John McCoy is the Charleston (W.Va.) Gazette’s award-winning outdoors writer. His "Woods & Waters" page appears weekly in the Sports section of the Sunday Gazette-Mail.
In 32 years of outdoors writing, John has had articles published in Field & Stream, Outdoor Life, Bowhunter, North American Whitetail, Hatches and other publications. His works have earned more than 50 state, regional and national awards for writing and photography.
Cathy Addington of Winfield, W.Va., achieved an enviable hunting benchmark recently when she killed a black bear in New Brunswick.
It was the 20th bear she’s killed — every one of them with a bow — in the past 28 years or thereabouts.
The 70-something grandmother of two has been traveling to the wilds of eastern Canada since the late 1980s with her husband Frank. Much more often than not, she’s returned home successful. This year’s milestone achievement drew the attention of celebrity bowhunter Ted Nugent, who was hunting out of the same camp as the Addingtons. “The Nuge” had his video crew get some footage of Cathy with her bear for use on his “Spirit of the Wild” television show.
The old expression, “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence,” was probably written to describe deer hunters.
No matter where hunters are from, they always seem to believe they’d have better success if they hunted somewhere else.
Case in point: Ask West Virginians if they’d rather hunt deer in the Mountain State or in Missouri, and they’d probably choose Missouri. But would they really have it any better in the Show-Me State? Let’s take a look at the harvest totals from both states’ recently concluded whitetail seasons.
According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, Show-Me State hunters killed about 239,000 deer. According to the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, Mountain State hunters killed slightly more than 133,000 deer. Advantage to Missouri, right?
Missouri’s land area is 69,704 square miles. Divide 239,000 by 69,704 square miles and you get a productivity average of 3.43 deer killed per square mile.
West Virginia’s land area is 24,229 square miles. Divide 24,229 by 133,000 and you get a productivity average of 5.49 deer per square mile.
Advantage West Virginia.
The devil in all this ciphering, is in the details. If statistics are available, it would be interesting to see which state produces more trophy bucks. Conventional wisdom would say Missouri. But West Virginia’s four bowhunting-only counties account for about 75 Pope and Young Club bucks each year. That’s a slew of trophies.
The arguments could go back and forth forever, but the bottom line is this. Chances are many hunters in Missouri would jump at the chance to hunt in West Virginia, and vice versa. The grass is always greener….
Hunters can get hurt in any number of bizarre ways, but this one takes the cake. From the Associated Press:
LIVINGSTON, Mont. (AP) — A Montana bowhunter was hospitalized in Salt Lake City after suffering an electric shock from poking a dead bear lying on live wires, Park County officials said.
The hunter came across a badly decomposed bear carcass Sunday in the Beattie Gulch area north of Gardiner and suffered injuries to his torso, head and hands after poking the carcass with a knife, the Livingston Enterprise reported.
Park County authorities identified the hunter as Edward Garcia, of Emigrant, and said he is in his 30s. Garcia’s brother, Eugenio Garcia, said his brother’s first name is Eduardo.
Garcia walked two miles to find help, the sheriff’s office said. He was flown to a burn center in Salt Lake City, where a hospital spokeswoman said he was in critical condition Tuesday.
“But he’s in good spirits,” Eugenio Garcia said. “We’re praying for him.”
Park County Undersheriff Scott Hamilton said officials are trying to determine what kind of bear Garcia came across.
“Sounds like the carcass was pretty old and there wasn’t much to go by,” Hamilton said.
A report of the investigation said the bear was in some kind of barrel or pipe that was partially buried and contained bare wires, Hamilton said. The 2-foot diameter barrel had some type of lid, but it wasn’t clear when or how it might have been detached.
“We don’t know how the bear got in there,” Hamilton said.
This weeks main Gazette-Mail outdoors feature told how Chuck Adams, the first man to take all 28 North American big-game species with bow and arrow, narrowly beat a West Virginian to that goal:
To bowhunting aficionados, the words “Chuck Adams” and “Super Slam” go together like — well, like “bow” and “arrow.”
In 1990, Adams became the first hunter ever to attain the Super Slam by killing all 28 North American big-game species exclusively with archery tackle. Had circumstances been just slightly different, though, West Virginian Jimmy Ryan would have beaten Adams to it.
Adams, visiting the Mountain State this weekend for the Chief Logan Hunting and Fishing Expo, recalled just how close the race really was.
“I finished the Slam in early January of 1990, when I finally got my mountain lion,” he said. “Ryan completed his Slam about six months later. If I hadn’t gotten the mountain lion when I did, I would have had to wait until late fall to go on another hunt, and Ryan would have had the first-ever Slam. It was that close.”
Adams, an outdoors writer from Cody, Wyo., said he started working toward his Slam 23 years before he finally finished it. “I developed the concept, and I was quietly working toward it, trying to enjoy it, trying not to feel any pressure,” he recalled.
The strategy worked well until 1988, when a single magazine article abruptly changed the dynamic.
“Petersen’s Hunting found out that I was just a few animals away from completing the Slam, and they published an article to that effect,” Adams said. “As I understand it, Ryan saw the article and decided he was going to try to get there first.”
Ryan, a coal operator from Madison, had already taken about half the animals require for the Slam by the time the article came out. For the next two years, he devoted as much of his time and considerable financial resources as he could to the task.
“About a year after the Petersen’s article appeared, I got word that Ryan was racing to beat me,” Adams said. “I didn’t change what I was doing. I had all the remaining hunts planned, and fortunately I was able to get almost all the remaining species with just one attempt apiece.”
