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The Deer Feeder Argument Redux

November 12, 2014

Who needs the expense of filling a feeder when the oaks are dropping acorns right in the driveway?

Who needs the expense of filling a feeder when the oaks are dropping acorns right in the driveway, just outside my office window?

Every year at about this time, almost like clockwork, you’ll start hearing the fuss about hunting over bait.  The arguments get hot, and they almost always break down into a couple of contingents.

First of all, you’ve got the guys who are trying to defend the use of feeders.  You’ll hear all sorts of justifications and rationalizations, ranging from the argument that, “it’s the only way you’ll see a deer in ‘X’ habitat,” to “it allows you to be selective and take a clean shot.”  I think there’s an element of truth to much of this, although I can certainly understand that some of it probably sounds a little weak to the uninitiated.

On other side are the guys who argue that, “that’s not hunting.”  To these guys, the prevalent impression is that baiting deer creates the target-rich environment that you see on some hunting shows, and that it takes all the skill out of hunting.  If you dig a little, you’ll find that most of the baiting opponents come from a background where baiting is (or was) illegal and many of them have never actually hunted over bait.  They are arguing solely on the strength of their prejudices.

The truth, as usual, falls somewhere in the middle.

On the one hand, baiting definitely can make hunting easier.  For the meat hunter, shooting over a well-managed feeder can be a lot like harvesting crops.  A timed feeder can condition the animals, and lots of does and younger bucks will show up like they’re punching a time clock when that feeder goes off.  Under the right conditions, you can wait until ten minutes before the feeder goes off, climb into your blind or stand, and just whack the one you want when they come out.  A feeder doesn’t make them tame though (although you can certainly condition them to accept a level of human proximity if you have lots of time and patience), and in areas where there is other hunting pressure, they’ll get downright skittish once the seasons are open.  But there’s no doubt a feeder or bait pile will bring in animals consistently and make it easier to see and shoot them.

On the other hand, baiting does not automatically equate to easy hunting, especially if you are targeting mature bucks.  Big bucks have been around the block a time or two, and to perpetuate an irritatingly true cliché, they don’t get big by being stupid.  The hunter can up the challenge as well by selecting close range weapons, such as a bow or muzzleloader.  And even the does and youngsters tend to catch on pretty quickly, once the hunting pressure is on.  Scent control, concealment, and being still are all pretty critical if you want to be close to wild deer… feeder or no feeder.

For my own part, I used to refuse to hunt over bait, but I also didn’t judge folks who did.  Like hound hunting, it’s just not the way I wanted to get it done.  A lot of that had to do with the hunting terrain and opportunities I had at the time.  Most of my hunting took place on public land in NC, so even if baiting had been legal on public land (it wasn’t then… not sure about now), all I would have accomplished would be to bait up deer for other hunters.  Instead, I learned to locate and pattern deer, and then set up my stand to optimize my chance at spotting and shooting them.  Once you learn a little bit about the deer and the ground you are hunting, this isn’t really all that difficult.

Over time, my attitude about hunting over bait has changed, for a lot of reasons.  I think using bait definitely changes the nature of the hunt because it allows you to determine where and (sometimes) when the animals are feeding.  This is certainly unnatural, and I can understand how this upsets the aesthetics of some hunting purists.  But I also think it can be a practical approach, especially for the hunter who has limited time or limited property.  We can’t all spend 90 days of a 100 day season in the field, and we don’t all hunt big country that allows us to scout and locate core areas.  We’re pretty much stuck with what we’ve got, and have to make the best of it… and sometimes making the best of it means hanging a feeder, spreading corn, or planting a food plot.

Nature runs feeders all the time, throughout the year.  This summer, after a little blessed rain, it was agarita berries, followed shortly by persimmons.  Now it’s acorns.  In the photo at the top of this page, those deer have been coming back to my driveway pretty much every day for the past week.  The live oaks are dumping acorns this year.  Meanwhile, about 200 yards or so from where these guys are gorging themselves right beside the road, there are about 25 pounds of corn just scattered around the hillside… in good edge cover, no less.  And these deer haven’t even bothered to go up there and get it.

Anyway, if you’re lucky enough to have these natural feeders running on your place in a huntable location, then good on ya!  But if you don’t, or if drought or other conditions shut those feeders down, then sometimes you have to take things into your own hands.

