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Is This Where Social Media Is Bound?

July 23, 2014

I guess I first logged onto the Internet around 1988 or ’89.  If I remember correctly, my first foray was setting up a CompuServe account.  I had the World Wide Web at my fingertips.  I didn’t really know what to do with it at the time, until AOL came along with a user interface and my first taste of social networking (and yeah, I know about The WELL, but I wasn’t part of that).

It was pretty cool then, and it’s pretty cool now.  Social networks provide us with an opportunity to share opinions and information… to debate… to vent… to commiserate… and so much more.  I’ve met a lot of good people.  I’ve discussed topics that I cared about, from hunting and the outdoors to literature and music.  And, of course, I’ve written this blog.

But of course there’s the darker side.  The Internet provides anonymity.  Anonymity leads to abuse.  People say words they would never voice in the presence of other people.  Pretend to be someone they’re not.  With anonymity there is no accountability.  Lie, and call it “truth”.  Make threats without fear of retaliation.

Sometimes, it gets a little overwhelming… as if people have agreed to set aside common sense, decency, and respectful discourse.  Politics has become a game of name-calling and the propagation of memes that rivals anything the 18th and 19th centuries could have thrown at us (unlike our ancestors though, we have no excuse in the 21st century, since we have access to the facts and research from the best minds in the world).  Considered, logical, fact-based debate has devolved into ideologically polarized dogma.

Apparently, when some of us can’t win the battle with wits and words, we turn to technological sabotage… hacking.  Disagree with a site?  Shut it down with a denial of service attack, or hack the site and add bogus content.  Plant virus-laden links.  Or just bombard it with hate-filled vitriol.  Silence those with whom you disagree by any means necessary.

These attacks, lately, have been turned more and more to pro-hunting websites and social media pages.  It’s become so bad, in fact, that hunting advocacy organizations are forming defensive ranks in an effort to fight back.  Here’s the most recent release from the US Sportsmen’s Alliance (USSA).

Task Force Formed to Counter Cyber Threats to Hunters

(Columbus, Ohio) – Sportsmen, conservation organizations and outdoor personalities met at the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance (USSA) headquarters yesterday to develop strategies to counter the recent increase in cyber-attacks on hunters.

The group makes up the Hunter Advancement Task Force with most members sharing a common theme of having been targeted by animal rights activists through social media.

“This is a great opportunity to start developing ways to hold those responsible for the recent wave of cyber-attacks against sportsmen accountable,” said Nick Pinizzotto, USSA president and CEO. “The task force is not only working to stop direct attacks on hunters but also discussing how best to educate the public on the vital role sportsmen play in the conservation of all wildlife.”

Attendees included outdoor television personalities Melissa Bachman and Jana Waller, Colorado hunter Charisa Argys along with her father Mark Jimerson,  Doug Saunders of the National Wild Turkey Federation, Bill Dunn of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, John Jackson of Conservation Force, Dennis Foster of the Masters of Foxhounds Association, Tony Schoonan of the Boone and Crockett Club and Mark Holyoak of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. Other attendees included USSA President and CEO, Nick Pinizzotto, Evan Heusinkveld, USSA vice president of government affairs, Bill Horn, USSA director of federal affairs, Michelle Scheuermann of Bullet Proof Communications and author Michael Sabbeth.

Bachman, a television producer and host, found her life and career threatened after posting a photo of an African lion she harvested to her Facebook page last year. Almost immediately, Bachman came under attack from anti-hunters around the world. Bachman also found herself the target of death threats that “hit way too close for comfort” when anti-hunters showed up at her office.

“Regardless of your beliefs about hunting, Americans can all agree that threatening someone’s life is simply unacceptable.” said Bachman.

Other members of the task force have also had personal experiences with cyber-bullying including Waller who has had not only threats to her life, but also to her career. Waller, the star of Skull Bound TV, found herself having to defend her livelihood after an anti-hunter called her show sponsors to accuse her of poaching.

“The whole issue of harassment is so important,” said Waller. “I am scared it is going to deter people from standing tall and proud as hunters.”

