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Back to the Heartland

bowfishing, Asian carp, missouri

After a seven-year hiatus, I have returned to the land of my birth: historic St. Charles, Missouri. I’ve been back now for several months, and as you can imagine, it’s been quite an adjustment after living on Kodiak Island, Alaska, for the better part of a decade. The move back to the Midwest was prompted by a number of factors, such as the skyrocketing cost of living and the horrendously limited housing market on Kodiak, where $300,000 will get you a dandy two-bedroom (maybe three), mold and rat-infested ex-crack house…seriously! Mostly though, the move back to the lower 48 was due to the need to be closer and more accessible to elderly parents and other family members that I have been isolated from for the past many years. Chances are good that I’ll head northwest again one of these days down the road, as the call of the wild is an undeniable force in my life, but for now, it’s not all that bad being back in the heartland of America, except for the extreme summer heat, sweltering humidity, ticks, horse flies, snakes, poison ivy, traffic, and the rather fast-paced urban lifestyle that has taken over seemingly everywhere.

While I miss the beauty and wildness of Alaska immensely, one thing that I am enjoying here in Missouri, along with reuniting with long-separated family and friends, is the variety of outdoor opportunities. Even though the landscape and wildlife are not nearly as spectacular and grandiose as compared to Kodiak, Missouri is actually far more biologically diverse and has more of a variety of accessible, year-round outdoor activities to pursue. I’ve been thoroughly enjoying revisiting my old fishing, hunting, and hiking haunts, and also discovering some new ones. From the big, muddy Mississippi and Missouri Rivers and wetland swamps, to the pristine, cold-water trout and smallmouth bass streams, and from the hardwood forests and vast agricultural areas in between, the change in scenery has been…well, again…not all that bad! And, what’s not cool about living in a town where legendary pioneers such as Lewis and Clark, Daniel Boone, St. Philippine Duchene and others once dwelled?

The Lewis and Clark expedition began in my hometown of St. Charles, Missouri, not even a mile from where I currently live.

“Are You Crazy?”

A question I’ve been getting asked almost daily from people who see my Alaska license plates still on my Jeep is, “How in the world can you leave ALL THAT to come back HERE to Missouri!!?? Are you crazy??!!” After talking to such inquisitive folks for a minute or two and trying to answer their questions, I discover quite quickly that most folks have some pretty romanticized ideas about the 49th state, seemingly derived from watching all those Alaska “reality” shows that are so popular these days. I hate to break it to them, but there is not much reality in those shows. In fact, most are truly laughable in how they portray so much of life in Alaska.

Believe it or not, the basic dynamics of life in the Great Land is really not much different from anywhere else. What’s more, some of the habitat and terrain of Alaska is not even all that much different from parts of Missouri, excluding the coastal areas, naturally. Take the Yukon Delta in western Alaska, for example. With the exception of a few distant mountain ranges, it looks and feels almost exactly like my favorite big river wetland areas that I visit weekly here in St. Charles County. Likewise, several of my favorite Kodiak salmon streams are quite reminiscent of my beloved southern Missouri trout rivers, again, minus the mountains. And, there is actually waaaay more of a variety of wildlife and fish diversity here as compared to so much of Alaska. Ever seen the movie or read the book Into the Wild? Chris McCandless would never have starved to death had he been in the Midwest. There is a great abundance of edible plants and critters here year round. In fact, I see more animals on evening walks through local conservation areas around here than I often did after spending days exploring and glassing vast expanses of wilderness in Alaska. So again, it’s not all that bad here actually. Or, perhaps I’m just desperately trying to talk myself into believing that! Haha!

Alaska Yukon Delta wetlands compared to wetlands of Missouri
Missouri or Alaska? Both. The landscape of the Midwest is in many ways quite similar to parts of Alaska. On the left you have the wetlands of the Yukon Delta, and on the right, wetlands of Missouri.

 

Current Writing and Media Projects

jumping silver carp, missouri

One particular area of interest that has regained my attention recently is that of the invasive Asian carp that have been aggressively taking over and destroying native ecosystems here in the heartland, and all over the country for that matter, over the past several decades. Right before I left for Alaska seven years ago I became intensely interested in the subject of these invasive fish, as they were invading all of my favorite big river fishing spots and consequently wiping out native fish populations. But, my study of the subject was put on hold when I packed up and headed north. Well, I’ve picked up right where I left off and have plunged myself back into researching Asian carp. It’s a troubling, but fascinating subject of study. While these fish are responsible for so much negative phenomenon and pose a major threat to cause even more catastrophic damage if they get into the Great Lakes, these fish also offer a major potential for great good.

The silver and bighead species of Asian carp are fantastic eating! And, because they are filter feeders, they do not bioaccumulate toxins as almost all other fish on the market do. These fish have potentially become a major source of local, sustainable, organic, wild-caught, nutritious and delicious fish. Several states are actively engaged in and promoting the can’t beat ‘em, eat ‘em campaign to turn this disaster into a blessing of sorts. I’ve been talking to fisheries biologists, studying detailed scientific reports from numerous states and federal conservation and natural resource departments, as well as experimenting with harvesting and processing methods, and cooking these fish using a wide variety of recipes. The ultimate goal for all this work that I’ve been doing is a new book on the subject of the Asian carp explosion and some possible solutions for capitalizing on this otherwise disastrous environmental threat. This project has gobbled up virtually all of my free time lately, thus I have not been doing much blogging on any other topics or doing any nature or wildlife photography, etc. I have, however, produced a couple of Asian carp videos while out in the field recently…and there will be much more to come. Click here to watch a video about bowfishing for silver Asian carp, and click here to watch another video about Asain grass carp.

 

Photo of the Week  is now Photo of the Month

Joseph Classen Limited edition fine art prints

One new and exciting feature at Wild Revelation Outdoors is that starting this month, I will discontinue the Photo of the Week blog and 25% off fine-art print sale. In its place, I will now offer the Photo of the Month blog and sale in order to give people more of a chance to take advantage of purchasing a favorite image at the discount price. Click here for this month’s featured image.

 

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