What Good Can Come From Legislating Fair Chase?

August 31, 2007

By Tom Remington
Tom Remington
A nasty and heated debate has already begun in North Dakota over a proposed ballot initiative that is intended to put an end to high-fence hunting. The Attorney Generals office has yet to come up with a title for the initiative and the petition, which will need 12,844 legal signatures, hasn’t received a single signature yet.

There already seems to be some issues regarding the wording of the proposal. In a previous article I wrote, the Chairman of a group called the North Dakota Hunters for Fair Chase, Roger Kaseman, who is sponsoring the bill along with 29 others, has stated that the intent of the ruling was to close down hunting behind fences.

Measure aims at hand raised, hand fed trophy elk and deer set up as targets behind escape proof fences for any guys with a fat wallets by 100% guaranteed success shooting preserves, aka, the killing fields. Troy Lee Gentry killing a tame bear named Cubby in a 3 acre enclosure is an example.

But Shawn Schafer, a deer grower and member of the North Dakota Deer Growers Association, says the language of the initiative could be interpreted that would prohibit even the local butcher from being able to dispatch an elk or deer for butchering.

I earlier contacted Mr. Schafer and asked him to explain his reasoning. He first pointed out the language of the proposal.

“guilty of a class A misdemeanor if the person obtains fees or other remuneration from another person for the killing or attempted killing of privately-owned big game species or exotic mammals confined in or released from any man-made enclosure designed to prevent escape”

He later added a better explanation.

If my neighbor were wanted to buy a cull animal to butcher we would have to let it go into the wild before we could kill it, or if I haul a load to the butcher and we unload them into his man made slaughter house that he built to prevent animals from escaping, we are in violation again.

I intend to present the wording of this proposed initiative to some lawyers I know and see if they can reach any of the same conclusions.

Regardless of the language, the debate has already begun and it is already dividing the hunting community. If you don’t believe me, take a side journey over to the NoDak Outdoors forums and read the debate there. Already some members have been banned from posting anymore. Not a pretty sight and something that is sure to continue to fester.

There are differing views as always when discussing hunting ethics and in this case, high-fence hunting. Although there is the issue of disease, each side laying claims for and against the argument of how the diseases are spread, property rights, business opportunities (money motivation) and fair chase, is there any common theme to this debate?

The one common theme seems to be fair chase and the ethics of such. We all have our perceptions of hunting ethics and at times we become witness to individuals and groups who seem to want to sell their form of hunting discipline as the most righteous of all. This creates a firestorm.

In the debate of fair chase, I quite often hear hunters say that the practice of hunting on ranches is bad for the hunters’ reputation and will damage hunting heritage. But does it really?

It does when organizations such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) wage propaganda campaigns full of lies in attempts to convince the public that all ranch hunting involves drugging an animal and turning it lose in a one-acre pasture to be killed by someone posing as a hunter.

That sort of thing is far from the norm and anyone today would be hard pressed to find such an operation. So, does ranch hunting or high-fenced hunting put a “black eye” on the hunting industry? It might be more like a speck of dirt that got into the corner of the eye causing some irritation.

I can’t whip out any glorified polls to try to convince readers that other issues carry far greater potential to blacken the eye of hunters. In my travels and the people with whom I talk to everyday, I hear a much different story when it comes to such things as hunting ethics, fair chase and issues that are harmful to the hunter.

Tops on that list would have to be land trespass. I hear it every day. Earlier this summer, I talked with Bob Duncan, wildlife director for the Virginia Department of Inland Game and Fisheries. He emphatically stated that the issue of trespassing was the number one complaint against hunters. In an article I wrote about Virginia’s problems with hunting with dogs, we discussed the anger of landowners that comes from hunters dogs running all over their land. We also discussed land trespass in general and he concurred that land trespass was probably tops on the list even without the dogs.

There are other issues like road hunting, shooting from vehicles, poaching, drinking and hunting and you add to this list whatever else you would like. So, where on this list of things that makes hunters look bad, does high-fence hunting fall?

Many have argued that our society is such that when any issue affects them personally, they have a right to propose a law to stop it. Of course as Americans, we the right to petition the government and rally the people to effect change but is the end result of this kind of effort worth it?

