Friday, December 10, 2010

Fish and Game just doesn't get it.

And they probably never will.

First off, other than a guide, or someone who hunts for meat and trade, what exactly is a "professional" hunter? Had I seen that listed as a major (liberal arts, I guess?) in college, you can be sure I would have signed up, and probably done graduate and post-graduate work, too.

I realize DFG says the population is in decline, but based on my own sightings elsewhere, and evidence of tracks and scat, DFG is wrong. The proximity to residential areas complete with natural food sources for deer (flower beds, fruit trees, acorns) makes these cats a nuisance worth taking seriously. Having lived near this sighting for almost 2 years now, and having spent many hours of my childhood in this immediate area, I know the deer population is massive. Where you have cat food, you usually have cats. I see, just driving around, an average of 4 to 8 deer a week. Mostly doe and fawn, but a good number of bucks as well. Cars take out some, but the great majority are a walking buffet for mountain lions. And local authorities must know this, as at least one local "open space" park has mountain lion warning signs at various points on the perimeter.

Solution - thin the lion herd AND the deer herd. If you reduce available food supplies, the cats will move on to better hunting grounds. One thing I'm not taking into consideration is predation on household pets, namely dogs and cats, plus other wild treats like squirrels, rats and raccoons - further population controls might be needed there, too.

Sadly, no one will bother to take this matter seriously. Even with plenty of attacks, and some deaths ,on the record, nothing really gets done about this problem.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Feast and Famine

X8 - complete famine. Worked my tail off, saw more does than I thought existed in all of California. They were all mule deer, too. How do I know? Because California Columbian blacktail deer do not attain the size of a Kenworth, that's how. I hunted the opener and most of the "season" - all 2 weeks of it. All the bucks I thought I patterned were ... not patterned. All I can tell myself is "next year." I'm thinking D5 for my fall season and maybe a B zone. Or I may just save up all my vacation time and bug out to D5 for the whole season, or as much of it as I can get a hall pass to cover.

But, there was salvation in the upland. Cruised down to a spot near the Clear Creek closure area, looking for valley quail. The last 3 or 4 seasons in that area have been the pits (mostly due to lack of rain), but I had high hopes since 2009-2010's rainfall was pretty good. I was not disappointed. In dry years I would see coveys of 15-30 birds, on a good day. Today I was flushing up coveys of 60-80 birds. More forage, more cover, all good. Of course the resident predators know this too, which is why I saw more bobcat sign in the area (including one slinking away from me after dark) than I have in years. Oh, and did I mention the cottontail population exploded, too?

I came close to bagging a limit of quail, and took a couple cottontails home, too. I'm thinking 'chili', when I think about the rabbits and I'm not sure what I'm going to do with the quail this time around. I'm kind of tired of roasted quail. Maybe something involving a balsamic reduction, 5 pounds of garlic, fig-raisin stuffing (if I've got enough figs on the tree out front yet) and a nice lager.

So, here's to another wet year. Listening to the rain on the windows as I type this, so hopefully things will pan out.

Now, I wonder if I can get back up to the mountains before trout season closes.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Cervids...

Deer season is here. X8 for me this time around. An A-zone tag is sitting in my drawer, but it probably won't get used this year. Been doing some scouting up in X8 - seems a little tricky since those deer are migratory and typically "here today, gone tomorrow". So unless I want to get up on the crest and glass for deer at 9500 feet, no dice (for the most part).

On the other hand, I found tons and tons and tons of bear sign a couple weekends ago - most of it relatively (1-2 weeks) recent. I'm pretty sure DF&G underestimates the actual California bear population by a factor of at least 1.5, maybe even 2.

Between now and the opener it's time to squeeze in some trout fishing. The Mokelumne was a good bet several weeks ago, above 8000 feet, with plenty of typical brookies taking the fly. Down lower most of the rivers were still blown out, with the exception of the West Fork, Carson. That's a challenging river (at least for me). Took me a while to dial in the right patterns, and even then interest was minimal. Probably a combination of heat, so-so presentation, and not perfectly matching what the fish wanted to see that day/minute/hour/second.

For anyone hunting up high this year, bring a scattergun if deer is slow - mountain quail opens 9/12. May even have to take a "Scouting" trip that weekend. ;)

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Here piggy....

Well, I've been spending some time looking for pork to stash in the freezer. Last weekend I took a trip down to Fresno County. Nothing. Not even scat or rootings. Saw plenty of other stuff like rabbits and quail (N.B. - the quail population should be healthy this year with all the cover and feed for the little critters), but no pigs.

So I'm leaving for home and I take a shortcut from Highway 25 over to 101. A couple miles up, what do I see? A herd of sows and piglets. On private property. Just ACROSS the road from some club property. Never mind the group of turkey I saw a few miles before that. Oh well.

