Monday, June 29, 2009

Yaban TV: 'We are not hunters; we are nature’s soldiers'

"We are not hunters; we are nature's soldiers." What's not to love about that quote? It embodies the ethic so many hunters hold dear - that we're the ones out there who see what's going on with wildlife, who spot when there's a problem.

But that quote didn't come out of America; it came out of Turkey. The words were spoken by Dr. Ali Bürkev, who's a producer for Yaban TV, which is a hunting television channel in Turkey. Read more...
You can read the whole story for yourself on Hurriyet Daily, but here's the upshot: Yaban TV is on a mission to educate and train the nation's hunters not just to be good stewards of the land themselves, but to police it.

"Nature can be protected by the people living in it," Bürkev told the Hurriyet Daily News. "That takes training. We provide that. We mobilize people who live in villages by providing them with environmental consciousness. We cannot protect a forest if the people living in it do not.

"Before the advent of Yaban TV, nature was left in the hands of people with no training. We are changing that," he said.

"We have founded a hotline. People alert the channel about environmental problems or wrong hunting methods they witnessed. They SMS us, tell the location and time," he said. "’There is an illegal mine here,’ ’they are killing the females of the species,’ and ’trees are being cut at that location’ are the kinds of messages we receive. And we broadcast them. This makes people wonder whether they’re being followed and results in self-control."

How cool is that? Do you think perhaps we could take a cue from Turkish TV here in America, and maybe focus some of our TV more actively on promoting stewardship of the land? Not just the obligatory platitudes about how much we love nature, but perhaps a call to action once in a while? Food for thought.

© Holly A. Heyser 2009

Cooking: How to flatten a duck for the grill

OK, I know it's not duck season, but it is grilling season, and I'm betting all you dedicated duck hunters still have a few tasty morsels in your freezer.

If you're like us and you dress your ducks whole instead of breasting them out, you know that a big round object doesn't always cook evenly on the grill.

But there's an easy method for flattening the duck. How easy? Check out the audio slideshow I produced for Delta Waterfowl Magazine's WebXtras - it's the first in a series of four at that link.

The slideshow shows still photos of Boyfriend demonstrating the technique, while he narrates to explain what he's doing. Enjoy!

© Holly A. Heyser 2009

Friday, June 26, 2009

Minimus and the almost-pigless pig hunt

I almost came home from my pig hunt with Phillip empty-handed yesterday.

Almost. But even when nothing seems to be working out, things have a way of working out.

Phillip and I met each other Wednesday morning near Cholame, a speck of a town in the hot, dusty Central Coast region, where the hills are dotted with cattle ranches and golden barley fields (and closer to the coast, with vineyards).

Barley fields were what made this place great to hunt. Pigs love barley. Ranchers love people to kill barley-eating pigs. And coincidentally, pigs that have been feasting on barley taste terrific.

When we got to the ranch where we'd hunt, we found one other pair of hunters in camp - Viki and Alan. Turned out they happen to live about 30 minutes up the hill from me ("the hill" being the Sierra Nevada foothills). Viki is an avid huntress who, coincidentally, had emailed me earlier this year after she saw my turkey hunting story in the Sacramento Bee. Small world.

We chatted a while, then Phillip and I set up our own camp and headed out to do some midday scouting.

Now, this scouting was one of the most important parts of the trip for me, because my chief goal - aside from getting a pig - was to learn as much as I could. I've never done my own scouting, and I've never fully dressed a pig - I've helped, but there's always been someone there to do some of the trickier parts, like, uh, removing the asshole without contaminating meat. (Sorry to be blunt, but you pretty much can't sugarcoat that part, can you?)

So when we went out, I was constantly interrogating Phillip about what we were doing. When we found a spring and searched the area for tracks, I had to ask how you know the difference between pig tracks and deer tracks (pig tracks are rounder). When I came across a piece of pig poop that was dessicated, but still brown, I had to ask how old it was (potentially two or three weeks, but it's so dry here it's hard to tell). When we found a squeeze point pigs clearly traveled through regularly - a small drainage with a barbed-wire fence across it - I had to ask what our strategy would be if we chose to hunt there (set up on the hill above it before peak pig travel times - dawn and dusk - and wait).

We saw several deer during that scouting trip, and lots of dove and quail, but no pigs. We didn't really expect to see them, because they tend to bed down in the heat of the day, but of course we'd taken our guns, just in case.

We headed back to camp and took naps as the wind started whipping itself into a frenzy, then headed out again around 6 p.m. Viki and Alan headed out at the same time. We were all going to the same section of the ranch, though not close enough together to be any concern.

It turned out that squeeze point was the best prospect we'd found during scouting, so Phillip and I went back there, and, just like he'd said, set up on the hill above it.

We waited. The wind blew even harder, the gusts repeatedly ripping off Phillip's black Stetson and shoving me around, though I was seated firmly on the ground.

