Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Wildlife Numbers in Virginia

Black powder season for deer has started, rabbit season starts next week, and it seems as good a time as any to revue wildlife numbers for my home state of Virginia.

Deer: During the 2003 deer season 237,035 deer were reported killed by hunters in Virginia. This total included 116,629 antlered bucks, 22,346 button bucks, 94,897 does (40.6%) and 3,163 deer of undocumented sex. The 2003 kill figure represents a 10% increase from the 214,847 deer
reported killed in 2002. Archers, including crossbow hunters, killed 17,134 deer, and muzzleloader hunters killed 52,779 deer.

During the 2003-2004 hunting season 1,510 black bears were reported killed by bear hunters, a new record. This harvest represents an increase of 62% from the previous harvest of 932, and a 51% increase from the previous record of 1,000 in 2000-2001. The total included 904
males (59.9%), 599 females (39.7%) and 7 of unknown sex (0.5%). Harvest west of the Blue Ridge Mountains totaled 1,067 (70.7% of total) bears.

Fall Turkey:
Fall turkey hunters reported a harvest of 6,556 birds in the 2003-04 season. This harvest was 19 percent below last years reported kill (8,084), and is likely due to poor reproduction over the past several years due to inclement weather during spring nesting and brood

Spring Turkey:
Spring gobbler hunters harvesting 14,388 birds during the 2004 season, 20% fewer than last year’s total of 17,988, again due to several years of inclement weather which has slowed breeding. The population age structure of Virginia's turkeys is now weighted towards older birds (3+ years) which tend to gobble less and are a little harder to hunt.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Waiting for Snow


The groundhog season is still on, but with the corn off, and Halloween around the corner, it's not too early to think about snow, raccoon and fox. The picture above was taken in January of one of my dogs entering an ice pipe. My notes say the dogs and I took a possum that day up from a very dry hole up on a ridge overlooking a wooded creek, but what I remember the most was the bone-chilling wind that was howling down the pasture as we checked a few empty fox dens. Mr fox was not at home at any of the most likely locations on this farm, and I think this was a groundhog hole drilled out by an animal waking up to evactuate its bowels.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

JRTCA Nationals on Friday, Saturday & Sunday

The 22nd Annual JRTCA National Trial will be held October 22, 23 and 24, 2004 at Susquehanna State Park in Havre de Grace, Maryland, about 30 miles north of Baltimore on I-95. This is the largest single gathering of Jack Russell Terriers in the U.S., with well over 1,000 dogs in attendance.

Only Jack Russell Terriers are allowed on the grounds, so if you have other breeds please leave them at home. As with all trials, pups under the age of four months, and bitches in season, are not permitted on the trial grounds.

For more information, directions, accomodations, etc. see >> The JRTCA web site

Breakfast, lunch, and refreshments will be available throughout the trial. This is the only trial I go to all year, as it's only about an hour from my house and it's always got something new -- new people, new books, new equipment (will the new Deben locator box and collar be there?), and new dogs coming along.

If you're there Saturday, I hope to run into you!

The three-state area surrounding the trial -- Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania -- offers some of the finest land for terrier work in the United States. If you can't come this year, pencil it in for next year now. Hotel rooms are already filling up -- no kidding.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Rescue Me


Is there a bigger oxymoron that the word "Kill Shelter"?

The good news is that the number of dogs being euthenized has fallen rapidly, and continues to decline, as more and more people spay and neuter their pets, more and more people buy purebred dogs, and more and more of these purebred dogs are "recycled" through breed rescue groups.

During the last 30 years shelter intakes and euthenasias have decreased by 60-80 percent in many cities, particularly those located on the East and West coasts of the U.S.

The bad news is that Jack Russell terriers are still one of the dogs most frequently bred and dumped. Part of the problem is that some greedy and foolish people continue to breed dogs with the idea of "making a few dollars" by selling off puppies to anyone that will answer a newspaper or online ad.

An even larger problem are dim-witted owners who decide that because things have "changed" in their lives
they now have to dispose of their dog. Got a new kid? Dump the dog. Divorce? Dump the dog. Moving? Dump the dog. More hours at work? Dump the dog. New spouse? Dump the dog.

To its permanent credit, the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America goes to extraordinary lengths to discourage the ignorant, the first-time dog owner, and the the misinformed from getting a Jack Russell Terrier.

The "Bad Dog Talk" of the JRTCA web site is featured prominenly on their excellent web site (www.terrier.com), and large picture ads are featured in the puppy section of nearly every dog magazine in the U.S. -- all with the message that the Jack Russell Terrer is NOT for everyone, is NOT like those cute little dogs you see on television, and is primarily a very energetic hunting dog.

A Jack Russell is a lot of hunting dog, and if that dog is not trained, well excercised and given an outlet for its instincts, it will invariably bark, dig up the yard, and bite and chew on things it shouldn't. Male dogs are more likely to end up in rescue situations than female dogs -- perhaps due to a higher level of unchanneled aggression in males. The result is predictable: dogs abused for exhibiting instinctive behavior, dogs shuttled from one home to another, dogs given little excercise or training that then escape their yards and are struck dead -- or crippled -- by cars.

