Meet Heather Smith From HSO
Posted by

She’s model-level beautiful, she’s one hell of an angler – saltwater and freshwater. She’s a patriot and successful businesswoman, a skilled outdoor writer and has a huge online presence. But what I like most about Heather Smith from Heather Smith Outdoors – if you are a misogynist or common buffoon and you are dumb enough to say something stupid to her online? She will slice you and dice you. Big time. I love her content and I love how she doesn’t suffer fools. She’s a cool lady. I’m so grateful she took the time to answer some questions for my readers. ~DesertRat

1. Well – the standard question first – how did you evolve to where you are today? How long have you been doing this and what got you started?

In 2018 my family passed away, so I moved from Houston, TX up to Sam Rayburn Lake to take over the family business. My mom wanted her ashes spread on Sam Rayburn. I didn’t know anyone here and with everyone in our family now passed on, I was in a new place with my two small children and I was alone. I missed my family, I missed my mom. I grabbed a fishing pole and went out on the lake everyday to visit her. Eventually it became more about fishing and less about visiting Mom.

Two-time Hall of Fame Bass Fishermen Bob Sealy, was a family friend. He saw what I was doing everyday and one day he told me, “Alright kiddo, if you are going to do this, you are going to do this the right way.” He took me under his wing and started mentoring me. The Pro Bass Fishermen and Legends in the area all wanted to see me learn the right way and they put me thru what I call a bass fishing boot camp for months. Then I started entering tournaments. From there networks and magazines saw what I was doing and they started contacting me. Texas Outdoor Lifestyles from NBC had me on their show, Texas Parks and Wildlife TV had me on, Florida Fishermen Magazine brought me on their staff and then the Producer from the Elite Fishing League on Discovery Channel reached out to me to come on the show as an analyst. After that, the Co-Founder of the Pursuit Channel and owner of the Hunt Channel contacted me and asked me if I wanted my own show, Heather Smith Outdoors.

All the while, I just kept fishing. My dad had been a tug boat captain for Otto Candies and my mom was in Sam Rayburn. So whether I am fishing Saltwater or on the Lake, I feel like my family is with me every time I step on a boat. It gives me peace. I found something that I love to do and share with others. One can say that fishing saved me, at the very least saved my heart.

ln addition to my show, I now have my own Heather Smith Outdoors fishing rod line with Old 18 fishing rods and a signature clothing line with Reel Wicked Fishing Apparel. I also have a kid’s rod coming out later this year.

2. Do you see yourself as a role model? If so, to whom? All anglers, kids, lady anglers?

That’s a loaded question, LOL. I see myself as a Mom that tries to live her life with integrity, honor and of good character. My job is to be a good role model for my Littles. Children deserve a parent to be proud of. I also have sponsors, a network and a magazine to represent so I behave in a manner of how I would want someone representing my family, because that’s what we are all like, family.

3. Where would you like to see Heather Smith Outdoors in 5 years?

Alive??!! Can I say that?? Lol. I would like to see my brand grow and get additional product lines. I have a lot of bucket list fish I want to check off between now and then. I want to evolve as an angler and become a better version of myself. My Littles fish with me a lot on my show so I am anxious to see how they blossom in the fishing industry and as junior anglers. HSO is more than just women in fishing or a show. I want to use my platform to encourage others to follow their dreams and passions. To face challenges without hesitation and to show more kindness and compassion in the world. Adapt and overcome, that’s my motto and I would like to see a little more encouragement and a whole lot less bullying from everyone. If I can help make that possible in 5 years of what I am doing, then it will be worth it.

4. You attract a lot of childish, sexist comments on Social Media. (I love how you smack them down by the way). Do those comments ever get to you or are they par for the course?

Of course it’s never welcomed. But like they say the best way to get on a guy’s good side is to take something they love to do and be better than them at it. Lol. 🤣🤣 In all honesty, I roll my eyes a lot. I am often stunned that some of these people lack decency and manners, but I can’t control the behavior of others. I can only control my reaction to their behavior.

5. You’re stunning and in fabulous shape – is that a part of your fishing persona or separate? Do you think being so pretty is a bonus or liability in your pursuit of being a fishing celebrity?

