I guess I groused a bit too much to my wife the other morning over coffee. My morning sermon was about the news. I was on a soapbox gassing on about journalistic reporting and integrity. Now I’ve made enough trips around the sun to know that our current situation is not very different from issues in the past. If you render down the lard into simplistic terms then you’ll arrive at the discussion of Good and Evil, and that’s been around since the Garden of Eden. I could tell this issue was going to be ongoing for a long time, so my solution was to sit down deep in the saddle. After all, we’ve got a long ride ahead.
On our second cup of coffee, my wife cut me off. Unbeknownst to me, I was getting carried away.
“Why don’t you write a positive story?” she asked. “I bet a lot of other folks feel the same way.”
“That’s a great idea,” I said. “All the news that’s fit to print, and maybe even a little bit more.”
The odd thing about journalism is that you really don’t need to go too far to find a great story about good people. That well never runs dry. I found one and reached out to my friend and editor Taylor Pardue, and in the spirit of collaboration, we roughed it out. And so it begins; please meet Kathryn Rand and Michael Nunnery.
By day, Kathryn Rand is enrolled in a Doctor of Physical Therapy program at North Carolina’s Wingate University. In her spare time, she’s a bird dogger. And somehow, in whatever free time remains, she founded and runs an apparel company called Carolina On Point.
This sporting-life torch bearer comes from a long line of North Carolina quail hunters. Kat grew up listening to stories told by her grandfather and her dad about the golden age of wild quail hunting in the Old North State. When it was time for her to pick up a shotgun and run some dogs, she, her brother, and her dad always found some wild coveys. That said, the numbers were so anemic that the hunters turned part of their attention to migratory woodcock.
“I had a difficult time reconciling the high-quality hunts that my dad and granddad referenced,” she said. “It’s tough, too, ’cause we have a string of pointers and setters to run. To have higher bird populations we need birds, so I created Carolina On Point with two concepts in mind. First, conservation costs money, so I needed to generate revenue. Once revenue flowed to habitat projects, I wanted to pass along the rich legacy of wild quail hunting in North Carolina. It’s as simple as that.
“As a college student, I noticed that all of my friends wear t-shirts and baseball caps. That market seemed like a good place to start, so I sourced blanks, created a logo, built an e-commerce website, and added a social media marketing channel. Sales in the first year were good enough for me to reinvest in my company and add a product line that focuses on South Carolina bird hunters. A portion of my sales goes directly to local Quail Forever chapters in both North and South Carolina.
“By year two sales were strong enough for me to begin donating. Sales this past Christmas were very good, and I just sent two ample donations to Quail Forever. The more products I sell, the more habitat we can create.”
Oddly enough, Michael Nunnery, co-owner of the Fowl Weather & Co., is also a North Carolinian. What isn’t a shock is that a young man who graduated from NC State with a degree in fisheries and wildlife biology wound up as an ardent supporter of our rich sporting heritage. By day, Nunnery works as a wildlife officer. In his free time, he hunts and fishes. And in his remaining free time, he launched an apparel business with goals similar to Carolina On Point.
“I grew up fishing with my dad, and although he killed a few whitetail, he wasn’t a big hunter. He was a big-time fisherman. So I had to prove to both him and my mom that I was safe with firearms. Once I did, I studied to earn my hunter safety card, and after that I spent all of my free time in the woods. I hunted dove, deer, and turkey, and Dad got into it, too. Fishing and hunting is now a big part of the time we spend together.
“During school I worked at Gander Mountain. One day I struck up a conversation with a customer named Michael Maynor. After talking for a while, we started waterfowling together. Along the way we noticed that most waterfowl hunters use thoroughly modern gear. What seemed to be missing, though, was a connection to our past. And so we created Fowl Weather & Co. to celebrate our waterfowling traditions, and to connect the past with our present.
“Michael and I thought about the time when duck decoys were hand-carved from cedar blocks and hunters wearing waxed-cotton jackets shot Winchester Model 12 shotguns from wooden layout boats. Seemingly everyone wears ballcaps and t-shirts, so we roughed out designs, sourced product, and built a website. We donate $1 from the sale of every shirt to conservation projects, and we donate 10 percent of sales from our other items as well.
“We’re looking forward to working with Ducks Unlimited and Delta Waterfowl. Rather than make general donations, we will earmark our contributions towards specific habitat projects. We also are considering work with public hunting areas in North Carolina, but our next donation will go towards the Harker’s Island Decoy Guild. We think it’d be great to provide a bunch of kids with the material to hand-carve their own decoys.”
Thomas Edison defined genius as one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration. That makes Kat, Nunnery, and Maynor geniuses in my book. And it’s because of them that great stories are easy to find. My wife is thankful for that . . .