My guest today, Bryan Fennell, is the Rural Recreation Officer for County Wicklow Partnership. He loves the adventures, and works to promote activities, in the wilds of Co. Wicklow. In this episode we talk about opportunities to experience the great outdoors in County Wicklow. Of course, I had to touch on the subject of the natural environment and the need to protect it. We also talk about deer stalking in the Wicklow Mountains and, on a separate note, the sometimes difficult relationship between sportsmen and ecologists.
This is a big one. Our guest, Pádraic Fogarty is the Campaign Officer at Irish Wildlife Trust and an ex-editor of the Irish Wildlife magazine. Protection and conservation of the natural world should be of the greatest importance for all outdoorsmen. For that reason, I was really excited when Pádraic accepted an invitation to the podcast. If you care about the environment, tune in and listen. We are talking not only about key conservation issues but also how to get involved and make a difference. This is not tree hugging stuff, this is a practical and down to earth discussion about the protection we all owe to Mother Nature. Also, check out Pádraic’s book “Whittled Away – Ireland’s Vanishing Nature”.
This episode is a deer season opener special! The 1st of September is approaching fast and it marks the beginning of deer hunting season in Ireland. My guest on the podcast is the Public Relations Officer for Irish Deer Commission, Damien Hannigan. We discuss deer conservation in Ireland, the position of various stakeholders on deer management, wildlife crime and many other deer related issues. It is a must-listen for all deer hunters and stalkers. Also, don’t forget to email email@example.com to book your place on the Rut Walk in Killarney National Park, taking place on the 14th of October. The event is free of charge but places are limited, so make sure to book early.
While recording episodes of the podcast I get to meet and speak with people involved in the outdoors. Most of them are interested in the use and preservation of the natural environment. Among those people two distinct groups stand out the most: sportsmen, most often represented by hunters and anglers, and ecologists as in conservationists and environmentalists. In theory, they should represent one consistent front for protection of the natural environment. Unfortunately this is not always the case. Oftentimes representatives of these groups are involved in a counterproductive confrontation with each other. So, let’s dive into this issue and try to understand some of the reasons why this is happening.
For starters, let’s look at the common ground they share. Genuine ecologists are usually research scientists or employees of governmental or non-governmental bodies involved in the protection and management of natural resources. Of course we all know there are self proclaimed, shouty types, but I’m not going to talk about them here. Whenever I have an opportunity to talk to environmentalists I always ask the question, “Do you see sportsmen as allies in the efforts to protect the environment or as adversaries?” Based on the responses so far, I gather that sportsmen are mostly recognized as important stakeholders. Ecologists also recognize that they are an invaluable source of information about the state of the environment. It is because hunters and anglers spent lots of time in the outdoors and have an opportunity to observe nature and the changes it undergoes over time. They are often referred to as the boots on the ground.
Sportsmen also recognize the important role of ecologists as a source of information about wildlife and the environment. They also recognize that ecologists work to protect the resources they interact with. Wild game and fish. And here is where the tension starts. Ecologists often feel that sportsmen repeatedly engage in practices aimed mainly at their own interest, to the detriment of conservation. For example, when engaging in catch and release, they place more importance on taking a trophy photo with the fish over promptly releasing it back to the water. On the flip side, on many occasions sportsmen consider some of the regulations as limiting their activities unnecessarily.
It is not my intention to judge which side is right. Each case is different and everybody makes mistakes. Unfortunately, as the result of these tensions, the opportunity to create a combined, strong and environmentally minded front is lost. Sportsmen are often reluctant to engage in conservation initiatives worried that their interest won’t be recognized and they will find themselves on the wrong side of the equation. On the other hand, ecologists are reluctant to reach out to sportsmen for support, being afraid of a backlash.
It is my strong belief that true hunters and anglers are also environmentalists and conservationists. It is in their own interest, after all, that the waters are full of fish and the woods are full of wild game. In fact, there are many people who belong to both groups. It is not unheard of for a game and wildlife officer to also be an avid hunter or angler. These days, the natural environment is under more pressure from human activity than ever before. Only combined efforts to protect it can be successful. Sportsmen, ecologists, environmentalists and anybody else to whom nature is dear, should pull together. They should bury the discord about the way they intend to use it, and work together to protect it. Otherwise there will be nothing left to use anyway.
