Monday, February 28, 2011

First Post...

...for Mouthful of Feathers is up and as with the Quail Forever blog feel free to read, criticize, praise, ignore or mock at your leisure...

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Playin' Twister a little early this year...

In honor of our first tornado watch of 2011, a re-post from last year. Because I'm lazy.

Just east of my back porch, the tailing edge of a line of storms sweeping off to the northeast into Kansas. Grapefruit-sized hail and tornado warnings for them. A cold beer and a spectacular sunset light show for me.

We'll get ours, eventually, and when we do I'm sure some distant backyard observer on the safe side of the dryline will pop the top on a cold one, stretch out in his lawn chair and think to himself "sucks to be them" as he watches the sky boil up and violently erupt over my house. Turnabout. That's just early fall on the southern plains, a period of transition that's often every bit as violent as spring. New England this isn't.

But right now the sky over my house contains only hot, still air. Summer air. I watch the dragonflies weave and dance in the welding-arc glow of the distant lightning stitching its demented pattern across the sky. I watch the boys play with the dogs in the evening heat. Beads of condensation roll down the side of my beer bottle. I long for fall. Real fall. Hunting fall. Dogs-and-shotguns fall. Not sweat-your-ass-off-for-a-few-dove-and-teal-and-the-gawddamned-teal-aren't-even-here-yet-and-the-gawddamned-dove-are-already-gone fall.

But that's still a long month away. So I sit back in my lawn chair, take a pull from the cold, wet beer, watch the sky and think to myself "sucks to be them."

Friday, February 25, 2011

F&S Website a Finalist For National Magazine Digital Award

The National Magazine Awards, or the "Ellies" are sort of the magazine equivalent of the Pulitzers. For the past few years the Field & Stream print mag has been a finalist in several categories, and in 2009 it finally won its first Ellie. It was also arguably the most prestigious, the one given for general excellence.

Despite the fact that the trophy itself (above) looks more like a Klingon battle ax than a literary award, it was a big honor and I was of course excited for everyone at the magazine, but at the same time I must admit that excitement was tinged with a wee bit of melancholy. I don't write for the print side and therefore couldn't - even on an ancillary and/or self-illusory level (a level I'm quite comfortable with) - bask in the collective glory.

Well, the list of the 2010 Digital Ellie finalists was released yesterday. My editor forwarded the press release to me and lo and behold, there we were...

General Excellence, Digital Media

Honors the best magazines published on digital platforms; the award is presented in two categories based on content and audience
News and Opinion: The Atlantic; The Daily Beast; The New York Times Magazine; Slate;
Service and Lifestyle: Epicurious; Field & Stream; POZ; Runner’s World; SELF

So I did what any self-respecting, attention-craving, accolade-seeking self-promoting writer would do: I immediately e-mailed my editor to ask if F&S actually won the award could I then claim to be "part of a National Magazine Award-winning team?" To which he replied "give me a hundred bucks and you can say whatever you want."

OK, so I made up that last part. Other than the multitude of blogs I crank out, it's not like I'm an integral part of the website or anything but hey, it's a dog-eat-dog world so you gotta grab whatever ancillary and/or self-illusory glory you can, right? Winners will be announced on March 16, and I'd sure appreciate any incense and/or livestock you see fit to burn and/or sacrifice on the website's behalf...

Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Craven Plea for Eyeballs

Recently my plan for world conservation non-profit blogging domination commenced with the introduction of my new blog on the Quail Forever website. Since birds, ducks and fish are where my primary conservation interests lie these days (sorry turkeys and big game, you've already got plenty of advocates) I will now turn my attention toward infiltrating DU or Delta, then perhaps the Ruffed Grouse Society (when I learn how to hunt ruffed grouse) and Trout Unlimited (when I finally learn how to flyfish. Correctly).

However, until those monopolistic goals come to fruition you'll have to make do with my thus-far meager and somewhat hesitant offering on the QF website. Every new blog stumbles around a bit until it finds its stride and voice (except this one, which stumbles by design) and the QF blog is no different. But I have high hopes for it, because I believe wholeheartedly in what Pheasants Forever is trying to do with QF.

As much as I am deeply divided between my love for upland hunting and waterfowl, the bobwhite quail is and always will be my totemic bird (ironic, I know, for a guy who didn't get his first pointer until after he got his first chessie). I've been in love with the little rockets ever since the day I kicked my first covey out of a shinnery thicket when I was ten years old. Or maybe nine. Hell, I can't remember. All I know for sure is that I missed. And possibly wet myself.

So anything I can do to help increase awareness of the bobwhite quail's intrinsic worth - as well as its plight - I will gladly do, including shamelessly plugging the Quail Forever website and blog at every opportunity.

