posted April 24, 2006:
When the hunter becomes the game
A 300-pound black bear attacked and seriously injured a hunter near Forks, Wash., on Saturday before his partner was able to shoot and kill the bruin.
The incident occurred just outside Olympic National Park, according to the Washington State Patrol's office in Bremerton. The two were hunting under a special permit issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to the landowner.
The unnamed hunter suffered a compound arm fracture, a broken hand and several puncture wounds. He underwent arm surgery Sunday.
Lawn ornament bucks trend
It's spring, that time of year when the plaster figurines and pink flamingoes come out of hibernation and return to their rightful place in flower gardens and front yards throughout Middle America.
But in Oakland County, Michigan, one homeowner's idea of a lawn ornament bucks the trend, so to speak.
About a month ago, Thomas Thompson placed a mounted deer head on a post at the end of his driveway, and now some of his neighbors have asked township officials to demand its removal.
The township supervisor said he can't force Thompson to take down the mount, despite the fact that one neighbor claims the buck scares her children.
"It's gross," local resident Connie Newberg told the Flint Journal. "The first time I saw it, I thought 'how disgusting.' I'm not against hunting, but it's inappropriate to have that right there."
Hunter ed, extra credit
Students attending a hunter-education class last week in the community room of the Livingston, Mont., library received a firearms-safety lesson they probably will never forget, after the instructor accidentally discharged a shotgun into the ceiling.
Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks instructor John Lundberg was demonstrating how someone could accidentally load the wrong ammunition into a firearm in front of about 50 students Wednesday when the accident occurred.
He loaded a 20-gauge shotgun with a live 28-gauge shell, and the gun was accidentally discharged.
Fish, Wildlife and Parks spokeswoman Melissa Frost said live ammo is barred from department-led, hunter-ed courses; Lundberg therefore could face disciplinary action.
posted April 21, 2006:
The buzz: Shark on the fly
The flyangling community is abuzz over the recent catch and release of a 385-pound lemon shark by Dr. Martin Arostegui.
The retired Coral Gables, Fla., physician is well known for his fishing feats and holds more than 150 world records. But this latest catch, on 16-pound tippet, is in line to top them all.
If the record application for his March 7 catch off Key West, Fla., is accepted by the International Game Fish Association, it would mark
the heaviest fish ever recorded with
The previous record catch on a fly was a 353-pound hammerhead shark caught in 2004, also near Key West.
The Ozarks region of Missouri and Arkansas is well known for its scenic beauty, outdoor recreation and great fishing. In addition, it's a fair conclusion that more bass-fishing boats are produced here than anywhere else on the planet.
On Wednesday, Curtis Karlen of Fort Collins, Colo., was in northwest Arkansas with his newly refurbished 21-foot bass boat and 225-horsepower engine. According to an article in the Baxter Bulletin, Karlen decided to try some fishing on Bull Shoals Lake that evening and used the opportunity to take his boat for a test spin.
The Marion County Sheriff's Department reports that Karlen evidently became disoriented on the lake after dark and ran his boat aground, seriously damaging its hull and engine.
After a long night, Karlen loaded his wrecked boat onto its trailer and headed down the road, where he unfortunately hit a deer, caving in the door on his sport-utility vehicle. Once again, Marion County's finest were there to fill out another report.
Memo to Curtis: If you expected to go turkey hunting in Arkansas this weekend, make other plans.
posted April 20, 2006:
Wal-Mart decision: What does it mean?
Wal-Mart, the nation's largest single retailer of firearms, announced last week that it plans to discontinue gun sales in one-third of its U.S. stores, or about 1,000 locations.
A spokesperson for the retailer said the move was strictly a marketing decision. As one would expect, however, there has been a lot of speculation that the move signifies something more ominous.
Anti-gun organizations were quick to pounce on the Wal-Mart decision, claiming it reflects a growing decline in gun purchases and firearms ownership. However,
industry trends generally prove otherwise.
