Friday, December 31, 2004

Crazy Glue for Dogs



A few days ago my son was messing with the dogs, food was involved, and also a small enclosed space. The end result was that one dog savage another's ear, ripping it in half length-wise.

Thanks to the miracle of phones my son managed to reach me at work and I returned home to examine the situation. The rip was more than 2 inches long -- most of the length of the ear.

Instead of running off to the vet, I opened up my little medical box, cleaned the wound with running water and got the edges flowing again. Then I applied just enough soft pressure to the ear to begin the clotting, pushed the ear edges together and welded them fast with Crazy Glue.

I will have to reapply the glue in about four days, but after that it should be sufficiently knitted together to stay healed on its own.

Compared with a traditional suture, the SuperGlue of Crazy Glue has several advantages. On average, it takes only one-tenth of the time to close an incision with glue than with sutures. The bonding strength of the glue is equal to a 5-0 monofilament suture. It also has an anti-microbial effect that can decrease infection rates in contaminated wounds. The cosmetic appearance of the healed incision is also better with glue than with a suture. And, of course, if you do it yourself it is quie a lot cheaper. Every dog catalogue sells VetBond, which is just a patentable version of Crazy Glue with an Ethyl substitued for the Methly. Crazy Glue is a good thing to have in your kit for ripped ears, paw lacerations, and the like, and it's been used by midwives, medical techs in wars, and construction workers for decades.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

The Sweet Spot for Market Domination




As noted in my earlier post, it is possible right now to put together a 457 khz avalanche locator system for $250.
Since this is based on retail prices for the equipment, I think the components can probably be bought in bulk for half that, with someone making a handy profit while cornering the market for the next 10 years. If anyone is interested in pursuing this, contact me and I can steer you to both American and Swiss innovator-manufacturers with expertise in avalanche locator technology. For now, I am going with two new spare collars to go with my old deben boxs and not-so-old collars.


Monday, December 27, 2004

What Horror Is This?



Four dead deer, cut in half and dumped off a dirt road down by the flood plain of a small river near where I hunt.

A wasteful psychopathic hunter? Not likely. After a bit of a puzzle I figured it out: road kill deer, cut in half by a single-man road crew that loaded them into the back of a small pickup truck before disposing of the bodies in an out-of-the-way location. A few of the deer that had not been too damaged may have been skinned out.

Gut-shot deer and roadkill deer are an important food source for fox in winter. The meat stays good all winter (fox are not too finicky) and provides a ready bounty for fox, possum, coyote and the occasional raccoon. When it snows I will check this area for tracks.
.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Terriers and Avalanche Technology


Avalanche transmitter technology has been around since the 1970s with very little core improvement other than cost reduction.

The main change in recent years has been the rise of digital receivers with little arrows and LED read- outs which make operation of these systems more user-friendly for those who rarely use them.

Though many of the receivers are now digital, the signals are still analog, and they all operate on the same frequency (457 Khz) which means any avalanche transmitter can work with any avalanche receiver, regardless of manufacturer.

The 457 Khz frequency is an international standard that was put aside for rescue devices in 1968. This relatively low frequency (just below the AM dial on a radio) was chosen for rescue work because the signal is relatively unobstructed by walls, concrete, snow, ground, and human bodies, etc.

The new Bellman and Flint terrier telemetry rig, which uses an avalanche receiver and 457 Khz transmitter is going to sell for over $500 -- twice the cost of the new Deben system which, in turn, is twice the cost of the old Deben system.

Bellman and Flint seem to be using an unmodified Pieps DSP (digital signal processing) box as their locator. These locators are made in Austria, and sell for about $350 retail.

The chief advantage of the Pieps DSP box for avalanche rescue is that it can locate multiple burials at once -- a common problem with avalanches, but a rare problem with terriers underground.

An alternative to the $350 Pieps receiver shown above is the 457 Opti 4 Pieps receiver shown below, which costs just $160, and seems to do everything we actually need in the dog world -- and a little bit more. I am unclear as to why this receiver was not selected by Bellman and Flint, or why it should not be selected by others now.

The Pieps 457 Opti 4 has a battery reserve indicator, optical display with 4 LED's, a range of 60 to 70 meters (180 to 200 feet), precision localization to approximately 30 cm (11 inches), volume control with distance marking, built-in speaker, an earphone jack, and a 5-Year Warranty. Like all avalanche locators it will pick up a 457 Khz transmitter signal.

What about the collar?

Several companies make 457 Khz transmitters, and one of these was apparently modified into a collar-locator by Bellman and Flint. A picture of the Bellman and Flint collar is not shown on their web site, but they admit it is bigger than the transmitter used by Deben.

One 457 Khz avalanche transmitter already being used for dogs is the Ortovox Military D1 Transmitter, which has a 30 meter range, and is pictured below. This transmitter comes with a small slit in the back through which to thread a dog collar. It is for sale at Backcountry.com for $85.


Pieps also sells a small 457 Khz transmitter. It's called a Pieps Powder Peep Beacon and is sold separately for about $75. This may be what Bellman and Flint have modified with a magnetic switch (like Merlin hawk locators have), but it's hard to know without seeing a collar.


What about electrical interference from overhead power lines? The Bellman and Flint site does not say their collars are immune to power line interference, but all the avalanche locators seem to be somewhat resistant.


That said, as one avalanche box manufacturer notes, "Irregular readings can be caused by . . . power lines, electrical storms, and electrical generating equipment." Perhaps this is why no claims of resistance to electrical interference are mentioned on the Bellman and Flint web site.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

The Cost of New Locator Collars!




Bellman and Flint are about to come out with a new terrier locator collar that they say "incorporates revolutionary, state of the art features specifically for the location of terriers."

Summary: A single locator box can track more than one collar underground at once, can locate above ground for over 190 feet, and can locate underground to a depth of 50 feet. The collar battery is larger than the deben locator collar and is acticated with a magnetic switch.

