Tag Archives: state parks

The Rise of Identity Politics in Hunting

By Jack Kredell

Somewhere around the time of Larry the Cable Guy­ hunting became a lot more than a seasonal pursuit. There were hints of the progression in the 90s, but overall it was a decidedly post-9/11 shift. As hunter participation was actually decreasing (and continues to decline), the visibility and commercial viability of hunting suddenly exploded. Hunting was now something more than a lifestyle: It was a brand.

You began to see as much camouflage in the mall as you did in the field. Decals of bucks with double drop tines, a characteristic rare enough in the wild that most of us will never encounter one, became plastered on the windows of F-250s everywhere. Camouflage went from performing the task of making you unseen to making you seen. Sure enough, pink camouflage was quick to follow for female hunters to be seen and counted, too.

Hunter

Image: http://www.trbimg.com/

Larry the Cable Guy’s use of redneck blackface made him a millionaire by branding the “blue collar” identity that was also the source of his comedy. People felt represented by him because he fully identified with the thing being made fun of: them.

After 9/11, as a result of cultural forces that are probably still too new to understand fully (social media being one of them), hunting evolved into a fixed and marketable identity with a defined set of politics. Hunting became just another popular identity, one of many in the popular cultural landscape. A reality television show about duck hunters becomes one of the most watched in TV history. For the first time, you could identify as a hunter (even without actually being one) and it made sense. It came with a known set of cultural and political affiliations. All you had to do was wear a Mossy Oak hoodie and people understood who you were. In a way, wearing camo is no different than wearing a your favorite team’s jersey. But what exactly is team hunting, and what does it represent?

In a surplus economy, hunting-as-subsistence is not going to be part of your average hunter’s identity. Very few us can make enough money to live by hunting or trapping. The one way that all of us can identify as hunters is through consumption. Some very smart people figured out that if there’s one thing that hunters seem to enjoy as much as hunting, it’s shopping.

But not everybody was hip to it. Fudds were born. Fudds resisted the rising tide of the monoculture by embracing a more austere post-war approach to hunting. For a Fudd, hunting means fair chase and a pre-64 Winchester Model 70 in .270. The arrival of the controversial AR platform made hunting a contested second amendment issue. If you came out against so-called black rifles, you were not only anti-hunting, but indirectly, anti-second amendment as well. Because hunting is not a right, hunters realized they had to bow down to second amendment politics (and its marketplace). Then Jim Zumbo came out against the AR platform and became the sacrificial Fudd. He was struck down by the outdoor powers that be, which seemed at the mercy of the new market for the AR. 

This progression towards a popular hunting identity has lumped hunters into a monolithic group synonymous with powerful rights-based politics. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; the more unified a group is, the more leverage it tends to have. However, unified and homogenous are not the same thing. Groups that are too homogenous are weak because they alienate members who disagree as well as those like-minded non-members who would help the cause. 

It’s at this moment when, consciously or subconsciously, hunting shows begin to appear that challenge the status quo. You can read the efforts of hunters like Steven Rinella, Randy Newberg, and Remi Warren as in no small part responding to those aspects of hunting that the post-9/11 landscape has downplayed, ignored, or even repressed. In Rinella, it’s the materiality of food consumption and its relationship to history and landscape; for Newberg it’s the egalitarian principles of public land hunting; in “Solo Hunter” Warren invokes a tradition of rugged self-reliance. Independent YouTube also contributed to the changing landscape of outdoor media.

These were not so much rebellions against the status quo of mainstream hunting media as proof that hunting is deeply varied in practice. Hunters do not all agree on what constitutes hunting, nor do we all agree on what the future of hunting should look like.

Which leads to the single biggest problem with hunting today: It is the culture itself that is prohibitive in the way we hunters get to decide how our economic and political power should be used. We can’t agree on the biggest threats to hunting because we’re not allowed to disagree.

Hunting is a deeply regional activity. A whitetail hunter in Iowa will face different roadblocks and conservation issues than an elk hunter in Idaho. This basic fact should invite differences of opinion, even irreconcilable ones, into the hunting discourse. Yet we’ve developed a climate where to disagree with one form of hunting is to disagree with the whole and be labeled an anti-hunter. This behavior is not what’s going to get us through the long nights ahead of us. 

