Conservation Remains A Huge Part Of New York Hunting

Like most hunting laws, conservation New York Style started in rod and gun clubs. Organized hunters in the New York State Conservation Council decided it was necessary to do something about hunting accidents. Veterans returning from World War II swelled the ranks of hunters, and upwards of 150 hunting injuries — 15 to 20 of them fatal — occurred annually.huntcon

In several states, hunters and wildlife agency staff had been teaching hunting courses at rod and gun clubs and at conservation summer camps for years. New York’s Conservation Department records of this date back at least to 1944. Those courses, however, were reaching only a small percentage of hunters.

By 1949, the Conservation Council had agreed on mandating a gun safety course for younger hunters, and convinced the State Legislature and Governor to enact it. Of course, it was up to the Conservation Department to make it work, and they soon realized they needed help. The National Rifle Association was the logical place to go. At the time, the NRA’s primary interest was target shooting competition and promoting marksmanship, but they had hundreds of rifle instructors around the state.

Surveying NRA members and enlisting volunteers took many months. Meanwhile, the Conservation Department’s Division of Fish and Game was overwhelmed. Some of the courses were only about 15 minutes long, according to Wilson. Even the short courses, however, included hands-on lessons, evaluating the student’s capability to safely handle firearms.

Under contract from New York State, however, the NRA soon developed a four hour course in firearms safety, complete with a manual and instructor’s guide. The Department helped with communication, but at first, it was mostly an NRA gun safety program. In 1951 Game Protector Bryan Burgin was appointed Hunter Training Coordinator, and Dick Wilson was assigned as co-coordinator in 1953, covering the western half of the state. This was the start of a more comprehensive hunter education program. The co-coordinators (later joined by downstate officers, the most well-known being Jack Leeman from Long Island) organized voluntary instructor training sessions for the volunteers recruited by NRA, and were the instructors’ main link to the Department.

Since the NRA material covered only safety and marksmanship, Department staff took New York Fish and Game material, such as the pocket-size 8-page “Manual for the New Hunter” and added it to the NRA gun safety course for a more complete introduction to hunting, adding hunter ethics, landowner relations and conservation.

For several years, NRA supplied all the training materials from their Washington, D.C. office. As the number of states with hunter education grew, however, NRA turned over instructor coordination and supply services to the individual states.

As the Hunter Training Program grew, laws changed also. In 1951 the age for courses changed from new hunters under 17 to new hunters under 21. The number of hunting injuries caused by young hunters dropped, but the overall injury rate continued to rise, with most injuries caused by adult hunters. In response, the exemption for new adult hunters was removed in 1960. Now all new hunters, regardless of their age, must pass the course.

In the 1970s, a change in the funding of wildlife conservation programs resulted in a virtual rebirth of hunter education. The 1937 Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act, commonly known as the Pittman-Robertson Act, provided millions of dollars in excise taxes on sporting arms and ammunition for state wildlife agencies, but not for education programs. Amendments in 1970 and 1973 expanded taxes to more kinds of hunting equipment, and earmarked half of the new revenues for hunter education and public shooting ranges. This enabled states to beef up hunter education programs.

With new funding, the staff devoted to hunter education more than tripled, and a more effective program was developed. The new staff working with volunteers and international experts developed new training methods, materials, and procedures. For the first time, instructors got uniform training and other support.

A network of Master Instructors was recruited and groomed to train new instructors and teach refresher courses for existing instructors. New curriculum material improved training in hunter ethics, conservation, and other topics of vital importance to today’s hunters, in addition to better safety training methods.

New York’s sportsmen organizations took advantage of the increased support for hunter education, too. They saw the value of education for solving problems in specialized activities that require a high degree of skill and knowledge. In 1977, bowhunters, through the Conservation Council, got a law passed for mandatory bowhunter education, and organized trappers followed with a mandatory trapper training law in 1980. With these changes, the Hunter Training program became the Sportsman Education Program.

The results have been phenomenal. Today’s hunters and trappers are the best trained, safest sportsmen and women in history. For example, hunting injury rates have dropped over 60 percent since 1967. As hunting, trapping and sound wildlife management face new challenges, education will be a critical factor in continuing the intelligent action and support of hunters and trappers that has proven to be the key to meeting those challenges.

Over the past 50 years, the New York State Sportsman Education Program has developed from a simple gun safety course to a sophisticated program instilling the values of responsibility, safety and conservation.

