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Gimme a T for Texas… Again!

April 13, 2012

Here we go again!

Getting things all packed up this morning for another run to the Promised Land.  Iggy is getting into Road Dawg mode, and I’m getting into the “what have I forgotten” mindset.  By tonight, I’ll be so wound up I won’t be able to sleep.  Happens every time.

But then I’ll be on the road, and by Sunday night, I’ll be kicking back in Hillside Manor, breathing the fresh air and looking up at the stars (or the clouds, as it looks like thunderstorms Sunday evening).  I can’t wait!

I swear I’ll get into some kind of hunting on this trip.  I’ve figured out the issue with the Marauder (it was me, not the gun), so I really hope I can get into some turkeys.  I’ll probably also call around to see if I can’t find a hog or axis to shoot.  I haven’t done a real hunt in months, and I’m jonesing in a big way!

Anyway, next Hog Blog post will be coming to you on Central time!

Hog Blog Friends In the Field – Hawaiian Hogs

April 11, 2012

Ya’ll heard about my friend, Bruce, a couple of weeks back when I wrote about hunting the Vancouver bulls in Hawaii.  Well, Bruce drops me a line from time to time, usually including some photos or video of his excursions there in paradise.  It gives me a chance to live a little vicariously, albeit with a strong dose of jealousy.  Hawaii is one of those places I really want to hunt, but the logistics involved have just been a little too daunting so far.  Check out his most recent story, and I think you’ll see why I’m so eager to get over to the Big Island, and join him on some of these adventures.

Phillip:

Got up at 3:45 AM yesterday and drove along the west side of Mauna Kea.  Mauna Kea, like its sister mountain Mauna Loa, is gigantic around the base and rises up to almost 14,000 feet.  Parked up on a ridge at 8000 feet and hiked down to the Parker Ranch fence line.  The terrain is grassy with small trees that might remind a Californian of large manzanita or pinon.  Classic mule deer country.  The hiking is really tough.  Every 300 yards or so is a deep ravine that must be traversed and that means grabbing rocks and branches and clawing your way up the far side, and that’s the easy part.  Going down is really hairy.  And consider that I left my house at close to sea level and 2 hours later I’m hiking at elevations between 7000 and 8000 feet with a backpack and carrying a rifle and that in 14 months I’ll be 65.  WHEW!!!

I hiked for about an hour and only saw 3 pigs but none was over 60 pounds, so I passed.  Another hour and nada.  This is very dry country, not the kind of real estate you’d associate with Hawaii but more the dry foothill terrain of Tehachapi in California or elsewhere along the East slope of the Sierras.  I hiked over to a large ravine where on a previous hunt I found a small spring that trickles down the lava and forms a pool the size of a bathroom sink.  I set up an ambush site on the hillside above and waited.  5 minutes later 3 small pigs in the 50 pound range came by and drank.  They left and 10 minutes later a sow with 3 very small piglets came by and started to drink.  They turned and looked down the canyon and took off uphill at a sprint.  I knew they hadn’t seen or winded me so the only thing I could figure was they saw a boar heading their way.  I lay prone and rested the 7mm mag rifle across my backpack and waited.

It had been drizzling—more a windy fog rolling through—and I hadn’t checked my scope for awhile.  Within 30 seconds, a boar came ambling up, took a few gulps, and began feeding on the grass.  I got ready to shoot but my scope was fogged.  I wiped the lenses off with my shirt and could see well enough to shoot.  At the shot, he slowly turned around, started trotting off, and dropped after 25 feet.

It wasn’t a large boar, maybe 140 pounds or so, but it was big enough.  I boned out the good cuts, dragged the carcass over behind a rock and out of the way of the spring, and headed uphill to the 4WD gravel road that belts Mauna Kea and would lead me back to my truck.  It took 45 minutes of lung-busting walking to get up to the road.  Pig tracks were everywhere and there was no sign at all that any human or vehicle had been in this area for some time.  Within 1 minute, a sow and 3 piglets ran across the road and disappeared into the fog downhill.  5 minutes later, a huge boar crossed the road and disappeared into the fog.  I trudged along for another 5 minutes and saw a small herd of good-sized pigs on the road but the wind was at my back and they took off.  I arrived at my truck 2 hours after packing up the meat and heading uphill.  I was pooped, to say the least.

As I loaded up the truck and unloaded my rifle, I looked uphill and saw hundreds of fresh sheep tracks in the dirt.  Mauna Kea is home to Mouflon sheep and apparently a herd had come this way while I was out busting my butt looking for porkers.  I was thinking how good a sheep ham would taste, slow roasted on the barbecue, crusted in peppercorns, Hawaiian salt, and garlic butter.

