Hunters Warned Of ‘Widow Makers’

Weekly news, tips, trivia, fun facts, and wild tales from the outdoors

Oct. 14, 2009

Hunters Warned Of ‘Widow Makers’
Hunters in states hit by a devastating ice storm earlier this year are being
warned about the dangers from above they may encounter in the deer woods this
fall, hazards colloquially known as "widow makers." In addition, this
week you’ll read about new restrictive firearms-related legislation signed into
law in California a couple of days ago, and more!

Hunting Is ‘Looking Up’ In Mid-South
Hunters heading out this time of year — especially in parts of Tennessee,
Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri and Arkansas — should take particular safety
precautions when selecting locations for treestand placement.

J.R. Absher

The safety risk in the mid-South hardwood forests this year is the result of
the devastating January 2009 ice storm that downed trees and electric lines
from Kentucky to Oklahoma, and left thousands without power for up to three
weeks. The storm also left the forest floor littered with downed trees and
debris, along with partially downed and hanging "widow makers" that
continue to pose threats to those using the woods.

Just last week, a bowhunter was critically injured during the opening weekend
of Tennessee’s archery deer season when a damaged oak tree 40 yards from his
treestand fell and struck him. James Middleton, 33, of Knoxville, was knocked
to the ground by the impact, his safety harness snapped by the falling tree.

The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission this week issued a special press
release addressing the dangers found in portions of The Razorback State.

"There is a lot of debris in the woods all across north Arkansas. In
some places it is going to be difficult for hunters to get around," said
Rick Chastain, AGFC assistant chief of wildlife management. "Everybody
needs to look up. Look for hanging limbs that could fall when you don’t expect

Along with the obvious damage to trees in the region impacted by the ice
storm comes the collateral effect of a drastically reduced mast crop in some

Deer hunters aren’t the only sportsmen still reeling from the aftermath of
the mammoth 2009 ice storm.

Last week the Professional Kennel Club announced it was relocating its 2009
World Coonhound Championships to Salem, Ill., after nearly two decades in
Aurora, Ky.

PKC President Roger Carnegie said the massive number of downed trees and the
inherent safety hazards associated with hunting at night necessitated the move
from western Kentucky.

Remembering Rev. Maclean, Fly-Angler
Probably no genre of angler is more obsessed with casting accuracy and prowess
than the fly fisherman.

And, when it comes to fly fishing, there’s not a book and movie combination
that brought more interest and excitement to the sport than the 1976 memoir,
"A River Runs Through It," by Norman Maclean, and the subsequent 1992
film featuring emerging (at that time) mega-star Brad Pitt.

On Oct. 11, a monument honoring the central character in the story, minister
and fly fisherman John Maclean, was dedicated at the First Presbyterian Church
on Fifth St. in Missoula, Mont. It was in this Western city that Maclean
presented his first sermon as pastor of the congregation 100 years ago this
year, in February 1909. He planned and oversaw the building of the current
house of worship, which was completed in 1915.

Rev. Maclean, his wife Clara, and son Paul — around whose 1938 murder the
book’s plot is constructed — are all buried in the church cemetery.

If you only saw the movie and neglected to read Maclean’s magnificent book,
you missed some classic and inspiring fishing lines (pun intended). Among them:

"Poets talk about ‘spots of time,’ but it is really the fishermen who
experience eternity compressed into a moment. No one can tell what a spot of
time is until suddenly the whole world is a fish and the fish is gone. I shall
remember that son of a bitch forever."

"He told us about Christ’s disciples being fishermen, and we were left
to assume…that all great fishermen on the Sea of Galilee were fly fisherman
and that John, the favorite, was a dry-fly fisherman."

Poll: Record Low Support For Stricter Gun Laws
New polling data released last week by Gallup finds a record low number of Americans
support more restrictive laws regarding firearms use and ownership as compared
to earlier data compiled on the subject.

According to the poll results, only 44 percent of Americans believe laws
impacting firearm sales should be made more strict, reflecting a drop of 5
points in the past year and 34 points from the high of 78 percent recorded the
first time the question was asked, in 1990. The results are based on Gallup’s
annual Crime Poll, conducted October 1-4.

Until this year’s poll, Gallup researchers had always found a significantly
higher percentage of Americans advocating stricter laws. The poll also found
that 12 percent of Americans believe firearms laws should be less strict; the
highest number Gallup has ever measured for this response.

The poll also indicated a new low in the percentage of Americans favoring a
ban on handgun possession except by the police and other authorized persons, a
question that dates back to 1959, with only 28 percent favoring such a ban. The
high point in support for a handgun-possession ban was 60 percent in the
initial measurement in 1959. Since then, less than a majority has been in
favor, and support has been below 40 percent since December 1993.

"Compared with views in 2000, each major demographic or attitudinal
subgroup has shown a shift toward a more pro-gun stance on the question about
whether gun laws should be more strict or less strict," Gallup concluded.

California Governor Signs Restrictive Ammo Bill
Firearms and shooting sports enthusiasts closely watching three pieces of
anti-gun legislation awaiting action on California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s
desk were somewhat heartened that he signed one and vetoed two just minutes
before the deadline occurring at midnight Oct. 11.

The bad news is that the single gun bill signed into law is one of the most
restrictive and potentially the most disruptive to firearms owners to be passed
in any state in recent years.

Assembly Bill 962 requires firearms retailers to keep handgun ammunition
behind the counter where customers cannot access it without assistance. It also
requires gun shop owners to thumbprint all buyers of handgun ammunition, as
well as record their identification and provide that information to police.

Further, the new law prohibits Californians to purchase ammunition via
mail-order catalogs and over the Internet.

Schwarzenegger vetoed a bill requiring additional paperwork for firearms
transfers and one that would have prohibited gun shows at the Cow Palace
exposition center near San Francisco.

Quote Of The Week
"If in a single day we smell coffee, dawn, gun oil, powder, a wet dog,
woodsmoke, bourbon and the promise of a West wind for a fair tomorrow — and it’s
possible for us to reek ‘happy’ — that’s just what we will do."
-Gene Hill
“A Hunter’s Fireside Book,” 1972

J.R. Absher is a freelance outdoor writer whose articles and columns appear
in numerous national publications. He offers his unique perspective of the
outdoors weekly for You may contact him at

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