February 28, 2014
Well, by this point on a lovely Friday, I had hoped to be heading up to Mississippi to join my friend Rex Howell and the rest of the Christmas Place gang on another big hog hunt. Last year’s event was definitely a riot, even though Rex made sure to put out plenty of HogbeGone™ around my stands. I figured I could overcome those odds with a little perseverance (aka stubborn, bullheadedness) this season.
But then he had to go and tell me about the newest denizen of the Famous Christmas Place… the vicious hogapotamus!
Now there aren’t many things in the woods that scare me. Mr. No-Shoulders barely gives me pause. Bears and catamounts don’t even rate a shudder. The only shivers induced by the howl of a wolf pack are shivers of excitement. Even Sasquatch hardly makes me look over my shoulder (except on dense, foggy mornings in the bowels of Kokopelli Valley… but that’s a different tale). I’ve spent days alone in the deepest woods and darkest swamps without the slightest inkling of fear.
But that was before I heard about the hogapotamus.
Everyone knows you don’t mess around with this beast. In his native habitat, the Great Dismal Swamp that lies along the North Carolina/Virginia line, the hogapotamus is known to be a wicked, bloodthirsty killer. No one is safe in his presence, neither man nor beast (nor peanuts, nor soybeans, nor sweet potatoes…).
Unlike other predators, he doesn’t hunt by stealth. Instead, he crashes through the brush like a bulldozer, roaring his terrible roar and rolling his terrible eyes and gnashing his terrible teeth as all living things, furred, finned, or feathered, flee ahead of him in abject terror. Sooner or later, some pitiful creature will succumb to paroxysms of horror and fall twitching and trembling in his path. Then the hogapotamus will feast.
The method used by the beast to kill and consume his prey is too grisly to share on a family-oriented website. Suffice to say that trained biologists have fainted away merely at the site of a hogapotamus kill. No one who has witnessed the actual event has survived to tell the tale, except for one poor game warden who is still confined to the madhouse in an extreme, state of catatonia.
I’d always felt that by moving all the way across the country from North Carolina, I might have finally escaped the horrific hold this monster held over my tiny mind. Here in Texas, surrounded by heavily armed neighbors and scorpions, I thought I was finally safe. My nightmares abated, and I felt free to once again roam the woods and wastes with rifle in hand and a carefree song in my head. But now… now to hear that this thing is as close as Mississippi… it’s all too much.
So I’ve cancelled my visit to the Famous Christmas Place. I’m chicken. I admit it.
If Rex and the gang survive the weekend, I’ll be looking forward to tales of derring-do and adventure… as well as any photos of regular ol’ hawgs. I’m sure they’ll kill a pile, since Rex won’t feel the need to chase them out of the county before I arrive.
February 27, 2014
It’s hardly like news anymore, it seems, to see a (relatively) positive piece in a major news outlet about hunting. Between “locavores” and “hipsters”, or youngsters and women, there’s been a steady stream of press over the past couple of years that would suggest a swelling of the hunting community by a host of non-traditional participants.
For my own part, I haven’t had a whole lot to say about the “phenomenon”. On the one hand, I certainly do relish the thought that more new hunters means more political and economic clout for our community. Likewise, I am cheered by the fact that we’re seeing a largely positive spin on hunting. These new participants tend to bring with them a strong ethic with a practical perspective (healthy food and a renewed relationship with our role in nature) and this plays well with the non-hunting public. It’s no secret that the best way to counter the lies and myths of the anti-hunting propaganda machine is to get our real stories into the popular press… let non-hunters read about hunters who aren’t poachers or drunken oafs.
But there’s a flip side. Even as these bright-eyed neophytes come into the sport (and the press) with professions of high ethical ideals, the spotlight that follows them also shines into the darker corners, threatening to illuminate the reality that all hunters don’t hold to the same, high, ethical standards. That’s not to say that the “old guard” is a bunch of scofflaws or heartless killers, but it is fair to say that we’re not all in this for the same reasons… we don’t all eat what we kill, we don’t all agree on the concepts of “sportsmanship” or definitions of “fair chase”, and all of us don’t see the kill as some particularly sanctified event (sometimes it feels like a damned inconvenient part of the whole experience, to be honest).