"Should I worry about the wind moving me when I take a shot?" I asked.

"Don't even think about it. Just shoot."


But there was nothing to shoot. Again, we saw some deer in the distance. But no pigs.

At one point, I heard a distant crack, and another. Gunfire. Upwind. Viki and Alan must have gotten pigs. If they were from a herd, the survivors might run our way. We looked upwind hopefully.

But they never came.

Close to sunset, we decided to move, first walking around our hillside, and ultimately jumping into Petunia - Phillip's Suzuki Samurai, a scrappy little battle vehicle that could've come out of Mad Max. We drove around, and saw nothing - nothing in shooting range, nothing in the distance. Just some domestic sheep and a random llama.

Damn. We headed back to camp and toasted the end of the hunt with the flask of tequila that comes out only when the guns are put away for the night.

We saw a light in the camp skinning shed, and saw Alan working on a carcass hanging from the ceiling.

"Guess they got one!"

Little did we know...

We went over to congratulate him, and when I walked in the door, my eyes were drawn immediately to the floor, where I saw two pigs.

Two very small pigs.

The one hanging from the ceiling was the same size.

Alan looked sheepish as he explained:

He and Viki had staked out a place where they were pretty sure pigs were bedded down. Finally, about a dozen pigs of similar size - maybe 100 pounds, they thought - got up. He and Viki each picked out a pig and shot.

When they went to retrieve them, their first shock was seeing how small they were - definitely weaned, but probably no more than three or four months old. (I get that. When I killed my first pig, he was with a group of like-sized pigs and I'd assumed he was 150-200 pounds, and he was more like 80 pounds.)

The second shock was that Alan had gotten a Scotch double: The bullet he fired into his pig went straight through and killed the pig behind it.

"Alan was embarrassed to even bring them back," Viki said.

Phillip assured her, though, that one, pigs this size are fantastic eating, and two, he wouldn't have hesitated to shoot this pig himself.

I chimed in too. "Man, Hank would be thrilled if I brought home a pig like that - perfect for the barbecue."

We congratulated them and left to wolf down some dinner, then hit the sack to prepare for Day Two.

* * *

In the morning, we returned to our squeeze point. The llama was still there. We saw tons of deer. And not a single pig showed its snout. After a couple hours, we pulled out. We were going to have to try our luck cruising the rest of the ranch in Petunia.

And oh yes, speaking of Petunia: After I hunted Cholame with Phillip and some friends last summer, it was so hot and dry that I realized I needed to be able to haul a lot of water out in the field with me. My solution was a CamelBak - a backpack that carries two liters of water and has a long "straw" with a valve ending that allows you to easily turn the water on and off.

I'd left the CamelBak in Petunia overnight, and when I went to take my first drink of the day, the mouthpiece felt funny. Water wasn't flowing normally. And the surface felt rough. I pulled it out of my mouth and examined it.


A mouse had gotten to it. In land this dry, animals will exploit any source of water they can get. And since Petunia isn't exactly a sealed vehicle, the mouse had no problem getting in and looking around.

Great! Yuck. I hope it wasn't a diseased little mouse. Either way, too late now. I took another swig and moved on.

On our way out of that section of the ranch, we came across another group of hunters - Steve, Lee and Bob. They hadn't seen any pigs either. We were all going to head out to other parts of the ranch to try our luck elsewhere.

Phillip and I drove all over that ranch as the sun climbed higher and the heat grew by the minute, sharply decreasing our chances of seeing any pigs. We spotted a million more deer, but no pigs.

Our last-ditch effort was a gully torn out of a field, a good 12 feet deep with steep, crumbly edges. The bottom was lined with tamarisk trees, providing the perfect shaded bedding for pigs.

"Get ready," he said as we walked toward the tear in the valley floor. "If there are pigs here, they're going to pop out fast."

I am normally a nervous shooter, a slowpoke who wants quarry that holds perfectly still.

But at this moment, I was strangely confident. I'd been to the shooting range the day before this trip, and for my last three shots in the day, I'd decided to do a rapidfire challenge, chambering new rounds as quickly as possible to simulate taking a second and third shot on an animal.

My first shot (at 100 yards) was a bulls eye. The second and third - which I fired probably within 20 seconds - were an inch above the first, one slightly left, the other slightly right.

I know that was a stationary object, not a moving pig, but it was important nonetheless. Why? It reminded me that I actually do better when I let instincts take over and stop overthinking.

So I wasn't worried as we crept along the top of the gully. I was serene. I knew I could do it.

Phillip tossed a rock into the tamarisks below.

Nothing moved.

We walked further along and he tossed more rocks into the trees.

Still nothing came out.

After coming to the end of the gully - or rather, its beginning - we turned back toward our car, and a cottontail exploded from a trash heap. Cottontail season would start in six days. Bunny was safe today.

