News Hound archive: Through Sept. 22, 2006

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    posted Sept. 21, 2006

    Poachers: You can run, but you can't hunt or fish

    What began more than 20 years ago as an agreement between three Western states to help prevent poaching and to punish and track habitual wildlife violators is now law in 25 states.

    With laws becoming effective in Florida next month and in Tennessee Nov. 1, the Interstate Wildlife Violators Compact will join half of the country's states with a shared central database containing the names of wildlife law violators.

    Simply put, the Interstate Wildlife Violators Compact puts wildlife lawbreakers on notice that their activities in one state can affect their privileges in all participating states.

    And any way you look at it, that's a good thing.

    In the past, when someone was found guilty of illegal hunting or fishing practices and had his hunting privileges revoked as a result, there was nothing to prevent him from obtaining a license to hunt or fish in another state.

    That's no longer the case, thanks to the reciprocating agreements contained in the Interstate Wildlife Violators Compact.

    In addition to the new associate states, compact members include Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

    To date, it is estimated that the IWVC has identified more than 4,000 poachers and other game violators whose hunting and fishing privileges have been revoked in compact-member states.

    As more state agencies understand the benefits of jumping onboard as compact associates, expect to see a big push in the Midwest and East in coming years. Legislation is pending or expected in approaching sessions in Alaska, Kentucky, South Carolina, Maine, Ohio, West Virginia and Delaware. FORUM | MAILBAG

    posted Sept. 20, 2006

    National Hunting and Fishing Day: Support for sports is strong

    This Saturday, Sept. 23, marks the 35th annual National Hunting and Fishing Day. Established by Congress in 1972, the day acknowledges the conservation and economic importance of hunters and anglers.

    Historically, it's a day when outdoor groups, shooting and hunting organizations, and conservation clubs set up displays at malls and county fairgrounds across the country to tout their accomplishments and encourage others to enjoy the benefits of our country's rich hunting and fishing heritage.

    A recent poll leading up to this annual observance indicates a strong majority of American adults support hunting and fishing and reveals that support for hunting has increased over the past decade.

    "Without hunters, many game species would go unmanaged and become unbalanced, with populations too high or too low to suit an environmentally-conscious public," said Mark Duda, executive director of Responsive Management, the firm conducting the survey.

    While three of every four persons polled approve of hunting, more than nine of every 10 respondents approve of recreational fishing, Duda said, as suggested by the poll date below:

    Do you approve or disapprove of legal hunting? (2006)

  • 77.6% approve (45.4% strongly approve, 32.2% moderately approve)

  • 16.3% disapprove (8% strongly disapprove, 8.3% moderately disapprove)

  • 6.1% neither approve nor disapprove, don't know

    Do you approve or disapprove of legal hunting? (1995)

  • 73% approve (40% strongly approve, 33% moderately approve)

  • 22% disapprove (11% strong disapprove, 11% moderately disapprove)

  • 5% neither approve nor disapprove, don't know

    Do you approve or disapprove of recreational fishing? (2006)

  • 93.3% approve (68.5% strongly approve, 24.8% moderately approve)

  • 5.2% disapprove (2% strongly disapprove, 3.2% moderately disapprove)

  • 1.5% Neither approve nor disapprove

    Do you approve or disapprove of legal fishing? (1995)

  • 95% approve (65% strongly approve, 30% moderately approve)

  • 3% disapprove (1% strongly disapprove, 2% moderately disapprove)

  • 2% neither approve nor disapprove, don't know

    Beginning this year, National Hunting and Fishing Day has an official home and celebration headquarters at the Wonders of Wildlife, National Fish and Wildlife Museum and Aquarium, located in Springfield, Mo.

    Your intrepid ESPNOutdoors.com News Hound reporter will be in attendance for the weekend full of events and will share some of the experiences with you in next week's blog entries.

    Stay tuned! FORUM | MAILBAG

    Safety reminder: Be careful heating tents, campers and cabins

    The startling death of two hunters in Washington state last week, apparent victims of carbon monoxide poisoning, serves as a grim reminder to hunters heading into the mountains for big-game seasons to be especially careful when heating tents, camping trailers and cabins.

