By Scott Bestul
I have hinted—if not outright whined—about the severity of the past winter here in the upper Midwest (an event so windy, frigid and interminable it reminded me of a certain English professor I had back in my college days).
But it is without doubt spring now, and the most certain proof has not been the influx of songbirds or the gobbling of turkeys, but the appearance of morel mushrooms. Robins can be fooled into early migration, and toms will breed hens in a snowstorm, but when mushrooms start popping, it is by-God-spring. It takes moisture, daylight and heat to make these babies grow, and once they start coming, summer is only a few weeks away.
Though I have yet to find my first fungi of 08, friends are starting to send pictures and brag of gorging themselves (see photo, below). I look forward to the first meal of the year and, more importantly, teaching my kids the joy of hunting morels. Do these tasty, easy-to-identify mushrooms grow in your hunting area? If not, are there other varieties you gather, now or in the fall? Let me know!
[ Read Full Post ]
By Kim Hiss
A big congratulations to blog reader Judy Black, whose story about a memorable bear hunt with her husband is currently in Bear Hunting Magazine's May/June issue. Here's an excerpt and photo on the magazine's website. Judy actually told us her hunt story on the blog a few months ago, and she's beyond excited to see it in print as well. She's also excited about an upcoming September elk hunt in Wyoming, and I know we look forward to hearing about that too! - K.H. [ Read Full Post ]
By Scott Bestul
I would like to thank reader Jon (see the last post) for supplying today’s discussion topic. Jon notes that he will never be convinced that there is a difference between a 20-by-20 foot food plot and a bait pile. This is an argument I hear quite often. Baiting proponents contend that a pile of corn, apples, sugar beets (insert food of choice) in the woods is no different than a field of clover, corn or winter wheat. Baiting opponents contend that a food is there 24/7-365; feeding deer regardless of weather or the close of hunting season.
What are your thoughts? Is baiting a legitimate tool for today’s hunters? Do we need to hunt over food to shoot the number of deer biologists are asking us to? What’s the difference between a food plot and a corn pile? Does baiting give hunters a black eye to the non-hunting public? Are there areas where baiting is legitimate and others where it is not? I’d like to hear your thoughts….and see your shed pics! [ Read Full Post ]
By Scott Bestul
From The Grand Rapids Press:
Hundreds of whitetail deer have been shot in recent weeks in Michigan's northeastern Lower Peninsula under a program aimed at preventing them from transmitting bovine tuberculosis to cattle.
The Department of Natural Resources mailed thousands of free, unsolicited deer kill tags this year to farmers in the state's TB zone.
The initiative has displeased some northern Michigan hunters and business owners who have seen deer numbers fall in recent years.
"If you're doing this, you'd be called an exterminator, not a hunter," Doug Mummert, of Gaylord, said. "If we've got to have a reduction in the deer herd, it should be through regular hunting methods." [ Read Full Post ]
By Scott Bestul
I received my first diploma in a long, long time the other day. This past weekend I attended a “Deer Steward Level One” course offered by the Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA). The 2-1/2-day course—taught by noted deer researchers and habitat specialists—covered everything from basic deer biology and management to habitat and food plot work. I’ve been a whitetail geek for more years than I’d like to admit, and I learned an awful lot in a long weekend. QDMA offers a Level II course that teaches deer nuts even more info, and I intend to take the course when I can.
QDMA is a conservation organization that’s on a roll in recent years. Founded by Joe Hamilton over two decades ago, the group built membership slowly at first, with strongest interest in the southeast and Texas. Then, in 1997, Brian Murphy—a PhD whitetail biologist and protégé of Hamilton—took over the reins. Murphy studied successful conservation groups like the NWTF and RMEF and applied that model to the QDMA. Under his tenure, membership and visibility has skyrocketed. QDMA now boasts 50,000-plus members, as well as branches (chapters) across the U.S. and even into Canada.
I’m curious about the presence and/or success of QDMA in your hunting area(s). If the responses to my last post are a true indication, most of you hunt within your state’s boundaries and often close to home. Do you apply QDMA principles (adequate harvest of antlerless deer, allowing young bucks to walk, habitat/food plot development) to the land you hunt? Do you belong to a local chapter? What are the management practices in your neighborhood and how do they affect how you hunt and harvest deer? [ Read Full Post ]
By Kim Hiss
I just came across this April 27 Ted Nugent article on women hunters and thought it was was worth a link. Of course, it's full of Nugent's unflinching "energy," such as this closing appeal to male readers:
Nothing says pro-gun and pro-hunting like an army of female participants, voters and activists. Target the women in your life and let's create a team of female commandos to once and for all crush those who would deny us these wonderful pursuits of happiness in America.
My first thoughts were: I don't think of myself as being in an activist army, and I'm not crazy about the idea of being "targeted" for a team of "commandos."
