- Mike Suchan, Outdoors
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Now is a good time to sit
Running. Shopping. Decorating.
Wrapping up presents, projects at work.
Kids. Parents. Relatives. Friends. And we can't forget significant others.
The annual holiday hectivity -- I should trademark that one -- makes you wish you could have some time to yourself to just sit. That thought brought to mind Todd Twilbeck, ye olde amatuer sitter extraordinaire.
Todd is the mastermind and founder of the Ozark Sitters Society, a group that gets outdoors to "unplug from civilization and connect their keisters with nature."
Picked by Columbia Sportswear as one of its pioneers, Todd is on to something. First seen sitting in marvelous natural surrounds, Todd et all has even taken it underground -- he is from Missouri, the Cave State, but has plans to really get out there.
"We are extending our reach a bit with a trip to the Mississippi Gulf Coast in the winter, and Colorado in the Spring, just to find new places to go and sit," he told me recently. "We are always spreading the word of getting off your butt to go out and get back on it."
There's no detailed list of members, he says, no formality of a "club" with dues to any such nonsense.
"We just do what we do. Walk away from you desk, go up to the roof, or find a park," he says. "Congratulations, you're a member."
It's times like these when I really need it.
Angler gets quite a show, two trophy deer
It was a show Bryan Ammeson will never forget. He will tell stories that will be received skeptically for years, but he has the proof.
Ammeson and fishing partner Scott Stoney were going after steelhead on the St. Joseph River in southwestern Michigan. They didn't finish with any fish, but came home with two trophy deer.
After launching at 6:30 a.m., they were between the I-94 and M-139 bridges around 8:30 when they saw something on shore a couple hundred yards away. Ammeson didn't know exactly what the commotion was at first, so he got closer.
"We were just going upstream and saw them up the hill there on a steep bank incline," he said.
Two nice-sized bucks were in battle. Ammeson and Stoney watched for about 10 minutes as the fight went up, down and all around the steep bank. At some point, the antlers became locked together.
"The 17-pointer was carrying this 10 on his back just like he was just trotting through the woods," Ammeson said. "I've been hunting for years and never seen anything like this."
Then the deer plunged into the river in about 6 to 8 feet of water. Ammeson maneuvered his boat next to the spectacle in an attempt to push or guide the deer back on shore, but he wasn't about to try to grab either deer's antlers.
"There was no way I was touching those deer," he said. "That would have been suicide by deer. We got closer and tried to help them. It was kind of a lose-lose sitation."
Helpless, they watched the 10-pointer drown after several minutes, then with 200 pounds of dead weight "the 17 just kept trying to keep its head up."
"The bigger one drowned within a foot from me. He was probably holding the 10 up in a good 5, 10 minutes.
We just tied them to the boat and took them to the dock."
At the dock, they called police, who in turn had to call in for proper procedure. Ammeson wanted to keep them, and eventually got carcass permits to legally possess them. He said Michigan recently added a choice alongside "roadkill" on the form.
"They checked 'other'," he said, noting he might not have been allowed to keep them in the past.
Ammeson, who's best buck in the handful he's killed is a six-pointer, said the 17-pointer field-dressed at 209 pounds and the other at 192 pounds.
"I think the 10 scored a 140 typical and the 17 scored a 185, non-typical," he said. "I ate the backstrap last night -- about the size of a dvd."
The heads will be shoulder mounted together as they were found -- locked up. That will serve as further proof of the unique scene he was given.
"It was a once lifetime show. I got a little video on my buddy's camera phone," he said.
So with that further proof, the questions have turned to his actions. He's said he and Stoney questioned themselves if they should have tried to intervene more than they did.
"We weren't sure what we were supposed to do in this situation," Ammeson said. "We weren't sure if we should save them ... Had to sit back and let nature take its course."
He's even taken some grief from a radical animal rights group that they should have acted. He remains of sound mind that trying to grab the antlers and dragging the deer to shore would have been crazy.
"They're aint no way in hell you could every try that," he said. "You'd be shaken to death. He could have picked me up and thrown me 10 feet in the air, I bet. Most people say I did the right thing."
Ammeson finished by commenting on a story topping his, three drowned bucks locked up in Ohio. Brien Burke of Meigs County came upon the the sight on his farm recently, but didn't see the action.
Ammeson has that, and he'll never forget it.
Need one more item to make Christmas complete for your outdoorsman. Here's some good ideas.
Rapala's ProBass Fishing for Wii had the 12-year-old and his neighbor friend fishing for four hours straight. Try getting some interest-impaired youths to stick with it that long from shore.
