Saturday, October 26, 2013

Who is Dan Oles?

We've all seen the GoPro dog's-eye-view videos before, the ones that leave you feeling like you just brushed your teeth with a jackhammer.

Dan Oles has done a few of these, too, but he put in the time in post-production to make the videos watchable. He slowed them down to a point that your inner ear can cope.

I love the transition from black and white to color and back again, and the shot of the pheasant flushing into the sun is superb.

And he has a dog named Hoyt.

C'mon Dan, give us some more.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Lead shot - fading into history?

Last week California passed a ban on lead ammunition for hunting purposes. It's not the first state to do this - other states have banned lead in certain areas and for certain types of hunting - but I believe it's the first to issue a blanket prohibition.

Lead ammunition
I haven't read the research and won't venture to debate the validity of it, but given that lead is generally accepted as toxic it would be hard to say it doesn't have some detrimental affect on the environment. It would be equally hard to say that a lead ban won't have some detrimental affects to hunters' wallets, and possibly to the sport itself.

At this point in my life if I had to pay $12-14 for a box of steel shot to shoot dove it wouldn't be the end of the world, but there was a time when it might have been the end of the sport for me.  As you get older you realize that there are a handful of things that give you great pleasure and, through years of accumulated wisdom, you figure out ways to make sure you always have enough time and money for them.  As a youngster, however, a lot of what you do is dictated by what you can afford.  Doubling the cover charge may be a great way to help the environment but it might not be the best way to bring the younger generation into the pastime. Conspiracy theory alert: This might be what certain legislative factions have in mind.

The issue isn't just about wallets or the environment or endangered species or the future of hunting any more than stream access issues out west are just about water rights or landowner rights (for a spot-on piece on this topic, see Miles Nolte's column in the Nov/Dec '13 issue of Gray's). It's a combination of all of these and just as quick as you see yourself in one camp you'll find another that maybe isn't completely wrong.
I still find myself squarely on the fence, and a fencepost in your butt isn't the most comfortable perch. From a personal standpoint I haven't made a voluntary switch to no-tox yet.  Hell, I still shop for the best deal I can get on lead. Steel shot, next in line from a cost perspective, is not the most user-friendly load.  Its ballistics tend to give a bit on the longer shots, as most duck hunters know, which leaves the more exotic loads such as tungsten, bismuth and medleys of these brewed with copper, iron, tin and nickel. While the ballistic performance is superior to steel I've yet to find one that is cost-competitive.

For what it's worth, the demand for lead overseas is increasing at a surprising pace, and there's a chance that it won't be too long before lead shot is in the ballpark with no-tox. In the meantime I guess I'll continue buying lead shot until I'm overcome by wave of extreme guilt or the state outlaws it, whichever comes first and can't be cured.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Andy Warhol was wrong

It's actually about 47 minutes of fame. Or at least that's how it worked out in this case.

Judging from the stats, a lot of you saw the interview I did with Orvis hunting product developer Brett Ference who I got to know as a result of a random call one Friday afternoon. Brett also hosts the Orvis Hunting and Shooting Podcast (formerly known as the Orvis Double Barrel Podcast) and is currently doing a series on hunting the various regions of the country.

Orvis Hunting and Shooting podcast
He asked if I would help with the southeast region episode and the result is nearly an hour of high wisdom and pure insight coated in enough sarcasm and stark reality to keep you from knowing which is which. If some of the guys I hunt with heard Brett refer to me as an expert they'd herniate themselves laughing, but I've always considered an expert someone who knows five things more than you about a subject. Give me long enough, boys from the 'hood, and I can come up with at least three.

Brett's an incredibly down to earth guy and we had a great time recording the show. Subscribers (it's free) should already have the episode available in their app. You can access it from the podcast website - Southeast Hunting Tips episode - at

Be sure to check out some of the other episodes while you're there. Or here's a direct link to the feed:

Hope you enjoy. You can tell everyone you knew me when...

Wednesday, October 9, 2013


Well, it was bound to affect us sooner or later. As part of the gubment shutdown, the USFWS has "closed" all 561 wildlife refuges. Technically it's a bit difficult to close a 200,000 acre refuge since it's not exactly a storefront that you can lock and turn on the alarm, but they're giving it the old government try. Much of this land is hunted by waterfowlers and upland shooters, many of whom may not realize the land is closed until they show up to hunt, and the decision comes only days after the Dept of the Interior announced the expansion of hunting and fishing on a number of wildlife refuges. Oh, the irony.

I'm not normally one for flouting the law, especially as it pertains to hunting and fishing, but to deny access to something that I've paid for and continue to pay for - as far as I know we're not getting a credit on our taxes for the period that portions of the government aren't open for business - falls outside the lines of reasonable decisions. Other than periodic maintenance and agricultural management of these lands throughout the year and visitor centers in some locations there is no daily cost or upkeep associated with them. You can cease these operations without necessitating the closure of the property. The only remaining daily or weekly cost would be the federal game wardens who patrol the properties, whose salaries you could eliminate by sending them home during the lockout.

But that would make a little too much sense. Apparently federal game wardens are still on the job and will ticket anyone caught trying to access the refuges through federally-owned access points, which begs the question of what is really being achieved by closing the refuges? I should note that even if these wardens were furloughed, they would most likely receive back pay for the time they were out of work, so we might as well leave them on the job.

Unfortunately, larger organized hunts such as the Minnesota Governor's Pheasant Hunt will lose some hunting areas, unless of course the governor wants to give a finger to Congress. Where's Jesse Ventura when you need him? Small groups and solo hunters, however, shouldn't let this deter them from using the land, and if confronted by a federal warden, an oops I didn't know or even a c'mon man, I just want to hunt should be enough to get you off with a warning as long as you haven't parked next to a Closed sign. These wardens don't like the shutdown any more than we do and generally support the hunters who use this land in an ethical manner.

Interestingly, the Wisonconsin DNR feels that access to rivers that run through refuges cannot be restricted by the feds and is encouraging hunters to proceed. The linked article mentions that some guidance on this is expected from the USFWS by the end of this week. Interesting to see if the "guidance" contradicts the WI DNR's position.

Personally I think our elected representatives from both sides of the aisle are doing a sorry job of moving the country forward and I continue to question why we can't do away with the political party system altogether. Candidates can run on their own merits and answer to their constituents without fear of pissing off the party machine and there's little doubt in my mind that showdowns like the one we're currently enjoying would exist only in history books, probably in a chapter titled "Can You Believe Our Country Was This Stupid?" Alright, enough, enough, I know it's not a political blog. Off the soapbox. For now.

Ed: National forests and BLM land will remain open to hunting, Somehow, somewhere Washington draws a distinction between them and wildlife refuges.

Ed #2: On Friday, Oct 11, USFWS announced that they would open certain Waterfowl Production Areas to hunting. Wildlife refuges, however, remain closed.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

What I learned in the first season

The first stint of dove season closed today and I learned a few things:
  1. You can have the best looking sunflower field in the world and it doesn't guarantee birds. All it guarantees is that you will show up every week hoping for birds.
  2. The best spot in a field often faces directly into the sun.
  3. A dead bird that falls into a tree will end up on the ground somewhere underneath that tree. Unless the tree is a red cedar, in which case you'd better start looking for a long stick.
  4. Fire ants inhabit hay bales. Don't ask, just file it away.
Maybe you can't teach an old dog new tricks, but he can still learn some things the hard way.