However, those points aside, Nugent's clear regard for outdoorswomen -- especially those within his own family -- is great to see, and I know he expresses it regularly. The rest of the opinion piece introduces a young bowhunter named Brook and discusses some of the field accomplishments of Nugent's daughter Sasha and wife Shemane.
While he might not be quite my style, I'm all for passionate appeals to get more women into the field, and the fact that he wrote this opinion piece at all is hard not to appreciate. There's plenty of room in the woods for different approaches. - K.H. [ Read Full Post ]
By Kim Hiss
Considering my last post on presidential campaign frustrations, I figured I'd follow my Ameri-centric concerns with a more global view.
During my routine scan of the news today, I kept an eye out for foreign headlines, and came up with a few interesting ones that point out how strikingly similar and eerily different hunting issues are around the world:
BEAR CENSUS IN SLOVAKIA: Due to an ongoing battle between hunters and
animal rights groups, Slovakia is undertaking a census of the country's
bears. Using GPS collars, cameras, and ground crews (at a cost of an estimated $6.3 million) officials hope to determine a true population
number. According to this AFP report current estimates by ecologists and hunting groups vary widely. As bear populations are squeezed by human development, concerns
about limiting encounters with people are on the rise.
On one side of the argument is park
keeper Emil Rakyta, who says that without natural predators, bear
populations are too numerous and becoming more aggressive. "Hunting is
the sole solution," he says. (Between 2000 and 2006, 500 hunting permits were
issued and 194 bears were shot.) On the other side of the argument is member of the animal
protection group Vlk Eric Valaz, who says, "Hunting does not solve
anything apart from killing bears." Anything sound familiar, Jersey?
ILLEGAL AMMO IN RUSSIA: On April 21, Pastor Phillip Miles of South Carolina's Christ Community Church was convicted in a Moscow court of smuggling hunting ammunition into Russia, and sentenced to three years and two months behind bars. According to this Washington Post story, Pastor Miles was arrested in February after arriving in Moscow with cartridges he'd brought for a friend who owned a Winchester rifle. "It's a strange sentence for one box of hunting bullets," Pastor Miles said as he was led from the court in handcuffs. His lawyer is appealing the decision. Does the sentence feel spookily excessive to anyone else?
BIRD HUNTING BAN IN MALTA: One April 24, the European Court passed a ruling that banned the 2008 spring hunting of quail and turtle doves in Malta. The next day, the European Union commission hailed the decision, citing concerns that, "Current hunting practices would endanger the species." According to this EUBusiness.com report, Malta had been the only EU member state to allow spring hunting of quail and turtle doves, the populations of which are declining throughout Europe. The dispute between pro- and anti-hunters had allegedly led to violence and vandal attacks, largely blamed on Malta's Federation for Hunting and Conservation.
This has been your world briefing. -K.H. [ Read Full Post ]
By Scott Bestul
Well, the Norwegian Mafia has left the building, meaning the 5-day
season allotted to them by the Minnesota DNR to kill a gobbler is now
over. I did not manage to put a male turkey within range of my father’s
870, but we had a wonderful hunt together (ignoring the rainy/windy
portion that marked the final two days). Below you will find a photo of
my Uncle Al and his bird, a fine 24-pound slob that played the game
nicely. As I focused the camera I asked Al to smile, to which he
replied “I am smiling.” I have learned better than to press Norwegian
hit men to manufacture emotion. He is Al Bestul, not Pacino, and I
couldn’t love him any more if he could produce a 200-watt grin on
Anyway, off of turkeys and back to deer. I appreciated all the comments
sent in from the “I want to be a producer” post -- especially those of
you new to hunting that expressed a desire to learn fundamental
knowledge. I would love to address some of these issues, and I plan to
talk to our web-gurus about producing some sort of survey of your
hunting experience and what areas you would like to learn about. In the
meantime, please keep in mind that Field & Stream magazine does publish quite a bit
of fundamental deer info, especially in a special section marked
“Whitetail Handbook.” Handbooks are found in the back 2/3 of the
magazine and contain a lot of short, focused instructional stories that
can benefit deer hunters of all skill levels. Please check out these
articles, which will begin appearing in the August issue.
In the meantime, I’d like you to answer a question that was brought to
my attention by a friend in the outdoor industry. He owns a company
that produces a deer hunting product and my buddy noted in a recent
conversation that “85 % of our customers say that they never leave
their home state to deer hunt.” The comment struck me immediately and,
of course, made me think of BuckTracker readers. Do you fit the market
profile of the stay-at-home deer hunter? Or do you travel across state
lines? If so, how often? I’d love to catch a snapshot of our audience
here…and I won’t even ask you to smile! [ Read Full Post ]
By Scott Bestul
From the Times-Dispatch:
The [Charles City County] Board of Supervisors voted 2-1 last night to prohibit deer hunting with high-powered rifles, drawing anger and raised voices from some in the audience. . . .