Post Season Bacon

Contributed by Alex Vail of The Flying Kayak

Depending on where you are in the country, hunting season has just about wrapped up. Deer season was months ago, and turkey season has pretty much come to an end. If you’re anything like me, you’re already counting down until opening day in fall. But don’t be so quick to put away the camos just yet. There’s one animal in particular that still offers hunting opportunity far later in the year, and year round in some cases: The feral pig.

Image: Alex Vail

Image: Alex Vail

By this point in time, if you’ve never heard of the feral pig or wild pigs, you’ve probably been living under a rock. They’re extremely invasive and have spread themselves throughout almost all of the Southeastern United States. The pigs were originally brought in by the Spanish, and in conjunction with a series of farm escapes throughout the years, they’ve spread like wildfire.

Pigs pose a major problem to agriculture. They cause millions of dollars in damage to crops every year because of the way they feed. Pigs naturally root up the ground to dig for tubers and roots. Areas that’ve had a group of pigs come through honestly look like someone came in and dragged a tractor disk across the ground. They rip up everything, and when you add in their extremely fast reproductive rates, they’ve gotten out of hand.

Image: Alex Vail

Image: Alex Vail

Over the past few years, states have begun to recognize the wild pig issue. All states that have feral pigs present have incorporated harvesting them into regular hunting seasons, but many have actually taken it a step further. States like Florida have unique laws. On specific Wildlife Management Areas, there are extra wild pig seasons that are open during various times over the summer. This not only allows the public access to many of these WMA’s during non-standard hunting times, but it also allows them the opportunity to hunt outside of the regular hunting season.

And let’s not forget private land. Depending on what part of the state you’re in, many counties allow for wild pigs to be harvested with the use of spotlight, night vision, or even the help of dogs. Hunting on private land for pigs also lasts year round; there’s no defined season. This has been put in place to try and help curb not only their spread, but also the amount of damage they can do to private land owners.

As with any outdoor activity (but especially hunting), be sure to check up and familiarize yourself with the local laws and regulations regarding pigs as each state is different. Hunters should also be well-prepared as far as gear goes to hunt pigs. Many public land areas forbid the use of center-fire rifles during pig seasons. This means a hunter is restricted to either archery hunting or shotguns. Using a bow for pigs can be very effective, but it’s important to ensure a clean shot as they are extremely tough animals. With shotguns, I would avoid buckshots entirely and just stick to slugs.

Image: Alex Vail

Image: Alex Vail

On private land, you’re usually welcome to use whatever you’d like. My personal favorites are either a 7.62×39 or a 30-06 when chasing pigs. There are obviously about a hundred different options for cartridges that will work for wild pigs, but that’s a discussion for another day. Just be sure to pick something that has a decent amount of knockdown power. Even a fairly small pig can be somewhat dangerous if cornered and wounded. If you’re planning on hunting at night, be sure to outfit your firearm properly. High-powered scopes are often difficult to wield when using spotlights, and finding your target in the crosshairs can be just as challenging.

Image: Alex Vail

Image: Alex Vail

So if you’ve found yourself down in the dumps because hunting season is over, consider taking a look at wild pigs. Harvesting them isn’t just for hunting’s sake, it’s actually good for our natural environments and agricultural productivity. And let’s be honest, there are few things better than waking up on a warm summer’s day and cooking up some bacon for breakfast.

Sea Robins and Boneless Chicken

Eastern Sea Robin [Image: www.danasrig.top]

Eastern Sea Robin [Image: www.danasrig.top/]

The boneless chicken breast, a formless glob of translucent meat usually found under a window of cellophane, is a terrifying thing. It is the perfect representation of the American palate: Cheap, industrial, and nearly flavorless.

The meat’s formlessness leaves you unaware and unconcerned that it was once part of an animal, a small flightless bird that lived its entire life in a small cage without much natural light. It is completely lacking in anatomical markers beyond the word “breast.” You trust that it is a breast and not something else. Whatever it is, it seems to come from a limitless supply because it’s always there when you want it.

