Bighorn find short of record

All world record bighorn rams throughout recorded history have come from Alberta, and I was delighted when a mid-April government press release announced that Alberta conservation officers had found a head and horns that had been measured by Boone & Crockett Club official scorers as possibly beating the current No. 1 ram.

All world record bighorn rams throughout recorded history have come from Alberta, and I was delighted when a mid-April government press release announced that Alberta conservation officers had found a head and horns that had been measured by Boone & Crockett Club official scorers as possibly beating the current No. 1 ram.

The officers believe the ram died of old age at 10.5 years early last summer, and had been out on the ground and in the elements until found this spring.

Before a head can be entered in B&C’s “the book,” it must undergo a 60-day drying period, then be officially scored again.

I could hardly wait, so fervently did I hope that the found ram would surpass the current No. 1, scoring 203 7/8, taken by Texan, Guinn D. Crousen, at Luscar Mountain near Cadomin on Nov. 28, 2000.

Crousen is a wealthy hunter, and his No. 1 ram is what I call a Boone and Chequebook trophy: he paid $200,000 for a special Alberta Minister’s Licence auctioned at a Foundation for North American Wild Sheep Convention.

For that money, unlike any other Alberta sheep hunter, he was permitted to hunt in November when the bighorn rut is on and the big rams gather on certain mountains to bash heads and breed ewes.

Crousen also paid to put together a guiding crew to find the best mountain. Luscar has a sheep sanctuary, and Crousen and his crew hunted hard for more than two weeks until, on the second last day of his exclusive season, Crousen shot his trophy at about 70 yards as it finally flushed, running, out and over the sanctuary boundary.

Sorry, but I wonder if this is the “fair chase” by which B&C insists its book entries must be taken. Just asking; but that’s part of why I had high hopes for the found head to be the new No. 1.

Alas, it was not to be.

Obviously the horns soaked up and swelled with considerable Alberta moisture, because, after the drying period, they had lost four inches of mass. But they still score high enough to rank as the new No. 5 in the world, a tribute to a magnificent ram that managed to elude all predators, including man, for all its long life.

l Twice I have purchased commercial bags of topsoil and compost for our asparagus bed, and then suffered a burst of exotic, noxious, and uncontrollable weeds that came with them.

Two years ago Lois and Fred put down a commercial bark chip mulch along the east side of their house.

Two weeks ago, they emailed me with pictures about a good batch of tan morels (Morchella esculenta) growing in the mulch.

Readers often send me pictures, or deliver specimens for me to identify, of backyard fungi. Until now, I have always had to report the mushrooms were at least inedible, if not poisonous.

This is the first time I have ever heard of delicious morels growing in a city back yard.

They do grow in the boreal back yard of the cabin at the Stump Ranch, and I have harvested them from Clearwater County roadsides the spring after the tree chipper has cleared the borrow pits.

Morels notoriously resist attempts at domestication.

Fresh or dried morels found in grocery stores come from professional foragers who annually follow the season from south to north in North America and sell their harvest to commercial buyers who tag along and set up behind the pickers.

I’m not using the last name of Fred and Lois because it is difficult enough out in the wild protecting your morel patch from poachers, let alone when all they have to do is look it up in the phone book.

The owners of this unusual backyard morel patch wonder how long it will keep on producing.

Maybe one more year, but I doubt it. Long-producing patches come from a well-established underground mycelium, a huge thread-like organism from which the morels emerge, here and there in season.

It is doubtful that a mycelium has developed in the back yard in only two years. Still, one has to wonder and is too polite to ask where the bark chip mulch came from.

l The story is still developing, but a reader reports that a recent meeting was held in Butte Hall of mostly outraged protesters against the Hankinson gravel pit proposed for the property next to the springs that are the source of the North Raven River.

Ironically, a consortium of conservation groups relatively recently finally acquired the springs land itself to protect what is arguably one of North America’s finest stream rehabilitation projects that has produced one of Alberta’s top half-dozen trout streams.

What this amazing little rebuilt river does not need is a gravel pit interfering with the flow of underground aquifers that produce the springs that produce the creek.

Decision will probably rest with Clearwater County, which has a strange soft spot for gravel pits considering its professed concern for the rivers and streams within its boundaries.

Bob Scammell is an award-winning columnist who lives in Red Deer. He can be reached at bscam@telusplanet.net.

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