September 28, 2007
By Robert Lane
Bob Lane is a Licensed Master Maine Guide and photographer. He has also guided Caribou Hunters and Fishermen on float trips in Southwest Alaska.
July’s warm, sunny weather doesn’t provide much incentive to think about deer hunting to outdoorsmen who are trolling for deep swimming salmon and togue, whipping out the fly line during the drake hatch, or pursuing numerous other activities in the Maine woods this time of year.
This time of year I find myself occupied with trying to decide where I’m going to fish during the week and on the weekends, and trying to fit the kayaking and photography in to boot. Being an avid outdoorsman is no easy task. With the expanded archery season opening in September, rifle season for the elusive whitetail opening in November, now is the time to begin preparation to increase your odds for a successful hunting season. Rifles need to be sighted in, bows and arrows need to be tuned, and shooting practice begun in earnest, and, if you hunt from a climbing tree stand, it needs to be inspected and readied for the upcoming days afield.
Over the last 10 seasons, I’ve shot nine deer from my portable climber and I swear by the method. I’d no more go out without it than I would without my favorite rifle. However, I find that the tree stand is the most overlooked piece of equipment in the hunter’s arsenal. Its usually hung in the garage, or tucked away in the cellar and forgotten about until a few days before the season opens. That’s no time to discover a problem that may require a repair or replacement part. Now is the time get it ready for archery and rifle season.
First and foremost is to go over the stand and check the welds. Make sure that they are still solid. I had a crack in one on a stand a few years ago. Luckily I caught it before I went out. It was a simple matter to get it repaired.
If your stand attaches to the tree by cables, check these carefully for fraying and general wear. Any doubt about their integrity is reason enough to replace both of them. If one is bad, most likely the other one will be too. Most manufacturers sell these and a variety of replacement parts for their climbing and stationary stands.
If yours is an older climber and made of steel, attach it to a tree and get in it. Stand up, sit down, twist, and turn and listen for any creaking noises, squeaks etc. Nothing will alert a deer to your presence more than a noisy stand. I lost a shot at a nice buck years back because of it. This is critical if you are a bow hunter and are shooting at close range. The deer that busted me was almost 40 yards away when my stand creaked.
Noise isn’t such a problem with the new aluminum models. I have one of these, but I still get in it just to be sure. I have found that birch trees combined with a climbing stand will make noise even after the stand has been secured in place. Most noise can be cured by tightening a loose part and making sure that it is snug against the tree when reach the desired height.
On steel stands rust can be a factor. It gives off odor that an animal can detect. Ask any fox or coyote trapper about rust. They dye and wax their traps to keep them from oxidizing and emitting a smell. Just because you’re 15 feet off the ground doesn’t mean scent from you and your equipment will go undetected by a deer. A number of variables such as temperature, wind, air density will affect how scent is carried to the nose of a wary whitetail. Any rust should be removed with a wire brush and the area repainted to prevent further rusting during the season when the stand is exposed to the elements. Doing so will also increase the life of the stand.
Once I’m up in my stand I stay all day, and that requires that I be comfortable. Cushions will wear out and the covering will deteriorate over time making them uncomfortable, or unusable. Sitting over a prime trail or feeding area is no place to be moving around in a tree stand trying to get comfortable. Check those seats early in the season and if they aren’t up to the job, repair or replace them. Again most manufacturers carry these and other replacement parts.
I always go over my safety harness at the end of each season and again in the summer, and check for fraying and other wear. Most harnesses have a special tacking on the tether strap that connects from the back of the harness to the tree, and is designed to lessen the shock of a fall. Most of these are designed to be used only once. Check yours to be sure this tacking is still intact. If it isn’t, consult the manufacturer before you use it.
I keep two four point harnesses in my truck at all times in case one becomes unserviceable. If you forget yours, either go back home and get it, or hunt from the ground. The records of injuries incurred as a result of falls from trees stands are grim. Many a hunter has been crippled for life and others have been killed from falls from as low as ten feet up.
Under no circumstances should you use anything but a four point harness when hunting from a tree stand. The old type that consisted of a belt around the waste could cause a hunter to hang doubled at the waist, or inflict serious internal injuries. Last year I saw a guy in a stand with a hank of tow rope under his shoulders attached to the tree by two half-hitches with about two feet of slack in the tether rope. It was a recipe for disaster if I ever saw one.
My harness is on and attached to the tree as soon as I’m in the stand, and before I start climbing, as the majority of falls occur when ascending and descending the tree. Once I’m up in position I take all of the slack out of the tether. This pretty much eliminates any shock when the harness fetches up should I fall. The shock of a two hundred pound body falling a foot or even six inches and then being suddenly fetched up is painful at best and could result in injury. No slack in my tether also allows me to use it as a stabilizer and lean out over the stand when bow hunting.
Always carry a cell phone and let someone know where you are and when you expect to be out of the woods when hunting from a tree stand. I have several emergency numbers pre-programmed into mine. My phone has a lanyard on it that is looped through the buttonhole in the flap of my shirt pocket, eliminating the possibility of dropping it. If you should have a mishap and are unable to climb back down the tree, the phone could mean the difference between a long stint and possibly an overnight hanging in your harness. Your chances of hanging up-right and being able to call someone on the cell phone are better if you are strapped into nothing less than a four-point safety harness. Over the last couple of years I’ve seen several devices on the market that are designed to assist hunters in getting back to the ground after they have fallen and are hanging in a safety harness. These can be found with a little searching on the web. Summit is a major manufacturer of tree stands, harnesses, and accessories. I’ve had good luck with their products. Check them out at www.summitstands.com
Tree stand inspections and proper safety procedures don’t take a lot of time or effort, or even cost much for that matter. They can save a day’s hunt or even a life. While not all falls are fatal, many, hunters have seen an abrupt end to their hunting days due to crippling injuries resulting from a fall from a tree stand that hasn’t been properly maintained, or used in conjunction with a safe, four-point harness.
When opening day rolls around, I want to be up in my favorite tree at daybreak, watching the shadows give way to the day, and listening to the sounds of the woods waking up. I’ll watch the edge growth, the hardwoods, and the thickets, confidently focusing on the hunt, knowing that my stand is secure and my harness safe, because I took the time to go over my gear well before the onset of the best season of the year.
