Archive for February, 2008

My Little Man’s Birthday

Sunday, February 17th, 2008

JacobIt is hard for me to believe that my little man will be 5 years old tomorrow. At about 3 pm, he will turn a year older. It is amazing how fast he is growing up. He is smart as can be, and a truly amazing child. I know, that’s what all parents say about their own kids, so I guess I am to be forgiven for a little bragging.

Jacob is looking forward to his birthday, as we are having a small party for him. He has been receiving gifts and cards from friends and family. We are quite spread out, so he has been getting mail from all over the east coast.

His mother and I have gotten him one of the new Matthews Genesis Mini Bows. These things are great for small shooters. It makes it so that they can get started shooting earlier, and we all know that if they are hooked earlier, they will be hooked. I am planning to do a full review of this bow later on, as I think it is a great product.

I guess this is the last year I will be able to post about his gift before his birthday.  He is already reading so well, that he would figure it out, if he actually visited my blog instead of playing on PlayHouse Disney!

More on WV’s Plan for Hunting Classes in Schools

Saturday, February 16th, 2008

A few days ago, I wrote a post about a new class that some of our State Legislators are trying to get into the public school system, and why I thought it could be a good idea. Today, there is more news on that front. The governor, Joe Manchin, has now entered the arena, with his opinion. The Register-Herald out of Beckley, WV, published a piece today concerning the issue.

Governor Manchin’s take on the issue is that it should not be forced on the local school boards. It should be a decision made at the local level, whether it will be offered or not. I can live with that, and in fact think that is probably best. But, the state needs to pass the law making it legal, or acceptable for the local schools to include the curriculum. Until it is solidified at the state level, the local school boards have very little ability to implement such a program. The curriculum should be approved, and it should be optional for the school board to implement it, or for students to participate. I have little doubt that most (almost all) of the school systems in this state would approve the program. I may be surprised, if the wrong people are on the board. If that is the case, there will be uproar among parents who want the program instituted.

All that being said, I do wonder if the governor would take the exact same stand on other curricula that go far beyond “reading, writing and arithmetic”? I venture to say that the state has legislated other programs (such as morality based programs included in health programs, such as sex education) without thinking that it should come down to “a local call and that’s the culture of the local community”. If that were the case, I know that there are programs that would be rejected!

I do see a couple of good things in this article, providing us with more information. One is a quote that indicates the popularity of this legislation, even from other states:

Bailey has been besieged with inquiries from lawmakers in other states interested in proposing similar legislation there.

That is good news for those of you in other states, who would like to see similar laws enacted. It means that there is a hope that if successful here in WV, you will have precedent to enact similar legislation.

Secondly, I was asked if this class would certify hunters for their safety card. This article makes it clear that it will indeed provide those who successfully finish the program the required hunter’s safety card to be able to purchase a hunting license:

Completing the 10-hour course would provide graduates with a certificate to satisfy training requirements now in place before teens can buy a state hunting license.

I was glad to find this information today, as it gives me more hope that the program may get off its feet.

A Little Help from the Texans?

Thursday, February 14th, 2008

Deer Gate I stumbled across an article today that has to do with a practice in Texas, and I am hoping that some of you guys that live down that way might be able to help me out in understanding the practice, and the impact of the practice. The article about it can be found at the Statesman.com. It appears that in Texas it is legal to install gates such as the one to the right in high fences, which surround ranches. The gate is designed to allow deer to push their way through, often to bait piles just past the gate. Now, I am not one to criticize the hunting methods of others. In fact, I have been formulating a post in my mind about the damage that can be done by the constant backbiting between sportsmen. However, this seems like a practice that could (and would) cause for some major bad blood between landowners. If I had a ranch where I wanted to do some quality deer management, and found that my neighbor was baiting all the deer to his property, trapping them there, and not allowing any to return, I would be pretty upset! So, I guess my question to those who visit us here at Jake’s Outdoors from Texas is: is this developing into any kind of problem down there? Does this tend to give ranchers, or even more specifically hunters a bad name? Of course, I appreciate and solicit comments from anyone who has an opinion on the subject!

Also mentiond in the article is the practice of having mechanical gates, which are controlled by the land owner. This seems even more disturbing, as the landowner can be very selective about which deer come into his or her property. They can watch the gate, and only raise it when there are deer outside that they want on their ranch. Again, that may work wonders for the development of a herd on the inside of the high fence, but how does that impact the other landowners on the outside of the ranch? Again, I would be furious if that were happening beside me. It may lead to the conclusion that the only way to compete is to do the same thing! I wonder how much this leads to cut fences in that part of the country?

