Five of the Top Game to Hunt in the Southeast

Growing up in rural northeast Alabama; hunting and fishing were an integral part of life; as natural as breathing. Nearly every pickup you saw had a hunting rifle or fishing pole behind the seat. And it wasn’t uncommon for kids to run into the classroom late because of spending the first light of morning out in the woods – still dressed in their camo and smelling faintly of doe urine.

For Southerners, hunting is more than a tradition or past-time – it is a part of the people, almost as much an arm or a leg. Hunting in the South is, in part, fierce pride in being able to provide food for your family and with your own hands. It’s a beautiful song where the hunter works with the land by responsible wildlife management practices, tracking and “readin’ signs” are all a part of the harmony. For hunters in the South – the land they own and work is almost like a precious member of the family.

The Southeast, particularly in the ridges of Southern Appalachia, is world renown for its prime hunting habitats and pristine conservation environments. Within a relatively small area, you can encounter hardwood forest, pine woods, wetlands, limestone caves, and swamps. The South is the most biologically diverse region in the entire United States. Home to the raccoon, opossum, waterfowl, cougar, bear, deer, fox, bobcat, rabbit, and weasel. Not to mention some of the rarest salamander and minnows in the world.

Five of the Top Game to Hunt in the Southeast:

 

10114116915_bb53c8858f_z

White-Tailed Deer

Are by far the most common game animal to hunt. The White-tailed deer are all over North America – its range is from Canada down to Peru. They are one of the widest distributed hooved animals in the world. They are timid creatures, with a keen sense of smell and hearing.  Their night vision is much better than ours, but they don’t see extremely well during the daylight hours. Their eyes can’t see green, orange, or red – it appears as hues of grey. Bucks can weigh up to 300 lbs and does up to 200. White-tailed deer are very fast, running up to 30 miles an hour.

During the spring summer months, a buck will grow a set of antlers. During these months, the antlers are covered in velvet. This velvet is a living tissue that supplies blood to the antlers. During the summer, their fur takes on a reddish hue, while in the winter it becomes grayish. In the fall, around September, the velvet is rubbed off. Just in time for mating season, called the Rut. On each antler can grow a number of points, or “tines.” The number and length of the points can help to determine a buck age. Nutrition and genetics do play a factor in their antler build too, however.

White-tailed deer are crepuscular, meaning they are most active around sunrise and sunset. They can live alone or in herds. Typically, a deer will only have a home range of around a square mile. Does will be pregnant during the winter and fawn in late April or early May. The Fawn are born with white spots that disappear after a couple of months. Fawns are able to run within 24 hours after birth and are weaned around 6 months. They typically will stay with the doe until she has another fawn. Around 18 months of age, a doe will begin mating. Her first fawn will be a single birth around. But each season after, she will give birth to twins.

A white-tailed deer can live up to 11 years old in the wild, though many don’t live past the age of 5. They have been known to eat up to 600 plant species. Their four-chambered stomach allows them to eat vegetation that is very difficult to digest, including several varieties of mushrooms that are poisonous for humans to consume.

When tracking white-tailed deer, remember that they prefer to feed at dawn and dusk. They like to bed down near a source of water. White-tailed deer are extremely cautious, if they detect human scent on some underbrush days after the hunter was there, they will avoid the area for weeks.

44401697912_902cb2f8ea_z

Wild Turkey

This upland bird species is easily the second most hunted game in the Southeast. Adult Toms can weigh as much as 30 lbs and the Adult Hens weighing around 12 lbs. Despite their weight, turkeys are agile fliers. Their legs can be a reddish yellow to a greyish green hue. The body can vary in color from a copper to a brown, with the adult Toms pattern becoming more varied as he ages. Adult Toms also has red waddles on his throat and his reddish head. Tom turkey’s head will change color, depending upon his mood. His head is covered in carucles, which are fleshy growths. The long fleshly growth over his beak is called a snood.

Wild turkey prefers a habit that is either primarily hardwood or a mix of conifer and hardwoods that have occasional openings into a pasture, field or even occasionally a marsh. They seem to prefer woods filled with white ash, cherry, oaks, and hickory. The wild turkey is omnivorous. They eat not only a wide variety of seeds, berries, and nuts (pine nuts, hickory, hazelnut, acorns, chestnut etc) but also insects, lizards, and even snakes.

There are four major sub-species of Wild Turkey in North America (seven total, technically, including a hybrid.) Two of these sub-species are found in the Southeast. Eastern Wild Turkey lives in the eastern half of the country as far north as Maine and as far south as northern Florida. Some Eastern Wild Turkey can be found as far west as Missouri. They can get up to four feet tall and weigh as much as 30 lbs. The Osceola Wild Turkey, which is the smallest of the North American sub-species and weighs only an average of 16 lbs. It was named after the famous Seminole leader Osceola.

Eastern Wild Turkey are very prone to getting leery if they hear the same turkey calling over and over. So when scouting, especially prior to Opening Day, try to use a Crow Call or a Barred Owl call – these turkeys will gobble up to just about any sort of call prior and you don’t want them getting used to the sound of your turkey call.

Hen’s don’t like another hen talking to her tom. Sometimes you will need to call in your hen, and the tom will follow her – mimic her call, only a little more aggressively and see if she will come right on up to you.

4399293903_e921b7be97_z

Wood Ducks

Are the most stunning of the North American waterfowl species and are extremely abundant in the Southeast. They are a medium sized, perching duck and smaller than a mallard. Both drakes and hens have a crested head. Drakes are iridescent chestnut brown and green with distinctive white, in contrasting markings, and red eyes.  Hens are a muted brown and grey with an elegant white pattern around the eye. Unlike most ducks, they have sharp claws which help them to perch in trees. They are extremely agile fliers and excel at weaving in and out of trees – which makes them difficult to hunt.

Wood ducks prefer a habitat of wooded marshes, sloughs, forested backwaters, creeks, shallow inland lakes, beaver ponds, and wooded swamps. Mainly, they prefer primarily deciduous woodland and places where large trees overhang the water. If there are too few natural wooded cavities in which to nest, they will happily nest in a wooden nesting box.

Wood Ducks forage in the water by taking food from the surface, a technique called Dabbling. They will also submerge to feed completely underwater, and will also forage on land. They eat primarily seeds and aquatic plants but will also eat insects and crustaceans. In some regions, waste grain is a preferred food source. Wood Ducks love acorns – which gives them a very earthy taste.

The Wood Duck has a brilliant display of courtship that highlights the drake’s colorful plumage. There is an average of 9-15 eggs laid per brood, and they are the only North American duck to have two broods in a single season. The hen will stay with the young and watch over them until around six weeks. Wood Ducks will “egg dump” occasionally. This is when the hen will lay eggs in another hens nest. Some hens will catch on to this trick and will destroy the dumped eggs. The ducklings will remain in the nest only for a single day. The morning after they hatch, the young will climb up the ledge and jump to the ground – where their light fluffy bodies allow them to bounce for safety.

When decoying this waterfowl, make sure that you use ONLY other Woodies.  While other duck species will decoy with mallards, wood ducks prefer their own species. They tend to be hard to decoy – they don’t like to veer far outside the destination they already have in mind. They are extremely location oriented birds. So Scouting beforehand is key to a successful hunt. Don’t bother with the usual “C” or “J” decoy formation – just a light spread of a dozen or so.  Motion is critical to a wood duck decoy spread.

2819133772_a3b94190e9_z

American Black Bear

The American Black Bear is widely distributed and is the smallest of the North American Bears. They are the worlds most common bear species, some biologist claim that the black bear is twice as numerous as any other bear species. Interestingly, black bears are not closely related to polar bears or brown/grizzly bears. They are more closely related to sun bears and Asian black bears.

Black bears prefer territories that have a lot of dense undergrowth, and what would normally be considered inaccessible terrain as well as a forest with a large number of oaks and hickory.

The skull of the black bear is wide and has a narrow muzzle. Males tend to have wider set faces than females. Their feet can be up to 9 inches long. Their weight will vary greatly depending upon the season of the year, for example, in the fall their weight will be 30% more than it is in the spring.  Adult males will typically weigh between 125-550, and the largest recorded weighed just over 1,000 lbs. Despite their name, only around 70% of all black bears have black fur. Some can be white some brown and some in between.

Even though they are a very large animal, they can run quickly – up to 30 miles an hour. Black bears are extremely intelligent. They have excellent hearing ability. Their sense of smell is seven times greater than that of a dog. They can be active any time day or night but tend to do most of their foraging at night. American black bears tend to be extremely territorial, with a dominant male getting his choice of feeding locations.

They will feed on acorns, hazelnuts, berries, yellow jackets, bees, ants, larvae, trout, catfish, just about anything they can forage. While there are records of black bear hunting deer it isn’t very common.  They tend to be solitary animals, except for sows with cubs. Two is the most common number for cubs, but a female can have up to 6 in a litter.

While American Black Bears don’t hibernate in the true sense, they do reduce their metabolism drastically for a few months. Here in the Southeast, it tends to be about 3 months.

A lot of hunters will bait a black bear, in the states where it is legal. Baiting gives you the opportunity for a better identification as to the age and health of the bear. Some hunters bait with trail mix and a few pastries like honey buns or twinkies. Just don’t feed them chocolate – it is toxic to a bear just like it is to a dog. Set your bait up where the bear will have to go through some thick cover to get to it. Also, make sure it is near water.

Also, keep in mind that you want your tree stand to be about 15 feet away and about 15 feet high with dense vegetation behind you. Any higher and you’ll be less likely to get that double lung hit. Your goal is not only penetrating both lungs but to also have an exit wound. The exit wound is important for getting him dropped quickly, humanely, and safely.

14920960545_a658d054d1_z

Mourning Dove

Dove hunting is a highly social event – whole families will gather in the field to enjoy a day of shooting, picnicking, and fall weather. Mourning doves are slender-bodied birds with tiny heads that fly very quickly when startled – up to 55 mph.  They have a long pointed tail, which is a unique trait with North American dove species. While there are a number of other dove species in the Southeast, they will not be discussed in this article. Mourning doves coloring will vary slightly depending upon the region. They can be a light dainty brown to a greyish tan overall with a few black spots on the wings. They live all across the continental United States and they are the most abundant game bird in the country. You can even find mourning doves in the desert, which is due to their ability to drink water with saline content as high as sea water and not become dehydrated.

During courtship, the male will fly up noisily, and glide in a circular pattern. This is followed by a chest feather display on the ground. During the mating season, you will often see mourning doves fly in a line of three. The first one is the mated male, followed closely by a rival unmated, male. The rival is attempting to run the mated male away. The third is the mated female, who is just along for the show. In warmer regions, a mourning dove can raise up to six broods a year – which is far more than any other native bird species in the country.

When a mourning dove feeds, he is swallowing seeds as fast as he can. These seeds get stored in a special pouch in their esophagus called a crop, along with a few pieces of gravel. Once the crop has been filled the dove will fly to a perch and digest it. They have to consume 20% of their body weight a day in food, which is roughly 70 calories.  The record for the most seeds stored in a crop is a little over 17,000 blueberry seeds. Seeds make up for 99% of the mourning doves diet.

Doves are creatures of habit, which make them a great game to hunt. You want to scout out a place that is between their food source (such as a harvested field, preferably sunflower or corn) and their water source.  Doves respond well to decoys, just set out a few stationary decoys and you’ll be set.

Using a modified choke is a wise move when dove hunting. Most hunters give the birds a long lead – by about 6 feet, which ends up being about 6 inches of a gap between the front of your barrel and the bird. If the bird is flying away from you, let the bird appear to be floating on the top of your barrel before you shoot. And if the dove is coming in for a landing, wait until your barrel just hides the bird before you pull the trigger. Remember, a proper shotgun mount is critical to shooting well.

