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A Way Of Life

July 26, 2007

By Shawn P. Howard
Howard Brothers Guide Service

As a tagging agent in central Maine, I get the opportunity to see what the area is offering for hunting and trapping success. I also get to meet many hunters from around Maine and from far away that come to enjoy what Maine has to offer. Some faces I see every November to tag their deer, and many return with just as big a smile to watch their hunting partner tag their trophy animal. Hunting season creates lifelong friendships, and brings family members together. Time spent in the outdoors offers quality time with loved ones away from the pressures of every day life.

Since I was 14 years old I have looked forward to deer camp, not only for the thrill of the hunt but also to spend time with my older brother Heath. Six years my senior, my brother spent much of our childhood testing my ability to withstand severe beatings and daily humiliations like only an older brother can provide. Throughout the early years I envisioned that one day the beatings would subside but what I didn’t envision is that my brother and I would share a common obsession for the outdoors.

Hunting season allows us to spend time together and share moments that we normally cannot seem to make time for. Sometimes it’s not easy for a grown man to turn to another and say, “ hey, I really care for you brother” but a high five and embrace after a successful shot from a ladder stand on a buck that you have been dogging for the last two weeks, says the same thing. Among hunters there is a universal language. The smiles and congratulatory high fives when someone returns to camp with a successful harvest, says, “Good job, we’re proud of you”. Just as a pat on the back and a shrug of the shoulders after a miss says “nice try, maybe next time friend”.

I am grateful that hunting brought my brother and I together. We will forever share a special bond in the outdoors. Today my brother passes his love for hunting on to his son Hunter and soon to his daughter Hannah. They will share special moments together and form a special bond with their father. I look forward to doing the same with my two sons Dalton and Bryson. Recently, I became a Registered Maine Guide. I want to share with others what my brother and I have experienced through hunting. It is not about the kill, it is about the experience. It’s about spending time with family and friends in an environment that somehow seems to bring people together like nothing else can. Hunting is an obsession, but a good one. Hunting is a way of life that many of us chose because it is a tool not only for game management but also for life management.

I hope that the tradition of hunting in Maine stays strong and that my sons will share the same bond that my brother and I share. Hunting is a way of life that only those who have experienced it can truly understand it.

A Deer Population Under Control Is A Healthy Thing

July 24, 2007

By Tom Remington
Tom Remington
There is a reason why state fish and game management sets goals for attaining and/or maintaining an ideal whitetail deer population. Some people, hunters and non-hunters alike, want to see deer everywhere. This is not practical nor is it healthy for deer and humans.

Most states, depending upon several factors, try to manage a deer population of somewhere around 15-20 +/- deer per square mile. When deer populations radically exceed that amount, starvation and disease moves in as a means of knocking the numbers down. Sounds “natural” but is it a good thing?

We have discovered that animals are very adaptive with changing environments, some more than others, and with this ability to adapt, things happen that humans sometimes don’t like.

Many of us love to wildlife watch, including in our own back yards, until sometimes the realities of nature rear its sometimes ugly head. Wild animals need to eat. They look for places where they deem it safe from predators. Deer’s natural predators in Maine are coyote, bear, bobcat, lynx and humans. Deer have learned that our backyards can be pretty safe havens for them because of the elimination of hunting and thus they move in and eat up our shrubs and eat the food many of us often put out for them.

Will little or no predation, a safe environment and ample food, whether natural of provided by those who feed them, deer populations will flourish. When this happens, disease isn’t too far behind as we witness the fear and reality of Lyme disease.

On July 11, 2007 the Portland Press Herald ran an editorial claiming that killing lots of deer was no means of controlling deer ticks. Here’s the basis of their argument.

But nonsporting hunts are unpopular with animal advocates. Also, game managers point out that deer are perfectly capable of rebuilding lost populations in only a few years, because the real limit on herd size is its food supply, not predation. In fact, despite regular hunting pressure, the state’s whitetail population has remained constant for years.

To state that non-sporting hunts are unpopular with animal advocates is a joke. Any hunt, whether consider sporting or not, is unpopular with these groups. If animal advocates had their way, wild animals would dominate the planet at the expense of human life.

I can only assume that the editorial staff at PPH must support and condone the animal rights activists because they are saying that because hunting is unpopular, we should allow humans to get sick by contracting Lyme disease.

It amazes me that non-hunters and animal rights people seem to want it both ways when it comes to creating arguments against hunting. These groups are quick to blame hunters, fishermen and trappers when any wild animal species is believed to be in short supply. You will always see in the history they present that hunting is what eliminated many species, some of which are still on the endangered species list.

They are just as quick to point out that hunting as a management tool to keep a species’ population in check doesn’t work. As is the case in this feeble attempt at landing on the side of deer ticks, as animal lovers do, they use a half-truth argument that game managers state that wild animals are capable of quickly reproducing to offset losses. They try to support that statement by saying that even with years of deer hunting in Maine, the deer population hasn’t changed in Maine.

These are true statements but if you’d like to know the entire truth, read on. Wild animals are quite capable of reproduction. I guess it is one of those “unexplained” naturally occurring things that when life is good for deer with a good home, low heating bills (mild winters) and plenty to eat, the biological capabilities to produce extra offspring takes over. Often most fertile females will yield twins and an occasional three pack. By the way, it works the opposite way too. Remove these comforts of home and reproduction drops.

As higher level thinking humans (yes, I know that is debatable), we very often make similar considerations when deciding whether to have more children.

The other part of the argument is one of either total ignorance on the part of the writer(s) or is an attempt to deliberately twist the truth in order to somehow further taint the sport of hunting as unnecessary because it is ineffective. Credit the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife for managing whitetail deer in order to maintain current populations.

