Friday, January 31, 2014


With the Superbowl approaching much discussion has centered on the two quarterbacks and the amount of preparation each puts in to their success. Peyton Manning is arguably the best quarterback there has ever been and is known as a leader, both on the field and by example. He routinely watches film after film of both the teams he faces as well as his own. That being said, Russell Wilson has established a reputation for dedication and hard work after only two seasons in the league, and has been known to start ‘work’ as early as 4:30am.
Preparation is the key.
Many times when you see a successful hunter it is due to either the preparation of the hunter or the guide or both. Scouting the land for game animals and trail, prepping the land to entice the game to a certain area, clearing shooting lanes, practicing shooting skills, and even other things such as maintenance on all-terrain vehicles and washing hunting clothes with scent free detergent play a part in the total preparation.
Anglers increase their odds of success by learning different tactics, checking for underwater structure, and learning behavior of different species of fish. Maintaining their rods and reels and changing types and strengths of lines plays an immense factor even if it is done more as an afterthought than a focused preparatory practice.
While you are reading this column I will be due south in Florida competing in the first Pro/Am tournament of the Archery Shooters Association’s 2014 season. Last year I competed for the first time in the same tournament. The tournament serves a duel role.
First, I have prepared for this tournament by shooting and sighting in two different bows. I have studied the 3d targets that will be used. I have studied the rules that govern the equipment I am allowed to use for the class I will be competing.
Second, by preparing for the tournament I am in essence preparing for my future hunts as well. The pressure of shooting alongside some of the greatest archers in the country easily equals any anxiety I may encounter in the field when I am face to face with the trophy of a lifetime. Vitals on a 3d target mirror the vitals on the real counterpart, helping to focus on the right spot for a quick ethical kill. Learning to judge yardage to within a yard or two is as vital to success as a well-executed and technically correct release.
Equipment must be in top notch shape; clean, mechanically sound, well balanced, and properly fitted. It does not have to be the most expensive, just the most suited for one’s size and strength. This is all accomplished through proper preparation.
Yes, preparation is definitely the key ingredient in the soup of success.
Preparation is the difference between hoping for luck and knowing your fate.
Will I finish poorly, in the middle of the pack, or towards the top? I cannot say as others have prepared for the 40 targets also. But those that have prepared less have less chance regardless of skill, while those that have prepared diligently and consistently are far better suited for a good showing.
The same can be said when in the field. I cannot say whether I will be able to get Mr. Big on a certain day, but with preparation I can be certain that one day I will and when the opportunity arises I will be ready.
I will be prepared.

Friday, January 24, 2014

You Have a Voice

Each year the North Carolina Wildlife Commission holds hearings in each of the wildlife districts to openly discuss proposed changes for the coming year. Informative and interesting, they can at times become contentious as well depending on the types of changes coming up for debate and discussion.
For instance, several years ago we had regulations regarding such topics as the allowance of bowhunting on Sundays on private lands and using unprocessed bait for black bears in order for dog hunters to strike a trail easier. Both hunters and non-hunters were adamant about their beliefs one way or another and the end result changed the rules that had long been sacred and steadfast here in the state.
I only mention those two particular regulation changes as this year’s proposals again address similar issues and will affect our hunting habits moving forward.
Proposals based on the mountain hunting areas affect bowhunters and gun hunters alike. One proposal is to open bow season to the closest Saturday to September 10th in order to make it uniform across the state. The central and eastern zones already open that Saturday. In essence, this gives an extra weekend of bow season since Sunday bowhunting is already allowed on private lands. Another proposal allows an extra three Sundays of hunting in the western deer season zone. Again note, this is only applicable to private lands, not game lands such as Pisgah.
Perhaps the most controversial proposal deals with the baiting of black bear once again. There was some dispute between hunters and non-hunters as well as dog hunters and still hunters when baiting of black bear was allowed in order for dogs to strike a trail before. It seems more debate will surface between hunters and the anti-community this go around.
Anti-hunting groups argue the practice of baiting black bear will encourage bear and human encounters.
But contrary to their argument, the use of bait such as corn, apples, and pears has been allowed for deer hunting for years. Whether in the mountains or on the coast, it is a common practice. One could argue whether it is ethical or not, but generally you will find the opinions based on the style of hunting involved. For the record, I have and do use bait when still hunting deer. The point I am making about baiting for deer is bear have no idea the bait is for deer. They see food and they will go towards it. As the regulations are now, if I am deer hunting and a bear were to come to the bait, I cannot take a shot whether the bear is in season or not.
The regulations state the bait cannot be processed. This means no honey-buns and cinnamon rolls, no peanut butter, and no fried bacon. I cannot believe that unprocessed bait will increase the numbers of nuisance bear encounters when it is so commonly used already for deer.
Of course there are other regulations up for comments as well such as the changing of certain trout waters and even changing Polk County to a different deer harvest zone. The key thing to know is these rules will change what and how we enjoy the outdoors and we have a voice for our opinions, whatever they may be.
While most districts have already had their meetings, it is still too late to share your thoughts with the Wildlife Commission. You can go online to and view the proposed regulations as well as add your comments on any or all the proposals.

