Hunting News

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2009 Season for Predators

Well we have been filming and hunting since September and our second video about close quarters predator hunting will be ready for editing in about two more months. I was curious how everyone else's season has been going so far.

Lead Shot and Sinkers: Weighty Implications for Fish and Wildlife Health

Millions of pounds of lead used in hunting, fishing and shooting sports wind up in the environment each year and can threaten or kill wildlife, according to a new scientific report.

Lead is a metal with no known beneficial role in biological systems, and its use in gasoline, paint, pesticides, and solder in food cans has nearly been eliminated. Although lead shot was banned for waterfowl hunting in 1991, its use in ammunition for upland hunting, shooting sports, and in fishing tackle remains common.

While noting that more information is needed on some aspects of the impact of lead on wildlife, the authors said that numerous studies already documented adverse effects to wildlife, especially waterbirds and scavenging species, like hawks and eagles. Lead exposure from ingested lead shot, bullets, and fishing sinkers also has been reported in reptiles, and studies near shooting ranges have shown evidence of lead poisoning in small mammals.

Frequently used upland hunting fields may have as much as 400,000 shot per acre. Individual shooting ranges may receive as much as 1.5 to 23 tons of lead shot and bullets annually, and outdoor shooting ranges overall may use more than 80,000 tons of lead shot and bullets each year. Although precise estimates are not available for lead fishing tackle in the environment, about 4,382 tons of lead fishing sinkers are sold each year in the United States.

The most significant hazard to wildlife is through direct ingestion of spent lead shot and bullets, lost fishing sinkers and tackle, and related fragments, or through consumption of wounded or dead prey containing lead shot, bullets or fragments, emphasized USGS contaminants experts Drs. Barnett Rattner and Chris Franson. The two scientists are lead authors of The Wildlife Society (TWS) technical report and co-authors with five other experts of a recent Fisheries article on the same subject.

"Science is replete with evidence that ingestion of spent ammunition and fishing tackle can kill birds," Rattner said. "The magnitude of poisoning in some species such as waterfowl, eagles, California condors, swans and loons, is daunting. For this reason, on July 1, 2008, the state of California put restrictions on the use of lead ammunition in parts of the range of the endangered California condor because the element poses such a threat to this endangered species." Lead poisoning causes behavioral, physiological, and biochemical effects, and often death. The rate of mortality is high enough to affect the populations of some wildlife species. Although fish ingest sinkers, jigs, and hooks, mortality in fish seems to be related to injury, blood loss, exposure to air and exhaustion rather than the lead toxicity that affects warm-blooded species.

Although lead from spent ammunition and lost fishing tackle is not readily released into aquatic and terrestrial systems, under some environmental conditions it can slowly dissolve and enter groundwater, making it potentially hazardous for plants, animals, and perhaps even people if it enters water bodies or is taken up in plant roots. For example, said Rattner, dissolved lead can result in lead contamination in groundwater near some shooting ranges and at heavily hunted sites, particularly those hunted year after year.

Research on lead poisoning related to spent ammunition and lost fishing tackle has been focused on bird species, with at least two studies indicating that the ban on the use of lead shot for hunting waterfowl in North America has been successful in reducing lead exposure in waterfowl, the report said. The authors found that upland game — such as doves and quail — and scavenging birds — such as vultures and eagles — continue to be exposed to lead shot, putting some populations (condors in particular) at risk of lead poisoning.

Some states have limited the use of lead shot in upland areas to minimize such effects, and others are considering such restrictions. Environmentally safe alternatives to lead shot and sinkers exist and are available in North America and elsewhere, but use of these alternatives is not widespread, according to the report.

The authors of the report concluded that a better understanding of the toxicity and amount of lead poisoning in reptiles and aquatic birds related to fishing tackle is needed, as well as more information on the hazards of spent ammunition and mobilized lead at or near shooting ranges. In addition, the authors suggested that a more detailed knowledge of how lead shot and fishing tackle specifically affect wildlife here and in other countries is essential, as well as studies that evaluate the effects on wildlife health and ecosystems of regulations restricting the amount of lead ammunition and lead fishing tackle.

