Mike Garner is a lifelong sportsman whose love for everything outdoors has been the driving force behind his career. With over a decade of television production experience under his belt, he has cultivated a track record of storytelling excellence.
The Snohomish River
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After five DUTV hunts in seven weeks I was ready for a break. I was anxious to drop the duck gear in the garage and enjoy some much-needed time at home with the family. But, I did manage one free morning. So, what’s an outdoor television producer to do? Go hunting!
With my wife at work and the boys at school I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to go hunting with an old friend. Not to mention the idea of picking up a shotgun instead of a heavy Panasonic HD camera was rather appealing.
Witnessing first hand how the recent cold snap was pushing birds down from the Illinois River Valley to Missouri and Arkansas I decided to make the short 45-minute drive east of my home in Tulsa, Oklahoma to Esper Farms.
The small Midwest duck haven on the banks of the Arkansas River boasts a 4-acre spring-fed pond with an abundance of food and cover. Small in size, but big on action, the family duck club is not unlike any other club you might find across this great country of ours.
On a typical morning you might find my good friend Vaughn Esper in the blind hunting with his two lovely granddaughters or sipping coffee with an old friend. For those lucky enough to be invited, the farm is the ideal getaway for an early morning shoot.
Constructed by Vaughn himself the roughhewn duck blind was milled from the surrounding cash of red cedar that grows thick in our part of the world. Situated smack-dab in the middle of the pond it’s easily accessed by a narrow earth jetty. Easy walking. But more importantly dry!
A veteran outfitter of 30-plus years Vaughn is the man in charge of decoy placement, so there’s rarely a need for hip boots or waders. This was especially nice because I wanted to take advantage of the sub-freezing temperature and test my new Chippewa Country boots. The series is waterproof, lightweight, durable, comfortable, and features a Vibram sole. Everything you’ve come to expect from Chippewa.
In the end we passed on more ducks than we shot, we reminisced about past adventures, sipped coffee, and generally enjoyed the crisp morning. It seemed like a fitting way to end my first year Living in Chippewa Boots.
How will you wrap up your fall hunting season?
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As a member of the Ducks Unlimited TV crew I have been fortunate to work and hunt with some of the best outfitters, guides, callers, and dogs in the waterfowl industry. In last eight weeks we have diligently followed the fall migration south from Alberta and Saskatchewan to North Dakota, Wisconsin, and Illinois.
We have hunted Devils Lake, ND where the seemingly possessed body of water is literally swallowing up thousands of acres as it steadily expands. We hunted the actual waters of Green Bay (which thanks to the zebra mussel isn’t all that green anymore) and toured Lambeau Field – the home of the Packers. And, we’ve hunted the historic Illinois River Valley and seen the home of famed carver Charles Perdew.
Interestingly enough this was my first opportunity to field-test a pair of boots day-in and day-out for three solid weeks. We all know there are boots for every occasion and outdoor discipline, but when I looked at the DUTV production schedule last month I knew I needed a versatile boot that would stand up to the rigors of the never-ending waterfowl season.
Whether I’m dry field hunting in insulated bibs or simply using my boots to get me from the motel to the boat ramp, the boots had to meet a strict criterion: waterproof, warm, surefooted, and easy to slip on and off.
First, briar oiled leather with the Chip-A-Tex waterproof membrane was a no-brainer. Second, I wanted toasty warm phalanges and 400-grams of Thinsulate sounded like it would do the trick. Third, the fairly aggressive Montana Vibram sole would undoubtedly provide the necessary grip. And fourth, an easy on/off 10-inch topped pull-on would round out my requirements.
Can you guess which Chippewa boot I have just painstakingly described? It’s non other than the 10-inch Briar Norwegian Welt. I know what you’re thinking. The Norwegian Welt series? It’s probably not the first boot that comes to mind. But it should be! Even though it doesn’t conjure up classic images like the Chippewa Super Logger or snake boot, for me it was the perfect fit – in more ways than one. You should really check it out!
With three solid outings in my Norwegians (North Dakota, Wisconsin, and Illinois) and four more hunts booked before the end of the year (Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, and Chesapeake Bay) it’s safe to say these boots are going to experience some serious wear and tear. Including the in between outings with my favorite duck caller – three and half year old Will Garner.
