Hunting At Hillside Manor? Is It Really Ever Gonna Happen?

August 30, 2012

I’d really like to lead this off with a great hunting adventure.  Maybe some axis deer finally showed up… or the hogs came up from the river…

But of course, none of that happened.

However, things are on the upswing.  Dove season opens here on Saturday, and there are plenty of birds around the pasture.  I don’t know that I can scrape a whole limit, but there should be a couple of meals worth.  That is, of course, dependent on whether or not I can hit them.  There are plenty of eurasian collared doves, so worst case, I can shoot those out of the trees with the Marauder.  But I’m looking forward to my first time shooting white wings.

Archery season for whitetails opens at the end of September, and it’s been interesting to see the sudden uptick in activity around here.  Seems like at least a couple of trucks a day ramble up the road with a pallet of corn, or disassembled tower stands.  I’m curious to see what happens to “my” deer once all the other folks start running their feeders again.  Lately, I’ve been pretty much the only game in town, and of course I’ve been swarmed with a bunch of regular visitors.  The big boy in the photo has been on my feeder every day at almost the same time for well over a month, along with his little gang.  Of course, as soon as the velvet comes off, the bachelor groups will start to split up anyway.   Based on the shredded saplings out back, that should be happening soon.

There are a bunch of does as well.  I expect the freezer to be full, although I am planning to go strictly archery around here.  We’ll see, as the season winds on, if I can stick to that plan.  Hopefully, as I get to know people, I’ll have a chance to take the rifle out for hogs or axis so it doesn’t get lonely.

So still slow going so far.  Looks like my friends in CA are starting to put the A zone deer on ice, and several of the other zones are opening up now too.  I’m jonesing for another Colorado elk hunt, but I’ll have to live vicariously through other hunters for this season.  We’ll see what 2013 brings.

Let me know what’s going on with your seasons, folks.  September is in the wings, and the magic days of fall are about to be upon us!


Tejon Opens Up To Hunters Again

August 27, 2012

Back in January, the Tejon Ranch in California temporarily closed its gates to all hunting activity.  There were a couple of reasons for the closure, but chief among them was the need to reevaluate the hunting program after allegations of illegal hunting activity (mountain lions) by key members of the ranch staff.  Somehow, that translated into suggestions that all of the members and other hunters at Tejon Ranch might be conducting illegal activities as well, and the CA DFG determined that they needed to investigate.

Anyway, I was holding out hope that Tejon would reinstate the hunting program before I moved away.  Unfortunately, my timing sucks.  Two weeks after I made my final move, they allowed some private groups to get back on the ranch to hunt.  One of my friends from prior hunts was on the short list for the limited opening, and along with his wife and eight other friends, they had an epic experience.  Here’s a note I recently got from Dave, along with a couple of photos from their trip.

We had a phenomenal hunt on the Tejon Ranch recently.  They are in a “soft re-opening” phase and I was one of the lucky, long time customers that they called to get in on an early hunt.

My group consisted of 10, all archery hunters. We were set up on the north end out of the Vaquero cabin.  The cabin is newly remodeled and is very nice.  The guys did an outstanding job on it while the ranch was closed.  We were fortunate to have Steven Ryan and his brother Jake there to help out with our group.  We ended up with 8 pigs taken for our 10 hunters.  The 2 that were unsuccessful had their opportunities, but just couldn’t make it happen.


I don’t care where you are hunting, going 8 for 10 on a 2 day archery hunt is fantastic!  We saw more hogs than I’ve ever seen throughout the ranch, as one would expect after having the ranch closed for about 8 months.  The amounts of piglets and wieners were amazing also.  Like always, my wife and I already can’t wait to get back up there!


So there it is!   8 for 10 on an archery hunt!  Great work to all who participated.  As I’d expected, after the ranch was closed for the better part of the year, the hogs have run rampant… a hog hunter’s dream!

Dave did say that several things have changed.  For one, all of the semi-guided hunts, like his, will be conducted on the North side of the ranch.  No surprise there, since the South side is the location of a hotly contested development plan, including trophy homes and golf courses.  It looks like they’ll use this area for more of the “exclusive” type hunts in the future.  The ranch will still be doing the membership plans, although that will be impacted by the area available to hunt (the North side is still huge and very productive).

I’ve sent several emails and a couple of phone messages to the Ranch, but I just don’t seem to have the access there that I once did and I haven’t received any replies.  If you’d like to learn more about the new programs, you can find the information on the Tejon website.  For information on booking a private, semi-guided hunt, it looks like you’ll need to contact the ranch directly.

So there it is.  I was pretty unhappy with the Tejon management when they shut the gates this winter, but the fact is that this ranch is still one of my favorite hunting sites.  If you’ve never experienced it, you should.  And if you have, then you already know what I’m talking about.



