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Outdoors notebook: Hunters have more big game to chase

| Monday, March 11, 2013, 6:33 p.m.
Stephanie Strasburg
A group of deer look up from eating grass at dusk on Monday, March 4, 2013, in Boyce Park.

Modern hunters have the best of both worlds right now: lots of game and lots of trophies.

That's the word from the Boone & Crockett Club, the official records keeper for big game taken with firearms. According to the group, trophies have become more plentiful, “while the average scores of record entries have declined by only insignificant amounts, over time.”

Researchers studied trends in the size of trophy horns and antlers using club records. They found that the trophy size of North American big game declined in 14 of 25 categories but by an average of only 1.87 percent for antlered species and 0.68 percent for horned species between 1950 and 2008.

There's no evidence that such a change is “biologically significant,” said Jim Heffelfinger, a biologist for the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

In the meantime, the overall number of record entries has increased over time — dramatically so in recent decades. Boone and Crockett received a total of 119 trophy entries in 1950, followed by 402 in 1960, 355 in 1970, 349 in 1980, 843 in 1990, 1,244 in 2000 and 1,508 in 2010. That's a 1,167.22-percent increase in trophy entries between 1950 and 2010.

Killer cats

That cat roaming the neighborhood is likely doing more damage to wildlife than you might have imagined.

A new peer-reviewed study authored by scientists from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found that bird and mammal mortality caused by outdoor cats is much higher than previously thought. Cats kill an estimated 1.4 billion to 3.7 billion birds and 6.9 billion to 20.7 billion mammals annually, the report said.

“Wild” cats, those not owned by anyone in particular, cause 69 percent of the bird mortality and 89 percent of the mammal mortality.

New officers, board

Rostraver Sportsmen's Club is looking to get back into action. According to Karen Harris, the group's new recording secretary, a new slate of officers and board members recently were elected and are hoping to “make changes that will positively affect the club.”

Glen Coleman was chosen president, Charlie Chapman as vice president and Dave Burgan as treasurer. Among the new activities planned are Wednesday night pistol shoots that will start in April.

Elected

Pittsburgher James Eckles, president of JSA Architecture and Engineers and Plans Examiners Inc., recently was elected vice president of the Wildlife for Everyone Endowment Foundation. It's a nonprofit group designed to channel funding to wildlife research projects while promoting hunting and conservation.

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