The boneless breast cannot be used creatively because creativity works though limitation and obstacle. With boneless meat the obstacles are already overcome. Being perfectly bland, it can accommodate a limitless variety of spices and condiments. It lacks the very things—blood, bone, marrow, skin, and fat—that would give it flavor and texture through the transformative act of cooking. The boneless breast is a ready-made object that is used in conjunction with other ready-made additives to become a meal. It is everything that is wrong about the industrial food apparatus.

A sea robin is the exact opposite. Being nearly all bone and covered in mildly poisonous spines, this ugly northeastern trash fish is the palatal antichrist to boneless chicken. In New England, it’s considered an overabundant nuisance fish that poaches bait meant for stripers. In fact, the robin is considered so unworthy a fish that fishermen refuse to acknowledge them in their catch. A Long Islander who catches 10 sea robins and one bluefish will tell you he didn’t get into the striper.

When my fishing buddy reeled in a huge robin, I plucked it out of the surf in excitement and got a half-inch spine lodged in my thumb. The wound hurt, but I was proud of it.  We were no doubt the only Long Island fishermen that day happily leaving the surf with a bucket of robins.

The first time I had sea robin was on a party boat out of Sheepshead Bay. It was fried and served on white bread with spicy mayonnaise and tomato. It was delicious. I couldn’t believe that this was the ugly red fish with the oversized head and bat wings that everybody scoffed at. When the captain decided to move the boat from our current location because we were hooking too many robins, my friend and I looked at each other in mild disappointment.

There are two paths available to us going forward this century: The sea robin and the boneless chicken breast. The path of the sea robin is about embracing what it is ugly, precarious, labor-intensive, and near; the path of the boneless breast embraces what is cheap, easy, and removed from the reality of our food practices. The robin, like any freshly caught fish, reminds you of the pleasure of standing on the beach and casting into the surf. Eating boneless chicken is a completely forgettable experience unless you get salmonella. The path of the sea robin is sustainable and forces us to partake in death and manage waste; the path of boneless chicken breasts leads to oblivion.

Embrace Spring with these Delicious Fish Recipes

Rejoice and feel the warmth (and probably the allergies) because spring is back! And is there anything better than diving into a plate of fresh fish that you caught and prepared yourself on a warm evening? Probably not. Here are just a few spring fish recipes to get you in the mood for this warm weather.

Spring Fish Pie

Courtesy of BBC’s Good Food

Spring fish pie

Spring fish pie. [Image: http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/]

Ingredients

  • 250g bag washed leaf spinach
  • 450g small new potato
  • 2 eggs
  • 300g skinless, boneless white fish fillet, cut into large chunks
  • 100g half-fat crème fraîche
  • 1/2 lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Directions

  • Heat oven to 420 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Tip the spinach into a colander sitting in the sink and tip the potatoes into a saucepan.
  • Bring a kettle full of water to the boil and pour enough over the potatoes to cover. Slowly pour the rest over the spinach to wilt it.
  • Bring the potatoes to the boil and cook for 8–10 mins until tender. Drain and roughly mash.
  • Leave the spinach to cool. Squeeze out excess water with your hands.
  • Scatter the spinach over the bottom of two individual or one small ovenproof dish leaving two gaps for the eggs.
  • Crack the eggs into the gaps and season with salt and pepper.
  • Distribute the fish over the spinach and eggs.
  • Spread over the crème fraîche and drizzle with the lemon juice.
  • Loosely spoon over the potatoes, drizzle over the olive oil, then bake for 20–25 minutes until the top is crispy and golden and the sauce is bubbling at the sides.
  • Leave to stand for a few mins, then serve straight from the dish.