That “almost” nearly cost Adams the chance to be first.
“It took me four attempts to get a mountain lion,” he said. “That’s sort of ironic, because mountain lions are considered one of the easiest species for a bowhunter to get. But on my first three attempts, something always went wrong. Things finally went right, though, and just in time.”
Adams readily acknowledges that his road to the Slam took far longer to travel than Ryan’s.
“I didn’t have a lot of money, so I had to take it at a much more gradual pace,” he said. “I did a lot of the hunting on my own, without guides. I only used guides when the law required it. As I understand it, Ryan got almost all of his animals on fully guided hunts.”
Despite the two men’s widely divergent approaches toward the Slam, Adams said he has “a great deal of respect” for Ryan as a hunter.
“I’ve been in some of the same hunting camps Ryan has been,” Adams said. “I’ve heard he was a very hard hunter, and a heck of a shot with a bow. To attain the Super Slam, you need to have drive and you need to be able to hit where you’re shooting. Ryan definitely earned his Slam.”
Adams said it irritates him when he hears someone try to demean any of the hunters who have completed the Super Slam.
“I hear people say that if they had enough money, they could get a Super Slam too — that it’s no big deal. Trust me, it is a big deal. You need a big bag of tricks to take than many animals.
“To those who say anyone can do it, I would invite them to go up to Canmore, Alberta and hunt for sheep in subzero temperatures. My guide and I spent nine days in a little tent way back in the mountains just to get a single shot at a sheep. The warmest it got during those days was minus 25 degrees. The coldest was minus 52 — and that was without wind chill. The guide and I were watching each other every minute to make sure we weren’t getting frostbite.”
As a widely published writer, Adams already was well known before he accomplished the Super Slam. But afterward — well…
“It was like the booster rockets kicked in,” he said. “The Slam became my biggest claim to fame. Not many people know just how close the race to the Slam was. Trust me, it was nip-and-tuck.”
Bucky Sargent of Blair, W.Va., spent most of the month of November sitting in a tree stand, hoping that one particular buck would come within bow range. It eventually did, and the 14-point buck might end up being West Virginia’s best archery kill of the 2010 season.
Pennsylvania Game Commission officials apparently are convinced that the 879-pound black bear killed last week in Pike County was taken legitimately.
An Associated Press report quoted PGC spokesman Jerry Feaser, who said bowhunter David Price did nothing illegal when he killed the animal.
The report also noted, however, that the bear was essentially tame. Employees of the nearby Fernwood Resort routinely fed the bear, which they had nicknamed “Bozo.” Resort groundskeeper Leroy Lewis said he began feeding the bear 17 years ago when it was a cub.
PGC officials had issued Lewis a warning in September for feeding the bear, which is illegal in the Keystone State. Feaser said bears fed by humans can end up creating a public nuisance.
The negative publicity surrounding the kill — some of it legitimate and some of it unfounded — has soured the experience for Price. He told the Pocono Record that the experience that should have been the pinnacle of his hunting career had been tainted.
BUSHKILL, Pa. (AP) — The Pennsylvania Game Commission says an 879-pound black bear brought down by a bow hunter is the heaviest ever recorded in the state. David Price shot and killed the 17-year-old bear in northeastern Pennsylvania’s Pike County on Monday.
The Pocono Record reports the game commission says the bruin had an estimated live weight of 879 pounds. It was 15 pounds heavier than the state’s previous record-holder, an 864-pound bear shot in Pike County back in 2003.
Game commission spokesman Tim Conway says this bear could be determined to be the world record holder. The world record is determined by skull size. Officials say the bear’s skull will be measured after 60 days.
As is almost always the case when someone kills a critter so big and so potentially important, controversy surrounds Price’s potential record bruin. Some of the allegations: 1.) The bear was well known in western New Jersey, where it had been trapped and lip-tattoed by New Jersey wildlife officials. 2.) It reportedly was raised by humans after its mother was killed by a car. 3.) There is at least one allegation that it took nine shots to kill the gigantic bruin, and that some of them were taken with a crossbow. If true, the kill would be illegal because Pennsylvania’s bow-only bear season is not open to crossbows.(UPDATE — Knowledgeable readers have informed me that crossbows are legal during the bow-only bear season in Pennsylvania. I stand corrected. Thanks for the help, folks.)
So far, the Pennsylvania Game Commission is only confirming that the bear was killed in Pennsylvania and that it was indeed as big as it was reported to be. They’re staying quiet on everything else. PGC officials have yet to issue an official news release.
I’m sure PGC wildlife conservation officers are questioning anyone and everyone about this one. The coming days should bring further news.
West Virginia’s rutting season for white-tailed deer gets more than its share of attention, and justifiably so.
Hunters kill a lot of big bucks during the rut. Deer mating activity usually peaks in mid-November, just before the firearm season begins, so bowhunters tend to reap most of the bounty.
That might change a bit this year. With the state’s forest floor liberally sprinkled with acorns, deer have plenty to eat this fall. They came into the rut in prime physical condition. Curtis Taylor, the Division of Natural Resources’ wildlife chief, says well-fed deer tend to spend more time breeding than poorly fed ones.
“Last year, when deer had very little to eat, the rut didn’t last very long,” he explained. “I would expect this year’s rut to last well into the firearm season.”
That’s certainly good news for whitetail hunters. The firearm season opens Nov. 22.