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News Hound archive: Through Oct. 6, 2006

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    posted Oct. 3, 2006

    State's first rabid coyote blasted by Pennsylvania couple

    Pennsylvania wildlife officials have confirmed that a coyote shot late last month after chasing a man into his house tested positive for rabies, the first confirmed case of the disease carried by a coyote in the Keystone State.

    In a bizarre series of events, Craig Luckenbill said he heard one of his dogs barking outside his Sinking Springs, Pa., home and discovered it was fighting with a coyote on the patio.

    He pulled his dog free and attempted to lead it to safety, but the aggressive coyote followed them in hot pursuit.

    That's when Luckenbill's wife, who was observing the mayhem from inside the house, slammed the door on the coyote's neck, preventing it from entering.

    After fetching his 12-guage shotgun, Luckenbill said he shot and killed the coyote as it continued wildly biting the door and the front of the house.

    "I'm a hunter, but I've never seen anything like that," he said after the incident.

    According to reports, the dog received rabies booster shots following the attack.

    FORUM | MAILBAG

    Mississippi River off limits to hunters and anglers?

    When I first began seeing news items a few weeks ago about a Louisiana court case that seemed to imply hunting and fishing outside of a main river channel is illegal and a criminal offense, I thought it was a hoax, or at the very least a misreported story.

    Turns out it was neither.

    The issue at the heart of the case is whether flooded areas along the Mississippi River are legally navigable waters or the private property of those persons who own the flooded land beneath the water.

    Some alarmists claim the ruling could set precedent and ultimately apply to all United States waters.

    While I won't go that far, I think it is definitely a case worth watching.

    The case stems from the arrest of six anglers on criminal trespassing charges for crappie fishing three oxbow lakes in East Carroll Parish owned by Walker Cottonwood Farms — lakes accessible only during the Mississippi's high-water stage.

    According to the Bastrop Daily Enterprise, the anglers believed federal and state laws protecting public use of navigable waterways — including the river's natural high-water mark — meant they could legally fish the lakes when the river was up.

    The owners of Walker Farms believed contrary.

    The six anglers claimed they were unjustly arrested and filed a suit against the parish sheriff.

    Despite a U.S. Magistrate Judge's recommendation in favor of the plaintiffs, on Aug. 29 U.S. District Court Judge Robert James of the Western District of Louisiana favored the arresting sheriff.

    Further, the judge ruled that the anglers did not "have a right to fish and hunt on the Mississippi River up to the ordinary high-water mark when it periodically floods Walker Cottonwood Farms' property."

    Paul Hurd, attorney for the anglers, said he thinks James' ruling may ultimately go to the U.S. Supreme Court.

    "It will end at the U.S. Supreme Court because it is a national issue concerning not just Louisiana state law, but the right of people to fish in all waters of America," Hurd said.

    Stay tuned.

    FORUM | MAILBAG

    posted Oct. 2, 2006

    Big flatfish earns unemployed angler $43,000

    It's official. A grateful, 53-year-old, recently unemployed Alaskan who accompanied a buddy on a fishing trip and landed a 341.8-pound Pacific halibut will claim a cash prize of around $43,000 in the 2006 Homer Halibut Derby.

    Anchorage angler Duane Olson admitted he was anxious as the clock ticked down on the state's longest-running flatfish contest, which officially ended at 9 Saturday night.

    Olson landed the giant flatfish Aug. 1 after an ill acquaintance offered up his seat on a Kachemak Bay halibut charter boat.

    The lucky angler credits fishing buddy Larry Hobson for encouraging him to enter the derby.

    "The night before, Larry and I were driving through Homer and he looked at me and said, 'You don't have a derby ticket do you?' I told him no, so he stopped in and got one," Olson told the Anchorage Daily News.

    The Homer Halibut Derby began in 1986, under the direction of the Homer Chamber of Commerce.

    The highest derby purse was $51,298, awarded to Nevada resident Don Hanks for his 352.6-pound halibut in 2004.

    A Homer Chamber of Commerce spokesperson said the exact amount of Olson's prize would be officially calculated later this week.
    Last year, Jim Corliss of Corvallis, Ore., won $48,504 with a 310.4-pound flatfish. FORUM | MAILBAG

    Colorado hunters report seeing grizzlies

    The Colorado Division of Wildlife has announced it is investigating a report of a grizzly bear sighting in San Isabel National Forest near Independence Pass southeast of Aspen.

    A department press release issued last week notes that two experienced hunters reported using a binocular and spotting scope to watch a female grizzly bear and two cubs for approximately a minute.