Increasing numbers of Patterdale and Jagt terriers are now showing up in places like "Bay Dog Online" -- the preferred dumping ground for people that are breeding too many dogs for the limited working terrier market. Most of these dogs are too large to work underground, and the come-on line "will hunt anything" usually means "has hunted nothing."

Some truly excellent dogs are available from rescue -- dogs whose only crime is that they are no longer little puppies (which conversely means they are house broken and may be at least a little trained).

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Corkscrew Hole

Mountain supervises at a field dig.

Beth K. and I had a lot of fun on Sunday running the dogs. At the first hedgerow Sailor slid into a pipe and opened up within 50 feet of the car. I had just gotton my pack off, and my machete out, when the groundhog bolted. Rock and Mountain caught it above ground at the edge of the field. I waded in for a quick and humane dispatch of a nice-sized groundhog -- a quick start to the day

The rest of the hedge was blank, and so was the next, so after a walking tour of this farm we headed off to another favorite spot. Again we were barely out of the car before the dogs pinged on another sette - this one in the middle of a hay field. Emma was very excited with a little vertical hole far too small for the dogs to enter. Sailor slid in to the larger pipe and stayed down a long time before she began to whine. She was clearly not on it, but something was very clearly there. The box said five feet, and we decided to dig down to see what the obstruction was.

At about four and half feet we broke through and found the groundhog had walled off the pipe. We poked around and found the rest of the pipe off to the side. Sailor went a bit farther and hit another wall -- a pattern we repeated several times as the pipe twisted around and down in a tight corkscrew. Four holes later, Sailor finally found the groundhog, but by this time she was exhausted and had a lot of dirt in her eyes.

We swapped out Sailor for 8-month old Emma who was wound up like a top. Yow -- what a dog this one is going to be! She gave that 'chuck "what for" for 20 minutes, and then we swapped in Mountain who bayed pretty well and got a nice chunk of groundhog butt and began to pull back hard. Mountain pulled and pulled while we opened up the hole a bit more. Mr. Groundhog had to be tiring at least a little.

With considerable difficulty we pulled Mountain out and put Rock in. This groundhog was going to have to have more muscle than two big dogs! Rock pulled and pulled, and eventually Mr. Groundhog slipped out of the pipe. I snared it by a back foot and pulled it out for dispatch. It was not all that large -- maybe 8 or 9 pounds -- but it sure did give us a run for the money! We backfilled in the holes -- we had moved a lot of dirt, and hoped the hole would "hair over" quickly. A very fun day, and a notable day for Emma who looks like she's going to be a very good looking little Super Star.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Will Prairie Dogs Decide the Senate?


Will prairie dogs decide the leadership of the U.S. Senate?
That's the way things are shaping up as Republican John Thune of South Dakota attempts to paint Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) as "soft on prairie dogs."

The question is not between protection and extermination; it's about who has the most agressive plan to gas and poison the little marmots which once existed in colonies of hundreds of millions across the Western United States.

Efforts to protect the prairie dog in order to a provide food source for the endangered black-footed ferret were so successful in South Dakota that ranchers grazing their land on federal property are now complaining about the competition. Across the American West, there are now 18 million praire dogs -- a small fragment of what once existed, but with some notable population densities in parts of South Dakota.

Call me soft on marmots (the marmots themselves, it should be said, have never made that claim), but I think prairie dogs should be allowed to thrive. and that cattle grazing on Federal Land should be curtailed. The great native eco-culture of the West has always included prairie dogs and should be made whole; that's what it is to be a steward to the land. >> Click here to read page one Washington Post article on the controversy.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

John Kerry: A Sportsman's Bill of Rights


Kerry-Edwards: Sportsmen's Bill of Rights

"As a life-long hunter and fisherman, I am proud to be among the millions of American sportsmen and sportswomen who are dedicated to conserving fish and wildlife and passing along the American hunting and fishing heritage to the next generation." -- John Kerry

"A Kerry-Edwards administration will create a Sportsmen's Bill of Rights with America's sportsmen and sportswomen to ensure that the basic rights of all Americans to legally and safely hunt and fish are protected.

Our Sportsman's Bill of Rights contains six rights:

a The Right to Own Firearms: John Kerry and John Edwards will always support the Second Amendment right of law-abiding American citizens to keep and bear arms, such as rifles and shotguns, including semi-automatic firearms used by hunters and sportsmen across this country. Gun rights are fundamental for the sport of hunting, and they will vigorously support those rights.

Like President Bush, and sportsmen and law enforcement officers across this nation, John Kerry and John Edwards also support the extension of the current assault weapons ban.

a The Right of Access to Areas to Hunt and Fish: One of the greatest challenges facing hunters, and to a certain extent anglers, is the dwindling access to nearby places to hunt and fish. More and more, America's sportsmen and sportswomen are facing the loss of land to urban sprawl, leasing of private lands for pay hunting, or simply an unwillingness of private landowners to risk the liability associated with the public hunting or fishing on their lands.

