Parsons, Kansas: Warm Country, Warm People, Big Deer and Lots of Turkey

  • No Traffic, Multiple Turkey Species Greet Visiting Outdoors Folks
  • Visit Parsons to meet and greet the Heartland of our USA
Labette County, Kansas, offers sportsmen the adventure of a lifetime.

By David Gray

The day started with the anticipation of attending the Outdoor Communicators of Kansas conference in Labette County, Kansas.  The travel was to Parsons Kansas which is nestled in the southeast corner of Kansas, just west of Missouri, just north of Oklahoma.  May 7, 2018 was a day well spent. 

The drive to Parsons, Kansas, delivers a calm serenity. Turning south out of Kansas City the land quickly transcends from what some call city to what many call country.  Hills, trees, and fields blend into scenery of all that nature presents in the heartland of America.

The highway is not clogged bumper to bumper. You drive with goodwill and absorb the view.  A landscape of nature dotted with horses, cattle, turkey and deer.  Everywhere you look is a place you would like to hike thru.

The land is changed from when it was part of the Cherokee nation, but a steady look can reveal many things that are much the same. Sameness in this light is a good thing.

Parsons, Kansas, is as so many towns in the heartland, full of people that are happy to see you and are happy themselves. Maybe some of their happiness comes from living so close to the land. The land opens its arms to greet you and presents itself ever so differently from the concrete, pavement, buildings and congestion of the metropolitan environment.

With only 10,500 people that reside in this peaceful city…Parsons, Kansas is one of those special places that many sportsmen consider among their top 10 places to take a hunting and fishing vacation.

This part of Kansas was well chosen by the Kansas Outdoor Communicators for a conference on how the outdoor media might best serve those who need to revisit the outdoors on a more regular basis. At the same time, the gathering introduced the area to those of us who also find time spent outdoors the best way to spend our time.

Multiple species of turkey are present here, making Parsons a place to remember for future gobbler hunting.

A great part of the outdoors is fishing and hunting. The Cherokee did it, our European ancestors did it and we Americans continue to do it. Those who do it best, do it with respect and connection.

Mixed with the conference business meetings and discussions, the attendees went to the land and water to participate. There are so many outdoor opportunities in this southeast corner of the great state of Kansas.

Maybe the best thing about Parsons, Kansas, is that people not only look at you and smile, but stop and talk to you.  You may get asked where you are from and you likely get a warm welcome and sociable, “Thanks so much for visiting!”    

That is nice. This place is special.

 

DAY DREAMS and NIGHT DREAMS

  • Turkey Hunting, a Giant Gobbler, I Raise my Gun
  • Geese Fly Overhead in V-Formation, it’s a Signal
  • I Draw My Bow…that Green Arrow, “Oh Yea, My Story Takes a Turn

By Larry Whiteley

The old gobbler is searching for me.

I’ve done a good job making him think I’m a hen.

He’s literally tripping over his beard as he comes in looking for love.

His bronze feathers shine in the light of the early morning sun and the red, white and blue of his head stands out against the emerging spring greenery.  

I give a soft putt with my mouth call and he comes in a little closer. To show me how handsome he is, he puffs out his body and spreads his tail feathers.

My heart is pounding out of my chest as I stare down the barrel of my 12 gauge and slowly move to click off the safety. Suddenly there is a buzzing in my ear.

What is that? The biggest gobbler I have ever seen disappears as I reach across my body to shut off the alarm clock.

My wife sleeps peacefully as I lay there for a moment trying to get the cobwebs and thoughts of turkeys out of my head. My feet hit the floor and my morning daily work week ritual begins. It’s off to the kitchen to put on the coffee, a quick visit to the bathroom and then turn on the TV to catch the weather forecast. When I drink too many liquids before going to bed, the order of events sometimes changes. It can’t be because I’m getting older. 

It’s back to the kitchen to pour my first cup of coffee, check the thermometer in the kitchen window and back to the TV just in time to see the local weather girl.

After thirty minutes of exercising, it’s on to the bathroom again to shave, shower, brush my teeth, and get rid of the first cup of coffee. Back to the kitchen I go again for my second cup of coffee.

Now it’s shirt, pants, socks, shoes and I’m dressed for work. I grab my briefcase and head for the kitchen again to fix my lunch. Before I head out the door to my truck, it’s usually one more visit to the bathroom to get rid of the second cup of coffee.

As I wash my hands, I look in the mirror and wonder if it really is because I’m getting older.

I stop by the bedroom to tell my wife I love her and then it’s out the door and another morning routine has ended.

As I start my truck, back out of the garage and head down the driveway, I wonder if I am the only one who does things in the same way, at the same time every morning. I think not.

As I drive my eyes are always on the watch for deer at the forest edge. Maybe I’ll see that fox pouncing on a mouse in the field again. That is if the red-tailed hawk doesn’t beat him to it. Man, six road-kill skunks at the side of the road within two miles. That has to be a record! Around this curve is where I nearly always see turkeys. There they are: Six hens, a gobbler, and two Jake’s. I wonder if that’s the gobbler in my dream?

I’m sitting at a stoplight waiting for the green arrow and I see geese flying in a V-formation heading north. I wonder why we seem to notice them more when they’re heading south for the winter rather than north for the summer. I want to roll down my window and yell at the lady next to me, “Hey, look at the geese flying north! Do you know why they fly in a V-formation?” She would think I was a crazy man, so I think I’m better off keeping them to myself.

Did I hear a goose honk? No, that’s the guy behind me, telling me the light’s not going to get any greener. I make my turn and he passes me. Is he pointing at the geese in the sky too? If he is, it’s the wrong finger.

I exit on to the interstate highway filled with cars and trucks driven by people who have just finished their daily morning routine and are now off to work like I am. It’s only a few miles before I will exit again, but this is a special time to me. Unlike those around me, I don’t have the radio on listening to loud music or talk shows. This is my time for day dreaming.

My day-dreaming each morning takes me to many places far from the busy highway. Sometimes I’m on my way to our cabin. I’m watching all the hummingbirds swarming like bees around the feeder or I’m down at the creek and I’m fighting a big smallmouth.

Other times, I’m heading north to the hunting cabin. You can’t believe all the morel mushrooms and deer sheds I’ve found in my day dreams. I’ve also drawn my bow back on the biggest buck I’ve ever seen.

Day dreams have also taken me back to the mountains of Colorado, Montana, and Idaho. I’ve also been to the mighty oceans, walked the sandy beaches with my wife and battled saltwater fish.

My day dreaming this day was of a special grandson and playing in the waterfall at the cabin, using toy road graders to make roads in the gravel bar, and fishing with him in the creek. Someday dreams come from your imagination, others from fond memories.

The clicking sound of my turn signal interrupts my day dream and brings me back to reality. One more stoplight and I’ll be at work. I pull into the parking lot, shut off the engine and take a deep breath. No time for day dreams here.

One of my most useful tools, my camo Costa sunglasses.

At the end of the work day I will get back in my truck and head back down the same roads and I will day dream again on my way home. Day dreaming is my escape from worrying about the price of gas, work that needs to be done, or our inept politicians in Washington.

Yes, I’m a dreamer. Always have been, always will be. I enjoy my day dreaming and tonight, I look forward to where my night dreams will take me. Maybe I’ll get that old gobbler this time.

WNED-TV KIDS FEST – What an Awesome Event

  • 1400 New Kids – FIND the OUTDOORS for the First Time
  • Parents of Kids – DISCOVER FISH and FUN of New York OUTDOORS
  • Kudo’s to TV Station Crew and Outdoor Sportsman Volunteers

By Joe McAdams – ECFSC Kids Fest Co-Chairman

This was the Erie County Federation’s 1st participation of the WNED-TV Kids Fest.  I’ve attended this event with my grandson last year, so I had an idea of how the event worked and what to expect as an attendee. 

The press release was sent out and we prepared to add another community event to our calendar.  Unfortunately, we had no idea what to expect as a vendor.

Our platform consisted of standard Erie County Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs (ECFSC) banners and signage, Teach-Me-To-Fish posters supplied by Dave Barus, printed handouts for the Federation and an awesome supply of NYS fishing maps, fishing regulations and beginning fishing guides.

The crew consisted of President Jeff Jondle (event co-chair), Joe McAdams (event co-chair), Tom Fischer, George Rockey, Gary Melnyk, Hope Melnyk, and DEC biologist representative, Mike Todd.

Thanks to the assistance of the WNED studio crew members – we had our banner high on the wall.  We went right to work setting up shop.  This seasoned crew had everything ready to go in record time.

Our location in the TV studio – adjacent to the “Curious George and Friends” photo op and the “See Yourself on TV” green screen camera – gave us opportunity to present the Federation and all our programs to the interested parents.

                                                           Experienced crew assembles booth display.

Not knowing how many kids to expect and not having a large supply of prizes, we wanted to use a prize wheel to award drawing prizes. We brought 20 fishing poles, 100 mini-tackle boxes and over 200 Cabela’s braided wrist bands in hunter orange.

The stage is set, ready for kids and parents at WNED-TV Studios, Buffalo, NY.

We couldn’t get a prize wheel, so we used a Plinko board with a 1-in-4 chance to win a top prize (fishing pole).  Everyone else received a wrist band or mini tackle box.  We expected our cache of over 300 prizes to easily last the day.

To say that we were WAY OFF is an understatement!  Saturday’s pre-registered attendance was a little over 500, but an additional 400 kids purchased tickets at the door bringing the attendance to over 900 kids.  This was amazing!

There was genuine interest in the Teach-Me-To-Fish program with many parents eager to attend this year’s events.  I could not believe how many parents had never heard of ECFSC and Teach-Me-To-Fish.  We had more face time with parents than any other Federation event!

                           Kid-size mini-Plinko.

DEC representative Mike Todd brought the popular fish identification display and a new event – the “fish pool”.

The fish pool consisted of numerous laminated color prints of various regional fish with a Velcro nose.  Fishing poles equipped with a Velcro lined plug were used to make the catch.  The water consisted of a blue tarp and nautical rope rigging to prevent those fishing from “falling in”.

The idea was to have the kids hook their fish, then take it to the identification chart behind the pool.  This reinforced the fun of fishing with educational interaction.  The fish pool was a huge success.  Parents were taking pictures of their kids landing everything from Perch to Lake Trout!  At times, the line to fish in the DEC Fish Pool stretched across the room.

After the first day, we exhausted our supply of prizes.  We eliminated the mini-Plinko game and expanded the fish pond to account for the extra space.  Sunday’s attendees would have been disappointed if it wasn’t for George Rockey.  George came to the rescue with 200 stuffed emoji’s and 30 Frisbees to give away.

                                   DEC Fish Pool                                                                                Ryan McAdams lands a big bass. 

Sunday’s event was smaller and shorter in time with a schedule of 12-4.  There were 300 pre-registered and another 180 walk-ins that brought the total kids to almost 500.  The crowd was enthusiastic and parents snapped up anything that had information about Federation programs.

Hope and Gary Melnyk kept an eye on the prizes and managed to stretch them out until 2PM.  Even without prizes, the kids still loved the fishing pond.

EVENT SUMMARY:

During this one event, we were able to reach more kids and engage more parents than the last 3 years of the “Teach-Me-To-Fish” program.  More importantly, was that the majority of kids that attended this event were under the age of 6.

Our literature, fishing guides and maps weren’t taken by browsers strolling by, but were methodically acquired by young parents that were engaged by our Federation volunteers.

As a Director, former President, and longtime member of the Federation, I couldn’t be more proud of our all-volunteer team.  They took this opportunity to educate and enlighten.  To engage and provoke interest.

A special note of thanks for Mike Todd.  This passionate New York State DEC biologist and educator does not get paid to support our events.  He re-arranges his work schedule to cover the Federation sponsored events.

His fish pond was the hit of the show and had all of WNED-TV talking about what a great activity it was.

I can’t wait until next year…

Click on logo to learn more about EDUCATIONAL Outdoor Programs in Erie County, New York.

About the Erie County Federation of Sportsmen (ECFS): The Erie County Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs, Inc. is an all-volunteer, charitable, non-profit organization that is dedicated to the promotion of fish and wildlife conservation, education of outdoor participants and related outdoor recreation. This promotion is accomplished in several ways. We conduct or sponsor a variety of educational opportunities for young and old. Including, but not limited to: • Sponsoring youths to conservation education camps.• Scholarships for conservation related education.• Instructor Workshops • Sponsoring Outdoors Woman program candidates.  We also sponsor many community service programs that include: • Hunters Helping the Hungry • Family Fishing Clinics • National Hunting & Fishing Day hands-on event for youth.  ECFS programs Grow with the Community: We are actively involved with the community – acting as liaisons to state and local government agencies that affect New York State conservation laws and activities; attempting to improve the hunting and angling conditions for the sportsman – promoting the multiple use of our lands, forests and waters for recreational purposes for all the people.  We sponsor legislation, participate in fish stocking in Lake Erie and tributaries, inland lakes and streams of Erie County. We assist the Conservation Department in pheasant stocking – and we are involved in the 4H pheasant stocking program.  Visit us and keep track of our outdoor educational event programming throughout the entire year: www.eriectyfsc.org/

 

 

Colorado Elk Habitat Protected, Hunting Access Improved

  •  
  • 2,677 Acres of Vital Elk Habitat is NOW PROTECTED
  • Colorado Habitat Stamp Funding and Great Outdoors Colorado supplied KEY FUNDING
  • Grateful Thanks to Rick Tingle for Easement on his Louisiana Purchase Ranch

MISSOULA, MT.— Thanks to a conservation-minded landowner and a key state funding program, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation joined Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) to permanently protect 2,677 acres of vital elk habitat in northwest Colorado.

“We are grateful to Rick Tingle, a RMEF life member, for placing a conservation easement on his Louisiana Purchase Ranch,” said Blake Henning, RMEF chief conservation officer. “Additionally, this project highlights the critical need for the Colorado Wildlife Habitat Program (CWHP) and its Habitat Stamp which supplied important funding to help push things through to the finish line.”

“With a fast-growing human population, it is more important than ever before to ensure the state’s wildlife has the habitat it needs to survive in perpetuity,” said Bill de Vergie, CPW area wildlife manager. “Thanks to funds provided by Great Outdoors Colorado and CPW’s Habitat Stamp Program, a very valuable stretch of land is now protected through the CWHP. Some limited public hunting access will also be provided so the benefits of this easement will pay dividends well into the future.”

CWHP provides a means for CPW to work with private landowners, local governments, and conservation organizations to protect important fish and wildlife habitat and provide places for people to enjoy opportunities to hunt and fish.

Since the ranch is bordered on three sides by State Land Board and Bureau of Land Management land in a part of the state home to Colorado’s largest elk herds, it provides connectivity for elk and mule deer migration. Thousands of elk pass through the area during the spring and fall. The property also provides summer and winter range for both species and other wildlife.

“This truly is a special place,” said David Allen, RMEF president and CEO, who has visited the location. “We are grateful to the Tingle family for recognizing and helping us protect the wildlife values of this land.”

Access is improved to surrounding public lands because the landowner will provide perpetual unlimited permission to public hunters for a 25-day period each year with drive-through access. In addition, he signed off on a 10-year CPW agreement to provide access for six elk and/or deer hunters on lands off County Road 23 during a three-day window during Colorado’s third rifle season.

Since 1987, RMEF and its partners completed 726 conservation and hunting heritage outreach projects in Colorado with a combined value of more than $165.2 million. These projects protected or enhanced 447,910 acres of habitat and opened or improved public access to 107,992 acres.

About the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation: Founded over 30 years ago, fueled by hunters and a membership of more than 227,000 strong, RMEF has conserved more than 7.3 million acres for elk and other wildlife. RMEF also works to open and improve public access, fund and advocate for science-based resource management, and ensure the future of America’s hunting heritage. Discover why “Hunting Is Conservation™” at www.rmef.org, elknetwork.com or 800-CALL ELK.

 

 

 

 

New Year 2018, Venue for Outdoor Review, Much Change and Much To Learn

  • Moms Take to the Woods and Streams with Their Kids
  • More Industry is heading to Preserves and Protected Areas
  • Global Warming, Invasive Species…More

By Forrest Fisher

A grandmother of six from New York State, Rose Barus says, “Alaska is beautiful, but if we talk with folks that have lived there for generations, they acknowledge that change is taking place. Let’s all work to understand much more.”  Forrest Fisher Photo

In the lives of sportsmen and sportswomen, the outdoors is about fishing, hunting, hiking, camping, boating, safe shooting, all that and more. Today we know that many things are subject to change and are scientifically measurable. One of the largest trends (change) is that there are many more ladies than ever before taking hunter safety training, learning to fish and becoming certified all across the country to carry a handgun. Modern moms want their kids to eat organic, untainted food, like venison from deer and to be safe. More moms in the woods will take their kids with them.  More kids in the outdoors, a very good change.

If we talk to folks in Alaska, they acknowledge things are changing. There are fewer halibut to catch, Chinook (king) salmon are part of a variable up and down population swing more often and there are plans for new copper mines (at Bristol Bay) that may contaminate a myriad of pure water rivers with their process discharge effluents.

Is our increasing population to blame for many of the changes we read and hear about? Is world industry to blame? Is our world receding? Global warming, is it for real?

Many college-oriented experts say so, despite certain science that appears to still be quite uncertain to measure long term trends. Some experts say we do have measurable evidence of shrinking ice caps.  We all might agree that our weather is certainly changing, that’s for sure, but is it a natural cycle or man-caused?

Birds are a serious part of the storyteller tale of evidence about our planet ecosystem. There are more than 10,000 bird species in the world, but in the last 100 years, about 200 of those species have gone extinct. Should we be concerned? Yes, of course, but we should work to understand why these birds have disappeared. Those reasons might include poaching, polluted waterways, contaminated air currents, inadequate garbage disposal and a long list of manageable people issues that until now, were not considered important.

Birds, fish, seals, beluga whales, walruses, polar bears, many other animals, arctic ice and people like you and me, all seem affected.  So, believe it, we are certainly in the process of change. To the untrained among us (like me), we accept that most people are not climate scientists, biologists or environmental science engineers, but we do need to rely on the science and studies, and understanding, of these experts who do know.

With communication e-networks on the increase, it you live your life at work and at home from your smartphone and laptop, like a majority of working people today, where do we draw the line on false facts and untruths that can seem to affect lives? We can only combat the fold between falsity and truth by asking questions and trying to get involved so we can all understand more about our changing environment and actual reality.

The fact about all that is, for the bulk of us, the outdoors is something we do for recreation. It’s not our life. Maybe we need to make the outdoors and understanding it a larger part of our lives. Ecosystems worldwide are changing. Ships, planes and global industry are a big part of the management issue for world eco-health. Invasive species have come to us from these sources and more.

We have killer bees in much of America, Burmese pythons in the two million acres of the Everglades, snakehead fish that can breathe air or water in the Potomac River, and many more invasive critters that most of us sportsmen have little or no concern about. We should. These invasives are changing things, many have NO predators. Get involved.

Overall, we read there are something like 50,000 invasive plants and animal species in America alone. In Lake Erie, there are 186 invasive species at last count. There are non-native fish and mussels in that mix, too. These things affect you and me, and us all.  America offers many great places to enjoy the outdoors in all its splendor, but yes, it is changing.

As sportsmen, let’s help our neighbors all around America by keeping an eye on things that can change our ecosystem. Let’s keep our national parks and monument trails intact. Let’s prevent industry from moving to capture minerals, oil and precious ore from areas that are now protected. They have been protected for a reason: to prevent change.

Many industries want to mine copper in the border waters of Minnesota, or drill for oil and mine in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in the name of new energy development. I think these and many other areas should consider continued protection from industrial exploitation well into the future.

It’s important to let your legislators know how you feel about such change. Please join me in one resolution for the new year, to get more involved in these issues that affect our future.

It’s a Happy New Year for learning and sharing.

 

 

 

Outdoor Adventure is No Coincidence – Get the Kids, Pack Up the Car

  • Define a New Resolution Milepost for this New Year! 
  • Outdoor Adventure for your Family ONLY BEGINS WITH YOU
  • Teach your Kids to Find Clear Skies and Share Real Outdoor Tales
  • Cast a Line, Pitch a Tent, Pan-Fry Dinner, Hunt, Shoot or Watch for Shooting Stars…Here’s How

By Forrest Fisher

The littlest fish can provide the greatest thrill when you’re 3-years old! She screamed and said, “Help! I have a giant fish! Help!” Unforgettable moments that will last a lifetime – for both of us.  

If you are a wanna-be outdoorsman, no matter where you live, you might or might not already know that there is no end to the fun to be found outdoors through all 12 months of the year.  You sense the need for new outdoor discovery, but what to do, where to go, who to call?

You can fish from shore or boat or ice – and score on fun and food for the family.  You can hunt for small game, big game or many game birds and enjoy in the sacred traditions of our forefathers.  You can camp in any of hundreds, maybe thousands, of wildlife management areas.  You can hike to your heart’s content for miles along your favorite trails, a lake shore, around your favorite pond, along a mountain stream or in any of many state and national parks.  There many places to find the roads less travelled.

You can keep up with seasonal changes and best places to do all these “outdoor things” by joining a local outdoor club where you live.  Find a phonebook to look them up to find them, but these outdoor club groups abound all across the country.  Nationally, look for Trout Unlimited, the Safari Club, Ducks Unlimited, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Back Country Hunters and Anglers, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership,  the National Wildlife Federation, the National Rifle Association or the National Shooting Sports Foundation.  Experts share their innermost outdoor secrets in many of these groups.

If you would rather “see” to learn, visually, you can take a side-seat to recorded adventure and excitement outdoors.  You can absorb and learn from that one moment of  truth that only occurs in the wilds – setting the hook, taking the shot – there is outdoor television.  We have today, a choice of outdoor channels that cater to the wonderful specialized outdoor interests of fishing, hunting, camping and capturing to share that special spirit to be discovered in the wild outdoors.

Bowhunting with my grandson started when he was 6-years old, we hiked, scouted the woods and made sure we had enough face camo to blend in – the most fun part at that age.

For myself, I was so fortunate to have had parents that understood just how important starting kids off in the outdoors was, teaching us three kids to fish from when we were very young – I was four years old.  My mom and dad have both passed on now, I so miss them, but their lessons of living an honest life and their lessons for functional simplicity live on with me each day. They kept things easy for us kids to understand. Starting a fire, baiting a hook, stopping to listen to the water run through the rocks of a stream or over a waterfall.  They would stop and say, “Isn’t that beautiful? We would watch deer from a distance all summer, then hunt in fall. We learned to love every season.

In January, my oldest granddaughter and I would tap the maple trees in our nearby woods to make a few gallons of delicious maple syrup. Today, this young lady is in her last year of college studying to be an environmental scientist. 

Now, especially during the holiday season and with the joy of Christmas, I think of the delicious family recipes they passed on that always included the bounty of the outdoors.  Our Christmas dinner included the whole family sitting around the table.  At first, there was just my mom and dad, my brother, sister and me.  We quickly grew to more than 20 people bonded by our love of family, the outdoors and an understanding of our supreme Creator, who we thanked before the grand meal at every Christmas dinner.  There were specialty dishes mom would make and these included old-fashioned, handmade delicacies.  Potato soup, fish dinner, homemade sweet bread and honey, a side salad of garden vegetables that included lettuce, carrots, radishes, tomatoes and ground salt and pepper.  As we slurped the soup, my dad would pass out four walnuts to each of us. We passed the nutcracker around and broke these open to eat with the salad, each nut reflected the forecast for your health through each quarter of the following year.  A good nut meant good health, a crumbly nut meant you better be careful in that quarter. Mystical? Maybe, but you know, it was just something they passed on from their parents and, as kids, we believed every word.  If we received a bad nut, mom would hold us to eat more fruits and vegetables in that quarter to “make sure” we did not get sick. It worked too. There were no magical pills, of course, we were all “good nuts.”

Fishing for Lake Erie smallmouth bass is fun when you’re 7-years old and grandpa says, “Set the hook!” When the drag starts screaming and your grandkids are screaming louder…special moments for all time.

We lived in Western New York, the fish dinner included walleye from Lake Erie, perch and crappie came from Silver Lake and Chautauqua Lake, and bass from Buffalo Creek near Blossom, New York.  I rode my bike to that creek about three or four days each week in summer, met my cousin there who came from the other direction, and we would fish all day to catch our limit of smallmouth bass.  On most days, we used small crayfish (freshwater crabs) we caught by hand, they lived under the rocks in the creek. Fun? It was unforgettable! The big crabs would often be faster than we were, they would pinch our fingers. Yep, we yelped like little babies that needed a diaper change. Learned some new words too.

Dessert followed the Christmas meal, warm homemade apple pie topped with French vanilla ice cream. Ten minutes later, most of us were dozing off as we watched TV in legendary satisfaction, right before we started to sing our famous off-tune Christmas carols. No one slept through that.

Our tradition of sharing the bounty of the outdoors with family started nearly 70 years ago for me and is a keepsake that my wife and I try to maintain each year with our kids and grandkids.  In hindsight, there is not much I would ever change.

If there is one thing to share it is this: Get your kids started in the outdoors early.

They’ll find peace, joy, confidence in themselves and fun, and love of life and nature, and when you’re old and gray, if you are lucky enough, they will never stop thanking you. My better half and I smile to each other quite a lot these days.

Start the new year off this way and next year at Christmas time, you may find that the best wishes for the happiest holiday and adventure season of sharing love in the outdoors started last year…right after New Years Day.

 

 

Christmas Gift Book Idea…IN THE LAND OF THE BEAR

By Denny Geurink

  • Published by Target Communications Outdoor Books, LLC
  • Danger & Adventure Hunting Brown Bears in Russia’s Forbidding Siberia

IN THE LAND OF THE BEAR, by Denny Geurink, is an inside look at the excitement, mystery, danger and adventure of hunting huge, aggressive brown bears in Siberia and traveling in Russia from 1991 through 2011, a time of political turmoil when the Soviet Union was evolving into Russia.

