California capped its regular deer season with a special three day inland hunt last week in which any deer was fair game—fawns and does as well as bucks. Like those in many other states, California's deer herd had out-grown its winter range. The solution was an increased deer harvest to bring the herd into balance and thus prevent the loss of thousands of animals by starvation.
Although game management officials were correct in their belief that the herd was ready for an "any sex" hunt, by last weekend it was clear that Californians were not. Some 400,000 people rushed to buy tags (at $1 each), and many of them apparently believed that the licenses entitled them to shoot not only "any sex" but anything or anybody. "It was," said James S. Eddy, Assistant U.S. District Attorney in Sacramento and a once-wounded former infantry captain, "like being in no man's land with the enemy in all directions."
November 12, 1956
Marlin H. Murchie of Martinez strode across an open patch of foot-high sagebrush and was shot dead by his companions who shouted, "There goes a bear."
Farmer Floyd Murray of Macdoel was shot for a deer as he dug potatoes in his field.
Mrs. Robert Daley of Hurleton begged three hunters not to kill her pet deer. The men killed it anyway and carted it off.
A hunter near Redding displayed more gallantry: he shot a pet fawn, then offered it to its owner. "You might as well have shot one of my children," she replied.
Four juvenile hunters were arrested for shooting Roy Ramsey's pigs near Chico.
Despite scores of arrests made for trespassing, shooting from cars and plain assault on landowners who tried to prohibit hunting, the California Fish and Game Department declared that any-sex hunting was here to stay. The herd had indeed been brought into balance. Whether this immediate gain would be canceled out by public revulsion against the human debacle was a problem the commission would have to face next year.
In this day of high-powered rifles and ballistic efficiency, the big-game hunter is seldom injured except by other big game hunters. It is a sobering rarity when an animal itself turns the tables but it has happened twice this year, and in both instances experienced hunters were the victims.
Just a fortnight ago in Montana's Bob Marshall Wilderness Area, Ken Scott, only 29 but a practiced woodsman, and Vivian Squires, a hunter of somewhat rusty experience, were rushed by a grizzly. Squires was bowled over and bitten in the foot. Ken Scott shot the bear twice with a .30-06, wounded it, but did not down it. The grizzly retreated, leaving a trail of blood. Eager for the trophy, the men tracked the bear into a jack pine thicket—a maneuver risky on several counts. A wounded grizzly in dense cover is an animal of legendary maliciousness. One of the two hunters was of admitted inexperience and Scott, left-handed, was using a rifle with right-hand bolt action. Both hunters opened fire, and the 700-pound bear charged. Scott's rifle jammed and, before Squires could bring help, he was mauled to death.
On April 16 of this year near Anchorage, Alaska, Lloyd Pennington, a professional guide, and Everett Kendall, a barber, prodded at a denned-up bear with sticks. It is an old, ill-advised stunt designed to bring a foggy, bewildered, hibernating bear out where it can be easily shot. This bear charged forth anything but sleepy. Pennington was killed before he could shoot. Kendall's rifle was found empty but Kendall also was dead.
Bears are not the only animals to take advantage of human imprudence. In 1954 young Billy Reed of Grangeville, Idaho, bent over to cut a presumably dead elk's throat when it lashed out, driving the knife into Reed's leg. In 1953 Keith Burns, a 67-year-old packer of Twin Springs, Idaho, was guiding a four-man hunting party into the Sheep Creek country. In the process of navigating a steep switchback, one hunter fired at a bull elk. The bullet glanced off the base of the bull's rack. It charged, knocked Burns from his horse, gored two pack mules, left Burns with a broken arm and several broken ribs.
Encounters such as these are a matter of record in every hunting area. Veteran hunters who think "this couldn't happen to me" will do well to remember Ken Scott, Lloyd Pennington and Everett Kendall.
A GOOSE IS COOKED
In Wahoo, Nebraska last week a blue goose flew over the home of William Behrens, a telephone company employee. Mrs. Behrens saw the bird, let out a goose call and summoned it back. Behrens took over the call and kept the goose circling, enthralled, while Mrs. Behrens went for his shotgun. Mindful of a Wahoo ordinance that prohibits goose hunting inside the city limits, Behrens then got into his car and—honking out the window—lured the goose eight blocks to the border, shot it and drove home for dinner.
