Saturday, February 27, 2010

Pheasant hunting in March

Yes, the general pheasant season has been closed for months. But the season is still open on licensed Hunt Clubs. We have a corporate membership at a local club, and I had a customer out on Thursday to enjoy a day in the field.

Let me start by saying this is NOT intended to be a post to open up the proverbial can of worms that exists between wild bird hunters and hunt club users. Hunting wild birds on public land is completely different, if for no other reason than the state imposed bag limits. Hunt clubs are more geared toward shooting rather than hunting. When you go out hunting on public land, you may or may not even see any legal game, let alone shoot any. On a Hunt Club environment, seeing birds is not in question; nor is getting shots. But a well run and well designed club offers a great day in the field, nonetheless.

And that is the point of this post. The club we belong to is run as well as any I have ever visited. We hunt alternating strips of standing corn and dense pine trees, with woodlots and creek bottoms interspersed throughout the property. Some birds flush wildly, some sit tight, and some run. It is a very satisfying day in the field. On this particular trip, we had some huns, too (Hungarian Partridge). These little buggers fly fast and low and are more challenging than the pheasants, at least for me. Kick in the conditions - 26 degrees with a stiff NW wind - and they can be a tough target.

As always, we had a lot of fun, walked a long way in the 4" - 6" of snow, and shot a lot of birds. I shot unusually well on this hunt, although I'm sure I'll come back to earth the next time out. I thought I would show a few pictures to show the way the club is set up. It really is a great place for bird hunting.

Good looking mixed habitat

Field edges

The intended quarry

(NOTE - on all the photos I post, you should be able to click on them to see a larger picture)

Monday, February 22, 2010

An old dog, learning new tricks

That old dog would be me. With an upcoming birthday, I'm beginning to actually feel old these days. Not to worry - it's probably just the never-ending winter.

The new trick I picked up recently comes from a new member of my Blog Roll - Outdoors with Butch. It involves editing your photos.

I've only recently started following Butch's site, but it is very apparent that he is a keen observer and photographer of the world around him. And he does something I plan to do in the coming months. He takes a photo, edits and crops the original, and saves the new photo as a separate picture while maintaining the unaltered original. I, on the other hand, take a photo, edit it, and save the changes, having only the new, edited version, and losing the original. Butch posts both the original photo and the edited, cropped version on his blog, showing both the before and after of the picture. I really like the way that looks on his blog, and plan to do the same on mine.

Thank you, Butch.

I occasionally do the same, but it's only by luck that I have both the before-and-after shots of my favorite picture.

The photo below is one of my favorites, and the one I'm speaking of. It was taken almost 2 years ago in Panama, and was absolute luck. My buddy was fighting a big black marlin, and I was holding up my digital and just snapping pictures in the general vicinity of the fish. I probably took 20 shots. Almost all were worthless. Then, toward the end of the string of photos, was a picture with the tail of the fish re-entering the water. Oh well - at least we got something. On the next picture, this was in the upper right hand corner of the photo. I cropped it and got a great photo. Well, it might not be great, but I like it!

The first photo, with just a hint of a marlin in it

The Lucky Picture

The final product

MORAL OF THE STORY: Take LOTS of pictures. Some will be memorable!

Friday, February 19, 2010

What in the world is this????

I saw this strange, unfamiliar "stuff" today on the way to work, and actually had my camera along. I took a picture, and proceeded to go to work.

It bothered me all day - what was this stuff??

When I got home, I saw more of it - in my front yard, no less. OMG - could it be ???

GRASS. Ugly, brown, beaten down by the weight of 2 months of snow, but grass nonetheless

Spring might ACTUALLY come this year!!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Shedd Aquarium

I just heard on the news that there is now snow on the ground in 49 states. We're all sick of it, as has been well documented in many blogs. So - what do you do when you want to fish, but winter won't let you? You go to LOOK AT fish! So we went to John G. Shedd Aquarium in Chicago on Thursday.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Shedd, it is a very large Aquarium located right along Lake Michigan, on Museum Campus in Chicago. Museum Campus consists of Shedd, the Field Museum of Natural History, and Adler Planetarium. Right next door is Soldier Field.

We really enjoy going to the Shedd Aquarium, Lincoln Park Zoo, and Brookfield Zoo when we get a chance. We ended up picking the nicest day in the last couple of weeks and I hope some of the pictures convey that. I took my new camera along to try to figure it out. So far, I like it. The issues I had were inherent to taking any pictures at the Shedd. You are asked to not use flash, so you are reliant on low light, have to shoot the pictures through glass and water, and deal with slow shutter speeds. Not a winning combination. But I tried!

A lot of the fish are reef fish whose name I didn't get, but they are intriguing. The Aquarium was not full on Thursday, and we could stay at the tanks as long as we wanted without getting jostled and pushed along. You can really observe the fishes habits this way.

Hope you enjoy the pictures.

Exterior of Shedd Aquarium, with the Chicago skyline behind.

