The Ecosystem

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During the last year, I had the opportunity to get to know an individual who had lived on this earth for 101 years. Her name was Mae, and she was a wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and active community volunteer well into her 90s. She helped raise her four grandchildren who grew up in a single parent home, and remained devoted to them through their adulthood. When this lady came into my life, I felt incredibly fortunate for the chance to learn from her about all the things she’d experienced, and what American life was like in the early 20th century. One of the first things I wanted to know was what she remembered about the Great Depression and World War II. She remarked that if she had a nickel for every time she’d been asked about those two events, she’d be sitting pretty. Some parts of history are so fascinating, that we can’t help but be intrigued by people who lived through them. I had no idea at the time that I would soon be living through one of those historic periods. Years from now, our grandchildren and great-grandchildren will ask us what it was like to live during a pandemic.

This experience has served to deepen my understanding of human nature, and provided some fascinating insight into the culture of modern American society. These challenging days are demonstrating just how much we need and depend on one another. The difficulty of living distanced makes it incredibly apparent how we are meant to live as a community. Our lives are so interconnected, that forcing them apart disrupts every aspect of our day-to-day experience. This interconnectedness is the way of nature, and is reflected in every other biological community on earth. In science, this is referred to as the ecosystem. The hallmark of an ecosystem is the connection and interdependence between each organism within. From food web relationships between predator and prey, to the impacts life activities have on the landscape, there is connection everywhere. Everything that occurs in an ecosystem affects everything in it.

This perspective is highlighted in a troubling way through the spread of a highly contagious virus. It has thrown our interconnectedness into a different light, and can make it feel like a weakness. But the story we have to tell our grandchildren about how we lived through this historic time is ours to write. An ecosystem perspective allows us to consider situations that may seem negative on the surface, with an understanding that everything is working together for the greatest good.

As a company, our ecosystem is broad, and reaches through our families and friends, to our colleagues in the conservation field, to the families who purchase properties from us, to the land itself where we develop habitat and the all the living things that dwell there. Everything we do matters, to everyone and everything in our ecosystem. Our impact is multiplied by the ripple effect our work has on people and resources. Through all the stories and lessons Mae shared with me, the common thread was her connection with people. The relationships she cherished and nurtured, and the lives she touched, were always what she remembered most. This is the most hopeful truth that we can glean from these trying times, that our connection is our greatest strength. Collectively, we hold the power to see ourselves through to the other side, and tell a heartening story to the generations to come.

To Dads

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He’s the one who woke you up before daylight for that very first squirrel hunt. He made you breakfast, and made sure you had on enough warm clothes. He gifted you the .410 you cradled in your arms, and spent countless afternoons teaching you to handle and shoot it. He beamed with pride as he took your photo with your first kill.

He let you ride on his knee and steer the tractor to plow the ground for fall food plots. He showed you the oats, radish, and clover seeds, and helped you pick out each one as they sprouted. He taught you what white oaks look like, and persimmons and beautyberry.

You could feel his steady hand on your back as you trembled with nerves and adrenaline, trying to find the deer’s shoulder in the crosshairs. He walked you through your first solo skinning, letting you take three times as long as it would take him. He let you drop the steaks into the frying pan, and taught you how special it is to bring home your own dinner from the woods.

He helped you plant a spring garden with whatever vegetables you wanted. He let you get dangerously close to a wild beehive, so you could see the honeycomb inside. He taught you how the bees and butterflies are just as important as every other creature, and how we can help them out with some flowers in the backyard.

There was a lesson in everything, but he never skipped out on the fun. Each experience was a seed being planted, and as you grew you came to realize that his love for the land had taken root in your own heart. Now you know this was his greatest gift, and one that you must also pass on.

To all the dads who take a child’s hand, and lead them down a worthy path, Happy Father’s Day.

