Woods and Waters An outdoor blog by John McCoy

Leaping Gulf sturgeon

How would you like to be zipping along in a speedboat and get clobbered by an 8-foot, 200-pound fish that suddenly leaped head-high out of the water?

On Florida’s Suwanee River, it could happen. Gulf sturgeon migrate into the river this month, and during their spawning season they have a nasty habit of jumping. Any fish that size could easily cause serious injury;  with sturgeons, the potential for harm is even greater because they have a line of rock-hard knobs known as “scutes” running down each side of their bodies.

Not surprisingly, Florida Fish and Wildlife officials are warning boaters to slow down and be on the lookout for leaping fish. In past years, boaters have been injured.

It’s easy to see why.

A ‘Fishing Hurts’ highway rest stop?

It’s their money and they’re welcome to do what they want with it, but the folks at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals sure come up with some harebrained ideas.

The latest: They want to sponsor a “Fishing Hurts” themed rest stop on Virginia’s Interstate 81. Given the importance of sport fishing to the Old Dominion’s economy, the PETAphiles will probably have a tough time selling the powers-that-be on the wisdom of accepting their offer.

The Roanoke Times has details.

I know I shouldn’t even dignify these bozos’ efforts by posting about them, but they make it so darned irresistible. It’s kind of like throwing a baseball hitter a down-the-middle fastball on a 3-1 count. Just can’t lay off it!

Do hunters’ guns really need silencers?

Maybe I’m missing something, but I still don’t understand why the Kansas Legislature passed a bill that would allow hunters to use silenced firearms.

First and foremost, how many gun owners go to the expense and hassle of adding a suppressor? Even a cheap one costs $250 or so, and the really good ones can cost upward of $2,000. To legally own one, firearm owners must fill out a bunch of paperwork and pay the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives a $200 annual one-time transfer fee. And all that for what? A 60-decibel reduction in sound?

That’s right, reduction — not elimination. In the movies, silenced firearms make a quiet thwip, thwip sound when fired. In real life, they go bang. The bang isn’t as loud as usual, but it’s still a bang.

Kansas’ silencer bill is now on the desk of Gov. Sam Brownback. With his signature, it becomes the law of the land. Go figure.

The Hays Daily News has the latest on this curious bit of lawmaking.

Lightning zaps seven Wisconsin whitetails


Wisconsin’s deer herd got an unfortunate jolt earlier this week.

Seven whitetails died when they were apparently struck by lightning. Six of them were found lying in a circle; another was found about 75 yards away.

The Chicago Tribune has the full story.

Fortunately for the deer here West Virginia, hilltops and tall trees more often than not take the lightning hits large animals otherwise might. I’m sure an occasional whitetail gets zapped, but herd strikes like the one in Wisconsin are pretty much unheard of.

Hat tip: J.R. Absher in The Outdoor Pressroom.

Ladle-wielding woman thwarts tiger attack

Oh, the shame of it all…

Somewhere in the wilds of Malaysia, a tiger is taking a terrible ribbing from the rest of the tiger community.

The unfortunate beast suffered the ignominy of having its attack on a man thwarted by the man’s wife wielding — wait for it — a wooden soup ladle!

The story is here, from BBC News.

The worst part of it, for the tiger at least, must be the derisive nicknames  — “Soupy” comes to mind. Or might I suggest “Spoons?”

Country music scares off hibernating bear

Can't a bear get any rest?

Everyone’s a critic.

Take, for instance, the bear that decided to hibernate in the crawl space of a cabin located on the grounds of Boulder Community Hospital. After the bear was discovered by a maintenance worker, hospital officials decided the potential liability was so great they couldn’t let the bruin remain on the property.

So they scared it off. They put a boom box in the crawl space, tuned it to a country music station and cranked up the volume. The next day, the bear was gone.

Maybe the bear found New Age music more restful. Or maybe it just got tired of hearing about drinkin’, cheatin’ and pickup trucks.

The story, from KMGH-TV.

Mich. anglers land battling trophy bucks

Angler Bryan Ammenson with the two drowned bucks

Two steelhead fishermen made what has to be the most unusual catch of their lives recently in southwestern Michigan. The two were fishing in the St. Joseph River when they saw two trophy white-tailed bucks with their antlers locked in mortal combat.

