Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Mo (not moe.)

One of life's flavors is the steady stream of people who come (and go) unexpectedly.  Most are less than remarkable, some leave you wishing they'd been less remarkable, and still others seem innocent enough at first only to grow like a white oak, slowly yet undeniably, into something of prominence in your world.

Retrospection comes more frequently with age (higher number of years in the rear view than out the windshield, statistically speaking), and often only with the benefit of time do you realize how consequential some of these people were.  A parent who gave you no choice but to be responsible for yourself, an employer who allowed you to make mistakes and keep your job, a college professor who set the books aside and taught you what the real world was like.  None of them were sought for these reasons, fate simply planted them in the right place.

photo courtesy of Vic Williams
About 18 years ago I was looking for a stud dog to breed with a friend's Brittany, got to asking around and after a few false starts was given the name of a trainer in Moonville, SC.  Fate and fortune had landed me squarely in the lap of a guy named Maurice Lindley.  Most people call him Mo.  Looking back, he's been a treasure to know.  He operates in a part of my world that borders on sacred, and he's shown me how to make it even more so. 

Mo ended up training a pup I got from that litter and I did an article on him for the The Pointing Dog Journal back in 2002 that focused on the mechanics of training and on some of the obstacles he's faced.  Over time I realized that the story is less about mechanics and obstacles and more about the person.  He's humble, honest and patient, three qualities I like most in anyone, but of these patience has been the gift.

I say this because it's such a critical element to owning and training a bird dog.  Literature on the subject can't seem to resist spotlighting a star student, a pup who was scent pointing at two weeks of age or had a handful of championships by his first birthday.  While there's a place in the world for overachievers, using them as examples in training manuals does such a disservice to the guy who wants to learn more about training.  It plants a seed that somehow there is a schedule to be adhered to.  It creates an unnecessary sense of expectation, a goal with no practical virtues. Want to teach someone how to train?  Don't tell him how long it should take to teach a skill, tell him how to know when it's time to move on to the next stage.

photo courtesy of Vic Williams
Mo gets this and when you spend time with him it's evident in every aspect of his work.  He doesn't think twice about backing up if he feels a dog is being rushed.  He understands that a race is something run on a track, not part of an education.  And he's helped me to understand how much there is to enjoy in the process, in the small victories along the way.

I'm finally past the point of wanting to hurry through things in life that bring me pleasure.  There were years, too many of them, where I was more interested in the end product and getting to it as quickly as possible.  Oh, if I had the patience in my twenties that I enjoy today...

If you're curious...

There's a book available on his methods (and a review of it over at Living with Birddogs) or if you'd like just a taste, I highly recommend going to Steady With Style and downloading the field manual, no charge other than your email address and they won't inundate your inbox.  Look for this image on the right side of the main page:
The field manual gives a really good perspective on how Mo goes about teaching dogs.  You may want to drop by his website as well.

photo courtesy of Vic Williams

Friday, May 27, 2011

Well, it's a start...Zuckerberg now killing what he eats

Saw a clip on CNBC of Fortune's Patricia Sellers discussing a piece she did on Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.  Now this doesn't have a whole lot to do with wingshooting, at least not yet, and I'm not even a big Facebook fan.  I don't have an account and observing those who do only makes me feel smarter.  It seems about the biggest time waste of this century, so far.  Well, that and Twitter.  Anyway, the story is about Zuckerberg's personal challenge this year, which is to only eat meat that he kills.

According to the story he took up the challenge after a pig roast at his house where many of his guests were averse to the fact that the pork they were eating used to be alive. I gotta give the guy credit - in California, in the circles I assume he's part of, it takes a lot to step up and do something so un-PC.  Maybe he is deserving of that Time Man of the Year award.  And it gets better.  Sellers writes:
"What's next on this journey? He's told people that he's interested in going hunting."
If this guy tries hunting and likes it, he's gonna post about it.  And that means 500 million people with not a whole lot to do are gonna find out about it, and a whole bunch of them, being young and impressionable, may even give it a try.  And I'll just have to be damned if Facebook ends up turning the tide of the conservation movement.  I might have to re-think my position on social media.

Of course if he tries hunting and doesn't like it......well I'd rather not think about it.  Keep earning that Man of the Year, bud.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Hemingway, the NY Times and bobwhites

This article appeared on the NY Times website yesterday and the print edition today.  Happy to see the coverage at every level.  A couple of good quotes in there, one from the NBCI's Don McKenzie:

“We have to come up with bigger pieces of landscape that are managed in common, and have connections with other pieces of well-managed landscape where there are sustainable populations of birds,” McKenzie said. “We must make it happen by the millions of acres instead of by the tens of acres.”
Can't underscore this enough.  A second is from Dan Petit of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation:

“We think that converting pastures of cool-season grasses into warm-season grasses is economically very palatable to those individuals that make a living off of those grasses. This does not require a stimulus bill or anything like that.”

They really need to give this point some publicity.  And yes, the article does talk about Hemingway bird hunting in Arkansas.  There's a notable quote about his ego, too.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Bobwhite aficionados take a peek..

It's not exactly news in that it's not exactly new, but the guys at NBCI have been more than a little busy.  They launched a new website, released a revised plan, and now sport a new name.  By all accounts they've shifted this into a higher gear, and one that those of us without a biology degree can sink our teeth into.

Roaming around the site the phrase that comes to mind is user-friendly.  I recall reading the original Northern Bobwhite Conservation Initiative plan when it was released in 2002 and thinking what a great, ambitious piece of work it was and then immediately wondering how to make it happen?  How do you create all this habitat, transform all this marginal land, inspire bobwhite hunters nationwide to step up?  The plan was heavy on objectives but light on instruction.  Now they've started filling in the blanks, naming the pieces and showing how they fit together.  The tag line in the logo above sums up the new direction.

I posted last year about what the future of conservation groups might look like and what their role would be in the restoration of bobwhites.  How this plays out is going to factor heavily in how well the plan succeeds, in fact it has the potential to be the determining factor in whether or not it succeeds.  The money and membership of these groups is invaluable when it comes to making tangible things happen.  Left to their own devices, however, the sum of the effort is likely to be somewhat disjointed in terms of reaching the larger goal.  These guys need to be looking to the NBCI for guidance and the NBCI doesn't need to be shy about giving it.

Naturally the muscle of volunteers won't do the trick all by itself.  Ducks and pheasant benefited greatly from legislative changes that either directly or indirectly established thousands of acres of friendly habitat.  In a recent blog post director Don McKenzie addresses some of the farm bill changes necessary to provide the same lift to bobwhites.  Now they need to go one step further and tell us what we can do as individuals to help make this happen.  Letters to congressmen?  Tell us what these letters need to say. Grass roots level meetings with representatives to show them what's wrong and what could be done?  Give us the names and places. 

Back in 2002 the authors of the plan were thinking on a big scale and change at that level doesn't come in small, isolated pieces.  It comes through many people from many backgrounds in many places working together as part of a coordinated, or to borrow from the tagline, unified effort.  They're still thinking on a big scale, a grand scale even, and that's what it's going to take to return populations to their 1980s levels.  Now they're going to have to embrace the role as leader of this massive, monumental effort, giving to-do lists to the states for the states to pass down to NGOs, property owners, hunters and other volunteers.  It's picking up speed.  Momentum is one of the most curious things in physics - and one of the most powerful.