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Bulldozers push out wildlife for more corn

by Patrick Durkin 22. June 2012 08:50
Patrick Durkin

If you drive through farm country these days, you’ll often see bulldozers pushing old farmsteads, fencerows and windbreaks into monstrous burn piles to expand high-priced cornfields for feeding cattle and brewing ethanol.
All those miles of former brush, oaks, box elder, tall grass, dark granite and crumbling limestone once served as valuable shelterbelts. Besides protecting farm fields from wind and water erosion, they also provided habitat for deer, rabbits, songbirds, pheasants and other wildlife.

Bulldozers pushed several hundred yards of shelterbelts into numerous burn-piles on this southern Wisconsin farm.

Since the Dust Bowl, agricultural agencies and conservationists encouraged and applauded farmers who built and maintained shelterbelts, viewing them as long-term investments in the land. But conservation apparently can’t compete with corn that’s worth nearly $6 per bushel today and consistently more than $4 per bushel the past five years after averaging $2.50 from 1973 through 2005.

This widespread conversion of year-round habitat to seasonal one-crop monocultures is happening from Ohio and Indiana to eastern Washington. And it’s not just shelterbelts and abandoned farmsteads. In the Dakotas, folks are burning off cattail marshes, and tiling the black muck below to expand corn and soybean fields. How many miles of shelterbelts have been lost? Well, no government agency tracks acreage kept as fencerows, windbreaks or vacant farmsteads. But the federal government’s Conservation Reserve Program provides an indicator. Wisconsin alone will lose 45,170 acres of CRP land this year, presumably to beans and corn.

Fencerows and other shelterbelts that provide year-round habitat for ringneck pheasants and other wildlife are being lost as farmers expand fields to grow more profitable corn and soybeans.

But the Badger State is only 15th in lost CRP acres. North Dakota will lose nearly 650,000 acres of CRP lands this year, worst in the nation. Montana is second with 435,000 lost acres, and then it’s Minnesota, 190,000 and South Dakota with 170,000.
In fact, Pheasants Forever estimates the Northern Plains will lose more than 1 million CRP acres in the program’s 2012 re-enrollment process. CRP is perhaps the most powerful conservation tool in U.S. history. Under CRP the past 25-plus years, the government paid farmers and ranchers to plant trees and grasses instead of crops along waterways and highly erodible areas to protect the land and prevent soils and nutrients from washing into rivers and streams.

Diane Peterson photo, Pheasants Forever: A hunter takes aim at a ringneck pheasant flushed from a brushy ditch.

Although payments for CRP lands were competitive with crop prices from the late 1980s through the mid-2000s, they’ve lagged with recent leaps in grain prices. What’s behind high grain prices? Some blame federal subsidies for ethanol production, while others cite rising global demands for cattle feed, including China, India and South America.
Scott Walter, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ upland game ecologist, tracks the state’s CRP acreage for the DNR. He said 51 percent of the country’s 2011 corn crop went to ethanol production, the first time in history that more corn went for fuel than food.

“That demand drives up not only corn prices, but food prices,” Walter said. “That puts more pressure on the land, it destroys more wildlife habitat, and it gives people fewer places to hunt. If your goal is to create more hunting opportunities, the challenge worsens for each acre lost to crop production.”

Dave Nomsen, vice president of governmental affairs for Pheasants Forever, said lost ditches, shelterbelts and old farmsteads have huge impacts on small game, upland birds and other wildlife.
“I’ve lived in Northern Plains states my entire life, and I’ve never seen pressure on the landscape like we have now,” Nomsen said. “It’s one thing to convert old grass into corn, but when you’re pulling out rocks, trees, wetlands and old farmyard foundations, and testing and capping wells on abandoned farmsteads, you’re investing significant time, effort and money into something that might not pay off for very long.”

Roger Hill photo, Pheasants Forever: The more shelterbelts lost to grain production, the fewer places for deer, pheasants, rabbits and other wildlife to live and hide.

Even so, Nomsen said it’s difficult to fault individuals who cash in on today’s high crop prices. “It’s a complex question and decision,” he said. “High land values are part of it, too. It’s tough for a landowner to stand pat with a $75 to $100 break on CRP acres when he can get two to three times that much by renting his fields to someone planting beans and corn.”
Nomsen and Walter also wonder what will happen if grain prices fall to where CRP rates are again competitive.

“Who’s going to put back those long strips of old trees, big rocks and old fencerows?” Walter asked.

For that matter, who’s going to replace the fertile topsoil that blows or drains away the next few years in the absence of shelterbelts?

Real Work Lies Ahead for Wisconsin Deer Hunting Makeover

by Patrick Durkin 19. April 2012 09:42
Patrick Durkin

Deer hunters who chronically crab about the Department of Natural Resources were cheering and toasting Dr. James Kroll – the “deer czar” – in early April for his harsh preliminary report on the DNR’s deer-management program.

Meanwhile, the agency’s defenders glared. They attacked the report and Kroll personally. They said this proves he just wants the $150,000 fee, and that he repeated every bad thing Gov. Scott Walker and his toadies dictated about the DNR’s deer program. Not only that, but Kroll’s an egotistical second-guesser who wants to build 8-foot fences around every 5-, 40- and 160-acre hunting property in Wisconsin.

