Thursday, October 28, 2010

Rule of Thumb #2...

There's a very fine line between provocative and stupid. Walk it at your peril...

*** And, I should probably add, I myself have fallen on the wrong side of that line more often than I care to admit...

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Last chance hunts...

A fellow bird hunter and I were recently discussing the ethics of hunting upland gamebirds that - despite being threatened with practical if not literal extinction - still have legal seasons in some states.

We were specifically discussing lesser prairie chickens, a bird that in the space of a little over one hundred years has gone from being the most iconic and populous prairie gamebird species on the southern plains to one that has disappeared from all but a tiny fraction of its historic range. There are, however, still huntable populations of lessers in southwest Kansas, and the question was, should we plan a "Last Chance" trip to hunt lessers before they're (inevitably) listed under the ESA?

Now that topic is a weighty one, and will be the subject of a future blog post, but I mention it today as a segue to something I found that sort of ties into the question. Lessers, it seems, aren't the only gamebirds on the brink.

Bird Hunted To Near Extinction Due To Infuriating 'Fuck You' Call

Now I must confess I've never hunted the Montana Merkle, but I'm wondering how many former merkle hunters there are out there who wrestled with the same question I now face with the lesser prairie chicken, and how many are still haunted by the memory of the merkle's plaintive, profane call echoing across the prairie (or wherever it lives...) fuuuuck youuuu, fuuuuck youuuu...

Kinda makes you tear up just a bit, doesn't it?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Follow The Bouncing Tail...

Apologies for the dearth of activity the past few days. I've been in Texas (by choice, even) chasing bird dogs for an upcoming web story/photo gallery for F&S. Had a good time, met some good folks, drank some good scotch (good in the fact that not only was it a fine single-malt Islay beginning with the letter "L", but good in the fact that someone else paid for it, thus saving this month's mortgage payment). As such, I downed as much as my liver would allow. I am only an occasional but shamelessly opportunistic drunk...

I took Jenny along for the trip, and as you can tell from the photograph, she had a lot of fun trying to keep up with older, faster, stronger and bigger-running dogs. She didn't stumble across any wild birds, but on the way back I picked up a few quail from a game farm. We'll see how that goes this week.

The downside was I missed the waterfowl opener and Tessie the chessie is a bit put out with me. I tried explaining to her that we have no water on the private land and since the deerslayer muzzleloader season also opened on Saturday there was no way we were hunting the lake, but she's still a bit grumpy. If I can find some water I'll make it up to her this weekend.

More posts to follow once I catch up with responsibilities and other drudgeries...

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Chamber music

It looks like a fuzzy portal to the afterlife, but in reality it's the world's worst photograph of a lengthened forcing cone. Had I not been so lazy and used my regular SLR instead of the point-n-shoot, you'd be viewing the world's second-worst photograph of a lengthened forcing cone.

But I was (so lazy), so you get the worst. Lucky you. And please forgive the grime. I just got the barrel back and I haven't yet run a patch through it.

In the ongoing project to extend the duck-killing days of my old 870 (of which you can read, if you'd like, how I acquired it and subsequently what I'm doing to it ) I sent the barrel off to shotgun specialist Mike Orlen to have it threaded for choke tubes and cut back to the first rib post, as well as have the forcing cone lengthened.

So what started out life as a 30-inch full-choke barrel that patterned really well with one steel load but not so much with everything else was returned to me as a svelte, lively tube that I hope will pattern well with just about anything, or at least a few more loads than it did before.

And while the jury is still out among some as to the effectiveness of lengthened forcing cones on both patterns and recoil, I'm hoping it helps a little with both. I guess we'll see.

Remington, in apparently mistaking me for someone who mattered, recently sent me a few boxes of their new Hypersonic steel loads to try out. I'll shoot a few at the pattern board next week and see how they (and the barrel) does.

In the meantime, remember, don't walk toward the light...

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Viva La Resistance!

I'm pretty sure I've posted this or a similar photo here before, but my memory is failing so maybe I haven't. At any rate, in light of the ongoing tumult in France I thought I'd post it again. Or for the first time. I can't recall, so whichever applies...

Imagine a group of young, impressionable, innocent, wide-eyed rural high school kids from Dustbowl, USA sitting on the steps of the Paris Opera House eating lunch as this raucous scene unfolds before them. How cool would that be? That's the kind of populist cross-cultural education you just can't get at the Louvre. It was great fun...

Say what you will about the French (and personally, I can't help but love 'em) but they do know how to throw a good protest/strike/street demonstration.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Duck season's looking a little grim...

At least down at the old farm. How grim? Well, the spot where my truck is parked should be under about three feet of water this time of year. And there should be ducks, lots of ducks, all over it. Instead, you can just barely make out the lake (or what's left of it) way off in the distance.

 I'm taking this picture from one of my duck blinds. In fact, that firewood in the bed of the truck? Yeah, that used to be one of my duck blinds. No sense in letting all that good dead-standing wood go to waste, right? Gotta make hay when the sun shines. And obviously it's been shining quite a bit the past couple of years...

