Archive for the ‘Outdoors’ Category
Monday, November 4th, 2013
I love to write. However, as my wife, Meredith, so adeptly penned in her blog post, I was overcome with emotion at Izzy’s passing. I knew I could never write a blog that would do justice to how much Izzy meant to our family. I didn’t know where, or how, to begin. Every time I thought about her potential in the field, I’d tear up. Every time I’d think about her positive energy and unconditional love in our home, I’d sob uncontrollably. As bird hunters, we spend a couple dozen days a year in the field with our dogs if we’re lucky, while the remaining 300 plus are spent in kitchens, back yards and walks around the block. Izzy was the “energy” in our family that’s now gone. While every dog owner knows he/she will outlive their canine best friend, we’re never really prepared for the day that inevitability comes home to roost, especially at 1 year, 7 months and 8 days.
In the days since that fateful Saturday, October 19th, I’ve received more than 200 emails, voicemails, blog comments, Facebook messages and Tweets with words of support and wisdom. To put it bluntly, I’ve been overwhelmed by the expressions of sympathy and friendship the Pheasants Forever, Quail Forever and bird dog communities have shown me.
As you can imagine, I’ve been brought to tears dozens of times in the days since Izzy was taken too early from us. What I wasn’t expecting was that my little 1 ½ year old pup would inspire people to reach out to me to articulate their support for my personal well-being, Pheasants Forever’s habitat mission and my role within that mission. People I’ve never met before or interacted with have grabbed the phone and keyboard to tell me what my words on the screen or over the radio waves have meant to them over the last several years.
When Meredith wrote her blog post, she did leave out one massive component of our terrible weekend when Izzy died. She did so purposefully as a sign of respect to Izzy’s importance in our lives. However, I feel it’s now appropriate to also bring to light just how close we came to losing both our dogs within 24 hours. The night following Izzy’s passing, Trammell woke us up at 5AM. She was dry-heaving and struggling to breathe. This lasted for about thirty minutes before I was overcome by a sense of “I’m not going to lose both my dogs to tragedies in one day,” so we raced to a 24-hour pet hospital. They immediately took X-rays and found two nails, a staple and a massive wad of grass in Tram’s stomach. As you can imagine, I was shocked. While definitely food-motivated, Trammell has never been a chewer. I couldn’t comprehend how nails were now threatening her life. The vet did an immediate endoscopy successfully removing one nail, but was unable to capture the second. Emergency stomach surgery to remove the second nail surrounded by a massive ball of grass commenced and was thankfully successful. I’ll never know how Tram picked up those nails; however, I am fearful they were intended for a wolf in a bait pile left in the same woods Izzy passed. I hope my thoughts are purely those of an angry and grieving dog owner. No animal – wolf, dog or other – deserves such a fate. Thankfully, Tram’s stitches are now out and she is making a full recovery.
Borrowing a Dog
Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been offered the services of a dozen people’s bird dogs. Most of these offers have come from folks I’ve never met before. I can’t express the measure of generosity I’ve felt from these offers. Let’s face it; I haven’t had much luck with bird dogs recently. For a stranger to trust me with their pup speaks volumes to their humanity.
While I’m eternally grateful to these offers, I’ve always had a rule about “borrowing” another’s bird dog (even before the tragedies of the last two weeks). Under no circumstances will I ever put myself in a situation of being responsible for another’s pup. Likewise, I’ll never lend out my own dogs. My opinion is it’s simply too much of a risk for both parties to be in a situation of having to answer for unexpected circumstances. Nevertheless, I do want to acknowledge the overwhelming gratefulness I’ve felt each time one of these offers arrived in my Inbox. THANK YOU for trusting me.
Rooster Road Trip
The afternoon after Trammell’s surgery, I emailed Andrew and Anthony from my home after waking up from a sleep with Tram in bed. In that email, I told the guys there was no way I’d be going out on this year’s tour without either of my dogs. “Agony” is the word I used to categorize the feeling I’d have wandering five states “alone” to think about my departed Izzy and mending Tram. As you’d expect from fellow dog guys, they understood completely and quickly enlisted Rehan Nana, Pheasants Forever’s Public Relations Specialist, to fill my slot. I think you’d all agree, the trio did a marvelous job on this year’s Rooster Road in my absence.