In addition to hair-raising stories of lethal brown bear attacks on people and livestock, bears digging up coffins in cemeteries, bears invading camps, and brown and grizzly bear hunting in general, IN THE LAND OF THE BEAR contains historical perspective of what was happening politically at that time in Russia, detailing how the Siberian people lived, worked, survived … and how they viewed ordinary Americans — favorably.  Siberia is a long way from Moscow and politics.)

Geurink was the first American guide/outfitter to take clients to Siberia, the brown bear capital of the world. Nearly 70 percent of the world’s brown bear population is in Russia, with much of that in Siberia. Russia is a game rich country; few residents are allowed to own firearms. There is little hunting and game animals get the chance to grow bigger and older…and bring in needed cash flow to local economies.

IN THE LAND OF THE BEAR is an outdoor adventure book. Fascinating stories all, in 23 engrossing chapters, 284 pages, 6” x 9”, paperback, available at www.targetcommbooks.com  or on Amazon.

IN THE LAND OF THE BEAR — 23 CHAPTERS OF ADVENTURE

  1. Journey to the Evil Empire
  2. Hanging Out with the KGB
  3. Brown Bear Natural History
  4. Bear Attacks: Girl Calls to Say Goodbye as Bear Kills & Eats Her, Bear Drags Off Sleeping Bag and Man, Killer Bears
  5. The People
  6. The Food: Fish Bread, That’s Not Pasta, Moose Meat Surprise, Nothing Goes to Waste
  7. The Culture
  8. Surrounded by Bears
  9. A Lesson on Fear
  10. An Encounter with the WWF
  11. American Hunter Taken to Police Station
  12. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (hunters)
  13. Tales from Grizzly Camp
  14. If It Weren’t for Bad Luck
  15. Russian Bear Stalks U.S. Astronaut
  16. Excitement in Camp: The Russian Way of Dealing with Poachers, Bear in Camp, Bear in the Creek, Baby Snatchers
  17. Big Stags on The Black Sea
  18. Lady and the Bull
  19. The Capercaillie Two-Step
  20. Encounter with Rut-Crazed Bull Moose
  21. Bear Charges Snowmobile
  22. More Tales of Bear Attacks
  23. They’re All Heart and Determination

AUTHOR’S BIO — DENNIS GEURINK: Michigan native Denny Geurink has been a teacher (now retired) and was for several years the Midwest Regional Editor of Field & Stream magazine. He wrote a newspaper weekly outdoor column for nearly 40 years. He guided/outfitted in Siberia from 1992 through 2011, when he sold his outfitting business, then bought it back just recently because he couldn’t stay away.  He missed the adventure, the hunting, and the people he worked with in Siberia.

BACKGROUND INFO: In the early 1990s, the USSR wanted to boost its tourism industry and the revenue it would bring.  Hunters and fishermen usually aren’t at the head of any list of tourist invitees, but in 1991 the Soviet Union, working with a U.S.-based travel agency, looked primarily at the spectacular hunting and fishing opportunities in Siberia and invited Denny Geurink, a Michigan-based outdoor writer, on a moose and brown bear hunt. He had excellent success, but even more, enjoyed learning about and adapting to an unfamiliar culture and existence that he felt more-closely resembled the U. S. Wild West 150 to 175 years ago.

Geurink liked the total experience so much he became a hunting outfitter for Siberian brown bear (the largest, most aggressive in the world), grizzly bear and moose hunts, plus incidental hunts for bighorn/snow sheep, wild Russian boar (the largest in the world), with now and then a grouse or wolf hunt added. 

For nearly 25 years Geurink lived adventure with a capital A, enjoying every minute of the hunts, the people, the culture, the political discussions, the travel throughout Russia … and in the process developing strong attachments to the Siberian people and the land, sometimes staying for 90-day stretches to serve groups of hunting clients.  He has traveled there more than 50 times and continues to hunt Siberia annually.

 

An Open Letter to the Anti-Hunter, Makes us ALL THINK

  • Animal Lives Matter, All Animals
  • Are We Divided?
  • 13 Million Americans Hunt, What Are They Thinking? 

If you don’t approve of hunting, for whatever reason, I want you to know I appreciate you taking a minute to read this letter. My intention is to offer a couple facts about hunting you may not know. I don’t expect to change your mind altogether, but I do hope to provide some information that may create a more informed conversation.

You’re right. Our civilization has changed such that many people no longer need to directly participate in the food chain. Cities of us can go to grocery stores for the food we once grew or killed for ourselves. So, why then does hunting still matter?

You’re right. All living things have value. Animal lives matter, and that’s all animals, not just the one whose hair is stuck to your shirt right now. If that’s true, how can someone argue killing an animal is not only justified but important?

The on-going debate surrounding the value and ethics of hunting litters our news feeds and newspapers, often serving to divide those that hunt from those that don’t. I hunt. If that divides me from you, we need to talk, because it’s possible the very reason you oppose hunting may be among the most important reasons to support hunting.

The biosystems of our planet are under attack, and humans are largely to blame. Earth is experiencing record high average temperatures each year, and humans are devastating natural habitat on all continents at record pace. So, what are the facts about hunting? If they were better understood, could all people who love animals, and all people who care about the health of our planet find common ground?

Annually, over 13 million people hunt, nearly 40 million people fish, and more than 40 million people target shoot. The only emotion-based fact I’ll present in this letter is the following: hunting is a way of life for a lot of people. Most are ethical, well-meaning people. Some are not, just like any other cross-section of humanity. I started with this, because we’re already at an impasse if we can’t agree here. I’m an example of a hunter, so I’ll speak for myself. Many of my most cherished memories are times when I’ve been hunting. Hunting and fishing are a part of who I am, part of the way I look at the world, and part of my value system. Hunting doesn’t define me, no more than does being a Bernie Sanders voter, or homosexual, or Muslim define someone else. But hunting is absolutely part of my identity. There is literally nothing anyone can say to make me change that. Can we agree hunting is important to lots of people like me?

Okay, enough of the feely stuff.

Wildlife and wild lands are owned by the public, as prescribed by the Public Trust Doctrine. Each state has a fish and wildlife agency, which was given the responsibility to manage all wildlife via what’s called the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. Where success is measured by the proliferation of wild animals, this model of wildlife management is among the most effective in the history of mankind. See, we humans are a highly invasive species. Every day we till up wildlife habitat to grow more food, to build more infrastructure, and to meld the natural world to fit our every whim. The North American Model of Wildlife Conservation is one of the only proven barriers standing between wild places and animals and their decimation. And its implementation is not cheap.

Nearly every economic, social, and cultural trend is eating away at the prospect of wild animals thriving into the future. Except, perhaps ironically, hunting, fishing and recreational shooting. You’ve probably heard the argument, “hunters pay for conservation.” The extent to which this statement is true can be debated, but it is a fact that hunting plays a major role in conservation. Between 50-80% of all money spent on conservation in the United States, nearly three billion dollars, comes through one of three sources (in order of size): hunting/fishing license sales; excise taxes paid on hunting/fishing/recreational shooting gear; and donations to conservation non-profits. Hunting and fishing license sales are a pretty well understood concept. However, most people don’t know that sportsmen of generations past lobbied for and passed Pittman-Robertson (PR), the act that placed a tax on hunting and recreational shooting gear, then later Dingell-Johnson (DJ), the act that placed a tax on fishing gear. The funds from all three sources; licenses, donations, and excise taxes are used by your state fish and wildlife agency, as well as a myriad of non-government organizations, such as Ducks Unlimited, to do the work of managing wild places for wild animals.

Without PR/DJ, sustainability of our wild lands and wild things would face serious headwinds. One must have only a rudimentary understanding of economics to understand why. If left without protection and management, wild places would soon turn into farms, ranches, and housing developments. To fund that protection, some wild animals were given a “value,” quantified by the license fee paid to hunt or catch them. No true sportsman or woman would argue the value of a living thing can be quantified in dollars; it’s simply the only scalable way anyone on earth has come up with to ensure the necessary habitat exists to sustain all species. It’s a trade-off – kill some of the deer to make it economically viable to keep and manage the land on which all deer and most all other species live.

But, couldn’t we get conservation funding into the budgets of all levels of government; local, state, and federal?

The answer is probably yes, but the economics again tell a dooming story. Public lands, such as state recreation areas or national forests, are largely viewed as a sink on the tax base, especially in more developed or more agrarian areas of our country. No one pays property taxes on this land, and it’s more difficult to tie tax revenue back to it from tourism or other uses than it is to tax income from corn production on the same parcel. Thus, privatizing land for development or production is a strategy governmental entities use to increase their tax base. If you were a politician and your constituents were asking you to choose between health care for babies or keeping our public land public, what would you do? The debate over control of our public lands is a shining example of what will happen to our wild places when it’s time to sharpen the budget pencil.

Some of the favorite non-profit organizations of anti-hunters have taken to buying land. An example is the Humane Society of the United States’ Wildlife Land Trust. The novice biologist in me says, “Great, more land for wild things.” But any wildlife biologist, for or against hunting, will tell you leaving land unmanaged is an untenable solution. Sure, it’s cheaper for the Wildlife Land Trust, but unmanaged land does little or nothing for wildlife. Nature used to do the management work for us. For thousands of years prairie habitat burned, invigorating successional habitat growth. Ignited by lightning, forest fires would burn until they simply went out. Today, firefighters feverishly dowse wildfires with chemicals and water in hopes of saving human life and assets. Ever been on a hike through a dense forest? Did you notice how animal diversity was most prolific outside of the most dense areas – perhaps where the forest opened up to a grassy area? Most woodland species are not adapted to compete in the most dense, unbroken forest cover. Just as most prairie species are not adapted to compete in the most dense, unbroken grassland areas.

The way I see it, it’s perfectly reasonable that you do not hunt.

But, I want you to understand hunting plays a very serious role in the real-world conservation that sustains nearly all species of plant and animal on Earth.  All people are in a lifelong dogfight to preserve the living things that inhabit our planet, especially you and me… since I took the time to write this letter and you took the time to read it.  The left and right, the greenies and oil barons, the anti and pro-hunters – we’re all bound to this watery rock and can only take from it so much before we endanger the wild animals and places in our way. Let’s stop arguing and get to work.

Sincerely,

Eric Dinger, Founder of Powderhook

About Powderhook: Powderhook is the outdoor help desk. With free maps and depth contours, thousands of events, plus the local scoop you can’t get anywhere else, a good day in the outdoors is only a download away no matter your experience level.  http://blog.powderhook.com/an-open-letter-to-hunters/.

 

 

Hunt SMART! Hunt SAFE! WEAR ORANGE

With several more weeks of Big Game Season left to enjoy in New York State (and many other states), The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation reminds hunters to put safety–your own and others’–FIRST!

Check and abide by the legal hunting hours

Check New York’s official sunrise and sunset hours every time you go out hunting. They change every day and in different locations in New York State!

Watch DEC’s new video on hunting safely.

Firearm Safety Rules Save Lives

  • Assume every gun is loaded.
  • Control the muzzle. Point your gun in a safe direction.
  • Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot.
  • Be sure you can clearly identify your target and be sure you can see what’s beyond your target.

Wear Hunter Orange

Did you know…

…More than 80 percent of big game hunters wear blaze orange?

…Hunters who wear blaze orange  are seven times less likely to be shot?

…Deer cannot tell blaze orange (or pink) from green?

Both hunters shown below (one wearing camo and the other wearing  orange) are invisible to deer if they don’t move. What would you want to be wearing if there were another hunter nearby with a deer between you?

WOMEN ICE ANGLER Project on the Move in Minnesota’s OTTER TAIL LAKE COUNTRY

  • Women Empowered to FISH ON ICE
  • Women Anglers Encouraged TO POST ICE FISHING PIX at #WOMENONICE
  • Women Ice Angler OUTREACH PROGRAM – Skill Development, see details

Otter Tail County, MN – Nov. 8, 2017: The Women Ice Angler Project (WIAP #womenonice) will be on the move in 2018—literally. The fourth year of #womenonice will focus on moving from lake-to-lake in Otter Tail Lakes Country (Otter Tail County, Minnesota) highlighting the ease of mobility and moving from spot to spot. Otter Tail Lakes Country Association (OTLCA) and East Silent Lake Resort will host the media event along with Clam Outdoors.

Otter County is unique in that it boasts more than 1,000 lakes inside county borders. Communities include Perham, Fergus Falls and Pelican Rapids to name a few. The largest lakes include Otter Tail, Dead Lake, Rush Lake, Big Pine Lake and Pelican.

The ladies will fish for generous-sized panfish including sunfish, bluegills and crappies, as well as nice eater-size walleyes. “The ladies might not catch a personal best walleye here, but they have a chance at landing some trophy-sized panfish. This is a panfish paradise,” said Erik Osberg, Rural Rebound Initiative Coordinator for Otter Tail County.

Several media/video partners will follow the “ladies-on-the-ice” for video production and TV shows, including Larry Smith Outdoors, Grass Fed and Outdoors First Media. “We’ve seen our media coverage grow, and we enjoy interacting within the communities when we arrive onsite,” said founder of WI Women Fish and the Women Ice Angler Project, Barb Carey. “While it isn’t a done deal yet, we have a huge media partner finalizing their plans to follow us as well. This initiative to showcase and empower women to ice fish has really gained momentum.”

A community-wide “Meet & Greet” is in the planning stages and will include helpful tips on preparing fish.

In addition to Carey, the following ladies will fish in #womenonice this year, pro-staff anglers:

  • Shelly Holland
  • Bonnie Timm
  • Shantel Wittstruck
  • Rikki Pardun
  • Outdoor Photographer: Hannah Stonehouse Hudson
  • Outdoor Writer: Kristine (K.J.) Houtman.

The goal of the Women Ice Angler Project is to encourage women to try ice fishing, as well as mentor those who already enjoy it and want to improve their skills. An additional plus has been moving the industry forward to show women ice anglers in corporate marketing efforts and social media.

“We don’t underestimate the skill level of women ice anglers,” Barb Carey said. “Sure, we’re happy to introduce some new participants, but there are many women who want to grow in their skills and our powerful group of gals can help them do just that.”

Award-winning outdoor photographer Hannah Stonehouse Hudson (Stonehouse Photography, http://stonehousephotoblog.com/) is a big part of the success of WIAP. “The colder it is, the happier I am,” Hudson said about her photography. “The light is incredible when it’s really cold and I love it.” WIAP photos can be found in retail stores, on product packaging, in corporate catalogs as well as throughout tourism and ice-fishing social media.

For the entire winter, all women anglers are encouraged to post their ice fishing photos and share their stories with #womenonice and follow theiceangler.com. “Our sponsors are totally behind the message women can and do enjoy this great sport,” Carey concluded.

The Women Ice Angler Project sponsors include Clam Outdoors, Outdoor First Media, Larry Smith Outdoors, The Great Wild Radio Show, Fish On Kids Books, Stonehouse Photography, WI Women Fish, East Silent Lake Resort of Dent, Minn. and Otter Tail Lakes Country Association.

Contact Barb Carey for more information at icefishher@gmail.com or call 608-692-7386.

DEER CAMP – It’s About CHARACTERS

  • Memories, SPECIAL Times and Mice
  • Practical Jokes, Sunrise, Sunset, Nature and DEER 
  • Great Food, Great Stories, Great People, FUN

By Larry Whiteley

Sitting around a campfire at deer camp offers time for “deer talk”, secret camp recipes and special moments in time.

Every deer camp has its cast of camp characters. Individuals with their own special uniqueness, but when blended together like spices and seasonings in a recipe, make deer camp so special.

My deer camp has Dean. He is a bundle of energy and wise cracks that hunts deer and moose and elk, but is afraid of a little mouse. His mouse-phobia has brought great joy to all the rest of us camp characters. We’ve never seen anyone get out of a sleeping bag as fast as when a stuffed mouse “accidentally” got in the sleeping bag with him. I will also never forget how high he climbed and the look of horror on his face when he thought the noise in the old wood stove was a rat instead of the bird it turned out to be.

You could call Dean our “camp coordinator.” He makes sure the camp cabin is properly stocked and clean, collects the dues, buys groceries, and helps hang stands. His most notable contribution is the annual Saturday night “boil”, a grand feast of shrimp, kielbasa, mushrooms, broccoli, potatoes and corn on the cob boiled together in a big pot and dumped on the table for hungry hunters. He always cooks too much, but taking home a bag full of “boil” is part of deer camp.

Dean is constant movement, washing dishes, emptying trash, picking up the cabin, bringing firewood in for the night, setting the alarm clock, and asking everyone where they will hunt the next day. His energy is endless and he is always the last one in bed. The rest of us wouldn’t want him to know it, but we don’t know what we would do without him.

He may put up a front for being a fun-loving tough guy, but I know the real Dean. He’s the guy who takes his young son Conrad on a youth turkey hunt and cries when he gets his first gobbler. He’s the guy who helped my son when he first came to camp and took time to guide him on a successful turkey hunt one spring. He is also the guy who caused the lump in my throat when he showed up unexpected at my mother’s funeral.

Conrad is the youngest of our deer camp characters and like his dad, he’s a bundle of energy and constant movement. I love his imagination. Computers, television and video games keep a lot of kids from developing an imagination in today’s world. What a shame! When I was a kid, my imagination took me to the mountains where I trapped beaver and muskrats and fought wild Indians and grizzly bears. I don’t know where Conrad’s imagination takes him, but it will help shape his life, along with mom and dad (and maybe some deer camp characters), into the man he will be.

Our deer camp characters even include a celebrity, although I don’t think he really considers himself one. Jerry co-hosts an outdoor TV show, is a member of a pro hunting team, and has hunted and fished around the world with country music stars, NASCAR legends and even generals. I’m sure if you asked him, he would say “I’m just an old country boy who has been lucky enough to get to do some things I never dreamed would be possible.” I think he would tell you being in deer camp with the rest of us deer camp characters and his son Flint or daughter Chase is one of his favorite places to be.

Then there’s John or “J.B.” as we call him. Deer camp wouldn’t be the same without J.B., his Wisconsin accent and holey underwear.

Through his wise cracks and jokes, he doesn’t fool me. He has a heart of gold. There’s nothing fake about J.B. He is who he is. He’ll never change and I’m glad because I wouldn’t want him any other way.

Ed is a business executive, who is under a lot of pressure and stress so he looks forward to deer camp with the rest of us characters. He enjoys his time in the woods not caring whether he gets a deer or not. Ed was with Dean when Conrad got his first turkey and he too shed a tear. He delights in the hunting success of Daron and Flint and Chase. I will never forget my son’s face when Ed passed on to him, one of his still very good and very expensive bows. Like some of the rest of the characters, Ed’s an old softy too!

Mike adds his own uniqueness to the mix. He’s the consummate outdoorsman, serious about his hunting with the knowledge to back it up. Slow to smile, he was the object of probably one of deer camp’s best practical jokes. Mike had taken a nice buck and brought it into camp with the adhesive tag around its antlers. Where he is from that’s the way they tagged them, but in our state they must be tagged around the leg. Dean told him the rule and that he better switch the tag to the leg or it could be illegal. Of course, this was next to impossible without tearing up the tag. Dean and I left to check our deer at the local fire station and set up a mock arrest of Mike for “mis-tagging” a deer. Although Dean and I weren’t there, those that were said the firemen played it perfectly. They even took a picture of a very serious looking Mike posed with his illegal deer thinking he was about to lose his hunting license, rifle and deer because he tagged his deer wrong. I’m sure Mike will find a way to get even.

Larry’s book still waiting to be finished.

The last member of our camp characters is a very special young man, my son Daron. I am so thankful that Jerry got me in as a member of deer camp many years ago. If he hadn’t, I’m not sure Daron would ever have gotten to take as many deer as he’s harvested over the years and especially wouldn’t have had the chance to take some of the quality bucks that now hang on his wall. Unlike most of us, he doesn’t drink, chew, smoke or cuss, but he sure enjoys being around all the deer camp characters and they all think the world of him. Deer camp has brought us closer together as father and son, and created memories that will last a lifetime.

I forgot to mention one camp character and that’s me. I’m the “old man” of deer camp, the one who cooks the annual opening morning breakfast and helps Dean with his “boil”. I’m the one who is content to harvest doe’s to help fill our quota. Most years I tag out as early as possible so I can use my ATV to help others get their deer out of the woods or help with deer drives. I look forward to deer camp every year. It is important to me to be with the rest of the deer camp characters. It’s more special for me because there are fewer deer camps left for me than the others.

Deer camps are not just about filling your deer tags. They’re about wood ducks whistling through the trees or the ka-honk of a goose high overhead. They’re about a wild turkey, a coyote or a bobcat happening by your secret hiding place. They’re about two fawns playing chase underneath your tree stand, squirrels rustling in the leaves, birds flittering through the tree tops, sunrises and sunsets. They’re about sitting around the campfire or the old wood stove and telling stories and jokes.

Most of all deer camp is about sharing these special moments in time with your fellow deer camp characters.  That’s when we wish we all had more time.

This story is a chapter in a book called “Seasons” Larry Whiteley has been working on for 20 years. Some day he swears he’s going to finish that book.

 

 

HENRY REPEATING ARMS Helps Raise Over $70,000 for Sick 14-Year-Old Volunteer Firefighter

  • Henry Repeating Arms Donates 54 Custom-Designed Octagon Barrel Firearms to Help Cause
  • Special Edition Bids, Open to Public…Bid on GunBroker.com, item #705771173
Joe Petrucelli (L), Owner of Tri-County Sporting Goods, presenting check for $70,000 to Joshua Brennan and his family (C) with Anthony Imperato (R), President of Henry Repeating Arms.

BAYONNE, NJ, October 9, 2017– Henry Repeating Arms of Bayonne, NJ, and Rice Lake, WI, designed 54 SPECIAL EDITION custom .22 caliber Henry Lever Action Octagon barrel rifles to help raise funds for 14-year-old Joshua Brennan of New York.  Joshua was diagnosed with Hypoplastic Left-Heart Syndrome before he was even born.

The first 24 of these rifles were donated directly to the Firemen for Joshua Foundation, a 510(c)(3) organization, the remaining 30 were purchased by Joe Petrucelli of Tri-County Sporting Goods.  Petrucelli then organized further fundraising efforts to benefit the charitable foundation formed in Joshua’s name.

For the past few years Joshua has served the emergency service community by volunteering at the Pawling Fire Department in Dutchess County.  While he is too young to fight fires, he is a critical member of the Pawling Fire Department.

Washing trucks, keeping the firehouse in good order, lending a helping hand in the kitchen, and attending special events are just some of the tasks that Joshua tends to.  Joshua’s efforts all stem from his love for the department and his call to volunteerism instilled in him by his father Tom, who is also a volunteer firefighter.

Joshua Brennan suffered heart failure last year and surgery provided a pacemaker and two valves to keep him alive.  Joshua now needs a heart transplant.

In 2014, a similar partnership between Henry Repeating Arms and Tri-County Sporting Goods raised over $60,000 for 4-year-old Grayson Sutton of Sedan, KS, who was battling Primary Pulmonary Hypertension and facing a series of costly surgeries.

President of Henry Repeating Arms, Anthony Imperato explains, “Tri-County Sporting Goods has always stepped up to the plate to help Henry with any of our “Guns for Great Causes” program initiatives. When they told me about this great young man, Joshua…and his battle, we instantly decided to reciprocate.”

The 54 special edition rifles are currently being sold through Tri-County Sporting Goods in Patterson, NY, and all proceeds are going to benefit the Firemen for Joshua Foundation, which goes directly to Joshua and his family.

Petrucelli organized Firemen for Joshua Day at Tri-County Sporting Goods on September 30th where over 200 people from the local community came together to show their support.  Joshua was nominated for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and he and his family were presented with a $70,000 check from the proceeds of the rifles sold to date along with donations from local businesses. Proceeds are expected to raise over $100,000 before the end of the year.

Serial number “JOSHUA001,” the first of 54 made is currently up for auction on GunBroker.com, item #705771173.

Tri-County Sporting Goods will continue to sell the Firemen for Joshua rifles while supplies last, as well as custom serial numbered Henry Heirloom rifles. Proceeds from these sales will continue to fund the Firemen for Joshua foundation.  To purchase one of these rifles contact Joe Petrucelli at (845) 878-6084. General donations are being accepted here: https://www.gofundme.com/firemen-for-joshua.

 

Ecstasy & Empathy: Dichotomy of Hunting

Killing two young turkeys and watching a mother hen’s reaction to their loss set the writer to thinking about the nature of hunting.  Jim Low Photo

  • If hunting doesn’t occasionally tug at your heartstrings, you might need to think a bit more deeply about it.
  • Far from threatening the natural world, hunting is its best hope for survival.
  • Turkeys share a sacred lesson about Hunting, Kindred Spirits, the Circle of Life

By Jim Low

One of the reasons I love hunting is the way it takes me inside the natural world.

Blood sports make me part of natural processes in ways that are unavailable through nature photography, nature study and other “non-consumptive” activities, which I also enjoy.  Opening day of fall firearms turkey season this year made me keenly aware of this difference.

Dawn found me tucked beneath the screening branches of cedar trees between two pastures.  Just at sunrise, I heard soft clucks issuing from the bordering woods.  I made a few “sleepy yelps” on my slate call, then put it aside and rested my shotgun on my knee.

My pulse rate ticked up a few beats.

Moments later, a young turkey glided down and landed directly in front of me, in easy shotgun range.  It was followed in quick succession by six more poults (turkeys hatched this year) and one hen.

Any turkey, young or old, male or female, is legal during Missouri’s fall hunting season.  I had wanted to shoot a gobbler, but now I began thinking otherwise.  I am a mediocre fall turkey hunter at best, so this was a rare opportunity to harvest the centerpiece of Thanksgiving dinner.

Also, the fact that you can shoot two turkeys on the same day in the fall season meant I might be able to kill two tender young birds that would be amazing table fare.  So, when two of the small birds stood with their heads inches apart, I dropped the hammer, and both went down.

Hunting turkeys in the fall opens the door to a whole different set of insights into the complicated lives of these amazing birds.  Jim Low Photo

As often happens, the remaining six birds did not scatter immediately.  Inexperienced and bewildered by a thunderclap out of a clear sky, they milled around excitedly, stopping occasionally to gawk at their stricken flock-mates.  I lowered my gun slowly and settled in to watch, expecting the survivors to vacate the premises fairly quickly.

