May 16, 2013
Squirrels and smallmouth bass make Missouri a great place to hunt and fish. Whether your taste in outdoor activities runs toward fishing or hunting, May 25 is a day to mark on your calendar. Missouri’s hunting season for gray and fox squirrels opens May 25...
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May 13, 2013
The Indiana Department of Natural Resources has mailed a survey to 15,540 Indiana hunters to help improve the management of Indiana’s small game and furbearer species. By completing this 20-question survey, hunters can give opinions on their hunting experiences of quail, grouse, pheasant, squirrel, rabbit,...
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May 7, 2013
Utah’s ambitious coyote management program seems to be getting results, as the state’s Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) reports over 6,000 coyotes turned in by hunters since the bounty was announced.
According to ksl.com, the state’s coyote bounty, which began last September and is officially called the Predator Control Program, is one of the largest of its kind in the country. The initiative was originally started to decrease the effects of coyote predation on young deer, and the occasional harassing behavior towards humans and pets. The DWR is using funds from the Mule Deer Protection Act to pay hunters $50 for every confirmed coyote harvest, with the total amount of the program limited to $750,000. There is no fee to join the program and the state only requires interested hunters to take an extra step by enrolling online. A harvested coyote’s scalp and lower jaw must then be brought into a DWR station for confirmation.
The program was immediately criticized by animal rights groups when it launched last September. Although some other states have similar incentive programs targeting coyotes, Utah especially drew flak from those opposed to coyote culls. Among the critics is Project Coyote’s Executive Director Camilla Fox, who called the program “ecologically reckless, economically unjustifiable and ethically reprehensible.”
Fox further states that coyote bounties have historically led to higher populations and that no research finds such bounties effective in controlling the species. The activist also pointed out that these programs are often plagued with fraud. A notable case occurred in Saskatchewan, Canada when coyotes from other provinces were brought in for the $20 bounty offered there.
The DWR, however, believes that the program will help keep the predators from stressing deer populations during rough weather. The combination of harsh weather, lack of food, and coyote presence can strain deer herds to their limit. Data is currently being collected on both coyote and mule deer populations.
John Shivik, DWR mammals coordinator, says that it is still much too soon to gauge the results of the program. Hunters and ranchers, the latter of which are often afflicted with a number of coyote-related problems, enthusiastically support the bounty. In Utah and many other parts of the country coyotes are moving further into urban centers, as well as occasionally causing a problem for turkey hunters.
Read and join the discussion on Utah Hunters Turn in 6,000 Coyotes for Bounty Program at OutdoorHub.com.
April 30, 2013
Turkey hunters are sometimes met with an unwelcome surprise when their calls lure in a stray coyote, or a bobcat like one hunter in Kentucky last week. Now, New Jersey is allowing hunters to harvest coyotes brought in this way with proposed hunting changes for 2013-2014. According to Mycentraljersey.com, a hearing on Tuesday discussed these changes as well as expanding otter trapping and the calibers allowed to hunt small game.
Coyotes brought in by turkey calls can be quite frequent, depending on region. Especially with increasing coyote populations, some hunters may find that a little extra caution is warranted. Last May a turkey hunter in Maine encountered a coyote which jumped on top of him, a technique used by the predator to catch birds. The coyote bit through four layers of clothing and into the hunter’s arm before sprinting away.
Although the bite was somewhat painful, the regimen of rabies vaccinations was noticeably worse. The Sun Journal reports that the hunter, Bill Robinson, received two weeks of precautionary injections to both his arms.
Coyotes also have a habit of attacking turkey decoys. Decoys are useful in distracting coyotes, but as always experts advise being aware of your surroundings and to eliminate blind spots if possible.
Read and join the discussion on New Jersey to Allow Hunters to Harvest Turkey-called Coyotes at OutdoorHub.com.
April 22, 2013
First-time turkey hunter Bud Griffith, 44, thought the wooded area near his Kentucky farm was prime turkey territory. Problem was, so did the local bobcat population. According to The Advocate-Messenger, Griffith’s opening day hunt was spoiled in part by a confused bobcat that mistook his face for a turkey.
