Friday, August 27, 2010

Educating The Public Just Got Easier!

Educating the Public About Hunting, Fishing, Conservation

Whether you are a teacher, a librarian, a scout leader, homeschooling parent or just a hunter/angler who hopes to preserve the tradition - a whole new world of resources are now available!

SPRINGFIELD, Mo.-For 38 years, National Hunting and Fishing Day has been

celebrated from the smallest hometowns to the highest offices in our nation's

capital. An official public reminder that conservation in America depends on

leadership and funding from hunters and anglers, NHF Day now aims to deliver

its message year round through a free and newly updated variety of

educational resources.

Always the fourth Saturday in September, NHF Day 2010 is slated for Sept. 25.

"Our goal is equipping every hunter, angler and sport shooter to more

effectively communicate the conservation benefits of traditional outdoor

sports. All of us must work together to build public understanding and

appreciation for what we do," said Denise Wagner of Wonders of Wildlife, the

Springfield, Mo., official home of NHF Day.

Hunting and fishing licenses, along with excise taxes on firearms,

ammunition, bows, arrows, rods and reels, generate $100,000 every 30 minutes

-totaling more than $1.75 billion per year-for fish, wildlife and habitat.

NHF Day educational resources, available free at, include:

• PowerPoint Presentation-A colorful presentation of facts to accompany
school speeches, lectures, meetings and more. Downloadable as a 16.7 MB file. A sample script and public speaking tips also are available. Or simply click and play the fully finished, automated audio-visual presentation, which is
6:43 in length. Be sure to check out the helpful hints for answering
questions from your audience!

• Handouts and Activity Sheets-Five different single-page conservation games
and fact sheets designed to be fun and informative for all ages.

• Print, Audio and Video PSAs-For use by the media, club newsletters or
anyone who needs ready -to-use communications. Current and past honorary chairs are featured, including Olympic medalist Corey Cogdell of the USA Shooting Team, country music star Luke Bryan, outdoor television personality Michael Waddell and comedian Jeff Foxworthy.

• Event Planning Tools-If you're planning an NHF Day public celebration, use
these resources for tips, timelines, guidelines and more. Also post your event to the official national online listing of NHF Day celebrations!

• Wildlife Portraits-These 10 features and accompanying art can be used as a
regular monthly series or individual handouts. They give background on each species and their significance to American culture as well as how their futures have been preserved through the efforts of conservation-minded sportsmen and women.

• News Templates and Tips-Use these templates to announce your NHF Day events
and other public celebrations. See the tips offering insights from the media on how to garner even more media attention for NHF Day and its important message.

• Photos and Logos-To accompany articles or programs on NHF Day.

• Proclamation Templates-NHF Day has been formally proclaimed by every
American President from Richard M. Nixon to Barack Obama, along with countless governors, mayors and other officials. These templates serve as a useful guide for getting recognition for sportsmen and women in your area.

• How to Get Started Hunting, Shooting and Fishing-You already know why! Here's the basic how, what, where and when info that newcomers need to join the millions of hunters, shooters and anglers who help fund and lead conservation.

For these and other resources, visit

The entire USA Shooting Team is serving as honorary chair for NHF Day 2010.

With 103 Olympic medals for rifle, pistol and shotgun marksmanship, the U.S.

excels in few sports more than shooting. Only track and field, swimming,

diving, wrestling and boxing have been more prolific medal producers for

Americans. In fact, shooting ranks ahead of gymnastics, figure skating,

volleyball and more than 30 other Olympic sports. Most members of the current

USA Shooting Team are active hunters and anglers, blending a passion for the

outdoors with winning on the world stage.

Sponsors for NHF Day 2010 includes Wonders of Wildlife, National Shooting

Sports Foundation, Bass Pro Shops, Smith & Wesson, Sportsman Channel,

Realtree, Cabela's,, Yamaha, Pope and Young Club, Izaak Walton

League of America and Academy Sports + Outdoors.

For more information about NHF Day, visit

Thursday, August 26, 2010

A Rant, A Rave, an..AH HA Moment

This blog has been neglected... my artwork has been neglected.. seems like the days just keep spinning madly out of control and at an extremely high rate of speed. How did it get to be this time of year all ready? The fall mushroms are out, velvet is falling of the antlers, good Lord, elderberries are ripe and autumn olive berries are turning quickly. Where have the last few months gone?

Anyone who's been forced to spend much time with me at all of late knows I've been unsettled, out of sorts, crappy and snappy and just plain unpleasant. Something some ephemeral thing has been wearing on me and until yesterday I just couldn't seem to quite figure it out.

