New York, New York.

It's Labor Day weekend and the weather is finally beginning to align with the month... conceptually speaking.  September eased in quietly, and we've even had some miraculous 60 degree nights and low humidity days here in North Carolina. 

Pennsylvania Countryside. 

Pennsylvania Countryside. 

George Washington Bridge Morning Traffic.

George Washington Bridge Morning Traffic.

The past few weeks spoiled me. I spent two weeks in Minnesota, and then followed up with a few days in New York City and Long Island, NY.  The humidity was low, the nights were cool, and I noticed from the road that the leaves were beginning to change ever-so-slightly in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. 

First Class.

First Class.

ELITE.  Loaded up with Decoy Rafts.

ELITE.  Loaded up with Decoy Rafts.

I began prepping for New York a few days prior to departure, making sure that I knew the general areas where I'd be stopping to sleep in the RV.  The original plan was to meet with Lee from Floating Feathers Guide Service in Upstate NY, and then travel from there to Elite Long Island Outfitters in Riverhead, NY (Long Island).   Both these Outfitters operate first class guide services, and have truly worked hard to perfect their craft and establish themselves as the pinnacle of Guide Services in NY.  We are excited that they will both be implementing Decoy Rafts into their spread in the coming seasons, and jumped at the opportunity to travel up and meet them.

Lee from Floating Feathers had something come up last minute, so we ended up shipping his Decoy Rafts and taking a Rain Check on the meeting.  With this in mind, I'd be coming straight from NC to Long Island, NY.

East End of Long Island, NY.... World's apart from the West End.

East End of Long Island, NY.... World's apart from the West End.

When I began researching the best RV travel route through NYC to Long Island, it became apparent that if I were to drive the RV through NYC that I would actually be ushering in the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse.  I learned that RVs are only allowed to drive on Expressways in NYC (Not Parkways), that all Propane must be shut off before any Bridges and Tunnels, the Tolls alone were going to cost me $168.00 (insane!), not to mention the rough roads, driving Solo, etc etc.......  These elements, factored with the RV's slow acceleration as compared to NYC's prerequisite for aggressive driving, pushed me to make the decision to forgo driving the RV into the city and instead drive my F-150.

I have a Cousin, Addison, who I grew up with here in NC, that now works on Wall Street in NYC and lives across the Hudson River in Hoboken, NJ.  I gave him a call to see about crashing on his couch for a few days while I ventured out to Long Island.  He generously gave me the invite, and I began loading up Decoy Rafts and packing the Truck.

Fresh Made Guacamole.  Made Right at your Table in Hoboken, NJ. 

Fresh Made Guacamole.  Made Right at your Table in Hoboken, NJ. 

As I started my trek up I-95 North, my wife called to inform me that she was feeling sick and running a high fever and chills.  Her visit to the Doctor had just revealed a hearty case of Strep Throat.  If you're like me, receiving this news while driving solo to NYC on the first leg of your journey is not a good omen.  I continued north with an uneasy feeling of impending doom.  I was certain that before it was all over, I would be huddled up, deliriously shivering in a seedy, hourly-rate, crack-house hotel somewhere in the underbelly of the 5 Boros.

My packs.  Walked 5 blocks to pick up my truck with this in tow...

My packs.  Walked 5 blocks to pick up my truck with this in tow...

The drive from NC to Hoboken, NJ is a solid 9.5-10 hours.  If trip times are typically calculated by miles, this one is estimated by traffic.  Pretty much from Fredricksburg, VA to NYC is nothing but wall-to-wall traffic.  With this in mind, I planned on diverting from I-95 once I hit Washington DC, and traveling I-78 through Gettysburg, PA....and then finally arriving in Hoboken, NJ from the west.   The ride up went smoothly, save for the nasty DC traffic.  Once I cleared Frederick, MD....the traffic dropped significantly and I was finally free to enjoy the rolling hills and the countryside of Pennsylvania. 

Ainsworth Open Air Vibes.

Ainsworth Open Air Vibes.

