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    posted Dec. 29, 2006

    News Hound's best dogs of 2006

    There's nothing like a good story about a good dog to warm the heart of the old News Hound. So here are some of our favorites to round out blog entries for 2006:

    In May, a brave yellow Labrador retriever rescued a 9-year-old boy from Colorado's Roaring Fork River on Mother's Day by swimming out and dragging the child to shore, while sheriff's deputies frantically prepared rescue efforts downriver.

    According to reports, second-grader Ryan Rambo fell from a private raft and was swept away by the current.

    Zion, a 2-year-old yellow Lab, was walking with his 13-year-old owner, Chelsea Bennett, when they saw Ryan. Though the boy was wearing a life jacket, he was having difficulty keeping his head above water. That's when Zion went to work, leaping into the Roaring Fork and swimming directly out to the youngster.

    "He grabbed onto my dog, and my dog brought him into shore," Bennett said.

    I blogged about coondog heaven earlier this year after visiting a special place hidden back in the oak and pine hills of northwestern Alabama.

    The Key Underwood Coon Dog Memorial Graveyard is located about 20 miles southeast of Tuscumbia, Ala. — a place far removed from interstate highways, strip malls and rush-hour traffic gridlock.

    It was with a heavy heart in September 1937 that Key Underwood buried his coonhound Troop in the woods where they hunted together.

    Since that time, nearly 200 other coon-hunting aficionados have buried their beloved hounds in the red clay of Colbert County.

    Gravestones of handmade and professional variety bear names like Straight Talkin' Tex, Fanney, Preacher, Ranger, Hickory, Kate, Rusty, Queen, Loud, Doctor Doom, Beanblossum Bommer, Hardtime Wrangler and High Pocket.

    When Track died in 1989, his owner gave him this eulogy: "He wasn't the best but he was the best I ever had."

    You won't find any lapdogs, poodles or even bird-hunting dogs buried there.

    On the graveyard's Web site, a eulogy written by William W. Ramsey for his dog, Ole Red, ends with the following lines:

    He knows in coon dog heaven he can hunt again,
    when the sun goes down and the tree frogs holler.
    May the bones of Ole Red rest in peace,
    through the mercy of God,
    and may the coon hunter's light perpetually shine upon him.

    Finally, there's Duece, a 9-year-old yellow Labrador retriever that continues to flush pheasants and amaze hunters, despite being totally blind.

    Pat Phipps of Moville, Iowa, thinks Duece lost his eyesight after ingesting some rat poison when still inquisitive puppy.

    After that close call with death, Deuce recovered fully and became an accomplished bird hunter.

    Then, a few years ago, Phipps says he noticed Deuce bumping into things in the yard with increasing frequency and it was obvious the dog was losing his eyesight.

    Even though he now totally without sight, Duece maintains his instincts and enthusiasm for bird hunting.

    "He's probably a better hunter now than when he could see. He uses his nose now," the junior Phipps, Jay, told Nick Hytrek of the Sioux City Journal.

    Phipps admits he has adjusted his hunting methods while utilizing a blind dog. He says he keeps Deuce in the middle of fields and away from ditches and ravines, while also avoiding fences and groves of trees.

    Other than that, says the proud dog handler, just stay out of his way, because nothing gets between Deuce and the scent of a pheasant.

    Here's wishing you and your best dogs a fruitful and prosperous 2007.


    posted Dec. 28, 2006

    2006 News Hound picks: Turning the tables

    In rhetorical man-bites-dog fashion, there's nothing like a good story about wild animals turning the tables to let humans know that our position at the top of the food chain isn't as secure as some may believe.

    Such was the case with Colorado ranch hand Harold Cerda, who had just finished doing his business in a remote high country outhouse when a running black bear knocked him to the ground and chased him back to his car, where he discovered his entire lunch had just been gobbled by the bruin.

    After he was dealt a blow that sent him flying about 15 feet, the 29-year-old Cerda said he made a beeline to his car to close the windows for safety.

