By RON KRUGER
I believe there is something in human nature that craves freedom and adventure. Although these cravings vary among individuals, it is in everyone’s DNA, but the very nature of civilization dampens these cravings with a false sense of security and comfort.
Today the vast majority are so far removed from the freedom and honesty of the natural world that they don’t realize the empty parts of their souls crave this link to their far-distant ancestry. Most, in fact, are so far removed from real nature, they fear it more than they do the mean streets of an inner city.
I’ve always felt at home, at peace and profoundly inspired by the natural world, but that may be because I’ve devoted my life to it and derived a meager livelihood from it. Hunting, fishing, camping and floating have provided thousands of mini-adventures. I even had the extended adventure of living entirely off the land for a couple of years in the late 1980s.
This craving for freedom and adventure hasn’t abated with age. In fact, a lifetime of satisfying it and relating to it has only strengthened it. I feel a kinship with John Muir, John Colter, Jim Bridger and Meriwether Lewis. These are my heroes of freedom and adventure.
I suppose I was born 100 years too late, but I have made a fair accounting of freedom and adventure during my almost 67 years, and despite an old heart, old bones and a fixed income, I don’t think it is too late for another adventure.
As I have done a few times over the past decades, I’m dropping out for a while to satisfy my true nature. I’m severing my rental lease, putting a few things in storage and giving the rest away.
I’m loading my pickup with hunting, fishing and camping gear, placing my golden retriever, Doc, in the passenger seat and heading for the Sand Hills of Nebraska. No telling where I’ll go from there. No telling how long I’ll survive as a hunting and fishing gypsy – as long as I can.
As long as I want. I’ve been longing for a new adventure for about a year. It’s something that starts eating at me every few years, a sort of wanderlust that I’m sure plagued Muir, Colter and Bridger.
I didn’t need incentive, but Doc provided the inspiration for the nature of this adventure. He has a long pedigree and is from championship stock, fully and professionally trained for five years before I gained possession in a manner that to me was like winning the lottery.
I’m taking take my float tube along and will camp (free) in primitive areas that also offer some type of angling opportunities, but upland hunting will be the main focus of this adventure.
Because I’m on a limited income, I plan to tent camp for a month or two. I love to tent camp. Do it often during the summer. Already spent a couple of months in a tent a few years ago.
In fact, I have found from camping often that an air mattress blown up a certain amount is the best thing for my bad back, so I’m as comfortable in a tent as at home. I have down long underwear for sleeping and Thermarest pads to take the chill out of the air mattress. Everything fits into my mid-sized Colorado pickup (25 mpg in city, 27 mpg on highway). I’m a good camp cook, too.
LIVING OFF THE LAND
I lived entirely off the land for a couple of years once, so this is no problem. I plan to camp in primitive areas (no fees) and eat mostly game and fish I catch.
The only problem would be extended periods of rain or severe cold. I have books for the rain, and if it gets much below freezing and stays there, I’ll head to southern hunting grounds.
Baby wipes keep me tolerably clean, but I will probably pop for a motel and shower every week or two.
There is great freedom and peace in this style of travel, plus the exercise and excitement of hunting every day.
People warn me that at my age, I could die out there – but I can’t think of a better way to go.
Photo and Text By LARRY DABLEMONT
I have been called a hunter and fisherman quite often, and really I am no more such than a million other Ozarkians. I was born a conservationist and naturalist, and I will always be. I was taught by a grandfather and father who knew more about conservation than any man I ever met.
No, they didn’t go by the fish and game laws, newly imposed when they were young. They went by the laws of “wise use,” which is what “conservation” once meant.
My grandfather was the most knowledgeable riverman and outdoorsman I ever knew. He taught me more about the workings of the natural world and wild creatures than books could ever have.
But my dad taught me how to live in the outdoors, enjoy its bounty and still be the kind of creature on this earth that he felt a man should be.
YOUNG MAN’S LESSON
I recall like it was yesterday the time we were floating the river in December, hunting ducks, and we drifted slowly past a gravel bar where two young raccoons were caught hunting for crayfish and mussels. They scurried up a nearby sycamore tree. I was 11 years old and excited about the prospect of shooting, more than hunting. I wanted to blast the two of them and take the hides home to grandpa, who still trapped and sold furs at that time.
Dad lowered my gun from my shoulder by telling me that if I shot them, I would have to do the skinning and clean them both and eat them after Mom had baked them. I had eaten raccoon, and I got to thinking I would rather eat a squirrel, if I had the choice.
Why waste one of my eight 16-gauge shells on something I would like to eat less than a squirrel or rabbit? Those shells had to last me until the local Western Auto store had another broken box so I could buy 10 more.
We stopped to eat sandwiches on that gravel bar, as the young ‘coons watched from high in the sycamore. Dad always built a small fire beside a log and cut three-pronged forked saplings we could place sandwiches in and heat them.
While we sat there on that log, he told me that every man should develop a reverence for life, something he used in his relations with other men and wild creatures too.
He told me that day that I should never kill a wild creature without feeling that reverence for life, something God gave to men in order that they could be what He meant them to be. It meant that you never created a tame creature with cruelty, and you never killed a fish or a bird or a mammal without feeling just a little sadness at its passing.
He said that when you ate fish or squirrels or ducks, you were enjoying the bounty given by the Creator, and that all lives, even of the smallest of his creation, had value and purpose.
