July 31, 2013
Despite the heat, the deer activity is still going strong. The pond is almost dry again, but almost every evening I can see the deer dropping down for a sip of precious water on their way to feed or bed. I really need to get out and set a couple of new stands for the season, but it’s hard to get movitated to fire up the chainsaw in this stuff. I sure am looking forward to some cool mornings… which I guess will probably get here around January, at this rate.
Anyway, I ought to do something because it does look like it’ll be another productive season.
July 29, 2013
OK, so not that long in real world terms, but a week on the Interwebz… ain’t it funny, how time slips away!
Not an awful lot going on here anyway. It’s too hot here in TX to get out and do much… or to even think about hunting. Hell, by the time I climb up the hill to retrieve my arrows from the target out back, I need a shower. I spent last week in Spokane, and even way up there the heat was oppressive (although at least it was a dry heat).
It’s been a good time for watching TV, and I had a chance to catch up a little on hunting shows over the weekend. There are a couple of things that stood out to me from the brief sample:
- The imaginations of outdoor gear manufacturers are still running wide open, and it’s a guarantee that the 2013-2014 season will bring a glut of new stuff for hunters to purchase and haul into the field. This includes things like the Firefly, wind direction detector. Even Kat picked up on this one and questioned, “what’s wrong, hunters don’t know how to wet their finger to see which way the wind blows?” Another product is an elasticized netting to put over the top of your ground blind, advertised as “the only way to add natural foliage to your blind!”
- I’m sick of hearing about how you need a rifle (or in this case, a muzzleloader) that can reach into the next zip code to kill a deer. Folks, look… if other people regularly, and successfully bowhunt for the same species in the same area (e.g. Colorado elk or Kansas whitetails), then the argument that “sometimes all you get is a long shot” is pretty much moot. This is amplified on the TV networks, because you’ll have back-to-back episodes in which one hunter kills a bruiser whitetail at 18 yards with a bow, while the next hunter is plugging away at over 250 yards with a “muzzleloader”. I’ve got no problem with using a rifle to shoot animals outside of archery range, but let’s be honest about it… it’s certainly not “the only shot you’re going to get,” especially on these carefully managed hunting properties on which many of these shows are filmed.
- I was happy to see at least a couple of programs with a focus on conservation, including one from the Boone and Crockett organization. I’ll always have a tough time assigning credibility to any organization that publishes a trophy record book, I’ve got to say the message was reasonably good. The hunter/personality, Shane Mahoney, kept talking about how he “hunts the experience, not the animals”, and in the epsiode appeared to go out of his way to shoot a young, small buck, despite the fact that a “trophy” animal was available. I couldn’t help thinking how stilted the whole thing came off, but still… it’s TV. You can only expect so much.
There was more, both good and bad, but I didn’t set out to write a review when I put the TV on, so I didn’t really take notes or pay close attention.
So anyway, I’ll try get things flowing again this week. I’m heading back to Spokane at the end of the week… maybe I’ll take a run at the Post Falls, Idaho Cabela’s while I’m up there. That’s always good for some inspiration.
July 18, 2013
I shared this back on my old site when it was fresh, but since I’m digging through the archives and sort of getting a CA deer hunting jones, I figure it’s worth pulling it out and blowing off the dust. The coolest thing about this hunt was, as the video says, it was a last minute trip… not to mention it was really my only opportunity to get out during the B-zone season. Oh… and it was public land.
Something a lot of folks don’t realize about CA is the quality of public hunting available in the Golden State. Sure, gun laws are beyond ridiculous, and the hunting regulations are being more and more dictated by animal rights groups who have attached themselves like leeches to the political animal, but if you can turn your back on that and just get out into the backcountry, you can still have a really sensational experience. True, if you want to find the best hunting you have to put in some effort, but that’s what western hunting is all about… working for it.
And while the payoff is far from guaranteed, sometimes it all comes together. Like this…
July 17, 2013
Well, after last week, I thought I had momentum going here again. Guess I was wrong. There’s just not a lot going on for me on the outdoors and hunting front right now.
But that’s not true for my friends back in CA, as the A-zone archery season is now underway… and yeah, I miss it! So I thought I’d pull a video out of the archives. It’s not the same as being there… but if I close my eyes and think real hard, I can almost smell that yellow grass and hear the corn flake crackle of the dried leaves underfoot. Ahhh… deer hunting in July!
