↓ Archives ↓

Posts Tagged → wildlife

Why I Trap

Trapping wild animals for food, fur, and pest control is as old as the human race, tens of thousands of years in action.

The traps may have changed over time, but the purposes have not. Pests still ruin valuable crops, eat valuable farm animals, and break into homes and ruin stored food. Humans still prefer to eat wild meat, which is tastier, cleaner, and healthier than agribusiness meat. And humans still prefer to wear wild furs that are warmer, prettier, and more natural than human-made fabrics. That furs are renewable, sustainable, biodegradable, and natural adds to their appeal.

But what has also happened over time is the incredibly abundant material success of Western civilization has created an unnatural gap between consumers of food and goods, and the natural world of forestry, farming, and natural resource management that creates those very same consumer goods.

Frankly, Americans and Europeans are largely spoiled.  Nearly everything we need is easily obtainable. Very few of us have to work hard for food, or shelter, the necessities that keep most humans personally toiling in dirty agriculture daily around the globe. Even our poor have expensive personal items like TVs and phones.

Never will I forget a family member decrying “those evil power companies,” years ago, because she did not like the air pollution resulting from power generation. It did not occur to her that her role as a consumer and generous user of electric power made her the real driver behind electricity generation, as well as all of the associated processes branching out from it.

And similarly, the ease of “shopping” for an unimaginably rich and diverse array of food items, so many made to suit nuanced tastes, especially meats, has resulted in a populace that does not understand the basics of what it takes to put meat and food on those same supermarket shelves.

Enter trapping. At first glance to the average American it appears to involve the sadistic mistreatment of very cute, furry animals that would beg us for their lives in humorous dialects of English, if we would only let them. Silly depiction, yes, but opposition to trapping is even more silly than imaginary talking cartoon animals.

Here are some reasons why I trap: We find a mother turtle, attempting to lay another clutch of eggs along the rail trail, the loose pea gravel of which provides perfect conditions for holding, incubating, and hatching turtle eggs. Three feet away is her previous nest, torn up, with raccoon tracks all over the destroyed turtle eggs, eaten by the raccoon. Raccoons are abundantly dead along roadsides everywhere because they are artificially overabundant in the wild, and especially in suburbia, where they have no real predators other than random cars. There are too damned many raccoons, and they are having a disproportionately high impact on other animals, like turtles, nearly all of which are in decline across the world.

Another reason: The PA Game Commission and many other wildlife agencies nationwide are studying why whippoorwills are in such steep decline. One of the reasons is they are ground nesting birds, which makes their nests easy prey for the raccoons, possums, and skunks that pulse out in unnaturally high numbers from the habitat created for them in suburban sprawl environments. The one place I have seen and listened to these sweet nocturnal birds is a place where we aggressively trap, thinning out the artificially high population of ground mammals that would otherwise raid the whippoorwill nests. We create breathing room for the birds to nest and rear young. The same holds true for grouse, turkeys, and woodcock, all ground nesting birds.

I could go on with a long list of cute feathered and furry animals that are in trouble because of predation by skunks, raccoons, and possums, but it should not be necessary. I prefer these animals because they are colorful, or sweet, or rare. Some of these animals are in real trouble, and if not for trapping of their predators, they might be gone altogether. Any thinking person will join me in preferring these uncommon birds and animals over the overabundant, artificially common racoon, possum, or skunk.

Given that choice, trapping is the natural way to preserve animals we want. We remove the animals we don’t want. I trap because I love wildlife, and given certain population dynamics, as a Nature lover, I face certain natural tradeoffs that I must consider. In order to love and enjoy one little birdy, I must eliminate a whole bunch of its predators.

What amazes me is how little most people know or want to know about trapping. They write it off with the wave of a hand. They seem unimpressed that we can easily target certain types of animals, and thereby avoid other kinds of animals in our traps. We can selectively harvest overabundant predators, to help cute, little, rare and endangered critters.

Trapping is not random, it is not haphazard, it is not cruel, and for me it is not about money. For those of us who love Nature and all in it, trapping is really the only way to ensure that Nature in all her facets sticks around. That, or level all of the large lot suburban sprawl developments and pack everyone into cities.

After all, it is suburban back yards that give us the worst of the critters needing the most control: Raccoons, possums, and skunks.

 

Weekend with the PA sportsmen

Though being involved with the Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs since about 2000, maybe 1999, I have never spent an entire weekend at one of the group’s annual conventions.