A Kerry-Edwards administration will work to open millions of new acres of land to public hunting and fishing by providing better funding for state walk-in access programs. A number of states currently pay private landowners, on a voluntary basis, to open their lands to the public. This has resulted in millions of acres being made available in the West and Midwest to hunting and fishing. These programs need more resources. That is why John Kerry and John Edwards have supported legislation called the "Open Fields" bill. This bipartisan legislation will provide $50 million each year to state agencies to strengthen existing walk-in access programs and to encourage states that do not currently have walk-in programs to establish them.

a The Right to High Quality Fish and Wildlife Habitat: As every hunter and angler knows, healthy and abundant habitat is the key to maintaining fish and wildlife. A Kerry-Edwards administration will focus the efforts of the Department of Interior, Department of Agriculture, and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on conserving and restoring habitat throughout this country. Some of this work will entail expanding the use of voluntary, incentive-based land and water conservation programs that target private landowners and farmers. In other cases, it will involve enhancing upland habitat or better protecting water quality on federal lands.

In the case of wetlands, where so many birds and fish live, the situation is critical. Loss of wetlands threatens the future of waterfowl hunting as well as of fishing, bird-watching, and even water quality. John Kerry and John Edwards will ensure that the Fish and Wildlife Service immediately develops and implements a comprehensive plan to restore thousands of acres of wetlands lost over the last few decades and that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Corps of Engineers strengthen protection for wetlands. A Kerry-Edwards Administration will rewrite the existing field guidance for EPA and the Corps to ensure the maximum protection of wetlands. They will also increase funding for wetlands protection and restoration under the North American Wetlands Conservation Act.

a The Right of the Protection of Wildlife from Irresponsible Oil and Gas Drilling: While there is no doubt that America needs to find and develop more natural gas and oil reserves, the current effort to exploit these resources on federal lands in the West is putting fish and wildlife unnecessarily in harm's way. Under a Kerry-Edwards administration, the federal land management agencies will take seriously the multiple use mandates and ensure that fish and wildlife resources are not sacrificed to irresponsible drilling. Lands that are better used for hunting, fishing, camping, and other uses not compatible with intensive drilling will be set aside.

At the same time, more resources will be devoted to strengthening federal land management field offices. This will allow better land management plans to be developed with input from all interested parties - including hunters and anglers, ranchers, and local businesses that rely on a healthy range - so that necessary monitoring can take place and decisions on legitimate proposals to develop these oil and gas resources can be made in a timely manner. And where federal lands are leased and permitted for energy development, sufficient protective conditions will be applied to ensure that fish and wildlife are not adversely affected.

a The Right of Wise Management of the National Forests: Many fish and wildlife species depend on the wise management of the national forests. In previous years, the management of our federal lands too often has been driven by politics rather than by common sense. Some management needs to take place each year. John Kerry and John Edwards will undertake legitimate thinning projects to reduce the risk of fire around communities and to create a mosaic of habitat in the forest. In managing the forests, they will also seek to protect the remaining wild places and critical spawning habitat. To provide hunters, anglers, and hikers with the solitary experience many of us seek from time to time, and to prevent further fragmentation of our forests, we should prevent the construction of new roads into our remaining roadless areas.

a The Right to Fair Share of Federal Funding for Fish and Wildlife Programs: Sound stewardship of the nation's fish and wildlife, and the habitat on which they depend, relies on a consistent commitment of resources to federal and state natural resource agencies. The Conservation Security Program-if properly implemented and fully funded-also provides enormous potential by making financial and technical assistance available to farmers to promote the conservation and improvement of soil, water, air, energy, plant and animal life on private working lands. Federal tax policy also can contribute to conservation by encouraging the donation of easements on private lands, which ensure that these lands will remain free of destructive development in perpetuity. John Kerry and John Edwards strongly support guaranteed and increased funding for federal and state fish and wildlife programs and for public land conservation. In addition they will enhance tax incentives on donations of private lands for conservation.

Farm programs like the Conservation Reserve Program and the Wetlands Reserve Program have contributed enormously to the cause of conservation, to improved water quality, and to farm and ranch income. These voluntary programs represent an important partnership between landowners and hunters. John Kerry and John Edwards will work with the conservation and agriculture communities to expand these programs. They will also work to use the Farm Bill to maximize benefits to fish and wildlife consistent with providing strong economic support to rural America through existing farm programs.

Throughout the United States, diseases, such as Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), are affecting our nation's wildlife populations. Kerry-Edwards will empower the US Department of Agriculture and the US Department of the Interior to further study and better coordinate the scientific research into the prevention and eradication of CWD and similar wildlife diseases. They will also provide increased federal funding to further research CWD and to identify and implement effective management strategies.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Groundhogs Saving Humans & Chimps

Drug Discovery and Development
April 1, 2004
Some Model Organisms Are Mightier Than the Mouse

Chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) is one of the 10 most common causes of death. Worldwide, more than one million out of the 350 million chronic carriers of HBV die each year from complications of the disease. In the United States, approximately 1.25 million people are believed to have chronic HBV and an estimated 200,000 people become newly infected each year.