We walked the edge all the way back to Petunia, but we knew that was it. Pigs aren't as patient as rabbits. They don't hide like pheasants. They bolt at the first sign of trouble. The hunt was over.

On the drive back to camp, of course we stopped and glassed a few times. But it was getting hot. Our time was up.

Back at camp, Viki was preparing a feast: she going to cook one of the little pigs whole on the grill. She'd named him Volunteer. It was the second pig taken out by Alan's lone bullet. Did we want to join her? Of course!

The other guys who'd been out that morning rolled in a little later, empty-handed like me and Phillip. I went over and talked to them for a while. When they asked me about my previous pig hunts, I started telling them about my first hunt at Cholame. Then one of them - Lee - stopped me.

"I think I've read this!"

Small world!

"Uh, yeah, that's me. I have a blog. Guess you know the ending already..."

"But we don't!" Bob said. So I kept going. Then Viki wandered over and invited them to the feast too, so we all converged on Viki and Alan's camp, drinking Corona and wine and water and eating the kind of feast you don't get in camp very often: really fresh pork marinated in hoisin and soy sauces, and an Asian salad.

It was delicious.

"Don't hesitate to get seconds," Viki told us.

Uh, I already had. Guess I should've waited until I was invited! Oopsie.

Most of the folks in camp were ready for naps after that, but Phillip and I had to break down camp and head out. But I couldn't leave before Viki had given me a gift.

"We've decided to give you one of the pigs!" she'd told me earlier. I was thrilled!

Obviously, I'd rather be going home with a pig I shot myself, but that's hunting - sometimes you don't get anything. Sometimes you don't even see anything. But when you see other hunters, you'll often find them to be the most generous people around.

Besides, Volunteer had tasted divine, and I knew Boyfriend would be thrilled to have a pig he could grill whole, so I gratefully accepted their offer. Viki threw in a bottle of zinfandel from her daughter-in-law's vineyard in the Sierra Foothills, and I was on my way, ready to start the 4-hour journey home.

Once I got on the road where my cell phone would work again, I called Boyfriend to tell him the story, and that was when I came up with the pig's name.

A couple weeks earlier, he'd been the one doing pig hunting, and he'd named his pig Maximus because it'd been a really durable critter, as durable as Russell Crowe had been in the movie Gladiator.

"This pig's name," I declared, "is Minimus."

© Holly A. Heyser 2009

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Team Huntress: The sisterhood is born

Click on photo to see full-size version.
Who's who is at the bottom of this post.

I had no idea what to expect last Thursday as I hauled my butt out of bed at 4 a.m. to catch a plane to South Dakota for the inaugural Team Huntress Outdoor Adventure Clinic. "Shooting" and "spa treatments" were the keywords of the event, and having always been a tomboy who could live without things like facials, I really wasn't sure how these activities would mesh.

Silly me.

One, massages, facials and foot rubs after long days of shooting and outdoor instruction were, of course, heaven. They allowed us to be just a bit girlie - which isn't so bad - while delving into an overwhelmingly male sport.

And two, shooting and spa treatments became almost irrelevant when I finally realized what this event was really about was sisterhood. Read more...
But I should back up for a second and explain how this worked, since it was an unusual event.

Jane Keller and her brother Dave Olsen decided they wanted to do a women's outdoors clinic at their Pheasant Phun ranch near Hitchcock, S.D.

The idea was to bring together a bunch of outdoorswomen (like me, the newby of the bunch, and people like Barbara Baird of Women's Outdoor News) to help teach shooting and other outdoor skills to women who were mostly new to the outdoors, like Janice, a local doctor, and her daughter Marin, a med school student. (Marin, it turned out, would become probably the most amazing story of the weekend.)

Sessions included wildlife identification, gun safety, archery, eagle-watching, handguns, ATVs, GPS and shotguns. And on top of that, every day started with yoga, and there was at least one spa service each day - facials, massages, manicures and foot massages.

The night we arrived, all the huntresses in the group began to bond immediately.

I had already met Kirstie Pike, owner of Prois Hunting Apparel (pronounced PRO-iss), at the 2008 SHOT Show, where she debuted her clothing line. But this was my first chance to meet Barbara, who'd been emailing back and forth with me for months.

It was also my first meeting with Anne Vinnola, who owns a taxidermy school in Colorado; Terri Lee Pocernich of Camp Wild Girls; and wildlife photographer Stacey Huston - all names I already knew from Twitter and the blogosphere.

I'd never heard of Lynn Pankey, an avid duck hunter who works in marketing at Realtree. But we introduced ourselves on the way onto the plane from Minneapolis to Aberdeen, and we quickly became bunkmates (because even in a gathering of huntresses, you still don't find many fellow duck hunters).

I'm blessed in California to have a pretty good group of women friends who hunt, but for many of the women there, most of the hunters in their world are men, so it was a treat for us all to discover each other. Ever see how little kids act when they spot another kid in, say, the grocery store? That's how we were. Look! Someone else just like me!

