posted June 15, 2006:
Let's face it, a government agency decision that is equally acceptable to hunters and animal-rights groups is about as likely as a PETA banquet at a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant.
But that is just what occurred last weekend when the Bureau of Land Management told hunt organizers in Wyoming they could not hold a scheduled prairie dog shooting contest because they lacked the necessary recreation permit.
In the days leading up to the third annual There Goes The Neighborhood contest, scheduled to be held on BLM land near Medicine Bow, Wyo., representatives from the Humane Society of the United States unsuccessfully lobbied the state game and fish department to ban such contests in which cash and prizes are awarded.
But when the BLM told hunt organizer Jim Bowman he could not hold the contest on government land because it was a commercial, revenue-generating activity, the anti-hunt folks claimed victory.
"It was great news," said Casey Pheiffer, Humane Society of the United States deputy campaign manager based in Washington, D.C.
So what about the dozens of hunters who planned an enjoyable outing of long-range shooting?
After receiving their refunded entry fees, they dispersed to nearby public and private land where they enjoyed dawn-to-dusk dog-dusting, thank you very much.
Participants reported taking more than 1,000 varmints a record for the event and no one seemed disappointed that prizes were not awarded.
Mule deer gone wild
Growing urban whitetail populations are becoming increasingly problematic across much of their habitat. But their mule deer cousins have been raising a ruckus in Helena, Mont., with mounting regularity.
Last fall, a group of aggressive mule deer bucks chased a flabbergasted paperboy underneath a pickup truck, where he sought refuge until help arrived.
Yesterday, a Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks warden shot and killed a mule deer doe after it attacked a resident and her dog in her yard.
A Helena woman said she had just put her dog outside when she looked back and saw a deer kicking and attacking it. When she ran out to intervene, the doe turned on her, kicking her in the stomach and legs, according to warden Randy Arnold.
"It's abnormal for a deer to attack a person," said Arnold, explaining why he made the decision to kill the doe.
posted June 14, 2006:
Bear keeps Montana teens at bay for 2 hours
Three recent Montana high-school graduates who survived an encounter with a charging grizzly credit their good fortune to one girl's instruction in bear safety.
Caitlin Adamo, Madaleine Weber and Melissa Davaz were hiking a Paradise Valley trail south of Livingston last week when a bear bounding down a nearby hill suddenly turned and charged them as they snapped photos.
Remembering bear-attack precautionary measures she learned in elementary school, Adamo instructed her friends to drop to the ground, assume the fetal position and cover their heads and necks with their hands.
The girls spent a harrowing two hours lying face down on the ground as the bear sniffed around them while groaning and panting. The bruin, which authorities believe was a grizzly, charged at least three times, even jumping over them at one point.
Finally, when it appeared the bear had left for good, the teens quickly hiked out of the area without a scratch and contacted state Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials and the U.S. Forest Service after reaching their cars.
Grizzly expert Doug Peacock called the close encounter significant and unusual.
SCI, McIntyre weigh in on competition hunting
Through its weekly newsletter released today, Safari Club International has become the first, large national hunter's organization to step forward in opposition to the proposal by the Michigan-based World Hunting Association to hold televised tranquilizer-dart contest hunts for whitetail deer on a fenced game ranch.
According to a June 6 announcement by the World Hunting Association, participants using guns and bows would compete for much as $600,000 in prize money over the series of tournament events.
In its statement, Safari Club International leadership said it has serious concerns with attempts to "professionalize" the tradition of the hunt, particularly with cash rewards. It also said SCI finds the use of so-called "catch and release tactics" for hunting using powerful sedatives as "highly questionable with regard to the future health of the game animals that are captured for the competition."
"Hunting isn't bass fishing," said Safari Club International president Mike Simpson. "It just doesn't translate to made-for-TV entertainment, conducted on a professional catch-and-release basis for cash rewards."
