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Wednesday, September 16, 2015

A Sad and Woeful Tale High in the Rockies

It was a big Elk high on a ridge. 
The first week of archery season in Colorado and the big fella acted as if he owned the place. He did. He was surrounded by 7 cows and periodically bugled as the sun was setting. His antlers reached far back to his rear quarters. He was a big one. I could only watch from a well hidden vantage point 500 yards away.
"Ready for Elk in 2015."
Three close encounters at 30 yards, 10 yards
and 15 yards ended with the swirling wind foiling
each opportunity. Excitement is a big bull Elk raking the trees
at 15 yards. More excitement is making the shot with
traditional equipment but it was not meant to be this year.
The bull was on a neighboring ranch and was safe across a fenced boundary.  Then along came Rodney. (Name Changed by design)  Appeared to be a nice fella...had been bowhunting this property for several years and had never killed an Elk. Rodney and I had met briefly in camp and the introduction included a woeful tale about how he lost his handgun while hunting the year before. Apparently Rodney had to drop his drawers and take care of business. The task was completed and the toilet paper was buried and Rodney went on his way only to realize sometime later that he laid his Glock 9mm on the ground while in the woodsman full squat. In 30 seconds, I think I knew all I needed to know about Rodney. He lost his handgun that day. Despite searching, the loaded handgun was never found and remains at 9,000 feet in the Rockies. The episode highlights two critical lessons. #1 - Know where you are when you take a crap. #2 - Always be aware of your handgun location. It won't do you much good in the sagebrush. The bull Elk was still bugling and Rodney (with no handgun) was making an approach with bow in hand. My Swarovski binocs were focused on the unfolding drama. I expected the odds were well in the Elk's favor. The bull wasn't on the property we had permission to hunt.  At 150 yards, Rodney made a cow call that sounded like a chirping bird. The big bull arched his neck with a facial expression of "what the heck was that." Elk  have eyeballs and ears three times the size of a whitetail and suck in four times as much oxygen with every breath through a nose that is five times as large as a bloodhound.  After Rodney made his cow/turkey call and with the bull Elk focused intensely on the direction of the sound, Rodney thought it would be a great time to close the distance. He took one step and the bull immediately glanced at the cows and in unison, the entire group headed across the meadow and over the next ridge. It would be another year with no Elk hanging in camp for Rodney.  When hunting with a group that includes strangers that you meet for the first time, my overall experience has been very positive. This is especially true for bowhunters who always come across as thoughtful for the most part. The lost handgun story had my head spinning as Rodney took the time to educate me on thermals and how the wind shifts as the air mass warms. Thoughtful. Nice. I muttered to myself, “this guy just finished an Outdoor Life article.”  
Here is the final analysis.

The camp had a rule that prohibited ATV use beyond a certain point.  The rule maker was wise because he might have hunted the land for years or possibly knew about the adage that if you take an ATV in 1/2 mile, the Elk move away a mile. Run in before dark 1 mile and you might push the Elk two miles out. Rodney had a rip roaring ATV of course. Our small group was hunting hard and it took some time to sort out this next piece since we were hiking 2 miles before sunrise daily and other hunter’s movements were not visible. As the week progressed, we noticed that Elk activity diminished and the bugling was always on neighboring ranches. Eventually, we realized that the young “thermal expert” Rodney was driving his ATV 2 miles across the property into prime Elk habitat daily. Rodney would return for lunch, watch a TV on his satellite dish in the afternoon and head back for an evening hunt traversing the property 4 times each day.
If your drive an ATV into the middle of Elk habitat,
quality opportunities will decrease. 
 Even the most neophyte hunter should have been embarrassed by the disregard for others in camp. In this bowhunting situation, Rodney proved himself to be lazy and inconsiderate of others with his ATV use.  It explains why the big Bull moved off the property and really behaved with his guard up. The ATV behavior was selfish and disrespectful and the empty meat pole in camp was proof. During a week of hunting, our small group was walking at least 6 miles daily with many miles in the dark. When we returned to camp, we were exhausted. They say Elk hunting is a young man’s game.  By the end of the week when we figured out what was happening with the ATV use, it was too late to remedy the situation....... but next year in camp, we look forward to providing Rodney with a better orientation on Elk hunting that will begin by leaving the ATV behind. *

Be safe out there and good luck! 
Chuck at Kodabow

* a fictional Elk hunting story based on a 2015 Elk hunt

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Secret Life of Outdoor Writers

Outdoor Writers are, by nature, colorful folks and knowledgeable about all things hunting and fishing.  

