Thursday, February 26, 2015

Merritt Resident Wins Bronze Medal At Canada Winter Games in Prince George

© Othmar Vohringer

(Originally published in the Merritt Herald - Othmar Vohringer, The Outdoorsman)

Dakota O’Donovan, a young Merritt resident, and his teammate Brian Ng from Langley scored a bronze medal in the air pistol shooting competition at the Canada Winter Games 2015, held in Prince George. Dakota O’Donovan has come a very long way in the shooting sport from his beginnings when he joined the Nicola Valley Fish & Game Club archery classes five years ago. From the archery Dakota enrolled into the club’s .22 rifle shooting classes. He liked the shooting sport so much that he began seriously thinking about becoming a competitive sport target shooter.

Dakota did exactly that when he joined the BC airgun shooting team and began his training program. The bronze medal win is indeed a great achievement, especially considering that Brian Ng and Dakota O’Donovan only spent a very short time together as a team. Yet, they had confidence and trust in each others ability. During the competition neither of the two was able to see the others shooting results. “We really had no idea how the other was doing until the results were combined.” explained Dakota to me.

The bronze medal is by Dakota’s words, his biggest achievement in his life to date, and it only took him a little more than a year to become proficient enough to compete in the Canadian Winter Games. The bronze medal is also an outward symbol that shows others where dedication and discipline can take you. He started off learning archery skills with a wooden recurve bow that was provided by the Nicola Valley Fish & Game club and after that moved on to learning to shoot a firearm with a gun that was provided by the course instructor. What led Dakota to his current success is the will and determination to succeed in what he started by putting the time and hard work in it that it takes to be the best he can be. With that he serves as a positive role model to the young people of his generation.

I asked Dakota what his upcoming plans are; perhaps making it all the way to the Canadian Olympic pistol shooting team? Why not! For Dakota the road ahead is wide open and he can take it as far as he wants too. But for the moment he is concentrating on training his skills, taking part in more competitions and taking it one day at the time.

This summer the Nicola Valley Fish & Game Club will host another .22 rifle shooting course and offers an ongoing archery course for members and non-members alike. Learning to shoot a firearm or bow provides a fun experience in a social setting of likeminded people, it also teaches responsibility, discipline, concentration, attention to detail and hand-eye-coordination. These are all useful and needed skills in everyday life and work.

Image caption: 
Dakota O’Donovan (far right with shooting instructor Bruce Merkley looking on) took his first baby steps to a medal winning target shooter in the Nicola Valley Fish & Game Club’s youth rifle shooting course. 

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Harper Government Reforms Firearm Act

© Othmar Vohringer

In October 2014 the Harper Government introduced an amendment to the existing firearm act they named “Common Sense Firearm Licensing Act”. Bill C-42 as it is called officially has passed second reading in November of 2014 and it widely believed to pass the 3rd and final reading too, despite strong opposition of the Liberals and the NDP, both of which announced that if they win the next election, would bring back gun-control-laws.

It was a long time coming, but Harper is slowly fulfilling his election promise to make life easier for law abiding firearm owners and to put the blame of gun violence where it belongs. The criminals! To this effect the government introduced laws that mandate the courts to punish violent criminals much more harshly than was previously the case, and with less chance of parole and making up excuses to evade long-term prison sentences.

Dan Albas, Conservative MP for the Okanagan-Coquihalla Constituency attended the Nicola Valley Fish & Game Club meeting on January 21st to explain what Bill C-42 is all about and to get input from firearm owners that he will take to Ottawa for discussion.

Here are the essential points of this new legislation:

Mandatory firearm safety training
Under the new act it still would be a mandatory requirement for any first time firearm applicant to successfully complete a firearm safety course.

Firearms prohibition for domestic violence
The amendment in Bill C-42 would require courts to impose a mandatory weapon prohibition order when an offender is prosecuted by indictment and convicted of a violent offence. This order can be issued for life and is also applied to first time convictions. This means that a firearm holder convicted of a domestic assault or other violent crime could be forbidden to ever own a firearm again, including upon first conviction.