Whooping cranes were in the news again last week and John O'Reilly sent this report from Washington:
The remaining wild whooping cranes are now migrating from their nesting grounds in northern Canada to the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge on the Texas coast amid the greatest official concern ever shown over their fate. As the great birds winged southward, John L. Farley, director of the Fish and Wildlife Service, last week invited two score wildlife experts and conservationists from both the U.S. and Canada to a Washington whooping crane conference.
Among them were W. Winston Mair, chief of the Canadian Wildlife Service, and a number of his assistants, Mr. Farley and a group of his men, the heads of numerous conservation organizations, George Douglass, director of the New Orleans zoo, who has two captive whoopers, and Fred Stark, director of the San Antonio zoo, who has the only other captive. All three of these birds have been rendered flightless through injuries.
Suggestions for perpetuating this gravely endangered species covered a wide range of ideas. At one extreme it was suggested that some of the young cranes be captured, possibly two pairs, and attempts be made to propagate them in captivity. It also was suggested that eggs might be taken and hatched under other species of cranes.
John J. Lynch, biologist of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, who advanced the scheme for captive propagation, was opposed by a group, including John H. Baker, president of the National Audubon Society, who held that nothing should be done to disturb the wild flock. They felt that capturing any cranes would only endanger the whoopers as a wild species.
The conference reached no immediate decision, agreed instead on appointment of an international committee composed of one representative of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, one Canadian Wildlife Service member and three other experts to explore the whooping crane problem. Farley said no moves to capture any of the cranes would be taken before the formation of the committee.
As their fate was being discussed the wild whoopers were arriving on the Texas coast singly and in family groups. Last year 28 cranes, including eight young, returned from the north. As of November 4, 17 cranes, including one young of this year, were back on the Aransas Refuge.
ELK FROM HEAVEN
During the current hunting season Oregon is the only state to report acrophobic elk. Last week in Clatsop County, Dale Overholser from the Dalles area and his two teen-aged sons spotted three elk at the top of a cliff. They enthusiastically began to climb upward when suddenly a 900-pound cow toppled off the cliff and missed the hunters by a slim six feet. Man and boys took cover. Another elk came hurtling down. The third animal disappeared, and when the Overholsers climbed down they found one of the suicides was a cow—illegal in Oregon—and the second animal was too young. Game wardens took both.
FROM THE FLYWAYS
GDW—good duck weather
OVG—outlook very good
SO—season opens (or opened)
SC—season closes (or closed)
WASHINGTON: General state OG, and GDW forecast for coming week. 20,000 mallards and pintails on Skagit Game Range, and EG in surrounding areas. GF in Gray's Harbor region, with hunters averaging four birds per man. Snow geese still arriving on Skagit flats, and OVG with windy weather. Many birds using cornfields in Yakima Valley, and foggy mornings producing EG. Honker population excellent on Stratford Lake and Columbia River. Herb Schold of 122 West Heron St. in Aberdeen last week located excellent goose shooting but is walking to work as result. Driving toward Oyehut along beach he spotted flight of geese coming over low and fast. Schold jumped out, hid in dunes and in half hour had limit of geese but not much automobile. His car had sunk deep in sand, and rising tide completed dismal picture. Schold now eating goose but not driving.
OREGON: Waterfowl population now reaching peak in eastern state, and EG for mallards at Malheur shooting grounds. EF of honkers also in area, and OVG until F. Summer Lake region offering EG for snow geese, pintails, widgeons, mallards and a few teals. EF of white-fronted geese in Warner Valley and Lakeview areas, but OF/FG until birds build up. Willamette Valley offering only FG and SF.
CALIFORNIA: Potholes of Owens Valley enjoying EF of mallards, and EG. Lower Colorado producing limits of teals. EF of pintails and mallards at Tule Lake-Lower Klamath area, and EG. Suisun Marshes OVG for pintails. San Joaquin, Sacramento and Imperial valleys report PG due to BW.
NORTH DAKOTA: GF of mallards moving in from Canada, and GG can be found in northern third of state at Devil's Lake, Rugby and up to Kenmare. For goose hunters Oaks and Ludden areas report EF of snows and blues. OG as cold weather advances.
NEBRASKA: GDW too good, as blizzards hit western state last week with up to 20 inches of snow and gales to 70 mph. EF of birds moving, however, and shooting should peak this week; OVG.
