Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Killing a treed bear: a post for Fair Chase Hunting

Hounds work to pick up a cold bear trail.

© Holly A. Heyser 2012
I did something this weekend that I wouldn't have dreamed of doing three years ago: I hunted bears with hounds, and shot a bear out of a tree.

Did that get you emotionally riled up? It does that to everyone - not just non-hunters, but many hunters as well. That's why I decided to examine my reasons for going on the hunt (and for having an aversion to such things previously) in a post for Fair Chase Hunting, the blog of Orion The Hunter's Institute.

© Holly A. Heyser 2012

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Benelli SuperNova: review for

If there's a hierarchy in shotguns, pumps are at the bottom (cheap), autoloaders are in the middle (faster!) and doubles are at the top (elegant, nostalgic and ridiculously overpriced at the high end).

Leave it to me, though, to look into taking a step down, rather than up. After growing tired of my autoloader's propensity to develop rust in places I couldn't reach, leading to my gun jamming at inopportune times, I wanted to see if I could make a switch to a more durable pump.

The results of my experiment with the Benelli SuperNova have been published in a gun review for

Included in the review is my very first appearance in front of the camera in this demo showing how easy it is to break down the SuperNova.

© Holly A. Heyser 2012

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Hunting the unexpected - a column in Shotgun Life

Me, one hen bufflehead and my new(ish) car after its first mudbath.
The day before Thanksgiving, I got a chance to do something I've been wanting to do for ages - go exploring a big public-land hunt area I'd never been to before.

As you can see from the photo, I didn't exactly leave with a full strap of ducks.

But the trip proved to be very fruitful anyway. To find out why, check out my latest column for Shotgun Life.

© Holly A. Heyser 2012

Friday, November 2, 2012

The danger of getting your hopes up - a column in Shotgun Life

When you get a primo invitation to a primo spot on the duck opener, it is really, really hard to contain your excitement. How could it be anything but lights-out shooting?

Then when the day comes, and you don't hear a single duck on your walk to the blind, you snap back to reality pretty quickly.

And what happens next is something you'll never forget.

© Holly A. Heyser 2012

Monday, October 1, 2012

Duck hunting tips that REALLY work - a column in Shotgun LIfe

© Holly A. Heyser
Far be it from me to lecture anyone on how best to shoot ducks. Six years into this pursuit, there are still days I can't hit the broad side of a barn.

But I have learned the foolproof ways to ruin a duck hunt, and you can read about them in my latest column in Shotgun Life.

© Holly A. Heyser 2012

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Copper River salmon - a story in the Sacramento Bee

This is a dish prepared by Chef Jeremy Storm of the
Orca Adventure Lodge. Click here for the recipe.
Photo © Holly A. Heyser
Spent a few days in Cordova, Alaska, this summer indulging in great fishing, more great fishing, endless great eating and drinking a lot of Alaskan ale (mostly Summer and Amber, in case you're curious).

A few pounds and 2,800 photos later (yes, literally), I gave birth to this big ole spread for the Sacramento Bee about the delights of eating Copper River salmon. I'm pretty excited that I got the words "orgiastic gluttony" into the first paragraph of the story.

Do I have your attention now? Awesome! Click on over and check it out. And if you'd like to see some of the photos that didn't make print, scroll on down.

This was the view from our campfire at the Orca Adventure Lodge in Cordova, Alaska. Those were bald eagles on the pilings, BTW. Saw LOTS of bald eagles up there. Photo © Holly A. Heyser

Captain Brian Rutzer, left, talks with food videographer Daniel Klein while we're out fishing for sockeye on Rutzer's gillnetter, Controller Bay. Can I just say that my Tokina 11-16mm lens served me really well in tight quarters on this trip? Photo © Holly A. Heyser

Mikal Berry is the owner of the Fishwives food truck based in Cordova, Alaska. Beautiful woman! You've got to check out her salmon chowder recipe on the SacBee site. Photo © Holly A. Heyser

Can you think of a prettier backdrop for a food truck? 
Photo © Holly A. Heyser

That's my boyfriend Hank Shaw setting the hook on the last salmon we caught that day - a pink. Epic fishing - you couldn't go more than a cast or two without getting a bite. Our guide was Ian Winder of the Orca Adventure Lodge.  And BTW, Hank just posted a salmon recipe on his website this week. We've been eating LOTS of salmon.
Photo © Holly A. Heyser

Brian Wildrick, who owns Harborside Pizza, makes a couple mean salmon pizzas. 
© Holly A. Heyser

These sockeye salmon are near the end of their lives, just chillin' and hanging out, waiting for the last act: spawning. 
Photo © Holly A. Heyser
Food videographer Daniel Klein photographs the surreal glacial melt near the sockeye spawning beds. 
© Holly A. Heyser
© Holly A. Heyser 2012

Saturday, September 1, 2012

California's see-sawing dove seasons - a column in Shotgun Life

It's the dove opener today in California, and probably in most other states with a dove season as well, and wanna know what I did this morning? I slept in.