September 27, 2007
SAN ANTONIO — Proud Stewards of Texas Deer, the Texas Deer Association announces it will host a live, on-line Whitetail Deer Auction that will make quality-bred whitetail available to Texas deer breeders. The auction will be held at the Westin La Cantera Resort & Hotel in San Antonio on September 29, 2007, at 1:00 p.m. and be simulcast on www.texaswhitetaildirectory.com.
“Our Whitetail Deer Auction attendance and success rates have increased dramatically,” says Karl Kinsel, executive director of the Texas Deer Association. “By combining the live deer auctions and the Internet, we are helping to educate fellow deer enthusiasts about the growing industry and providing greater opportunities for our membership to improve the overall quality of our Texas deer.”
The online Whitetail Deer Auction will be similar in format to previous online auctions conducted by the TDA. There will be a total of 118 lots filled on a first-come, first-served basis. Catalogs are available at www.TexasDeerAssociation.com, and printed versions were mailed to TDA members on September 17th.
“To address the demands and needs of our members, we’re excited to host this new auction opportunity for TDA members,” says Damon Thorpe, TDA auction manager. “We have witnessed tremendous growth in our auctions over the past few years, most of which is due to the dedication, passion and interest TDA members have in the deer industry as well as the superior genetics offered by our consignors.”
The first-ever simulcast of a live deer auction occurred earlier this year, at the Hicks Whitetail Production held in Round Rock, Texas. The sale was managed by Damon Thorpe in conjunction with TDA. The sale grossed $541,300 with nearly 20 percent of the revenues generated from online bidding. The highest valued lot was also purchased online for a final bid of $25,000.
The TDA is the only non-profit organization solely committed to improving the quality of Texas deer herds through improved habitat practices, modern harvest strategies and use of superior deer to enhance the deer herds. As a part of its public education efforts, the TDA publishes a full-color bimonthly magazine, Tracks, which updates TDA members on current legislative news, deer genetics and game management issues. The TDA also hosts an annual convention and trade show every August featuring fund-raising auctions, a deer auction, golf tournament and other events.
To learn more about this TDA auction or for membership information, visit www.texasdeerassociation.com or call 210.767.8300.
Headquartered in San Antonio, Texas, the Texas Deer Association is a non-profit organization dedicated to the health and welfare of native deer herds, and to developing ways to improve deer quality in Texas. For more information on the Texas Deer Association, call 210.767.8300 or visit www.texasdeerassociation.com.
Meng & Associates Inc.
P. 512.930.7100 F. 512.864.0033
September 25, 2007
GMS® Partners with Tex-Star Wildlife Services
WACO, Texas — Designers of the No. 1 Tool in Game Management — GMS® is proud to announce it has partnered with Tex-Star Wildlife Services to offer full-service wildlife consultant services to its customers. As part of the all-new service, Tex-Star will provide hands-on guidance and instruction for large and small hunting operations as well as breeder operations to optimize the wildlife and habitat potential of customers’ properties.
“Our GMS technology is a tremendous tool in successful game management, but we want to also make sure our customers have the benefit of experience and knowledge which can help them achieve the best results for their wildlife program,” says Mike Owens, co-owner of GMS. “A lot of property owners or ranch managers have an idea of what they want, but they need guidance on how to get from Point A to Point B. Tex-Star can give them the guidance they need.”
Through GMS, the Tex-Star wildlife consultant services include: micro- and macro-game management, livestock and habitat management, watering facilities, supplemental feeding, record keeping, budgets, census-keeping, predator control, food plot management, fence layout and construction, harvest recommendations, brush management, land acquisition and many more.
“Some ranch owners’ goals may be easy to achieve, while others may be unrealistic given the habitat or other factors,” says Joe Guidry, co-owner of Tex-Star Wildlife Services and a wildlife management professional with 15 years of experience. “Either way, we work closely with each landowner to ensure that all their wants and needs are addressed whether it be macro-managing for general wildlife populations or micro- managing for specific goals such as trophy whitetails.”
GMS is no stranger to wildlife management. The GMS software has been endorsed by some of the largest game ranches in the country, and is considered by most industry experts to be the most complete, yet ‘easy to use’ game management software on the market today. GMS helps hunting operations and land owners manage properties, whose focus is on quality deer and game management (including deer farmers/breeders), organize and maintain all of the pertinent information needed to manage a successful ranch. Innovative and comprehensive, the GMS program allows users to begin quality deer management, track all aspects of a hunting property, develop plans to help maximize herd health, quantify herd ratios, compositions and age structures, develop a wildlife management plan, schedule hunts, record information in the field via Pocket PC technology and much more.
“Efficiency in game management is the key to success,” adds Owens, “and — whether it’s with our GMS software or through 20-plus years of wildlife management experience — we want to help ranch owners reach their goals efficiently and cost-effectively.”
Located in Waco, Texas, GMS® offers technology for successful game management and is the No. 1 Game Management Solution in the Deer Industry. For more information on GMS, call 254.752.1608 or visit www.wildlifemanagementsoftware
Meng & Associates Inc.
“Marketing That’s Custom Fit”
P. 512.930.7100 F. 512.864.0033
September 24, 2007
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF MINNESOTA
Theodore Robert Carlson, Mike Buetow, CIVIL ACTION NO.: 07W3970 RHKIJSM
Gary Steven Richardson, Jr., and Joe
Rohrbach individually on behalf of
themselves and all other Minnesota CLASS ACTION COMPLAINT
residents and entities similarly situated,
A.L.S. Enterprises, Inc., Cabela’s Inc., JURY TRIAL DEMANDED
Gander Mountain Co., Bass Pro Shops,
Inc., and Browning Arms Co.,
Plaintiffs Robert Carlson, Mike Buetow, Gary Steven Richardson, Jr., and Joe
Rohrbach individually on behalf of themselves and all other Minnesota residents and entities similarly situated, by and through their attorneys, Merchant & Gould and Hein Mills & Olson, P.L.C., as complainant against defendants A.L.S. Enterprising, Inc., Cabela’s Inc., Gander Mountain Co., Bass Pro Shops, Inc., and Browning Arms Co., (collectively “Defendants”), allege the following:
September 24, 2007
By Tom Remington
Does the Idaho Fish and Game Department live in a vacuum or does the entire force or perhaps a certain number of employees have an agenda that is geared negatively toward the domestic elk industry in that state?