Founded in the 1920s, PFSC is one of America’s oldest conservation groups. Back in 1954, the group started what is now the Great American Outdoor Show, now run by NRA.

PFSC has been at the forefront of every major environmental issue (sometimes with the greens, sometimes not), conservation initiative, and gun rights fight since the 1920s. It is a group worth giving to in any way you can, and it seems to attract the most selfless, generous, interesting people.

This past weekend was my first full PFSC convention, and I enjoyed it a lot. It was eye-opening and heart warming. My new role as Perry County Delegate gave me a whole new view.

Here are some observations:

First, the group is politically, ethnically, genderly, and religiously diverse. Not just a bunch of “white guys with guns,” the group is administratively and professionally run mostly by three kind, patient, and bossy women, with an impressive second vice president on her way up to being president in the new few years. Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Atheists, Deists, and probably a couple Druids. Republicans, Independents, Democrats, liberals, moderates, conservatives, and knuckle-draggers. Financially successful business people, blue collar workers with dirt under their nails, retired state, federal, and private industry workers. It is a rich and neat mix of very different people from across Pennsylvania, who share a few passions: Wildlife conservation, habitat conservation, passing on the outdoor heritage (hunting, trapping, fishing, hiking, camping, canoeing etc), and Second Amendment rights. But ageism reigns supreme, with not many young people showing up.

Second, the group is overwhelmingly in the “Oldster” category, with a few truly young people. There’s a lot of white hair and white beards. I am 52 and I am considered one of the “young guys.” But there are some active 20- and 30-somethings. Why lots of younger people are absent is probably attributable to these reasons: a) Like many other Americans, young sportsmen take a lot for granted, b) Like many other Americans, young sportsmen are happy to let someone else carry their weight, c) Americans are scattered all over the place with family and work obligations, and people raising young families are programmed from Friday at 4:00 until Sunday at 9:00 every weekend.

Something needs to change here, though, and young people must get involved with PFSC. There are a lot of forces out there quietly working against the interests of sportsmen, and if the guard is weakened or dropped, then the negative changes will happen fast and furious. Think your shooting range is grandfathered in, and protected from all of the new housing that suddenly surrounded it? Guess what, someone could challenge your range’s status in court for the 29th time, and finally get a lousy judge who decides to be the creator of law, not the arbiter. Only PFSC stands ready.

Third, these are the most generous, community-spirited people you will ever meet. They are devoted and happily spend their own money to protect what they love. Unlike the popular but nevertheless wrong method of demanding that everyone bend to some individual’s wishes, the sportsmen just keep giving and giving, and hoping that eventually everyone else will realize the trails, pretty birds, farms, and public lands they take for granted did not just happen because. Rather, sportsmen were there at the beginning, working hard to protect these resources for decades. Simply because they are visionary, passionate, dedicated and hard working.

Would you please lend a hand?

Buy a three-dollar raffle ticket?

Come out and work a Youth Field Day?

Join a club and pay a little money to keep the ranges looking spotless?

Join the PFSC as an individual, or simply donate five or ten bucks, to help pay for the FULL TIME lobbyist on Capitol Hill?

You don’t like lobbyists, you say. OK, who then is going to head off bad legislation aimed at destroying your Second Amendment rights, stealing your public lands, fouling the public waters, or allowing wildlife to only become roadkill?

Only the PFSC protects the interests of all Pennsylvania sportsmen. They have been doing it since the 1920s, and they are doing it today.

Join this small but spirited and accomplished crowd, be the best you can be, or just send them five bucks and help a worthy cause. It is your own cause, after all. http://www.pfsc.org/

A Murder of Crows

My two greatest thrills in the outdoors are native wildflowers, like the trilliums and pink ladyslippers, and native birds, like grouse, turkey, woodcock, wood ducks, and various migratory songbirds.

All of these flowers and birds are under pressure under the best of circumstances, and in many places they are succumbing to that pressure because of artificial factors.

Native wildflowers are naturally browsed by deer, and increasingly collected by people who sell rare plants (and animals). If deer herds are balanced with the carrying capacity of the landscape and surrounding habitat, then the plant colonies can sustain the browsing. The collecting is usually illegal, involving sneaky trespass on private property and violating state law and regulation when done on public land. It is totally unsustainable.

