Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Not Dead Yet

It's been a couple of weeks since I posted, which is not like me, but I have been very busy with other things that have kept me out of the house, if not exactly productive. No, I am not dead yet.

On the up side, in the last two weeks I have driven the entire length of the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, and I am here to day that the valley's beauty is not over-stated. Another upside is that I understand the geology of the area a little better, due to simply looking a little longer at a large scale map. The Appalachians are some of the oldest mountains in the world, and though I have walked more than a 1,000 miles of their length, you do not learn much about geology walking ridge lines in the woods. A good large-sale map, well-studied, can tell you more about geology than a thousand miles of road or trail.

It has been incredibly warm -- as high as 72 degrees some days (in January) and never falling below 50 degrees until this Sunday when Chris and I went out for a short dig on a raccoon, which we let bolt off. Mountain found something again, just as we were leaving, but I pulled her from the den pipe and gave that critter (probably a possum) good leave. Hopefully it will be colder this weekend coming up -- we shall see.

The two Russells have been squabbling a bit, sorting out the pecking order, and it looks like Pearl has come out on top, as unbelievable as that sounds. She is about a half inch shorter than Mountain, and lighter too, but I think she wanted the slot more. I could care less who is top bitch, so long as it is settled and understood . Trooper, of course, is top dog and no one seems anxious to contest that (not that Trooper himself seems to care too much).

On the book front, I've been reading "1491" by Charles Mann which is both well-written and completely mind-expanding. It's about the Western Hemisphere before Columbus landed, but it's also about lost history and a lot more. This is one of those books that fundamentally changes the way you think, and though I am only 80 pages in to it, it gets my highest recommendation. Best of all, it is now available in paperback for only $15, which strikes me as bargain of a lifetime. Do yourself a favor and get this one.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Why "Stupid On Stilts" is Good for the Environment

The Los Angeles Times reports that the Governor of Idaho, C.L. "Butch" Otter, wants 550 wolves killed in his state -- enough to keep the wolf just above the threshold for endandered species listing (and a return to full federal control of the animal).

One is tempted to review the history of political idiocy and national embarassment that is Idaho politics, from the late Rep. Helen Chenoweth to current Sen. Larry Craig, but let's skip that and, instead go straight to a map and "ground truth" the reality of land ownernship and land management in Idaho.

Idaho politicians, like most Western politicians, do not actually control all that much land within their state. You see, out West, most of the land is owned by the Federal Government and is either National Forest land, Bureau of Land Management land, National Park land, or National Wildlife Refuge. These are lands owned by all Americans for all Americans. Or, as Woody Guthrie sang, "This land is your land, this land is my land."

Along with National Parks, National Forests, National Wildlife Refuges, and BLM land, there are also other large tracts of federally-owned lands: Indian Reservations, military bases, and lands owned and managed by the Bureau of Reclamation (fresh water lakes and reservoirs) and other Federal agencies.

The short story here is that if you take a look at the map of Federal Lands and Indian Reservations in Idaho at the top of this post, every bit of land in color is a Federal property -- only the stuff that is colored white on the map is privately owned property or under states control (state parks, state forests, etc.).

In short, the Governor of Idaho is "governor of not very much," relative to what is around him.

Which is not to say that the Governor of Idaho (or any other western state) has ever been shy about throwing his weight around -- that's what Western politicians do.

Western politicians talk a good game about "property rights" and like to describe their constituencies as being strong, self-sufficient, anti-tax conservatives, but in fact a very large percentage of the political money in a state like Idaho comes from greedy welfare ranchers (and miners, drillers, and timber cutters) sucking on the Federal teat for ever-increasing tax-payer money in the form of crop supports, water subsidies, road constuction subsidies, mining rights, timber-cutting rights, and fire suppression subsidies.