For the entire summer, all I have done is read account after account of growing bear/human encounters in the west. In some areas it is quite severe and all one has to do is open their eyes and they will see that areas in eastern Idaho not that far from the Yellowstone National Park area are experiencing perhaps the worst grizzly activity involving humans in history.
I have written story after story, selecting only those that appeared to be the most prolific, here, here, here, here, and here. Nevada has also had more than its share of bear problems as has Colorado and portions of California. It should also be noted that no reports from anywhere else that are having bear problems blame livestock ranching. As a matter of fact, everyone including the common man knows by now that with the climate conditions, i.e. heat, drought, etc., natural food for the bears is limited and in some cases severely lacking causing the animals to find food wherever it is.
In an article I wrote last week, I laid out exactly why eastern Idaho was experiencing such a problem with bears and it has very little to do with domestic elk ranching as some want to lay the blame on. The blame needs to be spread around where blame is due and that includes residents who don’t take care of their garbage, etc.
A weekend article in the Idaho Falls Post Register (subscription) by Matthew Evans even tells of the bear problems and how this year’s problems compare with past years.
The problem, however, isn’t limited to eastern Idaho or even the greater Yellowstone region. Throughout the West, from Colorado to Montana to Nevada, grizzlies and black bears are straying into towns and places they usually avoid to forage for food.
Those who work with bears say they’ve never seen anything like it.
“In my 16 years here, I’ve never seen it this bad,” said Daryl Meints, a regional wildlife manager for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. “All the stars are perfectly aligned.”
A spokesperson for the Grand Teton National Park supports the same theory.
“Some people say that at this time of year, bears are either eating or searching for food 20 hours a day,” said Jackie Skaggs, spokeswoman for Grand Teton National Park, where rangers have killed four black bears this season after deeming them a threat to visitors. That’s more than she’s seen killed in her 20-plus years of working in the park — despite the fact that Grand Teton officials kicked off a “Be Bear Aware” campaign this year.
“We’re kind of scratching our heads,” Skaggs said. “There are many years where we don’t euthanize any bears. A couple of years ago, we had to euthanize two bears and we thought that was pretty extreme.”
And what does this article say is the reason for increased bear activity?
The problem stems from the ongoing drought, a mild winter and a dry spring. The conditions have decimated the berry crop, a mainstay in a bear’s diet.
“So when it comes to native forage, what bears are accustomed to eating, it’s just not there,” Meints said. “Even some of the kokanee runs are down.”
So why is the Idaho Fish and Game Department and a few local residents setting their sites on putting the blame on the Velvet Elk Ranch on Meadow Creek Road in Island Park? That’s the million dollar question and one many of us are searching for an answer. Either the Fish and Game have their heads stuck in the sand and can’t see the real reasons or they have an agenda. It may be that their agenda is to once again attempt to give the Idaho domestic elk industry a bad name.
Past accounts clearly show that Fish and Game doesn’t want elk ranching. Records also show that Fish and Game works very closely with other organizations that are working toward a ban on elk ranching – Idaho Sportsmen’s Caucus Advisory Council, Idaho Wildlife Federation, et. al.
Let’s be honest. There’s a bear problem in Island Park. Bears are hungry because there’s no food. Probably more bears are coming out of the Yellowstone area to find that food. Bears prefer berries and vegetation over gut piles to eat but they certainly will not pass up a pile of guts if that’s the only available meal. Readers should be educated to the fact that bears don’t have an affinity to elk entrails. They will also eat dead or live cattle, sheep, dogs, cats or whatever they can get when they are hungry but it’s not their meal of choice.
Mike Ferguson, owner of the Velvet Elk Ranch, has recognized that following the laws regulating the livestock industry to dispose of dead animals parts within 72 hours isn’t getting the job done. He has taken it upon himself to properly and legally dispose of his animal parts the same day. You can read his response here.
So, why isn’t this good enough? Ferguson is one rancher. From previous reports he had 167 head of elk brought to his ranch. There are thousands of head of cattle and other livestock all in this same area. Why aren’t we hearing about those ranches as being a magnate for bears? Is it because Velvet Elk Ranch is an elk hunting ranch?
Regional Fish and Game Supervisor Steve Schmidt said in an article in the Island Park News that his agency was concerned about all things that might attract bears to the area. Oh really? If that is true, then why did he finish that claim with this absurd statement?
IDFG Regional Supervisor Steve Schmidt said his agency is concerned about all attractants people are making available to bears, and concerns continue about Island Park residents who are not locking up their garbage. He said even if the Velvet Ranch is found to be disposing of animal waste properly, the operation still has the potential to attract bears to the area because there is so often the smell of blood on the ground.
With thousands times more cattle in the area than 167 elk, why isn’t Mr. Schmidt telling area residents to beware of cattle ranches? Their ranching activities may be an attractant to grizzly bears as well. Is Schmidt’s focus simply on elk ranches?
The Island Park News points out something that seems to be falling on the deaf ears of Fish and Game and a handful of local residents.
Grizzly and black bears have frequented this area of Island Park for decades and grizzlies have taken down sheep and cattle near where the Velvet Ranch is located. Around 30 years ago, the Forest Service canceled grazing leases in this area when it made the area Situation 1 grizzly bear habitat.
I wonder if any of those sheep and cattle that have been the target of hungry bears left any blood on the ground? Anyone who seems to want to single out the Velvet Elk Ranch or any other ranch for that matter, as the reason for increased bear activity has to have something on their mind other than the concerns for public safety. If their concern was protecting the citizens, why would the Fish and Game be wanting to spend thousands of Idaho tax payers dollars to investigate whether the bears in the Island Park area are eating Mike Ferguson’s elk guts?
The Fish and Game Department and Department of Agriculture are saying they want to investigate whether any of these bears are actually eating Velvet Elk Ranch’s gut piles. Mind none of these bears are dead, so in order to do this they would have to capture or bring the bears down by drugs, cut them open to extract remains from the bears stomach and try to match some DNA. This would cost tax payers thousands of dollars and for what?