When it comes to my favorite birds, the usual pressures of predation or hunting are hardly a factor in their population success. What is a growing factor is the impact of ground mammals on ground nesting birds, including all of my favorites above and others like more common ducks.

Ground mammals like raccoons, possums, skunks, fox and coyote have a natural place in the natural world, but humans have so greatly altered that natural world that some of these animal populations are disproportionately growing and having disproportionate impacts on other wildlife.

Exhibit A is low density suburban sprawl type residential home development, relatively large home lots in the one to five -acre range.

Low-density suburban sprawl residential development is now the ground zero for artificially high numbers of skunks, possums, and raccoons. Sprawl development provides perfect backyard habitat for these predators to breed and den, but these back yards are too small to hunt or trap effectively or legally.  So these burgeoning and unchecked predator populations keep pulsing out into surrounding farmland and forest. In those more stable habitats, these artificially high predator numbers wreak havoc on the other species who live there, notably my favorite birds, which happen to be ground nesters.

Ground nesting birds are highly susceptible to nest disturbance and egg loss when they are surrounded by artificially high populations  of skunks, raccoons, and possums. In many areas ground nesting birds are experiencing dramatic population declines because they simply cannot nest long enough to hatch a brood of chicks, or the chicks cannot survive predation long enough to develop flight, so they can escape from otherwise slow moving predators like skunks and possums. Adding to the challenge for ground nesting birds is the dearth of brush and young forest which provide the best places to hide a nest on the ground. Most farms today are devoid of brush, and “select cut” high-grade logging has ruined most private forests, while anti-conservation activists decry aggressive forest management on public lands. Brush and young forests are nearly a rarity today, despite serving as nature’s best habitat.

Yesterday I got into one of those internet debates most normal people avoid. It centered on allegedly real photos of a flying mature eagle with a talon stuck in a foothold trap, posted on Lancaster Online. Lancaster Online is run by politically partisan legacy media staff, and it is a huge source of fake news and alternate facts. So when I saw there the photo of a completely closed foot hold trap, with not even a tiny jaw spread to accommodate the eagle’s foot, it looked like yet more fake news and I posted comments.

As you might imagine, a murder of crows of sorts descended upon the article, and upon me, and upon any other poster who either questioned the facts as presented in the article, or who promoted trapping.

Crows are natural enemies of eagles and other raptors. Crows are huge nest raiders, eating baby bird chicks whole right out of the nest. In the context of the Lancaster Online article, the crows took human form: Animal rights promoters, PETA advocates, anti-trapping and anti-conservation voices.

Like with a surrounding pack of crows (called a “murder”) wildly harassing a lone eagle in a tree, the loudly hysterical anti-trapping commenters immediately invoked emotional appeals, personal attacks, lies, advocacy for trespassing, leash-less dogs, and private property theft and destruction. None of them made any sense. None were based on fact, though it is true that occasionally an animal in a trap gets hurt (never mind that every single one of those hypocritical commenters has a direct hand in wildlife death and destruction).

I responded frequently there, and was answered by a surrounding murder of crows, loudly cawing, squawking, screaming, wildly flapping their wings and leaping from tree to tree. Pretty funny to watch, because not one commenter there debated wildlife biology, habitat, etc. Only emotional appeals mostly based on lies and fake news were presented. Lots of hysteria, not much reasoning.

And that right there is why I trap, dear reader.

There are too damned many cantankerous crows, skunks, possums and raccoons eating all of the really cool, cute, useful little birds I enjoy so much. I haven’t sold a pelt since I was a kid. Instead, today I trap to thin out the populations of the destructive ground predators so that the defenseless animals they eat have at least a sitting chance.

As for the eagle photographed flying around Lancaster County with its talon caught in the foothold trap, I have pledged fifty dollars toward its rehabilitation, if it is caught alive. And I want to personally inspect the trap rig, because what is seen in the photos makes no sense. One commenter, a trapper, noted it appeared to be an illegal trap specifically set to catch a raptor, like the eagle, in which case this subject isn’t about trapping, it is about illegal wildlife poaching.

But you’d never know that from the deafening screaming and cawing and flapping from the uncaring, unthinking, hostile, mob-like murder of crows.

UPDATE: 2/8/17 4:30 pm “Just received a call from PGC Director Matt Hough. Matt informed me that the eagle/trap incident was a true event. Fortunately, PA Game Commission officers were able to capture the eagle and remove the trap. There was no damage to the talon. The eagle was released and flew away with no impairment as a result of the incident. Matt did not have any information as to the individual responsible for the trap,” from an email sent to me this afternoon.

