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“Stop Asian Hate,” manufactured crisis du jour

America is being manipulated daily by a partisan media-entertainment complex intent on shaping our beliefs and values by shaping our perceptions. Shaping our perceptions is achieved both by shoving crap in our faces, and by censoring competing information out of our reach. So this week we are suddenly told, out of the clear blue, that it is time to #stopAsianhate. That is, Stop Asian Hate. As in, we must all gather together to stop Asians from being hated, not stop Asians from hating us.

Where this bit of racialist activism comes from is anyone’s guess. The few Asian people I know and asked about it rolled their eyes, or arched their eyebrows, and said “I have no idea where this comes from.”

Asians in America tend to be more affluent and materially successful, and more politically conservative. That correlation is likely to continue on, unless someone can get in between Asians and their perceived sense of belonging, acceptance, and integration. Most of the Asians I know are married to Caucasians, and they have very handsome and bright kids. To my knowledge, they feel fully integrated into American society. So someone with a political ax to grind is trying to alter this situation.

Or worse, this faux cause du jour is timed with the faux political confrontation with China. China owns the Biden family lock, stock, and two smoking barrels, and so perhaps the Chinese are trying to use our feewings to make us Americans feel badly about rejecting Chinese genocide and attempts to take over America.

In high school and college I dated two Asian women, one Chinese and one Korean. The parents of the Korean lady were openly racist towards everyone, especially “white” people, except for Jews, who they said were smart. Both of the women I dated have gone on to be wildly successful in their fields, making scads of cash and living very happy lives. With Caucasian husbands.

Yes, I know, I cannot draw on my own personal experiences to shape my reality. I must accept that there are larger trends happening outside of my own personal experience. But one thing I can tell you firmly and with great confidence is that this #stopAsianhate (again, it is probably not about Asians hating people) is a fake issue, not based on anything really substantive. Like so many other fake issues emanating from the Left side of America, this issue arises from some other goal or problem. If I were to guess, I would say it is the Left’s China problem.

The Left in America is loyal to China and they are disloyal to America. The Left hates America and is using America’s government to destroy America. Now that is a hate I could get into stopping right now.

Here is the manufactured political issue du jour propagandized by YouTube, a big piece of the partisan media-entertainment complex. On review, I think my YouTube interests are pretty neat.

 

Keith Oellig, another American keeping America moving forward

Every day of his life, Keith Oellig was one of the few Americans who, rain or shine, kept America moving forward. He grew the crops and raised the beef that Americans across America take for granted every day that they simply buy and eat these products.

Raised on a central Pennsylvania farm with chores and work, work, work before play, Keith’s friendship was as strong as his nonstop work ethic. He was a dear and devoted friend to many fortunate people, including me, and he died unexpectedly last week from a life-long heart condition he managed as best he could until it caught him by surprise one last time. He was just 56 years old.

This essay is my way of memorializing this amazing human being, and saying goodbye.

Keith was a representation of everything the farming life is supposed to be – down to earth, honest, truthful, hard working, generous, natural, patriotic, devoted to community and fellow man. He served on many boards, including the Dauphin County Farm Bureau, the Central Dauphin East School Board, the Dauphin County Planning Commission, and others I can’t recall off the top of my head.

His heart was golden, always ready to do a kindness for someone, and the more distant the stranger the better. Almost every year he grew great patches of sweet corn and donated much of it to his church food pantry, and to any others in need. But they would have to pick it themselves. Straight out of the Bible, which is what inspired him, drove him, filled him.  (Those friends who merely enjoyed sweet corn got the phone call that it was ripe about three days after everyone else in true need had had a shot at it)

Keith was politically active, but he had mixed feelings and thoughts about politics, because so much of it is divorced from the sacred walk of life whose values he cherished.

Every election he and I would run around his farms putting up signs, especially really big ones along the road frontages and both sides of I-81 by Penn National Race Track/ Hollywood [!?] Casino.  And as hard as he worked putting them in, Keith would also grouse about career politicians, even about the person whose sign he was putting in. He even did it to me when I ran for state senate. Like out of a comedy movie: “Sure, I’ll help ya, and I’ll bet you’re going to be just as corrupt as everyone else. Now hurry up because we have a lot more signs to put in the ground.”

Here he is with one of two big banners we put up last October at his main farm, one on either side of I-81.  Every.Single.Vehicle.Driving on I-81 honked at us. We used a loader with bale spikes and twine, and it was hard but fun work. 
This is how many of us will remember Keith, with his innocent, gentle smile and loving eyes.

Keith and I worked as a team to fell dozens of dead and dying ash trees, and some oaks and poplars (see background), in an area where he wanted to expand the cattle pasture. I ran the chainsaw while he pushed with the front end loader. It was dicey and scary work, as his smashed windshield shows. A week later, a huge limb carved a gigantic V in that cab, but Keith just kept on, peering around either side of the destroyed metal and glass to see where he was going.

I am sure going to miss you, buddy

America’s Voice gone but not silenced

Sadly, America’s Anchorman Rush Limbaugh has died.