Thank you for your kind words. I don’t see myself that way, at all actually. Lol. My love for fitness came way before fishing. My dad was a body builder and I have always been athletic. As I mentioned before, I am all my daughters have left in my family so it’s my responsibility to ensure I am around for a long time. I want to play with my future grandchildren one day. So I try to stay healthy and fit. What you see is what you get with me. I don’t have a persona per say. I’m the same lady whether I am in the kitchen making dinner as I am 80 miles offshore out of Venice reeling in a yellowfin tuna.

I know that being considered pretty works as a detriment in this industry. I have to work three times as hard as everyone else to prove I know what I am doing and to do it well. People don’t take you serious at first glance. So you just have to keep showing up and proving them wrong every day and never give up. I spend my evenings reading up on new lures or even going back and reading old fishing books like Spoonplugging. I have never been on a pursuit to be a fishing celebrity. I just want to embrace the outdoors and take it to the next level. I’m in a competition with myself to be better than I was yesterday. While I am learning, I show other people what I am doing so they can see how to get out and enjoy it for themselves or with their kids too.

6. What do you like to do besides fishing?

I love to cook, definitely one of my favorite things to do. I make everything from scratch. I always say life is too short for mediocre food. Lol. I’m an avid stargazer, I even have 3 telescopes. I adore my gym time. I am a huge bookworm and I love to travel and see new places.

7. What fishing trip is on your bucket list?

I am about to head up to Alaska to check off King Salmon and Halibut off my bucket list. That is definitely one I have been waiting to do. I was supposed to go to Bora Bora this June to catch a Giant Trevally, but Covid has messed up international travel and Bassmaster Classic was rescheduled to the week I was set for Bora Bora. I have to be at Bassmaster Classic with Sealy Outdoors.

8. What is your favorite fishing right now?
Anything with fins…lol. I love bass fishing, that is my comfort zone on the water. There are so many variables in bass fishing, it’s always a game of chess with that species. However, I thoroughly enjoy tuna fishing because of the fight and I get to stock the freezer. I always say I am getting groceries when I go offshore. Marlin, Wahoo and Sailfish are also another favorite of mine. Marlin put on the most spectacular display when they are fighting. It’s an exhilarating sight to behold.

9. What do you consider yourself? Celebrity? Professional angler? Model? Magazine writer and editor? Mom? All of those?

I’m a Mom that loves to fish, that’s what I am.


10. For folks who don’t know much about you, what would you like them to know?

I think I pretty much answered everything.

I’m so grateful to Heather for taking some time out of her schedule to answer some questions. If you follow her online, you know how busy she is! I can’t wait to watch her business and industry presence grow. She’s smart, down to earth and just good people – if anyone is deserving of success it is Heather! ~DesertRat

A Shout Out to My Partners
Posted by

Over the years I’ve developed some amazing friendships, partnerships and professional relationships. To that, there are a number of companies with which I fill a role as ProStaff or Brand Ambassador. I’d love to give them a shout out.

Mossy Oak has been around for over 30 years and has some amazing patterns and products. I can tell you that I especially like the Mossy Oak Fishing patterns and Mossy Oak Brush is a great pattern for the arid southwest. Being named to the ranks of Mossy Oak Pro Staff was one of the high points of my outdoor career!

Riton Optics is a company near and dear to my heart. I have been with them from almost the very start (not quite but close) and couldn’t be more proud of this company’s growth and trajectory. Veteran-owned and headquartered in Tucson, Arizona – Riton is a company that is really gaining traction in the optics market, especially for hunters and tactical shooters.

Taking performance to new heights, Enigma Fishing Rods have been designed with the help of top professionals to deliver the perfect blend of power and sensitivity. Built using ultra-light Japanese Toray Carbon proprietary blank blends, the Enigma Fishing Tournament Rods have undergone round after round of development with the input of some of professionals. Almost all of my rods have been switched over to Enigma rods and same with my reels. Love their equipment!

Vector Hooks is an American company based in Florida. Their hooks are chemically sharpened, made of high-carbon steel with a secret alloy and are heat treated. They make some great hooks!

