August 30, 2013
AB711 is supposed to go to a vote today. If it passes, there’s no question that Governor Brown will sign it into law. Honestly, I’m not hopeful that common sense and reason will carry the day… but who knows? Stranger things have happened.
Anyway, there’s still time, California sportsmen, to get on the phones and call your representatives. Tell them that this law is ill-formed and will serve no positive ends. It will not help the environment. It will not protect human health. And it will do nothing to further the survival of the California condor or any other wildlife populations.
And then hope for the best.
August 29, 2013
Here’s a thinker for ya… A friend shared a link to a column about how copper bullets pose a greater risk of starting wildfires than lead-core and jacketed bullets.
My initial response was to blow this off as more of the paranoia-mongering from the gun rights organizations. But as I read the piece, it didn’t really incorporate most of the elements of propaganda I’ve become so familiar with in this discussion. First of all, the author, Michelle Orrock, doesn’t appear to be writing as a member of a gun rights organization or a hunter advocacy group. She’s an elected member of a community services district in Sacramento. The district is responsible, among other things for fire safety planning. Also, the piece doesn’t stray into the political arguments or spend time setting up or breaking down specious constructs. She’s completely focused on one thing, the possibility that the lead ammo ban (AB711) could result in an increased risk of wildfires across a state that is annually ravaged by fire. And you really have to understand this… in California and several other western states, wildfire is a real and significant concern. In short, the more I thought about what I’d just read, the more I felt like Orrock’s concerns are sincere.
As reference, Orrock points to a research paper released just this month by the US Forest Service. Keep in mind that this study had nothing to do with the proposed lead ammunition ban. It was initiated because several major wildfires over the past few years have been attributed to target shooters. While there has been general agreement that the steel-core, military surplus ammunition has been the culprit, the Forest Service decided to test several different bullet types to see what the different risk levels were. A surprising result is that the copper solid bullets (Barnes TSX) consistently achieved ignition in the test medium (oven-dried peat moss). Here’s part of the Results section of the paper:
Bullet construction materials were important factors in producing ignition (Table 1) (Figure 2). The only type of bullet that consistently did not produce ignitions was made with a lead core and copper jacket, although a single ignition was observed from a Nosler partition bullet. Two other ignitions resulting from lead core and copper jacketed bullets occurred immediately after shots involving solid copper bullets and were probably undetected hold-over ignitions from that test given their location in the collector that coincided with large areas of smoldering peat (Appendix). Solid copper bullets were the most consistent in producing ignitions at all angles and all targets.
Of course, that snip from a 36 page report doesn’t provide much context, and I think context is the critical thing before we jump to conclusions and raise “fire danger” as the new, anti-AB711 rallying cry.
First, you have to look at the methods used in the experiment. The researchers created a very specific set of conditions, including a very narrow range of temperature, relative humidity, and moisture content (of the peat). Even the angle of the target (a steel sheet, and a section of granite counter-top) was critical in getting the results reported. As any of those criteria went outside of the established parameters, the incidence of ignition went down. The odds of a hunter’s bullet replicating those exact criteria in a way that results in wildfire are pretty slim… as evidenced by the fact that after seven years of lead ammo ban in the condor zone, there have been no reported fires caused by a hunter’s stray bullets. I would say, based on what I read in that report, that those odds might increase for target shooters using copper bullets based on the simplistic fact that more shots equal more opportunities for ignition.
The paper dives pretty deeply into the physics involved in the transfer of energy from high velocity objects (bullets) to stationary objects (targets). I won’t pretend to understand all of the math involved. But the results were sort of eye opening.
I don’t necessarily think that this report, in itself, would provide strong grounds for blocking the passage of AB711 or other lead ammo bans, but I do think it is worth consideration. As Orrock correctly points out, the speed at which this legislation is being pushed through the system pretty much negates any opportunity for deep review of possible unintended consequences. At the very least, I would think more research would be valuable… if for no better reason than mitigating risk.