Price: The cost for U.S. residents is approximately £250.00 plus £45.00 shipping by FedEx, or about $570 U.S. This is more than TWICE the cost of new "Mark II" terrier collar from Deben (£127 pounds or about $250), and the new Mark II Deben collar is, in turn, about TWICE the cost of the old deben box ($125 for a complete set) For residents of Europeran Union Countries the cost of the Bellman and Flint rig is approximately £280.00 plus VAT plus postage for one collar and one receiver. No word yet on what an extra collar costs.

Availability: The product is currently undergoing extensive testing and will only be available to purchase direct from Bellman and Flint by mail order and at trade stands, from mid January 2005. Details on this website.

After Sales: Bellman and Flint will provide technical advice and full after-sales service.

Range: Maximum depth - Approximately 15m ( 50'). Depending on soil conditions. Maximum Distance - Approximately 60m (198').Example: Dog is 3m ( 9’ ) to ground and the receiver is approximately 50m (165’) from the mark. Screen will show 50m and a directional arrow.

Transmit field: The signal can be received from any direction, ie: above, below or from the side. Transmit field strength is constant over the entire battery lifetime.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _


COLLAR SPECIFICIATIONS

Specification: Frequency: 457khz. To +20 degrees celsius. Transmit power:1.8 mA / m.

Battery Type: CR2 3V Lithium photo battery. High performance in extreme temperatures: - 20 degrees Celsius to +60 degrees Celsius. Readily available.

Battery life: 90 hours on constantly. Over 90 hours when used in intervals of 2 –6 hours. Times are approximate and may vary depending on battery manufacturer.

Switch: Internal magnetic On / Off switch. Allows the transmitter collar to be turned on and off without removing the battery. Hand held swipe magnet supplied. The battery will not discharge when the transmitter is turned off.

Battery Change: Four screws open the casing to allow access to the battery.

LED: 2 LED Lights ( green and red ). Visible through the casing. Flashing Green light indicates that the collar is on and transmitting. Red and Green together indicates 20 hours of battery life remaining. Red alone indicates approximately 10 hours remaining. ( Change battery ).

Casing: Industrial Polycarbonate. Ergonomically designed to minimise snagging and holding by the quarry. Bite resistant in normal use. Shockproof and waterproof. With integral loop for the dog collar. Size at largest points: 3" x 1.5" x 1.5". This is larger than the Deben system, but has huge benefits in terms of signal strength and distance, as well as vastly increased battery life. It has been used on the smallest Jack Russell to the largest Lakeland in digging situations without noticeably impeding the dog.

Collar: 3/4 ” Biothane nylon encased collar. Extremely robust. Bright red for visibility. Solid brass buckle and keeper, copper riveted for strength.

Parts: All parts are guaranteed and can be purchased separately.This includes: Casing, collar, transmitter, magnet, stainless steel screws, and the waterproof seal.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _


RECEIVER BOX SPECIFICATIONS.

The Pieps DSP receiver has been recently developed using state of the art technology for the location and rescue of avalanche and landslide victims. The design of the receiver, its ease of use in stressful conditions, and the manufacturing quality are of the highest standards because it is a life saving device. Bellman and Flint have chosen the Pieps DSP to use with our specially designed collar transmitter due to its revolutionary specifications. The device is enhanced with the latest DSP technology ( = signal processing with a digital signal processor ). It is the only unit currently available which incorporates three antennas, enabling triangulation of the transmitter collar signal. This gives incredible accuracy of distance and depth.

Maximum Range: 60 metres, 195’ ( digital evaluation ).

Transmission Frequency: 457 khz ( international standard frequency ).

Power Supply: 3 batteries, alkaline ( AAA ). IEC-LR03, 1.5 volt. Readily available.

Battery lifetime: Minimum 200 hours in Send mode. Screen shows remaining battery life percentage.

Temperature Range: - 20 degrees Celsius to + 45 degrees. Weight: 198g ( including batteries ).

Dimensions ( LxWxH ): 116 x 75 x 27mm

Battery change: One screw opens battery housing.

Screen & Accoustics: Shows distance in digital figures from 60m to 10cm. Only available in metric. To convert to feet multiply by 3 or read as yards. eg: 3m = 9' or 3 yards. Five arrows indicate the direction of the transmitter collar. ( Straight on, Left & Right ). Automatic backlighting in poor light conditions. An Acoustic beeper changes frequency between 2m and 10cm. Symbol on screen indicates if more than one collar is activated.

Casing: Brightly coloured for visibility. Shockproof and waterproof. Supplied with a nylon case and belt loop. 5 year guarantee.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Old Border Picture



This picture of "border terriers" is by the famed dog artist Arthur Wardle (1864-1949) and shows what these terriers looked like, probably around the turn of the 20th Century.

Today's working terrier enthusiast would not identify these dogs are border terriers -- they might be fells, or perhap fell-border crosses or even patterdales.

In fact all the colored dogs -- fells, border, lakelands, welsh and patterdales -- are very closely related dogs with essentially identical gene pools.

The speciation of terriers really began during Victorian times, and after a few decades of forced selection by non-working rosette-changing kennel club breeders the artifice of breed differences without distinction had been established.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Rosette Hunters vs. Working Terriers

The AKC continues to publish nonsense about working terriers, the AKC "December Breed Profile" on the border terrier being a good example. It can be read in its entirety >> here.

This article is typical of the genre -- a breed profile about a working terrier written by someone who has never worked a terrier and who is quoting people that do not own a Deben collar.

Though the border terrier is always described as "a working terrier" the facts suggest otherwise. Very few of these terriers hunt anymore, in part because the dogs are getting too big thanks to rosette-chasers in the Kennel Club.

Do you know what two border terrier owners say to each other when they want to hunt? "Let's go find a hole dog." That would be a dog that can actually get into a hole and go all the way through, i.e. NOT a border terrier.