Hog Blog Reader And Occasional Contributor Needs Suggestions

August 26, 2012

Some of you who’ve read this blog regularly will know my friend, Bruce Cherry.  Bruce is living in paradise over in Hawaii, hunting, fishing, and well… hunting and fishing anyway.  But all is not perfect.  Bruce recently sent the following to me, hoping for some input from the Hog Blog readers.  Check it out, and let him know what you think.


Aloha Phillip:

Seven years ago, one month before my wife and I moved to the Big Island of Hawaii, I was stopped in a line of traffic at a red light on a busy street in San Diego, right across from the sheriff’s substation.  A lady driving a black Chevy Suburban was chatting on her cell phone and didn’t see the traffic stopped up ahead.  She rear-ended me at 45 mph, never touching her brakes.  My truck and my body were totaled, and a couple weeks later, when I hobbled to the sheriff’s station to get the accident report,, arm and leg in casts and my neck wrapped in a cervical collar, I met the deputy who was the first on the accident scene.  He told me that the lady would not put down her cell phone because “This is an important conversation with my friend!!”  The deputy took the phone away from her and she threw a fit, shrieking, “How long is this going to take?  I’ve got important things I need to do!”   The deputy told me that she was angry with me because I had caused the accident.  She was in a hurry, talking to her friend on her cell phone, and I had the audacity to stop for a red light and cause the crash.

Long story short, besides fractures, I had damage to my left shoulder and damage to the C6 and C7 vertebrae and the disk in between.  The lady was from Mexico, had virtually no insurance, and I was moving everything I owned to a big rock out in the middle of the Pacific in 30 days.  We made the move, I went through physical therapy for 4 months, and the ortho surgeon in Hawaii told me that I was going to have major problems with both my shoulder and neck later on.  I spent the next 5 years hunting big game every week, birds in the winter, and fishing for game fish in between.  Lots of ibuprofen and physical therapy later, my shoulder fell apart and I underwent the Mumford procedure and two muscle reattachments.  Part of my collar bone was removed and the infraspinatus and supraspinatus were reattached.  The surgery failed and a second surgery was necessary.  That surgery was only partially successful, but both muscles could not be reattached and as a consequence, I lost 30% of the use of my left shoulder.  I was an avid archer and that came to a halt.  I applied for a disabled archery permit and got it.  That allows me to hunt with a crossbow instead of a compound bow.  I was happy.

Then 12 weeks ago, I awoke with excruciating pain in my right shoulder and arm.  My right hand was completely numb, virtually paralyzed.  Another long story short, 2 weeks ago I underwent Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion [ACDF] surgery.  The disc had completely fragmented and was pressing against the spinal cord and the nerve that branches out from the cord that controls my right shoulder, arm, and hand.  Paralysis would become permanent if I didn’t have emergency surgery ASAP.  And with my left arm only partially usable, losing the use of my right arm would be the end of the road.  Here’s a link to an animation of the surgery:

I now have a titanium plate and screws holding the two vertebrae together.  I also have a plastic cage and organ donor bone [from the femur of an accident victim] replacing the disk and stem cells, marrow, and bone shavings from my vertebrae that are inside the plate.  I have a scar across my throat that looks like Jack the Ripper had had paid me a visit.

Now, here’s where all of this enters into the domain of the Hog Blog.  My recovery time is LONG.  I have to wear a cervical collar for 6 weeks and can’t drive.  No lifting over 5 pounds.  Then another 6 weeks of limited activity, no lifting over 10 pounds.  Then 4 weeks of more activity with 20 pounds max and no overhead lifting at all.  Then [and this is the tough part] no shooting any rifles with any significant recoil [10 pounds or less] for 9 months after that, or until such time as the bone fusion is complete.  I can hike anywhere and carry a backpack, but the recoil limitation presents a problem.

I intend to go hunting again in about 3 months, but I need to go to the lowest recoil possible.  That means hunting pigs with my .243 and 7-30 Waters.  Sheep with 25-06 and light ballistic tips.  And I want to hunt the wild cattle again.  I may use a 25-06 for that.  Or my .270.  I need recoil that does not exceed 10 pounds.

So, readers, what light loads and what specific bullets would you recommend for hunting sheep [thin skinned], pigs, and wild bulls if I’m limited to 10 pounds of recoil and my calibers are .243, 25-06, 7-30 Waters, and .270?  The .243 and the 7-30 Waters are already hand loaded at about 8 pounds of recoil, the .243 with Nosler partitions and the 7-30 with Sierra Flat Nose, but the 25-06 is loaded with Ballistic Tips and that makes me nervous with pigs and really nervous with wild bulls.  Maybe the Barnes TSX or TTSX?  Anybody got a way to get the .270 recoil down to about 10 pounds?  The trick to keeping recoil down is to use the lightest weight bullets possible.