Are there areas where improvement is needed? Absolutely! The northern reaches of Maine struggle to keep a deer per square mile population above 5-10 animals. Severe winters, loss of habit and an ample supply of predators makes the job difficult.

On the flip side of that, areas in central and southern Maine have too many deer. The MDIFW has created an extended bow hunting season in areas where they can get hunters in to work on population reduction. There are too many areas now that are just closed to any form of hunting, not because of MDIFW but because of landowners and municipalities. Now some of these communities are complaining because they have too many disease carrying deer and they want to know what the state is doing about it.

Officials at MDIFW could reduce the deer quite effectively in areas where hunters can go. All they have to do is increase the number of permits or tags or even eliminate bag limits altogether. Scientific formulas used by wildlife biologists can determine how many deer and what sex, need to be harvested in order to achieve a reduction in total numbers. It isn’t exact science but they do a pretty good job, considering the variables.

The threat of deer ticks can be found any place deer live but that threat multiplies when deer populations are too high combined with close proximity with humans. There are many things we can do to help reduce the risk of picking up a tick – repellents, proper attire worn correctly, checking pets, etc.

The editorial ends this way.

It makes no sense to expend time and money on a “remedy” that offends many and will do little good.

This comment sounds like it must have come from one down and out sounding animated character most of us are quite familiar with.

Eeyore

First of all, hunting doesn’t offend as many people as I guess the PPH would like us to believe. A small vocal bunch of animal lovers find hunting, along with any kind of animal use including horseback riding, offensive. The vast majority of Maine citizens understand hunting. They are intelligent enough to see how it is beneficial in maintaining a healthy deer population and just as important, they recognize it as part of Maine’s heritage.

We are now to just sit back and accept the fact that a few animal lovers prefer a couple hundred more people to suffer from Lyme disease in order that we don’t offend them. Tell that directly to those individuals and families afflicted with the disease.

The foolish contradictions by the writer(s) just make one scratch their heads. They cite the efforts on Monhegan Island in reducing Lyme disease.

That has led some disease-control agencies to call for a reduction in the state’s deer herd in areas where the infection has spread. In the 1990s, Monhegan virtually eliminated deer there, greatly reducing the number of cases of Lyme.

They acknowledge that eliminating deer on Monhegan eliminated Lyme disease but say that hunting to reduce the population on the mainland is a waste of time. Oh, Eeyore! Might as well just stay inside where it’s safe……sigh!!

This debate is not restricted to parts of Maine. It’s a debate that is raging all across America where communities have banned hunting mostly because of the lies from anti-hunting groups that hunters randomly shoot bullets and arrows into the sky. Now they have a deer overpopulation problem and don’t know what to do about it.

Maybe in the future, facts will be considered before making rash decisions. For the health of us all, lets work to get our lands opened back up so that we can more effectively manage our wildlife.

Tom Remington

Does Environmental Impact Trump Border Security?

July 24, 2007

By Tom Remington
Tom Remington

The United States is a sovereign country. To remain that way, we must control who comes and goes. The people voted that we wanted to secure our borders particularly between the U.S. and Mexico where an estimated 12 million illegal aliens have infiltrated our country through the southwest border. That’s 12 million people in this country that we know nothing about.

I’ve covered a few stories about the environmental impact being felt in border areas of the southwest.

Illegal Immigration Is “Garbage”!
Scientists Want To Protect Wildlife By Opposing Border Wall In The Southwest.
What Illegal Immigration And Drug Smuggling Is Doing To The Southwest’s Wildlife
There’s More To Illegal Immigration Than Crossing the Border
A Different Affect From Illegal Aliens

Illegals crossing the borders between the U.S. and Mexico are completely destroying the habitat of just about every species of animal and plant living in that area, yet what do we hear about that from the environmentalists? Nothing really!

Instead we see a campaign by organizations such as Defenders of Wildlife and the Center for Biological Diversity on what impact putting up a fence will have on animals and vegetation.

The people voted to have a fence built to stop the flow of illegals from Mexico into the United States. Now Homeland Security is proposing a virtual fence, with towers, sensors and lights. What happened to the fence?

Before a virtual fence or any other fence for that matter can be erected, Homeland Security must conduct public hearings and receive written comments from people about the environmental impact. As would be expected, DOW and CBD showed up to voice their opposition to a virtual fence.

In a one-sided, Bush hating biased article in the Tuscon Citizen, a spokesperson for the Center for Biological Diversity reveals which is more important, protecting our national security of worrying about a long-nosed bat.

Greta Anderson, conservation advocate from the Center for Biological Diversity, was most concerned about damage to plants and animals.
She said there is more to assessing environmental impact than trying to avoid harming endangered species. It also includes protecting habitat to help the species recover.
She said the area has a range of wildlife that traverse the border, including many endangered species, from the lesser long-nosed bat to the jaguar.

There was even complaining that light pollution would hinder star gazing in the area.

As I pointed out in previous articles, not one of these groups has had a thing to say about the destruction caused to the environment from the illegals living in the desert while waiting to be transported to a work destination. They leave behind tons of waste, garbage and human waste, that is killing plants. This out of control land destruction is taking away the valuable habitat of our wild species yet not a word from these groups. It clearly shows their interest lies more in providing for illegal aliens than protecting wildlife.

As hunters and outdoor enthusiasts, we all want to see our wild species protected. After all, we would have nothing left to hunt if we all didn’t do our part to conserve our game species. We are now presented with a decision. Do we compromise the security of our nation during a time that we are at war with terrorists whose aim it is to kill Americans, in order to prevent disturbing the wildlife in an area that is already being destroyed by the activities of illegals?

