News Hound archive: Through July 14, 2006

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    posted July 14, 2006

    Illinois apprentice-hunter program becomes law

    Just days after similar legislation became law in Michigan, Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich today put his signature bill creating the Illinois Apprentice Hunter License Program, which is designed to help recruit new hunters and help remove barriers to youth participation.

    The Illinois Legislative Sportsmen's Caucus, chaired by Rep. Dan Reitz (D-Steeleville) and Sen. Todd Sieben (R-Geneseo), initiated House Bill 5407.

    The Apprentice Hunter License Program will allow shooters ages 10 to 17 to purchase an apprentice license and hunt with a parent, grandparent or guardian who has a valid Illinois resident hunting license.

    Those 18 and older will be able to buy an apprentice license and go hunting with any family member or friend who is a licensed Illinois resident hunter.

    "This program is an incentive to encourage young people to try the experience of hunting as a sport," Reitz said.

    "It is our hope that this will provide an opportunity for parents, grandparents or friends to introduce youth to this exciting sport and continue the rich tradition of hunting in Illinois." FORUM | MAILBAG

    posted July 13, 2006

    Champions Choice: Champlain's denizen of the deep

    While Elite pros focus on largemouth bass during this weekend's CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series Champion's Choice, Adirondack piscatorial trivia buffs will likely enlighten those hailing from the hinterlands about Lake Champlain's fabled denizen of the deep: Champ.

    Like Nessie of Loch Ness, Champ of Lake Champlain is a creature of local legend and lore — and there are an ample number of grainy, indistinguishable photographs and dozens of eyewitness accounts that continue to fuel the colorful tale.

    In 1883, Sheriff Nathan H. Mooney reported a gigantic water serpent exceeding 25 feet in length that rose five feet out of Lake Champlain's sparkling water. Soon after, showman P.T. Barnum penned a letter to a small New York newspaper on the south end of the lake offering a $50,000 reward for the hide of the "Great Champlain sea serpent."

    Perhaps the most famous Champ sighting took place in 1977 when Sandra Mansi snapped a fuzzy photograph using an Instamatic camera near St. Albans, Vt., that seems to show a creature with its head sticking out of the water.

    As recently as July 11, 2005, two anglers who were previously Champ skeptics became true believers after they shot some home video of something swimming just below the surface of the lake.

    Whatever you believe, I wouldn't want to miss a single televised Elite Series Champion's Choice weigh-in from Lake Champlain July 12-16.

    Because, you just never know …

    A real-life survivor

    Forget the television show by the same name; here's the story of a real-life survivor.

    Brian Wallschlaeger was adrift in the Atlantic Ocean for 24 hours without a lifejacket after he was accidentally knocked overboard by his dog in rough seas on Tuesday.

    The 34-year-old New Smyrna Beach, Fla., man was reported in good condition today at Holmes Regional Medical Center in Melbourne, where he was treated for hypothermia and dehydration.

    U.S. Coast Guard officials found Wallschlaeger's beached boat Wednesday morning, with the motor still running and his black Labrador retriever dead on board. They found the missing boater as he walked out of the ocean about noon Wednesday three miles north of Port Canaveral.

    Wallschlaeger estimated that his 32-foot boat was about ten miles offshore when he fell. It was reported that Wallschlaeger has two prosthetic hips, which made it difficult for him to climb back into his boat after falling overboard. He told rescuers that he held on to a platform on the back of the boat for a time, but he lost his grip trying to wave down some passing boaters, and his boat drifted away.

    For the remainder of the ordeal, he floated along until he saw land, then he swam to shore. FORUM | MAILBAG

    posted July 12, 2006

    A reptile dysfunction?

    A spokesperson for El Paso Electric Company said that a power outage yesterday morning that affected about 2,000 customers in the West Mesa area of Las Cruces, N.M., was caused by an airborne snake.


    I've told you before, ESPNOutdoors News Hound readers; I don't make this stuff up!

    In her statement to the press yesterday, the electric company's Teresa Souza said the power outage that occurred at 8:44 a.m. was the result of a large bird (no doubt a hawk or other type of raptor) dropping a bull snake on a power line, causing the short.

    "I know that's weird," Souza said. "I've never heard anything like that and I've been working here for 10 years."

    Word was not immediately available whether or not electric company officials suspect fowl play. (Sorry)


    New CWD cases in New Mexico

    The New Mexico Game and Fish Department announced last week that three mule deer found in the southern part of the state recently tested positive for chronic wasting disease, bringing the total number of confirmed CWD-infected deer in the state to 15 since the first case was discovered in 2002.

