Generations of Soldiers – Thank You!                   

By Larry Whiteley

It was the morning of July 4th. A truck with three men pulls into the marina. Their families were still sleeping at the lodge where they were all staying. They get out of the truck and tease each other about who will catch the most fish while unloading their fishing gear. A brilliant orange sunrise lit up the eastern sky as they headed down the ramp to the dock.

The pontoon boat pulled away from the dock. An American flag hung from the bow blowing gently in the breeze. A family of three generations of soldiers celebrated Independence Day by going out crappie fishing. The father was a veteran of the Vietnam War, the son had been in the Gulf War, and the grandson had recently returned from Afghanistan.

They laughed, they smiled, they caught crappie. Between reeling in fish, they talked about vacations they had been on together. They spoke of their beloved family deer camp. They talked about other fishing trips they had been on. They talked about kids, grandkids, and military buddies. Many stories were shared, but none about war and the things they had all seen and been through. They kept all that to themselves.

They talked about the dad, the grandfather, and the great grandfather who had been one of the “Greatest Generation.” The father smiled and spoke about how much he would have loved being there. Fishing and family were important to him. They all kind of felt he was with them that morning and how proud he would have been of each of them for serving their country.

Being a soldier ran deep in this family. Other generations of family members fought in the Korean War, World War I, and even the Civil War. Serving their country was in their blood. It was not something that was expected of you. It was something you wanted to do. It was something you did.

They all stopped fishing to watch two eagles sitting in a nest at the top of a tree. Seeing this iconic symbol of America meant as much to them as the flag waving on the front of the boat. One of the eagles flew from the nest and started circling over the water. It was out fishing too. As it circled in the bright blue sky, it made the distinctive eagle sound which is said to be unlike any other sound in nature. They all knew that an eagle call represents a call to action. Native Americans believe the sound of an eagle gives you courage and life force to overcome your obstacles and fight against your challenge. They had all done that.

The eagle and its mate also reminded them that they had family back at the lodge waiting for them to come to pick them up so they could have a picnic out on the water. They put away their fishing gear and raised the anchor. As the boat idled into the marina, they could see their wives, kids, and grandkids. It reminded all of them of the time when their families were waiting for them when they came home from war. It also reminded them of how blessed they were to make it back home to their families when so many of their buddies did not.

They loaded up food and family and went back out on the water. The flag still waved on the front of the boat. As they motored across the lake, boats pulling water skiers and kids on tubes were everywhere. So were the jet skis. Other families were out having fun on this Independence Day. Most had no idea why we as Americans celebrate this day. No one realized that three generations of soldiers had just passed them on the water. Men like them fought to protect our country’s independence. Men and women like them continue to serve and fight for our country and the freedom of other countries worldwide.

As the pontoon boat continued across the crowded lake, the eagle flew over and circled them again. The kids loved seeing and hearing the eagle. They kept following the eagle until it led them into a quiet, shaded cove away from the crowds, and then it landed in a tree. It was almost like the eagle knew these men were three generations of soldiers and had led them to this place. The other eagle flew in and joined its mate and the families.

They unloaded water toys for the younger kids, a Mickey Mouse fishing rod for the 6-year-old, lawn chairs, and a cooler full of food and drinks. The father started a campfire and got the skillet ready. The other men filleted crappie and threw what was left of each fish out on the water for the eagles, to say thank you. Everyone loved watching the eagles circle the fish while making their sound and then dive down to the water for their special treat. Crappie sizzled in the cast iron skillet as the women got the rest of the food together.

When everything was ready to eat, they circled together as a family, held each other’s hands, and bowed their heads as the father/grandfather led them in prayer. He said, “God, thank you for this special time on this special day. Thank you for the nature you created for all of us to enjoy and care for. Thank you to men like my dad, my son, and my grandson who fought for this nation that was founded upon “In God We Trust.” It saddens me to see our country the way it is becoming. I pray that this nation will turn from its wicked ways and turn back to you. Thank you for the many blessings you have given this family. Amen!”

As they were eating, the 6-year-old told everyone that the eagles were praying too. “What do you mean,” said his dad. “I peeked at the eagles while papaw was praying,” the boy said. They both had their heads bowed while papaw prayed and then raised their heads when he was done and made that sound again.” Everyone looked up at the eagles and smiled. Some looked back at them again and wondered.

The afternoon was filled with talking about memories and making memories. Sitting in the shade, playing in the water, skipping rocks, and much more. The 6-year-old and his grandpa walked up the bank and found a good place for a 6-year-old to fish. Grandpa dug up a worm and put it on the little boy’s hook, then helped him cast it over by a log lying in the water. The bobber went under, and grandpa helped him reel in a little fish. It didn’t matter to the boy what size it was. He had to take it back and show everyone. Another fisherman joined the family that day.

A beautiful sunset lit up the western sky. A great day was coming to an end. They had all caught crappie and had a fun-filled afternoon as a family. They were getting ready to pull up the anchor when the fireworks started across the lake. The flag still waved on the front of the boat with the fireworks as a backdrop. The eagles saw them too. The soldiers all stood at once and saluted the flag. The rest of the family joined them, put their hand over their heart, and all started singing “God Bless America.” The 6-year-old looked up to see his dad, grandpa, and great-grandpa saluting the flag, so he did too. His great-grandpa looked down and saw him. He knew that someday his great-grandson would also hear the call of an eagle.

There would be another generation of soldiers.

A Lifetime of Blessings – Lady Luck and Annie

The Great Spirit of fishing starts young, if you're a lucky little girl.

  • When do women outfish men?  Chilly air and morning fog make little difference.  
  • Is it luck when you catch a limit…and you are the only woman around?
  • When we talk to ourselves when fishing, are we talking to the fish too? A higher power?
  • Annie shares her experiences and connections on the water…and more. 

By Larry Whiteley

Annie with NASCAR legend Richard Petty.

It’s early morning on the river in Trout Park. The sun is beginning to peek through the forested hills. Annie is at the river’s edge, waiting with rod in hand. She is visiting with the men on both sides of her. It’s a cool morning. Annie is the only woman to brave the chill. The fishermen and one fisherwoman talk about the early spring weather and how they are glad that winter is over.

The rising sun reveals a beautiful fog rising from the water. The siren sounds to signal the anglers they can now start fishing. Annie’s lure is the first one to hit the water. In minutes, she is smiling and bringing a trout to her net. She puts it on a stringer and makes another cast. A few turns of the reel handle, and another trout takes her lure. This one is bigger and pulling line from her reel. It leaps from the water, and Annie shrieks with joy. After a few more jumps, she scoops it up with her net. She admires its beauty, puts it on the stringer and makes another cast. An hour later, she has her daily limit.

Annie knows how to catch big trout.

Several other fishermen who hadn’t been quite as successful came over to congratulate her. One of them asked what kind of lure she was using. She looked at him, smiled and said, “Honey, it’s not the lure that’s catching the fish. It’s this 75-year-old woman using it.” She laughed too, wished them luck and headed for her car. After she put her fish in the cooler, she looked up to the sky and thanked God for this particular time in the outdoors that He created. She also thanked Him for watching over her all these years.

Looking back at the river, she saw an eagle perched in a tree across from where she had been fishing. She remembered her favorite bible verse – “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint.” She looked back at the eagle, smiled again and said to herself, “God sent an eagle to watch over me today!”

When she got home, she couldn’t get the eagle out of her mind, so she sat down to read about eagles. One of the things it said was that Native American Indians believe an eagle delivers their prayers to the Great Spirit. They hold an eagle feather aloft as a custom while saying a prayer. To them, the eagle meant strength, wisdom and courage. Annie has needed all those things throughout her life. A tear flowed down her cheek.

Annie was raised in the church and grew up loving the great outdoors. In San Mateo, California, she was born, where her dad worked for United Airlines. He was also an avid hunter and fisherman. Her mom liked to fish too and taught Annie that if you catch them, you clean them.

She loved it when they would travel north to see her grandparents in Ahwahnee, California. Her granddad was a friend of the famous photographer Ansel Adams, who rose to prominence as a photographer of the American West, notably Yosemite National Park, using his iconic black-and-white images to promote the conservation of wilderness areas.

L to R – Annie’s Dad, sister Suzi, Annie, Grandpa, and a bunch of trout.

Her granddad won awards for his photography. She remembers him having a darkroom in their house where he developed the pictures he took while out enjoying nature. Yosemite National Park was just 5 miles from Ahwahnee. The waterfalls, towering granite monoliths, deep valleys and ancient giant sequoias were a big part of her young life. Annie gives credit to her parents and grandparents for her love of the outdoors.

Annie was 9-years old when her dad was transferred by United Airlines to Kansas City, Missouri. Later they bought a home at Lake Waukomis, a town with a great fishing lake. That continued to fuel her love for fishing. One night she set some baited lines off a dock for catfish. She got up early the following day and found she had caught three nice catfish. She knew how to scale and clean other fish but had no idea how to clean a slimy ole’ catfish. So she took them into the bedroom where her dad was still asleep to ask him to help. “He sure wasn’t pleased about it,” said Annie.

They would travel down to Lebanon, Missouri, to visit her Grandma Effie on her mom’s side in the summers. Like most of her family, Grandma Effie was an outdoorsy person too. She took care of a 4-acre garden and still fished. During the depression, she did it to survive, but now she did it for fun and food.

Her Uncle Dale lived next to her grandma. He loved fly fishing and would take Annie along with him. After he caught a fish, he would hand Annie the rod and let her reel it in. “I never got into fly fishing like Uncle Dale,” says Annie. “I just thought, why would I want to cast five times to a fish when I could cast one time and catch it with a regular fishing rod and reel?”

When Annie graduated high school, her dad took her on a Canadian fishing trip with six other men. For seven days they caught and ate walleye. A few years later, her dad was transferred back to California with United Airlines. Her mom got sick, and her dad couldn’t take off work, so it was up to 18-year-old Annie to find them a place to live in San Mateo. She did.

Not long after that, Annie got married. She and her husband Bob lived in the state of Washington, and she traveled with him to Australia and other places. He passed away, but Annie won’t talk about that. After all those years, it still hurts too much. Annie says, “I was blessed with a strong father and a strong husband who said I could do anything, and through God, I can.”

Annie with fishing legend Jimmy Houston.

Annie eventually re-married to another man named Bob, who loved to fish as much as she did. They lived in Warsaw, Missouri, in a lakefront home on Lake of the Ozarks for 28 years. He had his own bass boat, and he got Annie an aluminum fishing boat with a bright yellow life jacket just for her. The yellow life jacket was so if he or neighbors came out looking for her (when she stayed out fishing too long), they could find her a lot easier. She still remembers the elk hunt he took her on and the beautiful Colorado Mountains.

She went fishing without him one day and caught a 13-pound hybrid bass. When she got it on the boat, she started crying. He asked her why she was crying. Through sniffles and tears, she said, “I always had this idea that if I ever caught a bass bigger than 5 or 6 pounds, God would take me home to heaven, so I am sitting here waiting to go.” Her husband said, “I guess God’s not done with you yet because you’re still here.”

After her second husband passed away, she never re-married. She moved to Blytheville, Arkansas and worked at a co-generation plant. When her dad passed away, she moved back to Springfield, Missouri, to take care of her mom. “With God, we can do anything,” says Annie. “He put us here to help one another.”

On May 11, 2011, nearby Joplin, Missouri, was hit by an F5 tornado. The town was devastated. Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris started a fundraiser to benefit the disaster victims. They held an auction, and one of the items was a fishing trip with fishing legend Jimmy Houston on a private lake at his ranch in Oklahoma. Her bid won the trip for two. She invited the husband of a friend, who was always helping her, to go along. He was as excited as Annie. They caught well over 100 bass. “Jimmy and his wife Chris are wonderful people and could not have been more hospitable,” says Annie. “It was a sweltering day, and I got a little overheated. Chris went in and got her mamma’s fishing hat and put it on my head to shade me and cool me down. Jimmy and I still text back and forth all the time.”

Like Chris Houston, Annie has a special feeling for our Native Americans. She says her Grandma Effie always said they had Cherokee blood in them, but they have never been able to find absolute proof of that. That belief has been a big part of family stories for many years. A portion of the Cherokee Trail of Tears runs through her cousin’s property near Lebanon, Missouri. She has walked in the footsteps of the Cherokee on parts of the trail. She, like me, believes that this was their land, and we stole it from them. They were not the savages; the white man was. They were trying to protect their land and families.

Annie is a woman with a big heart.

Annie loves her fishing and says she will go anytime, anywhere. But, NASCAR racing comes in a close second. She got the racing bug watching dirt track races near her lake home in Missouri. She was at the race track when Dale Earnhardt died in a crash. She was always a fan of Rusty Wallace because he is a Missouri boy. She has met Tony Stewart several times and also met Richard Petty. I am not sure that I have ever seen her not wearing the Martin Truex Jr. jacket he autographed for her.

She also has agape or unconditional love for her two dogs that rule her life. Sammy is a Shitzu Poodle that adopted Annie in a Walmart parking lot. Callie is a 6-year-old Bushon that was someone’s throwaway dog. Her compassion, though, is not just for her dogs. She also once took a lady into her home that was a throwaway and needed Annie. We will never know how many other people Annie has helped.

Not one to sit around unless it is by a peaceful river, Annie is not accepting growing old. In less than a year, she has walked over 3,006,000 steps enjoying nature. Like she tells people, “You have to stay active mind and body. If not, you rot. You got to enjoy what God gives you. The fresh air in the outdoors has helped keep me well.”

At one time, Annie said she had completed her bucket list with all the places she had been and things she had done. She changed her mind and decided she still wanted to go fishing in Alaska and travel to Florida to walk on a beach looking for seashells.

A few weeks ago, Annie told a few friends sitting at a table in her church that she was leaving to go to Florida the next day. She needed a few days by herself. She was going to check another thing on her bucket list and walk a certain beach on her birthday looking for seashells. One of the men at the table stood up and walked over to Annie. He told her that was the same beach his wife loved to visit. He also said to her that was where he, their kids, and grandkids had gone to leave some of her ashes. He told Annie to say hi to her while she was there. As she stood there crying, Annie told him she would. She also told him she would bring him back a sea shell from that beach. 

Over the trip, one of her friends texted her several times to check on her. She had gotten there safely and enjoyed herself but was not finding any seashells. With only a half-day left before heading home, she ate lunch at a seafood restaurant. A woman came up to her, and they started talking. In their conversation, Annie told her she couldn’t find any seashells and the story of why she wanted to find one to take back home for her friend. The woman smiled and told her to go to a certain place on the beach, and she would see what she was looking for.

Annie finished her lunch and headed to where the lady had told her. She walked and walked. A little ocean kelp weed had washed up on the beach, but that was it. She still couldn’t find any seashells. She was about to give up and get ready to head back home when something caught her eye in the kelp. It was a kelp seed pod shaped like a heart. Annie picked it up and stood there crying, looking up to heaven. She talked to the man’s wife. Annie told her what a good man he was and that he and her family missed her. Then she said that she was taking this special heart-shaped seed pod back to him from her. Annie had found what she was looking for where the woman in the restaurant told her she would.

As Annie started to walk away, she looked down and saw something else in the kelp. She thought it was some kid’s ball they had lost, but it was another seed pod. To Annie, it was a sign that God wanted her to keep on rollin’ and had a lot more living to do. She got into her car and headed home. 

The Sunday after getting back, she got to church and went directly to her table of friends. The man stood to welcome her. Annie tried to tell him her amazing story without crying but couldn’t. Tears flowed down her cheeks, and tears came to the man’s eyes when she told him what had happened. Then she put the heart-shaped seed pod in his hand, and he hugged her. 

Those blessed to know Annie and call her a friend will tell you that Annie has a heart as big as the outdoors she loves. As the Cherokee people would say, ageyn gvdodi equa adanvdo which means, “Annie is a “woman with a big heart.”

 

Spring is Coming, Isn’t It?!

Is it spring yet?

  • Inspiration abounds in spring – beautiful sunrise sunshine, birds, bees, fresh tree buds, and it seems, at least to me, there might be angels everywhere.
  • Anticipation and fun to look forward to – limits of crappie, white bass, walleye, suckers and tasty fish fry’s.
  • Special hunting treats – spring gobblers, fresh morel mushrooms, slow-cooked savory venison steaks. Thank you, Lord.

By Larry Whiteley

Circle the first day of spring on your calendar. Put that date in your smartphone and computer calendar with a special alert. Or, you can tell Alexa, Google Assistant, or whatever you use, to remind you of the first day of spring.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if, on that exact date, you got up that morning and saw a beautiful sunrise coming through leafed-out trees with a chorus of angels singing “Hallelujah”? Birds are singing with the angels, peeper frogs are peeping, butterflies are everywhere, turkeys are gobbling and wildflowers are blooming. Sounds good, doesn’t it?

Since we are daydreaming here anyway, let’s say your boss calls and tells you he knows how much you enjoy spring, so he wants you to take the week off with pay and go fishing. Did I hear the angels singing again?

As I write this, it is a March day. I pause to look out my window at icicles hanging from bare tree limbs. The ground is white, the birds aren’t singing and neither are the angels. The squirrels are shivering and their teeth are chattering. I put another log on the fire. My fishing gear is organized, re-stocked and ready. It sits in the corner of the garage waiting for spring and so am I.

I think I will quit daydreaming for a while and go inventory my turkey gear. Then, when my wife leaves to go grocery shopping, I might practice my turkey calls. I can’t practice when she’s home or she would tell me to go outside to make my yelps, purrs and cackles. Then the neighbors will yell at me and tell me to quit making those noises. I don’t want to go outside anyway. It’s cold out there!

Until she leaves, I guess I will just sit here and try not to think about the cold, windy March weather outside my door. Instead, I will daydream about spring. Wonderful, glorious spring. To me, spring is God’s gift to all of us after a long, cold winter that we don’t think is ever going to end.

To some people, the first sign of spring is a robin in their yard, leaves starting to bud out, or flowers beginning to bloom. To me, the first sign of spring is the mating call of the peeper frog. A single peeper frog is no bigger than your fingernail and couldn’t be heard if you were standing right next to it. But, when hundreds of them blend their clear, birdlike “peeps” into a chorus trying to woo a suitable mate, its music to my ears.

Other signs of spring to me are migratory birds joining year-round residents at our bird feeders and filling the air with their sounds of courtship. Joining them are the drab goldfinches of winter magically changing into the bright yellow of spring. More signs of spring are a bee buzzing around, a spider spinning his web on a bush or a lizard rustling in the leaves causing my heart to skip a beat thinking it’s a snake. There’s also a clean, fresh smell to the air.

Where I live buckeye trees are the first to leaf out. Serviceberry is the first tree to start showing off its blooms. They are followed by the white of the dogwood and the purplish tint of the redbud trees. Wildflowers begin popping through the dead leaves and so do morel mushrooms. While looking for mushrooms I never know when I will find a shed antler from a big buck and that’s a bonus. All the sights, sounds, smells and early season activities always remind me that we humans weren’t the only ones waiting for spring.

Spring to me also means limits of crappie, white bass, walleye, suckers and fish fry’s. It’s matching the hatches on a trout stream. It’s big bass and battling smallmouth. Spring is floating a river, hitting the hiking trails and getting my camping gear together for my first camping trip of the year.

Spring is also my beloved turkey hunting time. My heart always beats faster as a big old gobbler comes into my calls. I’ve spent a lot of years sitting with my back against a tree waiting for the sun to come up and the woods to come alive with the sounds of birds, chattering squirrels and flapping turkey wings. I’d like to have a dollar for every yelp, purr and cluck I’ve made on my calls.

More times than I’d like to count I did everything right and the gobbler wouldn’t respond or come in. There have been times, too, that I did everything right and then scratched an itch or blinked an eye and the gobbler caught my movement. There have also been magical times when my calls were answered by a gobble from really close by. My neck hairs bristle, my heart rate cranks up and the ache in my butt disappears. I point my gun where I expect the gobbler to appear and cluck on my mouth call. Suddenly a crinkly head appears and God smiles down on me. I smooth his bronze feathers, feel his bristly beard, admire his spurs and look up and say thank you once again for my special time in the turkey woods.

The great thing about spring is walking through the woods in search of the delicious wild morel mushroom. They are a special spring treat to me. I wash them off then slice them and sauté in butter until they’re soft and tender. Then I heap them on venison steaks or wild turkey breasts and enjoy their delicate flavor. Besides sautéing,

I also like to bread and fry them. They make great pizza toppings and I like adding them to my wife’s spaghetti. I also put them in soups, stews and sauces. If I am lucky enough to have more fresh morels than I can eat I just dehydrate them for later use. Okay, I have to quit thinking about morels. It’s making me really hungry. I wish my wife would get home with the groceries.

If only Punxsutawney Phil hadn’t seen his shadow a few weeks ago spring might already be here. But he did, so that means we have a few more weeks to wait. It turns out groundhogs aren’t the best for predicting when spring will arrive anyway. A study, probably government-funded with our tax dollars, looked at Groundhog Day predictions from the past 30 years and found that they were only right about 37% of the time.

Regardless, here in the middle of America, March will continue to seem like the longest month of the year. It drags on and on. April gets here and it, at first, teases us into thinking winter is over and spring is finally here. Then cold winds slap us in the face again. Please, God, I want winter to be over! I promise I will be good. Spring is coming, isn’t it?

Larry Whiteley to be inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame

Larry Whiteley to be inducted into Missouri Sports Hall of Fame

  • Conservationist & Outdoor Journalist, U.S. Navy Veteran.
  • Host of the Great Ozark Outdoors from 1976 to the present.
  • Public Relations Manager for Bass Pro Shops for 23 years.

By Dave Barus

You might say that Larry Whiteley is a common and uncommon, outdoors Christian man. You would be correct, but there is so much more. He shares his life with others in a special way. With listening, honest caring and effective suggestions.

Larry Whiteley is a 1964 graduate of Nixa High School. A military veteran during our country’s time of need, he served in the U.S. Navy. Whiteley has hosted an outdoor broadcast show through The Great Ozarks Outdoors, Inc., his family corporation, since 1976. That includes 30 years for the award-winning Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World Radio, carried by more than 1,200 radio stations – including those as part of the American Armed Forces Radio Network.

He also was the Corporate Public Relations Manager for Bass Pro Shops for 23 years. Additionally, his voice was the one carried over every Bass Pro Shops store in America, as it welcomed customers, noted the latest sale and gave outdoor tips. He also was a crucial part of conservation and kid’s outdoor education programs.

To date, Whiteley has voiced more than 18,000 radio shows and written more than 5,000 articles communicating the great outdoors to people worldwide. He still writes for newspapers and magazines, including Hook & Barrel, Outdoor Guide, Show Me, CrappieNOW, ShareTheOutdoors.com, and Missouri Conservation Federation.

Whiteley, a winner of numerous awards through several outdoors associations, also is an inductee of the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame. Through all this activity, Larry Whiteley, the gifted communicator that is everyone’s friend, has remained a humble man at every turn. Never looking for credit at any time, Larry is always encouraging others to step in and get going. With an ear-to-ear grin, he is a human spark plug for inspiring others.

Missouri Sports Hall of Fame CEO & Executive Director Jerald Andrews unveiled the Class of 2022 in early December. The inductees will be honored on Sunday, February 6 at the Ozark Empire Fairgrounds. A reception presented by Reliable Toyota will begin at 4 p.m. that day, with the evening program to follow at 5 p.m. Associate sponsors are Advertising Plus, Bryan Properties, Great Southern Bank, Hiland Dairy Foods and Hillyard, Inc.

Hats off, and hearty congratulations to Larry Whiteley!

 

 

The WAR. The WOODS. The FAMILY. The STORY.

He could still hear the sounds of bombs exploding, the whir of helicopter blades...

By Larry Whiteley

     When he came back from war over 55 years ago, he never wanted to touch another gun. He never wanted to smell gunsmoke in the air. He never wanted to see blood staining the ground again. Family and friends knew he had served in the military but never told anyone his stories. They all knew it was best not to ask. But, they were still there in his heart and mind. It was partly because of how they were treated when they came home, but mostly because he didn’t want to remember.

Photo courtesy of The National Archives

Sometimes though, he could still hear the sounds of bombs exploding, the whir of helicopter blades. He could still feel the ground rumble as tanks went by, and he would remember. He awoke some nights to the screaming of wounded buddies and lay there in the dark with his eyes open for hours as his wife slept peacefully beside him. He kept it all hidden from those he loved.

They had no idea he also felt really guilty because he got to come home, raise a family and have a good life. So many of his buddies did not get to go home. At times, it even bothered him that he escaped the nightmare of that place with no visible scars and no missing limbs. He was one of the lucky ones, but he didn’t see it that way. He had scars alright, but they were hidden.

No one said anything, but they probably wondered why he didn’t want to watch war movies or any movies or TV shows involving shooting and killing. He would even walk out of the room when the news came on. He didn’t want to see or hear anything about people being shot or killed.

When friends tried to get him to go deer hunting with them, he politely declined with some kind of excuse. One of his grown sons got into hunting with friends. He told his dad how much he enjoyed it and that it was not just about killing a deer. It was about all the special moments out in the woods with his kids or by himself, whether he got a deer or not. The grandkids also encouraged him to join them on a hunt.

    He came up with an excuse each time they asked and declined as he had his friends. But, then one day, he saw the disappointment on his grandkid’s face and the pleading eyes of his son when they asked once again. “Okay,” he said, “Teach me what I need to know to hunt these deer.” He couldn’t believe he spoke those words, but then he saw the smiles of joy on his son and grandkids’ faces. He would do this for them.

His son loaned him one of his rifles, and they went out to sight it in. When he was handed the rifle, thoughts of all the times he held an M16 rifle crossed his mind. He took a deep breath before the first time he fired it and again had to wipe away memories going through his head. It got a little easier with each shot.

Forrest Fisher Photo

The morning of the hunt, he put on the camouflage hunting clothes his son had bought him. As his wife slept, he quietly poured a thermos full of coffee and waited for headlights to come up his driveway. He sat there and tried to concentrate on making good memories this day and not think about bad memories that for all these years had crowded his mind.

Lights shined through the window, and he went out the door into the dark. “Are you ready for this,” his son said. “You’re going to love it, papaw,” a grandchild told from the back seat. He took a deep breath, sighed and then smiled. “I will do my best,” he said. His son gave him lots of tips and told him stories of what to expect on the drive to the woods.

They pulled off the dirt road and parked. The grandkids were old enough to hunt on their own, so they wished everyone good luck and went off to their favorite treestands. The son took his dad to an enclosed blind that he felt would be safer than having him try to climb a tree with a gun and sit in a stand when he had never done that. The son didn’t know that dad had done that many times a long time ago in a place far away that he tried hard to forget.

The son wished his dad good luck and went off to his own treestand. As he sat there in the dark, the sun started peeking through the trees. The sky was a beautiful shade of orange. Birds started singing and fluttering around from limb to limb. A fox came walking through and had no idea he was there. Squirrels were digging in the dry leaves. His first thought was it sounded like the enemy advancing on his position. He dismissed that thought and enjoyed watching them.

The field he could see out the windows of the blind could have reminded him of battlefields, but it didn’t. The shots he heard in the distance could have put him on alert for advancing enemy soldiers. Instead, he hoped it was his grandkids, and they were successful.

In this particular moment, in this special place, he silently talked to God. He asked his forgiveness for not thanking him a long time ago for watching over him during the war and bringing him safely back home. He also thanked Him for creating all the beauty of nature that surrounded him that morning. He started thanking Him for his wife and family and was wiping a tear from his eye when he saw something in the field before him.

The buck had his nose down following the scent of a doe that had come through the field during the night. He remembered everything his son had told him. He raised the rifle, looked through the scope and put the deer in the cross-hairs. His heart raced as he clicked off the safety just as it had many years ago. He squeezed the trigger, gun smoke drifted through the air, and the buck dropped where it stood.

What his son hadn’t told him was that he could see Dad’s blind and the field from the treestand he sat in. The buck had walked right under the son’s stand, and he didn’t shoot. He knew Dad had been in the war even though he never talked about it. He knew that Dad needed this moment to hopefully help free him of his nightmares.

There was blood on the field that morning as the son joined his father where the buck lay. They hugged, and the tears flowed. The grandkids joined them and hugged their papaw too. They also knew their papaw had been through a war, but dad had told them not to ask him about it. They all dropped to their knees, put their hands on the buck and bowed their heads to honor it for giving its life to help a troubled man heal.

The war was over.

Organic Foods – Life Lessons too

What does organic food really mean? Higher cost or Better Health?

Wild mushrooms are organic by nature, let’s go shopping…in the woods.

By Larry Whiteley

I went grocery shopping with my wife the other day. I’m usually not much of a shopper unless I am in the local outdoor store. It can take me hours and cost me a lot of money when I go in there. I always need to replace something I broke, lost or wore out. Plus, there is always the latest and greatest new product I just have to have.

Anyway, as I followed her around the store, I was amazed at all the organic foods with their green and white labels. Some labels were not green and white but still said they were organic but not as organic as the green and white ones. The prices kind of amazed me too. They sure weren’t cheap, and some of those labels were in my wife’s grocery cart. I could have bought a lot of fishing lures for what they cost.

When we got home, I brought the groceries into the house, and she went about putting everything in its proper place. I went into my office, opened the computer, typed in “organic foods,” and hit the search button. I found that organic meats are supposed to be free of antibiotics, growth hormones or other drugs, and according to the USDA, not genetically modified or unnaturally “enhanced” in any other way. Organic livestock raised for meat, eggs, and dairy products must also have access to the outdoors, giving them more room to move around, provided with organic feed, and not inhumanely cramped up in a crowded pen.

Organic crops must be grown without synthetic pesticides, bioengineered genes (GMOs), petroleum-based fertilizers, and sewage sludge-based fertilizers. It also said that how food is grown or raised can have a significant impact on the health of your body, including your mental and emotional health. Organic foods often have more beneficial nutrients, such as antioxidants, than their conventionally-grown counterparts. People with allergies to foods, chemicals, or preservatives often find their symptoms lessen or disappear when they eat only organic foods. 

My wife’s organic shopping.
More of my wife’s organic shopping.

In addition, organic farming is better for the environment. Organic farming practices reduce pollution, conserve water, reduce soil erosion, increase soil fertility, and use less energy. Farming without pesticides is also better for nearby birds and animals and people who live close to farms.

Organic meat and milk are richer in particular nutrients. A 2016 European study showed that levels of certain nutrients, including omega-3 fatty acids, were up to 50 percent higher in organic meat and milk than in conventionally raised versions. I guess I might be forced to admit that the price of organic foods is justified by all that.

