Welcome to the host site for outdoor writer Steve Sorensen’s “Everyday Hunter” columns. For a complete index of all columns, go to EverydayHunter.com.

Friday, September 28, 2007

How Big Is Hunting?

by Steve Sorensen
(Originally published in the Warren Times Observer, Warren, PA, Sept. 29, 2007.)
Tennis, anyone? More people hunt than play tennis.
Like to swoosh down the slopes? More people hunt than ski.
If you asked me, I'd say it's big. But you might think it's just big with me. Nope. I'm not alone. It's very big. It's measured in beaucoup bucks – and I'm not talking about the kind with antlers.

34 million Americans hunt or fish. They pour $76 billion per year into the economy and support 1.6 million jobs. They're intelligent and they vote – 8 out of 10 vote in every presidential election.

Anglers make up the majority of that number. Six million more Americans would rather wet a line than sink a putt. But hunters are significant, too.

Tennis, anyone? More people hunt than play tennis. Like to swoosh down the slopes? More people hunt than ski. In fact, if all the hunters in this country decided to move to New York and Los Angeles, everyone living there would have to move out. Yep, anti-hunters, non-hunters, everyone. No room for them.

Everyone thinks NASCAR is big. But all the hunters and fishermen in America would fill every seat at every NASCAR track – not just once, but 13 times.

If you took just the hunters in our nation and created a corporation to receive all the revenue they spend, you'd have a company that ranks in the top 20 of the Fortune 500. If you add anglers into the equation, you'd have a corporation larger than MicroSoft, Google, eBay and Yahoo combined ($76 billion versus $73.6 billion). Fishermen spend more just on bait than ski enthusiasts spend on all their equipment.

Don't believe me? I didn't make up these facts. They're published in a recent report by the Congressional Sportsman's Foundation (CSF). It's an organization that transcends partisan political lines and works not only with the United States Congress, but also with sportsmen's caucuses in every state legislature around the country.

The CSF says that the vast majority of Americans support legal hunting. More than 95% support legal fishing. Just 3% subscribe to the animal rights philosophy. That's tiny. Most of them, by the way, aren't consistent – and only a handful of them are activists.

So, next time you watch the TV news and it shows animal rights people protesting hunters somewhere, please realize that is not the big story. Next time you see a report that details the plight of some endangered species, please realize that is not the big story.

The big story is about the benefits hunters and fishermen bring to wildlife and the environment – including species that are threatened or endangered. Whenever they spend a dollar on their equipment, they pay 11 cents of it as an excise tax that supports wildlife populations – and not just game populations. It's one of the most successful taxes in our nation's history. Hardly anyone knows about it, but it's one reason wildlife populations thrive.

When an ordinary citizen volunteers time to improving wildlife habitat, almost every time it's a hunter or a fisherman working through a club or a conservation organization such as the National Wild Turkey Federation or Trout Unlimited. And the benefits aren't limited to the species in those organizations' names. The benefits extend to songbirds, swans, salamanders, and all wildlife.

There's a bumper sticker that says, "If you can read this, thank a teacher." Next time you look to the sky and see a flock of geese flying south, thank an American sportsman for making the United States of America an outdoor nation with abundant populations of wildlife.

One more thing. Hunters spend almost $2000 per hunter per year on their sport, pumping a total of $24.9 billion into our nation's economy. Will someone call my wife and tell her that I need to catch up to the other guys? Thanks. And tell her I went on a hunting trip.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

The Deer’s Nose Knows

by Steve Sorensen
(Originally published in the Warren Times Observer, Warren, PA, Sept. 15, 2007.)
One thing always beats the deer’s nose.
A few days ago a brown truck dropped off a package that contained a new scent control product for hunters – actually 3 new products. My wife asked, “What’s that?”

“It’s something they want me to review. It’s called a ‘Fresh Breath Kit.’ Here’s a tube of toothpaste, a bottle of mouthwash, and some breath mints. They’re supposed to be specially formulated to eliminate a hunter’s mouth odor.”

“How close do you think you’re going to get to a deer?” Visions of me nuzzling a Boone & Crockett whitetail flickered in my head.

“Um,” I paused, my mind racing through a whole bunch of stuff she could have been thinking. “Maybe 20 yards.” I added, “But deer can smell you a lot farther away than that.”

“I don’t believe that,” she said.

Her opinion of hunting products is that they’re a round-up of gimmicks made for gullible nimrods. (Definition, nimrod: 1. In the Old Testament, great-grandson of Noah, a hunter. 2. A person regarded as silly, foolish, or stupid.)

She’s right about some of them. Some gimmicks are a complete waste. (OK. So are some nimrods.)

Hunters have always been aware that deer can smell us. And contrary to what my wife thinks, deer have proven that they can smell at least a quarter mile away.

It’s true that nimrods Philip Tome, Daniel Boone and other pioneer hunters did pretty well without access to a Cabela’s catalog of must-have gear. But when I think of those old-timers, I think they must have stunk, even worse than yours truly on my worst day.

