Thursday, December 25, 2008

I've Seen the [Christmas] Light

This year, we've added to the Christmas lights outside. A couple of years ago I posted how we could see the house from space due to all the lights, but this year, I think you might be able to see the house from Jupiter. The good thing is that we are basically done - and frankly, we've made it so easy, that it isn't even that big of a deal to put them up.

I love the way the house looks when we pull into the driveway. The kids love it too. I say that I do it for them, but it is more for me. I grew up with lights on the house and a nativity scene on the lawn. I want the kids to have those same memories. In fact, although I haven't added to the nativity in a while(we have Jesus, Mary and Joseph, a Shepard, and a sheep), I found the entire set (which adds the three kings and a life-sized camel). I'll save my money up for that and we'll have it for next year. We'll also add a nice light-up wreath to the second floor window, fix the lights that are out now, and we'll be done. As we take down the lights this year, we'll number the boxes and cords to remember where everything goes. I bet we have the whole house done in a couple of hours next year.

And perhaps, we'll add our cheer to other houses, as well. A good bud of mine who doesn't share my "give--your-money-to-the-electric-company-because-you-are-burning-megawatts-of-power-with-those-fifteen-million-little-bulbs-on-the-house" mentality dared me to put lights on his house. The truth is that for years I have been giving him the business for his dark abode and I've threatened to put lights on his house, but haven't because it's his castle. However, I interpreted a recent blog post of his (see number 7) as approval to mess with the visibility of his house for extraterrestrials. Angie and I put twelve boxes of colored mini-lights on his shrubs. They came out good and his family was happy. Not too sure about him, however. I do know that our friendship is not in jeopardy.

Good thing, too. I have twelve boxes of icicle lights with his name on them for next year.


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

"Best Christmas Ever!"

I shook her hand and I looked into her crying eyes as she said it..."This is the BEST Christmas ever!" I told her, "I know, mine too".

You see, Angie, Justin, Dylan, Marissa, Cassie, My mother in law, and I volunteered for an hour and a half this morning on the Red Carpet of the Christmas Angel Project for the Soup Mobile. Basically, we cheered, danced, sang, shook hands, gave out hugs and wished "Merry Christmas" and "God Bless You" on a couple hundred of Dallas' homeless community as they entered the Dallas Hyatt Regency hotel at Reunion Tower. They were there for a night of comfort, good food, and fellowship as part of the Christmas Angel Project.

Angie and I have been feeling like Christmas should mean more than just ripping open presents that are forgotten about in short order. This feeling started a long while ago and was reinforced with our church's Give campaign that started last year and continues. Also reinforcing this feeling is the fact that the kids get so much for Christmas that they often become obnoxious and don't even realize it.

Now, for anyone who's ever served, service typically does more for the server than the served. Today was no different. I feel good about what I did this morning, and even better that the kids were involved. They seemed to have enjoyed it and they all said that it meant something to them. So far, they seem much more gracious with what they've received today, as well.

That being said, I'm somewhat convicted about how I've viewed the homeless previously. Living in New York City, you get pretty sensitized to the homeless pretty quickly, and then you just stop making eye contact, and ultimately viewing the homeless as needy souls.

That changed today. Every person I looked at, I saw a person, not someone who doesn't have an address. As they wished blessings on me, I couldn't help but be touched. Here is someone that has nothing in the way of possessions thanking me for being there and asking God to bless me (like He hasn't already, more than I'll ever deserve).

Then, I realized what was going on. I was helping the homeless man or woman feel like a human being. I was LOOKING at them. I was TOUCHING them. I was cheering them on.

And, it still holds true. My heart is filled more than it has in a long, long time.

This has been the best Christmas ever, that is for sure.


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Last Minute cRUSH

Today is Christmas Eve - for our house, anyway.

When you share holidays due to step kids, than sometimes holidays fall on days other than scheduled on a calendar. Tomorrow, December 24th is Christmas Day in our house.

That means that for Christmas Eve, I had to work. After authorizing the payments of almost a million dollars, I left the office (house) to finish some shopping of my own. The second I left the house, I felt as frazzled as Travis Erwin trying to pack for Florida.

First, I went to church. Christmas shopping at church? Yes. We have a gift shop in the new building and the staff opened it during the day this week for us last minute shoppers. Since Angie and I are rarely up there without each other, I took advantage of the extended hours to pick her up a present. The gift shop is like Kirklands and is so nice that Angie and I decided to volunteer in there. I picked up a little something for her and some stuff for the kids.

Next stop was Kohls. Now I know why I hate shopping. There were tons of people shopping and spending money. I found a couple of things that I was looking for, waiting on line, and paid. Fortunately, no one really pissed me off too bad. In fact, the cashier was very pleasant and said "Merry Christmas". And the way back to the car, I made contact with a guy walking in with his wife. We communicated telepathically. I was happy to be leaving and he was unhappy to be heading in.

Next stop was McDonalds. I needed some double cheeseburger energy to continue. The old lady who took my money said "Merry Christmas" with a lot of excitement.

Home Depot was next. This stop was somewhat for presents and somewhat for home projects. They didn't have what I needed (they NEVER do - I dislike the Home Depot). I left empty handed. The strange lady at the door said "Happy Holidays". Did I mention I don't like Home Depot?

Lowes is my preferred do-it-yourself home supply store and as luck would have it, is next to Home Depot. As expected, I found everything I was looking for. Some gifts and some supplies. Re-caulking the tub is in my future. Also, as expected, the cashier said, "Merry Christmas".

Last stop, Target. The Super Target was my wife's most anticipated store opening when they built it a couple of years ago. She really prefers Target to Wal*Mart, but she hardly ever shops there because it is so much more expensive. Me, I think the store sucks. They never have anything and I end up at Wally World anyway. However, this time, I found what I was looking for. Taylor at the register, who couldn't have been more than 17, did NOT wish me a Merry Christmas, or anything, for that matter.

So, now I'm done. I'm not wrapping presents or anything tonight. I'm gonna let Santa do all the work, cause we are getting up early for the Soup Mobile.

More on that tomorrow.


Saturday, December 20, 2008

Thanks, Eric...You Don't Even Know Me

My sister's comment to my last post (scroll down) prompted a Google search. I entered, "It's OK to Say Merry Christmas". Actually, I didn't even have to type the whole thing...Google knew where I was going because it finished it for me.

I got "about 84,000 hits".

Most were pictures of the button on various sites on which you can purchase, but it would seem that I'm not the only one that seems a little perturbed by this issue. Heck, even Citizen magazine has an article about how Christians are organizing in support of businesses that recognize Christmas and against those that keep the sales season non-religious AND are hosting a petition on their website titled, "I Stand for Christmas".

However, one interesting result was from the Tonawanda News and a column by Eric DuVall of North Tonawanda, NY. He agrees with my sentiment, but he comes from the opposite direction. As a Jew, he comments that it's OK to wish someone a "Merry Christmas". I won't paraphrase his column, you can read it here.

So, as we enter Christmas week, I'll be even more confident that my "Merry Christmas" is acceptable. And, if I know you celebrate something else, I'll add that, too.

So, Merry Christmas, Eric. Oh, and Happy Hanukkah and Happy Birthday, too.


Thursday, December 18, 2008

Happy Holidays? Bite Me!

No, I'm not Scrooge. In fact, I love this time of year. I love the way people seem to be just a little nicer to each other (except for when they are stepping on peoples' faces trying to get to the limited quantity sales at Wal-Mart at 5:00am on the day after Thanksgiving). In fact, even though traffic is a lot worse, I’m even a little bit nicer. There’s something to the holiday cheer that gets me.

I do have a peeve, however. I hate the way that Christ is removed from Christmas – like it’s wrong to be a follower of Jesus.

Commercials and corporations seem to go out of their way to eliminate all religious aspects of the holiday. It’s “Happy Holiday” this and “Season’s Greetings” that. What about “Merry Christmas”?

According to the Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook, those that claim to be Christians make up more than 80% of American society, yet the less than 20% seem to have been successful in taking out the Christ from Christmas. How does that happen?

How does this same minority eliminate God from schools and all other public establishments?

I’m not sure how this occurs, but I know it bothers me. The founding fathers were farmers, merchants and ministers. They read and knew the bible and gave credit to God for certain rights that we enjoyed. In fact, as I read the First Amendment, God is not prohibited to be included in public works, only that the government cannot insist that God be included. I’m not sure how the ACLU bastardized this and convinced the public that this meant that God cannot be a part of government, and worse, publically worshipped, but they have.

I know that you may read this and think that I’m some religious yahoo, and that’s ok. I also realize that there are enough religious yahoos out there and that they typically give a bad name to all Christians, but I, for one, and done apologizing for my beliefs.

I am a Christian, and thankful that I’ve come to understand the Good News, and I won’t judge you if you haven’t. I’ll pray that you do, however.

And, either way, I’ll greet you with a hearty “Merry Christmas”. None of that “Happy Holidays” crap for me.