I've been so tired.
Endlessly, horribly, exhausted. Okay fine I can blame that on the MS we all know that MS produces mind and body numbing fatigue. I've been fighting of what seems like one infection after another. I have not felt balanced.
I have not felt at peace.
Time to call in the yaya sisters.
You know the YA YAs - that group of friends that are alternately medicine women, tribal council, laugh your head off at the silliness that life brings, the eat chocolate at midnight crew. The kind of friends that aren't afraid to be painfully honest and apply the proverbial foot to the fanny when needed.

" My mojo is MIA" I whined.. "it's work is  uh yeah technically fine but something is missing. My writing just gets further behind. I thought this newfound success as an outdoor photo journalist was supposed to make me happier. It's not." To prove how much it wasn't I wolfed down yet one more bag of M and M's.

With a vengence.

The chorus of  "Well Duh"  was lightning fast. Gently the yayas helped me realize that what I was really unsettled about was that business was now taking a front seat, and creativity was taking a back seat, and for a sensitive artiste like myself that just wasn't going to work.
The yayas also pointed out not so gently that I have no moderation gene - it's WFO all the time with everything. "SLOW DOWN" they chanted.
They even had the nerve to point out that I had to deal with a chronic a disease and advancing age.
(Advancing age? Don't they know that 50 is the new 30? )

So what the heck am I to do about all of this I whined.  I also ate more chocolate. M and M's really should be considered medicinal in some instances.

It's simple my wise friend Missy pointed out - Go back and cut back. Pick two or three of the places that you like writing for the most - do your best for them. Go back to getting up before dawn and blasting out the door to the woods or the fields or wherever it is you go instead of dealing with the desk work. Go freaking wander!

Seems that according to the yayas what I do best is wander, and then come back and play show and tell. So, starting today I'm adjusting my schedule, I'm going back, I'm cutting back and let's see how this works out.

I'd share more but hey I need to go wander!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Hunter safety courses - Sign up now!

SPRINGFIELD, IL – Hunters are encouraged to sign up this summer for a free Illinois Hunter Safety Education Course coordinated by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), or take one of the web-based hunter safety study course/field day options that are available to earn a hunter safety certificate.
“Summertime is the ideal season to sign up for a hunter safety course to get ready for the busy fall hunting seasons,” said IDNR Director Marc Miller. “Whether you are an experienced hunter, an adult who is planning to hunt for the first time, or a youth hunter excited about heading to the field this fall, hunter safety education can help you enjoy a safe hunt.”
Illinois law requires that anyone born on or after January 1, 1980 must successfully complete a hunter safety education course before an Illinois hunting license can be issued. Illinois offers traditional hunter safety education courses, which are coordinated by the IDNR and taught by volunteer safety instructors. The courses include instruction on hunting regulations, hunter ethics and responsibility, archery, firearms, ammunition, first aid, wildlife identification and conservation. A minimum of 10 hours of instruction is involved.
While Illinois requires that many young and novice hunters take a safety education course, many states now require hunters of all ages to furnish evidence of having completed a hunter education course before issuing a non-resident hunting license.
Illinois hunters also have the option of participating in an online study course provided by either one of two authorized providers to help familiarize themselves with hunting safety information. The IDNR has partnered with and to provide the necessary coursework to help complete hunter safety education requirements in Illinois. In addition to the online course work, students selecting the online option
must also attend a one-day field day to finalize their hunter safety certification.
“Getting safety education to hunters is a good way to improve safety in the field, and offering both the traditional lecture-style hunter education course and the online study options give hunters of all ages a chance to take the course that best suits their schedule,” IDNR Safety Education Administrator Jeff Hopkins.
Reviewing the online safety coursework is free to anyone, providing another tool for seasoned hunters to use to refresh their skills or learn about new programs and equipment each year. Anyone interested in reviewing the online coursework can to do so through the IDNR website at
Those who complete the hunter safety education course and pass the final exam receive a certificate of competency. More than 17,700 students completed the course in Illinois last year.
The IDNR Safety Education office reports there were 22 hunting-related accidents in Illinois in 2009. Of those accidents, two resulted in fatalities. In one instance, a bow hunter accidentally shot a fellow hunter; in the other case, a hunter died after falling from a tree stand.
“One incident is too many, and we want hunters to be safe while enjoying their outdoor experience in Illinois,” Hopkins added. “Safety education can help that cause.”
For more information on IDNR safety education programs – and a schedule of the traditional, in-person safety education courses, check the web site at or call toll-free 1-800-832-2599.

