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  • March 31, 2008

    Venison Hubbub a Slippery Slope-0

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    In action that could severely limit the programs in which hunters provide venison for charity and public food pantries, three states halted the distribution of hunter-donated deer meat last week after a report alleged that high percentages were contaminated with lead.

    Last Wednesday, North Dakota health officials issued a directive to all food pantries in the state to destroy between 4,000 and 5,000 pounds of donated venison, saying it may contain lead fragments from bullets. By the end of the week, officials in Minnesota and Iowa followed with similar directives, ordering that venison in those states not be distributed to needy families until testing can be performed.

    Venison

    The move followed a public announcement last week from Dr. William Cornatzer, a Bismarck, N. Dakota professor, who says he discovered minute residuals of lead in 60 percent of the venison he tested that was destined for state food panties.

    Hunting organizations were quick to come forward, calling the reaction exaggerated and wasteful.

    The National Shooting Sports Foundation, the trade association representing the shooting and hunting industry, issued a statement calling the move “an overreaction.”

    Venison_steak

    “It’s alarmist and not supported by any science,” Lawrence Keane, NSSF vice president, told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. “High quality protein is now taken out of the mouths of needy, hungry people.”

    Doug Burdin, representing Safari Club International’s Sportsmen Against Hunger Program, agreed.

    “This is disheartening, and we certainly don’t think this program should come to an end on the unscientific assessment that has occurred here,” Burdin said.

    Other critics of the states’ action say that Dr. Cornatzer’s data is suspect and suggest he may be attempting to further a personal anti-lead bullet agenda.

    According to the Star-Tribune report, the dermatologist serves as a professor at the University of North Dakota medical school and is active in the Peregrine Fund, a group involved with conservation of birds including falcons and California condors.

    The Peregrine Fund contends that fragmented lead from bullets found in the carcasses of animals killed by hunters is responsible for poisoning endangered condors. It was one of several groups supportive of California’s legislative ban of lead ammunition by hunters in the condor’s range. The ban, which will take effect in July, was opposed by the National Rifle Association and other shooting and hunting organizations.

    Much like the current N. Dakota venison case, opponents to the California legislation argued that the ban was based on faulty evidence and junk science.

    “There is absolutely no peer-reviewed scientific evidence to support the unfortunate and unnecessary overreaction by North Dakota and Minnesota health officials, based on an unpublished study by a local dermatologist, to have food pantries discard perfectly good meat because it was taken with traditional ammunition,” said the NSSF in its statement last week.

    Stay tuned. This one is far from finished.

    Read Andrew McKean's take over at OL's Gun Shots blog.

    [ Read Full Post ]
  • March 27, 2008

    Bassie, Come Home!-1

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    Scientists in Massachusetts are studying whether they can train black sea bass to respond to an underwater sound that makes them return to a specific area where they can effectively, uh, catch themselves.

    No, we’re not making this up.

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    Working with the benefit of a $270,000 grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, researchers at the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole say they are successfully training small sea bass to react to tones and swim to an enclosed “feeding zone” within a tank they can enter only through a small opening.

    The idea behind the wild-sounding project is to determine if it’s feasible to release programmed black sea bass into the open ocean, where they would grow to market size, then swim into an underwater cage to be harvested when they hear the signal.

    The Associated Press reports that scientists in Japan have used underwater tones to keep newly released farmed fish in certain areas, where they could be caught in traditional ways. But no one has ever attempted to release fish for long periods and have them return to an enclosure.

    “It sounds crazy, but it’s real,” research assistant Simon Miner told the AP. He said that after playing the tone for 20 seconds, three times a day for two weeks, "you have remote-control fish."

    OK, there are free-ranging cattle out West, right? Why not free-ranging fish?

    Randy MacMillan, president of the National Aquaculture Association, said fish farmers would need to be convinced that open-water fish ranching is viable.

    “The commercial side is going to be skeptical,” the Idaho trout farm operator opined.

    But here at the Outdoor Newshound, we can’t help but think how the theory could be applied to freshwater sportfishing. It’s enough to boggle the mind of any avowed bassman.