It’s a weird sort of conflict, no matter how you think about it. All this time we’ve wanted positive press, and now there’s a chance that the lights might shine a little too brightly on the contrast between lofty, ethical ideals and a sometimes, harsh reality. How do we reconcile this… or do we even try?
February 25, 2014
I was feeling pretty bad about the infrequency of my blog updates, until I went surfing around my blog roll. Apparently I’m not the only one who’s dredging the bottom for content ideas or for motivation (although I’m glad to see the Suburban Bushwhacker is back at it). I guess it should make me feel better …
So, because I’m lacking and for those who want something of substance on the site, here’s a little literary deconstruction for you:
February 21, 2014
Sorry folks, for the dearth of posts and activity over the past week. I was travelling for the day job, and it turned into a very busy week indeed. Usually, I try to pre-load a couple of posts but it didn’t pan out. So there ya go. I’ll refund your subscription fees.
I also owe an apology to Bruce Cherry, my pal in Hawaii, for not getting back to him on his great idea… an idea I’m turning into a post today.
Bruce mentioned that he spends a lot of time online doing research and reading on topics like reloading, ballistics, recoil calculation, and several other topics. He’s got some favorite sites of his own, and thought it would be interesting to open things up here so you readers could also share your favorites. So let’s hear them… what sites have you come to rely on for solid info on shooting, hunting, reloading, or other related topics? Feel free to share the URLs in your comments.
Note, if your post doesn’t show up, send me a note. It’s possible that my SPAM blocker saw too many hyperlinks in your message and flagged it.
Oh, and stand by. I’ve been following an interesting thread regarding a proposed ban on lead ammo use in the Olympics. It’s an almost timely topic for sure, but I need time to do some real research.
That’s it! Have a great weekend!
February 16, 2014
It’s only fair to follow up on last week’s post in regards to comments made by Fish and Game Commission President, Michael Sutton. If you didn’t read that post, or other articles on the topic (it was hardly mainstream news), Sutton said in a web conference, hosted by the animal rights organization, HSUS, that legal hunting in CA might be a bigger problem than poaching.
Along with some other outdoors writers, and (hopefully) many CA sportsmen, I took Sutton to task here on the Hog Blog. I also sent a harshly critical email to the Fish and Game Commission. In response, Sutton wrote a letter to Sonke Mastrup, Executive Director of the CA Fish and Game Commission that purports to “set the record straight” about Sutton’s views on legal hunting. You can read Sutton’s official statement on the Fish and Game Commission website, but I’ll save you the effort and copy the body of it here:
Earlier this week, my quotes in a press account of a webinar in which I participated on the illegal wildlife trade gave rise to confusion regarding my attitude towards legal hunting in California. I’m writing to set the record straight.
I fully support legal, well-regulated, science-based hunting in California. As you know, I’ve been an active hunter and fisherman most of my life and I recognize the vital contributions hunters make to wildlife conservation. Further, I believe that hunting in California is well managed by our Commission and the Department of Fish & Wildlife, using the best available science. I am unaware of any legal, managed hunting today in our state that contributes to the decline of our native wildlife. Both the Commission and the Department continually strive to improve our stewardship of wildlife in California.
Thanks for the opportunity to clarify my position and clear up any misunderstandings that may have arisen as a result of my comments during the webinar earlier this week. I apologize for the confusion and hope that this letter serves to forestall any misinterpretation of my position on hunting. You are welcome to circulate this to anyone who may inquire.
How you interpret Sutton’s words here is up to you. But what I see is… well, nothing. There are three paragraphs of empty words, none of which either explain or excuse the statement he made in the conference. In fact, what he says here is in direct contradiction to what he said in the conference. So which is it, Mr. Sutton?
