The Tactical Vehicle Is Dead. Long Live The Tactical Vehicle!

May 31, 2012

11 years is not an extraordinarily long time to own and drive a vehicle… especially not when that vehicle is a 3/4 ton, diesel powered Dodge Ram.  These trucks are known to log a million miles or more, and the Cummins diesel engine is arguably one of the best on the market. 

But 11 years is still six years past warranty, and time for the little things to start coming undone.  An electronic switch here and there.  A little cosmetic issue like missing trim, cracked dashboard, and rattling screws in one place or another.  An air-conditioning compressor that no longer compresses conditioned air.   And the repair bills… a couple hundred dollars here, five hundred there, a thousand over yonder…  it’s time to consider the future.

I’m one of those people who can get attached to things, particularly things that invoke fond memories.  A truck, especially one that’s been so many places and conveyed me to so many awesome experiences is one of those things.  I know it’s inanimate and generally non-sentient (arguable), but still… I feel bad when it’s time to say good-bye, even when I know it’s the right thing to do.  I mean, heck, this old truck tried pretty hard to do everything I asked of it… and it generally succeeded, even when I shouldn’t have asked some of those things.  That’s more than I can say for a few dogs, a couple of horses, and some people I’ve known.  But of course it’s a machine, and it doesn’t really possess any sort of “free will” (again, arguable). 

But the little signs were there, and since I’ve been making these monthly runs between CA and TX, they’ve been getting more noticeable.  Since January, I’ve dropped over $2500 into repairs as old stuff just starts to wear out.  It’s to be expected with a vehicle of this age.   When the AC began to fail, a little research told me what I didn’t want to know… it was going to be an expensive fix. 

I took the truck to the Dodge dealership in Uvalde (Cecil Atkisson, if you’re interested… tell them I sent you), intending to have them give me a solid estimate on the fix.  As I pulled into the lot, I decided to just go have another look at the new trucks (I’d dropped by a few days earlier, when the lot was closed, to do a little window shopping).  I have to admit, I’d been thinking about replacing the old one, but it was still sort of a vague idea.  The idea of a new truck, with a new truck warranty, became more and more appealing as I looked over the offerings. 

I had a little bit of money set aside, earmarked in case one of the lots adjacent to Hillside Manor became available.   I began to rationalize and reason.  What would I need more in the next five to ten years?  An extra 25 acres, or a new vehicle?  I’m not always the most logical person in the world, but it struck me that, at some point in the near future, I was going to need to replace my truck… regardless of how much land I owned.  It might not be soon, but it’s a simple inevitability.    And in the meantime, I’d be continuing to repair these little things as they wore out… nickel and dime and dime and dollar.  By the end of my little mental exercise, it had come to me that the only right decision was to buy a new truck.  (I believe it is not opposable thumbs or the use of language that sets us apart from the “lower” animals, but the ability to rationalize.  Possible, this is why rationalization is a dangerous trait.) 

And here she is!

Truthfully, it wasn’t an entirely spontaneous idea. 

This has been in my mind for a while now, and I’d been putting it off in large part due to nothing more than sentimentality toward the old truck.  Well that, and the hopeful wish that one of these properties would miraculously come available at a good price and I could scoop it up with cash.  But replacing my old truck was, to my mind, the more reasonable thing to do. 

And I did.

A little fancy-pants for a hunting rig, I admit. But nice, huh?

I bought a Dodge Ram 3500, 4×4 Longhorn Edition (I’m a sure ’nuff Texan now!) with a long-bed and crew cab.  This one has a REAL backseat, and more bells and whistles than some aircraft.  Sure, it’s a bit fancier than anything I ever imagined I might buy, but the price was right (after some negotiation). 

I’m actually looking forward to this weekend’s 34 hour drive back to CA, just so I can spend some quality time with my new ride.


Most important, it's Iggy the Road Dawg approved!

Anti-Hunting Success In CA Affects All Hunters

May 31, 2012

“Where California leads, the rest of the nation soon follows.”

