Thursday, October 31, 2013

Toddler Outdoors v 4.1 - Finding, Looking, Understanding

I love being with my little dude outdoors.  He doesn't stop.  Ever.  He's not the most bonkers kid I know, but he is fast, and physical, and almost never rests.   For most of his four years, I've been chasing him in the outdoors.  He just goes, and I follow.  I have a thousand pictures like this:

From a mile up the farm road, Hank saw two other kids who were playing in a fort in this hedgerow.
I let him out of the truck, and this is what happened.  Happy Hank. 

He runs like he's living on the set of the zombie movie "28 Weeks Later."  The boy doesn't stop.  But at four years old, he's started doing more than just running.  While he almost never stops, he now runs to find things (and other kids).  He collects things.  He tries to understand where things come from, where they go, and why they are where they are.   He has the attention span of a cricket, but his curiosity and his mind are now moving his body around more than his desire to "just go."
We put the kids to work dragging cedar limbs down the hill, down the pier, to wait for the duck boat.
All for the promise of a boat ride, which they received (and behaved during!!!)

Hank had a thousand questions about the corn stalks ("tree trunks"), the corn cobs, and the new lines of winter cover coming in.  When we pulled up in the truck, he also got to see about 200 geese fly out, right in front of him.
Hank is still perplexed by the concept of hunting, "But....the ducks are nice."   He helped the older kids (5 and 8) drag
duck blind materials to the end of the dock.  3-year old Hank would have only lasted about three minutes at this task.
Mind-blowing.  Three weeks ago, the boy sat in a chair on a boat for about fifteen entire minutes with a fishing rod.
First, the fishing was horrible.  Second, he kept fishing for another half-hour once I told him he could stand up.
In a rare moment never before captured on film, two small boys sit and talk quietly on a beached boat.
No one was punching anyone, and no one threw anyone's shoes in the water. 
Yeah, a new era has arrived at our house.   No more baby.  No more whiny toddler.  Now there is this three-plus foot tall, 40 pound thing hovering around us.  He swings from monkey bars.  He can (and does) finish our sentences when we are sure he's not listening, let alone comprehending what we're saying.

He's a boy in every typical and stereotypical sense of the world.  He is brave and anxious, wise in general but foolish in the moment, and he has a constant thirst for more adventure and more information.  He'll turn down ocean-fresh tuna but loves street vendor hot dogs.  He's a boy.

For every day outside with Hank, I need another day to recover mentally and physically.  He runs flat-out for about 17 hours a day, absolutely every single day.   But I wouldn't trade it for the kid who wants to play video games all day and whose parents are already losing touch.  Nope.  I have my boy.  And for awhile, the world can't share him.  You'll get him soon enough.

And sometimes, he really does sleep.

But don't worry.  He'll eventually wake, and you won't catch him. Until he finds a dead crab, at least.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Gear Review: Redfield Rebel 10x50 Binoculars

So I finally bought some big boy optics.  I didn't want to, I assure you.  I don't like the price or the weight of adult-scale optics and it took me about three years of warming up to take the plunge.

I had many options to choose from at my local Mega Sportsmans Store, but was pretty disturbed at the gap between low end optics ($40-$100) and high end optics ($250-$2,000).  If you want to buy a pair of binocs because you need one, a quick handling of the cheapos will leave you feeling unconvinced to say the least.

Redfield brand binocs seem to sit in that no mans land of price ($120 - $230), and it's hard to know what benefits you're getting over the $75 cheapos and what bells and whistles you're losing over the $400 Nikons, for example.   But let's be straight here.  I am buying binoculars to extend my visual range when I'm doing something else.  I'm not a birder.  I've used them scouting for deer and scouting for ducks.  I plan to use them to scout for surf when riding down the beaches of North Carolina and Florida.   In all cases, I plan to put the binoculars down and go do something else.

The binoculars I ultimately chose for this type of workload was the Redfield Rebel 10x50.  They are a solid handful and at 30 ounces, are a bit heavier than I hoped.    That, along with the very cheap case and woeful chest harness included with these retail $159 pieces (as always, I paid less than retail because I can't afford retail), really seem to be the only sacrifices made to keep the price point on the Rebel.

