Archive for November, 2009

Trade Only Today is reporting that the unidentified “stalking horse” bidder in the Genmar Holdings bankruptcy saga is an affiliate of Platinum Equity, which is based in Beverly Hills.

Platinum Equity is a worldwide acquisitions company that describes itself thusly: “Mergers. Acquisitions. Operations. We specialize in meeting complex requirements in all divestitures, typically working with “strategic sellers” that seek to shed a non-core asset in order to refocus their business operations.”

Pieces of the existing Genmar family not to be included in any bidding or sale, according to Trade Only Today, are “Carver, Marquis, Seaswirl, FinCraft, Hydra-Sports, Javelin and other brands.” It also reports that does not include ownership of “approximately 93 percent of VEC Technology.”

Genmar co-owner Irwin Jacobs recently resigned as CEO, chairman and director and is focused on buying the company to bring it out of bankruptcy. He has a long history of doing that, dating 25 years or more to his days on Wall Street, and is obviously quite adept at the process of buying distressed, closing or selling underperforming assets, revitalizing brands and moving forward or selling at a profit.

Platinum Equity has a diverse portfolio that includes or has included telecommunications, sales and marketing help to pharmaceutical companies, commercial real estate services, an European company that manufactures “refuse collection vehicles” and others. It also owns the San Diego Union-Tribune newspaper, which it purchased earlier this year as it was in the grips of the horrendous industry slump. Buyouts and cuts reduced expenses and, so far, the U-T still is chugging along.

Stay tuned as the Genmar saga continues.







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Mike Anderson of Minnesota accepts the World's Championship trophy and congratulations from Queen Mallard Leah Conrad. (Photo: Stuttgart Chamber of Commerce)

Every sports league and organization, or most of them, believe their championship trophy is unique and special.

Many of them are, such as the World Series trophy given by Major League Baseball or the Lombardi Trophy for the Super Bowl champs of the National Football League. The famed Claret Jug awarded to The Open champion is incredibly cool for its history, if nothing else. Another one is the World Cup trophy (soccer, for you Americans who don’t follow) that isn’t gigantic or ostentatious. It’s just special.

One that won’t make the radar screens is the trophy given for the World’s Championship duck calling contest each year in Stuttgart, a tiny Arkansas town known for among waterfowlers for at least five things: rice, duck hunting, Mack’s Prairie Wings, Rich-N-Tone duck calls and the World’s Championship.

The contest is held each year at the annual Wings Over the Prairie festival on Main Street. It’s a week-long event including a 10K run, beauty contests, gumbo cook-off and calling contests. The final one is the World’s Championship, which begins at 2 p.m. on Saturday after Thanksgiving and usually doesn’t end until after 10 o’clock. Why? Because there are about 66 to 70 callers each year and with each one blowing 90-second routines, time marches on.

The trophy given to the winner is comprised of a wooden base about 8-10 inches tall with four gold mallards on top of each corner. Then there’s a giant wooden duck call about 2 feet tall with another big mallard on top of it. The trophy is distinctive and unique, quite a treasure for the winner of the toughest duck calling contest in the world.

Mike Anderson of Mankato, Minn., won the title late Saturday night and will haul that beautiful trophy home with him. ESPN Outdoors was on the scene and has a good lineup of photos by Larry Towell and other info about the event, along with its annual “Duck Trek” that is en route.

Alabama had one caller in the World’s — Ryan Crew of Pinson — who finished tied for 62nd. He had a score of 210 and did not advance from the first round.

In the Senior Division, Jim Bedgood of Selma finished third behind winner Charles Petty of Arkansas and Butch Richenback of Stuttgart.

However, Alabama did have a champion in the Junior World’s when Devlin Hodges of Kimberly claimed the championship. It’s his first title – he was runner-up last year – and it’s believed to be the first championship in any division by an Alabama caller. Hodges has worked hard the last few years, winning at state and regional levels, and is very deserving of the title.

Here are all the final scores from the World’s Championship from CallingDucks.com, which is a great site and one you should visit if you’re a waterfowler or competitive caller. The site also has information about the other calling divisions and ranking for waterfowl callers based on their finishes in sanctioned contests.