“A boy yearns to kill something and thinks of little else when he is just a boy,” Dad told me. “But a grown man who lacks that reverence for life has a weak soul, a lack of knowledge about who he is and where he fits into life, and he lacks any understanding about who God is and what is expected of him by the Lord.”
GRAVEL BAR TALK
The impact of that powerful talk on the gravel bar of the Big Piney River has stayed with me. I have never been the same since. Oh yes, I forgot it briefly when I killed that robin with my sassafras bow and when I shot a chipmunk while alone in the woods a year later.
Grandpa is the only one who ever knew about the robin, and he helped me clean it and eat it, but no one ever knew about the chipmunk. As I held it in my hands that day I shed the last tears I ever remember and promised God that if he would forgive me for wasting that little life, I would never ever do anything like that again.
We should all learn to live with that reverence for life that Dad taught me to find within myself. I can forgive about anything, but I am not a good enough person not to feel an awful wrath for someone who is cruel to an animal or hurtful to a little child. If you took someone like that out and hanged him, I am afraid I would help you find a rope.
For such a person, who would for no reason create unnecessary pain and suffering for a poor creature, or harm a woman or child, I cannot have passion and I cannot find forgiveness. What I feel for such a person is not in keeping with what God would expect of me, but I just can’t help it.
A reverence for life is the center of the word for wise use … conservation. If you hunt or fish, remember it. If you do not, remember that anyone can practice conservation.
I think of that word when I shave, and I can’t keep the hot water running. Saving water today in a world that will have very little of it in 100 years is wise use … “conservation.” I turn it off and on as I need it, and while I use it on my garden, I have never watered a lawn in my life. What a useless waste!
RECYCLE IT ALL
My family recycles paper, plastic, glass and cans and anything else we can recycle. Gloria Jean is in charge of that. She hauls the bags of refuse to a recycling center a few miles away once every month or so.
My grandfather never had anything to haul off. He found a use for everything. Old matchboxes were kept by all his neighbors for Grandpa to use to sand his sassafras boat paddles and the furniture he made from scrap lumber. Remember those rough patches on the sides of the boxes? His rocking chair was made from the leftovers of johnboats he built, sanded smooth with matchboxes! He used every can he emptied and every paper bag.
What kills me is the way we throw old tires in the river or dump them on back roads. Our government could give 50 cents to everyone for an old tire at the tire shop and end the increasing number of old tires thrown in the rivers. We also should pay a nickel or so for every plastic bag you get at Walmart or the local grocery store. Charge a nickel for each, and then pay a nickel back for those returned.
Only in the past year have I learned about one of the greatest conservation businesses in the Ozarks, a grocery store named Aldi’s. If you haven’t been in one, you have not been conserving your money. I checked out a list of food and grocery items in Aldi’s compared to the local grocery store and found that for every $100 I spend at that store that distributes thousands of plastic bags to be found all over the Ozarks, I will spend only $88 at Aldi’s, and the food is better.
Best of all, Aldi’s stores have no plastic bags. You bring your own containers or put your stuff in cardboard boxes the store sets aside after emptying them. And you put a quarter up for the shopping cart and when you put it neatly back where it came from, you get the quarter back.
None ever have to be collected from the parking lot. That is a way to save money and practice conservation even if you never get outdoors.
If they ever start paying 50 cents for tires and a nickel for plastic bags, I can give up writing and spend all my time outdoors, just like I did as a kid. When I was nine or ten I would make some pretty good money picking up pop bottles that were worth three cents each.
This year, folks, try to find ways to practice conservation … “wise use.” And teach your kids the reverence for life my dad taught me. If you will, it would make Dad proud to know his life was worth so much.
The article I wrote years ago about New Years Eve in the wilderness is on my website, larrydablemontoutdoors.blogspot.com. Several people requested that I reprint it.
By TED NUGENT
I won’t bore you with the gory details of how chronic wasting disease was first discovered/created by Colorado bureaucrats back in 1967, or the technical scientific terminology gobbledygook, but a cursory review of the documented facts surrounding this controversial condition found in deer should raise the hackles of all honest conservationists and deer lovers nationwide.
CWD has never negatively impacted any deer herd or deer hunting anywhere, whereas just a few short years ago, much to the anger of Wisconsin deer hunting families, the Wisconsin DNR, in a bizarre, unsupportable, kneejerk over-reaction, slaughtered a few hundred thousand deer in that historically traditional deer hunting state. CWD didn’t hurt the Wisconsin deer herd, the DNR did!
And now, continuing the same insane mistake, the Michigan DNR is doing the same horrible thing after finding a single doe that tested positive. Since destroying another couple thousand deer in my beloved deer hunting birthstate, no more cases of CWD have been found as of this writing.
And now Texas! I thought Texans knew better.
Dear God in heaven. What is going on here? CWD didn’t kill thousands of deer. The government agencies, sworn to protect and manage this precious resource and paid for by hunters, killed thousands of deer.
I dare anyone to attempt to explain this in honest, logical, scientifically supportable terms. Ain’t gonna happen. Can’t be done.
CWD was first identified/created in a Colorado testing facility operated by the state’s professional biologists. CWD did NOT come from deer farms or hunting ranches. It was first discovered in wild mule deer intentionally exposed to domestic sheep, known to carry the scrapies prion, the sheep variation of CWD.