Lead Ban Chronicles – International Convention On Migratory Species Calls For Lead Ammo Ban

November 11, 2014

Lead Ban ChroncilesI’ve mentioned, a time or two, that the challenges to the use of lead ammunition aren’t limited to the United States.  The United Kingdom and many European countries have also enacted various bans or restrictions on the use of lead ammo.  In the UK, lead is banned for use on migratory fowl, and also banned over certain wetlands and waterways.  There is also an ongoing push by some environmental/animal rights groups to ban all lead ammo.  In Europe, a convention had initially resolved to phase-out of all lead ammunition, but that plan stalled as the realities of replacing lead projectiles ran up against opposition from hunters and shooting organizations who challenged the science behind banning lead (especially without thoroughly researching the potential dangers of alternative metals, such as tungsten).

The discussion has also been taking place on an international level, and at last week’s Convention on Migratory Species sessions in Quito, Ecuador, a resolution was passed to phase out lead ammunition globally.  Of course, the resolution is non-binding, and it includes language to allow individual countries to set their own regulations.  So, the resolution is essentially lip service, but it’s lip service on a pretty big scale.   And no, North America is not represented at this convention, according to the CMS website.

There’s a pretty solid write-up about the resolution and the way it’s being received in Great Britain in the Western Morning News.  What I found particularly interesting was the different takes from two of Britain’s largest hunting and shooting organizations, the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) and the Countryside Alliance.  Whereas BASC is directly challenging the resolution (and the science behind it), the Countryside Alliance is happy that the resolution allows member countries to select their own path, and that it does not call for a blanket ban on all lead ammo… it’s all very glass-half-full vs. glass-half-empty.

Where it’s all going to end is still anyone’s guess.  I think it’s important for hunters and shooting sports enthusiasts to continue to push back on any sort of lead ammo ban, and to insist that any efforts to restrict or ban lead ammunition are solidly based in science.  At the same time, I also think we should all continue to educate ourselves and to study the impacts… not only of lead ammo, but the lead alternatives.  There is a very real risk here that, in the rush to ban lead, we replace it with something equally dangerous (or worse).

 

 

Seeking Advice On The Internet

November 10, 2014

I probably spend too much time on Facebook.  It’s not as much as some folks apparently spend, and I can certainly offer all sorts of justifications and rationalizations for being there, but nevertheless, I spend a lot of time there.  Before Facebook came around, I spent too much time on various Internet forums, and before that, it was AOL chat rooms.  I wasn’t really involved when The Well was happening, and CompuServe was just a little too labor intensive and geeky for my tastes, but for all my criticism, I’m as infected by social media as anyone else.

Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of stuff that really made me shake my head.  And it still does.  But there’s something I’ve observed since the beginning, and after another recent experience, I realized it was good fodder for a blog post.  Maybe it’ll even be helpful.

There’s a sort of aphorism floating around out there that says, “everyone is an expert on the Internet.”

It doesn’t seem to matter what the topic is, whether current events, politics, or science, once it pops up online it’s like every layperson on the Web suddenly has something “intelligent” to add.  The thing is, a lot of the information floating around isn’t worth the pixels on your monitor.  You have to take anything you “learn” from the Internet with a spoonful of salt (a grain isn’t enough).  It doesn’t mean the person providing the misinformation isn’t well-meaning, but good intentions don’t necessarily mean subject matter knowledge.  And in some cases, whether due to an agenda or simple malice, the information is intentionally incorrect.  Social media has done wonders for folks studying meme theory.

The point is, if you’re trying to learn something online, you can certainly do so.  The best approach is to research credible sources, and then double-check the research.  It seems like this would go without saying, but the last place you should go for objective, factual knowledge, is to social media.

It’s a great place for opinions, of course.  If you want for an opinion about a certain rifle or scope, post the question on Facebook or a hunting forum and you’ll get all sorts of input.  People love to give their opinions, and the anonymity of the Internet allows them to be as critical as they want without fear of repercussions.  You can incite a pretty extensive (and sometimes heated) discussion, and glean all the information you ever wanted from the results.

But this really isn’t the most effective way to get factual information, and it’s a really bad idea when the information you want concerns the law.

