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Settling In

May 13, 2015

Where’s the song of my canyon wren?

Where is that lilting call… those piercing, clear notes that build and climb and move something heavy in my chest?  Where is the tiny, grey body that perches on the porch rail, or sits in the gnarled, lightning-stricken oak tree outside of my bedroom?

It feels strange.

Absent as well are the other birdsongs, many of which have never been more than unidentified melodies… finches, sparrows, nuthatches, and so on, brightening the morning.  For that matter, the oak tree is also absent from my morning.  So is the view out my windows of the sun lighting the rocky western ridge of the canyon, and the seasonally changing scents… agarita blooms, dried grasses, caliche dust…

I guess, if I were to put it in perspective, it’s not those things that are absent.  They’re right there, where they belong.  I am the one who is gone away.  I’m not there anymore.

As I type this, I look out the window to see a privacy fence.  Over the top of the fenceline, forming what there is of a skyline, are a few oaks and maples, and the empty space where the pine forest is slowly being supplanted by multi-family homes (or whatever they’re building today).  If you’ve ever seen a forest after a fire or a hurricane has ripped through it, that’s what the woods across the street look like now… or at least what I can see, that isn’t blocked by this fence…  a lot of empty space where treetops should be.

In place of birdsong, I hear traffic when I awaken  Private vehicles buzz back and forth, yards from the bedroom window, interspersed with the roar of construction trucks hauling concrete, lumber, sheetrock, and brick.  The sharp beep of backup signals, and the belch of air brakes let me know the crews are arriving to begin work on the nearby units.  Soon, instead of woodpeckers tapping a tattoo on the tree trunks, I’ll hear the rap of hammers and nail guns, whining saws and drills, and the multi-lingual shouts and chatter of the carpenters, electricians, painters, and bricklayers.  And sure, there is birdsong, but it’s difficult to hear it over the cacophony.

I take small comfort… minuscule solace… in the deer tracks I saw when I took Iggy for his morning walk.

And there’s another alien thought… the whole concept of having to take the dog for a “walk”.   It’s one thing to let him run around when I go out to feed horses, check the fences, or any of the myriad ranch tasks with which I busied myself in the past.  It’s one thing to let him come indoors for a treat, and then turn him back out for bed.

But now it’s another thing altogether.  Now I have to make the conscious effort to remember he’s here, in the house instead of outside (where a dog should be).  I have to accompany him to go out in the yard for water or to hike his leg on the little, non-native ornamental bushes.  I have to walk him, sometimes quickly, out of the complex and across to the open area where he can take a crap in a place that I’m not required (by strange, social convention if not by law) to pick it up for disposal in a little, plastic bag.  What does it say about a place when dog shit needs to be collected in plastic and trucked to a landfill?

This, too, shall pass.

I suppose.

Ha! I Lied! One More Last Blast… Axis Hunting When I Should Be Packing

May 7, 2015

It was a dark and stormy morning.

No, really, it was.

But that didn’t stop us as I drove on back into the heart of the southern Hill Country.  My brother was here to help me pack, and I’d arranged a “quick” axis, meat hunt for us.  We’d be meeting up with my friend, Blaise, up at Boiling Springs Ranch (you may remember from last spring’s hunt).

The plan was simple.  We’d do a Texas-style safari across the 10,000 acre ranch, spot our deer, and make it done.

For a change, that’s pretty much exactly what happened.  I had my doe within 15 minutes.  It took a little longer to find one for Scott (we saw some nice bucks, though), but by 10:00 we had two animals with two shots and it was time to go skin, butcher, and pack the meat for the long haul to North Carolina.

But now that’s done, and while we’ve been seeing some axis here at the Hillside Manor; I’ve threatened my brother with grave, physical harm if he shoots another one today.

Too much to do!  The plan is to roll out of here tomorrow, and we’ll be in NC by Saturday night (or Sunday, depending on travel conditions).

So good-bye, Texas.

At least for now.  I’m pretty sure we’ll be back for an occasional hunt.

I’d add some poignant final note here, but I guess I’ve really said it all already.  Sure do hate to go, though.

Bringing It To A Close – One More Hunt

May 4, 2015

It’s hard to believe how much crap you can accumulate in a few years.  When you add it to all the crap I’ve accumulated over my lifetime, even after the minor purge when I left California, it’s still a lot of crap.  And packing all of this crap… well, it’s a crappy job.  (Apologies and all due reverence to George Carlin.)