Anyone who regularly listens to his show is not surprised, as the stand-in radio show hosts have been daily for the past couple of weeks. Their daily presence was an indication that Rush was physically unavailable, due to his increasingly severe cancer. And it was only that kind of bar that would keep Rush from sitting at the EIB Golden Microphone himself. His love for what he did was clear.

Rush’s impact on American culture and world-wide politics was unprecedented. He represented the thinking of at least half of America’s citizens. He raised unique questions about the world’s best political system, America, and he posed piercing analysis of the players in it, including members of both major political parties.

Ironically, Rush was a product of a politically partisan mainstream corporate media that had fully merged with the Hollywood entertainment industry. Had the mainstream media actually produced real “news reporters” that simply reported the facts, instead of mounting nonstop daily attacks on Heartland America and the conservatives who represent it, Rush Limbaugh would not have had an audience. Because there would have been no demand for Rush’s service.

Rush’s greatest service to America has been to point out the obvious lies and partisan hypocrisy in the American media and establishment cultural centers, and to be a powerful force for limited government, individual freedom and liberty.

“Rush’s death is a huge loss. He was the best, period. He had a way of articulating the seriousness of politics in a way that didn’t depress the listener. He was a relief to listen to, and of course understood the real nature of politics and politicians better than anyone,” says Central Pennsylvania political activist Ron Boltz.

Right on, Ron. Perfectly said.

I myself was introduced to Rush Limbaugh in 1991 by my friend Kenny Gould in Potomac Maryland, when I was working at the US EPA. Listening to Rush changed my life for the better, and to be frank, I don’t think any radio hosts come close to his performance. Of all the radio hosts I have heard, I believe that Mark Steyn comes the closest to capturing Rush’s analytical way and also his positive, personal way interacting with radio listeners who called in to the show.

America is a poorer place with Rush Limbaugh removed from our national conversation. His quotes and voice will live on, as will the pro-freedom America-first movement he helped start. We will miss you, Rush. Godspeed to wherever you are headed now.

p.s. Rush’s “bumper music” in his radio show was usually the 1970s fun disco/funk stuff from a time when skin color boundaries were being broken by music and generally people felt good about being together. Here is one song that he especially liked: Every 1’s a winner by Hot Chocolate.

p.p.s. for those people who claim that Rush Limbaugh was “racist” etc, they obviously never listened to his radio show, and therefore had no justification for their ridiculous accusation. Rush was the canary in the coal mine for American conservatives, who are now being silenced for “wrongthink” by Big Tech, Big Media, and the Big Political Establishment Uniparty, all of whom try to badmouth and impugn anyone who disagrees with them.

 

Rusty ducks and ammo

My friend called me and asked if I wanted to hunt ducks on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Same general location that my son killed his first deer; a vicinity I have fished for many years. Several other guys would be along, all but one I already knew and liked. Sounded like a fine plan, and I signed up to share a hotel room with my friend and his son.

As the days went by my pile of preparatory hunting gear got bigger. Neoprene waders and boots, check. Huge and super warm waterfowling jacket with super old school camo pattern I bought at LL Bean decades ago, check. Shotgun in waterproof case, check. Wool long johns, wool shirts, scarves, bison wool hat, gloves and glove liners, warm boots, check check check.

Ammo. Right…hmmm…shotgun shells for the shotgun. What about the steel shot we have had to use since the 1990s ban on lead shot for waterfowling? Although I knew I had some already, I needed to get a good supply of that shot in twelve gauge, because ducks in general and sea ducks in particular are fast as hell and easy to miss. For every duck a hunter brings to hand, he might fire four or five shells. She might fire three or two, by the way.

So on an unrelated trip to that area several weeks ago, I checked Cabela’s in Hamburg, PA. I found a guy on his knees studying eight boxes of shotshells, and describing his find to someone on the other end of his cell phone. And I mean eight boxes total out of what had been a shelving system five feet high and forty feet long once filled with thousands of shotshells, and now containing a grand total of eight boxes of 25 shells each. And four were in 20 gauge, useless to sea duck hunters, who need the maximum power and shot load of a 12-gauge magnum.

So that left four boxes of 12-gauge #3 steel shot, which is OK for regular fresh water ducks but of limited use on sea ducks, which are bigger and tougher. And the guy kneeling down studying them was running his hand over the boxes, and describing them to some unseen prospective buyer chum.

“Tell your friend on the phone that if you don’t buy that 12-gauge right now, I am buying it,” said I to the guy studying the ammo.

“Buy it! Buy it!” came the cry on the other side of the cell phone.

And so I departed Cabela’s with only a flashlight and no steel shot. What the hell people are doing hoarding steel shot is beyond my ability to guess or even imagine. No civil wars will be won with steel shot. No home invaders repelled with steel shot. I don’t believe there are so many waterfowlers that every daggone shell produced is being used as we sit and read this.

And so it went at the other outdoor stores I visited, including mass retailer Bass Pro, where ammunition is usually sold by the truck load. Nothing, nicht, zero. Which then drove me past the retail approach and back into my ancient stashes of hunting ammunition. And indeed, I discovered a wide assortment of waterfowling ammunition accidentally stored in all kinds of odd and dubious places, like wader pockets, inside boots, PFDs, and in crumbling boxes moldering away in musty corners. But at the end of my search, I discovered in total about two boxes worth of steel shot, ranging from 2-3/4″ to 3-inch magnums to half a box of 3.5″ super magnums. Some of the shells needed help, though, before they could be fired in a gun.

