We go through a process, we who prowl the hills and hollers and explore the waters, hunting and fishing our way through life. We grow and metamorph not unlike a butterfly. Trophies and limits mean little to us. We have changed. Our step has slowed, our hearing going, our sight dimmed and our desires softened.
Outdoors By John Sloan
Outdoors By John Sloan
Blog entries categorized under John Sloan - Outdoors
Since Mothers Day is this month, I thought I might do a couple columns on the female type sports in our outdoors. This is the second one. JLS
They come from everywhere and do everything. One from Los Angeles owns a women’s professional basketball team and is an entertainment litigation attorney. One is from Detroit and works for the school board. One works in a shipyard in Mississippi. One is a high school student in WI. One is a physician in Oregon. As I said, they come from everywhere and do everything.The sound of women’s laughter fills the air, accompanied by the screeching that women often do when they meet someone they have not seen in a year. As could be expected, they are doing a lot of comparing of clothing. Not to be expected is the style of clothing and the piles of equipment that is rapidly mounting on the big front porch. The clothing is camouflage and the equipment is composed of bows, arrows and knee-high boots.
Following a desire and push by Robert Pitman to get more women involved in hunting (he put his money and efforts where his mouth is), Does and Bows grew. The annual bow hunt for women only, grew from seven the first year to a capacity of 33, a few years later. At that time, women bow hunters were not on television every week nor were they the sexual centerfolds for hunting magazines. We had a waiting list for hunters.
To see this group of women unpack the latest in hunting equipment and know how to use it was definitely not the norm. However, in a few years, it became so. Hunter skill level varied from entry level to professional with world champion archers rubbing quivers and trading tips with beginners. Actual competition did not exist. When one woman killed a deer, they all celebrated. The pros spent hours coaching the newbies.
Does and Bows became an industry pattern for a few other outfitters. Hosted by the famed, now closed, White Oak Plantation near Tuskegee, AL, it was the first such venture in a struggling industry. “It is the women who take kids to soccer and dance and ball practice.” Said Robert Pitman, owner of the sprawling lodge. “We need to get them started taking the kids hunting.” A few years later, one hunter brought her 13-year old daughter to the hunt and they became regulars.
Strangely enough, industry wide, women began to show up in serious magazine articles and on television. Today, it is hard to find a television, hunting program that at some point does not feature a woman. Make no mistake they are not just there for window dressing (most of them). They can hunt with the best of the men and some of them may be better hunters.
Over the 13-years, the hunt existed. I saw a lot of growth in the skill level of the hunters. I saw several women kill their first animal at White Oak and made note of how they had grown in hunting ability since their first year there.
The archery/bow hunting industry also took note of women during these years and began to provide products designed just for them. Shorter, lighter bows became stock items with every bow company. These were serious bows, bows designed to shoot fast, accurately and kill animals up to elephant size. Women’s clothing began to show up in real camouflage designs and other manufacturers started taking notice of the “new” corner in the market. One year, according to a survey, women were the fastest and maybe only growing segment of the hunting industry. I would not be surprised if it is not still.
I am proud to have been a part of the formation of Does and Bows. I was at every hunt. I grinned as suddenly other outdoor writers began to see the marketability of stories on women hunting and more than happy to share information with them and get them with the women for interviews. I grinned even more as other outdoor guides and outfitters tested the waters of hosting women hunters.
Many made a logical and common mistake. They dumbed down the hunt. They allowed women to only kill does, not trophy animals. They did not regard the women as serious hunters. They quickly learned. I pushed hard to do more with women in the hunting sport.
Hunting today, especially bow hunting is alive and well. PETA and other so-called animal rights organizations are learning to leave hunting alone and fund their sky-high salaries by begging money to save poor, bedraggled pets. Each year I hear stories and get pictures of women with their kills. Lately, the women have been young…as in teenagers. I like seeing that.
It feels good to look back on my half-century of hunting and think of the changes. My earliest mentors would not think of going to the hunting camp without their wives. They were not there to cook, either. As a youngster, growing up in LA, I just assumed all women hunted. It was somewhat normal in LA.
As I became involved in the hunting industry, I was again surprised they were not. Only a few hunted and in most camps, were degraded by the men or relegated to doing the camp cooking. Even fewer bow hunted.