    The Lewis County Sheriff's Department reported this week that bowhunters Fred Ramiskey, 62, and his son-in-law, Melvin Daniel, 39, apparently died of carbon monoxide asphyxiation while they slept in a 25-foot travel trailer.

    A third hunter who slept in the rear of the trailer near an open window said he awoke Friday morning with a severe headache and discovered the two men dead.

    The survivor said when the three hunters returned to the trailer Thursday evening they turned on its central heating unit and a portable propane heater while they prepared dinner, later turning off the portable unit.

    It seems like every year a few of these tragic hunting tales hit the newswire.

    Carbon monoxide poisoning is preventable. If you must use unvented propane heating units, use them only in ventilated areas and in conjunction with a CO detector or monitor. FORUM | MAILBAG

    posted Sept. 19, 2006

    Bluegills protecting cities from terrorist activity

    Some major U.S. cities are using bluegills to monitor their public drinking water supply as an early detection system against possible terrorism.

    Also known colloquially as bream and sunfish, the popular panfish is being used to guard drinking water in San Francisco, New York and Washington from substances such as cyanide, diesel fuel, mercury and pesticides.

    Bluegill are kept in tanks constantly replenished with water from the municipal supply, and sensors register changes in the breathing, heartbeat and swimming patterns of the bluegills that are known to occur in the presence of toxic substances.

    "Nature's given us pretty much the most powerful and reliable early warning center out there," said Bill Lawler, co-founder of Intelligent Automation, the company that produces and markets the bluegill monitoring system.

    Software produced by the company measures "sunfish stress," so to speak.

    "The idea is to have happy, stress-free fish. Once we have minute toxins in the water, the fish will react," Lawler said.

    The moment a swimming water guard shows any sign of stressful behavior, water authorities are notified via e-mail or a phone call.

    So, vigilance, you brave bluegill. America depends on you. FORUM | MAILBAG

    Another tall … er, long … hoof tale

    After reading our posting about the long-hooved whitetail and seeing the photograph, Pennsylvania bowhunter Lucas Miller e-mailed a photo of the deer he arrowed in the Keystone State during the 2005 archery season.

    "It also had the elongated hooves and it was on all four (hooves)," Miller wrote. "The buck had no trouble chasing does and seemed to get around just fine."

    Miller said when he queried folks from the Pennsylvania Game Commission about the cause of the excessive growth, they suggested that an especially mineral-rich diet could be behind the oddity.

    In my humble and decidedly unscientific opinion, it seems like if that were the case, other deer in that specific region would exhibit similar overgrowth symptoms.

    Miller offered his own observation that just might hold water, though.

    "I think it could be started by a long period of inactivity when no wear on the hooves results," he opined. "After the original curl the deer had trouble wearing the growth down."

    I think our savvy reader may be on to something.

    What do you think? FORUM | MAILBAG

    posted Sept. 18, 2006

    Hey, anglers, share the love

    My friend and associate Mark Taylor, the fine outdoor writer for the Roanoke (Va.) Times, used his column in yesterday's paper to relate an epiphany of sorts that he recently experienced while fishing Oregon's steelhead-rich North Umpqua River.

    It seems that Taylor, his brother and a friend were flyfishing a pool when another angler — a non-flyfisher — approached.

    Decisively, Taylor announced to the newcomer that he could not fish the pool because there was no room.

    The disbelieving angler informed Taylor that 30 miles of flyfishing-only water existed upstream, but the outdoor scribe stood firm, up to his hips in the Umpqua.

    Disgruntled but non-confrontational, the rejected fisherman walked away from the stream and sat on a rock.

    And Taylor, a wise and reasonable guy at heart, began thinking.

    "There exists between flyfishermen and conventional fishermen a natural chasm, and too often it's a divisive one.

    "In the eyes of plenty of flyanglers, conventional tackle anglers are a bunch of bait-chucking, worm-plunking, fish-killing, stream-littering, resource-abusing rednecks.