“I was sitting there with my back against the trees and was making the turkey calls,” he said. Several decoys were set up a few dozen yards from where he sat with a gun in his lap. Griffith did not notice that a bobcat had been stealthily approaching him from behind, keen on a feathery meal. The hunter saw only a blur before he was hit with a swipe from the feline to his right eye, which was thankfully protected by glasses.
“It scared me so bad I thought it was a coyote,” Griffith said. Coyotes are proving to be a major problem across Kentucky and are an especially worrying threat for pets. Coyote hunting in Kentucky is also year-round and has no daily bag limit. As the creature leapt off him, Griffith took up his firearm and scored a perfect shot. It was only after that he realized it was a bobcat.
All in all, Griffith did not come away from the turkey opener empty-handed. After the hunter checked into a local clinic, the Lincoln County warden told Griffith he could keep the bobcat, which was also in the clinic being checked for disease.
Bobcats approach prey their size or larger by stalking from cover and then leaping out with its sharp claws extended. The species have been known to attack sheep, goats, and even deer. Bobcats can take down prey over nine times their body weight, so a turkey is not too much of a struggle. A human hunter however, proved to be too much.
“This is something that our grandkids will be talking about,” he said. “This never happens.”
Griffith plans on mounting the animal in his home. He hasn’t given up on turkey either and plans on going hunting again soon.
Read and join the discussion on Surprised Hunter’s Turkey Call Brings in Bobcat at OutdoorHub.com.
April 17, 2013
While famed bowhunter Tim Wells is perhaps best known for his big game exploits–such as dropping a grizzly bear with a precision shot between the eyes–he also doesn’t mind going back to his roots. Tim fondly recalls spending time with his grandfather and learning the basics of small game hunting. One of the first animals Tim cut his teeth on were rabbits. Fast, vigilant and quick to capitalize on an error, Tim still enjoys running them today.
Watch as Tim catches sight of a large jack rabbit and a surprise guest not far in the distance.
Read and join the discussion on Video: Tim Wells’ Two-for-one Small Game Bowhunt at OutdoorHub.com.
April 11, 2013
While refilling our bird feeders last week, I noticed a golf-ball sized hole in the mesh bag holding the suet, which is actually about 10 pounds of fat I carved from a deer’s rump in late November.
I’ve never known nuthatches, chickadees, or woodpeckers to punch holes in a suet bag. Why would they bother? It’s mesh. I studied the bag, but its tattered hole held no clues. All I saw were gouges, scratches and needle holes in the fat where beaks once probed.
The mystery ended the next morning as I watched the feeders from our kitchen window while washing breakfast bowls. Something moved atop the suet bag. A small squirrel with a copper-orange back was gnawing on the fat, its head poking through the hole in the mesh.
Wow. A red squirrel. Or as some folks call it, a pine squirrel. There’s no mistaking one. Besides its wee frame and copper backside, a red squirrel’s dark eyes are uniquely fringed by a thin circle of white fur.
But they’re uncommon around our home in central Wisconsin. In 20 years of feeding birds here, we’ve seen two red squirrels. In contrast, I’ve seen plenty of red squirrels the past 40-plus years when hunting the coniferous forests of the upper Great Lakes and Rocky Mountains.
Even so, I’d never before seen a red squirrel eating fat and meat scraps. And he wasn’t just swiping samples like freeloaders circling a grocer’s cheese plate. No, it was digging and clawing into the frozen fat, hopping to the branch above, licking its paws clean, and then diving back into its chew-hole for more.
I sought confirmation by calling Professor Scott Craven, the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s venerable answer-man for all things mammal. Craven assured me I wasn’t seeing things. He said all tree squirrels eat some meat, such as when stumbling across big insects, bird eggs, nestlings, or the babies of small mammals.
But red squirrels eat more meat than fox or gray squirrels. They’re also the most aggressive of the three, despite being the smallest, measuring 11 to 13 inches nose to tail-tip. If a gray or fox squirrel is on a bird feeder when a red squirrel arrives, the mighty mite runs them off.
