Outdoor Skills

There is a way that seems right to a man, but the woods will prove him wrong

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Ways To Prevent Seasickness

imageIt’s a malady that can knock a grown man to his knees faster than a sucker punch, and it’s the type of thing that can happen to anyone, at any time. It can strike young and old alike. It’s called seasickness, and we’re rapidly approaching the open-water fishing season.

My buddy was deep in the throes of this marine illness. He was gut-wrenching seasick. Knee-walking ill. Puking his guts out. A feeling of dizziness overwhelmed him. His face was pale, perspiration dotted his forehead, and he was sucking air like a person having run 1,500 meters at 10,000 feet. He was in sad shape.

We were only 10 minutes out of port on Lake Erie, and the boat was bouncing and rolling in five-foot swells pushed by a stiff northwesterly wind that was blowing the foam off the top of the whitecaps. Five minutes after reaching open water, he was hanging over the rail while I kept him somewhat upright by grabbing his belt and hoping his buckle held.

All this didn’t make him feel any better. In fact, it made him feel even worse but I was trying to keep him from pitching head-first into the rolling foam-flecked waves.

“Oh, God, I’m sick,” he sputtered, vomit dripping off his chin. “How long will this last?”

The skipper, unsympathetic as most are to those people who are afraid others will think they are a wimp if they take medications to prevent getting ill, said: “It will last until I turn this boat around and drop you off on shore.”

Bob’s ongoing vomiting brings truth to an old saw often told by ancient and modern mariners—when a person first get seasick, they are afraid they will die. After a prolonged bout with seasickness and the dry heaves, they are more afraid they won’t.

This is how Bob felt until we took him back to shore. Five minutes after his feet touched dry dirt, and he kneeled to kiss the ground, he experienced a miraculous five-minute recovery.

Seasickness can affect anyone, at any time, and its causes are many and varied. The only sure cure is firm ground beneath your feet, and even then, nausea or queasiness in your guts can linger for hours. That one sure cure would mean never going fishing on big water.

What is seasickness, and how can it be treated? I’ve never (the sound you hear is me knocking on wood) been seasick, although I’ve had a mighty upset stomach on several occasions. What causes the illness is hard to determine exactly although there are many guesses as to its causes.

Boating sickness is another name for this malady. Motion sickness is another. It can occur in a car, boat, bus, roller coaster, or Ferris wheel, airplane ride, to name just a few. Motion upsets the middle ear, which helps humans maintain their balance or equilibrium, and this sets up a feeling of exaggerated movement within the body. Rough water isn’t the only thing that can make people feel ill.

One major triggering factor in seasickness is fear. Few people will readily admit to their friends that they fear the water, but deep down inside, they may be very uncomfortable being on big water, regardless of the boat size or the skill of the skipper. They subconsciously think about the boat tipping over, them being thrown overboard, and they become nauseous and ill.

This part of it is all in their head. They manage to talk themselves into getting sick, and this is the one thing over which they do have a certain amount of control. Put on a life jacket, tell your friends you are a weenie, and go fishing and quit thinking about the waves, the motion and the queasiness in their guts.

What an angler or boater eats or drinks also can trigger seasickness. What a person thinks or hears also can do a nasty job on those people who may be on the cusp of becoming ill.

Heavy drinking of alcoholic beverages before a trip or during a boating excursion is another cause. A booming morning hangover after a long bout on the juice also can lead to a naval disaster.

Certain foods are known to precipitate a bout of motion sickness. Orange, grapefruit or other citrus juices are high in citric acid, which can help trigger seasickness. Avoid tomato juice as well, and apple juice can make some people very sick.

Little or no sleep will do a number on most people prone to this problem. Too much coffee or soda pop are major factors that lead some folks to becoming sick on the water. Eating fried eggs, hash browns and bacon or sausage for breakfast, and then chasing it down with a large OJ, is a great recipe for on-the-water barfing.

Sometimes, even talking about motion sickness makes people ill, and some old salts who never get seasick seem to take savage delight in talking about the illness. I once watched a father talk about getting seasick, and he talked his son into leaning over the rail to upchuck his breakfast.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” I told the father. “Sometimes that kind of comment will come back to haunt you.”

His son recovered, and then the Old Man got sick. He got zero sympathy from his kid or me. Keep such comments to yourself, and it will make for a more pleasant fishing experience for everyone.

Impending seasickness is quite easy to spot. The victim usually begins to sweat and often feels nauseous. Gradually, skin color becomes pale or white, and cramps hit the abdomen.

Sucking noises are often heard as the victim tries to take in enough air through the mouth to offset hyperventilation and to ease stomach cramps. The next step – nausea—usually continues until the stomach is emptied and dry heaves set in.

It’s not fun for the victim. And frankly, bystanders never enjoy watching the results of this malady in other people. It can be somewhat contagious, and if one person gets sick and throws up, that action often results in others doing the same.

What can be done to prevent seasickness? Numerous over-the-counter medications such as Dramamine are available. One or two pills should be taken the night before a trip and one should be taken at least 30 minutes before leaving the dock. Check with a doctor to see if Dramamine or any other motion sickness pill is right for you.

Don’t take anti-motion pills after becoming ill. They may prolong the sickness. Scopolamine, an anti-motion sickness medicine, is released slowly into the skin through a behind-the-ear patch, and it works for many people when properly used. The patches are obtained with a doctor’s prescription. It’s recommended that a patch be applied the evening before a boating or fishing trip.

If you start feeling ill, start doing some boating chores. Don’t sit motionless and hope the queasiness will go away. It won’t. Don’t go below and sit in the head (bathroom) because that will only aggravate the problem and make things worse.

Rig tackle, watch other boats, study the rods or look at the distant shoreline or the horizon. Stand in the fresh air, hopefully with the breeze in your face, and breathe deeply. Don’t inhale gasoline or diesel exhaust fumes, and try not to sit or lay down. It will only make matters worse.

Avoid unpleasant odors. A lack of ventilation and close quarters can combine to trigger an attack. Never go below decks or lay in a V-bunk if seasickness strikes. Stay out in the fresh air, and remain upright if possible, and look at the horizon. Another trick is to never look down at the deck or down at the water.

Try eating dry bread, gingersnap cookies, lemon drops or mints. Eat slowly, try not to swallow air and concentrate on something other than a queasy stomach. Do not drink milk, alcoholic beverages or soft drinks. Bottled water and mints are good to rinse out a mouth after vomiting and the mints freshen the mouth and relieve some of the aftertaste of this sickness.

Seasickness can strike anyone, anytime. I’ve been lucky, but someday I’m sure my time will come. Hopefully I’ll be able to follow my own advice, and conquer the problem before it overwhelms me.

Posted by ofieldstream on 06/17 at 09:50 PM
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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Can The Old Man Still Fish & Hunt?


