Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas thoughts,the turkey march and great dogs and cats

Christmas 2009 is now in the history books. This year’s Christmas was one where Michelle and I kicked back and did very, very little. It was fine. We exchanged a few simple gifts between us and my in-laws and after that we relaxed and let the snow fall. That part has been kind of interesting because in the space of only a couple of days we’ve had well up to two feet of snow. We also had to deal with the sustained winds over 20 mph (closer to 30 I guess) which makes this storm the Blizzard of Christmas 09. Or, as the Grand Forks Herald calls this storm in the Sunday Morning edition—Blizzard Alvin, named after the coincidental release of the new Alvin and the Chipmunks movie. Okay, I can buy that.

One thing about this storm is that it has put the lid on my hunting season. I think Cookie is equally convinced hunting season is now over. This evening, after a very short stint outside, she decided the best place to be was in front of my woodstove. With more than two feet of snow on the ground pheasant hunting would be a huge challenge for both of us and the birds certainly don’t need the pressure. (The picture is of Cookie soaking up the heat of the wood stove.)

The snowstorm has brought some guests to town—a flock of wild turkeys! This area has never been known for a huntable population of wild turkeys and when Michelle and I first moved here in the fall of 2000 we contacted the state DOW about stocking wild turkeys on her family’s farm, only to be told the birds couldn’t survive. Guess what? They were wrong and Michelle’s intuition about the birds was right. Nowadays it is not at all uncommon for us to see wild turkeys in the region. I think the birds are adapting quite well to North Dakota and just to prove it, when the weather gets tough, the birds come to town. They’ve been feasting on the crabapples in my in-laws’ yard as well in other yards. Yesterday morning Michelle and I were treated to the Wild Turkey March (sort of like the Elephant Walk) as the birds, in single file, walked down the street in front of our house, turned west at the corner and walked down that street and headed for the grain elevators where they could feed on the spilled grain. Unfortunately I keep my camera in my office, which is 50 feet from the house so I didn’t get a picture but I’ll carry it into the house with me for a few days and try to get a photo.

Something this Christmas that got me to thinking was a little gift that Michelle gave her mother. It is a framed card and on it is written a nice expression about favorite dogs in heaven. I’ve always wondered if, when I die, I will have the pleasure of being rejoined with the great dogs of my life. You know, the dogs that were part of our life from the time they were a puppy until they left us, sometimes old, sometimes before they became old--always too soon. I’ve often thought about Toby, my first dog. She was really the family dog and everyone claimed her but she’s still imprinted on my memory as “my” dog. There came a succession of other dogs but none of them made an imprint until after Vietnam, when my first wife and I were living in San Diego. We had a string of dogs, ending with one called Rocky. Of these dogs only Scruffy seemed to have really imprinted himself on that dog part of my being. We gave him to a farmer because he was too big for military housing.

I didn’t have another dog until I acquired Grettel, my Springer spaniel. Her full name was Crestone Grettel, named after the peaks that towered over the kennel where she was born. The first and last photographs of Grettel adorn my office bookshelf and every time I look up I see Grettel as a puppy with pushed up nose and no flecking on her legs and she's looking at me from behind a tree. Right above that picture is one of me holding a shotgun and reaching down to pet her. We’re standing in the swampy waters of a wetland near Florence, Colorado where we had been hunting my favorite shorebird—Wilson Snipe. She is now buried under the evergreen tree at a friend’s house. She died in my arms after being hit by an inattentive, speeding driver. My next dog, also a Springer, was Jenny, her registered name was Lord Nelson’s Jennifer-Diane. She died here in North Dakota and her ashes are on another book shelf. I’ve never had the heart to part with them although I’ve always said I would bury her ashes next to Grettel. Michelle says she’ll mix Jenny’s ashes, and the ashes of any of my other dogs, or cats, with mine and either scatter them together or have them buried together.

I remember when I buried Grettel; a half-dozen friends went with me to Al’s house and stood around while I buried her, my hunting coat lining her grave, with an unfired 12-gauge shell in a coat pocket. When she slept in my makeshift office while I worked she used my hunting coat for a bed. It was only right that she sleep on it for eternity. My friends were there as much for themselves as to provide comfort to me. First thing every morning, when I opened the door, Grettel made the rounds to visit her friends. Whenever we came home from hunting or fishing she made her rounds again, as if to check that everything was okay in the world. I always worried she’d get hit by a car near our home. I lost her the morning of July 7, 1987, when I took her to the park for a morning walk.

I buried two other pets under that same tree. They were both pets that had been part of our family. There was Hans, a mutt dog that had belonged to Gail, my second wife, before we even met and he become a major fixture in our home and after I brought Grettel home he became her best friend. He died in October, 1990. There was also Lucas the Cat. I adopted him before Gail and I were married. Hans didn’t mind Lucas sharing our bed and when I acquired Grettel neither she nor Hans seemed to mind sharing bed space with Lucas, although the bed sometimes got a little crowded with Gail, me, two dogs and the cat.

Lucas was the last of the three to die, in August, 1995.

Hans, I’ve always believed, was poisoned by a mean-spirited old man who lived behind us. I truly detested the old bastard and one day, when he was across the fence between our yards and cussing Gail’s new dog’s barking (Sarah didn’t bark) he said, “I got rid of one dog, I can rid of another.” I decked him. It didn’t matter that he was probably in his late 60’s or early 70’s. Even if he hadn’t poisoned Hans he evidently killed someone’s dog and deserved a fist in the face. A few months later he died of a heart attack and when another neighbor asked me if I wanted to contribute to flowers for the family I declined, then added that he was a pet killer and the world was a better place without him.

Lucas the Cat was the only one of the three that lived a full life. The end of a great relationship came when was just over 17 years old and he suffering from feline diabetes. Lucas was urinating almost pure blood and his weight had dropped so much that he was no more than bones encased in fur. When I took him to the vet to be put to sleep they had trouble finding a vein but a minute or so after they did his eyes, which had been mostly closed for days, opened wide and he looked at me. Not with terror, fear or anything terrible, but the same look of love that he had held in those eyes for the fifteen years he was part of my life. Then he closed his eyes and I watched him sigh and stop breathing. I took him out to my friend’s house and asked for permission to bury Lucas beside his friends. Al told me I could and offered to help. I told him I wanted to do it alone, feeling that I was burying something else as well. When I was finished, I put a rose on the marker Al had made for Grettel, another one on Hans’ grave and one on the fresh dirt that covered Lucas. I know my eyes were so full of tears that the hardest thing for me to do was see anything clearly but I swear that through the misty haze of my eyes I saw Lucas walk up to Grettel, rub her chin and then go between Hans and Grettel where he sat for a second, as if waiting, and then the dogs turned and trotted away, with Lucas running between them. All three now reunited. Once, they looked back at me then disappeared into the mist of my eyes.

That card about our pets waiting for us in heaven. Well, I think it has to be true—don’t you?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Computer Stores and Hunters

The past two days have been nothing short of down and dirty awful. Here’s why. As most of you know my other laptop was destroyed by water dripping through the roof. I had to replace it. This time I vowed not to buy my computer from one of the big box stores for several reasons and those being: First, I did not want all of that pre-loaded crap that computer manufacturers feel compelled to put on new machines. Second, I was sick of the quasi-service you get. My experience has been that even the Best Buy “Geek Squad” is going to charge you at least half of a C-note to tell you they can’t fix it and the computer needs to go to the manufacturer for repair. Or, if they can fix it (after the first poke at your checkbook) it is going to take days, no matter how simple the job. So, I went to a local store front retailer, “Computer World” in Fargo to be specific. I bought a Sony Vaio and one of the store owners promised me that because I bought the computer from his store they would take care of me. Okay, good sales pitch. So, here I am six weeks later. I’m doing some work with African Expedition Magazine and trying to finish putting together my own little literary journal for outdoor writers. (The Pines Review, anyone who wants to get it, I send it out as a pdf attachment to email, need only let me know.) Suddenly my screen went bonkers. My computer was doing something weird with all of my files. I tried everything I could think of but nothing worked although I did finally get it to shut down. Next day, I’m off to Fargo. Two hours later the report is, “I don’t know how you did that, but I’ve fixed it, just don’t ever do that again.”

He might as well tell the bear what not to do in the woods.

Yesterday, I was back to work on African Expedition Magazine and the computer did the same thing. Today I was back in the store and this time we worked together on the problem and finally isolated it as being connected to Windows 7™ and the program I was trying to use that is online is not compatible with Windows 7. The main thing for me was that they were able to put everything back like I had it. Total time the crew at Fargo’s Computer World had invested in me now stood at about five hours. When I asked the person who had sold me the computer what the bill was he said, “I told you, you buy a computer from me, I’ll take care of you.”

Warranties and all other considerations aside, I felt pretty good because they had stood behind the computer. It would have been far easier for them to tell me that it was all my fault. Instead, they looked for an answer. I’m telling you this as a warm and fuzzy. There are still good people in this world. And, oh, coincidently—they are hunters and we’ve had some good conversations about hunting. Interesting, isn’t it, that so many of the people who keep their word are hunters and so many who don’t keep it think we’re barbarians?

As for Microsoft--once again there is a compatibility curve--fix the problem.