Maybe organic foods are also worth the price just to know that you do not have pesticides, petroleum products or sewage in the food you eat. That is kind of gross, don’t you think? As I leaned back in my desk chair, pondering everything I had just read about organic foods, I thought about that. 

As I pondered all this, a picture of the old farm where I was born and grew up caught my eye. We milked cows by hand, raised and butchered hogs, had chickens to fry and their eggs to eat. We also hand-tilled and grew our own vegetables in the garden. All of that was done without the use of any chemicals back then.

While I continued to ponder, I looked around my office. On the walls were deer heads, turkey fans, duck mounts, pheasant mounts and fish mounts. Pictures of myself and kids and grandkids with fish and wild game hung on the walls and sat on shelves around the room. They brought back great memories and got me thinking that I have been eating natural organic foods for years. Even before it became a buzzword that some marketing companies came up with.

I hit the search button on the computer once again and typed in “health benefits of wild game and fish.” I found that the venison, wild turkey, ducks, pheasant, and other wild game I hunt and eat are all organic. Wild game is the original sustainable, free-ranging, grass-fed meat. And, it’s lower in fat, cholesterol, and calories than most other meat. It’s also high in protein, iron and vitamin B, yet low in saturated fat.

Great tasting organic crappie, my kind of shopping.

The fish I catch and eat are naturally organic. So are the wild mushrooms I find and prepare with my fish and game. The wild blackberries, raspberries and other fruit and nuts are a special treat and are also organic. 

The exercise, fresh air, and other health benefits from harvesting all kinds of natural organic foods are enormous. It’s good for my body, my mind and my soul. Anyway, that’s what the computer said, and that’s what I am going to tell my wife. I will also tell her that all the natural organic foods I bring home are cheaper than what she buys in the grocery store. Suppose I say that, though, I have to hope she doesn’t get adding up the cost of all my guns. In that case, the gun safe I put them in, all my hunting clothes and equipment, my ATV, the trailer to haul it, my boat, I don’t know how many rods and reels, tackle boxes and at least a zillion lures. I almost forgot all my camping gear. On second thought, maybe I better not say that.

Hmm! I wonder if I could start a market of my own. Instead of a Farmers Market, it could be an Organic Outdoorsman Market selling wild game, fish, mushrooms, wild fruit, etc. Or, maybe The Organic Outdoorsman Restaurant. Can you imagine the menu? Appetizers could be fried frog legs, or boiled crayfish tails dipped in melted butter we make from a wild buffalo we milk by hand. Entrees could include grilled venison tenderloin with sauteed morel mushrooms, fried walleye or crappie with potatoes and onions (that I grew myself), baked wild turkey or wild pheasant with wild rice. For dessert, maybe gooseberry pie or wild blackberry homemade ice cream. I might even make enough to buy more fishing lures. But, on further consideration, I’m thinking that a lot of work would cut into my time outdoors doing my kind of organic market idea.

I quit my daydreaming, shut off the computer, then head out to my workshop to grab my fishing stuff and hook up the boat. Before I leave, I stick my head in the back door and tell my wife I’m going shopping for organic food and that I will be back in a couple of hours. She just rolls her eyes, shakes her head, smiles and tells me to have a good time shopping.

Please feel free to use any or all of the above information with your wife to help you get away more from organic food shopping when you need to. You just have to hope she doesn’t figure out the real cost for all your organic shopping. 

A Lucky Little Boy

The dreams of a little boy begin with memories from fishing with his dad.

By Larry Whiteley

He sure is lucky, this 4-year old little boy asleep in his bed. He’s going fishing for the first time today. Mom promised him she and dad would take him if he kept his toys picked up. Even though some toys are just pushed under the bed or back in the closet, his room looks pretty good. His little basketball goal sits against a wall waiting for him to make another 6-pointer.  The bookcase is filled with books he likes dad or grandpa to read to him.  Mom can walk across the floor now without stepping on a Lego.

In the corner, near the door, sits his new fishing rod and reel. Dad got it for him. This is no Mickey Mouse outfit. He thinks it looks like the ones dad uses. Next to it sits his new tackle box. Dad took him to the outdoor store to buy it. He got to pick out the one he wanted. There are some red and white plastic bobbers, sinkers, hooks, and a fish stringer to put in it. Dad gave him some of his old lures. Plastic worms, frogs and lizards. He likes playing with them. There’s also a small toy or two tucked away in one of the compartments.

He is snuggled up to his favorite stuffed animal. A turtle named “Tucker”. Great-grandma got it for him. A few others are scattered around the bed. As he sleeps, there’s a smile on his face. He must be dreaming about going fishing. In his dream, he hears someone calling his name. He feels someone kissing him on the cheek. Through sleepy eyes, he sees mom. In his grogginess, he hears her say, “You better get up. It’s time to go fishing.” His eyes widen, and he reaches up and hugs her. Then the family dogs burst into the room; they jump on the bed and start licking him. Now he is really awake and ready to go fishing.

Mom sends him to the bathroom to do his morning big boy duties and brush his teeth. He rushes back to his room. She helps him get his “Daddy’s Fishing Buddy” t-shirt grandma got him. He puts on his “Born to Fish” cap great-grandpa sent him. He’s a lucky little boy to have so many people and dogs that love him.

Mom had breakfast ready, so the little boy and dad came in and sat down at the kitchen table. They all held hands, bowed their heads and dad thanked God for this special day and all their many blessings. It was sure hard to eat when you are a little boy and ready to go fishing.

They loaded the coolers, the snacks and the dogs in the truck and they were off on this great adventure. At least it was to a 4-year old. As dad drove, questions came from the little boy sitting in his car seat. How much farther, dad? Why do fish have fins? Did you get my fishing stuff? What color are fish? Dad patiently answered all the questions and smiled. Mom smiled too.

“I can see the water”, the little boy yelled as they drove across the bridge. Soon he was helping dad back the boat down the ramp. The boat motored away from the ramp with life jackets on all the occupants. Dogs too. They made a quick stop at the marina so dad could get some worms. Guess who had to go with him?  Back in the boat, they came out of the idle zone, and dad pushed the throttle forward. The look on the little boy’s face was priceless as the boat motor roared to life.

Dad had been on his college bass fishing team. He still fishes bass tournaments when he can. The boat has every kind of electronics imaginable. Dad works for the company that makes them. The little boy wanted to know about every one of them. This day was not a fishing tournament, though. It was all about a first fishing trip for a little boy. He idled down and drifted into a shaded cove. The lucky little boy got to see an eagle flying in the sky, a deer drinking at the water’s edge and a big heron fishing along the bank.

It was a great place to have a picnic lunch, play in the water and catch the first fish.

That was the only thing on the little boy’s mind after they anchored and tied up the boat. He was ready to go fishing. Dad tied a small sinker and a bobber to the line but no hook, and then showed him how to cast and then helped him cast. Then he let him try casting by himself. That was hard for a 4-year old. Dad told him he would help.

Dad and the little boy walked along the shoreline hand-in-hand. He carried his fishing pole and dad carried the tackle box and worms. Mom took pictures. The dogs came along too. Dad found a good spot and put a hook on his line and a worm on the hook. The little boy wanted to put the worm on. Dad told him to watch how he does it first and then when he’s bigger, he can do the same. He knows dad is smart, so he’s okay with that.

First fish!

Dad gets on his knees, puts his hands around his little boy’s hands and helps him cast the worm into the water. Mom said it was a great cast. They all smiled. She got a great picture. Dad told him to watch the bobber and when it went under, he would help him set the hook. Just as he said it, the bobber moved sideways and then started bobbing up and down.

Dad helped him set the hook but let him fight the little fish and reel it in. Mom was frantically taking pictures as the little boy reeled it up on the bank. Dad and he posed for pictures with the fish. Dad took out the hook to release it, but the little boy wanted to touch it first. With one finger, he did. The dogs came over and wanted to smell the fish.

Then he said goodbye as dad put it back in the water. He gave a high five to dad and mom and hugged the dogs. First fishing trip, first cast, first fish.

He wanted to fish some more, so dad put another worm on and cast it out again. Almost immediately, the bobber started moving toward deeper water, and the two fishermen set the hook. The little rod bent nearly double. Dad had to help him with this one. It took line off the reel. They would gain some of it back, and it would strip more line. Mom’s yelling and taking pictures at the same time. Dad was just hoping the line or the rod wouldn’t break. A determined look was on the little boy’s face as he and dad fought the fish. Dad told mom to get the dip net from the boat. She held it in the water as the little boy and his dad brought the fish to it. A good size largemouth. For a little fishing outfit and a little boy, it was a monster.

Two best friends for a little boy and his family.

They posed for pictures again, and dad beamed with pride. He would be sending that picture to all his bass fishing buddies and showing it off at work next week. Mom was already sending it to Grandparents and Great-grandparents. Two casts, two fish. Dad tried to explain to him it’s not always that easy. The little boy was so happy he didn’t care right now. He had caught a fish like dad catches. They watched it swim away.

Knowing that they would probably not catch another fish like that, dad talked him into playing in the water so he wouldn’t be disappointed if they didn’t. They all paddled around and played for a while. The dogs, too, and they got hungry. The little boy sat on dad’s lap eating, talking about the fish and yawning. They decided to pack up and go home. The little boy was asleep before the boat reached the loading ramp.

On the drive home, mom turned around and took pictures of a tired little fisherman with his “Born to Fish” cap tilted to one side. Two tired dogs were asleep on each side of him. He was probably dreaming fish dreams. He’s a lucky little boy.

 

Mulligans…In the Woods, On the Crik’s – Do it Again!

  • Mulligans can offer new and better opportunity for the next time.
  • Mulligans are do overs, but why not do the good things over too!
  • Keep the grins and giggles nearby, God wants us to share those too.
Family hunting trips can offer prime opportunity for Mulligan sharing.

By Larry Whiteley

Simply put, a mulligan is a “do-over” in the game of golf. Hit a bad shot? Take a mulligan and replay that stroke. Drop a ball on the spot from which you just played, and replay the shot. The bad shot is not counted. Our son Kelly loved to play miniature golf when he was younger. We still laugh when we talk about all the mulligans he wanted to take during a round of miniature golf with the family.

Don’t we wish we could take a mulligan for all the bad things that have happened in our lives? Don’t we wish we could replay things? Don’t we wish we could have a “do-over”? I would like to go back and take a mulligan on several things that have happened in my life. You can probably say the same.

I remember a fishing trip when my line broke on the biggest bass I had ever seen. It had to be at least a state record. I knew my line was getting old. I knew I needed to put fresh line on but didn’t – Mulligan!

Then there was the time I got into my deer stand, reached into my pack to get my bow release, and it wasn’t there. I knew I should have double-checked. I then had to sit there and watch three bucks bigger than anything I had ever taken with gun or bow walk right under my stand – Mulligan!

In a time long ago before digital cameras and smartphones, I was on a camping trip and the beautiful northern lights were dancing across the sky. I reached for my camera and started taking pictures of this beautiful sight. You guessed it. There was no film in the camera – Mulligan!

I needed a “do-over” on this Canadian fishing trip.

I would also like to take a mulligan for times I was too “busy” and my kids wanted to go fishing, or my wife wanted to go hiking or on a trip. Oh, believe me, there are many other things I have done that I would like to take a mulligan on. I am just thankful I have a God that forgives me for the mistakes I have made. The hardest part is forgiving myself. All we can do is try to live the rest of our life, so we don’t want or need to take a mulligan.

Believe it or not, there is a national holiday every year on October 17th called Mulligan Day. But, don’t wait until then. Mulligan Day can be any day. Whether it is a former relationship with a friend or loved one, an old hobby that you abandoned, or a past mistake that needs rectifying – you can take a mulligan.

Everyone deserves to have a second chance in life, right? And that is what mulligans are all about. If you don’t succeed at first, try and try again! After all, we aren’t perfect. There has only been one perfect man. We are going to make mistakes. We should not feel bad about doing something wrong. We should see it as an opportunity to learn and do it better the next time.

Aren’t second chances and sometimes even third chances good for everyone? Although we always want to do things correctly right away, immediate success is not always possible. In fact, it is very rare. We should embrace our human faults. Don’t simply admit failure and give up. Instead, take a deep breath, think about where you went wrong, learn from it, and try it again.

Go fishing with your grandkids over and over! Mulligans for the sake of sharing fun in the outdoors.

Mulligans help us to be more confident and accepting of ourselves. We can also use them to encourage other people too. When you see someone failing at something or struggling to get it right, give them encouragement, and offer them advice if they would like some. Imagine how much better a place the world would be if we all had this sort of attitude and helped others achieve their goals!

Take a mulligan and give yourself another chance to do something the right way that previously went wrong. After all, mulligans are about second chances and doing something again. Hey, God gives us mulligans all the time if we just ask Him.

You can also use mulligans as an opportunity to learn some new skills. Whether playing an instrument or learning to fish, use it as the catalyst to help you try out something new. You shouldn’t have any fear of failing or needing to do something, again and again, to get it right. After all, the struggle makes the achievement even more enjoyable at the end, and it is definitely better to try than not give it any sort of effort at all, right?

Here’s a great idea! If mulligans are “do-overs” for bad things that happened, why can’t we have “do-overs” for good things that happened in our lives? Deer camp with friends or family – Mulligan! A trip my wife and I made to Glacier National Park – Mulligan! Going fishing with my grandkids – Mulligan! Deer and turkey hunting with my son’s and grandkids – Mulligan! Time alone around a campfire – Mulligan! The list goes on.

Sometimes life gives you a second chance, or even two. Not always, but sometimes. It’s what you do with those second chances, those “do-overs,” that count – Mulligan!

A Talk with Dad

  • Was it the owls and crickets, or the stream flowing nearby…that brought dad back into mind?
  • The old days and the days of today, there was love in both places, but so different.
  • It’s something about campfire smoke in the morning at sunrise, it makes your eyes wanna cry.

By Larry Whiteley   

He woke up from a good night’s sleep and lay there in his tent, listening to owls hooting and crickets chirping. For some reason, he got to thinking about his Dad. “Haven’t done that in a long time,” he thought to himself. He slipped out of his sleeping bag, put on some clothes, and went out into the early morning.

There were still a few hot coals in the campfire, so he added some kindling, blew on the coals, and the fire came to life again. He gradually added bigger sticks until the fire was ready for his coffee pot on the grate. As he waited, he looked up to see stars still twinkling and listened to the sounds of flowing water in the nearby creek. He enjoyed his time alone in the outdoors, but he was beginning to miss his wife and family.

Maybe that’s why his Dad kept sneaking into his thoughts that morning. His Dad had been gone for many years, but there were things he needed to say to him and never had. It was a good time to do that. To tell him something that had been in his heart and mind for a long, long time. And, no one was around to think he was crazy talking to someone that wasn’t there.  

You know, Dad, I don’t remember you ever telling me you loved me. I don’t remember you ever putting your arms around me and hugging me. I’m sorry, but it’s hard for me to tell you I love you when I never heard or felt it from you. I realize now that your father never did that with you, so you didn’t know-how. That’s probably the way he grew up, so he didn’t know how either.

All I remember about Grandpa is he never smiled. He never seemed happy. I guess his Dad was probably that way, too, so not showing someone you loved them got passed down to you. I wish it had been different, but it wasn’t. Excuse me for a minute, smoke from this campfire must have got in my eyes.

I do remember the only time you took me fishing. You and my other Grandpa took me along to the river with you. But you never let me fish and never tried to show me how. I do remember getting in trouble for throwing rocks in the water. I also remember the turtle I hid from you because I was afraid if you found out I snuck it back home with me, I would get in trouble again.

That was when we lived with Grandma and Grandpa down on the farm. I don’t remember you doing much with me as I grew up there. You worked for the railroad and were gone a lot. Mom worked in town, and grandma was always busy helping with chores and cooking our meals. At least she would take the time to put her arms around me and kiss me on the head once in a while. I loved her smile. Grandpa had to milk the cows, feed the pigs, butcher the hogs, cut and put up the hay, fix what was broken, and a lot of other stuff, so he didn’t have much time for me either.

When I was young, I spent a lot of time by myself wandering the fields and forests around the farm. I remember pretending to be a soldier like you were. My imagination had me fighting the Germans. When I wasn’t fighting them, I was dodging arrows from the Indians and riding off on my horse. You weren’t around to see me doing that, Dad.

When I got old enough to help around the farm, I gathered the eggs for grandma and helped her pluck the chickens. Grandpa taught me how to milk the cows by hand and take a bucket to the spring to haul water back for grandma. He never said thanks, but at least I got a pat once in a while. That’s something I never got from you, Dad, but I know you were busy working. Wow, smoke’s getting in my eyes again.

Two things happened during that time that would eventually end up being a big part of my life. When I got my work done, Grandpa would let me use his old fishing rod, and I went off and taught myself how to fish. Later he let me use his old .22 rifle, and I became a hunter. The love I was seeking from you, I found in the great outdoors. 

Were you proud of me when I joined the military, Dad? I wrote you, but I don’t think I got any letters back. Guess you were too busy. I’ll be right back. This campfire smoke is nasty. Got to blow my nose and wipe my eyes.

O.K., where was I? Oh yeah, were you there when I got married? I don’t remember that either. Like you, I made mistakes too, and for that, I am deeply sorry. God forgave me, and I forgive you, Dad. 

My wife and I tell our kids and grandkids we love them, and we hug them. That’s important in today’s world. They have grown up fishing, hunting, camping, and in church. It has helped shape them into the good adults and young people they are. They have a lot of happy memories. Our kids have passed it on to their kids, and they too will pass it on to their kids and grandkids. You will be glad to know that the chain is broken. What a better world it would be if all kids grew up knowing that they are loved. It would be even better if kids grew up learning to enjoy God’s great outdoors and all it has to offer. It changes lives.

Well, I have to go now. My son and grandson will be here in a little while, and we’re going fishing. I’m glad we had this talk, Dad. I’ve been needing to do this for a long time. 

He finished his coffee, wiped his eyes one last time, smiled, and started getting his fishing stuff together.

 

 

Tracks in the Snow

  • Kids love the winter cold and sparkly snow!
  • Birds, squirrels, deer, mice and more…all tell a story of their journey.
  • The coffee tastes especially good on snowy mornings…a good time to share quiet time.

 

By Larry Whiteley

In the quietness of the early morning, he sat staring out the window at icicles hanging from the roof. The same white scene greeted his eyes as it had for several weeks now. He got up and went to the kitchen to pour another cup of coffee. The outside thermometer showed the temperature was in the single digits again as it had been for many mornings lately. At least it wasn’t windy and causing below zero wind chills.

He loves watching shows like “Alaska…The Last Frontier”, “Mountain Men,” “Life Below Zero,” and others. But this was southern Missouri, for goodness sakes. What happened to global warming?

As he stood there looking out the kitchen window, sipping his coffee and staring at the cold, he watched birds coming into the feeders. The woodpeckers pecked at the frozen suet cakes. That’s no problem for a woodpecker.  Other birds pecked around anywhere they could find a seed. They needed the food to warm their little bodies. Among the birds were more bluebirds than the man had ever seen at one time. Usually, he didn’t see them until spring, when they were ready to start nesting.

Suddenly all the birds scattered as a red-tailed hawk dove into the snow, trying to catch breakfast. He missed and flew away, probably thinking that catching a mouse would be easier. A friend had recently sent him a picture of a woodpecker frozen to a tree and another of a bluebird a friend of his had found frozen, but managed to nurse back to life. Winter is hard on those that have to live out in it every day.

The birds soon returned, and he made a mental note to put more bird feed out. He went back to his office. Most days in the past few weeks had been cloudy, dreary, and depressing. But, this day the sun was shining and the snow sparkled like millions of tiny diamonds scattered on top of it. His smartphone made a turkey sound, and he picked it up to see several pictures of some special kids from church playing in the snow. They all had big smiles on their faces. He and his wife had gifted them with their grandkids sleds several years ago, but there had never been enough snow to get out and have fun on them. Along with the pictures was a text from their Dad that said, “They love it!!!!” and the man smiled.

He and his wife had been watching out the windows lately at their little neighbor, buddy Hudson, out playing in the snow with Mom, Dad, and friends. Hudson also had one of their grandkid’s old sleds. He too was enjoying it, and so will his sister Lilly when she gets big enough. Adults were having as much fun as the kids. The man smiled again, thinking about it.

He looked out the window once more. In past days it had looked cold, cloudy and uninviting. With the sun shining and after watching the birds and thinking about the kids having so much fun, the snow suddenly seemed beautiful and inviting to him. He took his final sip of coffee, got up from his chair and started putting lots of clothes on. He figured if the Kilcher family from his favorite TV show could do it, and if those kids could get out in this kind of weather and have so much fun, he could get out and enjoy it too. After going through a pandemic during this past year, nothing seemed that hard anymore, anyway. He knew that this wouldn’t stop him from being out there in a treestand if it was deer season. He had even gone crappie fishing in this kind of weather. Besides, he had read somewhere that getting outside is good for your body and soul no matter what kind of weather.

A turkey sound went off again and he picked up his phone to read a text from a friend. Knowing that he loved watching Alaska TV shows so much, the friend had sent him a story about a lady in Alaska who went to the outhouse. When she sat down on the hole, a bear bit her on the butt. When her husband heard the screams and came running, a very stinky black bear came out from under the outhouse and ran off into the woods. Her husband successfully treated her wounds, and they will now have quite a story to tell their kids and grandkids. She probably won’t be showing her scars though.

Since the man didn’t have an outhouse and black bears should still be hibernating, he chuckled and finished putting his clothes on. After putting another log on the fire, he ventured out into this winter wonderland. The first thing he did was feed the birds and put out a little water for them since everything was frozen. He then started a fire in his fire pit, so he could warm up if he got too cold. Then, he reached in his pocket for his smartphone, clicked on the camera and started walking through the snow.

He was amazed at all the tracks he saw. There were many bird tracks around the feeders as well as tracks and a body print of a hawk who missed. Rabbit tracks led into the tall bushy grass and also under a storage building. Squirrel tracks could be seen in the snow clinging to the sides of trees, then across the snow to another tree and another. Near their tracks were holes where they were looking for acorns. The tiny tracks were probably field mice. Deer tracks were on the hill behind the house near where the garden is in the spring. Dog or coyote tracks were there also. Raccoon tracks were on the dirt road behind. Tracks of little kids and sled tracks were nearby.

As he walked down the plowed driveway to the front of his house, he noticed something strange in the front yard. There were places with tracks and some disturbed snow, but no tracks leading to or from them. Was it a mouse or a mole? Did a red-tailed hawk finally get a meal or two? Maybe it was aliens! The mystery may never be known.

He kept walking around, taking lots of beautiful pictures of the snow and the sun glittering off the icicles. He saw even more squirrel, rabbit, and deer tracks. The snow tracks were proof to him just how many wildlife critters also call this place home. You just never know what you will discover when you get outdoors away from the television and other electronics that steal so much of our time every day.

May some of the tracks you find in the snow be your own.

Remarkable Hunting – Lightning, Rain, one Old Barn and one Old Deer

  • As I sat there, I thought, “Deer hunting is about sunrises and sunsets, the wildlife that go about their daily routines not knowing you are there. It’s about all the memories you make with family and friends or alone in a barn.”

By Larry Whiteley

The rain stops. Through my binoculars, I see a buck by himself – he has a weird set of antlers. Then I think about next year.

The forecast for opening day of the firearms deer season was for rain with a chance of thunderstorms. My son was out of town, and my grandson was at college in Kansas. It wouldn’t be the same without them, so why not just stay home? Wait a minute, this is opening morning I’m talking about. A tradition for goodness sake. How many years in a row have I enjoyed this special day? I had to be out there even if I was going to be by myself. Even if it was raining.

The alarm jarred me from my sleep. I got the coffee pot going, brushed my teeth, did my duty, grabbed my hunting clothes and rifle, filled my thermos, and was out the door. I could see stars in the night sky, so maybe, just maybe, the weatherman was wrong. My truck came to a stop at the metal gate on the gravel road, and I got out to open it. No rain! I drove on down the road, crossed the creek, and pulled up to the old barn sitting majestically in the field.

My plan was to leave the truck there and hike across the field to a tree where my stand waited for me. I got out of the truck, thunder rumbled, and lightning cracked and lit up the dark sky. I was sure thankful I had gone to the bathroom before leaving home. My hair would have stood on end if I had any.

I quickly decided I did not want to walk across a field with the lightning while carrying a rifle to go sit in a metal treestand. Then the sprinkles started, the thunder and lightning continued, and I got back in my truck. As I sat there thinking about what to do, the sky lit up again, and it seemed like heaven opened. I swear I heard the angel chorus singing hallelujah and trumpets bugling. There before me was the answer that would save this day. I would deer hunt from the old barn hayloft. My son, grandson, and granddaughter had all taken deer from the old barn before, and so had I.

I jumped out of the truck, grabbed all my hunting stuff, and ran inside. Then I remembered I had a folding chair I used when hunting in blinds, it was still in the truck, so I ran back out to get it. The rain was getting heavier, but the old barn would keep me dry. It was still dark, so I was in no hurry to climb up in the barn loft. I looked around with wide eyes, and my headlight assured me there were no wild animals in the barn ready to attack me. I also made a mental note not to step in all the groundhog holes in the dirt floor.

 

The old barn was built over 100 years ago by a gentleman named Christopher Columbus Meadows. I remembered the old black and white picture the owner of this land had shown me of Christopher Columbus holding a horse by the reigns and standing next to the barn.

My headlight shines on, the big stacked rocks and hand hewn beams light up. These are the foundation on which the old barn has stood for over 100 years. I look at the ax marks on the wood, and I see, in my mind’s eye, Christopher chopping and shaping the log to become this foundation. I imagine him in the wooden wagon, pulled by the horse in the picture, going down to the creek to find the flat rocks for the beam to set on.

I look around at all the weathered wood that covers the old barn. There was no electricity in this valley when the barn was built and wouldn’t be for another 30 years or more. So how did they get this wood to build it? How has the wood lasted this long? There is no paint or sealant of any kind on it. Where did they get the old rusted hinges and nails? I will never know the answers.

My mind travels back in time, and I see the horse in the picture standing in a stall. I see corn stalks stacked in another area. Maybe this was where they milked the old cow. Is that daylight coming through the cracks? It sounds like the storm has let up. I better get up in the loft.

I climb the stairs that are just as sturdy as they were when they were built but step carefully around rotted boards on the loft floor. I set up in the big opening where they once brought hay up from below to be stored in the barn loft. My chair is comfortable. I pour a cup of coffee and stretch out my legs. This is a great way to hunt deer, even if it’s not raining.

I look around the old loft, still amazed at how they built the old barn this big and how it has stood this long. The owner tells me it’s home to barn swallows, field rats, mice, a pair of black vultures that come here to raise babies every year, and the groundhogs who made all the holes, these will probably be the biggest reason the barn comes down someday.

The rain stops. Through my binoculars, I see a buck by himself – he has a weird set of antlers. On the left, it is normal but only three points. On the right, it is short with two points and ugly. He slowly saunters across the field with his head down. I figure all the bucks have teased him about his weird rack, and the females don’t want anything to do with this ugly buck.

I think for a moment about putting him out of his misery and click off the safety. But then I think maybe next year when he grows back a new set of antlers, they will be prominent and handsome. Then the ladies will be attracted to him, and the bucks that made fun of him will regret it when he kicks their butt. I click on my safety.

Rain starts again. He will be the only deer I see this day, but that’s okay. I don’t know why we have to get older to realize that deer hunting is not just about getting a big buck you can put out on social media to brag about. Deer hunting is about sunrises and sunsets, the wildlife that go about their daily routines, not knowing you are there. It’s about all the memories you make with family and friends or alone in a barn.

This day will be added to my storehouse of memories. Before I get too old, and as long as it remains standing, I would like to have a few more days of deer hunting from the hayloft of the old barn.

Sitting on a Big Flat Rock in Winter

A big flat rock in the middle of a warm winter is more than a big flat rock. Larry Whiteley photo

By Larry Wisher

It’s a warm day. For winter, that is. I’m sitting on a big flat rock in the middle of the woods. The sun soaks deep into my bones. Days like this don’t come that often in winter, here where I live.

I take my jacket off and use it for a cushion and insulation from the cold of the rock. Except for the sound of a deer mouse rustling through the dry leaves enjoying the warmth too, or the occasional chatter of squirrels or crows talking to each other – it’s quiet here.

My eyes get heavy. Just as I start drifting off to sleep, an old dead tree comes crashing to the ground and startles me back to reality. What is that old saying? If a tree falls in the woods and nobody is there to hear it, does it make a sound? My heartbeat slows back down to normal. I stretch my legs back out and enjoy my rock again.

You know, I hadn’t noticed so many dead trees out here before. The wood-eating insects must have got to them. Then the woodpeckers got to the insects. Then the holes the woodpeckers made became home to other birds and flying squirrels.

Someday, when no one’s around to hear it, they too will fall. Then mice will build nests in them, snakes will hibernate, and they will be an excellent place for storing nuts. Eventually, though, they will return to the ground from which they came. It’s amazing what you think about when you’re sitting on a big flat rock in the middle of the woods…on a warm winter’s day.

Looking skyward, the trees are like me, recharging for spring. Larry Whiteley photo

The musty smell of decaying leaves reminds me of how unique nature really is. In a few months, tiny buds will start appearing. Soon after, green leaves will burst out and unfurl. These woods, which now seem dead, will come to life again because of the nurturing power of the decaying leaves mixed with sunshine and rain.

As I scout for turkeys or begin looking for mushrooms, I will notice the buckeye trees first because they are the first tree to leaf out around here. The oaks, maples, hickories, walnuts, sycamores, and all the others will soon follow. Serviceberries, with their dainty white flowers, will be the first to bloom. They will be followed by the redbuds with their tiny purplish flowers. The white blossoms of the dogwood will not be far behind. Their colors add beauty to the spring woods.

It will be so much different than it is right now. Except for the brown leaves, blue sky, and green of the pines and cedars, I kind of feel like I’m watching an old black and white television. Don’t you remember those? Well, you probably wouldn’t unless you’re getting as old as I am.

The fully leafed trees add cooling shade to these woods as I come here for morning hikes in summer. Summer also brings ticks, chiggers, and snakes to these woods. Because of that and the hot and humid days, I’m not here as often as I am in other seasons.

As summer ends and fall begins, the chlorophyll that gives the leaves their green color begins to break down, and the true colors of the leaves are revealed. These woods become a kaleidoscope of red, gold, orange, and yellow. Trees drop their nuts to the ground while deer, turkey, squirrels, and the mice that call this place home, enjoy the bounty. Once again, I will be hiking, scouting, hunting, and sometimes even camping. It’s my favorite season of the year and a beautiful time to be here.