It is my understanding that Homeland Security has already modified the “wall” in favor of a virtual fence in order to minimize the environmental impact of the area. We must question whether or not resorting to a virtual fence is really in the best interest of our national security. I question whether the people are even aware that this change is being proposed.

Tom Remington

New Hampshire Supreme Court Upholds Weapons Permit Revocation

July 24, 2007

By Tom Remington
Tom Remington

71-year old Edward Bleiler, a retire bulldozer salesman, had his concealed weapons permit taken away from him in March of 2006 for what was perceived at the time by then Dover police chief William Fenniman, as improper behavior.

Details are sketchy as to the exact circumstances surrounding the event that lead up to the revocation. The Concord Monitor tells of the event this way.

The dispute over Bleiler’s gun began March 16, 2006, when he went to the city attorney’s office to talk about the contracts of city employees. To illustrate a story about past run-ins with the mafia, Bleiler pulled his .38 caliber revolver from his pocket and put it on a desk in the office. The city attorney reported the incident to the police, and, two weeks later, then-Police Chief William Fenniman revoked Bleiler’s license.

Bleiler said the actions of the chief of police was unconstitutional and he filed a lawsuit. In April of 2006, Bleiler lost his lawsuit in a Dover District Court. He appealed that decision to the New Hampshire Supreme Court.

What I find confusing is exactly what Bleiler was doing in the Attorney General’s office. Reports say that in his actions to retell a story, he pulled his loaded revolver out of his pocket and placed it on a desk in the office. It didn’t say which desk and any descriptions of what manner it was placed are lacking. One report says:

Bleiler did not threaten anyone, and said he used the gun as a prop to tell a story

This leaves me with several unanswered questions. Is the attorney general’s office in a state building? Is it legal to carry a weapon, concealed or not into a state building? If not, how did he get in there with it? Is it against the law to reveal a concealed weapon in public? Is it illegal to carry a loaded concealed weapon even with a permit?

The report says he didn’t threaten anyone with the gun but that the attorney general reported the incident and within two weeks his permit was revoked by the police chief.

The basis of Bleiler’s appeal is that his constitutional rights were infringed upon because a statute in New Hampshire that provides for revocation is vague.

Seacoast Online reports that the Court ruled under the belief that in comparing New Hampshire’s gun laws to other states, the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment is not absolute.

“As numerous courts in other states have recognized with respect to their state constitutional right to bear arms … the New Hampshire state constitutional right to bear arms ‘is not absolute and may be subject to restriction and regulation’,” the court ruled.

The court also explained its decision in regards to the New Hampshire statute concerning the revocation of weapons permits.

“The statute has a reasonable purpose, it protects the public by preventing an individual from having on hand a (loaded) deadly weapon of which the public is unaware,” the court said.

I find this statement to be extremely confusing and contradictory. If the statute has a reasonable purpose to prevent anyone from having a loaded weapon in public without the publics’ awareness, then why is there then a provision to administer a concealed weapons permit? Does New Hampshire legislate that anyone possessing a concealed weapons permit have to have their gun unloaded and/or carry a sign saying they have a weapon concealed and that it may or may not be loaded?

The court further declared this.

“(Bleiler), who knew the proper procedure for handling a loaded weapon and failed to follow it, had a reasonable opportunity to know that using a loaded weapon in a public place to tell a story about organized crime threats was not a proper purpose and could result in the revocation of his license to carry a concealed weapon,” the court said.

Immediately we must ask if when obtaining a concealed weapons permit, does requirements for getting a permit explain that the proper handling is to not take a loaded weapon out in public? I can only assume that I must be missing some very important information in this story. Unless guidelines for handling a gun states that you can’t take a gun out in front of the attorney general, I fail to see how his actions validated the revocation of his permit.

Bear in mind that I’m assuming here that Mr. Bleiler was within the law to bring his concealed weapon into the attorney general’s office.

The Court refers to RSA 159:6-b in their ruling concerning revocation. This is what the Revised Statute says.

159:6-b Suspension or Revocation of License. –
I. The issuing authority may order a license to carry a loaded pistol or revolver issued to any person pursuant to RSA 159:6 to be suspended or revoked for just cause, provided written notice of the suspension or revocation and the reason therefore is given to the licensee. A licensee whose license has been suspended or revoked shall be permitted a hearing on such suspension or revocation if a hearing is requested by the licensee to the issuing authority within 7 days of the suspension or revocation.
II. When the licensee hereunder ceases to be a resident of the community in which the license was issued he shall notify in writing the issuing authority at his new place of residence that he has a current license. Such license shall remain in effect until it expires pursuant to RSA 159:6.

Source. 1979, 355:2, eff. Aug. 22, 1979.

I would have to agree with Bleiler in saying the the laws governing revocation of permits are vague. If, assuming Bleiler was within the law, he can have his permit taken away for what he did, then theoretically anyone who pulls a weapon in any public place has to be deemed as having improperly handled a gun and therefore subject for revocation as well.

Unless someone can provide me with additional facts on the issue, I have to believe the court is wrong in their ruling. The public does not want loaded weapons in the hands of those who cannot prove they are lawful and responsible but I fail to see how Bleiler fits that description.

Bleiler’s lawyers are considering an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Tom Remington

Rex Rammell Says Decision To Run Bigger Than Idaho Elk Problems

July 24, 2007

By Tom Remington
Tom Remington

In a telephone conversation I had today with Dr. Rex Rammell of Idaho, he said that his decision to run for the U.S. Senate was bigger than last year’s elk problems and was in no way a grudge match with former Idaho governor Jim Risch.

Dr. Rammell, former owner of the Chief Joseph ranch near Rexburg, Idaho, has decided to run for the U.S. Senate. A seat that could become vacated by the current Senator Larry Craig. Craig promises to make an announcement by the end of this summer.