Edward Abbey noted that "Cattle ranching on the public lands of the American West is the most sacred form of public welfare in the United States" and that the environmental consequences of supporting so much "welfare ranching" was a palpable level of environmental degradation:

"Most of the public lands in the West, and especially the Southwest, are what you might call 'cow burnt'. Almost anywhere and everywhere you go in the American West you find hordes of [cows].... They are a pest and a plague. They pollute our springs and streams and rivers. They infest our canyons, valleys, meadows, and forests. They graze off the native bluestems and grama and bunch grasses, leaving behind jungles of prickly pear. They trample down the native forbs and shrubs and cacti. They spread the exotic cheatgrass, the Russian thistle [tumble weed], and the crested wheat grass. Weeds. Even when the cattle are not physically present, you see the dung and the flies and the mud and the dust and the general destruction. If you don't see it, you'll smell it. The whole American West stinks of cattle."

Of course, not every rancher out west is a welfare rancher, and not every range is mismanaged. That said, there are huge financial incentives to "privatize the profits" and "commonize the costs" when you allow private profits to be made on public lands, and that is true for everything from grazing to timber harvest, and from water removal to hard rock mining and oil and natural gas removal. Why pay to clean up your mess, when Uncle Sam will force the American taxpayer (yes, that would be you) to do it?

Which brings us back to wolves.

You see, the Governor of Idaho's "big idea" is to to kill Federal wolves on Federal land, for private ranchers who are being subsidized to raise sheep and cattle that America does not actually need, and which are degrading public land that all of us taxpayers (from Redwood City to the New York island) will be taxed to restore.

This is stupid on a stilts -- so stupid, in fact, that it's actually a good thing. Insanity this tall in the saddle exposes the lunacy of "state rights" claims that we should all be subsidizing private interests on federal land.

Killing off 500 wolves in order to enable more "welfare ranching" in the American West is something so stupid and warped that redneck hillbillies and suburban housewives will find common ground in opposition to it.

Groups like the Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, Natural Resources Defense Council, and The Wilderness Society should send the idiot Governor of Idaho a thank you note and roses for giving them a simple and just cause to fight for -- and a cartoon-like idiot of a politician to fight against.

Thank you, Governor Otter. Idiots like you do not grow on trees. If you did not actually exist, the American environmental movement might actually have to invent you.

Now, here's the kicker: Right now, if a wolf can reasonably be shown to have killed a cow, sheep or any other type of livestock anywhere in the United States, that animal is bought and paid for by American environmental organizations like Defenders of Wildlife. Last year Defenders paid bill out over $150,000 to cover the costs of 158 cows, 204 sheep, and a couple of goats and stock dogs.

That's right -- in the American west there is NO economic loss from wolves because groups like Defenders of Wildlife pay the full market value of any animals killed by wolves.

To put an even sharper point on the matter, no one in the American environmental movement thinks any individual wolf is sacred. If there is rogue wolf that has taken to stock-killing in a regular way, that animal is going to be killed by a professional, federally-licensed sharpshooter, and no one is in opposition to that.

Which is not to say that compensating ranchers for risks they assume by grazing on federal land actually makes any sense. As conservationist, hunter and author Jonathan Hanson notes on his excellent blog (which you really should check out):

"Where did the idea of public liability for wolf predation come from, anyway? If a cow falls off a cliff on leased public land, do we reimburse the rancher? If a lamb dies from a rattlesnake bite, do we reimburse the rancher? Obviously not. The idea behind wolf compensation came about, ironically, because we were properly bringing back an animal that had been eliminated for the convenience of ranchers in the first place."

So is there good news in this mess?

I think there is, because the Governor of Idaho reminds us that there are a lot of idiots in the world, which is why we need conservation organizations, why we need laws, and why a federated system of government with federal control over vast expanses of public lands is a very good thing.

God bless America. We get some things right, and wildlife management is one of them.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Animal Rights Groups Fear Truth on Wikipedia

Journalists (God bless them) are under crushing deadlines and often do not know much about the organizations and issues they are being asked to cover. One newspaper piece is used to create another, and no one in the press corps goes to libraries at all.

The sadness here is that Wikipedia -- the chaotic "anyone with a password" online encyclopedia is often touted as a legitimate source (go to "Google News" and type in "Wikipedia" for conformation) even though what is written there is often nothing more that Public Relations Department puffery. And -- just to be clear -- those public relations departments do not always want the truth to be told.

Take the League Against Cruel Sports. They are emphatically opposed to anyone actually posting their true history on Wikipedia.

