Category Archives: General Outdoors

Outdoor and nature news from all over.

Animal’s Daily Science News

ThisBig-BearHere are ten extinct giant animals that used to live in North America – along with my notes on which ones would have been fun to hunt.

1. North American horses.  European settlers introduced horses when they landed in the New World. But little did they know the thunderous sound of ancient horses’ hooves once covered the continent.

Horses, not so much.  They may have presented a challenge – sharp-eyed, fast open country animals – but probably not so good eating.

2. Glyptodon.  Glyptodon looked like a supersize version of its distant relative, the armadillo. Like its cousin, Glyptodon protected itself with a shell made of bony plates.

The armored, 1-ton creature likely traveled to North America from South America via the Isthmus of Panama, a land bridge that connects the two Americas, MacPhee told Live Science.

Again, not so much.  Too slow, too cumbersome.  No fair chase here – not even a fair stroll.

3. Mastodon.  Mastodons (Mammut) entered North America about 15 million years ago, traveling over the Bering Strait land bridge, long before their relative, the mammoth, according to the Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre in Canada.

Now we’re talking.  A big, hairy animal, very likely smarter than your average Glyptodon and quite possibly dangerous.  A big rifle would be in order – I’m thinking .375 H&H or larger.

4. Mammoths.  Mammoths (Mammuthus) traveled to North America about 1.7 million to 1.2 million years ago, according to the San Diego Zoo. Although there are some anatomical differences between mammoths and mastodons, both are members of the proboscidean family.

Girl HunterWhat I just said about mastodons, and then some.  Bonus:  Mammoth ivory, good for such disparate things as jewelry, knife handles, pistol grips and decorating the house.

5. Short-faced bear.  Despite its name, this enormous bear didn’t actually have a short face. But in comparison to its long arms and legs, it looked like it did, MacPhee said. He compared it to a grizzly bear on stilts, as its limbs were at least one-third longer than those of a modern grizzly.

Oh hell yeah.  Sign me up.  A bear that’s bigger than a grizzly, and not only faster but a long-distance runner instead of a sprinter.  Picture a modern grizzly, inflated by one-half and given the legs of a wolf.   Speaking of which:

6. Dire wolf.  Dire-wolf bones are plentiful in California’s La Brea Tar Pits and Wyoming’s Natural Trap Cave. These skeletons show that dire wolves (Canis dirus) were about 25 percent heavier than modern gray wolves (Canis lupus), weighing between 130 and 150 lbs. (59 to 68 kg), according to the Florida Museum of Natural History.

Not as exciting as the short-faced bear, perhaps, but given that this was a pack animal, and you’d likely be facing several of them…  A good repeating shotgun stoked with buckshot, maybe?

7.  American cheetah.  The American cheetah stood a little taller than the modern cheetah, with a shoulder height of about 2.75 feet (0.85 meters) and a weight of about 156 lbs. (70 kg). However, the American cheetah probably wasn’t as fast: It had slightly shorter legs, which likely made it a better climber than a runner, according to the zoo.

Interesting.  Any big cat could be a challenge – intelligent, fast, great senses, very likely dangerous.  An exciting hunt  here.

8.  Ground sloth.  When President Thomas Jefferson learned about a strange claw fossil found in Ohio, he asked explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to search for giant lions during their western trek to the Pacific. The claw, however, didn’t belong to a lion. It was part of Megalonyx, an extinct ground sloth, MacPhee said.

Hunt Like a Girl.
Hunt Like a Girl.

A sloth?  No thanks.  As with the Glyptodon, no fair chase on something that slow.  They were tough, though – maybe a hunt with a spear?

9. Giant beaver.  The giant beaver (Castoroides) is mostly known from its fossils in the Great Lakes region, which is “perhaps no surprise for a beaver,” MacPhee said. But other fossil finds show the giant lived as far south as South Carolina and in the American Northeast.

Not really a hunt.  In my youth I trapped beaver, along with muskrat, raccoon and various other furbearers.  You’d need a bigger trap for this monster.

10.  Camels.  Camels that once roamed North America are called Camelops, Latin for “yesterday’s camel.” However, Camelops is more closely related to llamas than to today’s camels, the zoo reported.

As with horses:  Probably decent from the fair chase standpoint, but eating – well, I’ve eaten camel once, and  have no desire to repeat the experience.

Since it’s unlikely we’ll be able to clone any of these beasts any time soon, it appears I’ll have to content myself with deer and elk.

Goodbye, Blue Monday

Goodbye, Blue Monday!
Goodbye, Blue Monday!

Another weekend gone, but at least some fishing got done. Areas explored included the Wasatch-Cache National Forest around Mount Marsall. A stretch of Bear River north of the pass near Mirror Lake was too interesting not to fish a while, but all I was able to hook were two rainbows too small to keep.