And so a Dremel with heavy grit sandpaper was employed to remove heavy rust, and then a small wire brush at high RPMs to give a decent polish. Yeah, I was that desperate, but the work paid off. I was happy to have what I had.

I am pleased to report that the rusty old ammo garnered a healthy haul of ducks, which could be dubbed the rusty ducks.

 

A ring necked duck, an uncommon visitor to the Chesapeake Bay’s southern waters

Rusty old ammo, and happy to have it

Turning rusty old ammo into dubious but functional ammo that worked and got ducks

Sunrise off of Tilghman Island. What life is all about

 

PA’s must-do 21st century deer management policy

When Gern texted me on November 12th “planning to plant the entire farm with grass next Fall… 100%  hay… can’t afford to feed wildlife. Going broke trying to make money,” I knew that my best deer management efforts had finally failed over the past 13 years.

Every year I work hard to make sure our deer season is as productive as possible. Because our tenant farmer pays us a per-acre rent every year, which covers the real estate taxes and some building maintenance, and for 13 years he has grown soybeans, corn and hay in various rotations across the many fields we have. Our arrangement has generally worked out well both ways, but that text message ended my  sense of satisfaction.

While I do wear dirty bib overalls when I run the sawmill and also when I try to impress people who don’t know me, Gern is the actual farmer who tills (broad sense), fertilizes, plants, and harvests a very large farm property in Dauphin County, some of which I own and all of which I manage. Our property is one of many that comprise about 30,000 acres of farm land that Gern and his family cultivate in Central Pennsylvania. To say that his family works hard is the understatement of all understatements. Gern embodies AMERICA! in flesh and spirit, and to see him so utterly beaten down by mere deer is heartbreaking.

Over the years I knew that both overabundant deer and bears were taking a significant toll on our grain crops (Gern’s primary source of family income), and so I worked hard to recruit the kinds of good hunters who would help us annually whittle down the herds, so that the pressure was taken off of our crops. About five years ago I proudly photographed one of our late-summer soybean fields, at about four super healthy feet high, indicating a minimal amount of deer damage. When I passed the soybean field pictures around to other farmers and land managers, nothing but high praise returned. And so I patted myself on the back for our successful deer management, and congratulated our guest hunters, who were killing about 25-35 deer a year on our property. Our hunters were filling an impressive 50% to 65% of the roughly 54 DMAP deer management tags we hand out every year, as well as some of their buck tags and WMU 4C tags.

But, change is life’s biggest constant, and while I rested on my hunting laurels, deer hunting changed under my feet. The past few years have seen a lot of change in the hunting world. First and biggest change is that hunters in Pennsylvania and other states are aging out en masse, with fewer replacements following them. This means that a lot less pressure is being brought to bear on the deer herd. Which means a lot more deer are everywhere, which is not difficult to see if you drive anywhere in Pennsylvania in a vehicle. There are literally tons of dead deer along the side of every road and highway, everywhere in Pennsylvania. We should be measuring this at tons-of-deer-per-mile, not just the number of dead deer and damaged vehicles. Frankly this overabundant deer herd situation is out of control not just for the farmers who feed Americans, but for the people who want to safely drive their vehicles to the grocery store. Hunters are sorely needed to get this dangerous situation under control, and yet Pennsylvania’s deer management policies favor overabundant deer herds to keep older hunters less crabby.

So, because I am about to break out the spotlights and AK47 to finally manage our farm deer the way they need to be managed (and yes, PA farmers are allowed to wholesale slaughter deer in the crops) (and yes, I feel the same way about our favorite forested places in the Northern Tier), here below is the kind of deer management/ hunting policy Pennsylvania needs via the PGC, if we are going to get the out-of-control deer herd genie back into its bottle and stop hemorrhaging farmland on the altar of too many deer:

