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    Interviews with outdoor personalities

    Talking With Tim Austin From Vortex Optics

    As most of you may know, I am a member of Vortex Optics’ Shooting Staff, helping promote their products in Arizona. It’s not hard; Vortex has quickly gained a reputation for quality optics at an affordable price, protected by an ironclad guarantee and awesome customer service. I have worked with Tim Austin for several years now, and know that he does a great job for Vortex. Recently, I saw a picture of Tim with a great doe - and he was sitting on his modified scooter. I’ve always thought Tim would make a great interview regardless ; the fact that he could help educate my readers about hunters with disabilities makes it that much better! A sincere “Thank You” to Tim for taking the time to answer some questions. ~DesertRat

    1) I’ve really enjoyed working with you at Vortex - how long have you worked with them? Could you tell my readers a little about what you do?
    “I’ve worked with Vortex since March 1998. I started out in the shipping department. Now I work with the Shooting Staff, I service accounts - about 300 across the US. We’re a small company, about 40 fulltime employees, so we all do a little bit of everything to fill in where needed. It’s a very flexible job.”

    2) If I have readers who aren’t very familiar with Vortex products, what would you want them to know?
    “We’re one of the few US-owned and operated optics companies left in the US. We do all of our design, testing and prototype work here in-house. We do outsource some marketing functions. All of our repair and warranty work is done in-house as well. Vortex works very closely with our overseas manufacturers especially in regards to Quality Control and Manufacturing specifications.”

    3) To many, working with a company like Vortex seems like a “dream job”. What’s your favorite thing about your job? What’s your least favorite?
    I like everything about my job. I like the flexibility. I enjoy working with customers. We are proud to treat delaers and customers the way we would want to be treated. The Warranty is great. (Desert Rat) - I run into a lot of people who are surprised by their experience with Vortex. Your customer service really seems to go above and beyond… “The customer always comes first, no matter what.” Least favorite? (Tim laughs) “I guess the weekends never seem to be long enough!”

    4) I was struck by the photo of you in the Vortex Shooting Staff Message Board; it showed you with a big doe you had just arrowed and you were in your power chair. It looked like it had been adapted for hunting. Can you tell us a bit about your “hunting chair”?
    The chair started out as a Wrangler by Pride Mobility. I added several off-road enhancements. It has different tires, seat cover, seat is lowered to lower the center of gravity, and - I painted it camo. It sure does make a difference!

    5) Would you mind telling my readers a bit about the nature of your disability?
    I was in a motorcycle accident in July 1990. I am paralyzed from the chest down.

    6) My wife has been in a chair since she was little. I know she likes to “educate” people when she has the opportunity. She likes to de-mystify disabilities and help defray some of the misperceptions out there. She finds that a little bit of discourse makes it much more comfortable for everybody. Do you share similar views? What’s your message to folks out there who may not be familiar with people who have disabilities? Talk a bit about what you would like to pass along to “Joe Hunter”.
    People are curious. If you are unsure or curious, just ask. I do a lot of mentoring at a local hospital. People facing a new disability are often very apprehensive - “What’s it going to be like? What do I do? How does this all work?” When I talk to them and tell them about my job and hunting and other activities, I can see the gears turning. They think “Maybe I can do this afterall.” It’s a great feeling when you’re not scared any more.

    7) I know there is at least a group or two out there that cater to hunters with disabilities. Do you belong to any of those organizations?
    I’m a supporter of the Adaptive Sportsmen. I don’t participate on their hunts, but I am a supporter. I can hunt as much as I want, really - and I don’t want to take a spot away from someone who needs it. I also belong to Madison’s Spinal Cord Injury Group. There are a lot of great groups out there doing good work. I can also tell you that members are very appreciative of all the volunteers that support those groups and make it all possible.

    8 ) If I have readers out there who want to hunt but have some physical challenges, what is your advice to them? Any other resources you could recommend?
    I tell people to get on the internet and find the resources they need. There are so many groups, organizations and individuals that can help these days, people just need to reach out and find what fits their situation the best. People don’t realize the nature of the challenges until they face them - use your network. It’s not unusual for someone to say “Hey I met someone who did this or that, that had a disability”. Tweak their memory - they can put 2 and 2 together and help build your network. Bottom line - don’t be afraid. Figure it out, get out and do it. You can still achieve your life goals, you just need to figure it out.

    9) What’s your favorite place to hunt? Species? Biggest hunting accomplishment yet?
    I think at my cabin in central Wisconsin. I just love to hunt, I bow and rifle hunt. I think my biggest accomplishment was my first buck taken with a bow since my accident. I had hunted with crossbows but at some point I decided to start hunting with the compound. I’d played around with bows since I was 12, but never really hunted with them. My first buck was taken at 17 yards. I’ll never forget that experience!

    10) What are some hunts on your “wish list”? What’s your dream hunt?
    A turkey with a bow is on my wish list. I’d like to hunt antelope some day too. They are a pretty cool looking animal. Whatever my dream hunts - they will all be with a bow, from now on!

    A big thanks again to Tim from Vortex. Maybe you have a group near you that assists sportsmen and women with challenges reach their goals - see if they need a hand! Conversely, maybe you know someone who is ill or an accident victim and thinks they can’t hunt or fish. Now you know different! Help get them involved!