When a deer at an Iowa deer farm was found to be positive for CWD, the Iowa DNR came in and killed every deer on the family property, destroying their livelihood with no believable explanation or compensation whatsoever.
WHICH IS IT?
Compare this action to the game department of South Dakota when the highest incidence of CWD was found in their Wind River park elk herd. When this infected/exposed elk herd outgrew the carrying capacity of that high fence state preserve, South Dakota simply lowered the fence to allow the exposed elk to escape into Custer National Park, mingling with the wild deer and elk.
Iowa violently over-reacted with ZERO science or evidence to support their actions, destroying the private property of a family, while the state of South Dakota admitted that the CWD-exposed elk posed no risk to wild herds of deer and elk.
Hey bureaucrats, which is it? A dangerous wildlife threat or no threat at all? Good grief.
CWD doesn’t pose a threat to deer. EHD, blue tongue, rabies, brusellosis, anthrax and other real diseases and bureaucrats have indeed hurt wildlife and deer. Why the hysteria over a non-threatening disease/condition?
I love deer. My life has forever been dedicated to optimize the health and bio-diversity of deer and wildlife. My lifetime earnings have been dedicated and invested to perfecting wildlife habitat for game and nongame species because I am a reasoning predator and gung-ho, caring renewable resource steward.
Like millions and millions of American deer hunting families and real wildlife lovers, deer and all wildlife bring us prime quality of life, sustenance and spiritual fortification.
Since CWD has never hurt wildlife in the big picture, but government bureaucrats have. I would highly recommend caring people do everything in their power to protect wildlife from real, tangible threats.
I implore my fellow deer-loving Blood Brothers to watch this entire CWD documentary by Keith Warren, at youtube/1_1tc3dNsPk. Then dare bureaucrats to attempt to deny it.
CWD is a scam, and for the life of me, I cannot figure out why it is being jammed down our throats. Stand up and fight for what you believe in, my friends. It really is us against them. Do it for our beloved deer and lifestyle.
It was bound to happen eventually. I found something to disagree with Ted Nugent about. We have communicated about the disagreement, and my respect for him is unshaken. But he can’t be right about everything.
Ted’s article “CWD Is a Scam” is full of his signature energy and passion but boils down to a stylized riff on standard talking points from the confined deer industry.
CWD is no scam. It’s not a political disease. It’s not fiction. It is very real and a serious threat to the future of wild deer in North America.
I imagine hunters 50 or 100 years from now pointing back at us through time and saying “You knew what was happening but you did nothing when there was still time to act.”
It makes me sick. It’s in Missouri, Illinois and Ted’s native home of Michigan and adopted home of Texas. The club just keeps getting bigger, with 23 states and two Canadian provinces so far.
CWD hit Missouri in 2010. After eight years of extensive testing in all counties found nothing, 11 deer from a high-fence shooting preserve tested positive. Later, 10 wild free-ranging deer tested positive, all within two miles of that facility. Now it’s spreading further.
Coincidences don’t come that big. Nor is Missouri unusual. Many of the huge geographic leaps CWD has made clearly originate inside or very near a high-fence outfit that trucked in live deer. With no effective live test for CWD, herd certifications are a dangerous joke. It is impossible, even with the best of intentions, to guarantee no infected deer are being shipped.
Mark Twain said, “Tell me whar a man gits his corn pone en I’ll tell you what his ‘pinions is.” Unless you get your corn pone straight from the confined deer industry, the conclusion is obvious.
That Iowa facility Ted mentioned? Saying there was no compensation? Not true, though maybe it should have been. We taxpayers paid them $917,100. And that only after the owners used every possible legal delaying tactic, seeking permission to sell their infected deer to hunting pens. By the time officials could finally put the herd down, it had an 80 percent infection rate.
Why is it that taxpayers are supposed to compensate high-fence deer operations for the results of their clearly risky business?
And the Wind River elk herd? The bizarre decision to let a known infected herd outside of their fenced area was made by truly ignorant National Park Service officials. From what I hear, over the objections of their own wildlife specialists.
Certainly Ted does not expect us to consider the NPS as a rational source of wildlife policy. Also, the Wind River fences were poor, with elk movement in and out already taking place. The nearby free-ranging population was already known to have CWD. It isn’t like they opened up a good fence to let a confined infected elk herd out into a wild CWD-free herd.
It was a boneheaded move, but to suggest it turns all wildlife officials battling CWD into hypocrites is absurd.
So is CWD a scam? The product of a massive conspiracy of conservation organizations, wildlife agencies, and research scientists – state, federal, provincial and academic? All marching in lockstep, telling lies to the public? It is irrational to credit government with that level of organization, even if you came up with a credible motivation.
If there is a scam, is it coming from those entrusted with the public interest? Or might it be coming from the industry, which has hired top-shelf lobbyists and PR firms to avoid the regulations needed to protect the health of wild deer and elk? I don’t think many of us would get that answer wrong.
And if you have a half an hour to waste, by all means watch that Keith Warren video. A more bald-faced industry puff piece you will never see. Visit NoMoCWD.org to get a little clearer picture.
Whatever policy is taken on CWD should be based in science. There will be conflicts in which policy makers weigh the economic interests of the fenced deer industry against the public interest in healthy wild deer. Are you confused which is the higher priority? I’m not.