That changed at White Oak and at many other locations. At Does and Bows, there were no men with whom to compete; only other women and you could not really call it competition. The women were comfortable.
Today, it is as common to see a woman in camouflage as it is a man. Not just at Wal-Mart, either and not as a misguided fashion statement complete with tattoos and pierced noses. You can quickly tell the hunters from the rest.
I am glad to think hunting is in good hands. I think Robert Pitman’s goal has been reached. I truly think the women are taking the kids to soccer, dance and…Hunting.
Since Mothers Day is coming up, I decided to devote a couple columns to the women and mothers in the outdoors. I think they deserve some special recognition. JLS
Surrounded by dogs, horses and a houseful of hunting trophies is a hardcore huntress. Kristi Lynn Hair is passionate about hunting. In fact, that is about all she does. Along with Idaho hunter, Meagan Johnson, she formed Hardcore Huntresses, an online community for women to come share their hunting experiences. It is catching on. I think it is a neat deal.
It is no surprise that someone would remember the first deer he or she killed. It is right up there with the birth of a child or the first girl with whom you ever made love. You don’t forget those things. What is a surprise, at least to me, is that I can remember the first largemouth bass I caught. Among my fishing memories that go back almost 65-years are bits and pieces of several fish I caught or did not catch.
The Honorable Foster Butt once said, “Make sure your taxes are in and then hit the water.”
What he meant was, mid-April is a hot time to be fishing in Tennessee. April 15, would have been the Ides of April back ole Julius Caesar’s time. Famed smallmouth angler, Harold Dotson swore it was the best time to fish Center Hill especially on a rainy day. Both largemouth and smallmouth bass get right about then.
He always pronounced it Ahhpreel. Then, he would smile and spit for emphasis. He told me one time, “Boy, in da munt of Ahhpreel, you can do mose anyting.”
He always had snuff juice in the corners of his mouth and a twinkle in his eyes. He dipped Tuberose snuff and often drank Old Crow, sometimes, at the same time. I reckon he was close on to 80 when I first met him.
Wet on my face, little drops on my rod and line. A thick fog, the kind you can smell and taste. The kind my father called phawg. Of course, he also called the Texas Panhandle, the Texas Pothook.
The skeletal trees still standing in the warm water, kept weaving in and out of sight as they hid behind the moving, sometimes roiling blankets of thick mist. Of course, that is all fog is, mist. I once tried to catch a handful of it and mist. It can be spooky, fog. I kinda like it at times.
Cold and dreary. Just coming daylight and the woods filled with booming gobbles. This was going to be easy. I looked at Toby and he nodded. Gary Holmes, tapped my arm and pointed to the now lightening, east. “Just over that ridge.” He whispered. “Camera light soon.”
So opened turkey season in Missouri years ago.
They said it would rain. It did rain.
They said it would be windy. It was windy.
They did not say one word about it being dead calm some of the time and the rain ending and it getting almost warm toward hot. It did that. I have never much trusted weather forecasters. They are bad to lie.
Last week’s column, regarding things to worry about, rattled some cages. I spoke about closing of the tail waters below 10 dams. See, here is what is happening.
Two years ago, the Nashville District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began a plan to barricade waters below ten dams along the Cumberland River system where sportsmen have fished for decades.
Sometime back in late December, I put an important sidebar next to my column. It warned about the closing of tail waters at some dams to fishing. I urged sportsmen and women to contact their congresspersons protesting this stupid move by the Corps of Engineers.
Then it all got quiet for a while. It seemed nobody but a few outdoor writers were concerned. And maybe Lamar Alexander got a little concerned.
I expect to hear one or two any morning. The Music City Star will come by about 5:50 and sound their cursed horn. One or more will sound off as a reflex. The later it gets into the year, the more will sound off.
This is a mixed up month. You never know what to do. One day the crappies are hitting and the next you could freeze your tukus off. You may hear a turkey gobble or get cold hands catching a walleye or sauger. It is a great month for striper…if you have any desire to catch one and one some days; it is just dandy for floating a stream.
A good thing happened Jan. 24. Caving to pressure from hunters, anglers and other outdoor enthusiasts, the huge, long-running Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show (ESOS) folded their tent and cancelled their show in Harrisburg, PA.