    One last treat - here is how Tim “celebrated” the 20th anniversary of his accident:

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    Posted on 20th October 2010
    Under: General, Hunting, Interviews | 1 Comment »

    Esterhuizen African Safaris

    I would sincerely like to thank Werner Esterhuizen from Esterhuizen African Safaris for taking the time to answer some interview questions. Africa is on my “bucket-list” so hopefully some day my conversations with Werner will be face-to-face. Look for future collaborations with Werner in the future. I have asked him to stay in touch and let us know when he has news, cancellations, etc. He sent me a bunch of great photos so I will post some periodically. Please if you ever wondered about hunting Africa, get in touch with Werner. He will be happy to answer any and all of your questions! ~DesertRat

    1)How long have you been an Outfitter and PH?

    I have only started by own Outfit a year ago with all the experience I have seen through the years of hunting with Local and International Clients and Friends. I started hunting with my Dad when I was around 7 starting of with a .22. Now it is the only thing I like to do with my family by my side!

    2)What is the most common mistake made by a hunter planning his or her first trip to Africa?

    At Esterhuizen Africa Safaris we give the Hunter and Experience from being in Africa. So when planning they must plan with their Outfitter and ask him all questions they need too. A lot of hunters think it is there first and last time in Africa and want to take as many as possible Trophies (no problem with it!) but they cut down on hunting time. Always give yourself enough hunting time to obtain quality trophies and relax and enjoy this Experience!! We have a lot of Animals but we want to get the animal you and your PH are happy with taking! Hunting in Africa is exactly what you make of it, enjoy it, be positive and relax!

    3) If a hunter is on a budget by really wants to go and experience Africa, what is your recommendation for a first time hunt?

    I think it is really a personal choice and a very difficult one to decide what wonderful African Animals to hunt! Most of all plains game hunters really love the Greater Kudu and it is an excellent animal to hunt and very cunning, this is always on the list and mostly the Nr 1 Trophy on most clients lists. Then you can hunt the very popular Warthog that everybody love to take, Impala with its very impressive horns, Whiteface Blesbuck and then tuff poor mans buffalo the Blue Wildebeest. This is a rather very standard package and relatively inexpensive hunt with the Greater Kudu being your most expensive animal on the list.

    Then I get clients that like to hunt only maybe a Trophy Kudu and Gemsbuck and like to take other non-trophy animals and that cut down your cost and this is a perfect way to hunt a lot of animals at a great price. Hunters must discuss their package required with their Outfitter and at Esterhuizen Africa Safaris I make custom packages for any hunter to try and get all his animals so that it will fit his pocket!

    4) Do you yourself get to hunt much, or do you spend all of your time guiding other hunters?

    Having a passion for Hunting I always get some time for hunting and hunt with my family a lot. I am introducing the hunting to my Sons age 3 and 5 so I spend as much time in the bush with them as I can and as far as they can walk. But the early mornings are normally my own hunting time, listening too the bush and all its birds, reading the tracks and looking at all the beautiful animals and when we need something for the pot I will take it.

    5) What is your favorite animal to hunt where you are?

    Also so difficult question as they all so special! For me personally I like hunting Blue Wildebeest for meat and they are a very challenging and tuff animal that you can’t make mistakes on otherwise you will walk for hours, also the reason they call it the Poor Mans Buffalo! But I love hunting all animals from in our area from Steenbuck to Eland. We also have Big 5 Animals in the area but they for a different discussion.

    6) Have you ever been to North America to hunt? If so, what is your favorite hunt here?

    No but I would really like to spend some time hunting with some friends ASAP!!

    7) What is the dream hunt that you haven’t been on yet?

    Well the one dream will always be bigger and better than the next one but I think hunting with family and friends and sharing the hunting Experience is the hunting DREAM! I think it is what you as hunter makes of a hunt if it is a dream hunt or not. There are always the next wish with bigger and better trophies etc.

    8 ) If a potential hunter wants to bring along some friends or family that are non-hunters, what are some other things they can do on the trip?

    We like to offer some variety of things for the day like Golf, Visits to Mines and Cultural Villages, Shopping, Day Spa Activities, Elephant interaction, Clay Pigeon shooting, Bow shooting, Very Exiting Micro light Flights and what ever you like to do we can try and accommodate.

    9) What do you think is the biggest surprise to most people, the first time they hunt Africa?

    A lot of visitors to Africa in generally think, hear and see crime in the papers and on the television but when they come to Africa and experience the peoples hospitality etc they can’t believe that it is the some country. Well and then we also have got people that think we stay in Tree house and have Lions for pets.

    10) What does the future of hunting look like in Africa?

    In South Africa we have more animals than ever before and I think hunting in South Africa will grow due to safety, affordability and quality. There are talks for example in Botswana that some areas will close down for hunting and that will be sad as the Hunters are the real Conservationist of the World!

    Werner with a happy client

    Werner’s 2010 Specials - HERE

    Other activities - take your family! LOOK!

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    Posted on 9th October 2010
    Under: General, Hunting, Interviews | No Comments »

    Artist Could Use Some Help

    A couple of years ago, I made a post about artist Ryan Jacque. Now, I can’t even remember where I ran across his work, just that I was struck by it, and wanted to spread the word about his incredible talent. Well, today I heard from him, out of the blue. A couple of months after my post about his work, Ryan was seriously injured in a fall from a treestand (November 2008). Ryan let me know that he is just now getting things back on track with his recovery. As it turns out, Ryan didn’t want anything, he just wanted to say thank you for making the post about his art.

    Anyway, I can only imagine what being out of commission for a year and a half does to your life, your family, your psyche. If any of you are regular or even occasional purchasers of fine art, I would ask that you check out Ryan’s work. Honestly, it is amazing. I’m sure a bump in his sales would be a blessing right about now.

