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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Holy Gar Balls Batman!

9:25 AM 6 Comments
Bowfishers heading out into the sunset at bowfishing hot spot, Rend Lake in IL

I’m guessing you’ve heard by now – because  we’ve been blabbing about it all over the social media scene the last few weeks, - the Great Carp Caper is growing near. Five of my colleagues and friends from Women’s Outdoor News, and The Hunter’sWife are heading to Illinois to learn about carp, to learn about the stinking flying silvers, to learn how to bowfish , and in general see what all this carrying on about carp is about.
Barbara Baird will be coming; she’s not only an award winning writer, entrepanuer, publisher of Women’s Outdoor News , and heck of fun gal to roam the water and the woods with, she brings great snacks. Chocolate snacks.  And Tammy Ballew – Camo Mom ; this woman has the coolest summer “cousins camp” with all of the young cousins each year.  They fish, hunt, sneak out at night to listen to the owls. I want to be a cousin. Stacey Houston- A Focus Inthe Wild will be showing us what sticky, sultry, swampy, southern Illinois in the summer looks like through her lens. I can’t wait to see my world through her eyes. The look she gives at hers every day is nothing short of amazing.  Oh Jody- The Hunters Wife ; The Jodster is funny and caring and should be on everyone’s must read list. Her look at the outdoors from the other side of the table is simply wonderful.  Jody has kept us in stitches during the planning process, I can only imagine her in the thick of things, tweeting from the scene of the carnage. Paige Eissinger – well she’s gone and Flown the Coop – she’s a techno social media, computer whiz..that likes to play outside! And of course I’ll be there representing Heartland, and giving folks a look Through the Lens at what hosting these ladies here in southern Illinois is like. 

My fellow teammates on the TeamSILO bowfishing team hauling in a Kaskaskia River gar

This batch of gals told their friends, who told their friends, and we end up here today with a couple of rough fish recipes from Jodi Smith - TheWild Kitchen, including – yes – GAR BALLS.  
Not only Gar balls, but this very interesting sounding Carp with Endive.

A gar giving us a toothy gar grin

If you dear friends and readers have your own favorite rough fish (carp, gar, drum, sucker, shad et al) recipe, please feel free to share them here.. the more folks we can convince to eat these fish, the more we can harvest and help clean up our fisheries. 

When quarters are tight and I'm traveling light, I use a slingshot/sling bow to go after the rough fish

No you'll have to excuse me, I think I’m going cruisn’ for some gar my friends, I’d like to give Jodi’s recipes a try. 

A succesful gar harvest from 2010
Bowfishers - saving your Bass..One rough fish at a time!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Up Big Rocky Holler

8:21 PM 1 Comments

Yes, I know I should have spelled hollow correctly, but around my neighborhood, they are hollers..not hollows.
They are draws, and cuts, and they are beautiful. They hold rare ferns and wildflowers, still growing in large numbers because most folks can't be troubled to go back up the holler too far. There are crawdads, and toads, and frogs..little fishes in the pools. Salamanders abound under the rocks and damp,  rotting, fallen logs. It's a place of beauty and wonder a place to heal your heart and head. Most of all it's protected now, and Mr. Peabody's coal train won't haul it away.

Join me for a walk up the Big Rocky Holler creek won't you?

Big Rocky Hollow Creek  

Nearing the beginning of the creek and the end of the hollow

My hiking partner,  second shooter, and best friend Adam and  I

Friday, June 24, 2011

At What Cost?

8:19 AM 3 Comments
I had initially planned to introduce "Foto Fun Friday" today - but this press release landed in my mailbox last night, and frankly it wore on me most of the night.

Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs
Thursday, June 23, 2011
Illinois Man Pleads Guilty to Federal Duck Hunting Violations
WASHINGTON – Professional duck hunter and guide Jeffrey B. Foiles pleaded guilty today in federal court in Springfield, Ill., to wildlife charges arising from the illegal sale of guided waterfowl hunts, the Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division announced today.  
Foiles, 54, of Pleasant Hill, Ill., pleaded guilty to an information charging him with one misdemeanor count of unlawful sale of wildlife in violation of the Lacey Act, as well as one misdemeanor count of unlawfully taking migratory game birds in violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.   At the same time, the company that operates Foiles’ hunting club, the Fallin’ Skies Strait Meat Duck Club LLC, located in Pike County, Ill., pleaded guilty to an information charging it with one felony count of unlawful sale of wildlife in violation of the Lacey Act and one felony count of making false writings in a matter within the jurisdiction of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The Lacey Act is a federal law that makes it illegal to knowingly transport or sell wildlife taken in violation of federal law or regulation.   The act defines the sale of wildlife to include the sale of guiding services for the illegal taking of wildlife.
According to the plea agreements filed today, between 2003 and 2007, Foiles sold and guided waterfowl hunts at the club for the purpose of illegally hunting ducks and geese in excess of hunters’ individual daily bag limits.   Guided hunters paid $250 per day for hunts at the club.   Foiles and others at the club also falsified hunting records in order to conceal the excesses.
 According to the plea agreements filed today, the government and the defendants have jointly asked the court to sentence Foiles to 13 months in prison, to be followed by one year of supervised release during which time he may not hunt or guide hunters, and to pay a $100,000 fine for which Fallin’ Skies Strait Meat Duck Club LLC agreed to serve as guarantor.   Further, Foiles agreed to one additional year, following completion of his term of supervised release, during which he will not hunt or guide.  
The court must determine whether or not to accept the plea agreements.   If the plea agreements are accepted by the court, the government has agreed to dismiss the pending felony indictment against Foiles.
The sentencing hearing for Foiles is currently set for Sept. 21, 2011, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Byron G. Cudmore.   The sentencing hearing for Fallin’ Skies Strait Meat Duck Club LLC is scheduled for Oct. 27, 2011, before U.S. District Judge Richard Mills.  
The case was investigated by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, in cooperation with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, and the government of Canada.   The case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of Illinois and the Justice Department’s Environmental Crimes Section of the Environment and Natural Resources Division.
From the onset the situation with Jeff Foiles and his actions have been troubling to me on several different levels. As a member of the outdoor media, I am beginning to encounter more and more outdoor "personalities" who feel that getting the footage, getting the photos, satisfying the sponsors, at any cost is acceptable.

It is by no means acceptable in my world. My feelings are that outdoor personalities, especially those who have large followings of young people and those new to the outdoor world of hunting, angling etc.  should hold them selves to a strict adherence of all fish and game laws.

When I was very young my mother taught me a simple rule about conduct - if I had any doubt what I was doing was wrong, or could be perceived as wrong, ask myself if I would want to see my actions as headlines in the newspaper.

It seems we have evolved into a society where any publicity -  is now good, regardless of the light it places us in.

Foiles had legions of young folks who all but worshiped him, what has this taught them? I can recall seeing long lines at various outdoor shows and events at Foiles booths. Starry eyed young waterfowlers with aspirations of becoming a "One Over the Limit"  hunter, waiting to get a chance to speak with Foiles, to get an autograph, to buy a call or video. I also watched Foiles immediately ignore those young people time and time again when he saw an adult with a large checkbook coming, or a member of the media coming. It would appear that to Foiles, what once was a love of waterfowling, had somehow evolved in to a chase for more fame, more money, more stardom.  But again I ask - at what cost?

Rather than using his "celebrity status"  to enhance the lives of young waterfowlers, teach  them the importance of following all fish and game laws, teaching the why behind those those laws, Foiles chose to use a his celebrity status to commit violation after violation of both state and federal game laws, as well as Canadian fish and wildlife laws.

In the initial indictment two items particularly bothered me - # 23 - in which it alleges that a cameraman who was horrified by the activities around him attempted to stop filming and was ordered back to filming by Foiles in order to capture more footage for an upcoming video in his well known and often purchased series.
I have found myself in situations where far less "serious" game violations were happening while I was photographing. I had to remove myself, lose the job and cut my losses. After all if I am going to talk the talk, I'd better be walking the walk. I challenge all outdoor media to do the same thing. Is it difficult? Absolutely. Does it cost you work? In some cases, yes it will. Can you sleep at night knowing you did the right thing? You betcha. When we stop providing outlets for "professional /celebrity" hunters who are violators, I can only hope that those who make a practice of this type of  law breaking behavior will see that it gains them little.

The other troubling item is # 24 in which alleges that Foiles and others traveled to a park where a large number of geese with neck bands were known to reside. The geese were lured with bread, then shot and neck collars removed in an effort to add more of the sought after band bling to the lanyards of Foiles and his staff.  Protected waterfowl are protected for a reason - this stunt merely taught the new and young waterfowlers that getting that band, filling your lanyard with bling is so very important - at any cost and any way you can. No mention of the beauty of a morning watching the ducks and geese lift off at dawn, no mention of the camraderie in a goose pit, whether birds are flying and falling or whether it's just a gorgeous winter day afield. Just get those bands kids, anyway you can. That's a mark of a true waterfowler.

Makes my head and my heart hurt.

Does it get any worse? Read through the indictment, and see the various and multiple charges and ask yourself - is this what we as outdoors professionals want to convey to our up and coming hunters?

I say no. I say that any celebrity status or professional hunter who is found guilty of knowingly and willfully violation any game, fish. wildlife code laws should pay the ultimate price and lose all privileges for life. It is imperative that we in the outdoor industry hold ourselves to a higher standard, that we set  the best example for young and new hunters, anglers, and outdoor enthusiasts.