Entrance to Shedd Aquarium

A school of little catfish

Jellyfish under a blue light


A neat little fish

Japanese spider crab

I think these are called Garden Eels


Green Iguana - much nicer photo quality when you don't have to shoot through glass

Even the light fixtures are aquatic themed!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Illinois Earthquake

Guess what? Illinois had an earthquake last night. Nothing like the tremors felt regularly on the West coast, but a seismic event nonetheless. 3.9 of the Richter scale. The epicenter was about 35 miles NNW of where I live. At 4:00 AM, I woke to a noticeably shaking house. Did something hit the house?? It felt like a train was rumbling by, just outside the house. But there are no tracks nearby.

We sustained no damage. Some of the people at work who live a little closer had some pictures fall off the walls.

It was sort of interesting since I had only experienced one other similar sized quake, and that was about 30 years ago. I do know one thing, though - I have no desire to experience a BIG quake.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

OBS Challenge - getting people outside more often

Kristine issued a challenge to all the Outdoor Blogger Summit members to write a post on their blogs encouraging people to get outside and enjoy the outdoors. At face value, this should be a simple Challenge, but, for me, it was not. Hopefully, I'll explain it better as you read on.

The news world is full of sobering statistics about the population in general, and our youth in particular, when it comes to our generally unhealthy living habits. Our children are growing up as veritable couch-slugs, addicted to video games, with deplorable diets. The adult population isn't much better, if at all. So, the obvious answer is to get outside, enjoy the beauty that is our natural environment, get the exercise that goes along with it, and live more healthy lives. All of what I've just said is true and, for the most part, inarguable.

I like to think that the blog articles I post (and this applies to ALL our posts) are, in some way, enticements for people to explore the natural world. When I read Wandering Owl's blogpost about walking in woods on a snowy day, reading the tracks in the snow, and spotting a streamside mink - I want to get out and do the same. Same with Murphyfish as he meanders through Wales with Lucy. Lizzy's preparation for her upcoming pike trip got me to go through some of my tackle and prepare for the coming year myself. When I actually get out of the house and get a chance to fish, I 'd like to think that my posts have the same effect on my readers. In some ways I liken our blogs in the same light I view the writings of Travel Writers - I'll read what they have to say about some locale, be it local or exotic, and dream of going there myself. Sometimes, I actually get there. I feel the same when I read all of your blog posts. We are ALL an enticement to get outdoors.

I DO love to take newcomers, be they kids or adults, fishing for the first time. I've written about it, and look forward to doing more of it in the coming months. I believe these experiences do have a positive effect on the people I take out fishing. For some, it might be the beginning a life long appreciation of the Outdoors.

When my son was active in Cub Scouts, I used to take the Den out to the ponds each year to fish and cook hot dogs. It was an annual highlight for a lot of the kids.

There are certainly areas that I could be much more active, and probably attract more people to the Outdoors. I do not volunteer or participate in the local clubs. My excuse is that I simply don't have the time (My job has me traveling almost every week, so the time at home is filled with all the requirements of the family) Still, if the priority was high enough, I'd make time to do more.

So - why is this Challenge such a problem for me?? To put it simply, I feel like what I do on the blog is simply preaching to the choir.

Who comes to view my (our) blog? Other like-minded Outdoorsman. People who already understand the benefits and beauty of being outside. People who may need an occasional boost to get outside (like me) but they inherently get it. My consternation comes from the fact that what I do - for the most part -is with like minded individuals. If I was really going to make a difference - have an effect on the people who DO NOT go outside, and have no inclination to do so - I would be recruiting from a completely different pool of people. Rather than being the featured speaker at a banquet with 150 fly fishermen - which I did last year - I would seek out venues that are attended by people curious about the outdoors, but who have no idea where to start. And, in order to do this, it takes a dedicated effort, and, I believe, more time. Something I'm sadly lacking in.

If our blogs are truly enticements to experience the wonders of the outdoors, then I need to make a real effort to expand my readership, into other areas of the blogsphere. I'm sure there are ways to do this, but I have no clue about how to go about it. Probably just trial and error, something I need to explore more in the coming year. Got ideas for me?? Send 'em my way!

So, while I LIVE for my time outdoors, and try to spread the word wherever I can, this particular challenge brings to light the fact that, if I'm really going to make a difference, I need to expand my audience. I need to go to THEM, rather than continue preaching to the proverbial choir.

This won't be a quick fix by any means, but it seems to have firmly latched onto a space in my brain. Hopefully I'll be able to do something this year to attract people to experience the Outdoors, people who would otherwise never had considered it. If I'm successful in my quest, I'll let everyone know. And I certainly welcome any suggestions from my readers. We all have a love of the outdoors, and I'm sure there are outstanding ideas out there waiting to be shared. Feel free to share them with me.

So, until I figure out how to reach the masses, I hope you continue to follow me on my journey through life. I have a plan to incorporate a lot more photography into my blog this year, possibly starting a second blog just for the photos. Not that I take good pictures - I just like photography with point-and-shoot cameras. We'll catch some fish along the way, see some new sites. Thanks for the continued companionship as I wander through the woods of life.