Unique Game in the Southeast

P1000708

Alligator

An American alligator can grow to an impressive 13 feet long and 800 lbs. They are typically black or a deep olive green with a light colored underside. There have not been any reliable records kept for how long an alligator will survive in the wild. The oldest in captivity is 80 years old.  Although alligators walk rather slowly, they can leap, climb, and run quickly on the dry ground.

American alligator can be found along the coast in the Gulf of Mexico and South Carolina. They prefer freshwater environments such as ponds, swamps, backwaters and can thrive in brackish waters as well. In Louisiana especially, alligators have been rather beneficial ecologically since they feed on the coypu and muskrat both of which have caused extensive damage to shorelines.

Remember to bring soap and a squeeze bottle of water with you. Alligator tend to have bacteria on their skin and you don’t want to get any in a cut or on your food. Hunting gator can be a safe sport – if done correctly. Below is a short synopsis I have compiled of how to conduct a safe gator hunt. Amazingly, a .44 mag if shot to the head of an average 10-foot gator will not kill it – only spray lead and bone up. They are incredibly designed creatures with thick armor-like skin. Gators are exceptionally good at hiding – you would think that a 10-foot long creature in a relatively small body of water would be easy to spot. But it’s quite the opposite. Gators are stealthy, and they can remain unseen when they choose to.

Hunting alligator is typically done with first casting a rod and hooking one. Don’t pull to set the hook – almost always the hook doesn’t penetrate and jerking it will make the alligator go a little crazy. Then a harpoon pole (with a dart line, attached to a float) and a bangstick are used to bring in and dispatch of the large gator. You want to harpoon him in the back of the head, thick part of the tail, or neck. Never in the head or back. The harpoon needs to be thrown or heavily jabbed. You can’t just push it in.

Never keep a loaded bangstick in your boat – always wait to load it when the gator is thoroughly exhausted from wrestling with the line and harpoon. It must be shot underwater and it must be to the back of the head. If you hit the top of the head, or not in enough water, you will spray bone and lead everywhere. You will know it is a thorough shot because you will see blood and you gator will drop limp.

This isn’t the end! Now, the real work begins. You have to find a way to get the gator out of the muck. Sometimes this has to be done with a wench and steel cables or a tractor! Pulling in a massive gator is as much a mental challenge as it is an immense physical one. Each gator hunt will be different.

One common method is this: You have to use your gaff and hook him under the bottom jaw to bring him in. If he starts to fight, pull out the gaff and use the bangstick again. Once you have him in close, pin him to the boat with his belly out and secure his jaws with electrical tape. Then use your knife to cut into the neck at the back of the head and sever the spine.

Important to remember to place your tag on the tale just as soon as you have him completely dispatched and secure.  Make sure he is dead and tied up securely before bringing him into your boat. A gator wallowing around can sink a boat quickly.

It’s very important to make sure his hide stays clean. Bug spray, oil, gas etc can damage it. Also, it’s good to bleed your gator for improving the taste of the meat – if you place his head in and then roll the body on his side it will help to bleed him.

Honorable Mentions

24814874300_7bedb6efe5_z

Feral Pig

The wild boar or feral pig has become quite a detrimental nuisance in the Southeast. Pigs will destroy well-maintained farmland in no time. Hunters often find acres and acres of land utterly destroyed by pigs. In some areas, farmers will pay hunters to reduce the number of pigs from their land. They are highly aggressive animals that breed rapidly. There are over 5 million feral pigs in America. Some scientists speculate that 70% of the population needs to be eradicated in order to prevent further growth.

Wild boar is an invasive species, their numbers and territory range have increased rapidly over the last 50 years.  They are also causing a lot of trouble with native species – killing fawn, destroying nests, and even killing young domestic livestock. Wild boar are host to at least 20 parasite worm species, many of which can infect humans too.

Wild boar are incredibly strong and agile. They can dig 10 cm into frozen ground and flip rocks weighing over 100 lbs. They have long protruding canine teeth that can be up to 5″ long. Adult males can weigh an average of 250 lbs and can jump an amazing 5 feet. The largest on record is from Alabama. It was over 9 feet long and weighed over 1,000 lbs.

Feral pigs feed on roots, tubers, rhizomes, bulbs, seeds, nuts, berries, earthworms, insects, leaves, bark, bird eggs, lizards, frogs, and even carrion and garbage. Pigs will eat just about everything.

Texas, Florida, and Louisiana are top places to hunt wild hogs. Wild boar are notoriously aggressive and hunting them is dangerous even for experienced hunters. Using predator calls is a good way to bring them out into the open – they are always ready for a fight. Another way of bringing them out is to play recordings of piglets in danger. Sows are very protective. It is a wise idea to invest in a kevlar vest for your hunting dog – a tusk can kill a dog in the blink of an eye.

Pigs prefer dawn and dusk but will venture out at just about any time. They prefer to travel around in small groups called Sounders. They have an excellent sense of smell and hearing, but their eyesight is relatively poor. Even the sound of a hunter clicking his safety off can be enough to spook a hog.

The vital target area on a pig is much smaller than that of a deer – and you need to have enough distance to be able to do a follow-up shot… or three or four. Pigs have a lot of energy and many hunters find it is hard to drop them on the first shot. One professional hunter, Jim “The Hogfather” Matthews, who publishes the California Hog Hunter Newsletter, has been quoted in saying “Imagine a 700 lb elk compressed into the body of a 250 lb animal” – you’re going to want some heavy duty ammo. One of the most important things about hog hunting is accuracy in shooting. Accuracy is everything in hog hunting, you can’t be a little close and call it good enough.

 

Five of the Top Game to Hunt in the Northeast

The northeastern states have hunting similar to what you would find in the southeastern region of Appalachia – deer, bear, etc. But it is also a fantastic place to hunt other game, like bobcat and the numerous waterfowl that migrate along the Atlantic Flyaway.

Hunting in the northeast region tends to be slightly different strategically than hunting in other regions. Old growth forests, reclamation timber, and orchards can be a little tricky. A lot of the timber project territories lack concentrated foodstuffs and the orchards can often lack bedding areas or undergrowth. The trick is to know your game species and their habits where you will be hunting.

28825699278_67710d0f05_z

Bobcat

The bobcat is a medium-sized brown cat with black spots. Its coat will be more of a grey in winter. The ears are large with short tufts at the top and a short tail (hence the name) A bobcat is around two feet tall at the shoulders and can weigh up to forty pounds. They have excellent hearing and eyesight.

Bobcats are found all over the United States and even Canada and Mexico. There are only a few places in the Midwest where they are not typically found. In some areas their numbers are quite high – New Hampshire has a large bobcat population in the several hundred. They are known as the Ghosts of the Forest because these nocturnal hunters are so rarely seen by most people. So far, I’ve only encountered three in the woods.

They eat a wide variety of small animals including groundhogs, squirrels, moles, raccoons, skunks, rabbits, and even larger prey like deer. They can live in a variety of habitats including desert, mountains, farmland and even swamps. They will den in either a rocky crevice or a hollow tree. They don’t spend a lot of time up in a tree, though they can climb well. Bobcats can also swim but would prefer not to.

Bobcats live primarily solitary lives and come together only for the mating season which is in February or March. Then around early May, the female will give birth to up to seven kittens. The kittens will stay with the mother for the first year. Bobcats can have a territory range anywhere from one mile to more than 35, this varies tremendously on the location. They mark their territory with scent markings, scat, urine, and scrapes. Scrapes are piles of debris and dirt that are marked with the cats’ scent.

Rabbits are their preferred prey, so look for rabbits when you are out hunting a bobcat. If you can see a place where a bobcat has made a kill, he will be close by. The first thing you should look for is the tracks. It’s useless to try to hunt a bobcat who happens to be miles away on the other side of his territory. The tracks will tell you a lot about the cat you are hunting too. It will show you want the type of cover structure he prefers, the bedding type he likes, where he feels safe enough to cross roads and creeks, and even his hunting methods. Bobcats tend to follow the same paths – even the same paths that the previous territory owner used. These bobcat trails will be used for many generations.

 

Bobcats respond well to calls – even one that has just eaten. Some hunters swear by motion decoys too since the cats hone in on motion and are extremely curious. It’s advisable to stand up when you are calling with your back against a tree so you can scan a wider area with your eyes. Position yourself with rocks or brush to break up your outline, but don’t be IN any undergrowth – the bush moving around will give away your position. You want to pick a spot with good visibility but also close to really dense cover – bobcats don’t like going out into the open. Avoid using coyote calls, and if you see a coyote you probably won’t see a bobcat.

 

Bobcats are oblivious to human scent – it’s just your movement or noise that will scare them off.  So no matter what happens, just hold still. If you shoot and miss hold very still and try making a call with your mouth – more often than not the bobcat will be curious and hold completely still long enough for you to get a follow-up shot.

 

Bobcats will stalk up to your range, they are known for creeping up and then standing completely still to determine the location of the call before moving in. It is easy to spook a bobcat – the key is to be completely still and patient. When you are sounding the call – make it sound as believable as possible. Don’t play a distressed rabbits call too loud or for too long. A 20-30 second interval with a few minutes in between is plenty adequate. And a rabbit squeal usually can’t be heard more than 70-80 yards away. After half an hour if you don’t hear or see anything, find your trail markings and move on another few hundred yards down the way and try again.

 

4821920761_deecbf65cd_z

Rabbits

The eastern cottontail is the most common rabbit in the United States and they are found all over from southern Canada all the way down to South America. The eastern cottontail has brown-grey fur with lighter fur on its nose and underside. The tail, of course, is white as cotton. In the northeast, there is also the New England cottontail, which looks very similar, but it has a black patch between its ears and is usually a little smaller.

Cottontails prefer the habitat that is just between the woods and the open land.  They can be in brushy undergrowth, fields, thickets and even swamps. They especially like briar brambles and honeysuckles. Rabbits eat a large variety of plants including grasses, clover, fruit, vegetables, twigs, and bark. They prefer the bark of dogwood, maple, birch, and oak. They are mostly nocturnal and like the early morning hours.

Cottontails can leap an amazing 10+ feet and run up to 15 miles an hour.  They are highly territorial and live mostly solitary lives. When being chased by a predator, the cottontail jumps in a zigzag pattern to break up its scent trail.

Cottontails will mate between February and September. The female will build a nest in a sunken place in the ground and line with fur from her chest and other soft materials. The babies are born after just one-month gestation and will have up to four litters a year. They are able to conceive just a couple of hours after giving birth.

Rabbits can be hunted with or without dogs. They can be taken with a bow, a .22 rifle, a pistol or a shotgun. Some people can hunt them with or without dogs. The rabbit will circle around their small home territory when flushed and run typically around a hundred yards or so and will eventually make their way back. Rabbits can’t stand to be outwaited. So when you find a good location, walk through it slowly. For every dozen or so steps and then stop and pause for 20-30 seconds. Rabbits will think they are spotted and try to make a run for it. Shooting rabbits is a very fast-paced hunt – there is no time to lead them and follow through. That means you need to have your gun at the ready with your trigger finger on the trigger guard.

 

39637607974_8b5ebb8bf5_z

Beaver

The beaver is the largest rodent in North America. They can be up to four feet long and weigh over sixty pounds. He uses his tail to balance when gnawing on trees and to slap on the water as a warning when he spots a predator. They have a special membrane over their eyes that allow them to open their eyes in the water. Its dark brown fur is covered in Castoreum, which is an oily substance that helps the water to bead off of it.