It seems to me that this practice is not so much about hunting, or hunting practices. It is about what is ethical. We could probably debate all day the idea of hunting behind high fences. That is not even what this post is about. This is about the practice of purposefully enticing deer into your ranch, and then impeding their ability to return to where they just came from. I am sure that the discussion could overflow into hunting, if this is being done during the season. Imagine the ease with which a deer fresh through the gate could be killed. If they spooked, and tried to flee, they would go right back to the gate, where they would be trapped, and panicked. There are certainly many problems that may arise with the practice.

Don’t let me indicate that Texas is the only place that these practices may be used. It is simply the example that I found while reading articles this morning. So, don’t think I am attacking Texas in some way–that is not the case. Let me know what you think of these practices!

Native Brook Trout

Wednesday, February 13th, 2008

A couple of days ago, I wrote a post about trout fishing here in West Virginia. At that time, I wanted to show you all a picture of a native brook trout, but unfortunately, I did not have one. I was reading over at the Tennessee Valley Angler, and lo and behold Nathan had a great picture of colorful native, this one from Tennessee. He was gracious enough to let me share the picture with you here. Thanks Nathan!

Native Brook TroutSo, here is a picture of the native brook trout. You can click on the picture to see a larger version. Notice how colorful they are, even in comparison to the brookies that have been stocked here in the state. These little fish, as least in West Virginia, don’t grow very big. They typically inhabit the feeder streams from the high country. Many of these streams are difficult to access, which means very light fishing pressure. The fish are very spooky, so you have to approach the streams very cautiously. However, if you can float something colorful over them, they are ravenous feeders. They are a ton of fun to catch, and often if you find them, they will be plentiful.

As I mentioned in my last post on this subject, the streams found by anglers are highly guarded secrets. A lot of the fun in fishing for these fish is trying to find the streams yourself. Many of these streams are unnamed, and nothing but a little blue streak on a map. I have not gotten out to fish for these little beauties as much as I would like to, but the few times I have gotten into them have been a blast.

I noticed the last time I was down in the Smokies that Tennessee, or at least the Smokie Mountain National Park has been working to try and protect the brook trout streams, and bring back a good fishery. I suspect, however, that the high mountain streams of Tennessee are much like those found here in WV, filled with fish, but unknown to the general public.

Much work is being done by anglers and Trout Unlimited to support the brook trout, as the sole native species of trout in the eastern US. A program called Back the Brookie has spread throughout the country by way of individual TU chapters, helping to protect these great fish. You can read more about it by clicking the link, and poking around a bit.

Again, thanks to Nathan and the Tennessee Valley Angler for the great picture!

Tuesday’s Tracking: Hunt Smart, Think Safety

Tuesday, February 12th, 2008

Deer TracksToday’s Tracking goes out to Kristine over at the Hunt Smart, Think Safety blog. But, this is a double, as Kristine is also one of the writers over at the Outdoor Bloggers Summit (along with some others that will surely pop up in this feature in the future!)

Kristine keeps a great blog, although she says she is very busy and unable to post as much as usual. She focuses a lot of time on safety issues that fits well with the product that her blog is associated with, the GunTriever. It appears that the GunTriever is like a safety belt for your gun. It can be used to raise your gun into your tree stand, but also tethers the gun to your stand in case you accidentally drop it from the stand.

Kristine is also kicking the idea around of selling branded materials to other outdoor enthusiasts. Her parent company has the ability to produce embroidered and screen printed logo wear. I am sure that she will continue to keep us posted on the progression of this idea as it develops.

The Outdoor Bloggers Summit Blog has been a good resource. Kristine and the other writers over there have been great about publishing information that is very helpful for those of us who are newer bloggers, and don’t really know the ropes. I recently was reading some about linking, which is very important in gaining page rank, as well as building readership. I am just now really getting to the point of “publicizing” my writing, so everything they put up about being successful at blogging is beneficial to me.

Kristine is also very supportive when it comes to other bloggers.  I know it didn’t take her long to find my blog, and start leaving valuable comments and encouragement.  I enjoy writing, and have been doing it for quite a while, even though I didn’t have much of a readership.  However, when folks start leaving comments about what you are writing, it seems to be that much more relevant.  Kristine jumps in there and shares her ideas quite often.

Keep up the good work Kristine, at both of your blogs, and keep those valuable comments coming!

