Sunday, December 23, 2007

First true debacle of duck season!

2 lessons learned this week from an awful day afield:

1) Never assume that the marine forecast is correct;

2) Never get so absorbed by one portion of the forecast, that you overlook other key details.

So......the story. Left home on time, excited for a promising morning of duck hunting (air 31 degrees, heavy clouds, light onshore wind, birds in the area), and hit one stumbling block after another. Decided to access the duck blind through a local park (which is legal). Unfortunately Ranger Rick (or whoever) was 25 minutes late for work and the (typically unlocked) park gate was locked...resulting in about a 30 - 40 minute delay in my tight schedule to get out on the water. And of course, still had to pay $3 to access the park. Hooray!

I had checked the marine forecast obsessively for the last few days just to confirm some light winds that would be blowing right in my face - not the best thing, but manageable. I neglected to check THE TIDE! and once the boat was out, pretty much saw a very dark version of this:

So I had the divine experience of dragging the boat through the mud and about 3" of water for about a half-mile before I reached the duck blind. About the time I arrived, legal shooting time had passed, and folks started harvesting birds - I had no decoys in the water yet! But at least the winds were light.

About 45 minutes passed and the wind picked up substantially (forecast 3 to 8 mph). I saw whitecaps in the middle of the Bay, which usually means that winds have exceeded 15mph. A few minutes later, 1 to 2 foot waves started crashing against the duck blind. This wave action not only caused me some serious stress, but caused all 3,000 to 4,000 ducks in the area to move out into open water, about 2 miles out in the Bay. Not helpful. Had a lone shot at a lone bufflehead - and missed! Even less helpful!

Contrary to the marine forecast (winds to max out around 9am at 8mph), the winds continued to build, causing me to be a little concerned for my safety, and my ability to get the boat back on solid ground (and not sunk in the mud). I started packing the boat with the approximately 3 dozen decoys I had set out, and was promptly set upon by at least 3 large flocks of ducks, which I could do nothing about since my hands were full of decoy line and decoys. Took a few deep breaths and pushed the boat out into thigh-deep water, past the waves, and dragged it behind me the entire way back to the boat landing.

This story would not be complete without describing the "warning ticket" that Ranger Rick put on my windshield, which said, "WARNING! Our unofficial policy is that hunters can no longer park their vehicles at the park, while hunting at the park." Which, obviously, makes no sense. But I am a guy that understands "cutting my losses" so instead of trying to hunt down Ranger Rick and demand an explanation for his absurd diktat (which was my first instinct), I figured, "let's leave it alone." Enough damage had been done. Better luck next time.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

T Dogg Check In - El Salvador

Hey dude whats kickin? I sent a few emails to mom and dad but i got no response so now I look to you to forward this for me big brother. We left Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala and now are in Acajutla, el Salvador loading sugar. We will be leaving soon & heading home. Hopefully around 30 days from now I will be there. I went to town in Puerto Quetzal and hung out and wow, that's a special place hahaha. Well i am taking plenty of pictures and catching plenty of strange fish. Write back and I will give you a shout on xmas day.

peace out


Sunday, December 16, 2007

Winter Cover Crops - Not so Good!

Cover crops save landowners soil and money....except for maybe this year!

I typically put in my winter cover crops in early September, when the weather is starting to wane and precipitation starts to become a little more regular. However, we had temperatures into the 90s as late as October 20, and no real rain until about October 24. This year I chose New Zealand White Clover and (as usual) Austrian Field Peas as my cover crops for our "mini-woodlot". The rabbits got into the peas all last winter (which is fine - we don't hunt them at home, nor do we grow the peas for food), so I figured they would appreciate more peas this year. I have had mixed results with other varieties of clovers in past winters, so New Zealand White is a new crop for me. Anyway, here is the sorry data:

Typical Year:
  • Planting Date: Aug 15
  • Height/cover by full winter (Jan 1): approx. 8" / 75%
  • Height by harvest (June 1): approx 20" / 95%

Fall 2007:
  • Planting Date: Oct 15
  • Height / cover by full winter: 3" / 25%
  • Height / cover by harvest: ???

So, without even getting to the end of the winter, I can already tell you that the plan next year will have to be:

  • light application of pot ash,
  • planting by September 1, and
  • twice-weekly watering/irrigation until fall rains begin.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Success on ice

Just returned from our trip to the Lehigh Valley (eastern PA), where the weather was fairly cooperative (low 20s at night, mid-30s during daylight; freezing rain). We harvested 30 or so Canada geese and a few snow geese; the canada geese were primarily fat resident birds who roost in limestone quarries and eat the lawns of the many new industrial facilities in the area. A few migrant geese, including the snow geese, were in the mix. More photos on the way!

At this time I would like to sing the praises of Gore-tex and all other similar, environmentally destructive waterproofing chemicals.

We got PELTED with ice, rain, and freezing rain for 2 days and I simply did not get wet or cold. I had on my Cabela's duck coat and some goofy "Field and Stream" insulated bibs (on sale for $29 at Dick's), and rubber boots & gloves, and a gore-tex balaclava. That's pretty much it! It's amazing how far outdoor gear has come in the last 20 years. Obviously there is some correlation between product development and peoples' willingness to pay for gear that will keep them warm and dry.

Tons of great photos on the way and special thanks to Scotty & Ted for scouting the area and getting the farmers' permission to hunt their fields.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Survival of the Most Patient

I am crossing my fingers, but I passed an important bunch of milestones at work today, which will allow me to better......SCREW OFF for the rest of the year! You heard it right here - I have approved vacation for at 1/2 a day, every day, until January 2. Upcoming fun-ness involves
  • hunting the Lehigh Valley for geese (2 days)
  • hunting coastal Maryland for my first black duck of the season (could take several days)
  • first bow hunt of the fall (pathetic, I know)
  • hunting beaver ponds for ducks in central Virginia
  • hunting coastal Virginia for diving ducks

Thule - waiting; January 2007

It is really exciting to get into the guts of hunting season (no pun intended) and surround myself with nature again for a couple of months. Being able to eat wild game and organic meat (instead of grocery store, saline-injected chicken) is very important to us, and frankly, the freezer has been empty for awhile around here.