There comes a time when a dog's gene pool is so crapped up with large dogs that have never worked that it cannot be saved. We're almost there with border terriers. Not yet, but very, very close. The ban in the U.K. may be all that is needed to push this dog past all possible recovery.

Borders have been going down the AKC rabbit-hole-to-Wonder-Land for a long time. Walter Gardner's border terrier book gives chest measurements for 29 borders in the back. As I note on the Terrierman.com web site:

"Of the 29 Border Terriers measured, 12 had chests larger than 18 inches, 13 had chests that were 17-18 inches in size, 3 had chests that were 16-17 inches in size, and one had a chest that was 15.5 inches in size. Only the last 3 dogs -- the two with 16-inch chests and the one dog with a 15.5-inch chest -- were of a size small enough to follow a regular-sized vixen into a tight earth. "


To read an honest autopsy of the border terrier standard -- what you really have in the field and ring versus what is called for in the standard -- see this table.

No one should be allowed to talk about spanning dogs until they have spanned quarry. The very nice elderly ladies quoted in this article have driven a million miles to attend shows, but I do not believe they have ever dug 5 feet to anything anywhere at any time. They are not alone. It is a telling thing that neither Walter Gardner nor David Kline have a single picture of a border terrier with fox in their otherwise well-done books. A working border is a rare picture indeed!

The fox to be seen here ( link ) was an accidental termination. As a consequence we have pics and measurements for the inquiring mind. Looks like a big animal doesn't it? It's not -- it's just 10 pounds. The average vixen weighs just 10 to 14 pounds.

How big is a fox chest? The picture below shows this same vixen being spanned by a not-very-large woman -- notice that the fingers are totally overlapped. This fox was a young adult vixen in a natal den (she was mated to a dog fox in the area) and she spanned 11.5 inches and was 40 inches long from tip of nose to tip of brush.




Most fox run a bit bigger in the chest than this one, but not by very much.

Fox taxidermy manikins
are sized with 12" 13" and 14" inch chests. There are none larger, anywhere in the world.

A 17" chest span (the minimum chest span of 25 of the 29 border terriers listed in Gardner's book) is that of an adult coyote, not a fox. Unfortunately, coyote's rarely den anywhere, and they never den in England

There is a lot to like about border terriers. As far as I am concerned, the brain between their ears is the highest quality in the terrier world. They have teeth like piano keys, and good ones have wonderful coats that shed rain like a rubber raincoat, and delight in the coldest weather.

That said, most border terriers are too damn big to work, and the gene pool is so loaded with large dogs with large chests that you can have little confidence that the dog you pay $1,000 for as a pup will be usable in the field when it gets to be an adult.

$1,000?? Yep -- that's what they're going for from AKC breeders -- and more. I bet that price makes some drool with envy.

From the working end, that's just another reason to take a pass on this breed. Not for the rosette chasers however. Their judge is not a fox in an earthen sette on a cold and snowy morning, but an overweight plaid-skirted AKC judge on an early Summer afternoon. Their quarry does not have legs of its own -- it is a ribbon, an inanimate object no terrier has ever expressed the slightest bit of interest in.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

How Many Possums Per Spoon?







Possums are North America's only marsupial and have tremendous numbers of young and more teeth any other furbearer in North America.

The bottom picture shows 7 baby possums in a tea spoon at about the time they first make it into their mother's pouch. The middle picture shows the location of the pouch. Pouch mortality is fairly high, and usually only five to eight baby possums survive to peek out in the world two months after being born. Most possums die within the first 9 months of life (killed by cats, dogs, cars, fox, poison, disease, traps, and coyotes) and few make it to age three.

A typical female possum will have two litters a year, each with as many as 18 young. The gestation period for a possum is just 13 days -- the shortest gestation period of any mammal in North America.

Opossums prefer low, damp, wooded streams and swamps. They are nocturnal, and will shelter in hollow trees, firewood racks, brush piles, groundhog burrows, and crawl spaces under houses and outbuildings during the day. Possums are very common in suburbia where they often dine on school-yard refuse, dead squirrels in the road, and cat and dog food left out on people's stoops. Complete omnivores, their tracks looks like those of a space-alien, while their scat can come in any shape and color.

Though possums will hiss a great deal, they are not very formidable creatures, as their teeth are too small, their brains too small, and their response time relatively slow when compared to raccoon, fox or groundhog.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Hitler's Jack Russell


Hitler is under the "X". The Jack Russell was his. >> For another picture


In World War I, it was common to find terriers in the trenches where they served three purposes: messengers (this was before radios, walkie-talkies and telephones), mortar detectors (a dog can hear an incoming shell long before a human can), and gas detectors (a dog can smell a drifting cloud of mustard or chlorine gas long before a human can).

The picture above shows one of the most famous and infamous veterans of World War I -- Adolph Hitler who was gassed despite the Jack Russell dog to the far right. Young Adolph is the fellow with the ridiculous mustache under the "X". In a later picture, Hitler insisted the dog be photographed sitting at his side.


Hitler's terrier apparently had been the mascot of English soldiers and ventured out into "No Man's Land" sometime in late January or early February of 1915 while chasing a rat. The dog jumped into a German trench where Adolf (himself a messenger) caught the Jack Russell terrier and decided to keep it. Hitler named the dog "Fuchsl" or Little Fox.

Adolph fed and taught Fuchsl tricks, and the Jack Russell terrier never left Adolf's side until August of 1917 when the dog was stolen at a train station, apparently by a railroad official who earlier that day had offered Hitler 200 Marks for the terrier. Hitler said he would not take 200,000 Marks for the dog. "I can look at him like I look at a human being", Adoph had written about the dog. "I am crazy about him."

In 1918, in an incident that might have been avoided had his terrier remained with him, Hitler was temporarily blinded by a British gas attack in Flanders.