    "All four windows were down and they go up real slow," he said. "I got them closed just in time."

    Also during 2006, an Idaho shed antler hunter reported that wild wolves stalked him, bared their teeth and tried to surround him before he safely retreated to his truck.

    Daniel Woodbridge says there's no doubt in his mind that a pair of black wolves was stalking him in the hills near his hometown of Challis.

    Upon spying the predators, the 25-year-old said he stood tall (just like one is supposed to do in such situations) so the wolves could see he was a human, and purposely moved upwind so they could scent him. He said when the wolves caught his scent they moved toward him, rather than running away.

    "They had full intentions of coming in to get me," Woodbridge told the State Journal. "They were just waiting for the right time."

    In a 2006 hunter-becomes-hunted scenario, an 8-point, 257-pound whitetail buck turned the tables on a stunned Maine bowhunter, charging at him with its head lowered in attack mode — just seconds after being hit with a broadhead-tipped hunting arrow.

    Vito Coulombe said he thought he was about to be gored by the heavyweight buck after loosing an arrow at a distance of about 25 feet.

    "After I shot it, he came right at me," Coulombe told The Lewiston Sun Journal. "I threw my bow at him and hit him with it, and was backing away and fell over a log, and he just missed me. I was scared to death. I thought he was taking me out."

    Regular ESPNPOutdoors.com News Hound readers will likely recall several reports about the leaping sturgeon on Florida's Suwannee River during 2006.

    This summer, a personal watercraft rider was knocked unconscious by an airborne, three-foot Gulf sturgeon, an act seen by more than one bass fisherman as karmic, to say the least.

    By year-end, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission reported five additional injuries from flying sturgeon — a state record.

    The Gainesville Sun reported that officer Dorvan Daniel witnessed a 5-foot, 40-pound sturgeon leap out of the river and into a passing boat, knocking a 9-year-old child into the water. The youngster received gashes on her neck, while an adult on board the boat suffered a broken arm and cuts to her legs.

    The incidents prompted wildlife officials to post warning signs along the river to caution boaters about the potentially dangerous, high-flying fish.


    posted Dec. 27, 2006

    NBA team caters to hunters, anglers in camo promo

    OK, it's true they have a dismal 6-23 record this year, but you've got to give the Memphis Grizzlies' front office some credit for the promotion they're running for tonight's game against the Milwaukee Bucks.

    In celebration of deer hunting season and the Mid-South's enthusiasm for hunting, fishing and the great outdoors, the team will be hosting Camo Night, offering sportsmen and sportswomen two game tickets for the price of one.

    The catch?

    To get the great ticket deal, one needs to attend tonight's game dressed more like he's heading to a Mississippi Delta duck blind than to the FedExForum in downtown Memphis.

    In addition to wearing camouflage gear, participants in the promotion may also present a valid hunting or fishing license from any state or bring hunting decoys or fishing lures (without hooks, please).


    News Hound's 2006 favorites: Close calls with critters

    As regular readers of the ESPNOutdoors.com News Hound know, one of our favorite blogging subjects involves close encounters of the critter variety.

    Remember Ian Card, the sport angler who was impaled by a leaping, 800-pound blue marlin and knocked overboard during a fishing competition off the coast of Bermuda earlier in 2006?

    Card survived a fist-sized chest wound when a hooked marlin leaped over the back of his boat and struck him just below the collarbone with its bill.

    Card, 32, and his father, Alan, who operate of a charter fishing boat out of Somerset, Bermuda, had just hooked the fish during the Sea Horse Anglers' Club Bill Fish Tournament when the incident occurred.

    Fortunately, Dr. Peter Watson, a North Carolina physician who was taking part in the tournament, provided emergency care to the victim during the 40-minute boat trip to the nearest medical facility.

    In a more furry, four-legged encounter, a Deer Park, Wash., elementary school teacher was running on a mountain trail near Spokane, Wash., when she was blindsided by a half-ton bull moose.