    For some real inspiration, you can read about Ryan’s injury and journey to recovery here : RYAN JACQUE

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    Posted on 19th June 2010
    Under: General, Interviews | No Comments »

    Interview With Doug at Cameraland

    Doug Paymer of Camera Land has become a great friend of the Desert Rat Blog. Doug is well-known through his participation on a bunch of hunting message boards across the internet, including our own AHT Forums. If you are interested in purchasing cameras or optics, please contact Doug. I guarantee his knowledge will impress you. They are also a dealer for Vortex. Thanks Doug, for taking the time to answer some questions! ~DesertRat

    1) You are one of the few companies that really seems to utilize the power of the internet, especially when it comes to participation on message boards, forums, etc. How did that strategy come about for Camera Land? We are a family owned and operated business, here since 1957, and Dad has taught us that we must make the difference in how we present ourselves and providing the best customer service we can. Everyone carries the same goods so we must be the difference that separates us from everyone else (BTW, Dad still comes in twice a week and will be 80 in August). The forums/message boards a community made up of the people that use the goods that we handle. It makes good sense to get involved and provide what assistance we can.

    2) How much of your sales volume is internet versus local? I would say about 1/3rd

    3) You’ve become very well known around the ‘net, especially on the hunting sites. Are you a hunter yourself? I am a fisherman. Every July I spend a week fishing in Alaska, I try to go down to Central America in the Spring and being on the South Shore of L.I. in NY, from Spring thru Fall, whenever I can find the time, we Deep Sea out to Hudson Canyon (about 80 miles off shore) for Big Game Sport Fish. My wife has informed me that if I add anything else to my “away from the family time” I will have all the time I can use as I will have no family :>) I do manage to go to the range with buddies when time permits

    4) What are some of the most common questions from hunters when it comes to optics? How about cameras? I do not know if you’d have enough space to post this “interview” to completely answer this question. There is no such thing as a “common question” when it comes to the needs/wants of people. We get lots of “How would you compare this to that” questions and “What power is suggested for…”, “What camera is best for…..”, Eye Relief questions, ED vs Standard glass, Best way to Digiscope, etc.

    5) You’ve been in the business a long time - what are some of the advances or trends that have surprised you, in the past few years? On the camera side it was the coming of age of Digital and the basic extinction of film. Wow, is all I can say. Cameras that for under $200.00 can go under water, be dropped from 5′ and take super high quality images. On the Sports Optics side it is the improvements in sub $1000.00 and sub $500.00 options from the Asian mfg’s. The $1500.00 Alpha Euro glass of 10 years ago can now be had from Minox, Pentax, Vortex, Promaster, etc for less than $750.00. it’s amazing

    6) If you could offer one piece of advice to hunters considering new optics, what would it be? Bragging rights mean nothing. Have an open mind to what is now available. Seeing what is best for you is the best way to choose, not what hype says would be best.

    7) What are some common mistakes to avoid, when buying a new camera?
    Over buying. A 6MP camera will make a perfect 8×10. Most folks never make more than a 4×6 print. Everyone is different, however, I have found that for 80% of consumers a camera that is simple to operate, can produce great family, vacation, children and game shots is all that is needed. Key word……simple. Most people are picture takers, not photographers and have no interest in Photography per say. They just want a good shot.

    Thank you for your continued support.
    If there is anything else that I can assist you with please let me know.

    Please visit our website @ www.cameralandny.com

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    Posted on 11th March 2010
    Under: General, Interviews | No Comments »

    So, what’s going on at Camp Patriot?

    A couple of years ago, Camp Patriot was a fairly new organization and I made some efforts to help promote their awesome group. I have reconnected with the Clarks, and friend Bill was kind enough to provide an update. We promised to stay in better touch, so that I can help spread the word about Camp Patriot! ~DesertRat

    From Bill Clark:

    Camp Patriot is moving along nicely. In 2009 we climbed Mt. Rainier with three new injured vets. Two Army Green Beret’s (SF) who were both badly wounded in Iraq and a third Army Officer Ranger that months before the climb was paralyzed from the neck down and told he would never walk again. Video of some of the climb can be seen on our web site at www.camppatriot.org under the 2009 Rainier Climb.

    There are a number of still photos there and at the bottom of the entire page; you will find a link to the video. On the Video the first person you see is Ryan Job, wearing a light blue t-shirt with a grey pack. Ryan was our National Spokesman that we tragically lost this past September 24, 2009 from complications in surgery. Ryan was a Navy SEAL totally blinded during a fire fight from a snipers round. Ryan left behind his young bride and their unborn baby. We miss him terribly. The other vets are in the video as well as the climbing team.

    We took two more vets on an elk hunt at a ranch in Idaho. On our web site there are news clips and photos of that hunt. A Navy SEAL that had lost a leg, has severe Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and is mostly confined to a wheel chair along with an Army Reservist from Illinois who had lost a hand and forearm. Both bagged beautiful bull elk.

    We did a motor cycle ride through Glacier National Park with two injured soldiers from Ft. Lewis WA.

    Other functions in 2009 included taking vets fishing, attending some Seahawks’ games and hunting in Texas.

    2010 is shaping up to be another busy year. Our Rainier Climb this year will be July 10 – 15, tentatively. We have four injured vets, three SEAL’s and one Marine. We will have our second annual fund-raising banquet at Quest Field home of the Seahawks. Camp Patriot will be working with the Pony Express memorial ride to put several injured vets on horseback for several hundred miles of that ride.

