Thursday, September 30, 2010

Thoughts on Afghanistan, Permaculture, and Beekeeping

© 2010 Albert A Rasch and
The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles


Afghanistan, Permaculture, and a Lone Bee

I haven't had time to consider beekeeping lately. I've been relatively busy keeping my own hide intact. But today was a remarkably clear day. It was quiet but for the regular launching of the magnificently terrible fighter bombers and the occasional rotor slap of heavy-lift Russian made Hinds from the heli-pad. You could actually see the striations on three mile mountain from where I stood.

Walking down the road adjacent to the air field, imagine my delighted surprise when I saw a little striped creature buzzing along the dirty drainage ditch that leaves the base to dissipate in the mine strewn fields. I'm certain that it was a honey bee.

The pea soupy water that sustains activity is a noxious amalgamated brew of run off, partially treated black and grey waste water, trash, and algae, that never the less harbors a significant variety of life. As wretched and poor as it is, it nurtures plants and animals, even supplying much needed hydration to the herds of road worn goats and cantankerous camels that often cross the rocky, barren terrain with their herders; the hard, leather skinned, AK47 carrying, treacherous men that follow them on their way from one dust ridden, God forsaken place to another. Even the sly jackals that follow the herds, picking off the weakest kids from their nannys, take respite in the shade of the over-grown reeds and shrubs that line the polluted canal outside the wire. They come out at night to do their murderous work, yipping and howling like wild drunken dervishes, setting the fresh young and unknowing men that we are sent, to nervously fingering their triggers, their eyes wide with adrenalin.

The honey bee, happily unaware that good, honest men have fought, bled, and died over nothing more than poor, disease ridden dirt and the stupid and ignorant remarks of old charlatans, liars, and fools, crossed over to the other side of the ditch losing itself in the dried stalks of some long dead weed.

I wondered for quite some time where its hive might be.

The funny thing is that I was worried that maybe its hive was near a landmine. I gave serious and deliberate consideration to the possibility that the hive was no doubt near a long forgotten anti personnel landmine. After I worried that idea over in my mind, I wondered if a random, unguided, Iranian rocket might hit the hive and blow it up. So I gave that a lot of troubled thought for the longest time.

Meanwhile, as I hunt-and-peck type this up for you, my Mozambican comrades are busy wrapping detonation cord around corroded, long buried and leftover landmines not 100 hundred yards from where I sit.

BOOM!

THUD!!

The occasional hot rock shard hits the tent, rolling off like sharp volcanic hail.

You get used to it...



I got to thinking about my European honey bee hives at home. Out of the dozen I had two years ago, I still have six or seven that are active and producing. Last spring several of them swarmed, as planned, helping to restock the wild population with new blood. But honey bees do need some care and a little help if you want to collect some of their sweet bounty. Otherwise they figure you just don't care, and they move on to better accommodations elsewhere. Maybe when I get back I will have time to reacquaint myself with my charges and see to their well being.

Being a beekeeper takes a certain type of personality. You need to be calm and quiet, you have to be aware of the weather, the sun and wind direction, and it helps if you know what is going on around you in nature too. What plants are blooming, what bugs are around, the sort of thing that's usually under the radar and beneath notice.



Out here, in the unforgiving, dust ridden plains of Afghanistan, we enjoy our very own twisted and perverted version of Purgatory, with unguided rockets thrown at you by the illiterate followers of conmen and warlords, and our own computer controlled robotic counter-batteries spewing out maelstroms of death and destruction, cleaving the earth like angry bolts, violently rending and destroying acres at a time.

It makes you contemplate many things, some good, some bad.

But it's the small, little things, like that bee, that shows you the futility of man's insane quarrels. Unlike the humble honey bee, what we do, the blood soaked effort we put in, doesn't amount to hill of beans. The bee on the other hand, makes honey from almost nothing but hard work and perseverance.

I wouldn't mind teaching the locals about beekeeping. Except I don't think there's enough of anything here for even one managed hive. Nor do the natives have a desire to do anything but take. Not that it comes from an evil or mean streak in them, though they have that too, but it is the way they have lived for millenniums. We are just another foreign group of violent tourists passing through their Shangri-La. Sooner or later we will be gone, and they can get back to their customary business of slitting each others throats over the abandoned, rusted and broken left-overs, stoning the mothers of their children, and killing each other over real or imagined insults.


But for my civilized friends back at home, beekeeping might be an activity that can fit into your plans of self sufficiency. Really, it does take some work, but it's not too much, nor is it difficult, and it is scheduled. But the delicious, sweet rewards more than offset the occasional sting.

Though I have Langstroth hives, I will ultimately replace them with Top Bar hives. There are a number of reasons for doing so. First, Top Bar hives are easy to make. I've seen them made out of everything from scrap pallet wood to thirty gallon drums. The wooden hives themselves are shaped like half of a hexagon, the angles just like those of the cells in the hive! The bars themselves have only one critical dimension, and that is the width at 1 and 3/8 inch. Other than that there is not much to it.

There are many resources on beekeeping on the internet, and I would suggest that if you are interested in beekeeping, you do your research. Start with PJ Chandler at Barefoot Beekeeper. He has done quite a bit of work on Top Bar hives and organic, chemical free beekeeping. He also has a free PDF guide available on building Top Bar hives, available here: How to Build a Top Bar Hive.

