Friday, October 23, 2009

Monster Elk Taken in Yukon Territory

Bull of a Lifetime!

Many of you are probably aware of the non-typical 9X10 elk taken this week by in the Canadian Yukon Territory. Almost two months ago,On September 25, Canadian Dall sheep guide Alan Klassen killed an elk for the very first time! Using a .270 with 130 grain bullets, (about 50 grains shy of where I would start...) he anchored the elk with two shots.

Photo Credit: Alan Klassen

I did a little research on the history of these introduced elk herds. Yukon is the northernmost area of the elk's range. Elk occasionally migrate north into southeastern Yukon near the border with British Columbia and a small but stable population has established itself there as populations grow and expand their range.

Photo Credit: Alan Klassen

In the late 1940s, the Yukon Fish and Game Association successfully introduced elk in southwestern Yukon. Nineteen wild elk were transferred from Elk Island National Park and released near BraeburnLake in 1951. Another 30 were captured and relocated in 1954, with the intent to provide elk for new hunting opportunities. Between 1989 and 1994 the Yukon government released 119 more elk in the areas of Braeburn Lake, Hutshi Lakes and Takhini River valley in order to bolster the now growing elk population.

Yukon Elk Distribution Map
Image Credit: Management Plan for Elk in the Yukon

The elk have remained within a triangle bounded by Whitehorse, Carmacks, and Haines Junction, and are in two distinct and separate herds. The two herds are: the Takhini herd which numbers about 175 elk, while the Braeburn herd has about 85. The estimates made of the population are based on an inventory conducted in Fall 2007, along with radio-collar observations which are still being done, and aerial photo counts; but elk behaviour and the terrain makes it quite difficult to get a precise count.

Photo Credit: Alan Klassen

The movements and mingleing between the Takhini Valley Herd and the Braeburn Herd are not really clear though it is thought to be minimal. Small mixed groups and lone bulls are sometimes seen quite far away from their known range, for example in the Haines Junction, Dezadeash Lake, and Deep Creek areas. But is not known which herd these animals may come from. In recent years the number of elk have dwindled in the Hutshi Lakes area since their release in the 50's. And though elk have inhabited the area since their initial release, it appears that they may have migrated to a very large burn near the Fox Lake. The abundant new growth has been a magnet to the elk.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Beekeeping; Not Exactly by Design

© 2008, 2009 Albert A Rasch and
The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles

The Bear grabs hold, all the while telling me to hurry up before they manage to sting us and we die of anaphylactic shock.

Quite a few of the things I have gotten myself involved with are coincidental. For instance, I’m a coincidental beekeeper. I was sitting at the feed store one afternoon enjoying the local gossip, when in walks a rancher looking for bee killing stuff. “Bee killing stuff?” I wonder. Probably wants wasp or yellow jacket spray. But no, its bees, and by the sound of it they’re in hives. One of the fellows recommends gasoline and a match, while another comes up with motor oil and a sprayer. Its times like these that I wonder how we survive as a race.

Now, I’ve always had an interest in beekeeping. Such diligent laborers those little creatures are. Not that I’m very diligent, but I appreciate their hard work and perseverance. After listening to the eradication plans of my less sophisticated associates, (I think they had reached the point of mixing an explosive cocktail of diesel fuel, organo-phosates, and black powder.), I volunteered to get the bees

The rancher tells me he doesn’t know how the bees got there in the first place. He was pretty sure that they had been in the same spot for a few years. So I get directions to the location.

I found the spot with little difficulty. An area of about thirty foot wide and ten foot deep had the look of purposeful neglect. Bay trees grew in random spots, and shoulder high weeds covered the rest.

Investigating more closely, I found a half dozen hives of four or five boxes each, in various states of disrepair. One bottom box had rotted so badly that the whole hive listed a good 30 degrees to the left. There were two other hives and assorted other boxes in the surrounding brush, most of them unsalvageable.

I went back home and did a lot of reading. Which in and of itself was educational, but did little in preparing me. Most of the information I gathered was related to production. There was some info on moving them from one location to another; not on the actual mechanics of the process, but rather the importance of proper relocation. It is true we came to find out, that there’s really nothing quite like hands on experience.

I figured that night time was the very best time to get them. They would all be home and cozy. Bees have to sleep, right? What could be simpler than gently picking up the hives and putting in the back of the Blazer, then taking them home while they slept.

Of course bees don’t really sleep. By the time I had figured out that a hive weighs in excess of 150 pounds or so when loaded with bees, wax and honey, the girls had crawled all over me and proceeded to sting me at every opportunity. By the eighth or ninth barb, I had decided to retreat and regroup.

