Woods and Waters An outdoor blog by John McCoy

Raccoon: The other white meat

                                           raccoon2.jpgGee, city folks are learning what we West Virginians have known for a long time — that  properly cooked raccoons can be mighty fine eating.

Witness the success of 69-year-old Glemie Beasley, known in Detroit as “The Coon Man.” He supplements his income by hunting coons, butchering them and selling their carcasses for $15 apiece.

According to a recent article in the Detroit News, Beasley leaves the feet on the carcasses so purchasers will know they’re “getting real coons, and not cats or dogs.”

nssf_logo.jpgBarack Obama was elected President five months ago. For the fifth straight month, gun sales are up.

Coincidence? The National Shooting Sports Foundation certainly doesn’t think so. What do you think?

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

graywolf.jpgAs U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials attempt once again to declare gray wolf populations “recovered” in the northern Rocky Mountains, environmental groups hope to stop them by filing lawsuits.

Activists for the Natural Resources Defense Council and other organizations don’t believe wolves are yet abundant enough to remove the species’ protected status.

According to the Great Falls (Mont.) Tribune, approximately 1,600 wolves now exist in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. Protesters contend the number needs to rise into the 2,000-to-3,000 range to ensure survival. Fish and Wildlife Service officials believe the science “is settled” and that wolves are abundant enough to allow some of them to be sport-hunted and livestock-damaging wolves to be shot.

Unless someone comes forward with an acceptable compromise, this issue will likely be decided in the courts. 

trout_stocking_21.jpgIt’s the height of the stocking season here in West Virginia. Every day, trucks filled with brook, brown and rainbow trout crisscross the state delivering their finned cargo.

And as the trucks go their merry way, anglers gather in Internet chat rooms and register opinions on message boards either praising or panning the practice of fishing for stocked trout.

Some folks say the state shouldn’t be in the trout-stocking business. To them, the stocking of so-called “put and take” trout is akin to a welfare program for unskilled fishermen. Others believe trout shouldn’t be stocked in waters incapable of supporting them year-round, or that non-native brown and rainbow trout shouldn’t be stocked in streams capable of supporting native brook trout. Still others believe their annual trout-stamp purchase entitles them to a certain number of trout, and if those trout come from a truck that’s just too bad.

Here’s what I believe: West Virginia has hundreds of streams capable of supporting trout year-round.  Where possible, those should be managed — either through fingerling stockings or natural reproduction — for wild and/or native trout.

Note I said “where possible.” Some streams, such as Randolph County’s Gandy Creek, Pocahontas County’s Knapp Creek and Greenbrier County’s Anthony Creek, have such devoted stocked-trout angler followings it would be political suicide to remove them from the stocking list.

What I’d really like is for trout fishermen to try to get along. If people prefer to cast dry flies to wild or native trout, more power to them. If people prefer to chuck Power Bait into a pool filled with stockers, that’s fine too. The idea behind fishing is to enjoy oneself at the level of involvement one happens to choose.

For some, that means strict adherence to catch-and-release fishing and heavy involvement in civilian trout conservation projects. For others, it means following a truck for hours with the idea of bringing home a limit.

It’s been said before, but can’t we all just get along?

Choked to death by bait? Ugh!

In an attempt to entertain a chartered fishing boat filled with school children, a California man put a bait fish in his mouth.

Unfortunately, according to the Orange County Register, 54-year-old Jeff Twaddle choked to death on the bait. Attempts to revive him failed.

The sheer absurdity of the incident might amuse some readers, but keep in mind that a man died a most unpleasant death in an earnest attempt to make 20 kids happy, and that those kids witnessed the whole thing. Nothing to make fun of here.

The cops in Sarnia, Ontario, apparently don’t want coyotes in their town — not even ones made of cardboard.

When city park officials put cardboard cutouts of coyotes on the village green in an attempt to scare away geese, no one bothered to notify the cops.

Then, when a jogger complained that one of the coyotes “barked” at her, the cops turned out in force. They surrounded the offending critter, only to find that — it — wasn’t — real.

Sensing a prank, the cops confiscated the cutouts, leaving parks officials to deal with goose poop as best they could.

Finding stocked trout in West Virginia is now just a click or two away.

Division of Natural Resources officials recently rolled out a new interactive online trout-stream map.

Visitors to the DNR’s Web site, http://www.wvdnr.gov, can access the map by clicking on the site’s “fishing” and “trout stream map” links. The map starts with a wide view of the state. By clicking on specific areas — or by entering specific stream, county or town names — cyber-anglers can locate the stocked-trout waters in any part of the state.

    One of the knocks on bowhunting is that wounded deer sometimes elude hunters.

   Pat Donahue, a bowhunter from Mallory, apparently doesn’t give up quite as easily as others. Donahue, 62, spent two days tracking a wounded trophy buck through the tangled brush of a Logan County mountainside before finding the deer and dispatching it.

   His perseverance paid off. The buck turned out to be the largest bow kill in West Virginia this year.

wall1-copy_i090321232610.jpgWest Virginia’s New River was once renowned for its trophy walleyes, and it might soon be again.

Biologist Mark Scott believes the fishery declined in the decades between the 1960s and the 1990s after alewives — bait-sized fish that eat walleye eggs — migrated downstream from Virginia.

A burgeoning shad population eventually crowded out the alewives, but by then most of the native walleyes were gone. Stocked walleyes, grown from non-native strains, failed to thrive.

In the late 1990s, Virginia researchers isolated the genetic profile for the native New River strain and began a selective breeding program. West Virginia fisheries officials captured some natives and began a program of their own.

Those fish are now thriving. Recent electrofishing surveys by Scott and other Division of Natural Resources biologists revealed a gradually expanding population and excellent growth rates. Scott believes trophy walleye fishing will return to the river from Sandstone Falls downstream to Fayette Station, probably within the next decade.

Park Service: Uhhh, never mind…

National Park Service officials must be getting some heat from hunters and anglers upset at the NPS’s plans to eliminate lead ammunition and fishing tackle from all park units, including West Virginia’s New River Gorge National River.

A Park Service spokesman now says the lead ban was intended to affect only Park Service personnel and was never meant to include hunters and fishermen.

Mmmm-hmmm.

Read the Park Service’s original news release and decide for yourself.