Desert Rat Meets Mighty Dog and Spirit Girl
Posted by

I’m an empath and one of the effects of that is I can tell pretty quickly whether or not I am going to connect with somebody. I seem to be able to judge character pretty quickly and fairly accurately and with my friend Stephanie it was no different. Even across the interwebs I could tell she was someone special. I was drawn to her goodness, her humility, her energy. Stephanie is a hero in every respect. She is a nurse that has been working through the year of Covid-19. She is a fierce, independent spirit that uses her voice and her adventures with her dog Raine as a tool to help people. I’m extremely gratified that she spent some time answering my questions. Stephanie has an amazing story and I am grateful she allowed me to help tell it ~DesertRat

1. So – MightyDog and SpiritGirl – How did it all start? Why did it all start?

It started when I opened my Instagram account. In trying to start a community I started reaching out to successful accounts and asking questions. I learned quickly that your photos were everything. Photo apps were a necessity and I came across a filter that cartooned my photo. I thought “Wow – this looks like a cool comic”. There was quite a bit of patience, fortitude and willingness to just get my content out there so I can start sharing my message with the world. Engagement and keeping our community coming back was my ultimate goal and there was only so many ways to showcase a girl and her dog. When I came across the filter I just had a moment of hyper focus and I just started letting my creativity flow. I found the apps with my original pictures and started creating little quirky stories that touch on moral character and virtues. Like little reminders of core characteristics of good morals and integrity . I started to research names and MightyDog and SpiritGirl was born. I did quite a bit of studying as I always do when I am determined to do something and do it right. Clicking through your IG account to something that represented me and the purpose of my IG was next. So I made the website MightyDog.org. I am pretty proud of the way it came together. Its a platform for my creativity and also an inside look into my life and reason I am here sharing my story. These comic characters or superheroes expand the basic framework of my message to give me many options moving forward.

I had a very difficult 7 years or so. I left my old life and began my journey of healing. Solitude had become a coping mechanism and a way of life for me. When my girls were not with me, I spent my time on the couch. Ruminating and trying to make sense of it all. No TV and silence for days until they retuned.

The comics prompted me to try something new. A new way of self branding. I parallel Spirit Girl and MightyDog to Raine and myself. With that said, I think there is just so many ways to go with this creatively. Right now the goal is to associate SpiritGirl & MightyDog with humanity, triumph & resilience. Overcoming the odds and rising to the occasion. SpiritGirl & MightyDog respect my story of survival. Seven years ago my cross was too heavy to carry. I wanted to take my life on three separate occasions. I was alone with no support, ostracized from family and friends as a result. I often remember screaming “Please! I am a human being!” but it always fell on deaf ears.

2. Tell us about your dog Raine – how did you choose her? Why that breed? What’s her personality like?

I always wanted a hunting dog. I guess it takes me back to my childhood where warm memories existed. Becky Jane, the family GSP shared my life until I was 13. As my daughters and myself started to settle into a new way of living… and the sun was starting to shine through. The pandemic of 2020 hit. I am an RN with a Master’s Degree in anesthesia. In the beginning no-one knew what would happen in Pennsylvania . Would we be like Germany and New York..? As an essential employee that would be caring for very sick COVID patients, there was more at stake here for me… my ability to care for my daughters was under constant scrutiny and there was a very good possibility that if I was unable to return home during quarantine they would not be there when I returned. As the world politicized this, frontline employees were preparing to say goodbye to their families and go to war. Those days, preparing for the worst, were the toughest days of the year for me.

The unknown trajectory of the destruction of the virus during quarantine here in PA … and I started studying. I was on a fast track orientation to practice as a provider in which I would be responsible for decisions that could save or end a life. My first day in the COVID ICU unit took my breath away. In 25 years of medicine this was easily the most stressful and frightening experience. But if the last seven years of my life didn’t take me down – I’d be damned if Covid 19 was going to hurt my girls or take me down. I started to educate via social media. I worked with State Representatives and the County to bridge the gap by education public servants so they can make good decisions to protect the people. Educating my daughters to masking and social distancing across homes was not possible. In trying to protect my girls from the virus I tried to educate and control how the virus came into PA . I tried to get the New Jersey / Pennsylvania border closed but was unsuccessful. In the end, we weren’t overcome in the hospitals, so I was able to go to work and come home daily. I have had the vaccine and my children are COVID-free; I seemed to flourish in the devastation. Due to the quarantine restrictions placed here in PA, it was a safe and it was during this safe period that I decided that I should go for it and get that hunting dog I always wanted – and God gave me Raine. Quarantine’s November Raine, to be exact. It would prove to be a decision that changed the trajectory of my life.

