Predation Or Habitat? Which Is More Detrimental To Wild Ungulates?
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We have always heard discussions about our deer, moose and elk and what effects loss of habitat has and the presence of wild animal predators, namely wolves, mountain lions and bears. We all know that both habitat and predation are important factors in the survivability of our wild ungulate populations everywhere. The question is or at least should be, is there a major difference between the negative affects of the two on our deer, moose and elk, enough to be concerned about anyway?

I read all the time about how predators have little or no substantial affect on deer, elk or moose. Is this true?

I read how it is hunters who kill more of these animals than do predators. Is this true?

I am always reading about how it is habitat that has a greater affect on mortality rates than does predation. Is this true?

In the discussion of wolf predation in the three states of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming and in particular south central Idaho, I hear how drought is what’s killing off the mule deer population. Is this true?

I also hear that large herds of elk are eating up all the plant life and as a result of decimating the plant life elk populations are declining. Is this true?

I hear that more deer die each year from natural causes than predators kill in a year. Is this true?

In the December 2005 – January 2006 edition of The Outdoorsman, Bulletin Number 16, pages 13,14 and 15, editor George Dovel, received permission from the Mule Deer Foundation to republish an article written by Dr. Charles E. Kay. You can read the entire article here.(pdf) Here’s a bit about Dr. Kay.

(Charles Kay has a PhD in wildlife ecology from Utah State University and is an adjunct professor and senior environmental scholar there. As a researcher in the Northern Rocky Mountains for 2O-plus years, his 1993 predictions concerning the number of wolves, their impact on game, and de-listing delays have all come true. If you enjoy hunting mule deer, please read this carefully.

Dr. Kay examines through collected data and research, what effects loss of habitat and predation has had specifically on mule deer but also talks at length about how this all stacks up against elk and moose.

Let’s first put into perspective the number of mule deer killed by just one predator, the mountain lion. Dr. Kay quietly estimates there to be approximately 36,000 mountain lions living within mule deer habitat in the west. Let’s do some math.

A number of researchers have estimated how many deer-sized ungulates a single lion will kill every year and, on average about 50 prey animals must die to feed one cat. Thus, in total, mountain lions are killing 1.8 million ungulates each year. Of that number, approximately 1.2 million are mule deer.

Dr. Kay verified his figures with another wildlife professor who concurred.

Kay further looks at how hunter harvest numbers have changed over the years compared to predator numbers. He says that in 1960, hunters across the west harvested 21% of the mule deer in the fall. Today (at the time of the article published in 2006) that harvest percentage is 9%.

In Alaska, biologists say that in areas where there are a lot of predators, only 5% of moose can be taken by hunters. If we compare those figures with areas of no predation, like Scandinavia, hunters can easily take 55% of the population each year without having any affect on the herd management goals.

All these figures are well and good and animal rights groups, particularly wolf advocates because of the federal protection on them in the lower 48 states, don’t much care that hunters aren’t getting the opportunities they once had to take these elk, deer and moose. Even though most states are mandated by law and commission the fish and game departments to manage game animals to provide hunting opportunities, this doesn’t seem to deter lawsuits and consequently hunters are the ones suffering because of it.

In states that have constitutional protection, recognizing that it is a right to hunt, trap and fish, it at least deters the lawsuits. Dr. Kay points out in this article that no animal rights group has ever successfully overturned a state constitutional amendment protecting hunting, fishing and trapping. Any changes to stop the sports, require a 2/3 majority vote.

So, these figures are interesting and clearly show us what most of us probably suspected anyway. That predators kill a lot of ungulates each year. But what about that shrinking habitat? Isn’t that having a bigger negative impact on these animals?

Doesn’t it only make sense that if we can produce a greater habitat for let’s say deer, that we will have more deer and conversely if we reduce habitat, deer die off or will not reproduce in sufficient numbers? That’s always been the formula hasn’t it?

According to Dr. Kay, in a study that appeared in the scientific journal “Ecology”, a publication of the Ecological Society of America, showed that improving habitat for moose did very little to increase numbers.

In Alaska, where the Department of Fish and Game has conducted predator-prey research for many years, and where moose are the principal prey and wolves and grizzlies the main predators, Dr. Ward Tesla recently concluded: From a management perspective, methods that improve range conditions, and by extension moose productivity, have limited potential to reverse the decline of moose numbers when compared to measures that reduce predation.