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Alabama’s waterfowl season opened Friday morning with reports of scattered birds in the area despite the little cold snap we’re encountering right now, which isn’t too surprising given the warm weather we’ve had recently.

The northern states haven’t had freezing temperatures yet to push down birds along the Mississippi Flyway. If ducks and geese have food and open water, they’re not going to migrate in massive numbers. Instinct kicks in when it’ s time to go and so far, Mother Nature hasn’t pushed them out of their summer haunts.

Unfortunately, there also was a tragic report of an accidental shooting Friday morning in the Mink Creek area on Guntersville Lake. Details still are sketchy but a hunter was transported via helicopter to Huntsville Hospital for surgery. Reports indicated he was retrieving, or about to retrieve, decoys when ducks came into the spread, he reached for his shotgun and a tree limb or brush snagged the trigger.

The hunter was struck in the thigh and required surgery to remove pellets, clothing and pieces of wader from his leg.

Our prayers go out to the hunter, his family and his hunting companion. I hope you’ll remember them in your thoughts and prayers as well.

Remember to keep your gun’s safety on at all times unless you’re about to shoot and be safe in the blind, boat and on the water. Accidents can happen in a blink of an eye.


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Alabama’s waterfowl seasons open this week, one of the most anticipated hunting dates of the year and probably only second to the general firearms opener for whitetail deer (which was last weekend).

The first two days are teasers for the diehard duckers who have been champing at the bit to get into the blinds, blow their calls and wade or send Ol’ Rex out for a retrieve.

As usual with the early part of the season, there have been mixed reports about migrations and ducks on the pond. It hasn’t been crazy-cold up north yet with snow or ice and so a lot of ducks haven’t trekked down south.

Ducks are migratory and rely on the weather, along with their natural instincts. When they have food, water and shelter (or a comfortable area), they’ll stick around until they have to move. Right now there is plenty of corn in the upper Midwest and temperatures still are in the 40s to 50s for most of the Midwest and upper Iron Belt.

A couple of notable items concerning waterfowl season in Alabama and the Southeast:


The season dates for ducks, coots and mergansers are Nov. 27-28 and Dec. 5 to Jan. 31, with shooting hours from 30 minutes prior to official sunrise until official sunset.

What is official sunrise and sunset? Those are the specific times set by the state for migratory bird hunters to begin shooting. Ethical hunters don’t fudge and stick to the times set by the state or federal officials.

Goose season

Alabama’s goose season is Dec. 5 to Jan. 31 for all geese, including the Southern James Bay Population Zone in portions of Madison, Limestone and Morgan counties.

That SJB zone is a small part of what used to be a much, much larger migration of Canada geese from the Southern James Bay area of Canada. James Bay is located in Ontario and Quebec, with the territorial boundary splitting the lake.

How did geese from there wind up in Alabama?

Migrations are interesting and often unexplained mysteries. I can only surmise – and this is a guess – that the Albany, Missinaibi and Atibiti rivers located in Ontario on the west side of James Bay somehow assisted with the migration by pulling the geese into the upper Mississippi Valley Flyway. From there, they toodled on down until reaching North Alabama and remnants of that population still do today.

Bag limits!

If you go hunting you should know the daily bag limits for Alabama, which are:

Six ducks a day, with no more than 4 of them being Mallards (no more than 2 of those being female), 3 wood ducks, 1 mottled duck, 1 black duck, 2 redheads, 1 pintail, 1 canvasback and 2 scaup.

The possession limit is twice the daily bag limit.

You can shoot five mergansers a day, two of which may be hooded. Coots are 15 a day and 30 in possession.

For geese, the daily limit of 5 cannot include more than 2 Canada Geese or 2 White-Fronted Geese. The possession limit of 5 shall include no more than 4 Canada Geese and White-Fronted Geese in aggregate.

Hunting Licenses

Buy your license and stamps, and don’t forget the free federal Harvest Information Program permit. Sign your stamps in ink across the face and have everything with you.

Why do you have to sign the duck stamps in ink on the face? So you can’t transfer the stamp to another hunter and bilk the federal or state governments out of whatever fees they charge.

You also cannot sign the stamp in the white border. That’s not the “face” of the stamp.