3. Tell my readers how you got involved in these types of causes and why they mean so much to you.

Coming to terms with my change in life circumstances, solitude was comforting but it left me with naked and numb in front of a giant mirror only visible when the house was quiet. I spent all my adult years providing for my family that I couldn’t see me in that mirror. Free time was spent on the couch, no TV.. ruminating about the events that brought me here. My final escape was supposed to free me but my chains were not cut free. I was a victim of stealing, cyber bullying, intimidation, exploitation, and slander. Through a series of unfortunate events my life became a very public display filled with the judgment of bystanders. The oppression continued to be a continual series of hate. I was ostracized for simply being me. For standing up for myself and choosing to live life on my terms. BUT I continued moving forward … One foot in front of the other.. and I never ever looked back. I was walking in my truth and if not one person believed me .. I did not care. I knew the truth and I refused to succumb to the demands of others… and my daughters were watching.

4. You’re a nurse (Thank You!) how has Covid affected you?

As a nurse I was born to care for people. My whole life was met with adversity especially the last couple of years. As I struggle to make sense of it all, 2020 became a year the no-one will forget. I lost 3 friends to suicide. Journaling my story became very healing. I found my purpose – to help others on a larger scale. As I was trying to grow the IG community… so people could hear my message.. the MightyDOg.org web site was developed.

5. The cartoon format is cool and a nice touch – what prompted that?

It kinda just happened. Everything that is meant to be is just happening and lining up. After hearing about the death of a childhood friend .. the MightyDog Foundation was born. It is in the works and I continue to lay the groundwork for the MightyDog brand.

6. How is it going, training Raine? What has been the biggest challenge? What has been the biggest surprise?

Training Raine is extremely rewarding. It negates all the negative self talk that I have been accustomed to believe. Through loving Raine, it validated my worth. I now see myself as inherently compassionate loving, and good hearted. Through her success in the field … it is a mirror of our bond and love. I have become a stronger woman and more confident. No-one can hurt you with words when you truly believe you are worth it. It has allowed my creative side to flourish. I also came to realize how horrible I allowed myself to be treated by so many people in my life. There was one point in my life I would apologize for not being worthless enough. I gravitated towards people who treated me with oppression and I encouraged it as well. I self inflicted torture. I truly believed I was nothing. Raine gave me consistent, tangible evidence that I am worthy of love and to be treated with dignity and respect. I look back and it is hard to think about. So for me, the best thing is how well Raine is doing. Our love for. Each other and our team work is evident everywhere we go. As far as challenges .. I don’t know I haven’t looked at it from that stand point.

7. Do you just hunt or fish also? Did you grow up in a hunting and fishing family?

Yes I taught myself to rifle hunt this year so I can go myself! I didn’t get to harvest but my goal was to load my gun, get in the woods, sit and leave without help. I did harvest my first rooster pheasant the year. I have been really into upland hunting with NAVDHA training so I can enjoy the outdoors together with Raine.

8. What are some of your goals regarding the MightyDog project?

MightyDog is just getting off the ground. I am not sure which way it will go. I want MightyDog to represent resilience, strength, courage. Love who you are. You can do anything.. so just do it! When you see or hear the word MightyDog, I want it to light that fire in your soul to reach your highest potential. I would like the see MightyDog and SpiritGirl become the superheroes of humanity. Giving us all hope post-2020. No matter what you CAN live a life you love! Whether that is through the MightyDog Logo on clothes, dog apparel, TV cartoons or comic books – MightyDog and SpiritGirl is what every young person strives to become – the best version of themselves.

9. What are some things you would want to tell my readers?

Your life matters. No matter what. You are human here like everyone else become the best version of yourself. Fight for your happiness… LIVE YOUR LIFE… with purpose .. Put yourself first always.. and when you do.. everything falls into place. World peace starts with inner peaceaand there is no better time to make it happen than right now . You are worth it1

10. What is your “bucket list” hunting trip?

I have not thought about that. I never really traveled much so I am not sure what is really out there.. I am just happy that I have understood the message life is teaching me so I can live and live well.

