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Veterans Day Mendocino Black Bear

Posted on 18 November 2010 by Cork Graham

L-R: Ace, Billy Norbury, Jesse Hruby, Cork Graham, Chris Bartholf, Joey Coleman and Ziggy

 

Wildlife conservation has, sadly, not been immune to the “we only care if it has a cute and cuddly face” groundswell that has swamped the animal protection, and self-proclaimed environmental movements of late: everyone wants to hunt the “dastardly” wild hog that grows its population like rats. But, no one wants to take the “cute and cuddly” black bear or mountain lion in California.

In California, there’s even a moratorium on the public hunting of the mountain lion, even though the mountain lion population in California is one of the largest, if not the largest, in the Western United States. This overextended population is eating the truly endangered desert bighorn in Southern California to extinction, and along with poor burning and logging practices, i.e. very infrequently, deer populations in California are also dropping.

Because of this, I started singling out the other major California predator that we are legally allowed to hunt on a public tag draw system: even though the misguided, and often mislead, anti-hunting community repeatedly tries to prevent it. My suggestion to newbie hunters is—until California Fish and Game is finally allowed to fully implement well-researched management practices, well-used in other states on deer and mountain lion, free of political grandstanding and meddling—to give deer a break, and instead get a bear tag.

Bear’s Better Than Venison?

“But are bear edible?” is the oft-repeated response. They’re delicious and can easily be prepared using a number of beef, or pig recipes that require low and slow cooking…as most recipes designed to retain moisture, soften muscle tissue and kill diseases that used to be prevalent in even farm pigs, like brucelosis and trichinosis…think braising, stews, dried and fermented sausages, roasts cooked past pink.

Average thought is that those who hunt bear only hunt bear for the hide and trophy. For those who actually do hunt bear and use as much of an animal as possible we feel that we get more out of bear than a deer: meat, organs (bear liver makes a phenomenal paté), hide (simply tanned make great rollup pillows for the couch and luxuriously soft linings for baby cribs, as done by Native tribes and pioneers, especially with a thick under layer of fur that comes with the cold of late fall) , claws (great for Native American artwork), tallow (great for rendering to cooking lard–a process definitely not recommended for much more gamey fat from deer), and if you’re knowledgeable in Asian homeopathic medicinal practices, medicine for ailments such as a bruising and arthritis. If you’ve ever had the chance to try a berry pie or pastry made with bear lard instead of Crisco or butter, you’ll remember the nutty flavor of bear lard that makes that pastry the best you’ve ever had!

Into the Mountains

With this mother lode of useable products drawing me to the mountains of the Mendocino National Forest, I arrived the afternoon before Veterans Day and set up camp. The objective was to venture out from camp at the crack of dawn, and work deep down into the canyon formed by the Eel River. Bears, like elk and moose, love water—the more water the better. They drink it. They keep cool in it. And, they wallow in the mud pools along its shore.

At least that was the intention before I realized, that I couldn’t get the firewood soaked by the previous day’s rain burning hot, and that the Snugpak sleeping bag I was evaluating on this trip, was a comfort rating off for the freeze that hit that night—disorientated and shivering, I woke every two hours.

The next morning, I was so tired, not really wanting to go off the shelf and into the canyon after a bear that was surely going to square at 6-foot-plus and over 300lbs translating to two-day pack out of all that meat by a single hunter. Electing to first drive up to a lookout and check the activity across the river canyon with my binoculars and spotting scope, I loaded my Brittany, excited about his first hunt for bear, in my Ram and drove out of camp.

Turn of the Track

Not more than a mile up the forest road, we came upon another pickup with dog boxes behind the cab. I recognized them as the group that arrived at the campground late the night before, anticipative of the four-day weekend. Exchanging greetings, I asked them what they were up to: “We’re bear hunting.”

Mentioning I was doing the same, but spot-n-stalk instead of over hounds, the owner of the hound crew, Billy Norbury, countered, “Our hounds just got on a track…If they tree him, do you want to shoot it?”

Enthused by the offer, I pulled over and we chatted for only a few minutes before we heard the howls. “Grab your rifle!” Jesse Hruby said.

Running, while loading a magazine into my Model 700, I kept Ziggy alongside at heel as we sped for the treed bear. Up in the tree, the bear that had been safe from the hounds below suddenly became anxious.

“You better shoot him,” one of the hunters yelled as he held a hound by the collar. “He’s gonna run!”

