May 9, 2008
When it comes to the alleged impact of man-caused global warming and the scientific proof of either its existence or non-existence, I’ve remained fairly ambivalent on the subject as the debate continues on Capitol Hill and in the media.
However, a new study by a University of Alaska-Fairbanks researcher may or may not have anything to do with rising temperatures in The Last Frontier.
What piqued my interest was the study subject—the yellow-jacket wasp—and the species’ apparent expansion into parts of Alaska in increasing numbers.
I’ll wager I’m not alone among sportsmen when I admit to hating yellow jackets more than any other winged, hoofed, pawed or slithering critter found in mountains, fields or swampland. I’ve had close encounters with nefarious snakes, coyotes, bobcats, boars, javelinas, skunks—even mountain lions—but if I had the power to magically remove a living creature from the planet, my first choice would be the carnivorous, violently aggressive wasp with the black and yellow posterior.
While researching a tenfold spike in the number of yellow jackets in the Fairbanks area during 2006, Derek Sikes, entomologist and curator of insects at the University of Alaska Museum, became convinced that the notorious stinging wasps are indeed spreading northward. The emergency room at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital that summer treated 178 patients with insect stings, about four times more than normal. In addition, two men died from wasp encounters.
Since it’s darn-near impossible to actually count the number of yellow jackets in a region (they’re hard to trap and putting on those tiny radio tracking collars is a pain!), Sikes and his associate, Dr. Jeffrey Demain, the director of the Allergy, Asthma & Immunology Center of Alaska, decided to investigate the state’s medical records.
Reviewing a database of Alaska’s Medicaid patients, Demain found a seven-fold increase in insect stings in northern Alaska within the past decade—from an average of 16 people (per 100,000) per year between 1999 and 2001, to 119 people a year from 2004 to 2006.
The study results appear in this month’s Alaska Epidemiology Bulletin.
The Fairbanks News-Miner reports that all other regions of the state--with the exception of Southeast Alaska—also saw in increase in stings requiring medical treatment. In the Interior, which includes Fairbanks, insect stings increased from 260 a year per 100,000 patients in 1999 to an average of 437 a year between 2000 and 2006.
Any hunter who’s battled these bloodthirsty beasts while attempting to quarter an elk in the mountains of Colorado in the early fall knows how excruciatingly painful its sting can be.
Besides that, about 4 percent of the population is especially susceptible to yellow jacket venom.
“These (venomous) chemicals not only can cause hives and itching, but they can cause airways to close; the larynx can close. You can have an asthma-like attack,” said Demain.
The study also addresses—though without conclusion—that wasp populations in Alaska are possibly increasing due to warming, considering that average temperatures in northern Alaska have risen about 4 degrees Fahrenheit since 1950, Demain said. [ Read Full Post ]
“In a civilized and cultivated country, wild animals only continue to exist at all when preserved by sportsmen. The excellent people who protect against all hunting, and consider sportsmen as enemies of wildlife, are wholly ignorant of the fact that in reality the genuine sportsman is by all odds the most important factor in keeping wild creatures from total extermination.”
Outdoor Pastimes of the American Hunter, 1905 [ Read Full Post ]
Max Motors, a auto dealership in Butler, Missouri, is offering customers a choice between two sales incentives with their vehicle purchase: $250 in gasoline or $250 credit at a local gun shop.
So far, most buyers from The Show Me State have opted for pistols over petrol.
Every buyer so far “except one guy from Canada and one old guy” has chosen the firearm, said owner Mark Muller. He recommends his customers select a Kel-Tec .380.
“This thing has taken off. Sales have quadrupled,” said Muller, whose dealership sells both used and new vehicles, including General Motors and Ford products.
Muller told Reuter’s News Service that he got the idea for the promo after hearing some recent U.S. Presidential campaign rhetoric about guns, religion and gun owners who reside in America’s heartland.
“We all go to church on Sunday and we all carry guns,” said Muller. “I’ve got a gun in my pocket right now. I have a rifle in my truck. We’ve got to shoot the coyotes out here, they’re attacking our cows, our chickens. We’re not clinging to nothing. We’re just damn glad to live in a free country where you can have a gun if you want. This is the way it ought to be.” [ Read Full Post ]
I’ve been through any number of firearms training classes over the years covering everything from the basics to more advanced stuff. I don’t know how many times I’ve taken the intro level NRA course in my lifetime—I can think of at least a half-dozen instances off the top of my head—but even though it is repetitive it has never been time wasted. I always manage to learn something new or see something in a new way depending on the instructor and his or her skills.