Sigh. Welcome to Year 75 (or thereabouts) of Wisconsin’s mind-numbing deer scrum.

Much work remains before the three-man review team releases its recommendations for revamping Wisconsin's deer program in late June.

Seriously, folks: Stop strutting and pouting. In three months, no one will remember this report. By then we’ll have the final report to cheer or condemn. The sides could switch roles if June’s report turns all those grins and frowns upside down.

Or maybe DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp will email outraged press releases to support her wildlife staff, and condemn the Ph.D.s – Kroll and teammates Gary Alt and Dave Guynn – for being rude. After all, she ripped Democrats and Sen. Dale Schultz in March for allegedly disrespecting the DNR while dooming the proposed Gogebic taconite mine near Mellen.

Of course, few realized Stepp was merely defending her environmental-regs staff against doubts they could protect natural resources near the mine. She said so in a statement to skeptical DNR staff hours later.

In fact, to show Kroll’s team she has her biologists’ backs, Stepp could reuse part of her mining statement, and replace “Democrat state senators” with the trio’s names. Try this: “In the end, don't we trust regulating agencies to do their job? On my travels throughout the state, I have found that most … citizens … trust the DNR to do its job. Why don't Kroll, Alt and Guynn?”

Many Wisconsin hunters have long distrusted the Department of Natural Resources' deer-herd estimates.

OK. Never mind.

Trouble is, many hunters have never trusted state biologists to manage deer, and Stepp won’t challenge those doing so now. She even sat silently as the Legislature stripped the DNR of its most powerful deer-management tools this past year.

But maybe Stepp senses futility in fighting. After all, our hunting forefathers of the 1930s and ’40s even scorned Aldo Leopold, the University of Wisconsin’s first professor of wildlife management. A hunters’ rights newspaper, “Save Wisconsin Deer,” slammed the iconic professor for backing “the infamous and bloody 1943 deer slaughter.” The paper also claimed Leopold admitted his deer estimates “were PURE GUESSWORK.”

Imagine: Poor Aldo was ruining “our deer” before biologists even invented the DNR’s demonized Sex-Age-Kill formula for estimating herd sizes.

Hunters will be called on to help with more boots-on-the-ground research.

But make no mistake: Kroll’s team is correct in saying this entire issue centers on endless arguing over numerical goals and estimates impossible to explain to laymen. If hunters don’t see deer, they blame predators and deer estimates. And before wolves returned the past 15 years, some blamed the Chippewa.

That doesn’t mean the SAK is useless. It just means DNR biologists should leave SAK estimates atop their desks for historical, professional reference. Arguing its art, data and formulas outside the office is a fool’s errand. And yet they’d persist if given the chance.

Kroll’s team correctly emphasizes these needs: more in-depth habitat analysis, better forest management for deer, and hunter-researchers to document browse damage and other deer-related field work.

Dr. James C. Kroll, Stephen F. Austin University

In launching those efforts, perhaps we could intelligently express deer-management goals with criteria such as harvest levels, success rates, deer condition, crop-damage claims, deer-vehicle collisions, and forest health and diversity. People can see, touch and understand such things.

What Kroll’s team can’t ignore, however, is deer baiting. Their report lists the top 15 concerns hunters posted on Kroll’s Web site. Three (20 percent) involve baiting. Of the top five concerns, “Come to a decision on baiting” was No. 4. Yet the report ignores baiting while addressing the other top concerns: “too many predators,” “DNR doesn’t listen,” “inaccurate population estimates” and “eliminate earn-a-buck.”

Was this preliminary report unfair to the DNR? Maybe, but by bluntly listing the problems, Kroll has been able to hold his town meetings (April 16-21) and focus on solutions, not endless grievances.

Those meetings and the recommendations that follow will truly determine if Kroll’s team earns the money Wisconsin’s hunters are paying them.

 

 

 

 

Wisconsin Right to Add Wolf Hunting Season

by Patrick Durkin 19. April 2012 09:21
Patrick Durkin

Wisconsin lawmakers did the right thing in March by adding the gray wolf to Wisconsin’s list of wildlife that can be hunted and trapped.

With wolf numbers beyond 800 and still climbing – and with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ proven record of scientifically regulating furbearer seasons for foxes, coyotes and bobcats – it’s sensible and consistent to allow wolf hunting and trapping.

The new law also lets the DNR’s bureau of endangered resources off the financial hook when wolves kill pets, cattle, calves, horses, hunting dogs, domestic deer and other livestock. Future wolf-depredation payments will come solely from fees paid by hunters and trappers wishing to hunt wolves.

Predator hunting tends to require serious specialists. Generalists tend to quit when a hunt proves difficult.

Those fees will consist of $10 applications to enter drawings for wolf permits, and $50 (residents) and $250 (nonresidents) licenses for those drawing permits. Those fees will fund depredation payments as long as gray wolves stay off state and federal endangered species lists.

