Sunday, January 30, 2005

A Snowy Day with the Border

Trooper, my border terrier, coming down a snowy creek bottom.

Went out today with Trooper who sees too little of the woods these days. He is retired now, largely due to his phenomenal hardness, but he is a very obedient dog and, despite the fact that his sinuses are smashed and he snorts like a freight train coming to a full stop at the station, he still seems to still have a pretty good nose for quarry.

We checked out a few old fox settes, all covered with snow, but nothing was home or at least nothing had moved out over night. No matter -- we had a grand time and saw a bald eagle by the river and a red tail hawk in the woods. No day out with the dogs is a loss.

Trooper exits a large hollow log -- a likely spot for raccoon and perhaps Gray fox.

Trooper in profile -- a dog that could use a good stripping.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Ban in England and Wales Upheld by Court

The ban on hunting foxes with dogs in England and Wales is legal, a London court has ruled. The High Court rejected a challenge to the Hunting Act by members of pro-hunting group Countryside Alliance, which argued the legislation wasn't validly adopted by Parliament. The Parliament Act of 1949 allows the elected Commons to pass laws that the House of Lords has rejected in two successive parliamentary sessions. A previous 1911 version of the Act required three unsuccessful tries through the unelected upper chamber.

The Parliament Act has been used to pass only three other laws -- the law equalizing the age of consent between heterosexuals and homosexuals; the War Crimes Act in 1991, which extended the jurisdiction of British courts to cover acts committed on behalf of Nazi Germany during the Second World War; and a law that introduced a proportional representation voting system for elections to the European Parliament.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Scotland's "Ban" Without Much Teeth

Charges have been dropped against a Borders huntsman accused of breaking Scotland's fox hunting legislation.

Former master of the Jedforest Hunt, Rory Innes, age 27, has been told proceedings against him have been discontinued after almost two years.

This news comes a month after Buccleuch huntsman Trevor Adams was cleared of breaching anti-hunting legislation.

Mr Innes now lives in England and is master of the South Dorset Hunt.

Mr Adams, from Melrose, was the first person to go on trial accused of breaking the Protection of Wild Mammals Act, introduced in 2002.

In what was seen as a test case, the sheriff at Jedburgh ruled that the dogs were not out of control at any time.

Scotland's legislation permits the use of dogs for pest control measures as long as they are flushing foxes from cover so they can be shot.

Strangest Catch

The strangest thing any of my dogs has ever caught was a Saw-whet Owl. I was at the local high school watching my son play fall baseball, with my smallest Jack Russell on leash. A skittering sound in the bushes caught the dog's attention.

Sure that it was a rat, I let the dog slip off the lead to have a little fun. Imagine my surprise when, about a minute later, the little Russell came back with a still warm, but now dead, Saw-whet Owl in its mouth.

I was mortified. This little owl had gorgeous orange-yellow eyes, and a soft brown color. Owls are wonderful birds and extremely beneficial to man, and I would never intentionally harm one.

I imagined the little owl had been mobbed by crows and blackbirds and had sought refuge in the middle of the thicket where the dog had found it on the edge of collapse from exhaustion.

Later, I discovered that over-wintering Northern Saw-whet owls comonly jungle up in thick evergreen brush close to the ground during the day. No doubt this little fellow was sleeping when caught. Too bad for him. The good news is that Saw-whets are very common owls. All the same, this is a catch I am glad has not been repeated.


What Is it?

Believe it or not, this is a black bear that has lost all its hair. Scientists are not quite sure why a small group of bears in Florida lost all their fur, but they have ruled out mange. The bears seem to be fine without it (Florida is pretty warm), but the resulting animal looks a bit like a cross between a pit bull and a donkey.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

UK Ban Is Challenged in Court

Bloomberg News Service, Jan. 25, 2005

Britain's ban on fox hunting with dogs will be challenged in London's High Court today in the first in a series of legal challenges brought against the law by a pro- hunting group.

Countryside Alliance Chairman John Jackson and member Mair Hughes will today argue that the ban, scheduled to take effect next month, wasn't validly adopted by U.K. Parliament, Jackson told reporters outside the court.

``This is probably the most important constitutional case the High Court has ever had to consider and something that should concern all of us,'' Jackson said.

