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Ann's Corner

VOLUMES 137 & 138-----------NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2013



December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas Everyone,

Those who read my meanderings (and often mutilation of proper spelling and grammar) through the written word, may recall that I sometimes engage in my own methods of pest control by forcibly evicting the pocket gophers that frequently invade lawns in our part of the country.

If you peruse the table of contents of these newsletters and read some of those past ramblings, you may see a pattern develop that involves gophers in our south lawn.

The last gopher episode to make these pages was in August 2011.  Here I described the eradication of five of the six targeted beasts in two hunting days over the span of a week or so.  Those efforts ended with the 'south lawn' gopher being the one to escape.  Just never could catch that one at hole filling time.  To be honest, I don't even remember if I ever killed that 'south lawn' gopher that fall.

I do recall that I shot at least a couple of the destructive little suckers in that area over the intervening months, but it seems that another resident moves into the extensive network of tunnels shortly after an existing occupant is removed.  Must be prime territory out there!

Let me refresh your memory about my gopher hunting methods:  In years past, I would open a burrow, settle into a lawn chair with a shotgun, and wait until the critter appeared.  If the resident didn't show up within a hour or so, I would usually give up until another time.  I now do this a little differently, which makes for more efficient use of my time.

I now dig out multiple gopher holes, and go about my other chores, simply taking a timeout every so often to grab the shotgun and tour the openings.  This often results in finding evidence of some new dirt in the opening and indicates the gopher is actively in the process of filling the hole.

When I find the fill work started but not complete, it usually means a short wait before getting a shot.  If I find the hole completely filled, I simply dig it out again and continue my periodic tours.

Fast forward to 2013.  In mid summer, another gopher moved into 'south lawn' territory, and proceeded to be a dirt movin' machine!  That gopher could pile more dirt in a shorter time than any other we had previously observed!  It also turned out to be one of the most difficult to either get a shot at, or to kill when I did.  This exasperating creature eluded my sporadic efforts all summer and into the fall.

It would leave a hole open for as long as a day or two after I dug it out.  It would begin filling an opening but stop and abandon the effort until hours or days later.  Based upon years of experience dealing with these varmints, this is very unusual behavior.  I even went back to my earlier method of digging the hole out, setting up a lawn chair and sitting in ambush with a book or magazine to occupy my time.

I did manage to get a couple of shots at this guy but couldn't find a body.  In one instance, I discovered that the dirt I observed being pushed into the opening was coming from a side tunnel just inside the opening.  In the other case, I believe this gopher was simply able to push so much dirt that the shot didn't penetrate far enough to get through.  I'll bet that shot gave it a headache though!

Finally on October 20th my efforts paid off.  Even though the mound of dirt being pushed stopped much of the shot charge, a pellet or two penetrated to provide a head shot that killed the gopher.  And what a gopher it was!  I brought out the camera and a tape measure to record the event.  Looking at previous 'trophy gopher' photos, showed that the largest one measured and pictured was about seven inches from nose to tail tip.  This old female measured a good half inch longer than the previous record!

Trophy Gopher

With snow now on the ground as I write this, my gopher hunting will now have to await the Spring of 2014.

Ann has our October birthday in the family, (too late for the last issue of the newsletter) and we first celebrated on the 30th with gift opening and ice cream at the ranch house.

A Dozen Pencils

Electric Pencil Sharpener

Ever see anyone so giggly over some lead pencils and an electric sharpener?

On November 3rd the birthday action moved to the Onion Restaurant in downtown Spokane.  The Onion is one of the first Spokane restaurants Ann and I frequented some 28 years ago while living in a furnished apartment, awaiting possession of our little house here at the ranch.  As you might guess from the name, The Onion is famous for it's wonderful onion rings, and perhaps more famous for the dill tartar sauce that is served with them.  Their gourmet burgers ain't all that bad either!  At any rate, this was the venue Ann chose for her birthday dinner, on Rick's dime.

Here's one of those wonderful, giant onion rings.  There was only this one-half left before I could get the camera turned on!

Jalapeno Burger With All The Fixin's!  YUM!!

Our 2013 Deer Season in GMU 124 is now over.  I'm sorry to say that we at the ranch didn't really do very well in the 'thinning the population' category.  Both Ann's and my second deer tags went unfilled, and my buck tag was the only one notched.

But wait, we have excuses for that!  One excuse involved an outstanding Buck that was captured on trail cam and actually observed a couple of times.  We deliberately avoided shooting any does to fill our antlerless tags during the early season, thinking that having all those does around would attract bucks as the rut approached during the late season.

Good plan!  Except, seeing the big buck made us reluctant to shoot anything else as long as he might be around.  We could envision a scenario where we dropped a doe, while unknowingly scaring away the big guy waiting just out of sight.  Besides that, the does were around constantly and could be taken any time right up to the last minute, right?

