Tag Archives: elk

Why My Grandfather Stopped Hunting

Image: en.wikipedia.org

Image: en.wikipedia.org/

By Jack Kredell

Once my grandfather reached the peak of his hunting prowess, sometime in his late 50s, he became more and more reluctant to hunt. It seemed odd that a man who had killed a deer or elk almost every year since he was a teenager would suddenly lose interest in hunting. Was it apathy? It didn’t seem likely.

At the end of a yoga class a few weeks ago, we were instructed during shavasana, or corpse pose, to let our mind wander freely. I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, exhaled, and let my mind go blank. I soon found myself on a ridge top looking through binoculars at the 8-point I would shoot a few minutes later. I raised my gun but found the shot too difficult to take standing, so I began slowly to crouch, letting my left elbow come to a rest on my left thigh. Here I breathed, exhaled, and pulled the trigger. For the first time since killing that deer, I recalled the physical violence of the gun going off, the way it popped and bucked deep into my shoulder, the half-moon gash on my forehead from the impact of the scope.

That one was so much more violent than the first two, but not because I couldn’t handle the recoil. It was violent because I felt I knew this deer better than the first two. Finding this deer had been a little different. For the first time, I had stalked a deer and entered its world completely undetected. I had plenty of time to decide not take this animal’s life. I almost felt his equal, and I didn’t want the experience to end. Killing him felt like an act of betrayal.

When you’re first starting out, getting a shot at a deer occurs when your world and their world suddenly and fortunately (for you) collide. That moment of chance is where most hunting takes place. Throw in the pressure you put on yourself to get a deer, and you can understand why people routinely miss or wound deer. That moment is fleeting (you think), and so you take the shot. The difference between this kind of hunting and the hunting where I felt I had slipped into the buck’s world is that in the former, the trigger pulls you while in the latter, you pull the trigger.

It was then, during this vision on the yoga mat, that I understood my grandfather’s waning desire to hunt. Simply put, hunting had become too intimate for him. His ego was no longer part of his practice. He was more aware than ever of death and dying, both for himself and for others. He had practiced the art of still hunting his entire life, and by middle age, he had no problem entering an animal’s world. The labor it now took to get within range of a deer required neither evidence nor reward. But it wasn’t the satisfaction in knowing he could kill the deer that prevented him from doing it. For the first time in 50 years of hunting, he knew he actually couldn’t.

Big, Bad Wolf

Grey wolf peering surreptitiously. [Image: www.oregonlive.com]

Grey wolf peering surreptitiously. [Image: www.oregonlive.com/]

Early on in January, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) took flight in helicopters over the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness to radio collar elk for the purposes of herd population research. The remarkable aspect of this activity is not that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) allowed IDFG crews to land helicopters over 100 times in a fragile and protected wilderness area, but that the IDFG—expressly on an elk mission—also “accidentally” collared four wolves.

The IDFG claimed they collared the wolves because they “made a mistake not clearly communicating mission limitations to one of [the] helicopter crews.” This explanation raises some questions, like, “How does someone employed to help manage forests mistake an elk for a wolf?” Or, “How is one not properly briefed before boarding a helicopter to fulfill a rare agreement made with the federal government to enter a protected wilderness area?” All this apart from the obvious collar size and implementation differences between the animals, the misinformed crew would have needed extra gear.

Wolf in Yellowstone, sporting a Gucci Positioning System. [Image: wikipedia.com]

Wolf in Yellowstone sporting this season’s Gucci Positioning System. [Image: www.wikipedia.com/]

But the conversation is bigger than the four wolves that were collared. The wolf debate in the Northwest—that is, whether or not the rebounded “experimental, non-essential” wolf population is a primary cause for the decline in elk populations in backcountry Idaho and elsewhere, and what we should do about it—is fiery and often personal, if not omnipresent among conservationists and hunters in the West. Before wolf reintroduction in 1995, more than 100,000 comments were offered on the wolf reintroduction plan, the most that had been contributed to a single FWS survey at that time, and the opinions haven’t stopped pouring in for over two decades.

Wolves once occupied a range that spanned most of the continent, but they were extirpated largely by “wolfers,” fur tradesmen who poisoned wolves for their pelts and ranchers who saw wolves and other large predators as a threat to their livestock. This occurred particularly after the decimation of native ungulate herds by unregulated hunting and human settlement in the mid- to late-1800s.