A man who has been reading my daily blogs for 3 1/2 years had a question. He wondered about my countless deer hunts, both here and elsewhere around the North American continent, and whether I could still fish and hunt.

He asked my age and I told him I’d be 69 years old on July 22, and he asked if there were things I couldn’t or wouldn’t do hunting and fresh-water fishing again.

It forced me to explain once again the lack of vision in my left eye, and the diminished quality of right-eye vision. I told him about the Crohn’s Disease which affects my digestive tract, and having broken my back twice years ago. All have had a long-term effect on my health.

I told him a stress test two months ago found no heart problems, but I’m troubled by asthma and hay fever. I can’t run a half-mile on snowshoes as I once could.

I can still walk all day on snowshoes, and can ride all day in the saddle on a western hunt without falling down at the end of the trail. I carry perhaps 30 more pounds than I once did, and am trying to get it worked off.

He wanted to know if I still hunted. I can and do hunt, and can still climb a mountain providing no one wants me to race them to the top. I tell them “go ahead. I’ll get there, slower than you but if you find an elk, I can shoot that critter with a 7mm Magnum and make a one-shot kill when I get there.”

I can walk the nasty country where Alaskan moose are found. I can hold my fire on a young bull busting brush on his way to my call. I can make a stalk on elk, deer and moose, and get within easy range of most of them.

My C.P. Oneida Eagle bow and its internal red-dot sight is perfect for my vision problems. My bow shooting range is 20 yards or less, and I can’t remember the last buck I missed at that range. The red-dot aids me in focusing the internal red dot on the target, and shooting a nice buck is no longer a problem.

Sure, my vision isn’t the best but I own many rifles of different calibers, and with a scope it’s possible for me to kill deer, elk or moose at 300 yards with every shot. I can adjust my scope to accommodate my vision at that particular moment, and when the crosshairs settle in and the trigger is squeezed, the animal drops and dies.

I killed my mountain lion with a bow after a long and really rugged hunt. I killed my muskox with a bow and pin sights years ago when I could still see well. I have three record-book caribou and the muskox, and don’t hunt for trophies. Skill and good fortune got me within easy shooting range of each one.

There have been more bear taken than I like to think about, and it’s doubtful I’ll hunt bear again. Again, as the sun goes down and the swamp darkens, I can’t see the bear and don’t know if I could follow a faint trail for a half-mile out of a dark swamp.

The bears don’t scare me after dozens of close experiences with them, and I’m not afraid of getting lost. With only one working eye, though, I do worry about falling and running a stick in my good eye.

I can wade a trout stream, tell you where the fish should hold, and make a reasonably accurate cast. However, if the water is waist deep it’s difficult to see the bottom, and on several occasions, I’ve provided belly laughs for others when I trip and go swimming.

It’s still possible to run a boat but I must be off the water at dark for the same reasons I must be off the road when it gets dark. The lack of sunlight makes it difficult to see.

I can still, on a good day, drop a No. 12 Adams in front of a feeding brown or a sponge rubber spider on top of a bluegill spawning bed. I can’t tie that Adams to a No. 4, 5, 6, or 7X tippet on my leader. Frankly, four and sometimes six-pound line is very difficult for me to see and tie.

Any wishes? Oh sure, I wish I could have taken a Dall sheep, grizzly bear and a bigger mulie than the dandy I shot on the Kaibab along the North Rim of the Grand Canyon years ago, but it no longer matters. I have a boatload of outdoor memories.

So, to answer the question: Yes, I can still fish and hunt, and I enjoy it more than ever before. Sunrises and sunsets are more important to me now, and killing another deer or some other critter is less important with each passing year.

I can still do it, and I do fish and successfully hunt, but it’s not as important as it once was. What is important is the opportunity to be there, and to see the game and hook the fish.

And frankly, as more and more people grow older, many stop fishing and hunting. Not me. I just find the need to kill as meaning less than the opportunity to be afield with bow or firearm in hand.

That is what’s most important; that, and spreading the word of good fishing and hunting to my readers.

Posted by ofieldstream on 06/25 at 12:01 AM
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Monday, June 23, 2008

One Man’s Baggage..

imageBaggage is accumulated as life passes before our eyes. We begin life naked and squalling, and if we live long enough, our busy lifetime of travel in the outdoors will leave us with an accumulation of priceless baggage.

Most of these things are not valuable from a monetary standpoint but they are priceless because they produce fond memories.

Our baggage consists of the odds and ends and other accumulations of mementoes and memories from a lifetime spent on the water and in the fields; in the marshlands and woods; on the ground and in a tree.

This baggage is both mental and physical; things that can be held, looked at, and reminisced over. Memories can be found everywhere for a pack-rat like me, and I keep them around for a good reason: every mounted animal, bird or fish, every hat, my bows, firearms, fishing rods—all have many stories behind them. These momentoes sustain my life.

For instance: on the wall between my mounted fish is a Shakespeare glass fly rod. I used it every day during my 10 years of guiding brown trout, salmon and steelhead river fishermen, and the stories that rod could tell would be wonderful. Over 10,000 salmonids were caught with that rod, and it was finally retired in 1979 after I landed a 30-pound chinook salmon.

I heard a muffled creak in it as the brute of a fish was beached, and after removing the fly and rolling the fish upright and holding it until it could swim away, I retired that rod and it now hangs in a place of honor where I can look at it every day.

My junk room (basement) has over 300 different hats hanging from the rafters. There is a unique story behind every one, including one from Detroit’s Homicide Squad that states: “Our day starts when yours ends.” Typical cop humor.

There are hats from Alaskan hunts, fishing trips in New Zealand, product hats worn on one fishing trip or hunt, and hats from friends who know I collect them. However, the only hats I keep are those with a fishing or hunting tale that goes with them. I could spend hours studying this worthless hat collection that has provided over 50 years of fishing and hunting memories.

Here is a signed copy of Robert Traver’s (John Voelker) “Testament Of A Fisherman.” It was signed by him on Feb. 1, 1982 and states: “To my fellow writer and fisherman, Dave Richey, with all good wishes.” It’s worth very little except to me because I valued my friendship with Voelker and often think of him even though he passed away years ago. I look at his Testament, read it at least once each week, and it’s priceless memento.

It’s been my privilege to belong to the Outdoor Writers Association of America (OWAA), which I joined in 1968, and on my office walls are many writing awards. Four stand out: OWAA’s prestigious Ham Brown Award and the Excellence In Craft Award, Michigan United Conservation Club’s Ben East Award For Excellence In Conservation Journalism, and the Michigan Outdoor Writer’s exalted Papa Bear Award for Excellence in Craft.

There are many other writing awards, but these four remind me of my 40 years spent writing outdoor copy for my valued readers.