So what? What does that have to do with someone here in Cedar City? A lot. As I have said before, I am not concerned about banning assault weapons because the whole thing is not about guns. It is about control, it is about taking away of rights-yours and mine. Guns just happen to be the vehicle to which it is tied. The outdoor/hunting/sporting industry let it be known, that would not happen. They were willing to take the financial impact of taking a stand and saying, “Hell no! Not on our watch.” They did so in a way that works far better than 1,000,000 words in print and lip service. They did so by hitting the pocket book.
See, here is what happened and how it shook down. The ESOS has been running for a long time. It runs for 10 days, scheduled to open Feb. 2. However, the giant exhibition halls stayed dark. Back on Jan. 17, they decided to ban assault rifles and large magazines from display at the show, some of the items Sen. Feinstein has on her laundry list legislation. A company named Reed, from Great Britain manages this show and some others. I guess they did not think anyone would mind or maybe even notice.
Then, the cagada hit the oscillator. One after another by the dozens, then hundreds, huge companies such as Cabela’s, Ruger, Ford Trucks, John Deere, Dicks Sporting Goods, Jack Daniels, Mossberg, Savage Arms, Winchester and other outfits large and small refused to come…just pulled out. Said, “Nope, if you are going to refuse us our second amendment rights, we just won’t show. The last list I saw numbered over 300 exhibitors that had backed out.
Then the seminar speakers, the big names from television almost to a lot did the same. Even Uncle Ted said no to a speaking engagement. Think about the economic impact that made on that show. By Jan. 23, hundreds of exhibitors and speakers had pulled out. It is comparable to all of the Super Bowl commercials cancelling and then, most of the players refusing to show up. Those folks stood up for all of our second amendment rights and put their money on the line to do so.
This show for some is the biggest of the year. To withdraw is a huge hit to their income. For many of the exhibitors, missing this show would hit their annual bank account by as much as one-half. They did not miss a beat. Even companies with no ties or interest in guns pulled out. For some outfitters, it was the only show they worked all year. They might book 90% of their clients there and there was a waiting list for booth space.
I worked the show for many years. For me, it was a big payday. I have not gone in some time. Had I been booked, I would have joined the boycott immediately even though it had nothing to do with the archery industry and basically, nothing to do with me. That would have meant a loss to me of $6,500 and expenses. I had to grin as I saw one archery company after another, large and small, join the boycott and say, “No, not on our watch.”
Then came the wash of demands by ticket buyers for refunds and entire busloads cancelled their trips. You see, ESOS draws as many as 500,000 attendees a year. They just let it be known, they were not going to come to a show that was being boycotted so heavily. Let that number rattle around in your head for a few minutes.
A half million spenders. The last figure I saw came from someone with the government in Harrisburg. They claimed it would amount to nearly $80-million direct and in trickle down money. That is serious money. But not to Reed. They are a huge business and ESOS is small potatoes to them.
Therefore, Reed canceled the show. They said they would refund all money spent on tickets in advance and probably the exhibitor fees. However, I am not sure that will get them out of trouble with the American outdoor industry and Americans in general.
Reed also produces the mega-giant, Shooting-Hunting Outdoor Trade Show-SHOT Show. Although Harrisburg is a relatively small show for Reed, the SHOT Show in Las Vegas is not. The National Shooting Sports Foundation owns it. Think of it as the Detroit Auto Show except for shooting, hunting and outdoor equipment. It is gagalopicle big. As you might guess, they were not too pleased with Reed’s decision to ban “black” guns. To lose that show would be a hit in the old Euros for Reed. NSSF said they were taking a wait and see approach.
Now, I do not know how much national media attention this will garner. Probably, outside of outdoor writers and outdoor programming, it will get very little. It is too far on the wrong side of mainstream media. It did make national television news on Jan. 24. One sentence was about it and that was incorrect. In addition, the mayor of Harrisburg made one of the most ridiculous statements I have ever heard. She blamed the NRA. Likely, it will get her unelected in the next election.
However, this one event may provide our government officials with a scary look at just what Americans will do when their second amendment rights are tampered with by anybody. Oddly, it came on the same day Sen. Feinstein offered her ridiculous proposed gun control bill.