Cremation and Rebirth
There were tears in our kitchen again last week. Heavy tears. Meredith brought Izzy’s cremated remains home from the vet in a tin urn. As I write, that tin rests on our mantle next to Izzy’s puppy blanket . . . and I miss her a lot . . . and the tears stream down my face again. 1 year, 7 months and 8 days of joy. Thank You, Izzy, for loving me and being my bird dog. I’ll miss you FOREVER and hope to someday join you for another hunt. Just you, me and Tram. I love you . . .
Life and death, it is the incongruity of our existence. Izzy’s passing has put the St.Pierre name on the list for a Top Gun litter again this spring. God willing, Izzy’s half-sister will join the St.Pierre family late next spring and you will have to endure another round of articles about dog names, potty training and first birds. For Meredith and me, there was never any question we’d have to add another pup to our family as soon as possible. The void Izzy’s departure has left in our home with her “big” personality is just too large to not try filling immediately. I understand why some folks would take more time to grieve before getting another puppy. Simply put, the opposite was needed for our recovery.
If you’d like to read a bit more about my beloved Izzy, here are a few links:
- Meredith’s memorial, “Our Busy Izzy Rests”
- St.Paul Pioneer Press’ David Orrick article, “Hunter’s weekend a reminder of hazards facing hunting dogs”
- Minneapolis Star Tribune’s Doug Smith article, “Freak accident claims young hunting dog”
- FAN Outdoors Podcast on 10/26 as I tell Izzy’s story on air
Finally, I just wanted to say “THANK YOU” for all the notes, love and support. THANK YOU for all the messages and photos about your pups pointing in Izzy’s honor. Most importantly, THANK YOU for giving your pup a scratch under the chin in Izzy’s memory. That was always her favorite spot and I know she’s wagging her tail every time another pup gets a little love there. THANK YOU. I am humbled and thankful for your friendship. Bob
The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever’s Vice President of Marketing. Follow Bob on Twitter @BobStPierre and listen to Bob and Billy Hildebrand every Saturday morning on FAN Outdoors radio on KFAN FM100.3.
Thursday, September 19th, 2013
On December 22, 1982 – my 9th birthday – my parents bucked a trend that would ultimately shape who I’d become as an individual. The trend they bucked? My dad gave up his good paying city job outside of Detroit to move our family into the rural woods of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. I became a “Yooper.” From that point forward, my life included ruffed grouse, a Brittany named “Tinker,” musky fishing, canoeing, and camping. Growing up in the country was the greatest birthday gift I would ever receive.
Unfortunately, the opposite decision – to move to the city – is the norm for most families in today’s society. In my opinion, this is the singular catalyst that has set a domino of other trends in motion; all leading to one disturbing truth that’s got me and everyone else passionate about hunting and fishing shaking in our Irish Setters – kids today don’t spend time in the outdoors like we used to when we were youngsters.
Now, don’t take this as a condemnation of city life. I fully recognize the cultural, economic, and societal advantages associated with living in an urban area. However, the city life has made getting outdoors complicated. My generation’s dangerous Red Ryder BB gun is no match for the dangers lurking in America’s alley today. Our children’s safety and the fear associated with their protection have made organized, sanctioned activities, team sports, dance lessons, and video games a safe alternative to 24-hour surveillance. Again, don’t take this as a condemnation of baseball, hockey, football, or dance. I cherish my own Little League memories.