Sunday, December 14, 2008

Don't Know What To Write

I haven't posted in a while, but that's only because I don't believe that the things going on these days are really interesting. Sure, they are important to me and my family, but not terribly exciting to read about in some one's blog.

I thought about writing about Cassie's Girl Scout Troop and the event they went to on Friday night. A Senior troop hosted "Glamour Day", where they gave the girls makeovers (hair, makeup, etc.) and then took "glamour" photos of the girls. It is a way for the hosting troop to earn money as a fundraiser and for the younger girls have fun hanging out. The girls had such a good time, especially having make up put on and getting to select their outfits. As soon as I get some of the pictures, I'll turn them into a pic of the week.

I thought about writing about our social outing today. We went up to friends up in the country about an hour away. They are part of our small group, and they travel down here every other week for fellowship and food. They thought a social event at their beautiful home would be fun - and it was. We had a "white elephant" gift exchange. I came home with pens, pads, and paperclips.

I thought about writing about our (Angie and me) desire to do something more meaningful for Christmas. Angie asked me to make a donation on her behalf to the Soup Mobile for one of her Christmas presents. However, we want to do more and also get the kids involved. We are still working on those plans and I'm sure I'll blog about that when appropriate.

When all is said and done, the most interesting thing I did this weekend was hunt...and even that doesn't make for an exciting story. I got to the lease at about 6am and was in the tripod by 6:20. It was WINDY and the wind made it cold. It also made it for a constant adrenalin experience. Every cracked trig or sound I thought I heard put be on alert. For three hours that "alertness" was a false alarm, and when my bladder and butt had had enough, I saw motion in the trees. I wasn't sure what I saw, but I knew it was safe to lift my gun into position. I did so in slow motion while I looked to see if I actually saw something. Eventually, I saw a deer through the thinning. I couldn't make out its sex, but at least it was something. Unfortunately, at this point in the season, you can only shoot bucks. I looked for antlers - none. I looked through my scope for spikes - none. I looked again, just in case. It was definitely a doe. A beautiful mature doe. I watched her eat for about thirty minutes. She had her fill and walked off in the direction opposite from where she came.

As soon as she was gone, I began to feel my bladder and butt again. I toughed it out for about thirty more minutes, hoping to see a buck, but never did.

On the way home I stopped by the processor. My doe from a couple of weeks ago was done. I have deer steaks, tenderloins, backstrap and ground venison in the freezer.

I can't wait to try it.


Friday, December 05, 2008

The Huntcast

I just listened to the latest episode of my favorite podcast, Huntcast: The Outdoors Show (episode #73). I found the show about a year ago and typically catch up on episodes while I fly.

Joe Duckworth from Michigan hosts the show and I found the podcast on iTunes. I started listening to the show because I wanted to learn more about hunting. Since then, I've found the show informative on more than just hunting strategies, but on important issues such as gun control, land access, the second amendment, and others. The show is very well done and I wholeheartedly recommend it. He's got a great message board, as well. I've bragged about some of the success I've had this season and it's fun to share pictures and tall tales with others around the globe.

Well, imagine my surprise when I stopped by his site and I saw a link to MY BLOG on it. I was amazed by that. I couldn't imagine why he would link to my site. I have been posting about hunting and being outdoors a lot lately, but my stories are nothing special - just about a man, some family and friends, and a new found love for the outdoors - whether actually harvesting game or not.

I proceeded to listen to the show immediately. I have a trip coming in a couple of weeks and would normally have saved it up, but I was really curious if he was going to speak about the blog, like he usually does about the links he posts. Well, to my amazement, he did. He mentioned my name, the site, and how I am a former Yankee just learning about nature and falling in love with what I'm learning. He said something in his podcast that really struck home - he said "Scott gets it".

I think he refers to the fact that I am totally and completely obsessed with being outdoors. Whether staring up at stars so close you could touch them, or watching an armadillo walk across my feet because it couldn't hear me approach in the wind. I feel so connected and alive being outdoors. In fact, my wife recently commented about the "passion" I currently have for the outdoors. It isn't about the hunt and it isn't about the kill, even though that sometimes those are a part of it.

It is about connecting to God and His creation in a way that you cannot when you are sitting at a computer or on the couch. It's about understanding the effect of the wind on game, or how the stage of the moon will effect an early morning hunt. It's about where the fish are hiding in the lake because of cover and shadows, or how hogs can't see very well. It's about listening to the yelp of a turkey or knowing what time sunrise is - and being out there to see it.

However, with the help of Joe's podcast, and other resources, it is also about becoming involved in what's important to us. It's about defending the 2nd amendment and our rights. It's about becoming involved with conservation efforts, either with our pocketbooks or in some other way. It is about handing down a heritage to our children and others. It's about letting politicians know what's important to us and that we vote and doing so unapologetically.

Ultimately, it's about a soon to be 40-year-old man who grew up in New York City and the suburbs of Long Island, who was introduced to the fun of shooting a firearm by a caring man, who fell in love with firearms, then the outdoors, and ultimately with hunting and fishing...and making up for 40 lost years as quickly as possible.

Thanks for the shout out, Joe. Keep up the great work and the awesome show. You, and your podcast are a large part of my love of the outdoors.


Thursday, December 04, 2008

Stinky Feet Meat

That's what Angie called the Ham Steaks that she prepared (see pic of the week to the right). She thought they were gamey. Cassie agreed, but what does she know? She's only seven.

Dylan, Marissa and I thoroughly enjoyed our dinner. Baked wild hog pork seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic salt, and other unidentified seasoning. It was tasty, mostly moist, and delicious. Add the french fries, mixed veggies, and garlic bread and we had an awesome meal. I've since eaten leftovers for lunch and still cannot fathom how good the meat tastes.

Last night, we ate the breakfast sausage that came from the same hog. Angie and Marissa made breakfast for dinner; pancakes, cheesy eggs and sausage. Best spicy sausage I have ever had. It had a great little kick, just like I like it. Pour maple syrup all over them and they are perfect. EVERYONE enjoyed the sausage, Cassie and Angie included.

I've also been eating the "Big Stinkin' Hog Sticks" made by the processor. They are hotdog sized slim jims that are very hot and spicy. Delicious snacking is what I think.

We still have summer sausage and pork chops to try. Given our experience so far, I am sure they are going to be awesome. If you have a pork chop recipe, send one over. I think I may try a bacon apple glaze on it, like they serve at the Foundry Grill at Sundance in Utah.

I'm just hoping to bag another hog. I will definitely have to get one every year. I don't want this meat to end.


Monday, December 01, 2008

A Tail of Two Deer

This is the story of two extremes. One of elation and one of despair, and how quickly one can replace the other.

Dylan and I have been looking forward to this past weekend since we got our hunting lease. This was the one weekend in Fannin county that an "Antlerless permit" was not needed to bag a doe. We've been referring to the weekend as "doe weekend" and basically it just means that for the three day Thanksgiving weekend you could hunt does, as well as, bucks. Since we've seen many does on the property and only a few bucks we looked forward to the weekend as our real chance to bag our first deers.

This past weekend was not looking good as of last Tuesday. I "tweaked" my back and since I've had too much experience in this area, I was afraid I was going to be bed ridden for a week. When I felt the twinge, I got into bed and took muscle relaxers as quickly as possible. I spent most of Tuesday and Wednesday in bed. I figured that not only was Thanksgiving lost, but the hunt, as well.

I never went into spasm, so I proceeded to do the stretching that I've been directed to do from the previous times I've thrown out my back. On Thursday, I felt ok and decided to accompany my family to Lake Whitney, where Angie's cousins were hosting the holiday. It's our first time hanging with them on the holidays and everyone was there. We had a wonderful day and I mostly just sat on the couch watching the football games.

Friday morning (3:00am) came and I got up. I felt ok. Our original plan was to camp out at the lease on Friday night, but it was raining and I was afraid for my back, so we decided that if we didn't bag our does, we'd drive home and return the next morning. It's a little less than two hours to the lease and since gas is down to about $1.65, I thought it would be better to spend the night in my own bed.

Friday was a loss. It poured on Dylan as he sat in the tripod. I was in the pop-up blind behind him, so I was dry. Don't feel bad for him. I wasn't hunting, he was. I had to be with him because he never completed his hunter ed. He never saw a deer.

Friday night, we decided to sit together in the blind near one of our tree stands. We saw nothing until dark. At about the same time where it was too dark to see (or shoot) a number of deer came out of the woods to our right. Dylan saw them and raised the gun. However, it was dark and hard to make out the deer. Because he wasn't sure, he didn't fire. I was proud of him. That two minutes after many hours in the blinds was enough to get us jazzed for day two. He knew he was gonna come back and sit in the same spot.