Raising my rifle, I quickly had the crosshairs of my Nightforce NXS on the bear’s chest, just behind its shoulder—the boiler-room we like to call it. When the shot went off, the bear climbed down as if untouched.

The bear was only 20 yards away when I shot…I couldn’t have missed!

Just as the bear hit the ground running, Ziggy had already broke from my side as if he were fetching a pheasant, and was up there with the hounds, which were trying to bay the bear. An immediate round of shots, one of them another Deep Curl 180 gr. from my .300 Winchester Magnum, and it was down for good.

Calling Ziggy back to heel, I was reminded of how much the excitement of hunting with hounds can be like the excitement of combat…sometimes almost as dangerous with all those bullets flying when a bear is on the ground.     

.308 cal. Speer Deep Curl 180gr. bullets equal tight groups!

 

 Could This Be the First Bear Taken With A Speer Deep Curl?

While removing the hide from the carcass, and preparing the meat cuts, I noticed a bullet hole in the side that was nearest me during my first shot. I was still smarting from thinking that I had missed the first shot. I’m not that bad of a shot!

When I saw the perfectly mushroomed bullet, I immediately realized what had happened. In the excitement of the moment I must have shot through a branch. That the .308 cal., 180 gr. bullet was able to retain 42.4 percent (76.4 gr.), keeping a perfect shape mushroomed shape (instead of exploding), and penetrate that far was impressive.

Because I normally try to get as close as I can to whatever I’m shooting, this was the first bullet I’ve ever found in game I’ve shot. Not that I normally look for them, but most of the game I’ve shot for the table, I’ve shot at an angle that permits modern high-power bullets to pierce both lungs and break through thinner than shoulder joint bones and exit the skin on the other side. This means I don’t lose shoulder meat, which is a lot when you’re as meticulous as I am in using every part as possible of the animal that I kill.

Designed as a replacement for the long utilized Speer Hot Cor, the Speer Deep Curl is definitely a bit more. While the original Hot Cor was exactly that—a hot core—hot lead poured into copper tubing, the Deep Curl’s lead core to copper jacket bonding is based on an electrical process.

When I saw the bullet for the first time, I also noticed the much more aerodynamic quality of the bullets shape. In essence, this, and the concave bullet base, is what adds to the excellent accuracy of the bullet. In coming up with a load of 80 grains of Hodgdon H1000 to get the best vibration out of my 24-inch Remington factory issue rifle barrel, the bullet groups were going between 1MOA and 1/2MOA. For a non-Accubond or Ballistic Tip bullet shape, that’s awesome…

After a quick chat with Tim Brandt, PR Manager at Speer, as the Speer Deep Curl is so new and not in every gun shop, this might be the first black bear taken with the new bullet. From the amount of cohesion and pattern of the mushroom, I’d say this is a definite improvement on the Hot Cor and look forward to using it on feral pigs, deer, caribou and elk in the coming year!

CONTROVERSY AND THE HUNTING HOUND

Like many hunters who enjoy venturing into the woods for the solitude and intimacy with the natural world that only spot-n-stalk and still-hunting provide, chasing after a pack of Walkers or Black and Tans might seem like having to walk down a block behind a bunch of drunk hooligans.

…But, having seen bear, fox, raccoon, and mountain lion hunting hounds in action, I have to tip my hat to them and those who have such a love of their dogs, spending the money and time in the field training and keeping their hounds sharp. Keeping their dogs in tip-top shape and awareness is one of the reasons that I received such a gracious offer from these hound hunters who I’d never even been introduced to until my pulling up in my pickup: fill a bear tag and hunting’s pretty much done.

Yes, you can run hounds during many parts of the year, but hunting’s not just coursing. Hunting involves a shot being fired and a dead bear on the ground, which is the whole edifying experience for the hounds…not making the kill would be as dismal for Ziggy if I sent him out for pheasant, then getting the bird he pointed into the air and didn’t shoot, not offering him the full reward and experience circle, of a retrieve.

An added benefit of hunting over hounds is that if a hunter decides not to take the animal, the hounds can be leashed and pulled away from the base of the tree and the bear is permitted to run down and escape. Many bear are shot during deer season by deer hunters with an afterthought bear tag—often meaning a bear that is jumped. In that moment of surprise, it’s hard to tell if it’s female, which are illegal in other states, or more importantly, whether there’s an unnoticed accompanying cub or cubs.

By using hounds, the hunter has enough time to see if it’s the right bear to take, and adjust appropriately and lessen the chance of orphaned bear cubs.