There are other such cases that show the same thing. Banff and Jasper National Parks in the central Canadian Rockies have some of the most “spectacular wildlife habitat in North America”, says Dr. Kay but today there is very little game due to predation. Animals are not hunted in these parks.

Dr. Kay has taken four extended horseback trips into the wilderness of Banff and Jasper to study the lack of ungulates. He says that unlike the National Parks in the United States, park officials in Canada speak openly of how predation is wiping out elk, deer and moose populations.

There are other areas to make comparisons. Yellowstone is one such place. Dr. Kay talks of the money and effort put into the restoration and improvement of elk habitat in that region, yet numbers continue on the decline. Where once as many as 4,000 elk permits were issued in the Gallatin and Yellowstone River areas, today there are none.

To appreciate the magnitude of the problem look at Colorado. Here is a state that has neither wolves nor grizzlies as this is written.

At last report there were approximately 300,000 elk in Colorado, which is three times more elk than exist in all of Canada! In addition, prior to wolf reintroduction there were more elk in the Yellowstone ecosystem than all of Canada!

Canada has some great wildlife habitat but hunting is definitely better in Colorado where hunters took home nearly 70,000 elk last fall. More elk were killed in Colorado and Wyoming last fall than exist in all Canada!

And let’s not forget about drought conditions and how wolf advocates are saying that in Idaho it’s the drought that’s killing off the mule deer and any affects being seen in elk and moose herds has to be the drought as they insist that predation has no effect.

To answer this question we need to look at some Arizona data. Based on tree-ring evidence, Arizona has experienced the worst drought in the last 700 to 1,000 years and the fawn to doe ratio in Game Management 22 dropped to only 18 fawns per 100 does in 2002.

Drought right? Well, not exactly. Inside a predator-proof enclosure that Arizona Game and Fish has maintained on the Three-Bar watershed since 1970, there were 100 fawns per 100 does! In addition, mule deer density inside the predator-proof enclosure was ten times “higher” than where predators held sway.

Drought may make deer more susceptible to predation, but predators do most of the actual killing. Over the last 35 years, does inside the enclosure have, on average, produced 225o/o more fawns than mule deer outside the fenced area.

For those who may be wondering if this same information can apply to whitetail deer as compared to mule deer, Dr. Kay shows in studies that for whatever the reasons, whitetail deer more easily adapt to eluding predators but not to the point we can say that predation has no effect on whitetail deer.

This is an interesting article combined with research that should make wildlife biologists take another look at where they are expending their efforts in deer, moose and elk management. Just today, I wrote an article about Maine’s efforts to do something about coyote predation on that state’s whitetail deer herd in northern Maine. As the article stated, the majority of the discussion with the legislative committee to the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, was centered around trying to find ways to improve the habitat and little to do with reducing coyote numbers.

Tom Remington

Mary Katharine Ham Talks To Romney About Second Amendment
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TownHall.com blogger Mary Katharine Ham got a chance to chat with Mitt Romney on Friday from the campaign trail in Iowa.

MKH: Now, you supported an assault weapons ban in Massachusetts. This tragedy is being used to push the renewal of the federal assault weapons ban. What would your stance be if that comes up again?

MR: Well, you know, the weapon used here was not an assault weapon, so I’m not sure what the relevance is. And, that’s what we have to recognize. The people who want to remove Second Amendment rights will look for everything they can. You know, if there’s a weapon that puts our police at risk, like machine guns, of course, then that’s something I would, of course, consider. But, look, we’ve gotta fundamentally recognize the need to protect the right to bear arms and the fact that there are people who are trying to remove that right inch by inch, and we’re gonna have to defend against that.

Oh, please. Mr. Romney you’ve got to do better than this. He immediately tries to justify that there are exceptions to the Second Amendment depending upon the weapon one chooses. Any weapon can be an assault weapon. Even a wet noodle.

He tries to support the Second Amendment by saying that there are people who want to remove our rights but then begins talking about which guns can’t be included in that right. He attempts to justify that exemption by claiming some weapons could be harmful to policemen.