Approximately 4,000 to 5,000 people in the United States die each year from hepatitis-B-related chronic liver disease or liver cancer, and it is the leading cause of liver cancer. Endeavors to contain the global pandemic of human HBV infection have been hindered by the virus's limited host range and the inability to propagate HBV in cell culture. Then, in waddles the woodchuck (Marmota monax), more commonly known as the groundhog.

Woodchuck hepatitis virus (WHV) is closely related to HBV in its virus genetic organization and mechanism of replication. "The groundhog, the one who just saw his shadow, has its own hepatitis virus that develops into a progressive hepatitis and hepatocellular carcinoma that's very similar to the HBV-associated hepatocellular carcinomas in humans," says Leland. The predictable course of experimental WHV infection leading to liver disease in woodchucks makes them an ideal animal model in which to study the natural history of hepadenavirus and to develop effective antiviral strategies.

Research comparing the results of the effect of nucleoside analogs in woodchucks with their effect in humans demonstrates that it is an excellent model to test anti-HBV therapies. Studies show that without any treatment, more than 75% of infected woodchucks die by age 3 years, usually from primary liver cancer due to WHV. By age 4, more than 95% die due to WHV-related primary liver cancer, a sequela that is common in humans with HBV. "It's a reproducible model, found in the wild, with a much shorter time course and many similarities to the human disease," says Leland.

Historically, chimpanzees have been the cornerstone of all research on HBV infectivity, safety, and vaccine efficacy. The woodchuck model has a major advantage in that it can be adapted to the experimental laboratory and therefore eliminate many of the ethical and endangered status concerns associated with using chimpanzees.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Your Very Own Dog Book

There are a lot of people with a few dozen pictures and a small story to tell, and the folks at MyPublisher.com hope to capitalize on that.

If you a have bunch of new puppy pictures you would like to keep, or perhaps have a few dozen hunting photo's that you would like to put between a binder with a few captions, this is the tool for you. My brother made a very nice little book of family photos, and though I have not done it, I suspect if he can do it, you can too! The results (the pocket book) really were great looking (he is a gifted photographer, so that helps). Show ring people might want to put together a book of photos of their dog's ancestors.

A pocket book of photos costs only $10 and is a great Christmas gift for the breeder you got your dog from, or the folks you go hunting with.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

More Digging on the Dogs

Beth with a nice Sunday groundhog.

Beth K. and I had a lot of fun on Sunday, hiting a hedgerow on a cool morning. About half way down the hedgerow all of the dogs pinged on a sette, but no one bayed and no one stayed under very long. We gave them a while to find, but no one opened up, so we moved down the hedgerow a bit farther. We hadn't gone very far, however, before I noticed that Sailor was not to be found, so I went back and boxed and there she was -- still silent, but down there working something without a doubt.

We boxed and she was not deep, and when we opened it up, she was able to get past the obstruction and she was soon up against a very nice groundhog. I snared this one as it bolted, and we let it go before repairing the den. A nice quick start to the day!

The next sette was on the turn in the same hedgerow, and this time Mountain got there first. This sette was under a large felled tree in a thickly overgrown part of the hedge. Beth went back to the car to check the dogs for heat while Mountain settled in to locate and I boxed. While clearing away the deadfall above ground, I found a nice three-tined deer antler shed in one of the holes -- a bit of a bonus which lifted my spirits as such small unexpected finds often do.

Mountain was making sounds underground close by, but Pip liked the pipe that had the antler in it. I let her off the lead and she stuck her head down that hole, and it soon became clear she had the butt of the groundhog while Mountain was up at the head. I let them work it a while until Beth came back. When Pip finally let go of her end I began to cut into the top of the pipe, which only served to split Mountain off from the groundhog. The good news is that this one did not get very far -- it buried itself in the dirt in the floor of the pipe. Pip quickly located it again and took most of the fur off the tail before I could figure out what end was which. I tailed this one out for a quick and humane dispatch, and Beth and I repaired the den.

We headed off to another farm. After checking a few blank holes on a small rise, we walked to the back side of the farm where there are some nice settes, but before we got there we stumbled across an enormous field sette on a shallow hill. Lots of holes and lots of dirt moved!

Pip went in and bayed up a storm. We set down the tools and Beth boxed the dog at 10 feet. After a bit Pip managed to move this groundhog up to the 5-foot mark and we began to dig. At two feet we unexpectedly broke through to an enormous cavern that was at least two feet tall. At the bottom was Pip, working a whistle-pig at an exit pipe at the very bottom of this palatial "room".

We pulled the dog and cleared out some of the dirt, but could not find the groundhog. We put the dog back in.

Pip was confused for a while, but she finally managed to get her mark and she began to dig downwards and to the side. In short order the groundhog was located and it began to whistle at the dog.

A little exploration with the bar revealed that this was a tripple-decker hole, with another big pipe underneath the pipe we were digging in. Thank goodness the groundhog was bunkered off to the side in an overlay of tough rock and hard dirt! We earth-stopped the side pipes to make sure the groundhog could not slip past if we had to pull Pip again.