Additionally, respected author, big-game hunter and ESPNOutdoors.com contributor Tom McIntyre weighed in on the growing controversy as a guest writer on Field & Stream Magazine's Gun Nut blog today:
Perhaps the most bizarre claim made by the (World Hunting Association) Commish is that he was inspired to create the WHA because whenever he spent time with other hunters, he noticed that they all seemed 'to share a common desire: to transform hunting to a new level.' Like a televised competition with prize money and deer collapsing in drug-induced comas?
It's funny, I can't think of a single hunter who's ever mentioned to me that this was a new level he had a burning desire to see hunting transformed into. Almost every hunter I've known has wanted hunting to stay at the level where it is or, if it were possible, to return to an even earlier, simpler and more genuine one.
posted June 13, 2006:
First Alabama alligator hunt lotto begins
Alabama authorities announced yesterday that residents interested in participating in the state's first-ever regulated alligator season may begin applying for the limited license drawing online beginning this Thursday, June 15. A total of 50 hunters will be selected by computer for the one-week season, which is scheduled Aug. 18-24.
Alligators have been a protected species in Alabama for nearly 70 years. As in other parts of the South, gators now are thriving to the point where they have become a nuisance in some areas, threatening pets and humans.
Deadline for registration on the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Web site is Aug. 7. A $6 fee is required to register.
The hunting area will be limited to about 40,000 acres in Mobile and Baldwin counties. Permit holders will be allowed to take one alligator measuring 6 feet or longer.
Overnight hunting hours will be from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. to minimize the impact on other recreational users. Approved capture methods include hand-held snares, snatch hooks (hand-held or rod and reel), harpoons with attached line and bowfishing equipment with line attached to the arrow.
Memo to those lucky enough to draw a tag: Taking inventory of one's fingers before and after each night spent on the Mobile-Tensaw Delta is highly recommended.
Nice kitty? You don't know Jack!
Thinking of hunting black bears with treeing walker hounds? Hard-running blueticks, maybe? Black and tans?
There's a 15-pound tabby cat in West Milford, N.J., you might want to consider.
Jack, a 10-year old yellow and white cat that's known by neighbors to be a territorial kind of kitty, proved his mettle last weekend when he treed a full-grown black bear twice.
"He doesn't want anybody in his yard," owner Donna Dickey told The Newark Star-Ledger newspaper.
Dickey's neighbors watched Jack in action after seeing a bear climb a tree on the edge of their property. At first they thought Jack was simply looking up at the bear, but soon realized the bear was fearful of the hissing cat.
After about 15 minutes, the bear climbed down and tried to run away; but Jack chased it up another tree.
Dickey, fearful of a cat and bear fight, finally called Jack home and the wussy bear hightailed it back to the woods.
Oh, one more thing about Jack the big-game hunter.
posted June 12, 2006:
6-pound bullhead? No bull!
It's often said that the catfish garners little respect almost a loathing among many freshwater anglers.
And of all the catfish species, it's probably safe to say that the diminutive yellow bullhead, or mudcat, is often considered the lowest of the low.
But don't pooh-pooh bullheads around John Irvin of Drexel, Mo.
Irvin caught a 6-pound, 6-ounce bullhead catfish at Old Drexel Lake in Bates County during the Memorial Day weekend. The fish already has been verified as a new Missouri state record and is more than 2 pounds heavier than the International Game Fish Association record.
Missouri's previous rod-and-reel record for yellow bullhead was a 5-pound, 13-ounce fish caught from a farm pond near Blue Springs in 1986. The International Game Fish Association recognizes a 4-pound, 4-ounce Arizona bullhead as its all-tackle record.
A 6-plus-pound bullhead is a freak of nature, right? Not so.
Irvin reportedly landed two more yellow bullheads during the same weekend that exceeded 6 pounds on his pocket scale. He didn't bother having them officially weighed, since they fell short of his first catch.
"I don't know what it is about that lake," said state conservation agent Phil Needham, who verified the weight and species of Irvin's catch. "It is an older lake with lots of sediment. Maybe conditions there just favor bullheads, or maybe it is genetics."
I want you to know upfront, good readers and friends of the ESPNOutdoors.com News Hound blog, that if it were not for you I would not spend the time to write about last week's announcement that an organization calling itself the World Hunting Association plans to launch a deer tranquilizing and release competition on a high-fence private ranch in Michigan.