TENNESSEE: SO Nov. 7 and FF of honkers already on Athiwassee Refuge in Chickamauga Lake. Generally BW promises PG/FG for time being, but State Game and Fish Commission managing a smile over woman who called to ask if she and husband could use their houseboat for a blind and shoot ducks from the windows. Commission told her that was fine as long as houseboat conformed to state and federal blind regulations, but carefully explained that most ducks would be inclined to avoid large white houseboat in hunting season or out.
A BOWED BUFFER
Joe Fries (above), national archery champion, killed this 1,200-pound bull buffalo with one arrow as it lumbered by at a 35-yard range. The Wyoming Travel Commission had invited Fries to puncture the buffer for a filmed television program, but until he made his exceptional shot the commission admits that it wondered if the kill would take more arrows than TV could bear. Champion Fries dispelled all lingering doubt.
A BOG TROTTER
Howard Clark (above), of Soda Springs, Idaho, is fooling swamp-secure honkers with a pair of home-built "bog shoes." The shoes are canvas-covered wooden frames about six feet long, skim Clark over the swampiest territory and back with his once-unreachable goose limit.
A GOOD YEAR FOR UPLAND GAME BIRDS
Last week SPORTS ILLUSTRATED asked its field correspondents for up-to-the-minute reports on upland game bird conditions in their respective states. Almost all were glowing and optimistic. Herewith the details:
New Jersey: Pheasant are more plentiful than last year, especially in Hunterdon, Somerset, Warren, Morris, and Monmouth counties with excellent reports of carryover stock. Quail shooting also excellent in southern counties. Grouse about the same as last season in northwest section of the state. Best woodcock areas seem to be along Delaware River, especially in Sussex and Warren counties, but if you hit it right Cape May County can also be topnotch.
Maryland: The general outlook is for a very fine season from Nov. 15 to Dec. 31. Pheasants are abundant along the Pennsylvania-Maryland line, in Cecil, Harford, Frederick, Baltimore and Washington counties. The quail population has increased in most southeastern and southwestern counties, particularly along the Eastern Shore. The grouse cycle seems to be on the upswing in hilly regions.
West Virginia: Grouse open until Jan. 5, with a definite indication of more birds than usual. National forests are the most likely spots, and Pendleton County generally regarded as the best. Quail opens Nov. 12 and runs through Jan. 7, with good prospects in the agricultural areas.
Georgia: Quail populations are by and large up for the season opener on Nov. 20. The most productive hunting will be found in the southeast areas but hilly regions also report excellent coveys.
Missouri: The season opens Nov. 10 and runs through December. The preseason forecast by state officials is extremely optimistic, the bag limit has been increased from six to eight birds and 3 million are expected to be harvested. Unusually dry weather, however, will make more difficult hunting. An interesting sidelight finds hunters who sold their dogs for ridiculously low prices during a poor quail season two years ago now trying to buy them back at ridiculously high prices in the face of a statewide bird-dog shortage.
Illinois: Pheasant opens Nov. 11 and the season extends to the end of month. The bird populations generally up and particularly good conditions forecast for Livingston, Ford, and eastern McLean counties. Quail opens Nov. 19 for a month, and this population is also up, with excellent concentrations in the southern third of the state, including counties which border the Mississippi River.
New Mexico: The quail is reported well up over last year, although hunting will be spotty in the central part of state. Eastern areas along the Texas border will give the best shooting, and areas around Clayton, Tucumcari, Roswell and Hobbs should produce 10-bird limits. The New Mexico quail season opens Nov. 24 and ends Dec. 31.
Texas: Dove season is open to mid-December in the southern zone of the state, and birds seem to be superabundant. Drought, however, is posing curious hazards of its own. Recently a hunter dropped a dove into a patch of irrigated cotton field, bent over to retrieve it, and was bitten by a rattlesnake. Rattlers, it seems, seek out the moist cotton patches, which today are about the only moist patches in Texas. Incidentally, the gunner recovered.
Washington: Pheasant is legal until Nov. 18 and with a normal population 300,000 birds are expected to be harvested. Quail, Hungarian partridge and chukar are also in their customarily good supply, and many eastern counties are open until Dec. 9. Better areas for these birds include the Columbia River Basin, the Yakima area, and the wheatlands of the Palouse. Everyone seems to be pleased with the present season, except one dog owner whose champion German short hair staunchly pointed an anthill and refused to budge until said owner kicked the anthill apart and proved there was no bird therein.