    "Many conventional fishermen don't think much of flyfishers, either, considering them a bunch of fancy pants, "A River Runs Through It"-watching, influence-peddling, elitist poseurs who think that money can buy fishing bliss.

    "The attitude is not good for anyone."

    Well said, Taylor, it's good advice for all of us.

    Oh, yeah, and after he was unsuccessful using his flies, Taylor invited the waiting bait angler to give it a shot. FORUM | MAILBAG

    Illegals' garbage emboldens border bears

    Regular readers of the ESPNOutdoors.com News Hound blog will likely recall some of my past rants about how the influx of illegal aliens into the U.S. across our Southwestern borders is a far deeper issue than simply one of politics, jobs and immigration.

    The border situation should concern all hunters, anglers and those who have respect for this unique and environmentally sensitive region of the world.

    Simply put, the border region of the Sonoran Desert in southern Arizona is fast becoming one enormous garbage dump. Abandoned vehicles, empty water jugs, tossed clothing, rotting food and human waste are strewn across the cactus-studded landscape.

    As if the harsh desert elements aren't enough of a challenge for hunters, throw in some desperate illegal immigrants, drug smugglers and border bandits for good measure.

    Earlier this year I wrote that Arizona Game and Fish biologists believe the mule-deer population in the southern half of the state has been negatively impacted by border activity. This is especially the case in shaded washes where deer normally bed and at watering holes — both areas of high illegal traffic.

    And now authorities are saying that trash left by illegals has attracted black bears and acclimated them to people, resulting in a spike in bruin vs. human encounters this summer.

    Kurt Bahti, Arizona Game & Fish Department field supervisor, told the Tucson Citizen that authorities have killed at least four problem bears this summer. Since mid-June, Bahti said his department has received more than 30 calls about nuisance bears.

    "We've got more doggone bears than you can shake a stick at," Bahti said.

    Tom Skinner, wildlife program manager for the Coronado National Forest, said that illegal immigrants coming through the Huachuca Mountains simply discard unwanted trash and leftovers by the ton, teaching bears that people mean food.

    "The number of job seekers, drug smugglers and other illegal traffic coming through the mountain ranges has resulted in interactions that we're concerned may exacerbate human-bear interaction," Skinner said.

    "There's a tremendous amount of trash including food items that's being left on these travel ways." FORUM | MAILBAG

    posted Sept. 15, 2006

    The mysterious long-toed deer of Alma, Wis.

    Since posting my Tuesday blog about the whitetail deer found in Alma, Wisc. that sported unusually long hooves, I have been in contact with some folks close to this wild wildlife tale.

    Jarrad Fluekiger, walleye guide and co-owner of The Main Channel Fishing Shop in Alma, e-mailed the photo of this strange-looking deer, along with some details.

    Jarrard wrote that Jeff Rieck, a family friend, hit and killed the deer with his pickup one evening last week.

    Folks around Alma have been seeing the long-toed wild buck for the past couple of years.

    Landowner Curt Youngbauer said he's seen the buck in different areas in the past and it appeared to have some difficulty getting around. He said when he last saw the buck in the spring, only its front hooves appeared overgrown.

    "When we asked the DNR about the unusual hooves they were as surprised and confused as we were," Fluekiger wrote. "They could only figure that either the deer found some high protein minerals or that the deer had some kind of bad gene."

    My friend Mike Faw, prolific outdoor writer and editor of the Sports Afield Almanac, says he's only seen the malady in two other whitetail in his life.

    "One case was nearly as severe and the other was less per hoof," Faw said. "When deer are afflicted, it seems to be all hooves. The deer also walk semi-normal and can run, but the hooves can make a distinct flopping noise that can be heard a considerable distance away. Neither deer that I saw had been confined or unable to walk for a time, so the excessive growth could not be explained."

    How about our blog readers? Can you shed any light on this oddity of nature?


    posted Sept. 14, 2006

    "We didn't have time to be scared"

    A fathers' and sons' deer-hunting excursion to Alaska's Afognak Island could have ended in tragedy when an enraged, 400-pound grizzly sow charged the foursome last week.