Last summer, elk from Rammell’s ranch escaped that led to a series of events that bordered on the absurd and left most of us scratching our heads and asking questions. The governor at that time was Jim Risch. He ordered Rammell’s elk to be shot on site, stating fears of the spread of disease and the dumbing down of elk genes. All claims were unfounded.

In the process, Rammell lost several of his elk to slaughter. He had two charges filed against him. One was an obstruction charge for when he sat on one of his dead elk Idaho Fish and Game had shot and refused to move. The other was a charge of assault, which was later reduced to battery and subsequently dismissed as was the first charge of obstruction.

Rammell has file a million-dollar plus lawsuit against the state of Idaho and Jim Risch for the loss of his property. That lawsuit is still pending and Rammell said his lawyer was deciding how to proceed.

What makes Rammell’s decision to run for federal office interesting, is the fact that Jim Risch expressed that he is interested in vying for the same seat if vacated by Craig. Both Rammell and Risch are registered republicans and should both decide to run, they would face each other in a primary vote next May.

During today’s conversation, I asked Dr. Rammell if his decision to run was prompted by a grudge match between the two of them. He told me that he didn’t even know that Risch was interested in running for the same seat until after he had made his announcement to run.

Rammell faces the challenge of being the underdog but he doesn’t look at it that way. He sincerely believes that if he can get the voters of Idaho to look beyond last year’s elk issues and focus on issues that are important, he can win the election.

I asked Dr. Rammell if he thought he could lose the label of “bad actor” or “bad boy” the press, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, the Department of Agriculture and even some members of the Idaho Elk Breeders Association that he was a member of, had put on him.

His answer was an interesting one. “I’ll gladly accept that label as a bad boy so long as people know I’m a bad boy when it comes to big government, excessive taxes and out of control spending.” Rammell went on to explain that he was sure that in the day, people thought George Washington was a bad boy.

Although Rammell and Risch are both republicans, he eagerly awaits debate on the issues saying that once people get beyond the elk issue and look at how the two candidates stack up on key issues, they will find big differences. Differences that Rammell bets his victory on. “Once people see where I stand compared to where Jim Risch stands, I believe I can win,” he said.

On other issues, I talked with Dr. Rammell about the Endangered Species Act. I asked him if he thought it was time to challenge the constitutionality of the ESA in the courts. His answer may surprise some. He said that he was not opposed to the Endangered Species Act. He believes that there needs to be some form of legislation in place that will protect species from extinction. The problem, he says, is that use of the ESA has gone too far. It is being used for environmental purposes not associated with protecting a species.

In relation to the ESA, Rammell said that wolves are not an endangered species. They weren’t when they were reintroduced into the Yellowstone area, which he says was a mistake. “There are and were plenty of wolves in Canada. The species was not in any danger,” he said.

Rammell is a strong supporter of the right of people to keep and bear arms. He said he would avidly fight for citizens to protect that right. When I asked him about whether citizens should be able to arm themselves for protection in state and national parks, he hedged. He said that although he believed that citizens should have the right to protection, he did believe that there are some places where guns were not appropriate. He cited some public buildings and said that probably most parks should not have guns in them. He said there has been some talk about banning guns from National Forests. He said he is dead set against that. The forests should be open to everyone for all purposes.

We then moved on to addressing overgrown game populations in National Parks. I used examples like the Rocky Mountain National Park and Theodore Roosevelt National Park as examples of elk populations being too large and in need of being culled.

When I asked him about proposals by park officials to spend millions of tax payer dollars to hire sharpshooters, when hunters would be willing to pay a fee and do the job saving millions, this is how he responded.

“I’m not sure I would use hunters this way. I am a hunter and have hunted since boyhood. I support hunting and believe in providing as many opportunities as we can. I would support capturing any excess elk or other species and transporting them to places where hunters can have equal opportunities to harvest them.”

Dr. Rammell wanted to make a statement addressed to hunters and outdoor sportsmen. He said he fully supports the right of people to hunt and would fight hard for every sportsmen. To clarify he shared something that surprised me. He told me that he began his elk ranch as a capital venture and part of that was to offer hunts for people interested in this kind of hunt. He said there are people who can’t go through the rigors of hiking through rough terrain to elk hunt but he knew there was a clientèle for his business. What he did say that surprised me was that he would not choose to hunt on a ranch like he operated but would not oppose someone who did.

If elected, Rammell promised readers that he would viciously fight for their right to hunt and have access to the mountains and forest for that. He would also fight in the same manner to protect the right of hunters to keep and bear arms.

Tom Remington

Virginia Game Officials Want To Preserve Hound Hunting “Done The Right Way!”

July 24, 2007

By Tom Remington
Tom Remington

In an article I posted the other day, I said that the state of Virginia was beginning work on dealing with hunting with hounds. I told you that I had contacted the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries to get some questions answered about the hound hunting issue.

I spoke by telephone with Bob Duncan, Wildlife Division Director, who was kind enough to answer my questions and relate to me the position of the VDIGF on the issue of hound hunting.

I first have to say that Mr. Duncan was quite emphatic and took the time to make sure that I understood that Virginians love their dogs and that hunting with hounds is a tradition that dates back to the very early years of hunting.

Hunting with hounds in Virginia involves many disciplines. There’s hunting deer, bear, foxes and many species of bird and waterfowl. Mr. Duncan even told me about his turkey dogs, reliving the days when he hunted the birds with dogs.

In reading a few news articles about the debate, I got the sense that the issue was about whether hound hunting should be outlawed. I found out that is not the case at all, at least according to Mr. Duncan.

The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries is not opposed to hound hunting, Duncan said. He emphasized the fact that the VDGIF was interested in continuing to provide hound hunting opportunities for its citizens, “but it has to be done right”.