A little bit of wind, a little snow, and the acorns of autumn will bury and join the life of spring a few months from now. Larry Whiteley photo

But then, those same leaves that burst forth in spring will wither and fall to decompose and give nourishment to the same tree that gave them life. How does that song go? “Just remember in the winter far beneath the bitter snow, lies a seed that with the sun’s love in spring, becomes a rose.” Here in these winter woods, it will be beneath the dead leaves and sometimes a covering of snow. It will be a seed or a nut, that in the springtime with the sun’s love, sprouts and becomes a maple, dogwood, redbud, oak, papaw, buckeye, or hickory. Maybe even just a scraggly bush. Life goes on.

Wow! Again I will say it’s amazing what you think about when you’re sitting on a big flat rock in the middle of the woods on a warm winter’s day. If a man talks or sings to himself in the woods and no one’s around, does anybody hear him?

I feel a little like an acorn.  My eyes are getting heavy again.

The Old Man in the Mirror

Father and son hunting buddies that can say, "I love you Bub!" Molly Meyers photo

  • Hunting, fishing, frog-giggin’ and sucker -grabbin’
  • Freckles, frowns, wrinkles and specks of gray…is winter here?
  • Kids, grandkids, heartwarming memories…thank you Lord.  Pass it on.
Deer camp camaraderie and hunting family fun.

 

By Larry Whiteley

     He was up early getting ready to pick up his son to go deer hunting. He had brushed his teeth and was washing his face. He paused to look at himself in the mirror and saw an old man staring back at him.

The old man in the mirror…yes, that was me! Where has the time gone? 

     Maybe it was because his 74th birthday was on Christmas, and it would be here in a few more weeks. He stared at the old man in the mirror and saw wrinkles carved by frowns and smiles through the years of his life. He looked at the bags under his eyes. He saw his skin sagging down on both sides of his chin and looked like a turkey wattle hanging below. What little hair he saw was gray. The old man in the mirror was in the winter of his life.

     He pulled into his son’s driveway and smiled as he loaded his deer hunting stuff in the truck. He was proud of the husband and father, his son, had become. He moved over to let him drive. His old eyes didn’t see as well in the dark anymore. The interior light of the truck revealed specks of gray in his son’s hair. It was hard for him to believe that it wouldn’t be long until his son would be a grandpa for the first time. He was in the fall of his life.

     Not much was said as the truck traveled down the road to their hunting place. The son glanced over at his Dad. He realized that his Dad was getting older. He wondered how many more deer and turkey hunting trips they would have together. Dad was still very active and his health seemed good, but at his age, you never know.

     As he drove, his mind wandered to times when he was younger, and Dad took him rabbit hunting, squirrel hunting, and dove hunting. He thought of frog-gigging trips, fishing trips, and especially sucker-grabbin’. Camping and trout fishing was fun too. 

     He thought to himself how he needed to thank him for the time they had spent together in the outdoors and all the outdoor things he had done with his son and daughter when they were in the spring of their lives. This would be a good time to tell him how important all that was to him and them. They drove on in silence.

     The truck came to a stop, the older man got out to open the gate. The night sky was dark, but getting lighter. They had to hurry to get to their stands before the deer started moving. They wished each other good luck and started in opposite directions. The son stopped, turned around, and watched his Dad walking away until he disappeared into the dark.

     The older man got to his stand and started the climb up. It wasn’t as easy as it used to be. He settled into his stand, got everything ready, and sat in silence waiting. He thought about the old man in the mirror that morning and wondered how many more times he would be able to do this thing he loved so much. Right now, he still had the strength, the will and the desire, but he knew at his age, that could change at any time. He didn’t want to think about that anymore.

Were those deer looking back at me? On some days, it’s ok to let them walk by.  Joe Forma Photo

     The dark turned to light, and the wildlife started their day. Birds sang their songs, and crows talked to each other, and squirrels sounded like deer as they rustled about in the woods. He watched deer traveling through the frosted field below but out of range. 

     As the morning wore on, his thoughts turned to memories he had from being outdoors with his kids, grandkids, and friends in the summer and fall of his life. He even thought of a time when he was fishing and would look over to watch his wife reading a book. He wished there had been more time spent in the outdoors with his son and grandsons that lived in another state. Where had the time gone? It went so fast. He looked up to the sky and said thank you for blessing him and forgiving him.

     In another stand, in another place, his son sat waiting. He too, had seen and heard the wildlife. He too, had seen deer out of range and even a few that he let have a heartbeat for another day. He too, also thought about outdoor memories with Dad, his wife, and his kids, and the memories he would make with his grandkids someday. The outdoor traditions he loves would be passed on. He too looked up and said thank you. He even thought about how he was in the fall of his life, and winter was coming.

     There were no deer to field dress and load that day. They talked some on the way home, but it was mostly a silent trip again. The old man was thinking to himself how he wished his Dad would have spent time with him in the outdoors, but he didn’t. He thought about how he never heard his Dad tell him that he loved him. He had no good memories from the spring of his life. 

     It might have been a perfect time to talk to each other about all the things they thought and talked about. Why is it so hard for men to look at each other in the eye and tell them how they feel? A day will come when they will wish they had.

Morning sunrise from the tree stand offers an amazing moment.

     They pull into the driveway. Hunting gear is unloaded. The old man says, “I love you Bub!” The son says, “I love you too,” then watches until his Dad has driven out of sight. He goes into the house, kisses his wife, and goes into the bathroom to wash his hands. He looks in the mirror and sees the gray in his hair. His thoughts from the day sweep over him. He thinks of his Dad being in the winter of his life. “I will be right back,” he tells his wife. “I need to go tell Dad something.”

The Eagle Sees the Round Rainbow

  • Eagles are an American Icon
  • Eagles signified majestic strength from the ancient times of Babylon, Egypt and Rome
  • Eagles are part of Native American tribe mythology
  • Eagles…respect, honor, tradition, nature, awe.
What it must be like to be an Eagle…!

By Larry Whiteley

A symbol of our nation.

The bald eagle’s role as our nation’s symbol goes back to 1782 when it was added to the Great Seal of the United States. The eagle was selected because of its great strength, stately looks, long life, and because it is native to North America. The design went on to appear on official documents, currency, flags, public buildings and other government-related items. The bald eagle became an American icon. To us as Americans, along with our flag, the bald eagle represents freedom and all that freedom stands for and is worth fighting for.

Since ancient times the bald eagle has been considered a sign of strength. Babylon, Egypt and the Roman legions all used the eagle as their standard, or symbol. Eagles figure prominently in the mythology of nearly every Native American tribe. In most Native cultures, eagles are considered medicine birds with impressive magical powers and play a major role in their religious ceremonies.

In some of their legends, an eagle serves as a messenger between humans and the Creator. Eagle feathers were earned by Plains Indians as war honors and worn in their feathered head dresses. In some tribes today, eagle feathers are still given to soldiers returning from war or to people who have achieved a great accomplishment.

Sitting on a limb on a mountain high.

Eagles are also mentioned 17 times in the Bible. My favorite is Isaiah 40:31, “Those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

In the wild, a Bald Eagle will live 30-35 years. A full-grown Bald Eagle has a wingspan of up to 7-feet. They can fly up to 30 miles an hour and dive at 100 miles an hour. Eagles feed primarily on fish, supplemented by small mammals, waterfowl and carrion.

Bald Eagles mate for life and an established pair will use the same nest for many years. Over time, some nests become enormous and can reach a diameter of 9 feet and weigh as much as 2 tons. The female lays 2 or 3 eggs and both parents share incubation and guard them diligently against predators. While the chicks are small, the parents move about the nest with their talons balled up into fists to avoid harming them.

For such a powerful bird, the Bald Eagle emits surprisingly weak-sounding calls that are usually a series of high-pitched whistling or piping notes. The female may repeat a single, soft, high-pitched note that is said to be unlike any other calls in nature.

Fishermen who recognize the sound of an eagle usually stop fishing just to watch this majestic bird soaring in a bright blue sky. The bonus is when they dive from the sky to the water to do a little fishing themselves. Campers, hikers, canoers and kayakers are sometimes also treated to the sights and sounds of an eagle. It’s a memory that stays with you forever.

Fishing for a meal.

Many years ago I was flying back home to Springfield, MO from Chicago in an old prop airplane. The plane flew very low all the way back. As I watched out the window I thought to myself, “This must be what an eagle sees as he fly’s around.” I pulled out a piece of paper and started writing a poem and finished it before we landed.

A round rainbow is called a “glory.”

The line about the round rainbow was added later and the title was changed after my wife and I were flying back from Florida. When we looked out the window of the plane, we were amazed to see a round rainbow with the shadow of the airplane right in the middle of it.

Rainbows are created when the sun reflects off rain drops to mirror a multitude of colors. Most people don’t realize that a rainbow gets its traditional semicircle shape from the horizon because we are only seeing half of it. When the same atmospheric conditions that create a rainbow are observed from an airplane or by an eagle, a rainbow is a full circle. A round rainbow is called a “glory” that NASA defines as an optical phenomenon. To us, this “glory” was a sign that God was watching over us that day. He still is!

What must it be like to be an eagle…!

THE EAGLE SEES THE ROUND RAINBOW
By Larry Whiteley

What must it be like to perch on a limb
in a tree on a mountain high?
Then look above and spread your wings
and fly into the sky.

The eagle sees the round rainbow
that has no beginning or end.
He sees the flatlands, hills and valleys
and places I’ve never been.

What must it be like to look below
at cloud shadows on the trees?
It must be wonderful
to be so wild and free. 

The traffic on the roads must appear
like ants continually on the go.
Following straight and winding roads
to places only they know. 

What must it be like to fly along the rivers
carving out the land?
Over ponds, lakes and oceans
all created by God’s mighty hand. 

The patchwork quilt of the fields below,
the prairies, the deserts, the plains.
How could you ever get tired of looking
when what you see is never the same? 

What must it be like to fly over rows of houses,
giant factories, malls and other stuff?
For a majestic bird so used to nature’s beauty
neon lights, billboards and concrete must be tough. 

I wonder if tears come to an eagle’s eyes
and they fall to the ground.
When he sees streams filled with trash instead of fish
and pollution all around. 

What must it be like to fly above
when the seasons come and go?
To see the landscape turn from green to gold and red
to the white of a winter snow. 

What must it be like to be an eagle
and soar way up high?
Oh the sights we would behold
if we could see through an eagle’s eyes.

 

Newborn Wildlife, You Can Look but Don’t Touch

  • Be careful, view animals from a distance and do not touch

By Jason Houser

In the next several weeks, wildlife throughout the country will be bearing young. This is an awesome time of year and is a chance to see newborn elk calves, deer, pronghorn fawns, as well as many others. At the same time, I hope you know that when you come across young animals, please leave newborn wildlife alone and keep a distance.

It is so tempting when you see a young, fragile animal, to want to step in and help. It is the instinct of many people to feel compassion for the animal, but that animal was more than likely put there by its mother for safekeeping.

It is an amazing experience to get the chance to see the splendors of the outdoors, but please view animals from a distance and do not touch. Spring is an important time in a newborn’s life, and interference from humans can put their life at risk.

Most mammals hide their young and return periodically to nurse. People finding young animals with no adult around often assume the newborns have been abandoned, but this is rarely the case. The mother knows where her young are and will almost certainly return to care for them.

Young birds sometimes fall out of or leave their nests before they can fly. The parents continue to care for the young bird while it is on the ground, bringing food and trying to protect the youngster while it is in this vulnerable situation.

Getting too close to newborn wildlife can be very dangerous. The mother to the newborn animal will display very aggressive behavior when humans get close to their young. Leave the area immediately if you encounter aggressive wildlife with young. Yes, even whitetail doe’s that look so harmless can be aggressive. It is in their nature to protect their young, just like human parents will do anything to protect their children from harm.

The best option for people who come across newborn wildlife is to leave them alone. I had a case just last spring when a curious whitetail fawn that I did not know was in the area decided to go for a walk. The newborn was just born hours before that same day, we later learned through eyewitness accounts. The young deer left her hiding spot in the fencerow behind my home and entered my yard. As cute as the animal was, and even odd to see it in my yard, we left the baby to be. Watching it out the window of our home it was not long before its mother found it. Never assume the baby is an orphan unless you see the mother dead.

Most state and federal laws forbid possession of game and many nongame animals, so adopting newborn wildlife is illegal. Citations can be issued for possession of newborn wildlife with a possible penalty of up to a $1,000 fine.

BOOTS that bring your FAMILY out for a WALK…LOWA Boots

  • After comfort and wearability, there is only long-lasting comfort and long-lasting wearability

By Larry Whiteley

Yes, my closet is full of LOWA’s – gotta love these boots. Larry Whiteley Photo

My family has several traditions: The opening day of firearms deer season, going fishing the last day of trout season, hunting for morel mushrooms and looking for shed deer antlers, and more. A different kind of a tradition for the Whiteley family seems to be that a lot of us are wearing LOWA boots.

LOWA’s great ambassador Ingrid Niehaus. Photo courtesy www.womensoutdoornews.com.

I got my first pair of LOWA’s several years ago thanks to a good friend, Ingrid Niehaus, who worked for LOWA. A Bavarian cobbler named Lorenz Wagner founded LOWA in 1923. She told me of the company’s belief in corporate responsibility, taking care of their employees and social commitment. They also support non-profits that are working in environmental conservation and nature protection.

She also explained to me the quality and workmanship that goes into their boots and then talked me into a pair of LOWA’s, the Renegade GTX® Mid, which is one of the best-selling boots in the world. It is also the #1 selling boot in Europe, plus it was named to Backpacker Magazine’s Hall of Fame.

When they arrived and I opened the box I could tell these boots were much better than any boot I had ever owned and worthy of their status. The minute I slipped my feet into them and laced them up I was so glad she convinced me into getting them.

I kept raving about my new LOWA’s to family members and anyone else that would listen. That’s not something I usually do, but I had never worn a quality boot like my LOWA’s. They were so comfortable that’s all they were ever seeing me wear everywhere I went, including to church.

My wife heard me going on about how I love my LOWA’s so much she decided she wanted a pair too and we got her the Ladies Renegade GTX® Mid. She enjoys hiking and had several pairs of good hiking shoes, but now I never see her wear anything else.

My wife modeling her LOWA’s. Larry Whiteley Photo

I liked mine so well, I later got another pair of LOWA’s, but this time in a high top boot for hunting, hiking and just to wear. The Zephyr GTX Hi TF® were exactly what I was looking for, with the same great features and just as comfortable as my Renegade GTX® Mid.

My grandson was getting ready to do college summer intern work with a wildlife biologist where he would be working in some really rough terrain. He started hinting to me that he could sure use a pair like mine and, of course, his papaw got him a pair too because he’s a good kid and I wanted him in good boots as well.

Later my son says to me, “You, Mom, and my son keep going on about those LOWA boots and I think I might like a pair too.” Since he works on his feet all day in a cabinet shop, as well as enjoys walking and hiking with his wife and Max, the dog, I agreed. As a gift to him, I got the Zephyr GTX Mid® and now he is also a big LOWA fan.

While I was getting his, I decided I wanted another pair of LOWA’s for myself and got the new Zephyr GTX Mid TF® as a gift to myself. A man can’t have enough boots! It’s just like we can’t have enough guns or fishing rods! They are everything I have come to expect from boots. I am betting that my daughter-in-law, my granddaughter and my future granddaughter-in-law will soon also be a part of our LOWA family.

My son and his LOWAs. Anna Whiteley Photo

Ingrid recently decided to give up her work in order to travel and enjoy life. I will miss seeing her, but wish her the best on the rest of her journey through life. Thank you Ingrid for helping the Whiteley family start a different kind of tradition. Our feet really thank you too.

One of my favorite John Muir quotes says, “In every walk in nature one receives far more than he seeks”. When you walk in nature wearing LOWA boots, you also receive far more than you could ever imagine.

If the Whiteley family story has piqued your interest in LOWA boots, then I encourage you to go to www.lowaboots.com and check out their huge selection of boots. You will never regret owning a pair or two or three of LOWA boots. Only then, you’ll understand, the LOWA family is where you and the outdoors make friends for all time, wherever you go.

Sharing the Light of Fireflies…for Everyone affected by COVID-19

Sharing the Light of Fireflies…for Everyone affected by COVID-19

I hope the fireflies can shine their light and bring us hope, love, and joy. Radim Schreiber, https://fireflyexperience.org (website)

I created this video to help people during these challenging times and I feel sad knowing that many people are suffering right now. So I hope the fireflies can shine their light and bring us hope, love, and joy.

Let’s help each other and our planet Earth.  I appreciate it if you share this video.

Love you all.

Radim Schreiber, https://fireflyexperience.org (website)

Escaping the Pandemic, Alone in the Wild

When thunder rumbled, turkeys gobbled at the sound. I smiled.

  • At nighttime, there is nothing more relaxing than the sound of rain making music on my canvass tent
  • When thunder rumbled, turkeys gobbled at the sound. I smiled.
  • I looked to the west and saw what I was looking for. A rainbow.
Early morning in the forested Missouri hills, a special dose of peace and quiet…and no news forecast. 

By Larry Whiteley

It’s 5 am on an April morning. I sit at my desk writing a blog article about going camping. My wife is still sleeping. The television is on so I can check the weather for the day. The weather forecast was a lot better than the news. It was about nothing but coronavirus. Sunny days, cool nights with a slight chance of rain. I turn the television off and go back to writing.

My days are spent following stay-at-home rules. There are always things to get done outside in the yard, garden or workshop. I had practiced social distancing and gone fishing a few times.

In a moment of absolute brilliance, I thought why not go do what I have been writing about. I rushed in and told my wife we should escape the pandemic for a couple of days and go camping.

She said she would rather stay around home, but I should go enjoy myself. I stood there for a few seconds with thoughts rushing through my head of being alone for a few days in the outdoors. Alone in the wild.

I feigned disappointment and told her I would miss her. I packed all my clothes, camping gear, and food in the truck. I also grabbed a couple of locater turkey calls.

As I drove down the driveway, I knew exactly where I was going. I would escape to a place that I was very familiar with. I had spent many years hunting deer and turkey there. I would go to an open area on top of a hill I had often thought would make a great place to camp. From there I could see for miles looking over forested hills and valleys, but also with big open skies to enjoy. The creek in the valley below would be a bonus.

The stress and pressure from what was going on in the world with the coronavirus was gone as I drove up the hill. I pulled in by three trees that offered a great view. I just sat there for a moment. It was a totally different feeling than what I had been used to lately.

I pitched my tent and unloaded the truck. I got into my cooler for something to eat and drink then sat down in my camp chair to look around and take it all in. This is what I had come for.

Morel mushrooms, a special tasty treat from the forest.

The sun was warm. Sitting in the shade and with a little breeze, it was comfortable. I listened to bird songs. Crows were talking to each other. Buzzards circled in the bright blue sky. I looked up and said thank you to God for blessing me with this special moment in time. I also thanked him for my family and not giving up on me.

My afternoon was spent fishing the creek in the valley. The water was cold as I waded and fished but felt good. I lost count of how many fish I caught. Nothing big, but all fun. I tried skipping rocks and then just sat on the gravel bar looking for arrowheads and holey rocks. The sound of the flowing water was soothing. I took a nap.

The soothing waters of the creek. I caught fish and just as I was about to leave, I skipped a few rocks just for the fun of it. I was a kid again, just for a few moments.  

When I woke up the day was starting to fade so I drove back up the hill. The night skies were spectacular with thousands of twinkling stars. Coyotes howled and owls hooted. I did some hooting myself listening for turkey sounds from their roost. There were none. I stirred the campfire. The night cooled and my sleeping bag felt good.

I got up before the light came, stoked the fire and put on a pot of coffee. As the day started arriving, I was already out with my locater calls and binoculars scouting for turkeys. It wasn’t long before I found where they were. I knew where I would be hunting when the season started. I went back to camp.

The smell of bacon sizzling in the skillet drifted through the morning air. A deer let me know they smelled it too. My second cup of coffee was as good as the first. Birds were singing again and turkey gobbles echoed through the hills. Squirrels fussed at me because I was in their home.

The day found me secretly watching deer and turkey go about their day. I saw an eagle, a fox, and a bobcat. Black bear roams these woods too. I didn’t see one. I hiked around. I found wildflowers and morel mushrooms pushing their way through decaying leaves. I checked deer stands and pruned limbs and cleaned brush from around them. I even found a couple of shed antlers. I was enjoying my time alone in the wild.

Mister Tom Turkey, I hope he is there waiting when I return to hunt.

Before I knew it, the night was upon me again and the moon was big and bright. I sat around the campfire listening to night sounds and using my headlight to read “Friendship Fires” by Sam Cook. He doesn’t know it, but his style of writing greatly influenced me. Friends Dave Barus, David Gray, and Bobby Whitehead gave me the confidence I needed. They all shaped me into the writer I now am. I am using the gift that God gave me.

My eyes are heavy from all my activities of the day, the dancing flames, a crackling fire, and reading. I could hear thunder and see lightning in the distant hills. Tree frogs croaked and crickets chirped. Peaceful sleep came quickly.

Sometime during the night I awoke to rain making music on my canvass tent. There is nothing more relaxing than that sound. I easily drifted back off to sleep.

When my eyes opened again the sun was starting to shine through the trees. A light rain was still falling. When thunder rumbled, turkeys gobbled at the sound. I smiled. The sun glistened off the raindrops still clinging to the leaves and grass. I looked to the west and saw what I was looking for. A rainbow.

A beautiful ending from my time alone in the wild.

I sat there for a long time enjoying the beauty of the rainbow. Hundreds of purplish redbuds and white dogwood trees were all bloomed out painting the landscape. As much as I hated to leave, I missed my wife. It was time to go home to a different world. My time here will be re-lived in my daydreams and night dreams. It had been a wonderful escape from the pandemic. Alone in the wild.

Author note:  All photos are courtesy of the Missouri Department of Conservation

A Special Gift for a Special Young Lady

A proud dad with his daughter.

  • A special gift – protection and peace for grandpa’s mind – for a very special young lady
  • The Kimber Micro 9 measures a little over 6 inches in length and 4 inches in height 
  • Aluminum frame, steel slide – it weighs a little less that a pound with an empty magazine
A special gift for a special young lady.

By Larry Whiteley

My granddaughter Anna is a petite, beautiful young lady that was a cheerleader and a gymnast when she was younger. She has a smile that touches your heart and a heart as big as all outdoors.

We used to tell her that when she started bringing boys over, that her dad, brother and I would be there to meet them with conceal carry pistols in full view. We also told her we were going to make sure we showed these young men all the pictures of her with the deer and turkey she had shot, as well as her shooting her bow, her turkey mount on the wall. If fear didn’t come to their eyes and they didn’t run out the door, then we might approve of them.

Now that she is a sophomore in college, her dad and I felt like it was time to get her a conceal carry pistol. Dad felt she was ready and we had no doubts she could handle it. A few years ago we got her brother a “Made in the USA” Kimber® Super Carry Ultra+™ .45 ACP. He loves his Kimber and what young man wouldn’t. When his sister saw it, she told us right then she wanted a Kimber too, someday. Her dad told her we would when the time was right. Until then, she had to carry the “Kimber Pepper Blaster II” we had bought for her in her purse.

Two years later, we told her to pick out the handgun she wanted. She looked at a couple of Kimber models, but when she saw the Micro 9™ Amethyst, in a 9mm, it was love at first sight. Especially since it was in the colors of the college she attends, so important to a fashion conscious young lady, you know!

A proud dad with his daughter.

She is “Daddy’s Girl” and he immediately started doing his own research on the Micro 9. He then reported back to me that he agreed with her choice. Since the good Lord has blessed my wife and I, we really enjoy getting things for our kids and grandkids that they wouldn’t be able to have otherwise. We don’t consider it spoiling them, but do consider it an investment in their lives. It is something we would not do if they weren’t the good people they are. We both agree it’s a lot better than having to bail them out of jail or pay for drug rehabilitation. Besides, it’s something they will be able to pass down to their kids.

That all being said, we bought the Kimber Micro 9 for her. MSRP was $1,061 but she is worth it and we wanted her protected. I took it to her dad, who is a shooter and re-loader, for him to check it out. Unlike the Super Ultra+ that Hunter has, my grandson, he couldn’t really take it to the range and test it because there was less grip area for his big hands to handle it properly. He said, “It is really a nice-looking gun and I like the size and balance for her, but I am more concerned with how it shoots. We’ll find out when we take her to the range and also check out how easy it is for her to carry.”

The Micro 9 measures a little over 6 inches in length and 4 inches in height. It is constructed with an aluminum frame and a steel slide, so it weighs in at a little less that a pound with an empty magazine. That should make it easy to carry for her but my worry, like her dad’s, was how was it going to do at the range. Generally, a gun that’s easy to carry is harder to shoot well because of excessive recoil and less grip to hold on to.

I think she knew she was going to get it but she just didn’t know when. Grandma and I went over to their house on Christmas day and brought a present we said we had forgot to give her when they were over for Christmas Eve. When she unwrapped it, her smile and the twinkling in her eyes made it all worthwhile. The hugs helped a lot too! I think we all agreed that the Micro 9 was a special gift for a very special young lady.

Shooting her Kimber at the range.

A few days later her and Dad went to the shooting range and made a memory. Here are my some of her comments after handling, concealing, and carrying her new pistol, plus taking it to the range:

“Overall I enjoyed shooting it and the accuracy was really good.”

“The front and rear sight made it easy to get on the target.”
“I felt very little recoil, so my hand wasn’t sore at all after a lot of rounds.”

“The side of the slide has a textured treatment that is very easy to grip.”
“I am anxious to try the night sights.”

“If I give papaw a hug he might get me the Crimson Trace grips for it.”

Her Kimber is not all she shoots.

We still haven’t talked her mom and grandma into getting a Kimber, but they still carry their Kimber Pepper Blaster II spray. Thank goodness they haven’t had to ever use it, but it’s always there if they need to. It will shoot up to 13 feet and disable an attacker for up to 45 minutes. You can learn more about it by clicking on https://youtube/1b2ZRbZfWUQ.

More information on the Micro 9, go to https://www.kimberamerica.com/micro-9-amethyst-1. You can also find a dealer near you to go check out the Micro 9 for your very special young lady.

While his kids are away in school, Dad finds time to go to his reloading area to reload 9mm and .45 ACP ammunition. As he does, he smiles and a tear comes to the corner of his eye as he thinks about Anna and Hunter, and how blessed he and his wife LaVay are. He looks forward to when his kids come home again from school and they go back to the shooting range.

NEW Sunday Hunting LAW – Pennsylvania Celebrates More Hunting for Everyone

Sunday hunting means more time in the woods for everyone. NSSF Photo.

  • The addition of just these 3 days allows for working mothers and fathers to take their children to pass along shared hunting traditions.
  • Priceless
The New Bill would allow Sunday hunting one day during rifle deer season, one during statewide archery deer season and a third day to be selected by Pennsylvania’s Game Commission. NSSF Photo

The National Shooting Sports Foundation® (NSSF®) has made Sunday hunting a priority issue in Pennsylvania. NSSF led the Sunday Hunting Coalition, along with 15 other like-minded hunting and conservation groups and outdoor retail businesses. NSSF was successful in recent years in bringing Sunday hunting to North Carolina, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and South Carolina. Maine and Massachusetts still have outright Sunday hunting bans, and several states still restrict hunting, including allowing hunting only on private lands.

Sunday hunting means more time in the woods for everyone. NSSF Photo.

NSSF applauds the Pennsylvania legislature for passing legislation that will allow for Sunday hunting in the Keystone State for the first time in more than 100 years. The Pennsylvania state Senate approved S. 147 in a vote of 38-11, sending the bill to Gov. Tom Wolf, who has committed to signing the measure into law.

“Sunday hunting in Pennsylvania is a phenomenal victory for sportsmen and women,” said Lawrence G. Keane, NSSF Senior Vice President and General Counsel. “This simple act removes the barrier to many to enjoy and pass along to the next generation of conservationist-hunters the respect for sustainable wildlife and the hunting traditions for which Pennsylvania is proud. We thank the legislature for their foresight to work diligently to this outcome. This is a tectonic shift in policy and one that will benefit Pennsylvania’s conservation, growth in outdoor recreation and economic impact.”

The Pennsylvania legislation would allow Sunday hunting one day during rifle deer season, one during statewide archery deer season and a third day to be selected by Pennsylvania’s Game Commission. Pennsylvania sold 855,486 hunting licenses in 2018. The addition of just these three days allows for working mothers and fathers to take three more days in the woods and marshes with their children to pass along shared hunting traditions.

The economic benefit to removing all Sunday hunting barriers in the Keystone State would inject $764,291,489 in total economic contribution, including jobs, output, and wages created from hunter expenditures ranging from licenses, ammunition, and hunting supplies to food, fuel, and magazines.

About NSSF: The National Shooting Sports Foundation is the trade association for the firearms industry. Its mission is to promote, protect and preserve hunting and the shooting sports. Formed in 1961, NSSF has a membership of thousands of manufacturers, distributors, firearms retailers, shooting ranges, sportsmen’s organizations and publishers nationwide. For more information, log on to www.nssf.org.

Tips for Fishing Businesses and Guides…from the Recreational Fishing Alliance

Photo courtesy of Branson Vistors Bureau

  • Marinas and tackle shops can now apply for available loans  
  • See the useful list (link below) that allows a review of the COVID-19 mitigation rules by state.
  • CARES Act includes forgivable loans to pay for up to eight weeks of payroll, including benefits.
Marinas and marine-related recreational industries of America can apply for assistance right now. Forrest Fisher photo

Just about every business in the recreational fishing industry has been impacted by COVID-19 and actions taken by federal, state and local governments to slow the spread of the novel virus.

Small businesses including marinas and tackle shops can now apply for loans available through the Small Business Administration (SBA). These loans are part of the $2 trillion COVID-19 relief package, CARES ACT, passed by Congress and signed by President Trump last week.

The CARES Act includes upwards of $350 million of forgivable loans to pay for up to eight weeks of payroll costs, including benefits. The loans can also be used to pay mortgages, rent, and utilities. These loans become available at a time when many recreational fishing related businesses are experiencing massive declines in revenue and shortfalls with cash flow. These loans may prove to be extremely helpful for businesses and their employees to get through the next two months as policies remain in place to minimize the impact of the virus on our nation. Use the following link to learn more about these loans and to check your eligibility. https://www.sba.gov/page/coronavirus-covid-19-small-business-guidance-loan-resources

While there has been guidance and financial support provided at the federal level, most policies regarding social distancing, essential businesses and stay at home orders have been carried out at the state and local levels. Thus, policies that impact our ability to go recreational fishing and recreational fishing businesses vary from state to state. The National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) has put together a useful list that allows you to review the COVID-19 mitigation rules by each state. Use the following link to review the various policies.

http://nmma.net/assets/cabinets/Cabinet488/NMMA_COVID%20State%20Resources%20One%20Pager_3.31.20.pdf

If you have specific questions regarding financial assistance programs or measures in your particular state don’t hesitate to contact us.