Most of the time I’ve taken the course to satisfy the requirements for getting a concealed carry permit. I’ve done that in Connecticut, New York, Washington and, most recently, for a non-resident permit for Utah. Some of these classes have had a shooting proficiency element, others have not.
I’ve never thought much about the requirement to take one of these classes, but Larry Correia over at Monster Hunter Nation, who has taught CCW classes for years has and he’s concluded that mandatory training classes are essentially worthless:
When I first started out, I did a full on basic handgun class in addition to the lecture portion that was required by the state. What I quickly discovered was the people who were going to be smart, were smart. People that were going to be stupid, were on their best behavior while I watched them, then immediately went back to being stupid when they were on their own.
He makes a number of very compelling points in his essay. I still believe it is a good thing to make sure a person at least knows how a pistol or revolver functions and that it is worthwhile to drill folks in the basics of firearms safety (or to try to at any rate) but it is hard to argue with Correia’s point on how any proposal for a shooting requirement is little more than just window dressing.
—John Snow [ Read Full Post ]
Without question, all of us would like to have access to prime deer hunting areas, especially locations that hold big-racked bruisers. Unfortunately, places like these usually cost an arm and a leg to hunt and are out of reach for most hunters. However, there are some inexpensive ways you can transform your property or hunting lease into a whitetail sanctuary. Follow these easy steps this season and you’ll be able to attract more deer and turn your property into a target-rich environment.
Step 1: Grow Food Plots
The quickest and easiest way to draw more deer to your property is by providing year-round nutrition. With a wide range of ATV farming attachments and hundreds of commercial food plot mixes on the market, it’s fairly inexpensive to add food plots. This season take a soil test to find the pH and what nutrients your ground needs. You may need to add lime to the soil to increase the pH. Next, it’s best to treat the area with RoundUp in order to kill off all existing grass and weeds. Once the defoliant has done its job, prepare a proper seed bed with a disc or tiller to break up dirt with no large clumps or grass. Make sure you only plant the seed ½ as deep as it is wide and spray an herbicide to prevent unwanted weeds from competing with the plot while it’s establishing. Try to grow food plots for each seasonal period that will attract and hold deer throughout the year.
Step 2: Add Watering Holes and Mineral Sites
If your property or hunting lease does not feature water sources, consider building some. Strategically placing water holes between known feeding and bedding areas can create perfect ambush points, especially during dry periods. Another good strategy is to add mineral sites along the edges of feeding and bedding areas. Digging a wide circle about seven to eight inches deep and pouring a commercial blend mineral to the site will attract a lot of deer. These mineral sites are also great places to hang trail cameras to determine the numbers of whitetails you have on the property along with what caliber bucks are frequenting the area.
Step 3: Provide Thick Bedding Cover
Providing sections of thick cover that are located several hundred yards away from the food plots is another deadly strategy. This forces whitetails to travel longer distances to reach bedding areas, which increases your chances of connecting with a nocturnal buck right at daylight or just before dark. Cutting scrub timber and allowing sunlight to reach the forest floor can dramatically improve your property. A lot of plants, briars and weeds that deer can browse on will quickly emerge in these areas. Secondly, cut timber, weeds and briars provide whitetails with thick bedding cover and a place to escape hunting pressure. These areas should be left alone throughout the year to create a sense of security that will ultimately keep deer on your property. Try these steps this season and transform your hunting area into a whitetail sanctuary.—Travis Faulkner [ Read Full Post ]
Hafner said: “Just got back from a great late-season hunt near Devils Tower in Sundance, WY. We hunted with Jeff Smith and his crew at Seven J Outfitters (www.sevenjoutfitters.com). Despite high winds and hot temps, the birds were active and vocal all day, every day. Our group had ample opportunities; we tagged out early and spent lots of time shooting pics.
There's probably not a prettier place to chase Merriam's.”