I would be willing to wager poorly cared for garbage is more to blame for increased bear activity. Should F&G and AG spend money to try to find out which residents are getting their garbage eaten by bears? Can’t anyone see the ridiculousness of this entire event? It is nothing more than a blatant attack on one elk rancher which will have sweeping consequences for the entire elk industry. This is thuggery and extremely disturbing, say nothing about un-American.
Is there a bigger agenda or is this just a handful of people overreacting to a scary situation as described by Daryl Meints, a regional wildlife manager for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game as, “In my 16 years here, I’ve never seen it this bad.”
Perhaps we can get a better picture of what’s really behind these false accusations and attempts to scar the Idaho elk industry. Kirk Robinson of the Western Wildlife Conservancy in Utah says that the Idaho Fish and Game and the Department of Agriculture don’t need to investigate whether bears in the area have been eating Ferguson animal remains.
“What he’s doing may not strictly be illegal, but on the other hand what he’s doing is a hazard to the public and to these bears,” he said. “And it’s all the worse for a guy who’s making a lot of money off captive wild animals.”
So what is the Western Wildlife Conservancy and who really cares what Kirk Robinson has to say about what’s going on in Island Park, Idaho? From their website, this is their “vision”.
We envision a time when human beings accept the puma, the wolf, and their wild kin as citizens in the community of life – a time when, instead of hunting and trapping them for sport and profit we live peacefully with them, when instead of exploiting and despoiling land without restraint we accommodate their habitat and survival needs in our way of living. This will be a time when we have come to view nature quite differently from the traditional way that sees it only as a resource to be exploited or an enemy to be subdued – a time when we have adopted gentler life-ways that recognize and respect not only the fragility and sensitivity of natural systems, but also our own physical and spiritual dependence upon them.
The WWC also lists the species they aim to protect.
Ursidae (grizzly bear and black bear)
Felidae (mountain lion, Canada lynx and bobcat)
Canidae (gray wolf, coyote, and the gray, red, swift and kit fox)
Mustelidae (wolverine, fisher, marten and other members of the weasel family)
Make no mistake about the goals of this agency. They could care less about any rancher or even Derek Fesmire who was attacked by a female grizzly while bow hunting. Their interests lie strictly with the protection of animals and that supersedes any rights of Americans.
Last year after the “Great Escape” of Dr. Rex Rammell’s elk from his Chief Joseph Ranch outside Rexburg, Idaho, many people believed that certain legislators, wildlife advocacy groups and a handful of sportsmen, exploited this event in order to force their personal agendas on the citizens of Idaho by attempting to pass legislation that would have ended all elk ranching, not just ranch hunting. Some even thought the “Escape” was a set-up job. Those efforts were very much unsuccessful but those groups threatened to bring a citizen’s initiative to ballot in 2008.
With a soon to be convening of the fall Idaho Legislature and a deadline of next spring to get enough signatures on a petition in order to get an initiative on the ballot, we are all once again left wondering if this recent flurry of grizzly activity that happens to be near an elk ranch, is just another opportunity for these same people to exploit the situation for their own good. I’m sure some will even question whether any of this latest is also a set-up job.
Here’s some more disturbing rhetoric that has found its way into the local press. Local resident of Island Park, Martin Miller, says he won’t hunt again near the Velvet Elk Ranch after what he saw.
“It looked like a scene out of a ‘Halloween’ movie,” he said. “Heads, noses, legs sticking out in every direction, and gut piles everywhere. It stunk to high heaven.”
A spokesperson for Mike Ferguson told me in a recent interview that Ferguson was very upset that anyone would make such false accusations and said that those charges are not true.
If there is a hidden agenda here that is deliberately targeting the Velvet Elk Ranch in order to discredit and give the Idaho elk industry a black eye, it is certainly a sad commentary on the state of things within the minds of those who would do such a thing.
The Fish and Game and Dept. of Agriculture need to stop wasting taxpayer’s money and get back to their real jobs. It is time for the head of the Idaho Fish and Game to reel in and get control over his employees and put this non event into the perspective of what it really is – a hungry bear problem.
If the anti-elk hunting crowd has to stoop to this level because they have no evidence, facts or support for the perpetuation of their forced ideals, they are truly a sad lot. If the people of Idaho don’t want elk ranching as an industry in their state, that is surely their decision. For some to exploit a hungry bear problem for the purpose of creating a public safety scare to influence public opinion is really about as low as one can go.
September 22, 2007
An opinion piece reared an ugly head in the environment section of New West on September 16, 2007 by George Wuerthner. From the article, this is what it says about Wuerthner.
George Wuerthner is a former Montana hunting guide, a founding member of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, and ecologist who worked on wolf recovery in Montana and Wyoming. He lives part of the year in Montana and travels extensively in the West. He can be reached at 541-255-6039.
You now know at least as much as I do about him. But this article isn’t about Mr. Wuerthner. It’s about the information he has put forth in this article, his ideals.
I have read the article several times and as a matter of fact, I spent a good 45 minutes talking about the title of this article in a recent Skinny Moose Radio broadcast of “Open Air with Tom Remington”. Listen to that broadcast here.
The title of the opinion piece is, “Killing Wolves Violates Public Trust”. For anyone who believes that having uncontrolled growth of wolves is a good thing, I can understand why they might think that killing them would be in violation of public trust.
When the debate of wolves is focused in the Yellowstone National Park area, before one can believe that killing wolves violates public trust, they should go back to the day when wolves where let go in the park and under what guise that event took place. That my friends was the real violation of public trust. America was lied to. Not only that, for Americans to knowingly dump wolves into the woods so that in future years they would prey upon hard working people’s property and livestock, that was a violation of the public trust.
These people didn’t want them. Why would they? They built their ranches and worked hard trying to fulfill the American dream just so that some wolf lovers could destroy those dreams for the sake of an ideal? Many argue that the wolves were there first. True, and history shows us that settlers took care of the wolf and grizzly problems to the point of near extinction. Thousands of people moved into these areas and built homes, ranches, farms knowing and believing they wouldn’t have to deal with wolves decimating their livestock. Two wrongs don’t make this right.