It is also important to remember that anglers have a responsibility to comply with social distancing rules even when outside fishing.

We can’t stress enough how important it is to follow these guidelines not only for the sake of public health but also so we are allowed to continue fishing during these trying times.

About the Recreational Fishing Alliance: The chartered mission of the RFA is to safeguard the rights of saltwater anglers, protect marine, boat and tackle industry jobs, and ensure the long-term sustainability of our Nation’s saltwater fisheries – that is our constitution, it is what we live by every single day on your behalf as a recreational fisherman – from a recreational perspective, it’s all about the fish, the fishermen and the fishing industry. Click here to learn more.

The Quest for Morels…Mushroom Hunting!

Morels hide in plain site. Delcious when cooked, learn more about them.

Hunting mushrooms in the spring is an activity that can be enjoyed by the entire family.

By Jason Houser

Hunting mushrooms in the spring is an activity that can be enjoyed by the entire family. This falls into the same time frame as turkey hunting, camping, and other outdoor activities. Carrying a bag with you while in the woods and coming home with it full of edible mushrooms will quickly make you the most popular person amongst your family and friends.

When the mushrooms start popping up, a hunter will only have about 10 days of hunting before they are gone for another year. If you happen to catch the tail end of mushroom season, go ahead and harvest those mushrooms you find that have some dry spots on them. They can easily be cut off, saving the rest of the ‘shroom.

It was not all that long ago that mushroom hunters had to walk through the woods to see if mushrooms were up yet or not. I still do it that way, but the internet can help you out if you need it. Hunters post mushroom findings on one of the many mushroom hunting blogs. It is a good way to find out if mushrooms are up in your area. Just do not expect to be told what woods they are in. That is totally up to you to figure out.

Mushrooms can be difficult to find. They seem to pop out of the ground overnight. Actually, they do. If you do not find them one day, the next day they could be everywhere. The key is to keep looking. If you are new to the sport, expect to do a lot of walking to find them unless you are lucky enough to have someone show you. Normally, when you ask a mushroom hunter where to find mushrooms, the best answer you can expect to get is, “in the woods”. Once you find a patch of mushrooms remember where you found them and keep it a secret. You will likely have the same patch for many, many years.

For reasons known only to them, morels are very particular about where they grow. A good number are often found in a small patch with none in a large surrounding area that appears to be identical.

For reasons known only to them, morels are very particular about where they grow.

Always respect the property of others. Mushroom hunters are a serious bunch when it comes to their mushrooms. Just like any other hunting adventure always ask permission before entering another person’s property. It is also a good idea to share some of your harvest with the landowner if you have enough.

Public land offers possibilities for the mushroom hunter. The problem is that everybody has access to this ground. If you are not one of the first hunters of the season you might do a lot of walking for nothing.

Check with park officials before picking mushrooms. I know that state parks in some states do not allow mushroom hunting. Do not forget to be mindful of spring turkey hunters on state ground. At times, mushroom hunting might coincide with turkey season. During turkey season always wear bright colors on your exterior clothes so you are noticeable, but stay away from colors of red, white and blue (those are male turkey colors). They are too similar to the colors of a gobbler. You do not want to be mistaken for a longbeard.

An edible mushroom has a hollow stem and the bottom edge of the sponge-like cap is attached directly to the stem.

If you do not know what a morel looks like I would advise you to purchase a field guide. If you pick the wrong one and eat it, you could become very ill. Never eat any mushroom until you know exactly what it is.   A fellow mushroom hunter can be a good source to whether or not the mushrooms are edible. It is likely if your friend tries to talk you out of your mushrooms, they are the real thing.

An edible mushroom has a hollow stem and the bottom edge of the sponge-like cap is attached directly to the stem. Colors vary gray, yellow, tan or nearly black. Always cook morels before eating.

Just like any hunter, mushroom hunters need to be ethical in their hunting practices. Do not pull a mushroom up with its roots intact. Pinch the stem off one-half inch or more above the ground. This will help with re-growth the following year. Always use a mesh bag to carry your mushrooms in. I use an old onion bag. This allows the spores to fall to the ground throughout the woods. Again, this will help with growing mushrooms the following spring.

 

Captions.

  1. An edible mushroom has a hollow stem and the bottom edge of the sponge-like cap is attached directly to the stem.
  2. For reasons known only to them, morels are very particular about where they grow

Sick Raccoon Near Your Home? What to Do.

  • There has been a drastic decline in raccoon harvest by America’s hunters and trappers.
  • Lack of proper wildlife management can cause wild animal diseases and can hamper human safety.
  • Call the proper authority to handle ANY Sick Wild Animal you may encounter to do your part in this modern world of conservation.
Nose-to-nose, dog inside, raccoon outside, I snapped this cell phone photo before sweeping the raccoon off the deck.

By Mike Schoonveld

Our dog Molly was barking more than usual on the back deck a few nights ago while outside on her evening “duty-call.” Investigating, it appeared that she cornered a raccoon, perhaps attracted by the residual odors of grilled pork steaks I’d cooked on the deck earlier. My wife opened the slider door and yelled for Molly to get inside. Surprisingly, the dog came in, leaving the raccoon. I expected the raccoon to beat a hasty retreat. Instead, it continued to sniff around, apparently unconcerned, as if being accosted and nipped by a dog is usual.

I flipped on the interior lights so the raccoon could see through the glass patio doors where both Peggy and myself, as well as Molly, were watching. Instead of scurrying away, it came over and peeked through the glass, nose to nose with the dog. It appeared as though if I’d slid open the door, the raccoon would have just walked right on into the house.

I have no nearby neighbors, the closest a quarter mile away (and they don’t have a pet raccoon). Other neighbors live a mile away. I was sure it wasn’t a stray pet, and even a pet would run off if cornered by a strange dog.

There was something “off” about this raccoon – most likely, it was diseased. Luckily, in our area, though possible, raccoons are very infrequently infected with rabies. The last rabid raccoon in my state (Indiana) was back in 1979. Farther east in the US, raccoon rabies is much more common.

Raccoons are susceptible to many other diseases, though some are more common than others. Likely, our deck-invader had either distemper or parvovirus, the same bacteria or virus found in cats and dogs, but closely related raccoon-only versions of those diseases.

Balance Will Prevail

For the past several years, the prices paid for raccoon pelts in the fur market have been meager. Though natural fur is still a fashionable choice, shorter-haired fur, such as mink, is now the popular trend. International trade policies, sanctions, and still-struggling economies in some areas are adding further downward pressure to prices paid for raccoon pelts.

Fur is a global commodity. The biggest markets for raccoon furs in past decades were in Greece, until their economy collapsed; Russia, also with economic issues, as well as international trade sanctions; and China, until the Chinese government imposed high tariffs on imported pelts.

The result has been a drastic decline in the number of raccoons harvested by America’s hunters and trappers. Without any profit incentive, casual raccoon harvesters stopped hunting or trapping completely. Without any profit incentive, many recreational hunters and trappers drastically scaled back their effort expended on setting traps for raccoons or hunting them.

As with many species of wildlife, good stable populations require proper scientific management activity for good health. A regulated harvest is a part of that management. With no human intervention, nature takes over management responsibility, and nature’s way is decidedly inhumane. Overpopulation is handled by disease, exposure, or starvation – often in combination – and none of these deaths are particularly quick or painless.

In raccoons, parvo and distemper are the primary diseases that play a role in cutting populations back when human management efforts fail. For squirrels, it’s likely to be starvation or mange leading to exposure. In coyotes and foxes, it’s mange, heartworms, or other diseases. Nature has a plan for every species, whether you like the program or not. That’s why legal and regulated hunting and trapping are vital to maintaining healthy and abundant wildlife populations.

I live in the country and had the freedom, tools, and wherewithal to handle my back deck situation myself. I grabbed a broom and a .22 Smith and Wesson.

I basically “swept” the raccoon off the deck, down the steps, and into my yard. I thought, perhaps, a couple of pokes with the broom would send the animal scurrying. It didn’t scurry. Instead, it just sat there looking confused.

Many diseases can result when raccoons are not properly managed – in a populated town or in the wild country.

Happily, it showed no aggression towards me, just as it hadn’t when Molly was nipping and barking at it. Even after I swept it down two steps onto the sidewalk, it didn’t dart off into the darkness. It just sat there like a punch-drunk boxer until I pulled the trigger.

There are plenty of raccoons living in urban areas where it would be unwise or illegal to use a firearm to put down a sick animal. A person should not assume every sickly raccoon or any other wild animal will be docile. They could just as quickly have a nasty attitude towards dogs, brooms, or humans coming after them.

If you ever have this problem on your back porch and are unable or unwilling to handle it personally, the best bet is to call your “most local” law enforcement department. Whether it’s the city police or the county sheriff, they’ll know if there are animal control officers, licensed experts, or Conservation Officers available and get them headed your way.

Don’t ignore it. If the diseased animal does retreat on its own, in so doing, it (and you) may be helping spread the disease to other animals, even to pets they could encounter before they eventually die.

THE END

 

 

Can We Make a Difference in the Lives of Kids Today? We Can.

  • As responsible sportsmen, we need to share our outdoor skills with more kids
  • As Christians, we need to consider our choices in order to bring kids closer to life through the outdoors
  • As neighbors to each other, let’s take the extra time to help kids find fun away from electronics and TV
Catching a Fish Can Change a Life.

By Larry Whiteley

Our kids today are growing up in a broken world.

All you have to do is turn on the TV and watch the news to know that. When all they talk about is shootings, rapes, drug busts and crooked politicians, it’s depressing.

It’s the same for newspapers.

Most TV shows and movies aren’t worth watching for kids or adults. The majority are filled with sex, drugs, and killing. Take time to watch some of the electronic games kids are playing today. They get points and win by how many people they shoot. Some of the things on the internet and all the other social media aren’t much better. Guns get the blame for all the shootings in America, but where do they think people develop those ideas from?

A Big Smile and a Big Turkey.

One of the reasons kids are caught up in our electronics world is they are not actively involved in the great outdoors. Their parents are too busy trying to make a living or the kids are growing up in single-parent families.

There is no one to help them discover the thrill of a fish tugging at their line, to know what it’s like seeing a deer sneak through the woods, to paddle a canoe across a lake or just sit around a campfire watching the flames dance and flicker. More importantly, they are growing up not knowing who created it for all for us to enjoy.

There is hope though. Cross Trail Outfitters (CTO) is working to change all that. They are providing opportunities to get kids outdoors and away from all the electronics and online diversions. CTO teaches them about our American hunting and fishing heritage, while at the same time sharing their faith. That is a combination that can change kids’ lives for the better.

“We want kids to know that life is different than what they see on TV, in the movies or on video games,” stated CTO Missouri State Director Kirk Bouse. “There’s a wonderful life out there in God’s creation and we strive to guide the next generation to Christ through the outdoors.”

Sharing the Outdoors and Sharing their Faith.

CTO is an independent, inter-denominational ministry primarily for boys ages 7-20, offering a wide range of year-round outdoor activities. There are also opportunities for families and girls to participate in such outdoor endeavors, depending on the outfitter and volunteers available within a chapter. “CTO is about building relationships,” Bouse continued. “We teach, mentor and disciple kids through life circumstances while also working at preserving our hunting and fishing heritage.”

They continually offer hunting and fishing opportunities of all kinds, skills training sessions, fun shoots, community service projects, summer camps and a whole lot more. CTO Summer Camps are the ultimate adventure. Can you imagine a week of pure fun activities for these kids like learning to accurately shoot a rifle or bow, hunting or catching big fish? All CTO summer camps feature hands-on, in-the-field instruction from a wide range of outdoor experts. They learn all kinds of outdoor skills through meaningful lessons, they learn Bible truths and they have campfire discussions about life and our Creator.

First Deer Brings a Big Smile.

So, have I got your interest in CTO? The first thing you need to do is go to www.teamcto.org and contact a chapter near you to get your child or grandchild involved.

There are currently CTO chapters and events in Missouri, Illinois, Arkansas, Kentucky, Virginia, Wisconsin, Texas, North Carolina, and South Carolina.

Start by contacting your local outfitter. If there’s not a local outfitter, contact the state director. They will get you specific information on getting involved. Sign-up for a chapter or e-newsletter to receive updates about upcoming events and activities where you live (pick a state). Many of the chapters have a Facebook page and you can find links to their events by going to the local chapter’s page on the Facebook site.

If there is not a chapter near you, CTO will be glad to talk with you about starting one and train you on hos to do it. It’s a great project for churches and civic groups, as well. Bouse said, “My calling in life is to change lives by sharing the love of Jesus Christ through Cross Trail Outfitters and the great outdoors.” It could be your calling too.

There are many opportunities for you to get involved in chapters. You can participate in regular CTO events like Sportsmen’s Night, Family Night, summer camps and a variety of outdoor outings as well as community projects. Once involved, you might work directly with the kids as a Host Guide. You could serve on the prayer, fundraising or communications teams. If you love hunting and fishing or even if you don’t, but you love the Lord, there is no better place to serve.

Without the support of good people who are willing to donate time or help with financial assistance – it all adds up, CTO may not continue its mission. They never turn a child away due to financial limitations. That’s only possible through donations from all of us. I can’t think of a better tax deduction.

Men and Boy’s in the Great Outdoors.

If you are a landowner there is another way you can help. To conduct weekend outings or camps, CTO works with landowners who are willing to provide their land for activities that may include hunting, fishing, and other outdoor events.

May the words of this mom touch your heart and get you or your kids, or both, involved with CTO. The mom, Heather, said to me, “If you are considering CTO, absolutely do it! Kids can never have too many Godly men mentoring and guiding them. If you are a man who loves the Lord, who is equipped to help, then ABSOLUTELY do it! Those gifts of yours are meant to be shared.  You WILL make a difference… a real difference…in lives. There are so many boys who are lacking solid men in their lives and you could be the one who changed the course. Even if it’s just one.”

Can you possibly imagine what could happen in this broken world with our nation’s kids if CTO was available to them all across America?

It could change the lives of our kids.

It could change the lives of a lot of us adults.

It could change the world.

 

Innovative Mentorship Programs Pave Way for Millions of New Young Hunters

  • Millions of New Hunters Are on the Way, say Hunting and Conservation Groups
  • In 2020, more than 460 million acres of state-owned lands are available to hunters and federal agencies are making it easier to access federal lands
  • Delta Waterfowl’s First Hunt Program has introduced more than 75,000 people to waterfowl hunting

By Bill Brassard

Delta’s First Hunt Program has introduced more than 75,000 people to waterfowl hunting. NSSF Photo

You’ve heard it said, “Nobody hunts anymore,” but that’s simply not true, said some of the nation’s top hunting and conservation groups during a press event at the SHOT Show® earlier this year.  They cited new, innovative programs that are attracting large numbers of new hunters, allowing people to pursue their desire to hunt for healthful food and make a connection to the outdoors.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation® (NSSF®), the trade association for the firearms industry, was joined by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Delta Waterfowl and Savage Arms to discuss initiatives that look to create millions of new hunters in America.

“We’re seeing many positive signs that show there is hope for the future of hunting,” said Jim Curcuruto, NSSF’s Director of Research and Market Development. “New research and programs show that many people are motivated to give hunting a try. They tell us it’s an activity to be enjoyed with family and friends, that hunting provides healthful meat for their tables, and it allows them to put their busy lives on hold for a time to recharge and reconnect with the outdoors and nature.”

Curcuruto was joined by Tom Decker, USFWS Wildlife Biologist; Joel Brice, Delta Waterfowl’s Vice President of Waterfowl & Hunter Recruitment Programs; and Beth Shimanski, Savage Arms’ Director of Marketing, in delivering an upbeat message about hunting that pushes back on those that say hunting is not relevant in today’s world.

Curcuruto cited several initiatives, including NSSF’s +ONESM Movement mentoring program, which encourages experienced hunters to mentor youth and adults who have an interest in hunting. “Field-to-fork” and locavore programs are gaining interest from non-traditional audiences, and many states offer apprentice hunting licenses that allow newcomers to give hunting a try before taking a mandated hunter education course.

Also discussed was NSSF’s Hunting Heritage Trust Grant program that was introduced to support hunter-recruitment efforts. Five grants totaling $100,000 were awarded in 2019, and successful recruitment efforts were realized by grant recipients: Sportsmen’s Alliance, National Wild Turkey Federation, Pheasants Forever, Georgia Wildlife Federation and First Hunt Foundation. Information on applying for a grant in the 2020 grant cycle can be found here.

Brice said Delta Waterfowl is seeing its HunteR3 Initiative introduce hunting to new audiences. The program has three components: Delta’s First Hunt Program, which has introduced more than 75,000 people to waterfowl hunting; Delta’s University Hunting Program, which teaches future wildlife management professionals who don’t have hunting experience about the critical role hunting plays in supporting wildlife conservation; and Defend the Hunt, which both defends against threats to hunting opportunity and works to increase quality access for hunters throughout North America.

“The launch of our HunteR3 Initiative reaffirms Delta Waterfowl’s commitment to hunter recruitment, retention and reactivation as an important priority for us.,” said Brice. “Delta is working hard to ensure a strong future for hunting. We simply must recruit new waterfowl hunters to replace those who are hanging up their waders and calls.”

Decker said, “Research has shown that one of the primary barriers to hunting is not having access to land. Knowing this, USFWS, along with state wildlife agencies, have made a concerted effort to open access to high-quality habitat over the past decade. In 2020, more than 460 million acres of state-owned lands will be available to hunters, and federal agencies are making it easier to access federal lands as well. The agencies are using online mapping technology to provide better information on where to access land, and apps such as onX Hunt provide maps that make it easy to find available lands as well.”

Shimanski said, “Generation Grit was Savage’s way of honoring the mentors who continue to selflessly share their expertise with new hunters. Their efforts deserve to be recognized as they strive to help us all change the trend we’ve seen in hunting participation. The overwhelming response from mentors shows us that there is hope that we can continue the uptick we’ve seen in the number of new hunters, especially younger hunters and women. That is very important to this industry, as we all benefit when that happens.”
Curcuruto noted, “Much research has been conducted over the past decade, and we feel confident we have the formula for successful recruitment. State and federal wildlife agencies, along with many NGOs and conservation organizations, are doing terrific work recruiting new hunters, but the needle will move faster when more of the industry gets involved. If we want to continue to activate millions of new hunters, then any company selling to the hunting market should get involved with recruitment efforts. The good news is that the more manufacturers and retailers get involved in recruitment, the more new hunters we will have. It’s really that simple. Make sure 2020 is the year you join the +ONE Movement.”

Take a look at what happened when NSSF invited its staff to learn to hunt. We encourage you to conduct your own +ONE hunter recruitment efforts to help bring those millions of interested folks to the field.

To learn more about supporting this effort, visit NSSF’s +ONE Movement and R3 information pages or contact Jim Curcuruto at jcurcuruto@nssf.org.

About NSSF: The National Shooting Sports Foundation is the trade association for the firearms industry. Its mission is to promote, protect and preserve hunting and the shooting sports. Formed in 1961, NSSF has a membership of thousands of manufacturers, distributors, firearms retailers, shooting ranges, sportsmen’s organizations and publishers nationwide. For more information, log on to www.nssf.org.

The Sounds of Nature, THEY CALL US BACK…to the Wild

  • Is that the haunting howl of the wolf or the call of a loon?
  • Can you ever forget that buck grunt in a November woods or a turkey gobble on a spring morning?
  • The sounds of nature are everywhere in the wild if we just take the time to listen.
The sound of lightning can bring fright, but the sight of lightning can be beautiful in a night sky.

By Larry Whiteley

There are some sounds in the great outdoors that you hear and they touch your soul. You don’t have to see what made the sound because when you hear it, you instantly see it in your mind. You may even hear them and see them as you read these words.

To some, the bugle of an elk is like that and so is the haunting howl of the wolf or the call of a loon. It might even be a cougar’s throaty growl or the gruff huff of a grizzly or black bear. Those of us who don’t live where these animals live, rarely if ever, get to hear these sounds in the wild unless we travel to where they are but if we do, they linger in our memories. Can you hear them?

An elk bugle can linger forall time in our minds. Howard Communications Photo

Most of us have sounds in nature that stir us. A buck grunt in a November woods, the sound of a majestic eagle flying over a quiet lake or a turkey gobble on a spring morning. It could be the kingfisher’s rattling call as he flies up and down the creek or a coyote yelp.

Maybe it’s the quacking of ducks or honking of geese as they settle onto the water. The drumming sound of a woodpecker trying to attract a mate, the booming sounds of prairie chickens during their mating ritual and maybe the strange music of a woodcock doing his sky dance trying to impress the ladies too. Some of us hope that one day we will once again hear the sound of the bobwhite quail. Can you hear them?

Songbirds also add to nature’s chorus. Chickadee’s sing “chick-a-dee-dee-dee,” the cardinal’s join them with their “purdy-purdy-purdy” and the robin’s whistling “cheerup-cheery-cheerio-cheerup” are joined by the tweets and whistles of all their friends. The squeal of a hawk can silence the bird music and get the squirrels barking an alarm to their buddies.

Owls ask us “who, who, who cooks for you.” Crows, “caw-caw-caw,” and then caw some more. The sound of peeper frogs or a whip-poor-will means spring is finally here. The flapping sound of hummingbird wings and their distinctive chirp will soon follow. The rhythmic choruses of katydids can be so loud that they drown out nearly all other sounds. Tree Crickets are known as the thermometer cricket because you can count the number of its high-pitched musical chirps in 15 seconds and add 40 to calculate the outdoor temperature in Fahrenheit. Believe me, it works!

A beautiful painted bunting sings a patented song that is wonderful to hear. 

The sounds of nature are everywhere in the wild if we just take the time to listen and it’s not only from the animals and birds. A rush of wind through the treetops, the rattling of dried fall leaves in a breeze and the sound of crunching leaves as something nears your secret hiding place. Booming thunder, the crack of lightning and rain dripping on a tent or the popping and crackling of a campfire. A stream tumbling over rocks and the soothing sounds of a waterfall small or big are music to the ears. To some, it is the ocean waves crashing onto a sandy beach. To others it may be the “plip-plop, plip-plop” sound of a jitterbug gurgling across the water followed by the loud splash of a big bass rising out of the water to engulf it.

Nature sounds not only soothe our souls but they are also suitable for our mind and body. Researchers say there is a scientific explanation for why sounds from nature have such a restorative effect on us. According to a study, they physically alter the connections in our brains to keep other thoughts out and the sounds even lower our heart rate. The exercise we get going to and from our listening places is an added benefit.

A swiftly, silently, soaring eagle, singing a majestic tune in a bright blue sky.

You’re not likely to hear or for that matter see wildlife unless you force yourself to just sit still. We hike, we hunt, we fish, we camp, we canoe, we are continually on the move when in the great outdoors and not very quietly. We also carry with us the baggage of everyday worries, what’s on the news, bills to be paid and work to be done.

You have to block all that out. Remaining still and quiet and actually paying attention to the sounds of nature is what is essential. But that doesn’t come easy. You can’t just stop, listen for a few minutes and then move on. You have to settle down and tune into the sounds around you.

Those of us who sit in a treestand and a turkey or duck blind usually have no problem doing that because we have to if we want to be successful. If you wish to go out and listen to nature sounds though I suggest you find a fallen tree, a stump or a big rock. Make a comfortable cushion of leaves, pine needles or take along some kind of pad and sit down. Now, don’t do anything but relax. Don’t let restlessness or thoughts of other matters creep back into your mind. Stay relaxed and breathe slow and easy. If you remain still the wildlife around you will forget you are even there. Soon enough the sounds of the wild will return.

Soothing sounds of flowing water can bring us to new place in time in the hallows of our mind.

The real art in listening to nature is not so much hearing the sounds of life in the woods as it is in identifying them. Listening carefully to nature sounds and learning what makes that sound can help you begin to distinguish one sound from another and that gives you a greater appreciation for what you’re hearing. The digital age has made it easier than ever to school yourself in Nature Sounds. Although this and other aids may be able to help, there’s no substitute for firsthand experience. It’s not just an ability to identify sounds, but also an understanding of their meanings, that will come to you when you spend time listening carefully.

Yes, you can download and listen to nature sounds on your computer, tablet or smartphone. I listen to nature sounds accompanied by the melodic sounds of the Native American flute as I drive down the road in my truck. If it is a cold, nasty day not fit for man nor beast I will put my headphones on and drift off to sleep listening to the sounds of nature. That is all good too but it does not replace actually being out there in the great outdoors and being stirred by the sounds of nature that call us back to the wild.

Listen closely, can you hear them?

My How Things Have Changed

  • As kids, we would check down the outhouse hole for snakes and spiders before sitting down
  • We drank cow milk from our cow, then churned the cream into butter
  • I rode my imaginary horse through the fields and climbed the hills in search of adventure

By Larry Whiteley

Start investing time when they’re young. I hope our grandkids will have fond memories of us like I have fond memories of my grandma and grandpa

My early years were spent on grandma and grandpa’s farm.

If you needed to go to the bathroom you walked 20 yards down a path to a little building that was outside the house and had no deodorizer. Toilet paper was usually the pages of old Sears and Roebuck catalogs and you always checked down the hole for snakes and spiders before sitting down to do your duty.

Kerosene lanterns or candles lit the night because there was no electricity.

There was no TV or phones back then either.

Water came from a bucket we carried from the spring which also served as a refrigerator.

Hauling hay for the animals was done with a pitchfork and a horse-drawn wagon. We slopped hogs and butchered them ourselves, and hung them in the smokehouse.

Milking cows was done by hand with a bucket and a stool. We drank the milk and churned the cow cream into butter.

Chickens were raised for their meat and eggs. I can still remember grandma wringing a chicken’s neck and watching it flop around. I can still smell the aroma of wet feathers as they were dipped in a bucket of boiling water to help make the plucking of feathers a whole lot easier.

Grandma cooked on a wood-burning stove. Everything we ate was grown or made on the farm.

We hunted and fished, not for fun, but to survive.

Even at a young age my little single-shot .22 sometimes meant the difference between having a supper of squirrel or rabbit, or going hungry. A mess of bluegill caught with my cane pole and a worm was a special treat.

We picked wild fruits like blackberries and gooseberries and gathered nuts. There were no supermarkets or fancy restaurants in those days.

There was no depending on the government to take care of us. There were no food lines and handouts for those in need. We took care of ourselves and worked hard. We struggled, but we were proud of who we were, what we had and what we accomplished. It helped mold me into the person I became.

Grandpa’s old shotgun is in the gun safe next to my single-shot .22 rifle, the memories are forever in my heart and mind.

As a kid, besides hunting and fishing and working around the farm, my time was spent exploring the fields and forests. I climbed trees and rested in the comforting arms of their limbs, carved my initials in them and daydreamed.

I imagined Indians hiding behind them waiting to attack me, rode my imaginary horse through the fields and climbed the hills in search of adventure. I camped out under the stars on summer nights. I captured lightning bugs and put them in a Mason jar with holes in the lid. I can still see all that in my mind’s eye and feel them in my heart. I am a writer today because of it.

As I got older, grandpa let me hunt turkeys and quail with his old shotgun. He even taught me how to use his old muzzleloader rifle so I could hunt what few deer were around back then.

Grandpa surprised me one year with an old baitcasting rod and reel he traded for with a neighbor. Along with it came a rusted metal tackle box with some funny looking lures and I became a “real” fisherman.

A love for God’s great outdoors was planted deep in my soul.

Most of our investments though are re-lived in the pictures on the walls.

A lot of years have passed since my days of childhood and, yes, things have changed. I know my kids and grandkids have a hard time believing the stories I tell them of growing up on the farm. They don’t think anything about it when they flip a switch and a light comes on, or turn a handle and water comes out. They sure don’t think about it when they flush a toilet but I do!

I sit at my desk writing this on a computer that corrects my spelling and grammar. It stores all the articles I write, helps me do research, sends and receives messages and I could keep going on because the list is endless.

Time with your spouse outdoors is a good investment too.

My thoughts are interrupted by the morning news on the TV in my office. I have it on, not to watch all the bad news, but to check the weather forecast for an upcoming hunting trip with my son. I grab the remote and click the off button. If I want to know the weather, I can find that out on my computer or my “smart” phone without listening to negative news and commercials.

Out in my garage and barn is all the latest and greatest hunting, fishing and camping “stuff”. We have a bass boat with the newest electronics that do everything but hook the fish. There’s a duck boat, ATVs and a 4-wheel drive truck to haul it all. My grandpa wouldn’t believe how things have changed.

I sit back in my chair for a moment and see memories on every wall. Fish, ducks, deer and turkey fans from some of my outdoor adventures. Antique outdoor equipment is also scattered about the room. Grandpa’s old rusted muzzleloader sits in a corner and so does his old fishing rod and tackle box. His old shotgun is in the gun safe next to my single-shot .22 rifle.

On all the walls are pictures of kids and grandkids. Most of them are of their first fish or deer, and times spent together with them in the outdoors.

Among all the pictures and directly in front of me, as I look up from writing, is an old picture of grandpa and grandma’s farmhouse where I grew up and where I was born on a Christmas Day. There weren’t many hospitals back then either.

Some folks might say grandma and I have spoiled our kids and grandkids. We have helped make sure they had the latest in electronics, clothing and anything else they needed for today’s world. We have helped with vehicles and assisted with college. They have all the latest in outdoor gear. We don’t call it spoiling though, we call it making investments in the lives of good kids. They work, they get good grades and the kids are not into some of the bad things a lot of kids are doing today. We tell them we wouldn’t be doing what we do for them if they weren’t good kids.

Our happy family enjoying the great outdoors.

Most of our investments though are re-lived in the pictures on the walls. In case you don’t know it, kids spell love with these letters: T.I.M.E. We gave them plenty of that too and still do. Our time investment has been taking them on lots of outdoor adventures throughout their lives. I have no doubt they will be doing the same with their kids and grandkids.

My grandpa invested in me too. He gave me as much time as he could while trying to survive on that old farm. Maybe our grandkids will have fond memories of us like I have fond memories of my grandma and grandpa from a time long ago, back when things were a whole lot different than they are today.

Things certainly have changed, but time investment in kids’ is still the most important thing you can do to make a difference in their lives.