Keep in mind it doesn't matter if you're hunting big spreads in Central Saskatchewan or puddle ducks in Muskogee, Oklahoma Living in Chippewa Boots is what you make it. And frankly I’d like to know how you do it?
P.S. Any migratory bird information would be greatly appreciated.
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Last week while curled up under a camouflage ghillie blanket in the middle of a Ducks Unlimited TV Saskatchewan goose hunt I couldn’t help but look at my boots and think how lucky I was to be reaping the benefits of a chance meeting that took place almost 10 years ago.
It was the 2000 Shooting Hunting Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show in Las Vegas, Nevada and I was a fresh-faced television producer working on a new ESPN Outdoors series called Wildlife Quest.
Like a lot of outdoor television producers navigating the tradeshow floor, I was eager to impress the manufacturers of sweet outdoor gear and apparel with our exploits in the field. Knowing we had a few South Texas hunts on the production schedule I was hoping to get my hands on a pair of the best snakeproof boots on the market – the iconic Chippewas!
Strolling into the Chippewa booth I was greeted by Billy Lovell the man in charge of all product development for Chippewa and the very same man who, over the years, would unwittingly become one of my best resources at the company. He was patient, listening to my spiel as I explained how Chippewa would be better served working with our series.
After a surprisingly short deliberation Billy agreed. We got our boots and Chippewa got prime product placement in a highly rated hunting series streaming into an estimated 85 million households. In the end I think Billy was a better marketer than I was a salesman – well-played sir!
Nevertheless, my relationship with Chippewa was born and although it would only take 10 short years of phone calls, emails, and the occasional boot request before the Chippewa brand manager, Clark Perkins would “discover” me it was well worth the wait.
Fast-forward to October 2010 and a fresh cut wheat field about an hour outside of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Camo-clad and camera-ready the cast and crew of DUTV sat and waited. It was cold, overcast, and windy – the perfect recipe for dry field duck and goose hunting. Bundled up and booted in my comfy 10” mocc toe back zip upland boots I really did stop and think how ironic – who would have thought a handshake and a tradeshow conversation would have turned into this?
Thanks to our guides from Prairie Rose Outfitters who had been diligently monitoring bird patterns the hunt was wildly successful. They had identified a prime staging area for the fall migration giving us the perfect opportunity for a mixed bag of Canada geese and assorted ducks.
There’s a lot to be said about hunting in a pair of good boots, with good friends, and good guides. Hopefully your fall hunting season has included all three. Let us know!
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I have to admit this month’s blog is about one of the most memorable experiences of my life.
I currently have the pleasure of documenting the 100th Anniversary of the historic Pendleton Round-Up! It’s a rodeo, a big rodeo. Happening right now. And it’s more than a big deal, it’s Pendleton!
The Round-Up has long been associated with iconic western images ranging from parades and pageants to Indians and bronc busting. But for me, the two things that immediately stuck in my mind were the sheer size of the Round-Up “Let’er Buck” arena, with its unique 140-yard long grass infield and surrounding dirt track, and the overwhelming sense of history and tradition.
Historic in size and stature the Round-Up has played host to some of the biggest names in rodeo. Founded in 1910, the Round-Up originally served as a northwest championship. Today it’s one of the ten largest rodeos in the world and currently the largest four-day rodeo anywhere. In addition to the seven PRCA sanctioned events (Bareback, Tie-Down Roping, Saddle Bronc, Team Roping, Steer Wrestling, Barrel Racing, and Bull Riding) Pendleton features Steer Roping and a handful of crowd pleasing “throwback” events like wild horse races and classic saddle bronc riding.
Just in case you’re not familiar with classic saddle bronc riding there are no chutes, just a cowboy and a blindfolded horse, which is held steady by two or three of his closest pals in the middle of the arena. When rider is ready, the horse’s blindfold is removed and things get very interesting, rather quickly.
Obviously I was luckier than most, as a producer/cameraman I was able to record every exciting moment. I was given an all-access arena pass that allowed me to maneuver through gates, around barriers, and behind the chutes; fun but dirty work often requiring the television crew to move quickly from one event to the next.