But now wolves are here and will be here to stay. Back when we all were lied to, we were told that when wolves reached a total of 350, it would be considered a full recovery, able to self sustain. In the area around Yellowstone, which for the purpose of this discussion will include Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, there are now an estimated 1,300 wolves. By some accounts that is low but I believe that to be the “official” count. Ed Bangs, head of the wolf programs in this area for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, recently was quoted saying that there are more wolves now in areas where it was never dream they would be. What does this tell us?
Wolf advocates will be suing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to stop the delisting of the wolf, which the USFWS is intending to do perhaps as early as next year. These wolf people, many of whom were involved in the reintroduction process, are now saying 1,300-plus wolves aren’t enough. They say that is too few to sustain a population – kind of a bait and switch tactic.
I know of only a small handful of outspoken people who would just as soon eradicate the planet of wolves but the majority now understand wolves will be a part of our landscape whether we like it or not. The differences in wolf philosophies general come from those who want wolves to go unchecked and unregulated, believing they will “self-manage”, a “let nature take its course” sort of thing.
I believe the majority of people want the animal classified as a game animal so that it can be controlled and regulated much the same way as all our other game animals are.
The other huge factor is that ranchers and landowners have to be given the flexibility to rightfully protect their property, including livestock, without the fear of legal action.
Getting back to the article in discussion, I’m only going to pick out a few of the obvious problems I see. Wuerthner begins getting into ethics and legalities of shooting wolves.
However, the issue for me and many other wolf supporters isn’t about slaughtering wolves in retaliation for killing livestock or elk, but a matter of ethics and perhaps even legal concerns. Fortunately for all of us, wildlife in the United States is considered a public resource—like clean air or clean water. It is not something that can be privatized. Yet I would argue killing wolves merely to enhance deer, elk, and other ungulate populations is essentially a privatization of public wildlife for the benefit of a chosen few (hunters) at the expense of the majority of Americans who favor protection of wolves.
Isn’t this a case of the pot calling the kettle black? I can just as easily turn this statement around and show the hypocrisy. Wildlife is a public resource but not one to be managed and created for wolf lover’s whims. There are many millions of people living in this country and not everyone sees things as do wolf advocates. I would also challenge the statement that the majority of Americans favor protection. Without knowing the writer’s idea in “protection”, I think it quite safe to say that protection under the Endangered Species Act is untrue, in my opinion.
One cannot accuse and criticize fish and game departments or others for “privatizing” our wildlife, when in fact the pot that’s calling the kettle black, has done just that back when it decided to stock the countryside with wolves. Wolf advocates took it upon themselves to privatize the wolf population by artificially stocking the woods with their own animals. Is this somehow not privatizing because they aren’t hunted?
The other issue here is the accusation that we hunters and/or fish and game departments want to kill wolves “merely to enhance deer, elk, and other ungulate populations”. This is absurd. I am assuming that the writer is drawing this conclusion from the announcement made by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service back in July, when he puts “quotes” around “unacceptable”. I also wrote an article about that announcement calling it ridiculous.
One focuses on the effects of wolves on ungulates, such as elk.
A 2005 proposal said states could kill wolves if they were causing “unacceptable impacts” on wild herds. But the rule said the decline had to be “primarily caused by wolf predation.” Inevitably, declines are tied to other factors, including severe weather, loss of habitat, hunting and other predators, Bangs said.
The proposed rule said wolves can be taken out if they can be shown as “one of the major causes” of herds declining. If that’s the case and state officials want to reduce the wolf population, the idea would have to go through peer review among wildlife officials and would be subject to public comment.
If it passes muster and doesn’t reduce the wolf population below 200 in any given state, wildlife agencies could use public hunts to reduce the wolf population, Bangs said.
Other than the fact that the powers to make those decisions will more than likely have difficulty reaching consensus, how can anyone take from this statement that the intention of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is to kill wolves “merely to enhance deer, elk, and other ungulate populations”? The key word here is control.
We control our game populations for more reasons than to provide hunting opportunities. We manage them with a goal of creating a healthy ecosystem.
I don’t deny that some things done in the name of promoting huntable populations of species like elk or deer such as creating wildlife refuges and wildlife management areas protects wildlife habitat for many non-target species as well. Nevertheless, I could list many practices that state agencies promote that are detrimental to native wildlife and plant communities, including the stocking and introduction of exotic species, killing of predators, habitat management designed to enhance game species that might hurt non-game species, even many hunting practices themselves. In fact, I could make a pretty good case that if we looked at the majority wildlife species, most might be better off if state fish and wildlife agencies ceased to exist. (emboldening is mine)
This really cuts right to the heart of the matter. Consider this statement for a minute if you will. Wuerthner alludes to many practices of state agencies that harm native wildlife, etc. Once again he indicates that the only thing they are trying to do is promote hunting. I just don’t see this but when he says that he believes most species would be better off without state fish and wildlife agencies, it really indicates a lack of trust and anger directed at the people who run our fish and game departments. These are educated, professional people who do a great job. Is it perfect? Of course not. No science is perfect nor are human beings.
It was determined a long time ago that states needed trained scientists to assist in the management of game and other wildlife species. For man and beast to share living space on this earth requires skilled planning. Many billions of dollars over the years has gone into providing all Americans with more game and wildlife than we have ever had at any time in our history.
It is voodoo science and idealistic day dreaming to honestly believe that many of our wildlife species would be better off without a state agency run by professionals. Imagine, if you can, what it would really be like if we opted to end this now and revert to “natural” wildlife management.
At present state agencies spend the majority of their funding on promoting a handful of species that hunters and anglers desire to kill or capture. Through the sale of hunting and fishing licenses wildlife is essentially privatized, particularly if there is a limited drawing as with some hunting tags. When a hunter shoots an elk or deer, that animal is no longer available to anyone else, including the majority of Americans who just like to watch wildlife. It has essentially been privatized.
I really don’t know why the hang up on privatization of wildlife. I guess we could say that Noah privatized wildlife many centuries ago when he gathered two of every kind of animal and saved them from extinction. As I said before, when the wolf advocacy groups fought to capture and release wolves into the wild, they also became victims of the dreaded privatization.
Trying to convince the public that when a hunter or an angler takes their catch home, it takes away from and reduces the species so others are not able to enjoy is one of the biggest shams in the environmental database of lame excuses. “When a hunter shoots an elk or deer, that animal is no longer available to anyone else, including the majority of Americans who just like to watch wildlife.”