For anyone planning to leverage this information, either for discussion or as ammunition in the fight against AB711, I very strongly recommend reading the full report first. At least you should know exactly what you’re talking about before you go off making it sound like every copper bullet is a potential wildfire. I’m still not sure if it’s a valid argument or not. What do ya’ll think?
August 28, 2013
I struggled with that post headline. The story behind it is just too cool, but somehow, I don’t think I pulled it off.
Anyway, I was checking out a new blog the other day, NCWildBoar, and I added them to my feeds. It’s a fairly new blog, apparently, but they have potential. If you get a chance, check it out.
Today, the NC Wild Boar blog posted up this article from the Charlotte News and Observer about a new North Carolina law. The law is a tasty bit of ironic justice, because it will require the poachers to pay back the reward money that is awarded to the citizen who reported the illegal activity.
North Carolina’s new Wildlife Poacher Reward Fund adds the reward fee to court costs and fines. An offender also may have to compensate the state for the value of game or fish taken illegally and for the cost of any investigation, according to the text of Session Law 2013-380.
The innovative law “gives the court the right to make the violator pay his own reward,” said Ramon Bell, past president of the N.C. Bowhunters Association who worked on the measure with Rep. John Faircloth of Guilford County and former N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission director Dick Hamilton.
Is that awesome or what? Ideally, it’s a self-perpetuating reward fund. Somebody turns in a poacher and gets a reward. Poacher gets convicted and pays back the reward as part of court costs. I hope the idea spreads to other states.
August 26, 2013
So while I’m hanging out down here watching the deer browse the persimmon trees along my fenceline, some folks are well into their deer seasons. My friends in CA have been after ’em since July, and the South Carolina season just opened a week or so ago. I’m biding my time, shooting the bow, working on my tree stand, and holding tight until the end of September. But it ain’t easy.
Last week, I was talking to my little brother, Scott, and he mentioned that one of his hunting buddies had been after him to get down to SC again this year for the early season. “Oh, I’m probably not going,” he said, sensing my jealousy. “I already got a great velvet buck. I don’t need another one.”
I was less surprised a couple of days later, when she posted pictures of his succes.
Dammit, boy! You’re running out of trophy room!
August 23, 2013
Every day, I am receiving one or two links in my news feeds in regards to the lead ban. Top of the discussion right now is still AB711, and the gist of most of the articles is largely an extension of the same talking points we’ve been seeing all along. I have seen more of the articles including comments from both sides of the discussion, and it almost looks like the journalists are actually trying to report a real story, instead of republishing press releases written by the Center for Biological Diversity, HSUS, or the NRA. That’s something, at least.
But it’s not much. At this point, it is still very likely that AB711 is going to pass. It’s unlikely that the Feds are going to take any active steps toward banning lead across the U.S., and the military is still talking about finding a lead-substitute for training ammunition (most recently looking to replace the bullets in the 7.62×51 ammo with a “green” equivalent).
So, just because I’m aggravated after spending a couple of hours crafting a lengthy post to send to Huffington Post only to realize I’m saying all the same things I’ve been saying for almost five years… well, I’m just going to stick a bunch of bullet points in here and leave it at that. If you wanna discuss, go for it.
- AB711 is NOT a ban on all lead ammo in California, despite what Huffington Post’s “Gun Guy” has written in a poorly researched blog. AB711 is a statewide expansion of the prohibition on hunting with lead-based ammo which is currently in place across the “historic condor range,” aka, the Condor Zone.
- Lead ammo fragments and shot pellets are reasonably linked to the deaths of some scavenger birds, including the condor, but smoking gun proof will likely never exist because these are wild-ranging birds who eat lots of stuff. That’s a double-edged fact.
- There is no appreciable environmental risk from the use of lead hunting bullets or shot in the field. In the extremely rare cases of lead leaching into ground water, the problem occurred at shooting ranges. Most modern ranges are required to have mitigation and reclamation programs in place.
- Lead free ammunition is still very difficult to obtain for many hunters. Factory-loaded, lead free ammunition is not available at all for many calibers and chamberings.
- All condor advocates are not anti-hunters.