  1. Archery season is too long. At seven weeks long, the current archery season lets a lot of head-hunters stink up the woods, cull the very best trophy bucks, and pressure the deer enough to make them extra skittish and nocturnal before rifle season begins. Even though rifle season is our greatest deer management tool. The same can be said of bear season, which is the week before rifle season. So shorten archery season and lengthen rifle season, or make the opening week of deer season concurrent with bear season, like New York does.
  2. Rifle season must be longer, and why not a longer flintlock season, too? Is there something “extra special” about deer come the middle of January, that they are prematurely off limits to hunting? Most bucks begin to drop their antlers in early February. Have three weeks of rifle season and then five weeks of flintlock season until January 30th, every year. Or consider flintlock hunting year ’round, or a spring doe season in May.
  3. More doe tags are needed. There are too few doe tags to begin with, and most doe tags sell out and are never used. This is especially true in WMUs 5C and 5D, where despite enormous tag allocations, tags quickly become unavailable. That is because individual hunters can presently buy unlimited numbers of doe tags, for some reason having to do with the way deer were managed in the 1980s…c’mon, PGC, limit of two or three doe tags for each hunter in these high-density WMUs, and at least two doe tags in Big Woods WMUs like 2G and 4C.
  4. Despite good advancements in reducing the regulatory burden on deer hunters this past season, there are still too many rules and restrictions. For example, why can’t our muzzleloading guns have two barrels? Pedersoli makes the Kodiak, a fearsome double percussion rifle that would be just the ticket for reducing deer herds in high deer density WMUs where the PGC says they want more deer harvests. But presently it is not legal. Another example is the ridiculous interruptions in small game seasons as they overlap with bear and deer seasons. This bizarre on-again-off-again discontinuity of NOT hunting rabbits while others ARE hunting deer is an unnecessary holdover from the long-gone, rough-n-ready bad old poaching days of Pennsylvania wildlife management. PA is one of the very few states, if the only one at all, with these staggered small game and big game seasons. Bottom line is hunting is supposed to be fun, and burdening hunters with all kinds of minutiae is not only not fun, it is unnecessary. Other states with far more liberal political cultures have far fewer regulations than Pennsylvania, so come on PA, give fun a try.
  5. Artificial deer feeding with corn, alfalfa, oats etc on private land during all deer and bear seasons must end. Not only does this “I’m saving the poor starving deer” nonsense lead to spreading deadly diseases like CWD, it artificially draws deer onto sanctuary properties and away from nearby hunters. Or it is baiting, plain and simple. Feeding causes overabundant deer to avoid being hunted during hunting season, but then quickly spread out on the landscape where they eat everything out of house and home when hunting season ends. This year up north (Lycoming and Clinton counties) is a prime example. We had no acorns to speak of this Fall, and whatever fell was quickly eaten up by early November. As the weeks rolled on through hunting season, the deer began leaving their regular haunts and unnaturally herding up where artificial feed was being doled out. This removed them from being hunted, and creates a wildlife feeding arms race, where those who don’t feed wildlife run the risk of seeing none at all. So either completely outlaw artificial feeding or let everyone do it, including hunters, so they can compete with the non-hunters. And yes, people who buck hunt only, and who do not shoot does, and who put out corn and alfalfa etc. for deer during hunting season, are not really hunters. They are purposefully meddling in the hunts of other people by trying to keep them from shooting “my deer.”
  6. PGC must better communicate to its constituency that too many deer result in unproductive farms that then become housing developments. Because the landowner and farmer must make some money from the land, if farm land can’t grow corn, it will end up growing houses, which no real hunter wants. So real hunters want fewer deer, at numbers the land and farms can sustain.

 

My Aunt Jess

A little birdy just flew away. It was always a small, gentle, and delicate little thing, and especially so in its final days here on Planet Earth. A lifetime of cigarettes and other things took a toll on her body that even the best of genes could not resist, and tonight there was so little of her left. Now she has spread her little wings and flown the coop, moving into a different place, perhaps a different dimension.

In her side of our family, most people live a long time. Like into their late 90s and well into their 100s; so long that the people around them are eventually like “Look, why don’t you just die already.” My Aunt Jess made it into her 80s, a young’n by our family standards, and had she not attacked her own body with cigarettes and too much other stuff, she would have outlived me and most of the rest of the family.

I owe so much to my Aunt Jess, because she is the one who introduced me to the great outdoors, to Mother Nature, to fishing for brook trout in small Berkshire streams, to patiently watching a humming bird flitting undisturbed among trumpet flowers, sipping nectar from each one. Nature has been the central focus of my life and career, really as a result of Jess’s introduction to it so long ago.

One of my most vivid childhood memories, from 52 years ago no less, is Jess walking along Route 8 with me in Blandford. She pointed out some raccoon tracks in the sand along the road edge, and we studied them closely for a long minute. The long claw marks sticking out from the toes, which were splayed out from the foot pad, really spoke about the kind of beast that owned them. All this fascinated me, and then she gasped and led me twenty feet further along the guard rail.

There, digging a hole in the sandy soil was a mother turtle. We watched her slowly scoop and push the soft dirt away while she created a pretty deep hole for such stubby little legs. She, too, had claws, and they dug deeply into the dirt, so that she could eventually squeeze out her little round, white eggs into the hole. In there they would remain hidden and cool, incubating until they hatched cute little baby turtles. Aunt Jess and I stood there for half an hour, just watching the mother turtle, until she eventually pushed the last bit of dirt over her clutch of eggs and then slid down the bank toward the small brook. Whether it was a wood turtle or a box turtle, I do not now recall, though I am inclined to think and also kind of remember the yellow squiggle pattern of a box turtle.

Another time Aunt Jess threaded the two of us back into the large bog in the woods behind the farm house where my grandparents had retired. Small little carnivorous plants lived there, and she showed me how they lured the ants and other insects into their acidic stomachs. All of this was fascinating to a little boy, and because it was not explained in an academic way, it was even better. Jess’s love for the outdoors and for all things great and small propelled her forward every day. Every little living thing (well, almost all) was a source of love and intrigue to her, though the bears that raided her bird feeders in later years occasionally got a good whoopin’ with a broom. She could tolerate only so much gluttony and welfare mentality.

