Monday, August 30, 2010

A Ninety-Niner Speaks Out about Deer Hunting

 From Deer and Deer Hunting: For the Ninety -Niners

It's funny.  I don't think a lot of guys get it.  It could be that my hillbilly girlfriend's all-to-subtle ways are rubbing off on me, and I'm getting so subtle no one can catch my hints anymore.  It could be as well that I'm the only Ninety-Niner on here.  I doubt it.  I just think most folks are trying to lay low on it.  Shoot!  It could be no one else even knows what a Ninety-Niner is, or how it relates to deer hunting.

Let me explain:  If you've been on unemployment so long that your state and federal benefit has run out, you're a Ninety-Niner.  The name comes from the Ninety-Nine weeks (just under 2 years) of benefits received.    I lost my job in July of '08. I fell off the back end of the system this past  June.  I didn't know I was a Ninety-Niner until a few weeks ago. That's when I heard the term used for the first time.  We aren't considered unemployed anymore, so we don't count towards that 9.5% unemployment rate. We're . . . we're. . . we're just Ninety-Niners. 

Ninety-Niners are not worthless lazy bums who got kicked off the dole.  Fox News reported that 50-something managers like me in hi-tech professions probably are never going to work again.  A company can't refuse us health benefits anymore, so we're just too much of a risk. I was let go a month shy of 50, and all my 49 year old cohorts were chased out or let go all in their 49th year-- thank federal guidelines for age discrimination starting at 50 for that.

So what does this have to do with deer hunting?  It has a lot to do with deer hunting this season, at least for me.  Being a Ninety-Niner will probably affect my deer hunting for years to come.  This year, I can still afford tags and still afford the trips to Kentucky to hunt. We can still keep the farm. Next year?  We'll see.  So far the truck has kept running.  The point is I know I'm feeling quite a bite.  Reloading?  All my big projects are on hold.  Gun acquisitions?  You got to be kidding. Bowhunting?  I'd already gotten my medical waiver to hunt with a crossbow, because of my shoulder.  I was at the new doctor's last week to discuss it (the old one had responded to the onset of Obamacare by demanding $1,500 cash before he'd see you)  The new doc is talking surgery and rehab, while I'm just trying to budget for extra ibuprofen. 

I'm probably not the only Ninety-Niner on here, and this is not the first time I have had to deal with a downturn in the economy and getting laid off going into season. As a result, I'm doing my best to talk about it, and I hope it does some good.

Take the Baking Soda-- The Shamanic Method thread as a for-instance.  I didn't want to just get right in folks' face, but let's be blunt.  If you're unemployed and you still think of yourself as a deer hunter, you're probably looking for ways to economize.  Some folks are appreciating the advice and saying so.  However, some folks have inadvertently hijacked the thread here and there-- once to discuss some kind of carbon sprinkles, and another to discuss Scent-Lok and various other products.  The point is that it is obvious y'all have jobs and aren't thinking the same.  It's a difference in mindset.  For some, washing hunting clothes at $.10/load is a big deal, and  $8 can be either spent on sprays removing invisible rays from your clothing or it can be spent on a youth tag.  Ninety-Niners are looking for no-cost or low-cost methods.

Two years out of work changes your perspective. Eventually you come to see those thoroughly entrenched in the hunting establishment as foreign.  Larry Weishuhn is a fine upstanding deer hunter, but a Ninety-Niner might think about throwing something at the screen if he has to sit through too many 30-minute infomercials for the Thompson Center Encore.   Ditto for all those folks who came back from Shot Show this year, and couldn't wait to tell us about the wonderful feeling they had running up their leg over Remington and Ruger's new offerings.  I ain't bitter, but  . . .

 . . .let's just say the arrival of the big NEW GEAR issues along with the Cabela's catalog were not the big event they used to be.  Walmart dropping their price on underwear and tube socks was. 

For some, there just is not going to be enough they can spend to get that winning edge this year.  A federal judge has declared Scent-lok's advertising fraudulent, but there will be some that won't think twice about plunking down $300 for a new set. For others,  the idea of taking RIT dye to take out the fading in their old camo coveralls may be a godsend.  That is a huge and growing disparity.  Meanwhile the deer don't care if you're wearing HD, 4D or 1.5D camo.  Fact of the matter is I filled my tags wearing brown duck Carharts.

I'm not trying to be coy about this anymore.  If you can't afford a new ghillie suit or even a new hunting coat, take your old work coat and give it the baking soda treatment.  Then go out to the fabric store-- bring your wife or girlfriend if it will make you feel better.  Buy 2 yards of cotton duck camo.  Put a hole in it, the way I described in the thread on ponchos and have your woman hem it up for you.  I hunted that way for years.  I didn't have dedicated cold weather hunting duds for the first 20 years of hunting, but I did have a green freezer suit from working in the frozen cheeseburger factory, and I could afford $10 worth of close-out camo fabric.

You don't need Barnes TSX or Federal Premium or Hornady Custom to kill a deer.  Forget the fancy poly carbonate nosecones and all the other plow-whistles.  Watch the ads.  Remington Corelokt and Winchester Power Points go on sale. They will kill deer just fine.  I used Remington Sluggers for years in my shotgun.  They kill just fine. Don't let ammunition costs keep you home.  Lordy, if you look at the price of beef and the price of a resident tag. . .Last season, I bagged two doe that went +170lbs  live weight, and I was glad I went for the meat rather than holding out hope for antlers.  Frankly, I've got several racks sitting around the house that are waiting for the taxidermist, but it may be years before they're staring back at me from the mantle.

I may be all wrong.  It may just be our deodorants, but I've noticed a lot less traffic on here this year than previous years.  It may be the Ninety-Niners are giving up on hunting, not buying tags and not hitting the forums any more.  It is a shame if it is so.  D&DH magazine relies heavily on ad revenue, so I am sure there won't be much in the way of homebrew solutions and make-do articles the way there was back in the Thirties.  Back then Outdoor Life had an article a month on that sort of thing-- building your own knapsack to building your own cabin to repairing your own waders.

Nobody is going to use an old pant leg for a quiver (except me).  Probably no one will want to read about using a wheel barrow inner tube for a ground cushion.   On the forum, however, we've got more latitude.  JPH's forum piece on doing a homebrew camo job was  spot-on.  MSBadger's cardboard deer blind was right there. I always was a bit of a shade-tree gunsmith.  Here's a pic from my piece two seasons ago. Yes, that's a 1/4-20 hex bolt on the scope:

. . . and here's Angus' custom youth rifle:

The whole project cost under $80. For some, a cheek piece made from duct tape is a joke.  For my kid, it meant having a deer rifle that fit him.  This year it got re-stocked and I taught Angus how to refinish.  That was our big father/son project over the summer.

I didn't mean to rain on anyone's parade with this rant.   I figured if I came out straight on it, y'all would understand. My only advice to D&DH is that if you're stuck for ideas a Ninety-Niner's Guide to Deerhunting might be a good one.  I'd offer to edit it.  This sport can no longer be about the cargo we carry and the cargo we consume.

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