    Liz Hively was knocked to the ground after one of her Labrador retrievers surprised a cow moose on the trail in front of her.

    "I looked up and saw a cow moose take after Bella," Hively said. "She chased past me and when I looked up, another moose — a bull — was coming at me, full bore."

    The bull knocked her to the ground and hoof-stomped her before disappearing into a thicket.

    Then there's the Minnesota Tae kwon do instructor who thought he'd try some of his moves on a black bear — and got a bruin smackdown as a result.

    Dave Duea received some bruises and two broken ribs after he attempted to pull a Jackie Chan on a black bear he confronted in a shed on his family's farm.

    The bruin, not one to subscribe to the code of fair fighting, ran directly at Mr. Martial Arts and bowled him onto the floor.

    "I've had some big guys land on me in martial arts and stuff, but this was nothing like anything I've ever felt," Duea said.

    Finally, who could forget what Alaska jogger Michael Mungoven thought as he saw a full-grown, 400-pound grizzly bear bolt out of the timber toward him in June?

    "I remember thinking, 'Wow, that's just beautiful,' and, then, 'Oh boy, this is going to hurt.'"

    Mungoven, an experienced outdoorsman and soil mapper for the Natural Resource Conservation Services, told the Homer Tribune that he didn't remember much about the attack itself, just the frenzy of flashing teeth and sharp claws.

    "The attack itself really wasn't very painful," he said. "She missed my carotid artery and only got a few bites in. I guess I was lucky all the way around."

    The term 'lucky' is relative, considering he underwent 11 hours of surgery and received too many stitches to count.

    "It's not the first time I've walked in the door and said, 'Honey, we need to go to the emergency room,'" Mungoven explained. "I don't really think she was expecting a bear attack, though."


    posted Dec. 26, 2006

    Game law violators, 2006: The dumb & the dumber

    While wrapping up this final week of the year, the ESPNOutdoors.com News Hound will present readers with many of our favorite outdoor tales of 2006.

    Today, we bring you stories affirming that those who break game and fish regulations are not necessarily the sharpest tools in the shed, if you catch our drift. Yes folks, here are the year's finest examples of stupid poachers.

    Remember Billy Ray Herring, the poacher from Quitman, Texas? Billy's not what you would call a rocket scientist.

    Last year, on opening day of deer season, Herring shot a massive, 14-point non-typical buck. After doing so, he decided it might be a good idea to purchase a hunting license.

    Herring just might have gotten away with it if his ego hadn't intruded. Instead, he entered his deer in numerous Texas big buck contests, including one sponsored by the Tyler Morning Telegraph newspaper.

    When Billy's buck was named contest winner, the published photo and article prompted at least one concerned citizen to come forward, saying he'd seen Herring with the buck around 6:45 in the morning. Thanks to a modern, computerized licensing system, records showed his license was purchased at 8:18 a.m.

    Herring pleaded guilty to tampering with a government record and was sentenced to two years probation. Fraud charges associated with the buck contests were dropped as part of a plea agreement. Fines, courts costs and restitution exceeded $12,000.

    Then there are the (former) bass tournament team members who were arrested for cheating in multiple bass-fishing tournaments in Kentucky.

    County grand juries indicted Dwayne E. Nesmith and Brian K. Thomas on multiple counts, including deception, after witnesses allegedly saw the men take five bass from a submerged fish basket and subsequently weigh them at the bass tournament on Lake Barkley.

    Kentucky State Police said the arrest sparked an investigation into tournaments the pair had previously won, including some in which the two received several thousand dollars and a $30,000 bass boat using the same deceptive practice.

    And how could we forget the Florida Keys men who killed an alligator out of season, using an illegal method (a baseball bat), and without hunting credentials?

    Then they served freshly poached (as in illegal, not the cooking method) gator meat at a backyard barbecue.

    Authorities confirmed that Timothy B. Goll, 18, of Marathon, and Jordan T. Milo, 20, of Big Pine Key, were charged with a third degree felony.