To wit, one day she was volunteering at Bartholomew’s Cobble, the natural area near her home, and a lady brought in a starling with a broken wing in a shoe box. Jess met the lady at the main counter, and peered into the box. The lady insisted that Jess do something to help this poor starling. Jess resisted, and explained to the nice lady that the starling was a rude invasive bird that destroys a great deal of other birds’ nests and young. Not a bird worth “saving.”

Undeterred, the lady pushed the shoe box back at Jess across the counter and once again insisted that the starling be healed in some way. Jess reached into the box, picked up the starling, wrung its neck, placed it back in the shoe box, and pushed the box back to the lady.

“There. Now it doesn’t have to worry about its broken wing,” Jess said to the unhappy lady.

Despite her antipathy for starlings, or perhaps because of it, Jess enjoyed bird watching, and as a naturalist she racked up a great many bird sightings in her Audubon bird identification book. At one time she traveled far and wide to see some little dickey bird or another, including by canoe, but in later years she was content to put out a rich enough smorgasbord to bring in all of the cool ones, including grosbeaks and warblers that should be far, far away.

Jess taught me how to jig a garden worm on a size twelve Eagle Claw hook for tentative brook trout, so skittish that the slightest movement by any body part other than the rhythmic movement of the wrist and fishing rod would send them scurrying under cut-banks and submerged tree roots for cover. In my own wanderings, I had a fishing guide in Alaska and another in Montana tell me I was the best fly fisherman they had encountered, and I chalked it up to many days spent fooling wily brook trout in small Berkshire and Central Pennsylvania streams (confession here: as a kid I also poached the hell out of the Harpster stretch of Spruce Creek with a fly rod, which required real finesse with a rod and as a Scottish Highlands stalker staying out of sight of the humans; but let’s not talk about that now), all begun by my Aunt Jess.

Last week I told her on the phone that while I was deer hunting this winter, I had at one point been surrounded by juncos and chickadees, whose tameness around humans never ceases to amaze and entertain me. In their sweet chirps and happy flittings, I heard and saw Aunt Jess, and so I told her that whenever I am sitting alone some place and I hear juncos or chickadees, I will hear her voice. She cried, and then I cried, both of us knowing we would miss the other so very much. Gosh, what a gentle soul she has been.

The magic of Nature has never stopped inspiring me, and the passion for conserving it has never left me, to the point where I spend my days working to leave a scant legacy of bird and turtle habitat alive and well, so that future aunts and nephews can take walks and discover magical little moments like a mother turtle laying her eggs, or a rising brook trout in a small plunge pool. I owe all of this to Aunt Jess, who tonight left us, as all flesh must eventually do. But too soon for her clan, and so I must end with this admonition: Please do not smoke cigarettes. They destroy not only the body they enter, but also the hopes and dreams of the loved ones surrounding the smoker.

If you feel like you really have to walk on the wild side and play with fire to get a high, get involved in politics. Or feed the little brown dickey birds in your back yard. Just don’t leave your family too soon, for such an unnecessary reason as cigarettes. My Aunt Jess would heartily agree.

 

Why flintlock hunting mistakes happen

Last Saturday Pennsylvania’s flintlock deer season started. A surprising number of people take to our winter woods with primitive flintlock rifles in pursuit of super skittish deer. After two weeks of rifle season, which ended two weeks ago, our deer are as wary as possible. They are either burrowed into hillsides, or yarded up in suburban back yards, hiding from anyone that looks like a hunter. Deer are surprisingly good at separating people shoveling snow from people carrying rifles, so you might see a pile of deer in the oddest places right now.

Flintlocks involve pouring gunpowder down the barrel, followed by a small piece of cloth and a round lead ball. Then a small amount of fine gunpowder is put into the flash pan, and is then hopefully ignited when a piece of flint hits a piece of steel, thereby making sparks, ultimately igniting the powder that was poured down the barrel. That pushes out the lead ball with enough force to kill an animal.

This is the theory, anyhow.

Because there are a bunch of moving parts in a flintlock, each one of which is necessary for the whole to function properly, a lot of things can go wrong after the trigger is pulled. Here are a few problems that happen to flintlock hunters every year, and some suggestions on what flintlock hunters can do to fix the situation up front, before the trigger is pulled on a deer and the gun does not go “BANG.”

Problem One: Flint does not spark well or at all.

Solution one: Make sure the flint has a sharp edge; after lots of practice shooting, the flint edge gets chipped and dulled. If yours is dulled, then replace it with a new one, or re-sharpen the edge with a piece of steel.

Solution two: Ensure the frizzen is clean and dry; if it is oily or wet, it will not spark.

Solution three: Ensure the flint squares up exactly with the frizzen. The two must meet one another directly and perfectly aligned so that the flint edge scrapes evenly down the frizzen face. If only a corner of the flint connects with the frizzen, then very few sparks will result. This is probably the most common mistake associated with no or poor sparking.

