Sunday, November 22, 2009

Are We Alone When We Hunt? (Also, Cookie is doggie crying)

Poor Cookie, she wants to go hunting in the worst way. Today she watched me carry my CVA muzzle loader to my Suburban and when she realized she wasn’t going to go she started to do the doggie cry. I’d love to take her grouse or pheasant hunting. The weather is perfect and I’ve seen a number of birds, but deer season is not the season to take a bird dog into the field—even with a blaze orange vest on the dog. Maybe I am over protective but Cookie is a much too important part of my life to risk endangering. We’ll still have ample time to hunt when deer season is closed.

As for my deer hunting—the warm weather and fields are still conspiring, although there were a few more harvested fields this afternoon. I watched some does but my license is for a buck.

The lack of opportunity of the past two weeks, coupled with the looming end of the rifle season, may be triggering (no pun) a little “end-of-day” anxiety among some hunters. I’d put my spotting scope (Alpen) away and pulled the bullet and powder from my rifle when I heard a shot from a treeline that was quite a distance from me. (Pulling is easier than cleaning my rifle if I "shot" it empty.) I didn’t think too much about it because, if my guess was right, the hunter was probably looking over a field where the sun was setting behind him and he had a good view, with lots of lingering autumn sunglow to see by. It was the other four shots that followed, all from other directions, that troubled me.

The truth is that modern optics are vastly superior to those of even a decade ago and the light transmitting capability of the modern lens is remarkable—but with these advances in equipment is it possible we’ve created a new set of problems for ourselves—hunters taking risks? I’m sure that each of us, no matter how ethical we try to be, at some point in our hunting career, stretched a barrel just a bit and sat for a few minutes longer than we should have. The hunter who is guided by hunting’s ethos will feel some kind of guilt. That’s human nature. But what happens when technology is itself a “wink” at both the law and the ethic? Hunting, above all other human activities, is the one where rarely is a person’s ethical behavior witnessed by another person. We are each alone with ourselves when hunting.

Or are we truly alone with ourselves?

The more I research the advertising, press releases and texts of our own media the closer I am moved to believing that the goal of some promotional media is to have greater influence over the hunter’s actions than the ethos of hunting. In short, are some attempting to redefine the ethos? How often is the image of a successful hunter becoming less part of the greater experience of the hunt and more the “reason” for hunting? (I deliberately chose “reason” over “justification” in the sentence.)

Hunting is, and must remain, an individual activity. Regardless of whether a hunter is in a pheasant line or tree stand overlooking a pasture the hunter remains alone. To shoot or not to shoot is the individual’s choice. The wonder of modern optics must not be based upon a misinterpretation of Ortega’s often quoted, “kill to have hunted” but be guided by Hemingway’s “duty of the hunter” to make a one shot kill.

Think about it. What do you think? glg

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Starling Pie, Anyone?

Whenever I write a book review I make it a point to fact check dates, names and other information to be sure my readers can trust my review. Sometimes that fact checking leads to something interesting that I hadn't expected. Here is a recipe I found when checking on the dates a professional hunter claimed to have taken a well known writer on safari. The recipe does not have anything to do with the book I reviewed but it is, well, interesting. Enjoy!

I found this in the April 23, 1956 issue of Sports Illustrated and is from the "SI Vault." This was written by the then Dallas Morning News outdoor writer Ken Foree.

That sedentary and eccentric genius of American detective fiction, Nero Wolfe, insists each spring on a starling dinner. To Wolfe, an unabashed and practiced gourmet, the little birds are an unsurpassable dish. Spring is here, there is no bag limit on starlings and, with this in mind, SI queried Mr. Wolfe for an appropriate recipe. Unfortunately he was closeted with his orchids and hence incommunicado. Rex Stout, however, who is Boswell to Archie Goodwin just as Archie is to Wolfe, is a starling man himself and gladly provided the following information for SI sportsmen: starling dinners are best enjoyed in April. Mr. Stout allows four birds to a guest and may shoot a few more than necessary as insurance against stringy oldsters or those hopelessly impregnated with shot. He feathers the birds and marinates them in red wine for 12 hours before broiling. Young, tender starlings may be ready after 25 minutes at moderate heat, but 40 minutes is average. Stout uses many sauces, but prefers an herby béarnaise laced with tarragon, fresh only (dried tarragon is too strong). He adds the tiniest dash of allspice and half a sage leaf to the basic sauce. "Flavor to taste," advises the famous author, "and deliberate a bit over whether or not half a bay leaf will add just about the right touch." To qualified female readers the genial Mr. Stout, though no Wolfe, offers a Goodwinesque suggestion: if they are between the ages of 22 and 26 and will submit a photograph for study, he will gladly consider cooking a platter of starlings for them.