Grilled Salt and Pepper Tuna

Courtesy of Food Republic

Grilled salt and pepper tuna

Grilled salt and pepper tuna. [Image: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/162129655305811754/]

Ingredients:

  • 3 pounds sushi-grade tuna
  • 1/2 cup black pepper, coarsely ground
  • 1/4 cup coarse sea salt
  • 8 zucchini
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Coarse salt
  • Coarsely ground black pepper
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • 2 lemons
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions:

  • Slice the tuna into 8 equal steaks.
  • Combine the pepper and salt in a small bowl and pour onto a clean dinner plate.
  • Press each tuna steak into the mixture to coat evenly. Refrigerate until ready to grill.
  • Preheat the grill to medium.
  • Cut each zucchini lengthwise into 5 or 6 strips.
  • Lay flat, brush with oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • Grill for one for two minutes per side, until lightly browned. Set aside.
  • Melt the butter in a small saucepan.
  • Add the capers and cook for two minutes.
  • Add the lemon juice, salt, and pepper and cook for two minutes to heat through.
  • Add the tuna steaks to the grill and grill for two to three minutes on each side for medium-rare.
  • To assemble, place 5 or 6 zucchini strips in the center of each plate.
  • Drizzle with lemon caper butter.
  • Top each plate of zucchini with a tuna steak.

Crispy Fish Sandwiches with Wasabi and Ginger

Courtesy of Fine Cooking

Crispy Fish Sandwiches with Wasabi and Ginger

Crispy Fish Sandwiches with Wasabi and Ginger. [Image: http://www.finecooking.com/]

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 medium lime, finely grated to yield 1/2 teaspoon zest and squeezed to yield 4 teaspoon juice
  • 1.5 tsp. wasabi paste, add more to taste
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 cup panko
  • 4 4- to 5- ounce boneless, skinless hake, haddock, or cod fillets (preferably 1 to 1-1/2 inches thick)
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger
  • 3 cups thinly sliced iceberg lettuce (about 1/4 head)
  • 4 hamburger buns, lightly toasted

Directions:

  • In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise, lime zest, 1 teaspoon of the lime juice, and the wasabi paste. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and more wasabi, if you like.
  • In a wide, shallow bowl, lightly beat the eggs and 1 tablespoon of the soy sauce until combined. Put the panko in another wide shallow bowl.
  • Pat the fish fillets dry and lightly season with salt.
  • Working with one fillet at a time, dip it in the egg mixture, letting any excess drip off, then coat with the panko, pressing the breadcrumbs onto the fish. Set each breaded fillet on a plate or tray as you finish it.
  • In a 10-inch nonstick skillet, heat 1/2 cup of the oil over medium heat until shimmering hot.
  • Fry the fish, flipping once, until well browned and just cooked through, 5 to 8 minutes total. Transfer to paper towels to drain and sprinkle each fillet with a pinch of salt.
  • Meanwhile, in a large bowl, stir together the remaining 1 tablespoon lime juice, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 tablespoon oil, the ginger, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add the lettuce and toss to coat.
  • Spread the wasabi mayonnaise on both cut sides of the buns. Put one fish fillet on the bottom of each bun. Top with the lettuce and the bun top.

Back to Basics: Inshore Tackle

Inshore saltwater kayak fishing is one of the most popular means of fishing for a large percentage of the kayaking community. The ease of access, relatively safe waters, and challenging fishing draws thousands of anglers to chase inshore species every year. But while planning an inshore kayak fishing trip with a few friends a couple of weeks ago, a buddy asked me, “What should I bring?”

For those inexperienced with inshore fishing, the choice of tackle can be daunting. Aside from the obvious of live/dead bait, a beginner is faced with hundreds of options of artificial hard or soft baits, colors, shapes, sizes, etc. So I tore apart my tackle box and whittled my plethora of choices down to just a few options that I deem essential for an inshore fisherman’s collection.

Swim/Paddle Tails

Image: Alex Vail

Image: Alex Vail

Used in combination with a small jig head, these soft plastics catch just about everything that swims around inshore waters. The rate of “wiggle” that the swim tail has depends solely on how fast the retrieve is. These are great for bottom bouncing to chase things like flounder and redfish, but can also be pulled in quicker and higher in the water column to entice trout and snook. Just remember to always bring extras. Toothy guys like mangrove snappers have a nasty habit of biting off the swim tail.

