But I Digress

Blog calendar: Nov. 29 | Nov. 18 | Nov. 15 | Nov. 12 | Nov. 4 | Nov. 2 | Nov. 1

posted Nov. 29

Colo. record a good plug for fishing

Here's a story that serves as a great promotion for fishing.

Conner Peitsmeyer, an 11-year-old from of Aurora, Colo., was quoted for a story saying he saved his birthday and Christmas money to buy his own St. Croix graphite rod and a Shimano reel spooled with Berkley Trielene XL 6 pound test line.

Ok, that last part sounds a little like an advertisement.

But what he did with it -- catch a state record smallmouth bass -- speaks volumes for getting kids out and wetting a line.

It was almost freezing on Nov. 12 when the youth caught his record while fishing with his dad. Very Norman Rockwell-esque.

"We had caught quite a few big bass that week, so we knew they were in there," Conner's dad, Michael said. "When he caught that first big one, Conner told me he was shaking, but he wasn't sure if it was from the cold or from the excitement."

Conner's 6-pound, 8-ounce smallmouth topped the previous state record of 5-12, and he received a master angler award certificate as well as a place in the state record books.

Aurora Reservoir, which is just east of Denver, had another state record earlier this year when Jessica Walton, 20, caught a 43-pound channel catfish. The aquatic biologist managing the fishery said populations of crayfish and perch are helping feed these monsters.

Now a word from our sponsor, "Go Fish."

"Any time someone lands a new state record, it's exciting for us," said Greg Gerlich, DOW fisheries chief is quoted in OutdoorNews.com. "It's even more exciting when it is a youngster that pulls in one of these big fish. This is yet another example of how anyone, regardless of age or experience, can have a great day fishing."

Ok, that's a nice plug for fishing.

posted Nov. 18

Not knowing mayor a fishy story

Hazel McCallion is the mayor of Mississauga, Ontario. Has been for the past oh, three decades or so.

She's legendary in the city of nearly 700,000, a suburb of sorts to Toronto.

Not knowing her name was the downfall of a man illegally fishing closer to Winnipeg.

Wojciech Rzepka was stopped on Lac Seul near Ear Falls by Ministry of Natural Resources conservation officer Tim Neidenbach. He had an Ontario residents Outdoors card and fishing tag and said he lived in Mississauga, but when questioned couldn't name McCallion, who is also known as a keen angler.

Busted. Not knowing her made for a fishy story, so Neidenbach dug deeper.

In the end, Rzepka, who is actually from Illinois, was fined $5,000 for the infractions, including making a false statement to an officer.

Neidenbach said he thinks Rzepk, who had been fishing in Ontario since 1993 -- 15 years after McCallion became mayor -- plans to pay the fine "because he wants to come back up here and fish."

posted Nov. 15

Palin's Alaska brings avalanche of attention

Cashing in on her celebrity, Sarah Palin has a new eight-part series on TLC that's reportedly netting her between $1 and $1.5 million per episode. Her premiere Sunday night drew an estimated 5 million viewers, according to Nielsen ratings.

Palin is also getting some attention from news outlets.

"Sarah Palin's Alaska" searched on Google gets almost 2,000 articles. The show is supposed to be an apolitical look at her life as she hunts, fishes and enjoys the rugged beauty of America's largest state, while throwing in a little bit of the daily life of the former governor and her six children.

Some of the posts are positive while others are more synical, like throwing political meaning behind something as innocent as Palin saying "A poor day of fishing beats even a great day of work."

Potshots and praise juxtapositioned, a quip by New York Times writer Alessandra Stanley elicited a belly laugh. Stanley writes:

"Perhaps Palin's most impressive feat is climbing a glacier with a guide and her husband, a rock-climbing adventure that is obviously arduous and scary. She says out loud many times that she is afraid she can't make it to the top. Viewers may fear another risk; her high-pitched voice is so piercing it could trigger an avalanche."

True that, and she's hoping to create of landslide of interest as she contemplates a presidential bid.

posted Nov. 12

Looney for Looney Tunes

"Be vewy vewy quiet, I'm hunting wabbits," Elmer Fudd would say as he pursued Bugs Bunny.

Those Looney Tunes characters were brought to mind this week, along with this famous exchange.

"Duck season!"

"Rabbit season!"

