Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report
Oh, Deer – and Bear;
Back to the Shack
BIG BANG: On Monday, the 6-day firearms “buck” season commenced throughout N.J. Just prior to opening, the woods were like the calm before a Category 5 hurricane. The deer, to their credit, were growing incredibly fidgety. They absolutely knew that all hell is about to break loose. To deer, buck season is akin to a full-blown incoming military offensive. Shoutguns and awe.
Per usual, firearms season means any and all non-hunting woodsgoers, like hikers and mountain bike riders, must be on ultrahigh alert. Wear red -- don’t bleed it.
I’m a firm worry monger when it comes to the insanely intense “open” deer season. The bad part is you can be well away from hunting grounds and still be within range of an over-fire, a.k.a. domestic friendly fire.
As for deer, they’re out there in overstocked numbers. The problem is they continue to all but climb into the back pockets of mankind. A fellow in a senior housing development recently counted 17 deer in his smallish backyard area. “There are lots of (deer) stands in the woods out there. I sure hope they’re not aiming this way,” he said in dead seriousness.
During my frequent trackings in the woods, I’ve hypothesized the backyard deer originally massed around houses as a form of protection from hunters during firearms seasons. Then, in a form of accelerated natural selectivity, they prospered – a little too well.
Those deer that lived in the deep woods have been annually blasted back to the Stone Age by a growing number of shooters – many using “drive” techniques to clear-kill entire wooded regions, a bit like strip mining deer. With the population of deep woods deer being bagged, not enough survived to keep the reproduction on par with the kill-off. At the same time, those deer that snuggled up to society’s back, often surviving within 450 feet of homes, reproduced to the hilt. Natural selectivity, of a sort, gave the instant nod of survival to the near-in deer. Those backyarders are now genetically inclined to hang near the protective cover of human development.
Fortunately, in our area, there are decent buffer areas where hunters can keep their distance and still cull out the too-many deer in the hood. However, that intensifies the need to watch stepping into any larger wooded areas in Southern Ocean County.
BEAR WITH THE HUNT: The North Jersey-based black bear hunt is also up and firing. First day saw something like 40 black bear sent to bruin heaven. Looks like somewhere in the vicinity of 700 bears will become rug material.
The controversial hunt is meant to claw away at the state’s bear population, which has taken a turn for the too-many. Scientific estimates place the state’s black bear population at around 3,500.
I’m among the many not buying that numerology. In reality, there may be 1,500 bears – 2,000, tops, providing you include relative bears visiting from nearby states.
Who am I to contradict science? Who is science to contradict me? In fact, I’ve been to a lot of gatherings and I’ve never once run into old man science, per se. Instead, I run into thousands of folks who repeatedly reference the famed no-show artist. In a court of law, science would essentially be inadmissible as hearsay. When I was a kid, I played Simon Says. Now, the game of Science Says is often a bigger laugh.
That said, I must admit that even 1,500 black bear is a lot for a fairly small region of a very small state.
Experts say that garbage, i.e. our upper-shelf organic discards, is the nutritional force behind bears lovin’ life in the Throwaway State. Skipping a number of transitional steps, the more food the bears get, the more lovin’ they make. “Hey, I’m full. What now?”
Affluence also factors in when it comes to the increasing number of conflicts between bruins and humans. Over-moneyed city slickers blindly move into luxurious Hovanian-ed homes built on recently clear-cut lots within field and forest. Before the Gold Carpet Moving Service is even departs, the urban-blooded newbies are mortified to find there are actually icky animals in the woods – and that said animals are unaware of the newcomers’ ominous socio-economic statuses. “How dare that beastly bird swoop after my shih tzu, Snookums? I’ll sue that bastard. Now where the hell is my Canadian hairless sphinx cat with the dragon tattoo? She should be back from going out to meet the other pedigree pets in the neighborhood.”
On the other paw, a huge number of fine folks living within the land of black bear swear the creatures don’t present any danger. In fact, they find them (horrible pun alert) very bearable. Many of those bear appreciators say the annual hunt is bogus. They most often note the natural propensity for bears to simply make babies faster when pressure, like hunting, lowers their numbers. Yes, I picture the male bears constantly saying, “Damn, wouldn’t you know it, our number are down again? Back to work.”