Solution four: Ensure your lock is properly tuned and timed. This is both easier and harder than it sounds. It is common for people to buy inexpensive off-the-shelf flintlocks (especially the really cheap plastic and stainless steel ones) and expect them to work at the same high level of functionality that a comparable budget-level center fire rifle operates. This is misplaced trust, because unlike a modern rifle, a flintlock’s lock is full of tumblers, bars, levers, and springs, all moving in precise harmony with one another in a millisecond. If any of these moving parts is not tuned to work smoothly with the other moving parts, then your lock will have timing issues. You will pull the trigger, and only small hints will tell you that something is wrong, like hang fires, or many failures to ignite the flash pan powder. But each time you pull the trigger, you will not hit your deer. After a lot of heartache, you will eventually ask a competent flintlock expert to evaluate your gun’s issues, and he will immediately diagnose it as “Your lock don’t work.”

It is important to use only a trained flintlock gunsmith, and not a regular “gunsmith.” Most modern gunsmiths know as much about a flintlock as they do about maintaining mechanical Swiss watches, which is absolutely zero. Many modern gunsmiths will sell themselves as being able to do the work on a flintlock, but they will be overwhelmed when they pull the lock plate off and behold the incredible “primitive” inner machinery. I have seen a modern gunsmith actually destroy either the lock mechanism or the inletted stock wood, or both, so only take your gun to an actual flintlock gunsmith, and an experienced one at that. Here in Central Pennsylvania, we are super fortunate to have a lot of flintlock experts, including people at Dixon’s near Lenhartsville, and Fort Chambers in Chambersburg, Mark Wheland in eastern Huntingdon County, and many, many others sprinkled around.

When I had my first flintlock made, the new “gun builder” I hired actually ground off critical pieces of the lock, and then tried to blame me when the gun would not fire properly. It cost me a deer. I also had to pay Bill Slusser (now in Kentucky) $220 dollars to rebuild the lock and then properly re-attach it to the wood, which included him TIG welding back on metal that had been unnecessarily removed by the first guy. The lock is a delicate piece of machinery, and the bargain basement ones are very rough, so take your new gun to a competent flintlock gunsmith to get it tuned before you take it hunting. If you bought your flintlock new from a gunmaker, like Mark Wheland or Bill Slusser, then it is guaranteed to be fully tuned and ready to kill. Same goes if you had a gun custom built for you. Just don’t use the bargain basement “gun builder” guy who promises a quick turnaround, or a regular gunsmith who says “Yeah, I can do those.” They can’t do it, but they can do it in.

I learned that expensive lesson so you don’t have to.

Happy hunting and good luck!

 

The Spirit of the Season

Today is Christmas Day, America’s national holiday at least as much as Thanksgiving Day. It is a day of good cheer, happiness, kindness, family, acts of charity, rest and relaxation; a Sabbath of sorts. Across Western Civilization this day has played several different roles and in different formats over the past thousand years, the earliest being solely religious and quite somber. The later versions of Christmas being a non-offending marriage between Christianity and northern European paganism, and being more celebratory.

Christmas as we know it now is largely a creation of Englishman Charles Dickens, who decried the caste system’s forced poverty and lack of Christian charity in his own land, and whose 1843 book A Christmas Carol championed the triumph of kindness and generosity to all over greed and miserly wealth. A literal ghostly spirit of Christmas invaded old man Scrooge’s otherwise selfish life, and left him a changed man. Scrooge’s personal changes, in the true spirit of Christmas Day, then resulted in a domino effect of increasing happiness and beneficence spreading outward from the formerly unhappy and mean old man to all those around him and beyond.

Dickens’ powerful message was a seed that grew wildly in fertile soil, as the contemporaneous Industrial Revolution had created a great amount of wealth and also a great many have-nots. And a hundred years later downtown Manhattan USA at Christmastime was full of powerful images and themes drawn directly from Dickens’ writings. That resulting Christmas culture has spread far and wide, and is now a mix of all the good stuff, including spirituality and morality, along with some old fashioned American consumerism. This has all morphed into the modern version of Christmas most Americans practice or at least enjoy today. It is kind of a third version of Christmas.

But if we go back to its beginning, Christmas Day is closely linked to Christianity’s predecessor, Judaism, and its own festive holiday of Chanuka. Christmas Day always starts on the 25th of December, which is usually right around the Hebrew date of 25th of Kislev, the start of Chanuka. While Chanuka has eight days, Christmas has twelve (similar to Passover having eight days and Easter’s Holy Week having seven at least, and possibly more, depending upon where one lives). And if we then immediately fast-forward back to the present, we see that Christmas has profoundly influenced the practice and understanding of Chanuka. Chanuka now being a heavily mysticized and joyful celebration of a vague miracle involving some olive oil. If you dig deep, you might get an American Jew to tell you that Chanuka is generally about individual freedom, and freedom of religion specifically.

Truth is, Chanuka was indeed originally about freedom, but the kind of freedom we Westerners no longer seem to value, or which we seem to take for granted.

Chanuka is described at hebcal.com as “Hanukkah (Hebrew: חֲנֻכָּה, usually spelled חנוכה … in Modern Hebrew, also romanized as Chanukah or Chanuka), also known as the Festival of Lights, is an eight-day Jewish holiday commemorating the rededication of the Holy Temple (the Second Temple) in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt of the 2nd century BCE. Hanukkah is observed for eight nights and days, starting on the 25th day of Kislev according to the Hebrew calendar, which may occur at any time from late November to late December in the Gregorian calendar.”