Many might say, “That’s not sporting—the bears up in a tree!”

That’s correct, hunting is not sport. It’s an opportunity to get healthy, organic meat protein. It’s a much-needed tool of wildlife conservation….football, basketball and baseball are sports. As a tool of wildlife conservation, hunting with hounds is a very useful tactic: and why game wardens and biologist who deal with depredation, either by bears or mountain lions, even in states where hunting with hounds by the public is not allowed, like Oregon, use them to most efficiently control predator populations; and practice efficient wildlife management for a healthier ecocsystem.


Hank Shaw’s Bear Recipe: check out our colleague Hank Shaw’s bear pelmeni recipe here: Hunter Angler Gardener Cook.

…In the next month, I’ll be coming up with a recipe by modifying a childhood recipe from my childhood in Southeast Asia that if it works as good as my ours bourguignon recipe, modified from Julia Child’s beef bourguignon, should be just as spectacular!

COMMENTS: What do you think about bear hunting? What do you think about hunting with hounds? Got something to add? Feel free to let us know by using the form below—on this site we believe in true free speech and believe censorship is a crime…

For your daily commute on your MP3 player – Download and Enjoy the latest news at Speer Bullets on Cork’s Outdoors Radio:

TOPICS: Speer PR Manager Tim Brandt talks about the history of Speer and new line of Deep Curl replacing the lauded Hot Cor bullet.

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BIG GAME ARGENTINA by Craig Boddington [Book&DVD Review/Radio Interview]

Posted on 26 March 2010 by Cork Graham

Craig Boddington, and his guide Cano St. Antonin, with a fine red stag taken on the Huemul Peninsula.

Craig Boddington, and his guide, Cano St. Antonin, with a fine red stag taken on the Huemul Peninsula.

Argentina conjures a variety of images for those who’ve never been there. There’re the gauchos, the Pampas, and tango. For the angler there are the monster-sized trout and salmon in rivers that seem untouched because of the stretch of land that fills the borders of the country as well as its meager population that centers around Buenos Aires. For the hunter, there are the photos and images of ducks and big-game that have graced magazines, and as of late, those through the onslaught of 24-hour outdoors satellite programming.

It wasn’t always like this. Yes, there were the trout, back in the 1970s when South American was truly only a blip on the salmonid fanatic’s radar; but when I first saw the images of red deer antlers grace the pages of hunting magazines in the late 70s and early 80s, they were nowhere near the size and impressiveness they are now.

Much of this has to do with how well they’ve managed the herds that were previously left to roam without any real predation-like bluegills in a pond, they quickly overpopulated and their rack size dwindled in response to the lack of food and nutrients.

Because of the new land and wildlife management practices implemented in Argentina during the last 20 years, Argentina is really giving New Zealand’s Utopian red stag hunting a run for the money. Culling the scrawny genetics, and managing for quality instead of quantity, has created a balance between feed and minerals: showing how good management practices benefit not just game animals but non-game peripherals, adding to the grand beauty of the land  and hospitality for which Argentina has always been known.

What better way to cook meat than in a traditional parrillada?

What better way to cook meat than in a traditional parrillada?

Big Game Argentina records the results of this improved bounty for the outdoors enthusiast wanting to travel Argentina and is the latest offering from Gen. Craig Boddington USMC (ret.). An outdoor writer, book author, show host I’ve admired and respected for years, a man who offered me words to live by back in 1994 as an newbie outdoor writer for The Times of San Mateo County, Boddington’s credentials speak for themselves with over 30 years in what is one of the harder and becoming more and more the hardest writing profession to create longevity.

In his book and DVD collection about hunting in Argentina, Big Game Argentina, Boddington and the photographer, Guillermo Zorraquin, deliver a plethora of what’s available in striking detail (what we in the business call “NGC”, National Geographic Color). From the province of Patagonia, north to Chaco and Santiago Del Estero, west to La Pampa and finally east to the province of Buenos Aires, Boddington and the publishers John John Reynal  and Juan Pablo Reynal took on an enviable, yet sobering project that took two years to complete.

In the offering, they delivered what I consider the most informative and beautifully illustrated book in years on Argentina and hunting red stag, white-lipped javelina (peccary), ducks, doves, water buffalo, puma, blackbuck, capybara, brocket deer, and feral sheep, goats and hogs.