I’ve Got the Itchin’…to Go Fishin’…

Monday, February 11th, 2008

The Fishin' HoleWhen spring comes, I found myself wanting to get out on the rivers in the mountains of West Virginia and catch a few trout. I always start getting the itch a little early. The last few years, I have gone out too early, only to be met with snow, ice and extreme cold weather. Not only that, the water was so cold, that the fish just wouldn’t feed. It can get a bit annoying to be able to see trout in the ripples, and float everything in your box past them without them going for anything. Nonetheless, I am already getting the bug to get out on the river! The picture over to the left is on one of my favorite rivers in the state, The Williams. I am probably most familiar with this river, as I will almost always make a few trips per year there. I know where to go to catch fish, whether I am fly fishing or spin fishing. I hope I didn’t insult or offend all the purists by admitting that I enjoy both types of fishing!

Our best trout fishing kicks in around the middle of March, and goes to about the end of June. The West Virginia DNR does a good job of stocking trout in a lot of rivers, and there are many stretches that are designated as “Catch and Release”. Most of these”catch and release” sections are in the coldest, most aerated sections of the river. These are often also the most inaccessible sections of river, which make them fun to fish. There are plenty of other waters that provide opportunities for keeping a few fish. The limit is 6 fish per day on rivers, but I rarely keep more than a couple for the frying pan. I don’t feel bad about keeping these stocker fish because they cannot survive year round in most of the water that is not catch and release.

BrookieBrookieLast year, I didn’t get out too often, but I was able to catch some trout. I came across this picture of a brookie I caught, and it reminded me of a good day on the water. This is a stocker brookie. Some of these can be pretty good size. I love catching these, as they are beautiful fish. They are probably the prettiest fish in our waters. This is one of the larger brookies that I have caught. I was happy to have a camera along to get a picture of this one before turning it back to water. I purchased a small, inexpensive camera just for the purpose of taking pictures of the fish that I have been fortunate enough to catch. Most of the time, none of my fellow fishermen are close enough to snap a picture for me, but on this day, I had someone there to be able to get a snapshot. This is one of the few pictures I have of a fish I have caught with me in it!

We also have a lot of wild trout streams here in West Virginia. There are many streams that are just full of wild, native brookies. These fish do not grow (in most cases) to be as large as the stocker trout. In fact, a 10-13″ brookie is really good size for a wild fish. These streams are guarded with secrecy by the people who fish them–it is considered taboo to even name them in a public forum. It is kind of like your favorite hunting spot. You just don’t give that information to anybody. You only share it with your closest hunting buddies (and, only selectively then). These streams are great to fly fish. The fish are not big, but they are beautiful. You just can’t beat the colors.

Alan and Golden RainbowWe have another claim to fame here in the Mountain State. It is the Golden Rainbow Trout. This is a rainbow trout that does not have the same pigmentation as the normal ‘bow. It has a golden color, with a rainbow streak down the side. This is a picture of a golden that was caught by a friend and fishing partner, Alan. As you can see, it is a beautiful fish. These fish are stocked at about 1 golden to 6 rainbows. So, if you see one of these beauties in a hole, you can be sure that there are a lot of rainbows in there that you cannot see. This color phase breeds true, so the DNR has worked to continue the line so that they are plentiful in the state. I believe these fish have also been shared with Pennsylvania and Maryland. This is not the true Golden Rainbow that can be found in California.

The golden rainbow is perhaps the most difficult of trout to catch. This is true because they are so visible. Since they are easily spotted, everybody can float something past them. They see every lure, fly, egg, and clump of Power Bait that comes down the river. It is not surprising that if they make it past the first day or two, these fish are very difficult to catch.

I’ll leave you with one more picture of one of my favorite fishing holes. This is again, on the Williams River. It won’t be too long till I’m wetting a line there!

Fishin' Hole

A Call to Action!

Sunday, February 10th, 2008

It is time for us to band together. There is a threat out there that we must be willing to face. This will not be politically correct, but it must be done. We cannot let the danger continue. We must deal with it…for the kids. There is a weapon out there that has the potential of destroying our children. The really bad thing is that there is little, or no state or federal regulations dealing with this dangerous weapon. There are no registrations. There are no conceal carry permits. There is nothing to control the purchase, use, transfer, or disposal of this weapon. This is unconscionable!

Recently, this weapon was used in a classroom here in West Virginia, on a teacher. Thankfully, she was not killed by the weapon, but she was seriously injured, causing her to spend several days in the hospital.

In another story, this weapon was used by a prostitute on a man who would not pay her for her “services”.

In yet another recent story, this weapon was used by three men to kill another man.

I am sure the list could go on and on. If I were to expand the area of my search, I am sure the number of examples that I could list would be astronomical. This weapon is a danger to all that come near it. It, by its very nature, must be dangerous to the owner, and to any children in the owner’s home. Surely, we should legislate drawer locks, or that safes must be used to store such dangerous weapons in the home.