OK, but what was the Maccabean Revolt, you ask? Ah ha, here we have suddenly discovered the true spirit of Chanuka! And one could surmise, the true spirit of Today’s Christmas Day, as well, heir as it is to Chanuka.

The Maccabean Revolt was a true-life rebellion by a small group of totally dedicated, religiously pure Jewish families against an enormous Assyrian empire that was then occupying then-Israel/Judea, roughly 2,200 years ago. It is the triumph of the little guy over the big bad bully; the triumph of monotheism over evil paganism; morality over immorality. Chanuka is the story of winning freedom by the edge of the sword, at total risk of one’s own survival. Those Jews who then strapped on a sword and successfully fought to the death over several generations to rid themselves of the yoke of Assyrian slavery, then set in motion so many future events. Like the subsequent existence of Jesus, the eventual creation of Christianity, and the resulting creation of Christmas Day by people seeking to directly link the day with Chanuka.

Early Christmas was observed by religious Christians as a day of spiritual freedom, similar to the Chanuka celebration of national freedom and sovereignty, without which there was no spiritual freedom for the Jews, whose Temple service had been disrupted by the Assyrian occupation. Which makes one wonder, in the context of where we are right now, December 25th 2020 , as America is poised to be captured and subjugated by China through its secret treaties with Joe Biden, Big Media, and Big Tech…. what was and is the true, original spirit of Christmas Day, and does it have relevance for us right now?

Religious Christians will provide an orthodox Christian perspective, but it is no stretch to say that today’s Christmas spirit could use a heavy dose of the original Chanuka spirit. We need some of that old time religion. We need a modern equivalent of the Maccabean Revolt against the fraudulent, illegal election that just took place, in which America as we have known her for 244 years is about to collapse and be replaced by repression and slavery.

So, I will raise a glass of eggnog to everyone in the spirit of good Christmas cheer. Salud! And I will also raise the American symbol of freedom, defiance, and sovereignty in salute of the brave American citizens who we know are the last hope of restoring our republic: The American longrifle and its updated equivalent, the AR15.

Merry Christmas! May the ancient spirit of the Maccabees fill every patriot heart.

 

Deer season mostly in the rearview mirror

All year we hunters wait for deer rifle season like excited little kids holding our breath for some big, special treat. And then rifle season arrives, we run ourselves ragged, and suddenly…a switch is thrown…it is all over.

Where did all our fun times and friends and family go? Why, they were sitting with us having dinner and laughing just minutes ago, and adventuring around the beautiful woods together just hours ago…and now…now my life seems so very quiet, and humdrum.

Like the three days of bear season, the two weeks of deer season are so highly anticipated, and yet they are also then over so, so quickly. I guess this is the way of all fun times.

This year I can’t think of any woods I hunted in that had many or any acorns. This absence of food literally caused mountain deer to migrate. It was wild to see, or not see, as the word “see” can be taken to mean, because we hardly saw many deer in the mountains. Sure, we took some, and I have no complaints, as I know plenty of people who did not even get a shot at a deer, much less see any. I was able to pick and choose some shots, and one that I declined on a very nice buck I regretted soon after. That shot was not a “good” shot, but would have hit him right in the middle of the ribs. A liver shot, and almost immediately fatal. But a tracking job nonetheless, and not a shot I would have been proud of.

And so that buck lived to see another day, and because I had not filled my buck tag in 2019, I felt both very grown up for having made the correct decision and also very foolish for having not taken what was given to me.

But the mountain hunters did not have a lot of luck in rifle season, the best hunting having happened in October and early November during archery season. Plenty of browse and some few acorns were available for the deer then, and they were not feeling so pressured and anxious about food as they are now. No, the mountain hunters sat and waited, or did drives and yet still waited to see deer. But the deer, desiring not to starve to death, migrated on to whatever food sources they could find, and there they still sit.

Well, the fact is that the north country is seriously socked in with deep snow. Like a solid two to almost three feet in most places. The deer can hardly move through this, let alone paw or browse for food under it. Additionally, as soon as warm temperatures arrive, or a few hours of rain, that deep snow will have a thick, hard crust on top of it. And the deer will not be able to walk on it, stand on it, feed on it. Like we had in 2005, we will probably see a serious deer die-off across big parts of the Big Woods north country from this deep snow in the coming week. In 2005, after a similar deep snow with a heavy crust, I recall finding dozens of deer carcasses all over the mountains around us. In some instances the coyotes were able to close the distance and just pull them down, but in a lot of situations, the deer just laid down on that crusty snow, curled up, and starved to death.

Pretty sad, even for conservationists who know the mountain deer herds needed to be thinned out for the sake of forest health.

Down in the farmland, the deer seemed to be doing just dandy. In farm country, edge habitat browse and waste grain are so abundant that the plague of four-legged deer locusts have no trouble making a living, deep snow or not. Flintlock season cannot come too soon for the farm country, where our own tenant farmer informed me a few weeks ago that the deer have eaten all of our profit to the point where we can no longer afford to grow corn or soybeans. Going forward, we will only be growing hay.