It had been about 16 years since I had been in Pennsylvania, so I did not have much memory of the geography of the state.  The last time I drove through, I was driving with a buddy overnight from Cincinnati, Ohio to Washington DC for a Political Conference.  It was the year 2000, and we had just gone to a concert in Cincinnati, Ohio.  Once the concert ended, we drove my Oldsmobile Delta 88 in the driving rain all night long.  The worst part was not the fatigue, the ringing ears, or the weather conditions....the awful thing was that my windshield was covered in some kind of oil, causing the wipers to just smear rainwater all night...making the geography of Pennsylvania unrenderable.  So....all that to say, my memory of Pennsylvania was heavily distorted.  Pennsylvania is in fact a beautiful state to travel in, especially around the Gettysburg area.  As a Southerner, I couldn't help but reflect on what General Lee's troops thought as they marched north that fateful day in 1863.  A day that lives in infamy in a Southern soul...

I pushed on through PA, and stopped for gas after I crossed into New Jersey (wanting to fill-up before I reached the NYC traffic-juggernaut).  I pulled over at a gas station just over the line and began to insert my Credit Card to start the pump.  As I was going through the routine, I was greeted by a very eager gentleman in an orange vest informing me that it "was against the Law" for me to pump my own gas in New Jersey, and that he'd be completing the task for me.  I obliged, bewildered at the concept and watching in amusement at the folks stopping at the pumps and just sitting in their cars, waiting for an attendant.  "When in Rome" I guess...

I arrived in Hoboken a few hours later, racing through a whirlwind of high-intensity traffic and tolls.   My cousin Addison jumped in my truck on the street and directed me to a parking deck where I would have to pay for parking overnight.  Glimpses of Ferris Bueller's Day Off  flashed in my mind as I handed my keys over to the Parking Attendant.  Once my truck was securely out of my hands, we grabbed a Cab and sauntered over to Washington Street and the area of Frank Sinatra Park.  Turns out Hoboken is Frank Sinatra's hometown (and also the birthplace of Blimpie Subs... as well as the site of the first ever Baseball game). 

Hoboken was very lively...the definitive "young," upcoming city.  The view across the Hudson River was among the top views of NYC that I've ever seen.  Words can't accurately describe the energy that is in the air there.  I found my thoughts chaotically colliding with one another trying to wrap my head around such a place and all the souls stacked on top of each other.

The last time I had been in NYC was during my High School years in the late 90s.  It was still strange not to see the Twin Towers lurking overhead... and I couldn't help but reflect on the forever altered skyline that remained from that awful day in September.

We ate at the Ainsworth that night, which provided an excellent open-air atmosphere and an inspirational view of the most powerful city the world has to offer.  The food was as fantastic as it was expensive.  Addison drove me around to some other local Hoboken digs...Pier 13, etc....before retiring to his sixth-floor apartment.

The next morning I grabbed a coffee, bailed my truck out, and aimed it toward Elite Long Island Outfitters.  NYC Rush Hour traffic... on Labor Day Weekend... in the driving rain... is probably as bad as you think it is.  I battled for a solid three hours...across the George Washington Bridge, Queens, Throgs Neck Bridge, and onto Long Island.  The traffic on the journey east never relented until I finally got to Riverhead and away from the Expressway.

"Thought I'd seen some up's and down's, 'till I come into New York Town..."

"Thought I'd seen some up's and down's, 'till I come into New York Town..."

After three grueling hours, I pulled into the driveway of the Elite Long Island Outfitters Lodge.  Rob and Mike were there waiting for me, having ordered some big pizzas for lunch.  After swapping stories, laughing, and eating some real New York Pizza...Rob and Steve gave me a tour of the state-of-the-art Elite Long Island facilities, the Pheasant and Chukar pens, the barns, the Lodge, etc.  These guys are definitely masters of their craft, and their impeccable attention to detail speaks for itself.  The lodge is outfitted to prepare serious hunters to harvest a variety of game, and to frame the experience with unforgettable amenities. I am beyond thrilled that they are implementing serious numbers of Decoy Rafts to their Sea Duck Spread this year.  They immediately recognized the in-field advantage they are going to have by running the Decoy Raft, and were so stoked to get theirs and begin prepping for the NY season.  They operate guided sea-duck hunts all the way to Montauk, NY.  After seeing the operation first-hand, I'd recommend it to anyone hands-down....Where else can you shoot limits of duck and pheasant within the shadow of the most-powerful city on Earth, all while enjoying the plush amenities of a hunting lodge on Long Island NY?  If you're looking for a state-of-the-art Hunting experience, look no further than Elite Long Island. 