Grace period
The grace period would allow a firearm licence holder to retain the firearm beyond six months of the license expiry date without risking penalties and confiscation of the firearm. This grace period is designed to assist lawful firearm owners who may face challenges by the notoriously slow licence renewal process or who reside abroad during the time of their licence expiry date. However, during this grace period of six months, the firearm owner cannot legally obtain ammunition, additional firearms, or use the firearms for hunting and target shooting. Violations of these restrictions could result in the licence being revoked.

POL (Possession Only License)
The Possession Only Licence (POL) would be eliminated in favour of only one license: the PAL (Possession and Acquisition License). The approximately 600,000 POL license holders across Canada would be supplied with a PAL license after their POL license expires.

Authorization to Transport (ATT)
Under current law owners of prohibited firearms, i.e. handguns, must fill out an application form every time they take their weapon to a gunsmith or to a shooting range. Under the new law such time consuming separate applications would fall away for routine and lawful activities, such as traveling to shooting ranges, going to an individual’s home following a CFO (Chief Firearm Officer) approved transfer of ownership, taking the firearm to a gunsmith, and so on.

One very important aspect of Bill C-42 will see to it that RCMP and CFO have to provide full disclosure and clear reasons for their decisions and administrating regulations in a fair manner across all jurisdictions. As is widely practised now, those decisions are based on the individual officer’s discretion or interpretation of the law.

To read the full text of the proposed law visit Open Parliament Website. I am happy with this new law and hope that after 2015 we still will have a Conservative government and see more improvements of legal firearm ownership. The other option of having a Liberal or NDP government would result in legal firearm owners being once again used as scapegoats for the lack of addressing the real problems that create the issues of firearm related violent crimes.

Monday, November 03, 2014

An Email From An Anti-Hunter

© Othmar Vohringer

A few days ago I received an email from an animal rights activist. It’s not the first time and like the ones before, mostly contains the kind of language that cannot be printed in a publication such as this. The thing that baffles me time and again is how these people can put “love”, “respect” and “compassion” in the same sentence with wishes “… that you will die a gruesome death.” And to add emphasis to their universal hatred for hunters: “people like you should all be rounded up and summarily shot.”

Make no mistake, I am a great supporter of animal welfare organizations and have even volunteered my time for such. My faithful dog “Gazu” came from an animal shelter and the hard work volunteers do there every single day earns my deepest respect. But I deplore the many animal rights organizations, like PeTA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), the HSUS (Humane Society of the United States), and the slew of similar organizations that raise vast sums of money, most of which disappears into the pockets of their board members. These groups resort to lies and fabrications that are designed to tug on the heartstrings of children and city folks, to get them to donate money.

While PeTA claims that they do not endorse violence against people to intimate others a little research about that organization quickly shows that they readily support radical and militant animal rights terrorists, that blow up, or set fire to, farms and other animal husbandry systems. PeTA founder and president for life, Ingrid Newkirk, even went so far as to say; “The activists of the ALF (Animal Liberation Front) are the true heroes of animal liberation.” This is the organizations that the FBI and the US government officially declared “Domestic Terrorists”.

How far this hatred can go became evident a few weeks ago. A father posted a picture on his facebook site of his son with the first deer he shot. It took all of 24 hours to get over 150 comments from animal rights activists. Most of the comments in some form or other voiced not only displeasure about the image but also a violent death to the child. One of the animal rights activists recognized the boy and revealed his address on facebook, commenting “…someone should go there and kill that little f… the same way he killed that innocent deer.” I followed some of the protester’s profile links and to my horror learned that these comments were made by adults, most of them parents too. It begs the question of how low can someone sink in his political views that he wishes someone would inflict harm or kill a child. The father of the boy felt the need to contact the police and seek protection for his son from these radicals. This is by no means an isolated case. There are thousands of cases on social media where hunters are threatened. How are animal rights activists even made aware of hunters on social media? From organizations like PeTA which posts 24/7 “alerts” on their sites with the urging of “take action against this atrocity”. With that these organizations openly engage in the spread of hatred.