Beavers are found throughout all of North America except for Florida, the desert and the far north of Alaska. They live near rivers, ponds, lakes, streams, and marshes. Beavers build dams, which are their homes made out of sticks on mud islands or on shores. They are dome shaped and can be over ten feet tall. The floor is just a little over the water level and is covered in wood chips to help soak up the moisture. It is complete with a front door, under the water, and vents to let in the fresh air.  Not all beavers build dams, some will burrow into the river banks.

Beavers eat tree bark and Cambium – which is the soft tissue that grows under the bark of a tree. They prefer bark of maple, birch, willow, aspen, cottonwood, poplar, beech, and alder. They eat roots and buds of water plants too.

Beavers live in tight nit colonies – or family groups. They are highly territorial and will protect their dams from other beavers. Mating season is from January to March in the cold regions and in the south, it is in late November or December.  Beavers mate for life, and when one spouse dies they will find another. After about three months the female will give birth. Kits can swim within 24 hours of birth and are weaned after two weeks. Both parents take care of the young. Beavers will live to be around twenty years old.

Dams will have a positive and negative impact on the land. On the positive, it creates new wetland environments, which can slow erosion, foster new plant growth, and even purify the water. However, on the negative, they slow the flow of streams and cause silt to build up. This causes flooding in the low lying areas which are a big problem for agricultural areas.

Beavers are trapped because you can’t shoot into the water due to the ricochet effect. In the late fall and early spring, beaver are trapped in open water. During the winter, when fur quality is best, the traps are set through the ice. When setting a trap, make sure that the trigger is at the bottom to reduce fur damage. This also ensures that the beaver is killed quickly and humanely. There is a wide variety of traps available – please talk to local fur trappers to determine what works best in your area as some traps are better for certain geographies than others.

 

9371348505_9a139babd4_z

American Mink

The mink looks like a weasel, but is semi-aquatic, and is about two feet long. It has short stubby legs and a long neck. One-third of its body length is its tail. The American Mink has brown to black fur with a white chin and throat. Its fur is waterproof thanks to its oily guard hairs. There are 15 subspecies in North America, and the differences are primarily noted in slight fur variations.

Mink are found in most of the eastern half of the United States and the northern states up through Canada and Alaska. They prefer forested areas near streams or bodies of water, in which they spend a lot of their time. Mink can dive up to 16 feet deep! However, they are not dependent upon a body of water and will spend a large amount of time foraging in wooded areas.

They also will dig a den into river banks or use an abandoned beaver or muskrat den. They also den in rock crevices or brush piles. Mink never use the same den for long. They eat muskrats, beetles, fish, birds, mice, frogs, chipmunks and will even sneak into chicken pens where the chickens are fairly easy (contained) prey. The American Mink will mate between January and April. There are three to six kits born in a litter. The kits will stay with the mother until fall, otherwise, they are solitary.

Mink spray a foul-smelling fluid like a skunk, only they can’t aim. Interestingly, they also purr like a cat when happy. They are highly territorial and the males will fight other males that invade their territory – even to the death. Mink are highly tenacious and are able to kill animals much larger than themselves. They are predated upon by bobcat, coyotes, 03+owls, foxes etc.

Mink spend a lot of time traveling along the water’s edge, which is a great place to look for sign in the mud. Their prints are similar to otters but much smaller. They leave scat on prominent objects in their territory. Mink are hunted with traps such as the Coilspring, Jump Trap and Longspring.  These are used in either Blind Sets or Pocket Sets.

5461978788_f8e5f4fee1_z

Fox

The grey fox and the red fox are the two common species in North America. They are crepuscular and prefer to hunt at night. Fox are highly territorial and will mark the boundaries of their territory with urine. They breed in February and March and the male is responsible for bringing food back to the den. Greys and reds don’t like the same type of territory. Reds will prefer open areas and farmland. Greys will be in wooded areas and orchards. Fox will steal newborn lambs and goats and will eat chickens out of a hen house. They are notorious for killing just for fun.

Grey fox are found as far north as Canada and down to the central and southwestern states all the way down to Venezuela. Unlike the red fox, the grey fox tends to avoid agricultural areas. They den in hollow trees, burrows, and brush piles. They will line their den with grass and leaves.  Its back is a grey speckled color, with rusty red on its tail base, flanks, and legs. Its muzzle is black and it has a black stripe that goes from its eye down towards its neck. It’s the only member of the dog family that can climb trees and will do so to evade predators. The face of the grey fox is more round and feline looking.

Red fox looks very similar to the grey and is often misidentified. They are found in most of the United States except some areas in the southwest. It can be varying shades of grey and black on its back and a rust red on its tail, flank, and upper legs. Red fox looks like they are wearing black boots. This is a key feature in helping you get the identity correct. They also have black tipped ears and a white tipped tail. Their face is more narrow and dog-like than the grey.

Fox has an excellent sense of smell so make sure you hunt them with the wind to your face. Fox are hunted with calls and decoys. Decoy movement is key to success when calling if you are hunting in a group. The combo of decoy movement with calls reassures the fox that there is something small and furry that it can eat.

After you start off with the call of a rabbit in distress (or bird distress, especially chicken) it’s a good idea to switch to a fox in distress. Go through a few of these and change it out every few minutes. Once you spot a fox, take note of his behavior. If he is coming in strongly, mute the caller and watch the decoy go to work. If he is hesitant, or starts barking, play the canine puppy in distress sound. Some people hunt fox with dogs and some don’t.

 

Unique Game to Hunt in the Northeast

33079322944_fce6e41bb8_z

Waterfowl

With the Atlantic Flyway right smack dab in the middle of the Northeast, it’s an excellent place for hunting migratory waterfowl. Also, it’s a great place to hunt some of the great cold water coastal birds.

So get ready to hunt some Brant, Scaup, Eiders, Canvasbacks and Black Ducks this season!

Check out my article on Duck Hunting here.

Five Dog Breeds that Rock at Hunting

flickr wisconsin dept of natural resources

Hunters and their dogs have an amazing bond. When in action, they partner together in a smooth and seamless dance. Each one reading the motions of the other to function smoothly.

florida fish & wildlife flickr

Watching a dog perform the work that he was bred specifically to do, a dog who had those dominant traits honed in with precise training – it’s genuinely a beautiful sight. Every fiber of that dogs being is engaged and devoted to not only hunting but ENJOYING it. And ultimately, that’s one of the reasons why we hunt with dogs. They live for it just like we do.

flickr torrey wiley

There is really not much of a way to determine which dog breed is the BEST at hunting – it’s like comparing apples to oranges. There are many breeds that excel at hunting certain game and there are breeds that are good at working in certain environments. It’s best to research the dog best for whatever type of hunting you plan on doing.

Hunting Dog Breeds

English Springer Spaniel

photo-1515597849219-88a19d5f13f9

The English Springer Spaniel is a small compact dog with a beautiful shaggy coat.  They grow to about 20 inches tall and weigh up to 45 pounds.  Springers have a lush, double coat that is white and brown. The field-bred in this breed differs from the show-bred in that the field-bred tends to be slightly smaller and have more white in their coat. The AKC considers them the very same, though the gene pools have been segregated for over years. The field-bred also tends to have a shorter coat, shorter ears, a more pointy nose. While both are great at hunting, the field-bred will out hunt the show-bred.

Spaniels originated in Spain. There are even accounts in Welsh law documents in 300 A.D. where spaniels were mentioned. There is artwork in the 16th-century artwork of hunting scenes with spaniels that closely resembles the English Springer Spaniel. Then, the spaniels were used to flush out the birds from the dense brush so that the hunter’s falcon could catch the prey. It wasn’t until 1903 that the England Kennel Club had a classification for the breed.

adorable-animal-animal-photography-1191000

These dogs were bred with the endurance to enjoy long days in the field. English Springer Spaniels are high energy dogs, but they are not typically considered hyperactive.  This means they don’t make very good house dogs, but they do good with children. They need room to run. When in the field they run across it in a zig-zag pattern with a smooth stride.

They received their name from the way they “spring” at game – flushing it out of hiding. That’s where the Springer Spaniel really shines: flushing out birds that prefer dense cover such as pheasants, bob-white quail, ruffed grouse, and woodcock. They can duck hunt, and retrieve open country birds, but the English Springer Spaniel is phenomenal with pheasant hunting.

English Springer Spaniel ,Female

Springers are easily trainable and considered people-pleasers. They love company and participating in family activities. Designed to hunt at close range, typically no more than 30 yards, they do need to be trained on a few command words. English Springer Spaniels can be just as stubborn as a Chesapeake but most tend to be very eager to please and happy to be helping. English Springer Spaniels need a gentle hand in training and they have a tendency to sulk. But like many other high bred hunting dogs, they are known to reach a point in their life where they will test you and in such times a more firm response is recommended. Thankfully, this isn’t often a situation you’ll see a repeat of. But just like other spaniels – they bounce out of their bad moods quickly.

English Springer Spaniels are also used frequently as therapy dogs because of their compassionate eyes and disposition to please. They are great therapy dogs especially for the sick and elderly. My grandparents had an English Springer Spaniel named Champ who was extremely intelligent and loved dove hunting. It was always amazing getting to watch him run.

Chesapeake Bay Retriever

Chesapeake_Bay_Retriever1 wikicommons

Chessies are affectionate, sensitive and stubborn. They can get up to 26 inches tall and up to 80 pounds. They are known for their distinctive coat: wavy and oily to the touch. This oil slick helps them to shed water and be able to tolerate cold waters. Their jaws are strong enough to carry heavy game birds and they can be gentle enough to carry an egg. They also have webbed toes. This is an ideal combination for a duck hunters companion. Chessies come in three colors, Brown (of the chocolate variety), Sedge (a reddish brown), and Deadgrass (tan). Their eyes are bright amber.

Chessies are very trainable, but they have a mind of their own so training may take longer with them than with other breeds. They are not overly friendly to strangers and are extremely protective of their owners, which makes them great watchdogs. Chessies are highly intelligent and courageous. Training requires a gentle hand as they surprisingly get their feelings hurt pretty easily.

Golden_and_Chessie_Duck_Harvest wikicommons

Many trainers say that Chessies have to understand why they are doing the task before they will do it – or else their independent streak will take over. The key to training a Chessie is consistency. They are good with children and other animals. Chesapeake Retrievers are determined dogs – they work hard and are quite powerful.

The breed originated in 1807. The story goes that a pair of Newfoundlands were found in an English shipwreck near the Chesapeake Bay. These two dogs bred with other retrievers, English Otterhounds, Irish Setter, etc. After a couple of years, the Chesapeake Retriever was created. in 1878 the breed was recognized by the AKC

Appalachian Coon Hound

turkey trot acres lodge photo featuring dogs Shot and Kelly

John Byrne of Virginia is the man most responsible for the Appalachian Turkey Dog. Mr. Byrne passed away in 2012. Just over 40 years ago, he bred several great hunting dog breeds and came out with a dog that is considered one of the best dogs for hunting turkey in the world, especially for fall turkey season. The Appalachian Turkey Dog may have feathering on their hindquarters and tail that they inherited from the English Setter. It got its genes for tracking, barking, and chasing from the Plott Hound and has the drive, speed, and stamina from its Pointer ancestors.

Boykin Spaniels and English Setters are often used for hunting turkey, but for many hunters, they can’t hold a candle to an Appalachian Turkey Dog. Though the Appalachian Turkey Dog is not officially recognized by the AKC, it is still worth considering when looking into a hunting dog. The American Wild Turkey Hunting Dog Association does recognize them. Since it isn’t an “official” breed, there are not a lot of stats on the dogs size, but generally they are smaller dogs.

appalachian turkey dog

Turkey Dogs cast ahead, keeping an eye on your position, and find flocks of turkey. When the dog finds the turkey flock, he flushes at them, getting them to scatter. As the dog is getting them to scatter, the hunter sets up where they were gathered. Then the dog comes back and waits patiently while the hunter calls the turkey. Turkeys are social creatures. They want to be in a group and will call one another in an effort to locate each other. The hunter calls and lures the turkey towards the blind so that they can be harvested.

