Archive for the ‘Wildlife’ Category

We used to go on more hikes and more adventures with our canine friends, but over time, work and illness limited what we’ve been able to accomplish.  Last year we went to Joe Kurz WMA one time in the off season with the dogs, and just walking around the loop at Lodge road from the gate wore most of them out. It was a hot day, and even with a trip down to the river, the dogs were plain tired when we got back to the truck.

Fast forward a little over a year, and Brody is gone.  While discussing where to take the dogs on a day off last week, I pointed out that we had never hiked Red Top Mountain state park, because ten years ago when we first went there, my wife didn’t feel well and we only walked for about fifteen minutes before deciding to drive home again.

So we got our supplies together and packed up the truck. Cinders, Missy, Zelda and especially Gretchen were going nuts because RIDE IN THE CAR! HIKE! YAAAAAH! I always carry a LOT of water on these hikes, along with other gear.  What I should have taken was a wheelbarrow, because three miles into a five mile plus hike, Zelda was done.RTM_Zelda

Zelda lost the genetic lottery on just about every level.  She has severe allergies to most proteins, and is moderately allergic to rest of the proteins on the blood test.  She has seasonal allergies. She has the ‘slope back’ inbred German Shepherd shuffle, she’s near sighted (she walked into a tree on the hike, face first. She didn’t even hesitate, just ‘trudge, trudge, BOOP, whaaaa?’)   When she stands still, her back legs are touching each other, and her back feet are splayed out at a 45 degree angle. We may have to get her tested for Degenerative Myelopathy, because she’s seven now, and getting worse in her clumsiness.  We have a chain of rugs all over the house because she has a panic attack if she has to cross open hardwood floors.   At this point, she’s on antibiotics because she decided to stick her nose in one of the cats’ faces one too many times (WHAP!) and it got infected, and because of her chronic skin infection, she’s on steroids for the skin issues as well, and Apoquel, which is twice a day for her allergies.

This is a dog that gets stuck on the couch, because if we call her name from the dining room, we’re on the other side of the couch, and she can’t figure out how to get down unless we come over to the front of it. I’m not joking.

We decided on the Homestead trail, a 5.8 mile loop that has a decent amount of lake shore views, and honestly, it’s one of the nicest, easiest trails that I’ve been on in a long time. It’s wide, fairly rock-free, (some areas have loose stones, but that looks like erosion, not like some of the trails I’ve been on, where it looks like volunteers intentionally rake rocks on the trails because they never actually use them.  I’m looking at you, Pine Mountain.) and whoever graded the trail to begin with made the elevation changes very manageable.  There are benches spaced throughout the trail, and it’s very well marked.

So there we are, with Cinders, our twelve year old German Shorthaired Jerkdog (he’s a jerk. You’d have to know him to know how big of a jerk he is, but we love him.) had been PULLING me all day, because despite having done this dozens and dozens of times, being on a leash, to him, means ‘Pull, pull hard, never stop pulling…’  So, in the front of the hike, I’ve got the oldest and youngest dogs, Cinders and Missy, with Cinders pulling for all he’s worth, and at the back of the hike is Lisa with Gretchen and Zelda, and Zelda would prefer to be carried. All eighty plus pounds of her. There is no couch. There is no TV, she doesn’t want to be here, at all.

When we got to the loop intersection of Homestead, my wife said ‘I don’t know if the Pointed Dog can make this hike,’ because Zelda was already looking tired.  We discussed it for a bit, and finally decided to go ahead, but take it slow. Halfway through the loop, almost exactly, we realized we’d made a mistake.  She would walk for ten to fifteen yards, trip over her own back feet, and lay down. The wife would  help her stand again, and the process would repeat.  We had forgotten her boots as well, because the dog will not or cannot pick her feet up, so she was starting to get sore spots from dragging her back paws when she walked.  I noticed on the walking app that we were, by this point, parallel to one of the roads, and suggested that we walk to the edge of the road, where the wife could wait with the dogs and my pack, and I would speed-walk back to the truck and come get them.  And that was the final plan.

The splits on the walking app look hilarious. 53 minute miles,  until the last 1.3 miles, which I did by myself in under twenty minutes.