That aphorism holds true in many areas, from fashion to technology.  CA is a big state, with a big population, and a lot of very innovative and creative minds.  But not all of that creativity is necessarily a good thing.  For example, the creative minds of the anti-hunting lobby, and some of the lies and mistruths they come up with to steer the general public, and the state’s politicians toward their way of thinking.  The most recent example was the successful campaign to ban hunting bear and bobcats with dogs.

I was remiss in my own coverage of this issue, in large part because I had a lot of other things on my plate.  I was just “too busy.”  I can’t fight every battle.  No excuses, just explanation… I’m not a houndsman, and I’m not well-versed on the issues that I thought were at hand.  So, like many other hunters who “weren’t involved”, I sort of let it play out.  I didn’t even read the stacks and stacks of emails I received on the topic, either from the anti-hunting side (I’m on several of their mailing lists) or the pro-hunting side.  As a result, I missed out on some pretty glaring bullshit and lies.

Could I have made a difference?  Probably not… or at least not on my own.  But if all the hunters who didn’t think they’d be affected, or those who were just too busy to get informed or involved, had taken the time to pay attention, contact their elected officials, and spread the word… this may well have turned out differently. 

The US Sportsman’s Association (USSA) didn’t put their heads in the sand, however, and they were pretty involved and vocal to try to rally hunters against this bill.  Their success, unfortunately, was limited.  But the failure to stop the campaign doesn’t mean this is over, and the USSA just posted a pretty sharp blog post to explain why hunters all over the country should be concerned about the anti-hunters’ victory in CA, and even moreso, about the deceitful tactics used to achieve that success.

Here are a couple of examples:

 3)     Misleading Facts – The Number of States That Allow Hound Hunting:
The bill’s author likes to point out that 2/3rds of the U.S. doesn’t allow bear hunting with hounds.  That’s a nice sound bite, but the truth of the matter is 18 states don’t even have a huntable population of bears!  Of the 32 states that hunt bear, 18 allow the use of dogs – nearly 60%.   Of the states with more than 2,000 bears – 16 of 23 allow you to use dogs – 70%.  The anti’s argument would be akin to arguing for a ban on elk hunting in California because Ohio doesn’t allow it (Nevermind the fact that Ohio doesn’t have Elk!).

4)     Pictures – GPS collars

This one is another favorite of the animal rights lobby.  In California, they are sending packets of information to each legislators office that include things they claim are unsightly deeds such as dogs wearing GPS collars, which they claim prevents hunting bear hunting from being a fair chase.  What they don’t tell you, is that GPS collars are already ILLEGAL in California.  The pictures they are using are from another state all-together.

The point is pretty clear.  America’s hunters need to start paying closer attention to the efforts of these anti-hunting organizations, and to start challenging the lies of our opponents with facts.  We need to be involved, even when we don’t think the issue involves us, because the truth is, every successful strike against hunting chisels away at the foundation of our sport. 

As the number of hunters continues to decline, what little political clout we may have once held dwindles as well.  And as more and more people are exposed to prejudicial lies and misinformation, the public support we once held is also weakened.  It doesn’t paint a pretty picture for the future. 

So here’s the question.  How do we make a difference?  What will it take for America’s hunters to counter the tactics of the anti-hunters and animal rights organizations?  Or is our sport, in the long run, doomed?

Golden Ram Hunting Club Offers Special Guided Tule Elk Hunt

May 30, 2012

I’m not going to start promoting lots of hunting operations or their special deals, so don’t worry.  I’ll generally only write about an operation, guide, or property with which I have personal experience. 

Such is the deal with Golden Ram Sportsmen’s Club, as I was a member for several years and in that time I hunted blacktail deer and hogs on several of their properties.  One thing I never hunted there was tule elk, as that’s a rare treat for the CA hunter… or for any hunter, as far as that goes.  Tule elk can only be found in California, and while they’re not as big as Roosevelt or Rocky Mountain elk, they’re a rare and sought-after trophy for afficionados of these big ungulates.   Short of winning the DFG lottery and drawing a public land tule elk tag (I’ve been applying unsuccessfully for the entire 15 years that I lived in CA), the only way to hunt these beautiful animals is to pay pretty big money to hunt them on private land. 