So give it a read. Or even better, give it a read and then give me suggestions for making it better or more interesting or more relevant or more whatever. I'd love to hear what you have to say...

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Hoist a Brew for Climate Change...

Two weeks ago, I was shoving wood in the stove as fast as I could while enduring -15 temps and fifteen inches of snow.

Last week I sat on my back porch soaking up sunshine and a warm, gentle, seventy-degree breeze while drinking a beer and listening to the turkeys talk to each other out in the woods.

Ultimately we're all doomed, but catastrophic planet-level climate change does have its short-term benefits...

Friday, February 18, 2011

Name This Lure...

Most people don't realize that in addition to my other interests, I'm also a part-time lure designer. Here's one I've been working on and tweaking for quite some time now. It's a completely original design; pliant yet stiff. The knobbies are for, uh, increased sonic hydro-harmonics as the bait is retrieved. I envision this lure as a swimbait-jerkbait hybrid, sort of a cross between a Zara Spook and a really big fluke.

I can't wait to try it out this spring. I think it's going to be a fish-catching machine, but for some reason the dogs love this thing. I can't keep 'em away from it...

I'm working on the marketing and distribution plan now, but I need to come up with a name. Any suggestions?  

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A New Blog For Scattergun Junkies

Shotgun Chronicle is a new blog penned by my trout fishing/pheasant hunting, griping-about-the-state-of-the-world pal, Mouthful of Feathers blogger and soon-to-be-Idahoan Greg McReynolds.

Now Greg and I share similar tastes in many things: scotch, politics, books, music, fishing and above all, shotguns, so when Greg said he was starting up a shotguns blog, I couldn't wait to read it, even though my faith in his judgement had been shaken a bit after he started talking about the "classy little side-by-side" he was planning on bringing to our recent pheasant hunt, and then showed up toting this...

(OK, I kid, I kid...he actually showed up toting a sweet little AyA he had just finished refurbishing. It really was classy, and I wish I he'd sell it to me really, really cheap...)

Anyway, he's been penning it for a few weeks now, and if you're into shotguns - good, classic shotguns - it's worth a read and a bookmark. Greg knows his stuff, and writes about it well.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Son of Seriously?

I got the latest Harper's in the mail recently, and was delighted to see that it had a feature written by William T. Vollmann.

Vollmann is, quite frankly, a weird dude, brilliant in sort of a dense, mysterious Thomas Pynchon way. He writes much about life and people on the margins, and Harper's has published a number of such stories in recent years. Like say, Cormac McCarthy, people tend to be binary about Vollmann, either loving him or loathing him with little middle ground.

Personally I like him, but then again I've never tried to read one of his Tolstoy-sized books, either...

Anyway, I digress. In the current Harper's Vollmann has a feature on his experiences among the homeless of Sacramento, where he resides. As always, it's an interesting read, but one graf in particular caught my eye...

From Harper's

Safe Ground is a movement to protect the homeless in their itinerary. It was formed in 2008 in response to Sacramento City ordinance 12.52, which makes it illegal to sleep even in one's own backyard for more than one night at a time. The law specifies: "It is not intended by this section to prohibit overnight camping on private residential property by friends or family of the property owner, so long as the owner consents and the overnight camping is limited to not more than one consecutive night."

That's right; in Sacramento, California it is against the law to sleep in your own backyard for more than one night at a time. So from that bit of trivia I can only infer that it must suck to be an adventurous child, a Boy Scout or homeless in Sacramento...

Friday, February 11, 2011


I don't generally get too political on this blog, but sometimes the absurdity just slaps you smack in the face. And here's a perfect example: A Republican-controlled Colorado state legislative committee has killed a proposed conservation vehicle license plate because the money raised from the sale of the plate would go to aid and abet that radical socialist environmental tree-hugging long-haired granola-crunching hippie extremist threat to free market capitalism group known as...Trout Unlimited?

From the AP...

A special Colorado license plate saying "Protect Our Rivers" has been rejected by a Republican House committee because the tag would raise money for Trout Unlimited. Trout Unlimited is a conservation group that sometimes clashes with development interests over water habitat. The House Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee voted 6-5 Monday against the "Protect Our Rivers" tag. Trout Unlimited agreed that money from the $25 additional tag fees would be banned from going for lobbying or litigation. But members of the Republican-controlled committee feared that despite the limit, tag fundraising would allow Trout Unlimited to spend more on those activities. Trout Unlimited said it had hoped to raise $75,000 over three years with the tag, which would have showed a blue stream cutting through snow-capped mountains.

A license plate showing a blue stream cutting through snow-capped mountains and with the words "protect our rivers" on it. I don't know about you, but that sounds like an obvious piece of anti-business propoganda to me. I shudder to think what horrible things may have happened had the proposal passed, what cherished corporate freedoms may have been lost had those six deep-thinking defenders of liberty not sent it down in flames. Thank gawd we can sleep easier at night knowing we have elected officials like this looking out for our (our?) best interests...

