Tag Archives: Public land

What Does the Malheur Occupation Mean for Hunters?

Idiot ranchers

Image: news.yahoo.com/

As you probably already know, a ragtag group of armed deadbeats, G.I. Joes, and absentee foster parents are currently occupying the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in protest of the federal government. Over the last three weeks, the focus of the protest has shifted from the issue of Dwight and Steve Hammond (ranchers who were both convicted of setting fire to federal land to coverup their poaching activities) to the federal government’s role in land management in general. It should also be noted that the Hammonds, who turned themselves in immediately, want nothing to do with the group’s cause.

The group is led by Ammon Bundy, son of the bigot and freeloading rancher Cliven Bundy whose cattle are currently grazing for free on federal land on your dime. Those of you familiar with the Bible will know that Ammon and his brother Moab were the sons of an incestuous relationship between Lot and his daughters. This seems to suggest that Ammon is from a family that doesn’t always think things through.

Mule deer at Malheur NWF

Mule deer at Malheur NWF. [Image: www.popsci.com/]

But beyond the hilarity of grown men deciding to occupy a remote bird sanctuary without adequate supplies, something larger and more sinister is at play, which could impact future public land hunting in a big way. Whether they know it or not, Bundy and his group are the grassroots extension of a movement gaining support in the Senate to transfer control of federal land to states. Now why would you want to transfer vast tracts of expensive-to-maintain federal land to small-budget states? Will states better manage them? If by manage you mean divestiture, then yes, states have an excellent track record of selling public land for private use. The oil, gas, timber, and mining interests behind this push know full well that states, in addition to being much softer legal targets, cannot take on the huge expenses of managing these lands, and as a result, will sell to the highest bidder.

In the western states, 70 percent of hunters hunt on land owned and managed by the federal government. While powerful lobbyists groups like the NRA try to make the issue of guns seem like the biggest threat facing hunters today, the real threat comes from the loss of wildlife habitat and hunter access. As anybody who has ever looked at the history of wildlife conversation knows, it was the privatization of land, which included market hunting, that led to the near-complete destruction of the American megafauna at the turn of the century. If the Bundys of the world got their way, they would put us on that same path of destruction, which hunters and environmentalists have since worked so hard to undo.

Mountains

Image: www.terrysteelenaturephotography.com/

This is OUR land, and it needs to stay that way. It’s best for the animals, and it’s best for us hunters.

New Year’s Hunting Resolutions

It’s time for the annual tradition of setting up unrealistic personal goals in order to thoroughly undermine them over the course of the new year. In terms of hunting, 2015 was a pretty good year for me. I gave myself ample time, hunted hard when the time came, and was fortunate enough to get a nice buck while still hunting (a first for me) during rifle season. But there is always room for improvement. Here are my five hunting resolutions for the 2016 season.

1. Go West

Image: hqworld.net

Image: hqworld.net

My grandfather was an Idaho elk hunter who died before I took up hunting. I can trace my interest in hunting and wild game to his stories of hunting the Idaho backcountry. Having hunted exclusively in the Northeast, I’ve always dreamed of going West for a backcountry elk or mule deer hunt. So this year I’m going to buy an Idaho mule deer tag and hunt the same mountains my grandfather hunted.

2. Farewell, Wood and Blued Steel

Tikka T3 Lite Stainless [Image: loomisadventures.com]

Tikka T3 Lite Stainless [Image: loomisadventures.com]

I love my pre-Garcia Sako Finnbear, but it’s nine pounds scoped and prone to surface rust during foul weather. It shoots cloverleafs all day long and has the smoothest action I’ve ever cycled. But it’s over nine pounds. One of the lightest rifles on the market, Kimber’s 84m, weighs just over five pounds. After a day of hunting with the Finnbear, I can barely lift my arms. It’s time to move on. Tikka T3 Lite Stainless, I see you.

3. Butchering

Image: guide.sportsmansguide.com

Image: guide.sportsmansguide.com

I’ve butchered deer and sent them to the butcher. The butcher charged me $70, which is very reasonable, but I didn’t get nearly as much meat as when I butchered the deer myself. While I appreciate the convenience of dropping a deer off at the butcher when you’re tired and beat up after hunting, doing it yourself yields more meat (usually) and gives you more control over how it’s processed. Butchering is also a great way to bring friends and family together. Sharpen the knives, invite some friends over, pour some drinks, and get cracking.

4. Take a Friend Hunting

Friends that hunt together stay together [Image: hdimagelib.com]

Friends that hunt together stay together. [Image: hdimagelib.com]

In 2015, I took my roommate (who had never fired a gun before) deer hunting, and he loved it. I truly enjoyed the process of sharing my knowledge with him, and in turn, was pushed to learn even more in order to better answer his questions. Maybe he’ll never hunt again, but at least now he has an understanding of the woods that he didn’t have before. My goal for 2016 is to take another friend hunting.

5. ALTADIFOY

Image: www.easttennesseewildflowers.com

Image: www.easttennesseewildflowers.com

ALTADIFOY stands for “Act Like There Are Deer In Front Of You.” I always seem to bump deer when I don’t think there are deer ahead. As everybody who hunts knows firsthand, just because you can’t see them doesn’t mean they’re not there. So if you act like there are deer ahead of you (pausing every couple of feet, being alert, scanning ahead of you, etc.), even when they’re not, you’ll have a much better chance at finding them when they are there. What’s to lose? If you’re out hunting you might as well be the best hunter you can be.

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.