On day two, we sat in the blind where we saw those deer the day before. Dylan tried to go to sleep. I told him if he slept, I would shoot what I saw...He stayed awake at that point. About ninety minutes in, we saw two deer come out of the woods. They headed towards the feeder and were does, so Dylan got into position. He scoped the larger doe which was facing away from us. I told him to get ready and that as soon as she turned to fire. She began to turn and he fired with no hesitation. I don't know if he fired too quickly, or not, but the deer dropped. The other (smaller) ran into the woods. Dylan began to shake as the effects of the adrenalin took over. Truth be told, so did I. We congratulated each other and as our attention left the deer, it staggered to it's feet. Dylan was the first to notice, but he had moved out of position to fire again. The deer staggered to the edge of the woods and stopped. Dylan raised his rifle to fire again, but the deer disappeared into the trees before he could fire. We weren't concerned. We knew he hit it and we figured it wouldn't get far and we could track it. We called Steve (Angie's cousin for instructions) and waited.

He told us to wait a couple of minutes and track it. While we were preparing to leave the blind another doe came out of the woods to our right. Since Dylan had shot his, this one was mine. I moved into position as Dylan moved out of the way. The doe heard us and began to run for the woods. I bleated, it stopped and I fired. The deer dropped. Since Steve had told us when we called him to always keep your eye on the animal, I chambered another shell and reacquired the deer in my scope. She kicked for a couple of seconds and then lay still. We waited for several more minutes to see if she was going to get up. She wasn't, so we departed the blind. After inspecting my kill, and calling Steve and Angie and letting them know we got a second in the ten minute interval since our last call, we decided to start tracking Dylan's.

We walked over to the feeder. No blood. That's not good. We did know EXACTLY where she entered the woods, so we walked over to the same entrance she used and expected to find her there. We didn't. We weren't terribly concerned yet, except for the fact we couldn't find a blood trail. Since she fell and stayed down for a couple of minutes, we figured he had shot true and she wouldn't get far, but the lack of a blood trail was a bad sign. We searched for a while to no avail and called Steve. He would come and help us look. We found a single drop of blood on a blade of grass at the entrance of the woods, but no more.

We walked for what felt like several hours. We searched damn near the entire 205 acres of the lease, and many of the neighboring properties. I figured we'd find her at some point, but the more we looked, the more pessimistic I got. We looked hard. I knew that Dylan was going to be crushed, and frankly, I was also motivated to make sure we didn't waste a kill. However, after over two hours of looking, we gave up. Steve believes that Dylan shot a little early and didn't get a good broadside, and either grazed her chest, or more likely, gutshot her. That would explain the lack of blood and the possibility that the doe ranged very far before bedding down and dying.

Dylan was crushed and I was very disappointed for him. Although I had harvested my first deer, my elation was countered by my hurt for him - compounded by the fact that I would not have shot my doe if I knew we weren't going to find his. Basically, my hunt had become elation tempered by disappointment because of the hard lesson we both had to learn. To Dylan's credit, he remained mostly positive. He said something to the effect that "this happened for a reason and maybe he'd score a buck later", or something like that.

We hunted the evening. He chose to sit in the tripod again, since we figured the spot where we were was lost for a couple of days. Unfortunately, he never saw another animal. Since he couldn't hunt on Sunday, his doe weekend was done. He was bummed and our ride home on Saturday was pretty quiet.

I returned on Sunday afternoon and sat in the tripod myself. However, I also saw no game.

We still have a month and a half to get bucks or hogs, so we still have some time. Until then, I'm sure the venison is going to taste a little bit bitter and a little bit sweet.


Monday, November 24, 2008

Dog Eat Dog World

I didn't think it was funny when I said it, but as these pictures can attest, the dogs (Tipsy and Mr. Higgins) were tickled. I think it is more due to the fact that these dogs are laughing on the inside.
They lie around all day, lick themselves as desired, eat whenever they want, crap whenever the want, get pet whenever they beg, and even sleep in our bed.
What's not to laugh about?


Friday, November 21, 2008

The GREAT Outdoors

I've been blogging a lot about hunting lately. I am completely hooked on it right now. Call it an obsession or an addiction, but either way - it describes me. When I'm not working or spending time with family and friends, I am outdoors (either literally or figuratively). I sometimes wonder if my background is the reason for my love of the outdoors - because it is so foreign. As a kid, I camped every month as a boy scout, but probably spent a minimum of time outdoors over the past 25 years. That ended about three years ago. I started camping, fishing, and shooting. When I did, I realized how much I enjoyed all of the activities. Shooting turned to hunting very quickly. A couple of dove hunts later, and I was hooked hard. Add a turkey hunt, and a couple of futile duck hunts and I wanted more. All I could think of was spending more time in the outdoors and finding ways to hunt more.

Then, I got a call from Angie's cousin. We were supposed to do a hog hunt in Goliad, TX (where he lived) during the summer, but never got it done. He and his family had moved back to Bonham, and he found a lease and wanted to know if I wanted in. I thought about it for about 0.003 seconds, got approval from Angie, and said yes. We would have access to 206 acres about 90 minutes away that we could hunt dove, duck, hog, and deer and it also had a pond stocked with fish. We were set.

Since opening day dove season (Sept 1), I have spent a part of all but one weekend on that property. I've gotten my hog, and will get a deer next weekend as it is antlerless weekend. Perhaps another hog or deer during the rest of our time on the lease and then it will be over...until we start looking for a place to get turkey in the spring.

Although the hunting is the highlight, and harvesting game the purpose, spending time in the outdoors is so much more than that. This week in Utah is a great example. Yes, we had an amazing time bagging duck, but some of the other experiences will not be forgotten, as well. In fact, when shooting becomes a hazy memory, I will continue to remember vividly the "Hawaii 5-O" theme on the duck call. Or, that Jeremy and I almost took a fall into the water when I took an overhead shot at a duck.

Or, perhaps the two bald eagles we saw when we were leaving the lake on day 1. I looked for eagles during the entire time I spent in Alaska, and never saw one. But I saw two perched along the shores of Utah Lake.

Or, perhaps the not one, but TWO, shooting stars I saw. Not little transient flickers, but large, bright and long burning shooting stars that made the hair on the back of my neck raise up as I watched them.

Or, maybe the sunrises that I saw come up from the mountains. Or the lake surface, so still it looked like glass and how it reflected the snow capped mountains in the background.

Or, one of the many other bird species we saw flying.

Or, the ducks that never came into shooting range. How they took a look at our spread, circled, maybe even answered our call, but then decided not to come join our party.

That's why I am out doors and why I love it so much. Yes, the harvest is awesome, as is the eating, but the whole experience is so much more. And, as a hunter and as a member of various conservation organizations, I am proud to know that my dollars help preserve the very same outdoors that I have come to love.

As a local commercial says, "if you want to preserve an environment, hunt in it!"

Spend some time outside, you'll see what I am talking about.

Our spread, from the boat, on Day 2. We are waiting for the sun to rise from the mountain the background. During the day, the water calmed and became completely still, turning into a mirror at the horizon. It was absolutely gorgeous.

Our spread, from the boat on day 2. My hosts added two mojos to the one they had from day 1. They made a huge difference, as we increased our harvest from 3 to 11 between the two days.

The view of our Day 2 location from out in the water. The sun is to my back, so we are looking back to from where I took the two first pictures. We are in the boat taking this picture, but imagine that the boat is within the reeds you are looking at. We were almost completely concealed. Jeremy is standing to the right of the reeds in this picture and he is just about invisible.

Our harvest from Day 1. A black duck, a drake Goldeneye and a hen Goldeneye. Here is the Hunter's boat. It is such a sweet deal. A jon boat with this flip up sides that function as the blind. When backed up to the reeds, or better yet, parked in the reeds, it is a stable platform for shooting that is virtually invisible. Add the 4 dozen or so decoys and the three mojo's, and they have the perfect set up for duck hunting.

Our Day 2 harvest. 11 ducks in the boat with 15 shot. The widgeon I shot and that we chased but never found, was my biggest regret. The other widgeon is about halfway in the picture with the green stripe on its head. In order, two redheads, a pintail, a black duck, a widgeon, two shovelers, and four green wing teal.

One of my hosts (Jeremy - his brother Robert is taking the picture), their boat and our harvest. If you can't tell, we've shed our heavy coats by this point. The weather was perfect. About 40 degrees when we started and significantly warmer when we ended. We hunted from legal shooting hours (about 6:50am) to 10am the first day, and about 11am the second. We just didn't want to leave.

To see all of my pictures, click here.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Duck You Two

Day two started much like day one. The only two differences were that we were going to go a little south from where we were the day previous and my hosts (the Hunter brothers) had purchased two additional Baby Duck Mojo's (motorized duck decoys that look like they are landing, and are supposed to get the attention of ducks flying over).

Ducks starting flying fast and furious. I was missing a lot, but my hosts weren't. We had a couple in the boat pretty quickly.

Evenutally, one came in right towards the mojo's. Robert told me to "take it!" I stood up and fired. The duck folded and fell to the water. It was a pintail hen. A very pretty duck.