“We got to fundamentally recognize the need to protect the right to bear arms…….” What does that mean? What is wrong with saying, “We got to protect the Second Amendment……”? No, this isn’t simple semantics I’m afraid. I think this is a politician who believes that “fundamentally” we have a right to bear the arms he thinks are necessary – no more and no less.

He’s for gun control straight and simple.

Read Mary Katharine Ham’s entire interview with Mr. Romney.

Tom Remington

RESTORE-SAM Begins Its Outreach Program
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The infant and anonymous entity that calls itself RESTORE-SAM, has begun what appears to be a campaign to solicit input from any concerned sportsmen, or citizens in general for that matter, on specific topic matters.

Earlier this month, I announced the formation of this group that insists it will remain anonymous while asking all curious sportsmen to only consider the issues that affect them most and not focus on who might be asking the questions or directing any discussions. This approach of anonymity has been controversial to say the least with some Maine sportsmen vowing to ignore RESTORE-SAM as they would have trouble with credibility.

I have to say that I have been one of those skeptical few but am determined to try to keep an open mind about the issue.

Within a few days of RESTORE-SAM making their announcement at the New England Outdoor Voice website, the debate over their purpose and effectiveness highlighted a few hunting and fishing message boards as well as become the topic of at least one Maine newspaper outdoor writer, Ken Allen.

With the controversy stirring heated debate in places where more heated debate wasn’t needed, it appeared that RESTORE-SAM wasn’t properly prepared to deal with the consequences of laying claim to want to bring the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine back to its roots.

On April 9th, only about 3 days after their announcement, I criticized the efforts of RESTORE-SAM in an article by stating that they have no means of communicating quickly and effectively with the masses of Maine sportsmen looking for answers. They still don’t.

It’s now 2 weeks since I wrote that article and only now has RESTORE-SAM awakened again in quest of input from Maine sportsmen. I found a post this morning again at New England Outdoor Voice from R-S, inviting members there to offer input to a specific issue that has faced Maine hunters for the past 30 years.

The post at the message board states the following.

Over the coming weeks and months we will be collecting information and opinion from the visitors to the website with the objective of writing a SAM Management Assessment Report (SMART) by this fall. The first subject we propose for debate is Sunday Hunting. Thank you to those that have sent in comments and ideas. Keep them coming. We will begin by asking the following question.

With SAM’s apparent failure to once again enact Sunday Hunting, do you think it is in the best interest of SAM members for SAM to continue to push for Sunday Hunting?

We have posted new content that can be found at: http://www.restore-sam.com/sunhunt.html or as a link from our main page http://www.restore-sam.com

restoresam

A quick trip over to the R-S website and they expound a bit more on the issue of Sunday Hunting and how the repeated attempts, 26 out of the last 30 years according to R-S, to enact a law allowing Sunday Hunting by SAM has hurt Maine’s hunting image and resulted in more land closures.

There have been 26 legislative attempts in the last 30 years to enact Sunday hunting. Each time it has been submitted for consideration, it has been rejected by the legislature. Statewide polls and surveys indicate that the majority of Mainers are opposed to Sunday Hunting. Many Mainers and specifically land owners strongly oppose the idea of Sunday Hunting.

We want to encourage the Sportsman Alliance of Maine to stop submitting Sunday Hunting legislation unless new statewide survey data indicates a shift in Maine viewpoints. The persistent efforts of the Sportsman Alliance of Maine have furthered the divide between hunters, landowners and non-hunting outdoors people. This has resulted in an increase in the amount of posted land in Maine and a loss of hunting opportunity for Mainers.

The continual pushing of Sunday Hunting as an issue is not in the long term best interest of the Maine Sporting Community. By using discretion and knowing what fights to pick and what fights to avoid SAM will be better positioned as an effective lobbying organization in the future. Sunday Hunting is an example of using up precious political capitol on an issue that SAM should know is not going to happen unless average Mainers change their views.

What would make their effort more effective is if they could provide links to back up some of the claims they are making. One such claim is that “Statewide polls and surveys indicate that the majority of Mainers are opposed to Sunday Hunting”. A simple link to where that information came from would help sportsmen in making better decisions.