But this wasn't just about us - it was about people who were new to the outdoors. As we sat outside the first night sipping cocktails and listening to the sound of wild pheasants cackling, I met Marin and her mom Janice and quickly learned that Marin had been a vegetarian for two years.

Hmmmm, I thought. How's she gonna feel being immersed in a group of people who not only eat meat, but kill it themselves? Better figure this out right away...

"Hmmm," I said. "What made you decide to become a vegetarian?"

"Health reasons" was the answer - her father had run into heart trouble and she decided she should be smart about her own diet to keep the same thing from happening to her.

"Oh, OK," I said. "I would never try to discourage you from being a vegetarian, but I do want to tell you that wild game is very different from store-bought meat - very lean and healthy."

And we left it at that.

As the weekend progressed, I think all of us - even the most experienced huntresses - learned something.

I got to try archery, which I've been dying to do. I'd gotten hooked on it as a child when my parents bought me a plastic kid's recurve bow, but had never shot an arrow as an adult. Stacey and her husband Mike Hawk Huston ran the archery session, and they quickly got me set up on a novice (i.e., low pull weight) compound bow, which I loved.

I'd been thinking compound was the way to go, but Stacey and Mike got me to try the longbow, and I loved it, even though the 65-pound pull was way too much for me to draw fully. I know longbow is way tougher than compound, but I think I'm going to get one anyway. Even if I'm never good enough to kill a game animal with it, I think I'll enjoy learning to shoot it and practicing with it.

Besides, I kept remembering that picture I had back home of my grandpa and grandma posing on a rock in the Malibu Mountains in 1926, Grandpa with his longbow and Grandma in her cute little outfit. The longbow gave me a sense of connection to that.

Later that day, Barb, bless her soul, got me to try handguns.

Now, nothing against all you handgun fans out there, but I hate them. They just scare me. But I'm a big believer in soaking up as much knowlege as I can get, so I forced myself to try it out, first learning the proper grip and stance, and then taking shots at paper plates about 15 yards away with a Beretta semi-auto .22.

And I'll be damned if I didn't kick ass! I fired probably 35 or 40 rounds, and made mincemeat of my plate.

I still don't want to buy a handgun, but I know now if for any reason I need to pick one up some day, it won't be quite as intimidating.

And bonus points, I got to take a fun portrait of Kirstie through a particularly big hole in my plate:

The next day, Hawk - who's into all things primitive - set up a little impromptu demo of knapping with Jane's daughter Kasen, and in no time he had her making a knife blade using old glass. Kasen is an absolute fiend about knives, so she was totally into it. And it turned out she was a natural, flaking chips off the glass about as perfectly as you could ever want.

"Can I try?" I asked.

Of course I could. I began working a shard of glass and quickly learned that I was no Kasen - it was harder than I thought to flake the glass, and though I did OK, it wasn't long before I'd broken my shard into five pieces.

But luck was on my side.

Stacey and Hawk had explained that you need old glass to use for knapping, because it's thicker than modern glass, and has often been tempered from years of exposure to the sun.

And wouldn't you know it, there was an ancient, rusty Ford pickup in the ranch's automotive graveyard, and there in the bed of it was a bunch of perfect old glass. Hawk picked out a few shards for me, and now I have something to work on at home.

After all this fun, it was finally time for me to do some teaching. My session was shotgun skills.

Now, those of you who know about my raging insecurity about my own shotgun skills are probably laughing your ass off about this. But it wasn't as strange as it seems: I've taken quite a few shotgun lessons, and observed many as well (I always go with my friends when they get their guns fitted with gunmaker Dale Tate, and he always includes a lesson in the fitting). It's hard not to pick up some teaching strategies from all that - especially when you teach for a living.

My first victim was Marin, the vegetarian. She's left-handed and close to my height, so I wanted her to be able to use my gun, which would probably fit her pretty well.

I set her up - gun goes here on your shoulder, cheek on stock, swing through, lead the clay. "When you're ready, yell 'Pull!' " I told her.


The clay flew. She followed it, pulled the trigger and smashed it into pieces!

A cheer went up behind us. We had a natural!

Marin spent a lot of time on that gun. When she got tired, she took a break. But every time we were ready for someone else to come up and shoot, there she was, with this incredible grin on her face. She loved it!

Everyone was having such a good time with the shotguns that we didn't want to head in for dinner. But when we finally did, we found a crew of women from Arbonne in the mudroom with tubs set out on the floor. Yep, you got it: After a long day in hiking boots, we were all getting foot massages. And the men, bless their souls, brought us cocktails. What a heavenly way to end the day.

On Sunday, when all the women were packing up to go, Jane told me we had a plan for that night: They were going to have a friend open up his gun shop for us, because Marin wanted to buy a shotgun!

