Don't Hate While I Conservate

Ambitions of a Flunky. Just a hunter and angler attempting to answer the call of our Conservation Heritage in the 21st Century

Category: The Hunt

CRP: What is it? Why does it matter?

As many of you have seen in the past few days, and in some cases, the past few months, there has been a push about CRP and the need to increase its funding and capabilities in the future Farm Bill. CRP stands for the Conservation Reserve Program and is administered by the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA). It is the largest private lands conservation program in our nation.

According to the FSA website, CRP is an agreement between the FSA and a landowner/farmer in which “in exchange for a yearly rental payment, farmers enrolled in the program agree to remove environmentally sensitive land from agricultural production and plant species that will improve environmental health and quality. Contracts for land enrolled in CRP are 10-15 years in length. The long-term goal of the program is to re-establish valuable land cover to help improve water quality, prevent soil erosion, and reduce loss of wildlife habitat…” Land also has to be deemed eligible and the applicant goes through a process in order to enroll their land. The FSA will and has partnered with their sister agency the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), NGO Conservation Agencies and their local Conservation Districts on developing the plan and implementing the program.

 

All in all, it is a great program that is very beneficial to multiple resources. It goes without saying that this program is beneficial to wildlife, especially deer. But with acres coming out of enrollment, deer numbers have seen a decline. Loss of habitat has led to population decrease which the Quality Deer Management Associations Kip Adams has been talking about for some time. In a 2015 article that Kip authored on the QDMA’s website, he cites habitat loss as number 5 on the list for factors causing deer decline. As a hunter on the most deer deficient area in the Southeast, I agree wholeheartedly. The loss of habitat is, in my opinion, one of the greatest limiting factors to multiple game populations; especially the whitetail. Kips article is a must read and he goes into the details about the amount of CRP coming out.

CRP is not just beneficial to the whitetail. In fact, it has many initiatives that target other species across the landscape. One of the initiatives is geared towards Duck Habitat, another for Honeybees, Upland Bird Habitat, and another for the long leaf pine. A list of the different initiatives can be found here. Another hot topic right now is the Sage Grouse and its habitat on both public and private lands. According to a 2011 study done by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Sage Grouse nesting in CRP saw drastic increases over the course of the programs life span.

In the 2014 Farm Bill, CRP saw a drastic reduction in funding. The program was essentially crippled and millions of acres came out. For myself, I have noticed the lack of wildlife in other states I hunt. I have spoken with folks and read comments on social media and other forums on the lack of numbers folks are seeing. The time to act is now, especially as the Farm Bill debates start up. Check out crpworks.org and get involved with groups like the National Deer Alliance (free to be a member). This is an opportunity to get involved. This is our duty as conservationist to speak on behalf of the resources.

I’ll leave you with a video of Melissa Bachman talking about the CRP and the North American Wildlife Model. Check em out. Make a phone call, write an email……

As always, Get in the Arena

Talking Points for the hunter

In my youth, I would engage in arguments or justify my actions in ways that lack maturity and understanding. I would regurgitate things that I had observed others use to defend their actions and/or decisions. I would just take these arguments as truths, because it is what I had heard, from folks who may have been older than me, or seemed to have more in common with me than other folks. In the hunting realm, I am seeing this on a daily basis. Resistance to so many different notions and ideas that go against the grain or what we have heard from others that we may look up to, or that we hold in high regard. Look, there is nothing wrong with looking up to those who took the time to teach or mentor you. I get it, we put those individuals on a pedestal. It’s a common occurrence.  But its starting to hurt us as a user group, way more than help us. Allow me to expand on the “truth” we have been told and we use to justify our actions in taking the life of an animal.

Hanging out in a stand of Chamaecrista fasciculata, commonly known as partridge pea on some state-owned game land. This plant is utilized by many game species and has been rarer on the landscape.