Another claim says, “The persistent efforts of the Sportsman Alliance of Maine have furthered the divide between hunters, landowners and non-hunting outdoors people. This has resulted in an increase in the amount of posted land in Maine and a loss of hunting opportunity for Mainers.”

I think it would be safe to say that it is the opinion of R-S that persistent efforts of SAM have created a divide. Once again though, they claim that this effort has resulted in posting of land and loss of hunting opportunity. If this is fact, they should provide the resource from where this came from. If not, we can only assume it to be of their opinion or belief. Of course they don’t need to but it would assist them in their struggle with credibility.

R-S, in choosing to remain anonymous in this effort, has to do everything it can to gain as much credibility with Maine sportsmen. To do that they should use as much documented facts to support issues. We all know that polls and questions can be worded in such ways as to influence the responses of those participating. Perhaps a better approach for R-S is to pose a question as they did today and provide a link to a fact-filled page supporting the reasons both for and against why a persistent effort on Sunday Hunting has proven to be bad for Maine.

I don’t intend to be critical. It is my intention as I said before, to keep an open mind. It is part of my commitment in what I do, to improve outdoor opportunities for all sportsmen. If this effort can do that, I’m all for it. If it is going to further divide the community, I’m against it. I am simply offering some suggestions.

If you are interested in offering some of your own suggestions, comments, observations, etc., click on this link. It will take you to the Sunday hunting question with a link to contact RESTORE-SAM.

*Previous Posts on RESTORE-SAM*
RESTORE-SAM Off To A Poor Start
Group Seeking To RESTORE-SAM (Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine)

Tom Remington

“Most Ridiculous Item Of The Day”
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Many of you are probably familiar with Bill O’Reilly of Fox News and the now famous O’Reilly Factor. He calls it his “No Spin” Zone. As part of his nightly show, toward the end of the broadcast he includes two parts. One is called, “The Most Ridiculous Item of the Day” and the other is email from his viewers.

For lack of originality on my part, I decided that this morning I would take a page from the O’Reilly Factor and post my most ridiculous item of the day. I read in an article on line yesterday from a self-proclaimed wolf expert who said that one of the most important reasons that wolves should have been reintroduced into the Yellowstone National Park area was because it makes elk and deer more wild.

Think about that if you have a moment. Is this the reason that we should have wolves in our forests because it makes elk wilder? By that, I believe the originator of those thoughts was claiming that with wolves around elk ran and hid from the wolves and this was what, more natural or something?

So, should this be the basis for our wildlife management now by the “urban biologists”?. Urban biologists are those who sit in their air conditioned offices and dream of their Utopian wildernesses where everything is like it is portrayed by Disney. There are many places across America and around the world for that matter, where elk and deer live and there are no wolves. Are we to bring wolves there in order to make the elk “wilder”? Wolf lovers believe that to be so.

Piranha are a meat eating fish. They are not native to the United States. Should we introduce some of those to our fisheries in order to make some of our fish “more wild”?

Maine has a documented case of a fisher cat killing a Canada Lynx. Should we import more fisher to make the lynx “more wild”?

I witnessed a video one day posted at YouTube, of a rabbit attacking a rattle snake. Perhaps we should import more rabbits into rattlesnake country to make them “more wild”.

As you can see, this list could go on but here’s a better solution to our new-found form of wildlife management. Several animals have no natural predators as some would say because they don’t include man anywhere on their list in the food chain. With this logic of making game animals more wild, we should encourage humans to be out in the woods more. This will make those animals with no natural predators “more wild”.

And while they’re out there, lets give them a gun, as I’m sure a few shots well placed here and there is sure to make those animals “more wild”. They can run and hide. That’s what wild animals do, right?

Let’s call it hunting!

I can hear it now as I sit in my favorite recliner on a Friday evening warming to the wood stove sitting in the corner.

“Honey! What are your plans for tomorrow? I see you’re oiling your gun.”

“I’m going to get up before daybreak tomorrow and me and the boy are going to go out and make more wild some animals! We bought licenses that permit us to do that.”

Ridiculous? Perhaps

Tom Remington

Two Maine Coyote Bills Likely To Move Out Of Committee
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Two bills being considered and discussed within the Joint Standing Committee of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, are more than likely going to find their way to the full House and Senate for votes.

