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Across the Campfire
December 2004

(December 31, 2004)

TIME TO APPLY for 2005 Utah big game hunts. Beginning January 3, applications for 2005 general buck deer, limited entry, once-in-a-lifetime and Cooperative Wildlife Management Unit hunts will be available from hunting and fishing license agents statewide, the Division of Wildlife Resources' Web site (wildlife.utah.gov) and DWR offices.

To be included in the draw for permits, applications must be received through the mail or an overnight mail service no later than 5 p.m. on January 31, or through the DWR's Web site no later than 11 p.m. on January 31.

Wyoming as we learned through an Associated Press news release that two researchers on chronic wasting disease were killed this week in a car crash in northern Colorado. What follows is part of the press release.

Husband-and-wife wildlife veterinarians who were nationally prominent experts on chronic wasting disease and brucellosis were killed in a snowy-weather crash on U.S. 287 in northern Colorado, authorities confirmed Thursday.

Tom Thorne and Beth Williams, both of rural Albany County, Wyo., died when their pickup truck hit a jackknifed trailer Wednesday night, according to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and Colorado Highway Patrol.

Williams, 53, had taught at the University of Wyoming since 1982 and was also familiar with wildlife diseases. "She was probably the foremost chronic wasting disease expert in the country," Game and Fish spokesman Al Langston said.

Thorne, 63, was acting director of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department for nine months in 2002 and 2003. He worked in the department for 35 years before retiring in 2003 and was a prominent researcher of chronic wasting disease in deer and elk, as well as of brucellosis in bison and elk.

The accident happened around 10 p.m. on snowpacked pavement near Virginia Dale a few miles south of the Wyoming line, according to Colorado State Trooper Scott Boskovich.

Both vehicles had been going at least 10 mph below the speed limit. After spinning out of control and coming to a stop in the northbound lanes, the trailer was struck by Williams' and Thorne's 2002 Ford pickup, which was wedged underneath, according to Master Trooper Ron Watkins.

(December 29, 2004

THE CALIFORNIA DEER Association (CDA) will give hunters a chance at some fantastic big game tags at their Fund-Raising Dinners in 2005. Just some of the tags that will be available are the California Golden Opportunity and California Open Zone deer tags plus a California Pronghorn Antelope tag and a special Santa Rosa Island deer hunt.

The Golden Opportunity Deer Tag allows you to hunt with any weapon from July though December. The Open Zone Deer Tag allows you to hunt in any zone and in any special hunt in the state. The Pronghorn Antelope Tag allows you to hunt antelope in all of the zones in California and before any of the regular seasons open. Finally, the Santa Rosa Island Deer Hunt allows you to hunt mule deer on this large island off of southern California. These hunts now cost $8,000 and have a 5-year waiting list. Many 30+ inch bucks are on this island.

2005 Special Auction Tag Dinners

January 15 — Redding Chapter
California Open Zone Deer Tag
Contact: Quinten Erlei (530) 222-2770

March 18 — Chico Chapter
California Golden Opportunity Deer Tag
California Pronghorn Antelope Tag
Santa Rosa Island Deer Hunt
Contact: Andy Wood (530) 345-7296

March 26 — San Jose Chapter
California Golden Opportunity Deer Tag
Contact: Gerrad Payne (408) 985-1179

April 23 — Salinas Chapter
California Golden Opportunity Deer Tag
Contact: Bill Lundquist (831) 443-1415

(December 28, 2004

I SHOULD HAVE been in the duck blind the last two days. Heavy wind yesterday, and today wind and rain.

I have spent the last few days checking out some of the new items I got for Christmas. The item at the front of the pack is a Canon 20D Digital SLR camera. Boy, is this a nice piece of equipment. With the 1GB memory card I can store 242 pictures on the card. The outstanding feature is that my lenses from my older Canon film camera fit on this new camera. That is like getting a new bow and finding out that the arrows you used with your old bow work just great with the new one. I can't wait to get some opportunities for outdoor/wildlife photos.

