I started participating in both hunting and gardening at a young age - growing vegetables in the garden with grandma, helping care for the family steer and watching dad gut a deer each fall. The older I get the more I become drawn to these activities.
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.
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.
Instead of watching Dr. Phil or Oprah, people should look to waterfowl when it comes to relationship advice. Allow me to make my case.
90% of all birds are monogamous, meaning that they mate for life, and waterfowl are no exception. Waterfowl fall under one of two categories when it comes to pairing up and breeding. Geese and swans form monogamous pairs while ducks form seasonal bonds, in which male and female pair up for one season to raise a brood of ducklings (although some seasonal monogamy and repairing have been observed in sea and cavity nesting ducks). Either way, the birds seemingly have us whipped when it comes to "divorce" rates, especially when it comes to us U.S. citizens who bear a staggering 50% rate of divorce.
Now that I have provided all the scientific mambo-jumbo, I'd like to share an experience with you that I had this past weekend, for it is the reason that I've been thinking about this whole waterfowl and relationships topic.
Following our turkey hunt this past Saturday (read "The Link Between Two Souls") my father had to make a trip into town for a meeting, while I headed back to my own place. A few minutes into my drive my dad called and told me I had better drive over by Fischer Law Offices with my camera. He said it was a shot I wouldn't want to miss out on, even though it would be the saddest thing I'd seen in quite a while.
I arrived to the location he had indicated at about 9:00 AM, and there on the muddy boulevard between the sidewalk and a four lane highway stood a lone drake mallard. At his feet lay his fallen mate, a hen who had obviously been struck by a car. There was no doubt in my mind that the bird was dead, judging by the amount of blood on the road that followed her to that final resting place. Without so much as a quack or a murmur, the drake just stood there - a testament to loyalty, faithfulness and undying love.
To top it all off, my girlfriend and I drove past this same spot at 4:30 that afternoon. There, sitting in solitude next to the hen's cold corpse, remained the drake mallard.
We could all learn a lot about relationships from this one little duck. He and his mate likely both lived through tough times (braving harsh winters, flying thousands of miles during migrations, wetland loss and increasing predation amplified by a growing human population) just as we humans experience difficulties in our own relationships. Yet we people often fail to overcome obstacles because we lose sight of what these ducks valued - having common goals, adjusting to deal with an ever changing world, and staying by your partners side through thick and thin.
Lesson of the day - love like the duck, and a little less like the typical human.
I couldn't believe my eyes as I peered out my bedroom window at 4:30 AM on April 13th in Southeastern Wisconsin. Snow. This fluffy white stuff that had dominated our landscape for the past six months was going to wreak havoc on our chances at a spring gobbler. We had hunted similar conditions the week before during the youth hunt which forced the birds to lock up and remain safe in their fortress constructed of dogwood, buckthorn, elm and ash trees. With a disgruntled groan, I heaved myself out of bed, threw on my camo and grabbed a cup of coffee before stepping out onto the back porch. Crisp morning air hit my lungs and I felt as though I should be gearing up to chase mallards instead of spring gobblers. Despite the unfavorable conditions, I made the trip to my parents place a few miles outside of town.
When I arrived I found my father already up and ready to go – we charged out into the cold darkness, not sure what the morning would bring. Both of us knew the approximate location of the roosting birds, so I set the old man up in a fallen boxelder tree right on the edge of the field the toms had been strutting in. I took my place at his 4 o'clock and got the camera setup just before the Kings of Spring started to sing their praises.
Sitting there, listening to the distant gobbles of thunder chickens struck a chord with my soul. I looked over to my father sitting a mere 10 yards away and began to reflect on why during moments such as these, when neither of us talk, did I feel the closest to him. My father was always a busy guy while I was growing up, but he never failed to make time to take me "turtle fishing", go for walks in the local streams or cast for bullheads near the dam downtown. He instilled a curiosity and appreciation for the outdoors in me which affects every facet of my life these days. I could never thank him enough for all the sacrifices that he has made over the years to provide for our family yet still dedicate what little free time he had to create memories such as these with me. Here, in the middle of a small 20 acre woodlot, I had no distractions such as cell phones, accomplishing the next item on a to-do list or work related worries. I could simply sit and enjoy all of creations goodness in the company of my father. Spending time together outdoors was the link that bound us together.
All of a sudden, my concentration was broken by the loud cry of a Tom that had just spotted our decoys. The bird had slowly been working his way up the treeline from 100 plus yards north of us. While I had the camera rolling, I only caught the last 15 seconds of the bird running in due to a brush pile that had obstructed my view. His few last steps before pouncing on our Tom decoy were cut short by a 3 inch magnum turkey load screaming out of the barrel of my dad's Benelli. There before us lay the largest bird ever taken on the property - a nice Tom donning 1 1/4 inch spurs and an 11 inch beard. My heart flooded with pride for dad.
