Huntemboats - #HuntAmericanMade

As many of you know, I'm a dedicated waterfowler. Nothing stops me from getting out to where the birds are - but I'm always looking for ways to make it easier on myself. I currently use a canoe or kayak to access shallow honey holes that are distant from the launch. But with the addition of a lab and traveling greater distances to hunting spots, those tactics are about ready for a change. A Huntemboats layout boat is the perfect solution.

I discovered Huntemboats when I met the man who makes them, Ralph Harr, on Twitter. Layout boats have always been a fascination of mine, but being a fairly recent college graduate with a wedding coming up next fall has put a lot of my wants on the back burner (Maybe next year!). I did some research and learned that Ralph makes all his boats in his home state of Missouri. He's also a passionate waterfowler with an eye for quality. It was easy to gravitate towards his craftsmanship, and so I decided to interview him for my #HuntAmericanMade series. 

What is the name of your company? When was it founded?

"Huntemboats was founded in 2008."

What events lead you to starting this business?

"During the 2008 turkey season, one of my best friends lost his life in a boating accident trying to cross a slough in a small canoe.  We had previously been using one of the layout boats that I had made for duck hunting.  After that I wanted to make my layouts boats for people and to be able to have a boat that was going to be safe."

How many employees currently work at your company? Family or relatives?

"I currently do not have any other employees besides myself."

What type of products do you manufacture? Features/benefits?

"The current product that I make is the WIDEBACK.  It is a layout boat deigned for duck hunting but has many other uses.  One of its main attributes is how the width of the boat stays consent throughout.  The WIDEBACK is extremely stable and with the coast guard ratting allows for a 5ph motor.  It also boasts a huge 7-foot long cockpit, which is perfect for duck hunter’s gear."

Do you have any personal favorites that you take pride in?

"I take a lot of pride in all of the WIDEBACKS.  I deigned this boat form the ground up and watched it start out as a piece of foam and turn into a versatile and safe layout boat."

What is the single best thing about producing a product made here in the States?

"The best thing about producing my product in the USA is that I know the process and I’m confident in every boat I sell will live up to the standards I have set for my company.  Letting people enjoy nature in a way most people would never dream of, and allowing them to make it back safe every time out."

Follow Ralph on Twitter at @Huntemboats or check out Huntemboats on Facebook.

Order your boat today at Huntemboats.com

Posted on November 30, 2014 .

Memories

Photos. We all have them. Some of mine have earned a place on our refrigerator. Others that have been fortune enough to be printed out are tucked away in an assortment of books and journals. But most of them are lost in a myriad of folders on my mac. Occasionally, I stumbled upon one or two long lost treasures when seeking out a file for work. Today I was blessed with one such occasion.

The photo was of Michael Kurtz, a guy who has been my very best friend since I was 14 years old. We had just wrapped up a very successful hunt by Wisconsin standards, and it was special in the fact that is was the last waterfowl hunt Michael and I would share before he moved out of state to pursue his career as a paramedic. He was a country bumpkin at heart, just like the rest of us, but longed to work in a fast paced station of the big city. I couldn't blame the guy. After all, I had gotten my chance to go off to college and started a dream job in the outdoor industry.

Sitting at my computer, I was taken back to the camaraderie that Michael and I had experienced throughout our middle school, high school and college days. I shot both my first goose and duck with Michael. We ran a guide business together in high school. Michael partied a little too hard one night at the age of 16, and passed out on a lawn right where he told me to pick him up at 3 am for a goose hunt. We went and shot birds that morning. I skipped out on a hunt with Michael for the first time to hang out with a girlfriend. Went hunting with Michael a few years later that lead to me breaking up with a girlfriend. No matter what cards life dealt us, we always found time to get out into the field and chase birds. Those were the glory days of my youth.

Michael has been living out of state for almost three years now. In that time he's worked his way into a very fulfilling position as a paramedic with the City of Indianapolis. Even though 300 miles of pavement now separate us, we still manage to get out on a few hunts each fall. They allow us to act like giddy teenagers in the marsh again.

I wouldn't trade those memories for anything.

