Category:  Mike Garner Outdoors

Nest Dragging in North Dakota

It’s often easy to focus on the superior features of Chippewa boots – the classic silhouette, durable Vibram rubber outsoles, or the heavy duty oiled leather. But, for a brand that immediately conjures images of classic American craftsmanship I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the boots than to simply put them to good use in America’s Heartland! And that’s exactly what I did on a recent Ducks Unlimited TV trip to North Dakota.

I think the majority of the waterfowlers and outdoors television enthusiasts have a somewhat limited sense of the “boots on the ground” conservation work that organizations like Ducks Unlimited fund year after year. Last month I was fortunate to be a part of an in-depth waterfowl research project near Minot, ND. There I met Brandi Skone, a graduate student from Montana State University, who was researching the effectiveness of winter wheat as alternative nesting habitat for waterfowl.

You see winter wheat resembles native cover like grasslands and since winter wheat is planted in September it provides ample cover for nesting birds throughout the spring and summer. And because the crop isn’t harvested until late July or early August there is plenty of time for the ducklings to hatch and leave the nest. This is ideal Brandi explained because spring-seeded crops simply won’t supply sufficient cover for the migratory birds in time for nesting.

Since I’m a producer/boot guy and not a wildlife biologist my role was pretty simple – highlight the important work Brandi, her crew leaders and research technicians were performing in the field. For a short-timer like me, finding, counting, and monitoring nests was pretty fun, all you need are a couple 4-wheelers, two hundred feet of anchor rope, and a team of research techs with keen eyes.

Nest dragging is a relatively simple, cost-effective, and accurate way for wildlife biologists to locate nesting birds. 4-wheelers drive the fields parallel to each other pulling a gentle loop of rope over the wheat. The sound of the bending grass flushes the nesting hens, giving the spotter riding on the back of the 4-wheeler the perfect opportunity to locate the nest. It’s important to note that the rope doesn’t damage the wheat crop or the nests.

The nests are immediately flagged. This is when Brandi and her team go to work. They’re looking at the plumage used to create the nest to identify species. Are the feathers mallard, pintail, gadwall, or blue-winged teal? The eggs are counted, candled, and then returned to the nest. And as an added measure of protection Brandi and her team mark the nests with a 4-foot fiberglass rod and fluorescent surveyors tape exactly 5-yards north of the actual nest.

Brandi and her crew labored in the field from mid-April to mid July. And at the busiest point of the summer they were gathering data six days a week and averaging 14-hours a day. Impressive work by the next generation of conservationists and wildlife biologists.


Living in Chippewa Boots

Living in Chippewa Boots is as much about a way of life as it is about the best outdoor footwear in the country. And for the first time, I can honestly say this month’s blog is less about the boots and more about those individuals who make the lifestyle possible.

Obviously the very talented designers and craftsmen at Chippewa are the ones who put the handcrafted boots in our hands and on our feet, but the brand is so much more. It embodies a lifestyle that is completely dependant on people like you and me – those who choose to live, work, and play in the Great Outdoors.

As Americans we are blessed with a great many freedoms, and even though outdoor pursuits are only a part of who we are, if you’re like me, it’s an indispensable part. So, it’s fitting that we just celebrated a national holiday honoring the brave men and women who died in our nation’s service – the very heroes who protect this way of life.

As many others were, I was fortunate to celebrate the Memorial Day weekend surrounded by friends and family. In a scene familiar to millions of Americans across the country, we set out on a classic campout replete with bobbers floating on a farm pond, hotdogs roasting over an open fire, and smores (inhaled almost as fast as they were slapped together).

But, never losing sight of the holiday’s true meaning, I explained to my boys the importance of remembering and honoring those who served and sacrificed for all of us. I wanted them to know that we were lucky to be together – hiking, fishing, exploring, and sleeping under the stars.