    Actor Cole Houser and his brother are putting a fund-raising golf tournament on in So Cal. this summer. A local lady in SE Washington State is also planning a gold tournament as a fund raiser in honor of her son who will be discharged after honorable service in the Marine Corps, this summer.

    We will be planning another Motor cycle ride this year among many other adventures.

    More on Camp Patriot:

    Our Mission

    Camp Patriot exists to take Disabled U.S. Veterans on outdoor adventures.

    The task is monumental. Today, there are over 2.3 million disabled veterans in the U.S. The number of disabled men and women veterans is growing with each day the war on terror continues.

    These brave veterans sacrificed much in order to ensure our safety and freedom. All of these veterans had dreams about the future, but many of those dreams were lost due to injuries suffered in the line of duty. Outdoor activities that they hoped to do in the future have vanished due to their disability. We want to thank these veterans by showing them that with the right help, they can again enjoy the great outdoors.

    Our Vision

    We are attempting to provide a great gift for those Veterans among us that have paid a tremendous price for our freedom. They have provided us protection from terrorism, oppression and tyranny. Consider for a moment the world outside these United States and you will understand what I mean!

    Camp Patriot wants to renew the dreams and visions of our disabled veterans for a meaningful future. We will be bringing disabled American Veterans to the great State of Montana for outdoor adventures of their choosing. However, outdoor adventures are just some of the activities we provide disabled U.S. Military Veterans at Camp Patriot. We want to create relationships for them through outdoor adventures that will promote positive, life changing experiences.

    With the construction of a first-class lodge outside of Libby, MT, we will be able to accommodate up to 20 Veterans per week. We will provide a range of outdoor activities, and will be equipped to accommodate Veterans with an array of disabilities. There will be no cost to the Veteran.

    Our Quest

    How can we ever repay an American Veteran who has endured so much personal loss while defending our great nation?… losses that can never be replaced!

    Our actions will say, “Thank You for Your Service!”

    Will you help us by your actions to say “Thank You” to the millions of disabled American Veterans?

    Camp Patriot is a non-profit 501(c) 3 Corporation. A simple monetary “Thank you for your service!” could help us go a long way, and bring us closer as a nation in repaying these great patriots for their service and sacrifice.

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    Posted on 2nd March 2010
    Under: General, Hunting, Interviews | No Comments »

    Desert Rat Chats With Sparky From M2D Camo

    Mike (Sparky) Sparkes and I have been having some e-mail correspondence and I thought my readers might enjoy learning more. Sparky owns M2D camo. They have a great looking product. You’ll also want to check out their TV Show - “Livin The Dream”~DesertRat

    1) Thanks for taking the time for an interview Sparky - how long has M2D Camo been on the market?
    I designed M2D CAMO in the fall of 2005 and unveiled it at the ATA and Shot Show in Jan of 2006. So we have been on the market about 3 seasons.

    2) How have sales been in this economy?

    Sales have been okay. As a small company we have grown in our 3 years of sales so that is good. We continue to get new customers, because we have a very good word of mouth product. People that wear M2D CAMO love to tell others about how great it truly does work. It’s hard to argue with that. I think the economy has made things more difficult for a small company as Dealers don’t buy new products as much, and big dealers stick with what they know has proven itself already.

    3) Why did you decide to develop your line of camo?
    I was sick and tired of all the camo out there because no matter what you wear, it all BLACK BLOBS at a very short distance. I wanted a pattern that stayed light in color, and actually created a pattern that has the ability to appear to change colors, no matter your environment. It truly is amazing to watch it change colors when you move from one location to the next. We believe anybody that truly gives it a shot in the woods, will love it. That’s why we offer a 100% money back guarantee. We have a lot of naysayers, that tell us our photos are photo shopped, or that it really doesn’t do what we say. Well, if it didn’t, we sure wouldn’t offer a 100% money back guarantee, now would we?

    4) From concept to marketplace, how long did the process take? What were some of the more surprising challenges along the way?
    It took about a year and a half to develop and actually make a small run of fabric. Then about another 7 months to actually get to market. There are lots of challenges, when you know nothing about what you are getting into. I didn’t know anything about fabric, dealing with China, clothing, etc. The other major surprise is how loyal some people are to the camos that all look the same, but they want to wear them because of what they say, not because of how they work in the field. Most camo today is designed to look good on the hunter in church, at school, yet does very little to actually conceal you in the real world of hunting.

    5) What is your favorite game to hunt?
    I love to hunt Elk in the rut with my bow. I love a good mule deer hunt, as I think a BIG mule deer is one of the hardest trophies out there to get. I love it all, but those are my two favorites.

    6) What’s your dream hunt?
    I have been very fortunate to go on many hunts over the last few years, harvest some nice animals, meet some GREAT people along the way, and just have good times with good people. I love all hunting from predators and birds to big game. My dream hunts are hunts I can afford, and that pretty much keeps me in the US and Canada. BUT, if costs were no object, and I could hunt one thing and not worry about it, I would want a nice male lion from Africa. I am a Leo, and have always loved lions. So regal. Second would be a Grizzly bear hunt. Maybe someday I will be lucky enough to go hunt one and film for my TV show….you never know….that’s why they call it a DREAM HUNT

    7) Where would you like to see M2D Camo five years from now?
    I would like to see M2D CAMO still growing and gaining a bigger following. The longer we stick around, the more customers we continue to become true believes in M2D CAMO. I hope we still have our TV show, and my biggest hope is that we are finally in the big box stores so everyone out there can have access to M2D CAMO in their own local markets.