Though Hitler's maniacal hatred, paranoia and obsession were already becoming self-evident during WWI, the loss of his dog and subsequent gassing may have contributed to his desire to scapegoat others for his -- and his country's -- failures and defeats.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Estate Fox


Beth with fox and estate in background.

We got out late, but it turned out for the best because when Jan arrived she said she'd just left a farm that had six or seven fox settes and "some of the best looking earth's you've ever seen." The farmer wanted the fox moved.

I'm a slow learner and a quick forgetter, but even I know you rob banks because that's where the money is. How far is this farm?

The farm was about 30 minutes away and it was more than promised. The first sette was right next to the driveway up to the house and it was occupied despite the relatively warm temperatures. If it gets any easier than this, I can't imagine!

Pip went in and we netted the hole. Pip snorted and snarfed, and after a while we could hear her working. We waited for a bolt, but nothing happened. We boxed and the dog was clearly in a stem off of the pipe that connected the two holes -- this fox decided to hold up in a blind end rather than bolt to the net.

Pip clearly had the fox up close and there was no getting the dog out now. We boxed again and then began to dig. The digging was fairly easy and we popped into the top of the den about five feet down. The fox was dead under a load of collapsed dirt. Pip may have throttled it, or it may have died from a cave-in as we dug to it; it's hard to say. Pip seemed to be without new marks -- though after a full week in Canada working raccoons the week before, it was a bit hard to tell. Pip's had a good year, that's for sure!

The fox was also in good shape despite the fact that Pip was not that interested in having it pulled out of the hole. The fox was a young vixen weighing 10 pounds with a 11.5 inch chest and a 40 inch length. She was in perfect shape and had a very fine coat. She was a black tip -- not even a single dot of white at the tip of the tail.

My goal with fox is to never dig on a sette or kill a fox -- just put in a dog and let it bolt free or to a net as required -- but sometimes (rarely) other things intervene.

Beth skinned the fox while Jan and I wandered down the field with some more dogs, both of telling jokes the whole way. The next hole was blank and the next too, but on the fourth hole Mountain slid in and opened up.

This was another fine-looking fox sette, but unfortunately it had only one eye. We netted the exit on the off-chance that Mountain might be able to get behind the fox. We waited. Mountain continued to work the fox and after about 40 minutes we boxed her and decided to dig as darkness was not too far off. We never broke through due to a hard layer of rock nearly five feet down, and perhaps due to being a bit off with the box (where the hell was this pipe?). We were very close and Mountain and the fox reved up as we got near. Jan was peering down the entrance hole and I was banging hard with the bar when Mountain backed up under the sound of the digging, with the fox right in front of her.

By now it was dark, and we decided to pull off from the hole and see if Mountain would come out and if the fox might bolt -- she had been working the fox for about 2 hours. Mountain came out after about 10 minutes and I scooped her up -- a solid puncture through the top of her muzzle and a rake down the snout, but otherwise OK.

The fox still did not bolt to the net. We sat and watched it for another 10 minutes, but it was now quite dark and getting cold. We decided to pack up and award the round to the fox. This was probably the large dog fox that the land owner had mentioned when we saw him earlier in the day -- he had been right that the one in his front pasture was a young vixen.

When we got back to the vehicles I examined Beth's excellent skinning job -- a nice clean cased fox pelt. Waste not, want not.

Beth and Jan are fine ladies to go digging with and, as always, we had a lot of laughs. The dogs were fine, the land owner was happy -- all in all, a perfect day.




Beth and Jan -- great fun in the field.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Nice Fox Sette



This is one of three fine fox settes we found on Sunday, two of which were occupied. The long trailing kickout is typical of a fox which, like a dog, simply flings dirt behind it in a plume. Another good indication of what lies below is the fox scat you can see on the left edge of the spoil pile.

The land owner told us this sette had been an occupied groundhog den this summer, but when it was abandoned for winter, the fox took over -- a very normal turn of events. In the East and Midwest fox rarely dig a complete den on their own, prefering to expand the entrace way of a large groundhog hole.

Most dens are located within a few hundred yard of water, and all three of the dens we found on Sunday fit that mold.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Hunters vs. Population Growth



Washington Post, December 12, 2004
So Many Deer, So Much Development
In Game-Rich Loudoun, It's Getting Harder to Find a Safe Place to Hunt
By Brigid Schulte

The dawn is still, a faint brightening just above the dried husks of a Purcellville cornfield, the moon still bright. Jay McKeever freezes and slowly inches down into a squat. A white-tailed buck emerges from a thicket of bare trees, the "big boy" he has tracked all morning.

The buck, colorblind to the blaze orange baseball cap McKeever wears, comes to a halt. It would be a perfect shot -- and a rack of antlers worth mounting. McKeever curses quietly, his Browning .270-caliber deer hunting rifle, with scope, untouched on the frozen ground next to him. The buck startles and bounds back into the woods. "I could have shot, but I don't know where the bullet will go," he whispers. "It could hit a bone and deflect."

These days in Loudoun County, a ricochet could be deadly. The plastic-tipped rifle bullet McKeever uses can keep going after it passes through a deer and travel up to a mile if he misses. And though they are invisible beyond a rise at the edge of the field, a Christmas tree farm and a new development of $700,000-plus homes sit in his line of fire. Some of the yards have brightly colored slides and jungle gyms.

Hunting in the shadow of mansions, McKeever says, is "like a head-on collision. There's just no place to let a rifle bullet loose around here that's not going to wind up getting in trouble."

McKeever lives in the fastest-growing town in the fastest-growing county in the nation. The number of residents has grown 31 percent in three years. He is also smack in the heart of deer country. Not only does Loudoun have more deer per square mile than any other county in the state, but hunters also routinely kill more deer in Loudoun than almost anywhere else in Virginia, nearly 8,000 in 2003 -- and they're hoping for more this year.