Outdoor Writers at the Pennsylvania Outdoor Writers
Association Meeting in Seven Springs, PA this past weekend.

These days, they need to be clever as well. Gone forever are the days when every teenager anxiously awaits the monthly arrival of their favorite outdoor magazine. Sure, there are still kids who long for a Christmas gift subscription to Outdoor Life but more likely, these kids will spend 7 hours a day in front of a screen of some type - computer, iPhone, TV or Video Game. Kids have a roving range of a small postage stamp backyard these days. Odds are when you grew up, your parents let you roam wherever as long as you were home for dinner before dark. The problem that Outdoor Writers face is that writing jobs are hard to come by and the jobs don't pay like they used to pay. It is a digital age and just like our national news cycles, information is everywhere and it moves fast. Somewhere right now, there is a "wanna be writer" in his pajamas writing internet articles and blogs and even taking gigs for free. At Kodabow, we love the men and women who carry on and practice their craft of spreading intelligent information on the outdoors -- they build turkey calls, they know the best trout streams and they take immense pride in their writing craft but after spending a weekend with these professionals, we see that the job at hand is as challenging as one would ever find.
Here are just a few things we learned over the weekend:

1 - COMBAT THE "LEAVE NATURE ALONE" SYNDROME. Most people in your town or city don't understand the "outdoors". They may be predisposed to just let nature be.... and hence, hunting stories can be controversial ie. why do people need to shoot these animals?  But these men and women readers (who may be never have fished or hunted) are smart and a good outdoor writer knows it and knows that an article may be read by both hunters and non-hunters especially in a local city paper. Today, our outdoor world has the handiwork of humans all over it and after decades of logging, development and other human activities. We now have a serious responsibility for STEWARDSHIP over this domain.  Nothing is the same as when settlers arrived in this land 600 years ago. Since readers are smart, explaining Wildlife Management as a starting point goes much further than immediately pushing a hunting perspective in the news print. One of the best things we can do is take someone who has never been hunting, shooting or fishing along with us on an expedition.

2 - COMMON GROUND. Aligning and finding the areas of commonality among birders, mountain bikers, hunters, fisherman and naturists is more important than focusing on the areas of disagreement. In comparison to hunters and fishers, these other groups do very little monetarily to positively impact the outdoors.
Seven Springs, PA in Western PA near Pittsburgh has ski slopes, nearby hunting and fishing, and sporting clay ranges. This is a view from the top of ski slope after a 5:30 AM walk to the top early one morning.
The highest point in PA, Mount Davis, is nearby. We are up about 3,000 feet here.

3 - WRITERS ARE FRUGAL. A writer comes up to me and says, "Chuck - do you know why no Outdoor Writers wear red shoes?"
I can't come up with an answer.
He says, "Because no manufacturers give away red shoes."
His point was that many writers are always on the prowl for outdoor gear at no cost. It is understandable. Some weekly articles might only generate $75 or $100 in pay and it is a constant struggle to obtain paid assignments. Many writers are older and the younger ones almost always have a "real job". There were a lot of teachers and former teachers in the room. A well written article can take hours of work and research and some publishers might say - "we would love to have you do a monthly column but we can't pay you."

A Kodabow friend, Kodabow owner, and long time PA hunter Ted Saddic stands on the balcony overlooking the Sporting Clays range at Seven Springs, PA. Ted helped Kodabow at the breakout session when writers talked with us.

4 - SOME READERS WILL GO NUTS. If a writer identifies  "Laurel Hills State Park" in an article but the REAL NAME of the Park, is "Laurel Hill State Park" ......standby for incoming rounds and take cover. In today's internet world, an obscure event or misunderstanding can sometimes blossom into a full fledged controversy that can undermine all the good intentions of the writer. We have seen that type of thing ourselves as a manufacturer where a small issue or mistake is driven to huge proportions over the internet. The best professional writers have a sensitivity to being accurate and careful. Some are artful in presenting both sides of an issue and will let the facts speak for themselves. And if you believe you are on the correct and on the right side of an issue, it will be more credible to present  both viewpoints --- and a smart reader will be drawn to the right answer by the factual perspective. 