A resident claiming "hunter season" made the weekly report of Minnesota conservation officer Mark Fredin, who says the man was the opposite of "vewy, vewy quiet."

Hunters called the sheriff's office near Aurora, Minn., -- pop. 2,000, sal-ute! -- and said they were taking fire at their deer stands, later pointing out that they thought the shots came from a residence filling the woods with loud cartoon music.

A visit to the residence found shotgun shell casings and a loud speaker in the garage pointing out to the woods playing "deafening music."

The resident said he was shooting in the air to scare deer away so no hunters would hit his house, and tried to explain the speaker was set up because "likes cartoon music and feels he can play it however he wants."

Fredin saw though the ruse and cited the man for hunter harassment, which is basically anybody who disrupts legal hunting and fishing activities. It's illegal in all 50 states.
Hunter harassment is a misdemeanor offense in which "law enforcement officers may issue a citation for violations which take place in their presence, or may arrest with a warrant obtained on information provided by the affected hunter."

(For links to laws in your state, visit Hunter Harassment/Interference Laws providing by Michigan State University College of Law.)

Bugs Bunny broke that statute many times, tying Elmer's gun barrel in a knot.

So pay attention, don't let anybody infringe on your legal hunting rights, and be vewy, vewy quiet.

That's all folks!

posted Nov. 4

Odds on oddities

Note: A photo of a piebald deer on the AP wire brought to mind this piece that originally ran in Feb. 2009. Hope you find it interesting and please comment if you've ever seen an oddly colored deer or have taken one.

Guess I should have been taking better notes when my college professor went over genetics, especially after reader Tim Roeschlein sent in this photo:

    Dear ESPN,

    According to www.backwoodswisconsin.com, the odds of seeing three albino
    deer at the same time is 1 in 79 billion.

    I took this photo of four albino deer at the Father Hennipen State Park in
    Isle Minnesota. Any idea what the odds of my photo are?

    Tim Roeschlein

Seems for several years, Tim and wife Karrie have had twin albino deer, a doe and buck, coming to feed at their back porch in Wahkon, Minn. — pop. 314, sal-ute!

The local ABC news crew came to their home and shot a segment for its newscast, catching both after a considerable wait.


Deer oddities

Tim says he's now seen at least seven albino deer in the area. Others, like Linda Arent, have also seen and photographed the "white ghosts" in the area. Linda was so kind to send along numerous images of the albino deer at Father Hennepin State Park.

Google albino plus the park and you get 509 results. Apparently the park has a herd of breeding albinos.

Now back to Tim's question. What are the odds?

Frankly Tim, I have no idea.

If the odds on three are 79 billion, divide that by three and carry the aught, 105 billion to 1? Ok, maybe I should have listened to my statistics instructor as well.

So, I contacted George Mayfield, long-time deer lodge operator who has a graduate degree in wildlife biology from Louisiana State University.

Told him about the albino herd and asked him, "What up with that?"

"It's a freak of nature." Mayfield said. "It's a matter of probability and genetics. It's really part of the evolutionary process. And double recessive genes express themselves in different ways."

Albinism, a congenital disorder brought on by recessive genes, affects pigment, or lack thereof, in eyes, skin and hair.

It is rare, said to be found in 1 in 100,000 deer berths. Both parents must have the recessive gene, and even then there is only a 1 in 4 chance offspring will be albino. Two albino deer, however, will produce albino fawns. Read more about albino deer >from Buck Manager.

Mayfield, 56, said it's not that simple to put a number on something like Tim's photo, because there are just too many variables. Take the Seneca Army Depot's white deer in upstate New York. While not true albinos, a herd of 300 white deer live in a fenced-in area of a former >Cold War compound.

The Father Hennepin albinos could be similarly confined to an area where they can thrive and procreate. They are surrounded by a lake to the north and human development to the south, and there's no hunting in Minnesota state parks. (The state has since allowed several managed hunts there).

From the photos, it appears there's thick growth where they can take cover in the summer and snow to hide in during the winter, so the odds must be higher for the albinos to survive coyotes and other predators.

Down on Mayfield's deer property, a 12,000-acre spread on the Mississippi-Alabama border, there has most likely been an albino born at some time. Each of the 77 hunting days over the past 30 years, Mayfield sent out 28 hunters for eight hours — four in the morning and four in the afternoon.

"And they never saw one or reported one," he said of albino deer. "I never missed a day and I never saw one.

