Thursday, December 31, 2009
Greetings and Happy New Years. I'm back from a sort of self-imposed month-long exile in which I tried to figure out what exactly I wanted to do with the blog, what I wanted it to be, how I wanted it to look and if - to be honest - I really wanted to continue it at all. I was hoping a break would give me some inspiration for some big, dramatic change; a clear direction, focus. Exactly the kind of things at which I normally suck.
And I can report that I figured out pretty much none of those things, so I just said to hell with it and decided to continue writing. I've always been better at tinkering around the margins, anyway. As you can see I've been playing around a bit with things, and I'll continue to do so incrementally as the mood strikes me.
I'll leave you with an image from yesterday afternoon's bowhunt, the last one of 2009 (but not the season, still have two more weeks of that) and a quote. The picture is as uneventful as the hunt was. No deer in the field before me like there normally are, but I had a nice time thinking, anyway. The quote is from Kurt Vonnegut, and is, I think, apropos of the vagarities of creativity.
"Where do I get my ideas from? You might as well have asked that of Beethoven. He was goofing around in Germany like everybody else, and all of a sudden this stuff came gushing out of him. It was music. I was goofing around like everbody else in Indiana, and all of a sudden stuff came gushing out. It was disgust with civilization."
Monday, November 30, 2009
But I really am planning on updating the blog in terms of its look, photography, links, the blogroll, etc, etc. It's just a matter of taking the time to actually, you know, do it...
I know a number of fellow bloggers have added me to their blogroll and I promise that my lack of reciprocity does not constitute blatant assholery on my part. As I once explained to an ex-girlfriend with whom I was breaking up, "It's not you, baby. It's me."
OK, so I just completely made that up. I've never uttered those words in my life and in fact the few times I ever managed to beat an ex-girlfriend to the break-up punch I always made it a point to blame everything on her. That, as they say, is just the way I roll...
But hey, the point still holds. The fact is, I'm still fairly intimidated by the fact that I am solely responsible for this blog's design and content. I'm just a writer, a scribbler. I am, by my own admission, horrible with visuals, art direction or creating anything that looks pleasing to the eye.
You want proof? I couldn't think of an appropriate photo to go with today's blog, so I just decided on this gratuitous cute puppy pic. Of course it's a brainless cop-out, but everyone likes puppies, right?
It's a perfect example of why every time I sit down with the intention of redesigning, adding to or tweaking the blog, my internal voice tells me "You suck at this. Just go have a beer." So I do.
See, I started this blog on a whim, a little side project purely for my own amusement. Just a place to stick things that didn't fit elsewhere, didn't make much sense or weren't and never would be publishable. It's horribly unfocused, completely scattershot, wildly inconsistent, has no target demographic, brand or identity whatsoever and is, quite frankly, a little weird. Just like me.
I never really meant it to be an online resume or portfolio of my writing, and I certainly never expected anyone to read the damn thing.
But The Suburban Bushwacker took a bit of pity on me, and since then I have accumulated a raging trickle of regular readers, a few of whom aren't even family. I mean, every once in a while if the topic is salient or pithy enough I may crack twenty unique visits a day.
And since I have a small family and few literate friends, that means there are literally tens of people out there who are occasionally interested or bored enough to visit the blog.
I thank you, and I once again apologize for failing to extend the courtesy you've extended me. I'm in the process of updating the blogroll, adding pictures, screwing around with the look and themes and generally mucking things up. You might want to avert your eyes, because it might get ugly (ier).
And if you've added me to your blogroll but you don't see yours in mine (when I get it finished) please let me know.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
For someone who said he was going to do more meat hunting this year, I've passed on any number of bucks, but sitting in the blind this morning I spied movement on the ridge opposite me and put the binos on what turned out to be perhaps the largest buck I've personally ever seen with a rifle in my hand.
I watched him make his way down the ridge into a heavily-wooded draw running perpendicular to the ridge I was on. All he had to do was come back out of it. Of course he never did.
If I was smart, tomorrow morning, well before dawn, I would slip into that draw and set up on him. But I'm not.
Instead, I'll be watching my betters hunt. Peregrines, gyrfalcons, goshawks, red-tails, perhaps even a golden eagle.
The North American Falconers Association annual meet is in Woodward this year and tomorrow I'm tagging along with a group of falconers and their birds.
It's a rare opportunity to watch something I've always been fascinated with, but never quite thought I had what it took to actually do.
