Monday, January 31, 2011

Where To Go From Here

I lost my job on Friday.
 
    I planned on penning something eloquent in order to express how I truly feel about this but the words just won't come.
 
        At four o'clock on Friday afternoon, I was called into the office where the owner of the company I worked for and my supervisor told me that we would be closed effective immediately.

      I wanted to throw my chair at the owner, scream that he had ruined my life and storm out. I wanted to tell him that he was terrible at running a company; how I had no idea how I am going to pay my bills simply because he is incompetent.  

       But just like any good "I'm done with this stupid company" dream scenario, everything I wanted to do fell by the wayside as I tears formed tributaries on my face. I cried during the entire thing as my rich boss told me that I'd get two weeks severance.  Before I left he added that he'd be more than happy to supply any reference for my outstanding work.  I didn't have the strength to tell him that I would never, as long as I live as him for reference.  He had no idea what I did there or what I did for that company.  He sat atop his throne and looked down at his peons, waiting for the perfect moment to pull the rug out from beneath us to watch us fall.

   I'm lost.  I have no idea where to go from here.

      I'm going to disappear for a little while to a land of snow, Momma and snowmobiling.  Home is the perfect solitude to find my ground.

    There is so much more that I need to write but adventure calls.






Friday, January 28, 2011

The Quagmire: Week Five

A Quagmire of Thoughts from a Tree Stand

Greetings from Hunt Like You're Hungry central! I hope you all are having a great week.  For those of you new to HLYH, this is a weekly compilation of the outdoors.  I began this as round-up that includes not only my own thoughts but stories, reviews, and rants from fellow bloggers.  I've had a couple submissions here and there but with duck season in January, I have fallen behind with my beloved Quagmire.  But fear not, friends- we're back! There is a little laundry list to get to so I'm going to stop rambling and dive into the good stuff!



2011 Mastodon Hunt

I started to mull over my ability to hunt random species of animals a couple of weeks ago while lounging in the stand. Hunting whitetail was getting boring and ducks were far too easy.  I compiled a list of things that would prove more difficult, as many of them are extinct. The first animal on the list was the mighty mastodon. I figured that I would be able to harvest one, but it would be difficult.  Getting the permits was one thing, as I had to go to the Museum of Natural Science and beg for a Mastodon Hunting license. When this went swimmingly, I had to focus my attention on my weapon.  Given that mastodons are exceedingly hefty (they can exceed 8 tons) I knew that a simple broadhead would fail to do the job. I researched ancient methods for hunting and found that the preferred method was to use some sort of man-made spear.  The wheels started turning in my head.  It took only a few moments to realize that I could use my Vicxen with a spear and do some major damage.  I sighted in my spear-bow using the side of an old barn as a target.  As soon as I knew that it was ready, I ventured out to a nearby glacier to wait.  Many animals meandered past but when a shadow cast over everything, I knew it was time.  Breathing steadily, I took the shot.  Down the beast fell and I was able to snap this quick picture:

The hunt was beautiful- if you get a chance to harvest such a prehistoric, extinct species- I strongly encourage it.  But now that the beast has fallen... I need some help.  Has anyone field dressed a 16,000 pound animal?




HLYH Is Open For Business!

DU is bored. Duck season has reached its end and it seems that he lost his zest for life. In order to quell his sloth-like yearnings, he has decided to build a series of things instead of having to buy them for next season.  He created a butt feeder and a swimming decoy out of spare parts that work better than store- brands.  Once he conquered the decoy scene, he focused his attention to call lanyard making.  We had noticed that stores charge a pricey sum for patrons to buy lanyards that are either of low quality or don't fit properly.  Hence, DU set out to learn how to make them himself.  His first venture was created out of blue and white chords to reflect his love for all things Indianapolis Colts.  DU has now extended his line to include more hunter-friendly colors.  

I could be like the Shamwow infomercial guy and dunk the lanyards in water to show you how absorbent they are, but since we're not going for water retention that would be useless. So I'm going for a nice, friendly pitch. If you're looking for a new lanyard in specific colors or are in desperate need for high-quality moving decoys, e-mail me!

Note:  I love DU but the off-season combined with days off from school makes him looking for things to fix/clean/annoy me with. Keeping DU busy will not only make me happier but allow me to write more so if you love my writing (and my non-broken appliances) and want it to continue- PLEASE KEEP HIM BUSY.




GUN FOR SALE

The harvest of my first deer was the most pivotal moment in my hunting past.
It was in the iota of a second that gun went off that my adoration of all things hunting was borne.
However, I can't justify keeping that gun in the light of other gun purchases that need to be made as my hunting tastes expand to envelop other wild game. I'm hesitant to let it go but I know it is for the best. The Mossburg 500 will go to a nice farm family with a lot of land that it can hunt. 
For those of you who know how deeply one can connect with the firearm that began a lifetime of hunting, you know the feelings I'm experiencing- and why I felt the need to include it on The Quagmire. 


Lorretta Lynn- A Goddess of Country Music

GAC is one the best country channels out there.  CMT generally plays the same 10 pop-country songs over and over which makes me want to bludgeon my TV. I discovered GAC and while they tend to play some pop-country-crap, they are really good about playing the old mixed with the new.  
I was minding my own business one morning when GAC took me by surprise by playing one of the most beautiful songs I have heard in a very long time.  Brushing my teeth suddenly took a backseat as I stood in my bedroom, mouth full of toothpaste, and starred at the images on the screen. Loretta Lynn, Miranda Lambert and Sheryl Crow combined their stunning voices to produce a ballad entitled, "Coal Miner's Daughter".  The lyrics are stunning, as the song is a tribute to not only Loretta Lynn but also countless female country stars who paved the way for vocalists like Lambert and Crow.
What struck me most were a series of lyrics...

  "In the summertime, we didn't have shoes to wear.
      But in the wintertime, we'd all get a brand new pair,
         From a mail order catalog, money made by selling a hog, 
            Daddy managed to get the money somewhere."

The song brings the listener back to a time where shoes aren't a necessity but a luxury.  Fathers worked hard and mothers took care of their families the best they could.  If you haven't heard this song, I strongly suggest a listen- you'll fall back to the past and be thankful for the present. 



