Tag Archive | "wildlife conservation"

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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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JOHN NOSLER: GOING BALLISTIC by John Nosler and Gary Lewis [BOOK REVIEW/RADIO INTERVIEW]

Posted on 21 October 2010 by Cork Graham

On October 10, 2010 (that’s right, 10/10/10), a pioneer crossed the summit between this world and the next. If you’re a firearms and reloading enthusiast, you probably knew his name. If you are a hunter, you should.

John Nosler, 97, was a hunter, engineer, innovator, and pioneer in the field of bullet-making—he was a self-made man. Like any self-made man who has been successful, he understood the importance of relationships—no one has ever become successful being a loner.

Nosler’s personal telephone book over the years included some of the other vanguards of the firearms industries, some of them very well-known because of their writing, like Elmer Keith, Jack O’Connor and Chub Eastman (he wrote the memoir’s foreword), some remembered through their own mark in the bullet and reloading industry: Fred Huntington, founder of RCBS; Hornady founder Joyce Hornady; and Speer Bullets founder Vernon Speer, to name a few.

This was a history not only of cartridge and rifle component making, but the story of America pulling itself out of dire economic straits and moving through what many might call the heyday of American might and wherewithal.

At the open of the book, the reader is introduced to John Nosler as a child in Southern California. It’s a wonderful vignette to how most of America was very much rural, and that surburban was a term to come about after the major industrial push into cities after World War II, with the resulting need for workers to not completely lose that connection to the wilds.

In the second chapter we learn about Nosler’s love of all things mechanical, often roadsters and rifles. This natural interest in machines led to his employment at the Ford Motor Company. Through Ford, John Nosler arrived in Reedsport, Oregon: not the place to try selling autos during the Great Depression, much less immediately after an influx of labor unions and a major layoff at the local lumber yard.

A job change and start of a trucking company quickly ensued. The center of Shakespeare Theater on the West Coast, an idyllic western town that drew my own grandmother to live with her aunt immediately after the loss of her parents in a murder-suicide in Chicago in 1914; Ashland, Oregon also, later drew the Nosler family and would become the initial headquarters of the Nosler Partition Bullet Company in 1948.

What were few opportunities in Southern California for deer hunting were replaced with a plethora of deer, elk and black bear in Oregon. A love for shooting was supported well at the Ashland Gun Club, an environment supportive of healthy understandings of firearms and shooting.

Nosler moved its headquarters to Bend in 1958, incorporating in 1960 into what we recognize with distinction as Nosler Bullets, Inc. Bend was very smart in offering incentive to Nosler, which would be a very beneficial venture for Nosler and the local populace.

The Bullet

To think that the famous Nosler Partition Jacket Bullet that has led to the improved kill ratios on big-game around the world came about as the result of John Nosler’s almost losing a moose on one of his earlier hunts in British Columbia, a time when a hunting trip up to Canada could be as challenging as a safari in Africa during its peak in the late 1920s and early 1930s, of which Ruark and Hemingway wrote.

Banking on his own intellectual resourcefulness that led him to a number of successes at Ford, and his own trucking company, in positions that most people now couldn’t apply for without a university degree, Nosler designed his Partition and created the company that has brought about so many innovations in bullet design over the last sixty-two years.

John Nosler: Going Ballistic – The Life and Adventures of John Nosler, a memoir that came about through many hours of Gary Lewis’s recorded interviews with John Nosler in 2003, goes into much more depth than could ever be captured of a man’s life in a magazine article, even the designing of the bullets that have become the crowning glories of the company, such as the Nosler Partition that started it all, the Zipedo, a bullet offering I didn’t even know about until I read the book, the Ballistic Tip, which I shot my first blacktail with near California’s Lake Almanor in the mid-1980s, and the bullet that has quickly become one of my favorites, if not my favorite, the Nosler Accubond, marrying the best qualities of Nosler’s offerings: the accuracy of the Ballistic Tip, and the penetration and energy delivery to the animal’s vitals of the Nosler Partition.

Nosler seems to have been part of many firsts of my life. Just last Saturday, I used the Accubond to shoot my first California mule deer in Modoc County. The shot wasn’t ideal  (only offered a view of the buck’s rear, with the deer looking back over its shoulder, ready to take off straight away from me at 200 yards), but with my Model 70 Super Grade solid on shooting sticks, I took the shot, confident that if I didn’t hit the spine with my ½ MOA rifle, by using the base of the tail as a target, the bullet would still do its job.

When we got to the buck that expired within 10 yards of where it had been hit, I was delighted at how the .270 caliber 130 gr. Accubond bullet had done what it was supposed to: deliver high shock and deep penetration. It was a tricky shot and one that could have really made a mess. As it was, by the time I butchered the buck after four days aging in my garage, I not only had a completely undamaged liver that I had collected the evening of the shot, but had lost only a little bit of meat on the right inside of the buck’s ham, an inch from the base of the tail, to bloodshot where the Accubond entered. NOTE: I’d never have attempted such a shot without confidence in my shooting ability based on years of practice, or using a bullet I wasn’t sure would so efficiently retain its weight, mushrooming in a timely manner to deliver such lethality so far into the chest.

