Sunday, August 28, 2011

Casualties Of War

     The ongoing military actions in the middle east have produced untold number of casualties, many returning home to the US in a flag draped coffin. Perhaps you've known some one lost to the aggression, or have a neighbor who's lost a relative. Even if you don't, it isn't terribly difficult to imagine the sorrow of losing a young loved one under such circumstances. The sorrow doesn't stop there, however, and if you've ever wondered whether your dog loved you, as you love it, or wondered to what extent the the bond was felt by your friend, you can stop wondering.
          When US Navy petty officer Jon Tumilson, one of the 22 Navy Seals killed in a helicopter crash on August 6th, was laid to rest recently, his chocolate Lab, Hawkeye, laid mournfully beside his casket during the entire ceremony.
     While we'll never be able to know what our dogs are thinking, the images above are certainly an indication that the bond, love, and commitment we share is deeper felt by our dogs than we'd ever imagined. Probably more so when you share a working relationship, such as with a gundog. Adding to the already long lists of worries that comes with the responsibility of owning a dog, I now will have indelibly etched into my mind, that I one day, too, will cause  a dog sorrow when I leave it behind.
     I make no claim of knowing where good dogs, and good dog men go when they depart us. I'd like to think they find themselves in endless cover,  filled with big beautiful birds that hold for points, and flush strong and hard. A place warm enough that your hands are never cold, cool enough that the dogs can run all day, and posted signs never existed. If there is such a place, and I hope there is, Jon may have to wait a few years until he's reunited with Hawkeye, but in the mean time I know a few good dogs that'll be happy to point, flush, and retrieve for him.

Facebook Expansion

While hurricane Irene passes through these parts, like most people I sit, waiting it out. But that doesn't mean I can't find ways to promote my website. So I've ventured into the realm of social networking, and created an All Seasons Outdoors facebook page. So if you are fluent in the language of the web, and find yourself keeping up with your various social circles via Facebook, please consider following All Seasons Outdoors. I'll be posting updates to Facebook, and may eventually have some exclusive Facebook content.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Things You Should Check Out, Bushcraft Edition

Anyone who's been reading this blog regularly knows I have a little bit of an interest in outdoor safety, and survival. Sooner or later, I'm going to find myself unexpectedly spending a night in the woods. In trying to Learn some techniques to make my night more manageable and dare I say it, comfortable, I started looking at bushcraft resources online. The idea being that I could turn a survival situation, into an incidental bushcraft expedition when the time arises. One resource I recently discovered is Bushcraft USA.
Bushcraft USA has an online store which stocks a variety of equipment, as well as having a lively forum where members exchange info, ideas, and expedition photos. One of the features of the forum I like is the online bushcraft curriculum. Members can study the instruction and videos, before practicing the skills. When they feel they've got command of the skill they then post pictures of their handy work for all to see. After they complete the entire curriculum, and their pictures are reviewed by a Bushcraft USA instructor, the student receives a certificate of completion. Check it out.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Action Alert, Follow Up

In my effort to follow, and hopefully help keep a lousy bill from becoming a lousy law, I decided I'd try to find out who were actually friends of the outdoors. House bill 2006 would stop all clear cutting on state lands, eliminating a valuable management tool, and I have a hard time believing that any conservation organization would be in favor of it. To be in favor of such a measure would be turning a blind eye to science, management practices, and the needs of many species dependent on early growth successional forest. Surely the Mass Audubon would not support such a thing. Well, it seems Mass Audubon may be a wolf in sheep's clothing. Here is the e-mail I sent them:

Ms. Johnson,
     I am writing to request a statement on Mass Audubon's Position
concerning Mass bill H2006,   An Act Prohibitting Clear Cutting In State
Forests And Parks. I would imagine Mass Audubon would be reluctant to support a bill that would take away a management tool from those tasked with managing and balancing our forests, especially when it would affect such a large variety of vertebrate. It is my position that some amount of clear cutting is essential to create the early growth successional forest needed to have a balanced healthy forest. I do not advocate whole sale clear cutting, but believe management cuts are nessecary to ensure species dependent on early growth successional forests do not decline.
     Thank you for taking time out of your busy day to endulge my request. I look forward to your reply.
Larry Rich

Here is their reply:

Dear Mr. Rich,
Thank you for your inquiry regarding House Bill 2006, An Act Prohibiting Clear Cutting in State Forests and Parks. Around 6,000 bills are filed each session and only a handful become law.  Mass Audubon has not taken a formal position on this bill, but we have fully articulated our thoughts and recommendations regarding forestry practices on state lands in the attached position statement and letter to the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife.  Both have been shared with the environment committee which heard HB2006 and other forestry bills.  The letter to DFW discusses in detail the issue you raise below regarding habitat management.  The bill is not consistent with our position and we do not support this legislation.
Please let me know if you have any additional questions.  Heidi Ricci, Senior Policy Analyst, or Jen Ryan, our legislative director, are also available to discuss further.  They are copied on this email.
Laura Johnson
President, Mass Audubon

Here is one of the links Mass Audubon supplied:
I was unable to find paste the other link, but it says essentially the same thing.