My oldest, Will, and his “Best Buddy” Hank honed their woodsman skills hammering tent stacks, collecting kindling for the fire, and cooking their own dogs. My nieces Emmy and Courtney proved themselves more than capable behind the reel. And my youngest, Ben, who marveled at every big beautiful bluegill that was pulled out of the water, always seemed to find the perfect worm.

Loaded up and on the road home, I couldn’t help but be thankful for the two dirty little guys conked out in the back seat and my beautiful not-so-outdoorsy wife who put up with a weekend of sweat, sunscreen, and insect repellent just to make some outdoor memories. But, I was especially thankful for those souls I will never know who make all of our weekends possible.


Not Ready for Summer

As I pull on my turkey boots I can’t help but think about the unseasonably warm weather that’s getting warmer and the onslaught of spring tornadoes threatening the Midwest from the Gulf Coast to the Great Lakes. Spring is almost over and I’m still thinking about the not-so chilly temperatures of our mild winter.

I only had one real opportunity this year to test the extreme protection of my Chippewa Arctic Boots. Last year I was fortunate to pursue elk in Wyoming, puddle ducks in Washington State, and Canada Geese in Saskatchewan. All three destinations held the promise of bone chilling weather, but when it was all said and done I don’t recall the mercury dipping below the freezing mark for any length of time.

Ironically it was a 2012 late season Ducks Unlimited Television trip to New York State that finally delivered a surprise cold snap. A short drive from Rochester, NY to Farmington delivered the DUTV cast and crew to the last best place to hunt, Greater Canada Geese in the U.S. – the Finger Lakes Region of Western New York.

There we met Chris Devanzo, Owner of Fish & Feathers Outfitters. Chris effectively operates between Rochester and Syracuse, NY in the heart of Lake Ontario’s southern basin – a critical stop over spot for migratory birds moving up and down the Atlantic Flyway.

Anticipating our arrival, Chris and his good friend and trusted guide Matt Krekelberg, thoroughly scouted the western Finger Lakes area ensuring we would have a hot spot to hunt – all we needed were birds. They were there in abundance! Unfortunately Mother Nature decided to relentlessly pound us for two days with heavy wind, rain, and snow (in that order). The whole time we sat in picked cornfields with Avery Finisher, layout blinds serving as our only cover.

Day one ended in a downpour. Day two was halted by zero visibility due to lake effect snow coming off Erie. On day three, the clouds parted and we were plagued by golf weather and too few birds.

For me the mild winter and early warming trend had finally culminated in a single day of bitter cold. Thankfully, the Boy Scout in me was prepared! Luckily, I had genuine lamb shearling lined boots on my feet so the prolonged exposure to the 18-degree temperature was of little concern.

Looking back now I’m a little conflicted. What’s more fun – braving the bitter cold in the goose fields? Or, picking ticks off your pant legs and swatting mosquitoes in the turkey woods? Let me know what you think!


The Reverse F - D Brand.

The branding iron is arguably one of the most important and iconic ranching tools passed down from the American West and the days of open-range grazing.

An ancient practice that predates the Americas by more than a few hundred years, livestock branding is as important today as it was to the ancient Egyptians. But, we have to thank Spanish Conquistador Hernando Cortes and his vaqueros for delivering a small herd of branded cattle to the New World and ultimately introducing Mexican and American cowboys to the custom.

Characterized by letters, numbers, pictorial and/or geometric symbols the modern brand serves the same purpose it did centuries ago. And it doesn’t matter if that mark is crazy, lazy, reversed, walking, running, hanging, tumbling, flying, swinging, rocking, includes a bar, a diamond, or a circle one thing is for sure – brands are incredibly personal and worth protecting.

In fact, many Western U.S. States have strict laws regarding brands, brand registration, and brand inspection. According to the Oklahoma Cattleman’s Association a brand is defined as, “a permanent mark, not less than 3-inches in length or diameter burned in with a hot iron or method commonly known as freeze branding.”