Far too many times, I’ve seen posts from individuals asking for information about hunting regulations.  This is not a topic where you want to rely on some stranger’s interpretation or opinion.  There are a bunch of people out there who think they know the law, and a significant number of them are wrong.  But that doesn’t stop them from trying to educate you anyway.

There is one reliable source for information about hunting rules and regulations, and that is the documentation provided by the State or Federal wildlife agencies.  At this point in time, I think every state now provides online access to the full regulations, and most publish a digest version that highlights the most frequently asked questions.  These documents will give you, in writing, exactly what you need to know.  They are, literally, the letter of the law.

Now I’ve heard some people complain that the regulations aren’t decipherable by normal humans.  While I think most people who complain about this simply don’t want to make the effort to read through the whole document, I have to agree that, sometimes, the legalese can be a little convoluted and confusing.  Folks just want a specific answer to a specific question… and they want it right now.   This leads them to the veritable font of instant gratification, social media.

Here’s the problem with that.  Ostensibly, researching a law or regulation suggests that you want to ensure that your actions do not violate said law or regulation.  And typically, your reasoning for this is that you don’t want to be cited, fined, or arrested.  This seems like a pretty simple, logical chain of thought.  Then why would you put yourself at risk by asking anonymous strangers to interpret the laws and regulations for you?

In addition to posting the regulatory documents online, most states also offer online access to actual game wardens or agency officials.  In some cases, there’s an online form you can fill out, or in other cases there is an email address you can use.  Response rates aren’t always what we’d like them to be, but the response that you do get comes right from the horse’s mouth.  Even better, it’s in writing.  If you don’t want to wait for an electronic response, there’s an old-school approach you can always use.  Pick up the telephone and call the agency directly.

I know.  Sometimes the information you get from a game warden (or any law enforcement officer) is filtered through that individual’s own agenda and opinion.  I expect that some of you out there, at some time in your hunting career, have run into a game warden who seemed to be less informed about the regulations than you were.  If you haven’t, you probably will.  These guys can’t be expected to memorize the entire Fish and Game Code, much less the state and federal laws.  Ask yourself, though, are you more likely to get reliable information from an agent of the State responsible for upholding the law, or from someone you’ve never met, whose intentions you don’t know?

So one more time, this is not compound versus recurve, or 30-06 versus .270.  The stakes are real and potentially significant (high fines, loss of hunting privileges, confiscation of equipment, etc.).  It makes no sense to gamble on faulty information from social media, when you can get accurate information with a little extra effort.

Just don’t do it.

 

The Hog Blog Horn Porn Review – Self-Awareness and Outdoor Channel Runs Product Ads On Facebook?

November 7, 2014

First of all, you guys fail. 

I don’t expect a ton of participation from the bots and crawlers that make up the bulk of my site traffic, but I sort of figured some human out there must read, and care enough to think we could come up with a better title for the TV review posts.  But what did I get?  Nada.  So I came up with something myself. 

See what you get?  That’ll teach you… or not.

This week, it’s all about self-awareness.  Well, self-awareness, and a few other things.  But we’ll start with the easy one.

Mossy Oak produces and sponsors a bunch of TV shows.  That’s no surprise, since the company has become one of the monsters of the industry.  Like their chief competitor, RealTree, these former camo companies have blown up to dominate everything from product branding to outdoor-oriented real estate.  Just the other day, I got a press release about a new set of ear buds, branded by Mossy Oak and JBL.  No, really.  Ear buds.  For your portable music player or game machine, or whatever.

It’s also no surprise that, on their programs, folks wear a lot of camo.  That’s just what you do when a camo company is footing the tab for your hunt, your gear, and in some cases, signing your paycheck.  So, for example, the other day on Mossy Oak’s Hunting the Country program, they had a bunch of folks hunting whitetails down in Texas.  It was chilly (for Texas), and every hunter was garbed, head-to-toe, in Mossy Oak camo.  I don’t recall the pattern.  There are so many now, who can keep up?  The point is, everyone was pretty well outfitted with some great camo.

And then they loaded up and drove out to their box blinds.

So, generally, this is a small thing.  Of course, we all know that you don’t need camo if you’re hunting from a shooting house.  (Personally, I don’t think you need camo at all to hunt big game with a rifle, but that’s neither here nor there.)  But I don’t really care if you choose to wear it anyway.  Still, there’s a sort of irony in the voiceover pointing out that the hunters are geared up in their Mossy Oak camo, and the implication that this will somehow help them to be successful on this hunt.  Because it won’t.   As a viewer, I couldn’t help thinking that these guys could be wearing Speedos and Hawaiian shirts for all the difference it would make.