Sure, like many deer hunters, I don’t like some of what goes on inside those fences. But if they can conduct their business without posing a threat to wildlife, then it’s none of my business and they’ll hear nothing more from me.
CWD is always fatal, and there is no immunity. Once it arrives, it always spreads. And never forget, CWD is the only prion disease known to spread among wild, free-ranging animals anywhere in the world. Ever.
It is nothing like EHD, which hits like wildfire, hammering a herd in the blink of an eye. CWD is a slow, relentless smoldering burn. But herds recover quickly from EHD. They can’t recover from CWD.
When a doe gets CWD, she will likely have just one more breeding season to raise fawns to weaning age, and those fawns likely start life infected, with the clock already ticking. The doe fawns are unlikely to wean a viable fawn of their own before they die. Time passes. As the disease grows in the herd, more does live fewer breeding seasons. Eventually the herd can’t breed enough to keep up, and the herd decline starts. There is nothing to stop it.
That is already happening now in one deer management unit in Wyoming, which has been infected for decades and has over a 50 percent infection rate (and still rising) among wild mule deer.
It is almost certainly heading that way in Wisconsin, where in the core area of infection the rate has reached 40 percent of adult bucks, and 22 percent of adult does.
I’ll finish by quoting Ted’s closing statement, with which I wholeheartedly agree:
“Stand up and fight for what you believe in, my friends. It really is us against them. Do it for our beloved deer and lifestyle.”
“A rat is a pig is a dog is a boy.”
Really think about that one for a moment, if you dare. Those are the words of the animal rights and anti-hunting hero and guru Ingrid Newkirk.
And she means it, as do her zombie-like, soulless followers.
When asked whether she would save a drowning child or a dog, this leader of PETA and the Humane Society of the United States casually expressed uncertainty, once again devaluing human life to that of a pet.
Meanwhile all my hunting buddies and I, along with educated, thinking people around the world, believe that wildlife is indeed a precious renewable resource to which we have a profound stewardship responsibility to maintain and manage in the asset column instead of the liability column.
To us, human life is sacred, while animal life is to be respected and utilized in a responsible manner, exactly like our heroes Cochise and Geronimo did.
A LEGAL KILL
We are appalled at the insane uproar over the Zimbabwean lion kill. The only reason people are overreacting to this kill is due to the fact that this particular lion was given a name and a spotlight. All those thousands and thousands of lions, leopards, bears and other animals killed in the same manner during the essential and legal annual harvest of these surplus critters apparently didn’t matter so much.
Hunting lions in this manner is perfectly legal and proven to be essential across Africa, like putting worms on hooks to “lure” fish and duck decoys to “lure” mallards.
This might not be something a city kid will ever understand, but villagers in Africa do, so the city kids should just shut up and go about their safe, air- conditioned lives and stay out of Africans’ lives with their presumptuous, comfortably numb “Bambi” nonsense.
And of course the lion was killed on legal hunting grounds outside the Hwange Park, because like all finite habitat, such areas can only support so much wildlife and the surplus must be harvested annually as a valuable, huntable commodity, or said habitat will be destroyed in short order.
Though photographs prove and nobody can possibly claim the radio telemetry collar was visible on this lion, the jury is indeed still out on what happened to the collar after the kill. This important technology is utilized and paid for mostly by hunting revenues to help manage wildlife for health and balance.
Again, how ignorant does one have to be to not know this?
Dictated by laws conceived and written by hunters and the biologists we hire and enforced with hunting revenues, wanton waste is never tolerated and every speck of sacred and cherished protein, bone, sinew, body fluids, skin, teeth, fangs and claws must be utilized. This is commonsense except for uneducated or foolish people.
And “beloved”? As if all wildlife isn’t beloved, even those without names.
Evidence already shows that Zimbabwe villagers are not upset by the killing of this lion, but are upset that the annual increase in lion numbers that threaten their lives and livestock may not be properly managed with proper harvests due to the ignorant, emotional overreaction to this standard procedure.
Only people who live with lions should dictate lion policy.
A lion is a deer is a giraffe is an elk.
Write that down. Wildlife Biology 101 has brought back the healthiest thriving populations of deer, elk, moose, pronghorn, wild sheep and goats, musk ox, bear, cougar, turkey, geese and other game animals in North America due to the simple and proven sustain-yield value system that guarantees their value.
Where hunting is regulated, wildlife thrives. Where it is banned, there is no money for game departments, game wardens, radio telemetry, Jeeps, helicopters or anti-poaching forces, and wildlife suffers and is often decimated.
You have to pick one, and when you do, you will show whether wildlife matters to you or only those with cute names.
Lion: the other white meat.
The old joke goes: Opinions are like (let’s say) noses – everybody’s got one. That is certainly the case with the killing of Cecil the lion.
And it’s been nasty. I’ll admit letting my own anger flare, pissing off some of my former colleagues in the outdoor media world. To my friends, I’m sorry for the way I went about expressing myself, but I’m still not happy – with almost anyone. I’m in my grumpy-old-man phase.
As a former newspaper editor, I am appalled at the knee-jerk extremism on both sides, and the sloppy reporting by the media. But that’s the world we live in. Social media and $99 websites have changed everything. Everybody has a voice; that’s a good thing, right?
