Energy Development and Infrastructure Field Trip
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I’m launching into a new research project in the coming months here at Ohio State University. The project will focus on the large-scale, coarse-grain effects of things such as energy development and land use conversion on the wildlife habitat present (or absent as the case may be) within Ohio’s rural landscape. Warming to the task, I jumped at an opportunity to follow David Hanselmann’s Environment and Natural Resources “May-mester” course on a field trip to Harrison County in eastern Ohio in mid May.

We heard information about how above ground (for well pad and road construction) leases were obtained, how below ground (mineral rights) leases were obtained, standard protocol for below ground drilling, considerations of threatened and endangered species and sensitive habitats (wetlands), and some of the economics at play in the region. For the well pad, road, and pipeline construction, there is a big focus on ensuring dirt stays where it is supposed to in order to prevent water quality issues and soil erosion concerns.

Much of my fascination is with how post-construction practices can be modified in order to A) minimize negative impacts to local wildlife communities and habitat, B) provide maximum benefits to local wildlife communities and habitat, and C) maintain cost-effectiveness for energy industry companies and accompanying private landowners where oil/gas development is occurring. Perhaps the project vision is utopic at the moment, but I think there is tremendous potential for collaboration for parties who have been wrongly pitted as being “against” one another for far too long.

Wild Harvest Initiative – “It’s What’s For Dinner”
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Shane Mahoney’s conservation group called Conservation Visions is kicking off a 5-year look into the sustenance provided by wild proteins secured by more than 40 million North American sportsmen and sportswomen.

The Wild Harvest Initiative is really a spectacular vision to document what will undoubtedly be a hard-hitting acclaim: the wild protein procured by recreational hunters and fishermen offsets a tremendous amount of would-be calories generated by more modern vices such as intensive agriculture and domestic livestock production.

As founder, Shane Mahoney has spent a tremendous deal of his life’s time and energy promoting the North American model of conservation and justifying the role of recreational hunters and fishers in that context – he’s a tremendous spokesperson. However, many of the justifications that we [recreational hunters and fishers] have used also have decent counter-arguments. This is a good one though. Particularly in an era when the locavore and organic food movement has gained traction amongst previously disengaged segments of the American public, this argument will likely secure great traction and aid in keeping consumptive recreational activities firmly in place within the North American landscape.

Follow the link to their recent press release on June 8, and watch for more updates as this unfolds in the coming months and years.

Book Review: The Drunkard’s Walk (i.e., randomness)
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One of the more interesting books I’ve read in a quite while, but not exactly a curl-up-on-the-couch kind of book. Takes an engaged and active mind to really understand what the author is communicating through his many historical narratives, numbers-based mind benders, and statistical reasoning. I could take this review any number of ways, but this is a blog mostly about outdoor things, so I’ll try to keep my few observations as on topic as possible.

But heck, this is about randomness, so I’ll be random. My daughter scribbled this on her etch-a-sketch. It’s awesome…and random.

The odds of rolling two 6′s with dice is based on probability, it’s not random. But here’s a fallacy of throwing dice, if you throw 10 sets of dice and don’t get a 6, your odds are no better of achieving that 6 on your next throw. You’re never “due” as we like to say. Dice rolls are INDEPENDENT outcomes, which essentially means that the outcome of the last dice roll (or of the last 50 rolls) does not influence your next toss.

How does that apply to the outdoors? Well, I know a good many people who sit in the same deer hunting stand year after year after year, and proclaim that they are due.

For those who do this year after year unsuccessfully, maybe you should re-evaluate! But for those who are occasionally successful, the “I’m due” phenomenon is all too often mentioned. No, for your deer stand, there is a probability of annual success – let’s say it’s 16.67% (same as tossing a specified number with 1 roll of a die). This essentially means that you can expect to kill 1 deer every 6 years. Expect is the key word, 1 out of 6 doesn’t mean those are the results you will actually experience. You may get back-to-back success years, this doesn’t sentence you to 10 consecutive unsuccessful years in the future. One year’s outcome does not influence the next’s. Makes my head spin just thinking about it. If I was as good a writer as Leonard Mlodinow, perhaps this wouldn’t be so confusing.