First let’s put things in a bit of perspective here. We are talking about high-fence hunting. In North Dakota, I believe there are over one hundred ranches that raise elk and deer as livestock. Of those there are somewhere around a dozen or so ranches that offer people the opportunity to shoot one of their animals.

I have heard those adamantly against high-fence hunting likening it to prostitution. Do I really need to explain the differences between prostitution and the social black eye compared to high-fence hunting? Prostitution affects every citizen of the country either directly or indirectly. Is this true for high-fence hunting? How many people even know what it is? Even those who have heard about it, have never visited one.

The end result, should the proposal be enacted by the people, would be that at least a dozen or so people would have to stop selling hunts on their ranches. If the language of the proposal be determined by a court to also include harvesting of elk and deer for meat purposes only, the numbers out of business grow substantially.

There’s a definite property rights issue to discuss as well. Many non-hunters get upset when people begin proposing laws that take away their rights and freedoms as a landowner. In this case, we have a group of hunters pushing for legislation that would strip a landowner of a right because of hunters wanting to protect their image, believing they are saving their hunting heritage.

One has to be honest and ask the question, are hunters going to alienate themselves against the landowners enough over this that landowners will revolt and post their farm lands, barring any hunting? Don’t laugh! I have already heard landowners in North Dakota and other states who have said that if hunters push this kind of stuff, they’ll no longer allow hunting on their lands.

Case in point. Many states are at a point where landowners have discovered that they can pay their taxes and make a few bucks selling leases to hunters. In some cases, some of these farmlands are fenced in. When these landowners see that hunters are trying to strip them of their rights to use their land to make a buck, it’s going to come back and bite them in the backside.

I was recently accused of promoting high-fence hunting. That is as far from the truth as one can get. I am for property rights and I don’t believe that any positives that can come out of mandating against high-fence hunting will outweigh all the negatives. And this applies to both hunting and non-hunting issues. I love hunting and will do what I can to protect and promote it but I am also an American. Hunting ethics should be taught from a young age. This education will become a family tradition that is passed on from one generation to the next. This approach will have much greater more positive results than creating a law where no law is really necessary.

I believe that the cause being waged by those obsessed with fair chase will not stand up to the results that will come from it. It amazes me that those who are going to the time and expense in order to dictate their fair chase ethics on others, for the purpose of protecting their image, can’t see that there are far bigger issues threatening hunting today than a few high-fence hunting ranches.

It makes me ask the question, what’s really behind this proposal?

Tom Remington

The Overlooked Science Of Chronic Wasting Disease

August 31, 2007

By Tom Remington
Tom Remington
Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is deadly to deer, elk and moose. It is found most prevalently in deer and in particular the mule deer. Nobody of course wants it and not enough is being done to stop it. When you compare the studies done on CWD with other similar diseases, such as mad cow disease, it becomes quite clear that too many assumptions are made about CWD and therefore we have to ask ourselves if the information we are spreading about CWD is accurate and moving us in the right direction.

Wikipedia describes CWD this way.

Most cases of CWD occur in adult animals. The disease is progressive and always fatal. The most obvious and consistent clinical sign of CWD is weight loss over time. Behavioral changes also occur in the majority of cases, including decreased interactions with other animals, listlessness, lowering of the head, blank facial expression, and repetitive walking in set patterns. In elk, behavioral changes may also include hyperexcitability and nervousness. Affected animals continue to eat grain but may show decreased interest in hay. Excessive salivation and grinding of the teeth also are observed. Most deer show increased drinking and urination.

As I said a moment ago, we may be assuming too much and not paying close enough attention to what is actually taking place around us. One of the most common practices used by officials in attempts to limit or eradicate CWD from areas known to be infested is the systematic slaughter of infected animals. It is believed that by locating diseased animals and killing them off, will reduced and eventually eliminate the spread of the disease. But is this working?

Back last March, the Colorado Division of Wildlife announced it was going to end its practice of culling CWD infected deer and elk herds.

The DOW, with the guidance of Mike Miller, the agency’s leading scientist on CWD, had targeted areas where the disease seemed more prevalent and killed off many of the deer and elk in those herds believing this would slow or stop the spread of the disease. Now that a few years have passed and data has been collected, there is no significant information that says it did any good.

Colorado was one of the first states to identify CWD in its deer and elk and when they began a program of culling its herds, other states followed suit as they discovered the presence of the disease, assuming Colorado was doing the right thing. This has become part of the problem in dealing with this disease. Without sounding disrespectful to the scientists working on this problem, it sometimes appears as a case of the blind leading the blind.