Getting it right is the monumental task that lies ahead for not only the VDGIF but for hunting groups, hound groups, landowners, farmers and any other stake holder in the hound hunting debate, along with the state’s citizens. Once again, I will reprint what is listed on the VDGIF website about the future of hound hunting.

The goal of the process will be to provide diverse opportunities for hunting with hounds in Virginia in a manner that is fair, sportsmanlike, and consistent with the rights of private and public property owners and other citizens.

The process, which will be proposed to begin immediately, will take a multi-pronged approach incorporating biology and sociology, input from stakeholders, modeled after the Department’s Bear and Deer plans with a time line to produce recommendations and a final report by November 2008. Possible solutions that could come out of the process could include non-regulatory, educational efforts, or regulatory amendments or statutory amendments.

Duncan agreed with me when I told him this was no small task. He explained that there are problems that need addressing concerning hound hunting. No one, at least from his department, is suggesting eliminating hound hunting, only making it better in a way that brings together all of the interested stake holders to first list concerns and complaints and then address ways to resolve any differences.

Part of what is a challenge for Virginia houndsmen is the shrinking landscape. Duncan explained to me that the large land tracts, once a haven for hound hunters, have shrunk in size or disappeared altogether. Hunting clubs are losing their lands and as the landscape changes because of development and the rapid changing of land ownership, so too does the opportunity for hound hunting.

Complaints vary somewhat when it comes to hound hunting. It seems that the number one complaint with landowners is trespassing. Mr. Duncan pointed out that land trespass as a whole was a big issue in Virginia and that was true for hunting as well.

In Virginia, private land is considered closed. To hunt on non-posted land, verbal permission is required. To hunt on posted land, written permission is needed. This holds true for hound hunting as well but there are a couple issues that sometime seem to stir up complaints from some landowners.

If a hunter loses his dogs onto private land that he does not have permission to hunt on, he can enter that property, without a gun, to retrieve his dog at anytime. The other is using dogs to drive dear across a piece of land not open to hunting, onto land where hunters wait in ambush.

“It’s all about respect for the landowner,” said Duncan.

As with anything there are abuses and this seems to be the case with hound hunters as well but Mr. Duncan hopes to be able to address these issues during this time of debate and come up with solutions that will make things better and satisfy more people.

Within the hunting community, the biggest complaint seems to be disruptions caused by dogs during certain times. Efforts have been made to adjust seasons in hopes to eliminate some of the disruptions. Mr. Duncan put it best when he said, “Somehow if we could come up with about 16 weeks in November, many of our problems would be over.”

For me, the driving issue was whether or not hunting with hounds, particularly deer, was a necessary tool to manage a one-million deer population. I must say that I was surprised when Mr. Duncan expressed to me that it was absolutely necessary. “If people in Virginia could not hunt with their dogs, they probably would stop hunting,” he said.

Although Virginia has no exact means of tracking the number of hound hunters, he said through surveys and estimates by fish and game personnel, at least 500,000 hunters used dogs. He claimed that 45% of all bear hunters use dogs and there are countless fox hunters.

Duncan worries about the future of hound hunting. He told me inexplicably that if hound hunting stopped, that the state of Virginia would have a serious problem in managing every species of game that is hunted in that manner. He said that it is imperative that groups and individuals be brought together to discuss hound hunting and resolve issues.

The ultimate goal for VDGIF is to create management plans for all game that includes hunting with hounds. Duncan expressed that hound hunting in Virginia is a lifestyle. As the landscape in Virginia changes and more people move into hound hunting areas, he worries that because this wasn’t a part of their heritage, it may not be looked on favorably. This presents a problem all unto itself in finding ways to educate newcomers.

The task that lies ahead for the people of Virginia is huge. If they can pull this off and come up with good game management plans that deal with the bulk of hound hunting issues, they certainly will have my respect. Duncan said that they aren’t going to rush this. He believes that a well planned approach, get people talking and find common ground, will yield a good result.

I’ll keep you posted with updates on the progress being made.

Tom Remington

While Some Towns Struggle With Deer Overpopulation, Others Ban Hunting

July 24, 2007

By Tom Remington
Tom Remington

From one community to another across the urban landscape of America, residents are struggling to find ways to control deer populations. At some point during a community’s growth cycle, residents began closing their lands down to hunting. In many cases the entire township closed all land within the city limits to hunting.

In most of these closed communities, officials now are struggling to find ways to control deer populations. With little predation and ample feed, deer are flourishing. The upside to this is that some people really enjoy seeing the deer in their back yards, until the deer level their shrubbery and landscaping. Others simply want to protect the deer from hunters.

The downside to this is increased deer/auto accidents and disease. As residents realize they have serious problems facing them, they struggle with how to handle it. In some cases, communities have invested thousands of dollars trying unproven and unsuccessful birth control. They’ve even hired trained sharpshooters, an expense that is staggering and unless carried out systematically, can have very little effect on reducing deer numbers.

One with a bit on the ball should realize that shutting down lands to hunting isn’t a good way to handle public safety issues. Granted we have safety concerns when human population densities reach a point making it difficult to hunt safely. An approach to better control hunting would be more effective.

Tonight, Clinton Township, Michigan is going to be voting on an ordinance revision that would ban all hunting within the township limits. This all out ban, including archery hunting, will come back to haunt the town. They are going to exchange one health and safety issue with another.

To get this ordinance into effect, the town has to request the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to complete an investigation as to whether a hunting ban should be instituted. If MDNR makes a recommendation to eliminate hunting, then it will take effect.

Officials within DNR point out that not all of Clinton Township should be closed to hunting.

