Friday, February 23, 2018

Joe Caton

Decline in hunting puts game animals in jeopardy

A conversation with Joe Caton
BHCN: Good evening, Joe. Have you had a good day?
Joe: It’s a very nice evening. The weather has turned around and warmed up a little. Fishing ain’t worth much; the river is about two feet higher than normal.
BHCN:  I was just out on the lake’s website and saw the river flow is up to almost 3,400 cubic feet per second (cfs).
Joe: Yeah, plus all the little creeks are running pretty well. 
BHCN:  So, it’s getting a bit muddy?
Joe: Oh, it’s a lot muddy, and it’s not fishable and it’s way high.
BHCN:  Okay, so it’s getting to the point where it might be dangerous.
Joe: No, it’s not so much dangerous as just not fishable. The top three miles are always fishable, but War-Man Creek and Soap Creek, and all the others are really flowing high right now.
BHCN:  There’s a lot of snowmelt going on now.
Joe: There was water going over the road toward Ft. Smith and they were concerned about a bridge there that goes into the 3-Mile fishing access. It didn’t wash out, but they had water over it.
BHCN: That water is from what creek?
Joe: That’s War-Man Creek.
BHCN: Man, the creeks are already starting to overflow their banks?
Joe: Yes, they did, but they’re going down now.
BHCN: During the peak warm periods of the day, when it’s in the 40s and 50s, the snow really melts; then, when it cools off, the melt slows and nearly stops at night. 
Joe: Yes, it did cool off last night. We had 50-plus degrees the other day with some wind and that really knocked this snow way down.
BHCN: It’s done the same around here, but it’s supposed to drop down to 8 degrees tonight. It’s not supposed to be more than 40 degrees for the next week.
Joe: Yeah, that will slow the melt down a bit.
BHCN: Well, what did you get done today?
Joe: Well, I was outside and did some fencing and a bit of work on my dog pen – nothing really serious. I went to the gun show yesterday at the Metra.
BHCN:  Oh, how was it?
Joe: It was running parallel with the big wrestling tournament, so there were a lot of people out. The gun show was mediocre. There were plenty of guns and ammunition and things to look at. Lots of gun-related accessories and lots of tables of homemade soaps, dishes, old photographs and quite a collection of things were on display but, as gun shows go, I would rate it mediocre at best in comparison to the way it was in years gone by.
BHCN: So, you’re saying all the gun shows are on a decline.
Joe: They are in this area. They’re just not the same and what I see too is the guys who are in the gun business, and those interested in the gun business are not young. There aren’t a lot of young guys out there. There’s a lot gray hair there. The ones left are still enthusiastic and lots of fun to talk to, but gun shows are not growing, they’re shrinking.
BHCN:  And there aren’t enough young people to carry it on. So that’s the problem.
Joe: That’s correct.
BHCN: That’s interesting. I wonder if that’s reflected in the hunting license purchases. I wonder if they are on the decline too.
Joe: That would be an interesting thing to check out at the state. I know there are still hunters who go out to get some venison or game birds but, when you consider the cost per pound on that, for the average guy going out, it gets pretty expensive.
BHCN:  You’ve got to do it for fun and if you’re doing it for the meat, then you know you’ll be getting some quality, lean meat free of all additives.
Joe: Right, and it’s meat that hasn’t been vaccinated with all kinds of antibiotics. 
BHCN: There is also the old hunter-gatherer challenge of providing food for the family. 
Joe: Yes, stay in practice, stay in tune with the ability to provide wild game as food for your family. Our education system isn’t helping either. It used to be in the west and Midwest, that’s what people did – it was a way of life and that’s changing.
BHCN: Yes, it is. If the interest in guns and hunting drops off, that will affect the game management. We know wild game will continue to procreate and will soon get over-populated. That will add to the management problems of the Fish and Wildlife department. 
Joe: It will be interesting to see what they come up with. Maybe they’ll lower the cost of the license or allow hunters to take two or maybe three deer. There are things they can do. You’re right – it will have an effect. Man is the predator for a lot of game and, if he’s not as active, the game will overpopulate. Nature has a way of dealing with that, and it’s disease.
BHCN: I wonder if the people who want to stop all hunting, and tend to value animals more than humans, will come to realize the pain and suffering they will cause wild game animals through disease and starvation.
Joe: Not only is disease a problem, but also food source. Once there are too many, that being more animals than the food source can support, then not only is starvation an issue, but also destruction of the food source overall because of overuse. I know areas where prairie dogs are so thick they devastate the grass. Also, deer and elk will be causing even more problems for farmers and ranchers by eating up all the grass and getting into their haystacks.
BHCN: I went to Billings yesterday and saw that the prairie dogs are up and out, even though snow is covering all the ground around their dens. 
Joe: Yes, any little bit of sunshine and they’re up and out.
BHCN: What do they have to eat when the snow is covering everything?
Joe: They probably have stuff down in their burrows, but they do forage around and will eat about anything, even sagebrush if they have to.
BHCN: When they’re out foraging, they’re more vulnerable to hawks, foxes and coyotes. That brings to mind another area where our society has brought about a decrease resulting in possible overpopulation – the fur-bearing animals we used to trap. The fur market has dropped and the push to ban most all trapping has really decreased the number of trappers who are out now. It just doesn’t pay to be a trapper anymore and it’s a very difficult, physically demanding profession.  
Joe: That’s’ right and, like you said, there’s no money in it. Like the gun shows, the trappers are just disappearing. It’s a lost skill our society seems to be working hard to get rid of.
BHCN: Trapping requires hard work to get any rewards.
Joe: Man has gotten to the point where they don’t want to work that hard to make their money and have become more reliant on the computer.
BHCN:  Joe, we’ve got to end on that comment. I don’t see how we’re going to reverse the trends we’ve talked about. I guess we’ll just have to enjoy what we have and pray society comes to its senses before we destroy the very animals we claim to care about.  
Joe: You’re right about that. Talk to you next week.