Now, with all that out of the way, the snow is perfect, December is cold and Cookie is chomping to get out of here. This weekend we’re going bird hunting. Besides, it’s too cold to work on the roof.

PS I've got a couple of book reviews in this issue of African Expedition Magazine so check them out if you get the chance. Go to There are some great stories in this issue, including another report on the Zim Border Walk adventure.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

A hunter's treat

Winter has finally reached us and unlike the snows in October I have the gut feeling this weather is here until spring. Oh well, I suppose the mild weather was just too good to last.
While I was deer hunting this fall something happened I am still chuckling about it. To get to an area where I like to watch a line of trees between two fields of corn I had to drive over a prairie road and past several sloughs. Our weather has been just cold enough to partially freeze the water but most of the sloughs were still open (which accounts for the geese and a few ducks that were hanging around). As I passed one slough I noticed a beaver on the ice and another swimming around. I stopped and while I watched the one beaver slid from the ice into the water. I thought it would dive and disappear but the second beaver climbed onto the ice and after a few seconds slid into the water. The two beaver swam around then one of them would climb onto the ice, which was fun to watch in itself, then after walking around on the ice slide into the water. The beaver were playing! In all of my years of watching beaver I’ve seen them work industrially at repairing their dams or their lodges but I have never seen them play. I cussed myself for not having a long enough telephoto lens because the photos would have been great. After watching the beaver for a full ten minutes I decided to get on to my deer hide. But, I’d had my treat for the day. How many of us have ever had the opportunity to watch beaver play on the ice? It’s just another example of something we, as hunters, get to enjoy—nature being nature. Others might claim they get to share in that truth but I’ve got news for them—hunters are more a part of nature as participants than any “observer” will ever be.
Great to be us—isn’t it? Glg

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Are We Alone When We Hunt? (Also, Cookie is doggie crying)

Poor Cookie, she wants to go hunting in the worst way. Today she watched me carry my CVA muzzle loader to my Suburban and when she realized she wasn’t going to go she started to do the doggie cry. I’d love to take her grouse or pheasant hunting. The weather is perfect and I’ve seen a number of birds, but deer season is not the season to take a bird dog into the field—even with a blaze orange vest on the dog. Maybe I am over protective but Cookie is a much too important part of my life to risk endangering. We’ll still have ample time to hunt when deer season is closed.

As for my deer hunting—the warm weather and fields are still conspiring, although there were a few more harvested fields this afternoon. I watched some does but my license is for a buck.

The lack of opportunity of the past two weeks, coupled with the looming end of the rifle season, may be triggering (no pun) a little “end-of-day” anxiety among some hunters. I’d put my spotting scope (Alpen) away and pulled the bullet and powder from my rifle when I heard a shot from a treeline that was quite a distance from me. (Pulling is easier than cleaning my rifle if I "shot" it empty.) I didn’t think too much about it because, if my guess was right, the hunter was probably looking over a field where the sun was setting behind him and he had a good view, with lots of lingering autumn sunglow to see by. It was the other four shots that followed, all from other directions, that troubled me.

The truth is that modern optics are vastly superior to those of even a decade ago and the light transmitting capability of the modern lens is remarkable—but with these advances in equipment is it possible we’ve created a new set of problems for ourselves—hunters taking risks? I’m sure that each of us, no matter how ethical we try to be, at some point in our hunting career, stretched a barrel just a bit and sat for a few minutes longer than we should have. The hunter who is guided by hunting’s ethos will feel some kind of guilt. That’s human nature. But what happens when technology is itself a “wink” at both the law and the ethic? Hunting, above all other human activities, is the one where rarely is a person’s ethical behavior witnessed by another person. We are each alone with ourselves when hunting.

Or are we truly alone with ourselves?

The more I research the advertising, press releases and texts of our own media the closer I am moved to believing that the goal of some promotional media is to have greater influence over the hunter’s actions than the ethos of hunting. In short, are some attempting to redefine the ethos? How often is the image of a successful hunter becoming less part of the greater experience of the hunt and more the “reason” for hunting? (I deliberately chose “reason” over “justification” in the sentence.)

Hunting is, and must remain, an individual activity. Regardless of whether a hunter is in a pheasant line or tree stand overlooking a pasture the hunter remains alone. To shoot or not to shoot is the individual’s choice. The wonder of modern optics must not be based upon a misinterpretation of Ortega’s often quoted, “kill to have hunted” but be guided by Hemingway’s “duty of the hunter” to make a one shot kill.

Think about it. What do you think? glg

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Starling Pie, Anyone?

Whenever I write a book review I make it a point to fact check dates, names and other information to be sure my readers can trust my review. Sometimes that fact checking leads to something interesting that I hadn't expected. Here is a recipe I found when checking on the dates a professional hunter claimed to have taken a well known writer on safari. The recipe does not have anything to do with the book I reviewed but it is, well, interesting. Enjoy!

I found this in the April 23, 1956 issue of Sports Illustrated and is from the "SI Vault." This was written by the then Dallas Morning News outdoor writer Ken Foree.

That sedentary and eccentric genius of American detective fiction, Nero Wolfe, insists each spring on a starling dinner. To Wolfe, an unabashed and practiced gourmet, the little birds are an unsurpassable dish. Spring is here, there is no bag limit on starlings and, with this in mind, SI queried Mr. Wolfe for an appropriate recipe. Unfortunately he was closeted with his orchids and hence incommunicado. Rex Stout, however, who is Boswell to Archie Goodwin just as Archie is to Wolfe, is a starling man himself and gladly provided the following information for SI sportsmen: starling dinners are best enjoyed in April. Mr. Stout allows four birds to a guest and may shoot a few more than necessary as insurance against stringy oldsters or those hopelessly impregnated with shot. He feathers the birds and marinates them in red wine for 12 hours before broiling. Young, tender starlings may be ready after 25 minutes at moderate heat, but 40 minutes is average. Stout uses many sauces, but prefers an herby béarnaise laced with tarragon, fresh only (dried tarragon is too strong). He adds the tiniest dash of allspice and half a sage leaf to the basic sauce. "Flavor to taste," advises the famous author, "and deliberate a bit over whether or not half a bay leaf will add just about the right touch." To qualified female readers the genial Mr. Stout, though no Wolfe, offers a Goodwinesque suggestion: if they are between the ages of 22 and 26 and will submit a photograph for study, he will gladly consider cooking a platter of starlings for them.

© Sports Illustrated

I wonder if they were really writing about blackbirds? I'm sure the farmers around here would welcome a blackbird season every time they watch a cloud of the birds descend on their fields, especially the sunflowers.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Empty Deer Tag Blues

I'm still working on filling my deer tag and with some help from the weather I should have a good chance this weekend, which is also closing weekend.

I don't know about other parts of the state but around here I've seen more disappointed hunters than successful ones and the reason is mostly corn. The farmers got a late start last spring and the corn crop has been slow to dry enough for harvesting, so the deer herds have been able to staying in the corn and venture out at night (if they come out at all). This weekend the weather could change that pattern. Our forecast calls for some rain, possibly snow, over the weekend which will push the farmers to cut more off the fields, moving the deer around and with bad weather the deer may venture out before sunset. We'll see.


Friday, November 6, 2009

Deer Season Opens

North Dakota's gun deer season opens at noon tomorrow and I'm actually ready for it! Okay, sort of ready for it. I do have my hunting belt pack ready and my Suburban has a full tank of gas and my gun is zeroed and ready. I haven't dug out my vest and I need to make sure my powder and bullets are packed in my possible bag, but otherwise, I'm ready to go.

Just as I did last year I'll be hunting with my trusty muzzle loader and like last year I'll be hunting within a few miles of home. It is nice to be able to deer hunt so close to home after years of hunting in odd corners of the state. The strange thing is that the deer hunting around home was probably just as good as it was across the state but for a variety of reasons we sat up hunting camp a couple of hundred miles away. When I did hunt near home I usually managed to kill my deer after about the same amount of time hunting but the lure of other places to hunt seemed a lot stronger than common sense. I don't know if common sense has finally gotten a grip on me (I doubt it!) but I know there are more sunsets behind me than sunrises ahead—besides, I'm somewhat lazy.

I am looking forward to deer season this year. The weather isn't too cold and with a warm sun shining on my little hidey-hole among some rocks and tall weeds I'll be able to catch a few winks of sleep in between waking up to look around and see if a buck has decided to offer me a shot. If not, I'll go back to sleep until the shadows start getting long and then I'll do a little serious hunting before packing it in for the day.

Here's wishing all of you who are going deer hunting safe and successful hunts.


Sunday, November 1, 2009

A Fried Computer, Anxious Dog and “The Pines Review”

Wow! This has been an unbelievable 72 hours. On Thursday we had a pretty serious rain and the accompanying wind blew aside some of the plastic sheeting I had protecting the exposed parts of the roof. The upshot of the evening weather was that when we returned from nearby Mayville I could see where the plastic had been blown aside and I hurried to change clothes and get on the roof to repair the plastic. Once that was done I went in my office only to discover that water had been leaking through the ceiling and onto my desk and my laptop. After trying to clean everything up I had to resign myself to the possibility that my laptop was fried.