But the widening divides in our country are on full display. It often seems like the least informed speak the loudest. And boy, journalism isn’t what it used to be. Confirmed facts used to be a part of it. In the old days, we use to talk about responsible journalism.
But we live in an era where Fox News puts spoof stories on the air as real news, and Brittany Spears doing the splits competes for headlines with the collapse of Greece.
Don’t label me an anti-hunter. Kennedy was president when my dad first helped me into a tree stand. (A piece of plywood nailed into the fork of a post oak.) I guided for an outfitter for five years. Hunting has been an enormous part of my life.
I’ll admit not hunting in the last several years. After I had to retire my dog, Maggie, I just didn’t want to go duck hunting. She saw me leave in camouflage on a turkey hunt one morning and it broke her heart, so I put that aside.
At the same time I was having trouble keeping my shoulder healthy, so I put down the bow. I hunt with a camera now days, and I fish a lot.
I just read an editorial by a Zimbabwean grad student who grew up in the bush. Didn’t like lions; they ate villagers. Hard to argue with that. He did say he thought his relatives were elephants, so his opining was a little hard to embrace, but he made decent points.
He hammered Americans for the loss of mountain lions in the east. Hard to argue with. He could have said bison, elk, Carolina parakeet, etc. No doubt, it took us too long to get our act together, but conservation in America is about as good as it gets, considering how few people really care.
The young man also brought up the crushing poverty that contributes to subsistence poaching. It’s complicated. The animals have all kinds of pressures, some seemingly unstoppable. This Asian folk-medicine trade is scary. As long as people will pay outrageous prices for rhino horn, their days are numbered.
That a guy bid an enormous amount of money to kill a rhino in a managed hunt, bringing a lot of bucks to rhino conservation, was a good thing. They do die, and being shot is a far better fate than most of the ways nature will take them. You can be sure it was a male beyond breeding age.
Hunters in the United States pay for the enforcement of game laws and conservation efforts. I figure if you’re anti-hunter, you’ve got to be an animal lover. And if you examine the issue carefully, you might find the partnership between sportsmen and conservationists essential.
THE DEEP END
But of course everybody jumped right into the deep end of the pool about something we may never really know much about. That the hunting community dove in to defend what happened was a huge disappointment. It used to be, we would get pissed at people who poached.
But headlong they leap, and their adversaries pounce. It gets ugly. I don’t know what the hell happened over there, but neither do most of those mouthing off. But with a platform on which to argue, they go at it.
A lot of the anti-hunting uproar has been driven by the hunters who blindly defend this guy. And the lack of understanding by those signing a petition for extradition indicates that they simply aren’t looking at this through an intellectual lens. That’s crazy! I say this with more confidence than any other part of this piece: The United States is not going to extradite one of its citizens to a Third-World country with that human rights record.
Those calling for extradition could actually spend their efforts (and money) supporting big game conservation and maybe make a difference – the ol’ money-where-your-mouth-is concept.
There are people who see things only in black and white, yes or no, all or nothing, us against them; and then there are those who see things in shades of gray, recognizing subtle nuances in complicated issues. I’m a gray guy (though I’ll never admit how many shades.)
I just can’t imagine looking at this in the absolute terms being voiced so passionately on both sides. Google Zimbabwe. I certainly don’t trust the information coming out of there. I’ve spent a lot of time in the Third World. It’s comical to me that people are taking reports at face value. We’ve already killed Jericho and brought him back to life. Network news reported it!
In my view, the biggest threats to African big game are the stewards of these resources. To think corruption is not a part of this would be naïve. Poaching is rampant in Africa, and I have no doubt there are unscrupulous big game hunters involved. The silence of a bow makes it a good poaching tool. And that another hunter was accused makes me wonder. Dollars can buy anything. The dentist? I don’t know! He could have been duped, shaken down or bought into a poaching scheme. Or maybe his hunt was legal. We don’t know!
HURTING THE CAUSE
My beef is with the interaction between passionate parties who don’t know what happened, and in the process, devalue their stance and do harm to the conservation cause, making a mockery of this important conversation.
Extremism hurts. PETA has rendered the animal rights movement an ineffectual joke. Ted Nugent makes hunters look like jackasses. Now, the clown candidate offers to pay the guy’s legal fees. The fringe seems to get the most ink (or screen time.) But too often getting the ink is what really matters to them. My biggest fear for hunting rights comes from hunters, not the antis; that someone will do something so egregious it would bring all these people together whom otherwise wouldn’t care. They may not care long, but maybe long enough to change things.
There seems a grand irony to me here. I think hunters and anti-hunters want some of the same things – the preservation of lions and other big game around the world. It seems to me that both sides should condemn and hold accountable anyone who poaches, but we, not like some other countries, are a country of laws and justice (mostly.)
This man should be tried on facts, which to my satisfaction, aren’t in yet. And if you care about lions and other big game, there are actually tangible ways you can help. Facebook ranting ain’t it.
Now that I have sufficiently pissed everybody off, I’m going fishing.
Have you ever planned a trip to a Missouri Department of Conservation (Department) area to hunt, hike, mushroom hunt, ride your horse, watch wildlife, etc., and when you arrived at your destination you were surprised to see that trees have been or are being cut?
