- Keep improving my writing skills, syntax, and attention to detail
- Post often for my frequent visitors
- Explore possibilities of writing (and going afield) with other bloggers in my region
Thursday, September 30, 2010
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Nicole is coming up the coast right now and is bringing a gift of 4-9" of rain in the next 48 hours. The storm, and the resulting floods, will quite assuredly shut down fishing and pretty much anything I'd like to do in the garden for another 4 or 5 days. I saw this map and was reminded of the noreaster that socked Charleston during our last visit down there (prediction here, storm here).
Monday, September 27, 2010
Friday, September 24, 2010
I have been a dad for a year. The best analogy I can think of is that it's been like riding a roller coaster in the dark. Overall it's been a huge amount of fun, but exhausting, and at any given point, it's been impossible to tell what would happen next - good, bad, or barf. I look at Hank and I see the best parts of my dad, my father-in-law, and my grandfather. Hope they see the same. Being a dad is the most consistently joyful (while thankless) things I have ever done. And by far the most rewarding job I have ever had.
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
This collection of absurdly long creatures is an indication that an uprising against "The Man" will happen soon! Or not, you know, because The Man has a good health plan and flex time.
Monday, September 20, 2010
Saturday, September 18, 2010
So contrast that to the following show, the Bucks of Tecomate. I have never really watched the Bucks of Tecomate, because honestly, I'm not interested in watching a show about casually shooting well-fed deer, hosted by Jeff Foxworthy....just....not my speed. I say that with total acceptance of what Tecomate does in the field - from innovating new deer management techniques and technology, to providing the opportunity to shoot gigantic trophy animals. And I, myself, enjoy shooting domestically raised critters - here's the evidence. Guess I feel like it's food, even if it's shooting less than wild critters.
Let's note that in the above paragraph, I used the word "shoot" 4 times, and the word "hunt" zero times. I've watched some great hunting shows over the years that show the trials and tribulations of getting a classic hunt in during the 4 or 5 day window that TV hosts have to film. I think it's great for the new hunter, or any hunter, to watch an accomplished guide say, "Alright, this is my 3rd day here and we haven't shot yet. Let's see if today is our day." Wow, real hunting!
Compare that to the episode of Bucks of Tecomate I saw today. First, I watched host David Morris hide - standing - behind a single, scrawny bush, about 15 yards downwind of two 10 point bucks who were out in a mowed clearing. His guest shooter was behind another bush that did not conceal him (or his shiny, polished-nickle barrel rifle-on camo stock of course) either. When the guest decided that those animals were too small (his right, as a customer), the two men stepped out into the clearing, in broad daylight, and walked away from the bucks, who motioned like they would run, but didn't. All of their actions are totally legitimate (for a deer shoot), but why would you televise that kind of behavior that just shows how "not quite wild" the animals are, and notably, would you dare to continue to call it a "hunt" after a display like that? David Morris does.
A few minutes later on the show, the men decided to get a better view from two box stands. I thought this was hilarious because I could already tell that there was no chance they would shoot a deer in the brush, but I guess it made for good TV. Imagine my amusement when I watched the guest climb into the box stand with one hand, while holding his rifle in the other - a breach of basic stand-hunting safety. Yeah, let's get that on tape!
The film cuts to the men set up in the box stand, but then cuts out to a nice 12-pointer in the middle of a field. So the deer is in a clearing, the box stands are in a clearing, and the men walked through a cleared road to get from the last clearing. I was baffled, then, to see footage of the two men...I don't know what they were doing...."scrambling through the brush" is too generous....pretending to comb through the bushes, and even some closeups of their boots. Of course, the closeups showed low-mowed grass.
Miraculously (ha ha), they suddenly appear in the same clearing as the giant buck (you see, it was much quieter to climb through 7 foot tall brush, than it would have been to creep up the mowed path). That's when I got furious. The men set up on the edge of the field, in what I would consider plain view of the buck (turned out to be an 11-point atypical, I believe), and of course, the deer did not move. The guest took what should have been a textbook front quartering shot (deer standing still, looking at the shooter) from the knee (on shooting sticks, no less) and BLEW OFF THE DEER'S KNEECAP. The kind film editors even showed it again in slow motion.
The deer, apparently suffering no other injury than a blown off front leg, ran the hell off into the brush to suffer a slow, painful death - probably through infection or blood loss. Admittedly, David Morris looked a little displeased by this turn of events, and they use the opportunity to talk about shot placement....oh wait, no they don't. Unbelievable. What a waste of 100lbs of meat. A leg shot? Who does that? And who films it?!
It's often said that the folks responsible for the end of hunting in this country will be hunters. And for fun, I'll name you a few other people that would enjoy televising footage of a hunter blowing off a deer's leg at 60 yards: PETA, H$U$, ALF, IDA, FfA and so many more (sorry, I won't give them the courtesy of a direct link). Wow, televising that knee shot suddenly seems like a bad idea, huh?