    Test results received from the Veterinary Diagnostic Services laboratory in Albuquerque indicated that two wild deer captured near the White Sands Missile Range headquarters east of Las Cruces tested positive for CWD. A third wild deer captured in Timberon on the southeastern side of the Sacramento Mountains also tested positive for the disease.

    NMG&F press material indicated that the discoveries of the infected deer are part of its ongoing efforts to monitor the disease, which has been confined to the southern Sacramento Mountains southeast of Cloudcroft and areas surrounding the Organ Mountains near Las Cruces. Two wild elk from the southern Sacramento Mountains tested positive for CWD in December 2005.

    CWD is a fatal neurological illness that afflicts ungulates, including deer, elk and moose. There is no evidence of CWD being transmitted to humans or livestock. The disease causes animals to become emaciated, display abnormal behavior and lose control of bodily functions. To date, it has been found in captive and wild deer, elk and moose in eight states and two Canadian provinces.


    Quail Unlimited celebrates silver anniversary, convention

    One of the country's premier species-specific conservation organizations, Quail Unlimited, will be celebrating its 25th anniversary during this year's QU National Convention to be held in Kansas City, Mo., July 26-29.

    The theme for this the silver anniversary convention is "Flight To The Future."

    DU chapter delegates from across the U.S. are expected to take part in the wide array of conservation seminars, workshops, and award presentations. Topics to be covered by industry and agency experts include herbicide use, prescribed fire, youth education and conservation, hunting-preserve management and game bird production and bobwhite biology.

    During a pre-convention tour on July 26, attendees are invited to see the habitat projects implemented by the West Central Missouri Chapter, efforts that earned the chapter QU's national first place habitat award for three years running.

    Concurrent with the annual convention, the Heartland Wildlife Expo will be hosted by Quail Unlimited July 28-30.

    Landowners interested in improving their property with quail and other gamebirds in mind will find the QU convention an invaluable source for habitat advice and planning from professional wildlife biologists.


    BASS/ESPN Outdoors makes contribution

    During this week's regular monthly meeting of the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission, a representative of BASS/ESPN Outdoors made a timely donation toward the state's fish-restocking efforts in areas devastated by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005.

    Will Courtney, state conservation director for the Louisiana BASS Federation Nation, and Noreen Clough, national conservation director for BASS/ESPN Outdoors, presented a $3,500 check to Kell McInnis, executive director of the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Foundation.

    "BASS/ESPN Outdoors is pleased to be able to assist Louisiana as hurricane recovery efforts continue," Clough said.

    The funds will be utilized by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries' Inland Fisheries Division as part of Operation Jumpstart, a restocking program targeting hurricane-ravaged areas.

    Because of limited hatchery space, presently the Division of Wildlife and Fisheries can only raise fingerling bass for restocking.

    Earlier this spring, the Louisiana BASS Federation Nation provided more than 400 adult bass from a Federation Nation qualifying tournament for the stocking effort. Those bass were stocked by Louisiana Division of Wildlife and Fisheries personnel in three of the southeast Louisiana parishes that were most affected by Katrina.


    posted July 11, 2006

    Grandfather, grandson share state record

    Fishing stories just don't get much better than this one.

    A Montana man and his 9-year-old grandson will share the new state record listing for channel catfish after the 29.71-pound whopper they landed together in late May was certified as official last week.

    Malta, Mont. youngster Eli Waters was fishing with his grandfather Jim Jones on Nelson Reservoir when they combined their efforts to land a fish that exceeded the standing state record by nearly 2 pounds.

    Eli said he knew it was no ordinary fish when he set the hook.

    "Line started just screaming out of his reel," Jones told the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks. "He just couldn't turn the fish, and he was afraid that he was going to lose it. So I tightened down the drag and managed to stop the fish, but it stripped the gears on the reel, and it took almost 20 minutes before we got the fish close enough to shore to get a look at it. I figured it was a big carp, but then it rolled and we saw the whiskers and knew it was a big catfish."

    Jones explained why it's especially fitting that the two anglers will share the record.

    "We've raised Eli since the loss of his father, and he is a pretty good fishing partner," says Jones. "In fact, he'd rather fish than eat or sleep. He generally gets me going and wants to keep fishing when I'm ready to pack it in."


