Friday, January 29, 2016

If you want me to write for you

I started writing here in 2009 and have steadily watched the number of folks, like yourself, who read my blog, grow. It has been fantastic to hear from you in emails, read your comments and see you liking the Facebook page.

It is my responsibility to you that I have a blog that you want to come and read.  Writing is based on relationships and shared experiences and connecting with one another and I take that seriously when I post. Writing is not my full-time job. It's not even my second full-time job (mom) or third on my list of priorities (I sit on a few boards and committees) but I love it and that is why I do it.

I have had the privilege of writing for Downeast Magazine and I have my monthly column in the Northwoods Sporting Journal. I am excited to share my stories and thoughts with other people.  

That is why when a larger media outlet contacted me and asked me to be a freelance writer for them, I got excited.  It was a chance for more people to read my writing and ideally come here to read more about me and my adventures.  We agreed to a start date in October but no end date so that I could freelance for them and write as many or as few articles as we agreed upon.  We signed the contract, emailed a few times and within a week, I had produced three articles for them. 

It was fantastic to see my articles posted. I emailed my third article on November 1 and asked for more topics to write about.  The next day, I got this reply "Great— received, thank you so much! I'm going to look at our conversation spreadsheet, and send you some topics to see if any spark your interest!I waited. Deer season wrapped up and Thanksgiving came and went. Six weeks after the above email, I reached out again and asked about topics as well as when I could expect to get paid (it was closing in on 60 days since I had sent the invoice.)  Nothing.  I waited a week and resent the email.  No reply.  I waited two more weeks and emailed the CEO along with my contact there.  I asked why I had not gotten paid when they had used all three of my articles.  We had signed a contact and yet they were not following through on their end.  No response.

Two weeks later and 2.5 months after receiving my last communication from them, I received an email.  They hoped to pay me the follow Tuesday.  That was two weeks ago.  They continue to promote my articles on their social media platforms and have them up on their website.  And I continue to be a little shell shocked at how a company could blatantly lie and cut off communication. I also know that I am not the only person that this has happened to.  It just amazes me and let this be a lesson to anyone who wants to hire freelance writers: don't piss off people who write and already have a public forum (and readers) because if you can find us to ask us to write for you, others can find us and read about why we are not writing for you.

So, lesson learned and now, I have two simple guidelines for writing:
1. If I can not drive to your office, you pay me a deposit before I turn over my work.
2. I own my content. Always.

I will let you know if I ever get paid by this company but in my experiences with them, I am pretty sure that I am SOL.

Live and Learn

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Trusting yourself as an outdoors woman

** The following is an article that I wrote for The Liberty Project.  It was originally published on November 16, 2015 here.  I was never paid by The Liberty Project so they don't own the copyright.

Why trusting yourself is key for success in the outdoors

It is critical to know and feel comfortable with any situation you put yourself in.  This is especially true if your goal is to bring home meat for the freezer.  You need to have a level of knowledge and understanding about why you are there and what you want to accomplish.  Everything about being successful in the outdoors comes from a sense of trust: in yourself, your tool and your training. 

My training came from my Dad. I started to learn and trust his experiences about where the deer were more likely to come out into an opening, where we should build a tree stand and that I could and would shoot a deer.  When it came time to take that first deer, I remember asking Dad if it was ok and then after, if I had hit the deer.  His reassurance and confidence in me has helped to make me a better hunter and trust my own judgement and skills.  When I shot my first deer without him sitting next to me, it helped to know that he was nearby in the woods.  He was, and still is, the reassurance that if I get into any sort of trouble that I cannot handle, he is there to help me out.  It is his ongoing trust and support in me that keeps me focused and going when nothing seems to be going right and the deer just don’t show up.  If I only see a squirrel after 10 hours in the woods, I hear his voice telling me, “Every day in the woods is a new adventure” and I am grateful for the opportunity to be there.