While attacks on outdoor-celebrity hunters have been going on for years, average hunters have largely avoided the wrath of the anti-hunting community.  Earlier this year, however, Charisa Argys was thrown into the spotlight when a picture of her legally harvested mountain lion appeared online. The image brought a flood of criticism and threats not only to her, but to family members as well.

“Just because some anti-hunters in Europe went ballistic over a legal hunt, this issue is going to be associated with me for the rest of my life,” said Argys. “It is never going to go away. It’s going to be there forever. It could affect my job prospects and my life.”

This initial task force meeting was just the first of many to develop short and long-range strategies to protect hunters from cyber harassment.

“In the short term we are developing aggressive legal approaches to pursue both civil and criminal legal actions to prosecute anti-hunting harassers.” said Bill Horn, USSA director of federal affairs. “In the long term, we would like to cultivate strategies to provide additional legal protections for hunters who are finding themselves the target of cyber bullying.”

Pinizzotto added, “What this group discussed today and the ideas generated are a terrific first step in protecting hunters now and in the future. We have some of the brightest minds in our industry working on this critical issue. I look forward to continuing this discussion and adding additional key groups and individuals to the team in the coming weeks.”

 

Lead Ban Chronicles – HSUS Supporting Ethical Hunting?

July 22, 2014

Lead Ban ChroncilesMaybe this is lazy, but I’m going to share a link to someone else’s post about a topic I have never directly addressed.  HSUS and their alleged campaign to “curb the most inhumane and unsporting abuses”

So here’s the link to Don Mallicoat’s column in the Tribune Papers website.

In the column, Mallicoat responds to a challenge to his criticism of the HSUS and their anti-hunting agenda.  The commenter raised the argument that HSUS is not anti-hunting, but only seeks to promote ethical and humane hunting practices.  As Mallicoat points out, HSUS’s record speaks for itself… efforts to ban mourning dove hunts, bear hunts, and other popular hunting practices.

But it was something else that I saw in the HSUS response to Mallicoat’s original column that I think deserves attention… and that’s the statement that “rank and file hunters” are in agreement with the HSUS efforts.

Where do they get that sort of idea?  It doesn’t take a research expert to find examples of hunters attacking hunters over issues from high fence hunting to predator hunting.  The HSUS can take its pick of hunters’ arguments that support their platform… or at least as much of that platform as they’re willing to disclose.  And the hunters just keep feeding them.

I’m not using this as an opportunity to argue that hunters need to stand together regardless of our opinions, or that we have to support methods and practices with which we disagree.  I think an open and ongoing discussion about ethics, safety, and conservation is valuable and good.

At the same time, I really wish more hunters would take a little more care in their criticisms of other hunters.  Are you perpetuating a stereotype with your comments?  How much do you really know about the practice with which you disagree?  Consider your motivation for taking a stance against a practice, and ask yourself who is doing more harm to the future of our sport… the participants, or those who vilify them?

Just something to chew on.  You can spit it out if you don’t like it.

 

Gun Safety – A Reminder About Negligent Discharge

July 21, 2014

I know.  I take off without so much as a word for a week, and then come back with something this random on a Monday, no less.  Blame it on the day job.  Or just blame it on laziness.  Matters not.

I’ve been a little short on simple content lately, and not provided with a lot of time or motivation for deep dives into any topic that requires research (or verification), so I was bouncing around social networks and YouTube hoping for something that would just feed right into the page.  Absolute relevance is never a requirement at the Hog Blog, but I do try to maintain a modicum of peripheral connection to topics related to hunting.  So I found the following video:

Now before anyone jumps in with the kneejerk, banal comments about stupidity or Darwin Awards, I want to ask you to hold your water. That’s not why I shared this.  I just want you to watch this video, especially starting at about 00:26, and give it some thought.

As “Tex” says in the video, negligent discharges happen.  It has happened to me, and I have seen it happen to my friends.  I was almost killed by one (the difference between almost and actually was less than the width of a hat brim).  With careful gun handling, particularly a laser focus on muzzle control, they usually don’t do much more than scare the bejesus out of you.  But the fact is that sometimes, in less than a heartbeat, shit happens.