Well, the “big money” part hasn’t changed much, although I guess “big money” is relative.  To a lot of public land hunters, a few hundred bucks is “big money”.  However, to those who travel and hunt widely, the term defines a whole other level of expense.  This offer from Golden Ram is for that second group.  Here’s the deal:

Golden Ram has recently gained access to a PLM tule elk hunt in central California (about three hours south of San Jose).  They’re going to sell this hunt for $12,500, fully guided and outfitted to include meals, lodging, and guides.  Sure, this ain’t chump change for most people, so let’s just recognize that from the get-go.  But, this kind of hunt ordinarily goes in excess of $15K, and for a real trophy, that rate gets even higher. 

I’d love to have that kind of money to toss into a hunt, but it’s way out of my league.  Still, the last couple of years that I guided down in the Central Coast area, I watched the elk herd swell and spread.  On one pig hunt that I recall, we sat on a ridge and watched dozens of elk, including a couple of real bruiser bulls, feed unmolested over the countryside.  Every man in the group was practically drooling, and daydreaming of the opportunity to get out and hunt these things. 

If you’re interested, you can contact Golden Ram through their website. 

By the way, if you’re about to make a comment here about how this is too expensive for an elk hunt and how people would be idiots to pay that much for a hunt, please hold your water.  It’s a waste of breath and time.  If it’s out of your league, it’s out of your league.  Don’t denigrate someone else who is willing and able to pay that sort of money to access private land and chase a trophy bull.  This isn’t taking away from you.  If you want a cheap elk hunt, go DIY on public land in CO or OR.      

Last Texas Hunt – The Lost Photos Discovered

May 29, 2012

So, in the rush and madness, I misplaced the pictures I took on my last hunt.  Not that there are any awesome hero shots or anything, but I have to say this shot of my brother’s grandson, Damien, is a trophy in itself.

At 5 years old, Damien has already taken a nice tom turkey, and I think he was hoping to kill himself an axis on this trip.  Unfortunately, it didn’t quite work out and my brother had to take the only shot opportunity.  But optimism springs eternal in the young mind, so Damien decided to lay claim to any animal killed on this hunt.  As far as he was concerned, that axis doe was his and he may as well have shot it himself.

Well, when I shot my boar, Damien decided to lay claim to it as well.  That was OK with me, but I told him that there’s something that goes along with getting  your first hog.  My brother promptly took up one of the boar’s trotters, dipped it liberally in the pooled blood, and gave the youngster the hunter’s mark!  I believe he’d still be wearing it today, if Scott hadn’t considered the likely reaction of his wife (no sense of humor when it comes to covering her grandbaby in gore), and made the boy wash it off before going home.

Unfortunately, that was pretty much it for the killing on this trip.  I would have liked to add one more axis or fallow doe to the meat pole, but I’ll have to fill the freezer later.  The axis were as scarce as I’ve seen them…

Well, they were scarce until I headed back to the Manor.

A small part of the herd. Click to enlarge.

About a mile from the house, I realized that the herd of goats I was looking at wasn’t goats at all!

There must have been forty or fifty axis deer in the field, just loafing under the mesquites and oaks.  Of course, as soon as I slowed down to take a photo, they were off to the races.  I was still able to snap a couple of shots… just wish I had permission to shoot with something more powerful than the camera here!

The upshot is, these axis were all on a low-fence property.  There are several more ranches between this one and mine, but it definitely gave me hope that I’ll be seeing some polka-dotted deer on my place in the near future.

Here are a couple more photos before they cleared the pasture and disappeared into the woods.

They don't wait around long when a truck slows down. Click to enlarge.

Probably the nicest buck in the herd. Click to enlarge.



May 28, 2012

Hunting Trip Update

May 21, 2012

Well, seems like only yesterday I was in the sweltering Hill Country heat, and now I’m whisked away to the cold, gloom of a rainy Spokane morning.  Oh, well, I guess it was only yesterday…

Things are really hopping with the day job right now, so not a lot of time for updates and posts.  I did want to share a little about last week’s short hunts.  I got a ton of video and a few good photos, but they’re all back in Texas at the Hillside Manor, so all I have is this rough photo of my limited success. 

