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Recent entries


Through the Lens

Pokémon Go and Boating: Three Tips from BoatUS

Thu, July 14, 2016

A Pokémon Go “gym” is located next to the iconic BoatUS Buoy at the recreational boating association’s national headquarters in Alexandria, VA

I’ll be the first to admit - I really have no clue what the whole Pokemon Go craze is really all about. I’d just as soon shoot myself in the foot as play any of the mobile or electronic games. Not my cup of tea. But what I can gather from others this Pokemon Go business is at least getting people outside and up and moving. Although - I’d rather they were actually looking at the natural world around them, rather than at a screen on a mobile device.

I also have to admit I find it a bit unsettling to read the reports of the number of accidents that seem to be happening while folks are absorbed in finding some mythical electronic creature. That said - I didn’t even consider the implications for boaters and people on the water until the email from BoatUS hit my inbox this afternoon.

According to BoatUS, the reality-game-meets-exercise app currently taking the nation by storm, “Pokémon Go,” now has 21 million users every day – reportedly the most successful mobile game ever in the US. The game features characters called Pokémon that players capture in the real world using a combination of GPS and augmented reality. That also means that Pokémon-mania has also come to the water and with it, BoatUS, the national boating advocacy, services and safety group has three tips for playing Pokémon Go while boating:

1. Be aware: The US Coast Guard reports “Operator Inattention” as one of the five main primary contributing factors in accidents. When searching for a “water type” Pokémon such as     “Magikarp” ( I have to ask is a Magikarp anything like a flying silver???) on a waterway, let the first mate or friend handle the cell phone while the captain keeps a safe lookout.

2. Watch cell phone battery use: Users report the game eats up a smartphone’s battery charge. With many recreational boaters today relying on their cell phones for communication, it would be wise to bring along a spare charger, or use battery saving mode. BoatUS also reminds boaters that only a VHF radio can summon emergency help from the closest rescuers, ensuring the fastest response.

3. Have fun: The BoatUS National Headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia offers a Pokémon “gym” located next to the iconic BoatUS Buoy at 880 S. Pickett Street. At lunch, some BoatUS employees can be seen playing the game. (Insider’s tip: The yellow Pokémon Go BoatUS Marine insurance underwriting team often battles other BoatUS departments, and for a limited time, free boat insurance quotes will be available to all players.)

Even though many have encouraged me to give it a try, I think this is one fad / craze I will probably sit out. I’m more happy hunting for real creatures! How about you?


The Name and Shame Game

Wed, July 13, 2016

Yesterday I was out running my traps, when I received a text pointing out a particularly unpleasant Facebook post that centered around naming and shaming a fellow outdoors person. I shook my head at yet another instance of the outdoor world using social media to be judge, jury and executioner.

Oh Holy Crap, what did I just say?

I’d better change up that “running my traps” language immediately. I’ll be the next one that someone screen shots, videos, photographs via a poor cell phone snap, and the next one to be called out on social media for my great wrongdoing and violation of some law – real or imagined.

The phrase “running my traps” is semi local, colloquial, phrase that means out roaming – checking on friends, stopping at fishing holes, scouting birds, just wandering around – I wasn’t out actually checking a trap line. 


I can just about guarantee you some person would read this, and immediately jump to the conclusion that I am illegally running a trap line in Illinois in July. Social media would be warned about me – I would be called out as a law breaker, some sort of fiend. The pitchforks and torches would come out and the herd mentality takes over.  Like as not the self-righteous self-appointed judge, jury and executioners would even share my address, what I drive, where I fish and hunt – encouraging others to harass me when they see me.


The internet naming and shaming follows a fairly predictable path; Someone posts their outrage, along with a call to take this person down and like a fish feeding frenzy, others quickly jump in in an effort to prove to the rest of the world that are certainly not a type who will tolerate any of this nonsense. Then come the memes, the creative cut and paste, the posts are filled with social media juries. Inevitably there will be follow up posts where the accused tries to explain, tries to clear their name, but finds they are only further vilified and shamed. Screams of “Call the authorities!” “Feed them to lions!” “I’ll find them and personally show them justice”  echo through the cyber world.

“Call the Authorities.” Isn’t that what we should be doing in the first place? Skip the social media name and shame and simply report the activity to the appropriate authority. Let the situation be investigated by those who are trained to do so.

That won’t happen though, because the online judge, jury and executioners wouldn’t get to feed their ego that way. The name and shames couldn’t publicly pat themselves on the back prove to the world how they are a much better person.  They are on point when in the outdoors and rather than report an instance of a possible fish and wildlife code to the appropriate authorities – They snap a few cell phone photos, take a quick cell phone video, and start their own method of “seeking justice” via social media.

We have become a society that can’t think beyond 140 characters and a meme. We take every character typed, every photo posted, every sentence uttered as an opportunity to find fault and be offended. We have become a name and shame society via social media.  Quite frankly many days I feel like I am living in the era of the Inquisitions or the witch burnings.

To quote a witty friends recently inspiring Facebook post “passive-aggressive, slightly vicious yammering and self-righteous pride” is running rampant.