    Largemouth bass that respond to calls?

    Wow, it’d be better than spring turkey hunting!

    [ Read Full Post ]
  • March 25, 2008

    Some Poachers Never Learn-1

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    We’ve observed on several occasions here at the Outdoor Newshound that those ne’er-do-wells who knowingly violate fishing and hunting regulations are not doing so while on sabbatical from their day jobs as rocket scientists.

    In other words, their driveway doesn’t run all the way to the house.

    Take for example, the case of two New York perch poachers who were fingered by authorities for catching hundreds of fish above their limit—not once, but twice. And only weeks apart, at that.

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    Last week, Lake George ice anglers John L. Fisher, 30, and Patrick Collins, 43, were cited by officers from the New York Department of Environmental Conservation for exceeding the daily limit by 333 fish.

    The daily individual limit for the tasty species is a liberal 50 each. But that’s evidently not enough to sustain these two self-indulgent fish hogs.

    Presumably, the yellow perch on February 16 were not quite as hungry as March 14, when the same two poachers were cited with a mere 294 fish over the limit, an oversight they were assessed $250 apiece for making.

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    This time, the two are also facing charges of illegal commercialization of wildlife. Joseph Schneider, a captain with the DEC, told the Glen Falls Post-Star that the possession of more than double the limit of perch is “presumptive evidence” they planned to sell the fish.

    If found guilty of that charge, each could be fined $500 over and above fines for exceeding the creel limit.

    The editorial writer at the Schenectady Daily Gazette is hoping the judge hearing the pair’s upcoming case will make an example out of the persistent perch poachers.

    “We hope some serious fines get assessed here, because the overage was pretty egregious and because a stiff fine is probably necessary to put these guys out of business and send a message to other perch poachers,” stated today’s editorial.

    We couldn’t agree more.

    [ Read Full Post ]
  • March 24, 2008

    Colorado Legislation Targets ATV Scofflaws-1

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    As an increasing number of public land-use agencies struggle to find ways to manage growing off-road vehicle use, it will be interesting to see if innovative new legislation signed by Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter last week will help keep motorized vehicles and their operators on designated trails and roadways.

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    In a bill-signing ceremony held Thursday, Gov. Ritter praised the hard work of many outdoor-related organizations--including hunters, anglers and other ATV-user groups—to find common ground toward passage of the measure.

    “This is an issue that has been percolating for a couple of years and it took that long for everybody to come together to meet consensus about how best to move forward,” Evan Dreyer, Ritter’s spokesman, told the Montrose Daily Press.

    House Bill 1069 sets new precedent in public land management, one which will likely be watched by lawmakers and land managers in other states looking for ways to deal with all-terrain vehicle riders who fail to respect off-road regulations and use only designated trails on federal property.

    In addition to setting new monetary penalties for those using motorized vehicles in off-limits areas on public lands, the new law authorizes state game and fish officers, state police and county law officers to issue citations. It marks the first time non-federal law enforcement officers will be allowed to cite someone for ATV-operating violations on National Forest or Bureau of Land Management lands.

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    “Because this is relatively new practice, we know that the eyes of the nation will be on Colorado to see how this unfolds,” Dreyer said.

    Besides implementing fines of $100 and $200, the new law will also add suspension points to Colorado hunting and fishing licenses if the violator is hunting or fishing at the time of the infraction—another unique aspect of the measure.

    The law becomes effective July 1, 2008.

    House Bill 1069:

    - Prohibits motor vehicle use on public areas unless the land is marked accessible by the controlling land management agency.

    - Makes violation of the law a misdemeanor and establishes a fine of $100, and a penalty of 10 hunting license suspension points to violators who were also hunting, fishing or trapping.

    - If violation occurs in federal wilderness areas, a penalty of 15 hunting license suspension points (where applicable) and a fine of $200 for violations will be assessed.

    - Makes unauthorized removal, defacing or destruction of road signs a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of $100 and 5 hunting license points, when applicable.