Friday, January 17, 2014

To Save A Species

The Dallas Chapter of Safari Club International recently auctioned off a hunt for a black rhino for $350,000. All of the money will go towards conservation. Unfortunately there are some issues that have been presented by both the media and anti-hunting organizations.
Before poachers decimated the species,
rhinos such as this could be hunted  without
threat to the numbers or the hunter from
the anti-hunting community.
At first glance one would have to surrender to the concerns raised by groups like the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). First, the black rhino is listed as critically endangered with only around 5000 still living. Poachers are to blame for much of population decline. The horns of the rhino are used for ornamentation, daggers, and medicine in some countries. Remarkably, a rhino horn fetches more worth per ounce than gold, to the point an average male black rhino is worth as much as $500,000 in places like Viet Nam.
Even legally taken rhinos and horns from before the mass poaching of the last few decades are illegal to sell currently.
With the low numbers one can understand the argument against the auction.
Until you research further.
Fortunately the Namibian government, who is working with the Dallas Safari Club, has thought things through thoroughly. Namibia needs money in order to combat the illegal taking of the rhinos. They have been allowing as many as three to five rhino hunt permits each year. By offering one of the permits through the auction, Namibia and Safari Club International were hoping for between $250,000 and $1,000,000 to go towards thwarting poachers. The $350,000 raised reached that goal.
For the hunt itself, Namibian officials will be present. Namibia is going to target only the oldest of the black rhinos. The older rhinos no longer reproduce for one. Therefore they do nothing to increase the species population. Second, they tend to be very territorial, thus running off younger bulls that do still mate. The meat from the kill will also be donated to a community near where the hunt will take place. This could equate to nearly 1200 pounds. In other words, they will be culling old, non-reproducing animals in order to protect the overall population, police poaching activities, supply protected habitat, and feed people that need it.
Now this is where the story even gets more interesting. Several members of the Dallas Safari Club have begun receiving death threats both before and after the auction. One person was told for every black rhino killed there would be an equal number of club members killed as well. Namibia has been selling permits each year, but not until they decided to auction one off in the United States did this become an issue on the forefront. Namibia is now bringing in a large sum of money (they have held an auction in the past that brought in $223,000). Namibia’s average annual income per person is around $6,000. This much money can go a long ways toward the fight for the rhino.
The black rhino has been down in numbers before because of poaching. In the 1980’s the herd registered just a few dozen animals. Through conservation practices administered with biologists the herd has made it back to where it is today. The current measures are also taken with biologists blessings. However there are some that cannot fathom the killing of one animal in order to save the species. In football terms, it would be like a team taking a safety in order to prevent a touchdown.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Rabbits in the Woods