Stacey, Marin and I talked about it as we stood in the parking lot, saying our good-byes.

"When I get my gun, I think I'm going to shoot rabbits in my dad's field," Marin told us. "And if I get one, I think I'll eat it."

Marin. The vegetarian!

That was pretty much everything you could wish for from an outdoors clinic. Marin came in never having shot anything, and she left with confidence, and a desire for more. She had joined the sisterhood.

We never did hook up with the gun shop folks that night, and I worried that the momentum would leave her. But there was nothing to fear. Jane emailed me yesterday:

Marin and friend came out and shot her new Winchester Super X2 12ga semi-auto with Dura Touch armor coating. Named him Charlie! I just left "Charlie" off to get transformed into a lefty. Get some rest - all is well!

All is well indeed. I'd arrived at PheasantPhun nervous and unsure, and left with new skills, new friends and a new huntress in our midst.

Now we all can't wait to get together again. And rumor has it there may be another Team Huntress event hosted by Terri Lee in Wisconsin this August. A sisterhood has been born.

* * *

Who's in that photo at the top of this post? L-R, top to bottom: Lynn from Realtree; my first experience with a .22 semiauto handgun; Dave from PheasantPhun and Barb from Women's Outdoor News with Julie in background; Terri Lee from Camp Wild Girls; Janice, Kasen and Marin; Jane from Team huntress, Jane's mom Annie and Jane's daughter Kasen; Anne from Annie Got Her Gun; Dave; me; Kirstie from Prois; Dave and Barb; a proud girl with her Shoot-N-C stuck to her butt.

© Holly A. Heyser 2009

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Huffington Post, HSUS and dissent

One of the things I do when I'm not blogging is cruise the net looking for stories and blogs about hunting, and when writers or commenters misrepresent hunting, I'll often jump in and post comments to make the case for what we do.

Typically, I'll pass on commenting on Humane Society of the U.S. blogs because I see little point - their loyal readers have already made up their minds about hunting.

But when HSUS Executive Vice President Michael Markarian posted a blog last week on the Huffington Post, I saw it as fair game, because the Post has a mass-market audience. I dove in and commented. And I was very surprised what happened next. Read more...
Let me back up for a minute, though - this takes a little explaining.

It all started on May 29 when HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle blogged in response to the Center for Consumer Freedom's crusade against the HSUS (long story short, CCF blasts HSUS for conducting fundraising that emphasizes its work on pet rescue and animal shelters when relatively little of HSUS's enormous war chest goes to pet rescue and animal shelters).

I was familiar with that whole story already, and I don't care a great deal about it because my goal is not to discredit the HSUS in its entirety, but to counteract its propaganda about hunting.

What struck me about Pacelle's blog, though, was that he talked about how HSUS's opponents attack caricatures of the orgnization - they "try to set up a straw man caricature of The HSUS and then knock it down."

That cracked me up because I'd just done comment battle with a vegetarian whose blog in the San Diego Reader did the exact same thing to hunters: set up a vile caricature and knock it down.

I laughed at the coincidence, and moved on.

But then, less than a week after Pacelle bemoaned the straw man attacks, Markarian posted a blog flogging one of HSUS's very favorite straw men: Internet hunting.

Let me explain: "Internet hunting" is a practice in which someone sets up a remote-controlled gun and a webcam and allows computer users, for a price, to kill an animal with this set-up. The carcass is then processed and shipped to the "hunter."

The problem is, Internet hunting isn't happening. Some moron in Texas set up such an operation in Texas in 2004, and his friend tried it out once, and there was a huge uproar, and he never, to anyone's knowledge, sold any more Internet "hunts." Seriously, I've researched this, and haven't found a single reference to any subsequent Internet "hunts."

(For the record, the guy from Texas said he saw Internet hunting as an opportunity to help disabled and elderly hunters, which - if sincere - is a noble goal. But I've seen plenty of folks use technology to assist disabled hunters in the field, where they can see the entire landscape and connect with the game, not to mention prove that they have hunting licenses.)

But the HSUS saw an excellent opportunity here to wage war, pushing for Internet hunting bans state-by-state, and now in Congress.

Why would HSUS waste money and energy trying to ban something that's not happening? Here's where my background as a politics reporter kicks in. This is what we call a "press bill" - a bill designed solely or primarily to get media coverage. And this bill always gets a lot of coverage - typically by harried reporters who don't have time or don't make time to do a little research, so they pick up HSUS's suggestion that Internet hunting is a clear and present danger to American morality.

Most hunters are horrified by the thought of Internet hunting. But more importantly, non-hunters absorb this as yet another negative image of what hunting has come to. Find a non-hunter who has a negative impression of what we do, and there's a very good chance he (or more often, she) will cite this.

Voila - mission accomplished!

This brings me back to last Friday, when I found a Markarian's piece in the Huffington Post promoting HR2308, a bill in Congress to ban Internet hunting and ban the transport and keeping of "exotic" animals so they can be hunted.