    [ Read Full Post ]
  • March 24, 2008

    JR's Random Outdoor Quote-1

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    “Ralf, who often was found waterfowling with a couple of us, once said that he liked to shoot geese and duck because it gave him a chance to drink whiskey for his health. One of the aforementioned ‘us’ said that there is nothing wrong with Ralf’s health and Ralf, taking an ounce of Old Forester in his coffee, said that there is nothing wrong with his ability to drink bourbon either, but ‘a man ought to have a reason.’ Crosby asked what Ralf’s reason was and Ralf said, topping off his Thermos cup again, ‘this was how he knew he was healthy.’

    Actually Ralf was drinking because last year he broke his leg and the cold weather makes it stiff. I asked him if bourbon helped loosen it up and Ralf said that, ‘No, it didn’t, but if both legs were stiff it put him back in balance.’”

    -Gene Hill
    “To Your Health”
    Guns and Ammo, 1968

    [ Read Full Post ]
  • March 19, 2008

    Kansas Hunting Goes Modern, Prehistoric-1

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    In what can only be described as one incredibly ironic juxtaposition of hunting regulations to be reviewed and approved at single venue, the Kansas Wildlife and Parks Commission OK'd modern high-powered optics for guns considered to be primitive, as well as arrowheads chipped from rock, like those utilized by prehistoric cave-dwellers.

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    I certainly can’t be the only one who noticed the bizarre paradox in last week’s action by the Kansas commission that allows deer hunters to use scopes on muzzleloaders and hand-made, knapped stone arrowheads for bowhunting.

    Following a 20-minute discussion Thursday during its regular meeting, a divided commission voted 4-3 to allow scopes of any magnification during the state’s early muzzleloader season.

    Those against the measure argued that the advanced technology offered by scopes is not suitable for a firearm in what is supposed to be a primitive and more challenging hunt. On the other side, supporters countered that accurate shooting is a goal of all hunters and some aging hunters need optics to insure their accuracy.

    Carbon2

    But without dissention, commissioners approved the measure to allow bowhunters to hunt deer with arrowheads fashioned from knapped (chipped) stone.

    With the action, Kansas becomes the second state to take hunting back to a time when hunters didn’t need cover scents, because they smelled exactly like their quarry.

    The Illinois DNR approved the use of obsidian arrowheads for deer hunting a few years ago.

    So if you’re looking for a more challenging method of taking your deer this fall, head to Kansas and remember the theme of those Geico insurance commercials.

    “A caveman could do it!”

    [ Read Full Post ]
  • March 19, 2008

    JR's Random Outdoor Quote-0

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    “Laws that forbid the carrying of arms…disarm only those who are neither inclined or determined to commit crimes. Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man.”

    -Thomas Jefferson
    Commonplace Diary, 1774

    [ Read Full Post ]
  • March 17, 2008

    Biologist Catches Trout He Stocked in 1983-0

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    For St. Patrick’s Day, here’s a story about an angler who definitely experienced a wee bit ‘o Irish luck—even though we have know idea of his ancestry.

    While ice fishing at Wyoming’s Flaming Gorge Reservoir, Bill Wengert, a 35-year veteran biologist with the state’s Game and Fish Department, reeled in a tagged lake trout that he helped stock at the impoundment in April 1983.

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    “What is really amazing about this whole event is that I may have actually clipped the fins on this very fish and I know I was driving the barge when the fish were stocked, nearly 25 years ago,” Wengert told the Casper (Wyo.) Tribune.

    Wengert, who has spent decades observing the finer details of fish, said he immediately noticed the trout’s clipped right pelvic fin, which indicated it was hatchery broodstock. When he further examined historical stocking data, he found that the fish was released on April 14, 1983—along with 11,655 other lake trout that day at Buckboard Bay.

    Even though the catch was historic and exciting for the biologist, the fish and its size proved somewhat disappointing.

    The less-than-robust Mackinaw trout weighed 2.5 pounds and measured 23 inches. Another trout released at the same time and caught in 2004 weighed 17.1 pounds and measured 34 inches.