Weedless Jerk Shad

Image: Alex Vail

Image: Alex Vail

One of the biggest issues with inshore fishing is obstructions. Mangrove roots, oyster bars, docks, weeds, trees, etc. You name it, you’re probably going to get hung up on it it. And unfortunately that’s where most of the fish like to hang out, so you’ll find yourself casting near these things constantly. This is where weedless setups shine. Using wide gap worm hooks, an angler can easily make use of these weedless setups. Generally speaking, the soft plastic itself is heavy enough to cast, but if you’re trying to reach deeper water, or bottom bounce, a simple bullet weight can change how these are used. Twitch them occasionally for a mid-water column effect or very quickly to simulate something topwater. Set the hook pretty hard with these setups as you need to obviously expose the hook for it to work. 

Shrimp Imitations

Image: Alex Vail

Image: Alex Vail

Baits like DOA shrimp and similar are absolutely dynamite when it comes to inshore species. Their design also means that the hook is almost always faced upwards, which limits the amount of snagging that occurs with the bottom. They are unfortunately somewhat expensive when compared to other options, but I’ve encountered numerous instances where it’s the only thing fish will hit. Slow twitching works great, and sometimes all it takes is letting the bait drift down current for a fish to pick it up. It isn’t uncommon at all for fish to hit the shrimp immediately after it hitting the water, so don’t be surprised if you reel in the slack to find a fish on the end already.

Spinner Baits/Buzz Baits 

To many, this may seem like an oddball choice. Spinner baits and buzz baits are generally used by freshwater fisherman after bass. But in case you haven’t heard, redfish absolutely love them. They’re somewhat difficult to use since they aren’t weedless and require a bit of depth to the water, but since many inshore spots have poor water clarity, the vibrations of the blade attract fish. High tide and oyster bars are when I break out the spinner baits, and I’m rarely disappointed in their results.

red fish

This red fell victim to a spinner bait. [Image: Alex Vail]

Topwaters

Image: Alex Vail

Image: Alex Vail

As far as excitement goes, topwaters take the grand prize. There’s few things in life more exciting than watching your surface plug get annihilated by a fish from below. There are several options when it comes to these, but I almost always go with a lure that does the “walk the dog” action. These simulate a wounded baitfish on the surface and have an advantage over subsurface lures in that they rarely get caught on anything. The simple fact that they float means that glide right over the top of anything below, meaning they rarely foul. Use these early morning and late evening when it’s rather dark outside.

Popping Corks

Image: Alex Vail

Image: Alex Vail

The final piece of tackle I wouldn’t leave home without is the popping cork. Generally used when fishing with live or dead bait, a popping cork rig shouldn’t be overlooked when considering artificials either. Previously mentioned baits like swim tails, shrimp imitations, and jerk shad can easily be tied underneath a popping cork and used effectively. The nice thing about these is that the cork actually keeps the lure suspended and off the bottom. Tie a one to two foot piece of mono or fluorocarbon underneath the popper and then attach the bait. The quick popping action works the lure below and keeps it suspended. And in instances where a fish strikes, it’s immediately noticeable as the cork disappears below.

snook

Snook that fell for a DOA under a popping cork. [Image: Alex Vail]

So if you’re just getting into inshore fishing and trying to sort out the tackle box, consider giving these a try. One or the other, or a combination of them, all is bound to eventually work. Trout, reds, flounder, snook, and more are options for inshore kayak fishermen. With the right amount of patience, equipment, and luck, inshore kayak fishing can be one of the most productive ways to fish. Tight lines!

Kayaks and Kayak Accessories

Contributed by Alex Vail of The Flying Kayak

By this point, we’ve all seen them—the fishing kayaks decked out with everything from GoPro mounts and livewells to sails and even motors. To the beginner kayaker, the amount of options to add to your kayak can seem somewhat overwhelming. Sure, you can add tons of stuff to your plastic yak, but where do you start? The following are a few basic accessories that can slowly turn your barren paddle craft into a much more functional piece of equipment without getting too crazy.

