The Great West Virginia Deer Cull

buck white antler

The second Thursday in November has just passed. In most of the country, thoughts will be about the big feast that comes exactly seven days later, but not in my part of the world.

This coming week does include American Thanksgiving. Big family meals will be held that day, and swarms of people will go charging out to shopping malls on Friday.

But in West Virginia, another holiday takes precedence: “buck gun season.”  This coming Monday, the woods be filled with more loud booms than the Fourth of July.  Organic protein and “horns” will be the prize, and a few more forest destroying cervids will be removed from the population before the coming winter turns them into twig chomping fiends.

When I was a child, all sort of people came into the rural districts, often people who had grown up in the area but had gone into the industrial parts of Ohio for work. Ohio’s deer season, “shotgun only,” came later in the year, but West Virginia’s came the week of Thanksgiving. If one wanted to visit the family for the holiday, why not come a few days early and drop a buck for the freezer?

It was such a big event that the school was out all week, not just Thursday and Friday. We received a truncated Christmas vacation, but school attendance during that week would have been terrible. So the district let us all out.

And the tradition continues. I don’t know of a single school district in West Virginia that stays open the week of Thanksgiving.

In fact, virtually every college or university in West Virginia has a week-long holiday this coming week. It is that big a deal.

And it’s not like the deer are massive trophies. The state has antler restrictions in only a few public hunting lands, and in most of the state, there will be many young bucks taken. Because the “antlerless” firearms season occurs at the same time, button bucks will be taken as well. When that many younger bucks are removed from the population, the number of mature deer with nice racks becomes much lower.

But this is a state that allows the hunter to take six deer a year.  If you have a family who owns land and have two hunters who have resident rights to it, you’re talking potentially twelve deer killed a year, which could feed a family of four fairly well.

I come from a family of deer hunters, but they were not venison eaters. When I was a kid, every deer that got shot was given to a relative or someone who couldn’t hunt. My grandpa, who loved to hunt everything and would have us eat cooked squirrel brains, wouldn’t even field dress a deer. That was my dad’s job, and for whatever reason, if my dad or my grandpa even smelled venison cooking, it would make their stomachs weak.

I never had this problem, and in the last few years, I’ve learned how to cook venison properly. I much prefer the meat to beef, especially when we’re talking leaving certain steak cuts rare.  These deer have been living well on acorns, and their flesh has that oaky, rich taste, which some call gamey. I call it delicious.

I’ll be in the woods early Monday morning. I don’t know if I’ll get anything.  The odds are usually against my killing anything that first week.  I don’t have access to the best deer bedding grounds, and the hunting pressure means they won’t be moving into the area where I hunt.

My favorite time to go is Thursday evening, when more than half the local hunters are at home watching football games and digesting turkey. I would rather go through waterboarding than watch a football game, so it’s not big loss for me.

I am a naturalist hunter on the quest for meat. My ancestors in Germany, the Netherlands, and Great Britain hunted the red deer and the roe thousands of years. They got their meat from the forest.

I am doing the same.

And if you really wanted to know what I think of deer, I’d have to say that I love them. They are fascinating animals.  This particular species has been roaming North America virtually unchanged for 3 million years. This animal watched the mammoths rise and fall. It was coursed by Armbruster’s wolf and the American cheetahs.  It saw the elk come down from Beringia– and the bison too. It ran the back country with primitive horses and several species of pronghorn. It quivered and blew out at jaguars and American lions that stalked in the bush, and it dodged the Clovis points of the Siberian hunters who first colonized this land.

The white-tailed deer thrives so well, but this coming week is the beginning of the great cull. Fewer deer mean less pressure on the limited winter forage, which means healthier deer in the early spring. Better winter and spring condition means that does have had a chance to carry fawns to term, and mature does usually have twins if the conditions are good.  Healthier bucks get a better chance to grow nice antlers for the coming year.

A public resource is being managed. Organic meat raised without hormones or antibiotics is easily procured, and stories and yarns are being compiled for exposition that rivals any trophy mount on the wall.

I know deer stories, including ones about the people I barely knew and are no longer with us.

For example:

My Grandpa Westfall once went on a deer drive for my great grandpa, who was getting older.  He valued his clean shot placement, as many of those old time hunters did, and he would not shoot a deer on the run.

