Friday, December 28, 2012

Filling the Boxes

      Winter is upon us, deer season is petering out, and my mind is beginning to shift towards the fishing opportunities of the coming year.  Taking this time, when snow and cold weather keep you inside, to tie flies and prepare is a pastime well-invested in the future.
      The two patterns shown in the picture are CK Nymphs and Wooley Worms--both excellent, all-purpose  nymphs for both cold and warm water fishing.  Other patterns that I find falling off of my vise early in the tying season are Wooley Buggers, Clouser Minnows, Red Tags, Pheasant Tail Flashbacks, Mr. Rapidans, and the occasional ambitious bass popper.
      What are your favorite flies?

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Write a Review!

      “Please, write a review!”  An automated email plopped into my inbox soon after Christmas day, following on the heels of an online gift card purchase at  Reflexive orders from online stores are becoming more and more common these days, as online shopping becomes more main-stream and relatives turn to gift cards to relieve holiday pressure, spurring growth in the ever-helpful, yet sometimes misleading system of customer reviews.  As indicated by the annoying emails, anyone can author such a review, many times resulting in unintended good humor. 
      Often, especially on outdoor supplies stores’ websites, I’ve found, patrons take much enjoyment out of relating stories from the field.  Proud owners of expensive gear are sure to specify that “the deer tried to eat the foliage from my ‘ScentBlocker Protec XT, Mossy Oak Break Up’ camo jacket!,” or that “the fish followed our boat around the lake to get some more of the ‘Berkley Powerbait’ Something Or Other.”  Sure they did.
      Equally entertaining is the customer who clearly displays his lack of knowledge of the product that they invested several hundred dollars in.  “The rod was broken in four pieces, in the package!,” read one of my favorites, written in ignorant vengeance by the unknowing, lucky owner of a four-piece Sage fly rod.
      A small minority—for whom I am very thankful—take the time to include lengthy stories with their enthusiastic thumbs-up or thumbs-down, meandering slowly to the point at which the featured product makes its decisive entrance into the plot.  In particular, I have in mind a certain testimony I read concerning a deer call that was new on the market a few years ago.
      Hunter’s Specialties’ “The Kruncher” claimed to relax deer with the confidence sound of crunching acorns.  A gimmick?  Maybe.  That’s exactly why I checked into the reviews on
      After reading one, and sorting through the rest of the monotonous opinions left by southern deer hunters, one posted by an Idahoan elk hunter caught my eye.  The story started when the call arrived in a package via mail, and continued as the man awoke on the morning of the hunt, hiked to a high knoll on a neighboring, avoiding his neighbor’s llama farm, and taking a seat to implement “The Kruncher.”  It was unusually well-written considering the context.  The man may have fancied himself an outdoor writer had it not been for what lay at the bottom of the page.  Much to the author’s pleasure, “The Kruncher” relaxed completely the cow elk in the area, and it wasn’t long before a tall, solid specimen wandered to within range.  With a clean rifle shot, the animal went down without a struggle, and I, the reader, was relieved of the built-up tension.  As a satisfying end to the hunter’s chase, there, at the bottom of the page, in all its ironic glory, was an inserted picture of his harvest—a large, solid, and bloodied, llama.
      Now this greatly relieved some of the stress built-up from exams prior to the Christmas break, and I soon felt airy and had a new appreciation for common sense.  Unfortunately, the humorous saga was flagged as inappropriate by some concerned citizen, and my hidden treasure was promptly taken down from the site.  I did eventually purchase a “Kruncher,” but never did I have the same luck as did the comedic Idahoan.  But oh well, I’ve never heard too much good about llama meat, anyway.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A Successful Bushytail Hunt Offers a Lesson in Big Game Hunting

It’s no secret among hunters that the squirrel hunting indulgences that proceed the big game seasons help with re-acquiring woods skills; but an afternoon in a lively hardwood stand also offers a lesson in the more weighty aspect of big game hunting—the shot.
The squirrel, as is the case with any game animal, has its unconventional followers.  Muzzleloaders, bowhunters, shot-gunners, riflemen, and air-gunners have all assimilated their tackle into the world of squirrel hunting.  A question poked at their motives most often brings out a hidden pride, accompanied by two words—“the challenge.”  The governing rules of this challenge are determined by the method.  Form follows function.  Each hunting faction emerges with its own mainstream, suitable hunting tactics. 
The same holds true for big game hunters.  Adaptation in the face of limitation is the reason why many bowhunters are treestand connoisseurs, riflemen often practice still-hunting, and muzzleloading hunters will stand hunt or stalk within a very comfortable range.  The key is in knowing the limitations of your approach and applying them to your hunting strategy.
As a general rule, stealth will more readily make or break a deer rather than a squirrel hunt—a missed shot can be detrimental to future prospects of the day.  Even still, a pressured squirrel will often seek a comfortable, unreachable spot in the crotch of a tree to broadcast to the rest of the bushytail community the details of your existence.
One late-season squirrel hunt comes to mind.  Rain overnight had dampened the leaves, and I moved quietly through the open woods.  Several grays eyed me as they moved playfully about the ridge; but I approached slowly, gently teasing the boundaries of their flight distances.  When I felt I was in good position, I found a solid rest, waited for the perfect opportunity—still target, no branches in the way—and gently applied all my knowledge of shooting to the trigger.  From the first to the last of my limit, every squirrel dropped in a surrendering spring from its perch, and all from the same two acres of woods.
Experience has dictated that a good shot will put animals in the bag faster, and before they have time to tell on you.  The same tactic should be practiced with bigger game.  In either case, missed shots should be diligently avoided.
The medium between a missed shot and a made shot is perhaps worse in total than an outright miss.  The hunter assumes a responsibility for preservation upon initiation, and a wounded animal is in direct violation of that trust.  Not only is it an unpleasant occurrence for the animal, but it is also an unfortunate loss for the hunter, and entails much energy spent tracking and searching, sometimes to no avail.
Squirrels have the considerable advantage of being able to climb trees to escape humans, and have a nasty habit of doing so in the event of a non-fatal shooting; whereas bigger game animals take to tight cover, still easily accessed by the tracker.
For me, squirrels lost to trees usually result from assuming the animal dispatched and turning my attention to others in the vicinity before collecting the prize, which bring us to another point.  Never assume an animal dead.  In the squirrel woods, the biggest consequence may be a bushytail lost to a den tree or a badly scratched or bitten hand; but in the world of big game, the swift paw swipe from an angry bear, or powerful punch of a deer hoof could be deadly.
Prevent this incident by always approaching an animal with a weapon readied.
If ever it is safe to assume an animal lifeless, it is if it has tumbled from its tracks down a rocky bluff and, maybe . . . into a river.  Are you going to retrieve such a harvest?  If so, you’re in for an icy bath and possibly bacterially infested yields.  The surroundings of a target and its possible moves if wounded are elements worthy of weighing.  In most cases, if the recovery of a shot is questionable, waiting for your quarry to move could present a better situation, or, even at the loss of the harvest, prevent the possible waste of unrecoverable game.
The key to maximizing the effectiveness of the shot lies in being conservative and apprehensive.  The squirrel woods are a great place to pursue the sport of hunting, and lessons learned there are equally suitable to all hunters.