For three days after the hike, I was very worried about Zelda. She wouldn’t even stand up without help. I had to carry her up and down the stairs to out to the yard, and once out there, she would just stand in the grass and look at me.  But my wife reported that when she got home, the dog was stiff, but up and moving and doing her business outside with minimal help. (I worked twelve hour midnight turn the three days after the hike) It occurred to me that Zelda wouldn’t get up and move because she thought I was going to make her walk ‘forevers’ again.

So, on to the next plan, getting her into better shape, one short walk at a time, until we can go back to hiking more often.

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Wow, I did NOT realize how long I’d gone without posting an update. I’ve done several hikes, been at the NRA Annual Meeting, done some bowfishing, and gone to Key West (curse you, Sea Urchin!) since my turkey season post.

Rather than blather on and on, I’ll just build a quick photo gallery.  No, that isn’t me getting married, it’s my youngest sister-in-law, I’m the fat guy in the hat, the Hawaiian shirt and sunglasses in the beach photo. So, here are some shots from the NRA show, bowfishing with Treetop Archery, Key West, something you should avoid stepping on, because you’ll end up in urgent care getting spines pulled out of your foot.

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I decided to hit Sweetwater State Park this morning for a hike – Little Bear (my 17 year old daughter) came out of hibernation around 10:30am (nearly five hours after I got up, and really, who could sleep that long when I intentionally STOMPED through the house for five hours?) and I said ‘get your hiking boots and let’s go.’

She got her hiking boots, though I didn’t think to tell her ‘and put real socks on, not those cute-almost-socks you like,’ and we drove over to Sweetwater State Park, which is only ten minutes or so away from the house.  I already had a map of the park in my truck from a visit a few weeks ago, so I asked Little Bear what trail she wanted to walk. My vote was for the White trail, which is about five miles long, but relatively flat.  She opted for the Yellow trail, which looks much shorter on the map, but has a lot of elevation changes that the White trail doesn’t.  According to the elevations on the trail map from the park, the White trail changes by approximately 150′ over the course of five miles.

The yellow trail changes by about four hundred  and fifty feet in three miles, ranging from 850 feet to 1200 feet.   This isn’t a ‘OMG!’ elevation change, but for a spur-of-the-moment hike by people who are out of practice, the difference is noticeable.

So, hike it we did, it took about an hour and fifty minutes, and according to my fitness app on my smart phone, it was 3.56 miles from the truck and back again.

Little bear? She went back into hibernation as soon as we hit the house.

(Yes, I actually typed ‘Day One: 2015’ and had to fix it…)

I don’t really make ‘New Year’s Resolutions.’  I just don’t – I’m in the latter half of my 40’s now, and probably spent 1980-2000 making resolutions that were broken (or, in my early 20’s, forgotten) very quickly.  Regardless, I had said in 2015 that I was going to get out in the woods and waters more, and generally get back to being an outdoorsman.  That didn’t happen at all, in fact, the reverse happened. Between work, foul weather, and other issues, I only managed three archery shoots and a week of bear hunting in Maine that had been planned for a year.

So, while NOT claiming it’s a New Year’s Resolution, I will make up for this lack of nature experiences in 2016.

I sent a text to Danny this morning to see what he was doing, without really having a plan.  I told him I didn’t care if we went squirrel hunting, shooting, hiking,  as long as it was outside.  We quickly decided to go sight in my new Mossberg Patriot .308, and we decided to do so up at Johns Mountain WMA, which has a public rifle range.  The weather report showed a low chance of rain, with temperatures from a low of 40 to a high of 57.

Yeah, they were being very optimistic on that high end, let me tell you, because it was cold in Atlanta, let alone an hour and a half north of Atlanta.

We drove up to the range, my first time there, and found it to be packed full, with people waiting for room at one of the four actual sit-down benches.  After about thirty minutes of people shooting, finally somebody called the range cold and folks started putting new targets out.  With no idea how long it was going to take to get a bench, and no actual range master running the show, we opted to just drive some of the forestry roads and take a look at the area, then drive home.  We did get out and walk about a few times to look at some trails, but we didn’t go far. We hadn’t brought the right clothing for a hike.

