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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

'Goat man' in Utah mountains identified as hunter

A man spotted dressed in a goat suit among a herd of wild goats in the mountains of northern Utah has been identified as a hunter preparing for a Canadian archery season.

After a hiker spotted the so-called goat man on July 15 in the mountains above Ogden, about 40 miles north of Salt Lake City, wildlife officials said they wanted to talk to the person to be certain he was aware of the dangers as hunting season approaches.

They speculated he might have been an extreme wildlife enthusiast who just wanted to get as close as possible to the goats. A few days after the spotting, state wildlife authorities received an anonymous call from an "agitated man" who simply said, "Leave goat man alone. He's done nothing wrong."

This week, however, the mystery was solved.

Phil Douglass of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources said he received a call Monday from a 57-year-old Southern California hunter who explained he was merely trying out his goat suit in preparation for a mountain goat hunt in Canada next year.

"He gave me enough details about the area and the situation that it made me feel confident this was him," Douglass said Tuesday.

"In talking to him, I felt he was very knowledgeable, a very experienced hunter. He's hunted internationally," Douglass added. "My concern all along was that this person needed to understand the risks, and certainly after talking to him, I felt he was doing the best he could to understand and mitigate those risks ... He was simply preparing for a hunt."

The man did not identify himself, Douglass said, noting the hunter was concerned for his safety after widespread media coverage of the sighting, first reported by the Standard-Examiner of Ogden.

Coty Creighton, 33, spotted the goat man July 15 during his hike. He said he came across a herd, but noticed something odd about one goat that was trailing behind the rest.

"I thought maybe it was injured," Creighton said last week. "It just looked odd."

He said he pulled out binoculars to get a closer look at the goats about 200 yards away and was shocked. The man appeared to be acting like a goat while wearing a crudely made costume, which had fake horns and a cloth mask cut-out eye holes, Creighton said.

"We were the only ones around for miles," he said. "It was real creepy."

Douglass said 60 permits will be issued for goat hunting season in that area, which begins in September, and he had worried with the man in the goat suit might be accidentally shot or could be attacked by a real goat.

He said the hunter described the goat costume as merely a hooded painter's uniform and a fleece.

Douglass said wildlife officials encourage archery hunters to practice their skills and to "get themselves in a position where they make a clean and humane shot."

"That's exactly what he was doing," Douglass said. "There are laws that require people to wear hunter orange during rifle hunts, but people do wear camo during archery hunts."

And while it's not illegal to dress up like the animal you're trying to kill, Douglass said it's still dangerous.

"It's unwise," he said. "It's just a bad idea all the way around to do that kind of thing."

by Brian Skoloff 

Monday, July 9, 2012

A Good Hunting Buddy Lost

My friend John Dick died today. I wish you’d have had a chance to meet him. If not him, I at least hope you meet somebody like him someday. You won’t forget them.

John Dick and his favorite things - his family, represented by grandson, Harrison, right, his Lab, Molly and a good batch of ducks.

He wasn’t the very best goose hunter or the best deer hunter, but everything he did outdoors, he did danged well.

When he blew a duck call it sounded like there was a hen mallard beside you. If he said a distant flock had five pintails and three wigeon, it did.

If he handed you his knife it would be clean and scalpel-sharp.

But John was an even better hunting buddy than a hunter. When he asked how you were doing he really wanted to know, and he’d asked about your kids and wife by names, and wanted full details on how your dog was hunting.

He never hogged a conversation, but what he said was worth hearing…and often funny.

If  you shot at the same bird and it fell, he’d be quick to congratulate you, swear you hit it when chances were he downed the bird.

When he bought and furnished a small house near our duck spots it was instantly open to all of his friends, and he expected you to hit the ‘fridge and bring your dog inside “John’s Quack Shack.”

We were at his Quack Shack a few winters ago and whipping up a monster bunch of gumbo for the crew. John was petting his beloved Lab, Molly, while talking about family and friends. I noticed he repeated himself  and couldn’t remember things he had known well.

John knew something was wrong, probably seriously wrong. A brain tumor was diagnosed within a few days.

