May 10, 2013
Taking a walk is good medicine for anyone. Walking can help manage weight, improve mood, ease depression, boost the immune system, maintain mental efficiency, strengthen your heart, lungs, and muscles, lower blood pressure, improve cholesterol levels, and prevent osteoporosis. Walking anyplace is good for you,...
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April 11, 2013
While refilling our bird feeders last week, I noticed a golf-ball sized hole in the mesh bag holding the suet, which is actually about 10 pounds of fat I carved from a deer’s rump in late November.
I’ve never known nuthatches, chickadees, or woodpeckers to punch holes in a suet bag. Why would they bother? It’s mesh. I studied the bag, but its tattered hole held no clues. All I saw were gouges, scratches and needle holes in the fat where beaks once probed.
The mystery ended the next morning as I watched the feeders from our kitchen window while washing breakfast bowls. Something moved atop the suet bag. A small squirrel with a copper-orange back was gnawing on the fat, its head poking through the hole in the mesh.
Wow. A red squirrel. Or as some folks call it, a pine squirrel. There’s no mistaking one. Besides its wee frame and copper backside, a red squirrel’s dark eyes are uniquely fringed by a thin circle of white fur.
But they’re uncommon around our home in central Wisconsin. In 20 years of feeding birds here, we’ve seen two red squirrels. In contrast, I’ve seen plenty of red squirrels the past 40-plus years when hunting the coniferous forests of the upper Great Lakes and Rocky Mountains.
Even so, I’d never before seen a red squirrel eating fat and meat scraps. And he wasn’t just swiping samples like freeloaders circling a grocer’s cheese plate. No, it was digging and clawing into the frozen fat, hopping to the branch above, licking its paws clean, and then diving back into its chew-hole for more.
I sought confirmation by calling Professor Scott Craven, the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s venerable answer-man for all things mammal. Craven assured me I wasn’t seeing things. He said all tree squirrels eat some meat, such as when stumbling across big insects, bird eggs, nestlings, or the babies of small mammals.
But red squirrels eat more meat than fox or gray squirrels. They’re also the most aggressive of the three, despite being the smallest, measuring 11 to 13 inches nose to tail-tip. If a gray or fox squirrel is on a bird feeder when a red squirrel arrives, the mighty mite runs them off.
Even so, don’t believe that wives’ tale about red squirrels castrating gray or fox squirrel males in territorial spats. The bigger squirrels can backhand little Napoleon if pushed too far.
Craven also confirmed it’s unusual to see red squirrels in my area, but not rare. After all, Wisconsin might be the southern edge of the red squirrel’s range, but they’re found from Alaska to Labrador, and from river bottoms to Rocky Mountain peaks.
In the Great Lakes region, they’re most abundant in the northern forests, especially those dominated by pine, spruce and fir. They also frequently inhabit the river corridors and long stretches of remote shorelines on the Great Lakes themselves.
Among the red squirrel’s charms is its bold, curious nature. They often crash our Idaho elk camp to filch peanuts a few feet from where we sit. And if we return to camp and can’t find a snap-on lid for a favorite cup, we follow the log where we last laid it. Experience teaches us that chewed lids wait wherever red squirrels lose interest and drop them.
They aren’t so patient or tolerant when we invade their workspace, however. They start chattering and stamping their feet the second they see us, never believing our intentions are good. And no matter how quiet and respectful our pleas for peace, they slur our wives and curse our names until we move on.
Sheesh. You’d understand their attitude if you had refused them handouts during snack breaks, or raided their middens of green cones cut from Douglas firs and lodgepole pines. But eventually you realize it’s nothing personal. Red squirrels heckle everyone.
Still, you wouldn’t be human if you didn’t occasionally give one the stink-eye and wonder: Could I hit that little jerk with my arrow? If so, how would he taste? Could I sell his pelt and tail?
I’ve eaten plenty of gray squirrels and fox squirrels, but never a red squirrel, though they probably hold as much meat as chicken wings. And their tails and hides aren’t worthless. In fact, Sheldon’s Inc. in Antigo, Wisconsin, makers of Mepps fishing lures, pays 8 cents each for red squirrel tail if hairs at the base measure an inch or more (tails from gray squirrels and fox squirrels fetch 16 to 20 cents each).
And believe it or not, some Northwoods and Canadian trappers collect their pelts, which fetch about $1.50 each but get as much as $2.75 some years at fur auctions. As one trapper-friend notes, they’re about the size of weasels–or ermine–so there’s precedence.
Their end use? Red squirrel pelts line the interiors of some leather jackets and London Fog raincoats. They can also be fashioned into cravats for gentlemen. In fact, red squirrels were hunted so commonly in ancient Finland that their pelts were used as currency before Finns discovered coins.
But for the most part, red squirrels face few threats from hunters and trappers; at least those with two legs. Owls, hawks, and kestrels prey on them, as do most four-legged predators, especially pine martens. As Craven says, what fishers are to porcupines, martens are to red squirrels.
States like Wisconsin have few martens, of course, but I’ve seen them hunting during deer hunts in northeastern Minnesota and elk in southeastern Idaho. But I certainly see no martens around Waupaca. We do see plenty of roaming cats, however. But judging by the red squirrel’s alert, energetic nature, I doubt they’re easy prey.
That is, unless their heads are shoved too deeply into suet bags.
Read and join the discussion on Red Squirrels: Profile of a Feisty Small Game Species at OutdoorHub.com.