Here’s a link for figuring recoil.  The little 7-30 Model 94 weighs 7 pounds and the other rifles weigh about 8 pounds:

So that’s my sad story.  I moved to the Big Island to hunt, but in the past 2 years I’ve been disabled for 18 months and I’ve got another 4 months to go, all because a thoroughly self-centered woman could not manage to put her cell phone away long enough to drive her Suburban to wherever she was going.

Any suggestions?

Mahalo from the Big Island.  I’ll be out in the field again, soon I hope.

Bruce Cherry

So help a brother out.  I sent Bruce my suggestions via email earlier, but I’d love to read what you guys think, and whad you suggest.

Hog Blog Book Report – Steve Rinella’s “Meat Eater, Adventures from the Life of an American Hunter”

August 21, 2012

Steven Rinella has become something of a celebrity in the world of hunting television, with some crossover attention from the foodie-quadrant.  In his initial television outing on The Travel Channel, he hosted The Wild Within, and then went to The Sportsman Channel with, Meat Eater.  His focus in both of these programs, as well as in his books and magazine articles has largely been on the feast that’s available just outside our doors, which is a very popular topic these days. 

Personally, when I first heard about Rinella’s program on The Sportsman Channel, I shuddered.  Images of Bear Grylls and “Survivorman” ran through my head.  I hated those shows, especially Grylls’s hyper-bravado and the stupidly unnecessary things he would do for shock effect (hey, I know some of you folks liked those shows and more power to you… I found them ridiculous, and they got worse as each episode strove to out-shock the other).   I dreaded another program just like the rest.

But some folks I know spoke highly of Rinella, so I opened my mind and watched a few episodes.  I was pleasantly surprised.  His personality on screen doesn’t seem over-inflated, and his hunts are pretty real.  He’s a meat hunter (and fisherman), and that’s the focus of each episode.  I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a fan, and I certainly haven’t watched every episode, but I found very little to quibble with on his program.  If it comes on while I’m watching The Sportsman Channel, I don’t reach for the remote. 

OK… three paragraphs in, and I’m yet to get to the point.

A couple of weeks ago, I got an email from Rinella’s publicity folks.  He’d just released his third book, titled Meat Eater, Adventures from the Life of an American Hunter, and they wondered if I’d like to give it a read and a review.  It sounded like a good opportunity to get a closer look at this guy through his writing, and I’m always up for something new to read.  So last week, I went to my mailbox and found the hardback waiting for me.

I wasn’t sure when I’d find time to read, with all the work I needed to do around my place, but a back injury settled me down right quick.  Unable to do so much as push a broom for a few days, I kicked back in my recliner and cracked it open. 

As is my usual habit, I didn’t read the background materials that the publicist sent along with the book so I really wasn’t sure what it would even be about.  I figured with the same title as his program, it would be about hunting for meat.  Maybe there would be some hunting stories or some cooking tips.  But I didn’t really expect an autobiography (as well as some hunting stories and cooking tips). 

That’s what it is, though.  The book is essentially the story of Rinella’s development into the character we see on his television program today… extended backstory for the television program, as it were. 

A few years back, there was a recruiting poster, I think for the Navy, that asked, “If your life were a book, would anyone want to read it?” 

This poster occurred to me several times as I read through Meat Eater.  I mean, honestly, Steve Rinella isn’t that big a celebrity.  Outside of a relatively small circle, no one has a clue who he is.  If I were browsing the bookshelves and saw this, I probably wouldn’t read past the jacket blurbs.  And now that I have read the entire book, I can honestly say that I wouldn’t be much the poorer for missing it.

Was the book a complete waste of time?  No. 

Once I relaxed my preconceptions (and got past those first few pages), I don’t begrudge the time I spent on it.  At points, it did take me back to my own childhood and early teen years in the North Carolina woods… geographically distinct from his Michigan environment, but I think the way we saw it was pretty much the same.  It’s an honest portrayal, warts and all, of his development as an outdoorsman, and at the end I came away with an appreciation of who Steve Rinella is and where he came from.  I think this will likely color my perspective on his television program from now on, in a positive way.  At no point did I just want to close the book and go find something else to read. 

At the same time, though, I guess I didn’t see anything particularly novel here.  If I tried, I could probably name a dozen friends who came up in the outdoors, hunting, fishing, and trapping pretty much just like he did.  Most people I know who started young in the outdoors went through similar stages of moral and ethical development as they formed their own, unique relationship to the outdoors.  Heck, my own story isn’t all that different… except that where he went on to turn his passion for the outdoors into a career, mine remains an expensive hobby.  (And yeah, I get that this is a big difference.)

It was not unlike trying a new restaurant and finding nothing particularly new or memorable in the experience.  It did not excel, nor did it suck… at least to my tastes.  In a week, I doubt that I’ll remember any specific passage from Meat Eater.  In a year, I doubt I’ll even remember reading it. 

Would I recommend Meat Eater?  If a copy falls into your hands, yes, check it out.  It’s not a bad read. But would I recommend you go out to buy it?  I don’t know.   