Moms of Outdoorsmen

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In an industry and community dominated by men, we often overlook the women around us. I didn’t grow up with any role models of women in the outdoors, but had many whose support made it possible for me to enter a world where women are not always encouraged to participate.  In most communities, women are the backbone holding it all together, the driving force that keeps us going. The outdoors and hunting community is no exception. Women who hunt are still the vast minority, despite tremendous growth in the numbers of us taking to the field in recent years. But every male hunter has a woman in his life that helps make his lifestyle possible. Whether your mom took you hunting as a kid, or just let you cook your squirrels in her favorite stockpot; or your wife takes care of the kids’ morning routine on those days when you have to be in the stand before daylight; or your grandmother finds a way to use every scrap of meat you bring home. Many a hunter owes his days afield to the influence, support, or encouragement of a woman. Not all of these women are mothers, but they all take on a motherly role in some respect. They love what we love, and do whatever is needed to help us have the most rich and fulfilling experience possible.

I know my own experience as a hunter would be greatly diminished without the influence of the women in my life. My grandmother’s support nurtured the compassion and respect I hold for the game I pursue. She helped me learn to cook the meat I harvested, and taught me the importance of resourcefulness and sustainability. My mom laid the foundation that I could do anything the boys could do, and was entitled to anything they were. She helped me appreciate my time hunting as a spiritual and emotional experience.

There is no doubt that moms in families of hunters and outdoorsmen are blessed with a special kind of patience and understanding. We are all indebted to the moms and other women in our lives for the encouragement and support that allow us to pursue our passion. Make a point this Mother’s Day to thank them for all the ways they make the outdoors that much more special.

A Wild Perspective

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“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.” –Rachel Carson

 

During the most difficult times in my life, I have found comfort in nature. Not only in its beauty and serenity, but in the perspective I gain from its observation. I’ll sit alone on the forest floor, resting my back on an oak trunk, and watch birds collect materials for their nests, while ants near my feet work diligently at their tasks, and squirrels busy themselves chasing each other from limb to limb. I’ll recline on a sandy creek bank, listening to the soft trickle, and watch a family of turtles sun themselves on a log, then slip one by one into the cool water. Minnows dart around in shallow pools, and a doe stops by for a drink. Nature and its processes carry on, unaware of the concerns I carry, and unfazed by humanity’s toiling. Wildlife continuously adapt to their surroundings amidst conditions that impact the landscape and their resources. Natural disasters, ever-expanding urbanization, and the regular cycles of the earth make for a perpetual learning curve. Nature is the supreme teacher of resiliency, and provides the most elegant examples of embracing the cycles of life.

A forest fire can be devastating, burning everything in its path entirely to ash, displacing both animals and people, and destroying resources. But in time, new growth will rise from the destruction, even more lush than before. The wildlife know to give the fire its space, let it smolder, and return for the rebirth. A river will spill over its banks, swallowing up the land for miles around, stranding animals and drowning their homes. They patiently wait it out, knowing the water will eventually recede. The fox grown gaunt from winter’s scarcity does not despair, but endures for the spring plenty it knows is coming.

It’s difficult to see beyond tough situations when we’re in them, but we can always count on the hard times to pass. A glance at nature can remind us that there will always be a new beginning.

Starting Strong

Managing habitat is a never-ending cycle. The seasons are a familiar pattern, each with its own needs for us to meet. Though expected, every iteration is a new challenge, each bringing a renewed sense of accomplishment. Much of this work is a singular play in a long game, with compounding effects that we’ll never see. But oddly, that truth makes it all the more worth it.

The first quarter of the year is always one of our busiest times, and this year was no exception.  The projects we complete during this season set the foundation for further management throughout the year, and are often some of the first steps in a long-term development plan.  The specific timing required for most of these projects makes it crucial to hit the ground running in January.  The window of opportunity for prescribed burning and tree planting is short, and capitalizing on it can make a huge difference in the advancement of a property’s development.  Timing is also critical for establishing new wood duck boxes, or performing maintenance on existing ones, to make sure they are ready for nesting season.

Many other tasks fill our days during this season, and help us prepare for the tasks of the coming months.  This is the routine of property development and management; work that is constantly compounding and building on itself, along with the continual rotation of maintenance.  Stepping into this rhythm makes you feel like an active participant in the natural cycles that we often take for granted.