Still, I managed to get some photos, the best of which are below: some moss, a cool looking downed cedar, and a tree that looks like it eats small children who were bad for the holidays…

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From Field & Stream

Conservationist

Click to go to the original post at Field & Stream

July 15 – 2014 – by Bob Marshall

This just in: If you’re a hunter or angler, your U.S. Senator probably doesn’t care much about you.

I can say that after watching how the Sportsman’s Act was effectively killed last week.

That vital package of measures needed to help fish, wildlife and sportsmen arrived on the Senate floor with bi-partisan support of 45 members, and little, if any, opposition. It included funding for absolutely critical habitat programs for fish and wildlife, as well as laws that would help guarantee sportsmen they could have access to hunting and fishing on federal lands. And your senators almost certainly told you they were in your corner. After all, they love sportsmen–they tell you that every chance they get.

But this is an election year, and the Senate floor has been a sniper’s alley for partisan concerns.

This is how it works: Once a bill makes it to the floor, senators from either side introduce amendments on controversial subjects unrelated to the measure at hand. They hope to force their opponents to cast a vote that they can then use to blast them with in the fall.

This is how The Washington Post reported the development:

“The possibility of a new, mostly partisan debate on gun control likely would upend debate on a bipartisan measure to expand hunting rights on federal lands that is considered a potential political lifeline for about a half dozen Democrats seeking reelection in Republican-leaning states.

“Senators of both parties are readying gun-related amendments and are poised to introduce them this week.”

The amendments didn’t just deal with guns but spanned the realm of politics, from funding the Palestinian government to selling off public lands. It was a feeding frenzy of partisan spite, with the real victims being fish, wildlife and sportsmen.

Now, do you think this would have happened if the bill concerned, say, Wall Street bankers, or the energy industry, or military contractors? Probably not.

In choosing this bill for this tactic, the senators were sending a very clear message to sportsmen: You don’t count.

Don’t take my word for it. Whit Fosburgh, president of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, had this analysis:

“[The Act] failed due to political infighting, a dysfunctional amendment process, and the extreme wings of both parties, who are more interested in scoring points than legislating on behalf of America’s hunters and anglers and the values of the population at large,” he said. “We are deeply disheartened that a bill with 45 bipartisan cosponsors and the support of the national sporting community could fall victim to a fundamentally broken Senate, where some legislators’ support for sportsmen is only a talking point.”

Read the rest at Field & Stream

 

(Notes – I do read Field & Stream (along with dozens of other publications) but hadn’t caught this particular bit of news. This was found via Wired to Hunt, and Mark found it on the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.)

Georgia Outdoor News

click to go to GON.com

Kill a coyote, save a fawn… and you might win!

By Daryl Kirby
Originally published in the May 2014 issue of GON
 

Click to go to the original article

Click to go to the original article

It’s time to do something. 

The days of denying coyotes have a dramatic impact on wildlife are over. It took studies by top university researchers to convince some folks of what hunters have been saying for years. Coyotes, without a doubt, are hammering fawns.

It’s not just deer that are taking a hit. Turkey reproduction numbers have dropped off the map. Are dramatically fewer poults being seen the past five years the result of turkeys suddenly having “filled their habitat range” so they are “self-regulating” their numbers and having fewer poults? Tell my buddy who has beautiful hardwood bottoms and ridges mixed with green fields, but very rarely does a turkey pass through. A hen did try to nest in a food plot last year—he found a pile of feathers and broken-up turkey eggs.

I know rabbit hunters who have tracts they’ve run dogs on for years—without killing rabbits—where the dogs now never strike a trail.

What changed in the Georgia woods? It’s the coyotes.

Yet, for whatever reason, there are still those in the hunting/conservation community who dismiss the coyote issue. We have to learn to live with coyotes, they say. 

Coyotes are not native to Georgia. We—and our wildlife—don’t have to find a way to be neighborly with yotes. 

