Feasts in the Wild

You don’t have to eat junk food in hunting camp. From my fellow New Mexico hunter MDMNM at Sometimes Far Afield:

“The best bottle of wine I had last year was uncorked on a grouse hunt (it was a Casa Rodena 1998 Cabernet Franc, if you were wondering). On this last trip, dinner the first night centered around grilled redfish and asparagus. For my money, one of the best eating fish is redfish when prepared “on the half shell”. That is, you fillet the fish, leaving the skin on, and then grill it with the skin and scale side down. The heavy scales char and protect the meat, which sort of poaches in its own fat and juices. Prior to grilling, sprinkle the meat side with some salt and fresh ground pepper, along with some herbs that go with fish (I like thyme, a little oregano, and parsley along with a bit of dried chive if I have it) and perhaps a little smoked paprika. Some cooks will brush the flesh with melted butter first, but I don’t consider that step necessary. Grill the fish over a fairly hot fire to keep from drying it out too much. Bonny Doon Vineyard’s Vin Gris de Cigare went along quite nicely. The second night we had to scratch by with elk cutlets grilled very rare and a green salad, along with another favorite, Sandia Shadows’ Cabernet Sauvignon (2000), which is a nice cab for those of us who like them a bit tannic and big, but not jammy.

“While nice, these meals aren’t even trying very hard. For a few years when we gathered in larger elk-hunting camps we would try to do something a bit more fancy on the night before the season opened. Perhaps the most spectacular example of those meals featured large trout, kept whole and stuffed with a dressing of rice and water chestnuts and then grilled. Bacon wrapped nilgai fillets, black bean and shrimp chili, and grilled prawns in mojo de ajo also deserve recollection. I contend that for every backpack meal of freeze-dried or salami and cheese, a hunter or fisher should fire up his Dutch oven or spend some time grilling up something a bit special.”

Wondrous Feathers

Reader, falconer, and birder Stacia Novy, in the military in Honduras, sent a photo of herself with the central tail feathers of a motmot that she picked up. She wrote:

“I found this pair of molted, central tail (deck) feathers from a Turquoise-browed Motmot the other day while hiking along a stream bed on base. What a find! The male motmot performs a pendulum-like display, swinging the racket-shaped tail feathers from side to side, and calling a low, resonant ‘woop-woop-woop’ in perfect time to the swings. In spanish, the bird is known as ‘pajaro reloj’ which literally means ‘clock bird’ because of this display. “

They are unusual not just in shape or color but because the bird helps create the structure, stripping the barbs off the middle part of the feather to create the “racquets” at the end.

More on the motmot can be found here (HT John at Prairie Ice.

Ancestry and Reversion

Lots of good thinking about the evolution of domestic animals this week. Odious started out with a post on Heck cattle, the Hagenbeck brothers’ attempt in pre- WW II Germany to breed a reconstructed aurochs. Comments came in from Chas and Doc Hypercube, who was also interested enough to post on Darren’s theories about dog origins on Diary of a Mad Natural Historian:

“My thought on all this is that it seems to show that once genetic material is lost in a population (as a result of domestication) it’s gone – all the king’s horses, etc. Perhaps, then, it’s not shocking that dogs revert to pariah dogs in some number of generations – the genes that would allow reversion to a more wolfy form are just gone from the domesticated dog’s gene pool. To extend the title of the post a bit – border collies are to pariah dogs as Holsteins are to criollos/Texas longhorns? Don’t get me wrong – there are a number of other persuasive points in Darren’s post – I’m just not sure about the ‘won’t revert to wolves’ argument at this point.”

I reponded with my own theories, which tend to be close to the ones Darren expressed:

“I think there are still mysteries, many mentioned by Darren, and even Dave Mech’s correction in his comments don’t lay them all to rest for me.

“If you saw the (unusually excellent) [ Only the first half– the second among other idiocies said salukis were too refined to actually KILL hares–SB] PBS documentary on dog origins last night you will be familiar with Ray Coppinger’s “dogs domesticated themselves” theory, Belyaev’s fox domestication by selecting only for tameness, Saivolainen’s genetics (my dogs are in it!) etc. These rather assume but don’t demand a wolf ancestry.