If I could offer a little advise, try to find an organic beekeeper that will take you under his wing and show you the ropes. It's not difficult to do, but it is nerve wracking at first. You will definitely need a smoker to placate your bees. Learn to handle your bees sans body suit and gloves. You do not need that stuff unless you come upon a hive of nasty bees! In which case you need to get rid of the foul mooded queen, and see what the hive is like a month later, after the worker bees have raised a new monarch. You do need to understand your girls and their temperament. Use a veil when necessary, and safety glasses all the time.

This brings me to the idea of permaculture. I first learned about "Permaculture" when I found the dust covered book, Permaculture - A Designer’s Manual’ by Bill Mollison for a measly dollar ($1.00!) at the local thrift store. It was a little water damaged, but after paging through it, I knew I had found a great reference book. Turns out a lot of other people think it's so great that they are willing to pay quite a bit of money for a copy!

Permaculture is defined as a system of ecological design that allows for sustainability in all activities, whether they be manufacturing, leisure, agricultural or any other endeavor. Permaculture takes into consideration how we interact with the environment. It is a methodology that allows you to build a home that is in tune with your environment, then plan on how you can use your resources to grow food, conserve water, nurture and steward your land. It is a method of land management, but it works within the natural order of things. What I especially like about it is the recognition that we can manipulate some aspects of the environment to improve it. Damaged properties and environments can be fixed if you are willing to look, listen, and put in the work necessary to repair the damage.



I look at the scorched and damaged land that I am surrounded by and creative ideas constantly pop in my head. If for instance, we took this fouled waste water, channeled it through some man made serpentine wetlands, the water on the other end would be clean. It would make sense then to create a reservoir to hold the now clean water. Pipe a line to a watering tank, and he goats and camels can get their fill of clean water making them healthier and happier. So while we are at it, why not plant a grove of filberts or pecan trees? We can run some micro drip irrigation through the wire and down to the trees from the reservoir, and...

Oh wait a minute, that's right I forgot, the herders will allow the goats to eat it all to the ground, the locals will steal the pipes and tubing or will cut the trees down on orders from the Taliban. Maybe they'll just burn it for warmth one night.  There's the possibility that it might create cover and concealment for the insurgents; therefore it becomes a impediment to military operations. Never mind that it might be the beginning of the resuscitation of an environment in its death throes; short term human desires and conflicts make any attempt at progress stillborn.

Afghanistan Wins Again...



Well, most of you aren't in Afghanistan. The question is, what can you do to lessen your impact on your personal environment. Maybe you recycle or pick up trash you come upon. I plant mangrove seedlings that I find in spots that I know will help hold the shore or banks. You might put up a bat box or bluebird nests. I crush the barbs on my fish hooks to prevent damaging a fish's jaw when I release it. Holly bands doves in her neighborhood and Mike reclaims lands damaged by years of neglect. BioBob creates corridors to sustain wildlife and prevent erosion. Rick supplements deer through the leanest parts of the winter. You can do all sorts of things that help sustain and nurture the environment we all depend upon. With the world in the precarious position it is in, self-sufficiency will also require us to mind the environment if we are to survive and prosper.


To learn more about permaculture go to the Permaculture Institute website.

Related Posts:
The Coincidental Beekeeper
What Are You Doing to Help the Environment?


Best Regards,
Albert A Rasch
Member:Kandahar Tent Club
Member: Hunting Sportsmen of the United States HSUS (Let 'em sue me.)
The Hunt Continues...

Though he spends most of his time writing and keeping the world safe for democracy, Albert Rasch was actually a student of biology. Really. But after a stint as a lab tech performing repetitious and mind-numbing processes that a trained capuchin monkey could do better, he never returned to the field. Rather he became a bartender. As he once said, "Hell, I was feeding mice all sorts of concoctions. At the club I did the same thing; except I got paid a lot better, and the rats where bigger." He has followed the science of QDM for many years, and fancies himself an aficionado. If you have any questions, or just want to get more information, reach him via TheRaschOutdoorChronicles(at)MSN(dot)com.



The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles


Keyword:s Afghanistan, permaculture in Afghanistan, beekeeping in Afghanistan, Afghan beekeeping, Afghan permaculture, permaculture practices in Afghanistan




Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Bubby and the Big Ass Bass

© 2010 Albert A Rasch and
The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles
$g&m f9bd 45kd q!?5.

Folks,

I just got this a little while ago from home. Sorry about the title, but that's what I got, and I'm just reporting here!

Dearest Dad,

Bubby did not want me to tell you. He does not want you to feel bad or disappointed. But OMG you are going to freak out.

Bubby and I decided we would go fishing in the lake that we walk Charlie around. So we got some things together and went. I fished for a while, then I sat down in the chair with Charlie. Matt was on his way to fish with Blake. (BTW your fishing rod, the new one you bought when you came home on R&R, it stinks. So I threw it away. You can get a new one when you come home again...)

It was very quiet; the lake was like a sheet of glass and it was beautiful. I think it was about 3 or 4 pm, it had just stopped raining maybe 30 min before. I saw Matt walking to us in the distance, and then I heard the sound of Blake's rattle trap rattling.

I looked at the calm lake and I saw a fish dancing on his tail on top of the water. It was a big fish. Just like on TV!

Blake fought and fought, reeling the monster in, rod held high, the best he could. I don't think Blake has ever had to fight a fish like that. I was so excited and I was trying to get to my camera on my phone. (Matt got to see the whole thing.)