It soon became clear that Pip could not get the groundhog unless we opened up the pipe some more, so we pulled her, and I barred into the rock and dirt. That did the trick! Pip was a little worse for the wear at this point, so we let Beth's big dog, Rock, go in and do his thing.

Rock went in and worked like a pile driver, but this groundhog was still very well protected. Rock eventually pushed it hard enough that the groundhog decided that bolting was the better part of valor and I managed to tail it out as it wobbled out to look for a side pipe.

This was pretty big groundhog -- about 14 pounds (a guess) with a 14.5 inch chest (field-measured).

Pip got a small cut on her lower lip, and Rock lost a few of his longer eyebrow hairs banging on the rock, but otherwise the dogs were in fine shape, and it was a grand day out digging. Pip and Rock did great, and Beth, as always, was great fun and a lot of laughs.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

A Hawking & Dirt Dog Combination

Teddy Moritz with miniture dachshund, Harris Hawk and seven nice cotton tales -- a good day in the field!

The miniature dachshund is an undervalued dog in the field, where its keen nose, small size, booming voice and ability to stay out of serious trouble make it invaluable when hunting week in and week out.
Lancaster News, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, February 17, 2002
Miniature hounds do a big job in the field

By: John McGonigle


Teddy Moritz of Rockaway, N.J., is a real piece of work. I mean hard-core. And I mean it in the best possible way.

No Janie come lately, Moritz has been involved with falconry since 1966.

Married, with grown children, Moritz quit her various naturalist and Fish and Wildlife agency positions because work was interfering with her hunting.

"My husband is a saint," Moritz said of her active hunting schedule.

As if hawks are not enough work, Moritz became involved with miniature longhair dachshunds in 1976.

"Only the hunting kind," Moritz said quickly. "All my dogs have Field Champion titles and American Working Terrier Association Natural Hunting certificates."

While it is evident that her dog's titles and certificates are important, Moritz said pointedly, "The dogs have to satisfy my criteria."

Which, by watching the way her dogs work, appear high.

Moritz is also an American Kennel Club judge for field trials and earth-dog trials. Earth dogs are terriers and other dogs bred to enter underground dens, or burrows, to oust concealed wildlife.

Moritz's hunting clothes reveal a lot about her. The colors are muted, well worn and

She is soft-spoken in the field, as hunters should be. She has no false modesty and speaks highly of her dogs while they ably demonstrate the good qualities she conveys. Moritz is resolute and confident as she follows her small hounds with her Harris hawk. The day's events affirm her confidence.

The miniature longhair dachshunds Moritz breeds, trains and hunts are genuine, realistic hunting dogs. Though I generally have no use for very small dogs, these 7-to-10-pounders opened my eyes. I would guess their legs at six inches, maximum, but they move them, and keep moving them. They have a lot of heart.

Don't misunderstand me; these miniatures are not fast. But they are fast enough to push a rabbit from the brush, keep on its tail and keep it moving. That is all that is needed for either falconry or regular rabbit hunting.

While following Moritz's miniature hounds (remember, they weigh 7-10 pounds each) near an apartment complex, we rounded a corner of a woodlot and saw three boys, probably about fourth graders, running for their collective lives with about five miniature longhair dachshunds chasing them.
Moritz called her dogs and they broke off the chase, not that their little legs could ever catch the youngsters. It was the funniest thing I have ever seen while hunting.

The youngsters approached us, cautiously at first, to see the small dogs and found them not only harmless, but also lovable. We added three more (little) brush beaters to the group.

Moritz's hounds were black and tan, colored and marked very similarly to a Gordon setter. The dogs are cute little things and are definitely functional hunters.

Teddy Moritz and her miniature hounds added a great deal to our falconry experience. They made an already great day better.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Cheney's Canned Hunt

I have always considered "shoots" to be little more than canned hunts. Tame, pen-raised birds are released at first light, often tossed into the air by hired hands, where they may spend as much as 15 minutes "in the wild" before they are blasted out of the air by rich smug men who kid themselves that they are "hunting". No one gets dirty, and the rich do not even gut and pluck their birds -- the hired hands do that.

This is to hunting what "chicken-hawk" draft dodgers are to true warriors that voluntarily put themselves in harms way.

This is skeet-shooting with chickens. This is chicken-sh**.

Angus Phillips, the outdoor writer for The Washington Post writes of these hunts: "[Y]ou have to wonder what kind of hunter takes delight in shooting 70 tame pheasants in a morning. What's the point? I like eggplant parmesan sandwiches; nothing makes me happier than having one for lunch. But you wouldn't try to eat a dozen of them. All states have limits on the number of wild game birds hunters can take in a day. Even in states where pheasants are abundant the limits are fairly strict. In pheasant-rich South Dakota the bag limit is three a day; on farms there where pen-raised birds are added to the wild population, the limit is six, which sounds like plenty of birds to me. But on toney Eastern preserves like Rolling Rock, where all the birds are pen-raised, you can shoot till your arm falls off. Evidently there's still a market for that sort of thing among supposedly responsible adults. Who knew?"