Damn, it feels good to be an apex predator? [Image: montanaoutdoor.com]

Damn, it feels good to be an apex predator? [Image: www.montanaoutdoor.com/]

Today the wolves have regained a lot of lost ground and have again become a nuisance for sportsmen and hunters who resent their competition for elk and other game, as well as ranchers whose livelihoods are sometimes dampened by wolf depredation. Some question whether the right species of wolf was introduced to the area. Still others argue that, regardless of the type of wolf, the wolves have a right to be there and their presence helps restore some of the natural order of the region from perhaps prior to Lewis and Clark’s expedition.

Swirling in the debate are millions of dollars that help with conservation, local business, and human recreation at the same time as well as all the high emotion that comes with the investment of time and resources. The conversation never gets any simpler than that, and it’s best if it is able play out in an environment where there is transparency and accountability.

Skin a Deer or Elk with an Air Compressor

Are you ready to explore the unexpected relationship between skinning large game and compressed air? If you are and find yourself in possession of an air compressor, I highly recommend this clean and quick method to skin your next deer or elk, brought to our attention by @SMHuntington.

Image: www.quincycompressor.com

Image: www.quincycompressor.com

1. Hang It Up

You can hang your deer head up or head down, but if you hang it head up by the antlers, you risk detaching one or both. This is more likely to happen later in the season as the bone base weakens following the rut. The other advantage of hanging a deer head down is that it tends to be more stable because the legs form a wider base than the head. Butchers, for example, hang deer head down.

2.  Cut a Slit and Insert Nozzle

Use a knife to make a very small incision in the skin covering the deer’s thigh. The hole should be not wider than the nozzle so that when you insert the nozzle it forms an airtight seal. If your cut is too wide or the hide rips, insert the nozzle and seal the edges with duct tape.

3. Air Time

Once you turn on the air, the skin should start to separate from the muscle. If your progress is slowed by air leaking from a large entrance or existing wounds, turn the air off and seal the holes with duct tape. It shouldn’t have to be perfectly airtight to work. Lastly, you’ll want tie the deer down with an anchor rope to prevent it from floating away after it fills with air. Deer balloons are a hazard to aircraft.

4. Rinse and Repeat

Assuming your first effort was not a resounding success, repeat the first three steps as needed. The goal is to completely separate the skin from the layer of fat between the hide and muscle. Once separated, the skin will appear loose and flabby.

5. Peel

How you perform this step depends on how you intend to use the hide. If you want a complete hide, make the traditional cuts along the inner thighs and down the belly so that the hide peels off in one oval-shaped piece. If you’re not particular about the hide, you can pretty much cut anywhere and begin peeling. Keep your knife handy for any spots that may not have separated.

5 Perfect Deer Knives

A deer knife should be between three and four inches, comfortable in the hand, and capable of holding its edge for the duration of the task. Not all knives will hold an edge, so it’s important to consider the kind of steel being used (just because you can get a knife razor sharp doesn’t mean it will hold an edge). In general, thinner blades will sharpen better than thicker ones, but keep in mind a deer knife is not a shaving razor. You want to be able to cut through muscle, tendon, cartilage, skin, and even bone if need be. Does your knife need a gut hook? No. Why? Because on a good knife, a gut hook is redundant, ugly, and tends to get in the way. Cutting open your deer without puncturing the stomach or intestines is easy assuming you don’t have a Rambo knife. Here are what I consider five perfect deer knives.

EnZo Trapper

EnZo with curly birch handle [Image: www.casstrom.se]

EnZo with curly birch handle. [Image: www.casstrom.se]

The EnZo trapper combines Scandinavian looks and blade geometry with the strength of a full tang bushcrafting knife. It is widely thought to be one of the best hunting/outdoor knives on the market today. The 3-3/4 inch blade is ideal for dressing deer and serves as a general purpose field knife. If you find a new one for $100 (as you sometimes can), don’t hesitate to pick it up. EnZo Trappers are also available in kit form for those of you looking to build your own.

Buck 110

Buck 110 [Image: www.youtube.com]

Buck 110 [Image: www.youtube.com]

The popular Buck 110 folder has dressed more deer than all the knives on this page combined. But what led to its rise as an icon for American outdoorsmen? The answer is versatility. Because of its robust handle and safe locking mechanism, it is stout enough to use with a baton or even as a hammer (I’ve done it, and I’m not proud). Yet the blade is thin and nimble enough for precision tasks like skinning, deboning, and slicing. The Buck 110’s combination of finesse and power had never been available in a folding knife before, and it changed the knife-making landscape forever.