 

 

Outdoor sports starting to ramp up now

Outdoor sports are well under way here in Pennsylvania. This is the “Christmas in October” season soo many of us dream about since the last hunting season ended months ago.

Archery season started a month ago, and the rut (primary breeding season) is now in full swing. That is evidenced by the “deer storms” that go crashing through the woods at any time of day or night now, as well as the increasing numbers of dead deer lying on the side of the roadways. Chasing is a main part of rut activity, and deer of both sexes will blindly run right out into the middle of a suburban lawn or a road as their hormones and instincts take over their better judgment.

Bowhunters take full advantage of that mindlessness, and they are now starting to really spend time on stand, trying to lure in the otherwise wary whopper trophy buck. Estrous doe pee is the number one deer lure, and it is what I use with very high success rates. One problem is that so many eager hunters jump the gun and start putting out doe pee, in huge quantities, too early in the season. A few drops on a tampon or cotton ball hung from a branch is all you need in early November.

Although furbearer trapping season started a week ago, the unseasonably warm weather has many people, myself included, holding off laying out steel until mid-November, when mink season starts. What is the point of catching a predator with patchy fur? The colder it gets, the more their fur fills in, the softer it becomes. The softer the fur, the more luxurious it feels. The better the fur, the happier I feel about spending late nights skinning, fleshing, and boarding pelts in the cold.

I will say this, however: Most of my predator trapping these days is aimed at reducing the over-abundant populations of skunks, opossums, and raccoons, all of which are voracious bird nest raiders. To my eye and ear, cute little birds are always entertaining and pretty to watch, and they deserve a chance to enjoy a comfy nest with a successful brood of hatchlings. Wild turkeys and grouse especially are vulnerable to these insatiable varmints that have few natural predators and a lot of suburban habitat in which to unnaturally propagate.

Having never sold a pelt, trapping is not a commercial or financial effort for me. Rather, it is the joy of being outside, being an integral part of the natural predator-prey chain, helping balance wildlife populations, and obtaining something useful, pretty, natural and biodegradable. The wild caught furs that adorn our home and cabin reflect the wild places we enjoy visiting, and the ancient skill set needed to catch these wary hunters.

Earlier this year a long time dear friend nastily chided me for hunting and trapping. Asking her how she could criticize me on the one hand, while on the other hand she regularly eats stone crabs (claws torn off of living crabs), other shellfish (taken from their cozy homes, jailed, then boiled alive), and all sorts of meats from suffering animals living on unsavory factory farms elicited no response at all.

This shallow, careless, hypocritical approach to life bothers me, but I doubt there is anything I can do about it, other than continue to live my own life well. Why or how people find pleasure from interfering in other people’s lives is a constant source of mystery. They get a sense of purpose, I suppose.

As a hunter and trapper, I am fulfilling a purpose that is as old as our species. The hunter-gatherer purpose is as old as humans, heck it is human, and is as old as the last ice sheets that covered the northern hemisphere. This lifestyle is eminently more natural than the artificial life of food from tin cans, huge monoculture “farms,” and sad feed lots that blot out habitat and wildlife, not to mention crushing the spirit of the animal.

Good luck this season. Enjoy living like a real human being, fellow hunters and trappers.

Our dear friend, Don Heckman

Don Heckman needs little introduction in the sporting circles of Pennsylvania and the East Coast.

A founding member and long time leader of the Pennsylvania chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation, Don’s cheerful, generous and kind personality and locomotive work ethic helped re-establish wild turkeys to Pennsylvania in the 1970s, when the conventional wisdom said it was impossible.

Don was also a powerful advocate for the Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsman’s Clubs, the National Rifle Association, and many other similar groups to which he was a devoted life member.

He was a persuasive advocate for the continued success of the Pennsylvania Game Commission on the whole, and its land acquisition and science-based habitat management programs in particular.

Don was both an incredibly good hunter, and at times also exasperating to hunt with. This is because of his own unique standards: He refused to shoot a gobbler (male turkey), unless it was both strutting and gobbling at the same time. Sneaking toms, peeping toms, cautious toms, running or flying toms he would not shoot, no matter how close or in range of his gun. None of those were sporting birds, in his estimation. Only a completely unaware longbeard was worthy.