It’s even crappier when you put it off, procrastinate, get depressed and demotivated, and then, the weekend before you’re supposed to move, you say, “the hell with it,” and go hunting instead of packing and organizing.  That just sounds like such a bad idea that it doesn’t surprise me at all that I did it.

Yeah, I know better.

I’ve got boxes stacked all over the house, and only about half of them are loaded.  I’ve got logistics to figure out, a barn full of horse tack, hunting and fishing gear, tools, and miscellaneous odds and ends.  I’m not even sure how it’s going to fit in the 26′ truck (plus the Dodge).  I should have it all lined up in the barn, packed in labeled boxes and organized for storage.

But instead, I pulled together a hunt with my friend, John, and pretty much blew off any pretense of a productive weekend… although one might argue that adding a hog to the freezer is productive.  Unless, of course, one is supposed to be in the process of clearing that freezer for travel.

So John rolled in Friday night and after an evening of catching up (or falling behind, thanks to Glenmorangie), the pre-dawn silence was shattered by cries of, “reveille, reveille!”  We got a slow start, so I drove fast, powering over the caliche to meet our host/guide, Kirby Cooper, who would be taking us to a little piece of Hill Country paradise in the Edwards County canyons.

The moon was waxing, and game was feeding all night, and despite our highest hopes, the morning hunt did not pan out.  We cruised back to town for lunch, and to tend to some business (a back-up contract for the sale of Hillside Manor, in case the initial buyers fail to meet the contingency), and then rolled back up to the top of the plateau at around 18:00.  Kirby told us he’d been seeing a lot of hogs in the evening, and the sign I saw earlier suggested that he wasn’t exaggerating.  There was a lot of sign.  And that’s a good sign.

Usually.

For my part, the evening started with a hike.  The wind was wrong for hunting the blind and feeder, so I climbed the rocky hillside to a point about 150 yards from the feeder.  In the elevated position, I could see a lot of country, but I was focused on the dry creek bed below the feeder.  In this country, it’s been my experience that these dry creeks often become hog highways.  Sure enough, about an hour later, a boar showed up and meandered around in the rocky opening.  Unfortunately, from my position the only shot would be offhand and standing, and that’s not a shot I’m comfortable with at that range… particularly when I’m pretty sure that this is not going to be my only chance.  Fortunately, hogs don’t pay much attention to the sound of a clumsy hunter tripping over rocks and stabbing limbs in his eyes as he scrambles for a better position.

Unfortunately, boar hogs do pay attention to threats from angry sows.

As I found a new position where I could sit down and use a stump for a rest, the boar stepped up out of the creek.  I heard an authoritative grunt from the brush on the other side of the clearing, and the boar spun and trotted off down the creek bed.  Kirby had told me that there is a big, spotted sow with some small babies in the area, and I figured she must have threatened ol’ Wilbur with something more severe than a spider bite if he came near her little ones.  I couldn’t see her, but I could hear the familiar sounds of clacking jaws as something was cleaning up the corn from the ground.  A moment later, I saw a little red piglet hop-running across the clearing, and then back into the brush.  Soon, all was quiet except for the roar of the wind and the songs of birds.

There’s a good reason this part of Texas is a world-renowned birding destination.  Excuse the aside, particularly since I’m not a birder, but it’s worth pointing out that from late February until June or July, the brush and trees are alive with a staggering variety of songbirds (and other birds too).  A morning or evening in the blind at this time of year provides the most amazing concert you could ever want to hear.  A little birdwatching becomes obligatory, and you spot any number of finches, flycatchers, warblers, orioles, and my very favorite, the painted bunting.  It’s almost enough to distract you.

But I wasn’t too distracted to notice the big, red sow moving slowly along the tree line on the far side of the creek.  At well over 300 yards, I wasn’t about to try a shot, and she was moving constantly away (once again, a feeder and bait are not a guarantee).  I considered hopping up and going after her, and I’m fairly certain I would have been able to catch up and kill her, but it was still early.  Instead of going after her, I decided to wait and see what might come to me.

