posted Oct. 20, 2006
For insurance companies, deer season doesn't mean venison
Many sportsmen know that Pennsylvania is the historic leader in the number of licensed hunters, with around 1.1 million heading afield each year.
You can bet insurance companies and auto body shops know it.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports there are an estimated 1.5 million deer vs. vehicle collisions each year in the United States, causing more than 150 fatalities and $1.1 billion in property damage.
And, not coincidentally, these accidents peak about the same time that hunting seasons take place, between October and December.
The State Farm Insurance Company announced last week that collisions involving deer increased by about 10,000 between the dates of July 1, 2005 and June 30, 2006, compared to the previous year.
In addition, the average cost for repairing a vehicle damaged by a deer increased by $300 for the same time period, rising to $2,800.
After Pennsylvania, the remaining top-10 states for deer vs. car mishaps reads not unlike a similar list of popular whitetail-hunting states. The No. 2 state is Michigan, followed in order by Illinois, Ohio, Georgia, Virginia, Minnesota, Texas, Indiana and South Carolina. FORUM | MAILBAG
posted Oct. 19, 2006
Florida octogenarian recovering after stingray stabbing
An 81-year-old Floridian underwent open-heart surgery yesterday after a spotted eagle stingray sailed out of the water and onto his boat, stabbing him in the chest with its 12-inch barb.
According to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, James Bertakis was reported in critical but stable condition this morning in a Ft. Lauderdale hospital after the remaining portion of the ray's barb was surgically removed.
The bizarre incident occurred on the Florida Intercoastal Waterway near the community of Lighthouse Point.
According to relatives on board, the 5-foot wide stingray stabbed Bertakis when he tried to push it back into the water.
When emergency medical technicians arrived on the scene, they found the victim conscious, with a foot-long barb in the left side of his chest.
"He was in pain from the toxins," said Lt. Mike Sullivan of the Lighthouse Point Fire Department.
Sullivan said he had never heard of such a stingray attack in his 23 years of emergency work.
Carl Luer, a shark and ray expert at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, agreed the incident was highly unusual.
"I've never heard of an eagle ray jumping into a boat before," Leur told the Sun-Sentinel. "But I can tell you it was not trying to jump into the boat. It was a pure accident."
Runner bruised by moose encounter
A Deer Park, Wash., elementary school teacher, says she has enjoyed running with her Labrador retrievers on a mountain trail near Spokane, Wash., for 20 years. But on a recent morning she got an especially big kick out of it … from a bull moose.
Rich Landers, the longtime outdoor scribe at the Spokane Spokesman-Review, reports that Liz Hively was blindsided by a bull after one of her accompanying dogs 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."
Landers writes that the bull knocked her to the ground and hoof-stomped her before disappearing into a thicket.
In the meantime, Hively's Labs were engaged in a skirmish of their own with the cow moose.
Taking cover in a thick stand of pines, the schoolteacher tried to round up her canines and plan their getaway.
When the moose disappeared from view, Hively ran the opposite way, down a steep slope with the dogs, telling Landers it was the probably the fastest mile she's ever run.
"I'm 55 and I've never run downhill like that," she said. "I'm bruised on the hips and other places from the bull, but I realized the next day my quads were wasted. That's from the running."
In retrospect, Hively said she should have been paying more attention to her surroundings, especially during the rutting season.
posted Oct. 18, 2006
Caribou are known for their incredible seasonal migration, when thousands of the animals cross miles and miles of Northern tundra country.
But wildlife authorities in Colorado are wondering how a caribou turned up 45 miles north of Denver yesterday, where it was hit and killed by a car on U.S. 85.
The Greeley Tribune reports today that a highway worker was driving just south of LaSalle when he saw the lone male caribou with enormous antlers grazing beside the road.
State employee Gene Fisher said a passing freight train apparently spooked the animal onto the highway, where it was struck and killed by an unknown motorist.