    We would be remiss without mention of our favorite ne'er-do-wells who made poor choices in the outdoors during 2006 — the trio of Georgia anglers who trespassed to fish a pond that had been especially stocked for a fishing event for underprivileged and disabled youngsters.

    To further complicate matters, the pond was owned by the county sheriff, who doesn't particularly appreciate trespassers, don't you know?

    And, despite the storyline, the sheriff was not Andy Griffith and the pond wasn't located in Mayberry.

    Nonetheless, the threesome spent the weekend as guests of the pond-owner, Madison County, Georgia Sheriff Clayton Lowe in the Danielsville Jail.

    Earlier in the spring, Sheriff Lowe stocked the pond with about $1,200 worth of catfish and bream to offer disabled children from the county a fun day of fishing. However, in the interim, the men evidently made multiple trips to the pond, trespassing onto the property and catching the fish intended for the deserving youngsters.

    The Associated Press reported that Brian Wallace, 35, of Comer, Ga., and Michael Fricks, 32, and Christopher Wallace, 37, both of Kannapolis, N.C., were released from jail after four days.

    In the meantime, the sheriff restocked the pond before the children's fishing day.

    And everyone learned an important lesson.


    posted Dec. 22, 2006

    Grandma got jumped over by a whitetail

    'Tis the season … for more crazy deer-behavior stories, that is.

    The staff and elderly residents of the Brittany Manor Living Center in Midland, Mich., experienced some early-morning mayhem this week, when a button buck came crashing through a window in the facility at 4:30 in the morning.

    It was probably a good thing the buck chose an overnight hour for his grand entrance to the convalescent home, as most of the residents were sound asleep.

    In fact, staff members who tried to corral the spirited buck said the deer went airborne over one female resident as she snoozed in her bed, fortunately unaware how close she came to getting kicked and possibly injured.

    Local animal-control officers were summoned to the scene and were able to sedate and remove the yearling before any serious damage was done.

    Yes, the buck stopped, there.

    In an interview with the local television station, the head of the facility credited the staff for preventing any injuries and for keeping the deer away from the aged and frail residents.

    "Staff did a really good job of removing people, keeping doors shut and containing the deer, but it was also injury-free," said the manor administrator.


    posted Dec. 21, 2006

    Collector strikes gold with 18th century muzzleloader

    New Jersey resident Scott Musser figured he was getting a pretty good deal when a proprietor in Philadelphia's South Street antique district knocked $25 off the $150 asking price for a beat-up, black-powder long rifle that appeared to be authentic.

    At the time, he was totally unaware he was getting an incredible bargain on a piece of American history.

    And he struck gold, too.

    When Musser recently took the gun to a Virginia gunsmith who specializes in antique firearms, the two men made a discovery that overwhelmed them both.

    Hidden inside the stock behind the gun's metal butt plate, gunsmith Douglas Bates discovered four gold, seven silver and six copper coins. In addition, the owner of the Belgian-made musket had included his last will and testament and a $5 silk note inside a fragile leather pouch.

    According to an article in the Harrisonburg, Va., Daily News Record, the coins date back to 1743 and the will is dated Jan. 20, 1848. It's signed by a New Jersey man, the son of a Colonial-era patriot who died in the War of 1812. The family — the Hillmans — has a rich history with ties to the Revolutionary War.

    James Hillman, whose will was found inside the stock, was the cousin of Josiah Hillman, the original owner whose name is inscribed on the gun's metalwork.

    Since his amazing discovery three weeks ago, Musser has learned that James' father was Samuel Ashbrook Nicholson Hillman, a man dubbed "the Fighting Quaker," who was captured by the British and died during the war.

    In addition to the monetary value of the coins found in the gun, Musser has discovered each represents a date that was important in James Hillman's family history, such as a marriage or the birth of a child.

    With the discovery prompting the attention of collectors and galleries, Musser says the artifacts will likely go to a museum.

    Early estimates appraise the gun and collection around $20,000.

    Not bad for a $125 investment, eh?