Blake said "Mom get the net!" Of course it was all folded up. Phone in one hand, net in the other, I managed to get the net together. Meanwhile Blake is still fighting the fish.

Blake gets the fish right up to the shore. OMG it was a big bass. It was so big that Blake could not pull it up on the shore. I got down to the waters edge OMG this is a big one. No kidding it looked like a ten pounder, but it was probable 7 or 8 pounds, it was huge.

I had the net in the water but now Charlie thought he would help, so he jumped in to the water after the fish. Needless to say, that did not help.

We got Charlie back. Blake could not control the fish, and now the water was all mucky so I could not see the fish. Blake was trying as hard as he could, his rod was bent all the way. I wish you could have been there. The fish kept fighting. Every time Blake would get it close we could see how big it really was.

I was trying to get it in the net, but every time Blake would get it close it would vanish in the murky water. The fish had plenty of fight left in him.

With one more show of his dancing skills on water, he shook the rattle trap free. The fish was so close to us he splashed us and said, "See you suckers!"

I screamed; I could not believe we lost him.

Blake had a smile a mile wide. I could not love him any more than I do. We vowed to fish that lake until we catch that monster.

Well what do you think of that?

Love,
Mom

What do I think of that?

I'll tell you what I think of that!

AWESOME!!!

What better experience for a young man than to hook into a lunker Largemouth Bass! And to fight him to shore several times, only to lose him to some weak hooks, and still think it's the greatest thing ever, well what does that tell you about that young man? I am pleased as punch and very proud of the sportsman he has become, that's what I think of that.

When Bubby spoke to me he told me that the hooks had straightened out from the weight and strength of the largemouth. As soon as they send me the pictures of the Rattletrap I'll post them.

Now about my new fishing rod...

Best Regards,
Albert A Rasch
Member:Kandahar Tent Club
Member: Hunting Sportsmen of the United States HSUS (Let 'em sue me.)
The Hunt Continues...


The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles






Monday, September 27, 2010

Paralyzed Veterans of America: Let's Give a Hand!

© 2010 Albert A Rasch and
The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles
$g&m f9bd 45kd q!?5.

An Easy Way to Help Paralyzed Veterans

Image Credit PVA

I received this via E-mail today and stopped for a moment to let everyone know. Here is a simple way to start your day, right after you check your emails and you will be helping veterans! Had I known sooner I would have had this up when it started!

You can have the opportunity to vote for the Paralyzed Veterans of America in the Pepsi Refresh Project and help them secure funds for the organization.

You can vote once each day, right after you read all the other stuff that is in your inbox!

The offer by Pepsi runs through the end of September for the Paralyzed Veterans of America at


Go ahead and click over there right now, and add it to your favorites for the next week

When the Paralyzed Veterans of America wins, Pepsi's Good Idea organization will donate $250,000 to  Paralyzed Veterans of America that they can use to fund outreach programs for paralyzed vets. The PVA WebSite says "it will use the grants funds to sponsor 50 newly injured or wounded veterans to participate in adaptive sports and recreation programs (including travel, attendant-care and registration expenses); support 33 adaptive sports tournaments around the country; and support 5 adaptive sports instructional clinics."

It's a great and easy opportunity to help those that have given their all. Take a moment and help them out.
Best Regards,
Albert A Rasch
Member:Kandahar Tent Club
Member: Hunting Sportsmen of the United States HSUS (Let 'em sue me.)
The Hunt Continues...


The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles


Thursday, September 23, 2010

TROC: Helping Bird Rescuers

© 2010 Albert A Rasch and
The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles
$g&m f9bd 45kd q!?5.

I'm lost and confused! Where's my Mommy?

Howdy Folks,

I just received this today from a nice lady that I was able to help. I was really appreciative of her kind note letting me know she was going to write a little something about her experience raising her Mockingbird.


Just to clarify, I am a former soldier, but I am in Afghanistan. I am still working on an updated post on feeding fledglings that folks find. I had about a dozen inquiries this spring and summer, and the post The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles: Feeding a Baby Mockingbird, Making Formula is always in the top five of my most read posts.

Thanks again Miss Alexandra for allowing me to help you raise Daisy!

Best Regards,
Albert A Rasch
Member:Kandahar Tent Club
Member: Hunting Sportsmen of the United States HSUS (Let 'em sue me.)
The Hunt Continues...

Hurry up, will you!!!




Monday, September 20, 2010

Hot Lures in Hot Colors! Veteran gets Creative!

© 2010 Albert A Rasch and
The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles
$g&m f9bd 45kd q!?5.

I happened to notice the colors first...

I was reading some of the blogs over at F&S, when in the little column on the right I saw the bright neon glow of pink. Looking more closely I saw that it was a flatty lure in a gussy come-hither-big-boy coat of paint that would make a New England Minister shake his head in disbeleif.

Seeing that he was Veteran, I thought I would drop him a note and highlight him here on TROC, especially for all of my West Coast readers! He kindly forwarded several new photos for me to share with you.


Larry LaRue, a Gulf War veteran, custom makes flashy, dressed for the prom fish catching lures. He takes lures that allready catch fish, like the Kwikfish pictured above, dresses them in new colors and sells them as "Looney Lures". He trained with noted lure designer Phil Rabideau, and learned how fish percieve color, and how all the other components of the environment, like the moon phase, water temperature, or turbidity, affect what a fish will strike at.