This technical review was authored by contaminant experts at the request of TWS and the American Fisheries Society (AFS). Such reviews synthesize available information and research on a particular topic. In this case, TWS and AFS sought to address the scientific data on the hazard and risk of lead in hunting, shooting sports, and fishing activities to fulfill their conservation missions.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Arizona Predator Management Policy

The Arizona Game and Fish Commission (Commission) recognizes predation management to be a valuable and legitimate wildlife management tool. The Commission is aware of the diverse public opinions concerning predation issues and recognizes the need to increase public education and understanding of predation management; including the effects of not managing predators. The purpose of this policy is to establish guidelines for implementing site-specific mountain lion and coyote management through sound biological practices with public involvement. Bears were specifically excluded from this policy as their more diverse diet reduces their impacts on other wildlife species.

The Commission appreciates the role of predators in Arizona's ecosystems. Actions by the Arizona Game and Fish Department (Department) should be based on the best available scientific information. Mountain lions and coyotes will be managed to ensure their future ecological, intrinsic, scientific, educational, and recreational values, to minimize conflicts with humans, and to minimize adverse impacts on other wildlife populations.

The Department will develop site-specific management plans when either of these two species is considered to be inhibiting the ability of the Department to attain management goals and objectives for other wildlife species. Statewide management goals and objectives can be found in the Department’s Strategic Planning document. Additionally, management goals and objectives for predator control areas will be identified in site-specific management plans.


The Call Of The Wild

By Lee Strawn

Imagine sitting at the edge of a field on a cold, clear night with plenty of moonlight. The new fallen snow and calm wind heighten your expectations of another good night of predator calling as you listen to a series of calls from the gray fox pup tape, and you strain your eyes in search of movement. Suddenly, after a minute or two of calling, your eye catches movement. A gray fox streaks from the shadows to within range and your gun cracks. After you recover from the temporary blindness associated with the muzzle flash, your reward is another nice gray.

Predator hunting, like any other form of hunting, requires planning, patience and persistence on the hunter's part to be successful. It also requires the proper equipment, a place to hunt, and a basic knowledge of predator hunting techniques.

Calls, clothing and other equipment are necessary to get started and will vary with personal preference. Calls come in many shapes and sizes, but are usually electronic or mouth-blown. The two most common types of electronic calls use tapes or compact discs. Some of these calls have a speaker and player built into one compact unit, while others have the speaker on a length of cord to allow the hunter to place the speaker away from their location. More expensive models are remote controlled, which allows the hunter to minimize movement while controlling tape volume and play.

Mouth-blown calls are usually hand-held tubes with a reed, or diaphragm calls similar to mouth calls used for turkey hunting. Both types require practice and knowledge of the sounds you should get from them, as well as the cadence you want to incorporate. Mouth-blown calls are more compact and easier to carry, but you may prefer the hands-free approach you get from electronic calls. Regardless of which type you choose, many sounds are available to fit your calling situation. For example, if you are trying to call bobcats you could use a cottontail distress or yellowhammer woodpecker tape. If it's mating season, however, you may wish to try a tape of a bobcat in heat.

Camouflage is an essential component of predator calling and most hunters own a variety of patterns. The pattern you choose will depend on the terrain, vegetation and snow cover. The important thing is to be covered with camo from head to toe and to be scent free. You should also be warm, dry and comfortable. A seat cushion or low stool is a good thing to have as it will increase your comfort level, especially on a bobcat set-up where you may have to sit motionless for an extended period of time. Other equipment to consider are decoys or scents. Red fox urine or a rabbit decoy may help bring the predator into range.