Prime Minister Tony Blair's government in November invoked little-used powers under the U.K. Parliament Act of 1949 to pass the Hunting Bill over the objection of the House of Lords, Parliament's unelected upper chamber.

The Act allows Parliament to pass laws that have been approved by the elected Commons but rejected by the Lords in two successive parliamentary sessions.

Members of Blair's Labour government have tried to ban hunting foxes with dogs since winning control of Parliament in 1997.

Street Protests

When the subject was last debated in Parliament in September, hunt supporters filled the streets to protest. Five men were arrested after breaking into the Commmons chamber to argue against the ban.

In a hunt, packs of hounds are released to chase down and kill foxes while a horn is blown. Riders on horses follow, sometimes wearing traditional red coats.

The Countryside Alliance, which claims to have more than 100,000 members in England and Wales, says that the Parliament Act of 1949 is invalid and cannot be used to pass other laws.

The Act, which has been invoked just seven times in the past century, is an amendment of an earlier version of the law, which allowed bills to be passed over the objection of the House of Lords if rejected by the upper chamber in three successive parliamentary sessions. The Alliance claims the amendment wasn't lawfully adopted.

Jackson said the group plans to appeal its case to the U.K. Court of Appeal if today's challenge is unsuccessful.

``We don't expect to lose,'' Jackson said.

The Alliance has also filed a separate lawsuit against the bill in the High Court on human rights grounds, claiming that the ban would deprive thousands of people of their livelihoods.

Sydney Kentridge QC, counsel to the family of South African anti-apartheid leader Stephen Biko on the inquest into his death, will represent Jackson and Hughes at today's hearing. A third petitioner in the case, Patrick Martin, will miss the hearing to lead the Bicester with Whaddon Chase fox hunt in Oxfordshire, according to the Countryside Alliance.

U.K. Attorney General Peter Goldsmith QC will present the government's case. Anti-hunting group League Against Cruel Sports is also expected to argue in favor of the ban.

A judgment is expected on Friday.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

The Saints of Rescue

Boston Globe, December 2, 2004

The Busier the Better for Rambunctious Jack Russells

By Gina Spadafori

About once a month, I'll get a frantic e-mail from someone who's frustrated to the point of desperation. "Help!" the e-mail will scream. "I have a Jack Russell, and he digs, barks and chews when we're gone. He's too hyper! We can't take it anymore!"

Sometimes, it's all I can do not to write in return, "High energy? Digging? Barking? Chewing? Congratulations! You have an authentic Jack Russell terrier! What did you expect?"

What they expected, of course, was an adorable, low-key and well-mannered small dog, like Eddie on the TV show "Frasier," or Wishbone on the PBS children's series of the same name. What they don't know is that Moose, the dog who played Eddie, had a full-time trainer, or that the role of Wishbone was played by not one but a handful of well-trained dogs.

And what about their cute little hellion? Perfectly normal for any Jack Russell who isn't given the structure and the physical and mental exercise these hard-driving dogs need.

"I get those phone calls every day," says Margie Kauffman, past president of the Northern California Jack Russell club and current head of the group's rescue efforts. "They're mostly from folks who haven't done their homework and don't know of the breed's natural tendencies."

Kauffman's group ( re-homes about 150 dogs a year from an area that starts north of Fresno, Calif., and ends at the Oregon border. That number doesn't include those terriers who are placed or sold privately, or who are adopted out of shelters directly.

"These dogs are loving, loyal, and very smart. But when they're bored, people say they're destructive," she says. "In my own pack, they're not bored. They get lots of exercise, and they're engaged all the time."

Lyndy Pickens, who has two of the dogs (which the American Kennel Club calls Parson Russells, not Jack Russells), got her first Jack Russell at the age of 3 and vows to have one as long as she lives.

"They're thugs in clown's clothing," she says, looking lovingly at her two Jacks, Shiner and Louie, their heads underground as they dig a trench on her property in the foothills above Sacramento. "This is not a dog bred to ask permission."