If you hunt on Wildlife Management Areas, check the requirements for permits on those as well. Some states may require additional fees, maps, permits, stamps or other forms of admittance.

Alabama’s license information is:

Resident – State, $24

Non-Resident – Annual All Game, $275; Annual Small Game, $90; Ten-day Trip All Game, $170; Ten-day Trip Small Game, $55; Three-day Trip All Game, $120; Three-day Trip Small Game, $40

Federal Duck Stamp – $15

State Duck Stamp – $6

Tag! You’re it!

About 10 or so years ago I was hunting with a group here near Huntsville and we had just an absolutely fantastic day.

The ducks flew well, the dogs retrieve well, everything went well and we all met at the pickups at mid-morning. If there ever was a genuine “hunting scene” with guys laughing, retelling stories, pulling off waders and such, this was it.

All of our ducks were piled on the tailgate of a pickup. Best memory says there were 40 or 41 ducks lying there and none were separated into “his” or “his” or “mine” piles.

When “The Man” pulled up in his green pickup with the yellow Conservation Department shield on the side, we didn’t worry. No one had done anything wrong. He greeted us, checked licenses, etc., and all seemed OK.

“Whose ducks are these?” he asked, and someone said they were ours. “Yeah, but whose specific ducks are whose? You guys know they are supposed to be separated?”

We thought he was being nitpicky about it but I can see his point. Jimmy may have killed 18 and Joey couldn’t hit the side of the barn and killed only two. When the “our ducks” excuse is offered, no one can say which ones are which.

Keep your ducks to yourself or tag them if you’re going to give them to a friend or someone to take back to the camp or home. Tagging them is a requirement and here’s what the federal regs say about it:

TAGGING: No person shall give, put or leave any migratory game birds at any place or in the custody of another person unless the birds are tagged by the hunter with the following information:

1. The hunter’s signature.

2. The hunter’s address.

3. The total number of birds involved, by species.

4. The dates such birds were killed.

No person or business shall receive or have in custody any migratory game birds belonging to another person unless such birds are properly tagged.

Hunting in Mississippi?

Mississippi has some fantastic waterfowl opportunities and a long, storied history due to its famed Delta region and the Mississippi River.

If you’re hunting over there and need info, you can find out just about everything you need to know here to get going. This is a great site and Mississippi’s Conservation Department folks do a superb job with that info and Web page.

And for Arkansas?

A lot of waterfowlers  enjoy visiting Arkansas to hunt flooded timber, rice fields and get a bit of the tradition in their muddy waders for a few days.

You can get the state’s waterfowl hunting guide to find out all the skinny on where to hunt and regulations. If you’re going this weekend, you also may want to visit the 74th World’s Championship Duck Calling Contest in Stuttgart. Ryan Crew of Pinson will be competing this season in his third appearance in five years.


Coming Wednesday: Some waterfowl recipes

Coming Thursday: New waterfowl decoys from Avery, and some other stuff!



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We’ve all seen the sugar-sweet movie clips or magazine holiday photos of Pa in his cardigan wielding a knife and meat fork at the dinner table, with a flowery centerpiece surrounded by bowls of steaming vegetables and eager scrub-faced children — only two, of course, instead of 7 clamoring like weasels — patiently waiting for the giant drumstick.

If a turkey had three legs and, of course, three drumsticks then all those photos would have had three children licking their lips. I can’t remember if young girls ate drumsticks in those photos, though. Was that ladylike back in the 1940s and 50s and 60s? Seems I recall only boys vying for those bony orbs and one drumstick being enough.

The turkey glistens like a shining beacon of hope for the family, holidays, wealth, health, good fortune and maybe a little late night holiday woo-woo-woo for the host couple once everyone leaves or passes out from a food coma. Pa will put away his pipe, make sure his hair is slicked back in the best Ward impersonation, while Ma removes her apron and re-applies lipstick before sitting down at the table.

Then, the carving begins. Movie version has everyone getting a perfect slice, straight from the bird on the table. Pa has such a deft hand and, of course, that wonderful knowledge of how to do anything. He can re-wire the house, grow championship pumpkins and carve a turkey with such precision it appears Marcus Welby is wielding the knife.

