By Kim Hiss
Field & Stream deputy editor (and regular book-reviewer) David E. Petzal just sent me his verdict on the new paperback version of Her Best Shot: Women and Guns in America by Laura Browder. The book explores gun culture in general, not just hunting, and I've found it a useful read (I wouldn't be surprised if a few of us have seen it, actually), and I was really interested in Mr. Petzal's take (plus, I just love reading anything Dave writes). -K.H.
If you read Laura Browder's book, you will learn that: For a very long time, a great many American
women have been very good with guns, and American men have not been particularly happy about it. This mixture of shooting and sociology is interesting almost in spite of itself. Ms. Browder is an academic (a professor of English at Virginia Commonwealth University), and writes like one. On the other hand, because she is an academic, she has really done her research, and the material here is unusual, interesting, and thought-provoking.
Her Best Shot is a sociological study of women in American history whose lives have been intertwined with guns for good or bad. They begin with Deborah Sampson who cross-dressed and fought (not carried water; fought) in the Revolution, Annie Oakley, Calamity Jane, Ma Barker, Bonnie Parker, Patty Hearst, and the writer and militiawoman Carolyn Chute. Plus others, both famous and forgotten.
Of these, Bonnie Parker may be the most interesting. She was something of a genius at self-promotion, and Clyde Barrow would have died as just another anonymous hood had he not met her. They worked tirelessly to promote themselves, but their greatest fame came when police found, developed, and published a series of "gun-toting moll" photos the couple had taken as a gag. And according to Bonnie's mother, her daughter loved babies, and often tried to borrow one for a day or two.
Her Best Shot is filled with fascinating history that has largely been lost or ignored -- until now. It's $29.95, paperback, from uncpress.unc.edu . -D.E.P. [ Read Full Post ]
By Scott Bestul
I’ve decided to devote extra blog spots to Iowa deer hunting, simply because there are too many great stories coming from the Hawkeye State to ignore. The latest fell in my lap when I was at the ’08 Iowa Deer Classic and ran into wildlife artist Larry Zach. I’d interviewed Larry several times over the phone, but this was our first personal meeting. He is wonderful guy; talented painter, devout bowhunter, and dedicated conservationist.
Anyway, Larry was displaying his latest project at his Deer Classic booth; a painting of the Brian Andrews buck. Trophy nuts will recall the Andrews whitetail, a monstrous nontypical shot by the then-16-year-old Brian in the fall of 2003. The 26-point buck had a B&C score of 253-1/8” and became the new state record bow-killed nontypical. Heady stuff for anyone, but nearly unbelievable for a teenager!
Unfortunately, barely six months after experiencing whitetailing as good as it gets, Brian experienced crushing disappointment. On June 19, 2004, thieves entered the Andrews home and stole his trophy mount. The taxidermy has never been recovered. Fortunately, antler artist Tom Sexton was able to construct a nearly-perfect replica of the rack, and this year, Zach completed a painting of the deer in a natural setting. I’ve always been a huge fan of Larry’s art, but I felt this was one of his best whitetail pieces. He combines wonderful color, strong composition, and a world-class deer. It’s a fitting tribute to an amazing deer and a sad story. For more information on Larry Zach’s wildlife art, visit his website. [ Read Full Post ]
By Kim Hiss
"The future of our sport." You hear that phrase associated with women hunters all the time. The burden of preserving that future is often placed on our shoulders by public speakers, organization leaders, and writers in national magazines and hometown papers alike. Most recently, I saw it in this Montgomery Advertiser article out of Alabama.
And such a claim makes sense. As hunter recruitment numbers fall, public lands feel vulnerable, and certain game species appear threatened, it's only natural to look to the increase in the number of women hunters as a welcome piece of good news for America's hunting heritage. It's an exciting, lofty charge -- the kind of responsibility that maybe makes you want to wave a flag and break into song. But how much does it factor into your identity as a hunter?
For me, it depends. If I have some down time at home or at work (don't tell), I do enjoy thinking about that legacy. As I've said in other posts, I get a real kick out of looking at photos and going through accounts of women hunters throughout the country's history -- especially around the turn of the 20th century when there were actually a fair number of females in the field. It really does feel like I'm doing my part to carry on a proud tradition, and it makes me feel all the more connected to the history of our sport in this country.