5,000

Earlier this week, I was astonished to see that my little blog was slowly but surely reaching 5,000 hits.  Given that I began this little writing adventure four months ago, I'm shocked that I had reached such a number in such a short amount of time. I'm also reaching 50 followers which, to me, is an astronomical number. When I gained my first follower, I freaked out.  I e-mailed DU as quickly as I could and proclaimed "SOMEONE IS FOLLOWING MY BLOG!"  Least to say, I was excited.  Each time I view a new comment or someone else follows my writing feels like Christmas.  I cannot begin to thank each of you enough for the attention that you have given my writing.  I know it can be off-the wall sometimes but the fact that you still read it (and since I'm assuming you still are right now, I'm doing something right) means the absolute world to me. So, again- thank YOU.  Yes, YOU the one who is reading currently reading the words I type.  You are the force which continues my writing and brings happiness to my life everyday. 






Well, friends- that's it! For a more concise overview of what I hope for The Quagmire to turn into, please check out the site that is laying hidden beneath these words.
As always, I hope you all have a great week! 
For those of you enjoying the last days of duck season- GOOD LUCK! Let me know how you do!


Happy Hunting!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Hunting Vocabulary Review

  I'd like to think that I have a lot of common sense.  Unfortunately, I don't.  New concepts terrify me. While a normal person would rationally try to understand said concept, I curl into a small ball, hoping that the concept will think that I died.  Often when I'm faced with having to make sense of something new, I attempt to grasp at concepts that I'm familiar with in order to make some sort of vague connection. I can do pretty well with this, as my aptitude in this process made it so that I earned my BA in English, at the head of my class, without having to really read anything. 

   Months ago, DU and I were driving to watch the Colts play at a nearby bar with his fellow Indianians (Indianagites?).  On the way, DU was going on about the god that Payton Manning is when I realized I had failed to break the news to him that  I have never understood football. I tried to fall back on my vague connection process but when he started talking about things like "first downs"(Is that the first one down the field?), "hail Marys" (Aaaahhhh so they're religious?), and "Tight Ends" (Now that is just dirty), I couldn't take the deception anymore. I figured that this moment was the perfect time to tell him, as we were in a death vehicle barreling down the highway reaching imminent danger.

  "You'll really love it, hunny.  It's like he throws the ball and a guy just APPEARS at the end! He acts like coach and reads plays on the sidelines the entire game. It's like magic..."

   "Like magic... yeah..."

   My head suddenly filled with images of Harry Potter trying to propel the ball down the field with his wand when I caught myself.

   "Speaking of magic... if I tell you something, will you promise not to kill us?"

   "Sure.... you do realize that has nothing to do with magic, right?"

   "Yeah but I couldn't find a better segue into what I have to tell you."

   "That was weak. You're better than that but I'll let it go"

   "Good... it's just. I don't understand football."

    The silence in the car permeated to the radio, as the radio announcer lost his voice mid-way through the news story he was proclaiming to the land.  I cursed Mr. Radio Announcer and silently pleaded with him to continue speaking so DU would come back to reality.  The car slowly veered off the road.  Once we hit that annoying bumpy stuff on the shoulder, DU came back to life.  He took control of the car and gained enough strength to ask me how in Payton's name do I not understood football?

   That answer was simple.  I had grown up in a household who adored the Buffalo Bills.  Bills' fans are notorious for blind loyalty and an questionable amount of enthusiasm for a team who habitually loses to anyone they play.  Growing up in Buffalo, my mom was born a Bills' fan.  Hence, on Sundays at our house, every TV would be on and no one was allowed to talk.  I was too scared to ask questions, as speaking during a game may cause a cataclysmic cycle, culminating in yet another Bill's defeat. (Other things that would cause the Bills to lose- The removal the box of Flute Flakes from the top of the TV and taking Jim Kelly's name in vain)  So, I'd watch the game or go upstairs to read a book in peace.  My parents threw gigantic Superbowl Parties and people would pile into the house.  I'd be cute, dress up in team colors, eat food and watch commercials.  But throughout my years of watching football, I never really understood how one actually plays the game.  This is because it is impossible to connect football with hockey.

   I know hockey inside and out, as I played it for more than half my life.  The rules are like second nature and I could call a game better than a NHL ref.  However, this causes problems because no other sport is like hockey. I get soccer and lacrosse because the rules closely resemble the sport I love, but if I can't translate a sport into hockey terms, my brain gives up.  

   My thinking now cleaves into two regions; hunting and hockey.  Hence, if I can relate something to either, I understand it.  I'm in the process of studying for my GRE's (Graduate Record Examination or Grotesquely Repulsive Examination) because for some odd reason I miss school. Since this is the exam to get into graduate school, it is terribly difficult.  I already took the exam once, the scores were absolutely dismal so I'm going for a second try. Last time, I neglected to study because I figured that my sheer brilliance would get me through the test easy.  This did not happen so I'm actually going to try to get some review done before February 15th.  I got my little review books out of the library, set up my study station, and procured new pens (superior ink flow is imperative).  Going over the tests has been interesting but having to reivew 3,500 vocabulary words is simply daunting. I respected the task as impossible until I recalled my old standby.

   Yes, dear reader, vocabulary is fun again! I've begun altering words' definitions into hunting terms and using them in hunting-related sentences. So, without further adieu, I bring you:


THE HUNTING GUIDE TO THE GRES:
SECTION IV- VOCABULARY REVIEW



Consanguinity- N. Kinship. Real Usage: Wanting to be rid of yet another wife, Prince Randolf XXII sought a divorce on the grounds of consanguinity, claiming their blood relationship was creepily close.
Hunting Usage: In order to strengthen their consanguinity, those at deer camp ingested copious amounts of beer and told dirty jokes.

Ebullient- ADJ. Showing excitement. How I acted when I harvested my first duck. Real Usage: Lorraine's ebullient nature could not be quelled; she was always jumping with excitement.
Hunting Usage: In my ebullient celebration after killing my first duck, I fell face-first into a pile of snow.

Opprobrium- N. Infamy; vilification. Real Usage: OJ Simpson refused to defend himself against the slander and opprobrium hurled against him by the newspapers, even though they were right.
Hunting Usage: E4, after hearing my opprobrium about the tiny deer he shot with my gun, spread lies that I like Fatback and empty power lines.


Remunerative- ADJ. Compensating, rewarding.  Real Usage: I find my vacation so remunerative that I may not return to my real job.
Hunting Usage: Real hunters find even the long days where nothing shows up remunerative.