The bell curve or normal distribution. One of the most frequent questions I got asked during my time in Alabama was this – “what is the antler score of the average mature Alabama buck?” They asked, so I’d answer, usually somewhere in the 110-120″ vicinity. Inevitably, they would bark at me that there is no way that’s the average because they just killed a monster 130″ buck just last weekend. Welcome to outliers in normally-distributed data. The shape of a bell curve is centered on the mean or average, and the spread or width or narrowness of the curve is based on the standard deviation. If you look at the %’s in the figure above, you can see that 95.44% of the bucks can be expected to score within +/- 2 standard deviations of the average. 100% – 95.44% = 4.66% leftover. By dividing that 4.66% by 2, we get 2.33% (roughly in 1 in 43). That means for every 43 bucks that are shot, you’re going to get a really low outlier (think 8 year old 4 pointer with 10″ spread) and one really high outlier (think 4 year 12 pointer with 19″ spread and grossing in the upper 160s).

Here’s a couple other examples:

The values on the horizontal axis represent the change in antler score from one year to the next for a mature whitetail buck in south Texas. “Let em’ pass this year, he’ll be way bigger next year.” Maybe, maybe not. The bell curve I’m staring at here suggests it’s a total coin toss. Some will blow up, note the 2 animals all the way at right that added 40″ of antler growth. Some will shrink drastically, look far left. A lot will experience menial/insignificant change.

I defend my answer for Alabama bucks. Here’s a chart based on deer from the Faith Ranch in south Texas, data courtesy of Texas A&M University folks. Go to south Texas to shoot a B&C buck right? Well, how’s 5 out of 251 mature bucks strike you? Dad and I saw this exact scenario play out back in 2007 when we went down to the mighty King Ranch to assist a helicopter deer capture operation for a couple days. We (our group collectively) handled 70 or 80 different bucks in that amount of time. 0 170″+ bucks. MAYBE 1 160″ buck. The King Ranch!!! Numbers don’t lie.

Back to random, my 3 years and 7 months old daughter (slightly older now) created this beautiful work of art.

Take a minute to “see” the horse and then marvel at her random work of art. Seriously, it’s random scribbling. Random, huh?!?!?! Kind of like seeing a Mother Mary apparition in a piece of French toast.

Back to the book “The Drunkard’s Walk”, I highly recommend it. It will alarm you how badly you understand probabilities, randomness, and numbers in general. It’s even more alarming to see how our lives might look very different if we did understand those things better. Very entertaining read with examples ranging from the New York Yankees to OJ’s murder trial to Vanna White to Hollywood movie producers. It’s eye opening.

Ultralight Wood Stove – Altoids Tin
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Here’s what our elk crew has been using as an ultralight, wood-fueled source of boiling water the past few years (See Pete’s instructions for construction here). The Ikea wood stove made with personal tender, love, and care. Little bulky though as it’s larger than the 700 ml Titanium kettle, and the capacity for the stove to hold its shape has diminished with its frequent rides in elk-laden packs. Bottom line, time to explore lighter weight and less bulky alternatives to the beloved Ikea.

Found this idea online and scoped out some reviews/design templates – the Altoids mint tin design.

Took me no time at all to put one together and here is the finished product.

Used a slightly modified design for the binding posts and bottom screw attachment to get more clearance for increased fuel capacity. I’ll probably pair this with a flexible 3-sided aluminum heat shield that I’m making out of disposable aluminum pan material.

The stove and heat shield weigh 2.9 ounces and fit INSIDE the kettle with plenty of room to spare for a film canister full of Vaseline-soaked cottonballs, a lighter and spare lighter, and more.

The primary concern with this design is whether or not you can get enough burns out of the stove for a long wilderness backpacking trip before the system starts to compromise. I plan on doing some beta-testing in the backyard to prove the concept before it’s allowed on a hunt, but I’m hopeful.

We’re not done with exploring other options, but this is already a big improvement on our old system – which to give it credit, the Ikea wood stove was our first love and it does function amazingly well.