Some might wonder why a forest held in public trust would be harvested. That’s a good question, and there are a number of good reasons why forests and woodlands held in public trust are actively managed.
First, it is important to know that not every forest is as healthy as you may think. Forests are comprised of a wide variety of trees, shrubs and plants and sometimes growing space becomes limited.
In addition, all plant varieties have expected life spans. Often trees just get really old and are not as healthy as they age. Over time, if the forest is not thinned and trees age, stress and competition for growing space can take its toll on a forest.
The result is a forest with many unhealthy trees that don’t produce much food for wildlife, allow enough space for diverse plants or small trees, and do very little to sequester carbon. This is when some trees need to be cut to greatly improve forest health.
Second, in order to maximize diverse wildlife habitat in forest ecosystems, it is important to create a mosaic of forest stands that have different tree sizes, tree species and density of trees. Various species of wildlife need different habitats. For example, ruffed grouse, blue wing warblers and turkey poults need early successional forest habitat (thickets of very small trees) to survive and will thrive in a forest that was recently harvested by the clearcutting method.
Other wildlife species such as squirrels, bats, woodpeckers and turkeys do very well in a forest with large, mature trees. And fortunately, deer are very versatile and use forests dominated by small, intermediate or large trees.
The point is that cutting trees through sustainable forest management practices, creates diverse habitats that benefit species that have very specific habitat requirements to those who are generalists. Lack of forest management results in a forest that looks and functions the same, creating low wildlife diversity.
It is also important to note that when marketable trees are cut on conservation areas, they are sold to local loggers and sawmills. This creates a win-win situation for the citizens of Missouri. Forest management activities result in healthy and diverse forest habitats which support a wide array of wildlife species.
Forest management activities on conservation areas also supports local economies by providing business opportunities to the forest products industry, which annually contributes $8 billion to Missouri’s economy and supports 42,538 jobs. Timber sales conducted on lands held in public trust by the Department often occur in counties where the forest products industry is crucial to the livelihood of many families.
All forest management begins with the field collection of detailed information about existing forest conditions. This information is collected through a process called forest inventory. Foresters work collaboratively with other Department field staff to develop habitat goals and management direction for Department areas. These goals direct management activities that are informed by the inventory data.
When a timber sale is recommended, Department staff use a variety of harvest methods, including single-tree selection and regeneration cuts. A competitive best bid system is used to sell the standing timber. Bids are accepted only from loggers who have been trained through the Professional Timber Harvester Training Program hosted by the Missouri Forest Products Association and the Department.
The Department implements soil and water conservation best management practices for all forest management practices on conservation lands and closely monitors compliance on all timber sales. It must be noted that forest management is a long-term process that requires the use of many different practices spread over multiple years.
Missouri has 15.4 million acres of forestland (one third of the state). The majority of Missouri’s forestland is under private ownership (83 percent). The Department oversees approximately 601,510 acres of forest habitat on public conservation areas. This amounts to 5 percent of Missouri’s total forestland.
About two-thirds of these forest acres will be managed through their life span. The remaining third of these forested acres are designated as Natural Areas, Urban Recreation Areas, or Research and Demonstration Areas and receive very limited active management.
In 2012, Missouri sawmills processed 670 million board feet of forest products. The Department, on average, harvests around 16 million board feet from about 8,000 acres across many different conservation areas. It is easy to see that the key to maintaining the health of Missouri’s forest is sustainably managing private forestland.
THE NEW LIFE
Now that you know the facts about forest management on conservation areas, you have a better understanding of why trees are sometimes cut and harvested. Is it pretty? Sometimes it is not, but remember it is temporary!
The life of a forest spans hundreds of years and occasionally we must look past the temporary disturbance to gain long-term benefits for all citizens and to ensure healthy and sustainable forests, abundant and diverse wildlife, clean and plentiful water and air, and wood products that we all depend on to be available in the future.
I received a letter from someone talking about how the cutting of timber by logging contractors working on our public wildlife management areas and conservation areas through the Missouri Department of Conservation was a good thing.
He wrote that my criticism of the moneymaking butchering of our state-owned lands failed to take into account the fact that removing the timber could be a good thing for deer because it created more browse.
It left me shaking my head, wondering if there might ever be a time when our citizens can think on their own instead of buying some of the hogwash the MDC feeds them to justify whatever they do. Are there thousands of people out there so ignorant to the ways of the wild, and the situation in natural areas that they think deer in Missouri need more “browse”?
It is likely the letter writer can’t even adequately understand what the word means. He is someone who wants to be assured that the MDC is more interested in wildlife than money. They are not! It was that way once but not now.
We need more browse for deer like we need more cow manure for turkeys. Deer in Missouri need nothing. They are not hard pressed in the worst of the Ozarks winters because browse is plentiful … everywhere. In those forests, being rapidly destroyed on lands we all own, deer and turkeys depend more on the acorns than anything else.
What else needs the browse we create by destroying a hardwood forest … flying squirrels, screech owls, pileated woodpeckers, woodcock, foxes? What else?
Those species make no money for the MDC, and those who feel assured that the destruction of our woodlands is a good thing likely know nothing of those dozens of species of birds and mammals that live there and decline as the trees are cut.
Destroying a forest won’t endanger the deer. If it did, the MDC would be worried, because deer make them tens of thousands of dollars. Acorns, squirrels and woodpeckers make them nothing. They will allow outside logging companies to cut every valuable tree in the areas they supposedly “manage,” if they can receive a good percentage of the profit, which they do.