Machinations- N. evil schemes or plots. Real Usage: Roadrunner is a master of machinations to get Wile. E Coyote squashed by some sort of large object.
Hunting Usage: These ingenious ducks constantly evade our machinations to kill them, as they never fly low enough for a good shot.

Zephyr- N. gentle breeze.  Real Usage: When the zephyrs blew through the ship, the captain called for all hands on deck.
Hunting Usage: I used the zephyr to my advantage and allowed it to waft the smell of bacon through the cabin to rouse my fellow hunters.

Malingerer- N. One who feigns illness to escape duty.  Real Usage: The captain ordered the sergeant to punish all malingerers and force them to work.
Hunting Usage: Given that I am an extremely convincing malingerer, I slept in the blind while the boys set out the decoy spread.  Success.

Physiognomy- N. Face. Real Usage: He is obsessed with his physiognomy, he is never without his trusty mirror.
Hunting Usage: I adore slathering black face paint on my physiognomy almost as much as I love archery.

Misanthrope: N.  One who hates mankind. Every animal I hunt. Real Usage: In my story, the beast is a misanthrope and beats humans to a pulp.
Hunting Usage: I can understand why deer are misanthropes, as we try to puncture them with incredibly fatal moving broadheads.



   Who knew that life in the outdoors could lead to one having such an extensive vocabulary?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Tree Stand Days

   I love country stores.  There is something in the way that they smell and invite hunters for miles around to explore their wares that makes me go there for no apparent reason. Given my affinity for things of this nature, it shouldn't be surprising that my dream is to own such a store with some sort of amazing archery and gun range. (Obviously not in the exact same vicinity, that would get really messy real quickly.)  DU is all about this, as he keeps looking at places that need such a company and things that we could stock.


   One day, early in our relationship, DU came up and visited my Yankee self in Lockport, NY.  For those of you who haven't been there, you haven't missed much.  Lockport consists of about 2 dozen streets.  The best restaurant was a hole-in-the-wall kind of place that serves the best steak I've ever had.  Besides that, Lockport doesn't have much to offer. The town is small and pretty urban. I lived above the garage of a pink Victorian house and had barely enough room for a bed, let alone anything else. We spent the majority of our time together exploring places, visiting my home town, or walking Titus (then the solitary puppy in my life). We would meander around town and inevitably someone would walk past.  If any eye contact was made, DU would nod or say hi. This sort of greeting is never really reciprocated in the north.  Hence, DU stuck out like an uncomfortable,sore thumb with his Indianian drawl and southern attitude. He'd speak and either no one could understand him or they just ignored him.  Ah yes, the hospitality of the north.


   During this visit,  I took DU to my favorite country store.  I was introduced to Johnson's before I moved to Lockport so by the time I moved, I was excited to live five minutes from it.  The shop has a log-cabin feel and has that down-home feeling that a lot of the big chain stores lack. The best aspect of Johnson's overall is the staff.  As a new hunter, I was a little scared with how I was going to be received in the hunting community.  Would I look like a poser? A novice idiot who had no idea what in the world I was doing? Or worst of all, did I resemble someone who hunting simply because the man in my life did?  Fortunately, the guys at Johnson's accepted me with open arms, with a lot of good-natured jokes thrown in.

     I bought my first bow and shotgun at that store from a man who passed away shortly after I met him.  I owe a lot to his tattooed self. I wish I had known him longer, as he was the most passionate hunter I'd ever come in contact with.  He would insist that my ex and I would stay late, after operating hours, to hang out if we needed our bows adjusted. When I killed my first deer, I knew he was watching from above, proud as a poppa bear. The rest of the guys knew me and I made them cookies at frequent intervals, simply to thank them for the superior service they provided. Leaving that store was terrible because it is impossible to get that kind of one-on-one attention at any of the big chain stores (worse yet- no one to make cookies for!)

   One worker who seriously loved to pick on this short huntress had recently called and told me there was something they specifically bought with me in mind.  DU was eager to see what they thought was quintessentially me, so I led him to Johnson's. As I walked in, I saw everyone's eyes widen in surprise.  This store had been the frequent stomping ground for myself and my ex. So, when I waltzed in with another guy, people were suspicious.  None more so than my favorite worker.  Fortunately, he knew me and knew what my situation was so he welcomed DU with open arms.  Once the formalities had been taken care of, we got to the good stuff.  Out came a pink camo shotgun that was so utterly not me that I loved it.




    As soon as DU saw it, he laughed.  He had been planning on ordering me the same firearm for my birthday but this took care of it.  We walked out of the store wanting to shoot it.  I looked at DU and said, "When we run our own store, we have to give employees time off to hunt and shoot guns."


   DU thought about this seriously and said, "Of course, we'll call them Tree Stand Days."

   After some discussion, we proclaimed that a Tree Stand Day is:

     Definition: (n [as in "Today is a Tree Stand Day],v [as in "I feel like Tree Standing this day"],adj [Two weeks from now feels like a Tree Standy Day])
     A 24 hour span in which something spectacular of a hunting nature occurs.  This includes but is not limited to: buying a firearm, bow, ammunition, or camouflage; venturing to a pro-shop or some sort of destination hunting store; scouting deer; hanging out on a rusty tailgate truck, drinking PBR, and discussing hunting.  Days spent hunting, even in a tree stand, do not constitute a Tree Stand Day. This statement comes from rule 7, section 8 of Tree Stand Day Bylaws which state that since hunting in a tree stand is commonplace for hunters, Tree Stand Days connote some special occurrence within the hunting realm, therefore hunting itself is NOT Tree Stand Day worthy.

   Since that pivotal day,  DU and I have celebrated many Tree Stand Days.  We never plan them, they just tend to happen naturally. It is only after we buy a gun, try out a new bow, or adventure to the distant Gander Mountain that we realize, Oh My Goodness! It's a Tree Stand Day!  We then celebrate by grilling or going somewhere different for dinner.

   My time with DU has been punctuated with random Tree Stand Days. We've been fishing at midnight.  We get excited buying random hunting implements and taking the boat out to scout for ducks.  Each day that we get to spend together, doing something we love, is considered not only a rockin' Tree Stand Day but also a blessing.