Unfortunately, though Mass Audubon states they do not support the bill, reading their position statements, and many of their other advocacy positions, it seems as though they are really not big fans of any forestry, and are more concerned with preservation than conservation.

They can be reached through their website:

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


     I've been told by several friends, as I've discarded belongings of little perceived value, that I'm not a sentimental guy. My friends would readily snatch up things from our past that should have held some sentimental meanings, but had just become clutter. Perhaps there's some truth in the statement; I do tend to value practicality, and efficiency. But I'm not immune to the concept totally.

     The wife and I spent this past weekend in the Berkshires. She'd received a voucher for concert tickets as a bonus at work, and we were overdue for a long weekend get-a-way, so we were off to Tanglewood. Naturally, catering to the wife's whims for the weekend would allow me a little outdoor indulgence. I just couldn't let her know prior to our departure that I'd already calculated the price of my niceness. So on day two, as we drove around exploring I mentioned an old friend, Mac, just south of the Mass border that I'd not seen in some time, my father and I used to hunt Mac's farm, and I'd like to pay a quick visit. Sounded innocuous enough to be quickly agreed to, and a plan was set; Monday morning we'd drive down to visit Mac on his farm before having lunch in Great Barrington, and heading home.

     The ride south on Sunday quite definitely filled me a sense of nostalgia. The farm looked as it had the last time I was there, practically unchanged in ten years. Following the same pattern I had in the years when I hunted Mac's farm, I drove to the barn where Mac would often be found. The barn, however, held no sign of my friend, though clearly someone had recently been there, a wagon full of hay halfway backed into the barn. As I prepared to drive the 1/2 mile to the house I was greeted by a middle-aged gentleman who appeared himself to also be a farmer. Explaining that I was looking for Mac, I was informed that Mac had retired some years back, and was seldom at the barn anymore. I was somewhat surprised to hear of Mac's retirement. I hadn't ever thought of it, expecting some how that things would remain the same.

     At the house we were happily greeted by Mac, and his wife Linda. At 75 Mac had changed little. He looked older, but 10 years had passed since I'd last seen him, so it only stood to reason. The Mac I remembered had always kept a well trimmed beard, of a slightly reddish hue, and was never without a hat, but on this day he was shaved clean, and without a hat. He looked sharp in a tattersall, and work pants devoid of the usual stains one would expect to collect working livestock.

     Mac wasted no time filled me in on state of affairs in the woodlands that surrounded the farm. Seated in front of a laptop, Mac pulled up file after file of trail cam pictures; wide racked bucks in velvet, big coyotes, bobcats, and bears. Over the years a sow had taken up residence in the swamp below. Her and her two cubs were showing up regularly on trail cams, and a member of the family had to abandon his hunting plans one evening when her and her cubs were camped out under his treestand. But the real surprise came when he showed me this.

      Have you seen this photo before? I had. In fact, this photo had been e-mailed to me by a friend after he'd seen it circulating the Internet. Turns out this photo which was in a file on Mac's computer along with several others taken at different angles, had been published in a magazine, and online was taken on the farm. One of the pictures showed land features which I immediately recognized, and when I inquired, Mac confirmed that the picture was indeed taken where I thought it had, and that I had good recollection of the property. Turns out that over the years I'd hung treestands within 100 yards in either direction of the treestand in the picture. I'd even arrowed a decent 5 pointer, my first buck,  in that same wood lot back in '98.
     While every sportsman sees things that measure somewhere on the amazing scale every time they're in the outdoors, I'd found it amazing that I'd been so intimate with a small section of woodlands that has in some way found it's way into the limelight.

     Visiting Mac, and seeing the farm again was quite nostalgic. It's stirred in me, at least temporarily, a desire to get in some serious deer hunting, too. It was enjoyable catching up with someone who's generosity will never be forgotten, and  without a doubt I will return with offerings, as my father and I always did when we hunted the farm nearly 15 years ago. My only regret is not having had enough time to stick around long enough to enjoy a dram of single malt with Mac while listening to him play his bagpipes on the porch. Next time. I'll bring the Scotch.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

An Appeal For The Doodles

            Questing for grouse we often find ourselves at the end of the world, where mountain streams flatten and slow through thick stands of young hardwoods before us like bars of a prison cell. We strain, sliding through where ever we can, boots being sucked under the terra, which for all accounts looks dead, though only dormant. Following the tinkling of a setter’s bell, or the animated bounce of a spaniel, the scene comes alive with the robotic, wind -up toy like flush of a Woodcock. This is why we're there; to see the awkward, overly erect flight of one of the uplands most mis-treated game birds.

            I've only ever met one woodcock hunter in my life, though I know many thrilled at the possibility of bring some to hand. Maybe that's why the timber doodle is mistreated as it is. Always playing second fiddle, the step brother of the uplands, a mere target of opportunity to those dedicated to the more picturesque, and storied ruffed grouse. Or maybe it's the commonalty of the bird; it's early return each spring allowing a couple weeks of training for dogs allowed to lay about during the winter months. In the fall, flights of fat birds fill coverts usually designed for other uses. Allowing sportsmen to proclaim a limit in record breaking time, is a trait of the woodcock, leaving one to believe the little bird undervalues itself as well.  It’s taste, too, could be a factor in this little bog suckers lack of faithful followers. Those who proclaim woodcock to be their favorite tasting game bird are few and far between, though there have been times when eating it, that I wonder why I hesitate to list it number one myself. The Bluefish of the uplands, many are eager to tie into, or swing through one, but few know what to do after that.