April 3, 2013
What do a passionate hunter from Spearfish, South Dakota, a barber, Ali G, and the late great Fred Bear have in common? More than you might expect actually. A few weeks back, I had the pleasure of interviewing Nick Mundt for my upcoming book, which is being released in the spring of 2014 on hunting and business. Nick, who has become a close friend, is a relationship guru, a great guy, and an absolute bad ass with a bow, gun, and fishing rod–you name it. He combines the authenticity of a true sportsman with the on-screen talent of Sasha Baron Cohen and the passion of Fred Bear. He is all about building real relationships, constant entertainment, and hardcore hunting along the trail he blazes. Nick is a definite glue factor on the Bone Collector team, which he is a co-host of along with Michael Waddell and Travis “T-bone” Turner.
Mundt’s approach to life is held strong by coast-to-coast trust-based relationships. With movie star looks, incredible musical talent, and a lovable spirit, Mundt’s status as one of the most respected and recognizable hunters in the world shouldn’t be a surprise and is well deserved.
Despite Mundt’s status in the outdoor industry, there is not a greedy bone in his body. How can Mundt be a world-famous hunter and yet be humble, and not focused on greed? Well, either you are going to have to take my word for it or keep reading and then maybe meet him yourself someday.
Much of what has fundamentally developed his work ethic and ease of building authentic relationships happened in his initial career at the local barbershop in Spearfish, South Dakota. “The boss was a real stickler for rules and he demanded that I never missed work, was never late, and I treated his barbershop and the customers with total respect without exception,” Nick explained to me. “At times I was bummed that he never seemed to understand or support my dream to hunt professionally someday. However, looking back I know that was silly, because the work ethic and knack for relationships and making people feel good about themselves that I developed by his side in the barbershop have played a huge role in my success in the hunting industry.
“When you fix a guy up with a haircut, it’s all about helping him feel good about himself and making him comfortable while he’s in your chair,” Nick added. “Whether it’s guiding, running the camera for someone, or building relationships with advertisers that help support us at Bone Collector, it’s really all about trust-based relationships and taking care of people the way you would want to be taken care of. I know these traits have served me well.”
Mundt has worked hard to achieve what he has today and the path took a while to clearly reveal itself to him, but he always believed that if he put all he had into becoming the best hunter, guide, entertainer, friend, and trust-based relationship builder in and out of the outdoors, it would serve him well in the long run. As Mundt puts it, “I have almost never missed a morning hunt in my life and I don’t care how early we are leaving, I show up ready to hunt. Hunting is my life, my love–it’s everything really. Well, that and building meaningful relationships are what define me.
“I have known I wanted to hunt professionally for as long as I can remember,” he continued. “I always believed if I gave hunting everything I had, always showed up to guide, begged to simply run the camera, help with odds and ends at camps–you know, paid my dues–that one day I would get my day to shine and I would be ready when it came. Then I met Michael Waddell and it changed my life. Realtree had given me my shot at guiding and running the camera some, and when I met Waddell we really hit it off. I love that guy, he is the man and I am good with that and happy to be a part of what he and Travis have built and love that I add so much value to the brotherhood. I mean seriously dude, think about how cool my job is! Are you kidding me, man?”
“What’s it like to work with Michael and T-bone?” I asked.
“Farbz you know how we are, we’re brothers, they are my extended family and vice versa,” he replied. Nick is right–I do know how tight they are and I don’t want to be all shrink/rocket scientist on you, but it sounds a lot like “relationships” and relationship glue is the key. There is no better relationship glue factor for a team than a Nick Mundt. If Mundt was an NBA player, he’d be like Dwayne Wade: accepting of his role as a team player and focusing first on winning and second on himself.
Nick’s breakthrough moment came when he joined Waddell on a Realtree Road Trips hunt. Road Trips was the first break out reality TV-style hunting show and Waddell’s first show that he hosted for Realtree Outdoors. Waddell saw immediate chemistry with Nick and pushed hard for Nick to get camera time on the show. Not too long after that, Waddell was ready to create Bone Collector and he knew Nick was a key player to have on his team.
As Michael related it to me, “Man it was a natural relationship from the very beginning. Nick was like family right away and I loved our chemistry.” Waddell, who has been mentored by industry icon Bill Jordan and hunting in front of the camera since adolescence, has developed a brilliant eye for spotting talent or what it takes to make it big in the outdoor industry. These skills have made Michael one of the outdoors most successful people and I know that whenever I have a question as to where the industry will come out on an issue or what will work or won’t work in hunting, Michael is one of my first calls.
So how big might Mundt and Bone Collector become? Well, they have all the right talent, a world-class brand, and the glue factor of Nick Mundt. They also have world-class management representation with Jim Schiefelbein, who joined the team a couple of years ago to help lead them through growth. I don’t know about you, but I’m betting long on Nick Mundt and Bone Collector as they are the real deal!
Read and join the discussion on Nick Mundt: Bowhunting Warrior and One Cool Cat at OutdoorHub.com.
March 15, 2013
There are places to hunt and fish, and then there are places where deer and ducks are everywhere, trout are jumping into your creel, the landscape is spectacular and you’re not elbow-to-elbow with others bent on the same pursuit.
Those places are secret places for the most part, shared sparingly only with close friends–because secret fishing and hunting places can be over-used, reducing their original value.
There are many other kinds of special places that have a magnetic draw for people, some famous: Stonehenge, Machu Picchu, Lourdes, Jerusalem, the Great Pyramid, Mount Fuji, Haleakala Crater, Mount Rushmore, Mesa Verde, the Ganges River, Mount Denali, and so on. Visiting such places is one of the most powerful of all world tourism motivations, and one of the least understood by modern science, I might add.
