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Backcasts archive: Through Jan. 19, 2007

Blog calendar: Jan. 18 | Jan. 17 | Jan. 16

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    posted Jan. 18, 2007

    Now here's a parade with some real bite to it

    Upland game hunters are no doubt familiar with the National Pheasant Fest, thought to be the country's largest event for upland farmers, sport dog owners, and wildlife habitat conservationists.

    This year's shindig takes place Friday through Sunday at the Iowa Events Center in Des Moines, and showcases pheasant habitat seminars and booths filled with puppies, farm equipment, arms, ammo and art built around a national consumer show, according to the Des Moines Register.

    But what they may not know is that the annual show will be kicked off by its first-ever bird dog parade.

    We're just tickled to discover that spaniels, Brittanys and pointers will walk alongside shorthairs, Munsterlanders and retrievers.

    And just how does Fido do a parade wave, anyhow? We're intrigued.

    The noon hour in Des Moines will be filled with more than 20 different sporting dog breeds from 19 dog organizations, according to its newspaper.

    Those as fascinated by the parade as we are can get their questions about the many and varied canines answered by representatives of the breed organizations who will be manning the area at the event hall known as Bird Dog Alley when the show opens at 3 p.m. local time Friday.

    I would immediately want to know what kind of training is required for the four-legged marching band and whether paw-eye coordination is key to baton-twirling success.

    For tickets to the fest, visit the Iowa Events Center Web site.

    But not much tail wagging going on in this place

    One locale not likely to have a dog parade is Alta, Utah, where the number of dogs for the ski town is limited to 12 percent of the human population, according to the Associated Press.

    With 370 old-timers, ski bums, business owners and resort employees, that equates to 44.4 dogs, by our calculations

    These are tight regulations, mind you, all to protect the alpine watershed, and violators actually can go to jail. For example, no four-legged visitors are allowed, even inside cars.

    But the town council has put the max number of pooch licenses at 42.

    "I never heard of a place limiting dog licenses,'' said Stephan Otto, a lawyer and legislative director for the Animal Legal Defense Fund, which tracks dog ordinances. "It sounds a little European."

    Way to go, Otto.

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    posted Jan. 17, 2007

    When is a pest more than a pest? When it's a coyote


    It's too bad a pest animal like the coyote could turn in to such a troublemaker.

    The organizer of a predator-control effort in eastern Montana found out the hard way this week that a coyote-calling contest could cause tremendous grief.

    Jerrid Geving claims to have been harassed incessantly by phone and even received death threats after overseeing the annual varmint-shooting event held over the weekend in Baker, Mont.

    "I want people to educate themselves more on what the coyotes do, as far as a predator, instead of being so shallow minded about the facts," Geving told Backcasts on Tuesday. "If they knew the facts, they wouldn't call me and pester me."

    The facts, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and reported by the Associated Press, are that:

  • Coyotes caused an estimated $47 million in damage to the cattle industry in 2005.

  • Sheep losses to songdogs topped $10 million in 2004.

  • The USDA's Wildlife Services division shoots, poisons, traps or otherwise destroys about 80,000 coyotes annually on private and public lands nationwide.

    In fact, coyotes can be hunted 24/7, all year, without limits in Montana, according to the AP.

    So what's wrong with a friendly coyote-calling contest, in which teams vie for a $6,000 purse funded by entrance fees, local businesses and the Baker Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture?

    Admittedly, hunting for a cash prize brings with it concerns over fair-chase ethics, but this is a pest we're talking about, not a trophy big-game animal.

    The event drew 130 participants on 46 teams, from Utah to Illinois and Idaho to Iowa, Geving said, and 88 coyotes were harvested. The winning team, which he refused to divulge due to the contest's negative publicity, brought in nine of the so-named prairie wolves.

    It is but one of perhaps 500 such calling contests (some by invitation only, to minimize the attention of anti-hunters) held across the country, according to the Web site coyoteclub.org.

    But the little contest in Baker, Mont. — dubbed part predator control, part economic development tactic for a town of 1,700 desperate to fill its coffers — apparently rubbed some the wrong way.

    Groups including the Humane Society of the United States and Predator Defense maintain that neither private hunts nor public agency killings offer a real solution because of the coyote's ability to rapidly reproduce, according to the AP.