Interestingly, John Lott, gun-ownership advocate and author of the books "More Guns, Less Crime," and "The Bias Against Guns," writes on his Weblog that Wal-Mart's action "will have a major impact on the gun industry." Further, Lott writes that the move might not have occurred "if Wal-Mart heir John Walton hadn't died last year."
I'm no economist, but it seems to me that Wal-Mart didn't get to this point by making bad business decisions. Would its floor space in some of its more urban stores be put to a more profitable use with electronics and DVDs instead of 20-gauge shotguns? Probably.
In addition, I would suspect that the major expansion of big-box outdoor retailers like Bass Pro Shops, Cabela's and Gander Mountain has impacted gun sales at nearby Wal-Marts to a noticeable degree.
"While from a customer perspective we don't like to see a reduction in the number of retail outlets for our industry's products, the Wal-Mart decision to eliminate firearm sales in some locations may open the door for increased sales among independent retailers and outdoor 'superstores,'" said Doug Painter, National Shooting Sports Foundation president.
One of my favorite gun writers (and bloggers), Field and Stream magazine's David Petzal, also sees the decision as market-based, and little else.
"I think it means that Wal-Mart is obeying one of the inexorable laws of commerce, which states that you carry in your stores those items that sell best, and if people would rather buy jockstraps than firearms, why, clear the shelves for all the new athletic supporters." FORUM | MAILBAG
Spear near in Pennsylvania?
Under pressure from some hunters and anti-hunters alike, the Pennsylvania Game Commission board has delayed its vote to approve the use of an ancient spear-throwing weapon for deer hunting, and has referred the issue back to its law-enforcement committee.
In January, against the recommendations of its staff, the commission nonetheless unanimously supported use of the primitive atlatl for the state's deer hunt.
A staff opinion read prior to that vote stated, "the staff is not convinced (that an atlatl) in the hands of the average hunter, possesses sufficient lethality to ethically and humanely harvest a deer in Pennsylvania."
The commission announced in November it was acting on a request to draft proposed regulations that would permit deer hunters to use the small, wooden launching device that propels a 6-foot spear. The leverage of the atlatl is said to allow users to throw the projectiles much faster and at a much greater distance than one could throw a spear without it.
Currently, only Alabama allows the atlatl for deer hunting, while a handful of other states list the device as legal for rough fish (those not sought for sport or food), some game birds and non-game mammals.
Allan Andress, chief fish and game enforcement officer for the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, said that few hunters opt for the weapon for deer hunting. In fact, there are so few atlatl hunters in Alabama that spearhunters (state game law also allows spears) outnumber those using the spear-tossing tool.
FORUM | MAILBAG
posted April 19, 2006:
Hunting for a college?
Spring may be in the air at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay this week, but so are carbon arrows tipped with razor-sharp broadheads, as campus bowhunters aim to reduce the growing deer population on the 700-acre facility that offers scenic views of its namesake bay.
Bowhunters who qualify for an existing urban deer-hunting program in Green Bay and Brown County began hunting Saturday and will have until the end of the month to cull as many deer as possible from a herd estimated at 50.
As in other city archery-hunting programs cropping up around the country, the UW-Green Bay program requires bowhunters to adhere to certain parameters, like hunting from treestands, shooting downward and staying at least 100 yards away from certain trails.
University authorities said the hunt was implemented as a growing whitetail population increasingly chews away at the campus bushes and flowers, contributes to vehicular accidents and raises the risk of Lyme disease.
The volunteer bowhunters, all of whom have passed shooting proficiency tests, will be allowed to keep one deer; additional venison will be donated to a local food pantry.
Speaking of hunting and institutes of higher learning, ESPNOutdoors.com's top-5 colleges ranks the best that combine education with deer hunting.
Mark Taylor, my good pal and outdoor scribe for the Roanoke Times in Virginia, writes about an offbeat fishing ritual that takes place in his neck of the woods.
At this time of year, trout season attracts anglers to Virginia's mountain streams and rivers. It seems that a legion of these trout nuts some might call them ne'er-do-wells track and follow the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries' tank truck as it goes about its regular trout-stocking duties.
