May 10, 2013
There’s still at least seven hours of work left in my day. Based on the last couple of weeks, that’s probably a low estimate. Meetings. Corporate politics. Uncertainty.
Who needs it?
Well, like so many of the rest of you, I do. I need that paycheck, because I sure as hell ain’t going to find anything like it down here. Bills to pay, you see.
So I’ll stick with it as long as I have to. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it, and it sure doesn’t mean I can’t dream of having a job I love… doing something that makes me happy… gives me satisfaction.
I want to wake up motivated every day. I want to look forward to what the day will bring. I want to feel like it’s worth the effort, and not just bailing water from the bow of the boat to the stern.
It’s not likely to happen. Suck it up. Carry on. Be happy in your work.
April 15, 2013
Now here’s a pig I may never hunt…
April 5, 2013
I’m not really one to celebrate Friday these days, but for some reason I’m really ready for this one. It’s been sort of a long week, not just on the day job, but in general as a hunter and a gun owner.
To begin with, even though it looks like the Federal government has stepped back on the firearms regulation front, some of the states have simply gone over and above to pass restrictive laws that will do little, if anything, to curb violence. I get it, of course. It’s all about the need of the politicians in these mostly liberal democrat states to look like they’re doing something. The more uproar their actions create from the pro-gun, Second Amendment crowd, the more it looks like they’ve done something of substance.
But that debate, while I’ve mostly kept it off of this blog, has had its share of bufoonery from the pro-gun side too. It’s no wonder that people are so polarized on either side of the issue. It’s made me tired, following this, and even though I don’t get directly involved in the conversation regularly, when I do try to inject my version of logic, it takes a lot of work and restraint to say what I want to say without getting sucked into the stupidity.
It makes me tired.
The other thing that makes me tired is the fact that I’m just not seeing any sort of campaign to challenge the lies and misinformation being passed off as truth by the anti-hunters and lead ban proponents. I’ve mentioned this before, even recently, but just two days ago I got another email alert about lead ammo. Turns out Wayne Pacelle and HSUS are currently distributing an editorial column suggesting that the NRA is not only evil for supporting “assault weapons” and arming criminals, but that they are supporting unethical hunting. Pacelle slings his broad brush, covering everything from the import of polar bear hides under the Sportsman’s Heritage Act (which never passed the Senate in 2012), to baiting deer, to defending the use of of lead ammunition.
Of course, I support Pacelle’s right to have his say. On that point, I have no qualms. The First Amendment is certainly every bit as valid as the Second, even if I don’t like what’s being said. But what bugs me is that I’m not seeing the counterpoints. Where is the NRA, the NSSF, or the USSA on this national stage? Why haven’t the major gun and hunting organizations stepped up a counter-campaign? Hunters are being maligned and vilified. Worse, we’re being divided by a campaign led by anti-hunting organizations, with large segments of the population buying into the propaganda because the major outdoor media doesn’t seem to think it’s worthwhile to counter the myths and misinformation. Here’s a tip for the outdoors media folks… simply writing this off as anti-hunting propaganda doesn’t work anymore. The discussion needs facts. It needs logic. It needs a persuasive argument to help hunters understand that in certain cases, lead ammo isn’t the greatest thing in the world, but it sure as hell isn’t the harbinger of the apocalypse either.
I wonder why I keep beating this drum. Some of you who’ve read this blog for a while probably wonder too. At this point, it probably seems like it’s just become habit. Or maybe I’m clinging to some ridiculous hope that, somehow, folks will realize how foolish it is to keep up this state of constant, diametric opposition. They’ll realize the world isn’t black and white, and that there are solutions to many of these problems… and sometimes, there are just things with which we have to make peace. We have to step back, breathe, let go of emotion, and get down to the hard work of real understanding.
So it’s Friday. There’s a big tom turkey out in my barn pasture right now, strutting and blowing up at the toms across the canyon. When I finish work this evening, I’m going to try to turn this thing off for a couple of days and move away from it all. I’m sure most of this will still be here when I get back, but I just look forward to the break.
March 25, 2013
I had big plans to write again about the Sabinal Wild Hog Festival, but when I got ready to go yesterday my video camera batteries were stone dead. Then, when I got there, I realized I’d forgotten my still camera. It was still a big time, though, and a sure enough taste of Texas country life… so if you’re ever down this way on the third weekend of March, you should consider dropping by. My mom was in town this weekend for a visit, so I took her and her friend over there to check out the festivities. They got a kick out of it!
