LONGTIME WON CONTRIBUTOR Mike Dickerson took this magnificent scimitar horned oryx in Texas shortly before the feds placed them on a permit-only hunting system, despite the fact the animals are thriving in Texas, proving that California's claim to overregulation is not exclusive.
There are many things I do not miss about California.
I do not miss gridlocked freeways and long commutes. I do not miss gang-infested neighborhoods, a lousy job market and depressed home values. I do not miss brush fires, mudslides, earthquakes or celebrity trials.
I left California when my employer relocated to a business-friendly state. Rather than move to a place I didn’t like, I negotiated my departure and launched a job search, as did my colleagues. Two years later, most have still not found a job in California, where politicians can’t grasp the concept that companies, like people, can vote with their feet. When offered a job in Texas, which has a low cost of living, no state income tax and a growing job market, I didn’t hesitate.
I knew I wouldn’t miss California’s nonsensical approach to managing wildlife via pseudo-science, the ballot box and blind-preservationist legislation. One example of seismic-scale stupidity was Proposition 117, which banned hunting of mountain lions in 1990 despite the fact that the cats were neither threatened nor endangered. The ramifications of granting protection to a top-end predator were lost on an electorate which was narrowly swayed by a misinformation campaign waged by the Mountain Lion Foundation and friends.
Such measures serve only to advance an elitist-preservationist agenda, as proven by the fact that the law made it a criminal act to bring back a mountain lion taken legally elsewhere. Witness the recent vitriolic attacks on Fish and Wildlife Commission President Dan Richards, who was excoriated for shooting a cat on a legal hunt in Idaho. Extremists accused him of “ignoring the wishes of the people,” a monumentally hypocritical assertion coming from those who ignore the wishes of the people of 15 or so western states which allow hunting of mountain lions.
Of course, it’s politically expedient to misrepresent extremist views as mainstream thinking. It’s called propaganda, and it provides handy cover when you have to explain why uncontrolled mountain lion populations have wreaked havoc on some game animal herds, why the cats are losing their fear of people, and why attacks on humans and domestic animals have escalated. Make no mistake about it: the friends of the big kitty cat have blood on their hands.
Sportsmen fought that initiative, only to discover that many Californians live in an isolated alternate reality where animal life is valued above human life. These extremists neither recognize nor care that their views are at odds with those of most Americans. Their alternate reality is nurtured by a Democrat-dominated legislature that happily punishes law-abiding citizens by repeatedly enacting feel-good legislation that accomplishes nothing.
This is abundantly evident in the state’s gun laws. California has passed more inherently stupid gun legislation than any other state. The Brady Campaign ranks California number one in gun control, praising it for continuing to “blaze legislative trails in saving lives.” The state’s Byzantine web of gun laws does nothing of the sort. Criminals could care less about such half-witted measures as 30-day purchase restrictions, the banning of lead ammo, microstamping and fingerprinting for ammunition purchases.
Few of these laws promote public safety. They are merely part of a concerted campaign by the antis to destroy gun rights by making it ever more expensive and difficult to purchase, own and transport firearms, just as they make it ever more difficult to hunt or fish on public land or waters. For good measure, they’ve made it nearly impossible to exercise the right of self-defense outside your home.
Quite the opposite is true in my adopted state of Texas and a growing majority of states across the country, where public opinion now supports gun ownership, the right to hunt and commonsense issuance of concealed carry permits. As soon as I established residency, I walked into a gun store, filled out the federal form, waited briefly for the background check, purchased an AR-style rifle (free of the silly bullet button) – and walked out with it. That’s what it’s like to live in a free state.
While I had previously hunted whitetail deer, javalena and predators in Texas, I hadn’t explored the extensive opportunities to hunt introduced species. I quickly remedied that with hunts for a variety of exotics, including a nice axis deer and a magnificent scimitar-horned oryx. These and many other species provide year-round hunting opportunity, and the thick cover of the Texas Hill Country makes spot-and-stalk hunts fun and challenging.
INTRODUCED SPECIES like this axis deer harvested by the author provide year round hunting opportunities in Texas.
Hogs can be hunted cheaply here. Predators and waterfowl are abundant for the calling. Upland bird hunting took a hit from drought, but there’s plenty of preserve hunting for bobwhites, pheasant and chukar. Dove openers can be phenomenal. There’s world-class largemouth bass fishing, while the Gulf of Mexico provides a wealth of inshore and offshore angling adventures.
Despite this, I frequently reflect on the things I actually miss about California, sometimes painfully so.
We miss our sons, who are both trying to launch careers in an abysmal economy. I miss my hunting and fishing buddies. I even miss our friends who turned up their noses at my wall mounts but came running when I served wild boar roast.
I miss the stunning beauty and unrivaled diversity of California’s wild lands. Nowhere else can you find, in one state, the stark beauty of the southeastern deserts, the majesty of the Sierra high country, the rolling oak woodlands of the Coast Ranges and the grand redwood forests of the northwest. The mere mention of places like Yosemite, Shasta and Monterey evokes a visceral longing to be there.
I miss stalking wily blacktail deer and big, loner wild boars. I miss gunning for three species of quail, sometimes in the same day, as well as those heart-pounding climbs for chukar. I miss battling pugnacious spotted bay bass and hard-running corbina on light tackle. I miss slinging iron at barracuda and the sound of a sizzling reel with a big bluefin or bigeye on the end of the line. I miss the serenity of trout fishing in remote reaches of the Sierra, the hot topwater bite on numerous bass lakes and sashimi from a just-landed yellowtail.
My Texas-born wife, an avid day hiker, has found nothing here to compare to her favorite California hikes, and would move back in a heartbeat.
And sometimes, whenever I read about the latest insipid piece of anti-gun, anti-hunting or anti-fishing legislation served up by the legislature, I feel real pangs of guilt. I miss being in the fight.
So, if you happen to know anyone in California who could use a seasoned corporate PR pro, give me a shout. The editor knows where to find me.
BOBWHITE QUAIL were in the author's sights on a recent hunt in Texas, but still prefers California's triple-threat hunting for valley, Gambel's and mountain quail.
THE FIRST FIREARM purchased by the author in Texas was a DPMS Prairie Panther which is notably missing a California-style bullet button magazine release. Even if it had one, the rifle can't be sold in California because the entire Panther series is on the banned list.