Friday, June 5, 2009

Market Hunting in the Tri-State Metro Area

© 2009 Albert A Rasch
Market Hunting with an Air Rifle

While commenting over at my friend Hubert Hubert’s wonderful blog, Rabbit Stew, I was suddenly reminded of my early years as a market hunter.

“Market hunter!” You gasp as the world turns topsy turvey. "Say it isn't true Albert!"

Alas, yes it is true. I was a market hunter when I was about 12 or 13 years old. I made a few dollars every week or two supplying fresh feral rock pigeons to some of the neighborhood folks that came from the “Old Country.”
Image Credit: Alex Alexandrovna
You see, my old neighborhood in New Jersey was predominantly first and second generation immigrants from Italy. The knife and scissor sharpening man still rang his bell as he walked the streets, carrying his hand forged sharpener on his back and calling out his trade in a familiar yet foreign song. There were still a couple of old style corner delis left in the area, serving cold-cuts and cheeses made in the back room. Many of the brick homes had grape vines and fig trees in the yards, in addition to carefully tended vegetable gardens.

Old Italian women dressed in black complained about the still older Italian men playing Bocci ball and playing cards. While sitting on their porches, they kept a wary eye on the going ons in their respective fiefdoms. Woe onto you if you were caught in some malfeasance! Fortunately for me, I had the innocent look of an angel and could do no wrong; which also explains why I was always so well fed.

I had quite the reputation as an outdoorsman even then. When I was fortunate enough to convince some girl that I really was interested in her, and not just trying to get in her grandmother’s kitchen, I would regale her with my plans and coming adventures. Some the girls even bought it, which got me in their kitchen that much quicker.

My market hunting years started, innocently enough, when Mama Domicenti, overheard me discussing trajectory and terminal effects of the 22-250 with her granddaughter, whose name slips my mind. Let’s call her Veronica. At the time I was smitten with the speed and reach of the cartridge. Don’t get me wrong, I think I liked the girl too, but the kitchen, it was always the kitchen first.

I was in great form that day, pronouncing my prowess with Red Ryder BB gun, Crossman air rifle, bows, knives, and sharpened sticks. I’m sure I made up a bunch of stuff too. Stuff I was certain I would do soon enough that it would count as if I already did it.

Mama looked at me with on eyebrow raised. It wasn’t the warning brow, just the questioning one. When you’re an early teen, you get to learn the difference pretty quick. It could mean the difference between life and near death. Come to think about it, it seems that as soon as you get married you lose the ability to discern between them.

Anyway, Mama looks at me and asks, “Alberto, can you bring me six fresh “palombo?” Bambina how do you say palombo…”

“She means pigeons.” said my girlfriend de jour.

“Yes that’s right. Pigeons. If you bring me six palombo, ah, pigeons, I will make gnocchi, and you will eat big dinner with the familia.”

Image Credit: Dave Halley
I got to thinking. Flying rats. I don’t know…

But you don’t say no to Mama, not if you want to survive into the immediate future.

“Sure thing Mama!” I said. “When do you want them?”

“Tomorrow afternoon you bring, and then we eat after tomorrow. Ok?”

“Ok Mama, six pigeons tomorrow after school.”

My girlfriend looked disgusted. But at least I was in Mama’s good graces which meant dinner was in the bag, and that counted for more than you could shake a stick at.

The next day was filled with anxiety. School was interminable. I had all sorts of plans. That morning I had sprinkled bird seed all over our yard, the neighbor’s yards, anywhere that I had line of sight to, got bird seed.

Sheridan Blue Streak in 5mm/20 cal

I knocked on my neighbor’s door when I got home and asked if I could use his Sheridan. He was one of those cool twenty something year olds that occasionally gave you the time of day. He had a Corvette which you could look at but not touch, and he was always real good about loaning me the Sheridan, and I was especially careful to return it in the same condition I got it.

In the suburbs of the Tri-State Metro area, there are always tons of pigeons. There are plenty of feral ones, and many people still keep pigeons in roof top coops. Most of the folks that keep them have specific, fancy breeds that are unlikely to mingle with the run of the mill feral pigeons. Well mostly anyway...

Anyway, I wasn’t disappointed. There were plenty of pigeons in the area, and in no time I had limited out. Those 20 caliber round nose pellets would knock them over no fuss, no muss.

Image Credit: Ken
I wrapped them up individually in newspaper and then put the lot of them in a brown paper bag. A short walk later I was at Mama’s front door ringing the doorbell. One of my girlfriend’s sisters opened the door, took one look at me, and hollered loud enough for the neighbors down the block to hear, “Veronica, it’s your boyfriend!” Veronica yelled down, “I'm on the phone! Tell him Gramma is in the kitchen.” Like I didn’t know where she would be.

Mama saw me coming down the hall and wiped flour from her hands with a dish towel, smoothed her apron, and looked at me expectantly.

“Well, tell me, did you get them?”

“I sure did Mama, just like you asked me to.” I opened the bag and handed her the first package.

