Uneventful ... or was it?

Uneventful … or was it?

Well, how was your closing day? And don’t tell me how many dead birds ended up in your vest.

How did you feel … about that final day in the field, entire season, your hunting partners and dog? What went through your mind as you turned, opened your gun, and headed for the truck as shadows grew long and your thirst grew strong?

What did you learn?

My season was notable for many new friends. An open mind (and calendar) were the keys. Being “at large” means you’re available for opportunities. Serendipity. Kismet. Add a dog, a little blaze orange, and the odds are good someone will strike up a conversation. Where it leads is up to you.

People are generally pretty good in bird-hunting country. Anyone who likes dogs can’t be all bad, and if they like hunting dogs, they’re a lead-pipe cinch.

I think it was Kevin Bacon who first opined that we are all just six degrees separated from each other. Play who-do-you-know with a guy in a Pheasants Forever cap and it could be three degrees. A dog box is a platonic Match.com.

Oh yeah, back to closing day: fog as thick as a Sherlock Holmes mystery on the moors, I could barely make out the parking lot at the spot I wanted to explore. I counted the ghosts of five trucks in the soggy mist, contemplated losing my dog in the pea soup, then drove downhill to a favorite desert river. At least the breaks were below the fog line.

I parked at the mouth of a canyon that had shared valley quail with me when Manny was a pup. The level ground had no gifts for us this day, head-high sage silent but for the tinkling of the stream and clink of collar tags. There was nowhere to go but up – chukar country. We’d hunt until our water ran out.

Two thousand one hundred feet later, level ground again at the top of a promontory with a million-dollar view. A motivated wirehair coursed the bunchgrass and lava rock, glad to be traveling horizontally instead of vertically. His owner too.

A pause here, hesitation there. Head up, tail vibrating. Then, on again. A nose-down track through blackened sage trunks led to a point on a cottontail, but no feathers. On a plateau of broken lava, one night roost, long abandoned. Elevated hopes for a moment, then more searching.

The river, so far below, was always in view, like a recurring musical theme running through your mind. Memories of big trout and bigger steelhead filled the quietest times, not a bad thing. Sandwiched between rollicking whitewater and a ceiling of cloud, we were walking ground few had trod in recent times. No barbed wire, no rusted cans or cow patties.

And no birds.

We called it a day and began the arduous descent. Tiny waterfalls framed by emerald moss lightened our journey, we scaling rock faces and sliding down scree slopes to the accompaniment of gurgling streamlet. The mountain mahogany slapped and scratched, boulders rolled underfoot, moist ground slid underfoot and reminded us how far we were from civilization.

We made it back to the truck a minute just in time to get home for a shower and a movie. The drive allowed for reflection on the day – gratitude for safe returns (dog and human), a last visit to a favorite spot, and a season of fellowship. Maybe it was the best way to end a season.

Manny guilty football

Who paid for acquisition of, and management of, the place this mountain quail lives? We did.

Who paid for acquisition and management, of the place this mountain quail lives? We did.

A recent newspaper article finally pushed me over the edge … I wrote an op-ed for the paper that sums up my feelings – and maybe yours. The ignorance of so many so-called “environmentalists” and animal-rights supports is mind-boggling. If they understood the mechanics of wildlife management, well, read on …

Dylan Darling’s article of Dec. 29 on the decline of hunting and fishing license sales misses three key points: 1) When participation in these sports shrinks, all of Oregon’s wildlife loses. 2) Dwindling participation is only part of the problem. 3) There is a massive disparity between who benefits and who funds wildlife management in our state, and the nation for that matter.

Currently, hunters and anglers foot virtually the entire bill for fish and wildlife management at the state and federal level. During the Great Depression we convinced Congress to tax us with a “duck stamp,” to fund acquisition and management of federal wildlife refuges. We asked for – and pay – an excise tax on firearms, ammo, hunting vests, fishing rods and waders. When you see a new boat dock, songbird guzzler or wildlife viewing kiosk, you can thank sportsmen and women who probably funded it through these and similar mechanisms.

Almost annually, sportsmen and women consent to higher state and federal license, fee, and tag prices. This year alone, the cost of a duck stamp rose over 66 percent, an increase we were glad to endure. For almost a century, hunters and anglers have picked up the tab, and that’s before figuring in their massive contributions to conservation groups.

But other users of our forests, rivers, deserts and wildlife refuges pay a pittance, if anything, toward the management of public lands and wildlife. They are virtual freeloaders, riding the financial coat-tails of license buyers who fund management of songbirds, predators, endangered species, and everything else that swims, flies or runs through the trees.

In my book, it’s time those who kick into skinny skis, carry a camera, or pick up a paddle paid their fair share.

Why? The sad fact is, watchable wildlife, cute-and-cuddly critters, “charismatic megafauna”  … and the environments they depend … may well vanish without hunting and fishing license money. There are simply too many “takers” (non-consumptive users) and not enough “makers” (license buyers). If paddlers, skiers, and birders don’t step up to the plate,  their future outings may not include a breathtaking elk bugle or startling ruffed grouse flush.

Without hunting and fishing license sales, there would be little if any research on wolverines, wolf management, or protection of endangered suckers. All wildlife populations would decline further as habitat degrades and biologists take their place in the employment line. Sierra Club, PETA, and the Humane Society of the U.S. talk a good game, but they seldom put their money where their mouth is and certainly not at the level hunters and anglers do. Their shrillest fundraising campaign could never make up the deficit of plummeting hunting and angling license funds. Picket signs and protests won’t create buy critical habitat nor pay researchers’ salaries; sportsmen’s dollars do that.