The article below recounts Dick Cheney blasting away 70 pen-raised pheasants in a morning, and presumably the same number of ducks in the afternoon. That's almost continuous firing at domesticated poultry, with your tax dollars idling on the runway.

From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Cheney in region for small-game hunting
By Rebekah Scott, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

One of Washington's big guns came to Westmoreland County yesterday for a day's shooting at the Rolling Rock Club in Ligonier Township.

For the second time in two years, Vice President Dick Cheney arrived at daybreak at Arnold Palmer Airport in Latrobe. Air traffic was halted briefly at about 7 a.m. as Air Force Two landed and Cheney's security detail loaded him and his favorite shotgun into a Humvee and drove up U.S. Route 30 to the exclusive country club.

"All I'm allowed to say is there's a big military plane on the ramp, and it's not the first time I've seen it there," said airport manager Gabe Monzo. Cheney shot more than 70 ringneck pheasants and an unknown number of mallard ducks. The birds were plucked and vacuum-packed in time for Cheney's afternoon flight to Washington, D.C.

John Smith, law enforcement supervisor for the Pennsylvania Game Commission, said he was alerted to Cheney's day-trip. Rolling Rock has a game-raising program worthy of a second-in-command, he said, and unlicensed bird hunting is legal this time of year for guests at private clubs.

Scott Wakefield, a dog handler at the club, said about 500 farm-raised pheasants were released from nets for the morning hunt. The 10-man hunting party that included Cheney shot 417 pheasants. The vice president was set to hunt ducks in the afternoon.

Cheney followed a similar hunting schedule in November 2002, when he last visited the Ligonier Township landmark.

Cheney's Washington staff would not confirm his whereabouts yesterday, saying: "Today is his day off and he can spend it where he likes." Spokesman Kevin Kellems said Cheney is expected back in Washington today for a full day's work.

Southwestern Pennsylvania is a quick flight from Washington, D.C., a good alternative to Cheney's favorite South Dakota hunting ground.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Fifty Years of Failing to Ban

The first attempts to ban fox hunting in the U.K. took place more than 50 years ago. Below here are some of the key dates, supplied by researchers at the BBC:

1949 - Two private member's bills to ban, or restrict, hunting fail to make it onto the statute books. One is withdrawn, the other is defeated on its second reading in the Commons. The Labour government appoints a committee of inquiry to investigate all forms of hunting. The committee concludes: "Fox hunting makes a very important contribution to the control of foxes, and involves less cruelty than most other methods of controlling them. It should therefore be allowed to continue."

1970 - The House of Commons votes for legislation to ban hare coursing. However, the bill runs out of time when the general election is called.

1992 - A private member's bill to make hunting with dogs illegal is rejected by the Commons. The Wild Mammals (Protection) Bill, proposed by Labour MP Kevin McNamara, is defeated on its second reading.

1993 - Labour MP and animal rights campaigner Tony Banks fails in his attempt to get Parliament to pass his Fox Hunting (Abolition) Bill.

1995 - Labour MP John McFall is unsuccessful with his private member's bill to ban hunting with hounds. The Wild Mammals (Protection) Bill passes its second reading in the Commons. But it is heavily amended before it falls in the Lords.

May 1997 - The Labour Party wins the general election. In its manifesto it promises: "We will ensure greater protection for wildlife. We have advocated new measures to promote animal welfare, including a free vote in Parliament on whether hunting with hounds should be banned."

5 November 1997 - Labour MP Michael Foster publishes a private member's bill to ban hunting with dogs. The government delivers a blow to the chances of the bill becoming law by refusing to grant the legislation any of its Parliamentary time.

1 March 1998 - After the Foster bill passes its second reading in the Commons, the pro-hunting Countryside Alliance organises a massive protest rally in London. An estimated 250,000 people join the countryside march to protest against the bill and threats to other aspects of rural life.

13 March 1998 - Hunt supporters celebrate as the Foster bill runs out of time during its report stage in the Commons. The bill is talked out by hunt-supporting MPs who table hundreds of amendments to block the legislation's progress. Mr Foster pledges to fight on.

3 July 1998 - Mr Foster withdraws his bill citing the "cynical tactics" of his opponents. He insists that to carry on would deprive other valuable legislation, such as a law on puppy farms, of valuable Parliamentary time. He predicts that fox hunting will still be banned during this Parliament. But he says it is now up to the government to see the job through.

8 July 1999 - Prime Minister Tony Blair makes a surprise announcement that he plans to make fox hunting illegal and before the next general election if possible.

12 July 1999 - Labour denies that Mr Blair's pledge is connected to an extra £100,000 donation it had received from an anti-hunt pressure group. The Political Animal Lobby (PAL), had previously given £1m to the party before the 1997 election. PAL had also made donations to the Tories and the Liberal Democrats.

21 July 1999 - Labour MSP Mike Watson announces plans to put forward a private member's bill in the Scottish Parliament to ban hunting with dogs in Scotland. He predicts the bill could come into force by Spring 2000.