Good science will not depend on assumptions. All aspects and studies must be considered in making judgments. Without the resources to fully study every angle of this disease, too often we just rely on what the other guy is doing and saying and assuming they might be right. Where would we be today if this attitude was commonplace among scientists?

When you combine assumption with the unfortunate reality that CWD has become a political tool and weapon, then science gets a back seat. Like with any political issue, those involved tend to pick and choose “facts” that support their agenda. While this may achieve some kind of political end result for those playing the game, it does absolutely nothing to combat the deadly disease.

I will almost guarantee that if you sat down in a room full of people who have some knowledge of CWD, eventually the conversation will come around to how the disease started and how it is spread. I can almost for certainty guarantee that the fingers will be pointed at domestic elk and deer ranches and it is understandable why these people would say that. It’s what they have been told and read about for years.

Before anyone goes painting a picture here that I am an expert trying to persuade people that I know what’s going on, let me explain one thing. I’m not a scientist but I am a logically thinking person. I understand the importance of considering all aspects of any issue and that’s all I’m asking readers to do. If you care about CWD, as most people indicate they do, then wouldn’t it seem too that you would really want to find a cure for CWD? Isn’t it also intelligent thinking to consider every angle before rendering a final decision? To do this, we have to leave politics out.

We must first take a look at how CWD was discovered initially and the steps taken that showed where geographically CWD has appeared since. CWD was first discovered in a research facility in Colorado in the late 1960s. To be fair, it has never been determined how the infected deer became that way. Once again assumptions were made.

As scientists began to learn how to recognize the outward signs of CWD, they also discovered more about the disease and how to test animals to determine if they were infected. Of course we know that the only way presently to positively test an animal for CWD is to first kill it because the test involves examination of the brain.

From this very moment in time, it has been assumed that CWD is formed only in enclosed facilities such as this lab in Colorado or places like livestock ranches. But is this actually true?

One study that has been pretty much disregarded in the debate about CWD was conducted by the Colorado Division of Wildlife Wildlife Research Center. The first most important part of their study report indicates that CWD occurs naturally.

Surveillance and epidemic modeling were used to study chronic wasting disease (CWD), a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy that occurs naturally among sympatric, free-ranging deer (Odocoileus spp.) and Rocky Mountain elk (Cervus elaphus nelsoni) populations in contiguous portions of northeastern Colorado and southeastern Wyoming (USA).

What this is saying is that according to the models they used, they concluded that this disease that can be transmitted from one deer to another, happens naturally among free-ranging deer and elk. If this is true, then why do we want to continually focus our blame on penned livestock ranches?

The second very important part of the report is the conclusions made by the study group.

Both field and model data supported the importance of lateral transmission in CWD dynamics. Based on prevalence, spatial distribution, and modeling, we suggest CWD has been occurring in northeastern Colorado and southeastern Wyoming for >30 yr, and may be best represented as an epizootic with a protracted time-scale.

This study was completed in 2000 and they determined that CWD has been around for more than 30 years. This of course would support the information that CWD was first recognized in a lab in Colorado in the late 1960s. Epizootic means that the disease occurs in large numbers of deer and elk simultaneously and protracted describes this as being something this is extended out over a long period of time. In other words, CWD doesn’t appear this year and then is gone the next.

Just from this information we could conclude that 1). the disease occurs naturally among deer and elk; 2). CWD is transmitted from one deer or elk to another deer or elk; 3). the disease occurs in several animals at one time over an extended period of time.

One thing we must remember in debating CWD. The disease was not discovered through testing wild and free-ranging deer and elk. We can also determine that CWD was never discovered until it was found in a lab in Colorado in the 1960s. Can we fairly conclude that CWD was born in the 1960s in a lab in Colorado?

According to this one study, the disease occurs naturally. Unless science can show that the first time the disease ever existed was in this lab, then we can conclude one of two things. Either the disease occurred naturally at that time in that lab or it occurred naturally in other deer living near the facility and it was transmitted to the laboratory animals.