Michael Sutton has demonstrated an antagonistic attitude toward CA sportsmen since he was named to the Commission in 2007. In fact during one of his first interviews as a Commissioner, in Cal Waterfowl magazine, Sutton explicitly stated that he doesn’t care much for big game hunting.
Sutton: My stint as a federal game warden soured me on big game hunting. Today I’m involved mainly in wing-shooting and fly-fishing. Each year I hunt chukars in Idaho, pheasants in South Dakota, and fish trout, steelhead, and salmon throughout the American west.
Now I suppose you could take that in other ways, but given the negativity and even comptempt he has shown in dealing with hunters and fishermen through discussions about the MLPA, the lead ammo ban, and the railroading of former Commissioner Dan Richards, it’s pretty obvious to me that Sutton’s negative attitude is reflected in his actions on the Commission. When you combine this with his questionable (at best) role in the passage of the MLPA regulations and the lead ammo ban expansion, it seems clear that this man is not suited to be part of the CA Fish and Game Commission.
It’s up to you, CA hunters and fishermen. Turn your back, get on with your own affairs, and let this fall where it may. Hell, it’s just politics, right? But if you take that path, you’ll have no one to blame but yourselves when you see one hunting or fishing opportunity after another stripped away. The CA Fish and Game Commission is almost completely made up now of bureaucrats with little or no involvement in hunting or fishing (the exception being Commissioner Jim Kellogg). They have no stake in the future of either pursuit, and as such they are subject to the constant ministrations of HSUS, Audubon, and other animal rights/anti-hunting organizations.
Or you can take an active role. Contact Sonke Mastrup, Executive Director of the CA Fish and Game Commission. Use email, phone calls, and snail mail. And contact your state representatives in Sacramento. Demand fair representation for hunters and fishermen on the FGC.
February 13, 2014
… with a 9-pound sledge.
I’ve mentioned before how California’s wildlife management decisions are falling more and more victim to the influence of animal rights organizations, like HSUS. The lobbying group has gone beyond just showing up at occasional meetings, and has managed to embed itself in both the legislature and the Fish and Game agencies (Fish and Game Commission and Dept. of Fish and Game). And the venom is slowly seeping in… infecting the whole organism.
To the uninformed, the whole thing probably seems fairly innocuous. In fact, on the outside it looks like HSUS is doing good things, such as working with the DFG to enhance their abilities to fight poaching. They even convened a nice little showcase of their efforts recently in a web conference on the topic. The panelists in the conference included representatives from DFG and the Fish and Game Commission, notably, Commissioner Michael Sutton. And, of course, they said all the right things to show what a huge problem poaching is in CA, and how their mutual efforts to apprehend and punish the perpetrators are paying off.
But Sutton let something slip that wasn’t the “right thing” at all. Here’s a snip from from independent public television station, KCET’s coverage of the conference:
As Fish and Game Commission president Mike Sutton pointed out during the panel, California’s wildlife face other threats in addition to poaching. In some cases, said Sutton, actual legal hunting or harvesting of wildlife may cause greater overall problems. “I actually believe legal hunting that’s not sustainable may be a more pervasive problem in California,” said Sutton.
Now, I’m just not even sure where to start with this.
First, and to be as fair as I can, I didn’t participate in the web conference and I haven’t spoken to Mr. Sutton to find out what he meant by that statement. As far as I’ve been able to find, no one else has either. Maybe he was misquoted. Maybe he didn’t mean that to come out the way it did. Those are possibilities.
But if we take this at face value, which I think is as fair as anything else, it looks pretty bad.
First of all, let’s look at the argument that there might be unsustainable, legal hunting in California. What does that look like? I think that, with the exception of anti-hunting organizations, it’s generally recognized that regulated sport hunting is, by nature, sustainable. In fact, I’d argue that it’s better than sustainable… it presents a net benefit for the resource. If it’s true that CA allows unsustainable hunting practices to continue under the law, then there is a problem. And that problem lies at the feet of the CA Fish and Wildlife Commission. They are, after all, the rule-makers. And Michael Sutton is the Commission’s president.