Even so, don’t believe that wives’ tale about red squirrels castrating gray or fox squirrel males in territorial spats. The bigger squirrels can backhand little Napoleon if pushed too far.
Craven also confirmed it’s unusual to see red squirrels in my area, but not rare. After all, Wisconsin might be the southern edge of the red squirrel’s range, but they’re found from Alaska to Labrador, and from river bottoms to Rocky Mountain peaks.
In the Great Lakes region, they’re most abundant in the northern forests, especially those dominated by pine, spruce and fir. They also frequently inhabit the river corridors and long stretches of remote shorelines on the Great Lakes themselves.
Among the red squirrel’s charms is its bold, curious nature. They often crash our Idaho elk camp to filch peanuts a few feet from where we sit. And if we return to camp and can’t find a snap-on lid for a favorite cup, we follow the log where we last laid it. Experience teaches us that chewed lids wait wherever red squirrels lose interest and drop them.
They aren’t so patient or tolerant when we invade their workspace, however. They start chattering and stamping their feet the second they see us, never believing our intentions are good. And no matter how quiet and respectful our pleas for peace, they slur our wives and curse our names until we move on.
Sheesh. You’d understand their attitude if you had refused them handouts during snack breaks, or raided their middens of green cones cut from Douglas firs and lodgepole pines. But eventually you realize it’s nothing personal. Red squirrels heckle everyone.
Still, you wouldn’t be human if you didn’t occasionally give one the stink-eye and wonder: Could I hit that little jerk with my arrow? If so, how would he taste? Could I sell his pelt and tail?
I’ve eaten plenty of gray squirrels and fox squirrels, but never a red squirrel, though they probably hold as much meat as chicken wings. And their tails and hides aren’t worthless. In fact, Sheldon’s Inc. in Antigo, Wisconsin, makers of Mepps fishing lures, pays 8 cents each for red squirrel tail if hairs at the base measure an inch or more (tails from gray squirrels and fox squirrels fetch 16 to 20 cents each).
And believe it or not, some Northwoods and Canadian trappers collect their pelts, which fetch about $1.50 each but get as much as $2.75 some years at fur auctions. As one trapper-friend notes, they’re about the size of weasels–or ermine–so there’s precedence.
Their end use? Red squirrel pelts line the interiors of some leather jackets and London Fog raincoats. They can also be fashioned into cravats for gentlemen. In fact, red squirrels were hunted so commonly in ancient Finland that their pelts were used as currency before Finns discovered coins.
But for the most part, red squirrels face few threats from hunters and trappers; at least those with two legs. Owls, hawks, and kestrels prey on them, as do most four-legged predators, especially pine martens. As Craven says, what fishers are to porcupines, martens are to red squirrels.
States like Wisconsin have few martens, of course, but I’ve seen them hunting during deer hunts in northeastern Minnesota and elk in southeastern Idaho. But I certainly see no martens around Waupaca. We do see plenty of roaming cats, however. But judging by the red squirrel’s alert, energetic nature, I doubt they’re easy prey.
That is, unless their heads are shoved too deeply into suet bags.
Read and join the discussion on Red Squirrels: Profile of a Feisty Small Game Species at OutdoorHub.com.
March 18, 2013
Some states have been calling for a ban of coyote hunting contests, but legislators elsewhere are headed in the opposite direction. The coyote population in states such as West Virginia and Utah has grown so out of control, it is now threatening farm animals, pets and wild game alike. In an effort to stop coyote depredation, agriculture and wildlife agencies in some states have issued “bounties” for hunting the animals.
In West Virginia, Agriculture Commissioner Walt Helmick and his department is thinking up new ways to motivate local hunters. According to the Bluefield Daily Telegraph, the population of the state’s coyotes has grown far beyond what government agencies can handle.
“We spend a significant amount of money on predator control,” Helmick said. “About half-a-million dollars. The feds helped us out a few years ago but aren’t doing anything at all now. We’ve lost the federal support.”