“If we do not hunt, the wildlife will populate at an unstable rate and then spread disease and die off. So, we help by keeping them in check.” This justification has played itself out. The examples of where this is legitimate is few and very far between. In fact, there are very few cases where overpopulation to the extent of disease is a thing. If it was, why are certain areas sterilizing deer to reduce the herd? Wouldn’t they rather just “Let nature take its course”? And rid themselves of the deer infestation with the mythical die off from the disease that allegedly is looming out there? The entire discussion is flawed and not one that is shared by many hunters, or biologist. I recognize that there are areas where this is a thing, (Connecticut, NJ, etc…), but not as widespread as one would believe after scouring social media. And it really is not a good conversation piece for those who do not hunt, or are opposed to hunting.

According to a  2011 National Survey  by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, 6% of the nation participate in hunting, and the largest majority that hunts were the 45-54 age class. 6 % of the nation is now estimated to be around 5% now. The contributor to that decline covers a few variables, with people “aging” out, lack of access for hunters, habitat degradation and fragmentation, and so on. Why does that matter? Because on the other end of the spectrum sits an estimated 5% who are severely opposed to hunting. And the 90% that is in between are being suited hard by those who oppose. We see it in the mis-information of land management. We see it in the advertisements and “documentaries”. And we also see it when a decision is made that is less than admirable for hunters. So why does this matter? Because many know that hunting is in fact a privilege.

So what am I saying? I am saying that we need to get away from the close-minded, finger-pointing, name-calling, middle finger in the air attitudes that cause the division. I am not bashing certain campaigns on social media over hunters (primarily huntresses/female hunters) being bullied. But we need to be bigger and rise above. We have many examples on how to do that. Engaging in the old banter and holding “the line” of mis-information and ignorance is harming us on so many levels. I am all for voicing opinions, or sticking to your beliefs. I have a blog. And anyone who knows me will tell you, I don’t shy away. However, I have been able to keep my mouth shut and my ears open in my older age. Voices like Shane Mahoney, Randy Newberg, Steven Rinella, Kip Adams, Lindsay Thomas, Craig Harper, and others are where we as hunters need to gather information to have actual intellectual conversations. We need to recognize where someone is coming from and then, in a respectful way, present our views on why we do what we do.

Unless you live under a rock, or just hate social interaction with fellow hunters, Steven Rinellas “Meat Eater” is a show that has done so many things to change the negative image of a hunter. Another excellent resource from Rinella and company is The MeatEater Podcast that comes out on a weekly basis. One of my all-time favorite podcast from Meat Eater is Episode 53, where they discuss the 5 talking points that we as hunters generally use and their overall effectiveness. To listen to the discussion (its pretty sweet and very informative) click the link above to give it a listen. They also discuss Pittman-Robertson, Dingle-Johnson, and other contributing factors to conservation in our country. They ranked them in order of effectiveness based off of the study, but instead of delving into each point, I am gonna go with my big 3. I am probably going to be way off of how they are categorized in the podcast, but I will go with what my thoughts are on the conversations we have.

Elk Scat found on some recently acquired gamelands. This is a testament to what we as hunters accomplish through conservation.

 

 

1.) We care so much about the resource and being ethical that we follow rules and guidelines while buying license and taking classes to be certified to pursue game. Many folks who do not participate in the pursuit of wild animals realize what all goes into being legal. In NC, after a certain birthdate, you have to take Hunters Safety. If you buy a license as a non-resident you must have your Hunters Safety Certification. We follow ethical pursuit of the game out of respect for the animal. Some folks take it a step further and restrict the equipment they use, or the age of the animal they are after.

2.) We pay an excise tax from Pittman-Robertson. The tax came from a time when we had NOTHING and we opted to take the burden on. It’s no secret the US was in bad shape in the 1930’s. even with all the financial burdens, even with the lack of food, jobs, etc… a group of folks told FDR they would bear the burden of restoring wildlife and wild places by placing a tax on themselves. Our predecessors asked for a tax on themselves to restore what had been wrecked…. Let that sink in. How many of you just jump at the idea of additional taxes? We went to war in 1776 for a 2% increase on tea. Our conversation forefathers had an 11% tax to restore wildlife and habitat degradation. In 1999 other user groups were asked to do the same through the Conservation Reinvestment Act. Introduced on February 10, 1999 the CRA would have a tax on other outdoor equipment similar to the Pittman-Robertson or Dangle-Johnson. The bill passed the House on May 11, 2000 and went to the Senate. It died there due to groups claiming that their users “paid too many taxes already”. Others had the opportunity and chose not to.