Stop Snoring Using A Snoring Mouthpiece And Save Yourself Some Sleep

snoring-tipsPeople should really know that snoring can be prevented. There are efforts you can exert in able to avoid all this lost sleep right from the get-go. Although it is important to note that aging does sometimes play a factor. One of the things that can predispose snoring is throat muscle weakness. The muscles within the throat will eventually become weak as you age. But the weakening of these muscles can progress faster if the person is taking good care of his or her health. Consuming fruits and vegetables can be helpful in delaying this process. It is also advised to stop smoking and limit alcohol consumption. Cigarettes contain harmful elements that can cause various illnesses.

People can also avoid snoring by keeping an ideal weight. This is because obesity is said to be a predisposing factor for snoring too. If there are excess fat deposits within the throat, the air passageway will become narrower. Snorers are advised to sleep on their side to avoid snoring. It is also recommended to sleep at the same time at night and make sure that they will get sufficient rest. This is because stress is also considered as a contributing factor. If snoring is sporadic, snorers should consider wearing a snoring mouthpiece, mainly because it can be so beneficial. If a stop snoring mouthpiece like the Good Morning Snore Solution isn’t for you, read more about remedies here.

Natural Ways to Fight Snoring

Snorers must refer to a doctor if they are snoring frequently so they can receive suitable treatment. But aside from snoring mouthpieces, medications and surgery, there are also natural ways to fight snoring. Snorers should be informed about these because the natural ways can be very helpful for the entire treatment. Snoring can be reduced or prevented if the muscles within the throat are strong. Snorers can strengthen these muscles by consuming fruits and vegetables that are rich in antioxidants.

These can also help them avoid illnesses that can cause obstruction in the nasal passages which would consequently result to snoring. It is also advised to exercise regularly to improve good blood circulation and muscle tone.

Snorers should avoid smoking because this habit can make weaken the muscles of the throat. Cigarettes contain many chemicals that can be harmful to the body. Alcohol consumption is also discouraged because it can make the muscles more vulnerable to vibration. Snorers are also advised to make a scheduled bedtime and stick to it. They should make certain that they will acquire enough rest because stress can be a contributing factor for this type of condition. It is essential for snorers to understand that the prescribed treatment should not be replaced with natural remedies.

A strong treatment for snoring is focused on correcting the main cause of the condition. But certain types of treatment can be combined to handle the problem more effectively. Snorers should be reminded that the doctor´s opinion should be obtained before using any type of snoring treatment. They should not self-diagnose and try just any snoring treatment that is accessible. The treatment for snoring will be determined once the main cause of the condition has been identified. If the cause of snoring is the malposition of the jaw, snoring mouthpieces can be considered. These are devices that expand the air passageway so air can flow in and out easily. Snoring mouthpieces have proven to be effective in many cases of mild to moderate snoring. But if the snoring is severe, the doctor may recommend a surgical procedure. There are a number of procedures that can be used to treat snoring. Certain procedures can be combined to make the treatment more effective. But these procedures can be quite invasive. Surgery can yield effective results but it may come with some side effects. There are also medications that help snorers reduce or eliminate snoring.

Thinking Hard About Hunting

onhuntingI myself am a hunter. But Matthew Scully’s recent dissent on hunting reminded me just how juvenile some politically correct folks are. For one thing, it doesn’t necessarily follow that, simply because Al Gore or Barbra Streisand despises something, that something is worthy of commendation. It often works out that way, I know, but it is unbecoming of a rational creature to let the Gores and Streisands of the world define virtue, even negatively.

Second, Mr. Scully’s essay was only partly an attack on hunting. Its deeper objection was to what he called the “smug insensibility” of “the Imperial Self, armed and dangerous,” of “man the all-conquering consumer facing the universe with limitless entitlements.” Hunting-bear hunting in particular- seemed to Mr. Scully to exemplify that “distinctively modern mix of sentimentality and ruthlessness” that has given us the yuppie, with his limitless self-regard, his burden of liberal pieties, his biting intolerance of all who disagree with him.

There is a lot to what Mr. Scully has to say. The question-as some of the critical letters elicited by his essay suggest-is whether hunting really deserves the obloquy he marshals against it.