Fisher radioed the state police office and reported the incident. Colorado State Trooper Shannon Straley was called to the scene.
"I got the call, and the dispatcher said a car hit a caribou, and I said, 'A what?'" Straley said.
According to the Tribune report, local wildlife officials had no immediate idea where the caribou may have come from.
"We don't know of any farms that have them in this area," said regional Division of Wildlife manager Chad Morgan. "I've been here four years, and I've never seen one."
Crossbow attack: A road-rage first in Little Rock
Police in Little Rock, Ark. say a driver who became enraged when another motorist cut in front of him was arrested after allegedly chasing the car for several miles on an interstate highway and city streets before shooting a hunting crossbow at the vehicle, shattering the rear window.
The Associated Press reported yesterday that Wayne Allen Dierks Jr., 26, posted bail after his arrest on charges of committing a terroristic act, possession of an instrument of crime, driving while intoxicated and driving on a suspended driver's license.
Steve Gilgenbach, a college student and pitcher for the University of Arkansas Little Rock baseball team, said he was merging onto a busy Interstate 630 when heavy traffic forced him to quickly pull in front of Dierks' vehicle.
Gilgenbach said Dierks followed him as he exited the interstate highway, cursing and yelling for him to pull over. The pursuit lasted for several miles before the two vehicles stopped at an intersection traffic light.
That's when Gilgenbach said Dierks pulled beside him and fired the crossbow at his car.
The police report states that the college pitcher admitted he made a finger gesture at his pursuer during the course of the chase. It's our guess that his "gesture" was not the catcher's signal for a curveball or a change-up, either.
In the understatement of the day, Gilgenbach told the media, "I've never been shot at by a crossbow before."
Arkansas' archery/crossbow hunting seasons for deer, bear and turkey opened Oct. 1.
posted Oct. 17, 2006
Women's participation in shooting, hunting surges
A survey recently conducted by the National Sporting Goods Association found a substantial increase in the participation of women in hunting and the shooting sports.
According to the poll, 72 percent more women hunt with firearms today than did in 2000. In addition, 50 percent more women now enjoy target shooting than five years ago.
Further, the NSGA found that female participation in bowhunting increased176 percent between 2000 and 2005.
Other results showed overall (net) hunting by women up 75 percent; target shooting with rifle increased 53 percent; target shooting with shotgun, up 16 percent; target shooting with handgun, up 33 percent; and target shooting with air gun, up 55 percent.
Minnesota warden bags limit of lovebirds
I've mentioned in past blogging that some of my best sources for offbeat outdoor tales are the warden field reports posted by various state wildlife law enforcement officers.
This month's installment by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources includes several great items, and a special one that deserves relating to my regular ESPNOutdoors.com News Hound readers.
On a recent evening, it seems that Center City, Minn., Conservation Officer Brad Schultz discovered a car with two occupants inside, parked in an unauthorized location inside the Carlos Avery Wildlife Management Area.
Though officer Schultz did not report specifically, the two were apparently engaged in an activity commonly known as "hanky panky."
As the officer approached the car, he reported that the pair attempted to scramble away from his view. In doing so, they rolled off the folded-down back seat and into the vehicle's trunk, and the spring-loaded seat snapped forward and locked firmly into its upright position.
With the car windows rolled up (and steamy, we surmise), all four doors locked, and the keys in the ignition, it took some time and some coaching from Schultz before the two lovebirds were able to locate the internal trunk release and extricate themselves.
Based upon the encounter and the couple's reaction when freed from the trunk, the officer said he doubts whether he will have any further problems with them driving in prohibited areas on the Wildlife Management Area. FORUM | MAILBAG
posted Oct. 16, 2006
Black bear meets black belt, bear wins
There's something to be said for having confidence in one's own physical ability, especially if you're a martial arts instructor.
Memo to Dave Duea: Tae kwon do was never intended to be used in fending off wild animals, like full-grown black bears, for instance.