LD1045 is a bill to establish a bounty reward for coyotes. Even though this bill is probably headed for a full vote, it has been amended and to me it is not clear as to exactly what the new proposal will be. I’m researching that now to see if I can get the particulars.

This same bill was to increase license fees in order to pay for the bounty program. According to an article in the Lewiston Sun-Journal, committee chair Bruce Bryant seems to have a different perspective on how the state needs to control, if at all, the coyote population.

“We’re not trying to eliminate coyotes. That went out a long time ago,” Bryant said. “But, we’re trying to keep them out of deer yards. This last snowfall didn’t help, because a lot of does carrying little ones were forced back into the yards, where they’re easy pickings for coyotes.”

If it is Bryant’s belief that the biggest problems that coyotes are causing comes from predation within deer yards, can we assume from this that he would be in favor of reestablishing the coyote snaring program? This method of trapping has been raved about by trappers all across Maine as the only effective method of trapping coyotes and at the same time, keeping them out of winter deer yards.

This same thought process of focusing on winter deer yards showed during discussions of the second proposed legislation, LD824

LD824 would have extended the allowable time to hunt coyote to all night all year round but that was amended to extend the night hunting period from January 1 to April 30 to May 31. Not that night hunting has any measurable success in culling the coyote population, I fail to see how extending it one month will do much good. Again, it seems clear that the only means of coyote predator control measures the committee seems to be focused on is within the winter deer yards.

A third bill, LD823, which according to committee chair Bryant was illegally written, would have instructed the commission of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to revise and alter its coyote management program. That bill was changed so as to instruct MDIFW to work with the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine’s Deer Task Force in order to more thoroughly research deer habitat and coyote problems within deer yards, once again focusing exclusively on deer yards.

Once again, Bryant’s comments on deer yards and coyotes.

“We need to work on habitat and, have better control of deer yards. Every year, the problem with habitat is a major issue. It has been that way over the past four or five years. In northern Maine and Washington County, where the deer populations are low due to habitat, coyote predation just adds to the problem. We need to try to have a balance,” Bryant said.

Retired Maine deer biologist Gerry Lavigne, who now works for SAM, says that not only is coyote predation responsible for excessive deer losses, but loss of wintering habitat takes its toll.

In a SAM report last month, Lavigne stated that department studies of deer mortality during the late 1970s and 1980s pegged coyotes as the major source of deer losses in northern and eastern deer yards.

He said that coyotes readily select very young, weak or sick deer, and also prey on healthy mature does and bucks. Additionally, fawn loss commonly exceeds 50 percent between June and October.

Unless predation losses are curbed, Lavigne said deer populations in the areas are likely to remain far below their potential.

I can’t confirm Lavigne’s figures about fawn loss during that time period but everyone knows that winter deer yards are targets of coyotes. At one time trappers were allowed to snare coyotes around deer yards. It was during this time that predation on deer was reduced and population numbers began to show signs of rebounding to more balanced levels. But snaring was outlawed because of complaints from animal rights groups because of isolated incidents of snaring other wildlife.

Before hunters or trappers will go after the coyote in any reasonable amount that would have any effect on the numbers, there has to be incentive. The price achieved from coyote pelts isn’t high enough to justify the hours spent on methods currently allowed to trap or hunt. It’s just not worth the effort. With snaring, the effort was considerably less and the return worth the effort. That’s why trappers did it.

Hunting of the coyote is the same. Unless you have a hunter who happens to get considerable enjoyment out of coyote hunting, there really is no other incentive for hunters to head out into the woods to hunt the wary animal. We don’t readily eat the coyote and the only real value to be found comes from the pelt.

What I don’t understand is what the Sun Journal writes as to what Ken Elowe, current director of the MDIFW’s Resource Management, had to say about coyote management.

…..to effect the coyote population biologically, between 60 and 70 percent – from 6,000 to 12,000 – coyotes would have to be killed annually.

Only 2,000 to 2,700 coyotes are killed annually by hunters and trappers now.

Elowe said trying to reduce coyote populations would be an irresponsible use of public funds.

Somebody has to ask the questions, so I guess that would be me. The first question is, are we now then supposed to do nothing? I agree with Elowe that consensus among biologists is that to effectively reduce populations you have to remove large quantities but these comments indicate someone who thinks doing nothing at all is better than searching for some help. When snaring was in place, how many coyotes were taken annually?