Quite frankly, we’re weary of the excuses on why not to do something about coyotes. Heaven forbid if an invasive mollusk showed up in a stream or an invasive weed was found in a stand of longleaf pines—there would be enough federal money to sink a ship pouring in to get rid of those invasives.
Coyotes? We get shrugs of indifference. I personally heard a wildlife biologist tell a group of landowners that research indicates coyotes might have an impact in some areas, but that in other areas where hunting isn’t prevalent, coyotes are probably doing everyone a favor. Let that sink in a bit as you ponder the quality of your hunting the past five years.

It’s time to do something. 

The 1st inaugural GON Coyote Cull isn’t going to solve the coyote problem, but it’s a start. Go kill one. Read the trapping article in the June issue of GON. It includes detail that could get you started running a few traps, even if just for a weekend. If trapping is not your thing, go coyote hunting.

The idea behind the Coyote Cull is simply to give everyone a little extra incentive to spend a weekend at the hunting property this time of year working on the coyotes.

Kill one. Have someone take a picture of you with the dead coyote, and you need to be holding a copy of this month’s GON. This is simply so folks can’t enter with a picture of a coyote killed last year. Don’t share your coyote so your buddy can enter—we’ll have a polygraph.

Consider this. A professional trapper just caught 11 coyotes on a Morgan County tract. He removed them to a live pen. That night, one female had seven pups and another had nine. Think about that next time you hear someone say killing a coyote will somehow just make things worse.

It’s fawning time, and turkey poults are about to hatch. Take out a coyote right now, and it will make a difference. 

Read more and learn how to enter HERE.

North American Whitetail

I saw a post by North American Whitetail – B&C’s Monster Bucks: 20 Biggest Non-Typicals of All Time and thought to myself ‘Yeah, the twenty or so people who read my blog would love to look at that slideshow!’   Then I saw a link in the middle of the post for the article – B&C’s Monster Bucks: 20 Biggest Typicals of All Time and decided that rather than post a stub with a link, I’d post a screenshot of both slideshows and link the screenshots, so that everyone can see both sets of MONSTER bucks!

Just click either image to go to the appropriate article:

20 Biggest Non-Typicals of All Time

20 Biggest Typicals of All Time

Petersens_hunting

by Ben O’Brien | March 21st, 2014
Petersens_meat_eatersI’m just going to come out and say it: Right now intellectual foodies might just be saving hunting.

Some call them culinary pioneers, others call them counter-culture loving hipsters. No matter the label, it seems our little hunting club is getting bigger. There’s no way around it.

Finally, the mainstream is digesting what we’re serving, and it’s time we recognized it’s a good thing. Hunting is growing in scope and numbers, and those who go afield after organic eats are pushing the needle. There are facts to back it up.

A report released last September by the Virginia-based research group Responsive Management explains in real terms why hunting is growing in popularity after 35 years of decline. From 2006 to 2011, the study says, hunting participation nationally increased 9 percent. The new hunters likely causing much of the uptick in participation are younger, more female and suburban, in college or in the military. Urban hunters are increasing, too.

You heard that right…urban hunters. As the world has evolved and consumption of food has become less about the why and more about the how fast, droves of previously disinterested Americans are suddenly willing to consider killing, cutting, and cooking their own meat. This isn’t your granddaddy’s old redneck stereotype. We’re talking about a new breed.

But how did we get here?

From 1958 to 1975 the number of licensed hunters in America generally increased, the study says, before hitting a plateau in the mid ’80s. Then things went into a general decline for decades with hunting not only facing stronger opposition, but also an even more dangerous absence from pop culture.

Here’s the reasoning, “In both hunting and fishing, the decline in participation from the peak in the 1980s is partly attributed to a broad demographic change in the United State—urbanization.” According to U.S. Census data, 36 percent of the United States’ population lived in rural areas in 1950. Now it’s lower than 20 percent.

If this trend continues, the only chance to grow hunting would be to convince city folk to get involved.

Read more at Petersen’s Hunting

Georgia Outdoor News

click to go to GON.com

Warm-season food plots can be enhanced.

By Joe S. Reams III
Originally published in the April 2014 issue of GON

 

Sweet Tea is a special selection of a perennial plant in the Mallow family named Sida that is highly attractive to deer. There are at least a dozen species of Sida that occur in the Southeast, some of which are native and some non-native. Sweet Tea has been identified as Sida acuta, which is a native plant of the Southeastern United States.