Friday, June 4, 2010

It's Hot Out There!

It's hot out there - miserable, stinking, Midwestern hot. These are the type of days that send all but the most die hard outdoor enthusiasts scurrying for a cool spot. But what about those who want to continue to enjoy their outdoor pursuits even on the hottest days? A great answer to the dilemma of tolerating, functioning in, and staying outdoors in high temperature conditions lies in a cooling vest or personal cooling system.

I've been using cooling vests for years as person with MS. MS and heat do not mix. When my core temp goes up, I fall down. I not only fall down, heat exacerbates the neuropathic pain, and magnifies every symptom. I end up having the appearance of a very sweaty, messy, stumbling, bumbling, speech slurring, drunk. It is not a pretty sight in the woods or on the water. Wearing a personal cooling system alleviates those problems. Over the years, many of my outdoor companions who are healthy have also come to realize the benefits of a personal cooling system when afield.

A quick internet search will reveal there are a variety of personal cooling systems that are available for purchase, and each system has its own pros and cons for the outdoor enthusiast.

Evaporative Cooling Vests:

My personal favorites! These vests are lightweight, easily packable, and have tiny pockets of highly absorbable beads that can take in water and expand to 6 times their dry size.  The vest is soaked in cool water and gently wrung out to remove excess.  The vest is placed over a t-shirt and cools by evaporation; the air moves faster next to the water-logged beads, which creates a layer of cool air between the vest and the skin. 

Evaporative cooling vests are generally the most  inexpensive type,  The vest can be simply slid into the ice water in a cooler or dunked in river, lake or stream to be rewet when necessary, making them immediately reusable.   Evaporative cooling apparel is not limited to vests; seat cushions, ankle bands, hats, beanies, headbands, wristbands, floor mats, and even dog vests and cooling mats are available for our hard working four footed furry friends.

If an evaporative vest is damaged, it can be re-sewn by hand.  The function of the vest isn’t seriously compromised if a few beads escape. The downfall of an evaporative type of personal cooling system is that they are not always terribly effective in humid conditions. My experience though has been good with the evaporative types, even in humid conditions such as those encountered in the river bottoms and sloughs. The ability to simply rewet frequently makes up for the lower rate of evaporative cooling. When the boat, motorcycle, 4 wheeler, etc is moving they are especially effective, however those activities sometimes will require frequent rewetting/soaking.

Polar Products makes a camouflage line of evaporative cooling products that are reasonably priced, and includes beanies, and boonie hats.

Phase Change Cooling Systems:

This type of vest contains inserts that are activated by placing them in the freezer or ice water slush, and then the inserts maintain a consistent temperature (usually 53-56 degrees F.) for up to three hours.  If you are packing along a cooler with melting slushy ice water in it, extra inserts can be stored in it. The inserts can also be re-activated (10 to 20 minutes for activation) and reused. 

If the investment is made in this type a vest an additional set of inserts is a wise purchase as well. The second set of inserts can be stashed in your cooler and kept at the ready when they need changed.This type of insert is not exactly an ice pack; they do not reach freezing temperatures. The upside of this is that they are unlikely to cause damage if the come into contact with bare skin and are safe for children or those who have difficulty discerning heat and cold. The inserts are activated when exposed to a temperature above freezing, and require much less time to "recharge" than an actual frozen ice pack would take. No need for a freezer when using this type, making them usable when pursuing outdoor activities where one has access to cooler, and ice water, but no access to a full fledged freezer.  Additionally, the inserts do not “sweat”, so clothing stays dry.

Phase change vests can be made to fit wearers of all ages and sizes, custom vests can be made for individuals weighing more or less than the displayed vests are recommended for.

There are several  downsides to the use of  the phase change vests  The inserts add weight to the vest, from 1 ½ to 2 lbs for children’s vests to 4 lbs or more for 3X or 4X adult sizes.  However, the weight is evenly distributed on the body and is close to the individual’s center of gravity, so the balance issues associated with backpacks or weights shouldn’t be a problem.  Secondly, the cost associated with a cooling vest system is much more expensive than an evaporative vest; you can expect to pay up to $200 for a vest and two sets of inserts.  The phase change inserts are filled with a viscous fluid and are durable but not indestructible.  If an insert is damaged it must be discarded and replaced.