So instead of extending a write-up on that, I thought it would be cool to share an opportunity for college students who are interested in becoming outdoors writers. The contest is sponsored by the Professional Outdoor Media Association (POMA), and it looks like a great way to practice your writing chops, get a little acclaim, and maybe even win nice prize.
Do you love fishing, camping, hunting, the shooting sports or wildlife conservation? Do you want to work in the traditional outdoor sports industry as a writer, public relations representative, website designer, magazine editor, or even TV personality?
If you do, tell POMA about your dream. Enter the Professional Outdoor Media Association’s (POMA) POMA<25, “My Dream Outdoor Career” writing contest.
“Part of POMA’s mission is to foster the next generation of outdoor industry communications professionals,” said Laurie Lee Dovey, POMA’s executive director. “We have a great deal to offer college students who hope to work in the outdoor industry, and they have a lot to offer our organization. The contest is a great starting point for us to get to know college students interested in our industry and for them to get to know us.”
POMA urges parents, professors, academic counselors, and college students to tell everyone about this awesome opportunity for college students to win an amazing prize and get your foot in the door to an outdoor career.
Submit entries online through POMA’s Facebook page. Don’t delay. The deadline for entries is April 21, 2013.
The winner will be announced on POMA’s website and contacted via email, May 21, 2013.
A box full of great outdoor gear, including but not limited to apparel, hunting gear, fishing tackle, and an outdoor book collection. Valued at $500.
- Open to college students who would like to work in the traditional outdoor sports industry.
- Write a 400-word article describing your dream job in the traditional outdoor sports industry (fishing, hunting, shooting sports, camping/RVing, trapping, wildlife conservation). Want to be a outdoor writer, product engineer, TV personality? Tell us about your dream job.
- After you complete your submission, POMA will request a picture of your enjoying any of the traditional outdoor sports or wildlife conservation.
- A minimum of 25 entries must be received for prize to be awarded
Entry and Prize Eligibility
Only persons residing in United States who are 17 – 24 years of age and enrolled in a college/university (two- or four-year program) may enter.
April 21, 2013 @ 07:00 p.m. (EDT)
The official rules are available online.
March 11, 2013
One of the biggest threats to the black bear in CA isn’t houndsmen or spot-and-stalk hunters. It’s people who don’t have enough sense or consideration to make an effort to bearproof their homes and yards… especially in places like Lake Tahoe, Big Bear, Donner, or other areas where bears have become a nuisance.
Nuisance really isn’t a great word here… at least in reference to the bears. It’s a more appropriate term for the folks who think it’s OK to leave pet food and garbage out where the bears can get at it. They don’t understand, or don’t care, that the bears find this easy food source and become habituated. For a while, they’re cute. If you’ve ever watched bears ambling around, or playing bear games, they are adorable. I get it.
But that adorableness wears thin when the bears get more and more intrusive. First it’s just trash cans or picnic areas. Then it’s unoccupied cabins, breaking into garages and sheds, and eventually, breaking into occupied homes. At some point, the bears become a problem. They’re destructive as hell, and in the wrong circumstances, deadly dangerous. And all because they’re doing what their nature requires them to do.
Once the bears become a problem, there’s usually one effective solution… and that’s to kill the bears. Trapping and relocation have proven ineffective, as bears travel insanely long distances in order to return to their home territory. Problem bears have been trapped multiple times, despite being released into the wild miles and miles away from where they were captured.
This doesn’t have to happen. There are measures homeowners can take to keep bears from becoming habituated to raiding garbage cans and pet food. If the easy pickings aren’t available, the bears will generally return to their more natural habits… foraging and hunting in the woods.
And here’s where the young Martin Scorceses and Steven Speilbergs can play a part.
The CA Department of Fish and Wildlife is sponsoring a film making contest for youngsters to create Public Service Announcements (PSA) about the importance bear-proofing human habitat in order to keep the bears wild (and alive). In this age of YouTube video, social media, and cameras and editing software right in our phones, this should open the gates for creativity and fun.
Learn more about the contest at the DFG Bear Aware Yout Contest web page.