Follow Stephanie and Raine on Instagram here: Life With Raine

Visit their website here: MightyDog.org

I can’t thank Stephanie enough. She poured out her heart for this interview and what an interview it was. She’s a beautiful, kind, real-world hero and huntress, mother and dog mom to Raine – and I can’t wait to watch the adventures of MightyDog and SpiritGirl unfold!

Learn About The Plantation At Crystal River
Posted by

I would really, really like to thank Rosemary White, the Marketing Manager from the Plantation on Crystal River for taking time out to answer some questions for me and my readers. First a little backstory – I use LinkedIn mostly for my non-writing professional network (Facilities Management) and a little bit for my writing/editing persona. I’m grateful that one day, Rosemary popped up as a recommended connection – she is truly my favorite connections on all of LinkedIn. Her posts are always fun, engaging and interesting. She is perky, quirky and pretty; she has a cool and interesting family, and besides – who doesn’t love manatees? Reading her posts daily, I have put the Plantation on my bucket list for sure. I can see a trip to Florida in my future – fishing and manatee watching with Rosemary and the good folks at Plantation on Crystal River and maybe sneak in a day or two of fishing with my friend Darcie! Anyway, thanks again to Rosemary! ~DesertRat

1. I see photos of you fishing a lot. Do you hunt also? Did you grow up in a fishing family?

Yes I hunt as well, yes I grew up in the out of doors spending time in such places as Niagara Falls, Lake Ontario and Lake Huron

2. You’re an outdoor writer also – how did that come about?

With many years in the outdoors industry, my passion has led me to want to enlighten others on the joys, education, and conservation aspect of the outdoors. Print media was a great outlet for this.

3. For readers that have never heard of the Plantation on Crystal River – how would you describe it? What’s the “elevator speech”?

In short, it is an Outdoors Sportsman’s Paradise with a touch of landlubber mixed in.

4. Is it safe to say the manatees are the main attraction, or are they one of many? How are manatees doing, ecologically? Are their populations healthy?

Main attractions are seasonal to include manatees, scalloping, fishing, golf, etc. It is safe to say that we are known world wide as the Manatee Capital of the World but as a location and as a legal place to interact with them.

DCIM100GOPROGOPR1731.JPG

DesertRat note: According to the Christian Science Monitor, “The long push to “save the manatees” is working, and the federal government has now officially recognized it as a conservation success. The Florida manatee population was down to 1,267 in 1991 and now hovers around 6,300, a 500 percent increase, according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service”

5. Is a multi-pronged vacation possible or do you recommend more focused visits? For example if Dad wants to fish, Mom wants to golf and kids want to do kid stuff – is that all achievable in one visit?

The best thing about the Plantation on Crystal River is that there is something for everyone. With our vast array of onsite activities, you can have 5 different tastes under 1 roof.

6. I’d love to visit someday to fish saltwater AND check out the manatees. Are the manatees seasonal? Is that doable? (to do both)

Manatees are most abundant in the winter months but Kings Bay has year round resident manatees to be viewed. Crystal River is home to world class saltwater fishing and freshwater fishing is not too far away.

7. Ecotourism has gotten very popular in many parts of the world – are you seeing that?

COVID has brought to light the importance of ecotourism, and because we are everything outdoors we have survived the pandemic because of this.

8. How did Covid affect operations and business at the plantation this year?

Yes, at the onset of COVID business declined. When the realization that outdoors activities were the only safe way to vacation, business picked up thereafter.

9. So for folks who enquire about a visit – what is your “drop dead, must see/must do” recommendation?

Definitely the manatee tours, fishing and golf.

10. Following you on LinkedIn – your job looks like major fun but I’m sure it has its moments. What is the biggest challenge for you?

The biggest challenge for me is that there are not enough hours in a day to get all aspects of my job done.

11. OK – it looks like you do a LOT of fishing. What’s the fishing trip on your bucket list? What’s your favorite thing to fish currently?

My bucket list fish and trip would be to go to go to South America to catch the golden dorado. Currently, anything I catch is still better than a great day at work, LOL

You can read more about the Plantation’s accommodations here: ACCOMMODATIONS

Learn about the manatee tours here: MANATEES !

There are tons of things to do at their ADVENTURE CENTER.

Like to golf? Check out their golfing opportunities.

Yummm – world class FOOD & DRINK.

Finally – take some time to have a look at their Photo and Video galleries.

