Category:  Mike Garner Outdoors

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.

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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!

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3 States. 2 Weeks. 1 Boot.


The last few weeks have been crazy. I’ve traveled to Wyoming for elk, Nebraska for ducks and Arkansas for speckled bellies. A lot of early mornings and late nights in the field culminated in some fantastic outdoor television content that should make its way into your home starting sometime in July on the Outdoor Channel.

I know what you’re thinking – pretty sweet, huh? And to be completely honest, it was! I just spent two weeks hunting my way across the Heartland with good friends and good outfitters. Throughout the 14 days of wind and weather, I depended on one thing to keep my feet warm and dry – my 9-inch Arctic Chipps. Although, I must admit to pulling on my 5-mil neoprene waders a few times out of necessity.

The first stop was Casper, Wyoming. Pulling out of the Casper/Natrona County International Airport, I headed east to the Wagonhound Ranch near Douglas, WY, where I joined the NASCAR Outdoors production team for five days of spot-and-stalk action pursuing big elk through the Rocky Mountain’s Laramie Range.

Temperatures ranged from the high teens to the mid-40s. We experienced average wind speeds around 20 MPH with gusts pushing 30 MPH. Needless to say, it was a little chilly. The steep terrain coupled with a little bit of altitude reminded me just how flat my home state of Oklahoma really is.

Next, I moved 130 miles east across the Wyoming state line to Scottsbluff, NE, and the North Platte River. There I hooked up with the Ducks Unlimited Television crew for a three day youth waterfowl hunt with DU volunteer Mike Winchell. The good news – my waders never left my bag. I had the benefit of genuine lamb shearling liners on my feet and layers of moisture wicking insulating gear on my body.

The final stop was Stuttgart, AR, for the 76th Annual World’s Championship Duck Calling Contest over Thanksgiving weekend. More wind, more weather, and the waders finally made an appearance. Between the Wings Over The Prairie Festival in downtown Stuttgart, and Speck hunting historic flooded rice fields outside of town it was roaring success.

The same boots that got me through Canada in October got the nod in November, (for obvious reasons.) From the Rockies’ to the rice fields, my laces got a little bit longer every trip. Undoubtedly due to the miles of hiking and the natural form fit of the sturdy leather stretching ever so slightly around my foot. These boots just keep getting better and better!

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It's Duck Season!


If you’re an avid waterfowler then you know this year’s waterfowl forecast has already been touted as the best in a decade. Everyone from state wildlife agencies to Ducks Unlimited is optimistic about the upcoming hunting season.

I know when the September/October issue of DU Magazine appeared in my mailbox last month with the headline “A Record Year for Ducks” I got pretty excited – for a couple of reasons. First, I’m a DU Member and I love waterfowling. Second, I’m also a lucky member of the Ducks Unlimited Television production team.

If you’re like me all the press has left you wondering if those lofty population estimates will actually result in more birds in your spread? Maybe, however your success in the field is probably more dependent on the amount of water, food, and cover available in your area than it is on sheer numbers. Regardless of the early “Duck Factory” figures the smart hunter is still going to have to do a little work.

Now I’m no expert, but I know one! My good friend Senior Communications Specialist, Biologist, and DUTV personality Mike Checkett might cringe slightly at my interpretation of duck biology, but I think he would agree that anyone dialed into ducks knows that favorable weather and excellent wetland conditions would positively impact breeding and subsequent hatch.

So begins duck season. Three weeks ago I flew into Saskatoon for the annual pilgrimage to the Prairie Pothole Region of Central Saskatchewan. The region produces more than half of North America’s duck population. We made the two hour drive to a lodge operated by our good friends at Prairie Rose Outfitters and proceeded to enjoy five days of hunting Canada Geese in cut barley fields and ducks in small potholes.

My Canadian goals were pretty simple. Capture some epic waterfowl footage and keep my feet warm and dry! Ironically one was heavily dependant on the other. It’s hard to concentrate on the task at hand when your feet are cold or wet. Lucky there was a cold weather boot I hadn’t tried yet…the genuine lamb shearling lined 9-inch Bay Apache Arctic boot.

I knew in my heart they would be warm and dry, but I was taken aback by the out-of-the-box comfort and ridiculously good ankle support – not surprising given the height and quality of the leather. With upcoming Duck Tour stops in Wisconsin, Nebraska, Rhode Island, and Maryland it’s safe to say I just field-tested the winter boot of the year!

P.S. If you’re the least bit interested in ducks, geese, DUTV or my boots don’t hesitate to send a question or comment my way. Happy hunting!

 

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September Dove Hunt


It’s a ritual handed down, passed on, and played out across the country every September – it’s the Opening Day of Dove Season! For most it’s a tune-up, traditionally the beginning of the fall hunting season, an annual affair filled with family tradition. And it doesn’t matter if you’re 8 or 80 most will agree there’s just something about getting together outside with friends and family, sharing the experience, and making memories.

For me, the best thing about the dove season opener has very little to do with the actual hunt or my shooting prowess. However, I did shoot better than the national average that hovers somewhere around three birds per box of shells (25 shots). That guestimate still blows me away. I mean who averages a dove every 8.333 shells? That’s crazy. Don’t get me wrong I spend my fair share on 16-gauge Remington game loads, but a bird for every 8.333 shells? I’d like to think that I’m a better than average shot, but I think it has more to do with the fact I simply pull the trigger less and I like my birds close.

Like a lot of hunters who make the annual pilgrimage to the dove fields it’s more about whom you’re hunting with and less about counting shells, although putting some meat on the grill was my first priority. Shooting better than my partner was a close second.

This year my brother-in-law Brent invited me to an evening hunt on a private patch of ground near Cushing, OK. Perfect timing, I thought since the mercury in Oklahoma only recently dipped below the century mark– just another beautiful day in America’s Heartland.

We made the 45-minute drive west from Tulsa, arriving a good two hours before sunset. We surveyed the freshly disked field and called out our positions. Brent took the east end zone and I headed west in my Chippewa 8" Mocc Toe Waterproof Lace Ups. Feeling the weight of my grandfathers Belgium-made Browning in my hand as I crossed the field brought back incredible memories of the two men who shaped my understanding and appreciation for the outdoor world. Whether they knew it or not, Dad and Grandpa sent me down a path that would ultimately lead me to my chosen profession.

In a world of synthetic stocks, camouflage coatings, and recoil reducing mechanisms, it took a beautiful 60-year old shotgun to remind me how I got here. Every loaded shell and trigger pull was a gentle reminder of my outdoor heritage, every miss a sign of how much more practice I truly need; every harvested bird resulted in an automatic smile for me and undoubtedly for the two men who got me here as well.

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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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