Attack of the Space Invaders

  • Adaptation and Instinct takes over to Survive
  • Extraordinary occurrences begin, we learn from these
  • Life or death may remain in the balance 
The woods may offer the most interesting place for the ‘Vaders. Forrest Fisher Photo

By Rich Creason

The space invaders have arrived. A tiny particle of dust rides the wind up into the heavy clouds. Ominous clouds form and are made up of millions of water droplets so small that thousands could fit on the head of a pin. The temperature in this huge mass slowly drops.
Colder and colder.

The space dust attracts the water molecules to itself and starts to grow and freeze. Countless other dust and salt particles are doing the same combining. They begin to change, to mutate.

Depending on the temperature and humidity of the air, the invaders alter into one or more of seven basic different crystal shapes. Then, they start their assault, dropping toward unsuspecting earth. Bumping into other forms often breaks off pieces of crystal, forming a new center for another crystal form to begin growing.

On and on. More and more. Bigger and bigger.

Now, the entire invading force is racing downward, growing, spreading, and combining, in its mindless desire to cover everything in its path.

Depending on the temperature and humidity of the air, the invaders alter into one or more of seven basic different crystal shapes. Pixabay Photo

Too late to run. Too late to hide. It’s here! The snow has arrived!

Depending on the crystal type, the snow might stick, pack, build-up, drift, and be fluffy, dry, wet, or crusted. Usually, to most humans, it is just more snow to be shoveled and to drive on, except for a few weird ones like me. Snow means I get to go out and shovel my driveway before daylight. For some strange reason, I enjoy being outdoors in the dark and quiet, the only sound – the noise of my shovel sliding across the pavement. I like the cold and exercise.

When my drive is clean, and the sky begins to lighten, I walk the fencerows and wooded areas near my house looking for animal tracks. The whole outdoor scene is painted in the snow.

Deer tracks are numerous.

Deer tracking becomes easier for hunters in the snow. Forrest Fisher photo

Fox tracks used to be common but now have been replaced by coyote tracks.

Rabbit tracks also were frequently noted 15 years ago, but the coyotes have almost eliminated all of the nearby bunnies.

Mice and bird tracks follow the sheltered areas looking for food but staying close to safety.

The snow tells the whole story. Three or four times in my wanderings, I have seen an unusual story painted in the white fluff. I followed mice tracks along with the snow when they suddenly disappear. At the end of the trail was a circular depression in the snow. About 18 or 20 inches out from the depression on either side were skinny, parallel, line-like impressions in the white stuff. A mouse had been hopping along and suddenly was grabbed from above by an owl. The circular dent was where the owl body and feet hit the mouse. The lines on the side were the wingtips of the bird as he flapped to regain altitude with his meal. Without the snow, I would never get to see this picture.
I have never yet seen the story of a rabbit being chased by a fox or coyote, but I know that scene must be painted in the snow out there somewhere and I’m still looking.

When the snow accumulates to around six inches or more, I get to break out my snowshoes. Central Indiana seldom receives this much at one time, so I have to drive north to Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, or even Canada to have fun with these. I have a pair of old wood and leather shoes, plus a pair of new aluminum ones which are easier to care for and with fasteners, which are simple to strap to my boots. With my homemade walking stick, I can easily keep my balance while walking the snow trails or even through rugged areas looking for stories of wildlife in the woods. Someone who might come along behind me, who had never seen snowshoe tracks, would think Bigfoot had arrived. The biggest problem with wearing snowshoes is that my legs become exhausted and sore until I get used to walking in them again.

Birds may require greater adaptation without help from people. Forrest Fisher photo

To plants and animals, the conditions that the snow creates literally can mean life or death for them. Many animals have evolved in extraordinary ways because of snow.

The snowshoe hare, Canadian lynx, and the ruffed grouse are among these and have developed specially adapted feet to support them as they move through the deep, white powder.

The long-tailed weasel changes its fur from brown to white in winter, to not only camouflage itself from enemies but to better hide from its prey.

Ptarmigan of the far North also change their drab summer brown to white feathers to camouflage themselves from predators.

For these and other animals that have adapted to snowy conditions, sometimes, it is neither particular help nor hindrance. Snow is sometimes an advantage to smaller creatures. Mice and other tiny mammals burrow into the white covering to avoid the extreme cold outside. They create tunnels to travel through, preventing exposure to predators.

If the snow is crusted, rabbits and other medium-size critters can walk on top of deep snow to reach food that was previously too high for them to harvest. But, the snow also hides seeds and berries from the birds that need that food type to survive. Larger animals such as fox, deer, and even the colossal moose can become weak, trying to travel through deep snow, breaking through the crust and plowing through drifts in search of their next meal. Members of the deer family will “yard up” underneath heavy tree cover where they remain until all food is gone and they are forced to move on.

Many plants benefit from a covering of snow. Snow buries smaller plants forming an insulating blanket over dormant plants and seeds, protecting them from cold or drying winds while hiding them from foraging animals. It doesn’t harm plants that have adapted, such as the birches and evergreens. These trees have smaller limbs with beautiful branches that bend with the weight of heavy snow, unlike many more giant trees that break under the load. Spruce needles catch the flakes creating a warm shelter with less snow underneath for small animals to move through with little effort.

Adaptations and instincts of different plants and animals determine how snow will affect them, whether it will help or hurt them, and sometimes even whether that particular animal or entire species will live or die.

Nature is not kind to those unable to cope.

The author may be reached at eyewrite4u@aol.com.

How to Save Thousands in Outdoor Gear at the Online Holiday Sportsman Show

By Nicole Stone

With the holiday season in full swing, there is no better way to save money (and time) on your shopping this season than browsing the online Holiday Sportsman Show. This show is completely digital and can be accessed on your time in the comfort of your home.  For those already familiar with outdoor trade shows, it’s easy to understand the value that attending these types of exchanges can provide.  Now you have the opportunity to save thousands at a sportsman show while shopping directly from the comfort of your home.

In fact, shopping the Holiday Sportsman Show can help you:

  1. Save thousands of dollars in your favorite outdoor brands
  2. Shop from the comfort of your home
  3. Save on time and gas expenses
  4. Allow you to find hundreds of brands with the click of a mouse
  5. Shop during your own time; whether midday or midnight
  6. Support non-profit veteran, conservation, and youth groups

Best of all, the online Holiday Sportsman Show is open 24 hours a day, 57 days out of the year, at holiday time.  This virtual experience even gives you that fun, sportsman show atmosphere.  Finally, when shopping from home, you don’t have the lines, crowds, travel time, parking or gas expenses that you would by attending a traditional show. Instead, you can easily purchase gifts for your friends and family, and spend that time making memories with them instead.

Save Thousands on Your Favorite Outdoor Brands

Of course, the biggest benefit of the online Holiday Sportsman Show is saving money and time when shopping for outdoor gifts.  Each vendor offers individual savings shown at their storefront. Not only do you save by shopping the show, but you have access to even more savings when you purchase the Discount Coupon book (more details below).

A few examples of exceptional savings you receive include: 

  • Outdoor Edge (Knives and cutlery for outdoor use): 30% OFF and FREE SHIPPING
  • Dardevle (Famous for catching big fish): $10 off $50 or more purchase
  • JAKT Jewelry (Outdoor themed jewelry): 10% Off Any Order + FREE Shipping + FREE GIFT BOX.
  • Crock-O-Gator (Bass lures): $10 on any $50 or larger purchase.
  • Fletcher Lake Lodge (Outstanding fly-in Canadian fishing adventure): Party with 4 or more booking 3 days or longer receive one day free – $365 value per person
  • Ozark Ridge Calls (Turkey calls): $10 off $50 or more purchase
  • Midwest Marine: $1,000 off special boat packages by Dec. 31, 2019
  • Lure Lock (Innovative tackle storage): 30% off any Lure Lock purchase

These are just a few of the many outdoor deals available at the online Holiday Sportsman show.  By investing in the $15 coupon book, you not only have the opportunity to save thousands in outdoor purchases but are helping support some of your favorite non-profit groups as well.

The Holiday Sportsman Show Makes Finding Your Gift a Breeze

Long gone are the days you have to individually search each brand for their holiday specials.  Instead, the Holiday Sportsman Show makes it simple by having each brand, and their holiday specials, in one place.  All storefronts are neatly organized by category, making finding your product easy. As a consumer, you can even digitally browse the isles, much like you would in person.  With each vendor’s booth informatively displayed, you can quickly navigate to their storefront and browse their featured products.  Having all of these brands in one place makes online shopping simple, helping you save valuable time and money.

Shop the Sportsman Show At Your Own Pace

With the Holiday Sportsman show, you also get to shop the show at your time and your way.  Whether you need to shop at noon or at midnight, the show is open for your convenience. Not only do you save time by not having to invest in travel distance, but you also save money on gas.  Having all of these brands under one roof is the quickest and most efficient way to find that perfect outdoor gift.

Support Deserving Veteran, Conservation, and Youth Groups

Not only can you save thousands in outdoor discounts, but you can also support veteran, conservation, and youth groups by purchasing one of the Discount Coupon Books. Supporting deserving groups such as these is just one of the many reasons that the online holiday sportsman show is the perfect place for outdoor holiday shopping.

How the Online Holiday Sportsman Show Works

Attending the online Holiday Sportsman Show is a breeze.  Start by visiting https://holidaysportsmanshow.com. This will redirect you to our website homepage, also known as the Lobby. Then you will notice that the Lobby is broken down into three clickable sections. These are:

  • Locations: Where you can browse the different vendor’s display
  • Discount Coupons: As previously mentioned, this is where you can find coupons that will save you extra money at each vendor

My Shopping List: Where you can save your favorite products while you browse the show.

Start at The Lobby

Immediately upon entering holidaysportsmanshow.com, you will be redirected to the show’s virtual lobby. This will give you access to multiple features including the vendors, discounts, and even a My Favorites list where you can save your favorite items as you browse.  With these three simple tabs, navigating the show is easy and its virtual storefront makes online shopping a breeze. Below we breakdown each tab, and how you can easily navigate and utilize the show to discover the best outdoor deals this holiday season.

Use the Locations Tab

To access the show’s vendors, click on Locations located on the right-hand side of the lobby.  This will bring you to a category list, allowing you to choose between hunting, fishing, gifts and outdoor travel. From here, it’s up to you to select a category relative to your interest.  By browsing each of these locations, you can find products from the brands you love, and discover new brands that might have the perfect gift (or experience) you are looking for.  Each of these locations also acts as a virtual hall – making the browsing experience enjoyable. Ultimately, the Locations tab is easy to navigate, giving you convenient access to hundreds of outdoor brands.

Visit the Vendor Storefront

Once you’ve browsed the virtual halls, you can click on a brand to explore what they have to offer.  The brand’s packages and features are in an easy to view display – where you will find exactly the information you need to make an informed purchase.

Add Discount Coupons To Save More

At the bottom of the lobby, you will find the Discount Coupons tab. This is where you can unlock thousands of dollars in savings on your favorite outdoor gear while helping support non-profit youth, veterans, and outdoors groups.

Finally, purchasing this book is quick and secure. All you need to do is click on “PayPal Checkout” where PayPal will securely handle the transaction, encrypting your personal information and allowing you to purchase the book quickly and easily at the convenience of your home.  These coupons can be redeemed instantaneously at any of the individual vendor’s online stores.

My Shopping List

Finally, on the left-hand side of the lobby, there is a My Shopping List that can help you save your favorite products as you browse the show.  To access the My Shopping List you will need to enter your email. A link will then be sent, redirecting you back to the show – where you can quickly and easily save your favorite products as you browse.

Don’t wait, check it out, the Holiday Sportsman Show, click here.

 

Holiday Gift-Giving “From-the-Heart” Made Easy for Outdoor Folks

  • Outdoor Holiday Gifts for Friends and Family
  • One-stop shopping even when you are not sure what to buy
  • Buy a $15 coupon to support Youth and Military Veterans, earn up to $5,000 in discounts

By Forrest Fisher

Most outdoor folks have little time for shopping, even for their loved ones and best friends of the outdoors. Well now, the 2019 Online Holiday Sportsman Show can help you make a good choice in very little time with their interactive online shopping offers. Visit the outdoor show halls to find exceptional outdoor products and gifts at discount prices for everyone on your list. The Online Show allows shoppers to avoid crowds, traffic, and parking.  Stay at home and visit with hundreds of exhibitors to help make selecting the perfect outdoor gifts for outdoor enthusiasts easier than ever.

If you are looking for even deeper discounts on great products at the Holiday Sportsman Show, consider a $15 Fundraiser coupon package will open the door to more than $5,000 of exclusive savings for a wide range of gifts and products.  Gain instant cash discounts and 10 to 50 percent discounts on larger offerings, like a fishing trip or hunting trip vacation. The best part is that this coupon purchase will directly benefit our youth, conservation and U.S. veteran groups across the United States. For more information on the Fundraiser Coupon, visit www.holidaysportsmanshow.com and click on “Discount Coupons” at the bottom of the opening page. The fundraiser program helps consumers extend their holiday purchasing power while supporting Kids, Conservation and Veterans.

With the Holiday Sportsman Show, sit back, relax and have a stress-free holiday shopping experience. The show is open through Dec. 31.

The Online Holiday Sportsman Show is a property of Vexpo Marketing that also produces the award-winning www.SharetheOutdoors.com website. 

Text Message from a Grandson

Grandsons grow up so fast.

By Larry Whiteley

I was working on a turkey fan mount in my workshop this past spring when I suddenly heard the sound of a turkey hen talking to me. I jumped and for a slight moment, I thought it was a hen coming to get me because I had taken her boyfriend away – but it was just my smartphone. It makes that sound when I receive a text and a turkey gobble when someone is calling. The text was from our youngest grandson Sam, in Wisconsin. It read, “Do you have a scope for the pellet gun? Oh yeah, HI!”

Since Grandma and I don’t get to see them as often as we would like, we tend to forget that he and his brother Ty are no longer the little boys that couldn’t wait until we came to visit and were excited to see us when we did.

They have grown up and are now teenagers who, if we are lucky, might respond back to our text or talk to us when we call. If we are really lucky, too, we might get a hug or at least a hand squeeze 3 times when we are there to visit. That means, “I Love You.”

Happy faces, nothing like a nice surprise for a grandson.

They had out-grown the small air rifles we got them several years ago for shooting at targets on the farm. Our teenage grandsons still enjoy shooting at targets, except now they were trying to shoot pests like pine squirrels and chipmunks with their Dad. I knew the old air rifles didn’t have a scope or the power to do what they wanted.

I texted back to Sam that I would do better than that. He and Ty would both be getting new air rifles that fit them better, have a quality scope and a lot more power than what they had. A text came back, “That would be nice. Thank you.”

I had purchased a really good Stoeger air rifle with scope for myself several years ago. Stoeger is well-known for its quality, accuracy, and power. I wanted one to help control the squirrels and blackbirds getting in our backyard bird feeders as well as rabbits in my garden. I still use it and I still love it. It has a quality scope and a break-over barrel that shoots .177 caliber pellets. The Stoeger is powerful enough to take down big groundhogs that cause problems too. That’s what I wanted to get for them.

For Sam, I decided on the Stoeger S-6000-A. It is what they call an “underlever” and offers some advantages over break-over barrels. The design really helps accuracy. Also, the extra weight of the cocking lever is placed under the barrel and I felt that would make the rifle steadier in his hands when he shoots.

For Ty, I went with Stoeger’s S-4000-E which is the next generation of air gun technology. It is fast shooting, hard-hitting, quiet and comes with multiple features so he could customize the fit and feel. It does have a slight kick to it, but I knew he wouldn’t notice it that much with the recoil-absorbing butt pad. It also has an ambidextrous safety, adjustable two-stage trigger, and interchangeable fiber-optic bars for the front sight. I figured the rifled barrel along with the quality scope would deliver great accuracy for him. The ergonomically designed suppressor also serves as the cocking grip, this easily allows him to use the powerful Gas Ram System break-barrel action.

Because the rifles use air compression rather than the explosion of a powder cartridge like a .22 rifle, this means they will not only be saving money not having to buy ammunition, they will also not be breaking the law or disturbing neighbors.

Developed by Italian engineers and designers with the feel of a high caliber rifle both rifles will last them a lifetime and someday they will be able to pass them on to their kids or grandkids long after I am gone.

Another great thing about their pellet rifle Stoeger’s is that when they are ready to move up to hunting bigger game, they already have basic gun handling safety as an internal process. I will be looking forward to getting another text someday that says, “Papaw we want to start deer hunting, so can we get a deer rifle now?” That will be another great opportunity for Grandma and I to make an investment in the lives of our grandkids.

A few weeks after getting their new Stoeger air rifles I heard that turkey hen talking again and another text from Sam popped up on my phone. “Thanks for the pellet guns,” it said. That was followed by a text all grandparents want to hear, “Love you!” A few days later, I got another turkey talking text that said, “Last night we got a squirrel.” I smiled and a tear ran down my cheek.

If you want to make an investment in something your kids or grandkids would love and give them many hours of enjoyment for many years and be able to pass down to their kids and grandkids, go to https://usa.stoegerairguns.com/ and find a dealer near you or order online.

 

Let’s Bond with Nature this Saturday, Sep. 28 – Rick Clunn asks…”Join Me, Please.”

  • National Geographic’s current issue is about that fragile connection between all things
  • We all need nature to help us
  • Celebrate by locating an NHF Day event near where you live, there are many.

By Rick Clunn

The photos, this one and the one below, are of my Dad and Mom sharing the outdoors with me.

Saturday is National Hunting and Fishing Day, and I know that there is some special day to celebrate almost every day, but Hunting and Fishing are the last remaining vehicles to keep the masses connected to nature and like my Dad use to say, “Daphine (my Mom), if I don’t get in the woods or on the water this weekend, I am going to go crazy.”

What was a prophetic statement for him, it is equally true for society.

National Geographic’s current issue is about that fragile connection between all things. It stated that, “If you dig deep enough behind virtually every human conflict, you will find an erosion of the bond between humans and the natural world around them.” What I am most proud of with my relationship with Johnny Morris and Bass Pro Shops is their endless work trying to maintain a healthy connection between humans and the outdoors through their Conservation efforts.

So join me and Bass Pro shops in celebrating National Hunting and Fishing Day this Saturday, the 28th of September. But take it one more step! Take a friend, family member, someone on an adventure, go fishing or hunting. I have stated before, that I am hard-pressed to remember a single gift I received, but can easily recall many fishing, hunting, and camping adventures. The photos are of my Dad and Mom sharing the outdoors with me.

Quote from Edward Abbey: “It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it is still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends. Ramble out yonder and explore the forest, climb the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, the lovely mysterious and awesome space.”

Visit me to share your thoughts: https://www.facebook.com/rick.clunn.

Thanks.

 

Editor Note: This article and the pictures were provided by Rick Clunn via Facebook to share with all outdoor persons, their neighbors, and friends.

 

Catching Your First Bass…Unforgettable!

  • Unforgettable moments at the Black River near La Crosse, Wisconsin
  • Light line, swim jig with Strike King Shad
  • Bass Cat with Yamaha Vmax Engine

By Forrest Fisher

Melissa Boudoux with her first fish catch. Happiness is. 

There is something special about fishing for bass, especially when you’ve tried before, but you let your kids fish so they have that first cast and last cast while you manage all else, always hoping for them. Even at that, from shore, it’s often tough to catch a fish. Then one day, you’re hard at work and an invite comes along that is just perfect with the timing of your workday.

That’s how it was for Yamaha Communications and Dealer Education Manager, Melissa Boudoux, when Yamaha bass pro staff angler, Brett King, was in town to meet with the Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers (AGLOW) for their annual conference at the AmericInn Hotel. Brett has his Bass Cat Caracal and 225Hp Yamaha VMAX moored at the hotel dock on the Black River in La Crosse, Wisconsin, and he asked if anyone had time to help him test a few new bass lures. “I’ve never ever caught a bass,” said Melissa. “Let’s go, we’ll see what works today,” answered Brett.

A few minutes later, his Bass Cat was floating near a rock pile along the shoreline and Melissa was casting a 3-1/4 inch Strike King Rage Swim Tail on a 1/8 ounce lead head jig. A new experience, the 6-foot, 9-inch lightweight rod from J. T. Outdoors was a perfect match for the lure and in no time, Melissa says ”I was casting a very long way with very little effort. It was really fun!” As Brett placed his boat in a fishy-looking spot along the shoreline rocks, a hungry largemouth bass caught a glimpse of the swimbait passing by. That was it. WACK! FISH ON!

“It was so exciting! That bass fought so hard,” Melissa said. Brett adds, “Mellissa caught another bass a little while later too. It’s great to be in the boat when someone catches their first bass ever. This was a special day, she’s a veteran now!”

Thank you for the memories Mister Bass! 

Brett adds, “You know, I run my boat about 4,500 miles a year, none of it on land either. Sometimes in the roughest water and many times, in a debris field of blow-downs and backwaters. I have to feel comfortable with my engine and boat, I need to have confidence in them, and I have to know that they will provide the capability for me to run far and run back safely, and on time, when I fish big money tournaments. My Bass Cat and Yamaha 4-stroke engine do that. I love my rig and I trust it.”

Melissa adds, “I learned what to do after you catch a bass now too, so I can show my kids. It’s all so exciting! We released all the fish we caught. They’ll be there next time for somebody else to enjoy.”

Back at the outdoor media conference, word got out, and the next day and everyone cheered to Melissa’s first bass.

Catching that first bass, it’s magical.

Unforgettable moments.

 

 

Yamaha Pro, Brett King, earned the title 2018 Angler of the Year during Cabela’s® National Walleye Tour.
The 3-1/4 inch Strike King Rage Swim Tail on a 1/8 ounce lead head jig with the 6-foot, 9-inch lightweight rod from J. T. Outdoors was a perfect match to catch the first bass.

 

Worlds Colliding

John Wilson and I went hunting blue-winged teal in west-central Missouri. Missouri Conservation Photo

By Brent Frazee

I’ll never forget the day when my worlds collided in an instant.

Sept. 11, 2001.

One moment, I was reveling in the peace and solitude of the outdoors, with not a care in the world. The next moment, I was jolted into the reality that no American ever thought possible – our country was under attack.

That was the day terrorists hijacked American airliners and carried out suicide missions, flying them into the World Trade Center twin towers in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. Thousands were killed that day, buildings laid in ruins, panic ensued…and a giant was awakened.

For me, that scene was unimaginable as I joined my neighbor, John Wilson, for a day of teal hunting at his lease in west-central Missouri. It was a brilliant morning, one of those days that made a hunter just happy to be alive.

Before the sun even made its arrival, lines of teal swept over the marsh in front of us, promising an exciting day of hunting.

I remember John’s black lab whimpering in anticipation and glancing at us as if to say, “Why aren’t you shooting?” He obviously didn’t know anything about shooting hours.

When the time finally arrived, many of those teal we had seen evaporated as they often do on these September mornings. It was almost as if the early birds had teased us, knowing that they were safe from our gunfire.

But as the darkness slowly gave way to daylight, there were still enough of the rapid blue-wings around to provide plenty of opportunities. It was one of those textbook days when everything went as planned.

John hit some difficult shots, his dog made some memorable retrieves, I got some good photos, and everything was right in the world.

After the teal stopped flying, we just sat in the duck boat for a few minutes, taking in the beauty of another duck season getting off to a great start.

But in an instant, that serenity was shattered. As we motored back to John’s boathouse, we saw John ‘s father-in-law nervously pacing on the levee, and we immediately know something was wrong.

Our minds raced. Had something happened to one of our family members? A car crash maybe? A fire?

When we drew close, John yelled out, “What’s wrong?”

And his father-in-law answered, “We’re under attack.”

Surely, we had heard wrong, we thought. Under attack? From what or who?

When we pulled the boat in, he proceeded to explain the terror everyone watched unfold on television that morning. He told of the jetliners flying into the New York buildings, of the devastation and the mass fatalities. And suddenly, the solitude of the outdoors and that waterfowl marsh disappeared.

At that moment, uncertainty filled the air. Were those attacks only the start? Were terrorists going to invade other major cities? Were our loved ones safe?

John and I scrambled to call home, and once we determined everyone was OK, we headed home, listening to radio reports as we went.

We passed convenience stores where long lines of vehicles waited at the gas pumps. And the closer we got to our Kansas City airport, we noticed that the sky was eerily silent – no planes coming or going.

Like everyone else, we were fearful of what this meant. And more than once, we talked about the contrast in our day’s activities.

We also talked about our patriotism and our grave concerns for our country. In the next few days, we would realize just how unifying that day would be for our country.

Luckily, our worst fears never materialized. But to this day, 9/11 will be remembered as a landmark moment for the USA.

When people ask the question, “Do you remember where you were on 9/11?” I think to myself, “I was a world away – in a waterfowl marsh.”

After the Fall – Saying Goodbye

Remember to "Hook-Up"

The morning sunrise during a hunt is something special. Every time.

By Larry Whiteley

It sure is getting foggy. I’m not sure I could even see a deer sneaking through the woods in this stuff. Oh well, I just love being out here sitting in my stand, even if I don’t see a deer. It’s a great time to be alone with God and thank Him for the opportunity to be out here in His great outdoors.

I wonder how many sunrises I have seen coming through the trees while sitting in a tree stand? After over 50 years of deer hunting, it has to be a lot. I have watched a lot of sunsets too, while up in a tree, but sunrises are my favorite. There’s just something special about being in the dark watching the sun gradually bring light to the forest.

Hearing the first bird songs of the day is music to my ears. I even love the smell of decaying leaves on the forest floor. The first movement I see is usually a squirrel gathering nuts for the long winter ahead. It’s amazing how much a squirrel sounds like a deer walking through the woods. Then there were the times I have watched a fox, a bobcat or some other animal traveling through and they had no idea I was even there. There was also the time an owl thought the fur trapper’s hat I was wearing on a cold winter day was breakfast and, with claws raised, dived right at my head.
It’s funny how we deer hunters tend to name our tree stands too. Over the years I have sat in stands with names like Northwood’s, Papaw Bear, Dad and Me, 23, Pond, Kelly, Red Neck and even one called No Name. Just thinking of the names brings back a lot of memories.

Most of my years sitting in those tree stands have been by myself, but the absolute best times were the years I shared them with my grandson, Hunter, while my son hunted with my granddaughter Anna. Hunter got old enough to hunt in his own tree stand and I am now once again sitting alone in the deer woods. It won’t be too many more years and he will be hunting with his son or daughter and continuing to pass on the tradition. Just thinking about the good times when it was just him and me brings tears to my eyes.

When you sit there waiting for a deer to come by your secret hiding place thinking of all these things, you see them in your mind. Speaking of tears, as I sit here this day, for some strange reason I am seeing my wife crying. The fog is lifting enough that I can now also see my sons, daughters-in-law, and grandkids crying. What’s going on?

Honey, I love you. Why are you crying, I say to my wife? Can’t you hear me? Hunter, I know you have always had a tender heart, but what’s the matter Bub? Don’t cry Sis, your Papaw’s here. Ty, Sam…come here and give your Papaw our secret hand -squeeze and let me wipe away the tears. Kids, I am right over here!

I love my kids, grandkids, my family. All their smiling faces.

Hey, I also see some of my cousins and friends from church. There’s Pastor Scotty too! What are they all doing here? I try talking to them and they act like they can’t hear me or see me. Why is this room filled with all these flowers and pictures of me with my wife, kids and grandkids plus pictures of me with fish and deer?

I hear someone ask my son how it happened. How what happened? My son Kelly chokes back a tear as my son Daron puts his arm around him to comfort him and he says, “Dad was always telling us to wear our harness and attach our lifeline when we got into a tree stand. He was hunting out of a ladder stand and for some reason, I guess he thought he didn’t need to do what he always told us to do. He even wrote articles and did radio shows telling other people how important it was to do it, but that day he didn’t. A ratchet strap broke; the stand slipped and he fell out.”

Was I dreaming during in a nasty storm?

Did I fall out of my tree stand? I’m dead?! You’ve got to be kidding! I have hunted that stand for years. My harness and lifeline were in my truck. I guess like most hunters, I thought this could never happen to me. I made a bad decision.
I say I am sorry to my wife for the times I have hurt her, tell her I love her one more time and that the boys will watch over her, but she doesn’t hear me. I want to hug and kiss her but I can’t.

I stand right in front of my sons and tell them how proud I am of them for being the good husbands and fathers they are, but they don’t see or hear me. I reach out to touch each of my grandkids, tell them I love them and I am sorry I won’t be there to watch them grow up and have families of their own, but they don’t hear or see me either. I pray they won’t forget their Papaw. I hope they tell their kids about the memories we made together.

I feel a hand gently on my shoulder and a voice says, “I know this is hard Larry, but they will be alright. God will watch over all of them for you. It’s time to go to a better place. There are other people waiting for you when we get there and I bet you have a bunch of fishing, hunting, kids and grandkids stories to tell them.”

We turn to go, but I look back over my shoulder at my friends and family one last time and say goodbye.

Friends, especially while using a ladder stand, don’t forget to hook up. Get a very inexpensive Hunter Safety System (HSS) Lifeline. About $30. Don’t wait, do it today, see your loved ones again.

First Casts, Catchy for a Lifetime

Rattlesnake skin fishing rod handle by Master Rod Builder, Charter Captain Tom Marks.

  • Life is about sharing your passion, making new friends and finding that next…First Cast

By Bob Holzhei

My custom metallic red 7-foot long fishing rod with a rattlesnake skin handle, a “one of a kind” treasure for more than just the “first cast.” In case you’re wondering, my part of “the design by” was choosing the rod color. 

No matter how old you are, there is always a next first cast.

I slowly walked to the pond behind our rental home in Punta Gorda, FL to field test the custom fishing rod I asked a friend, Charter Captain Tom Marks, to make for me. He is an avid outdoor angler from Derby, NY who vacations to Florida in the winter, and he lived just a short morning walk from our location. Lucky me!

Master rod builder, Charter Captain Tom Marks, at home in his workshop.

Tom orders his rod building supplies from Mud Hole, a rod building and tackle crafting company from Oviedo, FL.

I tied on a Size 2/0 Mustad worm hook with a Mr. Twister Tri-Alive plastic nightcrawler, after Outdoor Writer Dave Barus, from East Aurora, NY showed me how to rig the hook to make the worm totally weedless. Weeds, lookout! Here I come!

The custom metallic red color 7-foot rod, complete with a rattlesnake skin handle, created a “one of a kind” treasure. It was my first cast with a new custom rod. I slowly opened the bail on the STX Abu Garcia Reel and gingerly arched the rod behind me. The bait was cast to the other side of the narrow pond. In that first cast, the line was suspended in mid-air for a moment and frozen in my memory. A motionless flying worm! I hoped a screaming osprey from the nearby swamp would stay where he was. He did.