I have appended below the text (with citations) that I added to their Wikipedia puffery, and which they have repeatedly cut out.

For those that think this true history should stay, simply go to this post on the League Against Cruel Sports and put it back in by using the "edit this page" tab or the "history" tab (compare and then revert if you feel that is called for). Or, if you prefer, have the time, and are well-researched, add your own take to LAC's Wikipedia entry -- just be sure to footnote stuff and stick to "just the facts ma'am."

The League began in Morden, a suburb of London in 1923. Henry Amos raised a protest against rabbit coursing, he was successful in motivating support and managed to achieve a ban. This encouraged him to organise opposition to other forms of cruel sports and so in along with Ernest Bell, he established the League for the Prohibition of Cruel Sports. Although many blood sports such as bull, bear and badger baiting and cock fighting had already been outlawed at the timethe laws only applied to domestic and captive animals. With the RSPCA unwilling to take action against hunting, Amos and Bell identified a clear need for an organisation which would campaign against what it classified as cruel sports. (citation)

Originally called the League for the Prohibition of Cruel Sports, the partnership between Henry Amos and Ernest Bell did not last long. The organization had 500 members in 1927, and not many more when, in 1932, Bell left the organization due to a difference in tactics. Bell went on to found the National Society for the Abolition of Cruel Sports (NSACS).

LACS (now called "The League") struggled through World War II, its already small membership depleted by the war effort. In 1956, journalist Eric Hemmingway -- an avid hunt disrupter -- was elected Chairman, and by 1960 LACS (it now calls itself "the League") had a more radical image and a larger support base. (citation)

Hemmingway died in 1963, and was succceed by Raymond Rowley. In 1975, after the anti-coursing bill failed, there was an increasing level of disent with the League as to the course and direction the organization should take. In March of 1977, Richard Course, a former hunt saboteur and a member of the Executive Committee of the League, was charged with receiving documents stolen from the British Field Sports Society. This theft did not slow Course's rise within the League, however, and in 1981 Course was made Executive Director and Mark Davies became Chair. (citation)

In 1982, League member Mrs. Janet Simmonds won a High Court case against the League over an £80,000 gift the organization made to the Labour party in 1979. The judge ruled the donation invalid and that it had to be repaid back with interest. (citation)

In 1982, The London Times revealed that League Press officer Mike Wilkins was actually the convicted grave desecrater Michael Huskisson who had previously set up the Cambridge group of the Hunt Saboteurs Association. (citation citation ) Huskinson was subsequently fired from his League job after he joined the South East Animal Liberation League in sacking the offices of the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) offices at Buxton Brown Farm, Downe, Kent. Huskinson was sentenced to prison for eighteen months for his role in the vandalism and theft of documents (citation).

In the late 1980s, League Executive Director Richard Course was appointed to the Burns Inquiry into hunting with dogs and began to spend some field time with the mounted fox hunts as an outgrowth of this work. After a period of time talking with professional wildife managers, scientists, and hunt supporters, he finally concluded that: "The dogs easily outpace the fox within a minute or two and kill it within a second or two. How the fox is located is totally irrelevant to animal welfare considerations," and he began to say to publicly.

Course was fired from the League for expressing this and other sentiments divergent from the League's mission. What followed was a period of turmoil and bitter accusations within various factions of the League. James Barington assumed Course's position within the League (still widely known as LACS), but he too eventually quit the organization saying that he too had concluded that an absolute ban on hunting was not in the best interests of animal welfare.

Graham Sirl and John Bryant then took over as Joint Chief Officers of the the League, but this partnership did not last long as Bryant quit over the sale of some of the League's wildlife sanctuaries to pay costs associated with political campaigns.