“Darren says: “introgressive hybridization between the two is so limited that it doesn’t pose a threat to the genetic integrity of the wolf. Wolves and domestic dogs are in fact staying distinct. This applies globally as well as locally: despite continuous, near-global sympatry between domestic dogs and wolves, hybridization has hardly occurred and only one mtDNA type is shared”. This seems really important to me. Coyotes are the outlier in a dog- wolf- coyote cladogram– reasonably enough considering their New World origin. But wolves and coyotes hybridize far more often than wolves and dogs or coyotes and dogs. Red wolves are now considered to carry genes from both, and the same for the big wild canids of eastern Canada and adjacent New England. A barrier– behavioral?– exists between dogs and other (wild) canids. And as Darren says, the behavioral differences are real (and probably bigger than those between, say, the aurochs and the Spanish fighting bull or longhorn).

“If the split were really old, pre- modern human, what does that imply? Also, on the show last night, Ray Coppinger explained that scavenging wolves without a flight reflex would form the gene pool for dogs. This struck me as WRONG. I have been carrying on an email discussion with the eminent biologist Valerius Geist, who has been studying what interactions lead to wolves attacking humans, and the first sign is that they lose their fear of humans. It is a bad sign! Maybe “wolves” or whatever that show submission, but not lack of fear.

“Also re breeding back– did you see my comment following yours on O & P about breeding back the quagga from the (conspecific) Burchell’s zebra, which was going well last I heard? No Heck cattle they!

“BTW Val will be doing a lot I think to show that the lack of human attacks in North America by C. lupus is a historical accident and artifact and is likely to end bloodily. ( Bad attacks recently in Canada, one ending with someone eaten.”

And if this is all not too bloggish in its recursiveness, Odious decided to track down that Quagga link to update on what may be a genetic phoenix, rising again from temporarily hidden genes.

Duck Sex Evolution

Lots of good bio stuff this week. Annie Pearse and Reid both sent me this NYT piece on the evolution of duck sex organs. A teaser:

“When she first visited in January, the phalluses were the size of rice grains. Now many of them are growing rapidly. The champion phallus from this Meller’s duck is a long, spiraling tentacle. Some ducks grow phalluses as long as their entire body. In the fall, the genitalia will disappear, only to reappear next spring.

“The anatomy of ducks is especially bizarre considering that 97 percent of all bird species have no phallus at all. Most male birds just deliver their sperm through an opening. Dr. Brennan is investigating how this sexual wonder of the world came to be.

“Part of the answer, she has discovered, has gone overlooked for decades. Male ducks may have such extreme genitals because the females do too. The birds are locked in an evolutionary struggle for reproductive success.”

Any thoughts, Darren?

Update: Darren shows us that turtles are at least as strange in this regard.

Good Alcohol and Unconventional Greens

But there is still a lot of spirit, in every sense, out there to combat those who would control our every move. Brit blogger Raedwald muses on anti- drinking activists who would not allow us to teach our children to drink sanely (Peculiar? Odious? Would that not have jailed Libby and I for many joyous evenings in your youth?):

“… The French would snort, the Spanish giggle and the Italians shrug. Even the Germans would blow a little Teutonic toot through pursed lips.

“And now another thought has flicked through my mind. If the meddling witch from Alcohol Concern who spoke on R4’s ‘Today’ earlier was mashed, fermented and distilled, aged in an oak cask with wormwood and scorpion tails, and bottled, what would the taste be? Bitter, no doubt. A hidden spiteful sting, perhaps not unpleasant if well diluted. A few drops then, in a Paris goblet, well swilled round to coat the glass, before half a gill of good Plymouth Gin is added. That would be perfect.”

Meanwhile, the inimitable Michael Blowhard has a a long post on contrarian “non- Gore” environmentalism, everything from free- market types to bioregionalists, anarchists, Slow Food, and even Ducks Unlimited. Read The Whole Thing plus links, please, for alternatives to top- down Statist command and control.