Vince Brackett said hunting with rifles is a tradition and it claims far fewer lives than boating in Virginia...
Elbert Parker held a piece of inch-thick wood above his head to demonstrate the ease with which a bullet could go through someone's wall.
"Your children can be shot dead looking at TV in your house," he said, prompting an argument among him and members of the crowd until board chairman Gilbert A. Smith tapped on a table to quiet them. [ Read Full Post ]
By Scott Bestul
Wisconsin Approves 35 Earn-A-Buck Zones for 2008
South Carolina Bill Would Toughen Rules On Deer Contraception
Accused “Serial” Deer Poacher Is A Vegetarian
By Bill Heavey
By Kim Hiss
Two things have been distracting me from writing a blog post today. And at first glance they had nothing to do with one another.
The first is the outcome of Tuesday's Pennsylvania primary. I came into the world during the Carter administration, and never have I followed an electoral process with more hope or anxiety. Regardless of your political, moral, spiritual, economical, racial, philosophical -- hell, grammatical perspective, it's hard to deny the historic significance of the candidacies of Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Policies aside, they're both mold-breakers in the history of American presidential contenders.
The second distraction is the 2005 film Batman Begins, starring Christian Bale and directed by Christopher Nolan. My boyfriend gave it to me on DVD and I just decided to pop it in (I was supposed to be working on the blog at the time, but I'm prone to occasional procrastination). It's the prequel to the Batman story, in which the son of a billionaire quests to avenge his parents' murders, and along the way, becomes the winged legend who saves the world's greatest city from ruin.
As the closing credits rolled and the soundtrack swelled, my shameless sense of idealism kicked in, and I realized that the presidential race and the comic book legend are about much the same thing -- the need for a hero.
Of course, I'm not saying the country is in as disastrous a state as the darkly corrupt and criminal Gotham City, but there are certainly aspects of the nation that need help -- and what is the electoral process if not the search for someone larger than life to do the saving?
One of the things that has been most frustrating to me this election season are the petty distractions muddying the real issues that need discussing. In this regard, some news outlets are behaving particularly badly -- fixating on and exaggerating inconsequential events. And we're still just in the primaries. Considering such frustrations, it can feel like the old, broken ways of politics and political news coverage will never change. In the wake of the Pennsylvania primary, for example, I got really frustrated thinking about the continuing campaign season ahead. Which led to my inability to concentrate on writing a blog post. Which led to me turning on the movie.
In Batman Begins, there's a scene in which the adult Bruce Wayne is on a private plane, making his prodigal return to Gotham. He's talking to Alfred (played by Michael Caine) and explaining his idea of creating an alternate hero identity -- one strong enough to inspire the good citizens of the city to seek a better life. And he says, "People need dramatic examples to shake them out of apathy."
Sure, the line is spoken by a comic book character, but I think it holds up just fine in real life. I hope the winning candidate likewise has the ability to shake the country of politics as usual, cast out the practices that don't work, and save the things that need saving.-K.H.
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By Scott Bestul
Well, I missed my normal Tuesday morning blog post because I’ve been kidnapped by the mafia. As in the Norwegian mafia. This is the nickname I’ve bestowed on my father and uncle, both kind and gentle souls for much of the year, but certified hit men for about two weeks of the spring turkey season. The three of us have a simple agreement: I get them on good turkey ground and yelp at resident gobblers; they kill any bearded infidels that appear. They’re much more effective at their jobs than I am at mine, but I am family so they give me a pass.
Anyway, Uncle Al wrote the first death certificate Monday morning, but I will wait to post his harvest photo until dad finishes his contract, then I will post them together. In the meantime, I am doing my best to keep up with these 70-something ridge runners in their quest to race down any gobble heard in the hill country of southeastern Minnesota. Most outdoorsmen reserve their retirement for idle pastimes like bass fishing or sitting in tower blinds. The Mafioso has devoted itself to physical conditioning of a caliber that would make Jack LaLane weep. I’d wisecrack about them making run-n-gun turkey hunting a sort of geriatric Olympic event, but I’m afraid they’d knee-cap me.
But I digress. This is a deer hunting blog, and I need to write about deer. So here is a photo of what a scoring buddy calls a “Medusa” buck. Freaky non-typicals like these are not even taken for entry in Boone & Crockett, because they never shed their velvet and apparently keep growing antlers year-round. And, it should be noted, they are usually missing at least one testicle. Given my current state of sleep and oxygen deprivation, I’m not even going to comment on that physical affliction. There has to be a joke in there somewhere, but it’s not in me right now. I gotta get rested up for tomorrow… [ Read Full Post ]