Wyoming Antelope Draw Results……SUCCESSFUL!!
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Five of us went into Wyoming’s Special antelope draw with 3 points averaged. I had considered 4 units seriously. Unit 63 and 68 experienced significant point creep and we would have missed the boat entirely. Unit 75 crept up as well but not enough to have left us completely in the dust, we’d have been looking at 33% odds. The only unit that stayed stable (though it did creep from 4 points to 5 in the Normal draw) is Unit 73, the unit we applied for and the same unit that we’re eyeing for a mule deer hunt in another couple of years. (….Drum roll….) We were SUCCESSFUL!!

We are super excited for October to roll around and some of the hunt logistics have already fallen into place, not the least of which is lodging thanks to an AirBnB booking – an absolute basement bargain price that would embarrass even the nicest of rural Western hotel/motel accommodations.

Even if point creep stabilized the next couple of years, we shaved 2 years off our antelope hunt wait and likely more by going Special. All in all, I believe it’s money well spent and easily justified. When Andrew and I were out in 2007, the cost of a normal antelope tag plus the cost of a trespass fee to hunt quality private land put us well over $600. 10 years later here in 2016, these tags put us on 1,000+ square miles of top-notch public land with way higher trophy potential at less cost. It’s all about a perspective, and I’d call this tag a bargain!

Kifaru Hunting Pack – Mountain Warrior
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A hunting pack called the Mountain Warrior, it must be awesome. My how things have changed in the 4 years since my initial gear up for run-and-gun elk hunting in the mountains. Eberlestock was an option back then, Kifaru was just getting its legs, Badlands was a reputable brand, and Sitka was the standard. Now, options have tripled, even quadrupled, at a minimum. As long-time followers might remember, I’ve run the Badlands 2800 in the original bat-wing style for several hunts running now with absolutely zero complaints. So why consider a change?

??

But I did and made a change. I went top tier and bought a lightly-used Kifaru frame off a hunting forum and decked it with a Mountain Warrior pack topped with a Longhunter Lid set-up. The improvements over my past pack are significant. It’s top to bottom bombproof. It’s got a lumbar pad. It’s got more room than my prior packs. It’s got a meat shelf that puts the weight of a packout close against my back. It’s versatile. It’s got a lot of straps. A LOT of straps!! That’s my main complaint, my only gripe actually – it’s complicated. If Stone Glacier achieves an elegant but effective simplicity, then Kifaru offers efficiency with all the bells and whistles. That said, my complaint – Kifaru’s complexity – led me to discover one other huge plus, their customer service. A++ grade in that department.

The most critical part of any good product review remains…bloody it up! Can’t wait to put it through the wringer, chasing elk in Colorado first, and hopefully gunning for antelope in Wyoming in October. Tag results for the second hunt available tomorrow!

May Fishing Trips
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Raelyn and I took the canoe out twice so far this spring in pursuit of spawning crappie. Except for a small “cat-tail fish” on trip #1, we just got some rowing exercise. Thankfully, we managed to find some hungry fish on our second outing. A few crappie, several catfish, and a big cove full of bedding bluegills provided non-stop action for Raelyn. Once we discovered the bluegill hotspot, she was reeling them in as fast as I could get them unhooked.

We ended up keeping 31 and that kept me busy filleting fish even as an afternoon thunderstorm passed through the area. I’m thrilled to have a daughter who truly enjoys sitting in the woods, walking nature trails, spying on salamanders under logs, and paddling the canoe around on a lazy Saturday morning. I’m really thankful to see her establishing these connections to wild things and wild places at such a young and impressionable age!

Ohio State Maymester Course Experience
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I have to apologize for one of the longest (perhaps the longest…?) inactivity spells in The Outdoor Smorgasbord’s 8+ year history. It’s been a frantic pace of busy lately with old project deadlines, new project developments, new course responsibilities, and more colliding over a 2 month window. The good news is that I just spent a week enjoying the Outer Banks with my family, and the promise of steady, more manageable workflow is cresting the horizon. Exhale.

During the last 3 weeks of May, I had my first experience teaching the Capstone Maymester course for our Ohio State natural resources and environmental studies seniors. It’s a semi-immersive experience for the students with lots of field work and a great deal of independent thinking on their part. We (I taught with 2 other instructors) provided running boards to keep each group’s research project tracking but gave them plenty of freedom to make mistakes and learn valuable lessons from the school of lumps and bruises. Nocturnal wildlife, pollinator habitat and rights-of-way, land use and soil legacy effects on pine plantation productivity, and stakeholder use of hiking trail networks were the focus of the different group projects, and each group was responsible for presenting their results to a panel of university/public stakeholders as well as producing a final technical report that builds into a management plan for the campus property. It’s meant to be as close to a real world experience as higher learning permits, and I think each student emerges with much of the ivory tower naivety replaced with an appreciation for more realistic working environment dynamics – both the fulfilling as well as frustrating aspects!

Here’s a small sampling of pictures that I took during the course’s field week.

A burrow forecast of the 17 year cicada hatch

Jack-in-the-pulpit

And there’s Jack

Red-winged blackbird nest

Gray catbird

One of the neatest things I’ve seen in a while. This fox squirrel lugged a deer femur 20 feet into a tree to do some dental work.

Canopy gap created by windfall

Blue phlox

Prickly gooseberry

A heaping helping of Dryad’s Saddle shelf fungus (also called Pheasant’s Back)

Shale Gas Development & Wildlife Research Overview
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Blog posts have been slim for a while due to the hyper-busyness of work, but it’s been a good kind of busy. Namely, I’ve been pulling together a field crew and sampling protocols for a wide-reaching project on how pipeline rights-of-way (ROWs) that transport natural gas present both opportunities and challenges to wildlife communities and habitat. Native bees and pollinators, amphibians and reptiles, songbird diversity and nesting success, a number of vegetation monitoring objectives, all heaped on top of negotiating agreements with various landowners across eastern Ohio.

Some of the opportunities are excellent forage sources and early successional habitat types presented by the ROWs in forested landscapes, but those potential benefits are countered by concerns that creating linear features of “good” habitat could actually lead animals into an ecological trap because of increased vulnerability to different predation risks. The list of pros and cons are extremely long and much of the research is aimed at disentangling those positives and negatives – how can we boost and encourage the benefits and mitigate or reduce the downsides.

Infolinks 2013