Opinion: Caribou deserve more respectBetween my own subscriptions, and then swapping them with friends for their magazines, I read Sporting Classics, Gray’s Sporting Journal, Eastman’s Hunting Journal, Safari, Sports Afield, Field & Stream, Outdoor Life, American Hunter and Petersen’s Hunting. Occasionally, an article or story will catch my attention. Such was the case with an article by Thomas McIntyre.
By: Roger Wiltz, The Daily Republic
Between my own subscriptions, and then swapping them with friends for their magazines, I read Sporting Classics, Gray’s Sporting Journal, Eastman’s Hunting Journal, Safari, Sports Afield, Field & Stream, Outdoor Life, American Hunter and Petersen’s Hunting. Occasionally, an article or story will catch my attention. Such was the case with an article by Thomas McIntyre.
In the March/April 2010 edition of Sports Afield, Thomas McIntyre’s article “Sacred Cows” made me realize I’ve not given the caribou, one of North America’s most popular big game animals, very fair treatment in past columns. I’ve referred to him as unwary and mentally slow. McIntyre’s thought-provoking column makes me feel I owe the caribou an apology.
Personal observation has been the basis for my demeaning the caribou. I’ve killed four caribou bulls without expending much effort, and I’ve belittled him without analyzing his seemingly careless behavior.
McIntyre begins his article by quoting Jack O’Connor’s take on caribou: “Alas, a comparatively dumb and rattle-brained creature.”
He then quotes O’Connor again, only this time on white-tailed deer. “So crafty is the whitetail, and so much joy to hunt, that no one whose hunting is confined to the whitetail deer should feel very sorry for himself.”
McIntyre then defends the caribou and points out some flaws in two of our “sacred cows,” one of which is the whitetail deer. The other is the ringneck pheasant, or “ditch parrot” as he calls it.
When Don Kaberna and I first hunted caribou in 1993, it was under the most unusual of circumstances. We were the first hunters/fishermen into a particular area west of Kuujjuaq in the Nunavut Territory on Ungava Bay. The country had never been fished or hunted — not even by the native Inuits who were superstitious about venturing so far inland.
These caribou had never seen a hunter before. They only feared wolves, and had no reason to fear us. I still get goose bumps thinking about being the first to hunt or fish an area. Did the earliest whitetails fear hunters they had never seen before? Probably not.
I recently read a journal written by Englishman Frederick Courteney Selous. He was the first white hunter to enter East Africa. The game hadn’t experienced firearms, and had no fear of Selous, who killed great numbers of elephant for their ivory. I only mention this as further reason to justify the caribou’s lack of concern for hunters. To criticize the caribou because he lives in a pristine environment is indeed an injustice.
What did McIntyre say about our “sacred” whitetails? He said that they are numerous enough to be called “woods carp.” He added that for the right price, there is no easier species of native big game to shoot. Note that he didn’t use the word “hunt.”
He says that many hunters don’t go to the trouble of climbing into a tree stand, but would rather sit in a highly-visible, climate-controlled “shooting house” that overlooks a bait station to which bucks come on the run at the sound of spraying corn kernels. Finally, he talks about deer photos taken in the dead of night by trail cams.
Remember that I didn’t say these things! To me, our whitetail — capable of adapting to any condition — is the greatest game animal in the world. He can be hunted in a number of ways — some sporting and some ludicrous.
I have total disdain for “hunters” who use bait and relish heated stands, and I’ll not judge a hunter by the size of the rack he takes until I know the degree of fair chase. For whatever it’s worth, I have no problem with trail cams.
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Last spring, because of my own carelessness, I lost one of the better fish I hooked all year. It was on a slip bobber rig, and my line broke. I knew before I left home that my slip bobber outfit needed new line, but I told myself one more time wouldn’t hurt anything. I paid dearly for my laziness. Suggestion: Change line if you haven’t already.
While we are on the topic of new line, I like to watch my line as a cast jig falls to the bottom. Why? A walleye might pick the jig up during the free fall. Last Wednesday evening, for the first time in my life, I was unable to see my line. My eyes just aren’t what they used to be. It was time to consider going to a high-visibility line instead of the smoke color I’ve used in the past.
I’ve seen the spools of high-visibility, chartreuse-colored Fireline in the tackle department, but I’ve resisted it as I thought the fish can see it too. Now I faced a — give up line watching or go to the more visible stuff. I decided to try the high visibility line.
What have I learned so far? An entire spool of chartreuse line is gaudy, but a single strand in the water is all but invisible. I think I’ve been making a big mistake in the past. As the spring progresses, I’ll let you know how the high-visibility line works.
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Have you heard of The Freedom Group? They now own Remington Arms, Dakota Arms, Marlin, H&R, L.C. Smith, Parker and Bushmaster, to name a few. They very recently acquired Barnes Bullets. Could too many products under one roof lead to price fixing? We have anti-trust laws, but I wonder if the situation bears watching.
See you next week.