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  • July 31, 2007

    Bruins: Built to Sniff-0


    Those of us who spend much time in the field with hunting dogs often find ourselves in awe of the canine olfactory prowess. But even the best tracking dog’s nose doesn’t come close to the sniffing ability of grizzly bears, says a former pioneering neurosurgeon who today specializes in bruin physiology.

    Dr. George Stevenson, a retired neurosurgeon who now hails from Jackson Hole, Wyo. has been studying the brains of grizzly bears for the past several years, publishing papers and presenting seminars on the bruin’s incredible sense of smell.Griz

    When it comes to sniffing things, bears are simply the best, Dr. Stevenson says.

    “These bears are amazing creatures,” Stevenson told the Missoulian newspaper. “I believe they have the most impressive olfactory system of any animal on the planet. Their nose is the very best.”

    Just how good is a bear’s sense of smell?

    Considering that the average dog’s nose is 100 times more sensitive than a human’s, and the very best dog may have a sense of smell 300 times greater than man—a grizzly’s sniffer is at least 7 times more powerful than the best hound, according to Stevenson.

    “It’s how they know the world,” he says.

    In studying bear brains he has obtained from state wildlife agencies in recent years, Stevenson has found that the portion of a bear’s brain devoted to scent is at least five times greater than the percentage of the human brain allocated to olfactory systems.

    Taking into account that a human brain weighs about 1,500 grams, compared to a 450-gram bear brain, the olfactory portion of the bruin’s brain is significant, says Stevenson.

    “A polar bear will walk 100 miles in a straight line to reach a female ready to breed,” he said. “That’s what the bear’s nose can do. They smell a million times better than we do.”

    Not only does that last tidbit attest to an incredible sense of smell, but I’d say it also speaks volumes about the male polar bear’s sexual drive, wouldn’t you?

    Fascinating stuff, indeed.

    [ Read Full Post ]
  • July 30, 2007

    Wolves, Wilderness and Wildfire No Match For Pooch-1


    Regular readers know how much we appreciate a good dog story here at the Outdoor News Hound. Here’s one about an outfitter’s dog that traversed nearly 100 miles of some of North America’s toughest terrain—while forest fires burned around him—to return home safely last week. Bandit

    Bandit, a 4-year old Australian shepherd/border collie mix, was unintentionally left behind by his owners, Tucker and Amy Mills, after they loaded their 26 head of stock, numerous tourists, assorted tack and gear following an abbreviated pack trip into Montana’s Bob Marshall Wilderness on Friday. The Millses opted to cut the multi-day wilderness trip short after they received word that a wildfire had blown up behind them, cutting off the regular return route to their Augusta ranch.

    In the mayhem of horses, trailers and trucks, Bandit went missing.

    “He must have gotten confused with all the vehicles,” Amy Mills later told the Helena Independent newspaper. “Or maybe he went to take a nap in the shade and just missed the ride.”

    The Millses contacted the nearest ranger station and told them about Bandit, but they realistically doubted they’d see him again.

    Then, on Saturday they received word that the dog was spotted dashing at full speed past the White River Ranger Station, more than 30 miles from where he was last seen.

    Despite the encouraging news, some sixty miles of wilderness, burning timber and grizzly bear habitat lay been the station and the Mills’ home.

    “I was worried about Bandit coming through the fire,” Ms. Mills admitted.

    Miraculously, first thing Sunday morning, when she opened the front door—in charged Bandit. Mills said the pooch was “a little stoved-up,” but otherwise, no worse for the wear--especially considering he’d covered an estimated 96 miles of rugged mountain country in less than 48 hours.

    “I couldn’t believe it,” she said. “I gave him some aspirin and he was fine.”

    We’d say it’s a good guess that old Bandit will never, ever miss loading up for the ride home, ever again.

    [ Read Full Post ]
  • July 30, 2007

    JR's Random Outdoor Quote-3


    “There is much confusion in the world today concerning creeks and cricks. Many otherwise well-informed people live out their lives under the impression that a crick is a creek mispronounced. Nothing could be farther from the truth. A crick is a distinctly separate entity from a creek, and it should be recognized as such. After all, a creek is merely a creek, but a crick is a crick.”
    -Patrick McManus
    “How to Fish a Crick”
    A Fine and Pleasant Misery, 1978

    [ Read Full Post ]
  • July 26, 2007

    Genetic Impossibility: Outfitter’s Mule Delivers-2


    Those of you who spend much time around guides and outfitters know that from time to time, a small fib or a slightly embellished hunting story may pass through their lips. That’s why if I’d heard from my old buddy Larry Amos—a Colorado outfitter for a quarter century—that one of his pack mules had given birth, I would have just chalked it up as another of his whopper tales.

    That’s before I saw the story in today’s Denver Post.Amosmule_3

    Sure enough, a mule belonging to Amos, who operates Winterhawk Outfitters near Colbran, Colo., achieved a genetic impossibility and baffled scientists three months ago when it gave birth to a foal. Subsequent genetic testing has confirmed that Kate the pack mule is indeed the mother of the yet-unnamed youngster.