The fact is that our sweat is odorless, but it provides a medium where bacteria can grow. It’s the bacteria that nibble on our dead skin cells and the organic wastes in our perspiration that create body odor.

And although the old-timers didn’t have specialized toothpaste, mouthwash and mints, maybe standing in the smoke from their campfires tended to kill the critters that cause people to stink.

Recent years have brought a parade of weapons that fight human scent. Special anti-microbial soaps and skin cleansers destroy the bacteria at their point of origin. Clothing impregnated with activated charcoal is supposed to tie up the odor molecules that come off our bodies. Silver, a natural anti-microbial, has been woven into clothing. Various sprays using charcoal, baking soda, colloidal silver and secret mystery ingredients are supposed to lock up human scent.

But other than the advice to suck on a slice of apple, very little has been done to mask, control, or eliminate mouth odor. Yet every hunter produces an enormous volume of exhaled air, creating the potential for spreading human scent wherever the air currents take it. Now a new product addresses that.

But does it all work?

Most hunters are interested in anything that gives them an advantage over the deer’s most valuable defense – his nose. However, not everything is practical, and certainly nothing works miracles. Even if you shower in the right stuff, use the right anti-perspirant, wash your clothes in the right stuff, store your clothes in a bag with dirt from under your treestand, wear a layer of silver-impregnated clothing plus a layer of carbon, brush your teeth with baking soda, chew chlorophyll gum, suck on breath mints, crush apples or acorns and put them in your pockets, and spray down with the best odor eliminator – you won't beat the deer's nose all the time.

A deer’s ability to smell is truly remarkable. But one thing always beat the deer’s nose. A deer can’t smell you if you’re downwind. You can fool the deer’s nose, every time, by wearing what you’re comfortable in, and staying downwind.

Common sense tells me that the people who are most meticulous about scent control during preparation are also most meticulous about playing the wind during stand placement and hunting. Work hard at both, but remember that wind direction is what has always worked, and will continue to work. Preparation is important, but it's in the woods that the game is played. You may not nuzzle a buck, but 20 yards won’t be a problem.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

About dog fighting -- I’m just asking!

by Steve Sorensen
(Originally published in the Warren Times Observer, Warren, PA, Sept. 1, 2007.)
How is a federal felony comparable to
a legal sport that millions participate in?
The notorious Michael Vick dog-fighting scandal is raising lots of questions.

You’d have to be holed up in a coyote den not to know about the news that the quarterback of the Atlanta Falcons recently pled guilty to an animal cruelty charge. Vick is one of the most exciting quarterbacks in a violent game called “football.”

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not the world’s biggest fan, but I do not oppose football, not at all. I watch a little of it on TV, I’ve attended some pro football games, and even saw a high school classmate of mine play a few times during his days with the Detroit Lions.

But football is a violent sport. And it’s one which PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, not People Eating Tasty Animals) is trying to influence. But not because it’s violent.

PETA wants the National Football League to agree to a clause in its personal conduct policy that prohibits "cruelty to animals – in all its forms." Sounds OK. After all, who could be in favor of animal cruelty?

Except that PETA considers a whole range of everyday animal uses to be forms of cruelty, including eating them, wearing their skins, medical study involving them, or using them for entertainment in any way. Good-bye fish dinners, shoes, heart research, and the zoo. And oh yes – good-bye to that inflated leather thing called a football. To PETA, it’s all cruelty.

The odd thing is that PETA doesn’t oppose football as a game – one where enormous men knock the stuffing out of each other, while other men watch from their couches stuffing themselves with carbohydrates. Nor does PETA oppose pornography, euthanasia or abortion. If, as PETA founder Ingrid Newkirk famously said, “A rat is a pig is a dog is a boy,” then why doesn’t PETA oppose all of these things?

Let’s forget PETA. It’s a radical fringe organization that equates dog shows, dog sledding, and hunting with dogs with dog fighting, and wants to eliminate them all. But others not so radical also raise questions. R. L. White, President of the Atlanta chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, believes that there is no difference between Michael Vick’s illegal dog fighting and the deer hunting that millions of people legally enjoy.

Yes, occasionally deer don’t die quickly. And when they don’t, hunters have regrets. In fact, it’s fair to say the average hunter grieves. The objective is never to prolong the death of an animal. Even if you think hunting is bad, it’s ridiculous to suggest there is no difference between dog fighting and hunting. If I’ve ever seen an apples-to-oranges comparison, that’s it.

Yet, in a news article on the CNN web site, it’s reported that Mr. White (remember – he’s from the Atlanta chapter of the NAACP, and Mr. Vick is the Atlanta Falcons quarterback) doesn’t “understand the uproar over dogfighting when hunting deer and other animals is perfectly acceptable." He is quoted as saying, “[Vick’s] crime is, it was a dog.”

How is electrocuting, hanging and drowning dogs like deer hunting?
How is a federal felony comparable to a legal sport that millions participate in?
How is an appalling uncivilized practice similar to a practice that has helped create civilization?
Has a once-great civil rights organization lost its moral credibility?

I’m just asking.