More than a decade’s worth of articles from longtime Morgan Messenger outdoor columnist Dan Stiles have been compiled into book form and are now available for sale online.
Stiles’ range of topics over the years in his regular column stretched from the nesting habits of phoebes to the surprises and challenges of fall deer hunts.
Following a career in the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Stiles continued to work in conservation education and put his knowledge into practice learning the ways of the critters and plants on forest property in western Morgan County. Stiles’ columns shared his fascination with local species of wildlife, growing patterns of trees, shifts in seasons and weather, and lessons from history and his favorite rifle.
In total, Stiles book includes 100 of his local newspaper pieces, which regularly won West Virginia state press awards. Columns are gathered by subject, giving readers his reflections on Birds, Hunting, Bugs and Snakes, Trees and Plants, Wildlife and Life.
Often his columns are both personal and scientific, inviting the reader to join in his observations of wildlife and the workings of nature.
In his column, “Just Plain Amazing,” for example, Stiles takes readers into his quandary about living with nesting birds.
“About four weeks ago, a pair of phoebes (mostly the female) were in the process of constructing a nest on our cabin’s porch. Unfortunately, the nest was being built upon a coiled electric wire, wrapped round and round, and hung on a long nail. The electric wire brought electricity from the generator on the porch inside the cabin. So, whenever we needed electricity, the nest within the coiled-up wire would be destroyed. I hated to do it, and as best I could, I let the phoebes know I was trying to be helpful and suggested they were welcome to consider most any other convenient spot on the side of the cabin to build their nest. I moved the electric wire, uncoiled it and thereby destroyed the beginnings of their nest. The phoebes let me know they didn’t approve of my helpfulness one bit!”
More traditional outdoor subjects are also part of the compilation, like columns on the ins and outs of hunting. In one titled, “Serious Thoughts for Deer Hunters,” Stiles used his newspaper space to issue a reminder to hunters.
“Aldo Leopold, said to be the father of the wildlife management profession, pointed out that a deer hunter’s behavior is mostly unseen, and each individual hunter has ethical choices to make, without any witnesses. Ethical deer hunters need to acknowledge that there are both written and unwritten rules. The unwritten rules are equally, if not more significant,” he wrote.
Stiles has taken a hiatus on writing his column in recent years, and spends most of his time in Falling Waters with his wife and two dogs.
In the Wild is available on Amazon as both an e-book and softcover compilation.