I began the long drive out and stopped at the base of a cinder cone to sight in my 300 Win Mag, newly loaded with Barnes TSX 165 grain bullets [your suggestion, Phillip].  Right before I shot, I noticed another herd of pigs, 6 of them, trotting up the hillside to my left, maybe 100 yards away.  They were probably siblings and were in the 70 pound range.  I watched them until they disappeared into the brush.  I returned to the task at hand and two shots later the rifle was dead on and will be my go-to rifle for future bull hunts.

Go home at 6:45 PM.  Long day, lots of meat, lots of memories.

My wife and I left SoCal 6 ½ years ago and have made our home on the Big Island.  The hunting here is superb, but it’s rough country.  I’ve long ago lost count, but this is probably pig number 40 for me here.  Add to that 12 Mouflon sheep and 6 or 7 Vancouver bulls and some Spanish goats [no more of them for me because the meat is only so-so at best] and you’ve got world class hunting, all on public property.  On the pig hunt I just described, I never saw another human or another vehicle.

I’ll go after Mouflon on Friday and maybe try for another bull the week after that.  Age is beginning to creep up on me and I want to get in as much of this wilderness hunting as I can while I’m still able to do it.

Aloha for now.

Bruce

Mahalo, Bruce!

Great story, and if that doesn’t wet someone’s chops to pack the guns and bows and head to the islands, I don’t know what will!  Sea-level to 8000 feet and back in a day, with fresh pork, mouflon sheep, vancouver bulls, and all sorts of other wild meat there for the taking.  I understand the bird hunting can be awesome there as well, with francolin, pheasant, wild turkeys, and other species.

Lead Ban Chronicles – EPA Rejects CBD Lead Ban Petition A Second Time

April 10, 2012

This is really just a follow-up, and doesn’t come as a surprise.

In 2010, the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) and a group of like-minded organizations petitioned the EPA for a ban on lead ammunition and fishing tackle.  The EPA is bound by provisions of the Toxic Substances Act that prohibit that organization from restricting the use of ammunition components, and as such, (rightfully) refused to review the petition.  The CBD sued and lost.

As you might expect, the CBD wasn’t content with that outcome and earlier this year, they approached the EPA again with the same petition.  I’m not sure if there was some expectation that the political climate was more favorable, or if the anti-lead contingent had some new ammunition for the fight, but from what I could see, the petition was really no different than the first one.

And, thankfully, the EPA’s stance has not changed.  Even if the petition for a national lead ban had merit (it doesn’t), the EPA cannot restrict the use of ammunition components.  The law is pretty clear, but even if it weren’t, this isn’t an issue for the EPA.  It’s an issue for state and local authorities, and any restrictions should be based directly on significant negative effects and supported by science… not by unsubstantiated claims and hyperbole.  If there were a problem on a national scale, the proper agency to respond is the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), just as they did in regards to the waterfowl lead ban in the 1980s. The EPA has no place at this table.

I’ll repeat what I’ve written so many times before.  With the possible exception of the condors, lead ammunition is NOT threatening any species, endangered or otherwise.  It is not an appreciable threat to human health.  And it is not causing contamination of the environment.  There is no justification or need for a federal agency, particularly the EPA to step in and regulate ammunition.

This isn’t over, of course.  You can count on seeing this go back to court, over and over again.  That’s how these groups work… persistence and attrition.

 

Hog Blog Friends In The Field – Guest Post – Tom And Porky In A Weekend

April 6, 2012

This post is from my friend, David Bonini.  Thanks for sharing it, Dave!

While Phillip is travelling to and fro, I thought I would offer up some content to keep his loyal followers entertained. That is when it hit me. Who the heck am I and why would anyone want to read my stories? For it is Phillip that we faithfully tune into everyday. He is the one we really want. We all like to read his stories, engage in thoughtful debate or just live vicariously through his adventures. I started getting nervous. What could I possibly add that will keep you entertained? I am not a writer and the closest I have come to being considered one was the “Car of the Month” article I wrote for the high school newspaper in the 1980’s. How can I fill his shoes?

While I might not be able to fill Phillip’s shoes, I am going to give it my best shot. You see, I have been fishing and/or hunting most of my life and I have been accused by many of having the oratory skills to spin a yarn, to tell tales (some of them true) around a campfire, watercooler, driveway, backyard barbque, bar room or any other place where people will lend me their ear. I thought I might put some of these tales on paper and share them with you via the Hog Blog. I hope you find them entertaining but most of all, I hope they give you a reason to engage because that is what a blog is all about right? After you read, please get engaged. Please comment and share your point of view.