The point is, just be careful.  Be safe.  Do everything you can to try to make sure shit doesn’t happen… and if it does, that the outcome is little more than a raised heart rate and ringing ears.

Pissed Off By Politicians – Sportsmen’s Bill Derailed By Political Shenanigans

July 10, 2014

I don’t usually, and I’m not now, wrapped up in the general political discourse.  There are things I agree with and things with which I disagree… but that’s not what I want to spend my time writing about on the Hog Blog.  But it’s no secret that there’s some serious dysfunction, and because of that dysfunction, things that matter don’t get done… things like the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2014, legislation that would have ensured and enhanced access to public lands for hunters, fishermen, and other outdoorsmen.

At any rate, as much as I have to say about this, I think this press release from the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership says it better.

Political Gamesmanship Sinks Sportsmen’s Bill

Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act fails in Senate for second time as sparring legislators derail bill

WASHINGTON – Broad public support, strong advocacy by hunting and angling groups, and 45 bipartisan cosponsors couldn’t save the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2014, a commonsense package of measures intended to enhance sportsmen’s access and opportunity that failed to advance in the Senate this morning.

The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and others in the sportsmen’s community were deeply invested in advancing the bill, and the TRCP lambasted today’s actions as an “opportunity lost” due to political gamesmanship.

“The Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act, an historic piece of legislation comprising some of the most important measures in years to benefit America’s 40 million sportsmen, has failed due to political infighting, a dysfunctional amendment process, and the extreme wings of both parties, who are more interested in scoring points than legislating on behalf of America’s hunters and anglers and the values of the population at large,” said TRCP President and CEO Whit Fosburgh.

“We are deeply disheartened that a bill with 45 bipartisan cosponsors and the support of the national sporting community could fall victim to a fundamentally broken Senate, where some legislators’ support for sportsmen is only a talking point,” stated Fosburgh. “While we support an open and deliberative legislative process – including Congress’ right to engage in debate and offer amendments – we believe that this process should not come at the expense of advancing commonsense legislation that benefits natural resources conservation, public access and the nation’s outdoors economy.”

A similar package of sportsman-focused legislation likewise failed to advance in the Senate in 2012.
Future opportunities for the bill to advance are highly uncertain, although the bill’s sponsors have indicated that they will try again to pass the bill before year end.

The Remington Outdoor Company, a TRCP corporate partner, reiterated the bill’s value and urged its passage.

“The Remington Outdoor Company fully supports the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2014,” said Teddy Novin, Remington director of public affairs. “This legislation will enhance the experience of America’s sportsmen by preserving the rights of hunters to choose their own ammunition, providing state fish and game agencies greater flexibility to build and maintain public shooting ranges, and improving access to public waterways and lands for hunting, recreational fishing and shooting.”

 

More MishMash

July 8, 2014

Because a single, coherent thought is too much to ask right now…

First of all, California hunters should really be paying attention… and attending.

CDFW To Hold Public Workshop on Lead Bullet Ban Implementation

July 7, 2014

Media Contacts:
Janice Mackey, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8908
Gail Turner, CDFW North Central Region, (916) 358-1075

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) will hold a public workshop Tuesday, July 29 to discuss the implementation of the lead bullet ban. The workshop will be held at the Rancho Cordova Library at 9845 Folsom Blvd. in Sacramento from 7-8:30 p.m.

A CDFW representative will detail a proposed implementation plan, the PowerPoint is available on the CDFW website. Following the short presentation, interested parties can make comments and provide input that will help shape CDFW’s final recommendation to the Fish and Game Commission, which CDFW anticipates presenting at the Commission’s meeting in Sacramento in September.

Last year, Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 711 requiring that the Commission adopt a regulation to ban lead ammunition in the state no later than July 1, 2015, with full implementation of the ban to occur no later than July 1, 2019. Governor Brown has directed CDFW and the Commission to work with all interested parties in order to produce a regulation that is least disruptive to the hunting community.

