Thursday, June 28, 2012

Outdoors and the 'New Media'

Social media, new media, what is it anyway?  Why is it even being discussed in an outdoors column?

The reality is our world has changed and continues to progress.  It is much smaller than it was just a decade ago.  At one time, places like Africa, Alaska, and Australia were distant lands that you could only find in either an encyclopedia or National Geographic magazine.  Now, we can call up a ‘friend’, watch them in real time and speak to them through the computer.  Now we have ‘wiki’ instead of actual volumes of books.  And National Geographic is much more than a magazine; it is a television network and website.  I’m sure the younger generation is oblivious to who is a ‘pen-pal’, my generation’s original ‘friend request.’

The new media consist of online television shows and episodes, e-magazines, and podcasts.  My podcasts consisted of taping a one way conversation on an old cassette recorder and mailing it to a friend who moved several states away one summer.  Can you imagine if this was our way of communicating now?  Fortunately the new media is easy and available.  As for the outdoors community, this opens the world to us all.

We are able to learn from others in ways as never before.  My grandfather was a hit with my friends with his stories of big game hunts from around the world.  There were not many people you could meet and talk to who had ever taken any game other than dove, ducks, deer, squirrels, or rabbits.  Everything else was exotic; things you only saw in the zoo or again, the encyclopedia and magazines.  Now we can not only reach out and hear the stories from all kinds of hunters, anglers, mountain climbers, hikers, kayakers, and bird watchers, we can interact and learn.

We can get answers to our questions, hear others questions that we would have never thought to have asked, and participate without having to be the 10th caller.  Online no-frills talk shows bring in educated and experienced guests to share knowledge to others and help the non-experienced prepare for their own outdoors adventures.

The new media has become such a hit and shows so much potential in growth, companies are investing largely into it to better their brands.  Podcasts like FMP Bowcast garner a large audience and multiple advertisers just so someone can download the audio to their media player.  The Outdoors Channel has acquired that is set-up somewhat like Netflix while only showing outdoor shows.  Just a quick count on the hunting directory produces over 100 high definition shows both popular such as North American Hunter and Remington Country and regional like Southern Ohio Wild.

This Monday, July 2nd, I will be a guest on Coast to Coast Outdoors.  This is one of those new media talk shows that share what is going on with all things outdoors with everyone.  They have talked about things such as the Alabama Rig and its influence on both the professional anglers’ tours and the regular weekend fisherman searching for his own trophy bass.  They have discussed the problem with feral hogs, not just in a single state, but everywhere from North Carolina to California.  In fact, the two hosts are in each state.  R.B. Wright hosts the show from the ‘Ole North State while Kerry Mackey hosts from the left coast.  At the same time.  That is the beauty of the new media.

The show is hunting and fishing show that is not really hunting and fishing show.  You will likely not see the trigger pulled, the bass bend the rod, or the arrow flung, but you will see R.B. and Kerry talking to you, almost face to face like, discussing hunting and fishing.  It makes it personal and enjoyable.  So if you have a few moments this Monday at 9pm go to and get a glimpse of what the new media has to offer the outdoorsman.  One other nice aspect about this new media is even if you cannot watch it live, most shows are available when you want it available without having to set the VCR, DVR, or whatever other ‘R’ there is.

But one last observation; Pen-pal does have a better ring to it than E-mail-pal.  We’ll have to work on that one.

You can follow Coast2Coast Outdoors on twitter @C2COutdoors or on facebook at Coast2Coast Outdoors.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

America's State Parks Post - Bogs Valley Walkers Review

I recently started contributing to the America's State Parks Pocket Ranger blog (within the last few months) contributing stories ranging from Duke State Recreational Forest, to the 20 for $20 or less series.  Here is an excerpt from a review on Bogs Valley Walkers that ran on 6/26/2012.

If the eyes are the window to the soul, the sole is the foundation. Protect the feet and the body will reward you for it. Everything involving the outdoors involves the feet. Hiking, biking, hunting, fishing, even swimming. During the spring and summer I often hit the shallow streams and creeks. Unlike duck season, I do not wear waders out into the water. Boots become a nuisance if not dangerous, as they fill up with water if the top is breached. That is why when the water has warmed up a bit I like to wear a low-cut shoe that can withstand the water. I have used those foam style shoes and the water shoes that slip on. There are several problems I ran into while wearing them. The foam shoes do not offer the slip resistance on slick bottoms that you need. The water shoes become floppy and do not stay on your foot as well once soaked. And the last thing I want to happen is lose that ‘foundation’ while in the water, otherwise I might as well have just gone swimming instead.