Don and I turkey hunted together a number of times over the years, mostly in the central Pennsylvania farmland we both love. While it would be easy to regale Don’s skill as a caller and hunter, two instances come to mind that sum up the attraction of having Don as your hunting partner.

First was his wry humor. He meant it with love, of course.

“Mmmmmm, uh huh. That sounds like a turkey,” was a frequent back handed compliment from Don as I was scratching away on a friction call, mostly slates.

He wouldn’t care that my calling had actually lured in a nice longbeard to within range. That was no inoculation against the compliment. For Don, it was important to remind me that my calling could always improve, whenever he had the chance. And he was right, of course, as much as I do not like to admit it.  That’s what good teachers are about. He was, after all, a many time champion caller whose skill I could only marvel at and never hope to replicate.

And just to prove his point by spiking the ball, Don might decide to stand up and switch locations even as the gobbler was determinedly marching across a cut corn field directly to us.

Watching the alarmed bird take wing and sail to the other side of the valley, the now standing Don said to my sitting figure, “Yeah, he must’ve seen you move.”

Movement is the biggest no-no of all in turkey hunting, and rookies move a lot. Even veterans get caught moving their eyeballs by wary gobblers fifty yards out. To attribute the alarmed and rushed exit of a wild turkey to a hunter’s movement is a gentle way of saying “Your hunting skill needs some work.” Even if it didn’t at that very moment.

And then there was that truly exasperating standard of his, the one where he would only shoot a gobbler in full strut AND gobbling. That performance is like looking up in the sky and seeing the sun and moon align, because a longbeard gobbler that is both strutting and gobbling is completely in the moment. He feels no fear or wariness that usually accompanies most alluring hen calls by hunters.

As I am not ever going to approach Don’s skill as a turkey hunter (he has racked up more annual grand slam turkey hunts species-wise and across multiple states than anyone else I know), I feel fortunate to shoot any gobbler, strutting or not.

And it is a fact that my poor skill as a turkey caller usually results in birds sneaking in, peering in, or darting in for a quick look before running like hell to get out of Dodge, or “putting” (turkeys make a putt-putt alarm call when they are suspicious enough to flee) from 40 yards out, so that most of the gobblers I have killed were shot mid-stride to the next county.

Not in full strut AND gobbling, like Don would have.

One morning in Dauphin County about four or five years ago, Don and I were lying in a field while I called to turkeys below us. They came well within range, but the lead gobbler, a huge bruiser boss bird, stopped gobbling and was “only” fanned out and puffed up, strutting. Such an impressive performance was insufficient to move Don’s trigger finger backwards, despite my harsh whispers of expletive-laced encouragement.

Nope. Instead, Don stood up in plain view of the flock, maybe thirty yards away, with his shotgun trained on the head of the strutting gobbler, and he began simultaneously calling with his mouth diaphragm call.

Wild turkey hunters know that at the sight of a man standing up within two hundred yards, let alone thirty, wild turkeys scatter like dust in a hurricane. They are gone in the blink of an eye.

Not these birds. Don’s calling was so good, so realistic, so enticing that the entire flock turned to look at us with concern for the grossly misshapen hen addressing them, and then they calmly walked away.

Don never shot, though he would have easily bagged any of the gobblers there. He just said “Oh, well, let’s go try another spot.”

Don is now in another spot, a turkey chaser’s dream spot, I am sure. He was diagnosed with an incurable brain tumor in late January this year, and he rode it out with the help of his devoted wife, Sandy, for the next few months, until he died on the night of May 17th, in the central Pennsylvania region he loved so much.

Like all of his friends and acquaintances, I will miss Don Heckman enormously. Sitting in a turkey blind I cried yesterday, thinking about his loss. Don died way too young, barely into his retirement, and not in time for me to prove to him that really, I can get a gobbler to strut AND gobble in range. But that is what I will continue to do, to aspire to, in Don’s memory, as representative as it was of one of the last great generational wildlife conservation leaders in Pennsylvania and in America.

Bye, old friend, boy do I miss you.

 

Welcoming Mr. Scott Frederick, WCO

I would like to extend a hearty welcome to Dauphin County’s new Wildlife Conservation Officer, Mr. Scott Frederick.  He is a recent graduate of the PA Game Commission’s Ross Leffler School of Conservation and he will be dedicated to conserving wildlife in Dauphin County.  He joins Mike Doherty, Terry, Derek, and other hard-working conservation officers, and their deputies, in the pursuit of promoting sound wildlife management, fair wildlife laws, and recruiting new hunters and trappers.