Locating a place to hunt will require some advanced planning. Numerous wildlife management areas throughout the state offer excellent potential for calling in a variety of furbearers . If you choose to hunt on private land, get permission prior to going afield. Once you've obtained permission, communicate with the landowner. Let them know when you are going to be there, and call them before night hunting to avoid any misunderstanding caused by gunshots heard after dark. Find out if there's any place you shouldn't go and if anyone else will be hunting. When accessing the property, don't damage any fields and/or fences and keep gates closed.

Remember, your actions will determine how long you have the landowner's approval to hunt. If you choose to hunt during nights with moonlight, find out where livestock may be and avoid those areas. After all, there's no sense of accomplishment when you call in the farmer's cows.

Scouting prior to calling will provide useful information and allow you to plan your hunt. Look for predator sign while rabbit hunting, bow hunting or during other trips afield. After a snowfall is an excellent time to look for tracks and learn travel patterns. If there is no snow, look for tracks in the mud or fur caught in fences. Fur identification will take practice, but will assist you in determining whether or not furbearers are present.

Culverts are another good place to look for sign. Bobcats often cross roads in low places where culverts are found and deposit scat or urine at culvert heads. Other productive places to check for tracks or scat are pond dams, intersections, log landings, fence corners or a gate in a fence row.

Once you have located suitable hunting areas, you'll need to decide when to go. Early morning and evening set-ups are good times to try on clear days. Overcast days, on the other hand, can provide exciting action all day long. It is illegal to use artificial light to take most furbearers in West Virginia (consult the WV Hunting and Trapping Regulations Summary for additional details). Therefore, night hunting is primarily limited to clear moonlit nights with snow cover or a heavy frost.

Weather may also play a role in deciding when to hunt for predators. Before or after a storm is a good time. Winds should be less than 10 mph, so predators can hear your calls.

Choosing a good set-up location will improve your success. Take advantage of any cover which provides good vantage points. Examples might be a hill overlooking an opening or a tree stand at the edge of a field. Other places to check are power lines, strip benches, field corners or anyplace a road enters one of these locations. Two person set-ups are a good idea, but be sure to establish safe shooting corridors ahead of time. As a general rule, predators will come in downwind, but expect anything.

When calling, more volume is not necessarily better. In windy conditions you will want to increase volume. If it's calm, you may want to start loud and decrease volume with each series of calls. Squeaks are sometimes all that is needed when the weather is calm. Your first series should last up to a minute, with a 20- to 30-second break to allow you to listen and to encourage the predator to approach. Each remaining series should get shorter and quieter.

The time spent calling at a set-up will vary, but a general rule would be 10 to 15 minutes for foxes and 20 to 30 minutes for coyotes and bobcats. Above all, remember to be patient and persistent. You won't bag a furbearer every time and you may even experience many unsuccessful set-ups. Keep at it. The memory of a fox overrunning your call or a bobcat stalking your location will quickly replace any memories of unsuccessful hunts.

Lee Strawn is a wildlife manager at Pleasant Creek WMA.

Black Bear Season Closes in California

Dec. 17, 2009: The California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) announced the closure of the statewide black bear hunting season on December 17. Under regulations adopted by the Fish and Game Commission, the black bear season is closed when DFG verifies 1,700 bears are taken by hunters.

DFG has mailed notices to all bear tag holders that the season is now closed. DFG wardens and biologists will also inform hunters they encounter in the field that the season is closed. Statewide media sources are being notified via this press release.

All bear tags must be returned to the DFG Wildlife Branch, 1812 Ninth St., Sacramento, California, 95811, by Feb.1, 2010.

Hunters must submit harvested bears to DFG for validation within 10 days of taking the bear. Teeth are extracted from half of the harvested bears, and DFG biologists use the teeth to compile data about the health of the state's bear population.

Tags yet to be received by DFG may put the total harvest slightly above 1,700 bears. The hunting season does not have an adverse impact on the state's bear population, which is estimated at more than 35,000.