August 21, 2014
The guns are already out in several states, and with September rolling around, more of us are gearing up to hit the field. But as we do, whether at the range, in the field, or even cleaning up at the house, remember… gun safety is no joke. It only takes a second to turn a wonderful day into a nightmare.
And yes, I have posted this one before… but it bears repeating.
August 20, 2014
I know, CA hunters are already hard at it, with A-zone rifle underway, and archery seasons cranking up across most of the rest of the state. Kinda late to say, “get ready for the season,” huh?
But here’s news (at least to me) that I think some CA hog hunters will be happy to hear. According to an article I just saw in the Red Bluff Daily News, northern California hog hunters will have a new opportunity, starting on September 1, as the DFG and US Fish and Wildlife Service will be opening up hog hunting in the Sacramento River National Wildlife Refuge.
According to the article, the hogs are doing significant damage to the riparian areas that the FWS has worked so hard to restore along the river. Hunters will help alleviate the damage, both by killing some of the hogs and pressuring others out of the sensitive areas. These hunts are shotgun and archery only. The season will run from September 1 through March 15, and will only apply in units of the refuge that already allow hunting. Check local regulations before venturing out.
Of course, down here in the Lone Star State, an awful lot of folks are looking forward to the September 1 dove season opener (Northern and Central zones). Down in the southern edge of the state, dove hunters will have to wait a week to get in on the action. According to Texas Parks and Wildlife, there should be a boom of birds this year. I know that, down here at the Hillside Manor, I’ve been seeing a pretty fair number of birds. Closer to the agricultural areas around Uvalde and Sabinal, birds seem to be everywhere. Lots of cut corn fields, cotton, and sunflower fields are keeping them active and fat.
Something else the TPWD has done for 2014 is set up an online tool to apply for “Drawn Hunts”. These are hunts on both public and private property that offer some opportunities like archery hunts for Mule Deer in Big Bend, alligator hunts over in the eastern part of the state, or even guided, scimitar-horned oryx hunts at Mason Mountain. Some of the hunts include a fee if you’re drawn, while others only cost the price of entering the drawing (this varies from a few bucks to $10 or so). Obviously, these drawings can be tightly contested, as only a few openings exist for most of the hunts, but the rewards can certainly be something to get excited about. Deadlines for each drawing are posted on the site, and most of the hunts include a specific set of dates. You’ll want to make sure you read everything thoroughly before you sign up, but definitely, sign up! In a state like Texas, with so little public land, this is one way to get out and do some hunting in prime locations… often with very limited pressure or competition.
Me? I’m pretty much ready for the doves (besides the occasional Eurasian collared dove I shoot for snacks), but this year I’ve really started looking forward to deer season. There are two bucks that have been pretty regular visitors this summer, and as much as I’ve enjoyed watching them grow… well, I can’t help thinking about getting an arrow into one of them. I haven’t decided if I want a shot at Funkhorn (or if presented, can I take the shot after watching him for so long?) or at the traditional 8-pointer. I guess my mind will be made up should the time actually come.
August 15, 2014
Big thanks to my friend, David, for sharing this story and pictures. Like him, I’ve been putting in for the Grizzly Island tule elk hunt for years (since 1997) without success. Congrats to Serra for drawing this hunt!
How’d it work out? Here are David’s own words and photos.
About Tule Elk in California and the Tag Lottery
For as long as I have been hunting, I have put in for the lottery drawing for a Tule Elk tag at the Grizzly Island Wildlife Area. The wildlife area is home to a few hundred head of Elk and although they are free range animals, they rarely go far from the wildlife area and when they do, they always return. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife manages the elk herds here and throughout the state. Their stated goals are to maintain healthy elk herds, reestablish elk in suitable historic range, provide public educational and recreational opportunities involving elk, and to alleviate conflicts involving elk on private property. Part of the management plan calls for a limited number of animals to be harvested by hunters. The number of tags in a given year can vary but the competition to win a tag is steep, sometimes there are more than a thousand people trying for the same tag. For instance, last year’s period 5 bull hunt had two tags allotted with over 1600 applicants. That is a 1 in over 800 chance; not very good odds. I know people who have been trying to obtain a tag their entire hunting careers and have never done so. Imagine my surprise when I logged in to the DFW website to check our draw results and saw that my daughter, Serra, had won an antlerless tag. We would be hunting in the first hunting period, August 12-15 (on her 16th birthday no less). With more animals to be harvested this year, maybe the odds were in our favor, maybe the hunting gods were in a good mood on drawing day or maybe it was birthday luck. Whatever it was we weren’t questioning it. We were thankful and we knew we had a lot of work ahead. We had to incorporate scouting trips and a whole ton of shooting practice into the 2 months from the tag drawing to the actual hunt.
