Thursday, December 30, 2010

Adios, dos mil diez

It's been a full year already and I'm thankful for some of it and thankful that some of it's in the rearview.  Got a new bird dog, made it back to South Dakota, figured out how to make the lead hit the bird again and a whole bunch of other stuff completely unrelated to the matter at hand.  Much appreciation to those who check in here from time to time and look forward to seeing you on the next page of the calendar.

Supposed to go get my dog from the trainer next week - can't think of a better way to start a new year.  Hope (there's that word again) everyone has a good one.

Friday, December 24, 2010


Regardless of which brand you choose to practice, religion is a very personal thing.  You tend to get out of it what you need most, or whichever need led you to it in the first place.  In an age where people are losing jobs and homes, where random acts of violence proliferate, where the future sometimes holds more troubles than joys, possibly more than any other thing religion provides a source of comfort in a world of uncertainty, a sense of hope that good will prevail.

Hope offers a reason to keep going, to put troubles in perspective or at least aside long enough to let them fade.  Hope is the promise of tomorrow, and bird hunters know a thing or two about it.  Every puppy, day in the field, hedgerow and shotgun shell is hope.  Putting on a vest, easing up on a point, squeezing the trigger - every little action is pinned to hope.  In it you'll find optimism, reassurance, relief, contentment and a dozen other emotions shifting the burden of worry aside.

Not every Christmas present comes wrapped in paper under a tree.  Whatever your religion, find the hope that it offers and embrace it.

Merry Christmas....

Monday, December 20, 2010

Wrapped and under your tree

The problem with podcasts is that there are so dang many of them out there that it takes an immense amount of effort to find the ones that are worth your while.  Unless of course you just stumble into them, which is how I found the Orvis Double Barrel Podcast.  Hosted by Brett Ference, Orvis hunting product developer, the series is a casual discussion on various topics centered around wingshooting.

Most of them run 20-30 minutes and they're a great way to make use of time that might otherwise be spent doing nothing.  I listen to them in my car on a weekly commute I make to the lower part of the state and I've also used them to pass the time in a deer stand.  I suppose you could partake in a waiting room if you don't mind being seen in public with earbuds.  Whatever your fancy I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Topics range from gun maintenance to hearing protection to shooting technique, choke selection, and one on getting kids into shooting sports.  There's an excellent four-part series of interviews with Mike Stewart of Wildrose Kennels.  For many of the episodes Brett recruits in-house talent in the form of Bruce Bowlen, head of the Orvis shooting school, and Jordan Smith who's been Orvis's gunsmith for the last 30 years, infusing the discussion with unique perspective and expertise.  They're constantly looking for new topics, too, so email your ideas.

Orvis does have a bit of a reputation as being geared toward the higher end (dollar-wise) of the sporting spectrum, so before you write this off as great advice for lottery winners and trust fund babies only, take it from a guy who shoots a left-handed 870:  this is for the everyman.  Admission is free and you aren't required to give them your email address or answer any surveys. 
I'd recommend subscribing to the feed through a tool like Google Reader or iTunes.  The website doesn't update as rapidly as these services and at least from my experience it's been easier to download the podcasts to my phone.

As much as I'd like to send a gift-wrapped Purdey or a Parker to everyone who's kind enough to read this blog, this double barrel will have to suffice, at least until I am one of those lottery winners.  Hope you enjoy it...

PS - There's also a podcast for fly fishing.

Monday, December 13, 2010

QU one year later

It's been a little over a year since things officially unraveled at Quail Unlimited.  Most of you remember the apocalyptic headlines about furloughs, bankruptcy and criminal misdeeds, some of which turned out to be true and some merely embellished rumors.  It's kind of rare that a wildlife organization gets wrapped up in a scandal complete with accusations, federal investigations, and a founding member being unceremoniously ushered out the door.  This is usually the territory of politics and investment banks, not habitat outfits.

From an objective point of view things had to change.  Financial mismanagement, a board that was maybe a bit reluctant to press for answers they didn't want to hear, and a membership distrustful and at times resentful of the organization's leadership  were slowly starving QU of oxygen.  New President Bill Bowles seems genuinely intent on rebuilding trust by maintaining transparency and re-opening direct contact with the membership.  The clubby, elitist perception is slowly disappearing.

What does the future hold for a group like QU?  Internal issues aside, the question is whether there is a place for a national organization devoted to improving quail habitat, much less three national organizations with the same mission.  The non-profit world tends to be a Darwinian one and I'd imagine this question will be answered soon enough.

The bigger question is what the future of quail recovery looks like in general.  Are the national organizations becoming less and less relevant?  Is the objective better suited to local efforts?  There's a strong case for a model where funds are raised and used locally and habitat efforts are coordinated by state wildlife departments, not national conservation organizations.  Using the NBCI as a guide, state departments coordinate efforts between volunteers, landowners, federal agencies, donors and hunters to leverage these resources into the best possible results.  If national organizations are to be players in this scenario, they'll have to put self-promotion aside, something  easier said than done.  Ask any chief if he's interested in being an indian.

Don McKenzie, head of the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative, wrote a well-crafted plea earlier this year for all parties to work together for the common good (the link to this document isn't currently working).  Putting their own survival instincts aside will prove difficult in my opinion.  Turf battles quickly consume time and money that would/should be better spent improving habitat and could ultimately be their death knell.  Here's hoping they can reinvent themselves for the cause.