As a guide for new hunters, there’s not much in the way of instruction or even solid guidance (in fact, a good part of the book reminisces about breaking wildlife laws.. and in some cases seems to attempt to justify it).  I don’t think that a new hunter would find much value here… especially a new hunter who is coming to the sport late in life.  Maybe a youngster, a young teen who is already crazy about the outdoors would enjoy this.  But even then, I can think of better books.

As an adventure story, it lacks… well… it lacks adventure.  Rinella certainly has had some cool hunting experiences, but he’s definitely no Robert Ruark.  Maybe it’s his laid back writing style, but even his most harrowing experiences didn’t seem particularly exciting.  A couple of them just seemed like stupid ideas… which could have made for great humor, except Rinella doesn’t seem to capitalize on those opportunities very well. 

For the foodie there are far better books out there, both instructional and anecdotal, that would offer far more value.  The “Tasting Tips” at the end of each chapter are the closest thing to actual food writing, and these are mostly general. 

When it comes down to it, the only person I would feel like recommending this book to is to the hardcore, Steve Rinella fan.  I do think you can really get a good feel for who he is, and where he comes from in this book.  So to a fan, this could be really great information.  But honestly, if you’re not a really big fan, I don’t think you’re going to care all that much.

Note:  This is my opinion, and I have some pretty specific tastes when it comes to books.  I know that several other bloggers are reading and reviewing this book right now.  It may be worthwhile to take a look at some of the other reviews in addition to mine.

Hunter Numbers On The Rise?

August 15, 2012

It’s been a slow week, and I haven’t had a lot of particular import to write about… so I left the page blank for a couple of days.  However, earlier today I caught a press release from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation that offered a glimmer of good news.  It looks like the steady decline of hunters in the US may have stalled or even turned around since 2006.  The news is based on a preliminary report from the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).  The final report is due out in November, and should include state-by-state numbers, as well as the national count.

Here’s the press release:

MISSOULA, Mont.—A new report that shows more people are hunting is good news for conservation, according to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

The just-released 2011 National Survey of Hunting, Fishing, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation shows 13.7 million people, or 6 percent of the U.S. population age 16 and older, went hunting last year. That marks a 9 percent increase over 2006, reversing a previous downward trend.

“This is great news for everyone in the hunting and conservation community,” said David Allen, RMEF president and CEO. “But it’s even better news for our conservation efforts to protect and improve habitat for elk and other wildlife. We strongly believe that hunting is conservation. This is also a reflection of the importance of our hunting legacy of the past and our hunting heritage as we look to the future.”

Thanks to hunter-generated dollars, RMEF protected or enhanced more than 6.1 million acres of wildlife habitat. RMEF also recently added “hunting heritage” to its mission statement, reaffirming a commitment to ensuring a future for wildlife conservation through hunter-based support.

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service data show hunters spent $34 billion last year on equipment, licenses, trips and other items to support their hunting activities. If you break down the numbers, sportsmen and women spent $10.4 billion on trip-related expenditures, $14 billion on equipment such as guns, camping items and 4-wheel drives, and $9.6 billion on licenses, land leasing and ownership and stamps.

“The more hunters spend on firearms, ammunition, bows, arrows and hunting licenses and permits, the more money is generated to provide the necessary funding for successful science-based wildlife management across the United States,” added Allen.

Here are some brief highlights from the report:

  • 13.7 million hunters in 2011 compared to 12.5 million in 2006 (9 percent increase)
  • Hunters spent an average of 21 days in the field
  • 1.8 million 6 to 15 year olds hunted in 2011
  • Big game attracted 11.6 million hunters (8 percent increase since 2006)
  • Hunting-related expense increased 30 percent since 2006
  • The overall participation of hunters increased more than 5 percent since 2001
  • Total hunter expenditures increased 27 percent since 2001
  • Expenditures by hunters, anglers &wildlife-recreationists were $145 billion or 1 percent of gross domestic product

The 2011 FWS report contains preliminary numbers. Read it in its entirety here.

The final report is due in November. An FWS preliminary report containing data from the states is due out later this month.

Pig Man and Ted’s Aerial Gunning Adventures – A Mild Reprise

August 10, 2012

OK, this one isn’t going to be as easy to write as the last time I wrote about this… just a couple of days ago.

A couple of days ago, I was filled with self-righteous fury… or something akin… and I let myself perpetrate one of my own pet peeves.  I jumped to conclusions.  Yeah, that’s right.  Me.  Mr. “let’s wait and hear the whole story,” Hog Blog dude, went mildly postal with some preconceived notions about this upcoming episode of The Pig Man.  Sure, I prefaced it with the disclaimer that I hadn’t actually seen the episode in question, but what does a disclaimer really mean?  If you don’t know what you’re really talking about, you probably shouldn’t be talking about it.  Right?

Enough with the self-flagellation.  I’m human.  Mistakes are part of the package.