I’ve been impressed and continue to be impressed by the offerings John Nosler envisioned and I’m sure we’ll continue to see more as the next generations carry the Nosler flag—a legacy I’m delighted and honored to have had a peek into through the well-written, entertaining and informative John Nosler: Going Ballistic – The Life and Adventures of John Nosler.

For your daily commute on your MP3 player – Click the Play Button now, or Download and Enjoy Author Gary Lewis’s interview, along with snippets of Lewis’s interviews of John Nosler, on Cork’s Outdoors Radio:

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Trout Fishing With a Rock and Roll Guitar Legend

Posted on 17 September 2010 by Cork Graham

When I head out of a metropolitan area for a long trip, I like to leave early in the morning, an hour or so before sun up. This is when you get to see a part of the city that most people, except for police, garbage collectors and EMTs, don’t.

It’s quiet, the streets are empty, and the sun is just hinting on the horizon. Most important, for a city like San Francisco, where all the best trout fishing is on the other side of a large bridge, stop and go traffic that quickly sets in after 6 a.m. is void. At this hour, the freeway is truly a freeway.

In tribute to my birthday brother I’d be meeting in couple hours, I hit the play button on my mp3 player. The Edgar Winter Group’s “Freeride” filled the speakers of my Dodge Ram, and my two-year-old fishing and hunting buddy, Ziggy, perked his ears up and looked around as Ronnie Montrose gave his best with that magic guitar open and roll that has been part of video game and movie soundtracks for years, not the least of which, for an addict of anything that flies: Air America.  Dan Hartman wrote it, but that’s all Brother Montrose on the guitar…it’s also one of my favorite songs from the ’70s, because it became a hit the year my family left Vietnam War, 1972.

Ziggy and I arrived at our secret trout stream and Montrose and his wife, Leighsa, a phenomenal florist, whose work has graced the grand events of many celebrities and influential people, were waiting for what would be a definite good day.

I went through my plan of what I thought was best. This was Leighsa’s first time, but Ronnie, a definite San Francisco-born and Colorado-raised Colorado boy, was well-versed when the topic comes to trout: rainbow, browns, cutthroats, you name it, he’s caught it.

As I’ve become more and more drawn into the music world, I find that many musicians love the outdoors (like for writers, it’s pretty much the only place you can truly get away)…and these rockers don’t just do it like sterile surgeons.

No, these folks really get in there and get intimate with Nature—there’s my buddy who introduced me to Ronnie, 80’s rocker and pig hunting maniac T. Michael Riddle, whose new album is being produced by Montrose. And there’s Dokken drummer Jeff Martin, who I hunted with during a celebrity hunt at the Riddle’s Native Hunt dove opener…and you’d be surprised how many music and film celebrities not only love flyfishing but also pick up a gun and put organic meat on the table—It’s refreshing…and more importantly, it’s honest!

All squared away with how we’d be using light 2-4lb line, a split shot and a small, size-10 to 12 (not too small or the barb it won’t have time to hook into the trout’s jaw in the fast water) salmon egg hook, on a light spinning rig, we made our way through the thorn-laced blackberry bushes that line most of the great trout streams in the Sierras from Kings Canyon on north—I made a note to myself to pick some when we were done.

 

When we got to the stream edge, I saw a rainbow trout, belly up on the bottom. It had been a warm week. It’s one of the reasons when I’m fishing hatchery raised trout, I just fish my limit, and keep my limit. When I’m done, I leave—I don’t catch-and-release another 50-100 as many are proud to tell me they’ve done.

Would they be so proud to know how many of those ended up dying, out of sight, recorded only by biologists next down the waterway, collecting the actual number of fish that die as the result of catch-and-release practices? If asked most catch-n-release anglers couldn’t tell you how to properly release a fish if their lives depended on it: each fish type has different requirements. A simple search on Google will give you a hefty number of how many fish die as the result of catch-and-release.

Leighsa Montrose gingerly, buries that small egg hook without crushing the salmon egg.

 

I prefer to make sure that the fish I kill go into my cooler and into my frying pan, and not floating down the river belly up…and then I’m sure that the kill on those hatchery fish is appropriate to what the department of fish and game assesses as not detrimental to the ecosystem and a wild trout population.

Isn’t it so much nicer to just catch just enough for your meal, reel in your lines and settle down by the stream for a lunch of salami and French bread, perhaps a bottle of wine, as Hemingway might have done on the Big Wood River in Idaho, or on Spain’s Irati, during a break from the bulls of Pamplona?