On Friday morning I contacted my insurance agency and the agent thinks I might be covered, but in the meantime I had to scramble around to make sure I had the money to get a new computer. I checked the prices and finally opted to change my computer buying practices and purchase a new laptop from a small computer store that isn't part of a chain, primarily because they would transfer my data from the old computer to the new one. I was also able to get the new "Windows 7" operating system rather than having to pay extra for it in a chain or resigning myself to "Vista," which I really didn't want. Once problem was that I also had to buy Microsoft's "Office 2007" because my old office program disks have been lost. Again, I got a better deal on the software.

The upshot of the whole mess is that I am back online with a new computer and new software but I've had to spend the entire weekend uploading both the new and old software and try to train myself to use both the computer and software. It wouldn't be so bad if deer season wasn't less than a week away, pheasant season is open and there are still geese and ducks on many of the sloughs.

When I was in Korea (Second Infantry Division, Public Affairs Office, "Indianhead" newspaper), during my three years in the army between my years in the Marine Corps, I had a public affairs officer, Major Diehl, who used to call me Crisis Geer. Every day he'd stop by my desk ask me if I had a new crisis for the day. It's nice to have that warm fuzzy that things haven't changed!

I've been reading the work of Dr. Randall Eaton in preparation for writing a feature about Dr. Eaton for my small literary magazine The Pines Review. I am fascinated by what Dr. Eaton has to say about hunting and the human spirit. I don't want to give away my article before the journal is published but since I do send it for free as a PDF file that is attached to an email if any reader would like to be put on the mailing list just send me an email at and I'll be put you on the list. The journal is also available as a Print On Demand publication but that costs and the details will be on the website when it returns to the internet.

What I am "trying" to do is publish a small literary journal of and for the men and women of the outdoor media. It's a big project and it has worked in spurts and stops but I believe it is all back on track. If you care about the art and literature of the angling and hunting sports I truly believe you will enjoy The Pines Review. As the commercial said, "try it, you'll like it."

Tomorrow evening I am going grouse hunting, roof or no roof, new computer or not. The birds are calling, well, at least Cookie is, she pulled down my hunting vest and has been carrying it around. glg

Sunday, October 25, 2009

A One Hour Hunt

I finally managed to get away with Cookie and go duck hunting. That is what living in North Dakota can do for you; Cookie and I were in the Suburban, out of town and at our first slough in just under three minutes. (I timed it.) With my binoculars I looked over the slough and sure enough there were several mallards on the slough.
Now, hunting ducks that are sitting on a slough is not like other pond jumping hunts, and that’s because you really can’t get as close as you’d like—too much mud! If you’ve got several hunters you designate one or two to be the jumpers and the others will space themselves around the slough so at lest someone gets a shot. Notions of taking off into the wind and all that other nice stuff will quickly evaporate when the ducks are jumped. Usually it is just Cookie and me on the hunt so it is up to her to send the ducks to me.
I scooted into a depression where I was fairly hidden and then I turned Cookie loose, ordering her to “spook the ducks.” Okay, it’s not a sophisticated command but it seems to separate the notion of finding a cripple or lost duck from what I want her to do. She darted to the slough, then turned and ran around the slough without going into the water, a maneuver that she seems to recognize as one that sends the ducks into the open. I am not sure what prompts her to turn from running along the edge of the water to plunging in but suddenly she’ll turn and splash into the water after the ducks. As soon as they take to the air she turns, as though she is herding the flying birds and most of the time the birds turn and fly near me, giving me a shot. Not that I always hit something and the other day I managed to miss with both barrels. To punish me Cookie came out of the water, walked up to me and shook, spraying stinky, slimy, muddy water over me. I earned it; both shots were doable and I muffed them.
The next slough was across a field and when I looked at the muddy field I decided to let Cookie try and flush the birds without me nearby and she did, but the birds were too high by the time they came over my hiding spot.
Just for grins I decided to walk a nearby grassy field where I flush the occasional grouse. We were approaching the end of the hunting light and I was following Cookie when I looked up and she was running across the ridge of the rise in the ground, silhouetted by the setting sun. In those few seconds she was a perfect picture of nature, surrounded by hundreds of shades of gold. There was sky, and the water of the slough, the bare fingers of a tree on she slough’s shore and the grass of the gentle ground and moving across it all was my dog—Cookie—and everything was bathed in the dust freckled golden Alpenglow . Those seconds were what I had left my office to find. Perhaps a mallard hanging from my belt would have somehow reshaped the image in my mind—perhaps not. I was satisfied. I loaded Cookie in the back of the Suburban and drove home—satisfied with the short hunt.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


Just about the time I thought I would have something good to write about bird hunting, I don’t. I woke up this morning and I was prepared to hit the sloughs and then the pain hit me, in my shooting shoulder. Man! It hurt! Like the preverbal dumb ass, yesterday I tried to climb a ladder carrying a bundle of shingles for my office/garage roof. It is bad enough that I’ve got to put these shingles on (You should see me, I scoot around on my butt because my sense of balance is so bad I keep losing my balance and try to fall over!), trying to get them up there is an exercise in stupid! When the second round of pain pills finally took hold I drove to the lumber yard and asked if they would bring a fork lift for me—when the weather clears.
The weather was my whole point in going today. It was dreary, foggy and wet, the kind of weather when I really like to sneak up on the sloughs. I’ll give Cookie a signal and she will gladly bound into the water and flush the ducks so I can get off a couple of shots. If I knock one down she seems to know where it lands and quickly returns with it. We have great fun but it only works on these gray days with scudding clouds, wet grass and muddy roads. I don’t know if the ducks feel that only an idiot (like me) would dare go out or they are just hunkered down against the weather but we can usually creep up to the very edge of the slough. But today was out. I guess sometimes I just have trouble reconciling my health issues with reality. Sort of sucks, you know. I’m going to try again in the morning, which means it is now midnight North Dakota time, the dogs are smart enough to be in bed and that’s where I’m going. This time I’ll drag my carcass out of bed and go hunting when the alarm goes off. I know Cookie is starting to wonder if I’ve turned into a pansy over the weather.
Best, glg

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Mud, Snow, Mud and Fog

Today was a perfect day to go duck hunting except for the mud. I was going to go but I talked with another hunter who said the roads were too mucky for trying to get to any of the better sloughs so I put that idea on the shelf. I've go to make a trip to Fargo tomorrow and if I get home in time I am going to give it a shot in the evening. The desire to get out and hunt is building and building and Cookie is driving me crazy with her antics. She wants to get out of the kennel and into the fields.
I'll let you know how the day goes.

Thoughts on Early Snow Storm

Throughout the day I’ve been jotting down notes about this snow storm. I know many of you are way ahead of me on receiving the first snow of the year but today’s storm has my full attention! I am not happy about the storm for several reasons and at the top of the list is that I’ve still got several chores to complete before I can write off my office project as “completed.” Also, as a hunter, I am concerned that if this snow does not melt away in the next few days the opening of pheasant season will be interesting. Not that the opening will be delayed, but the early snow will make the birds hold longer, giving hunters and their dogs an advantage they don’t normally have in the opening days.

This advantage is troublesome. On one hand it is great for hunters because it is easier to get a limit of birds, but the easier limits have a price—lots of birds killed early in the season. The ideal, then, is for nature to provide a counter-weight by dumping more snow later in the season to be a counter weight to the earlier easy hunting. The later snows often provide late season birds an escape by preventing all but the most dedicated hunters from penetrating the bird’s hiding places in thick cover.

Unfortunately, the problem of weight-counter-weight is that it has other consequences, if the temperature drops too low, as it did last winter, the birds struggle to survive the cold. I believe there is something that hunters can do to have a positive influence on game bird populations when it is a little too easy to get a limit—practice self restraint.

Suppose a hunter is able to easily shoot a limit of birds on day one of the hunt. On the next day, if the birds continue to hold close and the shots are still fairly easy, reduce the number of birds killed by one bird. If the limit is three roosters a day with two or three days limit a possession limit, then reducing the second and third day’s kill will keep two birds in the population and increase the population’s chances of surviving late season severe weather. I know some people will argue that if one hunter doesn’t take the birds then another hunter will. That’s not true. Certainly, another hunter may ignore the restraint idea and kill a full nine birds over the three days but the two birds the other hunter didn’t kill are still in the population and the number is up by two.

After witnessing last winter’s devastating kill of game birds with the prolonged cold weather I have come to the belief that hunters can take the imitative to protect the game bird populations by insuring that hunting remains just that—hunting. When it is too easy the “hunting” difficulty index begins to drop and we should practice self-restraint. I’d rather have a great hunt and kill one or two birds that I am proud of than a hunt where the birds were too easy and I feel somewhat uncomfortable.

What do you think?

