Dan Small at DeerFest Wisconsin 2014

Dan is a regular participant of the popular DeerFest Wisconsin outdoor show and this year was no exception. Dan was present with his TV Show, ‘Outdoor Wisconsin‘, his radio show, ‘Dan Small OUTDOORS RADIO‘ and representing all of his Sponsors as well.

Steve Worrall of OutdoorsFIRST Media, shot this piece of video interview, with Dan, at this years DeerFest.  Steve asks Dan about his experience at DeerFest and about Dan’s media presence. They discuss Dan’s message through his online and over-the-air media efforts and some of the News in-and-around Wisconsin.

Thanks to Steve Worrrall for the footage and link.

Guestshot: 02.27.09

White Out!

North Country e-TalesNear “white out” conditions on Green Bay were actually much worse than this…


Referring of course, to the ubiquitous white plastic five gallon bucket that nearly all minimalist ice fishermen carry out to their spots, containing the list of their fishing and comfort accoutrements, as well as the bucket itself, which soon becomes your perch. (No pun intended…) Hmmmm…let’s see, ice creepers, jigs, wax worms, jig pole, little fuzzy things, dipper, Backwoods Smokes, auger, hot seat, thermos full of Joe, Nutty Bars, and a whole lot more stuff, enough to make the producers of Grumpy Old Men look twice and organizers of Mt. Everest expeditions envious.

I for one hate ice fishing, and for one main reason: it’s cold; damn cold! Especially this year, when it has been a record setting hard winter, with 60” of snow and -45 degree wind chills and -18 real temperatures. Our January thaw didn’t really happen yet, and I’m not holding my breath till it comes. I am a “springtime” early March type ice fisherman, when you get those late winter sunny 30 degree days with no wind and that lovely tinkling drip, drip, drip of melting snow off the trees and roofs that comes like music to the ears. Then you can sit out there on the lake in a nice comfy lawn chair, catch a few rays, and just let the hungry jumbo perch leap out of the hole and into the bucket by themselves. Ahhhh, now that’s ice fishing!

Ice fishing used to be miserable in January; wet frozen feet in soggy pack boots, a cold breeze down the “plumbers smile,” enough puffy frost bite to make folks think you went out and got a face lift, ‘cept the Doc forgot to put your purple-black ears and nose back on straight. You still can find the misery you seek, if you try hard enough, grasshopper. Though now days, you have options, as the winter fisherman has gotten a lot smarter, and his technology has gotten a lot better, reducing the machismo aspect of the symbolic Peshtigo-Yooper- Finn, from the fur parka and bomber-hat Stormy Kromer crowd standing cold and defiant out on the open God-forsaken ice, down to the modern wireless internet connected Gore-Tex clad big screen TV Lazy Boy and wet bar fully heated Winnebago sized ice shanty with its own steamy sauna.

Whereas it used to be a tough break when you stepped in your own fishing hole and got a soaker, causing your boot to turn into a solid block of ice in 30 seconds, today, it’s a tough break when your cell phone battery dies, or somebody forgets the paprika for the fish boil. The post modern ice fisher-people have gotten comfort down to a science so well that it is quite possible to go out there for a whole weekend and not get cold at all, and catch a lot of fish on top of it.

I started out last Saturday morning at the Bond Center in Oconto doing the usual drill, a mile swim in the 85 degree water of the pool and a 10 minute steam in the 105 degree hot tub while looking through the Arboretum windows at the blizzard raging outside. That would have been fine and good all by itself, because you always feel like a million bucks after that workout, but there was a lot more steaming than my onions on that morning, because I suffered a severe lack of judgment the Friday before and while caught off guard, by some super nice and enthusiastic friends I had been bamboozled, tricked, hornswaggled into going ice fishing!

If you look at the photo and imagine total white out conditions where those tiny black dots you see disappear, note the lack of a horizon or any visible landmarks out on the Bay on a “clear” day, now imagine today out there on the ice, west of Door County, during this blizzard.

“That’s ok Dude!” said my friend, “Just give me a call on the cell phone when you reach the shore, and we’ll turn on our roof light, or we could just give you the GPS coordinates. Got a GPS?”

The ice on Green Bay is always dangerous. Over New Years, a Coast Guard ice breaker went out of Green Bay Harbor bustin’ ice up the east peninsula shoreline 35 miles away…but it caused a “ripple” or wave under the ice so huge that it traveled all the way up here, causing an island chunk of ice the size of Lambeau Field to break off from the shore and float free. Of course, there were half a dozen trucks, RV’s, ice shanties, snowmobiles and fifty or sixty people stranded out there at the time. No worry, everybody got off ok, but it took a whole lot of expensive rescue equipment, and a few frayed nerves to get everyone off the ice.


