Archive for November, 2018

Hypothermia – A First-Hand Perspective

Written by Jim Huckabay on November 14, 2018. Posted in Uncategorized

It was an off-Reecer Creek meeting of the Reecer Creek Rod, Gun, Working Dog & Outdoor Think Tank Benevolent Society. The subject on the floor was our coming 2018-19 El Niño winter, and concerns about outdoor activity and hypothermia.

Forecasters are suggesting a fair amount of midwinter snow and/or rain along much of the coastal part of Washington, with strong suggestions of a relatively mild and dry winter for the rest of us. “So,” Homey mused, “this means hypothermia is not a concern for campouts this winter?” His question triggered flashbacks. “Well,” I smiled, “even a mild winter is still winter! Dress properly, pay attention to the weather, and use your brain. Hypothermia does not require freezing temperatures. I learned a critical lesson about hypothermia on a rainy, windy, 40 degree night. It was just this time in November, three decades ago – maybe the longest night of my life.”

My good friend Joe Zbylski had hunted at extreme elevations around the globe. Between us, we had more than 1,200 nights outdoors, with many in severe weather. As a physician and surgeon, Joe was an expert on hypothermia. As a meteorologist, I figured I was, too.

Mid-November, we headed into the Galiuro Mountains of southeastern Arizona after years of planning to hunt the little Coues whitetail, a beautiful desert cousin of the critters up north. (First scientifically described by US Army physician and naturalist Dr. Elliot Coues while at Fort Whipple, Arizona, 1865-66, “cows” is the proper pronunciation, but many call it “cooz.”) Two days in, we decided to move to a more remote location.

We drove up into a saddle between the two highest mesas in the area. We could reach remote country that hadn’t been hunted much, and scouted the country in opposite directions.  That afternoon, I took a Coues buck in a draw off the south mesa. We met at supper.

Joe was lusting after the country to the north, but it would require a spike camp. He decided to hunt south the next morning, and, if he found nothing, we’d pack up onto that northern mesa. I was all in – I really wanted him to find a buck.

Our weather had been picture perfect: sunny 60 and 70 degree days and crisp, starry nights. That morning, while Joe was south, I talked with three young Arizona hunters. One of them expressed concern about a “feeling” that a storm was coming. I looked around. A few clouds, but no evidence I could see for a storm and nothing on the radio. The kid was clearly wrong.

I carry a notebook and pen wherever I go. Following are the actual entries I made that night, holding a little Mag-Lite in my teeth.

“9:00PM.. I’m huddled in a WET down bag on top of Table Mtn. Raining off and on heavy w/wind I guess at 30-40 mph. 40+/- degrees. We packed up here this afternoon–took 2 1/2 hrs. Hard, steep climb–cliffs/rocks. Seemed like a good idea at the time. Who knows about these Nov desert storms?  Not me! Not cold–just wet (a little) and wishing I could sleep. Joe is snoring away. We just carried along a light rain fly & it ain’t much. Had a good supper. Did see two deer–one buck–when the weather broke for awhile at sunset. Otherwise it’s been foggy rainy and windy! Thinking about the kids.

“11:00PM. Water wicking into/onto my bag, all over my back. Made couple adjustments w/rain fly, but little help. Wind is so strong, can’t keep it away from my bag. Trying not to move because most of me is warm, if VERY uncomfortable. Right foot in a pool of water…feet OK–thanks God, for wool. Meditated again.

“11:38. Very uncomfortable–legs, butt ache terribly. What if I got rain gear from pack and walked back to truck? Could walk around and get out of wind? Would work? ..Can’t sleep, time crawling. How will I get through nite?

“12:25. Both feet soaked, not cold. Back and both shoulders/upper arms soaked–only cold on the TOP shoulder, exposed to rain fly still whipping around. Down side wet..but warm. All wool good. Still so cramped. Turned over–difficult, very squishy, more comfortable.

“1:18. Ask Joe how he’s doing–rain fly doesn’t sag him so much. Says Oh just grat! Off & on perods of uncontrolble shaking. Think I’ll walk back to truck. Walk around otside to wrm up a little? Bad idea, says. Wet & windy still. Joe hands me Hershy minute ago. Almonds even. Helps. Only forearms & shirt pockets dry. Must protect journal, pen, glasses. Don’t standing this til light.