In the real world, grass-stained kids who have been playing football have to be told a second time to settle down and wash up for the meal. The football game remains on the tube for background noise. There’s a heightened sense of anticipation for the fixins’ and, quite possibly, a glazed ham, grilled chickens or even some ribs on the Big Green Egg as an option to go along with the turkey. Ma will be a bit harried, Dad will look in a kitchen drawer for his “best carving knife” and the ensuing carving possibly will be … a train wreck.

“Alan, why don’t you carve the turkey for us,” my mother-in-law asked a few years ago. To me, that was sort of like Tony Stewart asking me to change the oil filter before his next lap. Doable, of course, but something I didn’t want to mess up.

I made it through just fine, though, and after watching this great video from the New York Times “Dining & Wine” section I did some of the same suggestions. On the video, third-generation butcher Ray Venezia of Fairway Market in New York takes apart a nice turkey with ease.

(Note: If you’re looking for the NYT turkey-carving video tip, when you click on the link above use the search feature on the newspaper’s site (upper right corner) to find the carving video.)

Watch the video. Think about the turkey being easy to disassemble. It’s not difficult. Just have a sharp knife, don’t overpower anything and it’ll go smoothly. Don’t carve it right after pulling it from the fryer or oven, either. Let it sit for a bit to cool down. Otherwise you’ll burn your fingertips and scream words that Ma doesn’t like.

If you don’t want to watch a video, check out this graphic with photos that tells you much of the same.

Other stuff, too!

If you’re prepping for the holiday, the Times also has 101 tips for doing things early to save time on Thanksgiving.

Check out the NYT’s food section and look down at the bottom in the Video section for Mark Bittman’s “Minimalist” clips. One of the highlighted ones is Sweet Potatoes with Sage and Prosciutto.

Looks great. I’m trying that one this weekend.

Read Bittman’s story about his 101 suggestions and you may find a few to try as well.

And, for wild game dishes

If you’re preparing some wild game dishes and want a new twist on deer, duck, pheasant or other critters, noted chef Scott Leysath of California can provide a few ideas.

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Soundings Trade Only has reported that Genmar Holdings could provide details about their impending sale or other move by next week.

The report says the Genmar president, Richard Cloutier II, sent a letter to dealers reassuring them nothing wild is going on, but there is “just a great deal of work to be done.”

This letter was sent and doesn’t offer any great insights. But with dealers curious what’s happening going into the winter boat show season, and fishermen wondering about the FLW Outdoors series, a little reassurance is a good thing.



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This week I was in Bridgeport, a small Alabama community about 20 or so miles southwest of Chattanooga, for a media function at the Yamaha Marine Group test facility.

The test facility is gated, fenced and has enough security to choke a mule. They do testing on outboards and boats, design work and other things there that help anglers and boaters. The facility is on the Tennessee River and, obviously, that’s a plus if you need to test a big outboard engine.

While driving through Bridgeport I spied a state historical marker and stopped. It was on Alabama 227 near the railroad tracks and a few headstones. They were there for the soldiers killed in the Civil War battle in Bridgeport, which the Union won and therefore controlled the rail lines over the river. Back then, the river wasn’t dammed and was smaller. Ferry crossings, rail lines and other points where navigation was easy were important for the military.

Anyway, back home I was searching for some information on Bridgeport and ran across a bit about the annual re-enactment held each year. My family went a couple of years ago and I loved it. Can’t say the same for the wife and kids, although I think the “old style” root beer was a hit.

Then I found this story about the Tennessee Valley Authority wanting to purchase the land where the siege re-enactment is held due to TVA’s screw-up last spring at its Widows Creek facility. Gypsum ash there flooded into a creek and the river after a holding pond dam broke, similar to the Kingston disaster last year but thankfully not as bad.

According to this information, TVA has purchased land around the McCraw’s property. So far the family has held out and is hanging on to its land, which has been in the family for 175 years.

Think about that … 175 years of land in your family, and because of a containment pond screw-up the giant quasi-government agency wants to come in and just buy it.

Money’s not the issue, or it wouldn’t be for me. It would be a matter of family history, of the memories and of knowing you have a slice of beautiful land that’s all yours.

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