 

Nature’s Eye

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Often at the beginning of a new year, we take a moment to reflect on where we’ve been and look ahead to where we’re going. Our journey as a company has been a unique one. We set out with a vision to positively impact conservation on the broadest scale possible. Our operations began simply by helping landowners make their land better for wildlife and for their families. Along our path, we have planted seeds in many other sectors of the industry, and grown branches that have allowed our operations to evolve. We are now investing even further in the wild places that are so dear to us. We begin this new year with a new mission to serve communities by fostering a deeper connection to the land. Through facilitating rural land sales, and implementing property development that enhances wildlife habitat and recreational value, we encourage an appreciation for a Nature Based Life.

As a property investment and development firm, we aim to keep as much land as possible open for wildlife and outdoor recreation. The following film portrays our evolution through the years, and our vision moving forward. We’re excited to continue sharing this journey with you, and hope you’ll come along for the ride.  Join us online at our new website natureseye.com

Opt Outside

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In 2015, one of the largest outdoor retailers in the country decided to take a stand against the consumer mania of Black Friday. For the past four years, REI has closed its doors on the Friday following Thanksgiving, encouraging its customers to spend the day enjoying the outdoors, rather than shopping. They dubbed this campaign #optoutside, and it has had an incredible ripple effect through the industry, gaining a following from other retailers, outdoors enthusiasts, and even outdoor novices. This initiative reflects the company’s values of consuming less and nurturing a love of the outdoors.

For many of us who enjoy the outdoors through game pursuits, our default is already to be out in the field on that extra day off after Turkey Day. Hunting seasons are in full swing, and there’s nowhere we’d rather be. (Particularly not standing in line outside walmart). However, we are losing members of our tribe at an alarming rate, recruitment is dismal, and our reputation has certainly seen better days. There are fewer and fewer of us living the hunting lifestyle. Supporting a campaign like this could provide a much-needed boost to hunting participation. It may not seem like a one day event could make much difference, but hunters know that one great day outdoors can be life-changing. One squirrel, one fish, one quail, or even just a moment spent together, may be all it takes to launch someone’s nature based life.

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The lack of notice or interest in this movement by the rod & gun crowd is likely a casualty of the divide between us and the camp & hike sector. Much has been lost due to this divisiveness, and working towards further cooperation can only benefit the land we all love. One thing we can all agree on is that someone who loves recreating in the outdoors is more likely to put effort into caring for those resources. For 2019, REI has taken their commitment a step further by introducing the hashtag #opttoact, encouraging folks to use their day outdoors to participate in a clean-up or other conservation-minded act. Again, this is something many of us already do on a regular basis. We pick up other hunters’ spent shells, we fish trash out of the river on the way to our duck hole, we clean up honey bun wrappers in the boat dock parking lot. Some of us even make our living creating wildlife habitat. Most of us do this quietly, avoiding notice or praise. However, the more noise we make about our efforts to care for the earth and its creatures, the higher the chance of others jumping on board. Social media has connected us in unprecedented ways, and allowed us to create movements with a hashtag. Documenting your time spent outdoors, when most of the country is at the mall, and using the #optoutside hashtag, has the potential for huge impact. Introducing anyone to any form of outdoor activity or lifestyle is always a step in the right direction, for all of us.

So this Black Friday, we encourage everyone to #optoutside. If you’re already planning a hunt, make plans to take someone with you. Take a selfie of you and your kid in the deer stand, or you and your buddies in the duck blind. Show off the bag of spent shells you collect, and help show that the ones who leave them behind are the minority. We have an opportunity to write a better story about who we are, not just by opting out on Black Friday, but by loudly and proudly living our best Nature Based Life every day.

 

As an extra incentive, we are doing a GIVEAWAY! Tag @natureseye in your #optoutside and #opttoact posts and stories on Friday, and you’ll be entered to win one of our exclusive Leather Patch Logo Hats in Vintage Camo! You must also be following our @natureseye instagram account. We’ll be sharing your entries in our stories all day!

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We’re giving away Tucker’s hat!  *Axe-wielding stud not included.