Bubby suggests that this might be a good one
 to try for Largemouth Bass!

Oooo, that's hot...

In his Field and Stream interview, Larue says: "Fish, particularly salmon and steelhead, react to color differently in cold, cool, and warm water, but they all have an optimum temperature. In water colder than that optimum temperature, they’ll react strongly to bright lures. At a cooler, mid-range temperature, use mid-range tone lures, like brass, chrome, or gold. If the water is warmer than the fishs’ optimum temperature, they get uncomfortable so you have to use dark lures because brights often spook them more than attract them."

A well dressed selection!

 Many of the commentors also added that they would be interested in a book by Mr LaRue with his theories and observations on color. I might add that I would certainly like to see that also and I hope that Larry can find the time to perhaps pursue that idea. I would also be very happy to purchase and review it for my readers!

The proof is in the landing net!

If you are interested in buying his hand painted custom lures, you can contact him at: mailto:larry.larue@us.army.mil or call him at (503) 954-0487. As of yet, Larry LaRue has not put together a website of his creations, but he will forward you shots of his custom lure creations!

Best Regards,
Albert A Rasch
Member: Kandahar Tent Club
Member: Hunting Sportsmen of the United States HSUS (Let 'em sue me.)
The Hunt Continues...



The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles



Saturday, September 18, 2010

Morale Boosting Yo-Yo's!

© 2010 Albert A Rasch and
The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles
$g&m f9bd 45kd q!?5.

I'm still receiving care packages with morale boosting Yo-Yo's from my friends and patriots throughout the blogosphere!

I want to thank DesertFoxPatriot for his kind gift of Yo-Yo's. Not only did he forward Yo-Yo's for me to share with our troops, he also enclosed small notes with fantastic quotes from our Founding Fathers! What a nice and personal touch that is!

And in a few days, as time permits, I will finish an interview with Uncle Roy's Toys' very own Uncle Roy, who has graciously donated 200 handmade, hardwood Yo-Yo's to the campaign! These are all-American, Made in the USA Yo-Yo's for our fighting men!

I am currently coordinating with Stars and Stripes and it is my hope that they will help out and cover our distribution of Yo-Yo Care Packages!

With some luck, I will finally have a wireless connection to the internet in a couple of weeks. That will allow me to download photos and post them. You can look forward to a whole bunch of photos from the ones I have already given away, and more!

Best Regards,
Albert A Rasch
Member:Kandahar Tent Club
Member: Hunting Sportsmen of the United States HSUS (Let 'em sue me.)
The Hunt Continues...



The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles



Friday, September 17, 2010

Sporting Classics Presents: Oxen of the Ice Cap

© 2010 Albert A Rasch and
The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles
$g&m f9bd 45kd q!?5.

The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles, in association with Bernard and Associates, proudly presents Sporting Classics. Widely recognized as the premier outdoor magazine, with award-winning graphics and the country's top writers, Sporting Classics focuses on the best hunting and fishing throughout the world. Whether it is wingshooting grouse on the Scottish Highlands, stopping Cape Buffalo on the plains of Tanzania, or landing delicate Rainbow Trout on a 2 weight bamboo fly rod, Sporting Classics and its stable of renowned authors covers it with class and finesse.

The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles has been chosen as one of the few Outdoor Bloggers to share content from a well respected and well known magazine in the outdoor community!

Please enjoy the following advance publication. I would like to thank the Bernard and Associates team and Sporting Classics for choosing The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles  as a partner in their endeavours!


*** ** ***

Oxen of the Ice Cap
By Ron Spomer

Shaggy, hump-backed
remnants of the Pleistocene,
musk ox are flourishing on the Arctic tundra.






There were no polar bears, and no minus-60 degree temperatures. But there were musk oxen.

“On the bluff across the river,” our camp cook said, pointing. He was the first person awake in our tundra camp high above the Arctic Circle in Nunavut, one of the new provinces carved out of Canada’s Northwest Territories. “Probably an old bull all by itself. Just off that point. See?”

“Oh yeah!” Three veteran U.S. hunters eyeballed their first wild musk ox, one of most recognized yet least seen and least appreciated big game animals in North America.

Two of us hopped into an aluminum boat with George Hagonak, one of our Inuit guides, and motored across the wide, milky Ellice River.

“Both horns are broken off,” I said after a careful study through binoculars. The others confirmed it, despite the dim, gray dawn light.
“He’s an outcast,” George explained. “Lost his standing when he lost his weapons. The younger bulls have taken over the herd.”

That herd was nowhere to be seen, so we lost interest, too, no one willing to spend his tag on a broken bull the first morning of a hunt we’d traveled two days and thousands of miles to make.

Musk oxen, umingmak (the bearded one) in the native tongue, are uncommonly hunted because they are tailored to live where few humans care to go – the extreme northern edge of North America, hard against the Beaufort Sea a few hundred miles south of polar ice. To reach this land one must fly in ever smaller planes from the U.S. to Edmonton, then to Yellow Knife, Kugluktuk, Ikaluktutiak (Cambridge Bay on Victoria Island), and finally, back across the Queen Maude Gulf to a canvas and plywood camp on the naked banks of the Ellice River a few miles from the salt bay into which it empties.