If at first you don’t succeed, make a plan. So it was time to plan the operation. The next night I came better prepared.

First on the list was blocking the entrance; a properly cut one by two took care of that. Sweatshirt, light gloves, duct tape, mosquito netting with a hat, head lantern with a red filter, and two large Rubbermaid containers to hold the hive.

The plan was to remove the top box, lay it to one side, remove the next one, put it on top of the first, and so forth until I got to the bottom one which I would then put in the Rubbermaid box. Then the rest of the boxes would go back into the Rubbermaid in proper order. That was the plan.

I arrived at the location an hour after sunset. I geared up and went right to work. What I hadn’t noticed the previous night, was that bees frequently gather at the front of the hive, sometimes in smaller clumps, other times in much larger, depending on the temperature. This was a warmer night, and there were plenty of them hanging around the outside of the box. A couple of misplaced hands, a thump or two, and they were angrily buzzing around.

By now I was running around in circles, arms flailing in every direction. A bee landed right on my forehead. I took a quick slap at it with my left hand. Of course I forgot that I was wearing my beautiful wedding band. Damn near ¾ of an ounce of tungsten carbide clocked me a good one right between the eyes. That staggered me. I don’t know what happened to the bee though.

My wife was watching from the safety of the Blazer. She rolls the window down and hollers at me: “Honey! Baby are you all right?” I’m thinking to myself “Yeah fine, I’m lovin’ all of this!” All I manage to get out, according to her, was “I’m going to die out here! AAAaaargh!” I run for the relative safety of the car.

I finally called the fine folks at Rossman Apiaries. After explaining my situation to the nice lady that answered, she recommended I use a smoker and maybe another person to help lift the boxes.

OK point taken.

Now, its not that I’m cheap, but I am frugal. Money is always tight when you’re raising kids, and the price of everything keeps on going up. That smoker would cost me $28.00 of hard earned income. I, of course had a better idea. Back in the day I was quite the cigar aficionado. I still have a couple dozen boxes of cigars in a humidor I made out of a large tool chest. (That’s another story…) So I grabbed a couple of stogies and went forth to do battle one more time.

Firing up that cigar and—(Just go up a half-dozen paragraphs, where it starts with “I arrived at the location an hour after sunset.” And you get the idea of how this plan worked out. Save me the trouble of retyping it…)

I finally broke down and ordered the smoker.

When it arrived a couple of days later, I took it to the shop, loaded it up with cedar wood chips and lit that sucker. Finally! Voluminous clouds of cool white smoke! Now I was in business.

This time I brought Jordan Bear with me. We geared up in substantially the same gear as before. But this time we had “THE SMOKER.” We decided to move the smallest of all the hives which consisted of three boxes total. We lit the smoker with a micro torch and made darned sure that the thing was well lit and smoking vigorously. We approached the hives like two Roman gladiators sizing up a known and dangerous opponent. I started puffing that smoker like a steam locomotive. Clouds of smoke wafted over the hive. The bee’s wing vibration increased noticeably from a gentle hum to an angry buzz. I looked at Jordan but couldn’t make out what he looked like behind the veil. (Sweating bullets I bet.) But as we watched, every bee on the outside marched into the hive. I gave Jordan a quick rundown on what we were going to do. I pulled out my cabinet maker’s pry-bar and positioned it between the first two boxes. I gave it a sharp rap with the palm of my hand to separate the two boxes from each other. All I managed to do was to shake the hive from side to side. I tried a couple of other corners with similar results.

I gave the hive a couple of more puffs of smoke. I sent Jordan back to the car for a tire iron. A short time later he was back. By this time I had darn near suffocated the bees with smoke. Anyway we placed the pry-bar back in place and gave it a couple of good whacks with the tire iron. It took a good eight or nine blows before the boxes parted. By now the bees were getting real noisy; a few were even flying around looking for something or someone to sting. I suppose that if someone was banging on your house you would be pretty aggravated too. I puffed that smoker some more.

I tried to lift the top box off but the frames from the lower box were stuck to the frames from the upper. (The bees build comb on the frames, and the frames are what hold the wax combs and honey.) By now bees are crawling all over the hive, my arms, chest, and plenty have taken flight. I can see exactly where this is heading. I put the box back down crushing a dozen bees, and give it a violent twist to break the adhesion between the two sets of frames. All I manage to do is spin the three boxes around. Did you know that crushed bees smell like silicon spray? And did you know that the smell of crushed bees incite the others to attack something? I tell Jordan to grab the bottom boxes and brace against the next twist. He grabs hold, all the while telling me to hurry up before they manage to sting us and we die of anaphylactic shock. I gave it another twist and thankfully separate the two.