So as much as I want to shoot that deer, I want to watch these birds fly more.
I mean, just look at him. Who wouldn't drop everything to watch that?
Friday, November 13, 2009
And I haven't had a pointing dog since, partly because I had the chessies to occupy me, partly because we didn't have room for three dogs in our old house, partly because I didn't think I could find another dog like DP and partly because I wasn't even sure I wanted to get back into bird dogs.
But lately I've been thinking. Just thinking, that's all.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Priorities, you see...
I thought of that scene last week as I was sitting on the tailgate of my truck cursing (loudly and longly) trying vainly to start a chainsaw that, up to that point, had never failed to start and indeed had never given me so much as a hiccup in the number of years I've used to it to fell trees, cut firewood and clear brush and the cursed Eastern redcedar.
But last week, it sure enough quit on me. And quit at a time when I was 30 miles from home and without the second chainsaw that I normally take as a back-up. I had forgotten to throw it in the truck. I was in a hurry because I wanted to cut a load of wood quickly and then lazily fritter away the rest of the afternoon hunting. Since we're heating mainly with wood this winter, enduring the former is how I usually justify (to the wife) getting away with the latter.
Then I remembered the 24-inch bow saw and and axe I always carry in my truck tool box, and thought "Silly modern man! Do you think your wood-cutting ancestors had chainsaws? Your great-grandfather's one-man crosscut saw hanging on the garage wall wasn't always decoration, you know."
So, with visions of self-sufficient rugged individualism looping through my head like some kind of uber-stylized Leni Riefenstahl-ish fantasy, I slung my saw and axe over my broad, rugged shoulder and sallied forth into the big woods, whistling Python's Lumberjack song as I went (Hey, it's the only lumberjack song I know...).
An hour later, with both my broad, rugged shoulders and all illusions shattered I came stumbling back, exhausted, soaked in sweat, rubbery, useless arms hanging from my sides like so much over-cooked pasta. I had managed to cut enough wood to perhaps keep me warm overnight, provided the temperature didn't drop to, oh, say 65 degrees or so.
I figured that at this pace to fill the bed of my truck with a load of firewood, a task that - with a chainsaw - I can usually finish in two, maybe three hours of work would with bow saw and axe take me roughly until mid-January.
My "O, Pioneers" delusions thusly destroyed, I once again said to hell with it, threw the saw and axe back in the tool box, flipped off the chainsaw one last time, grabbed my bow and went hunting. Which is what I should have done in the first place.
A couple weeks ago I wrote a "Field Notes" blog about an anthropologist's claim that modern man is, compared to his forebears, a screaming pantywaist http://www.fieldandstream.com/blogs/hunting/2009/10/chad-love-are-modern-hunters-wimps
Monday, November 9, 2009
I threw the waders and a half-dozen decoys in the bag, loaded up Tess and headed for a favorite slough on my local lake. It's just a shallow little bowl of water, maybe an acre surrounded by trees, and it's a fairly long walk in, but I can usually find a few mallards hanging around.
One thing that really surprised me was the number of duck hunters I saw on the lake yesterday. I live in a part of the state where duck hunting isn't at all common. During a typical season I'll run into a few hunters from back east who hunt the area until their zone opener, but after that I usually have the place to myself.
Not yesterday. There were no less (and possibly more) than four different groups of hunters on the lake. I'm not used to sharing, and I fervently hope those people had a lousy hunt and decide to go somewhere else in the future. Yes, I've become a little spoiled in my solitude.
Despite the warm weather we've been having there were a few ducks on the lake this weekend and I managed to shoot a pair of mallards and a wigeon. I had my chance to limit out but the poor shooting I experienced during dove season has apparently carried over into duck season.
Friday, November 6, 2009
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
It would be a learning experience for both of us. Here are a few observations from said trip:
1. If you want to document your trip through the wonders of modern digital photography, it helps greatly if you remember to stick the Compactflash card in your camera before you leave the house.
2. When you think you've packed enough food and drink to sustain an eight-year-old on a daytrip, immediately double that amount and you should be good. And don't bother planning on eating yours. He'll want that, too.
3. While you may know to roll up your window when you're about to blast through a particularly muddy and slick section of washed-out county road, don't forget to remind your eight-year-old to do the same.
4. Leftover Halloween jack-o-lanterns make great targets for eight-year-old shooters, but they can only sustain so many blasts from a 20 gauge.