    Injured runner's dog leads Utah rescue team 5 miles

    If you've read ESPNOutdoors.com New Hound blog with any regularity during 2006, you know that, like most outdoors folks, I've got a real soft spot for good dogs — and for good dog stories.

    Here's a great one about a prominent woman adventure athlete who sustained serious injuries during a fall while she trained in the Utah backcounty last week.

    After being stranded with her dog for two days and nights in subfreezing weather near Moab, her faithful canine traveled a distance of five miles to the trailhead and returned with a rescue team.

    Good stuff, huh?

    Danelle Ballengee, 35, underwent surgery Tuesday at Denver Health Medical Center for a broken pelvis.

    She also is reportedly recovering from severe frostbite on her feet, internal bleeding and numerous cuts and bruises.

    Scripps-Howard News Service reported today that Ballengee — a two-time adventure racing world champion and elite triathlete, trail runner and mountain biker — slipped on ice and tumbled off three successive rock faces of 10 to 20 feet each.

    Ballengee left around noon last Wednesday for a casual two-hour trail run in the 40-degree weather wearing only light running gear.

    Members of the Grand County Search and Rescue team found the injured runner at 3:30 p.m. Friday after her dog, Taz, a 3-year-old German shepherd-golden retriever mix, led rescuers on a five-mile journey to the accident site.

    "The dog took our rescue personnel right to her. I think we would have eventually found her, because we were in the right location, but the dog saved us some time," said Curt Brewer, chief deputy with the Grand County Sheriff's Office.

    Good boy, Taz. The News Hound recommends steak and treats for you, fella.


    posted Dec. 20, 2006

    Smith & Wesson acquiring Thompson/Center Arms

    Smith & Wesson Holding Corp., the world's largest producer of revolvers and other handguns, leapt headfirst into the long-gun hunting market this week with the announcement it was acquiring Thompson/Center Arms for a cash price of $102 million.

    The announcement gave newspaper writers across the country the opportunity to write sappy headlines like, "Dirty Harry Goes Hunting," recalling the Clint Eastwood movies of the 1980s in which a street savvy cop uses his behemoth S&W .44 magnum to fight crime on the streets of San Francisco.

    Smith & Wesson president and CEO Michael Golden called the acquisition "an important step in our diversification strategy," and said the move will expand the company's presence in the $1.1 billion long gun marketplace.

    As part of the acquisition, Gregg Ritz, Thompson/Center Arms president and CEO, will be named president of Smith & Wesson-Hunting. Ritz will continue to lead the Thompson/Center Arms operation and will head Smith & Wesson's efforts to develop its hunting business.

    The transaction is expected become final in January.

    During the past 40 years, New Hampshire-based Thompson/Center has produced muzzleloading and rimfire rifles used primarily for big game hunting.

    In making the announcement, CEO Golden said the purchase increases Smith & Wesson's net sale expectations for the 2008 fiscal year by $70 million, to about $320 million.

    An expansion of the Thompson/Center line is planned, according to S&W press material.


    Replica ringneck ruffles illegal hunter's feathers

    In past blogs, we've wondered in writing just what those ne'er do wells who are cited for shooting at deer and elk decoys placed by game and fish authorities are thinking when they pull off the road and start blasting away.

    I mean, my eyesight certainly isn't what it once was, but I believe I could still tell the difference between a live, breathing coyote and a faux fox, even at 30 yards or more.

    That's why it's difficult for me to conjure even the slightest bit of sympathy for 22-year-old Bryan Harris, who was fined $150 this week by Meyersdale, Pa., District Judge Douglas Bell for shooting too close to a roadway — a game violation.

    Harris was "stung" by the Pennsylvania Game Commission, with the help of a local chapter of Pheasants Forever, which supplied the game department with a mechanical ringneck used to ensnare hunters illegally shooting within 25 yards of a public road.

    According to the Johnstown Tribune-Democrat, authorities said Harris spotted the bogus bird, stopped his vehicle, jumped out and shot.