Here, George’s hardy, creative ancestors lived for centuries with stone age technology, using rocks, plant fibers, animal bones and skins to create the tools necessary for surviving nearly nine months of winter and temperatures plummeting more than 50 degrees below zero. George and his family continue some of the old ways in summer camp, putting up Arctic char, lake trout, caribou and umingmak for the winter. Instead of kayaks and dog sleds, however, they use aluminum boats and four-wheelers.

I think a dog sled would be more efficient and less painful,” I whined after our first day’s search. We’d motored and hiked nearly 30 miles over lumpy, bumpy, squishy muskeg tundra, finding one musk ox, four caribou, many ptarmigan and geese, and one rare tundra grizzly sow with two cubs. Despite low-pressure tires, shock absorbers and deeply padded seats, the trip could only be described as bone-jarring. And noisy. You truly cannot appreciate any environment under the assault of an infernal combustion engine.

“No wonder your people did their hunting in winter,” I remarked.


 
“No doubt. In summer about all they hunted were waterfowl eggs and flightless geese,” George answered, gesturing across an endless vista of yellow grass, blue lakes and bedrock ridges. “I don’t think they got far from camp. They were drying fish for the dogs. They didn’t go after caribou and musk ox until they could sled over the snow.”

Barren, harsh, unforgiving and brutal are a few adjectives that accurately describe the Arctic tundra. The land is flat to rolling, with intermittent ridges of exposed bedrock. Its soils are damp to submerged, despite annual precipitation of just seven inches. Permafrost holds runoff near the surface where a three-month summer is too short and cool to evaporate it all. Still, many of the lakes shrink or dry up completely, just as they do in North Dakota. And like North Dakota’s glacial pothole country, the Ellice River uplands, protected as the Queen Maude Bird Refuge, are a waterfowl nesting paradise, largely free of egg-eating predators like raccoons, possums, skunks and badgers. A few Arctic fox make a living here, but after the birds migrate south, winter ruthlessly winnows the puppy population.

Musk oxen can’t fly south, so they hide from the cold beneath haystacks of hair and wool. Guard hairs two feet long drape over dense qiviut, the mammalian equivalent of eider down. It’s the lightest, most efficient wool known to man. The animals brush away light snow with their noses and paw with hoofs to expose vegetation rarely as tall as their knees. Alas, hair is a poor defense against wolf fangs, polar bear claws or bullets.
“The one with the longest horns is subdominant?” my hunting partner Linda Powell asked. We lay atop a ridge with our guides, George and Jack, studying nine musk oxen 400 yards across a stream valley. One shaggy bull tried sidling up to the seven cows while another chased him off. Repeatedly. Had the youngster chosen to challenge, we would have seen a clash of horns akin to a bighorn sheep battle.

“Yeah. The one running him off must be a year or two older. But his horns are worn down more at the tips,” I explained. They were supposed to be taller and wider at the base, or boss, but we had trouble discerning this, even with the spotting scope at 60X. We could see more ridges and wrinkles on the older animal’s boss, a sure sign of age.

“There’s more hair between the bosses on the younger bull.” Linda observed. “George told me that’s another way to age them.”

We watched the August mating ritual play out for nearly a half-hour until the lead cow caught our scent on the 15-mph wind. Her head went up and turned toward us. She stared a few seconds as if hoping for visual confirmation. Whether she could see us lying there beside broken boulders remains moot. She turned and led the entire herd over the far skyline. We hadn’t expected that.

“So much for dumb musk ox. Can we go after them?” I asked.

“We’ll have to find a way across the stream,” Jack said. “Hop on.” We mounted our rubber-shod steeds and rumbled along the tundra waterway, nary a tree or even a respectable willow shrub in sight. We crossed at a riffle, the water climbing halfway up the knobby tires, then parked at the base of the ridge. When we peeked over the top, the game was gone. We hadn’t expected that, either.

Finding musk oxen is actually easier now than it was 30, 60, even 100 years ago. The species’ ancient tactic of forming a defensive circle against wolves was no match for spears, arrows or firearms. An Alaska population near Wainwright was exterminated by 1865. Admiral Perry’s expedition to the North Pole accounted for some 600 early in the 20th century. Since then the herds have been reintroduced, protected and nurtured. Now, under careful harvest regimens, they flourish.

Frank Analok, an Inuit elder in Cambridge Bay, was quoted as saying “. . . there was never a time when there were so many musk oxen. Now they’re all over the land, by the seashore, to the west, just everywhere. It was never like that when I was young.” It’s like that today.

“There they are. Way out on that flat. By the water.” The last cow and young bull in our herd were disappearing around another of those bedrock outcroppings. We hiked a half-mile, climbed a higher ridge and spotted all nine musk ox strung single file, now two miles away and still moving.
“Looks like they’re going to cross all the way to those far ridges, doesn’t it,” Linda said.

“Yeah, and we’re going to get soaked chasing after them.” Water sparkled here and there amid yellow grasses and sedges over the entire basin.
“We’ll wait here and watch where they go.”

Good thing we did because the beasts turned from their route and slipped between two ridges, disappearing through what proved to be a shallow notch opening onto more lakes, wet meadows and sedge basins. Water sprayed from the wheels as our guides turned and churned and backtracked and picked their way across. Twice we got stuck, nose first in small bogs.

“The four-wheeler buddy system,” Linda noted as one machine pulled the other free.



