Rambling Man (And Dog)

June 25, 2015

I’ve often believed that there are currents and waves that flow through and connect certain spirits. It would explain why occasional moods seem to take some of us at the same time, despite geographic separation. Case in point, Chad Love’s recent rumination on his peregrination. Even as he must have been drafting this beautiful piece of work, I was struggling with some ideas of my own in regards to rambling in my temporary, suburban environs.  His is better, by the way.

I like rambling… the word and the activity itself.

There’s a difference between walking and rambling. Most people around here walk. They stroll along the white path of the concrete sidewalk, seldom straying to set foot on the grass or to wander into the trees. Nevermind that the trees are mostly planted stands of whispy decorative plants, carefully selected and placed by landscapers not so much to provide native cover or wildlife habitat as to create a pleasant view for all the residents who look but don’t touch.

I’ll be honest. Most of the time, I set out to simply walk, and it’s from necessity… duty… taking Iggy out to stretch his legs and satisfy his excretory needs. Since he can’t hop up and go to the bathroom on his own, and cutting him loose to roam the neighborhood is neither socially acceptable nor safe (for him), I have to go out with him.

Sometimes, the neighbors are out walking their own dogs… pets on leashes, led from sidewalk to sidewalk to pee on trees, signposts, and fire hydrants. They crap on the manicured sod, and the owners (who’s the master here?) are right behind them with little plastic bags to pick it up and carry it home. All around the complex, there are still undeveloped woods, a couple of big fields, and even vacant lots, but the dogs stay within the length of the leash, just off the sidewalk, leading the people along the concrete trail.

I watch the spectacle, and I can’t really decipher my feelings… humor? Disdain? Disgust? Pity? I’m not even sure to whom I’d direct this response… the dogs or the people? Myself?

Iggy and I set off with a specific objective. We follow the sidewalk, and I keep him close at heel to keep him from going in the neighbor’s little patches of “yard”. There’s a fire hydrant on the corner, and he can lift his leg there. Anything else, though, will wait until we’re out of the complex and into the woods across the street. He knows the routine, and sets the pace according to the urgency of his needs.

Once we’re there, though, the rambling begins in earnest. Iggy runs ahead, eager to just be a dog for a while, and I follow aimlessly, eager to just be out there.

Sometimes we wander into the patch of trees (designated with a sign that says, “Tree Sanctuary,” and breaks my heart). There are rabbits there, quick little cottontails, and Iggy encountered his first soft-shelled armadillo (‘possum) under a patch of wild grapes. The trails, such as they are, wind between tree trunks, vines, and briars. An old tree house, falling to pieces, and a few rusted cans and old bottles belie the fact that, not so long ago, this place was still country. The city only came here recently.

The spider webs between the trees usually get the better of my mild arachnophobia, and I’ll lead us out into the big, flood control field. Iggy roams wide, smelling smells and running along with his nose to the ground. A little group of deer have acclimated to the rapidly growing housing development, and we see them often when we’re out in the early morning or late at night. Iggy looks at the deer and looks back to me, waiting for a command I won’t give, and we continue along. There’s no sidewalk, not even a trail, and not another single footprint or dog track.

Sometimes, we’ll cross over to an old logging road that leads into the unruly, briar choked thicket that was once a pine forest. This section was logged a few years back, and so far the developers haven’t bothered to roll in with the dozers and graders. We can only go a couple hundred yards down the trail before it is swallowed in a dense tangle of blackberries, catclaws, scrub oak, and sapling pines. In shorts and Tevas, this is as far as I’ll go, but I let Iggy bound through the thickets for a bit before I call him back.

On the way back, there’s a mound made of the spoils from grading the road bed. The little hill is covered with planted trees and mulch, and Iggy and I will trace the back of the hill, just out of sight of the passing traffic, pretending or dreaming that we’re still out in the country, and not a short hop from the grime of Durham and Raleigh.

The fantasy is best later at night, after the airport (RDU) has slowed down and the busy worker bees have all gone back to their hives. It’s never quiet, but it’s quieter, and on a decent night I can even watch the stars as we roam. The oppressive heat and humidity of the day recedes, and sometimes there’s even a little breeze. It’s almost pleasant for a while.

And then we’re back. Sooner or later, no matter how wide we range, we always come back to the concrete and asphalt.