The fact animal rights folks overlook, and purposely so, is that all life on this planet is sustained by ending another life. Even vegetarians and vegans, which are some of the most hateful, ignorant and violent among the animal rights crowd, have blood on their hands. The crop fields, fruit and vegetable plantations were at one time wildlife habitat, and so are the towns and cities vegetarians live in and the roads they drive on with their cars. Pesticides used to protect crops kill billions of insects- insects which are the food source of songbirds, mice and other animals.

The wildlife that called these places home did not just yield willingly, they were displaced or killed. Vegetarians and animal rights activists wear shoes that are made from the skins of slaughtered cattle. Nutritional supplements like Iron and Vitamin B 12 that vegans need to supplement their diet, are for the most part derived from animal by-products.

Everybody dreams of a fantasy world where the lion sleeps with the lamb. But that is not how nature works. Nature works on the principle of eat and be eaten. Every living thing on this earth, even plants, prospers because something else died. It’s an endless cycle of creating life through death. It has been so since life first took hold on this earth and no animal rights terrorist agenda is going to change that.
When I kill an animal I do not gloat about it. I am proud of the fact that, as a hunter, I am able to provide healthy, organic and nutritious meat for our dinner table. Unlike animal rights activists, I have not lost touch with the real world around us and the part we play in it. I realized a long time ago that death must occur to sustain life. The difference is that some people can accept that fact and are stronger for it while others prefer to ignore the facts of life and choose to commit violent acts to support their radical political agenda.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Bluetongue Virus Identified in New Jersey Deer

News Item provided by

New Jersey wildlife officials confirmed that the state’s first traces of bluetongue virus have been found on two dead deer. According to the Department of Environmental Protection, the deer were discovered in Somerset and Morris County last month (September 2014) and tested positive for the disease, which is spread by bites from the midge Culicoides imicola. Experts often compare bluetongue disease to the similar epizootic hemorrhagic disease, as both share the same symptoms, affect the same species, and are not considered contagious. Bluetongue, however, has a reputation for causing affected animals to develop foot lesions. In animals like deer, elk, pronghorn, and cattle, it can be extremely painful and eventually causes death. The erratic movements caused by the foot lesions have caused bluetongue to also be known as the “dancing disease.”

“The bluetongue virus is widely distributed in the United States, but has not been previously found in deer in New Jersey,” said Division of Fish and Wildlife Director Dave Chanda. “Both diseases are spread to animals by the bite of a certain type of midge. Neither disease can be transmitted to people. While EHD is only found in deer populations, the bites of the midge can transmit bluetongue to certain types of livestock.”

Mortality is relatively low with bluetongue, although there is no effective treatment for affected wildlife. The incubation period can last anywhere from a week to 20 days and symptoms can involve a high fever, swelling of the lips, and respiratory problems. Since the disease is spread by midges, experts expect that the potential for disease transmission will end when the winter frost kills the insects.

Like EHD, people cannot contract bluetongue through handling infected deer or eating venison. A midge bite will also not give people the disease. However, wildlife officials still advise against touching or eating any deer that appears to be ill.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

New York Allows Crossbows For Hunting

© By Othmar Vohringer

The New York Department of Environmental Conservation signed on August 27, 2014 an act into law that permits crossbows to be used by hunters. However, unlike many other U.S. states where crossbows have been made legal archery hunting equipment New York still does not recognize them as such.

In order to hunt with a crossbow hunters need to successfully challenge a crossbow qualification & safety training test. Hunters wishing to use a crossbow also must in some cases be in possession of  a valid muzzleloader licence. The department states; "The new law essentially treats crossbows as a muzzleloader." There are also certain regions or "zones" where crossbows are not permitted. While there are areas and times when crossbows are permitted outside of the muzzlelader season, in most instances they are only permitted during the regular muzzleloader hunting season.

