Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Luke's Way

Since the blog is quiet and people are too busy hunting to write about it, I thought I'd post a story I wrote from 2003 and posted in sections on my Farm Fin Fur Feather blog. It's long, but Enjoy!

I had been watching deer all summer and this was to be the “year of the buck.” We purchased our farm in upstate New York to raise a family, to live in the country, and, for me, to hunt. My first hunting season on the farm was a frenzy of hunting, an orgy-like frenzy of hunting madness. Yet despite long (constant if you ask my wife) hours a-field, the first year yielded little by way of game. A few ducks, a goose, some small game, a doe on opening day of deer season. Mind you, it was huge success relative to my previous years hunting, but of course not what I had in mind now that I lived in what my friends referred to as a veritable game preserve. So this year, our second, was to be the “year of the buck.”

All throughout the early small game seasons I kept myself alert for deer, always on the lookout for sign and patterns. I knew where they crossed the creek, where they bedded down, where they browsed the hedgerow fruits and berries, where they traversed our woods en route to corn and soy bean fields. I knew their paths through the cattail marsh, through the overgrown orchard, through bottomland brambles. I had mental notes of all of the rubs on and around my property. I had them patterned and I had seen at least two large bucks. Things were shaping up well for the “year of the buck.”

Opening day of deer season arrived with me riding high on a tide of confidence after a highly productive waterfowl season. I put in a few hard days of last minute preparations, stand placements, shooting lane clearings, all in anticipation of filling at least a doe tag or two and hopefully bagging my buck on opening day, before the deer changed all of their routines due to hunting pressure. I cleaned my WW I Mauser rifle-turned bolt-action shotgun thoroughly, sighted in the red dot scope one last time, pulled my deer hunting garb off of the clothesline where it had been “airing out” for a week or so, and completed last minute checks. “Tomorrow morning is it,” I kept thinking.

In the back of my mind I knew I needed to make a contingency plan about how to deal with the yearly tension between waterfowl hunting, my first love, and deer hunting, a growing obsession in its own right. The night before opening day, I committed to 100% attention to deer season until I got my deer tags filled, or the season ended, one of the two. It felt good to arrive at that position, knowing I seem to do better at whatever I endeavor when I sell out to the cause. So, I was committed to an extended “deer campaign” if required, which was appropriate for what was to be “the year of the buck.”

I slept fitfully and finally gave up at 3:30 AM. “Might as well get going,” I thought as I lay listening to the rain on the metal roof. “Things will be slower in the rain.” I was up and dressed by 4:00 AM and on my way to the stand in the thicket shortly thereafter. The thicket stand, I reasoned, was well placed on a regularly traveled route, and after all the shooting got started, I would be in an easy ambush position as the deer made their retreats to safety. Unfortunately, in the absolute darkness of the cloudy and foggy morning, it took me much more searching, and swearing, than expected to find the tree, despite the fact that I had just looked it over the afternoon before. Finally, as the darkness began lifting, I found the tree stand, and got myself situated. I was overheated, now soaked from the rain and the wet underbrush, and out of sorts. I tried to take some deep breaths, achieve the elusive Zen state of deer hunting, but I kept hearing deer moving around me. With twenty minutes to shooting time, I was strung as tight as a piano wire.

A shot to my left, single, followed by two follow-ups and the sound of someone whooping. “The season is five minutes old and someone is already happy,” I thought, “Won’t be long for me either.” A single shot to my right, near the hedgerow. “Must be Woody…he always gets a deer opening day.” Half an hour passes, and though I regularly hear deer in the brush around me and on the many spur trails, I have yet to see one. A shot to my rear, down by the lake in the vicinity of the cattails, followed up by three more shots in rapid succession. “Hmm…maybe I should have taken up that position near the marsh,” I mutter. Catching myself beginning to second-guess prematurely, I take a deep breath, steady myself, and focus. “This is the year of the buck,” I repeat, as a mantra, as I hear more shots in the distance.

The next two weeks differ very little from opening day. Snow falls, changing the scenery a little. The number of shots heard while in tree stands, or tracking and trudging, diminishes, leading me to believe that most of the deer in the county have been killed by what must be more lucky or more skilled hunters than I. I fall into a routine. Arise an hour before dawn, quickly dress and head out to one of my outposts of despair, while repeating my mantra “This is the year of the buck.” Mentally note the sound of the ducks or the geese on the marsh, taunting me, chiding me for wasting my time on deer when I could be waterfowl hunting. My lab gives me the same look every morning when she sees me put on the orange coat and not the old Filson, and more severely upon my return around 10:00 AM empty handed. Return to the woods around 3:00 PM for a few more hours. Somewhere in those two weeks I manage to show up for work for “reduced hours,” but those minutes are not memorable. What is most memorable, other than the bizarre behavior of ground squirrels which I have become an expert in due to my intimate and extended observations of, is a phone call from a good friend in Kentucky.