Bark River Gunny Hunter

Gunny Hunter [Image: www.knivesshipfree.com]

Gunny Hunter [Image: www.knivesshipfree.com]

What I love about Bark River’s Gunny Hunter is the design’s fine synthesis of robustness and ergonomic comfort. It feels like an extension of your fingers when you hold it. One of the important differences between the Gunny and the Gunny Hunter is that the latter’s tip has been slightly lowered to give it more belly. At 3.7″ it is perfectly capable of dressing anything from rabbit to elk. The version in A2 steel offers both ease of sharpening and excellent edge retention. This is your knife if you’re looking for something to take into the big woods that will also perform basic bushcrafting tasks.

Morakniv Clipper

Mora Clipper [image: www.ebay.com]

Mora Clipper [image: www.ebay.com]

The Clipper is that knife you buy thinking it will be your beater but you end up liking it more than your “preferred” knife. Mora knives offer pure utilitarian value at the lowest possible price—it almost doesn’t make sense to buy any knife other than a Mora. At only $15, the Mora Clipper or Companion will perform as well as a knife that costs ten times as much. I personally don’t like the rubber handles or plastic sheaths, though.

Helle Symfoni

Helle Symfoni [Image: www.workwearcanada.com]

Helle Symfoni [Image: www.workwearcanada.com]

Maybe you can tell by now I’m a bit partial to Scandi knives. I like the Scandi grind for two reasons: They’re incredibly easy to sharpen because the bevel acts an angle guide, and two, Helle knives are proof that you don’t need a big, heavy knife to dress large game. The Sami people of Scandinavia have been dressing reindeer and moose with traditional three and four inch puukko knives (what Helle knives are based on) for millennia. Helle knives are incredibly lightweight and easy to carry. The Symfoni is a sleek, triple laminated, stainless knife with a razor sharp 3-1/2 inch blade. The blade’s medium length and thinness make it ideal for dressing deer and other medium to large game.

There is simply no reason for your deer knife to be longer than four and a half inches. Don’t be the guy who shows up to deer camp with a Rambo knife—show up with something sensible and efficient.

Women Hunt Too: Huntresses We Admire

Often there’s a misconception that only men hunt (or fish), but we want to dispel that myth. Getting down in camo in a hunting blind is not a gender exclusive activity, and there are more than a few awesome huntresses that we admire out there.

Women have been involved in hunting since the beginning of history. Cave drawings displayed women joining in on the hunt, mythological huntresses were depicted in ancient Greek and Roman culture, and ancient Egypt saw queens often hunting from the comfort of their chariots. It’s no surprise that in today’s society there are plenty of noteworthy huntresses paving the way for the outdoorswoman of the future.

Andrea Fisher

Andrea Fisher with a buck.

2011 Prois Award winner, Andrea Fisher. [Image: https://www.pinterest.com/]

Huntress and conservationist Andrea Fisher was the 2011 Prois Award winner, an award that honors women who are dedicated to hunting and conservation with involvement in their community. Fisher won a trip to hunt elk, mule deer, wolf, and whitetail in the Canadian Rockies alongside Diana Rupp, the editor-in-chief for Savage Encounters and Sports Afield.

Eva Shockey

Eva Shockey and a whitetail buck.

Eva Shockey and a beautiful whitetail buck. [Image: http://outdoorchannel.com/]

Canadian huntress and daughter of Jim Shockey, Eva was featured on the May 2014 issue of Field & Stream Magazine, the first woman to be featured in 30 years. Eva has grown up in the face of hunting media, following in her father’s footsteps. It’s no surprise that she is now a cohost of Jim Shockey’s Hunting Adventures, blazing the trail for huntresses worldwide.

Debra Card

Debra Card and her moose.

Debra Card and her amazingly antlered moose. [Image: http://www.wideopenspaces.com/]

In 1999, Debra Card snagged a number one Safari Club International (SCI) spot for an Alaska moose she killed right outside of Cordova. Its antlers spanned over six feet with 39 points and scored her 731 1/8-inches. This monster has held the number one spot for more than a decade now!

Mary Cabela

Mary Cabela and a bighorn sheep.

Mary Cabela and a beautiful bighorn sheep she shot. [Image: http://www.outdoorlife.com/]

Everyone’s at least heard of Cabela’s, and it’s not surprising that co-owner Mary Cabela is an impressive huntress. She has records for more than 200 animals, many of which are SCI trophies. Some of her kills include cape buffalo, caribou, Dall sheep, elk, and much more.

