Backcasts archive: Through Aug. 1, 2008

Blog calendar: Aug. 1 | July 31 | July 29 | July 28

posted Aug. 1, 2008

Editor's note: My Back Pages recalls previous columns penned by the author. The following piece was written for ESPNOutdoors.com when Chicago White Sox outfielder Jermaine Dye was a member of the Oakland Athletics in 2001.

My Back Pages: It's a safe bet outfielder Jermaine Dye won't
trade his hunting passion

"Athletes in the Outdoors": The MLB

If you asked Jermaine Dye when he was a teen-ager if he would eventually become a hunter, he would have told you not in a million years.

But things change, as the former Kansas City Royal right fielder found out in 2001 when he was traded to the Oakland A's.

One thing is certain: Dye, who grew up in California fishing around the San Francisco Bay Area with his father, will continue to hunt, having picked up the sport late.

And the deer in the Sierra best beware: Once Dye began getting animals in his sights, he became very good or very lucky. He dropped a nine-point whitetail with his first in-field shot from a rifle and took down an eight-pointer on his third shot from a bow.

ESPN Outdoors interviewed Dye for an "Athletes in the Outdoors" profile:

ESPN Outdoors: "It sounds like you are a great example of somebody who came into the sport of hunting much later than most?"

Jermaine Dye: "Exactly. When you find spare time in the offseason, as you play sports, you meet more people. They put you on to it to come try it. And if you like it, you like it."

EO: "Ten years ago, did you ever imagine yourself being a guy who would hunt deer?"

JD: "Not at all, never. Coming from California (Dye, now 34, was born in Vacaville, Calif.), I would never envision myself doing this. If I had probably been playing for another team in another city that wasn't really known for populations of deer and ducks, I probably wouldn't be doing it. But, you try something and you like it, you never know."

EO: "You know Shane Halter (then shortstop with the Detroit Tigers), and you guys have a hunting relationship, is that right?"

JD: "Yeah. In the offseason I kind of got hooked up with him when he used to play for the Royals. He introduced me to a couple of his hunting friends and they got me hooked. He lives here in Kansas City in the offseason, and we go just about five times a week once the season ends."

EO: "Was Shane responsible for turning you on to the bowhunting side of things?"

JD: "I like a challenge, and I view bowhunting as harder than (hunting with a rifle). (Halter) kind of got me hooked on it. One day we were shooting his bow and arrow, and I kind of liked it. I went out (two years ago) and bought one and went out and started hunting."

EO: "Where do you hunt?"

JD: "We hunt on (then New York Mets pitcher) Kevin Appier's land; he still lives here in Kansas City."

EO: "What do you find rewarding about hunting?"

JD: "I think it helps to get away from the sport of baseball and gives you a little quiet time and relax time and just lets you think about being outdoors enjoying the moment. It gets your adrenaline going when you see that deer, from about 100 yards, walking your way."

EO: "When was it that you took your first whitetail?"

JD: "When I first got my bow and arrow, I went out a couple of times and I got my first shot and shot an eight-point whitetail. So I've got one with my bow and arrow and one (nine-pointer last offseason) with my rifle."

EO: "Have you been a rifle hunter for some time?"

JD: "Never did it. It's kind of funny because the guys I go with have been hunting for so long and have maybe killed one deer. Every time I've gone, I've seen a deer and let some go or shot one. The first time I shot with my rifle, I took a nine-pointer after 10 minutes in my stand. The guys get on me because they think that it is not fair for me to just start and have two trophy bucks."

EO: "So, the nine-pointer was the first shot ever at a deer?"

JD: "With my rifle, yes, and I was in my stand for no more than 10 minutes. Shane was actually walking down to his stand and couldn't believe it."

EO: "What was that experience like? Some people would say that is amazing; you may never get to put a scope on a bigger buck."

JD: "Exactly. I think just from me being able to shoot a shotgun and go duck hunting and stuff, I anticipated what it was going to feel like. But you still have that feeling of, 'What is going to really be like? Am I going to be able to keep the rifle steady when I pull the trigger?' But it came out all right."

EO: "Had you been a shooter before?"

JD: "Yeah, I've shot handguns at target ranges. But, I never felt the power of a rifle from your shoulder."

EO: "Are you a big fan of deer meat?"

JD: "I like summer sausage and deer jerky, but the steaks and the
hamburgers I don't really like."

EO: "Do you give it away?"

JD: "If nobody wants the meat, whether it is deer or duck or geese, we send it down to the mission and donate it."

EO: "What would you say your most memorable day in the field has been and why?"