Serra has had a license since she was 12. She has taken deer, quail and ducks. She hunts deer with a Marlin 1898 in .44 Remington Magnum. A fine gun for a deer out to 100 yards but for elk, we would need to step it up a bit. We knew, from our experiences duck hunting on the wildlife area that these animals can get so close to you that you can see their breath in the cold foggy mornings. Nothing like duck hunting and to have a bull elk walk right through your decoy spread. At the same time, they may stay several hundred yards away. Whatever the case, we knew that we had to be prepared for a wide range of shots. For this hunt, Serra would use my Browning BAR Semi-Automatic in .300 Winchester Magnum. This is a very flat shooting gun and can handily take down a big animal out to several hundred yards. The gun was a gift from a very dear friend. After shooting it some, my friend and I had a muzzle break added to it to reduce the recoil. Between the semi-automatic action and the muzzle break, there is hardly any kick to it at all. Perfect for my daughter; she could shoot it a lot and not worry about the kick and just focus on improving accuracy. We practiced on various targets from bowling pins to cans, to bottles to traditional targets. We practiced shooting at various yardages with the targets at different elevations from ground level to eye level to above eye level. This gave us small targets to shoot at different sight lines and it gave her the confidence to make a pin-point accurate shot knowing that if she was off a little from a tiny target that the mistake would not be so detrimental on a large animal.
Next we had to scout the wildlife area in an effort to find a large group of cow elk and learn their patterns. Luckily, we live about 40 minutes from the area so we could take some trips after work and on weekends to scout it out. The first trip, we found some bulls but not a single cow elk. We were a little down on this but we ran into a game warden who took time to congratulate Serra and to explain their habits and patterns to us. He told us to give it a couple of weeks and come back. He said that the Cows were pretty spread out but in a couple weeks the smaller bulls would be herding them up in preparation for the rut. Heeding his advice, we returned in a couple of weeks and just as predicted we were finding large groups of cow elk being herded by rag-horn bulls. One group in particular had over 65 head of elk, most of them cows. This was the group we would continue to follow and watch until we had the pattern figured out. We knew where they were going to be and at what times and we even formulated our plan for the stalk and the kill. This was going to be easy I thought. I had visions of a short stalk and about a 60 yard chip shot. I think I heard the hunting gods (the same ones that showed us favor in giving us the tag) giggle. Actually, I heard one of them do a spit-take followed by bellowing laughter.
Prior to opening day, DFW hosts a mandatory orientation. The tag winners, six in all plus their spotters/helpers, attended the orientation. It is led by Pat, the area manager, Orlando the area biologist and the local game warden (I forgot to get his name). They cover everything from safety to elk habits and patterns to giving you tips on where they have been seeing the elk and strategies for getting close. Their goal is to ensure safety during the hunt and to help you to be successful. They did a superb job. They also provide you a phone number so that when you harvest an animal, they can respond out to pick it up. They collect a myriad of scientific data including live weight and biological samples such as the front teeth so they can determine age.
Opening day started early, with the alarm going off at 3am. It was unusually cool for a summer morning. The wind was strong and fog was blowing in from the bay. My good friend and neighbor, Matt, would be accompanying us on the hunt. I am disabled and although we would hunt as a group he would help guide Serra to the animals and get close enough for a shot where I could not. As we drove into the wildlife area in the cool dark morning, a big bull elk and a spike elk bolted from a creek bottom up and over the gravel road. They were running full bore as they crested the road. They had been out on private land all night and were returning to the wildlife area. This got the heart rate going. Was it going to be this easy with elk just crossing right in front of us? I heard another hunting god snicker. Read more
August 6, 2014
Now I know why there are no hogs around here right now. They’re all on vacation!
July 31, 2014
California hunters (and hunters from other states take note), according to the Humane Society’s “world’s leading expert in the use of nontoxic ammunition”, lead-free ammunition is readily available in California.
I’m not sure how one gets the title of “world’s leading expert in the use of nontoxic ammunition”, but this fellow has apparently done extensive research and determined that any hunter in CA who needs lead-free ammo can get it in plenty of time for hunting season. I guess any of you who were planning to attend the CDFW lead ammo workshops in hopes of expressing your concerns about the lack of ammo availability can just stay home. The problem is solved. I mean, we can take a press release from the Humane Society at its word, right?
Here’s what the press release says. There’s a link to the actual study in the release. The PDF is really, REALLY worth a read.
A new study from one of the world’s leading experts in use of nontoxic ammunition shows that nonlead ammunition is widely available throughout California. The study (see PDF) surveyed retail stores in California and online sources, concluding there is widespread market and retail availability of all popular shotgun and rifle ammunition types for the take of wildlife in California.
Last year, the California Legislature passed Assembly Bill 711, requiring the state’s Fish and Game Commission to implement regulations requiring the use of nontoxic, nonlead ammunition for all hunting in California by 2019. In his signing message approving the bill, Gov. Jerry Brown urged the Commission to phase in this implementation in the “least disruptive” manner possible. The study addresses Gov. Brown’s request and addresses any concerns regarding the uncertainty about the market and retail availability of nonlead ammunition in California.