5 Early American Longhunters

George Caleb Bingham's Daniel Boone Escorting Settlers through the Cumberland Gap (1851–52) [Image: en.wikipedia.org]

George Caleb Bingham’s Daniel Boone Escorting Settlers through the Cumberland Gap (1851–52). [Image: en.wikipedia.org]

Though less iconic than later mountain men, the American Longhunters were the first wave of semi-nomadic hunters and trappers operating west of the Appalachian Mountains. Working in groups of two or three, longhunters would journey into the frontier wilderness in search of game for as long as six months. They were a ragged and disparate bunch of Revolutionaries, mercenaries, professional hunters, unwitting geographers, criminals, and businessmen. Included were the folk heroes Daniel and Squire Boone as well as the infamous Harpe brothers, generally considered to be America’s first serial killers.

Typical lean-to shelter: [Image: en.wikipedia.org]

Typical lean-to shelter. [Image: en.wikipedia.org]

Henry Scaggs

Born in Maryland in 1724, Henry Scaggs was a hunter and explorer whose unmatched familiarity with the Trans-Allegheny wilderness landed him a gig as a land agent for Richard Henderson and Daniel Boone. In the 1760s, Scaggs was the first nonwhite to explore the rivers of middle Tennessee and Central Kentucky. After permanently settling in Kentucky, Scaggs led the 1799 search for the “Bloody Harpes,” two brothers estimated to have murdered around 40 people. After joining up with fellow Kentuckian Colonel Daniel Trabue, they came across the body of Trabue’s own son. Scaggs and Trabue were ultimately unsuccessful in their attempt to capture the Harpes.

Image: www.heritage-history.com

[Image: www.heritage-history.com]

Simon Kenton

Kenton was a noted and distinguished soldier from Virginia who served in the Revolutionary War, the Northwest Indian War, and the War of 1812. In 1778, Kenton survived several episodes of ritual torture (including running the gauntlet) by Shawnee who were so impressed by his endurance that they adopted him. Following his torture, Kenton helped capture Fort Sackville from the British during the Revolution. He again distinguished himself in the War of 1812 as a leader at the Battle of the Thames where Tecumseh was killed. Things were quiet for Kenton after that, though. He settled in Ohio and had six children with his second wife (he had four with his first), Elizabeth Jarboe.

"Kentucky" or American longrifle [Image: www.markelliottva.com]

“Kentucky” or American longrifle. [Image: www.markelliottva.com]

James Smith

James Smith was a legendary soldier and frontiersman who led the Pennsylvania “Black Boys” on a nine-month rebellion against British colonial rule ten years prior to the Revolution. Remarkably, he learned to read and write despite not having any formal education and would even go on to write a cultural analysis of Native American life in 1799. His book, An Account of the Remarkable Occurrences in the Life and Travels of Col. James Smith, contained a unique perspective; around 1755, he was adopted by a Mohawk family, learned the language, and adopted their lifestyle. Following the outbreak of the American Revolution, Smith joined the Pennsylvania militia and rose to the rank of colonel. Later in life, he became a Presbyterian minister and wrote pamphlets denouncing Shakerism.

Image: www.murderbygaslight.com

[Image: www.murderbygaslight.com]

The Harpe Brothers

Some might object to the inclusion of Micajah “Big” Harpe and Wiley “Little” Harpe as Longhunters on account of their singular bloodlust. However, violence and killing were in no way unique to the Harpes; it was, in fact, instrumental to the opening of the frontier. Nevertheless, the violence of the Harpes went far beyond frontier standards. Not much is known about their early life except that they were Loyalists and fought with the British and their Indian allies, especially the Chickamauga Cherokee. Following the war, they lived as outlaws with the Creek and Cherokee and routinely butchered and mutilated settlers, travelers, and other Native Americans. In 1799, a posse finally caught up with Big Harpe and decapitated him at a location still known as Harpe’s Head. Little Harpe was apprehended in 1804 while pirating and was formally executed. By the end of their run, the “Bloody Harpes” had brutally murdered some 40 men, women, and children.