    The hunters, who were thought to be familiar with both grizzlies and black bears, said they observed the animals in a clearing at a distance of about 80 yards.

    After physically searching the site Sept. 23, state wildlife officers said they failed to find conclusive evidence of the presence of grizzlies. The department said it would continue to follow up on the report.

    It is commonly believed only black bears inhabit Colorado's backcountry, though periodic reports have led to speculation that a breeding population of grizzlies could have survived undetected in remote portions of the southwest portion of the state.

    An outfitter on an archery elk hunt survived an attack by a female grizzly in the San Juan National Forest in September 1979. The bear was subsequently tracked and killed.

    No further sightings have been confirmed there since that incident. FORUM | MAILBAG

    Pot growers shoot at California deer hunter

    Regular readers of the ESPNOutdoors.com News Hound blog are aware of the growing problem (pun intended) of clandestine marijuana-cultivation operations on public lands, especially in California.

    Officials with the Mendocino National Forest said a deer hunter was fired upon Saturday when he stumbled onto a marijuana garden in a remote area in Mendocino County. The unnamed hunter told authorities four male subjects pointed rifles in his direction and began shooting.

    The hunter was not hurt in the incident.

    Earlier in the week, another deer hunter told forest service law enforcement personnel he found a PVC water line on a ridge in the same area.

    "This is a particular concern now since deer hunting is underway and the Mendocino National Forest is a very popular hunting location," said forest supervisor Thomas A. Contreras.

    Contreras said the U.S. Forest Service is working with county law authorities to deal with known and suspected marijuana gardens in these and other areas of the Mendocino National Forest.

    So far in 2006 law enforcement officials have eradicated 340,000 illegally grown marijuana plants from the Mendocino National Forest, compared to 124,792 in all of 2005.

    After Saturday's shooting, the advice from law enforcement should be obvious.

    "If a private citizen comes upon something suspicious, don't enter the area — just leave and notify local law enforcement authorities immediately," said Capt. Diane Welton of the Mendocino and Plumas National Forests Patrol. FORUM | MAILBAG

    posted Sept. 29, 2006

    Camping, national parks falling out of favor among Americans

    There's no shortage of opinions about why it's happening, but there's no doubt some significant changes are occurring at America's national parks.

    Overnight stays in national parks fell 20 percent between 1995 and 2005 and are down another 4.3 percent for the first eight months of 2006.

    During the 10-year period, tent camping dropped 23 percent, backcountry camping fell 24 percent and RV camping was down 31 percent.

    Pundits point to everything from the economy, high gas prices, changing vacation trends and a general shift in the country's demographics.

    Whatever the reason, it doesn't bode well for the future of the country's natural treasures. For that matter, it's a disturbing indication that the next generation of Americans — today's youngsters — may grow up with an outdoors deficiency.

    "The long weekend is replacing the two-week time off," Jim Gramann, a visiting social scientist for the National Park Service, told the Denver Post. "That means fewer overnight stays in the national parks."

    Gramann said population changes could also have an impact because of the growth among some minorities that aren't traditional campers.

    The Post article cites a study released in June by The Nature Conservancy attributing the drop in national park visitation to the rise in the use of video games, DVDs and other electronic media.

    FORUM | MAILBAG

    Legendary gun maker, Cecil Brooks, 93

    Cecil Brooks, known for creating unique flintlock long rifles of unsurpassed hand-crafted quality and design, died this week of heart failure at the age of 93.

    Undoubtedly the most recognized maker of historic American firearms in modern times, his Brooks Style muzzle-loading percussion rifles sell for up to $20,000 and are cherished by collectors and aficionados worldwide.

    Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, along with senators, movie stars and sports personalities, have been presented the handmade guns and rifles produced in Brooks' Lowell, Ohio, workshop.

    Since 1955, a Brooks flintlock has been given to the keynote speaker at the National Rifle Association's annual meeting.

    Remember when then-NRA President Charlton Heston raised a rifle defiantly into the air during his famous "cold, dead hands" speech?

    It was a Brooks muzzleloader, to be sure.

    Brooks' expertly crafted rifles with intricately tooled stocks, engraved patchboxes, sterling silver trigger guards and butt plates often took up to 700 hours to complete

    In his early years, Brooks — self-taught in the gun maker's craft — was a blacksmith, taxidermist and sign painter, earning 25 cents an hour for carving and painting signs for riverboats on the Ohio River.