    "You can't ride around with a loaded firearm in your vehicle and jump out and shoot at something along the roadway," said Mel Schake, game commission information and education supervisor.

    "That's not how we expect you to hunt."



    posted Dec. 19, 2006

    First bear, now zebra in Midwest cornfield

    As we approach the final hours of 2006, here is perhaps the wildest outdoors story and photo we've seen on the Internet in the past 12 months.

    And, as most of you know, there have been plenty of wild critter stories — both true and otherwise — circulating among email in-boxes during the past year.

    Perhaps none was wilder than the recent story and accompanying photos of a black bear found denning in a Wisconsin cornfield.

    It seems that Osceola, Wis., dairy farmer Troy DeRosier discovered the bruin while combining his crop in October.

    As blogged here in recent weeks, the photo series was rumored to have originated in several states, including Illinois, a prairie state with no bear population.

    The email hoax in the Land of Lincoln proved so widespread that the Illinois Department of Natural Resources issued a press release identifying the photos and story as a sham.

    Naturally, it couldn't end there, now could it?

    Now my pal Jeff Lampe, the fine outdoor scribe and blogger for the Peoria Journal-Star, has tracked down some bizarre photos making the rounds on the Internet.

    Yes, it now seems an Illinois farmer reportedly came across a non-native African zebra while combining his corn crop last month — even though the photos of the combine and the characters look incredibly similar to those Nancy DeRosier snapped in Wisconsin.

    Wink, wink.

    Ain't technology grand?

    All I can say is some wise guy with a penchant for Photoshop must have a lot of free time on his hands.


    posted Dec. 18, 2006

    Demise of North Carolina fishing piers lamented

    Skyrocketing coastal real estate values appear to be achieving what decades of storms and battering hurricanes failed to do along the North Carolina shoreline: removing the state's landmark fishing piers and replacing them with expensive condominiums and pricy developments.

    In an article appearing in yesterday's Charlotte Observer, writer Jack Horan laments the destruction of these historic structures that have served generations of predominantly working class and retired anglers along the Carolina coast.

    In fewer than a dozen years, the number of North Carolina public fishing piers has shrunk from 33 to 20.

    The most recent to succumb to wrecking crews and developers was the Sportsman's Pier in Atlantic Beach, which came down last month. Other recent casualties include the Iron Steamer and Triple S piers in Atlantic Beach and the Long Beach Pier on Oak Island.

    Upscale houses and condos now stand in what used to be parking lots for the fishing structures.

    Mike Zlotnicki, outdoor editor for the Raleigh News & Observer, wrote last month that a deal to sell the Bogue Inlet Pier recently fell through, sparing the 1,000-foot structure from demolition, at least temporarily.

    The town of Emerald Isle announced that a deal to sell the Bogue Inlet Pier and 3.8 adjacent acres for $3 million had failed, although the property continues to be actively marketed for sale.

    Earlier this year a group of avid Carolina pier anglers formed the North Carolina Fishing Pier Society in an effort to draw attention to the plight of the historic structures and the threatened pastime of coastal pier fishing.

    The organization suggests the creation of new taxing structures or partial state ownership as some methods of preventing the loss of additional fishing piers.


    Rattlin' road-rage fighter is racked

    When tempers flare between hot-headed drivers on freeways and busy city intersections these days, you just never know where it could lead.

    ESPNOutdoors.com News Hound readers may recall an October posting about a likely road rage first that involved the alleged shooting of a hunting crossbow at a vehicle in Arkansas.

    Now here's a story about a pair of testy motorists in Florida who exchanged threatening words and aggressive driving actions last week when one allegedly used a set of whitetail deer antlers as a weapon.

    According to a report in the Palm Beach Post, one of the drivers apparently had some deer rattling antlers in his vehicle and used them to strike the other motorist's vehicle.

    A firearm also was allegedly shot during the ensuing melee.

    Both men were arrested and jailed.

    And the deer antlers were entered as evidence.

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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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