Helmick and West Virginia Divions of Natural Resources is turning to hunters to help solve the problem, but not without an incentive. A number of coyotes have been trapped by conservation officers and released with an identifying number on their ears. The hunters who can bring in one of these animals can expect a monetary prize of anywhere from $100 to $1000. Without knowing which coyotes are tagged and which aren’t, Helmick is hoping participants will bring in multiple animals and help keep the population at a manageable level.
State officials are still hammering out the specifics of the incentive, and the commissioner says the project came about as a result of concerns for the state’s sheep industry.
“For the rebirth or growth of the sheep industry, it would be almost impossible with the amount of coyotes we now have on the loose,” he said.
Utah is on the same page, but with broader and simpler rules for its coyote hunt. According to ksl.com, the state will reward hunters $50 for every coyote taken, all a participant has to do is fill out an online form and provide proper documentation for the hunt. Funds for Utah’s Predator Control Program will be paid out of the Mule Deer Protection Act, which was passed in 2012. Coyote are known to prey on young deer and have been causing a decrease in the mule deer population.
These programs have garnered wide support from both hunters and ranchers, but are opposed by coyote protection groups such as Project Coyote. Protection groups believe that management hunts are devastating the species while not visibly benefiting other wildlife.
The increased attention has also caused coyotes to be more aware of the danger.
“The coyotes are a lot smarter this year,” said hunter Scott Foulger. “They’re getting a lot of pressure from trappers and hunters. They’re harder to hunt.”
Read and join the discussion on West Virginia and Utah to Introduce Coyote “Bounties” at OutdoorHub.com.
March 12, 2013
Scientists have traced the extinction of the Neanderthals, a subspecies closely related to our ancient ancestors, to a very small thing.
According to National Geographic, a study led by biologist John Fa finds that the downfall of the Neanderthals was caused in part by their inability to catch rabbits. While researching in the Iberian Peninsula, Fa’s team found that rabbit remains were cropped up around 30,000 years ago in human encampments, just when the Neanderthals were starting to die out. It is thought that as the climate became warmer, rabbits become increasingly abundant and cold weather animals, such as mammoths, were on their way out.
What made us, Homo sapiens, better rabbit hunters? Well to begin with, our early human ancestors were better tool makers and able to make more efficient traps. Their weapons were also geared towards smaller, more agile prey. Throwing spears and primitive bows were common.
Neanderthal tools and tactics were designed to hunt larger animals and not well suited to catching the smaller and trickier rabbits. Neanderthals also had more muscle mass and required more energy from their food. Where one mammoth can provide enough meat for a number of families, a much larger amount of rabbits would be needed to feed the same number of individuals. The energy expended on these hunts or snares was often not worth the investment for the Neanderthals.
Early humans also had help in the form of an old friend: the domesticated dog. Researchers believe that 30,000 years ago was when the dog first became domesticated by man, and would have aided in catching small game.
Fa’s theory is contested by other researchers in the scientific community, who criticize the research for its speculative nature. The published study can be viewed or bought here.
Read and join the discussion on Neanderthal Extinction Linked to Inability to Hunt Small Game at OutdoorHub.com.
March 5, 2013
Extreme explorer Andrew Ucles is rising in popularity for his bare-handed, shirtless approach to the dangers of the Australian bush. Late last year a video surfaced of the 24-year-old taking down a deer with nothing but his hands and a succinct knowledge of the grappling arts. Now Ucles is seeking to one-up that feat.
Stalking, running down, and forcing a deer into submission via headlock is every bit as difficult as it sounds. To upstage that, Ucles has to up the ante. The Australian native seeks out and catches four snakes (three red belly blacks and one Australian tiger), to help him hunt rabbits. Yes, Ucles is conscripting the fourth most venomous snake in the world and its slightly less lethal cousins to flush out some small game. To put this in perspective, tiger snake venom has a 40% to 60% untreated mortality rate. Ucles’ gear includes one pair of track shorts, some running shoes, and his hands.
Definitely not recommended for anyone who’s not Bear Grylls.
Read and join the discussion on Video: Australian Man Catches Rabbits with Highly Venomous Snakes at OutdoorHub.com.