    He began repairing firearms in the late 1920s and built his first percussion long rifle in the mid-1930s. That rifle is part of Ohio State Museum permanent collection. FORUM | MAILBAG

    posted Sept. 28, 2006

    Show Me: Missouri woman takes deer problem by the horns

    Truman and Hilda Schoenthal, whose home sits beside state Highway 87 in Jamestown, Mo. (population 397), were rudely awakened Friday night around 10:15.

    "We heard a loud crash, and soon found out what it was," Mrs. Schoenthal told the California (Mo.) Democrat.

    The couple made their way to their kitchen to confront the intruder, then turned on the light.

    "There was a six-point buck, standing by the table," Hilda observed.

    Spooked, bloodied and hurt from an apparent run-in with a car on the highway, the buck proceeded to crash and thrash through the shocked couple's home, breaking items and spreading its blood on walls, carpeting and furniture.

    Upset over the deer's obvious lack of courtesy and filthy habits, Mrs. Schoenthal soon had enough.

    "I don't know what made me do it, and I wouldn't do it again on a bet, but I grabbed him by the horns," she said, demonstrating with her arms locked in a fierce hold, "turned him around, and pushed from behind to try to get him out the door."

    As the spunky woman pushed the obstinate buck out the screen door onto the front porch, Mr. Schoenthal fetched his gun.

    Four shots later, the ordeal was over.

    "I wanted to make sure," Mr. Schoenthal told the paper.

    The newspaper account failed to mention the ages of the Schoenthals, but with names like Hilda and Truman (and the fact they were asleep at 10:15 on Friday night), we're guessing they're not in the 20s.

    It's a good bet they're probably still cleaning and painting, too.

    "I keep hoping it was a bad dream and I'm going to wake up, and none of it will have happened," said the bruised, but otherwise unhurt Mrs. Schoenthal. FORUM | MAILBAG

    2006 scorecard: It's easier for youths to hunt in 11 states

    Laws were passed in an unprecedented 11 states during 2006 removing barriers to youth hunting and encouraging mentoring of young hunters.

    The campaign for furthering mentoring legislation began late last year after the release of a report compiled by the U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance and natural resources research experts Southwick Associates Inc. The report revealed that young hunters have the safest introduction to hunting when accompanied by an adult. In addition, the report identified those states with strict minimum age requirements for hunting.

    The study data led to the creation of Families Afield, a program designed to educate hunters, volunteers, state agencies and elected officials about the negative influence of some state's youth hunting restrictions.

    Steered by the U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance, National Wild Turkey Federation and the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the program's ultimate goal was to encourage family participation in hunting and to help bolster future hunter numbers.

    Prior to legislation enacted this year, 13 states already were considered as non-restrictive relating to youth hunting.

    Here's the rundown of the states that met the Families Afield challenge through legislative action this year:

    Florida: Created a supervised hunting program that permits a newcomer to hunt with a mentor for one year before completion of a hunter-education course.

    Illinois: Created an apprentice hunting license that permits experienced hunters to take newcomers 10 and older hunting for one year before completion of a hunter-education course.

    Kansas: Now permits newcomers 15 and younger to hunt with a mentor before completion of a hunter-education course.

    Louisiana: Created an apprentice hunting license that permits experienced hunters to take newcomers 16 and older hunting for one year before completion of a hunter-education course.

    Michigan: Lowered the minimum hunting age for small game from 12 to 10, and for big game from 14 to 12. Also created an apprentice hunting license that permits experienced hunters to take newcomers 10 and older hunting before completion of a hunter-education course.

    Minnesota: Now permits new turkey hunters to hunt with a mentor before completing a hunter-education course.

    Mississippi: Created an apprentice hunting license that permits experienced hunters to take newcomers hunting at any age for one year before completion of a hunter-education course.

    Ohio: Created an apprentice hunting license that permits experienced hunters to take newcomers hunting for no more than three years at any age before completion of a hunter-education course.

    Pennsylvania: Created a mentored youth hunting program that permits experienced hunters to take newcomers hunting at any age for deer, turkey and groundhogs before completion of a hunter-education course.

    Tennessee: Created a program that exempts newcomers 10 and older from hunter-education requirements for one year.

    Utah: Eliminated the age minimum for turkey, upland and small-game hunting.

    FORUM | MAILBAG

    posted Sept. 27, 2006

    Survey: Public OK with wolves in upper Midwest

    A 220-question survey asking residents of Minnesota, Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan about their attitudes and observations on wolves had some very interesting results, no matter which side of the reintroduction fence you stand on.

    Sociologist Kevin Schanning at Northland College in Ashland polled 2,900 people by mail across the three states in 2004 and 2005; the results are regarded by pollsters as the most comprehensive opinion survey on wolves in the region.

