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.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Everyday Hunter’s Deer Hunting Geek Test

Steve Sorensen
(Originally published in the Warren Times Observer, March 21, 2009.)

You wonder why Chanel No. 5 is so expensive,
but never question the price of doe urine.
Everybody knows the word “geek.” It’s a slang term, and one definition says it describes “a peculiar or otherwise odd person, especially one who is perceived to be overly obsessed with one or more things including those of intellectuality, electronics, etc.”

That three letter abbreviation, “etc.,” means we have more geeks than just computer geeks. There are all kinds of geeks, so I probably don’t need to tell you that we have some deer hunting geeks around, hunters who are peculiar, odd, and obsessed about deer.

I’ve devised a little test to help you determine if you’re a deer hunting geek. (Circle the ones that describe you.)

1. You have copies of deer hunting magazines on your bedside table, your coffee table, your kitchen table, your desk, your workbench, your floor, your TV, and in your bathroom, your truck, your briefcase, plus a half dozen stacks of them around your house – and none of them ever gather dust.

2. Deer hunting websites are the most prominent bookmarks on your computer.

3. Your idea of dinner and a movie is venison burgers and a deer hunting video.

4. You never ask before you show someone a picture of your most recent buck -- and only AFTER that, you might ask “Wanna see pictures of my kids, too?”

5. Your family photo has a date and time stamp across the bottom, along with the logo of your trail camera.

6. You have to think for a minute about how old your kids are, but you can tell at a glance whether a buck is 1½, 2½ or 3½ years old.

7. You schedule next year’s deer season vacation time early – with a written request on December 1.

8. You’re driving down the road on an October evening, gaze out the passenger side window and say, “What a beauty!” and the pretty lady sitting in the passenger’s seat knows you’re not looking at or talking about her.

9. You hardly ever mow your yard because it takes all day to move your 3D archery targets.

10. You’re trying to invent a way to remodel your lawnmower into a tree stand.

11. Your idea of bad timing is having a child born during deer season.

12. You wonder why Chanel No. 5 is so expensive, but never question the price of doe urine.

13. You think every antler you see is the most fascinating thing you’ve ever seen.

14. When you tell someone you went hunting for shed antlers on April Fool’s Day, they say, “Figured as much.”

15. You carry your own swizzle stick to parties -- an antler you found that was shed by a spike buck.

16. You keep notes about your deer hunts in a safe deposit box at the bank.

17. You have a list of things you’d be willing to trade to a landowner for exclusive permission to hunt, and your firstborn is at the top.

18. You hunt near home, and refer to home as your “lodge” or “camp.”

19. Deer meat – it’s what’s for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Between meals, you snack on jerky.

20. You floss your teeth with deer hair.

Score yourself:
15-20 – No doubt about it – you’re a certifiable deer geek.
10-15 – People think you’re a deer geek, and with a little more effort you’ll be certifiable.
5-10 – People know you’re a deer hunter, but you’re at no risk of being a geek.
0-5 – You’re not serious about deer hunting. You must be a geek about something else.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

An editorial camouflaged as news

Steve Sorensen
(Special report published in the Warren Times Observer, March 10, 2009.)

The Associated Press has presented
a hit-piece on hunting.

Tragic news broke on February 21 alleging that an 11-year old western Pennsylvania boy shot and killed his father’s girlfriend, who was 8 months pregnant. The boy has been charged with criminal homicide and criminal homicide of an unborn child.

I write columns about hunting, but what has that to do with hunting? Nothing. Nothing at all. Or at least it didn’t until the writer who originally broke the story followed it two weeks later with another story that implicated hunting in nearly every paragraph. It was agenda journalism at its worst.

One doesn’t have to read the March 7 Associated Press follow-up to the original story to see the agenda . It’s bannered right in the headline: “PA boy, 11, charged with murder was avid hunter.”

What evidence does the story show that the boy was a hunter? None. It provides not a speck of evidence that the boy had ever gone hunting.

The fact is that he’s actually too young to buy a hunting license. That doesn’t necessarily mean he never went hunting, because Pennsylvania allows “mentored” hunting where young people under 12 may go hunting under specific, very closely supervised conditions. But no evidence was offered that he ever did that either.

Certainly if the boy had ever even tagged along with an adult, it would have been mentioned. The fact is that the kid wasn’t an “avid hunter.” He wasn’t a hunter at all.

But apparently it wasn’t enough just to mischaracterize the boy in the headline. The first sentence adds to the falsehood: “Hunting is a way of life in the rural area where [the 11-year-old boy] regularly practiced target shooting with his 20-gauge, youth model shotgun.”

Regularly? No word is mentioned about how, when, where or whether the boy had ever gone target shooting.

In the second sentence, the writer sought to implicate everyone but the boy: “Here in west-central Pennsylvania, hunting clubs are plentiful, the first day of deer hunting season means a day off from school and turkey shoots are held year round.” Since the boy’s criminal act had exactly nothing to do with hunting, what could that mean? Why, it sounds like that boy was raised in a barbaric culture!

If that’s not enough, the third sentence says this: “A month ago, [he] won a turkey at a local shoot against older, more experienced hunters.” Is that supposed to mean he was a skilled marksman? Yes, it’s supposed to mean that. But the reality is that the same thing would have happened if they had been playing miniature golf! Older people let kids win.

