Owls, hawk bomb humans

Posted September 20, 2012 at 11:16 am

After the article on great horned owls, a lady reader contacted me and said that she had been out jogging late in the afternoon in October of last year when an owl came down on her head and knocked her down. She said its talons had cut her scalp a little. She said the same thing happened again this past April, perhaps the same owl. She asked if I knew why it would have done that.

Of course, there could be some logical reason. In April, it might have been an owl with owlets nearby, thinking a jogger would be of danger of harming them. In October, it might have seen her hair and thought she was a rabbit, running along.

You can never know for sure what makes wild creatures do strange things. Owls are strange creatures, and I know they have good night vision, but maybe during daylight hours they don’t see as well. There’s no way to know why an owl would strike someone with that kind of force, maybe it is a deranged owl that saw someone shoot his daddy when he was just young and wants to take out his revenge on humans. But it happens on occasion, and you can come up with your own conclusions. It is difficult to imagine that a bird weighing only 3 to 4 pounds could pack the kind of wallop a great horned owl can deliver. If you remove the feathers from that owl, his body is amazingly scrawny looking. Their size is attributable to about half feathers.

A friend of mine was sitting in a tree stand bow hunting in years past when a red-tailed hawk dived down on him and knocked his hat off. He said it was a strong blow and it hurt. I have written for many years that wild creatures are unpredictable and you cannot always find an answer for what happens. When the “experts” start telling you what a wild animal will or won’t do, they haven’t spent enough time in the woods. “Always”, and “never” are words which do not fit in nature.

From what I have seen, there are more young turkey poults per hen this September than there have been in a long time. Last year was a very good hatch, and I believe this year is better. That bodes well for spring turkey hunters for the next few years. Of course, I will look forward to getting out in the woods in October hunting squirrels and turkeys, but some of those young poults are just a little bigger than pheasants right now. Still, they grow very fast when there’s plenty to eat.

Knowing how good they are to eat makes it hard to pass up an eight or 10-pound turkey, but if you shoot one that small, it doesn’t make a good story. An outdoor writer often has to find different ways to tell the truth about things. You have to say, ‘boy I got a nice turkey yesterday’ and then change the subject to how pretty the woods are or how dry it has been or how you think you might have seen a black bear, knowing all the time that it was a black angus calf. I asked a friend of mine last year how big his fall turkey was and he mumbled something like, “I dunno,–about 15 or 16 or eight pounds.” There’s a lot of that kind of estimating goes on with October turkeys.

Last fall, a Conservation Department media spokesman was on television talking about the increase in the spring turkey hatch. He figured he had to come up with something, so he said there was an increase of about one percent. Some friends and I who spend a lot of time in the woods had a good laugh about that, knowing that you couldn’t measure a one percent increase in wild turkeys. The actual increase seemed to us, after seeing flocks of turkeys in September and October, to be about 25 to 40 percent. But of course all over the state, that figure varies… in the west Ozarks, the increase seemed impressive, but in the eastern Ozarks other outdoorsmen said they didn’t see that kind of increase. I think this year there was just as good a hatch as last year and maybe better.

Another reader called me this week and told me he and his son had found a deer, dying and partially paralyzed. He said he called the Conservation Department offices in Springfield and a lady there told him the deer was dying from a neurological disease caused by biting flies. He asked her if it was okay to kill it and eat it and she told him it was.

I talked him out of that idea in a hurry. In the first place, just hearing about the deer over the phone doesn’t tell you for sure that it is the blue-tongue disease that have killed so many deer, but even if it is, no one should ever, ever, ever, eat any sick deer or any other wild meat from a diseased animal. Just don’t ever do it. If there is a question, put the animal out of its misery and leave it there. Coyotes and buzzards and other carrion eaters will devour it.

The general public makes a mistake in thinking the Conservation Departments are the last word in topics dealing with nature and wild creatures. If you’re talking about biologists from 40 years ago, things were different. Most of them were people who had grown up outdoors and lived their lives outdoors. Today some of those experts and authorities spend almost all their time in an office and live in a city suburb.

There was no better example of that than the “gobble-teers” project the Missouri Department of Conservation under took a couple of years back. They asked outdoor enthusiasts to keep a log of wild gobblers that gobbled in the spring, and the times and repetitions. This was going to be used to “determine the best time to open the wild turkey hunting season”, something that was figured out long ago by far better biologists, the ones who worked to bring wild turkeys back to the Ozarks in the first place.

The project was laughable, something like you would expect of a seventh grade science class. The national wild turkey federation put up a shotgun to be given to some, “gobble-teer” by a drawing, so they got a lot of participants.

One of them told me… “How are they going to know if you are out there at daylight each day?… you can just say you were, and make up the number of gobblers you hear. I just want to win a shotgun.”

All the money and time put into that was useless, it gave no reliable information not already collected decades before. Maybe the MDC officials involved thought wild gobblers had changed into a different kind of creature, and it all had to be reevaluated. Anyway, I don’t think you will see any change to the turkey season, but it gives some of those office-bound experts something to do at their desks, for hours and hours, pouring over the statistics gained by their “gobble-teers.”

There are so many other projects just as useless, but there is money to spend, so that’s a good way to spend it.

News agencies in the state pay little attention anymore to the actual backgrounds and qualifications of people who give them their expert information; they just take it and use it as the gospel.

My email is lightninridge@windstream.net, and my mailing address is Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613 The website is www.larrydablemontoutdoors.blogspot.com.