    The survey found three of four residents in the three states think there is about the right number of wolves in their state, while only 25 percent say there are too many.

    However, on the subject of wolf numbers, many of those polled did not know how many animals actually reside in their particular state.

    Most Minnesotans vastly underestimated how many wolves the state holds — the population is more than 3,000 — with 76 percent believing the state had 900 or fewer wolves. Only 24 percent knew that Minnesota has more than 900 wolves.

    By contrast, Upper Peninsula residents tended to overestimate the number of wolves there, while Wisconsin survey takers were the closest of the three.

    There are about 450 wolves in both Wisconsin and Michigan.

    In Minnesota, 60 percent claimed to have seen a wolf in the wild, with 57 percent in Michigan and 46 percent in Wisconsin stating the same. Head researcher Schanning was quick to point out that the actual numbers are likely quite lower because of misidentification in the field.

    Regarding the potential of hunting or trapping seasons, Wisconsin residents were evenly split on the subject. In Michigan, 46 percent supported hunting of wolves, while 35 percent opposed it.

    According to The Duluth Tribune, more than 15,000 surveys were mailed randomly. About 13 percent, some 2,900 surveys, were completed and returned. Most of those responding, nearly three out of four, were men.

    The survey was paid for with a $100,000 grant awarded by the Timber Wolf Alliance, an organization supporting wolf reintroduction in the region. FORUM | MAILBAG

    Dry conditions force early start to Wyoming elk hunt

    An extended drought and poor forage production in northwestern Wyoming has compelled the state Game and Fish Department to move an elk hunt up by nearly a month.

    Wildlife officials announced this week that firearms hunters with permits for elk in hunt area 58 east of Yellowstone National Park have been alerted hunting will begin Oct. 5, instead of the previously scheduled start date of Nov. 1. The area is part of the Carter Mountain Hunter Management Area near Cody.

    Gary Brown, Cody region wildlife supervisor, said poor forage production and a lack of water has forced elk to move to lower elevations, where they are congregating on irrigated cropland.

    "We haven't been very successful in getting them to leave," Brown said

    Brown said that by opening the season early the department hopes it can break up large herds of elk and disperse them into their traditional fall habitat. FORUM | MAILBAG

    posted Sept. 26, 2006

    Passing along the hunting and fishing legacy

    Here's hoping you and your family were able to take part in a local or regional event commemorating the 35th annual National Hunting and Fishing Day observed Saturday.

    Thanks to the efforts of the National Shooting Sports Foundation and assorted corporate sponsors, this was the first year the observation had a true home location where national conservation leaders could gather to commemorate the role sportsmen and outdoorswomen play in sustaining America's hunting and fishing heritage.

    Based on its inaugural year as host facility, the incomparable Wonders of Wildlife National Fish and Wildlife Museum and Aquarium, located adjacent to the Bass Pro Shops headquarters in Springfield, Mo., will make a fine venue in coming years as the official home for the annual observance.

    Simply put, the Wonders of Wildlife Museum is unlike any other facility of its kind.

    Beyond the impressive saltwater and freshwater aquariums, live wildlife and dioramas that one would expect to see in other wildlife exhibits, a proud and unapologetic message of hunting, fishing, wildlife management and conservation is delivered throughout the facility.

    The original motivation for creating National Hunting and Fishing Day was to help Americans — particularly non-hunters and non-anglers — appreciate and understand the skills, traditions, economic impacts and conservation successes of hunters and anglers.

    Saturday's events in Springfield included outdoor exhibits geared particularly for the younger crowd — tomorrow's sportsmen. Youngsters enjoyed activities — such as archery and airgun shooting, casting contests with BASS pro anglers and animal skull identification — and giveaway items.

    The festivities were highlighted by an evening dinner with a keynote address given by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service director Dale Hall. Tracy Byrd, honorary National Hunting and Fishing Day chairman closed out the evening with a musical performance to an appreciative crowd. FORUM | MAILBAG

    Jeff Cooper, 1920-2006

    He was the gunner's guru.

    Jeff Cooper, considered by many as the world's foremost expert on small arms, shooting and firearms training, died yesterday at his home in Prescott, Ariz. He was 86.

    Known for his inventive training techniques, shooting discipline and gun writing, Cooper was one of shooting's most colorful and outspoken characters for the past 50 years.

    He served as editor at large for Guns and Ammo magazine for many years and wrote numerous books on shooting and firearms.

    In recent years his fans continued to follow him by reading his entertaining monthly opinion columns on the Gunsite Gossip Web page. His archived postings dating back to 1993 remain there.

