• Why Misses Matter

    Throughout duck season, we’ll attempt to keep you abreast of what we’re thinking, Monday Morning Quarterback-style, just with less football and more waterfowl There was a time when Will didn’t want to hunt. He was slight of build, which was tough to sort out with gun sizing, to say nothing of recoil in the way it related to the featherlight guns he could handle. The first duck he ever shot, a pin-feathered bluebill that graces our living room wall, was followed by tears, due in large part to his first experience with #4 steel shot against his shoulder.  I wasn’t sure he’d ever come around on it. It’s a tough…

  • Heroes . . .

    Before Instagram and Youtube, Duck Dynasty and Meateater and Charlie Moore, before Facebook and viral videos and podcasts, there were heroes. Not the kind in Marvel, or Justice League, or whatever the franchise du jour is . . . Real, honest to God heroes. These were men that packed a metal lunchbox and drove ’83 Oldsmobiles and worked their 40 at the office or the yard or the site, then came home and kissed their pretty wife and, exhausted, helped with homework, or played catch, or watched the game.  Sunday’s were for Sunday School and church, and maybe, if you were real lucky and the paycheck had been kind, a…

  • On Teachers and Legacy . . .

    Mrs. McCarty had this contest. It was 4th grade, and it was me or Carey Corbett, and the idea was to see how many of Florida’s counties we could name.  We tied.  Then we had to name the county seats.  Carey won.  But I gave her a heck of a fight.  We read a Land Remembered and studied the Seminole Wars and Flagler and Plant. It was that year that I realized that I loved Florida, that I understood her, that she came easy to me. Mrs. Long accompanied us to the PEER center, a local wildlife rehab facility. The first pine snake I’d ever seen, a scavenger hunt through…

  • An Open Letter about Carlos Beruff

    Governor Desantis, I am writing to implore you to rescind Governor Scott’s egregious overreach of naming Carlos Beruff as an FWC Commissioner last week. In case Tallahassee is so out of touch with what real Floridians think, let me recap Commissioner Beruff’s resume, as seen by those in the Florida Outdoors community: He is currently facing an ethics commission complaint over how he helped one of his former development partners while serving as chairman of the Southwest Florida Water Management District. He resigned from SWFWMD after this action. He has been accused of illegally moving an eagle’s nest. Manatee County investigated his company, Medallion Homes, for ripping up a county-owned…

  • Coleman

    It’s the hardest thing, losing a dog. I was just reminded of that truth. We’d had a good day.  A good walk that morning.  A leisurely nap together on the couch.  He’d eaten the last of my roast beef sandwich for lunch, just the way it should be. For 16 years, he was my constant.  I’ve known him longer than I’ve known my wife or my son.  When I was single, I had a twin bed that he was always in – me, 6’3″ and full-figured, and a 45 lb puppy.  He never left my side, day or night, never out of ear-scratching distance.  Any knock on the door was…

  • The Old Man

    An ode to Ruark.  And also our grandfathers. The Old Man watches as the steam rises off his coffee mug, just poured from the old rusty thermos his wife gave him so long ago. He drinks his coffee black.  No cream.  No sugar.  It’s just easier that way. His pale, grey eyes scan the darkness for the faintest flicker of movement.  His hands caress the checked wood grain of his father’s Remington, each scar and carving familiar to his touch. The Kid is drifting in and out of sleep at the other end of the small boat. He drew the short straw among his brothers and cousins and Grandpa picked…

  • To the Hunt

    Here’s to 2 am alarm clocks and ice on the windshield. To us not being sure why our hands are shaking – is it the bitter cold, or the monstrous 10 point that just stepped into the clearing. The sound of a wood duck whistling his way unseen through the darkness seconds before shoot time.  The rattle of the dog boxes as the pointers bang their tails against the side, desperate to find their next quail.  The snap of a twig behind you in the tree stand – Unknown yet full of promise.  The whistles, of bobwhites and pintails and dog handlers . . . The clucks, of hen mallards…

  • Together.

    I’m sick of this mess. I’m sick of Big Sugar, and Discharges, and Red Tide and Mosaic and Cyanobacteria and Septic Tanks and Glyphosate. We’ve ravaged Charlotte Harbor, the Indian River Lagoon, Florida Bay, and the Kissimmee Watershed, from Shingle Creek all the way down . . . We’ve posted up our allegiances – BullSugar, Captains for Clean Water, The Rivers Coalition, Everglades Trust . . . “Vote Water” is the chant . . . We adamantly defend our choices – Desantis was at this rally, Levine really seems to have a handle on things, Graham’s family didn’t really want to destroy wetlands for a mall, maybe Chris King or…

  • Graduation

    Today’s the day. You’ll walk across the stage, and shake the principal’s hand, and we’ll eat all the seafood and laugh and cry and take a million pictures. This is the tipping point, the entry into adulthood. Everything is in front of you. But, if you’ll allow your dad a few minutes, I just want to press pause for a minute to reminisce about what’s behind us. I remember the steps up to Watson Clinic Pediatrics. I had been a father for 3 days. I didn’t understand car seats or copayments. Did you know there was a room for “well” kids? Not this guy. I’d say I was braving it…

  • Who Killed Waterfowling?

    Does it seem like everyone is grumpy these days? Not enough ducks, not enough land, too many hunters – the list is longer than a goose gun in the 40’s. It felt like, maybe, it was time to lay out who, exactly, is to blame for the state of our waterfowling. Is it Duck Dynasty, and Duck Commander, and the entire Robertson crew, spreading waterfowling from the swamps and speakeasies of rural America into 10 million living rooms every Tuesday? Or is it Social Media, a medal-less competition to see which Instagram account can post the most dead ducks each season? Was it too many wannabe pro-staffers, stacking piles upon…