During the day we had an amazing range of ducks. A couple of redheads, two shovelers, my pintail, two widgeons, and four green wing teal. In all, we shot 15 ducks and harvested 11. I never could retrieve a widgeon that I shot. It swam away and we went to find it in the boat. In fact, I shot it again, but it submerged and we never saw it again. Funny enough, the widgeon pair came in when we were goofing off. Robert was playing "Name That Tune" on his duck call, and I was trying to make mine quack. I guess I did, because they flew right over the blind.

The day was even better than our amazing day one, and with 11 ducks in the boat, you can imagine how good it was. I am a big believer in those mojo decoys.

In all, an amazing two days. I killed two duck on day one and three on day two. Considering the other two times I duck hunted I never even saw a duck, I am very pleased.

I will post more pictures when I get home.

Thank you, Jeremy and Robert. What an amazing hunt.


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Duckless No Mo

I am out in Salt Lake on business. I've been coming out here since 1998, and it is a winter wonderland. I've always loved it out here, but now that I hunt, I have a new reason.

A colleague of mine, whom I've been working with at my last two companies and his previous companies is a big hunter - he better be, his last name is Hunter.

We've been talking about shooting and hunting since I got into it. I remember, he even suggested some of the features of my shotgun. So, when he suggested a duck hunt in Utah, I new what I was going to do at some point this winter. This week is that trip.

Jeremy Hunter and his brother Robert met me at a park and ride at 5:00am. We were in the water with decoys placed by 6:45. They have a great little john boat with a blind rigged up. It really is a sweet deal. No long treks though the thigh high water and mud. This was so easy compared to the other two times I had been duck hunting.

The best part was that we saw tons of ducks. If we didn't pay attention, and often we weren't, ducks would land in the decoys without us even noticing. Had we been more attentive, we might have had 10 more ducks than the four we shot. Two of the four were mine, but only because the Hunter brothers were letting me get first try.

It was awesome. Good ducks, amazing scenery with the Wasatch mountains in the background), and excellent company.

I think I now understand the fun of duck hunting.


Monday, November 10, 2008

Hog Wild - Part II

Part II

He dropped instantly. I figured I had an instant kill, but I began to chamber another shell just in case.

The next shell did not chamber properly. I've been having trouble with the clip in my rifle, and it reared its ugly head at precisely the wrong moment. As I struggled with my gun, my hog stood up and started walking like a drunken sailor. These creatures are amazingly tough and it is not uncommon to have to hit them a couple of times. (Upon inspection of the hog, it appeared that my shot was a little off the mark and instead of putting its lights out, the force of the bullet only knocked it out). It probably would have bled out anyway, but when I solved my reload issue, I lined up and shot again. This time it dropped and flailed. One last shot finished it.

I called Steve and told him I had gotten a hog and asked him what to do. He asked me where it was and I told him about 20 feet in front of the feeder. He told me to stay put and he'd be over at sundown. He was hunting too and there was no reason to go anywhere. Since it was only 5 o'clock, I had a while to wait, calm myself down and to see if anything would return.

Steve came as the sun was setting. I descended the tripod and we walked over to the hog. Instantly, Steve saw that it was a boar and a pretty big one at that (about 200 pounds). It didn't look nearly as big from the stand as it did when we were standing over it. Instantly, we noticed that it DIDN'T have a smell. Usually, as the pigs get older and bigger they also develop a pretty good stink. This one was apparently pretty young, despite its size. This meant that it would likely been good eating.

Steve pulled his truck in and the two of us were needed to put in on the gate. We drove out of the hunting area to the pasture. He told me to get ready cause we were about to field dress the pig. I had seen videos of this part on YouTube, but I had never seen it done in person. Steve sharpened his knife as I put gloves on. Steve, fortunately, did the work while I helped and learned. His knife wasn't working real well, so I gave him mine. It was new, unused and very sharp and had a gut hook, which helped a great deal. At the appropriate time, Steve had readied everything to come out, he told me to do the honors. I stuck my hands in there and pulled. It is amazing how everything just comes out together. We had this thing gutted in less than five minutes. We left the guts in the pasture knowing full well that coyotes or buzzards would clean them up. I just wish we didn't leave them so close to the camper, as I was staying the night at the lease all alone. Needless to say, I slept with my rifle not far away with a shell chambered, just in case.

We loaded the now gutted pig into his truck again and left for his parents house (Angie's aunt and uncle's) for dinner. You would think that this Yankee wouldn't have been interested in dinner by now, but the whole process wasn't nearly as bad as you would think. Because the kill was done with head shots, there wasn't a ton of blood or other nastiness in cleaning the animal. Steve was careful not to open it up (intestines, bladder, etc.) while we dressed it, so there was nothing like that to worry about. In fact, I was amazed that there was no smell. All I ever heard of was how bad the animals smelled when you dressed them. It wasn't like that. However, I do know a gut shot will likely be a different story.

As we got close to the house, I could tell that Steve started driving funny - like he was looking for something (I was behind him in my car at this point). He turned at a sign that said "Hog Wild Processing". He decided that the best way for me to eat my first hog was to have it professionally prepared. I was real pleased with this choice, as I did not relish skinning the hog. We dropped off the pig at the processor and made our order...ham steaks, pork chops, ground pork, pork shoulder, breakfast sausage and whatever else you get from a processed pig.

I can't wait to pick up the meat. The processor tenderizes and seasons much of it and it is going to be delicious. We sampled one of his "hog sticks" - think of a hot dog sized Slim Jim. It was outstanding. I'm gonna smoke a shoulder for 12 hours until the meat falls off the bone. If we get a deer, we'll process that too and make a venison and wild hog chili. Wow, that sounds so good.

I still don't know what part I like better, hunting them or eating them.


Sunday, November 09, 2008

Hog Wild

We've been hunting the lease for about three weeks. We've seen deer, but no hogs. We believed that they were on the site, as we've seen hog sign, particularly their tracks and where they've rooted for food, but no actual animals. They changed this weekend.

I arrived at the lease at about 3:45 on Friday. Steve was there waiting for me. It was just us adults this weekend, as the kids had other priorities. Steve asked me where I wanted to hunt and I told him in the back. He indicated that this wasn't the best place to hunt in the evening, so I suggested I go to the tripod. He agreed. This had been his son's spot and he had seen deer every evening.

I cautiously climbed up into the seat and got situated. It was about 4pm it was a beautiful evening. There was a slight breeze and very comfortable. I practiced getting my rifle into position for a shot so I knew how to lean on the stand for stability and to be able to do it quietly.

About 45 minutes later, it began. I could hear them long before I ever saw them. I describe it as Deliverance meets King Kong. Not quiet the "Suuuuuuuueeeeeeeeeey' of Deliverance, but very clearly pigs. I heard them grunting and oinking very clearly. While they approached in the woods, it sounded like they were knocking over trees as they crashed through the brush. That wounded very much like when Kong approaches the girl in the jungle. Apparently, these hogs weren't too concerned about how much noise they made.

They finally came into view from the right. The stand is situated about 50 yards from the feeder and there is clearing in between. The first hog was a monster. Clearly the alpha. He was enormous and was first to the feeder. Behind him, another 7 or 8 hogs of various sizes. Steve had thrown corn all over, so they were all just eating and walking around. Hogs have poor eyesight, so they couldn't see me, and I was down wind from the feeder, so they couldn't smell me. The only concern I had was that I needed to be silent. Pigs have excellent senses of smell and hearing.

As I lifted my rifle, the large boar apparently heard me. He seemed to get spooked and he ran off in an instant. I thought I had blown it. However, none of the other hogs ran. They just continued to eat and romp around. In hind site, the big boar would have been a great trophy, but not an eater. I'm glad I didn't get a chance to shoot him.

I followed several others in my scope as I tried to control my breathing. As this was the first animal I have ever had in my sights that I could actually shoot, the adrenalin was pumping hard. I couldn't control my breathing or my hands. I was breathing extremely hard and I was shaking - not good to be able to try and shoot accurately. Add to the fact that the pigs would stop moving, and I really didn't have a good shot. The only things I had working for me were the fact that I had plenty of targets and I was only 40-50 yards away.

I started very deep breathing to get myself under control and it was working. I was calming down. At the same time, one of the smaller hogs in the front was not moving as much. I lined up my cross hairs right behind his ear. He lifted his head, stopped moving and I instantly squeezed the trigger.

...To Be Continued

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

It's Not a Right...'s an obligation.

Not an obligation where you have to do it, but one in which you ought to do it.

Do what? On election day the only proper answer is, "VOTE".

Angie and I just returned from dropping the kids off at school where we made a detour and stopped at our local polling location. Together, we've been exercising our obligation to participate in our Democracy for the past several elections. We've come to believe that this awesome right transcends it's "rightness" to actually be an "obligation" to participate in the election process.