This type of fast-paced work often requires a certain level of disregard for your personal gear. You’re going to get hot, sweaty, and dirty, which is never a problem at rodeos because of the dress code – hats, long-sleeved shirts, jeans, and boots are required. And it’s never been a problem for this Oklahoma State boy. But, since I wasn’t real excited about getting my new Nocona OSU full-quill ostrich boots dirty I decided to pull on my tough green-topped Chippewa Arroyos – a boot series built for abuse. The same abuse routinely handed out on farms, ranches, and rodeos across this great country. Constructed out of heavy-duty oiled leather and long-lasting Vibram soles they’re the perfect western work boots. And in my opinion, especially suited for the rigors of the “Let’er Buck” arena. If you were not familiar with the Pendleton Round-Up or rodeo in general I would encourage you to check it out. There are few places keeping the cowboy spirit alive like Pendleton!
Photos courtesy of Dustin Blanchet.
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My summer has been full of outdoor adventures – from Boy Scout National High Adventure camps to professional bass fishing tournaments. But, like most outdoorsmen across the country I can’t wait for the August heat to give way to cooler temperatures and the fall hunting season. Luckily we’re on the verge of just that!
September 1st traditionally marks the beginning of the fall hunting season and, for Oklahomans, the opening day of dove season! I’m fortunate this year because I get to kick off my hunting season with new friends. My next-door neighbors just happen to be members of one of Oklahoma’s most prominent ranching families – the Drummonds.
The Drummond name has been associated with Oklahoma ranching since the late 1800’s. So when the opportunity to scout dove fields with Frederick Drummond’s (1864 – 1913) great-great-great-grandson, Jackson Frederick Drummond, presented itself, I jumped at the chance to explore the historic ranch.
With Jackson navigating, we made the 45-mile drive from Tulsa north and east to the family ranch in Osage County. Passing through the main gate that bears the original Frederick Drummond “FD” brand Jackson declared, “We’re here!”
Before us was an incredible 20,000-acres spread covering 70 square miles of tall grass prairie and rolling hills. For the Drummond’s, this is literally where it all began. Amazingly, the original tract of land has been a continuous cattle operation since 1890.
Taking Jackson’s lead, I made sure to pack three essentials – plenty of water, a shotgun, and snake boots. With mid-day temperatures nearing the century mark and a heat index guaranteed to top it, we wanted to be ready for anything – particularly dehydration and venomous snakes.
I chose a trusty Belgium-made Browning 16-guage that I inherited from my grandfather and my Chippewa 17” Aged Regina all-leather snake boots. Jackson grabbed a short-barreled, hard sight Winchester 30-30 ranch rifle and his classic 17” Viper Cloth snake boots.
With an abundance of food and water, it was not difficult to target migratory bird patterns or prime shooting spots. Crisscrossing the ranch on 4-wheelers we conducted a textbook survey checking water levels on ranch streams and ponds, noted dove numbers on spring wheat fields, and kept a keen eye on tree lines and fence lines for roosting birds.
At the end of the day Jackson had more than proven himself as a part-time cowboy and seasoned ranch guide. We strategized, surveyed the lay of the Drummond land, and generally had fun.
And when it was all said and done, we only had one snake encounter. What I thought was a cottonmouth turned out to be a diamond-backed water snake – my mistake. Nevertheless, the ranch offered us a sneak peak at a promising dove season opener. I’ll keep you posted.
In the mean time, let me know what you’re doing to kick off your own 2010 hunting season. I’m confident some of you out there are cleaning shotguns, repairing decoys, and looking for new gear. Perhaps even a new pair of Chippewa Boots.
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This month the Scouting for Adventure series took me back to the place where I portaged my first canoe, hoisted my first bear bag and saw my first moose. It’s Ely, Minn., and quite possibly, (and ironically,) the geographic center of the historic homeland of the Ojibwe or Chippewa Nation.
Why is this important? Besides the fact that I love field-testing Chippewa boots on all my adventures and that I just happened to be working 276 short miles from the town that started it all (Chippewa Falls, WI)?
Well, I would have to say my career in outdoor television production could literally be traced back to two influential adventures – backpacking the Chicago Basin in Colorado’s San Juan National Forest in the summer of ’83 and paddling the Boundary Waters in northeastern Minnesota two years later.
The summer of ‘85 I had just turned 14 and couldn’t wait for my first wilderness canoe trip with my dad, grandpa and friends from Tulsa’s Troop 81. It was everything a high adventure paddling trip should be, truly a trip of a lifetime highlighted by a long list of firsts.