Aside from places with an abundance of fish and game, there are also places special to sportsmen that hold special significance to the culture of sports. Visiting the Basilica of Saint Hubert (the patron saint of hunting) in the Ardennes Forest of Belgium for example, would certainly be such a special place. There are other similar special places for outdoor sportsmen in North America, though perhaps not so obvious.
I once spent a morning in California’s Suisun Marsh hunting from a duck blind that Herbert Hoover used to frequent. We did not bag limits of ducks that morning, but there was something special about sitting in the old wooden box sunk down into the mud. Watching the sun wake up in the eastern sky, you got a sense of history as you realized that you are but one link of a long chain of hunters who have gone afield before you.
A place like that makes you feel humble. It also is inspirational.
There are many special places of historical value to sportsmen, but to my mind, the ultimate outdoorsman’s special place in North America is a simple wooden shack, not quite as big as a one-car garage, standing in a grove of hardwoods, not far from the Wisconsin River that quietly slips by like a bluesy note on a slide guitar.
No electricity. A stone fireplace made almost entirely from glacial boulders found right on the land. The timbers are a mixed blend of lumber from the original building, a chicken coop, and driftwood boards salvaged out of the river and others cut by hand from fallen trees on the land. This shack is hardly pretentious, but in terms of conservation of natural resources this place is hallowed ground.
If you didn’t know what this shack was, you might think it was a relic of the Great Depression that somehow survived the years. In part, it is. But this simple wooden building was the incubation chamber for perhaps the single-most important book on wildlife conservation that has ever been written–Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac.
In 1935 Aldo Leopold was teaching at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. One of the founders of the Wilderness Society and architect of the original wildlife management policy on Forest Service lands, Leopold had a passion for wildlife that led him to become the prime moving force in creating the science of wildlife management that guides fish and game departments around the world today. He was, in fact, the first professor of that field.
Leopold’s passion for his work often placed great demands on him. He needed a retreat to restore himself. He told a realtor that he wanted to find a place near Madison where he could immerse himself in nature, place that was remote and hard to get to; the more primitive the better.
The realtor showed him a 300-acre abandoned farm on some poor sandy soil along the Wisconsin River just north of Baraboo. It had an old chicken coop on it. Leopold immediately declared that this was the place, even though there was a foot of chicken manure on the floor of the shed.
Over the next 12 years, Aldo Leopold, his wife Estella, and their five children spent many weekends and summers at the shack. After cleaning it out, they added a bunkroom built with driftwood and hand-cut lumber and replaced the earth floor with rough boards. The building grew out of roots in the place, becoming an expression of the spirit of the land.The Leopolds also planted thousands of pine trees, hoping to restore some of the original pine forest that had been logged off the land. Nearly all of the trees died, as this was the Dust Bowl era. Still, some made it and can be seen today in the mixed woods and prairie around the shack.
In his visits to the shack, Aldo Leopold took notes on what he saw and felt. He organized them into a calendar year of reflection about the moods of nature. Those observations served as a platform to put forth his ideas that represent a guiding philosophy of natural resources management that today is honored all around the world.
The science of ecology was already conceived in Leopold’s time, but with the help of the shack and the land he showed how conservation is ultimately a matter of ethics, and even soul, as much as science.
The single most important guiding concept to help man act in accord with nature, in Leopold’s view, is the “Land Ethic,” which he defined as: “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”
“That land is a community is the basic concept of ecology,” Leopold wrote, “but that land is to be loved and respected is an extension of ethics.”
If someone develops an ethical relationship with the land, it “… reflects the existence of an ecological conscience, and this in turn reflects a conviction of individual responsibility for the health of the land,” Leopold asserted.
This statement ranks alongside Gifford Pinchot and Teddy Roosevelt’s delimitation of “conservation”–the wise use of natural resources for the greatest good for the greatest number over time–as among the most powerful guiding conservation ethics modern man has proposed.
Thanks to the Leopold family, today anyone can visit Leopold’s shack, which is maintained by the Aldo Leopold Foundation, located in Baraboo.
A total of 1,400 acres are now preserved in the Aldo Leopold Memorial Reserve. The foundation is restoring some original prairielands, but all the land is managed in keeping with Leopold’s land ethic, which is being applied to a growing number of acres of farms, homes and retreats nearby; quietly spreading across the land like wildflower seeds blown by the winds.
A respectful distance from “the shack” is a modern interpretive center where the Leopold legacy is on display.
In A Sand County Almanac, Leopold wrote: “Barring love and war, few enterprises are undertaken with such abandon, or by such diverse individuals, or with so paradoxical a mixture of appetite and altruism, as that group of avocations known as outdoor recreation. It is, by common consent, a good thing for people to get back to nature.”
For someone who loves nature and wild things, visiting Leopold’s shack is a moving experience I cannot recommend enough. It truly is holy ground.
As an academic, I have studied the psychology of what may happen when a person visits a special place. Some people report powerful inspirational, even spiritual experiences that change their lives. The Conservation Movement, for example, was born in an ecstatic experience that Gifford Pinchot had while riding his horse through Rock Creek Park in Washington, D.C. in 1902.
Others find a delayed reaction that creeps into their soul after leaving the place. Writers always hope that some of the spirit of a place that inspired a great writer will rub off on them. However, you can never predict how a place may affect you–here’s two personal examples.