We put it in the Rubbermaid box and cover it. I take the bottom two boxes and with Jordan’s help put it in the second box. There are still a few dozen bees flying around, and I hope they all found a home in another hive; I wasn’t going to hang out anymore than was absolutely necessary. We each grab one end of the tote box and carry it to the car, load it up, and go for the other.

Finally, we are at the car and congratulate each other on a fine job. I pulled my gloves off, and then the cap and veil. Jordan was doing the same. Both of us tossed them in the back and I started the car.

What didn’t occur to either of us was that bees were crawling all over our shirts, hats, gloves, and everywhere else. Of course I had the car rolling down the shell road before it happened.

In hind sight, it was obvious that we started celebrating too soon.
The Bear, his appellation not withstanding, screams like a girl. I mean pitch, intonation, all of it, as teenage girl as it can get. All I know is that he screamed, I jerked the wheel, and we were barreling off road across a pasture at 40-50 miles per hour. Now, right about this point I feel the damned bees crawling on my neck. My right foot was trying to get to the brakes; both hands were trying to get the car under control. Each hummock of grass threw us against our safety belts or slammed us into the doors. Meanwhile the bees were busy sting the snot out of us.

At some point, I don’t know when, Jordan managed to tear the belt off, open the door, and before I could react, was bailing out the door. I suppose the car wasn’t really going that fast but it felt like forever before it stopped. The Bear already had his feet under him and was off to the proverbial races. I wasn’t far behind.

About an hour later, we were back on the road again, none the worse for wear, if you don’t include the five or twelve stings we got.

Once we were home, we moved the totes under a tree that would remain shady until we could get the hive reassembled.

Assembling them wasn’t that bad, as the bees were obviously disoriented by the move and allowed us great latitude to do whatever we needed to do without to much grief. That and it was daylight which made it easier to figure out what we were doing.

Believe you me, we learned quite a bit from that experience. The following moves went much more smoothly. We collected a minimum of stings, and ended up with seven hives of bees.We have collected about two hundred pounds of honey from our hives this fall.


As it so happens I was working the hives this weekend with these results:Yup that’s right!

Stung on each eyelid! You should have heard the colorful language…

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Not Even Pigs Can Withstand Big Coal

© 2008, 2009 Albert A Rasch and
The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles
$g&m f9bd 45kd q!?5.
Wild Hogs Tough? Not Against Big Coal!

In my ongoing operation against Mountain Top Removal I have uncovered another example of the wanton disregard for the environment that the mining companies have.

In Baiting up Hogs, I gave instruction on methods used for attracting wild pigs. Hunter Angler of Jake’s Outdoors, said that there where very few wild hogs in his region. I went to his web site and saw that he hails from West Virginia. Hell I thought, there’s got to be a mess of razorbacks tearing up the mountains out there. Boy howdy, was I ever wrong.

I wanted to speak with some authority about his area of the country, and in researching through the data to answer his question I naturally started by searching the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources web site.

“Hunters killed 7 wild boar during the 2004 season. Archery hunters took 4 and firearms hunters killed 3. The entire harvest came from the same general area in Logan County.”

Seven? Total? For the year? Are they kidding me? I’ve killed seven just walking in an afternoon. OK, maybe I didn’t kill seven, but I sure saw a lot more than seven. Either those West Virginia mountain boys are really bad hunters, or something else is going on.

Biologists do not believe that boar hunting contributed to the population decline. Past seasons have been short and hunter participation restricted by permits.”

Ok, maybe they are so good that they just don’t get a long enough season to put a dent in the population. But there’s been a population decline?

“Wildlife Resources biologists conducted an extensive survey in February 2004 to confirm the presence or absence of wild boar…The survey indicated a much reduced boar population of probably fewer than 50 animals.”

Holy smokes! Less than fifty animals! I have raised wild hogs and let me tell you that three little pigs can turn into thirty-eight in nothing flat. I’m not kidding. In less than one year I had more than forty pigs. But that’s another story in and of itself. How could an area of four counties in beautiful, rugged, bountiful West Virginia have only FIFTY wild pigs in it?

“The main reason for the decline of wild boar in the four southern counties of Boone, Logan, Raleigh and Wyoming is habitat destruction resulting in poor reproduction and survival. Specifically mountain top mining and logging have eliminated much of the once mature oak forest that was favored by the boar.”

So there you have it; mountain top removal and logging are the shameless destroyers and despoilers of the land. How could I have missed it?