Indeed, knowing what the Jack Russell was bred for is essential to understanding how to keep both a terrier and your sanity, says Kauffman, who has seen literally thousands of Jack Russells over the years. ("My daughter calls me the patron saint of Jack Russells," she says, laughing. "If you look at any dog breed, they were bred for a specific purpose," she says. "Jack Russells weren't bred to be pets. They were bred to work: 150 years ago, the dog would have been everyone's household vacuum. Bugs, mice, rats people didn't want pests in the house, the barn, or the chicken coop. The dogs had to work for their keep, killing the pests. They're not like a cat, who will eat and then not hunt again. The Jack Russell will keep killing.

"Jack Russells today are hard-working, tenacious little dogs as a result."

And not, please note, one of the better breeds to keep if you have rodents as pets.

So why are these dogs so popular? When living with people who understand them, who keep their minds and bodies exercised, who train them and work them constantly, who set limits and gently but firmly enforce them, the Jack Russell is an outstanding companion.

"I love how joyous they are," says Pickens.

"It's interesting to live with them," says Kaufman. "They're bright."

For people who understand the breed and are willing to work to keep a working terrier happy, there's no better dog in the world. For anyone else, though, if you're looking for a lazy dog, or an easygoing dog for beginners, you're better off without this high-energy breed.

In other words: If you don't know Jack, you'd better not get one until you do. And even then: Are you up the challenge? Be sure beforehand, so your Jack Russell won't be another one looking for a new home.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

"Sword In Stone" Field Sports

T.H. White, the author of "The Sword In the Stone" and "The Once and Future King" was a gifted naturalist and field sport enthusiast whose writings are sprinkled with insights into hawks, hounds, horses and dogs.

What is not widely known is that White's first two book were titled "Gone to Ground and "Earth Stopped" -- terms lifted straight from the world of fox hunting and terrier work.

The trenches and "fox hole" shelters of World War I supplied White with a metaphor and literary setup. "Earth Stopped" was White's first book, published in 1934.

"Gone to Ground," White's second book, was published in 1935, and is subtitled "A Sporting Decameron." Like the first book, White's second book is the story of a hunting party that is surprised by the Final War, and takes refuge in a subterranean cave. To pass the time, members of the group tell each other stories which can best be described as hybrids between ghost stories and hunting and fishing tales. One story, for example, is about a hunt for a werewolf, and another is about a young lady who hunts one of her admirers with hounds, while a third is about a man who manages to hook a mermaid.

Unfortunately, both of T.H. White's first two books are out of print and are available only as First Editions for around $100 or more if you are lucky enough to find a copy in any condition.

Other books by TH White include "The Goshawk" and "The Book of Beasts" -- a translation of a 12th Century bestiary.

In "The Sword in the Stone," one of White's many books dealing with the Arthurian legend, young Arthur is transformed into a badger by Merlyn, who sends him off to talk to another badger who is very wise.

In "The Once and Future King," the greatest Arthurian tale ever told, the death of the hound Beaumont during the boar hunting section captures perfectly the love of the houndsman, Twyti, for his dying dog, Beaumont. None other than Robin Hood puts the dog out of its misery after its back is broken by the boar. If you have not read this book, it is a guaranteed good read and is available in any book store more than 50 years after publication -- a mark of its literary staying power.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Next Generation Fox Hunting?

What will fox hunting in England look like after the ban? My guess is that it will look a lot like fox hunting before the ban. Terrier work will still be legal provided it is done to cull fox that threaten birds that are to be shot (which can include almost any bird that flies).

In addition, most of the local police departments have said they do not intend to enforce the law. How do you bring in 200 horsemen with their horses and 50 hounds? And what, exactly, is the visual difference between a drag hunt and a regular hunt?

The police do not know, and they are not that interested in finding out.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Winter Hawks & Chicken Hawks

It's inaugeration day, with snow on the ground, and therefore a perfectly good day to write about Chicken Hawks and winter hawks.

Five species of common hawks are commonly found across Virginia and Maryland, and recognition can generally be done at a distance based on size and habitat. In addition to the five hawks listed below, we have Ospreys (sea hawks or sea eagles), Bald Eagles, two kinds of vultures (aka "buzzards"), various types of owls and occasional stray migrants from the north.

8 Red-tailed Hawks are the hawks you are most likely to see when out with the dogs, as they are present all winter long, and are large birds commonly found in areas where we hunt our dogs.

