Saturday, March 28, 2015

Chip Gross, Author & Outdoorsman

From Ohio USA, welcome author and outdoorsman Chip Gross. 
Chip is a graduate of the Ohio State University, Wildlife Management. He has experience as an expert outdoorsman; freelance writer, novelist, photographer, and speaker. He has known the life of a Lake Ranger, State Wildlife Officer, and more. You will enjoy Chip’s interview about writing, photography, his favorite place to enjoy Ohio’s natural beauty, and Ohio’s bear population…

Welcome Chip!

Who is your favorite outdoor writer?
My favorite writer is Allan W. Eckert, now deceased; but he was not necessarily an "outdoors writer."  Eckert was a fellow Ohioan, and I consider him my writing mentor.  Early in his career, he wrote natural history magazine articles and books, then later switched to historical narrative.  I like Allan's writing style, and have probably subconsciously tried to emulate it in my writing.  Pick up a copy of any of his books and you'll be in for a treat.  I have written several magazine articles about Eckert, and was able to meet him several times while doing the interviews, a highlight of my writing career.  

What are you currently writing?
I'm the author of six books about the out-of-doors, but am not currently working on a book project.  I'm also the author of hundreds of magazine articles, both print and online.  For the past decade, I've been the Outdoors Editor for Country Living magazine, published by the Ohio Rural Electric Cooperatives.  As such, I write a monthly outdoors column for that publication, titled Woods, Waters & Wildlife.  In addition, I write for about a dozen other outdoor-oriented magazines, some regularly and some only once or twice per year. 

What is the premise for you fiction novel Home, At Last, Is the Hunter?
Published in 1994, Home, At Last, Is the Hunter is a fiction novel based on my life.  It's the story of young Jeff Stewart, who learns to hunt the wild turkey from his maternal grandfather, known as The Boss.  The grandfather character in the book is a combination of my father and grandfather.  The wildlife officer character is a combination of the many wildlife officers I knew and worked with during my 26-year career with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife.  I took an early retirement from that state agency 13 years ago to become a freelance writer and photographer.  The book has a spiritual (Christian) message, and is appropriate for readers from mid-grade school through adult.  

In your book Poachers Were My Prey, you tell the true story of R. T. Stewart and his adventures as an undercover wildlife law enforcement officer with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife. How did you meet R.T. Stewart?
I first met R. T. Stewart when he and I were both young wildlife officers with the Ohio Division of Wildlife.  He began his career as a uniformed officer, but was eventually assigned undercover.  When that occurred, I told him that I'd like to be the one to write his story once his career was completed.  He agreed to that, and when he retired he and I wrote Poachers Were My Prey.  The book was published in 2012 by Kent State University Press, and subsequently won first place in the book category of the Outdoor Writers Association of America, Excellence in Craft awards competition.  The book also won an Outstanding Media Achievement award from the Outdoor Writers of Ohio.    

Your instructional fishing book, titled Trolling Big-Water Walleyes, talks about the secrets of fishing the Great Lakes. Can you share one (or two) secrets?
This may seem like a no-brainer, but the "secret" to catching Great Lakes sport fish (particularly walleyes) is fishing where the fish are.  The Great Lakes are so vast that many, many miles of water often contain few or no fish during various seasons of the year.  And many Great Lakes fish species, such as walleyes, are migratory.  So if you don't know what the fish are doing, and consequently where they are located at any particular time of year, you'll be fishing dead water.  A second "secret" pertaining to walleyes, particularly when trolling, is to fish slowly.  I usually troll between one and two miles per hour.  In essence, it's slow-motion fishing, but very productive.  For more specifics, pick up a copy of my book!         

Where is your favorite fishing hole?
My favorite fishing location is Lake Erie, simply because it is so productive.  Considered the "Walleye Capital of the World," millions of walleyes are caught from Lake Erie annually.  My wife and I also fish for yellow perch on the lake, usually during the fall.

What type of lure/bait, etc. do you use?
For walleyes, I troll large, plastic stick baits (minnow-imitation lures) during early spring and late fall, and nightcrawler harnesses during the remainder of the open-water period of the year.