Testing for CWD never began on wild animals until sometime later, after the discovery of the disease. In some states, random testing of deer and elk are still not done on game harvested by hunters. In states that have domestic elk and deer ranches, most of them have a very good system of testing animals to track any presence of disease. In Idaho for example, every domestic elk that is killed must be tested for CWD. To date, no CWD has ever been present in its animals.

So why do we want to blame the domestic ranches for the cause and spread of CWD? Probably because we have been told repeatedly that this is where the disease always shows up. Well, this is true because this is the first place the animals were tested for the disease. Once discovered in some of the facilities, then and only then, did officials begin testing wild animals in and around those facilities. When those results came back positive in some cases, we were quick to blame the ranchers when in reality we could have just as easily pointed the finger at the naturally occurring CWD in wild and free-ranging elk and deer. Often times those who wish to blame domestic ranches for the spread of CWD, toss out maps and figures that show that CWD has been found in free-ranging deer and elk next to deer and elk ranches. This actually proves nothing. Once again it only shows that once the disease was found at the ranch, testing began outside the ranch.

Of course the finger pointing at the rancher becomes that much easier when politics rears its ugly head. Some of these ranches offer hunting opportunities which doesn’t sit well with hunters concerned about fair chase and that’s understandable. But when these individuals and groups decide they want to legislate fair chase, the gloves come off and seldom does the general public get the truth.

I’m not saying that CWD first came from free-ranging deer and elk nor am I going to say it comes from domestic deer and elk. The information that we have is available to everyone and we can make our own conclusions. Before we make those conclusions, we should consider ALL information available, that is, if we are really concerned about the disease more than our personal agendas.

Tom Remington

Is There Bias In The Media?

August 31, 2007

By Tom Remington
Tom Remington
We hear this claim everyday, “The media are biased!” Well of course they are! Why deny it? I would have to consider myself a part of the new media and I can honestly say I am biased, although I would like to say………………….ah, never mind. I’m biased. We also hear everyday that it is the responsibility of the media to present facts in a non-partisan way covering all angles and sides of an issue. Is this true? Is it their responsibility? Is it mine? Personally, I think it’s your responsibility to search for the truth. The way things are progressing in our society you better learn how to do that quickly because especially with the “new media” it is becoming more and more slanted. Readers seem more interested in finding opinions that suit their ideals that facts and truth.

Let’s take gun control as an example of media bias. Gun control stems from our Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. I think it intelligent to say that if all of us were to go back and study history, including the Federalist Papers, we could quite easily determine the intent of every article of the Constitution but we don’t because we don’t want to know. We are more interested in our ideals and therein lies one of the problems.

Was there ever a day when media bias didn’t exist? Not really, if you apply most anyone’s definition of bias but I do think that our news sources, including journalists and bloggers, have become more emboldened and perhaps brazen when it comes to telling their stories and getting their “messages” across.

The other day the Culture and Media Institute released a report called, “The Media Assault on the Second Amendment” (pdf). The basis of the report was about how the U.S. media and more precisely the major newspaper and television media covered gun violence from January 1, 2007 through July 31, 2007.

If it is the responsibility of ABC, NBC, CBS, the New York Times, etc. to make sure that their readers and viewers get all the right information covering all aspects of an issue, they didn’t do a very good job during this time span. Essentially, according to CMI, the media coverage was an assault on the Second Amendment. Let’s face it. When a reporter claims that the 32 victims of Virginia Tech died because we have a right to keep and bear arms, it is safe to say it is an assault on the Second Amendment.

The time period of January 1st through the end of July encompassed some high profile stories including the judge’s decision on Parker vs. District Columbia, declaring that the ban on guns was unconstitutional. It not only involved the Virginia Tech shootings but also the well covered debate on increased violence in cities like Philadelphia.

Granted this time period involved quite a bit of gun violence but how did the media, who some say are supposed to present facts and cover all angles, handle this coverage? The CMI report states that during this period a minimum of 650 stories on gun-violent crime ran on ABC, CBS and NBC alone. During that same time, two stories ran about guns being used in self defense. For those who might be wondering, as I was, according to a survey in 1997 by the Journal of Criminal Law, more than 2.5 million people use a gun in self defense each year.

Do media outlets not report this because they don’t know, don’t care or are they attempting to promote their ideals on us? That’s what you’ll have to decide.

Wouldn’t it be responsible while reporting that the Miami Chief of Police said, ““[T]here’s been no national effort to deal with this — with the guns and the availability of guns, and any reasonable measures that have been advocated have been defeated by Congress.”, to also report this?