I’ve come to the conclusion that people no longer care about civil discourse, differing opinions or fact checking. Let’s just fall into the click bait headline trap – blindly share, and pass on the horror or offense of the day.

Because, well it makes folks feel so good about themselves. It proves what high moral standards they hold themselves to, it proves that they are -  SO. MUCH. BETTER.
It also proves critical thinking skills are clearly at an all-time low, and the self-involved it’s ALL about me, look how wonderful and perfect I am set has this name and shame thing down to fine art.

And they feel so damn good about it.

The name and shamers feel great pride in being the one who exposed the theoretical bad behavior; they don’t want to know the facts; they don’t want to know “the rest of the story” as Paul Harvey would say.

They want the world to see how absolutely great, moral, ethical and offended that they are. They want to be heralded as such great outdoorsmen and women. Those name and shame posts scream “look, see, I rode in on my white horse and made sure everyone knows what a law breaking, degenerate is loose out there.  I am so far above this.”  When in reality they are simply trying to build themselves up by tearing down someone else.

Because clearly, taking one photo of person standing next to a lake or in a deer stand, taking one sentence from an interview, one paragraph from a blog, or one photo shared and turning it to a “passive-aggressive, slightly vicious yammering and self-righteous pride” comment fest on their social media accounts makes them the star for the day.

I see social media posters gleefully delight in the fact that they have gone viral with their take down of often innocent people, or how they were successful in driving a person out of hunting, or keeping them away from a lake or river. “They’ll never show their face in ______again. Now all the respectable sportsmen and women know what a horrible person ___is.”  I have even seen posts where various groups encouraged finding an alleged violator and using violence. 

Whatever happened to the day when if we saw someone we thought might be violating a fish and wildlife law, we simply called a CPO and reported it. Who are we to be the judge, jury and executioner?

Oh yes – and here is where all the free speechers will jump in –  you watch. It’s their God given right, we live in country of free speech, I can say whatever the hell I want.  That’s true – to a point. That’s also why slander and libel laws exist. Please don’t make me drag out the whole shouting fire in crowded theater example.

But then again isn’t that exactly what the social media judges, juries, and executioners are actually doing? Isn’t the whole internet shame fest mentality just an online version of yelling fire in crowded theater?

Let’s stir up the crowd, get out the torches and pitchforks and see just how much mayhem we can actually achieve. The more we achieve the bigger social media celebrity we become. The more damage we do to some unsuspecting person, the higher our status is elevated.

Consequently, I see more and more thinking people just walking away from social media. It is just too tiring to wade through feeds full of utter crap. Thinking people who really have never been into that whole herd mentality thing to begin with.

And that’s sad – because social media can be a great tool, a great way to exchange ideas and information.

And now here we are – the whole post I had planned (about berries, and fish, and the wonder of walking through the summer prairie in July) has flown out the window and I have to start that whole project over again because I got side tracked thinking about a world that’s full of social media “stars” who’s greatest talent seems to be making posts full of “passive-aggressive, slightly vicious yammering and self-righteous pride”.

Guess I need to go “run my traps” again this morning and find that inspiration all over again.


Wear It For Life!

Thu, July 07, 2016

ANNAPOLIS, Md., July 7, 2016 – If you need to borrow a kid’s life jacket for the day or weekend, chances are there is one near you at one of the over 1,500 life jacket loaner sites across the country at

Even twins can get a right-sized life jacket through the BoatUS Foundation kids’ Life Jacket Loaner Program./image provided

The website list is “the nation’s largest single source of life jacket loaner sites” according to BoatUS. It includes nearly 600 free BoatUS Foundation kids’ Life Jacket Loaner sites at marinas, boat clubs and firehouses, along with over 900 local community loaner sites to give parents and boaters more options.

Begun in 1997, the BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water’s kids’ Life Jacket Loaner Program is the nation’s oldest and largest loaner program (all 50 states + District of Columbia), making it easy for boaters to borrow a right-sized child’s life jacket for the day, afternoon, or weekend at no cost. Each year, the Foundation loaner sites lend out life jackets over 140,000 times.

I was especially pleased to note over the recent holiday weekend that at many of the popular boat ramps, there were loaner posts set up with plenty of lifejackets for those who may have arrived at the ramp only to discover they didn’t have quite enough to go around.

The rule on my boat is simple, it doesn’t leave the dock until everyone is wearing a pfd. It’s pretty simple. Not just when we are “under power”, “running the big motor” or in “big water”. If your butt is in the boat, you wear a pfd. I use a collar style inflatable and honestly never even know I’m wearing it. It doesn’t interfere at all with my casting or shooting of my bow. It’s not hot, not bulky, and worth it’s weight in gold.

Some of you may remember when I took a header off the shooting deck last year into the Kaskaskia.

There are so many styles to choose from that the excuse that it’s too hot, to uncomfortable, I can’t fish, shoot my bow, and any other myriad of excuses just don’t fly. It’s a simple and inexpensive way to greatly up your chances for survival should you end up in the water.

So this year, if you don’t have a pfd, don’t have a enough for your guests, consider using Boat US’ handy guide to find a loaner station near you.

Heartland Community - Let’s wear those PFD’s !


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