When we vote, we honor the men and women throughout the world that are defending this nation, the idea of liberty, and the process of participating in electing government officials. I believe that it is an obligation to do so as much as it is an obligation for me to defend the rights of some yahoo whom is communicating something in which I don't agree. I have this argument with my nephew all the time. He criticises incessantly our government and the people within it. I don't agree with what he says, but I agree that our government gives him the right to say it. If he really understood the implications of this, I think his criticism would be lessened. I told him to go to another, less open, country and see if he likes the government better.

Jeane Kirkpatrick, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, defined Democratic elections as such: "Democratic elections are not merely symbolic....They are competitive, periodic, inclusive, definitive elections in which the chief decision-makers in a government are selected by citizens who enjoy broad freedom to criticize government, to publish their criticism and to present alternatives."
In line with honoring those serving our country, Angie had a great idea to have our Girl Scout troop donate a portion of their candy and to send it oversees to soldiers in the Middle East. She found an organization that helps hook you up with soldiers, and we were connected with Jeffrey in Afghanistan. I don't have too many of the details yet, but when I do, I will post about it.

Here is the picture we are sending alone with the candy - thanking Jeffrey and Stephen and the entire 715th MP Company for their service. Apparently, not only do the soldiers love the candy themselves, but they use it to spread goodwill and to reduce the fear of the children that with which they come into contact.

So do your part...go vote and visit Aunt Nancy's blog for more information on supporting our troops.


Monday, November 03, 2008

Don't Shoot the Little Ones

Trent was under strict orders not to shoot the little ones.

He was leaving them for me.

I'm not surprised by this sacrifice. He is the same boy that gave Dylan and I the shot at the turkeys a couple of years ago.

You see, Trent has hunted for most of his thirteen years and has harvested many deer. Because of this, he'll only shoot at the bigger ones and he'll leave the marginal (but legal) deer for Dylan and me, for between the two of us, we not have 2.5 days deer hunting experience.

What this equates to is that Dylan and I will be happy with any legal shooter because we've never harvested a deer before.

I think that is pretty exceptional for a young man - especially because he spotted two shooters on Saturday evening. I was in one tree stand, his dad was in another, and Trent was in his tripod. We were all within proximity of the three deer feeders we have placed. The morning was pretty boring. I hunted the field in which Dylan and I saw the large buck the week before. I didn't see anything, although was started pretty good when a bird landed on the pop-up blind from which I was hunting.

After breakfast, some messing around on the lease, and a nap, I went back into the tree stand. Again, I saw nothing for the rest of the evening. I picked up Steve from his blind and we called Trent. He was watching the bucks he wasn't gonna shoot chase a doe.

We're gonna get one before too much longer. Until then, I will blog about our failure.

The crazy fact is that even after spending six or seven hours in a stand, and having to drive four hours round trip, and not seeing anything but mosquitoes and small birds, I am still loving every minute out there. Whether lost in my own thoughts or prayer, or watching small birds dart from tree to tree, or sitting motionless because of some sound behind me, I'd rather be out there than doing most other things.

If I could get Angie, Marissa and Cassie interested, I'd be in paradise


Monday, October 27, 2008

The Height of the Hunt

It's 6:30am. It's still dark, but I can make out the shape of the tree stand. It looks higher than I thought it would.

I tell Steve, "You know, I have this thing with heights. If I can't get into the stand, I'll go back to the car."

He replies, "NOW YOU TELL ME?!?!"

It seems as though my desire to hunt overrode my fear of heights. And, although the blind is only 14 feet high, it was enough to make getting into it very difficult. Once I was there, the terror lasted about a half hour, once I was convinced it wasn't going to fall.

Unfortunately, the three hours I sat in it on Saturday morning were for nothing. I saw no game.

This weekend was a youth only deer hunt. I was in the stand for hogs. Dylan was with Steve in another stand, and Steve's son Trent was in a third. We sat from 6:30am to 9:30am, and no one saw anything.

We took a break, got some breakfast, fished, and then went to celebrate Angie's uncle's 73rd birthday. By 4:30pm, we were back in our blinds. It was a little easier getting into it this time.

First, I hear something going on in the woods to my left. Never saw anything.

Second, I got accosted by a crazy squirrel who couldn't see me when I was still. He got close enough to make me afraid he was going to bite me. I scared him away.

Third, I heard a turkey below me. It was making hen yelps and I heard it walking in the brush, but I never got a view of it.

Then, what we were all there for...three deer started crossing the field in front of me. I remained still - although I couldn't shoot them, I wanted them to feel comfortable around the feeder. They continued to cross in front of me from right to left. I got my binoculars and saw that they were all does. Can't shoot the ladies...I just watched in awe. They were beautiful. They found the feeder and at for about 40 minutes. I raised my rifle to sight them in and even though I knew I couldn't pull the trigger, adrenalin was making my heart pump hard, and that seemed to attract the mosquitoes. I was covered as I kept my cross hairs on the deer's vitals, but I dared not move.

The deer ate, then walked off from where they came. As they left, so did the mosquitoes.

As they disappeared into the trees to my right, several duck flew by.

It was a perfect ending to an amazing day.

The next morning, Dylan and I shared the blind that he was in with Steve the day before. They saw five deer and several turkey the day before. As we walked to the stand, we saw a lone deer in the tilled wheat field. We weren't ready. I didn't have my binoculars out yet, so we dropped down. I whispered to Dylan to hand me the gun so I could look at it through the scope to see if it was a shooter. It was definitely a buck, but it's antlers need to be big enough to be a shooter.

He either didn't hear me, or wanted to look for himself, but it was the fatal move. I couldn't verify if it was a shooter, so he couldn't shoot. I tried to get my binoculars out, but the deer spied us. It was over. He stuck around and I got a little glimpse through the lenses (I think he was legal, but not sure - and if you aren't sure you don't shoot). He ran off before we ever got sure.

We continued to the stand and sat for several hours. Other than six bearded hen turkeys, we never saw any other game. It was fun watching those turkeys though. They ate a lot of the corn that the feeder leaves for the deer.

We had an awesome weekend. I can't wait until the regular season starts next weekend.

It just goes to show you - whether you make the kill or not, it is just AWESOME to be out there.


Friday, October 17, 2008

Another Bastion Falls

Ok - so perhaps my scatological tendencies leading to my last post weren't the "last bastion", but we are getting pretty darned close.

Another has gone the way of the Dodo.

I have a good bud who started bashing MS Windows a while back and finally made the switch to an Apple not too long ago. I don't understand that decision, but I don't want to come across as some kind of Microsoft apologist. I'm not. I just know that I like options when it comes to software, particularly in the first person shooter genre, and Apple isn't really a choice.

That being said, I don't have any particular loyalty to Microsoft. I have used Apples at school and I don't like them. I like to right-click with my mouse. I like to open up the chassis on my computer and rip, or upgrade, the guts. I like understanding how to use what is in front of me and that has meant WinTel to this point. NO! I DID NOT GET RID OF MY BELOVED DELL FOR SOME TRENDY APPLE.

I do, however, LOVE my iPod. I am probably one of the few iPod owners that has no music on his/her device. I have podcasts, movies, videos, games, sermons, etc., but no music. I started with a Nano several years ago, but wanted video, so I bought Justin's 80GB iPod in May. However, I've been getting tired of carrying my Palm Treo and my iPod, so when my company said they were dropping support for GoodLink in April 2009 I knew what I needed to do IMMEDIATELY - upgrade to a 16GB 3G iPhone. I had my excuse, why wait?

I received my phone today, and holy crap, the thing is AWESOME. Full Internet using the wireless network at home and the 3G AT&T network on the road. My iPod, but with a bigger screen. Video from the web.. you name it. I've yet to set up my e-mail, but I am already so digging this thing.

In fact, I think so highly of this device, and the company behind it, I will no longer bash their computers. Hell, with the market the way it is, it might be time to buy some Apple stock at a discount.

I'm just not ready to make the jump to a Mac, yet.


Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Last Bastion - Lost

I turned the page, reviled by my curiosity... I scanned the Domestications catalogue, my eyes darting between bedding and drapery, I realized that the last sanctuary I held had been invaded, taken over, ruined forever.

You see, many men consider their bathroom their castle. I know I do. In fact, the coolest thing about my bathroom is that is has a magazine rack. Mine is full with:

* the Bass Pro Hunting Master Catalogue, over 600 pages of everything hunting. It is the redneck bible.

* the Holy Bible. Yes, I keep a bible in my bathroom. Some of the best alone time (sometimes the only alone time) I get is in there. There's a lock on the door, and you have to go through another locked door (my bedroom door), just to get to that.

* The Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife 2008-2009 Annual, which has all the rules, regulations, limits and season dates for hunting and fishing in Texas.

* Yahtzee and "Deal or No Deal" handheld electronic games. Sometimes, I don't want to read.

* Assorted, more temporary, reading materials.

Now that Domestications is in there, what's next? Oprah's magazine, O? Potpourri on the tank? Some weird plug in Raspberry flavored air freshener? The Victoria's Secret catalogue?