The other day, while sorting through some of my life’s baggage, was fun. There was a box containing all of my fishing and hunting licenses from my teen-age years to now. I have most but not all of my earliest fishing and hunting licenses from this state, and some date back to the 1950s.

It takes a few minutes but eventually a thought will reveal a heralded moment of fishing from a 1957 fishing license, and those old licenses still have the required Trout Stamp attached. One license held a stamp of Michigan’s old Fish Car that was used by the Department of Natural Resources to carry trout to northern streams for stocking.

One man’s baggage is another man’s treasure trove of outdoor memories. Such is the case with some of my bear, deer and turkey patches. My lot in life is to record as much of our fishing and hunting heritage as possible, and to present it in a way that others can enjoy. Take a moment now, and think about some of your little pieces of life’s baggage and what joys they have given over the years.

We can travel through a life of fishing and hunting, and retain most of our memories. Because, if nothing else, those thoughts will spark a fire in sportsmen.

That fire will blaze into a full-blown recollection of a memorable day or event in our lives that must be remembered long after our ability to hike the hills and wade the streams has ended. Memories give us pleasure in this life.

Posted by ofieldstream on 06/23 at 12:01 AM
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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Believe In Hunches?

The burning question tonight is: do you believe in premonitions? Those quirky little things that niggle at your neck hairs.

They steal silently into your brain, planting seeds of doubt or question. They are the things that make you stop, look around, and try to determine if you are in sudden or unexplained danger.

Call ‘em early warning signs. Call them hunches. A premonition, even. They all mean much the same thing. They are those little things that make us secretly wonder if there really is something out there that goes bump in the night.

Kids were seemingly haunted by grave yards or cemeteries when I was a much younger. You were one tough hombre if you could walk past a cemetery after dark while the owls were calling under a full moon while the wind moaned softly in the crooked-branched trees.

I conquered my fears as a kid when people told me that a monster lived in the attic or basement. Scared? You bet, but living in fear is no fun so I walked down the basement steps one night in the dark. Took myself into the darkest corners of the coal cellar, into the old pantry with big hulking wooden cabinets, and sat on the bottom step next to a squat old wringer washing machine.

The boogyman didn’t snatch me up that night. Nor did he grab ahold and tear me apart when I climbed the stairs up and into the dark attic.

So, by now, you are probably wondering where I’m heading with this thing. Can’t blame you much, but it’s about hunches, premonitions or bad vibes. We all get them if we pay attention to our brain and body.

My wife and I flew to Houston, Texas, and our plan was to jump onto a shuttle flight to Lake Charles, Louisiana for an Outdoor Writers Association of America conference two years ago. I had three seminars to give, and was looking forward to it.

Can’t remember when that first little niggling of a thought troubled my mind. It was somewhere just before we reached Houston’s Bush Airport, and looking out the window revealed rolling clouds. The weather looked nasty as the tires chirped as they kissed the runway.

It began raining hard, and walking inside, we were greeted with the wonderful news that our connecting puddle-jumper flight to Lake Charles had been canceled. It seemed a tropical storm was camped over everything along the Gulf of Mexico from Lake Charles to Houston.

We couldn’t fly and couldn’t get our luggage so we snapped up a Hertz rental car for an exorbitant fee for a 150-mile one-way drive. It rained on us some, but we made it to the convention center. Our clothes arrived 36 hours later from a disgruntled Continental baggage crew.

That little bit of wonder about my concerns slowly died away, and it rained hard for three days. It cleared somewhat on Wednesday morning when it came time to fly back to Detroit and then on to Traverse City. The drive to Houston was easy with some good friends, and we chattered about the conference.

We boarded our flight to Detroit on time, and were informed that we were on schedule. Halfway to Motown, that little worm began crawling up my spine, jangling my nerves awake, and sure enough, 30 minutes later the pilot announced bad weather straddling Detroit like green and black arches. We landed amidst torrential rain, lightning and thunder.

The next leg to Traverse City required a two-hour wait. That two hours eventually stretched into seven hours of heavy rain, vertical lightning and thunder that seemed to move Detroit Metropolitans new terminal.

The flight that should have left the airport at 9 p.m. took a major detour, and it was 3 in the morning when the plane was pushed from the gate and 4 a.m. when we touched down in Traverse City.

The point to all of this prattle is: I had premonitions of something going wrong on the way to Houston, and it did. The same doubts jumped on my heck hair midway to Detroit on the return flight.

Mind you, there are mild premonitions and severe cases. Once, while hunting during a wind storm in Ontario, it was as if someone whispered in my ear: “Move now or die!” I moved 30 feet away, and watched the top of a dead elm break off and land where I’d been standing.

That is a severe case of how the human brain works. Sadly, some people have it, and some do not. Those that don’t often meet a sad fate. I honed my instincts, if you will, on the raw and nasty streets of Chicago in 1957-1958 while attending college. You paid attention or paid a very nasty price for your ignorance. Today, it’s called street smarts.

I saw three people killed because they walked through life trusting people to be as nice as they were. It cost them their lives. Learning to live by my wits—my instincts—kept me from becoming a statistic.

These little hunches, for lack of a better word, can work the other way as well. Sometimes they can lead to some great fishing or hunting or they can lead to a dramatic or deadly situation.

Learn as much as possible about yourself by trusting your instincts. When it comes to gut instincts, your first thoughts are usually right. Argue them at your own peril.

Learn to believe in your premonitions.

Posted by Dave Richey on 06/12 at 02:30 PM
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Saturday, June 07, 2008

Who Will Teach Our Children?

Who will teach our children to fish? Will it be you or me? Your neighbor or a relative?

Or will no one step up to teach our children? Must today’s kids become a lost generation who will never enjoy the many pleasures of fishing and catching fish.

imageAre people too lazy or selfish to give something of themselves in order that the great and noble pastime of fishing will be carried forward into the future? Why is it that Dad can go fishing, and leave the kids home? Why?

So many questions, and so little time to spend fishing with our children before they grow up, move out, get married, develop a career and as the old man grows older, there will be no one to take them out onto the water for a day or two.

Some, and certainly not all, but some adults are sorely lacking in such parental duties. Others are wonderful parents, provide a good home, but offer no quality time with their kids. It’s a shame.

My children were fishing for bluegills before they were four years old. They were battling 25-pound Chinook salmon by the time they were nine, and catching 15-pound brown trout from Lake Michigan before they reached teenage status.

Mind you, as a full-time freelance writer and fishing guide when my kids were young, I was often busy. But I took them fishing, made certain they were having a good time, let them help me set downriggers, and taught them how to watch for strikes. Along the way, between fish, we talked fishing and I answered questions.