For those who doubt me, go around the state and look at their real interest, which is board feet of lumber over wildlife. More and more, the conservation areas we all own are showing the devastation, as one area is stripped and other areas looms in their sights.
A TRAGIC TALE
For those who have never seen it and do not want to see it, here is a letter from a fellow Missourian, Chuck Banks who describes what has happened in his area…
“My family bought our farm near Coldwater back in 1985. We love to hunt, fish, hike and do just about everything you do in the outdoors. We were excited that our farm adjoined the Coldwater State Forest. The forest offered opportunities for family and friends to interact with Missouri hardwood forest whether they hunted or not.
“We adjoin about 3/4 miles of the forest. My Boy Scout troop spent many weekends hiking and identifying trees and birds, non-hunters could photo the mature forest and its inhabitants; it was just plain beautiful.
“Then the Missouri Department of Conservation changed the forest to a conservation area and began selling the timber. Until then, I had always admired and trusted the MDC. Block by block, some clear cut, some select cut, the forest has been destroyed. None of the original forest remains. The last block was cut last summer, and a new method was used.
“This sale allowed for the timber men to cut all unmarked trees. This meant that the Department’s people marked remaining trees by painting a red stripe around the tree about breast high. Some of the perimeter trees have a smiley flower painted on them as well. Now that the cutting is done, EVERY remaining tree has a red painted ring around it. The rest of the block is the usual mess of tops and ruts.
“The trails that once meandered through the forest have been destroyed. I now call this the graffiti forest, because it will take decades for the red spray paint to wear off the bark. The once beautiful forest is now a strange, almost industrial looking disgrace. The trails are gone; the beautiful stands of oak and pine are now defaced. I thought that diversity would include at least some un-touched forest, but they left nothing. NO one would want to go there. The Department should be ashamed.”
STILL GOT BROWSE
Don’t be so disheartened Chuck … think of all the deer browse you will have in a few years! Mark Twain said that lies can travel around the world in less time than it takes for the truth to get its boots on. If you believe everything the Conservation Department tells you, you are being duped.
This state department is nothing like the one we had 30 years ago when we passed that one-eighth cent sales tax that turned them in to an agency filled with corruption. I only want the truth about what they are doing to be heard. Don’t take my word for it. Just go out and look for yourself.
My address is Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613. The email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and my website, where you may enjoy seeing my outdoor pictures, is larrydablemontoutdoors.blogspot.com
By STEVE JONES
In the previous issue of Outdoor Guide Magazine, I had an article with some dire predictions about the legislative assault on the Missouri Department of Conservation. It turns out things are even worse than I feared.
The Missouri Legislature was seated in Jefferson City in January. Their plan to take control of the MDC away from professionals and return it to politicians is under way. They are making no effort to hide their clear intention to essentially destroy the MDC before they adjourn in May.
You can revisit the why’s and how’s at NoMoCWD.org/mdcbattle but here are the bills that have been filed so far:
THE BILLS I EXPECTED:
• SB 178 – Redefines captive deer as livestock, moving authority to regulate them from the MDC to the Department of Agriculture (which doesn’t want it). This puts wild deer at much greater risk for the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). The same language was vetoed last year, then survived the veto override attempt by just one vote. It is probably veto-proof in 2015.
• SJR 1 – Changes the Conservation Commission (currently four members with no majority from a political party) to eight members, each representing one MDC Conservation Region. These regions were originally designed based on administrative efficiency, not politics. It would politicize the commission, leaving the majority of Missouri voters represented by just two members and the remaining six commissioners representing a minority of the citizens of Missouri. The commissioners would represent acres and “Big Ag,” not voters. Not citizens. Not hunters. Not anglers.
BILLS I HADN’T EVEN IMAGINED:
• HB 315 – Requires the MDC to test roadkilled deer for CWD. The MDC’s current CWD testing protocol is designed to be the most effective and efficient. When roadkill testing makes sense, they will do it. Legislators need to keep their fingers out of things they don’t understand.
• HB 316 – Requires Conservation Commission members to register as lobbyists and to have their activities regulated as if they were agents of industry instead of constitutionally mandated, unpaid volunteers charged with overseeing a state agency.
• HB 317 – Requires the MDC to pay $500 to everyone who hits a deer with their vehicle. No word on whether it will be amended to include a free carwash for every bird poop, too. Nor if there will be tax credits for those who invest in heavy-duty grill guards to protect their vehicles from damage when they head out on the back roads looking to score another $500.
• HB 318 – Bans MDC employees from entering any location that may contain poultry without advance permission of the owner. No exception for investigation of wildlife violations or carrying out bona fide regulatory responsibilities.
An interesting thing to note is that those last four bills were all sponsored by Rep. Wanda Brown of Lincoln, MO. As I write this, those four bills are the ONLY bills sponsored by Rep. Brown this year, so her legislative priority is clear. Do you think that’s the platform she ran on? In 2014, she sponsored legislation prohibiting the MDC from enforcing blue catfish length limits if the angler intends to eat the fish. Add that to the list of things that make you go “Hmmm.”