While I was at the SEOPA Conference several people asked me why I don’t have any advertising on my Blog. I didn’t have a good answer. Many suggested that while letting Google put up advertising wouldn’t help the content of my blog they didn’t think it would hurt because the advertisers have no control over the content of the blog, beyond the rules imposed by the site’s owners. So, my question to you, my readers, is whether you think I should allow advertising? I’d really like to hear your opinion. I haven’t made up my mind and don’t propose to do so too quickly. Let me know your thoughts. glg

SEOPA Conference

I am writing this from the waiting area of the St. Paul/Minneapolis Amtrak station. Like so many of the Amtrak stations this one is Spartan, the bathrooms are unimaginative billboards of graffiti, and the creature comforts in the waiting area consist of hard plastic seating and fickle vending machines. After several hours in airports where glitz, glitter and grub (food) dominate every square foot of space not necessary for air travel these surroundings are grim reminders that train travel in the United States is on the political back burner. Amtrak doesn’t even have money to keep the grass around their stations mowed! Still, I much prefer the train to the flying beer can. On most trips I will mix the two modes by taking the train from Grand Forks to St. Paul/Minneapolis, Minnesota. From the station I walk a block and a half to the bus stop to catch the #16 bus to downtown. From the downtown stop I can catch with the city’s light rail to the airport. The train/plane combination is a little more complicated but it usually saves between $150 and $200 over flying out of Fargo. Another advantage is that going either direction I can sleep on the train and arrive in either in M/SP or Grand Forks ready to start the day.

I believe Amtrak is missing the boat. For us, that is hunters and anglers. First there is the problem that Amtrak has no accommodation for pets. I cannot take Cookie by train to hunt birds on a friend’s ranch in western North Dakota. Second the trains also lack secure baggage storage so firearms, even if they are in locked tamper-proof metal cases, cannot be stored on the train. In short, Amtrak is hunter “unfriendly” and only marginally angler friendly. Amtrak needs to recognize the potential of the angler and hunter market and make some accommodations. It is not just a matter of increased revenue but more voter support for train travel.

As for why I am sitting in this Amtrak terminal—I am returning home after five days in Florida. I attended the Southeast Outdoor Press Association (SEOPA) Annual Conference. The conference was held at the Best Western Waterfront hotel in Punta Gorda, Florida. I was surprised to learn from one of the locals that Punta Gorda is a top rate retirement community, which is interesting considering the area’s somewhat Bohemian atmosphere. An impressive fact is that Punta Gorda was hard hit by Hurricane Charley in 2004 but the community has recovered from the storm’s devastation. The business center is rebuilt and thriving and in the residential areas there is little sign of the storm’s handiwork. Overall, my response to the area is—I am very impressed.

As for the conference, this was my first SEOPA conference and I came here as a speaker so the week’s stay was a true bonus. After a long summer of working on my office the conference was the break that I really needed. My comfort wasn’t why I was there—I was to give a presentation on my vision of the philosophy that would (or should) provide direction for outdoor writing in this century. To do this I had to reduce my years of research into a 45 minute presentation. I wasn’t sure how the presentation would be received because if the word “philosophy” is in the title of a presentation and outdoor writers notoriously disappear, but my session was both well attended and well received. Throughout the evening and next day a number of people congratulated me and urged me to continue my critical study of outdoor literature. What more could I want?

October 14, 2009

My trip to Florida may have an unexpected down side—I might have missed most of the local waterfowl hunting. The weather here in North Dakota has been cold and snowing and even now, as I am preparing to post this, a serious snow storm is blanketing most of North Dakota. All I can do is wait out the weather then Cookie and I will visit some of the local sloughs to see what we can bump out of the cattails. I’ll let you know. glg

Friday, October 2, 2009

Rain and Rain

The fall monsoons are upon us and the past two days have been wet and cold. Doesn't really matter that much because on Thursday I was in Fargo and today I was in Grand Forks. Does not make me happy but I do plan to seriously hit the sloughs this weekend! I've gotta get in some serious duck hunting before leaving for the SEOPA conference.

Does anyone have any pet peeves about the outdoor media because if you do right now would be a good time to tell me so I can incorporate some of them into my presentation. Let me know.


Wednesday, September 30, 2009


This morning Cookie and I were blown off the slough--that's bad. The wind is blowing in one of those autumn North Dakota storms that is a a harbinger of what is to come. I am just hoping that winter's cold breath can stay away for at least another month, shoot maybe even six weeks. I want to enjoy some time afield with Cookie before the snow flies. Of course I have to admit that I enjoy hunting upland birds in a small amount of snow, as in six inches or less. My real problem is that I am going to miss an entire week of hunting, starting on Tuesday, October 6, because I am headed for Florida to attend the SEOPA conference. I'll be giving a presentation on the philosophy of outdoor writing in the 21st. century. I'm truly curious to see how many of the attendees attend my presentation. I hope I am surprised.

You won't believe this but my office is finished! Well, sort of. I still need to extend the roofline for a porch (of sorts) and put on the shingles but I am all moved in, the whiteboard door is finished, hung and now curing. The pull down screen is hung, rod racks, security cable for the gun rack, etc., everything is done. I'm really pleased and what is truly nice is to sit at a desk and have enough room to work. I'm sure that I'll work at it and it will soon be covered in clutter.

I hope everyone is having a great season. As soon as this storm clears out I'll take Cookie back to the sloughs and we'll toss a few decoys out then find a warm spot to hunker down. Cookie will wake me when some ducks come in--she always does. glg

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Dogs Know

Cookie is not happy with me. Today was the opening of the waterfowl season but I couldn't get out and she had to stay in her kennel (don't worry, it's huge). How do hunting dogs know when the seasons open? I suspect the change in seasons has become part of their genetic makeup.

I couldn't go hunting because I had to finish sorting out everything in my office and finish getting moved in. Now that I've finished that little chore I can move on to the fun project of the roof. Today the new shingles were delivered but they are going to be left to sit where they were delivered because tomorrow I will go hunting in the morning and probably again in the evening. I'll work in some roof time and might even work on my wood stove.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Wild Flush

Humm, took a half hour out of my morning to try and get a grouse. I need to remind myself to get up a little closer to early morning because by the time I was on the hunting ground the sun way high and the birds were not going to sit for Cookie. The net result was zero shots although I saw several birds. I may try again in the morning.

While Chas and I were hunting we had a very brief conversation about hunting upland birds in the evening. It is a good time to hunt but there is a problem and that is that often times the birds are settled in to their roost for the night and when we hunt them in that last thirty or forty minutes of shooting light we are pushing them off their roost. Of course, I am only talking about the ground nesting birds so it does not apply to the pass shooting at dove and pigeon but should we hunt the ground nesting and ground roosting birds so late in the day? On the one hand I am very tempted to say that we shouldn't but I also must admit that I enjoy that last hour of the day as a time to hunt birds. It is a quiet time and nature is taking a deep breath after a long day.

Thinking about ground nesting birds brings up something else to consider--domestic cats gone feral. The problem of feral cats is a real one and around here it is becoming increasingly difficult to drive the back roads and not see at least one feral cat. Now, don't misunderstand me, I've got a black and white cat sitting in my lap as I write this, but there is a problem and that is too many cats! These feral cats are decimating some of the game bird populations. We've been trying to get a huntable partridge population on my wife's family farm but the cats keep knocking the covey down to only a few surviving birds and the birds then struggle to survive and rebuild the covey. We've finally told Michael (my step-son) to go ahead kill any cat he sees on the farm. It's not fair to the cats but there isn't any other way to deal with the problem. Even if we manage to live trap one of the feral cats they are beyond adoption and the only course open is to destroy the cat.

Many years ago, when I first began exploring and writing about the myths of organizations such as PETA, Fund For Animals, HSUS (there are many more), I decided that pet ownership is too easy in this country. I didn't reach the decision to support their flawed arguments but because these organizations have manipulated and hijacked the easy access to pet ownership to fit their agendas. Perhaps if people had to put a little more effort into becoming pet owners and keeping those pets they would be a little more reluctant to drop their unwanted pet off on a country road. That is probably fairy tale thinking on my part but it is still something to think about. glg

Creeping Winter

In most parts of the country people tend to think of creeping autumn. Here, in North Dakota, we tend to think in terms of "creeping winter" and preparing for it. I was thinking about that last night when I walked from my office to the house. I was wearing my leather coat and had my hands tucked into my pockets. It wasn't cold enough to snow but the rain had that crisp touch to it that reminded me of winter's lurking only a short distance away and once October 1, is in the books then the best thing to do is "be ready." I'm not ready. I've got to bring my wood stove in and then cut my winter supply of firewood. Chores never stop. Now all I've got to do is find time to write four book reviews, my Capstick article, finish writing a presentation I'm giving at the SEOPA Conference next month and oh, yeah, I've got a column and feature due for Whitetails Unlimited.
I think I'll go hunting instead.

Monday, September 21, 2009

I'mmmm Baaack

I’m back! Well, sort of. Every day of the past few weeks I’ve worked on my office remodeling project and to be honest I’m sick of it and not quite finished. I’ve still got to put on new shingles and then do a few other odds and ends to wrap up the project. I’m also hip deep in the process of moving back in. I truly had no idea I have so much “stuff” to put away. I thought I’d be able to move the last of my books from the metal storage shed where several hundred of them have resided for the past year. No chance of moving them. When all is said and done I’ve picked up only a few additional feet of book shelf space. Still, everything is much better than it was and I am looking forward to working in my “new” office. There's another reason to hurry up and get settled--hunting season!

That said and out of the way a good note is that on opening morning of grouse season I was able to prove to my friend Chas ( that we really do have sharptail grouse in these parts. We did not get very many birds (poor shooting) but we did have a great hunt and the best part was the opportunity to visit with my oldest (30 years) friend.