On February 18, 2001, The Sunday Telegraph (citation) reported that Andrew Wasley, the League's press officer, had previously been arrested for violent disorder at Hillgrove Farm cat breeding centre, where he was one of the balaclava-wearing saboteurs. Wasley was sentenced to three months' imprisonment for his actions. (citation)

In May of 2001 Graham Sirl resigned his position in the League (some say he was fired) and said that he no longer believed a complete ban on hunting was in the best interests of wildlife, and was especially not in the best interests of the Exmoor deer herds which would quickly overpopulate the area if left unmanaged. Sirl says, "I now believe hunting with hounds plays an integral part in the management system of deer on Exmoor and the Quantocks." (citation)

LACS went through more leadership turmoil in 2001 and 2002 until, in January of 2003, actress Annette Crosbie was named President. In a January 10, 2003 inteview with David Edwards, Crosbie told The Mirror (citation) : "When I think about it, I think humans are the nastiest species of animal on the planet ...". In the same interview she describes herself as "impatient, intolerant, judgmental, tactless -- I'm not very nice, I'm really not. And if you don't do it my way, by God you'll be sorry." Supporters of Crosbie say her personaality is one of the things that makes her an ideal choice to lead the League.

The folks at LACS have also tried to delete all external links to anyone except their own web site. Specifically, they have deleted the following links to interviews with their former leadership. I include all the links I included (unlike LACS, I believe in balance and can co-exist with divergent viewpoints so long as both sides are represented).

* Official website of LACS
* Copy of publication by Clifford Pellow, former huntsman
* Horse & Hound: Anti turns pro: "Graham Sirl speaks out"
* Horse & Hound: Anti turns pro: "Miles Cooper"
* Hunt Crimewatch campaign to report illegal hunts

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Mountain's New Collar

Nothing much to report other than Mountain's new e-collar came in, and it did not taken her very long to figure out that she can still hunt around, but she cannot barrel for Jesus down the hills to see if *maybe* a deer might be down there in the breaks.

It was interesting watching her figure it out -- and how quickly she put it together. A little simple consistency, some use of the warning beeper, food treats whenever she did it right, and a few surprisingly low-volt "nicks" from the e-collar, and we seemed to be on a program for change as far as wide hunting was concerned.

For the record, I started the collar off by putting it on myself, and at "1" I could barely feel it. At "2" I was aware of getting nicked, but it was not very bad and it was no big deal if my son wanted to juice me on the hand. It turned out that "2" was all it took for Mountain to get the idea, though I did turn it up to "4" once when I spotted a feral cat crouching in the grass waiting for Mountain to pass by. Mountain did not see the cat as she was very focused on doing the right thing with me, and so I was able to simply turn around and walk another away and all was well for cat and dog alike. All good!

The Innotek e-collar I bought appears very well made, comes with a charger, a self-test, and -- most importantly of all -- a CD-Rom video on how to use the collar.

E-collars are simply a tool for operant conditioning, same as food, a leash, a collar, and the human voice. The only benefit of an e-collar is that it works long distance, which is very useful if you have a strong prey-drive in a very smart hunting dog as I do with Mountain. Mountain is a hard nut, and this looks like a wrench that will work. I don't think I will have to use it on her too long -- dogs generally learn quickly once you get the right communication stream working.

How did I know I had the right collar? Simple -- I carefully researched them, checked all the features, price-shopped ... and then got the one that happened to have a picture of a Jack Russell on the box. Sometimes the purchaser and the marketing department agree!

Monday, January 08, 2007

Animal Rights: Terrorists and Clowns Behind Masks

Are these Russian secret police or hunt sabs? Either way, they're wrong and the kind of thing we fight in America.

Hunting Harrassment laws make it a crime to harrass hunters (and anglers in many cases), and are in force in every state of the union (even Massachusetts!)

For a complete list of states laws making it illegal to harrass hunters, see >> laws making it a crime to harrass hunters for more information.

Another law worth knowing about is the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act. This law makes it an act of terrorism to wreck research labs, "free" animals from zoos and circuses, and disrupt operations at farms and feedlots. This legislation was supported by the Ameican Veterinary Medical Association and was originally introduced by Sens. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) on September 8, 2006. The bill garnered an impressive bipartisan list of cosponsors, and was ultimately passed by unanimous consent in the Senate and a voice vote in the House and was signed into law by President Bush on November 27, 2006.

