Sunday, January 1, 2012

2011 Outdoor Blogging Retrospective - All the Cool Kids Are Doing It!

"Yes, of course you're interrupting -
I was just blogging about wildlife management!"
Man, I am seeing an insane number of outdoors blog "annual wrap ups" over the past week.  It's actually really cool.  I'm happy to say "I did it first" (...uhh...maybe?...probably not...) with 2009 and 2010 retrospectives already on file, but unfortunately that doesn't diminish the fact that some other outdoor bloggers, namely the Unaccomplished Angler and Lunker Hunt , have raised the bar on these types of posts with their 2011 write-ups (linked to their names in the line above - go read them!).  And raised the bar far enough that the formats I've used in the past just can't even keep pace.  Hrrmmmph.. model! here's 2011.....

January: End of the 2010-2011 Waterfowl Season:  Another nutty fall migration ended up with smart, old geese hanging around the farm where I hunt, and my possible new hunting spot being burnt up by other idiot guests.  I got smart too, and gave up hunting at both spots for the season, and instead begged for an invite to one of the best goose farms on the eastern shore (one hunt worthy of one two three posts), and also accepted a standing invite to hunt geese and canvasbacks offshore (once twice), less than an hour from home.

February: Loss of an Old Friend: On February 26th, I sat next to my old hunting dog and held his head as the doctor put him to sleep.  I haven't come to terms with it, and it's an enormous weight.  I miss him.  He deserves much more of a tribute than I can bear to write again here, so I'd consider it a favor if you read what serves my obituary or epithet for Roan.  Miss you, buddy.

March-November: Bass Fishing:  I had three main goals for bass fishing this year.  1) extend my season beyond my historic May - October; 2) target smallmouth intentionally, and 3) actively fly cast for largemouth.  I did OK on all three - catching bass steadily (except during spawn) from early March to early November.  Specifically targeted and caught smallmouth (none gigantic).  And I purchased a short 5wt fly rod for bass, and have caught sunfish on it, but no bass...yet.

July-Nov: Trout Fishing:  I hadn't been trout fishing in at least three years, and hadn't caught a big trout (>20") in five years. A weird set of circumstances led me to catch my first trout of the year (a small, wild brown) at a stream restoration site.  An even weirder set of circumstances accidentally led me to a reach of trout water that keeps producing holdover rainbows and holdover/wild browns in the 12-14" range (the trib is no longer stocked). I've got the fever and I plan to fish for trout in January, 2012....even though duck season will still be in.

Sept-Dec: First Half of the 2011-2012 Hunting Season:  Another crazy weather fall, and another absolutely weird fall migration.  Went out for doves and actually killed a few, went bow hunting twice, duck hunting once, and killed a wood duck on the opening day of goose season.   Luckily, the peace, quiet, and scenery have more than made up for the largely pitiful harvest opportunities.

Fitness:  Ugh.  I stunk it up in the "not dying of a heart attack" realm yet again.  I changed jobs in October and made a pact to eat smarter, if not better.  I have, sort of.  I've lost 7 lbs of the 20 I pledged to lose, which is only half of the 40 I needed to lose.  With two jobs, a 2-year old, a wife, and an outdoors obsession, fitness is a priority on only the rarest of occasions.  Plan for 2012? Still working on it.  :(

Outdoor Parenting:  Speaking of "areas for continued growth"...(professional code for "fix this or you're fired,")......Hank is now an atomic toddler.  He is literally unstoppable, except at nap time.  Now, if he would only wear a hat or gloves when it's cold outside.....

I worked really hard to get Hank outside this year, and I did an OK, but not great job of it (my standard is ridiculously high in this department).  It's becoming easier, and way more fun.   Another two years and he'll be joining me on (real) fishing trips.  Another 8 years and he'll be hunting with me.  It's really happening.

Blogging:  Ya know, 2011 was good to River Mud.  We're past 250,000 all-time visitors, approaching 500 posts (182 in 2011), and had a single new post go for 25,000 views this year.  Six different months clipped out at over 10,000 page views, with three of them over 12,000.  I rejected more corporate offers than I accepted, and again survived with no advertising.  I moved more aggressively into informational posting about outdoors stuff, which increased blog readership quite a bit.  I blogged about hunting celebrity Jeff Foiles' legal drama - a new type of writing for me.  This is all good stuff!

2011 was also the year that I developed blogging "sideboards" for the first time - basically, using a list of the most effective and least effective outdoor websites I know of, and a written understanding of what makes them "amazing" or "useless" to help guide my writing, photography, and blog management.  I'm proud of a dozen or more efforts to reach the higher standard.  I'm not proud of two instances in 2011 that more closely mirrored the type of immature activity I see on the "most useless" list.  My list of "least effective" contains a few "loose cannons," so let's not go public with that right now, but my "most effective" include sites as disparate as Mysteries Internal (Erin's a frequent reader here) and Mouthful of Feathers (whose writers do not know this blog exists).

When my blogging hits "the next level" (hint: it involves more professionalism, more travel, and some actual money...stay tuned!!!), perhaps I'll share both lists, with my notes on some of the best and worst outdoor sites around.  Until then....well, there's 2012.  I don't know what it will bring to my life or to River Mud.   But I guarantee you'll read about it here.  Thanks for stopping by - always thrilled to hear from you.

Kirk@ River Mud


Alex said...

Good deal. Looking forward to following you through 2012!

I considered doing an "end-of-the-year-wrap-up", but I'm thinking of skipping it. As you said, -everyone- is doing it...And I'm not really a cool kid anyways.

I also haven't really had time. I've been fishing too much. That's a good thing...right?

Excited to see where your blog goes in the future!

Sanders said...

Good looking back. Looking forward to seeing what you have in store for us in 2012.


Doc Outlaw said...

It's that time of year when everybody looks back, and many people (like my wife) are depressed about what they didn't accomplish and about all the bad things that happened. I prefer to skip the self-flagellating retrospective and keep my eyes on the road, so to speak. Also, I don't want to work that hard trying to remember stuff.

I agree with Alex--much better to go fishing!

Here's to an awesome 2012 for all!

Kirk Mantay said...

Doc, it's easy to get down on what didn't happen. That's for sure - and it's why I considered not even messing with one of these posts. BUT I do like setting goals for the new year, and it's hard to do that effectively without a little retrospective on "what the hell did I do last year?"

Thanks for stopping by, gentlemen!!

Happy New Year!

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