But, if this were the case, then I’d like to clearly understand what those unsustainable, legal practices are. What proposals are in place to curtail them, and ensure that the Golden State’s sportsmen aren’t unwittingly (or not) doing more harm than poachers?
But, since this is my blog and I get to hypothesize, my money says the “unsustainable” practices trend more toward those activities with which HSUS tends to take issue… bear and bobcat hunting, the use of hounds, etc. There’s no question someone in the Commission has bent a sympathetic ear to Jennifer Fearing and Co., and Michael Sutton is one obvious choice.
The problem, as I see it, is that Sutton’s comment was more reflective of his personal antipathy toward sport hunters than any quantifiable wildlife management challenge. It was an antagonistic statement, and in light of it, I think it’s valid to question his objectivity in the decision-making process. Given previous challenges to his impartiality, including allegations of conflict of interest in both the lead ammo ban regulations and the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) regulations, it’s worth arguing that Sutton’s continued presence on the Fish and Wildlife Commission would only serve as a distraction to the completion of business from this point forward.
I’ve said it ad nauseum, and I’ll do it some more… California hunters need to take the CA Fish and Wildlife Commission by the horns. The animal rights concerns are gaining ground because they’re doing what CA sportsmen haven’t done… getting directly involved in the process, making noise without stop, and never giving up. They’re putting their money on the line, funding poaching hotlines and rewards, and the non-hunting public is buying it all with wide-eyed ignorance. Hunters and fishermen need to start doing the same.
A good start would be to contact your representatives, as well as the Fish and Wildlife Commission, and demand that Sutton be removed from the Commission altogether. Then stay involved, and make sure that his replacement is someone who CA sportsmen can count on to support their interests. That’s not enough, but it’s a start.
Hat tip to Jim Matthews of the Outdoor News Service (ONS) for alerting me to this topic.
February 12, 2014
OK, so in lieu of a new Blogger Spotlight this week, I’ve got something else on my mind. And, as usual, I’m gonna get to it the long way around.
One of the things I’ve always enjoyed about blogging is the interaction with readers via comments, and sometimes through email. I believe the real value and knowledge that comes from a site like The Hog Blog isn’t the information I share, but the discussions that ensue about that information. I am definitely not a font of all knowledge, and I can pretty much guarantee that no other blogger out there is either (no matter how some may like to think they are). I believe there’s something to learn from every dialog, and even a rank neophyte can bring a new and valuable perspective to the conversation. I have stood corrected more times than I can recall over the past several years, and I lay good odds it’ll happen again. While I prefer not to be wrong, I do appreciate being educated when I am.
I also appreciate comments because they can help me see what content is of interest to readers. I get ideas for topics and gear to review. I’m often surprised by the responses to posts that I thought would be fairly inconsequential, and by the lack of comments to posts that I expected to generate some heat. It’s good to get a feel for that sort of thing (although I still can’t figure out the secret formula for consistently generating extended conversations).
Of course, I’ll add that getting comments on a post strokes the ego of the blogger. Blogs are nothing if not vanity outlets… our own little soap boxes where we can publish whatever we think is worth saying. We’re validated when our posts generate comments. It’s nice to be heard, and even nicer to be appreciated for our efforts.
And I think that’s a two-way street.
I believe commenters also need a little validation and appreciation. They have, after all, taken time out of their lives to respond to our blog posts. In my opinion, they deserve some sort of response, even if it’s just a hasty, “thanks for the comment!”
And there’s my pet peeve… bloggers who don’t bother to respond to their readers’ comments.
I mean, I’m not perfect. I know there are times when I just don’t get back to the comments. Regardless of my excuse, I feel like I’ve let the reader down when that happens. So I do try to consistently acknowledge feedback, whether positive, negative, or neutral. I believe every blogger owes their readers the same level of respect.
Sometimes, my response is commensurate with the effort the commenter made. So, for example, if I see a simple, “good post,” or (god forbid), “ditto,” I’m a little less inclined to respond at length. But even then I feel like I should spend 10 seconds to write a thank-you. If the comment is more substantial, my response generally is a bit more robust as well. And as some folks know, I do love a debate.