    8 ) Anything exciting coming in the near future for M2D?
    We have a great fleece line that we introduced this year, that people LOVE. We also made our pattern available for the water transfer process, or dipping as it is called. I have developed a pretty cool snow pattern that we just got the samples for, so we may come out with that for the fall of 2010. We hope to have more specialty products this fall like pop up blinds, lay out blinds, decoy bags, back packs, fanny packs, and maybe a few more items.

    Thanks so much for taking some time for my readers!

    Your very welcome, and Thank you for taking the time to learn more about myself and M2D CAMO.

    Folks, I strongly encourage you to check out M2D Camo’s website. It’s a site that has a lot of neat stuff, and it is put together well. You can order M2D online at their store. DesertRat

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    Posted on 12th February 2010
    Under: General, Hunting, Interviews, Products | No Comments »

    My 2010 Goals

    I stopped making New year’s Resolutions a long time ago. They’re too cliche, and it’s too much like failure if/when they don’t come to fruition. That being said, it doesn’t hurt to have some goals. Here are some of mine, in no particular order…

    1) To take my daughter hunting more - if she wants to. We make it out once or twice a year. She seems to enjoy it, but it’s hard to tell. It’s hard for us to get out, but I am going to make a concerted effort to take her afield more this year. It’s hard to tell sometimes whether she really wants to go hunting, or whether she just doesn’t want to hurt dad’s feelings. If she wants to go, we will. If she wants to do something different, we’ll do that instead. I’m feeling more and more mortal these days, so I think its important to spend a little extra time with her. She’s a good girl, and a pretty darned good writer.

    2) Do more fishing. I used to love to fish, even more than hunting I think. That being said, I haven’t been in well over a year. I want to get fishing on a “natural” waterway this year, preferably a river. I think the Urban Fishing program is an awesome program, but it in the past, it just hasn’t “done it” for me. I grew up in fishing paradise (to me anyway) - alder choked streams for brook trout, big rivers for smallmouth bass, the mighty Miramichi for salmon, beautiful wilderness lakes for landlocked salmon. It’s time to expand my boundaries here in Arizona. Hit the urban lakes for sure, but beyond as well. I really miss fly-fishing.

    3) Buy a new rifle. I’m not a “gun guy”, more by economics than by choice. Basically I keep a deer/elk rifle, a predator rifle, a muzzleloader, a bow, a handgun, and a general purpose shotgun in the safe. Last year, with a heavy heart, I sold my deer/elk rifle. Finances were tight. The rifle was a Remington .30-06 Semi-Auto, the 3rd one I have owned in my life. It was a gift from my wife and I hated to part with it. That said, the funds got us out of a bind, and we are back on the road to some stability. I’m really sold on the .270 WSM and have my eye on the Weatherby Sage Country, but we’ll see. I try pretty hard to only spend “side-money” on hunting stuff, so we’ll see how the economy treats me in 2010.

    4) Go dove hunting. I didn’t get out once this year. ‘Nuff said. I prefer the evening shoots.

    5) Learn more about predator hunting. Go to the AHT Forums and there’s a bunch of guys who eat this stuff up including my good friend John Petrello. This is gonna be my year when I officially become a “beginner” instead of a “dabbler”. Mikaela too, if she’s up for it. See #1.

    6) Improve my photography skills. As long as I’ve been writing magazine articles, pictures were a part of the job. I seem to have a knack for this, and am ready to move on to a new level. Maybe a course or two. Besides, based on my hunting skills/luck, I think my efforts would be better spent towards photography! My employers hosts community art exhibits constantly and this year we held a staff exhibit. I have some photos entered, and I kind of dig it. I enjoy the compliments, and it’s nice to have some recognition.

    7) Shoot an elk. My first and only elk hunt ever was a disaster. Time for redemption. I don’t care if it’s a cow, a spike or a 380-class bull. Whatever I have a tag for. Time to get drawn again and kick this particular monkey off my back!

    8 ) Start a new organization. I’m passionate about matters relating to hunting and fishing but due to my situation have limited time afield and not much ability to travel. I want to contribute though. I have an idea floating around my head. I have tossed this idea at another media member and he seemed to think it might have merit. here is how I presented it to him. “What about some kind of “southwest media for hunting ethics” organization where we hyper-promote responsible hunting, anti-poaching, education, recruitment, etc? We could form the nucleus and invite other media members to participate.

    I am driven to eradicate “slob hunters” from our midst as it is becoming harder and harder for the rest of us to disassociate ourselves from the irresponsible jerks. I just don’t quite know how to go about it. As you know, there are lots of Arizona hunting-related conservation groups that promote habitat improvement, etc. I envision a local group focused on raising the bar for ethical hunting and I think as media members it would be a great fit for us to lead the charge…..” Stay tuned, we’ll see if this picks up any speed.

    9) Buy a new camera. I have a great used camera that I bought from friend and outdoor writer Tony Mandile. I’d like to have one with more “oooomph” - the Olympus I bought from Tony has a max size/resolution of 3 MP. Modern cameras boast 10 or better. Maybe the guys at CameraLand will hook me up with an awesome package. Not sure if I want Canon, Nikon, Pentax or something else. Will need some help sorting through that from the experts. See Goal #3 though, this must be financed via side jobs!

    10) Grow the site. I have been extremely happy with the growth of my blog, but feel there is lots of room yet. I want more than traffic - I want to be a “Who’s who” in the outdoor industry. I want to build strategic partnerships with manufacturers. I want to make the blog better known. That sounds a bit egocentric, I suppose but I don’t want it to be. I’m just driven to be better.