What kind of animal rights tactics prompted this law? Congressman Tom Petri of Wisconsin explained:

"In my own state of Wisconsin, mink farmers and biomedical researchers have experienced their own share of intimidation, harassment, and vandalism at the hands of animal rights extremists. Farmers have had their properties raided, causing thousands of dollars of damage...Scientists around the state have received in the mail at their homes razor blades with letters stating they were
laced with the AIDS virus. Personal information such as home addresses, phone numbers and photographs of researchers have been posted on extremists' Web sites. Many of these same scientists report death threats and home visits by animal rights extremists who through their terrorism have a goal of driving the scientists out of their research-- research which has and will continue to improve human health and quality of life."

For more information, see >> http://feinstein.senate.gov/06releases/r-anim-terrorism1127.htm

Meanwhile, back in PETA Land . . .

Meanwhile, the animal rights lunatics continue to make a mockery of themselves -- no one else could do as good a job.

The loons at PETA, for example, oppose all pet dogs and come out and say so flat and plain.

Their reasoning, they say, is that there are too many dogs in the world. Now think about that .... PETA says no one should want a dog as a pet (that would be wrong), and then they say they killing dogs because there are too many unwated dogs in the world.... Follow that?

Me neither

Perhaps it's enough to know that the twisted misanthropic children that run PETA are now traveling to other states to pick up dogs from shelters in order to expressly kill them ... though, of course, that's not what they tell the shelter workers when they visit to pick up any "extra" dog. Hard to believe? Believe it!

And then, of coure there are the PETA workers who steal dogs that are well care for, have on tags, and even have a locator collar on. Yep, that's hard to believe too, but belive it.

What's ironic here is how very late to the show PETA is.

You see, in vast stretches of the U.S. today, there are NOT a lot of dogs going to kill shelters. If a dog can be adopted in many regions of the U.S. (including in this County and every adjacent County) , it is being adopted -- either through a regular pound or through a breed-specific registry.

During the last 30 years, shelter intakes and euthanasias have decreased by 60-80 percent in many cities, particularly those located on the East and West coasts of the U.S.. And, for the record, PETA did not have a damn thing to do with it.

The people who made this happen were rank-and-file pet owners like you and me who took time to spay and neuter our own dogs (I have never bred a dog and will not be doing so), and who have tried to educate other people about dog ownership and responsibility. That is not what PETA does. PETA members take of their clothes and issue press releases. At PETA, the animals are incidental to the circus act of human ego that is a PETA event and gathering.

You know why PETA never protests in front of a kill shelter? Simple -- because if they ever did, the shelter workers would just walk out with a dog on a leash and say: "Here you go -- it's all yours to take care of for tghe next 12-to-15 year years if you want him."

And taking care of animals is not what PETA is all about.

The good news is that some folks are now willing to say it out loud.
Colorado Governor Bill Owens recently called PETA a "bunch of losers," because they said they were not interested in helping a few thousand head of cattle out of food and jammed in by a record blizzard in his state. PETA could not be bothered it said, because those cattle were going to slaughter in six or nine months. Reduce suffering? That's not on PETA's agenda/

Thursday, January 04, 2007

For Fox Sake, Repeal the Hunting Act

Here's a nice bit of BBC video worth watching if you can get it to play (right click, and after the link opens up, click on the link next to the photo on the far right).

It's James Barrington, former Executive Director of the so-called "League Against Cruel Sports" in the U.K. saying that the Hunting Act is a sham and needs to be repealed and replaced with a common-sense law that regulates hunting a bit, but which otherwise keeps it entirely legal.

Barrington is just one of four former high-placed LACS officials (including another former Executive Director and Chairman of LACS), who say LACS is on the entirely wrong path.

In the past Barrington has written that he came to the League Against Cruel Sports concerned about animal welfare, but almost entirely ignorant about the true trade offs in the world of wildlife management and protection:

"At the end of a long, slow learning-curve, I was convinced that a ban on hunting would have a serious and negative effect on animal welfare. Moreover, I concluded that properly-regulated hunting can justify its place in Britain’s countryside as a relatively effective, humane and ecologically positive form of wildlife management."

Barrington is not alone.

Another former chief officer of the League Against Cruel Sports, Graham Sirl, says that he too has a complete 180 degree turn from where he started on the fox hunting issue, and now opposes the agenda of those trying to end hunting:

"I think hunting offers a balance in the countryside — if I could see it being done effectively as a management tool, I'd be happy."