Continue reading at the Pocket Ranger Blog

Thursday, June 21, 2012


Hun-tog-ra-phy (noun): The art or practice of documenting real life hunters.

A couple of years ago, Rudy began a social experiment in which he documented real hunters in a series that hunting shows do not capture.  I just finished watching #deertour in which Rudy covered the real life hunting experiences of real life people, 20 in all, and the effects and influences of social media as it relates to the outdoors.  Rudy traveled through 12 states and over 5000 miles to reveal a bit of each of the hunters lives.

Social media, whether we like it or not, has woven itself into the fabric of our daily existence.  Through outlets such as facebook, twitter (hence the #deertour in the title), pinterest, blogs, or even online forums, people have been able to reach out and share their interests and hobbies like never before.  Through the hunting season last year, I followed many of the ups and downs of many of the people documented on the DVD.  I saw the excitement as a tweet came over about a deer coming to the stand.  I also witnessed the downs that occurred along the way.

In other words, while watching the DVD, I was able to reminisce about the experiences they were having because I had an inside seat as it occurred last fall while following on twitter and facebook.

Many of the hunters portrayed in the video I had come to know, not by face, but by avatar.  It made for an interesting relationship.  I have shared emails with many of them, and have worked in collaboration with many of them as well over the last 6 months.  But it was remarkable that social media could actually tie the feelings to the moment like it did.

For instance, Lisa and Mike, both living near Charlotte at the time, were representing the North Carolina stop of the #deertour.  Of course, that made them like the home team.  I remember vividly the day Rudy rolled in and the group heading to the woods.  In fact, I tweeted to them that day to represent NC well.  Lisa did as she brought down a buck that day.  Rudy tweeted a picture over during the hunt and the video made it seem all the more like I was there.

I was.

I witnessed Lisa’s excitement and tears as she realized she had connected.  I also witnessed the next day when Lisa and Mike’s beloved dog, their companion, passed.  I witnessed it from a completely different location, but I was there.

I remember cheering on Will in Virginia as he hunted his father’s land.  Their homestead.  I had seen a satellite image of exactly where they would hunt in the woods surrounded by agriculture.

I remember Rob in Maryland, the king of the deer hunters, taking his 9th deer of the season.  I met both Rob and Will in person at the Dixie Deer Classic this year in Raleigh and found out Rob had taken over 40.  Yep, a deer killing machine.  And all were legal.

I followed Tommy in Tennessee as he took after a deer on opening day of muzzle loader season.  He shot twice.  I read about it.  Then I was able to feel it even more after watching it.

I have followed Ryan in Ohio on his blog and his tweets.  A new breed bowhunting athlete that can run a half marathon in the rocky Midwest in pursuit of elk and still make the vital shot.  While I learned about Ryan the person through the world of the web, the video showed me the mannerisms of the person.

I watched the passion of Scott and Michelle from Wisconsin for both hunting and each other.  Caring and compassionate, their love for the outdoors is only outdone by their feelings for one another.

I was able to get to know David from Ohio through his tweets and facebook posts.  Yet another caring man, humble in all he does, with a goal of sharing what he has learned from the outdoors.  No, not sharing the secret to bring the big buck in, but the secret of what the outdoors means.  David put it best when he spoke of how he took his daughter hunting with him one time.  He asked her why she didn’t want to shoot anything.  Her response was she just wanted to spend time with her dad.  David expressed how that touched him better than any Oscar Award winning actor could ever do.

Throughout all of these moments, I can remember sitting in the stand myself.  I remember what I saw and when I saw it.  I remember my daughter watching a doe and fawn coming up behind me as I released an arrow at a doe twenty yards in front of her.  I remember my nephew’s excitement one morning as we watched a deer feed as the sun crested the horizon.  He texted me from the stand wanting to make sure I saw it.  We were 10 yards apart in separate stands.

Thanks Rudy for sharing the lives of these real people doing real hunts.  For now, I will leave the computer as my oldest son wants me to share a few minutes with him.  David from Ohio, thanks for sharing and teaching what is real.

You can see the trailer and purchase the DVD at

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Bowfishing the Slam

A popular pastime on the coast involves a camouflaged flat fish that is mostly deformed and nicknamed the ‘doormat’ and the ruling weapon of choice of King Neptune himself.  I had never been flounder gigging officially but it sure seemed like it would be fun.

To catch you up on this whole little expedition, I am currently writing a book with a working title of “Bowfishing the Slam.”  Over the next year I will be crossing the United States in search of 10 different species of aquatic targets while using my bow.  This particular trip, I was after the stingray.