Magnification is everything you'd expect of a $250-400 pair of binoculars and clarity is amazing.  I bought these because I needed them to handle low light conditions, and they excel in that role.  That is, until their 30oz weight starts to cramp your wrist.   It should be noted that the new-to-the-market Nikon Trailblazer 10x50 ($169) weighs 25oz, while the Bushnell Marine 7x50 weighs 36oz, so my weight wimpiness is a factor in complaining about the Rebel's 30oz package.

This pair of binoculars actually feels good in my hands, despite the weight.  Like most optics these days, they are designed around the comfort of the user, even if it adds weight.  They'll be in the field with me quite a bit this winter - you'll see pictures of them again!

Review Grading:

Performance:   A
Price:  B+
Handling/Ergonomics:  B
Total Grade:  A-


Monday, October 21, 2013

This is Four

The photo is grainy because this ridiculous activity was occurring in the pitch black of night....

Anyone who loves their kids knows that once you start talking about them, it's hard to stop.  I am so proud of our little boy.  He is an awesome guy with a HUGE heart and he sure loves his mommy.   Being his dad makes me pay a little more attention to who I am supposed to be, since he constantly asks questions like, "If God is everywhere but God is nowhere, is God just pretend?"  And "What comes after outer space?"

Being his dad has made me more active and vigilant about things like the natural resources I'll leave him one day, as well as the Constitutional rights I'll leave him with (I know, my politics are bizarre).   Before fatherhood, I was an active volunteer for various causes and organizations.  Common sense would have it that I'd spend less time doing that stuff now, because I simply have less time.  Certainly, there are evening chapter meetings and cocktail fundraisers that I miss in more ways than one, but fatherhood has lit a fire of urgency under me.  I'm realizing that my life, if I'm lucky, is nearly half gone.

"What will I leave?" has become for me an inspiring call to return simultaneously to activism, punk rock, environmentalism, and spiritual study.   Time to galvanize, figure it out, and get things done.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Scouting....The Cold is Coming

It's October duck season and it's 75 degrees outside.  Ducks are barely moving and guys hunting the best farms on the best rivers are having good but not amazing luck (not the best news for the rest of us).

My crossbow still isn't shooting straight, so it's going to the bow tech.   But the deer are moving.   It's getting cooler (mid-50s) at night.   BUT IN EIGHT DAYS WE ARE LOOKING AT 39 DEGREES FOR A LOW!

Hang in there, keep fishing, the warm blooded critters will be here soon.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Upper Potomac Strikeout

Northern West Virginia is growing on me.  Unfortunately, during my (now annual) visit here, we were still in a drought and the water was low.  The grasses were also far less dense then last year, which while providing far easier retrieves, provided far fewer hiding places for red eye rock bass, which I thoroughly enjoyed battling last year on the very same stretch of river.

I had two big hit-and-run hits from either red-eye or smallmouth bass, and while it provided some great excitement, I was able to set the hook on neither one of them.  I'm wondering for the first time if I should come back here to fish on my "own" time.  I'd certainly do it differently, but the fish are definitely here.   Grass or not.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Crossbow Cross Eyes

For all the "hunting leisure" that crossbows are supposed to provide, I sure have trouble shooting one straight.  I told everyone that I canceled my first planned bowhunt of the year because the temperature was predicted to be 87 degrees that day (true story).  But the real reason is that I need to gain some serious accuracy and serious confidence with this tool before I take it afield with the potential to get after live game.

Fallfish Wrangler!

Suffered a rare trout strikeout on my favorite local trout water on the MD/PA boundary.   Water was warm, low, and crystal clear, none of which probably did me any favors.  But I did catch sixty five bushels of fallfish, including this 13-inch wall-hanger!

Look closely, he pooped on my waders.  Also caught a bunch of juvenile smallmouth, which was fine, but not why I came here.  2013 hasn't been a banner fishing year, for sure, but that's on me, and not Nature.  Sure feels good to get outside, though.

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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...