In other words, wolves remain with deer, bears, wild turkeys and Canada geese as Wisconsin’s only animals inspiring government-run entitlement programs. What if a raccoon drowns your Dalmatian or a coyote kills your cat? Sorry. Not the state’s problems.

For more than 20 years, farmers losing crops to browsing deer have been eligible for depredation payments bankrolled by hunting-license fees. Likewise, since 1985, farmers and other folks could receive state-paid death benefits when wolves ate their pet, livestock or other “property.”

License fees paid by hunters will be used to compensate people who lose pets to wolves.

Houndsmen can still seek compensation if wolves kill their dogs while they hunt bears, bobcats or raccoons. But if they’re hunting wolves with hounds when their dog dies in action, the state won’t compensate.

Most noteworthy is that the DNR’s endangered-resources program will no longer pay for misbehaving wolves. That’s also consistent and sensible. The bureau has never had much money, and yet it kept making wolf-depredation payments even after Wisconsin delisted wolves in 2004 and the feds first delisted them in 2007.

Why did the endangered-resources bureau pay nearly $887,500 for wolf-killed pets and livestock the past seven years when wolves were no longer endangered or threatened? Because state law required it.

You might recall that former state Sen. Kevin Shibilski, D-Stevens Point, is a bear-hunting houndsman. Shibilski – there’s no “I” in team but there’s three in Shibilski – wrote the provision that states: “For the purpose of payment of damage claims, the gray wolf shall be considered an endangered or threatened species regardless of whether the wolf is listed as such.”

Wolf licenses will cost $50 for residents and $250 for nonresidents.

The new law repeals that sneaky raid of the endangered-resources program, which has compensated increasingly more wolf damage recently. Although annual payouts averaged $127,000 the past seven years, they nearly tripled from $106,000 in 2009 to $300,000 in 2011, and are expected to hit $320,000 this year.

Meanwhile, the endangered-resources program suffered steady declines the past decade in its two primary funding sources: tax check-offs and specialty license plates. Perhaps it’s coincidence, but taxpayers now have nine additional check-off options for charitable donations, and motorists now have nearly 30 novelty license-plate options.

Going forward, lawmakers are gambling there will be enough interest in wolf hunting and trapping to fund and reduce depredation costs. Who knows how many Wisconsin hunters will want wolf permits? Trapping and predator hunting tend to attract serious specialists. Even if initial interest in wolves is high, dabblers and generalists will likely fade away when permit allocations are minuscule and wolf hunting proves difficult.

Still, here’s one estimate: A DNR study of the wolf bill’s fiscal impacts notes that Idaho issued 26,428 licenses for its first wolf hunt in 2009. Idaho closed the season when reaching its quota. But if interest in wolves parallels bears among Wisconsin hunters, about 100,000 might apply for a permit.

With scenarios ranging from 25,000 to 100,000 applicants, wolf hunting would generate $250,000 to $1 million in application fees. But if the DNR is conservative and issues, say 200 licenses, that’s only $10,000 more.

Those numbers suggest we’ll see tremendous shortfalls in wolf-depredation payments. If so, the new law makes no provision for the unfunded balance. Compensation payments will be made on a prorated, i.e., discounted, basis.

While this new law might prove good for wolves and Wisconsin, don’t expect widespread joy and satisfaction from those losing pets and livestock to wolves..

 

 

 

Wisconsin Misses Chance to Expand Crossbow Hunting

by Patrick Durkin 19. April 2012 09:03
Patrick Durkin

You might assume the Wisconsin Bowhunters Association slept better in March after the Legislature adjourned without loosening crossbow restrictions for the state’s four-month archery deer season.

Pfft! Not a chance. Just as Ahab hunted his white whale till death, so must WBH chieftains stalk the crossbow to their graves. You’ll never persuade them it’s a divisive waste of time, effort and talent.

What’s more troubling is the Department of Natural Resources dodging efforts to expand crossbow use. DNR spokesmen typically say crossbows are a “social” question hunters must decide themselves, even as the agency struggles to control deer across much of Wisconsin’s southern two-thirds.

Lowering the crossbow age limit to 55 from 65 in Wisconsin would increase participation and stabilize license-buying declines.

If that’s not enough contradiction, many legislators and DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp claim they’re forever exploring ways to recruit and retain hunters, and expand hunting opportunities. That’s great, but most agency-directed efforts require patient, perennial educational programs designed to get youngsters off their PlayStations and into the woods.

As much as we need steady, far-sighted programs, we also need simple regulation changes to create opportunities for current or lapsed hunters. That’s why it’s frustrating to see the DNR and lawmakers forgo proposals to lower the crossbow age from 65 to 55 for archery deer season. Crossbows are only legal during archery season for bowhunters 65 and older, or those with doctor-certified handicaps.

Late archery seasons are a great time to go crossbow hunting.

Talk about missing a chance to please rank-and-file hunter-voters. As Rob Bohmann, chairman of the Wisconsin Conservation Congress, told lawmakers in February, they’d hit a home run by lowering the crossbow age to 55.