Though my parents will always think of me as a kid, I like to think that I'm ahead of the curve when it comes to philosophizing about life and understanding the importance of strong family ties. Over the past few years, I have done less shooting and focused more on letting my father and sister pull the trigger. I get just as much satisfaction by being able to share in the memory and take a few pictures along the way.
Thanks for everything dad - I had a great time hunting with you and hope that we can continue to share moments together in the outdoors.
Today's blog post comes from my good friend and guest blogger Michael Kurtz. Michael introduced me to both waterfowl and crow hunting when we were 13 years old. Even though he currently resides in Indianapolis, we still make time to call each other every day to talk hunting. It's that time of year: the off-season. We spend these next six months or so looking through piles of photos of our harvested game from the previous season, telling stories of the hunts to friends, and making a mental list of all the new toys and gadgets we want to purchase for next season. But when you are making that list this year, think to yourself, “Do I really need this?”
I think the majority of us have fallen into the trap, at least one point in time. I'm talking about the trap of wanting to buy the “latest and greatest” products to make it to the market. Every year, big name manufacturers of products are coming after us outdoorsman and outdoorswomen with their product. The fastest trigger speed of any shotgun; the newest call with freeze-proof reeds; the most comfortable waders to ever hit the market; the most realistic decoys a sportsman will ever hunt over. The list goes on and on. Even if you are able to say no to buying the product after seeing the first commercial on television, you may begin to change your mind and become more tempted after seeing that same commercial a dozen or so times.
Falling into this trap is often very expensive. I can say first hand, because I fell into it! A couple years ago, I got into this mind-set that I needed to start converting my collection of shell goose decoys into full bodies. Every hunting show you watch and every picture you see in the magazines has a spread of fresh-off-the-press full body goose dekes. And all those decoys are hauled into the field in an enclosed trailer. Because I have been goose hunting for several years now, and like to consider myself as someone that knows what he is doing, I thought that I needed to catch up with modern times and go purchase the newer style of decoys. I didn't want to be left out!
But here I am, only a few years later, in the process of selling both my full body decoys and the trailer that I used to haul them around in. Why am I doing this you may ask? Well, there are a few reasons. Most importantly, I realized how purchasing full body decoys can have an impact on the billfold. Can I afford it? Yes. Do I want to though? No. When looking at my harvest numbers over the past few seasons, there has been little change. I haven't killed any more geese now that I am using full bodies versus a few seasons back when I was using shell decoys. So why spend the money on something I don't have to?
The point of this blog wasn't to talk you out of using full body decoys. All I am saying is decide what is right for you. Don't fall into the trap of spending loads of money on stuff just because “everyone else is doing it”. If you do not want to spend the money on full body goose decoys, don't! Spend your hard earned cash on the things YOU want.
For example; about half a dozen seasons back, I went to a banquet of some sort, and won myself a brand new Benelli Super Black Eagle. I don't remember exactly what those were selling for at the time, but if I recall correctly, it was somewhere in the ball park of $1400. I won the gun on a $10 raffle ticket. Otherwise, there was no way I would have ever owned that gun. At the time, I was a hard working high school student and simply did not have that kind of dough. Now though, I have a good job and can afford that shotgun. When the time comes for me to buy a new shotgun (currently I am still using that same Benelli I won a few years ago), you can bet I am going to buy another Benelli. Not because I want to be one of those guys that has the best of everything, but because I LOVE THAT SHOTGUN! But if I were to lose my job or decide to spend my money elsewhere, I would more than gladly pull out that trusty $150 Mossberg and keep shooting geese, just like I did in my high school days. Why wouldn't I give up until I could buy the new Benelli? Because I know that my Mossberg does the job just as well!
Just as I will, I know all of you reading this blog will be doing the same during this off-season; thinking to yourself, “What should I buy now?” There will be plenty of new items to hit the market in the upcoming months. You will watch plenty of commercials, television shows, and read articles by big-name companies telling you that you NEED to buy their product. But it is up to you to decide what is right for you and where you want to invest your money. So whether it is camouflage, decoys, guns, or calls, think to yourself, do I really need this?
“You meet people who forget you. You forget people you meet. But sometimes you meet those people you can't forget. Those are your friends.” - Unknown
Over the next few weeks, I will be doling out seven shameless plugs to a band of individuals that I consider both friends and unforgettable people that I've met through social media. While some of these relationships have been limited to 140 characters, many have extended to emails, weekly phone calls and even in person meetings. One thing is for certain - I aim to share some sort of outdoor experience with these passionate sportsmen (and woman!) in the future rather than communicating through bytes of data.
