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Recent entries


Through the Lens

Bowfishing is a Conservation Tool

Wed, June 10, 2015

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Bass Pro Shops U.S. Open Bowfishing Championship and World’s Bowfishing Fair, held June 12-14, 2015, at the Bass Pro Shops in Springfield, Missouri, promises a fun weekend with lasting environmental benefits for Missouri lakes.

Species harvested by bowfishing include nongame and invasive fish species such as common carp, grass carp, buffalo and gar.  Many of these species degrade water quality by stirring up mud. They also directly compete with spawning gamefish by damaging their spawning beds. This is a huge problem in deep water lakes because they already lack spawning areas.

“Bowfishing continues to grow in Missouri and is another unique opportunity for our citizens to get out and enjoy the aquatic resources we manage.  Our nongame fish species play a vital role in our aquatic ecosystem and are important to many anglers in Missouri,” said Brian Canady, fisheries division chief for the Missouri Department of Conservation. “Bowfishing is a way to control populations of nongame fish and invasive fish species such as Asian carp. Invasive species pose a serious threat because they damage gamefish habitat and can outcompete weaker, native species, putting them at risk. Keeping sustainable native game and nongame fish populations is a top priority for the Missouri Department of Conservation.”

Last year’s U.S. Open Bowfishing Championship featured the nation’s top teams from over 30 states who took more than 32,000 pounds of nongame and invasive fish in one night, and this year’s harvest is expected to exceed that amount. Where do all those fish go?

A bonus environmental benefit of the U.S. Open is all fish harvested are put to good use as environmentally friendly fertilizer. Advances in technology have made it possible to liquefy fish into a safe, healthy fertilizer for use by organic farmers and home and garden purposes. SF Organics, a Division of Schafer Fisheries, uses hydrolysis to break the product down while maintaining the vitamins, enzymes, amino acids and minerals that create high-quality natural plant food.

“We love being able to get the kind of tonnage this bowfishing tournament will produce,” said James Schafer of SF Organics, a Division of Schafer Fisheries. “We’re able to pick up the fish in our refrigerated trucks the same day they’re caught so we can convert them into organic fertilizer.”

These fish aren’t just for growing food, they can actually BE good food. Researchers at University of Missouri said one way to fight back against the havoc nonnative carp can wreak on Midwestern waterways is by putting them on the menu. Despite their image problem, carp are a heart-healthy, low-fat fish that actually score well in taste tests. Numerous recipes have been developed to take advantage of the firm, mild flavored fillets from chorizo-spiced carp cakes to carp chili. Those attending the U.S. Open Bowfishing Championship and World’s Fair can do their own taste test as the University of Missouri and Schafer Fisheries are teaming up to offer carp tacos and sloppy joes.

Missouri Department of Conservation also has lots of great nongame fish recipes and videos available at http://mdc.mo.gov/node/18566.

“With the increasing popularity of bow fishing and plentiful numbers of invasive species of fish, Missourians are now discovering this delicious secret,” Canaday said. “Putting tasty, healthy food on the dinner table is just another great benefit of bowfishing. “
Those who bowfish also contribute to conservation by paying for fisheries management work through their fishing license fees. In addition, the Sport Fish Restoration Program provides grant money for fishery conservation, boating access, and aquatic education via a federal excise tax paid by manufacturers on fishing gear and motorboat fuels.

While bowfishing provides better aquatic habitat for gamefish, delicious meals, a rich, organic fertilizer, and fisheries management funding, in the end people do it because it’s a lot of fun.

“Bowfishing is a great way to get new archers excited about the outdoors as well as engaging those people who already love to hunt and fish,” said Bob Ziehmer, director of the Missouri Department of Conservation. “Plus, with participants coming from across the country, it’s a great way to showcase the beautiful lakes and rivers of the Missouri Ozarks.”


The Pink Debate Rages

Fri, May 29, 2015

image provided

I initially thought it was some type of satirical joke when a Wisconsin friend alerted me to what she suspected would become a hotly debated piece of legislation related to Wisconsin. After all, no self-respecting legislator would really come right out and essentially say we need to legalize blaze pink so that more women will take up hunting. This is 2015, and theoretically we hope that the outdoor world is learning that slapping pink on something does not automatically make it appealing to females or female friendly.

But what do you know – it wasn’t satire.

MADISON, Wis. (AP)—Wisconsin lawmakers have formally introduced a bill that would legalize blaze pink for hunters.
Democratic state Rep. Nick Milroy and Republican Reps. Joel Kleefisch and David Steffen unveiled the bill during a news conference Tuesday. All three lawmakers wore fluorescent pink T-shirts emblazoned with the message “Hunt Pink.”
They said the bill is designed to attract more women to hunting and hope it will encourage apparel manufacturers to partner with nonprofit groups working to get more people, men and women, interested in hunting.

University of Wisconsin-Madison textiles expert Majid Sarmadi told reporters that blaze pink is just as visible in the woods as traditional blaze orange.

Milroy, Kleefisch and Steffan said they plan to spend the next two weeks soliciting co-sponsors for the measure.

Some of us are heretical enough to even think we need stop it with the gender lines in hunting all together and just look at nontraditional hunter recruitment in general – whatever their gender may be.

In the days that followed that heads up my e mail and social media feeds have been filled with lots of comments, lots of opinions about this piece of legislation.