July 15, 2013
YES! After the rains around Memorial Day, we haven’t really seen a drop of real rain in this part of the Hill Country. The green explosion that followed the deluge has steadily yellowed as week after week went by. Meanwhile, the summer heat has been living up to Texas reputations, with daily highs at or just over 100 degrees.
I keep thinking of last year, where we had those crazy, hope-inspiring spring rains, followed by… well, followed by nothing for months. Finally there were a couple of September storms, and then little to nothing else all through the winter. Dry? Yeah, it’s been dry.
So while I’m knocking wood and hoping that this is a climatic turning point, I’m also loving every drop! Apparently, so are the critters. The roadways and pastures along the way to “town” today were covered in whitetails, axis, and turkeys… all out taking advantage of the cooler weather and moisture.
July 12, 2013
So, in keeping with the conversations about the big-bore air rifles (and because I don’t really have anything else particularly interesting to write about), I figured I’d share the followingvideo . These guys have been all over the place with the Benjamin Rogue .357, and have shot a lot of animals with it.
I’m still not completely sold on the approach (“well, let’s see what it will do to this critter”), but it is illuminating. At almost 60 yards, he achieves near pass-through on a red hartebeest, which is a lot bigger than a whitetail. From my slight experience with the African and Eurasian plains animals (oryx, axis, blackbuck, and fallow), these things are also pretty tough, and can tote a whack with aplomb. That says an awful lot about the capabilities of this rifle.
Of course, it also shows the value of precise shot placement. In these videos, the shots you see are damned near perfect. The use of a good bullet, such as the 145gr Nosler used in these hunts is also pretty critical. Even so, if you watch through the post-mortem in this vid, you’ll see that there’s not a heck of a lot of expansion. That bullet better hit something important.
Anyway, there’s a lot more on the Team Wild TV YouTube channel if you’re interested. It looks like they use the Rogue in several episodes, including hunts for Barbado sheep, Jacobs (4-horned) sheep, and wild hogs… as well as some smaller game.
Overall, it’s intriguing, to say the least.
July 10, 2013
So there’s a New York Times piece floating throughout the Blogosphere right now, about the tiny, New York town of Hastings-on-Hudson and their battle with the overwhelming deer population. With multiple deer/vehicle collisions, destruction of the understory of parks and woodlands, an upsurge of lyme disease, and complaints from homeowners, the small-town mayor had to make a decision. The choice… to partner with Tufts University and explore a new immunocontraception drug.
The problem of suburban deer isn’t a new one, particularly in the east. Whitetail deer are particularly adaptable to the proximity of human habitation, especially when there is no threat from the human “neighbors”. Without hunting or any other type of predation to control their numbers, the deer capitalize on prime browsing of backyard (and front) gardens and the availability of suburban parklands. I recently reviewed Jim Sterba’s book, Nature Wars, which provides some intriguing insight into this issue.
Solutions to the issue vary widely, and are often driven by the demographic of the area in question. The most successful approach so far has been the use of professional sharpshooters to cull overgrown herds. However, in more politically liberal areas, lethal options always seem to be a very last resort. Hastings-on-Hudson fits this profile, hence the decision to try contraception instead of killing. The approach is not particularly novel. Several municipalities have tried it, although the only apparent success to date has been in island habitats where the populations are geographically isolated. Nevertheless, the researchers at Tufts have continued to develop their solution and there’s hope that the new immunocontraceptive will be effective.
Besides the public relations perspective, though, lethal means of control in suburban areas definitely have their drawbacks.
First, and most problematic is the suggestion that the deer be trapped (netted) and despatched by means of a captive bolt gun. While there’s a certain efficiency in this approach, the sheer (apparent) cold-bloodedness of some guy walking through a net of flailing deer and quietly bolting each animal will simply not fly with the general public… and the outcry by animal welfare organizations will make the whole thing quite unappealing to municipal officials whose careers rely on the good will of voters.
Managed shooting is also a challenging option in the suburban/urban areas. While some municipalities have enlisted the assistance of sharpshooters (volunteer and professional), the use of firearms in a heavily populated environment is fraught with problems… from the noise of gunfire to the risk of stray bullets. There’s simply too much fear of guns among the general populace… again, this is most pronounced in politically liberal areas… but even folks who tolerate guns and hunting often have issues when the shooting is taking place right outside their bedroom windows.