In order to determine what is least disruptive to hunters, CDFW has been reaching out to interested parties this year in a number of ways, including question and answer sessions at sportsmen’s shows, meetings with hunting organizations and now a series of public workshops throughout the state. A public workshop was held in Ventura in April and Eureka in June. Another is planned in Redding on July 19. After Sacramento, planning is underway for workshops in August in San Diego, Fresno and Riverside/San Bernardino. In addition, individuals and organizations may email comments to wildlifemgmt@wildlife.ca.gov (please use “Nonlead implementation” in the subject line) or mail hard copy correspondence to:

CDFW, Wildlife Branch
Attn: Nonlead implementation
1812 9th Street
Sacramento, CA 95811

Louisiana hog hunters and farmers might be interested to learn that the Pelican State may soon legalize the use of helicopters to shoot feral hogs.  Taking a cue from Texas, LA wildlife managers and agriculture agents are looking at expanding the use of helicopters on private lands.  According to this article from the Times-Picayune, all Louisiana hog hunters aren’t happy about the possibility because they are afraid the sharpshooters will kill off all of the hogs and leave none for sportsmen.

(State wildlife veterinarian Jim) LaCour said he wishes it were that easy, but he told commissioners the state would have to kill 75 percent of its hogs every year just maintain a static population. The creatures are remarkably fecund, producing two litters a year with an average of six piglets per litter.

By the way, wildlife officials in Arizona are warning hunters to shop early if they hope to find lead-free ammunition for use this season.  As many hunters learned last year, the “ready availability” so often touted by lead-ban proponents is not really the case at all.  Finding lead-free ammo, even for standard calibers, was a challenge… especially for those shopping at smaller, local stores.  But even the major outlets, including Cabelas and Bass Pro Shops ran short on the shelves, and even the online inventory went dry for periods of time.

On the national picture, the Senate is moving ahead with S2363, the Sportsmen’s Act.  According to a release from the NSSF, the vote to move ahead was substantial, with an 82-12 majority in favor.  Of course, next comes the crush of irrelevant amendments and such as the political wrangling gets serious, but hopefully we’ll see the bulk of this thing come through without too much damage.

At any rate, I’m not planning to become an outdoor news aggregator site anytime soon, but I did find all of these topics worth sharing… partly in the interest of keeping you folks informed, and partly just because it’s all I’ve got for content right now.  But stay tuned… who knows what secrets lie in the hearts of hogs?

 

Mid-Week MishMash

July 2, 2014

BassAnother week is rushing by, and honestly, stressing over the day job is enough… I’m not gonna worry about the Hog Blog.  Well, not too much.  So here’s a little something, that’s really a whole lot of nothing… nothing important, anyway.

Just to prove that I don’t spend all my time sitting in front of the computer, here’s a picture of my “big catch” from Sunday evening.  I took the fly rod down to the river (Nueces) and tossed some poppers out there.  I’ve seen big fish here, but they must have seen me… or maybe they saw/heard Iggy, the big-splash dawg.

Seriously, having a water dog along when fly fishing in clear, shallow water is probably not conducive to fishing success.  I finally convinced the big galoot to park his butt up on the rocks while I fished.  That helped a little.

Something else that struck me while I was out there was how hard it is to tie that little fly to that little line without my reading glasses.  It’s not impossible, but if impossible had a twin brother, this would be it.  I finally surrendered after I lost my third fly, and stalked pouting back to the car… the splash dog frolicking happily ahead.

In other news, the government did something that pissed a lot of people off and lit up the social networks.

In yet other news… this time, from Japan, the wild boar are really on a tear.  I’ve been getting newsfeeds about wild boar terrorizing villages, or running amuck on city streets, but until now, I hadn’t seen video.

Now I have.

I don’t know what they did to piss that little guy off, but he was having none of it.  I don’t know about ya’ll, but I was cheering for him.

No hogs to report here at the Hillside Manor.  Lots of whitetails, though…  Come on, October!

 

 

Meat Guns And Hand Grenades

June 27, 2014

I love my .17 hmr, I do.

There’s something about shooting it… that tiny little report with that non-existent recoil but so deadly, scary-accurate…  it’s just awesome.

But as a meat gun?

Not so much.

Even with CCI’s 20gr “hunting” bullet, it is just too devastating.  I know, I know.  Keep it to headshots, and everything is cool.