   Today is a very special and uncommon Tree Stand Day.  In a couple of hours, DU and I have reservations to the extremely expensive restaurant where we had our first date.  In an attempt to woo this interesting huntress, DU chose the spot, unaware of its price. He says now that he'd pay tenfold for that dinner again if I asked.  Of course, I don't ask but I know he isn't bluffing.  Almost a year later, the restaurant is a part of a special week that has cheap dinners at ritzy eating establishments.  We grabbed a table right at the perfect time and since we can't afford such a venture for our actual anniversary, I'm considering it as such.  Although we're not purchasing the latest camo or going to a gun show, I'm still dubbing it a Tree Stand Day. 

  Even as I sit here, 15 minutes until I leave work early in order to get pretty for tonight, I'm nervous- even more so than I was for our first date.  The first time I sat down with DU, I knew nothing of Tree Stand Days or how beautiful a duck call sounds like. I didn't know that anyone could love, understand, and support me like DU does. He tells me I'm beautiful when I'm covered in mud, feeling like I gained 48 pounds, my face expertly painted with black makeup and claims he wouldn't want it any other way. (I have an inclination he's lying about that one.) DU has taught me to stand on my own two feet, to think for myself, and that unconditional love exists. And for that, I'm eternally grateful.

  I implore you to be aware of the Tree Stand Days in your life, they're a blessing from God and should be treated as such.
  

UPDATE: We had a great time.  The food was absolutely amazing- a carnivore haven with perfect mint lamb tenderloin, amazing top sirloin and a copious amount of other meat beautifulness.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Perfect Decoy Retrieval Mitten: An Off-Center Review

   I think I may have to be studied or something but I have to say, I have terribly small hands and feet.  Hence, my extremities have a tendency to get seriously cold extremely quickly.  This was a major problem during my intense hockey years when we'd play in rinks that were held up with one wall in the middle of January during a sub-zero blizzard.  No matter how hard I skated or how many times I'd rub my hands together, nothing could keep me warm.

  Once I started waterfowl hunting, I realized that having appendages that tend to freeze after mere moments of being immersed into some sort of cold climate would be a serious problem.  A month ago, we went hunting and I was in charge of retrieving decoys.  The water temperature was close to freezing, illustrated by the decoys I picked up that were covered with a white frost. As I meandered through the water, I came to realize that my gloves were soaked and completely useless.  I climbed into the boat and surveyed the damage.  My hands were lobster red and cold to the touch.  Minutes later I shoved them into DU's muff and experienced that terrible needle-like burning that accompanies the slow thaw of a body part.  I then decided that it was the perfect time to invest in a new pair of gloves.

  Unfortunately, Christmas was nearing and I had no extra funds to speak of in order to purchase a nice pair of hand warming implements.  Then the fantastic and ever-generous Outdoor Blogger Network came to the rescue. OBN has connected my blog with other like-minded individuals through their dedication to making the outdoor blogging world a tightly-knit one. A few months back, I noticed that Rebecca and Joe started weekly Wednesday giveaways.  I never win anything, but I figured that throwing my name in periodically would make my odds of getting cool stuff a little greater.  In December, I noticed that OBN must have made some sort of error because they were giving away far too many awesome things for a regular Wednesday. 

   I scrolled down and noticed a pair of gloves that looked perfect for decoy retrieval.  The Frabill FXE Snosuit Gauntlet Mitt immediately piqued my interest.  The mitts are marketed for ice fishing but I figured that putting in for them wouldn't hurt. I went back about my business and completely forgot about the contest.  Sunday night rolled around and just like any red-blooded American, I was watching football.  The Colts were down so I occupied myself by checking OBN.  Low and behold, I won the Frabill mitts. 

   Screaming, yelling, and a lot of running around the house ensued as the dogs stared at DU, frightened that their mom changed into a deranged crazy person.  I quickly wrote to Rebecca and Joe, thanking them for the chance to win the gloves.  I also implored, if it wouldn't be too much trouble, for the company to send the smallest gloves they could.

  Christmas came and went.  The day after we celebrated the birth of Jesus, a package came. 

   Let me say this now, I love mail.  I don't know what it is, but I absolutely adore receiving things from those nicely dressed US Postal People.  Anytime I'm on the accepting end of a package, I turn into the dad from A Christmas Story.  My mouth waters as I image what could lay within the confines of the cardboard walls. No matter how small or large it is, I always think... It could be a bowling alley! Or a leg lamp!  Hence, the fact that Frabill sent me something, it could have been anything, really, scored major points on my end.

   Once I got over the excitement, I opened the box.  Upon initial inspection of the mitts, I was a little downtrodden. The tag said small but my hands are child sized. The mitts didn't fit my hands, they were pretty large but that's to be expected with hands like mine.  The review would end here except that the ingenious people at Frabill added a cinching strap to the wrist. After using said strap to cinch further up my arm, my fingers reached the end of the mitts with a little room left over.  I showed them off to my kitchen appliances and they seemed pretty impressed. 

   When it got time to finally test the mitts, the weather was chilly but not freezing. Over the weekend, a cold front was moving in and was expected to reach Charlotte late in the evening.  DU believed that this would bring the ducks in so we ventured forth with optimistic outlooks.  However, the morning hunt was disappointing.  I went out to snatch up the last of the duck butts after the hunt yielded nothing.  As I waded out, the water reached my knees.  I plunged my Frabill mitts into the cold water and felt nothing.  My hands were bone-dry and actually warm.  Another cinching string encircles the upper part of the mitt so even if the duck's weight fell deeper than expected, one's arm will stay dry.  The best aspect of the mitts is their magical way of repelling water even after just being in contact with it. DU's gloves have been in major need of replacement, as they constantly leak.  He tried out the gloves and immediately noticed that they kept his hands dry and warm, albeit the small size of the mitts.

    The Frabill Mitts got an unexpected second go later that afternoon.  We didn't intend on going back out to hunt but during lunch, snow fell.  This type of quick change was just what we needed.  We packed everything up once again but this time, we took the boat to a spot DU had seen a lot of ducks. I really wanted to work the mitts so I leapt out of the boat, as well as one wearing rubber waders can leap, to set the spread up.  For the first time since I started duck hunting, I was able to set out the decoys and pick foliage out of the water to shelter the blind without coming down with a severe case of "My hands are cold, turn on the heater". Over and over my  mitts delved into the snow-covered water, only to come up dry.