A 2005 survey by the National Association of Chiefs of Police found that 93.6 percent of chiefs and sheriffs support “civilian gun ownership rights,” and 63.1 percent claimed that concealed-weapons permits reduce violent crime.

Statements made by reporters can do more harm than any good when those statement are hand selected. It is easy to pick and choose findings especially when they fit the ideals of the person reporting it. We are all guilty of this to some degree. For instance, and I have been guilty of this, I could report, as has been done many times before, that countries like New Zealand, which has very limited controls on guns, boasts one of the smallest crime rates in the world. That would suit my argument well. I could also report that in South Africa, where gun ownership is pretty much banned by anyone, crime rate is one of the highest. Were I to be advocating for gun control, I could site statistics out Great Britain that indicate gun violence is down since they clamped down on gun ownership.

Wouldn’t it be just as responsible to report that studies like a 2004 report, Firearms and Violence: A Critical Review, shows that there are far too many cultural and socials aspects within each country, state, city, etc., that directly affect violence and in this case gun violence. It’s simply not just a matter of whether guns exist or not.

Our own Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concluded a study in October of 2003 called, “First Reports Evaluating the Effectiveness of Strategies for Preventing Violence: Firearms Laws“. After the study of how the presence or absence of guns in our society affected us, this is what they concluded.

The Task Force found insufficient evidence to determine the effectiveness of any of the firearms laws or combinations of laws reviewed on violent outcomes.

The bottom line is what drives newspapers and television news. You have to have viewers/readers in order to sell advertising. Without advertising dollars, you’re out of business, so media finds themselves writing to sell more than writing to be the responsible stewards some believe we should be.

So, I’m doing what I tell others not to do and I’m putting the responsibility back on to you as a reader to educate yourself completely on issues that matter to you.

Tom Remington

Getting Bogged Down In “The Bogs”

August 13, 2007

A. Sayward Lamb

A. Sayward Lamb

On Monday morning, July 6th, of this year, my friend Ivan Morey, and myself headed out on a brook fishing trip up in the Rangeley region of Maine, to do some fly fishing for Eastern Brook Trout, more commonly called Red Spots, or Brook Trout, by the natives. This was a trip that both of us had talked about for several months, and decided if we waited until the latter part of July or early August, we not only would catch brook trout, but would also combine the fishing trip with picking raspberries. In areas where wood-harvesting operations had taken place a few years earlier, we knew we could find some raspberries and wild Maine blueberries.

So, with our lunches packed, and our hand tied flies, as well as other necessary gear stuffed inside the pockets of our L.L. Bean vests, we took our fly rods, reels, with fly lines in hand, and loaded them into the truck. We also had my blueberry rake, as well as buckets and berry boxes, to hold our berries that we planned to pick after limiting out on trout. We took an iron skillet, some butter, and a propane stove so we could have a fish fry on the tailgate of the truck after. Ivan brought along a complete change of clothes, but I only took an extra pair of shorts, a pair of socks, and my moccasins.

Ivan picked me up at my cottage about seven A.M. and we headed out on about a seventy-five mile journey to reach our destination, which we simply called, “The Bogs”. Ivan told me that it had been about five years since he last visited that area. My first thoughts were that it had been about ten years earlier for me. My wife, Cynthia, informed me it was more like twenty years since I had been in that part of the country. Anyway, both of us were looking forward to a full day of fishing and berrying.

The stream we planned to fish is a very slow moving one, and consists of beaver dams that not only hold back the water, but inundates much of the lower lying areas along the stream and for a considerable distance back into the woods. This moisture causes a massive growth of alders, swale grass, and sphagnum moss, which covers the ground throughout the area. This makes walking very treacherous all along the stream.

Access to the area can be reached from State Route 17, and also by turning on to a logging road, to gain access to the opposite side of the stream.

This day we chose to take the shorter route by making our approach from the northern side of the stream. After arriving in the area, we both commented about how much the landscape had changed since we last saw it. We both remembered vast cut over areas where logging operations had taken place. Now we found thickly forested land, mostly covered with spruce and fir trees, literally “thicker than the hair on a cat’s back”. These trees had grown to a height of at least twenty feet.

