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Through the Lens

Reflections on Opening Day

Tue, October 03, 2017

Crazy as it may sound to many, I usually don’t hunt opening day of archery season. Not one to break tradition, I didn’t hunt this year’s opening day either. I’d like to tell you it’s all part of some great deer hunting strategy, but the sad truth is, I never really have my act together for deer by opening archery weekend. Instead I roam around, talk with those who do hunt it, gather info and intel.

A few weeks ago, our fearless leader and editor Jeff and I had a long conversation about my current “disillusionment” with the outdoor world, media, and industry. AKA known as “Gee you are a cranky old woman lately”.

I set out at first light on Sunday, hoping that somewhere during my travels my faith would be restored.
Right out of the hat I noticed a sharp increase in the number of vehicles parked here, there, and yon on the public lands I visited. Also notable was the sharp increase in out of state plates.

Normally I don’t see that many non-residents until closer to rut, or gun season. That led to me to wonder if more folks were out and about due to the new crossbow changes.  Interestingly enough, I only encountered a couple of folks that were crossbow users, so that may or may not be the reason. Maybe they just haven’t gotten the memo that IL isn’t still puking out giant bucks at every turn of trail.  Maybe we are doing a better job of recruiting new hunters. Maybe folks just wanted to start early this year. I’m still a little confounded by the number of hunters that were afield.

Although I held out Sunday, and even Monday…waiting on THAT story, that encounter – you know the one that makes you smile for someone’s success, the one that makes you want cheer out loud for that young person who just got their first deer – I didn’t run across any of those. I’m hoping I just wasn’t in the right place at the right time, because what I did encounter sure didn’t help my unsettled feelings about what deer hunting and use of the outdoors has become. If anything, I am probably even more crabby, and more disillusioned at this point.

Mostly I encountered a whole lot of complaining, and dare I even say it – whining.

Here’s what I’ve learned the last couple of days:

It is now all virtual. The hunt’s success is not based on harvest, enjoyment of the outdoors, the experience of sitting in the woods waiting on first light. Success is measured by the amount of video footage gained, the number of selfies taken (in full on winter weight camo when it’s 70 degrees, face paint, add manicured nails and full make up for the women), the number of likes, followers, and atta boys/girls one receives on social media.

It’s vital to hashtag all that video and all those selfies you share via social media with 87 hashtags in hopes that one of those companies you hash tagged will suddenly realize that you are a superstar hunter and immediately add you to their staff, reshare your photo, and make you famous! Not to mention the ad nauseum posts thanking anyone and everyone for the best, greatest, most innovative product going.  How did we ever bag a deer before those inventions?

One must have a target buck, have the buck named, consult 6 months of trail cam images (and share them as well!) refuse to even consider any other deer that crosses your path, scoff loudly and soundly at anyone and everyone who is clearly not as dedicated as you and happily goes afield with stick and string to grab a doe for the freezer.  One simply must sneer and snipe about “meat hunters”. Only trophy hunters are worthy. Meat hunters just don’t spend enough time, money and effort to get that special buck. How dare they be content with a nice fat doe?

Additionally, one cannot even dream of taking up space in a parking area with anything less than the newest, fanciest, truck or SUV. It must sport not only expensive camo trim, it must be completely covered in 900 product stickers.  Because anyone who shows up in a raggedy, dented, mud and dust covered 1985 beater simply cannot be serious about deer hunting. I mean really – the only sticker on it is a faded NRA sticker and worn out frayed Fred’s Dance Barn bumper sticker. Clearly a poser who doesn’t deserve to be called a deer hunter. (Lordy – he didn’t even spray down with any scent blocker and gasp! his camo is left over from his Army days!)
I learned we have become a society who cannot use a compass, a map, and remember how to get back to the truck. Yards upon yards of red, orange, lime green, tape festoon the trees throughout the hunting areas.  Like tinsel on Christmas tree, trail marker ribbons, and guides abound across the fields and forests.

Then I was educated about those damn devil farmers. How dare they not have that corn cut yet. How dare they run the combine and grain dryers on opening day? What on earth is wrong with those farmers? I am so sorry they just didn’t realize that they needed to adjust their farming schedule to accommodate the deer hunting public.  Heck, as fast as prices are dropping this year…they might as well take off a few days and make sure nothing disturbs any deer hunters in the neighborhood. It’s not like anyone’s going to make a bundle with the corn and beans this year.  How thoughtless of them not to take someone’s deer hunting into consideration as part of the overall plan.

