Thursday, July 30, 2009

A familiar outdoors voice returns!

One of the first people I got to know when I joined the blogosphere was Kristine Shreve, a leader in the Outdoor Bloggers Summit who wrote the Hunt Smart Think Safety blog for her company, Gun Safety Innovations.

I loved her GSI blog and was really bummed to learn earlier this summer that the blog was being discontinued because the GSI branch of her company was closing. This was the second loss of an outdoorswoman's blog voice this year, coming not long after Field & Stream whacked Kim Hiss's FS Huntress blog. Read more...
Well, today Kristine announced on the OBS blog that she's back with an outdoors blog of her own, the Tenderfoot Diaries. I'm really excited to see what she has to offer, particularly as this is the first blog she's writing just for herself, not as a representative of a company or all outdoors bloggers.

What really promises to make it interesting is that Kristine is, as the name of her blog suggests, a new outdoorswoman, someone who entered this arena because of the company she worked for. And as you can guess, being a new outdoorswoman myself (coming up on three years now), I really like seeing that perspective out there.

I couldn't be happier to have her voice back with us, and I hope you'll stop by her blog, congratulate her on her new venture and add her to your regular reading list.

© Holly A. Heyser 2009

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Harlequin, the mockingbirds and revenge

It's been a trying year for Harlequin the Backyard Cat.

First it was those stupid, fat squirrels taunting her this spring as they nibbled silver maple seeds, their succulent bodies bouncing on the tiniest of twigs, just out of Harlequin's reach.

Of course, as soon as the seeds were all gone, the squirrels disappeared too, leaving Harlequin to repair her feline dignity - which she did by making war on this year's bumper crop of mice in the unmowed "back forty" of our yard.

Then the trouble with mockingbirds began.
Normally, we have one mockingbird in our back yard. He sits atop the power pole at the bottom corner of our lot and sings his heart out.

But this summer, a mockingbird pair had built a nest somewhere in our back yard, and in classic mockingbird fashion, they set out to harass every living creature within 100 yards of their clutch.

At first, we'd notice Harlequin trotting across the yard with an angry mockingbird in tow, squawking and swooping to within a few feet of her. A wise distance for the bird to keep, as Harlequin is a notorious bird killer, known to smack hummingbirds out of the sky and swallow them in one bite.

Then, the harassment intensified. Harlequin would be sitting on our deck trying to nap - not even thinking of stupid little baby birds at the back of the property - and both mockingbirds would be orbiting her raucously. If perchance we opened the door, she would gratefully slip inside, not even bothering to fake that famous feline indifference.

Finally, it started getting really ugly. Whenever Harlequin wanted to get from her shady spot in the garden to the deck where we keep a bowl full of water for her, she had to sprint - incredibly undignified! - as the mockingbirds dive bombed her like kamikazes, pecking her shoulders all the way. If we didn't open the door for her, I'm certain she would've crashed through it. Anything to get away from these horrible birds!

We had never seen the mighty huntress so utterly cowed. She might as well have been a dog.

Of course, no cat can harbor such humiliation for long.

One day, Harlequin brought something to our doorstep.

A baby mockingbird - barely fledged. Dead.

That'll teach 'em...

And she didn't treat this like any other bird she's ever killed. Normally, Harlequin has a voracious appetite, and after a suitable amount of catlike play with her prey, she always eats what she kills.

But she didn't eat this bird.

Not that day.

Not the next.

Not the day after that.

It finally disappeared from our step one night, but in whose paws, we'll never know. Could've been a raccoon. If Harlequin had had her druthers, I think she'd have stuck that fledgling on a pole and let it mummify there, for all the mockingbirds to see forever.

The silence in our yard was eerie.

After a few days, though, one of the mockingbirds finally came back, behaving as he had before The Nest. And Harlequin resumed hunting mice in the back forty. Life had returned to normal.

Until one day last week.

We'd thrown our windows open one morning, delighted to catch a breeze before the temperature rocketed to 100 degrees that day. I heard Harlequin's classic, "I'm-coming-up-the-hill-to-see-my-humans-I-hope-they-have-some-food" meow - Mowww! Mowww! Mowww!

I looked out the window, happy to see her. But she wasn't there. I was perplexed - I'd heard her distinctly.

It happened again a few days later when I was watering plants in the yard.

Mowww! Mowww! Mowww!

I turned around, and again saw no cat.

Then I looked up at the power pole.

It was the mockingbird.

He was mocking Harlequin.

© Holly A. Heyser 2009

The Team Huntress secret formula: Guns + Archery + Massages = Happy Women

Hey folks, if you were bummed out to have missed the fun at June's Team Huntress Outdoor Adventure Clinic, now's your second chance to get in on it.