    Instead, it was the composure and quick thinking of a 17-year-old that likely changed the outcome of the potentially deadly encounter.

    Bryan Martin of the Kodiak Daily Mirror writes that John Burnett and his 13-year-old son Caleb were hunting with Pat McCarty and his teenage son, Andy, when the bear leapt from the thick trailside cover.

    "The bear came out of the bushes covering ground at an amazing speed, like a racehorse," the elder Burnett said. "Pat, my friend, began backstepping. The bear seemed to be lined up on him. He fell to the ground cutting his hand."

    In the hubbub, McCarty was able to fire a warning shot at the bear's feet.

    "The whole thing was happening fast, 15 seconds," Pat said.

    It was 17-year-old Andy McCarty who stood his ground, calmly loading his 30.06, then firing into the bear's chest as it charged.

    The teenager shot the bear a second time, hitting it in the shoulder. His father and McCarty each shot the bear once.

    The grizzly expired about six feet from the McCarty, who credits his son for saving his life.

    "We didn't panic. We weren't trembling," McCarty later said. "We didn't have time to be scared." FORUM | MAILBAG

    Grouper turns tables on diver

    Investigators in Key West, Fla., report that a diver apparently drowned last weekend after spearing a huge fish and becoming entangled in the line.

    The preliminary autopsy of Gary Cagle, 42, indicates that he drowned while free diving in 25 feet of water.

    Key West Police divers discovered a speared Goliath grouper tightly wedged into a hole in a coral reef, with the victim's body still tangled in the line, according to the sheriff's report.

    "It looks like the fish wrapped the line attached to the spear around the victim's wrist. The fish then went into a hole in a coral rock, effectively pinning the man to the bottom of the ocean," Monroe County Sheriff's Detective Mark Coleman said in a news release.

    As the largest member of the sea bass family, the Goliath grouper, or jewfish, can grow to 8 feet and weigh up to 700 pounds.

    The incident reminds me of the book The Helldivers' Rodeo, by one of my favorite authors, Humberto Fontova, who writes about similar fatalities and near misses occurring to adventurous divers who frequent offshore oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico.

    "These 'rigs,' as locals call the offshore oil platforms that dot the Gulf off Louisiana's coast, claim several divers each year — not the rig itself, or course, but the waters under them…three divers in the summer of '99 alone," Fontova writes.

    Fontova spins a wild tale about spear fisherman Gerry Bourgeois, who wrestled a 450-pound jewfish up from 170 feet with one hand stuck in the fish's gills, and the other stuck in its mouth. Fortunately, Bourgeois' story ends happily.

    A wildman of the outdoors, Fontova's writing is a hilarious mixture of Jacques Cousteau, Robert Ruark and Hunter S. Thompson. Also check out his book The Hellpig Hunt, subtitled: "A hunting adventure in the wild wetlands at the mouth of the Mississippi River by middle-aged lunatics who refuse to grow up." FORUM | MAILBAG

    posted Sept. 13, 2006

    Hunters have deep pockets

    Now here's some new data that you just might not want to share with your spouse right away … at least not during the next few weeks leading up to the opening of most big-game hunting seasons.

    According to a new report commissioned by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the average American hunter will spend about $96,017 on hunting during his or her lifetime — with approximately $17,726 of the total on hunting equipment alone.

    The study indicated that between the ages 16 and 75, an average American hunter annually spends $70 on rifles, $53 on shotguns, $9 on muzzleloaders, $21 on handguns, $49 on ammunition, $12 on decoys and $49 on dogs and supplies.

    The report was prepared by Southwick Associates, the nation's leading research firm specializing in economic and demographic data relating to the outdoors and game and fish agency issues.

    The National Shooting Sports Foundation notes that the data speaks volumes about the economic importance of hunters and shooters and sends a strong message to lawmakers and others in decision-making positions. FORUM | MAILBAG

    Agencies promote "firewood awareness"

    Some states' natural resource departments are launching major campaigns to educate hunters, campers and others who regularly spend time outdoors about how moving indigenous firewood from region to region can spread some of the most destructive insects and diseases that impact forests and timberlands.