The only reason I picked this particular episode of this particular program, by the way, is because it’s the one I was watching when it struck me to pick up my notepad and jot it down.  The phenomenon itself is endemic across the genre.  Whether it’s Mossy Oak hunting in Texas, Real Tree in Missouri, or the Under Armor guys in Alabama, you watch them promote the camo clothing and then climb into an enclosed stand to shoot deer at 100 yards or more.  It’s mildly off-putting because these guys, as professional hunters, have to know that the camo makes no difference in that situation.  At the very least, they could drop a comment now and then to let us know they recognize what we’re all saying.  Where’s the self-awareness?

What would be cool, by the way, is if one of these companies would produce and promote a new pattern just for the shooting house hunter… sort of like the guys hunting from ground blinds who have adopted black hoodies to blend into the black interior of the blind.  Now that makes sense.  Not sure what this shooting house pattern would look like, although I’d imagine something like rough grains of CDX plywood.  You can get Plain-ol-Pine®, or you can go for the gusto and get the Marine Grade Green® pattern.  For the upscale hunter, maybe something like Beaded Birch Paneling®, or Fiberglass Grey®.

I had another topic, but this literally just came up…

I follow the hunting channels (Sportsman Channel, Outdoor Channel, and Pursuit) on Facebook.  In addition to getting previews and notices about upcoming new shows and episodes, they also share clips, photos and tidbits from the various programs and celebrity hunters.  And, of course, they do contests.  It’s usually a reasonably good balance of promotion and entertainment.  But this morning, as I popped over to say good morning to Kat (she’s in Raleigh, I’m in Texas), I caught a new post from The Outdoor Channel.  It was a full-length ad for a product that has nothing to do with the Outdoor Channel or any of the programs that air there.  There wasn’t even any context to link back to the programming or the network itself.  Just an ad.

To say the least, I was taken aback.

Isn’t this a little much?  Logically, of course, I recognized the utility of what they were doing.  I expect there’s good money to be made by extending your advertisers’ exposure from the TV network to social media.  It seems pretty efficient, in a business sense, I think.  Of course, I’m definitely no businessman.

No, what I see here is overreach.

I understand that the whole reason a corporation establishes a social media presence is for self-promotion.  The hunting channels advertise themselves and their programming via these channels, and it’s pretty successful.  In addition to exposure, it provides a certain amount of interactivity for the viewers and that establishes a deeper, personal investment.  It creates a sense of ownership and connection.  You know, the psychology of marketing and all that.

And maybe that’s why this advertisement thing shook me a little.  To me (and maybe I’m just weird), it felt a little too exploitative.  It was a violation of my trust because, well, social media is personal.  This is the same platform I use to communicate with my circle of friends and my loved ones.  I let the Outdoor Channel into that circle, and here they’re going to pollute this place by running ads?  At the very least, it’s disappointing.

I’m hoping this was just an experiment on the part of the Outdoor Channel’s social networking team, and that they will reconsider the practice.  Like most viewers of the hunting channels, I already feel a little over-saturated with advertising and product placement during the course of regular programming.  I generally watch it anyway.  But if the ads start to extend to the social network sites as well, then that’s going to be too bad.  Personally, I know I’ll stop following the feeds and I expect a fair number of other folks will do the same.

As I said before, I’m no businessman.  But it seems to me that there’s a cost-benefit consideration here.  I would think that the Outdoor Channel brings in enough advertising revenue through its regular channels that it would be able to justify running social media campaigns as overhead… a marketing expense.  If so, then alienating viewers by pushing ads to social media would be somewhat counterproductive.

But maybe that’s just me.

A Little Fun In The Rain

November 5, 2014

It’s been a little dry down here in the Hill Country lately.  How dry?

So dry that the whitetails have come out to play in the puddles!

And Now For Something Completely Different…

November 4, 2014

I got this press release in my email on Friday, and at first glance, I started to dump it.  But after a moment or two, I decided it would make an interesting post to share.

OETKER COLLECTION’S LE BRISTOL PARIS CELEBRATES HUNTING SEASON

Le Bristol Paris table setting

You really need to click this image to see it larger. Now THIS is a table fit for a king.