On the far canyon wall, I spotted a dark creature moving along.  I’d left my binoculars at the house, so I strained my eyes to figure it out.  At first I thought it was a hog, but after a few moments, I could see that it was a sika deer.  I knew there were some around, so I enjoyed the good fortune of seeing one.  Then I saw another dark spot, this one much closer, moving through the brush along the edge of the creek bed.  In a moment, I could see that it was the boar.  I guess he figured the woman and children were gone now, and he could come up and have dinner in peace.

Last Texas boar He didn’t count on me.

I waited until he was well out into the middle of the rocky creek, and then leveled the crosshairs on his neck.  The stump was as good as a shooting bench, and I felt pretty good when I pulled the trigger.  When the muzzle blast cleared, I saw the pig on his back with all four feet in the air.  I sat tight for another half hour or so, waiting to see what else came in.  The boar had rolled onto his side, and then his feet started scrabbling.  I was fairly certain it was just reflex. He’d died so quickly, his body wasn’t aware of his demise.  But after a moment I decided to go down and make sure he didn’t get back up.  Just in case.

I was delighted, on arrival, to see a serious case of reverse ground-shrinkage.  When I first spotted this guy, I’d guessed him at about 70-80 pounds.  By the time I reached the bottom of the canyon and walked up to him in the rocks, he’d grown to a respectable boar and probably in the neighborhood of 150 or 160 pounds, with decent little teeth sticking out of his face.

Sadly, John’s evening did not pan out as well.

Nor did the next morning.

John mentioned, as he drove off to the airport Sunday afternoon, that he always finds a way to be the butt of the joke when I write up one of our hunts.  That made me reflective, and gives me pause now as I reach the end of this little screed.  I hate to make him feel bad, again.  I mean, the poor guy spent two days in the blind out here back in November, without even seeing a whitetail deer (the Hill Country has the highest deer population in the United States).  Then, this weekend he came back, gamely, to hunt Texas hogs and get skunked again. I’m sure he feels bad enough without me rubbing it in.

That would just be mean.

 

Take A Kid Hunting And Stuff – How Old Is Old Enough?

April 30, 2015

hunting girl

Here’s a throwback picture… my little hunting buddy, dressed for the duck blind with her partner-in-crime, Sandy.


“When is too young to take your child on a hunting trip?”

That’s the question posed by “The Wild Chef” in a recent post to his blog, From Field to Plate, the Tale of My Meal, and it’s a good question… made a little trickier (and better) when he specifies that he’s talking about a daughter, instead of a son.

Times are changing, of course, and the traditional gender divisions are coming down a little at a time.  It’s hardly a secret that more women are picking up guns and bows and hitting the woods.  And more and more parents are bringing their children into the fold as well, both boys and girls.

But, back to the question, how old is old enough?

In his piece, the Wild Chef wrote about taking his 4 1/2 year-old daughter on a dove hunt.  Unsure what to expect, he watched her carefully, especially after dropping the first bird.  How would she react to the bird’s death?  Was she old enough to understand death?  Was she too young to equate the death with killing for food?  You’ll have to read his post to find out… but it’s worth the read.

These are the questions I had the first times I took my daughter hunting.  Truthfully, although I used to pack her in her little backpack carrier when she couldn’t have been more than three, all those “hunts” we made in the Holly Shelter Game Lands were more akin to walks in the woods.  Even if I’d really wanted to shoot something with her along, there’s no way it would have happened.  I think I killed the first duck in front of her when she was seven or eight, out in California, and even then, I wasn’t sure how she’d react.  It turns out, she was perfectly fine with it.  She cheered for Sandy (her dog) during the retrieve, and then looked at the bird in my hand while we talked about eating it for dinner.  Of course, she’d eaten plenty of game at that point, so the concept was hardly foreign.  That probably made it easier.  But honestly, I think it was a bigger deal to me than it was to her.  From what I hear, that’s the case with a lot of kids.

A little older here, scanning the distant ridges for game.

A little older here, scanning the distant ridges for game.

Obviously, I think a minimum age is entirely subjective and dependent on a myriad of factors.  If you’re actually going to be shooting, is the youngster big enough to wear hearing protection?  Can the child withstand the elements, such as cold, heat, or rain?  What kind of hunt will it be?  Would it be realistic to expect the child to sit still enough for a deer hunt, for example?  Will the youngster have to hike over miles of rugged terrain, or wade through waist-deep water?  Etc.