In a nutshell, let me review what I said.

My concerns centered around two things… The first is the polarizing nature of aerial hog hunting, writ large with two bigger than life personalities, Brian “Pig Man” Quaca and Ted “Motor City Big Mouth” Nugent.  The second concern had to do with the press release mention that fully automatic weapons would be used.  The potential for negative PR spilled from my computer screen as I let my imagination go wild, picturing the scene of Nugent (the antithesis of restraint) roaring with glee as he sprayed lead across the Texas landscape while Quaca, always eager to goof around, joined the fray with abandon.  OK, maybe that’s a little exaggeration… but to be honest, it’s not much of one.  I honestly expected the worst.

On a purely serious note, my concerns aren’t all that far off base.  Aerial gunning is a hot issue for a lot of reasons.  As I said in the initial post, a lot of people, including hunters, really don’t understand the line between sport hunting, and depredation.  They don’t get that the same ethical rules don’t apply… can’t apply… when it comes to the need to drastically reduce the population of an invasive species.  Add to that a second flashpoint… fully automatic weapons.  ARs are winning a grudging acceptance in much of the sporting world, although the non-hunting/non-shooting public still holds a strongly negative image of them.  Televising this sort of thing is opening a can of worms.  What’s worse is the potential for anti-hunting organizations to leverage these uneducated misperceptions to push their propaganda.

And Ted Nugent… well, he is a walking PR disaster all by himself.  I don’t hate the man, because I don’t know him, but I hate what he has done to civil discussion of guns and hunting.  The mere intimation of his presence in a conversation about firearms or hunting derails logic.  I won’t go on, except to say I had real fears that he would say or do something so stupid as to demolish any credibility Brian Quaca has been able to build up.  It would only take one of his infamous rants to overshadow everything that the Pig Man has worked to build… and that would be a shame.

So that’s sort of what I said in my first post, and I stood by that in the comments and replies afterward (although I started to inwardly question the vehemence of my initial post).

And I still hadn’t seen the episode in question.

Now I have.

Thanks to the Pig Man business office, I was given the opportunity to view the full episode in advance.  I watched it tonight, and then I went outside and sat on the porch to think it through.  Then I came back in and watched it again.  I obviously owe Brian and his crew something of an apology, because they handled the whole episode extremely well… or at least as well as could be hoped.  I’m not going to sit here and try to summarize the whole episode.  Ya’ll can watch it yourselves when it hits the air on August 26.

But what I will say is that the worst of my fears were largely unfounded.  First and foremost, as he usually does, Brian Quaca spends the time explaining the rationale behind aerial hog gunning and makes clear that it isn’t about sport hunting…it’s eradication.  Throughout the episode, they make clear that these hogs are a pestilence financially and ecologically.  Personally, there are a few other questions I’d like to have heard him address about safety and shooting from the helicopter, but maybe that’s a little much.  I know most people just tune in to see him shoot hogs.

Nugent’s presence is kept to a dull roar.  He comes on pretty strong during the introduction, including some pretty boastful (and questionable) claims about his role in the passage of the “Pork Chopper” bill (HB 716),  but he never quite gets to full roar.  Whether I should or not, I’m going to credit the producers and editors with managing that.

What about the full automatic weapons?  Yes, there is a full-auto.  Yes, there is spray and pray.  And that was mildly unfortunate, because a lot of the semi-auto shooting was actually pretty good (or at least a lot of the shooting that made the editor’s cut).  But the machine-gunning is kept to a bare minimum and it didn’t look very effective.  I think I actually heard it more than I saw it.  I didn’t really feel like it played a big enough part to make any difference in the overall program.  It was certainly not a focal point.

So all that said… were all of my concerns silenced?  No.  This episode is still pretty loaded with potential negative PR.

Are they having fun killing things?  Yes, and they make no bones about it.  There’s laughter and banter (fans of Pig Man know what to expect), but overall they never get outrageously irreverent.  Some people are still going to have an issue with that, but I don’t.

The footage of the kills is still pretty harsh, and I expect the episode is definitely going to draw some negative feedback on this.  There is some particularly graphic action with swimming hogs that is almost certain to set off some outcry.  There’s also going to be the question of humane kills.  Many shots were obviously less than perfect, and people will wonder how many hogs were left to die slowly instead of being finished off with additional shots.  However, I think Holly Heyser may have been right in her comments that, because people dislike (and even fear) feral hogs, the backlash may not be as bad as it would if they were shooting something more controversial, like wolves.

So yeah, the Pig Man producers and probably the Sportsman Channel will get some letters.  I’m sure Quaca and Nugent will both be featured in some anti-hunting website and blog, with all the requisite rhetoric and stereotypes.  But compared to some of the other aerial shooting videos that are out on YouTube, this was probably one of the least controversial aerial hog hunts I’ve seen yet.  This epispode probably didn’t improve the public image of hunting, but they certainly didn’t make it any worse.