I look forward to seeing some of the submissions!
February 14, 2013
I have to admit, I’ve been a little insulated. Winchester, Barnes, and Federal/CCI have pretty much set me up with enough ammo to keep my relatively modest needs met for a while now. Beyond that, I’ve got enough reloading components to satisfy my basic needs of target shooting and hunting for a pretty long time. So, at least for my go-to guns, the 30-06, .243, .44mag, and .17hmr, I haven’t really done much shopping.
But recently, Kat has taken a new interest in shooting handguns, and she’s been talking to one of our neighbors about a women’s “shooting club”. Most of her shooting will be with a 9mm or a .22LR, and while I’ve got a few hundred rounds of each laying around, I thought I’d hop out on the Interwebz and see about laying in a couple of bulk boxes of ammo.
I hit the major sites first. You know, Cabelas, BassPro, CheaperThanDirt, Sportsman’s Warehouse, MidwayUSA, and the dearth of available options was shocking. Every site showed a complete lack of 9mm ammo, and most wouldn’t even backorder! I figured, “well, OK. This sort of makes sense. With all the gun and ammo ban talk, the self-defense and AR guys are stockpiling this stuff while they still can.”
So then I looked around for some .22lr ammo, and was absolutely shocked to find that the situation was identical! Nothing to be found! Now I know that there are a lot of .22lr “trainer” rifles and handguns out there and they’re a cheap way to shoot the ARs. But I didn’t expect to see the virtual shelves bare of options (Cabelas did have some tracer rounds, but I’m not really interested in shooting those…especially in this drought).
Local shops are almost as bad. We hit a place in San Antonio yesterday, Nagel’s Guns. They had a few boxes of 9mm on the shelves, but it was mostly the rapid expansion, self-defense ammo. That stuff is pricey, and I have as much of that as we should ever need. We don’t target practice with that stuff. As for the basic ball ammo and cheap target rounds, they had nothing…nada… zip… zilch. They were almost completely sold out of .22lr.
I’ll add that gun sales in that shop were off the hook! We could barely find room to belly up to the counter to get service, and the counters were covered with 4473 forms in various states of completion. As I looked around the shop filled with a wonderful variety of new and used hunting rifles and shotguns, almost every customer was purchasing or inspecting either ARs or handguns.
One of our local shops in Uvalde, Oasis Outback, is a similar picture, although since their stock of handguns, ARs, and ammo has almost been completely depleted, there were no crowds. They do have a few ARs on the shelf, but closer inspection shows that all of them have “Sold” marked on the price tag. In speaking with the gun shop employees, there is no clear idea of when they’ll see more ammo or more guns.
Is this simple hysteria? Is there a panic on, amongst gun owners? I found it interesting as I have visited shops in the recent weeks, that many of the buyers aren’t “gun nut” types. They’re not stockpiling weapons. A few of them are hunters looking to lay in something for self-defense in addition to their hunting rifles. Others are folks who’ve never owned a gun before, or have only passing familiarity. They want to get something “while they still can”.
I remember the madness in 1994, prior to the passage of the first assault weapons ban. I also saw it right after 9/11. And, of course, there was 2007-2008, as it became clear that Obama was going to take the presidency and madness reigned over the fears of harsh new gun control laws (that were never even proposed, much less enacted).
But this time, on the heels of Obama’s re-election and the spate of mass killings (Phoenix, Aurora, Sandy Hook), it’s worse than I’ve ever seen. Of course, this time there are some pretty draconian proposals on the table. I feel for the good folks in New York, California, Colorado, and probably a handful of other states who will rush to enact similar restrictions on guns, ammo, and certain accoutrements. I’m also pretty sure we’re going to see some sort of restrictions come on the federal level.
There are, of course, other factors related to the ammo shortage. I pointed them out in my last post, and also had some conversations about this a while back in regards to the limited availability of lead-free ammo. Raw materials have gone nuts in price, with increased export to China and some other countries. The simple reality that the increased interest in the AR platform over the past decade has resulted in an increased demand for the popular AR calibers. And, of course have been several “interesting” theories put forth about why ammo is becoming scarce. I’m not going to go there, but the truth is, as usual, much more blase. People want more ammo than the industry can provide.
This, it seems to me, should have been one of the big stories coming away from the SHOT Show this year. It had to have been a topic of conversation.
