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Thursday, December 5, 2013

There's a Storm Coming...And We Need It

6:05 AM 1 Comments

There’s a Storm Coming……And We Need It

The first mean winter storm is on the horizon – frigid frenzied winds, snow, ice, sleet. It’s screaming down upon us and we need this storm NOW. Mother Nature is trying to heal us.

It’s been a long hard year for many – we need this storm. We need to go out into icy cutting wind, chop ice from the water, and slog through mud and frozen fields. Rage and scream in the wind; feel the burn of the brutal cold filling our chests. We need to be scoured clean from the rage, pain, disappointments and sheer toxins of the last year. We need stand facing the furies and fight it out.

We need to stand on the high open hill as sharp sleet slices away at our faces, taking away all the broken hard dirty parts. We need the cold. The cleansing, the sheer purity of the very air that arrives when furies move onward leaving everything washed, scoured, and frozen clean and crisp and renewed in its wake.

We NEED this storm.  Some of us are broken and tired and worn. We are exhausted and overwhelmed, longing for rest and respite. We NEED mother nature to send us to our dens. We need to scurry into the tiny, dark, safe, warm spaces and lick our wounds. We need sleep, and healing and repair, so that we may arise into the sunshine strengthened and strong. Able to move forward and a carry on another day.

We need this storm to show us we have survived yet another year, Solstice is close, days will be getting longer and we will soon be growing and blossoming and thriving.

There’s a storm coming…..and we need it right now

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

You'll Be There

7:40 AM 3 Comments
For my dear friend, her time is short, her days afield have come to close, but I'm heading out to the forest and field, the corn stalks and the tall grass, the river and marsh today because my friend.....

When the birds get up in the morning – in that giant screaming, squeaking, shrieking wad – string after string, after string…..I’ll hear you there.

When that fat yella dog comes screamin’ through the cornstalks with a greenhead in his mouth….I’ll see you there.

When the honeysuckle’s blooming, and the river air is hot and heavy, when the carp jump and fly…..I’ll smell you there.

When I pull that first cool, moist, magical morel from the damp forest floor….I’ll feel you there.

You see my friend, you’re not going very far. Because you taught me well, because you took the time to listen, because you took the time to say I love you for no particular reason and “in no particular order” every chance you had , you’ll always be out there right beside me.

May the journey ahead be peaceful and easy – through the fields filled with birds, the rivers full of fish, with all those many good dogs who have gone before seeing you safely to the other side.

A better place awaits.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Fish Boil - A Wisconsin Tradition

6:51 AM 0 Comments

My introduction to the great state of Wisconsin began with a pre AGLOW conference media  opportunity trip (AKA a FAM or Familiarization tour) in beautiful Walworth County for three days.

I can't think of a better way to begin a trip to Wisconsin than by going to an authentic Wisconsin style fish boil. While Door county is perhaps better known as the home of fish boils - Fitzgerald's Genoa Junction restaurant offers visitors not just their own tasty version of a fish boil, but rather an entire dining experience.

~ Kevin graciously provided us with a handout regarding the most interesting history of the octagon house and the property - to learn more about the history of one of the few octagon houses that  remain, click here. Can you believe this gorgeous building was once part of a thriving complex that housed a wagon and carriage making company? 

This beautifully restored octagon house is home for Fitzgerald's Genoa Junction    

Kevin Fitzgerald explained that the biggest difference between the Door County fish boils and the Fitzgerald's method is the type of fish used. Historically the Door County boils utilize trout or whitefish, and often one finds  skin and bones still with the fish. "Here we use North atlantic cod - no bones, no skin, and a remarkably lobster like sweet taste. That's what our customers prefer, and that's what keeps them coming back" said Fitzgerlad.
Kevin Fitzgerald ~ manning the kettles daily during the summer season and Thursday through Sunday from November through March.