I fished in my early years, once a year, but only if dad had a good year on the farm. We’d drive just over an hour to Tawas, MI to board a perch fishing boat – The Miss Charity Isle. A love affair with the natural world was conceived on our family farm that was nourished each year as crops sprouted from the ground.

As I got older, I’d ride my bicycle to nearby ditches and adjoining cuts located near Quanicassee, MI to fish for perch from the piers.

The custom rattlesnake rod handle is an amazing creation that reminds me to watch where I walk in some areas around the country.

 

 

 

As I got older and married, I took my three boys on a charter salmon fishing trip out of Ludington, MI to rediscover the love for once-a-year fishing moments from my childhood. We boated 12 nice-sized salmon. Needless to say, I was all-in. The following spring, I purchased a used 18-foot 11-inch Sportcraft boat. I was hooked, reeled-in and would enjoy a lifetime love affair with the natural world through fishing.

Today, the boat has been stored in a pole barn for the past three years and I suppose I should sell it. Anglers go through stages of fishing, first fishing from nearby ditches, then to cuts, piers and eventually a boat is purchased. I’ve transitioned back to where I began and this summer am again fishing from piers with the first cast of the day once again near my childhood home.

There is something special about pier fishing, simple as it is, for many of us, it brings back special memories and sometimes, a special catch for the family table.

As I returned 70 years later, I was surprised that the landscape had drastically changed. There were no perch or panfish in the area. The perch party boat had relocated to a southern port and was taking folks to fish across Lake Huron to Port Austin, at the tip of the Michigan Thumb. That’s a long way to travel across the lake for fish dinners at a restaurant. Perch could be ordered from various restaurants in the area and the menu clarified, “The perch come from Lake Erie.”

You can tell by my grin, I’m ready for my next first cast! I love my brand new custom-made fishing rod with the red-metallic color blank and rattlesnake skin handle. C’mon big fish, test me out!

My wife and I camped for a month at a city park on Lake Huron, noticing first that between 12 to 16 campsites were vacant. This popular park was always filled to capacity. After visiting with campers, I found that the park had raised camping rates from $90.00 a month to an outrageous $1,000.00 per month. That just seems like too much for a campsite park with only water, sewer, and electricity. No additional amenities were provided. Internet and cell phone service was only available occasionally (or non-existent). After the first week, I longed for the month to end and will return to the west side of Michigan where Lake Michigan awaits our return.

I suppose it’s good to camp (and fish) at new places from time to time, to determine where my wife and I feel most comfortable taking that next first cast.

I think I can recall every one of those first casts – there have been many.  The bottom line, I love to fish and revisit those old memories that helped make me who I am.

Fun Walleye Day for Military Veterans – Lake Erie Fishing!

  • 154 Military Veteran’s, more than 50 volunteers as charter guides/hosts
  • Clear weather, smooth sailing, hundreds of pounds of walleye fillets for veteran freezers
  • Stickbaits, spinner worm rig tactics were key to catching fish, details follow in story below

By Forrest Fisher

US Army Infantryman Al Sawyer (L) and Captain Jim Klein with a nice 7-pound walleye taken from eastern Lake Erie near Dunkirk, NY.

It was a tad before 6:00 a.m. when the morning sky-glow of bright yellow on the horizon of the cliffs to the east started to light up the day. It was a special day.

A warm forecast with windless air was perfect weather for Operation Boots – a sponsored fun-fishing activity for military veterans from WNY Heroes, Inc., a not-for-profit organization established in 2007 to provide veterans and their families with access to essential services, financial assistance and other needs that they might not be able to find any other way. And today, to provide some fishing fun on the water.

Military vet’s and volunteer fishing guide hosts began to gather at Chadwick Bay Marina in Dunkirk Harbor at this early hour. Their mission for the day? To fish for walleye on the Lake Erie waters of Chautauqua County, NY.  I could feel there was electricity in the air. Good energy!  To help control over-crowding at the event, the veterans were asked to pre-register and numbers were capped at 145. Yet, these numbers grew on site and who could say no to our dedicated military and wartime veterans?

Bantering, good-natured jokes, and warm-hearted conversations kept a mega-box of Tim Horton’s donuts busy. Dark roast java – better than the Uncle Sam version of early morning rocket fuel, complete with all the fixings, added to that feeling of “the guys” getting together for morning service work. This time, for the fun of it, the goal was to catch the biggest walleye. Fun battles. The morning was off to a great start.

Captain Jim Steel (www.InnovativeOutdoors.com) with Diane Rae behind him and volunteers from the WNY Heroes Inc. group at registration.

In their third year of helping to host this event, Charter Captain Jim Steel and Diane Rae from Innovative Outdoors (www.innovativeoutdoors.com, 716-481-5348) managed to satisfy the unthinkable task of finding more than 45 volunteer fishing boats to host the veterans, all of them providing fishing expertise. No small mission! In a very well-organized manner, veterans were assigned to their respective captains and a small armada to fishing boats headed to eastern basin Lake Erie to enjoy some fishing on the water. Even organizer, Captain Jim Steel, took time to host veterans aboard his 31-foot Tiara. The guy never stops!

It was a pleasure and an honor to serve as 1st mate aboard the brand new 24-foot fishing boat of Captain Jim Klein – Eye-Fish Charters. As we boarded the sleek-looking blue/white boat, the 225HP Yamaha 4-stroke outboard stood large and impressive on the stern. Captain Jim said, “This will get us to where the fish are in no time, then once we get there, we’ll switch to get better boat control for trolling with this smaller 9.9HP Yamaha motor. Both of them have autopilot for hands-free operation. He added that the Lowrance sonar would help us find the fish.” He also added that he had scouted the day before and knew where we should start.

US Army Infantryman, Chris Corcoran, with a double-header walleye catch!

It was a privilege to meet US Army Engineering Battalion veteran, Chris Corcoran; US Army Infantryman – Al Sawyer (79 years young), and Rick Shick – US Army Vietnam Veteran with the 1st Infantry Division where he and his buddies tried to stay alive doing battle about 80 miles east of Saigon.

The fishing was good and we shared line-stretching time for the next 4 hours. Chris Corcoran could be a regular 1st mate on any charter boat, he caught on to details that quick and had lots of energy in this, his first boat fish trip ever. Corcoran helped set lines, rig lines, he was quite amazing. By the end of our 4 hour fishing day, we caught 30 walleye, keeping 24 for the freezer. While we caught fish on various stickbaits too, the hot lure was the Eye-Fish spinner/worm rig in Mixed-Veggie color (https://www.eye-fish.com). We fished a Figure-8 trolling pattern just west of Dunkirk in 40 to 70 feet of water.

US Army Vietnam Veteran, Rick Flick with a nice ‘eye.

Al Sawyer caught our biggest fish at 7.23 pounds, while Rick and Chris took turns at the rods. We had doubles on three times! A testament to pre-scouting by Captain Jim on where to fish for this event.

Lynn Magistrale, Program Director for WNY Heroes, Inc., greets veterans as they arrive. That’s Al Sawyer on the right.

Hats off to the event organizer at WNY Heroes, Inc. Program Director, Lynn Magistrale, and WNY Heroes co-founder, Chris Kreiger – an Iraqi War veteran, and so many groups that donated, to help make this event unforgettable. In total, 154 military veterans participated.

Pre-scouting by Captain Jim Klein provided a good place to start the trolling pattern and resulted in a take-home catch of 24 tasty walleye for veteran freezers.

More than 45 volunteer fishing crews donated their time, gear and services to help host this extravaganza fishing event to say thanks to our military veterans for the freedoms that we enjoy in America every day.

Fishing guides and hosts provided all the gear, boats, and bait, for all the military veterans, all gratis, in a special salute and thank you for our freedom.

Before we hit port, Al Sawyer was beaming with a giant glowing grin and said, “This has been the most fun-fishing day of my life.” For Captain Jim and myself, that said it all! To fish with Captain Jim Klein, you don’t need to empty your pocketbook. Two people can fish a half-day charter on Lake Erie for walleye for $250. Imagine that! If you want to try it, give him a call at 716-597-9421. Don’t wait, the fishing is hot right now.

Even event-organizer, Captain Jim Steel, found time in his busy day to take a full complement of military veteran anglers out to catch a few fish.

Hats off to all of the volunteers and host fishing guide/hosts, many from the Eastern Lake Erie Charter Boat Association (ELECBA), and to the host kitchen facility, the Northern Chautauqua County Conservation Club with food preparations by Brunner’s Bayside Catering. Every veteran left the banquet that followed the fishing event with a brand new Zebco open-face fishing rod and reel in red/white/blue colors, an additional thank you for their military service in the past.

One last thing, let’s not forget prayer and a toast to all of those veterans that did not make it back home. I, for one, say thank you to the good Lord for these brave friends of our America.

To learn more about the WNY Heroes, Inc., check out www.wnyheroes.org.

At the end of the day, biologists from the New York State DEC joined forces at the dock to clean all the fish for the military veterans, adding data collection for this special event to historical fish tracking records. Military veterans are now part of NYS fisheries research too!

BOONE & BO…Born to Hunt Together

Grandpa Boone's farm where I learned to hunt.

Bo the beagle squirrel dog.
  • Boone and Bo…squirrel hunters that lived for the next day, every day
  • The autumn of their years – a special story to my grampa and his dog
  • Lessons for every generation to pass down

By Larry Whiteley

Bo was a beagle and beagles are usually rabbit dogs, but he was all squirrel dog and cared nothing about rabbits. He loved to chase and run those squirrels around the farm, ran them right up the tree. Creeks, barbed wire fences, briar thickets or even a brake-squealing car couldn’t keep him from his mission. Treeing squirrels was Bo’s job and he was good at it. He would do it all day long before finally coming back home to supper. When finished he’d curl up on the porch completely worn out from his days’ adventures.

Grandpa Boone

Bo was my Grandpa Boone’s dog and both were as independent as they could be. Boone was in his 80s and I was 12. He enjoyed taking his grandson hunting and was teaching me to be a squirrel hunter too -when the time was right. Back then we were poor, so it was important not to waste a bullet. It would take a while to save enough to get more. Getting a couple of squirrels was our supper. With Bo’s help that was never a problem. I still remember how good those fried squirrels with grandma’s homemade biscuits and gravy were.

Grandpa Boone had worked hard on the farm all his life and his heart was beginning to wear out. He slowed down a bit, took his medicine, and kept hunting squirrels with Bo and me. Like Boone, Bo was in the autumn of his years. Bo’s gray muzzle reminded me of Boone’s gray beard.

A squirrel trying to hide from Bo.

For Bo, chasing and treeing was the game. It was fun to watch him go after a squirrel. When it would run up a tree he would climb partway up it in his excitement to get at it. As soon as he gave up climbing he would sit at the base of the tree barking until Boone got there and shot the squirrel. A dead squirrel was not important to him anymore. He would trail up to a freshly killed squirrel and then take off after another one.

Our last day was perfect squirrel hunting weather. A crisp, clear morning had dawned when we reached the back forty of Boone’s farm. The early sun sparkled on the frosted grass as we left the old truck. The trees were bare of leaves now. Bo saw the movement of a squirrel and he went to work. Boone took a position by an oak tree and watched. He smiled with pleasure as he listened to the sounds of Bo. He held his old .22 rifle, still in mint condition, in the crook of his arm.

Bo was out of sight, but his bark told us he was after his quarry. His voice muffled as he chased it across a gully and it ran up a tree, as we knew it would. Boone walked slowly to the tree and prepared for the shot. The squirrel came into view out on a limb high up in the tree. Boone sighted down the barrel, but it moved slightly as Boone fired. The squirrel fell to the ground and then ran into a thicket of wild blackberries. Boone muttered to himself.

Boone’s farm where I learned to squirrel hunt.

Bo was after him, but like Boone, slower than before. His voice high and clear, he started after the squirrel at a walk. As we watched, Bo fell. Quickly scrambling to his feet, he yodeled as he entered the thicket. He gave voice for another fifty yards or so and then there was silence.

I looked at Boone. His face was gray, his breathing was heavy and his old face seemed more wrinkled. “Sit down Boone,” I said. “He found the squirrel. I’ll go get them.” But Boone just stood there and didn’t say anything.

Get the biscuits and gravy ready.

I walked through the thicket toward the place where I’d last heard Bo. I found him stretched out, mouth open, eyes glazed. There was no life left in him. A couple of feet beyond his muzzle, the squirrel twitched and was still. I left them both and returned to Boone. He was leaning against a tree with his head bowed.

“I knew it when he fell,” Boone whispered. We walked back to the truck, thinking our own thoughts. Boone broke the silence. “I hope to go like Bo, doing something I really like to do.” “I’ll come back later with a shovel,” I said. “Thanks,” Boone replied, “I don’t think I could do it. One more thing though, would you bury the squirrel in front of him?” I nodded as a tear ran down my cheek.

We got back to the truck and Boone reached in and got out an oiled rag and carefully wiped his old rifle and cased it. He handed the gun to me and said, “I don’t think I’m going to hunt anymore. I want you to have it.” In just a few months, Boone was gone too.

I hunted for many years with Boone’s gun and took a lot of squirrels with it. But, it just wasn’t the same without Boone by my side and the sounds of Bo treeing a squirrel. Today, the rifle sits in the gun safe in my office. I am now in the autumn of my years.

My sons grew up hunting squirrels with that gun. I taught them as Boone taught me. My grandson Hunter got his first squirrel with it after his Dad had taught him. There was never another dog like Bo though.

When I am gone, Boone’s gun will be passed down to one of them.

They all know the story of Boone and Bo, more than just a story of the autumn of their years.

Matches, BB-Guns, Pocket Knives and Sharp Sticks…Once Upon a Time

Catching that first fish on a lure was a giant obstacle in the old days, but it was also a stepping stone to greater discoveries outdoors. Forrest Fisher Photo

By Forrest Fisher

When I was growing up, it was taken for granted that kids played outside.

We did all those things we wanted to do outside, not inside. Mom said, “Go outside!” So we did.  Every day.

We explored, we hiked the nearby fields and woods, we biked to nearby creeks to fish, we played baseball, we were bit by hornets, bees and wasps at one time or another, but overall, we had a lot of fun, all of it…outside.

After dark, we had a campfire, roasted marshmallows, potatoes and hot dogs on a fresh green tree branch whittled to a sharp point with a pocket knife. Each of us had one. It took quite a while for those raw potatoes to cook, but while waiting we would talk “about stuff” and we learned about all the things in life.

We had to keep feeding the fire which was fun all by itself. After a while, we discovered it was cleaner and faster to borrow some of mom’s aluminum foil (we dared not tell her) and wrap up the potatoes, then toss them on the coals of the fire. We were careful not to get burned, but we did a lot discovering through those young days as we grew up.

Our parents trusted us to carry a knife and matches because we were smart and responsible. They told us so. We grew up hearing that over and over. We grew up knowing that.

With the matches, after toasting our fingers at first try to light the match, we didn’t get burned much after that. Funny how you learn how to be safe.  I cannot recall ever having an accident with our pocket knives. Most of us had BB-guns too. My Daisy Red-Ryder is still in my closet nearly 70 years later and it still works, even after what has to be 100,000 rounds or more. That poor spring. That’s a lot of BB’s. All safely placed shots too, of course. No windows broken that I can remember, but my memory is not always perfect.

We grew up outside sharing so many things with our friends and neighbors. Everybody knew everybody. It was a fun time to be a kid. Looking back, it was great to grow up as a kid in the 50s and be trusted with so many things that we associate with as danger in the world of today.

As I walked a trout stream last weekend, our springtime foliage was in full blooming color. I reflected on being a kid and I started to think about our modern generation with much of their indoor recreation and the hand-held indoor universe. I took my 4-weight fly rod and sat down on the bank to just ponder. For some reason, I felt sad.

Today, if mom or dad or grandpa or an uncle or a close friend does not fish or hunt or camp or hike, then there is one entire sector of our generation that will never know about all those outdoor things, and all the fun and adventure to be had learning to be trusted with safe things that can be dangerous. Do parents today tell their kids that they are smart and responsible? Maybe, but they might only be texting it to them. It’s not the same.

Matches, pocket knives, sharp sticks, hot potatoes and bb guns allowed us to develop a foundation for how to be safe with each other and care for each other. We learned about proper ethics, the wisdom of lessons in a story tale told around a campfire. We learned to visualize, watching the flames and listening to the words of the tale. We were mesmerized in a world of special diversity as kids in that age of our time.

So today I worry a bit about our youngsters, their parents and the new generations coming along. It seems that no one has time to “just let the kids play outside” today. Moms and dads both work, that is the biggest difference, perhaps. Most moms in those old days were at home.

My mom rewarded me for going fishing and bringing back dinner. It didn’t help my allowance, I didn’t get one. We were not poor, but we survived by doing the simple things for fun, sharing, working hard and learning about helping the budget with fish and game, and the family garden.

My sister and I raised chickens and sold eggs to help out. More outdoor stuff. Those eggs were totally organic by today’s definitions and they were so good. We had 50 chickens at one point. The garden was a summer task that was hard work, but it was fun, too. We learned about insects, plants, natural forces and there was this kinship where we learned about all life in our world.

Let’s bring back the old days. Share life with others, make new friends in the outdoors, lead by example.

Outdoor Adventure and How-to Lessons for All in Ken Cook’s New Book

  • Quick-Read Outdoor Stories to Learn From: Fishing, Hunting, Shooting
  • Lessons from Experience: Recipes, Youth Mentoring, Women in the Outdoors
  • Bear, Deer, Rabbits, Squirrels, Birds, Fish, Wildlife, Photography

By Dave Barus

From the back cover, this picture bonds my mind to the outdoors that Ken Cook shares in his new book.

Old and young alike will love this manifest of outdoor spirit and culture shared by award-winning freelance outdoor writer, Ken Cook, in his new book. Not an ordinary outdoor book, Cook delivers lessons and aspirations in his “Return to Wild Country” with 65 compelling short stories across 284 pages. With photo’s and simple expression, easy to understand, Cook shares outdoor adventure with lessons and quips of women in the outdoors, mentoring kids, disabled youth, conservation, as well as interesting short features with a purpose on fishing, wild turkey, bobwhite quail, mourning doves, rabbits and squirrels. Even the harvest of a monster 673-pound Georgia black bear, a giant! Humble lessons for all to learn from.

Cook is a good story teller and in this book he shares stories about people sharing time in the outdoors with other people. Some of those people include Johnny Morris, Jack Wingate, Georgia naturalist Buddy Hopkins, former President Jimmy Carter, Guy Harvey and a moving testimony from young Eric Dinger of Powderhook entitled, “An Open Letter to the Anti-Hunter.” As a bonus, Cook includes 28 wild game recipes from Elaine Harvell that offer new tasty ideas for fish, duck, elk and dozens of many other outdoor delights.

You can get a copy of Ken’s new book in soft-cover from Amazon ($16.95) or in E-book form via Kindle ($3.95). It’s a great read and can make a great gift.

 

Trinity Oaks’ Thumbtack Ranch hosts Field-to-Table weekend for Boys

Hunting can teach critically important lessons about the value of all life.

  • Hunting can teach critically important lessons about the value of all life
  • Hunting can teach us that all life is important and sacred
  • Trinity Oaks’ Thumbtack Ranch is the nation’s first Purple Heart Ranch, providing lessons for so many
For five of the six boys, this camp was their first time ever receiving gun safety instruction, shooting sporting clays and hunting.

By Karen Lutto

Trinity Oaks teamed up with the Hill Country Chapter of the Quail Coalition earlier this year to offer six Austin, Texas-area boys the opportunity to truly learn where their food comes from. The boys, all from different backgrounds ranging from single mother to veteran families to underprivileged, experienced first-hand, the entire process of field-to-fork at Trinity Oaks Thumbtack Ranch in Batesville, Texas.
For five of the six boys, this camp was their first time ever receiving gun safety instruction, shooting sporting clays and hunting. After learning gun safety and practicing shooting, the six boys, with full instruction and guides, were taken on a bird hunt that included pheasant, chukar and wild bobwhite quail. The success in the field gave them a better understanding of where food comes, as after the harvest the boys also cleaned the birds, prepared them for cooking, helped to cook them and enjoyed them for dinner.
“Teaching our kids where food comes from is so important, but actually providing this type of hands-on education is nearly impossible for most parents, “ said Britt Longoria, Trinity Oaks’ Executive Director. “At Trinity Oaks, we offer a number of camps and services to Texas youth to help them get outdoors to enjoy, respect and have a better understanding of its importance and role in our everyday lives.
“Hunting can teach critically important lessons about the value of all life,” continued Longoria. “Today, many kids spend time with media that glamorize violence and cheapen the value of life. Hunting can teach us that all life is important and sacred. There is no greater way to learn about the dynamic systems of nature than through walking through the brush and examining things first hand. Learning to hunt responsibly and experiencing what it means to take an animal’s life can change a person for the better. Our ancestors had a deep appreciation for life, in part, because of their dependence on nature for sustenance. They understood the cost.
“Opportunities for us to volunteer and spend time with kids outdoors is invaluable. Take your kid out, take a friend’s, or volunteer and make a difference in the lives of others.”
Our country is urbanizing at such a rapid rate, there is far less awareness of how our food gets to the table. Programs like this one and the many others offered by Trinity Oaks make kids aware that the food they eat doesn’t begin at the grocery store.
Trinity Oaks’ Thumbtack Ranch is the nation’s first Purple Heart Ranch.  They are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded on the premise that active participation in the outdoors is a powerful, healing, and fundamentally life-changing experience.  Trinity Oaks will be hosting its fourth annual Columbaire Pigeon Shoot at Thumbtack Ranch on March 22 in order to raise funds for future hunting and fishing opportunities for the underprivileged and combat veterans. All of Trinity Oaks’ programs are free-of-charge for the participants, and this event is just one of the fundraising events that the organization hosts throughout the year. For more information on the youth programs from Trinity Oaks, visit www.trinityoaks.org; and to register for the pigeon shoot, click here.
About Trinity Oaks: In 2007, San Antonio native Tom Snyder founded Trinity Oaks, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded on the premise that active participation in the outdoors is a powerful, healing, and fundamentally life-changing experience. The organization’s mission is to use hunting, fishing and outdoor activities to make a meaningful difference in the lives of underprivileged kids, terminally ill children and combat veterans. Each year, Trinity Oaks offers at least 50 events at no expense to those who can benefit from once-in-a-lifetime hunting or fishing experiences. For more information on Trinity Oaks, visit www.trinityoaks.org, or call 210-447-0351. For more information on Thumbtack Ranch, visit https://trinityoaks.org/thumbtack/.

 

Chasing your Dreams…in the 3-D Archery World

Joella Bates coaching former JoCamp students, Trevor Funcannon and Brooke Hultz.

  • First memory of shooting a bow was at 4-H Conservation Camp
  • After a home burglary, her dad bought Joella an Indian compound bow, history was in the making
  • Today, Joella Bates is an 11-time 3-D Archery World Champion and teaches young people archery skills

By David Gray

Joella Bates, 11-time 3-D Archery World Champion

If you follow competitive archery, Joella Bates is a name that stands out. Among Joella’s many accomplishments, she is an 11-time 3-D Archery World Champion. Even more impressive is that she won five of the championships using a Compound Bow, five with a Recurve Bow and one with a Long Bow.

Add to her individual accomplishments being a team member on Team USA’s 2017 World Archery 3-D championship win.

For all who meet Joella, it only takes 30 seconds to become infected with her enthusiasm and energy for helping youngsters learn archery.

As a kid she grew up in the outdoors. Her Dad was an outdoor guy. Joella says, “I was my Dad’s shadow.” When he went to the woods or the lake he took me and introduced me to wonderful world of hunting, fishing and shooting.

The shooting however was not with a bow. It was always with a rifle. Using what Dad had taught her and her considerable competitive spirit, she developed an exceptional skill with the rifle. In college at the University of Tennessee, she soon found herself on the college rifle team.

Still, archery was not part of her life.   Her first memory of shooting a bow was at a 4-H Conservation Camp event when she was in the ninth grade. At the camp, the 4-H kids could shoot at the rifle range and the instructor let them compete for snacks. When Joella kept winning all the snacks the instructor finally said, “Why don’t you go try archery.” That’s when the magic started to happen.

Her first memory shooting a bow was not good. She only remembers the string hitting her arm and it hurt. Determined to figure out how to shoot a bow and wanting to win a trip to a 4-H Round Up event, Joella asked her Dad to help. He brought out his old compound for practice and she only remembers losing seven of his arrows.

While in college the family firearms where lost in a home burglary. Her guns were gone, but Dad knew she wanted to figure out how to shoot a bow, so he bought Joella a used Indian compound.

The bow did not fit, but she practiced. The draw length was too long and Joella remembers, “I ended up black, blue and purple all over.”

In 1989 after college, working with Tennessee Wildlife Research, a coworker offered, “I have a friend who owns a bow shop and he can set up one to fit you. If you learn to shoot it I will take you bowhunting.” At 28 years of age, Joella got her first bow properly set up with instruction on how to shoot it.

Her skills learned from rifle hunting helped. After much practice, she was invited to go bowhunting.

Joella says, “That was another giant learning experience. I had a world record case of Buck Fever and missed my first five deer. Later that first season, I did harvest my first bowhunting deer.”

In 2001, Joella began traveling, hunting, fishing, writing and speaking about the sports. “I was not getting rich, but I was paying the bills and making many friends.”

She received invitations to hunt around the world.

Joella is the first lady hunter to take the “Big 5 of Africa” bowhunting and the first lady to arrow the “Turkey Grand Slam.”

A love for teaching archery and especially helping young people to get started the right way, lead to the start of JoCamps. This is an archery instruction school that travels to the community the students live in which saves travel time and expenses for the students and parents.

Joella with former JoCamp students Trevor Funcannon and Brooke Hultz

JoCamps include the National Training System used to prepare archers for the Olympics and International competition.

At the recent MONASP (Missouri National Archery in Schools Championship), Joella…while tutoring young shooters, reunited with Brooke Hultz and Trevor Funcannon, former JoCamp participants.

Trevor said, “Joella actually teaches you how to be a better shot, her methods are very effective.”

Brooke said, “The JoCamp method is different and really works.”

Joella Bates can shoot, but to share and teach archery is what she loves the most.

If you have a youngster or archery team interested in a JoCamps archery
training event contact  joella@jocamps.com.

 

Campfire’s Light the Night

  • Gentle flames dance and flicker before you
  • Light the night, cook food, share time
  • Story-telling, memories, peaceful thinking – its magical

By Larry Whiteley

Flames flicker and dance in a dark night sky.

There’s something really special about time spent around a campfire. Smoke drifts away or gets in your face. Wood crackles and pops. Flames dance and flicker. Sparks float hypnotically upward into a dark night sky.

A campfire makes you feel better. It warms you to the bone. Magically it takes away stress and pressure no matter where it’s at.  It could be deer or turkey camp, on the banks of a river or lake, on top of a mountain or down in a valley, during a camping trip or in your backyard. It really doesn’t matter because they’re all magical.

Around campfires, there are no TV’s or electronic gadgets. There are no smart phones (just turn them off). There are only friends and family, quiet and perfect solitude.

Campfires are for cooking food, lighting the night and keeping warm. They are for sharing memories of other times and other places, talking about loved ones and old friends who are no longer here, the big one that got away or missing the buck of a lifetime. We turn our backsides to the warmth of its flames, but still shiver as our eyes widen listening to someone tell ghost stories.

Campfires are where grandkids roast marshmallows and share time with their Papaw. They are a place to watch the flames dance as the worry of the work week melts away. They are a place for fish fry’s, cookouts and fellowship.

It’s easy to sit and watch the flames play for hours while someone tells stories or you just listen to night sounds. Flames of a campfire are soothing and always changing. As a campfire dies down to coals, the night slowly takes over and you know when it’s time to crawl into your sleeping bag, or your own bed, until morning comes.

To have a good campfire, you first have to know how to build one. Start by making a foundation of tinder using an old bird’s nest, dryer lint, pine needles and cones or fire cubes you can buy in your local outdoor store.

Good tinder makes a good fire.

On top of the tinder crisscross small pieces of kindling like small twigs or thin pieces of wood scraps making sure there is plenty of room for air circulation.

Now light your tinder from below not on top to get both it and the kindling going.

Keep adding kindling until you start getting a bed of coals and then gradually add bigger pieces of wood while you still leave room for air circulation. Now sit back and enjoy your time around the campfire you built.

Heat from a campfire is also used to cook food. The warmth of the food feeds your body from the inside which is the only real way to keep your body temperature up.

Campfire cooking should be done over a fire that has hot coals rather than flames. Flames have less heat and more soot which blackens pots. Coals have a more even heat so food is cooked perfectly well. Food cooked over campfire coals just tastes better. It could be a shore lunch on a Canadian lake, grilled venison at deer camp or just hot dogs and s’mores in the backyard.

Food just tastes better cooked on a campfire.

One of my favorite times around a campfire is in winter or early spring before the sun starts the day. While my wife still sleeps, I quietly head outside to build a campfire in the backyard fire pit. It doesn’t matter how cold it is and if it’s snowing that’s all the better, I still go. Flames reflecting off the snow are beautiful.

The best time is when the sky is still dark and millions of stars sprinkle the night sky. The wood sizzles and pops, the flames dance, the smell of wood smoke drifts through the air. It’s a quiet time. Not many people are up early like me. I warm myself by the fire and sip my coffee.

I think of my wife, my kids, my grandkids, my friends and how I am truly grateful for them.  I think of my God and how much he has truly blessed me. I look up and thank him for the great outdoors that he created for us to enjoy and take care of.

I thank Him for time in a treestand watching sunrises through the trees and waiting for a deer to come by my secret hiding place. I thank Him that I am still thrilled to find a deer antler or a mushroom. I thank Him that a turkey gobble still gets my heart beating faster. I thank Him for the sounds of loons and elk bugles. I thank Him for time on the water, catching fish or just paddling. I thank Him for campsites and hiking trails.

My thoughts turn to all the outdoor memories I have made with my kids and grandkids. I sure hope there are many more to come before God calls me home. I stir the fire, watch the sparks and wipe away a tear. Smoke must have got in my eyes. Time around a campfire is something really special,

‘WomenHuntFishNY’ Photo Contest Winners from NYSDEC

  • Six Winners Selected out of 2,000 Entries

In celebration of International Women’s Day (March 8) and Women’s History Month, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos announced the winners of the 2018 “WomenHuntFishNY” statewide photo contest.

“In DEC’s first-ever statewide photo contest to celebrate women who hunt and fish in New York, we received an overwhelmingly positive response from women across the state. New York’s sportswomen were eager to share their photos and stories from their outdoor adventures,” said Commissioner Seggos. “We thank everyone who participated in the contest for their amazing submissions and appreciate their support for DEC’s ongoing efforts to encourage more New Yorkers to get outside and enjoy hunting and outdoor recreation.”