Now that I am back in my office one of my first tasks will be to complete an article for African Expedition Magazine (http:/ Too many moons ago I started working on an article about the famed outdoor (African) outdoor writer Peter H. Capstick. Peter was a friend of mine and he was also the subject of my Master’s Thesis, but I don’t have rose colored lenses in my glasses—I know Peter wasn’t perfect and that he did embellish his stories. Why not and who cares? Through their mind’s eye his readers were able to live the African experience. His writing infused outdoor literature with a new excitement after decades of the genre’s downward spiral. If you have not read any of Peter’s books (or, even if you have) now is a good time to order one or two so you have it on hand for the coming long nights of winter.

On a closing note about my absence of several weeks—I didn’t really miss my computer. In fact I kind of enjoyed not being tied to it but now that I am back and online I’ll have to become responsible and try to answer my email. Actually, I’d rather write a letter with a fountain pen. Glg

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Reconditioning Used Lumber

I wish I could write that my office remodeling project is in the can but it just “ain’t” so. To be honest I still have an easy week to ten days more work ahead of me. One reason this project has taken me so long is that I have spent a great deal of time reconditioning old wood. I’m one of those people who, when working on a project, will save the odds and ends that are left over and try to use them on future projects. Some scraps that are too damaged or small to reuse end up in my firewood box for the wood stove, but most of the wood is kept for future use. I also keep a lot of the old wood that I pull out of the house (another remodeling project, but that’s another story). The upshot is that I try to find a piece of “scrap” wood that can be made to fit my needs with just a little work. I’m sure that if I would drive to the local lumber yard I could buy some very nice, straight and nail free wood that would require a lot less work. On the other hand, the sliding doors, I will proudly explain to visitors, were cut out of the sliding doors that had once been in the house, and they were known to be at least 75 years old when I dismantled that closet.

The same is true for many of the other “parts” that have gone into the office project. One of the little details that will be in my completed office will be an early Twentieth Century glass fire extinguisher bomb. When we first moved into the house we found a number of these “bombs” in strategic areas and we had planned to save all of them but in moving them from place to place all but one have been broken. This last one will be on display in my office.

I am incorporating a number of other treasures into my office including two secured gun racks, several of my African mounts, spears and shields. I figure that it’s my office so I can make it comfortable for me—right? At least that is what I keep telling myself.

As for reconditioning old wood to make something new I don’t believe it is a step that far out of the hunter’s field to care about how we reuse wood but it enhances our outdoor experiences. If we consider who we are (anglers, hunters, etc.) and our place in the outdoors then we need to define ourselves in much greater detail than simply stating that we are anglers, hunters or whatever and then relying on others, such as Ortega and most recently Dr. Eaton. We need to define ourselves as participating in the stewardship of the outdoors, not merely benefiting from the efforts of others who manage the natural resources. By taking the time to recondition wood that would be tossed into the trash or burned it (not for heat) is, I believe, a step deeper into that relationship between each one of us and nature’s wealth that is the underlying truth of our journey into nature as hunters and anglers.

Some people argue, and I am sure that in a true cost to benefit comparison they are probably right, that the effort to recondition wood is actually taking up more that is preserves.
“Think of the calories you’ve burned pulling old nails, cutting out damaged parts, checking for bits of metal to avoid hitting a nail with a saw blade,” one friend commented. “Then there is the squaring and sanding needed to make the old wood workable and you realize that between your effort and the energy used by the power tools you’ve used more than you’ve saved.”

I disagree because there is the intrinsic beauty of the old wood when it is brought back to its past glory and that can be a powerful reward. There is also the knowledge that by not always buying new lumber products I am reducing the demand for new wood, even if I am only creating a drop in a rain barrel. For me the fraction of a breath of oxygen generated by a tree living for a few seconds longer because I recondition wood is a powerful incentive to recondition used lumber.

Perhaps I am this way because my mother had a deep love of trees and she would often recite the poem by George Pope Morris, “Woodman Spare That Tree.” (For the full poem go to:
Woodman, spare that tree!
Touch not a single bough!
In youth it sheltered me,
And I'll protect it now.
'Twas my forefather's hand
That placed it near his cot;
There, woodman, let it stand,
Thy axe shall harm it not!

The irony of her love for trees (she once faced down a crew attempting to remove a tree from public land) is that her father, my grandfather Sala, was one of the Italian woodcutters living along the banks of Bear Creek near Petoskey, Michigan. (Yes, for the readers who might wonder if there was any connection between EH and the Sala family—there was.) She passed her passion for trees on to me and I let it materialize in my desire to see an old piece of wood, abused by the elements, time and people, once again show off its colors.

Take care and think about those trees. glg

Sunday, June 28, 2009

office repair

Ouch! My office remodeling project has morphed into the never ending project which is made more problematic because I can’t work at the same speed I did a few years ago. I had planned to be finished with it by the end of this week but I am still hip deep in work. Like many people starting a home repair project I underestimated what I was facing.

The first problem I encountered was the extent of the water damage. I thought I would get by with pulling down a small section of the ceiling, replacing the damaged insulation, checking for any damage to the wiring and then putting up a new piece of drywall. It didn’t work that way and by the time I had finished tearing out all of the water soaked insulation and drywall at least a third of the ceiling was piled in my driveway. I also had to contend with several studs and supports that had become soaked and had to be replaced.

There was also the issue of repairing the dog kennel. Cookie has had a few months more than five years to work on her kennel and I had to do some repairs on it as well, from replacing some well chewed studs to repairing the fencing that she worked on whenever she became bored.
Now I can honestly say the “repairs” are completed. After that milestone I patched all the holes that had been punched in the walls over the years to support photographs or serve some other purpose and completed a bunch of other small repairs, sanded the patches smooth, washed down the walls and ceiling and started the painting. As of now all of the priming is finished, I’ve painted, the indoor portion of the kennel and tomorrow I’ll complete the painting before turning my attention to leveling the floor to repair last winter’s frost heave that cracked the concrete.
I’ve got several more days of work before I can move back into my office and until then I am using a TV tray for a desk, which means I am taking up room in my living room. Not fun.

I suppose I could have shifted a few things around and made the office continue to function and avoided all of the problems I’ve had to deal with over the past two weeks but that wouldn’t have offered much of a reward for my efforts. This way, when the office is finished, I’ll have a sense of accomplishment that will be with me every time I sit down to work. When I do finish I’ll post a couple of photos just for an FYI for my readers. Until it is finished and I can again focus on my writing I’m afraid you’ll have to forgo any truly thoughtful writing from me. glg

Friday, June 12, 2009

Dog Kennel and Office remodeling

Lucky me! With spring now in full swing it is time to recondition the dog kennel, which means washing down the walls, scrubbing the floor of the inside part of the kennel, repairing breaks in the wire outside, and then putting on a fresh coat of paint. To my way of thinking it is something I have an obligation to do because of everything my dogs do for me. There is, of course, the affection and companionship they bring and for Cookie there is the work she does for me throughout the hunting season. So, I try to make their home comfortable. Some might even say I spoil them since the indoor portion of their kennel is 4x8x4 and is air conditioned in summer and heated in the winter. Their outside portion is 6 feet wide, 10 feet long with a concrete floor and is roofed. The inside kennel is at the far end of my office and I usually leave the door open so they can roam in and out at will

All of that freedom has had a price—flies and mosquitoes! Before this space became my office it was my shop and the sawdust seemed to keep the bugs down. I also admit I was not being too observant because I hadn’t noticed flies and skeeters bothering the dogs. Last summer, which was the first summer I truly worked out here, the flies and skeeters pestered me every evening, even when the air conditioner was running, and I had to keep spraying the dogs to keep the flies off, especially their ears. Maybe it was just a bad fly season but I was starting to have doubts about changing my shop into my office and if the winter drove me into the house I’d drop the idea. I held on through the coldest days and when I decided that having my office out here was what I wanted I also committed myself to doing something about the flies and mosquitoes. I decided to start by keeping the pesky bugs out of the outdoor kennel. For the past week I’ve been tacking, stretching and fastening fiberglass screen. (I opted for fiberglass because it is stronger and although the dogs are going to find some way to punch holes in it unlike aluminum screen the fiberglass will not cut their pads.)

My next project is to complete the conversion of the shop into a real office. I’m pulling out all of the makeshift book shelves, my plywood writing desk and the work bench that I’ve been stacking books on. Once everything is cleared out I’ll scrub the walls, ceiling and floor then paint the walls and ceiling before building new book shelves. Finally, I’ll put down indoor/outdoor carpet (so the dogs can still roam in the office) and move in the desk I bought at the auction. With a little luck I’ll have the job finished by the end of next week and I can settle down to some serious writing.

I guess, when everything is finished I can thank the dogs for pushing me to the remodeling job. My desire to insure they have a good home started me on this project and in the end I’ll have a comfortable home office.