Lately, the talk among hunters at the 7-Eleven coffeepots has been about the explosive story out of Wisconsin, where a Hmong hunter who had been on someone else's deer stand on someone else's land shot and killed six hunters. They say the man was a criminal, not a hunter. They fear that the story will give hunters a black eye and embolden hunting opponents to push for more restrictions. But they acknowledge that some of the same pressure that drove Chai Vang to trespass on private property -- the loss of hunting ground to development -- is being felt in Loudoun in spades.

Some longtime Loudoun hunters have simply given it up or gone farther south and west. Others who have seen their hunting grounds turned into townhouses or mansions find other landowners and offer to mend fences, chop wood or pay thousands of dollars for the right to hunt. McKeever has had to seek permission to hunt new land eight times in recent years because developers have put up what he calls "Zactlies" -- homes that all look exactly alike -- on his hunting spots.

Perhaps more disturbingly, hunters and landowners report that the squeeze on hunting land has led to more poaching, trespassing and "spotlighting" -- hunting deer from the road with lights -- all of which are not only illegal, but also potentially deadly.

The trespassing has led to some harsh words between hunters. "But we haven't come to fisticuffs that I know of yet," McKeever said.

Still, what really worries McKeever, who spends months scouting the land between mansions and knows every inch of it and what houses lie beyond it, are the hunters who don't and shoot anyway. The margin for error simply doesn't exist anymore. "All it takes is one accident," said Mark Duda, a consultant who tracks public attitudes toward hunting with Responsive Management in southwestern Virginia.

Ken Fleming, a former law enforcement officer, owns or manages several thousand acres for hunting in Loudoun, where he allows only 12 carefully vetted people to hunt. But this year, for the first time, his phone is ringing off the hook with people asking if they can hunt. And he is hearing shots and finding carcasses that he knows are not his hunters'.

"There's always been somebody that'll break the law, always will be. But we're seeing more of it because even they're being pushed into a tighter area," Fleming said. "Unfortunately, the loss of land has brought in some very unethical persons and situations. It's gotten really out of control."

About 7:30 a.m. on a recent Thursday, the portly, fleece-clad McKeever, 51, a former rodeo rider and scuba diver and now a sheriff's deputy and goose hunting outfitter, lies flat in the cornfield north of Purcellville. A couple of doe have just popped up the bank from a streambed across the field. He has seen about 20 deer since 5:30 a.m., but he didn't shoot for fear that the angle would carry a bullet too close to a house, a tennis court, the road.

"That's a good freezer deer right there," he says.

He holds his breath, steadies his rifle and shoots. The report is deafening, a POW that echoed in the chill morning. A flock of Canada geese, ruffling and honking, flap into the sky. The shot misses, his first miss in 10 years, he says. This is the first year McKeever has hunted this cornfield. The land is owned by a speculator and farmed by a friend who leases hunting rights to him and two buddies. It could be sold at any moment. It is hardly ideal.

McKeever has learned that when the construction workers arrive across the road to the west about 8 a.m. on weekdays, they flush the deer out and send them his way. But if he can't get a shot in the early morning, he likes to wait until the people in the homes across Allder School Road to the north have gone to work. He hates it when he's in camouflage, high in his tree stand in a cherry tree, having taken care to put fox urine on his boots to mask his scent, and hears a man kiss his wife goodbye, call to his dog and drive down his driveway to work.

"You just don't feel like you're in the woods," he says.

In Loudoun, as in so many suburbanizing areas, there is a strange symbiosis between deer and development. For centuries, the white-tailed deer were plentiful in Virginia. But by 1910, they had all but disappeared. In the 1930s, the state began to regulate hunting, shortening the season and prohibiting anyone from shooting a doe. In the 1959 season, 70 deer were taken. But over time, as the deer's natural predators died out, their numbers began to swell. Now, there are an estimated 1 million deer in Virginia, and hunters killed 237,000 last year alone. "A healthy, adult doe may produce two fawns, sometimes three in a season. Unhunted or protected, a herd can double in size every four to five years," said Dan Lovelace, a wildlife biologist with the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. "That's what we've seen. It's been pretty exponential."

State law now encourages Loudoun hunters to shoot the once-protected doe, as many as two a day during the three-month season if a hunter buys $12.50 bonus tags. "Loudoun keeps setting records for numbers of deer killed," Lovelace said. "And it's still not enough."

The more houses that go up, the more havens are created. Lovelace said deer have become so well-adapted to suburban environments, munching on golf course and soccer field greens, that they thrive in small thickets and along streambeds between subdivisions. Hunters say that in Fairfax County, deer have become so accustomed to human ways that they don't really become active until after the morning rush hour.

All of that leads to another strange phenomenon McKeever is noticing: With more development, more refuges and fewer places to hunt, he has seen world-class "monster" bucks like those that people pay thousands of dollars to hunt in places like Alaska and Canada. And that brings more hunters in, legally or not, responsible or not. He recalled the guys he saw last year on a piece of property that was about to be developed. They were there legally, as buddies of a project manager. But they didn't know what they were doing, he said.

McKeever worries that such "yahoos and slobosauruses" will only fuel anti-hunting sentiments among newcomers in Loudoun. "Ten guys who know nothing about the property shooting high-powered rifles right in the back of these huge homes . . ." he said, shaking his head.

Suburban Ambivalence Attitudes in Loudoun have followed a fairly predictable pattern, Duda said. First, suburban newcomers who have never hunted fall in love with the deer and their big brown eyes and don't want to see them killed. They fear for their families' safety when they hear gunshots near their homes.

In Loudoun, this phase culminated in 2000, when newcomers pushed for new hunting restrictions. Now, hunters must be 100 yards from a main road or an occupied house. They may use rifles only in western Loudoun. East of Route 15, hunters may hunt only with shorter-range shotguns or bows and arrows.