If you enjoy watching TV shows that feature the harvest of trophy bucks on managed preserves, I urge you to contact Versus and Bucks of Tecomate and ask them to consider filming only deer shoots and shooters that display basic (or better) ethics, safety skills, and shooting skills.
There's not much they'll care to do for me. I remain convinced that Bucks of Tecomate is garbage TV for my family and I - our personal choice, as it is yours.
Postscript: Maybe, as one commenter has already noted, the show doesn't even accurately reflect how guided deer "hunts" go at the Tecomate properties. Maybe their film editor is 65 years old and believes that "this is what hunters really want to see...how EASY it is!" And I am sure there are still some hunters out there that just want to harvest one giant buck in their lifetime. Their dream. If it's not totally wild....so be it. I refuse to judge that person (when it comes to deer and birds). Tecomate might be a great option for them. Hopefully they don't film it, and if they do, they don't distribute it.
Me? As long as we have an unlimited harvest antlerless archery season that extends from September to February, and 10 and 12 point bucks walking through peoples' lawns up and down the east coast, I think I'll keep my captive-reared shooting limited to upland birds. Between my language and my shooting, trust me, no one will want to televise it.
Thursday, September 16, 2010
- Safety concerns (not knowing who's out there and where they are)
- Quality of facilities (neglect, vandalism, overuse vs. overly restrictive access)
- Quality of habitat (concerns about overuse, no funds for restoration/management)
- Concerns about other users' ethics & restraint
- Higher likelihood of getting ticketed for a minor infraction, i.e. trailer lights, PFDs
- Above factors make it difficult to plan an outting based on changing weather conditions (tides, winds, cold fronts, offshore winds, high flows, etc)
- Accept it and plow through
- Accept it and find away around that issue
The first option really applies to things like facility quality/access quality and the likelihood of having a friendly encounter with a Conservation Officer. The second is really what I'd like to focus on - how can we plan public land outings based on variable conditions, unknown or high user pressure, safety concerns, and poor habitat (or the perception by other users that poor habitat exists)?
Get smart. That's the answer. First - and this could be a post unto itself - find out if your planned activity is expressly allowed, expressly prohibited, or something inbetween. I've surfed, fished, and hunted in many public places where the land manager had never conceived of seeing a surfer, angler, or hunter. Admittedly, I've had mixed results ranging from outstanding to debacle to pure rage. Many instances of the latter two types could have been avoided by a quick call ahead to confirm (or convince) that my activity is allowable. At this point, you should know what's legal and where the "gray area" is.....and whether you want to tread there. It gets easier after this point.
Do some additional research on the properties in which you have an interest - one of my key questions is always "Can I get public access to a sweet looking area where other people will be too lazy to go?" Successfully answering this question often eliminates the "safety" and "habitat quality" issues.
For instance, does accessing a public hunting area require you to wait out the tide to boat under a low road bridge? That's promising.
What about a public beach with miles of shoreline but only one parking lot? You got something against walking?
What about a county park where nobody fishes because you have to have an extra County fishing license for $5. Or because it costs $5 to get into the park. I guarantee you that such a place will have better fishing than the public spot with free access. My brother found that out for himself last year by paying $12/hour for a county boat rental. $25 got him the best 2 hours of fishing he had all summer.
All in all, folks, I'm talking about work. This is radically different than the way that outdoorsfolk usually consider public land, which is, "Hey we show up, load our guns/cameras/rods/etc in the parking lot, and walk down that well-signed gravel path into the field/water, right?"
Nope. At least not here on the east coast. Don't get me wrong - people - thousands of them - do just that. But do you really think that the best surfing, fishing, or hunting is in the first/closest spot to the parking lot/boat ramp, and always on saturdays? Apparently, many of us do!
If you want a high quality experience on public land, you'll need to put in some time before you ever show up, and you need to be prepared to go where others dare not........to walk 3 miles down the beach, kayak upstream .75 miles to a duck hole everyone ignores, or to stalk 2 miles into a public property to find the perfect fallow field surrounded by giant oak trees.
In Part III, we'll talk about amplifying your efforts by going when others don't. See ya then!
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Before we try to tease out the prospect of "how to have a good experience on public land," I really believe we need to start by considering who uses any given piece of public land, in general terms:
- locals who have no access to private land or water
- locals who have detailed knowledge of "where to go" on a large piece of public land, water, or marsh, and want a quality experience similar to other local public and private lands, and
- non-locals who are looking for better opportunities than they have in their own locale
That's a huge variety in people, attitudes, and motivation for going afield on a piece of land that may be just one giant marsh, one lake, or a set of corn fields in the middle of nowhere. Now let's consider those users on the standard wildlife management area, which may feature forest, ag fields, grasslands, marsh, shoreline, and ponds or impoundments. And let's consider a time of year like April or October, when multiple uses are bound to impact one another, and conflicts will absolutely occur.
