October 22, 2019

Teddy Roosevelt’s Odd Perspective on Hunting, Storytelling and Grizzly Bears

Some time ago, some good friends bought me a book for my birthday. The book is called, “Theodore Roosevelt on Hunting“. And shamefully I must say I am just getting around to reading it.

As is the case most often, we as Americans tend to idolize past iconic figures. I suppose each of us has our own individual perspective on Theodore Roosevelt, but most of us are guilty of placing people like him on a level perhaps a bit above being a normal human being, capable of errors, poor decision making and having faults. When we take the time to read personal writings that include accounts of his life, it does offer us a chance to see someone in a different context than the one history has painted for us. Teddy Roosevelt was only human and as much as one might or might not enjoy his storytelling, it seems that he had some unusual views on others who told stories and what I would say was a near bizarre concept about the grizzly bear.

Early on in his book, Roosevelt writes about hunting grizzly bears. He begins by recalling some of his own experiences with hunting the big bears; interesting enough. But then he gets into an odd sort of protective proclamation about grizzly bears and how they have been wrongly labeled as vicious by exaggerated storytelling but then uses his own storytelling (exaggerated?) to label the bears as vicious, still claiming them not to be.

One of the last grizzly bear hunting stories of his own personal account he tells us is of a time when having shot at and wounded a bear, it turned on him. Roosevelt then goes on to write:

This is the only instance in which I have been regularly charged by a grisly. On the whole, the danger of hunting these great bears has been much exaggerated.

I’m not sure I understand what he means by “regularly charged”. I’m still pondering that.

Roosevelt justifies his claim that grizzly bears aren’t dangerous to hunt by telling readers that, “At the beginning of the present century”, (that would be early 1800s) grizzly bears were an “exceedingly savage beast” that would attack a man “without provocation” and that was because there didn’t exist the modern equipment that Roosevelt was using, which has evidently taught the bear to run in the other direction. Roosevelt describes it as: “he[grizzly] has learned to be more wary than a deer, and to avoid man’s presence almost as carefully as the most timid kind of game.”

But did it really teach the bear to run instead of charge or was this merely Roosevelt’s perspective of the temperament of a grizzly bear that, for whatever the reasons, he felt compelled to project?

In his book, Roosevelt pretty much appoints himself as an expert on grizzly bear hunting and behavior while doing his very best to discredit anyone’s grizzly bear story that he might not agree with.

Hence men of limited experience in this sport, generalizing from the actions of the two or three bears each has happened to see or kill, often reach diametrically opposite conclusions as to the fighting temper and capacity of the quarry. Even old hunters – who indeed, as a class, are very narrow-minded and opinionated – often generalize just as rashly as beginners.

I wonder if, in Roosevelt’s elitist mind, obviously placing himself in a class of hunter above all others, he felt the same way toward those “narrow-minded old hunters”, when he became one? He obviously didn’t recognize himself to already be one.

Not only, it appears, has Teddy Roosevelt appointed himself the lone grizzly bear hunting expert, he lays claim to be the only one qualified to tell a hunting story. In the thirty pages that Roosevelt appropriates for telling his grizzly bear hunting stories, ten of those pages he dedicates to ballooning his own self-importance with his self-proclaimed authority on grizzly bears and dumping on anyone else with a grizzly bear story to tell I assume because they were not as intelligent as he was.

But oddly, which brought me to audible laughter while reading this chapter, Roosevelt takes 20 pages to retell all the grizzly bear stories he has heard and they are all about hunters being attacked by grizzly bears; some of those attacks being unprovoked. And if that isn’t enough, he also tells tales of humans not hunting and being attacked by grizzly bears unmolested. I guess whether a grizzly bear story is exaggerated or not or tells of grizzlies being vicious or not depends on who is spinning the yarn.

I suppose how often people were attacked provoked or unprovoked back then was all relative and therefore, someone like Teddy Roosevelt could easily state that grizzly bears have no interest in attacking a human. He appears to have had some issues in dealing with “old hunters” and accepting stories or even companionship from some of the “outdoor men” of the time and region.

Don’t take me wrong. There is much in what Roosevelt writes that comes directly from his own experiences of what bears do during certain circumstances. This information was useful then and probably would be useful today if there was any grizzly hunting in the U.S. I wouldn’t, however, be too quick to disregard the other tales from the rugged outdoorsmen of the day. As tall as some of those tales might be, there is always a certain degree of truth in all of them.