5. No matter how many times your eight-year-old son insists he's "man enough" to shoot your .50 caliber muzzleloader, tell him no.
6. If you feel guilty for wisely not allowing your eight-year-old to shoot your gun, bruise his shoulder, scope his forehead and instantly and permanently lose all interest in firearms, don't try to ease that guilt by handing him your brand-new $20 Swedish firesteel, your expensive custom-made knife and challenging him to make a fire. He will:
A. return 20 minutes later with your custom-made knife covered with charred firesteel slag and the formerly brand-new quarter-inch-thick firesteel ground down to the approximate diameter of a toothpick, or
B. return 20 minutes later at the head of a raging grass fire.
7. When you're bucking logs the wrong way, you know you're bucking logs the wrong way but you go ahead and do it the wrong way, anyway, make sure your eight-year-old son is out of earshot when your bar gets pinched and you let loose a string of expletives or you will be scolded for saying bad words and subsequently threatened with being told on to Mommy.
8. Your idea of "helping out" and your eight-year-old son's idea of "helping out" can vary wildly.
9. When it comes time to go hunting, make sure you pay attention to what your son is wearing. While you know that it will become chilly as the sun goes down, don't be a dummy and assume your eight-year-old son knows this, too. Otherwise, when it's way too late to walk back to the truck for a jacket you will be forced to surrender your nice warm fleece pullover to your shivering eight-year-old son and commence shivering yourself.
10. After you and your eight-year-old son have been sitting quietly in the blind for an hour or so, it's a good idea to take a quick look around before telling your son it's OK to noisily tear open that bag of Skittles...
11. When a nice fat doe walks across the clearing in front of your blind but the weeds and grass are so high the only part of her you can see is the top of her head, you will suddenly and belatedly recognize the wisdom of your eight-year-old son's words the last time you two were here: "Daddy, I think you need to bring the brushcutter down here, You can't see anything!"
12. When that same doe finally gets clear of the brush and you put the crosshairs behind her shoulder, don't start having an internal debate along the lines of "OK, I hope he's ready for this, old enough to understand what's going on, mature enough to handle the finality of death, etc, etc, hmmm, maybe I should ask him one more time if he's sure he wants me to shoot her, if he thinks he's ready."
Because when you lean over to whisper to your son "do you want me to shoot her?" the doe will instantly see your slight movement, the kind of slight movement you perhaps could have gotten away with had you been wearing the camo pullover that's now keeping your eight-year-old son warm instead of the bright neon blue t-shirt that contrasts so nicely with your orange vest.
13. When the doe you just busted blows and crashes off down the draw, taking with it what sounds like an entire herd of as-yet-and-now-never-will-be-seen deer with it as well as your plans to bowhunt this same draw next week, it's a good idea to start working on the excuse so you'll have one ready when your eight-year-old son asks you "Geez, daddy, why didn't you shoot the doe? I kept waiting and waiting but you never shot!"
No deer this trip but a great time was had by all. Deer gun season starts in a few weeks and this was a good trial run for our planned opening weekend camping trip. I guess if I could sum up the lessons learned it would be thusly "don't second-guess your kids and bring lots of candy."
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Uh, thanks but no thanks.
So I'll reluctantly load up my deer-hunting gear Saturday morning while the dogs watch and whine. Don't get me wrong, I love to deer hunt but I'm at best a casual blackpowder hunter. It's a good time to be out hunting, so I do, but from a technique standpoint I've just never gotten into it like bow or rifle hunting.
And since Oklahoma has gone to a two-buck aggregate limit across all seasons, it's going to have to be a pretty nice buck for me to shoot it and give up the possibility of later taking one with bow and one with rifle.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
I'm sitting here with a 102-degree fever, chills, muscle aches and various and sundry pains, apparently the result of my three-year-old son having bestowed upon his father a raging case of...nope, not flu, but hand, foot and mouth disease.
At least that's my Internet-derived diagnosis. It is by all accounts a rather common viral infection in infants and children. In adults however, not so much. Here I am, a mere seven months away from my 39th birthday and I've contracted a disease generally seen only in the Sesame Street demographic.
I shall refrain from speculating what that might indicate about my maturity level and general worldview, but it does sorta explain why Elmo looks so comforting about now.