The point is today’s youngsters don’t get home from school, grab a fishing pole and head to the river like I did just two decades ago. “Big deal,” you may retort. You may even point a finger and call me a “latch key kid;” yes that dreaded stereotype from the ’80s. Well, it’s those “latch key” trips to the river or through the grouse woods where I learned about nature, the land, myself, and life. I found snapping turtles laying eggs, uncovered salamanders, caught smallmouth bass on orange jointed Rapalas, and bagged flushing ruffed grouse with my Ithaca Model 37. It was a utopian environment for any kid to grow up within. A utopia that’s difficult to find out the door of most youngsters’ homes today.
I don’t have the answer to reversing this trend and I’m not sure that anyone does. But, I do believe the trend does need to be reversed. I’ll leave you with one final thought – “If those of us who care about wildlife and our hunting traditions don’t take the initiative to pass down our passion for the outdoors, then who will?”
Friday, July 19th, 2013
Iowa’s Plymouth County Pheasants Forever chapter is the recipient of the Iowa Governor’s Environmental Excellence award for an upland habitat project that’s helping create cleaner water for the city of Remsen. The project has the potential to revolutionize the way rural towns and cities across the country can effectively clean up and maintain a safe water supply while simultaneously creating wildlife habitat.
In 2007, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) named Remsen as a city with high nitrate contaminant levels – nearly three times the maximum – in its well water. In fact, the water from eight wells on 90 acres of farmland needed to be blended before being safe to drink. The city was faced with three choices: purchase drinking water from an outside source, build a multi-million dollar filtration plant or take a risk and try planting native prairie on the well land to naturally treat the water.
Remsen received grants and low-interest loans to purchase the land, and the Plymouth County Pheasants Forever chapter handled the planting of native grasses, providing $15,000 in seed, labor and equipment for this innovative way to treat the city of Remsen’s drinking water.
Since the planting in 2009, the community has seen a decrease in the nitrate levels and the water is now safe to drink without being blended. Nitrate levels have fallen from 27 parts per billion to around 5 or 6 parts per billion (10 parts per billion is the maximum contaminant level). The site is also being used as an outdoor classroom and the community can use the mowed walking paths to view the grasses, wildflowers, pheasants, songbirds and other prairie animals.
In addition to being part of an innovative, cost-effective project that benefits every citizen in Remsen, the Plymouth County Pheasants Forever chapter was also able to accomplish two of its goals. “One is to plant habitat, and the second is to educate our youth about conservation. This fell into both of those categories,” said Mike Slota, a past youth chairperson and active member of the chapter.
No other community in the state or nation has used this solution to treat groundwater and the land will now remain a native prairie.
The D.C. Minute is written by Dave Nomsen, Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever’s Vice President of Governmental Relations.
Wednesday, June 19th, 2013
As you may recall, last year’s attempt to create a new Farm Bill died in the U.S. House, having never reached the full House floor. Today, the Farm Bill will be debated on the House floor; however, we need your help voicing support for two important conservation measures currently under debate. To that end, we are asking all our supporters to contact their U.S. Representative today with the following message: Vote YES on final passage of a five-year Farm Bill now.
Our ability to chase roosters behind good bird dogs under autumn skies depends on your emails and phone calls TODAY. Your Representative’s contact info is available at http://www.house.gov/htbin/findrep or leave phone messages by calling the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121.
Your voice will make a difference. Current and future generations of sportsmen and sportswomen are depending on you. Thanks for your help.
Note: Last month, Pheasants Forever issued an Action Alert requesting our members contact U.S. Senators in support of passing the 2013 Farm Bill. By all measures, that Action Alert generated more response than any other in our three decade history. Thank you for taking action. Your contacts helped to persuade the Senate to pass their Farm Bill by a vote of 66 to 27.
The D.C. Minute is written by Dave Nomsen, Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever’s Vice President of Government Relations.
Wednesday, May 29th, 2013
More and more women’s hunting and shooting events are popping up on the radar. Around the country, Becoming an Outdoors Woman and NRA Women on Target programs introduce women to a variety of outdoor sports and skills. State sponsored programs and special gatherings hosted by lodges, hunt clubs and shooting ranges offer instruction and opportunities for women interested in traditional sports.
