Wednesday, November 19

Waterfowl Festival 2014

Bronze Statue Detail at Armory in Easton, MD

  The crisp Fall weather seems to arrive when the Waterfowl Festival is in Easton. Last Friday and Saturday were cool with abundant sunshine and the clouds rolled in on Sunday. The weather did not
dampen the spirit of the festival and town and the event locations were packed with locals and visitors.

Looking down Harrison Street toward the Tidewater Inn

  In the historic district, the armory was brimming with those admiring oil and watercolors, while the
Art Academy housed hyper realistic carved wildfowl. Incorporation of a “crab and a lab” in one frame generates added interest as it shows off those quintessential Eastern Shore icons. Add a goose or goose blind and you have the trifecta!

In watercolor, this would be a Show Stopper: Old Bay, Shells, Lure, Rod and Remington!

  Nearby at Easton High School, the air was filled with goose calls, as contestants vied for champion caller bragging rights (and a new Benelli). In the adjoining hall, there were historic displays of punt guns and sinkbox blinds. A buy/sell/trade swap area allowed for great buys for vintage decoys

Local Favorites

  An recent event addition is the Dock Dogs competition, where dogs simulate a duck retrieve, as they run and jump into a large pool. This is a crowd favorite and the kids love it, as they see dogs jump in excess of twenty feet into the cool water.

A Happy Lab!

A Focused Chesapeake Bay Lab

  This festival brings in much needed revenue into a rural area that has a high poverty rate. Staffed mainly by volunteers, the Waterfowl Festival showcases a true Eastern Shore maxim: celebrate the outdoors, while ensuring, that through conservation, it is available to future generations.

Tuesday, November 4

In My Own Backyard

A Gem of a Find: Willey Knives

  Along a popular route to the Delaware beaches and tucked away off Route 16 near Greenwood, Delaware is a Gem of a Find. Who knew that so close to home is a knife shop that boasts over 2,000 knives in stock, including Benchmade, Chris Reeve, ESEE, Cold Steel, as well as Buck, Gerber, Leatherman, Victorinox, and many other popular brands.

  Willey Knives is a family run business, set on a small farm in an unassuming brick house. Entering through the side door and walking down the stairs to the basement showroom, I stepped into a den of cutlery nirvana.

  With a very diversified selection, I was impressed kitchen cutlery was so well represented, and for good measure. These are the knives we use every day, and they take a pounding. With Henkel, Wustof, Shun and others, you will find that perfect paring or chef's knife.

  I was equally impressed with the customer service, who were knowledgeable, very friendly and had all the specs down on most of the inventory. With so much inventory, it is tough to keep grind, blade steel and knife designers straight, but they did a great job of it. Matt, in particular, provided some information gained from hunts using knives with S30V super steel. This was the blade steel on the object of my attention, the Benchmade Saddle Hunter fixed blade. With a full tang and a 4" modified clip point, this felt great in the hand and would excel as a bird and trout knife.

Benchmade Saddle Hunter: priced below MSRP and tax free!

   While I may save by buying from sites, like eBay or KnifeCenter, I feel a need to: 1) support a local business, and 2) be able to take the knife in hand and see how it handles. Like cars and firearms, edged tools also share the characteristic that they must feel as though an extension of your body.

  The Wildfowl Ninja found his "blademate" in an Ontario RAT 2, a folder priced far below its quality level. With a good fit to his hand, the knife is inherently safer.

Ontario RAT 2: great value folder!

  He was the only one to walk out with new steel. I guess I will have to go back and spend another hour in cutlery nirvana.

Contact Info:
14210 Sugar Hill Road
Greenwood, DE 19950
Ph. 302-349-4070

Saturday, September 27


Just Get Out There!

Right Outside Your Office Door!

British Adventurer Alastair Humphreys, who cycled around the globe as a teenager and has been involved in highly technical expeditions, describes microadventures this way, “…you do not need to fly to the other side of the planet to undertake an expedition. You do not need to be an elite athlete, expertly trained or rich to have an adventure. Adventure is only a state of mind. I believe that adventure is about stretching yourself: mentally, physically or culturally…adventure is all around us, at all times. Adventure is accessible to normal people, in normal places, in short segments of time and without having to spend much money”
When the Waterfowl Ninja returned from wilderness mountain training in Colorado in August, all he talked about was getting back on the hiking trail.  With no hills on the Eastern Shore, I suggested our own microadventure.  
Leaving from work, on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay, we drove ~ 12 miles to hike the forested valleys and ridges of Patapsco State Park. With some steep sections and a beautiful waterfall, we hiked five miles and discussed bushcraft and outdoor skills. It was a great venue to discuss his trip and enjoy the outdoors minutes from the office door.