Have a good week, all! Glg

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Connections between auctions, wildlife and the land

This afternoon I went to an auction. Not really a big deal but I don’t go to many auctions. When we first moved to North Dakota we frequented quite a few of them that first autumn and the following spring, all with the intent of getting some of the “stuff” we needed to get started with our new home. We played it pretty close to the chest and always went with a list of what we wanted and how much we would pay. Usually that worked out fairly well for us except for the time we went to an auction where the main item to be sold was a Sixties era cedar wood boat. I wanted that boat and got into a bidding war and the price was up to a couple of grand when the guy who was bidding against me walked over and told me that I didn’t have enough money to outbid him. I stayed with it for another hundred then dropped out. Now, I am glad I did. That boat would have been a deeper hole in the water than the boat I’ve got!

There was something that bothered me about this auction—what people were paying. There were some very nice antiques sold at this auction but they sold dirt cheap. I wasn’t interested in antiques but I did have four items on my list and all of them are for my office. I also knew what I was willing to pay providing the quality was there. When I arrived I walked around and checked the items I was interested in, wrote down what I would be willing to pay and then did some shopping, mostly in the boxes of used books. That was a bust.

When the bidding started my first item was a nearly new color TV to replace the little B&W TV in my office. I had finally gotten tired of trying to figure out the weather maps in shades of gray and wanted a color TV. In store price for a like model TV is $200. My cost at the auction was $5. I was feeling pleased and a little surprised but I figured most people had been frightened off by the digital thing and didn’t realize that if they are using cable it doesn’t matter.

My next item was an office cabinet with an enclosed safe. The condition was excellent and it was what I wanted. I dropped out of the bidding for it after a few bids because I realized the guy I was bidding against was more determined than I was willing to deal with. When I dropped out he got it at a steal. I wasn’t worried, there was a nearly new desk that retails for $400 and I wanted to try and snag it because I am remodeling my office, opening up wall space for books and getting rid of this wall desk I cobbled together.

I never open a bid on anything and when the auctioneer tried to start the bidding at $100 I was ready to pack it in, except no one opened. He tried $75 and still no takers. He dropped to $50, then $25 and finally $10. I raised my hand and he tried to get the bid up to $15 for the desk. He couldn’t even get anyone to raise the bid to $11. I had my desk and I was happy with the price but feeling a little guilty. The auction was the selling of someone’s life history and it was going for a song. The only other thing I bought was a box of nice wine glasses for $1. At past auctions I’ve seen a box of quality wine glasses sell for $50. I doubt that at the end of the day the auction brought in a full $15,000. A lifetime of living in that farm house and it was only worth that much? Something is wrong. One of the auctioneers told me that this year sales are off more than he had ever expected. "People don't have the cash to buy," he said.

On the way home I passed by something else that troubled me and suddenly the prices at the auction made sense—land that had once been in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) was being put to the plow. I stopped and watched the tractor go over the field and I was expecting to see some grouse flush from in front of the tractor but I guess the birds were already gone and looking for a new home. An auction that didn’t bring any money after a lifetime and a CRP field being returned to the till may not seem connected but they are—both are symptoms of an economy in trouble and those troubles are still upsetting homes—human and wildlife. We don’t think about the economy hurting wildlife except for the loss in revenue for wildlife agencies but there is another cost, one that is unseen, and it is in the wetlands and the grasslands where the wildlife is being uprooted by peoples' need to try and salvage something out of this mess. Something for us to think about the next time we read about the recovery finally starting.

PS I also saw lots and lots of nesting ducks including a half-dozen pair of redheads. That is good. glg

Thursday, May 7, 2009

From a Little Brown Bird

My goose hunting was a bust. When the roads into the areas where I wanted to hunt were finally passable the snow geese had moved on. We do have a lot of Canada Geese and a variety of ducks hanging around the sloughs to nest and raise the broods. Come fall, if the weather doesn’t chase them out, we’ll have a healthy waterfowl population.

There was one casualty of the long, cold winter—I found an LBB—Little Brown Bird—in my yard. It was at the base of the clothes line pole and I found it when the last of the snow had melted away. The bird had sought protection from the freezing cold, probably during one of the early winter storms, by huddling beside the pole. It had frozen to death there and when I found it the bird hadn’t been discovered by any of the neighborhood’s stray cats so it was in the same huddled position it had been in when it was overtaken by the cold and died.

What bothered me about the bird’s death was that it sought shelter beside the metal pole, a pole that would transmit the freezing cold down from above the snow to the ground. The bird had no chance of survival but yet its instinct had been to seek shelter there. I wondered if its instincts have been altered by human manipulations of the world and the reason it turned to the steel pole that was sticking above the snow was because it connected the pole to people. Have we spent so much time altering our world that the wildlife that once depended on their instinctive wits to survive may have turned too much to us? The thinking that set these thoughts in motion came from the essay I’ve been working on for a month or so. In the past century and-a-half, since Darwin’s On the Origin of Species was published in 1859, the relationship between people and animals has undergone a drastic change. Neither in the Romantic period nor in the Age of Enlightenment was there a concentrated effort to establish a kinship with animals such as exists today, but among some people Darwin’s views have inspired this kinship. When I was holding the nearly weightless little bird and feeling its light, feathery softness, I couldn’t help but feel a pang of guilt. Should I have been feeding the birds around the house more food? Or, was the little bird’s death just nature acting out her own population controls?

Rather than put the bird in the trash and condemn it to the landfill I decided to bury the bird. I dug a little hole in the still frozen ground and buried the bird beside our rhubarb plants. I put it back into the cycle of life. After that chore was finished I went back to raking the yard. For the past two weeks while I have been noting the ducks, geese, grouse, pheasants and partridge I have also thought of the little bird. In a strange, very mental way, the Little Brown Bird made a small part of our world a bit clearer to me. The distance between the game birds I have been watching and the LBB is very narrow. We understand that our support of game, whether it swims, flies or runs, also supports all other species and to prove this we usually offer the habitat argument without really explaining the deep connections between all wildlife, habitat and ourselves. But, the LBB was, for me, proof of the argument. It isn’t Darwinism that has created the kinship but how we have altered the world. The more changes we make the greater our responsibility is to the world and as we recognize that responsibility we develop a deeper relationship with nature. The Little Brown Bird was, for me, a reminder of just how deep our responsibility is. The truly sad part is that the person who condemns hunting (or fishing) is ignoring that relationship and trying to replace it with an artificial Darwinism that is feel good emotion and not science—hard or soft. It isn’t the kinship with animals that insures their survival, whether a Little Brown Bird or a Giant Canada Goose, but is our willingness as people, hunter or non-hunter, to accept our responsibility to the world and to act on it.

Thoughts? Glg

Copyright, 2009 by Galen L. Geer.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Thinking about hunting ethics

This spring has been a roller coaster ride of weather and nature constantly waving her little finger over the land causing floods with evacuations, roads being washed out, and in general making life difficult in North Dakota. There is light ahead because in some areas the rising waters are beginning to stabilize—sort of—there is still a lot of water in the fields to flow down to the rivers. Shoot, the way it is going it is going to be a few more weeks before I’ll be able to go fishing. Right now however, what I’d like to do is find a field that I could actually reach that is under the flight path of the thousands of geese around here. In time I know the rivers will return to their course, the bogs will shrink to sloughs and the ground will be dry enough to walk on without sinking past your ankles. If I am lucky it’ll all happen while the snow geese are still in the area and I’ll be able to get in some good snow goose hunting. Until then I’ll have to be content to watching the thousand-bird flights that pass over my house several times a day. Maybe tomorrow on my drive to Fargo I’ll be able to get some photos of the geese rafting on the flood waters. It is an amazing sight!

How many of you are familiar with the writings of Jim Posewitz? He hasn’t written any best sellers but he has written two books that I believe are very important to the future of hunting, Beyond Fair Chase and Inherit the Hunt . These are small books and each one can be read in just a couple of hours. What I believe is important about these books is that Posewitz tackles the tricky question of hunting ethics.

The question of hunting ethics is the source of many debates and I often find myself being at the heart of many discussions over hunting ethics. What has caught my eye in Posewitz’s book Beyond Fair Chase is that he has offered a comprehensive ethic for hunters and I’ve been working with it in the last installment of my three-part series for Whitetails Unlimited. Here is what he has posited as a Twenty-first century ethic for hunters:

“A person who knows and respects the animals he hunts, follows the law, and behaves in a way that will satisfy what society expects of him or her as a hunter.”

This is on page 16 of Posewitz’s book and in the next few chapters he takes the short, three-part statement apart and offers his evidence on how and why it works as a hunter’s ethic. What I have found, in my own work, is that Posewitz has written what I believe is a workable ethic. There is a great deal more to the discussion around the question of ethics in the Twenty-first century but the Posewitz Ethic can be applied to nearly every problem—at least that is how I see it.

What do you think? glg

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Ice Markers from flood

I took these photos in Mayville, North Dakota and they are interesting because they show the levels the water reached, then frozen before retreating and leaving the ice markers behind. In some of the photos the ice markers look more like fungi growing on the trees and the playhouse than ice.

The ice table that was left behind really impressed me. Across the river you can see the huge slabs of ice on the banks.


Thursday, March 26, 2009

Red River Flood

The Army Corps of Engineers is warning the people of Fargo and others along the Red River that it will crest over 41 feet and could reach 43 feet. I don’t care what your belief is but either send a prayer or a positive thought to the people of Fargo. They are fighting for their homes and their city. They are doing it the way Americans have always done it—by standing shoulder to shoulder with people they may never see again. It does not matter whether they are Democrats or Republicans, gay or straight, hunter or anti-hunter, they are all Americans and they are in a fight for an American city that is in peril. I’ve been all over the world and I’ve always been amazed by our willingness to set aside all differences and stand together, even when it is against the odds.