But the biggest question I have concerns Elowe’s comment about irresponsible use of public funds. First I’ll make the comment that I wouldn’t consider monies generated from the increase in licenses to pay for the program “public” funds in the true sense. This money comes from those directly effected by an overblown population of coyotes. This isn’t tax revenue that is being spent.

Now to the question. If Mr. Elowe believes that this is an irresponsible way to spend money, am I to assume that he finds wasting millions of dollars on deer management programs only to watch the deer all be killed off because of too many coyotes not an irresponsible utilization of funds and protection of our investment?

Please! Maine hunters have contributed millions, perhaps billions of dollars by now, toward our wildlife management programs, including whitetail deer. To sit back and do nothing while allowing coyotes to destroy our deer herds because we have no backbone to stand up to a few animal rights extremists, is the biggest display of irresponsible stewardship of license buyer’s money and the citizens of Maine.

I don’t know if a bounty program in and of itself, will effectively curb the coyote problem, nor do I know if extending a period of night hunting will either. But doing nothing really isn’t an alternative. To slow the growth of the coyote is a first step. It seems clear, at least to many people, biologists, hunters and trappers included, that the problems with our small deer populations in northern and eastern Maine come from two sources. One is too many coyotes and the other is lack of adequate wintering habitat.

Are we addressing both of those problems or our we just copping a defeatist’s attitude saying it can’t be done? I know we are doing some to work with major landowners to get them to stay out of deer yards but that is a difficult task. It gets into property rights. The state can’t and shouldn’t force landowners to comply with our wishes but creative minds can come up new ideas and incentives to achieve results.

In addressing the coyote issue, unless someone can come up with another effective means of coyote reduction, maybe it’s time to step up and revisit the snaring program. If we combine that with extended night hunting, a license-paid bounty program and an education program that would help everyone understand that too many coyotes affects us all, this would be a start.

We have been stewards of the forests for too long now to say, “let Mother Nature take its course.” We need to continue with responsible wildlife management and care for our investments wisely. This state and other organizations have spent millions of dollars to protect a handful of animals. Why is it spending a few more dollars to save a declining deer herd so irresponsible?

Tom Remington

Hunting Over A Baited Field Is For Sissies
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The state of Mississippi recently approved a law that will allow hunters to shoot deer over a baited field. Of course this comes with some controversy as it delves into the ethics of the sport. This morning in the Clarion Ledger online, a reader submits an opinion piece in that regard.

Who’s to blame for the baited-field deer “hunting?”

“Hunting” deer over a baited field is for sissies, of course.

So the greatest share of the blame goes to the true sportsmen of the state who let it happen.

No pride.

Then the idiots we have elected to the Legislature have their share of blame. No courage.

Since no “real” man would participate in a “hunt” over a baited field, we now have a quandary. If you see a trophy deer head hanging in someone’s den, how do you know if he is a true sportsman or a sissy?

It becomes, therefore, appropriate to ask any “hunters” with a trophy deer head whether they wear pink, lavender or chartreuse panties underneath all that camo disguise.

The true sportsmen in Mississippi need to fix this.

I can certainly understand the frustration expressed by the writer of this piece but let’s take a closer look at the issue. The baiting bill in Mississippi, allows the fish and game commission to regulate baiting. At first a bill was proposed that would allow pretty much any type of baiting for deer. This bill is said to be a compromise from the original.

From this perspective, I can see that having the authority to regulate deer baiting, would give the commission another tool to effectively manage the deer population. If the commission decided there were too many deer and that if baiting could be used effectively to reduce that population, then I guess you could say it was useful.

But there are downsides to the baiting issue aside from an ethics point of view which I’ll look at in a moment. It is surmised that when deer or other ungulates congregate in masses, the chances for the spread of diseases such as chronic wasting disease, increases. Allowing for baiting of deer, no matter how the baiting is done, could promote the spread of that disease and others like Lyme.

Hunting ethics is quite a different story. For those of you who read my blog regularly, you know that I believe that hunting ethics should not be legislated. That isn’t to say that ethics shouldn’t be taught and within the law. Ethics is a personal thing usually passed down from father to son during our growing up years.