These women-only events help the newbies learn without the pressure some feel trying activities outside their gender comfort zone. Women have a different center of gravity and musculature, which means they may need to be taught how to mount a gun differently than the way a man would be taught. Many women are intimidated by handling guns – something not part of the feminine playbook – and do better in a lighter, more supportive environment. Many women respond more positively to the social aspect of learning with other women.
There are lots of reasons why women-only instruction is successful, although assuming this is the best way for all women to learn is wrong. Just as some boys can be taught by their fathers while others need outside mentors, the dynamics of learning are as individual for women as they are for men.
More important, stepping beyond the learning phase, it is dangerous to over-emphasize gender specificity. I’m talking about things like marketing pink hunting gear, girlie hunting retreats that need spa treatments to lure participants, feminine camo patterns and silly accommodations for the “fairer sex” that insult our strength and ability to adapt.
Simply put, a pink shotgun won’t fix a poor mount and I can pee behind a tree as easily as the next guy.
If we continue to create the image of women hunters as essentially different from men hunters, the patriarchal – male dominated – view of traditional sports will be perpetuated.
We need to show girls and women that once they’re out there hunting, shooting or handling their own bird dogs, they are no different than male hunters, shooters or dog handlers. Hunters are hunters, and gender has nothing to do with the ability to shoot well, outsmart a rooster, read a dog’s body language or trudge through thick cover in the pouring rain.
The more women are separated out of the overall view of who and what a hunter is – in other words, implying a “woman hunter” is different from a “hunter” – the more we reinforce the notion of hunting as fundamentally a man’s pursuit. I don’t believe getting more women into hunting is the single key to the future of hunting, but it is important. We need to reinvent the image of the hunter to include anyone with the desire to hunt and shoot.
I love hunting with my female friends, and I love hunting with my husband and our male friends. Like most hunters, I hunt with partners whose hunting style complements mine, whatever sex they may be. We’re into the dog work and the laughs, the challenge, the outdoors and the adventure. Gender is irrelevant.
Nancy Anisfield, an outdoor photographer/writer, sporting dog enthusiast and bird hunter, serves on Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever’s National Board of Directors. She resides in Hinesburg, Vermont.
Monday, April 15th, 2013
Last year we were happy to report hunter numbers in the United States increased from 12.5 million to 13.7 million. Now a new survey shows 79 percent of the American public approve of hunting, the highest level of support in 17 years.
Compiled by Responsive Management, an independent research firm, the nationwide scientific survey showed the public’s approval of hunting rose five points in the past year, up from 74 percent in 2011. More than half (52 percent) of those surveyed strongly approved of hunting. At the other end of the spectrum, 12 percent of Americans disapprove of hunting. Another 8 percent neither approve nor disapprove (total does not equal 100 percent due to rounding). Support for hunting has remained generally consistent during this time–73 percent in 1995; 75 percent in 2003; 78 percent in 2006; 74 percent in 2011; and a peak of 79 percent in 2013.
Public approval of hunting is critical to the long-term success of conservation efforts in the United States. Hunters remain the largest active block of conservationists in America, their passion to create and restore habitat fueled by their favorite way to enjoy the outdoors. This has been true for more than a century, and remains true today. At Pheasants Forever, which was started 30 years ago by a concerned group of pheasant hunters, 9 out of 10 current members are hunters. Responsive Management also points out shooting participation increased 18 percent since 2009 – shooting sports being another pathway to hunting and conservation.
It’s been a struggle to conserve upland habitat in recent years, but the battle will never cease, and we won’t be able to fight in the future without an engaged constituency. All recent data indicates we’re on the right track.
Friday, March 15th, 2013
As I compose this blog, there is three feet of ice on Minnesota’s lakes and the temps have barely poked above freezing since December . . . keep in mind, it’s now mid-March. “Cabin Fever,” the winter-induced need for sunshine on our skin, has gripped Midwesterners stronger than any time in recent memory.