The inconsistent part of the bear-culling hunt is the fact that the projected 700 DOA bear are far fewer than the number of Boo-Boos annually birthed by highly reproductive Jersey black bears. For whatever reason, Jersey black bears reproduce at a rate way beyond black bear in any other states.
It can’t be overlooked that the under-funded Division of Fish and Wildlife makes a nice chunk of change off the permits associated with a bear hunt.
By the by, any hurt put on humans by black bear would comes from an always-protective mother bear or, far scarier, a rogue bear.
Unlike my oft-mentioned rogue stripers (bigger cows that travel alone), rogue bear are unaccompanied for a very good reason: they’re firkin nuts -- and creep the crap out of fellow bears. The more rejected the rogues become, the more they get pissed off at the entire world – and often become attack happy.
Admittedly, an overpopulation of bears forces a widening of their dining parameters – and a performance of their assigned place within the food chain. Being apex predators, anything hungry bear come across becomes theirs for the taking. However, they implicitly, if not instinctively, know humans aren’t the best things on the food chain to mess with. However, come lean times, they will readily push the envelope by going after humanized animals (pets and livestock).
Territorial bears will even get ballsy by seeking what might be called the garbage can mother lode. One of the prime “aggressive” conflicts up north is a bear bypassing outdoor garbage cans and instead busting into nearby buildings looking for the garbage’s source. Dozens of such breaking and entering were recoded in recent years. Should the bear population be allowed to soar, the conflicts will intensify. Even for a wildlife fan like myself, too many of anything in an ecosystem – especially an ecosystem that includes mankind – leads to trouble. Of course, one does not get to factor in too many humans. Pity.
CLASSIC ENDING: The Classic ended in just the knick of time. The final days of the event saw a mere two bass entered. A non-trophied congrats to Scott Aaronson for taking the last bass of the tourney, a 14.44 taken on Saturday.
The departed event is now like a distant ship’s smoke on the horizon (Pink Floyd).
You couldn’t have scheduled an 8-week tournament any better. I sure hope we keep the 8-week format for next year. I’ll be getting the final Classic results in here next week.
It was the biggest bass “derby” since its inception in 1955. Final tally: 26 bass over 30 pounds. Unheard of. And the big fish were spread out among a load of folks. An odd form of parody ruled. Big fish were taken by folks who couldn’t put tons of time into the Classic. A trophy-ized thumb’s up to Ray Sullivan, whose 56.44 cow held on to the end, despite some challenging 50-pound-plus fish.
Not to discriminate against bluefish catchers. While the slammers didn’t make a huge overall splash, only 163 blues weighed in, that slowness made the winning anglers that much more trophy-worthy. Dickey Crosta unofficially had the largest blue, 16.06.
I will proudly note that the two tentative grand prizewinners are both Islanders. That is a real rarity. Ironically, way back in the first Derby days, locals could not win the grand prizes, since they were considered such experts. When that rule was dropped it took years on end for a local to win.
And a special thanks to all those entrants in the Classic this year, nearly 800 strong. For all the economic woes sharking around out there, that was an amazing showing.
OOPS: Apologies to Lynn Shallcross. In last week’s column, I swapped gender on the poor guy. That came about via an email from someone (female) who said I should make mention of the lady anglers. I just went with the email flow – and the names offered within. My bad, Mr. Shallcross. And I should have known better, being a lifelong Steelers fan -- and a super fan of the legendary Lynn Swann.
Here’s an email from Margaret. “Lynn Shallcross that you wrote up as a woman’s fish is a man. I weighed the fish on Nov 27th and it looks like it maybe the 4th segment winner.”
FLEA MARKET IN BARNEGAT: The Barnegat High School fishing club’s fishing flea market is on for this Saturday, December 11. Plenty of tables now registered – which means loads of goodies. I’m hoping some plugmakers will show.
Details: The market runs from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Admission is $3. Kids 2 and under enter for free.