There was a small patch of woods behind my house where I grew up. When I was a kid, it seemed big enough. There was a small feeder stream that ran into the pond beside my house. On a winter day that was not too cold I could get a good running start and leap over to the other side. If it was cold the extra clothing would hinder both my speed and leaping ability. If it was spring or summer there was just too much underbrush to move much less get a running start.
While we did not get a lot of snow, we could count on a snowfall that did more than dust the ground about once every other year. We lived for those snowfalls. We did not build a lot of snow forts or snowmen. We did play football and hunt rabbits.
There was something really neat about hunting rabbits in the snow. We had our family pets, but they were not rabbit dogs. So this was our first experience at tracking.
Everyone would meet up at my house and we would hike across the cow pasture towards the small patch of woods. We would do our best to step high at the outer edge in order to push down the briars. I was on the short side so usually me friends would lead the way in the beginning. It would not take long to spot tracks in the snow. We would find various bird tracks, some squirrels’, but the exciting finds were the long embedded ones. They were the hind legs imprints of the rabbits.
Because the patch of woods was so small, I would guess around three quarters of an acre, it did not take long to follow the tracks to where the rabbit was hiding. The rabbits were smart too. They would watch us and our eyes to see if we noticed them. Occasionally we would spot one forty feet away or more, but most often we would be within a few yards before we could see the long-eared fur ball. I even remember once trying to figure out why the tracks disappeared before spotting the creator.
And when we got close to them it was an amazing scene. I can only compare the flush of a covey of quail to how the rabbit would erupt from a dead still with us right on top of them. The initial launch through the snow would have all of us leap off the ground as high as our hearts would leap from our chest outward. Then it was a zigging brown blur shooting between fallen trees, resting stumps, and rotten limbs. Seldom did we ever even get a shotgun to our shoulder.
We would laugh. Hysterically. We were kids learning about nature and we were having the times of our lives. After a few minutes we would start chasing the brushed snow path once again. Looking back at those times now, there may have only been one rabbit in those woods. We could have terrorized the same rabbit year after year. Or maybe he was having as much fun as we were. Four or five kids laughing and playing and learning and appreciating that poor little rabbit.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year!

The calendar turns yet once again as we put things behind us and look forward to the things to come.
Personally I have had my share of great experiences. From being named 2012 North Carolina Bowhunter of the Year and finishing second in the Dixie Deer Classic archery tournament during the same weekend to having the opportunity to spend time in several unique places in this great state over the course of the year.
Early on I was able to head out on a 22 mile expedition by paddleboard down the mighty Neuse River. Even though my experience included broken ribs it was both memorable and exciting. Camping, fishing, and paddling down the historic water basin on an unconventional means of transport provided the thrill.
As summer approached and after interviewing Brian Lockwood I set out to accomplish another thrilling pursuit. Brian fishes almost exclusively from his modified jet ski. I rigged up one myself and headed to the coast on three different occasions. The biggest thrill also come during what may be the most dangerous time. A storm came in on one particular trip in which I was fishing seven miles out to sea near Beaufort. Still, I was prepared and the safety measures that were put in place allowed me to not only make the trip but to successfully catch some fish as well.
The fall allowed me to hike down into the Linville Gorge area. Quite possibly the most beautiful time of the year with the leaves multitude of colors, the Gorge rewarded me with many great photos and an experience I had longed to encounter but never had. Sadly, just a few weeks afterwards the Gorge was set ablaze and nearly 3000 acres of natural forest were burned.
But we shared other stories too. Orion Darkwood explained what the outdoorsman and the prepper movement have in common. Drew Haerer let us know what is needed to successfully target a dream when he successfully completed the BASS Slam by catching all nine species of black bass from public rivers on the back of a kayak. Bill Kohls gave us advice on capturing that special moment on film so we would have a truly remarkable record of it for the future. We even learned a bit of foreign culture and art with the simple and beautiful Gyotaku fish rubbing prints.
However some of the best stories are the ones from our own neighbors and family. They both inspire and bring a sense of joy.
For instance, David Tomlin and his son Eli traveled out of country to bring down a massive moose. They also brought back a tale of father/son bonding. Another great story came from Kevin Morris and his son Brayden. Only seven years old, Brayden filled his buck tags in the first two weeks on two enviable monster deer with his father beside him for both. While I only hoped to bring a small portion of the special moments that times like these bring, I know there is no way to do it complete justice. These occasions are much more than successful hunts. These occasions are portions of the heart that are just waiting to be filled.
My personal stories involving my own kids are not necessarily meant to recap our experiences. They are meant to help you make your own or for you to reminisce on the ones you already have. I look forward to sharing more of my life and sharing yours as well over the coming year. May 2014 become a blessing to us all.