The numbers prove it. Realtree fans north, south, east and west live and breathe deer hunting. These guys do, too. Hansen’s from Michigan, Brantley’s from Kentucky, and chances are their version of hunting whitetails is a lot like yours.
February 27, 2013 | By Will Brantley
I tease Barbara Baird on occasion. When I'm not calling her PITA Girl (that stands for Pain In The ... you know), I call her “Mall Ninja.”
See, Realtree’s news blogger is, by all accounts, prepared. She has a pink AK-47 and revels in various competition shooting games and drills. She’s a student of concealed carry, armed self-defense and seemingly all things that go “bang” (her husband, Jason, nicknamed Dr. Bomb, is president of Loki, Inc., which “provides engineering services to the explosives, propellant and pyrotechnics industry”).
Babbs, as she’s known by those in her inner circle of cordite-loving divas, is exactly the type chick you want on your team during the zombie apocalypse.
And so she was among the first ladies to come to mind when I heard Joe Biden give his now-famous rambling “buy a shotgun” advice to a woman concerned about self defense options, or lack thereof, if Biden’s gun-control task force is to get its way.
All you really need, says Joe, is a double-barreled shotgun. He then shared the same sound tactical advice he’d given his wife, Jill. Fire both barrels of that 12-gauge into the air, should you hear a bump in the night. He “promises” that’ll scare away any would-be offenders. A shotgun is much easier to use, Joe contends, than an AR-15.
How I wished Babbs had been sitting in the audience to provide a woman’s take on the Veep’s defensive advice. I suspect she'd have noted:
- Joe’s violating several of the 10 commandments of gun safety with his advice (not to mention the law). Second graders learn not to shoot at what they cannot see in basic Hunter Ed, and even before taking said class, most of them grasp the concept of randomly aimed gunfire being potentially dangerous.
- Firing both barrels of a double barrel announces your position while simultaneously leaving you unarmed. This isn’t a problem for Jill Biden, of course, because she has the Secret Service (a point made so well by my hero Dave Petzal at Field and Stream), but it may be for you.
- A 12-gauge loaded with anything heavier than a dove load kicks, especially out of a double barrel. Those of us who actually use shotguns in the field know that a dove load has a tough time knocking down squirrels, too.
- Double-barrel shotguns are usually expensive, and they only hold two shots. A pump or semi-automatic holds more ammunition and is usually cheaper, but you run the risk of it looking far too menacing for Biden's approval. The 870 Babbs is holding in the photo above, for example, is one a proposed assault weapons bill would ban because of what the stock looks like.
- Making promises on self defense anything is a bad idea. Gun makers and gun writers don't feel qualified to do it. Perhaps Biden should consider that.
- At the end of the day, Biden's implication is that the AR-15 is just much too complex and dangerous for the simple little female mind. Yeah. Babbs, you and other female readers can chime in any time on that in comments below.
Because self-defense, at home and in the woods, is such a broad topic, and one of interest to most hunters, we’ve tasked Babbs with creating “Defense in the Woods” gallery, slated to be posted soon on Realtree.com. I think you’ll enjoy it. Maybe more so, even, than listening to Joe Biden.
February 18, 2013 | By Will Brantley
Check out this note and photo, sent in by my buddy Mike Pendley. There is hope for the future, it seems.
My 8-year-old son Nathaniel, nicknamed Potroast, eats, breathes and dreams hunting. As we headed home from the last deer hunt of the season, he was silent most of the trip. Finally he asked, “Dad, is it OK to be a little sad when deer season is over?”
This obsession has bled over into his school work. One time he listed his favorite color as “camo." And I wasn’t too surprised the other day when my wife showed me his latest homework paper. You can read the assignment, which was to come up with a movie theme. But I got the biggest kick out of his answer to question No. 6.
February 9, 2013 | By Tony Hansen
Hailing from the state of Michigan, home of about a million deer hunters and a million opinions on how to best manage deer, I spend a fair amount of time looking at deer regulations and management programs in other states.
Ohio, being a southernly neighbor, often commands a lot of my attention. And for good reason: The deer hunting there can be pretty darned good. I'm also a fan of the state's management practices.
For starters, it's a one-buck state. And while I'm not trying to start an argument here, it's hard to deny the fact that limiting hunters to just one buck per season likely causes a lot of hunters to think twice before smacking a young buck. Which means more of those little guys grow up to be big guys. And I don't think you'll find a hunter that will honestly say big bucks don't get them a touch jacked up.
But it's more than just the buck rules that I find refreshing. It's also the Ohio DNR's willingness to adapt and change. To me, that's an indication that the folks in charge of Ohio's deer program aren't just biologists. They're deer hunters. And that makes a big difference. I'm sure Ohio hunters have some issues with the DNR. Every state does. But, trust me, your DNR is the envy of others.
Last week, the Ohio DNR unveiled recommendations for the 2013 deer season. And, once again, the Department showed that it's willing to change.
Keep in mind these are just proposals. They may or may not actually happen.
The first proprosal that jumped out at me was one that would extend shooting hours during the state's gun season to one-half hour after sunset. Currently, shotgun hunters must pack it in at sunset. Now, if you follow deer regulations to the letter and check sunset/sunrise times, you'll know that stated sunset times are actually about 30-45 minutes before you lose safe shooting light. That last portion of the day also happens to be a prime time for deer movement.
I have always found the sunset cut-off time to be, well, stupid. I can't think of any other state that shuts hunters down right at sunset. There's plenty of data available to show that extending shooting hours to a half-hour past sunset does not result in an increase in accidents and, in fact, the ODNR includes such a study in its justification for the proposal.
Another interesting proposal is the elimination of the second shotgun weekend in favor of a two-day, does-only muzzleloader season in mid-October. Ohio's "regular" shotgun season opens the Monday after Thanksgiving and lasts a week. In 2006, the ODNR added an extra weekend to the season in mid-December. The season was the result of hunters asking for additional days to hunt.
But demand for the season seems to have waned. Thus the ODNR is doing what a good agency does -- it is reacting to the demands and current actions of hunters. But it's not doing so without an eye on the resource. Ohio has a lot of deer and doe management is important. It's reasonable to think that many of the deer taken during the extended shotgun weekend were does. To replace that antlerless harvest, the ODNR would add the mid-October muzzleloader season. As a bowhunter, I admit I'm not all that interested in having a gun season in October and I'm sure there will be opposition to the season. But, that issue aside, you do have to respect an agency that's willing to respond to current hunting trends and offer alternative options.
I don't know about you, but I wouldn't mind seeing more state wildlife agencies prove themselves to be a little more responsive to changes in hunter needs and attitudes. Ohio's DNR isn't perfect. But it certainly has some qualities that other agencies could take note of. Don't you think?
February 7, 2013 | By Tony Hansen
Ah, Google. What wonderful tools you have.
If you're a serious (heck, even semi-serious) deer hunter, I've no doubt that Google Earth and Google Maps are a couple of tools that you've used. I use them on an almost daily basis to look over, search for and review areas that I may hunt. There is nothing else like it. And, best of all, it's completely free. Well, most of the time anyway. More on that in a bit.
With snow piling up and winter firmly entrenched here in the Midwest, there's not a whole lot to be done outdoors. There is ice-fishing and I do enjoy that from time to time. Sure, you can do some post-season whitetail scouting. But that's about ran its course for me. You could hunt coyotes I suppose. But, by and large, February just plain sucks. March isn't much better.
So what's an antler geek to do? Plan ahead. Scout from afar. And, yes, dream a little.
About this time each year, I find myself spending more and more time on Google's mapping tools. I already have a fairly good idea of where I'll be hunting next fall and now is when I spend time researching the options available. When hunting outside of my home state, I'm far more likely to hunt public land than private. But even when hunting private land, it's usually a place that I gained access to by asking permission and it's almost always an area that I've chosen because of its proximity to a public area that I intend to hunt as well. And I will have already "scouted" all of these places months before ever stepping foot on them. And I do it with tools from Google.
I thought I knew just about all there was to know about Google's mapping tools. Apparently not. Recently, I was trying to map out an area for a food plot on a small piece of ground in Missouri. The property is enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program and the contract allows for a small percentage of the CRP ground to be planted in annual food plots. I needed to submit a map to the landowner that outlined the areas to be planted and show that they did not surpass the maximum acreage. But how to do that?
Well, a bit of research revealed the obvious answer: Google Earth Pro. The Pro version allows you to draw out an area and it will then calculate the acreage. It's an ideal solution. It's also a paid service.
Then the landowner sent me a link to a free service that did exactly what I needed: DaftLogic's Google Maps Area Calculator.
The thing is pretty cool and easy to use. Just navigate to the land you want to measure, click your way around the perimeter and the calculator below the map will tell you how many acres are within the perimeter you've established. Easy as that.
You can also then export the area you've just drawn as a KML file and load that file onto Google Maps at any time. Why is this useful? Well, because I'm dealing with a plot that must not be any larger than reported in the CRP contract, that KML file can be loaded onto my iPhone. Then while at the location, I can enable the GPS on the phone and it will show me exactly where I'm at when spraying or planting. And as long as I'm inside the boundaries displayed on the map from the KML file, I'm good to go.