While spending some time trying to get things organized in my office for the new year, I spent a few minutes looking over a small newsletter from the Predator Conservation Alliance. They reported that some research in Utah suggests that snowmobiles could have an effect on lynx and coyote competition for food because the coyotes were using the snowmobile packed trails to move through areas of deep snow. On the other hand a Montana study showed preliminary results indicated that although the coyotes used the packed snow corridors more than expected, the vast majority of coyote-travel distance was on non-compacted snow. I guess we hunters are the same as some coyotes — how often have you found yourself walking on a game trail instead of trying to break through the brush?

In tomorrow's, Across the Campfire, we will share with you the locations of fund-raising dinners that will have special California big game tags for auction.

(December 20, 2004

CWD IN THE news again today!

Like Idaho, California has not found any Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in its game animals even though over 700 were tested this hunting season. California did have a couple of incidents of hunters who hunted out of state and brought back deer which later tested positive for CWD. The state then notified the hunter and the California DFG, that the tests were positive for CWD. The DFG picked up those animals and had them incinerated.

The following is a report we received today regarding Idaho hunters who hunted out of state.

Fish and Game Notified of CWD Kill From Wyoming

A national surveillance program that encourages states to exchange information on Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) cases has proved its worth in an incident involving an Idaho deer hunter.

The Idaho resident hunted in Wyoming, killing a mule deer which he brought back to eastern Idaho. The hunter submitted tissue from the deer in a voluntary surveillance program operated by Wyoming Game and Fish.

When indicators of CWD was found in the deer, Wyoming authorities notified the hunter and Idaho Fish and Game.

Idaho big game manager Brad Compton said the department had made contact with the hunter and found out where he had disposed of the deer carcass. A Fish and Game biologist was assigned December 20 to retrieve the carcass for disposal. Compton noted that Fish and Game will continue to make every reasonable effort to “minimize the risk to our deer and elk populations.” While Idahoans have been bringing home deer and elk killed in Wyoming for years, the surveillance program enables Idaho to increase its vigilance in preventing the disease.

CWD affects the brains and nervous systems of deer and elk. It is believed to be caused by an errant protein called a prion.

Wyoming has known about CWD in certain deer herds for more than 30 years. Idaho has so far never detected the disease in any deer or elk but has increased its surveillance dramatically in recent years. Idaho Fish and Game employees sample deer in check stations for CWD and look for it in animals killed outside hunting seasons, such as roadkills. Scrutiny is most intense along the Idaho —Wyoming border.

Though CWD has drawn much attention from hunters and wildlife authorities in recent years, the World Health Organization has said that no connection to human disease has been made.

(December 19, 2004

A HUNTING DOG means a lot, but having someone who is willing to let you hunt with them and their dog, or even more surprising lets you take their dog into the field, well that's pretty darn special.

Last year and this year my son, Scott and I were drawn for permits for the Family Pheasant hunt near Modesto, California. The California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) puts these hunts on to encourage the tradition of family hunting.

At the 2003 hunt, Scott and I were probably the only hunters out of about 40 who showed up for the afternoon hunt, without a dog. The DFG encourages you to have a dog, otherwise your feet become the dogs without the ability to sniff out those birds and you find they are dog tired by the end of the day. As we entered the field we found ourselves next to Gary Lawrence from San Jose, California. Lawrence was hunting by himself but he had his yellow lab along. He invited us to hunt with him and his dog. His lab was great! Because of the dog and some good shooting, all three of us had our two bird limits by the time we reached the end of the first field.

Gary Lawrence shows off one of the pheasants he took on the 2003 Family Pheasant hunt.

Yesterday, Scott and I again participated in the Family Pheasant hunt but we didn't have a dog nor did we hook up with anyone who had one. We did managed to each take a bird and had to pass on two that would have been easy shots but we would have been shooting in the direction of other hunters. No pheasant is worth taking that kind of a chance. We remembered what Holman King, wildlife biologist with the DFG, told all the hunters before they went into the field, "Remember two things, Be Safe, and Have Fun!"

As we walked back we met King by his DFG truck. We talked about how much fun we had on the hunt and when he found out that we each had a bird he told us we still had 30 minutes of shooting time and why didn't we take his dog, Millie, out After all, she had been in the truck that day and would love to get into the field. We took him up on his offer and the black lab was quickly out of the truck and ready to go. With just a couple of words from us the dog was working the field back and forth in front of us — she was amazing. It was definitly the dog's training not what we were telling her. In our 30 minutes of hunting she picked up a cripple and flushed one rooster which I missed.