When I'm actually in the field, on the other hand, an awareness of that tradition is nowhere near the front of my brain. Even with seemingly endless time under a tree for my mind to wander, my experience as a hunter isn't about the past or future of the sport, but it's about the moment in front of me. At exciting times, it's the animal in my scope, the deer on the ground, and the meat under my knife. At quieter times, it's about the wind, that crunch of leaves over my left shoulder, and as always, how many snacks are left in my bag. -K.H. [ Read Full Post ]
By Scott Bestul
Study Shows Deer Respond To Milking
Just in case you’ve been thinking about milking a deer.
Kansas Okays Muzzleloader Scopes and Stone Broadheads
Deer Visit Kindergarten Classroom and Post Office
Minnesota Opens “24/7” Deer Season In TB Areas
[ Read Full Post ]
By Scott Bestul
From the Clarion Ledger:
By a slim margin and after nearly an hour and a half of debate, the state Senate today approved a bill that would allow Mississippi hunters to bait deer. . . .
The House passed the bill by a 74-47 vote several weeks ago after a long debate. The Senate passed the bill with 25 “yays” and 24 “nays.”
Differences in House and Senate versions still must be worked out in conference, and of course the final bill must be signed by the Governor. According to another Ledger article, it’s final passage is still very much in question. [ Read Full Post ]
By Kim Hiss
"The majority of the Supreme Court appeared ready on Tuesday to embrace, for the first time in the country's history, an interpretation of the Second Amendment that protects the right to own a gun for personal use."
There's an attention getter. But it's far from the only interesting section of today's New York Times report on the case that is challenging the constitutionality of the District of Columbia's handgun ban.
However, in an attempt to break my Times addiction, I'm instead linking to this Washington Post article on the current argument, along with some interesting dialogue excerpts also on the paper's site.
The historic nature of the discussion (the last major Supreme Court ruling on the subject was handed down in 1939) seemed to be front and center in numerous comments from justices and lawyers alike, who sparred on the intentions of the Constitution's framers.
Just as a refresher, the Second Amendment states (all together now), A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
Walter E. Dellinger III, who argued for the District of Columbia, reportedly said, "The amendment's first clause confirms that the right is militia-related."
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. had a different take, reportedly asking, "If it is limited to state militias, why would they say, 'the right of the people?'"
Given all the opposing views, there seemed to be at least some agreement on that point that, even in the event that the right of the individual gun owner was recognized, some manner of limitation would still be called for.
How closely are you following the case (at the extreme end of the spectrum, a 23-year-old Lancaster man arrived at the Supreme Court Sunday night and camped out on the sidewalk to be first in line to hear yesterday's arguments)? And even if you don't happen to be a Constitutional scholar (again, I'm playing Devil's advocate, here), what do you have to say about the Founding Fathers' intentions? -K.H [ Read Full Post ]
By Scott Bestul
I am going to devote the next two entries of BuckTracker to a very special place for deer hunters: the state of Iowa. I will go into greater detail about why the Hawkeye State is so good in the next installment. In this blog I am simply going to offer an example—Exhibit A, if you will—of what is possible if a state knows how to manage deer.
Jesse Godwin is a young, energetic whitetail nut who lost one of his favorite hunting areas just before the ‘07 season. Scrambling for a backup plan, he and a couple of buddies settled on a small tract of public land not far from their homes. The place is small enough that I will not relate the acreage for fear of exposing its location. Suffice it to say the spot is one that most folks would drive by on their way to greener—and larger— pastures.
But Jesse & Co. were undaunted. They developed a plan for hunting the lightly-timbered parcel and stuck with it. Indeed, one of Jesse’s pals shot a nice buck there in October, and the trio had spotted other good deer as they hunted. But nothing as big as the buck that chased a doe near Jesse’s stand the morning of November 3. Jesse—a devoted Iowa Hawkeyes football nut—was just about ready to crawl down from his stand so he could watch the game when he heard deer crashing in the brush nearby.
“Suddenly a doe popped out of the brush, with a big buck behind her,” Jesse says. “I could tell he was a big one, with lots of points and a huge body. The doe trotted back into the timber, and for some reason, the buck just paralleled the timberline. When he popped out from behind a pine tree he was 22 steps. I grunted and he stopped and I made the shot. When my buddies and I found him a couple hours later, I could finally see how big he was.”
Date: November 3, 2007
Location: Central Iowa
Points: 17 (main-frame 10-point with stickers and 40” of mass)
Score: 204-5/8” (P&Y non-typ)
Shot Distance: 22 yards.