A few years ago I was invited to give a lecture at Aldo Leopold’s shack. My “pay” for the presentation was spending the night sleeping in a sleeping bag in the shack. The value of that, of course, was priceless.
When I made my pilgrimage to Baraboo, however, spring had been very wet, producing a bumper crop of mosquitos. So, when I visited the shack to pay my respects, the aerial greeting committee was swarming and I had to wear full mosquito netting, as no repellent known to man would keep them away (and we tried many). As a result, to have the audience not devoured by mosquitos, my lecture was given in town, and my bed was at a motel. Personally, I think Aldo would have liked that. The experience proved that NATURE is always, in the long run, the boss.
I’ve also always admired the beauty and simplicity of Ernest Hemingway’s writing. For a time when I was in college, I went on a quest to visit some of Hemingway’s special places, such as Key West, or the Big Two-Hearted River in Michigan. Did it help? Not sure, but is it purely coincidental that in 2010 I was cast to play a part in the feature film Hemingway and Gellhorn starring Clive Owen and Nicole Kidman? And what part did I play? I was a rowdy drunk sitting in Sloppy Joe’s Bar in Key West, a place that I had visited when I was in college.
The meaning of that happening? Come to think of it, I was on Spring Break when I visited Sloppy Joe’s.
Read and join the discussion on Aldo Leopold’s Shack: An Outdoor Sportsman’s Sacred Place at OutdoorHub.com.
March 14, 2013
How much of your time is wasted focused on emotion, focused on ego and not on the desired outcome? I totally get it, I’ve spent too much of my life there–stuck in the waiting game, the incomplete game. I could not set clear desired outcomes as the clouds were abundant and the lens which I saw through had lost its hunter’s edge. Despite trying hard, I never seemed to get that which I truly wanted and then I figured out one day that it was me that was blocking greatness, me and nobody else.
I discovered that when we tap the hunter inside of us–our natural order–things become clearer. All that we need for business, life, or the field is already there. We just have to see it, believe it, and stay out of the way and let the hunter take over. The true hunter knows its purpose and does not get caught in the noise, the ego, or the waiting game.
We are all hunters, whether we are hunting an antique, chasing a huge business deal, or trying to take a dall sheep at 10,000 feet. The sooner we start to realize that we must become hunters in our business lives, in our personal lives, and in the way we pursue our goals or our desired outcomes, the sooner we shall live a life of deliberate purpose: a life of successful hunts.
The time has come to unleash the hunter and track down that which has previously eluded you. All that is needed to be leveraged is inside of you, so wake up because the world is waiting, hunter, and it’s open season…
How would you change it up? How will you unleash your inner hunter?
Read and join the discussion on We Are All Hunters at OutdoorHub.com.
March 7, 2013
Turkeys are bowhunting’s ultimate challenge. In fact, I have had better luck shooting pheasant out of the air with my bow than I have turkeys on the ground. That can be contributed to my turkey jinx more than anything, but just because Tommy Three Toes continually vexes me does not mean I won’t be out this Spring looking to sink an arrow in his side.
Broadhead selection for turkey is important and a sore spot for me. I used think any ol’ broadhead would do, after all, it’s only an 18- to 25-pound bird.
I mean, if my bow would let the air out of a monster Pennsylvania whitetail, how hard could a turkey be?
My turkey jinx showed me just how wrong I could be and went something like this.
I was hunting down in Georgia with Mossy Oak’s crew. The turkey jinx already bit me several times in the past and I was dead-set on breaking my losing streak. Mossy Oak had supplied me some of their best turkey experts to make sure it happened. It was my jinx against their combined skills.
Time to Let the Feathers Fly
The weather hadn’t cooperated for the first couple of days, but my southern guide, Jeff, had a few tricks to turn the tide. We headed to a secret spot, a stand of planted pines, and Jeff started talkin’ turkey. Before long, we could hear gobblers headed our way. The pines did not offer much cover and we did not have a choice because the toms were reluctant to come out. We started putting the sneak on the birds to close the distance. After that, we were relying on our camo to tip the scales in our favor. A short time later, I spotted two toms coming through the trees.
The toms put on a marvelous show. They were dragging their wing tips and strutting. They had heard a receptive lady about and were committed to impressing and winning her favor, but I had other plans. At 25 yards, with their eyes pointed in the opposite direction, I began the draw. I centered the biggest tom between my 20- and 30-yard pins. The tom turned straight toward me as I loosed the arrow with its massive, mechanical broadhead featuring a four-inch cutting diameter.
The arrow center-punched the tom’s chest and bowled him over twice. We jumped up and ran toward the bird. However, before we could close the distance and get a boot on his head, he flew away—with my arrow dangling out of his chest!
I couldn’t believe it.
“How many pounds are you shooting?” Ben asked. “Who cares,” I replied. “How do you not penetrate a turkey?”
All hope wasn’t lost. Ben is one of the best in the turkey woods and saw the bird go down about 150 yards away. He marked the spot and we high-tailed it in that direction. We only searched for a few minutes before we found the bird. He wasn’t hard to spot—flying through the air.
Ben recovered my arrow. It had penetrated about ¾-inch and bent one of the blades back like a horseshoe. Reviewing the video footage, we decided I must have hit the knob on the end of the keel bone perfectly. That, combined with the turkey rolling over a couple times, absorbed the rest of the energy. My turkey jinx had not only bested me again, it had sunk some of Mossy Oak’s best. What’s that old saying? “I’d rather be lucky than good.” I had brought good, but not the right brand of luck.
