“Bears, Bears, and Bears Oh My!”
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Type “Kodiak Island” into Google Images and see what the majority of top hits return…bears, bears, and more bears. It’s no secret – Kodiak Island has a bunch of big bears. It’s also no secret that haphazard and foolish behavior can get someone into a heap of trouble pronto. Though it’s less prominently advertised (news media doesn’t report on the 99.99% outdoors folks who keep a clean camp, give bears their due respect, and come home in 1 piece), spending time in bear country shouldn’t be avoided or terrifying or something to cause dread and a sense of impending doom.

First off, have realistic expectations. Expect to encounter a bear. That way when you do, you hopefully won’t be A) panicked and B) unprepared. Either of those options are not good recipes for a close bear encounter.

There are plenty of resources out there that describe how you should respond behaviorally to a close-up bear encounter. When to make yourself large, when to hope they haven’t seen you yet, when to run…NEVER. I’ll outline just a few of the basic principles we plan to employ to guard against the unthinkable and point you in the direction of a couple resources/supplies that will help you on your own adventure into bear country.

Hunt in pairs. Skin and quarter deer in pairs – one person acting as sentry, the other working carefully and quickly. Have your camera kit and processing kit organized and ready to go when you recover your game. If possible, move your downed game to an open area to make surveillance easier. NEVER return to the spot of a kill the next day if you can help it. If that is unavoidable, place meat and horns and cape and whatever else in an open area and flag the area well so you can know what you are walking into before you get there. Carry bear spray. ALWAYS. Keep a clean camp. All these things and lots more that I could type out are mostly common sense. Unfortunately, most scenarios that end up with a dead DLP bear (Defense of Life and Property) or mauling can be traced back to a seriously violated principle of common sense. Sure, true freak accidents happen but those are statistically up there with lightning strikes, shark bites, and the like.

Finally, a prominent feature of camp will be a portable electric fence. Fence set-ups can be DIYed or rented on Kodiak Island from KodiakKamps. It appears as if they sell and rent their products based on premium customer service. For our fence rental, they will have it already delivered to our air transporter’s hangar and they will pick everything up again after we return to town. Can’t beat that.

Book Reviews: First Half of 2017
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Been a while since I did a set of book reviews. So far into the year of 2017, I’ve picked up and put down 14 books. Reading Thoreau’s Walden now, deeeeppppp…

Not all books are applicable for the blog and not all were worth reading, but here’s my Top 5 in rank order and “must read” to “if you’re curiosity is piqued, consider reading it”.

#1One Man’s Wilderness. Simply put, it is one man’s (Dick Proenneke) diary of 18 months living in the bush. The cabin he creates with his own two hands is simply remarkable, the appreciation he has for nature is inspiring, and his ingenuity and work ethic will leave you amazed.

#2As Far As the Eye Can See. This Appalachian Trail through hiker’s account is one of the best hiking memoirs I’ve read. A student recommended this book to me a couple years ago and I finally found a nice used copy to buy. David Brill is a simple writer but the writing is elegant at the same time. In the years past his initial through hike, he has re-visited the trail numerous times and he alludes to those repeat hikes with the maturity of someone who is experienced in both trail and in life.

#3The Forest Unseen. I picked this title up off the New shelf at Barnes & Noble only to find out later that the author is a biology professor with whom a couple of my OSU students have indirect experience. Small world. Anyways, the author periodically visits a single square meter of woodland and describes the nature and natural processes he sees occurring within that small vacuum throughout an entire year. The book has won numerous awards and topics range from the invisible microscopic threads of fungi to the gut biota of vultures to the effects of deer browse on forest regeneration. It’s exceptionally well written, very sciencey in places, beautifully poetic in others.

#4Anthill. E.O. Wilson, internationally renowned conservationist, bridges the gap between his personal childhood and graduate education in this fictional novel of a young man caught in the crosshairs of family drama, social classes, preservation, conservation, business, and development. I really enjoyed it but some might find some of the anti-religious overtones and violence off-putting. It’s Edward Abbey’s Monkey Wrench Gang meets post-Antebellum South meets graduate research thesis on social behavior of ants. It’s interesting.