There are lots of ways to medicate Cabin Fever. Cold beer has limited effectiveness and definite side effects. A spring break to a tropical destination is always a great short-term reprieve, but the return home to winter’s stranglehold can be more devastating than anything. My Cabin Fever antidote of choice consists of fishing daydreams and planning my summer’s destination calendar. Top on this year’s list of destinations is Driftwood Lodge & Resort on Lake Kabetogama in Northern Minnesota.
It may seem odd to be writing about fishing on a blog devoted to wildlife habitat, bird hunting, and bird dogs; but allow me to make the connection. You see, over the last few years, Pheasants Forever has been working with fishing and hunting lodges, guide services and outfitters all over the world to provide our chapters with discounted trips. In turn Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever chapters raffle or auction these trips off at banquets around the country in the hopes of raising a few more habitat bucks than they invested in the trip. Since this trip program was created, no destination has helped raise more dollars for pheasant and quail habitat than Driftwood Lodge & Resort. That’s quite a remarkable testimonial to the generosity of Driftwood managers Kent & Dawn.
I first stayed at Driftwood Lodge in September 2011 and found a quintessential Minnesota “surf & turf” heaven of walleye fishing in the morning and ruffed grouse hunting all afternoon. Lake Kabetogama is absolutely filled with “ol’ marble eyes,” as well as northern pike, smallmouth bass, jumbo perch and slab crappies. And, just a few miles away in virtually every direction are thousands of acres of public state forest lands open to ruffed grouse hunters. The good folks at Driftwood can also arrange guiding for black bear hunts during the autumn as well. Needless to say, Driftwood has achieved its lofty stature in our trip program for its wide array of outdoor activities and exceptional customer service.
I’ve already remedied my Cabin Fever by booking a family vacation to Driftwood Lodge & Resort this August. If you’d like to book a Driftwood vacation of your own, please attend one of the following Pheasants Forever or Quail Forever chapter banquets listed below. These chapters have already purchased a Driftwood trip and will have it available for raffle or auction.Otherwise, please contact Kent or Dawn at 218.875.3841 to book your own Driftwood Lodge stay. And, please let them know you appreciate their support of Pheasants Forever’s wildlife habitat conservation efforts:
3/16/2013 – Woodford County (Illinois) PF
3/16/2013 – Illinois Pioneer PF
3/23/2013 – Southern Prairie (Iowa) PF
3/23/2013 – Tri-County (Minnesota) PF
3/25/2013 – Wright County (Minnesota) PF
3/25/2013 – Hamilton County (Iowa) PF
3/29/2013 – Franklin County (Iowa) PF
4/6/2013 – Little Bluestem (Illinois) QF
4/6/2013 – Broad River (North Carolina) QF
4/6/2013 – Three Rivers (Iowa) PF
4/26/2013 – St. Louis/Carlton (Minnesota) PF
4/27/2013 – Wyota (Missouri) QF
6/1/2013 – Kingsley-Pierson (Iowa) PF
Monday, March 11th, 2013
Pheasants Forever has recognized the Carroll County Pheasants Forever chapter with the No Child Left Indoors® national award for that group’s youth focus in 2012. The distinction is presented to one PF chapter annually for efforts in introducing youth to the outdoors and bringing along the next generation of hunters and conservationists.
The Carroll County PF chapter has made a long-term commitment to getting youth and their families outdoors. It has consistently been in among the top 10 chapters, including number one for several years, in expenditures on youth conservation education.
In 2008, the chapter launched the Carroll County Longspurs, a youth group centered around shooting sports with goals that focus on developing self-confidence, initiative, commitment, responsibility, leadership and teamwork. This group of young conservation leaders works closely with the chapter on its annual banquet, fundraising events and habitat projects. The chapter awards conservation scholarships annually, and is supporting a new member to Pheasants Forever’s National Youth Leadership Council, Parker Bates.