So, it goes without saying the 2010 trip was a welcomed return to Ely and the Boy Scouts of America’s oldest of three National High Adventure Bases – Northern Tier. This time around I was joined by fellow Eagle Scout and Outdoor Channel field producer Jared Gustafson and my good friend, editor and videographer Dustin Blanchet. (He’s also responsible for some of the great pictures).
Like the Chippewa and French voyageurs that followed, Northern Tier is crazy for canoeing. We were given the laborious task of documenting three members of Troop 44 from Mendon, MA, as they paddled, fished, portaged, camped, and generally soaked up the sun and fresh air on a dozen lakes. Rough but essential work!
Renowned for it’s remote, untouched beauty, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) has over 1,500 miles of paddle routes, nearly 2,200 designated backcountry campsites, and more than 1,000 lakes and streams. Translation – you’re going to get wet!
But, thankfully when it came to footwear, I didn’t have to sacrifice great ankle support for the convenience of a “water shoe.” Wet or dry my Chippewa Light Hikers maintained their breathability. And, they gave me the traction I needed in the canoe, at the waters edge, and on the portage trail. Coupled with the fact that I utilized a camp shoe off the water it’s not surprising they dried relatively quickly overnight. It was the perfect boot for the trip.
Interesting historical side note - the Ojibwe or Chippewa are one of the largest groups of Native Americans north of Mexico and the third largest in the United States behind the Cherokee and Navajo. Comprised of 125 bands equally distributed between the United States and Canada their traditional home range stretched from the shores of Lake Huron and Superior extending across Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota.
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Everything that I have accomplished in the outdoor television industry as a writer, producer, director, and camera operator I owe to my Dad, retired Tulsa Police Sergeant Mike Garner, and the Boy Scouts of America.
Dad always said the Scouting experience would serve me well later in life and that earning the rank of Eagle Scout would be an incredibly special honor and achievement. But, as a young man who couldn’t see past girls, sports, and getting my drivers license it was a pretty hard sell.
Ironically, all those years of patient instruction would pay huge dividends in the spring of 2008 when I was named lead producer for the highly anticipated series Scouting for Adventure presented by Boys’ Life Magazine on Outdoor Channel.
Obviously Dad was right. Everything had come full circle. As an outdoor television producer, who happened to be an Eagle Scout, I found myself in a unique position working at the most prestigious Boy Scout camps in the country.
Located near Cimarron, New Mexico in the majestic Sangre de Cristo Range of the Rocky Mountains, the 137,493-acre Philmont Scout Ranch was once the summer home and wilderness playground of Oklahoma oilman Waite Phillips before he donated the land to the Boy Scouts of America – one chunk in 1938 and an even bigger chunk in 1941.
This week I was fortunate to meet and work with three Philmont Conservationist staffers – Zach Heard, Ian Hathaway, and Garrett Bonofiglo. Representing 3 of the 19 conservationists who actively blaze trails through the backcountry, these guys basically have two responsibilities – build trails, (by hand,) and lead conservation projects for treks, (Scouts,) passing through their camps.
Established in 1971, the Philmont Conservationist Program challenges and educates Scouts in conservation and natural resource management. The staffers teach campers how to properly use tools like the pick mattock, cutter mattock, the McCloud, hazel hoe, shovels, and rock bars among others.
This is accomplished while illustrating the 5 steps of trail building – surveying, pioneering, rough cutting, finishing, and maintenance. Everything participants need to know about trail construction and campsite improvement. And, these are the same skills they are expected to learn and put to use closer to home.
Interesting side note for the non-Scouters or laypersons – any camper hoping to get their hands on the coveted Philmont Arrowhead Award patch must complete three hours of staff supervised conservation work during the course of their trek through the steep backcountry. So, with an average of 22,000 campers hiking the ranch annually it’s no wonder Philmont has over 340 miles of handcrafted trails.
If you had to keep pace with trail detail what boot would you choose? I knew what I was getting myself into, so for me the choice was simple – the tried and true 8-inch Chippewa logger. End of story.
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My first pair of Chippewa boots were a gift from former Dallas Cowboys tight end and ESPN Outdoors host Jay Novacek. It was the summer of ’99 and I was a young associate producer working with Jay on the Cabela’s Sportsman’s Quest series. Needless to say, I was more than a little excited about my new outdoor swag and the opportunity to work with the Cowboy legend.