* Special Note: Order in which I write about these individuals does not delineate favoritism, or your level of awesomeness! (Sorry Jeff!)
1) Chris Burget
This coming May, it will be one year since I have taken over the management of Sportsman Channel's social media content. The months leading up to my full time position as Social Media Coordinator were spent learning as much as I could about Facebook and Twitter from content powerhouses in the outdoor space that I had done some research on - Chris just so happened to be my Tweeting idol.
The first time I had reached out to Chris was through a direct message on Twitter asking some questions on how to go about building Sportsman Channel's following. Through a volley of emails and phone calls, I began to learn more about Chris, the brand Bulls & Beavers that he had built and what it takes to become an influential person on Twitter. Written down on an old sticky note in my desk from one of our early conversations is the word "content". Chris explained to me that building a social following was all about providing unique, quality and engaging content. A concept that has provided a simple yet sound foundation for all that I do in the world of social media. Thanks to mentors like Chris, I have developed a great passion and an ever growing knowledge about social media that helps me continually reflect on my social media strategy and use.
Chris has also become a great friend of mine and "uncle figure" so to speak. When not bouncing ideas off of each other pertaining to social media, we often discuss the outdoors, personal goals or our struggles in understanding the female cognitive processes (we may never find an answer!). Chris has also indirectly taught me about taking chances, even if that means taking a completely different path in life. After many years of building his brand Bulls & Beavers, Chris decided to re-brand and take on a new concept called Modern Outfitter - a site dedicated to providing outdoor enthusiasts with latest information related to the sportsman lifestyle. Although Chris had to give up something he spent a large amount of time and money on, he took a leap of faith and ran with an idea that I believe will open many more opportunities for him in the near future!
Chris - I can never thank you enough for all the support, encouragement and friendship that you have shown me over the past year. Every day I look forward to visiting the mountains of Idaho this coming August, sharing a mule deer camp and hopefully capturing your hunt of a lifetime on film! One that we can reflect on years later when we are once again privileged to share a campfire in some other remote portion of this world.
Cameron Pauli is the owner of Cam Pauli Media, a Social Media Marketing Agency specializing in creating content and managing social networks for the outdoor industry. He is also currently employed by Sportsman Channel as their full-time Social Media Coordinator. When not in the office, he is out in the field hunting or working on his photography/videography skills. Please visit his website at www.campauli.com for more information or follow him on Twitter at @CamPauli
Over the past year, I have determined that my guardian angel does not sport a pair of wings or a glowing halo. Instead, she is a four legged hunting machine that slobbers water all over my kitchen floor and sheds enough hair to make my house look like an untidy barber shop. Her name is Lily. Lily and I started our journey together at what most would call the worst of times. I was going into my senior year of college working as an intern for Sportsman Channel, just purchased a house and was recently engaged. So many things were changing - I really had no extra money or time to take care of a dog. But on my way out to shoot trap one night, I saw a sign that said “Chocolate Puppies For Sale”. Being an avid waterfowl hunter who finally had a place of his own, it only seemed fitting to add a dog to the chaotic mix.
I took all of the puppies out into the yard and began observing them. Some of my resources suggested picking a pup who was curious and active, while others boasted drive to fetch was the most important quality. As I looked on trying to determine which one was the best text book dog, a small female puppy with a light chocolate coat came over and sat next to me. She did not bark, whine or even want to play – she just sat there with a look of content. While I knew my choice would go against every book and person I had consulted, I ended up taking that puppy home.
Shortly after bringing Lily into my life, everything turned upside down. My fiancé left me, and I began to struggle to focus at both work and school. I became severely depressed, and unknowing to many of my family members, I began drinking excessively. I could not mentally handle all the stress that I was under – thoughts of taking my own life came frequently.
In the middle of it all, one person (in my mind) stuck with me. Lily never left my side when I broke down. She always seemed to do something with the intention to make me laugh and get my mind off things. I started devoting more of my time to dog training and focused on getting my life back on track. The more time I spent with my dog, the more I realized how much I could learn about life from her.
As it turns out, I think that Lily came into my life at the perfect time, despite what anyone else thinks. Without Lily, I don’t know if I could’ve made it out of that mess. Her unconditional support and faith in me intensified my drive to become a better person, and still does today. There is a quote that I ran across not too long ago that goes like this: “I hope to be at least half the person my dog thinks I am”. My goal is to live up to that statement, as it can only make me a better person.
This blog post was about a very difficult time in my life. Today, I am happy, healthy and enjoying life to the fullest. If you or someone you know is going through a rough patch and would like to talk, I can always be contacted via info on my website at www.campauli.com or direct message me on Twitter at @CamPauli