This is an older Elk rub on some gamelands in NC. This is the first one that I have seen with my own eyes in my own state. Hunters brought this species back. Hunters made the habitat available. Whats not to love?

3.) We use the meat harvested to sustain ourselves and our families. The meals provided are the healthiest forms of protein we can harvest. And for those who do not enjoy the taste of wild game (weirdos) there are many food banks who will take that meat and give it to those in need. Many conservation organizations, hunter organizations and farmer groups work together to provide for the less fortunate in their communities. Our primal call as hunters is to be a provider.

In closing, I would like for you to read and take to heart the words of renowned conservationist and one of my heroes Shane Mahoney.   “Wildlife and wild places no longer exist by accident or without the intervention of those that truly and deeply care.” This is a talking point. This is what is constantly left out of the discussion.

Get in the Arena.

Dealing with the crazies

I believe we all have been there. Talking with our friends or like minded people until someone who is “superior” in their own mind shows up or feels the need to get involved with your discussion.  Or, you are weighing in on something like braodheads (I know, men have been killed for less) and then the name calling starts and does not stop. Or, an individual who is fairly new to the area or hunting itself starts offering advice based off of things they have heard from outdoor tv. In all of these, people lose their minds. I’m guilty of it from time to time, but as time has progressed, I only become that crazy dude when it impacts 1.) my ability to hunt, 2.) the ability of others to hunt, and 3.) anything to do with Public Land. 

As many of you know, I am on a couple forums. I love these forums because I think of how valuable this would have been to have when I was getting into hunting. And we may have had these, I just didn’t know about them. But, 2 decades later here I am. A dude who loves to read advice, offer advice, speak with people who are like me, found a place to fit in.  But there are crazies. 

In the world of being pro active in hunting and conservation, you meet a lot of people face to face. Particularly those who are not ultimately fans of us. This form of interaction is attending the public land meetings, meetings on habitat and management. And in some regards it’s meetings with like minded individuals who are fellow conservationist and you are discussing regulations, fundraisers, youth hunting, recruitment and retention or disabled hunters. Anything really to engage people with the natural world that you voluntarily submit yourself to. But, then there are some crazies there as well. 

Social media. This is where it all comes ahead. Hunters. Anti-Hunters. Newbies with advice. Newbies to an area. Grizzled hardened hunters. Grizzled hardened antis. The dude who just read Leonardo DiCaprios tweets and is now an expert. The person who allegedly had every degree known to man and has worked in every career and remains a victim. A place where people cry for safe spaces. And it is chock full of crazies. 

Many people will say too ” not engage” the crazies. This is solid advice. But, as I am about to tell you, I did not take it. I engaged. And now I feel like I need a shower, and to read leather bound books in a room of mahogany. 

Here is the scenario. An individual started a thread in a forum asking about public land opportunities in my area. He had just moved there and said he was a disabled veteran. I replied with names of NCWRC managed game lands. Just the names. I wanted to tell the dude what tree to come to and so on and so forth. But I just gave names. The gentleman thanked me and then responded to others who had wrote in the thread. 4 weeks, not hours, not days, but WEEKS went by. And then I had a private message. It was “unsolicited advice” about not sharing information about hunting spots in our area. The individual who wrote it said that they knew a guy that had been burned by other hunters who used his info. Then, he said we would regret it. It came across very condescending. Which, leads me to my first tidbit; you don’t know anyone’s tone in text. You just don’t. So don’t assume. I assumed. And started down the path of engaging a crazy….

I read the message and then read the thread over and over. Had my best friend look it over. Co-workers. My wife. And they said choice things but the meat and potatoes of what they said was “I wouldn’t look too far into it”. I started to take that advice and then a little voice started reading through it. I started getting fired up. Then I decided to engage. Not my finest hour… or days…

Upon responding to the message, the authors was offended and then it became a full blown contesting of whose stream could go the farthest and remain streaming for the longest amount of time. It got ugly. And I just couldn’t stop. Neither could he. 