Yes, it's true. I wasn't there for the thunder at dawn - our morning hunt plans fell through. Wah!

But we'll hunt the afternoon, and I can't wait, because I've been wondering all summer what it's gonna be this year: awful, like last year? Epic like the year before? Something in between?

You can check out my prediction in my latest column in Shotgun Life. If you've been out after doves already today, be sure to weigh over there (you can comment on that site with your Facebook sign-in) and let me know if I was right or dead wrong.

© Holly A. Heyser 2012

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Announcing... a new blog gig!

Photo illustration by Holly Heyser
I know this, combined with my previous post, is going to make you feel like you're in a house of mirrors for a moment, but bear with me.

I'm excited to announce I'm now a contributor to Fair Chase Hunting, a hunting ethics blog operated by Orion: The Hunter's Institute. My first post is an ethics discussion about the rabbit hunt that is the topic of my August column for Shotgun Life.

I won't be doing that every time, just linking back and forth willy nilly, but this piece in particular had a lot of crossover interest.

What? Oh. OK, I know it was just a few months ago that I said I was done blogging. But aside from the fact that I'm one of many contributors to Fair Chase, which lightens my load, hunting ethics is a topic of great interest to me, and it would've been insane to turn down an opportunity to be part of this ongoing discussion.

I'd like to publicly thank Orion Executive Director Jim Tantillo for reaching out with the offer, which is especially noteworthy given that I've argued with him elsewhere in the blogosphere quite vigorously.

While the Fair Chase Hunting blog makes clear that posts there don't necessarily reflect the official views of Orion, it says a lot about Jim and the organization that they consider open and spirited debate to be valuable. If you're not already a reader of Fair Chase, please head on over and check it out.

© Holly A. Heyser 2012

Rabbit hunting ain't easy - a column for Shotgun Life

I went on a rabbit hunt with a filmmaker in tow last month, and I spent a lot of time warning her how difficult it would be to catch the action because you usually have a split second to make a shot before a rabbit disappears.

How wrong I was! Check out the story here.

© Holly A. Heyser 2012

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Fickle confidence - a column for Shotgun Life

The most elusive game for me is not a bird or a mammal or a fish - it's my confidence. Yet somehow, I can still pull out of a downward shooting spiral once in a while and make some really good shots. That little roller coaster ride is the topic of my latest column for Shotgun Life.

© Holly A. Heyser 2012

Thursday, June 21, 2012

VIDEO: How to Gut a Duck

I know we're smack in the middle of "Not Duck Season," but I've finally edited the third in a series of videos about cleaning wild ducks.

This video features Hunt, Gather, Cook author Hank Shaw demonstrating how to gut a duck, saving the wings, gizzard, heart and liver, as well as the feet (for stock) and fat (for rendering). To see the "How to Pluck a Duck" video, go here.

If you have sea ducks or other waterfowl that have an off taste, try skinning them - the flavor (and aroma) lives in the fat and skin. The skinning video is here.

And yes, I know it's easier to breast out your ducks, but you're wasting half the meat when you do that. Want proof? Read this.

© Holly A. Heyser 2012

Friday, June 1, 2012

'I need to kill something' - a column for Shotgun Life

Oh, bad, bad me - I've gone and written a provocative headline again.

So what's this one about?

There are things hunters will say to each other that they won't say to most non-hunters because they know fellow hunters understand what they mean.

Today's column in Shotgun Life is about what it really means when I say, "I need to kill something." Hint: Killing is entirely secondary.

If you're on LinkedIn and a member of its Hunters and Anglers group, you can join a discussion on the topic (oh yeah, I've already been chastised for writing this piece). Or you can leave a comment on the Shotgun Life page via Facebook.

© Holly A. Heyser 2012

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Five things you need to know when teaching a woman how to shoot a shotgun - a column for shotgun life

© Holly A. Heyser
Gunmaker Dale Tate fits a shotgun
for a left-handed shooter.
Are female shooters really that different than male shooters?

In proficiency, no. But there are some key differences between us when it comes to getting us started with shotguns, and that's what I've written about for this month's column in Shotgun Life.

© Holly A. Heyser 2012

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Hunting with hounds - an op-ed for the Sacramento Bee

There's a bill in California that would ban hunting bear and bobcat with hounds. I have never done either; I'm the kind of hunter who prefers quiet ambush over chase. But the bill bugs me, so I decided to write an op-ed about it for the Sacramento Bee.