Which brings me to the connection between viral infections and indie film. This is a connection I made last night around 1:30 a.m. when I woke up in a cold, achy sweat. My generally listless and zombie-like condition prevented me from reading with any degree of comprehension, so I decided if I was going to suffer, I was going to suffer in front of the television.
Now I watch hardly any television. I know it's fashionable and intellectually smug to claim that, but I truly don't. I catch Top Gear on BBC, the odd nature show with my eldest son and and I also try to keep abreast of what's on PBS. That's pretty much it. Hunting and/or fishing shows? I literally can't name one.
But I must admit that every now and then I peruse the movie channels. It's a guilty pleasure because long ago in a previous, childless life I was (cue French accent)... a cinaphile.
Seeing as how most of my friends in college were art school film majors, it wasn't surprising I was a film geek. And since I was also the only bonafide huntin', fishin', shootin' slow-talkin' Bubba of the group, and given that I was much larger than the average film major (budding filmmakers tend to be a bit sallow and puny...) I was invariably cast in my friends' class projects as either a hulking, lumpen dullard or a machete-wielding psycho.
It was much fun, but upon seeing the final version of their avant-garde masterworks, it's really no wonder virtually all of them ditched film school for journalism.
And when we weren't making films we were watching them. Sort of. My friends and I would buy a 12-pack of Milwaukee's Best, a fifth of Jim Beam and other assorted mind-altering substances (Jolt cola and Slim-Jims, mainly) and watch films we largely didn't understand but drunkenly discussed ad nauseum, topics like "are the films of Akira Kurosawa more influenced by Shakespeare or Dostoevsky and exactly how does this Gai-gin influence color our perception of Japanese culture" (I actually wrote a paper on this. To this day I have no clue what I was trying to say)
Or "What was the underlying symbolry of the last scene of "The Cook, The Thief, His Wife And Her Lover?" (rule of thumb: if the movie was completely lost on you, just make up some underlying symbolry...).
Or in more intellectually honest moments, something along the lines of "Holy shit, look at Isabella Rossellini's tits!"
***As an addendum, I forced my wife to sit through "Blue Velvet" a few months ago. A pragmatic and more intellectually honest sort than myself, she declared it the third-worst film she's ever seen. Number two was another David Lynch classic "Wild at Heart" and the absolute winner, garnering the coveted title of "Worst. Film. Ever." went to Daniel Cronenberg's "Crash." I still enjoy all three for the uh...cinematography.***
Even after college I retained my love of off-beat film, but of course that all comes to a screeching halt when you have kids. The past nine years or so have been something of a film bleakscape for me, a period of time in which I've developed an appreciation for more linear mainstream fare, like SpongeBob.
But last night, shaking and shivering, I turned on the TV hoping a movie would take my mind off my illness, or at least make me drowsy enough to sleep. And that's when I discovered that just being "indie" doesn't make a film suckproof.
In fact, I discovered that a bad movie is much like a viral infection: Once you turn it on, it infects you and you just can't seem get rid of it. Insomnia, morbid curiosity and the 272 channels of infomercials running at the same time see to that. Treating it certainly doesn't work. Believe me, I tried to clear my mind and channel my inner film geek to see what the filmmaker was trying to make me see, but in the end all I saw was a muddled, crappy, juvenile, pretentious attempt at art.
And then it hit me: I probably would have loved this film in college. In fact, I know I would have. With a start I realized the yawning chasm between what I was then and what I am now is a bit wider, a bit more conventional than I had previously imagined.
Depressing, really. So I did what any mature, self-respecting, 38-year-old suffering from an infantile sickness would do in my place: I flicked off the excruciatingly bad movie and started watching some DVRd episodes of "Rocky and Bullwinkle."
Ahhh, much better. I finally discovered the cure for a cinematic virus is a healthy dose of joyfully clever and punny 60s-era animation.
Unfortunately, the only cure for a real virus is time, so it's back to bed for me. I was hoping to get out bowhunting some this week but I'm afraid that would require the actual drawing back of the bow, an action for which I'm physically ill-equipped right now.
So I'll just drink my liquids, pop my vitamin C and keep watching to see what Rocky (Doh! I mean Bullwinkle) pulls out of his hat...
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Don't get me wrong: I desperately want to travel to many far-off places and catch many large, exotic and spectacular gamefish. Who wouldn't? But that never was the yardstick by which I measure success or happiness and it never will be.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
One tree got shredded almost immediately by a rubbing buck, one tree took a look at the soil in which it was being planted and decided it was better to just get it over with and die immediately, and the remaining three have become sort of a never-ending buffet for the neighborhood deer. I water and fertilize. They tear and masticate.