    The AHT Forums have also grown nicely. Friends Dan and Roger have done a great job building the site but I think we are still a diamond in the rough. There are good folks and a lot of great features on that site, and it is still relatively unknown. I’m hoping 2010 is a breakout year for the Forums.

    Finally, the main site needs work. Owner Steve Remington and I want to find some willing contributors/volunteers and jazz the central site up some!

    All of the best to each and every one of you in the new year. Interested in sharing any of your goals?

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    Posted on 2nd January 2010
    Under: Arizona News, Fishing, General, Hunting, Interviews | 1 Comment »

    Notable Posts of 2009

    I can’t really say that these are my “best of” 2009, but I did review all of last year’s posts and try to pick out some that were the “best” and some that were the “biggest stories” and some that were just the most interesting for that particular month. There are some good ones here, if I do say so myself!~DesertRat

    January 2009 - My daughter went on her first ever big game hunt - a javelina hunt in Unit 33. No piggie for us that day, but a great day together and some lessons learned too! Read Miky’s Javelina Hunt

    February 2009 - Jaguar Captured and Collared in Southern AZ. This was a big story for a number of reasons!

    March 2009 - Macho B re-captured and subsequently euthanized. A sad continuation from February’s big story. This controversy is still simmering. Read that story HERE.

    April 2009 - My interview with Lennis Janzen of Crooked Horn Outfitters was April’s top post. Lennis and Brenda Negrete over at Crooked Horn Outfitters have been very supportive of the Desert Rat Blog. Lennis helped out by participating in a great interview and supplying some awesome photos as well.

    May 2009 - May was a weird month at Desert Rat, in that it generated 3 entries in this post! First was the “regular” top entry of May - my coverage of the NRA Convention which was held in Phoenix this year. What a great time! Next, my post about booth babes was the top-ranking single-day traffic post in Desert Rat history. A bigger gun blog linked over to my post and “voila” - well over 1000 unique visitors which is a standing record! Finally, another odd record. I reprinted a press release that I had received regarding the Can Cooker and that post has directed a ton of people to my site via Google (and other search engine) searches. Although it has slipped to Number Two (Elite Archery currently leads by 0.6%) for a long time, it reigned supreme. Odd - one vanilla post - and I’ve never even seen a real can cooker!

    June 2009 - For June I selected a “Most significant, but not very noticed” post. Being in the business of Facilities Management, I know what an achievement it is to build a LEED-certified building. Arizona Game and Fish should be extremely proud of their LEED Platinum facility! This press release actually led me to seek out a tour. I toured their great building with two co-workers and gained a lot of valuable info that I can use in my own facilities! Well done, Game and Fish!

    July 2009 - July’s cool post selection was my interview with Dr. Cade Smith, owner of The Claw. The Claw is an innovative product, and a cool company with Arizona roots! You can read that interview HERE.

    August 2009 - Top honors for August go to my interview with Laura Francese. Laura is an amazing lady, being a spokesperson for Martin Archery and a Buffalo Jills cheerleader to boot. She is involved in a number of charities as well. Coincidentally, someone else liked this post too - it got a “Top 50″ mention from another site.

    September 2009 - My post about Trophy’s Steakhouse made my list for a couple of reasons. Number One, it was my first ever attempt at a restaurant review. Next, it is a great restaurant in my town of Queen Creek and I want to do what I can to help them be successful! Finally, Trophy’s is a great public face for hunting, introducing folks to wild game meat while they dine in a classy environment full of awesome big game mounts!

    October 2009 - The Desert Rat Blog reached a personal and professional milestone with the celebration of its 100,000th Visitor! My contests were made possible through the generosity of several companies!

    November 2009 - My choice for November included a relatively insignificant event which was, however, another personal milestone for me. Thanks to Jim Solomon over at Xplor The Outdoors, I made my radio debut! You can read about it, and have a listen HERE. Thanks Jim!

    December 2009 - OK, another odd choice to round out the year. I do receive comments now and then regarding my photography skills. Even I am starting to admit that I am a better photographer than hunter. Anyway, it was a total fluke that I managed to capture an image of a hummingbird in mid-flight. So, not an amazing post by any measure, but a neat photo, nonetheless.

    Thanks again to everyone who has visited my site in the past year - whether you’re a die hard regular, or a drive-by Googler, I appreciate you visiting. Here’s wishing you all the best in 2010!

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    Posted on 31st December 2009
    Under: Arizona News, General, Hunting, Interviews, Politics and More, Press Releases, Products | No Comments »

    Desert Rat on XplortheOutdoors Radio Show

    I am excited to be invited to appear on Jim and Patti Solomon’s radio show Xplor The Outdoors. You can hear their show every Sunday morning from 7:00-9:00 AM on KDUS 1060 AM.

    Listen for my radio debut on November 15th, at 7:40 AM.

    Thanks Jim!

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    Posted on 13th November 2009
    Under: Arizona News, Events, General, Interviews | No Comments »

    Interview With Marlon Holden - Graylight Productions

    This is the second of a two-part interview with Marlon and Alisha Holden from Graylight Productions. Thanks Marlon! ~Desert Rat

    1) How/why did you decide to make a DVD?
    This one was fairly easy… I love hunting and I wanted to share my hunts with everyone. With so much emphasis on guided hunts or treestand hunts and whitetails, I thought it would be fun to share some of our Western DIY hunting adventures. Worst case scenario, I get to watch what I did in the hills when I’m old and gray!