Hurricane Hermine Welcome Home Party.

Hurricane Hermine Welcome Home Party.

After battling another evening session of rush hour traffic in NYC....including driving my truck through Times Square (!)...I spent one final night beneath the electric skyscrapers of NYC.  If you can get past (or embrace?) the anonymity of the city, NYC is incredible.  I found myself trying to wrap my head around the aura of the "City that Never Sleeps."  One thing I noticed from my time there is that New York City forces you to become a part of it.  You are forced to operate at the speed of the city...a city that is as assimilating as it is welcoming of every culture across the globe.  The genteel, lower populated cities of the South are less imposing....and while this feels "welcoming," if you're not born in that city, you'll never actually "BE" a local.  New York is the opposite, it pulls from every culture and makes them New Yorkers.  I'm not sure what other city is like this....but New York definitely has some rare and unfathomable elements about it. 

On my final morning, I grabbed another coffee from Jefferson's in Hoboken, NJ and headed back across the Mason Dixon Line.  I never got Strep Throat... and I was thankful that didn't have to comfort myself with a fluid-stained blanket somewhere in New Jersey.  Nine hours later, I was graciously welcomed home by Hurricane Hermine as I crossed the North Carolina line. 

A special heartfelt Thanks to Rob, Steve, Mike at Elite Long Island Outfitter - Can't wait to get back up and hunt with ya'll this Fall......and big Thanks to Addison for the good time, the couch to sleep on, and the Southern Hospitality in the Empire State.  Seeya in October, Dude.

Thanks for the good times, New York.  

We're off to Tuckerton, New Jersey for the Ocean County Gunning and Decoy Show in a few weeks.  Until next time...

-John

Update from the Road...

An update from John:

August arrived with an angry oven heat and a whirlwind of activity...

We were graciously invited up to Gamefair in the Minneapolis area by Dan with Hunt the North/UWC Challenge, and eagerly jumped at the opportunity!  If you're from the southeast like we are, we didn't really have any prior knowledge of Gamefair or even duck hunting culture in Minnesota, but when we did a little research we were amazed at the numbers of duck hunters and the general passion for waterfowling in the upper Midwest.

A few weeks prior to the show, the awesome folks at D&H RV Center in Apex, NC called and had taken a Class C Motorhome in on trade, and they knew that we had been looking for a solid option for travel in the upcoming months (especially seeing as how we never get any sleep during duck season).  We jumped at the opportunity provided and purchased the RV with the intention of me heading to Minnesota in it and using it instead of hotel rooms, etc.

Minnesota is definitely a world away from NC, and a straight 1,300 miles from 'the house.'  I loaded down the trailer with Decoy Rafts, packed up the RV fridge with Trader Joe's Burritos and hot dogs..... and left a good 2.5 days before the show, giving myself ample time to prepare for traffic jams, road problems, etc.  I went solo with the intention of picking up Nathan at the Airport in MN that weekend so he wouldn't have to burn too many 'vacation days' from work.

On the way up I stopped by a buddies' house in La Rue, Ohio...which was a great reunion with old friends.  I camped in the grass of his picturesque farm, which is tucked right in the middle of the cornfields and prairie grasses of central Ohio.  We walked to a nearby refuge/management area that evening and counted several hundred Teal already moving south.  Seeing birds moving again is a definitive shot of adrenaline... and the joyful feeling of Summer's end is a universal one to all who have watched these creatures quietly usher in the Autumn months.  After watching the fury of activity from the Teal, we headed back to a big homecooked, farmhouse meal and finished off the twilight hours by the campfire.

I left out of Ohio early the next morning, unsure of how far I'd get with the Chicago albatross looming in the distance.  Once I made it through charming Gary, Indiana, I stayed south on I-80....avoiding the Chicago suburbs and then heading north through Rockford, IL and eventually into Wisconsin.  That night saw the RV nestled up with some Big Rigs behind a BP in Mauston, Wisconsin.