So, Pig Man.  Mea culpa.

CA News – Dan Richards Out As CA Fish and Game Commission President

August 8, 2012

Well, this shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone with a lick of imagination, but Dan Richards has apparently been voted out of the office of President of the CA Fish and Game Commission.   I don’t have all the details, but apparently some of the other four board members were able to manipulate the Commission rules to hold a vote and replace Richards with commissioner Jim Kellogg.  The position of President was initially based on seniority, but in a vote in May, the Commission changed the bylaws so that the Presidency would be decided by simple majority.

For those with short memories, Richards was at the center of a crapstorm earlier this year for participating in a mountain lion hunt over in Idaho.  After photos of his success were circulated on the Internet, calls came swiftly from anti-hunting organizations for him to step down from the Commission.  Richards’s reactions to the criticism were, to say the least, not very diplomatic. Whatever support he may have had in Sacramento is certain to have backed off a step or two during the flameout, and odds are very good that when his term expires in six months, Governor Brown will not reappoint him to the Commission. 

The bright side is that, until then, Richards is still a voting member of the Commission.  He and Jim Kellogg are the only voices in the group of five commissioners who have demonstrated any appreciable consideration for the concerns of California’s hunting and fishing community.   His loss may well be the killing blow to any semblance of common sense in hunting and fishing regulation in CA unless the state’s sportsmen get active and lobby the Governor to either reappoint Richards, or find another pro-hunting Commissioner.  Two other commissioners, Richard Rogers and Mike Sutton have demonstrated minimal support for hunters or fishermen on key regulatory issues, including the lead ammo ban (Sutton is the executive director of Audubon California, a strong proponent of the lead ammo ban) and the closures of fishing areas along the coast.  

The newest commissioner, Jack Bayliss, has so far not shown his colors… at least to my knowledge.  But then, I haven’t paid quite as close attention to the FGC since moving to Texas, and haven’t actually followed the meetings (they post the meeting agenda, discussion topics, and videos on the FGC website).   Nevertheless, I don’t think I’m reaching when I suggest that the loss of Richards, without an equally outspoken proponent of common sense, hunting and fishing regulations, will give the environmental and anti-hunting organizations a dangerous level of power in the Commission.  The HSUS has already demonstrated their ability to manipulate the regulatory process and drive their agenda on the backs of CA politicians and lawmakers.

Eternal vigilance, folks.  California hunters, you aren’t going to be able to sit back and expect Sacramento to carry your best interests, and you’re not going to be able to rest on your laurels when you think you’ve defeated the anti-hunting agenda.  As you saw, the hound hunting legislation went right by you while you were celebrating your “victory” only a few days earlier.  The huge outpouring of support for Dan Richards was nowhere to be found at the subsequent FGC meetings, and this ouster came with only one individual on hand to speak in favor of keeping Richards in place.  The agenda of organizations like HSUS will continue to advance if hunters are not providing constant, and vocal, opposition.


From North Carolina – Be Careful, But Night Shooting Feral Hogs and Coyotes Is Legal

August 7, 2012

A while back, I wrote about the North Carolina Resources Commission’s decision to temporarily allow night shooting for feral hogs, as well as for coyotes.  Keep in mind that coyotes have never been a factor in that particular ecosystem, and of course, hogs have never been a factor in North America.  So night shooting isn’t about hunting.  It’s about depredation… and there really is a difference.

Anyway, all of that said, I just got my latest update from the NC WRC publications.  Along with other things, there’s the reminder for folks in the area around the Alligator River.  Red wolves (recently reintroduced to that habitat) look very similar to coyotes.

Coyotes and red wolves can share the same habitats, particularly in the area of the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in eastern North Carolina. The red wolf is a protected species while the coyote is an invasive, nuisance species. If hunters believe they have possibly killed a red wolf, they should contact the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service immediately because prosecution will not be pursued when such events  are unavoidable, unintentional, non-negligent and are reported immediately to authorized personnel.

The two species have similarities in appearance, but there are general guidelines to distinguish a red wolf from a coyote. Red wolves are mostly brown and buff colored, often with a reddish, cinnamon color on ears, head and legs.  Coyotes tend to be light gray with some black on the tips of outer hair.

The key point is, if you think you screwed up, report it.  There’s no penalty for accidentally killing a red wolf while night-shooting coyotes.  Nevertheless, be careful, dummy.

On that same point, the same press release offered some core, night-shooting safety rules.

Day or night, stick to basic firearm and archery safety:

  • Always point a firearm or bow in a safe direction.
  • Treat every firearm as if it were loaded and never assume a firearm is unloaded.
  • Keep your finger out of the trigger guard and off the trigger until ready to shoot.
  • Be sure of your target and what is beyond your target.
  • Take time during an advanced scouting trip to “walk the field” and identify safe shooting zones:
  • Know your field of fire.
  • Do not use a night vision scope to scan a field.
  • Never shoot at movement, noise, color or shapes.
  • If hunting in a group, know where others are at all times and communicate.
  • Make verbal directions specific so that nothing is left to question.
  • Let someone know when and where you are hunting.
  • Have additional light sources and batteries, and consider protective eyewear.


