Sunday, December 30, 2012

Wyoming's First and Only Wolf Season?

This wolf was killed by Scott Richards near Rock Springs, WY. That's Pilot Butte in the background. This wolf was taken well outside the areas wolves have been previously documented in and goes to show the endless expansion of these animals. Several lawsuits have been filed against the state of Wyoming citing its wolf management plan as being too aggressive and not having a long term solution to maintaining a healthy population of wolves. These suits arose after several wolves wearing radio collars put on inside Yellowstone and Teton national parks were legally killed by hunters in Montana and Wyoming.

Click on image to view larger.

Given the success rates hunters have bad in killing wolves in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, I wonder if hunting them is really going to affect the population enough to be concerned. I also wonder how we hunted them to the brink of extinction in the past, considering the weapons and other tools were much more primitive then. During the 2012 hunting season, Wyoming sold 4,469 licenses and made $112,518 from the sales that will contribute to wolf management. As of December 29, 64 wolves have been killed by hunters and another 39 killed by wildlife officials for livestock damage. 41 of those wolves were killed in the trophy area of northwest Wyoming outside the national parks, just under the quota of 52. The season closes Monday.

Click on image to view larger.

Most of the lawsuits accuse the state of attempting to eliminate wolves altogether in the so-called predator zone where wolves can be shot on sight. But the reality is, the majority of the wolves were taken near the core of the reintroduction efforts. These are also the areas whose elk and deer populations have been hit he hardest by the presence of wolves.

As is the case so many times in this country, he fate of Wyoming's future wolf seasons rests in the hands of the courts. For the same of the Wyoming elk herd, and all elk herds in the region for that matter, I hope the wolf hunting program will continue. Though our contribution may be small, I feel it is needed to help keep a balance in the western ecosystem.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Range the Traveling Decoy

Range is a traveling decoy that’s passed among a handful of water fowlers who take him hunting in different states across the country. At the end of the season he will have visited Michigan, Missouri, Georgia and Texas and he will be sold on eBay with the profit going to charity. When I was approached about participating in Range’s journey this year, I jumped at the chance.

Shortly after he got to Georgia, I took Range on a couple deer hunts just to get him acclimated to Peach State. We didn’t have any success on these trips, but Range started feeling at home in the Deep South.

Welcome to Atlanta, Range.

Last Saturday I was finally able to take Range out for some waterfowl hunting. I got in touch with Chris Scalley and he sounded interested in taking me and Range out for some duck hunting. Chris took us to some private property with swampy flooded timber. Turns out it’s a very small world. Chris is also a fishing guide and I used to see his River Through Atlanta truck and boat all the time when I lived in Roswell, GA right on the Chatthoochee River.

Our party ended up with 11 mallards, 1 wood duck and 6 Canada geese. One of my favorite parts of the hunt was watching Chris’ dog Jesse. She was a natural hunter! She had a great work ethic and did a great job retrieving our birds.

To read another account of Range's travels, check out this story from Hunt Ducks Hook Fish. Look for more about Range in the future!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Gear Review - Bushnell HuntTrack GPS

I recently had an opportunity to review the HuntTrack GPS from Bushnell. This small GPS unit is based on the simple operation of Bushnell’s popular BackTrack units but it adds some hunter-friendly features like a game activity chart, sunrise/sunset times and barometric pressure.

Here's what Bushnell has to say about it:

• Logs up to 48 hours of trip data
• Mark and return to up to 25 locations
• View/record time in military or civilian, temperature in Fahrenheit or Celsius, and altitude
• Distances in yards/miles or meters/kilometers
• Latitude and longitude coordinates
• Weather-resistant construction
• 1 year limited warranty

I've found the HuntTrack very easy to use in the field an that's very important to me. If you've ever been afield with a piece of gear and forgotten how to use it with your owner's manual back at the truck or the house, you'll appreciate that too. It's built very rugged as well and on my first trip out with it in a misting rain, I dropped it about 25 feet out of my treestand onto the wet ground. When I picked it up after the evening sit, it worked just fine.

The HuntTrack let's you mark the location of your truck, treestand, downed deer, and other landmarks with special indicators. You can then see where those spots are in relation to your location on the map. I used this feature for marking deer sign on a scouting expedition as well. This allowed me to stay oriented when hanging stands near sign.

The geocashing feature on the HuntTrack allows you to upload your trips to a computer and track your hunts on highly detailed maps. You can also set waypoints on your computer that you want to access in the field. This is great when you want to check out an interesting spot you found on the aerial view map.

This is a piece of gear that has now gone with me on every hunting trip since I've had it, no matter how short. Most of us know the safety benefits of having a GPS in the woods, and now with the streamlined hunter-friendly HuntTrack, it's easier to stay oriented than ever.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Deer Season Update

My deer season at home in Georgia has been pretty slow. I've hunted some but the unfortunate part of working retail is that as the deer rut kicks in this time of year, so do holiday sales. I had this past week off but had to cancel it due to events at work. That's really put a dent in my time in the woods.

I've also been hunting a lot of unfamiliar, public land, and both of those can make for a challenging season. I moved to the north side of Atlanta right as season started and haven had a chance to secure any private hunting property on this side of town. That is first on the list before next season though! I've seen deer sign in the areas I've spent the most time in, but I believe the deer are mostly nocturnal on these public tracts.

But I'm not complaining! Any chance to be in the outdoors, sitting in a treestand and interacting with nature is a blessing and I'm thankful to be able to do it. My buddy Mark at Sole Adventure makes some great points about perspective at the end of this post. Check it out!

A couple of my friends have killed smaller bucks and some does have been taken as well. It's always great to share in the success of your friends. Although the deer will likely be in lockdown here soon, I've still got some more time and hopefully will have a Georgia whitetail on the ground before season is over.

In the meantime, I've been having fun reviewing a Bushnell HuntTrack GPS. It's an awesome little gadget that is simple to use and works like a charm. Look for that review coming soon.