Moments after my shot, a mature hen came on the run from the west, near the center of the pasture.

This open area, unapproachable by predators without being spotted, is where a cautious old bird would fly down.  In the flurry of arrivals in front of me, I hadn’t noticed her leaving the roost.

The old hen quickly made her way to the two downed birds, which were in their final death throes.  She watched until their struggles ceased, then began pecking them gently, first one and then the other.  After a few minutes, she began grasping their wattles in her beak and lifting their heads, then dropping them.  This went on for quite a while, gradually escalating to her taking a step or two backward and tugging at the dead poults.

After this had gone on for perhaps half an hour, she stepped over one of the dead poults, spread her wings and settled down as if brooding a clutch of eggs.  After a brief interval, she arose and did the same thing to the other downed bird.

This dispelled any doubt in my mind that all the hen’s actions were an effort to revive the lifeless poults.

Turkey broods in the fall hang close together and they watch out for each other, sounding the “time to go” call when danger appears to be near. Joe Forma Photo

This was a revelation to me.

Such maternal devotion would not have been surprising in a mammal, but I never expected it from a bird.  During the hen’s ministrations, the rest of the flock made repeated moves to leave, led by another hen.  They would drift away a few yards before looking back to see if the devoted mother was following.  Seeing that she wasn’t, the flock would drift back for a while, but as time went on, the flock’s tentative departures took them farther and farther away.

Finally, drawn by the pull of her flock, the mother hen began her own series of departures and returns.  An hour or so after the fateful shot, she finally abandoned the dead poults and followed the flock out of sight.

For many years, I resisted the urge to attribute human-like behavior to other animals.  Anthropomorphizing wildlife is frowned upon by many biologists and hunters, but well after over half-century of watching quadrupeds, including dogs, I am forced to conclude that “lower” animals share a great deal – perhaps most of human emotional responses.

I don’t know what went on in the brains of that mother hen and her companions, but it’s difficult for me to attribute it to mere instinct.  For that matter, who’s to say that human emotions aren’t instinctive?

This line of reasoning might raise the hackles of some hunters who refuse to concede anything to people whose empathy leads them to eschew or even disapprove of hunting.  But, it seems to me that if we are willing to take the lives of animals, we ought to be willing to think critically about it.

For me, the notion that turkeys and other game animals experience grief and other human-like emotions is not a reason to stop hunting.

All animals, human and nonhuman alike, take life and have it taken from them.

Turkeys eat grasshoppers and lizards.

Deer kill one another and have been photographed eating small mammals.

Strict herbivores kill plants.

Modern-day humans seldom fall victim to predators, but it matters little whether you die in the jaws of a grizzly bear or in the grip of Streptococcus pneumoniea.

Either way, you are dead at the “hands” of something that wants to eat you.

The predator-prey relationship between humans and game animals is as old as our respective species.  They, and we, are intricately adapted for the fateful dance we share.  The predatory urge encoded in human DNA is why many of us still feel a powerful pull to re-enact the timeless drama of the chase.  It reminds us of what we have been and what we remain as, at a very deep level.  And it can tell us much about why we are how we are.

Hunters since time immemorial have felt deep connections to the animals they pursue.

This connection goes deeper than nutritional necessity.

Our hunting forebears saw game in the same light that I saw those turkey poults and their devoted hen.  They saw kindred spirits, worthy of respect and empathy, worthy of immortalizing on cave walls.  They knew themselves to be integral parts of the pulsing, exultant, poignant pageant of life.

Hunting allows us to maintain that intimate connection to the natural world. 

Hunting allows us to maintain that intimate and sacred connection to the natural world, it binds us to the circle of life.  Joe Forma Photo

Without it, we risk thinking ourselves above and outside the circle of life.  We could fail to recall our connection to the natural world at our own peril as a species.

It is no mere coincidence that hunters are, and always have been, the beating heart of the conservation movement.  We don’t only do it simply to ensure the availability of living targets or merely because we like killing things.

As the Spanish philosopher Jose Ortega y Gasset observed, modern humans do not hunt to kill.  We no longer need to pursue game to sustain life.  Rather, we kill in order to have hunted, to maintain an authentic and utterly irreplaceable connection to the natural world.

My exultation in a successful turkey hunt was tinged, as it ought to be, with reflection about what it means to take a life.

I wonder how often nonhunters give similar consideration to the deaths they farm out to others.

In spite of the pang it sometimes gives me, I am more than proud of my hunting.  I see in it the best hope for the future of things “natural, wild and free.”

-end-

Stump Sitting Time – Charm of the Autumn Outdoors

  • Sounds of the Earth…the Birds, Deer, Turkey
  • Sunrise Charm, Autumn Streams, Rising Fog
  • Mountain Colors, Ornaments for your Heart and Soul
  • The Smell of Pouring Thermos Coffee on the Mountain

By Larry Whiteley

The fall air is crisp as I start my journey up Dogwood Mountain. It’s really a big hill, but I named it that because I love the mountains.

Here in the Ozarks area of southern Missouri we don’t have mountains like out west, just big hills. The Dogwood part of its name comes from the hundreds of trees with their showy white blossoms that bring beauty to the “mountain” in the spring.

For a moment, I listen to the soothing sounds of water as it tumbles down Dogwood Mountain Falls and then glance over my shoulder as the sun starts peeking over the trees behind me.  The curtain is rising and I’m not in my seat.

My pace quickens as I head up the trail that follows the falls, then turn onto another trail that winds its way to the top of the top.  My leg muscles burn as I climb over rocky areas in the trail, but I continue on to the top.

Finally, I see it.  To some people it may just be an old stump where someone cut down a tree a long time ago, but to me it’s like an old friend waiting at the end of the trail, waiting for me to come sit awhile.  I hurriedly remove my backpack, take out my thermos and pour a cup of coffee.  It’s stump sitting time again.

From my stump, I see a thin haze over the stream that winds through the valley below.  There’s a hint of smoke in the air from the cabins and homes in the distance.  Crows call to each other high on a ridge and a fox squirrel scurries through nearby treetops breaking the silence.

I know that somewhere below, turkeys have flown down from their roosts and are feeding in the fields.  A doe and her yearling have probably joined the turkeys as a buck watches them from his hiding place.  The kingfisher squawks as he flies through the mist over the creek.  He’s probably fussing at a heron that’s fishing for breakfast or a busy beaver.

The sun rises higher and the show begins.

The gray of the morning is suddenly changed to a kaleidoscope of color.  My eyes feast upon the bronze of the oaks, yellow of the maples, red of the dogwoods, and green of the cedars and pines.  The blue of the sky and the white of the fluffy fall clouds add their special touch to nature’s painting.

It’s too bad more folks don’t take time for stump sitting.  In today’s hurried, pressured, fast-paced world, stump sitting can be an escape for just a little while.

Good stump sitting time only comes in autumn.

Somehow, stump sitting helps you forget about all your worries and work that needs to be done.  You are drawn to simply concentrate on this magnificent moment in time.

The sun is high now and good stump sitting time is gone.  I finish off the last of the coffee, put the lid on the thermos and put it away in my pack, take a deep breath and start back down.  A few yards down the trail I stop and look back at the stump.

Maybe tomorrow will be good stump sitting time again, but there’s always next year.  My old friend will be there waiting for me.

 

 

 

WONDERS OF WILDLIFE NATIONAL MUSEUM & AQUARIUM

  • Major new destination in heart of the Missouri Ozarks is now open.
  • Imagine Understanding How Life on Earth Works for Animals, Birds and Fish…that’s what You Get Here.
  • This Museum is about Adventure and Exploration 
The aquarium allows visitors to feel like they are “in there” with the fish. An amazing adventure.

By Larry Whiteley

I was recently invited to attend a media event at the new, not-for-profit, 350,000 square foot, Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium located right next door to the giant Bass Pro Shops retail store in Springfield, Missouri.

I am not someone who is easily impressed, but this place is something you need to put at the top of your list of things to go see. Having been in several museums and aquariums across America, believe me, nothing comes even close to this. It is bigger than the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.

Learn about Muskox and Wolves, and many more species.

There are over 35,000 live fish. There are mammals, reptiles, amphibians and birds, along with thousands of state-of-the-art taxidermy mounts.
During the tour, it was kind of fun to watch the media members staring in amazement, which caused them to stumble into each other as we went from one exhibit to the next. I continually heard people saying “WOW,” which I thought was rather appropriate.
The Ocean Aquarium Adventure is just what it says – an adventure. There are over 1.5 million gallons of aquariums containing over 800 species of freshwater and saltwater fish. You walk through an aquatic trail system where you see fish in the habitat they live in and learn why we need to protect the system that makes them possible.

You can experience the ocean and the “feel of being there.’

The 300,000 gallon circular ocean habitat area simulates like you are underwater, as do the underwater tunnel. Some areas have bubbles in the aquarium wall that you stick your head in and it feels like you are right in the water with the fish.

In the Wildlife Galleries area we walked over a mile of trails and I was just amazed at the attention to detail. The 4D dioramas of big game and other mammals allowed us to see up close plus hear, smell and even feel the temperature of the environment where these animals live in the wild.

These are places around the world that most of us will never get to see in person. It was a whole lot better than anything I have ever seen on TV nature shows.
Like the Ocean Aquarium Adventure, the Wildlife Galleries area is definitely going to entertain the whole family. It too will also educate you on why we need to protect the habitat where these animals live.
We learned about our most important wildlife conservationists throughout history, and the contributions and sacrifices they made for the benefit of all of us.

I was especially touched by the tribute to Native Americans as the first conservationists. Did I mention you travel through a herd of Buffalo to get to it?

It amazed me – all the attention to details the artist and craftsmen had put into this magnificent attraction. Every wall has hand-painted murals which make it one of the finest art galleries I have ever seen. Even the rocks, trees and foliage are hand-crafted. They match the season and habitat of the animal in the scene. Some animals look like they are walking right out of the wall.

We also visited the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame, International Game Fish Hall of Fame, King of Bucks Collection, and the Boone & Crockett National Collection of record wildlife mounts all within the Wonders of Wildlife.

After you have enjoyed WOW, you can go next door to the Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World store which, by the way, has been the #1 tourist attraction in Missouri for many years. Besides the biggest selection of outdoor gear under one roof in the world, it also features the NRA National Sporting Arms Museum and the National Archery Hall of Fame. It too has even more aquariums, wildlife mounts and displays.
The visionary behind it all is noted conservationist and founder of Bass Pro Shops Johnny Morris. The Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium is his gift to America to inspire people of all ages to engage with the natural world. It is also his way of repaying the blessings he has received from a life lived enjoying the outdoors.
“Wonders of Wildlife is an inspirational journey around the world that celebrates the role of hunters and anglers as America’s true conservation heroes,” said Morris. “We proudly invite families and sportsmen to come share the wonder with an unforgettable experience meant to inspire generations of future conservationists.”

Being a humble man, he is quick to give credit to all the workers whose talents brought his dream to and to the hundreds of conservation leaders across America for their input on what the WOW messages should be.

I saw a sign somewhere on our media tour that said, “The Wonders of Wildlife Museum & Aquarium honors the adventurers, explorers, outdoorsmen and conservationists who helped discover, develop and preserve the nation we love”.

It does that and a whole lot more!

This is something you will never forget and a place you will want to go back to again and again.

Go to www.wondersofwildlife.org for more information and then make the trip to the Conservation Capital of the World in the heart of the Missouri Ozarks to see it for yourself.

Wonders of Wildlife NOW OPEN, An Amazing Adventure into the WORLD of WILDLIFE

  • Wonders of Wildlife provides Tribute to Fish and Wildlife
  • Wonders of Wildlife NATIONAL MUSEUM & AQUARIUM is Extraordinary
  • Founder, Johnny Morris, Has Provided a Trail to Lifelong Conservation in the Outdoors through Fishing, Bass Pro Shops and now, WONDERS OF WILDLIFE
  • Rick Clunn will Attend

By Forrest Fisher

Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium Opens Sep. 20, 2017 – An Extraordinary Experience! 

One of the most respected professional bass anglers in the world is Rick Clunn.  I was humbled to fish with Rick on three different fishing tournament occasions in the mid-90s.  Having done that, It was easy to understand why this southern gentleman was such a successful angler. 

In one word, Rick Clunn has “FOCUS” when he is fishing.  He “TUNES-IN” to every spot, every situation, every cast.  His success as a 5-time BASS Champion demonstrates his “UNDERSTANDING” for fishing.  Above all his fishing success, Rick Clunn is humble, soft-spoken and a true conservationist.   Today Rick will be in Springfield, Missouri, and he has this to share with everyone through his Facebook account:  

Rick Clunn is humble, successful and a role model for all anglers – he will be on hand today at the grand opening.  Rick Clunn Feature Photo

“Melissa and I will be privileged to attend the Grand Opening of the Wonders of Wildlife.  I am sure, like everything Johnny Morris has created, it will defy even the most complimentary descriptions possible.  I made the statement after winning the B.A.S.S. St. John’s River Tournament, “Never accept that all your greatest moments are in the past.”  This man has lived that philosophy his whole life and continues to.  Most will see and be inspired by the Wonders of Wildlife, but I fear there are some who will see it as only a capitalistic venture or a monument to an individual’s ego.

For those of you who might feel that way, I offer my observations and understanding.  I present this view because I cannot tell you how many times I have heard people ask, “Why does he build these museum style stores to sell fishing tackle? Why not be like others in the industry and just put up a metal building and have a lot less overhead?”

I will tell you, to me these are monuments, but not to Johnny Morris! These are monuments to all outdoors people and to the Natural World that he continuously and tirelessly fights for.  At Big Cedar Lodge on Table Rock Lake, there is a Convention Center whose walls are lined with some of the greatest conservation mind’s, thoughts and quotes.  If you think the many Bass Pro Outdoor Worlds are only about selling fishing and hunting tackle I offer the following: “If I fished only to capture fish, my fishing trips would have ended long ago.” Zane Grey.”

I grew up an Angler when being an Angler was observed as nothing more than playing hooky from school or work.  It did not share the status of football, basketball, golf, or other sports.  One of my supervisors at Exxon Oil would talk with you about golf all day, but don’t dare waste company time talking about fishing.  Even after I quit my socially excepted profession, working for the 2nd largest computing center in the world, and started my angling career most thought I had a bad case of sun stroke.  I confess, I will never forget the first time I was proud to be an Angler.  I had gone to Springfield, Missouri, to represent one of my sponsors at the grand-daddy of all fishing stores, at their Spring Fishing Classic.  I had been in a lot of tackle fishing shops, but nothing could have prepared me for this.  When I walked in the front door of the Bass Pro Shop Outdoor World, I was moved.  It was beautiful and I had never seen anything like it.  But more than its beauty, I felt a sense of pride in who I was that I had not felt before.  To this day I challenge every outdoor person to tell me that they did not feel a little of the same, their first time there.  I now know that Johnny saw the Outdoors – and those who enjoy it, as important elements in the conservation of the fast disappearance of our natural world.

“Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.” Henry David Thoreau.

I recognize now, like Johnny did from the beginning, that to conserve the natural world we have to expose as many people to its Wonders as possible.  He knew that fishing is one of the last remaining vehicles for the masses to experience the natural world and understand its importance to the sanity of man’s world.  Johnny’s Conservation efforts are never ending.  So when you tour the Wonders of Wildlife, remember the words of Theodore Roosevelt, “There can be no greater issue than that of conservation in this country.”

Please stay tuned to the Wonders of Wildlife Facebook account for Live streams Sept 20th www.facebook.com/wondersofwildlife

Events start at 3:00 PM the 20th. #WondersofWildlife.

Hope to see you there soon.

 

NRA’s Eddie Eagle GunSafe® Program Reaches 30 Million Children

This simple Eddie Eagle GunSafe® lesson can save a child’s life.  From the NRA, please PASS IT ON! Courtesy www.EddieEagle.com

FAIRFAX, Va. – The Eddie Eagle GunSafe® Program, NRA’s groundbreaking gun accident prevention course for children, has achieved another milestone by reaching its 30 millionth child.

Created in 1988 by past NRA President Marion P. Hammer, in consultation with elementary school teachers, law enforcement officers and child psychologists, the program provides pre-K through fourth grade children with simple, effective rules to follow should they encounter a firearm in an unsupervised setting: “If you see a gun: STOP! Don’t Touch. Run Away. Tell a Grown-Up.”

Volunteers for the Eddie Eagle program come from diverse backgrounds, but they share a commitment to keeping children safe. Those involved include NRA members, teachers, law enforcement officers and community activists who teach the program, as well as private donors and Friends of NRA volunteers who raise funds to provide the program’s educational materials.

More than 26,000 educators, law enforcement agencies, and civic organizations have taught the program since 1988. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, incidental firearm-related deaths among children in Eddie Eagle’s targeted age group have declined more than 80 percent since the program’s launch.

The Eddie Eagle program has been praised by numerous groups and elected officials, including the Association of American Educators, the Youth Activities Division of the National Safety Council, the National Sheriffs’ Association, the U.S. Department of Justice (through its Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency), and 26 state governors.

Law enforcement partnerships with Eddie Eagle have proven to be very effective. In fact, almost 400 Eddie Eagle mascot costumes are in use by law enforcement officers across the county. NRA also offers free Eddie Eagle materials to any law enforcement agency, educational facility, hospital, or library across the nation.

Funds raised through Friends of NRA and distributed through The NRA Foundation enable schools and police departments to teach the program at little or no cost. The NRA encourages citizens nationwide to participate in heightening gun accident prevention awareness within their local communities.

Schools, law enforcement agencies, civic groups, and others interested in more information about The Eddie Eagle GunSafe® Program, or persons who wish to see if free materials are available in their communities, should email the NRA Community Outreach Department at eddie@nrahq.org or visit www.eddieeagle.com.

About the National Rifle Association: Established in 1871, the National Rifle Association is America’s oldest civil rights and sportsmen’s group. Five million members strong, NRA continues its mission to uphold Second Amendment rights and is the leader in firearm education and training for law-abiding gun owners, law enforcement and the military. Visit http://www.nra.org.

Children in the Stream Youth Fly Fishing Program

  • Free for Kids 10 to 110 Years of Age
  • No Experience necessary
  • Classes Conducted at State University of NY at Fredonia

The Children in the Stream Youth Fly Fishing Program will be starting its eighteenth year of providing weekly free fly tying and fly fishing classes to youth and adults in the western New York region.  The classes will be presented every Tuesday starting August 29, 2017, from 7-8:30 pm at the Costello Community Room (P84) in the new addition to Rockefeller Arts Center at SUNY Fredonia, in Fredonia, NY.

No prior experience is needed and all classes are free. Classes are appropriate for anyone between 10 and 110.

In 1998, Alberto Rey and Mike Conley attended Sportfishing and Aquatic Resource Educational Programming (S.A.R.E.P.) through the Cornell Cooperative. The seminars provided training for teachers and future instructors who would provide educational conservation experiences to children. Shortly afterwards, S.A.R.E.P. Youth Fly Fishing Program was founded after a grant was received from Chautauqua County Industrial Development Agency.  The program has continued to grow over the years as enrollment has steadily increased and as the program has provided new services to the community. In 2016, S.A.R.E.P. /4H Youth Fly Fishing Program’s name was changed to Children in the Stream/4H Program.

Children in the Stream is an educational program that provides children with information and experiences related to aquatic resources, conservation, ethics, and fly fishing. Fly fishing has a long history of integrating these elements into the core of the sport. The ethics of the program promotes “catch and release” as well as respect for fellow fisherman and the land on which one fishes. It is our goal to protect the species and the land for future generations. Our program closely ties together the importance of understanding nature with the rewarding act of fly fishing.

Children in the Stream is a volunteer organization that relies on the generosity of the fly fishing industry and of public and private donors. It provides programming to the Boys and Girls Club of Northern Chautauqua County and to middle and high schools in the area. Children in the Stream provides workshops to an average of 350 children a year.

Here are the elements of the program: Weekly Fly Tying and Rod Building Sessions Monthly Fly Fishing Field Trips Canadaway Creek Conservation Project Conservation Days Workshops  Brook Trout Restoration Project Children in the Stream Conference: An Interdisciplinary Fly Fishing Conference

For more information on our efforts you can look at this episode by a national television show, Aqua Kids, who documents the Children in the Stream’s Canadaway Creek Conservation Program and Brook Trout Restoration Program. Here’s are also some recent articles and blogs written about the program and the Children in the Stream Conference; http://buffalonews.com/2016/11/17/bill-hilts-jr-fly-fishing-program-gets-anglers-ages-involved/ http://www.buffalonews.com/sports/outdoors/will-elliott-helping-fly-fishing-take-flight-20150321 http://www.fishhound.com/blog/bringing-brook-trout-back-great-lakes http://www.fishhound.com/blog/when-you-live-and-love-fishing-possible http://www.orvisnews.com/FlyFishing/Children-in-the-Stream-Conference.aspx http://www.orvisnews.com/FlyFishing/Children-in-the-Stream-Conference-a-Success.aspx http://www.flyfishergirl.com/

You can also see recent pictures, movies and information from our recent projects in the blog section of this site. For more information about our home waters, check out our our history of Canadaway Creek link.

If you would like more information on the program please contact me Alberto Rey here or at alberto@albertorey.com or by calling 716-410-7003.

Become a Citizen Scientist for Black Bear Research in New York New “iSeeMammals” App

By NYSDEC

iSeeMammals is a new citizen science project of DEC and the New York Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at Cornell University. It collects data to help researchers and DEC biologists study the distribution and size of the black bear population in New York. iSeeMammals will help researchers collect data from more areas than researchers can cover in the field.

Participation is open to all. iSeeMammals collects information about where and when users identify bears or bear signs (scat, tracks, hair, markings) while hiking or on their personal trail cameras. Photographs of observations, repeat hikes, and trail cameras set up for multiple months are strongly encouraged. An app for data collection and submission is available for free download in Apple and Android stores.

Visit iSeeMammals.org to:

Learn more about the project

Access photo galleries of iSeeMammals data as photos are submitted

Get information on bear ecology and bear management in New York

See extras like quizzes, contests, and giveaways

Training workshops and seminars may be available; inquire via their contact form. 

 

FOR SALE – A CABIN IN THE WOODS

By Larry Whiteley
When I was younger I used to dream of having a cabin in the woods. A simple cabin nestled among cedars and hardwoods somewhere in the Ozark Mountains of southwest Missouri.

My grandma used to tell me if I dreamed long enough and worked hard enough my dreams would come true. Grandma was right and 20 years ago my wife and I found and bought that cabin. It was only 5 acres, but surrounded by the thousands of acres of the Mark Twain National Forest.

The small cabin sits upon a rock bluff overlooking a creek and waterfall. Just like my dreams, it is surrounded by cedars and hardwoods and a scattering of pines. The trees keep it hidden from view of the few cars that travel the gravel road, and offer shade and protection from the summer’s sun and cold winds of winter.
A little wood stove sits in a corner and warms the cabin on winter days. Antique snowshoes hang on both sides of moose antlers. Deer, pheasant, ducks, trout, bass, and a big muskie hang on the walls. Fox, beaver and raccoon pelts further add to the setting. Each has a special memory and a story.
Deer antlers, turtle shells, feathers, buckeyes, rocks, bird nests and other nature things can be found everywhere you look. Most have been picked up by grandkids while on cabin adventures. They are mixed in with old duck decoys, along with the jars, dishes and other antiques that are my wife’s special touch.

Most noticeable though are all the pictures of our kids and grandkids hung with loving care and sitting on shelves. Pictures of them with turkey, deer, fish or just having a good time at the cabin. Grandkid pictures when they were just babies as well as pictures of them as young adults.

Looking out our windows we see birds of all kinds coming to the feeders. April thru October is hummingbird time and I don’t mean just a few. Hundreds at a time are a sight that thrills everyone who visits.

The deck is a great place to watch squirrels playing in the woods, butterflies landing on wild flowers, or bats diving for insects in a summer’s night sky. You can hear the waterfall as it cascades down Dogwood Mountain, listen to the sounds of the creek as it flows across the riffles, and hear the kingfisher swooping above the water or crows calling up the valley.

The fire pit is where grandkids roasted marshmallows and shared time with PaPaw. It’s a place to watch the flames dance and flicker as the worry and stress melts away. It’s a place for fish fry’s, cookouts and fellowship.
A big barn and a small barn store the ATVs and other things. They are also great for making things and places for grandkids to play when it’s raining.

Grandkids loved going fishing, hunting squirrels, swimming, snorkeling, catching crawdads, skipping rocks, playing in the gravel or waterfall, finding feathers, wading in the creek and riding ATV’s.

Good neighbors like Bob and Barb, Wayne and Jane, Annie and Winnie, Doug and Kim, Judge John, Sheila and Willie love the valley too. With them we have shared hiking trails, ATV rides, campfires and pieces of our lives.

Spring at the cabin is redbuds, dogwoods and wildflowers, along with the sound of peeper frogs and whip-poor-wills. Summer is fishing, swimming, relaxing or playing in the creek. Fall brings a kaleidoscope of color, hunting season, looking for buckeyes, hiking, and cutting wood for the cold months ahead. Winter is books by the fire, making new hiking trails, and hiking in the snow.

 

The 20 years of owning the cabin have passed in a hurry and things have changed.
Kids have grown up and are busy with their own lives now and don’t come to the cabin anymore and won’t after we are gone. The older grandkids don’t come either except for deer season. They would rather go to the lake than the creek. Younger grandkids live a long drive away. All of them will all always have memories of the cabin.

Grandma and I are getting older now too and it’s time for another change. As long as we live we will still have the memories and the pictures. It will be hard to say goodbye to the cabin but it’s time to find someone else who has dreamed of owning a cabin in the woods.

I wipe tears from my eyes as I finish writing this. Remember that a cabin is more than just a cabin. It is a living structure with a soul of memories and dreams. It is a place to get away, to share with others and to share fragments of one’s life with nature.