   The biggest test for the hand wear of any duck hunter is the ability of the mitts to assist in the unraveling and raveling of the decoy's weights. If the mitts hinder this process, they are pretty much useless. The majority of our decoy's weights are attached to a carabeener which allow for easier retrieval. The others are decoys whose weights are connected to a line which needs to be wrapped around the decoy after the hunt is complete.  I tried out both with the mitts and I was impressed with how effectively they worked.  Not only were my hands dry but wrapping the weights was no issue.  Once the decoys are ready for transport, we throw them into a mesh bag.  This mesh bag is the bane of my existence as I ritualistically forget that it sinks when no decoys are in it.  Generally, I abhor this task but with the Frabill mitts, it took a few seconds to feel out the bag and my hand didn't freeze off. By the time the hunt ended, the temperature dropped 20 degrees. After so much time in the water, the mitts started to allow some coldness to seep in but overall, my hands stayed warm.

   Days later, the mitts got their final test. We woke up Monday morning to a half foot of snow.  While this would generally cause me to quiver with fear as I knew my hands would freeze, I was excited to see how the mitts would work.  Throughout the hunt, my hands were warm.  However, as the mitts aren't gloves, I was completely unable to actually shoot a gun while wearing them.  Of course, this apparel is not made to shoot guns so this can't be held against them.  To keep my hands warm, I kept them in the mitts until it was time to shoot.

   I was wearing the mitts when I harvested my first duck.  So, if you're looking for a pair of lucky gloves, the Frabill Gauntlet Mitt is your perfect choice!

   So, if I were to give the mitts a rating from 0 to 34, I'd give them a 31.  This numbering system is pretty obscure but I think rating systems are ridiculous anyways.  The mitts kept my hands warm and dry, even in freezing water after rounds of picking up decoys.  The length of the mitts was extremely advantageous in grasping sinking mesh bags and decoy weights.  The mitts are created for ice fishing. So obviously not being able to shoot my gun can't be counted against my overall review of the mitts.  The mitts were really big and although the cinching came in handy, my hands still did not properly fit.  I checked the website and was not able to find any apparel that is designed for women.  While this is an epidemic among outdoor outfitters and women are forced to do what they can to find what they need, it would be nice if more companies took our needs into account.  Besides the size, I am overjoyed that OBN was gracious enough to allow me to review these gloves.  Although the Frabill mitts are for ice fisherman, I'd definitely suggest duck hunters to invest in them to assist in the colder aspects of the sport we love.

Monday, January 10, 2011

A Day of Firsts

   I've been living in North Carolina for about seven months now.  There are many things that have surprised me thus far.  From fried pickles to moonshine, I've tried more new things since I've moved down here than an entire lifetime in Western New York.  Today,  I experienced a day of firsts, starting with a city shut down because of snow and ending with the harvest of my first duck.

   In the past, I've only done deer hunting because I only knew deer hunters.  When I met DU, I was thrown into the world of waterfowl hunting.  I didn't know if I really had a passion for it until today.

  We woke up this morning to a half foot of beautiful, fluffy, white snow on the ground.  The wind blew and for a brief second, I seriously considered ensconcing myself back into the covers and resuming my restful slumber.   But I figured that going out in the snow was something I never before had experienced so I might as well get out of bed and at least take a shot at hunting in the freezing atmosphere. I found all of the necessary implements for keeping warm and ventured out into my car.  I assumed that I was going to go to work so DU and I took separate cars. 

   I grew up in Rochester, NY and went to college in Niagara Falls, NY.  Hence, I know snow.  I've driven in it before I got my license and even got close to running twice into the same pole in a CVS parking lot in two feet of snow.  Driving in the white stuff is amazing because the people who are scared of it stay off the road and I'm free to drive the speed limit at my leisure.  However, I've never seen anything close to what I saw this morning.  The snow was falling heavily when I flipped my Jeep into 4-wheel-drive.  Listening to the local country station, I noticed that the DJs were saying things like "stay home if you can, avoid roads as much as possible, and if it isn't an emergency, don't drive" as I barreled down the interstate at 65 mph.  No one, I mean no one, was on the roads.  It was no shocker, as the roads looked like they had never been plowed.  North Carolina's system of dealing with the snow would cripple Buffalo, NY for months on end.  Fortunately, DU and I both have more than enough experience in driving through inclement weather so we got to our hunting spot in no time.

   The pond on the land was covered with a thin layer of slush so DU was quick to introduce me to the ways of breaking ice.  While he covered the larger areas, I concentrated on breaking up the perimeter.  The process was relatively easy until I reached areas of stronger ice.  Although I felt like I had broken my ankle on the first patch of tough ice, I continued to push through.   Once the water was exposed and our duo became a trio, we were ready for the ducks.

   Myself, DU, The Owner of the land and a buddy of DU, his dog, Cricket, and Avery piled into the blind.  DU and The Owner called as I waited.  Groups and Groups of ducks flew overhead but nothing responded to our calls.

   The time started reaching when I'd have to leave for work when my phone went off.  A co-worker (the one who sings all the time) called to tell that since the roads were bad, our poppa bear of a boss told her to let everyone know that there was no reason to brave the roads.  The first time I'd ever had a snow day from work never came at a more opportune time.

   Just minutes later, a group of six ducks started circling our blind.  We had let the dogs out to run and warm up moments before so their black forms spooked the ducks.  Just ten yards from the blind, the ducks flared up, flying so close to my gun that I could have waved the butt of my gun in their direction and knocked one out.  The ducks flew away, leaving us disheartened.

  I really hoped that this day would turn things around.  The drought through deer season was unbearable and duck season didn't look promising.  Just as I gave up hope, I went to walk around the blind when I heard DU belt out a series of calls.  I ran back into the blind as The Owner nudged me hard.  Two ducks already plopped into the water and at least 20 others were circling.  It was the most beautiful and memorizing thing I'd ever seen.

   I grabbed my gun and held it up, ready for direction.  Shaking like a earthquake, I braced myself.  The Owner gave me small bits of advice as we all sat motionless, watching the birds work the pond.  "Find the target and shoot at it. Wait. Don't rush it. Breathe."

   DU, as discretely as possible, told me to stand up slowly and choose one.  I stood up, still shaking and realized that the grass in front of me obscured my view of the pond.  Panicked, I didn't know what to do.  DU told me to move over and he slowly took my spot.