Kentucky's finest [Image: www.murderbygaslight.com]

Kentucky’s finest. [Image: www.murderbygaslight.com]

Daniel Boone

Daniel Boone is the folkloric American statesman, hunter, Indian fighter, and frontiersman best known for his exploits in what is known today as Kentucky. During the late 1760s and early 1770s, Boone hunted and explored the area of modern-day Kentucky (including the Cumberland Gap) where he gained the reputation as a consummate outdoorsman. After founding the colony of Boonesborough in Kentucky, Boone became a militia officer and fought mainly in his adopted Kentucky against British-backed Native American forces. Contrary to the myth of Daniel Boone as a dedicated Indian fighter, Boone was known to dislike killing and violence. He lived out the remainder of his life living and hunting in Missouri, often with the same Shawnee who had fought against him so many years earlier.

Attend a Fish & Wildlife Hunting Workshop

With Fall bowhunting and muzzleloader seasons here at last, you won’t want to miss a hunting workshop near you that will help you get the most out of the season. Check out this list of hunting workshops hosted by Fish & Wildlife divisions countrywide.

Two hunters return from hunting in the woods

Image: www.pbase.com


STEP OUTSIDE Youth Dove Hunts
October 4 & 11 (Washington)
October 18 & 25 (Monroe)

Dove hunting is a great way to introduce hunting to young adults. Sponsored by the Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division of the Alabama Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources, these hunts work in cooperation with landowners, volunteers, business and organizations to provide an educational hunting program for youth. Registration for this hunting workshop is open to hunters under 16 years old, but they must be accompanied by an adult of at least 25 years old or a parent with a valid state hunting license. Participants are encouraged to wear eye protection and ear plugs at the dove hunts.

New Hampshire

Wild Game, From Field to Table
October 8, 2014

Love the hunt, but not a fan of the taste? As part of their Outdoor Adventure Talks series, the New Hampshire Fish and Game is presenting a FREE seminar with master game chef Denny Corriveau, Founder of the Free Range Culinary Institute about how to prepare the best-tasting game dishes. Chef Corriveau removes the mystery surrounding cooking wild game, and will show you important techniques that will greatly improve flavor. Part of this seminar includes a hands-on cooking demonstration. You don’t want to miss this hunting workshop!

Calling All Whitetails/Firearms Season Tactics
October 15, 2014

Another edition of the NH Fish and Game Outdoor Adventure Talks series, this FREE workshop will help you prep for this year’s firearms season. Dean Vanier, a Knight Rifles Pro-Staffer and founder of North Woods Hunting Products will reveal all of the whitetail’s superior defense mechanisms and how to read them. Vanier has over 35 years experience scouting whitetails, and will explain when, where and how to use calls and scent to attract deer as well as more information about the three phases of the rut.

Two deer stand in the fog

Image: www.northamericanwhitetail.com

New Jersey

Rockport Pheasant Farm Open House
October 25, 2014
10AM – 3PM

If you’d like to know more about how over 50,000 ring-necked pheasants are raised for New Jersey’s “put and take” hunting, head to Rockport Pheasant Farm’s Open House. This 492-acre facility is operated by the N.J. Division of Fish and Wildlife, and includes a state-of-the-art incubation and brooder building. The open house offers a self-guided tour with Rockport staff on hand at each station to explain the process and answer questions. Pheasants from the farm are released throughout 24 different Wildlife Management Areas in New Jersey.


Family Elk Hunting Workshop
October 26, 2014
9AM – 4PM

New to elk hunting? Or just a little rusty on the basics? This FREE family-friendly workshop presented by the Oregon Dept. of Fish & Wildlife is meant for beginners and those wanting to get back into hunting. Focusing on elk, the workshop will cover topics such as biology and behavior, field dressing, hunting strategies, and regulations. Staff will also help participants understand how to choose the right hunting rifle, how to scout, and how to use maps to find hunting territories. There will be a live fire component where participants will be able to try firing a variety of hunting rifles. Scouting will include live demonstrations of how to read animal tracks and follow a blood trail.

The workshop caps at 24 adults and 6 youths over the age of 9, which makes this a great opportunity to interact with other hunters and ask questions. A hunting license is not required to attend the hunting workshop. Lunch will be provided. Make sure to reserve your spot!


Squirrel Hunting for Beginners
October 28, 2014
6:30PM – 7:30PM

Hosted at the Witt Stephens Jr. Central Arkansas Nature Center in Little Rock, this FREE workshop is a great way to introduce kids and first-time hunters to the sport. Squirrel hunting does not require any special or expensive gear, and the season is open for 9 months, making it the perfect sport to hone hunting skills. In this workshop, participants will learn how to hunt for squirrels, firearm safety, where to look for quarry, and savory squirrel recipes. Who knows? You may be the next Mac English! Register at the Nature Center, by calling 501-907-0636. This event is presented by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.