That sure got complicated in a hurry! This diversity in users, ethics, and priorities gives rise to an entire list of reasons why many outdoorsmen and women - from birders to hunters to surfers - avoid public access points like the plague. I'll cover that in my next post - but I bet that you've either thought them or yelled them at one time or another, as your public land experience was "ruined" -sometimes an exaggeration, sometimes not - by another member of the public.
So where should we start, as we try to extract more out of our public land experiences? I'd argue that the first exercise, which is overlooked by easily 50% of outdoorsfolk, is to actually know what public land is available. In my state, the state and counties are constantly adding public land via real acquisition, easements, and leases. These properties, which can be anything from stretches of beach to 10 acre woodlots surrounded by (private) ag fields, make it into the state hunting properties list after a few years of ownership, if ever. Do you know who the largest landowner in the United States? Did you answer the Department of Defense? That's right. If you or your spouse have a military ID - on some bases, you don't need one, you just need a base fishing/hunting/recreation license - you should be able to get on post for some outdoor activities. This is especially key for low security annexes or outposts where few other folks are liable to tread.
How do you get a reliable, high quality list of public properties that may or may not allow hunting, fishing, or other activities? You've got to do the homework. Part 1 of said homework is to find out what public land is even out there.
- Consult a state list of real properties (created annually for Federal tax purposes) - not just WMAs - look for state parks, rec areas, natural areas, "preserves," "open space areas," "natural heritage areas" and the like. Be ready to read about nearby state properties you've never even heard of! Many of us merely go to areas we already know, or areas that we happened to learn about while doing an internet search. If your area is anything like mine, though, you'll need to go beyond that level to enjoy public land.
- Find a list of county/city parks and recreation areas, areas owned by the Department of Public Works, and others.
- In some areas, you'll want a list of Federal properties too. Don't overlook US Forest Service (who add land regularly, often in disconnected patches) and the US Department of Energy. At this stage, don't be too concerned about what activities are/not permitted.
Part 2 of your effort - go ahead and cyberscout, I mean, virtually groundtruth, those properties with Google Earth or similar imagery - maybe a property is a paved lot full of schoolbuses, and maybe it's an overgrown site with a tiny pond in the back. It's absolutely critical that this step precedes, not substitutes for your actual scouting and calling work (to be detailed in my next post). At this point, you should either be working on a list or a spreadsheet with the following columns:
Property Name/Address Distance from Home Possible Activities?
Once you've started to get this basic information - it's time for Part 3 of this exercise - learning what's clearly legal, what's clearly not, reading between the lines, and not being afraid of "going deep and dark."
Saturday, September 11, 2010
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
The value of bog wetlands is in the fact that unlike most wetlands, they occur in organic sandy soils that allow groundwater to move around slowly but constantly within the bog area. Pollutants can be processed by bacteria this way, and these bacteria form the basis of a very unique food chain. Since my pond is a little shady and I won't be planting shrubs or trees in it, I filled the deepest part of the pond with 200lbs of sand.
50/50 organic / sand mixing
For the "shallow" parts of the pond, I mixed (per my colleague's advice) 50/50 sand and peat moss. If you look around on the internet (which I did), you'll see recommendations from 70/30 to 30/70. This took a half-yard of compressed peat moss and another 100lbs of sand.
Starting to look like a real bog!
Since it's September, and on the heels of the hottest Maryland summer in recorded history, I think that I'll let nature adjust the bog over the winter before I plant anything. Right now, the soil elevation is a little below the pond's outfall, which means that ponding will eventually occur - something I do not want (at least for now). Once the winter rains set in, I plan to continue to add more sand (my mix in the top 12" is somewhere around 60/40 organic/sand, instead of the prescribed 50/50). That way, the top of the soil is just barely above the pond's outfall. This should created saturated conditions throughout all of the soil, and should keep the wetland plants happy.
Tune back in around February for Phase II of this tiny habitat project!
Sunday, September 5, 2010
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
That's where it gets complicated. Known factors include:
1) the subsidence of coastal marshes - basically sinking under their own weight, 2) increased boat traffic, average boat speed, and wake size/force, and 3) Accelerated volumes and speed of runoff from waterfront farms and developments
Additional possible factors include:
1) the loss of SAV beds that used to attenuate stormwater flow, wave energy, and boat wakes. This loss has been ongoing, but was accelerated hugely by the impacts from Hurricane Agnes in 1972 2) continuing and/or accelerated sea level rise