Actually, the Victoria's Secret catalogue would be ok.


Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Gifts Presentation

"As fate would have it, my presentation is the only thing keeping you from the casino and the cocktails and we've started 15 minutes late due to technical difficulties. Like the airlines, I will try to make up some of the time in the air so I can get you out on time."

Thus started my presentation.

Interestingly enough, I wasn't nervous at all once it started. In fact, I wasn't too nervous before hand, either. I knew I knew the material and I had done a couple of walk-throughs prior, so I felt pretty confident.

Not that the deck couldn't have used some sprucing up, or perhaps my delivery could have been more rehearsed...but I was confident that I was mostly ready.

My boss, another colleague and Angie made up three of the perhaps 30 people in my session. This wasn't one of those 1000 attendee conferences - instead there were perhaps 50-60 people attending the two separate tracks. Ultimately, this meant that it was a real good situation to get my feet wet in presenting.

My boss asked Angie if I have presented like this before - apparently I came across as being very comfortable as I presented. Other than many training sessions I used to give, I really have never done anything like this. I used to present updates and performance at quarterly and annual off-sites, but nothing like this.

Angie and my boss both said it went well. She gave me some constructive criticism about several things I could have improved upon, but for my first in a long time, I'll take it. Her most important critique is that I need to work on letting my charm and personality come across. Perhaps add a little more humor and connect more with the audience. She's right, and I appreciate her honest feedback.

I'm already looking forward to the next one. Anything to get me back to Vegas.


Monday, October 06, 2008

Sweet Suite

Angie and I just arrived at the Palazzo Las Vegas..."Palace" is it's English equivalent.

It is aptly named. There are over 3000 suites in the hotel. Our room is spacious, to say the least. Angie can't get over the velour couch that sits in our sitting area and the fact that our suite has three flat screen televisions; one in the sitting area, one in the bedroom area and one in the bathroom - yes, the bathroom.

Angie isn't used to opulence. Frankly, I'm not either...but I have experienced it a bit more often than she has. It's funny how quickly we can get comfortable in it, however. Angie is sitting on the couch with her feet up perusing the menus for dinner. She's not sure if she would rather eat at the Mario Batali steakhouse or the Wolfgang Puck restaurant. Some girls just can't make up their mind.

As she relaxes, I am putting the final touches on my presentation. I present at the Service Strategies Services Industry Summit. My topic is, "Vendor Management - Strategies for Managing Your Outsource Relationships". Needless to say, I'm a little bit nervous. Although I've spoken in front of good numbers of people before, and I am typically a pretty good public speaker, I always dread it until I get started. I'll be better tomorrow afternoon, when its over.

Besides, how much better does it get when you can come to Vegas for two days on someone else's dime, get to bring your lovely lady with ya, get two shows (Love and Rita Rudner), and some great drinks and meals - all for one hour's work???

It doesn't get any better than that.


Sunday, October 05, 2008

Fare Day

I just finished paying off the small loan from a couple of years ago. What do I do? I take another one out.

My sister Michele is down from NY for two weeks. She wanted to go to the State Fair of Texas. We needed a sitter while we are in Vegas for my speaking engagement. The timing was perfect. The bank account is empty.

The old joke is that you have to take a medium-sized mortgage out to afford the Fair. Although that is an exaggeration, the Fair is a very expensive proposition. In fact, if the attendance and the gluttony on all things fried is any indication, our economy is booming.

It was my second time walking under Big Tex's blank stare and waving hand. It was fun with the kids the first time, but after walking around, buying coupons, eating fried peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and trying to keep said fried PB&Js from coming back up after riding a ride, I've had enough. But, Michele is watching the kids for us so Cassie, the Yankee, and her brother packed into the pickup and headed for Fair Park.

My sister is a chef and was real intrigued by the aforementioned fried foods, so we sampled the fried bacon (very good), fried chocolate truffle (she loved it, I wasn't impressed), fried s'mores (AWESOME), fried Coke (interesting), fried Olive Bites (ok), and fried Corn Dog (yummy). We passed on some of the others like fried snickers, fried oreos, etc. Next year, I'm looking for the fried fries.

Interestingly enough, we really didn't do too much else. We played some games, walked through the livestock area, we looked at some of the Chevy's (finding my next truck), rode some rides, etc. We didn't stay long enough to take in another of the evening events.

After several hundred tickets, we were done. In fact, we were fried.


Monday, September 29, 2008

Lonesome Dove

I found myself lost in some kind of reverie, hypnotized by the passing of fields on my right and left. It seem that the further I got from Rowlett, the more that my business and stress unravelled. I remember thinking to myself how great it felt to get out to the country. By the time I got to the campsite, I was a different person.

This weekend, I finally got out to the hunting lease that Angie's cousin and I have access to through deer season. I was hoping to get some dove into the freezer, but that is apparently not in the cards. This weekend it didn't much matter.

I've been very busy at work. My presentation for Vegas looms over all other responsibilities. School is a bear, and most weekends are spent shuffling from one game to another. Things are good, I just needed a break and I knew if I didn't do it this weekend, I wouldn't get another chance.

After securing a pass from Angie (not hard to get, I think she knew I needed a break), I loaded the camper and left. I had a little food, my gun and ammo, fishing poles and a couple of cigars. What more did I need?

I got to Bonham SP at about 2:00pm and set up the camper. By 4:00pm, I was at the lease casting into the pond. After Angie's cousin showed up, we drove around the property to check on the deer feeders. He left, and I hunted. Sunset came quick and I hadn't bagged a bird. I returned to the campsite, had dinner, and lit a cigar. I watched the stars and fireflies light up the sky. It was just what the doctor ordered.

On Sunday, I got up early and watched the sun rise creating an amazing rainbow over the horizon. It is incredible seeing the ROYGBIV on the horizon as the sun came up from the East. I hunted over a cleared wheat field for several hours, shooting (and missing) at one bird. I then fished as the day got hot and caught and released a small large-mouth bass. The one fish made the whole weekend worth it.

It's funny, but I saw virtually no dove while hunting, but a bunch near the property when I travelled back and forth. That's ok, I saw a large doe and some duck while I was on the property.

That alone will make it worth it.

They say that a bad day spent hunting and fishing is still better than a good day doing anything else. I believe them.


Saturday, September 27, 2008

Blackened Blue

We whipped out some more halibut. That fish is so awesome, I'm gonna be sad when it's gone. Especially since it is currently going for $22/lb in the stores here.

Angie and I had plans for two couples friends to come over. We all have girls that are friends and play well together, so it was our intent to replicate our weekend in New Orleans by Cajun spicing some fish, making some hurricanes (using the mix we brought home) and just having a good time with friends.

I had three large filets defrosted, so when one couple cancelled at the last minute, that meant we could fry it up as an appetizer. I think that's my favorite way to eat it, fried with some malt vinegar. It is awesome.

The other filets were rubbed in butter and Cajun seasoning while the cast iron skillet got hot to 500 degrees on the grill. With another quarter stick of butter to coat the skillet, I dropped in the filet. About five minutes on each side, and voila - perfected blackened halibut. The filets are so big, each couple split it, and we still had fish left over.

Angie made jalapeno corn bread and our guests brought new potatoes and an awesome salad. A great meal with good friends.

And, when the one bottle of rum wasn't enough, we started mixing the hurricane mix with vodka. It's good that way too.


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

'41 Is a Very Good Year

My baby is forty one. I'm not talking about an antique car or a family heirloom. I'm talking about my better half.

Angie turned 41 years old this Sunday and she is every bit a fine wine, getting better with age.

It is amazing to see someone just blossom more and more as time goes by. When we met more than nine years ago, we were both very different people. I don't think she'd mind me saying that we were both very broken people that came together in their brokenness.

The good Lord has seen to it, in His infinite wisdom, to allow us to grow, heal wounds, and to become tremendous complements to each other. She is relational and intuitive about other people. I am not. I am more disciplined and organized. She isn't. I may be more intellectual, but she is more emotional. In every way we are different - save one.

Our love. Our love for each other, for our children, and for our God. We may be very different people, but in these three areas, we are the same.

Especially, because she keeps getting better with age.

I just keep getting bigger.

Happy Birthday, baby...


Monday, September 22, 2008

Hunter Conservation

The title would seem like an oxymoron and the anti-hunting community would have you believe that the two words in the title of the post ARE antithetical, but everything I know about conservation says that it just isn't true.

The fact of the matter is that unless there is money to be made, a species just isn't going to survive and that the same anti-gun, anti-hunter community that presses for more restrictive legislation typically are not willing to put their wallets where there gaping, ignorant pie-holes lead. I don't see them clamoring about habitat encroachment, but that is exactly what is causing wildlife reductions globally.

However, leave it to the hunters to not only care about habitat, but to also put their dollars on the table to ensure that it happens. According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's website, hunters annually pay $372 MILLION towards conservation, and that in less than 60 years, have totalled over $5.5 BILLION towards conservation efforts.

