Ocular Histoplasmosis, if you are a bird hunter, you should read this.

So it’s been a little weird around here lately. The SmithFly stuff is taking off and getting crazy in a good way. That’s awesome, 2012 looks GREAT, thanks for all the support. Most of my stuff is now SOLD OUT which is a good thing. I’ve been working some crazy overtime at my day job, no complaints.

But the other day I went to the eye doctor for a random check-up, I hadn’t been in over ten years. My eyes and my vision were fine, or so I thought.

Upon closer inspection the Optometrist noticed what she called a “swollen optic nerve”. She was cagey about what that might mean, but Google is brutal and revealed a list of causes that ranged from BAD to REALLY REALLY BAD! Needless to say the Smith house was a little freaked out.

The optometrist referred me right away to a specialist called a neuro-opthamologist, any time you have to go see someone with “neuro” in the title it isn’t fun right?

So with trepidation I went this Tuesday morning to see the  neuro-opthamologist. After a tense few minutes in his office he revealed that it was NOT in-fact a swollen optic nerve, it was ocular  histoplasmosis.

Histoplasmosis is a disease caused when airborne spores of the fungus Histoplasma capsulatum are inhaled into the lungs, the primary infection site. This microscopic fungus, which is found throughout the world in river valleys and soil where bird or bat droppings accumulate, is released into the air when soil is disturbed by plowing fields, sweeping chicken coops, or digging holes.

Histoplasmosis is often so mild that it produces no apparent symptoms. Any symptoms that might occur are often similar to those from a common cold. In fact, if you had histoplasmosis symptoms, you might dismiss them as those from a cold or flu, since the body’s immune system normally overcomes the infection in a few days without treatment.


Ok so now that we have the technical crap out of the way basically at some point in my life, who knows when, I’ve been infected with the histoplasmosis spore and it moved to my eyes creating scarring. The mold and spore that causes histoplasmosis is endemic to the area I live. They call it the histo-belt, as its basically a belt around the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. However it also happens to be present in bird droppings. If you’ve been following this blog for a while you might have seen some posts about the birds that I’ve bought over the past few years to train my lovely English Setter Nick. I cleaned up a lot of poop, from quail and chukars over the past few years.

The Doctors all agreed that there is no way to tell if my infection was recent or from a while ago, aka if it was from the birds or just growing up around here. The mold just lives int the dirt. So just playing around and getting into stuff can give you this issue.

Anyway, if you buy birds, or if you shoot birds, or you raise birds, be careful with the poop and handling of the birds, it might make you sick and permanently hurt your vision. And if you are a bird hunter like me, get your eyes checked sooner rather than later. The docs can catch it and they can save your vision.

Apparently Histoplasmosis is the leading cause of blindness in 20-40 year olds in this country. For the rest of my life I’m going to have to have laser scans of my retinas to make sure new blood vessels aren’t growing behind my scar tissue and threatening my ability to see.

For now my sight remains 20-20 and I don’t need glasses, but we’ll be watching it closely.

Shoot straight and wear mask if you’re cleaning up poop.

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A tribute to Jenny Lynn

Today Jeffrey L. Frischkorn of Willoughby, Ohio writes of his departed friend Jenny Lynn. With a dog name like Jenny Lynn  you gotta think he is into some Bluegrass and we like that. Whatever the reason for the name there is a heck of a pay-off at the end see quote below. GREAT STUFF.

When that commitment is finished, you can expect me to drop two shotshells into the awaiting chambers of my Browning over/under shotgun. The Browning, with its timeless grace but aging bluing, will come to my shoulder and I will fire the two rounds — one by one, sending tokens of Jenny Lynn’s ashes out over the water.

Around my neck will be draped the duel-dog-whistle lanyard. The first and loudest of the two will summon the ghosts, all of them. The lighter-sounding whistle will echo its notes.

Only at that point will I know with certainty that Jenny Lynn and I are together once more.

Before that he even mentioned Corey Ford’s “Road to Thinkhamtown” one of our favorite essays.

Who Dey Nick, gets on the Doves.

The view of Glenn's Pond.

Well, this is my first season with the legendary Who Dey Nick. We adopted him at the end of February of last year, which is of course about as far away from a bird season as you can get. We missed the end of Grouse season by a few weeks then, and it seemed like September was an eternity away.

Sure, I had him on quail in my little patch of overgrown grass that I call a training ground, but it’s not like full on hunting.

Today I got him out in the field and he ran hard. We walked the fence rows, tree-lines and grassy patches that weren’t planted this year.

Its my wife’s Great Uncle Glenn’s old farm. He is no longer with us but I’m sure he would have loved Nick. His wife Helen met me out there and did some yard work while we hunted. The morning started off slow while we walked the likely places looking for birds. After an hour or so of pounding the brush we got a few shots off and landed a bird smack in the middle of the beans. This is exactly why we have dogs. He found it in no time flat, one bird in the bag.

We headed back to the truck to get some water and a chair. After walking the entire perimeter of the farm we were both looking for a rest. So we each slurped some water down, truck leaned, and headed back out, this time to the pond.

I set the chair up by some tall weeds up around the high bank of the pond and waited. Sure enough we had some Dove action. I missed a few and dropped one on the side of the pond, but it didn’t seem like it was totally down for the count. So we walked over there, Nick decided to take the path that involved him getting shoulder deep in the muck around the pond. The bird jumped up and it took another shot to finish it off. It dropped twenty yards into the field and again Nick came through.

Two birds in the bag.

On the way back to my chair with an empty chamber three flew right over the pond not twenty feet over my head, oh well.

We waited it out for another hour longer, missed a few more birds and decided to head in. We each had a good covering of cockleburs on us, Nick’s of course adorning his ears in thick dreadlock like clumps.

I wasn’t quite sure how the dog would do. You always hear about hunting dogs that are up for adoption having some Shakespearean character flaw, like being gun shy. But not Nick. He is an amazing bird dog and I can’t wait to get into the Grouse woods up north!

Two Doves isn’t exactly what most would call a successful day out, but hey, its makes for a good appetizer right?