One way of putting this is to ask: Whom would you trust in an emergency? Al Gore? Barbra Streisand? The yuppies who love them? Or the chap down the road who hunts on weekends? I know what I would say.

A fuller answer is contained in On Hunting, a short, charming, and deeply considered discussion of hunting to hounds (a sport very different, to be sure, from bear hunting) by the English philosopher Roger Scruton. There are three categories of people who should read this book: those who hunt; those who think they hate hunting; and those who don’t care about hunting one way or the other but whose feeling for nature has not been entirely eclipsed by the incursions of urban life. You know who you are.

Mr. Scruton’s book is part autobiography, part philosophical rumination, part polemic. The gist of the book is encapsulated in the very first sentence: “My life divides into three parts. In the first I was wretched; in the second ill at ease; in the third hunting.” The rest of the autobiography explains why. The philosophical part of On Hunting revolves around a question that is also at the center of Mr. Scully’s reflections: namely, what is man’s proper place in the order of nature? Whatever disagreements they may have about hunting, what finally places Messrs. Scruton and Scully on the same side in this debate are the fundamental convictions: that there is such a thing as an “order of nature”; that it makes sense to speak of man’s “proper” place within that order. It is our task to decide whether hunting counts as a violation of that propriety.

This brings us to the polemical part of Mr. Scruton’s book, which is directed primarily against those who seek to criminalize hunting in Britain. The essence of his argument occurs in the last dozen or so pages. “Animals,” he observes, “are not moral beings; they have neither rights nor duties, they are not sovereign over their own lives, and they can commit no crimes.” We do not arraign lions for murder or apprehend magpies for theft. Indeed, “to treat animals as moral beings is to mistreat them-it is to make demands which they could not satisfy, since they cannot understand them as demands.” Mr. Scruton is quick to add that “it does not follow, however, that we can treat animals as we wish.” The demands of morality involve pity and compassion as well as duty, and there can be, he argues, no justification for gratuitous cruelty to animals.

Is hunting a form of cruelty to animals? Mr. Scruton distinguishes rather sharply between fox hunting, where the hounds-natural predators of foxes-do the killing, and other sorts of hunting. (“Shooting and angling,” he says, “seem too much like hubris, swaggering displays of prowess made possible by mere machinery.”) About hunting to hounds, at any rate, he makes a convincing argument that the fox is “better served by hunting than by any other form of cull, and that all rival practices expose him to far more suffering.” It follows that hunting is “not just permissible . . . but morally right.”

I suspect that Mr. Scruton’s arguments about hunting to hounds could be extended to many, perhaps most, forms of hunting. The real enemy-as Mr. Scully implies and Mr. Scruton argues outright-is sentimentality: emotion that is counterfeited in the face of a moral void. “I admit that the English sentimentality over animals is rather endearing,” Mr. Scruton writes. “But it is also a vice. Animals cannot answer back. They cannot puncture our illusions. They allow us complete freedom to invent their feelings for them, to project into their innocent eyes a fantasy world in which we are the heroes, and to lay our phony passions before them without fear of moral rebuke. They are the easy option for the emotionally deprived.”

Whatever one’s attitude toward hunting, it is difficult not to be moved by Mr. Scruton’s book. This is because it is about much more than hunting. Or, as Mr. Scruton would perhaps prefer to put it, it is because hunting is about much more than hunting. It is about our rights and duties in a world where respect and reverence seem increasingly atavistic.

Mr. Scruton observes that “the suicide of nations begins” when “sentimentality prevails over sense.” He extols hunting partly because it is an antidote to sentimentality, partly because, properly pursued, it aids in the renewal of that humility before nature whose loss Mr. Scully lamented.

Coyote Busting – The Great Battle

Whoa, man. Whoa!

Whoa, man. Whoa!

Say “federal hunters” at your local watering hole and you’ll trigger a lot of quizzical looks, as people picture everything from hot-on-the-trail IRS agents to special prosecutors. But in fact, today’s federal hunter is just a pickup-driving, helicopter-flying westerner with one very unique job: He’s on the payroll to hunt down coyotes that kill livestock.

There are 750 coyote hunters working for a program called Wildlife Services (WS) under the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 17 western states.

Glynn Riley, 63, of Brownwood, Tex., is acknowledged by his peers as the best. He doesn’t hide his pleasure that he’s living his boyhood dream, and he frowns when he speaks about possible retirement. He’s a truly humble man, with a cowboy hat, a soft Texas drawl and mountains of respect from the local ranchers, who call him “Wolf Man,” a title he earned in the early ’70s when he trapped the last of the red wolves in southeastern Texas, sending them to zoos.