I am sure that the regular readers of this blog recognize the “tongue in cheek” nature of the first part of this blog. But, as I sat and watched the news tonight, this point became crystal clear. Why are there not people lined up, protesting the school that let a mad man in to attack a teacher? Why are there no “anti-knife” proponents out demanding that there be more legislation. If this man had used a gun, the story would be getting national exposure. There would be demands that we have tighten up gun laws, and try to register everyone who has a gun, as well as every gun they own. Not true? What happened immediately following the shooting at Virginia Tech? Columbine, CO? Paducha, KY?

The truth is, if someone tried to make the same kinds of laws for knives, as they try to make for guns they would be laughed off the news. They know that their calls to action are ludicrous, but they are so prejudiced against guns, and gun owners that they throw common sense to the wind, and call for legislation aimed at eventually banning all firearms.

I am not trying to make light of these news stories, so please don’t misunderstand my point. Yes, these are terrible crimes, and the perpetrators must be punished to the fullness of the law (if they are still living). But, why is a crime with a gun more egregious than a crime with a knife? Is a life taken with a gun more important than a life taken with a knife? The solution is not to inflict more regulations and restrictions on knives. It is to realize that there are laws that are already in place for guns, and if the laws are enforced, then criminals will be punished. How is making more gun laws going to cut down on gun crime? Think this through with me…the criminal is already breaking laws to use a gun in the commission of a crime. Already breaking the law…. Already breaking the law… Ok, thought I would repeat that a few times, just in case an irrational anti-gun person stumbles in here. It takes a bit longer for rational thought to sink in with them.

If it is just about the safety, then we had better start organizing so that we can get these dangerous knives off of the streets.  For the sake of the kids!

You Gotta Start ’em Early!

Saturday, February 9th, 2008

Jacob with CrowsI came across this picture on my hard drive today and just had to share it. You can click the picture to see a larger version. This was taken when my son, Jacob, was about 2 years old.  We had these crows coming in and snagging all the corn we were putting down for the deer.  I was able to actually get 2 of them with a .22, which was surprising because they were so wary, that they would fly off at first sight of us.

Of course, after shooting the crows, Jacob had to go out with me to see what I got.  He was certainly willing to grab hold of them, and hoist them for the camera!  He has continued with this same enthusiasm, no matter what the game.  He was just as proud of those two crows as any deer I have brought home.

On a side note, the law concerning shooting crows has become very interesting here in WV.  Some time back, they had to be classified as a “game animal” so that the state could receive federal money (the details have escaped me, as it has been too long ago.)  However, the law also allows for the shooting of “nuisance birds”, which is very broadly defined.  In fact, crows can be shot now with the same regularity as before, if you can establish that they were any kind of nuisance.  These two were a nuisance, as they were eating my corn.  I guess even states have to get around laws every once in a while!

Writing Sites…

Thursday, February 7th, 2008

Recently, I posted about writing articles for various sites on the internet. Arthur, from over at Simply Outdoors, asked how I got started in that endeavor, and I never got around to answering him. So, I thought I would take a couple of minutes today to tell you about my writing.

First, it is something that is easy to do. I currently write for 3 different sites. I’ll show you the ones i use, though a couple of them are not producing a lot for me yet. I started writing for these sites to try to earn a little extra money. There is not much in any of these sites, but I enjoy the writing, and it gives me a bit of money for my efforts. The other great advantage is that the internet can always use some more positive outdoor stories!

The first site, and the most profitable for me, is Associated Content. The great benefit of this site is that you can write articles about anything that you want, and then receive offers from the company for an upfront payment. I have made between about $3.50 to $10 for articles. I know some other folks that have made a bit more for some of their work, but this seems to be typical. I make about $5, on average, per article. As you can see, you aren’t going to get rich off of this, but if you enjoy the writing anyway, you might as well give it a try. You will also receive a page view bonus for your work. Each article earns $1.50 per 1000 page views. This has been adding up to a few dollars per month on my account. One thing you should be aware of is that it can take up to 2 weeks to receive an offer on your work. And, they do occasionally reject articles for payment, but you can still publish them for free. Typically, I will make changes, and resubmit the articles with different titles. I’ve never had one rejected twice.

The second site that I write for is Helium. Helium will not pay you upfront for articles, but you can write for contests that they run each week. Winners of the contests will win $75, but it takes a lot of articles to be able to compete. You will receive a page view bonus for all of your articles, much like with Associated Content. However, the model is not so well defined, so that you will not know what you are being paid per view. Unless you are writing for the contests, it is probably better, at least in my opinion, to scan this site for article suggestions, and then publish on Associated Content.  If you do want to join Helium, you can do it from the site.  However, I do get a bit of credit for referring writers, so if you would like, leave me a note, and I will get your email address off of your comment, and send you an invitation.