We drove slowly along the logging road for some distance, looking for openings that would indicate where logging operations had taken place. After about a half-mile, we decided that we had better turn around and head back to where we came from. After turning around we drove back about a quarter mile and could plainly see a wide swath where the old skidder road used to be. Now it was grown in with raspberry bushes that were well over six feet high. Ivan parked his truck alongside the roadway, and we made preparations to head towards “The Bogs”.

The sun was still shining, although we did notice a few light clouds moving in from the west. The weather forecast was for some showers and thunder showers later in the day. We both mentioned that we hoped they would hold off until we caught our fish and got back to the truck. With this in mind, we left our raincoats in the truck.

The temperature was quite warm, but I still wore my sweatshirt to protect me from the bushes and mosquitoes. I wore some old sneakers for wading along with some long pants. Ivan wore a long sleeved shirt, long pants, and old shoes on his feet. We put on our fishing vests, and gathered up the rest of the gear. We left the frying pan and propane stove in the back of the truck, and planned to use them when we came back from fishing.

Starting out, the walk was all down hill, but still we found the walking very difficult through those thick growing raspberry bushes, so thick that we literally had to “plow” our way through them. It didn’t help with very uneven ground underneath our feet. There were rocks, stumps, and skidder ruts. How glad we both were that we had our walking sticks with us. They helped to keep our balance, as well as providing a prod to feel our way through the thick vegetation, and rough terrain.

We were both old enough to realize we didn’t need any injuries to hinder our way both to and from the area. I had not forgotten the time, about fifty years earlier, when my father stepped into a hole and fractured his ankle while fishing this same area. Fortunately, there were several men in their party that day. They made a litter from poles and shirts, and carried him out. I was told that it was a slow process that took several hours to carry my father out. There were many places where the men had to cut away undergrowth in order to make way for the litter. We also realized if either of us was injured, we would have to depend on others to locate us and come rescue us. Thanks to modern technology, Ivan had his cell phone with him, in case he needed to contact someone.

After leaving the raspberry bushes we came out into more open country which had been cut over by loggers several years ago. The old stumps were quite tall and very noticeable. It was in this area that we found many blueberry bushes heavily laden with huge wild blueberries. We both picked a few along the way, as we continued towards the stream. I commented to Ivan that when we caught our limit of trout, I would be heading out so I could get my pail and blueberry rake, and come back to harvest some of them.
We had previously determined that we were a few days late to pick raspberries, but the blue berries were ripe and ready for picking.

We continued on our way over the sphagnum moss that covered the area. This indicated that there was a lot of moisture on the ground, so we kept a close eye out for any potholes, or other obstructions, as we picked our way around the stumps and blow downs.

I was beginning to realize that the distance to the stream was farther than I remembered. Both Ivan and I agreed that we were some distance upstream from the usual path that we had taken on previous trips. Still we felt that once we arrived at the stream, we would still find water that was being held back by beaver dams. We knew we were approaching nearer to the stream when we began to see potholes of water, and lots of entangled alder bushes.

Once stream side, we assembled our fly rods and tied on our flies. Ivan was using only one fly, but I chose to use a dropper line and fish with two flies. With this done we were now ready for the fun to begin.

By now the sky was becoming completely clouded over, and I remarked to Ivan that this was better than fishing the bogs in bright sunlight.

Both of us were using small wet flies. We managed to get our lines out over the thick alders without getting entangled in the bushes, which hung out over the water as well as alongside the stream. The alders were so thick that we could not see each other from even a distance of fifty feet. The only way we kept in touch was by our voices, or by wiggling the alders to let the other person know our location.

Each of us had strikes almost as soon as our flies landed on the water. The trout were small, but full of fight and we both enjoyed catching them. The minimum length limit is six inches, with a daily bag limit of five trout.

Most of my strikes were on the dropper fly, but I was a bit slow to react, and had several misses. Our intentions were to release all except the bigger trout but now we noticed rain drops beginning to fall upon the water. Soon it began to rain harder as we continued to cast our flies, mostly by roll casting, due to the obstruction of the alders.

With the rain falling harder, we both agreed that we hadn’t better be too fussy on size, as long as they were legal. In the end, my largest trout was only about eight inches long, while Ivan had one fish that measured nine inches.