Thanks again to Rosemary White for her time – I know how crazy busy she is. And seriously, I have never been to Florida but following her on LinkedIn – I’m going to make it a point to get there! ~DesertRat

African Elite Safaris Surviving the Pandemic
Posted by

Over the past year, I have developed a great online friendship with Richter van der linden from African Elite Safaris. HERE is the first interview I did with Richter, back in March. It is no secret that Covid-19 has affected lives and businesses worldwide, and it’s probably not an exaggeration to say that the Guiding/Outfitting, Safari and Fishing Charter businesses have been affected as badly or worse – than any business. I wanted to check in with Richter to see how he was faring. ~DesertRat

1. This Covid has hurt businesses all around the globe. How has it affected your business?

Well, Covid-19 affected the whole tourism around the world, we are mainly in tourism; hunting safaris is what we do. We have a client base of about 70% foreign hunters and 30% South African hunters. 2020 would have been a good year for us but in March 2020 just before the first Clients would have started their safaris, South Africa got shut down due to Covid and all flights were cancelled. We could not hunt even with South African clients for about 7 weeks, if you go and do the math we needed to push a lot of South African Clients to make it in 2020. Good news is we strive in being one of the best and had a lot of referrals from clients so our business could go on and we will be here in 2021 ready for the foreign hunters.

2. Regarding safaris, have some countries been affected worse than others?

I think that regarding safaris all the countries are affected the same, the only difference is that some have opened up their borders for foreign hunters and some have not. We think that South Africa will open late 2020, but there will be strict protocols for foreign hunters to enter South Africa. Like Covid tests not older than 5 days etc.

3. When safaris suffer, how does it affect the locals?

I think this is one of the best questions; to answer this question we need to start at the top and work our way down to the locals. Let me explain: When we are busy with a safaris the following parties are involved, the Outfitter, land owner and workers (locals). African Elite Safaris have 4 families to support total of 14 peoples. The Landowner has a family of 4, and 8 workers (locals) with average of 4 per family so the total of 36 people dependent on safari. We have about 2500 registered Outfitters in South Africa and 10000 game farms, Outfitters and family members with dependents = 35 000 people.

Land owners with workers, family members and dependents= 360 000 peoples.

Hunting in South Africa is worth around one and a half billion dollars a year- more than half of which comes from trophy hunting. Now we can see what the effect of the Covid did only on hunting in South Africa.

4. What are some things you have been doing while business is down? I know you were doing some conservation projects..

Well I did a lot of varminting for surrounding farmers mostly Jackal culling; we also did some culling on game populations which helped the people a lot because game meat was pushed into the market at a lower rate than beef.

African Elite Safaris also donated an Eland cow that we hunted for a homeless soup kitchen, this happened in May 2020.

Donated eland

5. What can sportsmen do to help?

Sportsman can donate some of the meat they harvested to the less privileged people, because what happened in South Africa is that the poor are only worst of than before Covid.

6. Is business picking up at all, or is it still the same as the beginning of the Covid crisis?

Well at the moment business with the local clients is good, we do not have the same turnover as the years before but we will make it. Lucky for us we always have a SA client base = the term “do not burn your bridges” definitely applies. African Elite Safaris also introduced 12 kids to the sport this year with their first bucks from the age of 5-16, it is always a good year when new hunters are born. Some Outfitters only hunted with foreign clients and I think those had a tough year as a result. Below are some of the Trophies we hunted in 2020 with our South African Clients.

We cannot wait for 2021 season to have our foreign hunters coming back to South Africa.

7. Are you running any specials as incentives?

We had some awesome specials for 2021! At the moment we are going to implement them for 2021 that means that all the specials for 2020 will remain the same for 2021. One of our best package special was 6 nights 5 days hunting, 1 Zebra, 1 Waterbuck, 1 Warthog and 1 Impala for $ 3990 – 20%. This was an all-inclusive package.

Im grateful for Richter taking the time to answer some questions and relieved they are surviving the economic impacts of Covid. If an African hunt is on your 2021 Bucket List (or not!) there’s never been a better time to go. Richter and his staff will do an amazing job when you get there and he’s a great resource to create the best hunt for you. They also do ecotours, fishing trips, upland game, etc.

Have a look at their hunting information

Check out their fishing information

Not a hunter? Check out their tours