We're still in the grip of what the climatologists classify as a "moderate drought" but all I know is that virtually all of my early-season shallow-water hunting spots are simply gone, replaced by dusty little bowls of cracked and desiccated earth. Which means if I want to hunt I'm going to have to switch to main lakes and bigger, deeper bodies of water.

Anyone have a layout boat or sneak box they want to send my way? Looks like I'm going to need one...

Thursday, October 14, 2010

This is not what I'm striving for this year...

Unless I happen to stumble across one as nice or nicer before I shoot the first legal buck I see during muzzleloader or rifle season. This year I'm hunting strictly for meat. Headgear will not make its way into the equation this season, nor will the kind of serious in-stand/blind time I've done in years past. Provided I have the opportunity to do so, the first two bucks and the first four does I see will be going in the freezer. No questions, no hesitation, no contemplation.

The question is, why? Why would a guy who fell in love with the bow and bowhunting the first time he picked one up as a teenager let the first two weeks of the Oklahoma archery season pass by without so much as an afternoon in the woods? Why would a guy who last year let any number of nice, eminently shootable bucks walk during rifle season suddenly decide this year to shoot whatever passes by first?

And the answer is, I really don't know. I can't put my finger on any one compelling reason. I certainly haven't lost my desire to hunt big game, but I do think maybe I've lost, or at least I'm losing, my desire to hunt according to what I see as the increasingly artificial, frenetic, misplaced and generally fucked up mores, ideals and attitudes of the American big-game hunting scene.

That is a fairly predictable and certainly un-original lament, so I see no reason to get pedantic or preachy about it.

 And while it may seem as such, it's not a judgement or a condemnation of others. That's simply how I see it for myself. Therein lies the beauty of hunting: it is, ultimately, whatever you want it to be, and it means whatever you want it to mean.

It just so happens that increasingly I'm finding that what it means to me is at odds with what it means to everyone else, so I must find my clarity in the simple, easy-to-understand act of killing large animals solely for the sake of one's food. Perhaps somewhere along the way I'll manage to find the rest of what I've apparently lost.

In the meantime, I will find my solace in dogs, birds, ducks and boys. And that's not a bad place to be.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Canine Tweener

Guess who turned six months old today?

And guess who still doesn't care? At all.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Cheapskate Chronicles: Drill Baby Drill Edition.

There are - when winnowed down to the honest truth - two categories of outdoor writers: the first category encompasses writers who call up the PR or marketing rep for whatever company that makes whatever product the writer is interested in to ask for a review copy of said product, and is promptly sent said product.

The second category encompasses writers who call up the PR or marketing rep for whatever company that makes whatever product the writer is interested in to ask for a review copy of said product, and is promptly sent a brochure for said product and a map to the nearest retail store.

Go on, take a guess as to which category yours truly belongs?

So in my ongoing project to upgrade my aged 870 before the start of this year's waterfowl season, one of the things I wished to add was a sling, as my old arms are getting weak and tired. Problem is, my geriatric (or vintage, if you prefer) 870 did not come equipped with a swivel-studded magazine tube cap.

I didn't want to spend the whopping twenty bucks it would take to buy one, and I knew if I called up one of the companies that manufacture aftermarket swivel-studded magazine tube caps to request a writer's sample I would promptly be sent a brochure and directions to the nearest retail outlet.

So I did what anyone of my peasant lineage and correspondingly peasant income bracket would do: I made my own.

And you know what? I discovered that you can do a helluva lot with a drill, a spare sling swivel and the kind of innovation best stoked by the desperation of an empty wallet.

Behold! The mighty hand-crafted awesomeness of my zero-cost magazine tube cap. In a day and age seemingly engulfed in a rampant orgy of crass consumerism (and one in which I'd gladly engage if I had the filthy lucre to do so) it is my small paean to the spirit of do-it-yourself-cause-you-ain't-got-no-choiceism.

And please don't point out the obvious fact that if this doesn't work I'm out the twenty bucks for a replacement magazine tube cap anyway because I've destroyed the stock one. Just give me my fleeting victory. I'll let you know if it's a hollow one first time I throw the gun across my back...

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A study in resilience

Here's a photograph of a doe that is about as near to death as I've ever seen. It was taken earlier this summer, and the photograph simply does not do justice to how horrible she looked. That right rear leg was so badly broken that it flopped back and forth as she limped along, and while you can't see it in the photograph, the other side was so swollen it looked like someone had planted a water balloon under her skin. She might have weighed 50 pounds, but I doubt it.

And how old were her fawns?

A week, maybe two weeks at most.

The situation presented me with quite a moral and philosophical dilemma. I felt there was absolutely no way this doe, which was one of our previous year's fawns, would make it another few days. But her fawns were clearly too young to survive on their own. What to do? Let her die? Shoot her? Try to keep the other does off her so she could eat a bit?