But just in case some of you have not yet been informed about this misguided effort, here it is in a nutshell:
David Farbman, real estate mogul, game-farm owner and organization CEO, plans a high-dollar competition, with a $500,000 combined purse for the first two events, where gun shooters and bowhunters will stalk and shoot deer with tranquilizer darts. In addition, he touts state-of-the-art Web site interactivity, pay-per-view television shows and more.
Bloggers, outdoor writers and hunting forum contributors have been quick to cry foul, and I expect other leaders in the hunting industry to follow suit.
My good buddy Mike Hanback at the Big Buck Zone blog believes hunters and the outdoor media will likely place the "world tranquilizer tour" in the trash-heap of history in short order.
I hope so.
Eric Sharp, the longtime outdoor writer for the Detroit Free Press, agrees with me that Farbman's idea is one of the worst he's ever heard.
"Farbman wants to show hunters knocking Bambi down with tranquilizer darts and reviving him so he can be shot again," Sharp wrote in yesterday's column. "You couldn't hand the animal-rights activists stronger propaganda. Farbman proposes using deer merely as living targets."
Potential sponsors named in the World Hunting Association's June 6 press release lost no time heading for cover.
Eastman Outdoors, the parent company of Carbon Express Arrows and Gorilla Treestands posted disclaimers on its Web sites this weekend indicating, "No formal agreement exists between the World Hunting Association (WHA) and Eastman Outdoors Inc."
Most hunters will likely be as disgusted as I am about the thought of televised tranquilizer-dart, fenced-hunting competition. I thought it couldn't get any worse than the hair-brained scheme last year by the Texas ranch owner who proposed hunting over the Internet. Many state lawmakers took action to ban such a practice in their states during the 2006 legislative session.
Perhaps the same thing will occur with this ill-conceived effort.
My faith in hunters and the hunting community is unwavering. I believe they'll speak loudly and in unison on this one.
Catfish story stays afloat
In the world of cyberspace, e-mails and wild critter stories, there are few tales that have traveled as far and wide as one about the Kansas flathead catfish that tried to swallow a child's rubber kickball in May 2004.
If the series of photographs was not delivered to your in-box at least a half-dozen times in the past two years, well, you're just not "connected," I guess.
Michael Pearce, the Wichita Eagle outdoor writer credited with breaking the odd news, revisited the story last week after a trio of young anglers caught and released what appeared to be the same fish.
Jerone Datu, 12, was fishing at the private lake with Eddie Axman, 14, and Creighton Coleman, 15, when the big fellow hit his crankbait.
"When it hit, it almost jerked me into the water," said Jerone, who weighs 80 pounds. "I could tell it was a really big fish."
But the burning question beckons: Was it the same fish that Bill and Pam Driver saw floating in the lake that fateful day in 2004, when Pam snapped the now-famous series of photographs before Bill deflated the ball using a kitchen knife?
The Drivers think so. First, because the fish was large enough to be the infamous ball-swallowing bottom feeder. And, second, it was only the second time Bill has ever seen a flathead cat in the lake.
The Drivers and Pearce say they continue to receive phone calls and e-mails about the story and photographs.
Pearce shared part of a recent call he received from a Missouri watering hole.
"We need you to settle a bet," said a waitress in a Springfield, Mo., bar. "It's about a picture you ran of a big catfish, with a ball in its mouth. Do you remember the one I'm talking about?" FORUM | MAILBAG
posted June 9, 2006:
A Massachusetts flyangler has a renewed respect for the powers of nature after surviving a lightning strike last week while fishing for salmon on Maine's Sebago Lake.
David Parsons, 47, had abandoned fishing in the stormy weather and was walking away from the lake when he was struck.
"It blasted me into the air and I was a crumpled up ball when I landed," Parsons told the Saco Sun Chronicle. "My shoes were smoking and my fishing rod was fried."
Police investigating the incident said the angler was blown out of his shoes by the strike and landed nearly 50 feet from where he was struck. The bolt singed his hair, clothes and left Parsons temporarily paralyzed from the waist down.
