Of these the most bothersome to me is the array of game-hog photos on page 26?the derricked moose, the eleven trussed-up blacktail bucks, and the surplus buffalo potted in some Pennsylvania backwoods pasture. I've been a hunter most of my life, but I never had much affection for the sort of gunners who enjoy posing for the public prints with the remains of their quarry. They remind me of the old duck-kill pictures of 50 years ago, where gunners would be so buried in waterfowl that you could hardly find their faces. Now the sons and grandsons of those Nimrods find it hard to locate enough ducks for a four-bird daily limit. Maybe you have a lot of readers who like pictures of the butcheries, but I just want to register as one who doesn't.
My other outcry is over the Gilligan article on North Dakota foxes and pheasants. It seems to have been written only for the education of the few characters who refuse to admit that predators do so kill game, and healthy specimens of game at that.
Sure, foxes kill pheasants. So do raccoons, snakes, badgers, ground-squirrels, crows, skunks, weasels and wandering housecats. But who made a census around Bowman, N.D. to prove that foxes were the Great Killers and Egg Eaters that Gilligan's article and title indicate? In that country, I would suspect that the foxes would have ample competition from the other predators I've mentioned, and from coyotes too, but Gilligan dismisses the others as minor nuisances. A more thorough field study seems to be in order.
He hardly hints at drought, flooded nests, disease, the hunting take and other causes of mortality to pheasant eggs, young or adults. And he doesn't mention that if each pair of Bowman nesting pheasants raised seven deathproof young per season, North Dakota would be up to its neck in pheasants within five years. What these immortal birds would find for food is hardly worth thinking about. Or does Gilligan contend that only man is good enough to be allowed to kill game birds, and that foxes and other critters should be exterminated if they refuse to stick to a strictly mouse ration?
As a boy, I used to hunt cougars, coyotes and wildcats with a government hunter on the Kaibab Plateau in southern Utah. He killed over 600 cougars alone in 10 years. The mule deer multiplied thereafter so fast that they wiped out their own forage, forced ranchers to remove cattle from the area, and degenerated into starving, disease-carrying wrecks. So I am as leery of these predator-exterminating writers as I am of the armchair blokes who claim that predatory animals either cannot or will not kill anything but sick or crippled quarry.
There are many other fallacies in the Gilligan survey. It admits that the study was confined to only 123 nests actually located and watched in a four square-mile area in a favorable pheasant region that must have carried a much larger number of nests that were too well concealed to be found by humans. Many such nests may have come through to produce chicks, even though most of the chicks may later have been killed by all sorts of causes.
I honestly think that Gilligan, and perhaps some of the SI editorial staff, could profit by some of the really great field work done on game by men such as Durward Allen, Edminster, and Grainge in the past 10 years. Allen's Wildlife Legacy is the best argument I've seen yet on the fact that adequate cover, year-round food and natural increase are a much better solution to the game shortage than small-bag limits, predator-extermination and artificial stocking. Food and cover are VITAL.
Some of the people Gilligan quotes just make no sense whatever?such as the guy who claimed that Hudson River pheasants, with their Mongolian ancestry, just weren't equipped to deal with American foxes. Asia swarms with foxes and other predatory mammals and birds quite as lethal as anything we can offer. Yet the pheasants have flourished throughout Asia for a long time now, thanks to ample cover and abundant food and freedom from the meddlings of theorists of either the predator-killer or the fox-eats-nothing-but-mice schools of thought.
In Maine last summer, half-wild house cats had become a terrible scourge on young and nesting grouse. In Oxford County, in two weeks, I shot 12 cats, all of them more than a mile from any dwelling. All were plump and prosperous from their chipmunk and bird diets. Game wardens up there who know their business told me that foxes, goshawks and other native predators were not worth considering as grouze hazards compared with cats, prolonged rainy weather and parasites. The only natural predator they felt in need of drastic control was the raccoon, and only a renewed market for coonskin furs is likely to bring much improvement in that situation.
I'm not bickering for SI to become a crusading sheet, God knows, but as a new magazine with a big circulation in such a controversial field as sports and outdoor life, I think it might pay off to carry a few pieces on game management by men such as Allen, who know what they are talking about.
GEORGE DOCK, JR.