A quote:

“I’ve spent bunches of time exploring the eco-world, and I can testify that eco-people and eco-orgs come in all kinds of flavors. There are people who really like ducks and trees lots better than humans, for instance. (I feel that way myself sometimes.) There are one-issue people — people who are doing what they can to protect manatees, or coral, or local forests. (God bless ’em.) There are far-out radicals who want the midwest to be declared a grass-and-buffalo preserve, and who argue that we need to create nature-corridors to reconnect the “natural” parts of the country. (They make remarkably convincing arguments for this, IMHO. Plus I often simply like the bioregional eco-anarchy people a whole lot.) And there are people like Bjorn Lomborg, who’s eco but realistic. (I think he’s great too, if not the final word on anything.)”

Penn Gun Proposal

This seems to be a big week for nanny- state regs. From Hunting Life:

“This misguided proposal would require every gun in Pennsylvania to be registered with the state, and each firearm would have to be re-registered annually. The registration would cost law-abiding gun owners $10 per gun each year. Of course, criminals won’t pay anything BECAUSE CRIMINALS DON’T REGISTER GUNS! In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Haynes v. U.S. (309 U.S. 85 (1968)) that since felons are prohibited from owning firearms, compelling them to register them would violate their 5th Amendment rights against self-incrimination. However, if a law-abiding gun owner fails to register it, he or she will be jailed and lose his or her rights FOREVER. The measure would require each gun owner annually submit to fingerprinting, have a background check, and to include passport-style photos for the registration cards. The registration card for each gun would then have to be carried with that gun at all times. To make matters worse, if the state should reject your application for any reason, YOUR GUNS WILL BE CONFISCATED!”

We all know how well such things are working in DC and England…

More AR Follies

The California compulsory spay- neuter bill should be on everybody’s radar. Blue Dog State puts it pungently, with some not- so- fantastic scenarios:

“Enforcement of the King of the Nanny-Staters Lloyd Levine’s modest proposal to castrate every pet dog and cat in the state of California was left up to local enforcement personnel.

“Things might get a little out of hand.

“How is Levine planning to detect those unauthorized gonads, anyway?

“Let’s have a visioning session on the enforcement of AB 1634. Shall we?

“Door to door searches. I hear animal control is already going door to door in El Paso, Texas, looking for un-microchipped pets.

“Are dog owners in La-La Land going to be okay with a knock on the door in the middle of the night? Or will that only be necessary in “certain areas” ? Not in Malibu. Not in Beverly Hills.

“But South Central L. A.? Oh, yeah.

“Diming dog owners. Will veterinarians, trainers and groomers eventually be required to drop a dime on their dog owning clients?

“Eyes in the sky. Maybe a little surveillance of known pet owner hangouts? Dog parks, feed stores, PetsMart, whatever?

“Report-a-testicle. How about a toll-free “here’s your chance to even the score with your pain in the ass neighbor” telephone number?”

(Snip– well, maybe not the most apropos word)

“One-size-fits-all “remedies” like mandatory castration at the age of 16 weeks, no exceptions, is as scary as it sounds.”

And you want to ignore it because it is in California and “It can’t happen here”? Here is what Dr. John B sent me on the Institute for Animal Rights Model Mandatory Spay Neuter Law.

“Lest there be any question about the constitutionality of
spay/neuter legislation in general, and the following statute in
particular, it can quickly be laid to rest. The Tenth Amendment to
the Constitution of the United States gives the states (and thus
political subdivisions like counties, cities, towns and villages) the
power to enact virtually any laws they wish that are reasonably
related to the public health, safety and welfare. On the other hand,
neither at the state nor federal level is there any constitutional
right to foster the breeding of countless numbers of unwanted dogs
and cats.

Thus, a potentially effective weapon in the War on Dog
and Cat overpopulation is the use of mandatory spay/neuter legislation.