Posted on September 17, 2014 .

Green Industries - #HuntAmericanMade

I've met a lot of great folks on Twitter, and Kyle Green is one of them. A down-to-earth, good natured guy - probably the type that any of us could grab a beer with and become friends. Hell, he even might back you up if you got into a fight for looking at some boy the wrong way. Well, I can't be sure about that...

But what I do know is that Kyle and his partners put their hearts and souls into a little company, Green Industries, that they've started in Kentucky. The pair make an innovative chair dubbed the HillJacked, which is designed to make hunting and fishing on uneven surfaces more comfortable. Below is a quick interview that I had with Kyle via email.

What is the name of your company? When was it founded?

"Green Industries LLC was founding in February, 2014."

What events led you to starting this business?

"My brother and I have the entrepreneur spirit that drives us to be successful and creative. We decided to start Green Industries while on a hillside in Kentucky during the 2013 Deer Season. As we sat uncomfortably on the hillside, we started brainstorming and the ideas starting rolling in. After a few weeks of trial and error, we felt we have developed a comfortable solution to hunting and fishing on uneven surfaces. We launched the HillJacked Chair in February of this year."

How many employees currently work at your company? Family or relatives?

"Currently only my brother and I, along with our good friend Kevin Bond, work for the company. Once our business grows we hope to employ a couple employees to help us assemble and sell our products."

What type of products do you manufacture? Features/benefits?

"We manufacture the HillJacked Chair. The chair has the ability to adjust to angled surfaces so you may sit comfortably on a hill, slope, or uneven terrain."

Do you have any personal favorites that you take pride in?

"We have a great deal of pride for our product. Each Hilljacked chair is inspected to insure quality of material and workmanship. We strive for 100% satisfaction and stand by our product with a warranty."

What is the single best thing about producing a product made here in the States?

"Helping to support local businesses while growing ours."

In the video below, Kyle goes over the many features of the HillJacked chair.

Green Industries LLC, HillJacked Chair Twitter @HillJackedcom and @KegHunting Facebook Green Industries LLC www.HillJacked.com

Follow Kyle on Twitter at @keghunting or HillJacked at @HillJackedcom. You can also check them out on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/greenindustriesllc

Posted on June 18, 2014 .

#HuntAmericanMade

While sitting in the woods turkey hunting last week, it dawned on me that I have no idea where the majority of my hunting gear is made, how it's manufactured, and under what conditions the individuals making this gear are working in. For all I knew, some six year old in Thailand has assembled the three-legged stool I was sitting on. Who the hell was I to enjoy the pleasures of a morning spent turkey hunting, at the cost of a child's well-being?

According to a poll conducted last year by HunterSurvey.com and ShooterSurvey.com, I am not the only one who has begun to think about the origins of my hunting products. 95 percent of those surveyed indicated it was very important (54 percent) or somewhat important (41 percent) for sportsmen to buy products made in this country. But as the cost for an American made product rose 20% over that of a similar product made overseas, more than 50% of sportsmen said they would buy foreign made.

As a small-scale farmer and business owner, I have already begun to advocate for buying local foods. Why could this not cross over to hunting products? I looked at these trends and knew something had to be done. I needed to get the conversation rolling around the products available to sportsmen, and why we choose to immerse ourselves in a market filled with cheaply made foreign products that serve one purpose - higher profit margins for big-box hunting and fishing outlets. Thats when I came up with the idea of telling the story behind hunting products made right here in America.

Many of the owners of these operations are sportsmen, just like us, and are trying to make it work through good old fashion entrepreneurship, with a little craftsmanship and ingenuity sprinkled in. You can show your support by following the blog series right here on the "Conscious Hunter", and by searching the #HuntAmericanMade hashtag on Twitter and Instagram.

Tomorrow evening, I will be rolling out the first of this blog series, in an interview with Kyle Green, co-owner of HillJacked. HillJacked is an innovative chair that allows you to hunt and fish on sloped surfaces more comfortably. Stay tuned, and don't forget to use the #HuntAmericanMade hashtag on Twitter and Instagram to share your favorite American made hunting products!