5 - REAL SERIOUS TYPES MIX WITH EDGY CHARACTER TYPES. It probably pays to have a "look." Jim Shockey, for example --- always wears that cowboy hat. At a POWA meeting, an attendee will come across other attendees who are millionaires from selling small non-descript outdoor products to gents who have killed 248 turkeys ...yep, a gent that keeps track by number down to the individual turkey. The new PA Secretary of Conservation and Natural Resources, Cindy Adams Dunn, spoke at the meeting about current issues facing the State.  How about a writer that is nearly 100% focused on ... Beagle Dogs?  ..... Beagling ....Beagle Hunting ...... maybe a circulation of 10,000 readers --- now there is a little niche.  How about gaining insight into the logic behind Pennsylvania approving crossbow use from someone who was right there? The approval logic was "how could we stand in the way of an activity that would increase user participation and not hurt the resource?" As a Pennsylvania hunter myself, it appears that the crossbow benefits have far outweighed the perceived negatives. And as a traditional bowhunter, I hope I have the sensitivity to see both sides of the issue. The crossbow controversy was at a fevered pitch a few years ago. In some small circles, the controversy still reigns. One imaginative and clever POWA writer composed an archery article circa 2013 that included several quotes like, "this will be the end of archery hunting as we know it."  He was accurate and dead on .....but he waited till the end of the article to reveal to the reader that these quotes were not from the current crossbow brouhaha but from the early 1980's when vertical compound bows were vehemently opposed by some. Like we said, those Outdoor Writers are clever folks.
- Chuck Matasic at Kodabow; May 2015

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Texas Logic

Sometimes, a person or organization gets lost looking at the trees and never sees the forest.

There was a very thoughtful post by a reader on our Kodabow YouTube site that we thought was worth reposting in full. Written by a Kodabow follower in Texas named Braxton S. after reviewing our "Hunting Hippo with a Kodabow" video. It is worth a quick read if you have a moment.  

"Thanks for sharing. Texas has preserved at least one animal from extinction; the Scimitar Oryx. The only reason this animal still inhabits the earth is due to the conservation efforts of those that hunt it. To the non-hunter and the rabid environmentalist this is unthinkable; an oxymoron of the highest order. Putting emotions aside, and looking at the logic: Ranchers in Texas get paid very good money for hosting Oryx hunts. The well being and proliferation of the animal is the rancher's primary concern. Why? Money!!. Hunters are thrilled to harvest these beautiful animals for the meat and the trophy. Until recently the state and Federal government was not involved. But uneducated "do gooders" seem to enjoy killing as much as murderers do... "Priscilla Feral, President of Friends of Animals, found oryx hunting “obscene” and challenged USFW in court to end the exemption. On June 22, 2009 the court remanded the rule and the exemption was pulled. It went into effect April 4." The current population of the Oryx has decreased in Texas due to the beuracratic paperwork involved with hunting an "extinct" animal. In fact, over 1000 were killed in the first few months as ranchers, unwilling to deal with the Federal Government regulations closed shop and allowed hunters to kill off their stock animals at a cheap price. I don't know how many Scimitar Oryx are left in Texas, but its fewer than before Friends of Animals got involved. If this group is really interested in the survival of one of nature's most beautiful big game animals, then they need to go back to the Judge and admit that they were wrong and have the law allowing Scimitar hunts to be reinstated. Friends of Animals also needs to know that hunters love the animals they harvest. We brought back the Elk in Colorado and New Mexico, the Whitetail deer nationwide, increased the flights of duck and geese in North America with the fees we pay for our licenses. Priscilla Feral, Friends of Animals??? Not really apparent to this Texan."

To be fair and balanced, we present the same issue as presented on the Connecticut based Friends of Animals website. With our own hunting experiences in Texas, we see firsthand how this type of misplaced and thoughtless "do good" viewpoint harms the very species that are supposedly now protected. When hunting high fenced properties that cover vast amounts of acreage, rest assured that there is nothing "canned" about the experience. The primary danger to these animals is their eventual demise because of the lack of conservation and game management.  Hunters are the true conservationists who see both trees and the forest.