In the next phase, Duda said, after even the most vocal anti-hunting advocates have tired of having their hostas and azaleas eaten to nubs, many newcomers begin to see the need for controlling the deer population and grudgingly begin to accept the hunters. Game Warden Bruce Lemmert, who still is inundated with calls complaining about gunshots in hunting season, marks Loudoun's turning point about four years ago, when a young woman died after hitting a deer while driving to work. Laura Dove, who moved to Purcellville 10 years ago, is a case in point. Active in the movement to restrict hunting four years ago, she has come to a truce. She admits to still being "freaked out" at seeing hunters in orange blaze just across her driveway and doesn't understand the guy who puts photos of his kill up on the bulletin board at the gym. But she has narrowly missed hitting deer so many times that she knows there are too many of them.

"The deer are a public danger. Yet you can't have people walking around on two acres shooting deer. It's very confusing. It seems like a huge culture clash," she said. "But until someone actually dies or gets hurt, I really don't see how things will change."

Feeling Exposed McKeever walks through a patch of trees to search for the doe he shot at, just in case. He stands in full view of the large homes across the road.

"Right now, I feel like I'm walking down the street naked, with those people looking out their windows and thinking I'm an idiot," he says, reddening. "This blaze orange is like a neon sign saying, 'Deer Hunter, Deer Hunter, Deer Hunter.' They're afraid of the high-powered rifle."

He stops, musing on the unease in the shrinking woods, and repeating as if for reassurance the gun owner's mantra: "It's only as safe as the person carrying it."

Friday, December 10, 2004

Before and After Stripping






These are "before" and "after" stripping pictures of my border terrier, Trooper.

He can still look pretty good for an old man with a lot of stories to tell and the scars (and a few missing teeth) to prove it.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Gear for Less Makes Christmas Easy

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Some great deals can be had from online military surplus places. Of course, if you do not need it, any purchase is a 100% waste. Having said that, here are a few places worth checking out (they have email lists that give even deeper discounts):




Monday, December 06, 2004

Deer Are Designing Forests




Deer Are Designing Future Look of Forests
Abundant Whitetails Munch Throught the Underbrush

By James P. Sterba, Staff Reporter of The Wall Street Journal, December 1, 2004

MILLERTON, N.Y. -- The deer rose out of a distant swamp before dawn to browse in a hay field on a recent day. Then, as the sun came up, they made their way into a hillside forest, looking for concealment.

But the forest offered few hiding places. It has lots of tall, mature conifers and hardwoods, some 100 years old. Under them, virtually nothing grows -- no seedlings, no saplings, no bushes, and only a few ferns. The floor of this forest, like others around the country, has been stripped clean by whitetail deer.

It's deer-hunting season across the land -- a time when Americans are reminded that bountiful whitetails have their costs. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety said earlier this month that animal-vehicle crashes, mostly involving deer, killed more than 200 people last year and caused an estimated $1 billion-plus in property damage. The U.S. Department of Agriculture says deer cause more than $400 million in yearly crop damage, not including home gardens and ornamental shrubbery. But below the radar of most people, whitetails have been eating their way toward a more lasting legacy: They are wreaking ecological havoc in forests across the nation. They have become de facto forest managers, determining today what many forests will look like 100 years from now, say forest experts.

"Deer have stopped the regeneration of our forests in many areas," says Peter Pinchot, a Yale-educated director of the 1,400-acre Milford Experimental Forest on the Poconos Plateau in Pennsylvania. That means little trees aren't growing up to eventually replace big trees.

Example: oaks. Deer love acorns. Surviving acorns sprout seedlings. Deer love them, too. Surviving seedlings become saplings. Deer strip them of leaves and bark. They die. Result: no young oaks.

Deer also love hickory and white ash, and eschew black birch, American beech and black locust. If they get hungry enough, they'll eat almost anything, and their victims aren't just trees. The ground-level vegetation of the forest "has been severely degraded by over-browsing in many regions, eradicating critical habitat for many plants and birds," Mr. Pinchot says.

Gary Alt, Pennsylvania's chief deer biologist, says that allowing deer to multiply beyond the point where forests can replenish themselves, "has been the biggest mistake in the history of wildlife management." He calls it "malpractice."

Ironically, it was Mr. Pinchot's grandfather, Gifford Pinchot, who helped bring back whitetail deer a century ago. As the first director of the U.S. Forest Service, he helped pioneer a conservation movement to save forests and restore species of birds and animals all but wiped out by commercial hunters.
When he took over the job in 1898, the whitetail population was no more than 500,000 nationwide. Pennsylvania had fewer than 600 deer. Restocking began in 1906 with deer brought in by rail from Wisconsin, Michigan and West Virginia.
With hunting restrictions, the herd grew back quickly. By 1917, Pennsylvania was the too-many-deer poster boy. Hunters loved it. Foresters hated it. Today, Pennsylvania has an estimated 1.6 million whitetails.
"If Gifford Pinchot could see what deer have done to our forests, he'd roll over in his grave," says Bryon P. Shissler, a wildlife biologist in Pennsylvania who consults on deer issues.

Nationally, whitetail population estimates range from 20 million to 33 million -- more than when Columbus arrived five centuries ago, wildlife historians believe.

That's way too many deer to allow forests to regain their health and diversity, says Peter Pinchot. "You walk through the woods of central Wisconsin, where I live, look at the understory and there's nothing there," says Robert Wegner, a historian who has written a dozen books on deer and deer-hunting. Not only is the deer population out of control, the management model of control "is
broken," he says.

"Deer density is increasing. Hunter density is decreasing. Hunters are aging -- we're losing 75,000 a year. Mentors [to recruit young hunters] are going. We're pretty much headed for a train wreck."

Animal-rights groups such as the Washington, D.C.-based Fund for Animals applaud hunting's decline. That group wants hunting outlawed, and advocates non-lethal methods, such as birth control, to decrease deer overpopulations. But birth control, so far, doesn't really work, say most wildlife managers. A general rule of thumb among deer biologists is that hunters need to kill 35% to 45% of the females annually to stabilize the population. But in most places, they aren't killing even half that percentage, according to state tallies.