Icecicles formed on my eyebrows as I crossed the Bond parking lot, and my Toyota was slowly being buried in wind whipped white stuff. I have had my truck in 4 wheel drive for almost a month now. The locals keep saying that this winter is “normal,” “like in the old daze,” but after I picked up a box of fresh donuts to contribute to the fishing party, I drove down to the shore, and looked out over the big lake and its pure white hell, and I wondered if I would be able to salvage a good story out of this. Would I somehow be able to reconcile this trip with the distinct yearning I had for the ice fishing of the old days, like the old timers? Even if, deep down inside, I hated it? Because that was a time when men were men and boys were boys, and young folks were not totally insensitive to preposterous amounts of cold wet wool, and digits frozen inside the mittens that now days would totally wreck youthful thumbs for video game and text messaging dexterity. A paradox, but such suffering builds character, everyone knows that, so it was with great trepidation I hugged my box of donuts, fired up my cell phone and called out over the ice.

Wayyyyyyyy off in the distance, blotted out on occasion by gusts of wind whipped snow; I saw a yellow light begin to flash, like a strobe. The old Toyota ground out over the ice, snow squeaking under the wheels, almost like driving inside a ping pong ball, and believe me, you simply cannot do that without thinking of going through, lost forever under and into the icy cold darkness, at least once. This ain’t Ice Road Trucke, dig? After about ten minutes I ground to a halt in a circle of 4×4 pickups, ATV’s and sno-mos whose center point was an old 16-foot travel trailer, painted desert sand Hummer camo, complete with fake bullet holes, as two of its creators are Iraq vets.

As soon as I turned the engine off, even with the howling wind, I could hear clear as a bell Jimmy Buffet crooning “Margarita-Ville” from the trailer. The door blew open and a stogie-sucking Hawaiian shirt, bomber hat-clad buddy of mine, hollered: “Hey what’re ya standin’ out there in the cold fer? Har har har! C’mon in!”

Was I overdressed? I mean, it was hotter than hell in there with the heater cranked up to sauna levels, and as I began to shed my layers of polypro Gore-Tex and fleece someone handed me a Pina Colada with a lot of fruit and a little paper umbrella in it. Jimmy B. faded and the Reggae’ tunes took over, then the Cajun Zydeco music, and finally Don Ho and his ukelele on the mighty boom box. Everyone but me was wearing shorts, and a couple of the fellers were shirtless, with red suspenders, again, everyone else wore Hawaiian shirts with a variety of hats, including a couple straw cowboy hats. These fellows had a blow up palm tree in the corner there. “Got it at Menards! Let’s PARTY!!” They all hollered!

It was an old travel trailer converted into a “six- holer” with lawn chairs Vexilars and underwater cameras all around. “Hey man! It’s a hairy trip out here over the ice…scary!” I said. After that, they just about peed themselves laughing. “What’s so funny?” I asked. And my one friend who shall remain nameless (more on this later) pointed to the hole, and bending over, I could clearly see the bottom. “Two- feet of water!” he laughed.

Between the music, the laughter and the insults, it was a magical beautiful noise way out there in the Bay, and the five of us bantered about clever dirty ice fishing remarks, and the standard gross wax worm jokes. Some people write about adventure, I live it, and poop on my cherished civilized persona. There are times when you must get wild, and get away from the shoreline. A brutal survival story of modern man trapped out on the ice in the unforgiving North Country with little more than organic Cheetos, fresh caught boiled whitefish, American fries with onions and rum to survive on.

Oh yes, did I say…whitefish? That ever so delectable gourmet eating fish that was once thought to be almost extinct due to commercial over-fishing? Yes. (Hence the secrecy of exact location and the anonymity, no pix, of the participants under penalty of death.) Whitefish coming back, averaging 20 inches and caught in shallow water starting around January 15th. One fish equals two nice-sized filets, and as tasty a fish as you’ll ever eat. Especially boiled in herbs and seasonings Door County style or fried “blackened” Cajun style. Yummy!

Pan the camera out to an appropriate distance and listen to the music, the laughter and the extremely off-key singing, my own squeaky voice among them now, and consider the dark spruces along the shorelines, now stripped of their snow by the wind. Consider the clouds, grey and ominous, dumping more snow than your sense of irony can imagine, consider the ice way out here in the middle of nowhere, desolate, lifeless and freezing cold, without mirth or movement. There is a masterful and beautiful and alien incommunicable wisdom out here on the ice; old man winter turning slow, laughing out loud at the weakness and futility and stupidity of human beings, so small and so tiny against all of winter. Here in the frozen waterway sits a tiny island of warmth light and silliness ready to take it all on, and come up; entertained with a full belly.