Are my kids lucky? I’d like to think so because even back in the mid- to late 1970s, I was doing things with my kids that their friends were not doing with their parents. This fishing business is a one-time opportunity for most parents and their children, and kids who aren’t exposed to fishing at an early point in their life, are likely never to take it up later.

I like those “Take Me Fishing” ads on television. In one, an older man says “Take me fishing because I miss my sons.” Another has a child saying “Take me fishing because I’ll be married before you know it (or something like that).”

The one of the elderly gentleman reminds me of myself. Fortunately, my son David does take me fishing and there are no words to express how much I enjoy fly fishing with him. We go for spring steelhead, fall salmon and occasionally for summer trout.

He’s kind and courteous, helpful, and once I’m on some fish he’s gone to check out another area. He checks in with me hourly or even more frequently, and he does well on the fish. My vision isn’t like it once was, and although I know all the moves, I miss some strikes.

Do I care? Not me. Being out fishing with a friend or a son isn’t about catching baskets filled with fish. It is about fishing, hearing the river chuckle around a log jam, watching the sipping rise of a trout, and enjoying my time on the water.

It isn’t competitive. On occasion, I may catch one or two more salmon or steelhead than David, but there are many more times when he takes the daily “top-rod” honors. I’m happy he does, because my angling career has been filled with many heavy catches and many released fish. I still love to eat fish, but many of my fish are released these days because I no longer need the ego-stroke of a limit catch.

But back to the topic at hand. When are each of you going to take your children or grandchildren fishing? When will you experience that first thrill as a child struggles with a nice fish, a bright smile creasing a young face? When will you give up some of your time to teach the sport you love to your children?

There will come a day, and hopefully it’s long after I’ve fished around my last bend, when angler numbers will be in short supply. Will there be a need to stock fish in lakes and streams if no one fishes?

Will the honorable sport of fishing die because of angling apathy? Will you be proud to be a part of the slow demise of this sport or won’t it matter?

It’s time to start now. Take your wife fishing. Take your children fishing. Set aside your rod, and spend some quality time teaching them how to fish. It may be one of the most wonderful angling experiences of your life.

Posted by Dave Richey on 06/07 at 07:04 AM
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Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Collecting Fish Bait Is A Thing Of The Past


My, how times have changed. Fifty-five years ago, when my twin brother George and I needed nightcrawlers, we’d head for the Clio High School football field. Once the sun went down, the nightcrawlers would come out, especially on a night with warm, drizzling rain.

We would pick crawlers two or three nights each week to satisfy our bait needs. My flashlight had red cellophane across the lens, and it didn’t scare the big worms as did a bright, white light shining on them.

We picked the football field until Alice Boyce, one of Clio’s high school teachers at the time, spotted red lights dotting the football field. Clio’s finest, our city police, arrive to catch two nefarious little kids picking crawlers. They shagged us out of there, but we’d sneak back the next night. We weren’t hurting a thing.

Come winter, and we needed corn borers for ice fishing, dawn would find us in a patch of field corn with a sharp knife. We would cut the stalks length-wise, remove the white grubs, and within an hour have enough corn borers to last for two days of nonstop bluegill fishing.

If we needed wigglers, we use a length of seine, and one person would wade upstream, kick around in a muck bed, and the other would stand downstream with the net and pick out the large mayfly nymphs. Three people worked even better because we could use two kickers, and the netter would attach one end of the net to a pole, anchor it to bottom and stretch the net tight.

We soon learned that some muck beds were better than others. Some just held more and bigger wigglers. There may have been some rules about collecting leeches, minnows and suckers, but we didn’t know about it. We were poor kids gathering fish bait for our personal use.

We collected grasshoppers with a tennis racquet. We’d walk through a weed field, and when a grasshopper would jump into the air, one swipe would be taken with the racquet. We’d pick them up, and a brown fluid would come out of the ‘hopper, and we always called it tobacco juice. A can with a hinged lid, and a small piece of nylon would work well. The hopper would get its feet tangled in the nylon material, and that made grabbing one for the hook much easier.

We caught black crickets for bluegills under piles of old boards, and found there was nothing any better for deep-water roach (bull bluegills). These fish would hit a cricket hooked through the body, and we’d either cast way out or drift with the wind while a small weight allowed the cricket to tumble along bottom in deeper water. Summer bluegills—the bigger ones—were often caught in 25 to 30 feet of water, and drifting downwind allowed us to cover more water and catch more big fish.

Fifty to 55 years ago is a long time in the past. Money was tight and hard to come by in those days, and if we wanted to go fishing, we went out and caught our own live bait. We even caught our own leeches, and found they produced well when hooked to a jig or live-bait rig, and trolled along bottom on a sinker, leader hook rig similar to the now-popular Lindy rig.

Dennis “Curly” Buchner owns Buc’s Bait in Interlochen. He is the largest live-bait dealer in the state, and both of us began our weblogs at the same time. He says that most of the kids of his era collected their own bait even though his father, Earl, started the live-bait business many years ago.

“The average person doesn’t have time to collect bait now,” Buchner said. “Most of our nightcrawlers now come from huge farms in Ontario, and few people can compete with the quality and size of their crawlers. Ontario pretty much has the locks on the nightcrawler business.”

He said that most of his leeches come from northern Minnesota, and his wax worms come from Indiana. Few people have worm farms now like they did 35-40 years ago. Wiggler diggers are the tough ones, he says, noting that they often dig for wigglers at various times of the year although there is a summer moratorium on digging for mayfly larvae.

Gone are the days of prowling the neighborhood and the football field for nightcrawlers, and much of the corn now is resistant to corn borers. Leeches and wigglers must be dug, and crawlers are imported from Ontario for Michigan’s bait fishermen.

Many minnows are purchased, and even live suckers for winter tip-up fishing, now come from a wholesaler. It’s men like Buchner, who covers Michigan from Sanford Lake north to the Mackinac Bridge, and the eastern half of the Upper Peninsula, who are probably the last of their breed.

They keep the bait containers filled at local tackle shops, and their hours are long and tiring, but in the end, if you hook a minnie or a nightcrawler to your hook this summer, chances are good that Curly Buchner stocked the live bait at the bait shop near you.

It’s a long step from catching your own bait. I know I don’t miss the sore back that always accompanied walking hunched over while trying to pick nightcrawlers before Alice Boyce could call the police on us.

Posted by Dave Richey on 06/04 at 03:12 PM
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Sunday, June 01, 2008

Some Of My Favorite Quotes


I’m an avid reader, and over the years I’ve compiled some favorite quotes from some of my favorite outdoor writers. Today, as a change of pace, I’ll toss these out and let me know if you approve. Should you wish to know where these particular quotes came from, touch base at < >.