"(A) federal response is critically needed," he wrote.

There was one comment on the blog, from a guy who said he grew up hunting in Alabama. "I must admit that I've never heard of this internet hunting travesty--but that doesn't keep me from being thoroughly disgusted by it now that I know," he wrote. "I always thought much less of hunters who baited feed plots and sat waiting in tree stands to slaughter deer, but this is a far more disturbing and truly sick enterprise, and should be banned altogether."

Look, they duped another one! I couldn't let this go unchallenged.

So I crafted a response, hit "Post a comment," noticed the fact that my comment was pending approval - the Huffington Post moderates comments - and went about my business for the day, which was to get ready for our hog hunt that weekend down at our friend Michael's place.

When I got back Sunday night, I thought I'd better check in to see if other commenters had been beating up on me all weekend. But when I went to that website, I found my comment had not been posted.

That's weird, I thought. I could've sworn I'd hit all the right buttons. So I recrafted my comment, posted it, and saved a snapshot of the screen.

Click to enlarge

I checked back Monday morning and again, there was no trace of my comment.

I checked the Huffington Post's comment policy. It stated that the site doesn't censor comments based on point of view, and it listed offenses that could get your comment deleted - none of which I had committed.

I emailed Huffington Post tech support:

I've tried posting a comment TWICE on a piece by Michael Markarian - - once Friday morning and once last night, and it's not showing up.

My comment is critical of Markarian's piece, but not disrespectful or uncivil.

Please let me know what the problem is.


And today - Wednesday - there's still no response, and my comment still isn't on the site.

Now, honestly, I have no idea what happened to my comment.

I do know hundreds of other comments were being approved on the Huffington Post in a timely manner during this period.

I do not know if guest bloggers such as Markarian have the ability to moderate their own comments. (I do know that when Boyfriend is a guest blogger on Simply Recipes, he does get to moderate the comments.)

I also know that in nearly two years of posting comments on general interest news websites, this is the only time my comment hasn't made it online. (There was one other time I left a comment that didn't post on a blog, but I expected it. The blog was Vegan Soapbox, and the blogger's "discussion policy" prohibits: "anti-animal and anti-human discussion, for example, no pro-meat, pro-dairy, pro-eggs, pro-hunting, racist, sexist, homophobic, ageist, abilist or otherwise hateful comments." For real.)

So, was I censored by the Huffington Post? Or is this merely a case of a highly unusual technical snafu?

Well, I suppose it could be a snafu. But it sure doesn't look that way to me.

Update: It's Wednesday night, and lo and behold, two comments have been approved on that Markarian blog. So what do I do? I go and try to comment again. I know. Crazy optimist.

I've got to pack for an early-morning flight, so I won't have time to monitor whether my comment gets approved. But just in case, I saved another screen shot...

Click to enlarge. And note the Orvis ad on the right.

© Holly A. Heyser 2009

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Review: This women's shooting shirt rocks

I've been itching for some new hunting clothing for weeks. It started on that pig hunt with Phillip. I wore a new pair of Propper BDUs in a lovely shade of camo for summer in California (Multi-Cam), and I had my favorite camo shirt from Prois in Realtree AP HD. Yep, you guessed it: My camo patterns clashed, and it was driving me nuts.

Now, for the men who have read this far, first, let me congratulate your perseverance, and second let me assure you that I know pigs can't see very well at all, and the fact that my pants and shirt clashed had probably less than zero impact on my hunt. But I'm a girl, so it bothered me anyway.

What I really wanted was some sort of good old-fashioned khaki shirt: long sleeves for protection against the sun's harmful rays, breathable cotton, and no pockets that would interfere with my shooting. I checked the latest collections of all my favorite women's hunting clothing companies, and ended up going with a shooting shirt from Filson instead. Read more...
I chose the shirt for three reasons:

1) I've looked at a lot of women's shooting shirts, and it seems they're always made for right-handed shooters. I shoot lefty because I'm left-eye dominant, and I want the patch to be on the correct side. Filson's shooting shirt has patches on both shoulders, so it works for all of us.

2) While you don't really want chest pockets on a shooting shirt, it sure would be nice to have a pocket somewhere. The Filson shooting shirt has a great one: a zippered pocket that sits at the midriff, perfect for holding your hunting license and a pig tag.

3) I've tested a few Filson items and I know they're well made, so it felt like there was no risk in dropping $65 plus shipping on this one.

The only downside was that it wasn't made in the U.S.A. But the two women's hunting clothing companies whose garments are made here (Prois Hunting Apparel and Trailfeathers) didn't have any shirts like this.

When the shirt arrived in the mail, I was really pleased with my purchase - I could tell immediately that it was worth what I paid for it. Here's why:

Feminine: The cut of the shirt nicely accents the female form.