Here’s an example of what I mean. Growing up, deer venison was a necessary thing for my family. As a kid, I recall eating venison at least 3 nights out of the week and sometimes for breakfast as well. I grew up poor and between my father and my three older brothers, having more than one deer in the freezer was a God send.

Living this way forced us, with instructions from my Dad, to “meat hunt”. This meant that we took whatever was available to us at the time. Also understand that growing up and hunting in Maine, you didn’t go out and see several deer each day. Most of the time you were lucky to see several deer in an entire season. When you had a shot at a deer, you took it.

I can also say that my father or any of us boys, never took a deer illegally but I can assure you that if it had been a matter of need, there would have been venison in the freezer.

There are many hunters today, who still hunt this way. They are meat hunters and the need is there. I have heard many an argument over the years that there is no reason why anyone would hunt these days when there is plenty of food in the grocery stores. Those who make those statements, do so out of ignorance. They need to get out into the real world where people in many rural locations rely on game and gardens for survival.

On the other side of the coin, there are also many hunters who believe that hunting for meat is not in the true sense of the sport of hunting. Some have even gone so far as to call it unethical. Some hunters refuse to shoot female deer because those deer produce the offspring that will continue to provide a population of deer.

So you see much of what we discuss in conversations dealing with ethics is all part of background. There are obvious issues that result in laws to protect the management of the game. Poaching is one of those. Without seasons and limits to the hunts, it would be nearly impossible to manage game animals effectively. History has shown us what can result from unchecked killing of game. Such laws are necessary for that purpose.

Some states ban the use of baiting, not so much because they view it as an ethics issue but because it makes for the taking of deer easier. In states with a balanced or a sparse population, baiting would be detrimental to the herd.

Ethics and hunting is really in the eye of the beholder. When I speak of these ethics, I am referring to all methods employed that are within the law. To legislate ethics for the mere reason to prevent someone from doing something you don’t approve of is not right. To make a law that will effectively protect the game animals we hunt, is necessary and prudent.

So, what is baiting anyway? Good question. When most people think of baiting deer, they envision salt licks, piles of grain or apples. They picture a hunter sitting in a tree stand looking down on this pile of fine dining and waiting for a deer to come and eat so he can shoot it.

While I have to agree that that is baiting, we have to ask about other forms of baiting and where to draw the line with such. There’s an organization in this country called Quality Deer Management. This group advocates for the growing of food plots for deer. They encourage hunters to take an active role in managing the deer on their own land or the land they lease for hunting.

These food plots contain certain kinds of plants that are healthy for the deer and provide the right nutrients to grow bigger deer with larger antlers. In some states, this tactic is illegal but in most it’s not. In all fairness to the discussion of hunting ethics, we have to ask ourselves, isn’t this deer baiting? With these food plots, often times it is not illegal to sit in a blind or a stand and shoot the deer you’ve been growing all year long or for several years, when they come to the plot to eat.

What else is baiting? Many hunters will scout out game trails before the season. They learn the deer’s habits, particularly those of the bucks. They find scrapes and pawings and get their tree stands our ground blinds built in time before the start of the season so any deer become accustomed to any changes in the landscape.

On that given day when the hunter arrives at the stand, they often bring with them scents and lures that they hope will attract a rutting buck. Sometimes they dump this on the ground and spray it all around the area. They might hang scent tubes and boxes from trees nearby. They then retreat to their place and wait for the buck to arrive. Isn’t that baiting?

Along with the scents, the hunter while waiting, uses tactics such as rattling deer antlers. This is employed to imitate two sparring bucks which is a natural event that occurs when two male deer are fighting over the rights to mate with an estrous doe. It has been learned that when other bucks hear that sound, their curiosity draws them to it. Isn’t that baiting?

If not rattling horns, hunters may be using instruments that will mimic the sounds made by other deer. They practice the sounds made by both the doe and the buck while mating or in the process that leads up to mating. They also mimic sounds of a fawn that might draw in other does, which might in turn lure bucks. Isn’t this baiting?

Baiting can be defined as any method used to lure a deer into a prescribed area. That area is where you the hunter sit and wait in ambush. Any tactic used to achieve those desired results has to be defined as baiting. So where do we draw the line? Or do we? Who decides?