After all, when the Congress floated the idea as an advisory question in April 2010, voters passed it statewide, 2,014 to 1,767, a 53-47 margin. It also passed in county voting, 42-25 (a 63-37 margin), with five counties tied.

When the DNR took that vote and made it a formal proposal at the April 2011 hearings, the WBH rallied its members, hoping to squash it. Instead, the question passed by a wider margin statewide than in 2010, 2,806-2,198, a 56-44 margin. It also passed by a larger margin in county voting, 55-16 (77-23), with one tie.

Even so, the proposal was MIA in autumn 2011 as the Legislature passed other DNR-backed hunting proposals OK’d at April’s hearings.

The Wisconsin Bowhunters Association spent about $8,000 on lobbyists in 2011, with about half of it fighting against crossbows.

What about the age-55 crossbow plan? Well, the most effective lobbying and deal-making might be the kind that prevents legislation from getting drafted. Maybe we should respect the WBH and its lobbyist, Ronald Kuehn of DeWitt Ross & Stevens SC, for persuading lawmakers to ignore the public’s crossbow wishes.

In 2011, the WBH paid nearly $8,000 for 40 hours of lobbying. Government Accountability Board records show about half that effort targeted crossbows and crossbow-related issues. Again, that’s the WBH’s prerogative and destiny. It’s incapable of any other action, given its petrified attitude toward crossbows.

But if the DNR is serious about boosting hunter numbers and license revenues, it should have opposed the WBH and worked with lawmakers to lower the crossbow age to 55 or 50. Granted, no one knows how much that would boost bowhunting participation, but license sales to bowhunters 65 and older rose steadily once Wisconsin first allowed crossbows in 2003.

The Wisconsin DNR and lawmakers ignored public sentiments that favored lowering the crossbow age from 65 to 55 for archery deer season.

Based on that trend, a DNR analysis projected annual archery-license sales would increase by about 1,700 annually if the age were lowered to 55. That’s no sea change, but it would maintain bowhunter numbers, and give more people access to our longest, most opportunity-rich deer season.

Instead, lawmakers passed a bill in March that merely allows crossbows during gun seasons for deer, bear, elk, turkeys and small game. Earlier, on a 60-35 party-line vote, Assembly Republicans rejected anamendment by Rep. Nick Milroy, D-South Range, to lower the crossbow age to 55 for archery deer season.

Milroy said in an interview March 13 that he hopes to work with the WBH and Conservation Congress next year on a compromise, such as a crossbow-specific season requiring a separate license.

Unfortunately, there’s even less chance of the WBH compromising on crossbows than there is of generating new revenues and hunting opportunities from the gun-season bill awaiting Gov. Walker’s signature., 

 

 

 

 

Coyotes Prey Heavily on Southeast’s Deer Fawns

by Patrick Durkin 19. April 2012 08:46
Patrick Durkin

SANDESTIN, Fla. – If you’re a Great Lakes States bowhunter who blames every apparent deer shortage on predators, be thankful you don’t hunt parts of the Southeastern United States. Coyotes in some Southeastern regions prey so heavily on newborn whitetails that less than one in five fawns lives four months.

And if you’re a Great Lakes wildlife biologist discussing predators with your colleagues, ask yourself the last time one of them told you to “Get with it!” or “Get your head out of (long pause) the sand” in public.

Well, many wildlife managers talked that way a few weeks ago at the 35th annual Southeast Deer Study Group meeting, which attracted about 325 deer biologists and researchers from universities, wildlife agencies, and timber companies across the South and northward. I’ve been attending this annual gathering since 1991 because it’s a great source for the latest research on white-tailed deer.

In some parts of the whitetail's Southeastern range, many fawns don’t live to see their third month.

At a forum I attended one night, a speaker asked the audience if coyotes were having significant impacts in their areas. About half the wildlife pros raised their hands. Minutes later, John Kilgo, a wildlife researcher with the USDA Forest Service in South Carolina said:

“My guess is that the skeptics haven’t yet seen places that once had deer but don’t anymore. The data we collected at the Savannah River Site (South Carolina) showed it took a 75 percent harvest reduction by hunters to level the population decline. Also, preliminary research doesn’t show much promise for mitigating coyote impacts on deer by improving and expanding fawning cover, or increasing buffer foods.”

Ten years ago, most Southeastern biologists never thought they’d be worrying about coyotes, which aren’t native to the region. But as coyotes moved in the past 30 years, they adapted, reproduced, and learned newborn fawns were easy prey.

Coyotes can kill deer in winter, but do most of their predation when fawns are less than a week old.

“Coyotes are increasing at rates that remind me of what our deer herds did in the 1980s and ’90s,” said Dr. Charles Ruth, deer project supervisor for South Carolina’s Department of Natural Resources. “When I talked to folks 10 years ago, I often said if I could get my foot on our deer herd, I would pull out my knife. Well, I’m kind of having to chill out on that approach.”

Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of predator-deer impacts is their wide variability within regions and states. When Kilgo reviewed pre-2005 predation studies across the United States, he found coyote-inflicted mortality on deer averaged 16 percent in Northern states and 44 percent in Southern states.

Black bears killed more fawns than coyotes did in a Wisconsin study.