    The most notorious tree-killer in the Midwest is the emerald ash borer — a beetle that is responsible for destroying more than 20 million ash trees in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana since 2002, with most of the devastation occurring in southeastern Michigan.

    The three affected states are enforcing quarantines and fines to prevent potentially infested ash trees, logs or firewood from moving out of areas where emerald ash borer resides.

    "When you move firewood, you move everything that's in it," said Indiana state entomologist Bob Waltz.

    "This could include emerald ash borers, gypsy moths, Asian longhorn beetles, beech bark disease, and numerous other pests and diseases that otherwise would have a very difficult time spreading."

    State foresters say that the transporting of wood by an unaware public is the primary reason for the widespread infestation of the ash borer.

    "In some cases, such as with emerald ash borer, were it not for people moving firewood, the insect could advance only about a half-mile per year," Waltz said.

    "With people transporting firewood, these things can move as far as a vehicle can take them and will thrive anywhere that provides the right host." FORUM | MAILBAG

    posted Sept. 12, 2006

    8 escaped Idaho elk shot by officials

    Here's the latest on the situation in Idaho and the area surrounding Yellowstone National Park, where as many as 160 trophy domesticated bull elk escaped from a private ranch and may pose a threat to the genetic purity of native Rocky Mountain elk in the region.

    The Jackson Hole Star Tribune reports today eight of the escaped elk were killed yesterday by Idaho Game and Fish Department officials; the animals will be tested for their DNA and possible disease.

    The escape of the animals and their dispersal within 10 miles of Yellowstone raised fears they might spread illness and affect the genetic purity of the expansive wild elk herds located in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.

    As blogged here Friday, early reports indicated the elk may have been a strain of red deer — not native to North America — though officials are now saying they simply aren't certain of the herds' exact origin.

    According to its Web site, the private Chief Joseph Idaho Hunter's Retreat charges clients $5,995 each to shoot a trophy domesticated elk.

    Idaho Fish and Game Director Steve Huffaker said his agency has heard reports that some of the reserve's elk may have been crossbred with red deer in an effort to grow larger antlers.

    "We don't know for sure whether we're dealing with hybrids," said Terry Mansfield, deputy director of the Idaho wildlife agency.

    The 2,000-acre reserve is owned by veterinarian Rex Rammell and reportedly contains 500 trophy elk and mule deer. Reserve hunting memberships go for an incredible $1 million each (yes, you read correctly).

    By Idaho law, red deer are illegal to import into the state, although there were red deer game farm operations there as recently as the 1980s.

    Whatever the outcome of the situation in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem, you can bet it will prompt Idaho game officials to take a long, hard look at the future of operating private-hunting reserves in that state — a practice already banned in neighboring Wyoming and Montana. FORUM | MAILBAG

    Forget everything you know about deer tracks!

    In one of those you've-got-to-see-it-to-believe-it stories, alert ESPNOutdoors.com News Hound blog reader Bruce Norton of Rushford, Minn., scanned and e-mailed a clipping from Sunday's Winona (Minn.) Daily News showing a whitetail deer with the most bizarre footwear we've ever seen.

    Besides sporting respectable headgear, this buck that recently fell victim to a vehicle near Alma, Wis., has hooves that appear to be at least five to 10 times the average size.

    Not only would one expect that these malformed toes led to this nice buck's demise on the roadway, it's hard to even fathom what kind of track in left in soft soil.

    The photo's caption indicates that Jarrad Fluekiger at The Main Channel Fishing Shop in Alma intends to have a full mount made of the unique animal.

    The caption also notes that biologists believe that a diet high in specific minerals or proteins may have led to the oversized hooves.

    Unfortunately, the Winona paper has not posted the photograph on its Web site.

    So once again, we turn to our astute blog readership. Have you heard or read anything about this specific deer? Or are you aware of this anomaly occurring in other ungulates?

    Let us know! FORUM | MAILBAG

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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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