    According to Cooper's obituary appearing in today's Prescott Daily Courier, he organized a group called the Bear Valley Gunslingers and the Southwest Combat League in the 1960s. During that time, he formulated the modern technique of combat handgun shooting incorporating a semi-automatic pistol (usually a .45-caliber), a two-handed Weaver stance, breath control and a surprise trigger break.

    In 1976, he founded the American Pistol Institute, or Gunsite, outside Prescott to teach those pistol techniques and later added a full curriculum on pistols, rifles and shotguns.

    Since then, more than 18,000 students, including celebrities like Tom Selleck, law enforcement officers, bodyguards, military from many nations and civilians graduated from courses there.

    He wrote at least a dozen books, of which my favorite is (the title says it all) "To Ride, Shoot Straight, and Speak the Truth."

    His motto and frequent admonition to other shooters was DVC: Diligentia, Vis, Celeritas (Accuracy, Power and Speed).

    An editorial in the Prescott paper aptly notes that with Cooper's passing, America lost a national treasure, but most Americans will never know it.

    The editorial mentions a recent Internet posting by a Louisiana police officer as part of a discussion of Cooper's final illness:

    He is perhaps the only man I've ever met more arrogant than I am. But unlike me, he rates to be arrogant. No matter who you are or what you've done with a big bore handgun, you do it better because that man lived.

    FORUM | MAILBAG

    posted Sept. 25, 2006

    Single anglers can now hook partners online

    You've probably heard about one or more of the online dating and matchmaking Web sites with which singles post pertinent information about themselves and the person they would like to meet for fun, dating and possible romance, right?

    There are matchmaking Web sites with millions of database participants, like eHarmony, Match.com and Yahoo Personals.

    There are even more specialized sites that focus on singles hoping to find friends and potential mates within their region, religion and political beliefs.

    Now a company that produces Web sites on hunting, fishing and other outdoor pursuits is banking that there are plenty of single men and women who would like to search for a date or significant other who shares their passion for the outdoors.

    In a press release, Henricks Outdoors, an Oregon-based Web site producer, announces today's launching of Outdoor Personals — a free, full-featured dating and community Web site for outdoor enthusiasts.

    According to the company statement, OutdoorPersonals.com allows people to find others who share their love of hunting, fishing, boating, camping, hiking and everything else in the outdoors.

    "While we recognize that there are plenty of dating Web sites available, only a few cater specifically to the outdoor market," said site founder Jeremy Henricks.

    "We plan to take this to the next level by providing outdoor enthusiasts with a safe, fun environment for meeting other like-minded singles and friends online, while offering tons of great features at no cost to standard members."

    Because the site is new, it will probably be some weeks before the number of participants grows into a real searchable database. To that end, the site owner says a radio advertising campaign will kick off later this year in selected American cities to increase membership.

    So if you're looking for someone to share your double treestand or to fill the empty spot in your two-person kayak or bicycle built for two, you may be able to do it online.

    FORUM | MAILBAG

    Teddy bear fingered as trout killer

    An innocent-looking teddy bear has been implicated in the death of 2,500 trout at a New Hampshire Fish and Game Department hatchery facility earlier this month.

    Officials at the Milford hatchery said an unknown person evidently dropped the stuffed toy into a hatchery pool, effectively clogging a drain and preventing oxygenation of water.

    Hatcheries supervisor Robert Fawcett (Get it? Water/Fawcett; we don't make this stuff up, folks!) said the bear — dressed appropriately to withstand the elements in a yellow raincoat and hat — is thought to be the first stuffed bear to cause fish fatalities at the facility.

    "We've had pipes get clogged, but it's usually with more naturally occurring things, like a frog or even a dead muskrat," Fawcett said. "This one turned out to be a teddy bear, and we don't know how it got there."

    As a result of the incident, a new warning sign is now posted at the hatchery, reading: "RELEASE OF ANY TEDDY BEARS into the fish hatchery water IS NOT PERMITTED."

    According to the Concord Monitor, Fawcett urged anyone who drops a teddy bear in the water to notify a fish culturist at the hatchery.

    "They might save your teddy bear, and keep it from becoming a killer," declared a somber Fawcett.

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    About the author: J.R. Absher shares his perspective while blogging about hunting, fishing, shooting sports, sportsmen's issues and the occasional offbeat outdoor tale. In more than 30 years of writing and a lifetime of enjoying the outdoors, he has worked as a newspaper reporter, photographer, mule wrangler, wilderness packer, magazine editor, political consultant, hunting-equipment copywriter, public-relations director and sportsman's advocate. You may contact him at jrabsher@psci.net.

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