But to be fair, it’s not his fault. I was not nice. I was very jerkish in my rant on how he needed to worry about himself. I went off the deep end (maybe like 8 foot) about how all I did was give names that are readily available. I didn’t give road or trail names. I gave names of the game lands. Names that are very easy to find. I enagaged a crazy. You have probably heard, “It takes a monster  to defeat a monster” which may be true. But “it takes a crazy to beat a crazy” isn’t a thing. It just ends up with you stooping to a low place to hurl knives at a person who you should be supporting. It puts you to a place where you are wanting to go middles school and say “Flag pole 3pm” with someone you should be inviting with you to a meeting. If I had just said “Ok” and swallowed the pride, my fingers would not be so sore with the type backs and I wouldn’t be having to re start MeatEater episodes on Netflix. But, I went full crazy. Don’t go full crazy folks. 

In my final response I retracted back to the days of my youth. I started slinging mud and belittling the person. I went to a place that I would tan my sons hide for. I regressed. And I cannot sleep because of it. 

I tried to justify my dislike for the individual who wrote the message by reading other post. Then, I discovered we had spoke many times in the past on this particular forum. We had many interactions. We commented on many threads about the area we reside in. Obviously we had differing opinions on some things, but nothing too wild. Then I started re evaluating….

Who was the one at fault? Who was the crazy? The answer is not what he nor I want to admit or hear. We looked into that abyss of having the final say and we both jumped head first, racing to the bottom of that pit to see how would splat first. 

In my day to day I engage anti hunters who use blatant lies about conservation. I engage certain hunters who bash others or who do not reflect on what I feel represents hunting in a positive light. Who am I to be that guy though? I spoke about my 3. Obviously I will not waver there. But, I need to do better on my delivery to my fellow hunters. Obviously I’m not gonna go easy on the person who opposes hunting based off fabrications and half truths. Anyone who knows me knows that I do not back down from a debate with someone who hates what I represent. I’ve lost friends, and subsequently, also gained friends by this trait. But, with hunters who disagree, we need to come from a place of respect and facts. Don’t start the “I have 8 degrees and 5 masters, I’m your superior” or the “I have killed so many things, you don’t even know” or “I’m on like 10 pro staffs and a handful of field staffs” or “well, my friends dads co workers nephews dog trainer had a friend who is a biologist, and they said this”. Look, if it’s a thing of science, get the facts. And for the love of God can we stop with the over population, doomsday rhetoric? That arguement has been drove into the ground. Over. And over. Let’s talk about wildlife and wild places and overall conservation that only we provide and fund. We have too much access to too much research to remain ignorant on this front. If it has to do with matter of opinions on equipment or methods, agree to disagree. And if it had to do with anything that may be misconstrued as condescending, just don’t engage. The dude I have been intonit with probably is a cool guy. But I assumed his tone and he assumed mine and now it’s akward. 

Dont engage the crazies. And don’t become a crazy. If you have a disagreement, it may always be better to just ignore the person. Or respectfully disagree and Lee the opinion to yourself. Or, just make the call yourself. 

The elusive “Cull Buck”

We have all said it. We have all heard it. “Deer here just have bad genetics”….”That’s just a cull buck”….”I better shoot him before the neighbors do!” First off, I am no purist or great hunter. I’m a Flunky that likes to eat deer and wild game. In the realm of whitetail, I have only killed does and a button Buck. My harvest will be part of another blog on here that more or less let’s you know more about me and “My Story”, but my point is, hunt how you want. But don’t use TV lies to justify your kill. 

I am writing this from a tree stand in some game lands down from the house. Dove hunters are letting the lead fly and chucking shells all around me. I am looking at my buddies deer from last night. An absolute STUD!!! I will be doing another post about it and other WNC deer, kind of a second part to this one. But what got me to this point, this post, this blog, this rant is what I have noticed. Jordan killed a BRUTE because he has practiced letting them age. 