And I had this guy hanging out pretty much all the way through bow, muzzleloader and gun season as his competitors showed up one by one at the local check station. During gun season he actually watched me skin out a buck as he patiently waited for his bucket of corn. I think he ended up fathering half the fawns in the neighborhood last year. Smart fellow, that one.
But next year I'm planting okra. Behind a fence.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Not only is Joe is a seriously talented video editor who did a great job on this one, he's also a helluva nice guy who busted his ass to make sure I had a great time this weekend.
Head on over, watch the video and leave a comment on Joe's blog. And you even get the chance to watch yours truly getting my ass flat whipped by that magnificent fish.
Getting strapped into the fighting chair...
After an hour in the fighting chair...
Grabbing the bill...
Time for one quick pic from the bridge (See the blood on my teeth? I bit the hell out of myself while in the chair and I was too wiped out to even notice it)...
Length and girth measured...
And then back into the Atlantic...
Un. Freakin'. Real. I'll actually post words when my brain re-sets and I regain the use of my right arm well enough to type...
Joe Cermele(who took the majority of these photos) is working on getting it all together on a Hook Shots episode over at the F&S website and I'll post a link when it's up.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Luckily I don't have that problem. Failure’s always been one of my options. In my world, you always have the choice to not succeed. In fact, if I was in the business of creating jingles for losers, I start with something like "Failure: just keep the option open" or perhaps "Failure: is it really that bad?" or maybe "Without losers there would be no winners!"
My epic failures in this endeavor are sustained by a potent combination of geography (landlocked), funding ('aint got none) and general incompetence (got plenty).
Oh, I've tried. My first attempt came on a college road trip to Galveston with a couple non-fishing buddies. I brought a rod and had every intention of fishing, but we decided to "grab a quick beer" when we arrived and from that point - with the exception of a few lingering nightmares involving motel cockroaches - my memory fails, but I'm fairly confident I didn't catch anything. At least from fishing.
Friday, September 11, 2009
It is, at least in my case, a terminal condition with no known cure. You can briefly deaden its symptoms with drugs (both legal and illicit), booze, reality television or Wal-Mart people-watching.
All of these things will temporarily make you feel better about yourself, but eventually the discontent will creep back in and soon, very soon, you will be pissed off and dissatisfied all over again.
So my advice is rather than fight your discontent, accept it. Embrace it. View it as a cattle prod for your soul and let it zap you in the ass every time you start becoming complacent, malleable, unquestioning.
Do you really want to be a shiny-happy, well-adjusted, content person, all docile and smiley-faced and ready to accept the fate society hands you? I call those people livestock.
I don't trust happy, contented well-adjusted people and you shouldn't either. Your discontent is a gift that lifts you above the cud-chewers. Use it to your advantage.
And if that doesn't work, if all else fails, then go get yourself a big-bore handgun, a few boxes of shells, a shitload of water jugs and start blazing away. In the long run it's cheaper, more cathartic and a helluva lot more fun than a shrink.
Sorry I couldn't be of more help.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
In a previous post I wrote about the opening of dove season acting as a series of waypoints along the path of my life. Well, for better or worse, here's a little photographic proof...
You'd be hard-pressed to find a gamebird that's had more photographic injustices done to it than the dove. Other gamebirds get the artsy poses with fine guns and weathered barnwood, while dove generally get photographed with a group of grinning, none-too-bright-looking Bubbas standing over a huge communal pile of freshly-shot carcasses.
Take this unfortunate photograph, for example. It was taken on the side of some forgotten old section line road south of Mountain View, Oklahoma way back in (if rusty memory serves me) 1988. Despite the potentially destabilizing weight of that massive mullet and dove-flaring properties of that bright red ballcap, my friends and I shot obscene numbers of dove in the disced-over fields on either side of that road.
And as befitting our youth, exuberance and our complete lack of sophistication or taste (Isn't that any teenager?) we took obscenely bad photos. We'd pile our dead birds on the back of that old Datsun, dove spilling off the trunk lid like lifeless little rags, and grin at the camera.
Oh to be young, stupid, clueless and truant. I miss those days greatly, setting off with no plan, no money and no worries beyond finding the next place to hunt. Destination? Nowhere, and damn eager to get there. Just drive west. We’ll find birds. Somewhere.