   I saw the ducks who had initially landed in the water and lined up my gun.  Breathing as steadily as I could, I finally stopped quaking.  DU finally told me to take the shot.

   Chaos ensued as The Owner, DU and I shot at the fleeing birds.

   Once the snow cleared, I saw the duck I had shot at laying motionlessly on the icy sludge.  Just feet away lay DU's duck.

    At first, I didn't believe that I had shot it.  Then came the celebration.  DU and The Owner were more excited than I was as they yelled, hoot and hollered.

    I ran out to see my handiwork.  In my over-exuberance, I tripped over a small ditch in the snow, falling flat on my face.  Since nothing could deter my happiness, I picked myself up and continued to run to my harvest. 

   DU pulled my duck out of the pond, handing it to me.  He retrieved his as well and we realized that we both shot the same kind of duck.  Two fully mature American black ducks.  A rare, sought-after type in North Carolina whose blue feathers turn emerald green, my first bird was absolutely beautiful.   DU's was a hoss as it easily outweighed my bird by one pound.  But it didn't matter.  My first kill was 100% mine.  His feathers were gorgeous and the shot was purely perfection.  The bullets hit his lower head and neck, leaving everything of value intact.  As I do with any harvest, I walked away from DU and said a prayer of thanks to the waterfowl for the meal he would provide.


   The rest of the hunt passed by just as the beginning of the morning had.  We didn't see any more ducks but the time gave us ample opportunity to re-create my kill.  The Owner was particularly amused that I was shaking so hard it seemed that I wouldn't be able to take the shot.  DU looked happier than a pig in slop as we finally called it quits.  He kissed me before retrieving the decoys, telling me he was so proud.


   Hours later as I write this, I'm still shaking just re-telling the events of the morning.  Waterfowl hunting is beautiful in its strategy, difficulty, and aggravation.  I have never been privy to so much majestic nature in my life until I started hunting waterfowl. 

   As for now, however, I'm going to take frequent trips to the garage to visit my harvest, just to make sure that he is still there.  Between jaunts I'll be researching taxidermy shops to make my first harvest a permanent fixture. I'll never forget this day.  My first snow day off of work, the first time I broke ice, and of course, my first duck.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Adventures in Manlandia

    It's been a long day.  DU and I went hunting pretty much all day.  I'd love to really go into detail about how insane everything was and tell amazing stories of the fantastic conversations but I figure that pictures, especially moving ones, speak louder than words.  

    Early in the morning, I finally got the chance to try out the gloves I won from the Outdoor Blogger Network.  The review is coming but I was really jazzed about trying them out- so excited, in fact, that for this photo op, I'm putting my left glove on the wrong hand.  On a related note, I'm aware that my hat is awesome and that I slightly resemble the marshmallow puff woman. 


  Everything was frozen in a beautiful way.



  After we took a break for lunch, we took the boat out on this majestic 32 degree day with E4.

 He was excited to look at the sky.


 DU spent the majority of the time calling for ducks that never came.


  And I... well..

   It only took a few hours to realize that the ducks just weren't going to fly.  It was then that I was introduced to "Manlandia".   Manlandia is the territory of our john boat, ruled by King DU.  In Manlandia, men rule and women make pies. While DU is king, E4 is his right-hand man and assists him in all imperative decisions concerning the powerful nation, ie- beer to drink, where to hunt, tune of the Manlandia anthem.  I was completely unaware of the presence of such a place but, dear reader, it exists. 

  Manlandia's national anthem is a rap of sorts.  Emitted entirely from duck calls. It goes something like this...

video




  Or like this..





    But what would Manlandia be without some ingenious ideas like harpooning ducks, lassoing deer and deep discussions concerning the relative size differences between men and women's brains?  This compelling video documents the caliber of ideas that are borne in the blind and some fantastic visuals of my boots.




NOTE: As an English major, I do understand that my use of "predictable" in this conversation makes no sense.  Please understand that I was attempting to grasp at some understanding of these ridiculous ideas and couldn't process them effectively while talking at the same time.


   Yes, friends, it was a full day of interesting conversations and new revelations. It's pretty shocking that we didn't get anything, as our calls sounded like a waterfowl rave that could be heard for miles. However,  I look forward to my next sojourn into Manlandia, if, of course, my visa is still accepted.


NOTE:  Things said in Manlandia stay in Manlandia.  This is because that when men are in Manlandia, they resort back to their cavemen counterparts and say things that generally would not be said nor even thought of in mainstream society.  In retrospect, DU claims that he does not think that women have small brains.  But he does really want to attempt to institute "lasso season" for deer.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Hunting Drug Dealers with Chuck Norris Jokes

     It's the beginning of August in North Carolina.  My northern blood has yet to get fully acquainted with the sweltering, humid heat of the south. It is reaching 102 degrees and it's only 11am. I'm 25 feet above the ground, peering over my new throne atop one of our front-yard trees.  Our deer target, a sad looking thing with more holes in it than swiss cheese, stands 35 yards away in a path we meticulously mow.  We have no idea who owns the land but since our landlord gave us the go-ahead, we made our own little 3D range right in our front yard.  This redneck inventiveness has its perks, as I had never, before today, used a climber tree stand in order to practice archery. Also, watching deer from the surrounding woods come to check out the target is highly entertaining. I always imagine that when the confused deer walk up, they get excited because they assume that it's their buddy Shecky.  After a few moments of deer communication that goes nowhere, it is clear that they're wondering why he's giving them the cold shoulder. It's like Bambi Soap Operas play out in our front yard. However, the best part of our target set up is that our neighbors each have become increasingly more afraid of us, as wielding weapons with sharp, pointy ends on one's front yard tends to do.