- Many anti-hunters vocally (and economically) support the lead ammo ban.
- Some hunters support the lead ammo ban.
I could go on.
I probably will.
But not today.
August 21, 2013
If you spend much time around folks who’ve been shooting and hunting as long as I have, you’ve probably noticed a couple of common traits. We’ll lean forward a bit when you speak to us. We’ll often ask you to repeat what you’ve said. Some of us might even cup our ears in the universal sign of, “speak up, please.”
When I started shooting, you didn’t hear much about hearing protection. I’m sure someone must have known about the risks, but no one really talked about it. You just took the gun and went out to shoot it. No one bothered to tell you to wear ear plugs. I remember in Boy Scout camp, I’d spend every available minute at the rifle range. They didn’t pass out hearing protection or safety glasses (of course, these were just .22 rifles, but still…). I’m pretty sure that if I’d shown up at the junkyard to shoot with my friends, I’d have been laughed clean out of the woods for wearing a set of “Mickey ears”. And if I ever showed up in hunting camp with a set of plugs in my ears, the old guys would have looked at my dad and wondered what sort of spoiled little pansy-ass he was raising. That’s just how things were then, and many of us are paying the price today.
In fact, it wasn’t until I was late into my teens that I first learned the importance and value of hearing protection while shooting. I think the catalyst was an article I read in Outdoor Life about how a shooter’s flinch is often a response to the noise of the firearm, rather than a response to the recoil. It made sense to me, and the next time I went out in the woods to shoot up a bunch of cans and paper plates, I took a roll of toilet paper. I stuffed a goodly wad into each ear, settled down and started shooting.
And I was amazed that there was a noticeable change in my groups, especially with my .243 which is still one of the loudest rifles I own (not counting the ones with muzzle brakes). I realized that I wasn’t anticipating the shot as much, and I was able to stay on the target right through the muzzle blast. Of course, I was noticing things I’d never paid attention to before, so maybe the change wasn’t as extreme as it seemed at the time, but there was definitely a difference. Perhaps the best thing was that I didn’t have to sit through school the next day with that infernal ringing in my ears. I was sold.
I eventually graduated from wadded up toilet paper to those orange or yellow safety plugs. I was working at paper mills at the time, and there were always jugs of plugs available for the taking and I made the best of it. A few years later when I started shooting at organized ranges, I moved up to ear muffs (Mickey ears), and then discovered electronic hearing protection at the SHOT Show.
The thing about wearing hearing protection is that it doesn’t just reduce the noise of a gunshot, it reduces all noise. It’s difficult to have a conversation with plugs in your ears. It’s even more difficult to hunt without the ability to hear all of the sounds of the woods around you. Even most of the electronic aids that amplify normal noise but block sudden, loud noises can be a real detriment in the field. The amplification makes the slightest rustle of grass sound like an elephant charge, and if you turn them down enough to dampen the noise of your footsteps then you can’t hear much of anything. As a result, like many people, I’ve stopped wearing hearing protection while I’m in the field.
The industry has been all over the place in an effort to create hearing protection that allows you to hear and function normally while still dampening dangerous noise. The electronic solutions are the best, so far, but the quality options are all pretty expensive… generally in the range of several hundred dollars for a set of good ear buds, to over a grand for the high-end, digital systems. There are also some electronic hearing protection devices in the $25 to $50 range. These are fine for target shooting and plinking, but terribly unsuitable for hunting applications.
There have also been advances in the design of the basic ear plug. While you can certainly still get the old-fashioned, squeezable foam plugs, there are newer designs that offer baffles that create a better fit in the ear canal and block even more of the noise. I know, for example, that shooting my .325wsm with the muzzle brake is too much for the old-school plugs. They help, but I still end up with ringing ears after a couple of shots. The baffled plugs work much better. But of course these make hearing other sounds practically impossible.
BattlePlugs are, according to the manufacturer’s website, authorized hearing protectors for use by the U.S. Army… both for soldiers and civilian employees. They offer a non-electronic filter that dampens sudden, loud noises (e.g. gunfire) while allowing normal soundwaves to pass through.