*As he gets closer, it will dawn on you that there is simply no place you can go to avoid his six tons of murder. He can easily outrun the fastest sprinter with his deceptive shuffle, and if you’re thinking about climbing a tree, don’t bother. He’ll either knock you out of it personally or toot up a couple of chums to share in the festivities. If 12,000 pounds of screaming, screeching, infuriated elephant bearing down on you has somehow rattled your nerves to the point that you miss that six-by-four-inch spot on his forehead, or your bullet fails to penetrate the two-and-one-half feet of tough, spongy, honeycombed bone that protects his brain, then you may as well forget it. The most talented mortuary cosmetician in the world couldn’t rewire you so your own mother would know if you were face up or down.—Peter Hathaway Capstick on elephant hunting.

*Forever old and forever new, a sunrise is always and never the same.—Havilah Babcock on sunrises.

*There is another answer to the question of why man hunts. He hunted before he had fire. If he was brave and skillful his family ate. If not, they starved. He no longer hunts from necessity. He has inherited the love and enjoyment of it, as the artist has inherited the skills and desires of the primitive man who first drew pictures on the wall of a cave. When he no longer does it he will be a far weaker man than he is today. – Ben East of hunting.

*I wanted to see the cleaving flight of feathered migrators splitting the wind before me. I wanted to behold the suddenly tightening grip of the winter upon my beloved lakes and marshes—watch the country say its last goodbye to warm wind and drowsy rain before the white blanket of another season gently covered every dry stalk and patient pine. The day was one for moods. The sun was somewhere behind the black, wooly mass overhead. It struck me as I watched the stingy daylight grow that it is not all of duck hunting to hunt ducks.—Gordon MacQuarrie on waterfowl hunting.

*The cast itself was indecently easy and, finally releasing it, the little Adams sped out on its quest, hung poised in midair for an instant, then settled sleepily upon the water like a thistle, uncurling before the leader like the languid outward unfolding of a ballerina’s arm. – Robert Traver on fly fishing.

*It is not, he muttered, the hasty ascent up the thorn tree when you are being chased by a rhino that hurts so much. It is that long trip down. – Robert Ruark on hunting rhinos.

*A tarpon is mightier than an elephant, stronger than a water buffalo, smarter than a hyena, prettier than a movie queen. He is a bright, sparkling silver bind who, when he gets the plug in his teeth, will rear like a stallion, buck like a bronco, and prance like a deer. He is the leapin’est bit of fish flesh in the ocean. – Joe Brooks on tarpon fishing.

*We keep our memories in the same place we bury dogs and pals who are no longer with us. We keep these treasures in the vaults that hold the sights of geese pitching into a set of field decoys and quail buzzing our of a brushy corner by a split-rail fence. And when the time comes when it’s easier to remember old times than to gather up new ones, it is to this place that we go, you and I, to watch for the flight at sunset. – Steve Smith on bird hunting.

*Or it may be said that hunting is ever a love-affair. The hunter is in love with the game; real hunters are animal lovers. – Isek Dinesen on hunting.

*Not only did turkeys originate Murphy’s Law, they have rewritten several of its postulates. After what they make go wrong has gone wrong, and then gotten worse, they really get down to work and create trouble. – Tom Kelly on turkey hunting.

*The deer hunter habitually watches the next bend; the duck hunter watches the skyline; the bird hunter watches the dog; the non-hunter does not watch. – Aldo Leopold on hunting.

*There is another answer to the question of why man hunts. He hunted before he had fire. If he was brave and skillful his family ate. If not, they starved. He no longer hunts from necessity. He has inherited the love and enjoyment of it, as the artist has inherited the skills and desires of the primitive man who first drew pictures on the wall of a cave. When he no longer does it he will be a far weaker man than he is today. – Ben East of hunting.

*I never go to rivers to kill hecatombs of trout or, actually, any trout; I go to unkill parts of myself that otherwise might die. – Nick Lyons on trout fishing.

*Time is probably more generous and healing to an angler than to any other individual. The wind, the sun, the open, the colors and smells, the loneliness of the sea or the solitude of the stream work some kind of magic. – Zane Grey on fishing.

*Retrieving is what makes the difference between a good dog and a great one. It is the icing on the cake, the cherry atop the sundae, the lace on a bride’s pajamas. – Havilah Babcock on bird hunting.

*The uncertainty that most of us find in trout fishing is one of its most obvious charms; it draws us back to running water every April that the gods allot us and keeps us waving old age away with a rod and a looping line. – Odell Shepard on trout fishing.

*The sad fact is that wooing trout is like wooing certain attractive and mettlesome women: they will not play unless they are in the mood---and moreover think of it first. – Robert Traver on trout fishing.

*I fish not because I regard fishing as being so terribly important, but because I suspect that so many of the other concerns of men are equally unimportant—and not nearly as much fun. – Robert Traver on fishing.

*To the sensitive gunner nothing can equal a bird and a dog and a gun in trilogy. – George Bird Evans on bird hunting.

*If a man is really intelligent, there’s practically nothing a good dog can’t teach him. – Robert Ruark on hunting.

*It is grouse time again. I need no calendar to tell me that. The old drummer has found his log and the staccato beat of his wings is audible in the stillness of the October afternoon. The woodcock has begun their long migration, and the fall ducks are in. The red gods are calling and I must go. – Burton Spiller on hunting upland game birds.

*A goose represents the rebel in all of us and because they’re wild and free, they have a certain quality that shines out and makes us wish that we were not bound to labor in life, but rather that we could drift as they do with the seasons. – Paul Bernsen on waterfowl.

*Long ago I learned that my hunting is not just for me, or horns, or recognition. It is a search for what hunting can give me, an effort to win once again that flash of insight that I have had a few times: That swift, sure intuition of how ancient hunters felt and what real hunting—honest-to-God real hunting--is all about. It is a timeless effort to close that magic circle of man, wildness and animal. – John Madson on the outdoors.

*The closer one lives to nature, the less he is affected by the chances and changes of life. – Archibald Rutledge on nature.

*However it may be with other sportsmen, the angler for trout is chiefly engaged in the collection of pleasant memories. The enthusiast can remember many an empty creel, but never an empty fishing day, for he casts his flies into beauty and draws them back over the waters of peace. – Odell Shepard on trout fishing.

*I still enjoy the company of most dogs more than that of most people, because dogs are capable of uncomplicated enthusiasm.—John Gierach on personal thoughts.

Posted by Dave Richey on 06/01 at 05:19 PM
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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A Return To Yesteryear

Decades ago, there was a place on the Little Manistee River that was almost like home to me. It had numerous shallow gravel bars where steelhead spawned, and rather than chasing after brook trout today when I still have a few months to do so, my son David and I returned to this hotspot from the late 1960s.

“If that’s where you want to fish,” I’m happy to tag along. “Show me a place you haven’t showed me in the past.”

So I did. And he fell in love with it just as I did years before.