There are challenges, of course. Kids have limited attention spans.  They often get cold easily, and their little legs are no match for our long strides.   They can be goal-oriented, and lose interest if the rewards aren’t quick in the offing.  They are generally self-centered, not in a negative way necessarily, but in that they don’t always recognize that their desires (“let’s go home now”) don’t mesh with everyone else’s.  Sometimes, I think it shouldn’t be a question of, is the kid ready to go, but more, is the parent ready to take her?

And of course, in the backcountry, girls have their own, unique issues that us dads never really had to face.  Yeah.  Where’s the bathroom?

But for all of this, I know I wouldn’t trade the time I spent with my daughter in the field for anything.  Over the years, she sort of grew away from an interest in going hunting.  Some of this, I know, is due to her own special needs which, among other things, make walking in rough terrain very difficult.  Once she grew too big for me to carry over longer distances, I had to make her walk, and some of our outings had to be curtailed.

And, at the root of it all, I think part of her nature is just to be the little homebody, staying in the comfort of the house with her cats and her music.  And that’s OK too.

And there, I think, is one of the most important lessons any parent can learn.  It’s OK for the kid to be who she is, not who you want her to be.  Maybe she’ll grow up to be a lifelong hunting buddy, but you have to be OK if that’s not who she is.

 

Swine Invasion- British Style

April 27, 2015

Much has been written and said about the invasion of wild hogs across the U.S.  It’s a point of contention, but also of serious concern because the animals are prolific, wide-ranging, and non-native.  Not only are they a potential threat to agriculture, they’re living (and well) in an environment that did not evolve with them.  While that may prove not to be quite the catastrophe that some would have us believe, it’s certainly something to keep an eye on.

Insulated as many of us are in America, we don’t often think much about wild boar in other places.  Sure, a handful of hunters may daydream of a driven hunt in Hungary, or a day afield with the Jaegermeister for big, German boar, but what about places like, say, England?

Wild boar were indigenous to Great Britain, and lived in the “wild” until somewhere around the 13th or 14th century, at which point they appear to have been wiped out.  Before that, however, they must have had a pretty good run.  It’s interesting (to me at least) that if you take a look at medieval  literature, heraldry, and even place names, the wild boar had a pretty prominent position throughout parts of Britain, often inspiring awe and terror.  Boar hunting was often depicted as a feat of courage, and occasionally, the root of tragedy.

Efforts to restore the wild boar were stymied over the centuries, as the people generally saw the animals as agricultural pests and quickly destroyed them.  Wealthy nobles, and even kings (James 1 and Charles 1, notably) imported boar from France to try to reestablish wild swine, but the good farmers and villagers were apparently not having it.  By the 1970s, wild boar in England were considered dangerous animals, and restricted to specially permitted zoological parks.  Certain farmers have also imported animals from Europe to raise in captivity, again, under strict regulation and controls.

Still, around 1998, at least two herds of wild boar had “mysteriously” reestablished themselves in parts of Britain, and those herds have continued to grow and prosper, despite efforts to hunt and manage them.  In the Forest of Dean, the animals have become a point of serious contention, as agricultural interests (as well as concerned citizens) call for a cull and management, while some environmentalists and animal rights factions call for them to be allowed to return to their native habitat and live their lives in “peace.”

I think it’s an interesting parallel to the situation with feral hogs in the US, and I’m betting there are lessons there for agricultural and wildlife management experts on this side of The Pond… if anyone will take the time to study them.  Of particular interest to me, a confessed layman when it comes to wildlife biology and ecology, is the arguments in Britain that suggest the wild boar should be permitted to roam free, as they provide a benefit to the ecosystem.  I certainly recognize the potential differences between a native species restored to its habitat and a non-native, but the layman in me struggles with how activities such as rooting to aerate and mix soil nutrients can be beneficial in one woodland, and detrimental in another (especially considering the broad distribution across the Old World in widely diversified habitats).

One aspect of the return of wild boar to Britain that correlates perfectly with the feral hogs in the U.S. is the terror these animals appear to invoke amongst the largely urbanized and domesticated human population.  Every week, my news feeds bring me at least one more article depicting a “horrifying” encounter between people and hogs in the English countryside.  “Attacks” are documented, almost always involving a dog, innocently strolling down the path with its people, drawing the “unwarranted” ire of a wild boar.   This is great for the sensationalist media, of course, but what sort of representation of reality is it?  I can’t help thinking of the glowing, red eyes of the “demon boar” on a Discovery Channel special… and the terrified testimony of suburbanites whose children were “threatened” by these deadly beasts.  Who will save the children?