The Red-tail Hawk is sometimes called a "chicken hawk" and is commonly seen along roadsides.

Redtail populations have increased in the past few decades, largely due to the increased acres of open land that is in short grass due to tripple hay harvests, and the increasing numbers of small woods that break up farm country.

Red-tails primarily feed on mice, rats and voles, but will also eat snakes and frogs if they can catch them. Small birds make up a significant portion of their diet. Young rabbits are taken in the spring, but adult cotton tails are a bit large for this hawk and they tend to feed a little close to cover for this hawk to depend on them as a food source.

The Red-tail does most of its hunting from a perch overlooking areas of short vegetation, and they are a common sight at the edge of small woods bordering fields and roadways, and commonly hunt powerline corridors.

8The Red-shouldered hawk is slightly smaller and darker than the Red-tail, and is more likely to be found in low-lying marshy areas. It too eats mostly mice, rats and voles, but also takes many frogs, small birds and even insects. If you see a hawk in a marshy forested area, rather than next to a large open field, it is probably a Red-shouldered hawk.

8 The Cooper's Hawk has shorter and more rounded wings, and a longer tail which allows it to be extremely quick and agile in flight. Cooper's Hawk generally hunts on the wing, and the majority of its prey are small birds taken in flight. If you have a hawk poaching birds at a feeder, it is probably a Cooper's Hawk or a Sharp-shinned Hawk (see below). Most Cooper's Hawks will migrate South for the winter, but occassionally one or two will stay around all winter.

8 The Sharp-shinned Hawk is very much like a small Cooper's Hawk, with short wings and a longer tail. Sharp-shins also feed on small birds, but are more likely to be found in hedgerows, wooded strips and fields where they nail birds moving from cover areas to feeding areas. If you see a small hawk (much smaller than a Red-tail) working a hedgerow, it is probably a Shap-shin. Sharp-shins are also very common predators at bird feeders. Sharp-shins migrate South for the winter.

8 The Sparrow Hawk, or American Kestrel, is a very small hawk about the size of a mourning dove. They can be seen on telephone lines and perched on fence posts, especially in winter. If you see a very small hawk hovering over a roadside ditch looking for a grasshopper or small mouse, it is a Sparrow Hawk. Unlike the other hawks, which open nests in crotches of trees, the Sparrow Hawk, or Kestrel, nests in cavities. >> Click here to build a kestrel nesting box.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Home Tanning Salon

If you have a sharp knife, a slow and steady hand, and a bit of enthusiasm, you can tan your own fox, raccoon, groundhog or possum hide. A "small mammal taning kit" costs just $15 and allows you to mount almost any small mammal skin for a rug or wall hanging.

Be advised, however, that you should only try to tan skins taken in late Fall or Winter, as the fur on hides taken in Spring or Summer will almost always fall out.

The tanning kit involves dry salting, brine pickling, neutralization, tanning, oiling, and then breaking the skin, and along with the chemicals supplied in the kit, you will need Lysol disinfectant, baking soda, and at least 5 lb. of non-iodized salt.

For those looking for a simpler fox skin, they can be had on Ebay for $20 to $60 tanned, stretched and in various conditions and qualities. The hide below is being offered for $20 with 6 more days left of betting. My bet is that it will sell for about $60.

Monday, January 17, 2005

"Silence is Golden"

The Story, below, was written by Eddie Chapman and comes from Earth Dog - Running Dog, No. 20, December 1993, pp. 12-14. This was on a UK bulletin board and so someone else had to type it in, thank goodness.

To order Earth Dog - Running Dog magazine >> Click here.

To order copies of either of Eddie Chapman's two books >> Click here.

"I have been known to get quite hot under the collar when someone has interfered when a fox is about to bolt for besides upsetting the plan it is unfair on the terrier who has probably already worked quite hard to get his fox out. My most memorable occasion when this happened almost cost me my job for I was, at the time, doing terrier work for a pack on the Welsh border.

Hounds had met at a really big country house and the "Lord of the Manor" was an eighty year old ex-Master -- an arrogant old son of a bitch and as big a snob as one could possibly find. Hounds found immediately in a big old spinny near the house and after a short circuit of the property they marked to ground within three hundred yards of the meet.