There are a couple reasons the bill bugs me, the first being that hounding is simply low-hanging fruit for the Humane Society of the United States, which does not approve of any hunting. This organization's MO is to push for bans of the least popular forms of hunting. Bears are charismatic megafauna, so it's pretty easy to convince the non-hunting public that bear hunters are big fat meanies.

Source: "The Future of Hunting and the Shooting Sports,"
Responsive Management, 2008. (Click to enlarge.)
So, you know what happens when all the low-hanging fruit has been picked, right? Yep, there's a whole new batch of fruit that now hangs lowest on the tree.

HSUS' strategy on bills like this is to paint a picture that freaks people out: Hounds chase bear, bear takes refuge in a tree, big fat lazy hunters get out of their pickups and go shoot the treed, frightened bear. What I did in my piece for the Bee was point out that most of the animals we eat - and yes, the vast majority of Americans do eat meat - experience fear and are also trapped, with no way out of their impending death.

Of course some people may react to that knowledge by saying, "Dang, I shouldn't eat meat anymore." But most people are avowed omnivores who aren't willing to give up meat.

I know my arguments do nothing to sway vegan and vegetarian animal rights activists - my arguments are precisely why many of them gave up meat in the first place. But I'm not worried about their opinion; I seek only to sway the vast middle, the people who might be moved by HSUS propaganda, but might also be open to thinking about the other side of this debate.

There are actually a ton of reasons this bill shouldn't pass, and the level-headed California Outdoor Heritage Alliance is making all of those points to legislators.

But there's one other point I'd like to make here that wouldn't fit into the op-ed: Notice anything missing from this bill? Yep, you got it: pigs. Houndsmen and -women also hunt pigs with dogs, but this bill won't touch that, for at least two reasons.

1) Landowners with wild boar infestations would howl if any means of eliminating them were taken off the table. With pigs being an invasive species, there is broad support for getting rid of them.

2) While I'm quite fond of pigs, they are not considered charismatic megafauna. They are scraggly, dirty and mean. So you can't really generate much public pity for pigs.

At least not until they become the next low-hanging fruit.

© Holly A. Heyser 2012

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Cal Expo Dog Show - a story in the Sacramento Bee

                  © Holly A. Heyser
Carole Baird, owner of the
Creekside Pet Resort, and her

border collie Celine.
Most of the time if I'm writing about dogs, I'm writing about hunting dogs, but this story took me in a totally different direction: show dogs.

Of course, in the process of reporting this story, I learned it wasn't a totally different direction. Plenty of hunting dogs compete in dog shows; it's how their breeders demonstrate their quality.

Outtake: Did you know that when judges examine male dogs, they will reach between their legs to make sure the family jewels are still there? Dang, you've got to have a well-trained dog to stand still when someone's doing that to him.

© Holly A. Heyser 2012

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Turkey hunting - a column for Shotgun Life

OK, I know the die-hard turkey hunters out there are going to hate this, but I don't love turkey hunting, and I explain why in this column for Shotgun Life.

The timing of this column is perfect: Today is the second day of spring turkey season in California, and not only have I not gone out, but I've not even tried to set anything up.

That said, if I get a chance to go out, I will, and if I get a turkey, I'll be thrilled. Well, at least until the plucking begins. Read the column, though, and you'll see what I'd rather be doing.

And while you're on the site, I strongly recommend registering to sign up for some of the Shotgun Life email lists. I know, those emails can be such a pain, but Shotgun Life has an excellent "60 Seconds with _____" daily email with concise tips about shooting. Other email lists make me hit the delete button; this one, though, I read every time.

© Holly A. Heyser 2012

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Biathlon - a story in the Sacramento Bee

                                                            Photo © Holly A. Heyser 2012

A novice biathlete racing at the Auburn Ski Club drops
to the pad where she'll take five shots at targets 50 yards
away with a .22 rifle. Novices are not allowed to carry
rifles while skiing until they're certified.
Man, doing this story for the Sacramento Bee really made me want to branch out and try biathlon. It's not just because I need the exercise (boy do I!), but also because biathlon teaches you to calm your racing heart before taking a shot. Sounds perfect for hunting big game, eh?

Cool thing I learned during the reporting on this one is that one of the very few biathlon ranges in the entire West is just up the hill from where I live in Sacramento.

If any of you locals want to give it a try, the Auburn Ski Club will be doing another beginners clinic April 21, followed by a race the next day. The info is in the story.

© Holly A. Heyser 2012

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Guns, ammo and Google - an op-ed in the Mercury News

This op-ed might be of special interest to hunters and hunting bloggers/website operators - it's about Google's policy on advertising firearms and ammunition.

It's an uphill battle convincing folks that there are legitimate uses for guns and ammo, but it's one very much worth fighting.

© Holly A. Heyser 2012