    Here’s today’s News Hound science lesson: As a hybrid of two species--a female horse and a male donkey—mules have an odd number of chromosomes, rendering them sterile. A horse has 64 chromosomes and a donkey has 62. A mule inherits 63. An even number of chromosomes is needed to divide into pairs for reproduction to take place.

    When he discovered the newly born foal in a corral this April, Amos (like many outfitters, a hard-core mule guy) knew he was witnessing something that science considered virtually impossible.

    The Post story said that upon researching the occurrence, Amos and his wife, Laura found about 50 documented cases of mules giving birth in the last two centuries—and only two have been scientifically proven using DNA testing.

    And those, friends, are some pretty incredible odds.

    It’s an event so rare that the Romans had a saying, cum mula peperit, which translated means “when a mule foals.”

    Its modern equivalent is “when hell freezes over.”

    Or, “when you can believe everything a hunting outfitter tells you.”

    I’m just kidding about the last one, Larry. Really.

    [ Read Full Post ]
  • July 25, 2007

    Black Powder Shoplifters Smoked-7


    From the Outdoor News Hound “You Can’t Make This Stuff Up” department comes a story out of Bayou Black, Louisiana, where a pair of 19-year-olds learned the hard way that when you’re messing around with a canister of black powder you just shoplifted from the local Wal-Mart, it might be best to stifle your personal smoking habits for the time being.Goex_2

    Authorities with the Terrebonne Parish Sheriff’s Office say that Alex Horn and Johnathan Porche were found in possession of stolen black powder one evening last week. Oddly, they were lacking muzzleloaders, flintlock rifles or other common black powder devices.

    And what prompted the cops to go to the Horn residence that night, where the two shoplifters were discovered, allegedly in the act of fabricating a pipe bomb?

    Well, there was this explosion, you see.

    Things evidently really went south when the two sticky-fingered teens were in the home’s kitchen, and Porche nonchalantly flicked the ashes from his burning cigarette in close proximity to the opened black powder container.

    Can you say, KABOOOOM!!?

    Deputies said some damage was done to the home’s kitchen and dining room. The two, who admitted to filching the black powder, were treated for minor injuries and booked into jail on charges of shoplifting and possessing or making a bomb.

    [ Read Full Post ]
  • July 24, 2007

    Great White Leaves Mark on Kayak-3


    A great white shark dumped a fisherman from his one-man kayak into the ocean for a brief time last weekend as he fished with a group of kayak-angling enthusiasts off California’s San Mateo Coast. The angler fortunately was unhurt in the incident, but his craft now bears the signature marks of one of the ocean’s most-feared predators.Dansyak_2

    The San Francisco Chronicle reports today that 18 kayakers—all members of the NorCal Kayak Anglers group--launched off Bean Hollow State Beach around 7 a.m. Saturday and split into two groups. The victim--identified on the organization’s Web site only as Dan—reportedly paddled about a mile offshore, where he fished for rockfish with other NCKA members.

    “Everyone had been fishing for a while--for a good two, three hours,” NCKA member John Dale told the Chronicle. “From what he told me, basically he was fishing and was adjusting a lure, and all of a sudden he was thrown from his kayak into the water. When he came up, he thought he had been hit by a boat, but when he looked the shark was still on the front of his kayak, latched on, gnawing on the kayak. He thought about it for a second and decided he better get back onto the kayak, even though it was still on the nose.”

    According to eyewitness accounts of the incident appearing on the NCKA Web site, Dan kept his wits about him, remained calm and climbed back into his craft. He paddled back to shore—quickly—while accompanied by fellow boaters.

    On his way in, the victim reportedly tumbled from his kayak a couple of times, the result of a seat that was loosened during the attack. In addition, puncture holes in the craft’s bottom caused some leaking.

    Steven Lam, a club member who witnessed Dan climbing back into his craft after the attack, wrote on the Web site that he was impressed with the angler’s self-rescuing skills and calm demeanor.

    “It goes without saying that Dan did an excellent job in self rescuing and for staying focused and composed throughout the ordeal. Obviously, I also called it the day right then and there and followed Dan back in...”

    After the experience, Lam concluded that he may hone-up on his own emergency skills before heading back out onto big water.

    “Maybe it’s time for me to try the lake and learn some self-rescuing before heading out (to) the big blue again,” he wrote.

    Personally, I like to have a little more boat between the water and myself—especially in shark country. What about you Newshounders out there?

    [ Read Full Post ]
  • July 23, 2007

    Angler Confesses To Tall Tail Tale-0


    What do you do when you catch fish that exceed the slot limit for keeper fish? Toss ‘em back, right? Well, a Minnesota angler got caught attempting some boatside cosmetic surgery recently after a sharp-eyed conservation officer noticed that a walleye the angler was holding had an unusually short, straight tail.

    According to the monthly Conservation Officer Tales press material from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, CO Mike Lee and his partner were making routine creel checks when they observed an angler who appeared to be in a hurry to release a fish as the pair approached his boat. In addition, officer Lee noticed the walleye sported a peculiar-looking tail.Walleye1

    Since the fish looked near death as it floated on the lake’s surface, the officers easily landed it with a net. That’s when they confirmed that indeed, the walleye’s tail had experienced a close encounter with a fillet knife.