    2) I reviewed your DVD and it was awesome; was this your first? To what do you attribute the quality of this one?
    This was our first DVD… I have had no formal editing training, just a good understanding of what I wanted to convey with the footage I had. I purchased the computer and Alisha gave me Final Cut Studio for Christmas and that’s how I got going! You see it is very hard to film and hunt without a dedicated cameraman, so getting footage enough to tell your story can be an overwhelming challenge! We managed to do just fine though and let me tell you… there are great kill shots in the upcoming DVD!!! We are dedicated to improving on every production and making each video the essence of the field. It’s work that we love!

    3) When can we look forward to another one? Will it be the same type of hunts and regions?

    We are going to release the new DVD this spring and you will see a 180″ Muley stalked to 29 yards and shot in his bed at 12,000 ft. Also, California hybrid hunts as well as Arizona again this January… Who knows what will happen then as it is still the future. We are mixing it up though, as Alisha and I are going to Kansas to hunt Whitetails this November… we have never been before and I think it’s time to go and see what all the fuss is about! Who knows - I may like it! I have always been very impatient when it comes to sitting all day, so keep your fingers crossed for me!

    4) You mentioned you just had some exciting news related to marketing - wanna share that with my readers?
    Recently , we just signed a licensing agreement that will place our DVD’s nationwide in most box shops that we all now about and shop at for our hunting products… It is very exciting and we are happy to be making good progress with Gray Light Productions.

    5) Well, your first DVD s out, and you guys have some cool merchandise out as well - where do you go from here? Where do you want to see Graylight Productions in 5 years?
    What a question! I have always strayed from business plans as I am constantly evolving. As such I am looking forward to working with our partners creating a great brand that people of all walks and ages in life can enjoy and appreciate. Even though we are bowhunters, we appreciate all sportsmen and women; bottom line is that we all appreciate the same thing. Being in the outdoors, on top of a peak at sunrise, breathing in the still fresh air and peering through glass readying ourselves for what lay ahead. I love the field and first and foremost, I want to continue doing what I love. Gray Light Productions is an extension of who we are and what we love. We are looking forward to letting people know about us and growing. It’s great people such as yourself that help with our growth and traction within the industry and for that we are thankful. As for 5 years from now… Who knows? We will have to work diligently and in the end, let the people be our voice through doing excellent work and being great ambassadors to this awesome lifestyle.

    6) OK, what is your dream hunt?

    Believe it or not, I am living the dream… I have no “dream hunts” because I am a hunter’s hunter and what I mean by that is that I hunt where everyone else hunts too. I hunt these locations regularly and they are like homes away from home. They are close to my heart and places I long to be. I lose sleep over it sometimes and wait till the opener like everyone else! DIY is my favorite… It’s the most rewarding and the most difficult. Taking a big buck on land where big bucks are not frequent is like getting in a spaceship and going to the moon, talk about an awesome feeling! Walking up on fallen game with antlers sticking wide and high on public ground also allows our viewers to identify with us. It’s how most of everyone hunts… It’s what everyone can afford! It is taking the everyday guy and saying “you can do this too”. Everything on TV now days is all about this ranch and that ranch or plots that the average guy will never hunt… People get tired of seeing unattainable goals, especially with a family and a real job. If we hunt private it is because we asked for permission like anyone else and we will never hire guides to help us… We will remain DIY and we will always welcome our friends to come have fun with us! Making friends, building relationships and coming back year after year to hallowed ground is the best hunt I could ever draw, year after year; like tradition. Now don’t get me wrong I put in for a ridiculous amount of tags each year but if I draw them great if I don’t who cares =)

    7) When are you guys coming back to Arizona? Are you going to try to get a Coues on video?

    We will be in Arizona this January, chasing big ole’ ruttin’ muleys… My favorite time of year! I am definitely interested in a Coues deer one day but I still have my sights set high on taking a 200″ desert buck… As I see it, that could take some time, so it might be a while before Coues deer have to worry about me!

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    Posted on 12th November 2009
    Under: Archery, General, Hunting, Interviews | No Comments »

    Talking With Alisha Holden of Graylight Productions

    Here is the first of a couple of interviews that I am really excited about. Thanks to Alisha and Marlon of Graylight Productions for agreeing to do interviews. I did a review on the first DVD and I must tell you, it was awesome! These 2 interviews were fun and I am looking forward to doing more projects with Marlon and Alisha! ~DesertRat

    1) OK, some of my readers are going to want to hear the “girl meets boy” story, so how did you two meet?

    Marlon and I met at a nightclub in Newport Beach. I was a dancer and no - not the kind some of you might be thinking! He was at the club hanging out with his friends, As I walked by him to go back to the changing room he grabbed my attention and asked me my name.

    2) Did you know Marlon was a hunter when you met him? Were you already a hunter or did he “convert” you?

    When I met him, initially I had no clue he was a hunter. We went on our first date December 27th 2006, the very next day he left @ 5am to go on a hunting trip to Arizona. Now, I didn’t have a clue about hunting. In Los Angeles and Orange County there aren’t many hunters. So to find out he was going hunting kind of took me by surprise. I mean, on New Year’s Eve, I was choreograph backup dancing for a musical performer and he was in a one-man tent in the desert. It was kind of weird, I almost didn’t believe him. When he got back (2 weeks later) he had me over for dinner, he showed me a video he had taken while he was out there. So I knew then he was telling me the truth.

    3) In my review of your DVD, one of the things that struck me was the quality of your videography; do you have professional training?