If you dream of owning a cabin in the woods, e-mail Larry at lwhiteley2@basspro.com

 

THE FASCINATING WORLD OF FRESHWATER SNORKELING

Colorful fish, like this Niangua darter male, with good color, bring new life into our understanding of the lake, the stream, the pond.  Missouri Department of Conservation Photo

By Larry Whiteley
When most people think of snorkeling they think of sandy beaches, blue saltwater and coral reefs, but Missouri’s freshwater streams and lakes can also be a fascinating snorkeling adventure.
We don’t usually think of our local fresh bodies of water as a place to grab your mask, fins and snorkel for an adventure but after you read this I think you will change your mind. You would be amazed at the opportunities that are available for snorkelers in Missouri and all you have to do is go find them.

Largemouth bass might be youth anglers best friend, but they also help keep the balance of pond life in order. Missouri Department of Conservation Photo

The marine life can be as diverse as that found in saltwater, just maybe not quite as colorful. There are many species of fish to be seen as well as turtles, snakes, crawdads (crayfish, crawfish or whatever you want to call them), hellgrammites and other forms of tiny aquatic life.
My wife and I have had a cabin in the Missouri Ozarks for over 20 years.
The clear water of a creek that runs through our land makes snorkeling a popular thing to do for everyone who visits on a hot summer day.
Bluegills swim right up to your face or nibble at you as you float along in the water. Bass and hog suckers don’t want anything to do with these homosapiens that have invaded their home and skitter along ahead. Colorful sunfish and goggle eye usually guard their nest or hide back under a rock ledge. Multitudes of baitfish swim around in schools continually battling the swift water. Colorful darters hide among the rocks.
If you’re lucky, you might see a turtle or a huge crawdad. There was the time I took some real lobster claws and placed them where they stuck out under a rock ledge making them look like the granddaddy of all crawdads was there. I then watched as my neighbor snorkeled closer and closer to where I had hidden them. Cost of the lobster claws – $35. Cost of the camera to take my neighbor’s picture as he came up out of the water – $250. Look on my neighbors face – priceless!
If visitors are really lucky or unlucky, depending on your fear of snakes, they might get to swim along with a 4-foot-long water snake. No, it’s not a fake snake and no I’m not scared of snakes. At least as long as I know it’s not poisonous.

Bluegills are a special treat with all their color, appetite and attitude around docks for when kids are dunking worms.  Missouri Department of Conservation Photo

I was a little nervous once though when I dangled a crappie jig in front of this same snake and he struck at it catching the hook in his mouth. I haven’t had a whole lot of experience unhooking a writhing, very mad water snake, and was thankful the line broke before I had to figure it out. I guess he forgave me, because he now lets me swim along underwater with him. He does look at me funny some times and he would probably stick his tongue out at me if there wasn’t a crappie jig in the way.
I think what people enjoy the most while snorkeling in the creek is underwater fishing. We use either a small kid’s rod and reel combo or a tiny ice fishing spinning combo baited with a worm or crawdad. You float along with your mask and snorkel watching fish take your bait. Then you set the hook and reel in the fish, all underwater. I think the adults love it as much as the kids. Now how many of you can say you caught a fish while underwater with the fish?
Another thing we do is have someone stand on the bank and cast different artificial baits into areas where fish are holding and then we snorkel underwater to watch how fish react to the different baits. Doing so has helped us all become better fishermen.
Snorkeling around with an underwater camera or a smart phone in a waterproof bag is another thing we enjoy doing. It is amazing the fantastic photos you can take underwater in freshwater.
So what are you waiting for? It’s July, it’s very hot and it’s a whole lot cooler when you’re snorkeling. Plus it’s a whole lot of fun!

Voyage of Boatylicious Discovery

  • Missouri River 340, this ain’t no mama’s boy kayak float trip.
  • You don’t have to go to Alaska or Mt.  Kilimanjaro for an authentic outdoor adventure.
  • What you learn about extreme sports will pale in comparison to what you learn about yourself.
  • This year, the event will run August 8-11, 2017.
Kansas City’s skyline is visible from Kaw Point at the mouth of the Kansas River, where the MR340 starts.

By Jim Low

Missourians who wonder if they have the physical and mental toughness necessary to be extreme athletes don’t have to go far to find out.  They can test their mettle against a force of nature…the Missouri River.

In 2006, Scott Mansker and Russ Payzant, self-avowed “river rats,” decided to organize a paddle race to raise awareness of the world-class, but then little-known, recreational opportunities on the Big Muddy.  What they came up with was a nonstop ultra-marathon race from Kansas City to St.  Charles.  The distance between those two points – 340 miles – provided a name for the event, the Missouri River 340 (insiders generally shorten the name to MR340 or simply, “The 340”).  That first year, the event drew 11 solo paddlers and five tandem teams.  They were given 100 hours – a little more than two days – to finish the course.

Today, paddlers are allowed only 88 hours to finish the course.  They paddle so hard that the friction of their shirts causes their nipples to bleed, a distraction that veterans avoid with duct tape pasties.  The skin of their palms sloughs off in enormous blisters…more duct tape.

Packed like sardines at the start, paddlers soon are strung out over the Big Muddy’s vastness.

They endure the heat and humidity of August.

They risk literally being blown off the river by tornadoes or microbursts.

But if you think these obstacles cool the ardor of potential participants, you don’t understand the mindset of ultramarathoners.  Within days of wrapping up the inaugural Missouri River 340, Mansker and Payzant’s electronic in-boxes were flooded with email from paddlers eager to sign up for the next year’s race.

Participation ballooned so rapidly that they were forced to limit entries.   By early June of this year, nearly 500 individuals and teams had signed up for the race.  They will come from all over the United States and as far away as Japan to compete in 11 divisions: Women’s and Men’s Solo; Women’s, Men’s and Mixed Tandem; Solo Pedal Drive; Tandem Pedal Drive; Team (3-4 paddlers); Voyageur (5 to 10 paddlers); Dragon Boat (11-plus paddlers); and SUP (Stand Up Paddler.)

Spectators turn up at checkpoints to keep tabs on their favorite paddlers.

Last year’s top time – an astonishing 38 hours, 22 minutes – was posted by a six-woman team calling themselves “Boatylicious.”  The next four entrants to reach St.  Charles were all solo paddlers, three men and one woman.  All made the grueling paddle in under 45 hours.  That’s an average of more than 7.5 mph, including time to eat, drink and nap.

Napping is a must.  Even if you do, you stand a good chance of experiencing visual and auditory hallucinations, especially at night.  The 340 is scheduled to take advantage of a full moon, but phantom voices and spectral presences are a common experience in the profound darkness and calm that prevails between sunset and moonrise.  These can get you in trouble if you pay more attention to them than you do to what’s actually there.

Things like wing dikes, buoys, bridge pilings and barges.  While paddling at night in the 2007 MR 340, a mixed tandem team – ages 66 and 70 – misjudged the distance of an approaching barge and were plowed under when they tried to cross the river in front of it.  While their $5,500 kayak was being chopped to bits, the couple desperately clawed their way along the bottom of the barge’s hull, trying to avoid their boat’s fate.  Astonishingly, both paddlers emerged with only scrapes and bruises and were rescued by the barge crew.

“The 340” becomes a permanent part of some participants.

Racers are not entirely on their own.  A fleet of safety boats patrols the pack, checking on paddlers’ health, handing out sport drinks, helping in emergencies and – inevitably – picking up contestants who are simply played out.

Bringing up the rear is a safety boat known as “The Reaper.” Their job is to collect paddlers who fail to reach each mandatory check-in point in the pre-determined time necessary to have even a remote chance of finishing the race.  Slow, but dogged, paddlers dread the appearance of “The Reaper” the way that schoolchildren dread the end of summer.  But without this measure, the pack would become too strung out for safe supervision.

There are no adversaries at the finish line.

All this combines to produce epic stories: the cancer survivor who began training for the race while still undergoing chemotherapy; the alcoholic who set out to prove something to others and instead found the inner strength to overcome her physical and mental demons; world-class athletes who push themselves far beyond normal limits of human endurance and ordinary people who perform extraordinary feats.

It’s no surprise then that thousands of spectators turn out to witness the spectacle.  The biggest crowds gather at both, the starting point at the mouth of the Kansas River, and the finish line at St.  Charles’ Frontier Park.  But people also throng to the mandatory check-in points scattered along the course.  Ground-support crews mingle with relatives of racers, news media and curiosity seekers.  Highway bridges with pedestrian walks are favorite vantage points for gawkers and photographers.

If you want to get in on the fun, either as a participant or a tourist, visit rivermiles.com/mr340/ for details of this year’s event.  You also can follow the progress of the race Aug. 8-11 through posts on the MR340 forum, rivermiles.com/forum/YaBB.pl.

NIGHT LIGHT at Grandma’s

   

 
Lightning bugs at night offer a special invitation to explore nature after sunset.

By Larry Whitely

The warm early summer day is ending.

The bright orange sun slowly begins sinking to the earth.  It’s been a long, hectic day at work and I step outside to begin winding down.  I love watching sunsets and sunrises.

A lone whip-poor-will calls from the nearby woods testing the silence and is answered by another down in the valley.  Tall fluffy clouds gather on the horizon.  The bottom layer lights up in varying shades of pink and orange like a painter mixing colors on his palette.  Frogs begin their night time chorus and bats are diving for insects in the fading night sky.

As the darkness slowly settles I see it.  A tiny twinkling orb.  First one and then another until suddenly the summer night is bombarded by a myriad of twinkling lights.  I sit down on the front porch to watch the performance.

Gazing at the slowly pulsating lights, I travel back 60 years to grandma and grandpa’s farm.  As the adults sit around talking, we kids ran about capturing these jewel green sparks that pierced the dark and put them in Mason jars with holes punched in the lids.  It was a magical time racing about filling your jar.  Our eyes twinkled as much as the stars and laughter pierced the silent night.  I wonder how many other adults are outside like me right now and feel the stirring pleasures of childhood.

My mind also wanders to a special time one summer at our cabin.  An approaching storm was playing music on our wind chimes awakening me from a deep sleep.  The alarm clock by the bed told my sleepy head it was 2:30 a.m. as my feet hit the floor to go check out what was happening.  I walked through the dark cabin and looked out the windows into the night.

The blinking lights of fireflies were everywhere.  This night though, they seemed much bigger than normal tiny fireflies.  It was almost as if the window I was looking out was a big magnifying glass and I was seeing the insects much bigger than they really are.

Lightning bug-in-hand-can-provide-a-special-illumination-for-night-adventure.

I stood there in wide-eyed amazement as I watched them.  They were high in the trees, they were down by the creek, they were up by the road, and they were way down in the valley.  How could I see them that far away?  Maybe the sky was just darker than usual that night causing their lights to shine brighter.  Maybe they were brighter because they were really trying hard to impress their lady friends.  At the time I didn’t really care what the answer was, I was just enjoying the show.

As the storm approached closer, lightning lit up the dark sky.  It wasn’t streaks of lightning though; it was more like burst of light.  It was like there were now gigantic lightning bugs joining in with the smaller ones to add to this special night.

I don’t know how long I sit there watching, but eventually the rains came, the lights went out, and I went back to bed.  I lay there listening to the rain on the roof and grateful the storm had awakened me.  I drifted off to sleep thinking of fire lies.

The neighbor’s dog barks and my wandering mind takes me back to my front porch again.  I’m thinking how I took a nail and punched holes in the lid and put them on jars for my kids.  I hope they too have good memories of summer nights and twinkling lights.  Grandkids are now learning to enjoy this age-old mysterious performance, but instead of jars they use plastic firefly houses.  Kids need fireflies more than they need television and computers and so do adults.

As if saying goodnight, the tiny sparks blinked off one by one.  I get up from the porch and head for the garage.  I’m looking for a 60-year old Mason jar with holes in the lid.  

“Sunny Day Kids” are HOOKED ON FISHING FUN!

  • Fishing & Learning Adventure on the Buffalo River
  • May 28, 2017; Bison City Rod & Gun Club, Buffalo, N.Y.
  • 141 Kids, 322 Total Attendance; 21 Volunteers; 8-Learning Stations
There is something very special about that first fish!  Kids and parents found adventure and fun while learning about rods, reels, bobbers and fish-catching at Bison City Rod & Gun Club in Buffalo, NY. 

By Forrest Fisher

The forecast for rain and fog was swept aside when bright, sunny skies with a gentle 75 degree breeze surprised families with kids from Buffalo and Western New York.  They came to fish and learn at Bison City Rod & Gun Club for the 13th Annual Jimmy Griffin Memorial Teach-Me-To-Fish event.

Each youth carried a personal registration card with their first name, last initial and age. When the kids achieved learning at each station, the station captain would hole punch the card, when all the stations were completed, the youth was eligible to drop the card into the raffle hopper for one of 76 free rod/reel rigs.

Once a polluted waterway that would burn from the heat of a lighted match, today the Buffalo River waterfront is clean, alive, and hopping with fish, kayaks, canoes and kids with fishing poles.  The Buffalo-Niagara Riverkeeper Group is a big part of the clean-up progress.

The kids and their families all learned a bit more about the adventure of the outdoors through the fun of fishing, many for the very first time!

While the river was running a bit muddy from recent heavy rains, the steady flow of riverfront kayakers, sailboats, canoes and power boats showed proof that water color is not a deterrent.  Kids fishing from the Bison City fishing pier were busy.  Even single adults without kids came to discover the fun and adventure of “how-to-fish”.  More and more people want to know.

Lynda Kollar, Rose Barus and Linda Cooley energized a positive first-moment connection with folks at the registration welcome station.

Inner city kids and parent, guardians and many others discovered the fun of fishing with the Buffalo city skyline in full view. 

Kids and parents learned “How-To-Fish” and what to do from Western New York bass pro, Scott Gauld, who took time to share “easy tips” for everyone in the program.  He explained that catching a fish with a rod and reel (bait or artificial lure) is not only possible, it is fun and not difficult.  Gauld provided that special seal of “sure-fun is right around the corner” that only a professional angler might be able to influence for new onlookers.  Kids went away looking for the fishing pier!

Marine Unit 2 with Erie County Sheriff Tim Dusza and his team, provided tours of their vessel.  Everyone learned about water-safety, kids were allowed to blow the horn and turn on the flashing lights. Big smiles there!

Russ Johnson and Bob Carlson, members of the East Aurora Fish & Game Club, who have perfected the system for educating kids and parents on how to tie a perfect Palomar Knot and Clinch Knot, taught everyone how to tie on a hook in only a few seconds.  

Rigging a weedless plastic bait, a plastic worm or jig tail, was made easy with a hands-on demonstration by junior Bassmasters Alex Gauld and Collin Voss, as they provided each youth with a souvenir plastic creature bait sample from Cabela’s.  The kids could use the bait to fish with or take home.  The girls seemed to pick the pink squiggly-tail crayfish!

Environmental Conservation Officer, Jeff Jondel, and firearm safety instructor, Joe Mills, provided hands-on firearm safety training.  They shared the rules of responsibility for parents and kids, so they could experience the Cabela’s BB-Gun Range, an inflated and fully enclosed, fully safe, “bounce house” style event.  The NRA safety-instructors provided easy 1, 2, 3 steps for responsible use of a firearm, using a BB-gun.  Kids and parents took turns checking their aim using Daisy Red Ryder BB-Guns, shooting at suspended souvenir paper targets.  Happy kids took their targets home with ear-to-ear smiles as souvenirs.

Lifetime youth educator and certified New York State Archery champion, Paul Stoos, worked with Earl Farrel, Sr., to provide first-time how-to lessons for kids at the Cabela’s Archery Booth, using air-suspended floating ball targets.  

Charter Captain Jerry May and walleye master, Ted Malota, taught kids how to cast a spincast fishing rod with hookless casting baits.  The kids were sailing their lines a very long way toward hula-hoop targets in just minutes.  Ted shared, “Wow, some of these kids are really good with so little practice!”  Fun for all!

The kids and adults fished from “George’s Landing,” the legacy honor name for the Bison City fishing pier.  It was a fun and exciting adventure station for kids, even more exciting for some parents who had never touched a live fish before. On-site fishing educator, Dave Solowski, provided eager kids with bait, pre-rigged rods, reels, bobbers, hooks, split-shot and plenty of nightcrawler bait supplied by Weekley’s Worms.  Weekly’s Worms provides more than 50 million redworms and nightcrawlers to anglers every year.  Imagine that!

Dockside outfitter, Donna Kayes, provided solid “pre-fish confidence” while outfitting each youth with a life-preserver before entering the fishing pier area.  Several first-fish catches were recorded, with new adventure and fun had by all. The fish were placed in the aerated “Lunker Pool” and released by the kids after the event.  Kids that did not catch a fish enjoyed seeing the swimming fish that others caught. After the event, the kids helped release all the fish to swim another day, a meaningful lesson in conservation for our youth.

Lyme disease is a serious killer of healthy fun and life. “It starts with deer ticks,” says instructor, Sheri Voss, as she uses dolls and explains details  to stay safe in a manner that little kids and their parents can understand. 

At the newest learning station, “OUTDOOR AWARENESS,” outdoor educator, Sheri Voss, provided hands-on lessons for families with advice on how to stay prepared, protected, informed and proactive, whenever they head outdoors.  There was special focus on deer ticks and the Lyme disease outbreak in northeast USA.

As families completed the learning station tours, a 70-page slide show was shown on the 7-foot screen indoors, allowing for continued fishing and outdoor adventure education.  While observing the screen, the kitchen crew provided world famous Sahlen’s grill-cooked hot dogs, Perry’s Ice Cream, Paula’s Donuts, Gwen Jozwiak’s hand-made “fish cupcakes,” beverages and other munchies.

During the random gear raffle, 76 happy youths won a free rod/reel combo.  Everyone else, adults too, took home fishing maps, tackle, and special prizes from the “Bison City Tackle Treasure Chest.”

The kids and the adults were all BIG WINNERS!

This special youth outreach event is annual event sponsored and coordinated by the Bison City Rod & Gun Club with special thanks to Ted and Doraine Malota, Cabela’s, Erie County Federation of Sportsmen, WNY Safari Club, Sahlen’s Meat Packing, the Norby Antonik Foundation, Weekley’s Bait, Paula’s Donuts and 21 dedicated volunteers who donated their time to help youth and their families learn more about the outdoors through the fun of fishing!  

A DIFFERENT KIND OF FATHER’S DAY GIFT LIST

By Larry Whiteley

I know there are lots of Father’s Day gift lists out there and you’re probably being bombarded with all kinds of ads and people telling you what to get. Take a little time to read this though, and it could be the best Father’s Day that dad has ever had.   

Father’s Day gifts don’t have to be expensive. They can be a gift you made or had made that is humorous, puts a smile on their face or brings back fond memories.

Here are some ideas any outdoor dad would love to get for Father’s Day because they are all gifts that come from the heart.

Gather up photos of them with a big fish or buck, kids or grandkids, fishing or hunting buddies, etc. Now, get on your computer and go to www.snapfish.com, www.shutterfly.com, www.walgreens.com and others.

Have a wall or desk calendar made using those pictures for their office or workshop. You can even add important dates like birthdays and anniversaries.

Pictures can also be put on mugs for their coffee, mouse pads for their computer desk, key rings for their truck, aprons for fish fry’s or grilling, luggage tags for trips, playing cards for deer camp, t-shirts and sweatshirts to wear proudly, and phone covers they carry with them all the time.

You can also take a cedar or barn wood board and paint “Gone Fishing”, “Hunting Camp”, “I’d Rather Be Canoeing”, “Fishing Guide for Hire”, or maybe “Hunting and Fishing Stories Told Here”. Every time they look at it they will remember you made it for them.

Those same boards, but maybe a little longer, can be made into hat or coat racks using dowel rods and putting an old shotgun shell over it.  Half cedar logs also work for this.  You can also use pieces of deer antlers, old door knobs or tree limbs.

Another idea is to take old used shotgun shells, as well as rifle or pistol shells, and turn them into lamp or ceiling fan chain pulls.  Drill through the spent primer and insert a chain cut to the length you want.  Fill the shotgun shell with BB’s and close the end.  For the spent rifle or pistol shell, you also drill out the primer and feed the chain through the hole. Then insert a bullet back into the open end.

If dad likes to hike or just go for walks, make him a customized hiking stick. I usually wander through the woods until I find a young tree that will never get very big because of overcrowding. Cedar and hickory are my favorites because they are usually straighter and have more character to them. I have even dug up cedars so I can use the root ball for the top of the stick to make it really unique.

Cut to length to fit your dad, sand off rough spots and round the top of the stick.  Next, drill a hole below where his hand would be and run a piece of leather or rope through the hole to use as a strap.  If you really want to make it special carve his name or something special into his hiking stick.

Other unique things you can make him from cedar limbs include paper clip and pen holders, lamps, towel holders and the list goes on and limited only by your imagination.

If dad enjoys feeding and watching birds in the backyard make him a really neat bird house.  Go online and you can find hundreds of bird house plans to go by as well as plans for making a lot of these things.  Since I have made all the items I have written about, if you have any questions feel free to e-mail me at lwhiteley2@basspro.com and I will be glad to help.

Any of these would make a great Father’s Day gift I am sure dad would love to have because you made it for him.  However, if you are limited by skills or creativity, I am betting there is something else he would like to have more than anything.

Call him and say, “Dad for your Father’s Day present I want to take you fishing” or “Dad for Father’s Day, let’s go camping together just you and me”.  It could also be hiking, canoeing, going to the shooting range or a multitude of other outdoor activities.  Even just sitting around a campfire in the woods, near the water or in the backyard would be a great gift.

Sure they will appreciate the store bought gifts or gifts you made, but most dads’ spell love T.I.M.E.  What is most important to them is time with just you or the whole family out enjoying our great outdoors and making memories.

Note: All pictured items made by the author.

Gurgle, Babble & Slurp – the Welcome Language of a Reborn Trout Stream

By Forrest Fisher

Chuck Swanderski, a member of the Doc Fritchey Trout Unlimited Chapter, volunteers his time to teach youngsters and oldsters about the fun of fly fishing. Forrest Fisher Photo

Fly fishing for trout is a new adventure for fishermen more familiar with trolling for Great Lakes walleye or casting for tournament bass.  That makes it a new adventure for yours truly.

The new unfamiliar tool? A lightweight fly rod about eight-feet in length with a single-action reel that holds a heavy-looking fluorescent color “fly line” with a long, fine, clear leader tied to the end.     

We were fishing Quittapahilla Creek, a small stream in Lebanon County, Pennsylvania (near the candy-making city of Hershey), known locally as the “Quittie,” and my mentor for the day, Chuck Swanderski, a member of the Doc Fritchey Trout Unlimited Chapter, shared some of the history of this waterway. 

For newcomers to fly fishing, the choices are many, including dry flies, wet flies, streamers and nymphs. Forrest Fisher Photo

The creek starts as a clear, clean, upward bubbling spring, just a few miles upstream from where we were standing.  Problem was that it had become an industrial waste discharge outlet for 80 years ending just after WWII.  At that time, the stream was dead with little aquatic life and no fish.  From WWII until about 1990, the area had become a waste dump when concerned citizens started a clean-up with organized angler groups.  They petitioned for grant monies and project funding from state and federal sources, and got them. 

Tying a 2-fly rig is simple with the right instruction, as the first fly is tied normally, the second fly is attached by a short 12-inch leader to the curved shank of the first fly. Forrest Fisher Photo

Trout Unlimited assisted with the hard work and planning efforts, providing manpower for stream improvement that included invasive plant removal, stream clean-up, riparian buffer tree plantings, bank retainer netting, in-stream boulder structure placement and habitat construction, cedar chip trails (anti-deer tick), safety-minded access, parking areas, stream stocking and harvest monitoring.  And more.

The downstream areas of the riffles created from water flow over the in-stream boulder placements become highly oxygenated, providing preferred comfort zones for oxygen-seeking trout.  They are also preferred areas for anglers to ply their skills with fly presentations.

The 2-fly rig is effective when aquatic insects are present in healthy streambeds and are drifting along in the current. Forrest Fisher Photo

For this day, Chuck provided me with an intro to learning on-stream etiquette and made it a fun adventure for yours truly.  He supplied details about the usual “how to do” things with the nearly weightless feathered hooks.  It might have been a sort of day-long ordeal for Chuck, but I think we had some great fun. 

We shared conversations, we laughed, and we joked about modern life, mostly comparing it to ancient life in America five decades ago when we were kids.  Lots to compare with 27 cent gas and Dick Tracy wristwatches from back then.  Beam me up Scotty.  We’re almost there!

It is humbling to watch a skilled fly angler cast a nearly weightless fly with so little effort.  Chuck was VERY good.  With a curious and watchful eye, it is easy to see that there is an artful rhythm to the whisper of the unassuming fly line soaring gently overhead to land so softly in a riffle 40 feet upstream.  No sound, no vigor, just a small feathery sample of barbless food for a hungry trout. 

This home-made streamer from Neshannock Creek Fly Shop caught several fish for us when the 2-fly rig only drew followers.

As I listened to Chuck direct my ability to make unfettered motion with a 50-year old Fenwick “gold series” fiberglass fly rod and fly, I forgot about all of the many issues on my mind.  Paying bills, story deadlines, emails to answer, calls to make and the ever-growing to-do list for around the house back home in East Aurora, New York, five hours north.  They all disappeared during these few hours of on-stream renewal.  I was developing something I had only heard about from other fly rod anglers, a kinship with the natural world of a water flow and feathered, fuzzy hooks.

The author enjoys chemical-free protection from deer ticks, black flies and mosquitoes with a protective skin covering suit made by Rynoskin Total (http://rynoskin.com/) that fits comfortably under his clothing, even on hot days. Note the beige color suit that includes socks, bottoms, tops, gloves and hood (gloves and hood not worn in picture).  Chuck Swanderski Photo

My heart and soul was at peace with nature in this restored stream.  I was feeling quintessential on the Quittie!  The gurgle of the flowing water was such a welcome sound.  It is, perhaps, a sacred signal that these same swish and chinkle sounds occurred hundreds of years before. 

At that moment, I was again stopped in mid-thought, feeling bonded by nature to our forebears.  I thought to myself, again, such peace.  I measured my heartrate, it was 52.  Indeed, heart-found peace!  This fly rod stuff was really good stuff. 