But as he grew older, deer hunting became harder for him, so my grandpa decided to jump one out to him.

My grandpa went rustling through the brush to drive one into my great grandpa’s ran, and he happened to bump a nice little buck and a few does that went running in his direction.

Expecting to hear rifle shots, my grandpa was a bit surprised to hear nothing. So when he approached the deer stand, he saw my great grandpa sitting there.

“Did you see those deer?”

“What deer?”

“I ran three out to you. A buck and two does. Why didn’t you shoot?”

“I didn’t see or hear any deer.”

“Well, you should have at least heard them.”

“Well, if there were that many deer coming my way, they must’ve had their sneakers on.”

He didn’t want to tell my grandpa that he appreciated the effort, but that deer drives were against his ethics. He shot deer cleanly, or he didn’t shoot them at all.

These old men will be with me when I’m out on Monday.  I go in their memory, participating in the Great West Virginia Deer Cull.

 

 

 

 


Natural History

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Dogs With OCD

Dogs with OCD (or Osteochondrosis) suffer a great deal of pain and mobility issues.
When a dog has OCD, fragments of bone and cartilage become detached from larger bones and end up floating around the area encompassing a dog’s joints. The result is that any movement in the joint where those fragments are located will cause a dog to suffer …
Dog’sHealth.com Blog

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The Love of a Mama Dog

How sweet! Until next time, Good day, and good dog!


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What Do You Think About Paid Leave for a Sick Pet?!

Dog Sleeping

An article in the New York Times recently told of a woman who works at Sapienza University in Rome who asked for paid time off because her 12-year-old English setter needed surgery. “My dogs are my family, I had to be there for her,” she argued, when she was docked vacation time. With the intervention of an Italian animal advocacy group, the woman’s employer changed its mind and gave her paid leave to care for the dog instead.

Could Paid Leave for Pets Happen Elsewhere?
The New York Times article reported that paid leave for new pet owners, or those who need to care for ailing pets, has become part of some companies’ benefits programs. The Scottish company Brewdog allows one-week paid leave for employees who adopt a puppy. Several American companies offer bereavement days off when an employee’s pet dies, like the Seattle-based pet insurance company Trupanion, which gives a paid day off for pet loss as part of its benefits package.

What Do American Companies Offer?
ABC News did a piece on paid leave and pet needs and found that in addition to Trupanion, the pet-friendly Kimpton Hotel company offers paid pet leave for up to three days, for both salaried and hourly employees. While many companies don’t specifically have a pet bereavement policy, they do offer alternative ways for employees to manage mourning the loss of a pet. ABC News found that the software company VMware allows salaried employees to take days off to “unwind, unplug, and take care of themselves and their loved ones,” which can be used for pet loss. Mars Incorporated, which owns the pet nutrition company Mars Petcare, offers a paid day off for those who have lost a pet: the company told ABC News that they also selectively offer “pet-ernity leaves” for those who have added a new pet to their family. Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream company was quoted as saying that although the company doesn’t have an official policy, “if an employee needed a few days off for bereavement, it would be granted.” The same is true for the cloud computing company, Salesforce.

A Global Elevation of the Status of Pets
Many of us take for granted the emotional importance of the pets in our lives, and the world at large is catching up with our personal experience. There is growing awareness of the importance of pets in society, with ongoing worldwide studies about the emotional and intellectual abilities of dogs and cats and the value of our relationships with them. Now this topic of paid time off around the issue of pets is a real game changer. The power of that relationship becomes truly validated when you get down to the financial nitty-gritty of companies that are forfeiting productive work days for their employees – and in addition paying them for that lost time – so they can be with a pet or mourn his loss. Let’s be grateful that pets have reached a new high in the eyes of societies around the world – officially acknowledging what we’ve all felt for such a long time.

Tracie HotchnerTracie Hotchner is a nationally acclaimed pet wellness advocate, who wrote THE DOG BIBLE: Everything Your Dog Wants You to Know and THE CAT BIBLE: Everything Your Cat Expects You to Know. She is recognized as the premiere voice for pets and their people on pet talk radio. She continues to produce and host her own Gracie® Award winning NPR show DOG TALK®  (and Kitties, Too!) from Peconic Public Broadcasting in the Hamptons after 9 consecutive years and over 500 shows. She produced and hosted her own live, call-in show CAT CHAT® on the Martha Stewart channel of Sirius/XM for over 7 years until the channel was canceled, when Tracie created her own Radio Pet Lady Network where she produces and co-hosts CAT CHAT® along with 10 other pet talk radio podcasts with top veterinarians and pet experts.