    Okay, a lot of people tell me the same thing. I haven’t had any real training with the use of video cameras. I was raised in the movie industry (my father is an actor) I too have done some acting so being in front of the camera, then looking back at yourself, gives you a better idea of what looks best to the viewers. When I am filming I look through the viewfinder as if I’m watching T.V., it allows me to get the better angles. I have realized the zoom button is not preferred. It can be distracting to the person watching the video, people like to see everything, and people don’t like looking with tunnel vision. Unless there is a specific item I want the viewer to capture I usually will stay zoomed out for the most part. Also, looking up looks better to the eye; since I am only 5’2” I guess I naturally have an advantage. Lol..

    4) For the techies amongst my readers, talk a little about your camera of choice…

    Well to be honest I don’t know much about many cameras, I know the Canon works well. It seems to be the best buy for the price. Any camera that is HD is going to be the camera to buy. Other than that you will have to go to your electronics store and talk to a professional..

    5) What has been your favorite hunt to date (filmed or not)?

    Okay my favorite hunt…. Well, I kind of have two that I like the most. The first year we went to Idaho, it was so much fun - I had a huge 4×4, 60 yards from me, Marlon was pushing him towards me, he got about 50 yards away when he got spooked and started to run, jumping in my direction. I literally stood up and pulled my bow back, he was about 15 yards from me and literally turned right and ran off. That was the first time my heart rate jumped out of my chest!!! I felt that energy and adrenaline pulse through my body-wow! What an experience. The other hunt I like the most is when we go to Utah. I love hunting with the Badlands folks, and their friends. I have to say the land plus the great people out there make it a hunters dream!

    6) What is your dream hunt?

    Okay this one is easy to answer… sitting on my porch in Colorado, having a huge 370-inch non-typical mule deer standing broad side at 20 yards from me. I shoot him and he drops right there! Perfect! Lol…

    7) What message do you have for ladies who hunt, or may be interested in giving it a try?

    This is the hardest question to answer… hmmmm… practice practice practice!!! There is nothing worse then seeing a deer run off injured and never recovering it, or getting a second chance to take it down. There’s no sense in doing it if you aren’t going to do it right the first time! And good luck!

    I want to thank Alisha again for answering my questions. Well done! ~Desert Rat

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    Posted on 9th November 2009
    Under: Archery, General, Hunting, Interviews | No Comments »

    An Interview With Pete Crawford From Elite Archery

    Thanks very much to Maggie Armstrong and Pete Crawford at Elite Archery for making this interview happen. I’m predicting you’ll be hearing more and more of Elite, in the future! ~DesertRat

    1) I understand Elite is pretty excited about announcing their 2010 Line-up this fall. What’s new for Elite?

    We have a new bow called the Judge. The Judge has a 6” brace height, 34 7/8” axle to axle, IBO of 343 – 347 fps and is available in 26” – 30” draw lengths at 50 – 90 pounds. We will be outfitting our exiting line of patent pending, twin-track binary Revolution Cams, Z Cams & Cuda Cams with a modular system. All bows will have LimbSaver Vibration Damping Components. The XLR, GT500 & Judge will be available in Elite’s new target color: Anthracite Metallic. The XLR, GT500, Z28 & Judge bow models are available in Realtree AP, Realtree Max-1 (new for 2010), Ninja, AT Edition (AP & Max-1). We are also announcing a line of bow accessories. We partnered with Stokerized Solid Aiming Solutions and Doinker to bring a 7 ¼” and an 11” stabilizer. We will have a one piece and a two-piece quiver as well as a hip quiver for our target & 3D Archers. After much dealer & consumer demand, we now have an Elite Archery branded soft bow case.

    2) Is there a common theme running through your new line-up? What was your goal?

    Many of our dealers and customers are just starting to get to know the product line. Rather than scrapping our existing bow models and coming out with all new bows, which is something Elite did in the past, we wanted to keep the same line up but incorporate some new changes. We’d been getting some great feedback from our consumer base about wanting a “Speed” bow. We wanted to create a bow with the desired speeds, yet not compromise the draw cycle and smoothness of the bow. We believe we’ve accomplished this with the Judge.

    3) With so many bow companies and so much technology, how do you stay competitive?

    We listen to what our dealers and customers need in a bow. We are also avid hunters and 3D shooters, so we understand the demands for a great bow. We know we have great technology with our patent pending twin track binary cam system and would rather improve on these cams than try to reinvent the wheel.

    4) What is Elite’s biggest accomplishment with the new line-up? What are you most proud of?

    We are very excited to be able to provide our dealers with the adjustability of a modular cam system, but we don’t have to sacrifice performance. Our design team really did a great job with this new mod system. We are very happy with the Judge. We wanted to develop a speed bow, but it wasn’t worth it for us to give up a smooth draw cycle. So many new speed bows will shoot lights out, but really aren’t that fun to shoot.

    5) Do you hunt? If so, what’s your favorite species? Where?

    Yes. I enjoy hunting Elk in Colorado.

    6) I may have some readers not familiar with your bows. What would you want to tell them about Elite?

    We are a bow company run by hunters and archers. We strive for excellence in design technology, fit and finish as well as customer service. Our goals aren’t to be the biggest bow company, just the best. If anyone has questions regarding our line of bows, we invite them to visit a local Elite dealer and just shoot the bow. Many times we hear that customers will walk into a bow shop to purchase a particular brand of bow, then they shoot an Elite. Those customers usually end up walking out the door with an Elite bow.

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    Posted on 20th October 2009
    Under: Archery, General, Hunting, Interviews, Products | No Comments »