Monday, April 19, 2010

Broken Records

Records are made to be broken. So says conventional wisdom, but in this day of rampant cheating, maybe its our record-keeping system that's broken. I say it's time to rethink how we keep score.

Home runs, 100-meter sprints, Boone and Crockett scores. Way back in the naive innocent days of my youth (when I was about forty) those hallowed records represented the pinnacles of human achievement. Their holders were rightfully accorded the admiration and respect due someone who had perservered through formidable odds and achieved a level of success that we mere-mortals can only dream about. Ahh, those were the days...

Today we're bombarded with news about cheaters in all walks of sport - and life in general. Our obsession with records has created a win-at-all-cost mentality that pervades any activity worthy of keeping score. It is sad to me that my children's first reaction to a new world record will always be suspicion rather than awe.

This past deer season, two truly awesome deer were killed. The deer picured above on the left was killed by Troy Reinke of Cannon Falls, Minnesota. Its gross green score was 190 5/8. Net was 185 even. According to the Boone and Crocket club, this is the largest eight pointer ever killed. The deer on the right was killed by Johnny Clay of Adams County, Ohio. It measures 214 gross and nets 197 2/8. It may be the largest typical buck killed during the 2009-2010 season.

Unfortunately, these two bucks have something in common besides awesome, world-class racks. They were both killed by poachers.

It seems that Troy (who is not pictured above - that's apparently a taxidermist) neglected to check in a couple deer that he killed prior to killing the whopper that locals had named Fred. Then there's the little matter of what he killed it with. He originally claimed that he killed it with a bow during archery season, but when forensic results showed that the deer had been killed with a firearm, he tried to claim that he didn't shoot it, but just found it dead. Yeah right! Well the judge didn't believe him either and sentenced him to 245 days in jail, ordered him to pay $1,500 in restitution, and revoked his hunting privledges for five years. You can read more about it here.

Johnny "Bigger is Always Better" Clay, who is pictured on the right above, is a true piece of work. He went to the trouble of making up an elaborate story about how he gut shot "his" deer with a bow on public land in Kentucky and looked for it for a week and a half before finding a completely bare skull and no other evidence, err... remains. You can see and hear him spin his tall tale here.

Unfortunately for Johnny, some guys in the neighboring state of Ohio had trailcam photos of "his" deer (watch the video to see why I use the quotes) over a hundred miles away from where the deer was supposedly killed. The case has not gone to court as of this writing, but reports are that Johnny has confessed to shooting the deer with a firearm in Ohio and transporting the head to Kentucky. Why go to all that trouble? Because his Ohio license had been revoked for a prior poaching conviction. You can read more about the story on this thread from the Kentucky Deer Hunting Forum.

Unfortunately these two guys are just the tip of a big, smelly, rotten dung-heap of cheaters who will stop at nothing to claim their spot in the record books. I'm thinking that maybe the real sport these days is not in killing a big deer, but in catching the guys who are doing it illegally.

In keeping with the tradition of naming hunting scoring systems after the pioneers of the sport, i.e., Boone and Crocket and Pope and Young, I propose a new scoring system for the guys in green who track down and convict scumbags like Troy and Johnny.  I am hereby proposing the creation of a Leopold and Stoddard (L&S) scoring system, named in honor of two of the fathers of modern wildlife management.

Poachers would be scored and points awarded to arresting wildlife officers on the following basis:

Net B&C score of the poached animal(s) (rounded to the nearest inch, minimum score 100 per deer), plus
Number of days of jail time, plus
Monetary fine/10

Using that scoring system, Mr. Reinke would score

+   245
+   150

Making him my current world record holder.

Mr. Clay can't be officially scored yet since his mandatory pre-trial drying-out period hasn't expired yet, but estimates coming out of Ohio place his potential fine in the magnitude of tens of thousands of dollars, so he could easily eclipse Mr. Reinke to become the new L&S World Record.

Congratulations to Mr. Clay and Mr. Reinke for making it into the record books. May you get all the noteriety you deserve.

Ethical behavior is doing the right thing when no one else is watching - even when the wrong thing is legal. - Aldo Leopold

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Summit Viper Review

If there is one piece of hunting gear that I just couldn't be without, it would have to be my Summit Viper climbing stand.  Like a faithful friend, it goes everywhere I go during hunting season.  Sure, there are times during gun season that I'll set off on foot for some still hunting, but the core of my strategy revolves around figuring out where the deer are feeding and then getting close enough to make a clean bow kill.

Stealth, mobility, and security are all vitally important characteristics of a stand that is going to go with me to the farthest corners of my hunting territory to get me up close and personal to my quarry. In the following video clips, I'll review the (mostly) high points of the Viper and pass along some helpful hints that I've figured out over the six or seven years that I've been using this great treestand.

If you are ready to start enjoying the Cadillac of climbers, you can pick one up at Cabelas or at Gander Mountain or for the best price try Amazon.