Then, when you’ve had a nice nap, collected your equipment back to your vehicle, you can drive home and remember the peace and beauty you had enjoyed the week earlier, with a perfectly prepared trout at home. Yes, I actually talk about, and do, these things when I’m out on the stream with friends—I often pine for a peaceful time, even if that time was just before WWII in Spain…not a peaceful time at all…

It peppered my conversation as Ronnie took a break from fishing the other side of an inlet and Leighsa came over to my side for a quick lesson in trout fishing. A quick study, she learned how to slip a hook into a single Pautzke’s salmon egg (bright red is my favorite) without crushing it. Then, we went through the cast and lead, something that fly anglers will recognize as a bait angler’s adaption of the “high sticking” method.

As this stream was so small, there wasn’t really any casting, per se. The cast was more of a swing out and drop into the head of the current, with a static length of line. Skipping along the bottom the single splitshot led the way for the salmon egg, about six inches to a foot above the bottom, prime  feeding zone of the trout in a stream, especially as they try to keep out of the sun and heat, and under the cool and oxygen-rich froth.

It’s important to keep the tip of your rod high, and slightly downriver of the splitshot and bait, so that you can feel the hit when it comes. Doing so, also keeps the splitshot going at the proper speed down the stream and free from snagging.

In one cast, Leighsa had a nice 11-inch rainbow in the net. Then, she got a lesson in how to quickly dispatch a trout for better eating. If your fish aren’t as tasty as you thought they’d be, it’s probably because you kept it struggling for air, with a piece of plastic or metal running up through its gills and out its mouth.

Better to just pick it up while it’s still in the net and bring the top of its head down hard on a large rock or boulder by the water. You’ll save the fish from a bunch of needless distress and have the best tasting trout you can find!

When you’re done putting the trout out of its misery, place it on the stringer to keep it fresh in the cool running water. Remove the innards by sticking your index finger through both gills, ripping through the chin, freeing gills from the jaw.

Then, sticking your index finger down into the gullet and holding onto the gills and pectoral fins, pulling down and out removes all the gills and most of the entrails. A quick run up the body from the vent to the head with a pocket knife lets you draw the back of your thumbnail along the inside of the spine to remove that blood line that also leads to poor taste if left in…

This day, we were averaging a fish on every first or second cast, but it’s the first one that’s the most exciting, shown on the Leighsa’s face and the pride in Ronnie watching his wife catch her first high-stick caught trout—what I consider the most effective form of trout fishing in a stream, next to a spear: but unlike spearing and gigging, high-sticking is legal.

By 10:30 a.m. we were done catching our trout limits, and Ronnie and Leighsa had to return to their hotel to prepare for the gig to be performed at a cancer charity concert in Oakdale. Ziggy and I went off to fill up on two pounds of fresh blackberries…

Ronnie, Leighsa, and Ziggy can attest: Trout fishing’s supposed to be FUN!

 

 

To Get Started Salmon Egg High Sticking

You’ll need a sensitive tip spinning rod of between six and seven feet long, and a light fishing line. I prefer to load my trout stream spinning reels with between two and six-pound monofilament.

Then, snell a laser-sharp salmon egg hook with two-foot leader of four to six-pound fluorocarbon leader material, using a surgeon’s not to attached it to the end of the rod’s line.

Depending on the speed of the current, and clarity of the water, I clamp a piece of splitshot on the leader a foot to a foot-and-a-half from the hook. With the hook buried in a single salmon egg, you’re ready to go.

The key about this type of fishing, like any type of fishing, especially with stream or river fishing, is that you need to go where the fish are. It’s probably why I like this style of trout fishing most. You never get bored, like perhaps in lake fishing, where you cast out your bait and just wait.

It’s like elk or pig hunting. You need to keep moving until you get into the fish. And when you do, you can expect to catch a few more, especially with hatchery trout that act more like lake trout, or sea-run steelhead and salmon, that have been in a school most of their lives, much unlike wild stream trout.

Remember also, that the reason you caught trout in a specific area was that it was a comfort zone—cover/safety, fresh oxygen (especially with rainbows) and food. In the cool of the evening and morning, the trout spread out into the pools and slow runs. As the sun rises high, the water warms and loses more its oxygen, so that the best place to fish for trout is right there in the cold, oxygen-saturated water.

NOTE: I’ve used this same single-egg hook rig to catch steelhead to 13 pounds in the fall and spring!

Catch Ronnie Montrose Tonight in Livermore!

Ronnie Montrose will be on stage with his band tonight at 8 p.m. in the Bankhead Theater of Livermore, CA. If you’ve enjoyed those great songs by Montrose and Sammy Haggar (Rock Candy, Bad Motor Scooter, Rock the Nation, and Space Station #5), they’ll be available for listening—LIVE, tonight! See ya there!

Blackberries and trout–the perfect bounty in California during August and September!

 

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