Every year my trust in myself and my gun gets a little stronger.  While I carry my gun around in the woods, I never lose sight of the fact that it is a tool whose sole purpose is to kill.  I become more familiar with the weight of it, where the barrel is pointing and how high I carry it when moving from one seat to another.  The one thing that stuck with me from hunter’s safety was the saying that a gun’s safety is a mechanism prone to failure.  After 13 seasons in the woods, I am now more comfortable handing and using the gun.  I know where I need to aim and I know how my hands fit around the gun, the feel of it in my shoulder and the recoil that comes after every shot. 

My ethics have also helped me trust myself in the woods.  Knowing my gun and knowing that the purpose of my hunt is to put meat in the freezer, I am aware of the size of the animals that I am taking (no does with fawns, no sows with cubs) and the impact that it will have on the local ecosystem.  I also will not take a shot that I am not totally confident about.  I have written a few times on my blog about the reasons behind my hunting from a tree; I can’t trust myself to take a good shot while am animal is running.  I will not take a shot that could wound a deer so I work to make sure I am comfortable with the angles and possible shots that I may have to take.  As a right handed shooter, there are shots that I just will not be able to make from where I sit in my tree stands. In cases like this, I enjoy watching the animals interact and enjoy the world around them and I try to learn more about their behaviors.

Trusting yourself as an outdoors woman is critical to your self-esteem and self-reliance.  There is something powerful about being able to go on a successful hunt and know how to clean, butcher and cook.  It is not easy to just walk into the woods knowing that the reason you are there is to kill an animal.  Many people take for granted what they are doing and the main reason behind hunting in the first place.  Being able to trust in yourself and have confidence will ensure that every trip into the woods is one where you are comfortable in your skills and ethics. 

Thursday, January 21, 2016

The kind of deer you wish you could see

There was running water on almost every trail but sometimes, you just have to get on the snowmobile and ride.

Last weekend Dad, Hubby and I decided to ride around and see if we could find our deer.  I secretly wished to find a shed but that didn't happen.

An eagle flew from a tall spruce tree as we crossed a field and headed into the woods.  There were wet spots, muddy spots and running streams but we pushed on.  The amount of deer tracks were incredible.  Crossing the snowmobile trails, gathered around ground hemlock... our herd was having an easy winter with lots of food available with no real effort needed to find it.

We headed down a side snowmobile trail that runs parallel to the trail that we take to get to T3. I almost ran into Dad's sled when he came to a stop at the bottom of the hill.  He got off of the snowmobile and walked over to the cluster of trees.  What I wouldnt give to have seen this deer during hunting season!

Swamp deer rub
Another view of the deer rub
We were in a swampy area but I wondered if it might have been the 8 or 9 pointer that we had on the trail cameras.  T3 wasn't too far away if you walked straight through the woods.  I snapped a few pictures and we continued down the trails.

Looping back onto the main trail, Dad stopped again.  This one was even bigger.  These two tree are within two feet of one another.  There was either an incredibly frustrated rutted up buck hanging out in the swamp or a moose! I could not wrap my hands around the tree and have my fingers touch.

Huge deer rub.  
Huge rub
There was only one big buck taken out of this area last fall that I know of and that was the 9 pointer. Given the distance from the Sky Condo to these rubs, it is pretty safe to say that there are a few more big bucks hiding out.

The plan now is to change things up, get Hubby ready for archery season and get Dad all set for muzzleloading season.  If we can be in the woods from October 1 until December 12 then hopefully we can cross paths with at least one of these huge bucks!

Monday, January 18, 2016

The right to hunt and be safe

With the Maine legislature beginning and as always there will be hunting and fishing issues that come up, I wrote this article for The Liberty Project about a bill in Wisconsin that would prevent anti-hunters from documenting hunters when they are in the woods.  The article was originally posted on October 28, 2015 here.