"I've never had an albino on my place. The problem with them in the area where I was hunting, when they crossed the property, they were killed as a novelty. They're usually taken out of the population pretty quick."

Sure, and their lack of camouflage and poor vision that accompanies albinism probably made any that were born there easy prey. With deer density of 25 to 35 deer per square mile, Mayfield has obviously come across a load or 12 of deer, and he's seen some oddities, especially piebalds, which are spotted with white.

"We have a fairly regular occurrence of piebald," he said. "Over 30 something years, we've had about 10 encounters with piebalds."

The rarest pigmentation in deer, Mayfield said, is melanistic, the opposite of albinism. Their excessive coloration makes these deer appear all black. There is a an area in central Texas that has more than its share of black deer, and Mayfield, and Gordon Whittington in >this article, "Weird Whitetails," in North American Whitetail's website, surmised it has to do with habitat conducive to a black deer surviving.

"An increase in melanin in the pigment, I've never seen that here," said Mayfield, adding there's that bell-shape distribution curve to deer anomalies. "To do anything statistically on that, you have to have a lot of data."

Ok, that takes us back to Tim's original question: the odds on having four albino deer in one photo.

"I'm out my league. If you want to kill something, that's what I do," Mayfield said. "I could make up one, but I don't think that's what you are looking for."

Mayfield suggested calling a university and talking to professor of genetics, but I'm not known for listening to them.

Sorry, Tim.

PS. Here is a recent video of an albino deer at the park.

posted Nov. 2

Man, that's one dang ol' long alligator

"I'll tell you what, that's one dang ol' long alligator," one could imagine "King of the Hill's" Boomhauer saying, beer in hand.

It's a given Tres Ammerman had such a friend say something similar looking over the gator in his garage. The 14-foot, 3 1/2 inch male gator brought in by Orlando, Fla., man set the state record for length by a nearly 3 inches.

Out in Lake Washington, Ammerman, who lists trapping gators among his hobbies, and two helpers had a Brevard County sleighride after harpooning the huge-headed beast.

Nephew T.J. Schaus was on board and joked that the gator pulled the small boat faster than the motor propelled it.
After a two-hour fight they were able to tow it in -- it wouldn't fit in the boat.

The gator surpassed the official state record set 13 years ago, but dad gum, it was a skinny ol' thang, weighing only 654 pounds. The state's heaviest gator was 1,043 pounds.

There have been accounts of longer gators, specifically a 17.5-footer back in 1956, but nothing official.

Ammerman did come up with a rarity as the Florida wildlife agent who inspected it said there's not many true 14-footers in the state anymore, so even Hank Hill would be impressed.

"I'll tell you what."

See the complete story, pictures and video in the Orlando Sentinel.

posted Nov. 1

Running with the bulls, Wisconsin style

Sarah Glidden has heard the jokes and gotten hunting invitations.

Out of the corner of her eye, she at first thought someone's dog on a leash was heading out onto the course. Hortonville's No. 1 female runner ended up all doe-eyed when an anterless deer bolted across her path during the state cross country sectional at Nine-Mile Country Forest outside of Wausau, Wis. -- pop. 38,426 sal-ute!

(Nine-Mile Country Forest doubles in snowy times as a cross country ski venue, which of course is lighted at night, and also has groomed snowshoe trails. Man, that sounds like fun, if it weren't for all that wildlife running into follks.)

Glidden was in the final stretch when the deer came from the woods and collided with her, leaving a bruise on her shin. Stunned and maybe a bit shaken, she kept her feet and finished.

Unusual, yes, but not the first time it's happened. Hortonville coach Kevin Sours said he saw the same thing in Virginia's state meet a few years back as a deer hit the lead female runner.

Hmmm. Do doe have it in for human girls?

A good sport, Glidden said she doubted the encounter held her back from advancing to the state meet -- she finished 18th. And she's been gracious in handling the comments like next time she would wear blaze orange -- that doesn't even make sense -- or deer whistles on her shoes.

Even though she's never hunted, she's even taken invitations in stride.

"Hunters want me to go with them because they say I'm a magnet for deer," Glidden said with a laugh for this story in the postcrescent.com.

About the author: Mike Suchan has been editor at ESPNOutdoors.com the past three years. He's worked in journalism for 25 years, winning state and regional awards. Email him here.