    "You kill some coyotes and six months later it's as if you didn't kill any at all. What are they accomplishing other than just being barbaric?" asked Brooks Fahy, executive director of Predator Defense.

    Is there a solution to predator problems in there somewhere? We're all dog-ears.

    As for the future of the five-year-old Baker contest, Geving told us, "We had a very successful hunt. I plan on continuing it for as long as I get the turnouts."

    Woman makes it out alive after 5 weeks lost in the wilderness

    Here's a remarkable backcountry survival story we'll undoubtedly be hearing more about soon.

    A 52-year-old woman who set out for a two-week backpacking trip but wound up lost for five weeks has been found alive in New Mexico.

    A National Guard helicopter crew rescued a weak and dehydrated South Carolina woman before dawn Sunday and flew her to a hospital in nearby Silver City, according to the Associated Press.

    Carolyn Dorn had a tent, a sleeping bag and enough food and water for two weeks when she hit the trail Dec. 6. But she eventually became trapped on the wrong side of the rain- and snow-swollen Gila River and survived alone in the Gila National Forest by drinking river water, keeping warm by building fires and using "very little energy," said search and rescue coordinator Frankie Benoist.

    Two brothers found Dorn and, after determining she was too weak to proceed, made sure she was well provisioned before trekking 20 miles during the next day and a half and, on Saturday, hitchhiking into Silver City, where they contacted authorities.

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    posted Jan. 16, 2007

    For duck hunting, it was the shot seen round the world


    Rarely in our niche of outdoor sports is there a bellwether event that shapes the image of hunting as much as it did 50 years ago, when live television brought broadcast audiences from around the country to a little old duck pond in northeast Arkansas.

    It was at 3:14 p.m. CT two days before Christmas in 1956 when viewers tuned in to NBC's "Wide Wide World" watched as host Dave Garroway introduced a scene that waterfowlers and nature lovers still find amazing.

    After a monumental staging effort at Claypool Reservoir, cameras rolled as 300,000 ducks filled the air. Not another duck could be put on the screen, according to ESPNOutdoors.com executive editor Steve Bowman, who writes about the anniversary of the milestone.

    "A lot of people saw it all over the country," said George Purvis, then the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission's chief of information. "It kind of put Arkansas duck hunting on the map."

    Ducks were called in for the TV cameras, a boy with a new shotgun stepped out of a blind, six shots were fired and a dog was shown retrieving ducks. The rest, as they say, is history.

    Indeed, the images on the small screen put ducks and waterfowlers on a state, regional, national and even international stage that is seldom enjoyed in hunting.

    Purvis snapped the enduring photo you see above, from which T-shirts and posters were made, and "Wide Wide World" has become the answer to hunting trivia questions from the era.

    The best part is, a half-century after that photo was taken, the ducks at Claypool's Reservoir can still fill the skies above its 1,500 acres of timber, smart weed and moist-soil plants.

    "We'll still hold a quarter-of-a-million ducks and more," said Johnny Riley, the caretaker of the reservoir for the past 35 years. "There are times, I think we hold a million.''

    Hey, we blow our own horn here when the occasion warrants, so watch the video from the program included in Bowman's tale and you'll be amazed all over again.

    ESPNOutdoors.com columnist Keith Sutton even mentions the epic scene is his recent column Out There column "The wild, wacky world of waterfowl."

    Check it out; you won't be disappointed.

    One streak of losses ends, another futility mark continues

    I feel for the Caltech men's basketball team. Until a victory against Bard last week, the Beavers had not won an NCAA game since their 1995-96 campaign, a span of 207 consecutive losses.

    If it's any consolation, my streak of fishing days without a bass weighing more than 4 pounds recently extended to 208.

    Congrats also to the Caltech women's hoops team, which, according to the school's Web site, on Saturday registered its own milestone by notching the squad's first-ever conference win. The ladies began playing basketball at Caltech as an independent in 1995 and joined the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference in 2002.

    Sportsmen will be encouraged to learn the gals' victory came against the fighting Sagehens of Pomona-Pitzer.

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    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. The Evergreen State of Washington is where he makes his home. Click here to email him.

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