With all the restrictions in place I still find it encouraging to see that yet another state has given hunters the opportunity to use crossbows for hunting big and small game species. It's a start in the right direction.

To read the new regulations and information about crossbow hunting in New York visit the website of the New York Department of Environmental Conservation/Crossbow Hunting.   

Friday, September 26, 2014

PeTA Announces New Plan To Harass Anglers And Hunters

© By Othmar Vohringer

The animal rights lunatic fringe group PeTA announced that they will launch submersible drones called "Aquatic Angel" equipped with cameras to stalk anglers. The "Aquatic Angel" is the newest tool of this animal rights group, following on the heels of the "Air Angel" drones released in 2013 to harass hunters while in the field.  I guess the drones are submersible for one reason only, to scare fish away from anglers.

The release is slated for tomorrow, September 27, which is the National Hunting and Fishing Day in the USA and Canada. Both countries have laws on the book that expressly protects anglers and hunters in the legal pursuit of game and fish from the interference through animal rights and anti hunting people. In other words, what PeTA does with the release of the spy drones is illegal and just another from of harassing hunter and anglers, and interfering with the legal taking of fish and game. I have heard of several reports where hunters have shot down spy drones, apparently they make for good target practice.

Read more about it on the U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance Website.
And here is what the PeTA lunatics have to say.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Outdoor News Roundup

© By Othmar Vohringer

It has been a while since we did a “News Roundup” here at Outdoors With Othmar Vohringer. In other words, it about time for one. Staying informed is very important for hunters and anglers, especially about news of new pending legislation.

Without further ado here is the latest news in the outdoor world.

It is with great regret that a missing hunter in Calgary hunter has been found dead. According to the authorities who examined the dead hunter it is very likely that he had been attacked and killed by a grizzly bear. It seems that each year we of more hunters, anglers and hikers are attacked by bears. This means only one thing, despite the claims of animal rights, bear populations grow an nowhere more so than in Canada. For the full story go to the Calgary Herald. In New Jersey a hiker was attacked and killed by a black bear.

Talking about bears. In NW Wyoming the wildlife service has increased the limit on taking grizzly bears for the next three years in a323-square-mile public land grazing complex east of Jackson. In that area hunters can now take three female grizzly bears.

Alligator hunting is on my “must do list” for several years now and so it is no surprise that I read up on alligator hunting news. In the Mississippi Sportsman News I read that the record on trophy gators has been broken twice inside two weeks. The first reptile, a 756-pound 16 ft. beast, was caught by Robert Mahaffey of Brandon. His record was short lived when Brian Montgomery caught a monster gator weighing in at 792-pounds. Both alligators where taken on public waters near Vicksburg.

When I lived in Illinois the state was known as the nation’s deer hot spot number one, hunters from far and wide would travel to Illinois in anticipation of taking a trophy buck. Large deer populations and good genetics made it possible to hunt on public land with good expectations to get a nice buck. However, over the years things changed for the worse. Some blame the decline of the deer population on bad wildlife management and others on the outbreak of CWD (Chronic Wasting Disease)

This lead to the founding of the Illinois Whitetail Alliance, an organization committed to bring the Illinois deer herd back to its former glory. To do so the Illinois Whitetail Alliance borrowed a conservation tactic that helped the duck population to regain their large numbers, it’s called “Voluntary Restraint”. Read here more how the program works.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Sturgeons –BC’s Very Own River Monsters

© Othmar Vohringer

Sturgeons are truly unique creatures believed to be on earth in their present form for the last 200 million years, the end of the Triassic period, ranking them among the most ancient animals to inhabit earth. There are 25 different species of sturgeons around the globe from China to Russia, Europe and North America. North America is home to the species “White Sturgeon” which also happens to be the only sturgeon species listed LC (least concern), whereas all other species are either listed as “critically endangered”, “endangered”, “threatened” or “vulnerable”.