Earlier we tied on a two-fly rig using nymph stage Hare’s Ear flies to imitate aquatic insect larvae in the stream. After an hour of casting skill improvement, we moved from hole to hole and rifle to riffle checking for active fish. The fish were moving toward the fly, but would turn away, perhaps the wrong size or pattern. Maybe my leader was too heavy.  So Chuck switched me to a hand-made streamer fly made by his old fishing buddy at Neshannock Creek Fly Shop from another favorite fishing spot of his near Pittsburgh (visit http://www.ncflyshop.com/).

The retrieve was fairly simple when compared to some bottom big jig bass fishing tactics. This simply was cast out with a roll cast, then retrieved in a pull, pull, and stop manner. Bringing in a few inches of line with each pull.

On the second cast, a 15-inch rainbow trout slammed the fly. Wham!  My arm jolted forward as the fish ran the other way, then leaped high in summersault fashion some four times before coming to our welcome net about 45 seconds later.  My heart rate zipped a bit too, awesome fun that was measurable.  What fun this was!  We carefully released the fish to fight another day, maybe to provide these same moments of fun for some youngster tomorrow or the next day. 

This 15-inch rainbow trout wacked a streamer fly and just made the day so much more special. A beautiful, colorful fish.  Chuck Swanderski Photo

Lastly, Chuck was really happy to share something that might serve as a learning lesson for thousands of other streams in the country, the Quittapahilla Creek Garbage Museum.  Here was a collection of hundreds of various shapes of disposed plastics. Bottles, baby toys, plastic chain, plastics in many forms, most of it tattered, broken, but still identifiable.

The Quittapahilla Creek Garbage Museum creates a mind-sustaining mental picture of what plastics have done to our environment and everything in it.  Forrest Fisher Photo

According to a written message from the Garbage Museum Executive Director, an educator person who placed numerous informational learning signs for others to study and whose name is not known to me, “Most plastics will DECOMPOSE, but never BIODEGRADE.  Breaking into smaller chunks, the plastic molecules will be with us for millions of years, ingested and excreted millions of times by fish, birds and other organisms.”  After reading this I thought to myself…and we wonder where cancer comes from – something we didn’t have much of 50 years before plastics.

Then I recalled the movie named “The Graduate,” where most of us remember the most significant word from that steamy movie made in 1967, “plastics.”  There is goodness and not-so-goodness, perhaps, with every invention.  I wondered if the preceding native ancestors, the Lenape Indians, would continue to use plastics if they understood what we now know about plastics?    

It was getting late, we had walked about 3,000 feet downstream stream from the public parking lot on this 34-acre Quittie Nature Park stream and the temperature was 90.  It was time to recap our trip with friends from the Pennsylvania Outdoor Writers Association at the nearby Snitz Creek Brewery, a tasteful beer-making facility not far from the stream.  We took a beer plant tour with co-founder, Patrick Freer, then discovered a few moments later that there is nothing quite like a microbrew they call “Opening Day IPA.”  This is particularly true among fellow fly-rodders that can tell a tale, if you know what I mean.  “No, my fish was bigger.  I caught two. I caught four.” And on and on.  You get the picture.  A fun, thirst-quenching, long-winded, joke-filled lunch.  The best kind.    

When friends and community work together to create a revitalized stream treasure and nature area, the future is brighter for everyone.  On a related note though, while we seem to have saved our second amendment with our current legislators – a good thing, the work of clean streams and waterways may become more challenging due to currently retracting rules of the Clean Water Act.  Be watchful as sportsmen, speak up when we need to.

Hats off to all those volunteers that take the time to reclaim lost parts of nature for the benefit of our common future. 

 

Bobbing Tails & Black Scales

  • How two very different species found homes in our homes
  • This tale of two species has a happy ending
  • We are all part of Aldo Leupold’s “Land Mechanism” at work

By Jim Low

The small cup of a phoebe nest gets crowded by the time five or six chicks near fledging size.

You step out your front door to walk the dog before bedtime, and are startled by a flutter of departing wings.  The next morning, you find white splashes of bird droppings outside the door, and a little gray bird is perched on the shepherd’s hook above your bird feeder.  Instead of dropping down to grab sunflower seeds, it periodically flies out into the air above your lawn, pumping its tail impatiently in between forays. 

Outdoor light fixtures are a favorite nesting spot for Eastern phoebes, but any horizontal surface out of the weather will do.

On your way back indoors, you spy a clump of moss and mud atop your porch light.  Inside, you open the closet in your foyer and find a 4-foot snake skin inside.

What do these two things have in common? They are evidence that your home and its environs are part of a healthy ecosystem.

If you live in Missouri, the pert little gray bird that startled you was an Eastern phoebe, a member of the flycatcher family.  It isn’t particularly showy, but you can always recognize it by its nervous habit of pumping its tail up and down.  Nervous or not, phoebes aren’t sensitive to human disturbance.  Quite the opposite, they seem to seek out human habitations for their nesting sites.  Their favorite nesting spots in our neighborhood are the horizontal surfaces provided by outdoor light fixtures.

Eastern phoebe are often viewed on a neighborhood fence, farm fence or garden fence.

You might wonder where phoebes nested before humans began erecting houses, barns, sheds and other structures with nice dry spaces beneath roof eaves.  They did – and still do – what swallows do, and built their nests on rock ledges beside streams.  That works out nicely for them, since the insects that comprise most of their diet thrive around running water.  Apparently houses with water features, sprinklers and bird baths work for them, too.

Snakes, like this common rat snake, can reach places you might not believe if you didn’t see it with your own eyes.

Getting back to that scaly surprise in the closet, if you make your yard a haven for birds, rabbits, chipmunks, squirrels and other small creatures, you also make it attractive to the rest of the food chain.  This means foxes, coyotes, bobcats, hawks, owls and snakes. 

This 21-inch black rat snake was just inches away from his goal – a nest full of phoebe chicks.

The impressive skin my wife found in our closet a few years ago came from a particularly prosperous black rat snake.  Its contribution to our residential ecosystem was keeping rodent numbers in check. 

Unfortunately for the phoebes and those of us who love them, rat snakes aren’t exclusively rat eaters (ratatarians?).  We initially blamed blue jays, such easy targets for slander, for the disappearance of five phoebe chicks from the nest beside our front door.  But the truth came out the following year, when I found a reptilian ratter neatly wedged in the grooves of our brickwork.  It was at the top of the wall, and within inches of raiding the new phoebe nest.

I spared the snake, pulling him down and escorting him to the far edge of the yard, but he ultimately paid for his crime when he had the bad fortune to inhabit a patch of tall grass when I mowed it (What’s green and black and red and flies through the air with a sickening THRRRRUPPPPP?).

Anyway, assuming that the late Mr./Ms. No Shoulders had a family, I decided that the phoebes needed a more secure spot for their nest.  Toward that end, I assembled a modest wooden box with an overhanging roof and placed it 8 feet up the slick exterior wall of my tool shed.  There, the phoebes have nested unmolested ever since, and the rat snake family has returned to its rodent-control duties.

This modest box 8 feet up a smooth wall, provides safety from snakes.

Photos on trail cameras prove that foxes, coyotes and bobcats patrol the surrounding woods, but they steer clear of our house. 

Sharp-shinned hawks exact their tribute at our bird feeders, and barred owls stake out our lawn, sparing my vegetable garden from all but a few very cautious cotton-tailed marauders.  Shrews do their part to keep the local field mice honest, and moles thin out the grubs and other underground pests, which I consider a good trade for humps of loosened soil.

These are all reminders that mankind doesn’t exist in a vacuum. 

Our species is one cog – admittedly a very influential one – in what Aldo Leopold called “the land mechanism.”  It’s nice to see the other parts working, and a reminder that we should do our part to sustain balance that all of creation needs to survive.

New Channel Catfish Record in New York State!

  • Lake Ontario, Jefferson County, 35-pounds, 3 ounces
  • Lucky Angler is Watertown Resident, Eric Scordo
  • Bait was a Simple Nightcrawler
Using just a nightcrawler, Eric Scordo of Watertown caught a 35-pound, 3-ounce channel catfish measuring 38 ¼ inches in Lake Ontario in Jefferson County on April 29, 2017.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has confirmed that a new state record has been established for channel catfish.

Using just a nightcrawler, Eric Scordo of Watertown caught a 35-pound, 3-ounce channel catfish measuring 38 ¼ inches in Lake Ontario in Jefferson County on April 29.  The fish broke the previous state record caught from Brant Lake (Warren County) in 2002 by nearly 2½ pounds.

“Mr. Scordo’s record-breaking channel catfish is a prime example of the outstanding fishing opportunities in New York for a variety of species, not just popular gamefish,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “This new record kicks off the 2017 freshwater fishing season, and I encourage all New Yorkers to buy their license, pick up a rod and reel, and try their hand at hooking a trophy catch in any of the state’s 7,500 lakes and ponds and 70,000 miles of rivers and streams.”

Channel catfish are the largest members of the catfish species that live in New York and can be found statewide.  They feed primarily on the bottom and are most easily caught using live bait such as worms or baitfish.  When hooked, catfish can provide a challenge for even the most experienced anglers.  They are also one of the tastiest freshwater fish.

Mr. Scordo submitted details of his winning catch as part of DEC’s Angler Achievement Awards Program, which tracks state record fish.  Through this program, anglers can enter freshwater fish that meet specific qualifying criteria and receive official recognition of their catch and a distinctive lapel pin commemorating their achievement.  Three categories make up the program: Catch & Release, Annual Award, and State Record.

For more information about the Angler Achievement Awards Program, including a downloadable application form, go to DEC’s website.  Program details and an official entry form can also be found in DEC’s current Freshwater Fishing Regulations Guide.

For additional information on the Angler Achievement Awards Program call (518) 402-8891 or email fwfish@dec.ny.gov or go to the website: http://www.dec.ny.gov/press/press.html.

 

One of Too Few

  • One Man Trout Angler, Fly-Tyer, Wisdom-Provider
  • Roaring River State Park Trout Secrets
  • Tim’s Fly Shop – Fishing Advice for the Day
Beautiful trout are the usual order of the day with the right fly in the right place.

By David Gray

Opening the door to Tim’s Fly Shop, I walked onto “I Tie Flies” Boulevard.

Grinning without knowing it, I somehow felt a new twang of destiny on my side, positive energy and the odor of dry fly silicon or something.

There are times when you know your first time into a place, you made the right turn.

The quiet, the warm glow of the shop, this was going to be a powerful day.  You know the feeling when you are in the right place at the right time.

There was feathers, hackle, dubbing, chenille, thread, hooks and all that, but a guy named Tim Homesley sitting at his fly-tying bench with a fish-catchy grin and asking me if I needed some help.  That sealed the deal.

Some say that fly-fishing mentor Tim Homesley is one of a kind.

Others say Tim is one of too few.  I know that to be true.

Tim’s Fly Shop sits just outside the entrance to Roaring River State Park nestled deep in the Ozark hills of Missouri.

A baby boomer will call his shop “old school” where product selection is excellent, prices are fair and service is genuine.

A millennial will call his shop “trendy” where selection is great and service is awesome.

Tim Homesley is about real, live advice. No CD, no DVD, no memory stick. It’s just Tim’s way with words of wisdom, face to face.

Tim is one of the few.  Many tackle stores and fly shops like Tim’s that were prevalent not so long ago are now mostly gone.  Many have given way to on-line shopping and large retailers.

But what you will find at Tim’s you will never find online or at any big box store.   At Tim’s you will not only find tackle, you will find incredible knowledge that is shared with enthusiasm.

Mr. Tim Homesley is the owner, proprietor, tackle salesman, fly-maker and advice-giver at Tim’s fly shop.

Tim knows a lot about fishing.

His fishing advice is Priceless, Accurate, his fishing advice is a Sacred Vision into your Fish-Catching Future, his fishing advice is worth listening to. High-value wisdom is not found just anywhere.

“Dad probably thought I wanted a fly rod and brought one home for me when I was five,” Tim shared.

That fly rod sparked a 49-year long passion for fishing and learned knowledge about fishing.   Tim reminisced how before he could drive, Mom or Dad would drop him and a friend to the trout stream in the morning and pick them up that evening after they fished all day.  The passion started then.  Tim learned a lot about how to catch trout.

Prior to opening his shop, Tim spent 9 years managing the Roaring River State Park store.  And Tim added even more to his knowledge about trout fishing.

Perfectly perfect flies are the usual fish-catchers from Tim’s Fly Shop.

Then 23 years ago, he opened Tim’s Fly Shop.  That adds up to 49 years of fishing knowledge.

Buy $10 worth of tackle at Tim’s and you will get a couple hundred dollars of fishing knowledge thrown in.  Live advice.  No CD, no DVD, no memory stick. It’s just Tim’s way with words of wisdom, face to face.  Even if you don’t buy anything, you still get a couple of hundred dollars worth of knowledge and tips just by walking around at Tim’s Fly Shop.

Tim and Tim’s Fly Shop is one of too few.   Tim is so informative.

Question:  Other than Roaring River in Missouri where else do you like to fish?

Tim:  I like Montauk Trout area in Missouri.  It is the headwaters of the Current River and not many people know me there so I can just fish and enjoy.  I also like to float Missouri streams to catch and always release smallmouth.

Question:  Where do you like to fish outside Missouri?

Tim:  New Zealand, it is a favorite, beautiful country, friendly people and great trout fishing.

I also like the Western US.  There are some great places in the west.

Question:  What do you enjoy the most about running Tim’s Fly Shop?

Tim:  Helping people learn how to fish and catch trout. The best is teaching younger people how to fly fish and get good at it. I have taught kids to fly fish who are now Dad’s and they now bring their kids in for me to work with and teach.

Tim’s Fly Shop is like going to visit with a friend at your home. I have to stop there every time I drive by.

Question: What is your fondest memory of running Tim’s Fly Shop?

Tim:  I worked with a young man name Trent from Springfield for several years teaching him how to be a very good angler.  He wrote me a full length sincere letter thanking me for that.  It was special to receive that letter.

If you love camping, hiking, trout fishing and nature, Roaring River State Park in Missouri is one very special place to visit.  When you visit, be sure to stop by that special place called Tim’s Fly Shop, it’s located on the lower northwest side of the park on Highway 112.  On Wednesday, the shop is closed and you won’t find Tim.  He may be somewhere with rod in hand accumulating more knowledge about fishing that he will be more than ready to share with you on Thursday.

You can email Tim at timsfly@hotmail.com, but the best bet is stop in at his store address: Tim’s Fly Shop, 233387 State Hwy 112, Cassville, Missouri, 65625, or call to be sure if you are traveling, call at 417-847-4956.

For lodging, campground and park information for Roaring River State Park, call 417-847-2330

5 Good THINGS to KNOW ABOUT HUNTING

  • Environmental Preservation
  • Support Regulations
  • Save Wildlife Populations
  • Provides Nutritional Alternatives
  • Vital Part of Wildlife Conservation
A bonded connection between hunting and conservation can start at an early age when family hunts share the sacred benefits of the outdoors, wildlife, adventure and personal responsibility.  Forrest Fisher Photo

Contributed by NSSF

Recognizing that the connection between hunting and conservation can seem counterintuitive, the National Shooting and Sports Foundation (NSSF) has developed a series of infographics to help the public better understand hunting and hunters.

In truth, the values of today’s socially and environmentally conscious society are closely related to that of hunters’.

Hunting aids environmental preservation

Hunter-supported taxes on equipment and license fees have afforded wildlife agencies the money to be able to acquire and maintain land for the conservation of game and non-game species. This land also provides space for outdoor recreational activities such as hunting, fishing, hiking, kayaking, camping and more.

Hunters support regulations

Hunters demonstrate their respect for regulated hunting by taking hunter safety education courses, following the rules of ethical hunting, and adhering to regulations, seasons and permit procedures that differ from state to state and species to species in order to help strategically manage wildlife.

Hunters helped save wildlife populations

Hunters helped create a sustainable conservation model allowing Americans to participate in regulated hunting that supports the conservation of wildlife. This model, which was so successful it has been adopted around the world, has helped restore species such as Wild Turkeys, Rocky Mountain Elk and others, some that were on the brink of vanishing forever.

Hunting provides nutritional alternatives

In the old days, people regularly hunted for their food. Today, as many strive to know more about where their food comes from and how it will affect their health, they are turning back to wild game, the most organic and sustainable meat source in the world, to provide the best nutrients for their body and the most natural life for the animal.

Hunting is a vital part of wildlife conservation

Hunting is a highly regulated tool that plays an important role in wildlife management. Biologist study wildlife populations, habitats and food, then work with legislators to establish regulations on hunting that will keep wildlife populations in balance, as well as promote growth and breeding, as habitat allows.

Hunting can be difficult to understand, but NSSF encourages you to look at these infographics to get a better grasp of its benefits. Do you care about the environment, land preservation, animal conservation and personal nutrition? Then you can support hunting.

National Archery in the Schools Program Continues to Grow in New York

  • 60 students from 17 New York schools eligible to participate in national archery tournament
  • Program introduces young people to archery and other outdoor sports

April 18, 2017 – New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos today announced the 60 New York students who scored high enough in the National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP) to compete in the national tournament this May. Students from participating schools and school districts across the state competed in the archery program in March.

“The National Archery in the Schools Program is growing in New York,” said Commissioner Seggos. “This cooperative effort between conservation agencies, school systems, and private organizations is a great way to bring the sport of archery to thousands of students across the state. Archery is one of the few sports where students of all ages and athletic abilities compete at the same level for top honors. Even with the expanded participation that we have experienced here in New York, we are encouraging more schools to join us in New York NASP.”

James Faso III, a Staley Upper Elementary School student focused on his shot. NYSDEC Photo

NASP is designed to improve participation in outdoor activities among students of all athletic abilities. DEC started this program in 2008 to introduce young people to archery, outdoors, and other shooting sports, including hunting. In New York, 320 schools from 167 school districts currently participate in the program and more than 34,000 students participated during the school year. NASP continues to grow at the national level with 2.4 million students and more than 14,400 schools in 47 states participating in the program.

As part of the New York program, an annual statewide competition is held for participating schools. This year, approximately 700 students from 33 school districts competed during the first two weeks of March. The 2017 statewide event was successfully held as school-based tournaments where the students compete at their respective schools and their scores are compiled by DEC. Each competitor can achieve a maximum score of 300 points. There are three divisions: High School, grades 9-12; Middle School, grades 6-8; and Elementary School, grades 4-5.

The overall top female archer in the tournament was Jordan Sands with a score of 285. Jordan attends Hinsdale High School in Cattaraugus County. The top male archer in the tournament was Jake Hafner with a score of 287. Jake attends Schroon Lake Central (High) School in Essex County.

Students that place in the top 10 in each of the three divisions, by gender, qualify to compete and represent New York at the national NASP tournament in Louisville, Kentucky, on May 11 – 13. This year, New York is sending 60 eligible students from 17 schools to the national tournament.

Ryan Huggins, the assistant NY State NASP Coordinator and Melissa Bailey, the NY State NASP Coordinator promoting NASP to physical education teachers across the state.

Chris VanGorden from the Palmyra-Macedon and Lori Weykman from the Phelps-Clifton Springs Central School Districts in western New York both agree that “NASP is a valuable program that has created opportunities for a great number of kids that may not have otherwise been involved in a sport in our schools. We have seen first-hand the increase in self-esteem in our students who have participated in the NASP Program.”

Michael Sharp, a physical education teacher at Schroon Lake Central School, in Essex County said, “NASP is probably the best program that I have ever introduced into my curriculum; it inspires all types of students to participate. The kids absolutely love it!”

For more information on NASP and to view the NASP photo gallery, visit DEC’s website and contact the sportsman Education Program, the state program coordinator for NY-NASP at 1-888-486-8332 or e-mail at hunter@dec.ny.gov.

Morel Tales to Tell a Spring Story

  • Mushroom season is almost here.
  • It’s likely to be earlier than usual.
  • But if you are still seeing these flowers, it’s probably not here yet.
Prospects for finding morels aren’t great, while Dutchman’s Breeches remain dewy fresh.  Jim Low Photo

By Jim Low

Mushroom season is almost here, and as usual, I got the itch to hunt for them weeks ahead of their appearance.  My rational side told me that the last week of March is ridiculously early to hope to find the big yellow morels that haunt my vernal dreams.  But, as usual, Excitable Me overruled Rational Me.

In defense of Excitable Me, this year has provided extra reasons for jumping the gun.  For one thing, we had weeks of April weather in February and early March.  On top of that, I heard some credible reports of people finding morels a few weeks ago.  I got seriously itchy feet when the mercury topped 85 degrees on several days.  All it took to push me over the edge was the 2 inches of rain that fell Friday and Saturday.  I was out the door early Sunday morning to beat others to my favorite “shrooming” grounds in the Missouri River bottoms.

The temperature hovered around 50 degrees, and low, dense clouds held the promise of more rain.  Those conditions were nearly identical to the day last spring when I found a small bonanza of plump, succulent yellow morels and a scattering of little grays.  Heading out the door, I could practically smell them sizzling in the skillet.  I was sure this was my lucky day.

This unopened Trillium flower was trying to tell me something, it’s too early.  Jim Low Photo

The only footprints I found in “my” morel hot spot on public land belonged to white-tailed deer.  Great!  My early start had put me ahead of the competition.  Many of my would-be rivals no doubt still sat in uncomfortable church pews, while I strolled through a cathedral of towering oaks and maples.  But as I scanned leaf-littered bottoms, I recognized some not-so-encouraging signs.

Adam-and-Eve Orchid is the only plant that I have absolutely come to associate with morel patches.  Jim Low Photo

First was the fact that Dutchman’s Breeches and Toothwort were everywhere.  These delicate plants generally follow close on the heels of Hepatica, the earliest of Missouri’s spring blossoms.  They generally are on their way out by the time I find morels.  My optimism mushroomed temporarily when I began noticing Trillium and May Apple.  These two wildflowers have been associated with past morel finds, but as I continued walking I realized that these were the first of their kind to sprout.  None of the Trillium blossoms were open and the May Apples weren’t even showing flower buds.  By the time I find morels, these plants are in full bloom and stand 12 to 18 inches tall.  These had only poked their heads three or four inches above the leaf litter.

These May Apples hadn’t even unfolded their umbrellas on Sunday.  Jim Low Photo

Sweet William is another wildflower I associate with morel season.  This wild version of garden phlox grows in luxuriant stands when I’m finding morels, but on Sunday morning, I saw only one.  It was still shorter than a big morel and all but a couple of its blossoms were wrapped tight as cigars against the morning chill. 

With flagging confidence, I headed for the spot that produced last year’s bounty and that has been a reliable morel producer year in and year out.  The distinctive, striated leaves of Adam-and-Eve orchids greeted me, proving that the creek bottom’s loamy soil was healthy as ever.  My most productive morel patches all support this plant, also known as putty root.  But today, Adam and Eve had no delectable company.  I finally had to admit that I’d jumped the gun again, but I continued to hold out hope for finding a handful of small but delicious early gray morels.

Most of the blossoms on this Sweet William plant were shut tight against the early-morning chill.  Jim Low Photo

I’m sure that someone somewhere in Missouri found mushrooms that morning.  Sadly, that person was not me and as I trudged homeward, I began to dread the hopeful query that would greet my return: “Did you find any!?” To redeem myself, I stopped at Central Dairy, a Jefferson City institution, and bought ice cream.  That and a brisk hike with a sound track provided by cardinals and titmice, is reward enough for the time being.  I will watch the wildflowers around the house in the coming weeks.  When the Sweet William brushes my knees, I’ll pull on my hiking boots and stuff my pockets with plastic grocery bags, sure as ever that this is my day.

I’d advise you to do the same.  It’s spring!

Educational Fly Fishing Conference – It’s About Kids

• Learn Fly-Fishing, 3-Day Session, Low Cost
• For Teachers, Everyday Workers, Friends of the Outdoors
• Schooling for Adult Mentors, Community Outreach Mentors
• Science Educator, Orvis Endorsed Guide Instructor

By Forrest Fisher
The summer of 2012 – it was a good year. A very special, dedicated group of outdoor educators held the first and only national interdisciplinary fly fishing conference, and this bi-annual nationwide community outreach effort continues in June, 2017.

Designed especially for professional educators that teach school-age children, the Children in the Stream extends an invitation to community education and company training instructors alike, through an intensive 3-day conference that will train adults about the outdoors through the fun of fly fishing. The conference will introduce methods for instructors to manage effective sharing and teaching skills necessary to integrate this idea to meet curriculum requirements for community schools, organizations and company training platforms.

The course is comprised of comprehensive workshops that use fly fishing as the foundation for investigating science, math, English language arts, visual arts and community outreach. This truly unique interdisciplinary approach is possible because of the eclectic expertise of participants and the commitment from instructors.

The conference is presented by Dr. Mike Jabot and Alberto Rey. Dr. Jabot is a renowned professor in science education who is a member of NASA’s international educator’s team and who has received many teaching awards. Alberto Rey provides his extensive experience as a humble Orvis endorsed fly fishing guide, as a distinguished university professor in visual arts, and as the founder and director of a successful 18-year old youth fly fishing program.

Children in the Stream provides the instruction, materials and means of acquiring discounted equipment needed to implement the participant’s own customized interdisciplinary fly fishing curriculum or to start a youth fly fishing program in a community protocol. The truly unique programming also meets the needs of school’s that utilize common core learning standards. The instructors address how to realize the participant’s goals while working within limited budgets. The interdisciplinary workshops of the conference promote a holistic integration of conservation and community involvement that will help to nurture future stewards of our natural resources. The ultimate goal is to develop the interest of our youth for the outdoors and provide them with an appreciation and more complete understanding of their environment.

The conference is held at the beautiful Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History in Jamestown, New York. Roger Tory Peterson was an ornithologist who developed the “Field Guide to the Birds” and other field guides, and he inspired and “instructed” millions of bird-watchers and helped foster concerns for our environment around the world. In 1984, the Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History was founded in Peterson’s hometown of Jamestown, New York, as an educational institution charged with preserving Peterson’s lifetime body of work and providing environmental programming.