As I have mentioned before, baiting for deer in Washington continues to be a legal and popular hunting method.  Alfalfa hay and shelled corn are staples in this endeavor.  One site north of the house and another to the southwest, was kept supplied throughout the season so we nearly always had plenty of deer on the property.

My buck was harvested on November 16th.  It happened this way:  About 1:00 PM I glimpsed a nice buck climbing the hill behind the house.  I quickly turned away and asked Ann if she wanted to try and get a shot.  She said, "No, you go ahead."

After getting my rifle, stepping out, and slipping a shell in the chamber, the buck was no longer in sight, so I went to plan B, which has worked for us in the past.  I began rattling antlers and working a call that emulates an estrous doe bleat, interspersed with buck grunts from a grunt tube, from the south side of the house.  Sure enough, a buck began circling  his way through the brush to the west, toward my position.

As the deer crept along, well into the edge of brush and trees, his antlers flashed in and out of view.  Finally, after what seemed forever, the buck stepped out of the brush, staggered at the shot, and stumbled back into the cover.  As Ann and I approached the animal some 15 minutes later, I commented to Ann, "This is a good example of the concept of 'ground shrinkage' as applied to shooting an animal you thought was gonna' be bigger."

Jim's 2013 Buck I'm sure the folks at Union Gospel Mission in Spokane enjoyed the burgers.

While this deer was not as heavy in the antler department as I had hoped, it is still a respectable 8 point buck for our neck of the woods.  Most importantly the shot was good, the kill was quick and clean, and I found that the Browning BLR in .270 Winchester worked as advertised.  This is the rifle I pictured in my last newsletter after mounting the Leupold VX III scope and sighting in.  The ammunition was Hornady with their 130 grain SST polymer tipped bullet.

As I've written before this is a quick expanding, fairly thin jacketed bullet that works quite well on animals the size of whitetail deer.  Should the game be bigger and tougher, I would opt for something like one of the bonded core bullets featured by most all manufacturers.  If the game were something that could bite back or stomp me, the caliber would be much larger as well.

Now here's the rest of the story as uncovered by reviewing the trail cam pictures of that afternoon.  I cropped these out of the full size photos to show more detail of the deer and less of the surrounding trees and brush.  The time stamps on the photos show that the first picture was triggered at 1:10 PM and the second at 1:11 PM.

My Buck


The Wish It Was My Buck

Obviously, the big guy pushed the smaller one into the woods, and we didn't see him.  Then the big buck went elsewhere, while the smaller one responded to my rattling and grunting.

Further irony was that the 'wish it was my buck' appeared the next afternoon in the exact spot where mine was killed, and Ann missed him!  (I hope I don't get myself injured for disclosing that revelation.)

Anyway, November 19th, last day of the season was about to end with all of us waiting for another appearance by the big buck.  Ann was in the ground blind south of the house until too dark thirty, without firing another shot.  I was north of the house at one point with the Browning's hammer cocked and the crosshairs on a young doe when I decided there was still an hour to go, and the big boy might still show up for Ann.  So I didn't, he didn't, and thus ended our 2013 deer season.

If you thought that you would escape one of my trips to the Soapbox in this issue, you were wrong!  "Sorry Darla." - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -  "Not Really."  (From the recent AARP identity theft TV commercial)

I noticed a few weeks ago that some pundits were bemoaning the fact that the current U.S. Congress has passed fewer bills than any other in recent memory.  As though this is a bad thing?  My thought was, and is:  Every law that bunch of dimwits doesn't pass is one more thing that doesn't get screwed up more that it already is!

Another item I want to touch on is the recent flap involving two Gonzaga University Seniors, Eric Fagan and Daniel McIntosh.  These men managed to avert an attempted invasion of their apartment by showing a firearm.  (Gonzaga is a prestigious, private Jesuit University here in Spokane.)  This incident made the national news, so you may have heard about it.  If not, fire up your favorite search engine, or here is a link to CNN's take on some of the early details:  http://www.cnn.com/2013/11/09/us/gonzaga-guns/

When the story hit the news, public reaction was swift and emphatic!  The vast majority critical of the University's firearms policy under these circumstances, and especially the decision to discipline the students.

The 2:00AM campus cops' confiscation of the guns resulted in Fagan and McIntosh reporting them to Spokane Police as stolen!  A few days later Gonzaga authorities turned the firearms over to the students' attorney, as the criticism about the way the confiscation was handled continued to build.

Of additional interest, later information coming out of the situation indicated that the students' apartment was not even on campus, and not actually owned by the University.  The apartment building is owned by a private third party, and leased by Gonzaga.  This further fueled public criticism and opposition to the University's actions and policies as well as giving some credence to the men's assertions that they didn't believe their circumstances made them subject to the campus' no firearms policy.