As I headed out to the field this weekend, I knew I would be confronted with some of the same ethical questions and circumstances that were depicted in Phillip’s blogs recently. I was to be accompanied with my youngest daughter, Serra (13), with this being only her second hunt since getting her license this year. In order to be a good mentor, I thought a lot about what would come of this weekend and the lessons that would be imparted to her.

I hired a guide for this hunt, Ernie Sanders and his son Mike Sanders from Middletown, CA. Ernie owns and operates D and E Guide Service. He hunts several thousand acres of private ranch land that spans across a good chunk of Lake County. The properties are loaded with wildlife. Our targets this weekend were wild hogs and turkeys. This was my third hunt with Ernie and it was my daughter’s first guided hunt in her short career. With one black tailed doe and one mountain quail on her resume, she was eager to get out there and bag her tom turkey. Heck this hunt was guided. We would just roll up to a blind, the turkeys would show up and we would shoot them. Well not really.

Upon our arrival at the ranch we found ourselves going over gun safety and the use of the 12 gauge shotgun that Ernie lent her. His gun would give her a little more range than her 20 gauge and his had electronic sights on it. The sights force you to keep your head in the proper position and there is a red or green dot that helps you aim.

On Saturday morning, Ernie and Serra headed out in the stormy weather while I went with his son Mike.The night before Mike had put me on a large group of hogs that had five large boars in the group. I am disabled and Mike had to help me through a barbed wire fence and over two small ridges on our quarter mile stalk. He put me within 200 yards of the hogs. He wanted me to get closer and the wind was in our favor so we definitely could have done it but that  put me in a tough spot. From our location, I could take a seated position with my back to an oak tree and my rifle on my bipod. This is where I was faced with a tough decision. Could I make this shot and make an ethical kill? I know that I can do it from 100 yards but what about 200? I have killed an elk at almost 300 yards and I have the confidence to do it but I can’t tell you why I feel so confident. I mean, all of my range time has been on a flat range at 100 yards or less. I had to weigh the option of going out into the open and taking a standing shot at 100 yards or staying put and taking the shot from a seated position. Mike offered to bring a chair out with us but I told him not to. Foolish pride I guess. I was comfortable sitting against a tree and using my bipod so I made the decision against the guide’s wishes to get closer. So there I was with a broadside hog shooting at a downhill angle. I have never personally shot at this angle and boy did I flub it. I put the 200 yard dot on its vitals and squeezed off the round. I put that bullet right over the top of the hog. Needless to say all the hogs escaped. Mike kept his cool and used this as a learning opportunity. He probably wanted to say, “I told you so” but instead he spoke to me about what went right and what went wrong. He talked to me about not repeating the same mistakes and that if given another opportunity, we are bringing the chair, getting closer and taking more time to make sure we can make the shot. In other words, he gave me my chance, now it is time for me to listen to the professional. Read more

Speaking Of Exotics – Does New Rule Threaten The Future Of Some Exotic Antelope?

April 5, 2012

In 2010, I was fortunate enough to be on hand when a rancher wanted to cull a couple of oryx that had broken off a horn. Under the new ruling, the rancher would have to apply for a federal permit to carry out this cull hunt.

Speaking of exotics… a new ruling by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has the exotics ranchers and hunters up in arms.  A ruling against the USFWS has removed the loophole that allowed unrestricted breeding and hunting of three endangered species… the scimitar-horned oryx, the dama gazelle, and the addax.

There have been several articles about the ruling, and they painted a pretty grim picture using comments such as “ban on hunting” and “threatens the survival of the species”.  The argument is that if the ranchers can no longer run hunts, then they won’t be able to afford to continue the management and breeding programs, and will let the herds die off until they’re gone.

That seemed pretty extreme, so I had to do a little digging to get the whole story.   This may get a little long, but I really think it’s worth reading.  If you don’t want to read what I’ve got to say, you can jump to the Federal Register to read the USFWS summary.

In 2005, the USFWS added three species of African antelope to the Endangered Species list.  These were the dama gazelle, the addax, and the scimitar-horned oryx.  At that point, the scimitar-horned oryx was declared extinct in the wild, and the others were in dire straits.

At the same time, ranchers in Texas had been working to establish solid, huntable populations of these species on their properties with significant success… particularly with the oryx.  According to the reports I’ve been reading, the oryx numbers went from a low of less than three-dozen in 1979 to a current population in the neighborhood of 11,000.  Addax went from two in ’79 to around 5000 today.  That’s not bad for an endangered animal.

Due to the success of these breeding and management programs, the USFWS allowed an exclusion under the ESA so that the ranchers could continue to run hunts on the endangered species, and to continue breeding programs.  Hunters would pay pretty high-dollar for the opportunity to shoot one of these animals, and that money, in turn went into feeding, habitat, and breeding costs.  To all appearances, the arrangement was working very well, and everyone seemed to be pretty happy about it.