The conference this year will take place on June 27, 28 and 29. The cost for the three-day conference is $350 which includes instruction in the classroom, instruction in the field, fly rod outfits, fly-tying kits and reference publications. The low conference fee is available because of private grants and donations from the Dreamcatcher Foundation and the Orvis retail company.
For information about the schedule and comments about Children in the Stream by previous participants, please go to http://www.childreninthestream.com/. Please share this with a friend.

White Deer Foresee Good News for Future

White Fawn

• White Male Deer, White Female Deer, Come Together
• Indians Say this is Sacred and Special Sign

By Forrest Fisher
People everywhere are interested to see distinguished nature in the wilderness, white deer are one of those precious resources that create a sacred and reciprocal bond with nature for many of us. White deer are awe-inspiring with their simple, raw beauty.

In East Aurora, New York, photographer Theresa Meegan has introduced the nature world to the 10-year old Albino deer that has lived in this village and is frequently seen by passers-by that slow their vehicles to take a double look at the beautiful animal. The deer provides a true measure of special life in nature that survive in the wild outdoors and live long lives.

Now imagine hundreds of white deer, wild in nature, that live in deer herds all in the same place. That would be nearly incomprehensible, right? But there is such a place, though the white deer there are not Albino. The white deer found at Seneca Army Depot in central New York are a natural variation of white-tailed deer which normally exhibit brown coloring.

The Seneca White Deer are leucistic, which means they lack all pigmentation of the hair, but have the normal brown-colored eyes. Albino deer, which lack only the pigment melanin, have pink eyes (or blue eyes) and are extremely rare – like the one in East Aurora.

The Seneca White Deer interbreed freely with the brown deer in the former U.S. Army Seneca Depot there and appear to share the habitat equally. The ambassador to save the white herd at the Depot has been an old outdoor friend, Dennis Money. The Depot was a fenced-in area that kept these deer together as a giant family where hunting was usually not permitted, except for management purposes several decades ago way back to the years after World War II.

The Seneca white deer now number about 200 of the approximately 800 whitetail deer within the old Depot fence. The future of the deer, as well as the rest of the wildlife in the former Depot Conservation area had been dependent on how the Seneca County Industrial Development Agency (IDA) decided to use the 10,000 acre site, previously released for public sale by the Army. Concern by outdoor lovers of the special deer breed was high.

For about a decade or so, the home range of this special white deer herd was at risk of commercial development. The species would have been eliminated over future years, but today, the world’s largest herd of all-white deer has a new champion with Earl Martin, the new owner of the Depot land.

Martin, owner of Seneca Iron Works and Deer Haven Park LLC in Seneca Falls, bought the 7,000-acre site earlier this year, located within the Seneca County towns of Romulus and Varrick. His $900,000 offer included saving the celebrated deer herd and was unanimously approved by the Seneca IDA. That was good news that made all of the laborious and extended extraordinary efforts of Dennis Money worth all the effort. Money and Martin have saved the special deer herd.

Martin has arranged to plant more vegetation to make sure the deer have enough to eat, engaged repairs to the miles and miles of chain-link fence that surround the property, hired an ecologist to survey the land and to come up with an overall plan to ensure the white deer herd’s survival, and he has increased security patrols to keep poachers off the land.

Learn much more about the nature of this special deer herd, including how to visit the area and be charmed and inspired by these deer, visit this link: http://senecawhitedeer.org/.

According to the site, Native Americans have a long history of respect for white deer which are sometimes referred to as the ‘ghost deer.’ The Lenape Indians have a white deer prophesy. Here is an oral translation of that prophesy: “It has long been predicted that there would come a time when a white male and white female deer would be seen together, and that this would be a sign to the people to come together.’

They were way ahead of us. Despite issues that we see as a nation trying to rebuild in many ways, it seems high time for people to come together.

Women-On-Ice Have Fun, Catch Fish, Conquer Fear at Mille Lacs

All Photo Credits ©Stonehouse Photo – Hannah Stonehouse Hudson

• Women Fish Group Leads Way in Minnesota
• Ice Fishing is Giant Thrill for Lady 1st Timers
• Clam, McQuoid’s Inn, Vexilar – Key Sponsors

By Forrest Fisher

Let’s face it, walking on water is fun for everybody, especially first-time ice anglers and especially when very special travel gear is required to get there.  Folks with a physical mobility challenge rarely have a chance to consider ice fishing, but with The Women Ice Angler Project (http://theiceangler.com/) on Lake Mille Lacs in Minnesota and chief ice-fishing mentor, Barb Carey, at the helm, impossible is not in the dictionary.  Anything is possible with Carey, a humble expert angler and founder of the Wi-Women-Fish Group (Wisconsin Women Fish, http://wiwomenfish.com/) and Barb Carey Media Productions (http://www.barbcarey.com/).

For special guest team member, Ashlee Lundvall, an author, public speaker and people motivator, someone who is challenged every day to move about, there was special thrill and excitement with the thought of ice fishing.  Lundvall used her Action Track All Terrain Wheelchair (http://www.actiontrackchair.com) to get around on the ice surface and through the snow.  While the wheelchair unit can travel up to 10 miles at 3-4 mph and is electrical battery powered, after watching Lundvall, some said that the unit is powered by the Lundvall positive attitude engine.  This incredible lady angler is not deterred by adversity.

Lundvall had never been ice fishing before, so receiving an invitation from Carey was very special.  She admits that there was apprehension in consideration of her first ever ice fishing adventure and shared, “My goal was to learn everything I could.  I wheeled away with so much more than knowledge.  I gained the feeling of teamwork and empowerment, and a desire to help women everywhere (of any ability) experience the thrill of ice fishing.”

Bonnie Timm, Clam pro staff angler and participant in all three Women Ice Angler Project events said, “There were so many things I felt were ‘too big’ for me: Mille Lacs was too big, towing my snowmobile seven hours by
myself, hauling all my own gear, even leading our group across a huge ice heave.  Not long ago it all would have been ‘too big,’ but the confidence I’ve gained with this group has helped me so much.  My motivation grew even more when I met Ashlee and watched her accomplish so many things.  She lives with no fear.”

The lady icer’s with short rods and sharp hooks enjoyed accommodations in comfort at McQuoid’s Inn (www.mcquoidsinn.com), with winter service on the ice from Mac’s Twin Bay (www.macstwinbay.com).

The lady icers put the new Clam Big Foot XL6000T (http://clamoutdoors.com/) shelter to good use.  The Clam Big Foot is a hub-style, pop-up weather shelter they used for Ashlee and her Action-Track Wheelchair that provides 112 square feet of fishable area.  Access is via one side that hinges open, allowing easy entry and exit for anglers and a powered wheelchair. “Ashlee could drive right in without a barrier,” said Carey.

Carey adding, “Mille Lacs is a fish structure wonderland with so many places to fish, it was hard to choose from so many options, but with all of our shacks we had the mobility to get where we wanted to drill more holes. That’s what makes ice fishing a success.”

Mac’s Twin Bay road system built a special bridge for the group to allow the lady ice anglers access across a large crack.  While on the move to another side of the lake, the group discovered their own ice heave with open water; that put a lump in everyone’s throat—but the fear didn’t stop them.  Each was schooled in ice safety and carried picks and a throw rope.  They also carried a life-saving Nebulus, a compact bag that inflates from a CO2 canister.

The Nebulus Emergency Flotation Device (https://nebulusflotation.com) is a compact, portable life-saving tool engineered for ice and water rescue.  The Nebulus is small and light enough on a snowmobile or ATV, it inflates in seconds, helping a rescuer reach the victim quickly and pull them to safety. Fully inflated, it can support up to three adults and a submerged snowmobile or ATV.

With no mishaps, these lady anglers forged ahead using common sense and safe ice skills to carry on—and they caught big, healthy walleyes and northern pike.  Even a Tullibee, to win the dinosaur booby prize.

The goal of the Women Ice Angler Project is to encourage women to try ice fishing as well as to mentor those who already enjoy it and want to improve their skills. “The other side of what we’re doing is to move the industry forward showing more women ice anglers,” said award-winning outdoor photographer, Hannah Stonehouse Hudson.  “We’re living this incredible dream, pursuing a sport we love.  It’s good to have the stories and the photos to go with women ice fishing.”

Sponsors have access to high-quality photos for use in their social media and marketing efforts. “We’ve seen photos from previous years’ #womenonice events on product packaging, in tourism brochures, product catalogs, store banners and definitely in lots of social media,” said Rikki Pardun, Clam pro staff angler and the gal to claim the biggest fish of the weekend, a nice Mille Lacs walleye. “We didn’t measure or weigh it, just snapped a picture and released it back.”

Two Clam and Vexilar pro staffers, Shelly Holland of Oak Grove, Minn. and Shantel Wittstruck of Sioux Falls, S.D. participated.  It was year three for Holland and first year for Wittstruck.  Also new this year was Cabela’s pro staffer Karen McQuoid.  Karen and her husband Kevin own Mac’s Twin Bay out of Isle.  “We have something truly special here in this world-class fishery and I had a great time sharing my hometown lake with the team,” said McQuiod.

Special additional thanks for support from Mille Lacs Tourism (millelacs.com), Mugg’s of Mille Lacs (www.muggsofmillelacs.com), the kind folks at Vexilar Marine Electronics (http://vexilar.com/) and Hannah Stonehouse Hudson at Stonehouse Photo (http://hannahstonehousehudson.com/).

During this unusual year of warm winter, the special “a-ha” moments occur on the ice and frankly, in part because of the ice.

Lundvall may have said it best for all the women, “I can’t wait for my next time on the ice.”

 

Doing the Right Thing

  • It’s seldom the easiest, but always the best course 
  • Hunting Teal in the Morning Fog 
  • When No One is Watching, There is Friendship, Kinship, Honesty

By Jim Low

Foggy conditions are common during Missouri’s early teal season, complicating waterfowl identification.

My blood ran cold.  Moments earlier, Scott and I had been elated at doubling on a pair of dive-bombing teal.  Now, as my retriever returned with the first bird, my worst fear came true.  In her mouth was a juvenile wood duck.

The combination of shirtsleeve weather and lightning-fast gunning makes Missouri’s early teal season one of my favorites.  Inherent in this season, however, is the risk of shooting a wood duck.  It’s easy to mistake a woodie for a blue-wing in the heat of action.  The potential for mistakes is multiplied by dim, often foggy conditions.  That’s why shooting hours for the early teal season begin at sunrise, not 30 minutes before, as they do for regular duck season.

Scott and I had been talking in hushed tones as we squatted among willows in Pool 11 at the south end of Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area that September morning.  Our attention snapped back to hunting when two birds hurtled into view from the right.  I shouldered my gun instinctively and Scott followed my lead.  Imagine our astonished delight when both birds fell.  But our jubilation was short-lived.  With predatory autopilot disengaged, the thinking part of my brain recalled hearing the faint “weep-weep-weep!” cry of a wood duck just before the birds appeared.  I realized that I hadn’t had (or hadn’t taken) time to actually look at the birds before firing.  The sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach became a bottomless gulf when Guinness delivered the second bird, another juvenile wood duck.

Sick-hearted and ashamed, we gathered our gear and left the marsh, leaving the two illegally killed ducks behind.  We had a tough decision to make.  We had committed a serious violation of Missouri’s Wildlife Code.  The road to recovery for North America’s wood duck population has been long and arduous.  The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) underscores the importance of protecting woodies by imposing stiffer penalties on those who shoot the beautiful perching ducks out of season.  Much more important to me than paying a fine was the fact that I was employed by MDC.  Wildlife Code violations are potential firing offenses for conservation workers.

Worrysome as these things were, a larger concern gnawed at me as we trudged back to the parking lot.  I had known Scott, who was then in his late 20s, for more than 10 years.  No one in his family hunted or fished, and I had become an outdoor mentor to him.  He was as fine a young man as I had ever known, and the idea of setting an example of breaking the law and then covering it up troubled me more than all the rest.  After a few days of reflection and continued conversations with Scott, I called Boone County Conservation Agent Robyn Raisch and laid our cards on the table.

Raisch thanked me for coming forward, but said that, because I was an MDC employee, he had to send the case up the supervisory chain to the Director’s Office for disposition.  Suddenly, the pit was back in my stomach.  Who would hire a middle-aged writer who got fired from his last job? At that point, I could only trust Director John Hoskins’ to put my good intentions and my 17-year record as an employee in the balance when weighing my fate.

I never heard anything from Hoskins, but at a meeting of the Conservation Commission a few months later, Assistant Director John Smith pulled me aside.  The pit returned to my stomach, but my faith had not been misplaced.  Alone in a courtyard, Smith told me that he admired my handling of a bad situation, and wished that everyone who committed Wildlife Code violations acted with equal integrity.  That meant more to me than he probably knew.

My experience is not unique.  A guy I know once mistakenly shot a buck with fewer than four points on one side.  Since Brad was hunting in a county where the antler-point restriction was in effect, he called the local conservation agent and reported himself.  The agent came and inspected the deer and, recognizing that Brad had made an honest mistake and done the right thing, cautioned him to be more careful in the future and left it at that.  Brad got to keep the deer, and he didn’t have to keep looking over his shoulder, wondering if someone had noticed his transgression.

Another guy I know accidentally killed a second turkey when he shot a gobbler.  He turned himself in and also got a warning.  I don’t know how often scenarios like this occur.  But those I do know about carry two lessons.  One is that doing the right thing, while seldom easy, is always the best course.  The other is that mentorship benefits mentors as much or more than it does mentees.  If I had been hunting alone at Eagle Bluffs that day, I probably would have taken the easy way out and never told anyone what happened.  I would have saved myself a $229 fine and a good deal of worry, but what I had done and what it told Scott about us would have haunted me for the rest of my life.  Being Scott’s mentor forced me to be a better man.

Individual ethics determine behavior in traditional outdoor sports, where the hunter is the only witness.

I’m not suggesting that we call a conservation agent every time we kill two doves on the last shot when filling a limit or when we forget to take all the lead shot shells out of a parka pocket before hunting ducks.  The measure of hunting ethics is how you conduct yourself when no one is watching, not whether you commit an occasional blunder.  If you know in your heart of hearts that you could and should have done better, when your conscience whispers that you have crossed a line that is important to you, don’t shy away from a voluntary mea cupla.  You might or might not earn a ticket, but you certainly will earn respect from the conservation agent, not to mention yourself.

Born to Hunt Pheasants

  • Well-Trained Bird Dogs
  • Timeless Moments with Old Friends  
  • Tasty, Beautiful, Ringed-neck Pheasants
  • One Surprising Modern-Day Youngster

For STO 02072017, picture 1of5By Joe Forma

The well-trained pointing Lab whirled into the red brush and a gorgeous Ringed-neck Pheasant clawed his way airborne.  The first of some 50 such flushes for my son, Andy Forma, of Penfield, New York, and his four companions on their 4th annual hunt with F&B Upland Birds in Hamlin, New York.

The companion hunters were Safari Club stalwarts Judge Bill Boller, George Cipressi and his grandson Dom, and also Dr. Pat Baranello, owner of the Calibre Shop ammo source, and Ron Bullard of Collins, New York.  Yours truly was the group photographer.

For STO 02072017, picture 2of5The hosts at F&B Upland are Fred Paye and Bill Surridge.  These great guys run a superb hunt in what they maintain as traditional Western New York bird cover.  As we step afield, we are transported back to the 1970’s when Ringed-necks were so prevalent locally.  The 200 plus acres of hunting land features standing corn, soybean fields, hedgerows and acres of natural red brush.

Fred and Bill provide wonderful, well-trained bird dogs, featuring Pointing Labs and Shorthair Pointers.  They are without a doubt the very best bird dogs I have ever hunted over.  They even respond to Fred’s command “get a drink” by immediately jumping into one of the large water tubs sprinkled around the area. Neat to see.

The morning hunt was for 25 randomly released roosters.  This is no walk ’em up and shoot in a 4-inch clover field.  Every bird was a challenge to locate and bag especially in the thick red brush and well grown hedgerows.  The dogs did a great job.  Many of the birds ran like the wily birds of old.  The group all had great shots and needed about 3-4 flushes and misses to settle down and then they rarely missed.

For STO 02072017, picture 3of5A real highlight of this hunt was George’s grandson, Dom, a 12 year-old super hunter.  Andy was really glad to have a youngster along to promote the future of his sport.  Dom couldn’t have been a better sportsman even at his young age.  He always held his cut-down Remington 20 gauge pump at a proper port arms position, as instructed.  He showed no impaired nerves or excitement, but hunted like he had done it a dozen times, not his first time.  He was an excellent shot.  He downed at least six hard-flying pheasants with single shots.  I didn’t see him miss.

After a great morning with about 22 birds brought to bag, we broke for a luxury lunch of roast venison, deep fried Canandaigua Lake yellow perch and Lake Erie walleye.  Fred and Bill fed us well in their spacious and heated tent.

For STO 02072017, picture 5of5The afternoon hunt was for an additional 25 Ringnecks.  The dogs continued their excellent work and showed no signs of fatigue.  They are well trained and well exercised, so they never quit, though some of us older sports slowed down just a bit.  The shooting was right on the mark though and the birds flushed hard with disconcerting cackling.

For STO 02072017, picture 4of5A tribute to all was that not a single bird was lost as a cripple.  Great shooting and great retrieving by the dogs.  By around 3:00 p.m., there five happy hunters and one old photographer, me, who decided one last push thru the soybean field would do it.  It produced our last kill, a long-tailed, beautifully feathered cock bird.

The boys finished with 45 to be delicious pheasants and the feeling of a day well spent.  Andy booked again for a hunt next November.

FIRST TIME ICE FISHING with Kids

There is nothing quite like taking a youngster out to ice fish when the fish cooperate. Be prepared for big smiles!

  • Keep It Simple
  • Don’t Stay Too Long
  • Bring Plenty to Eat and Drink

By Forrest Fisher

There is nothing quite like taking a youngster out to ice fish when the fish cooperate.  Be prepared for big smiles!
There is nothing quite like taking a youngster out to ice fish when the fish cooperate. Be prepared for big smiles!

A few years back, when my 3-1/2 year-old grandson asked me to join him at his pre-school “show and tell”, I didn’t know how much fun that could be.  My little buddy talked about one of his favorite things – fishing.  He brought his 4-foot long Zebco “Tigger” fishing rod with pushbutton casting reel, his little blue/beige colored Plano tackle box, all his bobbers, sinkers and hooks, and one more thing that just touched my soul – a picture of him and me taken by his father when he caught his first sunfish on vacation last year.  A moment to live for!

The size of his ear to ear smile in the picture made everyone else in the classroom smile too.  “Wow, look at that BIG fish,” said another young guy in the class. “This is me and my Dziadzia (Polish word for grandad)”, he said, “And ‘dis is a fish I caught last year on vacation.”  Then, using a rubber casting plug, he went on to give a live demonstration of how he could cast.  He then looked over to me and said, “Me and my Dziadzia are Fish’N Buddies.”  A piece of my soul had just been gold-plated.  It’s been a few days since then, actually it’s been a few years, but I’m still beaming with pride from the memory of that moment.  The outdoors does bond people together for a lifetime.

Even back then, my grandson could probably best be described as a “talker”.  He asks lots of questions and usually offers lots of answers too.  He is a joy.  Anyway, as I drove him home after the show and tell, he asked me about where the fish go in the winter time.  Young minds at work.

I told him the whole story about how water gets cold when winter comes and it eventually freezes on the top.  The ice forms a hard thick layer and there is water below it where the fish live through winter.  I explained that most of the fish live on the bottom in the deepest part of the lake.

Collin asked, “Don’t they get cold?”  I explained that fish are not like people, fish are the same temperature of the water they swim in (they’re cold-blooded).  So when the water gets cold, the fish get cold too, but they don’t freeze, they just slow down.  They eat less, but they do eat in winter.

I should have known what was coming next, but I never even thought about it.  “Well, why don’t we go fish for them in the winter too?” He asked.  I told him that lots of people fish in the winter by drilling a hole through the ice and fishing a little jig and bobber for fish on the bottom.  “Can we go, can we go?” He asked.  How could I say no?

The next day after clearing it with his mom and dad, off we went to a small frozen pond that I knew had crappie, sunfish, yellow perch and black bass in it.  We walked over to an area of the pond that I thought was the deepest and I showed Collin how a clip-on weight could be used to show how deep the water was.  It was about 14 feet.  He wasn’t too thrilled about any of the technical stuff, he just asked, “Can we fish here?”  So we did.

We had about 7 or 8 inches of ice and I showed Collin how to use the ice scoop (hand skimmer) to clear the hole of ice chips and slush from digging the hole.  He took on to that job and OWNED IT.  He liked to “clear the ice” with the little shovel we brought too.

For STO 01312017, FISHING and LOVE OF SPORT, Picture 2of2We had a clear blue sunshine day, no clouds and no snow, air temperature about 25 degrees and a 5 mile per hour from the north.  Not a bad winter day in WNY.  With the sun, it felt more like 35 degrees.

Then we added a bobber stop and slip bobber to the very thin and supple 4-pound test Berkley “ice line”, a tiny ice-jig  and about 1/16 ounce of pinch-on BB-shot a foot above.   We again used the clip-on weight to set the bobber stop so the jig would be about one inch off the bottom.  I didn’t bother to explain this part of the set-up to the youngster.  He wanted to fish!  We added a mousee grub to the hook of the tiny ice-jig and let the line fall into the depths below.

As the line settled out, Collin watched the bobber with total focus.

Of course, most of the time, ice fishermen will concede that it takes two or three stops and digging new holes each time to find fish and get a strike. We lucked out.  The bobber started to quiver and wobble, then it disappeared, Collin yelled, “There it goes!”  I picked up the rod and handed it to him.  He had been practicing how the open-face reel works all day and knew very well how to turn the reel handle to wind in the line.

It was bit of a struggle as his face was straining a little.  He was excited and I bet a little scared at the same time.  I imagine not ever having done this before, he might have been wondering what he might have down there.  The lite-weight, micro-sized ice rod was bent double and a wiggling fish was definitely on the end.  I coached him to keep reeling and he was doing a great job, slowly turning the handle over.  Collin was on the edge of a new moment.

An instant later, a 12-inch perch plopped out of the hole right onto the ice surface.

WOW!! Look at that Dziadza!  “We better take it off the hook Dziadzia, we have to put it back into the water.”  I explained that we could keep this fish and have it for dinner later.  He stopped talking, waited, looked sat me, looked at the fish and then said, “Can we let this one go?”  I smiled at him and said, “Sure we can!”

We both worked to carefully remove the ice jig from the lip of the fish and then we slid the fish across the ice to the hole.  Collin used his boot to help the fish find the hole.  Once there, one flip and the perch swam out of sight, back into the deep.

“Good job,” I told him. “Was that fun?” I asked.  “Yup,” he smiled wide and wider as he answered.  “Can we try that again Dziadzia?”  I began thinking, oh Lordy, I HAVE been born a lucky man.

We caught about 6 more fish in the next hour.  A black bass, another yellow perch, and several bluegills.  It was a great day for first time ice fishing.

Without reaching the point of “Can we go home now,” I told Collin that we had to go back to see Grammy now.  He wanted to stay.  I was happy to discover that after an hour he wasn’t tired of all the excitement, but I wanted to make sure he didn’t get cold and that he still had the desire to return.

Even before we reached the truck, we were already talking about another day on the ice for the next weekend.  I realize now that as I get older, I have less time to get older.  This stuff is fun!!  I suddenly want to eat the right foods, get some exercise, live healthier and make sure that I can stay on this planet for a very good long time.

You see, I know that when his two sisters find out about this, I’m going to need a calendar book for noting the next ice fishing dates.  Ice fishing with children is more than fun.  It is an experience that can open the door to a lifetime of outdoor adventure and also allow for some gold-plated moments in time, if you’re lucky.

Did I mention that fishing with kids will make you younger too?  We are always reminded that life is about attitude, aren’t we?  This was an attitude-changing day for sure.  My life changed that day.

On the last fish we caught, Collin turned to me to ask one small favor.  “Dziadzia, can we keep this one?”  I said, “Well, we don’t have enough to make a meal because we let them all go, why do you want to keep this one?”  He said, “For show and tell next week.”  I grinned.  OK Collin, I have an aerator at home and it will keep the fish alive until then.”  Mr. Bluegill went home with us in a 5-gallon bucket and off we went, bright-eyed and cheery-tailed, looking ahead to the next time we could go ice fishing.

Give yourself the opportunity.

Hey folks, the ice has had a hard time getting here this year in many parts of the country, but it will get here.  Step out there and grab some winter ice-fishing fun.  Take a kid with you!   In many areas of the country, there is no closed season for many species of panfish and they’re easy to catch.

Brothers That Hunt Together – A Video Story

  • Lessons for Stalking Pronghorn
  • Learn About Tracking, Harvest
  • Enjoy Field Dressing Tactics, Savory Cooking Details

Pronghorn-3By Forrest Fisher

In this wonderful video from Ramp Media Outdoors, learn about the passion of how and why hunting brings two brothers together.  Despite their extremely busy lives, Matt McMorris and brother, Jeremy, share details about hunting and how it provides them with an opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors together.

They both have families with young children and live several hundred miles distant from each other, but in this video, they find a way to get together during hunting seasons in the Texas panhandle to hunt for a pronghorn buck.

Watch as they track a herd of pronghorn, share hunting techniques, scouting tactics and more importantly, perhaps, why hunting is about so much more than about taking a trophy.

Matt says, “Hunting brings people together and has such deep meaning and purpose for true sportsmen.  As brothers, we use our harvest for food to feed our families.  We hunt because it is a part of who we are as humans designed to survive.  Hunting does a lot to bring people together, bonding people to nature and to a more ultimate meaning.”

The Great Divine

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By Forrest Fisher

Talented and inspirational author, K.J. Houtman, continues to provide the outdoor world thought-provoking appreciation with a common connection. This heartwarming, outdoors lady identifies ways we see our Creator in nature. On this Thanksgiving Day 2016, enjoy her wonderful poem above.

For more from K. J. Houtman, including an entire chapter book series of adventurous outdoor tales for kids, see Fish On Kids Books at www.fishonkidsbooks.com or at Amazon starting with Book #1 A Whirlwind Opener. There are six books in the series.