I again, would like to thank Gary Lawrence and Holman King for the opportunity to hunt with two really terrific dogs and for their willingness to share their hunting partners with us.

(December 15, 2004

BLUE BIRD WEATHER is not the best for waterfowl hunting but that didn't keep me from joining other outdoor writers last night for our annual get together dinner at the Wilderness Unlimited facilities just east of Williams, California. After a long evening of tall tales (get a bunch of outdoor writers in the same room and stories and tales come faster than a flock of greenwing teal) we turned in so we would be ready for the morning hunt. This morning as we walked to our blinds the temperture was warm (for this time of year), there was no fog, and no wind. At the break of day a few ducks sped passed our hunting party of four but we only managed to get three shots off between us.

Around 8 a.m. the snow geese started moving from south to north and we dropped two of them out of the flocks which made the mistake of coming directly over us. I collected one of them with a long-shot and it dropped like a rock. It was my first time using Remington's Hevi-Shot. The #4 waterfowl load really cancelled that snow's flight.

I shared a blind with outdoor writers, Terry Knight and Thom Gabrukiewicz and Wilderness Unlimited employee, John Wilhite. We laughed, joked and told stories in the blind this morning, we once again realized that the fellowship of the hunt means far more than how heavy the game strap is when the hunt is over. The next time you are out in the field, put filling your limit farther down on the priority list and I think you might come home with a different kind of satisfaction.

(December 13, 2004

BOY, IS THIS a trophy pronghorn. Fellow hunter and friend Butch Kughn told me about a pronghorn he saw while driving. He stopped and took a digital picture. The buck was not real close, and I cropped the picture so you can see this trophy up close. What do you think the length of the horns are? Could they be 19-inches?

(December 4, 2004

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT BY either the ballot box or courts seems to do no good for wildlife or hunters. The people who are trained to management wildlife, our wildlife biologists, seem to be left out of the picture more and more.

What follows is the latest press release from the U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance regarding court action in New Jersey stopping the bear hunting season.
A ruling by the New Jersey Supreme Court will allow the state to overrule hunting seasons authorized by the state’s independent Fish and Game Council.

The first effect of the decision is that Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Bradley Campbell has cancelled the state’s 2004 black bear hunt. However, the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance is concerned that the decision may have far-reaching ramifications for the future of hunting and wildlife management in New Jersey.

In a remarkable decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the Fish and Game Council’s regulations are subject to the approval of the politically appointed DEP Commissioner.

“The court’s judgment strips science from the wildlife management decisions in New Jersey,” said U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance Senior Vice President Rick Story. “It allows politics to be the determining factor for controversial wildlife issues, such as the 2004 bear hunt.”

The New Jersey Fish and Game Council based its decision to hold the bear hunt on sound science. Hunting is known to be the most effective tool to manage black bears. According to Division of Wildlife biologists, New Jersey
has an over-abundant bear population.

But Commissioner Campbell has been opposed to the 2004 hunt since its onset.

“He obviously based his decision to stop the hunt on personal conviction, the influence of the anti-hunting movement and, perhaps, a quest for power,” Story said. “And the court has deemed that appropriate.”

The Supreme Court’s ruling was an atrocious example of legislating from the bench, Story said.

In its unanimous ruling, the court decided that the Fish and Game Council is responsible for setting policies "for the protection and propagation of fish, birds, and game animals," but those policies are "subject to the approval of the commissioner."

“The law establishing the Fish and Game Council in no way affords the Commissioner such authority,” said Story, “but the Supreme Court gave him that power when it unanimously ruled in his favor.”

The court also interjected its opinion as to what constitutes sound wildlife management policy. It stated that the council has no proper bear management plan, claiming that the 1997 plan is inadequate. The Fish and Game Council considers the plan, which cites hunting as an option to control bear numbers, to be policy. The court snubbed the recommendations of professional wildlife biologists when it ruled that the hunt would not be permitted until the state updates its bear management plan.

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