On the underwater cameras we saw lots of stuff – walleye, perch, trout and even a mudpuppy and a sturgeon, and later in the day something – like something big took a “chomp” off the plastic fish-shaped body of the camera, and left it chewed like a golden Lab had got ahold of it. Pike? Musky? Hmmmm…more excitement, and yes, about every two hours or so the school of whitefish passed beneath the trailer, and every one of us began pulling up squirming, struggling silver-and-white gourmet fare for about two minutes until the school moved on. Short and sweet and exciting, but enough for five lines to pull up half a dozen nice fish; 17” to 20”. A long wait between frenzies, but oh so well worth it. Some of them went right into the boiler and frying pan, and if you’ve never had whitefish that fresh…

…then you must ask yourself, what else in life have you missed?

Ice Fishing Paradise ?And to think, I almost chickened out on this mid-winter excursion.

There is the theory of ice fishing, and the modern-day application. Everyone should go ice fishing like this just once. Forget about the world going to hell in a hand basket; that means nothing out on the ice. We all spend entirely too much time working, worrying and contemplating the apocalypse and all other such equally boring and meaningless subject matter. Escape. I am eminently qualified on the topic of escape. Near dusk, as I stepped from the trailer to make yellow snow, I reflected on all the white emptiness once again, slogging through the slush to an appropriate place I heard the real sound of silence, filling me with enough emptiness and nothingness to cheer the heart of any Zen Buddhist meditator in the state of “no mind” emptiness and meaninglessness across the open sky without end until it all reached a great refreshing trouble-free crescendo of recreational nirvana.

Beware the mad cautionary tale of cabin fever. It lurks among those who never get out and fish.

Till next time,


GuestShot: 11.25.2008

Kim’s Story: Right of Passage

112508_dsor_kimsdeerThere are so many things that are running through my mind… I really don’t know where to begin. Most people might not think that shooting a deer can be life changing… but for me it is. There is something sacred and far deeper about it than I ever really imagined. So here is my story.

Yesterday was opening day of the deer gun season. I was excited to be part of the hunt yet apprehensive because since going through hunter’s safety 2 years ago with my daughter Jasmine; I had yet to see a shooter much less get a shot in. My first year, I got nothing, but Jasmine got her first deer on the first day/first morning of the youth hunt. Last year I was with a group that was driving deer and I had one jump out but I was unsure of the shot as there were people in the vicinity of the shot so I did not squeeze the trigger. Well yesterday my luck changed.

We went out in the cold, cold morning. When we arrived at our hunting location it was still dark and just a hint of light was starting to appear on the horizon. When we got out of the truck my daughter noticed silhouettes of 3 deer just over the ridge about 40 yards away. The must have been pushed out by other hunters in the vicinity. Then they bolted… and ran right across the road not more than 10 feet away from us and into the woods. It was amazing to feel the energy of the animals as they ran. We proceeded to our locations to sit and wait. I saw nothing the rest of the morning and froze but … hey it was still opening day and there were several more days left in the season and I still had the evening hunt. I was grateful for the opportunity to get the blood flowing and warm up. I had said a little prayer to the goddess regarding my desire to get my first deer and immerse myself deeper into the circle of life.

Later that day we went out and I sat on a rock wall with fields on both sides. As I sat there the sun began to fall behind the trees. Two wild turkeys came out of the woods and crossed the field. A few minutes later they came up the hill in the field not more than 15 yards in front of me. I was sitting there so still and they did not even fly away until they were several hundred feet past me. There was also a little mouse going in and out of the rock pile next to me… I thought WOW just to see that makes my day even if I don’t see a deer…my day will still be complete.

Then it happened… I could not have been handed a better gift.

About 5 minutes later I hear crunch, crunch, crunch right behind me. I turned my head slowly and I found myself staring down a deer. Then at that moment something primal took over. What felt like minutes I am sure was only a matter of seconds. I stood up, put the gun up to my shoulder, pulled the hammer back, pushed the safety to fire, aimed and fired. The deer fell right were it stood.

The whole time up until I aimed the gun my eyes were locked on the deer’s eyes. I felt as though something took over my body to allow me to have a successful hunt. I became animal… that deep inner part that so many of us do not connect with… so many of us don’t know where our food comes from. I now understand something profound that words will never convey…My heart was beating wildly. I did it… all by myself. I was elated and profoundly changed.