But time and change are inexorable. I haven't been that young and carefree for a long time, and I rarely shoot dove in waves any more. My friends have long gone on to their own lives, their own changes and so I hunt mostly alone now, and probably will until my sons are old enough to accompany me if they so choose.
And killing something with no other company than your own thoughts is an activity best done at a measured pace and for a measured purpose. So I try to do it with a little more restraint and a little more taste than I did as a youth, despite that underlying urge, the compelling need, to hunt being just as strong in this picture as it was in that one.
Yes, it's a well-worn and familiar pose. Certainly not original at all. And I'm not trying to apologize or make up for the photographic transgressions of a reckless and bloodthirsty youth by getting all faux-elegant and tastefully understated.
Nope, both youth and hunting are what they are. I make no apologies for either (with the exception of the mullet. And for that I'm truly sorry...)
But I like it anyway (the picture. Not the mullet). It speaks to who I am.
And despite its horrendous technical deficiencies and its questionable artistic qualities, I like that old snapshot, too. It speaks to who I once was.
In a few years I'm sure I'll figure out a way to meld a shotgun, a walker and an oxygen bottle into a photograph that speaks to who I'll someday be.
** Since Youtube and SonyBMG won't allow any embedding of their music videos, I guess I won't be clever by adding Social Distortion's "Story Of My Life" video to the end of the blog...
Well, piss on them. Here's the link anyway.
Thursday, September 3, 2009
Plus, if you're sending the dog on a blind, or even on marked birds that have fallen in the sagebrush, they often have a hard time finding them because scenting conditions are so poor.
So what did I do? Took my dogs dove hunting, of course. I knew at the outset it was going to be a low-percentages hunt, but I wanted to get the dogs, especially my male, the chance to start getting into the hunting season mindset, so I decided to hunt a stock tank on my local WMA and shoot "training" birds, only taking specific shots that would be good retrieves for the dogs.
That turned out to be a fair bit of chutzpah on my part...
My area's wheat crop was a total bust this year. My local WMA manager told me he didn't even bother discing and burning the food plots they plant to attract dove, so right there one of the main concentrators of dove on the areas I hunt is absent this year. That's not to say there aren't good numbers of dove still around. There are. But when there are 16,000-odd acres of native vegetation to feed on, figuring out a good spot from which to shoot a few can be a challenge.
But dove must drink, too, and one of the best (and one of my favorite) ways to shoot a limit around here is to set up on a stock tank or windmill in the evening. Usually by late August/early September we're dry as the proverbial bone and those creaking old Aermotors are dove magnets.
Unless of course, you get rain. Which we have. And unless we've had a spell of cool, cloudy weather that starts getting those dove thinking about leaving for warmer climes a bit sooner than normal. Which we have.
I've shot a lot of limits off this particular tank, and for what I wanted to do it was perfect: fairly short walk, good spot and thanks to all the rain it was about four times its normal size, big and deep enough to provide a good swim for the dogs.
Despite our recent cool weather, it's still getting pretty warm in the afternoons. Which makes this...
One of my absolute favorite parts of dove hunting. Being public land, you (thankfully) have to hoof it to reach most of the windmills on northwestern Oklahoma's WMAs, but when you get there you're rewarded with one of life's greatest simple pleasures: clear, cold water straight from the outlet pipe of a high plains windmill.
Friday, August 28, 2009
I consider them the most egalitarian of gamebirds in that they're widespread, numerous and you don't need any specialized equipment or tactics to hunt them.
They don't require a boat, decoys, dogs or calls. They don't make you chase them and when you do manage to hit them they have the grace and courtesy to die fairly easily. Even a half-wit can quickly grasp the basics of dove hunting: find a spot, sit down, and when a bird flies by you shoot at it once, twice or thrice depending on skill and/or luck.
As such, they are easily our most popular gamebird. And therein lies the problem with dove: their familiarity breeds a certain degree of if not contempt then at least a sort of one-dimensional thinking in that the entire arc of the popular notion of the dove-hunting experience can be described in one sentence: Opening day dove shoot.
That's it. That one image conjures up notions of the traditional southern social event, the big party hunt where everyone gets together, has a great time, shoots lots of birds, shoots lots of bull and then packs up, goes home and gets ready for the rest of the"real" hunting seasons to open up.