So while the Appalachian Turkey Dog may not be on the AKC registry, if you are an avid turkey hunter, you may do well to consider one of these for your hunting companion.

(Thank you Turkey Trot Acres for the picture of dogs Shot and Kelly!)

Bluetick Coon Hound

BluetickCoonhound wikimedia commons

Blueticks are beautiful dogs with a musical baying bark. They are fantastic hunting dogs that do well on nocturnal hunts. They can grow up to 27 inches tall and weigh up to 80 pounds. They got their name from the “ticked” or mottled black and blue coat pattern.

The breed began with General George Washington. He recieved 5 hounds from the Marquis de Lafayette. These dogs were Grand Gascon Saintongeois and Grand Bleu de Gascogne. They bred and then later were mixed with the fast running English Foxhound to create what we know as the Bluetick around 1900. It wasn’t until 1945 that they were recognized as a breed by the AKC.

Blueticks excell at night time hunting with thier sharp eyesight. They can track in bad weather just as good as pleasant weather. They have an unshakable tracking instinct. Though slower than other types of hounds, their determination and instinct to chase stands out. The Bluetick is fantastic at finding game on trails thought to have “gone cold.”

Interstingly Blueticks not only bay when they tree their prey, but they bugle throughout the hunt. Hunters can learn what each of their distinctive calls mean to know how to partner with his hound better when hunting. Blueticks are aboslutely fearless and will even pursue bear.

When training a Blueetick, they are headstrong and a little obstinate like other hounds – so strong consistency is key. They are highly intelligent and are good at figuring things out. All hounds have a bit of a sense of humor – they can be slighly clumsy and always want to know “what’s in it for them” during training. But the Bluetick on average is less clumsy than some other hound breeds. Blueticks are deeply devoted to thier owners and are quite affectionate. They tend to be wary of strangers but do well with children. They tend to not do well with smaller pets. Like all working-dogs, they need to have their energy used or else they find ways of getting into trouble.

German Short-haired Pointer

flickr. meganrae german shorthair pointer

German Shorthaired Pointers are often called regal looking. They have friendly dark eyes and their coat can come in Liver, Black, Roan with white. They can grow up to 25 inches tall and weigh up to 70 pounds. They were bred with a great deal of endurance, and speed. They are extremely loyal dogs who develop a deep bond with thier owners.

The breed developed in the 17th century in Germany. They are a cross between German tracking hounds, a Spanish Pointer, and an English Foxhound. They have an extroidinary keen sense of smell. in 1925 Dr. Charles Thornton brought the breed to American and began breeding them.

The German Shorthaired Pointer makes a great family pet. They do well with other pets, children and even do well indoors – as long as they received daily excersize to burn off thier high energy levels. They learn fast and are relatively easy to train. German Shorthaired Pointers have a strong prey drive and retrieve well. They also point beautifully.

An all around versatile hunting dog, one that is said to almost “hunt straight out of the box.” They remain one of the main dog breeds in various hunting contests. It will hunt upland gamburds, waterfowl, and even rabbits and other small game. The German Shorthaired Pointer is quite brave and will track wild boar, fox, and even a wounded deer.

2068887932_137114cf26_o

A Guide on Plants Poisonous to the Touch

Plants can ruin your day

Spending time in the woods is a wonderful way to help eliminate stress. There is not hardly anything so peaceful as the cold earth under your feet and the first light of dawn peaking over the ridge and through the trees. One horrible experience for many hunters is to get good and nestled in a hide of undergrowth waiting on a buck to walk by and to leave with only a terribly itchy rash caused by unidentified poisonous plants. This guide is meant to help you prevent that from happening. The old adage of “leaf of three let it be; hairy vine no friend of mine” can be helpful – but if you go solely by that then you’ll be avoiding many safe plants needlessly.

Poison Ivy & Poison Oak

Poison Ivy and Poison Oak are plants that are often confused. They are both a part of the Toxicodendron genus and Anacardiaceae family. Both have three leaf sets that join together at a central reddish point and alternate on either side of the stem. The middle leaf is often slightly longer (this is more noticeable in Poison Ivy) than the two side leaves. Poison Oak is not quite as common as Poison Ivy as it prefers sandy soil. It seems to be most common in the East and Northwest.

Poison_Ivy_(6074193937)

Poison Oak’s leaves can sometimes have rounded lobes – those that look rather similar to an oak leaf. Poison Oak leaves are not always lobed like oak. They can also be rounded, or scalloped, or toothed. Sometimes they are shiny and other times dull.  Sometimes serrated and sometimes not. Poison Oak can grow like a shrub, on stalks close to the ground, or on a vine. It’s not hard to see why this plant is so easily misidentified. These toxic plants will imitate the leaf shapes of the plants around it. If the plant gets full sun, it tends to grow like a shrub. If it is in the shade in the woods it tends to be a vine or on short stalks.

Poison Oak also has hairs on both sides of the leaves, whereas Poison Ivy only has hairs on one side. It can grow six feet tall and can have yellow, white, or green berries. In the fall, the leaves turn bright red and in the winter the leaves fall off. Poison Oak has leaves that are 2-8″ long and  1-5″ wide.

Poisonoak

Poison Oak and Poison Ivy lack thorns – which is a key feature in distinguishing it from wild blackberries (which can have three to five leaves per stem.) The vine can get up to 2″ in diameter and 40 feet long. The vine appears “hairy” from all the tiny roots sprouting from it. They are also often confused with the Box Elder. The Box Elder has leaves that are arranged opposite each other along the stem instead of alternating like on Poison Ivy. Climbing Hydrangea vines are also hairy, but their leaves only have a couple of shallow teeth or are smooth. The Climbing Hydrangea also has leaves positioned opposite on the stem.

Poison Ivy grows in all the US states except Hawaii, Alaska, Oregon, and California. It can grow 4′ tall as ground cover on stems or as a hairy vine. Its berries tend to be a greyish white. Poison Ivy can grow in shady areas but tends to prefer more sunlight, so you’ll find it more often on the edges of the woods. The leaves can be 1-4″ long, but in great conditions can double that. Poison Ivy’s leaf shapes are just about as variable as that of Poison Oak.

Poison_ivy-20141524-042

Poison Oak and Ivy Plants actually have quite a number of useful purposes. It can survive in fairly toxic soil that can’t sustain a lot of other plant life. This provides habitat and brush in which to hide for small critters and bugs. Over 50 native bird species use Poison Oak and Poison Ivy for shelter, nesting materials or the berries for food. Many insects consume the stalks and leaves. Deer, bear, elk, raccoons, horses, rats and squirrels will eat the leaves.

Many Native Americans utilized Poison Oak and Poison Ivy Plants. The Chumash Indians consumed the leaves, stems, and roots. They were able to do so by building up an immunity. Only 15% of the population is immune to the Urushiol Oil, their T-Lymphocyte cells simply do not recognize Urushiol. I built up an immunity to it over the years too. However, many people are extremely allergic to Urushiol, so I don’t recommend you trying to become immune. Many people report the opposite effect – overexposure causes them to be more sensitive, their T-cells recognize it very quickly and formulate an immune response quickly.

stock-photo-poison-ivy-on-the-arm-32938438

When the skin comes in contact with Urushiol, it causes a chemical reaction with your skin that can develop into an allergy response. This can be as simple as redness or a patch of tiny, itchy, clear, blisters. For some, this goes away in a couple of days. For others, it can become a problem for weeks. These lesions can pop up within minutes to up to 21 days after initial exposure. Severe reactions include fever and difficulty breathing and occurs in 10-15% of individuals and these reactions require medical treatment usually in the form of steroids.

When you come in contact with Poison Oak or Poison Ivy Plants a great way to prevent an immune response is to remove the Urushiol. Changing your clothes and washing with dish soap (scrubbing for several minutes) and then rinsing with rubbing alcohol removes a great deal of the toxic oil.

orange-jewelweed-2827104__340

If you start to notice a bit of redness, then you can apply Lavender Essential Oil. Jewelweed (also known as Impatiens or Touch Me Not) is a native plant whose juices neutralize Urushiol. The Homeopathy remedy Rhus Tox in is made from extremely diluted Poison Ivy and can be helpful in alleviating the rash. Also after the rash sets in witch hazel can help in drying up the blisters. Aloe can help heal the damaged skin and apple cider vinegar can help alleviate the itching.

Poison Sumac

Another Toxicodendron is Poison Sumac. It grows like a small shrub or a small tree and branches out at the base. Poison Sumac Plants prefers wetlands and higher pH soil. It has berries that look similar to Poison Ivy’s, that are greyish white. Its leaves and bark are smooth. Poison Sumac has 7-15 leaflets per stem. The leaves are oblong with pointy tips and have red veins. It is a very pretty leaf! Each leaf is 1’4″ long and up to 2″ wide. They are arranged in pairs along the stem.

sumac

Many people confuse Virginia Creeper with young Poison Sumac. While people who tend to be highly sensitive to Toxicodendron may find themselves slightly sensitive to Virginia Creeper, the Virginia Creeper is not generally considered a toxic plant. There are non-toxic varieties of Sumac. These prefer well-drained soil and have red berries in the fall.

virginia-creeper-195124__340

Poison Sumac berries grow in clusters at the base of the stem that hang down like grapes. Staghorn Sumac and Winged Sumac have red berries that grow at the tip of the stip in clusters that point up. Poison Sumac also has smooth and hairless stems whereas the non-toxic varieties tend to be fuzzy.

staghorn sumac

Poison Sumac has very high concentrations of Urushiol and many people consider it one of the most toxic plants in America. Its prevention and treatment are the same as with Poison Ivy and Poison Oak. It is not as commonly found as Poison Ivy or Poison Oak because of its preference for wetlands. There are connections between certain food allergies to severe Urushiol allergies. So if you have a bad reaction to pistachios, mangos or cashews, it probably would be best for you to avoid Toxicodendron!

Poisonwood & Manchineel

Is not a tree that is very often encountered by hunters – unless you’re in southern Florida. It is in the family Anacardiaceae, which is the family to which Sumacs and Cashews belong. The Poisonwood Tree is an evergreen flowering tree that produces Urushiol oil like Poison Ivy and Poison Oak.

poisonwood

Poisonwood Tree grows to be 25-35 feet tall. The tree has a short trunk with long arching branches.  Its bark can vary in color from a greyish hue to dark reddish-brown, depending on the age of the tree and the habitat. Older trees tend to flake off the bark in patches. Poisonwood Tree bark also looks like it has oily patches, which is actually sap. The leaves are green and very glossy with the underside being duller. Each leaf has a bright yellow central vein. They grow in groups of about 5, but the number can vary a bit. It grows a cluster of yellowish orange fruit that hangs. This fruit is food to a large number of local and migratory birds. The endangered White Crowned Pigeon particularly seemed to be fond of this fruit.

Even the rainwater dripping off the leaves can contain enough Urushiol to cause an allergic contact dermatitis. In fact, only one billionth of a gram of Urushiol is sufficient to cause a reaction in most people. The Urushiol content in the Poisonwood trees leaves, bark and sap are 100 times more potent than other native plants like Poison Ivy and Poison Oak.

Another plant native to Florida is the Manchineel Tree, also known as Beach Apple. It’s also known by the Spanish name manzanilla de la muerte, which translates to “little apple of death”  Ingesting the fruit can be fatal. Every part of the tree is highly poisonous.

manchineel

Manchineel is in the family Euphorbia, which makes it related to the Poinsettia. The Poinsettia is toxic to consume, but the Manchineel is toxic even to touch. Many Outdoorsmen have mistakenly walked under this tree and the leaves simply brushing against their face was enough to cause temporary blindness. The milky white sap leaves burns on the skin. Hippomane mancinella, which translates to “little apple that makes horses mad.”