Jane Keller is organizing another women's clinic that combines outdoor instruction with the ridiculous pampering that even a hardass tomboy like myself can't resist. (Yeah, you shoulda seen me when we came back from an afternoon of skeet, my feet baking in my boots, and I saw three women wearing spa aprons ready to give us some luxurious foot massages. I would've shoved Mike Tyson out of my way to get to that). Read more...
The Team Huntress clinic will be held Aug. 21-23 at Pheasant Phun in Hitchcock, South Dakota. For $995, you get the best of both worlds that outdoorswomen inhabit - archery and firearms instruction with tons of spa treatments and tons of cool gifts that you find someone has left on your bed each night (seriously, I came home last time with some great swag from Prois, RealTree, Doeville and Tanka Bar).

Unfortunately, I can't be at this one - the date is too close to the resumption of classes where I teach. But I know a lot of the folks who will be there, and frankly, I'm a little jealous about the fun they're going to have without me. Wah.

If you want to know more about how these events work, click here, where I wrote about it in more detail back in June. I'll just add this today: A Team Huntress weekend would be a great gift for a woman who'd like to learn more about the outdoors, but somehow gets left behind when the guys are all out doing their thing. Just a thought, guys...

For more information, you can get in contact with Jane Keller by clicking here.

© Holly A. Heyser 2009

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

My first televised hunt - on public TV!

At long last, that crazy hog hunt I went on in May has now been televised on KQED-TV in San Francisco, and I've got to say the producers did a good job.

The hunt was featured on QUEST, KQED's science and environment program, as part of a segment about wild hogs as an invasive species in California. The segment starts and ends with my hunt with Phillip from the Hog Blog and Michael and Sam from Native Hunt in May.

I know a lot of folks in the hunting community would assume public television is populated by a bunch of anti-hunting liberals, but if it is, you wouldn't know it from this program. Hunters are portrayed as part of the solution to the wild hog problem, not bloodthirsty savages. And QUEST gave me lots of air time to talk about why I hunt, with no obnoxious rejoinder from PETA. God bless 'em!

Check it out and see what you think:

QUEST on KQED Public Media.

But there's more than the video. Click here and you'll also see the producer's notes (where you'll find a nice discussion is warming up in the comments), as well as photos from filming.

If you'd like to download the program, you can get it free from iTunes. Click here, find "QUEST Video Podcast" and click on "Subscribe to podcast," which will take you to the iTunes store. Look for "Hog Wild," a segment dated 7/14/2009. It takes a few minutes to download.

If you watch the segment, you'll notice one apparent discrepancy between my story last May and the program: I did not kill the pig in question - Phillip did after I shot and missed. But the program doesn't show that, and I'm guessing most viewers will assume, based on the scenes shown, that I fired the killing shot.

On the one hand, you know me, I'm ridiculously honest about my failings in the field, and I didn't need to be protected from my failings on TV. In fact, I think hunting TV would be far better if it showed more missed shots to impart a little reality.

On the other hand, I'm a journalist, and I know who killed the pig was not relevant to the purpose of the program, and getting into those details would've been an unnecessary diversion that took valuable air time. So I really don't have my undies in a bunch about it.

Overall, it was a great first experience with TV.

© Holly A. Heyser 2009

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Postscript: Big visions for a small pig head

Not long after I came home from my last pig hunt with Minimus - a very small pig given to me by fellow hunters when my own hunt failed - I started getting questions about the head.

First it was my mom. "Honey, did you get the head? That would be a really nice one to work with..." Read more...
My mom is an artist, and her latest thing is encrusting animal skulls in broken glass, which is quite possibly the coolest thing I've ever seen.

My friend Michael had her do that to a bear skull of his, and it totally rocked.

Then it was my beautiful neighbor Silvia, who was here Friday night when Boyfriend barbecued Minimus for friends who'll be returning to their jobs in Afghanistan soon. (Yeah, you don't get a lot of pork in Afghanistan.)

"Deed you get thee head?" Silvia asked in her lyrical Argentinian accent. "You might think eet's weird, but I like to eat thee brain."

Well, as a matter of fact, I don't think it's weird, but Boyfriend thought it was funny that Silvia would eat brain and sweetbreads (thymus gland), but she relegates heart to pet food.

"Heart ees for thee cats," he quoted her saying.

Boyfriend, of course, could do anything with a petite pig's head: Make petite head cheese. Or pig tongue carnitas. Or maybe just use the head for stock.

And his vision is not inconsistent with my own.

I could make good use of that little skull after all the meat is boiled off: I have been itching to paint a skull in the meticulously detailed style of Oaxacan wood carvings, like this beautiful ram I bought once on a trip to Mexico.

But the answer is no, no, no and no.

I did not get the head.

But seeing how everyone is so interested the animal heads, I'll see what I can do for you next time.

© Holly A. Heyser 2009