Broadheads for Successful Turkey Hunters
So, while you may not want to use the broadhead I had chosen for that hunt (the company has long since gone out of business. Any guesses why?) there are several broadheads hunters are having great luck with. For recommendations I asked bowhunting expert, Bob Robb for his top choices which included: Rage; G5 Tekan and Tekan II; New Archery Products Spitfire, Scorpion XP,Shockwave and Gobbler Getter; Wasp Jackhammer SST; Mar-Den Vortex; Rocket Steelhead XL, Ultimate Steel, Miniblaster, and Meat Seeker; Game Tracker First Cut EXP and Silvertip; G-5 F-15 Dual Blade; Grim Reaper Razortip and Razorcut SS and Aftershock Archery HyperShock—just to get you started. Of course plan B would have to be the Gobbler Guillotine from Arrowdynamic Solutions, which is designed to literally take a bird’s head right off. It’s either a clean miss or decapitation.
Broadhead weight is a personal choice and shouldn’t make a difference on turkey-sized game. However, a lack of accuracy will sink your hunt faster than anything. Be sure to let several different heads fly and see which one shoots best out of your bow.
Broadhead weight is not important, except in terms of how it affects the accuracy of your bow. Accurate arrow flight and razor-sharp blades are going to be most important.
Although the earlier story of my failed experience would make you think differently, many bowhunters put a “stopper” behind the broadhead to reduce penetration. The reasoning is that the reduced penetration will ensure the arrow shaft stays in the bird and transfers 100 percent of potential energy to the turkey. With the arrow still in the body cavity, it will be much more difficult for the turkey to flop or fly off (but not impossible) before you can race out and stomp on his head. The Bateman Small Game Stopper, Zwickey Scorpio and Muzzy Grasshopper are three excellent products for this.
After watching others successfully harvest turkeys with arrows… and my own experiences, I cannot say whether or not you should use the stopper. Both sides have advantages and disadvantages. Here in Illinois we still have snow on the ground and several more inches expected today, but I’ll be spending a couple of hours in the basement tonight tuning my bow and sorting through a collection of broadheads. Once everything is flying straight, I’ll watch the weather for a warmer day and head to the range with the heads to see which one will be tasked with the daunting challenge of being pitted against my turkey jinx.
Read and join the discussion on Tackling a Turkey Jinx — Broadheads at OutdoorHub.com.
February 14, 2013
As part of the process of writing my upcoming book, I had the pleasure of interviewing Toxey Haas, the founder of Mossy Oak. From minute one of a conversation with Toxey, it is clear that he is deep, super deep, and very connected to our “source” in life–meaning God, earth, and everything metaphysical.
Toxey is deep into the meaning and the fabric of what the Mossy Oak brand is all about. He generally avoids putting absolute labels on things and tends to see things at a very high level–a very pure level.
“Mossy Oak in its essence truly is a lifestyle,” he told me. “And we as a family here believe it’s much more than just a ‘brand.’ I think sometimes things lose their most meaningful identity by getting too hung up on the words we use. I don’t like to put labels on things. It is so limiting. I believe that it is the people whom we affect, the lives we touch and deeply bond with, that can best describe Mossy Oak.
“Labels are just labels and that’s fine and totally common in the world we live in, but what we stand for and offer is just much more, much bigger. We just believe that people can only live their best life in and around the outdoors–hunting and fishing and caring for all of it. Above all I can thank my dad, ‘Mr Fox,’ as he is known, for setting the standard for myself and all of us here. He may be my dad but he is truly the most special spirit myself and countless other have known.”
I have not come across many people who remind me of Toxey. He lives a lifestyle extremely connected to nature and surrounded by a very close family in a manner most only dream about. His truest passion is land and everything that can be done to make it better.
“Where I am most at home is on the land,” he said. “On a tractor or bulldozer, planting trees, planting crops, restoring habitat, building lakes or ponds, just everything and anything to make it better.
“I love to look at a piece of property and visualize what it can be. What does it want to become, and what are all the possibilities? Every piece of dirt is unique and special. When I look at a piece of land I look at things like what’s the soil situation, what native plants and trees are most suited for it, what can that ground grow, what can it be?
“Every piece of land is a miracle no matter how big or small. It doesn’t matter if it’s four acres or 4,000 acres, it’s the personal connection and taking responsibility for that piece of dirt that matters.
“Look at it this way, you get the very best possible place to hunt and fish but even more importantly the best and fullest life in the deal. I think a lot of people miss that. All of our conservation brands like Biologic, Nativ Habitats, Mossy Oak Properties, Mossy Oak Land Enhancement, and especially GameKeepers encompass the entirety of enabling people to make the most out of both their our special dirt and even more the time they have in life. We always say that the open season on being a GameKeeper lasts 12 months a year!”
In order to fully appreciate Toxey you need to open up your mind and you need to rid yourself of prejudices and preconceived thoughts. This is easier said than done, as most of us are far too caught up in our own egos to open up in that way. Whether or not you relate to everything Toxey talks about, you will never walk away and call this guy anything other than connected. He is in flow and possesses an energy connection to nature and God that’s beyond normal. His beliefs are founded within love and not fear.
“I’ve just learned to avoid the fear thing, it will never serve me well nor will it serve Mossy Oak or our team and family,” Toxey also said to me. “Yeah, it’s true I may be tasked with the vision side of what we undertake, but it has been my team, my dedicated awesome team, that has truly made Mossy Oak what it is. My ‘vision’ is just the sum total of everyone I work and live with side-by-side each day.