You can follow the pursuit HERE

So why is flounder gigging the lead paragraph if I am after stingrays?  Well, in my research on the stingray and where to go, there doesn’t seem to be any ‘stingray authorities.’  No guides to call that specialize in rays, no stingray genius who is well known to have taken the biggest and baddest rays there are.  So I had to improvise.  Who could I contact that would know something about the rays and where and when to find them?

Flounder giggers.  They were my best answer I could come up with.  Find a flounder gigger that knows what he is doing and ask him when and where he comes across the creatures.  That brought me to Jason Shi, owner of Simple Life Charters.  Jason is a captain and commercial fisherman near Wrightsville Beach.  After a short interview, I was convinced that he would be able to put me in the right spot.  I also understood this is just like hunting; in fact it is hunting; hunting fish in water.  Since it is hunting, there are no guarantees, but you try to give yourself the best odds of success.

Jason and I looked at the tide tables and lunar cycles and decided on the best evening that would fit both of our schedules.  The night we choose would allow us about two and a half hours of ‘hunting’ time.  We had to wait for the sun to set so the lights would do their thing.

To explain the whole gigging process, we are on a boat with two 100 watt light bulbs partially submerged in the water.  As we poll the boat over the shallow flats just off the Inter-coastal Waterway, we search for fish on the bottom.  If things go correctly, a ray will take off in a flutter from the bottom and I would get a shot with the bow before it leaves the halo of the light.  As for gigging, it consists of a poll usually 8 to 14 feet long with several points on the end.  The gig poll is what Jason uses to push the boat around the flats.

Follow the quest on Facebook HERE

I explained to Jason that even though the target of the evening was the stingray, that basically anything legal I would like to attempt to harvest.

Bowfishing was new to Jason.  He routinely takes clients out several nights each week for gigging.  He expressed his concerns about the bow and arrow.  Would the arrow have enough penetration after passing through the water?  Would the barbed fish point (I used the Garpoon by Cajun Archery) be sufficient to hold the prey after a successful shot?  Did I know how to swim?  Ok, the last question wasn’t about the equipment, but still a valid concern. And yes, I do know how to swim.

After we set down the first shoal, Jason quickly spotted a flounder on the bottom.  The boat gently passed over the fish.  I never saw it.  Jason backed the boat up and pointed to a vague half football shape.  He motioned where the eyes were.  It still took a moment for my brain to process what I was looking at.  Then, thwack! Splash!  I released the arrow quickly and in a short moment I was reeling in my first flounder by archery equipment.  It surpassed the minimum legal size and weighed nearly 2 pounds.  Jason felt much more at ease after seeing what the bow could do as well.

We continued and spotted several small flounder, a few nice sized sheepshead, mullet, and a beautiful red drum that must have weighed over 30 pounds.  Again, as I have stated before, it is remarkable what you can see while outdoors.

The tide was coming in hard and the weekend boat traffic assisted in stirring the sand making many of our spots difficult to see.  Jason began having second thoughts on any luck with the rays as he usually would spot 5 or 6 each trip.  Hunting has a way of sneaking up on you though.  While heading to another flat, Jason spotted a ray several yards away escaping the light of the boat.  Just his quick shout of “RAY!” was enough to have me go from balancing myself on the front of a wobbly boat to fully drawn and finger on the release trigger.  Ten yards out the arrow cut into the saltwater and the line from my bow reel screamed.  Several minutes later, the target was in hand.  My first ray.

But the highlight of the evening was still to come.  We later spotted another flounder while making our way back to the Inter-coastal Waterway.  Again, Jason’s trained eyes quickly spotted what my untrained eyes quickly missed.  But after Jason’s expert imaging of the fish on the bottom I released the arrow.  What a fight!  The flounder had taken the line 25 yards out before I could set drag to slow it up.  After a good fight, I was able to bring in a superb specimen of a flounder.  Jason assisted the net, as he was worried we would lose it (it is not uncommon for the flounder to wiggle free from gigs).  But the Garpoon point held true and the flounder was on for good.

So, in a quest for the stingray which was a success, I was also true on the new North Carolina State Bowfishing Record Flounder, breaking the old record held by Amanda Carr by 4 ounces.  Nearly 2 feet in length, it was certainly a ‘doormat’ to be proud of.