It was a three hole earth but about twelve feet deep and I could see it would be a difficult dig....I asked the master to take hounds well back so that I could try for a bolt.....I slipped a little bitch, a cracker for bolting a fox....five minutes passed, then ten, but I was sure of a bolt....just then this old boy from the big house came ambling down the field with an even older looking terrier under his arm. I waved to indicate to him to keep back, or at least out of the line of fire....I shouted at him to keep back but as he reached the stream he threw the dog across and as the dog landed, so the fox
came to the entrance, saw both the dog and the old man, and did a quick about turn back into the earth.... I literally screamed at the master to get the old fool out of the way, swearing at him and leaping across the stream to tell him what I thought of him. I could hear the fox lay hold of my bitch as he turned back at her, which sent me into more of a rage.... I shouted to the master to take hounds on as there was no chance of a bolt now and he would probably not see me again that day as, thanks to the old idiot, I was now faced with a long and difficult dig.....

I netted the holes and, leaving one man to watch them, set about trying to find the terrier.... After about three hours we were down to the sandstone but although the bitch could now be heard quite plainly, it would have taken a jack hammer to make an impression on that rock.....We would have to tunnel between the two layers of sandstone.... By eleven thirty that night I was just about done in and I had only gone in about ten feet or so.... I decided to call it a night and, lifting the nets, I left my coat on the top hole and drove the two hours home..... The next morning, with my brother to help, I got back to the earth at nine o’clock....the old bitch was still baying away steadily so I reset the nets and started to dig into the tunnel once more.....we got lucky and broke into a pipe that led directly to the bitch....She was lying on her back baying upwards, for the fox was directly above her. It would take several hours to reach her so I decided to call her back and try another terrier that might get hold of the fox....I released Cooper, with lots of encouragement to send her on her way. She hit the fox like a train and, taking an instant firm hold, started to draw. Actually, she had
gone in and then up a couple of feet to reach the fox so she was now really swinging in mid air, her back end six inches from the floor, jerking like mad to try to pull the fox away from his elevated position....The old man from the house brought us tea and sandwiches....Half an hour later Cooper had not made any progress, just swinging there, jerking so we just had to tunnel in to reach her. By late afternoon I had managed to get near enough to reach her and I got hold of her, helping her by pulling with her. The first bit of pressure saw the fox come with a rush and if I had not blinded him with the torch, which halted him for a moment, I reckon he would have been over me and away, even with the bitch holding him, for he was as big as an alsation and just as strong. I got him by the scruff with my free hand then, dropping the torch, got a leg, by mistake, with my other hand and before I could change my hold he got me, fair across the hand.

The next few minutes were murder as my brother dragged me back by my boots, fox, terrier and all and we shot this very big specimen, still gripping me like a vice. And all that just because the old man had interfered at the crucial time!"

Sunday, January 16, 2005

The Perversion of Deer Management

PENN: Scientists say deer hunting must increase
Philadelpia Inquirer, January 12, 2005
By: Tom Avril

Concerned that a ravenous deer population is destroying Pennsylvania forests, a group of scientists says the state Game Commission is politically incapable of pursuing the best solution for keeping the animals under control: allowing more hunting.

They say that's because the commission is funded mostly by hunting-related taxes and fees, and the agency caves in to pressure from hunters -- many of whom, ironically, do not want the state to allow them to kill more deer.

The scientists' findings are contained in a 340-page report, to be released today, that was commissioned by a coalition of conservation groups, including a few that represent hunters. A copy was obtained in advance by The Inquirer from supporters of the report.

Some hunting groups familiar with the report were highly critical of it, contending that increased hunting in the last three years has already reduced the deer population to the point where it is difficult to find the animals.

Game commissioners and agency staff said they are doing the best they can to balance the wishes of hunters with the needs of the forest and other wildlife.

"There's always two sides to this story," said Stephen L. Mohr, one of the eight game commissioners.

Because deer eat tender tree shoots and saplings, many parts of the state are devoid of young trees. That threatens the health of the forests, the birds and the mammals that live in them, and the land's ability to absorb rainfall, the report's authors write.

The deer problem has reached crisis levels, they say.

The state's deer population numbered about one million after the hunt in 2003, compared with 600,000 in 1985. Numbers from last fall's harvest are not in yet.