With the rain increasing in intensity, we knew we had better head back out to the truck. We both realized it would be a hard trip, under these conditions. Our actual fishing time was short, because Ivan roll cast his fly into the alders on the further side of the stream, and lost it off. A little later his leader became too short, so he changed leaders, all the while complaining that his fingers were too stiff, and he couldn’t see the line too well with the rain pounding down. I had trouble keeping my tandem line from getting entangled. Eventually, we got back to fishing and it wasn’t long before we both had our limits of trout. Both of us felt like drowned rats, as we headed back out of the woods.

Ivan said to me, “I know we have to go back through these alders and bogs, before we get back to the evergreen trees, and the cut over land, where the blueberries are located.”

I told him not to worry because I had brought along a compass and had taken a bearing reading even before we left the road, to head into the woods. I took the compass out of my pocket and showed Ivan the direction we had to travel. Although I had no actual knowledge of the distance back to the truck, I would estimate it was at least a half-mile, (as the crow flies). Of course, we had to take a zig-zag course to avoid the worst of the wet holes in that boggy area, as well as winding our way through those never ending alders.

Mainers have a name for thick brushy areas, and that name is “Puckerbrush!”
I believe those bogs have to be the hardest area, both underfoot, as well as entangled brush and alders, that I have ever been in.

Maybe this statement has something to do with our ages. Ivan is eighty-eight years old, and I just turned eighty years old. This, along with the pouring rain, and thunder, made for very uncomfortable conditions. One of the discomforts that I noticed was the difficulty I had to pick up my short legs over the numerous “blow downs,” and hummocks, especially in those boggy areas. For some reason, my wet pants legs seemed to stick to my legs, rather than slide, so they hindered my walking quite severely when I tried to step over obstructions.

We had to continually watch ahead, to determine what route to take and still stay within a reasonable direction that my compass reading showed as the way back to the truck.

Before we even got out of the alders, Ivan began to tire, and mentioned to me that he wondered if he would ever be able to make it back out of the woods? I kept encouraging him by telling him that he was “doing just fine”. Occasionally he would inquire if I were sure we were headed in the right direction, so I would check the compass. I reminded Ivan that both of us were old enough to know that “the compass is always right”, and as long as we heeded it, and headed out correctly, we eventually would come back to the logging road somewhere near the truck.

I suggested to Ivan that if he was tired, maybe he should sit down on one of the stumps and rest his legs. He informed me that he was getting really cold with the wind and driving downpour pounding down upon us, so he felt he just had to keep moving.

Eventually we came out into the cut over area, and the alders were left behind, so the walking was somewhat easier and visibility was better. Now the ground was covered with sphagnum moss, stumps, wet areas, and blow downs. I noticed Ivan was becoming much weaker, so I was becoming very concerned about his ability to continue.

While we continued along our way, my mind was thinking of some sort of plan that I would have to take if Ivan finally gave up trying to continue walking. I often inquired “How are you doing?” He told me he was exhausted, but for me to keep going and he would follow my trail.

By now the thunder and lightning were constant, although not really close enough to make me feel endangered. The wind was blowing much harder and the cold raindrops were driving down with even more intensity! I knew Ivan was getting colder, as his lips were turning blue, so I only hoped he was tough enough to continue our trek out of the woods. I was not concerned about myself, because I was still comfortable, which I believe was due to the strenuous exercise we both were getting. Again I asked Ivan if he wanted to stop to rest, and his answer was the same, so we continued over the old cut over land.

By this time I had given Ivan my walking stick, so he would have two of them to aid him in walking. To make it easier for him, I was carrying out both of our fly rods.

We had only traveled a short distance further through the cut over area when I noticed a skidder road that ran parallel to the logging road where the truck was parked. Immediately in front of us were dense firs and spruce trees, and I didn’t relish the thoughts of having to push our way uphill through those wet trees. Instead, I suggested to Ivan that we follow the skidder road in an easterly direction, hoping to find the same opening that we had walked down earlier that morning.

The skidder road was hard to walk over because of the remnants of several trees that were left in the roadway, as well as a couple of huge rocks, that were impossible for Ivan to step up over, so he crawled on all fours to get past them. I helped him to his feet, and we continued only a short distance further when I saw the opening, with no trees, and the raspberry bushes, which indicated to me that we had finally arrived at the old clearing that we had walked down that morning.