So that's dollars, but what about animals. In the early 1990's, there were an estimated 100,000 wild turkeys in, through conservation efforts, there are an estimated 4.5 MILLION. Yes, I've killed one, but my dollars have ensured that countless others have lived.

The same holds for deer. In 1900, there were less than 500,000 deer in the nation. Now, because deer are the most popular game animal, there are 18 MILLION. If it weren't for hunters, the deer would probably be extinct.

I'm not trying to convince the anti-hunters out there that hunting should be permitted...(well, actually, I am, but this is my blog, so tough). That being said, the last time I checked, this is the United States and we are free to pursue those activities that we wish. In fact, I feel it is my duty to ensure that hunting and gun ownership remains legal and accessible. I respect the anti's freedom to do the opposite, but make sure that you are informed. The species you believe you are helping may actually suffer from your efforts.

Numerous studies prove that if you want to ensure a species survival, allow it to be hunted. Once you do that, conservation efforts go into effect to make sure the species remains economically viable.

Hunters win, conservationists win, and most of all...

...the species wins.


NB - I took the online portion of the Texas Hunter Education class today. It was very interesting, somewhat informative, and most important - required to hunt in Utah. Although I am old enough to be exempt in Texas, I am not old enough for Utah - and since we are planning a duck hunt there within the next couple of months, I need to complete hunter education. Next step, the field class.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A Tale of Two Meals

Forget “What would you do for a Klondike bar?” My question to you is, “How much would you pay for a piece of beef?”

Would you pay $100? Would you pay $250?? Would you pay $365???

If you go to Alexander’s Steakhouse in Cupertino, CA you might. Yes, you can get a 10 oz. filet of good ‘ole American Angus for $46, but you can also get “true Japanese Imported Kobe beef of the A5 grade” for an amazing $365 a plate.

I am in California this week working out our headquarters and on Monday night, we (my client, my bosses’ boss, and a couple of other guests) went to the unbelievable Alexander’s for dinner. I got the Angus filet (the desire to keep my job was stronger than my desire to experience $365 beef) and had an excellent meal. If you’ve ever had that steak, please let me live vicariously through you and tell me how it was.

The next evening, the client and I went to get Sushi. As I walked into “Sushi Express”, I felt as though I had just walked into the fast food of raw fish. However, the client had eaten there before and I have come to trust her recommendations for all things sushi. We had a couple of rolls, hot sake, and a Sapporo. For the same price as my filet, we had another excellent meal.

It just goes to show – it doesn’t matter where you are as much as whom you are with.

I can’t wait to go home and have dinner with my family. That’s the best of both “the where” and “the who”.


Monday, September 15, 2008

Separated at Birth...

...Michael Phelps and Baby New Year.

I watched Michael host the season premier of Saturday Night Live. I am sorry to admit, I watch the show regularly. I fell in love with SNL when it was great (with Chevy, Ackroyd and Belushi) and have watched it since. It might be a New York thing, or maybe I'm just waiting for the skit that makes you laugh so hard you still talk about it years later.

I remember my nephew and I watching Chris Farley swan dive onto the coffee table while he was extolling the benefits of "living in a van, down by the river." We laughed so hard, I really thought I hernia'ed something.

I remember laughing as hard for the Sofa King of New York skit..."it's not huge, it's Sofa King huge!!!!" My cousins and I were just talking about that one recently.

And, who can forget "Pete Schwetty's Christmas Balls"? "Ohhh, I love your salty, Schwetty balls in my mouth."

Classic humor. Yes, I understand that you can watch a whole 90 minutes and not laugh once. Or, you can see an skit and wonder how bad the crap that didn't make the show must have been. But once in a while, you get gold.

And that's enough to keep me coming back.


Sunday, September 14, 2008

Ultraviolence Friday

Angie and I don't usually watch stupid, shoot-em-up movies, but this weekend we watched two. Our Blockbuster queue has been backing up a little bit and we had a couple of movies sitting on top of the TV, so we decided to grab one and throw it in.

I let her choose. I usually let her choose just so I don't have to take responsibility for a movie if it sucks. In fact, it usually works out that when she picks a movie, it blows, and I let her know that her choice did, as well. When I pick a movie, we usually like it. There are two things about that arrangement of which you need to be aware. 1) It's a losing proposition for her, since I only let her choose when both movies to pick from are going to blow. 2) Conversely, I will choose the movie when I have a guaranteed winner. The only exception to this was "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow", very easily the worst movie I have ever seen half of.

So, she plugged her choice into the DVD player and I asked what she put it...she said, "it's a surprise" and away we went.

She selected, "Shoot 'Em Up" with Clive Owen. Basically, a former champion marksmen, turned military dude intervenes when a bunch of thugs try to kill a pregnant woman. She ends up giving birth, then getting shot between the eyes. Owen, the unwitting hero takes the baby and protects it while more thugs try to kill it (and him). The movie has a ton of shooting and is way over the top. It has a very awesome skydiving shootout, and several other really cool scenes, but we couldn't get past how ridiculous the movie was. That, and the fact that we were really enjoying it. It certainly wasn't a movie that I expected Angie to like, but when the final credits rolled, we looked at each other and said - "at least it was really entertaining." What more can you ask from any film.

By now it was getting late, but the adrenalin surge from the movie had woken us up, so we weren't tired. I decided to throw the other movie in. Kevin Bacon and Kelly Preston in "Death Sentence". The description mentioned something about Dirty Harry, so we didn't have very high expectations.

Again, the movie was really violent, very stupid, and not nearly as entertaining as the previous flick. Although, for two 40-year-olds, staying awake till 1am means that the movie was at least OK. We watched the whole, unbelievable story as Kevin Bacon preceded to hunt down and kill the bad ass gang of thugs that killed his son. In doing so, he loses his own life and that of his wife.

The moral? I have no clue, other than if you too want to be a bad ass, shave your head.


Thursday, September 11, 2008

We Shall Never Forget II

I just read my post of September 11, 2007 and I feel the same way today as I did on that day.

I didn’t notice any big news coverage or replays. I did see some small memorial stuff going on, but no big events. I read on that baseball is having special events at each of the games that are being played today, and that’s great, but aren’t we missing something?

We cannot forget the fact that there are people in this world that hate this country. I’m not saying we need to make enemies of everyone that is not American, and clearly, the current administration has not been what we had hoped, but to forget that every day there may be another attack on us is to become vulnerable.

Additionally, I really miss the outward patriotism that we had after the attacks. Hell, it was even cool to live in Texas and to be a New Yorker for a while. I wasn’t sneered at for a couple of months after Sept 11. (Only kidding about that – I am never sneered at, but we all remember that for a short time after September 11, we were ALL New Yorkers, regardless of where we actually resided or came from).

I think that we should make September 11 a national holiday. For at least one day every year, we would all remember that day and we would celebrate it – not for the fact that we were attacked or that terror had finally reached our shores, but because it brought the citizens of this country closer and because for just a short time, we were all the Americans to each other that we should be every day.

We shall must never forget!


Monday, September 08, 2008

Blog Bytes

Not a great deal of major things to blog about lately...therefore I though some quick updates would be in order.

1) School for all is rolling. My classes are already humming along. Angie is working on a paper and currently enjoying the experience. Justin continues to improve and is now up to three classes a semester. Dylan, Marissa and Cassie are enjoying their schools, as well.

2) Activities are getting busy, too. Dylan is in two baseball leagues. One little league and one for school. He's got doubleheaders every Saturday and practice almost every day. His elbow is sore from throwing too much. Marissa practices volleyball before school everyday. Her first game in Thursday and I don't know how I am going to ever see her play. I have school on Thursdays. Cassie is cheering and she had her first game on Saturday. The team lost, but those little first graders looked so cute.

3) Girl Scouts started on Sunday. Since I lead the troop, that one effects me too. We are in year two of Daisies. The girls are so cute and so fun that it almost doesn't seem like work. This year's plan - finish our Daisy petals and get ready for brownies. Oh, by the way, we will be selling cookies this year, so let me know what you want.

4) Angie and I had a date night this weekend. We tried a really great restaurant in downtown Rockwall called Zanata's. I pass it whenever I go to the public dove hunting land in Royse City and have wanted to try it since I started public hunting last year. Everytime I pass it, the windows are open to the sidewalk and the place is jamming. We went, had some cocktails and some pizza. It was great a great time.

5) I haven't been back to the lease, as of yet. I'm trying to work that out, but our weekends are so packed, I don't know how I'm gonna get it to happen. I bought a new fishing pole and a slew of new lures, so I can't wait to get out there. Also, I really want to spend a day or two hunting for dove. There's a wheat field on the land, so I'm hoping the dove are flying. I'm still doveless so far. Dylan has one that he got with his dad on Saturday.

6) I've been home for what feels like forever. I haven't travelled for weeks and it has been great. That ends next week, as I am in California for four days.