Scott, you will find us and our friends to be law-abiding, good citizens, who share your passion for healthy wildlife and wildlife habitat.  We will be there to help you whenever we can, and we look forward to working with you.  Welcome to Dauphin County!

Small success stories come in big, snoring packages

Sitting at lunch today with someone in his late 60s, we reminisced about how sparse bears and turkeys were 40 years ago in central Pennsylvania.

We also recalled how pheasants were in our back yards every morning, forty years ago, and how sad it is that they are now gone, victims of abundant raptors, foxes, coyotes, skunks, possums, raccoons, and loss of traditional farmland edge habitat.

Doug remarked that pheasants are not a native species, and that as much as he enjoyed hunting these colorful, beautiful birds, if he had to make a trade-off, he is happy with the outcome of surplus bears and turkeys.

While I wish I could have it all ways – abundant wildlife of all types, I agree with Doug.

Just to drive home how successful Pennsylvania’s bear conservation program has been, a friend texted me yesterday to say that the bear I had found sleeping under a log on his farm on the southern Lower Paxton Township line three weeks ago is still snoring away there.  He has set up a couple trail cameras around it to monitor its movements.  Although we did not hear any squeals of little newborn bear cubs then or this week, and we do not know its sex, it may have since given birth.  That long stay in that one place could be pregnancy, and would account for how long the bear has remained in the scraped out den-nest it made for itself.

What is amazing is that this deeply snoring bear is literally on the edge of suburbia.  Well, it is actually deep into suburbia, in a relatively small island of open space.  Think about it this way:  Bears used to be a symbol of wild places.  Now, they are often suburban dumpster divers.  That speaks well to the large population of bears still inhabiting the truly wild areas away from suburbia.  That original population of deep forest and mountain dwellers is obviously in very good health.

And on that same farm there are now roving bands of wild turkeys, something not seen since the mid-1800s, when wild turkeys were literally all eaten up in this region.

Conservation success stories are abundant, and here we have two – bears and turkeys.  We cannot take these wins for granted, however; we must safeguard what has been accomplished.  I hope that the Wolf Administration soon appoints the new Sportsmen’s Advisor.  That is a unique leadership position Pennsylvania can not afford to leave vacant.

 

Hallelujah, fur is back in style

A wonderful evening stroll down Fifth Avenue reveals that among the world’s top fashion professionals, natural fur has made a 100% comeback.

Clothing that even I recognize and admire as stunningly beautiful is covered, trimmed, made of, and surrounded by natural furs from many species of animals.

Recall that animal fur was denigrated as cruelly gotten, and bored activists would scream at people wearing fur, sometimes throwing red dye on them. The shallow activists never addressed how their leather shoes and belts and purses and car seats squared up with their public opposition to people wearing other sorts of animal skins.

If hypocrisy is a hallmark of screechy activists, fur was the best example.

Fur is, after all, natural, biodegradable, renewable, and under modern wildlife laws, sustainable. Those are all rare qualities in a world filled with cheap plastic junk manufactured in an enormous prison camp called China.

The luxurious furs I looked at represented incredible skill. From the trappers who artfully snared the critters without damaging the pelt, to the tanners who carefully turned them into soft leather capable of being worked, to the cutters and seamstresses who took the supple leather (with the hair on, like a cow hide) and turned them into gorgeous clothes, throws, and warm accoutrements, the entire process is a long chain of long-enduring skills and appreciation of natural beauty and utility.

If fur was long politically incorrect, but now it is acceptable among the PC elites who run the fashion industry, what does this say about the philosophical leanings of the individuals behind this surge? One cannot help but think that the many gay men in the fashion industry, once emancipated in general society, would eventually hew to a more pragmatic view of life and politics.

After all, once you own a home and work for people willing to spend thousands of dollars on a single garment, you really do have a stake in the capitalist enterprise.

Perhaps the fur on display at Bergdorf Goodman, Saks, and other stores I looked at is a social statement by a bunch of quiet pragmatists, who have also had it with the faux anger and the overwrought hostility and the ubiquitous unhappiness that characterize Leftist politics.

Well done, chums.

And as a pretty bad but committed trapper myself, thank you.