Kayak on the beach loaded with gear.

Image: Alex Vail

Seats

This may seem a bit basic, but first things first, right? A good seat is probably one of the most important pieces of equipment you can “upgrade” on your kayak. Think about it: It’s where you spend almost all your time. Kayaking and kayak fishing is supposed to be enjoyable, and each trip can be much more enjoyable when you’re actually comfortable. Stock kayak seats are often extremely basic. Some even lack a bottom and are just a support to lean against. I personally suggest biting the bullet and investing in a nice seat. When you’re already staring at almost a full day in the yak or over 10 miles of paddling, the last thing in the world you want is to be cripplingly uncomfortable. 

Some kayaks don’t come with the standard cleats that are required with a seat. But with a few basic tools and sealant, it’s pretty easy to get the kayak ready to not only accept a new seat, but also make it comfortable.

Rudder

Another somewhat basic piece of equipment, but one that can make your life infinitely easier. I personally swear by a rudder—it’s far better to have and not need than need and not have. The advantage to a rudder is tackling windy conditions during longer paddles. The rudder helps the kayak track much more easily so you aren’t constantly trying to correct, and therefore alter, your paddling rhythm. A simple pedal-steered rudder can make life much easier while out on the water. These are advantageous in foul weather as well when you’ve been caught in the wind and have to turn around. Ask anyone who’s struggled with that, and they know the nightmare it can be. Finally, a rudder proves useful even in calm conditions on days when you’re out fishing. You can get the kayak moving with a few paddle strokes, and after picking up the rod, you can easily adjust the direction of the kayak with some simple footwork with the pedals. It’s even easier when the wind is at your back.

Much like the seats, installing a rudder just requires a few basic tools and obviously the equipment. Be sure to sit in the seat and measure out how comfortable you are and how far away you need the pedals to be based off of your leg length. If your rudder doesn’t already have it, I highly suggest using a steel cable to link the rudder to the pedals. My last rudder with steel cables lasted 11 years before finally needing any maintenance.

Closeup of kayak.

Image: Alex Vail

Anchor Trolley 

This is one that I don’t see many people using. In fact, I don’t see a ton of people using anchors to begin with. But the advantage to an anchor trolley is the ability to adjust the direction you’re faced when anchored up. With this very simple pulley system, a kayaker can change the facing and actual location of the kayak even while anchored. Need the pivot point of the anchor line to be off the bow? Just adjust it. Need to face the opposite direction so you can cast repeatedly into that hole? Fine-tune the pivot point to your liking. It’s proved invaluable for me on several occasions, and it wasn’t particularly difficult to install.

So if you’ve just recently dipped your toes into the world of kayaking, try and start small. The bigger, more in-depth accessories can wait. Focus on the basics first. With these simple upgrades, you can easily step up your kayak game. Just be careful: Upgrading the kayak can be a slippery slope. Before you know it, you’ll be latching on sails and livewells just like everyone else.

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.

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.

Go Hunting in a Local State Park!

There are plenty of hunting opportunities available at state parks where you can see gorgeous views, illustrious trails, and, of course, lots of local wildlife. The best part of getting involved in the hunting scene at a nearby state park is that you won’t have to travel too far to enjoy the great outdoors. State parks are one of our most valuable resources in this country, so make sure you utilize them! Here are just a few states that offer exciting hunting events that you might want to join in on.

Controlled Hunting and Trapping Events, Ohio

Hunting in Ohio.

There are an estimated 600,000+ deer and 200,000+ turkeys in Ohio. [Image: http://hunt-ohio-deer-and-turkey-on-public-land.com/]

Join the Ohio Division of Wildlife and traverse through various areas that are normally closed to hunters. Youths and adults are eligible to participate, and individuals will be chosen based on a random computer generated drawing. There are opportunities to take part in controlled trapping, controller waterfowl hunting, and controlled deer hunting.

Learn more here.

Open Hunting, Managed Hunts, and Hunting Workshops, Virginia

Top counties for hunting in Virginia.