We stopped for lunch at the first dry spot, then grabbed our binoculars and rifles and climbed high to reconnoiter. Our quarry had gathered atop a stony ridge where the wind kept insects at bay. Several cows lay chewing their cud. The old bull stood close beside a cow, laying his chin on her back. This was the one Linda would target. I’d try for his young competitor now circling the harem at a respectable distance.

Eons ago, when the northern ice cap oozed as far south as Nebraska and Illinois, musk oxen must have been more common, grazing side by side with wooly mammoths, perhaps, or Irish elk in Europe. They must have formed their defensive circles and thrown their hooked horns at dire wolves and saber-toothed cats. Maybe they watched alertly as giant cave bears lumbered by. Why they survived while so many Pleistocene mammals died out remains a mystery. Even their taxonomy remains clouded. Some consider them closely allied with bison, others with sheep. The short-necked, hump-shoulder body reflects bison, but three inches of pneumatic skull bone beneath the horn echoes sheep anatomy. Indeed, when bulls come to blows over their place in the pecking order, they run at one another from a considerable distance, landing horn-to-horn at nearly 25 mph. If this doesn’t settle the issue, they may indulge in bison-like shoving and hooking. With older bulls approaching 900 pounds total mass, these exercises can literally be earth-shaking.

The bulls we were stalking must have settled the dominance question much earlier. The longer-horned but younger bull maintained sufficient distance, yet continued pestering the herd boss, and that diversion aided our stalk.

“We can get fairly close if we slip behind this ridge . . . walk right up to them.” Well, not quite. But within 500 yards. Then we began to crawl, keeping large, frost-heaved boulders between ourselves and the herd, dropping into shallow, grassy ditches created by eons of freezing, thawing and runoff. The wind was in our faces.

“Freeze! They’re looking. That one cow is looking right at us.” She stared nearly five minutes before another altercation between the bulls distracted her. The master was again chasing the youngster from the forbidden city.

“Get to that ledge and we can shoot from it. Should be less than 200 yards.” I pointed to a box-like projection of rock near the far edge of our ridge.

“Let’s do it while they’re occupied,” Linda said, and we crawled again, fast until we fetched up against the wall.

“Can you shoot from there? I can lay over this one down here.”
“I’m good. What’s the range?”

I popped the lid from my rangefinder and punched it. “One-sixty-five to your bull. Mine’s at two-twenty. That’s about dead-on for the way I’m sighted.” I hadn’t anticipated shooting at that distance, imagining the dumb brutes would let us walk right up. How wary could a musk ox be? Pretty wary, as these were proving. The bunch began moving off the far side of their ridge.




“The lead cow is suspicious,” George said from behind us. “She’s going to leave. You’d better shoot if you’re going to shoot.”

I chambered a round. “Any time you’re ready, Linda. I’ll shoot right after you.” And I did. Poorly, putting the 160-grain bullet too far back. Both bulls rumbled downhill, coming closer. We each shot again and they fell in a little basin beside a tundra lake. But the cows kept coming, thundering right at us, throwing mud and grass from the muskeg, long, black hairs bouncing and blowing in the wind. I dropped my rifle and grabbed the camera in time to capture the galloping herd before it turned and disappeared over the ridge. Hump-shouldered and heavy, an enduring remnant of the Pleistocene. Still here.

GEARING UP

Arctic weather on the Queen Maude Gulf isn’t kind to wood or steel. To combat the wet, I carried a Remington M700 Alaskan Ti (Titanium) with fluted, 24-inch, stainless-steel barrel pillar bedded in a synthetic Bell & Carlson stock with its MaxxGuard finish that seems to “give” like a thin coating of rubber. It doesn’t slip when wet. Highly functional, as was the R3 recoil pad, which incorporates LimbSaver technology. The rig weighed just 6 ¼ pounds. A crisp Kahles scope and mounts added another pound. The rifle was chambered for the excellent, veteran 7mm Rem. Mag., still as potent as it was when it first took the hunting world by storm in 1962. Remington’s latest premier loading of a 160-grain Swift A-Frame makes the old seven Mag. deadlier than ever. Both bullets pushed right through the bull.

Optical chores were handled with aplomb by Swarovski’s petite 8x32 EL and 20-60X 65mm spotting scope. SureFire’s latest little flashlight, powered by a single 123A 3-volt Lithium battery, blasted across the tundra like a klieg light during nocturnal visits to the latrine. Unbelievable output from such a small torch. Reassuring in grizzly habitat.

While rubber hip boots are standard footwear on the tundra, they are also clammy and sometimes cold. Since I didn’t have to drag stuck 4-wheelers out of the swamps, I kept my feet comfortable, warm and dry in a pair of ten-inch high, Gore-Tex-lined, Creek boots by Lowa. Instant comfort, no break-in required, great support.

IF YOU WANT TO GO
Contact Canada North Outfitting by e-mail: cnonorth@istar.ca. or visit: canadanorthoutfitting.bigbluesky.ca.

*** ** ***

Best Regards,
Albert A Rasch
Member:Kandahar Tent Club
Member: Hunting Sportsmen of the United States HSUS (Let 'em sue me.)
The Hunt Continues...

Though he spends most of his time writing and keeping the world safe for democracy, Albert was actually a student of biology. Really. But after a stint as a lab tech performing repetitious and mind-numbing processes that a trained capuchin monkey could do better, he never returned to the field. Rather he became a bartender. As he once said, "Hell, I was feeding mice all sorts of concoctions. At the club I did the same thing; except I got paid a lot better, and the rats where bigger." He has followed the science of QDM for many years, and fancies himself an aficionado. If you have any questions, or just want to get more information, reach him via TheRaschOutdoorChronicles(at)MSN(dot)com.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Bulk Ammo, Buying on the Cheap

© 2010 Albert A Rasch and
The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles
$g&m f9bd 45kd q!?5.