Boddington's fine example of a white-lipped peccary

Boddington’s fine example of a white-lipped peccary

In a world in which text is not enough, and as a result traditional printed magazines are going the way of the dinosaurs, and multimedia is king (explaining why Cork’s Outdoors gets 11,000 hits a day) Big Game Argentina is nicely matched with a DVD that fills in the dialogue and action that can’t really be captured in text, and yet video doesn’t try to replace the informative quality of text delivered by Boddington’s honed skills as a writer.

A quick mention of the charcoal artwork by Esteban Diaz Mathé must be made: the work is superb and really adds to the quality of those images not captured in photographs, making the book anyone would be proud to have sitting on their coffee table for friends to enjoy.

Often, many of those traveling think that hunting Argentina only involves staying at estancias and hunting open Pampas. Big Game Argentina lays that stereotype to rest with text and photos covering with dramatic flare the many options of hunting Argentina: like French Alps-like mountains and New Zealand’s Fjordland-like lake and sea area to the south on horseback, or the low brush options further north, reminiscent of eastern Colorado, and the flat brush of Texas, to name a few.

A sampling of the dramatic views the hunting lands of Argentina offer

A sampling of the dramatic views the hunting lands of Argentina offer

As for capturing the adventure and drama a place like Argentina on the DVD, one of the most striking scenes is one in which Boddington, while on stand, waiting for dogs to drive out a collared peccary, sees a brocket deer break from the brushline. Swinging on the brocket with a shotgun, he dramatically takes a nice deer that reminds me of the dik-dik of Africa. In another scene he makes an amazing shot on a capybara, also on a full run. Kudos to the videographer for his skill catching all the action over Boddington’s shoulder.

In contrast to the native species, and aside from the more famous red deer, there are the fallow deer, feral hogs and water buffalo. Raised in Southeast Asia, I was always amazed that the animal I always saw as a child pulling a plow across a rice field had become such a prized game animal in places such as a Australia and Argentina. While the ones from Australia have a much larger sweep and are originally from the wild strain. The ones in South America descend from the farmed water buffalo that were originally brought to what would become Italy by the Ancient Romans, for their milk and the best mozzarella resulting from that water buffalo milk.

Through centuries of genetic selection, much in the same way Herefords are these days chosen over the original Spanish Texas Longhorn as cattle type, the farmed water buffalo has a much smaller horn, with a much less ominous wide curve of its originally wild cousin in Southeast Asia and Australia, which ironically makes it look more African cape buffalo and trophy in its own right in the feral and very wild form covered in Big Game Argentina.

If you’re planning on hunting or even just traveling or Argentina, or prefer the armchair traveler’s voyage to South America, I’d highly recommend adding the book and DVD pairing of Big Game Argentina by Craig Boddington to your collection.

Books are available through www.craigboddington.com

Book and DVD are available through www.patagoniapublishing.com

For your daily commute on your MP3 player – Download and Enjoy Craig Boddington’s interview on Cork’s Outdoors Radio:

 Topics: Hunting Argentina, helpful advice for neophyte outdoor writers, hunting Africa and Boddington’s two shows broadcast on The Sportman’s Channel and Outdoor Channel, and finally what’s new with Boddington’s writing and adventures in the coming weeks and months.

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When Your Dog Gets Cold

Posted on 28 December 2009 by Cork Graham

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Ziggy comfy in ice with his Avery 5mm Boater's Dog Parka

So much snow flew across southern Oregon’s Highway 66 at o-two-thirty-dark, as I made my way to Lower Klamath Refuge, that I thought I was going to run off the road for sure. We arrived and then it hit me how cold it was as the warmth of the vehicle left me. I was worried.

I wasn’t hunting with my cold weather hardened duck dog, a 100-pound Chesapeake Bay retriever, I got in Alaska as a three-quarter pound puppy. His being missing really hitting me with sadness as I could just start to see the snowed peak of Mount Shasta in the distance. Seochael (short for Matahan Seochael, Peaceful Bear in Scottish) had passed more than ten years ago.

 
There's something magical about duckhunting in view of snowcapped Mt. Shasta!

There's something magical about duckhunting in view of snowcapped Mt. Shasta!

By my side was my new bird-hunting companion. Like Seochael before, Ziggy was my utility dog: he not only pointed pheasants and chukar, he would for the first time be taken into the field to retrieve ducks from water. There was only one thing…Ziggy’s a Brittany (we don’t call them Spaniels anymore) more suited to warmer, drier pheasant fields.