“I have the utmost respect for the coyote,” says Riley as he leans over an almost indecipherable track in the dust. “The wolf, he’s easy to catch. But the coyote, he’s a versatile and intelligent little rascal. People wonder how the coyote got across the Mississippi. I say he weighed his prospects and hitched a ride in the back of a tractor trailer.”

Riley pronounces “coyote” as two harsh syllables, not the three-syllable coy-o-tee version that calls forth visions of a wimped-out-cartoon animal helpless before the antics of a roadrunner. He admits that he sometimes feels like “the last Indian watching the last buffalo run over the hill,” but in actuality, “that’s just not the case,” he says. “There are more coyotes today than I’ve seen all of my 38 years with WS. And they’re causing more problems than ever before.”

With the WS program funding under siege by some members of Congress–including Representatives Charles Bass (R-NH) and Peter Defazio (D-OR)–and political groups, such as Taxpayers for Common Sense (a political think tank in Washington, D.C.), and with coyote populations at an all-time high, Riley is more like the last Indian running from a stampede.

The House of Representatives voted 229 to 193 last June to cut the program by $10 million but then reversed itself (232-192) the next day. The federal budget for the western predator control program stands at $15,580,000. States and counties together match the federal outlay with money through taxes on livestock sales and other funding.

Critics are persistent, however. They have labeled the program “cowboy welfare,” and argue that it benefits only a “few western ranchers.” Wildlife Services employees have a different view. The program was established in 1931 to do one thing: kill problem coyotes. But it has since grown and changed with the times. Wildlife Services now works in all 50 states dealing with various wildlife-related problems. Its missions include working with airports to keep birds from damaging airplanes, helping farmers prevent blackbirds from eating their crops and discovering solutions to whitetail deer overpopulation problems.

“The program has been on the defensive ever since I can remember,” says Riley as the wrinkles around his eyes tighten. “And at first glance we do seem a little archaic. But in reality, with record-high wildlife populations, we’re needed more than ever. People don’t understand that coyotes can put ranchers out of business.”

For example: In 1995, cattle ranchers lost 69,350 head to coyotes–that’s a $21.8 million hit. In 1994, a total of 368,050 sheep and lambs were taken by coyotes, worth another $17.7 million.

Eric Gese, a biologist at the National Wildlife Research Center in Fort Collins, Colo., says the amazing success of the coyote is due to many factors, citing in particular the elimination of the coyote’s arch-nemesis, the wolf, the crash of fur prices in the late 1970s and abundant game.

Wily Coyotes

Those who know the coyote best, however, attribute his success to his intelligence.

Riley sways back and forth on his cowboy boots, smiles like he’s confessing to a weakness of character and says, “More than a few have been hard to catch. One particularly notorious coyote we named the `Bingham Turkey Killer.’

“Every May the Bingham brothers would put 50,000 turkeys out onto the range. They kept dogs with them and kept them in close at night where they could respond to trouble, but one year a little female coyote sneaked in and killed 98 the first night. I checked it out, but I couldn’t see how she had done it.

“The next night she was back and killed 50 more birds. So the Binghams tried bright lights to scare her off. That worked for two nights, but then she had lamplight to dine by. So they tried loud music, and two nights later she came back and had light and music to dine by.

“Finally, I found one track in the dirt a quarter-mile away. So I put a trap right there. Caught her. But we never did figure out how she got in.”

Riley has been happily married for 42 years and has a son, David, who works “in one of those big shiny buildings in Dallas.” He knew he wanted to chase predators for a living when in 1954 he picked up a copy of Outdoor Life and read a story by Walt Wiggins called “Traveling Trapper.” The story detailed an account of a WS trapper in New Mexico named George Williams, who was the legend of his trade then, as Riley is now.

THE TRICKSTER

Coyotes outsmarting their adversaries is nothing new. The coyote was a demiurge in Native American mythology, part god, part animal, part human, and was known as the “Trickster.” He’ll take on any form necessary to win, and though frequently killed, he always comes back, as Wayne Grady reports in his book The World of the Coyote.

More than a few ranchers wish the coyote wasn’t such a formidable trickster.

