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Hunting Wild Hogs Isn’t For the Faint Of Heart

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Hog hunting in Florida is not merely a pastime; it’s an exhilarating adventure that pits man against beast in a battle of wits and strength. For the Benziger brothers, hog hunting was more than just a hobby—it was a way of life. Their exploits from forty-five years ago serve as a testament to the thrill and peril that comes with pursuing these formidable creatures. From wrestling live hogs to facing life-threatening injuries, their tale is one of courage, camaraderie, and the indomitable spirit of the human hunter.

For the Benziger brothers, the journey into hog hunting began in their early teens on a nearby ranch in Titusville, Florida. The ranch owner, adamant about preserving his land, prohibited the use of firearms, bows, dogs, or vehicles for hunting. Instead, he issued a challenge to the young Benzigers: any hog they could run down on foot was theirs to keep. Undeterred by the lack of conventional hunting methods, the brothers embraced the challenge with gusto. Armed with sheer determination and youthful energy, they embarked on their first hunt, unaware of the adventures that awaited them.

Their initial success—a haul of four hogs, including an impressive eighty-pound specimen—sparked a passion that would shape their lives for years to come. Inspired by their early triumphs, the Benzigers built pens at their parents’ home in Titusville and began catching and selling hogs locally. What started as a teenage adventure soon blossomed into a full-blown passion for hog hunting—a pursuit that would test their limits and forge bonds that would last a lifetime.

Daring Techniques and Close Calls

As the Benzigers honed their hunting skills, they developed a repertoire of daring techniques to capture hogs. From releasing dogs to chasing hogs through pastures and palmettos in their truck, they employed strategies that tested their mettle and pushed the boundaries of traditional hunting. However, with excitement came danger, as they encountered aggressive boars capable of inflicting serious harm. From severe injuries to close encounters with charging hogs, each hunt was a gamble with fate that left its mark on the brothers, both physically and emotionally.

One particular encounter with a 200-pound boar stands out in their memories as the most harrowing experience of their hunting careers. The ferocious beast, known for its mean temperament and brute strength, unleashed a barrage of attacks that left the Benzigers shaken and battered. Despite their best efforts to subdue the beast, it continued to wreak havoc, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake. It was a stark reminder of the inherent dangers of hog hunting and the importance of vigilance in the face of adversity.

A Day of Triumph and Tragedy

Amidst the adrenaline-fueled pursuits and heart-pounding encounters, there were moments of triumph and tragedy that would leave an indelible mark on the Benziger brothers. One fateful day, they embarked on what would become their most memorable hog-hunting expedition—a day that would test their courage and resilience in ways they never imagined. Despite a successful morning of capturing six hogs, tragedy struck when Bruce, the youngest brother, suffered a debilitating injury during a pursuit.

In a heart-stopping moment, Bruce was thrown from the truck during a high-speed chase, landing with a sickening thud that echoed across the pasture. As the dust settled and the reality of the situation sank in, the brothers rallied to ensure Bruce’s safety while contending with the relentless onslaught of a charging hog. It was a moment of chaos and confusion, yet amidst the chaos, the bonds of brotherhood and camaraderie shone through as they worked together to overcome adversity.

The Price of Bravery

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The aftermath of their harrowing ordeal underscored the inherent risks of hog hunting—a reality that the Benziger brothers knew all too well. From severe injuries to lengthy recoveries, they paid a steep price for their bravery in the pursuit of adventure. Yet, even in moments of pain and uncertainty, their indomitable spirit remained unbroken, a testament to their unwavering commitment to their passion and to each other.

Despite their tribulations, the Benzigers found solace in humor amidst adversity—a coping mechanism that helped them navigate the challenges of their recovery. With a nod to their misfortunes, they adorned their hospital room with a mounted hog head, a tongue-in-cheek reminder of the hazards of hog hunting. Even in the face of defeat, their resilience and camaraderie shone through, serving as a source of inspiration for all who crossed their path.

The Benziger brothers’ saga of hog hunting is a testament to the blend of thrill and peril that defines this age-old pursuit. From daring escapades to near-death encounters, their story is a vivid reminder of the courage, camaraderie, and resilience of those who venture into the wild in search of adventure. As the sun sets on their tumultuous journey, their legacy lives on as a testament to the risks and rewards that come with embracing the call of the wild.

What do you think of this “wild” tale of wild hog hunting? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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Ohio’s Gobblers Facing Harder Times

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Spring turkey season results suggest that Ohio’s gobbler hunters might be facing tougher times. While the situation isn’t dire yet, any hopes for a quick rebound to the bountiful days of the past remain unfulfilled.

