Monday, August 31, 2009

See, I Wasn't Lying

Not a day after I posted about public hunting in Texas, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) posted this video. They say a picture is worth a 1,000 words and they are right. This video covers public land availability better than I could. And, it's got some neat dove hunting video, too!

I'm going to show this to Cassie and see if she changes her mind about coming with her dad into the field. She's been reluctant, even with promises of pink guns and special time with dad. Maybe seeing another girl with her dad will help convince her.


Sunday, August 30, 2009

Hunting In Public

It begins again.

A wonderful thing happens in Texas beginning with September 1st; the date marks the beginning of hunting season - more specifically, the beginning of mourning dove season in North Texas. This is a time of year that I look forward to and it goes all the way into January - which is typically the end of the winter hunts. In fact, other than for spring turkey season, the winter contains almost all of the hunting we can do in Texas.

For September and October, my time will be spent in fields with shotgun in hand watching for doves to come into range. Dove hunting isn't so much as hunting as it is shooting. Unfortunately, shooting and missing is more common as doves can fly extremely fast, they seem to have an innate ability to shuck and jive when being shot at, and become extremely wary as the season progresses. In fact, even with a great deal of time spent in the fields, I only bagged one dove last year. The year before I scored significantly more, but had better spots. This year, I will be dove hunting public lands exclusively as we did not renew the lease in Honey Grove from last year.

Because Angie arranged for my trophy white tail hunt in November, we decided that spending additional money on a lease wasn't in the budget for this season. That means that except for two and a half wonderful days in Laredo, I will likely not be hunting mammals this winter - unless, of course, I get selected for a public hunt.

Texas puts aside over 1 million acres for public hunting. Several of the areas are by permit only and the only way to obtain a permit is to win the lottery for a particular area. Last week I spent several hours putting together my entries for permits. I entered Dylan and I in several deer hunts, a wild hog hunt, a javelina hunt, and a spring turkey hunt. If our entry is selected, we'll have a three day weekend in the particular unit.

The state does a good job of managing the entire process. Each entry cost $3 per adult and the chances of getting selected for some units are actually pretty good. Each year you aren't selected, you get an additional entry point in that category for the following year. At some point, we'll get selected and have an awesome weekend adventure. The javelina hunt, for example, is in the mountains of West Texas near Mexico. If we get to go, it will be a long drive but a great adventure.

Our entries for this year include the following:

Pat Mayse Wildlife Management Area (WMA) - Gun Deer, either sex (limit: 3 deer, one buck). There are 60 permits available and last year they had 150 entries. Hunter success in bagging a deer was 30%.

Cooper Lake WMA - Gun Deer, antlerless or spike (limit: 3 deer, one buck). There are 12 permits available and this is a new location, so there were no hunts last year.

Gus Engling WMA - Gun Deer, management either sex (limit: 3 deer). There are 120 permits and last year they had 833 entries. Last years success was 32%.

Elephant Mountain WMA - Javelina (limit: one javelina and one elk). There are 8 permits available and last year they had 564 applicants for 10 permits. Hunter success was 0%.

Fort Boggy - Feral Hog (limit: unlimited). Last year there were 133 applicants for the 20 permits available with 22% hunter success.

Pat Mayse WMA - Spring Turkey (limit: one gobbler). Last year there were 140 applicants for 32 permits. This year there are 30 permits available. Hunter success was 7%.

As you can see, the state manages an excellent public hunting system. In addition to these hunts, there are several others - including Mule deer, exotics, alligator, and others - including several youth only categories. All are affordable and are located throughout the state so they are reachable regardless of where you live. Except for the Javelina and Hog hunts, all of the hunts we put entries in for are within a couple of hours from the house.

In addition to the hunting opportunities above, the state puts aside a significant portion of land for public dove hunting. A $48 annual public license gets you access to these areas - typically 60+ or more acres of harvested farm land that may, or may not, get a ton of dove fly overs. There are about 1,000 acres close by in Royse City (about 30 minutes from the house) and an additional several hundred acres up north near where the lease was last year. I'm sure I will be out there as much as possible.

Add a possible goose/duck hunt in Wyoming this winter and it should be a full season, even if I'm not in a blind every weekend like I was last year. Unfortunately, if we are going to get a freezer full of meat we'll have to get lucky twice - once to get selected and once to bag some game.

Either way, I will report all of the goings on right here.