Of course, “everyone” wasn’t all that happy.  The animal rights organizations challenged the ESA exclusion over and over, and finally managed to push a lawsuit against the USFWS to fruition.  The Service was forced to drop the exclusion, effective on April 4, 2012.

So, what does this mean to the ranchers, and more importantly, to these endangered antelope?

Well, first of all, let’s be absolutely clear.  Dropping the exclusion does NOT equate to an outright ban on hunting the species or on breeding programs.  There is a permitting process in place which enables the ranchers to continue to do what they’ve been doing.  There are questions around the permits, and complaints that the process is too cumbersome and time consuming.  Since I’m obviously not in a position to apply for the permit, I can’t validate those complaints.  I have, however, gone over to the USFWS website to review the process and the rules.

If I’m reading the application correctly, it will take about four months to get an approved permit.  The site says to allow 90 days for processing, and then the application must run for 30 days in the Federal Register prior to approval.  That means that if a rancher wants to do management hunts, he needs to plan well in advance.  At the very least, that’s an inconvenience.  Exotics hunts are often planned on short notice.

It gets a little trickier, though, because the rancher/breeder must provide a justification for the application (e.g. management or cull hunt), and the approval process includes the opportunity for a challenge.  The Friends of Animals organization has vowed to challenge every permit application, which potentially means that the approval timeline may get drawn out even more… or may even be rejected if the argument finds a sympathetic ear.  The potential for subjectivity in the application process would worry me, if I were one of the ranchers impacted by all of this.

As you would expect, the exotics ranchers are pretty angry about this.  Particularly in Texas, these folks are pretty independent and don’t take kindly to what they see as government intrusion into their private property rights.  For most of them, they consider these animals to be their property and not subject to intervention by government agencies.  There have been many threats of liquidating entire herds, turning them loose into the wild, or simply selling out and dropping their programs.

Nevertheless, a handful of the owners are trying to follow the new rules.  There are complaints, but since the new rule only became official yesterday (April 4), it’s hard to say whether the complaints are valid, or if the new system will really have a negative impact on the overall longevity of the breeding and management programs.

In my opinion, it’s highly unlikely that the new ruling will have an extreme, negative impact on the survival of the three species, but I can see where some ranchers will choose to stop raising the endangered antelope.  I can absolutely see where it’s going to be a thorn in the side of ranchers who are used to being able to manage the herds on their own terms, and the permitting process will probably get pretty onerous.  Things are going to change, there’s no doubt, but I don’t think it means the end of the species… or even the end of hunting opportunities (although I’d bet the prices are going to go up).

For more direct information, take a look at the USFWS website.  Among other good information, you can find a summary of the ruling, the Federal Register discussion of the ruling and its impacts, and links to the permit application, as well as a “cheat sheet” for completing the application.

By the way…

The hunt for these antelope isn’t just about trophies, although they are definitely unique and beautiful.  By all accounts, the meat from all three species is sensational.  Personally, I haven’t tried dama gazelle or addax, but I can vouch for the oryx.  I found it similar to elk, although I think the flavor is better (most likely due to the oryx’s diet).   The animal is about the same size as an elk as well, which means it provides a freezer-full of great-tasting protein!

A Whole New Take On Cooking Exotics!

April 2, 2012

Well, while I’m getting back into the grind here in the city, I have a feeling posts wll be a little slim.  So, to keep you occupied, a friend of mine on Facebook posted up a link to this great find!

In Great Britain, researchers digging through the British Library archives found a cookbook.  OK, interesting enough.  Out of curiousity, I’ve read some of the old recipes and cooking techniques (but nothing like my friend, Hank Shaw).  Those guys did some interesting stuff with food back in the days before refrigeration, when salt was a precious commodity, and most folks died before the age of 50.

Detail of a unicorn on the grill in Geoffrey Fule's cookbook, England, mid-14th century (London, British Library, MS Additional 142012, f. 137r).

But this cookbook is a little different.  No chicken or pork here… no sir!  This book includes recipes for such lovely treats as hedgehog, blackbird, and, best of all, unicorn!

Now I’ve hunted and shot a handful of exotics, from wild boar and axis deer to scimitar-horned oryx, and I’ve eaten them all with gusto.  But unicorn?  I’ve scanned all of the Texas exotics ranches I can find online, and not a single one of them offers hunts for this critter.  I guess I’ll never get a chance to try out the recipe… which is good, because I expect it’ll be a while before this book makes it to the Amazon bookshelf.

 

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