Image Credit: Where's Walden
“Oh, thatsa nice. You make a package for each. Very nice.” Mama unwrapped the first pigeon and looked it over with a critical eye. I could tell she was not happy. She put it down on the paper. Unwrapping the rest, she looked each over as carefully as if she was inspecting nuclear munitions or something.

“Alberto,” she said, “I thought you said you were a ‘cacciatore’. A cacciatore would be more careful. Look, you ruin the meat when you shoot!” She pointed to the holes in each breast. “I can use, but you must do better! Next time you shoot here,” she pointed to the head. “No meat, and,” her eyes twinkled, “little brains... like you. So you do better for Mama next time, Ok?”

That was my first lesson in shooting for the table.

The next day I dutifully showed up for dinner. In those days it seems that a lot of folks with large extended families had two dinners, one for the kids, and then the adults. So at about five in the evening I was sitting at the table, face scrubbed, hair combed, and hands washed. On the table was a pot of gnocchi, which are small potato dumplings, salad, bread, and about another half dozen things that I can’t recall. Mama comes out of the kitchen with a roasting pan upon which lay the half dozen pigeons. They looked like little bitty chickens to me. The pigeons with their delicately golden browned breasts, sat in a bed of carrots and potatoes, with spices sprinkled all over everything.

Image Credit: Maki

It was beautiful.
Image Credit: oaxoax
Mama had a wooden spoon that defined her authority. She was the Queen of the Kitchen, the spoon was her scepter, and we, her loyal subjects. Before we could eat though, we had to say Grace. Mama seated her ample figure at the head of the table and bowed her head. I’m not sure what she said, but I caught my name and all the other kid’s names, and gratsia. When, out of the corner of my eye, I saw Mama make the sign of the cross, I hastily added mine to the general cross making at the table.

Mama stood up and started to ladle out the gnocchi. “My cacciatorre,” she said as she served me enough food for a half dozen grown men. On top of the gnocchi and veggies she planted a whole palombo.

I waited until everyone was served including Mama. Remember, good manners, they don't cost anything, but they pay huge dividends! Tucking a lace napkin under her chin, she looked around the table, pleased with her subject’s good behavior and intoned, “Mangiare!”

To make a long story short the pigeon was actually pretty good, the veggies were good, and the gnocchi even better!

That was the beginning of a couple of years of pigeon market hunting for me. Mama told a couple of her friends who would then place orders with her, then they told their friends, and before you knew it I had a dozen clients with varying orders. I learned pretty quick to make those head shots and got between a dime and quarter per bird depending on the client’s generosity. It was an odd week when I didn’t have to shoot a dozen birds. During Easter, I recall I was asked to procure something like sixty pigeons. I remember ranging far and wide that week!

Image Credit: Riverwatcher
I would make two or three dollars a week doing something I really enjoyed, and managed to stay out of trouble.

Until we got new neighbors.

I was used to pretty much shooting anywhere on my block, but these new folks moved in and when they saw me in a neighbor’s yard shooting a pigeon off the roof, they called the cops. The cops weren’t interested in some kid shooting pigeons, but they didn’t want to be bothered by someone calling the station and complaining. So in the end, I had to hang up the Sheridan, and call it quits on market hunting.

In hind-sight I should have told Mama about the new people.

She probably would have taken that spoon to them until they came to their senses.

Albert A Rasch
The Hunt Continues...

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Blogs of Note: RKL Writes

© 2009 Albert A Rasch

RKL Writes

"Ten years ago if someone had told me that the United States had reached the Zenith of our power and prosperity I would have had it out with them."

Thus starts the latest post by RKL Writes. Discussing themes that I myself have been mulling over for some time, RKL covers difficult territory with a clear and discerning prose that is sure to get you thinking. Stop by and spend some time with him; it will be worth your while.

Best regards,
The Hunt Continues...

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Lessons in Self Defense; Watch the David Prater Verbal Dance

© 2009 Albert A Rasch

In an interesting case of self defense, a Pharmacist, Jerome Ersland, 57, was charged with first degree murder this past Wednesday in Oklahoma County District Court. He is accused of killing Antwun Parker on May 19, when Parker and another thug tried to rob the Reliable Pharmacy in south Oklahoma City.

Watch the Oklahoma City District Attorney, David Prater, verbally dance around the situation. He alternately calls the dead felon a young man, Mr., small child, child, for a second there I thought he was going to call him one of god's angels. It is a long video, but what I think is most important is what YOU should do and not do when involved in a shooting.

If you have time, watch the press conference:

Press Conference

A couple of observations. 75% percent of viewers say he should not be charged, 20% say he should, and 5% say they don't know.

If you are ever involved in a self defense situation, you give the cops your name and that is it. Tell them you don't feel well, you want to go to the hospital. NO more, NO less. The next thing you do is get an attorney. Have him meet you at the hospital. Do not allow your ego or sense of righteousness get you in trouble. Don't let the law enforcement people badger you into speaking. Wait on the attorney.