 

How to enter the GIVEAWAY:

1. Follow @natureseye on instagram

2. #optoutside on Black Friday

3. Tag @natureseye in your posts or stories documenting your #optoutside or #opttoact moment.

 

The winner will be announced Saturday morning!  Good luck!

The Bowhunting Ritual

Every hunter, regardless of the game or season that draws them to the field, engages in some type of preparation for their pursuit. Whether its habitat work, scouting, gathering gear, or practicing the shot, if you’re committed to the hunt, you do it. As the season nears, anticipation intensifies, and the planning becomes meticulous. This is particularly true of bowhunters, as attention to detail can make all the difference in such an unforgiving contest. We check and re-check each component of our bow. Every arrow must be flying perfectly. We study trail camera photos as if it were the most important test of our life. We throw a tantrum if a candle is lit anywhere near our camo. For veteran hunters, this process becomes an annual ritual.

 

 

242 days pass between the last day of bow season and the next opening day.
8 months of preparation, planning, and target practice.
Burning, mowing, spraying, planting.
Analyzing endless trail cam photos.
Scouting for that perfect stand setup.
Shot after shot aiming for that perfect group.
Finally, the predawn light of opening morning creeps over the trees, and the sound of a twig snap means it’s all coming together…

Nature’s Eye Showcase Farm

If you’ve followed anything Nature’s Eye for any length of time, you most likely have heard mention of the Showcase Farm.  It has been our home for many years, in more ways than one.  The site of our first office, a gathering place for company events, a place to stay for team members in transition and visiting friends and family.  It has also been the place where we have put into practice our most ideal habitat management vision.

The same family has owned the Showcase Farm property since 1926, and their stewardship instilled a legacy of conservation. We were so fortunate to have the opportunity to come alongside them and help them carry on that tradition, cultivating and nurturing the habitat and wildlife to maximize the property’s true potential.  It is proof of what we preach for how habitat can be managed on an ecosystem level, and a showcase for what it truly means to have “nature’s eye.”

A years long process, we have poured our heart and soul into making this place a wilderness paradise, and are so excited to begin sharing it with you.  In addition to professionally guided big game hunting experiences, we are offering the Showcase Farm lodge and surrounding nature-scape as an event venue for your special occasion.  

We are proud to bring you the Showcase Farm, and offer you the chance to experience it for yourself.

See our Facebook page for more information and to contact us for booking.  Also follow along with our journey on Instagram. 

Summer Life

I know some hunters who feel like they would rather just skip through summer, and as soon as turkey season is over, they’d arrive right back in a dove field or bow stand. Many sportsmen and women enjoy a well-rounded year outdoors with fishing and other water sports, but others suffer through the warmer months as if it were a punishment. While summer has never been my favorite season, I have come to appreciate it with a unique perspective.

Perhaps the first, most obvious, or practical need that comes to mind for the summer months is the time to put in much of the work required to reap the rewards we seek during hunting seasons. This is the human perspective, and as is typical, what most of us would think of first. However, the broader picture, from an ecological perspective, is that the summer months are when the majority of growth happens in our ecosystems. Spring is universally associated with new life, but summer is just as much a season of life. It is the season that is essential in the growth and development of so many plants and animals that fill the fields and forests we hunt.

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For many of us the thought of “summer growth” evokes images of antlers in velvet, slowly gaining inches as the sweltering days pass, but it also means turkey poults maturing, ducks nesting and brood rearing, and quail breeding and nesting. So much of our year-round management efforts are aimed at enhancing habitat that supports breeding, nesting, and the raising of young. For many wildlife populations, habitat is the most critical factor in ensuring reproductive success from season to season, as well as individual survival and long-term sustainability.

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Summer is one of the most important times in the life cycle of these wildlife young. Watch out for deer fawns, turkey poults, and other little ones while summer mowing and planting. Keep your target species’ year-round habitat requirements in mind when planning your management strategy. As we ease into summer, if you begin to feel impatient, just remember all of the incredible growth happening right now that will make your dreams come true this fall.

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