And that works, for the occasional jackarabbit, or tree squirrel.  And even then, all it takes is a breeze, a shudder, an untimely muscle twitch, and you’ve blown dinner into little, bone-ridden pieces.

Consider the Eurasian collared dove.

There, did you consider it?

He’s not a big bird, although a healthy adult is a bit larger than a mourning dove.  He’s made of tasty, tasty meat.  He’s plentiful.  Here in Texas, there’s no season or limit. What’s not to like?

Occasionally, like this afternoon, I can sneak out the front door and whack a couple for dinner with the Marauder (I love my Marauder too, but I already said that, earlier).  Unfortunately, I could only manage to bag one, which is, for me, a half a meal.  I needed one more.  I sat out on the porch with Iggy, the “what the hell is a bird?” dawg, and we waited and we waited.  Of course, as I type this now, there are two on the oak tree, just above the feeder.

But then, I had other things to do.

I was out at the barn, when I noticed the birds were gathering along the edge of the trees.  I assume they were waiting for the deer feeder to go off.  Mixed with the white wings, mourning doves, and Inca doves were a bunch of Eurasian collared doves (folks down here call them “ring necks”).  Unfortunately, the Marauder was up at the house, and the birds were 80 yards away.  Fortunately, the .17 was right there.

I’m no Annie Oakley, much less Carlos Hatchcock.  Making an 80 yard headshot on a dove… well, it might be pushing my abilities a little bit.

The first shot shattered the branch, but the bird flew away.

The second shot ripped through the leaves, but ruffled not a feather.

The third shot ruffled a lot of feathers.  In fact, when Iggy got up there, that’s pretty much all he could find.  I went up to help him, and finally discovered the rear half of a dove.

I carried my “prize” back down to the barn when a new flock came sailing in.  I figured I’d try once more.

You know, even if you hit a dove right at the base of the neck with the .17, it pretty much explodes.  Honestly, I was sort of thinking that on such a small, soft target, the bullet would blast right through.  No.  It didn’t.

I have a new definition of finesse cooking.  It’s grilling the legs and thighs of a dove while sipping my third scotch of the evening.

(And yeah, those of my friends or readers who are “real” cooks or chefs… laugh into your own sleeves.  I’m sure you have some frenchified technique for this.  There’s probably even a name for it.  But me?  I’m just having my Friday night drink on the range, making the best of what Ma Nature dropped by my doorstep.)

Hog Blog Gear Review – Olympia RG850 Flashlight

June 24, 2014

Olympia RG850One of the most underrated tools in the outdoorsman’s bag is the flashlight.  If you asked 50 hunters to come up with a list of “must have” items for the hunter’s pack, it’s a fair bet 25 of them will completely overlook the flashlight.  I don’t think that’s because folks don’t think it’s an important tool, but because it’s so ubiquitous they just tend to take it for granted.  For my part, any time I’m more than an hour or two from the truck, I like to have at least two flashlights, as well as spare batteries.  But even when I’m hunting within sight of the house, I seldom get into the stand without a light in my pocket.

It’s not because I’m scared of the dark.  I’m not.

And it’s not so much because I can’t find my way out of the woods at night without a light.  The truth is that I prefer to hike without a light in the dark whenever there’s the faintest bit of ambient light.  It’s easier on my eyes and gives me a good bit more peripheral vision.  But sometimes, especially in thick cover or cloudy, moonless nights, it’s just so dark that it’s unsafe to try to navigate the brush, rocks, and ravines without some light to guide the way.

More important to me, though, is the availability of a good light to find game after the shot. I don’t care how good your night vision might be, it’s not good enough to let you follow a blood trail in the dark.  Without a light, you can’t read the sign to see if the animal is wandering, dragging a limb, or hiding in a thick pile of brush just off the trail.  And for this kind of work, the brighter and cleaner the beam, the better off you are.

Flashlights have evolved drastically, even in my own lifetime.  Modern lights with concentrated power and LED bulbs are simply miles ahead of the old aluminum-cased, glass lensed, torches we used to use.  They’ve not only gained power, but they’ve grown smaller as well to be more compact and portable.  I’ve got three-ounce headlamps that put out more light than my old 6-volt Boy Scout lantern ever dreamed of, and palm-sized handhelds that rival the old Q-beam spotlight for intensity and range.