Of course, wild boar can be dangerous, and far be it from me to unwittingly pooh-pooh the concerns of the citizens in a place I’ve never visited.  I do know that, along with my feeds about the English hogs, I receive regular reports from India, Pakistan, and Malaysia about unprovoked, wild boar attacks on villagers and farmers… some of them fatal.  Of course, as one might expect, news from rural areas in such places is sometimes questionable, both in detail and fact.  “Unprovoked” may take a different meaning in the wake of tragedy, and it is hardly unusual to demonize the attacking beasts instead of logically considering all of the circumstances and evidence.   But again, this is me, sitting in my comfortable office, with my nice computer, far from the place where these things are happening.  I could be wrong.

At any rate, all of this is by way of me finding this stuff interesting.  I’d love to be independently wealthy and able to travel the world to find these wild boar stories first hand… to maybe become another Jim Corbett, except instead of leopards and tigers, I’ll protect the villages from marauding wild boar.  You would think the days of those stories are over, but I think maybe, only the cast of characters has changed.

Filling Space, Killing Time

April 22, 2015

It’s been nine days since my last confession…

Oh, wait.  Not a confession.  Just nine days since my last post.

I knew the time was passing.  I watched it go.  And still, a week slipped right by.  Then a week and a day.  Then another day.

I just haven’t had a lot to say, you know?  I haven’t been hunting.  I haven’t even picked up a gun or bow.  I watch the deer and listen to the turkeys, but I’ve done the bulk of that from right here in this office, looking out the window.

There’s just too much going on.

So, I figured I’d fill this space today with something.  Anything.  Even if it’s nothing at all.

I thought about writing about CA’s lead ban, and the implementation of the ban across the state, despite the fact that no one can really demonstrate how it will actually have a meaningful impact on the populations of raptors and scavengers, much less how it will actually be enforced.  And I thought about adding a note about how the 200%-300% increase in the cost of some ammunition will actually be a boon to the P-R funds, which would potentially offset any lost revenue from the 36% of hunters who leave the sport because of the ban.  Of course, that would just be a snarky and relatively impotent comment, because, well, that’s how I intended it.

I considered doing something about the impact of live trapping on the local axis herds, but I don’t really have much to go on.  Just fewer sightings in the normal places, and a lot of complaining from a handful of folks who suddenly aren’t seeing animals at their feeders any more.  It’s an interesting thing, by the way, and worthy of an actual article at some point, but it probably won’t be me who writes it.

I was about to try to pull a post together about how all the rain we’ve had this year has been such a blessing, and how the mulberries are fat and ripening, along with the agarita berries.  No mustang grapes around my place, but I’ve heard they’re booming this season as well.  If things continue, the wildlife is going to be fat and happy.  Could be a big season for whitetail bucks.

So all that’s out there.  And here I am, in here.  Struggling for a topic that’s worth the time it would take someone (anyone) to read it.

One day.  Some day.  The Hog Blog will have a new base of operations, and the words will flow again.

But for now, this will have to do.

Lead Ban Chronicles – NSSF Fires Back At CA Lead Ban

April 13, 2015

Lead Ban ChroncilesOnce again, I found myself (albeit briefly) on the horns of a damned old dilemma.  To share this video here or not, that is the question.

The answer is, of course, obvious.  There it is, right down below these words.  I shared it, the same way I’ve shared some video and articles from the other side of the discussion (if you could call it a discussion).  I shared it because it is part of the whole, and if I’ve asked for your opinions on the other posts, it’s only fair to ask for your opinions on this one too.

But let’s be clear.  Sharing this video here does not necessarily mean I am in lockstep with the NSSF or the NRA when it comes to this topic.  Some of you who’ve been around a while know that already, but if you haven’t followed the Hog Blog, I’m telling you now.

I believe that, in the long run, we need to be skeptical of any special interest group’s involvement in such a politically charged issue.  In the same way so many of us want to challenge “sketchy” statistics, or thinly constructed arguments from our opponents, we really need to hold our “allies” equally to account.

So, now that I’ve totally primed you with preconceptions, have an objective look at the video, and let me know what you think.