   We're 98% sure that our neighbors deal drugs so any and all of our requests have been swiftly followed. I'm the least anti-drug person in the world, and if they were nice drug-dealing neighbors, we wouldn't have a problem.  But when they were using our front lawn as a parking lot for their illegal activities, action had to be taken.  While DU is more prone to making bodily threats, I'm more cunning about it.  If an unfamiliar car came and parked on our lawn, I would fetch my bow.  After the brief 5 minute visit, a pot-loving individual would emerge from the drug lord's cave.  I chose this time to made loud comments like "That was a quick deal" or "I wonder how long a jail term sentence is for possession these days?" and waving after releasing my perfectly placed arrow. My most fond memory happened months later when a particularly quick deal occurred. It was early afternoon when Avery and I were in the front yard.  I was attempting to get Avery to understand that the dead trainers were not her chew toys but an object to continually fetch. She was more focused on smelling every stem of grass until she saw a figure emerging from next door.  She immediately took notice.  Of course, in the loudest voice possible, I said, "You smell drugs, girl? Do ya? With all of your training, you'll make a great K9 dog."  The man in question looked in terror at my 3 month old puppy and fled.  It's no surprise that our neighbors' daily visitors have ceased coming around and it seems that the whole operation has recently moved out. But I digress.

    I'm a sweaty ball of huntress and I hate DU for making me climb this stupid tree.  But, I've made it up and now that my body is done shaking, it's time to shoot.  After 5 arrows cleanly went through the still standing deer, I look down for some help. I'm greeted with the sight of my unfortunate future if I deem this relationship worthy of a long term commitment.  DU and E4 are sitting in fold-out lawn chairs, drinking PBR and quoting Chuck Norris jokes. A red cooler is situated between them, lest one of them runs out and is forced to actually stand up in order to get more beer.  Focused completely on their phones, I feel like I'm watching humanity digress into a lower life form before my eyes. 

           "Hey guys... can I get some help?"

          "Chuck Norris can do a handstand without using his hands" says DU, barely restraining his laughter.

           "When Chuck Norris does a pushup, he isn't lifting himself up, he's pushing the earth down" replies E4 after spitting out half of his PBR.

          DU laughs hard and slowly gets out, "Chuck Norris played Russian Roulette with a loaded gun", he pauses dramatically before finishing, "and won." 

           "GUYS... can someone go get my arrows, please?"

            "Hunny, if you were Chuck Norris, the arrows would come to you." yells DU.

           "DOES IT LOOK LIKE I CAN PERFORM A ROUNDHOUSE KICK FROM UP HERE? GO GET MY DAMN ARROWS!"

             My request is met with muted giggles. Fantastic. Perfectly mature. Then I hear:

            "Baby....  why did the chicken cross the road?"

            "I'm not answering that."

            E4 answers for me, "To run away from Chuck Norris' roundhouse kicks!!"

           Once again, the two grown men squeal like 14 year old teenie boppers at a Rascal Flatts concert. They each fall from their chairs, clutching their chests as gales of laughter billow from their mouths, beers still up-right, not a drop spilled. 

         I immediately wish that I still had one arrow with which to threaten the pair but unfortunately, they are all still lodged into a very unfortunate Shecky .

            I take this perfect opportunity to gently remind DU that our relationship as of that moment is teetering on ending, "[DU'S FULL NAME] IF YOU APPRECIATE BEING IN A RELATIONSHIP AND DON'T WANT END UP WITH A STUPID DEER-LOVING GIRL WHO DOESN'T KNOW WHAT A BROADHEAD IS AND GETS MAD WHEN YOU WANT TO GO DUCK HUNTING, YOU WILL GO GET MY ARROWS BEFORE I MOVE BACK TO NEW YORK!!!!!!!"

           E4, who at the time did not know me as well as he does now and saw my outburst as a real threat, gets up to retrieve my arrows. 

           For a second, I believe that I have won.  I got a little over-confident so I mutter,

           "Chuck Norris is stupid." 

         Looking grief-stricken, both men look up at me with the same disbelief that children display after finding out that babies don't come from storks. DU stands up and with the dedication of a true manly man replies,

           " Woman.... I will have you know that Chuck Norris is a god amongst mere mortals. He graduated from college in ONE HOUR. The man eats DANGER for breakfast and once won a stare down via a walkie talkie.  He can break water in half and yet you have the gall to utter that Chuck Norris is STUPID? I will not have this kind of talk in my home.  Go back to New York, you stupid Yankee- if you can't appreciate roundhouse kicks, amazing mustaches and perfectly brimmed cowboy hats, then you don't belong in the south."

           After the closing of his little monologue, he storms into the garage and I hear the distinct sound of the fridge opening and the slight fizz of a beer being unleashed.

      E4 returns my arrows but refuses to look at me, as if I have deeply offended him.

     As fate would have it, at that moment a car rolls onto our lawn.  A  frat boy wearing loafers, pink plaid pants and a white polo strolls out of his BMW.  He saunters down the slight hill and into the pot palace.

     I quickly realize that God has divinely intervened in order to salvage my good standing with Chuck Norris. I had time to clear my name of any wrong-doing so I had to act quickly. I realize that frat boy's appallingly expensive car is right near the tree I'm sitting in.  The leaves behind me are lush and are the perfect natural camouflage in order to conceal my sneaky form.  E4 walks away, obviously going to console DU for his lack of competency in choosing a girlfriend.

   The moment E4 disappears, frat boy reappears.  Turning the entire experience into an actual hunt, I wait the appropriate amount of time until my target is in perfect position.  I then shot my bow at the target.  The target makes a loud THWAK and the frat boy jumps.  He looks around for the source of the attack but can't find one.  I then bellow, as loud as possible,

   "CHUCK NORRIS PROTECTS THIS HOUSE WITH ROUNDHOUSE KICKS.  PARK ON OUR LAWN TO BUY DRUGS ONE MORE TIME AND YOU'LL EXPERIENCE WHAT HAPPENED TO EVERY OTHER EXTINCT SPECIES ON EARTH."

   Again, not able to find the source of the voice, frat boy throws his car open and almost hits a tree on his way out of our cul-de-sack.

  I do a celebratory dance and skillfully climb down the tree.

  At the base, DU is waiting with a cold PBR.  As a peace offering, he hands it to me and says that I did Chuck Norris proud.  And maybe... just maybe I'll make it in the south after all.


   

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

I'm on Twitter!!!!

....and I'm not entirely sure why. 

This may prove to be one of the shorter entries in my blogging career but generally brevity is the best way to go. 

So yeah.

I'm on Twitter! 

That was a lesson in unnecessary redundancy, which is redundant in itself.

Anyways.

I have no idea how it works or why exactly one needs to limit his or her thoughts to 140 characters but hey, if it can get me more readers, what the heck!

By clicking on this picture of me trying to steal a broken-down tractor, you will be directed to my shiny new Twitter page.  