The river, near the 18 Mile Bridge west of Irons, was running low and clear today as we stepped into the river. Strongly felt was the old familiar tightening of water pressure against my legs as we began wading slowly upstream in our search for a late-season steelhead.

We poked along slowly, easing into the current, checking out gravel bars for the dish-shaped white overturned gravel from the fanning of a hen steelhead’s tail. The bed is slightly upstream from the white gravel at the tail-end of the bed. Some people wonder why these beds are white, and the quick and easy answer is this gravel has been turned over as a hen digs her spawning redd.

David, much younger than the old man, has speed to burn. I nodded for him to charge off in his personal quest for a lively steelhead while I walked slowly, stopped often, and looked for the near-invisible shadow of a fresh hen steelhead or the darker and blockier shape of a male.

I covered 200 yards, and stood motionless, looking near a fallen log that had toppled into the river. My vision, at best, is poor but I know what to look for.

First came the dark shape of the male holding in slightly deeper water along the edge of the redd. The water was four feet deep here, and I studied it for 10 minutes. The trick is to locate both fish before starting to fish for them.

Err at this point, and hook the female, and she is gone. I studied the bed, both sides of it, and finally found her holding in position next to a log 10 feet downstream from the redd. The female was bright silver in today’s sunshine, and she was very close to being invisible. At first I couldn’t see her, but then I spotted her shadow, and then she became instantly visible. It’s a matter of knowing what to look for.

She was in an impossible spot to fish, even if I was stupid enough to try for her. The male held alongside the redd, and in a perfect location. My line was lengthened, and reading the current speed and depth gave me the ideal spot to cast. My orange yarn fly drifted downstream along bottom, and the fish moved away from it.

The fly was lifted out, cast again, and again the male moved aside and allowed the fly to drift past. Again and again I cast, and each time the male slid away, but he was becoming agitated, and on the 20th or 30th cast, he grabbed the fly and the hook was pounded home.

That fish ripped off on a downstream run, ran past the hen, went between two fallen logs, and wheeled in midstream, splashed out of the water in a corkscrewing jump, and ran back upstream. He took 10 yards of line upstream from me, rolled on the surface, and headed back down and turned. He bulldozed into a submerged brush pile in front of me, and in less than a second tangled my line and broke off.

I moved back up to shore, sat down, tied on another orange yarn fly, and rested the spot. It took 30 minutes before the hen moved back into her holding position, and 15 minutes later, the male reappeared. This time there was something different: an orange yarn fly was firmly embedded in the corner of his mouth.

It took at least an hour for both fish to settle down, and I admired the day and the scenic beauty of this portion of the river. It seemed a great day to be alive. Upstream, I heard David talking to himself as a fish splashed. He was into a steelhead, and was telling the world about it.

My male with the decoration in the corner of its mouth lay beside the female, and she let loose a jet of yellow eggs as both fish rolled on their sides, mouth agape, and he fertilized the eggs. I got a good look at the hen, and she was flat-bellied and had successfully spawned.

She headed into a log jam and disappeared from sight. She would now rest, and I had no problem casting again to the solitary male. This time he was more eager, and grabbed the orange fly on the second drift but he’d learned his previous lesson well. He darted into the brush, twisted around, and the hook pulled free.

Minutes later David came back downstream. He had landed a nice male and released in, and said he had covered over a mile of river and saw just those two fish.

Was it a perfect day? The weather was wonderful, and we each found a male fish to cast to. David hooked and landed his and released the big 12-pound buck, and I hooked and lost the same fish twice.

The answer was an emphatic “yes!” We fished several other areas today, and never saw another steelhead. But, finding two males and hooking both of them, was just part of a perfect day. Fishing a spot I hadn’t fished in 30 years was a bonus, and it was nice to know that fish still hold in the same locations as they did three decades ago.

Posted by Dave Richey on 05/21 at 05:43 PM
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Friday, April 04, 2008

Drive With Care: The Deer Are Everywhere.


We went out earlier for dinner and just returned in time to write this piece. We had a lovely meal, and on the way home saw two or three splattered deer carcasses and saw many deer feeding along the edges of the road.

The thought of the number of animals killed by cars and trucks each year is staggering indeed. It got me to thinking of which critters are most likely to wind up on the statistical side of the wildlife ledger.

During the spring, summer and fall months there are four animals that are frequently seen dead along our highways. Perhaps the highest number of animals killed would be the raccoon. Years ago when I’d drive back and forth to the Detroit newspaper I worked for, there were always high numbers of dead coons. Sometimes in the spring there would be an old she-coon and half a dozen little ones that were too slow to dodge the oncoming traffic.

Second on my list of animal fatalities were opossum. The rat-like possum with his prehensile tail and hissing noise they make when confronted by a human seems to number almost as high as raccoons. The certainly seem to be slower afoot when it comes to dodging traffic.

Third on this list of critters killed by speeding cars and trucks would be deer. I haven’t checked the numbers of road-killed deer killed in 2007, and quite possibly the numbers haven’t been compiled yet, but in years past over 200,000 whitetails are killed by vehicles annually. Each year several people die in car-deer crashes. The cost to insurance companies is staggering.

Fourth on the list of road-killed animals would be skunks. Their stinky remains are not only a blood-smeared highway mark but the odor of skunk spray lingers on long after the animal dies. Sometimes the stink is squeezed out when the vehicle runs over their body, and others I think get off one last blast before being run down

Every year during the summer months I’ll see big snapping turtles obliterated by a passing vehicle. Bits and pieces of shell are scattered across the highway. Turtles are not fleet afoot, and I stop to let them complete their passage. One time I was stopped for a lumbering 25-pounder when a nitwit speedster wheeled past me and the car behind me, crushed the turtle and never slowed down.

Some black bear are killed as well. One year, five or six bears were killed on M-55 in one spot just a few miles west of Cadillac. It’s a famous north-south crossing point for black bears moving through the Mitchell Lake Swamp. Some may not mourn the loss, but I do.

Songbirds by the millions meet an untimely fate with traffic. In most cases, no one will swerve to avoid a bird only to cause a collision with another vehicle. I used to average 1,000 miles per week while on the road to cover my outdoor beat, and would often find the grisly evidence of songbirds in my grill and/or radiator.

Even the bird considered smartest of all—the wild turkey—gets splattered. Most often they flush into the air as a car or truck approaches within 50 feet and lays on the horn, and they often fly right into the windshield. The impact kills the bird and makes the purchase of a new windshield a necessity.

There is one animal that I’ve seen only one laying dead on the roadside. This animal is one that many people wouldn’t think of, and over the countless miles I’ve driven to see only a single specimen means one of two things.

It means the varying hare or snowshoe hare seldom crosses highways, and they seldom venture near a road. The only dead hare I’ve seen was killed along a paved road in western Alger County many years ago.