After treatment, Parsons is recuperating at home. He maintains he will fish Sebago Lake again.
Dumb, and dumber
Meet Billy Ray Herring from Quitman, Texas. Billy's a game-law violator.
Beyond that, Billy's no deep thinker.
In 2004, on opening day of deer season, Herring shot a massive, 14-point non-typical buck. After the fact, he decided it might be a good idea to purchase a hunting license.
Herring just might have gotten away with his violation, if he hadn't let his ego get the best of him. Instead, he had the bright idea of entering his deer in numerous east Texas big-buck contests, including one sponsored by the Tyler Morning Telegraph newspaper.
When Billy's buck was named as the winner of the Telegraph's contest, the subsequent photo and article about the deer and the hunter prompted at least one concerned citizen to come forward.
A witness told Texas Parks and Wildlife game wardens that he saw Herring with the buck around 6:45 in the morning, while computer records showed his license was purchased at 8:18 a.m. Herring claimed to contest officials that he killed the deer at 5:10 in the evening.
This week, Herring pleaded guilty to tampering with a government record and was sentenced to two years probation. Fraud charges associated with the buck contests were dropped as part of a plea agreement. Fines, courts costs and restitution will likely exceed $12,000. FORUM | MAILBAG
Long-distance swimming, for the halibut
A Pacific halibut tagged in spring 2003 for a fishing derby in Homer, Alaska, was caught and released by an angler off the Oregon coast last month, some 1,655 miles from where it was last seen.
Halibut No. 536 weighed 5 pounds when it was tagged and released in Cook Inlet, Alaska, more than three years ago. It weighed about 15 pounds when hooked by Ken Jackson of Yreka, Calif., while he was fishing with Five Star Charters, about 15 miles offshore of Bandon, Ore., on May 20.
Had the fish been caught during the 2003 derby, it would have fetched a $500 prize. Prior to this nomadic flatfish, the farthest a tagged Homer halibut had traveled was to Kodiak Island, 100 to 150 miles to the southwest.
Craig Medred of the Anchorage Daily News writes that halibut have been known to make even longer migrations than this one. Fish tagged in the Bering Sea have been caught as far away as California, but it isn't common, according to Scott Meyer, a state biologist in Homer.
Medred also put pencil to paper and figured that in order to cover 1,600 miles in three years, the fish would have to average about a mile and a half per day.
Big raffle for big game
These days, cash-strapped state game agencies are always searching for new and creative ways to fund programs and pay for expanded wildlife-conservation efforts on the ground.
To that end, the Arizona Game and Fish Department has put a new twist on an old fund-raising vehicle the raffle to raise money for important conservation efforts.
And they've made it particularly appealing to hunters by offering special tags for each of the state's nine big-game species, with a full year window of opportunity for the hunt.
As in many Western states, hunters in Arizona must take part in a lotterylike drawing system for many big-game tags, so paying $5 to $25 (depending on the species) for an additional chance to hunt is a no-brainer.
The Arizona Game and Fish Commission voted to set aside special tags for bighorn sheep, elk, mule deer, whitetail deer, antelope, buffalo, turkey, bear and javelina.
Across the state, hunting and conservation groups are selling the tickets, and every dollar from each raffle will benefit the individual big-game species.
posted June 7, 2006:
Fish kill thrills
Fish die-offs aren't normally a cause for celebration, but no one seems to be mourning the recent mysterious deaths of thousands of invasive Asian carp in the Illinois River.
As Wayne Herndon, a biologist for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, told the Chicago Sun-Times, "This is possibly more beneficial than negative news at this time."
Since last week, thousands of dead carp have been seen from the Starved Rock area to as far downstream as Havana, a stretch of about 110 miles.
In what might serve as the olfactory understatement of the day, Herndon said, "That number of carcasses floating around on the river kind of gained your attention."
Two species of Asian carp, the bighead and the silver, have become a major ecological problem in the Illinois River Valley and elsewhere. They have also been the focus of intensive efforts to keep them from spreading into the Great Lakes.
