How great is the risk of contracting a food-related illness these days, especially For those of us who travel to far-flung regions?
According to most medical authorities, the risk can be surprisingly high. For instance, of those traveling to a developing, tropical, or semi-tropical region (Africa, Latin America, southern Asia), nearly half will suffer from some kind of Traveler’s Diarrhea (TD). But that’s only part of the story.
While browsing through a popular science Web site recently, I came upon this rather startling headline: “Using a Gun in Bear Encounters Doesn’t Make You Safer.” Naturally, I read the brief article, which said that new research out of Brigham Young University “found that firing a gun is no more effective in keeping people from injury or death during bear attacks than not using a firearm.”
Really? I wanted to know more about the study so I went hunting around on the Internet. Clearly, the news bites were stirring up a lot of commentaries (anti-gun, pro-gun, anti-bear-spray, prober-spray, etc.), but I wasn’t seeing any convincing substance. I decided to read the actual scientific report and look into the facts for myself.
The design gap between high-tech gear for elite athletes and product for everyday folks just looking to stay in shape continues to narrow. Performance features once exclusive to a small market sector are filtering into the mainstream, allowing weekend warriors to try sporting goods of the highest caliber.
Electronic timing devices, in particular, are becoming increasingly sophisticated with every imaginable tracking system for a heartbeat, calorie consumption, and statistical data. Women’s-specific product also continues to gain ground.
More than any other group of outdoor recreationists, hunters need to know how to protect themselves in bear country.
“Hunters are the single largest category of bear-caused injuries and fatalities, simply by the nature of what they do,” says Tom Smith, a wildlife biologist who has spent twenty-plus years researching bears. Smith, along with bear-attack authority Stephen Herrero and three other biologists, recently published a major study on what happens when people with guns (mostly hunters) mix it up with aggressive bears (mostly grizzlies) in Alaska.
If you are comfortable, you can forget about how you feel and concentrate on what you’re doing. You’ll stay focused longer and put in more hours if your clothes and the best hunting boots that make the experience fun. When the day becomes an exercise in survival, you might as well unload your rifle because any chance for a shot becomes incidental. You’ve shifted your attention from the hunt to yourself.
To hunt well, you must not only look into surrounding cover; you must step outside yourself and become your quarry’s shadow. That mental commitment follows physical preparedness. Part of the prep you’ll complete before the season, conditioning your body. Part happens at camp when you dress by lantern-light. Dress wrong, and the environment, not you, will control the outcome of your hunt.
If prominence is the key, then starry Orion, hunting Taurus through the zodiac with his sword and a brace of dogs, would qualify. Nimrod was a mighty Biblical hunter, even though mentioned as such in only a single verse in Genesis. The Egyptian pharaohs were probably among the first to hunt for sport as much as food, journeying to the Euphrates Valley in what is now Syria to hunt the elephants that had been extinguished in Egypt; hunting lions from chariots with bow and arrow–Amenhotep III claiming 102 kills during the first ten years of his reign; and going after the most dangerous game in the Nile, the hippopotamus, in order to control its numbers and reduce its depredation on crops and threats to people.
When I was twelve, I joined an outdoor book club. I cherished those books, savoring stories of exotic places like Africa and the Yukon. For a kid growing up in Nebraska, even stories from Montana seemed a world away. But no stories touched a chord like those from Alaska, particularly Kodiak Island, which conjured images of giant bears and giant fish.
After reading those books I dreamed often of Kodiak–of furry, beach-combing, mega-clawed monsters ready to prove to any corner their rightful rank in the food chain. I dreamed of moose, halibut, and salmon. I have to admit I never dreamed of Sitka blacktail deer. That is until the opportunity came to finally experience Kodiak Island for me, to bring the frayed pages of those old books to life and pursue this mysterious resident of coastal Alaska.
How hard you hunt, or how often you go, doesn’t define the type of hunter you are. It’s much more than that. As hunters, we are truly a blessed lot. I cannot even imagine what my life would be like had my daddy not raised me to be a hunter who appreciates and spends so much time in the outdoors. Some people will point to me and say, “Well, sure, Michael, I bet you do feel that way since you get to hunt as part of your job.” In truth, the bottom line is when my life was as simple as walking out behind my family’s house and calling a turkey or barking up a squirrel, I knew there was something truly special about this tradition of hunting.