Monday, September 01, 2008

Connection to the Great Outdoors

I've just come in from relaxing on the patio with a cigar in one hand and an ice cold beer in the other. As I sat out there enjoying the cool breeze, compliments of tropical storm Gustav, I contemplated the goings on of this weekend.

On Sunday, Angie and I packed up the camper, the kids, and the dogs (all in two vehicles) and drove 90 minutes north to Bonham State Park. The holiday happened to coincide with the beginning of Dove season here in Texas and up north is where we usually end up.

However, this year is somewhat different for me. I've gone in halves with Angie's cousin on a hunting lease near Honey Grove, about 25 minutes east of Bonham. The beautiful 206 acres we have access to for the next four months provides us opportunities to hunt dove, duck, deer and hogs. Additionally, we have access to a nice sized pond for fishing. Although there are no electricity or water hookups on the land for the camper, the price was right, and it is close enough to get to for a day of hunting.

So, on Sunday, we swam, ate, made 'smores and generally hung out as a family enjoying the state park. Bonham SP is small and has a great swimming area, so we always enjoy going up there.

On Monday, Dylan and I left the girls nice and early, met Angie's cousin and his son and went to the lease. We drove around the property so I could get a look around. It is really pretty with some wooded areas, some open fields and pastures, and the large pond. We saw a deer while driving, so we think our chances for deer when the season starts are good. We also saw plenty of hog sign, so we should do ok there, too.

It was very hot, and we didn't see any dove flying, so we fished. I immediately caught a large perch, so I knew it was on. We got bored of watching Angie's cousin catch all the fish, so we decided to load our guns and go walk about.

We walked for a while, overheated (and got bored), and decided to fish some more. I caught two small black bass (my first two ever) and was real pleased.

In fact, we never really got a good shot at any dove, but we had a great time on the property. I probably won't get a chance to get up there this coming weekend, but we are already planning to bring the camper up for several days of primitive camping and hunting on the property.

Hopefully, I'll have dove in the freezer soon. If not, I know we'll have a great time on the lease. We have the deer feeders all ready to go.


Saturday, August 30, 2008

Good Eating - Redneck Style

Tonight I finally dug into my halibut. I had about 41 pounds in the freezer, and now its down to 39. I fried up two packets in peanut oil and Zatarain's Southern Style Fish Fry.

I then proceeded to eat and eat. I gorged on the beautiful white meat, and I am stuffed. No side dishes, no bread, no salad - not even french fries. Just golden brown perfectly deep fried chunks of Alaskan halibut. I did sprinkle malt vinegar on it and it was perfect. Just three minutes in the fryer is all you need.

Angie, Dylan and even Marissa loved it. Cassie didn't really give it a chance although I did make her try it. I wouldn't care if they all hated it - that would just mean more for me.

Dylan and I are already thinking about more ways to make it. He suggested a ceviche and I thought he was right on - that would be outstanding (Michele - get a recipe for that and I'll get the guacamole and the tortilla chips). We thought grilled (lemon-pepper style) would be somewhat boring, but still yummy. Blackened is another way we'll try it to.

I can't wait to get that deer so we go have some Redneck surf and turf.


A Question: Is the halibut so delicious because I caught it, cleaned it, and cooked it? I know the dove breasts, catfish, and the turkey I've harvested were...there may be something to having caught it yourself. Maybe its more fresh that way. What do you think?

Friday, August 29, 2008

Pretty Veep

John McCain just introduced, "the next Vice President of the United States", Sarah Palin.

I'm struck by how attractive she is and how much of an interesting choice she is, but it is too soon to know whether she is a winning pick. She may be as the reaction from the press has been mostly very positive.

She is a true conservative.

She is a woman.

She is young.

I believe that the dems only chance of winning was a combined ticket of Obama/Clinton. Since they didn't go that way, I don't believe they can win - particularly in the fact that McCain is not the Bush 3rd term that the dems present him as...he is a moderate who has a history of working with Democrats.

As I hear Governor Palin speak, I'm beginning to think she's going to capture the Hillary vote, thus cementing another Republican white house. I still believe that is ok.

And besides, at least for the next couple of months, we'll have someone pleasant to look at during all those speeches.


Monday, August 25, 2008

School Zones

The kids started school today and there was no drama of which to speak.

Dylan started High School today. If mom is suffering from this fact, she isn't showing it. I think that once Justin graduated a couple of years ago, she came to grips with her kids getting older. He had a good experience on his first day - leaving so early this morning for the bus that I never saw him. He couldn't stop talking about the Chipotle line at lunch and the senior girls, very many of which were "hot".

Marissa returned to junior high school. She really came into her own last year, and we look for her to continue. She was very nervous this morning when we met a couple of her friends at Starbucks. I don't think that the Vanilla Bean Frappaccino she order settled her stomach, but going to school with some girlfriends probably did. By the time we dropped them off at school, she seemed fine - and informs us she had a good day.

Cassie entered first grade today and has instantly fallen in love with her teacher. Angie met her this morning, and although she seems very young, she's got a couple of years under her belt. Cassie made a song up with lyrics that explain how nice her teacher is and how much she loves her. I hope that lasts through the year.

Angie and I start our classes tomorrow. She is taking English Comp and Art History. I am taking Business Communications and Strategic Management. I'm really excited for her, but not so much for me. I only have eight classes left and I am seriously getting burned out.

As much as I couldn't wait for the summer to be over, I can't wait for school to be done.


Sunday, August 24, 2008

It's Too Piercing

Cassie and I returned late last night from our holiday in New York.

The big story? She got her ears pierced, as promised.

We started talking about it on her firth birthday. I told her then that when she was ready, I would take her. I wanted to be a part of the momentous occasion. In fact, it is the second time I've taken someone to get their ears pierced. My Aunt Carole reminded me this past week that we took her when she decided to get her ears done (she was tired of being referred to as 'sir', so she thought getting her ears pierced would help - not sure if it had the desired effect, but I told her she might want to stop lurking in men's rooms, too).

Cassie contemplated it for her sixth birthday back in January, but ultimately deciding not to do it. Out of nowhere, she said she wanted to do it on her last full day in NY. I wasn't sure she was going to go through with it, but on Friday morning she continued to say that she was ready.

AMA took Cassie and I to the Piercing Pagoda in Roosevelt Field Mall. Paul's girlfriend, Jackie met us at Cassie's request. We had the cameras going and mom on the cell phone, so we were very prepared. Cassie picked out a basic Cubic Zirconium stud for her starter earrings, and AMA purchased matching pink heart earrings for her, Cassie and Jackie. She'll be able to get them going in six weeks.

After meticulously measuring the ink dots, signing the release paperwork, and with dad giving the final OK, the two attendants put guns to ear and squeezed. It was over before it started and Cassie said no big deal when she stated, "it really didn't hurt." She's since revised her story and said that it hurt bad, but only for an instant.

She looks so grown up and I can't believe how pretty she looks in all of the pictures from our week in the big apple. I guess she's growing up...she starts first grade tomorrow AND she lost her second tooth today.

Tomorrow, she'll be fighting the boys off like her twelve year old sister. Sheesh.


Thursday, August 21, 2008

New York Minutes

I am a man with two homes. There are two places on this earth where I am "at home". One is in Texas. It is where my home, my family and my future reside (at least my near future).

The other is where I am from - New York. Fortunately, because of the fact that I telecommute, I am able to spend a week "working" from AMA's house in NY, while she and Cassie get to play. Although I have gotten a ton of needed work done (all I need is my laptop, my mobile phone, and a broadband Internet connection), I have also had a great deal of fun.

On Sunday, AMA had a monster Hawaiian-themed cookout, making my favorite of hers - sweet and sour chicken. There were about thirty people at the house, including some old family friends that I hadn't seen since I moved to Texas over eight years ago. My aunt (AMA) knows how important that is to me. On one such visit, she surprised me by arranging family from Canada to be here. I cried.

I worked on Monday.

On Tuesday, I took the day off and several of us went to visit my sister who is living and working for the summer on Fire Island. We took the ferry over, sat on the beach, ate at the restaurant where she works (and got taken care of by the exec. chef), and generally had a great time. The scenery was pleasant and the weather outstanding.

On Wednesday, I worked, while the girls went into Manhattan. They spent the day at the American Girl Store buying a doll, accessories, having dinner, and taking in a show. However, the real show didn't start until I met them on Broadway, for "The Little Mermaid". I know it is a kids show, but it was OUTSTANDING. The singing, dancing, and production were just really amazing. I hate to admit it, but I had a wonderful time. Some of that wonder was just watching Cassie enjoy it.

I don't know what they are doing today, but I am working. I will try and go see my Mets play one last time this year, and say my goodbyes to Shea Stadium. It gets razed after this season and replaced by Citi Field right next door.

Tomorrow, I am also working, but will take an extended lunch to go get Cassie's ears pierced and to help AMA pick out a nice laptop so I can set her up before I go.

Who says you can't go home again - I go every summer, and I couldn't imagine not doing it. I want my family to know New York like I do.