You might wonder, “Wow! Sorensen is only on the third sentence. Is he going to cover every sentence?” Well, no. But I could.

I’ll only say that the writer misused a quote from an environmental philosophy professor at Cornell University to support his agenda. He offered a quote from a major anti-gun organization which contained an unproven assumption about the tragedy. He implicated firearms manufacturers by citing the fact that they make some guns with smaller stocks to accommodate smaller people. And he cites another anti-gun crusader who makes a blatantly false statement. All to support his own anti-gun journalistic fantasy.

To his credit, the author quotes Jerry Feaser, press secretary for the Pennsylvania Game Commission, “This had nothing to do with hunting.” Good – but given the context, most readers will likely say, “Yeah, right.”

And in case anyone might agree with Feaser, the matter isn’t left there. The final paragraph approvingly mentions an obviously wise father who suggests that hunting involves too much adrenaline for children under 15.

Not a single aspect of the boy's human relationships, neither with his father nor the victim nor anyone else, is mentioned even once. Yet hunting is indicted throughout.

It’s not just hunters who use camouflage. This “story” was an editorial camouflaged as news – a perfect example of the so-called “drive-by” media. The Associated Press has presented opinion as news, and its target this time is hunting.

I don’t minimize the tragic death of a 26-year old woman and her unborn baby. A “professional” journalist has already done that. And while doing it he has put one more nail into the coffin of journalistic integrity – a tragedy that affects every American.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Mistakes I've Made

Steve Sorensen
(Originally published in the Warren Times Observer, March 7, 2009.)

Soft, dry cotton is comfortable.
But perspire in cotton, and it doesn’t ever dry.

I’ve made my share of mistakes while hunting. All of us have, and some we might never admit. Today, I’ll admit two of them.

Do you know anyone who has ever used a survival “space blanket” or “space bag”? You know – one of those silvery foil-like survival essentials that folds up to the size of a hanky? Yes, you do. It was me.

My brother and I used them once on a mountainside high above the Resurrection River on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula. We had spotted a black bear, stashed our gear along the trail, and climbed the north side of the valley.

Thanks to a quarter-mile of tangled alders, it was a long stalk. We finally reached our destination, well above a group of mountain goats that were on one of the rocky ledges below us.

By the time we got there, the bear was gone. And with the sunlight waning, we decided to remain on the mountain rather than fight the snarled alder brush in darkness on the way down. We figured we were adequately prepared. We had some water, a couple of snacks, and our trusty space bags. So, we slipped into them and hunkered down.

An Alaskan mountainside is very cold at night during the first week of May.

The cold was only one problem. We also couldn’t find a flat spot and kept sliding down the mountainside. We solved that problem by bracing ourselves against a couple of stunted spruce growing in the meager soil.

That was a short-lived solution that led to a worse problem. The spruce needles were poking tiny holes in the spacebags, and in no time they were shredded.

I repeat: an Alaskan mountainside is very cold at night during the first week of May.

This wasn’t quite a life-and-death emergency, but it was one long, frigid night. Lesson learned: When using a survival space bag, find a position in a spot that is stable, keep movement to a minimum, and make sure nothing that can poke even a single hole goes anywhere near the space bag.

At least we stayed dry. But I was never so cold and uncomfortable until a few years later, again in Alaska, when I made an even worse mistake. We had hiked about three miles into a remote valley that was loaded with black bears.

A trail provided good footing, except where it crossed a half-dozen muddy spots or was washed out. Carrying a backpack with 50 pounds of gear was no cakewalk, and we worked up a sweat.

We were headed for a spot in the valley that was flanked by a steep hillside to the west, and grassy meadows to the east. We climbed a snowpack from an avalanche and settled in to watch the grassy meadows for bears.

It sounds like an easy hunt, but it wasn’t. Even though this hunt was the third week of May (and considerably warmer than the earlier hunt), I had made a mistake at home that made me miserable on the mountain. I was wearing cotton underpants.

Soft, dry cotton is comfortable. But perspire in cotton, and it doesn’t ever dry. There I was, perched on a patch of snow packed as solid as concrete, probably 10 feet deep. And my underwear was soaked with perspiration. It was like sitting on a giant ice cube after a sauna.

I couldn’t get comfortable, and I couldn’t stop shaking. I had to get that wet underwear away from my body – far away. I finally pulled my knife out, pulled down my pants, and cut those icy underpants off.

Somewhere, there is a photograph of me doing that. I hope it never sees the light of day.

Lesson learned: Never wear cotton next to your skin in cold weather. Wear ABC – Anything But Cotton. Alaskans have two words that very clearly explain why: “Cotton kills.”

I’m sure I’ll make more mistakes, but I won’t do that again. Not in Alaska. Not in Pennsylvania. Not anywhere.
Cure your cabin fever by attending a sport show. Here is a calendar of some of the shows in our region:
March 6-8, Erie Sport & Travel Expo at the Bayfront Convention Center in Erie, PA.
March 12-15, Western New York Sport & Travel Expo at the Fairgrounds in Hamburg, NY.
March 20-22, Ohio Deer & Turkey Expo in the Bricker Building at the State Fairgrounds in Columbus, Ohio.