These fellows keep tabs on the department's stocking schedule so they can have the first crack at the thousands of rainbows that are deposited in the Commonwealth's trout waters.
Their reasoning, according to Taylor, is why wait for the official 4 p.m. stocking announcement when you can follow the truck doing the stocking?
Says Robert Jessee, one of the following's followers, "Sometimes when you go down I-581, it looks like a funeral procession. They're so close it looks like they're on each other's trailer hitches."
Sometimes the truck drivers, who have been known to haul trout under cover of darkness from time to time, have outfoxed the stocking stalkers.
posted April 18, 2006:
Talk about sticking it to hunters and competitive shooters. Air Canada, the national airline of our neighbor to the north, now considers checked-on firearms as "dangerous goods."
Beginning June 1, 2006, those using the airline to fly to and from Canadian hunting destinations and shooters traveling to competitive events will be subjected to a surcharge of $65 (Canadian) each way. Yep, that's $130, round-trip, for what the airline insists is a "handling fee."
Question: Is this fair? Let us know.
Idahoans to vote on wolves?
A group called The Idaho Anti-Wolf Coalition is in the process of collecting the necessary signatures to qualify a voter initiative that would direct the removal of Idaho's estimated 500 backcountry wolves "by any means necessary," including killing them.
The measure is generally seen as divisive among many Idaho sportsmen and has drawn little united support from groups like Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, the Idaho Farm Bureau, the Idaho Outfitters and Guides Association and the Idaho Cattle Association even though most of their members are opposed to the reestablishment of a wolf population in the state.
According to the Idaho Statesman, the signatures of 47,000 registered voters must be delivered to the Secretary of State's office by May 1 for the initiative to stand a chance to qualify for the November 2006 general-election ballot.
Critics say if such a measure were approved by a majority of voters, the state would find itself in an unnecessary litigious quagmire with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
"While we sympathize with the people who have suffered wolf depredations, we don't think this initiative is the way to go," said John Thompson, spokesman for the Idaho Farm Bureau. "We don't believe it will hold up in court." FORUM | MAILBAG
Montana's best camping in Wyoming?
Where can you find Montana's best camping? In Wyoming, according to Sunset Magazine, the California-based publication about travel in the western United States.
A cover story in the May issue of the periodical profiled some of the best campgrounds in the West, including a half-dozen Montana locations. However, a map accompanying the article showed the six Montana sites actually are located in Wyoming, including three in Yellowstone National Park.
Dale Conour, Sunset's deputy editor, said the magazine would notify subscribers about the error. He also said a story planned for the July issue would correctly report Yellowstone's location, which is mostly in Wyoming, with smaller portions in Idaho and Montana.
posted April 17, 2006:
Another side of illegal immigration
Much has been written and said about the political and socio-economic impact that millions of illegal Mexican and Central American immigrants have made on the U.S. workforce and infrastructure.
However, very little has been said about the destructive effect that the flow of illegals has had on the fragile desert environment, the wildlife and outdoor recreation in the Southwest.
Hunters, anglers, hikers and others who spend time out-of-doors in the Southwest have witnessed a marked increase in the trashing of our border in recent years.
In an area stretching 100 miles or more north of the international boundary, one will see trails in every direction, trash, soiled clothes, used diapers, abandoned vehicles, and empty plastic water jugs everywhere. And, if you spend a few hours glassing with some good binoculars, chances are you'll see many times more two-legged critters than four-legged ones.
In recent months, more has been written about the dangerous situation on the United States-Mexico border, as well as how native big-game populations are suffering.
In a December report in the Arizona Republic, Arizona Game & Fish Department biologist Jim Heffelfinger admitted that the impact of illegal alien traffic in southern Arizona is at least one of the contributing factors to the decline in the region's mule deer population.
Heffelfinger said that deer numbers are about half of what they were 15 years ago, which also is apparently about the same time that the Mexican border became increasingly porous.
He cited the additional pressure the immigrants put on game animals, especially in summer, when the deer like to spend the hot part of the day resting in shaded desert washes.