On August 9, 2013, U.S. District Court Judge Beryl A. Howell issued a 105-page ruling denying an attempt by the U.S. hunting community to remove legal protections for three African antelope species—the scimitar-horned oryx, dama gazelle, and addax—under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA).  The Safari Club International (SCI), a group that promotes unrestricted hunting of animals for sport, had asked the Court to remove these three species from the list of endangered animals.  The Exotic Wildlife Association (EWA), a group that promotes the interests of canned-hunting ranches in Texas and other states, had asked the Court to prevent the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) from removing a blanket exemption for captive members of these three species that was found to be illegal under the ESA by a Court in 2009.
“This is an important step toward eliminating the legal arguments that have so far allowed humans to keep these animals in captivity for the sole purpose of killing them,” says Michael Harris, Director of Friends of Animals’ Wildlife Law Program.  “For the first time, these antelope—whether free in the wild or held captive—are all being given equal protection under the law,” Harris continues.  
This is not the first time that Friends of Animals has prevailed against SCI and EWA with respect to these species.  In 2005, Friends of Animals succeeded in forcing FWS to list these antelope as endangered after the agency refused to do so for nearly 15 years in order to protect the interests of SCI and EWA members.  In 2008, Friends of Animals brought a successful lawsuit against FWS which, again to appease SCI and EWA, had issued an illegal Sport-Hunting rule that sought to exempt from legal protection African antelope held captive on U.S. hunting ranches. 
Now its Friends of Animals that is setting its sights on ending all hunting of these animals in the U.S.  Ironically, also on August 9, 2013, Friends of Animals sent notice to FWS of its intent to sue the agency for its decision to issue one of these ranches a permit to kill captive, endangered scimitar- horned oryx.  Through this lawsuit, Friends of Animals hopes to once and for all establish the rights of these animals to be given full protection under the ESA and to be free from human exploitation.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Do You Ever Write the Company?

Most folks don't take the time to write companies except when things go bad.  Real bad. Like an airline losing your hunting gear right before your 10 day Wyoming hunting trip. it is understandable. People are busy.
That's me with a Kodabow and a Spring Gobbler.  
Fact is many companies today just don't care. We get pissed off as consumers and write a letter. At Kodabow, we care. No company is perfect but we try really hard and it shows. Candidly, I am constantly amazed at how MANY OF OUR CUSTOMERS WRITE US and simply say THANK YOU FOR MAKING A GREAT PRODUCT.  I've personally owned some great outdoor equipment over the years from firearms to fly rods --- I never was so positively moved with the product to write the company. I have worked at or been around companies that have made some great stuff -- never have I seen letters like the ones we receive at Kodabow. Happens all the time. We never tire of reading and appreciating the sentiments expressed. We can only say thank you. You get it. You understand what we are doing, why we do it and how we work at the challenge of building great crossbows every day. Thank you.
Here is a letter that came in this evening.

Dear Kodabow, 
I received my bow about a week (or maybe two) ago.  I'm not an experienced crossbow guy.  Long time firearms guy but my days as a young laddie buck with my dad's fiberglass, recurve out in the backyard are way behind me.
Everything about the transaction was an absolute pleasure.  Heck, even dropping 900 samolies worked out well (though I sold a TC Encore to fund this baby).  I did my research over and over and went to Cabelas and looked at the competition (over and over) and finally decided to go with Kodabow, sight unseen, and lacking experience in crossbows in general.  I finally realized that if I didn't buy a Kodabow, I would develop and itch that I couldn't scratch until I broke down and did buy one (to thine own self be true).  What a great move on my part.  I've inspected this bow countless times (and shot it as well, no worries) and I can't find a single point in the design of the bow that provides a "ah, I wish they'd have not done this" moment.  I believe that you've attained the goal; It's pretty much perfect.  As a US based manufacturer, you boys should be very proud.  What a fine experience for me.  There's somebody still out there that can match a 68' Buick Wildcat in form, function, quality, simplicity (look it up, it was a hell of a car).
The extras that you included are greatly appreciated and a complete surprise.  As you know, nobody does something like that these days.  I'm fairly stunned and I thank you.  I'll be pestering you in the coming months for more stickers, but not without an order so you've got something to ship it in.
My wife wants one, of course of lesser umpf.  My neighbors wife does as well.  I haven't shown the bow to anyone that isn't completely impressed.  Simple quality is a lost art guys, and you've brought it back.
OK, enough babbling. Turkey season opens in a few weeks.  I will not hesitate in trashing your inbox so please expect it randomly. I've never written a "thanks" to a manufacturer of any product that I've purchased but you guys are a different bunch and you make it quite easy.  Thanks again and thank you for your service......G.M. - (Full name withheld by Kodabow)
BTW, I now realize why one should never send a second arrow to the same bull.  I didn't shatter the first shaft but it was close enough to send me the message.  Tough problem to have I guess.

Thank you for the nice letter. G.M. is right! April and May signal turkey season. Good luck out there and may the big gobblers hear your calling! 
My best,  Chuck at Kodabow