News And Reviews – CA Lead Law, MO Hog Regs, Rapala Skinning Knives, Browning Headlamps

June 29, 2016

I suppose a lot of folks think it’s a little early for hunting news and gear reviews, but the truth is that we’re just a couple of days out of July, and while most of the country is still sweating it out in the summer doldrums, and most sportsmen are focused on finned quarry; deer season is just around the corner in California.  A zone deer hunters will start bowhunting the second week of July.  South Carolina and a couple of other states will open up in August.

So, first the news…

Lead Ban ChroncilesCA hunters are reminded that the second phase of the lead ammo ban will come into effect on July 1.

This phase adds upland birds to the list of species that must be taken with lead-free ammunition.  Also, lead free shotgun ammo is now required for taking resident small game mammals, furbearing mammals, nongame mammals, nongame birds, and any wildlife for depredation purposes.  (For some reason, if it’s any help, you are still permitted to use lead shot for Eurasian collared doves.)  Remember that the lead ammo ban has no effect on ammo used for target shooting.  It is only for hunting.  The final phase of the lead ban will kick in on July 1, 2019.  You can learn more about the lead ban on CA DFW’s website.

Feral hogsIn Missouri, the State has determined that, when it comes to feral hogs, sport hunting and eradication efforts are not compatible.  As a result, the state is shutting down sport hunting for feral hogs on any lands owned or managed by the Missouri Dept of Conservation.  This does not affect hog hunters on private land.  Since I’m not a resident of MO, nor do I hunt there, I can’t speak to the impact on the Show Me State’s hunters, but there is an unsurprising uproar from that population.  Personally (not that my opinion is crucial here), it’s probably the right call.  As I mentioned in a Facebook post earlier, feral hogs are either a destructive pest that needs to be eradicated, or they’re a game animal.  It really doesn’t work to try to have it both ways.

Rapala Drop-Point SkinnerNow, on to some gear reviews…

Fishermen have known about Rapala fishing knives for eighty years (since 1936).  I’m pretty sure my first fillet knife sported that recognizable, light, wood handle and leather sheath.  It made sense as a “first” fishing knife, since it was not only inexpensive, but it was extremely durable.  I don’t remember where or how I finally lost that thing, but it survived years of harsh use in the saltwater environment.

I’ve graduated to a “professional” knife at this point, with the white, “comfort-grip” handle and stainless blade, but it’s still a Rapala… and it’s still affordable.

I was intrigued to get an email a couple of weeks back, informing me that Rapala is now adding the Classic Birch line of hunting knives to their long list of quality products.  Even better, they offered to send me one to check out.

Rapala drop point in handThe new line includes several classic designs:

  • 3.75″ Drop point (MSRP $34.99)
  • 4.5″ Clip point (MSRP $34.99)
  • 3.75 Gut hook (MSRP $39.99)
  • 4.5″ Skinner (MSRP $34.99)
  • 3.5″ Caping knife (MSRP $34.99)
  • 3.5″ Bird knife (MSRP $29.99)

While I’d love to get my hands on all of these, I could only pick one, so I asked for the drop point.  That’s the design I personally prefer for all-around work, and the 3.75″ blade is a handy size for anything from squirrels to hogs.

I’d love to tell you I put it to work right away, but the truth is that there’s nothing around here for me to skin right now.  Still, I did play with it around the kitchen for a bit.  The edge on the sample they sent me is wicked-sharp, which is no surprise for the Rapala knives (made in the same J Marttini factory in Finland that produces their classic fishing knives).  The wooden handle is rough, and almost feels unfinished.  However, after messing with it for a few minutes, I realized it gives me a really sure grip, even under water (in the sink).  I can’t wait to get this thing bloody, but that probably won’t happen until September or so.  You can bet I’ll report back on how it performs in the field as soon as I get the chance.

Browning Blackout 6VI’ve also been holding onto a new headlamp, the Browning Blackout 6v.  This particular light is part of Browning’s Black Label Tactical line, and it’s definitely built to take a beating. Instead of the plastic body that most of the consumer headlamps offer, the Blackout comes in a waterproof (to a meter) aluminum body.

If you’ve followed the Hog Blog for very long, you know I’ve got a soft spot for quality headlamps, and I’m always looking for the best thing I can get my hands on.  I’ve tried out a bunch of lights over the years, and while most of them were pretty good, I had yet to test one that I thought was suitable for blood trailing.  That’s sort of my grail, when it comes to this sort of thing, and I’d sort of decided that my bar might be set a little high.  I have seen a couple that would probably work, but those exist on a higher plane than I do as a simple blogger, so getting a test unit has been an exercise in frustration.  Even if I could test them, I think that the $250 – $300 price tag would dampen the enthusiasm of most hunters.

The Browning, though, at an MSRP of around $99, advertises a 730 lumen output and the pure, white light definitely looks bright enough to show blood on the ground.  Again, since nothing is currently in season, I haven’t been able to really put this to the test, but walking around the yard at night, this thing cuts right through the dark to show incredible detail.  The Blackout is a spot beam, and not adjustable, but that suits me fine.  It also offers two lower settings to conserve batteries, as well as a green mode to preserve night vision… which can be really nice when going into the stand in the wee early darkness.  I also think it’s going to be great in the canoe or kayak when duck season rolls around.