“When we started this thing I told everyone my primary mission was to keep the team together. All the key people who founded this are still here except for Bob Dixon–a MOST special soul who we lost to cancer about ten years ago. And we still celebrate his life with all we do here, especially in the springtime. He would be especially proud of the corporate culture we have evolved to now, and it has evolved light years in just the past couple. We are a VERY close bunch!”
When I asked him whether he ever saw this business becoming the massive company and influential brand it has become, he didn’t give me some canned answer.
“You know, I just never think about it,” he replied. “Our philosophy is about the more you have and the bigger you get, then the MORE you need to give and the MORE you need to work at being a humble, serving spirit. In the back of my head I always knew that if it starts and ends with authenticity and deep connection to the core, it could become something powerful. Please just know that’s its all of us and not just me.”
That’s the understatement of the year, Toxey, it has become massively powerful and has made its way into so many crossover markets it’s crazy!
“David, I never wanted to be an icon and I don’t look at myself that way,” he told me. “It actually makes me uncomfortable to even talk like that. It has always been about Mossy Oak at its deepest meaning and how it affects people. Since the beginning, this has been about an outdoor lifestyle and that means what it means to the people who attach to the brand. We just honestly want to help shine the light on helping people live their best life outdoors.”
One thing is for certain about Toxey Haas and the impression he left with me after the interview: I want to know this guy better. He and I share many beliefs at a deeper spiritual level. Whenever I find people who appreciate nature in a bigger than words, bigger than sensory way, it is refreshing. I have little doubt that Toxey will continue to build huge things and improve a whole heck of a lot land along the way. I hope to spend some time in nature with him and if not, I am still amazed by this man and his accomplishments, depth of belief, and love for earth. I hate to put a label on this but I now know that Mossy Oak means it when they say “it’s not a passion, it’s an obsession.”
Read and join the discussion on Toxey Haas, Founder of Mossy Oak and a Deeply Connected Man at OutdoorHub.com.
February 13, 2013
The ex-LAPD officer who shot his way into the national headlines after killing four people and wounding several others on a dramatic crime spree, Christopher Dorner, was tracked into the Big Bear Lake area of southern California last week. Upwards of 200 law enforcement officers were engaged in the manhunt, which began on February 6 and spread throughout California and Mexico. By Sunday, the search began to focus elsewhere. The California Fish and Wildlife wardens volunteered to join in the hunt and ultimately it was game wardens who appear to have found the elusive murder suspect.
According to California Fish and Wildlife Public Information Officers Pat Foy and Mark Michilizzini, at about 12:45pm on Tuesday afternoon, February 12, two game wardens came to a stopped school bus on Highway 38 near the resort community of Big Bear Lake 80 miles east of Los Angeles. When the school bus started up and passed the wardens, they noticed a purple Nissan sedan was following the school bus very closely. Then they saw that the Nissan was being driven by a person who fit the description of Christopher Dorner. Dorner allegedly got the car days before when he broke into a home, tied up a couple and held them hostage.
The wardens turned around and began pursuit. The driver quickly turned down Glass Road. After a short pursuit at high speed, the man authorities believe to be Dorner failed to negotiate a curve and crashed the Nissan into the woods.
Almost immediately, the suspect stopped a truck driven by Rick Heltebrake, a ranger at a nearby Boy Scout camp, and ordered him out of the pickup with his dog. Heltebrake and dog were unharmed. The man then took off in the white pickup. He then passed another game warden truck with one warden. That warden radioed of the position of the truck and its direction.
A third game warden truck then came on the scene with two wardens. On seeing that truck approaching him, the suspect rolled down the window of his vehicle and opened fire on the approaching truck with a pistol. Five bullets hit the truck, two entering the cab. Luckily no one was hit.
The man then took off on another road, as one of the game wardens, a former Marine, got out of his shot-up truck and began firing with his rifle, hitting the targeted truck several times.
The driver then crashed that truck, got out, and ran for a cabin, as the wardens were joined by San Bernadino County Sheriff’s deputies who swarmed after him on foot.
Two deputies were wounded in the chase, and one subsequently died. Their target then fled to a cabin, where he holed up. At one point he tried to flee, but was driven back inside. A fierce gun battle then ensued.
Finally, deputies were able to approach the cabin in an armored vehicle and began battering it down. Ultimately the cabin was set on fire, a single shot was heard, and a body was later found inside which is presumably Christopher Dorner (editor’s note 2/15/2013: the body has now been positively identified as Dorner’s), ending a tragic story that we will no doubt hear about for some time.
Six California Fish and Wildlife wardens were involved in the manhunt for Christopher Dorner, and five of the six were directly involved in locating the alleged fugitive and engaging him, which led to him holing up in the cabin. The crucial role of the wardens in this dangerous chase may surprise you, as you may have considered game wardens as the men and women who spend their time checking limits of fish and making sure you have tagged your deer.
Yeah, they do that, but they do a lot more.
In California, as in most other states, state game wardens are full law enforcement officers. Each type of law enforcement officer has their own beat. City police focus on matters inside that city’s boundaries. Sheriff’s deputies focus primarily on areas outside of major cities within a certain county. State police tend to focus on major highways and state and federal office buildings.
Game wardens, like U.S. Marshals, can and do go anywhere from wilderness to inner cities, and they are the most woods-wise of all state law enforcement, often patrolling remote areas where no other state officers normally are found. California game wardens are also deputy U.S. Marshals.