It’s not unusual for communities as they grow to request DNR investigations and eliminate hunting, said Sherry Chandler, a lieutenant with the DNR. But there are still some pockets in relatively populous areas that support hunting, she said.

“There are some areas where people may have 20 (or) 40 acres within populated areas that they can still hunt safely,” Chandler said.

It would be in the best interest of Clinton to work with the DNR to create safer hunting areas. In these areas where hunting can still safely be done, it should continue. The town should find areas where archery hunting could safely be done. A blanket ban on hunting, as we have seen time and again from other communities that have gone before them, presents a host of problems down the road. Clinton and other towns need to address the problem sanely, using the best available science. This is in the best interest of all citizens.

Tom Remington

One Milwaukee News Writer Who Doesn’t Get Out Much

July 24, 2007

By Tom Remington
Tom Remington

Eugene Kane writes for JS Online. In a July 21, 2007 article, “Vick story brings a vicious truth to light“, Kane attacks the savagery of dog fighting in reference to charges recently brought against Atlanta Falcons quarterback, Michael Vick.

While Kane is most assuredly entitled to his opinion of the inhumane treatment of dogs involved in the Vick fiasco, he shows to his readers that he doesn’t get out much and that he also has a real problem with hunting in general when he tries to get a dig in about there not being any differences between deer hunting and dog fighting.

I considered asking readers to weigh in on the differences between deer hunting and dog fighting in terms of animal cruelty. But I was afraid the computer system might crash from all the hunters proclaiming how much more humane their sport is, regardless of the annual carnage unleashed on Bambi’s mother.

Today he begins bailing water out of his sinking boat. The problem here is his pail is also full of holes. At his blog he says he got tons of emails and comments about the statement he made about deer hunting and dog fighting being one in the same.

I wasn’t being judgmental, but I did want to point out that deer hunting is not universally supported by most Wisconsinites I know.

It may be true in his tiny circle of friends and social acquaintances, but Wisconsin is no different than other states. It is a general trend that far fewer city dwellers are hunters than country folk but nationwide, the overwhelming majority of Americans understand and support deer hunting.

He then goes on to try to convince his readers that most deer hunters don’t eat the meat.

AND, the biggest fallacy about deer hunting – in my humble opinion – is the line that most deer hunters eat the meat.

I have lived in this state for more than 20 years, and I know more than a few women who say their husbands hunt every year but their families NEVER eat deer meat.

Perhaps in Mr. Kane’s circle of friends he sees this but it’s not the norm. In areas where hunters are allowed to take more than one deer, many times the extra deer are donated to feed the hungry. There are several organizations set up for this. There are, I’m sure, isolated cases of hunters who may not prefer the taste of venison and give it away or once again, donate it. I know of no one who shoots and leaves a deer to rot. As a matter of fact, there is a growing trend in this country among those who like to eat meat and are looking for naturally grown and healthier meats, to take up hunting for the venison.

The absurdity of Mr. Kane comes out in his idea that we should poison the deer in order to control the population.

I do understand the ecological impact of ‘thinning the herd’ but to be honest, I believe if we poisoned the deer each year, that would be much more humane than blowing their brains out.

Would you like to visit Mr. Kane’s blog and leave a comment? Click here, scroll down to the comments section and read what the not-so-happy commenters have to say.

Mr. Kane should have just stuck to the subject matter of Michael Vick’s involvement in dog fighting and left his bias against hunting out of the article. Then most of his readers would have agreed with him.

Tom Remington

Instilling Fear Into Elk No Reason To Bring In Wolves

July 24, 2007

By Tom Remington
Tom Remington

We read all the time that wild animals need natural predators. Some believe that a wild animal isn’t completely a wild animal if it isn’t always under the stress of being killed by a “natural” predator. Toss out man being a natural predator because today it is difficult for many to understand that man is tops on the food chain.

Some believe that in places like the Rocky Mountain National Park where there are too many elk, wolves should be brought in to take care of the numbers. Isn’t it funny how wolves can and can’t have any effect on game animals depending on which argument is being levied on a given day. When people lay claim that wolves are decimating the elk herds in certain locations, defenders of the wolf say that wolves have very little effect on the elk and they throw out statistics in an attempt to prove that in areas where wolves are present, elk herds are flourishing.

But when you have a case of an over abundance of elk, so much so that they are destroying the ecosystem, these same people who lay claim that wolves have very little effect on elk herds, want to bring in wolves in order to reduce populations. So, which is it?

In the Rocky Mountain National Park case, people have made noise against the notion that park officials want to spend millions of dollars over 10 years to hire sharpshooters to hunt at night to kill the elk. When the people, with the support of some Congressional representatives, began claiming that public hunting could accomplish the same thing at no cost to the government, things began to change. First, officials in the park began to change their statements saying that there were not as many elk as they first thought.

Once again the talk of introducing wolves was brought back up. This same wolf that has no real effect on elk herds wants to be used to have an effect on the Rocky Mountain National Park elk herd. Go figure.

The press continues its spin and bias on liberal environmental issues by printing false claims. Today in the Houston Chronicle, Washington Post writer Rick Weiss, says that because the Rocky Mountain National Park elk have no natural predators, they somehow aren’t real elk. He cites one study conducted in Siberia that when audio recordings of wolves, bears and tigers where played, it made the elk cluster together in fear. He says when the same recordings where played in RMNP, the elk had no reaction. What does this prove?

In an attempt to justify some talk of bringing wolves into the park, I would suppose this is an effort to convince readers that in order to reduce elk the “natural” way, we need to scare them to death.

Make no mistake about it, wolves do have an effect on elk herds. What that effect is will vary according to an untold number of factors. But we should dispel the myth that forcing wolves to live with elk will somehow make them “wilder”. Some believe that with wolves around elk, they will scatter more to become a more difficult target for wolves and hunters I suppose. This idea that a wilder elk is a healthier elk is not fully supported by scientists or facts.