PigMan and Ted Nugent To Shoot Hogs From A Helicopter… On TV

August 3, 2012

OK, so everything in me is telling me, “Shut up!  Just shut up now and let it be.  Nothing I can say is going to change this, and I recognize that my opinion here may not be the most popular.”

But here goes…

I got my regular email from The Sportsman Channel on Friday, with the headline, “Sportsman Channel Features Pig Man and Ted Nugent on Epic Hunt!”

So I read on, as I do, and find the following description of the program:

Pig Man and Ted Nugent hook up in Texas for some helicopter hog hunting with Heli Hunter.

Shotguns as well as semi and fully automatic rifles come out of their cases as Pig Man and Uncle Ted attempt to “cleanse our good mother earth”.

Where do I start.

First of all, as I’ve said here several times over, I sincerely enjoy the Pig Man program.  Brian Quaca and his team are a lot of fun to watch.  They’re as real as it gets, and in several instances, he’s taken the time to explain the difference between eradicating a pest species like feral hogs and sport hunting for native game animals.  The rules are different, because the desired outcome is different.  This is the same reason I’ve been largely in favor of Texas’s laws permitting aerial gunning by amateur sportsmen.  To paraphrase Jager Pro’s Rod Pinkston, “you don’t question the exterminator about his tactics for killing termites.  You just want them all dead.”

That said, I recognize the reality that, for a lot of people, the distinction between hunting and pest eradication isn’t a clear line.  Hogs are bigger than termites or cockroaches.  They have fur, and big, dark eyes, and cute little babies that nurse from their mothers.  Pigs are intelligent.  God knows someone will go even further to anthropomorphize these animals.  To kill them with methods that don’t ensure a quick, humane death seems… well… inhumane.

At the same time, you have legions of hunters who still don’t get it, proclaiming loudly that “that’s not hunting!  That’s just slaughter!  No ethical hunter would do that!”

Aerial shooting isn’t “fair chase”, and it’s not egalitarian (you have to be able to afford it if you want to participate), so it’s got a pile of detractors in the hunting community… regardless of the reality that it’s not supposed to be fair or egalitarian.  And these days, especially with social media, chat forums, and “Facebook activism”, these voices can be really, really loud.

And what you end up with is a public relations nightmare for a sport that already suffers from a mediocre image in the eyes of the non-hunting populace.

Nevertheless, I can see an opportunity for an educational (and still fun) experience with Brian Quaca up in the air, killing a whole pile of hogs.  It could be a good program, if it were just the Pig Man.

But two things worry me about what I read here (and I haven’t seen the episode… I don’t kn0w how it really plays out).

First is that they’ve teamed Quaca up with Ted Nugent, the Motor City Big Mouth.  This guy is PR poison to folks who’d like to have a civil discussion about hunting, wildlife management, and other relevant topics.  (Sorry Uncle Ted, I love your music, and I’m glad you’re pro-gun/pro-hunting, but dude… you alienate way too many people for no good reason!  It’s counterproductive.)  Nugent’s credibility as an “ethical hunter” has been shattered by his recent wildlife violations and subsequent behavior that shows no sign of contrition for those acts.  He still draws a crowd, but he draws it for the wrong reasons.  Whatever good Ted Nugent tries to do is going to be overshadowed, for many people (including a good number of hunters and gun advocates), by the wrongs he’s done so far.

The second thing is the use of fully-automatic weapons.  Again, I get it.  This is depredation.  The gloves are off.  By any means necessary.  Hogs are a billion-dollar blight for farmers, and a hazard to wild ecosystems.  Etc. Etc.

But this is also television.  This is viewable not only by a small cadre of afficionados, but by the whole bloody world.  This is also right in the wake of Aurora, Colorado… barely a month has passed.  Does anyone else see the potential for negative spin here?   The glorification of mass slaughter?  The laughter and grins of these two guys, high-fiving as they rack up carcass after carcass… spray and pray and laugh like hell?

It all adds up to a nightmare for those of us who are working hard to help people understand hunting and firearms.  We’re taking the time to address the fears, misunderstandings, and to counter the mythology that hunters are simply bloodthirsty killers.  A sound argument can be made for the possession of ARs, and certainly for the eradication of non-native, invasive wildlife.  But what good does it do if that argument is drowned out by the folks who will point their fingers at Quaca and Nugent as representatives of hunters and gun owners, and say, “look!  Here’s what you hunters do.  You just like to kill and shoot big guns.  You like to watch living creatures die and laugh about it!  You’re not fooling us, this isn’t about wildlife management.  This isn’t about responsible gun ownership, or sporting use of assault rifles.  It’s just about killing innocent animals!”