Cold Pack Cooling Vests:

These vests look just like phase change cooling vests, are similar in many ways, but use actual ice packs that are frozen. This type can be problematic for an outdoor enthusiast, as a freezer can be hard to come by when enjoying outdoor pursuits. Also, the ice packs require a longer time to freeze; increasing the time a wearer might be unable to use the vest. On the upside though, these cold packs give the highest level of cooling because the cold packs are the lowest temperature, and work the best in extreme temperatures and extreme humidity levels. Extra packs can be added or changed out over time.

A cooling vest can be costly, but they can dramatically improve the quality of life for a sportsman who is disabled or has a health condition that has forced them to abandon outdoor pursuits in the hot summer months. For the disabled sportsman, or a sportsman with a health condition that results in heat intolerance, there may be certain options to cover the cost of a personal cooling system.

Most cooling vest distributors will offer a 10%-25% discount on their products if they receive documentation that the vest or other products are purchased on a doctor’s recommendation.  Alternately you can save your receipt to submit the cost of cooling products towards your federal taxes.  Some insurances may accept cooling vests as medical devices and while vendors are unable to submit insurance claims, you may be able to submit a claim yourself and request a refund.  

Resource websites for cooling vests and products:
Silver Eagle Outfitters - also offers canine products 
Stay Warm - Stay Cool - offers heating and cooling systems as well as cooling and warming equipment for the equine crowd. 
HelpingUdders - cooling products for our hard working canine friends

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Turtle Karma

The daily pop up afternoon thunderstorms and the deluge of rain that comes with them, coupled with the already flooding rivers, creeks, and streams has the turtles all scrambling. The roadways are littered with smooshed turtle carcasses.
I cannot see a turtle on the road but what I am not reminded of my late friend and woods companion Skippy. 
Skippy held the theory that every turtle needs a little help now and then. Many, many, a time we came to screeching halt, creating a traffic hazard while he leapt from the vehicle to give a turtle a lift across the road. 
"It's just good karma" he would shrug whenever he was asked about his fanatical approach to escorting turtles from the roadside. 
By the looks of things this morning there were lots of turtles that could have used Skippy's  help.
In all honesty, the turtles were symbolic to my friend who suffered from Bi Polar disease, and truly only felt at peace with the world when we were deep in the forest or trailing through the fields. He occasionally found himself  in need of that same type of boost across the road. When he was depressed, he couldn't move as fast as the world around him, and needed that helping hand to get him to safety.
Skippy will be gone a year in August, and I'm still struggling through all of the firsts without him, first deer season, first waterfowl season, first mushroom season and so on. But, Skippy would be happy to know that I moved three turtles to safety today, because "It's just good Karma"

Friday, May 14, 2010

I'm getting this figured out

My "office" en route to shoot a fishing trip

I've just been limping along with my blogging - mostly because when I get in from the field I'm just too pooped to carry on. I have other writing assignments that have specific deadlines that I have to meet, they take precedence and my blog entries end up getting bumped to the bottom of the list...
So....what the heck am I going to about this? Carry a laptop into the field ? Not on your life.. I already drag too much stuff along...
But is advancing daily, so I assumed there had to be something out there that would help with this.
A quick phone call to the Occupational Therapist and the problem may well be solved soon.
Why didn't I think of dictation software before?
Since I tend to write my blogs and articles in my head while I'm out shooting, why not just dictate as I go along?
Oh heavens.. I sure hope this will help me stay on track and focused a bit better..
Now to figure out just which of all of these programs will be the best fit.
I've also come to the conclusion that a smart phone is going to be in my near future. That way I can deal with messages, emails, etc while I'm just sitting there waiting in the blind or the weeds for that perfect creature to walk into my "shooting lane" . Oh the choices...I'm getting drug into the 21st century and the world of technology whether or not I want to go!
Any suggestions dear readers?

Sunday, May 9, 2010

My Mother, My Teacher

It 's Mother's Day - a day that we remember and honor our mothers. For me my mother was also my best teacher, my best mentor and my best field guide for the forests and fields of Southern Illinois.

It wouldn’t be right if I didn’t recognize my best teacher, mentor, and the woman who instilled in me a deep love of the forest and the fields and all that they contain today.

That woman was my mother, reserved and stoic woman who didn’t talk much about feelings or memories.; Occasionally sharing stories of the difficulties of living in the Depression, brothers who left home to join the CCC, and literally living out of what could be gathered, found, dug, caught and brought from the woods.