AND THEN THE “ARMAGEDDON” BILLS, CLEARLY DESIGNED TO DESTROY THE MDC:
• HJR 8 – Eliminate the “Design for Conservation” sales tax of one penny for every $8 (0.0125%). This tax was overwhelmingly approved by Missouri voters in 1976. It is the primary source of funding for the MDC, about $110 million annually, nearly 60 percent of the budget.
• SB 56 – Bans the MDC from charging residents fees for any hunting or fishing permits. This is the second most significant source of funding for the MDC, almost 20 percent of the budget.
Together, these two bills would leave the MDC with a budget about one fifth of its current funding, a mostly unfunded shell of its former self. The vast majority of the employees would be fired, most buildings and properties sold, and the ability to carry out its constitutional responsibilities to protect the fish, forests and wildlife of Missouri destroyed
The power behind these bills is 100 percent committed to making 2015 the year authority over conservation and funding in Missouri is returned to politicians. And make no mistake, there is real power behind these bills. The nearly bulletproof Republican majority and their leadership, as well as most Democrats representing rural districts, are marching to the tune of the Missouri Farm Bureau to get this done. They know that super-majorities do not last forever, so they are going to put all their energy into this effort right now.
What are you going to do about it?
First of all, make sure our main defender, the Conservation Federation of Missouri, has your support. For $25 a year, about the cost of a box of deer loads, you can be part of the solution. Call (573) 634-2322 or visit ConFedMo.org to join or donate.
Then make a phone call or send email to your Missouri representative and senator. See nomocwd.org/contact to find out who they are and how to contact them
Do you take your kids hunting or fishing? Show them this article, too, and explain to them what Mom and Dad are going to do to make sure they will enjoy the same conservation heritage as you did. Make them a part of the process. They might have to do this again for their kids someday.
To learn more about these bills you can visit house.mo.gov and senate.mo.gov or just go to NoMoCWD.org where a copy of this article will be posted with live links to all of the bills.
If we let this happen, it is a slap in the face to those who came before us, who did the hard work of creating the great Missouri conservation success story by wresting control away from politicians.
When is the best time to act? Now.
By BRANDON BUTLER, Executive Director
Conservation Federation of Missouri
You don’t need a rule or regulation to do the right thing. If you are a sportsman conservationist, meaning you care about the health of wildlife and not just sporting pursuit, then you must make choices based on what is best for wildlife.
Choosing to shoot non-toxic lead free ammunition and fishing with non-toxic sinkers will save the lives of countless birds.
A few months back, I wrote a column about casting lead crappie jigs. I even included a picture of my young daughter helping me. I honestly did not see the error of my ways. My grandfather and I built thousands of lead jigs in my youth. I thought it was a harmless pastime, well suited for building a bond with my kids. I was wrong.
Having a public platform, such as this column, is about more than telling stories. It affords one an opportunity to share learned information. After that story ran with the picture of my child working with lead, a few people wanted to make sure I was educated as to the risks of lead to both humans and wildlife. One of those people was retired resource scientist John Schulz.
Schulz is passionate about saving birds from dying as a result of lead poisoning. This happens more often than you think. When mourning doves pick lead pellets from a field, ducks eat sinkers off the bottom of a lake or eagles eat contaminated big game carcasses, they die. A dove dies if it eats one pellet of lead shot.
According to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, “Lead is a toxic metal that, in sufficient quantities, has adverse effects on the nervous and reproductive systems of mammals and birds. Found in most fishing jigs and sinkers, this metal is poisoning wildlife such as loons and eagles.”
The controversy of using lead in sporting pursuits is nothing new. Waterfowl hunters have been using non-toxic shot since 1991. That was the year the regulation banning lead ammunition for waterfowl hunting was put in place. This act has saved an untold number of ducks and geese. Even though a similar regulation for shot spent over land would save countless birds, a rule enacted now could cause a major industry backlash.
Schulz believes the answer is simply making the right choice personally. He believes that if enough people would choose to shoot non-lead ammunition, then over time the idea of doing so would become commonplace and accepted. Once enough people are already onboard with the idea of only using non-toxic shot and doing so voluntarily, then passing legislation might make sense.
“A growing body of scientific information shows traditional lead-based ammunition and fishing tackle continues to represent a significant source of mortality for more than 130 species of birds. Similarly, hunting and the money generated by hunters is critical to support and maintain wildlife management, and it is crucial that any efforts to reduce spent ammunition (and fishing tackle) do nothing to reduce hunting participation or paint hunters/anglers in a negative light,” Schulz said.
The idea isn’t to create a controversy and immediately ban lead ammunition. The idea is to create awareness of the issue and implement change through a voluntary process.
I’ve learned a lot about lead since publishing my column on making crappie jigs. One misconception I had was that non-toxic shot is much more expensive that lead shot. That’s not true. A quick look at Midway USA’s website revealed that steel shot loads are only slightly more expensive.
Said Schulz: “Areas of misunderstanding, once recognized and articulated, can provide clues to defining ultimate problems and potential solutions toward implementation of voluntary programs. Initially, stakeholders need to agree sufficient information exists demonstrating the broad-scale environmental effects of lead-based ammunition. Next, stakeholders must acknowledge differences of opinion about solutions and implementation.”
A great start to the solution of removing lead from our forests, fields and waters — thus saving the lives of millions of birds — would be voluntarily choosing to shoot steel shot and fishing with non-lead sinkers.