These animals are content to stay in their thick cover, and although they have a larger home range than a cottontail rabbit, most of their travels take place in heavy cover.

In fact, in all the years I’ve driven in the Upper Peninsula and northern Lower Peninsula, I’ve yet to see a live snowshoe hare cross the road in front of me. They seem to know that crossing wide-open areas leaves them vulnerable to overhead predation by bald eagles, hawks and owls.

The carnage will continue simply because people refuse to slow down when in wild game habitat. They hit the speed limit, kick it up another five or 10 miles per hour, and refuse to worry about the extra gasoline they burn at higher speeds. Gas is very expensive these days, and driving too fast means wasted fuel and more dead critters.

Now me, I’m old enough to be a bit of a curmudgeon and a rebel as well, and I drive slow all the time. I look for critters on both sides of the road, and them that don’t care for me driving the speed limit, can pass. Who knows, perhaps the police will pick them up on radar, and that will force them to slow down.

One can always hope that some of these thoughtless people would get the message.

Posted by Dave Richey on 04/04 at 06:43 PM
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Thursday, April 03, 2008

The Splendor Of Spring


There is a strong need for some of us to delve deeply into our inner being, and learn some basic lessons about enjoying the outdoor life. Everything in nature lives, and it dies, as shall we when our day comes.

Fishing and hunting has been a major part of my 68 years, and there is something buried so deep within my being that I can’t remember when it wasn’t there. There is this need—a deeply felt need—to taste the sweetness of the outdoor life as often as possible.

It’s not enough for me to just go fishing or hunting. I’ve never had to force myself into the outdoors to experience this. My life just needs to sample some part of the outdoors every day, regardless of good weather or bad. I must admit that a drawn-out winter does leave much to be desired.

Sportsmen seldom speak of the little tweety birds. Song birds cannot be hunted, as we all know, but I enjoy watching them at our bird feeders. I’m not sure I know, nor care, how many 50-pound bags of sunflower seeds are purchased each year to feed them. Numbers really don’t matter. Feeding them does.

I sat along the banks of the Betsie River a few days ago watching a hen steelhead try to spawn with three males in the cold water. They seemingly took turns darting in to squirt milt on a golden spill of released eggs. I didn’t view that hen as an object of angling desire, something to hook, land and take home. Instead, watching those fish was symbolic of all good things in nature that tug ever harder at my need to become even closer to that which seems to make me tick.

There is something about wild animals, birds and fish I find fascinating. Nothing stirs my soul more than the roaring thunder of a spring gobbler making himself loudly known to every hen within earshot. He stands as the epitome of spring sounds that make me smile, feel alive and in tune with nature. I love the clamoring sound of Canada geese overhead, and stood this morning for 15 minutes listening the croaks and garish noises of sandhill cranes.

What can be more relaxing on a golden spring day when the temperature soars to 55 degrees, and we sit on the ground under a cedar, and drink thirstily of this delightful scent. We hear the peenting of male woodcock impressing a hen, listen as a ruffed grouse drum-rolls out his love song on a fallen log. Sometimes we even nap on such a warm day, and it’s not laziness but a complete surrender to the wonders of spring.

I yearn for a day on a jump-across creek, bubbling from deep within a cedar swamp, and seek Robert Traver’s little speckled beauties as he did on his pilgrimages to Frenchman’s Pond. I love to burrow into such dense swamps, fish between tree roots and in deep little pockets, and catch one or two brookies with white piping along their fins. Their beauty is something that cannot be denied.

I need to feel the cold, firm and smooth skin of a brook trout in my water-moistened hand. There is a burning need to look upon the stark beauty of tiny red and blue haloed spots that glint in filtered sunlight like rare jewels. There are times when I keep one or two for a long-awaited lunch of picking pink meat from the bones, and knowing I should have let these trout live. I’ve escaped the nagging need to eat a brook trout for eight or nine years although I fish for them often, but the old craving for one or two is always tempting my taste buds.

Deep within me is another urge which I will put off for a few more weeks, but then I’ll succumb to fishing bluegills on their spawning beds. I won’t take many, because filling a limit is something that disappeared from my angling life many years ago. Instead, I need to feel that sideways pull on my fly line as a pug-nosed 10-inch bluegill swims in tight circles in the clear water. Holding a slab bluegill in my hands, and admiring the fish momentarily before freeing the hook and the fish is what my twin brother George and I shared every spring for many years. I’ll do it again, and hope he is watching me catch a fish or two on his behalf.

Old friends, people who enjoy what I enjoy, and feast ravenously on the bounty of the great outdoors are fun to spend time with. We find that as time passes, and as we mellow, spending time on the water or in the woods is a blessing. We enjoy the day whether we catch fish or not, and in some cases, talking and recalling past trips have become more meaningful than catching fish.

Perhaps it’s the weather, the time of year when spring gives birth to a new season, and casting about in search of different reasons and ways to spend time outdoors, is what appeals to me. I cherish days spent fishing with my son, David, and they have become very important to me.

I look at him, and see myself as a hard-charging younger angler who is always willing to pause along the way, sniff the ripening fragrance of newly sprouted leeks, and think of leek soup. David seems to understand The Old Man and his moods, and we can go for long periods without speaking, because we know that nature is silently speaking to us.

Spring such times is a gift, and I hope to pass it along to like-minded people who realize there is more to fishing or hunting than catching and killing. There is life, and a love of nature, for any who wish to pause long enough to look, listen, smell, taste and touch.

Spring is what keeps winding my outdoor clock.

Posted by Dave Richey on 04/03 at 01:34 PM
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Monday, March 31, 2008

Trespass Runs Rampant In This State


One of the biggest problems private landowners face is trespass, and incidents of this problem are increasing.

Many of my hunting buddies have found strangers roaming their land, are swore by them when told to leave, and they wonder why no one wants them on their land. A few have tried to sneak on my land, and find themselves in serious trouble. There are no second chances with me.

I detest arrogant, loud, obscene and rude people. I also have trouble with those who claim to know me and feel they can hunt my land without asking. The problem is that trespass isn’t limited to hunting seasons. Some trespass occurs during the morel picking season, or while people are looking for wild flowers or just taking a walk.

Some hunters are as tidy as an unmade bed, and they find it difficult to find a place to fish or hunt and no one is willing to let them set foot on their land. People who walk up to a landowner, carrying a firearm when they ask for permission to hunt, are politely asked to leave. It’s an insult to a landowner for someone to be so presumptious as to carry a firearm into their presence before they’ve shook and howdied.

I have very few problems any more but the same can’t be said for some friends. One couple was having their morning coffee when he spotted eight or nine people in his back yard.

“What are you folks doing in my back yard?” the man asked the group.