“How’s it going?” he inquires. “Great” I reply, aware that in that moment I might have wasted the last ounce of contrived optimism I may somehow have still been in possession of, and would be utterly bankrupt of positive thoughts when I get to my stand this afternoon. “What’s up?”

“Well, you know, Luke has been talking about wanting to hunt, and I don’t hunt, so I was wondering if you would take him hunting?” My friend Rob is not an avid outdoorsman, preferring to heap his genius upon more predictable and controllable things than nature, such as computers. I have considered the wisdom of his choices while freezing in my deer stand and have found them to be admirable, especially admirable this deer season.

“Has Luke ever been deer hunting?” I ask.
“Not really. We shot his .22 a few times together, though.”
“At what?” I ask.
“Cans, mostly.”
“See, all of his friends are starting to go hunting with their Dads or uncles, you know, everybody hunts down here.”

“Well, I’d love to see you guys, and I think it would be great to get Luke out hunting. Maybe we could go for squirrels.” I was thinking it might be better to postpone this hunting expedition idea until after deer season was over, so I could finish my languishing campaign in peace. There was only a week to go.

“Were you thinking in a few weeks” I asked?

“Well, we could do it next weekend…” I did the mental math. That would be the last weekend of deer season. But, for goodness sake, I had better at least see a deer by then.

“That will work just fine. Make sure Luke brings warm clothes and good boots. We have snow. Should be great hunting weather.” I can never pass up an opportunity to share the hunting tradition with a youngster. Besides, if I have wrecked my deer karma, maybe this will help.

The days passed by much like the preceding days of deer season, though I did at least get a fleeting glimpse of a doe or two, and even a handsome buck passed by out of range. The weather got colder, the ground squirrels seemed to disappear, and the snow deepened by the time Luke and Rob arrived. Shots were infrequently heard now, and my musings were muffled in the snowy quiet of the winter woods. I heard the dogs barking back up at the house and guessed that my hunt for the afternoon was over, that the Squirrel Hunting Expedition had begun. As I lowered my gun to the ground and climbed out of my tree stand, I heard the alarm chirp of a gray squirrel. I noted his location, and thought “Now don’t you guys all disappear too, Mr. Gray Squirrel.”

I made the hike back to the house quickly. It was easier now that I didn’t carry the back pack loaded with rope and knives and other sundries needed in the event one slew a deer. Now I just carried my gun and a handful of shells. Luke and Rob were standing on the steps, hands on hips, looking at the frozen lake, while my labs entreated the new arrivals to heed their wagging and whining. I felt my spirits lift a little from the heaviness I was beginning to suffer from the battles with self-doubt in the deer campaign.

We entered the house where my wife had a cozy fire going and delicious smells to greet our guests. Both Rob and Luke were immediately under the spell of our little piece of heaven, and by dinner time, Luke was being regaled by stories of “Myself as Great Waterfowl Hunter.” He listened enthusiastically to my tales, and my labs wagged their tales where appropriate. Rob also indulged me and encouraged me to continue with laughter and questions. As I was pouring a wee bit more wine into my glass, Luke deadpanned: “What about the deer?”

Waxing nostalgic about hunting aesthetics is one thing, but it should not be forgotten that hunting has its origins in a fairly straightforward requirement to put meat on the table. Leave it to a child to do so well what most adults have an increasingly more difficult time of. Ask the hard ones. Cut to the chase, get to the bottom line, and don’t equivocate. So there it was, the question laid before me. “Meat, or no meat?” “Success, or failure?” I looked into this aspiring hunter’s eyes and I could see that no flowery talk of “enjoying nature being the point of hunting” was going to fly. I think he understood the point was to hunt, which is more than to kill, and he was asking just how I was faring in that department. I cleared my throat, breaking the silence. “This is the year of the buck” I said flatly. “I have hunted hard for him, and he has eluded me. I haven’t seen many deer at all, and I have killed none.” I took a gulp of wine and swallowed. More silence.

Luke is an interesting young fellow, thoughtful, sincere, and comical in an off-the-wall kind of way. Luke looked at his father and seeing no sign to maintain silence, furrowed his brow and declared “Huh. Well, deer are pretty smart.” Never truer words were spoken. The boy had just delivered a simple yet profound nugget of truth to me in taking the attention off of myself and my misery and my woe-is-me deer-less pity party and putting the focus squarely where it belonged, on the honorable and magnificent quarry I was after and the reality that hunting deer should not be easy. I smiled and laughed a little, and so did Luke and Rob, but uncomfortably. Apparently, I was wearing this all on my sleeve. I needed to remedy the ambiguous tension in the air.

“Luke, in hunting, as in life, things don’t always go our way. Right now, I am a little discouraged because I have put a lot of thought, time, and effort into getting a deer, and I haven’t got one yet. Most everybody I know has gotten at least a doe or two by now, and many have gotten a buck. I guess I have been feeling a little sorry for myself because I haven’t had a fairy tale deer season where I got a trophy buck on the first day. But, like you said, deer are pretty smart, and I will keep trying. I am glad you are here, and we will go squirrel hunting tomorrow morning, and see what we can do. Are you prepared?”

Luke’s eyes got a little wider and his voice a little higher as he listed all of the things he had done in preparation for his hunt. His enthusiasm elated the mood in the room and the rest of the evening was relaxed for the grown ups, and full of anticipation for Luke, who decided to “turn in early” to be ready for the morning hunt. The fires died in the fireplaces, the wine gave out, and conversation waned. We retired with a steady snow falling.

The next morning I did not awake before dawn as was my usual routine, because squirrel hunting need not be that kind of affair. We all ate a leisurely breakfast, carried a little wood for the kitchen fireplace, and drank coffee and hot chocolate. We went scouting for squirrels, did some farm chores, and before we knew it, it was 2:00 PM. I had forgotten how civilized life could be at such a pace, what with the water fowling season and deer season rigors. Finally, according to Luke, we turned our full attention to the squirrel hunt.

We adjourned to the gun room and began dressing for the field, bundling up against the dropping temperatures outside. Luke was going to borrow my .22, and Rob and I each carried 12 gauge shotguns “to help out” Luke. Rob’s gun for the day was a New England Firearms single shot, mine was a FieldMaster pump, named the “magical gun of mystery” in honor of its often idiosyncratic ways, especially in the duck blind. Would it cycle, would it fire? One never knew. I thought I’d give it a run since I had recently cleaned it good. My hope was that this would be a good barn gun, an extra shotgun to have around, used more as a tool than as an instrument of sporting leisure. It was the right gun for the day.

Luke loaded a pocket full of .22 rounds into his hunting coat, and I grabbed a handful of number sevens. “These ought to do the trick for backing Luke up,” I thought, smiling at the remembrance of my first boyhood squirrel which mysteriously had more than one hole in it despite the fact that I only shot my .22 once. My glance skimmed across a wooden cigar box which held my deer hunting slug shells. “Better grab a couple of these, too, just in case,” I said out loud, noticing a definite increase in my optimism levels. Luke grinned at me.

We crunched through the fresh snow past the barns toward the creek ravine. The ridges over looking the ravine are dotted with 100 year old oak trees that are in decline and full of large cavities. They are like housing projects for gray squirrels. We arrived at the biggest of these, which stands guard over the trail that descends the steep banks of the gully. The ravine is gorge-like in places, with depths of up to 70 feet from the ridge to the creek bottom below. One can only see the creek bottom by standing on the very edge of the ravine and peering over the edge. Adding the 100 plus feet of height of the oak trees, the squirrels are afforded quite a vantage point indeed.

On this day, a squirrel was noisily gnawing away at something in the higher branches. We spotted him high above, a silhouette against the gray sky. “Too far, too high” Rob explained to Luke, taking advantage of an opportunity to explain how rifle bullets travel, even .22’s, and how we must anticipate how far past what we shoot at our bullets will fly. We observed the copious squirrel sign on the snow covered ground, and we bent down studying the comings and goings of our quarry. Luke asked about the blurred tracks, and we spoke of the wind, and the snow, and how animals react to severe weather. And then it happened. It was subtle, almost the same feeling you have when you have been in the waiting room at the doctor’s for hours, and have become drowsy and resigned to forever waiting, and then your name is called. It is both startling and no surprise at all.

My name was called kneeling under that oak tree looking at squirrel sign with Luke and his father. Rob later said my expression was really like I, but nobody else, heard perhaps my wife calling my name or the phone ringing. Luke asked “What?” and I put my finger to my lips. I was suddenly very alert, but still unsure why, or what called me. We kneeled silently together for a moment, and I remember how beautifully quiet it was, and how lovely the faint rustling of the dead oak leaves still on the branches sounded. Luke and Rob were looking at me intently, like I was either going to tell a joke punch line or break some bad news. Instead, I smiled and slowly, deliberately, removed the three bird shot shells from the “magical gun of mystery”, and replaced them with three deer slugs. I wasn’t sure why.

From the squirrel’s vantage point high in the swaying branches of the oak tree, this is what he saw. Directly below him, at the base of his tree on the ridge, were three humans with guns, nothing unusual this time of the year, crouching, looking at his acorn peelings and footprints, pointing here and there. The squirrel barked warnings to these humans, declaring his rights to privacy and property so that they will leave the place where he has buried a nut or two. Far below the squirrel, down in the ravine, in the blackberry bramble on the far side of the creek, rest three does, their ears twitching, nostrils flaring, puzzling out mixed signals on the wind. They are laying low in the snow where they often seek refuge, riding out the winter weather in the shelter of the gully. The humans with guns often walk past them where they lay quietly. This day they snort nervously, aware of a predator, of impending danger. The sounds and smells are strong, though intermittent. They decide to depart quickly.

Meanwhile, on the ridge the squirrel sees the human with the orange coat rise and motion to the other two to follow him. The little one follows next, followed by the one with no hat. The squirrel turns his gaze again to the deer, now standing up in the snow, twitching their tails and snorting. One is big and gray, one is slightly smaller and more tan, and one is younger and spotted. Looking back at the humans, the squirrel sees that they are walking towards the edge of the ravine, to a clear spot recently logged. The deer are moving now toward a switchback trail up the far side of the ravine, running. The humans have reached the edge of the ravine. The little one is pointing at the running deer and the one in the orange coat is snapping his gun up to his cheek. Bang! The squirrel drops his nut and dives into his tree home, where he is greeted by the noisy chatter of his tree mates.

I shot three times, the “magical gun of mystery” performing flawlessly for once. I lowered the gun and it registered that I had just seen deer and shot at them. I heard a squirrel chattering. On my left I heard Rob say, “You got ‘im,” incredulously. “We got a deer!” Luke exclaimed. At first I couldn’t see anything. We were standing side by side by side on the ridge in the fading light as the snow fell. Then I could see a big gray doe laying on the deer trail across the creek about 120 yards down and away. She was still. Two other deer were running up the trail, pausing for a moment looking back, cresting the rim and bounding out of the gorge and out of sight.

I turned my head and looked at Rob and Luke, who were smiling. “I am going to the deer,” I said. “Would you gentleman mind keeping your eye on it from here in case she gets up, or I can’t see her from down there in the thick stuff? I’ll give you a shout to come down when I get to her.” We all agreed to the plan, and as I excitedly and hurriedly slid on my backside down the snowy ravine (which I must remember to do again as it was quite exhilarating!), I could hear Luke speaking with exuberance to his father. While chambering a few shells in case the deer was not finished, I resolved then to do all I could to help Luke own this hunt.

As I feared, it was difficult to see anything in the tall brambles, and slowly I picked my way through the brush. I called to Luke, “Luke, can you still see her? Am I getting close?” Simultaneously, both Rob and Luke answered. Luke said “Yep, you’re almost there,” while Rob said “Keep going, a little to your right.” Then, after a few more steps, I saw the gray fur and white tail. When I got to her, she was quite still and dead. I called for Luke and Rob to come down, and emptied the shells from my gun. I leaned the gun in a low fork of a tree, and knelt down to my downed deer. I felt for her wound and finally found an entrance and exit wound in the neck, where the lead slug had severed her spine. She died almost instantly. No wonder she disappeared from view so quickly, which also better explained my instinctive second two shots at the other bigger deer.

Luke and Rob came up behind me and I could hear Luke saying “Wow, it’s bigger than I thought.” I was feeling her fur, and I invited Luke to check it out. It was then that I felt that “performance pressure” ease away from me, and a feeling of immense gratitude came over me. I realized how fortunate we all were to experience this, in this unique way, together. I became aware of how fortunate I was to be hunting in such a beautiful place that happened to be my back yard. And it occurred to me to impress upon Luke the importance of gratitude versus gloating when we have the good fortune of our hunt including a kill. I looked at Rob, and he communicated without words his deference in this situation, which is a compliment to another, as any father knows. I said “Can I get serious for a minute with Luke?” Rob said “Yes, of course.” So I said to Luke, “Remember how I said in hunting, as in life, things don’t always go our way? Well, today they went your way Luke, and my way too. We killed a deer. Now, we must be thankful for this deer, for this life we have taken. We don’t have to do anything fancy, we should just be quiet for a minute and think about this beautiful deer in this beautiful place and be thankful.” After a few moments as we knelt around this gray doe in the snow, giving thanks how we each saw fit, I heard a squirrel’s chatter from the big oak tree up on the ridge. I looked at Luke. “Kind of a strange squirrel hunt, huh Luke?” He had a shy look, turned his head away. “Yeah” he said, sort of laughing.

I asked Rob to go up to the house and get my butchering equipment and some baling twine from the sheep barn while Luke and I found a small lodge pole. While we waited for Rob’s return, we sat on a log and had target practice with the .22 on an old tree trunk that had gnarls in it that looked like the rings of a target paper with a bull’s eye. Luke showed that he was a pretty good shot. We ran out of rounds for the .22 just as Rob appeared up on the ridge. As he was picking his way down to us in the fading winter afternoon light, Luke said “This is the best hunting trip I have ever been on.”
“Sorry we didn’t get you a squirrel” I said.
“Well, getting a deer is pretty good too” he replied.
“Yes,” I said, “because deer are pretty smart.”
We laughed as we stood to greet Rob, having returned from his mission.

Working quickly, we had the deer field dressed before dark, and we hung it from the lodge pole just like in the Davy Crocket books I read when I was a kid. Rob took the front, I took the rear, and the successful hunting party labored under the load of the heavy doe up the path to the top of the ridge as darkness fell. As we approached the farmhouse, we could see the warm yellow lights of the windows and we could all imagine the cheery fires and food, fun, and family waiting for us inside. My children and wife, as well as Rob’s wife and daughter were waiting at the door for us when we returned, and I couldn’t help thinking I was in a Currier and Ives dream state, or that Norman Rockwell would be sitting with his easel in the yard.

So, despite not having shot a trophy buck, my deer drought ended on a happier than could have been expected note. From what I hear, Luke is still telling his New York deer hunting tale. I never told Rob about how preposterous it was that an instinctual snap shot on a running deer at over one hundred yards down hill in bad light with a dubious gun shooting 2 ¾ shells through a stuck poly choke last set for ducks with two witnesses resulting in an instant kill neck shot was. That it was unbelievably lucky, never repeatable, I mean. Not that it wasn’t meant to be. I have told Rob that the hunt I shared with he and his son was one of the most memorable hunts, if not moments, of my life. I am hoping Luke will be willing to go after squirrels with me on my next trip for Moose in Maine or Elk in the Rockies. I hope that in life, as in hunting, things will continue to go Luke’s way.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

What They're Eatin' at Canoga Creek Farms

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you, near and far.

A Canoga Creek Thanksgiving
23 November 2006

4:30 Cocktails

First Course Hors D’oeuvres

Pheasant in a Bramble
Petite Duck a L’orange
Fall Creek Trout Spread and Blue Corn Tortillas
Pepper Jack and Venison Stacks
Rabbit Rouge
Faisan Pate
Grouse Sauté
Cherry Goose

Wine- Swedish Hill Reserve Chardonnay (2003)

Second Course- Soup

Woodcock, Minnesota Wild Rice, and Mushroom Soup
Brie and Baguette

Third/ Main Course

Grilled Wild Turkey Breast with Horseradish Hollandaise
Farm Fresh Turkey Stuffed and Roasted Traditional
Creamed Ginger Garlic Butternut Squash
Mashed Potatoes with Garlic and Parsley
Caribbean Mashed Sweet Potato es
Green Bean Casserole
Chanterelle, Sage and Chestnut Stuffing
Corn Bread and/or Cranberry Orange Bread

Wine- Campo Lagaza, Navarra, Spain (2005)

Fourth Course

Cranberry Parks Glace

Wine- Knapp Vignoles (2005)

Fifth Course

Wild Greens with Bleu Cheese, Cranberry and Walnut Vinaigrette

Sixth Course

Homemade Apple Pie a la mode
Homemade Pumpkin Pie Cake
Homemade Chocolate Pie

Seventh Course-Digestif

Fonseca Guimaraens Vintage Port (1995)
Xocolata Picant, Artesanals La Vall D’Or (Barcelona)
La Gloria Cubana Maduro Cigar

Friday, November 17, 2006


Tomorrow is the big day all of us mammal hunters
have been waiting for. Just a little reminder of
what we are looking for out there. Hope everyone has a great hunt and be safe. Nick will have to ride the bench tomorrow but with any luck we will be back after those flying feathered fowl soon.

shoot em up

Thursday, November 16, 2006

DU Event reminder

Many of the members and guests of BC Hunt club are DU members, and some BC members are a part of the leadership of the newly re-established Seneca Falls Chapter of DU. This is a reminder that there is a DU dinner on DEC 6th. Buy raffle tickets, come to the dinner, hang with friends, and do good by the ducks. We'd especially like to see our friends from down south, from Trumansburg, Ithaca, and even Pennsylvania.

Introducing B.C Hunt Clubs newest member

This is Nick my 2 yr old Lab. This past sunday we were invited on a goose hunt with the B.C. hunt club on Brent Murray's Farm. We had a Great hunt taking 9 geese by my definition although according to Keith we have to count misses that would put the total ALOT higher.Nick performed great on the hunt retrieving all 9 birds and 4 of them which glided down over 100 yds away.This saved the B.C. boys alot of unwanted exercise chasing those half dead geese and therefore earned Nick a membership in the Prestigous B.C. hunt club.Nick was quite honored and I hope he will bring me with him on his future visits to B.C. hunt club.In case you are wondering why the photo is not of geese we did not have camera with us.This is a photo of 2006 duck opener Nick made 18 great retrieves this hunt took place somewhere in Canoga but if I told you where I would have to kill you.I will try to keep you up on Nick and my adventures and Nick thanks the guys at B.C. for the hunt and the membership

See You In the Blind

Friday, November 10, 2006

To "Take"...back to hunting

“Take- To harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or to attempt to engage in any such conduct; may include significant habitat modification or degradation if it kills or injures wildlife by significantly impairing essential behavioral patterns including breeding, feeding, or sheltering.”
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Endangered Species Glossary

“It is obvious that ‘take” in this sense—a term of art deeply embedded in the statutory and common law concerning wildlife—describes a class of acts (not omissions) done directly and intentionally (not indirectly and by accident) to particular animals (not populations of animals)...”
Scalia’ dissent
Babbitt v. Sweet Home, 516 U.S. 687 (1995)

In a recent lecture about biodiversity and the Endangered Species Act at Cornell University, the issue of the interpretation of the word “take” arose. This definitional issue was at the heart of multiple rulings regarding incidental takings and the requirement for Habitat Conservation Plans, but it is also applicable, and confusing, to hunting and fishing regulations, as well as other wildlife management issues related to biodiversity. This post will explore further the etymology and usage of the word “take” in a wildlife context, and muse about possible complications when the definitions suggested by the Endangered Species Act and other legislation enter arguments.

To Take-

Hunting, an obvious form of “taking,” is often a contentious topic among ecologists and environmentalists. For Minnesotans, to take has additional meanings: ‘Taking’ means pursuing, shooting, killing, capturing, trapping, snaring, angling, spearing, or netting wild animals; or placing, setting, drawing, or using a net, trap, or other device to take wild animals. Taking also includes attempting to take wild animals or assisting another person in taking wild animals” (Minnesota DNR; General Hunting Information
[2]). Some states have run special referendums to guarantee hunting, fishing, and "the taking of game" as constitutional rights. Again, in Minnesota, advocates of hunting and fishing warned that without such a measure, animal rights activists would eventually succeed in getting hunting and fishing banned in Minnesota. The amendment passed by a huge majority: 77% to 23%.[3] Many states have similar definitions for “taking” as well as rights to hunt and fish laws. But do constitutional rights to “take” game conflict with regulations to prevent “taking?”

The concept of the “take” or “taking’ has deep legal roots. The common law rule of public ownership of wildlife is one of the most venerable principles known to the law. Under Roman law, wild animals were subject to common ownership, and a landowner had no ownership rights in wildlife passing over his land. (See J.C. Thomas, TEXTBOOK ON ROMAN LAW 167 (1976)). Under English common law, which built upon the Roman legal tradition, "the sovereign held an exclusive prerogative to animals" over and above the interests held by individual landowners (See 2 W. Blackstone, COMMENTARIES 417-18.). Upon the founding of the United States, the king's sovereign rights in wildlife were transferred to the individual states, which assumed the responsibility to act "as trustee[s] to support the title [in wildlife] for the common use." Arnold v. Mundy, 6 N.J.L. 1, 70 (N.J. 1821). (See generally Thomas A. Lund, Early American Wildlife Law, 51 N.Y.U.L. Rev. 703 (1976)).

Although our nation's original concepts of wildlife law reflect English tradition, American wildlife law has moved a long way from simply restricting public access to hunting in royal forests to preserve wildlife for the sporting enjoyment of nobility.
[5] Now it is common to encounter strict statutory prohibitions on taking non-game wildlife, and there is an evolving national ethic to protect wildlife for aesthetic and moral reasons, as well as to benefit future generations. The development of federal wildlife law in this century in some instances has been based on a consistent and growing public concern for wildlife and appropriate use of wildlife resources, and in other instances simply has responded, along with other environmental laws, to the ebb and flow of changing political forces.[6]

Conflicts in “Take” Definitions

Despite the beneficial evolution of wildlife law, both to wildlife populations and to human aesthetics, there are still confusing definitional problems as yet unresolved. The following example elucidates this confusion:

Recently, The Hunting Report
[7] received a report from subscriber William Gentner, complaining bitterly about an Alaska guide he hired, who reportedly fired the killing shot at a bear Gentner was hunting on Kodiak Island. Gentner claims the guide's bullet was the only one to strike his bear, and that he had told his guide not to fire at a bear unless someone’s life was in danger. Since that was not the case, he considered the downed bear as not belonging to him. Gentner reputedly went to the local Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADFG) office in Kodiak the following day. There he was threatened with citation and prosecution if he didn't sign a “take” document he felt contained false information. He subsequently refused to tag and seal it, and has to this date refused to accept the trophy.

Gentner wrote the ADFG commissioner arguing that the shooting of the bear by his guide contradicted two statutes, an opinion he says was shared by two Alaska law enforcement officials. The commissioner has not denied this. The commissioner did respond that it was legal for the guide to shoot the bear because Gentner's missed shot was an "Attempt to take, which is the same as take".

Gentner claims to be harmed, in that he is out $16,000, a $500 bear tag and can't re-apply for a brown bear tag in most areas of Alaska for 4 years because of the decision that it was reasonable for a guide to shoot. Gentner has cancelled his spring 2004 Alaskan hunt and is agitating that any would-be non-resident hunter do the same.

The State of Alaska in a letter to William Gentner, however, says the bear belongs to Gentner because:
1.) Alaska regulations say that the term "take" as regards hunting includes "attempting to take, pursue, hunt, fish, trap, or in any manner capture or kill fish or game. By taking the first shot, you (Gentner) attempted to take the bear. Its eventual demise was a direct consequence of your decision to shoot. Thus the bear was yours, and you had an obligation to tag and seal it." 2.) Alaska regulations require a guide to "use every lawful means to bag a wounded animal while it is in danger of escaping. While (your guide) was mistaken in his belief that the animal was wounded, he acted correctly on that belief by dispatching the bear."

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game commissioner's decision in what some saw as a hunting ethics case was based on the definition of the word "Take" in the hunting regulations no.43
[8]. The commissioner also gave credence to the guide’s predisposition to believe the client was going to hit whatever he shot at. This decision may affect hunting in Alaska, as situations such as this present conflicts for Fair Chase and ethical hunting rules and standards.

This case has given rise to numerous blog and online discussion boards where arguments, some interesting, some ridiculous, are being posited. One interesting one follows.

A frequent contributor to the Alaska Hunting Forum
[9] proclaims that “a warning is in order to all hunters and guides that it is illegal to miss an animal and not bring it to bag, or to guide a hunter that does so.[10]” He goes on to lay out a scenario where a hunter clearly misses a shot at a brown bear and the bear subsequently runs over a hill and escapes. The forum poster argues that, according to the definition applied to Mr. Gentner by the state of Alaska, the hunter has "taken" the brown bear. He argues further that, now, according to state law he must affix his tag to the bear's hide, which obviously can’t be done, and implies or necessitates a violation. Assuming this turn of events, the hunter’s guide may be culpable for aiding the hunter in breaking the law and must turn him in to avoid his own prosecution.

Despite what appears to be an absurd argument, the forum poster goes on to raise provocative questions about interpreting “taking.” If the hunt was for moose and not a bear, and given particularly stringent laws governing wanton waste and salvaging meat, both the hunter and his guide may be in danger of violating the law. If one imagines a scenario where the guide is a waterfowl guide, does the guide have to count the number of ducks his client has shot at and missed, and cut him off after he shoots at his limit, even if he has reduced to possession only one or perhaps even no ducks or geese? What if the desired animal is standing just over the boundary line of a national park after the missed shot. Is it the guide’s responsibility to go enter the national park, without his gun, to put a tag through his hide? And how about carrying him back to have sealed? As the poster comments, given these interpretations of “taking,” “Boy, is guiding tough.”


It is interesting to note that the usage of “take” can be interpreted in so many and diverse ways, even within the relatively narrow parameters of discussions on biodiversity conservation. It is worth noting that, though some argue against hunting, fishing, and other “consumptive” wildlife interactions on moral or ethical grounds, these consumptive wildlife stakeholders contribute significantly to biodiversity conservation through their purchasing power, advocacy networks, and educational programs dealing with their preferences. One might ask the question whether it would be appropriate to interpret “take” any differently for protection of endangered species versus hunting with the intent to possess managed game species. Such an alternate interpretation may reduce confusion around the concept of “taking,” and in so doing reduce conflict among stakeholders who, though holding alternate worldviews on animal welfare, share interest and concern for the conservation of biodiversity.

[1] http://www.fws.gov/endangered/glossary.pdf

[2] http://files.dnr.state.mn.us/rlp/regulations/hunting/2005/general_hunting_info.pdf

[3] ASLE panel at the 1999 Midwest/MLA Convention; “Blood Relations: Predators, Prey, and Habitat in Environmental Literature.”
[4] http://www.law.georgetown.edu/gelpi/takings/courts/briefs/conifer.htm

[5] http://www.animallaw.info/articles/arusfedwildhistory.htm#_edn4

[6] Comprehensive treatments of natural resources and environmental law can be found in C. Campbell-Mohn, B. Breech and J. W. Futrell, Sustainable Environmental Law: Integrating Natural Resources and Pollution Abatement Law from Resources to Recovery (West, 1993) and in G.C. Coggins, Public Natural Resources Law, Volumes I & II (Clark, Boardman. Callaghan, 1995).

[7] http://www.huntingreport.com/index.cfm

[8] http://www.wildlife.alaska.gov/regulations/pdfs/regulations_complete.pdf

[9] http://forums.outdoorsdirectory.com/forumdisplay.php?s=77397f1b625dd700431422dd4f4100d2&f=2

[10] http://www.outdoorsdirectory.com/akforum/akhunting_message.php?id=6965&a=view

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

If this is your first night at Beer Club, you HAVE to fight...

Things that make you go "HMMMMM...."

Remember Fight Club? Great flick.

Occasionally, flattery comes Cagey's way, like "Keith is once again pointing the way to the happy hunting grounds ..." or "there were 5 hunters 2 of which, Mike O and Mr. Tidball, are extremely good shots by anyone's judgment" or even "Congratulations to the entire Tidball family for their hard work and dedication to future wildlife that will be the result of this project. Without the help and blessings from each of you this would never have happened." Makes a guy's head swell, make's a guy feel allright about himself, part of something... but that is a temporary sensation at the august hunting institution known as BC Hunt Club. Here, getting a swelled head is a prelude to a swift kick somewhere sensitive...and you may find yourself saying "why am I here?" Welcome to Beer Club (enter Fight Club sound track)

I took some time to be introspective, and as a I lay listening to geese overhead from my bed instead of from a field Sunday AM, to shots ringing out and reputations being remade and ruined in everchanging seconds, I realized the inevitability of ego. I wanted the bottom of it all, two questions answered.

Why do I hunt?

Why am I a member of BC? (this question is more like , why do the members of BC include me...)

I will get back to you on the first question...here are my thoughts so far on the second...

Is it this?

Or this... ?

Or this...?

Well, now...it seems that I am mistaken. Fiona is the member, I am just her tolerated guest. So, I got THAT going for me.

Yes, Cagey was called out... given the BC "biznis." I got the message.

Fiona want's to know when she should allow me back to BC.



Monday, November 06, 2006

Five Smart Guys who Hunt and Mr. Mike

Goose season opener

Well to answer Ernie's Question the shooting was not coming from us.Unfortunately we had a tough opening day the birds dumped into the field two over from us and we could not compete with the hundreds of live birds two fields over.We did manage to bring down one goose.However we did have a couple flocks of ducks come in and were able to take a few mallards.Not the best day ever but any day in the feild is a good day.How did you guys do in the dozer pile?You couldn't have gotten any birds because SPENNELLI was not there to back you up.


Sunday, November 05, 2006

Five Smart Guys who Hunt and Mr. Mike

Five Smart Guys who Hunt and Mr. Mike

Jim, Thanks for the invite I will do my best to contibute to the blog. This is a test run to see if it works properly.See you in the blind.


Twenty Letter Words

Well, I sit here pseudointellectually blogging this morning while the rest of the BC Hunt Club is out in the field slaying giant Canadas over the field dekes. So be it.

Today's featured Twenty Letter Word is:


This is the liposuction procedure that "wide Republican-assed" goose hunters undergo to remove extra poundage from their derrières so as to relieve the pressure points on their buttocks while sitting in the goose pits, thereby greatly reducing the painful medical condition of "Post-Hunt Creased Cheeks Hunting Fatigue Syndrome," more familiarly known as bucket butt.

From Brain Garden we learn the following:
In the English lexicon, we have well over one million words to draw from. English is the largest and most dynamic, functional, utilitarian and technological language on the earth. More on this in a moment, but first there is what linguists and theologists, those who love to study words, calls Browns Corpus, it’s a collection of all the words used in today’s English. There are over a million of those words. Now get this, 57% of our million plus words have just four letters or less. For example, words like “the”, “has”, “been”, “and”, “but”, “of” and “have”. But when we create a dictionary of words, words for four or fewer letters, they only represent and account for less than 9% of the entire dictionary. This shows what is called communication deficiency of language. Short words are repeated often and are called “high frequency figures”. Longer words are used sparingly. Less use makes them rare and therefore fewer people know them and that justifies dictionaries to collect and teach them. For every occurrence of a ten letter word in actual communication there are eight occurrences of the letter words and for every occurrence of a twenty letter word there are three thousand five hundred and twenty four occurrences of a three letter word.
The lesson here is that as we seek to expand our minds and our vocabulary, we must also seek at the same time to reduce our wide Republican butts to achieve total harmony of mind and body, yin and yang, oral and anal.

Although I cannot be in the goose pits this morning, I am with you all in spirit. I wish you happy hunting and fatigue-free fannies. May all your geese fly low. May your one shot kills be undisputed.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Snow in the forecast?

Once again this is what all of the well traveled goose hunters will be using to get to the birds this season. Load em up and head out no matter how much snow is on the ground. We just may upgrade to a green machine this year for ease of hiding in the hedgrow. As you can see Keith is once again pointing the way to the happy hunting grounds while JT is listening intently. BC Hunt club is a bit concerned about our Mr. JT though. Some fear that when he comes that he will be humming songs and reciting poetry now that he is the Director of Operations at the soon to be infamous Ithaca Theater of the Performing Arts. I suppose he will be showing up late as well due to having to hang around after the evenings performance with the muckey mucks sipping fine wine and making up new 20 letter words that only the wealthiest of socialites would understand. As for me I will be at Beer Camp early in the morning with my good buddy Big Jim uttering some of the simpler 4 letter words and awaiting the arrival of my hunting buddies. The call is for snow but I doubt we'll be needing the Limo this weekend to get to the field. Enjoy the opening of another goose season this weekend and as always be safe out there!