Asian carp were introduced to the United States by Southern catfish farmers in the 1970s to remove algae and suspended matter from ponds. When those ponds flooded in the early 1990s, the carp entered the Mississippi River basin.
Boaters in Asian carp-infested waters have learned the fish can also be dangerous. The sound of boat motors causes the big bottom feeders to leap into the air, and numerous boat passengers can attest to being smacked and injured by massive airborne carp. FORUM | MAILBAG
The hazards of squirrel hunting
One doesn't normally think of squirrel hunting as being a particularly hazardous pastime.
But don't tell that to Anthony Hawkes.
Rescuers in west Tennessee extricated Hawkes, 50, from a muddy bank of the Loosahatchie River where the tired and hungry hunter had been stuck up to his waist for more than 24 hours.
On Monday, Hawkes was spotted by a fisherman who alerted emergency personnel. It took 11 firefighters about 30 minutes just to reach Hawkes, who was 2,000 feet off the road in a densely wooded area. Rescuers used tree limbs and ladders to reach the stranded man and pull him to safety.
"He said he was praying throughout the night and waving at helicopters and airplanes hoping someone would spot him," Brent Perkins, spokesman for the Shelby County Fire Department, told The Memphis Commercial Appeal.
"We're glad the gentleman survived the night and that no heavy rains came Sunday."
posted June 6, 2006:
Deer in the bathroom; film at 11
You just can't make this stuff up.
When a news story begins with a quote like: "I heard glass breaking and I thought someone was breaking in. The next thing I know, a deer is running toward my room," you can bet it's destined to appear on the ESPNOutdoors News Hound blog!
Racine, Wis., resident Jerry Falkner said he and his family were awakened by the sound of breaking glass yesterday morning then they saw a deer run into the bathroom.
The logical next step? Close and lock the bathroom door and call the authorities, right?
Well, it would have been a good idea. This is, if the family's pet pit bull, Shadow, hadn't been sleeping on the bathroom floor.
In the ensuing hubbub, the bathroom's water fixtures were turned on, flooding the apartment and prompting building managers to turn off water and power to the entire building.
The unsuspecting pit bull received repeated pummeling with the business end of a doe hoof and was subsequently knocked unconscious. The dog was expected to survive, but we bet he'll be "bathroom shy" for weeks to come.
Responding Racine Police Officer Victor Cera, described the scene matter-of-factly.
The tragic drowning death of an angler near the junction of New York's Beaverkill and Weemoc rivers last weekend should serve as a reminder to all of the inherent dangers associated with our sport and deeply cherished pastime. But, as Fred J. Aun, the venerable outdoor writer at the Newark Star-Ledger reminds readers in his column today, the accident should not be seen as an indication that the wearing of chest waders contributed to the unfortunate incident.
Fellow anglers reportedly witnessed 44-year-old Justin Everrett slip while crossing a 75-foot-wide part of the stream and get swept by the current into deep water. Aun notes that some accounts of the accident cite a New York State Police investigator who said, "Everrett's chest waders filled with water and, like anchors, pulled him down."
As Mr. Aun rightly contends, in a stream situation there are a few seconds when water rushing into waders can cause an angler to lose balance. But once waders are full, the water inside is no heavier than the water in the stream and they're pretty much irrelevant to an angler's ability to survive.
The real danger in such a situation results from a strong current and the possible injuries sustained from falling or becoming unconscious.
Aun based his contention on a famous demonstration given by fly-fishing icon Lee Wulff (creator of the Wulff series of famous flies and "the father of catch and release fishing") who died in 1991 at the age of 86.
"In the 1940s, Wulff gathered some outdoors writers and staged a somewhat famous demonstration designed to dispel the myth about waders morphing into lethal anchors or, conversely, into balloons of trapped air that flip anglers onto their submerged heads. Wulff slipped into his waders and jumped off a bridge (in February) into about 30 feet of water. His waders quickly filled to the brim, but Wulff didn't sink like the Titanic or float feet-first like a bobber. He simply swam to shore."