In January, the Tucson Citizen carried a disturbing story about an increase in the activity of bandits along the border who prey on the illegals, as well as anyone else they find in the area, like hunters.
Rangers on the vast Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge, about 60 miles southwest of Tucson, say that armed robbery is a daily occurrence. Hunters there even admit to openly breaking hunting regulations, including possession of handguns for personal protection while bowhunting.
And last week, officials with the Coronado National Forest announced that signs have been posted at numerous camping, fishing and popular bird-watching areas in southern Arizona that warn visitors to use extra caution. The signs read: "Travel Caution. Smuggling and illegal immigrants may be encountered in this area."
The U.S. border situation is complex and multi-faceted. But sportsmen need to understand it's about much more than domestic and agricultural labor; it's about our wildlife, environment and our safety in the outdoors. FORUM | MAILBAG
A pair wildlife attacks involving children one of them fatal this week made national headlines and airwaves.
A 7-year-old boy was grabbed Saturday by a mountain lion as he walked single file with seven other family members on a forest trail near Boulder, Colo.
Witnesses said the cougar gripped the youngster by his head and attempted to drag him away before his family managed to drive the cougar away by striking it with rocks and sticks.
"They did everything possible to defend the boy from the lion," Tyler Baskfield, Colorado Department of Wildlife spokesman told The Denver Post.
"You've got to fight back with everything you have if you're attacked by a mountain lion."
Authorities shot and killed the lion in the area of the attack early Sunday.
The boy, who was not named in early reports, is listed in stable condition at Children's Hospital in Denver.
And in east Tennessee, wildlife authorities on Sunday trapped and euthanized a bear in the area where a black bear attacked and killed a 6-year-old Ohio girl and seriously injured her mother and younger brother Thursday.
posted April 14, 2006:
Using the old noodle?
Historically, Missouri's lawmakers don't usually try to trump the Department of Conservation when it comes to setting bag limits, seasons and game rules.
But yesterday the Missouri Senate voted 23-6 to establish an official season for the taking of slimy bottom feeders in the Show-Me State. And, no, the legislation had nothing to do with making politicians fair game, either.
Instead, the measure that now moves on to the Missouri House would expand last year's experimental catfish noodling season to all state waterways for 2006.
In 2005, the Missouri Conservation Commission approved an experimental hand-fishing season for specified stretches of the Fabius, St. Francis and Mississippi rivers from June 1 to July 15.
However, many noodling (or grabbling) aficionados complained that the Mississippi and the St. Francis rivers are too dangerous or otherwise undesirable for hand-fishing.
Not a sport for the faint-hearted, noodling involves becoming completely submerged in a river or creek, then feeling inside crevices or holes in the bank for huge flathead catfish. The diver then inserts his hand inside the critter's mouth and the battle begins.
About 100 permits were issued for the 2005 test season. (I read somewhere that 20 permits were issued to members of a single family, but I can't attest to that fact.)
The practice of noodling catfish is legal in Missouri's neighboring states of Illinois, Arkansas and Oklahoma.
The sponsor of the Missouri bill, Sen. John Cauthorn, said enthusiasts were not satisfied with the limitations of the 2005 hand-fishing season.
"They just want to use their mind and their soul against a monster fish," Cauthorn said.
Of course, I have no idea whether the fine Republican senator from Mexico, Mo., has ever experienced noodling firsthand, but his comments make me doubt it. If he had, I seriously question whether he'd equate anything resembling brain activity with catfish grabblin'.
I can't write about noodling without thinking about my old pal and ESPNOutdoors.com columnist Keith "Catfish" Sutton.
In his 1999 book, "Fishing for Catfish," Sutton wrote:
To noodle, one simply must be brave enough, or foolish enough, depending on your point of view, to reach into an underwater hole and extract the occupant. At times, this is quite simple. The occupant simply chomps down on your hand before you can react. If the creature is a catfish, your friends will pat you on the back and tell any who listen how you bravely fought the monstrous beast. If it is, instead, a snapping turtle, snake or muskrat, they'll ask how you could be so stupid as to stick your hand in a hole where you couldn't see, then give you a nickname like Nubbins, Two-Fingered Jack or Stubby. FORUM | MAILBAG
Oregon cougar management excludes hunters
These days, a decision handed down by a state wildlife agency that riles anti-hunting groups and hunters equally is about as rare as rib-eye steak at a PETA luncheon.