15 September 1999 - Hunt supporters set up a national body, the Independent Supervisory for Hunting, to ensure hunting is carried out in a "proper and humane manner".

1 October 1999 - Tony Blair insists he can deliver his promise to ban fox hunting before the next election, despite claims that it will have to wait until the House of Lords is reformed.

11 November 1999 - The government announces it will support a backbenchers' bill on fox hunting.

14 November 1999 - Home Secretary Jack Straw announces an inquiry into the effect of a fox hunting ban on the rural economy, to be led by Lord Burns.

March 2000 - MSP Mike Watson's bill starts its passage through the Scottish Parliament.

April 2000 - Mr Straw looks at producing a bill where MPs choose between the three options of an outright ban, no change and stricter regulation of hunting.

30 May 2000 - Labour backbenchers urge the government to put its weight behind a hunting ban or risk losing voters, and Labour MP Gordon Prentice proposes an amendment to the Countryside and Rights of Way Bill to ban the sport.

June 2000 - The Burns inquiry says between 6,000 and 8,000 jobs would be lost if hunting was banned, half the number suggested by some pro-hunt groups. It finds no conclusive evidence that foxes suffer physical pain when pursued, but accepts they do not die immediately.

February 2001 - Hunting suspended because of the foot-and-mouth disease outbreak.

28 February 2001 - MPs vote by a majority of 179 for an outright ban as the hunting bill clears the Commons

26 March 2001 - House of Lords votes by 317 to 68 against the ban. The hunting bill runs out of time when the general election is called.

June 2001 - The Queen's Speech promises another free vote for MPs on hunting.

October 2001 - More than 200 MPs back a Commons motion calling on the government to honour its promises and make time for a vote on banning hunting.

February 2002 - Scottish Parliament bans hunting in Scotland.

28 February 2002 - Ministers ready to set out timetable for a hunting bill.

March 2002 - The House of Commons and the House of Lords are asked to choose between three options: a complete ban, the preservation of the status quo and the compromise of licensed fox hunting. The Commons opted for a complete ban while the Lords chose the "Middle Way" option.

3 December 2002 - Rural Affairs Minister Alun Michael unveils the Hunting Bill, which would allow some fox hunting to continue under a strict system of licensing but would outlaw hare coursing and stag hunting. Mr Michael says he hopes the compromise would avoid further lengthy battles between the pro-hunting Lords and the anti-hunting Commons.

26 June 2003 - Commons Leader Peter Hain tells MPs he has been advised that major amendments to the bill - such as moves towards a complete ban on hunting - could mean it has to be sent to a standing committee and cause delays.

30 June 2003 - An amendment from Labour MP Tony Banks proposing a complete ban is passed by 362 votes to 154.

1 July 2003 - Alun Michael says that he would be surprised if there was not a ban on fox hunting, with a few exemptions, by 2005. MPs vote to turn the Hunting Bill into an outright ban on hunting with dogs after five hours of intense Commons debate by 362 votes to 154.

10 July 2003 - Hunting Bill clears the House of Commons after MPs give the measure, which makes no provision for compensation, a third reading by 317 votes to 145.

21 October 2003 - The bill returns to the House of Lords for its committee stage. A cross-party group of peers throws out MPs' plans for a complete ban and replace them with a licensing regime for fox and stag hunting, as well as hare coursing. But anti-hunting MPs vote for the bill to be re-written to become a wholesale ban on hunting with dogs in England and Wales. The House of Lords then rejects that call in a vote and the legislation runs out of parliamentary time.

8 September 2004 - The government announces plans to give MPs a free vote on the Hunting Bill by the end of the parliamentary session in November. The Bill is similar to the one originally proposed and would lead to an outright ban on fox hunting. Rural minister Alun Michaels says the fox hunting issue has already taken too much parliamentary time and the government is prepared to deploy the little-used Parliament Act to over-rule the Lords if peers try to block it. But Commons leader Peter Hain says, if the bill becomes law, an actual ban on fox hunting would not come into force for two years. This would allow people involved in hunting to wind down their businesses, but also avoids pro-hunting demonstrations during 2005's expected general election campaign.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Just A Couple of Outdoor Guys?

Deadly with a gun, but maybe not in the way intended.

Time Magazine, September 20, 2004

Just A Couple Of Outdoor Guys

George W. Bush unwinds by clearing brush. John Kerry has a weakness for windsurfing. But both the President and his Democratic rival stress their more macho outdoor pursuits in interviews in the October issue of Field & Stream, due on newsstands this week. (They are on the cover for newsstand readers, but are supplanted by a whitetail deer in editions sent to subscribers.)

The two answer questions on a variety of policy issues, from the environment to gun control, but also make a strong pitch to the rod-and-gun crowd.

President Bush, it seems, favors bass fishing (he once hooked a 9.5 pounder on Rainbow Lake in Texas) but also likes to fly-fish for ocean stripers and hunt quail with his dad. "You know, I'm not a very good shot," the President admits. He likes to fish with Barney, the family's Scottish terrier--"a great fisherman," who "sits on the bow of the boat for hours."