The 18-year-old Milaca, Minn., man is nursing 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 last Wednesday night.
Minnesota TV station WCCO reports the bear took a swipe at Duea, shredding his jeans from the pockets to his knee.
Then the fight was on: black bear versus black belt.
"I turned and I just grabbed him by the neck," Duea said. "I think I had him right behind the ears. And he starts standing up, and he's wiggling his head all over, and he's batting with his front arms. I had my arms out. I was looking him square in the eyes, and he kind of stood up."
The bruin, not one to subscribe to the code of fair fighting, ran directly at Mr. Martial Arts and bowled him onto the floor.
"When we went down, I heard this popping sound," Duea said.
Record fish story full of lead
From the get-go, the folks at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife had doubts about Austin Kenyon's claims of the new state-record smallmouth bass.
Now they have the word of witnesses who assert the alleged 9.32-pound smallie Kenyon claimed to have landed Labor Day weekend was stuffed with lead to make it break the longstanding state record of 8.75 pounds.
For starters, Kenyon placed the 22-inch fish in his freezer until he could reach state fisheries officials on the Tuesday following his Saturday catch.
"Once it's been frozen, there's no way you could prove he even caught it in this state," said department spokesman John Easterbrooks.
Then last week, two of Kenyon's cohorts signed statements that his fish was tampered with prior to being weighed on a state-certified scale at a Kennewick store.
"Our determination is that the fish had been stuffed with lead weights at the time it was inspected," said Keith Underwood, who verifies records for the department.
Kenyon, 22, is sticking to the claim his catch was legitimate.
"I don't know what they are talking about," Kenyon said of his friends' allegations. "I think someone just lied."
Kind of reminds me of something Ed Zern, perhaps fishing's greatest humorist, wrote in his book "To Hell with Fishing" back in 1945.
posted Oct. 13, 2006
Backyard bear blasted by baby sitter
Looking for a baby sitter you can trust to watch and protect your youngsters from harm?
We've found her. And she comes complete with her own bear-hunting license.
The screams of, "Bear! Bear!" from one of the three toddlers she was baby-sitting motivated their aunt into quick and decisive action last week after a large black bear charged out of the northern Idaho woods and into the backyard where the children were playing.
Becky Henslee told the Bonner County Daily Bee that her sister was caring for her 2-year-old twin boys and 3-year-old daughter when the bear came into the yard.
Henslee's sister, who declined to be identified by name, grabbed the children and sprinted to the house, with the bear close behind.
After the woman safely secured the youngsters in a back bedroom, she grabbed and loaded her 7mm hunting rifle and returned to the back door, where the bear had pawed the screen door and broken the doorframe.
Taking advantage of a split-second opportunity when the bear was distracted, the baby sitter opened the sliding-glass door wide enough to aim and shoot.
Two quick shots at three feet — from the hip — and the bear was dead, on the doorstep.
Yes, she had a bear tag and an Idaho hunting license.
And now she has a 422-pound trophy and a hunting story of a lifetime.
The hunt continues in coon dog heaven
I'm probably not unlike most of my readers when it comes to traveling and taking vacations.
Before I choose a destination, I usually try to determine what types of hunting or fishing might be available in the region during the time of year I'll be visiting, as well as what interesting outdoor places may be worth visiting in the area.
Such was the case last week when I attended the annual Southeastern Outdoor Press Association conference in Decatur, Ala.
There was plenty of good fishing to be found in the Tennessee River impoundments across the northern part of the state, to be sure.
But I was especially interested in visiting a special place way back in the oak and pine hills of northeastern Alabama that I'd heard and read about, but had never had the opportunity to visit.
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."
Bragg's stone reads, "The best east of the Mississippi River."
You won't find any lapdogs, poodles or even bird-hunting dogs buried there, either.
"We have stipulations on this thing," says William O. Bolton, secretary-treasurer of the Tennessee Valley Coon Hunters Association and caretaker of the cemetery.