Oh, it’s not just those darn farmers either – good grief – do you know how many hunts were ruined because a car drove by? God forbid, some of those reckless folks even stopped to show the children in their car the deer standing in the field or to take a photo. How dare they! In a state park, no less!  Do they not know that will just ruin a hunt? Simply destroy it.  Probably should just close the park to everyone but deer hunters.
Yep close it to everyone but the deer hunters, because well no one should be out squirrel hunting, hiking a trail, speeding up river in a boat, training a dog on designated fields.  It’s deer season for heaven’s sake…. that’s all that counts!

I listened to how ridiculously expensive our non-resident tags have become, and how awful it is that one can’t go buy an OTC buck tag after getting a doe… (I’m thinking more like after getting a buck, but not my story to tell.) I failed to realize that the simple act of plunking down the dollars for those non-resident tags instantly gives them the right to well – pretty much everything.  I do have to say, I really couldn’t disagree with a few of the complaints leveled about the state of things in IL in general – things really are pretty much of train wreck, we do have ridiculously high sales taxes, and our DNR has been hamstrung in many ways by the whole never ending fiscal crisis.

All in all, it simply reinforced my feeling that it’s gotten madly out of hand, it’s all about the dollars, the fame, the recognition.  So, if you went out, had a good morning or evening sit, cussed the coons, squirrels and possums, or made a kid smile – please, please, share your story in the comments. I need to hear there are still folks out there who hunt just for the love of the sport, for the filling of the freezer, and for the opportunity to sit quiet and watch the natural around us.  Heck, I will go so far as to hazard a guess that good many of us old-timers need that reassurance that all is not lost to commercialization, celebrity seeking, and social media.

(14) COMMENTS

Don’t Throw That Line Away!

Fri, September 15, 2017

Yes, I realize the photo above is bit graphic –  as it should be in order to fully show the damage improperly disposed of fishing can cause. The improper disposal of fishing line is a serious threat to wildlife. I wish I could say this condition this goose was a rarity, but anyone who spends any amount of time on the water can likely attest that it’s not. This particular Canada goose did not survive it’s entanglement.

It’s disturbing to see wildlife – often dead – because of an entanglement in a wad of monofilament line. It’s also aggravating to end up with someone’s improperly disposed of line wadded up and tangled in your trolling motor.

The improper disposal of fishing line poses multiple threats to wildlife, as the above picture illustrates. It also poses a risk and hazard to our beloved retrievers during waterfowl season. One of the most horrifying sights I have ever seen was when my retriever became tangle in an abandoned trot line and ended up with multiple hooks and wads of line in both front legs.  Luckily, he was close to me in shallowish water and I could get him in before things went even further south. The possibility of him being so entangled that I might have lost him was real. The horrible wounds and ordeal of removing 5 hooks from his legs was VERY real. 

Sadly – it’s all preventable.

What can you do to help with scourge of monofilament line that we seem to find everywhere?  The first answer is easy – although none of us like to clean up someone else’s mess, it behooves us as good stewards of our lands to leave them better than we found them. 

I routinely carry a wadded up small plastic trash bag in my pocket when afield. It serves good many purposes – but primarily, it gives me a way to pick up any trash etc. that I find along the trail.  More days than not I end up dropping a nearly full bag in a parking area trash can.

The same principal applies when fishing or on the water. If I see line on the shore, or hanging from trees, I try to get in close enough with boat to remove as much as I possibly can. (An added bonus, I’ve scored lots of useable fishing lures and bobbers this way!)
If I am lucky enough to be fishing near a ramp or area with a line disposal box or tube, the line is placed there for recycling.

It’s easy enough to make your own personal line tube to carry on the boat or in your pack from a used tennis ball container or even that left over Pringles can that’s just rolling around in the bottom of the boat.  Simply cut an X in the lid so you can poke bits and pieces of line into the tube. If it’s a particularly long piece of line it can easily be wound around the outside of the tube, and then slid off for recycling.