A recent study, its full report to be released soon, done by the University of Wyoming, shows that any changes in elk habits due to wolf presence is only momentary. The report claims that habitat is the driving factor for elk.

His research showed that the predation risk is driven more strongly by habitat features than distribution of wolf packs. Elk are more likely to be killed in open meadows than in forested areas with slopes.

The research also concluded that elk do not adjust their willingness to forage based on areas that are riskier for predation. Instead, elk will forage where food is available, particularly in later months in the winter when there is less food.

This new study contradicts one done earlier by the University of Oregon that stated that elk do change feeding habits.

Weiss’ article is completely based on the theory that fear in elk from predators such as wolves and bears will naturally control the elk population. He says that because of the study about audible sounds of predators scaring elk in Siberia and not in Colorado, this is scientific proof that elk will not scatter and thusly they are congregating to eat all the forage in one area.

The large carnivores that once attacked elk in Colorado have been gone for decades, and with those predators went the fear that once sent the elk fleeing.

This audible sounds study, conducted by Joel Berger of the Wildlife Conservation Society in Teton Valley, Idaho, claims to prove that animals such as elk need the fear of wolves in order scatter the herd. This is in contradiction to the University of Wyoming study.

The results, published in an online issue of Conservation Biology, show not only that fear dissipates in the absence of predators but also that it returns in areas where the predators have been reintroduced — including Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks, where wolf populations have been replenished at a cost of tens of millions of dollars.

Whether Berger’s study proves that elk scatter, I don’t know. According to this article, the fear generated from playing recordings of bear, wolves and tigers caused the animals to cluster together.

Perhaps Berger’s study does show that in areas where bears, wolves or tigers live, animals like elk are more fearful as they come to realize that those sounds are associated with death. What it doesn’t prove is that wolves are a necessary part of the elk management equation in Colorado.

Whether we want to admit it or not, man is a predator of game animals. The biggest reason the elk in and around RMNP are so abundant is because they are protected from hunting. A well laid out plan to hunt the animal will cure the over population problem. The social and political problems that will come from reintroduction of wolves far outweigh any inconvenience shutting the park down for a week or two for hunting would cause.

Weiss also distorts facts about hunting wolves in his attempt at promoting the reintroduction of wolves.

The data is timely, scientists say, because plans are in the works to allow large numbers of wolves to be hunted in some U.S. areas where they were reintroduced.

The results suggest it may be important to keep those populations high enough so that prey species maintain proper vigilance levels.

It is an outright lie to state that plans are in the works to allow large numbers of wolves to be killed. I assume he is talking about the plans to delist the wolf in Idaho, Wyoming and Montana. Nowhere are there plans to kill large numbers of wolves. There is talk and in some cases plans to offer a limited number of tags for wolf hunting in areas determined through wolf management plans approved by the USFWS. Strict plans limit the number of wolves that can be hunted to maintain a specified number of wolves and breeding pairs, which I might add, is far above what scientists believed would be a full recovery of the animal.

If the results of this study are supposed to show that it keeps the elk more “vigilant”, then I have to ask why that is important? Nothing in this study shows that elk are healthier or will have any control over elk populations. If this study is to prove it necessary for elk to be scared all the time, then certainly we can begin a program that would teach the Colorado elk to be scared over something other than wolves. Once they learn to be scared of let’s say humans, then we can set up loudspeakers and pump in human sounds to keep them on their toes.

Science remains in contradiction as to how any kind of fear instilled into elk herd effects them. Certainly any rational person can conclude that the idea of bringing wolves into Colorado as part of an elk management tool would be foolish and unfounded.

Tom Remington

Moose Sightings

July 9, 2007

By A. Sayward Lamb

A. Sayward Lamb

During the past fifty-five plus years, I have seen hundreds of moose, throughout the State of Maine. Most of these sightings happened while I was hunting or fishing, or while driving on highways, or back on some remote paper company woods roads. Many times I have seen them while walking through the woods. Here are a few of my recollections of those incidents.

The first sighting of a moose happened in the 1940’s, when I was still living with my parents on Main Street, in West Paris. My two younger sisters went for a walk up back of the house, in a field. They were up on top of a hill and walking along the edge of the woods when a large bull moose stepped over the stone wall, into the field. My sisters turned and ran for the house as fast as their legs would carry them. All the while they were yelling: “Moose! Moose! Moose!. Of course that got our attention very quickly. I decided I had to see that creature with my own eyes. I didn’t have to go very far up behind the house when I saw that moose come sauntering down through the field. He paid no attention to me, and continued to walk down to the main highway, crossed the road, and into a huge field on the other side. Prior to that I had only seen pictures of them. I could not believe the huge size of an adult moose, until I saw that bull moose with my own eyes. I have learned since that a some of them stand seven feet high, at the shoulders. No wonder my sisters were frightened.

My father owned a woodlot on Patch Mountain, located partially behind both Hicks Pond, and Mud Pond, near Greenwood City. I used to help him, occasionally. in harvesting bolt wood and firewood. On the particular day this happened I was not helping my father. This was before he owned a chain saw, so we used a crosscut saw or bow saw to cut down and saw the trees into proper lengths. It was a lowery day, during September, with a light drizzle, and my father was using the bow saw. He had a feeling something was watching him. He looked up from his work, and sure enough, a bull moose stood only a few yards away, staring at him. When he looked at the moose, it charged him. Father dropped the saw and shinnied up a tree as fast as he could go! This happened to be the “Rutting season” for moose, so that bull moose was mighty ugly! Father said it kept him up that tree for most of the afternoon. He said it would look at him, smell his tools, then paw the ground and snort! Sometimes it wondered a short distance away, and then father would try to come back down to the ground. When the moose spotted his movements it would come back, which caused my father to scurry up to his perch again. Eventually the moose walked off, so father was able to come home. When he arrived home was he ever mad! He threatened to “Shoot that — — moose.” For several days after that, father carried his rifle to work for protection. Fortunately, Mr. Moose never came back to bother him.