Kerry, for his part, favors saltwater fishing, mainly for bluefish and stripers. A good shot, the Senator says he occasionally goes bird and rabbit hunting and has hunted deer but has never bagged one bigger than an 8-pointer. "I once had an incredible encounter with the most enormous buck," he says, "16 points or something. And I failed to pull the trigger at the right moment." Don't tell Dick Cheney.

Friday, October 01, 2004

A Damn Good Shot

National Review
March 1, 2004, Monday

Hunting for Votes

Hunting and fishing may not be politically correct, but there are 47 million hunting and fishing enthusiasts in America. Add in some sympathetic family members, and suddenly the sportsmen's vote looks pretty significant.

Nearly all recent presidents have enjoyed either hunting or fishing, or both. President Bush went quail hunting with his father on New Year's Day, but his most often-publicized hunting trip came a few years ago, when he went dove hunting and mistakenly shot a killdeer--a protected species of shorebird that looks a lot like a dove. Bush reported himself to the local game warden and paid the fine with no qualms.

Late last year Bush showed his support for sportsmen at a one-hour meeting in the Theodore Roosevelt Room, where he sat down with representatives of twenty20 sportsmen's organizations. This is the first time in at least a decade that sportsmen's organizations have been invited to the White House.

At the meeting the president stated that the "spirit of the outdoors" was important to him and his administration. He felt that his was among the more outdoors-oriented administrations, which puts him in the company of Theodore Roosevelt and Dwight D. Eisenhower.

And he's backing up these words out in the field. Under the present administration, fifty U.S. Fish and Wildlife refuges have been opened to hunting or fishing, and last September the administration supported an initiative of the Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation to increase public access to federal lands. The president has also asked for $22.6 million more for Fish and Wildlife next year.

Yet while the president has the support of many sportsmen, he has also received criticism from a number of groups regarding the administration's plans for energy exploration and development in wild areas, including a plan to put new roads in roadless areas--especially the Tongass National Forest in Alaska.

More than 400 gun clubs across the nation object to the Forest Service's plans for development. A poll conducted by the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Alliance found that 76 percent of Democrats, 66 percent of independents, and even 58 percent of Republicans support protecting these areas.

One might think that an overwhelming majority of hunters are Republicans, but that's not necessarily so. The three states with the largest numbers of hunters--Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin--are where labor tends to support Democrats, and the south has a strong "conservative Democrat" constituency.

When he ran for president, Al Gore seemed to forget the popularity of hunting, fishing, and shooting, and many pundits have suggested that Gore's rejection of his roots (along with his anti-gun positions) figured very much into his loss of the election.

Democrats seem to have learned from Gore's mistake. But as John Lott and Grover Norquist have recently pointed out, the candidates also support some gun-control issues, such as assault-rifle bans and gun-show and concealed-carry restrictions. President Bush, however, also supports the assault-weapon ban.

Tom Daschle as well as nearly all the Democratic presidential candidates this year have come out as pro-Second Amendment. Daschle also supported S.659, the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which "prohibits any qualified civil liability action from being brought in any state or federal court, and ... requires the dismissal of pending actions." This earned him "thanks" from the NRA.

Before dropping out of the primaries, Gen. Wesley Clark claimed that he was a hunter, and Howard Dean talked about hunting and fishing as well as his support for sportsmen's issues in Vermont. Many of my neighbors in the liberal San Francisco area adore Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich, but even he has come out saying that while he's "sensitive to guns...[it's] possible to have gun laws that in no way interfere with hunters."

John Edwards has spoken of how he grew up in the rural South where hunting was common, and that he hunted as a boy and believes in Second Amendment rights (with limits). He's a member of the Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus, and says in his "Real Solutions for America" that he wants a moratorium on offshore oil drilling, supports National Parks, opposes "improper logging" in the Tongass National Forest, and would permanently ban development on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Edwards also answered a Humane Society of the U.S. questionnaire about his views on animals, saying that he supported a bill to prohibit the transporting or possession of exotic animals for canned hunts, a position most sportsmen would support.

John Kerry caught the attention of hunters when he invited the press to go along on a pheasant hunt in Iowa last November. On that hunt he killed two roosters with two shots. Personally, I think that hunt was a critical factor in his winning in Iowa, which began his long run of victories. By inviting the press along to photograph him as he bagged two birds with two shots, he proved that he was both a hunter and a damn good shot--and also that he's not afraid of any animal-rights backlash.

Some hunters also felt an instant kinship with Kerry. As Ryan McKinney, the Iowa farmer on whose property Kerry hunted, said, "It feels a little safer if your presidential hopeful isn't going to go after your typical normal shotgun."

Bush, Kerry, and Edwards all seem to recognize the power of the sportsmen's vote. As well they should: It's a diverse group that could help decide this fall's election.

--James Swan is a contributing editor of ESPNOutdoors.com. He also writes for the Outdoor Channel's Engel's Outdoor Experience.