The good news I have is that if it wasn’t for that hunter, those Americans wouldn’t have any wildlife to look at from the front seat of their gas-guzzling SUVs. That’s the truth. Hunters make up the largest conservation group in America today and I’m proud of the things my license fees have accomplished.
Taking an animal by means of hunting, under the control of fish and game departments all across America, is a good and healthy thing. It keeps species populations in check, which is good for not only the herd but the plants and the rest of the ecosystem. It’s just plain healthy. Without this kind of management, those Americans might be seeing these animals coming through the front windshields of their cars. Or, they may be on a family outing and be witness to starving and/or diseased animals. Is this the alternative we are looking for? This is how nature does it.
The majority of Americans, including most westerners, favors protection of wolves and wants more wolves than exist even at presence.
I’m laughing. I would like to see some statistics on this. I believe that the majority of Americans have been deceived into believing we need to protect the wolf but I doubt seriously if they want more wolves. Wolves belong in the wild not in some ranchers backyard killing his livestock. Nature will allow the growth of the wolf to a point where disease and starvation will bring it back into check. This takes many years. It’s not an overnight event. Natural means of controlling the wolf is disturbed by the presence of man and his ranches and this sought after balance is never achieved. This is why we have to manage our wildlife. Are we to allow the decimation of ranches while infringing on their right to prosper and protect property so that “others” can have some wolves to view?
Wuerthner accuses fish and game departments for catering only to the hunter and fisherman. While that may be his perception, I would like to direct you to the website of the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. The website clearly states its vision, mission and goals. Their vision states:
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks will provide the leadership necessary to create a commitment in the hearts and minds of people to ensure that, in our second century, and in partnership with many others, we will sustain our diverse fish, wildlife and parks resources and the quality recreational opportunities that are essential to a high quality of life for Montanans and our guests.
And the mission statement:
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, through its employees and citizen commission, provides for the stewardship of the fish, wildlife, parks and recreational resources of Montana, while contributing to the quality of life for present and future generations.
If you visit their site and read the entire list of goals and objectives, I find no reference that MFWP is catering to only a handful of hunters and fishermen. The fish and game departments may not be doing it the way the writer of this article wants it done, but clearly it is catering to the majority.
The article is full of idealistic mumbo, jumbo. I believe that people are intelligent and will make the right decisions when those are based on truth. Much of what has been written in this article is one man’s opinion but what’s disturbing is that all too often that same idealistic mantra is what our media sources present to its readers as fact. This same kind of misinformation was crammed down the throats of Americans back in 1995 and 1996. This has to change. It has gone on long enough.
September 21, 2007
A very disturbing article appeared this week in the Idaho Falls Post Register. It was written by Rob Thornberry and was entitled, “Critics Hate Ranch’s Guts”. The story is about increased grizzly bear activity around a singled-out elk ranch because of the entrails left from hunters field dressing the animals. It so happens that this particular elk ranch, Velvet Elk Ranch at Meadow Creek Lodge, provides opportunities for those interested in experiencing an elk hunt on a private hunting ranch.
Most of us are fully aware of the controversies that have plagued the Idaho elk industry of the past year or so. Most prominent in the minds of people is last summer’s debacle of how the state of Idaho handled the escape of Dr. Rex Rammell’s elk from his Chief Joseph Ranch outside Rexburg. Needless to say, the state doesn’t have a very good record in dealing with the Idaho elk industry.
We now have a situation where it appears that someone or someones are trying once again to smear the good clean industry of the Idaho elk ranchers and in this case owner Mike Ferguson of the Velvet Elk Ranch.
Let’s clarify a couple issues so everyone will understand exactly what has taken place and why. Nobody will dispute the fact that there has been increased bear activity and bear/human conflicts all over the western United States, including Idaho. There’s two reasons for that. One is an increase in grizzly bear population and the other is the results of a prolonged summertime drought and record breaking temperatures. The drought and heat have seriously limited the amount of feed bears depend on this time of year to fatten up for the coming winter months. Biologists estimate that bears need to consume as many as 25,000 calories a day right now.
To the right is a map that shows where in the United States heat has taken its toll. You can see that in Idaho above normal temperatures have persisted and all around to the east(edited from west) and south of the state much above normal temperatures have been the norm all summer.
Below is a map that shows the severity of drought throughout the U.S. All of Idaho is either experiencing severe or extreme drought conditions. In the area of eastern Idaho where the above incident occurred, much of that region is in or very near to where extreme drought is taking its toll.
I have reported on numerous occasions problems this summer with bear/human encounters. In some areas it is so bad that task forces have had to be implemented in order to deal with the problem bears. Everywhere, officials state the same reasons – increased bear populations and lack of natural preferred food.
Idaho is no different. Bears aren’t finding the food necessary to store up needed fat for the winter. They have to find food somewhere. A myth that needs to be dispelled here is that bears, even though technically are classified as carnivora, they are really omnivorous. Bears will eat meat but their preferred diet is vegetation and berries. The Get Bear Smart Society, describes the eating habits of grizzly bears this way.
Fish and meat are important sources of protein and fat. Although meat tops the list of high-quality food, most bears rely on chance carrion (including winter-killed animals). Some become very effective predators on newborn elk, moose, deer or caribou. Others live in areas where salmon, suckers or other fish spawn for part of each year.
Bears spend most of their time feeding on vegetation, insects and other more reliable, although lower calorie food sources. Plant foods make up the majority of a bear’s diet (sometimes, as much as 90%). (emboldening is mine)
There is an increase in bear problems in Idaho for sure but it’s not simply because Mike Ferguson is leaving elk gut piles in the woods. Are bears finding these gut piles? That’s obvious. Has Mr. Ferguson broken any laws? None that we are aware of but the Idaho Department of Agriculture is looking into it. Is this a problem because Idaho allows elk ranching and ranch hunting? No.
The elk industry in Idaho is governed by the Department of Agriculture not the Department of Fish and Game. This has in the past and obviously still does, create a problem for the residents of the state. The IDAG has rules that govern the disposal of dead animals on ranch properties. The owner has 72 hours in which to properly dispose of dead animals. There is a list of ways this can be done, including burying, three feet under.