Who's to blame for the whitetail population boom? Hunters, mainly. But, increasingly, non-hunters and anti-hunters are sharing the blame. For decades, says Mr. Alt, the Pennsylvania biologist, vocal hunters have pressured state wildlife managers to maximize deer populations. Many still do. State wildlife agencies, which collect income from the sale of hunting licenses, obliged by restricting hunting-season lengths and the number of deer a hunter could kill.
By the 1930s, most states had adopted rules banning the killing of does. Bucks are serial breeders, so more females mean more fawns and a bigger herd. These so-called buck laws became a part of the deer-hunter creed. Now states are pushing doe killing to create smaller, healthier herds, but many older hunters are loath to kill females.

When Pennsylvania put more than a million doe-killing permits up for sale this year, one group of hunters, the Unified Sportsmen of Pennsylvania, launched a "Stop the Slaughter" boycott. Doe killing, they argue, is causing deer shortages -- a notion the state disputes. In recent years, states have lengthened hunting seasons, increased the number of deer each hunter can kill and made it easier to get "nuisance" permits, which allow farmers to kill deer causing damage anytime. Southern South Carolina's lengthened season, for example, opens on Aug. 15 and closes Jan. 1. Hunters can kill as many bucks as they want, and doe permits are easy to get. Still, by most accounts, the state's whitetail population is growing. Several states make hunters "earn a buck" -- meaning they have to kill a doe before they are able to kill a buck. And they can essentially buy as many deer-killing permits as they want.

But most hunters hunt for meat, says Mr. Wegner, and once the freezer's full, their incentive wanes. Selling wild game is illegal. Programs in which hunters donate deer to food pantries for the needy have expanded, but not enough, he says. Many of those who live in the forested sprawl tend to be
relative newcomers to the countryside, second or third-generation suburbanites who now own hobby farms, weekend homes, or houses in developments in once-rural areas. Some believe hunting is unsafe or inhumane, and post "No Hunting" signs on their property or push local governments to adopt anti-hunting regulations. This turns large patches of the landscape into deer sanctuaries.

Deer love exurbs, where forest meets garden, with no predators and delicious ornamental shrubbery. "They know where the safety zone is," says Mr. Pinchot. Some studies show that in deep forest, coyotes and bears kill half the fawns, he says. But man has long been the deer's chief predator.

With exurban sprawl, a big threat now is likely to be the family SUV. Depending on the landscape, deer densities of 10 to 15 per square mile can harm wildflowers and nesting birds, according to Audubon Pennsylvania, a conservation group. Tree regeneration may be possible at densities of 18 to 20 per square mile, it says. But in many parts of Pennsylvania, and across the nation, whitetail densities can exceed 70 per square mile. Concerned about bird species being threatened because deer are eating their habitat, an Audubon center in Greenwich, Conn., invited in bow hunters last year. Worried about its forest damage, Illinois has opened 10 of its 319 nature preserves to deer hunting.

For 50 years, until 1991, the forest around Quabbin Reservoir in western Massachusetts was a 58,000-acre sanctuary: no hunting. Deer populations grew to 70 per square mile. Nothing much grew below the trees. "It looked like the Serengeti Plain, with herds of deer running around like antelopes," says David Kittredge, a forester at the University of Massachusetts.
The forest ecology around the reservoir was so degraded that the drinking water of 2.5 million residents was deemed to be at risk. Hunters killed 575 deer around the reservoir in the initial 1991 hunt, and annual hunts since have brought the deer herd down to 10 to 12 per square mile. The forest understory made a comeback. Deer still eat some seedlings but not enough to thwart regeneration. Quabbin became a deer-management model adopted by many nature preserves.

Michael S. Scheibel, natural-resources manager at the 2,039-acre Mashomack Preserve, on Shelter Island in New York, is trying to protect one of the last oak-hickory and oak-beech forests on the Atlantic coast from deer. The preserve has been owned by the Nature Conservancy since 1980. Each January, hunters kill 100 to 150 whitetails. But after five years, he's seeing "very little, if any, forest regeneration."

One problem is that deer swim freely to Shelter Island from nearby Long Island, a giant suburb full of lush habitat, and anti-hunting zones. North Haven, an exclusive village on Long Island, declared a "deer emergency" in 1997, and since then residents have put up enough eight-foot-high wire-mesh fences to make some neighborhoods look like prison camps.

Mr. Scheibel, who manages the Mashomack Preserve, is thinking about other options: applying for nuisance permits to cull more deer, for starters. "I really feel that with traditional hunting we're not able to control the herd," he says. Increasingly, professional hunting teams are hired to kill deer at
taxpayer expense. This usually happens after battles between local factions for and against killing deer. "Market hunting is still taboo, but we talk about it," says Mr. Shissler, the wildlife biologist and consultant. Market hunting -- allowing commercial deer-killing and the sale of wild venison -- has been outlawed since early in the last century.


Sunday, December 05, 2004

America's Founding Terrier


George Washington fox hunting in Virginia

The case can be made that America might not exist today were it not for "our Founding Terrier."

Robert Brooke of Maryland introduced foxhunting to the United States in 1650 and imported the first pack of foxhounds from Great Britain.

Dr. Thomas Walker of Virginia (who discovered the Cumberland Gap and for whom the Walker Coon Hound is named) imported another pack to Virginia in 1742. The first fox hunting pack maintained for the benefit of a group of foxhunters rather than for a single owner, was instituted by Thomas, Sixth Lord Fairfax, in 1747 in northern Virginia.

Walker and Washington were good friends and business partners, and were co-owners (along with Washington's brother-in-law) in the "Dismal Swamp Land Company" (1763) which was to develop land near present-day Norfolk, Virginia. Walker was probably the person that got Washington started in fox hunting.