How do they work?
Well, I’m not a specialist in this kind of thing so I don’t pretend to understand the science here. However, the plugs have a little cap that opens or closes. When the cap is closed, you get a pretty significant reduction in sound (about 24dB). When it’s open, the reduction is about 9dB. I’m not sure if there’s some sort of high tech thing happening in there, or if it’s just simple physics. If I open the cap and look inside, it’s just a tiny tunnel from end to end.
But they do seem to work as advertised.
I received a sample pair last week, and had a little time to mess around with them. They were a little uncomfortable to put in, but once they were in place they filled my ear canal very snugly (I got the medium size. They come in three sizes.) and were quite comfortable. With the cap closed, they really dampen all the sound like a super-effective ear plug would be expected to. You can still hear, but not much. With the cap open, I was able to watch TV… although the sound was somewhat muffled. Carrying on a conversation was possible, but not optimal. 9dB of sound reduction is a lot more than it may seem.
I did have some trouble opening and closing the cap without removing the plugs from my ears, but the literature that accompanies the plugs indicated that I should expect this until I got used to using them. That’s probably true enough, and I also think they just need to be opened and closed a few times until they loosen up. Overall, I didn’t find this to be much of an issue.
I took the BattlePlugs out behind the barn this weekend to test them under fire. I started out with the .22 pistol, which is really not much of an ear ringer without protection. It wasn’t much of a test. After emptying a few mags with the .22, I moved up to 9mm which was still pretty much nothing, and then to the .44 mag. Now, my .44 is loud, even with the 7.5″ barrel on it. I don’t like shooting it without hearing protection. With the BattlePlugs in and the little cap closed, the report of the .44 was nicely muffled. That wasn’t really a surprise, based on how completely they fill my ear canal. With the cap open, the report was not unpleasant at all, and it was still muffled enough that I didn’t get any ringing in my ears. That’s not very scientific, but it was a good practical experience.
Unfortunately, I didn’t try them with any of the braked rifles (.270, 30-06, .325wsm). Sorry, but with temps in the low 100s, I just didn’t feel like sitting out in the sun any longer. Based on the results with the .44, I feel confident that the BattlePlugs would be plenty sufficient for shooting a braked gun. They’re miles and miles better than the old, orange squeezables. I think they also outperform my cheap, Outers ear muffs.
BattlePlugs retail for around $12.75. That’s about $10 more than the old-fashioned plugs ($2.95/pkg at WalMart), but about half the price of low-end electronic muffs. The plugs are washable, so if you take care of them you should get a bunch of uses out of them. I expect that the baffles will eventually start to wear and tear, but of course I haven’t had these long enough to see any sort of wear. You can also order additional tips for about $3, in the event that the originals do finally wear out.
Overall, if you’re looking for something relatively inexpensive but effective, and don’t want the bulk of a pair of muffs, the BattlePlugs are certainly a good option. I’ve used other baffled plugs in the past, and the BattlePlugs are at least as good as any of those. The option of opening the cap to allow for better hearing is a nice feature, I suppose, although honestly; I find it’s just as easy to remove the plugs so that’s not much of a selling point.
BattlePlugs are currently available online, from National Safety, Inc. I found them at a few other industrial safety equipment sites as well. I haven’t seen them at any of the major outdoors distributors yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see them start showing up soon.
August 16, 2013
Here’s a topic to take into the weekend… and a break from the flurry of press releases and links to other people’s work.
Over the course of some recent blog reading, commentary, and mental drifting, I got to thinking about how so many hunters present these extraordinarily ethical positions in public discourse, and how poorly that lines up with my experiences in the field… or even in private conversations.
Am I just spending my “Real Time” with Hunting’s problem children?
Of course not. But I’m also clearly aware that we’re not all perfect. In fact, when it comes time to pull a trigger or loose an arrow, perfection is often the last thing on our minds.