Houtman’s newest book (adult non-fiction) is the life story on outdoorsman Jim Zumbo (now available on Amazon, https://www.amazon.com/Zumbo-K-J-Houtman/dp/0991111656/). Check out this link:  http://www.fishonkidsbooks.com/zumbo.html.

for-sto-11242016-picture-2of2

American Outdoor Sportsman of the Year

Lisa Snuggs accept her award from Legends of the Outdoors Hall of Fame founder, Garry Mason. Photo by Rob Simbeck

  • Lisa Mcdowell Snuggs 
  • Legends of the Outdoors Hall of Fame
Lisa Snuggs accept her award from Legends of the Outdoors Hall of Fame founder, Garry Mason. Photo by Rob Simbeck
Lisa Snuggs accept her award from Legends of the Outdoors Hall of Fame founder, Garry Mason. Photo by Rob Simbeck

By Jill J Easton

Lisa McDowell Snuggs was chosen as the 2016 American Outdoor Sportsman of the Year by Legends of the Outdoors Hall of Fame.  She was picked for her dedication in helping outdoor communicators – which she does 365 days a year as Executive Director of The Southeastern Outdoor Press Association (SEOPA).

Garry Mason, the founder of the organization, nominated Lisa because of her efforts to keep hunting and fishing a vibrant part of American culture, by encouraging quality outdoor communications. Her long relationship with some of the best voices of the outdoors, encourages excellence.

“Without outdoor writers, whose stories are so important, many people would not be able to see, appreciate and understand the love of the outdoors that many of us in the outdoor industry have,” said Mason. “Lisa plays a big part in making that happen and we are very proud to honor her as this year’s American Outdoor Sportsman of the Year.”

Lisa in her own Words

Lisa McDowell was born into the world of outdoor communicators.  Her dad Bodie, was an outdoor writer for the Greensboro Daily News in North Carolina.  As one of the two youngest siblings in a large family, she and her brother Mark often went along when he went out on assignment.

“Going with my dad meant checking out all the local farm ponds, dove fields and campgrounds,” Lisa said.  “It also meant regular visits to the area city-owned lakes, sportsmen’s’ clubs, and events.  More Sunday afternoons than not were spent at the local gun club.

I learned early on that everybody has a story and they are willing to tell it if you’re willing to listen.  I’ve always loved the outdoors and I’ve always enjoyed writing as well, though, until SEOPA, most of my writing is done in conjunction with a piano or guitar.

When he went to SEOPA and Outdoor Writers of America meetings, we went along and I met some of the outstanding outdoor communicators working in the 1960s and 1970s.”

Her first job was working for The Plastic Development and Research Company (PRADCO, a fishing lure company).  Along the way the talented singer and songwriter made four albums and wrote numerous outdoor-related songs.  In 2000 she became executive director of the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association a position she currently holds.

Talk about SEOPA

“The term outdoor writer includes people who share stories on paper, radio, television, video, through photography, art, blogs, websites and through songs.  It always starts with a story. It’s the words that all mediums have in common.

Anybody who enjoys reading, watching and/or listening to outdoors stories should thank an outdoor writer. They play a big part in keeping the heritage sports of fishing, hunting, camping, boating and shooting alive.

If you are interested in learning more about SEOPA, or any of the regional or national outdoor writer groups, they all have excellent websites.  For communicators that would enjoy finding help from the excellent speakers that share information at our conferences, the newsletter and more than 400 writers and outdoor-related companies, check us out. The qualifications for membership are listed on the website and applications can be completed on line.”

What personality characteristic makes you a good linchpin for SEOPA?

“Being a good listener, and I’ve been told I have the heart of a servant.  I enjoy helping people. Figuring out how SEOPA members can help each other and seeing it happen is so rewarding.”

What part of the job do you enjoy most? 

“The most rewarding project so far is working on the Lindsay Sale-Tinney award.  It’s a scholarship that brings an aspiring young communicator to the conference each year.  The award was established in 2011 by Stu Tinney, the founder of Striper Magazine, in honor of his late wife Lindsay.

Of the six recipients so far, four are still SEOPA members and seem to be well on their way to establishing themselves as outdoor communicators.  Meeting these young people and getting them and other young people involved in SEOPA is an honor.

Lindsay Sale-Tinney loved helping young people learn about the outdoors.  She was a talented writer, photographer, angler, equestrian and all-around good person.  She would be proud of the work we’re doing in her name.  The award is a part of the Outdoor Journalist Education Foundation of America.  People can find out more about it at by visiting seopa.org and clicking on OJEFA.”

Describe your work in the outdoor industry

“I worked for PRADCO for 10 years starting in 1986 as the company’s outdoor writer liaison.  I showed new products to the media at the annual fishing tackle trade show produced by the American Sportfishing Asssociation.  Back then it was called the AFTMA show, which stood for American Fishing Tackle Manufacturers Association (now it’s known as iCAST).  I also represented the company at several outdoor writer conferences each year.  Because of attending the SEOPA and OWAA conferences when I was a kid, I knew many folks in the industry. Working with PRADCO allowed me to get to know even more writers and broadcasters from all over the country.

In the mid-90s, I worked with a group of investors in Tennessee who were marketing sporting goods on television.  When that didn’t work out I took a temporary job working for Castlerock Productions when they were in Tennessee filming “The Green Mile.”  The exterior of my house was used as Tom Hanks’ house and I ended up working for the construction division of the film company.  When that came to an end, I managed an office for a small manufacturing firm for a couple years until the opportunity with SEOPA came along in 2000.  It was meant to be!”

Who are some of the famous outdoor folks you have met, known and worked with?

“Outdoor communicators and the people they write about are the best people in the world.  It’s almost like a secret society.  I guess all groups of kindred souls feel the same way – you know – birds of a feather, but there’s just something special about “my” group.

Some of the folks I’ve met and called friends in this business include Tom Gresham and his dad Grits, Homer Circle, Forrest and Nina Wood, Ronnie “Cuz” Strickland, Ray Scott, Jim Zumbo, Mark Sosin, Tom Kelly, Tes Jolly and Jimmy Houston.  Lots of professional anglers who fished on the circuits in the 80s or earlier like Bobby and Billy Murray, Rick Clunn, Zell Rowland, Hank Parker, Roland Martin, Bill Dance, and of course Sugar Ferris who founded Bass’n Gals for women like Kathy Magers and Linda England.

I think it’s interesting that so many country music artists enjoy fishing and hunting, too.  I met Merle Haggard at a Bassmasters Classic in the 1980s and presented special fishing lure packages to George Jones and Travis Tritt when they were producing PSAs for the fishing industry in the early ‘90s.  Music and fishing go together.”

In addition to your work with outdoor writers you are a musician, how has this affected your outdoor career?

Music has always been a big part of my life.  It’s given me so many opportunities and introduced me to some of my favorite people.  My first job was playing the piano during Sunday buffet at the Holiday Inn.  I got $5 and all I could eat.  As a bonus the chief taught me the secret of his fried chicken!  When I was 17 I started playing in a family-owned restaurant every Wednesday night and one weekend a month.

Lisa Snuggs with a wintertime bass caught in a small lake at Sumter Farms near Geiger, Ala., on the far western edge of the Alabama Black Belt Region. Photo by Jeff Samsel
Lisa Snuggs with a wintertime bass caught in a small lake at Sumter Farms near Geiger, Ala., on the far western edge of the Alabama Black Belt Region. Photo by Jeff Samsel

“Then dad got me a gig singing a few outdoorsy songs and Amazing Grace to kick off the Sunday session of Indiana University’s American Fishing Institute when it came to Raleigh.  After hearing me sing, Billy Murray told me I should sing Ramblin’ Fever with the words changed to Fishin’ Fever.  I said, “You write ‘em down and I’ll sing ‘em.”  He scribbled down the changes and that became the first song about fishing I recorded.  I wrote more than a dozen fishing and outdoor-related songs after that, recorded two albums in the mid-80s and recut some of them and a few new ones in 1996.

SEOPA conferences were great memories when I was a kid.  Tom Rollins, the first executive director, played the guitar and would always sing a few songs after the banquet on the last night. People would gather and sing along.

 Tom and his wife Mona came to visit us in North Carolina several times and he always brought his guitar along.  When I began attending SEOPA on behalf of PRADCO, I was glad to see the sing-along tradition was still in place.  By then I was able to participate in earnest instead of just listening.  Then, when I was hired by SEOPA we kept gathering on the final night to “pick and grin.”  It was always just a casual get together and a way to relax after a busy conference.  One president was so impressed by all the talent in the room that he insisted it become an official part of the conference.

These days it’s a part of the dinner program and is sponsored by the National Wild Turkey Federation, Pheasants Forever, Ducks Unlimited and Winchester. Representative from these organizations enjoy sharing their conservation messages in such a festive yet intimate setting.”

What are your favorite outdoor activities?

“Fishing is my favorite outdoor activity, though I haven’t done much of it lately. When I said that to Uncle Homer one time he said, ‘You have to make time, like you would for anything else that’s important.’  He was right, of course.  Most anglers agree that catching a fish is the proverbial icing on the cake of being outdoors.

Fishing forces you, as one of my songs says, “to leave it all behind.”  I have fished in so many beautiful places and I remember thinking about (and feeling sorry for) all the people in the world who have no idea such peaceful places exist.  There’s just nothing like feeling you have thousands of acres of water to yourself as you make just one more cast at sunset.  You have no choice but to relax.

Another favorite activity is simply walking around in the woods, especially in winter. It’s even better with someone who knows more about plants and animals than you do.”

Waterfront Sunsets are Blazing and Breathtaking

Sunset from “Canalside” on the revitalized Buffalo River, near Erie Basin Marina, can offer vivid colors and exhilarating moments with nature and water-friendly neighbors. Scott Kelly Photo

As our hot summer days of 2016 begin their change toward September, weather front patterns have provided chilling wind directions from the northwest with occasional daytime waterspouts over ports and shorelines along the Great Lakes. Waterspouts are startling and extraordinary to view. Such days are often closely followed by a clearing sky and pivotal sunset that tenders the incredible “orange-glow” of reproductive energy for the next day.

The late summer sunset along the shorelines of Great Lakes ports can be simply breathtaking.

There are pleasure boats, fishing boats, sailing boats and a brand new armada of kayak boats – all a part of the summer waterway flotilla, people enjoying our local waterways and nature. These are things that provide a polite reminder that if we live in America and we live near water, we live in one of the most remarkable places on the planet.

During a recent family trek along the rejuvenated Buffalo River – from the Buffalo Naval Park to Erie Basin Marina, the sun was about to set and there was a hint of rain in the distance. Everyone along the walkway was distinctly overwhelmed by the remarkable beauty of the daytime to nighttime epiphany in progress.

The elusive depth and spectrum of brilliant colors on the horizon was stunning. It was elegant. The moments also seemed to provide a divine link to coincide with the natural world around us and for me, thoughts of the indigenous peoples of our area before us.

I wondered about how earlier populations might have also observed this time of year from this same shore of the Buffalo River, often described in Seneca Indian history as a fertile place where many fish species spawned. Of course, this was hundreds of years prior to modern civilization and thanks to conservation groups such as the Buffalo Niagara Riverkeepers, the natural river life is returning.

Of course, there have been countless generations over that time, with unfettered understanding about the ways of clean water and maintaining the natural world. The fish, the birds and those tiny, little, life organisms that make all of the larger life forms possible. Glad we know so much more about that today, because as science has allowed us to understand the staple requirements of survival for all forms of life in nature, people everywhere have grown as a community. Indeed, all lives matter.

Today we manage fish and game harvest thanks to science. We manage water pollution, air cleanliness and we seem more intent to return to the outdoors with much greater respect and much greater demand for nurtured home gardens, wild and uncontaminated game harvest, fresh fish dinners from the depths of clean water and better routines for allocating our free time to bond with nature.

As I have traveled around this great country of America for more than 40 years in the engineering world of space and defense – and I loved it, I can share that each time I returned home to the Buffalo area, I could never quite figure out why I absolutely loved coming home to Western New York. There are so many reasons!

Of course, family first, but then the other supporting elements too. The people in this sector of our great country work together to get along, nature is spectacular, there is incomparable opportunity for fishing, hunting, boating, camping, hiking, photography, sight-seeing and whatever direction your love for nature may take you. Then you walk along the boardwalk in downtown Buffalo, New York, at sunset in August and the qualities of our local cosmos and why people love it here become quite clear.

It is much the same in many cleaned-up ports along the chain of our astonishing Great Lakes

Let’s help each other maintain the balance of nature. Share life with others, make new friends in the outdoors, lead by example.

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Tales of Sharing Summertime

Summer flowers in full bloom attract a honey bee and a fly as they both share in the nectar of friendship and nature. Jim Monteleone Photo

With local villages and townships across the country enjoying the summertime, the outdoors in 2016 has become a main theme for many.

People travel from near and far to enjoy the receptive energy that visiting new destinations can offer. I visited a small town USA village last week, East Aurora, New York, and found a town fair atmosphere with Main Street shut down so that local artists, authors, vendors, coffee maker folks and many others could share time in the brilliant sunshine of the day.

There were hanging planters ablaze in flowering, colorful glory, hummingbirds were frequent visitors as I watched from a park bench placed along the way.

Develop New Friends in Nature

Girl Scout and Boy Scout youngsters were on hand – I talked with local adult leaders of these groups, 4H groups were there too, shop displays, stores and small handmade crafts were nourishing the crowds with that feeling of traditional values and friendships, all in the unanimated outdoor world. The festivities were genuine and interconnected with our outdoorsy village and it made me consider that many folks never ever really discover the elements of the nature world that surrounds us every day.

Nature has a certain reverence about it quite like this quaint little village of East Aurora. Probably why many of the folks we spoke with love to live there, plus we also discovered old fashioned grind-your-own coffee bean coffee shops and microbrew factories! Just like old times.

Yet, it seems that modern society and nature have opposing new forces about our diverse ecology. As my better half and I enjoyed this visit – the plants, the sunshine, the people, we watched a few whitetail deer fawns and their mother doe in a distant nearby field as sunset approached.

Connected Through Nature

My mind switched to consider the delicate balance of living organisms that secretly thrive among us in a food chain similar to the chatting and inspiring interconnected conversations on this special Main Street. Both are a part of that natural feedback loop that we never see.

More directly involved in the outdoor world, anglers identify the important energy we need to know more about with that delicate balance in nature. Many anglers use life-restoring water wells in their boats, they promote “catch-measure-release-alive” fishing tournaments and they promote better management policies with controlled minimum size limits and daily bag limits. All good.

Hunters too, are formally educated about wanton waste of killing game not intended for personal consumption or needy food kitchens.

The North American Game Plan sets the policy that provides enriching focus for local states and municipalities about the intended necessary balance of nature, and an elaborate destiny detailed to educate our outdoor community in the manner of respecting the wildlife many of hunt today. Much like many of our forefathers did long ago.

Hiking and camping too, we are taught to carry out what we carry in. Don’t litter. Leave your destination as you found it or make it cleaner and better.

Fishermen can share secrets for success, exchange ideas for better conservation and promote the ecology while promoting the economy at the same time. Forrest Fisher Photo

Anglers and hunters contribute to conservation and enforcement of species-protecting rules and regulations from their pocketbooks more than any other group. The license fee to fish or hunt or trap is heavy. There is no fee levied for most other groups that are allowed to explore flora and fauna in the same woods and on the same waters as anglers and hunters, yet many of those groups are among the largest numbers to promote anti-hunting and anti-fishing campaigns. Maybe they don’t really understand. Let’s leave it there.

All of us as a group, might strive to learn more about how to budget that delicate balance of life in the outdoors that survives in our woods and streams. It may be difficult to bring our Pokémon-oriented, head-down, modern universe, into a responsible understanding of the positive influence we must all hope to develop to maintain the original blueprints of our ecology. It won’t be easy.

Will we need science and technology? Yes, absolutely. Yet, in the beginning, nature did seem to survive without it. Like the enormous beauty that we can find in a cloudless and moonless night, or the intricate moments to be savored during morning sunrise or evening sunset, or the enlightened fear we suddenly realize during an electrical thunderstorm that ravages our hilltops on occasion, there are often many sides to the same coin.

These things in nature interact so dynamically that we allow ourselves the reward to develop unwritten respect and passion for nature. At the same time, responsible sportsmen can enjoy the traditional value a fish dinner or a venison roast – as that too, now that we understand, is all part of the delicate balance we need to manage.  We are part of it.

Enjoy the outdoors-based cosmos of summertime near you and evoke others to get involved in the outdoors.

Beyond the Rod and Reel

Share life with others. Make new friends in the outdoors. Lead by example.

Summertime fun from the clean sand of Lake Erie surf includes such treasure as colorful sea glass, great for a new adventure with kids young and old.  Forrest Fisher Photo

Kayakers are searching for places to try out their new toys, birds are looking for places to wet their wings and cool off, and for anglers, hunters, hikers, campers and even outdoor photography buffs, the climate is testing their limits too. Tell me something I didn’t know, you say.

In the northeast United States, which includes Western New York, Cazenovia Creek, Buffalo Creek, Cayuga Creek and Tonawanda Creek are all feeling the swagger of the hot, dry summer we are experiencing.

Creek water flow all around the northeast is slow and low, almost nil, though the eastern Lake Erie beaches and surf do allow relief from the heat for swimmers and there are collections of colorful sea glass treasures to be found along the surf line for extra fun.

The dog days of summer are good for many things and one of them a tasty chicken dinner from the grill. It’s a good time to support local organizations, the VFW and Legion Posts, Boys and Girls Clubs, many others.

My bride and I enjoyed every tasty bite of just such a dinner recently and as we consumed our tasty morsels of goodness, we watched a blue heron search for his dinner in the nearby creek. Wings spread wide as he soared down the nearly dry creekbed, his search did not appear successful within our view.

A Blue Heron in search of the lunch while sailing and hovering over a nearly waterless creekbed in New York State. Jim Monteleone Photo

Then two hummingbirds buzzed by and a half-dozen doves started cooing away in the shade of a nearby tree. A crow cawed once or twice downstream and above all this adventure in tasty chicken consumption, oohing and awing on our end– it was that good, I felt safe and content, and surprised that we didn’t render a surprise attack from a hungry coyote or fox while we were making all that savory noise of palate-satisfying jubilation.

Summer days like this are a good time to catch up with old friends too and share musings and memories in conversation about life, the outdoors, kids and the fun of new challenges in the modern adventure of surviving tomorrow.

Our outdoorsy conversation did not escape the topic of the presidential election, taxes, titles and time-honored traditions too. We also talked about many new things in the outdoors that more people need to know much more about right now, namely, Lyme disease.

An increasing number of people have been stricken by this affliction in the northeast United States and the disease appears to be spreading westward at an alarming rate. It all started in the early 70’s in Lyme, Connecticut, hence the name of the affliction. Lyme disease is not curable once it is established in a person, they can only hope to find treatment to attain remission. It’s nasty and what’s worse, it appears that many health insurance companies do not recognize the disease for treatment, so folks have to pay out of pocket. Go figure that one out!

Many outdoor folks know that deer ticks (black-legged ticks) are responsible for the bite that can infect people with Lyme disease, but many do not know that the ticks are carried and spread largely by mice, not deer. No matter where you live, we all see mice. If you have mice around your home and yard, get rid of them and stay safe from attracting the Lyme disease carriers.

Thought for this week:
Share life with others.
Make new friends in the outdoors.
Lead by example.

My Grandma Taught Me to Fish

Early Lessons Pay Big Dividends When Kids Grow Up
By Bernard Williams

Bernard Williams learned early lessons from his grandmother that instilled a lifelong love of fishing in him. He caught this 3.15-pound whopper crappie at Lake Grenada, Mississippi, with his fishing partner, Don Terry, in the fall of 2015.

My paternal grandmother, Alberta Williams, lived with us.  She had to in her early 80’s when I was born; don’t remember her exact age, but I do know she was around 97 when she passed away.  Well, grandmamma loved to fish.  My mom says she started taking me fishing as soon as I could walk.

I was raised on a small farm. We were poor financially, but I didn’t know it.  My parents worked outside the house as well as on the farm.  My dad raised all our food including cattle, hogs, chickens, corn, cotton, and vegetables.  In those days we only had to purchase flour, sugar and a few other small grocery items.  I would have the time of my life exploring the outdoors as a kid.  I grew up with hunting dogs, and cats––that’s right, we had cats that caught everything from birds to snakes, and a rat or two every now and then.

I remember one morning when I was about 5, she called me from the breakfast table and asked if I wanted to accompany her “down to the pond” as she would call it. We had an 8 or 9 acre farm pond behind the house.  My answer was always “yes ma’am.” In those days you never said just “yes” or “no” to an adult.  I gathered up my pole and away we went.  The pond was about 200 yards behind the house and it was off limits to me as a kid unless I had adult supervision.

Grandma had an innate ability to find a bream bed, I thought it was some kind of magic.  Little did I know, she knew the scent.  She would say, “Boy, you smell that watermelon?”  I would say, “Yes ma’am,” knowing I had no idea.  I just wanted to put my pole in the water.  She would bait my hook with night crawlers we had gathered on the way to the pond.  Dad had a worm bed he’d started long ago.  That worm bed stayed full of night crawlers on one side and red worms on the other side.

She would pitch my worm out near an old stump and then bait her hook and do the same.  This particular day, as soon as my hook sank beneath the surface, a huge hand-size bluegill swallowed my bait and the fight was on. The fish gave a tremendous pull. For a small boy, this feeling caused tremendous excitement, almost to the point of wetting my pants (which is what I did!).  She helped me land the fish and get it into the basket.  Again, she baited the hook and instantly the same thing happened––another hand-sized (or better) bluegill.

I can’t remember exactly how many we caught that day, but I do remember my little sister getting extremely mad about being left out of our fishing adventure.  I’ll never forget the look on my mom and dad’s faces when they returned home to a table full of bluegill fried up with green tomatoes.  Oh boy, it’s kinda like Jerry Clower used to say, “It’ll make a puppy pull a freight train.”

My grandma had only two grandsons.  I was the youngest.  The older one, Johnny, was almost my dad’s age.  Grandmamma looked at Johnny like a son, but looked at me like a grandson.  I’ll never forget the fishing lessons she gave me and the whippings she helped me avoid.

Guess its true, that’s what unforgettable grandmothers are supposed to do––spoil the grandkids.

The Most Perfect Mother’s Day!

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All I wanted for Mother’s Day was for my family to come fishing with me. My husband, Jeff, daughter Kendall (15) and son Cole (12).  Kendall does not like fishing, hunting or the outdoors (completely opposite of me!).  Cole likes fishing, but he’s an active 12-year old boy who doesn’t like to sit still, so fishing in a boat gets boring for him.

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Regardless, both kids didn’t complain once all day and actually had a great time!  We fished in the 48th Annual one-day Minnesota Bound Crappie Contest on Lake Minnetonka, near Minneapolis.

mothersday3More than 2,000 anglers now fish this contest every year with thousands of dollars in prizes, but the real winner of the day is that together, anglers raise thousands of dollars for “Fishing For Life” organization while celebrating family life and fishing fun too (http://fishingforlife.org/pages/who-we-are).

I fished it as a kid for years, so really wanted my kids to do the same.  The day started off slow fishing with a bobber and crappie minnow.  After minimal fish catching, I thought let’s try casting tube jigs.  On my first retrieve, I caught a crappie!  Then two more!

Cole jumped right on that and was casting like mad.  He’d get a hit and miss, then a hit and catch one, he was hooked.  We were using Southern Pro tubes in chartreuse, but then switched to pink and black.  Using 4-pound clear mono, the light jigs were easy to cast.  We caught bass and sunfish too.  Such fun!

Kendall was completely content just enjoying the sunshine and watching everyone, and I was just glad she was happy to be out in the boat with us.  I love spending time with my kids and it just feels so good to know that we support each other as a family.  We were in a time crunch before the 2:00 p.m. weigh-in deadline.  We sped over to a secret hot spot my cousin, Mike Ferrell, graciously shared with us.

mothersday4It was really windy, so it was hard to cast those tube jigs.  We switched back to bobber and minnow fishing, tossing our casts all the way into the emerging reeds.  After that, we caught one after another and we didn’t want to leave, it was a blast!  Cole caught the biggest crappie of the day out of our boat, weighing in at 0.71 pounds.  Not enough to win the contest, but close!  Cole is hooked on the thrill of the competition and I look forward to getting him out there again soon.

As busy as all of our schedules are nowadays, it really was one of the best days I could have had having my whole family out together.  We had a lot of laughs and made some great memories this weekend!  Our next fishing trip together will be Memorial Day weekend at Sandy Point on Lake Kabetogama and I can’t wait for that.

It was the most perfect Mother’s Day!

Thank you family!

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My Granny Taught Me to Fish

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By Everette Wall

I may never make it to Heaven but if I don’t, I’ve been close enough to have an idea of what it’s like.  It was the backseat of an old Buick, surrounded by the thick, heady aroma of lilac bath powder.

It wasn’t what you might think, though.  I was about six years old, sandwiched between my paternal grandmother and one of her friends.  “Sandwiched” is an appropriate term because both ladies were what is known in today’s jargon as “full-figured.”  I didn’t mind, however, because we – including two other women in the front seat – were heading to the coast to go fishing.  For a youngster who loved fishing and his grandma with equal passion, life just couldn’t get any better.  And, I don’t think it ever has.

Those journeys, and others that followed, were a combination of agony and ecstasy.  On one hand they seemed to take forever.  Those were the days before four-lane highways and bypasses in eastern North Carolina and our route wound through the middle of towns like Beulaville and Chinquapin.  Not only that, but the driver didn’t believe in exceeding 45 miles per hour, regardless of the circumstances.  I thought we’d never get there and, if we did, every fish in the ocean would have already been caught.

In Granny’s scheme of things, the time to go fishing was whenever she and her buddies got the notion.  She would just leave Granddaddy a note that said, “Gone to the coast.”  That was his signal to fend for himself until she returned.