It grows amongst Mangos and its root system helps to stabilize the sand erosion. It can grow up to 49 feet tall. The leaves are about 2-4″ long and are shiny green.  Unfortunate individuals claim that the fruit is very sweet, but soon after swallowing it starts to burn your throat until you feel your throat starting to swell. Interestingly enough, the black-spined iguana is able to consume the fruit where many other birds and animals are not able to. Even more baffling, the iguana is not native whereas the native species are unable to consume its fruit.

Though there are no deaths recorded in modern literature, historically there are numerous accounts of the fatalities from this toxic tree. The Caribs were known to poison the water of their enemies with the leaves from the Manchineel tree. Famous explorer Ponce de Leon supposedly died from an arrow coated in Manchineel sap.

Parsnips & Hogweed

plants

Several plants mentioned in this section closely resemble one another. Wild Parsnip, Queens Anne Lace, Giant Hogweed, Poison Hemlock, Elderberry, and Angelica plants all have wide leaves with a tall stem and a cluster of pale flowers. Most act as biennials – meaning the first summer is spent growing their leaves and the second is for flowering. Several of those plants can be seen here.

Wild Parsnip, Cow Parsnip, and Hogweed plants are very toxic and very problematic when they come in contact with your skin.  Their sap contains toxins that cause severe burns when exposed to sunlight.  Giant Hogweed has the most severe reaction of the three and can even cause blindness.

wildparsnip

Wild Parsnips are found in most of the United States and are the only one on the list that can have yellow flowers. It is an invasive species. It prefers sunny areas and calcareous soil but is easily adaptable to the environment. The stem is grooved and hollow. Its leaves have saw-tooth edges and resemble celery. Parsnip is a root vegetable closely related to carrots. In fact, Parsnip looks like a pale carrot. It becomes very sweet if left in the ground until after the winter frost.  Parsnip root can be consumed raw or cooked and is very high in minerals particularly potassium. Wild parsnip can have yellow or sometimes white flowers in rosettes. It can grow 2-5 feet tall and has hairless, grooved stems. Great care must be taken in harvesting – proper identification and wearing gloves.

cow-parsnip-flowers-1764033__340 - Copy

Cow Parsnip, or Common Hogweed, is endangered in the state of Kentucky and is considered a special concern species in Tennessee. It can grow typically between 4-10 feet tall and has fuzzy, grooved stems. Cow Parsnip has thorns along its stem. Its leaves grow to be typically 1-1.5 feet wide and serrated. The palm-shaped, fuzzy leaves radiate at the end of the stalk in a semi-circle and are divided into three segments. Cow Parsnip blooms in May. It has white lacey flowers that grow in a flat top cluster and can be nearly 1 foot wide. There will be 15-30 rays per cluster of flowers. For most people, just touching the leaves of the Cow Parsnip will not result in any blisters – it takes getting the “juice” of the stems and leaves on your skin.

giant hogweed - Copy

Giant Hogweed is an invasive species that is native to Asia. It grows regularly to 6′ tall and can reach up to 18′. The stems are thick, hollow, have ridges and purple spots. Contact with the leaves causes phytophotodermatitis, which means burns and blisters when the area is exposed to sunlight. Its leaves can grow up to five feet in width. The smooth leaves have deeply incised lobes. Giant Hogweed has umbrella-shaped flower clusters that can grow over two feet in width. There can be 50 or more rays per flower cluster.

angelica-400956__340

The other plants that look very similar need to be mentioned. Angelica is not toxic to touch and is only toxic when consuming extremely high doses of the root or essential oil. Its stems and roots are edible. It actually is very helpful medicinally for menstrual issues as well as digestive and respiratory, but great care needs to be taken in harvesting since it so closely resembles Poison Hemlock. Angelica can grow up to 9 feet tall and has a smooth, waxy, purple stem up to 2.5″ in diameter. The leaves are compound and can be up to 2 feet wide. Angelica has softball sized flower white flower clusters.

27890512112_b2b63d4cc1_z

Poison Hemlock is deadly even if only a small amount is ingested. Its toxins can suffocate the victim in as little as 15 minutes. Native American’s once used Hemlock to poison the tips of their arrows. It typically grows between 3-8 feet tall and has a hollow, hairless, waxy stem. The stems have many branches and have ridges and purple spots. Poison Hemlock smells musty, almost like a mouse. Its leaves are bright, shiny and fern-like. Poison Hemlock leaves can be a foot long and 4″ wide. The white flower clusters are loose and lack the purple heart at the center. They are flat topped and are on all branches.

Hemlock_Water_Dropwort._Oenathe_crocata._Umbelliferae_-_Flickr_-_gailhampshire

There are a few varieties of Hemlock. Spotted Water Hemlock grows about the same height and has smooth, hollow stems. It also can have purple spots or stripes. Water Hemlock has toothed, oval leaflets. Its white lacey flowers branch off the main stem.

789676803_b9a84dce52_b

Queens Anne Lace is an invasive species. Some people are sensitive and have similar burns and blisters as with the other species mentioned. Queens Anne Lace is very toxic when consumed. It grows up to 4 feet high. Queens Anne Lace has feathery leaves with fine hairs on them. Its stems are branched and hairy. Its dense, white flowers can be 5″ across. What is most helpful is locating the dark “heart” at the center of the flower cluster. This helps to differentiate it from Poison Hemlock.

elderberry

Black Elderberry looks much more like a woody shrub than any of the others. It too has a white cluster of flowers. These flowers can grow up to 8″ across and the shrub can grow up to 8 feet high. The leaves are compound and can have up to eleven elliptical leaflets. Syrup made from the berries is a phenomenal tonic and immune booster. Its leaves are serrated and form on opposite ends of the stem, unlike the alternating leaf pattern of the Water Hemlock.  The berry clusters droop where they connect to their woody stems. This is helpful in differentiating it from the Dwarf Elderberry whose berry clusters stand upright.

Nettles & Stinging Flowers

The Common Nettle (also known as the Stinging Nettle)  and the Wood Nettle are two other native plants to look out for. The leaves and stems are covered in tiny hairs. Many of these hairs are soft and do not sting. But these Nettles also have many hairs whose tip breaks off and acts as a needle injecting multiple chemicals into the skin causing a painful sting. The beautiful green leaves can grow from one to six inches long. They are widely oval with coarsely toothed edges.

stinging-nettle-785292__340

Nettle grows up to 3-4 feet tall in the summer and dies down in the winter. Stinging Nettle tends to be slightly taller than Wood Nettle and is found throughout the US. Its flowers can be yellow, green, white, or purple. Stinging Nettle has leaves that are opposite each other whereas Wood Nettle has leaves that alternate. Wood nettle has flowers on the top of the plant and Stinging Nettle has flowers on the sides of its stems.

Wood_Nettle_(1026204623) (1)

Nettle is a frequently foraged herb. It tastes very similar to spinach and is high in nutrients such as Vitamin A, C, Manganese and can be up to 25% protein. By soaking the leaves in water the stinging chemical are removed. They should not be harvested after the plant starts flowering as it changes chemically and can cause digestive issues. Medicinally, Stinging Nettle has been harvested to treat kidney and cardiovascular issues among other things.

stinging-nettle-3474401__340

The False Nettle, Snakeroot, and Clearweed VERY closely resemble Stinging and Wood Nettle but lack the stinging hairs. Being able to tell the difference is very important when you are out in the woods.  Their leaves are very similar in shape. Clearweed is more smooth than Wood Nettle, False Nettle, or Stinging Nettle. And Snakeroot is somewhere in the middle as far as roughness.

Pilea pumila, 2015

Later in the year, the stem of Clearweed becomes rather translucent and flexible, which makes it more easy to distinguish it from its counterparts. Snakeroot has flowers at the top and Clearwood and False Nettle have flowers along the sides of the stems. When the Snakeroots flowers are fully opened, they resemble actual flowers much more so than any of these – but before they are fully opened it can be a little hard to tell!

Boehmeria_cylindrica_-_Smallspike_false_nettle

False Nettle, Snakeroot, and Clearweed lack the stinging hairs and their leaves are paired in opposites along the stem. False Nettles leaves are slightly fuzzy and have a rough appearance. Other plants that rather resemble these are Self Heal, Marsh Hedge Nettle, Horehound, White Deadnettle, and Hemp Nettle.

white-snakeroot-2682051__340

Scorpionweed is found primarily in desert regions. It is a beautiful small purple flower. It got its name not because of the sting it leaves, but because the flower is top heavy and curls over much like a scorpion tail. Poodle-dog Bush is found in California. It stinks, but it has really pretty purple flowers on a long stalk. It also has tiny hairs that cause stinging blisters. Stinging Lupine also grows along the coastal region in California. It has tiny purple or dark pink flowers shaped in a whirl and stiff hairs that sting the skin. It will also cause birth defects if eaten by cattle.

desert plants

Tread-softly, also known as Finger-rot or bull-nettle, is primarily found in Florida but is all over the Southeast. The beautiful white five-lobed, trumpet-shaped flower sits on stalks covered in large spiky hairs. The seeds come in small spike covered pods that bob-white quail and other songbirds love. Its leaves are lobed and similar to an oak leaf. The roots are edible – but they can be four feet deep underground.  The leaves too when cooked are edible. They are harvested for many uses: insomnia, scorpion stings, brain function, diabetes etc.

treadsoftly

20 of the Best Hunting Quote of All Time

First published here

A good quote resonates in your soul.

It sticks with you. Some of these quotes are from people you have heard of, and some will be from names new to you. A few of the names are repeated, as they are from individuals who had a plethora of knowledge about the outdoors that is worth remembering. I have gathered a list of great hunting quotes that every outdoorsman should know. They speak to the art of hunting, the deep commitment to conservation, the love for proper land management, and the respect for the animals harvested that non-hunters will never fully understand.

20 of the Best Hunting Quotes of All Time

  • Henry David Thoreau – “When some of my friends have asked me anxiously about their boys, whether they should let them hunt, I have answered yes – remembering that it was one of the best parts of my education – make them hunters.”

_no-free-man-shall-ever-be-debarred-the-use-of-arms._-thomas-jefferson

  • Aldo Leopold – “A peculiar virtue in wildlife ethics is that the hunter ordinarily has no gallery to applaud or disapprove of his conduct. Whatever his acts, they are dictated by his own conscience, rather than by a mob of onlookers. It is difficult to exaggerate the importance of this fact.”
  • Donald Trump, Jr. – “Hunting forces a person to endure, to master themselves, even to truly get to know the wild environment. Actually, along the way, hunting and fishing make you fall in love with the natural world. This is why hunters so often give back by contributing to conservation.”

happy-valentine-s-day

  • Saxton Pope – “The real archer when he goes afield enters a land of subtle delight. The dew glistens on the leaves, the thrush sings in the bush, the soft wind blows, and all nature welcomes him as she has the hunter since the world began. With the bow in his hand, his arrows softly rustling in the quiver, a horn at his back, and a hound at his heels, what more can a man want in life?”

through-almost-all-of-human-existence-huntable-land-and-huntable-wildlife-have-preceded-the-hunter.-they-caused-the-hunter.-but-in-the-future-this-must-be-reversed.-it-is-the-hunter-who-

  • Archibald Rutledge – “It has always seemed to me that any man is a better man for being a hunter. This sport confers a certain constant alertness and develops a certain ruggedness of character… Moreover, it allies us to the pioneer past. In a deep sense, this great land of our was won for us by hunters.”