Truman Julian, a sheep rancher in Kemmerer, Wyo., who loses hundreds of sheep a year to coyote depredation, says, “I’ve tried everything, but they always find a way to beat me in the end.

“I tried using a tag that goes in the lamb’s ear. It had an odor that was supposed to keep coyotes away, but I found tooth marks in the tags. So I tried a spray repellent–no luck. I then tried a system where you light a fuse and cherry bombs go off every 30 minutes all night long. After a week I had to stop because it was like ringing the dinner bell for those coyotes. The same with strobe lights.”

With a sigh, Julian continues: “Donkeys and llamas are no good, either [they're supposed to become protective of the sheep and stomp coyotes]. They bond with the horses instead of the sheep. So now I bring in dog food by the semi. The guard dogs help, but the coyotes figure them out, too.

“They have three basic strategies: One coyote will come in on one side of the herd and distract the dogs while the others kill sheep, or they’ll get the dogs to chase them and run them into the ground. If all else fails, they’ll gang up on one dog at a time and just kill him.”

Trick for trick, coyotes and ranchers are in a constant duel. So the ranchers call in the experts from WS, who add their expertise to the game. And still the coyote wins more than he loses.

STRATEGIES OF WAR

According to Riley, it’s no surprise that the coyote is such a success. “They will eat anything,” he says. “I’ve seen them eat tomatoes and watermelons as well as deer and livestock. This versatility of diet gives them an edge. And because of this versatility, we have to use a host of different methods.”

Leghold traps and snares are two of the more common tools. WS hunters also use M-44 cyanide guns–small, spring-loaded tubes, loaded with cyanide capsules and baited at the top with scent. When a coyote bites and pulls on the top, the capsule shoots up and into his mouth, killing him instantly. Predator calls, such as the howler and distressed pup, are used to lure in the wary predators, and dogs, helicopters and planes are some of the more aggressive ways used to fight the battle.

It’s About The Meat, Man!

My 17-year-old daughter, Angie, and I slowly closed in on a bunch of elk last fall. There were about 80 animals in the herd, including several bulls. We were 200 yards out when a small group of cows spotted us. Angie quickly rested her rifle on shooting sticks, made herself comfortable in deep snow and touched off a shot. Moments later, a fat cow lay still.

Angie had a cow tag, and if you think she was disappointed because she couldn’t shoot a bull, you’re wrong. This was a meat hunt, pure and simple. Our family serves game meat exclusively at home, and the flesh of cow elk is rated absolutely tops on our kitchen table.

A friend of ours had a bull tag that same year. He’s a good hunter, has good horses and spent plenty of time riding the elk-rich mountains of northwestern Wyoming. He passed at least 50 bulls, looking for a giant, and ended up empty-handed when the season closed. Later he admitted that he shouldn’t have been so fussy. Not only did he fail to get the big bull, but he had no elk meat to show for hundreds of hours spent in the saddle. His intention was to take any legal bull the last day but, as often happens, he didn’t see a bull. Next year, he told me, a bull was going to wear his tag–any old bull.

Wyoming's a beaut...

Wyoming’s a beaut…

I also know a number of hunters who could care less about meat. Their priority is antlers, nothing else. A mounted head on the wall is the objective of the hunt; the meat is given away.

And therein lie the three basic categories of hunters: 1) those who hunt exclusively for meat; 2) those who want meat but first hold out for an impressive animal; and 3) the pure trophy hunter. Obviously, each of us hunts for different reasons.

Unlike in fishing, catch-and-release isn’t an option for hunters. If you squeeze the trigger and hit what you’re shooting at, you have meat on your hands. Some species may not be edible, such as coyotes or foxes, but for the most part, the bird or animal will likely be consumed.

What Hunters Gather

Statistics reveal just how much meat is gathered by American hunters each year. Here are some examples: 50 million doves, 25 million rabbits and squirrels, 25 million quail, 20 million pheasants, 10 million ducks, 2 million geese and 4 million deer. To the uninformed, these figures suggest that we’re annihilating our wildlife. The fact is, these are surplus animals, part of burgeoning populations that reproduce nicely each year and allow us to hunt at all.

With the exception of wild turkeys, which sport beards and formidable spurs, birds aren’t hunted as “trophies.” Birds are pursued because of all the joys associated with the hunting, including dog work, decoys, calling and shooting challenges, as well as their tasty flesh.