Hello friends! Just a quick post today.

Once again, I have received a very nice note and request from Steven Otterbacher of Bulk Ammo, a new dealer in ammunition with suppliers like Remington, PMC, Fiocchi, Federal, Aguilla and many others. They would like to let you know about some excellent deals on factory ammo they have. If you purchase your ammo in bulk, as I do, you will save a substantial amount of money by doing so. We are talking about brand new ammo, not the cheap ammo that might be corrosive!

Their website is very easy to navigate and their cartridge selection is comprehensive. I was very pleased at the number of manufacturers that they represent, and with the quantities they have on hand ready to ship.




Bulk Ammo has offered to provide a $25 off coupon
for their Grand Opening on any order over $200.00!

Click picture to check out this deal!


I was running low on 45ACP ammo. If you have a twenty year old at home, you know how much ammo it takes to keep them in line. I went online and checked a few sources to see how their prices compare. Bulk Ammo was cheaper by several cents per round, and that's without the $25.00 coupon. So I asked the Mrs if we could order 1000 rounds of the PMC Bronze 230 gr FMJ. PMC is a good cheap ammo that is accurate and clean. With a little juggling I got the go ahead to place an order, and we should be all stocked up again.

Check them out. They have a very good variety of handgun, rifle and shotgun ammo from several manufacturers, at very competative prices.


Best Regards,
Albert A Rasch
Member:Kandahar Tent Club
Member: Hunting Sportsmen of the United States HSUS (Let 'em sue me.)
The Hunt Continues...

The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles

Friday, September 10, 2010

Sporting Classics Presents: A Growling in the Rain

© 2010 Albert A Rasch and
The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles
$g&m f9bd 45kd q!?5.

The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles, in association with Bernard and Associates, proudly presents Sporting Classics. Widely recognized as the premier outdoor magazine, with award-winning graphics and the country's top writers, Sporting Classics focuses on the best hunting and fishing throughout the world. Whether it is wingshooting grouse on the Scottish Highlands, stopping Cape Buffalo on the plains of Tanzania, or landing delicate Rainbow Trout on a 2 weight bamboo fly rod, Sporting Classics and its stable of renowned authors covers it with class and finesse.

The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles has been chosen as one of the few Outdoor Bloggers to share content from a well respected and well known magazine in the outdoor community!

Please enjoy the following advance publication. I would like to thank the Bernard and Associates team and Sporting Classics for choosing The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles  as a partner in their endeavours!



A Growling in the Rain
by Robert Reitnauer



Stalking a lion in a downpour
 is something only a crazy East African hunter would do.



It was a hot and dry September day in Tanzania, just south of the little village of Loiborserrit. We left our camp under the stand of tall fig trees and drove off in the hunting car with clients Clarence and Carol, bouncing over tracks someone had the audacity to call roads. We were looking for a good lion in a heavily hunted concession, which meant the big cats were well-educated and keeping to cover during the day.

About 40 miles from camp we happened upon some promising tracks and immediately set out to acquire some bait for our blinds. By late afternoon we’d collected an old buffalo bull, then cut up and tied the hind-quarters at two sites several miles apart. Close by the bait trees we built ground blinds that blended in perfectly into the surrounding brush.

“Cat’s in the bag,” I jokingly bragged on the torturous drive back in the utter blackness of an African night.

The next morning found me relaxing in my tent, listening to mourning doves and green pigeons and my staff preparing breakfast. The couple had bagged everything except a lion, and I was determined to leave the baits undisturbed for at least two days. Other than a few hours of bird-shooting, sitting around camp seemed like a good choice.

My tent man brought hot shaving water, poured it into the canvas washbasin and hinted that bwana should get his rearend in gear and shave. While shaving, I noticed a respectable bank of clouds – definitely rain clouds – but in Septemember? The clouds continued to build up throughout the day and by afternoon, the humidity was oppressive, the air warm and still.

In the wee hours of the following morning the heavens opened and rain cascaded down, accompanied by streaks of lightning that crisscrossed the sky. Water rushed everywhere and so did we, hammering in longer tent pegs to prevent our tents from collapsing. By noon the rain was falling steadily and the little waterhole next to camp had become a small lake.
The deluge didn’t stop until early the next morning, and by sunrise the dry bushveld was alive with the sounds of insects, birds and even the hysterical laughter of a hyena scouting out our camp.

This will be Clarence’s day, I thought, though we’ll probably have to put up with more rain.

After loading our guns and gear in the Land Cruiser, we headed to the closest bait, plowing through muddy, red water and with the tires slinging mud in all directions.

About five miles from the blind, my Number One bearer and I left the vehicle and walked to the bait site. Our approach was good, but the last few hundred yards were tricky because of sparse cover. Finally, we reached a big acacia bush where we stopped to glass the bait and surrounding area.

Suddenly Number One began nodding his head, like Kavirondo cranes during their mating rituals. I never could understand how he could see better than me, especially with my Zeiss binoculars. He had spotted something out of the ordinary, perhaps just a shadow, ghosting through the dense thornbrush. Number One was all for taking a closer look, to find long mane hairs, proof of a good lion, but something told me to back off, as simba might be close.