Former LACS Public Relations director Miles Cooper has also had a change of opinion on fox hunting. As he noted in an interview last year

"I think 'cult' is a very accurate description [of LACS] ... The anti-hunt movement was never very big, it was based on a small core group of animal rights people — many of whom never understood what they were doing, or why they were there. I became concerned that we were shoehorning evidence to suit our own political agenda and I think we were misleading people ... There were a lot of people, particularly in the memberships of these organisations [LACS and IFAW], who rely solely on PR departments to tell them what hunting is without actually going out, seeing it and talking to people. Inevitably, there is a massive gap in terms of real understanding — of course you can mount the most fantastic, well-organised, glossy campaign on the basis of ignorance and I think that's basically what we did. We were not entirely honest with people and weren't giving them the whole picture."
People actually trained in animal welfare issues consistently say the same thing -- that hunting is not antithetical to doing the right thing for animals, and that by standing up for habitat protection hunters actually benefit wildlife. Animal welfare expert also note that hunting is generally more humane than "natural" ways of wildlife management, such as vehicle impact, starvation, disease and the agonizing infirmaties that accompany old age.

As over 500 member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons noted in a statement of support for hunting in the U.K. put it:

"Hunting by hounds is the most natural and humane way of controlling the population of all four quarry species - fox, deer, hare and mink - in the countryside."

Great Moments In Wildlife Management

This article is from the November 1931 edition of Popular Science magazine, in which science is rather enthusiastic about the prospect of electrocuting whales and machine gunning sea lions. And no, we're not kidding.
Just 39 years later, the hippies were celebrating the first Earth Day.
Thank God.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Hunting Wide

Saturday morning started out with the kind of fog they write about in Sherlock Holmes novels, which I suppose, is just a small reflection of how warm it has been. Before the day was out, it would almost hit 60 degrees -- far too warm to find fox to ground.

Since the area I had scoped out by aerial map had a lot of trees on the edges of larger fields, I did not expect to find too many raccoon to ground, and it was unlikely we would find a groundhog out and about despite the warm weather -- their cycles are driven by daylight more than temperature. Bottom line: If we were going to find anything on this new land in this part of the season and on this warm a day, it was most likely going to be possum. The fox would come later.

By the time Chris arrived, I had taped up both collars and gotten the tools out, and switched from David Crosby to Tanya Tucker. Pearl had just finished her first heat cycle, so she was ready to be out.

My goal today was to scout some new fields along the Monocacy River. Chris and I followed the river bank, and found plenty of holes, but no one home. This was going to be fertile ground in the Spring, however.

A very long island was just off shore from the river bank, and at the very end of it were a couple of duck hunters in a blind working a mechanical robo-decoy. I am not much for these contraptions -- it's just a hop and a jump to mechancial callers, and it seems too much like cheating to me. There's nothing wrong with hunting and coming up with a blank day once in a while. There is a place where technology should end, and it's a bit short of mechanical decoys with flapping wings if you ask me.

We passed the long-gone remains of a gutted deer hanging from a tree. It was perhaps several weeks old, and it did not look like much was taken other than the head and the back loins. The carcass would provide food for fox, but it looked like quite a bit of meat had been left in the forest.

A short distance from the deer, and on the slope up from the river to the fields, I realized Mountain was not with us. We stopped and waited, but she did not emerge, and I was pretty sure she had found. Chris moved down the slope, and I moved up towards the fields. where I found her just outside a beautiful sette. She had gone to ground and extracted, and killed on her own, a mid-sized possum. It was a bit anti-climactic, as Mountain had not bayed, and there was no dig.

Mountain has always had a problem with self-hunting and staying close. I think when Sailor was alive she ventured farther out than Sailor did just so should could find something in the ground for herself. Unfortunately, that practice has not ended with Sailor's passing. I guess finding quarry is the ultimate reward for the bad behavior, and that makes it particularly difficult to end.

I would not care except that it wastes time, the noise of calling for her scares quarry away, and it is very dangerous should Mountain find a skunk in the ground without me knowing exactly where she was. That said, it was a beautiful sette, and it looked like the kind of thing a fox or raccoon would use when the weather turned colder. I put this one in my memory book.