Rather than self-pity, John wasted no time getting his affairs in order and spending quality time with his family. He called me out of the blue, just to say how much he appreciated our friendship. It was a classy thing to do.

Brain surgery is never easy, and sometimes the surgery ends up being threatening, too. So it was for John, unfortunately.

As time went on, John became more and more the illness and less and less of the true John. I’m sure it was hell on his family, though they stuck by him admirably, and it was certainly hell on John, too.

But this afternoon he again became the old John, which is how he’ll be remembered.

He’s in a place where the mornings are cold but not brutal, the wind’s steady at about 15 mph out of the north and every day is opening day. If he gets his just rewards every passing flock will turn to his calls and his beloved pintails will be as thick as bees around a shaken hive.

I’m not sure who he’ll be hunting with in Heaven, but they’ve just gained a heck of a hunting buddy.

I hope I live a good enough life to hunt with John Dick again, someday.


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Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Why hunting your own dinner is an ethical way to eat

Growing up, I didn’t know anyone who hunted. Hunters, I figured, were probably just barbaric gun nuts. Then, eight years ago, I moved from Manhattan to rural Oregon, to write for a small newspaper. My perspective shifted when I began interviewing hunters for my articles and realized that although I had long considered myself an environmentalist, these hunters – most of whom scoffed at the “E” word – were more knowledgeable and thoughtful about animals and nature than I was.
Eventually, I decided to buy a gun and join them. But don’t worry, I’m still an environmentalist, loud and proud.

Five Reasons Why Hunting a Wild Animal Makes an Ethical Dinner: 

1. Hunting has a light environmental footprint
No antibiotics, artificial hormones, pesticides, herbicides, or unnatural feeds were used in raising this meat. Unlike farmed animals, a wild one doesn't contribute to soil erosion, water pollution, or the displacement of native plants in favor of a monoculture. No land is tilled to feed a wild animal, so additional carbon isn’t released into the atmosphere.

2. Wild animals aren’t subject to the misery of factory farming
My venison was never confined, castrated, or branded the way most farmed steers are. My duck was never caged, de-beaked, or toe-clipped the way most domesticated poultry is. Wild animals, unlike many domesticated ones, aren’t bred, fed and medicated to achieve rapid weight gain so that they can be killed at just a few weeks of age.

3. None of the meat is wasted
After I shoot an animal, I gut it and butcher it myself (or, in the case of an 800-pounds bull elk, with some help from friends). This way, I know the meat was handled safely. I don’t have to worry about listeria or trichinosis. And I’m confident that as much of the animal as possible is used. To hunt and butcher an animal is to recognize that meat is not some abstract form of protein that springs into existence tightly wrapped in cellophane and styrofoam. Meat is life. So I seek out recipes that make the most of it. I cook it with care. I share with friends and family. I make sure eat every bite gets enjoyed.

4. Hunting pays for conservation
To hunt for elk this fall, for example, I’ve already bought an Oregon hunting license for $29.50, paid $8 to enter a lottery for the right to hunt in a particular spot, and purchased a $42.50 tag. That means I’ve already paid $80 toward wildlife research and habitat protection in my home state. Bird-watchers and hikers haven’t paid anywhere near that much.
With approximately 12.5 million hunters nationwide, we’re talking about real money. Proceeds from the Federal Duck Stamp – a required $15 annual purchase for migratory waterfowl hunters – have added more than five million acres to the national wildlife refuge system. And federal excise taxes on hunting equipment and ammunition garner more than $200 million a year for wildlife management and the purchase of public lands.

5. Hunting promotes conservation
To hunt is to participate in the ecosystem rather than just watch from the sidelines. When I track an animal, I use all of my senses to take in my surroundings, as if I were a wild animal myself. So by the time I actually shoot something, I’ve developed a deep connection to the species and to the land. I considered myself an environmentalist before I started hunting. But back then, all of my reasons for conservation were theoretical. Now that I hunt, I have a real-life, vested interest in seeing places – and wildlife populations – preserved in the long-term. Someday, I want take my son hunting in all of my favorite spots.

Lily Raff McCaulou