            The biggest abuse to fall upon the woodcock is when it's held in man's hands, and not decisions being made in the corporate board rooms, government offices, nor country lane farm houses. It's worst abuses are taking place in the kitchen. This delicate treat, which rivals the finest aged beef when prepared correctly, suffers the abomination of being serially over-cooked. The result is a nation of hunters ready to swear off the woodcock as un-palatable, likening the taste to liver. Yet, man controls all that is needed to see the reputation of the woodcock return to favor. All we must do is stop cooking.

            While I'm not advocating the eating of raw woodcock, though I'm sure I'd not be the first if I tried it,  I do believe we all need to take heed of our true culinary prowess, take off the apron, and turn off the heat . Cooked medium at best, medium-rare being optimal, this meat will rival any five star French bistro on the planet. Escargot may need bathing in hot butter and garlic, and haggis may need whisky by the dram, but woodcock needs nothing but the respect it deserves, and a little, just a little,  open flame. So this season, as the leaves turn colors, fall, and carpet the coverts we call home, make a commitment to get over your fear of eating meat cooked to anything less than Irish grey, and help the woodcock regain the respect it deserves.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

New Outdoor Gear

     As the summer quickly passes, the time to start preparing for the upcoming hunting season has begun. Of course, one is never really relieved of the responsibility of their own preparedness when it comes to the outdoors,and I've been in the woods, dog training, shooting (a little), studying, and generally keeping my head in the game. But now the time has come to inventory my gear, acquire what I think I'll need, make my plans for the coming season, and start to address the issues I faced last season, so they wont be issues this year. This means, in some cases, new gear will be acquired.

     The biggest issue I encountered last year was my Setter, Austin, succumbing to cancer. This left me in a tricky situation, but the answer was found in a Springer Spaniel pup I've named Ginger. I'm not out of the woods, or back in them, as the case may be, yet. Ginger is still too young to accompany me afield, so my hunting season will see me walking up grouse, something I expect to be educational, and shooting over friend's dogs. Waterfowling in my canoe or john boat, and deer hunting are two other activities I expect to heavily be involved in, so I'll not be without something to do.

     As I've thought about the last few seasons, and some of the issues I faced, I decided I'd tackle one of the biggest issues that has been troubling me for a while; sweat. Even on a cold day, once I start moving, I sweat big time. The trouble here, as you all know, is that once I take a break I get a chill. Sometimes its quite hard to shake that chill once I start moving again too. I tried a fleece lined shirt last season, thinking that even if I soak the fleece with sweat it should stay warm. This worked to some degree, but wasn't exactly the answer I was looking for. As the shirt had no wind barrier, even a little breeze would cut right through, and cause a chill. I'm sure this shirt will see action on extremely cold days, but what I need is something breathable, and quick drying. Enter LL Bean. I've ordered two different breathable, quick drying shirts from LL Bean. One is the light weight ventilated shirt. This shirt might not be appropriate for later in the season, but I think layered with some technical sporting type of under garment which will allow the shirt to function as designed, I should be okay for a while.
     The other shirt I decided I'd try is the Northweave. This, too, is a breathable, quick drying shirt, but in the case of the Northweave, it's made of a heavier material. This shirt should carry me well into the fall, as it'll provide more warmth.
      In either case, I'll need to carry a sweater, or some other layer with me for the occasional break I take in the woods.

     Two other additions include a new knife, which I mentioned briefly a while ago, and a new survival bivy. I'd been feeling the need for a good fixed blade knife for some time. Often my folding knives end up buried in a vest, or pack, or not deployed quickly enough. Something I could wear on my hip, and deploy without removing a glove would be perfect. Not to mention that fixed blade knives are generally stronger.

     I decided to get a SOG Seal Pup. The knife isn't terribly big, so it's not awkward to carry, has a serrated section of the blade for sawing, or cutting line, and comes with a nylon sheath with an extra pocket on it. I use the extra pocket to hold a small LED flashlight I've had laying around the house. I still haven't had an opportunity to really use the knife in any fashion, so I still can't give any kind of review yet, but I think It'll see some action this week when I try my hand at a little bushcraft shelter building. Seal Pup

          The bivy I bought was an impulse buy. I was looking for a small, light weight, nylon tarp I could add to my survival kit, when I came across the bivy. It's made by SOL, and comes rolled in a small sack. It seems to be substantial enough to survive an unexpected night in the woods. It's small enough that I doubt I'll even notice the additional weight in my vest. Hopefully, I'll never have to use it, but if I do, hopefully it'll not be more than once. SOL Bivy
   I've got a lot more preparation to do, and more issues to tackle. But I've not yet decided how to address a few of them. When I decide, I'm sure It'll be fun, and hopefully educational. But most importantly, hopefully it'll be successful.