Some general rules for helping to decrease the amount of abandoned and improperly disposed of fishing line:

Always recover, pick up and pack out your line. Seriously – just stuff in your pocket if nothing else. How hard is that?  Additionally, whenever it’s possible and feasible, clean up and properly dispose of any monofilament line that you encounter. Take those few extra minutes to get as much line back and out of the water as possible if you become entangled or snagged.

Think about your line – Is your line getting old and worn and prone to snapping easily when snagged? Do you have a pile of short line, loose pieces, straggly bits laying around and falling out of your boat or tackle bag? Even ends cut from leaders can be stored easily for proper disposal. If you must throw away instead of recycle fishing line, cut it into pieces less than six inches long. This helps to eliminate the hazards to scavenging wildlife and birds that frequent landfills and trash dump areas.

Another area that may seem a little strange to those that are fastidious about rod storage –  make sure your rods are stored properly, so monofilament line won’t be caught by the wind and allowed to free spool, leaving a long trail along the roadways and highways.

It’s easy enough to set the example and make it general rule on your boat that no plastic gets thrown overboard. Have suitable container on board, and instruct everyone in your boat they are to use it.  Just like the use of PFD’s – your boat, your rules.

Most importantly – recycle. There are multiple places to recycle monofilament line. Some sporting goods stores and bait shops offer a drop off point for recycling, and many popular fishing areas and boat ramps have an outdoor PVC recycling bin.

Berkley has great recycling program – you can read about here: http://www.berkley-fishing.com/Berkley-recycling.html
Additionally, BoatUS has an excellent guide at https://boatus.org/monofilament/  that features helpful information, instructions, and materials that can be used not only by individuals, but also by school groups, scout troops and conservation organizations. BoatUS provides instructions for making the PVC tube type disposal stations an also offers the option for decals and signs. This is fun and great project to do with the youngsters in your household.

Bottom line (no pun intended) – always dispose of your fishing line appropriately, and clean up any that you find your travels!

(2) COMMENTS

Bowfishers Provide Aid and Rescue in Texas

Wed, September 06, 2017


It’s hard to believe that a little over a week ago the lives of many bowfishers across the nation were changed when they mobilized and answered the call for help from their friends in Texas.


It began early Sunday morning August 27th, a request for airboats and bowfishing boats came through social media channels. Little did the responding bowfishers, and their national organization, The Bowfishing Association of America (BAA) know then what would lie in store for them for the next week.

Why Bowfishing boats? Why Bowfishers?

The bowfishing community, or “bowfishing brotherhood” as they call themselves are no strangers to helping in times of need, whether it is a fellow bowfisher, someone who lives in a bowfishers community, or an agency that needs boat assistance; bowfishers have a long history of banding together to be “The Helpers”. 

Bowfishing boats are specifically designed to go places other boats simply cannot go. Bowfishing boats are designed to draft in the shallowest of water, using airboats, fan boats, surface drive motors. They have intricate and elaborate light systems that indeed can “light up the night”. They have on board generators and large flat shooting decks that are easily utilized for carrying people or supplies.  In the case of the airboats, they can run on dry ground, roadways, they can skip over levees and plow through flooded timber.  Bowfishing boats are designed for tough conditions, and many of the responding bowfishers faced some of the toughest conditions ever upon their arrival in Texas.

Within hours of receiving reports from the first boats on scene, it was readily apparent that a concentrated and organized effort was needed. Bowfishers are an extremely diverse group, with a plethora of special talents. Many participating BAA members with special talents came together – those with boats loaded and made drives as long as 28 hours.  Bowfishers from many states answered the call for help, the BAA had members from Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, Missouri, Wisconsin, North Dakota, Georgia, Texas, Kentucky, Indiana, Florida, South Carolina, Illinois and Oklahoma. Many of those who could not travel to Texas shared their social media and technology talents. Other’s organized and delivered supplies for not only bowfishers but also hurricane Harvey victims.

Within 24 hours of the initial small request for some boats, BAA had a fully operational system up and running. Technology and social media played a huge part in this “back side “effort. The power of social media was harnessed, apps such Zello, Waze, and Glympse were activated and used to dispatch, track boats out on rescues, and aid bowfishers with road conditions and traffic. Many people and organizations graciously opened doors for the bowfishing community aiding in response, including long time BAA member Johnny Williams who was gracious enough to not only open his doors to house but also feed a large group of bowfisherman and allow his home to become a staging area for response efforts amongst the group.