But that's exactly what happened with yesterday's move by the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission that will target the removal of mountain lions in parts of the state where high densities of the predator may threaten humans, livestock or specific big-game populations.
The plan will allow agents designated by the state to hunt problem lions with the aid of hounds, a method generally considered as the most productive.
The state puts the number of its mountain lions at about 5,100 a number that spiked upward from around 3,000 beginning in 1994, when voters approved an initiative that banned the use of hounds for bear and lion hunting. A 1996 attempt to overturn the measure failed.
It was no surprise that spokespersons from the Humane Society of the United States and the Sierra Club took issue with the agency's data and motives during yesterday's commission meeting. Both organizations were major players in the 1994 and 1996 initiative campaigns to restrict hunting with dogs.
Some hunters said they felt betrayed by the commission's move, mainly because they are excluded from the hunting process. Federal agents will exclusively be utilized for tracking and hunting lions while funds taken from hunter fees will pay for the lion management program.
Ron Harder, a longtime Oregon sportsmen's leader who headed the 1996 attempt to reinstate hound hunting through the initiative process, said he was in favor of increased cougar management, but said the plan could cost as much as $589,420 to implement.
posted April 13, 2006:
Easter fare down under: BBQ bunny
More than 400 holiday revelers were expected to converge on Alexandra, New Zealand, for a traditional Easter hunt that involves bunnies all right but no eggs.
Alexandra Lions Club spokesman Dave Ramsay earlier this week said 35 rabbit-hunting teams of 12 shooters each were expected to attend a morning briefing on Good Friday before heading into the hills for the 24-hour contest.
Rabbits are known as prolific pests in New Zealand. With no natural predator, the non-native species could probably be compared to whitetail deer in some parts of the United States for the damage it causes to agricultural interests.
This year's Great Bunny Hunt marks the 15th consecutive year for the event.
Last year, more than 500 hunters took 21,000 rabbits with the winning team bagging 1,800. Organizers decided to pare down the hunter numbers this year to a "more manageable" 35 teams, compared to last year's 55.
Following the hunt, a traditional holiday event called Environment Canterbury down the road in Fairlie, South Canterbury, is expected to serve barbecue rabbit and bunny burgers.
Event spokesman Chris Macann said the Easter Bunny is anything but a loved icon in New Zealand.
Mr. Ten Grand
OK, so it might not be the million dollars that a world-record largemouth bass is thought by many to be worth, but you'd probably agree that $10,000 for one trout ain't chump change.
Less than an hour before this week's official end of the 17th annual Lake Isabella Fishing Derby in Bakersfield, Calif., local resident Joseph Pacheco IV walked into the contest headquarters with a trout bearing tag No. 800, which qualified the angler for a $10,000 check.
Pacheco's catch marked the second time that the tagged fish known as Mr. Ten Grand has been landed during the popular Kern River Valley derby, one of the largest fishing contests of its kind in the state.
As our new blog readers become more familiar with this column and its author, you'll find that I have a major soft spot for stories about good dogs as do many of us who share a love of outdoor sports.
Today I ran across one of the more bizarre dog stories in recent memory, and felt compelled to share it with my ESPNOutdoors.com News Hound readership.
A Salt Lake City, Utah-area woman has been charged with "dog-napping" a neighbor's registered male Labrador retriever, paying a veterinarian to neuter it, then anonymously dropping the dog off at a county animal shelter.
According to an article in today's Salt Lake Tribune, 45-year-old Janet Lane, an outspoken proponent of spaying and neutering, allegedly took Yvette Brimhall's Lab, Duke, without the owner's knowledge in March 2004.