Model Statute

WHEREAS, there have been, and there are, within this
jurisdiction a substantial number of unwanted cats and dogs lacking
permanent homes, many of whom are healthy animals; and

WHEREAS, these cats and dogs through no fault of their
own have an adverse impact on the public health, safety, welfare, and
environment; and

WHEREAS the impact of these animals includes, but is not
limited to, the transmission to disease, the injury of humans and
other animals, the creation of hazards to vehicular traffic, and the
drain of public finances; and

WHEREAS, many of these cats and dogs are euthanized by
shelters, humane societies, and other similar organizations; and

WHEREAS, euthanizing cats and dogs, except for bona fide
medical reasons, is inhumane and abhorrent to the residents of this
jurisdiction; and

WHEREAS, euthanizing cats and dogs, except for bona fide
medical reasons, is not an effective, economical, humane, or ethical,
solution to the problem of unwanted cats and dogs; and

WHEREAS, the most effective, economical, humane, and
ethical solution to the problem of unwanted cats and dogs is to
substantially reduce, or entirely eliminate, their birth; and

WHEREAS, by such reduction or elimination the [Council,
Board of Selectmen, etc.] of the [Town, City, County, etc.] of the
State of [name the state] seek to promote the health, welfare, safety
and environment, of its residents;

NOW, THEREFORE, be it ordained and enacted as follows:

Section 1. Prohibition

Subject to the express exceptions provided in Section 2
below, it shall be unlawful to harbor in this jurisdiction any
unspayed cat or dog over four months of age or any unneutered cat or
dog over four months of age. “Harbor” is defined to include legal
ownership, or the providing of regular care, or shelter, or
protection, or refuge, or nourishment, or medical treatment; provided
however that this section shall not apply to any person who provides
nourishment to a stray or feral cat or dog.

Section 2. Exception [The ONLY one– SB]

(a) The prohibition set forth in Section 1 above shall
not apply if a veterinarian licensed in this jurisdiction shall
certify in writing, and under oath, that a specific cat or dog is
medically unfit to undergo the required spay or neuter procedure
because of a physical condition which would be substantially
aggravated by such procedure or would likely cause the animal’s

1. The age of the animal shall not per se constitute
medical unfitness.

2. As soon as such condition ceases to exist, it shall
be the duty of the person who harbors such animal to promptly comply
with this ordinance.

3. Possession of the certification referred to in
Section 2, a, above, shall constitute a defense to liability under
this ordinance.

(b) The prohibition set forth in Section 1 above shall
not apply to the animals harbored by a pound, shelter, humane
society, or similar organization, whether public or private, whose
principal purpose is securing the adoption of dogs or cats provided
that such organization has a policy and rules requiring the spaying
and neutering of all dogs and cats placed for adoption by such

(c) The prohibition set forth in Section 1 above shall
not apply to any animal temporarily harbored within this jurisdiction
for less than fourteen days within any one calendar year. The burden
of proving such temporary harboring shall be upon the person
harboring the animal.

Section 3. Extension of time to spay or neuter.

Upon presentation of a written statement from a licensed
veterinarian, under oath, stating that the life or health of an
adopted animal may be jeopardized by spaying or neutering, the
releasing agency shall, in writing, grant a 30-day extension of the
period within which the spay or neuter procedure would otherwise be
required. Further extensions, or permanent exemption, may be granted
upon additional veterinary statements stating the necessity for such
extensions or exemption.

Section 4. Forfeiture.

Kittens and puppies born to cats and dogs not spayed or
neutered in violation of this statute shall be forfeited, and given
to the care of a local shelter for adoption in accordance with the
organization’s usual policies and rules.

Section 5. Transition.

Persons harboring a dog or cat subject to this law on the
date it becomes effective shall have 120 days from such date to
comply herewith.

Section 6. Penalty.

Any person who violates the provisions of this act
commits [here, include appropriate punishment under the
jurisdiction’s criminal laws].

Section 7. Repeal.

All other laws, or parts thereof, of this jurisdiction
which are inconsistent with the provisions of this law are hereby
repealed with regard to such inconsistency or inconsistencies only.

Section 8. Effective date.

This law shall take effect immediately upon being duly

Forfeiture and criminal penalties.

As the Spartans said about their weapons, “Molon labe”.