It’s duck season! No it’s turkey season! No it’s rabbit season!

In addition to picking apples with the family, one of Fall’s greatest attributes is the abundance of hunting opportunities.

A friend sent me a photo of a huge buck he arrowed last week.  I am jealous of him because I have not yet had an opportunity to go bow hunt for deer.

Instead, I have been small game hunting, wild turkey hunting, duck hunting, and trapping.

So, it is not as if I have been missing out on the outdoor experience by failing to bow hunt.  The problem is that I’m in a frenetic whirlwind of other, related recreational pursuits, because Pennsylvania is blessed with an abundance of wildlife and healthy natural habitat.

Spending time with my kids and friends outside in this environment is one of the healthiest, safest, most wholesome activities anyone can do.  Hunting is safer than cheerleading, high school football, soccer, and baseball.  It gets my son’s face out of whatever handheld device is sucking out his brain at any given moment.

Successful or not, time afield is the best family time possible.

Here are some old favorite cartoons about hunting, and most important is the Duck Season, Rabbit Season, Duck Season! episode.

Bugs Bunny vs. Daffy Duck

Rabbit Season! Duck Season!

Field Notes

Field Notes are the monthly notes written by PA Game Commission wildlife conservation officers, about notable experiences and interactions they’ve had on the job, out in the field.  And you know that for those folks, men and women, out in the field is truly out there in the wild.  Their descriptions of encounters with people and wildlife are unique and often funny.

Field Notes are published monthly in the PGC’s Game News magazine, and for all of my hunting life (1973 until now), one person really summed up Field Notes and gave them pizzazz, making them my first-read in the magazine.

That was artist Nick Rosato, whose funny illustrations in Field Notes came to epitomize and symbolize the life and lighter side of wildlife law enforcement.  Rosato’s humorous, rustically themed sketches summed up a WCO’s life of enforcing the law against sometimes recalcitrant bad guys, while maintaining an empathy usually reserved for naughty school children, when first-time offenders were involved and a slap on the wrist was needed.

Rosato died this summer, and his art will no longer grace the pages of Game News.  I will miss Rosato’s humor and skill, because for most of my life he helped paint the human dimension of officers who are too often seen as gruff, grumpy, and unnecessarily strict law enforcers.

Speaking of WCOs, a couple years ago I was hunting during deer rifle season when I encountered a WCO I knew.  He had a deer on the back of his vehicle and we stopped to chat and catch up with each other.  Out of nowhere, I asked him to please check me, as in check my license, my gun, my ammunition.

Getting “checked” by WCOs and deputy WCOs is a pretty common experience for most Pennsylvania hunters, but the truth is, I have never been checked by anyone in my 42 years of hunting.

“Sorry, Josh, I just do not have the time.  You will have to wait ’til later or until you meet another WCO out here,” he responded.

With that he smiled, waved, and drove off to follow through on his deer poaching investigation.

I think that encounter should be a Field Note, Terry.  It is probably a first.

Maybe this year I will be “checked,” but perhaps having every single license and stamp available to the Pennsylvania hunter, and hunting only when and where I am supposed to hunt, somehow creates a karma field that makes WCOs avoid me.

Speaking of hunting experiences, yesterday morning Ed and I were goose hunting on the Susquehanna River.  Out in the middle of the widest part, we were alone, sitting on some rocks, chatting about our families, professional work, politics and culture, religion.  Our time together can best be summed up as “Duck Blind Poetry,” because it ain’t pretty, but it is soulful.  Two dads together, sharing life’s experiences and challenges, makes hunting much more than killing.

While we were noting the Susquehanna River’s recent and incredible decline in animal diversity, we suddenly saw four white Great Egrets fly across our field of view, followed by three wood ducks.  Intrigued, we began speculating on where they had all been hiding, when out of nowhere a mature bald eagle appeared on the horizon.  It flapped its way over us and clearly was on the hunt.  So that was why the other birds had quickly flown out of Dodge!

Seeing these wild animals interact with each other was another enjoyable example of how hunting is much, much more than killing.

Unfortunately, during that serene time afield, I introduced my cell phone to the Susquehanna River, and have found myself nearly shut off from communications ever since.  While the phone dries off in a bath of rice, I am enjoying a sort of enforced relaxation.  Please don’t think my lack of responses to calls and texts is rudeness.  I am merely clumsy.  Let’s not make that a Field Note.