Mixed Bag
Unfortunately, the hunting seasons are coming to an end; but hopefully that means you have plenty of pictures of trophies!  Share them here via the contact form on the navigation bar at the top.  If you have stories worthy of sharing, share them too!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Detected CWD in Pennsylvania Will Affect Virginia Hunters

    On October 12 of this year, Pennsylvania was added to the rank of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD)-infected states when a Whitetail doe, an escapee from an Adams County deer farm, was killed and tested positive for the disease.  Not only is this bad news for the Pennsylvania Game Commission, but the discovery also places new restrictions on Virginia hunters venturing to the Keystone State.
    CWD is a progressive neurological disease that affects the cervid species—deer, elk, and moose—in North America.  Infection causes deterioration of the brain, visibly reflected through emaciation, odd behavior, loss of control of bodily functions, and always results in death.  Despite its relation to livestock diseases like Mad Cow Disease, CWD has given no indication that it is transferable to humans, pets, or livestock, but is theorized to be passed laterally (between co-existing animals).
    Because of this contagious and incurable nature, Virginia, like most other states, prohibits the transportation of whole deer carcasses from locations designated as carcass-restriction zones back into the state.  Such restriction zones occur in the bordering states of Maryland (Allegany County), West Virginia (Hampshire, Hardy, and Morgan Counties), and now Pennsylvania (Adams County).   Other carcass-restriction zones exist in the states of Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin, and Wyoming, and the Canadian provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan.
    The state of Virginia allows only the following carcass parts to be imported:  de-boned meat that has been cut and wrapped, quarters or meat portions unattached to the head or spinal column, hides/capes without heads, cleaned skull plates with antlers, antlers with no tissue attached, the animal’s upper canines, and finished taxidermy products.
    These prohibitions by the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries are implemented as precautions to limit any possibility of worsening its own case of afflicted deer.  When CWD was discovered in western Frederick County in 2010, the Department established a CWD containment area in Frederick County, the portion of Shenandoah County north of Route 675 and west of I-81, and in the City of Winchester.  The DGIF enforces within the containment area a mandatory sampling of deer taken on the first three Saturdays of the general firearms season, as well as several restrictions concerning the exportation of deer carcasses, parts, and wastes originating inside the containment area, and the rehabilitation of deer inside the containment area.  In the areas included in the containment area, as well as neighboring Clarke County, feeding deer is illegal year-round, and seasons and bag limits on private lands have been adjusted liberally to attempt to lower the population.
    More information regarding deer harvest treatment and preventative measures against CWD can be found on the VDGIF’s website, on the wildlife department websites of the aforementioned states and provinces, or at
A deer suffering from CWD will often appear
extremely emaciated
    Still, in Virginia it is relatively rare to encounter a deer (or now, elk—fingers crossed) infected by the disease; but what does an affected animal look like?  The most obvious symptom is emaciation over time, as the animal becomes noticeably lethargic and begins to consume less food.  Frequent drinking and urination can also be tell-tale signs.  Behavioral changes such as isolation, the lowering of the head, and a perpetually blank facial expression can also be hints of infected individuals.  However, many of these symptoms are characteristic of other wildlife diseases also, and are not always trademarks of CWD.
    If you do happen to harvest an animal that can behaviorally be suspected of infection, even outside of the established containment area, it could prove vital to contact a local wildlife official—doing so could be critical.
    All of these regulatory hoops may seem like a lot to trouble oneself with; but they come with a reward.  Since the beginning of sampling procedures in Virginia, nearly 7,000 animals have been tested, 10 years have passed, and only four deer have been confirmed as positive for Chronic Wasting Disease.  Only through the continuation of widespread public participation and respect can this biologically detrimental disease retain such favorable statistics.