Down side: Not sure if it was because of Father’s Day weekend, one of the first really nice weekends of the year, or because this area isn’t a bad drive from Salt Lake City and it was very hot down in the cities, but every trailhead was packed. It’s nice to get into the mountains for some solitude, but except for that fortuitous stretch of Bear River, there was none to be had.

A pretty day nonetheless. Photos follow.

Goodbye, Blue Monday

Goodbye, Blue Monday!
Goodbye, Blue Monday!

Yesterday’s outdoor adventuring found yr. obdt. fishing in Lost Creek Reservoir out my Morgan; that body of water’s fish population escaped unscathed but the scenery made it worth the trip.  Also, the truism “the worst day fishing is better than the best day working” applies.

After the skunk-out fishing, I drove over to the country around Huntsville and walked around a bit.  Photos follow.

It was a beautiful day in beautiful country, blissfully unmarred by self-serving politicians, screwball activists and general nitwittery.  Never fear though, True Believers; politicians, screwballs and nitwits will be dealt with starting tomorrow as usual.

Goodbye, Blue Monday

Goodbye, Blue Monday!
Goodbye, Blue Monday!

It’s hard to believe that today is the first of June already.  Before we start a new month of bloggery, here’s another shout of gratitude to The Other McCain for the Rule Five links!

Yesterday I drove over to Grantsville, Utah, and hiked a good ways up a into place called Davenport Canyon.  It’s nice country, reminding me slightly of the hilly sagebrush country south of Eagle, Colorado and around Williams Fork Reservoir.  More scrub oaks and juniper than any of those areas, though, making it a more pleasant hike on what quickly became a warm, dry day.

I parked at the Davenport Canyon trailhead, strapped on my old 1911 (it looks to me to be good mountain lion country) and walked a pretty fair ways up into the canyon.  Here’s that the country looked like:

In one of those photos you can see my own little Rojito parked, waiting it’s hot, tired owner to come back down the trail for the ride back to town.  There was a good-sized flock of wild turkeys in the area, heard but only glimpsed, and on one of the hillsides I jumped a mulie doe and her little fawn.  Lots of mourning doves in the area, too, and a bunch of cottontail rabbits; I stuck a mental pin in the mental map in case I’m still hear when the Utah rabbit season opens.

Bunny.
Bunny.

(I always enjoy bagging a few bunnies.)

This, of course, is one of the benefits of being a self-employed guy who makes his living travelling – this gig looks to be lasting until the end of Q3, at least, which means more opportunities to check the hiking, camping and fishing opportunities of northern Utah and southern Idaho.

Let’s hope that the Imperial City will allow me to work at this business for a few more years before they regulate me to death.

Oh, and serious, issues-based blogging resumes tomorrow.

Animal’s Daily News

Who among you couldn’t use a self-guiding rifle bullet?  Check it out:

From the video description:  DARPA’s Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordnance (EXACTO) program, which developed a self-steering bullet to increase hit rates for difficult, long-distance shots, completed in February its most successful round of live-fire tests to date. An experienced shooter using the technology demonstration system repeatedly hit moving and evading targets. Additionally, a novice shooter using the system for the first time hit a moving target.

This video shows EXACTO rounds maneuvering in flight to hit targets that are moving and accelerating. EXACTO’s specially designed ammunition and real-time optical guidance system help track and direct projectiles to their targets by compensating for weather, wind, target movement and other factors that can impede successful hits.

While this would be some great fun for recreational shooting – and while one suspects the price tag would put it outside the reach of anyone not possessed of Bill Gates-type fortune – it’s probably crossing a line for the hunter, the far side of the line lying outside the realm of “fair chase.”  Of course some folks said the same for telescopic sights, and modern ammo, and probably the bow and arrow – but this seems different.  It’s not just a technical advance that Girl Hunterstill requires some skill of the marksman; it largely obviates the need for any marksmanship skill at all, as vividly shown in the video.

That’s outside the world of sportsmanship.  In war, great – and that’s DARPA’s portfolio, after all, developing weapons for war – but not in the game fields.

And speaking of the military – nothing, but nothing, can replace marksmanship skills in individual soldiers.  Gadgets can and do break.  A skilled rifleman is more resilient.

Animal’s Hump Day Shooting News

Happy Hump Day!
Happy Hump Day!

Some time back we stumbled across an interesting discussion on the appropriate firearm for the farm or country home, much like the country home my folks maintained for many decades.

The Old Man was, of course, a farmer for much of his life, and a self-styled country gentleman of the old school.  His attitude towards firearms reflected most of his type and his generation; firearms were tools essential to the maintenance and protection of homestead and crops, in the same order as a chainsaw, a scythe, or a tractor.  They were selected and maintained as such, with strictly utilitarian considerations.  Childhood in the Great Depression and young adulthood during WW2 made most of the Old Man’s generation pretty practically-minded people.