To me, it’s a question of the practical versus the theoretical. I always take the comments on blogs and social networks with a grain of salt, because I recognize that anonymity can make anyone an expert on anything. People can make any number of outrageous claims without fear of being found out as frauds. No one knows what you really do out there… We have only the face you present.
In some ways, there’s an interesting parallel to what Jose Ortega y Gassett and Aldo Leopold have both said in regards to hunting ethics. The thing that makes the sportsman special is that we have no witnesses to our actions in the field. The thing that really matters is what we do when no one is watching.
I’m not claiming that the moment we step into the woods we become poachers, game hogs, or simple slobs. I’ve hunted with a whole bunch of folks, from all over the country, and I can say with no hesitation that most of these guys are above-board, law-abiding, and safe. But what I’ve also learned is that, when it comes to some commonly discussed ethical “norms”, there are no absolutes in the field.
For example, a current discussion over at one of the Field and Stream blogs is centered on acceptable bowhunting shot angles. The blog post challenges the rejection of the “quartering to” angle on big game, and makes the argument that not only is the shot reasonably viable, but it’s a good option. In the comments I read a consistent thread of debate that centers on how an ethical hunter should never take that sort of shot. At the same time, there’s a cadre of hunters who argue that the shot is perfectly ethical. Others, with telling honesty, write about how they used to think it was a bad shot until they tried it… successfully, of course. In light of these comments and my own experience, I can’t help thinking that the folks who are so absolutely opposed are either not being honest, or they actually have very little (or no) hunting experience.
I’ve had similar discussions right here on the Hog Blog as well. For example, the recurrent topic about head shots or debates about long-range hunting often see comments running toward the absolute with tones of, “I would never…” or “an ethical hunter would never…”
I’ve had clients sit in camp with me preparing for the hunt who tell me over and over that they wouldn’t consider a shot over 200 yards, but then I find myself restraining them when the big buck (or boar) appears at 500.
But then we get into the woods. A shot that’s a little longer than we ever thought we would try presents itself. With typical, human aplomb, we rationalize that it looks do-able. We’ve got a good rest. The animal is calm and unaware. And suddenly we’re launching a bullet over three or four football fields.
Or it’s almost dark, in that strange little zone when our reason tells us it’s too dark to shoot but the clock says we still have a quarter hour of legal time. We really can’t make out individual trees on the far side of the shooting lane. How would we expect to get a reasonable sight picture? But then the shadowy form appears. The dusk lights up with muzzle flash.
Or here’s a simpler one (that isn’t really simple at all). We loudly and proudly extoll the virtues of making every effort to humanely and cleanly kill our quarry. And then we go wingshooting.
This isn’t intended as any kind of condemnation, or even an indictment. I recognize that ideals don’t always line up with reality. It’s how we are, not just as hunters but as human beings. I think we’re often honest when we first set the bar, but I think we’re still being just as honest when we adjust it under field conditions. Is that even possible?
So how about it? For all the folks who take the high road in conversations, blog comments, or social media feedback… how often do you catch yourself fudging your own rules when there’s no one there to see you?
And how much fudging is too much?
August 15, 2013
Well, I guess this is press release week here at the Hog Blog. I guess it’s something to write about… and honestly, it just seems like I’ve seen a bunch of compelling releases lately.
Today’s release is from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, and reports on the publication of survey results showing that public approval of hunting has increased again to 79%.
I think this is significant in light of the ongoing PR campaigns by anti-hunters regarding hot button topics such as wolves, lead ammunition, and high-fence hunting. I think it also offers a counterpoint to the worry-warts out there who feel like modern hunting (long range, high tech, black rifles) is eroding the image, and thus the public support of our sport. Of course, maybe the negatives are offset by the surge of new hunters who’ve been attracted as part of the locavore and self-sufficiency fads. It’s hard to say.
One point from the survey group stands out… apparently the strongest correlation with the perceptions of hunting is knowing a hunter. That’s not any kind of surprise, of course, but it’s a good reminder that we are all ambassadors of our sport.
Anyway, here’s the release for your reading pleasure.