    Michigan youth-hunting bills become law

    A pair of bills predicted to vastly increase youth hunting opportunities and hunter recruitment in the Wolverine State received Gov. Jennifer Granholm's signature yesterday.

    SB 1105 will establish an apprentice license to allow new hunters to experience hunting with a mentor before requiring the completion of hunter education. In order to become fully licensed, young hunters must complete a hunter education course.

    House Bill 5192 will lower age requirements for small game hunters from 12 to 10 years old, and big game hunters from 14 to 12 years old. Hunters must be accompanied by an adult mentor.

    Prior to these two bills becoming law, Michigan had some of the most restrictive hunting laws in the country, resulting in the lowest hunter recruitment rate in the U.S. Currently, for every 100 Michigan residents who quit hunting, only 26 are replaced.

    Mentored youth hunting is a key component of the Families Afield initiative, a cooperative effort of the U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance, the National Shooting Sports Foundation and the National Wild Turkey Federation.

    Data gathered by Families Afield shows that mentored hunting is by far the safest form of hunting. In the 30 states with no minimum hunting age, safety records are better than those with minimum age restrictions.


    posted July 10, 2006

    American Kennel Club catering to coonhounds

    The American Kennel Club is making an unprecedented effort to increase the number of registered coonhounds in its ranks, while expanding the number of its sanctioned coon-hunting events across the country.

    In 1945, the AKC first registered black and tan coonhounds, one of six uniquely American hound breeds. But only recently has the country's largest canine registry launched a concerted initiative to register new litters and promote hunting.

    "We're interested in the registration of these dogs and their litters, but we're most interested in preserving these dogs for the future," said Raleigh, N.C.-based initiative coordinator Steve Fielder.

    As part of the effort, in 2005 the AKC began offering free registration to coonhounds already registered with the Professional Kennel Club or the United Kennel Club.

    The move resulted in 10,000 new registrations, up from only 500 in 2004. The club expects to register another 10,000 by the end of this year, pushing the total number of AKC registered coonhounds to 22,000.

    Still, the bellowing breed has a long way to go to reach No. 1 on the AKC hit parade: Labrador retrievers were the most popular breed in 2005, with nearly 138,000 registered.

    As part of the effort, the organization has aggressively expanded its number of coonhound events.

    In July alone, the AKC is sanctioning about 70 coonhound competitions across the country, including contests for youth, field trials, water races and night hunts.


    Tagged bass could fetch $25,000

    Bass anglers don't need a fancy bass boat and a shirt covered with embroidered sponsor patches to win big this summer.

    In one of 13 lakes from Illinois to Alabama and Texas to Florida, a lucky angler could win $25,000 for catching a tagged bass in the Early Times Tagged Fish Challenge, a promotion by the Kentucky-based bourbon distillery that began last week and runs through July 31.

    Anglers who catch one of the 50 tagged bass at each lake are instructed to log onto the Early Times Web site and enter the tag number. Winners will be announced in August.

    All anglers catching a bass tagged for the promotion will receive a gift pack and will be eligible for the $25,000 Grand Prize drawing. In addition, one specially tagged fish from each lake will fetch $1,000.

    The lakes in the promotion include Kentucky Lake in Kentucky, Alabama's Lake Guntersville, Florida's Lake Toho, South Carolina's Santee Cooper and Sam Rayburn Lake in Texas.

    Anglers must be at least 21 years old to participate. FORUM | MAILBAG

    posted July 7, 2006

    Wildlife vs. vehicle collisions focus of new study

    A first of its kind study aimed at reducing the number of highway collisions involving wildlife is under way at Montana State University's Western Transportation Institute.

    Participants in the federally funded Highway Administration study will produce a comprehensive manual to assist transportation planners by incorporating strategies and designs that have successfully reduced wildlife vs. vehicle collisions in other regions and countries.

    "It's a huge issue," said Pat McGowen, one of the project leaders.

    "There are various strategies that have been tried in different states and around the globe; it's our intent to analyze and distill this information to make it easy for transportation practitioners to use."

    In Montana alone, of the 1,866 wildlife-vehicle collisions reported in 2005, five people were killed and 123 injured, according to the Montana Highway Patrol.

    Nationally, an estimated 200 people are killed and more than 15,000 injured each year from collisions with wildlife and domestic animals. FORUM | MAILBAG

    Radar goes buggy

    Many hardcore flyanglers have heard of the Mother's Day caddisfly hatch that takes place across the upper Rocky Mountain region each spring.