_that-rifle-on-the-wall-of-the-laborer-s-cottage-or-working-class-flat-is-the-symbol-of-democracy.-it-is-our-job-to-see-that-it-stays-there._

  • Henry David Thoreau – “You must not only aim right but draw the bow with all your might.”

i-do-not-hunt-for-the-joy-of-killing-but-for-the-joy-of-living-and-the-inexpressible-pleasure-of-mingling-my-life-however-briefly-with-that-of-a-wild-creature-that-i-respect-admire-and-v

  • Theodore Roosevelt – “The great body of our citizens shoot less as time goes on. We should encourage rifle practice among schoolboys, and indeed among all classes…”

_if-you-are-not-working-to-protect-hunting-

  • Pete Dunne – “When I was young, I was a hunter, walking wooded hillsides with confident steps and a gun in my hand. I knew the blur of wings, the rocketing form, and the Great Moment that only hunters know when all existence draws down to two points and a single line. And the universe holds its breath. And what may be and what will be meet and become one – before the echo returns to its source.”

_there-s-an-absolute-surety-to-the-hands-on-conservation-lifestyle-of-hunting-fishing-and-trapping-where-you-know-you-re-going-to-consume-today._

  • John James Audobon – “Hunting, fishing, drawing, and music occupied my every moment. Cares I know not, and cared naught about them.”

_when-done-under-the-rules-of-good-sportsmanship-duck-hunting-is-the-culmination-of-art-skill-and-scientific-endeavor.-it-is-also-an-act-of-love-for-who-loves-the-birds-more-than-the-hun

  • Henry David Thoreau – “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”
  • Fred Bear – “Nothing clears a troubled mind like shooting a bow.”

_in-a-civilized-and-cultivated-country-wild-animals-only-continue-to-exist-at-all-when-preserved-by-sportsmen.-the-excellent-people-who-protest-against-all-hunting-and-consider-sportsmen

Women in Taxidermy – Part Three

As first published here

Amy CarterAMY CARTER OF AMY’S ANIMAL ART TAXIDERMY

Taxidermy has interested Amy since she was 13. “Now, I had never been a girly-girl, and had always had unique interests and hobbies as a kid growing up, so picking up taxidermy as hobby came as no great shock to my family. It all started one day while out on the family farm, I came across a dead King-snake. I thought the pattern of the hide was so interesting I wanted to turn it into a belt.”

Amy was home-schooled, which equipped her to be great at learning whatever she sets her mind to. She went straight inside and researched how to tan a snake hide.

“While I was researching, I came across taxidermy websites and instantly realized that taxidermy was something that I wanted to try. Early on, I practiced on whatever I could get my hands on, particularly road kills, and rat that I raised for my pet snake’s food. As I became more involved, I made friends with other taxidermists who began to donate better specimens for me to practice on.”

Taxidermy was just the right fit for her as a kid to get started in. The price for a license varies from state to state – and where Amy lives it was only $15.

“As a kid starting out, I had very little funds and was able to use as many common household supplies for my taxidermy, as well as making my own bodies for small animals out of things such as newspaper and tape. While these days I don’t advocate doing it the archaic way that I started out, it was fun and making my own body forms from scratch forced me to learn a lot about animal anatomy.”

“Many taxidermists are open to taking on apprentices, and that can be a great way to learn. The optimum way would be to take a taxidermy course with a qualified teacher, which can range anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks long depending on which course you choose.”

Amy Carter - Alaskan Wolverine

Amy’s Alaskan Wolverine

Amy has come a long way from using newspaper and duct tape – now she is dedicated to educating others. “I recently began teaching my own taxidermy classes, and they have been very popular, especially among women who may feel safer or more relaxed learning from another woman. I would also suggest joining your state taxidermy association and attending their annual convention. There you can meet other taxidermist, attend seminars on a wide variety of topics, and view some beautiful examples of taxidermy.”

More and more women are showing interest in this art form. When Amy first got started there were just a few women taxidermist in the field. “In my experience, I received nothing but kindness from male taxidermists I met. They saw me as a bit of a novelty, yes, but were eager to help me learn more and I owe them for where I am today. I also get a great amount of respect from my customers, many who come out of state to bring me their trophy. I attribute this to the quality of work that I do, not just because I am female. Several customers have mentioned their trust ‘of a woman’s touch’.”

“People do tend to see a female taxidermist as a curiosity and I believe this helps me in a very positive way… I have a large following on social media, more so than many of my male counterparts. I’ve sensed a bit of jealousy in this area, from other taxidermists – even though I want to be known for my talents and not my gender… but if it helps promote my business, I won’t complain.”

Amy Carter - BobcatTongueOut

Amy’s Bobcat Taxidermy

Amy is indeed talented. Her bobcat head mount with his tongue sticking out is absolutely remarkable. Most tongues that I have seen in taxidermy are so fake looking they are laughable, but this looks very much alive.

Amy used to do pet taxidermy. She has chosen to no longer accept any, due to the close connection people have with their pets, and the sensitive emotions surrounding their death. “I had one fellow call me one night and tell me that he was brining his dog to me. As I went to hang up the phone, he said ‘I’ll be there just as soon as I can dig him up’. Sure enough, the dog had been buried for a day before they decided that they just couldn’t let go!”

She had a lot of really funny stories. “I had a lady who wanted her cat turned into a rug, and the remains shipped back to her, all the way to Hawaii. From what I heard, there was a lavish ceremony with music and rose petals, and they tied rocks to the carcass and threw it into the sea…. And there’s always the occasional call for someone asking if I’ll stuff their Grandmaw.”

Amy Carter - Bobcat

Amy’s Perching Bobcat Taxidermy

Her art goes beyond traditional taxidermy. She makes fur pillows; upholstered stools; antler carvings; jewelry made from bone, teeth, and claws. “I support any form of taxidermy – after all, it is preserving an animal that would otherwise just have rotted. There’s something really cool about that!” Her style tends to be mainly traditional, but a lot of her woodwork and habitat bases lean towards the modern trend of less-is-more. “I like to showcase the animal and not necessarily clutter the scene with too much grass or other material.”

Amy has had her share of trouble from animal rights activists, who seem to love to give her bad ratings on Facebook anonymously. She responds to them kindly, by asking logical questions but never gets a response. “There will always be those that don’t agree with hunting, and the taxidermy that comes from it. To me, I see it as a beautiful way to use EVERY part of the animal. Ethical hunters respect and use as much of their game as they are able to.”

And it definitely takes someone who respects wildlife so much to be able to stuff them in such detail that they seem full of vibrant life. And the bobcat standing perched on a log – it looks like it has just paused a moment to watch its prey. It’s hard not to hesitate a moment, almost half expecting it to complete its step.

“I’d say the hardest part of taxidermy is properly preparing the hide. Most people think that laying the hide over the body from and sewing it up would be the most difficult – but that just isn’t true. That tends to be the easiest part for me. Many more hours go into skinning, fleshing, thinning, and otherwise preparing the hide to go on the form. Each new piece presents a new challenge for me, which is part of the fun. I try something new every time. For my first mountain lion, I carved the foam from scratch using a large block of foam. It was the largest form I had ever made by hand and it was a pretty big challenge.”

Several of her pieces have award ribbons hanging from them; testimony to just how great of an artist she is. “I go to a lot of taxidermy competitions. In fact, I’ve been competing since I was 15 years old. I’ve been to most of the state shows in the southeast, as well as nationals and world competitions over the years. My top awards have been National Champion (NTA 2003), North American Champion (Big Rock Taxidermy Competition 2015) and a second place ribbon at the World Championships (2015)”

Amy’s art is just incredible. She really is one of the very best in this field. “I encourage women to explore their interests, and not be intimidated to jump in and get their hands dirty in a male-dominated field! You just might find that women have that extra special touch.”

CONCLUSION

It has been a remarkable week getting to learn about these amazing women. They are wonderful artists to look up to, not only because of their talent – but their character, dedication to their business, and drive to educate others. They each have noted that being female isn’t a hindrance, but can offer a unique perspective in this field, and that the Woman’s Touch is a beautiful complementary addition to the world of taxidermy. After hearing about their journeys, I can’t wait to practice on a critter myself.

Women in Taxidermy – Part 2

First Published here

WOMEN IN TAXIDERMY

There have been a great many studies on the differences between the male and female brain. In general, women are much more meticulous, creative, and detail oriented. Which, when coupled with artistic talent and a love for nature it is a wonderful recipe for creating award-winning Taxidermy!

BECKY MARTINMAAS – OWNER OF MEAN WOMAN TAXIDERMY

Becky - working

Becky is in Orient South Dakota. She is a fierce competitive shooter who is equally fierce about her loyalty to family. Mrs. Martinmaas is astounding when it comes to the art of Taxidermy.

She very well may be one of the most determined women you will ever meet, “I got interested in taxidermy because of the wait times we were experiencing with the taxidermists we had been using. Often it was years before we would get our trophies back. My husband and I love to hunt and it was so frustrating to have to wait so long – sometimes we even forgot what we were waiting for!”

Becky was great at explaining how to get involved “it can be as simple or as complicated as you choose. You can be full service or specialize in one category. There is even a lot of good information you can get with self-help courses and videos, but I would highly recommend going to school or working with an experienced taxidermist. Oh, there are so many little tricks and fine points that you just can’t learn without actually seeing it done. I went to school and took all the available courses: game heads, mammals, birds, fish, and habitat. It doesn’t have to be very expensive – you can start small and work your way up.”

She, like all outdoor sportsmen, are extremely responsible and encourage that same respect for the laws and authority of your state, “I carry a state license issued by our Game and Fish Department, it must be renewed every year. I also carry a federal license issued by the US Fish and Wildlife that is required for waterfowl, etc.”

“Really, it is not surprising that Taxidermy is a predominantly male dominated field. After all, is extremely physically demanding.” Becky explained with an air of understanding. The big game carcasses are extremely heavy and many women are unable to lift that much, of literally, dead weight. “It is messy, smelly, and at times things come into your shop that is already in decomposition. It is not pretty sometimes,” Becky explained.

“It is much easier to do a good mount if you know the animals in their natural habitat, so being a hunter is a big advantage. Well, it was not hard for me to break into the boys club as I already had the reputation of being an avid hunter and shooter. I hunt and do a little range shooting also.” A little? I think she was just being modest.

Becky as talented of a marksman as she is a taxidermy artist. Her bear looks like it is about to lumber off.

becky-bear

“After being taken seriously as a hunter, being female in taxidermy was an advantage. Women tend to be more artistic and quite a bit fussier about details… Also, most men have to get permission from their wives to display their mount at home, I am a big help there by making them a work of art, not just a dead animal.”

Becky’s art is fantastic. Her crouching coyote really looks as if it is about to pounce on its prey. The male pheasants she preserved engaged in a sparring competition are just breathtaking!

“Yes, there are a lot of different styles to taxidermy. I call myself a Working-Man’s Taxidermist. That means I try to stay affordable and I keep my turnaround time as short as possible. So, I do a lot of game heads, birds, and mammals. I love doing small scenes to show off the animal in its natural state. What I love most about my business at this point is how much people trust my judgment and let me run with a project knowing that it will be something to be proud of.”

Becky - Coyote

She seems like a woman who doesn’t put up with a lot of bull surrounding wildlife management, “All I can say about those that have negative things to say about hunting and taxidermy is that they are very uninformed.” Very true Becky! There is a lot of false propaganda out there, and we have a duty to educate others about the outdoors.

“We farm for deer and pheasants because we want a healthy population. Those naysayers have never seen a pack of coyotes steal a baby calf from its mother or seen an animal starving due to overpopulation.” Yet even with such a heated topic, Becky was trying to be polite, “but everyone has their opinions and they are entitled to them.”