That being the case, the Old Man maintained three firearms on and about the place.  They were a 12-gauge pump shotgun, a .22 rimfire rifle, and a .22 handgun.  The shotgun was his first purchase with his demobilization pay when he returned from the Army in 1946 , the .22 rifle was a third anniversary present from my mother in 1950, and the .22 pistol he bought for recreational shooting sometime in the mid-1960s.  I still have all three firearms, as the folks live in town now and are maintaining only a .410 bore shotgun for whatever it may be needed for.

Now, on to the country home:  If a family can only maintain one firearm on a country homestead, one would be wise to pick up something along the lines of the Old Man’s first post-war purchase, a simple 12-gauge pump-action shotgun.  The Old Man’s Stevens 520A hasn’t been available for many years, but the Mossberg 500 series or the Remington 870 are solid guns that will give long service; my own pair of Mossbergs have been functioning flawlessly in the game fields for 35 and 30 years now.

The advantages of the 12 gauge are many.  Ammo is readily available anywhere (not so, sadly, for Mrs. Animal’s 16 gauge Browning) and various loads/shot sizes can handle anything from garden pests to turkeys, while a slug will dispatch a deer or even a bear.

In spite of his utilitarian attitude towards shotguns, the Old Man was nevertheless as artist with his old Stevens; he was known to go 100 straight on the skeet range in his Army days, and he was highly skilled at making a shot charge arrive in the same location as a fleeing pheasant or grouse.  Some years back he cut off the tip of his trigger finger in a jointer, and since then firing any gun with any recoil caused a stab of pain through his shooting hand, but before moving to town Smiling Bearhe capped his hunting career in a blaze of glory by stalking and killing a wild turkey with the .410, causing our old friend Dave to comment, “if anyone but your Dad told me that, I’d call him a damned liar.”

Even though I will always love my old Brownings and Winchesters, I will always keep the old Mossbergs around as utility shotguns, especially after our move north.  Of course, my attitudes towards firearms are somewhat different than the Old Man’s, and so the Mossbergs will still have plenty of company in the rack.

Animal’s Hump Day Wildcat News

Happy Hump Day!
Happy Hump Day!

In recent years it seems like we’ve seen an explosion (pun intended) of new rifle cartridges.  Some of these are commercial adoptions of popular wildcat rounds, some are purposely developed by gun and/or ammunition manufacturers.   I’m not immune to the wildcatting bug myself; I’ve long thought of having my favorite .30-06 rechambered to the .30-06 Ackley Improved, which gives .300 H&H Magnum ballistics while still allowing use of regular .30-06 factory loads.

For the most part, though, I’m a practical kind of guy, and most of my rifles are hunting rifles.  While plenty of folks love to play with custom calibers, or line up to buy the first examples of the latest Eargesplitten Loudenboomer Magnum, I’m pretty content to stick with cartridges that have been around a while.

Now, admittedly, I’ve got quite a few more rifles than I need for just hunting North American big game, like buck mulies or big bull elk.  I load for and shoot rifles in the .22 Hornet (developed in the 1920’s and adopted by Winchester in 1930), the .45-70 (developed 1873), the .338 Winchester Magnum (developed 1958), and the .30 WCF (developed 1895.)

Most of these cartridges are readily available in any large gun or sporting-goods store; hell, you can buy many of them in Wal-Mart, at least some kind of ammo to get you shooting.  But when it comes to availability of ammo, you still can’t really beat the old .30-06 Springfield.  The ’06 may be 109 years old, but it’s still one of the best big-game rounds going; if I know someone interested in learning the ins and outs of hunting and shooting who wants to buy a single rifle for North American big game, I advise them to buy a .30-06.  It will easily handle anything from antelope to moose, although it may be a bit on the light side for big Alaskan bears and the largest bull Alaska-Yukon moose.  But the ’06 has a huge advantage for those packing one gun across long distances, perhaps in airline checked baggage:  If you lose your ammo supply somewhere en route, you can walk into almost any gas station, bait shop, or general store (there are still some around) and buy at least some kind of ammo that you can re-zero and get to work with.

WinchesterThe only other rifle cartridge that you can say that about it perhaps the old .30 WCF (.30-30, for those not familiar with the original name) and the trienta-trienta is popular enough from the Yukon to the Canal Zone, but not quite up to game like elk or moose.  It’s strictly a 150-200 yard cartridge for deer-sized game.

I reckon the .30-06 will be around at least as long as I am.  Rifle and cartridge design hasn’t changed all that much, overtly, in the last 100 years; most modern bolt-action rifles are adaptations of the 1898 Mauser, and scores of cartridges, wildcat and otherwise, are still based on the .30-06 case.  What has advanced in the shooting world is metallurgy, ammunition propellants and projectiles, and optics.  But a good case design is a good case design, which is why the .30-06 remains one old dog that’s learned lots of new tricks.