    But how about the Fourth of July mayfly hatch on the upper Mississippi River?

    Haven't heard of it?

    Well, last Friday the mayflies were so thick along the Mississippi in portions of Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota that their swarms appeared on National Weather Service radar like a summer thunderstorm.

    According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, the weather service reported "some roads across the Mississippi River in and around La Crosse were covered with bugs, piling into 'drifts' on bridges over the Mississippi River and its tributaries."

    "Local businesses with high-intensity lighting soon found large piles of dead mayflies accumulating under the lights by midnight," the report stated. FORUM | MAILBAG

    Trail camera outfoxes golf ball thief

    For more than a month, Richburg, Miss., resident and golf duffer Arthur McGee tried in vain to solve a mystery that was occurring in his own backyard.

    You see, whenever McGee has some time to spare, he likes to venture out to the pasture behind his home and chip a few golf balls.

    He hits them back and forth across the property, then leaves them where they last landed for his next practice session.

    At least he did until his golf balls began to disappear.

    Hattiesburg American columnist Phil DiFatta writes that, at first, McGee thought someone was playing a joke on him or some neighbor kids were swiping his golf balls.

    But after losing 55 balls in one month, the golfer was at wit's end.

    Finally, McGee installed a motion-activated camera, much like the ones hunters place on heavily used game trails to locate and track the activities of big bucks. He strategically placed several dimpled white balls within range of the camera.

    And he waited.

    It wasn't long before he nailed the golf ball thief.

    McGee's camera recorded a mature red fox — golf ball in its mouth, eyes glowing from the flash.

    So somewhere in the woods around Richburg, Miss., there's a fox den with enough golf balls to supply a small driving range — and then some.

    All you have to do is find it. FORUM | MAILBAG

    posted July 6, 2006

    Toxic spill slams top Pennsylvania trout waters

    Anglers are grieving over last week's tragic train derailment and chemical spill in one of Pennsylvania's premier trout streams that may affect stocks in the former "exceptional value" fishery and its tributaries for years.

    Derailed tank cars carrying sodium hydroxide poured 47,000 gallons of the caustic liquid commonly known as lye into north-central Pennsylvania's Portage Run; from there it flowed into the Driftwood Branch and Sinnemahoning Creek.

    The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports today the chemical killed tens of thousands of trout, bass and other game fish, as well as tadpoles, aquatic insects and waterfowl in at least 35 miles of streams.

    At the derailment site the chemical was said to be concentrated enough to cause skin burns.

    The chemical was so strong that it leached iron out of the stream banks and turned the flows the color of root beer, according to John Arway, chief of the state Fish and Boat Commission's environmental services division.

    "Portage Run was one of the better trout streams we had in the state, and it took the brunt of the spill," Arway said.

    "It really sterilized the whole water system, and its toxicity was so great that I don't think much will be able to tolerate or survive it."

    Prior to the spill, Portage Run had the highest water-quality rating given by the state and supported a thriving population of wild brown and brook trout.

    It is expected that all the fish in the 20-mile-long Driftwood Branch, which has a reputation for producing big brown trout, also succumbed to the spill. FORUM | MAILBAG

    Bear gets cheery in cherry Buick

    Black bear sightings are somewhat commonplace in and around the mountainous Lake Tahoe area on the Nevada-California state line.

    But one young bruin showed some particularly adventurous behavior Sunday when it climbed into the seat of a classic Buick convertible and began eating pizza, swilling alcoholic drinks and incessantly honking the horn.

    About 30 spectators watched the bear cub scamper around a Stateline, Nev., resort parking lot before crawling into a bright red 1964 Skylark and eating pizza and barbecued chicken.

    The owner of the car, David Ziello of South Lake Tahoe, Calif., said the cub also drank several alcoholic beverages and finished a beer from his ice chest.

    Witnesses said the bruin was unfazed by the car's horn, which sounded continuously for nearly 20 minutes as the cub pressed the seat into the steering wheel.

    "People were screaming at him, the horn was going off, but he was completely unaware," said local resident Jerry Patterson. "He did what he wanted to do and the people didn't matter." FORUM | MAILBAG

    Griller smoked

    "Keep your powder dry" — a popular axiom among black-powder hunting and shooting enthusiasts — has its roots in America's colonial days, when soldiers were reminded by their commanders to always be prepared for adversity.

    Here at the ESPNOutdoors.com News Hound, we graciously offer some additional sage advice.

    Don't use black powder to ignite your barbeque grill.