Some have thought that because I truly feel this a ridiculous move that I am anti women hunters or have chosen to separate myself from others who don’t choose what I think is appropriate for hunting attire.  I have made my peace with pink and will - albeit grudgingly - at times concede that it can be used as a tool to help increase female participation, especially in the teen and preteen age groups.

Let me clarify why I think this is a bad piece of legislation.

Should this pass, if a hunter wants to wear blaze pink – I take no issue with it. I would not consider them less of a hunter.  If it is indeed equally as safe as blaze orange and you want to scamper about in head to toe pink, have at it.

What I do take umbrage with is this ridiculous and outdated notion that slapping pink on everything will bring hordes of women running that otherwise wouldn’t give it a second look. If Wisconsin was serious about nontraditional hunter recruitment and retention there are much better ways to work towards that goal than just legalizing blaze pink. I would suggest that putting time, effort and dollars into improving nontraditional hunter recruitment programs would be a good start. Further perhaps a bill to fund and staff more Becoming an Outdoors Woman workshops and weekends. Additionally, Wisconsin DNR should consider forming or extending partnerships with established hunter recruitment programs such as Delta Waterfowl’s First Hunt program.

Simply saying “Okay honey – we’ll let you wear pink.” is not the answer.  It borders on degrading to many women in the outdoors.

Heartland readers am I way off base on this? What are your thoughts? How would you feel if this was happening in Illinois?

Again, if you are one of the women who enjoys pink, enjoys pink camo, gear etc. – more power to you. As long as you are safe and ethical in the outdoors, that’s what truly matters. BUT if you are still foolish enough to believe that pink will automatically bring previously uninterested women flocking to an outdoor product or activity, we need to talk!



The Irony of it All

Sun, May 17, 2015

Yesterday marked the beginning of National Safe Boating Week. I had a post ready to submit regarding just that when my dearly beloved yelled – “Rains over let’s go stick fish!”, so I put that original post aside and headed out see if the silvers and big heads were up.

Indeed they were, and we had very enjoyable afternoon doing our part for conservation, and taking out good numbers of silvers, bigheads, and few grassies and gar.

I wish I could tell you what exactly caused my less than graceful header off the front of the boat, but honestly I’m not sure. One minute I was on the front of the boat retrieving an arrow from some brush and the next I was hitting the water face first.

On the way to a face full of silt, slime and Lord knows what else I hit a pile of submerged iron and metal posts. I suspect leftovers from a long ago club house dock. I was tangled up, I had one piece of metal that whacked me stuck in the leg of my pants, and the others felt a little like I was some strange twisted cage. The water was extremely muddy, the chocolate milk looking water that so often happens after a heavy rain along the river. Every direction I flailed around trying to get untangled and gain a foot hold were piles of debris. Tree roots, posts, channel iron, rocks and junk. I knew good and well if I could just get untangled I could probably stand up.

Thankfully, I could stand up and according to my husband it was more like Godzilla rising from the sea than Venus when I came up sputtering, spitting and saying a good many less than ladylike things.

The irony that this occurred the first day of National Safe Boating Week did not escape me.

We laughed about my lack of grace, my poor balance and my dripping clothes and lifeless phone (of course it was in my shirt pocket) as we headed back to the ramp. But the possibility of what could have happened did not escape me.

I could have been impaled by one of the pieces of metal, (as it was I just received some bruises, scrapes, and one nasty gash/cut on my leg). I could have conked my head on some part of whatever was in that submerged junk pile and been knocked unconscious. We could have been in the main channel, with a much swifter current and lots of debris and logs scooting downriver instead of the shallower and slower moving old channel.

I could have been cavalier and said, “We’re just going to be using the troller, its shallow water, I don’t need my life jacket.”  BUT the rule for me if the boat is floating the PFD is on.  EVERYTIME. No matter what the conditions, if I am on the water I wear my PFD. I travel with my PFD so I have it when I am on friends’ boats. I’m just funny that way.

We bowfishers all know that sooner or later we are going to take a header out of a boat. The floors get slick with blood and slime, we are standing up on elevated shooting decks, we are wrestling with fish often over 30 pounds flapping and flopping flinging themselves around while stuck on the end of an arrow. We bowfish shallow and debris filled waters that often have poor clarity, causing frequent “stump bumps”.  It’s going to happen. You can bet your life on it.

So be prepared and bet in favor of your life and always wear a PFD. I routinely push, harangue, and nag all of my bowfishing friends to wear a PFD all the time, not just when on the main channels of the big rivers, not just when on plane, ALL THE TIME.

The auto inflate or pull inflate collar style PFD’s are an excellent design for bowfishers. They don’t impair shooting or movement in any way. Lightweight, comfortable, and not a bit noticeable, uncomfortable, or interfering with any fun.

The PFD that is our family’s personal favorite is the Bass Pro Shops® Manual Inflatable Life Vest. It features a lightweight, comfortable design with a soft neoprene neckline, reflective piping for enhanced visibility, and durable ripstop nylon fabric. The price is affordable, as is the price for the recharging kits that are needed to re arm it after a use. We also always keep a re arming kit on hand.

Whatever style of PFD you prefer, the important part is to WEAR IT. Don’t just stuff a couple of cheapies under the seat so you are legal. Invest in a well-made, well-fitting PFD and put it on and leave it on!


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