Dog Film Festival - Tracie HotchnerTracie also is the Founder and Director of the annual NY Dog Film Festival, a philanthropic celebration of the love between dogs and their people. Short canine-themed documentary, animated and narrative films from around the world create a shared audience experience that inspires, educates and entertains. With a New York City premiere every October, the Festival then travels around the country, partnering in each location with an outstanding animal welfare organization that brings adoptable dogs to the theater and receives half the proceeds of the ticket sales. Halo was a Founding Sponsor in 2015 and donated 10,000 meals to the beneficiary shelters in every destination around the country in 2016.

Tracie lives in Bennington, Vermont – where the Radio Pet Lady Network studio is based – and where her 12 acres are well-used by her 2-girl pack of lovely, lively rescued Weimaraners, Maisie and Wanda.

Halo Pets

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November Thoughts

I always promise you guys that I’m going to more of the casual “just saying hi” type of posts, and then I tend to get carried away with less personal lifestyle and design and parenting post ideas and/or content with brand partners, and these simple, personal posts tend to slide through the cracks. (I do tend to fill my Instagram feed with these types of posts though, so if you enjoy them, there are plenty over there!)

So anyway, hi! Happy second day of November! I’m usually not a big fan of November (mainly thanks to the end of Daylight Savings time and the fact that it gets dark at 4:30 in Chicago), but this year I’m staying positive. There are lot of things (both exciting and stressful) happening for us this month. We take our annual trip to the the Caribbean (the Dominican again this year) for Robbie’s work (the band puts on a festival there) on the last day of the month, I have my busiest month ever for work projects (grateful to be swamped in that way!), Essley has all kinds of activities and school and play dates, Emmett has his semi-annual assessment to make sure he’s still on track after his initial epilepsy delays (and I have a great feeling about it), we’re knee deep in the hunt for a new house after our original contract fell through, and it’s the holiday season. I’m sure most of you can relate to having full plates this time of year. I wouldn’t have it any other way though.

The photos above are some of my favorites of the kids from the last few weeks off the camera roll of my phone. They’re grainy and spontaneous and real. Like 2016, this year has been bittersweet for our family, with some huge losses and some wonderful gains. I’m looking forward to appreciating the small things as the holidays approach. I hope your November is the best yet.

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Bubby and Bean ::: Living Creatively

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Thanks for you comment Wolfmommy. We admire your f…

Thanks for you comment Wolfmommy. We admire your fortitude in the middle of this impossible time period for true WDs. And we'll always be grateful for Karma. She showed us how bad the labeling debacle was getting in the sheltering world.

Oxo – So kind of you to send a donation today. I'll be buying some pups some fishy-good treats in your honor. Thank you!
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A Pomeranian Please!

Look at me! Look at me!
RIVIERA DOGS

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The persistent myth of the English origins of the Eastern red fox

audubon's cross fox

There is a famous myth in North American wildlife. It has been repeated so many times and by people of such impeccable authority over the years that it really hasn’t been questioned.

The story goes as follows:  Red foxes were not found south of the boreal regions of New York and New England, and in order to get red fox-hunting established in the English colonies south of those regions, red foxes were imported from England.  Therefore, all red foxes living the Eastern and Midwestern US, except those in the aforementioned northern regions of the North east, are derived from English imports. Thus, the red fox is a fully invasive species in the most of the East, most of the Midwest, and the entire South.

Stories about when the red fox first arrived in a region are written as a sort of passage.  For example, in William Henry Bishop’s history of Roane County, West Virginia, the author makes a rather pointed discussion about the extinction of the gray fox in that county around the year 1882 and the triumph of the red fox in agricultural areas.  The history of the modern running Walker foxhound is intimately tied to the arrival of the red fox in Kentucky in the 1850s.  Had the red fox not colonized Kentucky, it is very unlikely that this hound would have ever been bred.

It was always assumed that the red fox derived from those English imports that were brought over in the late 1600s and early 1700s, but the documentation on these arrivals is rather dubious at best.