He’s not a bad boar, but since we were hunting axis and fallow deer, he’s not exactly the prize I was planning for.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t seem to get an axis doe in front of my rifle.  I had an opportunity at a beautiful axis buck, but I didn’t want to pay the tab for that one… this was, after all, a meat hunt. 

My little brother did get an axis doe, and while he was really hoping to carry two of them back to his freezer in NC, he was happy to take the majority of my hog with him as a consolation prize. 

All in all, a success, even if the freezer is still a little low.  There’ll be more hunts, and I’ll have more time to enjoy them. 


Short And Simple

May 16, 2012

Updates From The Manor

May 15, 2012

You know you’ve been away a while when the deer think it’s OK just to cruise right on up the driveway.  Why jump a fence when the gate is open?

This little herd has been a regular visitor to the feeder, according to the game cams, and I often catch them at night in the pasture when I’m coming back from town.  I even watched them slink across the pasture a couple of evenings just as it was getting dark.  But I can’t say I’ve ever seen them just ramble on up the driveway in the mid-morning sunshine.  It kind of makes me happy to see them so obviously comfortable.  And no, I’m not mentally drawing little crosshairs on them… not every animal has to be a target.

But I am still a hunter, and I am glad to see that my whitetail population is doing well.  It does bode well for the freezer when season rolls around.

And while I’m a meat hunter, and just as happy to eat a doe as a buck, these photos from my game cam show some promising bucks.

This little guy probably won't be a shooter this year, but I'm glad to see bucks coming in.


This looks like it could be Funkhorn. I thought maybe the deformity in his antlers last year was caused by an injury, but it looks like it may just be his genetics.

Here's Funkhorn from last year...same buck?

Not sure, but this one looks really promising. Even though he's still just nubs, they look pretty thick around the bases.

Lead Ban Chronicles – Iowa Dove Update and Lead Shot Ban In UK Causes An Uproar

May 14, 2012

So it looks like the Governor of Iowa has stepped in and rescinded the lead shot ban for dove hunters in that state.  Despite the initial passage of the law to prohibit dove hunters from using lead shot, and his initial support of that ban, Governor Brandstad has changed his tune.

According to an article (one of several on the topic) in the Globe Gazette, Branstad expected the State Legislature to take up the issue.  When they failed to do so, he stepped in.

“We need to make sure that we stop this practice of agencies going beyond what’s  been delegated to them and their responsibility,” Branstad said during a  Statehouse ceremony.

Of course the Iowa Sierra Club and the HSUS are upset about the decision, and it looks like the Sierra Club may be reviewing legal responses.  I get the feeling we haven’t heard the end of this.

While that simmers, let’s take a quick hop across the pond, shall we?  (Did that sound “cosmopolitan” enough?)

It appears that our little lead-ban world here in the US is not as unique as some of us may think.  The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) is an environmental and conservation organization in the UK, and they are now calling for a nationwide ban of lead shot on the basis that it may present a health risk to humans who consume lead-shot meat.

This isn’t going over particularly well.  As you might expect, British shooters and  hunters argue that there’s simply no evidence that lead ammo is a human health risk.

Mr Pierre White, a keen shooter, said: ‘People have been shooting with lead for generations, why would you want to change it?

‘If you want to talk about pollution, let’s talk about petrol and industry. The bottom line is that they are trying to ban shooting.

‘This is a decision made by people who have nothing else to do.’

Sound familiar?

What may create an even more complicated issue is the fact that Prince Charles and many of the “Royals” are avid sportsmen, while Queen Elizabeth II is listed as a patron of the WWT.  “Curiouser and curiouser,” as Alice said.

The whole discussion actually sounds exactly like the debates being waged here in the States.  Check out the article in The Mail Online.  The article is short, and well worth a read.  If nothing else, it gives an unusual perspective on the lead ban debates going on in the U.S.



Oh. It’s on.

May 13, 2012

This may well mean war!

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