Taking on outdoor activities alone can offer a unique experience. Being able to focus on fishing, hunting, cycling or trail running without distractions provides an opportunity to enter a meditative state of mind and deeply connect with nature For that reason, many sportsmen prefer to spend time outdoors in solitude. But before you go out to hunt in the woods or fly fish from the rocks, all by yourself, you should take some basic safety precautions.
My friends and I spend countless hours in the outdoors, doing our thing, on our own. That often resulted in some hairy situations. This allowed us not only to better understand the dangers, but also to develop some basic practices. They could lower the risk or save our lives if things were to go sideways. In this short article, I would like to discuss some of those practices.
Whenever you are cycling, running or swimming, there is a wide variety of GPS-enabled electronic devices at your disposal. These days, most of them can connect to your phone and transmit your location. Some of them even offer functions like crash-detection or fall-detection. In theory, they will trigger a notification to the phone number of your choice, about the emergency that has likely just occurred.
It might be a good idea to use this this type of technology. However, I would advise you to keep in mind a few things. These are usually simple consumer electronic devices, so they are not built or tested to be trusted with your life. They should be considered as bonus gizmos and not as the primary means of ensuring your safety. You will quickly find evidence of that while examining the user’s manuals. Nothing beats the old and still best method: tell someone trustworthy, a family member or a true friend, where you are going and what time you intend to come back. Make sure to inform them if you decide to change your plans. You can also agree up-front to an action they should take in case you do not make contact by the agreed time. Trust is a key factor here.
Another good practice is to wear a bracelet or a tag with your name, blood type and emergency contact number. This simple item might be invaluable, in the event that something bad happens to you while you are with your friends. The likelihood that they will know your blood type is slim. Remember that having an ID with you is not the same. Reaching into your pockets might not be your friend’s first instinct while dealing with a likely stressful situation. Also, make sure that the information is well protected from the elements, eg. engraved or written with a waterproof pen.
I hope these simple tips will make you think about safety. I also hope you will never be in the situation that someone will have to make use of your tag or trigger an emergency procedure. Stay safe and I will see you in the outdoors!
Before we start, this is not sponsored content. I am not being paid by Swarovski in any way or form. I simply want to share my thoughts after having had an opportunity to try a variety of Swarovski binoculars and scopes in the field.
Swarovski might seem like very expensive gear, but it represents something that is scarce these days and what I like to call “the old-days quality”. Way too often, we get conditioned to the disposability and the poor manufacturing and material quality of the devices we are using in our daily lives.
When we buy a Swarovski product, we are most likely buying it for life. Quite likely, the device will last beyond our own lifetime and will be passed on to our children and grandchildren. So you might be spending €1000 instead of €300 or €400, but the unit you are purchasing will last decades. In most cases, this makes the initial cost of purchase much more justifiable. It is worth mentioning, as well, that Swarovski’s support team pride themselves in taking good care of their products after sale. They will support their customers if they need their optics to be serviced, refurbished or, on rare occasions, fixed.
All of the above makes for low depreciacion in value over time, meaning that a pair of Swarovski binoculars, for example, can be sold after a long time very close to its original purchase value. In fact, there is a substantial market for used and refurbished Swarovski optics. All of the above paints a picture of a unique and high quality product brand.
To learn more about Swarovski products, listen to episode 9 of Tommy’s Outdoors podcast. If you like it, please rate us and subscribe on iTunes, Stitcher, or any other platform where you aggregate your podcasts.
This episode of the podcast was recorded during the Swarovski Open Day that took place on the 14th of April 2018 in the Kingdom “An Riocht” Rifle & Pistol Club. My guests are Paul Innes from Swarovski Optik and Mike Duggan from Mike Duggan Firearms. During the event we had an opportunity to try out a wide variety of Swarovski optics: binoculars, spotting scopes, rifle scopes and even objective lenses for photo cameras.