Lucky for me, my good friends the Drummonds own and operate a Black Baldy cattle operation in Osage County, Oklahoma. The 70 square mile chunk of tall grass prairie with rolling hills has been a continuous cattle operation since 1890.

With over 120 years of ranching heritage in their blood the Drummond’s enjoy a true brand identity well documented and deep-rooted in Oklahoma history. And like a lot of ranches that have stood the test of time there is an incredible sense of pride in their mark and the herd that bears that symbol.

So when the opportunity to brand something presented itself last weekend at the ranch I jumped at the chance. It’s my understanding that the art of branding livestock was easily mastered by even the greenest cowhand. But since I have never touched red-hot iron to live hide I figured I better practice on something off the hoof. My new 17” Aged Regina Chippewa snake boots (that I hope to wear in South Texas later this year) were the perfect proving ground!

My good buddy Jackson Drummond pulled out the propane tank, lit the handmade burner, placed Frederick Drummond’s (1864 - 1913) historic reversed F - D iron in the fire, and then we waited patiently for the red glow. A well-placed board slipped inside the leather upper and we were in business. Two strategically placed brands later I was the proud owner of a pair of custom Chippewa snake boots.

The instant the hot iron hit the leather I felt a closeness to all those old cowpunchers – past and present. Even if I was only playing cowboy for the weekend. A healthy puff of smoke, a small burst of flame, a quick 5-count, and the indelible mark was done.


Top 3 Boots of 2011

For an outdoor television producer this time of year is always difficult.With exhibitions and conventions for the Wild Sheep Foundation, SHOT Show, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, and Safari Club International it’s more like trade show season than anything else.  With duck season winding down and archery white-tailed deer hunting closing across the country, everyone is patiently waiting for the spring spawn and turkeys!

For me I’m just sitting in my Las Vegas hotel room trying to catch my breath after four long and crazy days of walking the SHOT Show floor.The fact that I have a blister on both heels has absolutely nothing to do with my Chippewa Boots – for the simple reason I haven’t been able to wear them!Unfortunately this go-around required a full-blown monkey suit, including a new pair of dress shoes.This is not the usual boot friendly attire I’ve grown accustomed to in my 14 years of outdoor production.

As I perused the latest advances in ammo, binos, blinds, camo, decoys, firearms, hearing protection, and general outdoor toy technology the thought occurred to me – this is the first monthly installment since January 2010 (ironically SHOT Show) that hasn’t centered around a specific outdoor adventure. So, I thought why not look back at 2011 and pick the Top 3 boots that got me from Washington’s Snohomish River Valley to the New River Gorge of West Virginia. It’s sort of a year in review.So here we go.

No. 3 – 10” Briar Pitstop Logger

Trail building on the Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve in the Appalachian Wilderness last year was my only opportunity to return to the timber.Not since I documented the Philmont Scout Ranch conservation project in June 2010 had I participated on another trail building crew.No surprise the 10” Briars were up to the challenge proving once again why they’re best in category!


No. 2 – Upland 6” Briar Bison w/ Shark Tip

The September 1st dove season opener has to be the classic American fall social event of the year!And hands down the best outdoor experience you can share with friends and family – young and old.The 6” briar bison is the perfect compliment to any sportsman’s outdoor wardrobe!






No. 1 – Arctic 9” Bay Apaches

Elk hunting in Wyoming’s Laramie Range was by far the biggest test for my feet and my trusty Chippewa Boots this season.Wind, weather, a steep gradient, and 40-pounds of excess camera equipment helped to thoroughly break in my boots and solidify the Top Spot as the best boots I wore all year!


So there it is, the list of the best boots to take on an adventure of your own.I’d love to know how your boots stack up!

Mike Garner Outdoors
mike garner outdoors

Chippewa has teamed up with Mike Garner, a lifelong sportsman and television personality with a love for everything outdoors, to bring you Mike's journey across the United States in his Chippewa boots.

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