Image: http://www.gameandfishmag.com/

Virginia is an obvious choice for hunting, and luckily they have plenty of options! Similar to Ohio’s style, they have a lottery system-based for managed hunts for deer and feral hogs. Additionally there are also specific hunts tailored to youths (ages 12–17) and the disabled. If interested, you can make a reservation for specific sites, even claiming a certain zone or stand. Or simply partake in Virginia’s open hunting areas, which can be found at Fairy Stone State Park, Grayson Highlands State Park, Hungry Mother State Park, or Occoneechee State Park.

Learn more here.

Reserved Hunts, Indiana

Pheasant hunting in Indiana.

Pheasant hunting in Indiana. [Image: http://www.indianapheasant.com/]

Although the application submission deadlines have passed for many of these, they’re useful to keep in mind for the future. There are chances to get involved in various state park hosted deer, pheasant, and waterfowl hunts. From January 31 until March 24, you can submit applications for adult and youth turkey hunts as well, so keep your eyes peeled for those!

Learn more here.

Before you head out hunting this season, make sure you download our Pocket Ranger® Fish and Wildlife apps to aid in your adventures. Happy hunting!

Five Kinds of Hunters

We all seem to know a hunter, typically an older gentleman, who walks into the woods wearing blue jeans and walks out two hours later with a big buck. He does this year after year, no matter the conditions. And then there’s his opposite—the guy who spends thousands on gear, but refuses to leave the house when it’s raining or too cold. He puts all his trust in pricey scent control products, believing himself to now be immune to the perfect sensory apparatus of a deer’s nose. When he happens to luck out on a big buck, he sends a group text to 40 people with the words “too easy,” and when he doesn’t get a deer, he complains that there aren’t enough hunters in the woods “moving them around.”

1. That Guy

Image: Jack Kredell

Image: Jack Kredell

This is the guy we talked about in the intro. He thinks that Under Armour is the key to any successful hunt. He also shows up to camp with a new rifle every year chambered in the fastest and trendiest round commercially available. He punches holes in the bullseye all day long from a lead sled and calls himself a deadeye. Don’t be That Guy.

2. Business Casual

Image: www.konbini.com

Image: www.konbini.com

He’s a bit lazy, a bit out of practice, but he hasn’t forgotten how to hunt. He just doesn’t get out of the city enough. When he’s in the woods he’s quiet, respectful, sometimes deadly—yet he doesn’t particularly care whether he gets a deer or not. He’s simply there not to disappoint dad. He gives That Guy the evil eye in camp.

3. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice

Image: www.michigan-sportsman.com

Image: www.michigan-sportsman.com

This type is almost always a younger person with an impressive resume for his age. His teenage years were spent apprenticed to a Jackal or Warlock (see below), and the only thing holding him back is that twinge of impatience that sometimes gets the best of him. What really sets him apart from other hunters his age is his desire to become a better hunter with each outing (hence the impatience). Nevertheless, all the essential tools are there for him to reach the next stage, and that little bit of impatience will fade with time.

4. The Jackal

Image: www.film.com

Image: www.film.com

Jackals, like coyotes and foxes, often figure as tricksters and pranksters in the mythological world. And this kind of hunter is just that: He’s brilliant, but sometimes his cleverness and skill leave him apathetic, so he tries more unusual and daring tactics that don’t always pay off. You’re surprised when he returns to camp empty-handed, but you also note the enigmatic grin he’s wearing. It means he passed on several deer that everybody else in camp would have shot.

5. The Warlock

Image: galleryhip.com

Image: galleryhip.com

What can we say about this guy? He’s so skillful that a band of Neanderthals would adopt him. When he walks into the woods, it’s like watching one of the baseball players from Field of Dreams disappear into the cornstalks. He has a no detectable body odor because he lets the weather dictate all of his actions. He’s a light breeze if the breeze could carry a .30/06. He knows more than a deer biologist, yet he probably couldn’t give you the name of the scent gland on top of the deer’s head. Like I said, blue jeans are sufficient combined with a rain poncho over a knit sweater. The biggest deer on the mountain is his for the taking. Sadly, his kind seems to be on the way out.