We headed up the slope into the fields, and I was thrilled to find a beautiful rolling field with a short grass winter cover, and a long hedgerow at the top, followed by an even larger field, also in a short grass winter cover, and another nice hedgerow beyond that, and another beyond that. Excellent. When it gets colder, I am sure we will find fox here.

As we walked up the fields, we found groundhog hole after groundhog hole. Some of the larger settes had eroded into large funnels at the entrance. This was clearly good friable dirt. I was pretty sure these fields had been in soybeans or alfalfa for at least two or three years -- you generally don't get this kind of groundhog density without those cover crops.

We walked up the fields a pretty long way, coming to a section parallel to an area we had hunted in the past. The new fields were separated from the other area we had hunted by an upland area of forest a few hundred yards wide. That may not sound like much distance, but in this part of Maryland the soil can change dramatically from one area to another over a couple of hundred yards. That upland piece of forest land was not an accident -- it was the remains of a rock and shale uplift, and it had existed here since the time of dinosaurs. The bend in the river had existed here just as long, and my theory -- based solely at looking at the maps -- was that the soil on the other side of that uplift and closer to the river would be deeper and richer due to river deposits and down wash. It looked like I was right.

Despite all the dens, the dogs failed to locate. Groundhogs move out of their field settes in the winter to seek harbor inside the tree line; very few winter over in field settes. We headed back down the fields along the edge of the trees. A deer hunter fired very close to us when we were inside the tree line, and I was reminded, once again, that hunting on Sunday is always the best plan, especially in deer season.

We headed back down the edge of the river, and then up again into the end of a large field. We had worked the other end of this field before, and as we approached that end, Mountain suddenly began baying furiously as if he had caught something above ground. Game on! I ran down the field with pack, shovel, bar and posthole digger, but was brought up short by a downed tree in the hedge. By the time I had gotten through that, the dogs were quiet. I called for Chris and found him on the other side of the hedge, looking a bit perplexed. What happened? Apparently Mountain had caught a very large deer sleeping or resting in the hedge, and the deer had as hard a time getting through that downed tree as I did. Mountain and Moxie had been right on the deer, and had chased it out of the hedge. The two dogs and the deer had bolted in directions unknown.

Chris and I whistled, and we took turns walking a large circle. It was about an hour before I found the dogs on a farm path not very far from where we had lost them. Mountain was unscarthed, but Moxie had a line shaved into her fur where a deer hoof had grazed her. The skin was not broken, but a thin line of fur was gone, as neatly trimmed as if it had been done with a Wahl shear. That was close.

All's well that ends well, but it's clear to me that I am going to have to do something about Mountain's self-hunting. I have never had a dog riot on deer before, and I have never had a dog hunt as wide as Mountain does. Time to end it.

That night, I ordered an electronic collar from Innotek to help me break Mountain of bad habits and to help train in new ones. The problem is that Mountain is smart, and she knows that off the leash there is no "correction." It does not help, of course, that she also gets a maximum reward for hunting wide -- she finds quarry more often than most. At this point, my natural aversion to electronic collars has to take a back seat to safety. The collar is cheap compared to the price of a new dog -- or losing an old one. One thing I am sure -- it will not take Mountain long to figure out that she can no longer hunt wide.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Ford and Nixon

The two pictures below, are of Gerald Ford, who died this week, and Richard Nixon, whom he replaced.

Terriers have often occupied the White House, from George W. Bush to FDR.

The Rat Terrier was named by Teddy Roosevelt who used to hunt rats in the White House basement with a small feist he picked up on his travels out west. For a litany of presidential dogs, see >> HERE

Other terriers owned by U.S. Presidents include JFK's welsh terrier, and Warren Harding's Airedale.

A very young Gerald Ford with a Boston Terrier, about 1916. In the White House, he owned a Golden Retriever named "Liberty".

Nixon on the beach with a Yorkshire Terrier jabbering at his side. This picture is all Nixon: a man wearing a suit at the beach, uncomfortable, the picture askew. Nixon's other two dogs were a French Poodle and "King Timahoe," a brain-befogged Irish setter.