Good advice from Mr. Aun: If an angler can swim without waders, he or she can probably swim with them. Those who can't swim should avoid wading or use inflatable vests.
Boat buyers beware
Here's another important and timely subject to consider during National Fishing and Boating Week the potential of consumer fraud when shopping for a used boat.
State watercraft and natural resources agencies are alerting those who are considering the purchase of a used boat to look for hidden or undisclosed damage, especially in a boat that may have originated in Florida or the Gulf Coast region.
The Boat Owners Association of the U.S. estimates damage to recreational watercraft was extensive throughout the Gulf Coast region during the 2005 hurricane season exceeding $650 million from Hurricane Katrina alone. Many damaged boats are now part of the resale market as "nearly new" or used craft.
"Used boat buyers should take precautions to protect themselves from those who would profit from hurricane-damaged watercraft," said Rick Barrera, registration and titling manager of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Watercraft and chairman of the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) Numbering and Titling Committee.
NASBLA and state watercraft agencies nationwide are advising potential boat buyers to first check out the full history of any used vessel they consider for purchase. Conducting business only with reputable dealers and seeking the services of a certified boat surveyor before buying any used watercraft is always recommended.
Of the states that require titling, fewer than 10 require titles of boats and other watercraft that have been designated for salvage. As a result, prospective buyers may be wise to access the National Insurance Crime Bureau's online database of watercraft affected by last year's hurricanes.
posted June 5, 2006:
The value of fish
In keeping with the theme of National Fishing and Boating Week (June 3-11), here's some food for thought.
While we often regard the intrinsic, recreational and nutritional value of fish and fishing, Mamie Parker, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service assistant director for Fisheries and Habitat Conservation, reminds us of the importance of fishing to a healthy economy.
Parker cites a recent study finding that each dollar spent producing rainbow trout in 11 of 70 National Fish Hatcheries multiplies into $36.88 in net economic value.
In 2004, the National Fish Hatchery System spent $5.4 million on rainbow trout, which created 3,502 jobs and generated $80 million in wages. And from purely an angler's point of view, that $5.4 million created 3.9 million angler-days to target rainbow trout.
The economic bottom line, Parker writes, is that the feds' $5.4 million investment in trout translates into $325.1 million in total economic output.
Figures are similar for the nine species of warm-water fish produced in the National Fish Hatchery System for recreational angling in Montana, Wyoming, the Dakotas, Utah and Colorado.
In 2004, walleye, Northern pike, black bass and other fish from these facilities stocked in 13 western states created 4.7 million angler-days on the water, generating more than $326 million for the economy. FORUM | MAILBAG
Coastal Mississippi fishing rebounds after Katrina
Despite Hurricane Katrina and its 20- to 28-foot storm surge that wreaked havoc on the Mississippi coast, state biologists say the fishery is recovering nicely and there is no need for a tightening of regulations for selected species.
Biloxi Sun-Herald writer Al Jones reports that state game authorities now estimate 83,761,400 fish with an estimated value to the state of $23,885,308 succumbed to the wrath of Katrina along Mississippi's shores.
Freshwater species like bass, bream and catfish were hardest hit, probably because of the storm surge and resulting brackish conditions, according to biologists. Restocking programs for those species already are underway.
Kerwin Cuevas, a fisheries biologist for the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources, said that 10 months after Katrina, saltwater species including speckled trout, redfish and flounder seem to have rebounded just fine.
"It appears the churning of the water stirred up the nutrients off the bottom. We already had nutrient-rich waters, but Katrina turned it up," said Cuevas. "The bottom line is Katrina did not hurt the saltwater fish. And that kind of surprises me."
About the author: J.R. Absher shares his perspective while blogging about hunting, fishing, shooting sports, sportsmen's issues and the occasional offbeat outdoor tale. In more than 30 years of writing and a lifetime of enjoying the outdoors, he has worked as a newspaper reporter, photographer, mule wrangler, wilderness packer, magazine editor, political consultant, hunting-equipment copywriter, public-relations director and sportsman's advocate. You may contact him at email@example.com.