We can carry the ethics debate that much farther and ask a lot of other questions. Take a look at the technology that now exists in the sport of hunting. There’s such things as clothing that covers up the scent of man underneath. The odor that man emits that can easily be detected by deer, has been likened to deer in the same fashion as man detects the odor of a skunk – pungent and easily recognized.

The weapons we use have been questioned and the features we can add to them. Some hunters have even questioned whether the use of GPS is ethical or scopes for a rifle. I know hunters who believe using a rifle for deer hunting is not right.

Are tree stands ethical? They have them now that are easy to carry and simple and fast to get up into a tree. Does this give hunters an unfair advantage? Does this “dumb down” the sport as some have called it?

I can add to this list forever but what items on that list you employ, is really up to you. Your hunting methods are what you are comfortable with. Again being that all are within the law.

I am not completely attune as to why Mississippi has decided to make baiting, in the sense of luring to piles of grain, etc., a part of their legal methods of taking deer. I do know that state has a burgeoning deer population.

So, before you go calling hunters who use bait sissies and not true sportsmen, take a minute to look at all the things you do, first. Take the time to educate yourself about the reasons some hunters do what they do and from what areas of the country they grew up in and under what circumstances. If you find certain methods of hunting offensive then talk to a friend and explain to them the reasons you feel that way, while being receptive to their explanations as well.

Tom Remington

Former Senator Fred Thompson Weighs In On Guns, Virginia Tech Shootings
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Former Tennessee Senator and current actor Fred Thompson, has an article in the National Review Online about the Second Amendment, the rights of citizens to defend themselves and the events at Virginia Tech. Mr. Thompson is also considering a run for the republican nomination for President of the United States.

You should go read his article for a number of reasons, but here’s a bit of a teaser. This is reference to the Virginia Legislature failing to block the ban that Virginia Tech put on guns on campus.

The logic behind this attitude baffles me, but I suspect it has to do with a basic difference in worldviews. Some people think that power should exist only at the top, and everybody else should rely on “the authorities” for protection.

Despite such attitudes, average Americans have always made up the front line against crime. Through programs like Neighborhood Watch and Amber Alert, we are stopping and catching criminals daily. Normal people tackled “shoe bomber” Richard Reid as he was trying to blow up an airliner. It was a truck driver who found the D.C. snipers. Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that civilians use firearms to prevent at least a half million crimes annually.

Tom Remington

North Dakota Prepares For Third Straight Mountain Lion Hunt Season
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North Dakota is preparing for a third cougar hunting season. With each season, officials are learning more and more and are applying some of what they learn to each successive season. These changes are necessary to ensure that their management plans are working.

What is being proposed this year is to divide the state into two zones.

North Dakota Propose Cougar Hunting Zones

Two hunting zones, a quota of five mountain lions in the predators’ prime Badlands habitat and no quota throughout the rest of the state, are among the proposals for the 2007-08 mountain lion season.

Also in the plan is an earlier start for hunters who use dogs. Their season would open Dec. 1, a month earlier than last year when the season closed before houndsmen could get out.

Read more here.

Tom Remington

Bangor News Gun Control Poll
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At 3:45 this afternoon, I went to the home page of the Bangor Daily News. I noticed a poll was being conducted. (Home page in the right-hand column). Here’s the wording of the poll.

Do you think stricter gun control laws could help prevent a mass killing like that at Virginia Tech?

I answered the poll and retrieved the results. Like I said, as of 3:45 p.m. on Friday, April 20th, the results showed 227 yeses and 1667 noes.

Go take the poll.

Tom Remington

Don’t Believe All That Your Hear From The Politicians
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This morning the Los Angeles Times has an article about how the politicians, particularly the democrats, have decided to back off from gun control laws because they understand that history has shown that in many cases, candidates have lost elections by supporting stricter gun laws.

I can’t argue with the article. I think it is mostly factual. The problem is that people begin believing what the candidates are saying instead of looking at past voting records. We all know that candidates always say things they don’t mean in order to win over votes.

I’m not saying there aren’t legitimate candidates who do support gun rights from both parties. I’m saying not all of them do and you as a voter have to learn the truth before deciding.

Tom Remington

Infolinks 2013