In the Northeast, seasons continue through Saturday, May 31—the last day turkey hunts are open anywhere until fall opportunities commence. Woodsmanship matched with calling is tagging some late birds.
In northern New England, where we now rise before 3 a.m. to get to roosted gobblers before they wake up and fly down, my buddy Marc Brown took his “A Season”/week four Maine spring gobbler late in the morning and after much repositioning—not unusual for this time of the year as pressured birds go. A hardcore hunter, Brown has also tagged turkeys in Florida, Wyoming, South Dakota, and New York State this season.
Others hunters I talked to this past weekend (I was out Saturday and Memorial Day Monday with a New Hampshire tag to fill), have used strategies from their bag of tricks to nail at-the-wire turkeys. One bud in my turkey-hunting circle returned to a leafed-out wooded location off a big field in mid-morning, located, and called in a hot gobbler directly for his nephew. Elsewhere, some strutters remain with hens, though nesting has begun in other areas. I’m still carrying that last-call tag.
Trying to avoid turkeys in no-Sunday-hunt Maine where I’d taken my bird way back on the April 28 opener, I spent 90 minutes listening to a gobbler sound off in the nearby woods as I exercised one of my English setters in a farmer’s open field. It’s still happening. Get out there. —Steve Hickoff [ Read Full Post ]
Asked point-blank about his views on the Second Amendment, Sen. John McCain didn’t mince words:
I have been a consistent supporter of the Second Amendment. It means to me what it says. Every citizen has the right to keep and bear arms.
Nothing about the rights of hunters. Nothing about “sporting” or “recreational” use of firearms. It is about the rights of citizens. This is as it should be. He also made this pledge:
I will continue to fight back efforts to weaken the Second Amendment.
I know there are a lot of skeptics out there concerning McCain’s record on gun rights. I’m willing to accept him at his word on this issue. And will be the first to hold him accountable if down the road he betrays that trust.
—John Snow [ Read Full Post ]
In his review of a Mannlicher Classic for our August issue, Outdoor Life Shooting Editor Jim Carmichel was writing about the intricate single-set trigger on the rifle, which “would make a cuckoo-clock maker green with envy,” adding this aside:
As a German gunmaker once confided, “Why make it simple when it’s so easy to make it complicated?”
Which explains to perfection why so many guns of German and Austrian origin look and work the way they do.
—John Snow [ Read Full Post ]
There are several sure-fire ways to keep yourself from breaking clay targets with a shotgun including closing your eyes before pulling the trigger and loading up with slugs—both of which I’ve seen.
A less obvious, but equally effective, technique to lowering your score is to do a bunch of rifle shooting right before stepping up to the line for some trap, skeet or 5-stand. There’s nothing that throws off the mechanics of a graceful shotgun swing as quickly. Get the concept of “aiming” buried into your body’s sub-conscious and have fun watching those targets sail toward the horizon unscathed.
This has happened to me more than once at my gun club where the rifle range and shotgun fields are right next to each other. Every time I go from shooting a rifle to shooting a shotgun my technique tanks.
Yesterday I watched this happen to two of my friends, both of whom are very good shotgunners, and neither of whom couldn’t hit a clay worth a damn after their rifle shooting was done.
But even though I was smart enough not to shoot a rifle beforehand, I still shot like hell. That’s the beauty of shotgunning. If you don’t get thrown off by one thing, there’s some other flaw in your technique waiting to derail you.
As one of my “friends” on my squad told me, “I think your shooting technique is contagious.”
—John Snow [ Read Full Post ]
Randy Goepfert had just finished paying for his haircut at Holiday Hair in Quakertown, Penn. when an antlered whitetail buck came crashing through the glass door and bolted into the busy salon, narrowly missing his son.
“He was charging right at my son, so I decked him,” Goepfert said Tuesday, after he his 11-year-old son, Tyler, came face-to-face with a wayward whitetail sporting 6-inch spike antlers inside a shopping mall hair-cutting establishment.
“The only thing I could do, I grabbed him by the neck and slammed him to the ground,” said the 36-year-old resident of Richland Township.
Goepfert wrestled with the deer for several minutes, pinning it to the floor, and then corralling it in an empty breakroom, where it remained until authorities arrived and tranquilized it. The animal was later euthanized when it was found to be seriously injured.