Detail: There's overstitching everywhere, which is a sign of extra care and durability. And the shoulder patches had a nice stitched design as well.


Decorative stitching on patches

Comfort: I was delighted to find darts in the sleeves at the elbow, which means the sleeves never bind. And while the back isn't vented, there are pleats that allow maximum movement of the shoulder blades.

Darts at the elbows

Pleated back

That pocket: I totally love that license pocket. It is both subtle and sturdy.

License pocket doesn't stand out.

Zipper ensures nothing will fall out.

I wore the shirt this weekend when Boyfriend and I went down to Michael's place for a pig hunt, and while I didn't get the chance to do any shooting myself because this was Boyfriend's hunt, I found the shirt to be very comfortable. I can tell it's going to be one of my favorites.

And, bonus points, when Boyfriend saw me in it Saturday morning as we were getting ready to head out into the field, he actually noticed it: "Oh, that is a nice shirt!" he said.

Yeah, I know function comes first. But it sure doesn't hurt when your hunting clothes look nice, too.

Click here to read my gear review policy/disclosures.

© Holly A. Heyser 2009

Friday, June 5, 2009

From waders to radio to TV? What a week!

This has been a crazy, crazy week. After I blogged about the new Cabela's Cazadora Wader, I got a call from my old friend Keli Van Cleave, the Pink Huntress. Keli wants a pair of those waders!

But far be it from Keli to leave it at that. Nope, she had to issue a challenge: After she gets those waders, she wants to go duck hunting with me, me using my shotgun, her using her signature pink bow, and see who gets more ducks.

And as if that weren't enough, she said we should go on Backwoods Radio this week and talk about it.

Oh sure. Why the hell not?
So that's what we did. We spent two hours on the phone with hosts Michael and Trey Wednesday night, and I told 'em flat out: I'm at best an average shot, but I still think I'll kick Keli's butt.

Don't get me wrong: I've seen pictures of pheasants Keli has shot out of the air with her bow. She's badass. Someday, I'd like to learn archery, and I'd like to be that good. And me? I'm no Tom Knapp. Took me three seasons to get my first limit on ducks.

But a broadhead versus the pile of shot in not one, but three shotshells?


I said I'd accept one handicap: If I got any doubles, they'd count as one. (Which is hilarious, because, uh, I've never gotten a double. But really, this coming season could be my year for it.)

That still wasn't enough for Keli. She upped the ante again by challenging Michael and Trey to come film the hunt for a TV show. (Because, you know, the immortal footage of me missing a pig last month in front of the KQED cameras wasn't really enough for my career.)

Now, I haven't seen any of their shows on TV because I don't get the channel they're on, but Keli says they're good, and they're sending me a DVD so I can check them out.

Sight unseen, though, I said I was game, as long as they had a cooking segment with Boyfriend at the end, because you know how I am about that - I think hunting shows really need to show the connection between hunting and food.

(Oh yeah, Keli totally threw me under the bus on the radio and told the guys how critical I am of hunting TV. Thanks, Kel!)

So, yeah, things have spiraled completely out of control, and now I need to find a sweet spot to go duck hunting with this entourage. Or maybe I should just increase the level of challenge and take 'em to a refuge that's thick with hunters...

If you want to hear all that radio show banter (which was all very good-natured), all two hours of it is online on the Backwoods Radio website. Just click on "Past shows online" and if you go there this week, the show from Wednesday night should automatically start playing. If for some reason you're reading this post long after I wrote it, you'll have to go back and look for the June 3, 2009, show.

As for me, I've got to get busy. We're heading down to Michael's place tonight so Boyfriend can get himself a pig. Yep, I just get to watch on this one. Boyfriend has made it clear that I cannot keep him confined in the kitchen - he gets to hunt once in a while too.

Man, what a life.

© Holly A. Heyser 2009

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

It's official: Cazadora joins Team Huntress

Well, it looks like this is just my week to let cats out of the bag, and today the news is that I'm officially a part of Team Huntress.

What is Team Huntress? It's a group of outdoorswomen who will meet next week for our inaugural Outdoor Adventure Clinic hosted by Pheasant Phun at Olsen's OJ Bar Ranch in Hitchcock, South Dakota.

The clinic is for women who are interested in learning more about the outdoors and want a nice, friendly environment in which to do it. Wait, not just friendly, but pampering - we're talking facials, massage and wine tasting between archery, handguns and shotguns. Read more...
My job there will be helping out with the shotgun portion of the clinic, and also talking about sharing our outdoor stories.

If you read this blog, chances are you're already a hunter (or my mother), so perhaps you don't need a beginners' clinic. But if you know someone whose wife or girlfriend has been feeling a bit left out when the menfolk have run off on their hunting trips, this might be for her. I'm pretty sure there are still openings, and you can contact the organizers - Jane Keller and Dave Olsen - here for more information.