After the contest was announced late last year, DEC received more than 2,000 photo entries, accompanied by hundreds of inspiring stories. The winning hunting images were divided into six categories:

Winning entries will be featured in this year’s New York State Hunting and Trapping Regulations Guide and future issues of the Conservationist magazine, in social media posts, on the DEC website, and other outreach efforts. While this fall’s contest focused on women hunters, DEC also received hundreds of fishing photos that will automatically be entered in a fishing photo contest that will be announced later this spring.

According to the most recent National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and

Opening Day Traditions, Memories for Life

  • Fishing, hunting, warm, cold – you gotta go!
  • Keeping young, no matter your age
  • Remembering my dad
In keeping with tradition, a crowd of fishermen showed up March 1 at Bennett Spring State Park for opening day of the Missouri trout season. Photo by Brent Frazee

By Brent Frazee

I have always been fascinated by the tradition involved in fishing and hunting.

Opening day of deer season.   Spending time with a lifelong friend or relative in a fishing boat.  Days in the field with an old bird dog   And the fishermen’s unofficial first day of spring, the Missouri trout opener.

They all elicit images of the romance in our outdoor sports that the anti’s could never understand.  It’s reminiscing about days with a friend or relative who is no longer with us, of an unforgettable day of fishing, of a big buck that showed up out of nowhere, of a day when the weather presented a formidable challenge.

We take memories of those days to our old age, thumbing through faded pictures of long-ago fishing trips or reminiscing about special moments long after we are no longer able to participate.

I’ll never forget the last time I talked to my dad before he passed away. “Do you remember Arnie?” he said in almost a whisper.

Arnie was our guide the first time my dad took me to Canada. I was just a little guy and I was thrilled that I would get to meet a real Indian.

Arnie was colorful, to say the least. He drove us to the boat ramp in a beat-up truck with a door that wouldn’t shut, a motor that coughed and sputtered, and seats that were so worn that the foam was showing.

Arnie guided us to the trip of a lifetime, showing us where to catch giant northern pike. My dad and I reminisced about those days often, especially when there was a lull in our conversation.

We didn’t talk about the little-league games my dad coached, the big-city vacations we took, the trips to our family farm or the many major-league games we went to.

We talked about special times together in a fishing boat.

I see how many other people bond the same way.  And I smile.

Photo by Brent Frazee

Tradition is a big part of who we are as fishermen and hunters.

In my world, nowhere is that more evident than at Bennett Spring State Park in south-central Missouri.

The park celebrated its 95th trout opener on March 1, most of them as a destination managed by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and stocked by the Department of Conservation.

Some fishermen will try to tell you that they have been to every one of them – but then, you know how fishermen like to stretch the truth.

Still, there are many who have been attending the opener for many years and wouldn’t miss one, no matter what.

Over the years, I have interviewed many of those proud old-timers and have taken delight in their stories.

Chet Snyder of Grandview, Mo., comes to mind. He is 85 and still makes sure he gets back to Bennett on opening day every year.

He has been fishing the opener for 63 years and he won’t let anything hold him back.

“We’ve driven on icy roads, through snow storms, in real cold weather, but we’ve always gotten there,” he said. “It’ something I won’t miss. It’s tradition.”

When I talked to him several years ago, his dedication to follow tradition was especially impressive. He suffered a seizure less than week before the opener and he was released from the hospital only days earlier.

He asked for the doctor’s OK to travel to Bennett for the opener, and he got it. His son did the driving and he was back on the water.

Snyder returned for this year’s opener with his sons Chuck and Curtis and his grandson Cody. He cast for a short time, but a problem with his balance kept him from going at it as hard as he once did. Still, he was there, and that’s all that mattered in his mind.

But Snyder certainly isn’t in a class by himself at Bennett. Walk into the park store and you’ll hear others talking about how long they have been coming to Bennett for the trout opener.

I suppose I have a streak of my own. I have been attending the Missouri trout opener since 1980 when I started working at The Kansas City Star—most of them at Bennett, but a few at Roaring River. Now that I’m retired, I still go back, using the trip as an excuse to do an article for one of the media outlets for which I freelance.

I enjoy talking to old friends, making new ones, and reminiscing about past openers.

It’s tradition, and I’m not ready to give that up.

Sacred Whisper of Wind Songs in the Valley

  • Sunset, sunrise, nature, people, life – joined by ancient mystical melody
  • Sacred, spiritual, mythical – outreach of Native American harmony
  • End of the day stress relief for modern America
The haunting, mystical sounds of the Native American flute

By Larry Whiteley

I don’t remember the first time I heard the melodic sounds of a Native American flute, but the music still lingers in my soul. It is to most who hear it, an almost spiritual experience.

Legend has it that a woodpecker pecked holes in a cedar limb and gifted a young brave the first flute, but it wouldn’t play. He had to first humble himself before it would sing. Since the heart of the cedar had been removed from the flute, it was his duty as a flute player to replace it with his own heart when he played.

Mountain Men called the music they heard “wind songs”

I love to read about the time when America’s Mountain Men traveled through the mountains and valleys of the west, hunting and trapping animals for their fur. It was a tough life, but I sometimes wish I had lived back then. They often heard the haunting sound of the flutes and called the mystical music “wind songs.”

The Native American flute is the only melodic wind instrument belonging to the people of this continent and the only instrument indigenous exclusively to America. The oldest Native American flute is the Beltrami Native American flute. It was collected by the Italian explorer, Giacomo Constantino Beltrami, while on a journey through present-day Minnesota in 1823.

Made mostly of cedar or river cane, they were used by many tribes for many different reasons. Some tribes used the flute for ceremonial purposes, in others, young braves would use it to try and win the hand of their hopeful bride to be. Mostly though, the flute was used to empty one’s self of all the things which could not be expressed in words. North American flute music is natural stress relief. In this crazy world we live in today, maybe we all need to learn to play a Native American flute or at least listen to their music to escape the craziness.

“Wind Songs” sweep through the valley. Photo courtesy of Missouri Department of Conservation

Since the first time I heard a Native American flute something within me wanted to know more about it. How are they made? What gives them their beautiful sound? Can a musically challenged person like myself learn to play one?

I consider flutes as not just a musical instrument, but also a work of art. Besides cedar and cane flutes they also make flutes of ash, maple, mahogany, blood wood, ebony, Alaskan yellow cedar and other woods from all over the world. Each has its own distinct sound and beauty when crafted by the hand of a master.

The flute is one of the easiest wind instruments to play. Minor tuning makes it easy because more notes go together than most contemporary instruments. A beginning flute player does not need to know conventional music when learning to play these instruments. It is a tool for self-expression. This simplicity allows non-trained individuals to be able to pick up the flute and make pleasing sounds within a matter of minutes. Master flute makers will tell you they have never sold a flute because a flute sells itself.

You don’t have to play songs on a flute that everyone knows. Simply play what is in your heart. Look to a sunset or sunrise, the valleys and mountains, the streams and lakes, the wildlife and wild flowers. The world of nature contains countless songs. Look there for inspiration and play what you feel.

Native American flutes and lessons may be available in your area. You can also go online and order a flute, an instruction book, listen to flute music or order accessories. These special Native American instruments, treated with care, will bring a lifetime of musical pleasure.

It is a beautiful early spring day. I sit on a special tree stump high on a hill overlooking a valley near the Mark Twain National Forest of southern Missouri. An eagle is flying in a bright blue sky.

A bald eagle flying in a bright blue sky. Photo courtesy Missouri Dept. of Conservation

I think of the Native Americans and how this was their land before the white man stole it from them. I think of how they took care of their land and tried to protect it from the white man’s onslaught. I think of how they honored the game when they took its life to feed their family. I think of how they didn’t waste any part of the animal and only took what they needed. They were the first conservationist’s. They fought only to protect what was theirs.

My flute in hand, I play from my heart. It is an escape from this crazy world for just a little while out in nature away from it all. As I play, I also think of the Mountain Men listening to the haunting, mystical sounds of “wind songs” in the distance, sweeping through the valley.

We are connected.

 

A School Program THAT’S RIGHT ON TARGET!

  • Student archery participation improves school attendance, increases student confidence, improves student behavior
  • All students are equal, not based on popularity, athletic skill, gender, size, or academic ability
  • MoNASP State Tournament will run March 22 – 24, 2019 at Branson Convention Center in Branson, Missouri
All students can learn and compete in the Missouri Archery in the Schools Program (MoNASP).

By Larry Whiteley

In 2001, Roy Grimes was the Deputy Commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources. He was assigned the task of creating what eventually became the National Archery in the Schools Program better known as NASP®.

Roy designed it as an in-school program to aim at improving educational performance among students in grades 4 – 12. Through the sport of archery, he wanted them to learn focus, learn self-control, discipline, patience, and the life lessons required to be successful in the classroom and in life.

Since the program officially started in 2002, it has seen over 10 million kids all over America discover a great activity that doesn’t discriminate based on popularity, athletic skill, gender, size, or academic ability. The program is open to any student and the biggest supporters are professional educators, because student participation improves school attendance, increases student confidence, improves behavior and provides them with increased exercise in the form of physical activity.

In 2007, the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) agreed to coordinate the Missouri Archery in the Schools Program (MoNASP). In these last eleven years, more than half a million Missouri students have participated. There are now 690 Missouri schools that participate and over 200,000 students that are learning the lifetime sport of archery and all the rest that MoNASP teaches as part of the school curriculum.

Last year, more than 3,100 Missouri kids from 140 schools competed in the state competition in Branson, MO  and were watched by over 10,000 spectators. 1,490 of the kids that qualified, made the trip to Louisville, KY for the NASP National Championships. Some 129 Missouri students went on to the NASP World Tournament!

The MoNASP State Tournament is now the second largest state archery tournament in the nation and continues to grow. This year, the Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation (MCHF) will again partner with MDC to host the tournament from March 22 – 24, 2019, at the Branson Convention Center in Branson, MO. This year they are expecting 3,700 students to compete with more than 15,000 spectators. Proceeds from the event support MoNASP programs and conservation programs in Missouri.

There will also be an ASPIRE MoNASP Tournament for students who do not have a position at the state tournament due to space. This group will also include students who weren’t able to shoot a state qualifying score this year.

Student archery participation improves school attendance, increases student confidence, improves student behavior.

Even if you don’t have a child or grandchild taking part in the tournament, it’s a great event to watch and cheer on these kids. Plus, there are lots of other activities you can also enjoy over the three days of the event. Bass Pro Shops will have their Indoor/Outdoor Days with catch and release fishing, archery activities, bounce houses, air guns and animals from the Johnny Morris Wonders of Wildlife Museum & Aquarium.

Russ and Diskey – the Frisbee Stunt Dog Team, will also be there along with Mountain Man from Duck Dynasty. There will be special shows by Dolly Parton’s Stampede and Presley’s Country Jubilee. The World’s Largest Sidewalk Sale will be held at Tanger and The Landing.  RVs, boats, ATVs and archery exhibitors will be on display along with a Corvette Club Show. You can even attend the Sip the Ozarks event and sample Missouri wine, spirits and beer.

Business sponsorship opportunities are also still available and are a great way to help these kids and conservation too, as well as gain positive public exposure for the business.

For more information and to book hotel rooms, go to www.mochf.org and click on the MONASP drop down.

A Christmas Letter from PaPaw to his Grandkids

My Christmas letter to my grandkids starts with God and unforgettable memories.

Dear Grandkids,

I know most of your communication in today’s world is through social media and you don’t like to read something as long as this letter, but please do! One day all the gifts you get will be gone, but my Christmas letter to you will last forever.

As you continue your journey on this earth, always remember to keep God first, family second and all other things third. Let that be your guide and you will have a good life. You will make mistakes and you will have problems, but those things help develop your character. Having the morality to always to do what is right, not just what is convenient, is important.

Never get too old or too cool to give your parents and grandparents a hug and tell them you love them. If it were not for their sacrifices and guidance none of you would be the fine young people you have turned out to be. Someday you will have your own family. Always hug them and always tell them you love them.

Sam fishing in his kayak and catching fish.

I hope as you get older you will continue to discover the many wonders of nature like you have through these first years of your life. God created an amazing place for us get out and enjoy. It is worth much more than wealth and all the problems wealth can cause. It is also a wonderful place to escape and get away from the pressures of this crazy world we live in.

My wish for each of you is that God’s great outdoors in all its wonder will always be an inseparable part of who you are. May you always be amazed when you see a big buck sneaking through the woods near your secret hiding place, an eagle flying in a bright blue sky, the beauty created by magnificent sunrises and sunsets, the tapestry of colors in a fall woods, a field of wildflowers in spring, beautiful sights from a mountain trail and camping out under a million stars that light the dark night sky.

Ty with a nice bass on a Wisconsin fishing trip.
A smiling Hunter with a nice Smallmouth Bass.

May you never get tired of the sounds of geese as they head south for the winter, a turkey’s gobble in the spring, the haunting sound of a loon or the majestic bugle of an elk, bird songs filling the air, ducks coming into your decoys and the sound of water as you quietly paddle a river or lake.

May the smell of decaying leaves in a deer woods and campfire smoke around a tent or in your own backyard always bring back memories of simpler times in special places. I hope that the tug of a fish on the end of your line will always thrill you more than anything you could ever buy in a store or online.

Hunter, I hope you always remember catching crawdads, your first turkey hunt with me and dad, time with your papaw in a tree stand, how proud dad and I were for you when you got your first deer and an unforgettable fishing trip with me and dad.

Anna, I hope you always remember you and your papaw riding the ATV and singing songs, your first turkey, your first deer and the day I handed you my camera. You loved taking pictures of wildflowers, butterflies and other neat stuff and still do.

Anna’s first turkey, a special day!

Ty and Sam, I hope you always remember riding ATVs, fishing in the Northwood’s and at the Missouri cabin. Grandma and I loved the trips we made to Wisconsin bringing you bows, BB guns, pellet guns, deer rifles, hunting clothes and fishing equipment. I sometimes wish you didn’t live so far away so we could have made even more outdoor memories together.

Always remember all the outdoor memories we have made together and that you have made with mom, dad and each other. I hope for each of you, that your future spouse will love the outdoors, or learn to, and together you will teach your kids and grandkids to go make memories.

I know you are all busy and even though my buddy Ty calls me the “old man,” I am still ready to go make a few more outdoor memories with my grandkids. Call me, text me, Instagram me or whatever you do. You could even write me a letter.

Don’t ever forget that Grandma and I are always here for you when you need us.

Love you all to God and back!
Papaw

The Outdoor Guys – Radio for Outdoor Sportsman

 

By Forrest Fisher
The way of the future includes modern sportsmen on the move. As we travel from place to place to fish, hunt, shoot, hike or camp, it can pay dividends to hear fresh advice from the experience of seasoned outdoors folks through podcasts (that include re-playable radio shows). It’s one easy way to keep up, no matter where we are.

Outdoor Guys Radio is a weekly outdoor show, dedicated to hunting, fishing, shooting, and the great outdoors. Airing on ESPN 99.3 FM and 1510 AM in Kansas City since 2011, listeners can catch the show every Friday afternoon from 3-4:00 Central on ESPN Kansas City or on Saturday morning from 9-10:00 Central on Sports Byline USA.

Avid outdoorsman and outdoors writer, Ken Taylor, has been a host of Outdoor Guys Radio since the show began in 2011. Ken has been hunting and fishing since he was old enough to pick up a BB gun, and is passing that passion on to his two sons. Both boys love to hunt and shoot, and are also avid fisherman. Ken credits his dad with instilling in him a love for hunting, fishing, and all things outdoors. Thanks mostly to his understanding wife, Ken spends over 90 days a year hunting and fishing. Ken enjoys hunting big game, upland birds and waterfowl in both Kansas and Missouri. The rest of his year is spent fishing on their home lake, shooting at Powder Creek Gun Club and training Ruby and Belle, the family’s Vizslas. Adds Ken, “Ruby and Belle are our most reliable hunting partners!”

The show features the best of regional and national experts, providing listeners with informative news, tips, destinations, and even a wild game recipe or two. In addition to the on-air shows, segments are also available through our podcast page and on iTunes. Each week, Outdoor Guys Radio hosts the best of local, regional and national experts in hunting, fishing, shooting and the Great Outdoors.

A few of “The Guys” who regularly contribute to the show include such national celebrities as Brandon Butler, Executive Director of the Conservation Federation of Missouri: Brandon is an avid outdoorsman, prolific writer, and a great defender of the rights of sportsmen; Jared Wiklund, Public Relations Specialist for Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever: Jared provides listeners great insight into habitat and upland birds; Dr. Grant Woods, GrowingDeer.TV: Dr. Woods is a renowned biologist, game management expert, and the host of Growing Deer TV; Jim Zaleski, Outdoors Writer: “Jimmy Z” is an accomplished outdoors writer, fisherman, and radio host. He brings a wealth of fishing and hunting knowledge to the show. In addition, Zaleski is the Director of Tourism for Labette County, KS; and many other notable outdoor guys.

Sports Byline USA: Outdoor Guys Radio is broadcast every Saturday morning on Sports Byline USA! Sports Byline USA airs on over 200 markets across the United States. Click here for a listing of stations that carry Outdoor Guys Radio.

Outdoor Guys Radio on SB USA is also heard around the globe on over 500 stations in 168 countries on American Forces Radio.

Missouri Winter Walk…Serendipity and Treasure

A Special Find On A Special Day

  • Finding Something You Were Not Looking For…

By Larry Whiteley

A holey rock mobile, seems very special, origin unknown.

I sit on a river gravel bar letting the sun soak its warmth deep into my bones. It’s only December, but it’s already been a long winter and it felt good. Birds were singing. Like me, they were tired of the cold too and were celebrating with song. The sound of flowing water blended with their chorus.

As my mind wanders, I poke around in rocks of all sizes and shapes that surround me. How long had they been there? Where had they come from? How did the holes get in some of the rocks? What are the fossils in some of them?

Did you know rocks are like clouds? If you look real close you see things in them. This one looks like the state of Texas, this one like a heart. Here’s one that looks like Dolly Parton. Sometimes your mind sees crazy things when you sit alone on a gravel bar on a mild winter’s day.

I stack all the “holey” rocks I find in a pile. Some will be slipped on to a length of wire and hung in trees around the house to serve as weather rocks. When you want to know what the weather is you just look outside at the rocks. If they are wet it’s raining, if they are white it’s snowing, if they are moving it’s very, very windy. Others will be used to make things like mobiles, refrigerator magnets handles for drawers, necklaces, bracelets, and whatever else my mind comes up with.

The rocks are dull shades of black, gray, tan, brown and white. Some sparkle when the light hits them just right. Most are worn smooth from being tumbled through the water. The flat, smooth rocks are what I am looking for now. These are “skipping” rocks.

All Kids Need to Learn how to Skip A Rock

I stand, stretch, and position my feet just right, look out at the water and with a sidearm motion send the first “skipping” rock flying across the water. Six skips! Not bad, but I can do better. Four skips! That was a bad throw. My feet must have slipped. Eight skips! That’s better. As I continue to try and beat my record, I think about how I taught my sons to skip rocks and they now teach their sons to be champion rock skippers. All kids need to learn how to skip rocks.

I bend down to pick up another “skipping” rock and I see it. The sun is shining on it like a beacon guiding me to it. I kneel down, lift it from the gravel and hold it gently in my hand like a precious jewel. “An arrowhead, I found an arrowhead!”

I shout silently to myself.

As I turn it in my hand I think about the hands of the Native American who made it. How old was he? How long ago did he make it? What tribe was he from? Where did they live in this valley? What was it like back then? Was this used to take a rabbit or deer to help feed his family? This was a special moment. This was serendipity.

According to Webster serendipity means to find something you were not looking for. Now, I would have never known that if not for a lady I know that is a big fan of Webster and knows the meaning of words I have never even heard of. The moment she said the word and gave me its meaning, I knew I had experienced serendipity several times in my life. The arrowhead was just another time I found something I was not looking for – serendipity.

A Special Find on a Special Day

On another unusually mild winter day several years ago, I was riding my ATV down an old logging road when a squirrel ran across in front of me. I followed the path of the squirrel as he ran through the woods. My eyes stopped at the sight of something white sticking up through the brown leaves. I hit the brakes on the ATV and backed up. What is that? Probably a limb or just some kind of fungus I thought.

Normally I would have just rode on, but this day I walked toward the white shape to find out what it was. My heart skipped a beat when I saw it was the shed antler of an 8-point buck. As I held it enjoying its beauty, I thought about how unique the antlers of a whitetail buck really are. Like finger prints, no two are alike. Since then, I have learned where and how to look for shed antlers and have found many of them. However, I will always remember the first one and the day I found something I wasn’t looking for – serendipity!

Deer Sheds in Hiding Offer a Special Sort of Serendipity.

I also remember hiking in the woods one winter. Spring woods are filled with wild flowers and budding leaves.

Fall woods offer a kaleidoscope of color and summer woods are ticks and chiggers and snakes.

Winter woods are quieter with the faint musky smell of decaying leaves.

Trees and bushes are bare allowing you to see things that might have gone unnoticed any other time.

You might see icicles hanging off a rock bluff sparkling like diamonds in the sunlight, a bleached out turtle shell, unusually shaped trees, animal tracks or even the animal that made them.

You Never Know What You Will Find Alone On A Gravel Bar.

On this particular day, I suddenly realized I was walking along an old road bed. Trees had grown up in its path but if you looked hard enough you could still see where others had gone many years ago. As I walked, I wondered who had used this road. Was it loggers, lead miners, soldiers, or people who lived here?

I kept following the old road until it crossed a dry creek bed. There, lying half buried in the gravel was the metal rim off a wagon wheel. Here, at this place, a long time ago, they tried to cross this creek and the wagon wheel must have broken. In my mind’s eye, I could see it happening. The wood of the wheel had long returned to the earth but the rusted metal rim remained to be found by me when I wasn’t looking for it – serendipity!

One spring, I was hiking to a special little waterfall deep in the woods that I liked to go to. I had been there many times but this time I went a little different way than normal. As I followed the sounds of the water I came by a big flat rock and sitting upright on the rock, was a soda pop bottle that dated back to the 1940’s.

Like me, someone else enjoyed coming to the little waterfall. The bottle they had been drinking from had remained where they had set it for over 60 years. I came along and found it even though I wasn’t looking for it – serendipity!

I hope there are many more serendipity’s to come in my life and in yours. Those special places, special people, special times and special things that come along when you are not looking for them – serendipity!

 

Outdoors Apocalypse, “New Kids” can provide New Leadership

Help raise funds to help the Conservation Alliance protect wild lands and waters across North America for future generations.

  • New Ecology, New Nature, New Adventure
  • New Gear, New Kids…Old Fun in a New Way

By Forrest Fisher

Teddy Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota can offer a new view to age-old rocks and mountain formations – a great place to explore.

Summer is warmer and starts earlier, winter is warmer and shorter. We have a longer rainy season each year. Modern generations are convinced that nature is changing. 

New forms of fun have evolved to welcome millions of millennials to the outdoors where they escape to thrills with a welcome rush of fun, sometimes for just a moment or two.

The “new kids” bungee cord, hike, run, breathe fresh air, hear the surf crashing, ski downhill on snow-covered mountains, skin dive to photo-shoot fish on coral reefs – any of these a short flight from home. A usual manner of departure for their modern millennial day. They enjoy the wind moving through their hair, are protected from UV rays with modern sunscreen and meet accepted new standards of our apparent new age.

Outdoor participation is in a state of change in our modern outdoors, but it is about the millennial modern perspective, insulated within a well-planned, undeterred call for momentary adrenaline through nature. Then it’s back to work. Some millennials work 20 hour days, mostly on a keyboard.

As we approach Thanksgiving, is it time to rethink the feast of nature?

There are times when the truth of the woods, nature itself, is under question by the city folks, many millennials themselves. The new nature includes getting lost and resting easy to find yourself, sometimes in solitude, sometimes with a friend.

A roll-up air mattress that fits into the backpack with comfort to be found in a pop-up camp tent to enjoy a great night of sleep under the stars.

Pinnacle Dualist Complete is a great pocket-sized camp set for hiking and biking.

In your backpack, you remove your Pinnacle Dualist, it is the ultimate mess kit with stove and tiny isobutane fuel supply – total weight: 27 ounces. The kit integrates everything for hot meals and warm drinks in an impossibly small footprint.

No plastics allowed, no cigarettes, just filtered stream water, sustainable supplies, all with efforts to provide for a better future in nature and time away.

A clean future.

A green future.

A sustainable future.

Maybe these “new kids” reached their campsite on a rock-proof mountain bike. New products today can provide increased range for adventure.

Silence is the special gift of such new adventure, interrupted only by the sound of a lazy campfire, glimmering fireflies from a nearby field and woods. There is expectation for surprise looking skyward for a meteor to zoom across the night darkness.

That’s a moment to make a timely wish for peace in the world.

Nature by itself is a natural celebrity. A place where your internal clock is secure and a new secret to sync your body system is discovered. The “new kids” live true with such adventure.

Microlite Stainless Vacuum bottle is efficient, lightweight and affordable.

There is time to write a handwritten letter to someone you know that needs a letter.  A sip of purified mountain water from your Microlite water bottle that keeps liquids hot or cold for all day. Delicious.  

Nature is truly grand.

Morning light provides a new connection to the day ahead. It’s hard to miss the “new day” vindication of mixed color, hues of yellow, orange and red. It’s a beautiful planet you think to yourself.  You sense a new and sudden perfection with nature at this moment. You welcome your relaxed state of mind.

Friendship, wildlife, nature, conservation – all linked at this moment. 

Your mind wanders a bit, then you think back to mankind centuries old to realize the bonus, this is the same morning sunlight that people 5,000 years ago watched come over the horizon. So times have not changed, you option in thought. You do know though, that this overnight experience has provided an uplift for you.

Nature is truly grand.

Human nature is a bit like Mother Nature with the seasons of spring, summer, winter and fall, you imagine. The seasons restore each other. Maybe Mother Nature has not changed all that much then or, you option, maybe it has. There is time to ponder this question.

Can there be a new algorithm to slow down this latest “new kids” generation that seeks to find instant solutions through the assortment of so many keyboard tools.

Jeans, T-shirt, sneakers, ball cap and sunglasses is all you really need to “fit in.” Soong as you have a battery cord and charger.

So we ask, “Is this the new nature or the old nature? “The “new kids” nature is…you accept, extraordinary.

Some parts of our planet can provide an age-old view into our changing nature.

Sunset arrives with an orange glow.

The clouds rest.

The wind is silent now too.

An owl hoots in a nearby tree.

It’s time for millennials to join up with nature to find adventure in the outdoors.  It’s time for millennials to understand why hunting and fishing are important to our future and our ecology.

Us older folks could use the new leadership, don’t be afraid to ask us for a match.

Hunting Works for America Expands Again, Thanks to NSSF

  • Stakeholders educate public and elected officials about importance of hunting
  • Hunter taxes, fees, surcharges fund conservation efforts to benefit wildlife
  • Hunting Works For America program represents more than 1,500 businesses, organizations and associations across 19 states

By Bill Brassard

NEWTOWN, Conn. — The National Shooting Sports Foundation® (NSSF®), the trade association for the firearms industry, is proud to announce that the Hunting Works For America footprint has grown to include Maryland. Hunting Works For Maryland joins 18 other states, including most recently Ohio, as the 19th state to be included in the award-winning Hunting Works For America program.

Hunting Works For America, through its state chapters, is an initiative that seeks to bring a broad range of stakeholders together in order to educate the public and elected officials about the importance of hunting. Shooting sports organizations, conservation groups, businesses, and other non-traditional hunting entities such as chambers of commerce, convention and visitors bureaus and other trade associations, have come together to form Hunting Works For Maryland and share their interest in the economic impact of hunting.

The newly formed Hunting Works For Maryland partnership has more than 65 partner organizations and will be adding dozens more in the weeks and months to come.

“A strong appreciation for the outdoors and outdoor sports is evident in the money spent by the 88,000 people who hunt in Maryland every year,” said Chris Dolnack, NSSF Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer for NSSF. “Hunters contribute $32 million in state and local taxes each year, thanks to their considerable spending on their favorite pastime. The average hunter in Maryland spends $3,000 a year, which translates into $128 million in salaries and wages and an economic ripple effect of $401 million.”

Taxes, fees and surcharges that hunters pay when they purchase licenses, tags and equipment fund Maryland’s conservation efforts, which benefit game and non-game species, as well as anyone who enjoys the outdoors.

Hunting Works For Maryland launched today with a press conference across the street from the State House in the Annapolis Visitors Center. It is co-chaired by Deb Carter, Executive Director of the Maryland Association of Campgrounds; Ruth Toomey, Executive Director of the Maryland Tourism Coalition; Senator John Astle representing District 30; and Delores Jones state, General Manager of the Holiday Inn Express and Suites in Chestertown.

Hunting Works For America launched in 2010 with just three states: Arizona, Minnesota and North Dakota. Since then the program has grown, adding chapters in Iowa, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alabama, South Dakota, New York, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Utah. All totaled, the Hunting Works For America program now represents more than 1,500 businesses, organizations and associations representing tens of thousands of stakeholders.

Becoming a member of Hunting Works for Maryland is absolutely free of charge. Visit www.HuntingWorksforMD.com to learn more about becoming a partner and the program, including leadership, members, social media opportunities and local hunting seasons.

About NSSF: The National Shooting Sports Foundation is the trade association for the firearms industry. Its mission is to promote, protect and preserve hunting and the shooting sports. Formed in 1961, NSSF has a membership of more than 12,000 manufacturers, distributors, firearms retailers, shooting ranges, sportsmen’s organizations and publishers. For more information, log on to www.nssf.org.

Everyone Needs a Special Place

Wisconsin grandkids loved to find “Beautiful” rocks and holy rocks

  • A floating leaf in the current, watch it, discover an unmatchable journey
  • Listen…the sound of creek gurgle and babble, they play Nature’s music
  • Learn the outdoors from the same place through all seasons…a mesmerizing experience that never ends.

By Larry Whiteley

A special place for making memories

I close the book I was reading, lean back and watch the autumn leaves flutter through the air before landing on the glassy surface of the creek.

My eyes pick out a single leaf still clinging to the tree above me. It moves with the gentle breeze until a gust of wind causes it to relax its grip and start its dance to the water. The water slightly ripples when it lands and it just sits there for a moment as if resting. Then the current grabs it and it floats away. I watch as long as I can then wonder how far it will travel until it reaches its final resting place.