For Granny and her cohorts, fishing at the beach was a reprieve from doing laundry, cleaning house, and the other things that made up their day-to-day existence.  It wasn’t that they didn’t love their families and taking care of them, but ever so often, a girl needed a break.  And the weathered, wooden deck of an ocean pier, bathed by a cool breeze as it swayed slightly in the relentless, blue surf was a wonderful place to take one.  Gulls squawked as they wheeled overhead, dipping toward the waves periodically to investigate a possible meal, or maybe just because it was fun.  Farther out toward the horizon, sleek gray forms arched above the blue water as porpoises followed schools of fish down the shore.

The Surf City Pier was Granny’s preferred base of operations.  When she and her entourage arrived, they would take positions along whichever side seemed to be most productive and arrange their rods along the rail.  Then they would settle back on the pier’s weathered benches or in folding chairs to watch for bites.  The tips of Ocean City rods with level-wind Penn reels would dip slowly and rhythmically as waves passed beneath the pier.  Every so often, one would give a quick, definitive jerk.  That was the signal for the angler closest to it to grab the rod and begin cranking.  More often than not a silvery form, sometimes two, would be swung over the rail and flopped onto the deck, to be admired and then tossed onto the ice in a waiting cooler.

Granny and her crew were no fair weather fisherwomen.  Once the battle was joined, they were in it for the long haul.  They would man their stations all day and, often, most of the night.  They knew some of the best fishing was in the wee hours of the morning when most tourists were dozing in their rented cabins and only serious anglers remained at their posts.

If the daylight hours were interesting, nighttime on an ocean pier was magical.  I would curl up in a blanket and stare in wonder at a canopy of stars that looked close enough to touch.  Sometime during the evening I would doze off, immersed in the smell of shrimp and salty air, serenaded by the woosh of waves against the pier’s pilings, and content in the knowledge that Granny was within reach if I should need or want anything.  The rising sun would be my alarm clock, that and the heavy tread of anglers coming out for the early morning bite.

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Spots, Granny’s favorite species, can be caught pretty much all year, but early fall is the best time.  That’s when the fish begin to congregate to shallow inshore waters in preparation for their winter spawning migration.  It’s the time of year when they are the fattest, many of them sporting bright yellow bellies – evidence of their elevated hormones.  Eventually they make their way offshore to breed. The eggs hatch at sea and the fry, barely a millimeter long, slowly wash back into the estuaries and begin the cycle all over again.

So it is with fish – and sometimes with little boys.  They eventually grow up, move to distant shores and assume lifestyles that insure their existence and that of future generations.  Before it’s all over, however, they return – if not physically, at least in their hearts – to those places that were most special in days gone by.

In one lad’s case that’s an ocean pier, right beside Granny.  It might be a great place to spend Mothers Day.

Wise Women, Fishing Lures, Mother’s Day

By Mike Marsh

I smiled at the memory of my first fishing lure it was a jointed minnow-imitation called a Cisco Kid. A gift from the true anglers in my family, Grandma Marsh and Great Aunt Catherine, the lure had seen musky duty in the Great Lakes and had tooth scars as proof. They offered me the choice of any lure in their tackle boxes when I traveled “Up North” to attend a family funeral and this one looked most like a real minnow, except for a Rudolph-red splotch on its nose.

Arbella Jones came to our house in Climax, North Carolina, every other weekend, and my mother paid her to help with the cleaning while she went shopping in Greensboro. I wasn’t certain what Arbella meant when she hugged me one day and whispered into my ear, “Your momma is awful good to me. Would you like to come fishing with me this afternoon?”

Mom nodded yes when I asked if I could go. I got my pitiful “gear” together and when the appointed time arrived, she drove me to the end of a dirt road, where 11 children sat on old couches on a front porch that showed gray wood through a ghostly pallor of white paint eroded by weather and neglect. Placing my clunky steel tackle box and fiberglass fishing rod beneath an oak tree, I went inside as the crowd of kids hushed their clamoring and whispered behind my back.

There was no television set, no rug covering the cleanly mopped wood floor, no drapes on the windows and not a picture on the wall. I passed a bedroom where Arbella’s husband was half asleep. A cold chill hit me as he glared and asked, “What’s HE doing here.”

I knew right then that a white child had likely never played at his home. Arbella stood between us, whispering something to him until his face cracked a broad smile.

A five-year-old girl licked peanut butter from a spoon and nibbled a sandwich of baloney folded into a slice of bread.

“Have some, Mister Mike?” she asked.

I shook my head, ashamed to deprive the family of a scrap of food. It was my first glimpse of the poverty that flourished nearly in our backyard.

A few seconds later, Arbella swatted the little girl on the behind and chastised her for not offering me supper. When I tried to explain that she had, but I declined, Arbella frowned and I realized I had injured her pride.

The entire family headed to a local lake in a rusted car and pickup truck. Lining the bank, everyone fished with cane poles except Archie Lee. My wound-fiberglass rod was relegated to worm-and-cork fishing because the antique affair was spooled with Dacron line and my rusty reel was incapable of casting the lightweight Cisco Kid.

Archie Lee spotted the lure in the open tackle box and asked if he could try it. Arbella shot him a warning look. Although a man of 22, he cowered, but I nodded permission and he tied the lure to the monofilament line of a spincast rig. He made his way to the tall grass and willows along the low side of the pond.

I stopped fishing and watched as he cast the lure, retrieved it, and carefully cleaned its hooks of algae. At the fifth cast, the water erupted. The biggest fish I had ever seen launched from the water like a Polaris missile, tossing its head from side to side. Foam marked the surface and water boiled at the point where he submerged.   Then the bass erupted from the water again and all the kids dropped their rods, shouting and clapping as their brother battled the fish.

Suddenly, silence. The water stilled. As quickly as the battle was joined it ended.

“You’d better not have lost Mister Mike’s lure,” Arbella said in a voice that could have frozen the humid August air.

Archie Lee was scared to death of snakes, but was even more afraid of his momma. He waded through the algae-covered water, up to his knees, waist, chest, and then his neck. Finally he ducked beneath the water, felt his way to the end of the line and freed the lure from the submerged log where the bass had scraped the aggravating lure from its mouth.

Dripping wet and towering over me, Archie Lee gently bent down, returned the lure to my tackle box and smiled. I caught my first bass with it later that summer, fishing it on a spincast rod like Archie Lee’s that I bought with money earned doing farm labor beside Arbella’s children. I was so excited when the fish struck the lure and jumped seven times, that I dropped the rod in the mud when I grabbed the fish.

That adrenaline rush, while quieted some over the years, still transforms me back into a ten-year-old kid fishing with my Grandmother Marsh, Great Aunt Katherine and Arbella Jones, whenever I catch a big fish on a lure. They were the piscatorial matriarchs of their families.

I am sure there are other anglers as fortunate as I have been, introduced to the wonders and pleasures of fishing by women who loved fishing as much as they loved children with them.

Grandmothers, aunts and family friends, they were all someone’s mother. I wish I could wish them a happy Mother’s Day, but they are all fishing in the Great Beyond.

If your mother, or someone else’s mother, has ever taken you fishing, hug her hard this Mother’s Day, for you are one of the luckiest people.

A Cane Pole, a Catfish and Great Grandma

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Bobbers, Patience and that Twinkle in Grandma’s Eye

By Kenneth L. Kieser

My great grandmother grew up in a simpler time when fishing meant feeding your family.  She was old, bent over and gray by the time I came along in the early 1950’s, but she always had a smile and a twinkle in her eyes for me.

Our farm pond was easy to access in my great grandfather’s Model-A Ford, the only car they ever owned. We bounced over the pasture while grandpa tried to steer around sticks or other obstacles, creating quite a bumpy ride for me in the dusty, musty-smelling, black leather backseat.

Cane poles and my great grandfather’s old steel rod that had a J.C. Higgins red baitcast reel were tucked neatly to one side with his Sears tackle box that was about the size of a loaf of bread.  I could hear hooks, bobbers and other fishing stuff rattling as the car bounced.  Grandma occasionally glanced back at me to make sure I was surviving the sometimes wild ride.  She always returned my big grin.

The pond was surrounded by pasture so we drove up to the shoreline. The air smelled sweet on the spring mornings when we went fishing, unless you walked by a cow pie or two.  But that was just part of country life and we paid little attention, unless a misstep landed in the squishy mess.

Grandpa pulled out all the equipment and carried it to an appropriate spot on the pond dam.  He always gave us the best fishing spot.  He made sure grandma had a can of worms, then smiled at me and walked to the opposite end of the pond.

Then grandpa found a quiet spot to fish in peaceful solitude.  I learned later that he had bouts with depression earlier in life.  His quiet fishing moments became therapy, a term that did not exist for Missouri farm people in those days.  They just solved problems their own way.

Grandma loved to let me hook an earth worm.  She would smile at my struggles with the squirmy worm and always took over before frustration set in.  Soon the worm was firmly threaded on a genuine Mustad hook, the kind sold in round metal boxes in those days.  I always turned the red and white bobber over and over in my hand as she patiently waited for me to hand it over.

The bobber was added about a foot up the nylon line.  She stepped closer to the shoreline before leaning forward to expertly flip the rigging with a long cane pole.  The hooked worm and bobber seemed to always be perfectly positioned at the end of our thoroughly stretched-out fishing line.

“Now honey, you sit and watch that bobber,” she said in a soft voice.  “Hold the pole still and don’t move the bait.  You never know when a great big catfish is going to eat that worm.  But don’t move it.  You might take it away just before he takes a big bite.”

I had no idea that she was giving me a lesson in patience, an important aspect of fishing to be used the rest of my life.

Then we sat and waited.  Both of us held canes poles and studied our bobbers that drifted on the surface.  I occasionally got impatient and started lifting my fishing pole.  She would lay a hand on my shoulder and reassure me.

“The bait is fine, just wait and watch,” she said in a patient voice.

Sometimes she would slip me a Lifesaver, green or red because they were my favorites.

We generally caught small bluegill, commonly called sunfish by their generation.  Grandma always got a smile out of watching me pick up the long cane pole to drag the fish ashore.  I always held the fish up for grandpa to see before tossing it back to grow.  You could see his smile from across the pond.

Then one day my bobber slashed under the surface and stayed down.  I picked up the cane pole and felt more pull than a three-year old could handle.

“Take the pole grandma,” I urged. “I’m afraid the fish is going to pull me in.”

“No honey,” she said in a calm voice. ”You hang on and I’ll help.”

Grandma stepped behind me to grab part of the cane pole and we fought the big catfish as it ran back and forth.  I did not know to set the hook so the fish apparently hooked itself through a savage strike.  The fish had a lot of power, sometimes pulling me forward even though grandma was holding the pole too.

Grandpa heard the commotion of a good fish slapping the surface and came to help.  Somehow we all three grabbed the pole and dragged the five-pound channel catfish on shore.  I remember jumping up and down as my grandmother smiled at my youthful energy and excitement.  He held the fine fish up for me to see and proclaimed it my first catfish, even though I had plenty of help landing the good fighter.

We decided to leave. The commotion and excitement of landing the fish and my jumping around no doubt spooked the other fish a bit.  Besides, that catfish was enough to feed our family.  Other fish in the pond meant more meals later, my first conservation lesson; although in 1956 I didn’t realize what that meant.

Grandpa cut up the catfish and then grandma took over.  Few will ever fry a fish better, generally in fresh hog lard.  My grandparents arrived later with my mom and dad to enjoy a beautiful catfish dinner with friend potatoes, peas and a fresh blackberry cobbler.  Everyone, of course made a big deal about me catching dinner.  I wish they were all here so we could talk about that day.  Maybe they were with me as I wrote this memory.

Great grandpa and grandma were gone a few years later.  I wonder if their fishing spirits have prompted me to make a living writing about their favorite sport.

Somehow I think so and I’m trying to pass the same on to other youngsters too.

Author Kenneth L. Keiser was inducted into the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame in 2010 as a Legendary Communicator, he pays homage and love to his great grandmother for getting him started on fishing and the outdoors as a very young boy.

Old-Time Tackle, Dad, Lessons Learned

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As a kid, I would ask my dad to visit any number of tackle shops near our home outside Buffalo, New York. In our area, there were favorites that we had identified as top stops for new lures and new stuff every new fishing season. We went to three places as a seasonal ritual, but today, all of these stores have closed up shop.

Other top stops in the old days were for advice, asking for help in learning better fishing techniques and for finding lures and supplies that were more affordable than the last stop. Money was not plentiful. My absolute favorite tackle store was United Surplus – this quaint outdoor store was situated on Broadway Avenue in Buffalo.

The owner was a short man named Mr. Paul who always had a happy face and friendly advice, especially for curious kids with very little money in their pocket. I fit right into that category, but he seemed to know that and when he would ask what he could help me find, I would simply say, “just looking for some fishing stuff I can afford”. He would ask, “Well, how much do you have to spend?”

I would hesitate for a moment or two and think to myself – why would I want this guy want to know how much money I have? He’ll probably only charge me more for what I want? But actually, that turned out to never be the case.

The year was 1956. “Mr. Paul”, I would say, “I don’t have very much money today, but I do have about 20 cents and I’m looking for some hooks and sinkers for the fishing season after school ends this year.” That would start a great conversation that was more like a modern fishing seminar today, but way before we called them seminars. He would say, “How big are the fish you want to catch and where are you and your dad going fishing?”

At about seven years old, I didn’t know the name of the creeks we fished, so I just said, “In the creeks near home.” He said, “Where’s home?” You see how it went. Finally, we got down to the fact that we were fishing for opening day trout, stocked trout, and later on, for smallmouth bass in Blossom Creek (Buffalo Creek). I learned this from the pictures of fish he brought out to help me identify what they were. What a guy!

He would then show me how to rig the hooks, crimp the split shot, called “lead shot” in those days, and just how hard to pinch the shot with a pair of pliers. “Here, that’s how it’s done, you try!” Mr. Paul would say. Mr. Paul was a full-service seminar kind of guy! Of course on most visits to United Surplus, my dad was there and learning too, or maybe he just let Mr. Paul think that as owner of the store, he was the expert for now.

In thinking back, yep, that would have been my dad’s style, he always allowed me to think I knew more about fishing than he did, even when I was just seven or eight years old. That never changed as I got older, my dad always made me feel like I was the champion angler and he always made sure that I caught more fish than he did. What a dad! He’s been gone five years now and even though he lived to the ripe age of 85, I sure miss him.

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Our last trip together on Lake Erie was fishing at anchor for yellow perch out of Sunset Bay. The fish weren’t very cooperative that day, but we did catch about 20 keepers and guess what? Dad caught 16 of them! He was beaming! I can’t tell you how tough it was not to set the hook on my line, but I wanted to make sure that on this trip, dad caught more than I did; I knew he was getting to the point of fewer trips from home and there might not be a trip next time.

I cannot tell you how good that made me feel and I suddenly realized from thoughts recalled during my childhood days, things had just reversed! To give is definitely better than to receive! To this day, I make sure that most folks in my boat are the winners in the fish count. Try this yourself, it’s more fun for you and for them when you make them the hero! We never argue about lost fish either, no point in that, all of us fish for fun unless we are in a professional tournament. Most local tournaments are fun tournaments too.

To the many folks who donate their time to help out kids fishing derby events all around the country, a giant salute to you all. You too know the wonderful happiness deep down inside your heart that results from those simple labors of helping others learn to catch fish.

Good luck with your tackle box sorting chores, don’t forget to check your line too, disassemble and oil the reels, replace worn rod guides and check your stock of the simple stuff that defines fishing – your hooks and sinkers.

Make it a point to share your fishing skills with someone else this summer! It’s that time of year! Tight lines to everyone!

I Love You Enough to Teach You to Fish

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According to the experts at World Bank, the planet needs to produce 50% more food than we do today in order to feed the 9 billion people who’ll live here by 2050.

How can that possibly happen? Increases in efficiency are part of the answer.  Lower food quality and artificial dietary supplements are, too.  But the only real answer is our planet needs to build more farms, ranches and orchards.

Where will that happen? Drive out in the country sometime, or imagine for a minute your last trip.  Do you see places where there could be farms, but instead native grasses or trees are growing?  Now envision a similar dynamic in every country on every continent.  Picture a growing quantity of agriculture and a declining quantity of truly wild places.  In order to build a new farm, is there any option but to plow up a wild place?

See, hunting and fishing are about so much more than an angry tweet over the life of a lion.  Hunting and fishing play a very serious role in the real-world conservation that sustains nearly all species of plant and animal on Earth.  All people are in a lifelong dogfight to preserve all of creation – the left and right, the greenies and oil barons, the anti and pro-hunters – we’re all bound to this watery rock and can only take from it so much before we endanger the plants and animals in our way.

If you don’t hunt or fish because you love animals or don’t want to see them killed, you are holding on to an ideal that is some parts fantasy and all parts unsustainable. Something will die today so that you can live.  Whether you kill it or someone else does it for you, it must die for you to live.

When we plow up native grass to plant corn, when we cut down trees to build strip malls, we are removing the only home a wild animal has.  And, once it’s gone, we’ll almost never get it back.  When a person buys a fishing license, a hunting license, or pays a premium for the life of a living thing via some exotic hunt, they are actively preserving the wild places that sustain the animals we all love. Humans have developed no other model that works at scale.  If you love animals you must support direct participation in the food chain via hunting or fishing, or you must take responsibility for your role as the surrogate killer, the politically correct accomplice in the true crime against wild animals and places.

 About the author: 

Eric Dinger is the co-founder and CEO of Powderhook.com, a website built to help people find access to hunting and fishing spots, trips, groups and events. He can be reached at eric@powderhook.com. 

 

The Meaning of Christmas

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Not just about Reindeer and Santa Claus, it’s about sharing the joy of family and helping other people be happy everywhere!

I looked the calendar, 6 days to Christmas Eve. Where has the time gone? Can’t put it off any longer, got to get started on my Christmas shopping. Noon, I was out of the office. Got out my list and checked it twice. I headed to the Mall and beyond.

First stop was the ladies apparel store. Next stop, yep, the next ladies apparel shop. Then the specialty gift shop. Next off to the sports store, had to pick up some KC Royals World Series shirts and hats. Next was hardware and home improvement.

This was a good day happening! Every store had many shoppers, gifts, and holiday specials, lots of items to choose from and buy. Some, but not all, had colorful holiday and Christmas decorations.

Remaining on the list were the outdoor items. I had saved the best for last! This is my kind of shopping! I headed to Bass Pro Shops in Independence, Missouri. This is my kind of store! But truth be told, any store with great fishing, hunting and outdoor gear is hard for me to pass up.  I got out my list and headed in. The greeter said, “Merry Christmas” with great sincerity. I think he really meant it. I dove into the list. Rods and reels, lures, a fly box, some fly tying materials, a pair of boots, holsters, targets, a couple of fleece shirts and a mid-weight jacket.  This is my favorite part of Christmas shopping. Outdoor stuff! I would take my time. Maybe I would throw a few items in the cart just for me (somebody has to help Santa).

Suddenly, I stopped. I realized something was different.   I had not seen these in other stores.  Everywhere I looked I saw families, lots of families. Families together, enjoying the season. I saw kids and children and toddlers with smiles. They were playing and having fun. Special kid’s areas were set up with toys just for them. A racetrack was here, a pop gun shooting gallery there, a radio-controlled toy over there, and tables and tables with lots of crayons.

I saw families taking kids to see Santa at Bass Pro. I saw smiles looking at the pictures with Santa. I saw Christmas decorations. When I entered the store I had heard, “Merry Christmas!”

When I left I heard, “Merry Christmas.” I replied Merry Christmas too. Part of the meaning of the Christmas season is to make others feel good.

Thanks Bass Pro Shops, for making families and kids happy.

And Merry Christmas to you Bass Pro Shops.

Thank you Lord.

First Fish Story

Episode 1

When a youngster started fishing with his dad at 3 years old, using a bait casting rig, despite his dad’s warning to leave the rig alone, the monster fish hooked on that “less than magnificent” first cast, left an indelible impression that FISHING IS FUN! It has become a lifetime journey today. Listen and enjoy the passion, excitement and love of this recollection from angler outdoorsmen, Tyler Mahoney.

America Needs More Boy Scouts

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My wife, Stephanie, and I just spent the weekend Christmas shopping in Chicago. Our annual trip through the aisles of Michigan Avenue and State Street is a fun change of pace from the streak of hunting and fishing trips that usually dot my calendar throughout the year. While in many ways I would consider Chicago a great American city, my perception of our third largest city took a few body punches on this trip. In my opinion, Chicago is suffering.

We saw marches, boisterous demonstrations from disenfranchised youth, leagues of tired, stressed-out workers, and in general, observed a city of people with their bolts over-tightened. Hundreds and hundreds of police officers, visible in the accompanying photo, lined the streets in an effort to maintain civility. Life is complicated everywhere, but have we stooped so low that we’re willing to accept this as “normal” in one of our greatest cities?

Our work at Powderhook is about getting people into the outdoors. Fundamentally, we believe a connection to the natural world helps people gain a sense of place and perspective, and helps them learn to value the world around them. Certainly the outdoors can be one vehicle for exposing people to a value system, but in a place like Chicago it is flat difficult to access those experiences. The war on traditional values is alive and well.

Boy ScoutsAccording to Census Data, nearly 2/5 children in America is growing up in a single-parent household. Of the remaining 3/5 of American kids, two-thirds are members of dual-income families, leaving Moms and Dads of any household less and less time to lead a family. Only 17% of Americans attend religious services each week, the lowest number ever recorded, eroding the value systems taught by our faith-based institutions. As our melting pot urbanizes, gains weight and hustles to make a living, must we accept that our values are changing? Or, is there something we can do to preserve the important things as the superfluous tides roll in and out?

Chicago, and all of America, needs more Boy Scouts. Along with groups like Girl Scouts, 4-H, FFA, FCCLA, and others, these organizations exist to teach fundamental values that can be tough to find in other places. They seemed really tough to find last weekend in Chicago.

Read this excerpt from the Boy Scouts website:

The Boy Scouts of America is one of the nation’s largest and most prominent values-based youth development organizations. The BSA provides a program for young people that builds character, trains them in the responsibilities of participating citizenship, and develops personal fitness.

For over a century, the BSA has helped build the future leaders of this country by combining educational activities and lifelong values with fun. The Boy Scouts of America believes — and, through over a century of experience, knows — that helping youth is a key to building a more conscientious, responsible, and productive society.

To me, this sounds the America we once knew and wish to see once again. Mahatma Gandhi once said, “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. We need not wait to see what others do.” I think he’s right. Time to go get my kids signed-up.

 

About the author: Eric Dinger is the co-founder and CEO of Powderhook.com, an app built to help people hunt and fish more often. He can be reached at eric@powderhook.com.

Want to Change a Generation? Feed Your Kids Fish They Catch

Eric Dinger is co-founder and CEO of Powderhook.com a website built to help people find access to hunting and fishing spots, trips and events. I originally met Eric thru a mutual friend Kristine Houtman, an outdoor lady and talented writer from Minnesota. Eric is a visionary moving forward with the understanding of how learning to fish and hunt and hike the trails can be a most positive influence in ones life. And today introducing youth to the values and lessons learned in the outdoors are more important then ever. Thanks Eric for sharing your article that was originally published on the Powderhook blog.


PowderhookIn his timeless 1949 classic, A Sand County Almanac, Aldo Leopold famously wrote, “There are two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm. One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery, and the other that heat comes from the furnace.” I recently came across a video that highlights a very real fear I have for my kids – the danger Leopold prophesied over 65 years ago.

My teenage daughter is a pretty normal 15 year-old kid. At any moment she’s a monster cookie of sweet and salty, wit and sarcasm, delightfulness and delinquency. Monster cookies are wonderful, if not unpredictable. But, this cookie comes with one constant: her phone. My goodness she loves her phone. It’s more than a communication device; it’s her hobby, her companion and her lifeline to the minute-by-minute updates she holds so dear.

Generational differences aside, her compulsion for omni-connectedness worries me. Perhaps ironically, it’s my perception of her lack of connection to the tangible world around her that scares me. Much of how we perceive the world comes to us through the conditioning and learning we experience when we’re young. For people like me, those lessens were earned outside. My daughter and many of her friends, normal small town kids, largely view the outdoors as the mundane gap between their indoors – the stuff you drive through on the way to your hockey game. When I rode long distances as a kid, I would count the duck species I saw or try to figure out how many minutes it would take us to get to the next exit. Now, we flip on a movie and ride quietly as our kids stare blankly at one device or another. Gone are the hours of unstructured play, the exploration and outdoor discovery that defined my childhood, in favor of new forms of the same with names like Netflix, Spotify and Instagram. Telling your teenager to go outside and play has become the equivalent of saying “go use your phone where I can’t see you.”

My desire isn’t that my kids grow up to be like me, but rather that they explore, think critically and problem solve. Can these foundations be learned via a screen? My daughter consumes almost every form of content she values via her phone. She need not be curious about the world around her because Google has answers. (with pictures!) Exploration looks a lot like Wikipedia. She knows beef comes from cows, because that’s easy to read on Gawker. But, does she value the farm… the farmer… the cow itself? She’ll cry foul at the site of a feedlot, a judicious member of her outrage culture, but will she care enough to try to understand the complexity of raising enough beef to feed our developing world at a price point they can afford?

In my brief time as a parent I’ve come across only one antidote. Feed your kids fish they catch. The whole process is importantly unscreened. It’s tough to fish with a phone in your hand. Still more difficult to avoid the beauty of a sunset from a quiet boat, the enormity and fragility of nature on full display. (Enter phone for #sunset pic.) Neither Instagram nor Google will tell you how to catch those pesky late-July walleye. After all, if you’re gonna be there you may as well catch a fish! Maybe a parent’s experience with #walleyeprobs can be the start of a richer conversation.

That something must die so you can live is a fundamental of our existence, yet ditching the supply chain in favor of active participation in the food chain can be an emotional experience. It’s complicated to watch a living thing make its way to your plate. The entire lake-to-table experience encapsulates Leopold’s wish for us – that we pay attention to the places and living things around us, and that we are thoughtful about our role as apex omnivores in a fragile ecosystem. As I strive to raise curious, critical-thinking problem solvers, the time we spend fishing has become the one screen through which I’m confident I can connect.

I believe deeper relationships with the world around us are key to the changes we hope to see in every generation. Whether you garden, fish, hunt or forage, take the time to include your kids and maybe you’ll both find that connection.