If they get the dikes high enough and if the dikes hold back the ice cold waters of the Red for the duration of its long crest then Americans will have witnessed a triumph of spirit over adversity that this nation has not seen in quite some time. The experts who know dikes and floods are quietly admitting the people are fighting against all the odds.

The next time the nightly news shows video of Fargo think about what you are watching. A nine-year old filling a sandbag, his grandfather tying it and handing it to high school student with a pierced nose who hands it to a college student who passes it to a homeowner, to someone who lives in a bare-bulb apartment and it goes down the line. Every person in that line, from the truck to the dike, has a different story, a different life and politics, but when nature turns on their town these people join together to save homes they will never step inside, business where they cannot afford to shop and apartments they wish were in another block. But for the present there is nothing more important than saving their town—their homes and the homes of others and God willing they will do it.

I think that is what makes us special as Americans.

ND Floods, Environmental groups and hunters

Geese! Actually I could hear the birds two days ago but the fog had wrapped them in its impenetrable shroud and I wasn’t sure where they were. Ever since I first heard them I’ve been waiting for the opportunity to go scouting and try to figure out where I can set up for some pass shooting—after the present flood crisis is over. Would you believe that in the last 48 hours we have had rain, ice storm, fog, snow, melting snow, more rain, more snow and now floods! At least our small town (Village? Hamlet? What should I call it?), is on a high spot and it would take a whole lot of rain and flood before we would be threatened. At least it shouldn’t be but we have another problem. ALL of the surrounding countryside was quick frozen last fall after late autumn rains saturated the fields. In other words, as the snow melts and the spring rains fall they don’t soak into the soil but run off, or as the soil thaws the mud is incredibly deep, trapping any implements and as the frozen soil thaws it causes the freeze-thaw movement of the soil to crack and even cave in some basements. I’m having a small problem in my basement that makes me think I’m making a war movie and I’m in a submarine, but it is nothing compared to some others. Two homes in the area have fallen into their basements because the running water and thawing soil weakened the basement or foundation, or washed out the backfill.

All of this should serve as a reminder to us that we really are not in charge here. You can believe it is God who is in control and is sending the weather to remind us that we don’t control our environment—regardless of what we do. Or, perhaps the weather patterns sweeping over our nation is “us” which is just what Pogo said. Are we slowly and irreversibly creating our own doomsday?

I don’t buy all of the Global Warming theory; although I find more truth than daydreaming in it. I’m not willing to embrace the tree theory of the eminent physicist Freeman Dyson, either. On the other hand I am 100% convinced that the world’s weather patterns are going through drastic changes but I don’t believe we can see far enough into the future to be able to offer realistic solutions.

While watching the weather change drastically several times in the course of a few hours I was thinking about the weather, the environment and the role of sportsmen and sportswomen in environmental issues.

I believe that we, as the sporting community of the outdoors, have an obligation to be at the forefront of many of today’s environmental issues. Some members of the community of anglers and hunters try to claim that because the origins of the conservation movement are fixed in the concerns of nineteenth century sportsmen (and women) that conservationism is where they owe their allegiance and not to environmentalism, insisting that the environmental movement was born out of the conservation movement and therefore the latter is the true conservator of nature. I disagree. For the conservation movement to be viable it has to be part of environmentalism. From what I’ve seen, the radical elements of environmentalism rarely spring from the environmental group but from outside elements—which points to one of the weaknesses of our entire sporting culture—an unwillingness to participate in groups outside our immediate concern. A result is our rights are often trampled by tiny radical elements of society, elements that try to form links with environmental groups to validate their claims. Consider PETA, CASH and Wayne Pacelle’s infamous HSUS as examples of this validation effort. Each one of these organizations, and Pacelle, has at one time or another tied itself to the Sierra Club (usually at state levels) as “proof” of their connection to nature conservation. A little scratching at their claims (rarely do you need to dig very deep) quickly reveals the fraudulency, or at least weakness, of their ties to true environmental concerns. These groups attach themselves to real concerns as a means to advance their agendas aimed at ending sport fishing and hunting. The presence of well informed anglers and hunters in the environmental organization is often enough to discourage these anti fishing and hunting groups from attempting to tie themselves to real issues.

A thought?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Sunrise in North Dakota

I don’t know how many of you read NorCalCazadora’s very good post on the problem with ‘our” outdoor media but she really nailed the issue. Personally, I’d like to see viewers who are fed up with trash on the outdoor networks go on the offensive against the shows and the networks by writing letters, email and refusing to buy products. But, I don’t hold out much hope.

Before I forget to do it I want to thank all of you who responded to my question about the length to my posts. I do appreciate the kind words. I hope I can live up to them.

This morning I had appointments at the VA hospital in Fargo so I had to be up and out of here just about dawn—it was okay with me because the early appointments gave me a good reason to drag my sometimes sorry carcass out of bed and into the dawn. I figured if there were any geese around I’d find them. Nope. I did see something else that I always enjoy—the rising sun—this morning it was a massive orange orb that was climbing off the horizon and I could watch it as I drove. I know that what I was seeing was the virtual image caused by the refraction of light through the atmosphere but the magnificence of the image stayed with me all day.

There were strips of clouds that it climbed through and as it made that transition from the horizon’s orb to burning sun there was a general peace in my world. Snow that had re-frozen during the night after the day’s warmth had worked on it, still holds everything in its grip. I knew that outside my truck everything was cold and covered with frost, ice and snow. That grip and all the cold wasn’t enough to keep the wildlife from sharing some early morning glory. In those very quiet moments the world I drove through was populated with dozens of deer; they were spread from near the road to the crests of the breaks along the elm river. I also saw a covey of sharptail and a rooster pheasant near my wife’s family farm. I didn’t see an eagle today, although Michelle saw a bald eagle yesterday, but I did see several hawks. When they are hanging around the waterfowl are not far behind.

Winter isn’t over but it is losing its grip and the wildlife, whether they fly or run, know it. I guess people are often the last to get the message—eh?


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

No Geese but . . . water and a question

I still haven't found any geese but even if I did I couldn't get to them. There is still quite a bit of snow in the fields and where there isn't any snow there is mud, lots of mud. The snow is melting so fast it is forming rivers in the streets and I am amazed to find some stuff that I thought I'd lost really was buried under snow! What we're worried about now, at least down hill from me, is flooding. I've got some work to do in my basement, just in case, but to be sure and keep out the snow melt is not a just in case but a for real issue so that is going to take some time.
Now that I have reached that milestone of 60 years I actually got to eat a Senior meal today at the local cafe! It wasn't impressive and I would have rather had venison!
I have a question for readers--are my longer posts too long? I would really like to know. glg

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Okay, friends, you've got to see this photo because this is for real--to get to my office (about 60 feet behind me) today I truly did have to wear snowshoes. My cane was of no use because I could not reach the ground under the snow. It is now 11:38 pm, the moon is out but the wind is still howling which means the drifts are still growing. If you look at the middle right side of the photo you can see the top of the fence that surrounds our garden.

I've had an idea. How about we start a letter writing effort to send emails and letters to the network suits demanding that they create a weekly "for real" news program with real people doing real stories and not just puff junk about who won the latest bass classic but stuff that is important to the outdoors. Any takers? glg

A Thought

I have always found it interesting that we have these outdoor shows and we don't have an outdoor newsprogram, at least I am not aware of one. What would happen if we actually had some skilled outdoor reporters producing real news stories for a weekly news program?
Norcal, you teach journalism. What do you think of the idea? What would it really take for the guys in suits to buy into it? Would it be a good idea? Could we make it work? By we, I mean the industry. Something more than puff pieces on who won the last bass tournament. glg

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Not Making Any Friends with The Outdoor Network

Today I am going on the attack.