“The North’s highest mortality rate was 38 percent,” he said. “That doesn’t even reach the South’s average,” he said.

But it’s not consistent across the South, either. A 2008-2011 study on northern Virginia’s Quantico Marine Corps base found 60 percent of fawns lived past three months, and more died of natural causes, 53 percent, than predation, 18 percent.

But in 2011, in the first year of a study at the Fort Bragg Military Institution in North Carolina, researchers reported only five of 27 fawns (18.5 percent) survived their first four months, with 15 of the 22 dead fawns (68 percent) killed by coyotes or bobcats.

How do those studies compare to similar research by the Wisconsin DNR? To refresh, one study site is a 3,500-square mile Northern-forest setting in Sawyer, Price and Rusk counties. The other is a 2,300-square mile east-central farmland setting in Shawano, Waupaca and Outagamie counties.

A Michigan study is finding coyotes to be the whitetail's No. 1 predation risk.

During the first year (2011) of Wisconsin’s Northern study, 27 percent of ID-tagged fawns (eight of 30) survived seven months, with 17 of 30 (57 percent) killed by predators. Five others died of starvation or other causes. The top predator was black bears, with five fawn kills. Unknown predators killed four; hunters, three; bobcats, two; unknown canid, two; and coyote, one.

For perspective, a 1973-1983 study in Minnesota’s northeastern forests found annual fawn survival was 31 percent, not significantly better.

But in the first year of Wisconsin’s east-central farmland study, 62.5 percent of ID-tagged fawns (30 of 48) survived seven months, with eight of the 18 deaths (44 percent) caused by predators. The others died of starvation, six (33 percent); vehicle collisions, three (16.5 percent); and unknown causes, one. The top predator was coyotes, with four fawn kills. Hunters killed two; black bears, one; and unknown, one.

Meanwhile, researchers in Michigan’s south-central Upper Peninsula estimated fawn survival at 37 percent in January 2011after two years of study in Menominee County. With three years of data now in, researchers report 47 of their ID-tagged fawns were killed by four-legged predators.

 Coyotes killed 22 fawns (47 percent of kills), followed by bobcats, 12 (25.5 percent), unknown predators, five (11 percent), black bears, four (8.5 percent) and wolves, four (8.5 percent).

 What to make of all this? Few hunters or biologists will find much comfort or scientific certainty in such varying, ever-changing numbers.

2012 Illinois Deer Classic - Monster Bucks & Bowhunting Friends

by Justin Zarr 25. March 2012 08:10
Justin Zarr

The 2012 Illinios Deer Classic, held in Peoria Illinois, is starting to wind down but before we pack up and head home I wanted to give you all a quick update on what you missed if you weren't here.  As always, the Peoria Civic Center was packed full of hunters looking to stock up on gear, meet new friends and check out some of the giant bucks on display.  It always amazes me how many 200+" bucks are on display here, which represents only a small fraction of the whitetails harvested in the Land of Lincoln each fall.  I would really like to see a few of the giants that never make it into the public eye.

For those of you who are going to be around Madison Wisconsin next weekend make sure you stop in and say hello.  We'll be giving away a new Mathews Heli-m bow as well as a Lone Wolf climbing treestand so you don't want to miss out!


Look for the Bowhunt or Die neon sign and you'll find us!


If you're looking for good deals on gear, the Deer Classics are the place to be.


This officially wins the "Creepiest Mount" award.  Who actually mounts their dog???


Our buddy Dorge with Firenock is always eager to show off his new products.


My favorite mount of the whole show.  What a giant!


Looking for a unique way to display your European mount?  Check out Dutch Fork trophy plaques.  Very cool!


Our cameraman/editor Brandyn Streeter was on hand to shoot interviews with a lot of the exhibitors.  Stay tuned to the New Products section of Bowhunting.com for videos in the next few weeks.


Everyone wanted to get a glimpse of the new Mathews Heli-m and Epic Cam on display.


She loves her rack!  Check out the Pink Rack Project when you get a chance.  A great cause helping to fight breast cancer.


Todd & Richie post with the lucky winners of a new Can Cooker.


Todd signing an autograph for a Bowhunt or Die fan.  Thanks for stopping by!


Can you tell I love giant 8 points?  What a stud!


Got junk?


The mass on this deer is unreal.


If I ever shoot a 240" whitetail, I'll get a full body mount too.


Another 200+.


"Sweetness", the buck Todd was chasing for 3 seasons.  He offically scores just over 212" net NT.  What a giant!


The new world record 9 point, along with a few other 'impressive' bucks.


My 2nd favorite mount in the show.  This photo doesn't even do it justice.  This is an incredible deer and a great mount.


This deer is scored as a typical 8 point frame with junk still nets over 200" non-typical.  Amazing.  AND it was shot by a 12 year old kid.  Pretty impresive, eh?


Another shot of my favorite buck.  He looks incredible.


Our buddy Byron Ferguson stopped by to say hi.  He's an amazing shot!


Former UFC Heavyweight champ Tim Sylvia stopped by and showed Richie whats up after a little smack talk.