Becky used to enter taxidermy competitions at state conventions. “But a competition piece takes a lot of time away from my customers, and they are my main concern. People know my work and I don’t need ribbons on my wall. I am glad that there are those that do it as I have learned a lot from studying other people’s work and methods. You know, the most difficult thing in my business is getting people to come and pick up their mount in a timely fashion!”

Becky - Moose

My favorite thing she said was “I would highly encourage other women to get into taxidermy as it is a great stay at home business. You can be as big or as small as you want. You can set your own hours and goals.” What a great way for a woman to who wants to help her family financially, raise children, maintain her passion for hunting and have a creative outlet. It really sounds like a fantastic option.

“I love looking at a finished product and knowing that I made that animal come back to life and that I saved someone’s hunting memories forever.”

CHERI GUINN

OF CHERI’S TAXIDERMY

Cheri Guinn

Cheri is the daughter of her local Duck Club’s President, so she grew up hunting duck each weekend during season and even pheasant hunting too. She remembers as a teenager carefully studying one of her father’s mounts and wondering just how the taxidermist preserved it.

So, being the determined self-starter that she is, Cheri went straight to the library and got a book on taxidermy. She got started in her parents basement, and eventually her dad set up an extra garage he had for me by putting in a sink and supplying me with all my tools. Cheri hasn’t looked back these last 37 years in the business.

She didn’t have these great videos and classes then. Her excitement was tangible “Give it a try and if you are interested take a class and learn all the tips and tricks! If I were to do it all over again I would first watch videos and read magazine articles on how to mount a bird!”

Cheri explained that even after you do all that – it takes a considerable amount of practice. “If you’re lucky enough to find a taxidermist that needs help and has a lot of patience, then an apprenticeship could be an option.”

A lot of taxidermist in her area didn’t like mounting birds, so she was welcomed within this particular niche. “I like making the bird look ALIVE again! Action poses are my favorite and minimal habitat. I wasn’t trained in doing water scenes or habitat so I am limited in what I can do. Habitat is an extra cost, and most of my customers don’t like the extra expense that goes with it.”

Cheri Guinn - Wood Duck Preening

You don’t have to learn how to mount every type of animal to be successful in this field. You just have to have a passion for your art! “What I like most about my art is seeing what other taxidermist come up with – it inspires me! The best part of my work is seeing the customers’ faces when they come and pick up their bird”

Cheri is an enthusiastic supporter of Ducks Unlimited. She believes that we all have the right to hunt and it is through conservation that we are able to manage wildlife and to help keep the ecosystem in balance. “And if there wasn’t hunting, I would be out of a job!”

Cheri Guinn - Mallard Ducklings

Her Barred Owl is one of my favorites – posed as if it is swooping down to catch some prey. She also has preserved some specimens I have never seen mounted before – a flamingo and mallard ducklings. Each one looking like it is about to fly away at any moment.

Cheri Guinn - Barred Owl

“My most favorite bird I ever did was a Flamingo who was owned by a man who sold exotics. The bird was the matriarch of the flock and died when she was 42. All the scales on her legs fell off when I was wiring the legs and a lot of feathers fell out when I washed her. She ended up turning out great and I brought her along to an outdoor show I was in and boy she was a hit! The owner actually has it in his will that when he dies I get to inherit her!”

Cheri Guinn - Flamingo

 

Cheri is in this business because she loves the art, “I would encourage women to do what they are interested in and don’t listen to people that say you can’t. Nowadays you can practically learn anything online. Be patient with yourself, remember your life will constantly change, so just go with it and enjoy it!

Coming up next is Part 3!

 

Women in Taxidery part 1

Women in Taxidermy

by M. Ashley Evans

First published here: https://henoutdoors.com/blog/women-in-taxidermy-part-1/

This past week I have had the privilege of interviewing several amazing women who have beaten the odds to become some of the few female taxidermists in the country. Taxidermy is almost exclusively an art that men gravitate to – but these women have proved that their creativity and unique perspective sets them apart.

History of Women in Taxidermy

The art of preserving animal specimens has been around since animals were embalmed in Ancient Egypt. Even in the Middle Ages very crude methods of taxidermy was used in creating displays for apothecaries and astrologers. In the mid-1700’s birds were being preserved for the study of natural history.

It wasn’t until the mid-19th century that hunters began hiring upholsterers to sew up animal skins stuffed with cotton and occasionally rags. This is where the label “stuffed” originates. In the Victorian era, artists would sculpt clay, plaster and wire cages as the frames for the animal skins. Taxidermy mounts became a popular item for home decorating. Even Queen Victoria was an avid collector of taxidermy birds from all over the world. During the late 19th Century, artists would sculpt animals into anthropomorphic displays. Both the natural display, often called Classical Taxidermy, and the more whimsical displays, or Rogue Taxidermy, continue today.

Martha Maxwell

Pioneer in Taxidermy

 Martha Maxwell - this photo also from national cowboy musuem

Martha Maxwell was born in 1831. Obviously, I wasn’t able to interview her, but she is certainly worth talking about. Martha was the first female naturalist to obtain and taxidermy her own specimens. She built elaborate displays that greatly influenced some of the major figures in taxidermy, such as William Temple Hornady (hunter, zoologist, conservationist, and taxidermist – famously known as the man who saved the American Bison from extinction due to his taxidermy displays) and Carl Akeley (known as the Father of Modern Taxidermy).

Her displays set the precedent for the future of taxidermy – by arranging the mounts in lifelike poses and displayed on items from their natural environment. Martha was the first to find and identify the Colorado Screech Owl – and it was named in her honor, Scops asio maxwellae. This was the first time a woman had a subspecies named after her.

Martha attributes her love for nature to her Grandmother. They loved going on long walks with grandmother through the woods where they would identify the wildlife they encountered. Martha’s father passed away in the 1830’s and her mother remarried right away. The new family left Pennsylvania for Oregon as Christian Missionaries to the Native Americans. Much to Martha’s sadness, her grandmother did not survive the arduous journey.

The trip proved to be much more difficult, so for the sake of their health the family settled in Wisconsin. Martha was unable to finish her schooling due to finances, so in exchange for board and tuition, she agreed to be hired by a widower to chaperone his two children at a local college. Less than a year later, and despite the widower having 6 years and being 20 years her senior, Martha married James Maxwell. James soon learned that Martha was a very determined woman and a go-getter if there ever was one. Less than two months after her marriage, she was arrested for her involvement in the raid of a tavern in support of the Temperance Movement.

The Maxwell’s had a baby the year that the fell into financial ruin, so they traveled west, prompted by the Gold Rush. Young Mabel stayed behind with Martha’s mother so she could attend school. Martha was determined that she would prove to be an asset to the team – she cooked for all six and even took her turn driving the team of mules. James mined for gold in Pikes Peak and Martha baked pies and mended clothes. She soon sold enough pies that she was able to purchase a boarding house as well as some mining claims and even a one bedroom cabin on the plains outside of Denver.

Martha Maxwell - photo from national cowboy museum

But tragedy struck again in the 1860’s – Martha’s primary method of income, the boarding house burned down and a squatter was trying to lay claim to her cabin. Even after winning the lawsuit, the squatter refused to leave. So Martha watched him and when he left the cabin to run errands she removed the door from the frame so she could enter her home – and what she found was lots of crude taxidermies. She became busy and set everything outside so she could claim her home. She was mesmerized by the preserved birds that she saw – and wrote to her family asking them to send her a book so she could “learn how to preserve birds and other animal curiosities in this country.” Shortly after, while in Wisconsin again for a short stay to take care of her ill mother she found a local taxidermist and was able to learn a little about preserving from him.

Martha Maxwell - photo also from national cowboy musuem

When she returned to Colorado, Martha feverishly got to work in creating elaborate taxidermy displays. By the fall of 1868 she had over 100 mounts – including hummingbirds and eagle chicks. The Colorado Agricultural Society asked her to display her work with them. Everyone was amazed at how lifelike her taxidermy was. She was awarded a diploma for her talents.

In the 1870’s Martha opened the Rocky Mountain Museum in Boulder, Colorado to display her mounts and to educate others. Her museum later was moved to Denver. She expanded her collection to include mammals – including the Black Footed Ferret, a very elusive species that had been recorded by John James Audubon but had never been seen by scientists. Martha became an avid hunter and collected most of her specimens herself. She traveled all across the west to study and to harvest specimens – she braved poor conditions and rough weather and didn’t seem bothered by them. Martha often brought her daughter with her on hunts. By 1869, Martha had over 600 animals in her collection.

Her first step in skinning the carcass was taking very specific measurements of all aspects of the body so she could replicate it exactly. She later hired a blacksmith to craft a thin iron frame, she then would cover it with cloth and then stretch the skins over it. This approach was much more advanced than any of the taxidermy methods used at the time such as filling the skins with clay or plaster. Her collection included a six foot grizzly, a pronghorn antelope, and snakes. Many of her rare items she sent to the Smithsonian for display. Ferdinand V. Hayden of the U.S. Geological Survey said about her museum “it excelled every other in the West” but the museum struggled financially and James was not working.

Her display was featured at the Colorado’s exhibit for Philadelphia’s Centennial International Exposition. Her landscape included mountains, plains, a cave, a stream that fed a lake filled with various creatures. There was puma posed as if to kill a deer, a doe nuzzling her fawn, fox, bear, sheep, buffalo, elk, pronghorn sheep – and a postcard that read “Woman’s Work”. Everyone was amazed that this 4’11” had killed and preserved the animals and created this massive display unlike anything ever seen before.

Martha Maxwell - photo from alchetron

Unfortunately, after the display was taken down improperly in New York mold set in and every item was ruined. There is not a single specimen left from Martha’s elaborate museum. She died in 1881 of ovarian cancer. It wasn’t until after her death that Mabel came to admire and appreciate her mothers work. But now, her methods are the standard practice for taxidermy all over the world.

Kiernan Hull

Owner of Oregon Taxidermy

Kiernana - Impala

She, like Martha, is defiantly a determined lady! Kiernan also owns Phaded Acres Colt Starting and Performance. This former Miss Rodeo is talented in multiple areas! At age 17, just after high school, she and a friend dropped off a buck at a taxidermy shop. By the time she walked out she knew she was going to be a taxidermist. So the very next month Kiernan moved to Montana to begin schooling. “I have never looked back since!” she said.

There are many ways to learn to be a taxidermist – schools, internships, books, dvds, etc. Kiernan recommends working with a few good artists along the way regardless of the educational path you choose. And each state has its own licensing laws and regulations. I was amazed to learn that there was so many tools involved – each with its own special purpose. Kiernan stresses that the most important skill is actually money management –there is quite a bit of overhead with opening a taxidermy shop.

 Kiernan - Turkey

“At first no one took me seriously, especially being 17… I really started gaining respect around 20 or 21 and now I’m at 24 and I no longer deal with people not taking me seriously. Everybody around here knows who I am now and that I am not just here to mess around. Being female did hinder me at first – between that and my age, nothing was going for me. But now, I can’t tell you how many people I’ve had come to me just because I am a woman and they know that gives me a natural eye for detail. I have had so many people actually tell me that they will never go to a male taxidermist again. Which is a huge compliment being in such a male-dominated industry!”

Kiernan’s passion for this art is so evident “Being female is an advantage in this industry for sure!”

Kiernan - Bird of Prey - Copy

“In the summer of 2016, I had about 50 hours into my competition piece of a life-size Badger when my candle that was about 10’ away caught the fumes from my foam just right and my table and Badger went up in flames! Poof!! It felt like an eternity – but really it all happened in about 20 seconds. After scrubbing off his black hairs and fluffing him up, my badger went on to win the Highest scoring Open in Oregon and Best of Category.” Her badger looks like it is going to walk away any moment.

kiernan badger

“I defiantly go for the Alive and Peaceful look with mine. I have the utmost respect for animals and I want them to look natural and presentable for everyone. My biggest fear is someone thinking I don’t have respect for our wildlife when it is the complete opposite. We as hunters know it is our duty to help manage wildlife and their habitat so we have them around for future generations to enjoy. Taxidermy is respectful and educational. Hunters are the #1 contributor to wildlife conservation! It is just as simple as that!”