“Impacts of coal mining in the boar area account for significant losses of habitat in Casey Creek, Sycamore Creek, Jigley Fork and Skin Poplar Fork. During the last 6 years, 1999 – 2004, there are 14,424 acres under coal mining permits in Boone County and 4,946 acres in Logan County (WV Department of Environmental Protection). Clearly much of the ideal oak forest habitat favored by the wild boar has disappeared.”

“In the 1980's and early 1990's much of the boar area was mature oak forest. Since then accelerated commercial logging removed vast tracts of mast producing trees in main Spruce-Laurel Creek, Sycamore Creek, Dennison Fork, Jigley Fork and Skin Poplar Fork. In the past more than 75% of the boar harvest came from these areas.”

You see, Ol’ King Coal sold off all the marketable lumber before sending in the cranes and dozers, and blowing off the tops of the mountains. They are obviously unashamed of their wholesale destruction and they won’t leave a potential revenue stream untouched either.

“The demise of the wild boar population in West Virginia is certainly highly correlated with the destruction of the mature oak forest habitat favored by the species.”

If you go to the article where I found this information, they also mention the relatively low birth rate of the European Wild Boar. It appears that the hogs in West Virginia were originally stocked from a commercial operation. I have trapped high percentage European Wild Boar hogs here, and I have to disagree with the WV biologists on this:

“These individuals undoubtedly came from a few animals in Germany and were said to have originated in the Ural Mountains of Russia. This pure strain of wild boar seems to be less prolific and more habitat specific than the typical wild hogs of the south. They are certainly poor pioneering species. Their poor adaptability may in part be a result of a genetic bottleneck and the lack of genetic diversity in the population.”

I doubt the genetic bottle neck theory. Unless there was a specific set of negative genetic variables, it is unlikely that such a scenario occurred. I started with three pigs, two females and a male, brother and sisters, which reproduced at an alarming rate, with great viability in their offspring. I caught several high percentage European Wild Boars, and when I bred and crossbred them they demonstrated high fecundity and viability. So again, I’m not so sure that biological issues are the culprit to any great degree.

But, I will SHOUT LOUD AND CLEAR that Ol’ King Coal and mountain top removal are the main perpetrator of the demise of the wild hogs of West Virginia. The callus and reckless disregard for the environment and the people of the Appalachian regions shown by the mining companies is appalling. As I continue to work on this issue I beg you to frequent all of the hunting and fishing forums and tell everyone about the plight of the Appalachian Mountains. Remember that though it might not be in your backyard, something very much like it is probably happening somewhere nearby! When we are finished with Big Coal we’ll be coming to your backyard to help.

Here is a link to get you started: Stop MTR is Denny's blog and in my opinion probably one of the best centers for information on the destruction of the Appalachia.

As an outdoorsman, fisherman, and hunter I am aghast at the result of this abuse of the public trust. Though I am a capitalist through and through, and have absolutely no interest in any government intervention in my daily life, I am completely against this sort of wanton destruction of what should be in the public domain, though owned by private entities. The effects of mountain top removal are so widespread, that regardless of the specific location of destruction, the need for public intervention is apparent. For the coal companies to use an interpretation of the law to justify this abuse is not only unethical but immoral.

Get involved!

Albert A Rasch
The Hunt Continues…

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Ben G. Outdoor's Giveaway‏

Press Release 10/2009
Ben G Outdoors

Ben G. Outdoors is proud to announce their
Fall 2009 Reader Appreciation Giveaway.

Ben G. Outdoors a blog devoted to hunting, fishing and outdoor adventure, will be having a Reader Appreciation Giveaway! The contest will run from Monday, October the 19th through Friday October the 31st at 5:00pm. Winners will be posted on the site Monday November 2nd.

The list of Prizes includes Boots, Apparel, & DVD’s.

Please stop by Ben G. Outdoors for more details and your chance to win one of these fabulous prizes.

The Ben G Outdoors Reader Appreciation Giveaway is brought to you in part by Hank’s Clothing, Warrior Outdoors, & Magnet Gun Caddy.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

How Soon is Now?

© 2009 Albert A Rasch and
The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles
$g&m f9bd 45kd q!?5.

By the time you are read this, I'll be on a jet plane to horizons unknown. I'm not certain when I'll be back again, but I intend to keep in touch. It might be a couple to three weeks before I can get my first messages out to you, but I will be blogging again soon.

So don't worry, I'm not going to stop blogging by any means! But I may have limited access to the internet, and my posting may be erratic.

Those of you that haven't gotten around to follow The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles, (Over there on the left. Go ahead, it will make my day if you do!), please do so, that way you won't miss any of my posts when they come up. And trust me, they will be really, really interesting!

As soon as I can get back in touch with you and let you know what I am doing, I will.

All the best to each and every one of you!