So why am I busting out with this news so close to the event? This has actually been on my agenda for a while, but I knew I would be on call for jury duty this week, so my ability to attend depended on me not getting stuck in a long trial. Today I was released from service, so now it's for sure: I'm South Dakota bound.

And looking forward to it, too. This will be the first time I've seen Prois Hunting Apparel founder Kirstie Pike since the 2008 SHOT Show, and I'll finally get to meet some other folks I've gotten to know a bit over the internet, such as Women's Outdoor News owner Barbara Baird.

And truth be told, I'm kinda looking forward to that massage, too...

© Holly A. Heyser 2009

Monday, June 1, 2009

Cabela's Cazadora Wader - coincidence?

So Cabela's is coming out with a new women's wader, and they're calling it the Cabela's Cazadora Wader. Coincidence?

No. And today's the day I finally get to tell you all about it.

Remember back in October when my friend Sarah and I went to Cabela's in Reno to shop for women's waterfowl gear and came home disappointed? I wrote later that Cabela's had responded with both apologies for the experience and a discussion about improving women's hunting clothing.

But that wasn't the whole story.
What I've been (painfully) keeping under my hat all this time is that they invited Sarah and me to do product testing on a new, built-from-the-ground-up women's wader. In short, after all that complaining about having to put up with ill-fitting men's waders, Sarah and I would be helping to design waders made for us - and for all our duck hunting sisters out there.

Right away we started working with Cabela’s Product Manager Rob Burnett and Purchasing Specialist Joe Haddock to talk about what we wanted, and the main thing - aside from the obvious, like boots made for women's feet and length made for women's height - was Velcro straps. We were sick of how the buckles on waders sat right where we shouldered our shotguns. (Sure, you could design them to sit lower, but then look where they'd be - no thanks!)

So they got busy, made two prototypes and popped them in the mail to us in early November, with the request that we use them as much as possible. Sarah and I tore open the boxes when they arrived at our houses and tried them on.

We were really excited because they actually fit us!

But there were problems. The boots were freakishly tight on our calves - and neither of us has particularly big calves. The handwarmer pocket was so high that putting our hands in there was pretty much resting them on our boobs. (I know, men are thinking, "What's wrong with that?" But seriously, walk around with your hands grasping your pecs for a while and see if that doesn't feel a little awkward.) There was no extra padding on the knees - a feature we've loved in our other waders. And Sarah really wished it had come with a belt for safety.

We each sent them emails outlining the problems, and Rob and Joe were actually delighted that we'd offered such detailed critiques, because that's what they needed to make the product successful.

But that wasn't the coolest thing about working with them. What I really loved was how excited they were about the whole project. While Cabela's has a couple women's waders in its product line, this was the first time they'd built them from the ground up, rather than scaling down the men's product, and Rob and Joe were really enthused about it.

The interesting thing is this is what all the women's hunting clothing companies I love so much (Prois, SHE Outdoors, Foxy Huntress) talk about - the fact that they build women's hunting clothes from the ground up, rather than just shrinking men's versions. Now we had a major retailer doing the same thing - for waterfowl gear, which is the one area the women's companies haven't touched.

Rob and Joe sent us Version 2 of the waders in late December and they were just about perfect. I had some different-sized women friends try them on, including one who's much shorter than I am and another who's much taller and bigger, just to see if the size would accommodate many different body types. It did.

Then Sarah and I happily hunted the entire rest of the season in them, right down to closing day. All that was left to do after that was compile a little wish list about other features we wanted and put them into production.

And of course, we needed to do a photo shoot, because our story is going to be featured in the Cabela's waterfowl catalog that will come out this summer. So I enlisted one of my students - Andrew Nixon, who's an excellent photographer - and the three of us went out to the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area and spent a beautiful Saturday morning hamming it up.

Now I really hope all my fellow women duck hunters out there will buy a pair of these waders when they're released this summer, and not just because it's a good product.

Why? It would be very easy for companies to ignore women waterfowlers because there are only about 131,000 of us nationwide - one-twentieth the number of male waterfowlers. (Click on that chart if you'd like to see details).

But Cabela's didn't ignore us. In fact, when I wrote a snotty blog post - complete with video! - about how disappointed we were with their selection, their immediate response was, "Work with us to solve the problem."

The only advice of ours they didn't take was the name for the waders. We came up with a few ideas, but they didn't like them, so they're the ones who suggested Cabela's Cazadora Wader.

And what do I get out of this? Nothing more than a fat head and a pair of waders (well, more than one if you count dud versions). Cabela's hasn't paid me a dime - the money continues to flow the other way, from me to Cabela's, just like it does with the rest of you.

I am recommending this product for the same reason I've recommended other women's hunting clothing: because it works. I'm just a little bit extra excited about the Cabela's Cazadora Wader because the reason I know it works is that Sarah and I helped make it work.

© Holly A. Heyser 2009