Posted on May 30, 2014 .

Best App for Anglers & Hunters: Sportsman Safe

Do you ever wish there was an easier way carry all those bulking hunting and fishing licenses with you? Well, there's an app for that.

Sportsman Safe (free for iPhone users) was developed by two Florida sportsmen who came up with an idea to address the issue. Thick paper licenses took up a lot of real estate in their wallets, and were more susceptible to damage from being folded, torn, and sat on. Their solution - store the licenses on their phones.

Creators of the Sportsman Safe app, Jay, Bill, and Ryan, dubbed this feature as the "license locker". Here, you can store up to three digital copies of your licenses for free. Five additional license holders can be purchased for only $0.99, or an unlimited amount for $2.99. Much less costly than the price to either reprint or replace a license.

Not only will the license locker store your tags, you can also enter expiration dates. The app will remind you when new tags need to be purchased, and can also aid in avoiding a fee for carrying an expired license. It's important to note that digital licenses may not be acceptable in all state. Please contact your local DNR or Fish & Wildlife officials to determine the legality of digital licenses.

My favorite features of the Sportsman Safe app include both the location services and SOS button. Sportsman Safe has the ability to store a ton of data on both your hunting and fishing spots. I've already dropped pins for all my stand locations at my parents property. Couple that with the built in weather monitoring, and its a deadly combination for accurately determining how to play the wind when chasing those canny whitetails.

Pins can be easily shared with other members of your hunting party, and this is especially useful when hunting a large tract of land with people unfamiliar with the property. Let's say your best buddy drives up to your cabin the night before bow opener, and you want to set him in the second best stand (yourself in the first!). Simply have him download the app, share your pins, and poof - he can use the GPS on his phone to navigate in the dark. Additional uses might include relocating fishing, duck hunting, and trapping spots.

The SOS button that can be found on almost every page of the app has the potential to be a life saver. Literally. Under the SOS Set-Up menu, in settings, you can designate three people that your phone will automatically text a distress message to incase you need help. Coordinates will accompany the messages so the individuals receiving them can rely appropriate information to the authorities.

Whether you consider yourself a hunter, angler, trapper, or any combination of these three, the Sportsman Safe app holds a arsenal of tools that can lead to greater success and safety in the field. Please give it a try and download Sportsman Safe from the iTunes app store for Free.

Posted on April 30, 2014 .

Trapping: A Dying Art of Great Importance

My girlfriend wasn’t happy. Not one bit. She had told me time and time again that I was spending way too much time in the skinning shed with her dad. But I just couldn’t help myself. On those late fall evenings when we would visit her parents place, I naturally gravitated to the lights that would glow through the semi-transparent garage door of that marvelous building. Architecturally, it wasn’t anything more than your standard stick frame garage, but the contents of that structure and the knowledge of those residing in it captivated me.

Mike, the father of this now ex-girlfriend, was one of those people in that shed whom I learned a great deal about life and trapping from. To this day we still remain great friends, and I am fortunate that I have a lot to learn about trapping yet, and even more to learn about life.

When I first met Mike, I had never had any exposure to trapping. All of my hunting experience had been limited to feathered creatures taken on the wing. I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to trap, but when the father of the girl you are dating asks you to hang out with him and try something new, you do it.

At the time of this first trapping experience, I was in my senior year as an environmental science student. My education had taught me the importance and value of trapping as a predator management tool. In fact, I had even done a presentation on Delta Waterfowl’s research on how trapping in Canada had a direct correlation to nest success. Some test sites saw jumps of 1% success to 70%. Obviously trapping was good for the ducks, and as a waterfowler, what was good for the ducks was good for me!

Putting my concerns aside, I decided to approach trapping with a very open mind, and directly weigh the benefits against the negatives. Positives included extra spending money for a poor college student from the sale of furs, less predation (on the local turkey, waterfowl and upland populations), and gaining a first-hand understanding of trapping and its role as a management tool. The only negative I could come up with was the fact that I would have to use a different method of dispatching an organism than I was use to.