If you've never made any sort of long passage solo, especially across the Midwest, I can't explain the mental exercise that it slowly becomes.  The summertime sky in the Midwest is incredibly big and hollow, as compared to our humidity-soaked atmosphere and tree-lined roads down South.  Being away from home and staring across miles of empty cornfields slowly becomes an intense mindgame.  I found myself tackling existential quandaries as long as the roads in central Illinois.  I can only imagine what the first settlers thought as they finally passed out of the eastern woods and reached the prairie and great plains ahead.  The thought of being unable to see a grove of trees to use as a point of reference must have been a mind game only for those with the strongest mental fortitude.  Anyway...

The two weekends of Gamefair went fantastic.  The weather in Minnesota in August is absolutely perfect...no humidity and dropping into the 50s at night.  The folks at Gamefair were even nicer, and it was refreshing to meet so many great folks who share common interests.  We had so many great Outfitters stop by our booth and pick up Decoy Rafts for the coming season, and we are so stoked to see the different ways the Decoy Raft will give them an advantage in the field.  Gamefair is a fantastic show and the fact that it is two weekends long is indicative of the passion for waterfowling that Minnesota has.

I had initially planned at staying at a campground somewhere in the Minneapolis area (since Gamefair wouldn't let me stay on the grounds), but after all of them were full....I was left with no choice but to bounce between Parking Lots and Truck Stops for two weeks, which proved moderately challenging.  However, I'm pleased so say I made it the entire 14 days without plugging in once, dry camping for the entirety of the trip.  Each day it seemed like I was fixing something on the RV in preparation for that night, whether it was a leaking generator, a faulty CO2 Detector, broken laptop, etc.  RV travel is a non-linear exercise... it's almost as if you're some twisted modern day Hunter/Gatherer making preparations for the evening, in order to just wake up and do it again.  An interesting rhythm of life and one that I started getting accustomed to by Week 2.  Special thanks to Holiday Gas Station for graciously allowing me to empty the black and grey tanks and refill my water. 

Minneapolis was beautiful, and during the week in between the two shows I made it down to the "5-8 Club" and had a "Juicy Lucy"....sounded shady when I was first referred there, but it turns out it really is amazing hamburger (Man Vs. Food did a great episode on it)....also made it to some great bookstores, record stores, Mall of America, the new Vikings stadium, etc.  My sleeping arrangements consisted of generally being lulled to sleep by diesel motors...except for the one night I was violently pulled from sleep by 60 MPH winds, hail, and rain.  I felt like I was going to wake-up in Oz for a moment but the storm quickly rolled east.  On a side note,  Minneapolis is the city of oversized Targets, Best Buys, and Gander Mountains....It seemed like I passed one everywhere I went....not to mention all the lakes.  They weren't kidding about that 'Land of 10,000 Lakes' license plate.  What a beautiful state with a lot of water in it.

So...After 14 days and more than 3,000 miles....I'm back in NC to celebrate my daughter's 3 year Birthday Party....then off to New York next week to meet with several big Outfitters on Long Island and Upstate NY.  Stoked for cooler weather, brown marsh grass, football, and the migration. 

Special Thanks to Dan, Brandon, Joe, and Neil with Hunt the North/UWC for all the hospitality...and to the Holiday in Mounds View for the fresh water!

More to Come in a Week or Two...

 

-John

Midwest Thunderstorms...

Midwest Thunderstorms...

Hyena fighting for the Lion's share...

Hyena fighting for the Lion's share...

All setup...

All setup...

The Guides for Phowler Boats stocked up on Decoy Rafts at Gamefair!

The Guides for Phowler Boats stocked up on Decoy Rafts at Gamefair!

Mindgame.

Mindgame.

Night moves.

Night moves.

I know some boys on Harris Lake in NC that could have written this book.

I know some boys on Harris Lake in NC that could have written this book.

Daytime Antenna TV.  Elvis > Dr. Phil.

Daytime Antenna TV.  Elvis > Dr. Phil.

5-8 Club.  Home of the Juicy Lucy.