During the big "boil over" moment

Fish kettles boiling away
 The menu is simple and straightforward at Fitzgerald's - a unique all-you-care-to-eat dining experience. Guests enjoy fish boil combinations including honey-BBQ chicken and BBQ pork ribs with a legendary secret whiskey-based sauce. Other accompaniments include award-winning coleslaw and fresh rye bread, sweet red potatoes and onions which are boiled in the pots with the fish. For dessert a frosted apple square nicely rounds out the meal.  Fitzgerald's also offers a full service bar featuring a full selection of martinis, highballs, red and white wines, coffee drinks, cordials and more.

There's not a single corner of Fitzgerald's that  isn't an interesting and welcoming spot! 

I was anxious to try this Wisconsin tradition. While I was wandering about Fitzgeral's snapping photos and visiting with other diners, each and every other guest there simply raved about the food, the atmosphere, and the service. For many diners it's a set date night, a regular weekly dining out experience, or for that many that travel from the Chicago area to enjoy Fitzgerald's a family tradition for special occasions.

The standard plate from Fitzgerald's, sweet boiled cod, potatoes, onions all swimming in drawn butter accompanied by rye bread and  slaw . Of course I had to also try the delicious grilled BBQ ribs and chicken as well!

The meal was a  great hit and wonderful welcome for the group of outdoor writers. Nary a crumb was left behind by our group from AGLOW!


Fitzgerald's Genoa Junction is a  must do activity when visiting Walworth County, or the southeastern region of Wisconsin. The warm welcome from the Fitzgerald family, the outstanding food, the charming and interesting use of the octagon house all add up to a dining experience you do not want to miss!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Renewed, Revitalized, and Ready to Rock and Roll

10:12 AM 3 Comments

Lake Lawn Resort - what a wonderful introduction to Walworth County and Wisconsin!

Ah yes – looking back at my last post date, it is apparent that I abandoned the ship for a while. In all honesty, I was giving serious thought to just calling it quits.  Just call it a midlife crisis, and identity crisis, or a huge period of self-doubt.

I began to feel that my words and my images just weren’t all that I hoped they would be. When discussing this with fellow outdoor communicators and blogging mentors Jody Narrantic of The Hunter’s Wife, and Carrie Zylka of The Wild World of Carrie Z , both counseled me not to make any decisions until after I returned from the AGLOW (Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers) conference.

I am so glad that I listened to them.

I started my “Week in Wisconsin” courtesy of the Walworth County CVB, exploring the wonderful outdoor, historic, and just plain fun things that Walworth County has to offer. I was joined by several other AGLOW members for the weekend of fun.  The other AGLOW members that weekend filled my head with tales of other AGLOW conferences, opportunities, and most of all support, friendship, and fun.

Kathleen Seeburg, Executive Director of Walworth County CVB made sure that my first experiences in Wisconsin were indeed wonderful!

From the moment I walked into the lobby of the hotel in Fond du Lac, WI I felt welcomed, valuable and accepted.  This was my first AGLOW conference and I was nervous as a cat in room full of rockers. I was going to be meeting other writers and photographers that were in my mind, the rock stars of our industry. Folks that I follow, admire and respect. The entire drive north from Southern Illinois I had that country mouse going to the city anxiety.

I can't imagine a better location for outdoor communicators to gather than Lakeside Park in  Fond du Lac, WI

The fine folks from AGLOW instantly put that anxiety to rest.  The days were packed with so many activities, seminars, as well as time to make new friends and catch up with old friends.

I discovered that gee whiz – I wasn’t the only one struggling with how to proceed in the world of outdoor communicators, I discovered that with the AGLOW members there is genuine desire to help each other succeed and thrive.

I discovered I still had it in me to write, to photograph, to communicate.  I can never thank AGLOW and it’s wonderful members enough for renewing, revitalizing, and bringing  back the passion I have for communicating the great things the outdoors has to offer all of us.

I was especially tickled to get to see my friends Marjorie Beenders and Steve Walker from The Beenders-Walker Group. TBWG knows all there is to know and then some about great outdoor destinations in Missouri and the Gulf Shore!