In the long run, this is probably just another small thing.  But it adds to the litany of “wrongs” one could count against hunting television and video productions.  What’s more, it’s avoidable and unnecessary.  People will tune in to see Brian Quaca run his hounds through the mesquite, and they’ll keep watching as he and his crew sling arrows, crossbow  bolts, and high-powered rifle bullets at hogs and other animals around the world.  The show is popular, and there’s certainly a very loyal fan-base… for good reason.  Why turn this into something else simply for the sake of driving up ratings?

It’s just my thoughts.  What are yours?



Notes From The Hill Country – The Local Press

August 3, 2012

It’s the end of another week, and blog posts have been a little erratic… to say the least.  Sorry about that.  It probably won’t change much for a while.

But I was sitting here just now, avoiding work, and thinking about what I might write as a weekending post.  I haven’t been hunting in, well, damned near forever, so nothing much there.  The deer are hot and heavy around my place right now, but that’s not really news.  The deer are hot and heavy all over the Hill Country.  This place is, almost literally, lousy with deer.  You can’t travel a mile in any direction without seeing one, and it doesn’t seem to matter what time of day.  Seriously, I thought we had a bunch of deer in North Carolina… but I’ve never seen anything like this.

All that aside, what stood out to me this week?  I guess if it didn’t have to do with how the various systems and software in our network communicate, I didn’t really notice too much.  The Olympics are going on, and it looks like some of our shotgunners did pretty well again.  Huge congrats to Kim Rhode and Vincent Hathcock (both people I’ve been fortunate enough to meet in person… and great representatives of our country)!  But in my opinion, anyone good enough to make it to the Olympics is pretty impressive… so congrats to all the athletes simply for being there.  You are, truly, the best in the world!

On the lead ban front, it’s annoying to see that the Center for Biological Diversity (Center for Misleading Propaganda) is still hard at it.  Apparently the NRA entered a brief in favor of lead ammunition (hell of a surprise, huh?), and the CBD took outraged issue with it (‘nuther big surprise?).  In a press release, the organization wrote:

“Just moments ago the National Rifle Association took legal action to block the EPA from protecting wildlife and people from being poisoned by lead hunting ammunition left in the wild.

Today’s legal action challenges the Center for Biological Diversity’s suit, filed last month with allies, to get the EPA to finally regulate toxic lead in hunting ammunition.

These outrageous attacks need to stop. Please make an emergency gift today and help us stand up to the NRA’s assault on wildlife. [hyperlink disabled-ed.]”

Can we say, “hyperbole?”

Even better, can we say, “pot calling the kettle black?”

Politics makes me tired.  Misdirection, innuendo, and blatant disregard for the truth, exhaust me.  Why do I feel the need to point these out to people who should be able to see it for themselves?  Why isn’t the rank and file standing up and raising hell against all of this?  Am I just pissing in the wind?  I dunno… but with all the other political B.S. going on right now I’m beginning to have a hard time maintaining my composure.  My general faith in humanity, always strained, is at its lowest ebb.  I know, it’s an election year, but I swear it’s starting to feel like every year is an election year.

But then, there must be positive to balance the negative, and here it is… down here in the Hill Country, hunting is mainstream.  It’s not a dirty little secret you have to sneak out to the truck in the pre-dawn hours and smuggle back in again after dark.  While standing in line at the local grocery store, you can browse the covers of all the standard tabloids, or see what the latest, hottest sex tips are in the women’s mags.  Or, you can browse a hunting magazine.  Yupp, sure enough hook-n-bullet, horn-porn periodicals! There’s Texas Hunt&Fish, Texas Trophy Hunters, and a handful of national mags as well.  From now on, when some lady in front of me decides to separate her groceries by coupon, and insists on reviewing the receipt before handwriting a check and counting out the exact change (so as not to mess up her even checking account balance), I’ll no longer steam in my own juices or lose myself in a piece about how Martian spiders commandeered the rover and brought it back to Earth, where they’re being housed in a top secret facility at the base of Mount Umunhum (it’s a real place… look it up).  I can read something I give a damn about… more or less.

And it’s not just on the magazine racks!  While perusing the web version of local newspapers, I found that has a hunting and fishing blog, Racksnreels!  That’s right, this isn’t some thinly veiled, urban-friendly, hiking-and-camping-with-a little-fishing-thrown-in, sort of “outdoors” column (respects to Tom Stienstra and all… but really, what could one expect from the San Francisco Chronicle?).  It’s a sure enough blog for hunting and fishing.  To be sure, it’s largely composed of press releases from various sources, but there is a dedicated editor/writer, and they run syndicated pieces from other hook-n-bullet writers, like Dave Hurteau.

It’s not much, but there are times when you need all the silver lining you can get.  At least until hunting season starts.