Carrying On PETA’s Work or My Ethics Are Better Than Your Ethics

April 9, 2015

This is long.  Be warned.  If you suffer from short attention span… well, you probably blew this blog off long ago.  So there it is.  

When I hear someone blaring on with the negative stereotypes and generalizations about high fence hunting, I want to remind the speaker that these caricatures were first planted in our consciousness by the likes of Cleveland Amory and Ingrid Newkirk. In a classic demonstration of propaganda, they took the very worst examples of the industry and used the ignorance of the general public to portray them as the norm.

The ironic thing is that while the propaganda was fairly impotent at the time, at least as far as shutting down the high fence industry, the same stereotypes are being leveraged today by hunters to carry on the work that PETA was unable to achieve.

It has been my experience that many of the most vocal critics of high fence hunting are hunters who’ve never actually seen a high fence operation… at least not outside of the television screen. It has also been my experience that most of the commonly expressed opinions about high fence operations are based on ignorant assumptions about what it “must be” like, rather than what it’s really like… because, again, the speaker has never actually experienced it.

Seriously, if you’re opposed to the idea of high fence, that’s fine, but you need to be hyper-aware that you’re opposed to an idea that may or may not have any basis in reality.  If you’ve never experienced a hunt (or even a tour) on a high fence ranch, then the basis of your negative opinion comes from your imagination.  That should be reasonable cause to take a deeper look at your own attitudes, but at the very least, you ought to consider that before you go spouting off your hatred for something you really know nothing about and perpetuating false stereotypes.

The overwhelming majority of the non-hunting public know even less about it than hunters do. A pretty large contingent (maybe a majority) don’t even know there is such a thing as high fence hunting.  And why would they?

However, their total ignorance makes them sponges for information from “reliable sources.” Guess who they think is reliable. Here’s a hint.  The majority of non-hunters I’ve spoken to feel the same about PETA as we do… it’s a bunch of fringe, nut jobs. For the most part, the non-hunters turn a deaf ear to the noise from that front. But when a hunter talks about hunting, then there’s a reasonable expectation that the information is reliable.

Consider that, the next time you or someone you know is involved in a conversation with non-hunters about “canned hunting” or “shooting tame deer.”  Neither of those cliches is remotely close to the reality of most high fence hunting, but not only is your non-hunting audience unaware of that, they’re not likely to bother to go find out for themselves. They’re going to take you at your word. You’re doing the work of PETA and Friends of Animals for them, and you’re doing it well.

This isn’t about ethics. Outside of some vague notions about fair chase, your non-hunting audience really doesn’t begin to grasp the esoteric concepts that wrap around hunters’ ethics. Sure, you can differentiate yourself from the guy who hunts high fence. You can make yourself look “evolved,” and you can be the “exception” to the non-hunter’s general idea of hunters. You can puff yourself up like the perfect peacock by running down everyone who doesn’t hunt like you do. I see hunters do it all the time. That non-hunter is going to have a pretty high opinion of you, because what does he have to compare it to? It’s sort of like convincing a toddler that his dad is the strongest man in the world. They just don’t know any better.

But what did that do to all the hunters who aren’t exactly like you? What does your non-hunting audience think about them? Odds are, he still feels the same about them as he did before. You’re an exception. They are not. Or worse… you’ve made them look so bad in that non-hunter’s eyes that his opinion is lower now than it was before. Have you ever spoken to a non-hunter, and had them say something like, “I’d feel better about hunting if all hunters were like you?”

Here’s the thing. If you got that response by running down other hunters who don’t hunt the way you do, or by perpetuating negative (and wrong) stereotypes about practices you don’t actually know anything about… high fence, bait, tree stands, crossbows, long range… well, I would hope like hell that all hunters are not like you, because you, my friend, are a far larger threat to the future of hunting than any number of high fence hunters will ever be.

I know that image is important.  I know that, regardless of where their attitudes are shaped, non-hunters carry those attitudes to the polling places and vote accordingly.  If they think poorly of hunters, then the poll results will reflect that.  But why do they think poorly of hunters?

What shapes non-hunters’ attitudes about hunting?

Besides personal or family experience, non-hunters derive their ideas about hunting from media sources (including social media).  Of course to us, hunters, we’re pretty sharply attuned so it seems like there’s always something out there, and it’s not usually positive.  But fortunately, from the perspective of the non-hunter, hunting doesn’t make much news and it doesn’t really get all that much coverage in movies or television either.