The skill and organization that the bowfishers’ system displayed would rival that of any designated emergency response agency.

Bowfishers are tough men and women, and bowfishing can at times be a brutal sport. Tournaments frequently are 12 hours long, at night, in difficult waters and conditions.  Bowfishers are accustomed to long hours on their boats. They are accustomed to difficult conditions, bugs, heat, encounters with less than happy wildlife.  They have a special endurance and often joke about running on caffeine, chaos and cusswords.

Bowfishers know how to improvise, to make repairs to boats on the fly. They know how to wiggle through skinny water, dodge barges, and plow through obstacles.

In short – bowfishers and bowfishing boats make perfect partners during floods.

Virtually every bowfisher I spoke with wanted no recognition – each reminding me it wasn’t about them.  Bowfishers were simply doing what they do – responding to a need.  They were just being helpers.  They didn’t want to really talk about the damage sustained to their boats, trucks, trailers. They didn’t want to talk about what they personally had accomplished. They just over and over wanted to send a message of thanks to those who supported them. Their message was one of thankfulness. Thankful that they could be of assistance, thankful that they had such outstanding support. Thankful that they were safe while thousand were not.

The story they wanted to tell was that of all the people and organizations that “helped them be a helper”. These brave men and women left home prepared to be as self-sufficient as humanly possible in disaster zone. They are not strangers to sleeping in trucks or on boats. The can run for days on caffeine, and chaos alone. 

But what they found were churches, fire departments, every day citizens who were in the eye of the turmoil opening their doors and hearts to lend a hand to “help the helpers”.

Hundreds of individual bowfishers along with bowfishing related businesses such as, TJE Shoot Thru Rods, FeraDyne Outdoors, Muzzy Bowfishing, Battery Outfitters, Legacy Equipment, SeeLite, and Quick Draw Outdoors donated to the BAA #BAAforHouston fund that was set up to assist the volunteers with needs that they would encounter.  Bowfishers’ home communities, upon learning that the boats, trucks and trailers were headed out made donations of water, food, supplies and fuel to send with their loved ones on their journey to Texas.

Employers generously allowed time off so that those responding could head to where they were needed. Some employers also sent cash and fuel.
The support received by the responding bowfishers was at times overwhelming.

Jeff Nieball, who was instrumental in coordinating many aspects of the relief effort said in a Facebook post, “It was about compassion to our fellow human being…do not donate to the Red Cross or some fancy nonprofit. Find a local church down here and see what they need. The people we are about to leave behind will still need help. Please do not forget them.” Nieball stressed that it was a human helping humans effort – it was not about a single group. “Just people helping people”. His parting words – “Be a Helper”

There were several churches and civic organizations who opened their hearts and doors to aid the bowfishers. Notably, The Church of Champions in Houston, that served as staging area, The First Baptist Church of Woodville in Woodville, Texas that provided showers, meals, and sleeping accommodations for the bowfishers, Also the Evadale Fire Department who provided support on a multitude of levels.

Many private citizens reached out to the responding bowfishers to provide fuel, boat parts and repairs, truck parts and repairs, even something as small as paying for a tank of fuel at the pumps for refueling bowfishers and stopping at a gas station to deliver premade hot breakfast for responders.  Several private citizens opened their homes to groups of up to 25 bowfishers at a time for food, showers, and respite.

These organizations and everyday people made it possible for the helpers to help. These same organizations and good-hearted people will still be helping many Harvey survivors in the weeks, months and likely years to come.

For those that are still looking to make donations to the BAA #BAAForHuston fund; donations can be made by visiting https://www.paypal.me/BAAforHouston.  Alternately, consider making a donation to a local church such as the Church of Champions or the First Baptist Church in Woodville.

BAA representatives said, “It would be nearly impossible to list and thank everyone who made our efforts easier, who supported our bowfishers, their boats, and their efforts. Please remember these folks who will continue to help those in the area for weeks and months to come as well as keeping all of those affected by the devastation in your thoughts and prayers.”

To see more about the BAA’s efforts in Texas, including photos and videos, please visit the Bowfishing Association of America Facebook Page. You may also search the hashtag #BAAforHouston on social media channels, to gain a better understanding of the challenges faced by the bowfishers and the assistance they provided.



Special thanks to my fellow BAA members and BAA President Jody Acosta for their assistance and contributions to this article/post.

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