Waste Not

It’s the antlered animals and those that yield pelts (bears, mountain lions) that trophy hunters are interested in. Some states and Canadian provinces are creating new laws requiring hunters to keep the meat of bears and lions. In 1996, for example, Montana initiated a law, which reads: “Hunters are prohibited from wasting black bear meat unless determined to contain trichinella.” (Montana provides free optional lab testing for trichinella.)

And why did this state and others come up with the notion that black bear meat must be consumed? Wildlife officers claim that not only is bear meat palatable, but the bear deserves better than to be left behind in the woods for the sake of its hide. The law also goes along with other big-game requirements that prohibit waste of game meat. (Montana lions also must be consumed.)

An underlying reason, and one that officials won’t freely admit, is based on a defense philosophy that answers accusations by anti-hunters that hunters pursue some animals (notably bears) for their pelts and leave the meat to rot in the woods. Of course, the meat doesn’t rot but is quickly consumed by scavengers and predators, but the point, a correct one, is that the animal is targeted only for its trophy value by many individuals. Some hunters, by the way, hunt bears for their meat as well as their hides. (I happen to be one of them.) Mandatory laws that require hunters to keep bear meat quiet those who make a case out of it.

Most states take a dim view of wasting game meat and have laws prohibiting such waste. Alaska is probably the most strict. A serious violation in that state can lead to a jury trial. Regulations specifically say: “You must salvage all of the edible meat of moose, caribou, sheep, mountain goats, wild reindeer, deer, elk, bison or musk ox, and small-game birds for which seasons and bag limits exist.” The rules also define specifically what edible meat is, and go on to prohibit the transportation of antlers before the meat is delivered to a pickup site. In other words, if you take a Dall’s sheep and bring the horns out on the first trip with the intention of returning for the meat, you could be in very serious trouble with the law if you’re caught. And rightly so.

I’m a hearty supporter of eating wild game and have a fetish against leaving any in the field (my wife calls it a phobia). I hunted turkeys in seven states this past spring, for example, and collected all the wings, thighs and drumsticks from other hunters who wanted only the breasts. With literally 40 pounds of meat that would have been tossed, I put my large pressure cooker to work and quickly had several quarts of fabulous canned turkey ready for soup and chowder this winter.

Don’t Knock It

One of my biggest hunting turnoffs is the hunter who ridicules so-called “meat hunters.” Disparaging comments about folks who literally hunt for venison make me sick. Luckily, most hunters don’t have this attitude, which is a good thing. The non-hunting public holds the meat hunter in far higher esteem than the one who hunts solely for antlers. A Yale study conducted by Dr. Stephen Kellert found that 80 percent of Americans approve of meat hunting, while 60 percent do not approve of hunting for recreation or sport.

Don’t make the mistake of dismissing those non-hunters as being unimportant in the battle to retain our hunting rights. Remember that they’re in the vast majority–and they vote. Unfortunately, hunting is being challenged more and more in the ballot box these days.

I’m not against trophy hunting. I’m a professional member of the Boone and Crockett Club, and have myself passed up many animals because they didn’t meet my expectations. On the other hand, I’m equally happy with a doe deer or cow elk. I’m not above shooting a forkhorn buck or spike bull elk, either.

It riles me when I hear the old statement by animal rights people that “Americans don’t need to hunt any more, since a grocery store can provide all the meat we want.” I beg your pardon. There are millions of Americans who count on venison as a necessary supplement to their food budget. In some poverty-stricken areas of the South where deer limits are generous, for example, many folks rely on venison to get by. My good friends Harold Knight (a call manufacturer and outstanding hunter) and General Chuck Yeager were both raised in families where hunting was necessary to stay alive.

Here’s yet another thought on the subject, and one I’ve never heard or seen discussed. Yes, it’s true that most of us can fulfill our meat requirements at the supermarket, but we aren’t buying venison. Those of us who prefer venison must hunt it or beg it from a hunting acquaintance.

Eating Healthy

Venison tastes like venison, not like beef or pork. By the way, as defined by the dictionary, venison is not exclusively deer meat. Webster’s calls it “edible flesh of a wild animal taken by hunting.” Random House defines it as “flesh of a deer or similar animal as used for food.” It’s far healthier than other meats–having less fat, saturated fat and calories. It also has more protein and HDL, the “good” cholesterol, as opposed to LDL, the “bad” cholesterol which is predominant in beef and pork. Venison also has no added steroids, antibiotics or vaccines as livestock products do.