Archery is a good alternative to firearms. Bows are quiet. Arrows tend to travel a relatively short distance after release, especially when the shooting is done from an elevated position. The problem with archery, though, is that it doesn’t usually result in an instant fatality. Even well-hit deer can travel a significant distance before expiring. This means there’s a risk that some suburbanite will wake in the morning with a deer bleeding out in his driveway, or the kids will run out to play and find “Bambi” stretched out under the swingset. As you might imagine, a couple of these incidents can quickly turn public opinion against the archery solution.
But I think there’s another option that I think is missing here… air guns.
I’m not talking about the kid stuff here… Red Ryders and Crossman Powerlines. But there are a variety of air rifles on the market that would prove more than capable of close-range deer culling. They’re quiet. They’re accurate. They have limited range, as air gun projectiles tend to shed energy rapidly. In all respects, they seem perfectly suited for this job.
One example, possibly on the lower end of the spectrum, is the Benjamin Marauder in .25 caliber. At 25 yards or so, this rifle delivers a solid thump with a hunting pellet. The shrouded, baffled barrel makes this rifle extremely quiet, and it’s capable of very precise accuracy. A skilled sharpshooter could easily make headshots on deer-sized targets which would result in instant kills (and no deer thrashing out their last in some homeowner’s flower bed).
If the .25 is considered too small, there’s also the Benjamin Rogue, which comes in .357 caliber. This rifle is definitely powerful enough at 20 to 40 yards to cleanly kill whitetail deer, and accurate enough to do so with headshots. It is also designed to be relatively quiet, so it can be used in proximity to homes.
There are any number of other air guns out there that would do fine work on deer-sized game, ranging from .38 to .54 caliber. Some of them are pretty loud, but they are still safer in the suburban/urban environment than firearms.
So why aren’t air rifles being proposed as a valid option in suburban/urban deer control situations? I’d love to hear any insight from folks who’ve been involved in these discussions.
July 9, 2013
I think it was last year that I was writing about Michigan’s efforts to curb the spread of feral swine by placing an outright ban on their possession. While the spotlight of this case was on a private hunting ranch, the way this law was worded posed a threat that went far beyond the contentious issue of high fence hunting, and took aim at small farmers in the Wolverine State. Mine was one of many voices calling for reason and careful consideration of any such legislation… and mine was one of the many voices ignored when the law was passed.
The issue is primarily a matter of defining the prohibited animals. The “Invasive Species Order” (ISO) includes an extremely vague description of feral swine. As it turns out, several “heritage” breeds display the physical characteristics that the Michigan DNR uses to identify prohibited animals. And, as predicted before this law went through, the results are that small farmers are being threatened with criminal charges and fines for failing to surrender or eradicate their stock.
Some of the small farms are fighting back (in some cases because they don’t have a choice… if they lose their hogs, they lose their livelihood and even their homes). Several, like the family of Mark Baker are taking the offensive and refusing to surrender their stock. In the face of $700,000 in fines and even possible prison sentences, the Bakers charge that the DNR is overstepping its authority in enforcing the ISO against small farms.
It promises to remain a contentious issue and worth watching, even if it no longer has much of anything to do with hunting.
July 8, 2013
Following my note last week about the CA A-zone archery season opener, I suddenly developed a bad case of the deer hunting jones.
I haven’t been watching my cameras all that closely this year. Part of the reason is that the visitors have been so consistent that there hasn’t been a lot to get too excited about. Also, since the bucks lost their antlers a few months ago, the photos aren’t particularly sensational. Finally, my freezer is still full, thanks to that last axis deer hunt, and I’m more interested in finding a hog than a deer right now.
But then the CA season kicked off, and I thought I’d wander out and check the cam. Antlers are budding now, and while there’s nothing to get too fired up about, it is good to see that there are a few bucks mingled with the does. I’m hoping to see more mature deer as the season gets closer, but if we don’t I’ll probably institute an antlerless-only rule for the Hillside Manor ranch this year.
Time will tell, but it’s definitely time to step up my archery practice.
July 4, 2013
It’s the 4th of July. Independence Day.
I’ve no desire to get all political here, but it’s worth a thought.
When you celebrate them today, slow down and think about what they mean… and what they cost. Take a moment to recognize just how good we’ve got it here.
It may not be perfect.
But it’s good.