Secret Spot - Southern Virginia

The most important part is BEING THERE. Being out in the marsh or the woods in the fall is at worst, a near-religious experience, and often a test of anyone's patience. When you ask a hunter about their favorite hunting moments, often they'll tell you about a time they saw something unique.....and unhuntable. River otters, loons, dolphins, minks and weasels, eagles and owls. All this wildlife is out there for us to see. So whether you hunt or not - GET OUT THERE! See some of our amazing wildlife before it all goes into hibernation or migrates south for the winter.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Movie Review: The Future is Unwritten

Over Thanksgiving, we got to see "The Future is Unwritten," a Julian Temple biopic about one of my personal heros, Joe Strummer. We saw it at the IFC theatre in..Chelsea??..NYC.
The setup of the film was not at all tiresome, and documented a great deal of the transition between the dying (thank god) London hippie culture of the early 1970s, and the uprising of the activist (later, "punk") culture of the late 1970s/early 1980s. It was pretty educational. A lot of the old video and audio was not that amazing, but maybe that's because I'd seen it on 900 other documentaries about british punk in general, and The Clash in particular.

On the other hand, recent interviews with old Clash band members (especially Topper) were really invigorating and informative, and really brought a lot to the film. I also enjoyed some of the (circa 1999 to 2002) Joe Strummer interview audio, it was neat to hear his perspective.

The film has a corporate soundtrack (Julian Temple, after all), and what fills it, is the background audio of the film were re-broadcasts of Joe Strummer's "Pirate Radio" show on the BBC from the early 1980s. Everything from Elvis Presley to U-Roy, and very little Clash.

One negative aspect of the film, for me, was that the overall premise (global Strummerville immigrant camps filled with movie stars and old punkers, all listening to the Strummer Pirate Radio broadcasts, singing along, and adding their own comments....Johnny Depp in particular) added this weird, aging hippie pretentiousness, of "Joe Strummer was awesome, and only WE truly understand, because we were there."

Of course, these folks have a special window into the man, and his music and politics.. ...absolutely. But some of the monologues bordered on "cultural high ground." When in fact, the beauty of punk rock (unlike the hippy movement...which just sort of died under its own drug-addled weight) is EXACTLY that it's not tied to one group of people in one place in one time. It's viral, and totally unstoppable, and that is the beauty of Joe Strummer, and his music...and inevitably, this film!

Swamp Thing Overall Rating: .............4 muddy boots out of 5

Concept.....................................................4 / 5

Realism.....................................................5 / 5

Cinematography......................................4 / 5

Soundtrack/Score...................................5 / 5

Pretentiousness (negative score)..........3 / 5

T Dogg Comes Up for Air!!

From the satellite connection on the Zeus tug....

hey its tyler, i tried to send an e-mail yesterday but i dont know what happened. anyway we just left the panama canal and are in the pacific. i did some fishing yesterday and didnt have much luck but i did catch 2 baracudas and 1 mahi mahi in the gulf which was awesome!

i also got to see the panama coastal railroad and don't worry i am taking lots of pictures. the trip may take longer than expected but no worries - i am making money. i just wanted to send a hello to everyone and i will be in touch. take it easy. peace tyler

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Real snow

Wow...first powder I have seen in about 2 or 3 years...and first time we have had a real December snow event in just as long. Wildlife are all scurrying about looking for food - the woods are thick with deer, rabbits, and songbirds, and I have a feeling that when late duck season opens next week, we will be overrun with ducks and geese. For right now, though, it's a blast watching the juncos, nuthatches, and woodpeckers war over the rest of the berries on the viburnums. At one point it was pretty obvious that they were all pretty hungry, so I supplemented the real bird food (viburnums, golden millet, spicebush, etc), with some cheap bird food in the feeder and on the snow. That seemed to alleviate the tension a little bit.

For as similar as they are, the nuthatches and woodpeckers feed very differently - the nuthatches hang out on tree trunks, frequently hitting the feeder or the bushes for just a small morsel of food; while the woodpeckers (downy) only occasionally cruise down off the tree trunks and seem to grab several beakfuls of food before returning to their perch. Neat to watch.

I planned to visit a few farms today west and north of here, but that was kind of pointless since those areas got upward of a foot of snow. Here's a few pix from around the haus. PS the scarf was not our idea.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

More Weather!

Night 'Maters. Fall 2006. 35mm canon with flash.

Gray weather and wintery-ness all around. Flora and fauna seem a little surprised - songbirds everywhere in the light rain, trying to find some good food (our yard is full of berries and seeds) before the heavy weather really sets in. Our winter groundcover (clovers and austrian peas) all germinated VERY late due to the drought, and is not really established well enough to tolerate frost and freezing rain. Guess we'll see how that goes!

On the other hand - great day of football yesterday as I was able to watch both my schools (Appalachian State and Virginia Tech) thrash their opponents in important post-season games!

For a good wrap-up of Appalachian State football, visit my friends at the Blue Ridge Blog . My Hokies will be looking forward to a trip to the Orange Bowl (opponent to be revealed at 8pm sunday). I hope everybody has a good week, and I'll hit y'all later!

No Video Content For You

Over 12 years ago, I started this blog. There were very few conservation or outdoor blogs at the time, few websites with fast-breaking con...