Why Wisconsin's right to hunt bill is necessary

I can count on one hand the number of photos of my son on social media. You will never read the full name of the friends that I hunt with and I am more likely to take a photo of the trees than photos of an outing with my Dad. I am overly cautious for my safety and theirs.
Last year, I volunteered with Maine’s fight against an out-of-state anti-hunting group as we fought to protect our bear hunting management practices. It was messy. It was personal. It included death threats against some of Maine’s best biologist and wildlife management leaders. Death threats from people who would rather have a fellow human die than an animal that provides meals. These people had their faces and names in the public realm because of the referendum, but can you imagine having your photo or a relative’s photo out there with identifying information attached, all because you choose to hunt?
In Wisconsin, Rep. Adam Jarchow recently put forward a Right to Hunt bill that would protect hunters, fishermen and trappers on public land from being harassed and having their photos taken. It is controversial, but I totally get it and agree. Being on public land in general poses risks: other hunters, trappers, hikers, campers... you never know who you could encounter. The two bear-bait sites that I hunt over are on public land. Last year, three people from out of state decided that they wanted to camp there without knowing that we were running the bait sites with huge bears showing up.
My hunting partner walked over to find them, thinking that maybe they were just there to forage. What he found was an illegal campfire and camp site. The confrontation was not a good one and we had to call the ranger to come take care of the fire. While we waited, I snapped several photos of their vehicle and license just in case. They packed up their things, got written up for the illegal fire and left. Less than an hour later, they drove up and down the road honking their horn. They did this until dark, ruining our chances of getting a bear and demonstrating a perfect case of hunter harassment.
I write a blog and I write for a regional magazine. But I’ve never posted or published the photo of their Jeep and New Jersey license plate because there was no need for it. It served no purpose. After seeing what anti-hunters can and will do when it comes to their thoughts on hunting, I don’t think that I would trust them to keep my photo offline if the roles were reversed.
The Wisconsin bill is trying to keep those who are hunting, trapping and fishing on public land safe from attacks and further harassment. I don’t think that is wrong. In Maine, the harassment laws are vague but cover the same things: no one can interfere with your preparations for hunting, actual hunting and trapping or any equipment that must be left in the woods (like a bait site.) During the referendum, the Maine Office of Tourism released a study that found bear hunting to contribute $53 million annually to Maine’s economy. Guides spend thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours setting up, managing and hunting from their bait sites. Anti-hunters being allowed to post photos from bait sites could lead to sites being tampered with or ruined and the target animals being driven away. For guides who rely on public land, having an extra bit of security can mean more money in their pockets at the end of the day.
For those who do not hunt, I know the proposed bill seems ridiculous. It’s public land and everyone has a right to be there and, for the most part, there are no altercations or big issues that come up. It’s a respectable relation between hunters and non-hunters. Sadly, that is not always the case. What this bill and others similar bills already in place are trying to do is protect outdoorsmen and women from harassment in any way, shape or form.
We just want to put food on the table. We should not have to worry about our photos or hunting areas ending up on targeted lists from anti-hunters.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Snowy animal tracks

Dad, Hubby and I headed into the woods to see where all of our deer are.  We found them but we also found some cool tracks in the snow.  Can you tell what they are?

Look at all of those drag marks!

Straight line of tracks

Two by two tracks

Can you see those nail marks?

Monday, January 11, 2016

Neighborhood deer

My neighbor feeds the deer in the winter so when I was cleaning out my fridge and found that I had a dozen apples that needed to get tossed, I decided to throw them on the back lawn to see if the deer would find them.

Within a few hours, I noticed these two munching happily.

The third doe that appeared was not nearly as oblivious to me standing in the kitchen watching them.  She stomped her foot a few times and kept watch while they all ate.

I watched them and took pictures until they walked into the softwoods and it was too dark to see them.  I had turned off the kitchen light and taken off my white sweater so that I could blend in and not look like a white flag in front of the glass doors.

Hunter or not, how can you not love watching deer!?

Thursday, January 7, 2016

The 2016 deer season starts now

When it is sunny out and there is snow on the ground, it is hard not to want to be outside.  Last weekend, we brought in the trail cameras and tried to figure out where we should be hunting for the 2016 season.  It is never too early to start prepping for the next season!