Washington moved to Mount Vernon, on the Potomac River just below Washington, D.C., after marrying Martha Dandridge Custis in 1759. It was at Mount Vernon, while still in his 20s, that George Washington first began fox hunting in earnest, setting up a rather lavish set of kennels and carefully breeding a new line of American foxhounds that were faster, lighter and less pack-centered than their English brethren.

In 1768, Washington was appointed as a delegate to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia and managed to fill his need for fox hunting at the Gloucester Hunting Club across the River from Philadelphia in New Jersey near present-day Haddonfield.

It was largely because of social and political connections made while fox hunting that Washington's social prominence rose, and in 1775 George Washington was Congress's unanimous choice as commander of the new Continental Army that was to lead the American forces against the British.

In truth, Washington did not have the forces and equipment to wage a successful fight and hold ground, and his chief battle-field opponent, General William Howe of Great Britain, was a master tactician.

Howe defeated Washington time and time again. In August of 1776 Howe landed on Long Island, captured New York City and defeated Washington at White Plains.

In 1777 Howe defeated Washington again, this time at the Battle of Brandywine (near present-day Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania) and took Philadelphia.

In October of 1777, the Battle of Germantown was waged. This battle took place near Philadelphia, and it too was a defeat for American forces, but it was a turning point in the war.

The turning point occured when when a small fox terrier was found wandering between the battle lines. The little dog was scooped up by American soldiers and the dog's collar identified it as belonging to none other than General Howe.

The dog was brought to Washington as a war prize -- a taunt to use against the British -- but Washington was having none of it.

A true dog-man, who missed his own fox hounds and terriers at Mount Vernon, Washington personally wiped the little terrier clean and brushed its coat. He then dictated a short note to his aide-de-camp, Alexander Hamilton, and secretly tucked a private note of his own tight under the collar of the dog. The dog, and both notes, were then returned to General Howe under a flag of truce.

Washington's private note has not survived, but Howe was extremely pleased by it. The public note, a copy of which has survived (see picture below), reads: "General Washington's compliments to General Howe. He does himself the pleasure to return him a dog, which accidentally fell into his hands, and by the inscription on the Collar appears to belong to General Howe."

After his terrier's return Howe praised Washington's actions as an "honorable act" and historians note that although he continued to win his battles, he never pursued Washington with quite the same vigor.

In fact, when ordered to fight harder and show the rebels no compassion, Howe resigned in protest.

Howe was replaced by General Henry Clinton, who was a poor tactician, and General Charles Cornwallis, who was a poor field commander.

In the end, the United States won the war and Washington returned to his beloved Mount Vernon where he continued breeding fox hounds and chasing foxes at least once a week.

Shortly after returning to Mount Vernon Washington imported massive hounds from France with the help of his friend the Marquis de Lafayette. American hounds were crossed with these new French imports, and some of the progeny were sent to the Gloucester Foxhunting Club, outside of Philadelphia, where they proved extremely popular due to their speed.

In 1787 Washington headed the Virginia delegation to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, and again his friends at the Gloucester Foxhunting Club lobbied for his election as the first President of the new country.

After the Constitution was ratified, Washington was unanimously elected President and in time the new Capitol was constructed just down river from his Mount Vernon estate.




Draft of note from George Washington to Howe, in the handwriting of aide-de-camp Alexander Hamilton.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Hancock on the Morality of Breeding





Writing in The Countryman's Weekly of July 14, 2000, Colonel David Hancock writes: "Dog breeders have a huge moral responsibility, magnified by the increasing loss of role for breeds which once worked. Function once decided design. Now the whim of man all too often distorts a design originally drawn up by knowledgeable people who worked their dogs.

"Pastoral breeds were never intended to possess coats, which would hamper them at work. Working Bloodhounds do not display the degree of wrinkle seen in the breed in the show rings of today. Working Bassets, or English Bassets as they have now become known, do not display the over-long backs and under-length legs found in their show ring counterparts.

"The pursuit of undesirable and harmful exaggerations in breeds of dog tells you more about the moral shortcomings of man than about the faults in individual dogs."

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Teckels that are "Gebraushund"



The Germans are very precise about chest measurements as they understand that for a dog to be a "gebrauchshund" (i.e. a "useful" hunting dog), it cannot be too big to fit into a tight den, nor can it be so nose-dead as to be unable to find in the field.

Along with size and nose and gameness, a German working dachshund has to show that it is also not gun shy.

For those interested in the standard for the teckel or hunting dachshund, see >> http://www.teckelklub-berlin-brandenburg.de/usa/fci/fci.html

What is most remarkable about the FCI working teckel standard is how very precise it is about chest size -- perhaps a reaction to what happened in England and in the U.S., where dachshund chest size was allowed to balloon up to the point that show dogs now have chests as deep as the keel of a boat.

As the standard posted at the web site of the Berlin Teckel Club makes clear, the ideal chest size of a working dachshund is just under 14 inches in circumference.

This 14 inch chest measurement is the same size cited as ideal for working terriers by Barry Jones in the UK (see http://www.terrierman.com/barryjones.htm and Ken James in the U.S. ( see http://www.terrierman.com/hunting.htm ), and is about the size of the average red fox chest found the world over (see http://www.terrierman.com/foxsize.htm ).



The FCI Standard for Teckel Chest Sizes
:


  • Standard Teckel: Chest measurement is given as exactly 35 cm, or 13.78 inches. This is about the same size chest as the average red fox.

  • Miniature Teckel: Circumference of chest from 30 to 35 cm measured when at least 15 months old. This is a smaller chest size which would allow the dog to follow even a very small vixen with a chest of about 12 inches or so.

  • Rabbit Teckel: Chest circumference up to 30 cm measured when at least 15 months. These dogs are very small and, as their name suggests, are used for rabbiting. Many have chests that are as small as 10 inches around.

For those interested in working dachshunds in North America, see: http://www.teckelclub.org/hunting-with-dachs.htm