Hypothermia kills! Many hunters take their dogs hunting, even in places with conditions not that harsh and don’t even realize that their dog is suffering from hypothermia. Others pull the ego trip, stating, “My dog’s a duck dog, he don’t need any of those newfangled neoprene dog vests…my grand-pappy never had one for his old dog, so why break with tradition!”

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for traditions. Hunting being one of my most cherished. But veterinary medicine has come a long way, and what we thought were conditions that dogs were bred for, were in the long run cutting down the longevity and quality of life for a dog, not the least of which is arthritis that comes on early because of extended time in ice cold water. Everything you can do to keep your dog too long in a cold can delay that onset of old dog ailments.

The normal body of a dog is higher than humans: 100.5 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. If your dog’s body temperature goes below that it’s a bad sign. If it hits 96 degrees your dogs in real trouble! Other symptoms include depression, lethargy, weakness, shivering, muscle stiffness, low heart and respiratory rates, stupor, difficult breathing, and fixed and dilated pupils. Worst of all, as it’s near too late, is coma.

For a dog that had only learned to swim two trips ago, dealing with ice and snow would be no small feat for Ziggy. As it was, it would be until our next trip out to Grizzly Island the week after Thanksgiving, that we’d get into ducks. This Saturday after Thanksgiving that I was hunting Lower Klamath, on the other hand, was a total bust.

What was important was that the conditions were so cold that the area I was hunting required me breaking one to two inches of ice to place dekes, and that the water refroze within only an hour. During all this, my thin-skinned Brittany pointer, did fine: Ziggy doesn’t even like to get wet during a bath. Now he’s a duck-hunting fanatic!

What was it that made something like this possible?

A good neoprene dog vest! It was so important to the venture that I couldn’t wait until I was back at the office in San Francisco to pick up the 5mm and 3mm dog vests that Avery Outdoors had sent me to review. I ended up running over to Medford, Oregon’s Sportsman’s Warehouse the day before the trip to Lower Klamath Refuge: not even two years old, I didn’t want my new hunting buddy dying from hypothermia.

As you can see from Ziggy’s icicled whiskers, it was cold. We don’t get that kind of freeze in the San Francicsco Bay or Sacramento Valley that I normally hunt for waterfowl. As we waited at the ice’s edge for the ducks that never flew (holding in the closed zone to recover from the previous days’ storms-to say we missed it would be an understatement), I would every once in a while slide my hand between the vest and Ziggy’s back. It was like a furnace under that neoprene-and having Ziggy in an Avery Boater’s Dog Parka with its handle harness was an added asset when I had to get him out of the water and onto the ice!

Sure he shivered, but often it was only because he was anticipating birds. By the time we left this ice-cold blue bird day, Ziggy was fine and toasty in his 5mm vest. And it wasn’t only that he was protected from the dry air cold, but he was also defended from the cold of having followed me in the water as I set my mallard and widgeon decoys.

A week later, at Grizzly Island Refuge, conditions were strikingly different. This time Ziggy was chest deep in water with me–and he retrieved his first two ducks, a male and female widgeon! Though we were into December, it felt as though were hunting the much warmer early season, and I felt no guilt in my very warm and comfy 5mm LaCrosse waders, as Ziggy was well protected in his 3mm Avery dog vest.

What’s more, unlike a dog vest I tried on my Chessie, so many years ago, these vests easily fit a number of body types with minimal adjustments. With regards to Brittanies, Ziggy is of the tall and lanky, unlike the shorter and stockier variety, which could easily be snug with the straight chest to waistline of a Lab. And still, the vest fit perfectly. Each vest has a zipper and length of Velcro that goes the length of fastening to enable custom adjustment of 1.5 to 2 inches from chest to waist. Also, you can also trim with a pair of scissors.

As we’re deep into cold weather, do your duck dog a favor and get him or her a neoprene dog vest. And if you’ve got a pointer or Spaniel that you thought might not be a great all-round bird dog, get a neoprene dog vest for your dry field hunting partner and enjoy the extension of a season that stretches into ducks and geese!

In the photo below I’m warm and cozy in a LaCrosse Brush-Tuff™ 1200G MO Break-Up® Waders that arrived just in time.

You can order your dog a vest directly from Avery Outdoors’s Sporting Dog Website.

Ziggy in Avery's 3mm Standard Dog Vest in Shadow Grass camo

Ziggy in Avery's 3mm Standard Dog Vest in Shadow Grass camo

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