Overpopulation exists in many other states, including New Jersey, where deer have overrun suburbia and farmland in addition to the remaining forests, said Emile DeVito, an ecologist with the nonprofit New Jersey Conservation Foundation.

But Pennsylvania is considered to have one of the nation's most severe problems, said Robert J. Warren, professor of wildlife ecology and management at the University of Georgia, who saw an early draft of the report.

"I think it can safely be said that Pennsylvania has had probably the longest record of a problem of overabundance of deer in natural forest habitat," he said.

The report's 10 authors include nine scientists. Five work for federal or state agencies, three are independent consultants, and one, Ann F. Rhoads, is senior botanist at Morris Arboretum in Philadelphia. The 10th author, Ronald R. Freed, is a former policy analyst for Audubon Pennsylvania and has volunteered with many wildlife groups.

Among many policy recommendations, the report's authors urge elected officials to create nonhunting sources of funds for the Game Commission and to appoint some nonhunters to the board - which has two vacancies and will have a third at year's end. Gov. Rendell, who nominates commissioners for approval by the state Senate, declined through a spokeswoman to comment yesterday.

The authors say that one reason the state has not reduced its deer population is its unusual three-part structure for managing natural resources.

One agency, the Game Commission, issues licenses for hunting deer and other mammals. Another, the Fish and Boat Commission, has responsibility for managing aquatic life. A third, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), manages forests but does not have authority over deer.

Two of the report's authors work for but did not speak for the DCNR.

Some Game Commission staff have found the system so frustrating over the years that they have quit, while others have been fired or transferred for being too aggressive in trying to reduce the deer population. Most recently, commission biologist Gary Alt resigned last month, saying he felt the state's political climate would not allow him to bring deer under control.

"The agency is serving the hunters. And they're paid for by the hunters. And they feel their constituents are the hunters and little else," said Alt, who was not involved in the report but said he largely agrees with it.

Alt and the report's authors are quick to say they are not antihunting. Alt and about half the authors of the report are hunters themselves.

"We're promoting hunting as the primary solution for managing deer over most of the state," said biologist Bryon P. Shissler, a report author and a consultant for Audubon Pennsylvania.

Alt was instrumental in several regulatory changes designed to reduce the deer herd. He persuaded game commissioners to allow more licenses for hunting "antlerless" deer - does and also fawns of both sexes. He also helped persuade the commission to allow private landowners to issue licenses for hunting on their property.

While the new report says Alt was not allowed to go far enough, many hunters feel he went too far.

In some circles, the idea of shooting does is seen as unmanly, because the doe season formerly came at the end of hunting season and was seen as consolation for those who could not bag a buck. Some say the authors failed to account for other reasons for the state's damaged forests, such as acid rain.

Charles Bolgiano, legislative director for the Unified Sportsmen of Pennsylvania, said that shooting too many does is simply bad for the herd.

"They're killing off too many does that are the mothers of our future bucks," Bolgiano said of the commission.

Melody Zullinger, executive director of the Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs, said she agreed that some parts of the state have too many deer, but she said many areas do not.

Alt's changes have had an effect, she said. "Quit trying to make us believe we're not reducing the deer herd," Zullinger said. "We can see it."

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Today is Martin Luther King's Birthday

Today is Martin Luther King's birthday
. In his memory, a few quick bits and bites:

  • Martin was a brilliant student who skipped both ninth and twelfth grades in high school, and went on to attend Morehouse College at the age of 15.

  • After graduating with a sociology degree from Morehouse, Martin went on to Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania, just outside of Philadelphia. From there he went on to Boston University, from which he received his Ph.D. in 1955.

  • In 1953, at the age of 24, King became pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama.

  • Just two years later, in 1955, Rosa Parks, a secretary with the Montgomery NAACP, was arrested for refusing to sit at the back of the bus. Her arrest led to the Montgomery Bus Boycott which lasted more than year. It was duing this time that King's home was firebombed, and that he was first arrested.

  • King helped found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957 in order to harness the organizing skills of black churches to conduct non-violent protests in support of civil rights.

  • King visited with Mahatma Gandhi in India in 1959, and this visit deepened his committment to nonviolence as a way of securing civil rights in the U.S.