Method: Tree stand [ Read Full Post ]
By Kim Hiss
What do you think of this incident in which a central Pennsylvania high schooler was given detention for refusing to conceal a t-shirt showing a gun and an anti-terrorist message?
According to reports such as this Fox News story, a 14-year-old named Donald Miller III, who attends
Penn Manor High School in Millersville, Pa., wore a shirt depicting a gun and the text: "Special Issue - Resident - Lifetime License - United States Terrorist Hunting Permit - Permit No. 91101 Gun Owner - No Bag Limit" to school in December. When school officials told him to turn the shirt inside out, he refused, and was given two days detention.
Miller's parents filed a federal freedom of speech lawsuit against the district, but the school stood by its decision. A federal judge will review the case on March 31.
Now, I admit, I would not want to be a school administrator in this post-Columbine era, when there's so much pressure to spot problem behaviors and act preemptively to avoid future tragedies. But where do you draw the line between preemptive actions and infringements on freedom of speech?
This isn't the first time a kid has worn a t-shirt featuring a firearm to school leading to disciplinary actions and news headlines, and it certainly won't be the last. So what do you think of this incident in particular. Would you think twice before sending a kid to school in this shirt? Or - for the teachers and students on the blog - would this shirt stand out as being potentially controversial at your school, or is it a shirt, just like any other deserving no special
consideration? Schools have policies against mini skirts and tank tops (I'm playing Devil's advocate, here), so is it within the rights of a school district to discourage this kind of t-shirt as well? -K.H. [ Read Full Post ]
By Scott Bestul
It seems a goofy time of year to address the issue of shining—or spotlighting—deer, but it is a topic very much in the news in my neighborhood. That’s because Minnesota lawmakers are contemplating legislation that would tighten restrictions on the practice. Currently, folks can shine deer here until 10 p.m. during the hunting season, and all night long the rest of the year. And it’s legal for a shiner to have a cased bow or gun, as long as it’s in the rear-most portion of the vehicle.
Proposed legislation would restrict shining to a one-hour period after sunset, year-round, and no weapons would be allowed in vehicles.
I am four-square in favor of the restrictions and would even support an outright ban on shining during the fall. However, I confess I am more than a little prejudiced on this one. Two years ago, the only mature buck living in my rural neighborhood disappeared after leading a highly-visible lifestyle. I found him one morning, lying 100 yards from my mailbox…with his head cut off. Shining activity had been heavy in the area for weeks. Once that buck bit the dust, the spotlights disappeared. It didn’t take much for me (and the many people who knew this deer) to connect the dots. [ Read Full Post ]
By Scott Bestul
Fed Deer Spread Disease, Say Wisconsin Biologists
Iowa 16-Point Shoulder Mount Stolen
Deer Urine Prank Makes Students Sick
American Deer Hunters Find Trouble Up North
TB Spread Could Cause Cull in Minnesota
[ Read Full Post ]
By Scott Bestul
From an AP story in the Houston Chronicle:
Four Iraan High School students accused of beating two deer to death on the school's baseball field have been cleared to return to campus.
The boys spent 46 days in the school district's alternative disciplinary program, about half the 88 days they were given after the deer were found dead in December.
[ Read Full Post ]
By Scott Bestul
My shed hunting buddies and I have had a long-standing joke that one of us would one day train a dog to find antlers. This thought might have also occurred to you if you’ve lived the twin curses of 1) being an antler addict and 2) having ever hunted over a bird dog or retriever.
The concept of a shed dog is near and dear to my heart whenever I’ve had an unsuccessful trip (which happened today) and especially when I’m accompanied by my doofus golden retriever (which is always). Though I love dogs on principle, I also believe they should earn their supper, and Colby has never done anything to pull his considerable weight while shed hunting. I have even rigged ingenious little collars that would allow him to tote a medicinal keg of Gatorade for me, but he refuses. And retrieve a shed? Maybe if I find it first and slather it with bacon grease….
Perhaps I should turn my freeloading golden over to Roger Sigler, an astute dog trainer and master of the shed, at his facility in northwest Missouri. Mr. Sigler has perfected the art of training shed-hunting dogs, and you can even purchase “started dogs” from him that will find and retrieve cast antlers. I found Roger by reading a magazine article that detailed a 3-1/2 day trip he and his dogs took to Canada last year, a safari that yielded for over 100 antlers. Check out his website for more info.