I was mighty relieved to have found the right place and doubt if this would have been possible without using the compass, because there was no sun, with very limited visibility, making it impossible to locate landmarks. We stopped to look up the old roadway. I now knew that the truck was only about three hundred yards away. I mentioned this fact to Ivan and asked him once again if he thought he could make it up the hill. He said, “You lead, and I’ll follow”.

I knew it would be a really hard walk uphill, through the thick raspberry bushes. I continued to urge Ivan to keep moving behind me. We had just started up the hill when Ivan told me the only way he would make it was to hang on to me and let me pull him up the hill.

I took back my walking stick so as to free one of Ivan’s arms. We found that he could hang on to my fishing vest by grabbing it by the opening around my armpit. This worked fine and we found some of the depressions and rocks along the trail to be more than Ivan could step up over, so he managed to get down on all fours and crawl up over those obstacles. Once he got up past them, I helped him on to his feet and we resumed uphill.

Once in awhile his feet became entangled in the raspberry bushes, so I would stop and pull them away and we would slowly continue on our way. We were less than one hundred yards from the truck when I slipped on a log that I didn’t see and fell forward. Of course, Ivan was hanging on to me, so down he went to the ground. We both were unhurt, and laughed about us “two old tumble-tirds”, as we struggled back to our feet.

A few days earlier, I was telling my good friend, Milt Inman, about our plans to go on this fishing trip. Milt told me he would like to have gone along to take photos of us two old guys winding our way through the woods. I wonder what kind of a picture we would have made, with us “two old geezers” lying on the ground, soaking wet, and yet laughing at each other? We got up and straightened ourselves as best we could and slowly continued on our way towards the truck.

In a short time Ivan said, “I’m so exhausted I can’t go any farther.”

I said to Ivan, “Look up ahead of you and tell me what you see.”

He said, “ I’m so tired I can’t even lift my head.”

I told him, “We are only fifty feet from the truck, so hang on to me, and we’ll make it.”

Somehow Ivan mustered what little strength he had left and made it to the road. There was a deep ditch alongside the graveled road, so Ivan crawled up over it on his hands and knees, to the rear of the parked truck, and pulled himself up by hanging on to the rear bumper, with me aiding him by lifting on his belt. He walked around to the right side of the truck and I opened the door. Then I helped Ivan by lifting his right leg up onto the running board, and then boosting him up onto the truck seat. Ivan turned on the engine and soon we had the heater blowing warm air.

After a short rest Ivan removed his wet clothes and put on dry ones. As for me, I took off my wet sneakers and removed my wet pants, then put on dry shorts, which didn’t stay dry with my wet shorts still on underneath them. I also removed my wet socks and put on dry moccasins, so I was in fine shape. As near as I can tell, it took us at least two hours to walk out that approximate one half mile of wet and soggy terrain. We noticed that we had a good two inches of water in the pails in the back of the truck, during that two hours of time. No wonder we got soaked!

It wasn’t long before I was really getting very hot from the heater blowing full force inside the truck, but of course, Ivan was still cold. I asked Ivan if he wanted to eat his lunch, and he said, “Later”.

I drove down the road a short distance and turned the truck around, and we headed for home. Ivan rested during the time it took me to drive down about twenty miles of highway and when I stopped beside the road in a small parking spot beside the roadway, he asked if I was warm enough? I told him I was roasting, so he suggested I could turn the heat down to a lower level. I was glad to see he was warm enough and was getting his strength back. He and I both ate our lunches and after that short stay, we headed home

The trip out of the woods was a tough one, even for me, but for Ivan it was a nightmare! For him, I believe it was a life-threatening venture. Of course neither one of us expected it to be this way, and we both believe it would not have been this way if the rain had held off until we got back out of the woods

One thing for sure, we never did get that planned “fish fry”, due to his condition and the pouring rain. I forgot and left my sneakers where I stepped out of them, and I also am missing a floating fly box full of trout flies.

In case you are wondering, both of us are doing fine. Ivan does have a re-occurance of a sore shoulder, which he blames on arthritis. He also says that this is the end of his hiking into the woods to do any brook fishing. I may feel the same way when I am eighty-eight years old. Ask me then. Ivan tells me that he never would have made it out of the woods, if it were not for me helping him. In that respect, I believe he may be right but as they say, “All is well that ends well.’

The End
Copyright 2007
A. Sayward Lamb