The deer fell into the water and drowned. The two anglers fished their carcasses out of the river. One of the buck was a 17-pointer with drop tines, and the other sported a gorgeous 10-point rack.

The Herald-Palladium of southwestern Michigan has details.

Hat tip: J.R. Absher in The Outdoor Pressroom.

Brookies preparing a nest

As hobbies go, Steve Brown’s is a bit out of the ordinary. Yeah, he’s a fisherman, but that’s not the least bit unusual. What sets Brown apart from other anglers is what he does when he doesn’t have a fly rod in his hand.

He photographs spawning brook trout. He catches them preparing their nests, going through courtship rituals and consummating their ardor.

The lead feature on this week’s Gazette-Mail Woods & Waters page chronicles Brown’s offbeat pursuit.

An alligator? In Lincoln County?

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service photo

Not all the weird happenings in Lincoln County this fall are politics-related.

Last weekend, for example, wildlife officials got a call from fishermen at Upper Mud River Lake. The anglers said they saw an alligator lying on the lake’s bank.

Nick Huffman, acting superintendent at the Upper Mud River Lake Wildlife Management Area, went to investigate. Sure enough, he found a 5-foot, 7-inch gator sprawled on the bank near the carcass of a 2-pound bass.

Huffman didn’t want to take the chance that one of the lake’s many anglers might run afoul of the big reptile. He also knew the cold-blooded creature would have no chance to survive the West Virginia winter. Huffman killed the gator with a well-placed rifle shot.

Curtis Taylor, in an Associated Press report on the incident, upheld Huffman’s judgment.

“None of my guys have the skill or equipment to capture an alligator,” Taylor told the AP. “An alligator could never survive the winter in West Virginia, never. Rather than let it suffer a slow death, I think we did the right thing.”

Taylor speculated that the gator was a pet that had grown too large and powerful to manage, or “a spring break prank that went bad.”

Woman fends off black bear — with a zucchini

Bear repellent?

I can see it now; hikers in bear country will start carrying zucchinis instead of pepper spray…

From the Associated Press:

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A Montana woman fended off a bear trying to muscle its way into her home Thursday by pelting the animal with a large piece of zucchini from her garden.
The woman suffered minor scratches and one of her dogs was wounded after tussling with the 200-pound bear.
The attack happened just after midnight when the woman let her three dogs into the backyard for their nighttime ritual before she headed to bed, Missoula County Sheriff’s Lt. Rich Maricelli said. Authorities believe the black bear was just 25 yards away, eating apples from a tree.
Two of the dogs sensed the bear, began barking and ran away, Maricelli said. The third dog, a 12-year-old collie that wasn’t very mobile, remained close to the woman as she stood in the doorway of the home near Frenchtown in western Montana.
Before she knew what was happening, the bear was on top of the dog and batting the collie back and forth, Maricelli said.
“She kicked the bear with her left leg as hard as she could, and she said she felt like she caught it pretty solidly under the chin,” Maricelli said.
But as she kicked, the bruin swiped at her leg with its paw and ripped her jeans.
The bear then turned its full attention to the woman in the doorway. She retreated into the house and tried to close the door, but the bear stuck its head and part of a shoulder through the doorway.
The woman held onto the door with her right hand. With her left, she reached behind and grabbed a 14-inch zucchini that she had picked from her garden earlier and was sitting on the kitchen counter, Maricelli said.
She threw the vegetable. It bopped the bruin on the top of its head and the animal fled, Maricelli said.
The woman called for help from a relative staying with her. They found the collie outside, unable to move, and took it to a veterinarian.
The dog appeared to be fine on Thursday, but the vet was keeping it for observation, Maricelli said.
The woman did not need medical attention for the scratches on her leg, though she got a tetanus shot as a precaution, Maricelli said.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials set up a trap in an attempt to capture the bear, the agency said in a statement.
Besides the nearby fruit trees, there wasn’t anything on the woman’s property that would attract a bear into the backyard, like garbage or livestock feed, wildlife officials said.
Maricelli interviewed the woman, but said the sheriff’s office was complying with her wish not to identify her.
“She was very, very shaken, and it kind of took the humor portion out of it for me,” Maricelli said. “She said it had this horrific growl and was snarling.
“(But) she can see the humor in it, and she wanted the story put out so the local residents can take precautionary measures,” he added.