Contrary to popular belief, cull bucks don’t exist in many places in the natural world. In fact, unless you have managed a property for 25+ years intensively, then you will probably never see a “cull buck”. I know what your thinking, “This guy/gal in Instagram says otherwise” or “I just watched this show where the host Possum Trot Leg-Swarp swears there are areas with bad genes and tons of culls!!” Fair enough, let’s take a look at what those “cull bucks” have in common shall we? Usually, they have 2-6 horns, are very skinny and their legs seem very long for their bodies. I have asked people about these alleged “cull bucks” they have killed and one dudes response was “They always have really flat backs and just look kind of awkward” I responded with “Like teenagers?” He nodded his head and said “Just like em! Like they never grew up!”  I didn’t remind the man that after his harvest they could in fact, never grow up. After a stroll through social media today, I noticed how many people where teeming deer as “culls” or talking about inferior genetics. Hence this post. 

All the afore mentioned similarities to these “cull bucks” also bear an uncanny resemblance to another group of deer: the young bucks. Ages 1.5-2.5. The 13-18 year old awards teenage boys of the natural world. According to the QDMA the common traits that I have mentioned are also common for young deer. So, according to them, “Cull Bucks” are few and very far between and in a lot of areas, do not exist. So why is this all over social media? Why is this still a thing? I recall congratulating a young man in his teens on harvesting a beautiful 110 inch 7 point white tail buck. The hunt he recounted in his post was so awesome and inspiring but then he ended it with “Got another cull out of the herd!!” I congratulated him on the deer and then just suggested that the deer was in fact not a cull, just a young deer. Never brow beat him, never beat the deer down, just a thought. All of a sudden he had recruited his buddy to “teach me a lesson” in this. The buddy began with the rhetoric of “This gene pool has some deer that get decent antlers and mast, but their bodies indicate they are genetically inferior to our dominant bucks in the area” Full disclosure, I engaged. I shouldn’t have, I should have been the adult, but I engaged. 

What happened next was a whirlwind. I addressed the young mans friend with questions on how they determined it’s inferiorness? What’s the jaw bone look like? Have they worked with a biologist on their private ranch they hunted? The responses reminded me why I miss spankings in school and then also reminded me I share the same generation. Can’t blame the kids though, they are just a product of their up bringing. Which was re affirmed when I started this morning. I saw picture after picture of 1.5 year old deer laying on the ground with “#cullbuck” and “Had to get him out of the gene pool” in the descriptions. Look, I am not knocking how people hunt, if it’s legal and you wanna mow down every single 1.5 year old buck in your area, have at it! Just don’t come back and say “Took all these culls out of the herd!!” And you know what? You could be right! They could in fact be the elusive “cull buck” I have apparently missed all these years. But a jawbone is the only truth to the matter. If the age shows different, I’ll agree. But I like my odds that the jawbone will in fact show it’s a young deer. 

My preference for whitetail is obvious. I want to let him go so he can grow. That’s my choice. But my choice doesn’t need justifying…. does yours? If it does, is it really about the hunt? Is it really about the filling of the freezer? Why not shoot a doe? I think the primary culprit is outdoor television. Shows needed footage to get the kills on camera. Needed to show how their sponsor who made the super duper scent free bio degradable toilet paper how their product helped produce results. Be skeptical folks. Talk to a biologist. Join a conservation organization. At least have the facts. 

However, if you are in Texas, a cull buck to them, would be a Euro Mount on my wall. And it’s also the home of the good Al Brothers. So they can say a few things differently. 

Happy hunting. And don’t hashtag the word cull. Please. For the love of God. 

What I learned from the great Spear debacle….

Unless you have been living under a rock for the past few weeks, you know all about the Bowmar vs. Under Armour hunt deal. For those of you who have not read or heard or seen anything about it, feel free to google it. I am sure there are plenty of other articles/blogs and what not about it. This isn’t one of them. That being said, I hate that this is going on. I am sure there were errors in judgement on both sides, and both sides regret certain actions. But, the Bowmars will be alright (have you seen Sarah? And pretty sure Josh can throw trees after he up roots them) and Under Armour will still be selling gear and sending money to conservation. But there are 2 common themes that we can talk about from this; 1.) Anti-hunters and how we actually can deal with them and 2.) the public perception of hunters matters.

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