    Delaware television station WBOC reports that paramedics responded to a call Monday evening at a Magnolia, Del., trailer park (you think we make this stuff up?), after a man intentionally poured gunpowder into a charcoal grill and lit it, resulting in an explosion and flash fire.

    Authorities said the unnamed 50-year-old man was hospitalized with first-degree burns to his face, third-degree burns to his hand and singed hair.

    Not surprisingly, investigators from the Delaware State Fire Marshal's office report that alcohol was apparently a factor. FORUM | MAILBAG

    posted July 5, 2006

    Antler culprits top News Hound's lowlifes of the week

    No matter how you look at it, a person who decides to live his life as a thief or felon is a bottom feeder of society.

    But the persons responsible for last week's theft of hundreds of pounds of elk and
    deer antlers
    collected by Boy Scout Troop 1956 of Ronan, Mont., are a particularly rotten vintage of pond scum.

    The Lake County Leader Advertiser reports that the antlers, with an estimated value of $2,000, were stolen from the home of Scout Master Arnold Foust.

    The antlers, which had been collected by the Scouts as part of their annual fund-raising project for the National Bison Range Visitors Center, were to be sold at auction last week.

    The Scoutmaster said the scoundrels knew what they were doing.

    "Antlers are hard to market. You have to know how to sell them. They picked out the best grades. Most people wouldn't have a clue what's a good grade," Foust said.

    Foust voiced his frustration for the many hours the dedicated youngsters spent combing the bison range for antlers.

    "We use some of the money to help offset the costs of our summer camp. We put a lot of hours in there, for almost two months, every available Wednesday and Saturday," he said. "Financially, we could make a lot more money doing other things; but this is good educational opportunity for us."

    While it may not be material for "America's Most Wanted," these ne'er-do-wells definitely make ESPNOutdoors.com's News Hound Most Wanted list. FORUM | MAILBAG

    Boozy boater bungles beer barter

    From the ESPNOutdoors.com News Hound What Was He Thinking? files comes a story out of Lake County in Florida about an impaired-boating arrest made by one of the state Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's finest during the Fourth of July holiday weekend.

    According to arrest reports, boater Randle Gandy approached a Fish and Wildlife craft on the Dead River Saturday and asked the officer if he had a beer that he could sell him.

    Then, in a moment of true epiphany, the 46-year-old Tavares, Fla., man realized he was speaking to an officer of the law.

    "Oh. You're a cop. I need to go," Gandy reportedly said.

    After refusing to blow into a Breathalyzer and failing a field sobriety test, the boozy boater spent the night at the Lake County Jail. FORUM | MAILBAG

    posted July 3, 2006

    Bear attack par for the course?

    Weighing in at 300 pounds and standing 6 feet and change, Hardyston, N.J., golf-course groundskeeper George Petta is not a man likely to be easily intimidated.

    But he met his match last week on the 17th hole at Crystal Springs Golf Course … and he's got the scratches and ripped shirt to prove it.

    Petta, 37, said he was working on a hole in some turf when he suddenly was bowled over by a black bear.

    "I bent over the hole. I heard a sound behind me, like squirrels jumping around in the trees, and when I turned around she was right there hitting me," Petta told the Newark Star-Ledger.

    Authorities later captured and euthanized the bruin after determining that lakes and sand traps were sufficient enough hazards for golfers.

    "I never knew what hit me," recalled the groundskeeper. "She hit me so fast, tearing my shirt, hitting my chest and my arm. She hit me at least three or four times. And then she punched me one last time in the face before she left." FORUM | MAILBAG

    Where the deer and the antelope eat

    As Wyoming's second-largest metropolitan area, Casper has its share of malls, office buildings, traffic and criminal activity.

    But this year, due to unseasonably hot and dry weather in the mountains and rangeland surrounding the city, Casper and its more than 51,000 residents have an added population that doesn't normally show up on a demographics report.

    It seems homeowners who pride themselves on having especially lush and succulent lawns, flowers and other greenery are reporting an increasing number of hoofed visitors to their yards.

    Yep, this year Casper proper is where the deer and the antelope play.

    Instead of "home, home on the range," the summer of 2006 has been more like "home, home on the cul de sac," and some folks have been heard to utter a discouraging word or two about the browsing culprits.

    Biologists with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department say citizens should look on the bright side.

    At least there have been no reported sightings of mountain lions stalking a mule deer in someone's rhododendrons.

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    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 jrabsher@psci.net.

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