The white sturgeon is North America’s largest fresh water fish that can reach an age of over 150 years and weigh as much as 816 kg (1,700 lb) and reach a size of 6.1 m (20 ft.) The largest sturgeon ever caught on record weighed 498.9 kg (1,100 lb.) and measured 3.76 (12 ft. 4 inches)

An important reason why the white sturgeon is doing so well here is British Columbia is because sturgeon fishing is big business. Annually thousands of anglers from around the world and across Canada come to British Columbia to pursue this prehistoric river monster. Anglers going for a sturgeon must use barbless hooks that do not harm the animal and it must be released again. Sturgeon anglers also must obtain a special sturgeon conservation licence costing eight dollars per day for British Columbians and 15 dollars per day for all non-residents. The money from this fee goes in its entirety to sturgeon conservation.

It was last year when a friend asked me “Have ever gone sturgeon fishing?” To his utter surprise I answered “No!” which led him to comment “How can that be, thousands of anglers pay top dollar to travel to BC to fish sturgeon and you practically live in the middle of the action.” That got me to thinking that as an angler and a hunter I probably owed it to myself to at least try sturgeon fishing once in my lifetime and began to give some serious consideration and planning on catching a BC river monster. It just so happened that I knew somebody to ask for advice on sturgeon fishing and he was most helpful and even offered to assist me on the trip.

Originally I set the sturgeon fishing date to coincide with the annual sturgeon fishing derby held in Lillooet, but a change in work schedule nullified that idea, which turned out to be a very good thing. I rescheduled the fishing trip for the last weekend of August; that way I could share this unique experience with my brother who was visiting us from Switzerland and with my wife. On Sunday, August 31st, we met my sturgeon expert friend and followed him to his secret sturgeon fishing place. The weather was mixed with light rain and sun periods, just perfect for some good fishing, although at times heavy winds made it difficult to cast far enough out into the deep water of the mighty Fraser River, where big sturgeons swim. After several hours of watching for the tell-tale twitch on the rod tip it finally happened: “Fish on!!” My sturgeon expert friend Clay hooked the fish and asked “Who wants to real the beast in?” We quickly decided that this honour should belong to the guest and so my brother had the task of getting the sturgeon on land and have the pictures taken. It was not a big fish by any means, maybe 4ft at most, but it was the first BC river monster that I ever have seen close-up and touched with my own hands.

I am thankful for everything Clay did in assisting us on the trip with his advice and tips. It was for sure one of the best outdoor experiences I had in many years and best of all I was able to share it with my wife Heidi and my brother Roland and it doesn’t get any better than that.

Image caption: My brother, visiting from Switzerland, posing with a four foot sturgeon caught in the Fraser River near Lillooet.

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Leave No Trace Behind

(Column orginally published in the Merritt Herald - Othmar Vohringer - The Outdoorsman)
© Othmar Vohringer

When we return from our trips in the wilderness we should make sure that we leave no trace of our visits behind. Yet it seems as the years pass I see more and more people leaving refuse in the bush. Sometimes it is just a few beverage cans but more and more often I am finding discarded tarps, tents a, bags of household garbage, motor oil canisters, broken buckets, roles of wire, plastic bags, ropes…the list of human civilization's waste could go on for the rest of this column.

Not only is it a criminal offense in the eyes of the law to pollute nature with garbage it is also a deadly hazard to wildlife. Many years ago when I lived in Illinois, USA, I was a volunteer for the Illinois DNR (Department of Natural Resources) and in this position I assisted in more wildlife rescues than I care to remember. Most times the rescues involved freeing the animal from some human caused predicament. Most vividly in my memory are two cases:

The first involved a deer that got its head stuck in a bucket. Nobody knew for how long the deer was in this pitiful state but judging by its haggard condition and the cuts and bruises on its legs it is very likely that the deer was staggering around blindly for several days, unable to eat or rest until it was reported. We had to tranquilize the deer obviously in order to cut the bucket away.