  • In 1963, Dr. King led the March on Washington --a march of more than 250,000 people, and the first great public demonstration of the "power of the people." President John F. Kennedy opposed the March, because he thought it would spur a backlash against civil rights legislation. It did not.

  • On July 2, 1964, the Civil Rights Act was signed into law. President Johnson gave the pen that signed the law into effect to Martin.

  • In 1964, Martin Luther King became the youngest person to ever be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

  • On April 4, 1968, Dr. King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Reynard's Unlikely End

Beth and I scouted a gorgeous fox sette a few weeks ago, and though it was still prety warm out, it was under 40 degrees, so we decided to try it first. We approached along the forest edge of the field, the dogs running loose ahead of us. They approached a bit of red earth just inside the forest edge.

The red earth was, in fact, a very dead fox. It appears that the young vixen that had dug the natal earth just up the hill from where we stood, had became entangled in thick vines when she exited the forest on her way home. Honey suckle had wound very tight around her tail, and another loop had hitched up around her loins.

She must have panicked when she got entangled, and tried to bolt away, but she was held tight and succeeded only in wrapping herself tighter in the vines. Perhaps she went into a state of catatonia, as a fox often will do when panicked. Whatever the case, she did not bite her way free. Looking back and seeing only the familiar vine, she may have thought she was being held by an invisible hand -- the invisible hand of God.

Based on her excellent condition and her state of rigor mortis (which is slower to set in during cold weather), I imagine she got herself caught early in the week and perished from dehydration sometime Saturday.

A cruel ending for a magnificent animal.

Few wild animals exit this earth painlessly, and a quick dispatch by car or hunter is, without a doubt, the best way to go. The other options are predation, disease, starvation, poison, infection and accident.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

First Groundhog of 2005

Emma pulls a wee one.

We saw it dart across the field as we came down the hedgerow and though Beth and I both got a pretty good look at it, it sure didn't look like a groundhog! Maybe a giant weasle? A mink?

When we got the spot in the hedge where the critter had entered, the dogs marked and eventually Emma pulled out a very small groundhog -- maybe 2 pounds and lean. What was such a small groundhog doing out, and when was it born? I suppose such things will remain a mystery, but it is without a doubt the first of the season. Perhaps the life-choice for this very small groundhog was an easy one -- eat or perish.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Baden-Powell: Fox Hunting as Cavalry School

Robert Baden-Powell was the founder of the world-wide Boy Scout movement and, before that, was a cavalry man in South Africa and in the Crimean War.

Around the the turn of the Twentieth Century Baden-Powell noted that the sport of fox hunting was one reason Britain was able to do so well with mounted regiments -- many in the cavalry had gotten their best training running to hounds.

"Fox-hunting, when you come to think of it, is really a very wonderful institution. Although it has come to be quite an artificial sport in a wholly civilised country it still keeps going in every part of England in spite of the War, in spite of the decline in horse-breeding, and in spite of heavy taxes and heavier costs. It is one of the few old institutions left which still keeps us in touch to-day with the traditions and spirit of the former Old England.There is another point about it too. Having seen most of the cavalries of the world I have no doubt in my mind as to which is the most efficient for its work in war, and equally I have no doubt that fox-hunting is to a large extent responsible for that efficiency.

The nation really owes much to fox-hunting for what it has done to help our cavalry to compensate for its small quantity by its excellence in quality, and this without any extra call upon the taxpayer—for once!

The ex-Kaiser fully recognised this even before he had tasted its quality in the Great War, and he had established at Hanover a pack of hounds as part of the establishment of the Cavalry School there.

Of course, it was militarised, having a Captain as Master, a Sergeant-Major as huntsman, a Sargeant as first whip, and so on downwards.

Undoubtedly fox-hunting has proved a school for training men in riding fearlessly across country of all descriptions; it has taught them practical horsemastership, in economising the powers of the horse, and judging when to nurse him and when to let him go. It has also trained in them that invaluable attribute, 'an eye for country,' and not through dry lectures or boring field-days, but through a sport which appeals to their enthusiasm and gives them at once health and enjoyment."

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

A New Set of Glasses

One of the great things about going into the field with the dogs is that they are able to "see" so much more than we can.