So Saturday I head down to the same area. Get there just before sunup and hunt and hike, seeing nothing. It got warm, so I figured San Benito County was a no-go for that day, too. About 4:30 I'm leaving to start the trek back home. Not 100 yards up the road, again on private property, I spy 3 good sized boars. Two were typical looking for what I'm used to, but one was a brown razorback with 2-3 inch tusks. I had the shot 5 or 6 different times. I had my pick of which one was going in the freezer. Though to be honest, if I'd taken the razorback, it would have been a wall mount, for sure. But, once again, private property, not a legal shot, so I watched them through the glasses for a while till they got wind of me and moved off. I waited, hoping they'd cross the road onto land I have permission to hunt. No such luck.

I'm pretty sure hunting pressure on the lands I hunt pushed them over to where they knew they were safe. I'm really starting to re-think this whole private club membership nonsense. I wonder if I'd be better off burning the money on gas and phone bills, calling/visiting land owners and asking for trespass rights (even offering a small trespass fee or part of the kill or whatever they like.)

Or, maybe this just isn't going to be my year to put a pig in the freezer. On the bright side, it's already June, the feed and cover are good, water is everywhere, and the deer should be healthy. Looking forward to going out with dad in a couple of months. Plus fishing in the mountains should be nice once the runoff is done, and I'm hopeful for pheasant and turkey seasons. :)

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Perfect score

I finally figured out how to shoot a perfect round of sporting clays. No misses, no 2nd shot, nothing. It's really rather simple, and I'm ashamed I didn't think of this before.

Just wait for the pigeons to land, then shoot.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Quick query re: modern sporting rifle

So it seems the big thing now, especially as being pushed by NSSF, is the "modern" sporting rifle. It's a euphemism for the AR-15 platform. If that first remark seems disparaging, it's not meant to be - I just detest euphemisms. I don't call a Remington 700 a "modern bolt-action food acquisition device" for a reason. It's a rifle. It kills tasty creatures for my grill and table. 'Nuff said.

So, what's the general consensus on the AR-15-based hunting rifles? Specifically, are they an appropriate tool for killing game? As a varmint gun, you have a wide range of choices in .223 Remington, so for things like coyotes, prairie dogs and gophers they are a perfect platform to reach out and touch someone. Let's call the first category "pest control" - check.

What about larger animals, like antelope, deer and wild pig (under, say, 150lb). Personally, I'm not going to want to take that kind of shot with .223 Remington/5.56 NATO. The wound channels are too small, assuming proper ballistic flight characteristics (i.e. bullet speed matched with barrel twist rate) and the collateral damage to the animal is, in my opinion, questionable for taking them down with a single clean shot. That leaves us with other chamberings for the AR-platform rifles, like 6.8SPC, 6.5 Grendel, 308/7.62x51 (AR-10), maybe .243 Winchester, and whatever else is out there (seems to change weekly). Those rounds are probably better suited for larger game, but then in at least some cases you run into the issue of ammunition availability and cost (6.5, 6.8). So would people be willing to hunt larger game with an AR-platform with a round packing a little more kinetic energy than a .223/5.56 bullet? Let's call this - "larger game" - check.

Finally, you've got your world of big old meat-bearers, like black/brown bear, elk, moose, mule deer and things like that. This is an area in which I have no hunting expertise. Frankly, I'm not willing to pay ludicrous sums of money to go out of state for an elk (yet) and certainly not willing to pay the California Department of Fish and Game ludicrous sums of money for a permit to take one elk at a place like Grizzly Island (assuming you even get drawn for the tag.) So, is this type of hunting a place where the AR-platform rifles just fall down on their face and can't keep up with the big magnum boys? We'll call this "big game" - check.

Then there is the argument about using a bolt-action rifle vs. a semi-automatic rifle for hunting. Some folks apparently think that using a semi-auto rifle is not 'sporting'. The figure in the magazine capacity of the respective rifles. 3+1 or 4+1 for a bolt gun, and anywhere from 5 to 40 rounds in a semi-auto (i.e. 30-40 in the AR, more if you own and want to hump around beta mag). Personally, I don't find a semi-auto in and of itself to be non-sporting in terms of pursuing game. You should shoot what you like, what you're comfortable with and what will get the job done. I do wonder, though, if knowing you've got the ability to get 5 or 6 rounds off in the time it would take a bolt gun to get 2-3 rounds off on a good day, engenders taking shots less certain of being clean. I have no opinion either way, just a question. Obviously an ethical hunter wouldn't do such a thing, but not every hunter is ethical. Let's call this "hunting ethic" - check.

Finally, I'm going to ponder reliability. The AR-15 platform is generally reliable, given proper feeding and care. However, I've been party to a few AR-15 platform stoppages that absolutely baffled the living daylights out of me (other people's rifles, not mine.) I know for a fact in several of the cases that the rifles were shooting proper ammunition (factory stuff) and were properly built and maintained. A few malfunctions required near total disassembly of the rifle to unwedge various pins and springs, and that was just so we could safely unload and inspect the rifle.

On the other hand, a bolt-action is inherently a simpler type of action. No gas tubes, no buffers, fewer springs and pins and overall a simpler mechanism to operate, inspect and maintain. That's not to say a bolt-action won't fail - I've had that happen to me too. Firing pins break, extractor claws chip, triggers go out of tune, grit gets into the action and jams up the bolt and so on and so forth. This last one is "reliability" - check.