For some reason, hunters often struggle to find satisfaction

by Patrick Durkin 15. March 2012 00:48
Patrick Durkin

For all the fun, challenge and satisfaction we find in scouting, hunting sheds and bowhunting deer, elk and other critters, I’m often struck how often guys tell me they’re unhappy with the neighbors, deer numbers or rut activity.

Research shows that "nonconsumptive" recreationists – such as hikers, bikers, campers and rowers – report more satisfaction from their activities than do hunters, anglers and mushroom hunters.

It seems I’m not alone. In fact, here’s something to think about: If hunters, anglers and mushroom pickers want to return home feeling happier and more satisfied after every outing, we might want to take up hiking, camping, canoeing or birdwatching.

Like it or not, research consistently shows “consumptive” recreationists – hunter-gatherers – report significantly lower satisfaction ratings than our “nonconsumptive” counterparts.

When Professor Jerry Vaske at Colorado State University reported this finding in 1982, he also predicted it wouldn’t change much over time. Why? Probably because hunter-gatherers typically have specific goals like shooting a deer or catching a perch. Further, even if we choose great spots with higher odds of reaching our goals, we can’t control deer activity or perch feeding habits.

Nonconsumptive recreationists don’t have such exact goals and expectations. Plus, they usually have more control in determining their outing’s satisfaction, whether it’s a campsite’s location, a trail’s scenery, a hike’s length, or a rapids’ degree of difficulty. They can choose outings that best match their skills and interests, which increases satisfaction.

Sure, hunters and anglers also enjoy violet sunrises, fog-shrouded valleys and smoky-gold tamaracks, but these are desserts, not necessarily main courses.

Friends enjoy a campfire after a full day of bowhunting elk in Idaho.

And although we photograph snow-draped cedars for their beauty, we judge the snow’s usefulness by whether it helps us see deer, find tracks, or hear hoofsteps. Likewise, we might appreciate a cool breeze on hot afternoons, but then we’ll curse it for ruining our casts, blowing our scent to deer, or pushing our boat off biting fish.

Too many standards. Too little control. Too many distractions and failed expectations.

And ultimately, too much room for frustration.

So when Professor Vaske recently updated and expanded his 1982 research, no wonder he found hunters and anglers still aren’t as satisfied as bikers, climbers, kayakers, runners and other nonconsumptive recreationists. This time, Vaske and his research assistant, Jennifer Roemer, analyzed 102 studies – 57 consumptive and 45 nonconsumptive – that examined satisfaction levels of participants in a wide range of outdoor activities from 1975 through 2005.

Even mushroom hunters tend to report less overall satisfaction in the outdoors than do campers.

Despite the large sample, the results differed little from his 1982 research. This shouldn’t surprise anyone, but I’m guessing some bowhunters and fishermen will take it personally.

Yes, not everyone feels dissatisfied. Many of us enjoy every outing, and don’t need to arrow a big buck to feel content. It says so on our bumper stickers “The worst day bowhunting beats the best day working.”

Unfortunately, we aren’t the majority. When researchers compile data and cross-check answers, they often find things that separate fibs from fact, and wishes from reality.

Even though birders report greater satisfaction than do hunters, how many of us would trade bowhunting for birdwatching?

Vaske notes that while hunters and anglers have other goals that influence satisfaction -- such as camaraderie, solitude and being alone in nature – the research found these things were “partial substitutes” and of “secondary importance.” In fact, “seeing, shooting and bagging game” remain the most important factors for evaluating hunting and fishing experiences, and “the strongest predictors of overall satisfaction.”

In contrast, the goals of campers, backpackers and other nonconsumptive types are more general, Vaske writes. They, too, might feel motivated to test skills, seek solitude, experience nature and spend time with friends. These goals, however, aren’t as specific as catching a meal of bluegills or shooting a doe for the family’s larder. Therefore, nonconsumptive goals are “more easily substituted if one goal is not satisfied.”

Even when some of us go snowshoeing, our main interest is scouting for deer sign.

In other words, it’s probably asking too much of hunting – on land or in the water – to satisfy all hunters all the time. For example, when Wisconsin deer hunters rated their experiences the past 10 years of record-setting seasons, you would have thought some were being water-boarded.

After setting the Wisconsin-record deer kill (528,494) in 2000, the majority opinion – 40.8 percent of hunters – judged the season’s quality “about average.” After Wisconsin’s No. 2 gun-deer season (413,794 kills) in 2004, the majority – 52 percent – ranked its quality “low.” And after tallying Wisconsin’s No. 3 gun season (402,563 kills) in 2007, the majority – 53.6 percent – also ranked it “low.”

Worse, some think it’s the government’s responsibility to satisfy and make them happy by supplying more deer, even as they protest taxes, threaten license boycotts, and demand government get off their backs.

Unfortunately, if anyone thinks lawmakers can deliver long-term hunting and fishing satisfaction, their frustrations and disappointments are just beginning.