In a lot of ways, we have the tactical market to thank for turning out some pretty amazing flashlights.  The requirements of the battlefield or law enforcement situations mean that these lights are strong, weatherproof, and durable.  They are bright enough to disable a close-up opponent or to light up the field for a couple hundred yards.

The folks at Olympia Products have pulled all of these advances together to create the RG850 flashlight.  I was fortunate enough to receive one of these lights for review recently, and while there are still some things that only time will tell, my initial impressions have been pretty favorable.  Let’s look at a few key criteria:

  1. Brightness – The RG850 is named for the 850 lumens it produces at full power.  Now I don’t have a testing lab or any of that fancy equipment to verify that I’m really getting that sort of output, but I can tell you that this light is one of the brightest handhelds I’ve ever used.  I also realize that lumens aren’t the only measure of light quality.  There are other aspects, such as color and clarity that determine the value of a flashlight’s beam.  I’m not the kind of expert who could provide an empirical analysis, but with my own eyes I can definitively say that this light is more than enough to light up a blood trail… even on medium power (there are three power levels and two blink modes).  I flashed it out across the pasture on a recent cloudy night and was easily able to see jackrabbits over 100 yards away… not just their eyes, but the entire rabbit.
  2. Size – With the battery in place and the wrist lanyard attached, the RG850 weighs in at six ounces on my kitchen scale.  Considering the heavy-duty construction of this light, I think that’s plenty reasonable.  There are lighter flashlights on the market, but this one seems to be on par with most others in this class.  I wouldn’t want to hold this one in my teeth for an extended period (e.g. field dressing a hog in the dark), but it certainly isn’t any burden to carry in my hand or drop in the pack.
  3. Durability – I haven’t tried driving nails with the RG850, and I haven’t backed the truck over it or dropped it in the river.  They only sent one to review, and I’d hate to destroy it because I like it so much.  At the same time, just based on the feel and the specs, the light is tough enough to meet with any hunter’s demands.  The moving sections (the lens cap and tail cap) are waterproofed with O-rings, and the packaging even comes with spares in case you need them.   I have dropped the unit a couple of times, but most modern lights can withstand that sort of abuse anyway.  The specs say the unit is waterproof to two meters, so I probably wouldn’t use this as a dive light, but at the same time, that should be more than sufficient for the occasional dunk in the duck marsh or mountain stream.
  4. Battery life – One of the drawbacks to the super-powered flashlights is the intense drain on batteries.  The RG850 is supposed to give a little over an hour of service at its highest setting.  At the medium setting (appx. 360 lumens), it should provide about three hours of light.  On the lowest setting, which provides about 20 lumens (enough to keep you from running into trees on a dark trail), you should expect about 65 hours.  Of course, all of these averages are going to be impacted by how you use the light… either sporadically flashing it to see specific things or continuous use.  I haven’t used it long enough to run it down yet, but I see no reason to doubt the advertised numbers.  The cool thing is, though, that the RG850 is rechargeable.  Even cooler is that you can recharge it from anything with a USB port.  The package includes a USB cable and an adaptor for 110v household outlets, but if you have a USB port in your vehicle, or a cigarette lighter plug with a USB port, you can charge the flashlight in your vehicle.  Of course you could also use any of the solar charging solutions on the market as well, if you’re way out past where the powerlines end.
    The downside to being rechargeable, of course, is that you can’t replace the battery with a standard AA.  It comes with an 18650 NiMH battery, and I suppose you could pick up a spare to keep in your pack, but in general, the fact that you need a recharging source suggests that the RG850 is best suited for work closer to home.  On an extended, backcountry trip I believe I would choose to carry a couple of old-fashioned, battery-powered lights instead.
  5. Cost – I list this last, although it is certainly a priority to a lot of people.  The RG850 has a suggested retail price of $89.99 (actual store prices will vary… often a bit lower).  For a light of this quality, that’s not cheap, but it certainly doesn’t put it in the neighborhood of the Surefires or some other high-end tactical lights.  Still, 90 bucks is a lot of money for a flashlight.  Is it worth it?  I can’t honestly answer that just now.  Give me a year or so to put this thing through normal use, and if it’s still holding up, then we’ll talk about value.