Stay tuned, I have plenty of photos and stories to share from my “Week in Wisconsin”!

Sunday, June 30, 2013

There are Moments, and They are Grand

8:27 AM 0 Comments
There is that sudden knowledge, that moment, when you know that storm you have been watching approach has arrived. The line between bright sunshine and darkness like night becomes thread thin. And it is grand.

There is that sudden moment when you know it's getting closer. You can see it coming, you can feel it coming, you can smell it coming.
And it is grand.

There is that sudden moment when you realize that all the small scout clouds and rain shafts that surround you are coming together  and will soon merge into one giant stretch of rolling thunderstorm.
And it is grand. 

There are moments in the hills and open grasslands of the Illinois prairies, when Mother Nature flexes her muscles and reminds us she is still charge.
And they are grand!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Summer is Almost Here

10:46 AM 0 Comments
Summer is just around the corner.  This year Summer Solstice falls on Friday June 21 at 5:04 Universal time, which is 1:04 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time and 12:04 A.M. Central Daylight Time.

It's worth noting that this year solstice for my western friends will actually occur  Thursday, June 20 for places in North America west of the Central Time Zone, occurring at 11:04 P.M Mountain Daylight Time and 10:04 P.M. Pacific Daylight Time. 
The timing of the solstice depends on when the Sun reaches its farthest point north of the equator. 

Some of my favorite summer scenes.

Wading and tossing a line

Afternoon tower clouds

Sitting lake side as the sun sets

Baby Bunnies!!!!

Gorgeous huge moons that beg to be photographed

Coyotes roaming in daylight hours as they search for food for their pups

fawns on spindly and spidery legs


Bowfishing fun!

Summer Mushrooms!

What are you favorite outdoor summer activities? Inquiring minds want to know!

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Morel Smartphone Wallpaper - A Gift to You!

9:29 AM 2 Comments
I've been busily hammering away at some new photo related projects. One that I am especially excited about is that I will be offering free digital wallpaper downloads each month.

Since this is prime morel mushroom season, it only seemed fitting to offer a mushroom related download!

Okay - technically it's not comepley order to help me spread the word, I'm asking folks to "pay" for the download with a tweet or facebook mention. Not too tough huh?

Just click on the button below the image. When you get to the image on my website, if you hover your mouse over it - you will see a menu and the option for download is right there for you :)

Thanks much for helping me get this project off the ground!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Just A Dog

7:54 AM 4 Comments

I recently had the pleasure of spending two marvelous days at the Retrievers Unlimited, HRC 25th Anniversary Hunt Test.

An  HRC (Hunting Retriever Club) Hunt Test, "Conceived by Hunters, For Hunters" is truly all about the dogs, all about the friendships that form on the test circuit. It's about the triumphs, the tribulations, the fun and the feeling of family.

Not once will you ever hear anyone say...."It's just a dog"

I found this delightful piece at The Sensible Dog

Just a Dog

From time to time people tell me, "Lighten up. It's just a dog."
or "That's a lot of money for just a dog."

They don't understand the distance traveled, time spent or costs involved for "Just a dog".

Some of my proudest moments have come about with "Just a dog".
Many hours have passed with my only company being "Just a dog"
and not once have I felt slighted.

Some of my saddest moments were brought about by "just a dog".
In those days of darkness ,
the gentle touch of "Just a dog" provided comfort
and purpose to overcome the day.

 If you, too, think it's "Just a dog", you will probably understand phrases like
"Just a friend" or "just a sunrise" or "Just a promise".

"Just a dog" brings into my life the very essence of friendship, trust,
and pure unbridled joy. "Just a dog" brings out the compassion and patience that make me a better person.

Because of "Just a dog" I will rise early,
take long walks, and look longingly to the future.

For me and folks like me, it's not "Just a dog".
It's an embodiment of all the hopes and dreams of the future,
the fond memories of the past, and the pure joy of the moment.