In a typical California Fish and Wildlife warden green truck, you will find the standard 12 gauge pump shotgun and a semi-automatic rifle in a heavier caliber like a .308, which is what the warden used to cause Dorner to crash the truck. The wardens use a .308 as they typically have to deal with shooting through heavy brush and sometimes long distances. Wardens also carry two pistols, as well as pepper spray, handcuffs, and such on a belt that may weigh 25 pounds. They are better armed than almost all police.
Normally, game wardens work alone and without immediate back-up in remote areas. Fortunately, in the Dorner case, they were able to double up and apply their woods skills to advantage. Warden PIO Pat Foy reported on-site that the wardens were “a little rattled” but they were trained for this kind of work and were fine. Tuesday’s incident marked the second time in seven weeks that game wardens have been fired on in the line of duty. During summer duty, when wardens encounter drug cartel marijuana gardens on wildlands, there are exchanges of gunfire every summer.
The Real Secret Service
There are over 830,000 sworn local law enforcement officers in the U.S., 72,000 police in Manhattan alone. Nationwide, there are around 7,000 game wardens; about as many as the NYPD Blue assigns to cover the New Year’s Eve celebration.
State game wardens are known by various names such as Conservation Officers, Conservation Police, Wildlife Enforcement Agents, Fish Wardens, and Fish and Game Wardens, just to name a few. Many are also deputy federal marshals. There are also U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Special Agents, BLM Special Agents, and National Marine Fisheries Special Agents–federal game wardens–which are about as common as whooping cranes.
No matter what you call them, the jobs of game wardens are basically the same: to protect our fish, wildlife, and natural resources by enforcing wildlife laws–and a lot more. Game wardens are community-based peace officers who cover the largest jurisdiction of any state or local law enforcement officer.
In California, a game warden must have at least two years of post-secondary education. Then they take an entrance exam. If they pass, it takes a warden 16 months to be trained. Training is extensive and includes (but certainly is not limited to) wildlife law, firearms law, arrest and defense tactics, search and rescue, drug and narcotics enforcement, first aid/CPR, weaponless defense, and much more.
Working from a home office, they are on duty 24/7, patrol remote areas often alone and without backup, in pick-ups, snowmobiles, planes, boats, ATV, underwater with SCUBA gear, horseback, trail bikes, and on foot. They also do all their own CSI. Canine companions are becoming increasingly popular.
Almost all people contacted by wardens are armed with guns or knives, or both. Planes and trucks have been and are hit by gunfire. Wardens routinely contact and arrest armed convicted felons. Over 90% of public contacts on the job are nonviolent, but federal statistics show that game wardens and DEA agents have the highest risk of death on the job. There have been at least 229 wildlife officers that have been killed or have died while on duty.
All wardens are also Hunter Education Instructors. They teach people to use firearms, which is a dramatic departure from other law enforcement officers who discourage firearms use and often try to reduce firearms numbers. The only other place a law enforcement person would meet so many armed people is a battlefield.
Game wardens, the “thin green line,” are not abundant anyplace, and as a result they become obscure when people, including policymakers, think about law enforcement strength, and homeland security. Modern game wardens in reality are like the town sheriff of the old west, and the beat they patrol is covered by few others wearing a badge–forest and park rangers, Border Patrol, Coast Guard, and so on. The more scarce that game wardens are, the less safe are the woods, water, and natural resources, as well as the people who use them.
Note: With 38 million people, California has the distinction of having the fewest game wardens per capita in North America (Nunavut Territory has a better wardens per capita ratio) and also the most famous ones, thanks to the Wild Justice TV series on the National Geographic Channel. If you are a fan of Wild Justice you will know that California wardens deal with organized crime and drug cartels as well as enforcing wildlife law.
For more information about California’s game wardens visit the website of the California Fish and Wildlife Wardens Association or watch the 2009 66-minute documentary, Endangered Species: California Fish and Game Wardens, that first put them in the spotlight here, which includes a link to a location where it can be seen online.
Read and join the discussion on Game Wardens: The Key to Finding Christopher Dorner at OutdoorHub.com.
January 10, 2013
A couple of nights ago at dinner my good pal Michael Waddell and I were discussing some of the clear ties between hunting and business and hunting and life. This is a subject which deeply resonates with us both. It is something that I am authoring a book about and dedicating a blogging series to.
At one point in our dinner, Waddell becomes very serious and develops an almost dead-eye stare–the Waddell closer look that “closes the coffin” on world record-class animals from around the globe.
“Farbz, when you wanna close the deal on an old legend, the ol’ nasty buck, the dominant beast of the woods, you ain’t gonna do it with dumb luck,” he exclaims with an intense and amped up voice. “He is smart, that is true, he doesn’t make many mistakes as he is an ol’ wiry beast, but you can manipulate him. You can frustrate him, you can anger him, and make no mistake about it, eventually he will succumb to the right manipulation tactic. That is why I smash antlers together, I’ll grunt, snort, wheeze, and I will challenge that ol’ beast and he cannot help himself. He just has to come in and kick some ass son, and that is why the old dog in some ways is more predictable than other bucks. Once you push the right button, he’s coming man.”
“And when he does with you Waddell, it’s ‘good night, Gracey,’” I jump in and belt out. Waddell nods with an ever so slight smile, yet still holding that serious and intense look on his face. At that moment more than ever it is apparent that Waddell is a true hunter, an artist of the woods, and after all these years his passion still runs deep! He is a one-of-a-kind dude, and his authenticity shines out and has elevated him into becoming one of the most successful and famous hunters in the world.