Bow Seasons Opening Day

by Mike Willand 31. August 2011 14:55
Mike Willand

I awake. Eyes still shut and body still warm. I sit up in my soft bed still hunched over, grasping a minor head pain from the few cocktails which visited me the night before. My eyelids open faintly as I put foot into action, followed by weight, and then in one swift motion stand erect, yet unstable. I shake it off with a forceful yawn.

I ease across the bedroom floor being careful not to wake my beautiful wife as she sleeps so peacefully and so carelessly without thought of the day that will soon follow. The bedroom door squeaks ever so softly as I dance through the doorway and into the hall, shutting the door behind.

I proceed next into my daughter’s room and peak over her tiny crib. Leaning over her nightly fortress, I place my lips on her cheek, run my hand softly over her hair, and disappear back into the loneliness of an empty hallway. The whole time wondering if she’ll ask where I am when she awakes.

Into our guest bathroom I go. Parades of womanly decorations greet me in my tiny chamber. Quickly I undress and step into the shower. The water instantly awakens my senses with a frigid reminder of the upcoming months in which I will make this an almost daily routine. However, today is different. It’s a day I have yearned for since the robin's return in late March and the television first roared with the crowds of summer’s baseball admirers. Today is the opening day of archery season and my body is still fresh from the short hibernation of the hunter.

Storms of memories cascade into my aching head as I continue to shower. Thoughts and dreams of a new year in stand amongst my most favored of competitors - the whitetail. And I thank God I can do it again! As I close my eyes to rinse the soap off my hide, the visions of the great deer I have known flood into my mind like the great Mississippi in spring. And then dreams of the great bucks I anticipate to encounter this year trade with them.

I step from the shower with a great loud thud which is heard throughout the land! Yet a soft touch onto my bathroom floor. My ears are erect now, senses sharpening, and blood at a steady gait tingles through my veins and quickens its pace. The predator within me - awakes! Within minutes, I am dressed and descend down our home's dark winding stairs.

I march into the kitchen with great pride. It has been so long since this moment and I am overwhelmed with anticipation for what the season might bring. I open the fridge to quench my thirst, followed by my greedy acquisition of the last apple. Standing over the kitchen sink I stare out our window into the dark unknown. I knew the ground I would hunt this morning, and knew the tree I wanted to hunt from. The young oak stood on the edge of a secluded meadow, where switch grasses grew as tall as a man. Surrounded by apple trees, this oak has proved its worth over the years with encounter after encounter. But as I took the first bite of my forbidden fruit I wondered if today it could yet yield even another encounter. I continue to chomp at my apple and walk out of our home, locking the door behind.

The cool air gripped me so, causing my heart to skip a beat and blood to quicken once again! It is a crisp air, so full of life and with the whispering promise of an autumn to follow. The gentle breeze blows from the south but still harbors the last hints of summer's domain.

My truck waits out front like a chariot waiting to cry unto battle. Packed the night before, it stood motionless waiting for its master. I cross the grass with such eagerness. This drive I knew would be the beginning of many and would take me to unknown places in the months to follow. It would be the first of another year, filled with the trials that I am to set before myself. There will be triumph! There will be pain. Moments in between scattered with my thoughts, prayers, frustration, eagerness, loss, and ultimately – belief. A deep belief within myself and something Above me still.

The truck roars into gear as I leave my familiar home. The beams from my vehicle are about the only light in an otherwise dark and sleepy neighborhood. I turn the corner heading out of town. The whitetail woods my next destination.

On the highway I glance at the dashboard, seeking out the morning's present time. It spoke ten after four. I knew a twenty minute drive laid itself ahead of me. It would put me into my perch at ten till five I presumed. This meant a good hour before a legal shooting light. A perfect time, I thought, to get into an eagerly awaited and ready position, waiting for the first footsteps of autumn's prey.

Trailing down the highway I begin to drift. Thoughts and dreams billow into my mind once more. Visions of the past reappeared as if to haunt my present memory. The Big Nine who slipped away, the Great Ten who I could not draw on! Little bucks, dozens of does, and the found sheds of whitetail that were never even seen by me. And then my imagination! Conjuring mythical males with countless inches of antler! Greater whitetail than I have ever known seep into my brain and deliberately force me down a path of personal glory! My head is flooded with these thoughts as I continue down the road.

As I pull over the river, I can see my destination in sight. A twenty two minute drive was about to abruptly end. As I slow my faithful steed to an eventual stop, I feel my blood begin to quicken once more!

I pull off the road and onto the gravel beside it, shutting off the lights in one fluid motion. My hand turns the key and an eerie silence falls once more to me. The door to my truck opens with swift intentions, and a blanket of cool, crisp air charges in! Instantly I am outside my truck and gearing up for what will be my final descent before dawn. I sit down on my tailgate buttoning and pulling at the cotton camouflage that will hide me from searching eyes. Soon, I am lacing up the boots that will guide me over various and often intemperate terrains.

With my earthly uniform now covering my body I reach for the one item that will separate my intentions from friendly to foe. I open its casing and am overcome with what this moment truly resembles. It is man's first instinct now buried in a world of conveniences and farce. An item so basic in principle and yet so regarded even in this day. As I take hold of the almost primitive object, it is like I am reaching back to ancestral needs. It is my bow! Where string and stick meet with an unearthly BUMP! As if to say to the gods our species will not fail and become earth's most fabled of predators! Holding it I feel a pure restoration of the human spirit.