"A dog can't run no deer, possum — nothing like that. He's got to be a straight coon dog, and he's got to be full hound. Couldn't be a mixed-up breed dog, a house dog."
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."
posted Oct. 12, 2006
American youth suffering from nature-deficit disorder?
Richard Louv, author of "Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit-Disorder," has a unique idea that we hope the parents of young children across America will embrace.
He calls it, No Child Left Inside.
"For thousands of years in human history, kids went outside and spent their childhood outdoors, in nature. In the matter of a few decades, we are seeing the disappearance of that kind of play … and that has enormous implications," Louv writes.
Talk about some scary statistics:
Louv writes that youngsters in today's increasingly urban population may spend as many as 44 hours a week engaged with some type of electronic media, with around 20 percent of them considered to be clinically obese as a result of a lack of physical activity.
A couple of weeks ago I blogged about the disturbing decrease in camping visits to national parks in this country — a 25 percent decline since 1987.
Louv maintains the drop in national-park visits and similar statistics indicate an increasing number of parents believe the outdoors is unsafe for their children. He points to a 1991 study showing that the radius around the home that parents allow 9 year olds to wander is one-ninth what it was in 1970.
Some, like Thomas Baumeister, head of education for Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, believe Louv's book should serve as a wake-up call to state and federal agencies before the outdoors becomes irrelevant.
"(Louv) identified a major separation or alienation going on between children and nature," Baumeister said.
"All of a sudden, hunting gets a somewhat different meaning … at least in my mind. No longer (is it) just a recreational pursuit, but it could quite well be something to save our (children's interests) in nature." FORUM | MAILBAG
When has this camo thing gone too far?
OK, I'll admit to owning my share of hunting and outdoor-related equipment in a variety of camouflage designs.
Some may even accuse me of going a bit overboard with my camo cell-phone case, camo recliner chair and camo mailbox.
So what, I'm a proud hunter (and an equally proud bachelor).
But I've gotta tell you, good readers, when I received a press release yesterday announcing the new Goodyear Rawhide Camo ATV replacement tire, "the first of its kind in the recreational and utility markets," my first thought was that some tire marketing guy fell way behind in his medication regimen.
"Goodyear Rawhide Camo is an industry first: a durable four-color camouflage pattern molded into the sidewall and tread. To produce the Camo's pattern, Goodyear's engineers developed a proprietary process that molds a three-color paint veneer into the tire during the curing stage. Once the tire has cooled, the appearance is dramatic."
"Dramatic?" Looks to me like some punks with a couple of cans of spray paint tagged it on their way home from writing their names on a highway overpass.
In fact, as I looked at the tires on my ATV last night, I noticed that the mud, leaves and pines needles achieved a similar effect.
The press release says the tires are "for the ATV outdoor enthusiast who seeks go-anywhere capability and stealth."
Frankly, when I want stealth, I leave the four-wheeler at home.
posted Oct. 11, 2006
David Vasilchuk: Bounty Angler
When you consider how a guy might possibly earn livable wages while fishing, probably the first thing that comes to mind is something like the BASS Pro Tour, right?
Well, David Vasilchuk, a Washington state resident, Russian immigrant and part-time cab driver, has earned a pretty nice chunk of change while fishing in 2006 — $40,424 since the first of May, to be exact.
Vasilchuk is a bounty angler. And he's among the best in the Northwest.
Vasilchuk, 33, targets the Northern pikeminnow, or squawfish, a notorious predator of juvenile salmon on the Columbia River and its tributaries.
The Bonneville Power Administration has funded the bounty program to the tune of $3.7 million in 2006. Since the effort began in 1991, more than 2.7 million squawfish have been removed from the lower Columbia and Snake Rivers.
In a season lasting from May 1 to Oct. 1 (Oct. 15, in certain parts of the Columbia), anglers are paid $4 each for the first 100 pikeminnows exceeding 9 inches; $5 each for the next 300; and $8 each for every fish after that.