PARIS, Oct. 31, 2014 – Hunting season has officially commenced at Le Bristol Paris. Hunting has always been a true source of inspiration in both art and cuisine. To pay tribute to these traditions, Le Bristol’s hunting table will be recreated and featured as a still life hunting exhibit in the foyer of the famous Parisian luxury hotel.

Precious crockery, silverware, Saint Louis crystal and stuffed game birds are adorned by fruit and flowers dressed in autumn colors. Each element arranged on this 18th century table will be overseen by interior decorator Lydwine Labergerie. This harmonious ensemble will also evoke the still life paintings of 17th century Dutch painters.

The beginning of fall also marks the arrival of game on the menu at Epicure, Le Bristol’s triple Michelin-starred gastronomic restaurant. Its master Chef Eric Frechon is looking forward to the arrival of these new products, which he greatly enjoys preparing. For example, Hare à la Royale, served with Jerusalem artichoke ravioli with black truffle, celeriac and chestnuts with horseradish is one of his works of art. Thirty years of research has perfected this classic French dish for Epicure’s gourmet customers to enjoy. Wild duck and hen pheasant will be added to the menu throughout the autumn.

If the hunting season proves fruitful, Epicure’s clientele will occasionally be treated to off-the-menu dishes recommended in person by Epicure’s Manager Frédéric Kaiser, winner of a Best French Craftsman award in 2011.
This staged scene is a temporary exhibit, to be admired at Le Bristol Paris until November 10th.

ABOUT OETKER COLLECTION

Oetker Collection is one of the most inspiring selections of masterpiece hotels in the world. The name ‘Masterpiece Hotels’ includes a pledge; a commitment to provide service of the highest quality, every hour of every day. The pearl as a symbol combines singularity, beauty and quality. The individual pearls bind together to form a unique string of pearls. Each property is one-of-a-kind, reflecting the unique European heritage and sharing the highest levels of service internationally with exceptional and historic architecture & interiors combining with great attention to detail.

Oetker Collection embraces eight luxury hotels:

  • L’Apogée Courchevel – a luxury chalet with a warm and family atmosphere offering the most desirable skiing experience at the top of Courchevel 1850 in the French Alps.
  • Brenners Park-Hotel & Spa – the most iconic grand hotel, amidst a sprawling private park in Baden-Baden, Germany. The historic Villa Stéphanie will soon open its doors to offer Europe’s most refined and innovative spa experience.
  • Le Bristol Paris – an authentic Parisian palace completely refurbished, the ultimate reference for French art-de-vivre, ideally located on the prestigious rue du Faubourg St-Honoré.
  • Château Saint-Martin & Spa – a romantic chateau of excellence nestled in the heart of Provence, boasting breathtaking views over the Mediterranean coastline.
  • Eden Rock – a luxurious retreat in St Barths built on a rocky promontory, surrounded by white sandy beaches, and turquoise sea; French art-de-vivre in the heart of the Caribbean.
  • Fregate Island Private – a jewel of conservation featuring lush forest, wild fauna, and overlooking the crystal waters of the Seychelles. Unique on the Planet.
  • Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc – a legendary luxury hotel at the centre of a scenic private park, where old-world glamour meets modern luxury at the tip of the Cap d’Antibes.
  • Palais Namaskar – a peaceful oasis with contemporary and sophisticated design set in the Palmeraie, the most exclusive residential area in Marrakech.

Biographies and further information available: www.oetkercollection.com

The email included a small photo of the aforementioned table setting, but it’s too small to see anything.  I sent an email asking for a larger photo, but since I had no response, I figured we’d go with the release as is.

What I, personally found interesting was the sort of juxtaposition of the rough and rural (hunting season) against the opulence of this luxury hotel.  It reminded me that the way we see hunting as Americans isn’t necessarily the same in other countries.  In many parts of Europe, hunted wild game can be sold on the market, and it is available in restaurants as a seasonal treat.  I love that this particular hotel recognizes and celebrates the season with such flair.

Of course, I’d love to go there and spend a week, in order to provide all of you readers with a first hand report of the quality of food and service at Le Bristol Paris, so if any of you feels like generously sponsoring such a trip, let me know.  I’ll be sure to credit you and offer the most sincere gratitude for your largess.

 

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