By the way, the shortages are relatively wide-spread, but they primarily affect the various self-defense and “AR” chamberings (e.g. 9mm, .223/5.56, .308, 6.8spc, etc.). The price of more common hunting calibers has gone up to reflect diminished supply, but you can still find most of them on shelves or online.
February 13, 2013
After straining to make up some sort of content yesterday, a few things floated through my inbox, or across my Facebook screen that caught my interest. I figured a couple of these would be worth sharing.
First of all, a lot of folks have been talking about ammo shortages again. This isn’t really a new thing, as some of you may remember the runs on ammo about four years ago. Whatever else you may say about President Obama (and please, this is not an invitation to say whatever else you may want to about Obama, Bush, or any other political figure), his two terms have been an absolute bonanza for the firearms industry. Guns and ammo have been selling faster than the factories can supply them, and, as a result, the stores are sporting empty shelves. Orders are going unfilled, all the way back to the factories.
Of course there are other factors, including limited supplies of raw materials like copper, brass, and even lead. But the bottom line is that it’s getting tough to find certain kinds of ammunition. It’s also boiling down to all sorts of speculation, rumor, and outright conspiracy theory. It’s so bad, in fact, that Hornady felt the need to speak up in a public notice on their website. I wouldn’t be surprised to see similar statements from other manufacturers as this goes on.
The thing is, if you’re running low on ammo, I’d advise you to go ahead and get it now. If you have to backorder, it may be a while. It would be a shame to miss a big hunt or a shooting event just because you let yourself run low on bullets.
In other, utterly unrelated news, I just saw this over at Rex’s Deer Camp blog.
It appears that rumors of giant boar hogs in the area may be the result of some strange experiments conducted by previous occupants of the Famous Christmas Place Plantation, which is now the treasured hunting grounds of Rex and his family. We’d heard for years of the near-mythical “Thunderhoof” roaming the property, and now these hogs… bigger than a horse and mean as a one-eyed wolverine with a toothache… makes one wonder if it’s even safe to go into the state of Mississippi, much less try to spell it out loud, three times fast.
There are rumors that I might be bound to the old, Magnolia State in the near future, in search of these massive, man-eating pork chops. I don’t know yet if it’s true, but I get the feeling that I might want to bring a bigger gun. Anybody have good load data for the 120mm howitzer?
February 12, 2013
I just peeked in here, in between projects at work, and realized I didn’t have an update yesterday. I also realized, as I was browsing a few of my favorite blogs, how disappointed I was that a couple of them haven’t updated recently… and made the odd and unsettling realization that maybe some of you (two or three) regular readers feel the same way when you pop in here and the time stamp is a week old.
To be honest, I haven’t written much because there’s simply not that much to be excited about right now. I haven’t been hunting since deer season ended. Hell, I haven’t even checked the cameras lately. I did receive some ammo from Winchester to try out, and I’ll have a review on that soon… although I’d like to find an opportunity to try it on hogs before I write it up.
I do have a friend coming out this weekend, and hopefully we’ll get on a couple of axis deer for the freezer. That should, at the very least, make for some photos and a short write-up… not to mention a couple of lovely meals! But first we have to find the deer. Then we have to kill them. Nothing is certain.
And the spring turkey season is in the wings. Here in Edwards County, Texas, we’ll hit the fields in mid-March. There are a bunch of birds around, although the flocks that were visiting my place seem to have moved off. I still hear them from time to time, though, which means they should still be within calling distance.
I did have a line on a property to lease that has both hogs and axis, but that contact seems to have dried up. The idea did get me motivated, though, and I think I’ll be scoping out similar opportunities a little more aggressively. Leasing a hunting property is really a new thing for me, and I’m finding that there’s a lot to know before you sign a paper… much less sign a check. This promises to turn into a learning experience, and I’ll share those lessons here on the blog.
So there ya go. I’m not dead, and neither is the Hog Blog. Just the off-season doldrums…
January 30, 2013
I’m gonna toss this out here with a handful of caveats…
- This post is part of an ongoing thought process, and by no means represents a comprehensive viewpoint…
- Feel free to comment, but be aware that I’ll delete anything that so much as feels like a personal attack on myself or any other participant
- Any idiot can point out the problems. Genius is in finding solutions. Do you have a solution to offer?