This is hunting season and it is common practice that hunters leave entrails from the game they have taken in the woods. More times than not, predators and scavengers will clean it up without incident. Grizzly bears have now been officially located in parts of Idaho where they haven’t been seen in over 60 years. This tells us the grizzly is alive and thriving and spreading out.
Presently the Department of Agriculture and the Idaho Elk Breeders Association are working together to make changes to better the industry. Included in those changes are better more effective ways of disposing of dead animals.
Let’s get back to what the real problem is here. It is my understanding that leaving the gut piles has been going on for quite some time with little or no problems. Now we have a problem because grizzly bears don’t have enough preferred food to eat. They are finding the gut piles. One could look at this and say this is a good thing because it may have saved another person’s livestock or family pet from getting eaten by a hungry bear.
In cases like this, a common sense and rational approach to dealing with it would have been to notify the people that Idaho has more grizzly bears than ever and there is little natural food. With this, people should know to be on the lookout for bear problems. This effort could have easily been coordinated by different departments within the governmental structure led by the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Fish and Game and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. After all, it is their bear they are protecting. It wasn’t.
As a matter of fact, when complaints began coming into the IDFG, instead of following the procedures set forth by the department to notify the Department of Agriculture, the local fish and game representative took it upon himself to notify the press without notifying the IDAG.
One might be led to believe that perhaps this particular fish and game representative didn’t know the procedure. If that’s the case the person suffers greatly from lack of memory. Steve Schmidt, Fish and Game’s regional supervisor, is the one who began looking into the complaints involving the Velvet Elk Ranch. He is also the same official who was initially involved in the Rex Rammell fiasco.
From all that came out of the Rammell affair, I was told that much of what happened on Rammell’s property and the needless killing of his elk, would have been avoided had IDAG been notified before the IDFG took control. I was also told that much work was done to remedy that problem.
If my memory serves me correctly, this past spring when I attended the annual banquet of the Idaho Elk Breeders Association in Idaho Falls, John Chatburn of the Dept. of Agriculture spoke and told ranchers that the Fish and Game Department has been told that handling of elk ranches was the responsibility of the AG and not fish and game. They were told to notify the IDAG of any complaints or problems.
So what’s really behind this? I would like to think nothing but I have to ask about Mr. Schmidt’s actions in how this affair with complaints concerning gut piles and grizzlies at the Velvet Elk Ranch, was handled. There is an active group in Idaho working to pass legislation to put a stop to all elk ranching, not just the hunting ranches. It has also been clear that the IDFG has actively sought to shut down the industry.
In the article I mentioned earlier, Steve Schmidt said they could smell rotting flesh during the investigation of a bear attack of a hunter in nearby Island Park.
“Our officer who investigated the bear attack said that when they were standing on the site of the bear attack, that at times they could smell what appeared to be rotting flesh,” Schmidt said.
This was all part of what appeared to be an effort to blame the increased grizzly encounters on the Velvet Elk Ranch. Other incidents have occurred in that general area involving hunters and bears. Some want to pin the blame on the ranch owner. A source familiar with where the ranch is located and the location of the gut piles in reference to a separate encounter of a hunter with a grizzly, told me it is at least four tenths of a mile from the Velvet Elk Ranch. I’m not sure what these officials were smelling but I have doubts that they could smell rotting flesh from any of the ranches gut piles.
This is really a non-incident in my opinion as far as attempting to discredit once again the Idaho elk industry. This is a problem that scores of people and communities all across the west are having to deal with. This is the result of Mother Nature bestowing the region with lots of heat, no rain and lack of food for bears.
The community, along with the cooperation of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Idaho Fish and Game, need to take proper steps in alerting people of potential problems. In turn, the Idaho Department of Agriculture should take a look at how entrails and other dead animals are being handled at the Velvet Elk Ranch and others and act accordingly.
This is not an elk ranching problem. This is a hungry bear problem and should be dealt with accordingly.
September 21, 2007
That headline may come as a complete surprise to many of you but it shouldn’t. Most of us have been led to believe that hunting is not allowed in National Parks and that is not entirely true. For example, a recent announcement was made that said officials were not going to kill as many deer in this year’s hunt in Gettysburg National Military Park and Eisenhower National Historic Site. That’s what park officials are calling it when it fact it is nothing more than park employees culling deer numbers, which is unfortunate because real hunters could accomplish the same task at no expense to the parks.
In an article by Matt Casey at EveningSun.com, I should point out some things that we should bring our attention to. First of all, park spokesman Katie Lawhon says that it was the goal of the Park Service to reach a deer density of 25 per square mile. In 1995 the deer density was estimated to be 333 per square mile. No, that is not a misprint.
The Park Service began a program of culling female deer and now nearly 12 years later the deer density estimate is around 26 deer per square mile. This year the park intends to kill off around 115 deer between October and March. Those deer will once again be doe deer.
While I still maintain that it is unfortunate that hunters are not allowed to participate in this event, there are some things we can take from this 12-year long effort. One is that 333 deer per square mile is a devastation looking for a place to happen. That many deer were destroying the entire ecosystem of the park. Even Lawhon pointed this out.
“The intense browsing by deer was threatening the future of the wood lots because there were very few younger trees that managed to live or thrive,” Lawhon said.
Lawhon said the deer also threatened the Park Service’s agricultural program, where local farmers maintain farm fields that are part of the park.
“We found that there was so much damage to the crops that it was becoming less and less worthwhile for the farmer to lease the field,” Lawhon said.
Lawhon said without local farmers cultivating the fields, the park would lose its 1863 agricultural appearance and make it harder for visitors to understand the landscape.
In this statement, it is clear that the park in order to maintain its viability, must keep it looking as near to the way it did during the battle years. The deer were destroying everything. This problem is not relegated to just Gettysburg. This is something that is appearing all across America. Places where deer can thrive and no means of controlling populations, is sure to wreck the same devastation on ecosystems, yet the animal lovers and anti-hunting individuals, groups and politicians insist that there are other ways to “humanely” deal with such problems.