I pulled up to where we normally park and as we got out of the car, there was nothing but deer tracks all around us. Big, little, going in both directions... all kinds of tracks.

Only a couple of feet from the roadway with this bed.  I stood in the bed and snapped another photo of the beds around it.  I posted that picture on our FB page and asked people how many deer beds they could find.

The deer bed closest to the road
Four more deer beds 
If you look through the brush and above the snow mound, you can see my car.  I am always amazed when we find out just how close the deer are to us.  We know that we have a group of 3-5 does around so this grouping could be them all bedding down or it could be a couple of deer who bedded here on two or more occasions.

We could also see the super highway of trails running alongside of these beds and crossing the main roadway up to the Sky Condo.

A well used deer trail in the snow
We followed this trail to find out how close the deer were staying compared to where our tree seat and the Sky Condo are.  We could walk a few yards and find another well worn path or a deer bed or two or five.  During our entire woodland adventure, I counted 17 deer beds of all shapes, sizes and ages.  About seven inches of snow fell the week before so we could tell that the beds with the bare ground underneath were made the night it was snowing.  This also helped us age some of the tracks.

Dad blazed our path through the woods and we made a couple of large circles around the property.  We searched for well traveled paths that had the deer going both ways and we looked for areas that would make a good spot for me to sit in if we decide to move a couple of treeseats around.

We still have the better part of a year to wait but it is always fun to start thinking and planning, especially when you see these tracks!

Monday, January 4, 2016

Taking on the puddles in 2016

Raising an outdoor kid is not nearly as common as it once was.  Growing up, we played outside a lot and when my sister and I fought we were told to go outside. We reluctantly would and usually ended up playing out there for hours. We created games and events that we acted out. We spent time exploring the pond, building huge snow forts, finding monarch caterpillar to watch hatch into butterflies and could watch and learn the characteristics of each season as it changed around us. 

Wow, have things changed. Kids don't know what a raccoon is or that a Blue Jay is not the only bird that is blue. They don't know the difference between softwood and hardwood trees or that in the spring, ponds and vernal pools are a wonderland of new things (hello tadpoles, ducklings, pussywillows etc.) But, for my family, this year is going to be about being outside and exploring.

I had been thinking about this a lot when out of the blue my son said: 
“Mumma, I want to play in the trees”
“Just climb the trees or have a treehouse… like a clubhouse?” I asked
“Ohhh! A clubhouse! Yes” he said. 

Since he is only 2 1/2 years old, he will have to call our deer stands his clubhouses for now. He did love going to T3 over the summer as we were fixing it up and preparing it for deer season. He oooh'd and aaah'd over the birds that we saw and the deer that we jumped. With eyes wide, he took it all in and loved it. And he talked about it for weeks after.

It's easy to get kids interested in the woods around us if you make it fun and interesting. For me, I want outdoor kids who love splashing in puddles, looking at tracks in the dirt, finding bugs (no snakes, please!) and studying the different leaves and bark of the trees. Letting little kids touch, smell and get dirt just helps them connect with the outdoors and love it even more.  Plus, grass stains, ripped knees and dirt packed elbows are what the clothes of young kids are supposed to look it. It means they are being kids and exploring.

I fondly remember in fourth grade, my wonderful teacher Janice Giles, took our class to her ‘back 40’ for a field trip. We walked along the mowed path and observed the flowers, butterflies and noises around us. We observed and talked about what we were seeing, smelling and hearing. She had split wood cookies for each of us and we took turns smashing them over a large rock to make ourselves homemade wooden puzzles and to see how the wood would split with the grains of the tree. Something so simple but it has stuck with me for all these years.

We talk about needing to get kids interested in the outdoors and not the latest in technology but we need to lead by example and show them how to play in the mud, see the differences in the trees and why it is so fun to climb up a giant mountain of snow just to come flying down the perfect sledding trail.  I look forward to 2016 and all of our outdoor adventures!

** This article from the January issue of the Small Woodlots Owners Association of Maine.