I really love cool online tools. But I love free ones even more.
January 31, 2013 | By Will Brantley
I do feel sorry for Jeff and Jennifer Counceller, the Indiana couple who took in an injured fawn, nursed it back to health, and are now facing legal recourse from the Indiana DNR. Their intentions were good. And in a video interview, Jeff is sporting a Realtree t-shirt. The Councellers seem to be “good folks like us.”
But there’s more to the story than the emotional frenzy created in the wake of their situation and then stoked by the media, ABC News in particular. Read this story with a video interview, for example. The first line: “Should an Indiana couple go to jail for saving Bambi?”
Can we say, sensationalist?
But forming an opinion isn’t so cut and dry if you consider the facts. According to John Waudby of Indianapolis**, the guy who started the Facebook page and online petition, Jeff Counceller, who is a police officer, responded to a call about an injured fawn. Upon finding the fawn, Jeff called his wife, Jennifer, who is a nurse. It’s unclear what caused the injuries, but the Councellers took the little deer into their home and named it, “Little Orphan Dani”.
The Councellers also contacted the Indiana DNR (which the DNR confirmed). As is standard procedure, the DNR referred them to this page on the Indiana DNR website, which advises people on what to do when they encounter orphaned animals. The page states clearly that, “Removing wildlife from the environment is prohibited by state regulations without a proper handling permit.” The Councellers did not have, and were not given, that handling permit.
That law is important for protecting newborn fawns in particular, though. Fawns spend most of their first weeks of life in solitary hiding. Their mothers leave them hidden, checking back to nurse them only on occasion. The doe doesn’t want to attract more attention than necessary to the fawn because the fawn isn’t yet physically able to escape predators. That the fawns hide—alone—using their coloration for near-perfect camouflage is nature’s survival mechanism for them.
Thing is, well-intentioned humans frequently encounter these hiding newborn fawns, find that they’re easy to catch and assume that, because they don’t see the doe, she has abandoned the fawn. So they take the fawn home and stick a bottle of 2% milk in its face.
“Regulations (against capturing fawns) are put into place first and foremost to protect the fawns,” says Joe Hamilton, a deer biologist and founder of the Quality Deer Management Association, “but also to protect people. Frequently, people raise these fawns into adult deer, and then keep them enclosed in a small area. I know of no other backyard ‘pet’ that injures more people than a captive deer. It almost always ends in a tragic situation for the deer, and too frequently, for human beings.”
What if the deer is indeed injured, as was the case with the Councellers? Well, the Indiana DNR addresses that, too, by offering a list of licensed wildlife rehabilitators and further stating, “DNR does not care for injured or orphaned animals.”
The Councellers attempted arrangements with area wildlife rehabilitators without success, according to Waudby. Their only legal option, at that point, was to return the deer to the wild and allow nature to take its course. The Councellers instead continued caring for the deer, feeding it and interacting with it until recently, when it had grown into an adult deer. A DNR officer questioned them, confirmed that the deer was still captive, and advised that, for safety reasons, it would be euthanized. In addition, the Councellers would be facing misdemeanor charges for illegally harboring the animal. Conveniently, Dani the deer “escaped” the very day it was supposed to be euthanized.
And so here we are in a situation straight out of a Disney movie with emotions running high. On the one hand, it’s easy for me to call this what it is: anthropomorphism. The Bambi syndrome. If the Councellers had just let nature take its course, they wouldn’t be in this mess. Jeff Counceller is a police officer, and yet he knowingly broke the law. Case closed.
On the other hand, I really appreciate whitetails. It’s one of those difficult things for an anti-hunter to understand. I will shoot a fawn with my bow in the fall given the chance (they are fine, tender eating), but if I can keep one from suffering and dying a slow death in the woods, you bet I’d want to.
And then we have the Indiana DNR. They will not cave to the court of public opinion, nor will they give their own opinion on this. They shouldn’t. Their job is to protect and manage wildlife, and a big part of that job includes managing human / wildlife interactions and conflicts. That they were going to euthanize the deer may seem callous. But now, there’s an adult deer in the area with no fear of humans. That situation will likely end with the deer's death.
Maybe the hard truth of this story is that all parties involved -- the Councellers, the DNR, and the deer -- lose to a degree. And that’s probably a good reason why those “don’t rescue fawns” laws are there in the first place. What do you think?
(**Attempts were made to contact the Councellers directly, but our phone calls were not returned)
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