Basically, dove are considered a one-time celebratory kick-off. And that's it. The vast, and I mean vast majority of dove hunters give absolutely no post-opening weekend thought to the little buggers at all.
Which is a shame, really. Because once you get past the action-packed barrel-burning salvos of opening weekend, dove hunting can be a very mellow and contemplative activity. It gives you time to think. And what's hunting without thinking? Some of my most cherished and memorable hunts have been spent sitting under a windmill with the dog, watching the sky and shooting nowhere near a limit.
Hopefully a few dove will be flying. And if I'm lucky I might shoot a few. Or I might not. Either way is fine by me. I can certainly think of worse ways to dwell on one's life.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
One of the people I interviewed during the course of writing the story was a young apprentice falconer named Lauren McGough.
What was extraordinary about Lauren was she was only fourteen at the time and she was a girl in an incredibly demanding pursuit that is practiced primarily (with apologies to all the falconers out there) by old(er) men. And for good reason (the age part, anyway. Gender, of course matters not...)
You see, you can't just decide to become a falconer. Here's how I described it in the article:
"Like all top-echelon predators, birds of prey fascinate us in ways other animals simply can’t. Not only is their method of hunting hypnotic in its beauty and frightening efficiency, birds of prey seem to wear an air of languid superiority as comfortably as they wear their feathers.
Simply put, we love to watch them. By virtue of their very haughtiness, they demand our attention. And we, as spellbound, earth-bound subjects, always give it.
Whether you’re watching from a quarter-mile away through a pair of binoculars or a distance of three feet, the first thing you notice are the eyes. Disconcertingly intense and unmistakably wild, those twin wells of unfathomable depth don’t merely look past you, they penetrate you. In one cold, perfunctory glance, you’ve been sized up, found to be of no real consequence and then simply disregarded.
But there is a small group of Oklahomans that takes our Earth-bound fascination with birds of prey beyond passive observation and into a realm of interaction and cooperation few have the opportunity to witness and even fewer have the dedication to achieve.
These individuals have learned how to fly - vicariously, anyway - by learning how to live and hunt with birds of prey.
Falconry is at once art, science, history and lifestyle. And to be successful, its practitioners say, you have to apply all qualities equally.
Perhaps that’s why there are fewer than 100 practicing falconers statewide. Not only is it the most highly-regulated sport externally, due to a maze of state and federal regulations, the unique demands of the sport are such that anything less than total commitment is doomed to failure.
That’s why the one overriding truth of falconry is there is no such thing as a casual falconer.
To become one, a person must first pass a comprehensive test covering everything from biology to care and handling to pertinent laws and regulations. They must then build housing facilities and purchase certain equipment that must be inspected and approved by a state inspector. They must then purchase all the necessary state and federal licenses.
And that’s the easy part. By law, all beginning falconers must be apprenticed to a licensed falconer for their first two years, and if you haven’t made an honest assessment of why you want to be a falconer in the first place, you can be sure that the person you ask to be your sponsor will do just that."
But here was this fourteen-year-old girl with a red-tailed hawk on her fist taking on the kind of responsibility and commitment that very few adults, much less a teenager, could handle.
At any rate, Lauren was a good interview and I left thinking she'd have no problem making it through her apprenticeship and becoming a falconer.
That ended up being a wee bit of an understatement on my part...
Apparently Lauren has gone on to bigger things (much bigger) and more exotic places (much more exotic) than red-tails and Oklahoma. And she's a damn good writer, to boot.
http://www.aquiling.blogspot.com/ via Steve Bodio's blog http://stephenbodio.blogspot.com/
Now that, folks, is impressive as hell.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
I'm a happily married guy. Have been for going on fourteen years. But I have to confess that I still scan the personals every few weeks, looking for that special someone.
Maybe someone like this:
"Attractive F, 32, seeks M, of a not too dissimilar age, who smells nice, dresses well & is good at sex. But must not be a cock. London. "
Or maybe this one:
"Inveterate, pelagic marmalade maker – artist/peace activist. Cheerful F 62 – red/green – seeks help committing future acts of parsimony."
But definitely not this one:
"Two hefty, tattooed Brighton skinheads, 43/45. One writes, one reads. Want uncensored sex with bookish blokes who like rough drafts."
These are all personals from the current edition of the London Review of Books.
If you've never heard of the London Review of Books, well, you're not alone. I'd never heard of it either. But in one of those serendipitous 'net surfing incidents of looking for one thing and finding another I stumbled across the site several years ago while searching for a particular book review.
