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Victor Navarro Jr. • 11/21/2011 • Williamson county, Illinios • Shotgun

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Entries for 'Mike Handley'

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Hunting is a rich man's sport.

I hear that all the time. Actually, I’ve heard it since the mid-1970s, when Alabama timber companies began rewriting their lease agreements to include annual increases in the cost per acre.

I remember lifelong hunters quitting because they couldn’t afford the jump from $150 to $200 for a club membership. They quit when it went from $200 to $325. I even saw decades-old hunting clubs die overnight, the result of too many members dropping out, thereby increasing the burden on those remaining.

Nowadays, some Alabama clubs (with no more acreage than they had in 1975) have membership dues of $3,000. I’m also aware of clubs in Illinois that have tiered memberships starting at $10,000.

Truth is, you’d have to look mighty far back to find a time when hunting was cheap.

I’ve always had a rough time of it. Every dollar spent in the pursuit of my passion has been felt. If it weren’t for friends who like the way I string words together, I’d probably trade my guns and bow for more paintbrushes (

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Attention Shoppers

Every year, I’m inundated with e-mails and calls from people seeking suggestions for last-minute firearms hunts where they might encounter decent bucks. Since I’ll be on the road for the next couple of weeks, bowhunting the rut in Nebraska and Kansas, I thought I’d post my answer ahead of time.

Riflemen looking for an affordable hunt should really consider Oklahoma’s Nov. 20 - Dec. 5 gun season. Not only are the nonresident licenses cheap – half what they cost in Kansas – but they’re also available over the counter. A $206 license will entitle a nonresident to shoot one buck. Buy the $256 version, and you’re allowed to take a doe as well. (Don’t forget to add the required Legacy permit.)

I’ve hunted deer in Oklahoma three times: near Woodward, west of Lawton and close to Ardmore. It’s really a fabulous place, often referred to as the dark horse or sleeper among trophy-producing states.

One of the best rifle hunts I’ve come across in this business is offered by Jay Jack of Snyder (Double J Outfitters). A five-day hunt in the boulder-strewn foothills of the low-slung Wichita Mountains – including lodging, meals and rides to and from the Oklahoma City airport – is only $2,750. His calendar is clear from the Friday after Thanksgiving through the Dec. 5 close. The same five-day package for bowhunters (for the remainder of December) is a scant $2,000.

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Endeering Readers

Imagine if you were reading your local newspaper and, all of a sudden, you choked on your venison sausage biscuit. How bad would that suck?

That actually happened in suburban Atlanta last week, sort of, when readers of the Covington News happened upon a column by sports editor Josh Briggs equating deer hunters to Neanderthals. The newspaper’s general manager, T. Pat Cavanaugh, even admitted in a follow-up that Briggs’ piece caused him to spill his coffee and almost choke on a sausage-less muffin.

Briggs might have generated less hate mail if he’d slandered God, the Atlanta Braves, mothers or grits. Not surprisingly, the story of the former Californian’s screed against hunting went viral, although he was careful to distance himself from the PETA crazies and to mention that he’s the proud owner of an AR-15.

The column begins, “Imagine if you were sitting in your car in the drive thru at McDonald’s and all of a sudden, you get shot in the neck (by a deer with a rifle)? How bad would that suck?”

Briggs was trying to paint an image of the hunted turned hunter, which kind of fell flat. The gist was his belief that anyone who hunts in this era, anyone who calls it a sport, must be perverse. And to prove his point, he recommends we all watch “The Deer Hunter.”

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Skunked in Ohio

 If fear has an odor, it’s lost on the most odiferous critter prowling Ohio’s soy- and cornscapes. Twice while venturing into the wilds before daybreak earlier this month, I froze midstride when I realized I was on a collision course with polecats.

Both times too close for me to bolt in the opposite direction, I simply stopped and watched them amble to within a foot or two of my boots. And believe me, I was plenty scared of being doused with funk.

I narrowly escaped the need for a tomato juice bath, but not the oxygen loss to my brain when I stopped breathing. As soon as the skunks got that something-ain’t-right feeling and turned 90 degrees, I shut my eyes and imagined sweet-smelling things.

I was bowhunting in Pickaway County as a guest of my friend Joe Schneider, on the very farm where he shot the world-record Irregular with a pistol a few years ago. It’s a gorgeous place – real bucky – and we gave it the ol’ college try.

I spent the first evening standing atop the wheel of a piece of irrigation equipment, sans bow, glassing for deer heads sharking through an unpicked soybean field. I was hoping to discover a favorite entry point from the adjacent creek bottom, but only a couple of does waded into the beans on my end of the field.

Over the next four days, I bounced around and tried different stands. I wasn’t happy with the stout northwest wind, but it was better than most scenarios.

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