I’m aware that many bloggers, like myself, have lives outside of the blog. We have families and day jobs and obligations. There aren’t many of us who make a living from WordPress or Blogspot, so sometimes this little corner of the Interweb gets shoved to a back burner. I totally understand about conflicting priorities.
But I can’t understand how someone who can take the time to post a blog entry can’t take the time to read and reply to comments… at least most of the time.
At any rate, I know I’ve got a lot of blogger “friends” out there who have fallen into this habit and I don’t mean any of this to be taken personally, but really… tend to your comments. Respond to your readers. Let them know you appreciate that they’re taking the time to read what you’ve written. Blogs are social media. Be social.
February 11, 2014
It’s funny that a few weeks ago I was sort of bemoaning the fact that all of my hunting has been right here at the ranch. I haven’t been anywhere in ages. And suddenly, I have to start making choices about which hunts I can manage and which I can’t. Just this coming spring there’s the opportunity for hogs in Mississippi, turkeys somewhere between here and CA, hogs in CA, and an exotics hunt here in TX with some of my friends from CA… and the spring hunting fever is only just cranking up.
It sounds great, of course, and I’m sort of stoked. But somewhere in that mix I have to work the day job. I have to pay for all this. No sponsors are kicking out for me to load up the truck and burn fuel hither and yon. There is, truly, only so much time in a day… a month… a year. And even more truly, there’s only so many ducats in my bank account. This seems to happen every year, along with the realization that I probably can’t do it all.
I know, I know… “oh, poor, pitiful Phillip.”
I can hear your empathetic moans of commiseration, and the sentiment is honestly appreciated.
So are donations.
But I digress…
Actually, I’m not sure I can digress if I didn’t really know what point I was trying to make in the first place. It’s just one of those crazy times… famine to feast… and like pretty much any other hunter, I only wish I could take advantage of every opportunity that arises. Alas.
Oh, and no donations, please. Hold onto your money. Go hunting.
February 5, 2014
Back up to Spokane again, and boy howdy what a week I picked to come up! Woke up to temps below 0, with a wind chill in the neighborhood of -20.
I know, I know, those of you who live in really cold places may scoff and say, “ah, that’s nothing!”
Well, to you I say scoffing goes both ways. You’re the damned fool who lives in a place like that. Give that a ponder.
Anyway, looks like it’ll get colder tomorrow.
February 3, 2014
Somewhere along the lines, I asked if you guys wanted to hear about anything particular while I was at the SHOT Show this year. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the time on the floor that I’d hoped, and even at the Range Day, I didn’t shoot everything that burned powder… so my coverage was comparatively narrow. However, someone did ask about the Benelli Ethos.
First, my ad nauseum moment… I am not the biggest fan of semi-automatic hunting guns. It’s personal taste, primarily, as the old complaints about reliability and maintenance have been (more or less) addressed in the modern variations. But I don’t much trust them, and there’s just something about the enhanced ability to spray-and-pray that leaves me unenthusiastic about their use for hunting.
But it’s not about me, and autoloaders have become pretty much a staple in the world of waterfowling, as well as amongst turkey hunters. You’ll even see them in the hands of the occasional upland hunter, although such heretical disregard for tradition and appearances will certainly earn the scowling disapproval of the purist. The guys who love these guns have made some reasonably solid justifications for the choice. Of course there’s the fast follow-up shot, but there’s also the fact that the operation of the semi-auto action tends to soften the thumping of those heavy, magnum rounds so popular with the duck, goose, turkey, and pterodactyl hunter. I mean, seriously, a three and a half inch magnum to kill ducks? You guys do realize that it’s not self-defense, right? Maybe if you weren’t touching off artillery rounds you wouldn’t need something to soften the recoil.
But I digress.
