Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Gap WIdens Between The Haves And The Have-Nots

In college football.

News yesterday about TCU bolting the Mountain West to join the Big East has me thinking that college pigskin is rapidly becoming less about tradition, loyalty, and geography and more about the big payout.

Did the upper echelon of Horned Frogs even consider the Big 12? And vice versa?

Probably not, on both counts.

Still, it's hard to blame TCU for the move. They want to be part of an AQ conference and the Big East wanted a football power. Putting a consistent winner on the field brings prestige, money, exposure, money, respect, and money.

Yet I can't stop thinking about the not-so-good schools in Division I football. My own alma mater of New Mexico State University among them.

The NMSU Aggies will keep playing and keep losing most of the time. They'll attract folks to the stadium for the home games, yet the crowds will be small and the cheers will be faint.

How much longer? How much longer can a school such as this continue to field a perpetually poor team? How much longer can NMSU be in the basement of FBS teams? How much longer can an institution put up with being a punching bag on the gridiron?

Hard to say. Maybe 10 more years, perhaps 15 or 20.

If any of you think I'm being far too pessimistic, allow me to remind you of a conference called the Big West. This is the conference NMSU belonged to when I was a student there. It still exists, with several of the same schools (UC Irvine, UC Santa Barbara, Cal State Fullerton, Cal State Long Beach, University of the Pacific).

None of these schools has football anymore.

I'm sure the reasons are many, but the fact that these institutions were never very competitive on the football field is the main factor (just my humble opinion).

When will NMSU throw in the towel and dump the football program?

Tick, tick, tick.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Just Getting Started

To answer the inevitable questions about last weekend's opening day hunt, little Geoana and I did not come home with any game.

Disappointing but not surprising. First, being opening weekend in one of the best pheasant hunting habitats in North America meant sharing the Walk-In Hunting Areas and public land with a cadre of men decked out in blaze orange. One of my hunting companions for Saturday and Sunday knows a couple of landowners but hadn't made arrangements with either by opening day. No matter, the little one and I will have more chances to take down a rooster or two whether it's on private or public land. After all, we're locals.

(As an aside let me list the out-of-state plates I saw from November 12th on: Texas [a whole lot of Lone Star State guys], Missouri, Colorado, Iowa, Oklahoma, and even Georgia. And those are just the ones I happened to view, no doubt we had many more visitors.)

Second, we don't have a dog. It's a disadvantage but right now I don't even have a fenced backyard and I have strong objections to keeping Fido chained to a tree all day. Fortunately I have a couple of hunting friends who own bird dogs albeit not the best-trained ones.

Third, I didn't even get one shot off either day. Sure didn't flush any roosters but the weekend's work achieved a little redemption when, late Sunday afternoon, I saw a rooster while driving by a WIHA we had hit the previous day. Why didn't I try for that one? Mainly because I want to be an ethical hunter. Sure, I could have stopped the truck, loaded my gun, hopped the fence, and tried to get said rooster to fly but how do I know there is not a group of hunters driving this pheasant into an open stubble field? Also I was with two other guys, both of whom have young sons that were riding with me. I didn't want to give those elementary-school aged boys a visual example of bad behavior even if what I did was completely within the law (since this was WIHA-designated land I would not have been trespassing).

I used the opening weekend as a lesson for Geoana. Often times you will go out hunting and return empty-handed. However there will be other times when you might get four roosters (the daily limit) within the span of a morning. I also took plenty of time to teach her what I have learned thus far: walking the edges of fields, stopping to listen, being mindful of other hunters, identifying likely habitat, and just enjoying the outdoors. After all, to borrow an oft-used cliche: The worst day of hunting is still better than the best day at the office!

Then there is more teaching. The saddest sight of the weekend came when, while walking through a CRP stand, I found a dead pheasant hen. Since she had not yet been scavenged I presume she was shot that very day. Geoana didn't seem too distressed but her friend, the daughter of one of my hunting partners, was upset. (This is not a delicate-flower type of girl as she has gone hunting with her father for many years.) For the rest of the day this young lady (she's almost 12) kept asking why we could not take the carcass with us and I kept answering that to have a pheasant hen in one's possession, regardless of who committed the kill, is against the law. I shared with both of the girls that the hen probably was not poached deliberately. More likely a group of hunters stirred up some birds and momma hen was accidentally shot along with the roosters.

At least I hope that's what happened.

I'm taking a vacation day this coming Wednesday. Geoana will be out of school by then for the Turkey-Day break and we'll do some more hunting. Should have the public areas more to ourselves since the out-of-towners will likely head home after today.

Who knows? Just might get a pheasant yet. After all, I'm a local!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Pheasant Eve

Little Geoana and I are ready! Think we've got enough blaze orange?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Opening Day Getting Closer....

Here in Totoland guys (and some gals as well) are counting down the hours and minutes until Saturday morning.

Opening day of pheasant season, 2010 version.

Just try finding a hotel or motel room anywhere around here. Anywhere in the central and western part of the state for that matter.

Business owners are happy, restaurants and retailers do well. Bars certainly see an uptick.

And for the Geohouse? I'm ready, a whole heckuva lot more so than last year.

Let's contrast. In 2009 I didn't get my hunting clothing out until the night before opening day. That's when I discovered the camo pants Geogal got for me (at a yard sale) were Army-issue and meant for the warm climate.

A quick trip to the local sporting-goods store resulting in the purchase of thermo-warm psuedo long-johns took care of that problem.

In 2010? I'll be wearing the skin-tight underwarmers again. No last minute panic here. However I won't be slavish to the camo look. Turns out for upland bird hunting the only important color is blaze orange. Lots of it.

Also for my recent birthday Geogal got me an upland bird hunting vest from Cabela's. Snazzy and utilitarian. Hope to carry some rooster carcasses in the game bag area.

Arms? Last year it was using my dad's Stevens Savage 16 gauge, he gave it to me seeing as he hasn't hunted since probably before I was born. I had no experience firing the thing.

This year? My own Remington 12 gauge. Also spent some time out at the gun range since August. Last Sunday little Geoana and I had a time breaking the clays. My shooting is improving. And I'll bring along the trusty sixteener as a backup.

In November 2009 I didn't even know what CRP meant much less its significance in pheasant hunting. Today? Conservation Reserve Program means a portion of farmed land being allowed to go fallow, providing great cover for the birds.

Ammo? Size 4 shot, by consensus this is the best load for pheasants. Did I know any of this last year? (Embarrassment prevents me from answering that query.)

Here's hoping this season reaps rewards!