Overall, in case you didn’t gather, I’m pretty pleased with this light.  It’s found a pretty regular spot in my bedside table where it’s close at hand for any nighttime emergency… or if I want to light up the rabbits in the pasture and thin their numbers on a dark night.  I haven’t used it on a blood trail yet, of course, but I have no doubt it will serve that purpose very well.  It is a little pricey, but it’s very competitive with other lights in the same niche.  If that’s the sort of thing you’re in the market for, I’d definitely give it a look.

The Swine Invasion – Latest News From The Front

June 23, 2014

Monitoring the news feeds as always, I saw a couple of interesting articles regarding the efforts to manage the spread of feral hogs around the country.  First, let’s talk toxins.

At this moment, there is no approved toxin for controlling feral hogs.  While there are some products on the market that have been used (illegally in many cases), there’s nothing that is specific enough to impact a hog without posing a threat to other animals… either through direct contact or through the food chain.  Poisons are, too often, indiscriminate killers.  I’ve heard of people who have used various poisons, and almost always get a description of a “trail of carcasses,” from raccoons and opossums, to porcupines, coyotes, and birds.  There’s a reason it’s generally illegal to use this stuff… and even where legal, most folks tend to steer clear.

There’s also concern, quite valid, about using poisons on a species that some of us eat.  A pig (or an accidentally poisoned deer) can carry a pretty lethal load in its bloodstream.  The unwitting hunter who shoots one of these animals for the table is in for a nasty… or potentially lethal… surprise.  With any luck, the results will be minor illness.  But more serious consequences are definitely possible, especially if the meat is consumed by more susceptible members of the family, such as youngsters or older folks.

But what if there were a toxin that could target feral hogs without being harmful to other species?  What if, in fact, the most effective toxin for killing pigs is something we actually add to bacon for our own consumption?

I’ve mentioned this before, in passing, but researchers from the USDA and a couple of universities have discovered that sodium nitrite can be lethal to hogs.  The research is currently ongoing, as they have yet to reach the USDA’s benchmark of a 90% kill rate, but the results so far are promising.  This could be welcome news to agricultural interests and wildlife managers seeking to protect sensitive habitat, as well as to suburban homeowners in places where other control methods such as shooting or trapping are not as viable.  This article from ABC News online has a little more information, including some of the challenges and responses the researchers have to overcome in this effort.

From the ground to the air…

Aerial shooting has also proven to be a useful tool for hog control, particularly in flat, open land such as parts of Texas.  Attacking the animals from helicopters allows marksmen to kill large numbers of hogs in a single outing, thinning the local population and often driving the remaining animals off of the property.  The thing is, there aren’t enough airborne marksmen to do the job on a large-scale basis.  A couple of years back, Texas made it legal for individuals to pay for a helicopter “hunt”, but these outings are pretty expensive, putting them out of the reach of budget-conscious hunters.  That leaves a lot of ground to cover by a small handful of specialized teams.

Enter “Operation Dustoff”. 

According to their website, the mission of Operation Dustoff is as follows:

This program was developed and designed to strengthen and foster the most successful well-adjusted group of wounded service members. Our goal is to raise awareness and utilize the public’s aid to address the needs of injured/wounded service members. We are taking what the service members were trained to do for our country and creating functionality that will help them become a valuable resource to our community by utilizing their trade as an asset for hog eradication. These service members will also develop a sense of camaraderie with other injured/wounded service members by finding a common bond through friendly competition and enjoyment. Operation Dustoff provides unique and direct programs and services to meet the needs of injured/wounded service members.

The project is currently funded by corporate sponsorship and donations, and looks to build a core team of skilled, aerial marksmen to help combat the spread of feral hogs and to mitigate the damage they do, primarily to agricultural interests.  The hope is that by using trained and professional operators, more farmers will be willing to hire the teams for fly-over shooting.  At the same time, the program intends to provide a supportive opportunity and community for wounded veterans.

It sounds like a net positive to me.