For hunters having trouble understanding what this means, let me explain. If the farmer cannot make money from farming because the over-abundant deer eat up his profits, then the farmer cannot afford to pay the land owner a healthy per-acre rent that pays the land taxes and covers many annual maintenance costs. If farming won’t pay the costs of farm land, then maybe a few house lots here or there will pay…and thus is beautiful, sacred farmland slowly, inexorably, sadly converted to pavement. By deer no less.

And so in farm country, deer managers like me see deer more like rats than like deer. Rats are vermin, the overabundant deer become vermin, and deer hunting becomes less of an adventure, and more of a chore, or a jihad, to protect the beautiful landscape from becoming one more housing development.

These are some reflections on deer season. I have not killed a deer with a flintlock in many years, and hopefully this season I will. God knows, the farmland needs all the help it can get.

Halfway through PA deer season

We are halfway through deer season, and I, having hunted in several counties in Northcentral and southcentral Pennsylvania, have a few observations. These might be helpful to those seeking to fill tags this coming week, or to policy makers trying to mould a better season next year.

a) Despite the “purple paint law,” which is Pennsylvania’s new private land trespass law that carries severe penalties for trespassing, PA hunters continue to trespass and poach and shoot deer on private lands they have no business being on. So far this season I have been witness to the deliberate taking of deer on private land by people who have no right to hunt there, both a buck and a doe.  One incident was just plain sloppy woodsmanship; the other was purposefully crafty. Some trespassers are habitual lawbreakers, who trespass more to get one over (in their warped thinking) on someone who has land, rather than to actually pursue a specific trophy animal or meat for their family. This blurs into the mental illness category. Others are defiant individuals, who have always had authority problems both at work and elsewhere. This also blurs into the mental disease category. The antidote to all this miserable behavior is the joy of hidden trail cameras, which have caught several malefactors in flagrante. Yeah, Jon, you….again. To be continued!

b) Pennsylvania is now a huge deer trophy destination. The trophy bucks that are being taken from archery season, when deer are at their most vulnerable, right through rifle season, would have been unimaginable twenty or forty years ago. The enormous heads (antlers/ racks scoring 140 inches and above) that are being taken by hunters everywhere across the state are easily on par with famous trophy destination states like Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, and Kansas.

This development is a looooong way from the spike bucks and “trophy” fork horns of my youth, and frankly to which too many older hunters would gladly return.

This exciting development is primarily a result of top-notch deer management by the Pennsylvania Game Commission over the past twenty years. Along that twenty-year-way, PGC has suffered a lot of abuse for its deer management, which always involved reducing the number of over-abundant does and retaining a high number of mature bucks to return again next year, with racks that have gone from OK to spectacular. People upset with PGC were long accustomed to “seeing” lots of deer. These people incorrectly equated overabundant deer with a healthy deer population, because, in fact, the truth is the opposite. Too many deer is unhealthy for not only deer, but for a boatload of other animals, and plants, that everybody other than deer needs. Deer diseases like TB and CWD are a result of deer populations too high for their own good. So is the deer-car-collision disease, which is crazy high in PA.

We have to kill a lot more deer. PGC knew that and started it in 2000, and it was a slow and painful process that necessitated an entire cultural shift among tradition-bound hunters.

However, PGC alone doesn’t get all the credit for these big bucks, even though the agency has carried the torch of scientific wildlife management through a hailstorm of undeserved crap. Another reason Pennsylvania has so many massive trophy bucks roaming around is that we have a lot fewer hunters and less hunting pressure over the past five years, and over the past fifty years. There is a big difference between someone who buys a hunting license, because he has been proudly buying a license every year since 1962, as it is part of his personal identity, and someone who buys a hunting license with the intention of squeezing out many of its benefits and opportunities, such as climbing high into remote places in pursuit of huge bucks.

Buying a hunting license is a tradition among many older Pennsylvanians, even if they don’t actually hunt much or at all with it.

If I can think off-hand of five hunters I know who will comment on the dearth of deer hunters seen in the more remote places, I can probably easily find five hundred others who will testify to far less hunting pressure in most places, not just the remote ones. This means that old bucks with big trophy racks have more secret places to go where they can go on growing old, without dying of sudden acute lead poisoning from a hunter standing downwind behind a tree. As the population of really older bucks continues to climb, they begin to spill out into more accessible and less topographically challenged places, where the average Hunter Joes can now occasionally pick one off for the local newspaper’s front page.

c) I miss John R. Johnson as my long time knife maker of choice. John took a break from making his beautiful custom knives about five years ago, and fortunate are those of us who bought his highest-quality products while we could. While it is possible to hunt with a hunk of basic soft steel half-assedly made into a rough knife shape in China, why should we? Ever since the dawn of our species, a hunter-gatherer species, our hunters have ALWAYS prided themselves on the high quality of their weapons and accoutrements. Having a nice rifle and a nice knife is a source of great pleasure for every hunter I know, and most aspire to having the best they can stretch to afford. That is to their individual credit and to our collective credit, as a sign of sophistication and high performance. So if you are fortunate enough to find a JRJ hunting knife somewhere, buy it right away. Cherish it, keep it sharp and well, and use it. It is a product of one of our central Pennsylvania native sons, and a true embodiment of the rugged character and values we here in central Pennsylvania cherish.