"Just a dog" brings out what's good in me and diverts my thoughts
away from myself and the worries of the day.

I hope that someday people can understand it's not "Just a dog."
It's the thing that gives me humanity and keep me from being
"Just a man " or "Just a woman".

So the next time you hear the phrase "Just a dog",
Smile because they "Just don't understand"..

Author unknown. Dog Quote complements of Pooches on the

Friday, April 5, 2013

Burn Baby, Burn! The View Inside a Prescribed Burn

10:29 AM 0 Comments
Spring in the prairies, grasslands, and fields is a time of not only flowers, but the fires that make those flowers and new prairie grasses grow and thrive. Controlled burns are used for a number of conservation reason, prairie health, removal  of invasive species, improvement of habitat.

Controlled or prescribed burning, is a technique sometimes used in forest management, agriculture, prairie restoration. Fire is a natural part of both forest and grassland ecology and controlled fires are also used as a tool in the forestry industry.

According to Wikipedia:
 Controlled burns have a long history in wildland management. Pre-agricultural societies used fire to regulate both plant and animal life. Fire history studies have documented periodic wildland fires ignited by indigenous peoples in North America and Australia. Fires, both naturally caused and prescribed, were once part of natural landscapes in many areas. Studies have shown that between the mid Holocene and the 19th century AD, wildland fires annually burned between 4.5% and 12% of present-day California's total land, for example. These practices ended in the early 20th century when US fire policies were enacted with the goals of suppressing all fires. Since 1995, the US Forest Service has slowly incorporated burning practices into its forest management policies.

I was able to join one of the crews conducting a controlled burn this week. It is truly awe inspiring to watch the flames rage, grow, and leave behind a stage set for better habitat, more prairie grass, and fewer invasive intruders.

Please note that the images were shot using a long focal length lens (considered super telephoto)  and all IL DNR safety regulations were followed. Playing with fire, especially fast moving grass and field fires is not an activity to be taken lightly without the appropriate  safety equipment and knowledge of how these types of fires work.
Illinois DNR offers a good guide to the precautions that must be taken HERE

Feel the heat, smell the smoke, and know when it all clears....the circle of life continues.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Birds, Birds, Birds!

8:33 AM 0 Comments

Spring is springing! Birds are singing! Birds are also migrating through southern Illinois, and the local resident birds are beginning their courtship displays. I confess - I've barely been able to stay in the house during daylight hours. There's just too many wonderful spring like things occurring outdoors right now.

Here are few of the winged wonders that I have encountered  the last few days. Yes, spring is springing.. birds are singing and...... LIFE. IS. GOOD.

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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Scoop On Snipe

9:55 AM 1 Comments
Whoever said snipe hunts were a wild goose chase, didn't chase the right goose.

Yesterday I wrote about the long standing rite of passage, the snipe hunt. While many of us have participated in, or fallen victim to a snipe hunt, there are those intrepid hunters who do truly hunt the oft thought to be mythical snipe.

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Yes, the snipe does exist, and is a real bird! Here in Illinois where I live, it's also a considered a migratory game bird with a season that usually runs from early September through December. Currently the bag limit in Illinois on this fast and well camouflaged little bird is 8 with a possession limit of 16. In all honesty - I cannot imagine being able to bag 8 of these well camouflaged fast fliers in one lifetime, let alone one day. They will truly challenge your wing shooting skills.

Snipe, Snipe, snipe what is this long legged long billed bird all about?

The common snipe measures about 10 1/2 inches long and weighs about 4 1/2 ounces. It is most comfortable in shallow, freshwater marshy areas. The snipe’s brown, black and white feathering makes for outstanding camouflage in brushy areas, briar patches, fence rows  and low-growing grasses. 