We both start laughing because it sure sounds a lot like the overblown ego of a human being. How do you take on the biggest and baddest in business or in life? How do you win with someone who appears too smart and too careful to make a mistake? You find the right button to press, the right thing to tweak, eventually they will crack, and then they will become vulnerable. It sounds manipulative and to some extent it may be, but it’s real life. We all have an ego and we all have our weaknesses, no animal or man is invincible.
Waddell and I agree that when we become more comfortable in our own skin, more authentic through and through, we in turn become better hunters. This is true in the field, in the boardroom, and in life in general. When we feel secure in being who we really are, we can understand the simple primal mindset of the dominant animal we are pursuing, and that we as human beings are not so different—except we have a conscience. When we think of ourselves without this conscience differentiator, we begin to understand how our prey thinks. It is within this realm where we truly become the super predator and ol’ nasty becomes our prey ready to be taken down.
Through authenticity we begin to understand that man is merely an animal with a conscience and through this comprehension, many of life’s challenges become solvable. The natural order and the primal instincts within us are ready to be leveraged. Within this realm we can and will achieve more success in business, life, and in the field. When we get real, we will close the deal!
Read and join the discussion on The Outdoors, Business, and Life: Getting Real with Michael Waddell at OutdoorHub.com.
December 26, 2012
Like a lot of subjects, my views regarding being handicapped and participating in outdoor activities have evolved over the years. Probably the single biggest factor in my awakening to the opportunities in the outdoors for those with handicaps was when I met Arvel Gipson. Old Arv had fallen off a high transmission line and broken his back, which left him using crutches for the rest of his life.
Arvel refused to let his handicap stop his enjoyment of the outdoors. We camped, fished, hunted, and cut firewood together. Arvel would drag his chainsaw into the forest and cut firewood right alongside me. When he shot his deer, he tied a rope on it and dragged it out of the woods with his crutches. I recall him observing that when he was trolling for trout or bass out on the reservoir, he was the equal of every other angler on the water. He knew darned well he was handicapped, but he simply refused to let it stop him.
When I was four years old, I managed to crush part of my right hand under the steel grate of a street drain. I crushed three fingers pretty badly and one of them developed gangrene and had to be amputated. The surviving two fingers were disfigured and misshapen and had some permanent nerve damage. To this day, if I get my damaged fingers chilled in the snow, they’ll stay numb for three or four days. Since I didn’t begin school until after the accident, I learned how to hold a pencil and how to write despite my handicap.
Heck, I didn’t even know I was handicapped until I dropped out of college during the height of the Vietnam War. As long as you were enrolled in school and getting passing grades, the draft board gave you a student deferment (if I recall correctly it was a 2-C classification). But if you dropped out of school, you lost your 2-C status and became a 1-A and were ordered to report to your local draft induction center. Because I had some college credits and got pretty good test scores, an Army recruiter offered me a chance to go to Officer Candidate School and become an intelligence officer, if I signed up for a four-year hitch. I agreed and was all excited and looking forward to my Army career.
When I had passed all my standard mental and physical exams the doctor reviewing my case said, “let me look at that hand, boy.” After checking it out pretty thoroughly the doc pronounced, “sorry, boy, but you’re a 4-F and can’t serve in the military.”
I was heartbroken that a couple crushed fingers would keep me out of the service and even appealed to my Congressman. A second review by an orthopedic specialist at Letterman Hospital confirmed my fate–4-F, ineligible for service. Dang! That’s when I found out I was handicapped.
Like most young adults our early 20s, I was pretty sure I was immortal and that I could hike anywhere with no problem. I would backpack into remote streams in search of the rare golden trout or the even more rare Paiute trout. The steep canyons of the Sierra were the home of monster fish and huge deer and bears that were unmolested by ordinary mortals. As years passed however, not only did I slow down a little, but I fished and hunted with fellow outdoor enthusiasts that were handicapped in some fashion. I began to realize that the outdoors was not only a place for the young and physically adept, but that there were ample opportunities afield and a-stream for the old and the physically challenged as well.
Interestingly, age is also a handicap. The older you get the more you slow down. Again, being handicapped, while very real, is hugely affected by your state of mind. I suspect we are all handicapped in some fashion, whether by accident, age, birth, or illness. Heck, even youth is a handicap, they just don’t know it. I developed asthma in my early 30s and suddenly, those 2,000-foot deep canyons weren’t so easy to climb up and down in my quest for pristine fishing. Guess what? I adapted. Instead of trying to climb the canyon walls as I used to, I began to fish the river at the bottom from a white water raft. There are still huge fish, and I get the same thrill when I fight and release one, only now I do it from a raft instead of hiking and wading.
As a society we have recognized that handicapped people have rights too. Did you know that every level of government, from cities to counties to states and even to the federal level, must make provisions for handicapped people? I once represented a large hotel corporation to defend their right to build a boat dock that was handicapped-accessible. The city involved didn’t want to allow a situation in which handicapped people might fall into the water and drown. They argued that some handicapped guy might have too many drinks at the hotel bar and roll into the water. In response, I argued that the very intent of handicapped access laws was to give everyone the same rights, including the right to be stupid. The Handicapped Access Appeals Board agreed and the dock got built with full handicapped accessibility.
I’ve got a few handicaps, you’ve probably got a handicap or two, heck, and we’ve all got handicaps. Just don’t let them keep you from enjoying the outdoors. Get out there and overcome whatever your personal challenge is. Get out there and experience the great outdoors.
Read and join the discussion on Learning to be an Active Outdoorsperson with a Disability at OutdoorHub.com.