© Sports Illustrated

I wonder if they were really writing about blackbirds? I'm sure the farmers around here would welcome a blackbird season every time they watch a cloud of the birds descend on their fields, especially the sunflowers.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Empty Deer Tag Blues

I'm still working on filling my deer tag and with some help from the weather I should have a good chance this weekend, which is also closing weekend.

I don't know about other parts of the state but around here I've seen more disappointed hunters than successful ones and the reason is mostly corn. The farmers got a late start last spring and the corn crop has been slow to dry enough for harvesting, so the deer herds have been able to staying in the corn and venture out at night (if they come out at all). This weekend the weather could change that pattern. Our forecast calls for some rain, possibly snow, over the weekend which will push the farmers to cut more off the fields, moving the deer around and with bad weather the deer may venture out before sunset. We'll see.


Friday, November 6, 2009

Deer Season Opens

North Dakota's gun deer season opens at noon tomorrow and I'm actually ready for it! Okay, sort of ready for it. I do have my hunting belt pack ready and my Suburban has a full tank of gas and my gun is zeroed and ready. I haven't dug out my vest and I need to make sure my powder and bullets are packed in my possible bag, but otherwise, I'm ready to go.

Just as I did last year I'll be hunting with my trusty muzzle loader and like last year I'll be hunting within a few miles of home. It is nice to be able to deer hunt so close to home after years of hunting in odd corners of the state. The strange thing is that the deer hunting around home was probably just as good as it was across the state but for a variety of reasons we sat up hunting camp a couple of hundred miles away. When I did hunt near home I usually managed to kill my deer after about the same amount of time hunting but the lure of other places to hunt seemed a lot stronger than common sense. I don't know if common sense has finally gotten a grip on me (I doubt it!) but I know there are more sunsets behind me than sunrises ahead—besides, I'm somewhat lazy.

I am looking forward to deer season this year. The weather isn't too cold and with a warm sun shining on my little hidey-hole among some rocks and tall weeds I'll be able to catch a few winks of sleep in between waking up to look around and see if a buck has decided to offer me a shot. If not, I'll go back to sleep until the shadows start getting long and then I'll do a little serious hunting before packing it in for the day.

Here's wishing all of you who are going deer hunting safe and successful hunts.


Sunday, November 1, 2009

A Fried Computer, Anxious Dog and “The Pines Review”

Wow! This has been an unbelievable 72 hours. On Thursday we had a pretty serious rain and the accompanying wind blew aside some of the plastic sheeting I had protecting the exposed parts of the roof. The upshot of the evening weather was that when we returned from nearby Mayville I could see where the plastic had been blown aside and I hurried to change clothes and get on the roof to repair the plastic. Once that was done I went in my office only to discover that water had been leaking through the ceiling and onto my desk and my laptop. After trying to clean everything up I had to resign myself to the possibility that my laptop was fried.

On Friday morning I contacted my insurance agency and the agent thinks I might be covered, but in the meantime I had to scramble around to make sure I had the money to get a new computer. I checked the prices and finally opted to change my computer buying practices and purchase a new laptop from a small computer store that isn't part of a chain, primarily because they would transfer my data from the old computer to the new one. I was also able to get the new "Windows 7" operating system rather than having to pay extra for it in a chain or resigning myself to "Vista," which I really didn't want. Once problem was that I also had to buy Microsoft's "Office 2007" because my old office program disks have been lost. Again, I got a better deal on the software.

The upshot of the whole mess is that I am back online with a new computer and new software but I've had to spend the entire weekend uploading both the new and old software and try to train myself to use both the computer and software. It wouldn't be so bad if deer season wasn't less than a week away, pheasant season is open and there are still geese and ducks on many of the sloughs.

When I was in Korea (Second Infantry Division, Public Affairs Office, "Indianhead" newspaper), during my three years in the army between my years in the Marine Corps, I had a public affairs officer, Major Diehl, who used to call me Crisis Geer. Every day he'd stop by my desk ask me if I had a new crisis for the day. It's nice to have that warm fuzzy that things haven't changed!

I've been reading the work of Dr. Randall Eaton in preparation for writing a feature about Dr. Eaton for my small literary magazine The Pines Review. I am fascinated by what Dr. Eaton has to say about hunting and the human spirit. I don't want to give away my article before the journal is published but since I do send it for free as a PDF file that is attached to an email if any reader would like to be put on the mailing list just send me an email at and I'll be put you on the list. The journal is also available as a Print On Demand publication but that costs and the details will be on the website when it returns to the internet.

What I am "trying" to do is publish a small literary journal of and for the men and women of the outdoor media. It's a big project and it has worked in spurts and stops but I believe it is all back on track. If you care about the art and literature of the angling and hunting sports I truly believe you will enjoy The Pines Review. As the commercial said, "try it, you'll like it."

Tomorrow evening I am going grouse hunting, roof or no roof, new computer or not. The birds are calling, well, at least Cookie is, she pulled down my hunting vest and has been carrying it around. glg