Animal’s Hump Day News

Happy Hump Day!
Happy Hump Day!

What would you do if you could live forever?  Excerpt:

The key to eternal life could be a procedure to lengthen chromosomes.

The procedure would allow scientists to lengthen telomeres, the protective caps that are on the end of chromosomes and shorten with age.

The telomeres protect chromosomes from getting damage as cells divide and grow. But as they do, they slowly become shorter and eventually are unable to protect the chromosomes. When that happens, they are liable to deteriorate — thought to be a key part of the ageing process.

The new process allows scientists to lengthen the telomeres, effectively turning back the biological clock and making the chromosomes — and the people that are made out of them — younger.

Personally, I’d settle for a thousand years – a thousand years in the body I had at 25.  Or even 35.  I’d settle for the one I have now, but the wrong side of 50 isn’t as much fun (physically) as being a 20-something was.  Think of the outdoor adventure stories one could amass with a thousand years to hunt, fish, and bum around in the woods.

Silver BearBut the implications of near-immortality go way beyond how many elk one might take.  Think of a respectable cohort of near-immortals with the sense to spend fifty years socking away a good savings account – and then spending another hundred letting compound interest do its thing.  Some of those people (I’d like to think I’d be savvy enough myself) would amass fortunes that would make Bill Gates look like Tommy Joad.

Think of what that would do to real estate prices – the stock market – the RV sales business – almost anything.

What price immortality?  I can only imagine; this is an economic scenario I’d love to see a Thomas Sowell weigh in on.

Animal’s Daily News

Sleepy-BearAnother hunting season over – this one cut short, as the inestimable Rojito developed some sort of electrical trouble and remains even now in an auto shop in Granby.  Mrs. Animal cheerfully drove up from Denver to rescue loyal sidekick Rat and yr. obdt., but we returned to the city with nothing to show for our efforts except, as always, great memories of time spent outdoors.  The one outstanding thing in this abbreviated hunt were the numbers of Shiras moose evident in our mountain stomping grounds; we saw no less than four on opening day, a young bull and three cows.  That bodes well for yr. obdt. if I ever manage to snag a coveted Colorado moose tag.

And, on this return to regular blogging, let me once more thank Robert Stacy, Smitty and Wombat-socho for the Rule Five links.  Appreciated as always, guys!

Speaking of that return to regular blogging, here’s an interesting bit of commentary from Forbes on the United States’ two very different “gun cultures” and how at least one county sheriff sees the two:  How Gun-Control Legislation Is Affecting This Election.  Excerpt:

Actually, a majority of sheriffs in New York and Colorado publicly oppose the new gun-control laws. Sheriffs are in a unique position to speak out, as nearly all of America’s 3,080 sheriffs are elected. These sheriffs aren’t standing alone like Gary Cooper in “High Noon.” Polls show that a lot of the men and women who protect us support the Second Amendment. In 2013, a survey of police officers by the National Girls with GunsAssociation of Chiefs of Police found that 86.8 percent of those surveyed think “any law-abiding citizen [should] be able to purchase a firearm for sport and self-defense.” Also, a survey done by PoliceOne.com of 15,000 law-enforcement professionals found that almost 90 percent of officers believe that casualties related to guns would be decreased if armed citizens were present at the onset of an active-shooter incident. More than 80 percent of PoliceOne’s respondents support arming schoolteachers and administrators who willingly volunteer to train with firearms. Virtually all the survey’s respondents (95 percent) said a federal ban on the manufacture and sale of ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds wouldn’t reduce violent crime.

Cops – at least the cops surveyed here – are people of uncommonly good sense, probably in part because of the inexorable onslaught of human stupidity they deal with on a daily basis.  An old retired state policeman once told me that every criminal he ever dealt with had a combination of three personality traits, greedy, mean and stupid – that proportions varied but all three were universally present.

These, of course, are the people that will completely and totally ignore any gun control legislation, no matter how well-intentioned, that ignorant state or Imperial legislators may pass.

user-girls-guns-550-29There is a gun culture in the United States, a culture of responsible, law-abiding shooters and hunters.  Some keep guns for recreation, some for sport, some for defense, some (like yr. obdt.) for all of the above.  Of all the nations in the world, only the United States, in its Constitution, recognizes the right to keep and bear arms as an inalienable right that we retain by virtue of being free, law-abiding citizens.  And those of us who choose to own guns, for any reasons, don’t like seeing politicians who are utterly ignorant of the differences between citizen and thug try to abrogate those rights.

That’s why three former Colorado legislators find themselves unemployed now.  That’s in part why Governor Hickenlooper finds himself in a tight race against a GOP challenger now.