I am not a graceful person and somehow I got up on the rock wall and in one fluid motion turned and lifted that gun… each step going through my mind until I had fired… There was more to it than shooting an animal. I was now deeply immersed in the sacred circle of life. I felt connected to my ancestors and the earth. This deer will be eaten by my family… I now know that if I have to I can feed my family via the hunt. This is one of the most profound experiences of my life. I understand the unexplainable. You will never fully know how it feels until you experience it. It is a right of passage. I am changed and empowered.

I will never be the same.

Guest Shot: 09.07.2008

Me and Joe

by Les Booth

“Me and Joe went fishing on Wednesday night. Where we went ….”,

OK, I can hear the groans already. “NOT another so-called, ‘Me and Joe’ story.” Well, I’m with you on that. I’ve had enough of those old brag-pole, exploit riddled tales, too. But this is NOT just another, ‘Me and Joe’. This is a real life, honest-to-goodness, Me (Les Booth) and Joe (Joe Cornwall) fishing story.

It’s not what you’d expect. Really!

If you’re looking for photos of big, football shaped bucket-mouth bass, or platter sized bluegill, or rod straining trout, then you will be disappointed. This is not a story about ‘CATCHING’ or ‘SPECIES PORN’. This is a story about two guys who have known each other for several years in the online world of email, web sites, blogs and podcasts, finally getting to meet, face-to-face, in their favorite venue: fly-fishing.

We both belong to the Outdoor Writers Association of America and dance among the digital wave of New Media. But until Wednesday night, 20 August 2008, we’d never met in person.

Earlier this spring, I had an offer for a real fishing treat come my way. A contact made over a year earlier offered me and up to three friends, a ‘taste of trout fishing nirvana’. This was to be a real treat, too!  The source was a mid-state Ohio group, specializing in breeding huge trout and placing them into recovered natural streams in central Ohio.

I jumped on it.

Inviting my best fishing buddy on the blue orb, Ed Hauser, my son and the one fellow from the Ohio area whom I just knew would really appreciate such a rare experience, Joe Cornwall.

As luck would have it, Mother Nature had different plans. She decided to dump an unseasonably high rain event right over the watershed of our expected nirvana. In a couple of hours our plans were as blown out as the streams in that watershed. We reluctantly requested a ‘rain check’ and were graciously granted it by the owners.  “Whew!” When that adventure happens, I will – well, maybe, tell you all about it.

But once again Joe and I were to remain ‘virtual’ acquaintances only.

Not quite a month later, I invited Joe to come fish my ‘Home Waters’ for our shared personal favorite game fish, the explosive and ever entertaining, Smallmouth bass. Though the hallowed waters have held all summer, work, events and well – life, conspired against our futile attempts in setting and consummating a successful outing. Thus, the “Home Waters” venture remains a future event to enjoy and report on as well.

Then three weeks ago, I received an email from Joe saying he would be passing through my area on his way between business meetings. He wanted to know: if he chose to stay overnight in the area would I be interested in getting together and could I possibly have a bass pond where we could share a proper introduction?

I fired back an immediate response, saying: I sure would! Sure could!  I could definitely make that happen.

All he’d need to do was tell me WHERE and WHEN to meet him and I’d be there with pontoons-in-tow and a fabulous water where we could go!

The die was cast. The day awaited. And the fishing gods smiled. So did me and Joe.

Me and Joe were going fishing!

The weather that Wednesday was perfect. The temps were in the mid 70s, humidity in the low 40’s and only the occasional breeze chopped the waters.

Normally, I don’t mind that chop.  That night though, I really wanted a still-as-glass water.  One just right for those potentially explosive top water bass moments.  But you know, it’s interesting.  Life’s experiences educate us to realize, not all requests posited to the divine -provided or not -are necessarily what we truly need. Such may well have been the case for this evening, too.

The water was like glass; most of the time.  The top water action was full of potential.  But none of it happened.

Something far greater did come to the surface, though.

We had just missed the ‘bite’ forecast by the Solar/Lunar Tables; having ended just 2 hours before we could get on the water. For some that would just plain terminate any reason for being on the water.

What’s the point? The likelihood of a ‘real catch’ was lost; might as well pull stakes and wait for the next window.


I had long ago proven that such natural bio-rhythms really do work. So pay attention to them: when you’re out to catch fish.

Equally, I have learned that it is wise to neither dump all your eggs into one basket or believe in only a single line of thinking.