Twice, over the years, I have seen five moose together. Joe Vatcher and I rode in Joe’s truck to the Upton area to go partridge hunting. This was during the third week of October. We turned off onto a logging road that took us into the Success Pond area, near the Maine, New Hampshire border, located on the westerly side of Route 26, a few miles south of Upton. We were several miles in on the logging road when we happened to look down into a basin below us. It was fairly open country, because it had been recently cut over by a logging operation. We had received a dusting of snow throughout the night, and as we looked for partridges we spotted five bull moose, laying down, quite close together. The palms of their huge antlers were still covered with snow. What a beautiful sight! Much to my chagrin, I had not brought my camera with me, but that scene is still vividly imprinted in my mind.

The second time I saw five moose together, happened also during the month of October. I lived in South Woodstock at that time, and I on this particular day I took my Brittany, “Princess,” with me and we went bird hunting. I started from my house and traveled southerly, through the woods, towards the Lee Dunham Farm, about a mile away. There were some old apple trees located in the area of the farm, so I thought it might be a good place to hunt for partridges. We were more than half way to our destination when I began to see all sorts of fresh signs of moose, such as fresh tracks and droppings. I called “Princess” in to my side and ordered her to “Heel”. She did this, and we proceeded to continue on our way, although I was cautiously watching for moose. Soon I saw a huge bull moose rise up out of its bed, and start running past us, only about twenty-five yards away. Almost instantly, four more moose, consisting of two cow moose and their calves, get onto their feet and went tearing through the woods. What a racket they all made! One thing for sure, moose are like steamrollers when they run. The bulls will tip their antlers back and with their head raised high, mow down any small trees or brush in their way. Only when they have to, will they step over some large obstacle. The cows and calves don’t have to raise their heads, but they still go pacing through the woods at an unbelievable pace. Initially, I was concerned about how “Princess” would react to all those moose, as they went crashing through the woods. When I looked down, she was locked on “Point”. When I came home I told my wife, Cynthia, that I not only had a bird dog but I also had a Moose dog..

Do any of you know how fast a moose can run? I learned the answer to this question on a very cold night in late November. Three couples, namely: Taisto and Eleanor Koskela; Eino and Laura Heikkinen; and Cynthia and I, went to a dance in Buckfield. On our way home we came upon several cars stopped in the road, on Route 219, between East and West Sumner. We learned the problem was caused by a bull moose who was standing in the middle of the highway, protecting his mate, a cow moose. If any car tried to pass by him he would block their way. Taisto was driving, so he told us he thought he knew how to get by that ugly moose. He drove past the other autos, and when we approached that big fellow, he just moved over to the side of the road, right next to some high snow bankings. The roadway itself was also covered with hard packed snow. When Taisto got partway beside the moose he stepped on the accelerator and increased his speed. That bull moose started to run right beside us, and it was so close to the car that all we could see was the belly portion of that huge moose. As Taisto increased his speed, the moose continued to run alongside us. Laura Heikkinen was terrified, for fear the moose would slip on the highway and come crashing into the side of the car. Taisto told us he had to go thirty-five miles an hour before he had speed enough to get past that moose! Luckily for Laura, and the rest of us, the moose did not slip on the roadway, in spite of the slippery conditions.

Milt Inman has been a fishing partner of mine for many years. We often fish up in the North Maine Woods, where moose are quite numerous. We paddled up close to a cow moose in my canoe one day, on Newsowadnehunk Lake, while she was feeding. When she put her head under water to feed, we would silently paddle closer. I was sitting in the front of the canoe and when we got to within six feet of her, Milt suggested I pat her on the rump with my canoe paddle. I told him I thought it might be a better idea for us to back off. About that time the moose picked her head up and seeing us, hurriedly waded a short distance away from us

Another time Milt and I were fishing on the same lake, only this time we were in our boat. We decided to go ashore and stretch our legs. There happened to be a cow moose feeding, next to shore, near the spot where we planned to land our boat. Just before we got there, Milt said: “Head the boat toward that moose, and I’ll show you something.” I complied, and as we got close to the moose he jumped out, grabbed his yellow slicker and started flailing his arms back and forth, as he ran toward her. Soon Milt came to a “screeching halt” when he discovered a huge bull moose was only a few feet away, hidden behind a clump of bushes! It was a good move on his part.

During a June fishing trip to the “Hunk”, we watched a cow moose come walking down to the water, in the thoroughfare of the lake, opposite from our campsite. Right behind her was her calf. It was evident that it was no more than a few days old, and was all legs. When this little fellow came to the water, it hesitated, and stood on shore as Mama walked out into deeper water. She stopped and glanced at her baby, who remained on shore. Soon she walked back to her calf and with her nuzzle, she pushed her calf out into the water. I was amazed to see that little fellow start swimming when the water got too deep for it to walk in. With this accomplished, the cow moose led the way as they swam over to our side of the outlet. They came ashore and walked down through the campground roadway, and out of sight. It was a really cute and interesting show.
I know there are many people who travel to Maine for the sole purpose of seeing moose. So many, in fact, that several entrepreneurs offer “Moose Tours”. How fortunate I am to have lived all my life in Maine where moose sightings for “Natives” are not uncommon. Personally, although I have seen hundreds of moose, I still enjoy seeing them. I hope that many of you will have the opportunity to see this majestic animal.

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