Of course, they were catching the daylights out of them, exclaiming how big each fish was.
"I like it because of the tackle box," one said. "And how you have to fight the fish."
The other game sent for review was Pheasants Forever's Wingshooter, which offers the choice of going after pheasant, quail, duck, turkey and grouse. Nothing like flying birds to improve your aim. Fuuu-un.
If you need something for the fishermen, there's a new app for the iPhone that will impress. The IGFA Mobile App will allows anglers on the water -- where service is available -- to identify fish, see if your catch is a world record and more.
It allows you to get to the world record database, ID species, log your catches, start a quest list, plan a trip and all the IGFA rules. And it's only $8.99
Say dorado are biting. You can find a vacant or line class record, switch gear and get a world record.
'Tis the season ... to catch poachers
States are rounding up the scofflaws in bunches just in time for Christmas.
In Utah, the Division of Wildlife Resources is holding a man and a woman for poaching at least 20 deer, with possibly third-degree felony charges, for them and maybe others.
A tip began the investigation, and with only 48 patrol officers in the state, Utah welcomes such help.
"People are becoming less tolerant of poaching," Captain Tony Wood said for a story on the DWR web site. "The state's deer are a public resource, and poachers are stealing that resource from you."
In New York, the Department of Environmental Conservation conducted a crack down on deer poaching, which led to charges against 137 individuals with more than 250 offenses.
"Operation Dark Night," focused on the illegal taking of deer by use of artificial light -- known as "deer jacking." The statewide initiative lasted seven weeks, and among the charges were 10 instances of killing a deer at night with the use of a light.
"Most hunters play by the rules -- but deer jackers don't," acting Commissioner Peter Iwanowicz said. "This illegal practice not only gives them an unfair advantage but also puts many unsuspecting people who may be nearby at risk. DEC takes this crime seriously for many reasons -- safety, foremost."
Fines can range upward of $1,000 with jail time and multi-state license revocation. The Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact, under which the worst of convicted wildlife violators will stand to lose their hunting privileges in all states enrolled, will get its 36th member Jan. 1 in Pennsylvania, the state announced today.
Tennessee is reporting three poachers in federal trouble, and maybe the Lacey Act, as they illegally hunted down "hundreds" of big-game deer in Fort Campbell. The Tennessean calls it "one of the biggest" poaching cases Tennessee has ever seen.
If federal trespassing charges with fines and six months imprisonment, or both, wasn't bad enough, making false official statements could lead to a five-year federal prison terms.
What's crazier is the military installation is considering hunter friendly. Since September, some 13,000 hunters have payed their $25 for a chance at getting two does and buck that don't count against the state limit.
Tennessee will be tough as the three poached some rather impressive bucks. Putting higher fines on trophy poachers is becoming commonplace.
On Monday, Oklahoma joined the growing list of states that put restitution at a premium. The Wildlife Conservation Commission approved a wildlife restitution schedule, setting the value of a trophy deer as high as $5,000.
Deck the poachers with fines of thousands, fa la la la la, la la la la.
Audubon book a $10 million nest egg
One Christmas years ago, I gave my bird-crazy mother a large coffee table book of John James Aububon's art, thinking then the $100 price tag -- I think I got a 15 percent book club discount -- was steep.
Guess his artwork is worth it. His book, "Birds of America," recently sold at Sothebys auction for $10 million.
Yes, $10 million.
The 1827 masterpiece of 435 hand-colored illustrations of birds was bought by an anonymous phone bidder for $10,270,000, making it the world's most expensive published book.
It's also a big book. The pages, made from engravings of Audubon's watercolors, measures more than 3 feet by 2 feet so Audubon could paint the birds life size.
"Audubon's 'Birds' holds a special place in the rare book market," said Heather O'Donnell, a specialist with Bauman Rare Books in New York. "The book is a major original contribution to the study of natural history in the New World."
Audubon, part naturalist and all artist, chronicled birds on his journey in the United States, which included a trip down the Mississippi with a notepad, an assistant and a rifle. He had to return to England to get it published.
Pom Harrington, owner of the Peter Harrington rare book firm in London, told the Assoicated Press for this story that a copy sold for a then-record $8.8 million 10 years ago.
"It is the most important natural history book for America," he said. "That is the main point. It screams Americana. For an American patriot, it is the greatest book on American heritage. There is no competition."
About the author: Mike Suchan has been editor at ESPNOutdoors.com the past three years. He's worked in journalism for 25 years, winning state and regional awards. Email him here.
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