    Following questioning, the unnamed angler (lucky for him) finally fessed up to trying some creative cutlery work in order to keep the fish. On certain waters in Minnesota this year, only walleyes falling within a 14- to 16-inch slot limit may be kept.

    “I saw you checking the other boats and panicked because the walleye was too big to keep. So I did the only thing I could think of--make the fish smaller,” the angler admitted. “But when you came up to the boat I thought I better just get rid of the fish.”

    The officers advised the offending fisherman that despite his attempt, the fish still exceeded the slot limit, and measured nearly 20 inches.

    [ Read Full Post ]
  • July 23, 2007

    JR's Random Outdoor Quote-0


    “My feet were on the wet earth on both sides of the fence when the electricity hit me. I ground my teeth down to the gums, my hair stood on end, my eyes crossed, and I thought, ’I’m ruined!’”
    -Ted Trueblood
    “Beware the One-Wire Fence”
    Field and Stream, March 1969

    [ Read Full Post ]
  • July 19, 2007

    Bad Dog: $700 Found in Lab’s Doo-2


    Let’s face it, some dogs just find ways to get into trouble. Take Pepper, a Lab/German shorthair mix from Wisconsin that ate $800 in cash out of an unattended purse the other day.

    Fortunately—for Pepper’s sake—nearly $700 was recovered and pieced back together, albeit a bit smelly and slimy after its natural progression through a doggy digestive tract.Pepper_2

    Debbie Hulleman left the eight-year-old dog with her grandmother while she went on vacation, specifically warning grandma about the pup’s propensity to gobble things up.

    “She’s eaten lipstick, so lipstick gets all over the carpet, ball point pens all over the carpet, toothpaste, shampoo,” Hulleman told Gannett News Service. “She’ll eat a whole box of Kleenex if she can get it.”

    Well, an unfortunate visitor to granny’s house learned about Pepper’s proclivity the hard way, after she left her purse—full of cash—on the ground within the dog’s reach.

    Some currency pieces were found strewn around the house, but they had to wait to search the backyard until the munched money passed from Pepper’s fore to Pepper’s aft, so to speak.

    “(I) came to a pile that had a fifty dollar bill hanging out, part of a fifty, and I said ‘gosh, look at that!’” Hulleman said. “There were lots of piles with money hanging out there, so I had to save it, rinse it, strain it.”

    The poop patrol and rectal recovery went exceptionally well, all things considered.

    Only one-half of a $100 bill remains missing.

    And Pepper? Well she’s not talking.

    [ Read Full Post ]
  • July 18, 2007

    Clandestine Pot Plantations: A Growing Threat-5


    Believe it or not, early fall deer hunting seasons are just weeks away in many regions of the country. It’s probably a good time to remind public land hunters of the growing threat to their safety posed by the illegal and clandestine marijuana-growing operations manned by some pretty ruthless characters in the remote places where we often pursue big game.Pot

    Last week, during a multi-agency pot-eradication effort in California’s Shasta-Trinity National Forest, the head of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) said that illegal cultivation on public land is at historically high levels. Drug czar John P. Walters said the operations are run by Mexican drug cartels and guarded by heavily armed members of U.S.-based street gangs and illegal Mexican nationals.

    “Our national treasures are now ground zero for international and domestic drug cultivation and trafficking,” Walters said, as reported by the Washington Times.

    It’s an unfortunate sign of the times, but hunters and other folks heading to the backcountry need to take extra precautions.

    Simply put, there are some real bad guys in the woods these days.

    Last year, a California deer hunter was fired upon when he stumbled on a marijuana garden in a remote part of the Mendocino National Forest. The unnamed hunter told authorities that four male subjects pointed rifles in his direction and began shooting.

    In 2006, law enforcement officials eradicated 340,000 illegally grown marijuana plants from the Mendocino National Forest--compared to 124,792 in 2005.

    During last week’s California operation, ONDCP spokesman Stephen E. Schatz said violent Mexican drug cartels construct, operate and manage 80 to 90 percent of all U.S.-based marijuana plantations—most of which are in Arizona, California, Hawaii, Kentucky, Oregon, Tennessee, Washington and West Virginia.

    Schatz said those who tend and guard the gardens do so with high-tech equipment and state-of-the-art weapons.

    In 2006, authorities in California seized 2.8 million outdoor marijuana plants, including 1.7 million from federal and state land.

    The pot-growing operations also pose a threat to the ecosystem, as trees are often cut, watering operations are installed and garbage and trash are left behind.

    The Times story noted that a National Parks Service study concluded that for every acre of forest planted with marijuana, a total of 10 acres are damaged. NPS estimates it costs $11,000 per acre to repair and restore national forest land once it is contaminated with toxic chemicals and fertilizers, human waste, and irrigation tubing and pipes associated with marijuana cultivation.

    Have any of you Newshounders ever stumbled upon a pot-growing or drug-making operation while hunting? If so, feel free to share your tale with us.

    [ Read Full Post ]
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