National Survey: Public Approval of Hunting at 18-Year High
MISSOULA, Mont.—A recent nationwide survey indicates 79% of Americans approve of hunting, marking a five percent increase from 2011 and the highest level since 1995.
“Hunting is a way of life for many of us. Most Americans recognize and agree with that,” said David Allen, RMEF president and CEO. “Hunting is conservation! It has a tremendous positive impact on wildlife and wildlife habitat.”
Responsive Management, a public opinion research organization focusing on natural resource and outdoor recreation issues, began to scientifically track nationwide hunting approval trends in 1995. The most recent finding of 79% is the highest percentage to date. Trends remain relatively steady over the years: 73% in 1995, 75% in 2003, 78% in 2006, 74% in 2011 and 79% in 2013.
The survey also found that more than half of Americans (52%) strongly approve of hunting (79% strongly or moderately approve), while 12% disapprove (strongly or moderately) of hunting. Another 9% gave a neutral answer.
The increase in acceptance may be linked to results from a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report (2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation) that shows hunting participation increased by 9% since 2006 while shooting participation increased 18 percent since 2009. Other Responsive Management studies on public opinion on hunting show the strongest correlation with the approval of hunting is knowing a hunter.
“Hunting has a tremendous and measureable link to conservation. Hunters deserve to be proud of their contributions to wildlife, habitat and resource management,” added Allen.
Hunting directly accounts for more than a million jobs in the United States and creates an overall economy of $67 billion per year. Hunters provide the vast majority of funding that allows state wildlife agencies to successfully manage our wildlife resources through license sales and excise taxes on hunting equipment.
Conducted in February 2013, the Responsive Management survey randomly surveyed 1,306 Americans 18 years of age and older.
August 14, 2013
On the “propaganda front”, the NRA’s Huntfortruth.org site ran into some conflict. I chose to step clear of the worst of it, but it appears to boil down to the NRA publishing some sort of “target list” of organizations who supported the lead ammo ban. Ban supporters, such as the Center for Biological Diversity took them to task. Meanwhile, the huntfortruth.org website shut down for some reason, and the lead-ban advocates had a field day disputing the organization’s claims. The whole thing was really sort of weird and juvenile.
More importantly, if anyone wondered whether lead ammo was a topic in Washington, D.C., it looks like the conversation is definitely happening. In an article today from The Hill (apparently some sort of beltline insider news site), John McCain was quoted as suggesting that the US Fish and Wildlife Service should be encouraging hunters to get the lead out.
In his statement, McCain said that the federal government should adopt a strategy to get hunters to voluntarily stop using lead bullets, as Arizona and Utah have done, and promote other types instead. “I intend to ask the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to do more to acknowledge and support this approach,” he said. “I also believe there’s a role for ammunition manufacturers and distributors to raise awareness about the benefits of non-lead products to the condor.”
McCain also made clear, however, that he does not support legislation banning lead ammo.
McCain said he did not support that legislation because it is “unfair to the sporting community that has a vested interest in enjoying healthy game populations.”
“It is also unclear that there would be demonstrable benefit to the condor,” he added.
I’ve got to say, I agree with this whole approach. I absolutely understand the distrust and enmity between the most vocal factions in this fight, but I hate the way it’s made it practically impossible to have a logical and reasoned discussion about the pros and cons of lead-free ammunition. I’ve said repeatedly, that if more hunters could get honest and unbiased information about what lead ammo really does in the environment, and the performance and capabilities of lead-free alternatives, we’d see a higher adoption rate.
Will all hunters switch?
But I don’t think it’s necessary for all hunters to switch to lead-free. It’s not a necessity, for the most part. It’s just a good thing to do, when and if you can.
August 13, 2013
At some point in the last few years, I’ve talked about field-dressing game using the “gutless method.” It’s a great technique when you’re way back in the backcountry, especially when you have to pack out a large animal solo. Best of all, you can do it all with a good knife. No saw. No axe. No pulleys or winches.
In this video, Randy Newberg (On Your Own Adventures and Fresh Tracks) shows how he does it, step-by-step with great video work.