Saturday, August 29, 2009

Disaster Averted

I remember the pain and the suffering. I remember that, at the time, I thought the only way to the sweet relief I desired was at the end of a bullet to my temple. I wanted to die as the pain of death would be a cakewalk compared to the suffering I was going through. It seemed that the sweats, the pain and the vomiting would have no end.

I was a victim of a known drug reaction between the antibiotic Flagyl and the alcohol in a mouthwash. Did you know that mouthwash has alcohol? I didn't, but I learned it then - and I learned it the hard way.

Flagyl is one of the antibiotics that my doctor has prescribed to me to take care of a bug I picked up while traveling abroad. Several years ago I came home from a trip to India and he prescribed the drug to fix the problem. He warned me at the time to stay away from alcohol, as the drug causes a violent reaction to it. In fact, he informed me that Flagyl is sometimes prescribed to alcoholics because of it's properties. Take the drug, take a drink and suffer the consequences.

I was very careful then...but I wasn't aware that my mouthwash contained alcohol. So, even the very small amount absorbed as I gargled caused me to suffer. The description above is NOT an exaggeration. It was horrible and I wouldn't wish that suffering on my worst enemy. Well, maybe my WORST enemy, but no one else.

So, why bring up that suffering from several years ago? Because I was minutes away from suffering it again - and probably to a greater extent. Angie and I were having dinner with friends last night. Not thinking, I ordered a beer. About thirty seconds before the beer arrived, I remember that I was taking Flagyl. I couldn't believe it. I was a sip away from some of the worst suffering on the planet - all from my own stupidity.

The beer came and someone else at the table drank it. I ordered a Dr. Pepper and averted a disaster.

At least I think I did...what else has hidden quantities of alcohol?


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Haggle Rock

I just got back from shopping. Since I didn't have much of an opportunity to do it like a local (and benefit from the much lower prices), I was forced to do it in the hotel mall. Now, this mall has a Hugo Boss as you enter it, so you can only imagine the beating I took as I looked around for souvenirs and gifts for the kids.

Combine that with the fact that the kids have every sandalwood carving and marble collectible available in India, and bringing the kids back something meaningful is not the easiest of responsibilities to carry out.

I did have an idea as to what I wanted to get them. Marissa actually asked for something specific this year and Cassie is relatively easy to shop for. However, the boys present a challenge.

Ultimately, I wanted to get everyone something that was either desired or meaningful. I think I did pretty good. The problem is that all of this meaningfulness comes at a much steeper price than usual. In fact, since I didn't think I was going to have an opportunity to really shop, Angie and I discussed my coming back empty handed. We both agreed that we could do more meaningful things with the money that just bring back a bunch of crap from India.

However, that really left an empty feeling in me. I want the kids to share in the culture that I have come to know, but more importantly, I want to kids to know I am thinking about them when I am gone, and that I miss them and love them. Ultimately, it has become clear that the gift has less to do with the gift and more to do with the message it conveys, "that you're special and I was thinking about you."

So, with that, I decided I would brave the shops of the mall. I know what is in store for me when I walk through the halls - hard sells, haggling on price, and the ultimate feeling that I just got my ass handed to me. I would so much prefer to pay the asked price, but I know that isn't how you do things here, and in much of the rest of the world.

So, I shopped...trying to find everyone the perfect gift (or at least one that would be enjoyed). Justin was first. I asked for help with his and I found something pretty neat. Dylan was included in that search, and I found a really neat one, but it was $500 USD, so I continued to look. I found him a very cool substitute. Marissa was next. I knew what I wanted there, and not exactly what she asked for, I think she'll like them. Angie was last - always more difficult and more expensive than the others. I try to get her what she will like, not what I like. Cassie's was in another store so I knew I would pick it up later.

So, I have all of these gifts on the table, and the hard charging salesmen are calculating my tab. As the do this, I start preparing my act. Once they give me the total, I am going to play completely surprised and a bit put off by the amount. It's weird, I am completely at ease during a contract negotiation with a vendor, or even dressing down a vendor when necessary, but I felt my heart starting to beat harder just then. As I stated before, I do not like to haggle.

So, he gives me the amount and I am shocked!!! In fact, the shock was somewhat real. I shook my head, said I couldn't believe it was so much, and tried to make myself look like I was about to leave. He saw this and lowered the price a little. I shook my head again and gave him a counter offer. One that ultimately would have given myself a 50% discount.