5-8 Club.  Home of the Juicy Lucy.

Neon Moon.

Neon Moon.

Thanks for the Good Times, Minnesota.

Thanks for the Good Times, Minnesota.

NC and Pilot Mountain from atop the last mountain in Virginia... must be how Moses felt when he looked over the Mountain at Canaan....back home again.

NC and Pilot Mountain from atop the last mountain in Virginia... must be how Moses felt when he looked over the Mountain at Canaan....back home again.

 

 

Spring NC Cobia Highlights

We had an awesome Spring here in NC...the SW winds finally started and pushed the summer heat right on us.  I hope everyone is having a great time fishing, surfing, getting salty, and enjoying the vibe...

The geese will be honking and the migration frenzy will be here before you know it.  Until then, relax and enjoy!  Peace.

 

March Show Highlights

March, 2016.

What a fun and busy month.

We kicked off with the launch of Online Pre-Sales for the Decoy Raft....and quickly jumped into setting up booths at the Dixie Deer Classic in Raleigh, NC and the Palmetto Sportsman's Classic in Columbia, SC. 

We were incredibly humbled by all the amazing folks that we met at each show, and thank each of you for coming to visit us and introducing yourselves.  In a world where criticism lurks around every corner, the energy and enthusiasm of hunters in NC and SC is genuinely refreshing. 

We'd like to especially thank D&H RV Center in Apex, NC (www.dhrvcenter.com) and Tanglefree (www.tanglefree.com) for their generosity and support of our company.  They both invested in us and we couldn't be more grateful for their hospitality. 

Looking toward the near future-  We will have a booth at the South Carolina Ducks Unlimited Convention in Charleston, SC in July, 2016...and the first shipment of Decoy Rafts will ship late this summer to everyone that has pre-ordered so far. 

In the meantime, I hope everyone is preparing for Turkey Season, which starts here in NC tomorrow....and shortly after that, it's time for the Cobia to show up.

While you're preparing, here are some recent show highlights to watch...

NC Public Land Duck Hunting 2nd/3rd Split Highlights

Hmmm....

What a wet, warm, and weird 2nd/3rd split here in NC.  We generally found that we were constantly anticipating that things were going to shift for the better any minute....really to no avail.

Hat's off to all the other public land hunters that put in the work....scouting, prepping, cutting pines, spending $ they don't have, not sleeping, driving through the night, freezing in the rain (or sunshine), just to get skunked.  

Adventure > Limits.   (sometimes....at least you're not spoiled, right?)

While you're stacking decoys and thinking about what to do different for next year, here are some highlights from JE to enjoy.

NC First Split Video...

Heck of a First Split here in NC...  

Four sleep-deprived, caffeine filled days running around the swamp chasing local government wood ducks...and an awesome Friday night in Blacksburg, Virginia for the Wolfpack/Hokies game.

A special 'Thank you' to Cory and Katie Byrd for the invitation, beds to sleep in, tickets, tour, and post-game Billiards lesson.  Also thanks to Tony Byrd and his Hokie Tailgate Crew for the awesome tailgate and hospitality.   Blacksburg is a sweet town with great folks, even in spite of a Wolfpack loss (which is sadly to be expected anyway!).  

The leaves are changing and the temps are dropping....and thankfully the rain FINALLY stopped so we can get back to fishing until the Second Split arrives in November and the madness starts again.  

Until then, here's a video from the First Split....from the swamp to the tailgate.

 

September...

You can feel it in the air.

The humidity is dropping. September is finally here, and you can see Orion in the clear night sky.  

We had a foggy, cooler-temp Dove opener with a surprise Canadian flyover that was welcomed with some 12 gauge BB's.  The afternoon was topped off by tailgating and College Football.  Definitely a solid contender for one of the top calendar days of 2015.

The following week had us chasing Puppy Drum and waiting for cooler winds to reach eastern North Carolina.  We spent Sunday morning worshipping the Creator with a school of Spottails in the backwaters of Onslow Bay. 

It's a golden time on the NC coast- the water is warmer than the air and the crowds are gone.  The yellow butterflies are thick east of 95, whispering that the glorious season is here at last...