After checking traps with Mike for a year, I warmed up to the idea and signed up for a trapper’s safety course in my home state of Wisconsin. The class was very beneficial – even for someone with a background in natural resources. Topics covered in my course material included history of the fur trade, trapping ethics, furbearer management principles, equipment handling and much more. There is an overwhelming amount of information one must know in order to become a trapper – and the books and materials provided show that there is no shortage of education and research behind the approved trapping methods.  Many expert trappers have a close working relationship with the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (AFWA) in order to establish Best Management Practices (BPM’s) for trappers across America. Quite frankly, I was impressed with the amount of time that people had invested in trapping, and it intensified my drive to learn more.

Sadly, the interest in trapping is declining compared to the growing interest seen in hunting and fishing. People are missing out on a great opportunity to learn more about the world that surrounds them through the attention to detail it takes to become a successful trapper. Raccoon, muskrat, and other small rodent populations go unchecked, and the effects of predation have soared, coupled with the devastation of habitat fragmentation.

Do yourself a favor and attend a trapping rendezvous, shadow a local trapper or just buy yourself a good book on the subject. There are so many benefits that derive from becoming a good trapper – from helping control the predator population, to learning about managing wildlife on a local scale. Your interest could help save a dying art that has the potential to be passed down to the next generation of sportsmen.

Posted on April 3, 2014 .

Oh Crappie Days

As of late, I have been in a funk.  I feel as though the fire that once burned in my soul to blog, write, create and make friends has been reduced to a few smoldering coals.  It's a haunting and depressing state to be in, especially for one who usually finds happiness in such activities.  Many of the past weeks have been spent reflecting on why I've slipped into this mood.  This lead to feeling sorry for myself.  Shutting out close friends.  By and large, I was an unpleasant individual to be around. These thoughts and feelings had to come to a stop.

The Call

Just by chance (as if on cue) my cousin Hunter called me up.  He said the crappie bite was good on a local lake and assured me that we would be guaranteed limits.  How can one pass up the thought of a nice crappie dinner? A location to meet up in the morning was determined and all was well... or so I thought.

No Gear

I am a man that likes to be prepared well in advance for any sort of hunting or fishing trip, so naturally I gravitated towards the basement.  I've never been an avid fisherman, but I do keep small stockpiles of equipment and gear for occasions such as these.  Looking through an odd number of boxes and buckets, it began to occur to me that I hadn't seen my ice fishing rods or tackle in quite some time.  They were nowhere to be found.  I checked the garage even though I already knew what the answer would be.... that's when I remember that I had loaned everything to my father to take up north with him one weekend.  All my gear was sitting in the basement of our cottage two hours from home.  I was not very delighted with this epiphany.

ice_rods.jpg

Trying to make the best of the situation (and the thought of a crappie dinner) I headed to the local Farm and Fleet store to seek out a new rod and reel.  One that would allow me to catch a meal without breaking the bank.  Looking down the aisle at the selection of ice fishing rods angered me.... why couldn't have my father just remembered to return all my gear?  Now I had to show up ill prepared - like a newbie decked out for his first waterfowl hunt in canvas waders and a firearm that has never been shouldered before.  As pathetic as it sounds, all I wanted in the world was to be able to teleport my gear back home.  In my basement.  Where it belonged.

Oh Crappie Days

The next morning came quickly and by 8 am, I was following my cousin out onto the ice.  He is a good-natured kid and willingly lent me some of his gear, including a Vexilar and a jig (golden dingle drop).  Having not ice fished for crappies in quite a few years, and completely new to fishing with Vexilars, he took some time to show me what to do.  Hunter selected two holes about five feet from each other, and instructed me to lower in my dingle drop baited with a fat waxie.  Once 10 feet down, I saw the iridescent colors starting to pop-up on the Vexilar's display.  In a few minutes, Hunter had explained the purpose of each color, and methods for jigging as the fish prepared to hit the bait.  Having caught my first fish within a minute, he walked away to seek refuge in his slightly warmer one-man shelter.  I was left to ponder my thoughts on a frosty five gallon bucket.