Related Post: Ikea Wood Stove DIY Build Instructions

The Importance of Season Dates – Planning a Western Combo Hunt
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I wrote this piece a couple months ago, and this is a parallel sort of article that outlines different approaches to scheduling a combo (mule deer and pronghorn antelope in the same trip) hunt strategies.

First step – go to Wyoming.

Perhaps oversimplified, but not really…there is no other state (?maybe Montana’s general tag?) that offers comparable options to properly plan and pull off a combo hunt.

Once you start staring at Wyoming’s regulation digest, there are 3 basic options: A) Hunt both species in the same unit simultaneously, B) Hunt one species in one unit and then hunt the other in a different area, and C) Hunt both species in the same unit but at different times. Option B is what we did in 2006 when Andrew and I tackled Wyoming’s Region C for mule deer and Unit 23 for antelope.

While I may very well be forced into this scenario again, it’s not optimal. From a points required standpoint though, it’s the easiest to execute from a pulling-2-tags standpoint. In fact, there are countless options available for hunters wanting to go this route. Just to illustrate using our 2006 hunt as an example, Region C’s mule deer season starts on October 1st and Unit 23′s antelope opener is the same date. In this Option B scenario, you have to make a choice, which opener are we going to focus on. This was easy for us because we were hunting mule deer on public land and relying on a trespass fee access permit to hunt pronghorn on private land. Mule deer first, mop up on pronghorn after the fact.

Moving away from Option B though, let’s focus for a moment on Option A: Hunt both species in the same unit simultaneously. While this approach seems the best, it’s not. Unless fortune is really on your side, splitting time and attention between species results in a sub-par quality hunt. Quality hunts require focus, and having bipolar disorder doesn’t lend itself to concentration. My opinion, Option A is a bad idea unless you are planning on road hunting or shooting both critters out of an irrigated alfalfa pivot. Both strategies do work by the way…

So it sounds like Option C is the last to discuss – hunt both species in the same unit but at different times. This can actually occur in 2 different variations. First off and due to legal constraints, you might hunt the last 4 days of an antelope season (October 28-31) and then pick up mule deer hunting on the same unit’s opener (November 1). There are lots of units in which this is an option. Pronghorn are really good about returning to a semi-calm state after the initial wave of opening weekend rolls through, but potential issues arise from bucks shedding horns and all the antelope crowded into HUGE late October herds. Definitely doable though. No pressure to look for and shoot a mule deer during your first 4 days, but you can be taking notes on promising looking areas. One bummer is this – you’ll probably see a huge mule deer buck and you can’t shoot it! One other issue – what happens if you tag out on antelope during the first 2 days? While having 2 days to scout sounds like a great benefit, it can seem like wasted time to folks who have to pinch every last day out of their annual vacation for hunting.

The second variation to Option C is the most attractive to me. You hunt both species in the same unit but at different times, but the different times are your choice and allocating the time towards one species or another is completely flexible because both seasons are in concurrently. You can dedicate 100% focus to each species because there are clear “antelope areas” and clear “mule deer areas” within the unit.

Within some units, this image likely exaggerates the differences in habitat between the species, but it makes a good point. A hunter can 100% focus on glassing up mule deer as they feed back to rimrock bedding areas during the early morning hours and late evening hours, and that very same hunter can 100% focus on cruising wide open sagebrush flats and bowls to spy some midday antelope. Both strategies are THE strategies needed to consistently tag mature animals, but neither strategy interferes with the other. The bonus? There is always an off-chance that you bump into a mega mule deer buck while scoping out the sagebrush for buck antelope, and the converse is certainly true with spying a heavy-horned speed goat from a twilight glassing perch.

In an ideal world, this will be our approach when we embark on our next Wyoming adventure. The exact unit requires a good handful of points for both species, but the seasons overlap in that we’ll be hunting antelope after the vast majority of the 800 tag holders have gone home, and we’ll be out after mule deer on the season opener and ensuing opening week with the other 150 deer hunters. Given the unit’s deer and antelope areas are fairly distinct, it wouldn’t surprise me to never see another antelope hunter, and the deer tag requires a bunch of points for precisely the reason given…only 150 tags to cover a unit far larger than 1,000 square miles.

Hopefully this gives you some things to think about as you plan your next hunting adventure!

Infolinks 2013