Monday Creek flows near our family farm. We see a lot of wildlife come and go with the seasons. The deer are beautiful, but can be pests in crops and gardens. What are your views on Ohio’s deer population and what can be done to control the population in the future?
Though not a deer hunter, I've been a sport hunter nearly all my life.  I was taught to hunt by my father, and began when I was 13.  Today, I'm mainly a small-game hunter, preferring spring turkey hunting and wingshooting.  As for the Ohio deer population, I have every confidence in the wildlife biologists hired by the Ohio Division of Wildlife to manage the deer herd.  It is not an easy job, but these men and women are dedicated professionals who have the good of the wildlife resource at heart.  Having worked with many of these fine people for years at the Division of Wildlife, I can personally vouch for them concerning their professionalism and skills.  Despite what you might hear otherwise, Ohio's deer herd is in good hands.

Ohio has bears, too. Or at least one bear; scat in our barnyards and along our creek bank. As a livestock owner, I do not appreciate their presence. What is your experience with the bear in Ohio?
I don't have any personal experience with black bears in Ohio, but view them as a part of our natural heritage and would like to see their population continue to increase.  Wildlife biologists currently estimate the population in the state at somewhere around 100 black bears, mainly in eastern and southern Ohio.

Your photography is captivating, especially of birds. Bird watching has become ever so popular. My sister-in-law is an avid birder. What is the key to capturing great avian photos?
Wildlife photography is a subject unto itself, and bird photography can be particularly difficult.  It takes patience and good photo equipment and technique to be successful, but most importantly it takes a knowledge of birds and their behaviors.  In other words, where do you find them and what will they likely be doing at various seasons of the year?  I do my bird photography both from blinds and by simply walking around in the locations/habitats birds frequent.

When and where in Ohio can you find the best photo op for birding?
My number one choice for birding and bird photography in Ohio would be Magee Marsh Wildlife Area and adjacent Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge.  Both are located along the western shoreline of Lake Erie between Port Clinton and Toledo.  The two best times of year to visit are spring and fall, during migration, but anytime you can get there is worthwhile.

Photo (c) Chip Gross

As a photographer, can you share one of your favorite photos?
This photo is of whitewater rafting the New River in West Virginia.  To get the shot, I positioned myself onshore below a set of particularly gnarly rapids and shot photos of various rafts as they came paddling through during the day.  It's a good photo for several reasons; it's cropped tightly, the action is "frozen" by a high shutter speed, and the exposure and lighting are good.  The photo won the President's Award (Best of the Best) for the Outdoor Writers Association of America, Excellence in Craft awards competition.   

Of the Ohio native fauna, which species thrills you the most; coyote, wild turkey, catfish, etc.?
I spend about a month each spring chasing wild turkeys.  I put out a photo blind in late March and take photos of the birds for three weeks before the hunting season begins in late April.  You can see some of those photos in a photo essay of mine in the current (April 2015) issue of Country Living magazine.  Once the hunting season comes in, I turkey hunt with my younger son, which has become a tradition for the two of us through the years.  His oldest son, one of my five grandsons, will be joining us in the turkey woods for the first time this year, and I'm looking forward to that!

As an award-winning outdoor author and photographer, what has been your greatest outdoor experience to date?
Probably my greatest outdoors experience so far was the opportunity my wife and I had two years ago to visit Alaska for two weeks.  We spent a week of that time in Denali National Park, where I took some 1,800 photos and she took 800.  We also had the opportunity to kayak around icebergs and land in a small airplane on a glacier at the base of Mount McKinley.  If you are an outdoors person, save your pennies and get to Alaska sometime during your life.  There is nothing in the Lower Forty-Eight that compares.

Ohio has great opportunity to discover nature and wildlife; many beautiful parks with regal aesthetics. Where in Ohio would you guide the person who is looking for the perfect place to relax and enjoy nature?
In Ohio, I would recommend the Hocking Hills Region in the southeastern section of the state.  It not only has outstanding natural beauty and many miles of public land, but also many amenities to choose from; everything from campgrounds to Bread & Breakfasts to secluded cabins to rustic lodges. 

Connect with Chip…

Ohio Outdoors - Photo (c) Chip Gross


JoAnn Reese said...

Reading this article made me super excited to get out and explore all of the nature rich places in Ohio. I'm a huge nature buff, especially birder and this just got the juices flowing! Thank you for this excellent and very informative interview/article.

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