.  But we have never had the chance to work with ducks. I wasn’t sure how he’d perform, to be honest.  But the first bird came in, crossing left to right, and I made a clean, one-shot kill.  The drake woodie splashed right across from the boat, about 20 yards away and in plain sight.  Iggy marked it, leaning forward eagerly.  I checked, to make sure my brother’s dog, Macy, wasn’t going for the retrieve, and when I saw she was steady, I sent him.

It was like he’d been doing it his whole life.  There was no hesitation… no second thoughts.  He swam straight to the mark, picked up the bird gently, and brought it back to hand like a champion.

A little later, we had a trickier opportunity.  The bird evaded Scott’s first shots, and then my first barrel.  My second barrel is full choke, and it throws a really tight pattern.  I hate to shoot decoying birds with it… but it’s the ticket for that longer shot.  The load of #3, Black Cloud pellets caught up with the bird and practically upended him.  He was going down hard, but he managed to round a slight bend in the creek before he splashed.

Iggy broke without a command, a bad move, but I didn’t want to correct him and risk him losing his mark.  He took off swimming against the falling tide, and soon disappeared from sight.  We could hear him swimming, and then there were some splashes.  He was gone a while, and Scott suggested that we push off the boat and go get him.  I was about to agree, when I noticed that the sounds were starting to get closer again.  I saw his wake first, and then his head as he swam proudly back to the boat with another drake woodie in his mouth.

So yeah, I know I can’t take much credit for the genetics and instinctual behavior of my dog.  But I was pretty proud anyway.

To top it off, a little while later, Scott knocked down another wood duck, just across from the boat.  Iggy held steady this time, and honored as Macy bailed out and made the retrieve.

Iggy the Duck Dawg

Boxing Day And The End OF A Long Week

December 26, 2014

Just to wrap it up, after everything has been unwrapped…

Sorry, but I couldn’t find an ad-free version of this one… but just in case you’re sick of the cold, or just want to fantasize a little about an alternative holiday.

 

Turn Off The Computer, It’s Christmas Day!

December 25, 2014

 

OK, I’m not judging.  But if you’re on the computer, ignoring your family and friends on this special day, then TURN IT OFF.

On the other hand, if this is the best thing you’ve got on Christmas Day, then you have my sincere sympathy.  I hope you find what you’re looking for.  I know Christmas can be a downer for a lot of people, for a lot of reasons, but it is also a celebration of hope and new beginnings (regardless of your specific, religious inclinations).  Hang tough, be strong, and keep moving forward.

I doubt this will help, but it’s pretty much what I have to offer…

 

A Classic Or Three, For Your Christmas Eve

December 24, 2014

It’s Christmas Eve.  If you’re checking the Hog Blog, the first thing I have to say is THANK YOU!

So here’s a little something for you.  One of my favorite renditions, by a couple of phenomenal artists…

And another…

And one, last, in case you’re enjoying this…

Christmas Tidings – Merry Christmas From The Hog Blog

December 23, 2014

I know.  I run these every year, and they’re sort of goofy (sort of?) and not very high quality…  but hey, think of them as homemade Christmas cards.  It’s the thought that counts, and with these, I’ll send out thoughts of a wonderful Christmas season for each and every one of you!

 

And one more, from the Hillside Manor Ranch, here in my obscure little corner of the Texas Hill Country.

“God bless us, every one!”

A Caroling We Will Go

December 22, 2014

This is a busy week for everyone.  It always is, regardless of whether you’re scrambling to prepare for the arrival of loved ones, rushing through airports and highways to get home to family and friends, or taking advantage of the downtime to get in some hunting.  Or, you could be working your ass off to get caught up at work amidst the distractions listed above.

And let me tell you, working through the chaos is no mean feat.  Since I find myself in the latter group this holiday season, I’m not going to be able to put focus in the Hog Blog.  Instead, should you drop in to see what’s going on, I’ll offer a selection of some of my favorite Christmas songs… classic and contemporary.

So, please enjoy.  And as you do, don’t forget to spare a hopeful, thankful thought for all of the men and women in our armed services who, once again, won’t be home for Christmas.

And with this, I wish you the very merriest Christmas.  Buon natale!  Feliz navidad!  Joyeaux noel!  Etc.

Hog Blog Horn Porn Review – New Program, Border To Border

December 19, 2014

I have been on the road all weekend, and have had personal business the first half of this week.  As a result, not only have I had limited opportunity to update the Hog Blog, I haven’t watched much in the way of horn porn either.

But never fear… with a new season coming down the pike, I’m seeing some promising opportunities.  One that looks particularly good (so far) is coming to the Sportsman Channel.  The show is called, Border to Border, and is hosted by Mike Schoby.

The premise is that Schoby, and apparently some guest hosts along the way, will load up his truck and camping gear, and spend the next 45 days hunting and fishing across the country from New Mexico to Alaska.  All of the hunting and fishing will be DIY (do-it-yourself), without guides or fancy accommodations.

I like the idea, and the trailer suggests that there’ll be some top-rate camera work as well.  Unfortunately, I won’t be able to catch the premier episode on Sunday, 12/12/14 (at 21:00 eastern).  Here’s the trailer.  Check it out for yourself.

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