“1:45 Oh God. Now I see. Had chance to hear the kid about storm. Really wanted to get up here…Joe to hunt this place. Two guys w/100s fall & winter nites! And we din’t take tent–just this damn water retarded rain fly. One little screwup. Not using intuition..trying to FORCE WX to be OK. Meditat agin. And agan.

“3:00 Somtimes lesons com HARD. very hard.”

Morning finally came. The fog dispersed, the sun was warm, the desert was beautiful.

Be careful out there, Homey. Hypothermia can sneak up on you. Every time I go out, I remember.

Hunting and R3 Initiatives

Written by Jim Huckabay on November 7, 2018. Posted in Uncategorized

We had this conversation a year ago – about diminishing hunter numbers and what that means to our local and national economy and the future of wildlife conservation. The efforts to stem the slump are commonly called R3 (recruitment, retention and reactivation) Initiatives.

The good news is that informal reports from around the country indicate that a number of new hunters went afield this fall. The rest of the story is that new hunters still lag well behind the loss of older hunters. For a number of reasons, this ought to concern all of us who care about wild things and wild places, whether or not we hunt.

I came across an article in the October issue of Safari Times (the montly newsprint publication of Safari Club International – SCI) by Dennis Schemmel, Board Member of SCI’s Iowa Chapter. Dennis has been looking at the state of hunter recruitment across North America. I thought you might like to hear his take on the importance of hunters and hunting – see some of what he wrote.

“Many have heard of the North American Conservation Model and how well it has worked in preserving and increasing many species of wild game in North America. But did you know that 80 percent of the dollars that go into wildlife conservation in North America comes from various taxes on on the sale of hunting, shooting and fishing related items? Individually a shooter provides more conservation dollars than does an average hunter, and individually a hunter provides more conservation dollars than does an average fisherman. With respect to overall economic effect on a community, an average hunter stimulates substantially more economic effect than does an average shooter of fisherman. Knowing that, it is easy to see when hunter numbers decline, the loss to both wildlife conservation and community economic benefit is devastating.

“You have heard that hunter numbers in the U.S. are rapidly declining – that is a fact. The latest (2016) USFWS Report just released reported hunter numbers are down to approximately 11.5 million as of 2016, which is about 5.6 percent of the U.S population, with new hunter recruitment at about 3.5 percent. Further, there are legitimate estimates that in 2018 hunter numbers in the U.S. are closer to 10 million hunters, and that any further decrease will make the extended viability of hunting as we know it very questionable.

“You don’t have to be a mathematical genius to realize that old hunters are dying off at a much faster rate than new hunters are being recruited. This is a recipe for total disaster for wildlife conservation and hunting unless hunter recruitment and participation are substantially increased immediately. This is where the R3 Initiative comes into play.

“R3…is a national initiative by most of the state DNR departments, the USFWS, numerous conservation groups and private industry retailers, wholesalers, and manufacturers to rapidly increase hunter, shooter, fishing, trapping, boating and other outdoor participation in the U.S. so as to remedy and alleviate the devastating trend set forth above.”

Here are a few of Dennis’ strategies for R3 success: “Reallocate dollars to the implementation of R3 and make it a priority; determine our target market in addition to youth – millennial, Gen Z, women, minorities, inactive gun owners (50 million), and market to them with the realization eight out of 10 U.S. citizens live in urban areas; Develop evaluation tools to ensure dollars invested do in fact increase participation; [all] groups must work together and develop strategic long- and short-term partnerships…’

So, how is our Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife responding to these trends?

A formal organized R3 Initiative, with a growing number of partners across the state, is well underway. We are seeing increasing recruitment and outreach each year. And will see more activity in the next twelve months.

Our DFW and Fish and Wildlife Commission’s October, 2013, Youth Outdoors Initiative program is still growing, focused on getting youngsters off their digital habits and into outdoor connections. Activities, including fishing, hiking, hunting and other ways of connecting with the earth, are part of increasing numbers of programs in schools across Washington.

Recruitment of hunters – youth and otherwise – is still largely in the hands of DFW’s regional Hunter Education & Volunteer coordinators, such as our Region 3 guy, Aaron Garcia. Aaron has increased his partnership outreach with turkey hunting clinics, mentored first-time hunter activities for turkeys, pheasants and other game, along with mentored shooting training and increased opportunities for hunter education. Many more clinics and hunts are planned and coming.

This is important to the future of our outdoor heritage – and it is only a start. As more and more R3 activities become available, we all need to be there.