While Roger admits that Labradors make the best horn-dogs, he is getting so good at his craft that he’s even tutoring a young pit bull. No word on whether that pup actually gives up the bone he’s found, and I’ll probably wait to send Colby there for training ‘til I know the PB has graduated. In the meantime, guess I’ll rely on binocs and boot leather. [ Read Full Post ]
By Kim Hiss
I'm sure a number of us have hunted with our fair share of colorful guides. I've mentioned a few of my personal favorites in the course of other posts - one in New Mexico who liked to blast Queen's greatest hits from his truck stereo when picking up a downed deer; one in Wyoming who believed CWD was an anti-hunting government conspiracy. But for the most part, in the area of outdoor skills most of my guides - men and women, young and old - have been just great, and I have no real complaints.
Except for one. To protect her identity, I won't mention the state she's from or the game we hunted and will henceforth refer to her simply as, "the guide."
To be fair, I'll first say that the guide meant very well. It was her first time guiding, and she tried very hard to do right by my hunting partner and me, who'd been invited on the hunt. She was good-natured, easy to get along with, and full of great stories, like one involving an ancestral orphan who was brought to the country generations earlier by a pioneering group of Spanish monks.
She didn't do anything too outrageously terrible, but in the area of, well, guiding, she left a bit to be desired. Trouble struck on the second day of the hunt when we set out in the truck before dawn. We planned to ride about 20 minutes to a particular area, then walk to a spot and set up. We left in plenty of time to be in position by first light, but didn't quite make it. We got lost. Granted, without even a dirt road to follow, it's hard to know which particular tree or embankment to turn at in the dark. But as the sun came up, we were still finding ourselves in unfamiliar fields, turning down wrong tree lines, backtracking to a familiar spot, making turns, second-guessing turns, and trying the whole thing over again. It was hard to be mad because she was obviously mortified by the situation and apologized with nearly every breath -- this was clearly hurting her more than us. In the end, we finally made it, and enjoyed a few hours of calling and wildlife watching.
The next day some uncertainty seemed to creep into her approach. We'd abandoned a spot earlier that morning and set out for another, but she couldn't decide where to go. She considered one spot, then another, and finally deferred to my hunting partner and me, asking where we thought would be best.
Instead of being frustrating (OK, I'm not that pure of heart, it was a little frustrating), the whole thing turned into a kind of learning experience. I'd been known to follow previous guides around with an air of blind faith, trusting they knew exactly where to go and when to get there. But without that firm hand of leadership, I was forced to think for myself. As this particular hunt progressed, instead of blindly accepting a suggested spot, I surveyed each new area we approached and decided for myself where best to set up.
Personal triumph came the last day, when a type-of-game-which-shall-remain-nameless wandered into exactly the area I'd eyed up as the perfect location. Unfortunately the guide had my hunting partner and me set up about forty yards too far away with a tree in between, but hey, at least I knew my good call had been confirmed, and my spot-picking abilities were getting better.
I lost touch with the guide, but I'd like to think she's continued guiding and is much better these days. Likely the whole thing was a learning experience for her too. -K.H. [ Read Full Post ]
By Bill Heavey
I’ve nearly had about three heart attacks in the past weeks. The cause: beech leaves. The 3- to 6-inch long leaves of Fagus grandifolia, which grows in fertile woods in the eastern U.S., turn ivory-yellow when dry and have a maddening tendency to curl in tightly upon themselves. Such a leaf, standing perpendicular among the leaves of the forest floor, looks exactly like an antler tine. The guy treading the woods in search of antlers or any part of an antler is at the mercy of these nasty little guys.
This week’s tip: If you use a CamelBak or other backpack with a bladder, be extremely careful about how you stow sheds. Nature designed antlers to puncture. That’s really all I care to share at this time about that one.
I found two 5-pointers yesterday, both left sides, on the same hill where I found two 5-pointers last year. The bigger of the two was in the same exact spot – give or take 10 feet – of where I found a big one last year. I raced home, compared the two antlers, and confirmed to the extent that I can say they are both from the same deer. This year’s is just like last year’s, down to the wave in certain tines, only a little bigger around, with slightly longer tines, and the G4 that was part of a crab claw last year is now an independent tine.
The pleasure this find gave me, of confirming the survival and something of the habits of a buck I have yet to see, is enormous. And very hard to explain. [ Read Full Post ]