In an effort to be fair - I am including the link here to Foiles statement regarding the situation

What say you?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Hot Days, Hot Dogs

8:18 AM 2 Comments
The weather is hot,  and on these sticky sultry days the cold water and frigid duck blinds of waterfowl season seem very far away, but good retriever handlers know - the summer is not a time to let the retrievers rest. Groups like Retrievers Unlimited and HRC (Hunting Retriever Club)  host events that keep the dogs training and in tip top shape ready to "fetch it up" come opening day.

When the photo prompt from Outdoor Bloggers Network turned out to be "show me some action"  my first thought was to showcase a few of the the stylish and well trained dogs that recently participated in the Retrievers Unlimited Skills Challenge.

Here's a sample of the "Hot Dogs" of the HRC  at the Skills Challenge event

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Longing for Cool Clean Water

6:47 PM 8 Comments
It's only June but it feels like August. The air is heavy with humidity - the heat index hovers around 102 degrees F,  mudflats, sloughs and previously flooded creek bottoms are nurseries for flying, biting, stinging, and bloodsucking insects of all manner in huge numbers. The waters are thick, sluggish,  murky, and resemble chocolate milk. Summer in the backwaters of southern Illinois, tightlines and jugs for catfish, arrows for carp and gar.

As I flung yet another carp into the pile yesterday and wiped sweat and blood from the small buffalo gnat bites from my face I began to seriously long for cool, clean, clear running water, the sparkle and flash of a beautiful trout  on the end of fly rod in the mornings first light. I wanted to stand in the clear rushing water and feel that zen like experience that trout fishing once brought me.

It's hard to believe that just this time last year I had my first trout fishing experience. Over the years I'd always thought of trout fishing as an almost elitist type of angling. I'm a backwater river rat, scruffy boats, bows, always a ragged looking retriever along to fetch things up and out of the mud and muck that can suck your boots off. I'm an ace when it comes to  catfish, carp, gar and bowfins; trash fish to so many, food on the table for river rats. Trout fishing always seemed at the completely other end of the spectrum in the fishing hierarchy after all, how many serious trout anglers do you know that can also excel at noodling or hogging (pulling catfish and turtles from holes by hand underwater)?

Trout fishing with the fancy accoutrements, the expensive rods, vest, waders, flies it all just seemed comepletely out of reach to the wild woman from the back waters whose waders were camoflauged and  used in duck blinds and swamps. Fortunately I was offered a chance to fish one of Missouris favorite trout waters at Bennett Spring along with a group of  other midwest outdoor writers and photographers.  The now infamous Girls Gone Trout trip.

Our hosts at Bennett Spring,  Jim and Carmen Rogers, the concessionaires made sure  that those of new the experience were successful. From Jim's great lessons in fly tying, to his hands on teaching in cool clear water he  opened my eyes to world of angling previously unknown to me.

Most importantly I learned that trout fishing is for every angler  - it is not any more of an elitist type of fishing than any other.  I learned that I could trout fish. I learned that I loved trout fishing, I loved cool clear running water when the trout thrived. I loved the zenlike quality of a good trout river that one finds after hiking back to a secret spot.

I began visiting the Trout Unlimited site after that fateful trip the clear cool running water at Bennett Spring, I had our local ibrarian order books about trout fishing and destinations, I began to dream of the quiet, the beauty, the excitement of trout fishing in blue ribbon trout waters. I added trout fishing in some of the last best trout waters in our nation to my bucket list.

I also sighed a lot after I returned home as I  slapped at mosquitoes, kicked at watersnakes,  and drug in turtles and catfish for the larder. After that fateful first trout trip to one of the nations finest midwest trout areas my river rat backwater lifestyle just didn't offer what those days of the my first trout experience did.

The more I  read the more I wondered, how long will the great coldwater fisheries in the west last? Would they still be there when I finally crossed that item off my bucket list? Thankfully Trout Unlimited works tirelessly to promote the conservation of these waters so that someday, with my bag full of books, notes and dog eared copies of the Trout Unlimited magazine, laptop, and cameras  in tow I will one day be able to wade out into the beautiful waters  of Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho  to  enjoy the sparkle of a trout on the end of the line as it jumps and bounces and fights. Whether it be in the western states or closer (and more available to me)  Missouri Ozark streams, I know now that trout fishing is indeed for everyone and will continue to be available for us all thanks to so many current conservation efforts.

That thought makes these hot sultry days with the catfish and the carp bearable. I'm still slapping bugs, and kicking water snakes in sweat soaked clothes,stained tea colored by the murky brown water, but soon, very soon I tell myself, I'll return to cool, clear running water to heal my heart and my head in a way that only trout fishing  can.