Are there downsides?  Sure, a couple…

The light is a little bulkier than I’d prefer for a headlamp.  It extends about 2.5″, and weighs almost six ounces.  That’s not really a lot, until you’ve worn it for a couple of hours.  Maybe I’m sensitive, but it starts to make my head hurt.  It does fit nicely over my Stetson, though, and is a lot more comfortable worn that way.

The lithium, CR123A batteries are a little pricier than AA or AAA, but this light does need the extra power to achieve that bright beam.  According to the literature, I should see about 3 hours of use at full power, though, and that’s pretty good.  A comparably bright, high-end ($275) headlamp runs down in about half that time.  On the lowest setting, it’s supposed to give me 48 hours of continuous use.

Like many of the high-powered LED lamps, the Browning gets really hot after a short time.  I mean really hot!  I didn’t really notice the heat while I was wearing it around the house for about an hour, until I reached up to turn it off.  I learned real quick to be cautious, and make sure I avoided touching the lens or the front cap.  It will get your attention.

Overall, though, I think this light is a winner.  At $99 it’s not cheap, but compared to the cheaper headlamps I’ve tested, I think the Browning will last as long as you can keep up with it.  That’s the catch with all of these small pieces of equipment, though… they’re easy to lose.  Other than that, as far as I can tell, the only thing you can do to hurt it is to leave the batteries in too long and let them start to leak.

As always, I’ll follow up on both of these items as they get more time in the field.  I can say that I like both of these products enough to plan on using them this coming season.

Porcine Press – Hogs Gone Wild

November 19, 2014

Here’s something I haven’t done in a while, an edition of Porcine Press, collecting wild hog news from around the world.

My news feeds light up fairly constantly with stories about feral hogs, wild boar, and various related topics.  While many of us here in the U.S. tend to focus on what’s happening here in our own country, wild pigs make news all around the world.

We’ll start off in Vietnam, where there have been a couple of deadly encounters between rural folks and wild boar.  The encounters have left two people dead, and one woman in the hospital.  There aren’t many details available to explain what may have provoked the attacks, although in the one case, it appears that the boar was being pursued by hunters and the woman simply got in the way.  In the other case, a boy was killed and a woman seriously injured, possibly by the same boar.  Unfortunately, there were no witnesses when the boy was killed, so exactly what happened will remain a mystery.

In reading these articles, as well as other articles about boar attacks in China and in India, it sounds like the issue stems from a combination of human encroachment on the habitat and a resurgence in the wild boar populations.  In China, particularly, it looks like the hogs are showing up more and more frequently in cities.  In one case, police officers shooting at a boar in the city of Fuqing accidentally hit a bystander.  This article from the UK’s Daily Mail, includes surveillance video that, while not especially graphic, is sort of heart-rending (particularly when you see the guy with his kid who, despite seeing the woman in obvious distress, pick up the pace and keep walking).  I still don’t understand why law enforcement operating in urban settings don’t use frangible bullets.

Moving westward…

While visiting Ireland last year, I was continually impressed by the wildness of much of the countryside, and by the apparent lack of visible wild game.  I know there is game there, of course, and I’ve even researched the possibility of taking a hunting vacation there one day (not likely to happen, but fun to dream about).   Of course, the daydreams usually revolve around red stag or fallow deer, but I couldn’t help thinking that some large parts of the country would be perfect habitat for wild boar… even though wild boar are, apparently, not native to Ireland.  Nevertheless, it turns out that Ireland may be facing some of the same problems that we do in the States, with the release (intentional or not) of wild boar by hunting interests.

This recent article from the Limerick Leader describes the conflicts that can arise when these animals are cut loose on the landscape.

The island is unoccupied for most of the year but some local families own property there. Since their arrival in the past two or three weeks, the boar have done extensive damage to part of this property.

“They have destroyed the lawns and the garden. A tractor and plough wouldn’t do the kind of damage they did,” commented Sgt Callanan.

The sources in the article believe the boar were brought to the island by boat and intentionally released, but it seems to me that the animals could have just as easily made the swim themselves.  You wouldn’t necessarily think it, but hogs are pretty good swimmers.

Back over on The Continent, wild boar are creating another kind of problem… disease.  In several parts of northern Europe, wild boar have been turning up with African Swine Fever.  The outbreak has cut a pretty clear swath across the continent, from Azerbaijan to Finland, bringing with it serious threats to the pork industry.   As the disease spreads from the wild pigs to domestic stock, quarantines and liquidation are the typical result.  For example, Belarus recently suspended pork exports to Russia, due to the occurrence of the disease in the domestic herds.  In Zambia, entire herds are being eradicated.

It’s all a pretty good indication of the real threat that the spread of feral hogs implies here in the US.  While habitat and property damage are certainly valid concerns, the most devastating potential is the infection of domestic pigs with swine diseases… and the huge impact that would have on the US pork industry.  Fortunately, so far, African Swine Fever has not shown up here (and it probably won’t).  But there are plenty of other diseases that aren’t uncommon in feral/wild hogs, and they can be just as devastating to pig farmers.  An outbreak of pseudo rabies, for example, will shut down an entire pig farm… and possibly every farm in the affected region.  The simple threat of an outbreak can be enough to freeze exports and production, and entire herds will have to be eradicated.  It’s a pretty big deal.

So that’s enough for now.