I keep thinking that someone is going to see us rambling and decide that they should do it too. I don’t understand how Iggy and I can have this all to ourselves in this crowded little place, but a part of me selfishly hopes no one else gets the idea. I don’t how I’d feel if I had to share it.

Pumbaa In Texas. Is Timon Next?

June 25, 2015

I had to take a minute today to share this.

Everyone knows that Texas is the feral hog hotspot of the U.S.  From one end to the other, the Lone Star State is covered up in sus scrofa.  But hog hunters in some parts of Texas may be treated to another porcine invader… the wart hog.

And yes, I would have loved to stumble onto one of these big, ugly suckers!

I’m going to let you read about it here, in the Lone Star Outdoor News.

Big Changes in CA Fish and Game Commission

June 23, 2015

I haven’t been covering too much in CA lately, partly (and obviously) because I’m not as looped in to the issues anymore.  But I keep my ear to the ground anyway, and this most recent news is something that’s way past due.  I hope it’s as positive as the USSA believes it to be.

Sportsmen’s Alliance Applauds Gov. Brown Appointees

Gov. Jerry Brown recently appointed two new members to the California Fish and Game Commission, and replaced controversial Commissioners Michael Sutton and Richard Rogers. This long-awaited action comes as great news for the conservation community. For sportsmen, the two appointees represent the first critical step toward returning balance and integrity to the commission and restoring the invaluable role that science plays in crafting natural resource policy for the country’s most populous state.

“We applaud Gov. Brown and his appointments staff for selecting two new commissioners to the board rather than maintaining the status quo. These appointees provide a much greater geographic and demographic representation of California’s citizens, and they will undoubtedly bring the voices of varied interests and perspectives to any discussion,” said Michael Flores, senior director of western operations for Sportsmen’s Alliance. “Consistent with his wise appointment of Commissioner Jacque Hostler-Carmesin, we believe that Gov. Brown is effectively re-establishing a commission capable of having more rational and reasonable deliberations on topics that require objective analysis and science-based policy decisions. It is very evident that Gov. Brown and his staff understood and agreed with the concerns of the conservation community.”

Under the banner of the Al Taucher Conservation Coalition, which Sportsmen’s Alliance revived in 2014, several conservation organizations had called for new commission appointments and ultimately prevailed in the face of ardent opposition. The Humane Society of the United States, Project Coyote and other animal-rights groups had lobbied to keep Commissioner Richard Rogers of Santa Barbara and Commissioner Michael Sutton of Monterey on the board, despite their terms ending as many as four years ago.

The two new commissioners, both attorneys, hold promise of evaluating evidence and facts as they are presented and not being easily swayed by popularity concerns and the politics of emotion. They also bring a different, more inland-based, background to the commission, which has been dominated by residents of coastal communities.

Eric Sklar, 52, of St. Helena, located in northern California’s Napa Valley, is a vintner who is deeply involved in the area’s wine industry, as well as serving as a member of the St. Helena city council. He earned his Master of Business Administration from the Georgetown University McDonough School of Business and was an adjunct professor there from 1997-99. Sklar is a sportsmen who enjoys waterfowl and upland-bird hunting.

Anthony Williams, 47, of Huntington Beach, originally hails from Bakersfield in California’s central valley. Williams earned a Juris Doctor degree from the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law and a Master of Public Policy degree from the Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government. He has been director of government relations at the Boeing Company since 2014 and has served in various legal capacities in the public and private sectors, including as director of government affairs at the State Bar of California from 2004-06.

“With their legal background, we look forward to the scrutiny of facts and evidence Commissioners Sklar and Williams will bring to the decision-making process that will make them better equipped to discount or dismiss the emotional arguments that were so compelling to the former commissioners,” said Josh Brones, coordinator of government affairs of western operations for Sportsmen’s Alliance.

About the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation: The U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation (USSAF) is a 501(c)3 organization and protects and defends America’s wildlife conservation programs and the pursuits – hunting, fishing and trapping – that generate the money to pay for them. The USSAF is responsible for public education, legal defense and research. Its mission is accomplished through several distinct programs coordinated to provide the most complete defense capability possible.


Hog Hunting Music – No, Really!

June 17, 2015

If there’s one thing missing in the worlds of music and hog hunting, it’s music about hog hunting.  Sure, there’s been a tune or two out there about hunting, and even a few have mentioned wild boar, but overall, there’s a general dearth of songs specific to the thrill and madness that are hunting sus scrofa.