So, in terms of:

Pest Control
Larger Game
BIG Game
Ethics, and
Reliability

how does an AR-based sporting rifle fare? Hopefully folks have some interesting opinions.

Monday, February 1, 2010

And that's a wrap.

Quail season is officially over in my part of the world. I got in exactly one trip, with no birds taken this year. By the time I got around to looking for them, they were already skittish as could be. The deep mud at my usual hunting grounds didn't help, either. I had to skip hunting some of the best parts of the ranch due to inaccessible road conditions. So, what's next?

Well, some of the tailwaters in the central valley (Goodwin, New Hogan) are happening spots to be. With all the rains things have been a little muddied up, but if this weeks storms don't push the flows too high, the weekend might be good.

Steelhead is always an option, though I've never been much of a steelhead fisherman. If pop invites me along, I may go poke around the Garcia. Unfortunately, time off work/life/home/family is in short supply these days, and I'm not entirely sure why.

Pigs. They're always an option. I think I'd like to wait until the hills green up a bit more and the grasses and shoots really start to make an appearance. Plus, no fun hiking in thick, nasty mud. However, if we get a couple weeks of no rain, followed by some weather, I might try to go then. The ground will be drier, and the pigs may be out under cover of rain/clouds foraging. We'll see. Down here they're hard to find. If I lived up north it would be a different story.

Now might also be a good time to brush up on the scattergun skills with some sporting clays.

So, the "off" season really isn't all that off. Though sometimes I treat it as such. Time to get back out there!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Melting ISE

Just a quick update. I went to ISE in San Mateo yesterday with junior in tow. Looks like quite a few vendors have pulled out, especially guide services. The show was condensed down into 2 halls (one big, one small) and even those weren't totally full. I'm hearing rumors from folks I know working various booths that this may very well be the last year for ISE in San Mateo. I'm also told that most of the vendors not present in San Mateo will be at the Sacramento (Cal Expo) show, so that's a small glimmer of hope.

I did check out these UltraFlex Slings and thought they were pretty slick. I'm planning to get at least one, since the owner was demonstrating with a Remington 700 and the overall fit and feel was outstanding.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

ISE is in town!

No, not ice - after all, this is California. ISE - The International Sportsmen's Exposition - is coming to town later this week and weekend.

For those who don't know, this event comes to San Mateo's Expo Center once a year and features all sorts of guides, vendors, retailers, manufacturers and other outdoors-oriented folks. Wilderness Unlimited will be there (I'm a member, but I'm not trying to push anyone to join, for what it's worth), as will all the big fly rod companies, local fly shops, guides galore and perhaps most importantly, Beef Jerky Vendors (insert California gun show jokes here).

I'm planning to head over there Saturday with the wife and kid. If you see a guy drooling over the boats or bird dogs, that'll be me. Boat Fund donations always accepted, mind you! I encourage anyone in the area to take a trip out there for a look. I'm not going there to work the blogger angle, though I will have a full report after. And I'm taking the wife so I'll be less likely to further damage my credit card balance. ;)

Monday, January 4, 2010

And one more insult

Should have posted this sooner, but the holidays sort of messed up my posting schedule.

In a nutshell, the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) and the Sierra Club want the California Department of Fish and Game to ban or restrict (depending on species) hunting in the Mojave National Preserve.

I suspect nothing more than "desert tortoise" = "condor" in the 'lead poisoning' sense, i.e. fake 'science'.

Let DFG know your thoughts. More information here:

http://www.calgunlaws.com

Insult to injury.

So apparently mother nature decided that after slogging around the muddy hills of Fresno County, I needed to be smitten with some sort of microscopic foe. It's either the regular flu or the oink flu, but either way the doc put me on fistfuls of drugs. Feeling a little better today, but not much else to say on that front.

I've just about got everything together to go do some patterning of various 12 gauge ammo, and if I can wiggle the loan of a 20 gauge, I'll be testing some of that ammo as well. Just waiting for this infestation to subside and a week or so of dry weather so I don't end up stuck in neck-deep mud at my shooting spot.

This being 2010 and all, I figured I'd put out something of a two pronged question to my readership - carrying while hunting. I'm assuming you're not hunting a handgun season, that this is a backup/dispatching weapon or for either 2-legged or 4-legged threats. I realize that in some places, the idea of running into a 2-legged predator are slim to none. But here in California we seem to have this habit of putting things like marijuana fields and meth labs in really isolated places.

So, first - what kind of handgun - semiauto or revolver. Second, which caliber (feel free to get specific to brand/model as I realize things like reliability play a big role in what folks drag into the hinterboonies.)

As the first data point, it's almost always a 1911 in 45ACP (is there any other)? If I'll be doing long hikes, then a smaller 9mm is my backup choice in the form of an old S&W Model 39-2 I found in a consignment shop a year ago. Be gentle - in California we're more and more limited to what pistols we can legally acquire as new, and finding consignment sales of not-not-unsafe-handguns is tricky and costly.

Here's to my immune system doing some heavy lifting the next few days!