The third site I have not been writing for very long. It is called Suite 101. Again, this site does not pay upfront for articles, but it also asks for shorter articles. Basically, they want you to try for about 600 words. One of the biggest problems with this site is that they require you to give them exclusive rights for 1 year to any work that you publish. They pay based on a revenue sharing model. Basically, you get a portion of all money that the site receives from Google Ads, based on how many clicks actually came off of your articles. This site has an application process that you must go through before they will publish any articles, but I didn’t find it too problematic.  I have not really been writing for this site long enough to be able to say what profit may come from it.  I tend to hold my better articles out for Associated Content, since they do not require exclusive publishing rights.

Well, that is about it.  These are the sites I use.  Feel free to follow all the links, and poke around a bit.  Look up my articles and click on ads (if you see anything that interests you), and you will help me continue to fund this site!  Thanks!

West Virginia Wants to Train Hunters in Schools

Wednesday, February 6th, 2008

Many of you may have already read the article released by the AP at the end of January outlining the possibility of Hunter safety being an elective in schools. If you do a Google Search, you will find a lot of comments about this proposition, most of which are not favorable. The problem is, most of those writing about the proposition are not from West Virginia, and do not understand our setting and culture. So, without further ado, I will tell you why this is a great idea for the state of West Virginia, and why it is probably a good idea for a lot of other predominantly rural states.

First, as this article points out, the number of hunters is declining. That is in direct result of the poor economic climate in the state. Simply put, young people don’t often stay here. If they are not planning to work in a coal mine, they will pack their bags after college and set out to other places. However, if these young people are introduced in a favorable way to the outdoor opportunities available here, even if they do decide to leave, they will come back to hunt. How, you ask, do I know this? That is exactly what I did! I left the state for over 10 years, but I purchased a WV lifetime hunting license so that I could come back and hunt. If these kids do not have an someone in their family who is encouraging them to learn about outdoor sports, the chances of them coming in contact with someone who can help them are slim.

Secondly, it is important for kids to have activities that occupy their time that are good and wholesome. Though many anti-gun proponents try to tie kids who hunt with shootings, the truth is that is rarely if ever true. Think about it…how often have you heard a report of a kid shooting up a school with a “hunting rifle”, or a “hunting shotgun”? They always throw “hunting” in there, even if that gun had never seen a day of hunting in its life! Kids who are taught to enjoy the outdoors through camping, fishing, and hunting are better behaved, more respectful and better adjusted kids. How many “thugs” do you know who enjoy hunting and fishing? I think that we can use a program such as this to get kids who are not really interested in “team sports” or clubs into something that will be healthy for them.

Thirdly, it seems to me that this would be a good way to “waste money” in the school systems. After all, money is wasted all the time on things that are completely useless. I for one would like to see them, if they are going to go beyond what schools were originally designed for, to put it to something that I can support. We as hunters are often the brunt of social prejudice, so it would be nice to have a program in place that would put us in a good light from the beginning. Of course, the animal rights people are going nuts over this proposal, since they believe they are the only ones with a right to access children at such a young age, and on the tax payers dollar.

Fourthly, the chances are that the students who participate in the program would be hunters in the end anyway, so this is a good way to make sure that they learn proper gun handling, and safety techniques, as well as good ethics from the start. While most hunters are safe, and ethical, the truth is there are some who are not, and they pass on their own set of ethics. If this program is instituted, I hope that it is run in a qualified way by qualified people. It has the potential to make a great impact on hunting in the Mountain State, but as with any thing run by the government, it also has the potential to be a colossal failure.

Fifthly, this type of program has the real potential of softening the anti-hunting biases that we face. There are many people who are non-hunters, but not anti-hunters, and there is a big difference. If we can convince those that are not really inclined to hunt that we are really and truly concerned about our environment, the health and welfare of the animals, and the people in the areas we hunt, then we may snuff out those anti-hunting feelings before they have a chance to get going. I am convinced that the anti-hunting agenda thrives off of lack of information and misinformation. If we could do even little things that would help defeat their agenda, it is a victory for us!

So, I think, in the long run, this plan has some real potential for good. I just hope that the government does not mess it up (if it is indeed passed). There would be nothing worse than allowing animal rights nuts, with their agendas, to teach these types of classes. And that is a possibility if State DNR offices are going to be run by the wrong people!