The origins of this myth come from Pehr Kalm, the Swedish naturalist who traveled extensively in the English colonies in the 1700s. He claimed that a wealthy person in New England brought the foxes over from England and that all the red foxes of New England were thus derived from his imports. The other story goes that tobacco merchants in Maryland brought red foxes to the Eastern Shore in the early 1700s in attempt to introduce this fox to their part of North America.  They did well in that region, even spreading into Delaware and Pennsylvania, but it took a hard freeze of Chesapeake Bay in the winter of 1789-90 to give the foxes passage into the main part of Virginia, where they thrived. Some stories say the foxes came from Germany or France rather than England, but in all cases, the story goes that the red fox is an import.

A recent evaluation of these stories by Jennifer Frey of New Mexico State University shows that none of these stories is particularly well-documented.  Both of these stories were derived from second-hand sources, pretty much the historical equivalent of stories you might hear at the barber shop or the local cafe.

This analysis came at about the same time that several genetic studies were being performed on red foxes in North America. The first mitochondrial DNA study of North American red foxes revealed the existence of no Old World red fox lineages in the Eastern or Southeastern US.  The authors found that the Southeastern red foxes were very closely related to foxes in Eastern Canada and that their likely origin came about through natural range expansion.

The second study examined large amounts of nuclear DNA and the y-chromosomes of red foxes from throughout the world.  It found that red foxes in North America, including those that live in the Southeast and Eastern US have been genetically isolated from Old World red foxes for 400,000 years.  The only Old World red foxes that have contributed to North American red fox genetics since that isolation are those found in Alaska, which have a mitochondrial DNA lineage that was introduced from Russia some 50,000 years ago.

The red fox of the Eastern US came south from Canada in much the same way that the coyote came East:  by its own feet. Clearing off the land to establish settlements made it harder and harder for Eastern gray foxes to live in an area, and it is actually well-established in the literature that the Eastern gray fox, which is roughly the same size as a red fox in terms of body mass, will tend to dominate the red when the two occur in the same region.

Further, more open agricultural land is very good habitat for mice and rabbits, and the red fox prefers to hunt those species, while the gray fox is much more omnivorous.

So the cleared forests are much better for the red than for the gray, and the gray

The coming of the red fox was almost always associated with European settlement, and thus, it became an assumption that the foxes came from England or from somewhere in Europe.

And perhaps subconsciously, it came to be accepted as the absolute truth that red foxes are an invasive species brought over by man.

It has only been in recent years that these fanciful notions have been tested as hypotheses, and they have been found to be wanting when examined through careful historical research and analysis of genetic material.

So this myth has been put to bed. I really wish people would stop promoting these erroneous romantic stories about red foxes and start to respect them as native wildlife.

Of course, this problem is a lot more complicated in California, where there is a native red fox subspecies and the Eastern red fox has also been introduced– and the Eastern red fox does behave as an invasive species.

But for my part of the world, the red fox came here on its own volition, and as the forests return, habitat conditions greatly favor the gray fox, making life much harder for these Canadian wanderers once again.

Wildlife distributions are not static.

Red foxes are known from the Pleistocene in Virginia, and though they were absent through much of the Holocene, they are now thriving in much of the East and South because of anthropogenic factors.

I should note that one reason I became skeptical of the claims of the English origins of the Eastern red fox is that the Eastern red fox has always been a widely trapped animal. Even the ones trapped in relatively temperate states have been well-known for having good pelts, but it is widely known that red fox pelts from England are not valuable at all. Red foxes are heavily hunted as vermin in England, and I always wondered why no one ever tried to do anything with their pelts. It turns out that the reason is that their pelts are of inferior quality to North American red foxes.

The reason why is that England is a much more temperate place than Eastern Canada, and the foxes that roam the East have their origins in that cold country and not the gentle green country off the northwest of Europe.

So red foxes came from Canad, not England. I think we can at least say this is true, and their supposed European origins are simply a myth.

 

 

 

 


Natural History

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Living with a Blind Dog

Living with a blind dog can be a challenging undertaking, both for the dog and for its owner who now must be the eyes for both of them.

A dog who suddenly develops blindness is usually able to adjust to living life without its vision which has been an important and indispensable sense all its life.
More than likely your …
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You are so awesome and wonderful for what you are …

You are so awesome and wonderful for what you are doing.. THANK YOU SO VERY VERY MUCH
BAD RAP Blog

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