Her adult life was not an easy one – filled with farm work and houseful of children that had the oldest and youngest 21 years apart. But when she stepped into the woods, she was a different person. My mother knew the woods and the fields intimately. She understood the relationships between the plants, creatures, weather patterns.; She taught me to notice how the ground felt under my feet, how the air felt on my face and how the scents of plants and fungi would carry on the breeze.I still use and carry her field guides, with their hastily scribbled notations in the margins of things like "found in Mae Ketchum's creekbottom" and "Ward (her brother) was wrong about this ".

I dig out her field journals and notes when I'm stumped about something; looking for an answer that I can't find via all of the resources we have today.

The endless days we spent wandering about were filled with hidden lessons. A sudden firm tug downward on the back of my shirt meant that I should sit down and be quiet – then she would point at the raccoons, rabbits, turkeys and other creatures that we would encounter during our travels. Silently we would sit watching them go about their business, and then she would explain their role in “big circle of things” to me.I didn't realize at the time that what I considered going to the woods to play was my mother's way of insuring that the traditions and knowledge of living out of the woods would be passed on. If asked what a plant was - she handed me a field guide and early on taught me how to "key it out " - once I had found the plant in the field guide, only then would she commence to explain it further.

Because I developed a love for snakes before I ever got to school, she made a point of teaching me which ones I could pick up and which ones I could not. This became necessary after I brought a cotton mouth home in my bucket one day. I was pleased as punch with that snake; my father was horrified at the thought of what could have happened.I can still hear him shouting at her, “You have got to do something about this!! She’s going to wind up dead!” Looking back that was a frequent exchange between my parents, with my mother simply answering, " Oh she'll be fine.. she knows the woods..stop worrying."

My mother taught by example which plants solved the most common problems – always I got a good rub down with jewel weed smashed into a paste when I came out of the woods. She made a point showing me that jewel weed nearly always grew in the same spots as vicious poison ivy – an example of nature taking care of us.

She taught me which roots and leaves and flowers were best and which ones should not be given in certain circumstances. Squaw root – Don’t give it to pregnant women – it causes contractions and could cause a miscarriage; this advice offered with an arched eyebrow and a direct look that explained the hidden meaning behind it. Squaw root could also be used to "bring on" a woman's menses if she was concerned because they had stopped. Watch how much yellow root you take in – it’s a powerful diuretic. Comfrey has tremendous wound healing properties. Valerian can be used as an anti anxiety and sleep aid. St. John's wort would help lift a depression. The list was endless it seemed.

Mom was also a conservationist making sure that I understood when wild foraging, hunting, fishing, anything that could be consumptive use , I was cautious to always put back, not over harvest, and leave some to grow for next season.

She inherently knew where the most endangered plants were. I always felt like she was going to make me sign in blood that I would never reveal their whereabouts. She maintained a woodland garden at her home so that visitors could see the rarest of the native lilies, orchids and gentians without having to give away their whereabouts to strangers.

The day she finally felt I was old enough to understand about the rarity and preciousness of the yellow Lady Slipper orchids was a rite of passage. Although, getting to them required a machete and hacking through thickets of bittersweet vines and scaling bluffs that seemed endless. At one point I simply sat down a refused to fight the bittersweet any longer. With a stern and somewhat solemn look, she told me, " Listen here missy - nothing worthwhile in life is ever going to be easy, so get off your fanny and let's go." And I did. And I continue to hear that statement in my head when the going gets rough and ragged and hard in the woods.

I remember with clarity the look she gave me as she began to enter her golden years, when I suggested she wear an orange vest so we could find more easily find her if she fell or had problems in the woods. Her bright blue eyes suggested that there was place for that vest I had in my hands it wasn’t on her back.

When she was diagnosed with leukemia she was a good sport and tried the chemo that modern medicine offered her. She didn’t like it and announced to her oncologist one day that there would be no more. It made her too sick to go to the woods, and the woods would heal her, thank you very much.

And the woods did heal her. Inexplicably to the medical community she went into full remission and stayed that way for over ten years. It was simple to us – the woods is good medicine and the woods provides good medicine.

At the end of her life she developed a particularly aggressive and fast growing cancer, but she continued to travel to her favorite creek bottom until about a month before she died. When we expressed concern that maybe she was too frail , too weak, she gave use a glaring look filled with lightning bolts and simply said “ I’m going to die at some point, probably sooner than later. So what if it’s where I’m happy in the woods? “

We buried her ashes under a cedar tree next to her brother who had traveled the country spending his life in the woods as well.

Happy mother’s Day Mom, and thanks for taking the time to pass on all you knew.