Two days after Duke went missing, county animal-services employees contacted Brimhall after her dog was identified through his implanted microchip. They told her the dog had apparently suffered a botched neutering.
Brimhall said her dog was not provided with a neck cone and injured himself by gnawing at the fresh surgical wound. The dog required emergency surgery.
Lane has been officially charged with criminal mischief, a class A misdemeanor.
We've all heard stories about the well-intentioned, but ultimately ill-conceived actions of animal activists when they target hunting and fishing. But criminal dog neutering is a new one. FORUM | MAILBAG
Rule No. 1: It's a violation of Florida game regulations to kill an alligator out of season.
Rule No. 2: If you kill a Florida 'gator out of season, it's probably not a good idea to serve it at a backyard barbecue.
Today's Miami Herald reports that two Florida Keys men have been charged with poaching (the game violation kind, not the cooking method) in connection with killing, butchering and barbecuing an American alligator last month.
Authorities report that Timothy B. Goll, 18, of Marathon, and Jordan T. Milo, 20, of Big Pine Key, were charged with a third-degree felony.
According to the newspaper report, two other teen-agers also were believed to be involved in the March 24 incident. We assume they will be thoroughly grilled by Florida Fish and Wildlife agents. FORUM | MAILBAG
Criminalizing California cougars
Just when you thought you'd heard everything in California's ongoing cougar conundrum, here comes Assembly Bill 2273 legislation that would make it a crime for mountain lions to attack and kill people in the Golden State.
Since California voters approved an initiative in 1990 making cougars a specially protected mammal, the predator has been off-limits to hunters, even though the population is thriving.
In fact, more lions are now shot annually by California Game and Fish Department agents than hunters used to take back when hunting was allowed.
Lion sightings have become commonplace in suburban areas of the state, and cougar attacks on humans resulted in two deaths and several injuries in recent years.
Now, legislation introduced by California Assemblyman Bill Maze (R-Visalia) would make victims of mountain lion attacks eligible for state compensation. Under current law, the state Victims Compensation and Government Claims Board authorizes compensation for losses suffered as a direct result of criminal acts.
By defining mountain lion attacks as criminal acts, victims and their families could receive financial reparation from the state.
Hmmmm. Wouldn't it just be simpler for cops to arrest problem mountain lions than to track and shoot them? Or, would that constitute profiling?
Anyhow, in fairness to Assemblyman Maze, we see he also has introduced a bill (AB24) that would reinstate limited mountain lion hunting in response to the growing safety problem the big cats pose to Californians. FORUM | MAILBAG
It's the time of year when a wild gobbler's thoughts turn to love. And, as two stories from this week exhibit, sometimes the old boys will go to great lengths and great distances to find the hen of their dreams.
Two Bronx detectives from New York's Emergency Service Unit used a long-handled fishing net to capture a wild turkey Saturday afternoon near the busy Bronx River Parkway after the crafty bird had continually ducked New York City's finest for the better part of a week.
Detectives Brian McAllister and Rick Miller took the captured bird to Green Chimneys in Patterson, a nonprofit residential center that uses animals to help counsel troubled youngsters.
And in South Bend, Ind., a gobbler shattered a double-pane window at the St. Joseph County Library, then it proceeded to crash and thrash its way up and down the shelf-lined aisles, knocking rows of books to the floor and generally raising a ruckus.
According to The South Bend Tribune, library custodian Irvin Cygirt cornered the bird and put on leather gloves before attempting to grab and return the wayward gobbler to the outdoors.
"I picked it up and threw it in the air," Cygirt said. "It took off. I was glad to see that; I thought it was a goner."
Fishing in Russia can be a blast
From the Don't Try This At Your Local River Department comes a story about three less-than-sporting Russian anglers who accidentally blew up a train this week with dynamite they had planned to use to illegally catch fish.
According to The Vladivostok News, a homemade explosive device made by one of the suspects detonated in a car of the Vladivostok-Ussurisk electric train in eastern Russia Monday.
The blast severely damaged one of the train cars, though no one was injured in the incident.
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.