Now that is something I'd expect from say, Oklahoma, where political and corporate corruption and the routine usurping of justice and due process for the benefit and profit of vested interests are expected. But... Colorado? Rocky Mountain High and all that? Hippies and mountain bikes? The Peoples Republic of Boulderstan?

Damn, Colorado was on my short list of places for relocation and opening of my book/bullet/bottle store. Now where am I gonna go?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Bits and Pieces

Back from Omaha. A little less than two weeks until the odometer rolls over on another season, two weeks to get the pup on some close-to-home birds before it's all over. But here I sit, shoving logs in the stove and freezing my ass off, just another victim of the Great White Death Storm of '11.

Oh, well. It's been a good season overall, I guess. I didn't waterfowl hunt nearly as much as I wanted (thank you drought and weather) and when I did the experience was somewhat tempered by the lingering memory of Lewey's absence. I also noticed for the first time this year that Tess seems to be slowing down just a bit. She'll be eight soon. Not old, but not young, either. Like me.

And the pup? Geez, the pup. She's something, that's for sure. Long on legs and personality, a bit short on using the nose and discipline, but we had a lot of fun, and now that she's got her first season of running (I'm not going to call it hunting...) under her belt, there's plenty of time to work on that other stuff. She's a sweetie, if a bit of a rogue, and I think she's going to make a helluva nice dog. She spent a lot of time on the road with me this year traveling to Texas, South Dakota and Kansas, and last week in Kansas she finally, sorta, after a fashion, in a manner of speaking, somewhat, loosely, in a roundabout way, kind of pointed her first wild roosters (then immediately took off chasing them when they flushed). Progress. I guess it's measured in boot leather and hoarse voices...

I also got to see my oldest son shoot his first dove this year. That was extremely cool, and now that he's ten he's finally old enough to start tagging along on some of the more physical hunting trips next year. More dove, deer, hopefully some low(er)-impact pheasants and quail hunts, and if I can scrounge him a pair of waders by next fall, ducks.

I'm not a particularly gregarious or sociable person and therefore I am mostly by choice, circumstance and natural inclination a solitary hunter. However, I also met, hunted and fished with several new friends this year and I have to admit, it was nice having the company. Greg McReynolds is a fellow shotgun nut who helped me catch my first cuttthroat this summer, and despite my cruel mocking of his choice of headgear on that trip he actually agreed to go pheasant hunting with me. I'm still trying to figure out what I can make fun of this time around. Probably that obsolete scattergun he was toting. Everyone knows real guns have accessory rails...

I also met several other like-minded individuals this past year whose company I enjoyed and certainly hope to hunt with again. Ted Gartner from Garmin International is a fellow bird hunting loonie I got the opportunity to hunt with and get to know this year. James Card from Ducks Unlimited magazine and his cool little American Water Spaniel/Mississippi Leghound cross Radar made the looong drive from Memphis to join us in Kansas. On the same trip I also got the chance to meet and hunt with (at least for a half a day) fellow bloggers Scampwalker and Four Seasons of Bird Hunting. And I had a great time in South Dakota with Bob and Anthony from Pheasants Forever.

So I guess I can't complain too much about being cooped up in the house. Besides, it's supposed to warm up a bit next week, so there's still a chance for a couple more quick trips.

Looking forward, there are a few changes in store for me. One, it looks like beginning next week the Field & Stream gundogs blog will be written wholly by me. My co-blogger David Dibenedetto has done a great job, but he's also the full-time executive editor at Garden & Gun, and I'm guessing the time commitment involved with that played a big part in his decision. I'm very excited, however, for the opportunity to start putting my own stamp on the blog. So look for more gundog, shotgun, conservation, upland and waterfowl-related content in the coming months.

Second, I'm also very excited for the opportunity to begin blogging for the folks at Quail Forever. I love all upland gamebirds, but some I love just a little more equally than others and the bobwhite quail I love above all others. So last week at Pheasant Fest when Bob and Anthony from PF hit me up about doing some freelance work for the organization, I didn't even hesitate. Still working out the details, so I'll let you know more as we get it rolling. I'd certainly appreciate the traffic...

And third, I'm extremely honored and excited (see a theme here?) to be asked to contribute to the Mouthful of Feathers blog. What can you say about the guys at MOF? Simply the best bird hunting prose out there, print, web or otherwise. Period. It's where I go for my inspiration.

And of course I'll keep plugging away at this little blog, purely for my own amusement. At least until I get that fine books/fine guns/fine tackle/fine spirits shop opened. So far I've got one book, one shotgun, one old reel and a half-empty bottle of scotch.

It's a start...