What’s even more important in the context of my topic, is that non-hunters don’t really spend much time looking for hunting issues in the media.  Unless something really significant happens, like an accidental shooting, the non-hunter is unlikely to even give it a second glance.  It’s sort of like me and the US Cricket Association (and yeah, I had to look it up to see if there even was such a thing).  There could be any amount of uproar and hullabaloo, but I don’t care about cricket.  Why would I follow it in the news?

It strikes me that, when I talk to non-hunters (particularly in urban or suburban settings), they really have no concept of what hunting actually entails.  They’re often shocked to learn that we don’t kill animals every time we go afield.  Seriously, they think we just go out and shoot stuff.  What I find even more surprising is how many of them never even considered that we actually eat the animals we kill, and gawk at me in disbelief when I tell them that we do.  They often have no idea about seasons, limits, or even licenses… much less wildlife conservation or the weapons and methods we use.  (And yes, I know there are many non-hunters out there who are more informed.  My anecdotes are hardly a statistical model.)

And yet, despite the fact that they think we just go out and kill piles of animals with no intent to eat or utilize them, polls show that about three quarters of Americans view hunting favorably (and other polls show even higher acceptance when they know we plan to eat our kill).

Think about that.

That’s an important thing, I think, particularly when we (hunters) start talking about how our ethics are important to shape and manage public opinion… to protect our sport.

I don’t think it’s about our ethics at all.  I think the real threat to our sport today is the people, often in influential positions within the hunting “community” (if it can really be called that), pouring down condemnation on their fellow hunters over arbitrary ideals.  I think it’s about individuals who don’t really know what they’re talking about, spreading PETA’s lies and fabrications as if they were truth.

I’m not completely sure how this ripple became a groundswell, but if we don’t take a step back and pay attention to what we’re doing, it’s soon going to become a tidal wave.

Lead Ban Chronicles – Research Shows WV Vultures Carrying High Lead Concentrations

April 8, 2015

Lead Ban ChroncilesLet me preface by saying that the article in question doesn’t necessarily present any new information, especially as it relates to hunting with lead (or lead-free) ammunition.  In fact, it clearly states that an additional source of the lead is most likely the coal-fired power plants in the area.  But that’s the part that I find interesting… that the article does bring in additional sources of lead besides hunters.

Beyond that, as you can see in the comments, I found the article to be lacking some information that I thought would have been pertinent, such as whether there was an apparent impact on vulture populations in the area, or even if the vultures studied died from lead toxicity (or related causes).

Here’s the lede, such as it is..

A new study out of West Virginia University finds that lead poisoning in vultures is way more prevalent than expected. Researchers say the source of the lead is ammunition and coal-fired power plant emissions – prompting one researcher to liken vultures to the canaries miners once used to gauge if a coal mine was safe or not.

Give it a read. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Going Home

April 6, 2015

Not too far in the recent past, I posted a fairly whiny soliloquy about having to leave Texas.  And it’s true, I hate leaving this place.  But, it’s not all bad.  There’s a lot I’m looking forward to when I get back to NC…

  • The slapping of wavelets under the bow, as I point it into the rising sun with a live-well full of pogies and a cup of coffee, balanced in my off hand.
  • That last screaming run, when the smoker king gets right beside the boat, and the gaff is poised, and you think you’ve got him beat…
  • The Thanksgiving incense of burning pine needles and cold, Cape Fear river marsh, and the hard decision to hunt ducks or deer in the morning.
  • The cacophony of my family, gathered together with friends and great food and drink for special occasions.
  • The dense, green air of bow season in the NC swamps.
  • Lobster that was still sneaking around a shipwreck, just a few hours ago.
  • Grouper, that was looking for that lobster, and the indescribable sensation of a big fish on the end of a spear.
  • It is the ocean where I scattered my father’s ashes.  Dust to dust, salt to salt. (And since the law frowns on dumping a fresh corpse to the sharks and crabs, maybe that’s where my ashes will go too.)
  • Crickets, cicadas, nightjars, and alligators… the sounds of the southern swamp at night.
  • The happy beer buzz, the scent of coconut oil, and the burning sun that remind you that it’s summer time on the beach… even as you’re heading to the dock after a long day offshore.

And so much more.

Life is not ending.  The adventure is at the starting line, and the pistol is rising into the air…

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