In addition to the millions of tax dollars, it cost the state of PA and the city of Harrisburg, the HRI folks in and around that city took a huge hit. Hotels that sold out for 10-12 days were empty. Eating joints and the folks who supply them had plenty of room. We are talking about a tremendous amount of revenue that just did not happen. It went away because as an industry, we said no. We will take the financial hit for what we believe in and so you will you. That is exactly how citizens make a difference. They attack the pocket book. No amount of marching and rhetoric will have the impact of dollars lost.
I don’t know but I suspect the ESOS is for sale. I cannot imagine Reed trying to smooth things out. They insulted too many of the wrong people. However, a show that size will come back. I believe under new management, good old U.S. of A. management. In addition, it will once again be one of the major shows for the outdoor industry.
And…they will have guns on display…lots of guns.
The turkey crawl
It is what a spring afternoon should be; warm with a slight breeze and the warm air redolent with honeysuckle and other sweet-smelling blooms. The true turkey hunters have not arrived. Bo and I are taking a busman’s holiday and going for a turkey crawl in the Alabama pinewoods. When we were younger, we use to do that now and then. We don’t do it all now.
On a regular basis, someone will ask me what I think about gun control. Most are amazed at my answer. You see, I do not care. It is not about gun control. It is about control. Period. Guns are just the current vehicle. To make legislation more palatable, the focus is on “assault weapons”, the ones the gangstas hold sideway and spray bullets everywhere.
It is a superb October afternoon. The temperature is in the lower 80’s with a light breeze from the south. Earlier, I caught a basket full of bass in the 1-2 pound range. Now, a turtle rests on the log in the small dove pond behind me. I guess he is sunning. I am sitting in my favorite shooting house overlooking the hay field. I watch the beautiful, silver/grey, white bellied squirrel out in the field. I have lost count of the number of does I have shot from this house overlooking a finger of the hayfield. They come here in bunches. Often the bucks follow.
I like a little variety in my outdoor activities. My deer season is over. I finished up in Alabama last Sunday and I’ll tell you all about that next week. So I am done. I probably won’t start fishing for a week or so. However, the crappie and trout are both good right now and I hear tell the sauger are red hot.
It doesn’t seem much like it now. Cold and windy a lot of the time, dreary. However, they will come, one after the other, spread out like a good Navajo blanket with the designs in order. It is simply a matter of turning some calendar pictures.
First, will come the cold, crisp mornings, the ones that hold such promise of warm afternoons. The bass will be in transition. They will be outside the standing timber, collected on the edge of the dropoff. They will want the slower lures. It is a good time to work the jigs and small worms and watch the birds lift off the rookery. The sun warms the air, the jacket will still feel good for another hour or so. The throb of a healthy bass on the end of 10-pound line will feel good. The fish is still cold to your hand.
Probably we will start slowly, too. We will be cold and old bones don’t work as smoothly as they once did. As we wind the reel handles, we might wish for the warmth of the early morning coffee cups. As the fish, begin to hit regularly, our actions become smoother. From the cast to the hook set we become almost fluid in our actions.
Later, as a page or two of calendar turns, we will catch crappie in the morning and big bream in the afternoon. These will be the “cooler” fish, the ones that go in the cooler to be converted into golden brown fillets, graced with a slice of Vidalia onion. We might take a day and go to the woods for turkeys. Perhaps we can find a mushroom or six to go with the fish for supper.
We might even kill a turkey.
Another page turned and the mornings start out hot. Still, a fog lies low on the water. The bass hit harder now. They are more aggressive, 20 fish an hour is normal and our thumbs are raw from handling rough-toothed bass. We are finding them against the grassy dam, in the deep water. Every now and then, a big fish hits. Often they get off, rolling some distance from the boat as they pull loose to fight again.
By late afternoon, we will be hot and tired. It will be a good time to sit on the porch and watch the sun begin slide down behind the trees, finally vanishing in the lake. Sunburns in new places begin to itch, old stories are told and the smell of supper wafts through the open door.
This week, I will be at the place all of that happens. I will be deer hunting. It is the rut down there and perhaps a bug buck will walk by. However, rest assured, I will have my fishing gear with me Justin case it turns off warm. Next week, I’ll tell you all about the trip. Warmer days are coming.
They will come, those days. Just be patient.
Could you maybe add this to your New Years resolutions? There are some things I would like to have. I guess it is just a matter of showing my age, this almost rage I incur at cutesy words the television “hunting” community has coined.