I thought "Hmmm, what's this?" and started reading. As it turns out, the LRB started out as an insert in the New York Review of Books way back in 1979 before going solo in 1980 (thanks, Wikipedia). It's a good read, but what (immediately) caught my eye were the personals.
And now I have to explain why exactly I was reading the personals section of a fairly obscure (to Americans, anyway) literary journal. Really, it was all completely innocent...
My wife and I had just returned from a ten-day trip to Paris (with a side trip to London). My wife had been to Europe twice already on study abroad programs in both high school and college, but it was the first trip abroad for this provincial rube.
Well, being a history, travel and culture weenie I fell immediately and deeply in love with Europe, and as soon as we got back I started scheming how and when we could go back. One money-saving option we kicked around was renting a flat rather than staying in motels. And the LRB, I noticed, had ads for flats and apartments. But wouldn't you know it, right underneath that was the personals section. I started reading. And then I started laughing.
As it turns out, the LRB was - and is - famous for its offbeat, quirky, witty and weird personal ads. I had no idea. I was instantly hooked, and I've been reading it ever since.
There's none of that earnest, sappy, American-style "looking for that special someone to share my dreams with" bile here. Oh, hell no...
"Bald, short, fat and ugly male, 53, seeks short-sighted woman with tremendous sexual appetite."
"I'm just a girl who can't say no (or anaesthetist). Lisping Rodgers and Hammerstein fan, female, lecturer in politics (37) WLTM man to 40 for thome enthanted eveningth."
"Mature gentleman (62) aged well, noble grey looks, fit and active, sound mind and unfazed by the demands of modern society seeks...damn it, I have to pee again."
Those are just a few of the selections from "They Call Me Naughty Lola" a compilation of the best personals from the pages of the LRB. It's on my Christmas list...
Monday, August 24, 2009
But then I realized the article wasn't satire. On the contrary it was, as they say, serious as a heart attack, which in turn engendered somewhere deep within the common-sense lobe of my brain that most modern and ubiquitous reaction to unbelievable news: "WTF? They can't be serious. They simply can't be."
Oh, but they are. Of course, this has fuckall to do with animal welfare and everything to do with harassing dog owners and controlling, stigmatizing and eventually severely limiting or banning dog ownership.
From the story:
The leader of one of the state's sporting dog organizations says a recently approved Kanawha County (West Virginia) ordinance may very well be a covert effort to eliminate hunting with dogs.
Gary Knapp, president of the West Virginia Bear Hunters Association appeared before the Kanawha County Commission last week to raise his concerns about the stiff stipulations of the ordinance, aimed at preventing mistreatment of dogs...
Knapp says the ordinance, as it was approved, requires dog owners to bring their animals in the house when temperatures outside go above 85 degrees or below 40 degrees. The range would encompass more than half the year in West Virginia. Knapp say it also renders the dog ineffective on a hunt if he or she isn't in proper condition.
Nobody seems sure of just where the writers of the ordinance came up with the arbitrary figures of 40-degrees and 85-degrees. Knapp says he was told by the attorney for the Humane Society it was a recommendation of their organization. The Humane Society of the United States has long been opposed to any and all hunting. Knapp says there was a not-so-veiled indication that may be what's at play here.
So here's what I proposed to the F&S editors as a response: "The First Annual Field & Stream Cruel And/Or Inhumane Treatment of Canine Companion Animal Photo Contest."
The rules? Simple: your photograph must show a canine companion animal (preferably one bred for and used as an accessory in the harassment and murder of small creatures) in cruel or inhumane temperature conditions as defined by the Humane Society of the United States and Kanawha County, West Virginia.
Got pics of your ice-coated labs? Send 'em in. Late-season bird hunts? They're game. Those 90-degree dove openers? They're eligible. Hell, take a pic of your kids walking the dog on a cool fall morning or throwing bumpers for them in the park If it's under 40 or over 85, you too have a shot at the prize.
The winners would receive the wrath and condemnation of the HSUS (which in my book is priceless) and - if you happen to live within the borders of Kanawha County, West Virginia - jail time.
Eh, the editors didn't go for it...
Saturday, August 22, 2009
Thursday, August 20, 2009
I'm not a sports guy so I didn't grow up reading the great sports columnists, but I did grow up reading their equally great counterparts in the hook-and-bullet world.