If you ask mountain bikers, birders, kayakers, and backpackers, they’ll admit to enjoying their outdoor experience as passionately as anyone who waves a rod or carries a rifle. They’ll proudly share photos of gray jays perched on their hand, and mule deer fawns curled under a pine. But like the 30-something slacker still living in their parents’ basement, they simply don’t care who pays … as long as it’s not them.

It’s time to put up or shut up. Whether you’re vegan, pacifist, Buddhist, or Democrat, if you love our fish and wildlife and the places they live, you should be willing to finance their management. Save the philosophical discussion for later, when you’ve paid the price of admission.

Buy a hunting or fishing license or consider yourself a hypocrite. You might also try one of these wonderful sports and learn why so many are willing to invest so much.

Feel free to turn this into your own letter to the editor … or save it for that inevitable confrontation with someone who just doesn’t get it.


One of the semi-finalists

One of the semi-finalists

A record number of entries and votes were logged in the third annual “Fiocchi Friends” photo contest conducted by Fiocchi USA and Wingshooting USA TV.

Votes are now being verified and winners selected by a judge’s panel, with an announcement to be made prior to Christmas. High vote-getters and judge’s selections win Fiocchi gear, and their photos may be used in the Fiocchi 2015 catalog. One voter or entrant chosen at random will win a Mossberg Silver Reserve over-under shotgun. Some images will also be featured in a Fiocchi television commercial that begins airing in January.

Over 13,000 votes were recorded, spread among over 600 photo entries. The photo contest “shows how deep the bond is between bird hunters and their dogs,” said Scott Linden, host/creator of Wingshooting USA. “These dogs are true hunting partners,” he added. The contest was promoted via his show and social media, launching in July.

Dozens of breeds were entered, pointing and retrieving in water and the uplands. Some are funny, others poignant, with many showcasing the intensity and energy of canine athletes performing at their peak. A number of “just for fun” entries featured family portraits and even a “hunting cat.”

Fiocchi of America is based in Ozark, Missouri with sales offices in Boulder City, Nevada. Fiocchi manufactures a full line of handgun, long gun and shotgun ammunition for hunting, law enforcement, military and competition.

The official TV series of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, Wingshooting USA is also the most-watched bird hunting show on television. She program airs on seven networks including Discovery’s Destination America.

Later in the day, head there.

Later in the day, head there.

As the day goes on and ground heats up, warm air rises from the bottom of draws, valleys, river canyons, creating an uphill or upstream breeze almost everywhere.

As the sun rises, hunt above and uphill from the best bird hideouts and you’ll help your dog intercept scent as he leads you along a ridgeline or down a draw.

You still have a chance …

Road Trip 2014 logo-003Almost 8,000 Wingshooting USA TV fans have already risen to the challenge in the third annual “Cabela’s Awesome Upland Road Trip … destination Kansas” contest. The sweepstakes is in its final stages, with prize values growing as the Dec. 31 deadline looms.

Fans of the show are asked to outfit host Scott Linden’s Amped travel trailer and his hunting dogs for a 6,500-mile journey across bird country. On the trip, Linden signs copies of his What the Dogs Taught Me and visits fans at Cabela’s stores, and makes future episodes of Wingshooting USA. Fan suggestions ranged from the ridiculous (hot tub for the Amped trailer) to the sublime (a day off and pampering for Linden’s hard working dogs).

Practical suggestions ranged from ammo to electronic dog training collars. A Stack-On gun cabinet and Rough-Tuff dog kennels and storage gear were added enroute due to fan suggestions. Early in the contest, fans also suggested stops along the way, including the Kansas City Cabela’s store and a hunting lodge in South Dakota where Linden dropped by for a meet-greet-hunt. Many entries are accompanied by photos of entrants and their hunting dogs.

Upcoming prizes in the run-up to contest end include a SportDOG Tek GPS collar, Mossberg Silver Reserve shotgun, and $500 Cabela’s dog gear gift card.

Entries and photos can be viewed at https://www.facebook.com/wingshootingusa/app_451684954848385

Sponsors of the Road Trip included Cabela’s, Kansas Tourism, EverGreen RV’s “Amped” toy hauler trailer, SportDOG and Mossberg.

The most-watched upland bird hunting show in the U.S., Wingshooting USA is the official TV series of the National Shooting Sports Foundation. It is broadcast year-round on seven television networks. More information: www.scottlindenoutdoors.com.

Easy to carry, keep it in your vest

Easy to carry, keep it in your vest

With the season in full swing, a little reminder:

This little kit won’t take up much weight or space but it could possibly save your dog’s life. Do your best hunting buddy a favor and carry it every time you get far enough from your truck you wouldn’t want to carry him all the way back.

Cotton swabs: clean wounds, remove seeds from eyes

Benadryl or other antihistamine: reduces windpipe swelling from snakebite or insect sting

Duct tape: all-around bandage, emergency boot

Blood-clotting gauze

Triple antibiotic ointment: prevent infection in wound

EMT Gel: stops most bleeding, speeds healing

Hemostats: pull porcupine quills, foreign objects from wounds and nostrils

Phone numbers, open hours and locations of nearest veterinarians



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 11,741 other followers

%d bloggers like this: