Thursday, May 29, 2008

Russian Wisdom

"...there is more love of humanity in electricity and steam than in vegetarianism."

-Chekov, 1894

Dispatches from the Arnot Ponds

...where the bluegills are as big as your head!

Happy Memorial Day, all...

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Moose, ADKs, and Cornell alum scientists

Moose Gain Ground but Keep a Low Profile

From the New York Times

Here in the boreal forests of the Adirondack Mountains, moose are seemingly everywhere and nowhere.

In the sachet-scented gift shops of Lake Placid, where high heels outnumber hiking boots, there are moose-inspired cookie jars, moose-shaped soaps, moose-head lollipops, moose-emblazoned kitchen mitts and a $12.95 book titled “Uses for Mooses and Other (Silly) Observations.”

But while it may be the overworked mascot of the Adirondacks tourist trade, the moose, which has quietly returned to northern New York over the last quarter-century, remains a mystery. Many longtime residents have never glimpsed one. And wildlife biologists are unsure whether the small but secure population of some 400 moose is on the verge of an explosion — as happened in New Hampshire in recent decades — or headed for an eventual decline because of global warming.

“It’s the icon of the north woods,” said Heidi E. Kretser, a scientist with the Wildlife Conservation Society, the nonprofit organization that operates the Bronx Zoo and has an outpost in the Adirondacks. “They’re massive creatures. They’re just very appealing characters.”

To better understand their lifestyle and behavior, the Wildlife Conservation Society sent specially trained dogs into the piney woods here recently, not in search of actual moose, but their scat, or excrement. One morning this month, Camas, a German shepherd who had traveled from Montana for the mission, traversed the dense wilderness around Moose Pond. The forest floor was just springing to life, with wood sorrel and striped maple saplings pushing up through dead leaves and ferns unfurling.

But in a sign of moose elusiveness, Camas found the scat of black bear and ruffed grouse but nothing redolent of moose, even though there had been recent sightings in the area. (The day before, a colleague of Camas had more luck, sniffing out nine discrete examples of moose scat; the conservationists organized 20 such outings between May 12 and May 25, in a program financed in part by the Natural History Museum of the Adirondacks, popularly known as the Wild Center, in nearby Tupper Lake.)

By analyzing the scat, the society hopes to learn more about the habits, genetics and overall health of New York’s moose population.

But with only a few hundred moose scattered across the Adirondack state park, which comprises private and public lands in an area roughly the size of Vermont, locating moose scat is far easier than locating the actual mammals, despite their hulking size. (Bull moose can weigh up to 1,400 pounds and eat 40 to 60 pounds of vegetation a day.)

Scat analysis is less traumatic for moose than more traditional techniques. “It’s not a replacement for collaring, but it’s another tool for managers and researchers and it’s noninvasive,” Dr. Kretser said. “You eliminate the stress of darting the animal.”

Moose were hunted out of existence in the Adirondacks just before the Civil War, but began to tromp back into the state in the early 1980s, entering from Vermont and Canada. Wildlife experts expect their numbers to continue to climb, but they also speculate that the moose, which rely on birch twigs, maple bark and other vegetation found in northern hardwood forests, could eventually retreat. The animals could leave the Adirondacks for points farther north, after decades of global warming.

“We’ll see the population double in size,” said Chuck Dente, a big-game biologist for the State Department of Environmental Conservation, noting that Vermont and New Hampshire each have several thousand moose. “The more moose you have, the more they can reproduce very quickly and successfully.
Once they get established, the population can take off. But what happens after that, we don’t know. We have a group of scientists working on the ramifications of climate change.”

Recent moose necropsies — the equivalent of autopsies — have revealed that a parasite called brain worm is taking a toll on moose here. The worm gets into the brain cavity and the spinal column and ultimately kills the moose.

Mr. Dente said that rising temperatures in the coming decades could lead to more brain worm, which is part of a complex food chain involving snails, as well as other parasites. “As things warm up a little bit, that allows the snail to survive better,” he said.

Whereas black bears, which number about 5,000 in the Adirondacks, are considered a nuisance by some, foraging for garbage, moose pretty much keep to themselves. If their numbers grow, however, so will the possibility of moose-vehicle collisions, and state officials and wildlife advocates are girding for a backlash in public perception.

In New Hampshire, which is home to about 6,000 moose, there are 200 to 250 collisions involving moose each year. Human fatalities are rare, but there have been serious injuries.

By contrast, Adirondack Park, which contains virtually all the moose in New York State, has an average of four to six collisions a year, and none so far, environmental officials say, have been fatal to the drivers.
Several weeks ago in Saranac Lake, for instance, a moose was killed after being struck by three vehicles in a row.

“Hitting a moose is a nasty thing because you really don’t see them,” Mr.
Dente said. “They’re a solid color at night, and they’re so tall that you don’t get the reflections of their eyes from the headlights. You don’t see them until you’re right on top of them.”

For now, their presence in the Adirondacks is more a source of fascination than vexation. “The moose are kind of mysterious,” said Julie Outcalt, a sales clerk at the Adirondack Museum store on Main Street in downtown Lake Placid, where shoppers can choose among moose-head bookends ($130) and a birch-bark moose figure ($42). “I’ve been here 30 years, and I’ve never seen one.”

Moose are not listed as endangered or threatened in New York, but they are protected, which means they are off limits to hunting. Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire allow limited moose hunting. “If all of a sudden we got up to 800 or 1,000 moose, we would start to seriously look at hunting permits,” Mr. Dente said. “Or if we saw a lot of roadkill, we might make that the only area you could hunt in.”

That’s fine with many environmentalists, who point out that moose have no natural predators and that fees from hunting licenses help pay for wildlife conservation efforts. “You want the moose population to be at a level where there’s not a lot of negative interactions with people,” said Dr. Kretser of the conservation society.

Bushwacking her way through here, close on the heels of Camas, the German shepherd, Dr. Kretser said she hoped moose would remain a fixture of the Adirondack woods — and not merely raw material for trinkets.

“The Adirondacks is a boreal area, and many of the boreal species, including moose, loons, gray jays and rusty blackbirds, are at the southern extent of their range,” she said, climbing over a moss-covered log. “If climate change accelerates, as people are predicting, then moose will have a tough time.”

Monday, May 26, 2008

on the alleged market in mouse pelts . . .

Check out this super-cool web site at . "How to stuff a mouse" . . . and I don't mean stuffing it with ricotta.

Putting the "fun" back in mouse control

Keith's thumb puppet

on the alleged duty to save the pelt . . .

yo, Cabin Boy . . . I seem to remember a long-ago Maine grouse camp at Camp Haccamatack by the shores of Lake Spider-gitchee-gumee, where you entertained us (and kept us all awake half the night) attempting to do some kitchen animal control yourself.

I don't recall whether you saved the pelt that night? I do remember a whopping headache from having someone's hunting journal thrown at my noggin.

Ahhh, the memories.

Leave the drilling at home

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Kate the Great

Some of you know this already, but I may as well say it here as well--my setter Katie has bone cancer. She's probably got until the first week or two of June, then that's gonna be it. But it probably explains a bit why I'm obsessing about the fox hunting--I need the distraction.

It's off to St. Louis this week for Ethics in Action and the Hunter Education conference. See you all when I get back.

Until these foxes are gone, I can't take a shower

Need I say more?

Pelt quality issues . . .

the new sniper's nest

Update: on Friday I lost a second fox due to crippling. The fox was moving away from me and I took a 100-yard quartering away deer shot at him from my bedroom sniper's position, but unfortunately I hit him in the hind left leg, and he ran off into the underbrush.

I did send my gun-shy labrador to find him. Aldo rousted him out, and I came eye to eye with Reynard at five yards down on the creek's edge--but alas, I did not take a gun so as not to freak out the dog, and the fox crossed the creek along a log and went down a hole on the other side.

I thereby resolved to shorten the distance and to set up a new position in the shed closest to the sheep pasture. This shed is conveniently missing a single pane in a window at gun rest level.

the view from the sniper's nest:
bait stump at far right

Last night I staked out my red fox bait pile (hey, the regs did say, at any time, in any manner) and sure enough, at the stroke of 9:00 pm two foxes came peeling out of the barn straight to the stump to which I have applied with wire staples various scraps of freezer-burned meat.

fox bait: ethical? sporting? discuss.

At thirty-five yards I missed a completely broadside shot at the first one; the only thing I can figure is that in my eagerness to get "two for one," I jerked the trigger on the first one. Moral of that story: don't count your chicken killers before they're killed.

Then, as both animals circled around the brush pile to figure out where the noise had come from, one poked her head above the grass about 45 yards away. This time I hit what I was aiming at--a clean head shot.

neck-shot fox kit

Here's another issue for you from the animal control world. The pelt of the adult I took the other day (see the picture previously posted) was in fairly poor condition--either the winter coat was giving way to a summer coat, or the pelt was in bad shape following her giving birth to a litter. But compare hers with the coat of the young fox shot last night--there's no comparison. I'm not even sure one could sell the pelt of the previous fox.

So (I'm asking Keith primarily, I suppose, although I'd love to hear from others), how would that factor in to your thinking about full utilization of the resource?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

for the chickens' sake . . .

Reynard, slaughtered in conformance to the law:

§ 11-0523. Destructive or menacing wildlife; taking without permit.
6. Raccoons, coyotes or fox injuring private property may be taken by
the owner, occupant or lessee thereof, or an employee or family member
of such owner, occupant or lessee, at any time in any manner.

in memory of our chickens and our neighbor's chickens. at 92 yards by range finder from the kids' upstairs bedroom window. sporting? ethical? discuss.

chicken-killing Reynard meets his demise

Monday, May 12, 2008

More turkeys by numbers

Recently back from our annual spring turkey hunt and family visit to the farmstead in CT, Richie Feller's post inspires me to file a report. After about 12 hours on the road, Angela, the boys, the dogs and I pulled into my folks' yard in NW CT about 1 a.m. on May 8, the 2nd day of the CT spring turkey season. Wife and I got a couple hours sleep before getting up and out to the woods in search of gobblers. Ange had an uneventful, rainy morning, but I had some activity right off, with a tom and a jake gobbling from the roost probably a few hundred yards away from the south boundary of my little brother's woodlot. I gave a few sleepy roost yelps, then waited about 15 minutes (until after the birds were on the ground) before continuing with yelps, clucks and purrs from slate and mouth calls. No hunters on the state land competed with me this year, and pretty soon two toms came into view up the ridge of mature oak. The lead bird did most of the gobbling and all of the strutting. I was able to get the gun up when they passed behind some large trees, and took the lead bird at about 15 yards. He was the biggest tom I'd killed, weighing in at 21 lbs (9 in beard, 1+ in spurs). I was able to get out a couple more hours that morning, walking and calling and trying to keep the calls dry, but I only got answers from a couple hens.

The next morning I went back to the same spot to start the day. The rain was pretty steady from sunrise on. No gobblers were talking in the woods (but many wood and hermit thrushes, various warblers, and a pant load of red-bellied woodpeckers); a check of the fields turned up nothing, so I returned to the house to get the kids' breakfast and have pot of coffee. I went out again late morning, this time on my folks' farm, and spotted a group of toms about 3 tenths of a mile away across the valley on the neighbors side-hill field. Even though the wind was in my face, I decided to hammer at them on the box call. I checked for a reaction from them through my binocs, but not surprisingly they didn't seem to notice. After about the 4th salvo of yelps, a gobbler answered from the valley below, about 1000 feet away; I could see another tom down there as well, on the neighboring farm property. Twenty minutes of trying to call these birds across the swamp and up through a nearly impenetrable overgrown multiflora rose-choked pasture didn't seem to be working, so I picked my way down into the soggy tangle to meet them most of the way. I got to within about 70 yards of the birds and stopped in the most open area I could find. There was no place to sit where you could see any distance at all, so I stood next to a tree. The toms gobbled from the neighbor's land, and a hen in my folks' overgrown thorny pasture swamp, between the toms and me, began calling. I laid my gun down to extricate myself from a rose bush, and gave some aggressive clucks and purrs followed by a jake gobble, which elicited some excited gobbles. I repeated the call combo, which again was answered, then I just kept my eyes open. After a few minutes I took a step to get a better view, and saw a tom in an opening 25 yards away about the same time he saw me. As quickly and smoothly as I could I reached for my shotgun on the ground, shouldered it an fired a shot to his head as he was beating a retreat into the puckerbrush. This bird was a copy of the one from the previous day, only a pound and a quarter heavier. I shouldered the tom and headed back up to the barn. Nearly to the barn, I noticed 3 toms in an old apple orchard 80 yards away watching me pass. I didn't break stride and continued on out of their sight, then ditched the dead gobbler and snuck around out of turkey view to an area the birds seemed to be headed. After 15 minutes the gobblers entered the field I'd hoped they'd been heading for. The topography allowed me to sneak fairly close. After getting their attention and drawing them a little closer using purrs and clucks, I stood up and shot the nearest tom. He turned out to be the smallest, weighing 17 pounds, but sporting one 11-inch and one 5-inch beard. That used up all my tags -- 3 toms totalling 60 lbs. The third day Angela killed 2 jakes, giving us a trip total of 90 lbs of turkey yielding about 50 lbs of meat. This certainly more than makes up for the grouse and ducks that are not stacked up in our freezer this year. The kids like their turkey meat, but I think Collin (the yearling) may like playing with his turkey leg toy at least as much. Dead animal parts make some of the best toys.

Collin the hog whisperer, gobbler leg in hand.

German Shorthair Puppies coming soon...

Puppies will be for sale in August...reserve now!

The Dam- Canoga's Artemis

The Sire- Molyneaux's Spud

Sunday, May 11, 2008

ADKs Brook Trout Expedition

I am feeling like a lucky guy. I just celebrated Mother's Day with a beautiful woman, my wife and the mother of my children, who reportedly LOVES to eat Brook Trout. Good thing I caught a few recently. You know the adage, get thee to an Adirondack Brook Trout place when the Trillium and the Trout Lilies say so.

So I ventured forth to the Adirondacks in search of Brook Trout and the admiration of my women folk, with my friend and work colleague Jeremy Dietrich. First efforts seemed paltry...

But after a change of venue and of fishing approach, I was ready to take on real fish with 3 wt fly rod and reel. As we were purposefully "exploring" all Brook Trout likely waters in the St. Regis Mountain region, versatility and flexibility were at a premium. Might be shore casting, might be fishing from a canoe...

We fished Barnum Pond, Black Pond, Deer Pond, Long Pond, Mountain Pond, Lost Pond, Slush Pond, the Osgood River and the St. Regis River, catching over 100 Brook Trout on Thurs, Fri, and Sat AM. Most of these we released...but some were immediately ushered to the realms of gastronomie... here, preparing and cooking trout at the Long Pond Lean-To.

I caught a number of fish on the fly, and a great deal of fish were landed after having casted spinners (Mepps and other). Jeremy proved to be quite a competent guide, and made great efforts to be where the fish were. And we caught some nice fish...

Before I sign off, here are a few final shots of the river or lake and that addictive species we are after. Thanks to Jeremy for coordinating a most memorable trip.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Morels prove that animals do have rights

With little success on the turkey front (and little effort), I've turned my attention to the "other meat." While gardening on Saturday I noticed a mushroom poking from the base of a rock wall. Then another. Morels! Since this picture was taken, I've collected several more(ls), all awaiting their fate in hot butter with tonight's meal. Kids, we're going vegetarian!
This is clear proof that Tantillo's aesthetic arguments concerning pointy dogs, fine guns and shooting grouse on the wing are 100% wrong. Discuss, preferably using haiku.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Tori scores bullheads

...with a little help from George!

Turkey Hunting by the Numbers

2 states.
4 mornings, 4 friends.
1 backyard, 1 good farm, 1 big oak woods, 1 creekbed.
1 happy gobbler with 3 hens.
1 gift of asparagus
1 good cigar
2 ponds
1 patriotic--but not very smart--trout fisherman
1 broken 16ga deer shotgun
1 thesis read
0 shots taken
0 birds
0 speeding tickets.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Ithaca Town Court

Early morning trip;
Fishing with Ivy Leaguers.
Ticket?: $250...