For Vasilchuk, that works out to 4,786 pikeminnows for the year, or up until last Thursday, anyway.
As a result of his piscatorial prowess, he's among the top-five bounty anglers on the Columbia.
The Seattle Times reports that last year some 2,200 anglers turned in 240,000 fish as part of the pikeminnow bounty program, with only around 20 anglers earning more than $12,000 each.
In 2003, Vasilchuk bought a fishing outfit at a second hand store and launched his career as a bounty angler.
That year he earned $14,878 and was No. 8 overall.
"People ask me, 'Where have you caught them?'" Vasilchuk said. "I tell 'em, 'At the bottom of the river.'"
Come to think of it, Vasilchuk may have it better than those guys on the BASS Tour.
No traveling, few expenses and he gets to sleep in his own bed every night.
Wolf howls prompt wilderness evacuation
Some people just aren't cut out for the wilderness experience.
The U.S. Forest Service has confirmed that two employees doing research in Idaho's Sawtooth Wilderness last month became so frightened at the sound of howling wolves that they radioed for a helicopter to rescue them.
I've told you before, I don't make this stuff up.
Ed Waldapfel, spokesman for the Sawtooth National Forest, told the Idaho Mountain Express newspaper that the incident occurred the morning of Sept. 23, when two unidentified Forest Service employees from Utah saw a pack of wolves chase a bull elk across a meadow.
"A little while later they started hearing wolves howling all around them," Waldapfel said. "They called on their radio or satellite phone and asked their supervisor if they could leave the area."
Being somewhat familiar with Forest Service policy, I know that special authorization is required for a helicopter to land inside the boundaries of a designated wilderness area, a regulation that is usually not taken lightly by USFS authorities.
Steve Nadeau, wolf program supervisor for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, was shocked that wolf howls — and no aggressive action by the wolves — would prompt a helicopter evacuation inside a wilderness area.
"Holy moly — sounds to me like someone's read too many of Grimm's fairy tales," Nadeau said. "I'm flabbergasted that (the Forest Service) would go to that extent over wolves howling in the woods because wolves howl in the woods all the time. That's how they communicate."
Lynne Stone, a Stanley resident who regularly observes wolf behavior in the backcountry, told the newspaper that when wolves howl "the echo can come from 360 degrees."
"Especially up in the mountains, where there's a lot of rock, there are great wolf-howl acoustics," she said. "They probably weren't surrounded by wolves."
posted Oct. 10, 2006
Fire prompts historic emergency hunt in Nevada
In an unprecedented order, the governor of Nevada has authorized an emergency mule deer hunt in an area near Elko that has been ravaged by forest fires to a point where the land will be unable to sustain the animals during the coming winter months.
Gov. Kenny Guinn said the largest emergency hunt in state history is "sad but necessary" to prevent hundreds of animals from starving to death.
It's estimated that nearly a million acres of prime wildlife habitat was destroyed by wildfires in Elko County from June through September.
Starting tomorrow, 1,000 antlerless mule deer tags in northeastern Nevada's Area 6 will be offered to eligible resident hunters. No nonresident tags will be issued.
Nevada wildlife biologists report that the affected area can potentially support from 15,000 to 30,000 deer in a normal year. As a result of recent fires, they estimate the area now can only support about 6,000 deer.
"It is our responsibility to respond as humanely as possible," the governor said in a statement. "The goal of the managed hunting plan is to ensure that, in the long run, a more sustainable number of animals survive on the range." FORUM | MAILBAG
"World record" story is pure bull
Were you among the countless hunters who received an e-mail in recent days that included a "hero shot" photograph of a couple of men appearing to be hunters posing with an enormous bull elk?
Accompanying the photo was the following message: "This elk was killed with a bow in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness He green-scored at 575 inches and should net out at about 530 non-typical."
Well, the big bull story is just that — bull.
But the photo is the real deal — apparently.