In the other case we spent over an hour freeing a whitetail deer buck that had somehow managed to tangle himself into a carelessly discarded rope. His front feet, head, neck and antlers were bound so tightly to the point that he was close to strangling himself. He too required tranquilization in order for us to remove the rope that had cut deeply into his flesh. There is no telling how many animals we could not get too in similar situations and because of that died a long and agonizing death.

Most wildlife are very curious animals that like to investigate and are often attracted by human garbage, especially if they smell something edible like a chocolate wrapper or a plastic bag that was used to take food into the camp. Items like this are often found carelessly thrown in the bush. Deer, moose, bears and other animals are attracted to plastic bags and wrappers and will eat them. Plastic is indigestible and will cause a blockage in the animals’ intestines which in turn kills the animal slowly over a period of days, suffering great agony.

Over the years I found that the worst days of nature pollution occur during long weekends holidays when everybody heads out in the wilderness to camp, hike, bike and fish. It puzzles my mind that outdoor visitors don’t mind carting all their supplies into the camp but are too lazy to bring the garbage back out again. If you can bring it with you then you can take it out again too. Nature is the home of the wild animals and it is our responsibility to make sure that their home remains free of civilisation’s refuse. This coming long weekend holiday, and of course at every other time too, be a conservationist and take your garbage, tents, tarps, glass bottles, drink cans and everything else you brought into the wilderness home and discard it in the proper manner.

Enjoy your outdoor activities to your hearts content but when you go home leave no trace behind of your visit so that others too can enjoy unspoiled nature and wildlife does not have to suffer because of irresponsible actions. If you witness environment pollution in progress make notes of the people involved, write down, or take a picture with your cellphone of the vehicle licence plate and call the RAPP-Line (Report All Poachers and Polluters) 1-877-952-RAPP (7277) Cellular Dial - #7277. Let’s all get a handle on trash dumping in our great outdoors.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Childhood Memories That Last A Lifetime

© Othmar Vohringer

On Facebook I came across a “Meme” that contained the following verse: “Memories aren’t made playing video games on the computer.” I had to think about this for a minute and realized that there is a lot of truth in it. Virtually all of my most treasured and vivid childhood memories revolve around outdoor activities with family and friends. Conversely I have almost no recollection of when I started to play (the then) popular video games like Mario and Pong in coffee bars, let alone with whom I played them with and if I lost or won.

While surely not all of the widespread problems with youth today can be blamed on video games, recent social research shows us that some of the more serious social problems can be attributed to these games, especially when children spend many unsupervised hours on the computer. Research done at the Center for the Study of Violence at Iowa State University showed a clear link between juvenile violent offenders with video games as a high risk factor. Other studies on the social aspect of video gaming and online networking seem to reveal that excessive use, up to 3 hours per day, results in a severe lack of attention leading to reduced school grades, lack of patience and loss of reality in real world life. The research also showed that this in turn leads to violent and angry behaviour patterns in over 80 percent of the research subjects. An equally disturbing trend in the research found that these children also suffer from a lack of empathy, compassion and poor social skills.

In other words, they lose touch with the real world and how to behave in a social group which can lead to emotional and behavioural conflicts within the family and society.

On the flip side, a study commissioned by the Eckhard Foundation showed that outdoor activities provide children with self-esteem, a sense of belonging, and a heightened ability to learn. These children also showed more patience and better social adjustment.

There are scientific reports that children exposed to outdoor activities vastly improve their academic skills and lessen considerably their disruptive behaviour. The benefits of outdoor activities is so great in the positive development of children that many schools and youth offender facilities have developed educational outdoor programs with great success in turning “behaviourally disordered” youth into “behaviourally normal” youth.

To me these findings are a no-brainer, because all outdoor activities can be enjoyed as a family and have fun while doing it. An often ignored factor is that family is the most important social structure in a child’s life. It is in the family where our children learn social skills and the associated problem solving skills without resorting to violence, like in video games.

On that note, engage your children in some of the great outdoor activities, not only will this provide provide youth and adults alike with much needed exercise but create memories shared as a family that will last a lifetime.
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