Barnegat H.S. is on Bengal Blvd., which is located approximately 2 miles from GSP Exit 67. For detailed directions, check the fishing club’s website: http://barnegatschools.com/bhs. Click on Activities icon and then the Fishing Club link.
SHACK SALVATION AT HAND: Despite the utter decrepituity of the Causeway Clam Shack, it is actually on the brink of rising from ruin. I kid you not. Powers that be in the Ocean County Historic Society are about to tackle the salvage effort, egged along by Shack aficionados, particularly Jim Yuhas. Jim is a moving force in breathing life back into the ruins of the barely-living icon, easily viewed more than the nationally famed Barnegat Lighthouse – when factoring in everyone crossing the Bay Bridge views the Shack in passing.
Jim Yuhas began talking about the sanctification of the shack a couple years back. And he has a highly emotional attachment to the Shack. His bother, Frank, died on the property. For years, an annual Frank Yuhas remembrance bash was held on the new Tucker’s Island, off the tip of Holgate. The saving of the Shack is the latest way Jim hopes to memorialize Frank, a Viet Nam vet and a long time buddy of mine, going back to the Sixties.
Jim has a number of prominent builders interesting in lending a helping hand. It all comes down to that final green light from public officials.
I am among those fully against a rebuild with all new materials. Even if the remaining structure/wood is only half of the needed material, those original pieces (artifacts) all contain the very intense spirituality of the place. In the vein of Native American thinking, I’m thoroughly convinced that structures essentially absorb what might be called historic energy. What the Shack has seen over the decades should have it all but exploding with the power of the past.
The next Save the Shack step will be money gathering. I’m told there are opportunities to acquire state and federal funding, via matching grants. That means some money must first be in-hand to get equal dollar-age from the government. While Jim already has some donation promised, a more organized fund-raising effort will likely be implemented as outside agencies gets involved. All donations will likely go through the historic society, but with a “Save the Shack” memo.
I’m hoping to get a Shack website up and running to allow folks to not only send funds but to also keep close track of the progress on the resuscitation process. I’ll keep you posted on that.
SAY WHAT?: As I looked through my 2010 notes, I noticed a few fun and/or odd quotes I took down throughout the year. Here is a couple:
I got a great quote via plugmaker Tom W. His 4-year-old grandson, while being taught by pop-pop on how to turn a plug, said he wanted his plug to have three eyes: Two regulars and one looking down! Pop-pop Tom asked why. His grandson confidently explained, “That’s so it can see down.”
Wow, from the mouths of babes. Thinking that concept through, I’ve often seen baitfish on the surface, as they turn sideways to look down at predators poised below. That eye-facing-down concept for a plug might be utterly alien to you and eye but could make an artificial astoundingly realistic in the eyes of a gamefish looking up as it swims along. Brilliant, my boy.
Hey, Tom, I could use a lookdown plug. No, not made by you …
Another quote -- on the odder side of things -- came during an interview I was doing with a Louisiana catfish farmer. The conversation was, at first, fairly typical of a Jerseyan talking with a Louisianan.
“You guys really got alligators and stuff down there?”
“Yep, you guys really got mobsters up there?”
Truth be told, I began my interview by talking down to redneck fellow. I used slow speak and second-grade language. It didn’t take me long to realize the good old boy was disturbingly bright, despite no organized education beneath his cap.
When he heard I was an editor, he jumped from the ponds of aquaculture and into the far muddier waters of national and world politics. Man, did he put me to shame therein. He went from one world politic to another. He’s bounding like a gazelle through world affairs while I’m stuck ten subjects back – wondering who the hell President Yudhoyono is. The best my mind could come up had Yudhoyono as someone in an episode from the original Star Trek series. Google: Yudhoyono is the highly respected president of Indonesia. (Really? What the hell happened to Suharto?)
Interestingly, by interview’s end, I had assumed a southern drawl. I kid you not. What is it about talking to southerners that compels one to start talking like them?
Anyway, one quote I got from him jumped out -- and was instantly assigned to a mind bin labeled “odd and unanswerable.” Toward the end of conversing about catfish, the seriously sharp Southerner slowed down and asked, in utter sincerity and solemnity, “Aren’t we all pretty much just farmed catfish?”