In the interest of my reader(s), I am willing to shoot pretty much anything (especially if someone else is buying the ammo), so I found myself at Range Day, standing at the Benelli tent. With me was my friend, Holly Heyser, the blogger formerly known as NorCal Cazadora. Holly’s gone and gotten all professional and such, and is now Editor of the California Waterfowl magazine. She also does some freelance work, and a fairly regular column in Shotgun Life. And there’s other stuff, but I really didn’t intend to write a whole post about Holly. The point is, Holly has been deeply bitten by the waterfowling bug (I used to have that disease, but I’m mostly over it now), and she is not a bit put off by shotguns that shoot as fast as you can pull the trigger. The other point is, with Holly around, we could take pictures of one another shooting… which is much easier than taking selfies while trying to break flying targets.
So the Benelli…
The Ethos is a beautiful gun. This is something Benelli has always done well, so it’s no surprise there. Semi-autos have evolved a bit since the humpback Browning or the old Remington 1100, and the Ethos is a sleek, streamlined beauty compared to those old-timers. It’s also very light, weighing in around six and a half pounds. Compare that to around eight pounds for the 1100, or over nine pounds in the Browning A-5. (Browning/Winchester have introduced newer semi-autos to compete in this weight class… but this post isn’t about them right now.)
As soon as a gun was freed up, I handed it off to Holly and fired up the camera. Watching her handle the gun, it was easy enough to see she was pretty pleased… despite her professed dedication to her Beretta. In fact, I think that if the Beretta had been watching her with the Ethos, it would almost certainly have jammed on her next hunt out of pure spite and jealousy.
When Holly finally surrendered the gun, I figured I’d have a go as well. I hefted the thing in my hands, getting a feel for the weight and balance. It had just the right amount of both. Then the guy started giving me shells.
The Benelli Ethos shot distressingly well. I’m no great shakes as a shotgunner, by any stretch of the imagination, but I broke some clays. The gun just went where I thought it should go, and it didn’t seem to take much effort at all. Worst of all, the guy kept feeding me ammo so I had no choice but to keep shooting the damned thing. I swear, I almost came to like it.
So we were only shooting target loads, but it is worthwhile to mention the gentleness of this 12 gauge shotgun’s recoil. Compared to my old 311, or even my M37 Featherweight, this was like leaning my shoulder into a feather pillow. I could imagine a day of dove hunting with this thing, and coming home without so much as a purpling of my shooting arm. Is such a thing possible?
OK, before I get completely carried away, there are a few more notes of note. First of all, at this point, the Ethos is only available in a wood stock (AA grade, satin walnut). I expect the market will drive them to something synthetic and camo-cool, but right now this is what you get. Personally, of course, I like wood stocks and in my experience under some pretty nasty conditions, they serve just fine.
You can have your gun with a pretty, engraved nickel action, or you can get it simple and anodized. Both seem almost too pretty for the average duck marsh, but I guess a lot of guns start out that way. Neither is so flashy that I wouldn’t take them hunting, but the anodized looks a little more utilitarian. A little TLC will go a long ways toward keeping this thing both beautiful and deadly… and I believe we could all give our guns a little more TLC.
There are a lot more details for the technically minded, but if you really want that sort of thing there are myriad reviews available all over the web, or you can just go to the Benelli website to learn for yourself. The last detail that I found pertinent, however, was the price tag. If you have to ask…
So the fact is, the price of quality firearms is going steadily skyward. I haven’t really been in the market of late, but just from conversations with folks who have, a thousand bucks isn’t going to get you into a new semi-auto these days. The Benelli Ethos MSRP is right at $2K… a little more for the nickel, and a shade less for the anodized. I’m guessing you’d do pretty well to pick one up off the store shelf for $1750 or so… depending on your dealer’s connections and profit margins. That’s a lot of ducats, in my mind, but it seems to be the way of the
future present. I found Beretta, arguably the closest contender in the field, around the same price point. Remington’s higher-end alternative to the 1100, the Versa-Max, is coming in close as well, with an MSRP around $1730 (depending on features). On the other hand, Browning’s new A5 and Winchester X3 are coming in a shade under $1500.