Bill Howard with new NC State Bowfishing record flounder, weighing 4 lb 8 oz.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Bowfishing the Slam with a Surprise

Short video thrown together of my recent bowfishing trip for stingrays and skates.  Little special surprise at the end!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Fishin' Quest

June 2 through June 10 marks National Fishing and Boating Week 2012.  Just as I did last year, I carried my youngest son Cooper out to dip the hook in the water.  Last year he caught his first fish.  This year, he has already expanded on his species list bringing in his first catfish.  And how he loves fishing!
Drew Haerer and a Suwannee Bass
I recently started following the exploits of Drew Haerer from Duke University.  I have read some of his stories in the past, mainly because he is located here in North Carolina.  Drew is an avid fisherman who enjoys self propelled transportation on water.  In other words, he is hooked on fishing from a kayak.  The sub-sport has been growing by leaps and bounds and those that do it are akin to fly fishermen or traditional bowhunters.  It is almost like ‘extreme fishing’.  No lazy days on the side of the pond.  No, you must stay alert, mark the locations you feel are good spots, and either paddle upstream and float back down or float downstream and paddle back up.
Drew announced a couple of weeks ago he is attempting the B.A.S.S. slam.  This is where it really gets interesting.  The slam consists of catching all 9 species of black bass located in North America within a one year period.  Since the species are located throughout the United States, travel and planning become a must.
So, in reading Drew’s goals, I was able to determine something within Drew’s spirit that makes him unique.  He strives to take something difficult, compound it with obstacles that he puts in his own way, and still has the faith that it can be done.  Drew’s ambition is to not only complete the B.A.S.S. slam, but he is adding in another bass fishing recognition program, the RiverBassin’ slam (they have slightly different measurement requirements in order to qualify), he is going to do it from his kayak, he is doing it only from public waters, and the waters will all be either rivers or streams.  “I am not a big fan of guys catching huge fish in private water and then bragging about it all over the internet.  So, I wanted to show how much great fishing is available in the public realm.”   Drew went on to say, “I think if I can complete the slam, it will probably mean a lot more to me twenty years from now than any other fishing accomplishment.”
Drew and a friend of his, Bill Kohls of Reel Fishing NC guide service, took off on a rotation throughout the Southeast U.S. a couple of weeks ago.  They scouted through the internet using Google, different fishing forums and communities, and contacted a state wildlife agency for clarification on the borders for one of the species targeted.  I have got to admit, I like doing things a little ‘non-traditional’ as much as Drew, so I was hooked checking his status updates on his quest over the last couple of weeks.
Not only did they have to find the locations of the species, they needed to find public access to the rivers and plan their equipment properly.  I asked Drew if he needed to use different lures and lines for the different species or was different equipment used simply for the conditions at hand.  Do not let the word simply fool you, nothing was ‘simple’.  Drew did have to fish more to the conditions and with the menacing storm Beryl bearing down on the Southeast during the trip, Drew and Bill would have to endure rain and wind along with the conditions the run-off and heightened fresh water would throw at them.
Still, Drew said confidence was a key, and he would continuously go back to what he was most comfortable with; a finesse worm.  That confidence was a deciding factor in much of the success he enjoyed on the trip.
Setting goals and taking the task at hand to heart are things that many of us begin to understand once we become older and wiser.  Experiencing the outdoors can help us relate to these attributes and become better because of it.  “For me it came down to the challenge and the adventure.  I mean, most avid bass anglers probably never heard of a Suwannee bass.  Most of my favorite memories are trips with my family, friends, and girlfriend.  Any time I get to spend with them is special…and even more special if we are catching fish!”  Well said Drew, well said!
You can follow Drew’s pursuit at and Quest for the Bass Slam on facebook.

Friday, June 1, 2012

20 for $20 or less: Tick Key

Previous: 1- Fox 40 Whistle
               2- Nitrile Gloves
               3- Mineral Mizer
               4- Little Hotties
               5- Sawyer Insect Repellent
               6- Lifestraw
               7- Monopod
               8- Paracord Turkey Tote
               9- Yaktrax
             10- Boonie Hat
             11- LightLoad Towels
             12- Phone Apps
             13- Silent Retriever
             14- Mity Might Rod and Reel
             15- NiteIze BrimLit
             16- Eat'n Tool
             17- Gear Ties
             18- Log Book
             19- Windicator

Tick Key

The tick key is a great little gadget for those who hand out in the woods.  We already discussed how much of a pain ticks are a few weeks ago when introducing Sawyer's  Insect Repellant.  So you forgot to spray down your clothes and you find a tick already embedded.  Not good!  Tweezers may cause a couple of issues such as pulling the body of the tick off but not getting the head, or even squeezing the tick til it regurgitates, which can pass the nasty stuff to you.  The tick key simply slides over the top of the tick then is slid toward the head.  The ever narrowing open pulls the evil critter right from your skin.  Lightweight and small, it is easy enough to attach to your bag or backpack.

Tick Key - $4.95