In spite of the 'Keystone Kops' handling of the situation, after 'due consideration' the University's Disciplinary Board determined that the students were in violation of policy, but would not be suspended or expelled.  They would be allowed to continue their education but would be on "probation" for the balance of their tenure at Gonzaga.  (Fagan and McIntosh have filed formal appeals to the discipline, which, to the best of my knowledge is still pending.)

While public support of Fagan and McIntosh appeared to far outweigh any support of the University's handling of this matter, there were sporadic instances of public agreement with the action against the students..

One such was a letter to the editor published by the Spokane Spokesman Review.  I'll not attempt to recreate the entire letter, but a couple of themes stand out.

The letter begins with the same old B.S. argument put forth by opponents as gun laws have been modified throughout the nation to allow citizens to better protect themselves over the past 30 years.  The writer expressed that he didn't want to see "Spokane return the Old West heritage of violent gunplay in the streets."

Exactly the arguments made as we have progressed to where every state in the Union now has some sort of concealed carry law; the vast majority, 'shall issue' statutes.  Yet, the 'blood in the streets' hysteria has not come to pass, and according to national statistics, violent crime is now at a lower level than it has been in decades.  It is also interesting to note that many of those cities and states that resisted most strongly the liberalization of gun laws, also have much higher murder rates than the rest of the country.

The letter writer's statement that really made me shake my head was this:  "As a University Professor myself, I want to feel secure in the knowledge that only campus security and police posses weapons."

Well Prof, that's all you have is a 'feeling.'  I neither know, nor care, where you ply your professorial trade, but if you really believe that the only weapons in and around your campus environment are in the hands of campus security or police, you are one naive dude!

Does that 'no weapons' policy that makes you feel so secure have a prayer of preventing an Adam Lanza wannabe from bringing a gun within your institution?  We both know the answer to that, don't we?

I refer to this story to again take the opportunity to bring forward the ineffectiveness and downright dangers involved in these so called 'no firearms allowed zones'.  This issue was discussed along with the 'universal background check' debate going on at the time in my January/February 2013 newsletter.  To review that issue click HERE.

The so called 'universal background check' was the one item that was believed doable in the U.S. Senate, in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.  Even though, as was pointed out at the time, no background check would have prevented that tragedy.  What was evident in that shooting, and a number of others that we could name, they occurred in places that were declared by posted signs, to be 'gun free' or 'weapons free'!

In spite of continuing tragic examples of how crazies with homicidal intent seek out these 'gun free' zones in which to commit their slaughter we continue to engage in the same insanity!

I doubt that Albert Einstein had 'gun free' zones in mind when he declared his definition of insanity to be, “Doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results.”

Yet the definition certainly fits the nonsense of believing that a posted sign or a statement in a  student manual, in and of themselves, can or will prevent guns being brought into those 'gun free' zones by a person intent on violating numerous other laws anyway!

In the society of my childhood and youth, I cannot recall concerns or discussions around the subject of 'gun free' zones.  Without going into the myriad reasons I believe this to be true, today we live in a much different and often dangerous society than existed in those years past. 

In today's society we must begin to understand that when we make a rule or pass a law, the ability and willingness to enforce it must exist!  Simply passing laws or posting signs as 'feel good' or 'this is the way it ought'a be' measures is fruitless and counterproductive!  In the case of a 'gun free' school building, for example, it is no longer enough to post a no guns sign!  Wishing it were so, just doesn't get it!

If we choose to post a no guns sign or have a no guns policy, whether on private property or public, I see two choices:  Either have the ability to secure the area much as the TSA personnel at your local international airport, or have enough security personnel to effectively and quickly deal with anyone bent on causing harm.

But, are we ready, willing, and able to devote the resources, both money and manpower, to effectively enforce those laws and policies?

Well some signs point toward saying yes!  School districts are becoming more open to discussing such things as armed security, and even training and arming some other school personnel to be able to provide an immediate reaction to threats.

Are these actions the way to go?  I doubt that any of us are sure, but at least discussing and considering some of these alternatives is a positive in my book.

Consider the recent Arapaho school shooting in Colorado.  This heinous act resulted in the tragic death of a student.  As seems a common thread in the school shootings of recent times the shooter had untreated mental issues and ultimately took his own life.  Many believe that this suicide occurred sooner, rather than later because an armed resource officer quickly responded to the situation.  Without that officer's rapid response, how many more lives would have been taken?

This month's hillbilly wisdom comes from a survey asking, "What is the wisest advice you've ever gotten from an old person?"

"Never skimp on your bed or your shoes, cause you spend your whole life in one or the other."

Well, It's time to shut down here, So . . . .

'Til next time, Keep 'em shootin' straight, shoot 'em often, and above all, BE SAFE!!!!!

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