JD: "I think my first shot with my bow and arrow. It was getting dark and here is this buck trotting over the hill a little bit. It was probably my only chance to get a shot off with it getting dark; where he was, everything played out right, the wind was in my face. I probably wouldn't have taken the shot if it was earlier, because it was a little farther than I wanted. But I got him."

EO: "Yeah, but this was the first animal you had taken with a bow. What was going through your head?"

JD: "Adrenaline was pumping, heart was pumping. I just tried to be as calm as I could be, and try to pick a spot where I thought he was going to cross over, hit the release and calm my nerves. I couldn't really tell if I had hit him at first, he jumped over this barbed-wire fence and ran into some brush. I called up Kevin and Shane and we went looking for him, and found him."

EO: "I think some athletes, I don't know if this is true of everybody, compare the adrenaline rush of reeling in a big fish or taking down a whitetail to getting a big hit or making a big play."

JD: "I think so. Anytime you have that adrenaline flowing in hunting and fishing. It's like the other day in Boston; we were down by one run in the ninth inning, and their closer comes in and I hit a home run to put us in extra innings. You get a great feeling from that, giving your team a chance to win, and we went on to win that game in the 11th inning with another home run."

EO: "In the offseason, you aren't playing baseball. You're a competitor, though, looking for a thrill. Does hunting fill that gap to some extent?"

JD: "I think so. I can't sit around the house (with wife, Tricia, and son, Jalen) doing nothing. I've always got to be doing something, and the hunting and the fishing takes your mind away from things and puts the competition in your mind. You aren't stepping in the batter's box; you're competing with your buddy to catch fish."

EO: "That's funny you should mention that. Is there friendly competition when you get athletes together in the offseason, even if it is fishing?"

JD: "Definitely. I have a boat, and Shane has a boat. We pack two or three people in there, and whoever catches the most fish gets his meal paid for."

EO: "What do you fish for?"

JD: "Largemouth bass."

EO: "What's your favorite lure or bait?"

JD: "I like plastic worms and lizards and deep divers."

EO: "So how are you described as a baseball player and does that carry over to hunting or fishing at all?"

JD: "I think I'm described as a hard-working person who goes out there and plays hard every day and has fun doing it. And I think I'm the same way outdoors, I just go out and have fun. I don't have to kill anything that day, just the joy of being out there and enjoying the atmosphere and being in the wildlife — that's fun for me."

This article originally appeared in the summer of 2001 in the pages of ESPNOutdoors.com


posted July 31, 2008

Dog running for mayor, bigfoot in Montana, freak fishing accident top news

We don't know what it is about the end of this month, but every July 31 the oddest news seems to be reported.

Actually, we only have this year's events to base that theory on, and they didn't actually occur on this date, so we're probably all wet before we even get out of the gate.

But when you get a dog running for office, a Sasquatch sighting and a freak fishing accident involving a sinker to the head that, alas, results in a fatality well, you get the picture.

We expect Willie Bean Roscoe P. Coltrane to put his mark on the mayoral race in Fairhope, Ala.; we just don't know which paw he'll use.

The 7-year-old yellow Labrador retriever may have some bite. But he doesn't exactly strike fear in the other candidates, according to the Associated Press not when he's known to hightail it out of the way when even a little dog barks in his general direction.

Coffeehouse owner Tress Turner apparently entered her pooch in the human race to add a little fun to what apparently has seemed to many to be an overbearing campaign, what with its seven candidates and all.

Bummer is, Willie Bean doesn't have a chance, and not because he has four legs. He missed the July 15 qualifying deadline, according to the AP.

But Willie Bean's campaign certainly has spawned the quote of the week, from Fairhope resident Vince Kilborn:

"He doesn't have any skeletons in his closet. He's eaten them all."

The AP does note that while Willie Bean has no realistic shot at being elected, other dogs have held office, including Junior Cochran, a black Lab and mayor of Rabbit Hash, Ky., in 2004. Apparently Junior was the second canine mayor in Rabbit Hash, following in the footsteps of the great mutt Goofy Borneman.

Montana is home to a new bigfoot sighting. According to the Missoulian newspaper's Web site, a motorist recently called 9-1-1 to report seeing the hairy beast along I-90 near Alberton.

The Sasquatch was described as more than 7-feet tall with long arms, a skinny frame and brown hair, according to the news site.

While the Treasure State has had its share of bigfoot reports over the years, Matt Moneymaker, who oversees the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization in California, is skeptical of this particular sighting because it apparently occurred before dozens of motorists, yet only one emergency call was placed, the Missoulian reports.

Still, the article dedicated much more space to Sasquatch than it did to a dead gray wolf that was found along I-90 in the western part of the state. Hmmmm, curious.