#5Wildlife Law: A Primer. This book could easily have topped this list but I put it last simply because it’s a textbook. That said, it’s easily the most engaging textbook I’ve ever read. In preparation to teach Wildlife Conservation Policy this spring semester, I read the book and based quite a few of my lectures on its text. It doesn’t delve too deeply into any one issue but covers the gamut from private versus public land ownership (a HUGE issue currently in the balance for American sportsmen) to the Endangered Species Act to the minutia of trespassing, wildlife harassment, liability for dangerous animal owners, and other issues of criminal law interpretation and enforcement. For anyone wanting to boost their capacity to engage politically-charged environment and natural resources issues at the local, state, or federal level, I would label this a “must read”.

Pennsylvania State Game Lands 33 Rights-of-Way Project
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I had the chance 2 weeks ago to travel east a half day’s journey and visit the Pennsylvania State Game Lands 33 Rights-of-Way Research site that has been in existence for well over 60 years. Several sets of principal investigators have cranked out numerous studies on subjects ranging from selective herbicide usage to pollinators to game species such as deer and turkey to songbirds to snakes to shrubby habitat communities. We are exploring opportunities to partner with a major player within the energy industry and do something similar in Ohio, so the trip was exploratory in those terms but also very informative and exciting to get to see such a long-standing research site that has produced an overflow of management-guiding research over the past 6+ decades.

Wyoming Pronghorn Skull Mount
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Picked up my pronghorn skull from the dermestid beetle guy earlier this week. It is hard to beat the dark horns/light skull contrast on an antelope European mount.

I know a lot of hunters are excitely planning their 2017 antelope hunts in Wyoming with draw results just coming out a week and a half or two ago. Here are the hotlinks for each day’s report from our Wyoming Special Draw hunt – it was awesome!

Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Day 4 Day 5 Day 6

DIY Deer Hunt on Kodiak Island – Re-Location
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I made a post earlier in April regarding the winter conditions and potential impact on the Sitka black-tailed deer herd on Kodiak Island. It seems like the only thing I may have under-estimated was the kill’s effect on older age class animals, does and bucks alike on the NW and middle portions of Kodiak Island. I have talked to a lot of people who live/work, guide/hunt, or both on Kodiak Island, and reports have been pretty consistent that winter kill was moderate to severe on the northern portion of the island, and negligible to moderate on the southern end of the island.

Here is an article that discusses how climate, deer, bears, and berries are all players in the dynamic winter system on Kodiak Island, really interesting information in here!

Armed with this knowledge, we’ve pulled the plug on our initial location choice, an inland alpine lake off Uganik Bay, to relocate further toward the southern end of Kodiak Island. Trading out some winter kill for a new location will present its own unique set of challenges, not the least of which is a higher-priced bush flight from Kodiak proper. We will also be trading alpine conditions that eliminate most of the inconvenience and frustration of dealing with pockets of chest tall vegetation and impenetrable alder thickets with guess what…pockets of chest tall vegetation and impenetrable alder thickets. We’ll also be hunting at lower elevations which eliminates virtually any chance of lucking into a shaded residual snow back that would be invaluable for caring for an early season meat cache. The switch probably increases the probability of flying invertebrate combat too, though I have some new head nets and 100% DEET to fight that battle if necessary.

All trades we’re willing to make though. Fawns are the first to go when going gets tough, then the mature bucks are next up for winter kill susceptibility. So many resources get poured into the rut that most bucks go into winter with less fat reserves than their female counterparts. Some A-grade reports from the south end lead me to believe that while a few adult deer may have succumbed to malnutrition and starvation this past winter, a hunt with solid numbers of mature animals is in our (very near–just over 2 months!!!) future.

Updated gear list posts coming next.

Infolinks 2013