Even in the snowy landscape, the snipe merely appears to be a clump of grass to the casual observer

A snipe looks a little bit like a small version of the woodcock. It’s coloration  is a bit different  , but has the same squatty body and long bill. Like the woodcock, it frequents wet areas where it’s easy to drill for worms. Snipes migrate in flocks. They fly at night and feed in wetlands and wet prairies at dawn and dusk. 

The snipe is a reclusive bird, rarely seen. This  certainly  helps fuel the mythical and legendary  tales that surround the mythical snipe hunt. Because they are so secretive and so well camouflaged, snipes are rarely noticed by those in the field, and can easily be confused when taking flight with a woodcock. Their reclusive nature and rare sightings, only enhance the belief that many people hold; that snipe do not truly exist. 

Considered a  wading bird, the snipe eats a variety of insects, earthworms, small snails and some plant matter. Its bill is long and flexible and is capable of finding food by feel alone. Snipe are often seen in ditch lines, along lake edges, and soggy, flooded, bottom ground. Have a close look at the birds congregated around the puddles in fields after a heavy rain, you may well be rewarded with a glimpse of the mythical snipe.  When startled, the birds  fly away in a zigzag pattern while emitting a high-pitched call. The thick brush they inhabit and their erratic flight makes snipe a most challenging wingshooting target.

Successful and experienced snipe hunters suggest  going  afield early and late in the day. As is common with many other migrators, the migrating flock disperses to feed. Consequently, if you flush one snipe, chances are other members of the group are scattered out nearby.
Because of the thick vegetation they inhabit, hunting them with dogs is recommended. Bear in mind that slogging through the thick heavy and wet cover, where snipe are are often found can be challenge for some bird dogs. A cross trained duck dog is often better suited to the wet and boggy conditions. The physical demands of snipe hunting can be similar to those of waterfowl hunting; slopping  through thick and wet cover, marshy, muddy, hard going in  the areas where snipe are most likely found. If you can hunt a field with small potholes of water after a heavy rain, the conditions will be much easier for both you and your canine companion. Some go so far as to consider the snipe  the most demanding of all game birds to hunt. Consequently, not many choose to pursue them. Those that do choose to pursue them often find it a challenging and rewarding experience. 

The website is valuable resource for those considering snipe hunting and contains a wealth of information, nicely prepared in one convenient location. I suggest a visit to the website, regardless of whether you are an experienced or beginner snipe hunter.

Keeping in mind that when flushed, a snipe, can  accelerate to 45 miles per hour in its first two seconds of flight, it's easy to understand why these can be a most challenging bird to bag. 

Given all of this, and also given my less than stellar wingshooting skills, I think I'll stick to hunting snipe with a camera! 

Monday, March 25, 2013

Successful Snipe Hunting in 10 Easy Steps

11:19 AM 0 Comments

With out the snow, it would be next to impossible to see the snipe feeding in the ditch line.
At last, I have found and documented the mythical snipe!

For many rural youngsters a snipe hunt is a rite of passage.

Try as I may, I cannot find the origins of the mythical snipe hunt although I have learned  that snipe hunts are held  across the nation. I've even heard stories of them being held in parts of Europe. 

Intriguingly enough, the snipe hunt  has even found its way into popular culture as evidenced by  the television show, King of the Hill. The animated comedy series that is set in Texas featured a snipe hunt with Hank Hill and his son. Instead of snipes, the two ended up catching a whooping crane. Clearly a rookie mistake. 

Note that the small, brown toned snipe bears no resemblance to a whooping crane.

How exactly does a snipe hunt work you ask?

I should preface my snipe hunting guide with the statement that I’m not terribly sure of the global, or even the national protocol, but the southern Illinois river rat version I learned goes something like this:

Step 1 :  Gather up  a few young friends. As with many outdoor activities, this is one that serves the teenage population especially well.  The hunt, is even more enjoyable if at least one of said friends has no idea of the true workings of the upcoming “hunt.”