We don't often share such sad news, but as a safety precaution we feel compelled to let you know that a New York man has died after being hit in the head with a 3-ounce lead sinker.

Jaime Chicas, 21, of Roosevelt, N.Y., was fishing in his home state when, according to Newsday.com, his sinker came out of the water and hit him in the face and then lodged in his brain.

According to the Melville, N.Y., news service, doctors at Nassau University Medical Center concluded that the momentum of the angling weight caused it to enter his head through the bridge of his nose.

While New York Fishing Tackle Trade Association president Gene Young called the tragic incident a "one-in-a-billion thing," it just shows that fishing, like many activities, can be dangerous, so let's be careful out there.


posted July 29, 2008

This marriage already is underwater a good thing. Where would you wed?

So where do think is the best place for a sporting couple to tie the knot?

On the banks of a blue-ribbon trout stream, between tying on dry flies, are we right? Hey, anytime you need a fishing license and a marriage license is a good time.

Oh, there are other ideal places to say vows and we'll get right to those; you can throw your two cents in, as well.

We got to thinking about this after spotting an Associated Press item in today's paper. The headline screamed, "Read me." Actually it read, "Couple dives into marriage, literally."

And with a lead like this, we were hooked:

The bride wore a white veil, a red garter and black neoprene.

It turns out the wedding took place in a river 20 feet under water, to be precise in southern Oregon's Illinois River, the AP reports out of Selma, Ore.

The happy couple, Brian Wilson and Christina Gunn, were pronounced by Pastor Jim Bard, also a diver, who read the vows from a slate display board. In the end, the newlyweds removed their regulators and sealed the deal with a kiss through the bubbles.

Bravo, Brian and Christina, well done.

Now where would we get married?

In a treestand, donning the finest camo, of course.

How about on a multiday tuna trip, upon which all the staterooms are occupied by friends and family members who target bluefin and yellowfin before and after the ceremony.

Then there's a mule-deer drip into the high country, where all the witnesses have ridden in on horseback.

A team bass-fishing tournament, during which the betrothed competitors interrupt their largemouth casts for the I dos before getting back to the task at hand.

I could see a backpacking trip into the High Sierra and the intendeds walking under crossed fly rods, then taking a ceremonial cast at the reception with a double-hookup on golden trout.

Of course, getting a pastor to go along is key, so let's hope there are more Jim Bards out there willing to marry the most-sporting couples.

We've no doubt missed many special spots, so please contribute your best wedding locales for outdoor couples. Click here to add your ideas for that special day.


posted July 28, 2008

When 90 percent of our big marine fish are gone, that's a wakeup call

At Backcasts we generally like to be upbeat and odd, and seldom too serious and bleak, so excuse us for the following departure.

But when it comes to the grim future of our ocean fisheries, it's hardly a laughing matter. A recent study by the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis reveals that 90 percent of our big fish have disappeared.

And that the research has been disseminated in such a well-read national publication as Parade you know, the magazine insert that appears in Sunday newspapers across the country only amplifies the importance of this marine matter.

Among the findings from the Santa Barbara, Calif.-based center, and other research groups, according to Parade:

" Nearly half of our oceans are considered "fairly degraded."
" Of all the ocean waters, just 3.7 percent show little or no impact from human activity.
" The aforementioned disappearance of the great majority of our big fish can be attributed to a combination of overfishing, rising seas, warming waters and acidified brine.
" Development has wiped out almost 90 percent of wetlands, the nurseries for fish.
" And perhaps most revealing to us, for every dollar contributed to conservation efforts, 99 cents go to the work done on solid ground, while our oceans see a penny. That's all the more startling when one realizes oceans cover more than 70 percent of Earth.

So, again, forgive us for what may be a depressing topic, but sometimes we need a wake-up call. And there's room for hope, in perhaps as something as non-scientific as changing the look of the donations pie chart.

Collectively, sportsmen are some of the greatest givers to the preservation of the outdoors. And, we know, when a paragraph starts out like that it often ends with a request to give even more. But that's not what we're asking. Instead, perhaps it's time to consider changing the distribution of what you give so that a higher percentage of your contribution dollars go to ocean efforts.

It's certainly something to think about.

Meanwhile, we'll try to offer our typically cheery and offbeat deliver tomorrow, yesiree, Bobs.

  • Got a similar take or differing view? Post on our Message Board or our Mailbag. And if you have a news tip, send it our way.

    About the author: Brett Pauly spent nearly six years editing and publishing ESPNOutdoors.com before moving on to produce the ESPN.com Sports Travel site. He is a national award-winning writer and editor with 14 years of experience in the newspaper trade, including stints at the Los Angeles Daily News and Seattle Times. The Evergreen State is where he now makes his home. Click here to email him.

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