    “Some fish are programmed, if you will, to be large and others small,” he said. “That applies to fish from wild populations to those reared in a fish hatchery. There was plenty of food for this one lake trout to eat when it was stocked 25 years ago and it only grew to be 2 1/2 pounds.”

    Wengert said the trout was probably 26 years old because it spent a year in a hatchery before being released.

    He said he hoped his catch would give fishery folks “an opportunity to learn more about fish genetics, age and growth of lake trout in the reservoir.”

    Of course, that’s exactly what you’d expect a biologist to say. You don’t think he’d say anything about corn meal batter and a hot frying pan, now did you?

    [ Read Full Post ]
  • March 14, 2008

    J.R.’s Assorted Outdoor Oddities of the Week-0

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    Here’s a quick look at some of the offbeat tales the Outdoor Newshound as been tracking this week.

    In Knoxville, Tenn., the winningest coach in NCAA women’s basketball history is recovering from a dislocated shoulder after she had a late-night run-in with a rascally raccoon.

    Raccoon_001028_upright

    Tennessee Lady Volunteers head basketball coach Pat Summitt said she went to her home’s backyard deck one night last week to see why her yellow Lab was barking. There she found a fat raccoon raised on its hind legs, ready to do battle with her dog, Sally.

    Summitt said she used her forearm to smack the big ‘coon off the deck, with such force that she injured herself.

    “I was in dire pain,” she said. “I looked down, and there was an indent. I knew (my shoulder) was out.”

    Also in Tennessee this week, authorities in Church Hill are continuing to investigate who was responsible for placing an odorous substance in an air-conditioning unit that sickened a roomful of students at Volunteer High School.

    Police Chief Mark Johnson said he ‘s pretty certain what caused the big stink, which makes him believe a dastardly deer hunter was behind the prank.

    What was the smelly liquid? Deer urine.

    And in West Virginia this week, Randy Earl was fishing from his boat at Mason Lake when he tipped the craft over and found himself bobbing in the chilly, 50-degree water.
    Spaniel
    The first thing he did was lift his fishing companion, a black spaniel named Lacy, to safety on the bottom of the capsized boat while he waited for help to arrive.

    When W. Virginia State Trooper J.D. McCoy paddled a kayak to where the two were adrift, an angler on shore witnessed the rescue.

    “He asked the state trooper to take the dog first,” Jan Thorn told The Dominion Post of Morgantown. “It was very touching.”

    [ Read Full Post ]
  • March 12, 2008

    Hunter Ed Headed to WV Schools-2

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    Historic legislation is headed to the governor’s desk that will make West Virginia the first state in the U.S. to offer a hunting and firearms safety education course as public school curriculum for students in grades 6 through 12.

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    Supporters of the bill said they hoped the measure would help stem the decline in the growth of hunting in The Mountain State by making the classes more accessible to potential hunters. In the past decade, West Virginia has seen a marked drop in the number of deer-hunting licenses, and, like many similar states, is looking for ways to reverse the loss of license revenue.

    In addition, you may remember a report we blogged here last October, in which data from the State Farm Insurance Co. cited West Virginia as having the most deer/vehicular accidents per capita of any state in the country. In a state where a motorist’s chances of engaging a whitetail with a car bumper are one in 57, you can bet that folks would prefer to see the deer population reduced by hunters.

    While the legislation passed last week stopped short of mandating the course in every state school, the legislation provides funding for classes in all schools where at least 20 students express interest. In addition, it was stressed that actual firearms will not be used in the instruction.

    Lawmakers and game agencies in other states that are looking for methods to remove barriers for young people to participate in hunting and the outdoors are already studying West Virginia’s example.

    Though he has not openly committed to signing the bill into law, Gov. Joe Manchin voiced his support for the provision that made the classes voluntary and up to individual principals and school boards.

    Billy Wayne Bailey (D-Wyoming County), the bill’s original author, said he believes the state has a responsibility to protect cultural traditions like hunting.

    “It’s hard to find too many 55-year-olds that are still playing basketball or football, but a lot of people well into their 80s enjoy hunting,” Baily said. “For us, this is a pastime we want to preserve.”

    [ Read Full Post ]
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