There are several resources on the net that give excellent instruction on this kind of situation. It is wise to be well informed.

Best regards,

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Range Reviews: OTB Ferdelance Boots.

© 2009 Albert A Rasch
Ferdelance Tactical Land Boots
by OTB (Over the Beach) Boots

About two months ago I slipped on a pair of OTB Ferdelance boots. Designed for military operators that go in and out of wet environments, I thought they would be perfect for wild boar hunters that do the same in the Florida swamps. I wanted to put them through their paces and see how they would hold up to my abuse before I wrote about them.

OTB specializes in aquatic shoes that serve several operational parameters. OTB was approached by the U.S. Navy SEALs to design a boot totally different from all others with operations in and around water in mind. They need to drain quickly, stick to the ground, support the foot and ankle, and allow some tactile sensation. In other words, pretty much be a protective extension of the foot.

The Ferdelance is a taller (approx 9") combat boot suitable for uniform wear if you are in the military and is available in either black or desert tan. There are multiple mesh ports on either side of the boot which is to allow for water drainage and permit ventilation. The Ferdelance boot is light, weighing in at slightly less than three pounds (3 lbs). I'm used to wearing steel tipped construction boots or Vibram Lug soled hiking boots. Neither of which are designed for the flat, swampy, and wet terrain of Florida. These felt very light to me in comparison.

The Ferdelance fit is roomy without being too oversized, any extra room taken up by tightening the laces for a snug but not constrictive fit. I find these boots to be about the most comfortable and well fitting boots I have worn. The upper is relatively stiff, made of tan cow suede. It provides substantial lateral support, and protects the ankle from twisting.

Tough Cordura Venting Throughout Boot

The vents are made of Cordura material instead of mesh. It’s tough and allows water to drain and improves breathability. Every day is a hot day in Florida and so far I haven’t had any issues with my feet getting hot or sweaty. The padding throughout the boot does not retain water, an important consideration.

After tracking through swamp and standing water I found that the boots drained fairly quickly. It did take a while for my feet to dry out, but the excess water was gone within minutes.

Reinforced Toe Area

The heel cup and toes on the boots are covered in a layer of Vibram rubber reinforcement material; these protect against scuffs and scrapes, while adding some resiliency in those areas. Very helpful when sticking your toes in cracks to climb walls, and it helps keep the boot from being split open or worn through at the toe.

Vibram Soles

The outsoles are compression molded EVA/rubber also from Vibram. They're very quiet and I've found them to provide good traction on both wet and dry asphalt, cement, dirt, mud, and grass environments.

I pulled the insole, so I could see the stiff gray and white insole board. Surprisingly it is molded in the contour of the foot (it's not flat!); that probably is why the boot feels so comfortable. The board is made of extruded polypropylene, in one piece. When I was doing research on shoe design I found that this particular design is also used by sport shoe manufacturers. Football and baseball players put a lot of torque, twist, and flex in their footwear and need the support, which are very similar to the need a soldier has.

The insole has a dual-density design, with a dark grey Drilex textile top surface. It's made of polyurethane foam with “high rebound properties.” In other words, it does not break down and compress as quickly as EVA. EVA is used in most running shoes, and we have all experienced the compressed insoles on them. Slightly firmer pads (the red areas in the picture above) are used near the balls of the feet and heel area to further lengthen the life of the footbed. The Drilex top wicks moisture and is antibacterial.

Upon returning from the field, I pull the insoles and rinse them off. Then I hose off the boots inside and out and set them to dry in the house. The insoles I just placed in the uppers. By the next morning they were dry to the touch. I did note some residual moisture in the boot after a few minutes of body heat, but that was soon gone. Between the heat and the air ventilation they managed to dry out relatively fast.

Reinforced Speed Lacing Tunnels

One detail I really like is the speed lacing tunnels combined with the 'sausage' laces - they're easy to adjust and cinch up. Seriously, those laces rock!

Let's go over the highlights again.

High traction non-squeak Vibram outsoles provides the best traction and cushion in a boot.
Stain resistant cow suede uppers.
Cordura ventilation ports throughout the boot for improved breathability.
The lace loops are reinforced so as to not break.
Variable sausage laces will not come untied.
The toes and heel are reinforced to help when scaling walls and protection.
Dual density Ortholite cushioned footbed with Dri-lex lining for increased wicking and foot comfort.
Weight 2.95 lbs

Of course, I wore "TROC Tested and Approved" Darn Tough Vermont Boot Socks with the Ferdelance. As usual the socks performed flawlessly without chafing, constrictions, or droopiness. They really are Darn Tough to beat!

OTB Ferdelance Boots

In summary, the Ferdelance boots are rugged yet comfortable, ventilated, light weight boots suitable for mid to high temperatures in wet or dry environments. Anyone in a high intensity terrain where foot and leg comfort are paramount would do well to invest in a set of OTB Ferdelance boots.

OTB Footwear
18 Cliff Ave
Scituate, MA 02066

Ferdelance Boots

MSRP: $149.95