If you’re interested in learning more about Operation Dustoff, either as sponsor or a participant, check out their website at: http://opdustoff.com/?page_id=21.

Benjamin Marauder vs. Marauding Squirrels

June 20, 2014

The age-old battle over the bird-feeder between homeowner and squirrel is the stuff of much humor, as well as the never-ending source of frustration for some people.  The quest to build a squirrel-proof bird feeder has lined the pockets of many an “inventor”, but when it comes to thwarting these agile, clever little thieves… well, success has been generally limited.

Personally, I say, “if life gives you squirrels, make fried squirrel for dinner!”

The Benjamin Marauder is just the thing for thinning the ranks of these little, grey bandits.

The Benjamin Marauder is just the thing for thinning the ranks of these little, grey bandits.  And once they’re dead, why waste them? Click to enlarge the image.

Until recently, I haven’t really had much of an issue with the squirrels.  Most of them stay up in the woods, happy to feed on acorns and such, with the occasional foray to the deer feeder.  They don’t eat that much, and I kind of like to watch them when I’m deer hunting.  Here at the house, I’ve also let them be.  Until this spring, there were only one or two who’d show up from time to time to gnaw on the big suet block, but they generally left the other feeder alone.  They provided great entertainment, particularly when Iggy would go charging off the porch and launch himself into the yard to chase them.

I guess a little spring magic happened, though, because suddenly there were not two, but five or six squirrels hopping around the oaks in the front yard.  A suet block would disappear in a day, and they even figured out how to shake the seed out of the “squirrel proof” finch feeder.  It was too much.

I keep the Benjamin Marauder by the front door anyway, because I’ve been working on thinning the jackrabbits who graze my barn pasture.  That’s another critter I wouldn’t ordinarily worry about, but it’s amazing how much grass those things can eat… and in the drought conditions, grass is a precious commodity.  I’ve been making rabbit chili, braised hare, and my own take on a dish I saw over on Hank Shaw’s Hunter, Angler, Gardener, Cook blog, chilinron.  There are still a few left in the freezer, and the “on-the-hoof” supply seems nearly limitless.

But anyway, the other afternoon the squirrels were particularly active.  Three of them had literally emptied the finch feeder in a few hours and were scampering around, collecting whatever seeds were left in the area.  Iggy would run out and chase them into the oak trees, and then they’d descend almost as soon as he set foot back up on the porch.  The time had come.  I grabbed the Benjamin.

A couple of notes about using the Marauder for this work.

First of all, it’s amazingly quiet… not dead silent, of course, but the noise level is way below that of the .17hmr or .22lr that would be my usual small-game guns.  At the first shot, the remaining squirrels took some notice and ran a short distance into the trees.  I’m fairly certain the crack of a .22 would have sent them off into the woods.  As it was, I was able to shoot all three squirrels in relatively short order.  (As an aside, no one out here much cares about a little gunfire in the ‘hood, but for use in a more suburban environment, the quiet-shooting Marauder is a very positive attribute.)

The second thing about the Marauder is its accuracy.  I’ve been shooting those jackrabbits out to 75 yards across the pasture.  I’ll admit to requiring a bit of Kentucky windage to make the longer shots, and there are a number of misses… but I only try for head shots.  Jackrabbit bones are brittle and tend to explode into little shards, so I avoid shooting them through the body.  It just wastes too much meat (and there’s not much there to begin with).  Squirrels are, skeletally speaking, similarly fragile.  Fortunately, these shots were all within 25 yards, and that Marauder is ridiculously sharp-shooting at that distance.  Quick, clean kills were the rule… one, two, three.

Finally, there’s the safety factor.  I have a neighbor about a quarter mile across the canyon from my house, so that precludes much use of the .22 or .17 for shooting out of the front yard… especially up in the trees.  Despite its power and accuracy, the Marauder is still an air rifle.  Barring a phenomenally perfect angle and tailwind, it’s highly unlikely an errant pellet would come anywhere near their house.  Even if it did, it would not be carrying enough velocity or energy to do any harm.  (I still avoid shooting directly toward their house, of course, but I’m not too worried about mishaps.)

At any rate… from the bird feeder to the frying pan.  Seems like a fair deal to me.

 

 

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