Since its formation, the Carroll County PF chapter has underwritten and hosted the county’s hunter safety courses. Along those youth shooting lines, the chapter hosts weekly skeet shooting for six consecutive weeks open to all FFA members from the three high schools in the county. Perhaps what says most about the chapter’s devotion to youth is that it’s the only PF chapter that claims a youth mission statement: Perhaps our most important conservation project is not the native grasses and food plots we put into the ground. It is our youth who follow behind us. If they do not learn about the outdoors and how to nurture, love and enjoy it all our fields will go fallow.
Pheasants Forever’s No Child Left Indoors® initiative is carried out through youth habitat projects, youth and family community events and youth outdoor education programs hosted by chapters and volunteers across the country.
Tuesday, February 19th, 2013
Spending time with Hank Shaw was one of my personal highlights from last weekend’s Pheasant Fest & Quail Classic in Minneapolis. Hank is a genuinely good guy who cares deeply about turning wild game into phenomenally tasting food, and he’s motivated by converting wannabe chefs like me into masters of the frying pan within our own homes.
During a Friday afternoon television interview, Hank prepared Pheasant Wiener Schnitzel for the viewing audience. Since I’d just completed an interview immediately preceding his cooking demo, I was in a prime spot to taste-test his dish. Not only was it awesome, it was one of those bites that brings one back to a moment. For me, the bite brought me to Iowa’s Amana Colonies where I visited on a trip to see me brother during his PhD years at the University of Iowa. The restaurants of the Amana Colonies focus on hearty family-style dishes with lots of German influence.
Last night, I set out to accomplish Hank’s recipe on my own. What I can tell you is this dish is absolutely as easy as Hank promises. It’s also hearty and tasty to boot. I would reiterate Hank’s own message to make sure to squeeze a little lemon on the finished dish. The lemon’s sweet acidity is a must for unlocking the full flavor of Pheasant Wiener Schnitzel.
Visit Hank Shaw’s website for his full Pheasant Wiener Schnitzel recipe.
Monday, January 14th, 2013
This isn’t about pheasant or quail. It’s not even really about deer although it starts with a deer hunt.
This past fall, Rachel Rackliff, 12 years old, shot a nice 132 lb. spikehorn just minutes before legal shooting ended. She took the deer as it moved slowly between the edge of our cornfield and a swamp that’s popular with our resident moose, resident bear, and a few dozen beavers. Rachel and her father, Henry, had hiked their way down to the field in the dark both Saturday and Sunday mornings of youth weekend, back in later each afternoon. On Sunday, in between hunts, Rachel had a soccer game.
When they called to ask if we could bring the ATV to help haul the deer out, it was hard to tell who was more excited, Henry or Rachel. Then again, they’d done this before. Rachel got a doe last year down by the same swamp.
Lit by the floodlight over our garage, Henry swung the deer into the back of his truck, and we told Rachel to hop on the tailgate and lift its head. That’s when I saw an image that said it all. She tilted the heavy head into her lap and grasped the narrow horns in her hands, her glittery orange Halloween nail polish sparkling in celebration.
Many of us agree that the future of hunting lies in the next generation and in getting more women and girls involved. Too often I hear that kids don’t have time, that peer pressure and school sports make it too hard to spend time in the woods or fields. I don’t buy it. With the right role models and encouragement – be that from parents, older siblings, friends, teachers or outdoor mentors – one or two trips afield will ignite the passion that fuels an outdoorsman or outdoorswoman for life. Girls can wear flashy nail polish and still take down a deer with the best of hunters.
By the way, last year, when Rachel saw I had Photoshopped out some blood dripping from the doe’s mouth, she laughed. I explained that it seems more respectful when sharing photos of the game we kill to present it in a dignified way, like when we smooth the feathers on a downed pheasant’s back.
“But that’s the way it really was,” she replied. She was right. My editing sanitized the truth, in some ways like meat wrapped cleanly in supermarket plastic. Hunters accept the reality of killing and eating what we kill, the connection to our food source and what it means. Thanks, Rachel.
Nancy Anisfield, an outdoor photographer/writer, sporting dog enthusiast and bird hunter, serves on Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever’s National Board of Directors. She resides in Hinesburg, Vermont.