The 2024 spring turkey season concluded last Sunday in 83 South Zone counties, including central Ohio. The Ohio Division of Wildlife reported a total harvest of 15,426 turkeys, which is a slight decrease from last year’s total of 15,550. This year’s total includes birds taken during the statewide youth season in April, 30 days of hunting in the South Zone, and the first 23 days of hunting in the Northeast Zone. Hunting in the five Northeast Zone counties (Ashtabula, Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, and Trumbull) ends at sunset this Sunday.

Although the 2024 numbers are an improvement over the alarming results of 2021 (14,546) and 2022 (11,872), they still fall short of the more prolific years. For instance, the 2018 spring take was 22,612, and the 2017 take was 21,096. From 2000 to 2010, the spring harvest exceeded 20,000 birds eight times, peaking at 26,156 in 2001.

In 1993, the Ohio Division of Wildlife introduced a two-bird limit in the 42 open counties, although the second permit initially cost double the price of the first. This premium was dropped by 2003. The two-bird limit remained until 2022 when the declining turkey population led to a reduction in the spring limit to a single bird for the first time in almost 30 years.

Some have suggested eliminating the fall turkey season or imposing restrictions on targeting hens to help the population recover. However, the wildlife division has maintained a short fall season and continues to allow the harvest of a single turkey of either sex.

An ongoing research project in Ohio aims to track changes in wild turkey habits and examine the potential effects of environmental conditions. The goal is to identify measures that could enhance survival rates. Falling turkey populations are a common worry among both gobbler advocacy groups and state and local wildlife agencies nationwide.

Of the 83 counties where the turkey hunting season has ended, Belmont led with 451 birds checked, followed closely by Monroe and Tuscarawas, each with 447. Among central Ohio counties, Licking finished top with 255 birds, followed by Fairfield (91), Delaware (78), Union (44), Franklin (17), Pickaway (14), and Madison (4).

Leave your thoughts about the situation in Ohio in the comments below. 

 

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Five Years After Supreme Court Decision, Tribal Hunting Rights Still Murky

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Nearly five years have passed since the U.S. Supreme Court issued a landmark decision recognizing the treaty-based hunting rights of Native American tribes. Despite this, many legal and policy questions regarding where, when, and if certain Native Americans are bound by state hunting regulations remain unresolved. Two months ago, a lower federal court issued an order related to tribal elk hunting in the Bighorns, but the clarity hunters and tribal members hoped for remains elusive.

Observers expected that lingering legal questions would be resolved through various court cases. However, Wyoming’s decision to drop charges in the partially remanded Herrera v. Wyoming case has left many issues unresolved. This decision has unexpectedly elevated the importance of another case dating back to 1989, involving Thomas Ten Bear, a member of the Crow Tribe, who was convicted of elk poaching in the Bighorns. Like the Herrera case, Ten Bear’s situation revolves around the prosecution of Crow Tribal members for killing elk in a national forest in Wyoming without a state-issued permit.

Ten Bear’s Case and the Supreme Court Precedent

Years before the Supreme Court’s Herrera ruling, Ten Bear sought to have his nearly 35-year-old poaching conviction overturned. With the new precedent in place, U.S. District Judge Alan Johnson issued a 27-page order in late March, partially granting Ten Bear and the Crow Tribe’s requests for relief. Johnson’s decision clarified some key legal questions, establishing that statehood admission does not abrogate treaty rights and that the creation of a national forest does not render the land “occupied,” thus not nullifying the Crow Tribe’s treaty hunting rights.

Despite these clarifications, significant questions remain about off-reservation hunting. There are ambiguities about when portions of a national forest—or any land—can be considered “occupied” and thus off-limits to treaty-based tribal hunting. Additionally, questions about “conservation necessity”—the conditions under which the state could regulate or prevent tribal hunting outside of reservation boundaries—are still unanswered.

Judge Johnson’s ruling was specific to Ten Bear’s case and did not provide broad answers to these complex issues. The limits of what a court can definitively resolve were evident in his narrow approach, which left many aspects of off-reservation hunting rights open to interpretation and further negotiation.

A Call for Agreement

Cheyenne attorney David Willms believes that Wyoming and tribal residents with treaty hunting rights still lack a clear blueprint for resolving off-reservation tribal hunting. Judge Johnson’s ruling suggested that the state and tribes should work together to strike a balance between treaty-based rights and state sovereignty over natural resources. The Supreme Court’s Herrera v. Wyoming ruling also implied that these two aspects are “necessarily compatible.”

In the five years since the Herrera decision, there has been one significant legislative effort in Wyoming to make off-reservation hunting compatible with state regulations. During the Wyoming Legislature’s 2023 general session, a tribal agreement bill was introduced, granting the governor the authority to negotiate state-tribal pacts for off-reservation hunting and angling seasons outside of Game and Fish Department regulations.