I did find it interesting to discover this part of Roosevelt, what in my opinion appears to be a bit of haughtiness on his part – but wasn’t the bully Roosevelt a haughty person anyway?

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Public Informational Meetings Regarding Waterfowl Hunting Zone Line Modifications

Two public informational meetings on the potential to modify the current waterfowl hunting zone lines have been set for Sidney and Bangor, Maine. Adding a third, coastal zone and moving the current North/South zone line further north will be considered.

The Sidney meeting will take place Monday, May 14th, at 6:30 pm at the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife office at 270 Lyons Road.

The Bangor meeting will take place Wednesday, May 16th, 6:30 pm, at the Bangor office located at 650 State Street in Bangor.

Results of the survey that was taken in March will be presented as will draft dates for comment on the proposal. Comments and discussion with those in attendance will also take place.

This is all leading up to the formal proposal for the Migratory Bird Hunting Season that will be advertised during the rule making schedule this summer.

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WMD 9 In Maine Opens for Turkey Hunting

This from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife:

“As of Saturday, May 5, 2012, Wildlife Management District (WMD) 9 is open to turkey hunting through June 2nd. WMD 9 includes the area northeast of Greenville to Baxter State Park. Analysis of data and observations indicate the turkey population in the WMD is healthy and will support a hunting season like neighboring districts 10 and 14. All the rules and regulations involved in turkey hunting will apply, including having a valid spring Wild Turkey Permit and a valid hunting license.” (emphasis added)

I sure would like an explanation of “Analysis of data and observations”. Hmmmmmmm

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Maine Turkey Hunter Attacked By Coyote

Hiding in the brush and using a hen turkey call, Maine turkey hunter Bill Robinson called in a hungry coyote that attacked him believing the noise to be a turkey. Bangor Daily News has more.

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Milt’s Corner – Maine’s Opening Day Turkey Harvest


Milt Inman photo

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Maine Moose Permit Deadline Rapidly Approaching

The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife reminds everyone that they have until May 14th to apply for a Moose Permit!

This year’s lottery will take place at the Oquossoc Marina in Rangeley, Maine on June 23rd. Maine plans to award 3,725 permits this year. The winners will be announced first in Oquossoc, and then the entire list will be published.

To apply for a permit to hunt a moose you must apply on-line – the deadline for paper applications has passed.

www.maine.gov/ifw

If you’ve already applied for a permit, we thank you for your application. If you haven’t you can beat the rush of last minute filers!

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Summary For Maine’s 2011/2012 Intensive Coyote & Predation Management


Please click to enlarge.

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Calling in Javalina

Make sure to be prepared should one actually mistake you for another javalina as you’ll see in this video.

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Maine DIF&W Lacks Mission Statement and Commitment For Harvest Opportunities

It’s nearly impossible for any establishment to achieve success without a distinct and clear vision of what their mission is. On the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife(MDIFW) website, there is no “mission statement”. If one gleans through the many pages, they might be able to pick up certain statements that would tend to make them think certain things about what it is that MDIFW is aiming to do. However, is that clear and concise planning that guarantees success?

An example of what I mean can be found on the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources web pages. While it matters not to me or perhaps to you whether we agree with the information contained on those pages, at least there is a brief mission statement and stated goals and objectives. This gives the department written goals and objectives to strive for, provides that same information to the citizens of Utah and creates a written benchmark in which citizens can keep the department on task by a continual reference to those goals and objectives. This is basic.

Some states, like Montana, and approximately 12 other states, have gone so far as to amend their constitutions in order to protect the right to hunt and fish. Montana’s amendment reads: Section 7. Preservation of harvest heritage. The opportunity to harvest wild fish and wild game animals is a heritage that shall forever be preserved to the individual citizens of the state and does not create a right to trespass on private property or diminution of other private rights.”

While it’s impressive that Montana has such an amendment, read carefully exactly what it protects concerning hunting. It protects “opportunity to harvest wild fish and wild game animals”, nothing more and nothing less. As citizens wishing to fully protect that heritage, wouldn’t it make sense to mandate fish and game departments to manage wild fish and wild game animals for surplus harvest for all citizens, along with protecting the opportunity?

This is the transformation that has taken place over the years by fish and game departments, hijacked by state governments, along with non governmental, environmental, and animal rights groups, to turn these departments into wildlife protection agencies. While most states’ fish and wildlife departments toss about the use of “opportunities” to hunt and fish, no longer do we find departments willing to state that their goals are to manage game animals for surplus harvest.

Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife(MDIFW) lacks a clearly written, well defined and accessible mission statement, complete with goals and objects. It also has no constitutional guarantee to provide surplus game or protection of “opportunities” and spends much of its time not only being manipulated by social pressures rather than using science, it goes out of its way to seek out and involve the public in setting management and population goals based on what the public will tolerate.

Evidently fed up with the bitching and complaining from hunters and associated industries, Maine crafted its “Maine’s Game Plan for Deer“. Prompted by a dying population of whitetail deer in Northern, Western and Eastern Maine, this plan was devised believing it would be the road map to recovery. What the plan lacks, once again is what I, personally, would consider clear goals and because of this, leaves sportsmen unsure of what exactly is going to take place, what the specific plan and achieved goals will be, specifically population objectives, and exactly who the Maine’s Game Plan for Deer was written for.

As a hunter, one would wish to see a statement from the Governor or at least the MDIFW Commissioner, stating that the objective of Maine’s Game Plan for Deer is to restore surplus populations of deer in all Wildlife Management Districts(WMD) for harvest opportunities. This would tell the sportsmen, who by the way are paying the bills at MDIFW, that the department intends to grow deer to levels that will give them surplus deer to harvest. Such a statement does no exist in Maine’s Game Plan for Deer.

As second choice, hunters might be satisfied for now if they could read or hear from the same sources that Maine’s Game Plan for Deer sets goals to rebuild deer populations that would increase hunting opportunities. That didn’t happen either.

As a matter of fact any wording or written statements that provide hunters any kind of reasonable assurances are quite lacking. The best I could come up with I’ll share below.

The MDIFW, after releasing Maine’s Game Plan for Deer, dedicated an entire newsletter to publish its new plan and discuss the whys and wherefores. Surely here hunters would find assurances.

In the newsletter, the following statement can be found:

While we’ve all been impressed by healthy deer populations, including trophy bucks, in parts of Maine, we’ve been concerned about low deer numbers in northern, eastern and western Maine. The population is below our publicly derived goals, and below the desires and expectations of hunters, guides and outfitters, rural Maine business owners, and those who enjoy watching deer.(emboldening added)

What does “publicly derived goals” mean? I can guarantee you it doesn’t mean more, better and guaranteed opportunities to harvest your deer to feed you family next fall. Further research shows us that Maine’s Game Plan for Deer is broken down into five elements.

One might also think that while publishing Maine’s Game Plan for Deer, an opportunity would be seized upon by MDIFW to assure the hunters, again those paying the bills, that this plan is for them (we are the ones who bitched and complained) and the purpose is specifically to grow deer to hunt. Instead, the preamble is about deflecting any notion of placing any blame for an abysmal deer herd away from MDIFW by stating: “there are several inter-related factors that are suppressing deer numbers” and the list does not include any slight hint of poor management. As a matter of fact, Commissioner Woodcock tells readers, “I’ve heard hunters claim that mismanagement on the part of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife caused the numbers to go down. That’s not true.” The dog ate my homework? Why does MDIFW exempt itself from blame?

So, if Maine drafts a Maine’s Game Plan for Deer, and in it there is nowhere that it even assures hunters that the plan is to grow surplus deer for harvest, then why are we paying for this and supporting it?

Element Two of Maine’s Game Plan for Deer is titled: Deer Population Management. Here’s what’s listed:
Strategies:
• conduct research to
refine our current deer population model
• better understand interactions between deer,
habitat, and predation
• understand how moose management may affect
our ability to increase the deer population
• work with landowners to eliminate deer mortality
where winter feeding makes deer susceptible to
vehicle collisions
• increase law enforcement efforts to target illegal killing
of deer
• work with the legislature to increase penalties for
illegal killing of deer
(emboldening added)

If I wanted to write a book, I would address all of these issues. However, a strategy to “refine our current deer population model” needs attention because, after all, isn’t this what Maine’s Game Plan for Deer is about? How does MDIFW plan to “refine” this and what’s more, what IS the current deer population model? Oh, yeah! I recall. Maybe the statement made the other day that was published in the Bangor Daily News from Maine’s head deer biologist tells us what Maine’s “current deer population model” is.

We realize, more than anything, that moose are valued economically for viewing as well as hunting opportunity as well as being on the landscape and just the aesthetic of moose,” Kantar said. “We balance all those things. That’s our job.”