“With nonlead ammunition already this widely available before the law is even implemented, we can only expect this availability to increase even more once the law is active,” said Dr. Vernon Thomas, who presented his study to the Commission’s Wildlife Resources Committee on Monday. “The findings should give the Department and Commission confidence that they can implement AB 711 as soon as possible without disrupting hunting activity in California.”
Thomas’ report was commissioned by the sponsors of AB 711 (Audubon California, Defenders of Wildlife and The Humane Society of the United States).
According to Thomas, five major U.S. companies already produce nonlead rifle ammunition in more than 48 different calibers that are readily available online and in major sporting/hunting goods stores in California. These calibers include those suitable for hunting all designated species in California.
Of the 111 retail stores in California surveyed for this study, 76 percent carried at least some nonlead ammunition for the purposes of hunting. Availability of nonlead calibers in these stores ranged across the most common hunting ammunition types. In cases where nonlead ammunition cannot be found in a retail store, online retailers are often able to provide the desired ammunition.
Thomas noted that many retailers are actually waiting for the state to implement AB 711 before they begin stocking nonlead ammunition, or expand their current offerings.
“For the minority of stores that had low or no inventory of nonlead ammunition, they reported that lack of customer demand was the primary reason, suggesting that the sooner customers must comply with AB711, the sooner availability on store shelves will increase,” said Thomas.
The California state legislature approved AB 711 in response to mounting research showing that lead from ammunition poses a danger to wildlife and human health. More than 130 wildlife species have been found to be at risk of poisoning by spent lead ammunition left behind by hunters in the field, and people consuming meat hunted with lead ammunition have been shown to have higher levels of lead in their bloodstream.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service prohibited the use of lead shot for waterfowl hunting in 1991, and California passed a law requiring the use of nonlead ammunition within the range of the California condor in 2007.
July 28, 2014
Compelling stuff, huh? Did you read the report yet?
So all snark and facetiousness aside, this is what CA hunters are up against. The language of AB711 says that full implementation is dependent on the availability of lead-free options. This report suggests that the availability question has been resolved, and that there should be no further barriers to full implementation of AB711.
Of course, the report is bullshit. Seriously, read it.
The timing of the report was well choreographed, since today (08/01) marks the end of the CDFW’s input period for public feedback regarding lead-free ammo. The obvious hope is that hunters failed to participate in the process, leaving little competition for this half-assed report. It’s a slick move, but that’s what HSUS does best.
If nothing else, I hope this makes clear what I’ve been saying. CA hunters, you have to take an active role in the process, or your opportunity is going to be taken away from you. Whether it’s the lead ban, bans on bear hunting, or any other attack on hunting, you are your only reliable allies. There are organizations that can help, but they depend on you for their strength… especially in California. This report is a pretty clear indication of what will happen if you do nothing.
And hunters across the country should be taking note. This is how the game is being played, and organizations like HSUS are masters. They are a well-funded and motivated opponent. Don’t underestimate them.
July 29, 2014
That’s good news for the deer, of course, but also for pretty much every other living critter roaming the area. When these things start to come ripe, they become a major food source for birds and beasts (and bugs too). The coons and foxes will come out of the woodwork to nibble the rich, sweet fruits. Deer love them, and will munch their way around the bushes until the ground looks like a “fairy circle”. I’ll know when they’re ripening, because the ground will be covered with purple scat, punctuated with the big, round seeds.
And I like them too. When I can get to them before the critters, which is always a race, I like to eat them right off the bush. I’ve done a little reading on things to do with the fruit, including jams, preserves and even wine… but it’s tough to find enough ripe ones that the animals or birds haven’t already sampled.
These are a native persimmon, by the way, unlike the big, orange ones you find across the country. When ripe, this fruit will be a dark, purplish black, and they’re smaller than golf balls. Still, the flavor and consistency is pretty similar to the Asian variety. And if you eat one before it’s ripe, you’ll get that same astringent bitterness that will turn your mouth inside out.
Deer season is still a couple of months out, and I doubt there’ll be too many fruits left by then. But every bush on the Hillside Manor is loaded like this, so as long as they last, I expect the deer are going to be getting fat and happy.
July 28, 2014
I’ve noticed that a popular thing to do at events is to bring in a photo booth, where the participants step inside for a quick snapshot of themselves enjoying the party. I guess sometimes there are costumes and props available to make the picture a little more memorable. For my part though, I like the come-as-you-are approach.
It just so happens that there’s a year-round party going on up the hill behind the Hillside Manor, and the festive attendees aren’t a bit shy about showing off their party finest. Here are a couple of candids from some recent shindigs.
As always, click any image to see a full-size version.
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.”
July 22, 2014
Maybe 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”
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.
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.