I'm going to fill it with even more random ramblings than I feature in my blog so it may be worthwhile for you to follow!

Happy Hunting!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Resilience Through Adversity

  Friday night marked the end of 2010, along with it came the official end of deer season here in North Carolina.  This was a tough season, as I hunted more this year than ever before  Although the land we hunted was overpopulated with camera-loving deer, only DU's 6-point ended up in the freezer.  My fateful thanksgiving hunt yielded a frustrating blood trail that went nowhere.  Hence, my poor Hoyt went a full season with no harvest to show for it. I succumbed to frustration and barely hunted in December, opting for duck hunting, as a nice heater comes along with it. 

    While deer hunting in North Carolina isn't known for the target's overall size or big racks, I'm still disappointed that after over 3 months of hunting, I harvested nothing to feast off of. But as I sit, leafing through the pictures from hunting season 2010, it's ironic that such an unfruitful season has been so fulfilling. Many believe that time is wasted when one sits for days on end, seeing nothing and not really doing anything at all.  However, hunters are a special breed. When faced with a seemingly endless stretch of deer-free hunts, the non-hunters of the world generally give up, take down the stand and never return. On the contrary, hunters see the world through camo-colored glasses. We don't see empty landscapes, we see fields full of opportunity. Crack-addled squirrels turn from annoying rodents to amusing entertainment on slow days when their antics make even the most disheartened hunter crack a grin. Waking up far too early on freezing mornings mean big opportunities, not a tiresome chore. The entirety of hunting is one big, confusing venture that I'm happy that I've committed so much time to. And even though this season turned my tags unfilled, I will return, ready for more next year.    

    My innate sense of resilience through adversity was cultivated early.  When I was growing up, I fell in love with hockey. (Or as I pronounce it, Haaackey)   I started playing shortly after my brother dubbed himself a goalie.  Of course, being the little sister, I wanted to be everything my brother was.  I immediately wanted to be a goalie as well.  However, given that I'm practically a midget and one goalie in the family is stressful enough, my ingenious parents deemed that I'd play up.  (Up= not in goal. ie- left wing, right wing, center, defense, bench warmer.)  Their decision, while I originally objected, could not have been better for me.  My short stature is perfectly suited for the quick, lithe movements of a center or wing.  Best of all, I was fast.  Really fast.  Well spent power skating lessons taught me to get low, straighten out my back, and bend my knees to maximize my stride. 

   Playing this male-dominated sport was a double-edged sword, however.  Everyone who didn't know me and subscribed to Stereotypes Daily  would ultimately come to the conclusion that I was most definitely a lesbian. I was relentlessly teased.  On the other hand, I had killer legs, I was in the best shape of my life and could out-skate a large majority of the guys I knew.  So, hockey, like hunting, has its juxtaposition of the good and bad. I survived high school by practically living in the rink with my hockey family. The sting of my parent's divorce was dulled each time I stepped out onto the frozen water. College was made instantaneously easier with the immediate 20 friends I gained after making the team. The bonds I formed on the ice have outlived any created outside of the rink walls. These were my real friends, my sisters who would do anything for one another. Unfortunately, just like any good love affair, my career ended once college came to a swift conclusion  Life after university started real life. Real life didn't readily supply copious amounts of time with whitch one can skate whenever the mood strikes. So, I skated when I could and played infrequently on a team before I moved to the glorious south. 

   Once I moved here, I abandoned hockey all together. I went to one open skate but it felt wrong.  My best friend, Heals, didn't have her equipment with her so I, for the first time ever, went solo.  The entire skate wasn't fun and I quit early.  Months passed, consumed with hunting, puppies, and DU.  I felt there was something missing but couldn't put my finger on it. I hunted more, hit the gym more, hung out with DU more and still, something felt lost.

    As a Christmas present, DU flabbergasted me by securing prime seats for a New Jersey Devils game on New Year's Day.  I felt guilty that besides the occasional glance at a game here and there, I had not followed my team nor even thought about playing hockey.  We went to the game and I had found what I felt to be lost; my love of the single thing that helped me during the most difficult parts of my life.  Sitting behind the bench, I felt a part of the game as the monstrous players easily flew over the benches after the commands of the coaches sent the troops to battle.  Just seeing the first couple of skaters carve their way through the freshly zambonied ice gave me chills. During the course of the game, I shouted line changes, reminded defenders to play the box during penalty kills, reprimanded them for passing in the high slot, and urged the offense to crash the net.  As the seconds ticked town and my team faced yet another disappointing loss, I told myself that a good ol' skate and shoot was much needed.

   The next night, Heals, finally reunited with her equipment, and I set off for the rink.  You may not know this, but rinks hold a certain olfactory pleasure for those of us who have spent our child/adulthood within the confines of the buildings.  I always come home when I smell a rink.

   A locker room full of laughter and good-natured jabs really brought me back as I tried to remember how to put my equipment on.  The process went smoothly until I realized that I had all of my upper equipment on but no skates. Properly suited up, I was the first one on the frozen pond.

   Hearing my edges swiftly cut through the ice sounded like a shotgun going off.  My adrenaline started to pound the moment that I extended my legs for the first few strides.  I got low, took off, and made it around the rink in just a few seconds. I felt good.  My heart felt full again when I picked up a puck and sent it flying, smashing into the glass above the net.

   An hour later, my entire body was sweating and I was seriously exhausted. I slept heartily and woke with a strong urge to call in to work for a personal-I-can't-get-out-of-bed-day. My body used muscles that lay dormant in conjunction with one another for the first time in an eternity. As I sit here typing, my leg, ab, arm and back muscles still tingle with the reconstruction of their damaged parts.  But, I'm calm. I breathe easy and the work that generally seems like a truck load of unpleasantness seems like nothing. 

  After college and the whirlwind of 12 years dedicated to a sport that gave so much back to me, I didn't think that hockey would still play a significant role in my life. I've heard people say I am the person I am today because of the years I dedicated to various teams and the passion I held for the game. I never believed that statement to be true until I took what I learned on the ice and applied it to the stand. 

   When I lost a game, got hurt, ended a season, scored a goal or lost a championship, I always got back up to battle once more. I never backed down, refused to continue or quit.  Likewise, I will look to hunt strong again next season.  I will get up early, shoot my bow daily, and no matter what, keep trying.