She couldn't run, she could barely walk, she could barely nurse. The other deer routinely beat her and ran her off not only the feed we placed out, but everything the deer grazed on around the house; grass, trees, shrubs, water. It was brutal, it was merciless and it was a stark but important lesson for the boys that no matter how much we'd like to sugercoat it, Nature is a harsh and unyielding bitch.

I called our county warden and discussed it with him. He said "If you think she's not going to survive I can come out, put her down and we can try to catch the fawns." I don't know why I hesitated, but I did. I told him I'd give it a day or two and call him back. I never did.

And thus began an entire summer of what I came to think of as "deer patrol." Every time I'd see her limp into the yard, looking around furtively to make sure no other does were near, I'd get up from what I was doing, grab a bucket of corn and a slingshot and go stand guard as she ate with that mangled, useless leg drawn up to her body.

I was still firmly convinced she wouldn't last the summer - there was really no question of that - but I knew there was no chance of catching her fawns and I figured if I could keep her alive long enough for the fawns to start eating, they'd at least have a fighting chance to make it into the fall. If mama doe could just hang on another couple weeks and get them off the milk, but that was a damn big "if"...

And here's a picture I snapped this morning...

Amazing, isn't it? The fawns are sleek and healthy and she's at a near-normal weight. Her leg will always be a little crooked and gimpy, and I still question how well she'll handle this winter, but she can walk and run pretty much normally, and more importantly, she can fight, rearing up on her hind legs to defend herself against other does. They no longer run her off like they used to. Just yesterday I watched as a little buck tried to bully her off  a patch of grass and got a quick hoof to the back for his troubles.

(and in case you're wondering, the warty-looking patches on her are a harmless skin condition called cutaneous fibromas. They're basically "deer warts" caused by biting flies. It's been a bad year for them and my theory as to why she has so many more than the other deer is that she has a compromised immune system from fighting off the infection in her leg.)

From an ethical standpoint should I have spent all summer doing what I did? I don't know. You could certainly make the case that I interfered, meddled in something I shouldn't have and artificially altered a situation I had no business in.

On the other hand, I've been deer hunting long enough to know I shouldn't make any negative assumptions about a deer's chances for survival. They are incredibly hardy animals, and there is no way of knowing if anything I did helped that doe's chances of  survival at all, and probably a bit egocentric to assume I did. She may very well have pulled through regardless.

So who knows? I guess, if you're inclined to see things one way I'm guilty of trifling with nature, anthropomorphizing the grand, cruel struggle for survival. And if you're inclined to see things another way I just did what comes natural to some humans who see an animal in distress, even those humans who hunt those same animals.

Me, I just do what feels right and natural. I never much saw the point in trying to analyze either logic or empathy. I just like watching those fawns dancing through the woods.

Friday, October 1, 2010

I'm famous! At least my fish is. Sort of. In Jersey.

Some time back Darren Dorris at the New Jersey Angler magazine asked me to write a first-person account of last year's New Jersey Fishing Trip, the one on which I somehow found myself attached to the 600-pound blue marlin you see below.

Just got my contributor copies in the mail, and I gotta admit, it really makes me want to go back. Jersey is - despite Snooki (see below) - a really cool place and if you love to fish it's just about perfection. Hopefully I'll be able to go back next year for stripers and tuna, and if I ever win the lottery I'm buying a boat and a beach house, hiring myself a film crew and doing my own damn version of Jersey Shore...

Redundancy in Science...

I recently read of the ethical conundrum scientists are facing over the possibility of cloning a Neanderthal.

Via BoingBoing

Should we clone a neanderthal? No, really, should we? Recently, Archaeology magazine considered the scientific, legal, and of course ethical challenges of doing just that. Researchers from Roche's 454 Life Sciences and genetics firm Illumina are collecting bits of Neanderthal DNA to sequence the genome of a 30,000-year-old Neanderthal woman from Croatia. Once the genome is complete, making a clone is no easy task. But as the article explains, it's within the relam of possibility. And what happens if there's success?

My question is: why do need to go through the trouble of cloning Neanderthals? See below.

Abandon all hope ye who live here

What a dumbshit culture we live in, what a willfully dumbshit people we are and what an age-old and ultimately useless (because we're all dumbshits, remember) lament that is, because this, folks, is who we are...

From the Chicago Tribune

Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi, star of the reality tv show "Jersey Shore" is writing a book set for release in early 2011. The novel, which will be titled "A Shore Thing," will include "big hair, dark tans and fights galore" according to the book's publisher, Gallery Books, an imprint of Simon and Schuster.

Of her book the "Jersey Shore" star said in a written statement, "I'm pumped to announce to my fans a project that I've been working on for some time."

To be fair, this is not a surprise. "With the help of her managers, Snooki is trying to spin her image into Snooki-theme products and maybe a book..." Cathy Horn wrote in the New York Times in July of the reality star. Of Polizzi's literary inclinations, Horn also writes, "She simply isn’t capable of serious introspection. She told me she has read only two books in her life, 'Twilight' and 'Dear John.'"

Move along, folks, nothing to see here...