There are times when I am fortunate not to be a wealthy man because if I had the money in the bank to finance my replacing a television at least once a week—I would. Each replacement would probably be made over the weekend when I was struggling to watch The Outdoor Channel. Either the network’s executives are only functionally literate or they are dedicated to the principle that if we show enough trash we will destroy fishing and hunting. Since I’ve had the misplaced pleasure of shaking hands (little else, I’m a tiny minnow and not worth much more effort) of a couple of these media moguls (personally I think many of them are somewhat hebetudinous). (Neat word—Latin—couldn’t resist). Don’t misunderstand me, I do not think all of the fishing and hunting shows border on lunacy and in fact quite a few of them have been cleaned up—but not all. One that I think needs to go the way of the dodo is “World Class Sportfishing” when the goal of the show is nothing more than another world record at the expense of the fish resource. With modern technology there is absolutely no reason for any salt water fish to be killed to see if it meets “World Record Status.”
In today’s episode (#61, Flamingo Costa Rica) the stars (?) Enrico Capozzi and the obligatory T&A and actually stunning Stacey Georgia Parkerson were pursuing billfish on fly tackle and Enrico was hoping to break his own record. Okay so far, but when the flyfishing took a dive the dynamic duo turned to bottom fishing and Parkerson caught a species they thought “might” break a record and with that they rushed back to the docks to weigh the fish but alas, no record. I suppose the fish made it to the dinner plate—I admit I don’t know—I was too disgusted with the whole premise of the episode that I decided to watch from afar while I washed dishes. Every fish that I did see brought to the boat was hook gaffed so they could not survive so dinner is a moot point. What pushed me over the edge today was sitting at my computer and finding photos of Enrico Capozzi with dead marlin and sailfish and realizing how many fish have died for the egos of Capozzi and Parkerson.
These fish, in most cases, are being killed in a frenzy of masturbation as Capozzi and Parkerson add more world record titles to their impressive vitas. There is no reason on this planet for the IGFA, which awards and monitors these records, to continue allowing manic masturbationists such as Capozzi and Parkerson to kill these fish in hopes of capturing another world record when the technology to weigh and verify the size of these fish on the boat, and thus return the fish to the water unharmed, exists. The leadership of the IGFA and The Outdoor Channel’s media moguls should both press the digital industry to create such equipment and it must be economical so it can be standard equipment on any charter and even private offshore game fish boats. It can be done, but only if the dullards at The Outdoor Channel and responsible anglers press for the equipment. An IGFA “certified” record recording device would be a hot ticket item for offshore game boat owners and thus profitable for the company marketing it.
Heck, maybe it already exists—I honestly don’t know. Someone who knows, inform me.
I will be honest and admit that both Capozzi and Parkerson have very, very impressive record titles in their fishing vitas, but there is little else I read in there to make me think they have anything else in the beanie. My advice to The Outdoor Channel is to stop the world record madness and concentrate on why big game fishing (any offshore fishing) is something many of us want to do and if we have, we are already passionate about, by presenting the adventure as it is and without the masturbationists. And, by the way, I have fished for big game off the coasts of California, Mexico, The Florida Keys, both sides of Florida, and Africa (each, several if not many, times) and have a number of friends who are charter skippers or just passionate offshore anglers so Capozzi and Parkerson’s self-proclaimed titles of “professional anglers” and naming their boat “The Sprit of Pilar, Chasing World Records” is just more masturbation. (Do I have it right or is it “The Sprit of Pilar” or “Pilar II”, I never could quite figure it out while watching the show. Either way, please go back and read a little more Hemingway before borrowing the name of his boat. To any serious student of Hemingway your attempt to honor him falls short and is reinforcing the anti-Hemingway criticism of several movements that would like to see sport fishing banned.)

Second on my hit list is Captain Ron Price on Keith Warren’s Fishing show. They were catching a variety of fish and many of them were of forearm length so the fish weren’t over ambitious youngsters but mature fish. A few of the fish went in the livewell but the majority of fish were returned to the water. Keith Warren released his fish by easing them into the water (at least on camera, who knows what goes on off camera) but Capt. Ron Price must have missed out on something because he stood in the boat and tossed the fish back in the water. Now, according to the biologists I’ve spoken with, any fish that is hooked and brought to boat is highly stressed and often played out by the time it is in the angler’s hands. If the fish is to be released then the objective is to get it back in the water as quickly as possible and with the minimum amount of handling; and to get it in the water without adding any more shock to the fish’s system. Good ole’ boy Captain Ron Price must have missed out on that lecture in public awareness 101—every fish he returned to the water was tossed in with a high five arch for maximum splash effect. Well, Captain Price, you may be one heck of a fisherman but for my money you’re a jerk and belong in the boat with Capozzi and Parkerson, I’m sure they will let you admire yourself in the Pilar II’s mirrors.

A final comment about this issue is that I’ve seen a world of improvement in outdoor broadcasting in the past two years, but trash like Price’s fish tossing and the masturbating frenzy of, well you know by now, sets the programming advancements of The Outdoor Channel back several years.

Just my opinion, you know. I didn’t even make it to today’s hunting shows and this is supposed to be a hunting blog, think I should make it a sporting blog covering both angling and hunting? glg

PS I’ll bet I didn’t make any friends with this post. What do you think?

Monday, March 2, 2009

Winter and Delta Waterfowl Series

I’m cold. In the past I’ve posted about the winter here in North Dakota so everyone is well aware of the conditions up here but the cold is starting to wear on me. To cope with it one does exactly that—cope. A problem that I see starting to loom on my horizon is my supply of firewood. I know about how much I will burn in the course of a day and when I calculate that out against what remains of the wood I cut last fall, and the days of winter that could be ahead there isn’t enough wood. I suppose I “could” go out and cut some more wood but I’m really not in the mood to deal with the drifted snow. Let me explain why. What dominates this part of the country is one word—wind. We can have a snowfall of six inches and in the morning you’ll have six inches of snow on the ground to shovel. Later in the day or the next when the wind kicks up it picks up the snow and moves it around. Sure, we have the drifts over the roads and in town over sidewalks and around the houses but that does not account for all of the snow. A person who doesn’t have any experience up here might want to think the snow is gone because you can’t see it in the fields. It isn’t gone, it is piled up in the woods and low places and nature has packed the snow down and hidden it so what appears to be only a few inches of remaining snow is actually the accumulation of weeks of snow that has been compacted. The wind may have sucked some of the moisture out of the snow but not enough. In the spring—it melts and makes water—lots of water. Flood danger water and now the newspapers are starting to publish the flood probability figures. A lot of people have learned the lessons from the 1997 disaster, but not all and there are a lot of new people (like me) who were not here for that disaster. But I grew up with annual floods near my home in Oklahoma and I do take flood threats seriously—I’m watching, reading and waiting.

Back to the wood cutting and the snow problem I started this post with. The snow that has been blowing out of the fields has not left the country and what is not piled into the low country is piled into the wooded areas and uncut fields. I stopped to look at the snow in a field of uncut corn and I was stunned. Just a foot or two into the standing corn the snow was up to my waist but outside the uncut corn it is only a few inches deep and in some places the fields are swept bare. The same is true of the wooded areas—the snow is piled up too deep for anyone to safely maneuver through it. The animals have their paths through the snow and they’ve created retreats from the weather but the winter is being hard on them. Old-timers, and even the not-so-old-timers have reminded me that much of the snow that caused the floods of 1997 fell after the rest of the country was enjoying spring. The upshot is that no one can be sure that nature isn’t through dealing her winter blows to this region.

Of course, all of the above has kept me out of the spring goose hunting fields. I haven’t heard of anyone actually doing any local hunting although I am sure there is probably some in other areas. I’ll just have to wait my turn.

The dogs are becoming stir-crazy though. Because of the danger of a dog falling into a deep drift, floundering and actually disappearing under the snow I can’t take them out to run off some of the energy so they’ve been taking out their frustration on me—when I close up the office for the night. Last night they managed to get down a pair of computer gloves that my daughter, Jamia, had sent me for Christmas. I didn’t even get a chance to wear them! I’m trying to convince Jamia to send more a new pair. I don’t know if it will work.

There is one good product of the long winter. I have really had an opportunity to see what I like and don’t like about my office. This was the first full winter I spent working out here (I was eased out of the house to make way for a real dining room.). Because of back issues I’ve had to build a temporary standing desk where I can work standing up when the meds wear off and I’ve planned how I am going to remodel my office so that I have my normal desk and my standing desk and book cases. I want to be able to see my guns, my mounts, and some fishing gear and now I know how to do it. So, see, winter hasn’t been a total waste!

By the way, Delta Waterfowl (This is a good organizations: ) has published, in their magazine Delta Waterfowl, (that’s a no brainer (a five part series “The Vanishing Hunter” and the last installment was in their Winter, 2008 issue. I’ve just finished reading the series (all at once, not waiting each installment then waiting for the next) and I’ve found it to be, overall, an excellent series with some truly probing insights to the problems the authors have raised. I don’t agree with everything they have written but I’m reading some of the sources they named (most of them I have already read and even quoted in previously published articles but there are a few that are new and once I've read them I'll review their works here) and waiting to see if those sources reshape some of my opinions by providing new information. All that said one of the premises that I maintain is publication does not make “it” so. Marx was published but that does not make what he wrote “so” but only an idea. But, on the other hand, should we as hunters be looking for a hunting gospel, something that gives us a greater insight into exactly where we fit in contemporary social structures? Or, is that sort of search actually weakening hunters as a social group by inferring an admission of doubt about the legitimacy of the hunter?

I’m sitting here, at my cluttered writing desk, often way late at night (or into the early morning, depending on your viewpoint) writing the final part of my series for Whitetails Unlimited magazine and what I am writing is an examination of our ethics. I’ve worked on it for hours and hours, way beyond what would make it profitable writing, but I’ve written on note pads, in notebooks and on whiteboards on my walls. I’ve compared the ethical behavior mandates for hunters of fifty, a hundred and four-hundred years ago. The mandates change with time but core premises of ethics don’t change, they stay with hunting and it seems with each epoch of civilization these core ethics, small as they may be, are built upon by new generations of hunters to create a new creed for the coming generations. Maybe, in my mind, this is something that was missed in the Delta Waterfowl series—that we retain and build in a complex relationship that needs more study, and study apart from trying to justify today’s actions by quoting the old, but looking at how the core of mandates for ethical behaviors seem to form an unbreakable chain to the past and we need to know how that chain was first forged.

Thoughts anyone?