This writer just returned from attending the Outdoor Writers Association of America (OWAA) convention held in Jay, Vermont this week.
My career as an outdoor writer began when the first Sportsman’s Corner appeared in the Daily News in 1986. Since then my membership in the New England Outdoor Writers Association and later the OWAA has helped my professional development and m ‘put in contact with many talented communicators. professionals.
When the location was announced it occurred to me that it was accessible and within a time frame that was open so the process to attend began. It turns out that a friend of mine from my hunting life in New York has a house in Jay that he bought 14 years ago to serve as the basis for his family’s love of skiing. He often mentioned that there was good highland hunting in the area, so a plan was concocted.
This plan involved traveling to Jay before the conference when the highlands season opens in Vermont on September 25. As reported in this space last Friday, my French elder Brittany Dinah exhibited severe symptoms during this trip including falls, circles, shaking eyes. , and a tilt of the head. My first fear of a stroke was eliminated when her appetite was good, she drank water, and was energetic. However, the trip was cut short and a visit to Adams Animal Hospital led to an accurate diagnosis of Idiomatic Dog Vestibular Disease AKA “Old Dog Disease” by Dr. Temple.
The good news was that most dogs made a full recovery with tilting the head being the most common lasting effect. The bad news was that Dinah would be “on the shelf” for two to three weeks.
Originally, the OWAA executive director Chez Chesak asked me if I would be willing to take a writer out hunting grouse and woodcock. As I really enjoy leading others, this was seriously considered, but my pre-conference scouting and the typical early-season issues of hot temperatures and dense undergrowth did not allow me to be sure that the The experience would live up to my high standards with when it comes to finding birds, so this idea was dropped.
So on Sunday I found myself driving the Silverado on Highway 91 for a 200 mile jaunt to Jay, this time with just one dog box. My friend and host Dean Scudder was waiting with his new Breton puppy Dolly, whom he was talking about. Dean and his wife had done a great job training the puppy and he had a high level of obedience. She also seems to be ahead of her age with a firmness to the point and she had been great at finding and holding back grouse.
We decided to go see some of his covers with Laney. The first blanket was “very thick” alders, as Dean described it and he mentioned that a mutual friend wouldn’t hunt there because of the thick blanket. A hundred yards away this became a factor as the thick alders, combined with a thigh-high understory, made Laney impossible to see and she, in turn, couldn’t see us.
We stopped to change direction and suddenly there was no Laney. Normally that wouldn’t be a problem, but in my haste to start the journey and with the changes created by bringing one dog and leaving the other, the Upland Hunter Sport Dog Collar controller was left to Orange.
My belief was that since Laney has always worked closely, this first outing of the season would go well without the ability to control the beep. This control allows me to turn the beep off and on. When this is done, a distinctive tone is emitted which allows me to locate the dog. The ability to communicate with the dog using the tone setting on the collar that the dogs have learned also means that I want them to come to me.
Suddenly, with a thick blanket and no idea where Laney was, yours truly was concerned. For 15 minutes I called out his name and “Come on” and also used two whistles, which are also used to bring the dogs in. Believe me when I say my mind is racing and the fear of losing the dog has become real.
The lost dog horror stories told by so many highland hunters came to mind and I was struck by the fact that I don’t have a tag on his collar with my phone number. The only way to identify me as the owner would be their rabies identification plate or the Orange City dog license.
Fortunately, she finally returned and a huge sigh of relief followed. It was always a challenge to keep her close, and when the forecast for the next day was steady rain, a not-so-quick trip to Massachusetts was undertaken to get the controller. Lesson learned!
The conference turned out better than expected. By the 1980s, a trip to attend the OWAA conference in Duluth, Minnesota had been taken, but my plans to become more active as a writer changed when other life choices prevailed.
Both speakers were exceptional. Monday, Doug Ladd “Can communicators catalyze a sustainable future for people and nature?” was revealing. He did a fantastic job taking the history of the earth’s natural resources and helping to understand how we got here and what it meant for the natural world. He used a lot of hard data to make his point and that included studies that clearly show that humans who interact with nature live longer and more productively!
On Tuesday, Mamie Parker, who was the first woman of color to lead the fisheries section of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, was the presenter and she did an outstanding job helping me and the writers together understand this which must succeed in making the outside world more open and inclusive to all, not just traditional white men, but to women, people of color, indigenous peoples and all those who have the interest and the capacity to participate and advancing us in our mutual appreciation of fish and wildlife and all things that pertain to the natural world.
An unexpected benefit of attending the conference was the opportunity to reconnect with old friends and also to meet some really interesting people from across the country. It is always fascinating to me how often a conversation with someone you meet will quickly end up with a friend or a common place. The world of the outdoors is made up of people who get involved and do things that tend to involve a common group of dedicated people who are committed to making a difference in the world of the outdoors.
Mike Roche is a retired teacher who has been involved in conservation and wildlife issues his entire life. He has written Sportsman’s Corner since 1984 and served as a MaharFish’N Game Club Advisor, Massachusetts Conservation Camp Advisor and Director, was a Massachusetts Hunter Education instructor for over 40 years, and is a licensed New York Hunting Guide. He can be contacted at [email protected]