Several bloggers have since discovered the true source of the photograph, and it was not anywhere near the Selway-Bitteroot area of Idaho, as alleged.
In fact, it wasn't even in the United States.
Mike McLean, a writer for the Coeur d'Alene Press, has determined the photo and elk should be credited to a high-fenced, private hunting preserve in Canada.
McLean writes that Tony Barber, manager and guide at Laurentian Wildlife Estate near Arundel, Quebec, confirmed the elk came from his private reserve.
The Manitoban elk — the largest elk species — sported a 12x10 rack.
Before the true story of the bull surfaced in recent days, most folks who understand hunting and genetics doubted whether such an animal could have originated in the alleged region of northern Idaho.
If so, its rack would have been more than 100 inches larger than any bull elk ever taken by a hunter there.
"The 79-inch spread and all of the measurements are too big for a wild elk," Jim Hayden, regional wildlife biologist for Idaho Department of Fish and Game told the Coeur d'Alene paper.
He said more than 40,000 elk have been measured in the Panhandle Region and none scored close to 500 inches.
"There is no way anything up here could have produced that elk," he said.
posted Oct. 9, 2006
Leaping 'cuda takes bite out of Florida angler
Thanks to an experienced and quick-thinking Florida fishing guide, an angler is no worse for the wear today after meeting with the business end of an airborne barracuda.
Fort Lauderdale guide Carl Ball related one of his wildest fishing stories of the year to Steve Waters, outdoor writer for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
It seems Ball took a couple of fishing clients to Biscayne Bay, where they enjoyed an outing with plenty of red snapper and bonefish action. After a darting barracuda bit one of the angler's bonefish in half as he reeled it in, Ball rigged a heavy conventional outfit to see if they could hook a hungry 'cuda.
And they boated one, albeit temporarily.
As one of the anglers was fighting an aggressive 20- to 25-pound barracuda, the fish suddenly leapt into the air and headed toward the surprised angler through the air, its mouth open wide, exposing razor-sharp teeth.
"It happened instantly," Ball told the Sun-Sentinel writer. "Somehow or another the angler deflected it and the 'cuda just bounced back into the water.
"Right away I say, 'Are you all right?' I saw the 'cuda's teeth and I was afraid his teeth had gotten him. The guy pulls up his left sleeve and blood just comes squirting out of his arm."
That's when the experienced guide took charge.
Ball grabbed the fishing rod from the injured angler and instructed his companion to place pressure on the wound using a rag.
Then he called 911.
"I told them what was going on and told them we were going to the boat ramp at Crandon Park Marina (in Key Biscayne) and to meet us there; we were 10 minutes out."
Paramedics were waiting for Ball and the injured fisherman at the marina.
After initial treatment and blood-pressure monitoring, the angler was taken to a nearby hospital, where he was treated and released.
While the wound turned out to be relatively minor (requiring only a couple of stitches), the fishing story itself is one that both guide and angler will likely classify as one of their biggest ever. FORUM | MAILBAG
Study: CWD prions in blood, saliva
The findings of a new study conducted by researchers at Colorado State University point to blood and saliva as the carriers of the proteins that cause the spread of chronic wasting disease among deer and other ungulates.
The results of the study, appearing in the journal Science, indicate that the disease may spread from animal to animal through mosquitoes and ticks, as well as when animals groom and lick each other.
"It might explain why the disease transfers so quickly," said Dr. Ed Hoover, a Colorado State University professor in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Pathology.
As part of the study led by Hoover, saliva was taken from wild Colorado deer known to have CWD, and placed into the mouths of three of the healthy farm deer. The quarantined test animals all became infected with the disease.
Deer given a single transfusion of blood known to contain CWD prions (proteins) also became infected.
Because blood is found in virtually all organs and tissues, Hoover recommended that all elk and deer harvested by hunters in areas known to harbor CWD be tested for the disease before being consumed.
"I would want to know," Hoover said.
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 email@example.com.