For me, one of the great joys of working with dogs, is seeing the world through their eyes. With the turn of the seasons I am aware of what food sources are about. Walking across a field I think of drainage and look at slope and soil, and think about the distance to water. Are the fox mating now? Are the raccoons coming down from the trees and moving their young to ground dens? Are possums starting to jungle up in the trashier hedgerows to get out of the cold? Where have the gut-shot deer been dumped? What fields are in corn and in soy? What fields are in cut hay and which are being grazed by beef cattle and will, as a consequence, have much harder ground and fewer critters about?

If you dig very often you cannot help but think about these things. You come to learn the difference between a black cherry and a black walnut, and to appreciate the birds that spend the Winter almost as much as you delight in the ones that return in the Spring.

It really is like seeing the world through a new set of glasses.

A case in point occurred on Sunday
when Mountain began leaping wildly at an ancient fence post in the middle of a small strip of forest along a creek bank. No other fence posts were around -- this sentry was the last of a long forgotten fence line.

This post was probably a bit of Osage Orange or Black Locust -- woods that are often used for fence posts because they are notoriously slow to rot. Rotting Osage Oranges, the size of duck-pin bowling balls, were scattered along the side of the creek. Black Locusts towered over head.

The fence post was no bigger around than the end of a baseball bat, and it was wrapped tightly in rusty barbed wire. Mountain, undeterred, leaped wildly up to the top, snapping like a lunatic. I was a bit alarmed -- she might poke out her eye. I scooped up the dog and handed her off to Beth before looking down the top of the post.

The picture, above, was what greeted me. Mountain had heard or smelled this little fellow, and was letting me know that great fun was to be had, if only we would stop to sort it out!

A quick shot with the camera, and we walked on, marveling at both the dog and the mouse. What a great thing Nature is.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Warm Weather Fox

Beth and I dug, snared and released this fellow on Sunday.

It was very warm out (50 degrees today and almost 70 degrees yesterday), and we were not expecting to find anything to ground, but we located some very nice fox settes for colder weather, and this one was actually home.

This pic was taken by a farmer who stopped by just as we popped through into the pipe. He was a nice fellow and gave us permission to work his small adjoining property.

Good soil and an easy dig. We may yet dig this fox again if we are lucky. The main den was left intact as the fox went into a stop end 20 feet off to the side where the dogs kept him bottled up.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Last Dig of the Year

Mountain and I went out yesterday, the last day of the year.

As I was alone and scouting, I left the dog in the car for the first two farms, locating new holes in new hedgerows at an old farm, and stopping by a new farm to get permission for the Spring.

That done, Mountain and I walked another large farm and checked out a few large settes but no one was home -- not surprising considering it was 55 degrees out.

At the far end of the farm, just above a creek, Mountain found in a very tight groundhog hole under a stack of mutliflora rose. It looked to be a shallow dig, and though all I had with me was a shovel, we went at it.

Mountain got past the curve in the pipe at about the same time I popped into the den, and within a few seconds the dog was throwing out old bedding and leaves.

I was pretty sure it was a possum, but a cat-like squall came from the hole and then the unmistakable smell of skunk.

Mountain was out of the hole very quickly thanks to an assist from me. The skunk tried to bolt, but I said something to it and, as a consequence, it dove back into the pipe.

Mountain got a pretty light dose, and I buried the skunk. He'll dig himself out, of course, but hopefully he'll have as miserable a time doing that as we will cleaning up from this chemical attack.

I stopped at a pet store on the way home and picked up two bottles of "Nature's Miracle Skunk Odor Remover" which is a different product from "Skunk-Off". With this new stuff you simply put it on the dog and let it dry -- the enzymes are supposed to break down the stink. Aside from the enzymes, most of the rest of the product is alcohol.

We'll see if it works. It it does, it really will be a Miracle. My experience is that it takes about a month for a dog to fully rid itself of skunk smell.

This deer leg was so fresh rigor mortis had not yet set in, and the bit of blood in the hole in the leg was not yet clotted. There were no deer carcas nearby, so my guess is that a fox dropped it and scurreid off as I came into the field. Deer hunters were everywhere today so this leg was probably scrapped from a gut pile on a neighboring farm.

Mountain exits a hole earlier in the day -- no one home.