Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Fox Hunting and Have the Woods Become Unsafe?

Fox Hunting
For dedicated sportsmen, the winter season means a relentless pursuit of coyotes. With Maine’s low deer densities, this activity ranks high on everyone’s to-do list. While a noble endeavor, I also enjoy occasionally hunting red fox. While certainly no dummy, red can typically be more easily duped than this larger cousin the coyote, making shot opportunities slightly more plentiful. Fox season runs from October 15th to February 28th, affording predator hunter’s ample time to harvest one of these truly beautiful canines. Attention should be paid to blending into your environment and this time of year, snow camouflage is king. For those not looking to spend a fortune, military surplus stores offer budget priced white nylon cover suits or in a pinch, white painter coveralls from Home Depot work quite nicely.
Electronic calls, set on low volume and transmitting the sounds of a wounded field mouse, crying rabbit or kitten usually bring old red running within minutes. For increased success, do not begin calling until completely ready, as many a fox has arrived with the hunter never anticipating such a quick response! Calling sequences start low and steadily increase in volume over a period of 20-30 minutes. If no action, move to another location and try the entire sequence again.
Fox are nimble and extremely fast, so it should be no surprise that veteran hunters pursue them with shotguns, modified chokes and loads firing hevi-shot #2. As with coyotes, fox prefer approaching calling set-ups with their noses pointed directly into the wind, therefore having good visibility and shot options on the downwind side become critical. Field edges, railroad tracks and power lines all offer hot spots for chasing red this February. While hunting, be sure to keep your eyes peeled for other predators, as you sometimes never know what will respond to a calling sequence, both coyotes and bobcats on occasion have been known to investigate a fox calling sequence.
Have Maine’s Woods and Waters Become Unsafe?
At what point did the human race decide it would be a good idea to vilify the outdoors and stir up national panic? Where did the days go of unstructured play, riding bikes, kicking the can and building dams? Have we as a society finally decided that these activities are considered dangerous? With everything that parents must now do to "protect" their kids, are we instead doing them a disservice and creating unnatural fear?
Like little soldiers preparing for chemical warfare, my children go outside in bug suits, bathed in Deet, carrying Thermacells and wearing helmets. Even gloves protect their little hands from biting insects and poison ivy and upon entering the house those bodies are thoroughly inspected for ticks and little hands are scrubbed with antibacterial soap.
With just a few moments thought, I created a list of everything I now (must to be considered a good parent) worry about whenever my kids partake in exploring our natural world. Please feel free to plug any of these concerns into Google to receive a full and complete warning of the impending dangers associated with each item. If I have missed something, please make sure to email me, lest I forget some critical danger or unseen hazard yet unlisted. Dangers include: West Nile, poison ivy , poisonous berries and plants, ticks/Lyme disease, Equine Encephalitis, mercury in fish, contaminated play sand, Giardia and Cryptosporidium, Nalgene bottles w/ PBA, pesticides, swine flu, lead fragments in game meat, lead fishing sinkers, falls, bumps and crashes received while not wearing a bicycle helmet, rabid animal attacks, brown recluse spiders, dry drowning, loss of sight from staring at a solar eclipse, stepping in dog poo, bee stings and anaphylactic shock and being eaten by bears. I guess the only safe activity left is sitting on the couch playing video games. Oh wait, I forgot about childhood obesity, carpal tunnel, diabetes and heart disease!
We as a society are most certainly creating unnatural fears in our offspring. This remains an unfortunate trend that seems to be quickly building a following. As more and more of us distance or even remove ourselves from the natural world and traditional outdoor pursuits, we begin to develop unnatural fears of the great outdoors. These fears are then passed on to our offspring and the entire cycle perpetuates. Don’t foolishly ignore the hazards of the outdoors but also don’t let them rule your existence and scare you into living a life devoid of a more "natural" world!
Lead Fragmentation in Game Meat
            Of all of the fears listed above, lead fragmentation in game meat is one fear that actually does cause me concern. Fortunately, lead free bullets from companies like Federal, Hornady and Nosler are readily available and have undergone extreme upgrades over the past several years, solidly placing them in a class as good if not better than lead based loads. Lead-free bullets are also cost effective and sportsmen can expect to pay about the same for premium lead-core bullets vs. premium lead-free bullets.
Considering ammo represents a small percentage of the total costs involved in any big game hunt, selecting a bullet that not only quickly and humanely kills your quarry but also saves you and your family from consuming lead (an element clinically linked to brain damage) and added “costs” quickly become relative. Do you and your family a favor this hunting season and go lead free!

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