It just so happens that staring at a stark white canvas of winter ice is the perfect method for hashing out intrapersonal conflict.  To begin this process and figure myself out, I decided to focus all my energy on catching fish for a while.  Hunters methods were quite simple, and the Vexilar was worth more than it's weight in gold, but my jigging rhythm needed work.  Every ounce of brain power was directed to concentrating on the muscles in my forearms and wrists.  The little synapses that carried the instructions from my brain to hand began to work their magic, and one by one, I started putting fish on the ice.  My mood lighted and I prepared to face my daemons.

Now we all have our own personal struggles that we face every day - finances, career choices, relationships with family, friends, and significant others.  Mine most often times have to do with the pressure that I put on myself to be at the top of my game.  I am a very goal oriented personal and when it takes me slightly longer to achieve those goals, I become depressed.  Lately, I've been working on trying to remodel the second story of our house, blog more frequently, practice my photography, write articles for publication, start a new career and maintain a healthy relationship with my loving girlfriend.  Oh yeah, and I want to workout for at least an hour every day.

So there I sat, thinking about how busy my life is, why I do not have time to accomplish all these things and how I could improve my situation to become a happier person.  Looking around, I noticed a pair of fathers to the left teaching their children how to fish.  Behind us, there was an older gentleman and his middle-aged son discussing a move that was taking place in the family.  Across the way, another guy was setting up shop and pulling a shanty out of his rusty Ford ranger.  These people all undoubtedly had problems of their own.... problems that were most likely much harder to deal with than the ones I was contemplating.  The lone guy across in front of me could have lost a child to disease or an auto accident. Maybe the old man behind me was concerned he would see his grandchildren less frequently.  God only knows other people go through.  I began to feel thankful to still have all my friends and family (even if my dad forgot my fishing gear!), a warm house that I own to go home to, and the motivation and skills to grow in my new career.

All of a sudden I felt another bite!  A big ol' crappie was dancing away on my line!

It's amazing what a day spent ice fishing can teach you.

Posted on January 22, 2014 .

Are We a Generation of Inattentive Hunters?

A Thought

A cold northwest wind ran underneath the bottom of my chin.  Instinctively, I hunkered my jaw down deep into the fleece-lined hoodie concealed by a camo jacket.  My eyes were greeted by a mosaic of white oak leaves as I stared down at the forest floor below.  I began to think.

Boots

How many people would ever care about this particular oak tree?  Just me?  Or maybe there was another hunter who had an appreciation for this acorn dropper before my parents acquired the property?

How many people care about oak trees at all?  Too few, most likely.

My Generation of Hunters

Ranks of oak tree lovers, observant wildlife enthusiasts and the skilled traditional bowhunters are quickly being replaced with new recruits from my generation.  We are a group of people who have grown up with cell phones, texting, email and a variety of social networks that only catalyze our desire for immediate communication.  One follower of mine on Twitter once wrote "What did people do in treestands before there were cell phones?!"

Thought about how much they loved oak trees I suppose.

But I cannot sit here and avoid the fact that I myself am guilty of participating in these activities all to often when my attention should be focused elsewhere.  It's a cultural norm that is difficult to overcome.  Posting photos to Facebook, Instagram and Twitter from the field seem to be the highlights of the hunt these days, not the mannerisms of squirrels dodging about the woods or the time we are afforded to finally completely separate ourselves from all distractions of modern society.  Have we lost our ability to connect with nature?  To appreciate our surroundings?  To become more passionate stewards of this earth?  (Please share your thoughts below)

Becoming More Aware

In an effort to encourage hunters to spend more time thinking and observing their surroundings, I am launching a campaign called #HuntSilent.  To participate, all you have to do is silence your phone and leave it in your pocket for the duration of the hunt.  Afterwards, feel free to share a thought or highlight from your "silent hunt" by using the hashtag on Twitter.  I would like you to think about the people you are spending time in the field with, the game your hunting, what conservation efforts are in place to allow these traditions to be carried on, etc.  In time, I believe thinking about some of these questions will help us all to become better advocates for the lifestyle we all know and love.

And maybe add a few more oak tree lovers as well.

 

Posted on November 25, 2013 and filed under Conservation, Life.