The Allentown Morning Call newspaper reports that William Frei, 9, was waiting for his haircut when he heard a loud crash at the window behind his head. Seconds later, the deer charged through the door, just a few feet away from where he sat with his mother.
“I was just sitting there minding my own business, playing a video game,” the third grader recalled. “It crashed through the window, and me and my mom jumped onto a chair.”
The 2-year-old buck was estimated to weigh 135 pounds, but it put up quite a fight for its size, Goepfert told the Allentown paper.
“I weigh 225 pounds and he threw me right off,” said the stocky deer-wrestler. “I couldn’t believe that they’re that strong an animal.”
Though the junior Goepfert says he regularly accompanies his dad during Pennsylvania’s popular deer-hunting season, they’ve never scored on venison while together—until Tuesday.
“We can never get deer during hunting season,” the fifth grader admitted. “But we can get one now.” [ Read Full Post ]
Late-season spring gobblers are some of the toughest birds you’ll ever hunt. Sometimes they seem like post-rut bucks. These turkeys have been run out of fields, called to, and in some cases shot at. Survivors all of them, it’s tough to fool one into range. One of the latest gobblers I’ve ever killed also had the most beards. I almost didn’t hunt that day. In some ways my late start helped.
Licking my wounds, late in the season, and still carrying a New Hampshire tag, I didn’t even get up early that Memorial Day morning. I hit the woods a little after 9 a.m. To find the bird, I didn’t use a locator call, but spied a daub of red 100 yards away in a plowed cornfield. I sat down and slipped a slate out of a vest pocket.
Always the fall hunter, instead of hitting the bird with a high-pitched hen call, something it likely heard that season from local hunters, I offered a raspy three-note gobbler yelp: yawp, yawp, yawp. Autumn gobbler chasers will tell you that calling approach can work in October. Pecking order is always on the mind of gobblers. I thought that approach might work in late May. It did.
That gobbler imitated me note for note as it walked in—out of the field, into the woods. Gun up, I waited, and a minute or so later the turkey appeared to my right—not strutting, but walking in, looking hard, studying my location. That was the last thing it did. The three beards hang in a shadow box nearby as I write this.
Any of you Strut Zoners pull off the impossible recently? What tactics did you use? What calls? Did you set up tight on the roost? Did you hunt midmorning, and approach the area differently than before? Did you finally kill a bird that has given you trouble all season? Did you tag a gobbler you missed earlier in the season? How? Your tags are filled. We’re still carryin’. Any tricks to share? Let us know.—Steve Hickoff
For most of us, driving hours to the beach during the summer and facing annoying crowds and hot temperatures just doesn’t get our blood pumping. We’d much rather spend those days sitting in a stand with a grunt tube and rattling bag in hand. This was definitely the case for Chris Skinner who works full-time as an aircraft mechanic at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics in Fort Worth Texas. Skinner decided to take the last of his saved vacation days and spend them in the big-buck state of Kansas.
On the last day of the hunt, Skinner had seen very little action and decided to make the long drive back to Texas. Just before climbing out of the stand he heard a stick break to the left of the river bed below. Suddenly, Skinner noticed movement through the thick cover and was shocked to see a massively racked Kansas giant slowly working its way toward his stand. For 15 minutes, he patiently watched this bruiser and desperately tried to calm his nerves. Finally, the buck made the mistake of passing through a cleared shooting lane just 10 yards from his stand. Skinner gave a soft grunt to stop the buck and let an arrow fly that would completely change his outlook on the long trip back home. The buck kicked out its hind legs and ran only 40 yards from his stand before piling up in the brush. If you ask me that beats the heck out of a vacation to the beach! Congratulations Chris on a phenomenal buck and awesome hunt. I wonder where Chris will spend his vacation days this season?—Travis Faulkner [ Read Full Post ]
John McCain was once quoted as saying he would support an assault weapons ban (which he voted against) depending on certain "details."
In this new interview he says doesn't see a scenario under which he would ever support such a ban.
Based on his comments here, at the NRA show and on his voting record it looks like not only is he the most pro-gun candidate in the running for the White House but that he is solidly pro-gun by any yardstick you care to use.
—John Snow [ Read Full Post ]