“Picking mushrooms,” one nitwit said. “Why? What’s it to you?”

“It’s my land and you are leaving,” my friend announced. One of the guys gave him the finger, and he vaulted the deck railing in his stocking feet, and took off after the trespasser. Grannie was hiking up her skirt so she could run faster, and Mom, Dad and the kids managed to reach their car. My buddy’s feet were sore for two weeks after chasing them through the woods without boots or shoes on.

The tales of trespass could go on forever. I spoke with a doctor who caught a man trespassing several times. The man said he had hunted there all his life and wasn’t going to stop just because the land had been sold.

The doctor told him he’d be arrested if he didn’t stop trespassing. The trespasser told my doctor friend that if he were arrested, he’d come back and burn down his barn. If he were further hassled by the owner or police, he would burn down his house and pour sugar in the gas tank of his vehicles. tractor and plow truck.

The doctor was beside himself. He finally reached a truce with the trespasser. The guy had a spot that he always hunted, and it was the only place he wanted to hunt, so they reached a tenuous agreement.

The trespasser could keep hunting that one spot but his job was to keep everyone else off the land, and to never set foot near his house or buildings or vehicles. The guy agreed to the deal, and the landowner has had no problems with other trespassers or his unpaid caretaker

And, guess what? Most trespassers do not care about your land. Like poachers, it becomes a game for trespassers to hunt your land without permission and without being caught. If caught, the conversation turns nasty and the results can be ugly.

Most lawmen detest trespass cases, and many county prosecutors have more important (to them) cases to handle. A trespasser gets a verbal hand slap, pays a small fine, and is free to continue to do whatever he wants to, including trespassing on your property.

Back in the old days, cattle and horse thieves trespassed on someone else’s private land to steal live stock. If they were caught, they strung up from the nearest cottonwood tree. Granted, such measures are a bit harsh for the offense of trespass, but very little is being done to curb this type of crime.

Vigilante justice doesn’t apply here, but many who suffer from continuous trespass problems would probably be happy to dole out some form of personal justice. However, we live in a society where honest people can’t take the law into their own hands so they fight a continual battle over the rights to fish and hunt on their own land with people who have no qualms about illegal access.

The jails are full, and it’s difficult to prosecute a trespass case, and even more difficult to get the problem stopped. One man I know solved the problem by allowing a deputy sheriff to hunt his land. His job was to deal with the trespassers, and for them, seeing a lawman every day brought the trespass problem to an abrupt halt.

Angry words and fisticuffs are not the answer. What best addresses the problem remains unclear. A neighborhood watch among all neighbors could work but unfortunately neighbors often are the people who access your land illegally.

It is a very real problem, and it is one for which there appears to be no clear-cut way to legally halt the crime.

Posted by Dave Richey on 03/31 at 06:50 PM
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Friday, March 28, 2008

Turkey Hunting Ethics

imageEthical turkey hunting means hunting according to the rules. For instance: we can’t pot a gobbler from a roost tree, before or after dawn. Granted, some people might get away with it but it is not only unethical but illegal as well.

Most hunters, if they knew someone was watching, would never shoot a treed gobbler. It’s just not an honest or honorable way to hunt. So, if we always believe that someone may be watching our actions, we follow the rules and do the ethical and right thing.

Ethics are legal and moral standards by which other people judge hunters. Shooting a gobbler from a car window is not ethical nor is it legal. Shooting one from someone’s front yard, running out, grabbing the bird and racing back to the car is not only unethical but breaks two or three laws.

I had a chance several years ago to cheat. A huge gobbler was working my way, slowly but surely, and the minute hand was ticking slowly down to the end of shooting time. A soft little whining yelp teased the bird and he paused to gobble, dance and all that did was slow him down even more.

The gobbler had a beard that tickled the ground but he was 55 yards out. Three minutes of legal shooting time remained, and I hoped he would get moving and take several fast steps closer. He could then dawdle along for another five yards, and be in range before shooting time ended.

He took two or three steps, stopped again, went into a semi-serious strut, folded up his wings, and stood at 45 yards. It was now down to seconds: 10… 9 ... 8… and finally my watch said shooting time was over. Five seconds later the bird quickly walked to within 25 yards of me, stopped, and stood broadside with his head up for a full minute.

Could I have shot? Absolutely. Did I shoot? The answer is no. Who would have known if I had cheated by less than a minute?

That answer is simple. I would have known, and every forkful of breast meat would have stuck in my throat like a big chaw of tobacco. I couldn’t have eaten that bird if I had violated all of the ethical and legal codes of hunting conduct.

There are certain things ethical hunters will not do. Shooting a gobbler before legal shooting time starts is a serious breach of ethics and laws. Dumping a gobbler after shooting time ends is equally wrong. Killing one with a rifle is illegal in this state although it is legal in some other states.

The advent of 3 1/2-inch 12 gauge shotguns and the heavy 10 gauge magnums with ultra-full choke tubes have made longer shots possible. I watched a gent unload one shot at a gobbler that would have kept coming had he not shot at 80 yards, and the bird flew away with the guy chasing it with two wild shots.

There’s no excuse for ultra-long shots. Allow the bird to approach within range, take your time, and when his head comes up, shoot. If the bird approaches, his head and neck tucked down, don’t shoot. Birds often will go out of strut, straighten up, and lift their head after gobbling. The chance of wounding a bird is high until the head is straight up.

It’s unethical to call to a bird if you know another hunter has been working it. Common sense, which plays a major role in hunting ethics, dictates that the newcomer should hunt elsewhere for a different bird.

I watched a big gobbler approach a highway, cross and headed toward my hen and jake decoys. My set-up was 350 yards off the road, and the bird came off the road shoulder and out into the field. It then began to strut, gobble, and started my way again.

A car came down the road, stopped when it saw the gobbler and pulled onto the shoulder to watch. The bird spooked when the car stopped/ Hunter ethics wasn’t an issue here but instead, it was a clear case of hunter harassment. The person in the car knew that when he stopped the turkey would take off running. Ethics applies on both sides of the hunting issue.

If one person is working a bird, it’s unethical to try to horn in on their action. It’s unethical to trespass, and and its a crime to harass the birds for any reason. Hunting doesn’t harass the birds but chasing them with a four-wheel-drive ATV is unethical and illegal.

You know, I know, and poachers know that conservation officers are spread too thin and it’s hard for them to enforce all the laws. So, if anyone will help police our ranks, it must be sportsmen like you and me. Ethics must stand for something, and if ethical behavior goes out the window, where are we then?

Civilization must stand on a strong foundation of common sense and ethical behavior. If we lose one, the other will surely follow. If they both go, the world of hunting as we know it will falter and fail. 

Posted by Dave Richey on 03/28 at 12:24 PM
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