It’s politically correct these days to tell people we don’t necessarily hunt to kill something, but to enjoy the outdoors. I basically agree with that, and when we do bring home the game, it’s the healthiest food you can put on the table.

Looking Back On Hunting And Social Change

By the late 1980s, the wandering of the previous decade was largely over. The “Me Generation” took hold with a vengeance. Mercifully, its reign was as self-destructive as it was brief. The arrogant excesses that landed one-time financial stars in jail also forced the nation to appreciate its more enduring gifts. A quiet rebirth of social conscience and a respect for the values of an abundant land came to the fore.

buckInternationally, the economics of the Cold War were taking their toll. Russia was in decline and perestroika was in the wind. America was once again facing a strange dichotomy–forced to look both outward as a world leader and inward at its own domestic problems. The same generation that had protested the bombing of Cambodia was raising families. What legacy would they leave for the generations that followed?

When more than a million acres in Yellowstone Park went up in flames in the summer of 1988, Americans were once again reminded of the vulnerability of their environment. The nation would have to adopt a new stewardship role in caring for wilderness lands worldwide.

Winning the Gulf War in 1991 gave President George Bush the highest popularity rating ever for a president, yet seven months later he would be defeated by William Jefferson Clinton, the Arkansas governor who campaigned on a platform centered on domestic policies.

Animal rights, global warming, the destruction of rain forests, acid rain, water pollution, subsistence rights, saving the spotted owl–these were the dilemmas the Baby Boomers would face in the ’80s and ’90s. The world had changed; Outdoor Life was changing, too.

In this decade, we see the reinstatement of a new Outdoor Life Conservation Pledge, with wording updated to make a greater acknowledgment of the environment. Strong editorial focus was also brought to the conservation issues of the day in a new column titled “Taking Aim.”

After a long absence, the Outdoor Life Conservation Award was brought back in 1998. And the new Outdoor Life Conservation Fund, dedicated to funding game conservation projects throughout North America, was launched. On May 13, 1998, Outdoor Life held a special celebration at the Explorers Club in New York City. The little magazine that J.A. McGuire had started on a shoestring in a tiny office off Curtis Street in Denver had finally turned 100.

O’CONNOR’S LAST STAND

For 31 years, Jack O’Connor served as Shooting Editor of Outdoor Life. He was a living legend–a legend that no one wanted to see grow old. In the fall of 1977, he took his last hunt with Jack Atcheson Sr., the man who had booked so many of O’Connor’s hunts from Alaska to Africa. On this hunt, Atcheson would act as guide:

The whitetail buck was enormous, bigger than any I’d ever seen before. Though I’d hunted around the world many times, I’d never been as excited as I was at that moment….

The buck’s size wasn’t the only reason for my excitement. Jack O’Connor was sitting a few feet away from me, and yack wanted a big whitetail, bigger than any he’d ever taken….

At least 20 other whitetails were with the big buck, including two other very large bucks that looked like twins but which were easily outclassed by the giant. But Jack was positioned so he couldn’t see the deer….

I whispered loudly to signal Jack, but my voice spooked the buck. He whirled and crashed into the willows, bounding off in a way I knew was for keeps.

I was heartsick. Why did so many bucks present themselves, and why were we so unlucky?

Then, the impossible happened. The huge buck stopped running and trotted right back to the very place he had just left. It was too much. I raised my rifle, aimed at his heart, but could not pull the trigger. I was staring at what might have been the biggest buck in Montana, but I couldn’t shoot….

This was Jack’s hunt, not mine, even though he had insisted that I shoot if I had an opportunity.

The enormous buck spun and ran off, this time for good. I turned and was shocked to see Jack standing with his rifle to his shoulder, aiming at the buck. He was grinning from ear to ear, and I realized that he had seen the buck, but for some reason had refused to shoot.

“God, what a buck,” he said simply. “What a buck!”

As we left the woods, our hunt over, I couldn’t bring myself to ask Jack why he hadn’t shot. Perhaps he’d seen me drawing a bead on the buck and wanted me to take it.

Perhaps. Or maybe he hadn’t fired because he believed that once you take the biggest buck of your life, there’s nothing to look forward to.