Sweet Tea is a special selection of a perennial plant in the Mallow family named Sida that is highly attractive to deer. There are at least a dozen species of Sida that occur in the Southeast, some of which are native and some non-native. Sweet Tea has been identified as Sida acuta, which is a native plant of the Southeastern United States.

Food plotting has come a long way in the last 10 years in the South and has evolved into a broader discussion about habitat. A number of informative studies have yielded tons of useful information on this subject but the volume of facts can be somewhat exhausting. Sometimes it pays to take a step back and look at the big picture to help us understand the microscopic. I hope to share some background on the subject of habitat restoration and then some specific steps to take that will directly and positively affect your hunting success. 

“Live and learn,” the wise old saying goes. Someone once turned this proverb around to convey another truth: “Learn and live.” 

There may not be a more agreed upon statement on earth. Society operates on this principle, but there is rarely a consensus about how to implement change for the better. Unfortunately, a lot of really important issues end up being political fodder, restricting our learning because of the “spin” put on the facts. There is also the divisive political labeling game…. “if you believe in ‘that’ then you are one of ‘them.’” 

Over time, as the dust settles people usually figure out the “real deal,” as my dad would put it. It’s a shame that we have allowed conservation issues to be used in political games. The good news is that, due in large part to sportsmen, things are changing. 

The truth of the matter is that hunters, being the very first conservationists, are now walking away in droves from the fruitless political fracas and are choosing rather to be engaged in educating themselves about good stewardship practices.

When it comes to conservation issues, I find that many landowners and sportsmen are choosing to ignore the nuts on both sides and are pressing forward and doing the right thing. We’ve always known that it is beneficial to everyone (not to mention the animals we hunt) to protect our water and air, but along the way we somehow allowed radical groups to hijack the discussion and lay claim to the entire conservation message. 

On the flip side, because we agreed on things like free markets and small government, we let other special interests convince us we were in with the crazy people if we went very far down the conservation road. We saw the “experts” dividing into camps, and we read stories of fraudulent skewing of facts. So we found it easy to be skeptical about some of this fanatical environmentalism. I still am, but I’m much more discerning in what I dismiss and what I pay attention to. I’ve heard countless stories from landowner clients who say they have been jerked around in the past by overzealous “government hounds,” as a landlord of mine called them, many times with bad science and manners. This caused some hard feelings and mistrust, but I have noticed that many of these landowners and sportsmen are refusing to allow those experiences to discourage them from their commitment to conservation. At the same time they smell plenty of bull coming from all directions, and not only from the folks who think guns are bad, hunting is murder and people are just two-legged animals. It’s also from a few who let their bottom line shape their views on conservation. Sportsmen have evolved into savvy fact-checkers and are not falling for junk science very easily. Thankfully, these days there is plenty of good, clean science out there, and we have seen measurable results with implementing various new practices. 

A hot topic in the southern hunting world is habitat restoration. In the industrial Northeast, because of the impact of a high population density and polluting factories, they witnessed the effects of wetland and habitat destruction earlier than in the South and were forced to begin taking steps to mitigate these damages. Over the last 30 years in the South, we have seen some ill-effects of our own. Now we are implementing various practices in order to enhance our southern habitats, keeping our forest systems diverse and productive, and sensibly protecting our water.

Read the rest at Georgia Outdoor News

…okay…. apparently there were two squirrels with half of a tail each in our backyard, because as we were eating dinner last night, a familiar raider happened upon our bird feeders.  The wife jumped up and squinted at the furry thief, then grinned from ear to ear and said “That’s Badass Squirrel!”

BASquirrel

That’s him: Badass Squirrel, the squirrel that attacks hawks

Now, we have to open the backdoor and make some noise before letting the dogs out, to give the tree rats a running start.

Still, I’m happy that the dogs took out ‘the wrong’ squirrel Sunday.  The look on Cinder’s face was priceless though, he thought he’d finally earned some ‘street cred.’

"Wait a minute...."

“Wait a minute….”