I really enjoyed looking at a picture of an Elk she preserved. The veins and wrinkles on its muzzle were so accurate – it was mesmerizing.

“I’d say the most difficult part of Taxidermy for me is how physically demanding it is. I rarely get to sit behind a desk (thankfully) but that also means I spend most of all day every day physically hands-on with some oftentimes heavy pieces – having to wrestle them around. I’d be lying if I didn’t say it was a struggle occasionally and that I wasn’t sore. The most challenging piece I have worked on has to be the Kudu. They have so much extra skin and their skin is super thick. The African Kudu is built so differently from our North American deer varieties. I had to do several of them before it became any easier!”

Kiernan - Elk

Kiernan has entered many competitions and has won many awards in Oregon and Idaho. “Competing is one of the best ways to gain knowledge in this art. The judges give feedback and you are surrounded by other passionate artists” Kiernan was an absolute joy to get to know!

Stay tuned for Part 2!

______________

Sources:

https://americacomealive.com/2014/04/05/martha-ann-maxwell-1831-18881-maturalist-taxidermist/

http://www.historynet.com/colorado-huntress-wildlife.htm

https://siarchives.si.edu/history/featured-topics/stories/william-temple-hornady-saving-american-bison

https://nationalcowboymuseum.org/explore/kill-em-all-martha-maxwell-colorado-huntress/

http://www.cogreatwomen.org/project/martha-maxwell

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taxidermy

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martha/Maxwell

https://alchetron.com/Martha-Maxwell

Leading the Way: Five of the Best Female Hunters

By: M. Ashley Evans

My article was originally published here: https://henoutdoors.com/blog/leading-the-way-5-of-the-worlds-best-women-hunters/

Historically, hunting was a male-dominated sport. For decades, women hunters were marginalized in the Outdoorsman arena. The number of women hunters is growing rapidly – and is the top trend in hunting sports today. That is in part thanks to some amazing women who have won some of the top awards available in this sport. There are a number of awards that can be given to world-class hunters. The Weatherby Award is the world’s most coveted and prestigious hunting award because it is one of the most difficult to achieve. Not only is the quality of each animal harvested judged, the number and variety of species are considered, the more difficult-to-hunt species are a heavy consideration, and a requirement that game from every continent is included. Conservation is a majorly important factor. Not only has each nominee supported conservation by spending hundreds of thousands in purchasing the licenses/fees/taxes, etc. for each individual hunt – but there have to be large donations to specific conservation programs. These programs are focused on protection and propagation of endangered wildlife. Each nominee has to be highly involved in educating the next generation of hunters through school programs, 4-H, scouts etc.

The Weatherby Award nominees also have to show exemplary character and sportsmanship in the field – a life of integrity, commitment to fair chase, strong ethics, and a solid reputation. Each year only 6 nominees are considered, and the highest point total in all categories is chosen for the recipient of this most elite of hunting awards. The Weatherby Foundation’s newsletter once printed “What’s It Take To Win The Weatherby Award: It is easy, climb a few million feet, walk a few thousand miles, spend years away from home, family, and work, usually in a foreign land. Travel for days on icy, gravel mountain roads in old jeeps or SUV’s full of other people’s cigarette smoke. Endure hundreds of searches in airports, borders and military checkpoints. Get sick or hurt, lose luggage and suffer delays too numerous to mention. Sound like fun? It is. It is a passion and way of life for a few very fortunate people.”

These female pioneers have not only beat tremendous odds in learning and mastering their skills, but they have exhibited such a drive for conservation and for educating others that they without a doubt should be heroes, not just for women, but for everyone who has a passion for hunting.

1) Suzie Brewster

Suzie Brewster photo courtesy of NRA News

Suzie Brewster is a remarkable lady. She did not have the privilege of growing up in a family who hunted – but her husband did. As the years passed and their family grew, the Brewster’s developed Day-After-Christmas Hunting Tradition. Bill and the children hunted and Suzie enjoyed traveling with them. One year, flight schedules were rearranged, the children had to board a different plane home. Tragically, their plane crashed. Suzie realized that for her husband to heal and be able to love his beloved sport again – he would need a hunting companion. So, she jumped in with enthusiasm, determined to be her husband’s very best partner.

Suzie and Bill have traveled the world going on a total of 37 safaris. She has hunted on 6 continents, in 34 countries, and has harvested more than 220 species. She still loves to shoot turkey and quail near their home in Marietta or in the fields of Texas. Suzie became a pro in the field. She has won the Dallas Safari Club Outstanding Hunting Achievement Award – the highest award given by the organization. Suzie has also won the NRA’s Sybil Ludington Freedom Award, which honors achievements in education and promoting Second Amendment Rights at a national level as well as SCI’s Diana Award. Suzie is the only woman to have received all three of these awards. While on safari, Suzie and Bill participate in as many humanitarian activities as they can. While traveling from village to village, they love to bring clothing and toys to children. Educating the next generation of Outdoorsmen has been a primary goal for the couple. Bill served in Congress and on the NRA Board of Directors. Suzie helped found the Washington Women’s Shooting Club and co-chair of the NRA Women’s Leadership Forum since it began over 10 years ago.

2) Barbara Sackman

barbara sackman

Barbara Sackman is another woman of great renown amongst hunters. She has 191 world records in the SCI Record Book. And she won the 2015 Weatherby Hunting and Conservation Award – one of only two women to ever have received it. She has also won the Diana Award, SCI Conservation Award, Magnum Villamanin Award, ORVIS 20 Award, Capra Super 20 Award, etc. Interestingly enough, her husband Alan has also won the coveted Weatherby Award – which marks the first time ever both a husband and wife have won the award.

Barbara and her husband, like many avid hunters, only harvest older specimens of each species – which is great stewardship and helps with conservation. Older males will dominate over the younger ones in their chance to mate. But in order to ensure a healthy new generation, it is wise to use younger, more vital, males with healthier genes. Barbara is passionate about conservation – she was once interviewed and said, that she was “almost embarrassed to say how much (she) paid to harvest that sheep (in Nebraska), but every red cent goes to conservation and the welfare of the sheep herd. That means an awful lot. The hunter is a huge conservationist, more so than anyone else.” Big game hunts, like sheep in Nebraska, can cost well over $100,000, which is a wonderful contribution towards the health of that sheep species. Barbara is a skilled hunter and has harvested Kudu, Roosevelt Elk, Polar Bear, Nile Crocodile, African Lion, and Leopard.

3) Caroline Pruitt

Caroline Pruitt photo courtesy of Outdoorlife

At age 12, she went on an African Safari with her father and shot an Impala – and she was hooked. On that hunt, she was able to harvest 9 animals – most of which was taken with the first shot. Only four years later, Caroline Pruitt won the 2010 Youngest Hunter Award from SCI and Cabellas. Only two teenagers in the world are chosen for this award each year. At age 14, she had 18 entries in the SCI Record Book and had harvested over 50 big game specimens including Leopard, Wildebeest, and American Bison. She hunted the American Bison with a .44 Magnum. Caroline has hunted with various other weapons including a rifle, muzzleloader, crossbow, compound bow, and longbow. She is the only woman recorded to hunt a Gredos Ibex and a Muskox with a Longbow, which has become her hunting weapon of choice since 2011.

Caroline is passionate about hunting – and strives to be a great example to others. She has not let her busy schedule in traveling across five continents neglect her education – she maintained high grades. Caroline has a heart for helping others, whether it is training new hunters at Meadow Ridge Archery and Gun or donating the meat from her hunts locally and abroad. Hunters all over the world watch in eager expectation to see what the years have in store for this prodigy.

4) Renee Snider

Renee Snider photo courtsy of the Conklin Foundation

One of the most accomplished hunters in history – who has received an astounding number of awards, is Renee. In 2006 she was the first female to win the Golden Malik Award for taking “free range and on-foot” all big game species found in the South Pacific. She won the 2012 Diana Award. 2013 was the year that Renee became the first woman to receive the OVIS Award. In 2014, the Weatherby Award had its 57th anniversary. That year Renee Snider became not only the first female recipient of the award – but she had the highest number of big game animals harvested by anyone who had ever won the Weatherby. That same year, she won the Ullman Magnum Award for collecting European big game species and she was the first woman to be inducted into the highly prestigious Mountain Hall of Fame from the Wild Sheep Foundation. In 2015, Renee won the SCI World Conservation and Hunting Award. In 2016, she was the first woman to earn the Pantheon Award from SCI and GSCO. 2017 was the year that she won the International Hunting Award from SCI, Super 40 Capra from GSCO, as well as the Super 39 Ovis from GSCO. That same year, Rene won the Conklin Award from SCI. This award is “for the dedication of pursuing big game in the most rugged terrain under the most difficult and demanding conditions while maintaining the highest standard of ethics, adhering to the rules of fair chase, and showing a true conservation stewardship for the big game animals of the world.”

Renee has raised millions to aid disabled and disadvantaged children. She has been on the board of directors for the Help-A-Child Foundation, River Oak Center for Children, Conklin Foundation and the Weatherby Foundation International. She makes every effort to use each hunt as a venture in not only conservation but in humanitarian efforts. She loves to bring medical supplies and administers first aid – in many villages she has been the only source of medical aid they had ever seen. Renee is an amazing lady who goes above and beyond when it comes to trying to make a difference in the world.

5) Brenda Valentine

Brenda Valentine photo courtesy of Tuskessee Outdoor Expo

Last but certainly not least, is Brenda Valentine, the “First Lady of Hunting.” Brenda is down to earth and passionate about conservation and introducing women and children to the sport. She is from Tennessee, where hunting and being in the woods is a way of life. She is proficient with a large number of firearms and has won dozens of national and regional 1st place awards in archery competitions. She is an award-winning speaker, author, photographer, and TV co-host. It truly seems like there is not anything that Brenda doesn’t excel at. She is the National Spokesperson for the National Wild turkey Federation’s Women in the Outdoors program, the only woman to receive the Knight Rifle Master Hunter Award, a member of Bass Pro Shops’ RedHead Professional Hunting Team, Paris/Henry Co. Sports Hall of Fame, Women in the Outdoors Leadership Award, AMVETS Silver Bayonet Award, etc. In 2012, she was the only woman chosen by the Department of Defense to take part in the Outdoor Legends Tour II. This was a great honor, as it is a wonderful opportunity to show appreciation to active troops in southwest Asia and in Afghanistan as well as those military members who were hospitalized in Germany.

Even with all these accomplishments, Brenda remains humble and eager to help others. She hosts hunts for the disabled, supports wounded veteran projects, and loves to teach women and children about hunting and the outdoors. Brenda has designated hundreds of acres of her land to be a part of a Mossy Oak Gamekeeping project. She stays very busy with public speaking and loves to speak on the importance of conservation, land preservation, wildlife management, and patriotism.

Anything Is Possible!

These are remarkable women who have excelled in their art. Not only have they become phenomenal outdoorswomen, proficient in marksmanship, and excellent at tracking and pursuit but they have excelled so far as to win many awards that historically only men have won. Several did so while raising a family and while making a difference in their communities – their success is amazing. These women should be held up as mentors – to show others that anything is possible, even succeeding in the most difficult of terrains and winning the most elite of hunting awards. All while using their talents to focus on the gravely important task of conservation and education.leading-the-way_

Create a website or blog at WordPress.com

Up ↑