With the leaf gone, my eyes turn to the beauty of the trees reflecting in the water. My ears listen to the soothing sounds of flowing water. My mind wanders back to all the memories that have been made at this special place on this special creek.

It’s called Bull Creek. It starts as a gurgling spring and winds its way for many miles through the hills and valleys of the Missouri Ozarks. It meanders along under rusted bridges, past limestone bluffs, old cemeteries, open fields, and a cabin on the bluff above the creek.

Near the cabin, rushing water had carved out a deep hole, perfect for fishing, swimming, and snorkeling. It is here I now sit, book in hand and staring at the water, thinking about all the memories.

Here is where one grandson and a granddaughter caught their first fish. Now they’re grown and it won’t be long before they are taking their kids to catch their first fish.
Spring rains would always flood the banks. The awesome power of spring runoff was something to behold and fear. Spring also meant dogwoods, redbuds and wildflowers reflecting in the blue water. I would always listen for sounds of peeper frogs and kingfishers announcing that spring was here.

As early summer arrived, it was time to take the annual first swim of the year in this cold, spring-fed creek. The grandkids tradition was to push their PaPaw in and then laugh as I came up screaming and gasping for air. They always thought I was kidding, but I wasn’t.
As summer continued, this special place played host to family, friends, and neighbors. Fishing continued, air mattresses dotted the water and lawn chairs lined the banks.

Grandson Hunter Whiteley now fishes for the Kansas State University Bass Fishing Team.

Saving tadpoles trapped in little pools of water and moving them safely to the creek was a favorite grandkid activity. Catching crawdads was enjoyed by young and old alike. Those “rotten” grandkids would laugh again when PaPaw would get pinched by an upset crawdad.
The clear waters of Bull Creek made snorkeling a popular thing to do for everyone who visited. The underwater world is fascinating!

Bluegill would swim right up to your face or nibble at you as you floated along in the water. Bass and hog suckers didn’t want any thing to do with these homosapiens that had invaded their home and would skitter along ahead. Sunfish usually guarded their nest or hid back under a rock ledge. A multitude of colorful baitfish would swim around in schools, continually battling the swift water.

I remember the time I snorkeled under the water and took some real lobster claws and placed them where they stuck out under a rock ledge so they would look like the granddaddy of all crawdads lurking under a rock. I then watched as my neighbor Bob snorkeled closer and closer to where I had hidden them. I still laugh when I think about the look on his face when he came up out of the water.

Wisconsin grandkids loved to find “Beautiful” rocks and holy rocks.

If you were really lucky or unlucky depending on your fear of snakes, you might even get the opportunity to swim along with a 4-foot long water snake. No, it wasn’t a fake snake and no, I am not scared of snakes. At least as long as I knew they weren’t poisonous.

I was a little nervous once though, when I dangled a crappie jig in front of this same snake and he struck at it and caught the hook in his mouth. I didn’t have much experience unhooking a writhing, very mad, water snake, and was sure thankful the line broke before I had to figure it out.

When it was hot outside and you had the creek all to yourself, there was nothing cooler or more relaxing than heading to the creek, sitting a lawn chair in the water under the shade of a big old tree and reading a good book. I could usually get through a couple of chapters before the rippling water lulled me to sleep.

As summer gave way to fall, I still enjoyed taking a book to the creek. If grandkids came down we fished or had rock-skipping contests. When our Wisconsin grandkids came, they liked to find rocks with holes in them, or “beautiful” rocks, on the gravel bar.

PaPaw and granddaughter Anna (now a freshman in college)

This was the time of year when you might surprise a pair of wood ducks as they paddled along in the water, catch a glimpse of a whitetail deer or wild turkey at the waters edge, or even see a beaver busily working on his winter home.

Trips became infrequent when winter arrived. Sometimes I would wrap up warm and go there to see the frozen water along the banks. I was always hopeful I would see an eagle perched in a tree or flying overhead. If the day was not too cold, I would sit down, enjoy the peaceful serenity and think about all the things that took place there.

As the grandkids got older they stopped coming. This special place had lost its magic to them. They would rather go boating on big lakes or do other things. Now they’re off to college.

Grandma and I got older too, so we eventually sold the cabin on the bluff to a young couple with twin 6-year old girls. Now they make their own memories. I still come back once in a while to enjoy this special place on the creek.

The leaves continue to fall and now cover the water like a multi-colored blanket. I stand, put my book under my arm, wipe the tears from my eyes and soak in the beauty one more time before turning to get in my truck and go back home to grandma.

Everyone needs a special place to go make memories.

Rainbow Trout, Howling Coyotes, Bugling Elk and Fishing with Kids…a Labor of Educational Love

  • Fishing, Life, Discovery
  • Freshwater Streams, Insects, Dry Flies, Rainbow Trout
  • Autumn, Badlands, Sunrise, Adventure

By Buddy Seiner
The smell of a South Dakota autumn day can bring a rush of reactions within one’s brain. The strongest among them for me is the desire to fish, fueled mostly by memories of epic angling adventures of old.

Autumn fishing days just always seem to produce the perfect combination of scenery, serenity and success on the water. What better time, then, to take children fishing? The fish are hungry, food is prevalent and beautiful weather will have their sense of adventure tingling.

With National Public Lands Day gracing the United States on September 22, it made for a perfect excuse to take my children outside for a South Dakota adventure. And so, that is how we found ourselves camping in the back of my pickup truck at Iron Creek Lake, south of Spearfish, South Dakota, the evening prior to Public Lands Day.

Elk hunters and a few cabin owners were our only company this evening. The pack of coyotes howling over the ridge brought a backbone chill that made the kids shiver with excitement. A full moon shone through the tinted windows of my topper as we relaxed carefree under fleece blankets and zero degree sleeping bags. Sunrise for these kids would not need to hurry.

The next morning reminded me of how lucky I am. Despite temperatures in the low 40’s and cover jostling matches replacing precious sleep time, these kids were up before the sun and ready for our next adventure. No complaining, no whining, no challenges. Just positivity and a youthful exuberance that acted as a catalyst for my adventure anticipation. First on the schedule for our day celebrating public lands…fishing in the Black Hills National Forest.

The number one rule for fishing with kids is to give them plenty of opportunities to catch. Bluegills and perch will often play the role of prey in this situation, but on this day, hungry rainbow trout took the lead. Iron Creek Lake is full of them. Early morning ripples indicated a school of fish feeding along a shallow weedline.

As a fly angler, I’m always searching for feeding activity and possible food sources, and I’m constantly equipped with a box of Black Hill’s bugs, hand-tied to my liking, begging for the approval of any trout that will pay attention.

The aforementioned list of autumn attributes returns to relevancy when I write that the fish were hungry and the food was abundant. Small baitfish were stealthy and swimming about, pale morning duns (mayflies) were emerging from the weeds below the surface, and dragonflies were skimming the water in constant danger of becoming the next trout meal.
When fish are actively feeding on many different food sources, using a fly that will initiate an instinctive reaction can sometimes be the best bet. A small, unweighted, thin mint fly attached three or four feet below a clear bobber provides just enough weight to reach the threshold of hungry fish and it did not take long for them to accept our offering.

“FISH ON!” I exclaimed, hoping my kids would come running.

The oldest was first to respond, eagerly snatching the rod and taking over the tug-of-war battle.

A big rainbow trout emerged from the mirror-like lake and dove for the weedline. Before long, the shimmering scales of the rainbow were reflecting the early morning sun’s rays like a disco ball at a dance. Its colors brought audible sounds of surprise and wonder from the children. “It’s important to always keep a fish in the water,” I explained. If you are going to take a photo, do so very quickly. Four seconds out of the net, and back into the water went the hungry trout. The clear water provided the perfect window to watch as it swam back toward the feeding frenzy of fellow fish.

Boy, did we hook into fish that morning! Not all of them made it to net, however. Trout have an uncanny ability to throw a hook, unlike any other species, but that didn’t matter to any of us.

The reverberating echoes of “FISH ON!” hanging over the northern Black Hills that morning was enough to give any angling-minded individual a nice shot of dopamine (or a nagging rush of envy). By 9:30 we packed up and headed to Spearfish, South Dakota.
There is a lot that should and could be said about Spearfish, but I’ll just share that I plan to live there someday. That should suffice to indicate my level of appreciation for this town and the amenities that exist, and it is not only because of the great fishing. We began the morning at the Termesphere Gallery where the kids ooed and awed over spectacular art and a unique gallery setting. It is a must stop while in Spearfish.

The other never-miss location in Spearfish is the D.C. Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery and Archives. I did a story about it for the Fish Stories Archive, of course, the fish are always a highlight, but we also took time to tour the grounds, making a special stop in Ruby’s Garden. It’s a wonderful place to enjoy the quiet.

After lunch in the park, it was time to celebrate National Public Lands Day with a visit to Badlands National Park. This 244,000 acre park protects one of the most rugged, harsh, and spectacular environments on the planet. Bison, bighorn sheep and prairie dog sightings are all but guaranteed in this landscape, with many other species making possible cameos. We pulled into Sage Creek Campground and were immediately greeted by two large bull bison grazing the hills near the entrance. For it being midday, the campground was already occupied with many tents and vehicles.

The yellow jackets and tiny biting insects were also abundant, and the “sweltering” heat was an unwelcome surprise for late September. We quickly set up camp before seeking refuge from the bugs and heat in nearby Wall Drug. Wall Drug donuts are a thing of legend, so we purchased a few for the next morning’s breakfast before driving the Badlands Loop at sunset. The views were nothing short of spectacular. The kids were having a hard time retaining their appreciation for landscapes, but we were fortunate to find a long-eared owl in the town of Interior. It allowed us close enough to say hi, but did not want to be photographed. Darkness soon consumed the Badlands and we joined a caravan of other campers headed for Sage Creek.

The drive back to Pierre was more quiet than normal. I assume the 6-year-old and 2-year-old were just a bit worn from the short adventure. The 10-year-old finally piped up after 30 minutes of driving to prove that her silence was spent in careful reflection.

“Dad…thanks for taking us camping,” she said with a grin. “We are lucky kids.”

Click on the “Fish Stories” image to visit that website.

My tiny heart skipped a beat and likely grew a few sizes in that moment. Yet another reminder of how lucky I am to have kids that appreciate the outdoors and the experiences they have in them. Admittedly, that gratitude was not at all expected on my part, but it was exactly what I needed after a great weekend enjoying our public lands.

Buddy Seiner – President, Fishing Buddy Studios; Founder of Fish Stories Archive (http://fishstories.org/) and podcast Listen to some awesome Fish Stories.

Trinity Oaks – Making a Life-Changing Difference, Says “Hunter Outdoor Communications”

Trinity Oaks provides hunting, fishing and outdoor activities to make a meaningful difference in the lives of underprivileged kids, terminally ill children and combat veterans.

  • Provides Outdoor Adventure and Fun for Underprivileged Kids, Terminally ill Children, Combat Veterans
  • Offers Once-in-a-Lifetime Hunting and Fishing Experiences to Purple Heart Recipients
  • Honors the Caretakers of our Wounded Vets and Mentorship Fallen First Responders

SAN ANTONIO, TX – Sept. 24, 2018: Hunter Outdoor Communications’ public relations program for Trinity Oaks will encompass the development and implementation of an aggressive communications plan focusing on the organization’s traditional outdoor markets as well as new markets that will address the importance of hunting in conservation.

Trinity Oaks, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded on the premise that active participation in the outdoors is a powerful, healing, and fundamentally life-changing experience, announced today that they have partnered with Hunter Outdoor Communications to handle its public and media relations. This appointment is effective immediately.

“We are very excited to be working with Trinity Oaks, as we truly support and believe in the work of the organization to help people in need.” said Mike Nischalke, vice-president and owner, Hunter Outdoor Communications. “Trinity Oaks works with families of children with terminal illnesses and disabilities, disadvantaged children from the inner cities and surrounding communities. As a Marine Corps veteran, I was immediately drawn to this organization by the help and respect Trinity Oaks provides to combat veterans suffering from both emotional and physical wounds. We look forward to spreading the word about the work of the Trinity Oaks team.”

In 2007, San Antonio native Tom Snyder founded Trinity Oaks. The organization’s mission is to use hunting, fishing and outdoor activities to make a meaningful difference in the lives of underprivileged kids, terminally ill children and combat veterans. Each year, Trinity Oaks offers at least 50 events at no expense to those who can benefit from once-in-a-lifetime hunting or fishing experiences.

Every year, the organization hosts as many as 1,000 children living in difficult circumstances and teaches them how to respect and properly handle firearms. It also hosts fishing trips, quail and big-game hunts for these kids. Trinity Oaks facilitates Dream Trips hunting excursions for terminally ill kids who are passionate about hunting.

Dream Trips has become a hallmark of Trinity Oaks, and the organization honors Purple Heart recipients and combat veterans with hunting or fishing bucket-list trips to create lasting memories while providing emotional healing. Trinity Oaks also honors the caretakers of our wounded vets with an annual Holiday UnSung Heroes Retreat at its Guadalupe River Camp near San Antonio.

The StarKids Program forges lifelong mentorship relationships for children of fallen first responders through learning hunting and shooting skills with a peer-volunteer from the parent’s police force or squadron.

Trinity Oaks operates with a 98-percent volunteer base and two paid employees—a part-time executive director and a full-time meat processor—and all of its events, hunts and fishing trips are made possible by donations. Trinity Oaks’ Meat Mission Program is able to process more than 100,000 pounds of game meat per year. That equates to 9,000 pounds of processed meat per month, or more importantly, 1,150 wholesome, high-protein meals per day for soup kitchens, homeless shelters, group homes, and orphanages in Texas and northern Mexico.

All of these Trinity Oaks’ programs are organized from San Antonio and at sites across Texas, as well as through national and international partnerships with dozens of volunteers, nonprofits, and other agencies. For more information on Trinity Oaks, visit www.trinityoaks.org, or call 830-928-3085.

Light Wizards of the Midnight Woods

We discovered this book while visiting the Black Caddis Ranch B&B and it started us on a new adventure with the outdoors that we will enjoy or all time. Radim Schreiber Photo.

 

We can all connect to nature with our visits with fireflies. They seem to talk with us if you listen, especially in Tionesta, Pennsylvania. Click picture for a visit to the Firefly Experience. Radim Schreiber Photo

By Forrest Fisher

The half-moon rising in the distant eastern sky was dim and sheltered by scattered, giant, white clouds. The openings in the clouds allowed us to see millions of stars and the vastness of the Milky Way as we have never seen before. There were no streetlights anywhere within miles of this cheerful and peaceful mountaintop place and the crackle of the fire was adjusting to the new log. It provided the perfect music to especially enjoy this time of day.

Our adventure into the outdoors took a wonderful turn this summer when Peggy tossed a new log onto the simmering campfire. The sunset was just about complete, a stream of beautiful tinsel sparks rose upward. It was a warmly coded skyward message to life in the night woods, and to us, that darkness had arrived.

Rose, my wife of 49 years, had a warm smile like she often does, as she was discussing some fine points of nature and observing wildlife with our granddaughter. Kiley was completing a summer research internship for the State University of New York Environmental School of Forestry in Syracuse, New York, as a senior college student. I sensed that science and adventure were finding common ground. Rose had questions about the recipe to observe the ancient winged ancestors that lived here, just as they started to light nearby fields and forest.

Peggy’s sister, Barb was visiting with her two nieces, Molly (9) and Carly (12), and the girls had noticed the blinking lights of the fireflies too.  Molly noticed them first, “Aunt Peggy, look there! There they are! Wow! They’re beautiful!” Carly added, “Why do they light up and blink like that Aunt Barb?” A short silence followed as Barb looked to Peggy who prepared to answer, “Well, the fireflies that light up are the boy fireflies and they’re calling to the lady fireflies to show them where they are. They’re looking for a date. It’s that simple.”

The flight of the fireflies applauded with intricate light beams in a code that seemed to match the rhythm and Ukulele tone of music around the campfire.  

Peggy smiled. Barb smiled. Rose and Kiley smiled. Carly answered, “Oh, ok, I get it.”

Just then Molly rose from her fireside chair and ran onto the backyard lawn. Molly cheered, “Look at all the fireflies!” The back lawn was skirted by a knee-high grassland meadow around the backyard perimeter. Kiley went to Molly and added to the conversation about fireflies and explained the great job that her Aunt Peggy and Uncle Ken had done with helping everyone in the whole world understand more about fireflies at this ranch.

Rose and I shared thoughts about these intriguing airborne insects of the night. Do they carry a message for us all? It seems that fireflies offer magic and wonder to every outdoor adventure where the land and air is clean, like here, in the middle of this wonderful Pennsylvania woods just south of the Allegheny National Forest, in Tionesta, Pennsylvania.

We all sat there in awe of all the twinkling airborne light forms. Hundreds and hundreds of them. My mind transcended to an effortless zone of harmony and wonder for a moment, a thought-binding moment.

There is mystical, divine and magical experience from the light of a true firefly experience like this. I sat back into my chair and looked at the embers of the fire, then upward to the thousands of stars of the Milky Way shining bright. How lucky we were to be here.

Just then Kiley started to strum her Ukulele, sharing the chords played with Molly and Carly. She said, “This is a C, E minor, F, G and A minor, that’s it, pretty easy with a little practice,” Would you like to try it? That was Peggy’s que to bring her Ukulele out from the house to join in. Two Ukulele’s at the same campfire! We all knew this was one special night for our memory book of perfect medley. Kiley and Peggy were strumming and singing “Somewhere over the Rainbow” and the flight of the fireflies surrounding us seemed to be applauding with their brilliant intricate flashes in some sort of light beam code. Where is Peter Pan? I was thinking. Like the two ladies playing the music and all of us singing or humming along (I can’t sing), were on their stage. Tin Man and Judy Garland were there in spirit. There were bears, wolves, trout and other critters of nature alive in our campfire talk.

That’s when I learned that we can talk to fireflies.

We can question them. They reply. Feel the connection by virtue of the extraordinary light gallery.

We discovered this book while visiting the Black Caddis Ranch B&B and it started us on a new adventure with the outdoors that we will enjoy or all time. Radim Schreiber Photo. 

We can all connect to nature by our visits with fireflies. Such visits require no special gear. A comfortable chair, perhaps, a glass of wine from a grape aging specialist, Gregg Stoos, and a quiet campfire with friends.

The fireflies, like guiding spirits, dance to challenge the darkness with their light.

They hover and move silently through the darkness.

Their movement and motion with different color light can appear to write a letter or a symbol. Are these the source for early Greek symbols? The roots of math? My mind wanders and wonders.

The fireflies provide a sure source for wonder…are they sharing a language not yet known to us? A secret code? Perhaps early settler groups to North America could understand this code? I ask myself. Is it a computer code? A binary switch of sorts? A prismatic code not yet known to us? Does it lead to a vault of undiscovered knowledge?

Whatever signals the night light beacons of the fireflies share, to watch them is enlightening.

All these thoughts, yet, so many questions in wonder, how can that be? I ask myself.

I realize I am so relaxed, so mesmerized by the flight of these miracle insects that fly with lighted inspiration. Everyone sitting around the campfire is too.

The Black Caddis Ranch B&B and Cabins in Tionesta, Pennsylvania, offered all the comforts of home and more, with delicious breakfasts, peaceful parlor rooms, and new friendships with fireflies and hummingbirds. Click the picture for more.

Just being near these fragile airborne creatures of the night is such a reward to cherish. For us astonished onlookers, their intricate behaviors seem to share a virtue of loving life and respect for one another.

As the music lessened, the magic around the campfire was evident to all. This Black Caddis Ranch place is a really special place, as we were isolated to the darkness of this perfect night with a band of chivalrous fireflies that led us to enjoy a nighttime gallery of airborne art to appear all around us.

Kiley added, “Each firefly species is different and has a season. Their season can be predicted by growing degree days, it’s a sort of farm language. Synchronous fireflies (Photinus carolinus) are out during June about the time the orange daylilies bloom and usually peak at end of June. The “big dippers” or photinus pyralis, start to appear at the beginning of July.” Rose and I returned home the next day to sit in our backyard about three hours north. We saw some fireflies there too, but nothing like what we saw in Tionesta, Pennsylvania.

Peggy and Ken Butler host a wonderful Bed & Breakfast Lodging House called the Black Caddis Ranch in Tionesta, Pennsylvania, it is home to the Pennsylvania Firefly Festival, and I guess we know why now. There is firefly magic in this special place. The spacious accommodations are wonderful and are modernized amidst a home that was built in the 1800’s. Real wood floors and walls and kitchen tables, a giant stone fireplace in the front parlor, complete with homemade pancakes and maple syrup from nearby trees, and a myriad of other breakfast goodies, this all made this place that sort of place that my better half and I search for…and only hope to find. Peggy and Ken, and many close friends, are the originators of the Pennsylvania Firefly Festival (PAFF, https://www.pafireflyfestival.org/) that is hosted at their ranch, but there are fireflies present on most summer nights.  It’s a magical place.

We’re going back to be inspired by the night flight of fireflies, the Milky Way, a quiet campfire and honest friends. The daytime song and buzz of hummingbirds adds to the peace and magic found here.

For more info: Ken and Peggy Butler – Black Caddis Ranch B&B and Cabins, 13558 Route 666, Tionesta, Pa., 16353. Phone: (814) 463-7606. Web: www.blackcaddisranch.blogspot.com and also https://www.pafireflyfestival.org/.

 

The GREATEST STORY NEVER TOLD

Taking the Ambassador Pledge.

  • This youth program exists in 80 countries and the United States, do your kids know about it?
  • Program includes STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education
  • Kids build life skills…honesty, responsibility, decision-making, teamwork, self-discipline, self-confidence, problem solving

By Larry Whiteley

Missouri 4H Shooting Sports Team enter the competition arena, much like the Olympics.

You will probably never hear this story being told on CNN, CBS or NBC national news. You probably won’t ever read a story about this in USA Today or other big national newspapers or magazines. We see, hear and read about shootings, protests and demonstrations. We hear or read about experts telling us that young people should never see or touch a firearm.

Why don’t they also tell the story about more than 400,000 young men and women in 47 states participating safely and successfully each year in the 4-H Shooting Sports Program led by 20,000 certified volunteer instructors? Do a Google search and you will find very little coverage about this except for home town newspapers talking about local kids being involved. When I searched I could find no national news stories about it. That’s a shame.

The story they should be telling is that this is much more than a bunch of kids, 8 to 18 years old, shooting rifles, shotguns, muzzle loading rifles, handguns, archery and learning about hunting. Boy’s and girl’s learn marksmanship, the safe and responsible use of firearms, the principles and ethics of hunting, and much more. These are not kids that spend most of their time on their smart phones, playing video games or watching TV. These are not kids into drugs or stealing.

Taking the Ambassador Pledge.

Since it was founded many years ago, 4-H Shooting Sports has served millions of young Americans. Their mission states, “To assist youth in acquiring knowledge, developing life skills, and forming attitudes so they may become self-directing, productive and contributing members of society.”

Through the program, participants learn safe marksmanship and archery skills from an early age. State-level 4-H clubs offer programs for individual training as well as team competition shooting. There is also the 4-H Shooting Sports National Championship Event each summer which hosts shotgun, air rifle, air pistol, small-bore rifle, small-bore pistol, compound archery, recurve archery, muzzle-loading rifle and hunting skills events. The opening and closing ceremonies, as well as the competition kind, remind you of the Olympics.

Indoor air gun competition.

If you know anything about 4-H, you probably think of growing crops, raising and showing livestock and competing for blue ribbons at the county fair. You might not know that 4-H and related programs exist in 80 countries around the world. It is the largest youth development organization in the United States with nearly six million members, but of that number, only 17 percent of kids involved actually live on farms as most people would probably think. The majority come from suburban and urban communities.
It’s not just about shooting. The objectives of the program center on building life skills that include decision-making, teamwork, self-discipline, self-confidence and problem solving. The program also works to promote the highest standards of safety and sportsmanship, along with an appreciation and understanding of natural resources.
The Shooting Sports curriculum uses the resources of land-grant universities, Cooperative Extension agents and certified 4-H leaders, instructors and trainers. The adult instructors involved try to provide a positive relationship with the students. A national or state certified instructor teaches each discipline.
They also tie in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education along with shooting sports and hunting training programs. Instructors are given STEM activities they can relate to a part of the kids training in shooting.
All volunteers go through a background check and have archery and gun safety training, along with 4-H classes on youth development. It’s all designed to provide a partnership with a caring adult and a safe environment for youth to learn how to move forward, working on their own.
If you’re interested in becoming involved with the 4-H Shooting Sports Program, you can go to your state 4-H website. You can also go to the national shooting sports website and find a state contact for each of the states involved.

Scoring archery target results during competition.

The National 4-H program treats Shooting Sports just like any of their other programs, whether it’s livestock or foods and nutrition or computers or woodworking. The goal is to get kids into a positive setting where they can have fun learning and develop lifelong skills while working closely with an adult, other than a parent, who really cares and takes interest in them.

If the national media ever did decide to tell this great story, I would suggest to them that they interview Jon Zinnel and Hannah Persell. Both Jon and Hannah started in the program at a young age and competed for many years in the National Championships.

Crowd at 4H National Shooting Sports competition.

Jon, who now works for Vista Outdoors, is a past 4-H Shooting Sports Ambassador. Hannah is serving as a Shooting Sports Ambassador while she attends the University of Missouri where she is majoring in Agri Business.

Ambassadors represent 4-H and 4-H Shooting Sports for public relations purposes at special events such as donor/sponsor functions and with the general public. They also serve as spokespersons for the Shooting Sports program.

Hannah would not hesitate to tell the national media, “Participating in the Shooting Sports has given me confidence, communication skills, patience, the drive to succeed in life and made me into a hard worker.” All qualities that American companies are looking for in employees they hire.

Jon would say to the national media and anyone else, “The 4-H Shooting Sports Program is something the kids never forget and the skills they learn stay with them and benefit them the rest of their lives.”

In today’s broken world, it’s a great story that needs to be told.

4-H Shooting Sports in Missouri

4H Shooting Sports help our youth develop LIFE SKILLS, SELF-WORTH and CONSERVATION ETHICS. Click the picture for the story.

  • Youth Learn Marksmanship
  • Youth Learn the Safe and Responsible Use of Firearms
  • Youth Learn the Principles of Hunting and Archery
  • Youth Develop LIFE SKILLS, SELF-WORTH and CONSERVATION ETHICS

By David Gray

Rachel Augustine, Director of the Development for the Missouri 4-H Foundation, and Jim Sappington, Missouri Coordinator for 4-H Shooting Sports, discuss support to enable 4-H and 4-H shooting sports for Missouri youth.

The University of Missouri, located in the city of Columbia, is like many State Universities as it offers a large, sprawling campus complex.  I have been on campus many times over the years, but had never noticed the 4-H extension building and offices.  It is not small, in fact, it is a large building with a large parking area, but it is surrounded by trees and greenery that almost places the unique site in a world of its own.

The site is so fitting, as so many 4-H youth development programs involve outdoor activities and animals for the youth of our nation in the setting of countryside areas.

Early in June, 2018, I travelled to the University of Missouri to meet with Rachel Augustine, the Director of the Missouri 4-H Foundation, and Jim Sappington, Missouri’s statewide coordinator for 4-H Shooting Sports.  We discussed ways to extend support to enable 4-H and 4-H shooting sports to deliver their service of great value to youth, our community and country.  4-H says, “We believe in the power of young people. We see that every child has valuable strengths and real influence to improve the world around us.”

“Share the Outdoors” says, “We agree!” Rachel Augustine is a 4th generation Arizona native.  She began working for the Missouri 4-H Foundation when she and her husband relocated to Missouri in 2013. When asked what she likes most about her job, Rachel responded, “Helping kids prepare to succeed by learning life skills, responsibility and ethics.” Rachel added, “I also enjoy meeting so many different people as I travel all over Missouri.”

Thanks to a recent challenge gift from Larry and Brenda Potterfield, the Missouri 4-H Foundation is partnering with the Midway USA Foundation to establish and begin building a Missouri 4-H Shooting Sports Endowment Fund. The Fund will support the long-term growth of 4-H youth shooting programs in Missouri. While the new endowment fund is exciting work, Rachel and her team also raise funds to support more than 70 statewide 4-H programs and initiatives for the University of Missouri Extension 4-H Center for Youth Development.

Jim Sappington has been state-wide coordinator for 4H Missouri Shooting Sports activities for about one year, but he brings so much experience, as he came to the position after 27 years as a 4-H volunteer.  Jim says ”The job is a tremendous amount of work, but so much work is beside the point when you watch a youngster succeed at something they thought they could never do.”

To that, we at “Share the Outdoors” say, “Thank you Rachel and Jim!” Now, “How can we help?”

If you would like to make a donation to the Missouri 4-H Foundation contact Rachel Augustine at AugustineRe@missouri.edu or by telephone, 573-884-7641. 

It’s Fawning Season…things to Know…things to Help

Healthy whitetail deer management practices are key to healthy wildlife. Jim Monteleone Photo

Photo by Art Jacobson, retired DEC biologist

Fawns are frisky, healthy, delightful and ready to play with anyone that will return the favor.  Mostly their brothers and sisters, and mother. There are lots of them right now.

Most fawns in New York are born in late May or early June, and the first few months are a critical period for survival.

Fawn survival is heavily influenced by habitat quality, and those fawns that have good hiding cover and quality forage have the odds in their favor.

You can improve habitat for fawns on your lands by promoting native forbs in fields and forests.

• Avoid mowing large fields until mid-August –  mowing fields in June can kill or injure fawns. Large, un-mowed fields provide excellent cover from predators and high quality native forage for fawns and their mothers.

• Create patches of young forest within your woodlot – removing overstory trees and allowing more sunlight to penetrate to the forest floor, will stimulate growth of herbaceous plants and new tree seedlings. Fawn survival is typically lower in wooded areas than in areas with some agriculture and fields, but increased greenery on the forest floor improves cover for fawns, helping them to stay camouflaged and protected from predators. It also provides more food for the fawn and its nursing doe. Overstory tree removal is best done during winter or another period outside of the breeding, nesting or brood-rearing season for many wildlife species.

• Keep winter in mind – Thinking ahead to winter projects, it is much easier to identify trees by their leaves than by their bark. Summer can be a good time to mark trees for winter-time cutting projects designed to enhance year-round browse and cover. Contact a DEC forester or biologist for advice.

• DEC reminds you, if you happen to find a fawn: If you care, leave it there!  For more information and answers to frequently asked questions about the care of young wildlife, visit DEC’s website.

Employing these simple practices can help fawns survive into adulthood. After all, healthy fawns have a better chance of becoming healthy adults and improve our opportunity to let young bucks go and watch them grow!

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

The author in his camo Costas.

  • 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.