He laughed and gave me some response that the discounts were already in the prices. I told him I appreciated that, but the total was too much. After some back and forth we ended up at about 75% from the original number. In the end, as they tried to sell me another item I told him to throw it in for free. He laughed again and then consented to the final price. I wasn't messing around here.

As I walked back to my hotel room, I can't help but feeling like I just got spanked. My guess is that a local would have gotten it down more, perhaps even to the original 50% that was my first counter. That's where the empty feeling comes in - that, and the fact that I have no idea how much the stuff I bought is really worth.

That being said, though, I am comforted by the fact that it isn't about the cost...

...its about the more important message.


Thursday, August 13, 2009

Mysore Feet

My feet are sore...not because I just finished a workout, but because we did a ton of sightseeing yesterday.

We explored the "City of Palaces" more commonly known as Mysore in the state of Karnataka.

Mysore is about 2-3 hours by car from Bangalore. My host arranged to have one of their local staff accompany us. Not only did he help with any language needs, but he was a bit of a history buff and gave us a fantastic rundown of our agenda for the day wrapped around a review of the history of Mysore.

Our first stop was to the city of Sri Rangapatna. This city is important to the history of Mysore because it was the home to Tipu Sultan who had wrested power from the Wodeyar Dynasty near the end of the 18th Century. Tipu Sultan was eventually defeated by the British, but his summer palace, tomb, and gatehouse survive. Additionally, the Ranganatha Swamy Temple which was built in 894AD and houses a statue of one of the forms of Vishnu.

Next, we visited St. Joseph's Cathedral (now, more commonly known as St. Philomena's) in Mysore. It is built in the same shape as St. Peter's Cathedral in New York and is one of the oldest and largest churches in India. The church contains catacombs and a shrine to St. Josephine which is purported to contain a relic of her.

After this stop, we drove the Chamundi Hill which has a statue of the demon Mahishasura, a temple to Chamundi who slain the demon and a very large statue of Nandi. In addition to these sites, the hill provide beautiful views of Mysore at the base of the mountain.

Following lunch, we visited the Palace of Mysore. The reigning Maharaja still uses portions of the palace, and we paid for a guide to explain to us particular aspects of the temple. Seeing the receiving room, the great marriage hall, and the rest of the palace was amazing. Apparently, the Wodeyars were rulers of the people and their kingdom flourished until Indian independence in 1947. We ended at an art museum which contained a great deal of paintings and artifacts from the period of the palaces.

It was a great day only marred by traffic in Bangalore that did not move. It took us about 3.5 hours to return to the hotel - at one point we had moved about 1.5 km in 35 minutes time. It was bad even for India's normally bad traffic.

However, that was the only issue with a wonderful day. The pictures above are from our host and I will upload the many that I took when I return to the States.


Saturday, August 01, 2009

Farting Imitates Blogging?

There's an old joke, not particularly funny, but maybe more true than not in the larger sense. It goes:

Q: Why don't women fart?

A: Because they never shut up enough to build up pressure.

Like I said, it’s not particularly funny. But the idea got me to thinking...particularly around the fact that I haven't blogged in a while. In fact, I haven't blogged a great deal since I joined Facebook.

I've begun to ponder some of the reasons why my blog has been neglected; to think about the reasons why I blogged in the first place. My initial idea was that it would be a good way to have family back home in New York kept up to date on all things going on Texas. Quickly, however, the blog became more of a public diary; part confessional, part therapist, but all cathartic. Getting out some of the junk that accumulates in our brains is good for us - and the blog provides a mechanism for just that...sort of a huge brain fart that feels oh so good.

Then, I finally succumbed to Facebook. That was more of a way for me to keep up with what everyone else was up to. And for the most part that continues to be true. Over time, though, it seems that quick updates about the universe that holds me as its sun has changed my behavior in the same way that the women who never shuts up never farts. Ultimately, two or three updates a day seems to have reduced the need to express myself in the long rip of flatulence that is my blog.

That’s not to say that everyone once in a while you just have to just lift a cheek and blast away. Sometimes your digestive system demands it and I suspect that my need to blog will continue similarly. Hunting season is fast approaching and hunting and fishing seems to be the one topic in which blogging is easy. I also have a two week trip to India coming up, so there should be significant opportunities to blog. We spent last weekend in Houston on our third annual New York Mets @ Houston Astros trip. I’ve had a nagging desire to blog about families and my desire to pass traditions down to the kids.

I don’t know what else is in store for my blog, but I’m sure that my need to post will continue. Just hold your noses, because I’m sure some of them will stink.