- By the time this conversation goes live, some of my opinions will probably have shifted. I’m not always consistent. Deal with it.
The gun rights debate is something I’ve generally avoided on this blog. I don’t have much patience for the dogmatic or the knee-jerk, and I recognize that most of the readers here are generally “pro-gun” anyway… although I also expect that the extent of the pro-gun attitudes probably varies a good bit. I also know the conversation often gets heated, and once it gets personal it stops being constructive. But with so much going on with this discussion, and because on most levels it does impact hunters and gun owners, I’d be remiss not to take a run at some thoughts.
I’ve done a lot of soul searching on the topic, by the way. I’ve spent a good bit of time (too much?) reading viewpoints and arguments from one extreme to the other, and hoping to come away with some novel idea to address the problem of gun violence and accidents. But at the end of the day, I’m just not seeing anything that really makes much sense.
Is that because there’s really not a valid solution? Is it possible that, at some point, we have to recognize the reality that guns are inherently dangerous objects, and that from time to time their use will result in accidental or intentional death and injury? Is this a reality that we just have to accept?
I doubt that perspective would get much traction on either side of the debate, but so far it’s the conclusion I’ve come to. Sure, there are more things we can do to reduce the casualties. But with over 300 million people clustered in this country, and almost as many guns (between 275 and 300 million, depending on your source), bad things are just going to happen.
Am I suggesting then, that we do nothing?
Of course not. But I can say that much is already being done, and some of it has been effective. Both the murder rate and accidental death toll have been dropping steadily over the past couple of decades. What is working? Are we putting enough focus on the success of existing measures?
Here’s the other question, though. What is it worth to us to further reduce the number of people harmed by firearms? As citizens, neighbors, and fellow human beings, what are we willing to do in an effort to help protect one another?
That’s really what this whole discussion has boiled down to, isn’t it? The gun control factions are essentially asking (or telling) the gun owners to sacrifice certain freedoms in order to “save innocent lives.”
It’s created quite an impasse, because the question has been framed in a way that’s really difficult to approach. No one wants to come right out and say, “Look. I value my personal freedom to own guns over the potential lives that these freedoms may cost.”
Of course it isn’t that simple in reality, but that is what it boils down to. The gun control advocates argue that their proposed restrictions may save many lives each year. Their opponents say that these restrictions are unproven, and may not save any lives at all, or (and here’s the kicker), not enough to make the law worthwhile.
Whoa! There it is again! It won’t save enough lives to make the law “worthwhile”.
This is where I get hung up in the debate. What is “worthwhile”?
Most arguments fall back to the numbers. It’s hard to get solid numbers related to gun violence, ownership, or use, but the CDC is a pretty reliable starting point. Based on the preliminary statistics for 2011, there were somewhere in the neighborhood of 31,000 firearms-related deaths. Almost two-thirds of those (>19,000) were suicides. Between 10,000 and 11,000 were homicides. The remainder were accidental.
One death in 10,000 seems like a pretty low ratio when you look at all the other things that kill people in this country. If you adjust that ratio to account for factors such as criminal involvement, drug and alcohol use, and geography, the reality is that the average person in the average place really doesn’t stand much risk at all. But, of course, if you or your loved one happens to draw the short straw, those statistics don’t really mean very much, do they?
So if a new law would raise those odds, just the slightest bit, is it worth it? At what cost?
What is the break-even point in potential lives saved versus additional burdens on personal liberties. If, for example, expanded background checks kept one mass-murderer from getting the weapons he needs to shoot a theater full of innocents, is it worth the inconvenience and cost of the program? If a ban on high-capacity magazines resulted in 10 less deaths per year, would that be “worth it”? Does the number have to be 20? 100?
Hard questions, huh?
They should be hard questions, and we should be willing to give serious consideration to the answers. The gun problem isn’t going to be resolved with bumper-sticker simplicity. We have to be willing and able to think things through, consider the potential outcomes of any given action, and then make a judgement call.
So what am I saying?
The truth is, I’m not completely sure at this point. I’ve struggled for several weeks to put my thoughts into a coherent form, and I feel myself failing even as I tap out these words. But I need to start somewhere.