Lovely Waterfalls  at Patapsco

We all have ideas of a grand adventure. Recently, I have been thinking of travelling through Idaho and hiking through areas where my great great grandfather settled as the 4th white settler in the state, or of taking the Whaler on an overnight and exploring the waterways of the Eastern Shore. But those take planning, crew and cash. I will complete those adventures, but in the meantime, I can go Micro!
A few quick ideas:
  • Grab my trusty Gregory Day and a Half; load it up; grab a fellow adventurer; and jump in the Mini for a Micro.
  • Launch the boat/kayak from a new spot and hunt birds and wildlife with a camera.
  • Pedal my bike home from a family jaunt to a nearby town.

Humphreys has hung up his climbing harness and leads work weary Britons on overnight microadventures. They leave work, take the train out of London, hike to a rural spot and “bivy up” for the night. Waking up fresh in the outdoors, they take the train in from the country and arrive at work smelling like daisies. Literally.

Sunday, March 2

Gear Review: UST Sparkie Firestarter

"He worked slowly and carefully, keenly aware of his danger. Gradually, as the flame grew stronger, he increased the size of the twigs with which he fed it. He squatted in the snow, pulling the twigs out from their entanglement in the brush and feeding directly to the flame. He knew there must be no failure" 

The quote from To Build a Fire, by Jack London suggests the methodical nature of proper fire building and its immediacy and critical nature for survival.

While the fire building triangle of Heat, Fuel and Oxygen remains a constant, new technologies and materials have allowed man to build a fire quickly with safe, reliable products.

The Sparkie, produced by Ultimate Survival Technologies is a great example of these new products. 

Inexpensive; solidly built; simple to use. $~5 at Walmart

Wednesday, January 15

Opening Day of Goose Season 2013

Brushed and Ready for Opening Day

  Gear stacked up on the first floor ready to put in the car, we sat before dawn in silence eating breakfast, watching the minutes tick away as we waited to leave. It was opening day of goose season 2013. Not unlike Christmas, you end up waking up every half hour waiting for the alarm to go off triggering next season's escapades. We were invited by John to shoot the piano blind we helped build about a month before and highlighted in a previous post. The blind was well brushed with cedar and bayberry over the roof.

  As we drove across the field with the decoys in the utility trailer behind us, it came into view. Today, there would be ten of us hunting two different blinds: five in the new blind and the others in a blind build decades before, of the same construction. It was in an adjoining field and the blinds were at 90 degree angles to one another, so there was no chance of a sudden shower of steel from an errant shot.

  The ~ four dozen decoys in a open pattern of "pods" allowed a nice landing zone. It was warm, 48 degrees, and wet and we dressed for it. Cloudy overnight, it had been close to a full moon the last few days and I was hoping that the geese had not fed under the fall moon. We set up and waited. Before long, the sound of birds behind us filled the air and many were passing between two bodies of water, as we were on a peninsula.  They did not seem to be hungry and were just buzzing by and checking out the action on the ground. There were only two or three sets that circled,  out of close to two dozen flights of birds, which seemed to us that they were not interested in food.

  Early in the season and with the warm weather, there was no reason to fatten up for the cold of winter. As the morning went on, I stepped out of the blind to see if there was any items that were catching their attention and making them flare. We caught up on conversation as the geese did fly-bys just out of range. I enjoyed having the Wildfowl Ninja in my blind, who was picking up sage advice from the group of seasoned hunters.

The Wildfowl Ninja Casts a Knowing Look

 As we called, a pair appeared and passed behind us and drifted in quick off the left side of the blind, silently gliding. They locked up their wings and we let the youngest in the group get ready (reference picture above), and as the two passed our blind about 25 yards out, the shells started ejecting. The lead bird on the right crumpled and spun into the ground. The second bird turned back to the left and before he could gain altitude, he was hit and fell into our decoys. Loping out into the field, Tucker, a beautiful Weimaraner, collected the birds and brought them back with a spring in his step.

Tucker in His Element

As the morning progressed, we dined on incredible smoked goose on a fresh slice of sourdough, as well as fresh figs. We also had to have the requisite ESO Opening Day delight, the venerable Pop-Tart.

Smoked Goose on Sourdough and Hevi-Shot: a Deadly Combination

Later, another flight landed at the edge of decoys, near the range decoy but were too far out for a good kill shot. Approaching noon, the realization that the geese weren't committing set in and we packed up our decoys.

Packing up the Dekes

 At which point, the skies are crowded with birds in passing range. It always happens.

  I breasted, brined and marinaded the goose breasts. It was a good start to the season: I didn't forget anything for the field; decoys were in great shape, and we were successful in bringing birds to our spreads.

  It dawned on me that there was a shift in my definition of a successful hunt. There is as much to gain from the experience and collective wisdom in the blind, as there is from shooting out of it.

  Do I have to fill the pot to bring home what I need?