When interacting with the flow of nature, flexibility is a major KEY to a lasting, continued level of success. When you go afield, or on-water, do so with all the information you can muster.  But, you’ll be more successful trips ahead, the more you’re willing and able, to adjust on the fly.  This is flexibility in action.

Yes, all puns are willfully and gratuitously accepted!

We missed it. But, we still caught fish. This is neither a chock-one-up-for, or against, the block of fishermen who either swear-by, or swear-at the ‘tables’. Really, there’s no need to waste time in trying to be in either camp:  if you’re going fishing.

For you see here in lies the understanding of this particular, flexibility KEY.

There is a huge difference between FISHING and CATCHING.


‘Cause you see… Me and Joe had come to fish.

  • Fishing has no agenda beyond the moment. Catching demands outcomes.
  • Fishing doesn’t equate success with quantity. Catching doesn’t exist without it.
  • Fishing is ecumenical on all levels of human experience. Catching is purely denominational.
  • Fishing allows – even welcomes and seeks – serendipity. Catching fears and loathes it; demanding engineering precision.
  • Fishing is fun. Catching is work.
  • Fishing is open to anyone. Catching is a closed fraternity.

Me and Joe were fishing.

Me and Joe weren’t looking for food or numbers. And that is the difference. Had we needed food or desired stats for the brag-pole, we would have gone fishing with catching as the objective.

Catching fish was never our objective.

Getting to know each other – over a good catch-basin of protein rich water, while amply plying the combined techniques of fly-casting, fly selection and observation, interwoven with a sublime mix of individual solitude and in-depth conversation on a far ranging array of topics, was the objective.

I must admit, we hit the nail, squarely on the head! Bingo! Super success on the highest level possible. We accomplished what we set out to do … and then some. Our fishing included not only seeking serendipitous encounters of an ichthyologic kind, but we were fishing the personal waters of our own lives.

Joe and I both – heartily agreed – that the last line from, A River Runs Through It, were not only Norman Maclean’s most powerful, but strike deep and true to the very core of our nature.

We ARE both, “…haunted by waters.” and we love it.

For us, there is no better place to consummate a personal relationship than in the company of WATER. And fishing is our common choice of baptism.

Thus, Me and Joe fished.

Now, to be fully functional, every outing should also contain some element of learning. Something you did not know before. We added that to the retinue of the evening as well. However, it was not something to deal with the water, nor fishing. It was about my own home area.

Restaurants to be exact.

The Lafayette-West Lafayette, Indiana area is my home ‘urbanville’. It caters to a major Big Ten University. It’s a lively, fast growing area of étalement urbain, with more eating establishments than, frankly, is healthy.  But, I was totally taken aback with finding that nearly all restaurants, on weekday evenings, rolled up their sidewalks, closed their doors and were ‘lights-out’, by 10:00 PM!

WHAT !!! ? !!!

Hadn’t they read the memo?  Our area of Indiana, had been speed-jumped into the modern age two years earlier!  For goodness sakes! We are now on Daylight Savings time.  Hey folks!  People are up and moving about later.  And we like to eat later, too!

Well, I guess not, ’cause Me and Joe got fished.

We were hungry and not even close to being ready to lay the conversation aside. After heavy trolling on the likely watering holes for edible food and drink, we were forced to take refuge at the local B.Dubs.

Yeah, we didn’t know what they meant by that name either! We soon found out the odd vernacular was for the local franchise of a national chain called, BW3 (Buffalo Wings 3).

The beer as it turned out, was excellent; Joe’s suggestion.  The hot-sauce… well, left me wishing for a real Cajun cook.  The noise inside was utterly intolerable to normal conversation. Fortunately for us it drove us out into a most pleasant evening air. Shoot, 2-outta-3’s not bad. Eh?  We both agreed though, it would be another big mistake and an even bigger hunger that would land us in a B.Dubs anytime soon.

Oh well. Live and learn. Besides, we didn’t get together to eat.

Me and Joe went fishing and we’ll do it again…soon!

—–Epilogue —–

Joe Cornwall publishes a top-class web site full of interesting, useful and timely content called, Fly-Fish Ohio. Joe is an outstanding fly-tier and has a real talent for thoroughly engaging the student in both technique and conversation. His video segments on fly-tying are not to be passed up. As well, his podcasts are truly among the top 10 of all podcasts on the Internet. Give Joe’s website a visit and take in his offerings. You will not be disappointed. He is also the author of one of the best books on warmwater fly-fishing I’ve ever read (Fly Fishing Warm Water Rivers) you can find more information on the book and how to purchase it on his web site, too.