I am a strong proponent of gun ownership by responsible, law-abiding citizens. I believe that we have an inherent right to equip ourselves for self-defense (whether against simple criminals or against a tyrannical government) that supercedes even the oft-quoted 2nd Amendment. The idea that the government will take care of us and protect us in every aspect of our daily lives is ludicrous, and entirely anathema to the ideals of self-determination, personal responsibility, and freedom.
However, I also strongly adhere to the idea that your right to swing your fist ends at the tip of my nose. If my freedoms impinge on yours, or put you at unnecessary risk, then you are no longer free. And vice versa… There has to be a balance, and therein is how democracy and society work. In the context of guns, that concept has been demonstrated by prohibiting civilian ownership of certain especially powerful weapons (e.g. rocket launchers, artillery pieces, bombs, etc.).
As I mentioned previously, I think we need to take a hard look at what has worked so far, and build on that. Let’s get past the emotion and rely on logic and common sense to make decisions that will have real, positive effects.
I also think we need to take a systemic look at the problems, because I am dead certain that guns are only a small part of the bigger issue. Why is it that most gun owners never even think of picking up their guns in anger, while some do? Are inner-city gang members really losing their respect for human life? How does that happen? How do we restore that humanity?
And the one aspect of gun fatalities that doesn’t seem to get much light is suicide. While other firearms-related deaths are declining, suicide is still creeping up. What’s happening there? Maybe guns are being used (about half of suicides are committed by firearms), but guns sure don’t cause it. What is it that’s causing people to seek that final escape?
Finally though, when all the conversations are done, laws passed or dismissed, and the dust begins to settle… are we left with the simple reality that as long as there are guns, there will be gun-related fatalities?
January 24, 2013
This is just a note, sort of in response to a couple of recent emails I’ve had lately. I hope no one takes any of this the wrong way, but it needs to be said because I’m pretty sure I’m not the only person who’s experienced this.
One of the reasons I came to Texas is the abundance of game and hunting opportunities. And, of course, when I moved here, I told many of my friends that they’d be more than welcome to come down and hunt with me. (It was a sincere offer, and it still stands, by the way.) But the thing is, I can only invite folks to hunt what I have here to hunt. Right now, on my place, the only consistent game is whitetail deer. I’ve had more and more turkeys lately, and I have a feeling the spring hunt has good potential, but I don’t have any hogs and I don’t have any axis deer.
So when someone sends me a note and wants to come hunt axis deer or hogs, I tell them I can probably set something up. Then I do some research, ask around, call a few people, and there’s usually someone offering day hunts or weekend hunts in the area. But it’s usually not going to be free. And that’s when I hear something I used to hear so much in California. “Well, the hogs (or axis) are supposedly overrunning the place down there,” they say. “I’m not going to pay someone so I can come get rid of their pests!”
Seriously, I get the sentiment. On first glance, it does seem that, if farmers wanted to get rid of hogs, or axis, or coyotes, or whatever, then they’d open the gates to the masses. I felt the same way in CA, when I watched the price for a hog hunt go from free, to a couple hundred dollars, to over $500! I remember seeing where one rancher had slaughtered over a dozen pigs in his barley fields, and just dumped them in a ravine. I asked about getting permission to hunt and maybe help get rid of some of these troublesome hogs, and was told I’d have to pay $200 a day to do so. Since then, an outfitter has leased that property and you’ll pay about $650 if you want to come kill one hog.
But this is a reality, and it’s no different in Texas than in CA. As the popularity of hog and exotics hunting increases, these animals become a valuable commodity for the ranchers and farmers. It’s a little extra income for people in an industry that doesn’t generally offer very high profit margins. Add to this the reasonable fact that few people are comfortable with the idea of armed strangers roaming un-escorted around their properties. Escorting the strangers takes time, and time is money. If a property has invasive exotics, those critters are eating crops or taking feed away from livestock. Charging money for hunts helps recoup those losses. It is seldom “greed” that drives landowners to charge hunters for the privilege of hunting their land.
Point is, there aren’t that many free hunts around these days. Not only that, but the price of paid hunts is going up. That’s the facts. So if you ask someone to do the footwork to find a hunting opportunity, don’t get indignant if the best they can find exceeds your budget. Adjust your expectations.
And to be clear, there are a couple of groups of people for whom I’ve coordinated hunts in the past. I enjoy doing this, and look forward to doing it again in the near future. This message is not intended for any of you.