Just replace the word “moose” with “deer” and that probably fits aptly.

But I think Element Four should give us a better indication why Maine’s Game Plan for Deer is not a plan to increase your odds of bagging a deer next year or any year into the foreseeable future. It’s a plan to appease the public and in particular environmental and animal rights groups. Element Four is: “Deer Planning and Public Involvement”.

MDIF&W has employed public participation to develop management goals and objectives for many species of Maine’s wildlife, including deer. The Department has conducted species planning since the early 1970s and has refined and expanded the process with each planning update. Most recently, the 1999 Big Game Working Group set the Department’s deer population management objectives for 2000-2015.

Deer are a public resource, but live on private lands. For any wildlife management effort to be successful, especially those occurring on private property [including deer wintering area management] society must determine: 1] the wildlife management result it desires, 2] the effort that it will undertake or require to achieve the result, and 3] to achieve the result, how much of the effort / cost will be borne by the private landowner and what, if any, society will bear.

You may view this statement in much the same way as does MDIFW, the governor’s office, the Maine Legislature and probably the majority of the Maine population. You agree with it and/or find no fault with it. However, it’s this mind set of “we’ve been doing this “since the early 1970s” that people think because they have it must be right. It’s not! It’s wrong on every count. It’s why there are no more deer! Why is this difficult to comprehend?

Deer is a resource that must be managed scientifically. We are now at a point where our fish and game departments allow the dictates of social pressures, and yes, even the social perversions of extremism, to directly influence how it manages wildlife. We, as yet anyway, don’t directly control our human populations based on what society dictates, do we? Please say no.

As a hunter, here I sit trying to figure out how we have gotten to this point. Since I was ten years old, I have invested in the Maine fish and game department. I didn’t do it because I had nothing better to do with my money. I did it because I like to hunt and fish. I did it because I was told that coughing up money each year for a license was a good thing and that money would be used to make sure that I had fish and game to harvest when I was hungry. This is my investment and your investment. We are still paying for it and we have nothing to say about it while the environmentalists and animal rights advocates have infiltrated our fish and game departments and all through state governments. And they pay nothing for the privilege of telling MDIFW what it will and will not do. There once was a time when sportsmen had ownership and the influence. No more, and that’s very sad as well as a troubling commentary for our future.

Maine’s Game Plan for Deer, like the hapless MDIFW without goals, without strategies, without a mission, is not a plan that will promise to increase your hunting and harvest opportunities. The Plan makes no such promise, while only stating it will work to increase deer populations that fit social demands only. With a department that protects the predators that destroy the deer, you might get some limited opportunities to hunt deer but it certainly is not what most hunters have in mind…..or at least used to.

Tom Remington

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Months in the Making, Maine’s Deer Harvest Numbers Finally Made Available

While Maine hunters still can’t comprehend why it takes over 3 months to tell them how many deer got killed during the past deer hunting season, most have forgotten, perhaps conveniently, that there was a deer season.

However, today the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) has made available deer harvest information.

Total 2011 deer harvest amounted to 18,170. This compares to 20,063 from 2010. For those wanting to know and something MDIFW didn’t seem too eager to publish in their report, that’s a decrease in deer harvest of about 9.4% from the previous year. That in and of itself might not sound all that bad but when you realize that this year’s harvest was half what it was in 2000, it further drives home the point that Maine deer hunting stinks. It’s been in a downward spiral for many years and the past three years are not indicative that anything is going to change in the foreseeable future.

The numbers are not unexpected but pathetic regardless. In MDIFW’s written report, it seems the department is quick to point out that any reductions in deer harvest from last year to this year are all the result of the reduction of “Any-Deer Permits” issued. Of course the harvest report isn’t the place to discuss this issue but the question still begs to be answered; what has MDIFW been doing for the past decade that it got to a point it had to make such drastic cuts in the allotment of Any-Deer Permits?

Are we now supposed to accept that with 2 of the past 3 winters being relatively, to exceptionally, mild and a drastic reduction in Any-Deer Permits, Maine hunters will soon be back to the glory days of deer hunting? Let’s hope so but true deer rebuilding will not happen until the state gets a handle on their over grown and over protected predator populations. Sorry, but in my opinion no hope and change global warming and/or reduction of Any-Deer Permits in Southern Maine, is going to do squat for Northern Maine.

Tom Remington

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