However, the bill faced opposition from tribes like the Shoshone-Bannock, who argued that they were excluded from the drafting process and that the bill was too prescriptive, violating their sovereignty. The legislation ultimately died, leaving tribal hunting rights unresolved and further complicating state-tribal relations.

Since the legislative effort failed, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department has maintained that tribal members without standard permits can be cited for off-reservation hunting violations. Meanwhile, Montana has taken a different approach, instructing its wardens not to cite Crow Tribe members who violate state hunting laws, reflecting a more lenient stance on treaty rights.

Despite the legal and legislative deadlock, Wyoming officials remain hopeful for a negotiated agreement. Governor Mark Gordon emphasized the need for government-to-government negotiations with the tribes to mutually agree on off-reservation hunting, considering it a more positive and productive approach than litigation.

Towards a Resolution

Resolving these issues outside of the courtroom appears to be the best path forward. Both sides need to find common ground and address the concerns that have previously derailed efforts. Lessons from past negotiations, particularly the importance of inclusive and respectful dialogue, are crucial for future success.

The hope is that, with time, both the state and the tribes will be ready to re-engage in discussions and develop a framework that honors treaty rights while ensuring sustainable wildlife conservation. As the dust settles, there is cautious optimism that an agreement can be reached, benefiting both tribal members and the broader community.

What do you think of the legal issues surrounding tribal hunting? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

 

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Bear Kebabs Cause Serious Parasitic Disease in South Dakota Family

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Six family members were sickened with a rare parasitic disease caused by roundworm larvae after they ate kebabs made of bear meat. The outbreak, which occurred in July 2022 during a family reunion in South Dakota, has highlighted the importance of properly cooking wild game meat to avoid serious health risks.

A report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) this week revealed new details about this unusual outbreak. The nine-person family reunion included a meal featuring bear meat kebabs brought by one family member from a black bear hunt in northern Canada. The bear meat had been stored in a household freezer for 45 days before being thawed and cooked.

Cooking Mishap Leads to Illness

The family prepared the bear meat kebabs alongside grilled vegetables. Due to the dark color of the meat, they had difficulty determining whether the kebabs were fully cooked, leading to the meat being served and eaten rare. This mistake had severe consequences.

About a week later, a 29-year-old man in Minnesota, who had attended the reunion, developed a fever, severe muscle pain, and swelling around his eyes. He was hospitalized twice due to the severity of his symptoms. Tests confirmed that he had antibodies for Trichinella, a type of roundworm. Five other family members soon exhibited similar symptoms, including fevers, headaches, stomach pain, diarrhea, muscle pain, and swelling around the eyes.

Two family members who had been exposed did not develop symptoms, and the CDC could not confirm whether the ninth attendee had been exposed to Trichinella. The CDC tested the remaining frozen bear meat and detected larvae from the same roundworm species, confirming the source of the infection.

Understanding Trichinellosis

The CDC presumed that all six family members had trichinellosis, a disease caused by consuming undercooked meat contaminated with Trichinella larvae. Trichinellosis is relatively rare in the United States. From January 2016 to December 2022, the CDC identified only seven trichinellosis outbreaks in the U.S., involving 35 probable or confirmed cases, most of which were linked to bear meat.

Bear meat is a known source of Trichinella infection. Freezing meat is often thought to kill parasites, but this is not always effective. The bear meat at the family reunion was contaminated with a species of Trichinella found in Arctic bears, which is resistant to freezing.

Cooking Wild Game Meat Safely

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The CDC’s report emphasizes that the only reliable way to kill Trichinella parasites is by thoroughly cooking the meat. They recommend cooking wild game meat to an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit, verified with a meat thermometer rather than relying on the meat’s color.

Additionally, the CDC warns about the risk of cross-contamination. Even if you don’t eat the meat, consuming vegetables or other foods that have been in contact with the meat or its juices can lead to infection. This was evident in the case of two family members who ate only the vegetables but still became ill.

Three of the family members who had consumed the bear meat were hospitalized and treated with albendazole, a medication that kills parasitic worms and their larvae. Thankfully, all six people recovered from the disease, but their experience serves as a stark reminder of the importance of food safety when preparing wild game.

For experienced hunters and fishermen, the thrill of the hunt and the satisfaction of a successful catch are unparalleled. However, this incident underscores the critical need to prioritize safety when handling and preparing wild game meat. Ensuring that meat is cooked thoroughly can prevent serious, potentially life-threatening illnesses.

As the popularity of consuming wild game continues to grow, it’s essential to remember that proper food handling and cooking practices are not just guidelines—they are vital steps in protecting your health and the health of your loved ones. Always use a meat thermometer to verify cooking temperatures and be vigilant about preventing cross-contamination in your kitchen. Your diligence can make the difference between a memorable meal and a dangerous outbreak.

Do you eat bear meat? Have you ever gotten sick from it? Leave your thoughts in the comments below. 

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