The 17-inch lace-up snake boots were a welcomed surprise from the 3-time Super Bowl Champ and 5-time Pro Bowler, proving to be a great introduction to the Chippewa brand and Jay’s generous nature. I wore those boots for years on numerous turkey hunts and white-tailed deer adventures – never completely wearing them out.
With that story and those boots in mind, I prepared for the 2010 Oklahoma spring turkey season. Taking stock of my hunting boot collection, I decided to look for a new pair of Chippewas that would last as long as Novacek’s original pick.
Anticipating spring showers, I wanted a durable, waterproof, and all-around over-the-calf hunting boot that would continue to perform beyond turkey season- a boot without laces that would serve me equally well dove hunting in South Texas or chasing pronghorn antelope across New Mexico. The added benefit of a boot that could withstand a strike from a venomous snake would just be icing on the cake.
So, when I saw the Briar Pitstop Pull On Snake Boot for the first time online I didn’t pay much attention to the words “Espresso Vipercloth” or “Chip-A-Tex” membrane system. Simply put, I saw a snake-proof, waterproof boot with hunting friendly dark brown leather and olive uppers. Everything I wanted – with a Vibram sole to boot!
Fast-forward to Oklahoma’s month long spring turkey season – April 6th to May 6th. Between work and travel I only managed a handful of outings, but I still got out there! I roosted birds, hunted a couple mornings, and made a few evening sits. In the end I had one humbling encounter with a nice gobbler and a poorly placed oak tree. What can you do? I chalked it up to experience. Regrettably there was no camera guy to blame for my misfortune.
I like to think that a lot of experience and a little luck goes a long way when turkey hunting. I’ve produced turkey shows from the Carolina’s to The Big Island of Hawaii and almost everywhere in between, and I know what works for my shows and me. I have my favorites – television hosts, boots, calls, turkey vest, set-ups, camera angles, and destinations.
So, after posting a big fat goose egg off-camera this year I’m a little curious. Whether your statewide spring turkey season wrapped up in March like Hawaii or goes strong through June like Maine – What was your favorite part of Turkey Season 2010?
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April 15th – probably the worst day on the calendar, unless you’re writing a new blog entry, like me. If you read my January, February, and March entries you have to be wondering how an outdoor writer draws inspiration from this most unholy of days? Easy. Here’s a friendly tax tip to consider before the end of the year.
If you’re a self-employed hunting guide, outfitter, logger, ranch owner, or work as an independent contractor in an industry where high performance footwear is a must-have, then I have two words for you – Write-Off!
Seriously, expensing a great pair of boots has to be one of the best business perks available to guys like us. I would encourage you to find the best-designed, best-built, best-fitting boot applicable to your line of work and buy a pair – or maybe two.
Obviously I’m not an accountant, so check with your CPA to determine if these savings apply to you. Every little deduction helps, and I’m confidant you would prefer to hold on to as much of your hard-earned cash as possible. By the end of the year your wallet and your feet will thank me, but I digress.
OK, we have finally come full circle making the leap from vintage World War II aircraft and custom motorcycles to taxes and my bread and butter – the Great Outdoors!
For anyone who loves the outdoors as much as I do, this is the time of year when most sportsmen and outdoor enthusiasts are gearing up for turkeys, camping, summer hikes, and anxiously awaiting the arrival of the fall hunting season.
We’re already two weeks into Spring 2010, and I’ve been busy roosting gobblers and breaking in boots. This year I decided to ease into the whole “breaking in” process. I chose a lightweight Chippewa Hiker, a bass boat, and a collegiate bass fishing tournament – not extremely rugged, but effective.
I recently spent three days in Russellville, AR crisscrossing beautiful Lake Dardanelle, hopping in and out of boats, climbing rocky shorelines, and trying to keep pace with 125 testosterone-driven collegiate anglers in 63 bass boats. It’s important to note there was a lone lady angler in the field, every bit as qualified and driven as her male counterparts.
Hosted by Arkansas Tech University, this leg of The Collegiate Bass Fishing Tournament Series proved to be an eye opener. Did you know there are more than 150 colleges and universities across the country with recognized fishing clubs? I didn’t.
They compete for cash, prizes, scholarships, and bragging rights. You have to love an organization that promotes sportsmanship, outdoor ethics, and still holds these angling students to a high academic standard.
It’s a unique opportunity where young men and women are able to represent their schools while participating in what is arguably America’s most popular outdoor recreational activity – fishing. And, it makes for great outdoor television!
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