• the Reelfoot Tragedy

    It’s been over 36 hours since the waterfowling world was rocked by the news. Two duck hunters shot dead in their blind dead on Reelfoot Lake. Searching for a person of interest. Speculation has run rampant. No concrete information (at the time of this writing), but rumor after rumor . . . some probably close to the truth, but we don’t know yet. I live 900 miles away from Reelfoot. But I felt compelled in the aftermath of the tragedy to let my stream of consciousness flow. Here’s what’s on my heart: • We don’t know what happened. If we ever know, it’ll be weeks, or months. Adding to the…

  • Taking Pictures

    It’s the most endearing question I get on every trip. To put that in context, I get asked roughly 1 billion questions a day. I love them all, but that’s the closest number I can put on it . . . “how many ducks do you think we’ll shoot?”. . . “How can you tell which birds are which?” . . . “Is that a duck (744 times)?” There are some I love (“Have you ever had this much fun?”) and some I dread (“Do you think they’re done flying?”), but there’s one that’s just so special and unique and I’m gonna tell you why . . . “Would you…

  • Sitka Waders: A Review

    Here we are. 5 and a half months after pulling the trigger, I’m ready to talk about my Sitka Waders. Next to my chairs (you’re welcome, Millenium Marine), my waders are the most asked about thing on a daily basis . . . “How do you like those Sitka waders?” This is, in some respects, a little bit of a crazy question. I equate it to how you feel after getting your oil changed – in your imagination, you think the car is running smoother and handling better. But it’s really exactly the same, which is awesome, but also it cost you some dollar amount to stay exactly the same…

  • An Incomplete Guide to Youth Shotguns

    Can I tell you how many youth shotgun guides I see on the regular? A lot. It’s like outdoors industry search engine optimization 101 – “write an article about youth shotguns” . . . Most of them are good.  Recently, the good folks at Project Upland released this one, and I think it’s the be all, end all for youth shotgun articles – it’s written by a former gun shop employee, it takes into account almost all the things you want to take into account, and it has the most comprehensive chart I’ve ever seen of youth shotguns.  I used to have a chart, but now I’m embarrassed to show…

  • 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…