After checking the second bait, which had not been touched, we stopped to eat lunch and quench our thirst under the shade of a big tarp. The air was hot and muggy, and we could see another mountain of dark clouds coming toward us from Ol Doinya Lolbene near camp.

Despite the approaching storm, I thought our best bet was to hunt from the first blind – to give it a shot, rain or no rain, because our area permit would expire in a couple days and we had to leave. Number One thought bwana was off his rocker, but was willing to follow my intuition.

The rain was pouring down when he stopped the vehicle and once on the trail, we were quickly soaked to the skin. Clarence’s wide-brimmed hat lost its shape and it appeared he would need windshield wipers to keep the water off his tri-focals. At least the rain felt pleasantly warm.

We slipped and slid the last 200 yards to the blind, where the downpour blanked out everything but a faint outline of the bait tree. The thunder rumbled while raindrops drummed on the parched soil and splattered the leaves and branches; at least the noise would cover our approach.

Huge drops continued to bombard us as we hunkered down inside the blind, our boots covered in mud. I focused my binoculars on the bait and the area around it, but failed to see anything. I wondered: Can a person get any wetter than wet . . . or be more miserable and have such fun?

Late that afternoon, as the rain let up and our visibility improved, Number One and I really began to concentrate. I had to wipe my binos constantly though Clarence didn’t seem to notice; he was bent over like the Hunchback of Notre Dame, and I don’t think his mind was on lion hunting.

And then I saw him, looking as ragged and wet as us, walking over to the bait tree to get out of the wind and rain.

Breathless minutes passed. How long would he stay there? Would he even come out to eat in the rain?

Dusk was approaching and if we waited, good shooting light would soon be gone. In my mind, our only chance was to leave the blind and stalk closer. Number One said it might work, but Clarence thought stalking a lion in the rain was something only a crazy East African hunter would do.

It was crazy, I admit, but soon all three of us were crawling over the wet grass and mud toward the big tree. It seemed like hours had passed before we were within 20 yards of the tree and the remains of the buffalo dangling from a heavy limb. I figured it was time to stand, abandon caution and see what in hell was going to happen. We were certainly well-armed for whatever came next; I had my .416, Number One carried a .416 and Clarence his .375. You need that kind of firepower in a situation like this.

Fifteen paces . . . ten . . . then I was so close to the tree I could have reached out touched it with my rifle barrel.


Sensing something wasn’t right, the lion popped his head out from behind the tree. Instantly, his big eyes blazed like coals and he issued a deep, rumbling growl. Then, like hot oil gushing from a drum, his huge, tawny body seemed to flow around the tree as he flung his huge paws right at my head. Three heavy-caliber bullets tore into his head, neck and chest, and old simba dropped heavily to the soggy ground, barely a step away from my feet.

Hours later, after a good meal and with some elixirs to warm our bodies, the rains finally stopped and the southern sky was once again studded with stars. We sat around the campfire, reliving our adventure and trying to make sense of the heavy rains that seemed so out of synch with the season. But my gunbearers had the answer: The heavens had to weep, because a simba died.

Editor’s Note: Born in Tanzania (East Africa) in 1933, Robert Reitnauer was formerly a fully licensed Professional Hunter and Safari Operator in southern Africa.



***

Next Week: Oxen of the Ice Cap!


Best Regards,
Albert A Rasch
Member:Kandahar Tent Club
Member: Hunting Sportsmen of the United States HSUS (Let 'em sue me.)
The Hunt Continues...

Though he spends most of his time writing and keeping the world safe for democracy, Albert was actually a student of biology. Really. But after a stint as a lab tech performing repetitious and mind-numbing processes that a trained capuchin monkey could do better, he never returned to the field. Rather he became a bartender. As he once said, "Hell, I was feeding mice all sorts of concoctions. At the club I did the same thing; except I got paid a lot better, and the rats where bigger." He has followed the science of QDM for many years, and fancies himself an aficionado. If you have any questions, or just want to get more information, reach him via TheRaschOutdoorChronicles(at)MSN(dot)com.

Nebraska Hunting Company Scott Croner

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Largemouth Score: Dad 1, Blake 7

© 2010 Albert A Rasch and
The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles
$g&m f9bd 45kd q!?5.

With only a couple of more days left to me on R&R, I am trying to take advantage of the break and get out there with BassMaster Blake. The kid has some kind of magic touch, because he just reels them in while I flail about helplessly, casting the same lure, at the same retrieve in the same spots and coming up empty handed!


First Largemouth Bass of the day!

Blake's #2 bass...

Number three in hand...

Fourth Largemouth...


Later that afternoon, #5 was brought in...

And shortly thereafter number six!

This four foot cottonmouth
was all I could catch up until that point...

And then this lunker slammed my crankbait!



Blake mercifully quit after #7;
this little but pretty largemouth!

What a great day! We had a blast chasing Largemouth Bass from lake to lake. All in all we covered about sixty miles from where we started to where we called it quits. As I have mentioned before, Florida is just dotted with lakes of all different sizes, and we just headed North stopping at every lake we could legally access.

Best Regards,
Albert A Rasch
Member:Kandahar Tent Club
Member: Hunting Sportsmen of the United States HSUS (Let 'em sue me.)
The Hunt Continues...



The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles

Nebraska Hunting Company CupidFish.com Scott Croner