I am now ready. I am now equipped. I begin my hike into the great woods lying ahead of me, one foot after the next. And although I walk into these woods with no one by my side - I am not alone.

Good luck on opening day.

Coyote and whitetails.....

by Scott Abbott 30. December 2008 17:39
Scott Abbott

Did that coyote really ruin your hunt?  I know we have all been in the situation where we have had coyotes come through and in our mind ruined an other wise "perfect" day to be on stand.  I myself used to feel this way but over the years I have come to realize that just isn't the case on most occasions. 

Thinking back over the years I have had many successful hunts where a coyote has come in prior to whitetail.  In fact I shot my highest scoring buck mere minutes after a lone coyote had come through the area.  Coincidence?  I say not.  I have had just to many experiences over the years telling me other wise.  Obviously these deer and coyotes share their home ranges.  If a whitetail froze up or ran for cover every time it cut a coyotes scent trail, they sure wouldn't be able to cover much ground tending their daily routines.

Here are a couple game camera photos, again proving to me that coyotes do not negatively affect a hunt as much as I once thought.  The years have taught me to keep my head up and not let coyotes moving through my setup to waive my confidence.  Note the times on the two photos to follow.  I have more photos of a few different deer on that camera not long after wards as well.  None of them seemed to act alarmed in the photos.

 

 

Wounded Buck - Not How I Wanted to Start My Season!

by Todd Graf 9. October 2008 13:13
Todd Graf

I was on a roll until the dreadful bad shot took place. Yes, I will say it again - I made a bad shot. Of course not on purpose, it just one of those unfortunate things that happens in the bowhunting woods.

The season has been going quite well up until this point.  I have been seeing a lot of deer, shooting just about every day and most all of my gear has been working great. I was riding high and feeling good about my chances at harvesting a nice buck this fall.  That is until the other night! 

My evening hunt started off by checking with weather.com to confirm the wind was out of the East, and it was. I was pumped and I knew exactly where I was going to go.  Back in 2004 I harvested a nice 145 inch buck out of this very stand. In the past I have had some incredible luck hunting this spot early in the season because I can get right up on a big buck bedding area without them even knowing I'm there. This spot has it all – thick cover, beans, corn, hardwoods (acorns) & a pond all within a 100 yards of the buck’s bedroom.  Early in the season these big bucks don't like to venture far from their bedding areas during daylight, so if you want to get a shot at one you need to get in close.


My 2004 early season Illinois buck.

After arriving at my spot I was able to slip into my stand perfectly and without being detected.  My camera was ready to go and just like clockwork the does started to funnel out of the bedding area well before dark.  I watched them feed out in front of me for awhile, hoping a buck was nearby. 

With about 15 minutes of shooting light left I was out of good camera light so I started to pack everything up and call it a night.  As soon as I got the camera arm off the tree and was putting the camera away I look up to see a big buck headed my direction. I would guess him to be around 150 inches, if not a little bigger.  The buck had no idea I was there as he came down the trail towards my shooting lane.  I drew, aimed and shot. That’s when it felt like the world fell apart on me. I made a bad shot.  The buck ran out about 40 yards and stopped next to a small bush.  I watched him until it was too dark to see and he never moved from that spot.

After waiting an hour I snuck out and went to my truck to call Justin and Horseshoe Mazur to get them ready for the search and rescue mission that was going to take place in the morning.  We met the next morning and found the spot where I shot him.  Sure enough the arrow laid on the ground with about 7 inches broken off.  We found 1 patch of blood where the buck had stood motionless for so long, and then as a lot of  monster bucks seem to do – he vanished. We searched high and low through the woods, CRP fields, fencerows, and any other place we could think to look and came up with nothing.  In fact, we never found a single drop of blood after our initial findings. I believe the shot was high and in the shoulder blade which prevented me from getting good penetration or having a good trail to follow.

The unfortunate reality is that this can happen to any of us.  It only takes being off by and inch or two to make the difference between a quick, clean recovery and a lost animal. We all hope it doesn’t happen to us, but when it does it’s a super bad feeling. I can only hope the monster lives on for me or someone else to get another shot at him. I guess only time will tell.

As far as good news – I am going to go to Wisconsin this weekend and I’m going to give it hell!

Also, after Justin showed me a few pointers on building my own arrows I got my son helping me.  Its amazing how fast these little guys grow up and I make sure I spend as much time with my son as possible!

If you build your own arrows, or are interesting building your own arrows, check out our arrow building supplies here on Bowhunting.com.  We carry just about everything you need for building your own arrows including several types of Bowhunting.com Arrow Wraps, Bohning Fletch-Tite glue, Bitzenburger Fletching Jigs, and much more.  It's really not that hard, and can be a good way to pass some time in the evenings and customize your arrows to your specifications.

I wish all you bowhunters good luck in the coming weeks as this is what we all live for.  The rut is coming up quicker than we think and  I hope to bear good news on my next post!




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