Another positive we can take from this is proof that hunting does work as a good tool to control game populations. Often we hear from the same groups I mentioned above that hunting will actually increase populations. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Hunting used to be pretty much uncontrolled. Once it was determined that if we didn’t do something about limiting the lengths of seasons and numbers of game taken, future generations would have no wildlife to enjoy. Controls were put in place and programs were developed that would ensure that there would always be game and wildlife.
With better science available, fish and game biologists are learning how to manage game species that will provide stable and healthy numbers for all to enjoy, not just hunters. Make no mistake about it, if the controls were lifted on hunting today, theoretically it wouldn’t take long before we would be back looking at very few numbers of game animals. I say theoretically because I believe that a majority of hunters today understand the importance of game management and would do what was necessary to continue the effort.
So for those who just plain hate hunting and refuse to admit it while hiding behind lies that hunting doesn’t have any affect on deer populations etc., this is one very good example of how a well controlled effort can be extremely effective in bringing a deer population under control. Communities all across the U.S. should take a look, only I recommend you work with local hunting clubs to achieve your goals.
The Park Service have the deer killed, butchered and donated to the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank in Harrisburg. This year’s hunt is estimated to cost taxpayers $5,948, excluding man hours.
September 21, 2007
We are at a point where it would be safe to say that this year’s outbreak of Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) is quite widespread. Here’s a list of states that have confirmed cases of the virus that is carried to deer by biting midges or no-see-ums: Virginia, West Virginia, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, New Jersey, Montana, Mississippi and Georgia. In addition, some states are waiting for test results to confirm what they already suspect – South Carolina is one such state.
To confirm the presence of the disease, blood and certain tissue has to be analyzed.
According to both the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources and the Alabama Department of Conservation, dealing with EHD is quite routine. Charles Ruth, Deer/Turkey Project supervisor for the South Carolina DNR says flair-ups in that state seem to run in cycles of 3-5 years and there’s a reasonable explanation.
“This is probably related to the fact that once deer are exposed to the disease they are more resistant to it. Therefore, if you have disease one year the deer become exposed or inoculated to the disease and you do not see much disease activity until there is turnover in the deer population. After several years you are dealing with another cohort of deer and their systems are ‘naïve’ to the disease. The last time there was significant hemorrhagic disease activity in South Carolina was in 2002, therefore, disease activity could be relatively high this year.”
This theory is confirmed by a spokesman for the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
“We have some cases every year,” said Keith Guyse, a whitetail specialist with the Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division in the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. “In the Coastal Plain, the virus is there frequently enough that deer have been exposed to it and have some resistance to it.
Both representatives indicate that EHD in their respective states is pretty much routine only because of the build up of a certain degree of immunity. Therefore, these southern states don’t see wide outbreaks of the disease that often. When EHD hits the more northern climes, EHD seems to grab harder. Ruth explains.
Deer likely die in South Carolina each year from hemorrhagic disease, however, there is no indication that a major outbreak has occurred in the state since the mid 1970s. The disease is part of life for deer in the Southeast and fortunately it appears that Southern deer have acquired some immunity to the disease, said Ruth. Northern deer, on the other hand, are not exposed to the disease as frequently since the insect vector is not as common in cooler climates. For this reason, significant outbreaks and mortality from hemorrhagic disease are more likely in northern deer populations.
Guyse from Alabama makes reference to the same theory.
“Typically in North Alabama and above the fall line, they’re not exposed to it as often. So over a period of time you have a population that doesn’t have much resistance. When you have (outbreaks) up there, it tends to be more noticeable.”
This helps us understand why some states may have more severe outbreaks, killing larger numbers of deer, than others but why this year are outbreaks so widespread across the landscape of the country? Some have related it to the summer heat and drought. That may be true, I don’t know. It would be logical to assume that being that the virus is carried and spread by tiny midges or gnats, a larger than normal population of that insect would be directly proportional to the spread of the disease. Of course science isn’t that simplistic and we know that there are probably many more factors to consider or it could be just merely a coincidence.
However, Guyse from Alabama eludes to the theory of increased numbers of midges, somewhat.
“Auburn (researchers) had traps out to catch the flies and they might catch a few every once in a while, and then all of a sudden they catch hundreds,” Guyse said. “Much of that still is a mystery.”
Obviously, they don’t have a good handle on it either.
Hunters and others should be aware of the symptoms they may find on deer suffering from the disease.
Symptoms of hemorrhagic disease include poor physical condition, sloughing hooves, abrasions or sores on the brisket and legs, and ulcerations on the mouth, tongue, and rumen (stomach).
As I said earlier, verification of the disease has to be done in the lab.
If you see sick or dead deer in your travels, please report it to the appropriate authorities. It is highly recommended that nobody eats any of the meat from deer sickened by EHD.
September 21, 2007
Youth Waterfowl Hunt September 22, 2007
Youth Squirrel Hunt September 29, 2007
West Virginia’s youth waterfowl hunt has been set for September 22, 2007, and the youth squirrel hunt is scheduled for September 29, 2007, according to Curtis I. Taylor, Chief of the Division of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Section.
“These special youth hunts provide an excellent opportunity to introduce youngsters to the hunting heritage of West Virginians,” said Taylor. “The mild days of early fall are a great time to be afield with young hunters and to pass onto them the traditions of safe hunting and wildlife conservation.”
Youth who are less than 16 years of age on September 22, 2007, may participate in the youth waterfowl hunt. Youth hunters age 14 and under are not required to have a hunting license. Those who have reached their 15th birthday must possess a valid state hunting license (A, XJ, XXJ or A-L) and HIP registration card, or be a qualified resident landowner. The youth must be accompanied by a licensed adult at least 21 years of age. Landowners over 15 years of age are not exempt from the requirement to carry a valid migratory bird hunting and conservation stamp, commonly called the duck stamp.
Youth squirrel hunters must be less than 15 years of age on the day of the hunt. Youth hunters do not need hunting licenses; however, they must be accompanied by a licensed adult 21 years of age or older. The supervising adult may not hunt or carry a firearm or bow and must remain near enough to the youth to render advice and assistance. The daily bag limit for the squirrel hunt is six, the same as during the regular season.
For additional information, hunters should check the 2007-2008 West Virginia Hunting and Trapping Regulations and the 2007-2008 Migratory Bird Hunting Regulations. These publications are available at all license agents, DNR offices and the DNR’s Web site at www.wvdnr.gov.