Step 2: Secure the sacks. Sacks are important. The sack of choice is usually a burlap gunny sack, but pillowcases are also highly favored in some areas. It’s easy to spot a newbie or weekend warrior snipe hunter; they are often seen sporting a measly paper or plastic grocery bag.  What’s most important in sack selection, is choosing one that will easily contain a rambunctious  snipe when the action heats up.

the snipe in typical sack entry preparation position

Step 3: Scout for snipes . Scouting is considered by many to be vital. While scouting for snipes can provide some pleasant times afield, it’s not terribly necessary for new snipe hunters. Sometimes it’s simply far easier to just say you were snipe scouting. Most new snipe hunters are accepting of any snipe scenario you lay out for them. 

Step 4: Determine an appropriate snipe hunt location. As the old saying goes, it’s all about location, location, location. Where exactly is the best area to take fledgling snipe hunters? Is it remote, dark, heavily wooded, stinky and even swampy? Grab the GPS coordinates – the more remote and dark an area is the more likely it will be a snipe hunting hotspot.

Step 5: Determine the best night  for snipe hunting. Snipe hunting is a clearly nocturnal activity.  Early summer evenings work especially well. Weekends after the prospective hunters may have consumed a few beverages can be particularly  productive. Snipes thrive under the cover of darkness, so a moonless night is all the better. It’s also helpful to limit the light sources that a prospective snipe hunter drags along into the woods. Minimal light is very important to a successful snipe hunt. 

Step 6: Placement of the prospective snipe hunter. Planning snipe hunter placement is of the utmost importance. The further away from the parking area, the further away from any form of humanity the better. The newest snipe hunters get the best spots. As always when introducing someone to a style of hunting, ensuring success is a huge part of keeping that hunter active and pursuing other hunting activities.  In snipe hunting the best spots just happen to be those farthest from the vehicles. 

Step 7: Set up the prospective snipe hunter: Upon getting the new snipe hunter placed in a snipe hotspot, a key step is to explain that snipe hunting is somewhat solitary. The new hunter MUST understand that in order to be successful he must stay on high alert, every ready holding his snipe sack open on the ground, to capture the snipe. The snipe will be “driven “ to the new hunter by others in the party who disappear off into the remote snipe hot spot to round up the skittish birds.
Some experienced snipe hunters  suggest having the new hunter make an attempt to  call  the snipe. Snipe seem to respond best to an oft repeated and silly sounding call. The sillier the better.

Step 8: Determine the duration of the snipe hunt. Many experienced snipe hunters disagree as to the length of time the inexperienced hunter should be left alone. However it is a common belief that it depends on the experience level of the new hunter. Some are left only a few minutes, while some have been left for hours at a time.  The key is to make the new hunter feel as uncomfortable and abandoned as possible.If shrieks and wails and crying are noted coming  from the  snipe hunter it's always nice to retrieve them immediately. Nice, but not necessary.

Step 9: Retrieval of the snipe hunter. After sufficient time has passed for the new hunter to become uncomfortable, terrorized by mosquitoes, horrified by a myriad of sounds in the nighttime woods or swamp, it becomes time to retrieve the hunter from the snipe hotspot. This is best achieved in stealthy manner in order to completely surprise the young snipe hunter. When the shrieking subsides, explain that your stealth was necessary in order to not scare off the snipes that had been driven to the hunt location.  

Step 10: Share the snipe hunting love! Help maintain the heritage of snipe hunting by sharing your new hunters snipe hunting saga, moment by moment in real time, across every social media site that you have at your disposal. Snipe hunts are legendary in some areas, and you wouldn't want the newest snipe hunter to miss his or her shot at 15 minutes of fame. Consider it an educational and conservation effort. Laugh uproariously, tease unmercifully.  No snipe hunt is successful without a great deal of laughter , teasing, and good natured ribbing. In fact. some snipe hunting tales have come to live in infamy in certain neighborhoods.


Be sure to come back tomorrow for part two of the snipe hunting series, "The Scoop on Snipe" .

Now where's my snipe sack........