Or so I thought.

Anything can be found on the Interwebz.  It turns out, that not only are there a couple of great tunes out there… there’s even a Facebook page specifically dedicated to hog hunting songs!

Here’s a little something I just found today, featuring the music of Aussie, James McKay (it’s not his video, just his music).  Enjoy!

Use Enough Gun… Please

June 10, 2015

No irony intended, although what I’ve got to show you may seem that way.  So let’s just jump right to it, before I toss in my two cents.

Now it’s a pretty long clip, and it starts with some good information and ends with the hunter making good use of his kill.  The shot was good too, and the whole thing was well set up.  One thing stands out… .22 long-rifle.

According to our host, it’s “all you need if you know right where to put the bullet.”

Queue redundancy alert…

It is NOT all about shot placement.

Here is a list of the elements that went into that clean kill:

  • Shooting from an elevated blind
  • Shooting at close range (I don’t think he says, but it looks about 20 yards)
  • Shooting with a solid rest
  • Shooting a very accurate rifle
  • Shooting at a relaxed and (relatively) stationary animal
  • And, finally, perfect shot placement

The choice to use the .22lr is rationalized (by many people, including the host of this video) because the hogs are “just pests”.  It implies that it’s OK to eradicate them by any means.  It also implies that the risk of a poorly placed shot and crippled animal is perfectly acceptable, in the name of “pest control”.  In all honesty, I’ve come out with similar arguments in defense of eradication methods, such as shooting from helicopters.  If it’s really about killing as many as possible as efficiently as possible, you have to have the mindset of the exterminator.

But here’s the thing.  Take another look at that video.  How many hogs came to the bait?  Out of that sounder, how many did our host kill?

Is baiting and shooting one hog out of a small sounder really equivalent to control (never mind eradication)?  Or is it really just sport hunting?  And if it’s sport hunting, do the same ethics apply?

I’m going to stop short of outright, negative criticism, because it’s pretty clear that the fellow making this video knows what he’s doing, and he’s good at it.  It’s brutally obvious that the .22lr was sufficient to make the kill, albeit under ideal conditions (not just shot placement).  Similar videos demonstrate the capabilities of everything from .177 caliber air rifles to spears.

The problem is the consistently repeated claim that these marginal tools are “all you need” to kill hogs.   Unfortunately, the next thing you hear is the peanut gallery clamoring to get out there with their marginal weapons and wreak havoc of their own.  In a lot of ways, it’s like the long-range shooting craze that’s convinced scores of nimrods that 500 yards is supposed to be a “chip shot”, and the “right” gear will enable them to shoot deer-sized game at 1000 yards or more… or, in this case, they want to show up in the blind with grandpa’s old Hi-Standard, ready to pile up the pork.

I often feel a bit like Don Quixote when it comes to stuff like this, but I’d love to see a little less focus on “trick” hunting tactics and more on good, solid practices.  It shouldn’t be as much about what’s possible to do as it should be about what’s good to do.  (Of course, I also realize I’m treading awfully close on the hems of my favorite pet peeve… defining “right” and “wrong” based on arbitrary, emotion-based criteria.)

Maybe there’s nothing wrong with telling people that it’s good and fine to shoot hogs with a BB gun, if they want to try it.  Maybe there’s nothing wrong with promoting jumping out of the blind and biting their heads off either.  It’s a free country, right?




Type. Delete. Type. Delete. Type. Delete. But I Repeat Myself.

June 5, 2015

“It ain’t easy being me…”

Not to complain, but it certainly hasn’t been easy to be a blogger lately… particularly not a hunting blogger.  Because I haven’t been hunting.  Or shooting.  I’m not even sure which box my ammo is in right now.

It’s not that I haven’t been writing.  I have.  I’ve written thousands of words, at least, over the past several days.  I’ve addressed topics ranging from lead ammunition to Zambia’s recent decision to lift the ban on hunting lions.  I’ve written opinion laced with fact, and fact laced with opinion.  I even scratched out a touch of poetry.

And then I deleted it all.

I guess the redundancy of it is what gets me.  I need a new issue.  Or I need to go hunting.  Or maybe I need to hunt some new issues.   Whatever it is, stay tuned.  I’m still out here, and liable to start repeating myself again at any moment.

Unless something new comes along.  But then, as we know…

“The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.”